December 8, 2014
A Spartan Love is the first book in the Spartan Love trilogy. A Tested Love and A Shared Love are already in the second draft phase. As soon as I finish the promo tour for A Spartan Love, I will get back to Andreas and Theron’s continuing story.
I wish I could tell you more about these stories, but that would be a major spoiler for A Spartan Love.
I also have the rough draft of Tempting Fate, the sequel to Alexios’ Fate, approximately 2/3 done. Tempting Fate will link the men from Alexios’ Fate, Body Language, and A Spartan Love.
I have an additional story planned for the Apollo’s Men series that features secondary characters from Tempting Fate and the Spartan Love arc.
Once I finish these, I have a humorous contemporary story in the works.
December 8, 2014
Phoebus Apollo is the final character in A Spartan Love. He was the god of prophecy at Delphi, healing, and the arts, also known as the Lord of Light.
In Sparta, he was worshipped as Apollo Hayakinthios.
Hyacinthus was a prince of Sparta. Both Apollo and Zephyrus courted the beautiful young man, but Hyacinthus preferred Apollo. One day while Apollo and Hyacinthus were throwing a discus, Zephyrus, the West Wind, blew the disc off course in a fit of jealousy. The discus struck Hyacinthus in the head, killing him.
Apollo was heartbroken. He refused to allow Hades to take the prince to the Underworld. Instead, he gathered the youth’s blood to create a flower, the hyacinth. Aphrodite, Athena and Artemis carried the divine hero’s body to the Elysium Fields.
A tomb to Hyacinthus can be found near Apollo’s altar and idol in the village of Amykles southwest of the modern city of Sparta and dates to the Mycenaean era. Most scholars consider Hyacinthus to be a local deity who predated the Spartan’s and Apollo. His name with the suffix –nth shows him to be pre-Hellenic. (The Greeks called themselves Hellenes.)
When the Doric Spartans invaded the Peloponnesus, they brought their sky gods with them. The Spartans considered Apollo to be one of their patron gods. Since Apollo was one of the most likely to take a male lover, Hyacinthus was quickly accounted as his lover.
As is commonly the case when one god absorbs another’s place and prerogatives, the older deity had to die. Hyacinthus met with an “accidental” death at another, although minor, sky god’s hands. Apollo stepped in to fill the religious void, laying claim to Hyacinthus’ sacred site and becoming known as Apollo Hayakinthios.
December 8, 2014
Upon occasion, writing A Spartan Love was a challenge. There is nothing as distracting as my autistic daughter’s insistence upon listening to the same song ad nauseam. I can only listen to the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “The Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly” so many times. Although, I will admit that “Let It Goat” took the cake.
Or my son yelling “Whoo hoo!” when he was winning in some video game.
I did most of my writing after they went to bed, but sometimes I had to get things done during the day. So I turned to Niyaz to help me through.
Niyaz is an Iranian-American musical trio. The music is Middle Eastern and Mediterranean in origin. The kind of thing Andreas and Theron might have listened to. So it kind of sets the mood, allowing me to picture the sweeping landscapes of Greece. Additionally, since I don’t understand the words, I don’t get distracted by them as I write.
This is my playlist for the Apollo’s Men series.
December 8, 2014
Disclaimer: This is a bonus scene not found in A Spartan Love. As such, it has not been edited and for all intents and purposes is a rough draft.
Theron hefted the full wineskin he had “acquired” as Andreas so carefully referred to his foraging. Both words were merely euphemisms for the theft that had kept him fed for years. But if that made Andreas more comfortable in his presence, so be it.
The wine would be his sole contribution tonight. But ever since Andreas had admitted he wouldn’t be able to trade to replenish his stock until after the harvest, Theron had been looking for a chance to bring him some.
Ahead he could see Andreas’ hut silhouetted against the fading reds and deepening purples of the setting sun.
Now he would have to wait until darkness made it safe to visit the helot. If someone had told Theron that he, a kryptes, would be here to dine with the man, he would have been offended. Kryptes existed to spy on helots and kill them if necessary, not befriend them.
But Andreas had changed all that with a single meal. A bowl of barley gruel left on a stool beside his door for the kryptes who had pursued him into his home and doubtless scared him half to death. Stunned, and not just at the novelty of the meal—no one had bothered to feed him in nearly a year—Theron had returned night after night. And night after night, food had awaited him. Until the night Andreas invited Theron into his home.
He had set Theron’s world on its ear—natural born enemies breaking bread and sharing salt. Theron now had obligations to his host and friend. Obligations that were at odds with his training and responsibilities as a kryptes.
Excited at the thought of a tipsy Andreas, he’d arrived a bit early. Leaning back against a handy tree trunk, Theron wondered what Andreas, the worse for wine, would be like. Would he laugh more? Become more affectionate like Coridan had the one time Lysander had given him his share of wine?
Warmth filled Theron’s chest at the thought of Andreas touching him. Would he be able to get the man in his arms? All those hard muscles pressed up against him. Theron shuddered. He couldn’t wait to find out.
Finally, Nix covered the sky with her star-studded cloak. Glancing carefully around, Theron held his breath, listening for any indication he was not alone. Nothing but the evening breeze, some snuffling from the goats, and the rising drone of the cicadas.
Using the cover of the goat pen, he made his way to Andreas’ door. He glanced down at the stone likeness of Priapus at his feet. “Keep this house safe,” he murmured and slipped inside.
The warm scent of food, wood smoke, and animals met him. A smell that was quickly coming to represent “home” to him.
Andreas had just placed a bowl of olives on the table. He glanced up, relief and pleasure shining in his eyes. “You made it.”
Theron didn’t even try to keep the smile off his face. “And I brought this.” He held out the sloshing wineskin.
“Wine?” Andreas asked.
“I haven’t had any in months. This autumn I’m going to get twice as much.”
Andreas accepted the offering and poured some into both cups. He carefully watered the wine, swirling their cups to mix it. With a smile of his own, he handed a cup to Theron before raising the second to his lips.
The sweet, red liquid slid down Theron’s throat and warmed his belly. He rarely drank wine and even then only sparingly. Drunkenness disgraced not only the man but Sparta as well.
Licking his lips, Andreas set his cup on the table. “I’d forgotten how good that was.”
“Yes,” Theron agreed. “I haven’t tasted any since the Karneia.” In a few short months, he would be called back to Sparta to celebrate the most important of Apollo’s festivals. As all Spartans were required to attend, he’d see his mother again, and most likely his younger brother as well.
Speaking of the gods…. Theron stepped over to Andreas’ hearth and the household gods arrayed there. “Guard and protect us,” he requested of the deities as he poured a libation.
When he turned back to the table, Andreas was draining the wine from his cup. Andreas blushed. “It really is good.”
Theron smiled and added more. “I’m glad you like it. I’ll bring more next time.”
Sitting at the table, Theron perused the food spread across its surface. He was always amazed at the sheer volume and variety Andreas provided. Andreas ladled lentil soup into bowls. Olives and a stack of the ever-present rounds of flat bread sat within easy reach.
A plate held Ictis’ favorite roasted eggs, still in their sooty shells.
As if on cue, the furry beast pawed at Theron’s leg. The distinctive scent of musty honey followed him.
“Hungry, little warrior?”
“He’s always hungry. You should see what I have to go through to protect your dinner from him.”
“That’s all right,” Theron assured the ferret. “I’ll see that you get fed now.”
Only the work of a moment, Theron peeled an egg and offered it to Ictis. He held the ferret’s dinner so he could take the initial bite. As the egg was bigger than the creature’s head, he usually had to pursue the oval until he managed to trap it in a corner first.
“You should have just let him chase it. That would have kept him busy for a while. Now he will be back for more soon.”
Theron shrugged. “Let him.” He liked the silly beast.
Andreas carefully removed the lid from one of his pottery cooking dishes. A roasted rabbit lay steaming inside, nestled in a bed of turnips. The mixed aroma of meat and garlic had Theron’s stomach rumbling.
“Did you find some time to take Ictis hunting?”
“Yes. I just wish the rabbits wouldn’t make their warrens in my fields. I have to be careful when I till the ground so I don’t step in one and break a leg.”
“Which field?” Theron asked, alarmed. If Andreas did break a leg, he could die without someone to help him. If wolves found him alone and unable to escape….
Andreas pointed to the hills to the northwest. “The field is up that way. But I’m not ready to work the ground yet. I’ll let the goats graze it down first so I can see what I’m doing.”
Theron breathed a sigh of relief. He would keep a close eye on the man once he started on that field.
He drew the bronze knife from his girdle and carved the rabbit. Two rounds of bread served as plates. He pushed one to Andreas and drew the other across the table for himself.
When Theron groaned at the succulent taste of meat that wasn’t simultaneously burnt and raw, Andreas flushed and reached for his wine. He emptied the cup again.
Refilling the wine, Theron noticed Andreas’ flush hadn’t subsided and his eyes were beginning to sparkle. Theron had never seen Andreas so relaxed and happy. The wine was working its magic on the man. He would most definitely do this again.
Dinner disappeared at a steady pace, but nothing like those first few times when he had shoved the food in so fast it was a wonder he had tasted anything. Theron was used to shield-brothers who would swoop in and devour everything, if he wasn’t quick enough to get his own share. Over the course of the past few weeks, he’d learned to savor every bite.
And savor was the only word appropriate for Andreas’ cooking. Theron had never in his life tasted so many varied and flavorful dishes. Not in his mother’s house and definitely not since leaving for the agōgē. The gods knew he couldn’t cook.
“I never knew bread could be soft and so good.” Theron waved the golden round at Andreas before taking another bite.
“Uh…. Thank you.” Andreas blushed more easily this time and hid behind his wine again.
Theron grinned and Andreas gulped, his throat moving fitfully with each swallow.
Retrieving the wineskin, Theron poured the last of the wine into Andreas’ cup.
“I can’t drink it all!” Andreas objected. “You should have some.”
“I’ve had some.” Theron raised his cup. When he finished here tonight, he would slip back to his hidden campsite. He couldn’t risk dulling his senses.
Before Andreas could argue further, Ictis jumped onto the table and made his way toward the last egg. Theron chuckled.
“Oh no, you don’t!” Andreas grabbed for the ferret and swiped Theron’s cup instead.
The vessel hit Theron. Wine spilled down his chest, pooling in his lap.
“Oh no!” Andreas leapt up and dashed across the single room. He returned with a scrap of cloth.
Theron pulled his sticky chiton away from his skin. Andreas gripped Theron’s bare shoulder and dabbed at the liquid on his chest. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to….”
His fingers flexed and slid down Theron’s arm. The cloth brushed over Theron’s nipple and Theron fought to keep a groan from breaking free. He was enjoying the rare touches too much to risk startling Andreas into releasing him.
Theron knew that Andreas wasn’t ready yet to admit to the attraction growing between them. He probably feared allowing Theron to see his need. But Theron felt it too, a desire that could be deadly to them both.
But the danger did not prevent Theron’s cock from thickening. Andreas patted Theron’s belly just a handsbreadth away from the rising head of his cock. Theron reached out and gripped Andreas’ shoulder as a shudder swept through him. He hoped Andreas was too distracted to notice.
Andreas was still muttering, “Sorry” and “Just let me….” His gaze followed the red trail of spilled wine over Theron’s wide girdle where it mimicked the trail of hair the leather hid and Andreas’ hand stilled. He swallowed very audibly and pressed the cloth into Theron’s hand.
“I…. Um…. I can’t….” He swallowed again. “You’d better finish.” He stepped back, but his eyes followed Theron’s hands as he wiped himself.
Now that Andreas had already released him, Theron didn’t see anything to be gained by hiding his attraction from the man. Once he removed as much of the wine from the skirt of his chiton as possible, he reached under the cloth and rubbed himself dry.
He couldn’t help becoming even harder with Andreas’ gaze riveted on him. When he finally dropped the rag, his erection tented his chiton in a fashion neither one of them could deny.
With a shudder, Andreas tore his gaze away. “We should see if Ictis left us anything.” He sat back down, staring at the table.
With everything turned awkward, Theron tossed about for something to restore the happy, relaxed atmosphere. The cause of all this was still on the table.
Ictis nudged an egg around the earthenware pitcher filled with water. The egg wobbled and rolled in a half circle before dropping over the edge. The crack as the shell broke was unmistakable.
The ferret jumped from the table to Theron’s lap and then down to the floor. He chased the erratically rolling egg until it came to rest against Theron’s foot.
“All that and you still can’t eat it?” Theron leaned down and picked up the errant egg. He held it up and examined the pattern of cracks in the shell.
Jumping back into his lap, Ictis placed one paw on Theron’s chest. His nose twitched as he stretched, attempting to reach the egg.
“Do you want this, little warrior?”
“More like little thief,” Andreas muttered.
“Does he know any tricks?”
Andreas shook his head. “I’ve never tried to teach him any.”
“I bet he would be easy enough to train,” Theron mused. Could he convince the little clown to do something that would make Andreas laugh again?
Theron moved the empty dishes toward the center of the table, clearing a space in front of himself. He placed the cracked egg on the table. While he peeled it, Ictis nosed around his hand, climbing up on the table top and circling.
“You can’t have it yet. You have to earn this one.” He chuckled.
Ictis tried shoving his nose between Theron’s fingers, chittering with annoyance when he couldn’t get to his treat.
“I think I have his attention now.” Theron glanced at a puzzled Andreas. At least he no longer appeared uncomfortable.
Closing his hand around the egg, Theron lifted it above Ictis’ head. “Stand,” Theron commanded. The ferret stood on his back feet and stretched his forelegs up to rest on his fist.
He raised a brow and shared a pleased glance with Andreas. “Good boy.” Theron wondered who he was praising as he relaxed his hand. Ictis tore a bite from the egg, and still standing with his paws on Theron’s fist, chewed happily.
When Ictis attempted to take another bite, Theron moved his hand and said, “Walk.” With his paws still on Theron, Ictis took a partial step forward. Theron rewarded him with some more egg. He repeated this until Ictis had “walked” across the cleared space and Andreas was chuckling just as happily as Ictis.
“Here. You’ve earned it.” Theron opened his hand and held the remains of the egg as Ictis finished it.
“I didn’t know he could do that.” Andreas’ eyes sparkled with delight. “I’ll see if I can teach him some other tricks.”
Theron stood. This part of the evening always came too soon. “I have to go. The moon will be rising soon and I have to be gone before then.”
Andreas rose hurriedly. “So soon?”
“Selênê will not stay her path for the immortals. What hope have I?”
“Then at least take this.” Andreas pressed the last of the rabbit wrapped in flatbread into his hand.
At the door, Andreas grasped his forearm and pulled him into a brief, one-armed embrace and thumped him on the back. Andreas released him and stepped away so quickly it was over before Theron could respond.
“I’ll… uh… see you soon?”
“Every chance I get.”
Theron slipped through the door, letting it close silently behind him. He made his way swiftly back into the sheltering cover of the forest.
Nothing can keep me away.
December 8, 2014
What inspired A Spartan Love?
Frequently, I work from what I call an inspiration photo. The first book in the Apollo’s Men series, Alexios’ Fate, started this way with a photo of a young Greek man chained to a rock. He is the prince of a relatively unknown polis or city-state. Alexios, Galen and King Lykos have their own story arc.
I obviously needed to mix things up a bit so the next story arc wouldn’t be more or less the same. So I thought of the different city-states and what made them each unique.
Sparta, being vastly different from the rest of the Hellenic world, immediately came to mind. As a further bonus, Sparta had several unique social classes. And two of them, the helots and the kryptes, were natural enemies. So I guess in some fashion, A Spartan Love is an enemies to lovers story.
What do you like best about enemies to lovers stories?
December 8, 2014
“Andreas! Get in here right now. How many times do I have to tell you that the kryptes will kill you if they catch you outside after dark?” He could hear his mother’s voice as if she were still alive, calling to him from the safety of their house.
“I’m trying, Mother!” he muttered to her shade. He would never forget that one of the Spartan warriors had slain his father for nothing more than being a helot. Andreas crossed his fingers and flicked them away from his heart in an attempt to ward off a similar fate.
Andreas scanned his surroundings, his gaze veering between his home and the tree line beyond the goats’ enclosure. The mud-brick hut with its tidy little garden dominated the otherwise smooth grounds. Silhouetted against rosy clouds, safety beckoned. However, the encroaching darkness under the trees drove a shiver up his spine.
He was all alone. Or hoped he was.
A spur of the forest behind him jutted between his house and his nearest neighbor. Petros lived on the far side, his dwelling hidden from Andreas’ sight. Petros’ family would already be safely bundled under their roof, locked up tight as twilight approached. No helot was foolish enough to brave the dark and risk death.
Even though the hut didn’t look like much, Andreas wanted to be within the shelter of his home.
But Pan, the aptly named offspring of mischief, had other ideas. For some reason, when Andreas brought his flock home, the big buck had resisted entering the enclosure. The rest of the goats were milling about, following his obdurate example as the last of the daylight bled from the sky and Andreas grew more desperate.
“Curse you, Pan! If you don’t get in there, I’ll have you for dinner. How would you like that?” Knuckles white, he raised his staff and shook it.
Almost as if he understood, Pan bolted inside the lean-to with a startled bleat, his harem quick on his heels. Not a moment too soon. Nerves pushed to the snapping point, Andreas might have been willing to leave them to fend for themselves. He muttered imprecations as he shoved the brambles into the opening, blocking their exit. Though disgruntled, he was glad he hadn’t been forced to choose between their well-being and his life.
Leaves rustled in the nearby forest despite the lack of so much as a breath of wind, and Pan bleated uneasily. Andreas strained to hear anything else, anything at all. What was out there? A rival buck? Wolves? One of the kryptes?
Andreas shivered as cold sweat covered him. Please don’t let it be one of the deadly kryptes stalking me, intent on proving himself. The young warriors, the best Sparta could produce, killed helots for sport and to hone their skills.
The final rays of sunlight faded, leaving muted colors and hushed twilight in their wake, weighing down his heart with apprehension. Andreas hoped the kryptes who had been haunting the area didn’t consider sunset to be the definition of “after dark.” By decree, the warriors killed any helot they encountered at night, holding the subjugated population in check and using terror to quell any revolts before they started.
Glancing warily around, Andreas wondered if he could reach his home before being attacked. It isn’t dark yet. I can be inside before the last light fades. He couldn’t see anyone, but a good kryptes would be nigh impossible to spot. Drawing a deep breath, he sprinted toward the hut, his heart pounding.
Nearly there! A branch snapped, and he lost his footing as he attempted to look over his shoulder. He scrambled to get on his feet and back inside before….
In his mind’s eye, a red-cloaked figure strode calmly up behind him, a sword held in one fist. “Theos save me!”
Andreas made the last bit on his hands and knees, too shaken to regain his feet. The statue of Priapos with its obscenely large phallus jutting before him guarded his doorway. The god stood ready to protect this boundary against any trespassers, wielding his prodigious cock like a club. Having never been in this position before, Andreas had no idea if the deity would be able to protect him.
He clawed at the door for a moment before he managed to slip inside. Back pressed to the thick mud-brick wall, he forced himself to draw one deep shuddering breath after another.
The sound of another twig snapping came through his open window.
Oh Hades! Someone is out there.
Andreas fought to quiet his breathing as his bowels turned to water. Had the kryptes come to wreak judgment on him as they had on his father?
A faint scrabbling at his door had Andreas attempting to wedge himself into the much too narrow space under his cot. The wooden frame scraped across the floor, the sound muffled by the packed dirt. Hiding there had been so much easier when he’d done this as a child at his mother’s insistence. He barely fit now.
If the warrior was desperate enough to enter the one-room house, Andreas couldn’t risk being seen. The young man wouldn’t draw the line at murdering a helot.
He tried to convince himself the youth merely wanted something to eat. Everyone knew the boys in the Spartan agōgē were kept on the sharp edge of hunger to encourage theft; although, if anyone caught the young man at it, he would be flogged. They trained to be effective warriors, capable of foraging while on campaign, not common thieves.
Andreas might have reached the relative safety of his home, but he still wasn’t out of danger. The kryptes might yet kill Andreas to spare himself a beating for being observed. Not that Andreas would dare report him.
A breath of wind entered his home along with the intruder. Priapos’ threat hadn’t deterred the man. A shudder tore through Andreas as the door closed with a faint thump against the frame, trapping him inside with a killer.
December 8, 2014
Ictis lives with Andreas and is Andreas’ primary companion. He’s also a ferret.
Surprised? No one living in Sparta would have been.
You see Andreas wasn’t feeling particularly imaginative the day he named his new pet. In ancient Greek, Ictis more or less means… Ferret!
Dogs, caged birds, goats, tortoises, ducks, quail, weasels, mice, polecats/ferrets, and grasshoppers were all popular pets in ancient Greece. Ferrets were useful for keeping rodent populations down and as such served a double function.
Ictis has a third duty. He gives Andreas someone to talk to. Too bad he’s not much of a conversationalist. But he does try. It’s not his fault if Andreas doesn’t always understand him.
In fact, Andreas should have paid more attention to his warnings about that warrior lurking around their home. Didn’t Andreas realize just how dangerous the man could be? Ictis couldn’t have made it any clearer if he had jumped up and down and stolen the rabbit Andreas was preparing to feed to the Spartan warrior. Invite the kryptes into his home? Whatever was his human doing?
As a helot and a member of an enslaved people, Andreas should know better than draw the attention of one of the warriors responsible for Sparta’s reign of terror. Kryptes kept the helots from revolting by killing any of the slaves likely to lead a revolt.
Ictis had tried explaining all this, but unable to take his eyes from the warrior, Andreas hadn’t listened. Now Andreas was risking death. And what for? Conversation with a human was overrated.
December 8, 2014
Body Language takes place in Lydia—a kingdom in Asia Minor (now part of modern Turkey) that was conquered by Cyrus the Great during the 6th century BC and became part of the Persian Empire.
Years later, Lykos, the son of the king of the Thracian city-state, Aenus, is travelling incognito through the conquered province. To avoid arousing questions as to why he is there, he is only accompanied by the Persian, Narses, a friend of his father. Hearing cries for help, the two men intervene. They are too late to save a merchant and his slave, but they arrive in time to prevent bandits slaying the third member of the party.
Kas recently lost his family and was grateful to be travelling under the protection of Tahmasp. Now the merchant is dead, his future is once more under threat. He would like nothing better than to remain with the handsome warrior, but how can he explain that to a man who speaks little but Greek?
December 8, 2014
Andreas lives in a mud brick hut similar to this one. But his one-room hut isn’t as impressive as this. Nonetheless, it offers him shelter until one of the dread kryptes invades his safe haven.
No longer safe, he concocts a plan to save himself from the warrior. He will feed the fearsome young man so he will not be tempted to enter Andreas’ hut again.
But what began as self-preservation develops into attraction. Yearning for the company of someone other than his ferret Ictis, Andreas decides to trust the Spartan warrior and risk the fate that claimed his father.
Andreas has to balance his fear against his loneliness. In the same situation, which would you choose?
December 8, 2014
I know that all this history in A Spartan Love can sometimes be confusing. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the ancients had a different frame of reference and often a puzzling mindset that makes little sense to modern readers. I’ve attempted to point some of this out and explain their thinking in several posts on my blog. AB Gayle also quizzed me about Tales of Love in Ancient Greece.
Which of the concepts do you find the most difficult to wrap your head around?