House of Atreus Scene 6

© 2016 Hank Quense

Ten minutes later, Wally heard a husky voice say, “Hello, boys.”  He broke away from the TV and hurried into the kitchen.

Clytemnestra stood just inside the kitchen entrance. As before, her beauty took away his breath.
“Planning a party?” Nestra leaned against the wall, laughing. “Because you’re about to have company.”

Agamemnon stared open-mouthed at his wife. “Nestra,” he managed after a few tries.

Ajax squirmed.

The front door crashed open, and Joey the Nose barged into the kitchen with four pistol-totting thugs. Agamemnon and Ajax snapped out of their funk. Before they could reach for their spears, Wally shouted, “Don’t move. They have guns.”

“What’s a gun?” Ajax asked.

“A weapon,” Wally replied. “A modern weapon that you don’t know about.”

Both Greeks looked intrigued by the idea of new weapons.

“Shaddup!” Joey the Nose yelled. He hadn’t noticed Nestra who still leaned against the wall, smiling. Joey and his goons had charged passed her. “I’ll do the talkin’.” He was tall and bulky with a huge nose. His brown hair was slicked back from his forehead. A smell of a cologne overdose accompanied his presence. To Wally, he said, “We got bidness to discuss.”

Joey’s men laughed. An unpleasant sound.

Still smiling, Nestra drew her bronze sword, grabbed a handful of Joey’s hair, yanked his head back and placed the sword blade against his throat. “I was here first. You have to wait your turn.”

Despite the sword, her smile dazzled Wally; every time she smiled his heart did back flips.

Joey made mewing sounds.

“Tell your men to put their weapons on the floor. Slowly.”

Joey waved his hand at the men and they bent over to place the guns on the floor.

“Tell them to leave.”

Joey jerked his thumb over his shoulder towards the door.

The men left.

“State your business.” Nestra lessened the pressure on Joey’s throat.

“This guy screwed me and I gotta even up the accounts.” Joey pointed to Wally.

“How much did you lose on the match?” Wally asked him.

“Ten grand.”

“What? That’s all.”

“There ain’t too many suckers willin’ to bet onna wrestlin’ match.”

“I didn’t plan on winning the match, but the champ pissed me off.”

“I know. I was sittin’ ringside. I saw him give you the knee.”

“Okay. Let’s split the loss. I’ll give you five thousand.”

“It ain’t the money. I told a lotta people you wouldn’t win. I lost face. Now, I gotta hurt you, so people can see what happens if someone crosses me.”

“Ahh.” Wally understood the man’s problem. No one would be afraid of Joey if he didn’t regain face. “How about this? I’ll put my left arm in a sling for a week. I’ll tell everyone that I fell in the bathroom, but I’ll make it sound unconvincing. You can tell people whatever you want.”

“You call that a plan?” Joey waved a hand. “I gotta see you with casts and crutches.”

“Nestra is getting bored,” Agamemnon said. “When she gets bored, she likes to watch blood flow.”

“Agree with the man’s suggestion.” Nestra moved the sword and a thin line of blood appeared on Joey’s neck. “I am getting bored.”

“All right. I agree. Now let go.”

“That’s a good little boy. Now you go straight home to your mommy.” She released Joey. He massaged his neck and looked startled to see the blood on his hand. He began to snarl something at Nestra who moved the sword point closer to his stomach and smiled.
Joey fled.

“I suppose you came here to kill me?” Agamemnon placed his hands on his hips.

Nestra gave him a ravishing grin. “Not unless you interfere.”

“Interfere with what?”

“My plan to end your silly House of Atreus. It’s gone on long enough.”

“So, you plan to kill this innocent man.” Agamemnon bounced on his toes and looked ready to attack.

“No.” Another smile. “I only have to geld him.” Nestra stepped towards Wally.

Wally backed up until he bumped into the sink. “Do something,” he shouted at Agamemnon. “It’s your fault she’s here. She followed you.” Conflicting emotions battled inside Wally: terror because Nestra advanced toward him and elation because she came closer.

“Stop moving.” Nestra aimed the sword point at his crotch. “Take it like a man.”

Agamemnon bellowed a war cry and charged.

Nestra sidestepped and cracked him on the head with the hilt of the sword. Agamemnon crashed to the floor and slid into the door to the guest room, knocking it open.

Wally cowered by the sink.

Agamemnon jumped up, spun around to face his wife. Blood dripped from the back of his head. “You’ll not end the House of Atreus. Not while I live.”

“Whatever it takes.” Nestra smiled again.

Agamemnon moved closer to her, his body hunched into a fighting stance. She thrust the sword at him. He grabbed her arm and twisted around. Nestra, still holding the sword, soared through the air, narrowly missing the kitchen table.

Her gown slipped up to her hips and Wally gasped as he noted that Mycean woman didn’t wear underclothes. Nestra scrambled under the table and leg-whipped Agamemnon as he ran passed. He fell headlong to the floor.

Wally noted that Mycean men also didn’t wear underclothes. The two climbed to their feet and circled each other. One of Nestra’s magnificent breasts had slipped out of the gown and Wally gawked at it.

So did Agamemnon and he almost lost his head when Nestra launched a sweeping sword stroke. Agamemnon raised his left arm just in time to block the blow by hitting her forearm. The sword flew across the room.

Nestra skipped backward, massaging her arm.

Husband and wife closed, grappled and danced around the room. She grabbed a handful of beard and tried to rip it off his face. He had a fistful of her hair and twisted her head around. Agamemnon tripped over a fallen chair and stumbled forward, pushing Nestra in front of him. Together they staggered into the guest room. One of them knocked into the door and it slammed shut.

“Do something,” Wally said.
“Not me.” Ajax shook his head. “I’d fight the entire Trojan army single-handed before I’d tangle with her.”

A loud crash came from behind the closed door. Wally smacked his forehead with the palm of his right hand. “They broke the bed.”

“Stop that,” Nestra yelled. “Fight fair.”

“Let go!” Agamemnon roared. “That hurts, you know.”

A deep laugh came from Nestra.

“That’s it then,” Ajax said. “The fight is over.”

“Why? What happened?”

“Those two haven’t been laid in three thousand years. We won’t see them until morning. Late morning.”

Wally looked at Ajax in astonishment. “What are you talking about?” Muffled giggling came from the guest room. “Oh. Never mind.”

Wally felt a pang of despair as he went to his room on the second floor. He wished it was he, not Agamemnon, with Nestra. He lay down. He thought of Nestra and Agamemnon downstairs. He knew he wouldn’t sleep.

To be concluded.

House of Atreus: Scene 4

© 2016 Hank Quense

When Wally went running the next day, the two thugs kept an eye on him, but didn’t come close. He had to do something about Joey the Nose. As well as his other problems. Such as Nestra. The image of her bought a grin to his face and an ache in the pit of his stomach.

He reached his home and recalled his wife’s plans to fill the ten-room townhouse with children. Now he lived alone in the old, rambling house. Alone, except for ancient Greeks that kept popping in. He opened a beer and took a swig. Maybe he should stay inside for a while. If Joey the Nose didn’t see him on the streets, maybe he would calm down and talk. Without breaking Wally’s legs. He sat down at the table.

Agamemnon presented a different challenge. The method of producing a baby hadn’t change in the last three thousand years, but the king obviously didn’t know or care about modern mores in the area of romance and marriage. In the last two months, he had gone out on a few dates, but didn’t have a serious involvement with any of the women. Even if he wanted to accommodate Agamemnon, he had no idea how to go about it except via a lengthy process leading to marriage because he wasn’t going to hire a surrogate mother. After all, what good was producing a son if the kid didn’t have a family to raise it properly?

A loud metallic clank made Wally slosh beer over his hand. He turned and saw Ajax banging his spear against his shield. A scowling Agamemnon stood by his side.

“We court disaster, ” Agamemnon said. “Zeus doesn’t brook delays.”

“You showed up yesterday for the first time.” Wally placed the can on the table and wiped his hand on a dish towel. “In case you don’t remember, it takes nine months to produce a baby. And that’s after I find a woman.”

“What do you mean, ‘find a woman?’.” Agamemnon looked surprised. “You go to a man who has daughters, you give him a few sheep and you get a woman to produce sons. It can’t be any simpler.”

“Leave me alone.” Wally waved a hand at Agamemnon. How could he explain to this exile from antiquity that life had changed since he died?

“Wait a minute!” Ajax raised his spear. The point embedded itself in the ceiling.

Wally made a face at the damage. A small snow storm of sheet rock dust fell when Ajax yanked the spear free.

“Maybe,” Ajax moved aside and scowled at the dust, “Wally doesn’t like women.”

“Ahh. He likes men, perhaps?” Agamemnon gave him a squinty-eyed look.

“Or sheep,” Ajax said.

“That’s disgusting.” Wally folded his arms on his chest.

“Sheep aren’t disgusting.” Ajax shook his head. “But goats are.”

“True.” Agamemnon nodded. “The nasty buggers always try a head-butt at the critical moment.”

“Are you two talking from personal experience?”

“Well, we didn’t have very many women in our camp at Troy,” Ajax replied.

“A good soldier can always adapt to the field conditions.” Agamemnon said.

A rumbling sound engulfed the house. Wally’s chair bounced and danced about on the floor.

He grabbed the edge of the table to keep from falling. The beer can rocked and fizzed.
Agamemnon moaned.

Ajax looked like he wanted to cry.

Both dropped their spears and shields and removed their helmets.

The kitchen ceiling evaporated as did the second story ceiling. A huge figure filled the space. At least fifteen feet tall and proportionally wide, the figure wore a white tunic, had a snowy beard and his white eyebrows bent into a frown.

Agamemnon fell to his knees, “Hail Zeus, Allfather of the gods.”

Ajax prostrated himself.

Zeus carried a bundle of lightning bolts in his left hand. Six feet long, they sparked and writhed and filled the room with the pungent stench of ozone.

“Agamemnon, King of Mycea.” Zeus’s deep, booming voice grated on Wally’s nerves. “Have you procured a son for the House of Atreus?”

“Great Grandfather, it is only two days since I crossed the River Styx. These things take time.”

Grandfather? Wally blinked a few times.

“Time? It takes you puny humans about two minutes. Why do you delay?”

“Customs have changed since I ruled Mycea.” Agamemnon clasped his hands and hung his head.

“Is this him?” Zeus pointed the bundle of bolts at Wally.

Wally’s knees quaked.

“Yes, Almighty Sire.”

“He looks virile enough. Fetch a woman and get on with it. Remember. Returning to Hades is not the worse thing that can happen to you. Ask the Titans. If you can find them.” The god laughed.

Zeus vanished and the ceilings returned.

After his nerves settled down, Wally asked in a high-pitched voice, “Why did you call Zeus Great Grandfather?”

Agamemnon didn’t seem to hear the question.

“Because it’s true.” Ajax replied. “Zeus begot Tantalaus who begot Pelops who begot Atreus who is his father.”

“I’m descended from Zeus? Maybe three hundred generations ago?”

Agamemnon stared at the wall while biting his lip. Finally he turned to Wally and said, “We border on personal disasters because of your stubbornness. Zeus doesn’t have a great deal of patience and the longer you delay, the more time Nestra has to ruin my plans.”

Wally ignored Agamemnon and said to Ajax, “He’s afraid of his wife, isn’t he?”

“Anyone in his right mind would be afraid of Nestra. She’s more wily than Odysseus and fiercer than Achilles.” Ajax had a wistful look in his eyes. “I think she is even more beautiful than her sister, Helen.”

“Should I worry about her?”

“If you’re smart you will.” Ajax chuckled.
“Why?”

“Nestra always tries to ruin Agamemnon’s plans. It amuses her. So she’ll probably try to kill him or you. Or maybe both of you.”

Wally’s stomach clenched. Zeus’s appearance had obliterated a number of his long-held beliefs, and scared the crap out of him, but he sensed that Nestra’s appearance was a greater danger. Joey the Nose may have to get in line to get a piece of him.

 

To be continued

House of Atreus: Scene 3

© 2016 Hank Quense

Back in his kitchen, Wally sat at the table and paged through the sports section looking for an account of last night’s match. An image of the woman in the Park kept popping into his head and made concentration difficult. Buried amid the help-wanted-ads, he found a two-paragraph blurb that misspelled his name. So much for the glory and fame of a world title.

Agamemnon cleared his throat and Wally ripped the paper in half.

“Stop doing that!” he snarled at the king. “You scare the shit of me when you pop up out of nowhere.”

For a moment, Agamemnon looked perplexed. He frowned and said, “Ajax reports that all you did was run around a park when you went out.”

Ajax appeared and nodded in agreement.

“You have to get a woman pregnant.”

“You’re not in your Greek kingdom, so don’t tell me what to do.”

“I didn’t give you an order.” Agamemnon sighed. “Zeus did. And the god is quite unreasonable when his commands are not followed.”

“Making a baby is a lot of fun,” Ajax said. “What you do is—“

“I know what to do!” Wally glared at the two men. “I don’t take orders from mythical gods.”

Agamemnon flinched. Horror written on his face, Ajax’s spear clattered on the floor when he released it to make a sign with his right hand. Both men glanced over their shoulders.
“Listen to me, fool.” Agamemnon glared at Wally. “You must be about Zeus’s work.”

“I saw a strange woman in the Park.” Wally tapped a finger on the table. “Is she with you?”

Agamemnon started.

“Describe her,” Ajax said.

When Wally finished, Agamemnon bit his lip and wiped a hand over his face.

“It must be Nestra,” Ajax said. He didn’t look too happy.

“What the hell is a Nestra?”

“Clytemnestra is my wife,” Agamemnon said. “I’ll be the laughing stock of Hades if she murders me again.”

“Your wife murdered you?” Wally’s mouth dropped open.

“When the king returned from Troy, Nestra plunged a dagger into his chest,” Ajax sad.

“How can she kill you again? You’re already dead.”

“In mortal form, we are subject to mortal hurts.” Agamemnon furrowed his brow.

“Same as the gods,” Ajax said. “At Troy, a number of them got hurt playing warrior.”

“And your wife left Hades? Like you did?”

“The bitch must have followed me.” Agamemnon nodded. “You must get a woman pregnant. Immediately.”

Wally made an obscene gesture at the king.

After a pause while he gnawed on his upper lip, Agamemnon said to Ajax, “Come, old friend. We must seek her out before she destroys our quest.”

“Wait.” The king’s last remark puzzled Wally. “How can she mess up your quest?”

Agamemnon disappeared without responding.

With the Greeks barely out of sight, his cell phone chirped. “Hello?”

“Wally, what the hell were you thinking?” His agent, Jim Abner, sounded exasperated.

“About what?” Wally grinned to himself.

“You told the GWA you weren’t throwing any more fights? You could have just said that you wanted to retire. It would have the same effect.”

“They’re bluffing. I’m now the champ so I’ll have to defend the title. I know it. You know it. They know it.”

“Well, maybe.”

“Make sure they pay me the whole amount for last night.” The winner had been guaranteed two-hundred thousand dollars while the loser received a hundred grand.

He disconnected and turned his thoughts to his visitors. He half-believed in a Supreme Being, but not in organized religion and he sure as hell didn’t believe in storybook gods. Yet, Agamemnon and Ajax couldn’t be denied. They cast shadows and the two guys in the Park saw Ajax. So, they weren’t ghosts and he wasn’t hallucinating. And then there was Nestra. Why did she scare two combat-tested warriors? Wally sensed something unusual about her. Something important.

 

To be continued

Book Blurbs

Book blurbs are one of the most important elements in a marketing plan. They are a versatile tool and have many uses. They are also a key element in converting potential readers to book buyers and it’s a start on building your brand.  However, many authors think the book blurb is merely a short synopsis.  These authors are missing out on a great marketing opportunity.  Book blurbs can also be called differentiation.

Differentiation is a three-part statement about your book. These statements tell the world why your book matters and why readers should buy it. These issues are a vital aspect of all book marketing and is especially important in self-marketing. When developing the differentiation statements, make sure you slant them towards the customers for your book. Your statements will be less potent if they are aimed at the general population.

Essentially, what differentiation development entails is creating three sentences or short paragraphs that can be used to help sell your book. Here are descriptions of each of the three elements.

Pitch Line: this is the first statement and it is the hook to grab the readers’ attention. Its purpose is to persuade the reader to keep reading the other two statements. It should be simple, one or two sentences at most, and it must make a clear statement about your book.

What’s in it for the buyer? is a statement that explains what the reader (i.e. a book buyer) will get in exchange for money. This must be explicit. This statement is not the place to get cute. Don’t come across like the legendary used-car salesman. Tell the readers what benefit they’ll get from buying the book. Think of this statement in this way; if your book is surrounded by hundreds of similar-sized books on a shelf in a bookstore, what would persuade the buyer to choose your book instead of one of the others?

What’s different about this book? With all the books published every month, what makes your book stand out from the others?

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These dry descriptions are difficult to grasp so I’ll use an example from one of my fiction novels.

For my novel, Falstaff’s Big Gamble, I developed these differentiation statements.
Pitch Line: This novel is Shakespeare’s Worst Nightmare.
What’s in it for the buyers? It takes two of the Bard’s most famous plays, Hamlet and Othello, and recasts them in Gundarland. There, Hamlet becomes a dwarf and Othello a dark elf
What’s different about your book? If that isn’t bad enough, these two tragedies are now comedies with Falstaff, Shakespeare’s most popular rogue, thrown in as a bonus.

When you use your differentiation statements, don’t use the term “pitch line” or the questions. Just have the statement flow into a short paragraph like this: This novel is Shakespeare’s Worst Nightmare. It takes two of the Bard’s most famous plays, Hamlet and Othello, and recasts them in Gundarland. There, Hamlet becomes a dwarf and Othello a dark elf. If that isn’t bad enough, these two tragedies are now comedies with Falstaff, Shakespeare’s most popular rogue, thrown in as a bonus.

~ ~~

So what are the differentiation statements good for? How are they used? You stick them anywhere they’ll fit. If you can’t fit the entire statement someplace (such as on Twitter), use the pitch line by itself.

Here are some common uses.
On a website: On your book-buying web page, make the pitch line the opening statement followed by the rest of your differentiation message. Why? On the internet, attention spans are too minuscule to measure. When visitors land on your web page, you have a second or two to persuade them to read beyond the first line of text they see. That is the job of your pitch line: to get the visitors to read further. The next statement (what’s in it for the buyer) has to tell them there is something of value here, something they can use or enjoy. Finally, you tell them what is different about your book, what is in it that they can’t get elsewhere. If this works, the visitors will read even further where they can learn how to get a copy and how much it’ll cost. Directly after the differentiation statements, add links to book seller sites so the reader can immediately go to one of them to buy the book. If you get a sale, you have accomplished the difficult process of converting a visitor to a customer. Give your Marketing Manager and Sales Manager a pat on the back.
Trailers: Make sure your differentiation statements are clearly visible and emphasized in the trailer. Get the message in the beginning and the end of the trailer. Innumerable people from all over the world may view the trailer and you want them to understand your message.
Internet Announcements: Log onto social media sites and post an announcement that your book is available. Include the differentiation message in the announcement. Use it on book sites like Goodreads, Librarything and other web sites. After the message, add information about your book. You can upload the cover and add descriptive text about it.
Press Releases: Display your differentiation messages prominently. Make them the opening statement in the body of the release. Rephrase the message and place it a second time further down in the body.
Sig Files: Use the signature capability in your email program to build a unique signature using the pitch line by itself. Link that pitch line to your book-selling website. Now, every time you send an email, you’ll also be pitching your book.
Back Cover Text: If you have print edition planned, put your differentiation statements on the back page to tempt folks who happen to pick up your book in a bookstore or at a book event.
Ebook Front Page. With an ebook, place the differentiation statement before the title page. That way, anyone who samples the ebook will see it as the first thing they read about you book.

~~~

Once the differentiation statements are completed, you’ve taken a big step toward getting people to buy your book. These statements will also start to build your brand.
Keep going! You can do this.

~~~

This article was taken from my Complete Self-publishing Guide.