Character Interview: Nikodemos of the Sacred Band

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Character Interview Number Three – Nikodemos – Fantasy/Mythic

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Welcome to Nikodemos, of the Sacred Band.

Tell Us About Yourself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Above all else come my brothers of the Sacred Band.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell Us About your World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wizard Weather,” Storm Season, Ace 1982

“High Moon,” Face of Chaos, Ace 1983

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

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

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

Author name:Janet Morris

Chris Morris

Website/Blog/Author pages etc.

theperseidpress.com

sacredbander.com

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/PerseidPublishing

https://www.facebook.com/TheSacredBand

https://www.facebook.com/SacredBandBeyondTriolgy

https://www.facebook.com/tempusandniko

https://www.facebook.com/fishfightersonggirl

https://www.facebook.com/JanetMorrisandChrisMorris

Professor Baker reviews High Couch of Silistra

Read Professor Baker’s original reviews of High Couch and other fine books at:  https://profesorbaker.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/bookreview-asmsg-high-couch-of-silistra-the-silistra-quartet-book-1/

#BookReview #ASMSG High Couch of Silistra (The Silistra Quartet Book 1)

One woman’s mythic quest for self-realization in a distant tomorrow…

Her sensuality was at the core of her world, her quest beyond the civilized stars.

Aristocrat. Outcast. Picara. Slave. Ruler.

“Engrossing characters in a marvelous adventure.” – Charles N. Brown, Locus Magazine

“The amazing and erotic adventures of the most beautiful courtesan in tomorrow’s universe” – Frederik Pohl

“The best single example of prostitution used in fantasy is Janet Morris’ Silistra series… Estri’s character is most like that of Ishtar who describes herself as “‘a prostitute compassionate am I’” because she “symbolizes the creative submission to the demands of instinct, to the chaos of nature …the free woman, as opposed to the domesticated woman”. Linking Estri with these lunar and water symbols is not difficult because of the moon’s eternal virginity (the strength of integrity) links with her changeability (the prostitute’s switching of lovers). […] Morris strengthens the moon imagery by having Estri as a well-keepress because wells, fountains, and the moon as the orb which controls water have long been associated with fertility, […] In a sense, she is like the moon because she is apparently eternal, never waxing or waning except in her pursuit of the quest; she is the prototypical wanderer like the moon and Ishtar. She is the eternal night symbol of the moon in opposition to the Day-Keepers […] At her majority (her three hundredth birthday), she is given a silver-cubed hologram letter from her mother, containing a videotape of her conception by the savage bronzed barbarian god from another world. […] If Estri’s mother then acts as a bawd, willing her lineage as Well-Keepress to her daughter, then Estri’s great-grandmother Astria as foundress of the Well becomes a further mother-bawd figure when she offers her prophetic advice in her letter: “Guard Astria for you may lose it, and more. Beware of one who is not as he seems. Stray not in the port city of Baniev …look well about you, for your father’s daughter’s brother seeks you”. Having no brother that she knows of does not stay Estri from undertaking the heroic quest of finding her father.” – Anne K. Kaler, The Picara: From Hera to Fantasy Heroine

“Long ago the human colonists of Silsitra waged a war so vicious that centuries later, the planet has not recovered.  Men and women alike suffer from infertility — the deadliest legacy of that deadly war. Because the birthrate is so low, the Silistrans value above all the ability to bear children… and their social order is based on fertility and sexual prowess. On a planet desperate for population, women hold the keys to power. These are the adventures of Estri, Well-Keepress of Astria, and holder of the ultimate seat of control:  The High Couch of Silistra.” — Jim Baen, publisher, Baen Books
High Couch of Silistra, by Janet Morris, is a superb book. It is Book One in the Silistra Quartet. The other books in the series are: The Golden Sword (Book 2), Wind From The Abyss (Book 3), and The Carnelian Throne (Book 4).
      
First, let us begin at the beginning, and therefore place Book One in its historical context before looking at the current edition:

Returning Creation is the alternate title for High Couch of Silistra, the first book in the Silistra quartet, by Janet Morris. Published in 1977 byBantam Books, High Couch of Silistra was the debut title of her writing career. It was one of the first science fiction/fantasy books to include bi-sexual/pan-sexual characters and erotic themes. The series went on to have more than four million copies in print and was also published in French, Italian and German.

Charles N. Brown, Locus Magazine, is quoted on the Baen Books reissues of the series as saying, “Engrossing characters in a marvelous adventure,” andFrederik Pohl is quoted there as saying “The amazing and erotic adventures of the most beautiful courtesan in tomorrow’s universe.”

High Couch of Silistra front cover.jpg

1977 Edition

Blurb: “The original human colonists of Silistra nearly destroyed their planet in a war so vicious the populace had to go into underground shelters for centuries and, even many centuries later, the planet has not recovered. Infertility is one of the worst problems facing the planet’s populace—thanks to the fallout of that deadly war. The women of Silistra are treasured and have established Wells where the male population can attempt to create a child, if they are fertile.

In The High Couch of Silistra, Estri, Well-Keepress of Astria and holder of the ultimate seat of control begins an epic adventure to discover her origins and save the dwindling population.”

High Couch of Silistra, 2015 Edition

The first thing we notice is the difference in image selection on the covers of the 1977 edition and the 2015 edition. I see the 1977 cover as an accurate reflection of female images from 1977 pop culture. This was when, for example, Jimmy Carter was inaugurated President, Elvis Pressly died, the original Star Wars, movie came out, the Bionic Woman (Lindsay Wagner) won an Emmy award,and a poster of Farrah Fawcett in a revealing red one-piece bathing suit sold 5 million copies. Zeitgeist pure…

The 2015 cover, on the other hand, is more indicative of humanity’s shared cultural heritage. It is allusive to the Roman and Greek culture of antiquity, which is appropriate for the globalized world we live in today. The unifying characteristic in both cultures, therefore, is its ability to appeal to a wide and diverse audience of readers despite its apparent boundaries confining it to strictly adult reading material. Attracting over 4 million readers since its publication in 1977, it has transcended its borders and become a timeless classic. In other words, this is a must read.

What makes a classic? Theme, style, and impact are three answers I would give. The possibility of the extinction of the human race has always been a theme that concerns each generation of humanity. That would be the ultimate irony of our civilized world if future circumstancs were to result in the extinction of the human species. Therefore, a book which helps us to imagine just such a scenario is always going to draw the attention of a wide readership. It was true in 1977, and I am convinced it is still true in 2016.

Style: Janet Morris in all her books writes in a direct, engaging, and entertaining style. She draws the reader into the book, captures your attention, and then leaves you with no other option but to keep turning the pages. This book is no exception. From page one to page last, any book by master storyteller Janet Morrison is a delight.

Impact is just as important as theme and style. If a book is not able to make you have an emotional reaction to it, or identify with the characters, their trials and tribulations, their ups and downs as they search to overcome the cause of conflict in their lives, then you simply lay the book aside. And you forget it. A book must impact its readers if it wishes to be memorable, if it seeks a place on the bookshelf as a classic. Janet Morris’ High Couch of Silistra Series has long ago earned its place in this pantheon of timeless classics for adults.

To conclude, let me say that if you like adult reading material that is pleasurable on a number of emotional, intellectual and sensual levels, and superbly crafted, and with a timeless story, that will keep you turning the pages, then I highly recommend this book. 5 stars.

Janet Morris, mother of Heroes in Hell, the damned saga, interviewed by Jennifer Loiske…

Originally posted at:  https://jenniferloiske.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/mother-of-heroes-in-hell-is-on-my-blog-today-meet-janet-morris/

‘Mother’ of Heroes in Hell is on my blog today! Meet Janet Morris!

Janet bio pic cropped 12 05 13 Janet B&W Portrait 2Best selling author 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, 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. 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.

Want to know more about Janet? Here you go:

Heroes in Hell series Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heroes_in_Hell
Janet’s wikipedia bio: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_Morris
website: theperseidpress.com

Heroika 1 Perfect promo 6&9Janet, you’ve had your fingers in many literature jars, as one might say, and it seems you’re exactly where you were meant to be. Do you believe in destiny?

I believe in destiny and also in predestination. So do the heroes and villains in my fiction, such as our newest book, “Doctors in Hell.” Too many things have happened to me in my life that came to me unbidden, on the one hand, and seemed unavoidable, on the other. In the Silistra Quartet I wrote about the metaphysics of an “amenable universe” where what you expect conditions and shapes what actually occurs. A scientist named John Wheeler had a similar approach to modern physics, and he called that view of the universe the “anthropic principle.” To explain this most simply is to say that you get what you expect. Mind shapes reality. So expect the best, not the worst. When I have feared the worst, it has come to me; when I have envisioned great things, they have become reality.

In the Heroes in Hell series we explore the way the damned recreate the behaviors that brought them to hell in the first place. Heraclitus of Ephesus said, “Character is destiny.” I consider this a universal truth. In our Heroes in Hell series, and especially in Doctors in Hell, the protagonists (including mortal damned and fallen angels, heroes and lords of all the underworlds that humanity’s minds have created) shape their predicaments and their solutions as is natural for the character of each. For example, in the story “The Cure,” Satan sends John Milton to destroy the relationship between William Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe. How? You’ll need to read “The Cure” and the following story, “Writer’s Block,” to find out.

Do you do a lot of researching before starting to write or do you go with the flow and check the details (if doing so) later?

I do both: I find my characters, their destiny, so to speak. I decide how the book will end and how it must begin. Then I research detail as required, most deeply for books such as Doctors in Hell and the Heroes in Hell series, or the new Heroika series that begins with Dragon Eaters: if I’m using historical characters or historical events, or even historical models to create parallel fictional events, I read about the times, the personalities, and if there is any literature about events or people, I read that. I most love to find words spoken by a person with whom I’m trying to connect in order to create or recreate that character– or primary stories written by them or about them from their own time. Examples? In Doctors in Hell I’m using Will Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, Diomedes, John Milton; even Lord Byron’s dog, Boatswain, has a part to play. With those and my purely historical works, such as I, the Sun I try to quote the characters’ own words: nothing rings as truly as truth.

Once the story is ongoing I research more as I go, since the story opens up for me and I have more questions that need answers. After I’m done, I check everything – but once I’ve written the last word of a piece, it’s as if a door slams shut, and I know less about them than I did when I was writing. The metaphysical connection of the writer to a time and place is something that keeps me writing: I write a door and walk through it, hopefully taking the reader with me into another time and place and into other minds.

doctors-in-hellThat is beautifully said! And I like the image it brings into my mind…something very ‘Alice in Wonderland’ kind of thing…you’ll never know what happens on the other side of the door… Have you ever had a writer’s block and if yes, how did you make it go away?

Ha! I wrote a story called Writer’s Block for Doctors in Hell. You’ll need to read the story to learn the prescription given by one of my characters to another to banish writer’s block.

I will! And hopefully my readers will, too! Thanks for being here today, Janet, and thanks for sharing some of your writing secrets with us!

Cheers,

Jen x

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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the Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl on B&N

It’s July 17th, 2012, and B&N has put our newest Sacred Band Tales volume, “the Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl,Image” copyright (c) 2010 by Janet Morris and Chris Morris, in its summer sale category.  Readers can get the trade paperback of this $24.95 book at 28% off, which is about $7.00 discount.

Here’s the link: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-fish-the-fighters-and-the-song-girl-janet-morris/1110282753?ean=9780985166830

And here’s a short except from “the Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl”:

After the battle for the land of dreams, the losers straggled by threes and fours and sixes toward an ochre-walled city.  They were dazed and hurt and lost in a strange country, with no way home.  Some once were warriors from Macedon and Mygdonia and Megara and farther realms.  Some were deserters who’d thrown away their shields and run.  Some, abandoned, wandered off when the war was done.  Some were conscripts, helots and slaves who’d dressed the soldiers and milled their grain and served their pleasure.  Some were dreamers from Meridian, waking from nightmares ages long; some were dead and resurrected to fight the dream lord’s foredoomed war.  All were hungry, desperate and confused.

“What poor citadel is this?” said one big fighter to another man as their group of six limped and stumbled from a hayfield onto a road leading to the city gates.  “It’s not anywhere I know.”

“Who cares?” said a third fighter, a woman just as big and just as tall and just as armored.

“We will make our way here,” said a smaller, stout woman who used a broken javelin as a walking stick.  “Trust in me.  All cities are alike.  But hurry.  We want to be in before dark.”

Behind her, a girl in a maiden’s short skirt sang quietly of a hero and love and glory.

Then the last man said, “Cavalry.”  He dropped to his knees and put his ear to the road.  “Lots of them.  Coming fast from the north.  Hide.”

So they scrambled back into the ditch and threw themselves flat in the field to wait while the victors thundered by in proud ranks of four on their tall horses.  All that time, the girl softly sang her ancient song, until the stout woman stopped her mouth with a horny hand.

the Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl gets third fine review

“the Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl,” the newest Sacred Band of Stepsons book and the second of two compendiums of Sacred Band Tales, just got a fine 5-star review on Amazon.

Available in trade paper, Kindle, and Nook editions.  Here’s a link to the Amazon trade paper version:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Fish-Fighters-Song-Girl-Stepsons/dp/0985166835/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1341344757&sr=1-3&keywords=the+fish+the+fighters+and+the+song-girlImage

The Sacred Band gets a new 5-star review

The Sacred Band, our mythic novel, just received a new 5-star review from an Amazon “Vines Voices” reviewer:

Well researched, passionate and engrossing…

a fascinating saga of men, gods and godesses, honor, truth, loyalty and courage.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched, passionate and engrossing, June 26, 2012
By
This review is from: The Sacred Band (Paperback)
Disclaimer – I have known Janet and Chris Morris for ~20 years, but mostly through their non-fiction work with non-lethal weapons and systems. Their attributes of passion for the subject at hand, thorough research, and the ability to write exceedingly well (often hard to find these days) extends beyond their defense policy work into this excellent book.
Readers new to the Sacred Band may find the going slow, at first. Stay with it – you will be rewarded by a fascinating saga of men, gods and godesses, honor, truth, loyalty and courage. Building on the factual numbers of bodies found under the Lion of Thebes, honoring those killed in the battle of Chaeronea, the story takes off and builds momentum to the end. The reasons for the climactic battle scene will not be spoiled here, but they answer the who, what, and especially the why of the main events.
Read this, and enjoy.
And watch our Sacred Band of Stepsons music video on YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICAPn0E7NC0
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