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Sacred Caves

The Aegean world is filled with caves that in antiquity were sacred as entrances to the underworld and as offering places to the chthonic powers of the earth. Given the fantastic stalagmites and stalactites in these limestone caves, it's not hard to see how in the smoky light of torches and the haze of opiates the ancients might have seen divinities in the rock. Archaeologists have discovered layers upon layers of votive offerings around certain formations, like this one at the famous Eleithiya Cave near Amnissos, Crete.

You can see the enclosure, or temenos, built around the stalagmite in antiquity. The cave was in use from Neolithic times. I featured a scene in the Eleithiya/Eleuthia Cave in Chapter Two of Knossos:

Pasibe lit a torch from the hearth fire and descended into the cave. Inside, the ground sloped on a gentle grade into a single great chamber with a low ceiling, where limestone stalactites sluiced water into sacred rock pools, and stalagmites represented the goddesses of the earth and underworld. Named for the goddess of childbirth, but dedicated to the Great Goddess, the Alautha Cave was where untold generations of women had come to petition the goddess for the increase of their wombs, for the safety and well-being of their children, and for the initiation of their daughters. Pasibe knew the cave intimately, having descended countless times into the stygian darkness to beg a child from Alautha, and to beseech forgiveness and comfort each time she miscarried.

The torchlight illuminated eerie faces and half-human shapes trapped in the limestone. She heard the soft rustle of nesting bats farther back, and caught a whiff of guano. A stone enclosure separated the faithful from a tall, slender stalagmite, the earth’s own rough-hewn image of Rhaya. Pasibe knelt down, touched her hand to her forehead, then her forehead to the stones comprising the temenos. The floor was uneven and cold, and the act of obeisance hurt her joints more now than it used to.

--Knossos, Chapter II, "The Young God"

There are several scenes set in a sacred cave in my current work-in-progress, but I will say no more about that. The cave is fictional, as is the cave near Delphi where Orestes in The Outcast meets and conquers the Erinyes.

That cleft in the mountainside was narrow and long, like the neck of a jar; it was no entrance for grown men. In order to negotiate the cramped space, we all had to shuffle in sideways, with our ribs pressed against the naked rock. I heard the priests ahead of and behind me breathing hard, their sandaled feet scraping the ground, and the hissing of their torches. I bit back the urge to reverse direction, to claw my way out of that claustrophobic space; there was nowhere to go.

I concentrated on inching along, as the daylight dwindled to a thin bluish ribbon off to the right. Then the constricting passage broadened, opened up like the inside of a jar, and at last we could step away from the wall and face forward. The torchlight revealed a chamber hung with curtains of limestone banded with striations of faint color. Limestone teeth sprouted from the floor. I could not see the far wall to gauge exactly how large the cave was, or even tell whether smaller passages branched out from the central chamber; the blackness encroached on our small circle of torchlight. I could hear the air moving through the space, and the distant drip-drop of water.

As we navigated past the teeth, an altar stone emerged out of the blackness, its pale surface tinted with darker stains. I swallowed at the sight of the potsherds and broken bones scattered on the ground around the altar, and, behind it, the pillar bulging with the irregular likeness of a woman’s face; she had a broad brow and sunken eyes, and was as pale and ominous as a grave worm. I averted my gaze from the goddess’s primal visage, only to discover the cave was filled with talons and misshapen mouths and cavernous eyes fused into the rock. My throat went dry. My belly roiled with queasiness where earlier it had rumbled with hunger pangs.

--Orestes: The Outcast, Chapter Thirteen

Orestes Needs Love, Too

May has seen an upsurge in the number of sales for Helen's Daughter, which means word of mouth is getting around.  But the same is not true for the first two books of the Orestes Trilogy.  If you liked Helen's Daughter, you might also really enjoy The Young Lion and The Outcast, and The High King, when it is finished early next year.  The trilogy covers more of the period (1263 - 1193 B.C.), features strong women characters, visits more locations, and deals with aspects of Mycenaean life such as hunting, kingship, warfare, and building that Helen's Daughter barely touches on.

Please, check out the trilogy, and spread the word about it, too.  The Young Lion and The Outcast are both available through Amazon Kindle and Smashwords, and the newer version includes a map of Mycenae.

Tiryns Charioteers

I had originally intended to use this 13th century B.C. image of charioteers from Tiryns for the cover of Orestes: The Outcast, but the wear and tear on the fresco, and the unevenness of the checkered border made it unlikely.

There is a female counterpart of this image, in which a woman drives a chariot with her female friend as a passenger. So noblewomen could and did drive in those days.

I Should Not Be Doing This

I enrolled Orestes: The Outcast in Amazon's KDP Select Program, which means I shouldn't be publishing it anywhere else until mid-May. However, I seem to be losing sales because it isn't available in any other format but Kindle. So I opted out of the KDP Program, which means only that I don't want automatic renewal. If an Amazon Prime member sampled/leased a book and opted to buy from there, I would not receive that royalty, but in checking my sales reports, readers are not coming to my work through Amazon Prime, so I'm not really concerned.

Therefore, I give you Orestes: The Outcast on Smashwords, with all its various formats (iBook, .pdf, .mobi, etc.) Now go out there and BUY, so I can comfortably settle into working on The High King.

Orestes: The Outcast

It has arrived.

Seven years have passed since Orestes witnessed the savage murder of his father Agamemnon and fled for his life.

Now, aged twenty, he is ready to reclaim his birthright as king of Mycenae, and avenge his father’s murder—by killing his own mother, a crime that will label him a matricide. He will be shunned by all men, and hounded into madness by the demonic Erinyes, the relentless Daughters of Night. Orestes’ only hope of redemption lies in trial by sanity, an ordeal which will take him to the very edge of terror. Will he survive as a whole man, and receive ritual purification in order to claim his throne, or will he perish in the attempt?

Available on Amazon Kindle.

Note: I'm just coming up for air after this book, so be patient for the third and final book, The High King. That one will be as large as the first two books put together.

Coming On Sunday

Sorry to have been gone so long, but I was hard at work finishing and editing The Outcast, and am proud to say it will be released this Sunday.  I also took the opportunity to clean up a few typos in The Young Lion, and to add a map of Mycenae.  If you own The Young Lion on Kindle, then you already have this cleaned-up version.  All you have to do is download it.

New Year Updates

First news of the New Year: the first draft of Orestes: The Outcast is finished, at 78,000 words; it is a short book, with The High King, the final book in the trilogy, set to be much longer.  I am now combing through The Outcast, weeding out typos and editing for content.  It should be ready by late January or early February.

November and December were great months for Helen’s Daughter.  Somehow, this book is selling far better than The Young Lion.  Do readers simply prefer novels with female protagonists?  Don’t shy away from the Orestes Trilogy!  Plenty of Mycenaean pageantry, adventure, and intrigue to soak up!

On an end note, some recent cartoons: Orestes and Hermione holiday shopping at IKEA Corinth, and the pair on Christmas morning.  The latter will be a diptych image, with Elektra and Pylades facing.

Note: if your eyes are good, you might be able to make out the Snake Goddess on the tree.


Orestes: The Outcast cover

The cover artwork for book two of the Orestes Trilogy: The Outcast. It should be out by mid to late January, or February.

Linear B: Man and Woman

𐀪   𐂁

Linear B ideograms meaning “man” and “woman,” respectively.


As a correction to a statement I made in an earlier post, Linear B does appear to have had some diphthongs, but they are separate signs, and the script still does not represent all the sounds (such as the liquid /l/, /g/, and /h/) that the spoken language must have had.

I am slowly working on Orestes: The Outcast, the second book in the trilogy, but also trying to get the word out there about The Young Lion and Helen’s Daughter.  If you read and liked either book, please pass the word along (and let me know your thoughts, of course!).

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