Joe Bonadonna speaks out on “Doctors in Hell,” the perfect prescription for damnation’s ills

First published in Black Gate Magazine: http://www.blackgate.com/2015/09/13/the-perfect-prescription-for-perdition-doctors-in-hell-edited-by-janet-morris-and-chris-morris/

Doctors in Hell is available in print and digital editions at Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Doctors-Hell-Heroes-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B00Z753EX8/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1442194400&sr=1-1&keywords=Doctors+in+Hell

And at Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/doctors-in-hell-janet-morris/1122204292

The Perfect Prescription for Perdition: Doctors in Hell, edited by Janet Morris and Chris Morris

Sunday, September 13th, 2015 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Doctors in Hell-smallDoctors in Hell
Heroes in Hell, Volume 18
Edited by Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Perseid Press (336 pages, $19.98 in trade paperback, $7.92 digital, June 23, 2015)
Cover: Pandemonium, John Martin (1789-1854), circa 1841, oil on canvas, from private collection. Cover design by Sonja Aghabekian

Be careful to preserve your health. It is a trick of the devil, which he employs to deceive good souls, to incite them to do more than they are able, in order that they may no longer be able to do anything.
— St. Vincent De Paul

By now, many of you no doubt know of my association with Janet Morris and Perseid Press. Maybe you’ve read the reviews of her novels that I wrote for Black Gate, including my reviews of Lawyers in Hell, Rogues in Hell, and Dreamers in Hell. In 2014 Janet and I collaborated onan article for Black Gate, in which we discussed Poets in Hell, how I came to be involved with Hell, and how she put that volume together.

Now, for 2015, Perseid Press offers you Doctors in Hell, the 18th volume in the popular and long-running Heroes in Hell saga, created by Janet Morris back in 1986 .This year I’m going to do something similar to what Janet and I did last year: presenting a brief synopsis of each story/chapter, with the diabolical assistance of my twelve fellow Hellions — the damnedest writers in perdition, to paraphrase the text on the book’s front cover. That makes 13 of us… a nice number, don’t you think?

First, however, I want to share with you my take on the infernal Afterlife of Hell, as it’s portrayed in the Heroes in Hell shared-universe.

Perseid Press logoThe series is often called “Bangsian fantasy,” a genre of fantasy which concerns the use of famous literary or historical individuals and their interactions in the afterlife. It’s named for John Kendrick Bangs (1862 –1922), an American satirist who often wrote such tales. Heroes in Hellitself is an epic series of shared-world novels where the famous and infamous throughout history all wind up together in Hell, where they virtually pick up right where they left off when still alive — but now with a diabolical twist: Hell may give you what you want and what you need, but these things are never quite what you asked for. Hell is not what you’d expect, so always expect the unexpected. Things are broken in Hell, things malfunction, and there’s always a grand touch of irony to everything that happens. Hell gives and Hell takes away, and in Hell the Damned get just what they deserve. There is comedy and tragedy in this eternal and infernal arena of Lost Souls, where human drama is played out across a wide spectrum of such literary genres that include heroic fantasy, horror, action-adventure, political thrillers, westerns, science fiction, and even romance. Each individual story in each book reads like a chapter in a novel, and each story/chapter bears the unique touch and personality of its author.

The premise of the series is based on the tradition that 613 is the number of mitzvoth or commandments in the Torah, which began in the 3rd century CE when Rabbi Simlai mentioned it in a sermon that is recorded in Talmud Makkot 23b. Our series of novels begins with the 613 original commandments, binding on every living soul, and ignorance is no excuse: break just one little commandment and you go to Hell. So almost everybody who was anybody broke some commandment or other while on earth, and now here they are, sometimes in a part of Hell where they belong, sometimes in an area of Hell where they don’t. The Damned come from across the length and breadth of time and history to interact, to scheme and plot, and even go adventuring — all the while suffering the torments of a well-deserved damnation. The worst and best from all of time make the same mistakes in Hell that got them there in the first place: character is destiny, in life Topside and in the Afterlife of the underverse, as well. You could read these books in order, in any order, or without having read any of the previous volumes in the series. In Hell, Time is meaningless, so it doesn’t matter which book you begin with: start anywhere, for the cohesion in each volume makes it stand alone. You can read Hell forward or backward or upside down: Hell is still Hell. It still unsettles minds and makes hearts skip beats. The Damned get the Hell they deserve. Expect what will be, nothing less, and nothing more. This is not your mommy’s world of fantasy: this is Hell, and tonight we dine on gore, tonight we feast on souls.

Lawyers in Hell-smallNow, as to what’s going on in Doctors in Hell

For all the horrors and torments that Satan has unleashed upon the Damned, the Almighty has decided that he’s been too lenient on them, and so to Hell were sent Ezra, the Babylonian plague god, and his henchmen, the Seven Sibitti, to spread plague and terror, to wreak havoc and further punishment throughout the underverse. Erra then stirs the pit by adding his own little brand of mayhem, maleficence, and malefic maladies to the mix. The result is that pestilential misery runs amok in Hell, lost souls wail in even more torment, doctors raise their fees, and snake-oil salesmen make a killing selling all sorts of bootlegged versions of vaccines and so-called remedies for the plagues sweeping across and through all levels and circles of Hell. But the damned must suffer, and the Devil is furious about Erra and his enforcers being sent from Heaven to prove that Hell is insufficiently hellish. And since death in Hell for all lost souls is only fleeting, followed by a horrifying turn in the Mortuary where they are worked on by the Undertaker prior to being reassigned, torment and suffering are eternal.

There is no escaping Hell. And don’t bother telling Hell’s doctors where it hurts, they won’t care. They have their own problems.

Ah, but Satan has a plan. Satan always has a plan. It’s a purge that may be even more terrible than anything cooked up by Erra. Satan, you see, has always held to the belief that Mankind is worthy of neither salvation nor damnation, and deserves only oblivion: total obliteration into nothingness. His Satanic Majesty has been trying to prove his point to Heaven and the Big Man Upstairs for ages upon ages, and this argument is what landed him in Hell in the first place. The Devil has always insisted that modern souls in Hell — called the New Dead, roughly anyone born Anno Domini — are so vicious, self-centered, hubristic and morally bankrupt that they would punish themselves and each other, if given a chance, more horribly and thoroughly than Hell’s bureaucracy could ever contrive to do. This leads to a bet between Satan and the angel Altos, who wants to prove the New Dead worthy of salvation — or at least deserving of leniency, to show themselves no worse than their predecessors or successors.

This brings us to the first story, The Wager, by Janet Morris and Chris Morris, wherein Altos, Hell’s only volunteer angel, has been sent from Above to effect Satan’s rehabilitation, a daunting task. Altos and Satan wager on the outcome of a battle between 20th and 21st century militarists who, Satan says, “will combat one another in battles fought exclusively by volunteers: armies manned by voyeurs of violence who find vicarious thrills reading of heroes who never were, fighting villains who never could be. If we hold this war and nobody comes, or the doctors of the damned heal the wounded and save the plague-ridden, then, Altos, you will win, and I shall soften my heart unto the New Dead and forestall the purge you know I am readying.”

Poets in Hell-smallChris Morris follows this up with The Cure, where Satan orders John Milton: “Tell Marlowe you have learned the difference between oblivion, impossible in my domain, and obliteration, which a soul can claim, be he brave enough: obliteration — complete and sweet: Not only ‘not to be,’ but to be expunged as if he’d never been at all. This will make an end to his playwriting and poetry, and an end to his affair with Shakespeare.” So Milton, horrified at what he hears next, must infect Christopher Marlowe with the knowledge of this cure.

Next up is Andrew Paul Weston’s tale, Grim: Satan demands a purging laxative to clear the bowels of the underworld of the dross that has accumulated over the centuries, and turns to the doctors for assistance. However, it appears our infernal physicians are hell-bent on fomenting rebellion. Forced to act, His Satanic Majesty turns to his Chief of Surgical Strikes and cure-all remedy — Daemon Grim — to wield the scalpel of injustice… and wield it he does.

In The Right Man for the Job, Deborah Koren’s story, we learn that the only thing worse than having Wyatt Earp gunning for you is having Wyatt Earp and plague victims after you. Bat Masterson joins forces with Dr. Henry Porter, the only surviving surgeon from the Little Big Horn, in order to stay alive.

The main premise of Nancy Asire’s Memory is the plague that’s struck hell and Napoleon’s memories of dealing with plague during his Egyptian campaign. The ramifications of these memories color his actions when dealing with the threat to those he cares about and shows the response of his friends in the face of potential disaster.

R.E. Hinkle’s story is What Price Oblivion? In this, he writes of 19th Century confidence man Charles “Doc” Baggs, who abhorred violence in life, but finds himself in death forced to be the thing he loathes the most, so much so that even oblivion is preferable to the monstrosity he has become. But when he encounters another doomed soul in worse torment than his own, who deserves that oblivion more than Baggs himself craves it, he finds himself tempted to take action. Can there be good deeds, even in Hell?

Rogues in Hell-smallRichard Groller’s In the Shadowlands picks up where his previous story, (“Island Out of Time”) left off. Houdini’s brief escape from Hell results in him returning to Hell with an unwitting passenger: a living lawyer, not yet a member of the damnable dead. His self-assigned mission is now to return the lawyer to the land of the living before it is too late.

In Matthew Kirshenblatt’s Let Us Kill the Spirit of Gravity, a fallen angel awaits and a Beast awakens as Lilith, the first wife of Adam, and the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche come to an unlikely accord.

Pavlovian Slip, by Bill Snider, is up next. In Hell, one would expect that psychologists would be in their place; the variety, the divergences of human experience, the interactions, the very grist of individual will and the exercise thereof. But, for Ivan Pavlov and Sigmund Freud, there can be no joy of discovery, there can only be the persistence of existence, in Hellish accord. When Ivan and his demonic horde of Grumbles join with Sigmund… what kinds of insanity are likely to happen?

My own story, Hell on a Technicality, continues the misadventures of Doctor Victor Frankenstein who, with the assistance of Quasimodo, concocts a plague vaccine that has some unforeseen and diabolical side effects. Meanwhile, Galatea and Frankenstein’s Monster visit a panel of so-called experts to find out if they have or don’t have souls — and if they don’t, can they get out of Hell on a technicality?

In Michael H. Hanson’s Convalescence, Nurse Calamity Jane, with the help of her Sinchester Rifle, protects Satan’s final outpost, The St. Rictus Nursing Home, from the all-encompassing plagues sweeping across Hell.

Dreamers in Hell-smallPaul Freeman’s Hell Noon deals with the plagues sweeping through hell, corrupting souls already suffering the harshest torments, and a group of gamblers holed up in a saloon on the outskirts of the Dead Plains. Doc Holliday leads the motley crew of damned souls as they seek to sit out the spreading contagion. But hell holds no place to hide from Satan’s punishments, least of all for a gambling man seeking to con the lord of all evil.

In The Judas Book, by Jack William Finley, Lobotomist Dr. Walter Freeman thinks he’s got a loophole to free himself from Hell. Judas Iscariot thinks he’s got Hell’s new bestseller, and Frank Nitti thinks they are both a pain in his ass worthy of Hell.

Now we come to the end of it all with Writer’s Block, by Janet Morris and Chris Morris. This time out, Shakespeare insists on taking Christopher Marlowe to the most infamous witch doctors in hell, where Marlowe begs their aid to find his lost Muse: “Can you help us? Spin a spell? Weave a charm? Vex a potion? Hex an enemy? Do any magics such as your sign outside boasts you can?”

“I can. I’ll give ye a push toward destiny,” cackles one bristly hag.

And the witch doctors do just that.

Oh, wait! We’re not quite finished yet. As a special treat, there’s A Moment of Clarity, a wonderful excerpt from Andrew Paul Weston’s forthcoming novel, Hell Bound.

So there we are, Doctors in Hell, where the doctor is always wrong, sinners never win, misery runs amok, and Hell’s damned get their just deserts . . . eternally. I hope you join our Company of 13 Hellions on a journey through all the pits, circles and levels of Hell, where not only doctors, but explorers, warriors, playwrights, lawyers, rogues, dreamers, and poets become an unlikely band of heroes — and anti-heroes — in Hell.

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Janet Morris, mother of Heroes in Hell, the damned saga, interviewed by Jennifer Loiske…

Originally posted at:  https://jenniferloiske.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/mother-of-heroes-in-hell-is-on-my-blog-today-meet-janet-morris/

‘Mother’ of Heroes in Hell is on my blog today! Meet Janet Morris!

Janet bio pic cropped 12 05 13 Janet B&W Portrait 2Best selling author Janet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 30 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris or others. She 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. Morris has written, contributed to, or edited several book-length works of non-fiction, as well as papers and articles on nonlethal weapons, developmental military technology and other defense and national security topics.

Want to know more about Janet? Here you go:

Heroes in Hell series Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heroes_in_Hell
Janet’s wikipedia bio: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_Morris
website: theperseidpress.com

Heroika 1 Perfect promo 6&9Janet, you’ve had your fingers in many literature jars, as one might say, and it seems you’re exactly where you were meant to be. Do you believe in destiny?

I believe in destiny and also in predestination. So do the heroes and villains in my fiction, such as our newest book, “Doctors in Hell.” Too many things have happened to me in my life that came to me unbidden, on the one hand, and seemed unavoidable, on the other. In the Silistra Quartet I wrote about the metaphysics of an “amenable universe” where what you expect conditions and shapes what actually occurs. A scientist named John Wheeler had a similar approach to modern physics, and he called that view of the universe the “anthropic principle.” To explain this most simply is to say that you get what you expect. Mind shapes reality. So expect the best, not the worst. When I have feared the worst, it has come to me; when I have envisioned great things, they have become reality.

In the Heroes in Hell series we explore the way the damned recreate the behaviors that brought them to hell in the first place. Heraclitus of Ephesus said, “Character is destiny.” I consider this a universal truth. In our Heroes in Hell series, and especially in Doctors in Hell, the protagonists (including mortal damned and fallen angels, heroes and lords of all the underworlds that humanity’s minds have created) shape their predicaments and their solutions as is natural for the character of each. For example, in the story “The Cure,” Satan sends John Milton to destroy the relationship between William Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe. How? You’ll need to read “The Cure” and the following story, “Writer’s Block,” to find out.

Do you do a lot of researching before starting to write or do you go with the flow and check the details (if doing so) later?

I do both: I find my characters, their destiny, so to speak. I decide how the book will end and how it must begin. Then I research detail as required, most deeply for books such as Doctors in Hell and the Heroes in Hell series, or the new Heroika series that begins with Dragon Eaters: if I’m using historical characters or historical events, or even historical models to create parallel fictional events, I read about the times, the personalities, and if there is any literature about events or people, I read that. I most love to find words spoken by a person with whom I’m trying to connect in order to create or recreate that character– or primary stories written by them or about them from their own time. Examples? In Doctors in Hell I’m using Will Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, Diomedes, John Milton; even Lord Byron’s dog, Boatswain, has a part to play. With those and my purely historical works, such as I, the Sun I try to quote the characters’ own words: nothing rings as truly as truth.

Once the story is ongoing I research more as I go, since the story opens up for me and I have more questions that need answers. After I’m done, I check everything – but once I’ve written the last word of a piece, it’s as if a door slams shut, and I know less about them than I did when I was writing. The metaphysical connection of the writer to a time and place is something that keeps me writing: I write a door and walk through it, hopefully taking the reader with me into another time and place and into other minds.

doctors-in-hellThat is beautifully said! And I like the image it brings into my mind…something very ‘Alice in Wonderland’ kind of thing…you’ll never know what happens on the other side of the door… Have you ever had a writer’s block and if yes, how did you make it go away?

Ha! I wrote a story called Writer’s Block for Doctors in Hell. You’ll need to read the story to learn the prescription given by one of my characters to another to banish writer’s block.

I will! And hopefully my readers will, too! Thanks for being here today, Janet, and thanks for sharing some of your writing secrets with us!

Cheers,

Jen x

AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – JANET MORRIS

How the sacred Band began…

Time 5-1

The Birth of Tempus

By Janet Morris

first published in http://pczick.com/2015/05/13/author-wednesday-janet-morris/

tempus coverI started writing stories about my soon-to-be iconic character Tempus in a most unexpected way. At the World Science Fiction convention, I sat on a panel with editor of the Thieves’ World(TM) series, Robert L. Asprin. In front of a packed house, he leaned forward into his microphone and asked me to write for his new “shared word” series, “Thieves’ World.” Flustered and delighted, but having no idea what Thieves’ World might be about, I said yes.

After the panel, Bob Asprin explained what he wanted: a story of up to ten thousand words, set in Sanctuary, a town meant to be the armpit of fantasy, a town we writers would all share as the locale for our stories. Our characters would remain ours to do with as we pleased elsewhere, but the Sanctuary locale was the “shared” part of the anthologies, and Bob would send me a backgrounder about the town and the unfortunate and corrupt people who lived there in some forgotten place and past. He said he wanted it dark; he wanted the characters to be thieves and murderers and witches and such, and the government to be unable to keep the peace. There was one volume of this shared anthology already published, and Bob said he’d send me a copy of the book to show me what others had done.

But by then I already knew what I wanted to write, and what characters I wanted to use. I had written a very short story about a mage-killer, Cime, and her target, Askelon, the last great archmage, and the place where he ruled. I asked if I could bring some pre-existing characters and places, and the editor gave me permission. I asked if I could write characters who were both heroic and anti-heroic, and the editor said yes. So I originally thought I’d expand my existing story, and reference my archmage’s world of Meridian, an island which only sometimes appeared in our world. Bob Asprin okayed this as well.

But by the time I arrived home, I had another story in mind: Tempus, my character, had come storming into my brain: Tempus the Riddler, Tempus the Black, Tempus the Obscure. Tempus would be analogous to Heraclitus of Ephesus, but be the man Heraclitus would have been if he’d done what he advised others to do. So from that assignment came Tempus at his nadir, once a general, now a mercenary fallen on hard times, alone in lawless Sanctuary with a mission from the capital to see if the feckless prince who ruled the town could ever make a king. Cime would be called his sister, and Askelon his nemesis, but first I had to introduce him in a way that would make the editor want not only that story, but more stories of Tempus and Cime and the wizard-ridden world they perceived.

So I wrote, “Vashanka’s Minion,” the first story in the Tempus epic; Bob loved its anti-heroic flavor, and asked me to do another, which was “A Man and his God,” in which two men kiss, a priest of the Storm God dies, and Tempus’ world forever changes as he inherits the Sacred Band.

Right there, when the Sacred Band begins, the story becomes historical fantasy, since our Sacred Band is modeled on the heroic but doomed Sacred Band of Thebes.

I loved writing the first Tempus stories; the characters obsessed me; once I connected Tempus to Heraclitus and fantasy Sanctuary, a forgotten backwater in the real ancient past, I knew exactly what to do. I have never had more fun writing.

And evidently the readers had fun reading the Tempus stories, for the Thieves’ World series was a great success, selling more than a million copies, success enough that I could propose and sell a stand-alone Tempus book, to be a novelized anthology in which my earliest Tempus tales are seen by his young companion in war, Nikodemos. And in which (even better) I could publish my story about Cime the mage-killer and Askelon, lord of dreams who rules Meridian.

It was during this interval, as I was preparing the novelized anthology, Tempus, that the shared-world Thieves’ World became a bestseller; then I also sold the to-be-written trilogy about Tempus and his Sacred Band, called the Beyond trilogy (Beyond Sanctuary, Beyond the Veil, Beyond Wizardwall) as hardcovers to Baen Books, as Science Fiction Book Club selections, and as Ace mass market paperbacks. Subsequently, I wrote three more Tempus novels for Baen, and then many years later assembled the final Thieves’ World Sacred Band tales, along with new stories written expressly for that volume, in a second novelized anthology, The Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl, and also, for Perseid Press, the epic Tempus novel, The Sacred Band.

For more than thirty years now, I have been writing about Tempus (and his sister-in-arms Cime, and the Sacred Band of Stepsons), and he has been living in my head much in the same way that Tempus is inhabited by Enlil, the Akkadian Storm God. But this book Tempus is the original, the earliest, and these are the tales that made Tempus famous — how it all began.

Janet bio pic cropped 12 05 13 Janet B&W Portrait 2About Janet:  Janet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 30 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris or others. She has contributed short fiction to the shared universe fantasy series “Thieves World, (TM)” 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 contemporary novels. Morris has written, contributed to, or edited several book-length works of non-fiction, as well as papers and articles on nonlethal weapons, developmental military technology and other defense and national security topics.

Click below for links to more about Tempus and Janet Morris

Wikipedia page for Tempus

Wikipedia page for Sacred Band of Stepsons series

Janet Morris Wikipedia bio

Amazon Author Page

P.C. Zick

cropped-cropped-typewriter.jpg

Welcome to Author Wednesday and a guest post by Janet Morris, the author Tempus, a best-selling work of fantasy that has developed into much more than one work of fiction. Tempus even has its own Wikepedia pageTempus is also a part of the box set, At Odds with Destiny. I’m pleased to have Janet here today to talk about how her dynasty with the Tempus character.Time 5-1

The Birth of Tempus

By Janet Morris

tempus coverI started writing stories about my soon-to-be iconic character Tempus in a most unexpected way. At the World Science Fiction convention, I sat on a panel with editor of the Thieves’ World series, Robert L. Asprin. In front of a packed house, he leaned forward into his microphone and asked me to write for his new “shared word” series, “Thieves’ World.” Flustered and delighted, but having no idea what Thieves world might be about…

View original post 990 more words

Janet Morris and Chris Morris’ Roundtable Podcast part 1

New podcast with Janet Morris and Chris Morris:
http://www.roundtablepodcast.com/2014/10/20-minutes-with-janet-and-chris-morris/

Dave Robison of Roundtable Podcast says:

This week’s “20 Minutes With…” segment isn’t.

20 Minutes, that is.

Why? ‘Cause when you get the opportunity to sit down with your literary heroes, you don’t hold yourself to petty things like temporal constraints.

I and the exceptional Michael R. Underwood sit down for an incredible conversation with Janet Morris and Chris Morris, creators and editors of the “Heroes in Hell” series, numerous Thieves World tales featuring the cursed immortal Tempus Thales (whose adventures are continued in The Sacred Band of Stepson’s series), and more marvelous speculative fiction than can be listed on Wikipedia.

Seriously… there’s never been a conversation like this on the RTP before. DO NOT miss this episode.

We’ve had some amazing authors Guest Host the RTP, astonishing creators who’s ideas ring through genre fiction and the SpecFic community.

But I’ve never interviewed one of my heroes before.

The fiction of Janet Morris and Chris Morris (“Heroes in Hell”, “Thieves World”, and more) has been a fundamental influence on my taste and aesthetic in genre fiction and having them on the show was an unparalleled delight.

I knew I’d never be able to do it alone, so I was hugely grateful when Michael R. Underwood agreed to co-host the show with me. Between the two of us, we engaged in (waaaay more than) 20 minutes of incredible discourse with these eloquent storytellers, discussing the symmetry of music and story, the resonance of the craft of fiction and non-fiction writing, and how to “ascend from the pit of self-doubt into the light of self-knowledge and mastery”.

This is one episode you DO NOT want to miss.

http://www.roundtablepodcast.com/2014/10/20-minutes-with-janet-and-chris-morris/

Janet Morris and Chris Morris interview on the collaborative process in literature

Originally published in Uviart.  Thanks. Uvi Poznansky, for this incisive interview

http://uviart.blogspot.com/p/guest-interview.html

Guest

Interview about Collaboration:
“Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.”
with
Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Authors of
And more books
So said Shakespeare’s Polonius of Hamlet, in Hamlet. So say Janet Morris and Chris Morris, lifetime collaborators in words, music, and strategy. I cornered this elusive pair to ask some hard questions about how they do what they do, and why.
Janet and Chris, writing is known to be a solitary art. How do you two manage to write seamlessly together, so much so that no one can tell which of you wrote what?
Uvi, Apropos of collaboration, Shakespeare’s Touchstone said in As You Like It, “We that are true lovers run into strange capers.” As Chris and I often do.
But first let us give you our view of collaboration as an art form. For centuries, two or more people have been collaborating on written works under one person’s name. History is rife with collaborations, announced and unannounced.
Some examples? Shakespeare had several close collaborators, none so famous in his own right as Christopher Marlowe, who seems to us to have been his closest collaborator, due to similarity in each man’s work and style. We’ve written of these two collaborating in various tales in our Heroes in Hell series. J, the Yahwist, first writer of the Old Testament, also had many collaborators. Even before Biblical times, collaboration was common: the Greek mythic cycles were written not only by Homer, but by many writers; whether these collaborators wrote at the same time, or followed one another, is immaterial: these were true collaborations. As literature became a business, not merely an art form for the collective memory of the human race, the custom and marketing strategy of putting one — almost always male — name on a work became an unwritten convention, pushing anonymous contributors into the background. Yet they often can be found, peeking out from history’s shadows, unsung and influential.
But these questions are about us, collaborating today: while we’re alive, we can answer what questions we choose, rather than leaving posterity to wonder; be as forthcoming as we wish about life and love and art. For us, life and love and art are one. We have always written together, first song melodies and lyrics, later novels — but always with one of us taking the lead, the other in support. In our early days, Janet supported Chris’ music, and Chris supported Janet’s prose. Since we met in 1966, we spent years smoothing the rough edges of our collaborative process, learning to focus on the art in question, not the artist, and thereby improving both. If we write seamlessly, it is because we deliberate about every thought, every phrase, every word, every rhythm, yet strive never to lose the shape of the initial conception. Our prose is rhythmic, our plots inventive, our song lyrics carry messages because we are keenly aware that a person has only so much time in life, and must use that time wisely.  When we begin a new piece of prose or piece of music, we start with a clear idea of what that story or song must say. We vigorously weed out irrelevancies and polish our idea until it is bright, clear, shining in our hearts and in our minds. When writing prose, the mind’s eye is where the visualization first takes place; when we write music, it is the ear which first carries the message to the brain.
All art is communication of ideas. We have co-written op/eds and policy pieces for governments, strategic plans for military, academic, and industrial users, as well as fiction. Writing nonfiction has taught us when and how to be sparing of words. Chris has been the voice of a TV station and products as well as our music. Now we are exploring the close relationships between music and writing fiction by producing audio books. The Sacred Band (audio edition) took a year to complete. Because the story’s characters live deep in our hearts and first drew breath in the 20th century, we took great pains to ensure that the narration remains true to the characters, who have evolved over decades and millions of words. Narration is only one breath away from literary exposition.
For each art form, our process is the same: one of us begins the effort with a title, a musical passage, a topic or an idea, or a clearly-stated purpose. Once the title and the purpose of the piece are agreed, the process of perfecting story and rhythm — yes, even fiction should have its rhythms, its beats — is sometimes begun by one or the other. Often, when a day’s work is completed by one, the other adds a voicing, a suggestion, recognizes a lost facet or missed opportunity, clarifies whatever is unclear; changes are agreed, and at the end of the day, we are sitting together, reading or playing the work aloud and finishing what the morning began. In music or prose, we never continue drafting or recording a long piece of work until we’re both happy with what we’ve done previously. If later in the evolution of the piece an element needs to be included that was omitted or unrecognized in the work as we began it, we go back and make those changes. Some recent examples of this process can be seen in our Heroes in Hell series,
For instance, Chris began Babe in Hell (a story in Rogues in Hell) with the idea of a baby and Solomon reprising the famous Biblical story, albeit in Hell. To Hell Bent in Dreamers in Hell Chris immediately added the quip “And twice on Sadderdays.” Once we’d named the play which is the centerpiece of the story, Janet added the flayed skins of heroes to be used as props. But sometimes, in longer works, we can’t recall who authored what lines. In “Words” in Poets in Hell, working on the first paragraph, Janet asked Chris to supply the crucial word: “Words are the what? of the mind” Janet asked. Chris said “mortar.” So the line now reads “Words are the mortar of the mind.” And so it goes, a natural give and take, sometimes contentious, often strenuous, always fascinating.
Our process is not quick. We’ve taken years to do a book such as I, the Sun; we say The Sacred Band (TSB) took eighteen months, but if one includes the research and discussion time before the first word was written, TSB culminates years of effort to crystallize that story so we could then write it. In this way, we please ourselves, and have pleased many readers and listeners as well.
You who know our body of work are now wondering why one name appears on so many of the books or musical compositions. For now, suffice it to say that publishers think readers want a work crafted by an individual, preferably a male (unless the work is a romance or a book about women in society).
Now that you have told us how you write together, answer this harder question: Why?
Why write together? A collaborator provides perspective, a broader view; a universality that one mind, male or female, often cannot attain. For centuries such collaborations were known only behind the scenes:  the woman or man who was the editor, co-creator of ideas, first reader, was the power behind the throne, unnamed, a secret presence. So how do we decide whose name goes on a work when only one name appears? If one writer drives the work individually, or if a work is best read as the product of male or female, we so credit it. For this reason, we have several times used male pseudonyms when selling a book to a publisher for a particular market.
As you point out, the two of you haven’t always published with joint bylines. How did your first official collaborations come about?
Our first official collaborations in song music and lyrics preceded our collaborations in books and stories by about a decade. Although Janet received some writing credits on The Christopher Morris Band (MCA 1977) record album, and High Couch of Silistra was published under the byline ‘Janet Morris’ in that same year, not until 1984 was the first fantasy fiction story, “What Women Do Best,” published with the byline ‘Chris and Janet Morris’ in Wings of Omen, (Ace, 1984). And that occurred only with editor Bob Asprin grumbling that ‘now everybody’s going to want to do this in Thieves’ World®.’”
If Janet hadn’t been a canonical contributor to the series at that time, we wouldn’t have gotten permission for the dual byline. And sure enough, other spouses and collaborators long relegated to the background began appearing in Thieves’ World volumes and other places.
Subsequently, we signed a multi-book contract with Jim Baen, one of the caveats being dual authorship for some titles, but not all. We delivered those books, including The 40-Minute War, M.E.D.U.S.A, City at the Edge of Time, Tempus Unbound, and Storm Seed with dual authorship and Jim published them that way.
This in turn led to other joint book contracts, including but not limited to Outpassage (1988), Threshold (1990), Trust Territory (1992), The Stalk (1994), as well as several books by single-author male pseudonyms.
Nevertheless, publishers generally still wanted single male names on adventure or nonfiction or ‘serious books’ and female names on romance books, so the market continued to conform to its preference for single-writer bylines.
A book with the name ‘Janet Morris’ was still worth more to a publisher than a book with ‘Janet Morris and Chris Morris’ as listed co-authors. So we created male pseudonyms and these books commanded substantial advances in markets formerly closed to us. In the minds of publishers then, and perhaps readers, a story told by a single male was preferable, but even a tale told by a woman was preferable to a tale told by one woman and one man. We set our sites on this ox, and set off to gore it. And might have succeeded, as male/female co-authorship became more commonplace, but our brainchild “nonlethal weapons” intervened, taking us out of the fiction marketplace for nearly two decades. In that interval, Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock, another writer at the literary agency which handles us, wrote War and Anti-war with his wife Heidi Toffler, insisting her name appear this time as co-author. The revolution had begun in earnest among writers with enough clout to enforce their wishes.
Do you believe that putting a man’s name or a woman’s name on a book effects who will read that book?
We experimented, as did other writers and publishers, with putting different names on books. Sometimes Janet wrote with other male or female writers, to see if the ‘Janet Morris’ brand could be transferred as publishers looked for ways to turn writers into franchises, as was done with Robert Ludlum, Stephen King, Tom Clancy, etc. But when a better writer is paired with a lesser writer, quality may suffer, and even honest writers trying to accommodate one another may lose the consistency of purpose, passion, and voice that a single writer or a self-chosen pair of writers can achieve.
The ‘brand name writer’ bias may then kick in, causing readers to buy only books written by the individuals or pairs of writers they already enjoy, not the franchised producers of subsidiary works or ‘as told to’ books.
As for the ‘gender’ bias in literature, at present this is still a real and strong force. Men looking for adventure fantasy or science fiction or military books are less likely to buy a book written by a woman; women with a strong allegiance to women’s rights and women’s issues are less likely to buy a book by a man or co-written by a man.
So the issue of whether a man’s name or a woman’s name goes on a book may be inextricably linked to subject as well as story, insight, and prose quality.
You’ve both written under single-author pseudonyms, always choosing a single male. Why did you do that? Do you still do it? If, so, why or why not?
We did this to break out of the science fiction/fantasy ghetto, into the mainstream, in days when those genres had a more limited market than today.
Do we still do it? No.
In actuality, our body of work allows us to write what we wish under either or both our names. For instance, we’re writing a novel about Rhesos of Thrace — as is our wont, this book has a Homeric feel, a purport that takes the Iliad for true, but focuses on a single character from that story and his later adventures. This book is a true novel — one part mythical realism, one part dark fantasy, one part heroic fiction in the literary sense, and one part a historical representation of the mythos of that character. We plan a new Sacred Band of Stepsons novel, which requires very specific voices and explores the hero-cult as a fait accompli, a subject fascinating us.
But if we were to undertake a contemporary story dealing with modern politics (sexual, racial, governmental and corporate), we’d consider writing such a book under a new male pseudonym, to allow us complete freedom of what we’d say and how we’d say it, because the truths behind these topics are brutal and unwelcome to those who think revisionist history will solve all the problems inherent in modern society and the human condition. Which condition is, of course, the only fit subject for fiction.
What are the benefits and debits of collaboration so far as process, not marketing, is concerned?
If a pair entering into a collaboration sets ground rules, defines story elements and shares a joint preoccupation with the characters, two hearts, two sets of eyes and two sets of ears impart an enhanced perspective, powering the creation of characters spun from utmost reality, characters perhaps more fully realized than a single mind might contrive to make them. In a pair made up of one male and one female writer, the native intelligence of both sexes is present in great measure, bringing a universal verisimilitude. The process of reaching truth and clarity for characters and story may have uncomfortable moments for one or both writers, but facing those places in the soul where one hesitates to look is the true purpose of fiction — to portray the world through a temperament (or two, or three).
What advice would you give to other collaborators about creating and marketing their joint works?
If two collaborators each have a previous body of work, then once both acknowledge parity, a new book can begin taking shape. If one writer is better known or better at structure or at lyric, then play to those strengths. Do not show this book to third parties, or discuss it with others until both writers are completely certain of every nuance, every line, every twist and turn of plot and psyche.
If two collaborators have no previous experience working with others, they must work harder to put aside their preconceptions and look at story and character honestly: success, not in the short term but for all time, depends upon the quality of every word. Make sure that both collaborators share the same goals. Define the story elements. Invoke the characters and be sure both agree who those characters are and what they represent concerning the story’s driving purpose.
Then begin, starting at the beginning. Create an adventure that two can share, and you will have created an adventure that the world can love.
Only when this first book is finished, no longer a fragile vision, but a full blown juggernaut of risk and beauty, show it to a publisher whose other publications attract you. If you both like what an editor or publisher has previously chosen, they may well decide to choose you.
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Poets in Hell on Black Gate: The Good, the Damned, and the Ugly truth about Poets in Hell…

How I Lost My Soul and Learned to Love Hell

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Poets in Hell-smallAs many readers of Black Gate no doubt know by now, I have previously reviewed the shared-universe anthologies Lawyers in HellRogues in Hell and Dreamers in Hell, all edited by Janet Morris and Chris Morris.

Well, this time out, with Janet’s help, I am going to do something a little different for Poets in Hell, the 17th volume in the highly-acclaimed, award-winning, and very successful Heroes in Hell (HIH)series, what I like to call The Eternal Infernal Saga. Let me first give you a little back story, a little history as to how I, unplanned and undreamed, found myself wandering through the circles and levels of Hell.

A couple years ago I was asked by my friend and fellow author, Bruce Durham, if I would write a review for the then-newest volume in the Heroes in Hell series, Rogues in Hell. I said sure, I’d be happy to, even though I was in the middle of writing my second novel.

I remembered the original Baen Books Heroes and Hell series, having enjoyed a number of those, and I was familiar with Janet Morris from her work in Thieves World™ and many of her own novels. But it had been years since I read those; and I’d been so long away from the fantasy genre that I had no idea that Heroes in Hell had continued on past the 4 or 5 volumes I had read in the 1980s and early 90s.

So I read Rogues in Hell, loved every word of it, wrote my review, and then bought the previous and first volume in the new, 21st century series now published by Perseid Press, Lawyers in Hell. Now, while lost somewhere deep in the nether regions, I get contacted one fine day by none other than Janet Morris herself, who read my review, was very pleased with it, and liked the way I wrote it.

Mad Shadows The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser-smallShe then read my story of Dorgo the Dowser, “The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum” that I had posted on Black Gate, liked it, read more of the Dowser’s stories in my Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, and invited me to write a story for the then-forthcomingDreamers in Hell.

To say that I was excited, flattered and a little intimidated would be understating it all. I was totallyoverwhelmed! Naturally, I said I would love to give it a try. But I waited. I bided my time. What I wanted to do first was read and write a review of Dreamers in Hell, and then go back to re-read the first few Baen Books editions and read some of the stories in the other volumes, the ones I had not read.

Another year goes by and I still haven’t written a word. But I was in constant touch with Janet and her Hellions, as her band of Hell writers call themselves, and thoughts and ideas began to flow.

First, writing for Heroes in Hell is hard work: one needs to do a lot of research, because most of the characters in this Miltonian shared-universe are historical figures, figures of myth and legend, Biblical figures, and even some famous fictional characters – provided some link to an actual person can be found, such as the Dracula and Vlad Tepes connection.

So I hunkered down and did my homework, reading some history and biographies, researching things like demons, devils, angels, fallen angels, and the Hells of different cultures and religions. Not only was I developing a story, I was getting a wonderful education.

Now, the second thing about writing for Hell is that it made me “up my game.” The series is not only character-driven, it is allegorical, dramatic, poignant, high comedy and grim tragedy; it runs the gamut of genres and emotions. I was playing in the same park with some damned fine writers of imaginative literature, and something in the infernal nature of Hell demands and commands a writer to do the best he can, to go above and beyond what he/she has done before.

Rogues in HellHell is addictive. It’s an obsession. Hell has its rules, but what the rules do is force you to be more creative, to think outside the box: the rules are not restrictive, they are liberating. Once you pick your characters and start your research, you find things, you learn things you can use to make those characters live and breathe and jump off the page. Yeah, writing for Hell is hard work, but it’s also one helluva good time. I love every moment I spend in Hell – and I spend a lot of time there.

So what Janet and I thought we’d do this time out is give you an overview of Poets in Hell, a synopsis of each story, in the words of the authors themselves. Enjoy!

Author and jazz musician Chris Morris gets the ball rolling with his story, Words, in which “the first Bible writer drafts a deal with the Devil that saves some skins from deeper damnation.” Next, Janet and Chris team up for Seven Against Hell, wherein “Odysseus calls on Diomedes and friends to save his skin as Sappho and Homer sing their glory. Meanwhile, Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe find out that the play isn’t always the thing, proving for all eternity that Hell is more than just a frame of mind. The Blind Bard and the Bard of Avon discover that heroism is more than skin deep.”

In Reunion, by Nancy Asire, “Attila the Hun faces a thousand cuts of sibling rivalry at its most hellish.” Then Bruce Durham gives us Hell-hounds, wherein “Marconi, Bell and Antonio Meucci become prey to a pack of four legged, deadly denizens of hell as they run cable TV to the Pandemonium Theatre. Will they survive? And could the arrival of Snorri Sturluson and one yarn-spinning, sword-swinging Robert E. Howard turn the tide?”

Along comes Jack William Finley with The Kid with No Name, who “learns that fame can be hard to come by in perdition and Dorothy Parker is reminded that pride is still a sin, even in Hell.” All Hell to Pay is Deborah Koren’s story where “Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp get their unjust deserts.”

Lawyers in Hell-smallLarry Atchley Jr’s Poetic Injustice has “Samuel Taylor Coleridge searching for the missing lines to his poem, Kubla Khan, and performing at a poetry slam with William Blake and Ragnar Loddbrok, where they must answer for their sins. Meanwhile, Guy Fawkes looks for answers about who was really behind the failed assault on heaven and if there can be salvation for any of the damned in hell.” Next up is When You Gaze into an Abyss, Matthew Kirshenblatt’s tale of “Lilith, the first wife of Adam, who pines to escape the confines of Hell while Friedrich Nietzsche stares into the abyss… and decides that he has had enough.”

In Tom Barczak’s Pride and Penance, “The Jabberwocky gets a taste for hell’s damnedest architects.” The author who calls himself pdmac hits a Grand Slam when “Anne Sexton and Li Po, China’s greatest poet, share judging duties with Camus and Sartre and learn the true meaning of a poetry slam.”

Then here comes Yelle Hughes’ Red Tail’s Corner, wherein “Dionysus, the god of wine and madness, along with the riddle-loving Sphinx of Greece, finds out that Satan loves poetry, but Erra and the Seven Sibitti do not.” Richard Groller follows through with Faust III, in which “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe completes his poetic Magnum Opus in Hell, with the opening day of the play drawing the attention and ire of His Satanic Majesty himself.”

And then Bill Snider records the fun with his Tapestry of Sorrows and Sighs: “Caliban joins the poetry show, and Sycorax has to know, where did her baby go? All the while Fionn and Merlin play their games in the shadows.”

My collaboration with Shebat Legion, Undertaker’s Holiday, reveals that “Even Hell’s Undertaker needs a holiday from the Mortuary, as David Koresh, Reverend Jim Jones, Ovid, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and the ‘Fellowship of the Thing’ soon find out.”

Next, Beth W. Patterson presents Haiku d’Etat: “Stuck with one another for eternity, Robert Burns and Stephen Foster cultivate their prickly friendship in the treacherous Bayou d’Enfer until a hellicane demolishes their home. The eye of the storm transports the duo to a different dimension: the Shinto underworld of Yomi. There they meet the acid-tongued Matsuo Basho, whose speech may yield clues for an escape.”

Dreamers in Hell-smallBill Barnhill follows with A Mother’s Heart, telling us how “Plato and Lilith try to save Hell’s Atlantis from a second dunking with the help of a giant squirrel.” In my solo effort, We the Furious, “His Satanic Majesty sends Mary Shelley and Mob hitman Johnny Fortune to unionize the Uncubi, who are the unpublished poets and authors in Hell. But first they must save Galatea, Victor Frankenstein, and his infamous Monster from a vampire-like Lemuel Gulliver, who is using the Uncubi to help him overthrow Satan.”

Damned Poets Society is Michael H. Hanson’s offering: “Baudelaire, Poe, Frost, and other dead masters of verse join together for Hell’s greatest public recitation. The poets slam the afterlife but are slammed in return by the greatest poetry critic of them all, Satan himself.”

Now we’re near the finish line with Michael A. Armstrong’s All We Need of Hell: “Together again after the Bridge mission, Hart Crane, Emily Dickinson, and Ezra Pound go into the deepest, darkest, coldest manifestation of hell, the Inuit underworld. Guided by Atanazauq, a powerful shaman, they test the power of poetry against the ancient gods.”

And finally, Janet Morris closes this edition with Dress Rehearsal, wherein “Helen of Troy gets Marlowe and Shakespeare in hot water for taking poetic license.”

And there you have it, Poets in Hell. A little something for everyone: heroic fantasy and sword & sorcery, thrillers, horror, romance, touches of science fiction and steampunk – they’re all here.

So come visit us in Hell and enjoy the company.

BYO pitchfork.


Afterword by Janet Morris:

Poete maxime infernalis: ‘Poets most hellish’

thieves_world2Putting together volumes for the Heroes in Hell (HIH) shared-universe series is always hellish: writers fall ill, die, come into the series or leave it; new writers bring chaos among their bags of tricks, reinterpret every rule, demand exceptions to guidelines, and generally run amok. My co-editor Chris Morris and I like that: running roughshod over complacency keeps Hell popping.

We ourselves became seduced into reopening the series by a writer no longer among us, who suggested that if we did a secret page on FaceBook, the creation process would be easier to manage. Easier? Not at all. More intimate, for certain.

In the 20th century, I (Janet) and my co-editor Chris, became part of the first sword & sorcery shared universe, Thieves’ World: its mission was to make sword & sorcery and fantasy darker in a place Bob Asprin, series creator, called “the armpit of fantasy.” Little did any of us know that the TW series would make fantasy history – and help turn the genre very much darker.

Taking Bob at his word, a great time was had by all in TW. Or at least by me and Chris. The stories of Tempus and his Sacred Band grew into the Sacred Band of Stepsons series, and gave me three Science Fiction Book Club selections (Beyond SanctuaryBeyond the Veil, and Beyond Wizardwall, all previously reviewed here on Black Gate in their Perseid Author’s Cut editions). So Chris and I decided to do our own shared universe: since art imitates life, we thought we’d write it in Hell.

Remember those murky days of the late 20th century: no internet; no fax machines; no competing phone companies; computers that used floppy disks; author royalties of 10%?

Communications were expensive and slow. Nevertheless, we created the Heroes in Hell shared universe under a multi-volume contract with Jim Baen, and raise hell we did, in twelve volumes for Baen Books.

Doing HIH collaborations in real time would be much better, right? Lead to tighter plots, more alliances within the writing team and more friendly competition, resulting in better cohesion and at last in better stories? Of course it would.

So we agreed, and this idea of intimate expansion of our franchise due to interaction evolved into the Heroes in Hell Working Group, where writers ask questions, provide answers, share data, request characters and submit synopses, get permission to write those synopses into stories, post snippets of stories and rough drafts and— here it comes; wait for it — make deals with one another to share characters and hand off plot points.

Chris and I would give them long, medium, and short series- and volume- oriented story arcs, and off we would go. No sweat. No harm. And I could limit the fouls.

Heroes in Hell-smallAnd it worked out that way, and continues to do so, except when Satan takes a hand, or any of the other gods and judges in Hell decide to meddle.

The most-snake bit volume in 21st century HIH has been Poets in Hell (PIH). Sounds innocuous, doesn’t it? It wasn’t. It isn’t. HIH as a matter of pride tries to introduce new writers, mix experienced professionals with emerging talents and first-time authors. The writers, as we discussed future volume titles in the working group, wanted desperately to do Poets in Hell.

I knew it was coming. I had already posited in Lawyers in Hell that the powers Above were sending auditors to the underworlds because Hell wasn’t sufficiently hellish. Enter Erra the Babylonian plague god and his Sibitti, personified weapons and cruel enforcers of Heaven’s will: this multi-volume arc remains in play to this day.

I had time to introduce Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe and Lord Byron in Rogues in Hell. I expanded their roles in Dreamers in Hell, writing from Satan’s perspective to make sure His Infernal Majesty (HIM) seeded the story arcs and foreshadowed the tensions needed for Poets.

Then in Poets in Hell we turn them loose; Byron even brings his faithful dog, Boatswain. For my part, I recruited new writers, to keep things fresh.

Then, of course, all hell breaks loose. Some new writers decide to team up with more seasoned writers and with other newbies, but are inexperienced at fictional hand-offs, requiring Chris and me to take a hand and give crash courses. Writers submit stories with quotations and paraphrases, without annotating which are which. Every line of poetry must be checked and double checked, to make sure they’re attributed in situ if need be.

The copy-edit alone was worthy of a dissertation. My experienced Hellions, who asked for this volume, reached for the skies in their story purports and executions. The new writers performed Herculean feats to stay in the game. This would be the best volume from HIH ever, I thought, if Chris and I could get it under control.

Every so often life hands you a snake-bit project, but PIH was plagued with gremlins worse than snake-bite, unless the snake was from the World Tree. My editorial assistant broke her wrist, had a near-fatal heart attack, was comatose, and then out of commission for weeks; one of my long-time writers was diagnosed as terminal and began chemotherapy; another had an impromptu pacemaker installed after an emergency helicopter ride. Several experienced Hellions couldn’t submit within the time frame. I drafted Joe Bonadonna to help me with the copy-edits once we finally received all the stories.

The Gates of Hell-smallSo, we’re tracking, headed toward our deadline.

But someone sends in a final draft with a virus, and when we combine the stories all the final drafts become infected. Never mind. We’ll have each story resubmitted. We’ll find a new formatter, a new copy-editor, a new up-loader…. We’ll get our intrepid assistant a new computer. Multiple struggles with the snake-bit (intransigent) epub and mobi manuscripts reveal hidden codes that must be sleuthed out and eradicated. The cover designer goes incommunicado between her rough draft and final revisions, leaving me with a cover half-finished. We don’t get a final cover until the day the Kindle is scheduled to be uploaded.

Nevertheless, there’s good news: although the works are extremely sophisticated, the volume reads like a mix of sword and sorcery and darkest fantasy; we were able to employ cover art I’d wanted to use since the first volume; one of writers wrote the scene on the cover into his story.

For the first time, Chris and I wait until nearly deadline, when all other stories are submitted, before we write ours. Usually we give the writers “frame” stories: the first and last stories in the book. Quite reasonably, given the nature of poets, we didn’t do that this time: We’d make them perform without a net because we wanted a wilder result.

We got it.

That’s the story of the creation of PIH, and we’re sticking to it. The volume begins with a gift from Satan to all the poets in hell. You’d think by now they’d know better. And from there on, our poete maxime infernalis have free rein. At the end, by the skin of their teeth, our heroes…

Well, I’d better not tell you that. I’ll just say that Satan had his way with all of us, this time around. Next time, we’re doing Doctors in Hell. That surely will be easier.

Right?

Buy Poets in Hell, published by Perseid Presss, in trade paper, Kindle, or Nook formats:

http://www.amazon.com/Poets-Hell-Heroes-Book-17-ebook/dp/B00KWKNTTW/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1403482498

http://www.amazon.com/Poets-Hell-Heroes-Volume-17/dp/0991465431/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1403482498&sr=1-1

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/poets-in-hell-janet-morris/1119740472?ean=9780991465439

 

 

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In the 21st century, the new Heroes in Hell volumes preceding Poets are:  Lawyers in Hell, Rogues in Hell, Dreamers in Hell.  Get them all in trade, or for Nook or Kindle.

 

Read this article on Black Gate:  http://www.blackgate.com/2014/06/22/how-i-lost-my-soul-and-learned-to-love-hell/#more-78057

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heaven and Hell Collide …oh Baby!

IMAGE MARCH 28, 2014Heaven and Hell Collide …oh Baby!Rogues in Hell (Heroes in Hell) [Kindle Edition]Janet Morris leads her writers back to Hell.Hot on the heels of Lawyers in Hell, the New Hell Sinday Times bestseller, comes ROGUES IN HELL…The war heats up, Satan antes up, and rogues go adventuring as Hell’s landlord faces off with Heaven’s auditors.Veteran Hellions sin again and new writers fall from grace:Shirley Meier, Bradley H. Sinor, Michael Z. Williamson, Deborah Koren, Julie Cochrane, Bruce Durham, Janet Morris, Chris Morris, Richard Groller, H. David Blalock, Nancy Asire, Michael H. Hanson, Sarah Hulcy, Michael A. Armstrong, Larry Atchley, Jr., Bill Snider, Edward McKeown, John Manning, Jack William Finley, David L. Burkhead and Allan Gilbreath

via Heaven and Hell Collide …oh Baby!.