Jimmo Speaks Out:

PERSONAL INTERVIEW WITH JIMMO FROM TRUCK STOP EARTH @PERSEID_PRESS #DARKHUMOR #UFO #SFF

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I’m not gonna give you all the ins and outs of old Jimmo’s life. I’ve sat in too many cracked plastic chairs before nosy-butt social workers doing that. You want deep psychological analysis of James Ignatius Malachi Obadiah Osborne’s life? Let me give you the name of my current shrink. I think Penelope has it on a thumb drive somewhere.

But in a nut shell — joke! — I’m just your average ex-vet wandering traveler who has been sucked up into a Gray mothership and been given the classic intimate biological examination. I’ve seen it all and been there, from Key West, Fla., to the ass-end of the road here in Della, Alaska. I like long walks on the beach, Norwegian aquavit, Irish wolfhounds, tough women (preferably redheads), and people who won’t give ya bullshit. Oh, and the smell of White Shoulders and AquaNet hairspray, but only because AquaNet has been proven to deter aliens. I don’t know why. You think Jimmo has all the answers?

 

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

You know that moment when you’ve had one too many beers and your bladder is bursting and you take a nice, long pee? Remember that little tickle of pleasure you get? That’s about as close as it comes to perfect happiness. Too strange?

OK, how about this. You take on some huge challenge, like fighting a kick-ass wildfire that’s roaring down at you and it’s just you and your crew, a few Pulaskis, and maybe a DC-3 dropping retardant. Everything else doesn’t exist. It’s just this moment and something you have to do or you die, that’s what it is. And you don’t die. You stop the fire or come out alive in a firefight or maybe kick cancer’s butt. That’s perfect happiness, because you thought you might die and you didn’t.

But also, having close and intimate sex with someone who understands you and you understand them, and you satisfy each other almost perfectly, yeah, that’s not bad, either.

 

What is your greatest fear?

When you’ve looked into the Big Black of death and come out the other end, there is no fear. But the idea that the Alien Occupation Government might eventually take over this planet, and the Grays would use us for whatever evil they have in mind, that scares me. It should scare you, too, oh dear reader, if only you knew the truth.

 

What is your current state of mind?

Highly under the influence of very effective psychoactive drugs. OK, not really. I realized long ago all I got was sexy pharmaceuticals that no one really knew how they worked, but they did. My current state of mind is bliss.

 

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

You should read my co-author’s account of that in Truck Stop Earth. Basically, we kicked alien butt and sent those asshole Grays screaming. We won a big battle. I’m hoping we win the war.

 

How would you like to die?

Quick and painless. Once you get past the pain and into the Big Black, there’s not much else. If I can’t die fighting, I’d be OK dying loving.

 

What is your motto?

Life is what happens when really good psychoactive drugs quit working.

 

truckstop_EBOOK

 

Title: Truck Stop Earth

Author:  Michael A. Armstrong

Genre: Dark Humor, Aliens, Science Fiction

Publisher: Perseid Press

Release Date: August 1, 2016 (E-book available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble now)

 

Book Blurb:

The mother of all alien bases. The big one, the megabase, the center of the Alien Occupation Government, the headquarters, the brain, the nerve center, the absolute pinpoint big base, right there, right in the hills above Della. Forget Roswell. Forget Machu Picchu. Forget Stonehenge and Tikal and all those alleged alien bases, abandoned every one of them. This was the big one, right now, the source of all my troubles, the world’s troubles, the whole solar system’s troubles. Right there.

 

Out there across the valley, shining across it like a beacon, was a big flat mountain. “Oly’s Mountain” I later heard it called, or Table Top, some said. I could feel it, feel the humming and the disruption of the ether right down to my bones. I didn’t even have to take out my little pocket detector that’s disguised as a Swiss Army knife. I knew, I just knew. And my butt chip burned like an exploded capsule of sulfuric acid. God damn, right there in the mountain — not on it, in it.

 

Book Trailer:

 

Extended Excerpt:

We hauled butt up East Road and might have had to pass a few trucks at the speed Samm put the crew-cab to, except that everyone else was hauling butt, too: cops, fire trucks, volunteer firefighters. It was as if that fire were a big drain hole and we were rubber duckies getting sucked down into the tub, that’s how it pulled all of us to the fire. The smoke got thicker the closer we got, a nice stiff breeze out of the north whupping upon us, the day breeze. As we got closer, I began to think that maybe I should be going the other direction. Had no choice, though. I was in that damn truck.

We scarfed down our burgers as we trucked out there, Samm eating one-handed and driving with the other hand, a sort of frightening sight. I understood, though. It might be a while until we ate again. Soon enough we got to the logging camp. Samm didn’t even close his door or yank out the keys to the truck — in fact, he left it running. The only thing he did was turn it around so it faced out, toward the road. I understood. That was our lifeboat.

“Grace, you take Freddy and Jimmo,” Samm shouted. “Work on keeping the fire from jumping the road.”

“And if it jumps the road?” she asked.

“That won’t happen. Hold the line,” Samm said.

“Hold the line,” Grace mumbled. “Right.” She pointed at me and Freddy. “Freddy, you’ve got a red card. Jimmo, grab a chainsaw and a Pulaski and do what Freddy tells you. Come with me.” Grace had picked up a Pulaski, this ax-like thing that was also a pick, and we rushed up to the road side of that big clearing.

Someone had started up one of those feller-bunchers and slowly — it’s not like they moved all that fast anyway — moved toward a line of dead trees up the road. Thick smoke rolled downhill toward us, but in all the smoke I couldn’t see any flames. Maybe that was good, maybe that was bad, I just fucking didn’t know.

“Might as well attack that line of trees,” Grace said, pointing across the road from the camp. A standing clump of red, almost needleless trees lined the road across the way. It seemed kind of stupid, a logging camp surrounded by a dead forest. Later, Samm told me that it was a land dispute, this land owned by someone from Outside who hadn’t seen the land in twenty years and didn’t understand that the whole fucking forest had died and the trees had to come down. This was war. You did what you did to stop the fire and to hell with property rights.

The little forest narrowed down into a V as it came to the road. Grace explained that I should break up the grass and other ground flammables on either side of the V as she and Freddy felled trees. They began lopping off trees so they fell uphill, into the fire and a big slash pile. Even though the trees had died, they still had branches and witches’ brooms and shit that could catch fire. A lot of the dead trees had punky middles, which made them harder to burn. If you could fell ’em the middle wouldn’t catch fire and it would slow the burn down. Mainly, Grace explained in all the chaos, in a calm voice that made me listen closer, “Mainly we don’t want a crown fire, where the tops burn.” A crown fire was like a whole new level of shit.

With all the smoke and the heat I couldn’t tell if we fought back the fire or just wasted a lot of good burger fuel for nothing. I’d cut trenches in the dry underbrush, exposing dirt, so that if the fire burned out of the slash piles we made it wouldn’t go further. Grace said we were making a back burn, creating our own little Dresden there so that the big Tokyo of a fire wouldn’t have anything else to burn. You understand? Of course not, you assholes don’t know history. Dresden was like this quaint little city the Allies firebombed in Double-Ya-Double-Ya Two, and Tokyo another example of 20thCentury martial urban renewal.

Get into the flow of something like that, where you’re not quite sure you’ll live but hope to fuck you don’t die, and after a while, time is nothing. Time doesn’t slow down, it doesn’t stop, it just no longer becomes a marker by which the universe gets measured. It isn’t when it once was. What mattered to me was the dirt I exposed, the flames that didn’t cross the road, and the fire that burned itself out.

You just fought. My uncle who was in the war said that once: You just fought. First came chaos and then an organization of chaos and then chaos became your local reality, and you understood it. It developed its own rules and everything and quit being chaos. I focused entirely on one task, one general series of movements: lift Pulaski, dig into ground, turn over dirt, lift Pulaski again, repeat as necessary.

Eventually, though, this new reality came into being, a new form of chaos which I realized with a start was the way the world had been some time ago. The smoke seemed thinner, the heat less. Between Grace and Freddy and that guy on the feller buncher (which I still thought was a rocket launcher), the forest in front of us turned into a big bonfire, controlled and orderly and consuming itself and not more forest. I saw around me that other workers scrambled with wet rugs or sheets stamping out fires from falling ashes that had fallen on the wind. Other than that, the fire had not crossed the road.

“We held the line,” Grace said, but with a tone of voice that said she didn’t believe it.

“Held the line,” Freddy said.

“Did it,” I said.

“Did it. Damn it, we did it!” Grace raised her chainsaw in triumph.

“Shoulda done it faster,” Kyle said from behind us. “It almost got away from us. It got one of the fuel trucks.”

Grace glared at him, bandana long ago fallen away, but her hair still in perfect shape, only with so much smoke and ash that it looked like a black helmet. “We held the line, Kyle.”

“I really need you to listen to me closer, Grace,” Kyle said. “I’m only offering criticism for your own good.”

“Oh, fuck —”

She didn’t get the next words out. Freddy shoved her aside and they both rolled toward me, almost knocking me down. I stepped aside and let them fall, then looked up to see why Freddy had tackled Grace. The guy with the feller buncher held a burning tree in the claws of his machine. Smoke obscured his vision and he couldn’t quite see where he was going. The machine stopped and the guy let down that log, branches still on it, the crown roaring.

We later figured out that he must have seen a tree on our side of the road that caught fire, just one tree, and in our complacency we missed it. He didn’t, though. Guy saved the day, he did, and what did it matter what happened next?

He dropped the tree. Just like I’ll always remember that shred of metal whirling at me when the Zapata cannery blew up, I’ll remember that tree falling. It came down, right on an open part of the airstrip, which was what the feller-buncher dude was aiming for, a nice open spot. All would have been well and this story might have turned out different, if not that the tree in its falling, a branch of the tree in its falling, nicked Kyle.

“I need you to step aside,” I wanted to say, but couldn’t. I’ll feel a little guilty forever after that I didn’t.

The tree came down. The branch nicked Kyle. The tip was sharp. As it fell, it knocked off his helmet, and sliced right through his left ear, your basic Van Gogh chop job. Kyle reached up with his left hand, held it to his ear, and then looked down at a glob of blood in his palm. He didn’t scream, I’ll give him credit for that, but he did look mildly uncomfortable.

When Kyle’s helmet came off, this amazing pouf of silver-blond hair sprung straight up, kind of a Disco Do, just whisping over his ears and falling boyishly over Kyle’s forehead — over his squinty little eyes. But then a spark or a little flame from the burning tree hit his hair, and kawoosh, it went up like a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol, and inside of two seconds, Kyle went totally bald, nothing more than ashes on his scalp.

He rolled forward, over and over like you got taught in grade school to put out a fire if for some chance, hey, a burning tree fell on top of you and lit your precious little Disco ’Do on fire. Kyle slapped at his head and his ears, or what was left of the left one. His right leg stuck out kinda funny, and for a moment I thought it was broken. It was broken, I swear. Kyle reached down and twisted and turned it, then stood up.

His right ear dangled by a little thread of cartilage, only it didn’t bleed. At least, I thought his right ear had been ripped off, too. Kyle turned away from us for a second, did something to the side of his head, and turned back. He did this kind of dancing jig thing, took a deep breath, and smiled.

“Kyle, man, your ear got ripped off,” Samm said. “Are you OK?”

He reached up, felt for the bloody patch, reached down to the ground and picked up something that looked like a shriveled up mushroom. Kyle smeared that thing against the stump of his left ear, then smiled.

“What ear?” he asked.

Samm looked at Kyle, over at us, back at Kyle. He started to say something, then shook his head.

“Good as new,” Grace said.

Ayup, I thought.

Except he put the ear back on backwards.

 

 

Buy Links:

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30650517-truck-stop-earth

 

Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HN3JAJS

 

Barnes and Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/truck-stop-earth-michael-a-armstrong/1123961595?ean=9780997531008

 

Kobo https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/truck-stop-earth-1

 

Michael and Leia bw

 

Author Biography:

Michael Armstrong was born in Virginia in 1956, grew up in Tampa, Florida, and moved to Anchorage, Alaska in 1979. He has lived in Homer, Alaska, since 1994. He attended the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop and received a bachelor of arts from New College of Florida and a master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of Alaska Anchorage. His first novel is After the Zap. Michael’s short fiction has been published in Asimov’s, The Magazine of Science Fiction, Fiction Quarterly, and various anthologies, including Not of Woman Born, a Philip K. Dick award nominee, and several Heroes In Hell anthologies. His other novels include Agviq, The Hidden War, and Bridge Over Hell, part of the Perseid Press Heroes in Hell universe.

 

Michael has taught creative writing composition, and dog mushing. He is a reporter and photographer for the Homer News. He and his wife, Jenny Stroyeck, live in small house they built themselves on Diamond Ridge above Homer, which they share with an incredibly adorable labradoodle.

 

Social Media Links:

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/michael.a.armstrong.writer/

Twitter https://twitter.com/maaarmstrang

Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4100550.Michael_A_Armstrong

Publisher http://www.theperseidpress.com/

Professor Baker’s review of Golden Sword

see original article at:  https://profesorbaker.wordpress.com/2016/05/18/bookreview-asmsg-the-golden-sword-the-silistra-quartet-book-2-by-janet-morris/

#BookReview #ASMSG The Golden Sword (The Silistra Quartet Book 2) by Janet Morris

 

Prologue:

984289_ehwhebupMy review of High Couch of Silistra, (The Silistra Quartet, Book 1), is here. The first three volumes of the Silistra Quartet had more than 4 Million copies in Bantam print when the fourth volume was released.

The series was translated into French, German, and Italian editions. The series is built on the premise that biology is reality, and much of human behavior is hard-wired.

High Couch of Silistra was the first book of its kind, mixing science fiction and fantasy with metaphysics and hotly debated issues of sexuality, and many of its truths are as controversial today as when the series first appeared in 1977, and has spawned generations of imitators.

The Silistra Quartet is based in Greek mythology, but its civilization has never heard of the planet Earth. People of color make up the heroes and main characters in this series.

Synopsis

The Battle of the Sexes is never over…

Estri, the Well-Keepress of Astria and High Couch of Silistra, the highest office in the land, has continued her quest to locate her god-like “Shaper” father to his home planet, Mi’ysten, where she is tested and shown to have inherited his powers.

Following further training in the ability to manipulate time and probabilities with her mind, Estri is abruptly returned to Silistra after an absence of two local years. Many changes have taken place in the power vacuum her absence left and Estri must conquer her immediate captor, Chayin, Cahndor of the violent Parset desert tribes, in order to continue her quest to save the Silistran people who are dying out from infertility.

The Parset tribes cultivate and grow the plants from which the costly longevity drugs sold throughout the Bipedal Federation are made. Renegade members of the Bipedal Federation offer proscribed hi-tech weapons to leaders of the warring tribes in exchange for exclusive access to the longevity drugs, assuring that tribe’s domination of the rest.

Chayin rejects their offer, knowing it will end in the destruction of his people from greed and power. The BF keeps counting on at least one tribal leader’s greed to eventually agree to accept their offer, allowing one tribe to conquer all others with off-world weapons.

Estri and Chayin must find Sereth, former Slayer of Estri’s home who aided her in beginning her quest and was made outcast afterward (because Estri disappeared under his protection). Estri, Chayin and Sereth must join in a triad, forging a bond created by their innate powers and intense love to assure the future of the planet.

After they defeat Chayin’s various tribal opponents, they conquer Estri’s enemy of hundreds of years, her father’s grandson, Raet, and hope they can have a respite from tribulation. However, Khys, the semi-mythical, usurper overlord of the planet, abducts the triad to his sacred city and binds Estri with a device that suppresses her powers and causes her to lose her memory.

With Estri in his control, he elevates Chayin to be his puppet overlord of all the Parset, but leaves active Chayin’s own in-born powers that may drive him insane. Khys forces Sereth into the role of a “trusted” vassal who remembers everything about Estri, Chayin and their pasts.

Helpless before his power, Chayin and Sereth cannot stop Khys from impregnating an unsuspecting Estri to take advantage of her “Shaper” genetics. Khys gloats, triumphant in assuring himself a powerful and gifted heir, while believing no being in the universe is powerful enough to deny him what he truly desires: return of the technology that nearly destroyed the planet and forced the population underground into “hides” until their world recovered enough from the devastation to support life again. For a time, he’s correct…

*****

Top Customer Review

By altos on May 10, 2010

Estri, the heroine of High Couch of Silistra, a/k/a “Returning Creation, ventures further than she ever has before into this exotic and sensual fantasy novel. Here she meets Chayin, price of an alien culture, and discovers more about her past, and future. Full of passion and adventure, this is the second book in the Silistra series of four volumes.

High Couch of Silistra was reviewed by the New York Times Sunday Book Review with great enthusiasm (June 26, 1977), and created a firestorm of controversy and a genre of imitators.

All four books were published in French, German, Italian, and other foreign-language editions, as well as multiple editions in the States. The German covers are the best.

 

Sensual and multi-layered, this book can be read as erotic fantasy or as a much deeper exploration of the limits of female — and male — sexuality and the effect of sex on decision making.

Be warned: the main characters are all bisexual and very smart.

Janet Morris lets you choose how deep you go: read it for the titilation of the body, or of the mind. By the time ‘Wind from the Abyss,’ third volume in this series appeared, rival publishers were welcoming their authors “to the pantheon of Janet Morris” in full color posters and splashy ads.

See where sexual liberation and strong female characters really got started in science-fantasy. But be warned: Estri is no male in high heels.

Get inside the feminine psyche as never before or since as Estri gains power and begins to wonder what her limits are, and how powerful women can co-exist with their male counterparts.

A fully realized culture, complete with a language and mythology and ethos different from any other, rounds out the series.

Remarkably realistic, considering its content and the driving philosophy behind the tales, there’s never been anything like the Silistra series before or since.

Erotic and unabashedly exploring the relationship of sex to power, the Silistra series will make you think about why we do what we do. I adored it, and read all four more than once. So will you.

*****

5.0 out of 5 stars

984289_ehwhebupI am deeply tempted to simply write, five stars, place a period, no, an exclamation mark after the word “stars”, and thusly be finished with my review.

Tempted, yes, but I won’t do that. Not just yet.

Let me put two questions to you, dear reader(s):

  1. Is there anything I can say in this review, that would dissuade you to not buy this book, if you have already decided to buy the book?
  2. Conversely, is there anything I could possibly say in this review, to persuade you to buy this book, if you had already decided, not to buy this book?

My recommendation is that you purchase the book, based on its literary merit.

Why? Here we have a series of four books, a quartet. It was first published in 1977. That’s 39 years ago. It’s May, 2016. It’s half a century later. Imagine you read this book in 1977, went to sleep after reading it, and then woke up today, May 18th, 2016.

You would probably think you had woken up in the world described in this book. At least, its primary subject matter, low fertility rates, is still holding up pretty well. It’s consistent with what Janet Morris explores in this series.

In fact, we could go ahead and call Janet Morris a prophet. In today’s world, according to the United Nations Data Booklet “World Fertility Patterns” (2015), birthrates in developed countries are declining. Global fertility is now 2.5 children per woman.

I must ask the question: How does a woman have half a child? Impossible, I know. We’re talking statistics here, and such things are possible. Let me quote directly from that booklet:

“Fertility patterns in the world have changed dramatically over the last few decades.Global fertility has reached unprecedented low levels…” (end of quote) What is even more worrying is the fact that “nearly half the world lives in below-replacement level fertility countries.”  Let me give you the facts straight from page 6 of the report:

“Today, 46 per cent of the world’s population lives in countries with low levels of fertility, where women have fewer than 2.1 children on average. Low-fertility countries now include all of Europe and Northern America, as well as many countries in Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Another 46 per cent of the world’s population lives in “intermediate fertility” countries that have already experienced substantial fertility declines and where women have on average between 2.1 and 5 children.

The remaining 8 per cent of the world’s population lives in “high-fertility” countries that have experienced only limited fertility decline to date. In these countries the average woman has five or more children over her lifetime. Most of these countries are in sub-Saharan Africa.” (end of quote)

So, as I said before, author Janet Morris is a prophet. She got out her crystal ball one day and looked into the future. She saw a world in decline, fertility rates dropping, the population getting older and older, and the birth rate unable to keep up with the mortality rate.

I think it’s not necessary for me to tell you that under these circumstances, the human race would eventually become extinct. What this book does is imagine the desperation of living in such a world. The ability to procreate, to have children, would bestow great wealth and power to individuals with this biological blessing.

This nightmarish scenario is one of the many global problems our leaders are supposed to be working on. Failure to do so would condemn the human race to extinction. It’s as simple as that. Therefore, you will understand my recommendation for anyone interested in a medical career, social services career, or a public administration career to read this book. It’s a fantasy that could turn into a nightmare.

Intellectually and emotionally, this is challenging reading. On a third level, it is enough to take one look at the book covers to understand that it can not avoid dealing with human sexuality, in all its forms. Why? Because for the inhabitants of such a world, what will be uppermost in your mind is having sex, not so much for pleasure, although we humans are “hardwired” that way, but for procreation. The idea behind all the fornication is to save the human race, and at the end of the day, that’s quite a noble undertaking.

And this is the point where I will conclude this book review by saying, five stars!

5.0 out of 5 stars

EPILOGUE

Author’s Bio

For this last section, please indulge me dear reader(s), but I’m not going to go to the author’s bio on Amazon for this feature. I’m going to do what any self-respecting reviewer would do, who has a deep admiration and respect for the work of the author who he is reviewing. I’d like to share with you something pesonal about this author who has given me countless untold hours of reading pleasure.

Writing

Janet MorrisJanet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 40 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris or others. Her debut novel, written as Janet E. Morris, was High Couch of Silistra, the first in a quartet of character-driven novels with a female protagonist.

According to original publisher Bantam Books, the Silistra quartet had over four million copies in print when the fourth volume, The Carnelian Throne was published. Charles N. Brown, Locus Magazine, is quoted on the Baen Books reissues of the series as saying, “Engrossing characters in a marvelous adventure.”

Morris has contributed short fiction to the shared universe fantasy series Thieves World, in which she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes.

She created, orchestrated, and edited the Bangsian fantasy series Heroes in Hell, writing stories for the series as well as co-writing the related novel,The Little Helliad, with Chris Morris.

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 detailedbiographical novel about the HittiteKing Suppiluliuma I was praised for its historical accuracy.

O.M. Gurney, Hittite scholar and author of “The Hittites,”commented that “the author is familiar with every aspect of Hittite culture.”

Morris has written, contributed to, or edited several book-length works of non-fiction, as well as papers and articles on non-lethal weapons, developmental military technology and other defense and national security topics.

Horsewoman

Janet Morris and UVM Christine.JPGA lifelong horsewoman, Morris and her husband breedThoroughbreds and also maintains a World-Champion producingMorgan Horse breeding program.

Her foundation mare, UVM Christine (pictured left) won Morgan Grand National Champion Four-Year-Old Mare, World Champion Senior Mare, and Reserve World Champion Mare in 1998.

Other Grand National and Reserve Grand National and World Champions followed, including Reserve World Champion and Reserve Grand National Champion Park Horse, Pastorale in 2001 and 2002; homebred Grand National Champion Morgan Snaffle-bit Reining Horse, Spring Diva, in 2003; Grand National Champion Pleasure Driving Horse Burkland Rafinesque in 2008; and homebred Privilege, World Champion Western Pleasure in 2014. The Morrises’ Morgan breeding program was featured on the cover and in a profile article in Equine International in 2009.

Perseid Press interview in Digital Pulp

see the original article at:  http://www.virtualpulp.net/2016/05/17/a-new-publisher-in-town/

 

A NEW PUBLISHER IN TOWN

I met author Jim Morris a few years ago, and we’ve been in sporadic contact ever since. It’s just come to my attention that some of his books are being picked up by a new publisher.

I contacted Chris and Janet Morris (no relation to Jim) of  Perseid Press, and they agreed to answer a few of my questions.

VP: What is your story–how did you become authors?

PP: We met when we were 19, actually through the music business.  Each of us had written songs, lyrics and music, independently. Both had begun playing instruments at an early age. Janet had created a school newspaper in the sixth grade and won prizes for poetry even earlier; Chris had worked in bookstores, and started playing guitar when he was 12.  Both families were highly literate, so music and musicals, as well as fiction and nonfiction, were always part of our lives.
Janet could read and write and tell time before entering the first grade; Chris’ influences took a more political path, since his father was a famous photojournalist, and picture editor for the Washington Post and the New York Times. We met in New York City’s Greenwich Village, where we first lived together; and those were heady, sometimes dangerous, times for all involved with the arts and politics.

We began writing songs together, joining bands, and put several bands together, two of which had production interest.  Janet started her first novel at 25, High Couch of Silistra, about the same time Chris started The Christopher Morris Band, and both projects got different agents the same week, and signed unrelated book publishing and record deals the same month.  Chris’ album on MCA and Janet’s firstSilistra book, published by Bantam, were each released in 1977.  This led to a redistribution of effort:  Janet wrote three more novels in the Silistra series, later to be called the Silistra Quartet; Chris focused on his band and song writing.  We wrote together, edited and assisted one another.  And still do. In the late 1980s, we each became research directors for a Washington think tank, where we were the architects of the US Joint Nonlethal Weapons program,  and assisted select western nations in starting their own programs; we also led the first defense technical evaluation team to the then-Soviet Union to assess Russian military technology, and supported the US Army and the USMC in various areas, including what was at the time called the Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad (or MERS).  For a score of years we raised and showed American Morgan Horses, the remnants of the U.S. Government’s only horse-breeding program, and had several World Champions.

VP: Both of you’ve been writing SF/F for a while, now. What would you say makes your “brand” unique?

PP: Our books are not for the faint of heart, or the politically correct, nor are they dumbed down. They are challenging and meant to be so. We explore the human condition, and what relationship and responsibility an individual has to self, society, and planet.  Just as our deep experience with horses informs our books about ancient cavalry fighters, so do our futuristic books have a basis in technology areas that will shape our future. But most of all, the books we write are the books we want to read.  By pleasing ourselves and writing honestly, we bring a directness to the topic areas we explore, whether those are nuclear war, time travel, genetics and behavior, or questions about government itself, good and bad.  And we hope always to meet our own standard.

VP: Are there recurring themes you deal with in all or most of your books?

PP: We examine the heroic model, the importance of individual struggle in service to an ideal. In Greek mythology, philosophy and ancient history, we find lessons that can help people today, whether those lessons are presented allegorically or directly. We are particularly interested right now in hero-cults and how humans deal with crises, as well as considerations of metaphysics, mortality and morality.

VP: What motivated you to become a publisher?

PP: We stopped writing fiction when we began writing in the national and international security area.  This meant walking away from burgeoning careers as novelists, but we thought it important to serve as we did.  When, in 2009, we felt the need to write a new novel, which became The Sacred Band, we talked to our agent about sending it to the usual suspects, but we wanted to keep our e-publishing rights.  Under those conditions, a 21st century publishing deal of substance would be difficult, and this was the final deciding factor:  Rather than give up our e-publishing rights, we started Perseid Press, where we can control the covers, print size, book length, and production values as we had never been able to do when published by New York behemoths.

VP: Was it difficult establishing a publishing house; or with your contacts/network, was it just a matter of making a few calls?


PP: Anything worth doing is difficult. Perseid Press evolved, rather than being established.  We provided some backlist titles, our agent facilitated some e-publishing for us under Perseid’s name to begin with.  We revived our Heroes in Hell series so that we could help showcase emerging talents.  We conceived our “Authors’ Cut” editions so that we could go back and revise and expand books we felt deserve digital immortality. Writers came to us, people we knew and people we didn’t know.  So we have become a very small press, publishing what we like from writers who “write dangerously,” which is, in a nutshell, what we ourselves do.  Often the books we buy and write don’t fall into existing marketing categories.  And that doesn’t scare us.

VP: (Just a personal note, here: As a young GI (“cherry” in the unit-specific dialect) I quickly learned an axiom popular at my first duty-station–that there were probably 80 males for every female for a 50-mile radius around Fort Bragg, NC. It might have been an exaggeration, but it was true enough for practical purposes. Whenever time off was granted (but not enough to drive beyond that 50-mile radius), I got away from the barracks as fast as possible, even if I didn’t have a plan for what to do. Two of my favorite haunts were Ed McKay’s Used Books off Yadkin Road, or the news stand/bookstore in the Cross Creek Mall. At the latter, I remember seeing a few of your Heroes in Hell books. I almost bought one a couple times, but reading about anyone in Hell wasn’t quite the escape I was looking for. I was worried I might be on the road there, myself.)

What are your ambitions for Perseid Press?

PP: Our main goal for Perseid is that we not lose quality as we grow.  Perseid wants to be bigger than we had intended, and we are keeping a very tight rein on it, but new opportunities are hard to resist.  We have a website that functions as a bookstore of sorts, and a network of people who believe in what we’re trying to do.  In one sense we are a couple of fingers in the leaky dike holding back the flood of illiteracy; in another sense, we are curators selecting books we think should survive. In yet one more sense Perseid is a literary triage effort, for a society which has lost its cultural compass and lies close to intellectual death. This is an uphill battle, perhaps, but as Tempus said in The Sacred Band:  “We make the world better one battle at a time.”

VP: I hear you on the illiteracy deal. It’s been the bane of my existence for a few years. Do you plan to remain focused on SF/F?


PP: We love sf in the true sense:  speculative fiction with a moral component, but not a moralizing component.  We will always look at well-thought sf, if the adventurous literary quality is there.  We already have published a rigorous historical by Janet, I, the Sun, about the greatest king of the Hittite empire, and that character has much to say that applies to life today. We are publishing a magical realism/literary book called Truck Stop Earth by award-winning author and journalist Michael A. Armstrong, whose novel Bridge Over Hell we have already published; we have published a memoir about an ex-patriot in Peru, Reckless Traveler, by Walter Rhein. We are publishing Andrew P. Weston, the author of The IX, Exordium of Tears, and Hell Bound, in both fantasy and science fiction; Andy is a former Royal Marine and is still active in the security area.  A new addition to our roster is Jim (James Franklin) Morris, author of the bestselling War Story; we are honored and excited to be publishing Jim’s alternate history/magical realism novels, beginning withTahlequah, and republishing at least three of his nonfiction books, including War Story.  And we’re readying our first entry in the paranormal-suspense area, Schade, by  J.P. Wilder, also a special forces graduate.  And of course, we continue the Heroes in Hell series, and have begun a new shared concept series with Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters, to be followed by…  you guessed it…  Heroika 2: Shieldless.

The Perseid Press website is:http://www.theperseidpress.com/

VP: Somewhat involved in the book biz myself, I’m impressed with what an increasingly tough racket it is. The pool of potential readers seems to be shrinking all the time, while the number of published authors grows rapidly. POD publishing and ebooks have revolutionized the industry, which is a double-edged sword: It’s easy to break into the business now, but it’s harder than ever for readers to find an author’s books (at least when that author is an indie, and doesn’t have some sort of platform to exploit). Frankly, so much of the indie fiction out there is poorly written, that the stigma indie authors are saddled with is understandable. Yet the Big  Five are in such trouble financially these days, there is speculation that indies and micropublishers will be the only game in town one day. As professionals in the industry, I’d love to hear any insights or opinions you have on the state of things, the future of publishing, etc.

PP: As far as insights into publishing as it changes: along with the rest of humanity, we are trying to deal with the information overload of the internet, which in its turn is reducing literacy and attention span. We see audio books as a possible mitigating factor, but no such factor will make up for the simple lack of education that is so pervasive, coupled with the pernicious assurance that the uninformed opinion is as important as the informed opinion.  We go forward based on our own goals, prejudices, and perspectives, hoping to attract a growing readership of like mind.  When we edited books or anthologies for the big NY publishers, we learned that you, as an editor, are looking as hard for a writer to excite you as that writer is looking for a simpatico editor.  When the two meet, sometimes magic happens, but not often enough.  We’re concerned by the “dumb like me” attitude we see growing, by poor-quality books proliferating — but then one remembers Henry James, who coined the term “trash triumphant” to describe publishing at the end of the 19th century. Literature survived those days; it will survive these days. There always will be bad writing, self-indulgent readers, and those who only want to hear ideas with which they already concur, literature that ratifies their pre-existing tastes.  We simply have more people today.  The ones who choose video games rather than books are not our readership.  We’re not serving the reader with a five-hundred word vocabulary, but we have no quarrel with those publishers or authors who are doing so, now that the slush piles of former days are all available free of charge.

VP: Please explain the “dumb like me” expression–I haven’t heard it before.

PP: “Dumb like me” is a phrase describing the attitude of those who consider reasoning a chore, a stressful exercise threatening to revisit dearly held notions of reality, worse, to overturn them with a priori observation, undermining ‘blissful’ ignorance. We won’t use it again in any way implying that we harbor such a view.

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” -Isaac Asimov

VP: Sounds a lot like what I routinely encountered in school, and on Facebook.

As I’ve found out first hand since throwing my hat into publishing, there are hundreds of reasons an author might fail to gather a following, and many of them seem to be completely random wrong time/wrong place kind of reasons. I have my own short list of authors to whom I am grateful because of the books they’ve written; but for whatever reasons they have not enjoyed the success I believe their writing deserves. Two such authors from the tradpub era are Len Levinson and Jim Morris.

Jim Morris has been slept-on for long enough. Now his latest book,Talequah/Battle of Sorcerors and some of his classic non-fiction (including The Devil’s Secret Name) have found a home where they’ll be getting new covers and some adept marketing. Virtual Pulp wishes him phenomenal sales, and thanks Perseid Press for taking the time to respond.

I can’t say exactly when, but we’ll be reviewing some Perseid Press books here in the future.

Epicstream reviews Exordium of Tears

First published at: http://epicstream.com/reviews/Book-Review-Exordium-of-Tears-The-IX-Series-Book-2-by-Andrew-P-Weston

 

Book Review: ‘Exordium of Tears’ (The IX Series Book 2) by Andrew P. Weston

Author ThumbnailHannah Anderson –March 01, 2016
Science fiction and fantasy are all about expanding new horizons and augmenting the knowledge we currently hold. It is only fitting, then, that a new first for myself as an Epicstream reviewer come in the package of a fantasy and science fiction novel. This is the first time I have had the pleasure to read both the beginning novel of a series and its direct sequel, and that it is The IX Series by Andrew P. Weston makes that first all the sweeter.
In my review of The IX, I mentioned it is a refreshing blend of the classic elements of science fiction and fantasy. In Exordium of Tears, Weston continues this tradition of mixing the best of the best with new, thrilling storylines. The sequel follows the majority of the characters from The IX as they move toward a more democratic, established society in the wake of a long battle with the Horde, enemies with a surprising origin. This development into a more civilized way of life eventually leads the characters into interstellar travel as they attempt to resettle and reshape colonies affected by the Horde.
Although the novel itself is satisfying and fulfilling as its own work, I highly recommend readers first take in The IX before reading Exordium of Tears. As a reader who did so, I found the experience enriching. The sequel has enough nods to the first novel in The IX Series that understanding the events of The IX is helpful to reading Exordium of Tears, but it never felt like a rehash of the first novel, nor like Weston was trying too hard to expand the universe and characters he built up in The IX. The progression of the story was understandable and logically follows from the conclusion of The IX, and the same themes of honor, duty, and the survival of humanity that made The IX a favorite of mine are also present in Exordium of Tears.
One of the best aspects of reading Exordium of Tears is the way that Weston allows characters who once had minor or even passing roles in The IX a chance to flourish in new and unexpected ways. Several characters are far more prominent in Exordium of Tears, and while this growth is certainly necessary for the success of the novel, Weston writes his characters in such a natural way that the growth is never forced.
Weston doesn’t hide his characters’ flaws or mistakes, which makes them all the more admirable: they’re allowed to be human. This humanity is explored and expanded, almost to the breaking point, by the circumstances the characters encounter. These situations are neither artificial, nor forced – they’re logical consequences of decisions made or actions taken by the characters, and thus more dramatic than any deus ex machina set-up more mainstream books may employ.
The attention to detail of both the ancient Earth culture of some characters and the new, expanding culture in Exordium of Tears is astounding. Plausible explanations are provided for scientific advances, problems are solved thoroughly but realistically, and conflicts occur that seem organic and understandable. While some characters are neither sympathetic nor likeable, they only enhance the world that Weston has built in The IX Series. Relationships between characters, be they platonic or romantic, blossom in a way that feels genuine, and the perspectives that Weston shifts through to provide a multifaceted mode of delivery never complicate the overarching story or its themes. Weston maintains a precarious balancing act, an act which pays in dividends as the story of Exordium of Tears unfolds.
As Weston continues to expand The IX Series, I look forward to following the progress of the world he has crafted. If Exordium of Tears is any indication of the growth Weston will continue to undergo as a writer, the story will only get better from here.

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.

New Treasures: Exordium of Tears by Andrew P. Weston

New Treasures: Exordium of Tears by Andrew P. Weston

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016 | Posted by John O’Neill

Exordium of Tears-smallAndrew P. Weston is the author of Hell Bound, which Joe Bonadonna called “an epic and fast-paced adventure. Part Gothic, 19th century-style mystery, part sword and sorcery,” and The IX, which Fletcher Vredenburgh described as “about taking on endless waves of mindless energy-vampires with guns, mini-singularity bombs, and a host of other assorted death-dealing apparatuses.The IX is a whole bunch of fun… [it] has taken me back to some of the books I enjoyed in my youth.”

Now Weston has released the long-anticipated sequel to The IX, Exordium of Tears. It was published by Perseid Press this week.

Fight or Die…

Victorious in a star-flung battle against the inhuman Horde, Earth’s fabled 9th Legion of Rome; the U.S. 5th Company’s 2nd Mounted Rifles; and a Special Forces anti-terrorist team settle on Arden, their adopted planet, to raise families and live in peace.

But soon, state secrets are revealed: The greatest of the inhuman Horde didn’t join the battle, but yet lurk among Arden’s outer colonies, posing a grave threat.

Humanity’s Ardenese defenders send a flotilla of ships to far Exordium, the world where the Horde outbreak began, with orders to reclaim the outer colonies… Exordium… where the Horde awaits… where the cream of Arden’s fighting force must engage this adversary of unrivaled power…

As worlds are sundered, suns destroyed, and star systems obliterated, a universal conflict proves again that…

Death is only the beginning of the adventure.

Exordium of Tears was published by Perseid Press on February 14, 2016. It is 306 pages, priced at $9.98 in digital format at Amazon.com Available on Amazon Kindle at: http://www.amazon.com/Exordium-Tears-IX-Book-2-ebook/dp/B01AAFEU6O

Four writers from Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters tell all…

Reblogged from Terry Erwin’s Up Around the Corner…  http://uparoundthecorner.blogspot.com/2015/06/interview-of-authors-from-heroika.html#comment-form

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Heroika 1 Perfect promo 6&9FRIDAY, JUNE 12, 2015

Interview of Authors from Heroika: Dragon Eaters

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This interview is an unusual treat, in that I am interviewing four authors from the recently released anthology,Heroika: Dragon Eaters

The Authors:

  1. L. Butcher is the British author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles series and several short stories in the fantasy and fantasy romance genre. She is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet and a dreamer. When she is grounded in the real world she likes science, natural history, history and monkeys. Her work has been described as ‘dark and gritty’.

Mark Finn is a fantasy and science fiction, essayist, and playwright. He is recognized as an authority on the Texas author Robert E. Howard and has written extensively on that subject.In 2007 he was nominated for World Fantasy Special Award: Professional.

Seth (S.E.) Lindberg lives near Cincinnati, Ohio working as a microscopist by day. Two decades of practicing chemistry, combined with a passion for the Sword & Sorcery genre, spurs him to write graphic adventure fictionalizing the alchemical humors.

He co-moderates a Goodreads- Sword & Sorcery Group and invites you to participate.

Cas Peace is a fantasy and non-fiction writer from the UK. She’s also a singer/songwriter, horse-riding instructor, cactus grower, and dog lover.

What is one of the most interesting novels you’ve enjoyed in the past year and why?

Butcher: IX by Andrew Weston – it’s a time travelling heroic historical sci-fi. What attracted me to this book was the fact some of the main characters are from the missing IX Legion from Rome. It’s a fun book, with monsters (which aren’t what you think they are), adventure, courage, alternate history, space ships and much more.

Finn: City of Thieves, by David Benioff. A wonderful, picaresque story about two unlikely traveling companions forced into service during the Siege of Leningrad. Wonderful writing and really well-executed on all levels.

Lindberg: Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology: This anthology marks the catalyzing moment of the sub-genre “Sword & Soul” Charles R. Saunders is credited with starting the sub-genre with his Imaro tales (~1980). In 2011, Milton J. Davis (fellow chemist and Heroika author) expanded the front with this collection, including contributions from the Soul-champion himself, Saunders. Named after African storytellers who relied on the oral traditions, “Griots” is inspiring, unique, and history making.

Peace: I think that would have to be “The IX” by Andrew Weston. Part of the reason stems from the fact that I copy-edited this book, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and part comes from Andrew’s deft handling of his characters’ differing historical origins and the way this affects their contributions to the problems they face in the novel. I found the whole thing fascinating.

What is one technique or method that you’ve used to improve your writing?

Butcher: Reading. The more a writer reads, especially in a wide field of styles, the more one can find one’s own style and learn the rules.

Finn: I always read back out loud what I have written the day before. Not only does it serve to remind me where I left off, but it helps me do an immediate copy check for awkward phrasing, overused words, etc.

Lindberg: Going mental! Balancing a fun career with the duties of a father too, there is scarce dedicated time for writing.  I’ve fallen into structured day dreaming, rehearsing scenes via each characters’ perspective. Being kept away from the writing-desk forces multiple iterations, but the frustration is rewarding when scenes are enhanced. This role playing can be done anywhere, anytime; a smartphone or notepad is needed to capture key dialogue and interactions to flesh out later.

Peace: I’m not sure if “used” is the right word, since that implies a deliberate act. Due to my editing and proofreading services I naturally get to read and work on a huge variety of different styles of writing. While picking my way through the vagaries of grammar, language, and syntax I often learn things I can apply to my own writing. It’s amazing how blind you can become to your own bad habits – copy-editing someone else’s really does help!

If it was possible, which author (living or deceased) would you like to share lunch with? What would you hope to discuss?

Butcher: That’s a tricky one… Dead – the list is long – Tolkien and discuss the influence of myth and fantasy, Alexandre Dumas to discuss revenge, Shakespeare – well he’s Shakespeare – did he write those plays or not? HG Wells – the direction of the future, Terry Pratchett on the fate of orangutans, Homer – and whether the nature of heroism has changed, Colin Wilson on the rise of the serial killer, and Jules Verne on subject of the fantastic. Now that’s a hell of a dinner party.

Living – I’m not sure….

Finn: This one is not fair, because in my capacity as an expert on Robert E. Howard, that question is a soft pitch. Obviously, me and Bob would talk about writing, creating musical phrases in prose, and as much as possible, I’d like to get him talking about his travels in Texas. That would be an entertaining lunch.
Lindberg: Darrell Schweitzer: I personally discovered his masterful Mask Of The Sorcerer (published 1995) and We Are All Legends (published 1981) weeks after I literally walked beside him in 2010 (Columbus OH, World Fantasy Convention). To think I could have talked to him in person! I missed my chance then, but I’ll be attending again in 2016. I hope he attends and I can buy him a coffee at least.

Peace: I think it would have to be Anne McCaffrey. Her Pern novels were what got me into fantasy when I was a teen, and I still admire her work. I’d love to learn what inspired her and what her publishing journey was like. I always hoped to visit her home in Ireland, but haven’t made it yet.

Tell us a little about your story found in the Heroika: The Dragon Eaters, a heroic fiction anthology.

Butcher: Of Blood and Scales” is a tale of courage, sacrifice and desperation. Oh and a great dragon…

It’s a tale of heroics to save a dying child and a land on the brink of war. It’s a tale of last resorts.

Finn:Sic Semper Draconis” posits a time in the mid-to-late 1980s when giant time gates open up and spew forth all of the atmosphere, as well as the flora and fauna, of the late Cretaceous Period, and viola! Dinosaurs in Texas. The state would waste no time organizing an armed resistance—much like game wardens—to thin out the dangerous ones. It’s (I hope) an entertaining take on the hunter, becoming the hunted, and back to the hunter again type of story.

Lindberg: “Legacy of the Great Dragon” shows the Father of Alchemy entombing his singular source of magic, the Great Dragon. According to Greek and Egyptian myth, the god Thoth (a.k.a. Hermes) was able to see into the world of the dead and pass his learnings 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.

Peace: When Janet first asked me to contribute to HEROIKA, I struggled for an idea. Then I realised St. George’s Day was coming up in the UK, and I decided to rewrite the story of St. George. I went back to his Middle Eastern roots and made him a knight of the Crusades, one who is doubting his faith. Then I tied the resolution of the story to an island right off the coast of my home county, Hampshire, adding a dash of druid for extra mysticism.

Links to where Heroika is available:

Heroika at Amazon US / Amazon UK

Where you can find these authors on the internet:

A.L. Butcher:

Blog: Library of Erana

At Goodreads
On Amazon

Twitter:@libraryoferana

Mark Finn:

Mark Finn on Wikipedia
On Amazon
Blog: Finn’s Wake

S.E. Lindberg:

Author Review Blog
On Amazon
At Goodreads
S.E. Lindberg on Twitter

S.E. Lindberg on Youtube

Cas Peace:

Author Website

On Amazon