Black Gate Adventures in Fantasy Literature review of The Sacred Band by Janet Morris and Chris Morris

See original post on Black Gate here:  https://www.blackgate.com/2014/01/12/heroic-fantasy-with-the-sharp-edge-of-reality-a-review-of-the-sacred-band-by-janet-morris-and-chris-morris/

Heroic Fantasy with the Sharp Edge of Reality: A Review of The Sacred Band by Janet Morris and Chris Morris

Sunday, January 12th, 2014 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

The Sacred Band-smallThe Sacred Band
Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Perseid Press (547 pages, June 2011, $24.95)

All three hundred of the Sacred Band of Thebes fought at Chaeronea in August of 338 BCE, and two-hundred fifty-four skeletons lie buried there today under a granite lion. Some still argue about the fate of the forty-six whose skeletons were not recovered. Plutarch says that they died together, and Philip of Macedon wept to see it. Another, later, view is that the remainder surrendered, were taken prisoner, or deserted. We tell a different story.

— Janet and Chris Morris, in their Authors’ Notes and Acknowledgments from The Sacred Band

And this is the premise behind this wonderfully rich, complex, dramatic and highly emotional epic of gods, demi-gods and Men. This is the story of how Tempus the Black, Favorite of Enlil, Storm God of the Armies, and the one they call Riddler, challenged the gods to rescue twenty-three pairs of Thebans, forty-six warriors who had been fated to die. And rescue them he did… Charon, Lysis and the other forty-four men of the original Sacred Band of Thebes… by opening a dimensional portal from Chaeronea to Lemuria, where they were taken, trained and made part of the greater Sacred Band.

This is the also the story of Nicodemus, who is called Niko and Stealth, a true weapon of the gods, of his own struggle with becoming the favorite, the avatar of a god, and his intimate relation with the goddess Harmony.

After training and orientation, the Thebans do their best to settle in, to become one with Tempus’s Sacred Band. But it’s difficult for many of them, because memories of the Chaeronean battleplain, memories of seeing friends and comrades die in a battle in which they were fated to die keep intruding on their thoughts.

Sanctuary Thieves' World-smallDreams of Chaeronea haunt their hearts and give pain to their souls. Various versions of the “mantra,” Long spears, thunking into flesh. Men staggering backward, impaled, weeping, are a recurring theme throughout this story, as men dream of Chaeronea and that far-away field of battle. What these survivors remember and what they suffer adds a personal and very poignant touch to this novel, for as we turn the pages we get to know these men, these warriors, these heroes.

Now, Tempus has plans for his new and greater Sacred Band: to return to Sanctuary, that infamous “border town between morality and immortality, its feet in hell and its fingers stretched up to heaven.” Sanctuary: the center of activity in the classic Thieves’ World Series, where I first discovered Tempus, known then as the Hell-Hound.

In Sanctuary once again, Tempus plans to settle old scores and tidy loose ends. But he and the Sacred Band get more than they bargain for when they return to that “place where anything may happen, and sometimes does, when wills are strong and mysteries invoked.” For instance, there’s the warrior Kouras, soon to become a favorite and an avatar of the god Vashanka, who once favored Tempus.

How Kouras deals with becoming one with a Storm God and his love for a girl named Shawme is just one of the many sub-plots that grace this novel, which owes so much to history, mythology and the sheer brilliance, talent and imagination of Janet and Chris Morris.

A young, hot-headed warrior named Shamshi, who has wizard’s blood, gets things going when he murders a harlot one night. Apprehended by the Band, he is stripped naked, sewn inside the hide of an animal, and placed on the altar of Enlil, the Storm God:

If no beast eats him in the night, then we free him in the morning. The lesson’s done. Punishment finished. He’s cleansed by the storm god of any taint. If the god sends a bear or a wolf or a panther to tear him apart, then that is Enlil’s verdict and no one interferes. But if anyone cuts him loose tonight or tries to save him, we hunt down all of them and kill them.

A Man and His God-smallSo Tempus says to his men. Harsh treatment? Not at all. This punishment is most fitting to the crime in the context of the novel and the world in which the Sacred Band lives. But Shamshi has patience, and there is one who walks in dreams and shadows who has his eye on the boy with wizard’s blood. Thus, when Shamshi is freed, he is now bound to his savior in body, mind, heart and soul. He then sets out on the road of vengeance, uses his skills as a warrior and some other talents and gifts and help he has been given, and begins to pick off the Sacred Band, one by one. But his main target, the man he feels has betrayed him, and the one he most wants to kill is Nicodemus: Niko, whose war-name is Stealth.

Now the manhunt begins as Sham preys on the Sacred Band, killing them with single-minded determination and cold-blooded ruthlessness. Night after night, men die. A stable burns one night and horses die in a very tense and moving chapter. Other powers are brought into play as Tempus and the Band balance duty with their personal manhunt. Old friends and comrades come to aid in the hunt: Jihan, daughter of a sea god and Tempus’s lover; Randal the Mage, Ischade the Witch, and even Cime, Evening Star of Lemuria and sister of Tempus, are called in to help.
But there is more behind this manhunt than just tracking down a rapist and a murderer, for the stage is being set for a coming battle, a battle for Meridian, the realm of Askelon, entelechy of dreams and shadows. This battle will test the Sacred Band as it has never been tested before, and they will be hard-pressed because worlds collide in this battle when Askelon brings Meridian to Sanctuary, and the battle becomes a shadow, an echo of the great battle of Chaeronea.

And in this battle, not only the mettle of the Sacred Band will be put to the test, but that of the original Sacred Band of Thebes, as well — those forty-six warriors who had been fated to die but were rescued by Tempus. They will not only be fighting both old and new foes, but old comrades, as well — comrades who died at the hands of the Mesopotamians. Tempus and Niko will be tested in this battle, too. To the limits of their skills and power, strength and endurance they will be tested. Question is: will Enlil the Storm God come to the aid of Tempus, his avatar?

Beyond WizardWall-smallAnd what of Niko? Will the goddess Harmony continue to watch over him? Guard and protect him? Can Askelon, a god himself, be defeated? And what of Shamshi? He’s a great character because, for all that he is evil, he is also one to be pitied. He is a victim of forces and powers beyond his understanding, as well as a perpetrator of heinous acts. He is a pawn in the hands of something greater than himself, a puppet and a tool used by gods and the Fates.

The Sacred Band is much more than great Heroic Fantasy: it is classic literature, filled with sub-plots, a fine cast of well-drawn characters, insight and wisdom and recurring themes of honor, faith, brotherhood and love. This novel spoke to me on a personal level because it’s a story of pure human drama and powerful emotions. While the characters are larger than life, they are also richly-drawn and written with great depth of insight and humanity. What also rings true with the Sacred Band is their military tradition, their ethos. These characters are soldiers, warriors. They are not only mythic heroes, they are also everyday heroes; real people, everyday people who face extraordinary odds and foes. They are true to all who have served in any branch of the military.

This is not sword and sorcery, this is not elves and dwarves and high-concept fantasy… The Sacred Band has the sharp edge of reality, the harshness, the bitterness and the danger of the real world. Love, loyalty, honor — these are the ideals by which these characters live and die. This novel is epic in scope. It is mythic by heritage. It is positively Homeric.

This is a 5-Star novel written by two highly-talented writers who have been around for a very long time, who have not lost their chops and their edge, and have not slowed down. There is so much in this novel to enjoy, so much I haven’t even touched on. All I can say is that this is classic stuff. Buy it. Read it. You’ll see.

As Tempus and the Sacred Band would say, “Life to you, and everlasting glory.”

Read my other reviews of Janet Morris and Chris Morris’ novels on Black Gate.

Publisher’s LINKS:

Audiobook:  https://www.amazon.com/The-Sacred-Band/dp/B00N1YRVH2/

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Band-Stepsons-Book-ebook/dp/B00AMLKJAI/

Trade paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Band-Janet-Morris/dp/0988755009/

YouTube Sacred Band (audio/visual book trailer):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICAPn0E7NC0

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sacred-band-janet-morris/1100390034?ean=9780988755000&st=PLA&sid=BNB_DRS_Core+Shopping+Books_00000000&2sid=Google_&sourceId=PLGoP62465

Caught Between Rebels and the Empire’s Blackest Magic: Beyond the Veil: The Revised and Expanded Author’s Cut by Janet Morris

Originally posted on Black Gate Adventures in Fantasy Literature.

Caught Between Rebels and the Empire’s Blackest Magic: Beyond the Veil: The Revised and Expanded Author’s Cut by Janet Morris

Sunday, March 16th, 2014 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Beyond the Veil Janet Morris-smallI continue with my review of the 5-star, Author’s Cut editions of Janet Morris’s classic of Homeric Heroic Fantasy, the Beyond Sanctuary Trilogy, of which Beyond the Veil is the second book. Once again, she does not disappoint in this stirring novel of political and religious intrigue, dark magic, gods and men, witches and mages, and the price of love and war.

This is a pivotal book in the trilogy, where foreshadowing and story threads begin to weave in and out to form a tapestry, telling a tale of friends who become foes, enemies who become allies, and what fate lies in store for certain demigods and mortals.

Now, after the battle to win Wizardwall that took place in book one, Beyond Sanctuary, Tempus, Niko, and the Sacred Band are caught between the local rebels and the empire of Mygdonia’s blackest magic. Once again, “War is coming, sending ahead its customary harbingers: fear and falsity and fools.”

It begins with the murder of a courier on his way to meet with Tempus, and the arrival of a young woman named Kama, of the 3rd Commandos, (a unit of special rangers originally formed by Tempus) who seeks audience with Tempus, who is also known as Riddler. Her mission is to take 11-year old Shamshi, the young wizard-boy, back home to Mygdonia.

Shamshi, once a pawn in the game played by the late sorcerer Datan in the previous novel, is still under the spell of Roxane the witch, but is now being held as a guest-hostage by Tempus and the Sacred Band. Though he may be a child in the eyes of men, Shamshi is already plotting against Tempus and Niko.

He is guided and goaded by the “voice” of Roxane, who has been in hiding since the death of Datan, her former partner in crime, and the loss of Wizardwall at the hands of Tempus and his Stepsons. Roxane has her own agenda, of course: she is one of the most seductive, dangerous and deadly foes in this trilogy.

To further complicate matters, Shamshi is in love with Jihan, Froth Daughter of the weather god, Stormbringer; she has come to Earth to spend one year as a mortal, and Shamshi can’t wait to grow into manhood so he can take her for his own. Even though Roxane has already introduced him to the pleasures of the flesh, Shamshi knows he must wait to seduce Jihan, wait until he is a man full-grown when she will accept him as such, or so he believes.

Beyond the Veil Janet Morris-smallJihan, however, loves and cares for Shamshi only as if he was her own son. But she has fallen in love with Tempus, much against her father’s wishes, and wants to stay with him, permanently. Relationships, plots, and counterplots are complicated in this series and, oh… what tangled webs these mortals and immortals weave. “When men and mages fought gods in perverted theomachy, no one was safe, not on earth or in the heavens.”

Tempus, still without the patronage of Enlil, the Storm God of the Armies, is weakened and uncertain, and concerned for Niko, his right-side partner, whose life and fate hang in the balance. He sends young Randal, the seventh-level Hazard Class mage who proved his worth in the battle of Wizardwall, to the Bandaran Isles to find Niko, who has gone into retreat there. Together, Niko and Randal then travel to mystical and mysterious Meridian, where they meet with Askelon, Dream Lord and regent of the seventh sphere, who seeks Niko’s aid and offers him his patronage.

Reluctantly, Niko agrees to become the avatar of Askelon who says he wants “to secure the stability of the seventh sphere through its human connection, to prevent the possibility of someone threatening the right of man to dreams of comfort and healing.” But is that all the entelechy of dreams and shadows wants? Or does Askelon have a hidden agenda that is yet to be revealed? Are gods to be trusted any more than men?

And let’s not forget about Roxane, the snake-eating, soul-devouring witch whose grim shadow hovers over all. She wants Niko for her own; she seeks to regain Wizardwall for all her kin, and “to find out if Tempus is truly immortal and whether a Froth Daughter might be turned to drizzle upon the air.” And young Shamshi is her tool, her weapon against Tempus and Jihan.

As I stated earlier, this is a complicated novel, rich and complex in the machinations of its characters, whether they’re mortal, divine, or numinous, whose motives may or may not be what they seem. It begins with a mystery and keeps that going throughout the story. The reader knows only as much as what the characters know and learns things only when the characters learn them.

When the answers and revelations come, they hit fast and hard. There is also wisdom and philosophy in this novel, as well as a wealth of wonderful quotes. Janet Morris was determined that Beyond the Veil not suffer from what I call MBS — Middle Book Syndrome, and she has succeeded. More than that, halfway through the story, this novel goes from being as solid as its predecessor to upping the ante and raising the bar.

Now let me mention Janet Morris’s prose, her style, her approach. She is a musician, a bass player, and she writes with the ear of a musician. There is what I call “poetry of earthiness” in her prose, and a certain rhythm in her style. For example, here’s a passage, elegant in its simplicity, from a scene set in a whorehouse, that puts you right there.

Gayle was here now — beside her among the bubbly pipes and smoke. Candlelight flickered with the drafts, glimmering on cup and shield rims, on blades and armor; snatches of intrigue; lovers cuddling in corners; schemers whispering in booths nearby; wisps of low connivance leaking out from a dozen paper screens. Gayle must know something, be useful in some manner. This place he’d chosen was one for confidences and calumny. She began to open him up with canny questions and careful flattery.

Beyond the Veil Janet Morris hardcover-smallAnd here’s a bit about Tempus that reveals something of his character, something of his past, without giving away the mystery of the one they call the Sleepless One. His presence, whether or not he takes center stage in a scene, dominates all.

As a haughty young philosopher, ages ago, before the curse which had made him a tireless wanderer, bereft of sleep and love and what men call peace, Tempus had concluded that god is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, satiety and hunger… Further, that out of all things can come unity and out of unity, all things.

Tempus, Morris’s most famous character, her legacy character, is a stoic hero, a great warrior, a demigod… and philosopher. We get to know him, but not as well as we get to know the other members of the Sacred Band. Morris keeps the mystery, the enigma, of him there to tease us. He is not called Tempus the Obscure for nothing.

And for all the glory of its flesh and blood characters, the beauty of prose, the literary depth and textures and levels of this classic, there is no shortage of inhumans, once-humans, half-humans, magic-working, mortals fighting in the streets, mage war, embattled gods, fire-spitting demons, shape-shifters, and a rousing night raid that reaches a powerful crescendo. Oh, yes… there’s also a golden homunculus, a creepy little thing that becomes the whispering master of one recurring character, and nearly succeeds in doing to Tempus what few men, few mages, have ever attempted.

The final scenes involving a young warrior-woman who has found herself pregnant, and who is torn between keeping the baby or having an abortion, is played out perfectly, with restraint and delicacy, with compassion and humanity, and a deft touch that neither underplays nor overwhelms.

Once again, as I highly recommended the first book in this magnificent trilogy, I say that you will not be disappointed in this second book, Beyond the Veil.

Life to you, and everlasting glory.

Character Interview: Tempus, called the Riddler, the Black, the Obscure, Favorite of the Storm God

see original post at:  https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2014/03/07/character-interview-tempus-fantasy/?platform=hootsuite

 

Character Interview – Tempus – Fantasy

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Tell Us About Yourself

Name (s):  Tempus, called the Riddler, the Black, the Obscure, the Sleepless One, Tempus Thales, Herakleitos, Favorite of the Storm God, the Hero.

Age:  I’ve lived for centuries, in different countries, through different times, different dimensions.

Please tell us a little about yourself:  I am a mercenary of the storm gods, servant of the gods of war.  Sometimes I find my path solitary, but often I have warriors serving with me who also serve celestial purpose.  When I was young, I contested with a sorcerer to save my sister.  From this struggle came my curse and my immortality:  those I love are bound to spurn me; those who love me die of it; I regenerate any wound I take, except wounds of the spirit or the heart.  I’ve been thrust by gods and demiurges and even my sister from one world to another, so time for me is fluid. I was born in a lost place we called Azehur then, a philosopher-prince who loved the glory of truth above all things.  Now I go where the storm god of the armies leads, carrying him in my heart and in my flesh.

Describe your appearance in 10 words or less:  Two meters tall, horseman’s body, eyes that show my age.

Do you have a moral code? If so what is it?  I have one; I wrote one; I live one.  The Sacred Band Ethos serves me most times.   At its core is this truth:  live by the Logos; fight shoulder to shoulder for freedom; honor those who die in battle.  In living I have found that character is destiny.  My character tells me this:  grab reality by the balls and squeeze.

Would you kill for those you love?  Without hesitation, I always do.

Would you die for those you love?  If I could, I would.  But death is denied me.  Once I offered to trade my immortality to save another, to no avail.  I live on, amid the strife on every battlefield, from war to war.  Some say no war I fight can be lost, no cause I champion fail, but that is mythos, not reality.

What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?  Strengths I have many; governing those strengths is my hardest task.  My weakness resides in loving too much, all my fighters, my partners, and the world the gods have made.  For untold years my weakness was my sister in arms, Cime; then for a time it became Nikodemos, my partner.  Love of life itself, lived with heart and soul, is weakness:  one must want neither too much to live nor too much to die.  Rage is power, yet rage is weakness. Only so much can be borne from men, so much from gods.  My greatest strength is knowing one simple truth:  in change lies all good, all rest.  Glory and wisdom are all around you, in every breath taken, yet no man can discover the limits of soul.

Do you have any relationships you prize above others? I greatly prize my relationship with my Sacred Band of Stepsons, and with one special Stepson, Stealth called Nikodemos.  My relationship with my sister Cime, who was cursed with me so long ago, yet confounds my heart.

Do you like animals? Do you have any pets/animal companions?  Here too are gods:  in every creature free to breathe is proof of heaven. There is no animal that is not more noble in its way than humankind.  Horses are my greatest allies, friends and companions.  In a horse is nature’s greatest impulse, realized.  We breed some special horses in the Sacred Band:  Trôs horses, so fast they run holes in the wind; Aškelonian horses, created by the demiurge, who can run on water; we have even a ghost horse, who cannot die or be hurt whatever men may do.

Do you have a family? Tell us about them.  My Sacred Band of Stepsons is my family.  They mean the most to me.  Niko, my right-side partner, is the best of those, the closest to me.  As for my sister Cime …  some say we have no consanguinity, but we grew up together, fought a sorcerer together, staggered under our curses together; when we were younger and more angry, we wreaked great destruction together – her against sorcerers and me against human folly.  I have a mistress, Jihan, a Froth Daughter sired by Stormbringer, who begat all weather gods.  And I have a few sons and daughters, scattered here and there:  some of those are worth succouring, and so I do.

Can you remember something from your childhood which influences your behaviour? How do you think it influences you? I remember something from my youth, but you would not call those days my childhood, nevertheless, from earliest days I have taken the side of Reason against Unreason. I have spoken above of my encounter with a sorcerer, trying to protect my sister Cime, and the curses that fell upon both our heads because of that. If she hadn’t come to me to save her, would things have gone differently?  Would I have stayed where I was born, assumed my kingship?  Been content to philosophize and teach, but never act?  Probably not.  For war is all, and king of all… and all things come into being out of strife.  Unlike most, I know what gods and heroes are.  My curse and the warlike life I’ve led colors all: the battles I have fought; the dead I carry in my heart, from battlefield to battlefield, war to war. My battle with all sorcerers is not yet over; may never be.  Trying to help Nikodemos takes me back to my own young days of strife and fury.  The best men choose immortal glory in preference to mortal good. In teaching Niko, Cime and I have another chance to know the name of justice, to prove that opposition brings concord as we guide this hero, closer than any blood son to me, toward a worthy future.

Do you have any phobias?  No.

Please give us an interesting and unusual fact about yourself. When I am in battle, I am faster than any other upon the field.  If I am on a Trôs or other such horse, I can transfer my speed to my mount.  And, of course, any wound I take will heal, any limb regrow.

Tell Us About Your World

Please give us a little information about the world in which you live:  Now when I can I ‘live’ with my Stepsons in Lemuria, a seaside island citadel where time does not pass as it does elsewhere.  From there, with Cime’s mystic powers, I can stage any mission, fight in any place or time.  At this moment we are campaigning somewhere in ancient Thrace, Pelasgian times, at the whim of the storm-god Enlil, who shepherds us through all things.  War will be in the mix of it, with the god guiding us.  My Stepsons are skirmisher light cavalry; we fight with edged bronze weapons, primarily, against what hegemonies challenge us or displease the gods.  But a man is a warrior because of mind, not weaponry.  We fight with weapons at hand, against whatever confronts us, and mostly where the ancient gods still war.

Does your world have religion or other spiritual beliefs? Many.

If so do you follow one of them? I believe in admitting that all things are one.

Please describe (briefly) how this affects your behaviour:  Our world, as you call it, all that lies within humanity’s ken, is full of gods.  We are servants of history and its storm-gods, sworn to the gods of war.  Enlil is the foremost of these for my fighters and myself.  The worlds we know are polytheistic, and many wars we fight are actually theomachies – wars between gods or among gods and sorcerous humans, who warp the fates of simpler men.  Once I warred in a nearly godless future, to bring them the means to repopulate their heavens; this we did for people dying from their paucity of belief, prey to the lusts and greed and fears of others no wiser than themselves. As for myself, I am a simple warrior-philosopher; my relations with gods remain pragmatic:  when gods reside in my flesh and in my head, then they control the battle tempo, not I. Is this religion, when gods and fates and worse walk the earth?  Or is it reality?

Do you travel in the course of your adventures? If so where?  I mentioned that I go wherever the gods send me.  I have been in Akkad, in Sumer; I have been in Chaeronea, in Nisibis, in Mygdonia, in Thrace.  I have been in what you call 20th century New York City, and to a future of dying oceans and a place there called Sandia.  I have been to the ends of the earth, to Bandara, to Lemuria, to the City at the Edge of Time, and to Meridian, the archipelago of dream and nightmare.  To Meridian, I suspect the Sacred Band will soon return.

Name and describe a food from your world.  A posset:  spiced wine and cheese or milk and barley, sometimes with nuts and sometimes not; served often with lamb or fish or ox-tail.

Does your world have magic? If so how is it viewed in your world?  We have a surfeit of magic, sorcerers from every time and plane meddling with Fates and gods.  We have wars between wizards and gods.  We have sorcery to rival godhead.  Thus, because people believe more in evil than in good, it does.

What form of politics is dominant in your world? (Democracy, Theocracy, Meritocracy, Monarchy, Kakistocracy etc.)  Our world, I once said, is an everliving fire, with portions of it kindling and portions going out. In age of bronze, we hear Plato’s musings about timocracy and democracy and tyranny, as well as the elusive republic. I have lived in earlier theocracies, oligarchies, and simple hereditary monarchies, often passed down through female lines.  Meritocracy I have seen but little of; Kakistocracy is, to my mind, a condition synonymous with governance by decree of any kind and especially with simple democracy:  people will choose those most like themselves, long before they’ll choose a person one bit better:  the foolish hate the smart and try to destroy them. This truth itself dependably produces bad government.

Does your world have different races of people? If so do they get on with one another?  Prejudice lives in flesh; the black dog hates the white; the roan horse hates the chestnut; in herds, mares of one color stick together.  How different, for humans?  People hate anyone different, and call them prey.

Name a couple of myths and legends particular to your culture/people. The greatest myth is that wisdom is called by the name of Gods.  The legendary Gilgamesh sat beside the dead Enkidu seven days, until a maggot fell from Enkidu’s nose.

What is the technology level for your world/place of residence? What item would you not be able to live without?  Most of all, I need my war horses and the heroes who bestride them or drive them.  The items I need are loyalty, clarity, and justice.  The technology in my world depends on when you ask me:  sometimes we have bronze spears and war axes; sometimes we have iron flights and crossbows; sometimes we have fireballs, and armor forged by men and gods.  I have been where metal flies and chariots need no horses; in those places, man has become the slave of all he owns, afraid of having so much to lose – and thus has nothing.

Does your world have any supernatural/mystical beings? Please tell us about some.  We have a populous cosmos.  We have demons and devils and fiends; we have were-wolves and were-snakes and men and women who can change into any creature at whim.  We have undeads and necromants; we have dragons and rocs and creatures part-man who lie deep in the seas; we have Froth Daughters and Fates and Erinys and sphinxes and naiads, and creatures who lived before the gods were born and spawned them.  We have pantheons of gods, most of whom are jealous and bellicose, and deadly when they walk the earth.  We have gods within and gods without. We Stepsons ourselves are the weapons of the gods, some say.

Within your civilisation what do you think is the most important discovery/invention? That an intelligible light drives all things through all things, under a sun that is new every day.

Name three persons of influence/renown within your society and tell why they are influential (Could be someone like Christ/Mandela/Queen Elizabeth or a renowned figure from a non-human/fantasy world.)  First, Enlil, greatest of the storm gods of heaven.  Next, Harmonia, whom we call Harmony, who is Justice, and sometimes walks among my Sacred Band.  Next comes Maat who tends the Balance. For eons, Aškelon of Meridian, demiurge, ruled over the seventh sphere, realm of dream and shadows, but no longer – but that is another story.  And we have the Logos, by many different names, who some call the will of Fates and some call Thunderbolt.

Please check out further posts in the next few days for Tempus and his Sacred Band.

http://sacredbander.com/

http://www.theperseidpress.com/

https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2013/12/29/beyond-sanctuary-heroic-fiction-review/

https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/character-interview-number-three-nikodemos-fantasymythic/

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICAPn0E7NC0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTaDPNWAtHk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8FqgC4eK6A

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sacred_Band_of_Stepsons
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempus_(novel)

http://www.ranker.com/list/famous-quotes-about-sacred-band-ethos/reference

Here are book links in chronological order, beginning with Beyond Sanctuary, the Author’s Cut, first book in the Sacred Band of Stepsons Beyond Trilogy.  Beyond Sanctuary  will be free March 7, 8, 9, 2014):

http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Sanctuary-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FPDG

http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Veil-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FIG0

http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Wizardwall-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FH6G

http://www.amazon.com/Tempus-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-Tales-ebook/dp/B00BI175EY

http://www.amazon.com/The-Sacred-Band-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B00AMLKJAI

http://www.amazon.com/Fish-Fighters-Song-Girl-Sacred-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B007VQIJFY

Here are Kindle Single links (shorter Sacred Band of Stepsons fiction):

http://www.amazon.com/Man-His-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B008MZ1T14

http://www.amazon.com/Wizard-Weather-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00BEJX8MS

http://www.amazon.com/MAGE-BLOOD-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B006ZK8PLU

http://www.amazon.com/Wake-Riddler-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B0087OSP0S

Here are the Audio book links:

http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/A-Man-and-His-God-Audiobook/B00BEJ7LI0

http://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/Mage-Blood-Audiobook/B00CXVRDWM

http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Wake-of-the-Riddler-Audiobook/B00AU7IQZE

Character Interview: Nikodemos of the Sacred Band

tempus-anthology-full-cover-spread-front-and-back

Character Interview Number Three – Nikodemos – Fantasy/Mythic

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Welcome to Nikodemos, of the Sacred Band.

Tell Us About Yourself

Name (s):  I am Stealth called Nikodemos; Niko to my friends.

Age:  How do you mean?  I have spent five years in the City at the Edge of Time, where time doesn’t pass, and lived now and again on Lemuria, where the Band is based, and where mortals do not age.  When I joined Tempus’ Sacred Band with my first partner, I claimed twenty-five years, not quite true, but I’d already been a right-side partner for nine years.  I have served sixteen years with the Stepsons.  So, thirty-seven, perhaps, as mortals count time.

Please tell us a little about yourself.  First I should tell you that I answer your questions only at my commander’s order.  I’m overall second in command and hipparch, or cavalry commander, of the Unified Sacred Band of Stepsons.  I manage our prodromoi, our skirmisher light cavalry, as well as our heavy cavalry.  I am a committed Sacred Bander, right-side partner of our commander, Tempus, called the Riddler, the Black, the Sleepless One, the Obscure, Favorite of the Storm God.  I am also a secular Bandaran adept, initiate of the mystery of Maat.  I’ve claimed Enlil when I have needed a tutelary god.  These days, the goddess Harmony calls me her own.  I’m not a man for words.

Describe your appearance in 10 words or less.  Tall, but shorter than Tempus.  Hazel-eyed.  Dark-haired.  Fit.

Do you have a moral code? If so what is it?  The Sacred Band Ethos guides me.  I am still learning what the Riddler has to teach.  I strive for balance in all things.  Stepsons should want neither too much to live nor too much to die.  To serve with the Band requires unflinching determination; unwavering devotion – to one another, to honor, to creed.  I’m Bandaran at my core: venerating the elder gods, but worshiping only the god within.  The Band says, ‘Life to you, and everlasting glory.’  I don’t ask destiny even that much.  Only to be useful while I live.

Would you kill for those you love?  I have.  I do.  It’s what I am:  a fighter.  I told you:  My mystery is maat, one of seeking balance and equilibrium, truth and justice. On occasion, I become justice incarnate, when justice must be dispensed with a sword.

Would you die for those you love?  I am a Stepson.  So, of course.  If you are really asking about my being immortalized by Harmony, I will tell you only that what is between me and the goddess is ours alone, not yours to know.

What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?  We are all weak, even those of us, like my commander or myself, who’ve been immortalized by some god or goddess or touched by sorcery.  I’m a Bandaran fighter.  I have a calling:  I take my strength, my mystery, my spirit and my skill out into the World and challenge its evil until it wears me down. Then I return home to Bandara or lately to Lemuria, restore my internal equilibrium, and do the same again.

If I must confess a flaw to you – and only the gods know why – it would be that I ask too much, not only from others, but from myself.

Do you have any relationships you prize above others?  Ah, the women.  Everyone asks about how a Sacred Bander can love so many women.  It’s a soul that calls me, not the size of breast or buttocks.  But yes, I love women as well as men and horses, and the sun that’s new every day, and weather on the wind.  Without love, how can a man live fully the life that the gods bequeath?

My relationship with my commander is most important:  love without limits, wisdom beyond price; leadership is what he teaches, and commitment beyond measure.  I know I’m imperfect, still young in his sight, still balancing my rage.  More now than ever, since the goddess Harmony touched me, I need his guidance.

And there’s Harmony herself.  That this goddess favors me, gave me that great horse, is beyond my ken but she’s goddess of the Balance, after all.

Above all else come my brothers of the Sacred Band.

And Randal, although he’s a mage and a shape-shifter, was once a partner to me and still like a brother.  Not every man is alike in mind: our differences define us.

Do you like animals?  I love the Band’s Tros horses, and the horses we bred up in Free Nisibis, and the black horse the goddess gave me.  Love is vulnerability, you must understand:  love comes at the risk of grief.  I’m careful how much vulnerability I court.

Do you have a family?  More than one:  The Unified Sacred Band of Stepsons; Bashir and the freemen of Nisibis; the adepts of Bandara.

Can you remember something from your childhood which influences your behaviour?  Too much suffering, too much death.  Terror in war.  Slavery and sorcery.  And then a left-side leader who loved me and made a man of a foolish boy.

Do you have any phobias?  Witches.  Warlocks.  Arrogance.  Stupidity.  Stupidity kills more than all else.

Please give us an interesting and unusual fact about yourself.  I was courted by the entelechy of dreams who gave me a charmed panoply forged in hell itself.  I was stalked by a witch.  The Greek goddess Harmonia is my current lover.  Pick any one.

Tell Us About your World

Please give us a little information about the world in which you live.  These days I live with the Band.  Lately we’ve been in Thrace.  When we’re not campaigning, we billet in Lemuria.   There the Riddler’s sister rules with unchallengeable power from behind its sheer seaside walls.  From there we fight where the commander and his woman send us, anywhere in space and time – past, future, other realms.

Does your world have religion or other spiritual beliefs?  So many.  What’s between men and gods powers all.  We fight in theomachy, too often:  Tempus is Favorite of the Storm God, so we fight a lot of wars.

Do you travel in the course of your adventures? If so where?  Where?  Sometimes, a world away.  Wherever Cime, the Evening Star of Lemuria, decrees.  To places decoupled from time and space, like Bandara or Meridian or the City, or Thrace.  We’ve been places others only dream of.  We fought in a future so far away that the seas were dead.  We fought in a place so primitive ancient beasts walked the earth.  Sometimes we slip through gates between dimensions…  I’m a simple fighter.  Ask Tempus and Cime these questions, not me.  We go where he leads, we fight where he puts us.

Name and describe a food from your world.  Nisibisi blood wine, made with bullock blood.  Possets of watered wine with cheese and nuts and barley.

Does your world have magic?  If so how is it viewed in your world?  You jest.  We fought a war for more than a decade against sorcery, thought we’d won it, but now fight the mages yet again in other realms.

What form of politics is dominant in your world? (Democracy, Theocracy, Meritocracy, Monarchy, Kakistocracy etc.)  An intellectual said we are timocrats.  What that means, I don’t know.  We fight for honor and our commander, not for place or race or national goals.  Dominant in our world are fools and kings and reavers and their sorcerous allies, who scheme under any name that will give them greater power.  They try to seize control of everything and everyone.

Does your world have different races of people? If so do they get on with one another?Races vie for power.  People hate anyone different, then deem them soulless, then try to wipe them out.  Tempus says that, absent reason, men will fight over eye-color, hue of skin or heavenly affiliation.

Name a couple of myths and legends particular to your culture/people.  We have no myths, except perhaps the one that says no nation can lose if Tempus and the Band fight on its side.  We have truths and realities, sometimes long forgot and often twisted, that fools think are myths, going back to the time of Gilgamesh.

What is the technology level for your world?  Tempus and his sister have the Lemurian windows, to take you anyplace in space and time.  We use repeating crossbows; some forged iron, some poor steel, some bronze, but well forged bronze still bests iron.  We have naphtha and poisons, great ships and more, and cloud-conveyance.  But what difference?  It’s the man, not the weapon, that wins the day.

Does your world have any supernatural beings?  Supernatural?  Like the entelechy of dreams who is regent of the seventh sphere?  Or do you mean the gods?  Jihan, the Froth Daughter?  Witches?  Sorcerers.  Some mainlanders say that we Bandarans do the same as sorcerers, just under another name.  Mystical creatures?  Of course.  Naiads.  Erinyes.  We have devils, demons, fiends, snakes that change shape, giant vipers and rocs and eagles.  Don’t you?  We have zombies, vampires, necromants; even a ghost horse, Straton’s mount. And our warrior-mage Randal, one of our bravest fighters, can become a dog or an eagle when he must…

Author notes: Novels(s) in which Nikodemos appears.

Beyond Sanctuary (1985), (2013), Janet Morrishttp://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Sanctuary-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FPDG

Beyond the Veil (1985), (2013), Janet Morris http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Veil-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FIG0

Beyond Wizardwall (1986), (2013) Janet Morrishttp://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Wizardwall-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FH6G

Tempus (1987), (2011) Janet Morris http://www.amazon.com/Tempus-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-Tales-ebook/dp/B00BI175EY
City at the Edge of Time (1988), Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Tempus Unbound (1989), Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Storm Seed (1990), Janet Morris and Chris Morris

The Sacred Band (2010), Janet Morris and Chris Morrishttp://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Band-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B00AMLKJAI

The Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl (2010), Janet Morris and Chris Morris,http://www.amazon.com/Fish-Fighters-Song-Girl-Sacred-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B007VQIJFY/ref=pd_sim_kstore_2

Nikodemos  also appears in Morris & Morris Sacred Band of Stepsons stories set in the Thieves’ World shared universe, including:

“Wizard Weather,” Storm Season, Ace 1982

“High Moon,” Face of Chaos, Ace 1983

“Hell to Pay,” The Dead of Winter, Ace 1985

“Power Play,” copyright (C) Janet Morris, Soul of the City, 1986

“Pillar of Fire,” copyright (C) Janet Morris, Soul of the City, 1986

Author name:Janet Morris

Chris Morris

Website/Blog/Author pages etc.

theperseidpress.com

sacredbander.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_Morris

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Morris_(author)

https://www.facebook.com/PerseidPublishing

https://www.facebook.com/TheSacredBand

https://www.facebook.com/SacredBandBeyondTriolgy

https://www.facebook.com/tempusandniko

https://www.facebook.com/fishfightersonggirl

https://www.facebook.com/JanetMorrisandChrisMorris

Interview from the Void: Chris Morris by Donny Swords

It is my honor to introduce Christopher Crosby Morris.  His passion to connect with life, and its people, and to be an honest, true voice that shines out is an extremely valuable blessing.  I have had the opportunity to interview Janet Morris his extraordinarily talented wife already.  I knew Chris’ responses would be very informative.  I had no idea how insightful of an interview I was in for.  I am humbled.  Chris Morris possesses fiber, that something which took years of practice, and years of pushing beyond mastery to possess.  His writing- no matter the medium, whether you prefer audiobooks, music, or written prose challenges and moves the mind into directions not often pursued, but well worth the journey.  I have been listening to Chris narration of the Sacred Band available on audio lately, and as a singer who has studied formerly under one of the greatest voice instructors of all time I have to say that I would not be able to deliver so much substance, such enriching quality in my deliveries, even using my characters. In short, Chris Morris is astounding.  Keep reading to begin finding out why.

Hello, thank you for agreeing to the interview.  Would you tell us a little about yourself?
A must have! Click Here.My pleasure. My consuming passion is voice in all its aspects, but especially as it manifests in storytelling, both in prose and verse, literature and song. Metaphorically voice represents many things, even the sum of a life. Voice is a double-edged sword we learn to wield to our benefit or detriment. Most recently I’ve assumed the task of narrating our prose catalog and am thrilling to offer publicly what has heretofore been a private but seminal feature of our writing process.
 
You write as a team with your wife Janet Morris.  When did you first become drawn to writing, was it before or after you met her?
Before. Since childhood I’ve enjoyed arranging words to varied effect. In my youth I became a marvelous liar, more because of my fascination with discerning and fabricating what people wanted to hear than from mischievous or malicious intent. When Janet and I met our first collaborations were songs, many of which I still perform today — they are that good. She wrote stories from a very early age. A lasting part of our attraction was and is a shared desire to precisely express what life is showing us, and that means capturing those observations in story form. The difference — or complementarity — between us is that she is expansionist in her portrayals and I am reductionist.
 
You are a musician, when did you start playing?  What instruments do you play?
My older sister and brother proved miserable piano students, so our parents decided that Christopher could do without. Unbeknownst to me (and thankfully so), I was spared the disadvantage of entering musical life through the doorway of percussion. I’m a baritone and baritones seldom wow anyone vocally until the instrument develops, usually in one’s mid- to late twenties. Therefore my public school music teacher, Ms. Hutton, smiled commiseratingly and showed me to a seat with alto boys whose glee club lot was to huff and puff in support of the shrill girls reciting rote melodies. I loved it: anonymity and license to experiment with pitches against a preprogrammed backdrop of boys droning away predictably. In short, I sang, and still sing, first and foremost. And I utterly believe that all music in the human bandwidth derives from controlled breathing.
Guitar started for me at age eleven and is my most satisfying lifetime tool-oriented skill path, several times requiring me to experience the miracle of starting over in order to thoroughly master basic aspects. At this point I am pretty deeply into creating digital models of guitars impossible to achieve in strictly analog settings; I use custom built guitars with Graphtech’s Ghost hexaphonic sensors fed to Roland’s VG99 effects unit, then into a Yamaha board (with my vocal mic) and out in stereo to one of two twin Bose tower monitor systems (L1 and/or L1 Compact) so I am always in the same sound field as any listener. This all stems from wanting a bigger – not louder – guitar sound. I “build” a guitar for any song that needs something a little different and now have twenty or thirty pretty amazing guitars dial-able from one setup. Can’t wait for you to come check it out, and we be jammin’ man.
 
To me the guitar is a universe of possibilities, which is the same with writing.  Do you ever feel limited by people’s expectations of you and your crafts?
I could spend an hour on your first statement here, but will answer the question bit first. No, I no longer feel constrained due to others’ irrational calculations of what comprises art. I say ‘no longer’ because every creative must ascend from the pit of self-doubt into the light of self-knowledge and mastery through determined focus and practice. In his autobiography Miles Davis stated the gospel: “The most difficult thing a musician can do is sound like himself.” And, as you said in that first sentence, it’s “…the same with writing.”
 
When I played onstage I got instant feedback as to how I was doing.  I often find it difficult when I release a book and it gets less attention than I’d hoped.  Does your perception of what you feel will or won’t be received well change when you consider your fan base?
Buy Music
No, nor should it for you. This is a variant of the last question, but with a putative contrast between two, on the surface, apparently different art forms. Beneath the surface however they are so closely related as to be nearly identical: they are both listening sports, simultaneously involving the sources and receivers and overlapping the roles of each. Anything you can say of one has an obvious parallel in the other, the biggest difference being in rate of transmission.
One of the glories of human consciousness is that we can hear ourselves hearing ourselves. Shakespeare was the first to portray characters listening to their own inner voice, “the invention of the human” as Harold Bloom calls it. In both music and literature you are your own first audience and, if you like what you hear, by any and all means do not hesitate to proceed for want of external approbation. They are your audience, not your judges. Disregard this truth and that way lies madness.
 
Get your copy here Does a really good review feel as good as a standing ovation at a gig, or are they apples and oranges?
Glad you asked. Distrust both. If you pin your self-esteem to them and their approbation or lack thereof, you are lost. As Heraclitus said, “He who is praised to the skies lives a life of fantasy.”
 
You and your wife Janet are a team, how does that dynamic play out when you are developing a novel?  When it is underway?
Our novels develop from conversations reaching a point where further elucidation will best be accomplished by the exploration of personality(ies) in our case, fictional heroes — living their way through circumstances embodying the challenge under consideration. Our working definition of a hero is one who struggles in service to an ideal; if we run out of ideals we may write a different sort of book, but that protagonist would most likely be struggling to find out what happened to all the missing ideals … hmmm.
When the book is under way it’s buckle up time, the blessed state, because (and this is hard for many of our writer buddies to accept) we honestly don’t know everything that’s going to happen. The way to find out the details is to go where only the characters can take us. By that time we are way onboard and strapped in and boldly going we know not where, but headed for a climax we’ve seen but not yet lived. Fun or what? Is it real? For us and the characters, you bet. Does it have that precious quality of feeling true to life? Yup. That’s the reward of the collaborative arrangement; it imparts a binaural, binocular, bi-conscious view of uncertainty, which we and a host of readers find magnetic.
 
When you edit do you have a process?
When Janet began drafting (typing, mind you) High Couch of Silistra I would read her day’s output (and still do) aloud, because sound is primary to my apprehension, especially if analytics are involved. When I draft we do the same. Although it might seem laborious, this actually saves time and speeds up the rate at which we achieve publishable work. Linguistic anomalies can be heard by the ear and missed by the eye; our editing voice benefits from two sets of each. I’m frequently amazed at how much a slight alteration of pitch or emphasis can inform the net effect of syntax. If we have a passage that wants to be heard a certain way it’s incumbent on us to nail the punctuation so the experienced reader ‘hears’ it.
 
Since you began as a published author, how have things changed?
It might be easier to list what hasn’t changed, but for those tuning in late there’s: lots more slush being published and given away; increased ability of content providers to call the shots at every production level; no more meddling middle-folk; no more security of the reasonable advance for a multi-book deal; lots more transparency; even more slush being published and given away; piracy; more feedback from readers and trolls; general confusion as to what intellectual property is and how to preserve ownership of it; still more slush being published and given away; genre-fication whelping a litter of niche-of-a-niche-of-a-niche popularity contests; ability to purchase emblems of legitimacy bestowed for a price by formerly powerful arbiters of taste such as Kirkus; global reach to millions of readers; yet more slush being published and given away, or did I say that enough?
 
One of your recent projects was narrating the audio book “The Sacred Band”.  Could you tell us what it takes to accomplish such a feat?
Like anything worth doing, it takes tenacity and focus. Because it was a first-time project The Sacred Band audio book involved a learning curve which added time and cost. I’m a team player and narration has a solitary aspect to it; I’m getting accustomed to it, but I was grateful for the technical assistance of a good friend who babysat me as I got this first one recorded over a period of a little more than a year. If I narrated full time it might now take me only eight or nine weeks. I’m working in Adobe Audition and can handle everything up to but not including audio-post mastering chores (adding noise reduction, some compression and normalization processing before converting to Mp3 for submission). I am an ACX.com (Amazon>Audible>ACX) user and have no plans to market outside their considerable infrastructure; I’d recommend them to beginners because they’ve done the homework necessary to service all the stakeholders in a project. ACX is also a good place to listen to samples of what other production teams are doing and obtain a reference point of view as to what constitutes a finished product. ACX costs nothing to join; they’re compensated from what Audible gets from sales of your book.
 
I say feat due to your performance.  You are merged with your and Janet’s characters in that delivery.  This summoning of Tempus or whomever is speaking shows a deep connection to your characters.  Do they make you laugh or cry?
I had already read The Sacred Band aloud two or three times before embarking on the narration. We are meticulous about “voicing” our characters and punctuate and format very carefully to emphasize their characteristic speech patterns while still retaining transparency of style. For our first audio project we decided to hire Alex Hyde-White to learn the ropes and see how an accomplished pro would narrate our material. He did a bang-up job with Wake of the Riddler, a shorter TW piece of Janet’s, and immediately caused me to realize what I could bring to our work because of my greater familiarity. I am gratified that you heard the characters coming through because after experimenting with inventing a distinctive sound for each character I opted instead to read with consistently clear articulation and to respect each character’s mood and message within the limits of my voice rather than risk caricature.
They don’t make me laugh or cry. They make me disappear. I miss that when we’re not together.
 
Your music is intelligent and endearing, quite moving actually, were you going for the same effect on the audio book?
Thank you. Yes, in both cases it turns out to be what I do instinctively. After countless attempts to sound “commercial” musically, I finally took Miles’ advice and dared to embrace what comes out of me ingenuously. Being comfortable in one’s own skin is worth whatever effort is required to make it so. It took me decades to get there (hence my remarks about the acclaim of others) but once arrived, I rejoice to possess sheer bandwidth that accommodates a broad spectrum of emotion without disproportion.
 
What is your take on violence in books?
Gratuitous…or not. If a story is merely a vehicle to roll out a train of atrocities, what’s the point except to titillate adolescent sensibilities? Writers of all sorts leverage threats of violence, many to avoid the laborious task of carefully laying out a sequence of events building to a genuine need for overt confrontation. I write for the more experienced reader, and myself, who want a little more justification, realism, and reason to care what happens than a story where hardware and machinery are indistinguishable. No doubt about it, there’s violence in books.
 
Who are your favorite musicians?  Authors?

Ray, Mose, kd, Chet, Tony, Sly, Diana Krall, Tommy Emmanuel, Bill Evans, JS Bach, CPE Bach, Mozart, Davey Spillane, Bela Fleck, Victor Wooten, Nat, Haydn, Corelli, Leadbelly (see video), Lightnin’, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Dinah Washington, Aretha but she ticks me off, Eddy Arnold, Mitchell Parish (wrote the lyrics to Stardust), Carmichael (wrote the melody to Stardust), Michel Legrand.
Janet Morris, Arthur Clarke, Hermann Hesse, John Milton, Will Shakespeare, Jack London, Will James, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Heraclitus of Ephesus, P. G. Wodehouse, Harold Bloom, Homer, Deborah Koren, Mika Waltari, Sam Harris, Roger Penrose.
 
How long did it take to compose the backing track on the Outpassage trailer?
Read Outpassage It took about two days, back in late ’78, culminating in that recording. It’s a song called No Man’s Land, a bedroom demo recorded on a TEAC 10 inch four track reel to reel with Janet on bass, Leslie Kuipers on guitar, Nathan Seely on drums, Ted Lo on ARP string synthesizer, and me on guitar and vocal. It smoked sufficiently that we began playing the Boston fusion clubs around Berklee and generally had a very good time. We were regrouping after moving back from LA in the wake of the MCA album’s short but glorious run, and I still had three quarters of my band to work with and Ted and Nathan eager to jump in. We were listening toMahavishnu and Return to Forever and I was wondering why nobody ever sang over that kind of stuff, plus it was in my “sky high” period when I’d figured out how to build section momentum with circular patterns. The song has some cool cousins I’ll put up pretty soon. What I’m digging now is that shelf life is pretty much irrelevant these days and No Man’s Land has a rabid following on a site called NumberOneMusic.com ; entry level listeners take in Hendrix and Gaga and Norah and Eminem and me all at once and could care less when a piece of music was made or even whether the artists are still alive.
 
Tell us about your publishing house.
Perseid is damning the torpedoes and putting out stuff that is representative of what we grew up wanting to read; we say books for experienced readers, or books worth reading.
 
What inspires you?
My favorite of your questions.
Growth. A starry sky. Acceptance of the greater without diminution or forfeit of personality. Personal truths: the value of distinguishing between what one is told and what one learns from experience. The love of a dog. The suppositions of consciousness turned upon itself. In music the ability to reharmonize melody, steal time (rubato) and imply realms beyond physical scope. Kindness. Exploring Heraclitus’ thesis that all things are reflected in all things. The hunger for truth, beauty and goodness. Sister Wendy.
We live in cataclysmic times, for all I know analogous to all preceding ages. What is unknown to me so overwhelmingly eclipses what is known that my fate is to be inured to the idea that uncertainty is somehow requisite to continuity. I accept. I am human for a blink, a moment in an infinite progression. My moment too is subsumed in eternity and, being part, reflects its whole — harbors the DNA of the eternal — from micro to meta. So, even as a relatively infinitesimal particle I may intake my portion of the entire mystery of mysteries. If I am a moment, so am I eternal. Beyond cool.
And partnership…to host an intellectual life is a high privilege, to share such a life closely, transcendent, to make art of such sharing, nonpareil.
 
For readers new to your novels, which three would you recommend?
 
The Sacred Band (book, e-book, audio book) Click Here.
 Outpassage (book, e-book) Read Outpassage
The Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl (book, e-book). Buy
 
How important are reviews to you?  For marketing?  For sales?
 
Reviews are Rorschachs of their writers, offering subjective accounts of questionable exposure to some work or other. The substance of reviews is of most interest to other reviewers. Although taken for marketing currency, reviews are seldom value added. Creators inevitably fail to accurately calculate the effect of reviews on sales because the study of the relationship is an inexact science at best, at worst an obsession stymieing their creative efforts for lack of prudent allocation of attention.
 
Now advertising is a little different….
I would like to thank Chris Morris for this famously insightful and encouraging interview.  It is good to know the human condition is not wasted on him- but rather seen as an opportunity to grow.  Bravo- Chris!  See everyone next time.  🙂Thanks for reading.Donny  
Chris’ Links: http://www.amazon.com/The-Sacred-Band/dp/B00N1YRVH2/http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/The-Sacred-Band-Audiobook/B00MU2VCEO/http://www.amazon.com/Outpassage-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B00IDC1E84/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=http://www.amazon.com/Fish-Fighters-Song-Girl-Sacred-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B007VQIJFY/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1410294833&sr=1-1&keywords=the+fish+the+fighters+and+the+song-girlhttp://numberonemusic.com/christophercrosbymorris/https://www.reverbnation.com/christophercrosbymorris?profile_view_source=profile_boxhttp://www.amazon.com/Everybody-Knows-Christopher-Morris-Band/dp/B004GNEF3A/https://soundcloud.com/christopher-morris http://www.amazon.com/Chris-Morris/e/B008L41JNO/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_2https://www.facebook.com/JanetMorrisandChrisMorrishttps://www.facebook.com/christophercmorrissings http://www.sacredbander.comhttp://www.theperseidpress.com/# http://www.facebook.com/christopher.c.morris.7?fref=ts http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Morris_(author)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLqxH_Tx5VA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7g79LZAgk8w https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EylzKQa4yghttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCv4GA5W5eA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICAPn0E7NC0 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SQFmxwfT7ghttp://www.amazon.com/Outpassage-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B00IDC1E84/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=    Where to find Donny Swords stuff:   Donny Swords author ( Facebook )  (Blog) Primal Publications (Facebook )  (Blog) The Indie Collaboration ( web )   Novels & Links

Hell Can Be … Fun!

Weston’s Hell Bound- Hell can be fun!  First published in the web by Seth Lindberg: http://www.selindberg.com/2016/07/westons-hell-bound-hell-can-be-fun.html

Hell BoundHell Bound by Andrew P. Weston
S.E. rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Grim Reaper will lead your through a wacky, dark Hell
In Andrew P. Weston’s Hell Bound, our protagonist and tour guide into Hell is Daemon Grim: he’s a snarky bounty hunter, Satan’s right-hand man for reining in the damned. Grim is so impressed with himself that it takes a while to realize that he may, like everyone in Hell, may actually be subject to being played.

Grim was introduced to the Heroes in Hell series in the previous installment,Doctors in Hell. In short story form there, he was tasked to retrieve Dr. Thomas Neill Cream who had escaped topside. Doctors in Hell is an anthology,an enjoyable introduction to Hell which serves as a great entry point to the series. Heroes in Hell is a long, sustained series, but Doctors and Hell Bound confirm that anyone can hop along and enjoy the ride from any stop (it is always a good time to go to Hell). Reading Doctors will help the reader appreciate the full novel Hell Bound, but doing so is not necessary.

For new readers, I summarize the Heroes in Hell milieu. It is a fantastical place built from myths and religions—so do not expect Tolkienesque elves or dwarves. The primary realm explored is called Juxtapose, which is a satirical mirror of our earth’s cityscapes (the Seine river featured as “Inseine”, Paris called Perish, the Eiffel Tower represented as the Awful Tower, Facebook is called Hatebook… which sadly seems too appropriate…). Since time has little meaning in Hell, beings from past and present meet and scheme (i.e., Tesla and Chopin). There are other realms beyond Juxtapose connected with ethereal gateways. All are populated by beings being tormented and try to outwit Satan or their comrades. Even Erra, the Akkadian plague god, has visited Hell to torment Satan. No one is safe! It is a splendid, wacky place that works well.

Having recently read Doctors, I was intrigued with the Heroes In Hell world. I wanted to experience it more but needed a tour guide. Daemon Grim did so in entertaining fashion. I wanted to “see” how the Undertaker refreshed the damned as they underwent subsequent deaths; I wanted to experience more odd-ball pairings of historical figures struggling to complete their life’s missions; I wanted my tour guide to have some depth, even if he was unaware of it. The story is a bizarre cat-versus-mouse hunt, with Grim chasing Cream through very dark realms, upturning mystery after mystery. A scavenger hunt-like game ensues with beautiful, cryptic poetry that leads Grim further and further into a web of deceit. Antagonists are aplenty.

Hell Bound delivered. Andrew P. Weston did a superb job balancing the needs of a full length novel with the freedoms/constraints of a shared world usually expressed in short story form. Highly recommended for fantasy readers who enjoy a bit of dark adventure.

A transcendent review of The Sacred Band

We love this review by Jim (James Franklin) Morris so much we feel compelled to share. A review from a real warrior, war correspondent, award winning author, does not appear every day.  If you’re not familiar with Jim (James Franklin) Morris’ outstanding accomplishments, read this Amazon bio:

Jim Morris (James Franklin Morris) :  Jim Morris served three tours with Special Forces (The Green Berets) in Vietnam. The second and third were cut short by serious wounds. He retired of wounds as a major. He has maintained his interest in the mountain peoples of Vietnam with whom he fought, and has been, for many years, a refugee and civil rights activist on their behalf.

His Vietnam memoir War Story won the first Bernal Diaz Award for military non-fiction. Morris is author of the story from which the film Operation Dumbo Drop was made, and has produced numerous documentary television episodes about the Vietnam War. He is author of three books of non-fiction and four novels. He has appeared on MSNBC as a commentator on Special Operations.

 

Now, here is Jim’s review of The Sacred Band by Janet Morris and Chris Morris:  http://www.amazon.com/review/R3J14RSVNACDDL/

5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Case for Reincarnation, April 5, 2016
“This review is from: The Sacred Band (The Sacred Band of Stepsons) (Kindle Edition)

This book makes a terrific case for reincarnation. Not that reincarnation is a theme, it’s just that I find it hard to believe that it was researched in a library. I find it much easier to believe that the authors have an intimate familiarity with the world of The Sacred Band through repeated lives as both man and woman, warrior and sorcerer/sorceress. Some of what I love about it is that the warriors seem like the warriors I know, even though they are from thousands of years earlier. Supernatural happening abound, but they don’t seem made up; they seem perfectly natural, and the supernatural beings have the same kinds of personality quirks as the rest of us.

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Perseid Press editions of the Sacred Band’s adventures in Sanctuary and Beyond…

“I can’t say enough good about the prose. It’s perfectly suited to the story in word choice and in rhythm. It wouldn’t be better suited if it were written in heroic couplets, but even so it’s a smooth and facile read.
“I do have one problem. Daily life kept dragging me into the mundane world and out of the one I had chosen to inhabit for as long as I could. I know there’s a prequel out there somewhere, probably Thieves World, and I’m going to find it.

“If you like adventure and magical realism I know of no place where better is to be found.”

To learn more about The Sacred Band, capstone in the Sacred Band of Stepsons series, you’ll find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and everywhere in hardcover, deluxe trade paper, digital format, and an audio book edition on Audible.com.  http://www.amazon.com/The-Sacred-Band/dp/B00N1YRVH2/
Water Rhein's interview with Janet Morris about her novels, stories, and everything

Field Notes #2 from Heroika

Field Notes on Heroika:  Witness the Birth of Alchemical Warfare

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A guest post by S.E. Lindberg

Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters, the first in an emerging historical-fantasy series from Perseid Press, showcases seventeen perspectives on killing serpents from ancient to modern times. The forthcoming second installment, Heroika 2: Shieldless, likewise fuses mythological themes with adventure, this time by tracking unarmored heroes & skirmishers across time.

“Legacy of the Great Dragon,” my short story for Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters, features the Father of Alchemy Thoth (a.k.a. Hermes) entombing his singular source of magic, the Great Dragon. According to Greek and Egyptian myth, Hermes was able to see into the world of the dead and pass his teachings to the living. One of the earliest known hermetic scripts is the Divine Pymander of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus. Within that, a tale is told of Hermes being confronted with a vision of the otherworldly entity Pymander, who takes the shape of a “Great Dragon” to reveal divine secrets. “Legacy of the Great Dragon” fictionalizes this Hermetic Tradition, presenting the Great Dragon as the sun-eating Apep of Egyptian antiquity. Hermes’s teachings are passed to humanity via an Emerald Tablet.

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The actual Emerald Tablet (if it was indeed “real”) is arguable the most popular work of Hermeticism since its reveals the secret of transmuting any material’s base elements into something divine or valuable (gold). Many refer to the Tablet as being the philosopher’s stone, or the knowledge embodying it. In fact, the tablet no longer physically exists, but translations of it do. Sir Isaac Newton’s translation of the tablet’s inscription remains very popular, and undeniably cryptic.

Following the Emerald Tablet from Ancient Egypt into the Hellenistic age, the “The Naked Daemon” entry in Heroika 2 pits the mystic Apollonius of Tyana (deceased ~100 CE) against zealots who destroy what remains of the Alexandria Library. In life his principles had been aligned with those of the pacifist gymnosophists (a.k.a. naked philosophers); hundreds of years past his death, Apollonius finds himself reborn as a daemon empowered with Hermes’s Emerald Tablet. He observes the Roman oppression over pagan scholars and is challenged with an urgent need to defend knowledge. Will he rationalize war by unleashing the power of alchemy to do harm? Will he become an angel or demon? How will alchemy transform The Naked Demon?

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For more on fiction inspired by alchemy by S.E. Lindberg, check out an article on the Mappae Clavicula or the author’s blog at S.E. Lindberg.

Read more about Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters, at any of theses links:

http://www.theperseidpress.com/?mbt_book=heroika-1-dragon-eaters

https://www.blackgate.com/2015/06/16/heroika-1-dragon-eaters-edited-by-janet-morris/

Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters is available from Perseid Press for Kindle, Nook, in trade paper and in an audiobook narrated by Rob Goll:   http://www.amazon.com/Dragon-Eaters-Heroika-Volume-1/dp/B0193RZ4XI/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1458244671&sr=1-1&keywords=heroika+1+dragon+eaters+audioHeroika

 

 

Field Notes, Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters

What the authors say about their work:  first in an occasional series.

 

We’ve had such a strong response from educators wanting to use Dragon Eaters in their classes as well as from readers with historical backgrounds,  we thought we’d ask the authors to tell us a bit about the genesis of their contributions to Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters:

 

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Our first writer up to bat is Water Rhein, author, explorer, publisher, telling us about his process for developing “Aquila of Oyos“:

Aquila of Oyos” Mythical/Historical Genesis by Walter Rhein.

I had a bit of fun while writing “Aquila of Oyos” for Janet Morris’s “Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters” anthology. This was the first in a proposed series of anthologies connected by concept and ordered chronologically from ancient past to future, and each story in the first book must be about dragons. Because of this archetypal requirement,  I thought my story would need a certain weight that only an attachment to historical or mythological figures could provide.

Although this story is not dependent on the reader’s awareness of the prevalence of mythological allusions, they do enrich the experience when the connections are perceived. The most obvious clue is the inclusion of a character named Prometheus. This is a case where all you have to do is research Prometheus’s role in mythology and the connection is made (hint: it has something to do with fire). In “Aquila of Oyos” I propose a theory for where Prometheus’s fire actually came from.

Another character name in this tale is named Prospero, a name made famous by Shakespeare in “The Tempest.” In Shakespeare, Prospero is a sorcerer and illusionist. Therefore, to have a character named Prospero in my story would be waste a great opportunity if that character didn’t also dabble in illusion…

Aquila is Latin for eagle and was a prominent symbol in ancient Rome. Rome is an empire that falls, as does the empire of dragons. The least obvious name I used was Oyos, for Aquila’s mountain. By the end of the story, the top has been removed from the mountain changing it from a dragon’s spire into a mountain topped with columns of seared stone.

After human beings gained control of the dragon mountain, the name got changed to Olympus… but by now you’ve guessed that.

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Read the entire story Aquila of Oyos in Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters, edited by Janet Morris, on Kindle, Nook, or in a deluxe trade paper edition. Or hear Rob Goll’s narration of Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters, available from  Audible.com and Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Dragon-Eaters-Heroika-Volume-1/dp/B0193RZ4XI/

Michael Ventrella interviews Janet Morris

Originally published at: http://michaelaventrella.com/2012/05/15/interview-with-hugo-nominated-author-janet-morris/

 

Interview with Hugo-Nominated Author Janet Morris

MICHAEL A. VENTRELLA: Today, I am pleased to be interviewing Hugo-nominated author Janet Morris. Janet is probably best known for her Silistra series. She has contributed short fiction to the shared universe fantasy series “Thieves World” and then created, orchestrated, and edited the fantasy series “Heroes in Hell,” writing stories for the series. Most of her fiction work has been in the fantasy and science fiction genres, although she has also written historical and other novels. Her 1983 book I, THE SUN, a detailed biographical novel about the Hittite King Suppiluliuma I, was praised for its historical accuracy.

Janet, let’s start by talking about the Kindle promotion going on right now.

JANET MORRIS: There is an Amazon giveaway (May 15-17) of the author’s cut reissue of BEYOND SANCTUARY as a Kindle book. This is the only time this book will be offered as a free Kindle download.

It is the first novel in the “Author’s Cut” group of reissues: each “Author’s Cut” volume is completely revised and expanded by the author(s) and contain new material never before available. The other “Author’s Cut” volumes that have been released as eBooks and as trade paperbacks are TEMPUS WITH HIS RIGHT-SIDE COMPANION NIKO (2011) and THE FISH THE FIGHTERS AND THE SONG-GIRL (2012). The next “Author’s Cut” edition will be BEYOND THE VEIL (2013), second of the three “Beyond novels” in the Sacred Band of Stepsons series. We will eventually reissue all the Sacred Band of Stepsons books, and then more of our back-list, in this ‘author’s cut’ program. It’s very satisfying to get all the errors and deficiencies corrected, and have a chance to enhance these perennial sellers.

Most Sacred Band novels will not have giveaways; we chose BEYOND SANCTUARY as a good starting place for those new to the series and, in its enhanced and expanded form, as an attraction for those who loved these books and stories in the 20th century. We are planning to do a few Sacred Band stories as Kindle shorts as time goes by, but nothing specific has been decided.

VENTRELLA: You started your publication history with the Silistra series. How did you make that first sale?

MORRIS: I wrote HIGH COUCH in 1975 and its two follow-ons, THE GOLDEN SWORD and WIND FROM THE ABYSS thereafter for fun: following the story for my husband and our friends. I knew no one in publishing and had no aspirations to break into the business.

One friend said her husband knew an agent and the book (HIGH COUCH) should be published but I would need to provide the manuscript in a clean, double-spaced copy, not single-space with handwritten corrections. I had my dad’s ancient typewriter (non-electric, non-correcting; the “p” key stuck) and was a terrible typist. I found out it would cost $1.00 per page to have the manuscript typed by a professional, which meant a $250.00 investment. So I didn’t do that for over a year; by then my second book was finished. In 1976 my friend sent the typed HIGH COUCH manuscript to an agent, Perry Knowlton, president of Curtis Brown, Ltd.. Perry called me and said I was a natural storyteller and he wanted to represent me and the book, and did I have any other books? I said I did but they weren’t typed up. He said, “Get them typed.”

Perry remained my only agent until his death. By the time I had the other books typed, he had sold HIGH COUCH for five figures to Frederik Pohl and Sydney Weinberg at Bantam and I was able to quit my day job. Then Perry sold THE GOLDEN SWORD and WIND FROM THE ABYSS to them in a package. By then I was writing THE CARNELIAN THRONE. By the time THRONE came out, Bantam had over 4M copies of the first three in print.

They bought THE CARNELIAN THRONE also, and my next series went to auction in two countries simultaneously based on sample chapters: I still don’t like to write outlines.

Silistra got many foreign rights deals, but only the French one is a divergent manuscript: for a sizable additional sum, I provided extra ‘erotic passages.’ ‘Erotic’ in those days was much less explicit than now, but even so, SILISTRA shook a lot of people from complacency: it wasn’t feminist, nor was it conservative; it featured pan-sexual characters and dealt with philosophical and sociobiological questions about sexuality and abuse of power; the main female character was powerful and had a sword: all these elements were challenging to the fantasy and SF community. And the book didn’t fit a neat category. In what was then a very hidebound and immature market, it blazed tough trails and still today doesn’t fit any simplistic or political model.

VENTRELLA: How has the publishing world changed since then?

MORRIS: E-publishing is a big change. Deconstructionism is rampant: the continual division of the novel into smaller and smaller subsets of its constituent elements (such as mystery, thriller, erotic, adventure, romance, horror, etc.) either mirrors or leads the deconstruction of politics and of society. Writing outside established marketing categories is increasingly difficult; the mid-list book, which was an incubator of talent, is all but gone in print publishing.

As an ox-gorer and a windmill-tilter who writes mythic novels with political subtexts and who never has been easy to categorize, I think e-publishing is a good thing. I no longer have to cut a big idea into three volume-sized chunks: I can write the book at the length it needs; I don’t have to fix or endure additional errors from semi-educated production people; I can control my covers and the book’s sell copy. The downside is there is much more free reading material (some worth the price, some not), and a lower educational level among some groups – but there have always been books and writers for every echelon of society.

VENTRELLA: Do you see a future where self-publishing will be accepted?

MORRIS: Sure, eventually. When we decided to return to fiction (after taking 20 years off to create the nonlethal weapons mandate, the nonlethality concept, and other initiatives in the defense policy and planning realms), we wanted to keep our fiction e-rights and at that time my agent (Perry Knowlton’s son, Tim, at Curtis Brown) said it was impossible to make a deal like that with a major house. So we decided to put together a small publishing house that did e-books and trades and make strategic alliances with other small publishing houses who produced quality hardcovers. We did this because the self-publishing road is still stigmatized, and because the production learning curve is steep. Kerlak did our first two hardcovers and gave me what I wanted: sewn binding, linen boards, generous print size, etc.

The stigmatization of self-publishing is primarily from the big chains, who look down on POD but POD was what attracted me to small publishing: no remaindered books; no books going to dump=sites; no torn-off covers returned and no tax liability for unsold stock. When we do reissues, we do “Author’s Cut” editions in which we can correct and expand and enhance each book that we’re releasing with better covers and production values than the twentieth century originals: an approach possible now but not practical even ten years ago.

Machiavelli commented in THE PRINCE as follows: “There is nothing more difficult to carry out nor more uncertain of success nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things: for the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in those who would profit by the new; this weak support arising partly from the incredulity of mankind who does not truly believe in anything new until they actually experience it.”We found this when initiating the nonlethal weapons programmatics: twenty years later, we are where we should have been in five years in nonlethals, and at absurd cost because nothing is adopted until big things take that viewpoint onboard commercially. Similarly, with publishing, as vested interests deal themselves in and competitive entities are created, things will stabilize – hopefully with new players, but with many of the old entities in new guises.

VENTRELLA: Will the rise of smaller publishing houses and e-books mean that these may someday be better accepted? For instance, will SFWA someday accept more of these publishers? Would that be a good thing?

MORRIS: Eventually the writers organizations must accept reality. E-books and small publishing are part of the new reality. SFWA, like all bureaucracies, protests that it protects its membership while it actually protects primarily itself. When SFWA sees that it must change to survive, it will change. Adaptation is always necessary for survival.

VENTRELLA: Now let’s talk about something more fun: Writing! What led you to write fantasy?

MORRIS: My work doesn’t fit many contemporary definitions of fantasy. I really write mythic novels and stories, sometimes in an SF and sometimes in a fantasy context, but there’s nothing ‘sweet’ or ‘pastel’ about my work: my characters face challenges and so do my readers.

When I write something that publishers call ‘fantasy’ I am writing in what I think is the most important tradition of fiction: starting with Homer and up through Shakespeare and Milton, the most important themes to tackle are those of the mythopoeic domain, tales of the body and mind seen through a temperament and a cosmos divorced from current reality so what is said can be more clear. For me, myth is the ‘common’ language of us all – or has been until these days of stories reduced to their lowest mechanical nature. My stories have a historical cognizance, a literary cognizance, and a philosophical/ scientific cognizance.

Bantam once wanted to separate a book of mine into two books: a short ‘wisdom literature’ book and a longer ‘mainstream’ book. I didn’t do that, but in retrospect it was a well-thought impulse on the publisher’s part.

I’ve also written nonfiction; a rigorous historical about Suppiluliumas, a Hittite king; a pseudonymous ‘novel’; other pseudonymous ‘high-tech thrillers’ (or what you will) with strong technology drivers. I make more money when I write under one male name than when I write under one female name or, as reality dictates, as “Janet Morris and Chris Morris.” But I write the book, each time, that forces me to write it, whether fiction or nonfiction. If the book is fiction, I write only when the story and characters demand that I give up my real life because what they will say is more important.

VENTRELLA: How do you create a realistic, believable fantasy world without just looking like every other realistic, believable fantasy world out there?

MORRIS: We say about THE SACRED BAND, our newest mythic novel, that it is “an adventure like no other.” This book had waited since the late 1970s to be written.

My books are remarkably unlike most of what else is available in contemporary fiction, so making the story or milieu ‘unique’ is not an effort for me. We started ‘The Sacred Band of Stepsons’ series and characters in the ‘shared world’ universe of Thieves’ World®, and so wrote in a milieu populated with other writers: making my work ‘fit’ their construct was a challenge. I have a deep love for the third, second and first millennia BCE, and my ancient characters always are touchstones to historical reality: I don’t “try” to make my fantasy world different from reality: I try to take you into the mythos of humanity. Silistra had a complete language, a glossary, a unique context, a rigorous rationale actually based on sociobiology and genetics, but had sword-wielding women and horses and ancient skirmishers as well as high-tech outsiders trying to understand it. The “Dream Dancer” series, also ‘science-fantasy,’ was set in space habitats primarily. It’s very easy for me to establish a credible world construct and posit behaviors there: I have predicted several major events in the real world over a number of years based on that ability to identify the most likely course of action that a country or individual will take in a given context. Now this skill is beginning to become a field of study called “intuitive decision making” and also “implied learning.” We once called it “speed understanding.” Writers often have this ability, and it allows creators to make their characters and societies credible. The writers who don’t have it can’t make their characters, or worlds, credible enough to please me.

If you want to write something completely unique, you will probably fail or at best write something without redeeming value. The mind works in certain patterns: the mind organizes facts in story form; it is your commonality with that body of human thought that makes a good book, not its estrangement from the common values that humans share.

VENTRELLA: As one of the original THIEVES’ WORLD gang, you’ve had a huge influence on modern fantasy fiction. It’s one of the first (or maybe the first?) shared world anthology. (I copied it completely and stole this idea for my TALES OF FORTANNIS series, by the way.) Where did the idea for this originate?

MORRIS: TW had one volume published when I was asked to come aboard: “Thieves’ World,” which had Joe Haldeman and Andy Offutt and Bob Asprin and others. Bob had the original idea for the “worst town in fantasy, the grittiest, meanest, seediest place possible.” He asked me to write for it at a convention and I said, “How serious are you about gritty?” I had written a very short piece about a woman who killed sorcerers for a living, and I proposed to bring those characters into Thieves’ World, plus an immortalized and very unhappy mercenary who regenerated. Bob said okay, I could bring the characters and take them out again afterward.

I started the story “Vashanka’s Minion,” that introduced Tempus (a/k/a the Riddler, Favorite of the Storm God, the Obscure, the Black). He has a metaphysical link to Herakleitos of Ephesus, and lives as a warrior in a Herakleitan/Hittite cosmos that I overlayed on what Bob and Andy already had done. But when Tempus got down to the dock and Askelon of Meridian got off the boat, Tempus said, “You, get out of my story. There’s not room enough here for both of us.” So Askelon didn’t arrive in Thieves’ World until “Wizard Weather,” although Cime, Tempus’ sister-in-arms, did show up. Tempus forms the Sacred Band of Stepsons in Thieves’ World #3, from ten pairs of fighters left to him by Abarsis, the original Stepson, who later becomes patron shade of the Sacred Band.

Then the TW books start to succeed and people got cranky. I called Bob and asked for a letter because I wanted to take my characters out of the shared town and do a group of novels with them, since Bob was complaining my characters were “too big.” So we agreed on that plan. These tensions made the stories more fun: people came and went; I took my characters into my own constructs such as Wizardwall and into the real ancient-world settlements of Nisibis and Mygdonia. Everyone contributed something useful to TW, and its fabric is still very rich.

I got Lynn Abbey’s permission, after Bob died, to bring the Sacred Band back to Sanctuary for a big novel to tie up loose ends, one  set ten years after the Stepsons left town in TW #11 and well before Lynn’s own novel, since that milieu wouldn’t work for me. This project became THE SACRED BAND. As agreed with Lynn, THE SACRED BAND was followed by a novella, “the Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl” (the title story from the second “Sacred Band Tales” anthology), which takes the Stepsons back out of Sanctuary again and contains all my TW stories not previously collected. So now, between “Tempus with his right-side companion Niko” and “the Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl” all our ten TW Sacred Band stories are assembled in two volumes, along with other Stepsons tales not available elsewhere.

As for fun quotient, I get more joy from the Sacred Band of Stepsons than from any other characters. And the SBS character list is expanding….

VENTRELLA: Another great series you’ve run is the HEROES IN HELL series (which now apparently includes LAWYERS IN HELL, which could be the name of my autobiography). What future themes can we expect to see?

MORRIS: If I’d known you, I’d have invited you to contribute to LAWYERS. In the 21st century Heroes in Hell books, next up is “Rogues,” to be followed by “Dreamers” (or “Visionaries,” I haven’t finalized the title), then “Poets,” then “Doctors,” after which “Pirates” is a distinct possibility. There are many stories left to tell in hell, especially now that we have met hell’s landlords, and heaven has sent down auditors to make sure hell is sufficiently hellish.

VENTRELLA: How do you work with the authors to make sure there is consistency in the world setting for these collections?

MORRIS: Each hell book takes a year to write and assemble, and the writers must coordinate more completely than was possible before the internet: we have a “secret” working group on Facebook where the writers interact and arcs and meta-arcs are chosen and polished. They choose characters. Our “Muse of Hell,” Sarah Hulcy, has put up 130 orientation docs, so there’s plenty of available information. When they choose the characters, we check to see if those characters have been used previously. If the characters are available and meet our criteria, they can “claim” those characters for the time they write for the series. If they leave, they can’t take the characters: characters come back to me and stay in hell to be recycled.

Then they work on a short “two or three sentence” synopsis. I must accept the synopsis and the characters before they start to write. They can use legendary, historical, or mythical characters. They can’t use characters from modern fiction (post 1900) and they can’t use recently dead or living people. Then writers are allowed to post in-progress snippets which the group can read, and comment upon – or not. Chris and I  may write “guide stories” or story plans (two or three), setting up the current long arcs and the general tone of the volume at its beginning and end. Between these “bookends,” the other writers must set their stories.

When the stories are generally selected, I edit for continuity and tone, and Sarah Hulcy follows me with a copy-edit. Chris Morris is the final editorial reader, and with the three of us working on the stories for continuity and cohesion, we get a strong result and a better book than we could have produced before the internet.

VENTRELLA: I assume your anthologies are primarily invitation-only (correct me if I am wrong). How do you deal with stories that don’t meet your standard or are rejected for other reasons?

MORRIS: We are invitation-only. The milieu of our Heroes in Hell series belongs to Chris and me. The authors know that from the outset. We usually won’t let them write a story we don’t think will work: by the time we’ve approved characters and synopsis, we know what the story will be and how we’ll use it. If someone simply fails to write a useful story, they probably haven’t met our guidelines. Our hell universe is easily recognizable. Each writer has left a clear trail of participation. If they want to rewrite a story we won’t accept and take out the arguably HIH context and characters, of course, they can try, within contractual limitations.

VENTRELLA: Let’s discuss your novels. Which is your favorite?

MORRIS: In fantasy: THE SACRED BAND (Janet Morris and Chris Morris; Paradise, 2010; Kerlak, 2011), the mythic novel of the Sacred Band of Stepsons uniting with the Sacred Band of Thebes and returning to Sanctuary. In historical: I, THE SUN (Janet Morris, Dell, 1987).

VENTRELLA: Who is your favorite character?

MORRIS: Tempus and then Niko and the Sacred Band of Stepsons fighters.

VENTRELLA: What would you ask that character if you could meet him or her?

MORRIS: Tempus lives in my skull. I meet him on a regular basis, and I’m happy to have a character so available. He’s been there since 1979. I went to the White House and he said, “Kinda small, isn’t it?” I would ask him, in all seriousness, whether he truly believes that “character is destiny,” a line he shares with Herakleitos.

VENTRELLA: And what do you think he or she would answer?

MORRIS: “The sun is new every day.” We call him the Riddler, remember.

VENTRELLA: Do you prefer writing fantasy or science fiction?

MORRIS: Fantasy, because very little in SF can transcend the gimmickry of a technical conceit, yet without that conceit at its heart a book isn’t truly science fiction. Furthermore, so little emerging thought and technology is employed by sf writers today that the genre is lagging far behind reality both in the cosmology area and the technology area: sf is no longer a place to experiment, but is now very derivative.

VENTRELLA: Do you find novels easier to write than short stories?

MORRIS: A novel is a major commitment, and must move smoothly along its trajectory. A “short story,” if it’s more than three thousand words, actually lets you focus more deeply on a circumscribed area or event. I think short stories and novels are different; each form is unique and equally demanding. I prefer novels but short stories are good exercises in discipline.

VENTRELLA: Do you tend to outline heavily or just jump right in? What is your writing style?

MORRIS: I don’t “outline” in the way that you mean. I get characters, and their background; I immerse my intelligence in a milieu that’s fully realized: a place with weather and politics and problems and a special nature. I use square post-it notes to write down certain things that must happen during a sitting: a line of dialogue, a particular event, where I need to be when the section is done; a section or chapter or story title. I know where I want the story or chapter or novel to end; I know where I want to start each section: how I get there is the fun for me.

Often times the question for me is which viewpoint character will have the best take on a particular set of events. When I have (twice) sold a project based on outline, it took all the fun out of it.

VENTRELLA: When creating believable characters, what techniques do you use?

MORRIS: I wait. I lie on the bed or go for a drive with paper in my pocket and wait for the characters to start to interact with me, or to tell their story to me. I need to “see something moving” and other writers who write this way all agree – if there’s something moving in your mind’s eye, there’s a character there.

Abarsis was a good example: I knew I wanted to do “A Man and His God” in which at the end the Slaughter Priest would die in Tempus’ arms. I got a character called Abarsis. I thought he and the Slaughter Priest would be two different people but the character wanted to be “Abarsis, the Slaughter Priest.” This was a very big, very strong character and I argued that if Abarsis was the Slaughter Priest then he would die. He said that was fine. Susan Allison of Ace called me up after she read it and confessed that the story made her cry. And Abarsis came back as patron shade of the Sacred Band: the character knew more than I what to do and how, in order to be memorable. Sometimes with good characters you must let go and let them forge ahead. This requires belief in your Muse.

VENTRELLA: You’ve collaborated with other prominent authors, at least one of whom lives with you, which makes it easier. How have these worked? (For instance, do you share writing equally? Does one author do the basic work and the other expand from that outline?)

MORRIS: With whatever writer, we talk about the story line, points of interest, what needs to be accomplished. If it’s Chris, he may come up with a title or a concept. I usually do draft or if I write with others, I’ll often write first: I like beginnings. With some writers, I send sections and they pick up the action; with others, I’ll do a draft and then they will add to it after I’ve done all I want to do, from beginning to end.

Everyone has a special genius, and working with each person is different. If the other writer starts, that’s a different process for me: I work on the story they’ve sent in Track Changes, do what I want to the entire manuscript. Then they accept or reject or we go back and forth. I worked a number of projects with a writer who was outline-driven and I could never figure out what those notations were supposed to evoke, so I’d call to discuss it. The outline made the other writer feel better. I can do a series of chapter titles and use those as an outline, but beyond that, outlines don’t help me. I often work with other writers who don’t like to outline either, or outline in the most cursory way.

VENTRELLA: Writers who are trying to make a name get hammered with lots of advice: The importance of a strong opening, admonitions about “writing what you know,” warnings to have “tension on every page” – what advice do you think is commonly given that really should be ignored?

MORRIS: All advice should be ignored. Every real writer is different. Every story has a nature, an organic way it wants to unfold. Tell a story that sweeps you up, that you want to hear, that keeps YOU on the edge of your seat. Some stories start best with dialogue, others with narrative: writing is catching the wave of creativity. The wave must be there for you to catch.

Writers learn from reading other writers whom they can admire, and writers whom they detest. Before Silistra, I bought a paperback by a famous writer and when I was done I threw it in the wastebasket, said “I can do better than that,” and did. When I read, I try to read writers who can teach me something, who are better at some things than I am. But print-through is always an issue: often when I am writing fiction I read only nonfiction, and vice versa.

The only person who should ask you to make changes in your book is some editor who has paid a lot of money for it. Even then, changes are risky: the story unfolds on the first pass the way the universe unfolded in the first moments of creation: in the way that it must.

VENTRELLA: What is the biggest mistake you see starting writers make?

MORRIS: Writers who have no characters and force a story bore me. Writers who are good at one thing – such as dialogue – may do that one thing too much: talking heads don’t work except very occasionally, when they can work very well. Knowing when to do something is part of the art of writing. Sometimes I act as an acquisitions editor. If you want to sell to me, you’ll tell me who, where, what, and why, and then finally how – all on the first page, hopefully in the first couple paragraphs: where I am, what it’s like, who cares about what’s happening. I want to fall through the words into a different place. But most of all, you must make me care almost immediately.

VENTRELLA: With a time machine and a universal translator, who would you invite to your ultimate dinner party?

MORRIS: Homer, Hesiod, Tiye, Virgil, Marcus Aurelius, Herakleitos, Einstein, Leonardo DaVinci, Xenophon, Kikkuli, Thales, Plato, Odysseus (assuming he was Homer’s grandfather), Epaminondas, T.E. Lawrence, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Byron, Mary Shelley, Evelyn Waugh, Emil Zola, Dwight Eisenhower, Sun Tzu, Aspasia, Aristotle, Marguerite Yourcenar, Henry James, Suppiluliumas, Anksepaaten, Herodotus, Sappho, Emily Dickinson, Richmond Lattimore, Solomon, the Biblical “J.” And I’d really like to have Roger Penrose as toastmaster, but he’s still alive.

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