I the Sun, a review by Peru Editor

5.0 out of 5 stars Historical Fiction that is Unafraid of History, February 27, 2017
This review is from: I, the Sun (Kindle Edition)

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I, the Sun, the life and times of Suppiluliumas I, the greatest Hittite king. In deluxe trade, ebook, and as an audiobook narrated by Christopher Crosby Morris

Unlike most historical novels, ‘I, the Sun’ does not try to impose modern morality upon an ancient civilization. After all, what is the point of claiming to be a work of “historical fiction” if you are bound by the preconceptions of modern times? However, that aspiration is easier to state than to achieve, and many authors end up failing in their quest for historical accuracy in favor of creating a mass media narrative. As a result, the market is flooded with so-called historical novels that are in no way representative of whatever era they examine.

In this work, Janet Morris has made some courageous choices. Above all else she strives to embrace the brutality and social norms of an era that took place fourteen hundred years before Christ. The book is, in many ways, an intelligence test for those who come upon it. Wittingly or not, readers seek nothing more than the same old “Disney approved” prepackaged plot set in a different historical landscape. That’s not what you’re going to get with ‘I, the Sun.’

One of the most common complaints about modern heroic writing is that there aren’t enough female characters. But too often, authors simply take a male character and give him a female name in order to satisfy gimmicks like the Bechdel test. But what the Bechdel test fails to account for is the existence of realistic women who are engaged in plausible, gender related issues. It’s easy to write a “superhero” female character. But it’s far more interesting to show a powerful woman who manages to exert her influence although she is subjected to a powerless social role.

The women of ‘I, the Sun’ are fascinating, and in many ways they are more interesting than the titular character. They are mothers, slaves, prostitutes and witches, and they conduct themselves with strategic intelligence and a tremendous survival instinct. They fight tooth and claw in darkness and lose often, just like real people.

The prevalence of brutal actions in this book will rightfully make the reader squirm, but engaging in the intellectual exercise of examining the consequences of historical thinking is exactly the point. What are the effects of living in a cruel society, not just the torments of the moment but the prolonged mental burden of surviving within such a world? That’s the theme that Janet Morris bravely tackles in ‘I, the Sun.’ Are her conclusions correct? Who knows? But this novel does indisputably embrace the hard questions of a specific historical age and wrestles with them with intellectual honesty even at the risk of alienating overly delicate readers. The result is a remarkable novel, beautifully written, that will linger with you long after you’ve closed the cover.”

Also available from Barnes & Noble and Nook, as well as wherever ebooks and paper books are sold.
The Ancient Near East comes to life in I, the Sun.

 

See the original review on Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/review/R2B83HD484TF14/

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I, the Sun on History Rocks

see the original post on https://historyrocks.us/2017/02/19/i-the-sun/

I, the Sun

From the annals of the ancient Hittite king, Suppiluliumas, from the Amarna Letters of Egypt and the court records of a wealth of “lost” civilizations, comes this saga of kingship and greatness, love and death, politics and treachery in the second millennium, BCE. Beyond a few cursory references to the Hittites in the Bible, for thousands of years nothing has been known of this first mighty Indo-European culture. sun-cover

Now, based on translations of the ancient texts themselves, comes the story of Suppiluliumas, Great King, Favorite of the Storm God, King of Hatti, who by his own count fathered forty-four kings and conquered as many nations, who brought even mighty Egypt to her knees. Tutankhamen’s widow sent him an urgent letter begging for a son of his to make her husband. The earliest Hebrews knew him as their protector. The entire Mediterranean world revered and feared him.

But although he conquered armies, countries, and even foreign gods, he could not conquer his love for the one woman fate denied him, the Great Queen Khinti. With the exception of a single slave girl, every prince and general, mercenary and scribe, princess and potentate chronicled in these pages actually lived, loved and died nearly fourteen hundred years before Christ.

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Now they live again in I, the Sun.

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Download the audiobook here

Read the recent review of I, the Sun from Black Gate Magazine.

Get the book at these sites:

Amazon   B&N   iTunes   Google   WalMart

Meet the Author

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

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*Spotlight*

*Fantastic Fiction*

*Fun Quotes*

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?
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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

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.

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:

 

Heroika 1 Perfect promo 6&9

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.

heroika1promobanner fixedTChirezpromo-4

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.