Hell Week 2017 – Day 6 – Janet Morris/Medea

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 – Day 4 – Michael H. Hanson/William Lauder

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.

he son of a U.S. Army Sergeant and a Nurse, Michael H. Hanson is a Poet who has penned and published four anthologies of his verse, ‘AUTUMN BLUSH,’ ‘JUBILANT WHISPERS,’ ‘DARK PARCHMENTS,’ and ‘WHEN THE NIGHT OWL SCREAMS,’ and is currently working on an illustrated collection of poems for children titled THE GREAT SOAP REBELLION, and a collection of science-fiction and fantasy poetry titled “ANDROID GIRL and Other Sentient Speculations.” Michael’s short stores have been published in the last seven anthologies in Janet Morris’s recently restarted Heroes-in-Hell shared-world. He is also the Creator of the shared-world, urban-fantasy Sha’Daa Series which currently consists of “SHA’DAA: TALES OF THE APOCALYPSE,” “SHA’DAA: LAST CALL,” “SHA’DAA: PAWNS,” “SHA’DAA: FACETS,” “SHA’DAA: INKED,” and the recently published “SHA’DAA: TOYS.” Michael has written and published over one hundred short stories in the sci-fi, horror, and fantasy genres across the past fourteen years.

*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

 

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

 

Pirates in Hell cover

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

 

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.

Pirates in Hell cover

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.

question-1-embryos

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.

question-2-montage-sea

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:

Review Carnelian Throne – Janet Morris – #Sci-fi #fantasy #dystopian

REVIEW #sci-fi #fantasy #dystopian #heroicfiction

Carnelian Throne

The fourth in Silistra Quartet does not disappoint. As ever the action starts immediately, with incredible creatures, fierce battles and searching of souls.  Our heroes are, by this time, ‘more than men (and women), and less than gods’ but in a land of largely bronze age people, ruled by creatures of ‘Wehrkind’ gods they appear.  And the locals aren’t impressed. In a quest for answers and revenge Sereth, Estri and Chayin must battle to free themselves from old rules, old beliefs, old prejudices and ghosts of their own pasts and emerge not only victorious but as rulers of this land. Ties of loyalty are truly tested, and the question of evolution, species selection and ranking is very much to the fore.

The Wehrdom creatures are fascinating – semi-telepathic creatures of all shapes and sizes, from eagle like creatures, to half man half beast, to those who just communicate with them. Led by a ‘dreaming’ king for a thousand years they wage war, they live, they die and they are manipulated in a kind of selective breeding or eugenic programme to remove the lesser (ie human) species and in ‘Wehr rage’ they are truly formidable.
As allies and enemies, these beings shape this story and this part of the world they inhabit. I found them worthy of pity (as pawns), frightening for their strangeness, enlightening for their intelligence and loyalty, and infinitely intriguing. They appealed to the mythic aspect I love so much in this author’s work.

Delcrit – the simple and lowly character we are introduced to early on – proves his worth and his destiny in a surprising twist.

The entire quartet brings forth questions on the wisdom of technology, the place in the world for the sexes, species, politics and laws. Biology is queen here, nature is queen, but the heroes must find their place among their own kind, and forge a future and protect their world from enemies many of which are of their own making.

The Silistra books are not simple, or easy to read but they are enthralling, exciting and thought-provoking. Silistra is dystopian – it is not Earth – but it COULD be. The characters are not us – but they COULD be.

As with all Morris’s work, the prose is very lyrical and very poetic. There is a beat to her work which pulls in the reader. No words are wasted, no scenes are out of place or unnecessary and thus it makes for a thrilling and evocative read.

There is treachery, love, bravery, intrigue, a lot of ‘fight or die’, complex characters and a supremely crafted world – everything one would expect in such a work.

Loose ends are firmly tied off, scores are settled and places allotted, and answers found.

5 stars.Layout 1

Dirty Dozen Character Interview – The Ghost – Fantasy

 

CHARACTER NAME: I’ve had so many names–Ahearn, Pandaros, Darhour, Sigurd . . . You can call me The Ghost. It will due.

Tell us a little about yourself. Which self do you mean? The son of a whore whose mother threw him out when he was a child? The royal stable groom who had an affair with the queen? The exile starving in the streets of a foreign land? The mercenary soldier fighting a war he never bothered to understand? The infamous assassin whose taken more lives than he can count? The king’s Master of the Horse? The chief bodyguard of the crown princess? The oath-breaker who is bound for hell? I’ve been too many people to know which is myself.

Do you have a moral code? If so what might it be? I had one once, but I’ve broken the vow I made at the goddess’s holy altar. If I’d do that, what wouldn’t I do?

Would you kill for those you love? I have, repeatedly, and I’d do so again without hesitation. You threaten my daughter, and you will learn how I earned the name, The Ghost.

Would you die for those you love? I’ve done that too. I ripped my heart out of chest when I left my daughter. I couldn’t risk corrupting her with my darkness or of anyone noticing a resemblance between us. If the court learned she is a bastard, it could cost her her throne or even her life. But without her, I might as well be dead.

How do you define ‘heroism?’ Heroism is a pretty word people use to justify killing others. As Phelix once taught me, whether you kill someone in battle or slit their throat while they sleep, dead is dead, and all end up in Hades together.

Tell us about your family? My mother sent me to her brother when I was seven because her latest man demanded she get rid of me. Whether my mother or any of my brothers and sisters are still alive, I don’t know. I don’t even know how many siblings I have. I went to visit my mother was I was fifteen, and she didn’t recognize me. I told her who I was, and she made it clear I wasn’t welcome and closed the door in my face. I haven’t heard from her since. Still, being sent to my uncle was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. Uncle Barris worked in the royal stables, and he not only took me in with no questions, he treated me like a son and taught me everything I know about horses. I loved him completely. He died when I was fifteen in an epidemic that swept through the capital. I still grieve his death, but I think it fortunately he didn’t live to see what I have become. The only relative that matters to me now is my daughter, the result of an affair with the queen, which caused my exile. My daughter is now queen of Korthlundia and has only recently discovered that the king wasn’t truly her father. For awhile, I served as the captain of her personal guard, but that couldn’t last. She is far too good of a person to be my daughter.

What is your greatest skill/asset? I think you’ve probably guessed by now. My skills as an assassin have made me infamous throughout the known world. I’m so good at getting into my victim’s rooms, some believe I can walk through walls. That’s why they called me, The Ghost. When I worked for the Saloynan king, it was known that if The Ghost was on your tail, it was time to start making funeral plans. I’ve never missed my target.

Do you believe in god(s)? How could I not? I accompanied my daughter to Sulis’s holy shrine on an island that cannot be found without the goddess’s blessing. I knelt there in the presence of Sulis’s holy priestess who knew every secret in my soul. My entire being shook with the Holy Mother’s presence as the priestess pronounced my daughter the goddess’s choice to rule Korthlundia even thought the king isn’t truly her father. Oh, yes, Sulis is the Mother of us all. But not even she can forgive what I’ve done.

What is your greatest fear? That someone will discover that instead of the king, I am Samantha’s father. I deserve anything bad that happens to me, but she must be safe.

What do you think of your author/creator? She’s cruel. But she better not treat my daughter in her next book like the way she treated me in this one, or she’ll wish I really was a ghost.

Do you believe in magic? That’s like asking if I believe in air. Magic is a part of this world. You can’t escape it.

Tell us about your greatest achievement. Fathering my daughter is the only good I’ve ever accomplished in the world. Samantha will be a wonderful queen, but that is only because I had no hand in her rearing.

For the author

Books in which this character appears:

The Goddess’s Choice and The Ghost in Exile

Links, short author bio…

My links:

Website: http://jamie-marchant.com/
Blog:  http://jamie-marchant.blogspot.com/
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jamie-Marchant-Author/164706710298768?ref=hl
Twitter: @RobrekSamantha
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5258855.Jamie_Marchant

Amazon

The Goddess’s Choice Links

Amazon Print

Kindle

Barnes and Noble Print

Nook

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14652563-the-goddess-s-choice

 

The Ghost in Exile

Amazon Print

Kindle

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32727154-the-ghost-in-exile

Bio

Jamie began writing stories about the man from Mars when she was six, and she never remembers wanting to be anything other than a writer. Everyone told her she needed a back up plan, so she pursued a Ph.D. in American literature, which she received in 1998. She started teaching writing and literature at Auburn University. One day in the midst of writing a piece of literary criticism, she realized she’d put her true passion on the backburner and neglected her muse. The literary article went into the trash, and she began the book that was to become The Goddess’s Choice, which was published in April 2012. Her other novels include The Soul Stone and The Ghost in Exile. In addition, she has published a novella, Demons in the Big Easy, and a collection of short stories, Blood Cursed and Other Tales of the Fantastic. Her short fiction has also appeared in the anthologies–Urban Fantasy and Of Dragons & Magic: Tales of the Lost Worlds—and in Bards & Sages, The World of Myth, A Writer’s Haven, and Short-story.me. She claims she writes about the fantastic . . . and the tortured soul. Her poor characters have hard lives. She lives in Auburn, Alabama, with her husband and four cats, which (or so she’s been told) officially makes her a cat lady. She still teaches writing and literature at Auburn University. She is the mother of a grown son.

 

 

Dirty Dozen – Author Interview – Andrew Weston – Fantasy

#Authorinterviews #fantasy #dirtydozen

For the first of the new format of interviews, I’m pleased to welcome back Andrew Weston.

Please tell us about your publications. I’m very happy to be with Perseid Press. In my relatively short time with them, I’ve managed to produce two trilogies. (Yes, I’m a bit of a workhorse driven by an unquenchable fire).
The first is a science-fiction saga – The IX series – detailing what really happened to the legendary lost 9th Legion of Rome who marched into the mists of Caledonia in circa 100AD and were never seen again.
That trilogy is comprised of, The IXExordium of TearsPrelude of Sorrow.

The other trio form a fantasy adventure following the exploits of Satan’s Reaper, Daemon Grim, and are incorporated within Janet Morris’ critically acclaimed Heroes in Hell universe.
So far, I’ve completed Hell BoundHell HoundsHell Gate.

In addition to the main novels, I also contribute short stories to that same Heroes in Hell universe. (Grim – Doctors in Hell, & Pieces of Hate – Pirates in Hell).
Although each short story is a complete tale within itself, they form part of – and actually leapfrog – the novels to ensure a level of continuity that adds a spicy tang to the characters and plot.

Are you a ‘pantser’ or a ‘plotter’? I’m a bit of an anomaly.

People familiar with my working process know I plan meticulously before I start writing. I’m a detailed world builder, moulding a depth of history and culture into the places I create so I have them at my fingertips, ready to call on when the need arises. I usually plan out where I’d like my story to start, and the route the plot will follow in order to reach my goal.
However, I have a vivid imagination. When I’m writing, I have all sorts of things bubbling away inside my head along with the actual work in progress. Sometimes, this triggers fresh ideas. I’ve learned to let those new eruptions take me where they will with delightful results. (Some major characters have lived or died on the basis of “going with the flow”).
That’s why I’m glad of my world building stage. I use it like a bank vault of plot points and extra details I can turn to if things need to change…with interest J

If you could have dinner with any literary character who would you choose, and what would you eat? Good question. I had to think long and hard on this.
If you’re going to spend time with a “familiar stranger” you’d want it to be someone who is as appealing as they are refreshing. Someone you could instantly relate to and have fun with, yet still be blown away by their quirkiness. That narrows the field down quite a bit.

So, I’d choose “Hatter,” from Alice’s Adventures Through the Looking Glass.
As for food, that’s easy.
We’d have to wet our appetites with an aperitif of tea,

Lots of it, strong and hot, both for Hatter and for me.

Then for starters, I think, Wonderland mushrooms would have to follow,

Though the risk involved, as you know, would be rather hard to swallow.

The main course would be simple, yet crafted to entice,

Poached Rabbit stuffed in its waistcoat, upon a bed of rice.

Extravagance would follow, for then we’d greet our sweet,

Unbirthday cake in layers bright, the perfect festive treat.

And what finer way to end this, very important date,

Than by sharing a final cup of tea with my crazy madcap mate.

hatter-disney-2

How do you deal with bad reviews? I read them whilst medicated in the off chance they might contain something constructive – as sometimes, they do – and then I use those little snippets to improve my writing.
Sadly, I usually end up having to drink gin until I’m intoxicated and morbidly depressed before crying myself to sleep on an absorbent pillow.

Sort these into order of importance: Good plot – Great characters – Awesome world-building – Technically perfect.
I would approach this exercise as if I intended to construct a wall.
My foundations would have to be in place first. That means the world building phase kicks everything off. Once you have something on which to work, you need a picture in your mind – or on paper – of the dimensions of the wall. I think that nicely describes your plot. Then you need the right materials. Queue your characters.
As for technical perfection? I know I’ll probably knock a few noses out of joint when I say this, but …I’ve read hardback copies by current world-renown – megabucks – authors from all 4 of the “big” houses and found them sprinkled with spelling, and in a few cases grammatical and constructive errors.
But, that’s just part and parcel of the editing process. Nobody will ever produce a perfect manuscript.
On a similar point, I’ve read some self published works that lacked proper editing. (And clearly so). In many cases, it made me grind my teeth. HOWEVER, there have been one or two instances where I’ve enjoyed the world, the plot and its characters so much I didn’t let the technical glitches spoil my enjoyment of a great story.

Push come to shove? Give me a choice between a good, technically perfect story and one I know is great – though littered with errors – I’d choose the one I’d enjoy most. I don’t get the chance to simply read for fun all that often, so I wouldn’t want to waste the opportunity.

How much research do you do for your work? What’s the wildest subject you’ve looked at? As my readers will be aware, I complete an absolute shedload of research before putting pen to paper. And it’s all topic-specific.
(Hot off the press. I’m already researching certain factual, scientific and esoteric aspects to a story I won’t be writing for another four years yet. What is it? Aha…you’ll see…)

And to the wildest subjects? That’s difficult to define, as it will be dependent on each person’s perspective. I’m not easily shocked, so it might be better just to list some of the subject I’ve dipped into for storylines:

I have delved into the rituals involved in demon possession and exorcism; sex rites of Incubi and Succubae worshipers; psychic, sexual and physical appetites of supernatural half-breeds such as Cambions.
I’ve also researched some of the world’s most notorious serial killers. By comparing their backgrounds, home environments and the external stimuli they were subjected to over time, I’ve learned something about the behavioural triggers that motivated them to act in the way they did, and how each one evolved their own respective modus operandi.
Not particularly wild, but diverting nonetheless.

How influential is storytelling to our culture? Sadly, I think it’s becoming less and less influential as the techno-age advances. Too many modern-day parents tend to leave things to gadgets when they should be giving their kids the most important, most essential thing required for their development: time.
That’s a great pity. I could read and write before I went to school, but that was down to Mom and Dad spending time with me.
Mom was the reader, she’d get my favourite books down off the shelf and we’d go through them together. But Dad was the master storyteller.
I grew up in a haunted house, and my parents soon realized that the spooky goings on didn’t faze me all that much. So, my Dad would make up the darkest, most macabre and twisted bedtime stories imaginable. I loved them!
The only downside to that is…I can’t watch horror films. They’re just too darn boring. I’ve only ever seen one thing that sent a little tingle along my spine.

If you could be any fantasy/mythical or legendary person/creature what would you be and why? The Silver Surfer.
When I’m awake, I try and turn strange dreams into reality, and my thoughts are often floating through the vastness of space, imagining what’s out there. When I’m asleep, I’m fishing for fresh ideas that come to me in a kaleidoscopic rush of warped details. But to be able to experience all that – and more – for real? To be able to roam the cosmos at will and witness every aspect of its grandeur in minute detail?
Yes please…I’ll be there, a fellow traveller cresting the next intergalactic wave on his journey into…?

silver-2

What is your writing space like? Think chaos space meets the results of an antimatter explosion, and you’ll be getting close. It sounds messy, and it is…But I know where everything is, so I don’t let my wife touch a thing.

What’s your next writing adventure? My next venture involves the completion of an “Author’s Cut” version of my debut novel and related works. I cringe when I look at them now, as my method has developed and matured into quite a distinctive writing style. I much prefer being able to express myself using rich and descriptive prose that paints a vivid tapestry of the world in which each story is set. Injecting my true voice into the Guardian and Cambion series will hopefully make these stories shine in the way I know they can.

What is the last book you’ve read? American Gods by Neil Gaiman,
I’m really taking to Gaiman’s writing. He’s so obviously quintessentially English that I can guarantee a good helping of afternoon tea and cucumber sandwiches with every portion of his work. And yet, he has a universal appeal that will engage just about anyone at every level of reading.
American Gods is superb, a road trip across the bridge spanning old world and new; a place where myth, legend, nightmares and dreams come together on a smorgasbord of dark and dreadful delight that will leave you as disturbed as you are fascinated. You think you know all there is to know about gods? Think again.
And how better to expose their double-dealing ways than by revealing the never-ending cycle that keeps them in power?
As I say, a great story into which Gaiman manages to inject his morbid, warped sense of humour. (My kinda guy).

How important is writing to you? I can honestly say, I get twitchy if I don’t write or do something creative every day. It’s the same when I go to bed, as I invariably start making up new stories and plotlines, only to go to sleep living them out.

Links:

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

Blog: http://andrewpweston.blogspot.gr/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/WestonAndrew

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/andrewpaul.weston

 

Bio:

Andrew P. Weston is Royal Marine and Police veteran from the UK who now lives on the beautiful Greek island of Kos with his wife, Annette, and their growing family of rescue cats.

An astronomy and law graduate, he is the creator of the international number one bestselling IX Series and Hell Bound, (A novel forming part of Janet Morris’ critically acclaimed Heroes in Hell shared universe). Andrew also has the privilege of being a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the British Fantasy Society, the British Science Fiction Association and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

When not writing, Andrew devotes some of his spare time to assisting NASA with one of their remote research projects, and writes educational articles for Astronaut.com and Amazing Stories.

 

Review – Wind from the Abyss – #Fantasy #Scifi Janet Morris

Review

5 stars

Wind from the Abyss – Book 3 of the Silistra Quartet – Janet Morris

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wind-Abyss-Silistra-Quartet-Book-ebook/dp/B01M5HSQX2/

The third book of the Silistra series is, perhaps, the most passionate, the most evocative and the most enthralling. This is a book about power, amongst many other things. The power of biology, of technology and the problems it can bring, the power over another, and the power over oneself.  Silistra is a supremely crafted world, apart from ours but terrifyingly familiar in many ways. It is, a could be – a might be, and the denizens thereupon are reflections of humanity.

Estri – our protagonist – is a shadow of what she was, and beholden to a man who is demigod, ruler and profit. He shapes his world and brooks no competition or threat. Estri, now little more than a slave, must find herself, and her past and future and use them to save herself and her world. Does she do it? You’ll have to read to find out. I’ll just say it’s a long and difficult journey, filled with sacrifice.

You’ll quickly be entranced by the world and its characters, and although it helps to have read the earlier books, even without that it’s a tumultuous journey. This is not for the faint of heart, nor those who want an ‘easy’ read. It’s cerebral, lyrical and evocative. You have been warned.

The Somme 100

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http://www.cliparthut.com/transparent-poppy-field-clipart-MpS2j2.html

I meant to post this yesterday.

The Somme -100

July 1-November 18 1916

The Somme, Picardy, France.

One hundred years ago, on 1st July 1916 the ‘Bloodiest day in the history of the British Army’ began.  The Battle of the Somme – France. The allies of France, Britain and Russia had been at war with Germany/Austro-Hungary for two years but this particular Offensive was the bloodiest yet.  The First World War has been called ‘The War to End All Wars’ – but alas it was not to be so. It was the greatest loss of human life in battle until that date.

Britain and France commemorate the site and the battlefield, but many other countries, including the US, know little of this region and its blood-soaked history.  So why was it so awful?

“The Battle of the Somme was fought at such terrible cost that it has come to symbolise the tragic futility of the First World War. Its first day of conflict remains the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army and it was felt deeply at home.”

http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/remembrance/ww1-centenary/somme-100

F Scott Fitzgerald  describes it poignantly, “This land here cost twenty lives a foot that summer….. See that little stream – we could walk to it in two minutes. It took the British a month to walk to it – a whole empire walking very slowly, dying in front and pushing forward behind. And another empire walked very slowly backwards a few inches a day, leaving the dead like a million bloody rugs.” (Tender is the Night – F Scott Fitzgerald – Chapter 13)

Young men from all walks of life fought, and died that summer. Pals brigades, boys of 14 who had lied about their age, father, brothers, sons, husbands, friends. Death took them without favour. The Grim reaper cares not for ties of family or friendship, and his scythe was busy indeed.

Over 400000 men died in just six miles, and over a million in that battle alone. In the first DAY 19240 men fell in that field. 19420. That’s over twenty men a minute! That is incredible.  And so terribly tragic.

‘The official number of British dead, missing or wounded during that period is 419, 654. There were 72,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who died at the Somme with no known graves and whose names are recorded on the British memorial at Thiepval.’

Including Allied soldiers over 600000 died, and half a million Germans.

51 Victoria Crosses were awarded for gallantry. 9 in the first day.

Read more about these men here: http://www.hellfirecorner.co.uk/9vcs.htm

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

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/ten-facts-about-the-battle-of-the-somme/

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

It was believed the weight of the shelling in the week before would reduce the German lines and destroy them before the British even got there. It was a terrible miscalculation. The British shells were not well made, and could not get into the deep German bunkers. The average soldier had to carry 30kg of kit. Many had not seen battle before and were not professional soldiers. They were ordinary men in an extraordinary situation. 90% of a Canadian Battalion died on the first day. 90%.

From Wiki

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

‘The first day on the Somme began 141 days of the Battle of the Somme and the opening day of the Battle of Albert. The attack was made by five divisions of the French Sixth Army either side of the Somme, eleven British divisions of the Fourth Army north of the Somme to Serre and two divisions of the Third Army opposite Gommecourt, against the German Second Army of General Fritz von Below. The German defence south of the Albert–Bapaume road mostly collapsed and the French had “complete success” on both banks of the Somme, as did the British from the army boundary at Maricourt to the Albert–Bapaume road. On the south bank the German defence was made incapable of resisting another attack and a substantial retreat began; on the north bank the abandonment of Fricourt was ordered. The defenders on the commanding ground north of the road inflicted a huge defeat on the British infantry, who had an unprecedented number of casualties. Several truces were negotiated, to recover wounded from no man’s land north of the road. The Fourth Army took 57,470 casualties, of which 19,240 men were killed, the French Sixth Army had 1,590 casualties and the German 2nd Army had 10,000–12,000 losses.[21]

At Thiepval memorial site miles of pristine white headstones (British/Commonwealth) and wooden crosses (French) fill the area around and the fields themselves are filled with shell -holes, and replica trenches.  There is a cemetery in that region with graves as far as the eye can see. And these were just the graves of the men they FOUND.  The memorial itself is the most tragically beautiful thing I have ever seen. I was 16 when I visited that region on a school trip and I can honestly say that I will never forget it. Some of those soldiers were no older than I was then. And they didn’t return.   It’s an astonishing place. I remember – we went in winter and it was snowing, bloody cold but we all stood in the snow and just stared that this could have happened. Thiepval commemorates 72ooo men whose bodies were never recovered but lost their lives in 141 days of hell. That’s three times larger than the population of the town I was raised in. More than the current population of British towns such as Shrewsbury, Aylesbury, Crewe, Tunbridge Wells, and many more. It’s more than the total population of Greenland, and twice the population of Leichenstein. That is ONE memorial. Teenage boys, who like to be seen as tough stood weeping silently.  I think every British child should visit that site. It’s something that will stay with you.

http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/community/calendar/ww1-centenary/somme-centenary-thiepval?gclid=CjwKEAjwzN27BRDFn9aAwLmH2yISJABWuEXcoqcamtNIimT-zQxpEqeSriM71ypmXG0M6phB3pmdexoC9K3w_wcB

This year the Royal British Legion are producing poppy pin badges from shell metal actually found in the battlefield. One for every person who died. I am proud to own one – mine commemorates Lance Corporal William Dengate – London Regiment (Queen Victoria’s Rifle – service number 3408.) He died on 1 July 1916. He was from Clapham, in London. He was likely awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk

See his profile here http://www.londonwarmemorial.co.uk/view_profile.php?id=29078&limit=20&offset=0&sort=%20ORDER%20BY%20strSurname%20ASC&a=Lived/Born%20In&f=First%20Name&s=Dengate&r=Rank&u=Unit&b=&d=Date%20Of%20Death#sthash.NfGszhAd.dpbs

So far that’s all I have managed to find out about him, but I’ll keep searching. Who was he? What did he do for a living? What was his age? Was he some one’s husband? Was he someone’s father, or brother.

The Somme Offensive was, eventually, a strategic success – the Germans were damaged and it was one of the factors which brought the USA into the war. And the British began to use tanks from September 1916 – modern warfare was born. It relieved the pressure of the French and Verdun and many argue it was a pivotal battle – but at such a cost.

 

Remembering the Great War – because the War to End all War didn’t.transparent-poppy-field-1621248

Review – Golden Sword – Janet Morris

The Golden Sword – Janet Morris

5 stars

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Golden-Sword-Silistra-Quartet/dp/0996898271/ (UK link)

https://www.amazon.com/Golden-Sword-Silistra-Quartet/dp/0996898271/ (US Link)

Let me start by saying this is the SECOND book in the SIlistra Quartet – and it helps to have read the earlier book, although I think you could get by without it.

The action starts immediately, and thus some prior knowledge of the world and the main character is useful. That said The world building, like Janet Morris’s other books is superb and there is a helpful glossary at the back for the unfamiliar alien terms. When Morris creates a world she doesn’t hold back and this darkly sensual book ticks all the boxes for drama, cleverness and the ability to make the reader think. What is duty? What is love and how does it bind a person. Is sex merely pleasure or is there something far more profound in our genetic and cultural identity – and for that matter how fixed is it? Silistra is a world once ravaged by a war and environmental damage which almost destroyed everything – greed, vanity, selfishness and all the dark deeds of which an ‘intelligent’ society is capable. From these ashes rise the Wells and the alien but hauntingly possible culture of this world.

Silistra is a world where the ability to reproduce is perhaps the most important aspect – as wars and a bloody history almost destroyed the races. Thus sex, and the relationships between men and women, the way their society sees them, is important. And women ofter hold the power.  Yet it isn’t that simple (these things rarely are), for the various factions fight between themselves, try to hold the more technologically advanced races at bay, and seek to find themselves.  Love of those simply not worthy of it by the rational mind and of the call of one person’s allure to another.  The role of men and women, master or mistress and subordinate, of slave and free, of tribe and tribe, city and city, Silistrian and environment are woven about a tale of one woman’s quest to find out who she is and not necessarily liking the answer.

The secret of the Silistran longevity is threatened, and with it the Silistran way of life and all they hold dear. This is more than just Estri’s own fight for survival as allies and enemies duel, intrigue and switch allegiances.  Secrets are revealed, bargains struck and betrayed and threats loom from the stars without, the people within and the treachery of one’s own fear.

It’s not a book for those looking for a simple adventure, or a happy ever after. It’s not a love story, and it’s not a story for those who are easily offended. But it is a great story. There is sex, violence, betrayal, blood, death, loss, love, hatred, fear, power struggles and people being really quite shitty to one another, and in this I found a reflection of ourselves – our world as could be, and might well be. This is a book which makes one’s blood sing and one’s mind ponder.

I loved the first in the series and enjoyed this as much, perhaps more. The ending leaves the reader desperate to know what happens to Estri next – courtesan, slave, warrior, lover, rebel.  What is next for our heroine?