Today’s team review is from Liz, she blogs here https://lizannelloyd.wordpress.com/ Liz has been reading The Betrayal by Anne Allen The Betrayal is set mostly in Guernsey but in two eras. First, we find ourselves in 1940, where Teresa Bichard is distraught at leaving her husband, Leo, on the island while she flees to her family on […]
*Name: Danny Letham
*Tell us a bit about yourself: Raised on a Scottish moorland farm, I spent much of my adult life in various Scottish and English cities and now live near the North Wales Coast. My work background is software development and systems analysis, specialising in commercial, financial, and manufacturing systems. Born into a musical family whose other stock-in-trade was teaching, I was a mobile deejay in my teens, and these days I can gossip for Britain about many musical genres.
How did you become involved with audiobook narration and production? While I’ve always liked to talk, the impetus came in the form of the usual story: suggestions from friends and relations. I was very aware that merely being the “natural” that those good folks suggested was not enough, and indeed the well-intentioned encouragement might not even have been true. So, from about 2012 onwards I researched and self-trained with the help of Patrick Fraley’s tutorials and a few other sources. Meanwhile, before my wife’s death in 2016 I had gradually withdrawn from the world of I.T. to become her full-time caregiver, and since then I have reinvented myself as a narrator, video maker, and digital artist. I first encountered ACX through Mr. Fraley.
Tell us about some of the titles you’ve narrated. Do you have a favourite amongst these? You’ll have worked out from the foregoing that I have only just taken the plunge. So, for the time being I don’t have much to say here. I have a computer full of material that will never be seen or heard in public, kind of like those early Beatles recordings made in Hamburg. (Dream on, Danny!)
Do you have a preferred genre? Do you have a genre you do not produce? Why is this? I’m a non-fiction kind of a guy really, who aspires to biography, history, the education sector, and corporate reads. I have a high regard for the better fiction narrators and am not averse to characterisation, but not every title is an Agatha Christie mystery and although I have my moments and can run the gamut of SATB timbres (baritone and mezzo are my best) I’m not quite in the same league as David Suchet. What folk tend to overlook, though, is that within the vast tract that is non-fiction there is every bit as much of a need for nuance and sense of scene. Which isn’t to rule out the right novel, of course; never say “never”. That said, I am minded to avoid so-called “Adult” material but I’d not reject an otherwise suitable title just because it had some adult content; however it would have to be very good read. On the other hand, given that I have a well-developed avuncular style for kids’ books there is an obvious conflict, so “Adult” is not a market I would target.
What are you working on at present/Just finished? I have just arrived on Audible as narrator of a kids’ title written by Victoria Zigler, called “Eadweard: a Story of 1066”. That title attracted me partly for its historic interest but significantly also because of its ethic; as a lad who never wanted to be a soldier myself I identified with its busting of the myth. The ten-year-old Danny repulsed by the “It’s a Man’s Life” TV recruitment campaign would have loved that book.
Ongoing, from a business perspective I am looking at ethical advertising both in sound and on video more so than audiobooks, but additionally in the medium term I have my eye on a couple of older works which are now in the Public Domain and for which I would assume the role analogous with rights holder as well as that of narrator.
*Tell us about your process for narrating? (Be as elaborate as you like.) Step One is, sample it and improvise reading one or two previously unseen passages. See how it FEELS. That instinct is important, and I try to carry it with me throughout the creative process at the same time as balancing it with self-directing. Next, read the thing end to end; if you don’t do that you can paint yourself into a corner either with a wrong characterisation as the plot unfolds or, in non-fiction, with a compromised counter-argument. Try a few more passages as you go along, and revisit former ones. Note how different the passages you improvised feel when they are re-encountered. Rehearse. Mark the text with cues and emphases while progressing, considering any surprise inflections that might work to keep the audience engaged. Rehearse again. Set milestones. Go on the mic, for no more than half an hour at a time; after that amount of time mistakes will multiply. Avoid becoming a slave to the punctuation, especially if that punctuation is mechanised. Repeat whole sentences or at least clauses where you notice at the time there has been a blooper, without pausing. Then get technical with NR, EQ, and all that stuff. When editing bear in mind that sometimes it’s better to splice than merely to cut. Sometimes there is no option but to overdub, but don’t do that yet. Open a list of overdub requirements. Listen back, repairing any pops or clicks etc, while identifying any more overdubs. Listen again, following the text closely looking for misreads. Rely on it; there will be some, and consequently more overdubs. Each overdub is a miniature run of the “mic NR EQ pop click etc.” cycle. Cry, scream, and yell, when the sound palette of the overdub doesn’t match the main body of your narrative. Rinse and repeat. FINALLY (um, not really finally) submit your Thing Of Beauty. Cry, scream, and yell, some more when the rights holder sends a list of …. overdub requirements! Rinse and repeat. Oh, and that other chap who waves his arms? Me too.
I didn’t mention mixing just now. I always record vox in mono but where music or SFX is involved I will decide based on the specifics of the case whether or not to mix in stereo. If it’s narration only, it stays in mono unless I need to emulate physical activity. However, they never needed a stereo mix in the days of Steam Radio, did they? We have lost a lot these days, with the “live” imperative supplanted by all this tech, and yet I am mindful of babies and bathwater. I prefer to use Adobe Audition. Some freeware is absolutely magnificent, but Audition’s visualisations and its brush and lasso repair tools in particular are all but indispensable. In the end you get what you pay for.
What aspects do you find most enjoyable? In a sentence? I like the sound of my own voice! No, in all seriousness, performing is the buzz; I can’t say that I love the technical aspects. I did discover recently when invited to do a live reading that the dynamic is entirely different from studio work, so now I am looking to add that to the repertoire on a permanent basis.
Do you consider royalty share when looking for books to narrate? If not why is this? I certainly do. I think it unwise to dismiss either royalty share or finished-rate. Every project has its own business case. It depends on what balance you need to strike from time to time between visibility, prestige, and cash flow.
Do you listen to audiobooks? Not very often because in my limited leisure time I tend to read, looking for performance material! I spend more time listening to podcasts online. The audiobook that I have enjoyed the most – ever! – is David Suchet’s reading of “Death on the Nile”. Such characterisation! He is especially able when “doing” the women, and then there is all that over-the-top emoting, and excellent timing resulting from the great sound editing and audio engineering. What’s not to love? It is a lesson in the proper use of tech to give an enhanced performance experience. One of my bugbears is that the unavoidable pauses in “he-said-she-said” dialogue passages go unedited because of production time constraints. And people have been trained to like it, even to consider it best-practice. For me, while it’s fine in a live situation on a recording it just jars.
*With many people owning MP3 players do you think this is the future of storytelling? Yes and no. It’s unfortunate in some respects that the old way is almost extinct, of Wise Old Heads occasionally reading from a book but frequently improvising around a detailed memory. There is nothing quite like a live performance in which the narrator responds to the audience’s cues and maybe interacts with them. The best stories can be retold with near-infinite variation – consider how folk music works. In my dreams at least, I foresee that style of performance returning as ordinary people’s reading comprehension skills continue to diminish – which I believe they are doing regardless of the A-level statistics. For now, though, as a society we are going through a “more of the same” loop in which hearing the same story repeatedly in exactly the same formulaic way is the “four legs good” of our era, and whether we like it or not the playback device is king. Equally, the playback device is an ideal medium for disseminating listen-once material, superior to radio because of its on-demand nature. In that context word-of-mouth, social media ads, and the Infernal MP3 Machine are the narrator’s best friends. Just as the phonograph paved the way for excellence in musical performance we must hope the MP3 does the same for narration, although in my view we aren’t quite there yet.
Why do you think audio books are becoming so popular? The commuter lifestyle has a lot to do with it. The world of the past that I have described has largely been mechanised out of existence, and indeed that is the case even away from the urban cycle – in agriculture, for example, productivity demands shackle us to our tractors and our milking machines more than ever before. Changes in the popular music scene have made recorded music significantly less attractive to many than it has been previously, so the advent of affordable and – importantly – portable technology with which to hear something interesting is bringing the audiobook to the masses just like the Dansette did popular music half a century ago.
Has ACX/Audible fulfilled your expectations? (such as earnings, ease of use, workload etc.?) It’s too early to say as regards earnings, but actually, I think it more realistic in my situation at least to seek prestige and visibility than it is to expect Big Bucks directly. It is an easy platform to use in the technical sense, while in another respect it falls somewhere in between an effective hiring fair and a useful additional networking tool, not so much with peer-to-peer networking (to steal an I.T. term) as in the wider literary community. Having said that, I think the signal-to-noise ratio in terms of networking opportunity is less than ideal.
Have you ever had a negative experience producing a book? Every experience is a learning opportunity. If you don’t see it that way, that is a negative in itself.
Please tell us a silly fact about yourself. People perceive me to be fearless but… while obviously, I wouldn’t choose to do so I would wrestle a Rottweiler (and probably lose), and yet I have an irrational fear of chickens.
Where can we learn more about you?
Website with onward links is here: http://www.thevoiceofdaniel.com/
For repertoire and samples , go straight to soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/dannyletham
If you want to check out Victoria and Danny’s work – please use the links below.
Barnes & Noble:
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Eadweard-Story-1066-Victoria-Zigler/dp/1539534472/
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Eadweard-Story-1066-Victoria-Zigler/dp/1539534472/
Amazon Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Eadweard-Story-1066-Victoria-Zigler/dp/1539534472/
The Book Depository:
OK let’s start with the good.
The author is obviously interested and passionate about her subject; it’s quite a specialised topic and research has been done. It is not a book which would appeal to everyone but it is a worthy read for people who like make-up and women’s history. Each chapter covers an era and the changing attitudes and tastes. I found the social aspects the most interesting – attitudes changed from women being branded as prostitutes if they wore cosmetics to it being considered odd if they didn’t in the space of a few decades. The history of the foundation (get the pun?) of some of the fashion houses and brands. particularly the older ones created by and for women was also pretty good.
The author covers everything – a brief mention of ancient cosmetics, to Victorian values, to rouge, compacts, eye make up, hair, punks, yuppies and hippies. It’s interesting to see how looks change, even within our own lifetimes, but also how some of the ‘fringe’ looks and lifestyles cling on (goth, punk, hippy). The chapter on wartime cosmetics was particularly good – how did women improvise, and harken back to older times with home-made and more natural products.
There is also a good discussion about the downsides of some of the cosmetics – lead in face whitener, hair products that eventually made you bald, and the increasing regulation on cosmetics as it became a really big industry.
Now the bad. This would work much better as a print book. The Kindle version has lots of formatting errors, typos and the pictures are small and hard to see. The errors eventually got really quite annoying (maybe it’s the writer in me). I don’t usually mark down books for this but there were so many!
I’d recommend this – but only the print version.
I love this book. Exceptionally well written, with accounts of a remarkable and interesting man, and a little known period of history. If you like ancient history this is a must-read.
From the annals of the ancient Hittite king, Suppiluliumas, from the Amarna Letters of Egypt and the court records of a wealth of “lost” civilizations, comes this saga of kingship and greatness, love and death, politics and treachery in the second millennium, BCE. Beyond a few cursory references to the Hittites in the Bible, for thousands of years nothing has been known of this first mighty Indo-European culture.
Now, based on translations of the ancient texts themselves, comes the story of Suppiluliumas, Great King, Favorite of the Storm God, King of Hatti, who by his own count fathered forty-four kings and conquered as many nations, who brought even mighty Egypt to her knees. Tutankhamen’s widow sent him an urgent letter begging for a son of his to make her husband. The earliest Hebrews knew him as their protector. The entire Mediterranean world revered and feared him.
But although he conquered…
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I picked up this book via Southcart Books store on Ebay. So in part this post is a review, but also it’s a brief summary of the titular character’s remarkable life. Do check out Southcart Books, they have some great books.
The Irish Giant by G Frankcom. At first I thought it would be about the famous Irish Giant Charles Byrne, however to my delight I discovered it was actually about a gentleman called Patrick Cotter O’Brien (O’Brien was his show name). This particular Irish Giant was contemporary with Byrne for some of his life but died long after him.
Patrick Cotter O’Brien (19 January 1760 – 8 September 1806) was the first of only thirteen people in medical history to stand at a verified height of eight feet (2.44 m) or more. O’Brien was born in Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland. His real name was Patrick Cotter and he adopted O’Brien as his stage name in the sideshow circus. He was also known as the Bristol Giant and the Irish Giant.
Yes you read that correctly – he stood at over 8ft tall. The first of only a handful of people to top 8ft tall.
He was afflicted by Giantism and acromegaly; when he died at the age of 46 no hearse could be found to accommodate his 9 ft coffin. He was carried to his grave by relays of 14 men, and he asked to be buried 12 feet under solid rock to discourage grave robbers – or ‘resurrection men’ exhuming him and selling his remains to a doctor. Anatomists would often pay well for the recently dead – in order to dissect for their medical students. This was, technically, illegal, although hanged prisoners could be given to them. Such a fate terrified many people and with a body of such immense proportions it was a real risk for poor Mr Cotter. Later in his life he became increasingly disabled – as his conditions meant his joints etc. kept growing and he suffered from back pain, damaged joints and heart problems, among other problems.
Cotter made a decent living – financially at least . When he died his mother received over £2000 – a substantial sum in the early 19th Century (equivalent to as much as 150k today). Whether he was happy – living his life on show and plagued by the many problems related to his medical conditions, is another matter entirely. He made friends, by many accounts he was an intelligent and congenial man but there is only one, unsubstantiated, report of marriage. He managed to find some privacy in a house he purchased but even so a man of his stature and renown would hardly be able to blend in. However occasionally his extreme height was an advantage – he worked as a bricklayer and builder able to paint ceilings or tile some roofs without a ladder, and once his specially adapted coach was stopped by a highway. Who then fled in terror when an 8 foot tall man stepped out.
In the 1970s Cotter’s skeleting was rediscovered during the excavation of foundations for a building and interest in him renewed. His skeleton was examined – to find out the causes of his giantism. That’s basically what the book is about. Cotter’s life, death and rediscovery.
I really enjoyed the subject – the author had obviously done a great deal of research about Cotter, the particular medical issues he suffered and the exhumation of his remains. Many of the sources are contradictory (especially as there were, remarkably, a couple of other ‘Irish Giants’ about at the same time. The author discusses the sources and the contradictions and tries to find the most consistent and accurate account.
I’d recommend this for those who enjoy biographies of interesting and unusual people, medical anomalies, local history and the attitudes of the time to those individuals who had such conditions.
If you want to learn more about the subject these websites and blogs might be of interest. Especially The Tallest Man – this link will take you to a page about ROBERT PERSHING WADLOW who was 8ft 11! The tallest verified man in medical history.
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.”
F Scott Fitzgerald describes it poignantly, “This land here cost twenty lies 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
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 solider 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 in the first day. 90%.
‘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.‘
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.
This year the Royal British Legion are producing poppy pin badges from shell metal actually found in the battle field. 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.
1888 – London Murders in the Year of the Ripper by Peter Stubley
#truecrime #LondonHistory #JacktheRipper
1888 is a year that entered history for all the wrong reasons – the Autumn of Terror was the time the unidentified serial killer known as Jack the Ripper stalked the streets of London. But these were not the only crimes in what was then the capital of the British Empire, and the primary trading port of the world.
This fascinating book recounts a whole year of killings; some were done in pitiful desperation, some for the usual reasons – greed or love, some were done on the spur of the moment, some were done in madness but all were tragic in their own way. In part this is a social commentary – almost all the killers and the majority of the victims were poor. This was a time without many rights for women or children, domestic violence was very common, families were often large and money was scarce. In, what was arguably, the most civilised city on Earth, life was cheap and crime was rife.
Most of these tragic tales are little known – forgotten by time, and overshadowed by the Ripper’s crimes. This is the first time I have seen some of these outlined, and I read a lot of true crime. The author deals with the subject sympathetically, non-judgementally and references particular articles, laws, biographies etc. It’s obvious a lot of research was done to select these accounts and to present them accurately, and in the context of the time. In the case of the Ripper, the author does not speculate on a possible perpetrator, as many crime writers do, he simply presents the facts and states that no one was ever identified as Jack the Ripper.
Overall I’d recommend this to readers of Victorian history, true crime, British history and those interested in the social commentary of the time.
adult fantasy, Anthologies, anthology author, Author Interview, Character Interviews, Dystopian, Fantasy, Halloween, Hell week, Heroes in Hell, Heroes in Hell series, History, Janet Morris, Milton, Perseid Press, Science fiction, shared world
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.
*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. Brown, Locus 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.
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,” commented that “the author is familiar with every aspect of Hittite culture.”
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?
|Science fiction novels||· High Couch of Silistra
· ARC Riders
· The Fourth Rome
· The 40-Minute War
· Active Measures
|Heroes in Hell||· Heroes in Hell (book)|
|Fiction||· I, the Sun
· Kill Ratio
|Historical fantasy||· Beyond Sanctuary
|Short fiction||· Raising the Green Lion
· Vashanka’s Minion
· A Man and His God
· An End to Dreaming
· Wizard Weather
· High Moon
· 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.
*Name: Dean Robertson
*Tell us a bit about yourself: I am a 69-year-old retired English teacher, first-time author, and first-time grandmother (as of Shakespeare’s birthday 2015). I grew up on 200 acres of woods in North Georgia, have lived and taught in California, Kentucky, Michigan, and Virginia, and live currently in a 1928 co-op building in an urban neighbourhood in Norfolk, Virginia.
How did you become involved with audiobook narration and production? When I lived in Michigan, I read out loud to several friends, one of whom saw an article in the local paper about recording audiobooks. She called me and said, “You should do this.” I had another friend with a recording studio, so I made a demo tape which I sent off to The Brilliance Corporation. I didn’t hear anything for a long time and had forgotten about it when they called to ask if they could submit my tape to Barbara Kingsolver for her novel, The Poisonwood Bible. She approved, and I did the job. I narrated several other books for them that year.
I haven’t narrated audiobooks for many years; my life and passion became increasingly involved with teaching.
*Tell us about your process for narrating? (Be as elaborate as you like.) I’m going to describe my process for narrating The Poisonwood Bible, because that was the longest book I narrated and also the first, the finest, and a model for the others. It would still be the model if I did this work again. The work came up fast. They sent me a manuscript, which was dauntingly thick and, unlike my usual meticulous preparation for anything I do, I decided I just didn’t want to read it. So, the narration was my first reading. It was exactly the right thing. I went to the studio’s headquarters on Lake Michigan and checked into a motel. Every morning at 8:00 I drove to “work,” entered the small room, lined with egg carton foam, pulled on the huge earphones, opened the manuscript, and started reading. We broke for lunch, then worked until around 4:00. After that, I went back to my motel, walked on the beach, then went to bed. It took five days. I guess my process, looking back on it, just happened and involved somehow being in what people later came to call “the zone.” I sat perfectly still, spoke into the large microphone, and could hear nothing but the sound of my own voice and Kingsolver’s words, echoing through my brain from one ear to the other. I find, with years enough behind me to consider it, that it’s the way I have done everything-teaching, narrating, writing.
What aspects do you find most enjoyable? The absolute immersion in a piece of literature—the music of the words bringing you into the book more intensely than I could have imagined.
Do you listen to audiobooks? Nope—not mine nor anyone else’s.
*With many people owning MP3 players do you think this is the future of storytelling? I certainly hope not. I continue to sit down, rock my grandson, and read aloud to him from whatever I happen to be reading. I did that from his first day. I did the same with my son—nursing, rocking, reading. Complete intimacy. MP3 players, and all their ilk, are cold and distancing and offer very little in the way of human connection. There’s still the voice, but I don’t believe much in the power of disembodied voices.
Why do you think audio books are becoming so popular? People are rushed and incapable of the kind of stillness required to sit down to read a book. And we have created a culture in which reading isn’t valued at all. I hope the human need for stories will keep them alive in at least some form, but I am not hopeful. We have already moved into the world of graphic novels, i.e., comic books.
Can you remember the first audiobook you owned? I am old. I have never owned an audio book except the free ones I got for narrating.
Have you ever had a negative experience producing a book? No; I loved every minute of it.
Please tell us a silly fact about yourself. Having famously said of owning llamas, “Once you’ve kissed something with three lips, there’s no going back.”
Where can we learn more about you? My website and my author page on Koehler Books.
Today I welcome William Hiles for Heroika Week.
*Who are you? Captain Jackson Turner.
Why are you embarking on this quest? Revenge. For the killing of my men. For the devastation wrought by the beast.
Where are you from? (Tell us about it.) From Morgantown, Western Virginia. Though my family were farmers and shop keepers, I managed an appointment to West Point, where I was eventually commissioned as an officer in the United States Army.
*Tell us about dragons in your world. One exists. I don’t know why. I don’t know how. All I care about is killing it.
Do you have a family? I lost my family, a wife and child, to cholera many years ago.
Do you see yourself as a hero? What is a hero? No. What is a hero? That’s for others to decide. For me, it’s a matter of duty. To your men (or family). To yourself.
What is the technology level of your world? Mid-19th Century.
Author questions (choose from):
*Who are you? William Hiles
How do you define a hero? Someone who does what needs to be done, no matter the risk, for the benefit of others. Someone who performs a selfless action. Ordinary people who proceed with grace under extraordinary circumstances.
Why did you choose this world/era to write in? I’m a history nut. I love the challenges of bringing the past to life. I have a very special connection to military history, especially that of the United States.
Give us a couple of lines about your characters. Brave men who take a stand against an unimaginable horror, far beyond that of ordinary war. Former enemies, forced together for survival, who become brothers in a soul-searing crucible.
Heroika: The Dragon Eaters is a dark heroic fantasy – how do you define that genre? Dark heroic fantasy, to me, is a story of ordinary people, faced by extraordinary challenges, in a landscape that seemingly offers only obstacles or heartache. And yet despite this, these people rise to the challenges, overcome the obstacles, and ultimately succeed in bringing hope or peace or some fitting resolution to the story—even at the cost of their own lives.
How much research did you need for your story? Not much actually, having been a student of the era for many years.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Mostly pantser. How a story ends is usually what I need to know before I begin, everything else is a journey to that end.
What other novels/short stories have you written? Early in my career I had quite a few stories in small press magazines. However, most of my output in recent years has been articles relating to my work (video games). I’m now getting back to writing more fiction.
What book(s) are you currently reading? War on the Run: The Epic Story of Robert Rogers and the Conquest of America’s First Frontier by John F. Ross
Tell us one unusual fact about yourself. I’ve kept a list of books I’ve read since I was 12 years old. I have over 1600 books on the list.
This can be a Dragon-Eater recipe, interesting info about the world in which your story takes place, historical info, or somesuch.
Red Rain is set during and after a real American Civil War battle. The first land battle of the Civil War, in fact, fought in the vicinity of Philippi, Virginia (now West Virginia) on June 3. 1861. Writer Ambrose Bierce did serve in this battle.
Author website/blog: http://williamhiles.blogspot.com/
William Hiles, is a former magazine editor, game designer, writer and artist, living in Round Rock, Texas, with his wife, son, and a menagerie of pets. He likes to ramble on about history, cooking, art, and writing. Although he has been accused of living in the past, he does not write with a mere quill. It has to be an Australian Black Swan quill.