“Mouth of the Dragon” by Thomas Barczak, review by Christopher Morris

Dragons, a new take on the ancient beastie.

Dragons have been around, in our myths and legends at least, since before the days of Jason and the Argonauts (wherein one of Jason’s trials was to sow dragons’ teeth), from before the days of the Iliad, and from before the days when Triptolemus went to Thrace and his host Carnabon slew one of the dragons pulling his chariot, for which Carnabon was hounded by Demeter until his death and after, when she had him banished to the constellation Ophiuchos where he forever holds at arm’s length a serpent (a/k/a dragon) trying to kill him. Twinkle, twinkle, little dragon . . . Dragon myths go even farther back, to the 2nd (or some say 3rd)  millennium BCE, when the dragon Illuyankus, whose favorite snack was Hittite children, was killed by the storm god Tarhunt to save Hatti’s children from a dragon’s dinner table.

I thought I had a handle on all possible dragon myths, until I read Thomas Barczak’s inventive novel, in which both dragons and human children play a part . . .  And I’m not going to tell you what happens in Tom Barczak’s Mouth of the Dragon, but I can pretty much guarantee you’ve never read a book like it before (unless, of course, you’ve read Tom’s precursor novel, Veil of the Dragon). But never fear, whether you’ve never read a dragon tale or have a shelf full, Mouth of the Dragon stands alone, and proudly, to great effect.

As you may have guessed by now,  I loved this book. Until I read Mouth of the Dragon, I wasn’t sure there were any roads as yet untrod in dragon realms — no stories still untold, no new tales that could make you think differently about dragonkind. Now that I’ve read Mouth of the Dragon, here’s my reaction, spoiler-free and thus phrased as questions: Is a dragon still a dragon when he controls people from inside them? Is prophecy still prophecy when it turns upon its prophet? Can a dark YA/NA book also be a book for grownups? My answer is a resounding yes to all of those. Lyrical, subtle, and always refreshing, Barczak poses new questions, new answers, and does so in an inimitable style. For a fresh take on dragons and their relationship with humanity, read this. You’ll be glad you did, and that way you won’t be the only one on the internet who hasn’t read it yet . . .

Click here to get your copy from Amazon in Kindle format:

https://www.amazon.com/Mouth-Dragon-Prophecy-Thomas-Barczak-ebook/dp/B01MS37Q2E/

Click directly above, bottom right, to see the free preview.

Ready? Set? Go!

Want to hold a beautiful edition in your hands? You can also order the deluxe trade edition with an original cover by Roy Mauritsen from Perseid Press at: www.theperseidpress.com/?page_id=1641

or from Amazon athttps://www.amazon.com/Mouth-Dragon-Prophecy-Thomas-Barczak/dp/0997758392/

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Mouth of the Dragon, © 2017 by Thomas Barczak, from Perseid Press.

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Mouth of the Dragon, by Thomas Barczak, from Perseid Press

First dragon-sighting of the 2017 season…

What awaits when prophecy turns against the prophet?

What will he see, when the veil of the dragon rises?

To save the ones he loves, Chaelus, vessel of the Giver reborn, pursues the dragon and the fate that prophecy foretold for him. But as the veil of the dragon rises, so does the veil between prophecy and the past, where the Prophecy of Evarun suffers no rivals.

Mouth of the Dragon, Prophecy of the Evarun, (c) February 10, 2017, Perseid Press.

 

mouthdragon-kindle-coverPerseid Press

Pre-order now on Amazon, ships February 10, 2017:  https://www.amazon.com/Mouth-Dragon-Prophecy-Thomas-Barczak-ebook/dp/B01MS37Q2E/

Perseid Press tells your fortune for 2017: You’ll be enthralled by Thomas Barczak’s Mouth of the Dragon, a dark dragon tale for our times.

We asked Tom to tell us about Mouth of the Dragon, without reveal any secrets, and here is what he says:

This dark, epic, and redemptive fantasy challenges everything a hero’s journey can be.

Chaelus, once Roan lord of the House of Malius, now vessel of the Giver reborn, has defeated the Dragon of legend. Now he must rescue his brother and his kingdom, both beyond the Dragon’s Veil.

When the legendary dragon resurges among drums of war, it threatens Chaelus, the human vessel of prophecy who once defeated it, and those loyalists the man holds dear.

Now Chaelus must confront the Dragon a second time, as prophecy has foretold.

With his remaining followers he pursues the Dragon. When he finds it, he finds that the blood of his past has returned to reclaim him.

And even with the power of prophecy at his summons he cannot defend against it.

Tempted to save all he’s lost, abandoned by the prophecy he’s vowed to serve, he falls under the spell of the Dragon, and learns that the dragon you hunt is the dragon within you.

Chaelus must defeat the dragon for all time, but finds he cannot, until he first surrenders himself.

*

Thomas Barczak confesses that he’s an artist, architect, and a writer whose stories tell the tales he’s always dreamed about.

His work also includes the illustrated epic fantasy novel, Veil of the Dragon, and the Kindle serial, Awakening Evarun (Parts I-VI), both set in the Evarun universe. He’s also written a comic fantasy serial for Kindle called Wolfbane (Parts 1-2 of 3). His short fiction includes contributions to Heroika 1 – Dragon Eaters, Nine Heroes, Terror by Gaslight, and What Scares the Boogeyman, as well as stories for two volumes Janet Morris’ award winning Heroes in Hell series, Dreamers in Hell, and Poets in Hell.

Tom swears he writes only because he must. He writes because he needs to tell others the stories he has held so long inside, stories that inspire his paintings and his poetry — stories that have always been with him, even years ago when he’d sit at a table with friends, slaying dragons.

If you’re not tempted there’s no dragon curled around your soul. Pre-order now, or get yours as electronic or deluxe trade paper editions on February 10, 2017. . .

Until then, content yourself with this short excerpt from Perseid’s  Kindle edition of Mouth of the Dragon by Thomas Barczk . . .

The small shadow of a horse and rider broke out of the thin blue veil on the horizon, a mark like a firebrand upon a pristine field of white, like an urgent stroke of prophecy.

Chaelus, the vessel of the Giver reborn, had returnedto them.

Chaelus.

Al-Mariam’s lips, her cheeks, the very flesh beneath her brow kindled at the sight of him, in the very place where Chaelus had touched her only a fortnight before, when he had heldher face and showed her his divinity, the true nature ofwhat hewas;whenhehadtouchedtheverysoulofher.

When he had touched her heart.

She had tried to then, but she could no longer deny her devotion toward him. What plagued her heart, though, was the question of its nature. She had been touched by him, by theeternalspiritoftheGiverthatpossessedhim,butshehad also been touched by something else, something more. She had been touched by the mortal husk that carried it, by the man who so effortlessly and nobly suffered both the burden and the grace of itsbearing.

It was his humanness that kept her near to him, that made her love him.

It was he, Chaelus, not the vessel of the Giver reborn but the resurrected barbarian lord of the House of Malius, who had laid such a claim upon her heart.

Shestoppedherhandasitdrewunconsciouslynearher brow,justabovetheplacewhereChaelus’fleshborethepale mark of the Dragon’scrown.

The shuffling cascade of ice and stone down the slopebehind her announced Al-Toman’s arrival.

Al-Toman’s thick merchant cloak swirled about him. Disguised as a noblewoman’s merchant train returning from Tulon, some of them as merchants, some of them as slaves, the twelve kept their Gossamer Blades hidden beyondthewardedsafetyoftheGarden,theplaceoftheirexile. Obidae, along withAl-Mariam’s orphaned mystical brother, Michalas,spiritualtwintoChaelusandsomehowpartofthe prophecy as well, would also play the part of slaves. Chae- lus, their prophesied protector, would be their temporal one as well, should ever the eyes of bandits or Hunters, the assassinssentbytheTheocracytoexterminatetheirorder,find them.

And, of course, Obidae would be there to help them with this, too.

Al-Toman eyed Obidae and nodded to him.

Obidae, the mastiff barbarian, nodded back.

Al-Toman, unlike most of the Servian Knights, felt no discomfort toward the barbarian chieftain. In fact, a sort of silent friendship had developed between the two in the fort- night that had passed since Obidae and his band ofKhaalish warriors joinedthem.

Al-Toman, like most of the Servian knights, camefrom a foreign land. In Al-Toman’scase, from the Dunnish lands to the east, where the mysticism of the Khaalishite was not so foreign and where both blood and trade had flowed between both peoples ever since the Awakening, a hundred yearsbefore.

Together, the two would also help to serve as ambas- sadors when they arrived in the Khaalishite, so that theGiver, so that Chaelus, could carry the message of his return to themaswell.Hopefully,theycoulddosobeforetheDragon, whichhadalreadydarkenedtheTheocraticStatesalongtheir border, carried itsown.

That was why the Mother had sent them, anyway, if it was true that the souls of the Theocracy were already lost.

“The others are beginning to wonder if…” Al-Tomanbegan.Hefollowedthedirectionofherstare.Hisvoicesoft- ened.“He’shere.”

Al-Mariam heard Al-Toman’svoice change at thesight of Chaelus, in unfeigned reverence at the sight of their, his own,savior.

She heard the call and running footsteps of the other Servian knights climbing the ridge to meet him, to see him.

“He’s late,” she said.

Al-Toman’s mouth waited, open but silent.

Bloodandspittlegatheredaroundthecornerofhislips. Hisheadhungwithaslightbendoverwherethearrowshaft protruded from his throat and through the back of his neck. Therestofhisbodysagged,thengavewaybeneathhim.

Herownvoice,alongwitheverythingelse,fellsuddenlysilent.

More arrows grew out of the snow around her, sprouting like a savage garden. Their fletching was the color of blood. She felt a sharp tug at her cloak and a heavy weight.

She searched in vain for Obidae, for his protection, but only found the muted pleas of fallen knights in the snow around her.

Across the frozen plain, the small shadow of Chaelus seemed to move farther away from her.

The silence cracked at last like a frozen pond around her, exploding in a pain that consumed her, crushing her, bringing her down, dulled only by the mortal sound of her own scream.

*

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Character Interview: Nikodemos of the Sacred Band

tempus-anthology-full-cover-spread-front-and-back

Character Interview Number Three – Nikodemos – Fantasy/Mythic

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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 our heavy cavalry.  I am a committed Sacred Bander, right-side partner of our commander, Tempus, called the Riddler, the Black, the Sleepless One, the Obscure, 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 become 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 only 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 herself.  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: our differences define us.

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 freemen 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 for place or race or 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 greater 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 its 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, and cloud-conveyance.  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 who is regent of the seventh sphere?  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.  Erinyes.  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 Morrishttp://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Sanctuary-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FPDG

Beyond the Veil (1985), (2013), Janet Morris http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Veil-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FIG0

Beyond Wizardwall (1986), (2013) Janet Morrishttp://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Wizardwall-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FH6G

Tempus (1987), (2011) Janet Morris http://www.amazon.com/Tempus-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-Tales-ebook/dp/B00BI175EY
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 Morrishttp://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Band-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B00AMLKJAI

The Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl (2010), Janet Morris and Chris Morris,http://www.amazon.com/Fish-Fighters-Song-Girl-Sacred-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B007VQIJFY/ref=pd_sim_kstore_2

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.

theperseidpress.com

sacredbander.com

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/PerseidPublishing

https://www.facebook.com/TheSacredBand

https://www.facebook.com/SacredBandBeyondTriolgy

https://www.facebook.com/tempusandniko

https://www.facebook.com/fishfightersonggirl

https://www.facebook.com/JanetMorrisandChrisMorris

Interview from the Void: Chris Morris by Donny Swords

It is my honor to introduce Christopher Crosby Morris.  His passion to connect with life, and its people, and to be an honest, true voice that shines out is an extremely valuable blessing.  I have had the opportunity to interview Janet Morris his extraordinarily talented wife already.  I knew Chris’ responses would be very informative.  I had no idea how insightful of an interview I was in for.  I am humbled.  Chris Morris possesses fiber, that something which took years of practice, and years of pushing beyond mastery to possess.  His writing- no matter the medium, whether you prefer audiobooks, music, or written prose challenges and moves the mind into directions not often pursued, but well worth the journey.  I have been listening to Chris narration of the Sacred Band available on audio lately, and as a singer who has studied formerly under one of the greatest voice instructors of all time I have to say that I would not be able to deliver so much substance, such enriching quality in my deliveries, even using my characters. In short, Chris Morris is astounding.  Keep reading to begin finding out why.

Hello, thank you for agreeing to the interview.  Would you tell us a little about yourself?
A must have! Click Here.My pleasure. My consuming passion is voice in all its aspects, but especially as it manifests in storytelling, both in prose and verse, literature and song. Metaphorically voice represents many things, even the sum of a life. Voice is a double-edged sword we learn to wield to our benefit or detriment. Most recently I’ve assumed the task of narrating our prose catalog and am thrilling to offer publicly what has heretofore been a private but seminal feature of our writing process.
 
You write as a team with your wife Janet Morris.  When did you first become drawn to writing, was it before or after you met her?
Before. Since childhood I’ve enjoyed arranging words to varied effect. In my youth I became a marvelous liar, more because of my fascination with discerning and fabricating what people wanted to hear than from mischievous or malicious intent. When Janet and I met our first collaborations were songs, many of which I still perform today — they are that good. She wrote stories from a very early age. A lasting part of our attraction was and is a shared desire to precisely express what life is showing us, and that means capturing those observations in story form. The difference — or complementarity — between us is that she is expansionist in her portrayals and I am reductionist.
 
You are a musician, when did you start playing?  What instruments do you play?
My older sister and brother proved miserable piano students, so our parents decided that Christopher could do without. Unbeknownst to me (and thankfully so), I was spared the disadvantage of entering musical life through the doorway of percussion. I’m a baritone and baritones seldom wow anyone vocally until the instrument develops, usually in one’s mid- to late twenties. Therefore my public school music teacher, Ms. Hutton, smiled commiseratingly and showed me to a seat with alto boys whose glee club lot was to huff and puff in support of the shrill girls reciting rote melodies. I loved it: anonymity and license to experiment with pitches against a preprogrammed backdrop of boys droning away predictably. In short, I sang, and still sing, first and foremost. And I utterly believe that all music in the human bandwidth derives from controlled breathing.
Guitar started for me at age eleven and is my most satisfying lifetime tool-oriented skill path, several times requiring me to experience the miracle of starting over in order to thoroughly master basic aspects. At this point I am pretty deeply into creating digital models of guitars impossible to achieve in strictly analog settings; I use custom built guitars with Graphtech’s Ghost hexaphonic sensors fed to Roland’s VG99 effects unit, then into a Yamaha board (with my vocal mic) and out in stereo to one of two twin Bose tower monitor systems (L1 and/or L1 Compact) so I am always in the same sound field as any listener. This all stems from wanting a bigger – not louder – guitar sound. I “build” a guitar for any song that needs something a little different and now have twenty or thirty pretty amazing guitars dial-able from one setup. Can’t wait for you to come check it out, and we be jammin’ man.
 
To me the guitar is a universe of possibilities, which is the same with writing.  Do you ever feel limited by people’s expectations of you and your crafts?
I could spend an hour on your first statement here, but will answer the question bit first. No, I no longer feel constrained due to others’ irrational calculations of what comprises art. I say ‘no longer’ because every creative must ascend from the pit of self-doubt into the light of self-knowledge and mastery through determined focus and practice. In his autobiography Miles Davis stated the gospel: “The most difficult thing a musician can do is sound like himself.” And, as you said in that first sentence, it’s “…the same with writing.”
 
When I played onstage I got instant feedback as to how I was doing.  I often find it difficult when I release a book and it gets less attention than I’d hoped.  Does your perception of what you feel will or won’t be received well change when you consider your fan base?
Buy Music
No, nor should it for you. This is a variant of the last question, but with a putative contrast between two, on the surface, apparently different art forms. Beneath the surface however they are so closely related as to be nearly identical: they are both listening sports, simultaneously involving the sources and receivers and overlapping the roles of each. Anything you can say of one has an obvious parallel in the other, the biggest difference being in rate of transmission.
One of the glories of human consciousness is that we can hear ourselves hearing ourselves. Shakespeare was the first to portray characters listening to their own inner voice, “the invention of the human” as Harold Bloom calls it. In both music and literature you are your own first audience and, if you like what you hear, by any and all means do not hesitate to proceed for want of external approbation. They are your audience, not your judges. Disregard this truth and that way lies madness.
 
Get your copy here Does a really good review feel as good as a standing ovation at a gig, or are they apples and oranges?
Glad you asked. Distrust both. If you pin your self-esteem to them and their approbation or lack thereof, you are lost. As Heraclitus said, “He who is praised to the skies lives a life of fantasy.”
 
You and your wife Janet are a team, how does that dynamic play out when you are developing a novel?  When it is underway?
Our novels develop from conversations reaching a point where further elucidation will best be accomplished by the exploration of personality(ies) in our case, fictional heroes — living their way through circumstances embodying the challenge under consideration. Our working definition of a hero is one who struggles in service to an ideal; if we run out of ideals we may write a different sort of book, but that protagonist would most likely be struggling to find out what happened to all the missing ideals … hmmm.
When the book is under way it’s buckle up time, the blessed state, because (and this is hard for many of our writer buddies to accept) we honestly don’t know everything that’s going to happen. The way to find out the details is to go where only the characters can take us. By that time we are way onboard and strapped in and boldly going we know not where, but headed for a climax we’ve seen but not yet lived. Fun or what? Is it real? For us and the characters, you bet. Does it have that precious quality of feeling true to life? Yup. That’s the reward of the collaborative arrangement; it imparts a binaural, binocular, bi-conscious view of uncertainty, which we and a host of readers find magnetic.
 
When you edit do you have a process?
When Janet began drafting (typing, mind you) High Couch of Silistra I would read her day’s output (and still do) aloud, because sound is primary to my apprehension, especially if analytics are involved. When I draft we do the same. Although it might seem laborious, this actually saves time and speeds up the rate at which we achieve publishable work. Linguistic anomalies can be heard by the ear and missed by the eye; our editing voice benefits from two sets of each. I’m frequently amazed at how much a slight alteration of pitch or emphasis can inform the net effect of syntax. If we have a passage that wants to be heard a certain way it’s incumbent on us to nail the punctuation so the experienced reader ‘hears’ it.
 
Since you began as a published author, how have things changed?
It might be easier to list what hasn’t changed, but for those tuning in late there’s: lots more slush being published and given away; increased ability of content providers to call the shots at every production level; no more meddling middle-folk; no more security of the reasonable advance for a multi-book deal; lots more transparency; even more slush being published and given away; piracy; more feedback from readers and trolls; general confusion as to what intellectual property is and how to preserve ownership of it; still more slush being published and given away; genre-fication whelping a litter of niche-of-a-niche-of-a-niche popularity contests; ability to purchase emblems of legitimacy bestowed for a price by formerly powerful arbiters of taste such as Kirkus; global reach to millions of readers; yet more slush being published and given away, or did I say that enough?
 
One of your recent projects was narrating the audio book “The Sacred Band”.  Could you tell us what it takes to accomplish such a feat?
Like anything worth doing, it takes tenacity and focus. Because it was a first-time project The Sacred Band audio book involved a learning curve which added time and cost. I’m a team player and narration has a solitary aspect to it; I’m getting accustomed to it, but I was grateful for the technical assistance of a good friend who babysat me as I got this first one recorded over a period of a little more than a year. If I narrated full time it might now take me only eight or nine weeks. I’m working in Adobe Audition and can handle everything up to but not including audio-post mastering chores (adding noise reduction, some compression and normalization processing before converting to Mp3 for submission). I am an ACX.com (Amazon>Audible>ACX) user and have no plans to market outside their considerable infrastructure; I’d recommend them to beginners because they’ve done the homework necessary to service all the stakeholders in a project. ACX is also a good place to listen to samples of what other production teams are doing and obtain a reference point of view as to what constitutes a finished product. ACX costs nothing to join; they’re compensated from what Audible gets from sales of your book.
 
I say feat due to your performance.  You are merged with your and Janet’s characters in that delivery.  This summoning of Tempus or whomever is speaking shows a deep connection to your characters.  Do they make you laugh or cry?
I had already read The Sacred Band aloud two or three times before embarking on the narration. We are meticulous about “voicing” our characters and punctuate and format very carefully to emphasize their characteristic speech patterns while still retaining transparency of style. For our first audio project we decided to hire Alex Hyde-White to learn the ropes and see how an accomplished pro would narrate our material. He did a bang-up job with Wake of the Riddler, a shorter TW piece of Janet’s, and immediately caused me to realize what I could bring to our work because of my greater familiarity. I am gratified that you heard the characters coming through because after experimenting with inventing a distinctive sound for each character I opted instead to read with consistently clear articulation and to respect each character’s mood and message within the limits of my voice rather than risk caricature.
They don’t make me laugh or cry. They make me disappear. I miss that when we’re not together.
 
Your music is intelligent and endearing, quite moving actually, were you going for the same effect on the audio book?
Thank you. Yes, in both cases it turns out to be what I do instinctively. After countless attempts to sound “commercial” musically, I finally took Miles’ advice and dared to embrace what comes out of me ingenuously. Being comfortable in one’s own skin is worth whatever effort is required to make it so. It took me decades to get there (hence my remarks about the acclaim of others) but once arrived, I rejoice to possess sheer bandwidth that accommodates a broad spectrum of emotion without disproportion.
 
What is your take on violence in books?
Gratuitous…or not. If a story is merely a vehicle to roll out a train of atrocities, what’s the point except to titillate adolescent sensibilities? Writers of all sorts leverage threats of violence, many to avoid the laborious task of carefully laying out a sequence of events building to a genuine need for overt confrontation. I write for the more experienced reader, and myself, who want a little more justification, realism, and reason to care what happens than a story where hardware and machinery are indistinguishable. No doubt about it, there’s violence in books.
 
Who are your favorite musicians?  Authors?

Ray, Mose, kd, Chet, Tony, Sly, Diana Krall, Tommy Emmanuel, Bill Evans, JS Bach, CPE Bach, Mozart, Davey Spillane, Bela Fleck, Victor Wooten, Nat, Haydn, Corelli, Leadbelly (see video), Lightnin’, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Dinah Washington, Aretha but she ticks me off, Eddy Arnold, Mitchell Parish (wrote the lyrics to Stardust), Carmichael (wrote the melody to Stardust), Michel Legrand.
Janet Morris, Arthur Clarke, Hermann Hesse, John Milton, Will Shakespeare, Jack London, Will James, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Heraclitus of Ephesus, P. G. Wodehouse, Harold Bloom, Homer, Deborah Koren, Mika Waltari, Sam Harris, Roger Penrose.
 
How long did it take to compose the backing track on the Outpassage trailer?
Read Outpassage It took about two days, back in late ’78, culminating in that recording. It’s a song called No Man’s Land, a bedroom demo recorded on a TEAC 10 inch four track reel to reel with Janet on bass, Leslie Kuipers on guitar, Nathan Seely on drums, Ted Lo on ARP string synthesizer, and me on guitar and vocal. It smoked sufficiently that we began playing the Boston fusion clubs around Berklee and generally had a very good time. We were regrouping after moving back from LA in the wake of the MCA album’s short but glorious run, and I still had three quarters of my band to work with and Ted and Nathan eager to jump in. We were listening toMahavishnu and Return to Forever and I was wondering why nobody ever sang over that kind of stuff, plus it was in my “sky high” period when I’d figured out how to build section momentum with circular patterns. The song has some cool cousins I’ll put up pretty soon. What I’m digging now is that shelf life is pretty much irrelevant these days and No Man’s Land has a rabid following on a site called NumberOneMusic.com ; entry level listeners take in Hendrix and Gaga and Norah and Eminem and me all at once and could care less when a piece of music was made or even whether the artists are still alive.
 
Tell us about your publishing house.
Perseid is damning the torpedoes and putting out stuff that is representative of what we grew up wanting to read; we say books for experienced readers, or books worth reading.
 
What inspires you?
My favorite of your questions.
Growth. A starry sky. Acceptance of the greater without diminution or forfeit of personality. Personal truths: the value of distinguishing between what one is told and what one learns from experience. The love of a dog. The suppositions of consciousness turned upon itself. In music the ability to reharmonize melody, steal time (rubato) and imply realms beyond physical scope. Kindness. Exploring Heraclitus’ thesis that all things are reflected in all things. The hunger for truth, beauty and goodness. Sister Wendy.
We live in cataclysmic times, for all I know analogous to all preceding ages. What is unknown to me so overwhelmingly eclipses what is known that my fate is to be inured to the idea that uncertainty is somehow requisite to continuity. I accept. I am human for a blink, a moment in an infinite progression. My moment too is subsumed in eternity and, being part, reflects its whole — harbors the DNA of the eternal — from micro to meta. So, even as a relatively infinitesimal particle I may intake my portion of the entire mystery of mysteries. If I am a moment, so am I eternal. Beyond cool.
And partnership…to host an intellectual life is a high privilege, to share such a life closely, transcendent, to make art of such sharing, nonpareil.
 
For readers new to your novels, which three would you recommend?
 
The Sacred Band (book, e-book, audio book) Click Here.
 Outpassage (book, e-book) Read Outpassage
The Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl (book, e-book). Buy
 
How important are reviews to you?  For marketing?  For sales?
 
Reviews are Rorschachs of their writers, offering subjective accounts of questionable exposure to some work or other. The substance of reviews is of most interest to other reviewers. Although taken for marketing currency, reviews are seldom value added. Creators inevitably fail to accurately calculate the effect of reviews on sales because the study of the relationship is an inexact science at best, at worst an obsession stymieing their creative efforts for lack of prudent allocation of attention.
 
Now advertising is a little different….
I would like to thank Chris Morris for this famously insightful and encouraging interview.  It is good to know the human condition is not wasted on him- but rather seen as an opportunity to grow.  Bravo- Chris!  See everyone next time.  🙂Thanks for reading.Donny  
Chris’ Links: http://www.amazon.com/The-Sacred-Band/dp/B00N1YRVH2/http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/The-Sacred-Band-Audiobook/B00MU2VCEO/http://www.amazon.com/Outpassage-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B00IDC1E84/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=http://www.amazon.com/Fish-Fighters-Song-Girl-Sacred-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B007VQIJFY/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1410294833&sr=1-1&keywords=the+fish+the+fighters+and+the+song-girlhttp://numberonemusic.com/christophercrosbymorris/https://www.reverbnation.com/christophercrosbymorris?profile_view_source=profile_boxhttp://www.amazon.com/Everybody-Knows-Christopher-Morris-Band/dp/B004GNEF3A/https://soundcloud.com/christopher-morris http://www.amazon.com/Chris-Morris/e/B008L41JNO/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_2https://www.facebook.com/JanetMorrisandChrisMorrishttps://www.facebook.com/christophercmorrissings http://www.sacredbander.comhttp://www.theperseidpress.com/# http://www.facebook.com/christopher.c.morris.7?fref=ts http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Morris_(author)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLqxH_Tx5VA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7g79LZAgk8w https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EylzKQa4yghttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCv4GA5W5eA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICAPn0E7NC0 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SQFmxwfT7ghttp://www.amazon.com/Outpassage-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B00IDC1E84/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=    Where to find Donny Swords stuff:   Donny Swords author ( Facebook )  (Blog) Primal Publications (Facebook )  (Blog) The Indie Collaboration ( web )   Novels & Links

Hell Can Be … Fun!

Weston’s Hell Bound- Hell can be fun!  First published in the web by Seth Lindberg: http://www.selindberg.com/2016/07/westons-hell-bound-hell-can-be-fun.html

Hell BoundHell Bound by Andrew P. Weston
S.E. rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Grim Reaper will lead your through a wacky, dark Hell
In Andrew P. Weston’s Hell Bound, our protagonist and tour guide into Hell is Daemon Grim: he’s a snarky bounty hunter, Satan’s right-hand man for reining in the damned. Grim is so impressed with himself that it takes a while to realize that he may, like everyone in Hell, may actually be subject to being played.

Grim was introduced to the Heroes in Hell series in the previous installment,Doctors in Hell. In short story form there, he was tasked to retrieve Dr. Thomas Neill Cream who had escaped topside. Doctors in Hell is an anthology,an enjoyable introduction to Hell which serves as a great entry point to the series. Heroes in Hell is a long, sustained series, but Doctors and Hell Bound confirm that anyone can hop along and enjoy the ride from any stop (it is always a good time to go to Hell). Reading Doctors will help the reader appreciate the full novel Hell Bound, but doing so is not necessary.

For new readers, I summarize the Heroes in Hell milieu. It is a fantastical place built from myths and religions—so do not expect Tolkienesque elves or dwarves. The primary realm explored is called Juxtapose, which is a satirical mirror of our earth’s cityscapes (the Seine river featured as “Inseine”, Paris called Perish, the Eiffel Tower represented as the Awful Tower, Facebook is called Hatebook… which sadly seems too appropriate…). Since time has little meaning in Hell, beings from past and present meet and scheme (i.e., Tesla and Chopin). There are other realms beyond Juxtapose connected with ethereal gateways. All are populated by beings being tormented and try to outwit Satan or their comrades. Even Erra, the Akkadian plague god, has visited Hell to torment Satan. No one is safe! It is a splendid, wacky place that works well.

Having recently read Doctors, I was intrigued with the Heroes In Hell world. I wanted to experience it more but needed a tour guide. Daemon Grim did so in entertaining fashion. I wanted to “see” how the Undertaker refreshed the damned as they underwent subsequent deaths; I wanted to experience more odd-ball pairings of historical figures struggling to complete their life’s missions; I wanted my tour guide to have some depth, even if he was unaware of it. The story is a bizarre cat-versus-mouse hunt, with Grim chasing Cream through very dark realms, upturning mystery after mystery. A scavenger hunt-like game ensues with beautiful, cryptic poetry that leads Grim further and further into a web of deceit. Antagonists are aplenty.

Hell Bound delivered. Andrew P. Weston did a superb job balancing the needs of a full length novel with the freedoms/constraints of a shared world usually expressed in short story form. Highly recommended for fantasy readers who enjoy a bit of dark adventure.

Field Notes #2 from Heroika

Field Notes on Heroika:  Witness the Birth of Alchemical Warfare

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A guest post by S.E. Lindberg

Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters, the first in an emerging historical-fantasy series from Perseid Press, showcases seventeen perspectives on killing serpents from ancient to modern times. The forthcoming second installment, Heroika 2: Shieldless, likewise fuses mythological themes with adventure, this time by tracking unarmored heroes & skirmishers across time.

“Legacy of the Great Dragon,” my short story for Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters, features the Father of Alchemy Thoth (a.k.a. Hermes) entombing his singular source of magic, the Great Dragon. According to Greek and Egyptian myth, Hermes was able to see into the world of the dead and pass his teachings to the living. One of the earliest known hermetic scripts is the Divine Pymander of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus. Within that, a tale is told of Hermes being confronted with a vision of the otherworldly entity Pymander, who takes the shape of a “Great Dragon” to reveal divine secrets. “Legacy of the Great Dragon” fictionalizes this Hermetic Tradition, presenting the Great Dragon as the sun-eating Apep of Egyptian antiquity. Hermes’s teachings are passed to humanity via an Emerald Tablet.

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The actual Emerald Tablet (if it was indeed “real”) is arguable the most popular work of Hermeticism since its reveals the secret of transmuting any material’s base elements into something divine or valuable (gold). Many refer to the Tablet as being the philosopher’s stone, or the knowledge embodying it. In fact, the tablet no longer physically exists, but translations of it do. Sir Isaac Newton’s translation of the tablet’s inscription remains very popular, and undeniably cryptic.

Following the Emerald Tablet from Ancient Egypt into the Hellenistic age, the “The Naked Daemon” entry in Heroika 2 pits the mystic Apollonius of Tyana (deceased ~100 CE) against zealots who destroy what remains of the Alexandria Library. In life his principles had been aligned with those of the pacifist gymnosophists (a.k.a. naked philosophers); hundreds of years past his death, Apollonius finds himself reborn as a daemon empowered with Hermes’s Emerald Tablet. He observes the Roman oppression over pagan scholars and is challenged with an urgent need to defend knowledge. Will he rationalize war by unleashing the power of alchemy to do harm? Will he become an angel or demon? How will alchemy transform The Naked Demon?

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For more on fiction inspired by alchemy by S.E. Lindberg, check out an article on the Mappae Clavicula or the author’s blog at S.E. Lindberg.

Read more about Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters, at any of theses links:

http://www.theperseidpress.com/?mbt_book=heroika-1-dragon-eaters

https://www.blackgate.com/2015/06/16/heroika-1-dragon-eaters-edited-by-janet-morris/

Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters is available from Perseid Press for Kindle, Nook, in trade paper and in an audiobook narrated by Rob Goll:   http://www.amazon.com/Dragon-Eaters-Heroika-Volume-1/dp/B0193RZ4XI/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1458244671&sr=1-1&keywords=heroika+1+dragon+eaters+audioHeroika

 

 

Field Notes, Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters

What the authors say about their work:  first in an occasional series.

 

We’ve had such a strong response from educators wanting to use Dragon Eaters in their classes as well as from readers with historical backgrounds,  we thought we’d ask the authors to tell us a bit about the genesis of their contributions to Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters:

 

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Our first writer up to bat is Water Rhein, author, explorer, publisher, telling us about his process for developing “Aquila of Oyos“:

Aquila of Oyos” Mythical/Historical Genesis by Walter Rhein.

I had a bit of fun while writing “Aquila of Oyos” for Janet Morris’s “Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters” anthology. This was the first in a proposed series of anthologies connected by concept and ordered chronologically from ancient past to future, and each story in the first book must be about dragons. Because of this archetypal requirement,  I thought my story would need a certain weight that only an attachment to historical or mythological figures could provide.

Although this story is not dependent on the reader’s awareness of the prevalence of mythological allusions, they do enrich the experience when the connections are perceived. The most obvious clue is the inclusion of a character named Prometheus. This is a case where all you have to do is research Prometheus’s role in mythology and the connection is made (hint: it has something to do with fire). In “Aquila of Oyos” I propose a theory for where Prometheus’s fire actually came from.

Another character name in this tale is named Prospero, a name made famous by Shakespeare in “The Tempest.” In Shakespeare, Prospero is a sorcerer and illusionist. Therefore, to have a character named Prospero in my story would be waste a great opportunity if that character didn’t also dabble in illusion…

Aquila is Latin for eagle and was a prominent symbol in ancient Rome. Rome is an empire that falls, as does the empire of dragons. The least obvious name I used was Oyos, for Aquila’s mountain. By the end of the story, the top has been removed from the mountain changing it from a dragon’s spire into a mountain topped with columns of seared stone.

After human beings gained control of the dragon mountain, the name got changed to Olympus… but by now you’ve guessed that.

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Read the entire story Aquila of Oyos in Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters, edited by Janet Morris, on Kindle, Nook, or in a deluxe trade paper edition. Or hear Rob Goll’s narration of Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters, available from  Audible.com and Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Dragon-Eaters-Heroika-Volume-1/dp/B0193RZ4XI/

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