Swift Six Character Interview – Travis

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#Graphicnovel #Horror

VisionsPaperbackArc1.png

Character Name: Travis Malone

Which book/world do you live in?:  Hell Bent

Tell us about yourself:  Well, I’m pretty damn hard to kill, for one thing. Also, I’m part-monkey. Both of those come from some genetic stuff my mom did. Not like that, though! I’m adopted, and she’s a scientist. Also, my hair grows a little every time I come back from the dead.

What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

Strengths, hm? I’m…uh…well, I guess I’m kinda cute in some way? I know I’m not that smart. Hell, if I were, I might’ve made it through college. I’d say I’m perfectly fine, but the multiple nightmares and shit have made that a complete lie. Uhh…please don’t tell McManus, Jesse, or my dad that one. They’d totally take advantage of that. Plus, my nose is too big, and… Damn. I think I focused on the weaknesses a little too much.

Name three important people/creatures/institutions in your world (such as lovers, pets, government institutions, leaders, gods etc).

Ooh, first up is Spencer. Dude’s my best friend, has been since we were kids, and he married my sister a few years ago. And then there’s the law enforcement around Hell Bent..UGH, they need to fix that. Seriously, homelessness isn’t a reason to experiment on people. Actually, the only good reason to experiment on someone is if it’s to help people, AND if you, y’know, get the test subject’s permission (Thanks for that one, mom!). Oh, wait. I need to pick a third one. That’d probably be my mom, Dr. Serena Taylor. She adopted my sister and me when dad threw us out. And as it turns out, she’s one of the leading scientists working with genetics and cybernetics.

What does ‘heroism’ mean to you?

Heroism, I guess, would be when someone does whatever they can to help someone else, no matter how much it might hurt them.

What do you think of your ‘creator’?

Do NOT get me started on that psycho! Do you know how many different labs I’ve been taken to against my will because of her?! Oh, and then? Then we have the times I’ve died and come back and then been killed again. And y’know the worst part? She says I’m one of her favorites!

Give us your favourite piece of advice: “Play through pain”, I guess. I dunno. I really can’t remember too many different pieces of advice, and I suck at giving it out. Though I will say to be careful about random strangers offering to help you get some pictures taken. Sometimes they’re friendly and legit. Other times, they turn out to be a serial killer that creates snuff films.

 

Links to book

Visions: http://a.co/7r6yv6d

Retribution: http://a.co/diK2Q6m

Destruction: http://a.co/6FFtSx3

Start of arc 2 (Deception): http://a.co/gVOpegE

Writing reblog

Having failed miserably (too much client editing so not complaining) to do Camp NaNoWriMo this year but wanting to do more writing, I decided within ten seconds of receiving the first of thirty-one emails from Brit Julie (who lives in America but times her emails for us here in Blighty) to do Story A Day May this […]

via Story A Day May 2017 – Day 20: Concrete World Building — MorgEn Bailey – Creative Writing Guru

Hell Week 2017 – Larry Atchley Jr/Henry Morgan

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Character Spotlight

About yourself:

*Who are/were you?   Tell us about your life before you came here, and after. I, Henry Morgan, was born in Wales around the year 1635 but the opportunities for a Welshman in those days for adventure and wealth were scarce, so I set out for the West Indies for some excitement, and to try to make my fortune as a privateer. The governor of Jamaica gave me a letter of marque so that I could legally attack Spanish ships and seize their cargo. I was even able to attack many cities under Spanish rule, including Panama City, Porto Bello, and Maracaibo raiding them for their riches. I was one of the most successful privateers of all time. King Charles the 2nd awarded me knighthood and I became Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica after retiring from privateering.

After dying and ending up in hell, I suffered many lifetimes worth of years of drudgery and toil before I could acquire my own ship and begin plundering the riches of the ships on the seas of hell.

* Why do YOU think you’re in Hell? Morgan: My love for riches was surpassed only by my love for drink. Perhaps my excesses with strong libations led to my damnation. Of course privateering is nasty business.  I killed many men.  Some people had to be physically convinced into giving up their information about the defenses of the cities I plundered.

Who are your friends/allies here? Morgan: I found unlikely allies in the shopkeeper Anton LaVey, founder of the modern Church of Satan before his damnation, and the Viking heroes Erik the Red, and his son Leif Eriksson, and Ragnar Loddbrok who joined me on my quest for the Unholy Grail that is rumoured to allow damned souls to become inebriated.

Do you have any enemies here? Morgan: HSM’s naval forces are on the prowl for me and my ship “Stingray” because I have plundered many trade vessels on the seas of hell.

Pirate – is that a word you resent? Morgan: I do not resent being called a pirate, though for most of my career I was known as a privateer, plundering Spanish ships and cities under the service of the British Empire and His Majesty the King.

How do you define ‘piracy’? Morgan: Taking something of value from someone else for one’s own personal gain.

What is the WORST thing about being here? Morgan: The worst thing about being in hell is not being able to get drunk. But I am working on a solution to that problem.

Before you arrived here did you actually believe in HSM and his fiery domain? Bet that was a shock! Morgan: I figured that if there was a hell, I’d be bound for it.  I wasn’t all that surprised to find out it really did exist.

Eternity – that’s a damned long time. How to you spend the endless years here?Morgan: I bide my time by plundering ships, and looking for a loophole to the rule of not being able to get drunk in hell.

What do you miss most about your old….life? Morgan: I miss rum, wine and brandy, and the sensation of drunkenness.

Author Spotlight

*Name and bio.

Larry Atchley Jr. grew up in Grapevine, Texas, and has been writing stories and poems since he was in middle school. When he’s not writing, he likes reading and collecting books on a wide range of subjects and genres, hiking and mountain biking in the woods, birding, Kung Fu martial arts, playing guitar and harmonica, listening to all kinds of music, and watching britcoms and movies with his wife Ali, who is a writer and artist. Larry performs along with his wife and fellow crew members with the group The Seadog Slam which performs recitations of pirate poetry and performs pirate songs at various public appearances and festivals in North Texas.

* Tell us about your story for this edition.

Captain Sir Henry Morgan was famous for his drinking as a pirate buccaneer in the seventeenth century. I thought it would be fun for him to be on a quest for the one object in hell that was rumoured to be able to let damned souls get drunk, despite His Satanic Majesty’s rule against it being able to happen. Drunkeness would be the one thing that Morgan would miss most dearly from his life before damnation, and so he would want it more than anything. He goes to Anton LaVey’s shop Hellish Curiosities and Clothiers, a place known for its rare artefacts, to see if LaVey knows if it really exists and where it might be located. They end up going on an adventure together to try to find this so-called unholy grail.

What inspired you to use the character(s) you’ve chosen?

I thought that Henry Morgan was an interesting choice because of his infamy for his love of the drink and the troubles it got him into in life. I wanted to explore his obsession/addiction and how it would drive him to search for the ability to get drunk again while damned to hell where it wasn’t possible to become inebriated.

How did you become involved with this project?

I Met Janet Morris online in 2010 when she was reviving the Heroes in Hell series for the 21st century. I was invited to submit a story for the anthology Lawyers in Hell, and had my story “Remember, Remember, Hell in November” accepted which was my first published story. I subsequently went on to have stories published in several volumes in the series including Rogues in Hell, Dreamers in Hell and Poets in Hell. Being one of the regular Hellion writers for the series meant that I could submit a story for the latest book. I managed to get something in at the eleventh hour that Janet graciously put a lot of work into editing it into a usable story in time to be included in the book. I can’t thank her and Chris Morris enough for the opportunity to have a story in this edition the of the series.

Writing for a shared world is challenging, how do you meet that challenge?

It takes a lot of research and knowledge of the rules and tropes of the series that you are writing for. It is harder than writing a stand-alone story but I find that it is very rewarding writing for a shared world series. You get to be part of a much bigger world than anything else you could come up with yourself. It is an honor to write for the Heroes in Hell series, especially since I have been a fan of it since the first books in the 1980’s.

What are you currently working on?

I’m always working on more short stories and two or three novels that are works in progress. Mostly dark fantasy, action adventure fantasy genre stuff.

*If you could pick any quote about Hell which would be your favourite?

“We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell”

-Oscar Wilde

 

What other books/short stories have you written?

“Remember, Remember, Hell in November” my first published story, which appeared in Lawyers in Hell in June 2011. “Ragnarok & Roll” in Rogues in Hell, “Knocking on Heaven’s Gates” in Dreamers in Hell, and “Poetic Injustice” in Poets in Hell. He has also contributed stories to the Sha’Daa shared world series created by Michael H. Hanson, which include “Time for a Change” in Sha’Daa: Pawns, and “Harmonic Dissonance” in Sha’Daa Facets. Other works include “Shadow of a Doubt” in the horror anthology, What Scares the Boogeyman, and “A Light in the Black” in the Victorian era historical horror anthology Terror by Gaslight. His poetry credits include “The Stoic’s Mask” in the art/poetry/story collection Klarissa’s Dreams and “The Shadow People” in the poetry collection A Book of Night. I’ve written countless other unpublished short stories and poems and have a couple of fantasy novels as works in progress.

What do you think are the top three inventions/discoveries in human history and why?

The printing press, the personal computer, and the internet. They are all ways in which we have expanded, shared and spread knowledge throughout the world.

EXCERPT from your story:

From “Unholiest Grail” by Larry Atchley Jr. in Pirates in Hell, edited by Janet Morris

     Morgan felt a palpable fear rising from his bowels, and although prayer was denied him, he could lament in the privacy of his skull.  And this he did: In my life I have faced many challenges, from men, women, from the sea. I have faced each one with bravado and courage. But now comes a rarer torment: this uncertainty of being forever snuffed out of existence in hell, a punishment too cruel. If he died here, he might be obliterated, with no return even to the netherworlds. He might cease to exist completely, and eternally, forgotten as if he’d never lived at all. A shudder wracked his sturdy frame. I surely don’t court obliteration. But to revel in the sensation of inebriation again, after all these years . . . for even a chance at that most delectable of experiences; surely it’s worth the risk. The craving for drink has been upon me ever since I awoke in this domain of the damned. But it’s been the strongest since I first heard the story of the unholy grail. ‘Drink is the devil’ we privateers liked to say while alive. Knowing it causes one to commit deeds both careless and terrible. It brings forth the worst in a person. But never could I abstain from it, that carefree, impassioned, elated, and yet numbed feeling of drunkenness. I love it so. I love it more than life itself. I made my deal with the devil every time I besotted myself. And I’ll gladly do it again, to cast off the doldrums and despair of existence in hell.

 

Links:

Facebook: Larry Atchley Jr

Blog/Website: www.larryatchleyjr.wordpress.com

Twitter @LarryAtchleyJr

Amazon : https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B006OGZJVE

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6440299.Larry_Atchley_Jr_

 

Hell Week 2017 – Day 7- Chris Morris/Orpheus

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Character Spotlight

About yourself:

*Who are/were you? Tell us about your life before you came here, and after.

A: I am Orpheus, son of the Thracian king Oeagros or perhaps even of Apollo, but most certainly sprung from the belly of the Muse Calliope, forever to hear the strains of her harmonies in all things. The strings of the lyre thrill to my touch as I to them and men and birds and fishes to the tides of all that is.

* Why do YOU think you’re in Hell?

A: I am in hell, as in life, to be taken amiss in perpetuity, to poetize, sing and play upon my instruments in accord with each unfolding moment and sway all souls about me to respond according to their nature and be reviled for doing so, for their differences cast them at odds.

Who are your friends/allies here?

A: Friends? Jason, for one, who steers our ship away from shoals and plies roiling seas. Atalanta is a friend as well and longs to chase my demons from me. Allies to me are forever the octaves of eternity, knowable to myself alone and mystery to all others.

Do you have any enemies here?

A: “Here” is mine enemy and daily do I war with him; I turn his rage to song and he doth rage the more. Shh…I take some small pleasure in that.

How do you define ‘piracy’?

A: All is stolen which has no owner; piracy is an illusion promising possession.

Come on be honest, what do you think of HSM leadership?

A: All things have a head and a tail; guide, yet follow. He must be for the Grand Punishment Continuum to exist; He is not to be envied or feared, though He must be more than those few things: He is a verse, then a chorus, then a coda; like us, He knows not his beginning, no more than I.

What is the WORST thing about being here?

A: The food.

What are your best tips for surviving in Hell?

A: Feel the rhythm; take your next breath fully; stand straight; drop your shoulders; raise your chest; sing to glory!

Before you arrived here did you actually believe in HSM and his fiery domain? Bet that was a shock!

A: I had been to Hades’ to retrieve my sweet Eurydice and returned, almost, so I knew this place before and now again. Have you seen her; sometimes she slips from view?

Eternity – that’s a damned long time. How to you spend the endless years here?

A: Inquisitor, know ye not that there can be no such thing as time?

What do you miss most about your old. . .life?

A: Amplifiers.

Author Spotlight

*Name and bio.

A: Chris Morris

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

* Tell us about your story for this edition.

A: Evil Angel is a collaboration with my partner in prose, Janet Morris, my personal Beatrice, guide and companion through the literary depths of Hell. It posits a vengeful Medea, about trapping her mythic nemesis, Jason and his celebrity pirate crew in snares fabricated by no less than the Fates themselves—before whom even Satan pauses. Any Hell story fascinates because if written to form, death has no motive force and the storyteller must dig a little deeper to find the hinges of drama and portray rewards of victories which are pyrrhic at best. Does she still yearn for him? Is she exquisitely a victim of her darkest design?

What inspired you to use the character(s) you’ve chosen?

A: I wished to look through Orpheus’ eyes, hear though his ears, and for a fleeting moment field his musical magic midst Medea’s stark malignity.

How did you become involved with this project?

A: I was present at the inception.

Writing for a shared world is challenging, how do you meet that challenge?

A: Janet Morris and I write stories to “bookend” the collection and impart a sense of proximity to the usually very different themes and perspectives our contributors bring. More than that, our faves, Kit and Will, are writers too and impart a writerly camaraderie that extends beyond their episodes to color the character of the series.

Tell us why you chose this story to tell out of so many possible options?

A: Who wouldn’t want to find out how it feels to munched by a frosty leviathan?

What are you currently working on?

A: Still struggling to get the backlist up in trade, Kindle, e- and audio versions. We’re about halfway. Over the past year I learned enough InDesign to be a little bit dangerous and I love to get lost in producing stuff that with any luck will outlive us.

Name the last two books you’ve read – tell us about them.

A: Brideshead Revisited and Tempus Unbound. Waugh is the consummate stylist, able to twist, turn on a dime, fly high above yet touch down instantly in the mind, not just through the speech of his characters. Tempus Unbound is a rarest of rare birds, a late-coming foundational work for Janet’s archetypal sage and his counterpart, Cime.

What are your views on authors offering free books?

A: “Offering” in exchange for…?

*If you could pick any quote about Hell which would be your favourite?

A: “Now I could drink hot blood and do such bitter business as the day would quake to look upon.” —Hamlet

If you could have a dinner party with any man and woman from anywhere and any when who would invite and what would you eat?

A: Jesus…bread.

EXCERPT from “Pirates in Hell.

“Evil Angel” (Goat-Beard Part 2)

Janet Morris and Chris Morris

*

Up the steep the crew of the Argo must climb to attend her parley. Any who faltered would freeze solid on the slope, languish ice-bound for a hundred years — time aplenty to think things over.

“Come ye, bloody Argonauts, and meet your fated punishment,” she whispered, as if Jason’s shipmates could hear her.

Come one, come all, and let demons devour the hindmost.

Medea set the scene about her with a Colchian standard flapping on a pole, a rallying point fit for such a parley, a solemn conference to discuss terms for the Argo’s surrender. Beneath her fleecy mantle she invoked a robe of snowflakes; on her head she made a three-spoked crown. That done, with her fingertip she kindled a fire on her peaty peak, then summoned a brace of gray and stinking fiends and gave them orders.

As the crew of the Argo ascended and the fiends descended to devour any laggards, Medea spotted her quarry: Iolcian Jason still looked twenty; hell so far had been easy on this son of Alcimede. But not much longer would it be so . . .

Screams of the hindmost, being torn asunder by fiends, sounded a welcome fanfare in her ears. In response, the landing party’s rear-guard turned back to help their brethren, while those in the forefront quickened their ascent.

Alongside Jason hurried Argos, shipwright of the Argo; behind him, Meleagros and his beloved Atalanta, a sometime lioness and fleet-footed virgin huntress whom Medea once healed.

Despite the rear-guard’s swords and spears and best efforts, ravenous fiends grabbed stragglers in their jaws.

The luckless begged the icy wind for help or speedy death. But fiends always take their time, torturing their prey before tearing it limb from limb and sitting down to feast.

The sailors in the lead scrambled faster.

Of all those come ashore, nearly a third would never crest the ridge. The remainder plowed on grimly, taking no backward looks.

Many of these heroes Medea knew. Hadn’t she sailed with them to the Colchian grove to steal the fleece of the golden ram, the very mantle she now wore? She thought she spied Zeus’ son Herakles and man-slaughtering Peleus, climbing to either side of Theseus, founder of Athens. Her eyes lingered on Orpheus, Thracian poet, prophet, and father of songs. But those voyages, those feats, belonged to another time — to life, not afterlife. She banished any thought of glad reunion.

Were it not for Jason and his crew and this damnable fleece forever wrapping her shoulders, she might have spent her afterlife in Erebos, officiating as a priestess of Hekate, sending sinners to Tartaros and innocents to the Elysian Fields. Jason! Every wrong, every ill, every misery, every blot began with Jason. Jason it was who’d ruined Medea in life . . . and haunted her ever since. Mad with love of him she’d been, that fateful day she killed their children.

Vengeance, love’s antidote, always comes hard. And costly.

Watching the Argonauts climb, she recalled that few had treated her as equal. But then, she wasn’t equal: she was superior. If among this damned crew a few were female, a few unknown, then hell maketh bedfellows undreamt in life. She had punishments aplenty to dole out to those who’d top the ridge, fit for one and all.

Dark and frowning, Jason gained the summit first and paused, breathing hard, followed closely by four souls new to her.

Who are these?

One was slight-bearded, auburn-haired and tender-mouthed, sloe-eyed and lithe in a leather jerkin, breeches and hose. By his side came a goat-bearded fellow with fleshy cheeks, one sparkly earring, sloping shoulders and puffy pants. In their wake followed a woman lit with a loveliness otherworldly, which swaddled her better than her simple shift and somehow kept away the cold. This woman got help to top the final rise from a big soul robed in brown, stalwart, hirsute and resolute, who used a knotty staff.

Not one of the four had the seafarer’s eye, the windburned lips, the leathern skin earned by facing hellish weather. Nor were they flowing-haired Greeks or tattooed barbarians.

Medea waved a hand at her fire-pit of peat, and it roared high; in the light from its flames she could see the strangers better. “Pirates, are ye? Come to parley for passage out of the Abyss? No intruders do I welcome here.” Before the strangers could respond, she whipped her gaze across them, to her erstwhile lover: “Jason, whom have you brought me? And why?”

You! You called us here?” Jason rummaged through her soul with wide, reproving eyes. “Pirates, are we, Mother?” He sighed. “Heroes, while we lived. You know the truth, helped make us what you see. In those days, what we took by force and guile we won honorably, not by theft or piracy, but by deeds done to please our gods. And you know it. As for whom we brought — we brought those we need.”

“You’re pirates all, you and yours, Jason: robbers on sea or shore — of goods and hearts and souls.” In that distending moment, Medea wrestled her fatal flaw: she yet found Jason fetching; as much as once she’d loved him, she loved him still: an infuriating weakness, a wound within her riven breast that would not heal. In hell’s own time, that love would turn to hate. Must. For his fate — and his crew’s — she had predestined.

Behind, a shuffle in the crowd of sailors begat Orpheus, elbowing his way to the fore as the sloe-eyed creature by Jason stared hard at her and asked, “And now? Pirates still? Or is it something else? I’ve often said, ‘Where both deliberate, the love is slight.’”

The goat-bearded soul with him added: “And I, that ‘the lunatic, the lover, and the poet/ Are of imagination all compact.’ Pirate once is pirate forever, good for our purpose and for the lords of hell. Orpheus, what say you?”

Medea blinked, dumbstruck by these brazen strangers, so full of themselves and obscure pontifications.

Orpheus, red-haired master of music and poetry, wizardry and augury, unslung a lyre from across his back, then glanced from Jason to Medea to the strangers, and said:

“You ask what I say? I say, beware this sorceress, her caustic hate. One who tears her family to shreds cannot be trusted.” Curling around his lyre, Orpheus plucked one string, one chord, and strummed another. “Set your terms for this parley, old shipmate. Say what you want.”

From the lyre of Orpheus, a theme surrounded the Argonauts. Tones to make Sirens coo, teach trees to dance and rocks to sing, set about seducing Medea’s heart.

“Stop that music, Orpheus! Put by thine instrument of fell design. I know your fey tricks of old. Stay your hands. Part from that lyre. There’ll be no sorcery here but mine.”

The lyrist palmed his strings. Music died a death too curt.

*

 [End of Excerpt]

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y8WWKMT/

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pirates-in-hell-chris-morris/

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

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

https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/janet-morris/

https://www.facebook.com/christophercmorrissings/

https://soundcloud.com/christopher-morris

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pirates-in-hell-chris-morris/1126191917?type=eBook

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pirates-in-hell-chris-morris/1126191917?ean=9780997758443

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/JanetMorrisandChrisMorris/

https://www.facebook.com/christophercmorrissings/

Blog/Website

http://www.theperseidpress.com/

https://sacredbander.com/

Twitter https://twitter.com/uvmchristine

https://twitter.com/uvmchristine/media

Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Chris-Morris/e/B008L41JNO

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y8WWKMT/

https://www.amazon.com/Pirates-Hell-Heroes-Janet-Morris-ebook/

https://www.amazon.com/Chris-Morris/e/B008L41JNO

https://www.amazon.com/Pirates-Hell-Heroes-Janet-Morris/dp/0997758449/

Goodreads

https://www.goodreads.com/series/40812-heroes-in-hell

Hell Week 2017 – Day 6 – Janet Morris/Medea

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pirates-in-hell_vertical-webbannerWelcome to Day 6 of Hell Week. Today the Infernal Interview Service catches up with series creator Janet Morris, and her character Medea.

 

Character Spotlight

About yourself:

*Who are/were you?   Tell us about your life before you came here, and after.

I am Medea, daughter of the king of Colchis, niece of Circe, granddaughter of Helios the sun god, priestess of Hekate, who rules Erebos and judges the damned who come there. More to the point, I am the oldest witch in hell. I met Jason when he came to Colchis to claim his inheritance and swore to claim his throne by bringing home the Golden Fleece. Like a fool, I fell in love with him. I helped him secure the Fleece, pass every test, on the condition that he would marry me should we succeed. Sailing in the Argos with his Argonauts, we did all of those, and more

* Why do YOU think you’re in Hell?

Jason and I killed my brother, who came chasing after us to grab the Fleece once we secured it. Then, later, when he spurned me for a daughter of Creon’s, did I turn upon fickle Jason, and killed both our children. Although I had a right to my revenge, one of those or both brought me to hell.

Who are your friends/allies here?

Friends? If you wish a friend in hell, find a dog who lived on Earth before coming here. Scarce those are, but no scarcer than a friendly soul in hell. Those in hell who’ll help me are the Erinys, the Furies, the Moerae, the Fates; but those exact their own diabolical price. Men here like Jason, once my lover, might ally with me in perdition, but no one has a ‘friend’ in hell, anymore than a lover who will be true to oath or promise. And my once-husband, Jason? He sired a race called Minyans, bedding every Lemnian woman he could find. What more about his morals need you know? Such souls now feel my wrath and will feel it more, forever.

Do you have any enemies here?

My enemies are legion. Among the greatest are Jason and his crew of heroes, every one. Some of those heroes live on in hell, flayed, without a patch of skin anywhere upon them — a due punishment for men who killed so many whilst they lived. Some need more humbling; some have earned an afterlife of pain. And, by Circe’s will and Hekate’s devising, I am one who sees to the torment of the deserving. I have told you I am hell’s oldest witch, and thus damned souls are my natural prey.

Pirates – is that a word you resent?

In my days on the black earth, what you call piracy was an honorable profession, a way to test would-be heroes, and what then was called glory is now called evil-doing. In hell, sinners sin and sin again: their fates abide in their natures: and pirates in hell today can be thieves of music, words, or souls. I serve my purpose, to terrorize and penalize the damned. Thus I please the Lords of Hell and get my revenges. So do I resent the word piracy? By all means, if you mean my ‘piracy’ from ancient times. My deeds that got me here were fated, not my fault.

Hell covers all eras and technologies, there are many hells within Hell. How have you adjusted to this strange world?

I stay much to myself, much in Erebos, where I can drink the Waters of Forgetfulness should I wish a good night’s rest. Because I am hell’s greatest sorceress, I travel whither I choose, chasing enemies, breaking hearts, setting rights to wrongs, and wrongs to right.

How do you define ‘piracy’?

Define it? I lived it when such a quest had meaning. Now mere plagiarists and thieves of arts and letters are called pirates. Here latter-day warriors have weapons that make cowards of them all. To me, betrayal of the heart is the greatest piracy: Jason stole my heart – how long ago? – and I’ve yet to get it back.  So his steps do I shadow, his hopes do I destroy. And all like him, arrogant men who sack and pillage and lay waste here in damnation, are due to feel my wrath before infernity shall end.

Describe your home/environment in Hell.

I have said, I rest in Erebos, where those heroes end who can’t remember their names or fames. From there I range wheresoever my damned quarries roam. Satan sets me tasks in his New Hell, where the New Dead dwell; nor are the Old Dead safe from me. But, alas, not even the greatest witch in hell can rid its fastness of guilty humans. But I say to you that the New Dead, those hedonistic souls who care only for themselves, torment one another more than even I can devise. So I stay among the Old Dead, since sinners there abound, and pick and choose. And why are you here, my dear? Have you not yet felt my fury?

Come on be honest, what do you think of HSM leadership?

Ah, Satan. He is what he is, suited to his modern flock of fearful souls, who all believe they don’t belong in perdition, who groan and moan over the slightest torture. Ha!  Now, Hades: there is a ruler worthy of the name.

What is the WORST thing about being here?

That I still love Jason:  that’s my torment. No matter how I try, I cannot shake his hold on my poor and shrunken heart.

Erra and his Seven – what’s going on there then?

Ah, Erra and the Seven – called the Sibitti. Erra and his personified weapons are doing more to make the underverse hellish than Satan ever did. The plagues in hell are of Erra’s making, and the floods, and there be more to come from the Babylonian Plague God and his minions., before eternity runs out.

What are your best tips for surviving in Hell?

Surviving hell?  All souls in hell are dead, do you not realize that? What survival do you mean? The survival of the soul?  They have that, yet they complain.  Soon enough, methinks, Satan will turn to obliteration: an end to all hell’s over-crowding, and to Satan’s own sentence here. Hell has its gods, to commute a sentence. Irkalla can send a soul straight to what you call heaven, if she will. But seldom does. The damned get here, and then they sin, and sin, and sin: every evil inherent in their persons do they exalt. So few, the tiniest fraction, deserve salvation. And those masses who love evil, and repeat their crimes in hell, are cursed with survival: even if they die, the Undertaker resurrects them, and they return to their vile ways. For those who cannot bear more punishment, hell holds out obliteration: not only not to be, but to never have been at all.  And this, to arrogant humankind, is the most frightful end, yet devoutly to be sought by the worst offenders here.

Before you arrived here did you actually believe in HSM and his fiery domain? Bet that was a shock!

I came not to New Hell, where Abbadon rules, but to Hades’ domain, where I have respect, even in Tartaros. There am I assigned retributions to meet out to the damned. Remember, I am not a damned fool like you. I am the oldest witch in hell. So bow down before me, and I may be easy upon you, sinner.

Eternity – that’s a damned long time. How to you spend the endless years here?

Time here is fluid. A day can be an hour, a century a week — never time enough for anything redeeming to be done, but time enough for every evil to mature, and spread, and multiply.

What do you miss most about your old….life?

Jason, when we were lovers. Jason, even now that he despises me. With love grown cold in his breast, I miss my days among the Argonauts, when heroes were heroes and my powers at their peak. Yes, Jason. I miss him only, and miss him most of all wherever in hell I may roam.

 

Author Spotlight

*Janet Morris (a/k/a Janet E. Morris)

Here is my bio from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_Morris

My first book was published by Bantam in 1977, and I have been writing for a living (fiction or fact), ever since.

* Tell us about your story for this edition.

What inspired you to use the character(s) you’ve chosen?

Hell has so many fascinating characters, as many as human history has produced, that I use both characters who continue through the series, and characters who have only a bit of time upon Hell’s stage. Right now, I am writing Heroes in Hell stories with my husband Chris, and these center primarily on William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, and how their compatriots or inheritors in life are faring in hell. We already know what brought Marlowe to hell. He’s there for writing in Faustus the line: “Hell is just a frame of mind.” In Pirates in Hell, we find out why Shakespeare is damned. This round, we had a fortuitous intersection with current reality, where Shakespeare and Marlowe are concerned: in 2016, scholars decided/admitted, using technological capabilities to underpin instinct and study, that Marlowe must be given co-author credit on at least Henry VI, Part 1, 2, and 3. That, plus the fact that Pirates in Hell admits stories swung around all sorts of piracy, allowed us to use the premise that, in hell, where book piracy and plagiarism are rampant, Marlowe and Shakespeare spat about how and why Kit Marlowe’s name has been omitted as co-author of Henry VI for centuries. Since Marlowe still struggles under a curse which allows him to remember lines he and others have written previously but gives him a hellacious case of writer’s block where new work is concerned, the restoration of Marlowe’s name to at least the Henry VI plays was a story-line too enticing to ignore.

How did you become involved with this project?

I created the Heroes in Hell series when I was at Baen Books and had a multi-book contract that had no creative limitations, not even specific titles: this ploy was how Jim Baen lured authors he otherwise could not afford. So I mentioned the Heroes in Hell concept to Jim Baen on the phone and he agreed I could do a “shared universe” series called Heroes in Hell (HIH).  And that I did, creating, producing, commissioning and editing multiple volumes of stories from authors (many of them writers who then were also friends) that include, so far, two Nebula Award finalists and a Hugo Award winner. We did 12 volumes, including both HIH novels and HIH stories, in the 20th century, and resurrected [sic] the concept in the 21st century with volume #13, Lawyers in Hell.  Pirates in Hell is #20.  But, since all Heroes in Hell volume have a targeted subject, and yet each stands alone, you can start anywhere in the HIH series, make your own order, depending upon your interests: you can choose to begin with HIH novels or HIH shorter fiction. The rules in hell are simple: no one rightly sent to hell gets out. For each novel or story, given writers must use several historical characters, or mythic characters, or legendary characters previously approved for their use by me, and follow the long-arc of the series per se, as well as a volume arc Chris and I give them. We then approve their story concepts before they are allowed to write, since the HIH universe (Hell as we describe it) is our property . So with these constraints, the volumes each have a theme and yet they are subject to tie-in thematics from other volumes which we provide to them.

Writing for a shared world requires rules all writers obey. Even without that constraint, writing for a shared world is most challenging, particularly when you haven’t used a character previously. Introducing new characters, writers must answer the following question to my satisfaction and Chris’: “Why is this character in hell?” Often the basic answer is revealed early in the first story using that character, sometimes it is revealed slowly. If you are using characters previously used by others, you must get my permission to use preciously-appearing characters, and write them to be consistent with the way they’ve been written previously. We have voluminous documents to which writers can refer, not only about New Hell, but about many of the dedicated hells such as Tartaros or Arali.  Since it is in human nature that like groups flock together, we have a few dedicated hells, hard to get into or out of, whether or not you are native to that culture. Some of these are Greek or Akkadian or Elizabethan. With the future hells, we allow only agreed-upon technology and future history, since no character can be historical if that character has not yet lived. Some people wheedled the option of writing about fictional characters, but those are rare, and they must be characters from the 19th century or earlier, or characters or persons from recent times who are in the public domain.

Tell us why you chose this story to tell out of so many possible options?

While Chris Morris and I are working with Shakespeare and Marlow, we’ve been focused on their thread, but always include a new or different character as well, such as J the Yahwist or Diomedes from the Iliad or Medea the Colchian witch. Satan is one of our characters, so we always write a first story which doubles as an introduction to the volume, That first story is always the most taxing one, since we need to find a way to set up afresh the constraints, threats, and givens that all writers of that volume will share. It’s great fun, but its job is to serve as an orientation for the volume not, in or of itself, serve as a free-standing story, though sometimes we can make the intro story serve as both.

What are you currently working on?

I am still working on Rhêsos of Thrace, and also, with Chris, doing the updating and revising for the Author’s Cut volumes of my backlist. We’re only now finishing Tempus Unbound, and on deck is City at the Edge of Time, to be followed by Storm Seed; when those three are released, the ‘Farther Realms’ Sacred Band books will all exist in Author’s Cut editions. Besides our own work, we edit and format works by some writers who interest us, including but not limited to Michael A. Armstrong, Andrew P. Weston, Walter Rhein, Thomas Barczak, so publishing per se takes up much of my time. Plus, although we don’t take unsolicited submissions, we are always reading submissions from writers we find compelling.

If you could have a dinner party with any man and woman from anywhere and any when who would invite and what would you eat?

I’d invite Heraclitus of Ephesus, Confucius,  Albert Einstein, Roger Penrose, Homer, Marguerite Yourcenar, and a smattering of my HIH characters:  the Yahwist, Shakespeare and Marlowe. We’d eat roast lamb, which is familiar to all, barley and wild rice, and desert would be a green salad and/or a cheese board. We’d have wines with the meal and after, with chocolates.

Which 10 books would you save to keep you sane after the apocalypse? Oxford Classical Dictionary, American Heritage Dictionary, The Iliad, the Odyssey, Paradise Lost, Hamlet (or complete Shakespeare), Tamburlaine, Faustus, the I Ching, Spenser’s Fairie Queen.

 

EXCERPT from your story.

Goat-Beard the Pirate, Part 1

or

Bitter Business

 

Janet Morris and Chris Morris

“Now I could drink hot blood and

and do such bitter business as the

day would quake to look upon.”

—William Shakespeare, Hamlet

 

“Piracy in hell is bitter business, when freebooters steal whate’er a soul holds dear.” Grey doublet askew, buff linen shirt open, sans breeches and still bare-arsed but for hose, Kit Marlowe stalked Will Shakespeare across their attic hideaway in the New Globe Theatre. Heels drumming, Kit dogged Will until poet cornered poet at arm’s length. “And bitterest when what’s stolen is words, and the thief’s a lover, a friend — or you, vaunted Bard of Avon.”

“Call’st me thief? O’er the three Henry the Sixth plays?” Shakespeare rose up stiff and livid. “Accept this truth: Once you were dead and your name expunged from those scripts, I ne’er could restore it. When Satan reissued our Henry Six ‘masterworks’ as mine alone, he meant to vex you, Kit. This bone you’d pick with me’s sucked clean of marrow. Pirates run amok throughout perdition. Not only do they ply the floods and stalk the shores, they infest New Hell’s publishing houses. When we both lived, you helped me, yes. But —”

“Helped you?” Kit nearly spat. “But what?”

For a painful eternity, Kit’s question hung in the air between them, an implacable specter, until Shakespeare sought sanctuary in Hamlet’s speech: “‘But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue.’” Will hid his bearded mouth behind a fingering hand while his eyes pled mercy.

They seldom fenced with quotes lately, too angry at each other. But now that Will had begun it, Marlowe meant to weaponize the game. For his first beat, he brandished his Elegia 1: “‘Rash boy, who gave thee power to change a line?’ An attribution line at that? In hell I may be, but ’tis insufferable to be plagiarized by you. . . .”

“Kit . . .” Shakespeare’s riposte died upon his lips.

Pulse racing, fury out of control, Marlowe tried to stem his words, but failed: “This bit’s yours, or so you say, but it’s surely apt: ‘For I have sworn thee fair and thought thee bright/ Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.’”

“With my own sonnet you dare despise me?”

“Despite is but a taste of what you’ve earned from me,” retorted Marlowe, tongue clumsy, blood rushing in his ears. “Did you not proclaim in Henry the Fourth ‘the fox barks not, when he would steal the lamb’? Take care, brash despoiler who hath ravaged me. Confess and make amends, Willie, or that’s the last quote of ours — or is it yours? or mine? — ’twill issue from my lips till infernity runs out.”

In the garret they’d leased once Satan expelled them from Pandemonium, time held still. Kit’s ears heard nothing but their breathing; no draft blew through their attic to cool their wrath; no sweet peace winged their way.

“Thus dies our game of quotes and more, this day!” Shakespeare’s voice shook; wherever no goat-beard bristled, his rosy cheeks drained white. He stumbled over his own lines from A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “‘O, then, what graces in my love do dwell,/ That he hath turn’d a heaven unto a hell.’”

“Your ‘love’ am I? New words may come hard to me, but mine old I have aplenty. Recalling olden words, here’s more ‘deathless prose’ in which I had a hand but got no credit: ‘Love is familiar. Love is a devil. There is no evil angel but Love.’ Or so we once agreed in Love’s Labours Lost.”

Shakespeare sighed. “Marley, I’ll see Old Nick this very night. Beg him to change those attributions and include you. No sinners read those early plays; instead they ogle the hell-born travesties we stage for Satan. Since your words dried up, your soul’s gone cold. But we’ll fix it. Fix everything.”

A promise impossible to keep in hell, now we’ve provoked the Deceiver’s envy of what we two alone can share.

Marlowe shook his head, raised empty hands and dropped them to his sides. “There’s no fix for human frailty; no cure, unless it be Milton’s ‘obliteration’. And as for piracy, I bore with its bile whilst we lived and taste it still. But run not to the Archfiend’s wily embrace. He’s got no Muse of fire for me nor patience left for you; your glory droopeth, to his baleful eye.”

“Not so. Come with me, Kit, to His Infernal Majesty’s reception. Tonight. We’d best not ignore his invitation. All New Hell’s illiterati and their publishers has he summoned: every paltry poet and pusillanimous pundit in perdition will attend. As your Passionate Shepherd begged, ‘Come with me and be my love,’ and we’ll make every slight that’s wrong come right.”

When Will Shakespeare wheedled, contrite and on his game, Marlowe never could resist him. Yet Will’s affair with Satan too oft abandoned Kit to Jealousy’s embrace.

From their window overlooking the Globe’s stage and its tuppenny seats came a scrabbling of claws, a whoosh of wings, a shower of glass. Like love in hell, no pane in that window ever lasted long, but shattered once puttied into place. Kit spied the vandal, a red-eyed bat hanging upside-down from the window’s empty frame, staring unabashed.

Bats in hell exhaled contagion wherever plagues rode the air.

The hairs on Marlowe’s nape bristled. Heed this omen, Will Shakespeare: Diábolos, Old Scratch, the Prince of Hell, call him what you will, now sends his presumptuous bat, wings wide, for you and me.

Aloud, Kit scoffed. “Be your love, Will? At what cost? Go with you where? On this unclean night? Through twisty byways where purge and pestilence sack the damned?” Alas, Kit knew he’d do what Shakespeare asked, face even obliteration for this wraith, this shadow of the man he’d loved so well. “If you insist, I’ll attend you on this fruitless errand, albeit I’ve no hope for it. Your lusty devil won’t heed my plea, or yours. How many times before has Satan backhanded me for barging along beside you?”

At Kit’s last word, with one flap of wings the bat dropped from the sash and glided into its mother night. Did it hear? Understand? Hell bore few animals as the living knew them: hell-bats to shrive the doomed; hell-goats to feast on garbage; hell-horses whose manes and tails hissed like asps; hell-hounds, sometimes manlike. Save the rare curs or coursers come to seek their masters, hell hosted no loving fauna, no creature company for the dead.

Marlowe buttoned his threadbare shirt, donned his breeches, and paced Will through soggy lanes where few dared walk, where brigands roamed in gangs. Here Satan’s latest purge dissolved unwary souls to salty sand, while other damned, unscathed, scuffed through their glittering remains. If not for the floods that flushed its streets, Marlowe thought, New Hell soon would be but one huge dune.

Past the New Globe they ventured; past the Rose, still dark in fear of plague. Receipts were down at every playhouse, audiences scarce. Nevertheless, when they reached their destination the sidewalk teemed with the sad, the bad, and the mad, a mob desperate to gawk at arriving unworthies and glimpse the infamous.

An imposing structure overshadowed all. The hub of Satan’s New Hell seat, a horseshoe upside down and open at its top, arched toward Paradise and its bloody vault. Red carpet smoldered underfoot, gold festoons lined the forecourt’s fence. Torches blazed along ranks of spearhead finials on wrought-iron pickets, displaying the occasional severed head.

At its grand entrance, fiends of carmine and black formed a sweaty cordon barring groundlings here to gawp, whilst Shakespeare’s name assured entry for him and Kit as if it were a watchword.

A liveried orange demon who reeked of week-old corpses escorted them inside, around, up and down stairs that led in more directions than hounds seeking scent, till they came to a cathedral of a hall.

Once inside, their demon guide bowed low and left them.

Now Marlowe realized where Shakespeare’s fame had brought them. This was a fete for the piratical elite, an A-list affair convoked by Satan’s Masters of the Revels, his seven fallen angels, each banished warrior of heaven more gorgeous than the last. Before them, souls from every epoch mingled, resplendent in outrageous finery. While outside calumny, poverty, deviltry and woe oppressed all hearts behind the spear-topped fence, here chatter flowed, laughter pealed.

And stopped . . .

Into that sudden silence, a second orange demon boomed their names, its tail wagging like a dog’s: “Master Shakespeare and Mister Marlowe.”

Necks craned. Fingers pointed. Misers and monsters, demons and debauchers (hell’s every publisher, privateer, prostitute, pimp and poseur) took their measure.

Marlowe tugged his doublet tight to hide threadbare shirt and cuffs, while leers cast his way said he’d be welcome naked. When he’d been a player, spy, and rakehell, such looks had bought him comfort on many a night. Notwithstanding, at that awkward moment Kit felt supremely underdressed; he should have followed suit when Will buttoned on grass-green shirtsleeves and donned his candy-apple codpiece; or at least worn a leather jerkin over the doublet — but no: rebellious, he hadn’t.

A sigh of whispers grew among this staring clutch of vipers. The crowd parted, and Marlowe happed upon more pressing matters to regret; for toward them strode Satan himself, reigning lord of the latter-day hells, a sinning soul on either arm: one male, one female.

“Will, be you wary . . . keep in mind why we’re here.” Kit tried in vain to wet his lips. When his words had fled him at Satan’s behest, they’d taken all his spittle with them.

“Do you see who that is, the big hairy man in the brown mantle, leaning on his staff?” Shakespeare’s whisper tugged Kit’s ear like a child: “King Solomon, from bible times. Do you recall him from the polo field where he begged my bodkin to slice that infant in half?”

A phantom babe, if ever it lived at all, meant to raise hopes of innocence and dash them, the Trickster’s favorite game.

“Will, remember, we’ve only come to convince Old Nick to redress this piracy; provide compensation, restitution or at least retraction, emendation, some satisfaction. . . .”

Shakespeare heeded not a word, but floated down that final stair and straight to Satan, white-winged and magnificent. Beneath one creamy pennon slid the Bard, as if into his rightful place.

That freed the female from Satan’s hold. Once out from under the devil’s pinion, Kit recognized her: J the Yahwist, she who first gave song and grace to the Old Testament.

J regarded Kit with but the faintest smile, as might a goddess . . .

She’d understudied a role in a play of theirs, come to a dress rehearsal, but they’d never stood this close. She extended a hand to him.

He couldn’t resist. That hand promised lost joys. Forgiveness nestled in her eyes. Exaltation graced her lips. She smelled of sympathy and more: a scent with a darker note, a hint of expiation. . . .

Kit Marlowe took two steps to kiss fingers that scribed the advent of creation. Her touch brought him near to tears. “Yet hell-bound, mighty J? Why do you tarry? Why comest thou here?”

“I am come for a line of mine, pirated by a mortal, a self-styled apostle named John: my line about the Word. Do you know it?”

“Know it? I lived it. Yes, I know it.”

“And do you not hear, with your unerring ear, that it belongs with my Genesis, not with the scribblings of some Johnny-come-lately?”

“I hear.” Many dwelt in hell, but this soul, called simply J, belonged Above. She had come on Mercy’s agency, rumor whispered, to inspire the damned — to give them words, give them hope — and been entrapped by Satan’s wiles. Within her orbit, for an instant sorrow left him. Kit forgot all travail, forgot even delirious Shakespeare, snuggling in the curve of Evil’s wing. . . .

“And why are you here, Christopher Marlowe?”

“I’m here about a play or two I helped write. But standing next to you, my loss sums as naught.”

J’s laughter tinkled like bells. “How could that be, you who wrote ‘Come with me and be my love?’” From her lips, the same line Will had used to jolly Kit into coming here became eerie, beguiling; as was what followed: “I have extra words betimes; words meant for hell’s most needy. Who knows but that I might have some for you? Would you want words about love transforming all, Kit Marlowe? Words to sound a higher octave of being? Would words to transfigure suit you?”

“What? You mean you could . . . ? I’d — That is, you would . . . ?”

Meanwhile, Shakespeare had not forgotten Kit:

Into Marlowe’s colloquy with J intruded the Bard’s voice triumphal: “I did what you wanted, Marley. I have Satan’s promise. And look who I found! You recall King Solomon: Solomon of the Song of Songs, of —”

“Will, not now! J says she . . .” Kit looked from Shakespeare to J, but she had slipped away into the crowd.

Consternation must have remade Kit’s face, because bulky, rough-hewn Solomon shrugged: “The Yahwist seeks her own redress of grievances. And a way out of hell.”

Kit could no more than stare.

“Everyone in hell seeks a way out.” Will sneered. “What makes her special?”

“She does.” The apostate King Solomon struck the floor with his staff for emphasis. “You must understand: J has basked in the paradisal light, walked near to the One — and now, for denying her faith by a slip of the tongue, she is marooned here.” Solomon sighed like a desert wind. “I know — she offered you words, didn’t she? She would. But our host Abaddon will never let her heal a soul like yours, as damned as your friend here describes you. You’ve doubtless heard my proverb, ‘As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.’ Few in hell have a friend. Do not pursue the Yahwist. Cleave to your friend Shakespeare and seek the truth of ages.”

Solomon’s words fell like rain on Kit’s roof. Marlowe had no answer for the Israelite king’s bombast but to look away, seeking J’s face in the crowd.

Alas, no Yahwist.

Where was she? What was she? A fortuity found and lost in a heartbeat? Salvation? A glimpse of deliverance? A breath of the sublime? Her offer of words — words to heal his mind, his heart, his riven soul — might never come again. Kit’s gut growled, protesting his loss.

[End of Excerpt]

 

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y8WWKMT/

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pirates-in-hell-chris-morris/

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

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

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

https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/janet-morris/

https://michaelaventrella.com/2012/05/15/interview-with-hugo-nominated-author-janet-morris/

https://plus.google.com/+JanetMorrisaspis/posts/fKEThwitP61

 

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/JanetEMorris/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Janet-Morris/108035375883983

https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=janet%20morris%20and%20chris%20morris

 

Blog/Website

http://www.theperseidpress.com/

https://sacredbander.com/

 

Twitter

https://twitter.com/uvmchristine

https://twitter.com/uvmchristine/media

 

Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y8WWKMT/

https://www.amazon.com/Pirates-Hell-Heroes-Janet-Morris-ebook/

 

https://www.amazon.com/Janet-Morris/e/B001HPJJB8

https://www.amazon.com/Pirates-Hell-Heroes-Janet-Morris/dp/0997758449/

 

Goodreads

https://www.goodreads.com/series/40812-heroes-in-hell

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/121072.Janet_E_Morris

 

 

Hell Week 2017 – Day 5 – Rob Hinkle/Bartholomew Roberts

Tags

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Welcome to Day 5 – today we welcome Rob Hinkle and Bartholomew Roberts

 

Character Spotlight

About yourself:

*Who are/were you?   Tell us about your life before you came here, and after. My name is Bartholomew Roberts, although in your time you would be more likely to know me as ‘Black Bart’, a name which, I should point out, was attributed to me after my death.  I was third mate on a slaver ship in 1719 when we were captured by pirates while anchored off the Gold Coast.  I and two others were pressed into pirate service, and once the Captain discovered my skill as a navigator I became quite useful to him.  At first I was reluctant to fall in with such a lot, but it took very little time for me to realize the advantages of such a life far outweighed the disadvantages of being a British sailor, and I took to it, deciding that a life of low wages and harsh treatment were far less preferable to a short life and a merry one.

A few weeks later, when our Captain was ambushed and murdered by the governor of the island of Principe, where we were harboured, I found myself in the surprising position of being named new Captain.  My first decree was that we should return to Principe and avenge the death of our former leader, which we did with rousing success.  It turned out to be the beginning of a new life for me, and over the next three years we took more than 400 vessels.

I met my end in 1722 with a blast of grapeshot to the throat by a vessel commanded by Captain Chaloner Olge, who later, I understand, rose to the position of Admiral of the Fleet.  I am given to understand that my demise has been heralded by the scholars of your time as the end of the Golden Age of Piracy, though I would – and have – argued against that term with some of them.  My body was buried at sea before it could be captured, while my soul was deposited here into this Infernal realm.

* Why do YOU think you’re in Hell? So is it written:  Thou Shalt Not Kill.  Thou Shalt Not Steal.  Thou Shalt Not Covet.  I did all, and more besides.  The Divine Hands that made me also made Their desires perfectly clear; that I chose to ignore some of them was my decision, and thus is my presence here the height of justice.

Who are your friends/allies here? Friendship is love, and there is no love in hell.  Leastwise, not that I have seen.  Whatever alliances you may find here shift and roll like desert sands, always changing.  They are temporary arrangements, and the more fool he who believes otherwise and so depends on them.

Do you have any enemies here? This is Hell.  All souls are the enemy, including my own.

Pirate – is that a word you resent? Indeed, no!  Better to be a rascal and pirate and wear it openly than declare yourself an honest man and conceal one’s true face beneath the mask of the hypocrite.

 

Author Spotlight

*Name and bio.

My name is Rob Hinkle, and I was born in a small Indiana town right as the second great age of the horror films began, which probably goes a long way toward explaining my love for that particular genre.  At the age of nine, a local woman who had written a children’s novel came to give a lecture at my school, and as I sat in the front row listening I realized for the first time on a conscious level that stories were crafted things, like houses or furniture.  That was the moment when my wandering compass needle turned toward its own true north, and I discovered that storytelling was my calling.  In the years between then and now, I’ve held a wide variety of jobs – radio newsman, short order cook, legal secretary, film actor, retail clerk, psychiatric hospital attendant, among others – and I’ve found that each in their own way has given me ample opportunity to not only observe people but to mine the world for stories.  I currently live in Henderson, Nevada.

* Tell us about your story for this edition.

Bartholomew Roberts is propositioned by the very man who killed him in life to join him in a strange quest.  Admiral of the Fleet Sir Chaloner Ogle believes that Hell is nothing more than a test of faith, and to prove that he recruits Roberts to help him find something he has seen in his dreams – a mythical bottle of wine placed in Hell by the Creator as a sign that even the damned can be redeemed.  Together they set out to recover this fabulous object … with unexpected results.

What inspired you to use the character(s) you’ve chosen?

Conflict is everything.  If I can find characters who are not only in conflict with each other but also with themselves, then I know I’m onto something.  I was initially intrigued by the idea of Roberts as a man who didn’t want to be a pirate but accepted the role when it was forced upon him, who ran his ship as something of a democracy, who held his crew to a written code of conduct, and who, it is said by some, actually conducted Sunday religious services for his crew.  Atypical  behaviour for a pirate!  It seemed a natural choice, then, to pair Roberts up with the man who had killed him.  What better conflict than that?  As for Chaloner Ogle … when I thought up the idea of a condemned soul holding on to the idea that Hell is nothing more than a final test of faith, I knew that I had the foundation of a good story, though it would take much more thought and work before the final pieces fit.

Writing for a shared world is challenging, how do you meet that challenge?

All writing is a challenge.  For me, the best way to meet it is to remember that a good story comes before everything else.  I try not to get bogged down at the outset wondering how I’m going to make this or that tie in with the larger picture.  Once I have the bones of the monster laid out on the table, so to speak, I’ve found that those larger connections come naturally as I’m laying flesh onto the beast.  Hmmmm.  Maybe I *do* watch too many horror films.

Name the last two books you’ve read – tell us about them.

HORROR FILM OF THE 1980s by John Kenneth Muir.  Muir is a film critic and blogger with a sharp eye and a genuine appreciation for the genre.  The book is essentially an encyclopaedic review of 300+ films released between 1980 and 1989, assessing each on their individual merits or flaws.  Each film is also put into its historical context and features fine analysis of its particular subtext, a quality that is sorely missing from a lot of horror films produced by people who think a few scares and some special effects result in good box office.  Horror films get under your skin not because of what they show, but rather what they represent.  It’s a common belief among genre scholars that if you want to know what anxieties haunted the subconscious of people in a particular time, you don’t have to look any farther than the scary movies which were most popular.  Muir understands this, and gives good analysis as a result.

ROD SERLING’S NIGHT GALLERY: AN AFTER-HOURS TOUR by Scott Skelton and Jim Benson.  Rod Serling has always been one of my genre idols.  My first exposure to him came from TWILIGHT ZONE reruns when I was growing up in the seventies.  I have vague memories of watching NIGHT GALLERY during its initial run, and this book is a detailed account of the history of that ill-fated program.  It examines the genesis of the idea, its troubled production history, and the conflict between creator Serling and producer Jack Laird (who was given run of the program by Universal, much to Serling’s displeasure) over creative control of the show.  The book presents the reader with the big-picture view of a show that was occasionally great but very often hamstrung by two conflicting visions.  It also includes a detailed episode-by-episode review of the program’s forty-three instalments.

*If you could pick any quote about Hell which would be your favourite?

“Hell is empty, and the devils are here.” – William Shakespeare

EXCERPT from your story.

Bartholomew Roberts thought that all you’d ever need to know about Admiral of the Fleet Sir Chaloner Ogle, Knight Companion of the Order of the Bath, you learned when he introduced himself, titles and all. Very few souls consigned to hell troubled to pack their epithets along with them, let alone trot them out at every available opportunity. Even fewer insisted upon your using them. Roberts snorted. The man enfeebled the word ostentation.

“Feeling all right, Roberts?” Ogle called from the prow of Roberts’ sloop, the Damned Fortune, one foot on the rail and right arm draped across his knee, profile jutting forward into the spray as the craft knifed its way through the waves.

“Salt in my throat,” Roberts said, adjusting the wheel to starboard. The sails over their heads snapped in the wind.

“An old pirate like you? Ha! You’ll have to do better than that.” Ogle looked back over his shoulder. His dark eyes gleamed with amusement.

Roberts shrugged. “Please yourself, Admiral.”

“Oh, don’t give me that, Roberts. Don’t you think I know you think I’m as mad as Nero?”

Roberts shrugged again and said nothing.

“Why don’t you admit it? Go on, admit it. Speak the truth and shame the devil.” A crack of indignant thunder rolled across the infernal vault over the heads; combers reared white heads from the sea and slapped at the Damned Fortune’s bowsprit in twenty-foot swells, but Ogle ignored the warning from the Sea of Sighs.

“All right,” said Roberts. “I think maybe you could show old Nero a thing or two about mad. I do think any man who goes around the underverse claiming damnation is just a test of faith has slipped a little rigging upstairs.”

Ogle smiled. “That’s better.”

“You’ve got a damn funny way of looking at things, is all,” said Roberts.

“No offense taken, my boy,” said Ogle, pleasant enough.

“No?”

“Of course not. Humanity’s history books are filled with visionaries surrounded and plagued by doubters.” He turned his back to Roberts again. “I’m in a most excellent company.”

You just couldn’t argue with Ogle. Roberts shook his head. The worst kind of lunatic is the one who’s convinced that he’s right, and infernity was filled to overflowing with them.

 

Links:

Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Rob-Hinkle/e/B0106GXPMC/

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Hell Week – Day 4 – Michael H. Hanson/William Lauder

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And it’s Day 4 in Hell. I must say those ‘Marshmallows’ were very suspicious…Today the Infernal Interview Service meets Michael H. Hanson and his character William Lauder.

Character Spotlight

About yourself:

*Who are/were you? Tell us about your life before you came here, and after.

I am William Lauder (1680–1771) and while alive was a Scottish literary forger, the second son of Dr William Lauder, one of the original 21 Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, by his spouse Catherine Brown. My success was short-lived. Several scholars, who had independently studied the alleged sources of Milton’s inspiration, showed that I had not only garbled most of my quotations, but had inserted amongst them extracts from a Latin version of Paradise Lost. This led to my exposure by Bishop John Douglas, and I was obliged to write a complete confession at the dictation of my former friend, Samuel Johnson. After several vain endeavours to clear my character I emigrated to Barbados, where I purchased a hotel and also taught in a school. I remained there until my death.

*Who are your friends/allies here?

I have none. I have a very dangerous secret that could undermine Satan’s authority throughout Infernity, and so I cannot trust any soul.

*How do you define ‘piracy’?

In my case, I am a pirate of intellectual property, specifically Satan’s very own tortures.

*Describe your home/environment in Hell.

I am the most unusual of damned souls in all of Infernity. I have somehow acquired abilities to mask myself from the awareness of all supernatural beings, and so travel across many different parts of old and new hell, unnoticed and unseen.

*Eternity – that’s a damned long time. How to you spend the endless years here?

I travel and become a student of all knowledge. I possess Eidetic memory, Total Recall, and Serial Recall. I learn hundreds of languages and study all that is known of quantum physics, the sciences, philosophy, and engineering.

Author Spotlight

*Name and bio.

Michael H. Hanson is the Creator of the Sha’Daa shared-world, horror/fantasy anthology series (currently consisting of “Sha’Daa: Tales of The Apocalypse,” “Sha’Daa: Last Call,” “Sha’Daa: Pawns,” “Sha’Daa: Facets,” and “Sha’Daa: Inked”) all published by Moondream Press (an imprint of Copper Dog Publishing LLC).

He has written three collections of poetry, “Autumn Blush” and “Jubilant Whispers,” whose second editions will soon be published by Racket River Press (an imprint of Copper Dog Publishing LLC), and the just published “DARK PARCHMENTS: Midnight Curses and Verses” from Moondream Press (an imprint of Copper Dog Publishing LLC).

In the upcoming year Michael will not only be overseeing the writing of the new Sha’Daa anthology “Sha’Daa: Toys,” but he is also overseeing the writing of the shared-world novel “Not To Yield,” a science fiction tale inspired by The Odyssey.

He has written and published over 90 short stories in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

*How did you become involved with this project?

I have written a short story for every HIH anthology ever since the series was restarted six years ago. The Editor of my SHA’DAA shared-world series was one of two people who had convinced Janet Morris to restart the Heroes in Hell shared-world after its long hiatus. Shortly after she decided to move forward on this idea, I received a phone call, and the rest is history.

*Writing for a shared world is challenging, how do you meet that challenge?

With a lot of hard work and intense focus. I had actually created my own shared-world anthology a few years before joining HIH. It is called SHA’DAA, and the first two anthologies in my series had already been published when I began work on my short story for LAWYERS IN HELL.

*What are you currently working on?

I am overseeing a single-volume shared-world book that is a science fiction take on Homer’s “The Odyssey.” It is tentatively titled NOT TO YIELD and takes the form of an adventurous space opera. It will be published by Moondream Press (an imprint of Copper Dog Publishing LLC).

*What other books/short stories have you written?

I created and am a co-writer in the SHA’DAA shared-world series, which currently consists of the following five anthologies: “SHA’DAA: TALES OF THE APOCALYPSE,” “SHA’DAA: LAST CALL,” “SHA’DAA: PAWNS,” “SHA’DAA: FACETS,” and “SHA’DAA: INKED.”

My short story “Rock and Road” will appear in the Roger Zelazny tribute anthology, SHADOWS & REFLECTIONS, edited by Trent Zelazny and Warren Lapine, tentatively scheduled for publishing as a Hardcover edition in June 2017.

My short story “C.H.A.D.” will appear in the horror anthology C.H.U.D. LIVES!, edited by Eric S. Brown, tentatively scheduled to be published as a trade paperback in November 2017.

SHA’DAA: TOYS is tentatively scheduled for publication on Halloween 2017.

Links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michaelhhansonpoet/?ref=bookmarks

Blog/Website: http://www.copperdogpublishing.com/

Twitter: MichaelH.Hanson@TheShaDaa

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004NMDQ3E

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30811748-sha-daa?from_search=true

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Hell Week 2017 Day 3 – Andrew Weston/Charles Vane

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And here we are again, today there are ‘marshmallows’ – although don’t ask what they really are as the Undertaker gave me the bag to share….

Today the Infernal Interview Service is pleased to welcome Andrew Weston and his character Captain Charles Vane.

*That is NOT a marshmallow…. passes bag sideways quickly*

Character Spotlight

Who are/were you?   Tell us about your life before you came here, and after.

My name is Captain Charles—Allweather—Vane. Born in 1680, I was a pirate operating out of the notorious base at New Providence in the Bahamas known as the “Pirates’ republic”, after the British abandoned the colony during the War of the Spanish Succession. Originally from England, I preyed mostly on English and French shipping, and was most active between the years 1716 – 1719.

My ship – the Ranger – was one of the fastest brigantines in the water, and I was feared throughout that region as a cutthroat, and torturer – even amongst fellow pirates. (What can I say, I had my bad name to think of).

Sadly, the Ranger was wrecked in a storm in February 1719, and I was washed up on an uninhabited island in the Bay of Honduras – a lovely spot for its scenic beauty, sunbathing, and lack of beach vendors.

Eventually, a ship arrived but, unfortunately for me, it was commanded by an old acquaintance and former buccaneer Captain Holford who had turned tail, accepted a pardon, and who now refused to honor the pirates code. Holford actually refused to rescue me from the island, stating:

“Charles, I shan’t trust you aboard my ship, unless I carry you a prisoner; for I shall have you plotting with my men, knock me on the head and run away with my ship a pirating”

Although his statement was spot on, it still stung a bit, and the cheeky swine threatened that he would be back on the island within a month, and if he found me still there, take me back to Jamaica to be hung.

Lucky for me, another ship soon arrived and none of the crew recognized me, so I was allowed on board. Unluckily, that turncoat Holford met with this same ship at sea. The captain of my rescue ship was a friend of Holford’s, and he invited Holford to dine with him. While there, Holford saw me working aboard and informed the captain who I really was. The captain immediately relinquished me to Holford, who locked me in his hold and turned me over to the authorities in Jamaica.

My reputation had earned the disdain of pirates, royal mariners, and the public at large, and they all wanted me to rot in gaol before being executed. At my trial, numerous witnesses testified against me; so I saw little point in trying to argue.

When it was my turn to present my defence, I called no witnesses and asked no questions. I was found guilty on March 22, 1721 and sentenced to death. On March 29, 1721, I was hanged at Gallows Point in Port Royal, and died without expressing remorse for my crimes. After death, my body was hung from a gibbet on Gun Cay, at the mouth of harbor at Port Royal, as a warning against piracy. Bloody cheek…but at least I got a suntan.

 

Why do YOU think you’re in Hell?

I really haven’t a clue as I was such a lovely chap. I’d take my enemies for long walks off a short pier. I treated my acquaintances like the treasures they were…(usually buried under six feet of earth – map not included), and I used to feed their parrots on highly concentrated laxatives.
Who are your friends/allies here?

Apart from my hand-picked crew, I don’t keep close to many. The unlifestyle doesn’t lend to it. I do however, have a few well-connected associates. The best of these is none other than Satan’s Reaper, Daemon Grim. After I volunteered my services during the Doctor Thomas Cream fiasco, he kept me and the Lone Ranger II on a retainer, and has put some good business my way.

Besides the Reaper, the only other acquaintance I bother with is Roger Crossbones – aka, Jolly Roger – one of the craziest mariners undead, and an intelligence representative of The Commodore (Leader of the Pirate Lords)

Pirates – is that a word you resent?

Ha! Here in Hell, it’s a badge of dishonour. You have to be particularly despicable to be part of our ranks.

Hell covers all eras and technologies, there are many hells within Hell. How have you adjusted to this strange world?

By staying up with the times. Most of my compatriots use old style vessels. I mean, what’s the point of that. I received my first commission from the Reaper because I made use of what was available. The Lone Ranger II isn’t a galleon, a brigantine, or any form of sailed vessel come to that. She’s a hermetically sealed, pressurized, Hell-Cat 6000 super cruiser, powered by three Cerberus aqua-jet diesels, giving her a round range of nine hundred and thirty nautical miles, and an average cruising speed of fifty-two knots. Without her, the journey we undertake in the adventure you’ll read in “Pieces of Hate” took hours instead of the usual three weeks.

I don’t even look like a traditional pirate anymore, as I prefer to wear Trident storm fleece coveralls, thermal sailing boots, and my ever present bulletproof and backstabbing resistant lifejacket.

How do you define ‘piracy’?

What life in hell is all about in a nautical setting.

Describe your home/environment in Hell.

I live aboard the Lone Ranger II. It saves on redecorating and having to cut the lawn. My cabin has all the latest mod cons, and whenever I feel like a change of scenery, off we go. Fun point: the ship herself has a specially designed brig we can open to the waves whenever we feel in need of a bit of a spring clean.

What is the WORST thing about being here?

The rum. It tastes like urine distilled through sweaty socks…on a good day. And the grog? I’ve sampled vomit that possesses more body and refinement. I’m sooo pleased to have met the Reaper, as he pays for my services in goods. I get a case of Diabhalvulin 18 every time we complete an assignment.

Erra and his Seven – what’s going on there then?

I stay well away from them. And I’m glad to have had the Reaper with me on the one occasion I have bumped into them. VERY glad. You’ll find out why when you read the story.

What are your best tips for surviving in Hell?

Don’t drink the water. Don’t carry an organ donor card (The Undertaker isn’t exactly choosy about you not needing them). Avoid hellfish and other sea foods. Stay indoors between dusk and dusk. And never, ever, take a taxi. They literally do cost an arm and a leg.

What do you miss most about your old….life?

Women, rum, and clean jackets…In that order. Oh, and watching people die. It really is a pain seeing people you’ve gone to all the trouble of murdering getting reassigned.

 

Author Spotlight

Name and bio.

My name is Andrew P. Weston. I’m a time-travelling author from the future, hiding a dark and mysterious past, who currently finds himself kicking his heels in the present.
I live on a small island in a medium sized house with a large amount of cats.

Tell us about your story for this edition.
For Pirates in Hell, my story is entitled: Pieces of Hate
It follows on from Hell Bound in that Grim is dispatched by HSM to recover something of high value. What that is, you’ll find out, but needless to say Grim has to forge dense, man-eating jungles, icy mountains, death-dealing mazes. And he has a little run-in with the Sibitti too.

What inspired you to use the character(s) you’ve chosen?

As I mentioned, they’re characters I already use within Daemon Grim’s related adventures as Satan’s Reaper. Janet and I thought it would be a novel idea to incorporate each mission he undertakes – get it? – into the shared universe by overlapping them with the anthologies. So far, it’s working like a bad luck charm.

Writing for a shared world is challenging, how do you meet that challenge?

There are no short cuts; you have to do your homework. You need to find out what you can and cannot do in a broad sense, (what are the rules by which the universe operates? What are its limits? How far can you stretch the boundaries, and under what circumstances?)
Having done so, I feel it’s important to make an effort to regularly engage with “other” characters. For example, Grim is building quite a rapport with individuals that “belong” to other contributors – The Undertaker and The Sibitti in particular – so it’s essential to know the Modus Operandi of those other damned souls and how they act and react under given situations. Once you’ve done all that, you then have to wear two hats, as it were, and incorporate their style into the thread of your own work. A challenge, but well worth the effort when you see them combining into a greater whole.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve just started the third of the Daemon Grim’s novels, Hell Gate. It will conclude his first set of adventures, and reveal a little bit more about his origins.

If you could pick any quote about Hell which would be your favourite?

The underworld is now your stage, and I am your curtain call: Daemon Grim

Which 10 books would you save to keep you sane after the apocalypse? (Only 10 allowed).

  1. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Lewis Caroll – Wonderfully eccentric characters depicting satire, allegory and parody as seen through the expert eyes of a child.
  2. Nineteen Eighty-Four: George Orwell – a dark and gritty tale on morality gone wrong and what lies beneath the surface of society.
  3. The Complete Tales & Poems of Edgar Allan Poe: Edgar Allan Poe – a fantastic collection of mystery and the macabre from the pioneer of the short story.
  4. Frankenstein: Mary Shelly – One of the most celebrated horror stories of all time. Imitated, but never rivalled in its depiction of true horror and suspense.
  5. The Lord of the Rings: J. R. R. Tolkien – what’s to say? A true classic originally written as the first volume of a two-piece epic (The Silmarillion) Truly awesome.
  6. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde: Robert Louis Stevenson – An epic tale exploring the struggle between the good and evil that resides inside us all.
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird: Harper Lee – A superb insight into dilemmas that still afflict society today. Prejudice, class, equality, courage & compassion. A masterpiece.
  8. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: Stephen Donaldson – A truly astounding fantasy penned by one of the greatest wordsmiths of our time.
  9. The Da Vinci Code: Dan Brown – An excellent escapade. Part mystery & suspense – part thriller & conspiracy exploring alternate religious history. Thought provoking.
  10. Dune: Frank Herbert – A landmark SF novel and first true space opera, years ahead of its time. The spice must flow…

What do you think are the top three inventions/discoveries in human history and why?

Earl Grey tea…for the taste. Flatulent free underwear…for the smell. The Spouting Pyramids of Geyser…for the sheer spectacle.

EXCERPT from your story.

 

Sure enough, I stumbled out of the gloom, and was greeted by the repulsive embrace of Paradise. Its vapid rays punctured the thick swathe of clouds above us in multiple places, making it appear as if heaven was casting searchlights down through the veil in an attempt to expose our dark deeds. The temperature dropped considerably, and I noticed we were now on a narrow, frost-encrusted ledge that terminated after a few yards in a sheer drop into an abyss.

I turned a slow three-sixty.

Behind us, the jungle stretched away. Extending off into the distance on either side of us, its fringe followed the curve of a vast, doughnut-shaped plateau that looked as if it might encompass the massive, snow capped cluster of mountains in the middle.

I allowed my far-sight to skim the precipice for a few miles in each direction.

Yup! A perfect circle, exactly as Chopin described it in his note. I must admit, I’m impressed. He’s been unusually candid. Not that it’ll do him any good when I catch up to him.

Far, far, below us, a river of molten metal filled the bottom of the chasm in lurid yellow light. It churned and boiled as it flowed by, and spat vast gouts of magma high into the air. A welcoming stench of brimstone wafted up from the depths.

The relief of a huge, shrouded, profile had been carved into the cliff face opposite us. Something about the way it had been rendered struck a nerve.

I recognize that image from somewhere…

A fragile splinter of ice jutted out from our position to span the intervening gap. Of course, it was inevitable that our path would lead across it. Dripping profusely from the thermodynamic savagery raging below, the bridge stank of sorcery and disappeared into the cavern represented by the wide open jaws of the edifice. I eyed the crossing dubiously, and I was grateful it was out of reach of the eruptions, for it didn’t look sturdy enough to withstand a wet fart, let alone the weight of our entire party all at once.

The breaths of my companions fogged the air, and steam rose in swirls from half a dozen heads as their sweat rapidly cooled. Mumbles of discontent began to percolate from the crew. As usual, Low was complaining loudest of all.

“What in Satan’s…?” He looked around himself in horror. “Where in the blazes are ye’ taking us, Reaper? This place would freeze the balls off a brass monkey. I thought ye’ were chock full o’ tricks that would help us get past stuff like this? Why aren’t ye’ helping?”

“Oh, I am, believe me. As you’ve just witnessed, there are strong enchantments about us, just waiting to go off. You didn’t know they were there, because you’re mundane. But I did. I can smell the theurgy lingering in the air. Taste it in the essence of the rock forming the massif in front of us. You think things have been bad because you’ve had to make a bit of effort? I suspect that the moment I use my abilities, all heaven will break loose. So, if we’re going to fight off badness knows what, I’d rather do so knowing I wasn’t merely exchanging the frying pan for the fire, and that I’d gotten my hands on our prize first.”

“And just what is this prize?” he countered, hands on hips once more. “What’s so precious about it, anyway?”

“I’ve told you before. I’m not at liberty to discuss details. But rest assured, it is something His Infernal Majesty has craved for a while now. And all those involved in helping him realize its possession will be suitably rewarded. You especially, for he understands we would not have been able to navigate the Flux without the Compass.”

“Reward be damned! Can I rub it between my fingers? Count it? Feel the weight o’ it within my purse? Pay my crew?”

“As I’ve already promised,” I stalked forward, and nodded toward the main peak, “Help to acquire this one thing Satan desires, and all your worries will become a thing of the past. Your entire crew won’t ever need to work again. And remember the bonus. Anything else we find inside is yours.”

 

Links:

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/Andrew-P-Weston-Author-102335216581151/

Blog/Website : http://www.andrewpweston.com/

Twitter : https://twitter.com/WestonAndrew

Amazon : http://www.amazon.com/Andrew-P-Weston/e/B00F3BL6GS

Goodreads : https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5816574.Andrew_P_Weston

 

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Hell Week 2017 – Day 2 – Seth Lindberg/Ernest Haeckel

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Welcome to Day 2 of Hell Week 2017. Seth Lindberg has risked his soul (bit late for that), and joined us by the baelfire for an interview. First we meet his character Ernest Haeckel.

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Who are/were you?   Tell us about your life before you came here, and after.

EH: Greetings, I am Ernest Haeckel, renowned evolutionist, artist, and philosopher. You heard of my contemporary Charles Darwin, no doubt? I coined the term ecology and am famous for my beautiful drawings of lifeforms. My embryological montages unexpectedly drew anger from my fellow scientists.  They deemed I embellished too much. Yet, I stand by my depictions of embryos and the notion that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. You look confused, no doubt because  of your retarded ancestry. Just understand my hypothesis that embryos express shapes of all their lesser, ancestral forms as they develop. So before your embryo matured into human form, it appeared as a pig and even a fish.

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Describe your home/environment in Hell.

EH: I find myself in Duat, a corrupted afterlife comprising ancient the Nile Delta and the Mediterranean Sea. Here the waters are corrupted by the first plague under Ramses II’s rule. Instead of water, blood flows. The once verdant banks are spoiled purple. A Vile Delta and Vile River surround me. No vegetation grows here. Fragments of cyclopean statues emerge from sandbanks like broken teeth. Inhabitants do not age here. Lingering pharaohs outlive the monuments made in their honour.

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Why do YOU think you’re in Hell/Duat?

EH: I do not deserve to be here since I am of Homo mediterraneus race, the most advanced actually. Perhaps I must finish my census of Mediterranean life. Luckily, this coastline is overpopulated with locust nymphs and frog embryos, tadpoles and such. These Schistocerca gregaria larvae look unique to me. It may be a new species… I must draw this.

 

Hell covers all eras and technologies, there are many hells within Hell. How have you adjusted to this strange world?

EH: Thankfully, my faith in monism is affirmed. My body transcended with my soul cohered to it. Since I live again in the afterlife, I know I can return intact to the land of the living. What can enter, must be able to leave, correct? So, I do not mind visiting this strange Duat. What is crucial is that I defend my reputation and quell criticism. I am a true scientist. I do not fake my art. I can’t wait until my fellow scientists see what I have found here! I must convince them of my authenticity.

 

Who are your friends/allies here?

EH: Well, I am more interested in acquainting myself with biology than making friends, but if you mean “human allies” then there is my fellow Caucasian Howard Carter. He is the only other to wear a bow tie and fedora around here. Note, Howard is not a naturalist. He is fascinated with antiquities and material artefacts more than nature. That is why he is in hell.

 

Do you have any enemies here?

EH: Certainly the elements work against me. The vile Mediterranean Sea keeps swallowing up my documentation. How many times must I draw the lifeforms only to have the tidal waters consume my data?  Then there are those piratic warriors floating out there: the Sea Peoples. The pharaohs won’t let them on the land. They just float out there. They must be getting bored.

 

What is the WORST thing about being here?

EH: The cursed waters! I swear this Vile Delta sinks with Lemuria.

 

What is Lemuria?

EH: Man originated there. All twelve human races evolved from Lemuria, that continent adjacent to Africa and Asia. The Indian Ocean flooded it, just as Duat sinks now. With haste, we must end this interview. The Sea comes to reclaim my equipment and drawings. You distract me.

 

Before you arrived here did you actually believe in HSM and his fiery domain? Bet that was a shock!

EH: I have not seen this omniscient ‘HSM’ you speak of, but I do not expect to. There are no real gods, angels, or demons.  I have seen some pharaohs who deem themselves godlike, but they looked very human to me. Gods are just arrogant vertebrates.

 

Are you sure?

EH: Certainly. All my hypothesis are as good as theories.

 

Your future may get worse.

EH: How much worse could things get? Enough, I must chase my art again…

 

 

Author Spotlight

1) *Name and bio.

SEL: I’m Seth (S.E.) Lindberg, residing near Cincinnati, Ohio working as a microscopist by day and dark-fantasy writer by night. Two decades of practicing chemistry, combined with a passion for the Sword & Sorcery genre, spurs me to write adventure fictionalizing the alchemical humors.  As a practicing chemist and hobbyist illustrator, I’m driven to explore the weird experience of artists & scientists attempting to capture the divine. I identify with early scientists before chemistry splintered from alchemy, when Art & Science disciplines had common purpose. Take, for example, early anatomy (Medieval and Renaissance period): surgeons searched for the elements of the soul as they dissected bodies; data was largely visual, and had to be recorded by an illustrator. The technology behind paint and dyeing was developing alongside advances in medicine. Back then, the same instrumentation in apothecaries produced medicines as well as paints/inks, so the distinction between artist & scientist was obscure.

 

Tell us about your story for this edition.

SEL: Curse of the Pharaohs: In the Egyptian realm of the dead of Duat, many pharaohs wait to be judged by Anubis; yet he has been in absentia for centuries. As the piratical Sea People threaten to come ashore, the meddling duo of Howard Carter and Ernest Haeckel unearth Anubis’s Hall of Two Truths. Eleven anxious Rameses risk leaving the shoreline unprotected to chance judgement (and a chance to get out of Duat!).

 

What inspired you to use the character(s) you’ve chosen?

SEL: Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919) was a dedicated, philosophical scientist with outstanding artistic skills. He documented thousands of life forms and published his beautiful plates in “Art Forms in Nature” (translated from German: Kunstforman der Natur). But then his fascination with Art-Nature caused an uproar when he tweaked his drawings of embryos in 1874. Haeckel envisioned familiarities across the embryos of fish, salamanders, turtles, pigs, rabbits, and humans; then he represented these in an evocative table. At a time when photography was not practiced, data was art…and vice versa. Some still claim his drawings were legitimate, but in any case, his artistic embellishments stirred a controversy. His beauteous art will forever be overshadowed by a philosophy that evolved into Social Darwinism, an evil variant of Darwin’s concepts that would inspire the Holocaust.

The Mediterranean Sea is ideal setting for a hellish story. The turn of the 19th century was rich with advances in evolutionary theory, science, and even speculative fiction. Anatomists, philosophers, and scientists ruminated on how far to extrapolate Darwin’s assertions. Haeckel was certainly combing the seashore for lifeforms to draw. Nearly the same time, ~1922, Howard Carter was busy searching for humanity’s past; Carter’s meddling eventually revealed King Tut’s tomb.
The notion of having Haeckel explore the Mediterranean in his afterlife was intriguing; to make it entertaining, he was paired with the obnoxious, tomb-raiding Howard Carter.  Thankfully there was a pirate-themed tie-in available with the Sea Peoples of ancient times. In what universe other than Perseid Press’ Heroes in Hell series can an author mix such disparate people/cultures/themes together? I am thankful to have had this opportunity to explore Duat and contribute to Hell.

4) How did you become involved with this project?

SEL: An invitation followed after contributing to Heroika: Dragon Eaters, Perseid Press’s anthology of historical fiction / fantasy.  Legacy of the Great Dragon, my short story for Heroika, features the Father of Alchemy entombing his singular source of magic, the Great Dragon. According to Greek and Egyptian myth, the god Thoth (a.k.a. Hermes) was able to see into the world of the dead and pass his learnings to the living.  One of the earliest known hermetic scripts is the Divine Pymander of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus.  Within that, a tale is told of Hermes being confronted with a vision of the otherworldly entity Pymander, who takes the shape of a “Great Dragon” to reveal divine secrets. Legacy of the Great Dragon fictionalizes this Hermetic Tradition, presenting the Great Dragon as the sun-eating Apep of Egyptian antiquity.

 

If you could pick any quote about Hell which would be your favourite?

SEL:  There is a lot to say about Hell! Readers need to be assured that it is always okay to explore it. I defer to several authors from the Doctors in Hell anthology; this death-panel drops many quotes about the series and serves as welcoming introduction to the Heroes in Hell series:  Death Panel Convenes on why it is OK to go to Hell at any time (2015).

 

What other books/short stories have you written?

SEL: I focus on alchemy-inspired, dark fantasy. Separate from submitting to Perseid Press’s Heroika: Dragon Eaters, I have relied on Sword & Sorcery as a medium to contemplate life-death-art with my Dyscrasia Fiction series. Dyscrasia literally means “a bad mixture of liquids” (it is not a fictional land).  Historically, dyscrasia referred to any imbalance of the four medicinal humors professed by the ancient Greeks to sustain life (phlegm, blood, black and yellow bile). Artisans, anatomists, and chemists of the Renaissance expressed shared interest in the humors; accordingly, the scope of humorism evolved to include aspects of the four alchemical elements (water, air, earth and fire) and psychological temperaments (phlegmatic, sanguine, melancholic and choleric). In short, the humors are mystical media of color, energy, and emotion; Dyscrasia Fiction presents them as spiritual muses for artisans, sources of magical power, and contagions of a deadly disease.  The books explore the choices humans and their gods make as this disease corrupts their souls, shared blood and creative energies.

I plan to continue Dyscrasia Fiction in parallel with submitting stories to Perseid Press, forever shaping the muses of alchemy into heroic fiction.

CURSE OF THE PHARAOHS – Excerpt

  1. E. Lindberg

We hold, with Goethe, that “matter cannot exist and be operative without spirit, nor spirit without matter.”

– Ernst Haeckel, Riddle of the Universe, 1900 CE

Howard Carter, renowned discoverer of King Tutankhamun’s tomb, strode forward, his chin high. He led the quadruped by a leather rein. The leash was connected to a muzzle with a false beard. The bushy-mustached Carter addressed the other suited man, who likewise wore a bow tie and fedora. “Hello, sir, good day. Nice to see a fellow Caucasian gentleman here.”

The white-bearded man looked up, placing his drawing implements beside his brass, monocular microscope. Tipping his hat, he said, “I am Doctor Ernst Haeckel. I confirm we are both Homo mediterraneus. And you are?”

“In need of a cigarette, Doctor. There are few simple pleasures to enjoy here.” Too prideful to extend a hand in greeting, he kept one on the leash while his other stroked his vest’s inseam. He puffed out his chest in a display of masculine power, not unlike that of an alpha gorilla prepared to defend its territory. “Pardon, I thought my identity to be self-evident. I am Howard Carter. The Howard Carter. Archeology and antiquities are my specialty.”

“Oh, that Carter. I recall you started looking for a tomb, but never found it.”

“I did locate King Tutankhamun’s tomb. Soon after your death perhaps, since the whole living world knows my name. I am sure you would remember had you been alive at the time.” He relished his memory of discovery. “Ah, tomb number KV62. And you should note, Doctor Haeckel, that it was unperturbed!”

“Splendid. What did you do to said unperturbed tomb?”

“Opened it, of course!”

Confused, Haeckel went back to sifting the blood-soaked, purple sand. He found a ruby-colored cankerworm and placed it on his microscope, then looked through the lens before it could wiggle away. Face hovering above the microscope’s ocular, he asked, “Did you preserve or destroy it?”

“Don’t be foolish. I examined the tomb’s contents, of course. Some say it released a curse, though I was immune to such superstitions. I found many artifacts.” Sold several to local dealers, he thought to himself. “I have found it difficult to perform my trade since coming to Duat.”

“What is this ‘Duat’? Is it your employer’s acronym perchance? The Department of Underworld Antiquities or something?”

Carter smiled, “No, Doctor. It’s simply the Egyptian afterlife, wherein we find ourselves. Duat was coined by the natives long before we died.” Haeckel listened while keeping his attention on the cankerworm, so Carter inquired, “Are you looking for something in particular?”

“I must finish my census of this infernal version of Mediterranean life. This coastline is overpopulated with locust nymphs and frog embryos, tadpoles and such.” Haeckel said. “These Schistocerca gregaria larvae look unique to me. It may be a new species. Do you happen to know anything about embryology or evolutionary theory?”

“I recall your scientific community does not take kindly to imagination.” Before Carter could expound on Haeckel’s controversial embryological data, long proven to be embellished with abundant artistic license, the bound quadruped suddenly began a snorting, which escalated into an awkward yelp: “Hap . . . hap . . . suuuuu!”

“Gesundheit!” Haeckel said, taking notice of Carter’s pet. The being was hunched over and wearing some erotic, black leather corselet which left its buttocks exposed. It was forced into squatting because a lengthy wooden phallus protruded from its anus, no doubt some lodged sex toy projecting out his rear like a tail. The faux beard attached to the leash’s muzzle could be mistaken as a canine snout. The apparent quadruped resembled an enslaved jackal. Tassels and buckles adorned the leather straps, indicating the device once had been worn by­­ a partner. Haeckel inquired, “A human specimen? Are you expanding your interest beyond the artificial, and into the natural?”

“Ah, so you like what I found in KV60?” The reference confused Haeckel, so Carter explained, “My catalog number for the Valley of The Kings.”

“Mister Carter, I don’t know your catalog system — nor that specimen’s identity. You are sadistic to keep a human on a leash and torture him with that stick.”

“You misunderstand. I found him in this condition, chained to sandstone walls with that phallus up his arse. Far be it from me to take something away from its proper owner.” Carter motioned to remove it, and the man whirled in a circle, avoiding him. “See? He wants to keep it.”

Haeckel said, “Is that how the Egyptians buried their kings?”

“He is no king. He is the only non-royal I found. He must have died this way, perhaps a pharaoh’s masochistic lover. He does appear grateful that I freed his tether from the tomb, however. He is strangely talented in locating hidden ruins. Before leading me here, he sniffed out several buried sites which I am anxious to investigate further. I let him lead me for a time toward Vile’s end. To you, actually. Are you certain you do not recognize him?”

“Ja whol! I am certain. Does it . . .” From his low vantage, Haeckel felt compelled to confirm the specimen’s gender and thus peered beneath its posterior. “Does he have a name?”

“Mutt . . . Mutt . . .” the quadruped interposed, the bit of its leather bridle hindering speech.

“See, Doctor Haeckel, I fear this man now thinks himself a dog. Leashed as I had found him, preferring to crawl on all fours, then identifying himself as a mutt.”

“Is that all he says?”

Mutt spat, “Hap . . . hap . . . suuuuu!”

“Bless you, dear fellow! He does sneeze a lot,” Carter declared.

“Beneath that leather costume is a man. His hair, skin, and body shape indicate he is Homo mediterraneus: of the same race as you and I. The most advanced race, actually.” Haeckel became introspective. He switched his contemplations from the microscopic wonders to the macroscopic. He looked beyond the Egyptian ushabti toward the offshore soldiers. A vast fleet of warriors lined both port and starboard sides of the bird-headed warships. Clothed in kilts and corselets, they did not look much different than the Egyptians. Many wore horned helmets or bronze headbands; all had short, curly black hair. “Who are the floating folk?”

“They are Sea Peoples. Mere pirates, according to the pharaohs. I wager they desire a home more than plunder. Stay on this side of the shield wall and you should be alright.”

“And where are these pharaohs you speak of?”

Carter pointed toward the inland ruins. “Just the Ramses type. I cannot seem to find any others. The pharaohs watch the coastline intently.”

Haeckel asked, “Why do they not take off their masks?”

“They did not pass into death as whole as we did. I found their mummies already unwrapped, with faces flayed. Some vandal had gotten to them first. I woke them all and welcomed them to Duat. Each was quick to don their ceremonial gold helms,” Carter explained. “They are stripped of identity. They rule over a dead land. No doubt, there is a curse amongst them —”

“Are the pharaohs cursed? Or are the invaders from the sea?” Haeckel pondered, “Or are we, since we share their situation?”

“All mysteries remaining to be answered, Doctor.”

“Oh, I love riddles,” Haeckel said, trying to reconcile his evolutionary beliefs with this situation. He stood between two armies of the most advanced human type, the Mediterranean race. War was constant, even in the afterlife. There was only one Delta, over which many souls contested. Perhaps all humans were cursed. A frog hopped by. Haeckel seized it, holding it up by one leg for inspection. “Lot of Batrachia here. In unprecedented numbers.”

“Ramses II’s tomb was full of them. They spread when I released his mummy from KV7.”

“This species is unique, Carter. The Royal Society will never believe what I find here without sufficient documentation. I must convince them.”

“Your scientific community is not here. Plus, there is no way out of Duat.” Carter raised an eyebrow with a hint of hope. “Unless you plan to return to life. Do you know a way?”

Haeckel yet struggled to solve the riddle of the afterlife. Duat could not be entirely closed. Bodies and souls had entered here — united in fact, so the dualists were wrong. “Certainly, all my hypothesis are as good as theories,” Haeckel affirmed aloud. “My faith in monism is reinforced here, since my body and soul remain cohered. Since I live again in the afterlife, why could I not return intact to the land of the living? What can enter, must be able to leave. Of course there is a way back.”

Musing, Carter stroked his vest. “Although we kept our souls, Doctor Haeckel, our bodies do not need to eat. We are different here. Does it not bother you, Doctor, that the orb overhead casts shadows for this frog specimen but not for you? Not for your body? Nor for mine?”

Haeckel returned his attention to the sand, noting how the frog’s silhouette hung suspended from thin air. “Heilige Scheisse!”

“Holy sheut, indeed,” Carter mistranslated Haeckel’s profanity. “Doctor, that is no ordinary sun. The hieroglyphs in the tombs explain that it is a circular window into the Lake of Fire. Shadows are cast onto earth’s living realm, not here.”

They turned their attention skyward, to gaze upon the orange-red orb. Beside them the quadruped stared and howled, “Hap . . . suuuuu!”

Carter asked, “Do you see that? Something fiery is emerging from the light.”

“It’s a bird,” Haeckel guessed, squinting.

“A plane?” surmised Carter.

Out of ear shot of the fedora-crowned men, eleven Rameses exclaimed, “Anubis’ barge! Ammit the Devourer comes!” The flight of the burning galley affirmed their shaken Egyptian faith. The pharaohs stood in salutation.

The spectacle demanded the attention of all; even their enemies looked up. The solar barge descended without oars, resting on the back of a chimera sailing atop an infernal plume. A living crocodile’s head adorned the ship’s bow, its hull propelled by a hind set of hippopotamus legs with lion legs at the fore. Ammit the Devourer emerged from the supernal fire, her nostrils flared with smoke as she exhaled plumes that fueled the ethereal, enflamed clouds on which she rode. Her maw bit at ostrich feathers that evaded her hot breath, floating as if tracking some invisible path, remaining barely out of reach — but always avoiding ignition. Ammit approached land so all could see that the galley upon her back held a woman. A lady with a conical crown stretched over the side, grasping at the ostrich feathers.

Ammit landed on the purple beach in midstride, running along its shore, each footprint blazing. She halted and stood on her hippopotamus legs, rearing so her passenger could exit. Then Ammit burrowed into the bloody sand; her bed of flames went with her as she burrowed deeper into the underworld. In her wake, a smoking cloud veiled the hedjet crowned woman.

As the smoke of her passing dissipated, the leather-clad pharaoh strutted forward and bent to pick up the ostrich feathers.

The shield wall broke formation as the ushabti dropped their weapons to prostrate before her. A female pharaoh had been sent from the Eye of Ra! The woman placed the feathers into her hedjet, transforming her headdress into a proper Osirian atef. So mesmerized, the Egyptians did not observe Teuta signal her advance.

“Hap . . . suuuuu,” Mutt howled. He bolted forward abruptly to release himself from Carter’s grip. Mutt breached the line of ushabti, and galloped alongside the shoreline. He drooled as he advanced, anxious to lick her. Hatshepsut wore a bleached-leather cat suit which contrasted her bronze skin and black hair. Ebony kohl framed her eyes, underscored with green malachite liner.

Mutt met on her on the beach. He sniffed her groin with passion. She smelled of frankincense.

“Senenmut! My lover, my vizier, my architect!” Hatshepsut stroked Senenmut’s head until he calmed. Pressing her anterior against Mutt’s posterior, she strapped on the harness and then withdrew to unsheathe the wand. She stood proudly, feet widespread, outfitted as a king. “Were you bound for a long time? How did you find me?”

 

Links:

Hell Week 2017- Day 1 – Joe Bonadonna/Quasimodo

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Pirates in Hell cover

Name: Joe Bonadonna

Character Spotlight

About yourself:

*Who are/were you?   Tell us about your life before you came here, and after.

My name, it is Quasimodo. In life, I was once crowned Pope of Fools, for I was and still I am the most ugly and misshapen cathedral bell ringer of them all. The Hunchback of Notre Dame . . . that is who I was and what I am now and forever more. The story, as I was later to learn, is that I was born to a Gypsy tribe, deformed at birth as if possessed by the Devil. My parents switched me with a normal baby girl . . . the one and only Esmeralda, of whom you will know from that most famous novel written about me. Her own bereaved parents had me exorcised, and later they abandoned me, placing me on the Foundling’s Bed of the cathedral. There was I discovered by the Archdeacon himself, Claude Frollo, who raised me, gave me what little education I have and then, when I was old enough, appointed me to be the bell ringer of Notre Dame. I was his foundling, his slave, his whipping post, and his accomplice in many acts of a nefarious nature.

My life, such as it was on earth, was one of misery and hard labour, empty of joy and love and hope. And the pain I suffered, much physical pain, in spite of my great strength. But the bells which I loved so much . . . ah, the bells of my cherished Notre Dame . . . their voices made me deaf, which did much to further my alienation from the society. You see, I was shunned as a monster, a flesh and blood gargoyle, which is what I still am. In Hell it is, perhaps, a little better, for the sights one sees here and the things that exist in the nether regions make me look lovely by comparison.

There is a sculpture of me at the cathedral, on the exterior of the north transept along the Rue du Cloitre-Notre-Dame. I was found on and named after Quasimodo Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter. In Latin, my name means “almost the standard measure.” In other words, “almost human.” Most apropos, don’t you think?

* Why do YOU think you’re in Hell?

I do not think: I know exactly why I am here, in Hell. For my master Claude Frollo, Archdeacon of Notre Dame, I committed many sins and many crimes. But none were so bad as when I threw him to his death from the high places of my beloved cathedral.

Who are your friends/allies here?

Life is strange, the perfect example being that of how Esmeralda, with whom I was switched at birth, (almost a sister, you might say) . . . how she came back into my life so many, many years later. And that story, I am most certain, you know. But here, in Hell, the afterlife is, by far, more strange. Here I have many friends, namely Doctor Victor Frankenstein, the master I gladly and willingly serve. The fine creature he made of his own two hands and brought to life, Adam Frankenstein, is also my friend. And so are Galatea, his beloved; Mary Shelley, the author; the Hellywood actors Jean Harlow and Errol Flynn; Argus the shipbuilder, and so many, many more. I have searched and searched for my beloved Esmeralda but have never found her. It is my hope, it is my prayer that she is not in Hell, for she was no witch in life and was unjustly hanged.

Do you have any enemies here?

One does not exist in Hell without making at least one enemy. In my case, the enemies of Doctor Frankenstein are also my enemies, and for him I would risk even the mortuary of the Undertaker and all his tortures and torments. I love the mad doctor, you see — love him as a son loves his father, for he gave me a home at Goblin Manor, gave me work, and gave me his trust. His enemies, my enemies . . . he and I, or I alone, have dealt with them in one manner or another.

Pirates – is that a word you resent?

And why should I resent such a word I consider to be one of praise? Pirates often ruled their vessels in a most democratic fashion. They are neither prejudiced nor judgmental, and never have I known a bigot among them. But we, Doctor Frankenstein and I, along with our crew, did not sail from New Hell in order to commit the acts of piracy, per se. No, we sailed under the pretence of filming a movie about pirates. But in truth, we sailed in search of the Isle of the Damned and the secret passage out of Hell. We fought many a pirate on the way — airship buccaneers and submarine corsairs, not to mention monsters of land and sea few of us ever knew existed in Hell. Plus, we battled or tried to battle the unknown monster that haunted the Snark, our very fine ship, and preyed upon our crew. No, to me, being a pirate is a noble calling, and I, for one, would gladly sign on and go to sea again, with Doctor Frankenstein as my captain.

 

Author Spotlight

*Name and bio.

My name is Joe Bonadonna, formerly a musician and labourer, now retired and writing as much as I can. To date, I have published three novels: the heroic fantasy Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, published by iUniverse; the space opera Three Against the Stars, published by Airship 27 Productions; and the sword and sorcery pirate novel, Waters of Darkness, (in collaboration with David C. Smith), published by Damnation Books. For Perseid Press I have stories appearing in Heroika: Dragon Eaters; Poets in Hell, Doctors in Hell, and now Pirates in Hell. I have also written short stories for Griots: Sisters of the Spear (MVmedia); Sinbad: The New Voyages — Vol. 4 (Airship 27 Productions); and Azieran Presents: Artifacts and Relics — Extreme Sword and Sorcery, (Heathen Oracle).) At this time I am waiting to hear back from a publisher regarding my fourth novel, a sword and planet sequel to my Three Against the Stars; I have also submitted a short, space opera story to a new shared-world anthology. In addition, I do some editing on the side, and help out with the Blue Ribbon Arts Initiative, which provides art supplies, toys, games, and other things to children on the autism spectrum; this organization was founded by my friend, author Rebecca Miller and her brilliant, autistic son Max, also an author.

* Tell us about your story for this edition.

In the original Baen Books editions of the Heroes in Hell series, screenwriter/author Bill Kerby (The Rose, starring Bette Midler) created and wrote about the film industry in Hell. I’m a movie junky, especially the old Golden Age Hollywood movies, have some knowledge of the industry and have written 5 unsold screenplays. So Janet Morris, author, editor and series creator, suggested I resurrect the Hellywood film industry, even if it’s just for one story.

My story is called The Pirates of Penance. At heart it’s an old school, pulp-fiction adventure, but with all the tropes, pitfalls, horrors and irony that are unique to Hell. In this story I resurrect the film industry in Hell — or try to, at any rate. Basically, under the guise of filming a pirate movie in Hell, Doctor Frankenstein and Quasimodo, along with silver screen legends Errol Flynn, Jean Harlow, Douglas Fairbanks Senior and Douglas Fairbanks Junior, and a number of others, sail in search of the Isle of the Damned. This all occurs during a time of massive floods plaguing all the nether regions, and the island must be reached before the oceans swallow it up again. From the Isle of the Dead there is purported to be a cave that leads to Hades and up to an exit on Cape Matapan, an island off the coast of Greece. While Flynn is actually shooting a film he hopes to show to the world once they escape, the others are more concerned with escaping Hell. Of course, Hell being Hell, there are dangers and set-backs galore before they eventually reach the island, where things are not what they hoped they’d be, and the futility of their mission hits them with despairing realization.

 

What inspired you to use the character(s) you’ve chosen?

Well, when the project was first announced, I had just re-watched The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood, both starring Errol Flynn. The idea to use old, long dead film actors known for playing pirates in the movies — like Flynn, the two Fairbankses, Wallace Beery — and combine them with other historical figures, just seemed like a natural for me, especially because it allowed me to write another pirate adventure. The irony of Hell, the failure of one’s ambitions and projects in life as well as in the afterlife, plus the futility of lost souls, long dead and trying to escape infernity, as we call it, were all right there for the using. The tropes of Hell are amazing, the rules of the shared-universe liberating, rather than constricting. I was able to use those as to further the character studies amidst all the action, create new creatures, ideas, punishments and torments, and to play the ultimate joke on my cast and crew. I was also able to tie this into earlier stories of mine, adding to the overall arc to my characters, as well connect it to events that took place in Hell long before I came on board. It was a long and hard story to write, but also much fun and very rewarding for me, personally.

How did you become involved with this project?

About 4 years ago Janet Morris became aware of me through some articles I wrote for Black Gate online magazine and a review I wrote of Rogues in Hell. She sampled some of my own stories, and I guess she liked my style and, more importantly, my sensibilities, because she asked me to write for Hell. Having the right attitude, sensibility and feeling for Hell is very important, because Heroes in Hell, like Hell itself, is a very special, very extraordinary and unique series. The Pirates of Penance now marks my third appearance in the series. I also have one story in another Perseid Press publication, the heroic fantasy collection Heroika: Dragon Eaters.

What are you currently working on?

Mad Shadows II: The Return of Dorgo the Dowser; another story for Heroes in Hell; some editing for other authors, and hopefully, I’ll be involved in the publication of my fourth novel.

In these days of movies and video games are books really influential?

Not really, these days. I don’t read much because my time is spent writing and editing. I read in other genres from those in which I write, and I occasionally re-read classics of fantasy and science fiction . . . the books that originally inspired me. Very few post-modern films influence me. My best cinematic influences come from silent films and the Golden Age of Hollywood, between 1930 and 1950; it’s amazing what one can learn from the films made back then. I am not a gamer, so video games, computer games and such hold no interest for me. I played a lot of pinball and backgammon in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, so many I can find some inspiration in those.

EXCERPT from your story.

Fading in through a muck-stained window, crimson light illuminates the laboratory of Goblin Manor. Doctor Victor Frankenstein stands there, gazing into the distance as the rising waters of the Lake of Tears threaten to flood New Hell. Dressed in red-flannel shirt, blue pea coat, canvas trousers and heavy black boots, he feels safe and secure high above it all in the Golem Heights — as safe and secure as anyone can ever feel in hell. With the seas and oceans of hell merging, with the Flux causing the always unstable geography of hell to become even more unstable, he wonders if all infernity will soon be flooded.

Turning from the window, Victor makes his way through a maze of tables sagging under a sorcerer’s sanctum sanctorum of crucibles and alembics, and a variety of scientific implements and instruments. Walls of blood-red stone bristle with electrical panels, toggles and switches. A few sputtering torches, set in iron brackets, illuminate the laboratory but cannot chase away the shadows hanging near the vaulted ceiling. Victor’s collection of gizmos and gadgets are as silent as the grave in which his mortal remains lie buried.

Frankenstein reaches his desk, sits in his chair and skims through a pile of reports from Hades, Gehenna and all over infernity. Rivers such as the Styx and the Lethe have either overflowed their banks or gone bone dry. Shorelines in one circle of hell or another have fallen into the sea, while in other areas landmasses have risen where before had only been open water. Even the great Sea of Purgatory has receded to such an extent that islands now poke their crowns above the surface. After the torrents of plagues cast down upon the damned by Erra and his Seven, Sibitti sons-of-bitches, Victor suspects the self-righteous bastard and his brood are responsible for the oceans threatening to swallow everything and everyone whole.

But Victor isn’t worried. Victor doesn’t care.

Victor has a plan.

He dons a stocking cap to conceal his brain, visible through the wire mesh that replaces the top portion of his skull, which had been removed by the Undertaker. It is Victor’s very own brilliant but tortured brain inside the head and body once belonging to Adam, the creature he assembled from parts of dead bodies and to which he had given life. Their brains had been switched by Merlin the magician, as part of a prior business agreement.

Still floundering in a private sea of guilt and sorrow over the part his vaccine had played in obliterating thousands of damned souls, Victor wishes he could remember the formula for his serum. But all his notes were destroyed when his Crapple Slablet crashed and burned; Satan himself then stole the vaccine and made sure Victor could never tell another lost soul about it. Soon afterwards, scores of black-market versions of the vaccine were being sold all over hell under various generic names to damned fools seeking protection against the ravages of the plagues sweeping the underworld. If he had even one drop of his vaccine, Victor would administer it to himself and go gently into sweet obliteration, all sins expunged in past, present or future.

A ship’s bell rings three times, echoing loudly throughout his quiet laboratory. He turns in his chair as a trap door in the stone floor pops open. A thick length of rope shoots into the air like a stage magician’s prop, standing stiff and straight without attaching itself to anything. The whistling of a sea chantey announces the arrival of Quasimodo, who emerges from the opening in the floor, climbing the rope as nimbly as he once scaled the walls of Notre Dame.

“Ahoy, le Capitaine Docteur!” the hunchback said in his quaint French accent. He gave Victor a sharp salute. “I ask the autorisation to come aboard.”

“Who taught you the rope trick?” asked Victor, rising from his chair.

“Harry Houdini.”

Victor eyed his lab assistant with amusement. The hunchback sported white knickers, a flowery shirt open at the front, black shoes and a black Monmouth hat. He resembled Pip, from Moby Dick, although with his humped back he looked more a spawn of the infamous whale than the frail cabin boy. Victor noticed that Quasimodo’s clothes were dirty, torn and stained.

“It’s getting bad out there?” he asked.

Quasimodo gave a lopsided shrug. “No worse than it was when the plagues were raging, Docteur. Hell will forever be hellish, no?”

***

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