AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – JANET MORRIS

How the sacred Band began…

Time 5-1

The Birth of Tempus

By Janet Morris

first published in http://pczick.com/2015/05/13/author-wednesday-janet-morris/

tempus coverI started writing stories about my soon-to-be iconic character Tempus in a most unexpected way. At the World Science Fiction convention, I sat on a panel with editor of the Thieves’ World(TM) series, Robert L. Asprin. In front of a packed house, he leaned forward into his microphone and asked me to write for his new “shared word” series, “Thieves’ World.” Flustered and delighted, but having no idea what Thieves’ World might be about, I said yes.

After the panel, Bob Asprin explained what he wanted: a story of up to ten thousand words, set in Sanctuary, a town meant to be the armpit of fantasy, a town we writers would all share as the locale for our stories. Our characters would remain ours to do with as we pleased elsewhere, but the Sanctuary locale was the “shared” part of the anthologies, and Bob would send me a backgrounder about the town and the unfortunate and corrupt people who lived there in some forgotten place and past. He said he wanted it dark; he wanted the characters to be thieves and murderers and witches and such, and the government to be unable to keep the peace. There was one volume of this shared anthology already published, and Bob said he’d send me a copy of the book to show me what others had done.

But by then I already knew what I wanted to write, and what characters I wanted to use. I had written a very short story about a mage-killer, Cime, and her target, Askelon, the last great archmage, and the place where he ruled. I asked if I could bring some pre-existing characters and places, and the editor gave me permission. I asked if I could write characters who were both heroic and anti-heroic, and the editor said yes. So I originally thought I’d expand my existing story, and reference my archmage’s world of Meridian, an island which only sometimes appeared in our world. Bob Asprin okayed this as well.

But by the time I arrived home, I had another story in mind: Tempus, my character, had come storming into my brain: Tempus the Riddler, Tempus the Black, Tempus the Obscure. Tempus would be analogous to Heraclitus of Ephesus, but be the man Heraclitus would have been if he’d done what he advised others to do. So from that assignment came Tempus at his nadir, once a general, now a mercenary fallen on hard times, alone in lawless Sanctuary with a mission from the capital to see if the feckless prince who ruled the town could ever make a king. Cime would be called his sister, and Askelon his nemesis, but first I had to introduce him in a way that would make the editor want not only that story, but more stories of Tempus and Cime and the wizard-ridden world they perceived.

So I wrote, “Vashanka’s Minion,” the first story in the Tempus epic; Bob loved its anti-heroic flavor, and asked me to do another, which was “A Man and his God,” in which two men kiss, a priest of the Storm God dies, and Tempus’ world forever changes as he inherits the Sacred Band.

Right there, when the Sacred Band begins, the story becomes historical fantasy, since our Sacred Band is modeled on the heroic but doomed Sacred Band of Thebes.

I loved writing the first Tempus stories; the characters obsessed me; once I connected Tempus to Heraclitus and fantasy Sanctuary, a forgotten backwater in the real ancient past, I knew exactly what to do. I have never had more fun writing.

And evidently the readers had fun reading the Tempus stories, for the Thieves’ World series was a great success, selling more than a million copies, success enough that I could propose and sell a stand-alone Tempus book, to be a novelized anthology in which my earliest Tempus tales are seen by his young companion in war, Nikodemos. And in which (even better) I could publish my story about Cime the mage-killer and Askelon, lord of dreams who rules Meridian.

It was during this interval, as I was preparing the novelized anthology, Tempus, that the shared-world Thieves’ World became a bestseller; then I also sold the to-be-written trilogy about Tempus and his Sacred Band, called the Beyond trilogy (Beyond Sanctuary, Beyond the Veil, Beyond Wizardwall) as hardcovers to Baen Books, as Science Fiction Book Club selections, and as Ace mass market paperbacks. Subsequently, I wrote three more Tempus novels for Baen, and then many years later assembled the final Thieves’ World Sacred Band tales, along with new stories written expressly for that volume, in a second novelized anthology, The Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl, and also, for Perseid Press, the epic Tempus novel, The Sacred Band.

For more than thirty years now, I have been writing about Tempus (and his sister-in-arms Cime, and the Sacred Band of Stepsons), and he has been living in my head much in the same way that Tempus is inhabited by Enlil, the Akkadian Storm God. But this book Tempus is the original, the earliest, and these are the tales that made Tempus famous — how it all began.

Janet bio pic cropped 12 05 13 Janet B&W Portrait 2About Janet:  Janet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 30 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris or others. She has contributed short fiction to the shared universe fantasy series “Thieves World, (TM)” 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 contemporary novels. Morris has written, contributed to, or edited several book-length works of non-fiction, as well as papers and articles on nonlethal weapons, developmental military technology and other defense and national security topics.

Click below for links to more about Tempus and Janet Morris

Wikipedia page for Tempus

Wikipedia page for Sacred Band of Stepsons series

Janet Morris Wikipedia bio

Amazon Author Page

P.C. Zick

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Welcome to Author Wednesday and a guest post by Janet Morris, the author Tempus, a best-selling work of fantasy that has developed into much more than one work of fiction. Tempus even has its own Wikepedia pageTempus is also a part of the box set, At Odds with Destiny. I’m pleased to have Janet here today to talk about how her dynasty with the Tempus character.Time 5-1

The Birth of Tempus

By Janet Morris

tempus coverI started writing stories about my soon-to-be iconic character Tempus in a most unexpected way. At the World Science Fiction convention, I sat on a panel with editor of the Thieves’ World series, Robert L. Asprin. In front of a packed house, he leaned forward into his microphone and asked me to write for his new “shared word” series, “Thieves’ World.” Flustered and delighted, but having no idea what Thieves world might be about…

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I, the Sun by Janet Morris — The Black Gate review

Read on Black Gate: http://www.blackgate.com/2015/02/15/i-the-sun-by-janet-morris/

Sunday, February 15th, 2015 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

I the Sun Janet Morris-smallI, The Sun
By Janet Morris
Perseid Press (534 pages, October 27, 2014, $26.95 in trade paperback)
Cover art: The Seal of Suppiluliumas

This masterpiece of historical fiction was based on the actual writings and historical records of Suppiluliumas I, the great Hittite king who dominated the Middle East around the 14thcentury, BC. He rebuilt the old capital of Hattusas, and from there exercised his Imperial Power over the Hittite heartland, controlling the lands between the Mediterranean and Euphrates. But he was not a king to sit back on his throne and pull the strings of his minions, advisors and subjects. No, he was hands-on, and long before he became king he made his way in the world, fighting and whoring and playing politics. His military career included dealing with the eastern kingdom of Mitanni, and regaining a solid grip on Syria.

I, The Sun was first published in 1983 by Dell Books, and with this classic story of Suppliluliumas I, author Janet Morris laid the groundwork for her most famous fictional character — Tempus the Black, whom she first introduced in the original Thieves’ Worldseries, and in her own, later novels such as Beyond Sanctuary, Beyond the Veil, Beyond Wizardwall, and The Sacred Band, written in collaboration with her husband, Chris Morris.

In I, The Sun, Janet Morris weaves a brilliant, sprawling tapestry of events in the life of this great king of the ancient world, whom we first meet when he is known by his birth-name, Tasmisarri. This historical novel, cleverly written in first-person to stand as the official autobiography of Tasmisarri/Suppiluliumas, begins with the death of his father, the Great King Arnuwandas. Since Tasmi cannot sit the throne until his majority, his uncle Tuthaliyas inherits the crown. But so much can happen until Tasmi comes of age, and so, to keep his own brothers from killing each other — and him, and thus seizing the throne, Tuthaliyas adopts Tasmi and makes him his heir.

From that moment on young Tasmi is surrounded by the political maneuverings and machinations of such players as another of his late-father’s brothers, Prince Kantuzilis, whose nature is far more malicious than princely. Even Asmunikal, Tasmi’s mother, has her own secret agenda, and very soon he is caught up in court intrigue, surrounded by enemies and sycophants, becomes embroiled in one military engagement after another, and grows to become a major player in the game of empires.

Beyond Sanctuary Thieves WorldTasmi first becomes a pupil to Kuwatna-ziti, a lord and warrior who is also a servant of the Sun Goddess of Arinna. Kuwatna-ziti recruits Tasmi for the Storm God Teshub of Hatti, husband to the Sun Goddess. And thus begins Tasmi’s education. He later meets Daduhepa, a lord’s spoiled brat serving at the temple to make her holy until she can be sold off in marriage. Tasmi falls for her and then, unable to control his needs and desire for her, rapes and takes her virginity. But she is of high birth, and so Kuwatna-ziti tries to mend things by saying it would do them all good if Tasmi married the girl. So Tasmi agrees to marry Daduhepa, and she becomes his first wife and the mother of first son, who he names Arnuwandas II, after his late father.

When Tasmi is sent to the garrison at Samuha, he learns that Daduhepa is again with child, his second son, named Piyassili. But she will not join her husband at that frontier garrison, and goes instead to Hattusas, the old capital city. In the meantime, Tasmi grows farther into manhood fighting the wild tribes of Gasga, and takes for himself a lawful concubine named Titai, much against the wishes of his friend and comrade, Kuwatna-ziti. (Please note: Titai is the only fictional character in this historical novel.)

After a nasty winter, Tasmi, Titai and Kuwatna-ziti travel to Hattusas, and from there Tasmi intends to return to Samuha with his wife and new-born son. But Uncle Tuthaliyas, the Great King, orders Tasmi to remain in Hattusas. Allegedly, and against Tasmi’s wishes, Titai works magic against the Great King, who grows increasingly ill. (And there is more to her story, to her relationship with Tasmi and her ultimate fate that I will not reveal here.) Soon Tasmi’s thoughts turn toward kingship and how it might best be administered by his own hand.

During Tuthaliyas’ illness, his brother Kantuzilis — Tasmi’s other uncle — assumes the throne and plots to rid himself of Tasmi by sending him and his men to war against the Arzawaens, the Gasgaeans, and the other tribes of the lower country. Suspicious of the machinations of both is uncles, and uncertain of even his own mother’s loyalty, Tasmisarri confers with Kuwatna-ziti and his most trusted men. But at this point they have no choice other than to march off to war — securing all, conquering all in the name and for the glory of his uncle, the Great King Tuthaliyas. But Tasmi’s suspicions and fears ride with him, and he begins making plans of his own.

Upon their triumphant return to Hattusas, where they are to be honored, Tasmisarri and his men find that the Great King Tuthaliyas has fallen even more ill, and is now half-mad. The Great King denounces Tasmi and his heroes, and right then and there Tasmi realizes that he must now follow through with his plans. He in turn confronts and denounces Tuthaliyas: swords are drawn, blood is spilled, and uncles are slain. Tasmi, victorious, is now proclaimed “Tabarna, my lord, Great King and all other appellations…” When Tasmi’s mother Asmunikal denounces and turns her back on him, he exiles her to the isle of Alashiya. Now Tasmi begins to round up the families of those lords who opposed him — to be executed or sent into exile. Tasmi then renounces the name Tasmisarri, the name his mother gave him, and declares himself Suppiluliumas, meaning “Pure Spring.”

There is so much more to this grand historical novel that for me to keep relating events in this review would be an exercise in exhaustion. Suffice to say that Morris’ characters live and breathe and bleed, driving the story forward, providing all the drama and intrigue one expects from any novel, fictional or factual, that deals with kings, queens, and dynasties. This novel is textured, layered, and rich in intrigue, action, and complex characters that stand at the center of this “autobiographical” novel. Suppiluliumas is no two-dimensional character by any means: he is truly one of the most engaging, interesting, and perplexing characters I’ve encountered in a long time. Cruel, vengeful, even blood-thirsty at times — he is not unkind, not without heart. And because Morris used his own writings to add depth and texture to this novel, she has given us greater insight to his thoughts and feeling. Here he speaks of what it is like to be king:

It is a lonely thing to be a king unloved by his land. It is anguish deep beyond measuring, to be a general separate from his armies. Power’s curse comes in an ache behind the eyes from reading and folds around the belly a snakelike girdle of fat from sitting.

Or here, in this passage, where he broods about war:

Never again have I felt such loathing for war and death. Some say it is a thing of youth; personally, I think every man whose word sends others to their deaths must experience it, or become like the stone god Ullikummis; with no heart in him to speak like a mortal man’s.

I the Sun Dell-smallIndeed.

A little research will reveal to you the accomplishments of this ancient king, whose name was unfamiliar to me until I first heard of this novel.

Although established in the Bronze Age, the Hittites were forerunners of the Iron Age, developing the manufacture of iron artifacts from as early as the 14th century BC. The Hittites were also famous for their skill in building and using chariots, a skill which gave them a military advantage. Janet Morris truly nails their time and their place in history; the settings, traditions and customs of the various people in this part of the ancient world, the very grandeur of their era ring true with the vivid poetry of her writing. This is a well-executed and thought-provoking historical novel, filled with character drama, romance, tragedy, action, plot and counter-plot. There is a certain power that comes through while reading this novel, a power derived from knowing that this is real life as it was lived nearly 2000 years before Christ, told to us by a master of storytelling and history.

Janet Morris paints a solid portrait of Tasmisarri, Prince of the Realm — wild, reckless, a rebel, who later in life becomes Suppiluliumas, the Great King, the “Pure Spring.” At first, in his youth, Tasmi comes across as arrogant and even heartless, but beneath all that we can see the makings of a brilliant leader, a ruler who cares about his people and his empire. Just thinking about the amount of research Morris did in preparation to writing this epic, the note-taking, the outlining, the planning, staggers my mind. These ancient dynasties were complex and convoluted, and keeping names, dates and events straight alone are worthy of praise. Janet Morris is, besides being a wonderfully gifted writer and storyteller, a devoted scholar of history, and this novel was truly a labor of love for her.

Donny Swords interviews Chris and Janet Morris’ on “The Black Sword” project

http://mishanoamy.blogspot.com/2014/11/chris-janet-morris-nine-heroes.html

Chris & Janet Morris: Nine Heroes interview 6

Chris & Janet Morris

Nine Heroes: 9 Questions

Interview 6

(Exploring Heroic Fantasy’s Nine Heroes.)

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While I have deep respect for all the talent possessed by authors in this round of Nine Heroes interviews, I must confess I have reverent awe for these masters.  Chris and Janet Morris exude unrivaled passion for heroes in literature,  They evoke the spirit of the men and women they write, whether it is in their undeniably brilliant Sacred Band Series, or in novels such as their Sci-Fi masterwork, Outpassage.

The Morris’ go far back in the writing world, and are worth checking out if you take nothing else from these interviews.  They have talent often wept for and dreamed over.

So what do they offer Nine Heroes?

The right to call itself an edition scribed by legends.

Never ones to go light, The Morris’ delivered Rhesos.  Black Sword is one of the main reasons I loved Nine Heroes.  This is legendary stuff, literally.  The ease in which this story brings the ancient hero to life is an appalling feat for lesser writers than Chris & Janet Morris.

Here is an excerpt from my review:

Black Sword by Janet Morris/Chris Morris

“Anyone who has read a Ways of the Stygia novel would know I love black steel. Regardless of the gods who forge it, it is a fascination of mine. Anybody who has read my blog would also have a comprehension of my respect for Janet & Chris Morris.
Here, armed with her new hero Rhesos, and he with his black blade, Janet Morris pierces the imagination, delivering a classic hero. The story was engaging. It smacked of brilliance. When I finished all I wanted was more.
Thank the gods there will be a full-length novel soon starring Rhesos, child of gods, red-haired, with a temperament that reminds me a little of Robert E. Howard’s Conan, or El Borak… the troubled adventurer who is more than meets the eye… a hero steeped in myths and substantially viable for the ages.


If you are a Morris fan, do not miss Rhesos’ first story.”

Describe your hero, or heroes.

The hero of The Black Sword is Rhesos of Thrace, in Greek mythology known as the youngest king to arrive at Troy to fight, a nearly forgotten hero today but a truly mythic warrior. Sources say Thracians of this period were often of “heroic” proportions, red-haired and blue eyed, so Rhesos has those traits. He was a horse-breeder as well as the king of Thrace, and wore gold-trimmed armor and bedecked his white horses’ harness with silver and their chariot with silver and gold. In our story, he is described as “more beautiful than daylight.”

Live beside heroes, click here.

The female protagonist (one cannot truly call her a hero) of the Black Sword is Salmakis, the water nymph or naiad who became famous for her seduction and attempted rape of Hermaphroditos. When we first see Salmakis, she is an ancient crone, but she doesn’t stay old for long. She has bargained secretly with the gods to release Rhesos from his silver-veined cave in Rhodope and send him to her, so she can use him to restore her youth and beauty. When he meets Salmakis, he is a lowly mercenary who has just fought on the Macedonian side in a losing battle. The morning after they tryst, the crone is nowhere to be seen but a lovely young girl gives Rhesos a new panoply of weapons, all made from of black metal “kissed by blood.”
Tell us about your character in 9 heroes.

Homer counted Rhesos among the great heroes in the Iliad. Other classical writers including Euripides and even later writers such as Shakespeare extolled him. In the Iliad, at Athene’s urging, Diomedes and Odysseus murdered Rhesos as he slept on the night he arrived at Troy with “thousands at his back,” for fear of the oracles that said if his horses drank from the Scamander and he fought the next day on Ilion’s battlefield, the Achaeans would lose the war. Upon his death, since Rhesos’ mother was Calliope and his father Strymon, the river god, the Muse Calliope appealed to the other gods to allow her to resurrect him and grant him immortality. She won the right, but the agreement confined him to an underground cave for centuries. A hero-cult grow up around him in that interval, Heros Equitans. In our story, he remembers little of his life before the cave, and begins piecing things together…

What type of setting did you place your story in?

Our story begins in ancient Chaetae in the 4th century BCE, between Mygdonia and Macedon, and soon moves to a Greek settle in Asia Minor, Dicaea, and northward as Rhesos tries to get home to Eion.

What inspired your story?

The stories of Rhesos and his hero-cult and of Salmakis, the only nymph rapist in the Greek mythological canon, were stories we longed to tell. When the opportunity to create a new hero for Nine Heroes presented itself, Rhesos was the obvious choice:  a great mythic hero, cut down by treachery early in his prime, then immortalized. Combining a story of Rhesos post-resurrection and Salmakis, who could gift him with weapons made by Hephaestos by calling on a fellow nymph, was too perfect a chance to miss. This story also allows us to interweave other mythic beings and powers, including the Erinys Tisiphone and Athene’s priestess at Troy, Theano, as well as Calliope and Pallas Athene (First to Fight) herself.

Is your story a part of a broader work or series?

In the Sacred Band series, we had been working in the 1st century BCE culture and geography, so an epic set there was a good choice because we were conversant with Greek settlements in Asia Minor. This story may be read as beginning in the Mygdonia of the Sacred Band, but Rhesos does not encounter the Sacred Band of Stepsons in this story. Rhesos has his own fascinating mythos. The Black Sword is a mythic tale, partly historical if you credit recent research that uses an ancient solar eclipse in Homer’s Odyssey to pinpoint April 16, 1178 BCE as the date Odysseus returned to Ithaca. If that much of Homer is true, then we feel comfortable taking as true Homer’s tale of Rhesos’ death at the hands of Odysseus and Diomedes.

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Rhesos is a new hero for us with whom we are well pleased. We are currently working on a novel about him that begins with “The Black Sword” story, somewhat expanded, and goes fascinating places thereafter. We may well do more than one novel with Rhesos, but the book with the working title “Rhesos of Thrace: Black Sword” will be a complete adventure of epic scope.

In four lines, tell us about your story.

Fleeing a battle he fought as a mercenary in service to Macedon, fighting deserters and brigands as he goes, Rhesos comes upon a smithy’s hut late at night and asks to buy equipment. The old woman there gives him shelter, food, and agrees to sell him weapons, but she’s disappeared in the morning, replaced by a comely girl who provides Rhesos with a black-iron panoply. Heading north, he comes upon a mercenary band encamped before the hilltop town of Dicaea and asks for work. The mercenary leader challenges him to single-handedly kill a monster threatening travelers in a nearby cave and bring back the monster’s head, giving him a horse and a guide to go with him to make sure he doesn’t abscond with the horse. In the cave, Rhesos confronts an Erinys, Tisiphone the Avenger, who offers him a deal involving a monstrous head….

Which, besides your own is your favorite story?

“The Act of Sleepless Nights” by Walter Rhein and “Just One Mistake” by A.L. Butcher. Although very different, each story is character driven and those characters are memorable.

A Man and His God: A Sacred Band Tale

Release Date:02-12-13

Publisher: Perseid Press

An immortalized cavalry commander joins forces with the high-priest of the god of war…. Where myth meets legend, two men kiss and Tempus’ world changes forever. Meet and mourn the Slaughter Priest in “A Man and His God.” In this canonical short novel, the Sacred Band begins when Abarsis, Slaughter Priest, brings his Sacred Band to Tempus and dies in his arms. In this pivotal story, the Sacred Band is formed from love and death….

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How many of the other authors in Nine Heroes have you read?

We read the entire book, each story in order.

Would you make another anthology with Heroic Fantasy?

We look forward to the opportunity.

A sample of Rhesos from Thrace.

“Rhesos of Thrace”

The Black Sword

(copyright (c) 2013, 2014,

Janet Morris and Chris Morris:
Somewhere an owl hooted. Out of the night a bat came at him, then veered off, drawn by the smell of his blood but not bold enough to tackle anything as big as he and still moving. Not yet. His shoulder muscles ticced, remembering too many vampire bats and too many
teeth tearing at him in his gloomy cave.If the bat came back, he’d need to draw his dull and tacky blade again. He was a good killer of bats; he’d had lots of practice, underground.
But no bat dove at him again until he nearly reached the lighted hut. No cave, this. He’d lived in a cave long enough to know one when he saw one. He was relieved: if not a cave, then not a ruse
to pen him up again in some hoary underground prison. This place looked tumbledown, ramshackle and . . . real enough: a simple hut of wood and stone with one window, a closed door, a darkened shed that smoked from a banked fire within, and a fenced area between.

When the bat swooped once more at him, he instinctively yelled and drew his weapon. Or tried to: his sica’s blade hitched and caught so that he grasped hard with both hands, one on his hilt and one on the scabbard, to tug it loose. By then the bat was gone, but he’d made enough noise that the door to the hut swung open.

A stooped figure stood there, barely clad and backlit: “I’ll not surrender without a fight, mind you.” A woman’svoice, speaking common Attic, reedy and laced with laughter; a small shape, bent forward, withered arms akimbo: “And you’ll be needing what, this time of night, proud warrior?”

Teasing, now, was this ancient crone. He’d cast aside his leather mantle and armor; lost his helmet, quiver and bow,knife, shield, and javelins, whilst he’d fled that battleground of wicked haze and ghosts. So he was no better garbed than she, in only tattered chiton with sica girt. On her threshold, he realized he was shivering.
Two strangers, alike in prospects, with little to lose and little to gain, took each other’s measure silently until Rhesos answered her: “I’m looking for shelter, food, and better weapons.”
“Better weapons in the morning, if you can pay. My husband owns the only smithery you’ll reach afoot within a day’s journey, but you’d know that. And I yet do a bit of leatherwork and weaving. The rest –– food and shelter –– you’ll get if I like the look of you, the sound of your name . . . and your money.”
“Rhesos of Thrace, from north of Thessalia, southwest of Great Scythia.” Only the smallest of lies, close enough to truth for a northern boy raised by fountain nymphs; a youngling king who’d arrived too late to fight at Ilion and lost his men and horses there. He wasn’t about to explain how he’d come here, since he was hardly certain where here was: He’d been born in Eion, but common folk called every place north of Macedon either Thrace or Scythia. He jingled the coins in his purse instead.

“I can pay.”
“Then you’re lucky. You’ll not be my enemy, but my guest. We in Chaetae have no quarrel with Thrace. Come in and eat, and I’ll find you one of my husband’s sheepskins to chase the cold from you.”

So this was Chaetae, some backwater between Mygdon and Macedon.
“Of all I’ve been, I’ve never been lucky. Until now, little mother.” He could still turn a phrase and lift a skirt when the occasion demanded, even a skirt as old and filthy as hers smelled.
“New days come then, Rhesos of Thrace.”
The stringy-haired crone retreated into her hut, beckoning him to follow.
Warmth waited in there, and food with aromas that made his mouth water –– and safety for a single night seemed tantamount to safety forever.
“Where is your husband?”
“He’s away somewhere,” said the crone, piercing-eyed, and smiled a long-toothed smile while she looked him over as if she’d pinch his buttocks next…

In closing, I want to thank Chris and Janet for their patient mentorship and invite you to read their individual interviews found on this blog. This has been a tremendous string of interviews.  Don’t be afraid to grab a copy of Nine Heroes, it is a distinctive read.

Thanks for reading this article.  Feel free to post feedback in the comments section below.

Donny

Janet Morris and Chris Morris’ Roundtable Podcast part 1

New podcast with Janet Morris and Chris Morris:
http://www.roundtablepodcast.com/2014/10/20-minutes-with-janet-and-chris-morris/

Dave Robison of Roundtable Podcast says:

This week’s “20 Minutes With…” segment isn’t.

20 Minutes, that is.

Why? ‘Cause when you get the opportunity to sit down with your literary heroes, you don’t hold yourself to petty things like temporal constraints.

I and the exceptional Michael R. Underwood sit down for an incredible conversation with Janet Morris and Chris Morris, creators and editors of the “Heroes in Hell” series, numerous Thieves World tales featuring the cursed immortal Tempus Thales (whose adventures are continued in The Sacred Band of Stepson’s series), and more marvelous speculative fiction than can be listed on Wikipedia.

Seriously… there’s never been a conversation like this on the RTP before. DO NOT miss this episode.

We’ve had some amazing authors Guest Host the RTP, astonishing creators who’s ideas ring through genre fiction and the SpecFic community.

But I’ve never interviewed one of my heroes before.

The fiction of Janet Morris and Chris Morris (“Heroes in Hell”, “Thieves World”, and more) has been a fundamental influence on my taste and aesthetic in genre fiction and having them on the show was an unparalleled delight.

I knew I’d never be able to do it alone, so I was hugely grateful when Michael R. Underwood agreed to co-host the show with me. Between the two of us, we engaged in (waaaay more than) 20 minutes of incredible discourse with these eloquent storytellers, discussing the symmetry of music and story, the resonance of the craft of fiction and non-fiction writing, and how to “ascend from the pit of self-doubt into the light of self-knowledge and mastery”.

This is one episode you DO NOT want to miss.

http://www.roundtablepodcast.com/2014/10/20-minutes-with-janet-and-chris-morris/

Thieves World(R): Bold beginnings, when Tempus and the Sacred Band first came to Sanctuary.

Perseid Press editions of the Sacred Band's adventures in Sanctuary and Beyond...

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

First published at Fantasy-Faction.com:  http://fantasy-faction.com/2014/revisiting-thieves-world-anthologies:

REVISITING THIEVES’ WORLD ANTHOLOGIES

Readers of Fantasy-Faction are likely to be familiar with Scott Lynch and his Gentlemen Bastards books. Lynch has a style that is a pleasure to read, and has given us some very memorable characters. But Lynch has also accomplished a highly engaging bit of worldbuilding, and created a place in which “Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser would have felt right at home,” according to George R. R. Martin.

It was the worldbuilding as much as the title of the third Gentlemen Bastards book that drove me back to my bookshelf lately, as Lynch’s latest, Republic of Thieves, brought to mind Robert Lynn Asprin’s Thieves’ World from 1979. The “thieves’ world” of the title was not actually a planet of outlaws, but instead, the city of Sanctuary, a backwater community in decline and overrun with lawlessness. And yet it really was a new world of sorts, in that the book represented a bold and daring experiment in fantasy storytelling.

As Asprin tells it, it was the very type of worldbuilding that Lynch has done so well was one of the driving factors in the creation of Thieves’ World. It’s a lot of hard work. “[W]henever one sets out to write heroic fantasy,” writes Asprin, “it was first necessary to reinvent the universe from scratch regardless of what had gone before. Despite the carefully crafted Hyborean world of Howard or even the delightfully complex town of Lankhmar which Leiber created, every author was expected to beat his head against the writing table and devise a world of his own. Imagine, I proposed, if our favorite sword-and-sorcery characters shared the same settings and time-frames. Imagine the story potentials.”

This over-drinks conversation with Gordon Dickson and Lynn Abbey on the eve of the 1978 Boskone Science Fiction Convention eventually led to the creation of a shared-universe anthology that ran to some 12 books, not including spin-offs and tie-ins. We’ll be taking a look at them, six at a time, and revisiting this grand experiment that “earned a panel all its own at the World Science Fiction Convention.”

THIEVES’ WORLD (1979)

2014 SEP Thieves' World (cover)While a driving force behind the concept was to not have to create a world in order to tell a story, it still remained for Asprin to do the work initially to build such a world, with the help of the likes of John Brunner, Poul Anderson and others (including Jim Odbert on mapping this new land). The first of the Thieves’ World series, Thieves’ World, had a line-up of authors that included Brunner, Abbey, Anderson, Andrew Offut, Asprin, Joe Haldeman, Christine DeWees and Marion Zimmer Bradley. You’ll notice that Dickson did not get a story ready in time for the first book, nor did Philip Jose Farmer, nor Roger Zelazny, all of whom had initially been slated for inclusion.

In Thieves’ World, we are introduced to the city of Sanctuary and the political machinations that have put the Emperor’s naïve and too-popular half-brother in the governorship, and we experience the conflict that takes place as the new religion of the conquerors seeks to supplant the old and established religion of the conquered. If the book is perhaps a little slow to start, it can be attributed to the fact that this is, after all, a new mode of storytelling. Given the very nature of many tales being told by many tellers, the book can be forgiven for having to feel its way into a rhythm. We are introduced to the cast of characters, including beggars and crime lords, wizards and soldiers, minstrels and thieves, as this new chapter in the life of Sanctuary begins, life under the governorship of Prince Kadakithis.

TALES FROM THE VULGAR UNICORN (1980)

Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn (cover)The second volume of the anthology collection is Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn, referencing a tavern that serves as a nexus for many of the stories in the books. This collection includes submissions from Farmer, David Drake, Abbey, A. E. van Vogt, Janet Morris, Offut, and Asprin. Whereas book one showed us conflict between the new and the old religions, book two shows us the gods themselves taking a hand in the fight for the hearts, minds and souls of the citizens of Sanctuary.

Philip Jose Farmer is arguably the biggest name amongst the contributors, but his story is fairly generic, notable more for the wordplay built into the title than for its content. Janet Morris introduces a new character, Tempus, who will come to dominate much of the storyline, who will, in fact, become so larger-than-life thatThieves’ World is no longer big enough to hold him, and he will go on to a number of his own novels in a spin-off series by Janet Morris and Chris Morris.

SHADOWS OF SANCTUARY (1981)

Shadows of Sanctuary (cover)Shadows of Sanctuary is the third anthology in the series, with stories by Thieves’ World veterans Asprin, Offut, Abbey, and Morris, and new-to-the-series Vonda N. McIntyre, C. J. Cherryh, and Diana L. Paxson. Perhaps learning from the past, Asprin begins this collection with a story about one of Thieves’ Worlds’ more interesting characters, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Lythande.

Shadows also includes another story by Offut that reinforces my opinion that he is incapable of writing a bad story for this series. A number of the tales are Tempus stories, with several of our other recurring characters also making appearances. By virtue of Tempus’ unique relationship with the god Vashanka, these stories also bring us back toward the storyline of the competing deities, and help us to look forward to new developments in the fourth book. All in all, Shadows is the strongest book amongst the first three publications.

STORM SEASON (1982)

Storm Season (cover)The fourth book of the Thieves’ World anthologies contains only six stories, compared to the eight in the first book and the seven each in the second and third collections, and it actually feels shorter as one reads it. All six stories are by authors who have written previously for the series.

In his Editor’s Note, Asprin warns the reader of a change to be found in book four. “While in the earlier volumes I have tried to keep the stories in the order in which they occur, this has proved to be impossible in Storm Season … Rather than try to cut and splice the stories into a smooth chronology, I’ve left it to the reader to understand what is happening and construct his/her mental timeline as necessary.” I have commented on and approved of some of Asprin’s previous editorial decisions, but in this case, I think the book might have been better served by cutting and splicing.

Much of Storm Season pertains to the conflict between Asprin’s gladiator/crime lord Jubal and Morris’ Tempus, and the other stories work to move this plotline along, while telling their own tales. Offutt, as usual, steals the show with a Shadowspawn story, and he ties together some of the loose strands of the shared narrative. At the end of Storm Season, the reader can look back and say, “Oh, that’s what was going on there. Now I get it!”

THE FACE OF CHAOS (1983)

CThe Face of Chaos (cover)haos marks a number of changes in the franchise; this is the first book (in the original run) that lists Lynn Abbey as an editor alongside Robert Asprin. (Reprints include her as an editor for earlier books in the series. Also notable is the fact that she and Asprin were married in August of 1982.) And with Vashanka essentially destroyed, the storyline moves away from that particular divine rivalry to a more worldly conflict, as Sanctuary is subtly invaded, and conquered, by a race of fishy humanoids from beyond the sea. More focus is applied as well to the supernatural competition between the pseudo-vampire Ischade and the Nibisi witch Roxane. Chaos also comprises only six stories, all by previous contributors.

WINGS OF OMEN (1984)

In the sixth book of the collection, the friction between the residents of Sanctuary and the invading Beysib heats up and makes for some exciting reading again. Its story count is back up to eight, Offut’s character Shadowspawn gets some good coverage, and a few fresh new characters also get some play, as well as new-to-the-series authors Robin Bailey and Diane Duane.

As we finish with what will ultimately be the first half of the series, Thieves’ World has grown into a real presence in the fantasy genre. As Asprin mentions in his Afterword in Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn, “[A]nthologies in general don’t sell and … fantasy anthologies specifically are sudden death,” yet the sales of the first few collections generated not only a thriving series and a number of authorized spin-off novels, but also a board game, a role-playing game, and a number of RPG supplements. In fact, at the time ofWings of Omen, the very words “Thieves’ World” and “Sanctuary” had been trademarked for the franchise by Asprin and Abbey.

Next month we’ll look at books seven through twelve of the series.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Raymond Rugg lives with his wife and daughters in the Galena foothills between Lake Tahoe and Reno, Nevada. He is the author of the non-fiction Handbook of Sales and Science Fiction and his short science fiction stories have been selected for inclusion at both the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association and the Far West Popular and American Culture Association annual conventions. You can contact him at salesandscifi@gmail.com. Free Luna!

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Janet Morris and Chris Morris interview on the collaborative process in literature

Originally published in Uviart.  Thanks. Uvi Poznansky, for this incisive interview

http://uviart.blogspot.com/p/guest-interview.html

Guest

Interview about Collaboration:
“Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.”
with
Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Authors of
And more books
So said Shakespeare’s Polonius of Hamlet, in Hamlet. So say Janet Morris and Chris Morris, lifetime collaborators in words, music, and strategy. I cornered this elusive pair to ask some hard questions about how they do what they do, and why.
Janet and Chris, writing is known to be a solitary art. How do you two manage to write seamlessly together, so much so that no one can tell which of you wrote what?
Uvi, Apropos of collaboration, Shakespeare’s Touchstone said in As You Like It, “We that are true lovers run into strange capers.” As Chris and I often do.
But first let us give you our view of collaboration as an art form. For centuries, two or more people have been collaborating on written works under one person’s name. History is rife with collaborations, announced and unannounced.
Some examples? Shakespeare had several close collaborators, none so famous in his own right as Christopher Marlowe, who seems to us to have been his closest collaborator, due to similarity in each man’s work and style. We’ve written of these two collaborating in various tales in our Heroes in Hell series. J, the Yahwist, first writer of the Old Testament, also had many collaborators. Even before Biblical times, collaboration was common: the Greek mythic cycles were written not only by Homer, but by many writers; whether these collaborators wrote at the same time, or followed one another, is immaterial: these were true collaborations. As literature became a business, not merely an art form for the collective memory of the human race, the custom and marketing strategy of putting one — almost always male — name on a work became an unwritten convention, pushing anonymous contributors into the background. Yet they often can be found, peeking out from history’s shadows, unsung and influential.
But these questions are about us, collaborating today: while we’re alive, we can answer what questions we choose, rather than leaving posterity to wonder; be as forthcoming as we wish about life and love and art. For us, life and love and art are one. We have always written together, first song melodies and lyrics, later novels — but always with one of us taking the lead, the other in support. In our early days, Janet supported Chris’ music, and Chris supported Janet’s prose. Since we met in 1966, we spent years smoothing the rough edges of our collaborative process, learning to focus on the art in question, not the artist, and thereby improving both. If we write seamlessly, it is because we deliberate about every thought, every phrase, every word, every rhythm, yet strive never to lose the shape of the initial conception. Our prose is rhythmic, our plots inventive, our song lyrics carry messages because we are keenly aware that a person has only so much time in life, and must use that time wisely.  When we begin a new piece of prose or piece of music, we start with a clear idea of what that story or song must say. We vigorously weed out irrelevancies and polish our idea until it is bright, clear, shining in our hearts and in our minds. When writing prose, the mind’s eye is where the visualization first takes place; when we write music, it is the ear which first carries the message to the brain.
All art is communication of ideas. We have co-written op/eds and policy pieces for governments, strategic plans for military, academic, and industrial users, as well as fiction. Writing nonfiction has taught us when and how to be sparing of words. Chris has been the voice of a TV station and products as well as our music. Now we are exploring the close relationships between music and writing fiction by producing audio books. The Sacred Band (audio edition) took a year to complete. Because the story’s characters live deep in our hearts and first drew breath in the 20th century, we took great pains to ensure that the narration remains true to the characters, who have evolved over decades and millions of words. Narration is only one breath away from literary exposition.
For each art form, our process is the same: one of us begins the effort with a title, a musical passage, a topic or an idea, or a clearly-stated purpose. Once the title and the purpose of the piece are agreed, the process of perfecting story and rhythm — yes, even fiction should have its rhythms, its beats — is sometimes begun by one or the other. Often, when a day’s work is completed by one, the other adds a voicing, a suggestion, recognizes a lost facet or missed opportunity, clarifies whatever is unclear; changes are agreed, and at the end of the day, we are sitting together, reading or playing the work aloud and finishing what the morning began. In music or prose, we never continue drafting or recording a long piece of work until we’re both happy with what we’ve done previously. If later in the evolution of the piece an element needs to be included that was omitted or unrecognized in the work as we began it, we go back and make those changes. Some recent examples of this process can be seen in our Heroes in Hell series,
For instance, Chris began Babe in Hell (a story in Rogues in Hell) with the idea of a baby and Solomon reprising the famous Biblical story, albeit in Hell. To Hell Bent in Dreamers in Hell Chris immediately added the quip “And twice on Sadderdays.” Once we’d named the play which is the centerpiece of the story, Janet added the flayed skins of heroes to be used as props. But sometimes, in longer works, we can’t recall who authored what lines. In “Words” in Poets in Hell, working on the first paragraph, Janet asked Chris to supply the crucial word: “Words are the what? of the mind” Janet asked. Chris said “mortar.” So the line now reads “Words are the mortar of the mind.” And so it goes, a natural give and take, sometimes contentious, often strenuous, always fascinating.
Our process is not quick. We’ve taken years to do a book such as I, the Sun; we say The Sacred Band (TSB) took eighteen months, but if one includes the research and discussion time before the first word was written, TSB culminates years of effort to crystallize that story so we could then write it. In this way, we please ourselves, and have pleased many readers and listeners as well.
You who know our body of work are now wondering why one name appears on so many of the books or musical compositions. For now, suffice it to say that publishers think readers want a work crafted by an individual, preferably a male (unless the work is a romance or a book about women in society).
Now that you have told us how you write together, answer this harder question: Why?
Why write together? A collaborator provides perspective, a broader view; a universality that one mind, male or female, often cannot attain. For centuries such collaborations were known only behind the scenes:  the woman or man who was the editor, co-creator of ideas, first reader, was the power behind the throne, unnamed, a secret presence. So how do we decide whose name goes on a work when only one name appears? If one writer drives the work individually, or if a work is best read as the product of male or female, we so credit it. For this reason, we have several times used male pseudonyms when selling a book to a publisher for a particular market.
As you point out, the two of you haven’t always published with joint bylines. How did your first official collaborations come about?
Our first official collaborations in song music and lyrics preceded our collaborations in books and stories by about a decade. Although Janet received some writing credits on The Christopher Morris Band (MCA 1977) record album, and High Couch of Silistra was published under the byline ‘Janet Morris’ in that same year, not until 1984 was the first fantasy fiction story, “What Women Do Best,” published with the byline ‘Chris and Janet Morris’ in Wings of Omen, (Ace, 1984). And that occurred only with editor Bob Asprin grumbling that ‘now everybody’s going to want to do this in Thieves’ World®.’”
If Janet hadn’t been a canonical contributor to the series at that time, we wouldn’t have gotten permission for the dual byline. And sure enough, other spouses and collaborators long relegated to the background began appearing in Thieves’ World volumes and other places.
Subsequently, we signed a multi-book contract with Jim Baen, one of the caveats being dual authorship for some titles, but not all. We delivered those books, including The 40-Minute War, M.E.D.U.S.A, City at the Edge of Time, Tempus Unbound, and Storm Seed with dual authorship and Jim published them that way.
This in turn led to other joint book contracts, including but not limited to Outpassage (1988), Threshold (1990), Trust Territory (1992), The Stalk (1994), as well as several books by single-author male pseudonyms.
Nevertheless, publishers generally still wanted single male names on adventure or nonfiction or ‘serious books’ and female names on romance books, so the market continued to conform to its preference for single-writer bylines.
A book with the name ‘Janet Morris’ was still worth more to a publisher than a book with ‘Janet Morris and Chris Morris’ as listed co-authors. So we created male pseudonyms and these books commanded substantial advances in markets formerly closed to us. In the minds of publishers then, and perhaps readers, a story told by a single male was preferable, but even a tale told by a woman was preferable to a tale told by one woman and one man. We set our sites on this ox, and set off to gore it. And might have succeeded, as male/female co-authorship became more commonplace, but our brainchild “nonlethal weapons” intervened, taking us out of the fiction marketplace for nearly two decades. In that interval, Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock, another writer at the literary agency which handles us, wrote War and Anti-war with his wife Heidi Toffler, insisting her name appear this time as co-author. The revolution had begun in earnest among writers with enough clout to enforce their wishes.
Do you believe that putting a man’s name or a woman’s name on a book effects who will read that book?
We experimented, as did other writers and publishers, with putting different names on books. Sometimes Janet wrote with other male or female writers, to see if the ‘Janet Morris’ brand could be transferred as publishers looked for ways to turn writers into franchises, as was done with Robert Ludlum, Stephen King, Tom Clancy, etc. But when a better writer is paired with a lesser writer, quality may suffer, and even honest writers trying to accommodate one another may lose the consistency of purpose, passion, and voice that a single writer or a self-chosen pair of writers can achieve.
The ‘brand name writer’ bias may then kick in, causing readers to buy only books written by the individuals or pairs of writers they already enjoy, not the franchised producers of subsidiary works or ‘as told to’ books.
As for the ‘gender’ bias in literature, at present this is still a real and strong force. Men looking for adventure fantasy or science fiction or military books are less likely to buy a book written by a woman; women with a strong allegiance to women’s rights and women’s issues are less likely to buy a book by a man or co-written by a man.
So the issue of whether a man’s name or a woman’s name goes on a book may be inextricably linked to subject as well as story, insight, and prose quality.
You’ve both written under single-author pseudonyms, always choosing a single male. Why did you do that? Do you still do it? If, so, why or why not?
We did this to break out of the science fiction/fantasy ghetto, into the mainstream, in days when those genres had a more limited market than today.
Do we still do it? No.
In actuality, our body of work allows us to write what we wish under either or both our names. For instance, we’re writing a novel about Rhesos of Thrace — as is our wont, this book has a Homeric feel, a purport that takes the Iliad for true, but focuses on a single character from that story and his later adventures. This book is a true novel — one part mythical realism, one part dark fantasy, one part heroic fiction in the literary sense, and one part a historical representation of the mythos of that character. We plan a new Sacred Band of Stepsons novel, which requires very specific voices and explores the hero-cult as a fait accompli, a subject fascinating us.
But if we were to undertake a contemporary story dealing with modern politics (sexual, racial, governmental and corporate), we’d consider writing such a book under a new male pseudonym, to allow us complete freedom of what we’d say and how we’d say it, because the truths behind these topics are brutal and unwelcome to those who think revisionist history will solve all the problems inherent in modern society and the human condition. Which condition is, of course, the only fit subject for fiction.
What are the benefits and debits of collaboration so far as process, not marketing, is concerned?
If a pair entering into a collaboration sets ground rules, defines story elements and shares a joint preoccupation with the characters, two hearts, two sets of eyes and two sets of ears impart an enhanced perspective, powering the creation of characters spun from utmost reality, characters perhaps more fully realized than a single mind might contrive to make them. In a pair made up of one male and one female writer, the native intelligence of both sexes is present in great measure, bringing a universal verisimilitude. The process of reaching truth and clarity for characters and story may have uncomfortable moments for one or both writers, but facing those places in the soul where one hesitates to look is the true purpose of fiction — to portray the world through a temperament (or two, or three).
What advice would you give to other collaborators about creating and marketing their joint works?
If two collaborators each have a previous body of work, then once both acknowledge parity, a new book can begin taking shape. If one writer is better known or better at structure or at lyric, then play to those strengths. Do not show this book to third parties, or discuss it with others until both writers are completely certain of every nuance, every line, every twist and turn of plot and psyche.
If two collaborators have no previous experience working with others, they must work harder to put aside their preconceptions and look at story and character honestly: success, not in the short term but for all time, depends upon the quality of every word. Make sure that both collaborators share the same goals. Define the story elements. Invoke the characters and be sure both agree who those characters are and what they represent concerning the story’s driving purpose.
Then begin, starting at the beginning. Create an adventure that two can share, and you will have created an adventure that the world can love.
Only when this first book is finished, no longer a fragile vision, but a full blown juggernaut of risk and beauty, show it to a publisher whose other publications attract you. If you both like what an editor or publisher has previously chosen, they may well decide to choose you.
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“Hero up with the Sacred Band audio book: Listen. Like. Buy. Review. Share. http://thndr.it/1qNI36m”

“Life to you, and everlasting glory.”

Hero up with The Sacred Band

Join the Sacred Band of Stepsons.  Become a mercenary of the god of war. Fight for honor and freedom of  the human spirit. Heroes shape society. Meet ours. Become one of us.  Make the world better, one battle at a time. Learn what it means to say to others “Life to you, and everlasting glory.”

People share their hopes, their loves, their fears by listening.  The oral tradition changes humanity for the better. Change your fate with The Sacred Band:http//www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/The-Sacred-Band-Audiobook/B00MU2VCEO/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srImg?qid=1410452704&sr=1-1 . You can play your part by listening to the story of The Sacred Band by Janet Morris and Chris Morris on audio books available at Audible.com and Amazon, and recommending it to others.

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Find The Sacred Band audiobook written by Janet Morris and Chris Morris at Audible.com, on Amazon, and at iTunes.