Monday, April 21, 2014

Gate of Ivrel - Cherryh's Morgaine Heroine reviewed by S.E.

Gate of Ivrel (Morgaine Saga, #1)Gate of Ivrel by C.J. Cherryh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Sword & Sorceress Adventure– Morgaine rivals Elric with her dragon blade
This reviews Gate of Ivrel, which I read as part of the The Morgaine Saga which was DAW’s 2000 omnibus of C.J. Cherryh Sword & Sorcery trilogy (1. Gate of Ivrel 1976; 2.Well of Shiuan 1978; 3. Fires of Azeroth 1979). There is a fourth book Exile's Gate written in 1988. Actually, this is my first C.J. Cherryh novel and I was impressed (Gate of Ivrel was her first published work, and it is quite good).

Morgaine is reminiscent of Michael Moorcock’s Elric, since she is a doomed hero, traveling through interstellar space with a dragon-cursed sword that sucks souls (Morgaine’s blade Changeling is almost kin to Elric’s Stormbringer). There are Sci-Fiction elements to this that are kept obscure enough that it reads as pure fantasy (everything scientific appears as magic).

Morgaine’s charge is to destroy alien Gates, which allow for travel between time and universes; for those who want to stay put, the “witchfires” of the Gates fuel sorcery and extended lives. We quickly learn that she was imprisoned hundreds of years before the start of the story as she lost an epic battle with the evil magician Thiye. He apparently still lives (via said sorcery):
"...Carcasses were found near [the Gate of Ivrel], things impossible, abortions of Thiye’s art, some almost formless and baneful to the touch, and others of forms so fantastical that none would imagine what aspect the living beast had had."

Strangely Thiye does not emerge for most of this novel. Instead there are compelling "new" threats from a host of others (some in relation to Vanye), and the book is full of magical clashes in which Changeling obliterates souls! It may be "her" saga, but book one introduces her through her male companion Vanye, an outcast bastard prince. The story arc for Book 1 belongs to him. Vanye becomes her servant after he releases her from a magical prison, and so the two enter an uneasy pairing. They make a good team, but trust comes slowly as Vanye enables Morgaine to confront those supporting the Gate:

"Morgaine was supremely beautiful …when he saw her in that hall, her pale head like a blaze of sun in that darkness, her slim form elegant in tgihio and bearing the dragon blade with the grace of one who could truly use it, an odd vision came to him: he saw like a fever-dream a nest of corruption with one gliding serpent among the scuttling lesser creatures—more evil than they, more deadly, and infinitely beautiful, reared up among hem and hypnotizing with basilisk eyes, death dreaming death and smiling.”

Great stuff. I expect the rest of the trilogy to flesh-out Morgaine’s character (otherwise it should be renamed Vanye’s saga). The ending was fine, but I was left questioning the direction a bit (I’ll hide that in a spoiler twistee on Goodreads.com (link).


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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sword Sisters: A Red Reaper Novel - Review by S.E. and E.E.

Sword Sisters: A Red Reaper NovelSword Sisters: A Red Reaper Novel by Tara Cardinal
Overall rating: 4 of 5
(Avg. of S.E.L's rating: 3 of 5 stars  ... E.E.L's daughter's Rating 5 of 5)

YA Adventure: 'Coming of Age' of a 'Chick-in-Chainmail' 

Sword Sisters is a tale of Aella, a snarky, special teenager who starts exploring her independence. She may not wear chain mail, but her attitude fits that of the stereotypical chick-in-chainmail (Aella resembles author Tara Cardinal in appearance, which happens to reflect that of red-haired warriors of the Sword & Sorcery genre: Agnes de Chastillon, Red Sonja, and Jirel of Joiry). Tara Cardinal is the key force behind a “Red Reaper” franchise, this novel Sword Sisters: A Red Reaper Novel serves a prequel to the Legend of the Red Reaper (video trailer link) movie which she directed, wrote, and acted as the major star. The movie has opened in select markets a month after the book was released (movie available via many streaming and online retailers April 2014.).
Tara Cardinal is motivated to expand the Sword & Sorcery audience by making it more appealing for younger females, and she is succeeding. 

This book was co-authored by Alex Bledsoe, who contributed to another Rogue Blades Entertainment work: Writing Fantasy Heroes. Rogue Blades Entertainment’s library (i.e., Rage of the Behemoth, and Return of the Sword) had focused on anthologies tailored for an adult audience, so this novel presents a slight departure into a new market (Young Adult, not-anthology). Having read the aforementioned RBE works, I would not recommend this to their historic audience, unless they happened to also identify with & enjoy YA fare.

This review combines 2 perspectives: (1) an adult male, dark fantasy reader (me), and (2) a young adult fantasy reader (my teenage daughter).

Old Man Perspective: Other than featuring a belligerent, young heroine, this book sticks to many of the tropes & clich├ęs of any coming-of-age fantasy novel. Conflict is consistently deflated with adolescent humor, juvenile idioms, or Aella's giggles. There are hints of mature content that are never developed: the basis of Aella's powers stems from demons raping human females, however, explicit sex or sexual violence never presents itself. The prose could be considered `mature,' since copious cursing & cussing peppers the text (as a teenager learning the art of "adult" language would speak).


Young Adult Perspective: Since I was not the target audience, my teenage daughter was enlisted. She enjoyed it better. Her thoughts: "Aella, last of the Reapers (half-human and half-demon), is a witty, humorous, well-rounded character whom you can't help but love. Told from the first-person point of view, you really get to see Aella's character and motivation. Being a teenager myself, I defiantly enjoyed this. Plan on having time to sit down and read the whole book in one sitting, because once you pick it up it's hard to put down. I hope there's more to read in the future :)"

Sword Sisters Book cover  Legend of the Red Reaper movie poster


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Friday, March 21, 2014

C Dean Andersson / Asa Drake - Interview by S.E. Lindberg


Image #1: Portrait of Hel  - Illustration by C. Dean Andersson
Interview with C. Dean Andersson by S.E.Lindberg
It is not intuitive to seek beauty in art deemed grotesque, but most authors who produce horror/fantasy actually are usually (a) serious about their craft, and (b) driven my strange muses. This continues the interviews of weird/speculative fiction authors on the themes ofArt & Beauty in Fiction.  Here we corner C. Dean Andersson (a.k.a. Asa Drake) who has written Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror since the 1980's and just released Hel X 3 (an eBook omnibus of his Bloodsong saga; check out my review of Hel X 3 (link).  Let’s learn more about his artistic inspirations.

Grotesque Beauty: 
You seem fascinated with the Goddess Hel. The Hel X 3 trilogy is titled and inspired after her after all (with a fourth Valkyries of Hel in progress), and you received a Bram Stoker Award finalist ranking for your story about a modern encounter with the Goddess Hel, "The Death Wagon Rolls on By."  Hel has a wonderful character design, being half-living-beauty / half-corpse; she explicitly represents the paradox of attractive horror.  In the anthology Pawn of Chaos: Tales of the Eternal Champion, your short story "The Warskull of Hel" has Bloodsong working with Michael Moorcock's eternal champion (the Urlik Skarsol incarnation); Urlik discovers Hel and suggests that her corpse-side may be beautiful:

"So, you think me beautiful, do you, Urlik Skarsol?" The woman on the throne laughed, a sound like a raven's call.  "Yes, your thoughts are known to me, and that this image of beauty is the most dear to you of any in existence.  But you have not seen my other side."  She pulled back her hair and revealed the half-face of a rotting corpse.  Her laughter again echoed from icy walls.

Urlik quickly concealed his shock and said , "Someone in horrible pain might think Your face of Death most beautiful."

Your own fiction is "horrific" but you share it nonetheless, and invite others to share in the grotesque.
How do you make the corpse-side of Hel appealing?  
CDA: It is beyond my power to do so, without audience participation. If the Thanatos in Eros-Thanatos triggers your libido and stimulates fantasies darker than most can stand, kissing the corpse-side of Hel’s face may be your cup of tea. But whatever affects you strongest, the mythic power of Hel’s image comes from the emotional tension generated by its Ying-Yang juxtaposition of Life and Death.

Hel, whichever side you prefer, can be a kind of visual Norse aphrodisiac. Her dead side reminds you, at least on a subconscious level, to beat the genetic clock and reproduce before it’s too late. Of course in our too-clever-for-our-own-good human ways, sexual gratification is often consciously unrelated to reproduction. Hel’s appearance also inspires an appreciation of our current life because she reminds us of our future death. She holds, in addition, in her life qualities, the promise of rebirth to new life. Some Norse believed in reincarnation within family lines. If that is your belief, Hel’s death side is a door your spirit must pass through to get to your future.  
I probably need to point out, for the Norse challenged, Hel is not Death. She takes care of the Dead. But her realm is the Norse Underworld where the environment itself was believed to be unpleasant, dark and cold, like a grave. In fact, one suggested origin for her name is that it simply meant “to cover over,” as in a burial. 
Hel is a goddess whose concept probably predates the Norse Myths. How old is the awareness of an eventual, personal, physical extinction?  In the myths, she is portrayed as a special child disfigured at birth but loved by her mother, a Jotun, giantess—Neanderthal?—whom the myths call Angrboda, Anguish-Boding. The gods kidnapped Hel and her brothers, Fenris the Chaos Wolf and Jormungandr the World Serpent—two other ancient power symbols--from their mother because Odin and company feared their potential roles in Ragnerok, where gods are predicted to die.
At Ragnerok, Fenris is to kill Odin. Jormungandr is to kill Thor. And Hel sails to battle from the Underworld with an army of the Dead in Naglfari, a ship made from dead men’s nails. It is said the Norse kept their fingernails short to delay Naglfari’s completion. Fenris was chained on an Island. Jormungandr was thrown into the ocean. But Hel was exiled to the Underworld where, still possessing power in all the Nine Worlds, she established a refuge for souls unchosen by other deities. In HEL X 3, I named her the Goddess of the Forgotten Dead.

Drawing vs. Writing: 
Depicting a character in words requires a different creative process than drawing.  For The Brutarian #52, Fall 2008, you tapped into your fine arts training and depicted a dark goddess to complement an interview (VAMPIRES, WITCHES AND WARRIOR – OH MY!   by Michael McCarty) and a short story featuring the Queen of the Sumerian Underworld, Ereshkgal (MAMA STRANGELOVE’S REMEDIES FOR AFTERLIFE DISORDERS  OR, HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE MOTHER DEATH).  I was surprised to learn that you had a drawing side to you, and even sold illustrations at science fiction conventions. 
Image #2: Watercolor "Portrait of a Vampire" by CDA 
(shown in art shows but never been published elsewhere, until now!).

Did your fine arts education/creative-process inform your fiction?  Do you still create illustrations, perhaps as part of the creative writing process?  


CDA: I doodled spaceships and robots all over the margins of my first grade papers. The teacher, Goddess bless her, encouraged me to keep at it. I had no formal art training until college, where I abandoned the music major I had planned at the last minute and, on an unplanned urge, switched to the art registration line instead—try explaining that one to parents who had scraped and saved to help you afford college.

But somewhere in high school I started writing stories. After college, I spent four years in the Air Force then worked in art before I started being serious about my writing and trying to sell it. Images I visualized and drew or painted have been used in my books. The “Portrait of a Vampire” here (Image #2) is a watercolor drawing that I created years before I wrote about Tzigane, Dracula’s mate. Tzigane undergoes rigorous training and devotes her life and Undeath to becoming a powerful Vampire-Witch, with a mission to convince Dracula of a destiny that requires he voluntarily allow her to initiate him into Vampirehood.

My watercolor is a drawing overlaid with washes using vivid “Dr. Martin’s” dyes. In retrospect, it has much of my future Tzigane in it, or vice versa. It is based on a still from The Ghost, showing the star, Barbara Steele. Her extraordinary eyes and face and acting is an inspiration to many artists, writers, poets and dark fantasy aficionados in general (see Paghat's review of Barbara Steele work.)


At one time, a number of art pieces I created had inspiring visions of Steele as their theme. Then, at an SF convention art show in L.A., the late Forrest J. Ackerman, editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland and, of course, a childhood hero, bought one, “for a Barbara Steele collector in Belgium,” was all he would say. That collector’s name remains a mystery to this day, but I hope he or she enjoyed the art. 

Another example, not shown here, because I couldn’t find the original to scan, is a drawing that was my version of the time-honored “Death and the Maiden” theme. Edvard Munch’s famous drawing of “Death and the Maiden” is an interesting example. But my version was placed in a dungeon and later used in the second Bloodsong book, where the character named Huld is captured by the villain, Thokk, chained in Thokk’s dungeon, and tormented by a living skeleton.    

Traditional and modern “Death and the Maiden” images are analogous to Hel’s image, by the way. A young woman is a potential source of new life, while the contrast of a figure representing Death twists the emotions into a stimulating brew. And it does not have to be a Grim Reaper reminding you of Death. A place of Death like a tomb haunted by spiders or a place that threatens horror and death like a rat-infested Inquisitor’s dungeon can serve just as well.

In general, I don’t see any difference in the basic inner creative process when creating visual art or creating stories. I see the scenes I create in books as if I had drawn them first, whether or not I actually have. I write from one scene to the next. The scenes I see could be illustrated, if I had the time. One day I hope to illustrate a book or books I write or have written. That, too, would be fun. 

Image #3: "Gorgon Goddess" - ink illustration by C Dean Andersson

Illustrations

CDA: The full-faced drawing is an ancient and monstrously powerful “Gorgon Goddess” (Image#3) who has broken her chains and is rampaging against those who tried to destroy her through prejudiced patriarchal propaganda and fear-centric “new religions.” She’s loose! Watch out! Be afraid! Unless you’re her friend.

The half skull-faced “Portrait of Hel” (Image #1) was later adapted from the “Gorgon Goddess”  for use as an Internet avatar. Portrait of Hel shows the living half of her face as black and featureless, in total shadow, and the dead half of Her face as skeletal white and skullish. 

Can you comment on your own attraction toward repulsive/terrifying things? 

CDA: I did not at first go looking for scary things as a kid, but if something scared me enough, it ran the risk of getting chased down and tackled. A good example is my first Dracula movie. For some reason, the concept of a corpse sneaking into my house to suck my blood while I was sleeping gave me nightmares. The idea threatened me. I needed to know more about it. 
I found and read Stoker’s Dracula, which also scared me, then a disturbing non-fiction book about worldwide vampire beliefs, Montague Summers’  The Vampire, His Kith and Kin. Vampires, it turned out, were everywhere, and always had been. Nevertheless, the next Halloween, I went trick-or-treating as Dracula. I was not too comfortable doing it. But it gave me a feeling of power and pride. I thought, if worse things than a Vampire showed up, a kid who dared to play Dracula could probably survive them. And because I wanted to find those worse things before they found me, I started looking for scary stuff in books, magazines, and movies. 
Looking back, instead of being attracted to repulsive and terrifying things, I was seeking them out and studying them, to gain power over them. I’ve had many people say horror writers seem unusually well adjusted. Maybe it’s because we explore our fears in our stories. More likely, insert ominous laugh, it’s a trick. On ourselves.   

Should horror be "fun" or "monstrous"? 

In the 2008 interview, you mentioned "I find [horror] fun, for starters, and these days, I don’t want to waste time on fiction writing that is not fun…If I need an artsy excuse for my motivation, I can quote Tristan Tzara’s 1918 Dada Manifesto: “Art should be a monster that casts servile minds into terror.”   Should horror be "fun" or "monstrous"?
CDA: If I have fun creating something, you stand a better chance of having fun experiencing it. I don’t enjoy reading a depressing, no hope in sight horror story, no matter how important and realistic such stories are sometimes judged to be. So, I do not have creating stories like that as a goal. Having horrible things happen in horror stories is required, and even likeable characters may not have happy endings. But someone in my stories has to fight back and hope to win, which in my experience is far more realistic than give-up-and-die tales. People do not accept defeat easily.
Most humans are heroic, often in quiet ways. They fight epic interior wars, invisible on the outside, unguessed by people who pass them in the street and often by people who live and work with them. They resist overwhelming odds, circumstances, sickness, and other people or things that threaten them and their families’ lives, hopes, and dreams. By placing characters in hyper-extreme situations in my stories, I have shown their discovery of strengths they had not known they possessed. I have had readers say such characters are inspirations. I know the same has been true for me, reading other people’s books.
The character I created in Torture Tomb named Bernice, an ordinary young woman with ordinary hopes and dreams, is mercilessly tormented beyond anything she could have imagined surviving. But not only does she survive, though crippled by her injuries she returns, wheelchair-bound, in Fiend to fight for and help others.
The slave woman named Jalna in Hel X 3 survives horrible injuries, too, and becomes one of Bloodsong’s fiercest warriors. Bloodsong herself survives impossible odds and repeated tortures as a slave before leading a rebellion. She even finds a way to return from the dead to save her daughter and fight on.  Everyone breathing is a survivor. And almost everyone, sooner or later, has to fight to stay alive. When backed into a corner, in my horror stories as in life, most people, no matter how docile they might at first seem, will fight back and sometimes win. They grit their teeth and turn into Conan the Barbarian if pushed far enough. So, watch out, power mongers, tyrants, and bullies. You have been warned.  
  
Dark Muses: Have you been trying to put a pretty face on your fears?
It seems that you are not only trying to entertain "servile" minds, but are also driven to realize your own fears.  In your recent Interview with Terry Ervin (link) you revealed that you had a phantom muse: an "Old Woman in Black."  Please expand how this female haunt has motivated your writing.  For instance, Raw Pain Max , Torture Tomb, and your The Bloodsong Saga (Hel X 3) all feature strong woman as protagonists, as does every other book or story you have created. Are these manifestations of your dark muse? Have you been trying to put a pretty face on your fears? Is it therapeutic to give your dark muse substance in art (i.e. are fears heightened or alleviated)?
CDA: My strong female characters are probably inspired in part by the power I sensed in my Dark Muse, whatever she was, when I was afraid of her as a kid. Women I have known well in life, grandmother, mother, childhood best friend, and spouse, are definitely also responsible. As the old saying goes, you write what you know. The women warriors in my Bloodsong books are obvious examples. But all my books have strong women in them. And all have examples of my shape-shifting Dark Muse.   
Raw Pan Max features a female bodybuilder named Trudy who performs as a crack-that-whip dominatrix in live sex stage shows. Trudy is also, she is horrified to discover, the reincarnation of the historical Hungarian Blood Countess, Elizabeth Bathory, the famous mass murderess who tortured young women and bathed in their blood. My Countess was haunted by a powerful Dark Muse, which she called her Ally. 
In Torture Tomb, one of the characters is watched over and protected by a supernaturally powerful female haunt he believes is his dead mother. From early childhood, she visited him at night and forced him to learn dark secrets that, though terrifying, gave him power.

The Goddess Hel in HEL X 3 I’ve already described. Her relation to the Old Woman in Black I feared in childhood dreams and apparitions is obvious.
Tzigane in I Am Dracula and Katiasa in I Am Frankenstein are strong characters I loved creating and intend to use again in new books. I’ve already mentioned Bernice in Torture Tomb and Fiend. The novel, Fiend, also has Trudy from Raw Pain Max in it, and Fiend features my version of the immortal Witch and powerful High Priestess of the Goddess Hecate, Medea. She is a strong woman who is also a Dark Muse to others. Bernice and Trudy are inspired by her and follow her. 
But to me the question now is, did I see that Old Woman in Black as a kid because of who and what I was and am? Or am I who and what I am because I saw that Old Woman in Black, whoever or whatever she was and is? She might have been one thing or a combination of things. There might have been an actual old woman wearing black at the first. There might have been a ghost of a widow who still visited her old home town. I’d like to believe that, a lot. Or, there might have been something that had nothing to do with an old woman in widow’s weeds that my mind interpreted wrong. 
On the other hand, maybe she was a traditional, ancestral, Scandinavian, guardian female spirit like I‘ve read about in Norse Myths. Could she have been, though, some kind of Jungian Old Crone Goddess-Archetype from the human collective subconscious, like the Greek Hecate or Celtic Morrigan or Summarian Ereshkigal or Babylonian Tiamat or Norse Hel? Most days, I’m quite fond of that explanation.  But maybe she was a UFOnaut who repeatedly abducted me for experiments and hid behind an Old Woman’s image that he-she-it-they inserted into my brain. Or was she “just my imagination?” 
More likely, she was Cthulhu in disguise, a Lovecraftian Old One from the insanely vast spaces between the stars who picked me to inspire because I’m not really human but a stellar hybrid with sub-dimensional tentacles that touch things which should not be. Yes, that last one is probably the answer. Excuse me while I update my bio. But whatever I experienced and have fun speculating about now, I don’t think I still fear her. I suspect, should she appear and lift that veil, I would see whatever I needed to see or was capable of seeing. And I believe we could have a very interesting conversation. 

More Andersson (all links):

·         Author Website
·         Facebook:Bloodsong


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Making Cartoons from Photographs - Aikido Manual

Draft Figure of Aikido Poses 

Aikido Student Manual - Figure Making

This post describes how we (Mushinkan Dojo members under Sensei Domaschko) are using photographs to make cartoon-like figures for an Aikido student manual. The process can be readily applied to any project in which figures are needed.  The key is to remove distracting backgrounds and features in the people so that future viewers can focus on the topic.In this example the Uke (aggressor) grabs both wrists of Nage (Sensei Domaschko): this is called "Ryotetori." 

The Process

  • Pose and take photo. 
  • Open the photo in Photoshop
  • Adjust brightness levels and hue in Photoshop 
  • Select background (hold shift key while using wand & lasso tools; use Refine Edge option)
  • Click “Mask” button to remove background (a green layer was made underneath to highlight removed areas)


  • Save *.PSD and "Place" it into Adobe Illustrator (this will make it a Smart Object that will update everytime you tweak in Photoshop)
  • With both PS and AI open, adjust the mask and colors in PS....and "Save" to update AI
  • Open the Tracing Workspace in AI
    • It is especially important to limit the color pallette to ~12 colors to impart a cartoon look
    • Also increase the noise option (this eliminates small "objects")
    • Save Trace presets to reapply settings on other subsequent figures

  • Select "Save for Web" from the file menu, choose JPG


Cincinnati locals are always invited to stop by the Dojo to learn a self defence that enables you to protect yourself without inflicting harm on the attacker. We meet Mon and Wed nights.  Visit the website for more information (link).


http://ohioaikido.blogspot.com/ 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Beyond Sanctuary by Janet Morris - Review by S.E. Lindberg

Beyond SanctuaryBeyond Sanctuary by Janet E. Morris
S. E. Lindberg rating: 5 of 5 stars

Note: This January I interviewed Janet Morris on the Topic of "Art & Beauty in Fantasy Fiction."  Click here for that!

Janet E. Morris' Beyond Sanctuary is a splendid mashup of Dark Fantasy and ancient grandeur. Read this and you'll be transported into the Baroque masterpiece cover, joining the battlefield alongside gods and champions: Life to you, Reader, and everlasting glory!

The Cover: This Author's Cut version features Peter Paul Rubens' 1618 painting "The Death of Decius Mus in Battle"(translated title); this extends Perseid Press' cover art approach. This represents the book very well; it promises to drag you into epic, divine combat rooted in history. It delivers. Expect fantastic magic, doses of horror, stealth military sorties, and mature themes.

Tempus and Niko: The book follows many characters, but focuses on Tempus and Niko; the story arc leans toward Niko's plight, though Tempus is ever present. Tempus begins living a curse in which those who love him get hurt, and Niko recovers from losing his sacred partner (only to have his mind vied for by a god and sorceress). These are deeply motivated characters who parley directly with gods as contemporary immortals .

A Mature Read: Having not read the Thieve's World Series from which this novel evolved, I entered this with a blank slate. This is ostensibly the best starting point to delve into the Tempus & Niko series (see the reading list below). Here is what you can expect:

History-Informed Magic & Culture: Foremost, Beyond Sanctuary blends fantasy with historical elements so seamlessly, that history-deficient-folk like myself cannot easily differentiate pure-fiction from history-informed fantasy. Whether it's Niko's attraction to young women (which creeped me out despite being common in many cultures long ago and even today) , the intimate pairing of elite warriors (~the Sacred Band of Thebes), or the landscape of Nisibis and Mygdonia (those were real territories)... heck, even the gods and spiritual concepts are informed from ancient beliefs (i.e. Enil, Maat). The immortal characters and magic are presumably fiction. This mashup of fantasy/history yields a rich world for the characters to navigate. An informative Wikipedia posting on the Sacred Band of Stepsons explains more.

Mature Scenes: Adult-appropriate sexual scenes are abundant, though not gratuitous (they reflect the milieu informed by history).

Style: Expect intricate sentences with a panoply of vocabulary (and even parenthetical asides).

Names/Forms: Each character has multiple names (Stealth/Niko...Riddler/Tempus… Datan/Osprey … Roxanne/Cybele; and these folk assume various forms (they use illusions to become imposters, they shape shift into animals...)

Factions: There is a large portfolio of guilds, states, and cultures (Stepsons, Sacred Banders, Successors, Gods, Hazard Class Wizards, Wizard Wall Wizards, Rankans, ...); the characters each have multiple allegiances (to men and gods, or just men, or just men of certain region, or men and wizards…).

Conflict: Given so many characters with allied & competing factions, there are as many conflicts as there are combinations (Tempus vs. his sister, Cyme; Cyme vs. Wizards, Tempus vs. Gods, Tempus vs. Wizards, Tempus vs. Roxanne, Niko vs. Gods, free Nisibis vs. Wizards, Mygdonia vs. Tyse vs Nisibis…)

Series Reading List: Such depth requires more books! This first installment prepares readers for the series. Any fan of the Thieve's World would no doubt devour this novel; in fact, any fan of alternate histories or epic fantasy would enjoy it. For me, it's on to Beyond the Veil, and I can't wait to get to the later books that repackage the original short stories presented in Thieves World:

The Author Cut Versions, in strict chronology (as of 2014, noting that more books may be published ):

1) Beyond Sanctuary
2) Beyond the Veil
3) Beyond Wizardwall
4) Tempus with His Right-Side Companion Niko  (this contains flashbacks and the five original Janet Morris Sacred Band of Stepsons tales presented in the original Thieves World anthologies)
5) The Sacred Band
6) The Fish the Fighters and the Song-Girl(this contains a new novelette and frame story, with flashbacks and the six original Janet Morris, Janet and Chris Morris, and Chris Morris Sacred Band of Stepsons tales presented in the original Thieves World anthologies)


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Mar-Apr Groupread Topics - Whelan Cover Art and Female Authors



Groupreads Mar-Apr 2014: 

Two months, two topics...please join the Sword & Sorcery Group to discuss:

Topic 1) Any book with Michael Whelan Coverart : Discussion Link to Whelan-Cover Art
These links will help identify books:

Topic 2) Any Female Author: Link to Discussion on Female Fantasy Writers
...I wonder how many female Sword & Sorcery authors are "hidden" out there due to the past stereotypes (readers and publishers expected Male Authors for the specualtive fiction genres). For example, Catherine Moore used her initials (C.L. Moore), or husband's name (Henry Kuttner) ... and several pseudonyms (C. H. Liddell, Lawrence O'Donnell, and Lewis Padgett). 

The Masthead Banner features three Whelan paintings made for Female Authors:
The Dreaming Tree for C.J. Cherryh
Crown of Shadows for C.S. Friedman
All the Weyrs of Pern for Anne McCaffrey

The Dreaming Tree (Arafel, #1-2) Crown of Shadows (The Coldfire Trilogy, #3) All the Weyrs of Pern (Pern, #11)

From the illustrator's website:
WEYRWORLD (1990) Pern#11: Acrylic on Watercolor Board - 27" x 36" This cover art for ALL THE WEYRS OF PERN by Anne McCaffrey is a wonderful dragon image for both the story and the dragon fan who hasn't read the book. After the huge success of THE WHITE DRAGON the Pern series was growing, but when it was time for Book 7 Michael had a scheduling conflict. He had to base his painting on Anne's notes since she hadn't finished the manuscript. They both planned on him showing the dragon in the cargo hold of the abandoned spaceship, but Michael told her about this image that came to him in a dream. She liked it so much, she wrote it into her story. This was to be his last cover for the Pern series, but in 2013 Michael was able to use his and Anne's "cargo hold" idea in his cover painting for DRAGONWRITER, A TRIBUTE TO ANNE MCCAFFREY AND PERN.

TREE OF JEWELS AND SWORDS (1983) Acrylic on Illustration Board - 30" x 22" A very popular Whelan cover for C. J. Cherryh from the 1980's and recently reissued for the cover of her 1997 compilation called THE DREAMING TREE.

CROWN OF SHADOWS (1995) Acrylic on Panel - 28" x 22" Cover art for the third book in the Coldfire Trilogy by C.S. Friedman. Gerald Tarrant, the tragic anti-hero whose prolonged life dominates the storyline, is prominently featured in the foreground of this stunning illustration. The power of Whelan's palette dominates, from the striking acidic greens to the regal black and gold, and once again he framed the main character with trees.