Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Men in Iron Age Greece

Inspiration for King Lykos
Recently, several friends and I wrapped up the first annual Bear Talk Blog Hop. It all started off with Deanna Wadsworth and me discussing the dearth of bears in m/m romance/erotica. We didn't feel that it necessarily reflected a lack of reader interest. More like everyone was bowing before the current fad—men who shave or wax all the hair off their bodies.

I really only have one novel, Alexios' Fate, and I hadn't written a bear in the story. Or had I? On the surface, I had only written about men. Men in Greece during the fifth century BC. Men who didn't shave. Men who viewed a beard as a sign of virility. In fact these men spent a fair amount of time seeing that their beards were neatly trimmed, even oiled and teased into ringlets.

I only briefly touched on King Lykos' body hair when Alexios first meets him. Why, you ask? Because I wasn't really trying to write a bear character, specifically. Lykos is in his late 30s. He has body hair and a beard. His culture would not understand removing it or acting like it was something other than ordinary. People don't comment on what is considered normal, everyday, or commonplace.

Inspiration for Galen
Even my "beardless youth" characters have body hair. I didn't mention it at all in the novel because, once again, body hair is to be expected on men in Iron Age Greece. Alexios, Galen, and Apollo fall in this category, but they are by no means twinks. They are athletic young men who can't manage a respectable beard yet in the case of Alexios and Galen. Apollo, as a beardless youth, is the idealization of eternal youth.

So let me introduce you to my cast of characters.

Prince Alexios of Dicaea, at 18 years of age, has just come-of-age. His father expects him to make a marriage alliance at a point in his life when he should be choosing a mentor instead. Greek men at that point in history didn't typically marry until they were in their 30s. Needless to say, he is rather put out about this.

King Lykos is one of the kings invited to Alexios' coming-of-age celebration as a possible father-in-law/mentor. Lykos is a mature bear of a man with confidence in spades, exactly the kind of man a youth would chose to be his mentor. He is in his late 30s, powerfully built with body hair and a beard. He and Alexios hit it off right from the start, much to Alexios' father's disgust.

Alexios' slave, Galen, sees his chance and makes a bid for his prince's heart.

And yes, Apollo is real. But he is not some paranormal, omniscient, superior being. He is the anthropomorphism of light, art, healing, and prophecy. The ancient Greeks did not expect omniscience nor demand enlightened beneficence of their gods. Their gods could be just as petty and spiteful as anyone else.

Each of these men wants something different from Alexios. Lykos is looking for a culturally appropriate fling that will likely last for a few years. Galen wants a lover. Apollo, in typical Olympian fashion, is looking for a use 'em and lose 'em one night stand.

My setting is actually Thrace during the early classical age. Thrace is the portion of Greece closest to the Persian Empire, modern day Turkey. Greece was just hitting its stride as the cultural center of the ancient world. During the early years of the fifth century, Persia is becoming a threat to the Greek world, but has not yet invaded. The first Persian invasion by King Darius I looms on the horizon. The battle of Marathon will take place while Alexios is in his mid-20s. Persia will gobble up Dicaea and all of Thrace, but not reach the prince's new home in Delphi. But as you might expect Delphi will become much sought out by the other Greek city-states in the years leading up to the invasion.

To give you some idea of time frame,Thermopylae and the 300 won't be for nearly another two decades.

Blurb: The mature King Lykos has a sexy confidence that turns Alexios' head. Seduced by Lykos, Prince Alexios discovers a world of men he's never known before.

Meanwhile his slave Galen has gotten tired of waiting in the wings. He sets out to woo Alexios and win his heart.

Even Apollo can't leave Alexios alone. The young prince finds himself pursued by a god and in danger of a perilous love.

How will Alexios follow his heart when he unwittingly wins the favor of a god? Can Alexios escape the fate of Apollo's past lovers and have the man he wants?

Alexios' Fate preorder sale: Get 10% off until April 12 with the code ALEXIOSFATEPREORDER04C352FF

Alexios' father, still red-faced and with fists clenched, followed him into his room and glared at his slave Galen until the young man left. Demetrios twitched the mantle covering Alexios with contempt, almost as if touching the offending garment sullied his hand.

"Explain to me why my son comes back to me in Lykos' care, wearing another man's mantle? I'm sure the other kings want to know as well!" His voice took on a dangerous quality, "Don't play the wanton and act like you're already his."

Alexios jerked his head up, thrumming with restrained anger. "I am a prince of Dicaea! I belong to no one!"
"See that you keep yourself that way. I intend for you to make a marriage alliance. Whichever of those men becomes your father-in-law will have the mentoring of you." His father stalked to the door before turning. "I expect you to compete with the other youths at the games for your coming-of-age."

Feeling like a prize bull being offered to the highest bidder, Alexios tore the mantle from his body. He stood in no more than he would be wearing when he competed. Alexios realized his father not only wanted him to show his prowess, his father also wanted him on exhibit for the other kings.

"The alliance means so much you don't care if you have to put me on display to get what you want?"

"This alliance is more important than your wounded sensibilities. A betrothal will offer us the support we need to expand. A prince's loyalty is to his father. You will obey me in this!"

In spite of his father, his cock filled as he envisioned being on parade before Lykos and the other men. The fantasy of their eyes watching every move his body made gave rise to a shivery feeling at his core. Would they only have eyes for him or would they compare him to the other oiled bodies competing with him for the laurel? Would the victor also become the prize in some fashion?

The blood left Demetrios' face. "That...that man...excites you, doesn't he? Keep away from Lykos!" his father stuttered with a burgeoning air of alarm.

The dismayed man staggered through the doorway. He shoved past the slave standing in the hall, without thought or seeming awareness of his surroundings. Galen bowed to the king and kept an eye on Alexios' father as he stormed down the corridor.

Alexios still stood in openmouthed shock when Galen reentered the room, trying to fathom what his father's outburst had been all about. Bemused, Alexios wondered why his father wanted to keep him away from Lykos. For a moment, he had thought his father was jealous.


"Never mind him. He's not angry at you."

The air cooled his heated skin as he searched for a tunic to cover his nakedness. Galen reached past him to pick up the garment first. His arm brushed against Alexios' sensitive skin and a shudder ran down Alexios' frame.

Alexios turned and caught the look of surprise on his slave's face. Galen's carefully schooled his features to exhibited polite interest, nothing more.

Alexios gazed at the slave with speculation, contemplating what he knew of the man. Galen saw to all his needs, often before he realized he wanted something. The young man served him with such devotion Alexios had never been forced to rebuke him. In fact, Galen went to greater lengths than necessary, certainly more than duty required. He never wondered about the depth of Galen's dedication before. Why was Galen so diligent?

Taking the chiton from Galen's hands, Alexios replaced the garment on the chest at the foot of his bed. He feasted his eyes on the hale and comely slave. He had intended to slake his lust in one of the slave girls, but his own slave stood before him. Maybe he didn't need to go in search of someone else.

"Do you know what to do with this?" He gestured at his engorged cock.

An enigmatic mix of emotions washed across the young man's face. Distaste, hope, and despair jumbled together to distort the handsome features. Without a word, Galen slid to his knees and his hand stretched out to Alexios' cock.

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  1. I'm always so impressed by people who write historical novels. I have a deep, abiding fear of screwing up history. I wish you the very best with Alexio's Fate, Kayla. I know you've put your heart and soul into it.

  2. Thank you, Margie!

    I minored in classical history so I have a bit of an edge. I love ancient history and most of the TV watching I actually do is science and history shows. And I love the research... So it has actually been more of a labor of love than anything else.

    But I did research a lot of unique things just because they were mentioned once in the story. And I loved every minute of it!

    I had Aleksandr Voinov take a look at an early draft to make sure I hadn't screwed up, and history and I made it out unscathed.

    I hope you enjoy Alexios' story.