Saturday, December 8, 2018

Holiday Card 2018 - Morris Returns

Can you spot Morris? He escaped from Santa!

Happy 2018 Holidays & New Year !

This card tradition really kicked off in 1998, a mere 20yrs ago; historical cards are shown on the Team Lindberg Craft blog.  This year's photos were actually taken early last year. Heidi shot a bunch of neat card material back then (even baked the cookies too), and with this year being busy, our design process was .... hmmm... accelerated  (confession below). 

The gingerbread theme was partially inspired to echo the 2002 "death of Morris" card. My brilliant ideas to take pictures of cookies with missing heads went ignored by my partner.

Poor Morris
Heidi has a great eye for design and has an inventory of cool photos, but she didn't think these were ready to share yet.  So they rested in storage. Many other raw photos could easily have made awesome cards (below are a few):
Heidi's photos - the powdered one's look like ghosts. Is that Morris? 
We almost skipped making a card since time was scarce; in fact, Heidi thought we were just going to let the project slide. Heidi was tied up thinking about hosting Thanksgiving (we even missed getting our tree up the weekend after Halloween, but Erin came home from college to remedy that). Pressured to keep the tradition going, I secretly raided her stock images. I was anxious to make a card without content of my own, and thought her works was splendid, so ... for the record, Heidi didn't participate in the editing process. In fact, she took the pictures and no Photoshop retouching was done (I did try to white balance the cover, which apparently could have been done better).

In an age when consent matters, I recommend being a better teammate. But after 22yrs of marriage, I had some points to spare. Of course I had to confess eventually.  With her birthday being in late November, I decided to share the proof in a faux-birthday envelope. It was like a gender reveal ceremony, without any pregnancy: "Hey honey, we are expecting a great card :)" .  Drawing a heart on the card really helped. Would have been even better if I actually had a birthday gift.
After due pause and glare, she said the cover had a slightly unacceptable green tinge, and scoffed at the kerning and font choices of the interior (below).  Thankfully I already accepted the proof and ordered a bunch, so I said "No worries, I got this."

Heidi rocks as a photographer, but sometimes she needs to be in the photo! So we turned to retired P&G imaging specialist Julie Lubbers at Teal Gate Studios earlier this year for family photos. Highly recommended.

Team Lindberg - 2018 - Teal Gate Studios
Here's wishing everyone a peaceful, safe 2019.
Go eat some cookies!

Sweetie and Shorty







Saturday, November 24, 2018

Sunday, November 18, 2018

National Larvae Cake Day - Monday before Halloween

Larvae Cake Day:

Well, you never know when something will become viral on the internet, or in this case: parasitic. When a Dyscrasia Fiction fan, Mr. Ward, was reading Spawn of Dyscrasia, his wife interrupted to see if he wanted to eat lava cakes (a gourmet chocolate cupcake with gooey insides). Mr. Ward first heard this as "larvae cakes" since the book (the whole series actually) features lots of larvae creatures, Larvalwyrmen in particular (giant larvae of the elder insects cursed never to mature once the Queen is killed). Larvae-filled cupcakes sounds gross! But they can taste good if we use non-parasitic ingredients.

After five experiments to capture the essence of a gooey lava cake that represented the Blood Bogs and Larvarlwyrmen of Dyscrasia Fiction, we arrived at a decent recipe. Sharing these at work catalyzed the even which we hope will become a national phenomenon: "Larvae Cake Day."

So the Monday before Halloween will hence forth spawn the sharing of Larvae Cakes. No need to wait for me to deliver them to you. Below is the recipe so you can make and share your own!

RECIPE for 24 "Larvae Cakes" cupcakes



INGREDIENTS:

Red Velvet cake mix (~15oz Box)
Eggs (3 needed for cake)
Vegetable Oil (1/3cup for cake)
Chocolate Frosting <16oz
White Sprinkles / Jimmies 1 jar
Maraschino Cherries 
Marzipan (Almond Candy Dough) 7oz

INSTRUCTIONS:


1: MIX CAKE BATTER
2: BAKE CUPCAKES
3: SLICE TOPS/INSERT CHERRY
4: FILL WITH WHITE SPRINKLES
5: COOL CUPCAKES & FROST WITH ICING
6: DIVIDE  MARZIPAN INTO 24 SIMILAR BALLS
7: EXTRUDE WITH CLEAN GARLIC PRESS




Other Dyscrasia Fiction Crafts
Two instances begin a trend.  How better to enjoy dark fantasy than to immerse yourself in crafts! Take note of the 2011 posting of Spooky Apple Head dolls used to inspire Lords of Dyscrasia







Saturday, November 17, 2018

Barczak Loot and XP - 2018

"Bakassas The Witch Queen" - 2018 Tom Barczak
As I attended an annual Surfactant Consortium meeting (IASR) in Norman, OK, I swung by Tom Barczak's art show. His Prophecy of Evarun series is emotive dark fantasy. He's working on the next installment now: "Hands of the Dragon".

He had over a dozen sketches and paintings presented at a boardgame boutique called Loot and XP, a comfortable establishment with snacks and hugs tables... and tons of games to play. "Loot" is a good theme for the trip, since I returned with a sketch of the above painting and Prophecy of Evarun coffee mug. If you are a Norman local, check that out that place.

What started as a chance meeting has turned into an annual join up (list below). Every time we share our muses on weird art and writing. 

Reviews by SE of Tom Barczak's works:

My interview with Tom Barzcak on the topic : "Beauty in Weird Fiction"


SE and Tom with the sketch used for the "Bakassas Witch Queen" painting

We had to meet at 6:45AM prior my work meeting and school, and Tom had some of his boys with him in tow. Coffee helped wake a few. Was nice meeting them all.
That's me, stewing about whether or not I could actually by the Bakassas painting 
A sampling of other Barczak paintings on display at  Loot and XP








Loot: my very own Mouth of the Dragon cup!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Mushinkan Dojo: Seth Lindberg - now Shodan

   Mushinkan Dojo: Seth Lindberg - now Shodan cross-post from OhioAikido.com.

"Another ZAA Instructor’s Seminar has come and gone. Mushinkan Dojo would like to thank Noble Sensei and all the Teaching Committee members for the great instruction in both how to perform techniques and how to teach. 
I cannot say enough about the caliber and quality of everyone who attended. Our time on and off the mat strengthened our connections and friendships. As always everyone of us gave our attention and sacrificed time to make the seminar awesome.
Mushinkan Dojo also has the great pleasure of announcing that Seth Lindberg was promoted to Shodan this weekend. Mushinkan Dojo is thankful to Seth for his years of dedicated practice and help developing the Dojo. 


In gassho, Domaschko Sensei" 


[Thank you, Sensei, Mushinkan, and ZAA. I am very grateful for reaching this milestone. Years of training with local Mushinkan members and at many of the ZAA seminars developed me; the journey has just begun of course. Looking forward to growing more, helping others, and developing the dojo. I won't repeat my whole speech here, but will do so to Mushinkan members over Raymond's Pizza soon--my treat.

Sincerely appreciative, Seth]



Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Post Mortem GDC Videos

These Post Mortem talks at the Game Developer's Conference are awesome. They recap history, communicate how to tell stories, how to work with technology.... how to have fun.

 DIABLO

 

GAUNTLET 


 PRINCE OF PERSIA

 

 ULTIMA ONLINE

 

ZORK


ADVENTURE

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Fugazzotto's Skin - Review by SE

Skin by Peter Fugazzotto
SE rating: 5 of 5 stars

Was in the mood for a short horror story (well maybe a short novella) and had already enjoyed Peter Fugazzotto's The Witch of the Sands. So when Skin released with an Andreas Vesalius cover--I knew I had to track it down (Vesalius was a 16th French Anatomist famous for posing his dissected subjects in his Fabrica).

Fugazzotto explains in an afterword that he intended to write a "Thing with swords," the call-out being to the 1982 movie (novelized by Alan Dean Foster: The Thing). He succeeded. This short story is well polished Sword & Sorcery novel, fully in the Grimdark flavor with tons of grittiness filling in a military milieu. The book blurb is pretty accurate, so I'll just copy it here to summarize.

Vesaliu's FabricaVesaliu's FabricaVesaliu's Fabrica

Book Blurb: "SKIN: Horror in a snow-bound medieval fortress.

Former soldier Hemming spends his days drinking and avoiding his companions at the isolated border keep where he has been posted. But his world is turned upside down when a naked, bloody woman shows up outside the walls of the keep. Soon a monster is hiding among them, and it’s up to Hemming to figure out which one of them is the monster before it kills them all.

Skin by author Peter Fugazzotto blends fantasy with horror in a way you’ve never seen before. If you enjoy horror movies like The Thing and the medieval world of the Game of Thrones, then you’ll love this novella as you race along on a terrifying journey of fear and paranoia in a medieval world right up to the shocking ending.

Buy this book today to begin a terrifying journey of horror set in a medieval world."

Skin by Peter Fugazzotto The Witch of the Sands (The Hounds of the North, #1) by Peter Fugazzotto




View all my reviews

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Ports of Shadows - review by SE

Port of Shadows by Glen Cook
SE rating: 3 of 5 stars

Port of Shadows is Fake News: This Black Company installment from Glen Cook (chronologically #1.5, but published >#10) will be enjoyed by long-term fans much more than newer folk reading the books in order. I came from reading only the first book and recommend skipping it (I am still intrigued to read Shadows Linger eventually). As part of group read in the Goodread's Sword & Sorcery group, series fans suggest reading the original trilogy first (Chronicles of the Black Company) and reaffirm that the other books are more engaging.
1.5- Port of Shadows (2018)
2- Shadows Linger (1984)
3- The White Rose (1985)


Some spoilers follow as I explain why Port of Shadows is alluring Fake News:
To quote the main narrator Croaker (physician and official historian of the group): "I had no idea what this ferocious campaign was all about. Well, yes, there were Rebels and Resurrectionists in need of butchering out here. Hints from the wife and kids suggested a possible connection to the Port of Shadows business, but … I could not help suspecting that something more was afoot.

The most reliable information about the late empire is not reliable at all. It, too, is consensus guesswork woven from untrustworthy fragmentary records and hand-me-down oral histories."

Alfred Hitchcock once said, "The MacGuffin is the thing that the spies are after but the audience don't care"; the titular "Port of Shadows" is not quite a MacGuffin--but it's pretty close: the mysterious "Port" is the focus of the Black Company's quest/conflict, but ample threads/arcs regarding the danger stemming from it are consistently left unexplained or shown to be not dangerous.

Ostensible conflict (excerpt): "…if the Lady had spoken truly, Tides Elba was a threat to the whole world. She could become the port through which the hideous shadow known as the Dominator could make his return. No doubt she was sought by and beloved of every Resurrectionist cultist hoping to raise the old evil from his grave. No doubt she was the prophesied messiah of darkness."

We are told (not shown) that the Port is an exposed pathway for the evil Dominator to be resurrected--yet as a reader I was never engaged. For one, the Dominator's evilness is not demonstrated, nor do the flashbacks really feature him or his behavior; secondly, the "Port" and all its possible incarnations are not really dangerous (we are told, not shown, many times that the possible Ports are causing mayhem, but the Black Company and our narrator Croaker never seem to be in any danger); and lastly, any such resurrection (i.e., use of the Port) never seems close. Nothing ever seems to be at stake.

A lack luster tale told in a confusing fashion: The tale is told via a weave of historic (long time ago) and present-day chapters. The initial 1/3rd is great, but the mysterious "Just follow my command and do a mysterious task without explanation" [given by the Lady or the Black Co Captain to Croaker] starts to fall flat thereafter. Suspicious activity from the magician One-Eye and the Taken Limper introduced in the beginning are ultimately just snippets for old time fans to relish. Although entertaining, any tension from having untrustworthy companions is not capitalized on.

Fake News: We learn lots of what is going via journalistic accounts (not direct witnessing) as characters touch base with Croaker. This makes sense since he is the Annalist, but also keeps the reader distant. The alternating shifts in time also change point of view (first person with Croaker and third person). Within one yarn, there is time travel (forward and back) in which people are transported via time.

Everyone is unreliable, either because they are mischievous, possessed/"not acting like themselves," are clones, impostors, twins, or alternative incarnations of themselves (Mischievous rain had at least three version of herself; Laissa at least two, Ankou shapeshifts, etc.). The confusion does not seem to be unfurled intentionally (i.e., in a Phillip Dick story). Instead we are given a huge swath of characters, all unreliable, most only appearing for a short time, most with multiple instances of themselves… and none of them know what is going on (see below excerpts).

I am assuming that the following stories in the series follow through and make this feel more complete, but as a standalone novel, and even as a sequel, it feels incomplete.

Excerpts (a.k.a., Fake News headlines):
The most reliable information about the late empire is not reliable at all. It, too, is consensus guesswork woven from untrustworthy fragmentary records and hand-me-down oral histories.

We’re into something unlike anything we’ve ever seen. We don’t know what it is. That’s why we keep talking and talking. I can’t even express it. It’s something that we can’t handle the way we usually do. We can’t trick it. We can’t crush it by being the nastiest killers on the field. It’s all inside. Insidious.

Nobody knows what’s going on. Anything that we think we know is almost certainly not…

"…You don’t know anything more than I do. And now I’m beginning to think that maybe even the Taken is without a clue.” Our mistress was known for playing lives-long games that only she could fathom.

The Captain deployed his ingenuous smile, neither denying nor confirming, just suggesting that he knew something that would remain a mystery to everyone else.

Nothing was what it looked like. Nothing stayed the same. Nothing went the way that it should.

Somebody keeps making us forget stuff

I had no idea what this ferocious campaign was all about. Well, yes, there were Rebels and Resurrectionists in need of butchering out here. Hints from the wife and kids suggested a possible connection to the Port of Shadows business, but … I could not help suspecting that something more was afoot.

From the Old Man down to the Third and local kid Gurdlief Speak, folks keep asking me for news they need to make sense of a time that no surviving memories make sensible.

the Black Company must have been smacked with a widespread, savage, and utterly, angrily deliberate memory assault.

None of the Senjak sisters were described accurately. None of them were identified by their correct names.

The most reliable information about the late empire is not reliable at all. It, too, is consensus guesswork woven from untrustworthy fragmentary records and hand-me-down oral histories.

View all my reviews

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Sebastian A. Jones - Interview by SE

Intro: It is not intuitive to seek beauty in art deemed grotesque/weird, but most authors who produce horror/fantasy actually are usually (a) serious about their craft, and (b) driven my strange muses. This interview series engages contemporary authors & artists on the theme of “Art & Beauty in Weird/Fantasy Fiction.” Previously we cornered weird fantasy authors like John Fultz, Janeen Webb, Aliya Whiteley, and Richard Lee Byers. Recently we heard from the legendary author and editor of weird fiction, Darrell Schweitzer!


This round we corner Sebastian A. Jones: Author, actor, and teacher, Sebastian A. Jones grew up in England and moved to America at the age of eighteen where he founded MVP Records releasing albums that included James Brown, John Coltrane, and Billie Holiday. In 2008 he founded Stranger Comics and Stranger Kids. Sebastian has written children's books including Pinata and co-created the I Am Book Series with Garcelle Beauvais including titles I Am Mixed and I Am Living in 2 Homes. Under Stranger's dark fantasy line Asunda, he has received critical praise for his written work on The Untamed: A Sinner's Prayer,  Dusu: Path of the Ancient, and Niobe: She is Life, which was coauthored by Amandla Stenberg.

Niobe Pathfinder V1 (1)

Note that the Asunda, the world of Niobe, is being realized with Pathfinder for RPG lovers. Check out the recent Paizo interview for more

 Is Niobe “Life” or is she “Death”?

Niobe returns to reclaim her throne in 3 tales. Get the Erathune Hardcover, She is Death #1 & #2, and the vampire epic, Essessa #1! Another Kickstarter brings omnibus versions of Niobe to life. Fill us in on the status and long term vision of Niobe and Asunda.

SAJ: The status is we are in the midst of another kickstarter campaign where folks can get all of the new stuff in Niobe’s world of Asunda (and the old stuff too). We first planted Niobe in the original story THE UNTAMED: A Sinner’s Prayer, where we followed a man, the Stranger, who had returned from purgatory to exact vengeance on the seven souls that murdered him and his family. He meets Niobe, the only light in the sinner’s Town of Oasis. She offers him a chance at salvation. But when he discovers she is the seventh soul, and the devil had planned the whole thing, the Stranger has a choice to make: Does he kill her and free his family, or let her live and save the world, as Niobe is destined to bind nations against the devil.

ESS001 COV Hyung PreviewAfter The Untamed we saw Niobe in other tales including her own title NIOBE: She is Life and now She is Death. She also appears in ERATHUNE with other heroes, the Macgrom (Dwarf) Buxton Stonebeard, and Morkai (Silver Elf) assassin Skarlok Two Hearts. She also guest stars in ESSESSA: The Fallen, a dark vampire tale of Niobe’s nemesis a thousand years before the main and current timeline. My vision for Niobe is for us to follow her throughout the world of Asunda and discover new lands and tales with her, as she grows into the Joan of Arc meets Luke Skywalker badass savior she is destined to be. In the future we will have NIOBE: She is Spirit and eventually She is God.

Beyond the comics, I am hopeful Niobe will transcend all media and appear in games and on the screen. Viola Davis honored us with this quote from her foreword in the hardcover, “We all have a Niobe inside ourselves, and it’s time to hear her roar.”

SE: In the “Spilling Guts” Appendix of the Untamed: Sinner’s Prayer compilation, your interview reveals that Asunda was primarily your creation but it evolved over twenty years and has involved many artists.  As author, did you ever draw/sketch (i.e., not write) anything for this world?  If so, can we share an image? Please share your insights working with graphic artists as they depict “your” world.

SAJ: I have done loads of sketches and none of them good! I also created the designs for the magic and spirit runes that readers can check out on the items wielded or worn by our characters in the comics. All good fun for gamers and campaign builders.
The artist who has been a catalyst in the world of Asunda is Darrell May. I consider him a cocreator as he not only translates effortlessly what is in my brain, he improves upon the vision. Over several years now he has created many of the most important landscapes, characters, and monsters that we sometimes build stories around. In fact, the title Erathune was born from a game we played in where Darrell was the dungeon master.
Generally, what we do is: I write the script > My brilliant Editor in Chief polishes it > Darrell does all of the concept art and all of the layouts >  the artist draws and paints based on the aforementioned > Joshua letters it > multiple screaming matches and revisions > off to the printer.

Here are some layouts by Darrell and the final results by Peter Bergting for The Untamed and Ashley A. Woods for Niobe: She is Life.

Beautiful Weird Art, Balancing Disparate Content:

SE: The Niobe and Untamed series balance “coming of age” YA appropriate stories with vivid, adult-worthy content. They also exhibit a splendid variety of beautiful empresses and heroines (i.e., the 2018 Calendar for Asunda is portfolio mainly of beautiful women). Any tips for other artists for designing art that is beautiful yet intense?
SAJ: Embrace the uncomfortable. Artists should step out of their comfort zones and explore all areas of art and other mediums. Artists should write, writers should draw, and everyone should listen to music that has grit, beauty, and gravitas. Photographers and filmmakers are also a great resource, where master storytellers capture moments that stay with us. When I wrote THE UNTAMED I listened to Aaron Copland and Gorecki and watched a lot of Spaghetti Westerns and Samurai films.
Picture3

Picture4

Niobe’s Beauty?


SE: One could argue that Niobe is a nontraditional heroine for the dark fantasy genre. She is introduced in Sinner’s Prayer as a young girl but has her own line of comics for her coming of age.  Can you comment on Niobe’s own beauty? How did she evolve from idea to character over the years?

SAJ: Niobe has been with me for a long time, since I was a teenager. She was a character that was born out of my own hopes and ambitions for a better world. Seems a bit naïve perhaps, but I poured all of my vulnerabilities and desires into this character who started to roam the fantasy world I was creating. 

The more I grew, she grew with me, and soon she reflected my own light and darkness, which would come to represent the duality I was struggling with. She is mixed (like me) but she is also half angel, half demon, which was to represent the inner conflict everyone can relate to. By the time Stranger Comics was formed, I thought I had a fairly clear image of Niobe. By the time I wrote her own story with Amandla Stenberg, her character arc had blossomed into something powerful. We will witness the rise of a young woman, struggling with the weight of the world on her winged shoulders, but will conquer the battle of obligation vs. adventure and be a beacon for us all.

Now she is a movement. And in her – young people and old alike – can be the hero in their own story. All they have to do is pick up the sword.

Picture1Picture2 (1)

SE: Your Amazon Author Page features eclectic works.  Your Asunda series alone may represent you as an author fascinated with dark myths, albeit ones presented with beauty.  But that is not only the case. Via Stranger Comics, you are also making/marketing children faerie tales (i.e., “I am Mixed”). Indeed in 2008 you founded Stranger Comics and Stranger Kids, which would appear to have divergent markets/audiences & muses. Are there similar motivations driving Stranger Comics & Kids?

SAJ: I am motivated by a great many things, all of which trickle into what we create both at Stranger Comics and Kids. Good story with resonance that connects on an emotional level is everything. Each tale must be autentic to what it is trying to achieve. We cannot do things because things are a current hashtag trending just to make a quick buck. This is soulless, transient, and transparent. And the audience always sees through it.

I like to plant seeds within our comics and children’s books, for readers to stumble or search for hidden messages that can both relate to the story and at times reflect issues we face in our own world.
I believe that representation matters. On all levels, as we swim the murky waters of today’s social and political landscape. Hence our kid’s book I AM LIVING IN 2 HOMES was dedicated to kiddos who navigate the complexities of separation and divorce.

And despite all the serious stuff, I am still a kid at heart who like to have fun, a gamer, a dreamer, who wants to escape into fantasy worlds – which is probably why we partnered with Paizo to create Pathfinder roleplaying games for NIOBE: She is Life and created a Piñata making supplement in the back of the same titled children’s book.

Niobe (or Sebastian) in Film?

SE: Andrew Cosby’s introduction and BleedingCool.com indicate a feature film for Untamed is in the works. Do tell more! Seems like it may be (or be inspired by) previous screenplays written by you, and that it will depict Niobe (to be played by Amandla Stenberg who is known for playing Rue in Hunger Games). You have film credits for working in a psychological horror game called Hektor. If Asunda comes to a screen, will you be in it?

SAJ: I cannot say too much about the movie and TV stuff at the moment, as it is a delicate dance, but I am confident it will all happen in the way it is meant to. I would love to be in it, but it is not necessary. Above all, any film or show must reflect the work and the vision we have spent years nurturing.  The fans deserve it.

BUXTON STONEBEARD

Musical Muses:

SE: If not acting, you hinted at creating the score for the movie. Having founded MVP records, music certainly inspires you. In Sinner’s Prayer, there is an undercurrent of music that begs for explanation: the prologue has a few stanzas and there is the music played during a climatic confrontation. Can you clarify how music inspires you? Any connections between creating song and prose?

SAJ: Music feeds me perhaps more than anything else. It is a marriage of movement and the still moments in between. For music to inspire, it must have a spirit to make me want to fight, f**k, or fall in love. Anything else is like a formulaic snapchat fliter that deadens the soul… and puts us on automatic robot mode. I can’t mess with that.

Beauty in dark art:

SE: Do you see Beauty in your dark work? Any tips on how to interpret or create art that is “dark” yet “attractive”?

SAJ: I find the darkness a beautiful comfort, but I am not sure I see beauty in my own work. I am honored that readers seem to enjoy the stories and of course, the incredible art.
My tips are: Do not compromise and dare to be vulnerable. You get your feelings hurt now and again by those who will judge, and people will rip you off… But as long as you are true to your vision and your own truth, your soul will be fed.