The Sacred Band: Sword and Sandal Fantasy, Robert E. Howard Style

“The Sacred Band” is a classic work of heroic fantasy. This novel takes place deep within the established rules of Janet Morris's Thieves World, and I like that it doesn't waste any time on throwaway passages designed to “catch up” those readers who are new to the realm. This is a sink or swim type novel, and the reader as well as the characters involved are not the least bit coddled. The result is that you start to acquire a sense of achievement as you piece together all the clues, as if you have earned the right to enjoy this world and become a member of its legions of fans.

The first Thieves World novel is “Beyond Sanctuary,” and I believe I might tackle that one now that I've had a taste of Tempus and the Sacred Band of Stepsons. Janet and Chris Morris create a great classic ambiance in “The Sacred Band.” I found myself imagining a setting that looked much like Dante's version of Hell decorated and populated with people and artifacts out of Greek Mythology.

The action is instant and non-stop, and the characters are not “squeaky clean” by any stretch of the imagination. For example, early on in the book Tempus takes a troop of new recruits into a brothel and decides to just wait and see “how things play out” when he begins hearing terrifying screams from the room of one of his charges. When the prostitute in question turns up dead a few days later, Tempus embarks on an investigation that is more about maintaining his own autonomy over his group than correcting any wrong. I like the fact that Janet and Chris Morris have the courage to make strong statements on wartime morality, rather than try to push modern society's sometimes hypocritical views of right and wrong into a setting that simply cannot support it (Thieves World deals with individuals who have bigger issues than whether or not the phone store has run out of the 4G portable you've been dreaming about for six months—yes, there was a time when people had REAL issues to deal with people).

The Morris's make some interesting stylistic choices in their writing. Quite a bit of the novel is written in the present tense. At first I found the switches from past to present tense a bit jarring, but after a while I began to enjoy the emphasis on immediacy that the present tense passages provided. The tense shifts help put you in the proper frame of mind to correctly comprehend the more traditionally written text. This is a novel that's happening here and now, and there is a certain sensory overload that the writing creates when you allow yourself to fall into step with it.

Overall, “The Sacred Band” evokes the brutality and lyricism of Robert E. Howard combined with the old school “sword and sandal” movies we all grew up watching. For those of you who aren't quite up for the challenge of swimming in the deep end, you might want to check out “Beyond Sanctuary.” For the rest of you, buckle up and prepare to enjoy the ride!

Pick up "The Sacred Band" here at Amazon.

Interview with author Helen A. Rosburg

Can you tell us a little bit about "Angelique?"  
Angelique is a novella that began as a poem I wrote in 1980.  Influenced by the poetry of Robert Service that I grew up on, I wrote poems that were stories complete unto themselves.  Angelique was always one of my favorites, with its surprising and twisty ending.  When my company, Medallion Media Group, developed the Masterpiece imprint, I thought Angelique would be perfect for the line if I turned it into a novella.  And that process morphed into it becoming an illustrated and animated audio book.

 What's your background with writing?  
I've been writing all kinds of things all my life:  feature articles for newspapers; short fiction for magazines; a volume of poetry; then novels.  My first novel was published by Dorchester in 1998.  A second followed.  By then I had learned how stupid and flimsy the publishing business model was, and decided to start my own pub company.  I continue to write novels, with 7 now under my belt.  I also continue to write short fiction for various publications.

Who are your inspirations/influences?  
 I grew up on the historicals of Thomas Costain, Kathleen Woodiwiss, and Taylor Caldwell.  When I read in an introduction to one of Stephen King's books, that if you wanted to be a writer he had three words of advice, read, read, read, I read every genre I could get my hands on and gradually got a handle on the craft.

What was it like working with "Medallion Media?"  Um.  I created Medallion Media Group.  I'm the CEO and Executive Editor.  Working with them is always a pleasure because I love and respect every one of my staff.

Who was responsible for the cover/book design?  
The illustrators, Fortin and Sanders.  Cherif Fortin and Lynn Sanders.  They are an incredibly talented team and have done other work for my company.  I suggested that particular cover from one of my favorite, and scariest, scenes in the book.  They nailed it.

What are you doing in terms of marketing/publicity?  
Angelique has a Web site, and we of course use all the social media and traditional advertising.

 Do you have any stories from book signings/radio interviews/etc.?  
My favorite book signing was at an RT convention I attended with a cat who went everywhere with me at the time.  We were in a huge room with dozens of authors and tables.  My cat sat right on my table and greeted people who went by.  A TV reporter came by and said "Hello" to my cat.  She meowed.  The reporter then asked her facetiously, "So, who's your favorite author here today?"  My cat, a very clever girl, replied, "Maa maaaa."  The reporter and her cameraman nearly fell over!

What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there? 
There is an editorial blog I started on the Medallion Media Group Web site.  It's called the Editor's Corner.  Every month we give tips about writing and getting through the editorial process.  Lots of fun dos and don'ts, too.
What projects do you have planned for the future?  
I will be writing another novella for the Masterpiece line based on another story-poem.  I also write short stories for a magazine.  We'll see about another novel.  I'm getting pretty busy.  Might even be co-hosting a radio talk show.

 Is there anything else about you we should know?  
 I don't think you SHOULD know these things, but they're fun.  I ride Harleys and race Porsches, rescue animals, mentor at-risk urban youth, and have some awesome tattoos.