Sunday, April 22, 2018

Abbott App - Mad Libs for Warrior Women

I'm proud to know Steven Abbott, a professor & consultant in the coatings & formulation industries. He is also a wizard at making HTML and Javascript Applications. We met as we partnered on a Surfactant Phase Behavior (one section of his Practical Surfactant eBook/App-set)

Well, his creativity has been corrupted by his granddaughters! And now he is writing Apps for fiction, Mad-Lib style creations of stories that are personalized. It's easy and fun. Just enter content into the fields and press download story. Check it out:



Here are his words from his Linkedin post:

Steven Abbott:
"This is nothing to do with work. Girls don't tend to have exciting (geeky) stories written about them. I wrote a large set of helicopter rescue stories for my granddaughter Ella, then another set where she flies an anti-gravity ship (invented by the Professor) to the moon, Mars etc. With her permission, I've now put the text on-line in a way that you can enter the name of your daughter, granddaughter, family friend and immediately get a fully personalised version as a Word document.

You can then have fun adding your own illustrations (a key part of what Ella and I did together). The early stories are very simple because they were made up on the spot. The later ones needed lots of research before telling them. The final helicopter story is a blockbuster expedition on Everest and the anti-grav trip to Mars features all the big sites on that planet. They are currently only in English (Ella is German but bilingual) but in principle could be translated to other languages if anyone wanted to help."


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Necroscope - Review by S.E.

Necroscope by Brian Lumley
SE. rating: 5 of 5 stars

Weird ESPionage from the master of mashing up horror and adventure:

Brian Lumley's Necroscope is not heroic fiction, which I typically focus on. It is very entertaining and has connections to Weird Sword & Sorcery adventure which led me to read it:

1) Heroes of Dreams & Khash series: I discovered Lumley’s writing via his Weird Sword & Sorcery. Vintage dark fantasy spawned in the early 1900’s from the work of pen-pals R.E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft; though it seems rare to find quality Conan-Mythos mash-ups. Lumely has done so a few times. First, his Hero of Dreams series is an overt mashup of Lovecraft’s Dreamcycle and Leiber’s Fafred and Gray Mouser series. Lumley’s Tarra Khash series (a.k.a. Tales of Primal Land) was written in a similar vein (i.e. fun Sword & Sorcery adventure in a Weird-Fiction, Cthulhu-esque world).

2) Blood Omen Legacy of Kain: A huge fan of the Horror S&S Game Series “Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain”, I was delighted to learn that Lumely’s writing influenced Denis Dyack’s vision of Nosgoth. Denis Dyack, creator of Silicon Knights, made the original Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain game (various incarnations from 1996 thru 2009). As a Kain fan I did not know the influence from Lumely until I saw an interview on Youtube (The Quantum Tunnel 2016 called Blood Omen Legacy Of Kain Deep Dive 1) in which Dyack reveals that the classic horror/action-rpg game was influenced by Lumey’s Necroscope series. Given the Visceral, Vampire, Lovecraftian, and Time Travel elements, this makes sense; however, the book has a contemporary setting versus the medieval one in the game.

As a fan of Khash, Heroes of Dreams, and Legacy of Kain… I just had to check out Necroscope. So what is it really?

Necroscope is “ESPionage” fiction (a word coined in this book), blending paranormal horror with spy adventure. It kicks off a series of 18 books (published 1986 to 2013). This first entry is entertaining and sets an expansive foundation for a wild ride. People with supernatural powers (predicting the future, speaking to the dead, etc.) are being enlisted into government agencies.

The book is ostensibly about the battle between the United Kingdom vs. the Russian governments special forces, but the conflict is really about Harry Keogh (speaker to the dead) vs. Boris Dragosani (who approximates a vampire). Each is associated with a government, but each is motivated by personal goals which take center stage. The reader learns about supernatural powers as these two do. After they master their respective powers, they go to battle in a most bizarre way chock-full of undead things and over the top time travel.

Expect lots of changing perspective and lots of story threads that will gel about half way through. Artwork is unexpectedly sprinkled throughout the book (even the Kindle version). The geometry puzzles and Moebius Strips shown relate the story and make for fun, relevant, diversions. This is very digestible horror for non-horror fans. A very fast read, recommended to just about everyone who likes dark adventure.


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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Helen's Daimones is now Audible

Helens Daimones Audible Book cover
The beautiful, haunting narration by Kathy Bell Denton for the Helen's Daimones audible book - LINK is now out. (just released April 2018). Seriously, check out Kathy Bell Denton's awesome voice in the sample (click the play button on audible, OR the Youtube video below).

Private message me, S E Lindberg, for a complimentary review copies of the book (any format: paperback, ebook, or audio).

First come first serve Audible Promotional Codes for the entire book (no membership required),
For US:
H4BPTUC4DRDKH
SXK53NLR3CKS8
HCZRRJ5KZ3823

First come first serve, Audible UK codes:
FLTPM6E8F4QAA
H5T7B6GSNPS9G
EC42R44B8BQRZ




Reviews:
Fletcher Vredenburgh from Black Gate reviews Helen's Daimones (link to 2017 review) .
"Helen is one of the stranger heroes to feature in swords & sorcery. Is she delusional, mad, gifted? I was never quite sure — she is only a little girl — but I was never able to take my eyes off her. With a cast as strange as this novel has, Helen remains the focus throughout. Even when she’s off stage, the question of what she is doing always seems to rise to the fore."

"Too much of what’s called grimdark is little more than sex and gore splashed over a standard epic fantasy story. True horror — and at its heart, Helen’s Daimones is a horror story — unsettles, disorients, and makes you feel like the world will fall out from under your feet at any moment. Lindberg’s novel does all those things."


Beauty in Ruins reviews Helen's Daimones LINK
The Dyscrasia novels by S.E. Lindberg are deep, intricate reads that harken back to the pulp days of Lovecraft, Howard, and others... Helen's Daimones is weird fantasy, weirdly told, for weird readers. As the strongest of the three stories to date, it makes for a great introduction to Lindberg's world, and creates more than enough interest for a fourth entry.

What this chapter did for me was breathe real life (no pun intended) into Lord Lysis. He becomes a sympathetic character here, especially in his encounter with a tragic young woman (buried alive so many years ago), the ghosts of her children (hung for their corruption), and their army of dolls (crazy, dangerous dolls). He's still a monster, a fearfully powerful being, but he's also a personality here. As for Doctor Grave, he was already a full-fledged character, but he becomes a little more chilling here as new layers of mystery leave us to question his deeper motives.--- Bob Milne 2017


Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Guide to Dyscrasia Fiction

Here's a guide to Dyscrasia Fiction.
A fourth book is in the works (working title "Helen's Storm")

New to the series? Start with Helen's journey in Helen's Daimones


Friday, March 16, 2018

The Literate Thief - Review By SE

Literate Thief by Walter Rhein
S.E. rating: 5 of 5 stars

Highly recommended dystopian reading; intellectual heroic fantasy that unfolds fast furious .

"Never let a lesser person hold dominion over your sense of worth. If you doubt your own logic, you become vulnerable to oppression, violation, and control"- scholar Adam Lockhart


Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark inspired this Slaves of Erafor series (a dark muse for sure). When and how should passive intellectuals fight back against blind oppression? It is a timely philosophical question for many, especially in a day in which faux news is eroding our confidence in society's collective intelligence. At what point is violent revolution warranted? Rhein offers an entertaining adventure that invites us to consider such dilemmas. Don't worry, it reads as fun escapism--not a manifesto.

This is a stunning sequel to the The Reader of Acheron, which introduced us to Kikkan (an educated brute, a freed slave--he's the pipe-wielding dude on the cover) and the duo of Cole & Quillion (nuanced mercenaries). The three men go on a mission, inspired by a rare scholar named Lockhart: find a teacher, a literate thief, in Edentown. They are continuously dogged by an oppressive, illiterate government. Acheron was ambitious and rewarding, introducing us to a future in which reading is prohibited; Thief is even better.

Stylistically, the Literate Thief is very realistic (no mythological monsters or contraptions exist) but it does "feel like" Steampunk Fantasy. Its tone is more Grim than Hopeful, but that reflects the daunting conflict our heroes face. Its faces several humans against (a) organized authoritarian government, (b) a drugged, apathetic populace, and (c) an impoverished ruined city-scape. There are several instances you will hope that they can escape into the infested, haunted subway for relative safety from the dangers above.

Walter Rhein mixed up just the right number of opposing & cooperative players and places. As much as the Literate Thief fleshes out the World of Erafor, it opens up new vistas into weird science (futuristic alchemy & drug use) while exposing more mysteries. One the one hand, the geography crystallized: places like: San Borja, San Aryan, Brinewater, and Edentown all became distinctive characters unto themselves; on the other hand, characters like Quillion, Cole, and Kikkan demonstrate wild heroics while revealing more about themselves... and new people (i.e., the antagonists Orion and Janus, and the roving library-scholar) offer up an atlas full of new stories. There is a thief of course: Simyon, a friend of the seductive archer Valeria; they make a great pair. But is Simyon the titular Thief?

Drugs play a prominent role. First there is Bliss, that is voluntary, and involuntary, imbibed by the abundant, lower classes; these addicts become so consumed they resemble mindless, cannibalistic demons. There is also an unnamed steroid-like substance the governing brutes consume, which may be harvested from the humans they torment.

The Slaves of Erafor is an unfinished series, so don't expect all mysteries to be explained. I haven't felt the giddy need to read the next book (in progress) since I was a teenager devouring series like Raymond E. Feist's Riftwar or Margaret Weis's Dragonlance.

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Friday, March 2, 2018

Books for Beverage Program


Another dyscrasia victim! 

After listening to the audio book of Spawn of Dyscrasia, Matt earned a Starbuck's Blonde Roast as part of the Book-for-Beverage program: buy any version of Dyscrasia Fiction book [eBook, Paperback, or Audible] and I'll buy you a drink [tea, coffee, smoothy, shake, beer, whatever].


Saturday, February 24, 2018

Mar-Apr Groupreads


All are welcome to join the

 Sword & Sorcery Group on Goodreads


Our March-April 2018 Groupread Topics are:

A) Ursula K. Le GuinLink to Ursula K. Le Guin groupread
Honor her passing by reading and discussing anything by her, like A Wizard of Earthsea or The Left Hand of Darkness

B) Thieves: Link to groupread on "thieves": Books like: The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's BraidsThe Legend of Eli MonpressBroken BladeThe Hammer and the Blade

Banner Credits:
2018 Charles Vess illustrations for forthcoming Earthsea omnibus
1979 Walter Velez's Cover for Thieves World
2015 Arman Akopian Cover for Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues

earthsea-wrap
Thieves World by Robert Lynn Asprin Blackguards Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues by J.M. Martin 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Challenge! Discovery reviewed by S.E.


Challenge! Discovery
by Jason M. Waltz
S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rogue Blades Entertainment has a great track record for delivering anthologies (Return of the Sword, Writing Fantasy Heroes,Rage of the Behemoth, and more). Challenge! Discovery is the 2017 edition, which posed a challenge: look at the cover, and write a story about it. The illustration features a scantily clad female warrior and a panther emerge from jungle ruins.

The concept is cool, but the entries range in quality, and I disagree with the judges. Apparently the last two won 1st and 2nd place by the judges, but if I were to rate by (a) inspiration from cover and (b) storytelling (good pacing, show not tell, etc.) then I would have chosen 2 of the below:
- "Inner Nature" by JOHN KILIAN
- "Someplace Cool and Dark" by FREDERIC S. DURBIN
- "Witch with Bronze Teeth brushed" by KEITH J. TAYLOR

1) "Witch with Bronze Teeth brushed" by KEITH J. TAYLOR: 5-star blend of military Warhammer-esque battle and zombie horror

2) "Fire Eye Gem" by Richard Berrigan: 3-star; too corny for me; features a do-good Kimmeriorian barbarian named ‘Jack’?. ugh

3) "Inner Nature" by JOHN KILIAN 5-star, started ok and but ramped-up very satisfyingly

4) "The Ash-Wood of Celestial Flame" by GABE DYBING; nice fairy tale elements

5) "Someplace Cool and Dark" by FREDERIC S. DURBIN: 5-star, it is first person, weird funny and dark.... and I heard this exact story before! It took me a while to figure it out, but I heard him read this at the World Fantasy Convention 2016. A bonus essay on the writing of this story is added and is as engaging as the story

6)"World inside the Walls" by Frederick Tor : 3-star. Nice inspiration from the cover, but delivery style was dry narrative

7) "In the Ruins of the Panther People" by DANIEL R. ROBICHAUD: 4-star. Started slow and has cheesy romance lines, but ends with a huge bang, science-sorcery Meat Stamp! Loved the Meat Stamp!

8) "The Serpent’s Root by DAVID J. WEST, young adult pacing, but fun. 3.5; not obviously connected the cover as the other stories.

9) "A Fire in Shandria" by FREDERIC S. DURBIN; 4-star. Decent Amazon warrior story with a dragon (not sure why there was a dragon and not a panther)

10) "Cat’s in the Cradle NICHOLAS OZMENT (awarded 2nd place): 3-star Inspired by the cover for sure, but for a short story most of its pages are dedicated to non pertinent content. Pacing off.

11) "Attaberia" by HENRY RAM - (awarded 1st place): 4-star. Viking story with nice concept; starts as a 5 and ends as 3 (there is a disconnect between the tension & remoteness of a mysterious island and the inhabitants).

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Chronicles of Hate - Vol 2 - review by S.E.

Chronicles of Hate, Volume 2 (Chronicles of Hate, #2)Chronicles of Hate, Volume 2 by Adrian Smith
S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a sequel to Chronicles of Hate, which I reviewed earlier.

In short, this follows suit. New readers should start with Vol .1. Also, readers need to be comfortable "reading" visual images sans words. Of course, they must also like gritty, mature drawings of scantily clad women and undead warriors.

This sequel has the same style as the first: very dark & contrasty monochrome drawings, very small word count (~ 1 word per page). Adrian Smith leaves visual clues that identify the various clans. These can be subtle, but they are there. For instance, those aligned with the Mother Earth crew wear crescent moon ornaments. Many of the bad-guy clans are harder to distinguish, except for the Tyrant.

The story progresses very well and delivers on our hero "Worm" attempting to revive Mother Earth. Prior purchasing, I was worried that the story may not develop enough. But this was satisfying.

The culture of thee world develops more. It is more clear that each clan has a leader and a champion. Adrian Smith's illustrations are generally splendid. If you ever looked into any Warhammer/Games Workshop art (which Adrian has made many) and wished you could immerse yourself in a similar world (this is not part of Warhammer's TM Olde World), this is your chance.

Currently, there is a Kickstarter Campaign (by CMON with Adrian Smith) to realize this HATE-full world into a competitive board game. Pitched as an exclusive KS order, it may be difficult to get later (this runs thru mid-Feb 2018). This did inspire me to get Vol.2 and back the KS. The world of HATE evolves!


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Sunday, January 7, 2018

Death at the Blue Elephant - Review by SE

Death at the Blue ElephantDeath at the Blue Elephant by Janeen Webb
S.E. rating: 5 of 5 stars

My favorite unscripted moment from the 2016 Word Fantasy Convention occurred as Janeen Webb recited on a panel, from memory, the beginning to E R Eddison's Mistress of Mistresses. Her voice and tenor were beautiful and it sounded like a blend of poetry and song. Her point being that many of these works are more easily understood, and enjoyed, if read aloud. I knew then that I had to track down more of her work, leading me here.

Death at the Blue Elephant is her 2014 collection of eighteen, fantasy-adventure stories: thirteen published previously in various publications and the remaining five are new. Table of Contents listed below; the notes indicate the tales span most every type of tale imaginable: from Lewis Carroll-like fairytales, to contemporary horror (the titular story), to Lovecraftian Mythos, Arthurian legends, historical fantasy, Faustain deals, and Phillip-Dick-like Sci-Fi.

She writes for mature readers, usually sprinkling in a dose of eroticism. Tales often take turns that are darker or happier than expected, so readers will always be on edge. My favorites were the Lovecraftian, contemporary mystery of “Lady of the Swamp,” the sci-fi thriller-romance “Niagara Falling” which blurred reality and fantasy like a Phillip Dick story, the weird fiction "Fire-Eater's Tale" that is emotionally charged with revenge-fear-and-performance anxiety, and the weirdly-inspiring-yet-sad “Blake’s Angel” which appealed to the artist in me (for the record, I would never cage an Angel).

As her bio below details, Janeen Webb is an accomplished writer and editor (once winner of World Fantasy award among others). Death at the Blue Elephant shows that she can spin a good tale from about just about anything.

Content
1. “Velvet Green.” *new* -- Lewis Carroll-like with call-outs to Dunsany's Queen of Elfland

2. “Manifest Destiny.” First published in Baggage (Eneit Press, NSW, 2010) -- A pioneering adventure horror, not like Howard’s Conan in substance, but the barbarian-may-be-more-civil-than-settler theme abounds

3. “Death at the Blue Elephant” First published in Enter… , (HarperCollins Flamingo, Sydney, 1997) and HQ Magazine, November/December, 1997 -- Contemporary Erotic Horror

4. “Red City.” First published in Synergy SF: New Science Fiction (Five Star Press, Maine, USA, 2004) -- Sci-Fi Mystery Historical fantasy– Elizabeth Peters like?

5. “Paradise Design’d” First published in Dreaming Again (HarperCollins, Sydney, 2008, and Harper EOS, New York, 2008) -- Angels playing design in the Garden of Eden

6. “The Lion Hunt.” First published in Conqueror Fantastic (DAW Books, New York, 2004) -- Greco-Roman Historical Fantasy

7. “Incident On Woolfe Street”. First published in HQ Magazine #68, Jan/Feb 2000 (HarperCollins, Sydney, 2000) -- Horrific retelling of little red riding hood.

8. “The Lady of the Swamp” *new* Forthcoming reprint in Cthulhu Deep Down Under, edited by Steve Proposch, Christopher Sequiera and Bryce Stevens -- Splendid, contemporary Lovecraftian Mythos.

9. “A Faust Films Production”. First published in Little Red Riding Hood in New York (DAW Books, USA, 2004) -- Contemporary Faustian tale, obviously

10. “Gawain and the Selkie’s Daughter.” First published in The Road to Camelot (Random House, Sydney, 2002) -- Classic Arthurian legend

11. “Niagara Falling” with Jack Dann, First published Black Mist and Other Japanese Futures (DAW Books, New York, 1997) -- Phillip Dick -ish

12. “The Fire-Eater’s Tale” with Jack Dann. First published in Strange Attractions (Shadowlands Press, USA, 2000.) -- Weird fiction ; very good.

13. “Skull Beach” *new* -- another original tale with Faustian undertones

14. “Tigershow” First published in Agog: Terrific Tales (Agog Press, Wollongong, 2003). -- PTSD tragic horror

15. “Hell Is Where the Heart Is” First published in Next (CSFG Publishing, Canberra, 2014). --Horror–Romance following transplanted organs

16. “Full Moon in Virgo”. *new* -- Ghost-Romance story

17. “Blake’s Angel” First published in Gathering the Bones (HarperCollins, Sydney and London, 2003 and Tor Books, New York, 2003) -- Weird Artistic Horror

18. “The Sculptor’s Wife” *new* -- Modern Arthurian Legend

About Janeen Webb
Janeen Webb is a multiple award-winning author, editor, and critic who has written or edited ten books and over a hundred essays and stories. She is a recipient of the World Fantasy Award, the Peter MacNamara SF Achievement Award, the Australian Aurealis Award, and is a three-time winner of the Ditmar Award. Her award-winning short fiction has appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies, as well as a number of Best of the Year collections. Her longer fiction includes a series of novels for young adult readers, The Sinbad Chronicles, (HarperCollins, Australia). She is also co-editor, with Jack Dann, of the influential Australian anthology Dreaming Down-Under. Janeen has also co-authored several non-fiction works with Andrew Enstice. These include Aliens and Savages; The Fantastic Self; and an annotated new edition of Mackay’s 1895 scientific romance, The Yellow Wave. Janeen is internationally recognised for her critical work in speculative fiction. Her criticism has appeared in most of major journals and standard reference works, as well as in several collections of scholarly articles published in Australia, the USA, and Europe. She was co-editor of Australian Science Fiction Review, and reviews editor for Eidolon. She holds a PhD in literature from the University of Newcastle. Janeen divides her time between Melbourne and a small farm overlooking the sea near Wilson’s Promontory, Australia.

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Friday, January 5, 2018

Cover Art Design - Helen's Daimones with Daniel Landerman -3


1) CONCEPT (LINK) : Goal & required elements
2) COVER ARTIST (LINK)  : Finding a designer
3) COVER DESIGN(YOU ARE HERE): Evolution of compositions to arrive at the final cover


This wraps up a series of posts discussing the design of the Helen's Daimones cover. Part One covered the design concepts, Part Two  revealed details about connecting with Daniel Landerman, and this last post will be the meatiest of all since it will show the progression from sketch to final illustration. All sketches are copyright Landerman 2016.


First, Daniel took several storyboards and design concepts (akin to those shred in the first post) and provided several compositions. I chose "D" since showed Helen's face while keeping her vulnerable...and having the sword away from Lysis made it easier to visualize.

Deciding on poses
Then Landerman continued his magic ability to show details without cluttering the image.  From curious in Helen's hair, insect traits in the armor, and decorations in the clown-dolls, he loaded up the image with subtle elements.
Composition D selected, Details Added
What followed was a series of monochrome compositions that explored how light could be sourced from the magical sword, the eyes of the undead dolls, and moon.
Planning the Lighting 


Lastly, Landerman colorized the work. He was inspired by iridescent beetle carcasses for the armor.
To match the magic in the book, the dolls and wasp needed to be blue-ish, and Lysis needed to be variegated (and distinguished from the blue aura).
Basic Colors

Final with added dolls, wasp, and proper eye colors

The details are amazing!


So the journey was complete.  The covers represent Lysis's and Helen's progression accurately and reinforce the characterization in Dyscrasia Fiction.  Book four is in the works...and the principles discussed here will continue to drive the design.


Character Progression & Story Arcs in Illustration

Book Covers of Dyscrasia Fiction