Character Interview Number Three – Nikodemos – Fantasy/Mythic

Welcome to Nikodemos, of the Sacred Band.

Tell Us About Yourself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Above all else come my brothers of the Sacred Band.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell Us About your world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond Sanctuary (1985), (2013), Janet Morris

Beyond the Veil (1985), (2013), Janet Morris

Beyond Wizardwall (1986), (2013) Janet Morris

Tempus (1987), (2011) Janet Morris
City at the Edge of Time (1988), Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Tempus Unbound (1989), Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Storm Seed (1990), Janet Morris and Chris Morris

The Sacred Band (2010), Janet Morris and Chris Morris

The Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl (2010), Janet Morris and Chris Morris,

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

“Wizard Weather,” Storm Season, Ace 1982

“High Moon,” Face of Chaos, Ace 1983

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

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

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

Author name:Janet Morris

Chris Morris

Website/Blog/Author pages etc.

Author interview and special guest Janet Morris


Today I am delighted to welcome Janet Morris, author of some of the best heroic fantasy and historical fiction around. She is a very busy lady and the Library of Erana is honoured that she has found time to be interviewed.

‘Life to you and everlasting glory.’

Janet’s bio: Janet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 30 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, 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 detailed biographical 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.

Here’s an excerpt from Chris’ Wikipeia bio: Chris Morris began writing music in 1966, fiction in 1984, and nonfiction in 1989. Much of his fiction and nonfiction literary work, including all of his book-length science fiction and fantasy, has been written in collaboration with his wife Janet Morris, with whom he has also written two novels under the joint pseudonym of Daniel Stryker and one novel under the pseudonym of Casey Prescott. He has contributed short fiction to the shared universe series Thieves’ WorldHeroes in Hell, and Merovingen Nights. He has also co-authored with Janet Morris four titles in The Sacred Band of Stepsons saga.

Chris Morris has also authored song lyrics and melodies. Notably, Chris served as chief songwriter, singer, and leader of the “Christopher Morris Band”, formed in 1976, whose first members were Chris Morris, Janet Morris, Leslie Kuipers and Vince Colaiuta. The first “Christoper Morris Band” album, produced by Al Kooper of Blood, Sweat and Tears fame and featuring the Tower of Power horn section, was titled the Christoper Morris Band (MCA 2282), and released by MCA Records in 1977. The album’s nine songs, all of which are sung by Morris, included eight songs written or co-written by him. TheChristopher Morris Band album was reviewed by Ken Tucker in Rolling Stone Magazine.[1] and in GIG Magazine.[2] The Christopher Morris Band album was also one of Billboard Magazine‘s “Top Album Picks” (7/16/77)[3] and listed by WBCN Boston as among WBCN’s “52 Heaviest Records for 1977.”[4] TheChristopher Morris Band album was also reviewed in Record World, July 23, 1977.[5] The Christopher Morris Band was reviewed after their first major live performance as a headliner in The Boston Globe by Tom Long.[6] Previous to that, Chris Morris was the band leader, and the original Christopher Morris Band was the core back-up band, for Al Kooper’s 1976-1977 “Act Like Nothing’s Wrong” national tour.

In the realm of nonfiction writing, Chris Morris has authored books and articles on military and defense matters in collaboration with Janet Morris and others. Chris Morris served as Research Director and Senior Fellow (1989–1994) at the United States Global Strategy Council, as well as Adjunct Fellow at theCenter for Strategic and International Studies (1993–1995). At USGSC, Morris co-authored the nonlethal weapons concept and the seminal paper,Nonlethality: A Global Strategy,[7] and co-led the USGSC’s Nonlethality Policy Review Group. Events surrounding Morris’s work in the nonlethal weapons area are chronicled in Chapter 15 of War and Anti-War, by Alvin Toffler and Heidi Toffler, (Little, Brown, 1993). In 1998-1999, Chris Morris was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations Independent Task Force on Nonlethal Technologies and his views are reflected in the associated report, Nonlethal Technologies: Progress and Prospects, Council on Foreign Relations, 1999. He served in 2003-2004 as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations Independent Task Force on Nonlethal Weapons,[8] which produced the report Nonlethal Weapons and Capabilities in 2004.

So enough of what wiki has to say, here is the interview 🙂

You have been in the business of writing for many years, where did this desire to write spring from? I have been writing as long as I can remember, juvenile poetry, stories.  I edited a school newspaper, for which I wrote a fiction serial, when I was in the sixth grade;  I wrote my first book when twenty-five, and that first draft became my first professional sale.

Where do you find your inspiration? Inspiration is everywhere, from life itself, and in why people and nature behave as they do.  Human life, animal life, behavior and the human condition fascinate me.  I especially like myth and fantasy because they allow me more freedom to say what I want without concern to transient political correctness.

Research is an important part of world-building, not to mention essential in historical fiction. Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel? Are there any sources you favour?  I love doing historical research and technical research for my books.  I have always been one to delve deeply into what interests me.  Research takes me much deeper into most subjects than my reader wants or needs to go, but makes my characters authoritative.  One should write what one knows about:  in fantasy or science fiction, and even myth or historical writing, incontrovertible knowledge can only be taken so far.  Since I write nonfiction as well, I know the difference.  For mythic and historical writing, I like the ancient sources.  I find the earliest sources I can find, and when the inevitable contradictions arise among previous works, I always choose the most ancient source:  the ancients weren’t trying to confuse us:  what they said was told-for-true.  Even with science, there is no static truth:  once there were nine planets in our solar system; everyone knew that; now there are eight.  Facts change.  As one of my characters said, “What’s true today may not be true tomorrow.”  For later reference materials, I think my two favorite source books for the ancient world are still Pritchard’s The Ancient Near East and the Cambridge Ancient History, followed closely by the Oxford Classical Dictionary.  As for science and technology, I’m still involved with s&t issues, so I keep current but for fiction, the speed of change in technology is not helpful or useful.  Good fantasy or good science fiction need to extrapolate from whatever base contains the subject of the story.

Of all your characters do you have a favourite? My favorite characters are, for heroic fiction, Tempus and Niko, one of his Sacred Band.  For science fiction, Det Cox from Outpassage, which we are just now republishing in an Author’ Cut edition, and for historical, Suppiluliumas of Hatti, whose annals I used in creating the biographical novel, I, the Sun.  I usually love or hate a character if I want to write that character’s story.  I’m working on Rhesos of Thrace, whose story will take me places I have long wanted to go:  into the depths of the Iliad, and farther realms; like my other choices, he has unique sensibilities.

What ground-breaking events have happened in your books? In our various books, we have written what Kaler in The Picara calls the first true prostitute in sf/fantasy, Estri.  In the Sacred Band of Stepsons we introduced the Sacred Band concept of male/male lovers, including a kiss between Tempus and a priest which may well have been the first erotic male/male kiss in fantasy.  In the 40-Minute War, written in the 1980s,  we postulated an attack on the US capitol by Islamic extremists using a commercial jetliner, predicting 9/11 but with worse repercussions; we predicted the unification of Germany in MEDUSA.  In the Kerion Consortium/Dream Dancer books we envisioned “spongespace” and now discussions of “spacetime foam” suggest that a similar structure exists at the micro level.  I think probably the Sacred Band of Stepsons, begun in Thieves’ World, and the Silistra series, were the most controversial, because of their sexual stances and views of male and female roles, incest, pansexuality, violence and passion in general.

Do you self-edit? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? My first book was bought as a first draft with a request by Fred Pohl for only one addition, and that book’s New York Times review praised everything but the addition I made at Fred’s request.  My second book had a UK and US editor, both of which wanted one change, which resulted in a prologue.  Beyond that, my editorial support throughout my career has been primarily copy-editing.  I have helped other writers with their editing, I enjoy editing.  I was offered my own imprint by a major NY publisher and didn’t take it.  As an acquisitions editor I have produced volumes that several yielded award nominees and an award winner.  When my own books are in process, or in my co-writes, Chris Morris is my live-in editor:  he reads every line aloud and we argue about changes as we go along, so that by the time the book is finished, all necessary editing has been done except continuity checks and copy-editing.

Would you like to say a little about the striking cover art on your books? I hated my science fantasy and science fiction covers, and even my historical and thriller covers.  My favorite cover was on a pseudonymous “novel” – a novel, in those days, was a book which transcended genre.  So, having had much art history in college, when we got cover control for the Perseid books, we chose to use classical art and ancient art.  We match the cover art we choose from the entire catalogue of human art now available as public domain, and use a book designer.  For the first time, for Outpassage, we commissioned new art, from Vincent DiFate, classic artist of so much great science fiction and movie art:  this book needed a classic sf cover, being a hard-rocking sf novel in the grand tradition, and Vincent gave us a cover we adore:  perfect for the story, which is part military sf, part visionary and metaphysical sf, but first and foremost a surprising and rollicking sf adventure.

Who are your influences? My influences are still what I first encountered in childhood, what my mother read to me because my parents had classical educations and didn’t believe in children’s books per se:  Shakespeare, Spenser, Marlowe, Bullfinch, Milton, Byron, Homer, Hesiod, Euripides, Dante.  Later I devoured all myth books in the libraries of three nearby towns; read C.S. Lewis. Mary Renault and Burroughs and Asimov and Verne.  My father took me to my first science fiction society meeting when I was thirteen.  I was and am a voracious reader.

What experiences can a book provide that a movie or video game cannot? We hope we bring total immersion:  that you touch, hear, taste, smell our stories; that you encounter the innermost thoughts of those different from yourself, and learn why they feel the way they do.  We try to materialize the world we want to visit, write a door and walk through it, and bring you with us, into an adventure and exploration that no movie or video game can provide, where you experience life through other temperaments.

What is your opinion on authors commenting on reviews? Often I’d like to comment on today’s reviews, and sometimes I am certain others should, but since my initial experience with reviewers was with paid reviewers for major newspapers and periodicals, I make it a practice not to comment.  If they say something good, then great.  If they say something bad, that’s their opinion.  If they say something stupid, or review the same book two different ways for two different outlets (yes, it happens), then people will see that for themselves.  Like any other writer, I’m thrilled with a good review, hurt by less.  For many years, I refused to look at reviews at all, no matter how good, and told my publishers not to send them to me.  Now the world has changed, and reviews have a different importance.

Do you plan your stories or are you more of a ‘pantser’? I never start to write unless I’m already enthralled by character, story, idea and point to be made.  I spend lots of time getting ready, reading related nonfiction, staring at the ceiling.  I don’t outline, beyond perhaps chapter titles, if that.  I know exactly where the story will end, but I allow it to get there as it chooses, if that is possible.  In some mythic or legendary or historical fiction, events serve as guidespots, and there I must write to whatever eclipse or famine or war came when.

Do you have any advice to share with new writers? I tell new writers to write with passion, with clarity, with brevity, with immediacy.  Find a character and listen to that character; find a voice and let the voice take you onward.  There are only a few plots:  it is how you tell your story that makes it great.  I ask writers to give me a synopsis of their story, and to refrain from writing until the story MUST get out.  I tell writers to take chances, not be derivative if they can help it; read in their topic area until they feel in control of all their data, then put 10% of that data in the story:  what you need to know, as writer, is far more than what the reader needs to know.  But you DO need to know it.  All writers should strive for greatness, from their very first line.  Better to grasp for brilliance and fail, then to waste time writing less than your transcendent best.

Do you have any marketing tips you would like to share? I was very lucky with High Couch of Silistra, and marketing was thrust upon me, not something I did, but something that happened to me at a publisher’s behest.  Now, with Perseid Press, a publisher producing “books for experienced readers,” we continue our tradition of reaching high, taking chances, hoping for brilliance, not only from our own work, but from the work of others we publish.  So I’m not the one to ask how to break into a genre beyond suggesting that a great book will find its way, and live longer in the end than trash purposely written to be trash and chase a trashy market.  Write your best, put it out there, let people know it’s there, and keep writing more.

Most authors like to read, what books do you enjoy? I love ancient history, third to first millennium bce; ancient near east is my favorite.  I love books about the nature of the cosmos, nonfiction books; I love philosophical problems of space and time.  I love archaeology.  I love the heroic model, and pre-Socratic philosophy most of all.  SO mostly I read source materials, nonfiction, though I am still reading certain authors of fiction and plays, whose work is central to the Western Canon.

During your life what has been your favourite and your least favourite job and why? I think my least favorite job was mailing posters for a comic book company.  My favorite job was research director and senior fellow of the U.S. Global Strategy Council in Washington.

Do you think either of these gave you inspiration to write, or served you well in this profession? Sending out super-hero posters may have taught us something, but nowhere near what we learned in a long-term strategic planning think tank, which led Chris and me to international travel and exposure to governments and technology and minds at the highest levels humanity could then produce.  USGSC led to us write Nonlethality:  A Global Strategy; to becoming the architects of several nonlethal weapons programs and serving on the Council on Foreign Relations Task Force on Nonlethal Weapons, and becoming subject matter experts on foreign technologies. Although I still believe that our fiction is the most important work we do, there are people alive today who wouldn’t have survived if nonlethal weapons weren’t developed and disseminated, and for our part in that, we’re grateful.

Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? I weigh less than my dog.

Any author profiles, websites etc. you want to add….

Our website is still in process.  We have several open FaceBook pages, most for different books, one for Janet Morris and Chris Morris.  We have a blog called which we sometimes use.

Author Page:

Book Links

Review – The Sacred Band

Review – The Sacred Band – Fantasy /Heroic/Mythological Adventure by Janet Morris

5 stars

One of the signs of a great book, for me at least, is the urge to continue reading it despite the fact it is very late or there is something else I really should be doing. This was one such book.

Spawned from the Thieves’ World series and interwoven with historical research and ancient sources the story covers the rescue of the missing members of the Sacred Band of Thebes, who fought at the Battle of Chaeronea and whose whereabouts are unknown to history.

In the style of the myths of old, such Homer, this is a great adventure filled with war – and there is a LOT of that – love, loyalty and bravery far beyond the call of duty, not to mention interfering deities, wicked wizards, conflict and change, balance and harmony.

The world of Tempus and his companions has been extensively researched, and it shows, for the world is extremely rich, totally believable and yet utterly fantastic. The reader experiences a ride of epic and heroic proportions, from the graphic battle scenes, including the shock and loss, to the weapons, armour, lifestyles and religion of the world.

The characters are engaging, varied and interesting; from the enigmatic and warlike Tempus to the young Niko, who strives for balance.  Heroes abound as they strive to fight an enemy like no other and one who could destroy them and all they hold dear.

An excellent, exciting and totalling enthralling adventure and I look forward to reading many more by this author.