Heroika Skirmishers Interviews – Travis Ludvigson and His Character

Author section

  • Name: Travis Ludvigson

 

  • Give us a brief synopsis of your story Nithing (an Old Norse term for a coward, an outcast or a man without honor), is a tale of betrayal and redemption set in the later part of what is known as the Viking Age. Grimolf is a warrior driven from his home, harried by those who would take his life and with it earn glory and riches. An opportunity to change his fate arrives and he must choose which path to follow.

 

  • Why did you choose that time period/group of people to write about? The Norse are a fascinating people made up of fighters, farmers, craftsman and seafarers. Their influence reached throughout much of the known world at the time, and can still be seen today. Additionally, they were a group of men and women who represented strength in the face of adversity and a fierce devotion to that which they loved.

 

  • How would you define a Skirmisher? A Skirmisher is a fighter who engages in smaller battles where hit and run tactics can be used. They can serve as scouts to collect intelligence, and can also serve as a small, quick reaction force that can be used to harry the enemy and keep them unbalanced. A Skirmisher is a fast, smart, efficient fighter who knows how to hit the enemy hard before they can properly react.

 

  • What are the challenges in writing historical fiction/fantasy? Ensuring that there is accuracy in the depiction of time and place of the story. I always take the time to do good research of the terrain, animals, names of both people and places, historical events and other details to be as true to the history as I can. However, I am also writing fiction, so I take some liberties to change a few things to better fit the story. You just have to find a good balance so you don’t destroy the vision you have created for the reader.

 

  • What is your writing space like? It is a cold, dark cave located well below ground, wherein I am surrounded on all sides by books; the ether filled with the collective murmuring of millions of voices and stories. Directly to my left sit Huginn and Munin (Thought and Memory) to provide inspiration. A mirror hangs in front of me so that I can look into my own eyes and try to discern whether the thoughts that are coalescing within are worthy of the story. And there is typically a dog or cat lounging somewhere nearby, just waiting for the chance to divert my attention to them.

 

  • If you could invite anyone from history or literature to dinner who would you choose and why? Man, there are so many it is really hard to narrow this down. If I had to choose one person from history, I suppose it would have to be Marcus Aurelius. He was a warrior, a statesman and a philosopher and would be a great dinner companion. Then afterwards, maybe he would be agreeable to sparring and could give me some pointers on using the gladius.

 

Character Section

1)Name: Grimolf

2)Tell us a bit about yourself. I don’t really like to talk. I enjoy fighting and drinking. In fact, I believe I will pour another right now.

3)Are you brave? I don’t fear anything or anyone, but I don’t know if its bravery or not.

4) Do you believe in a god? There are many gods and goddesses: Odin, Tyr, Thor, Frey, Freya, Sif and the other Aesir and Vanir.

5)Do you love anyone? Do you hate anyone? I did love someone deeply, but she betrayed me. And I hate the man who was my Jarl, that black-hearted coward is the one who took my whole life from me. One day I will introduce my axe to his head and settle the matter.

6) What do you REALLY think of your author? Well, he knows how to fight, and I can respect that.

AUTHOR BIO (short)

Travis Ludvigson is an author of urban, historic and supernatural fiction. He served with honor in U.S. Air Force Intelligence, tested his fighting prowess in a Muay Thai championship in Asia and is fiercely proud of his Norse heritage. He loves reading, spending time with his feisty wife and brilliant son, and playing with their giant mastiff and tough little bulldog.

Author website/blog:

http://norseman73.wix.com/land-of-the-norseman

Twitter:

@TravisLudvigson

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/travisludvigsonauthor

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4272358.Travis_Ludvigson

Amazon page:

http://www.amazon.com/Travis-Ludvigson/e/B00BNASEIG/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1430185761&sr=8-1

Heroika 2 1.2 FINAL JPG

Heroika: Skirmishers

Conflict is a constant. When force on force is inevitable only the intrepid need come forth. Summon the Skirmishers to their eternal purpose, to face a foe who must be opposed at all cost. Gird yourself and join the brotherhood of ‘do or die.’ HEROIKA: SKIRMISHERS is an anthology of desperate struggles in far flung time-scapes, the age-old smell of battle and death. SKIRMISHERS –Tales for the bold among you!

https://www.amazon.com/Heroika-Skirmishers-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B085N7XZLZ/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Heroika-Skirmishers-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B085N7XZLZ/

 

 

 

Dirty Dozen Author Interview – Judith Starkson #Histfic #Hittites #Meetanauthor

Author Name: Judith Starkston

  1. *Please tell us about your publications.

I’m the author of three books of historical fantasy based on the Bronze Age Hittites—an empire of the ancient Near East nearly buried by the sands of time. My books take “a quarter turn to the fantastic,” to borrow Guy Gavriel Kay’s phrase, and give full expression to the magical religious beliefs of these historical people. My first book, Hand of Fire, is set in the Trojan War and told from a woman’s viewpoint, Briseis, Achilles’ captive. Currently, I’m writing a historical fantasy series based on a Hittite queen. The first book in that series Priestess of Ishana is available FREE Oct 2-6. The second book, Sorcery in Alpara, launches Oct 14.

  1. What first prompted you to publish your work?

When I was researching my first book and figuring out the Trojans, I made a startling side discovery—a queen I’d never heard of who ruled for decades over an empire I’d barely heard of, despite my training and degrees as a classicist. It was the Hittite empire, of which, it turns out, Troy was a part. The queen was Puduhepa (whom I call Tesha in my fiction–the Hittite word for “dream” because she had visionary dreams). I’m particularly interested in the theme of women as leaders, so I was hooked. The Hittite empire could be called the forgotten empire, but fortunately, recent archaeology and the decipherment and translation of many thousands of clay tablets have filled in parts of the lost history. We now have many Hittite letters, prayers, judicial decrees, treaties, religious rites and a variety of other documents, but overall our knowledge still has huge gaps in it. I use shifted names in my series, such as Hitolia for the Hittite empire, to cue my readers to how much I have to fill in imaginatively from those fragmentary records. It also gives fair warning to the magic that I give free rein to, the rules of which derive from Hittite practices, but I do let the story go where a good story should and that means a lot of fantasy. It was that juicy primary source material, an extraordinary female ruler, and an intriguing ancient world that prompted me to write Priestess of Ishana and Sorcery in Alpara.

  1. Are you a ‘pantser’ or a ‘plotter’?

I outline my novels in a couple different ways before I start writing, but those outlines are subject to change whenever the story and characters take me into new realms I hadn’t imagined at the start.

I use a couple approaches to outlining and organizing my manuscripts. One is very character/theme/pacing driven, Libbie Hawker’s book Take Your Pants Off. The other, very plot and pacing driven, is a storyboarding technique that means I’ve got each of my books laid out on a three-sided board like we used for our school science projects. It’s explained in Alexandra Sokoloff’s Screenwriting Tricks for Authors. You’ll notice in both the word “pacing.” I found as I learned the craft that pacing was both the hardest part to get right and the most essential. If readers aren’t compulsively drawn through my story, it doesn’t matter how beautiful my writing is and all the rest (though I work hard to get all that nailed). A good story is hard to put down—that’s something we all intuitively know. The corollary is that if a story is hard to get through, it isn’t very good!

  1. What piece of advice do you wish you’d had when you started your publishing journey?

Write at least a little bit every day and give yourself permission to write “bad words.” What do I mean by that? Just write and don’t worry whether it’s crap or not. Later you can go back and edit or trash if need be. I find that it is often the days when I think I’m writing the worst that I discover on later read, I’ve written some of my best. And you can only fix words that are actually on the page.

  1. If you could have dinner with any literary character who would you choose, and what would you eat.

I’ve never gotten over my fascination with Achilles in the Iliad. He’s maybe legendary rather than literary, but I’d like to sit down and listen to him (probably admire his physique also…). He’d probably want lamb roasted on spits spiced with garlic and cumin, and I love that also, so I’ll go with that. Some fresh flatbread right off the hot stones to go along with it!

  1. What are your views on authors offering free books? Do you believe, as some do, that it demeans an author and his or her work?

I’m using this technique—offering free my first book in the series, Priestess of Ishana, from Oct 2-6. I’m doing it right before the second book comes out, so I’ll see buy through and get paid that way. I think it’s a viable marketing strategy. I don’t think reaching new readers is demeaning. It’s what you do as an author, and putting books into people’s hands seems like a good thing overall. If I was expected to give away books for free all the time, that would be silly. But accessing a lot of new readers I wouldn’t have any other way? That sounds smart to me. So do download a copy of Priestess of Ishana, and then if you really enjoy it, buy Sorcery in Alpara.

  1. What are your views on authors commenting on reviews?

I spread the word when I get a particularly strong review, especially from someone I really respect. When someone writes a bad review, I see no reason to react one way or the other, certainly not comment on it. I let my fiction, my author notes, all the background material on my website speak for itself when someone has a wrongheaded idea in a review. Reality has a way of coming through over time, so I don’t sweat it. If someone points out a perceptive way to improve in a review, I go to work in my next book and make sure I fix that. I’m happy to learn from all sources.

  1. How much research do you do for your work? What’s the wildest subject you’ve looked at?

I have gone deep into the research, both the book/reading part (years of that) and the travel. I’ve gone to the archaeological sites, landscapes, and museum collections in Turkey that are the source material for my world-building. I contact the dig directors and museum curators so that I can talk with them and learn first-hand from the people who really know. I spent a whole day at the site that we think was Tesha’s hometown that I call Lawaza, but was called Lawazantiya by the Hittites. It’s the archaeological site of Tatarli near the city of Adana in Turkey. The key reason they think it’s her hometown is that the dig mound (with Bronze Age ruins of the right kind) is surrounded by seven springs. The Hittite records from the capital of the empire describe this town as having seven springs. The dig director took me to each of the springs–one of them appears in a key scene in Priestess of Ishana and I could never have gotten the atmospherics of that scene right if I hadn’t been there. One of the wildest subjects I’ve run across is the Hittite magical rite to remove a curse that I use in Priestess of Ishana. It involves chickpeas. Who knew that the way to get the demons out was via garbanzo beans? The Hittites were obsessed with curses and they believed sorcerers caused all kinds of evil with them. If you had to remove a curse from someone, you baked a loaf of bread with chickpea paste in the middle (basically humus) so that when you touched the bread to the cursed body while saying the right spell, the paste would absorb the pollution. I couldn’t make up this stuff in a million years, but the Hittite culture hands it to me. I just have to write it into compelling page-turners.

  1. If you could be any fantasy/mythical or legendary person/creature what would you be and why?

I’m having a lot of fun writing griffins into my series, so I’ll choose that mythical creature to be. It turned out, much to my surprise as I wrote, that griffins, or at least the ones in my books, have a very dry sense of humor. And they are wickedly good warriors and can soar into the heavens, and yet they have a big soft spot for their cubs who are allowed to climb all over the grownups, so I suspect hanging out as a griffin for a while could be very entertaining.

  1. What is your writing space like?

I’m very lucky and have a big window in front of my workspace that looks out on my garden. I write on a lovely inlaid wooden writing table with a comfortable armchair. So I’m all set to keep my butt in that seat for a good stretch every day.

  1. Is there a message in your books?

My fictional Tesha, based on the historic Queen Puduhepa, provides a worthy model for leadership—particularly the value of female leaders, which we’ve been thinking about lately, so this seems timely. She certainly wasn’t perfect, and some of her actions are hotly debated among historians as possibly self-serving or politically motivated rather than ethically driven. She gave me nuanced material to work into my hero’s character. But, despite that human complexity, or perhaps because of it, she had brilliant skills as queen in many areas: diplomatic, judicial, religious and familial. Most famously, she corralled Pharaoh Ramses II of Egypt into a lasting peace treaty. The surviving letters to Ramses reveal a subtle diplomat with a tough but gracious core that made her able to stand up to the arrogant Pharaoh without giving offense. She also took judicial positions that went against her own citizens when the truth wasn’t on their side. Fair justice wasn’t something she was willing to toss overboard when it was politically inconvenient. Her equal partnership with her husband was a much-admired model even in the patriarchal world of the ancient Near East. I’m enjoying working in these themes from a real woman into my historical fantasy series, one book at a time.

  1. How important is writing to you?

I love the long hours at my desk spent lost in the world that I write and in the company of my characters. I enjoy it every day. It’s my fulltime occupation.

Links

Newsletter sign up (for a free short story and book deals): https://www.judithstarkston.com/sign-up-for-my-author-newsletter-for-books-news-special-offers-and-freebies/

Website  https://www.judithstarkston.com/

Priestess of Ishana  https://amzn.to/2DXpdXt

Sorcery in Alpara  https://amzn.to/319vuIj

Hand of Fire  https://amzn.to/2KOb6a0

 

Bio

Judith Starkston has spent too much time reading about and exploring the remains of the ancient worlds of the Greeks and Hittites. Early on she went so far as to get degrees in Classics from the University of California, Santa Cruz and Cornell. She loves myths and telling stories. This has gotten more and more out of hand. Her solution: to write historical fantasy set in the Bronze Age. Hand of Fire was a semi-finalist for the M.M. Bennett’s Award for Historical Fiction. Priestess of Ishana won the San Diego State University Conference Choice Award.

 

Reviews 2018 – The Hinge Factor – Erik Durschmied – History/Military History

Amazon UK link The Hinge Factor: How Chance and Stupidity Have Changed History  

Amazon.com link The Hinge Factor

From the wooden horse at Troy to a harrowing photograph snapped in Vietnam, from Robert E. Lee’s lost battle plans to the evacuation of Dunkirk, world history has been shaped as much by chance and error as by courage and heroism. Time and again, invincible armies fall to weaker opponents in the face of impossible odds, when the outcome had seemed a foregone conclusion. How and why does this happen? What is it that decides the fate of battle?

The Hinge Factor is an instructive, fascinating look at how the unpredictable, the absurd, and the bizarre have shaped the face of history in war.

5 Stars.

What is the ‘hinge factor’? Basically, it is the pivotal event that led to a particular outcome of battle – from generals despising each other and not coming to one another’s aid, to the weather, to misunderstood orders, to a war-journalist capturing an iconic shot – which turned a nation against a war. It’s a ‘what if’.  What if it hadn’t rained at Agincourt? What is it had been cloudy when the Enola Gay dropped the bomb? What if the Trojans hadn’t fallen for the ruse of the Wooden Horse? In many cases, the outcome and possibly history itself would be very different.

The accounts are fairly lengthy but taken from reliable sources (relatively). Yet each and every one reads like a tale of heroes, courage and, often, sheer bloody stupidity. The author is a correspondent – and it shows. He knows his stuff, and he knows what makes a good story and what is important. (check out his Wikipage Erik Durschmied). 

The Vietnam account is actually the author’s own account of what happened in those terrible years, and how news coverage changed the tide of that particular conflict.

The accounts make one wonder how many lives would have not been lost if only the General’s hadn’t behaved like morons, if only it had been cloudy, or hadn’t rained, or the retreating soldiers had spiked their own guns.  I found it quite a moving book – history does indeed repeat itself first as tragedy and then as farce (Karl Marx).

The account I found most interesting was the Berlin Wall. I remember seeing that on TV – something many people would never believe could happen. Within a few hours the tide that had been building suddenly erupted and flowed inexorably towards freedom for East Germany (as it was then). It was the only revolution and ‘battle’ in history where no blood was shed. But what if the border guards had started firing at the crowds? What if the orders had come to stop the tide of humanity? There would have been a bloodbath.

As usual, I am meandering into history, so back to the book.  It’s well written, well researched, thought-provoking and a must for lovers of history, fate and military history.

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

I, the Sun – reblog – History Rocks

I love this book. Exceptionally well written, with accounts of a remarkable and interesting man, and a little known period of history.audio-sun If you like ancient history this is a must-read.

https://historyrocks.us/2017/02/19/i-the-sun/

Author Interview 117 – E. H. Howard Fantasy

Welcome to EH Howard, (Pen name of Eric Tomlinson.)  

Where are you from and where do you live now? Born and raised in Manchester in England. As possibly the oldest geek in captivity, my work has taken me to many places in Europe and the USA, but currently I split my time between Cheshire and Wales. I’d love to one day escape to a Greek Island, but at the moment life keeps me around the UK.

Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. I write about dragons, swords and magic. My heroes wander castles, caves and deserts. Therefore it would be considered ‘high fantasy’, but I hate the term. I do love to write short stories when I give myself the chance. At the end of each writing cycle, I try to enter a couple of short / flash fiction competitions to sharpen my style. My style is definitely high speed, rather than the turgid flow of most fantasy.

Do you have a favourite character? If so why? In my first Amara book I created a side character, Stella. She was a ‘foil’ for the main character to play off and to add contrast. It was my editor who started to cheer every time she appeared. As the writing progressed her part in the story grew. In book two, she is still a secondary character as the mother of the hero, but still a fabulous creation. When I asked John (my editor) what was great about her, his first reaction was ‘She has great boobs and no morals.’  I’m pretty certain I’d never dwelt on her figure, but he had an unshakeable image in his head. Actually, I think she has morals, they just don’t always align to what might be expected.

I enjoyed writing her because she is a ‘force of nature’ she doesn’t have to engage in the self- examination of the main character.

Are your characters based on real people? I guess a lot of my characters are either me or my wife. Not always identifiable by the gender. I once wrote a parody of fantasy fiction where I based all of the characters on friends and acquaintances. I did wonder if anybody would identify themselves, but as it never reached first base in the publishing cycle I guess I’ll never know. The heroes were a dark haired male barbarian and a blonde, efficient female warrior. Yep, me and her again!

Is there a message conveyed within your writing?  Do you feel this is important in a book? At school I hated when the teacher asked us to identify and discuss the themes in a story. Only when I started writing many years later did I see how this worked. The Amara stories scream a couple of my ‘truths’: Gender, race and orientation are no measure of a person’s worth. I have a lot of female friends and my soapbox is the increase in reverse sexism prevalent in certain circles.

My other theme is that relationships aren’t just about sex. It’s awful that most children will now view porn before they have a clue what a relationship is about.

Why is a theme important? For me, it helps in the creation and editing. Sometimes I write entire sections and then delete them because they don’t fit with the central theme of the story. I believe it helps me to stay focused on where I am taking my main characters.

In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason? E-Book is the most normal format for my writing. They are available in paperback. I’ve considered other formats, but at the moment, I don’t want to distract from finishing the “Shudalandia Series.” Once the final book is out, I will take a little time to promote and increase the reach through alternative formats.

Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? My editor, John Hudspith, is my Higher Power. If he says cut, I cut, if he says more, I write more. I get a story as far as I can and then let John take it to the next level. He has been known to throw out the whole thing. The reason for a story, for me, is to entertain, not lecture. I might have a theme, but it mustn’t clog up the story telling process. People read to escape and that has to be the primary objective. I might know where I am going, but my editor will get me to rephrase, explain more, or simply cut out, to shape the final product. The reader has to immerse and stay immersed, not be jogged out of the fantasy by a jarring sequence.

Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be? Typically it takes me two years to take a book through to finished standard. I’ve seen self-published authors who bang out a book a month; typos and inconsistencies abound, but they then have the cheek to claim as a self-published author they can’t afford to pay for editing.

I mix with a group of indie authors who take more pride in their output than any trad publishing house achieves these days.

Do you read work by self-published authors? I read anything that works for me. I rarely consider how the work has been published. I do get seriously annoyed when I pay a high price for an ebook from the trad world and it is full of errors a spell checker would have fixed. I don’t think trad publishers have caught on to ebook publishing.

What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? How important are reviews? Although tempting, I’d never respond to a review comment. A person buys, they read and occasionally comment. There’s one comment on the Amara books that states, they consider themselves the wrong age, wrong gender and wrong nature for the book, they don’t read the genre and they don’t like sex in books. At this point, I’d consider them unqualified to comment, but they went on to give a one star review. I wanted to rant and rave, but what the heck. All five star reviews appears silly anyway.

When buying a book do you read the reviews? If I haven’t read the author before I will scan the reviews. If I dislike a book by an author I usually like, I go back and see if I am the only one, or if others are having difficulty with it.

What are your views on authors reviewing other authors? Authors are usually readers. As long as they have genuinely read the book, why shouldn’t they comment. I’m more concerned when a book is launched and immediately acquires a couple of hundred five star reviews. That smacks of collusion, or simply buying reviews.

Book links, website/blog and author links:

Free on Thursday 29th September

Amara’s Legacy: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Amaras-Legacy-Shudalandia-Book-2-ebook/dp/B018GVPBBW/

Amara’s Daughter : http://www.amazon.co.uk/Amaras-Daughter-Shudalandia-Book-1-Howard-ebook/dp/B00DBCPVKI/

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

Website: www.shudalandia.co.uk

Review – The Forty Minute War – Sci-fi/Thriller

The Forty Minute War

Janet and Chris Morris.

http://www.amazon.com/FORTY-MINUTE-WAR-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B016QNZV26/

 

Although first written in the mid 1980s, and set during the height of the Cold War the Forty Minute War could be set anytime from the advent of the atomic bomb to the present day.  The enemies may have changed but warfare, and its terrible consequences has not. Right from the get-go the action is intense, enthralling, but at the same time heart breaking. This is a story of human folly, human stubbornness, and human desperation. It’s also a story of human courage. Expect a high death count, expect tears and disbelief, expect emotion. The reader quickly gets attached to the characters – especially Marc and Chris, but also Marc’s ops team. They are all skilled in the field but also flawed – they are above all people desperately trying to right a wrong and save what remains of the world even though they know it will likely mean their death.  I admit I shed more than one tear during the read and ended up really wanting to know what happened next. Without wanting to give any spoilers the ending is a surprise but leave questions unanswered. Questions such as if not then, when is it going to happen?

As usual Janet and Chris Morris create a world that is so real, and characters which become friends (or enemies).  Well researched and superbly written the novel takes the reader to the darkest place of the human soul, and then back again with a frighteningly believable plot. There are elements of dark humour, of love against impossible odds, of daring to hope when hope is gone. Aside from being a breath taking adventure it’s a story about the unquenchable human spirit to survive.

Most definitely 5 stars – I couldn’t put this down.

Back into Hell – Hell Week 2015 – John Milton

The Jack O’Lanterns are carved, and the marshmallows are toasting over the hellfires. Pull up a pitchfork and join me once more in the devilish domain of His Satanic Majestic.

Characters and authors aplenty for your infernal entertainment.

Character Spotlight: John Milton

About yourself: I am the author of Paradise Lost, the English epic in blank verse, and other reflections on life and immortality, including Areopagitica, a blow stuck against pre-publication censorship. Free speech and freedom of the press were my passions while alive.

*Who are/were you? A poet, a revolutionary, a sentry guarding the gates that kept ignorance at bay. Samuel Johnson called me an acrimonious and surly Republican. Perhaps. I did fight with my tutors, who felt need to tame my mind’s adventurism, put caution in my heart. Caution has no part in an honest heart. I was born in 1608. I was eight years old when Shakespeare died. In 1660 I hid from the restoration lackies, avoiding a warrant calling for my life and the burning of all my works. In 1674 I died, blind and destitute, of kidney failure – to escape such pain, I welcomed death.

*Why do YOU think you’re in Hell? Paradise Lost brought me to Hell, for taking Satan’s part. I tried to make Christianity classical, make freedom the birthright of any soul on Earth, and failed because politics have no part in the true struggle, against death itself.

Who are your friends/allies here? You jest. The Great Deceiver finds me useful, and that puts me on the opposite side of Cocytus from most penitent souls. Nor am I penitent -, nor will I ever be. But no fool, these days, with an infernity around me. The fallen angels enjoy my company.

Describe your home/environment in Hell. I make my home in Pandemonium – a term I thought I coined, for a place I thought a product of my own mind. Pandemonium is a vast breath of foul air and brimstone, a citadel whose spires scrape the heavens, with adamantine walls and filled with Satan’s legions, both doomed souls once men – full of mischiefs and hardier souls who’ve never been men. Some days I have comfort, more than most, when I’m sent with messages or punishments to this damned soul or the other. From Pandemonium ‘tis a long walk to anywhere, but a short flight when the angelic wings of the Devil’s stalwarts wrap me round.

Do you have any enemies here? Do I have anything but enemies? I brought the underverse to life, made infernity real and inescapable. The damned duly hate me.  I have peers – quite a different story; an innumerable lot, including Kit Marlowe and his wittol, Will Shakespeare. These two love words for their own sake – and each other. I find them too full of greatness self-proclaimed, chasing after this clever turn of phrase or that rhythm:  they forgive all for tragedy and comedy, and naught for the true fight: the fight for freedom of the mind. But the devil doth love his Bard of Avon – more than me, so until obliteration comes to pass, I suffer them, and fool upon fool, so every realm of hell is littered with their wrongs.

Come on be honest, what do you think of HSM leadership? Honest?  About the Prince of Darkness?  About the Father of Lies? About my hero – whose glorification brought me here to waste away and away?  The Adversary allows me my sight, so I can see all the evil done and blamed on me; he allows me my youth, so I can go among the damned from one hell to another – except for Tartaros, so far: even a glimpse of the afterlife of Hellenes is denied me, who wanted so to put a Christian face on Homeric odes.

So, this plague – who’s responsible? The damned themselves: the selfish, the foolish, the overly bold and the bloody. The plague seeks the damned, who in their turn seek escape, every dumb brute among them. Satan’s so-called rulership of all the New Damned fell to laxity: the problem with the devil is he’s not devilish enough, by half, to suit the Maker. So those who rule Above sent down Erra and his Seven personified weapons, to put the punishment back in hell that Satan’s sly courtship of the doomed eschews. Satan’s plan is too clever for those punishers from Above: his ever antic calculated to prove the damned are damned by their flawed nature, by all they do and all they say, and Satan’s soft-seeming leadership forces the Almighty into the role of Overlord of Evil. This, Satan watches, and bides his time, and proves again and again that humanity’s flaws are intrinsic, and not the fault of the stars or of hellfires where their souls finally abide. Thus, call humanity the bringer of plague, not the Babylonian god who brings pestilence only on orders from higher powers. And call the devil the greatest of poets, who brings this tragedy to life and light.

What is the WORST thing about being here? The worst thing about being in hell is that mankind creates it every day, anew and worse. As I said in my poor play, obliteration is the cure.  Sad cure.  And yet the animal within each soul wants only to live to struggle on, and on…

Erra and his Seven – what’s going on there then? I said all I should need to say about the lackeys from Above, those ministers of due punishment and undue suffering alike. Erra’s forte is plague and mayhem, and hell is, truly, where he doth find his place.

What are your best tips for surviving in Hell? Keep eyes averted.  Write and say the truth. Hell is no worse than Reformation England, really – with faults aplenty to fight and fools to spare.

Before you arrived here did you actually believe in HSM and his fiery domain? Bet that was a shock! I thought…I’d dreamed Paradise Lost. Yet when I wrote it, each day was a summoning of His Infernal Majesty. So here I came, and am, and will be until obliteration can be mine – and sleep.

Eternity – that’s a damned long time. How to you spend the endless years here? I foment what discontent I may, and take commissions from the lords of hell when warranted.

What do you miss most about your old….life? Nothing. My life turned out to be practice for my sentence here. If what I publish here is bowdlerized, at least to some those words strike true and ring the knell all the damned so crave:  their final rest.

What is the technology level of the culture you chose to write about? Technology provides amusement for the shallow and ungifted, who’ll proliferate inanities until we slog waist deep in the dimmest wits ever born. What humanity does is no better or worse now than before technology – yesterday’s, today’s or tomorrow’s. All gadgets reproduce, but ne’er make anything unknown become known – or knowable. I wrote about infernity, about humanity’s reality – about what we are: our wizened souls, our selfish lusts, our need to break others to our will. Now I can be anywhere among the manifold mistakes of the Almighty’s cruelest jokes:  they are no better in the future than in the past. I wrote about this hell in which I stand, and now here I am.

Author Spotlight

*Name and bio.

Janet Morris.  Janet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 40 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris or others. Her debut novel, written as Janet E. Morris, was High Couch of Silistra, the first in a quartet of character-driven novels with a female protagonist. According to original publisher Bantam Books, the Silistra quartet had over four million copies in print when the fourth volume, The Carnelian Throne was published. Charles N. BrownLocus Magazine, is quoted on the Baen Books reissues of the series as saying, “Engrossing characters in a marvelous adventure.”

Morris has contributed short fiction to the shared universe fantasy series Thieves World, in which she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes.

She created, orchestrated, and edited the Bangsian fantasy series Heroes in Hell, writing stories for the series as well as co-writing the related novel, The Little Helliad, with Chris Morris.

Most of her fiction work has been in the fantasy and science fiction genres, although she has also written historical and other novels. Her 1983 book “I, the Sun”, a detailedbiographical novel about the Hittite King Suppiluliuma I was praised for its historical accuracy; O.M. Gurney, Hittite scholar and author of “The Hittites,”[2] commented that “the author is familiar with every aspect of Hittite culture.”[3]

Morris has written, contributed to, or edited several book-length works of non-fiction, as well as papers and articles on non-lethal weapons, developmental military technology and other defense and national security topics.

*Tell us about your story for this edition. In Doctors in Hell, with Chris Morris, I wrote about the underworld’s single volunteer angel, and a wager he made with the Price of Lies. Chris then wrote about Milton, who is sent on a mission for Satan. Then together Chris and I wrote about Shakespeare and Marlowe, to whom Milton is sent with the true ‘cure’ for the plagues in hell. Hearing this ‘cure’ gives Marlowe the malady an author most dreads when facing an infernity never-ending: writer’s block. And Shakespeare tries to help Marlowe by taking him to the most fearsome and famed witch doctors in New Hell… so they think until they cross a certain threshold…

What inspired you to use the character(s) you’ve chosen? I wrote these characters almost accidentally: I was doing an introductory story for Rogues in Hell, and down came a clutch of new characters, into my story which was called Babe in Hell. One I’d had a taste of Shakespeare and Marlowe, they found enticements against which I was helpless, including the introduction of John Milton. Milton is daunting to portray, and his voice complex, so Chris and I waited as long as we could to introduce him – first in walk-on roles, and now finally, in an entire story that’s worthy of such a character, therefore a story that begins to turn hell on its collective and pointy ear.

How did you become involved with this project? Serendipity, truly. I had a multibook contract with Baen Books, and proposed the Heroes in Hell series, since at that time my parents were dying and death and what may lie after were much on my mind.

Writing for a shared world is challenging, how do you meet that challenge? Writing for a shared world is challenging, yes; but editing one, and writing the introductory and final stories for the volumes, tests me every time I do so. But in HIH I can try things, do stories I wouldn’t try to do elsewhere.  Hell is, in its way, liberating.

Tell us why you chose this story to tell out of so many possible options? This ‘story’ is actually a group of three:  one an introduction, followed by Chris Morris’ characterization of Milton, then in turn followed by Chris and my final story for the volume, in which the final story “Writer’s Block” sets some groundwork for later volumes while bringing our several strings of plot together.  Writing this way is difficult but great fun.

What drew you to these characters? These characters came because I wanted to rewrite and use the first story, which was the only HIH story that Jim Baen wouldn’t publish because the content offended him, and so we sold it to be published in different form for the current version in an a literary sf quarterly, Argos.  Since that story would have been the first in a different volume, it was already structured properly to be an introductory story, so we updated it and rewrote it into the current HIH moment, where it worked very well. SO we had had Altos the volunteer angel for a very long time, and it was a good time to re-enter him.  As for Milton, he’s a bit daunting but in Hell, we choose a story we want to tell, then we find characters who would be the best a telling that story. For the story we wanted to tell that would wrap the Doctors in Hell volume, we needed to end with Shakespeare and Marlowe – and a few others….

What are you currently working on? A novel.

Name the last two books you’ve read – tell us about them. Euripides, The Rhesos, Lattimore translating; Aeschylus’ Suppliant Women, A. J. Bowen.

One is directly for the book I’m doing, Rhesos of Thrace, in which the Euripedes version figures;  the Aeschylus is part of my rereading of Greek tragedies, as much to recover the sensitivities of this period as to clarify what concerned the writers and protagonists.

I really always write the book I want to read, and to write Rhesos the way I want to read it I need to be deeply seated in his culture, both while alive and what Euripdes made of him.

What are your views on authors offering free books? In general, I think that people don’t value what they do not pay for.  In the book business, however, there is a long tradition of giving books to people to read who may talk positively about what they’ve read.  The numbers of copies involved now are simply greater.

What marketing tips/writing advice can you offer other authors? Write what impassions you:  you’re trading away your real daily life for time spent in an imagined construct:  make sure it’s worthwhile for you to do so.

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

“Hell is just a frame of mind.” – Marlowe in Faustus.

What other books/short stories have you written?

From Wikipedia:

Science fiction novels ·         High Couch of Silistra

·         The Golden Sword

·         Wind from the Abyss

·         The Carnelian Throne

·         Dream Dancer

·         Cruiser Dreams

·         Earth Dreams

·         Threshold

·         Trust Territory

·         The Stalk

·         ARC Riders

·         The Fourth Rome

·         The 40-Minute War

·         Active Measures

·         Outpassge

·         Target

Heroes in Hell ·         Heroes in Hell (book)

·         Heroes in Hell (series)

Fiction ·         I, the Sun

·         Medusa

·         Warlord

·         Kill Ratio

·         Afterwar

Historical fantasy ·         Beyond Sanctuary

·         Beyond the Veil

·         Beyond Wizardwall

·         Tempus

·         City at the Edge of Time

·         Tempus Unbound

·         Storm Seed

·         The Sacred Band

Short fiction ·         Raising the Green Lion

·         Vashanka’s Minion

·         A Man and His God

·         An End to Dreaming

·         Wizard Weather

·         High Moon

·         Basileus

·         Hero’s Welcome

·         Graveyard Shift

·         To Reign in Hell

·         Power Play

·         Pillar of Fire

·         Gilgamesh Redux

·         Sea of Stiffs

·         The Nature of Hell

·         The Best of the Achaeans

·         The Collaborator

·         […] is Hell

·         Moving Day

·         Sea Change

Nonfiction work ·         Nonlethality: A Global Strategy

·         Weapons of Mass Protection

·         The American Warrior

If you could have a dinner party with any man and woman from anywhere and anywhen who would invite and what would you eat? Heraclitus of Ephesus, Homer, Sappho, Harold Bloom, Suppiluliumas 1 of Hatti, Kit Marlowe.

Which 10 books would you save to keep you sane after the apocalypse? (Only 10 allowed). Oxford Classical Dictionary, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, Complete Shakespeare (RSC), Lattimore’s Iliad and Odyssey;

What are your views on authors commenting on reviews? Don’t, unless some specific review was important to your development and you’re commenting in the course of an interview that includes something salient to say about a review/reviewer.

Which books/movies/plays have influence your life? Too many to list.

In these days of movies and video games are books really influential? I hope so.

Front Page

Twitter: @uvmchristine

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/JanetMorrisandChrisMorris?fref=ts

http://sacredbander.com/

Front Page

A Week with the Dragon Eaters – Tom Barczak

Yes, yes I know it’s been more than a week. There ARE seventeen authors so what did you expect?

Here’s today’s interview with Ton Barczak and his character Lucretia

Character questions:

Who are you? “My name is Lucretia. I’m the daughter of Erdot, the blacksmith.”

Why are you embarking on this quest? “I didn’t know I was, really. I was seduced by the spell of the village priest, or at least that’s what I thought he was.”

Where are you from? (Tell us about it) “We live, or at least we used to live, just outside the village of Cornwallace, all of my life. But I don’t think I can go back there now now.”

Tell us about dragons in your world. “Secretive. And very, very, dangerous. They  are to be left alone, unless they try to hurt someone you love. Then you kill them without mercy.”

Do you have a family? “Not anymore. My father raised me until the black dragon killed him. My mother, she died when I was very young.”

What is the best way to kill a dragon? “A hammer down it’s gullet.”

Do you see yourself as a hero? What is a hero? “No. But my mother and my father were. They were very brave, if that makes you a hero. They weren’t afraid to love. They weren’t afraid of anything.”

Are there other such monsters in your world? “Can I go?”

 

Author questions:

Who are you? Tom Barczak. I am an author, architect, and artist.

How do you define a hero? Someone who serves others without any thought of themselves.

How much research did you need for your story? Don’t know if this is research but I did have 2 odd personal goals for this story.

First was to describe a character with poor eyesight and no vision correction. You never see that in medieval fantasy. Everyone must have had 20/20 vision back then. I think I got to do that with this, describe an impairment without doing so from a modern point of view. My next story I’ll take on hearing. What?

The second was just my homage to my Dungeons and Dragons roots while still avoiding copyright infringement. That’s where the black and gold dragons come in.

Have you written for anthologies before? How does it differ from writing a novel? I love writing short stories. I tend to write in small pieces. Short stories are a bit more manageable, that way. They allow me to cover more ground.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? I’m a little bit of both. A structure must be had first to build off of. But beyond that, the story will write itself if you listen. Sometimes the hardest part is just listening.

What other novels/short stories have you written? Veil of the Dragon

http://www.amazon.com/Veil-Dragon-Tom-Barczak/dp/0985402202/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1432665995&sr=1-1&keywords=veil+of+the+dragon

Some of my shorter works are in the following:

Dreamers in Hell

http://www.amazon.com/Dreamers-Hell-Heroes-Book-16-ebook/dp/B00DEB1IJE/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1432666141&sr=1-1&keywords=Dreamers+in+Hell

Poets in Hell

http://www.amazon.com/Poets-Hell-Heroes-Book-17-ebook/dp/B00KWKNTTW/ref=pd_sim_351_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=12T37VYZGH6VYVKG1ZBX

Nine Heroes

http://www.amazon.com/Nine-Heroes-Tales-Heroic-Fantasy-ebook/dp/B00IMPCYQ8/ref=pd_sim_351_21?ie=UTF8&refRID=1KPN4A147VC3V10B7PMQ

Terror by Gaslight

http://www.amazon.com/Terror-Gaslight-Fantom-Enterprises-Production-ebook/dp/B00NHWBRZA/ref=pd_sim_351_20?ie=UTF8&refRID=1KPN4A147VC3V10B7PMQ

Tell us one unusual fact about yourself. I can sometimes see sounds and hear colors. I can even taste even smells. I think I have a mild case of synesthesia.

 

Author website/blog

Twitter: https://twitter.com/barczaktom

Facebook: www.facebook.com/thomas.barczak

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&query=Tom+Barczak

Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Tom-Barczak/e/B006SOKHMI/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1432735471&sr=8-1-fkmr1

 

Provide a tidbit:

Dragons taste like chicken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Week with the Dragon Eaters – Janet Morris

As today is a special day – the release of the anthology itself I’d like to welcome back Janet Morris.

Over to you, Janet…

Character questions :

*Who are you? I am Penthesilea, queen of the Azzi lands, what you would call an Amazon.  I have two breasts, by the way, as do my sisters.

Why are you embarking on this quest? This dragon hunt is meant to rid Paeonia of this plague of dragons, and that feat, if successful, will keep them from overrunning Azzi-Hayasa, where I rule. But I am here not for dragon claws to wear around my neck, or for the glory of beating these self-proclaimed dragon eaters at their own game,  but because when hunting I killed my beloved sister, Hippolyta. Therefore,  my quest is for honorable death in battle, not scaly trophies.  I can find what I seek here, if the gods allow. If not, I’ll find it on the beach at Ilion, where I’ve been invited to join in the defense of Troy against the Danaans.

*Tell us about dragons in your lands. Dragons are fearsome legged serpents, pestilential, destroyers of flocks and crops.

What is the political system of your land?  I am now queen of the Azzi lands, ruled by women since Aegaea’s time.  I am daughter of Ares and Otrera, and with my sisters we rule and defend our people – mostly women; we keep only the best of men as breeding slaves; when we bear male children, we send them to their fathers or expose them on hilltops. Homer and his ilk call us Antianeirai (‘those who fight like men’). We tamed the first horses and invented the use of cavalry forces.

Do you have a family? My sisters born were Hippolyta, Antiope and Melanippe, all of us daughters of the god of war and Otrera.  We Azzi warrior women are dwindling in numbers. Soon we will be gone. Some say I am the bravest queen and warrior ever among us, even , but now I am the most bereft.

What is the best way to kill a dragon? The best way to kill a dragon is band together to stab him in the eyes or through the throat. Since I’ve come here I’ve slain a dozen, along with the other dragon eaters gathered for this competition.

Do you see yourself as a hero? What is a hero? A hero is one who so distinguishes herself in battle that she dies honorably, or lives while she destroys a mighty enemy for the pleasure of the gods and the safety of weaker mortals.

Author questions: Heroika: The Dragon Eaters is a dark heroic fantasy – as all heroic fantasy was by definition dark until recent times.  The heroic model fascinates me:  moderns call it species altruism, but heroic models and heroic ethos have been with us since the earliest days of humanity. In writing heroic fiction and heroic fantasy, I am delving into the commonality of humans at their best – and sometimes at their worst. Many great heroes of literature and history have been deeply flawed, yet their heroism made them role-models to generations.

How much research did you need for your story? I always research everything I write; even if I am writing alternate history or science fiction, or a book that is primarily allegorical, I am human.  I can only write about what humans know about. And what humans know best is the testing that defines them and makes them unique.  Our human condition, which always ends in death, is the song we all must sing. Learning about how others perceive life and death, eschatology, if you like, is a study I find endlessly fascinating. And, as a writer, I take the paths that other writers have taken – research historical models on which to build fantastical characters, or recount the stories of human history in my own way. The more I learn, the more I realize that history and fantasy are two sides of the same coin; for me, heroic fiction is the edge of that same coin.

Have you written for anthologies before? How does it differ from writing a novel? I enjoy conceiving and writing for anthologies that have a defined nature and/or objective.  The limitations of short fiction then become its greatest strengths – the writer as hero answers the call to duty:  to tell a story that might well be true, or might once have been true, or might someday be true.

What other novels/short stories have you written?  I have written books and stories about heroes who are historical, mythological, legendary, and fantasies of my own creation. These include the Sacred Band of Stepsons series, the heroes in Hell series, the biographical novel of Suppiluliumas 1 of Hatti, I, the Sun, the Silistra Quartet, Outpassage, as well as stories for Thieves’ world, the iconic fantasy shared-universe into which I brought legendary and historical characters.

What are you reading? King Lear, by William Shakespeare; The Western Canon by Harold Bloom.

How important is the fantasy genre to our society? The fantasy genre goes back as far as the legend of Gilgamesh and comes with us on our journey of mental and spiritual evolution. Every great writer has written fantasy or prose with fantasy elements, which help us explore our humanity.

Tell us one unusual fact about yourself: I like music, literature and horses better than people.

Tidbit: Both the stories written by Janet Morris and Chris Morris for Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters are historically/mythically based.  The First Dragon Eater is a synthesis of the various versions of the Hittite and Hurrian Illuyankas myth rendered in story form – and arguably the earliest myth about dragons (with the possible exception of references in Gilgamesh, which were not actual separate myths). The second story, “Bring Your Rage” is based on Rhesos of Thrace and Penthesilea as they appear in Homer’s Iliad, and closely related to the authors’ novel in progress, Rhesos of Thrace.  Rhesos himself is closest related to the ancient hero cult, Heros equitans, and the various early carvings in what was once Thrace.

Author website/blog:

Twitter: @uvmchristine

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/JanetMorrisandChrisMorris?fref=ts

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/8161482-heroika-dragon-eaters-heroic-fiction-fantasy-myth-new-release

Amazon page:  http://www.amazon.com/HEROIKA-DRAGON-EATERS-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B00VFVCQRS/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1432068794&sr=1-1&keywords=heroika+1+dragon+eaters

 

heroika revised 1