Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sword and Sorcery...and Pugs?!

Do you belong to a strange community? I must...
Shorty
I confess an obligatory urge to share a picture of our family pug "Shorty" who has faithfully provided comic relief and therapy for over two years without being represented on this blog!

Why now?  Why display her on an author blog with a Sword and Sorcery focus?

Because I am not the only one who has loves pugs and Sword & Sorcery! In fact, Dark Horse Comics must think any entire market of us exists, and we are worthy of our own comic!  They just released an announcement (below).  But the comic won't be available until this Summer... so all you Pug/S&S fans you'll have to be content checking out the below links.

Check out the Battlepug.com website for excerpts!
...and here is the Dark Horse Comics Press Release! (copied below)


02/01/2012 11:49am 
The epic tale of blood and drool begins here! Keeping the tradition of its creator-owned mentality, Dark Horse Comics is pleased to announce its newest venture with Mike Norton—Battlepug!

 “I was really happy when people first reacted to the comic. It’s hard to predict if the public needs another ‘Giant Pug Epic Fantasy’ story. I mean, we all know those are a dime a dozen, right? Luckily, the story of a barbarian’s quest for revenge with the aid of our favorite four-legged freak seems to have legs,” said Norton. “When I first made the Battlepug T-shirt, people kept asking when the comic was coming out. So, I put out the webcomic and now everybody wants to know when the book is coming out! I guess now people will want to know when the movie is happening?”

 This volume collects the first year of Mike Norton’s Battlepug—the perfect opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the fan-favorite webcomic by Mike Norton, Allen Passalaqua, and Crank!

 Join Moll and her dogs Mingo and Colfax, as she recounts the legend of “The Warrior and the Battlepug”—a tale of a fearless barbarian, his trusty and freakishly large pug, and evil baby harp seals.

“I’m a huge fan of Dark Horse and couldn’t be more excited to have Battlepug published by them. Hellboy, B.P.R.D., Buffy, Star Wars—they put out some of the best comics currently being made and it’s humbling to even be on the same shelf with that kind of product! I’m super excited for people to read it and look forward to much more in the future!” stated Norton.
 Mike Norton’s Battlepug Volume 1 is on sale July 4, 2012!


Monday, January 16, 2012

The Mask of the Sorcerer - Review of Darrell Schweitzer's Novel



The Mask of the SorcererThe Mask of the Sorcerer by Darrell Schweitzer

S.E. Lindberg rated it: 4 of 5 stars

This will appeal to weird fiction readers who are looking for Lovecraftian atmosphere in an adventure novel form. This is not Sword & Sorcery, but will appeal to that same crowd (it is very dark…all sorcery).

This will NOT appeal to readers looking for soap-opera fantasy, young-adult fantasy, or a light read.

The first three Chapters were amongst the most bizarre, inspiring fantasy bits I have ever read. The pace slows after, but by then I was emotional connected to Sekenre’s character. Note, it is difficult to string together a series of weird stories into a novel, since the pulp- style of writing is known to be highly dense with description. The genre works well with short stories. H.P. Lovecraft tried with a lengthy novella with “The Dream-Quest to Unknown Kadath,” which I have yet to complete after three valiant tries (despite my urge to see how the reappearance of the artist Robert Pickman fares). Schweitzer does better here, taking the readers to the ambiguous lands of dreams and death, making us feel as disoriented as his cursed protagonist; at the moment we are about to become totally lost in trippy language, he brings us back to firm footing.

The battle scenes are intermittent but very vivid; given the lack of traditional weaponry, readers will be surprised by the brutality.

From the book’s description I thought I would be immersed in traditional Egyptian mythology; not so. Egyptian setting/lore is clearly an inspiration for this, but as Christianity (the Crusades) served as a foundation for Schweitzer’s “We Are All Legends”, the author rapidly takes the reader beyond these influences. His work is anything but traditional or derivative.

The book is ~380pages; I would have given this 5 stars if it could have somehow been reduced to ~300.

Sequel: There is a standalone sequel called SEKENRE The Book of the Sorcerer, which I look forward to reading.

View all my Goodread reviews

Saturday, January 14, 2012

We Are All Legends - Review of Darrell Schweitzer's Sword & Sorcery Novel

We are all legends (Starblaze editions)We are all legends by Darrell Schweitzer
S.E.Lindberg rated it: 5 of 5 stars

We Are All Legends is a must-read for fans of doomed protagonists (Karl Wagner’s Kane, Michael Moorcock’s Elric, David Gemmell’s Druss, etc.). It is Sword and Sorcery for the adult crowd. Darrell Schweitzer tapped into his extensive weird fiction expertise to craft this great string of tales. It is gritty, poetic, and intellectually rewarding. We Are All Legends mixes the horrific atmosphere of H.P. Lovecraft, with the story telling action of R. E. Howard, with the emotive style of C.A. Smith.

A quote best communicates the motivations of Julian, a warrior jaded by the crusades who is cursed by evil forces. An apostate, shunning the god who shunned him.  Julian is a selfish man, as the character reveals in the story Divers Hands : “I had many times longed for death. But then the familiar terror came… After death—damnation, the eternal torments I could escape only for a brief time while I lived. Like all men, I am ultimately selfish. I would sacrifice the whole world to escape Hell even for a short while. I could kill myself only on a sudden, saving impulse swifter than thought. If I reasoned what was right, just, and the moral thing to do, I would forget all about rightness, justice, and morality, and be paralyzed.”

What kind of atmosphere will readers experience? Haunting, yet beautiful.  Just read this dose from The Riddle of the Horn: “The trees of earth, those which were solid and not phantasms of the snow, thinned out as I left the forest and moved into open country once again. It was foolish for me to do so, but as soon as they were out of sight—and they were almost at once—all directions looked the same and the only real thing was the agony of cold and of further motion. The wind stung my face with renewed fury, sweeping long and far over rolling hills and fields, no longer broken or held back by ancient trunks. I was without destination, like a corpse bobbing on an endless sea.”

And what horrors will the reader face? Not your typical demons, but indescribable evil.  From the story The Unknown God Cried Out: “When the man came within the circle of the firelight, I could see that he had no face, and thus no mouth, and that was why he did not speak. In the place of a face there was a black oval, not a mask, not a burnt sore, but an absolute, limitless void sinking into his head in all defiance of perspective and dimensions. I feared if I looked at it too long I would be drawn into it, out of the universe altogether…”

In summary, We Are All Legends is a gateway to Hell and beyond. As I read it I felt that rewarding anxiety of "really" experiencing the unknown, running through meticulously constructed dioramas that only a sorcerer like Schweitzer could conjure. Great fun.


View all my reviews

Monday, December 26, 2011

Reader Reviews for Lords of Dyscrasia - 2011


Reader Reviews from 2011:
Reviews for Lords of Dyscrasia are popping up in various places (these are the initial reviews since  publication was this Fall), so I attempt to harvest them in one location (removing duplicates). The highlights are lines that I considered being particularly helpful as summary statements.  
4.0 out of 5 stars Creepy in a fantastic kind of way!October 31, 2011
The book revolves around the characters: Doctor Grave, Crypia, Endenken, and Dey. Endenken seeks revenge, Doctor Grave dreams of restoring what was lost, Crypia wants to live, and Dey is running away from his past. In a world of disease, monsters, and danger, will the passions and desires that drive them be enough to help them survive?

A very well done book by S.E. Lindberg! From the beginning, we are treated to vivid descriptions of the carnage and ruin created by the disease, dyscrasia. Don't expect this author to pull his punches, he's not afraid to make readers squirm! The plot is engaging and fast-paced, once you get through all the exposition. While I don't feel all that sympathetic to some of the characters, they stood out in their own way and are not strictly "good" or "evil".

I should point out that I wouldn't recommend this book to any young readers. Some of the scenes can be pretty brutal. Also, one thing I have an issue with is that the beginning can be a bit confusing, especially when coupled with the book's intricate language. Lindberg switches viewpoints a lot so it's easy to lose track of what's happening sometimes. However, once you get used to the author's style, the book becomes even more enjoyable and you'll finish it in no time!

Pro: flowery and vivid descriptions, complex characters, unique setting 
Con: Somewhat confusing in the beginning




5.0 out of 5 stars
 
5 STARS!!!November 12, 2011
This review is from: Lords of Dyscrasia (Paperback)
Lords of Dyscrasia is unlike anything I've read and is why it took some time to build an interest to read it being that content is rather foreign to me. The beginning was confusing but the more I read the more the story became clear. Once I reached chapter two I could not put the book down. The book is very graphic and the author paints a vivid image of many brutal fight scenes which are very gory to say the least. To my surprise I absolutely enjoyed the book and look forward to reading more from this author.

3.0 out of 5 stars IntriguingDecember 7, 2011
This review is from: Lords of Dyscrasia (Paperback)
This is an unusual book. It is a mixture of fantasy, horror, and adventure that defies true classification. Now, it is not for everyone, since it does have many grotesque images and scenes, but if that doesn't bother you, then it might be something for you to pick up. 
What I enjoyed most was the atmosphere. There is a really gritty, violent mood to the pages that had me really captivated. It is completely different from anything I've read. Yes, sometimes the violent images seem enhanced more for effect than for the actual plot, but still, there are some very visceral images that will stick with you long after you finish reading the book. 

I do wish we'd had a bit more character development, but, since it is a plot-driven novel, it doesn't really affect the story too much. The fantastical elements more than make up for any lack of characterization. The epilogue alone is worth the whole book. It is nicely done, bringing us, the reader, a bit closer to the story. 

As I said, this book is not for everyone, but for those of you that like a good dose of horror with your reading, this one might be a fun one to try. 
  • First off this story is dark fantasy not contemporary hide it from the kids dark but deeply planned out epic dark fantasy. The plot is intricate and once you get going you'll start to see the how intricate the connections between the characters and themes are woven together. The author manages to blend artistic theory, tools, & techniques with theology and family history to build one of the most unique fantasy worlds I have ever come across. The artwork peppered throughout the book really added to the epic feel and mood of the book for me as I read it. If you are a fan of Charles de Lint and the artist Brom then you will enjoy this book. I have to say if you want a unique read and fresh take on world building then this book is definitely worth reading.  
  • I really, really did not like this book at all. My apologies to the author, who obviously, worked very hard on it. He did create a world completely unlike anything you have ever read about and kudos to him for that. However, it was an extremely arduous read. Another review said it's very confusing in the beginning, but stated that it was much easier the farther you got into it. I have to respectfully disagree with that statement. The whole book, to me, was confusing and just felt rushed. Maybe the underlying themes didn't get fully fleshed out or he was trying to put too much in one book, or it was the way the story seemed to skip time without telling you, but I just couldn't get fully immersed in the story. Another problem I had was the underlying tone of the book. This is, without a doubt, the darkest book I've ever read. I don't have any problem with those sorts of things normally, but this was on a whole other level of twisted evilness. Murder, rape, cannabilism,  drinking blood, necrophilia, necrophagia, demonic possession, and things involving children that I wish I had never read. It also seemed irreverent on the subject of life and death and the character's  reactions seemed to match that. Someone dies, and then comes back, or is possessed, or sees their family killed and gets kind of upset about it, but they may come back to life, or half-life, or not, and they may have to kill them again, and that sucks but whatever. That kind of somes up the book. You can try to compare it to Poe, who is dark, but not holy crap this is seriously effed up psycho dark.  In summary, this is an amazingly intricate and unique story line which is totally psychotic and I will never read it again.  

  • I received this book free from the Goodreads First Reads. Thanks. This is not the kind of book I usually read. It reminded me of an H. P. Lovecraft alternate universe. It was not what I expected. The storey moves along like a lookey loo on the freeway the first 20 or so pages. Then after the basic storey line is started it moves back up to freeway speeds. This book is NOT for children. After the first 20 pages i began to accept the darkness of the storey and the world the characters live in. The parts I liked best were about Dey the artisan. His interior monologues were one of the things that kept me interested in the storey. Over all I enjoyed this book and will look forward to seeing what else this author has yet to write.  
  • A novel not designed for the faint of heart. A total disease of not only body fluids but of the soul.  For the author to enhance the novel S.E. Lindberg has added the most incredible art. Just in case your imagination is on vacation. 
    • 's review Nov 20, 11 , 4 of 5 stars
      Recommended for: adult horror si-fi

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Guest Post: Why "Man vs Man" is less effective than "Man vs Supernatural"


Were you disappointed in the recent Conan the Barbarian movie?  Perhaps you expected Sword & Sorcery...


Thanks to Shaun Duke who invited me to guest blog on his site "World in a Satin Bag"  (WISB).  Shaun is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and graduate student (studying science fiction, postcolonialism, posthumanism, and fantasy at the University of Florida).  WISB includes book and movie reviews, interviews with authors, literary analyses, discussions of genre, publishing, and more...


Here is an excerpt; check out the entire article the WISB:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 : Guest Post: Sword and Sorcery -- Why "Man vs Man"is less effective than "Man vs Supernatural" by S. E. Lindberg


"Fantasy readers and movie-goers maintain an expectation that protagonists will battle supernatural forces. Those forces may manifest in humans (“bad guys”); however, when the supernatural element is diluted (or superficially offered in clich├ęd, familiar forms so that the protagonist literally battles a man) then expectations are not met. Consumers become disappointed. The lack luster reception of this year’s movie, Conan the Barbarian, is a good example of this expectation being unsatisfied.

Of course, Man vs. Supernatural conflict is ubiquitous across fantasy. Most recognizable of Supernatural antagonists may be Tolkien’s bodiless Sauron. Nearly three decades before Sauron stalked bookshelves and haunted rings, Conan creator Robert Ervin Howard originated the Sword & Sorcery genre by writing action-packed shorts exploring Man vs. Supernatural.

Sword & Sorcery was coined by author Fritz Leiber years after REH passed, but as he suggested the name he also clarified the role of the supernatural: 
I feel more certain than ever that this field should be called the sword-and-sorcery story. This accurately describes the points of culture-level and supernatural element and also immediately distinguishes it from the cloak-and-sword (historical adventure) story—and (quite incidentally) from the cloak-and-dagger (international espionage) story… (Fritz Leiber, Amra, 1961)
But it was Lin Carter who may have best defined Sword and Sorcery in his introduction to his Flashing Sword series (Carter, with L. Sprague de Camp, posthumously co-authored several Conan tales):
We call a story Sword & Sorcery when it is an action tale, derived from the traditions of the pulp magazine adventure story, set in a land or age or world of the author’s invention—a milieu in which magic actually works and the gods are real—and a story, moreover, which pits a stalwart warrior in direct conflict with the forces of supernatural evil. (Lin Carter, Flashing Swords I, 1973)

REH wrote twenty-one Conan tales, and no human antagonist persisted across them. Each story had bad guys/creatures/etc., but they were overt proxies for greater supernatural evils. Hence, the conflict was Conan (the Man) vs. Supernatural...."

Read the rest on the WISB:




Monday, November 21, 2011

Holiday Card 2011

A cherub sits atop the earth’s atmosphere, ushering in the new sun with a trumpet call!  Happy new year!
Another year, another card; historic Holidays Cards (from 1998 on) are display here!

Style: Wanted to learn how to paint with PhotoShop (as per artist/microscopist Vince Kamp and ImagineFX workflows (link); Credits: I acknowledge awesome critiques from my wife and daughter; their input was tremendous.  It helps to produce art with a few crafty, artistic folks around (who are not afraid to tell you how to improve).

Here was the process of generating this year’s card:

1) Conception: The initial goal was to incorporate bears into a Holiday theme.  This originated as tribute to our family vacation to the Shenandoah park (having encountered ~5 bears in 3 separate instances).  The only conceivable way of including a bear was as a toy…so the vision of an angel cradling a teddy bear while nestled in pillows emerged…with a morning sun encroaching!  Between sessions at the recent Society of Rheology convention in Cleveland, I  doodled the first composition of a cherub holding a teddy bear.
Society of Rheology Oct 2011 - initial vision of card-2

2) Sketches and Story: When I got home, I used pencil and paper to draw a few cherubs.  The story emerging now was a set of three angels, one awake and hailing the new sun to the annoyance of the other two slumbering cherubs.
IMG_0005IMG_0003IMG_0006

3) Digitization: Next, These sketches were scanned into Photoshop with some pictures of my local West Chester skyline.  Each was granted a dedicated layer and “blocked in” separately with a mask. Wanted to target a Renaissance mood, and experimented with gaudy frames (later eliminated).
3-workflow-composition layers

During SoR we had visited the Cleveland History Museum and its Planetarium; there I learned about the coolest constellation ever, which I tried to incorporate: Microscopium.  This idea was eliminated since the constellation is usually in the South not the East and I required the sun rising behind the angels.
4-workflow- pallette and blocking in

4) Painting: I used a Wacom Bamboo tablet (I can’t rationalize ordering a Cintiq until I learn some more!).  So I began painting over my sketch as if it were a blank coloring book entry.  Using the swatch panel as an artist’s palette works well.  Still need to learn how to use Brush Presets, since I was constantly iterating between masking, painting, dodging/burning/ etc.  Notice how two angels were discarded--one was enough.
  5-workflow swatches as a pallette

5) Adjustment layers: Finally, I added a few adjustment layers to tone down the saturation (i.e. the left image below looked like a neon bar sign) and warmify/cool selected masked regions (to put a translucent brilliance into the clouds); oh yeah, a few carefully placed lens flares helped with the sun’s brilliance. Erin instructed me to turn the eyes from green to blue to match the sky; Heidi had me remove some “mystical smoke” that was blowing from the trumpet…which I thought was cool until I saw her point that it made the angel look like a pipe-smoking crack baby.  Cripes!  A near miss!

6-workflow-merged-layers-v3jpg2011holidayCardHereComesTheSun-v7
6) Final steps! A decorative border and text are added in Illustrator (then tweaked in PS), and woo-hoo! we arrive at the final card (at top)!  Need to order prints from mpix.com !

Monday, November 7, 2011

Review- Lords of Dyscrasia is Creepy and Fantastic


A Halloween treat for me!  The first customer review has been posted for Lords of Dyscrasia !  It is an informative, succinct post that builds on the ForeWord magazine review (5/5 stars) by describing motivations of the key characters:




4 out of 5 Stars
 Creepy in a fantastic kind of way!, October 31, 2011

The book revolves around the characters: Doctor Grave, Crypia, Endenken, and Dey. Endenken seeks revenge, Doctor Grave dreams of restoring what was lost, Crypia wants to live, and Dey is running away from his past. In a world of disease, monsters, and danger, will the passions and desires that drive them be enough to help them survive?

A very well done book by S.E. Lindberg! From the beginning, we are treated to vivid descriptions of the carnage and ruin created by the disease, dyscrasia. Don't expect this author to pull his punches, he's not afraid to make readers squirm! The plot is engaging and fast-paced, once you get through all the exposition. While I don't feel all that sympathetic to some of the characters, they stood out in their own way and are not strictly "good" or "evil".

I should point out that I wouldn't recommend this book to any young readers. Some of the scenes can be pretty brutal. Also, one thing I have an issue with is that the beginning can be a bit confusing, especially when coupled with the book's intricate language. Lindberg switches viewpoints a lot so it's easy to lose track of what's happening sometimes. However, once you get used to the author's style, the book becomes even more enjoyable and you'll finish it in no time!

Pro: flowery and vivid descriptions, complex characters, unique setting 
Con: Somewhat confusing in the beginning