The publishing industry, when I first started, had a strong mid-list, wherein a writer could incubate. While I was writing for a living, two things happened: the super book with huge advances destroyed publishers' interest in mid list (the 35K to 65K book); Star Wars made sf/fantasy more successfully, but imposed a hunger for formulaic "B-Movie" type restrictions that took much of the fun out of sf/f, which previously had been more intellectually interesting. Fantasy has rebounded a bit from this formulaic hunger, but still the chance to experiment in sf/f was shrinking until the e-book, Publication on Demand, self-publishing and the new crop of small publishers arising as the big publishers fade away are a good sign.
The novel in general has deconstructed about as much as it can: categories are marketing tools; a novel contains all elements, and should do. We like small publishing because the chance to experiment survives there. So we've started doing Heroes in Hell series and the Sacred Band series again, using small publishers so we can keep our e-book rights, and we like the freedom the small publishing world enjoys.
Perhaps I covered this, but small publishers can and do provide better physical book production, better copy-editing, better covers, and more chances to experiment. Of course a small publisher can do a poor job, but really, is it a worse job than the big publishers do when they buy a book they don't push? This is why we brought back The Sacred Band of Stepsons series and the Heroes in Hell series. With a small publisher, an established writer such as myself can have more control about many facets of how their book is presented. Writing to establish a corpus of work demands this. Most great books from earlier centuries were "self" published: the author controlled the process, and found a publisher to provide the book to the pubic.
With these publishers no one asks me to dumb down what I'm doing. No compromise is required in story or quality. Can everyone enjoy reading what I'm writing? Maybe. I write for my ideal reader; that reader gets a great ride. And now, thanks to the new publishing, a beautiful, literate presentation.
Adventurers in Hell (working title: may yet be changed to "Rogues") is the second of the resurrected "Heroes in Hell series we're doing. The shared universe of the damned as we did it in Heroes in Hell was very popular in the 20th century. Beginning with "Lawyers in Hell" (Perseid/Kerlak), edited by Janet Morris, we're sinning once again. We have a great time with the Hell books: they combine myth, religion, history, and fantasy in a unique way. These stories take no prisoners: they can sly, cryptic, cynical, disturbing, or horrific. We have a waiting list of authors hoping to get in, despite the story curve, which is very steep. And, finally, we are getting great covers, beautiful hard covers, infinitely long-lived PODs and e-books. What fun.
The Sacred Band is the ultimate (so far) tale of the Sacred Band of Stepsons, who began in Thieves World (R) and Sanctuary (R), a "shared universe" created by Bob Asprin, and return there in this epic novel. Tempus, Abarsis, Niko, and the rest are my greatest delight. The Sacred Band (Morris & Morris, Kerlak, 2011) novel is best accompanied by the recently reissued Author's Cut" of the anthology "Tempus." If you read those two, in any order, then you'll enjoy each one more. We're working now on reissuing the six additional Sacred Band novels and a second anthology with new stories and the remaining TW stores.
But The Sacred Band novel is my favorite: Forty-six of the doomed Sacred Band of Thebes is rescued from the battlefield at Chaeronea in 338 BCE, by Tempus and his Stepsons. The gods and fates take umbrage or support, and a war (actually a theomachy) begins that follows Tempus and his fighters to Sanctuary. Do you need to be a history or mythology of fantasy buff to enjoy this? No, but knowledge deepens experience, always. All our favorite characters from the earlier series take a hand, and eventually the Unified Sacred Band fights the battle of their dreams. Since there really are forty-six skeletons missing from the mass grave at Chaeronea where the slaughtered Sacred Band of Thebes are buried, this story was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to blend history, fantasy, and mythology. We loved doing it. It's been widely quoted on sites such as Ranker and has a big presence on Freebase and even a Wikipedia page. And I think, having had the ride of my life with TSB, we'll do another Sacred Band novel soon....
The Sacred Band is an ancient cavalry force. No surprise, since we raise war horses -- the descendants of the US cavalry horse -- horse and have been riding our whole lives. Horses bring you nose to nose with nature. You can't lie to a horse. Crying does no good. And the gods look out at you through the eyes of a horse. No more transcendental experience can be had than what you experience with a horse. We've won a few races, a few Morgan World Championships. We had some reining horses of renown, some in-hand horses. But you don't do horses for prizes, or for anything but your soul's sake. Do horses inform my writing? Absolutely. Do they ennoble my life? Always. We breed to sell, and that's hard: letting the baby you've foaled out go into someone else's hands. But even an old gelding rescued and living in a back yard paddock is precious. Without horses, all the frailties of humankind at times seem overwhelming -- until you find a horse. If the horse loves us, wants to be with us, companion in all weather, fair and foul, then how bad can we be, as a species? We're deeply involved in the campaign to end horse slaughter, and we hope the day will come when horses, who helped us build civilization, are honored and respected for all they've done for us.