Monday, September 15, 2014

Donny Sword's Ways of the Stygia - Review by S.E.

Ways of the Stygia- Fallen SongWays of the Stygia- Fallen Song by Donny Swords
S.E. Lindberg rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fallen Song, a modern day Stormbringer for horror fantasy fans

Awesome Beginning: Donny Swords’s Ways of the Stygia- Fallen Song: Author's Cut has one of the best introductory sequences (i.e. 30% of the novel) that I have read in years. The reader is introduced to Donny Swords’s Stygia Series via the character Thomas Van Pelt, who has a strange ax in his possession (the titular Fallen Song). Thomas’ first person narrative unravels an intense mystery beyond imagination; by intense, I mean this is mature dark fantasy (not for the Young Adult crowd) delivered with direct punches and crime scenes that will make veteran horror readers flinch. The beginning chapters deserve a soundtrack (heck, it seems that the written word provides the music); chapters alternate with a heavy metal vibe to eerie orchestral (like the 1971 movie A Clockwork Orange); it reads as if Elric’s infamous demon-possessed sword “Stormbringer” was given to a modern day, vigilante policeman. The book summary accurately summarizes the rest without spoiling (copied below).

Holy Epic Battles, Batman! By the time the reader reaches the 30+% mark, s/he will be starving for some portion of the mystery to be revealed; this is delivered over the remaining chapters, in doses that explain as much as they complicate. The first-person narrative subsides and an abstract third-person style dominates; characters upon characters are introduced, titrating one’s mind until brimming with mythical concepts. This is truly epic conflict. Mid-journey, I admit to be being a little frustrated since the story seemed to diverge faster than I could keep up, and the style became less experiential and more journalistic reporting.

Closes Nice: That said, the ending was delightful and very satisfying. This was in part to the reemergence of Thomas’s voice, but the plot also closed succinctly (with unexpected twists). On the whole, Ways of the Stygia- Fallen Song: Author's Cut defines Stygia as a compelling temperament/emotion/location/substance (I am being deliberately obtuse, no spoilers here), and will show you the Way to Stygia as promised.

More Stygia This review is timely, since an extension of the series should be available in just days (Cult of Morgod releases Sept-19-2014). I recommend this to horror fantasy readers looking for entertaining, epic weirdness.

Book Summary (from Goodreads):
Thomas Van Pelt lived a normal life. On one dreary raining evening that all changed. His work as a CSI investigator had led him to yet another crime scene, and there, prompted by his primal senses he discovered the ancient artifact that would that day forward alter his own life and the fate of the universe itself. The ancient weapon Fallen Song summons Thomas, and reawakens his forgotten past. He embarks on his new calling- bringing justice to the guilty, the ones who would otherwise remain free to perpetrate their vile acts on the unsuspecting.

Thomas is reunited with past allies and embarks on an epic adventure involving demons, necromancers, deities, vampires, sorcerers and the terrorists of Purgatory itself, the night stalker. Get pulled away to new lands, terrible enough to cost you sleep and see what ends Thomas will go to in his quest to bring a new era of light to an ailing universe.





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Thursday, September 11, 2014

5-stars: Author Charles Gramlich reviews Spawn of Dyscrasia

5/5-Stars for Spawn of Dyscrasia

Author Charles Gramlich posted the first Amazon review of Spawn of Dyscrasia (just released last month). He has a keen ability for writing and teaching adventure fiction.  I've enjoyed his poetic dark fantasy, and am I'm flattered by and grateful for his comments. Charles Gramlich's review is posted on his Razored Zen BlogAmazon, and Barnes - Noble and Goodreads

"This is an entertaining fantasy novel that—I would argue—rises to the level of art... There are plenty of gore-rich scenes, enough to do a horror novel proud. But the language is so vivid and rich that you can just revel in it..."Gramlich Sept-2014




Monday, September 1, 2014

Dyscrasia - Word Useage and Definition

What is Dyscrasia?


"Dyscrasia" is a real word; and it is not a fictional land! According to Google's Word Viewer NGRAM,  it's peak usage was in 1881! So what does it mean?

Interactive Graph


Dyscrasia literally means “a bad mixture of liquids.”  Historically, dyscrasia referred to any imbalance of the four medicinal humors professed by the ancient Greeks to sustain life (phlegm, blood, black and yellow bile).  On the other hand, eucrasia meant a healthy mix/state.


Artisans, anatomists, and chemists of the Renaissance expressed shared interest in the humors; accordingly, the scope of humorism evolved to include aspects of the four alchemical elements (water, air, earth and fire) and psychological temperaments (phlegmatic, sanguine, melancholic and choleric).  In short, the humors are mystical media of color, energy, and emotion; Dyscrasia Fiction presents them as spiritual muses for artisans, sources of magical power, and contagions of a deadly disease. 

Dyscrasia Fiction explores the choices humans and their gods make as this disease corrupts their souls, shared blood and creative energies. Click on the Dyscrasia Fiction books to check them out on Amazon.com:

     

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sorcery versus Swords : Groupread Announcement Sept-Oct 2014

elric and harold lamb group read

Sorcery versus Swords!

All Sword and Sorcery groupies,
Everyone who likes to read is welcome to join our two-month (Sept-Oct 2014) discussions on two opposing flavors of heroic fiction ("without sorcery" and "warrior-sorcerer Elric"), Focused on authors: Harold Lamb and Michael Moorcock:

1) Sept-Oct: Swords sans Sorcery - Read and Discussion
2) Sept-Oct: Elric Groupread Discussion

As always, a montage of appropriate art is showcased. Art credits:
Background: Elric: The Dreaming City, art by P. Craig Russel (art from interior depictions of Melnibone’)
Riders of the Steppes: The Complete Cossack Adventures, Volume Three, cover art by Darrel Stevens
Wolf of the Steppes: The Complete Cossack Adventures, Volume One , cover art by Darrel Stevens
Swords from the East , cover art by Darrel Stevens
Elric: Swords and Roses, cover art by John Picacio

Elric  The Dreaming City by Roy Thomas Riders of the Steppes  The Complete Cossack Adventures, Volume Three by Harold Lamb Wolf of the Steppes  The Complete Cossack Adventures, Volume One by Harold Lamb Swords from the East by Harold Lamb Elric  Swords and Roses (Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melnibon√©, #6) by Michael Moorcock 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Spawn of Dyscrasia - Press Release - Dark Fiction by S.E. Lindberg

Sharon died serving the undead.  
Will you take her place?

Spawn of Dyscrasia - dark fantasy fiction by S.E. Lindberg (c) 2014. 

Paperbacks available via AmazonBarnes & Noble, and many more online/global retailers
Ebook available via Kindle-Store / Amazon (link)

Dyscrasia Fiction™ explores the choices humans and their gods make as a disease corrupts their souls, shared blood, and creative energies. In 'Lords of Dyscrasia', the first installment, Lords Lysis and Echo stabilized dyscrasia that mutated and killed the masses. Roaming dangers persist two decades since that Ill Age. The ruined Chromlechon colony has evolved into a Keep hosting orphans who supply the Lords with sorcerous energy.

'Spawn of Dyscrasia' follows Helen’s abrupt promotion from neophyte curer to Lord Echo’s personal healer, replacing one who died mysteriously. She struggles to keep Echo alive as contagious phantoms corrupt his soul. While Lysis fights a sudden invasion from a grotesque army, Helen’s humanity is tested to its limits: she contacts the original source of dyscrasia, and emerges transformed…
Spawn of Dsycrasia cover






Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Lloyd Library - A Treasure Trove of Scientific Art

Lloyd Library and Museum - Cincinnati, OH

The Lloyd Library is a reclusive gem hidden in downtown Cincinnati (Plum & Court Str. corner). Despite having attended Rieveschl Hall at the University of Cincinnati to study chemistry, and having lived in the region since 1991 while pursing a carrier and hobbies that blend graphic arts with science, I missed this place entirely.  Cripes, I could have seen Rieveschl's lab notebooks in person!  Thanks to the Lloyd Library & Museum (LLM) sponsoring a clip on NPR, I learned about the institution.  It is a small venue, at least to the public; four of its five floors are off limits since they house a treasure trove of antique scientific literature.

I am a confessed bibliophile. In 2012, I had the pleasure of seeing an original, 1665 printing of Robert Hooke's Microgrograhia (thanks to Don Brooks and the McCrone Research Institute; link).  Of course, cameras did not exist then, so early scientists had to draw their data! Leonardo Davinci's notebook is a classic documentation of this, but consider early anatomists who had to draw fast since their non-refrigerated corpses/subjects decomposed (for more on this, I recommend Kemp's beautiful book: Spectacular Bodies: The Art and Science of the Human Body).  Hooke pioneered the use of the microscope and presented his survey of microstructures to the Royal Society in his "Micrographia, or Some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies made by Magnifying Glasses (click to browse the interactive book). Hooke had to draw his observations as he peered into strange, microscopic worlds.

So to learn that four levels of books from similar eras were downtown at the LLM, I had to visit.  The first floor is open to the public and features some rotating and some permanent exhibits; calling ahead to arrange a visit may expedite getting inside.  They do host small educational groups, but this is really a place of research in which the librarians are used to retrieving medieval-to-early-19th-century works.  Here are some highlights:

Temporary Exhibit Back from the Brink

Description from the LLM: "This year marks the 100th anniversary of the death of the last known passenger pigeon, Martha (shown at right), who died at the Cincinnati Zoo, despite attempts to find her a mate and save the species, which once numbered in the millions...Over the course of human history, we have, unfortunately, caused the end of numerous species...This exhibition features species that have made a comeback, showing those moments when our species has recognized our own folly and done something to make a difference." History of four footed beasts and serpents: 1658 (link to public domain) was one featured book (behind glass of course), turned to the Bison image (image above). The link to the public domain site shows the hidden pages that include mythological  beasts. So the image of the Bison was indeed cool....but to be able to browse through the printed version at the other entries would be remarkable (and possible it seems, especially if one has an academic reason to request access).

Permanent Exhibit: The George Rieveschl, Jr. History of Pharmaceutical Chemistry 

 The George Rieveschl, Jr. History of Pharmaceutical Chemistry Exhibit features a patented Lloyd Cold Still (at right) built in Cincinnati and used at the University of Michigan and at AYSL Corp; a key device use to invent and manufacture Benadryl.  The Cold Still was a neat, patented invention by the Lloyd brothers that heated the surface of an extract to remove solvent, as opposed to heating the bottom; the benefit was that fragile chemicals were not degraded during the separation process. The exhibit features the actual cold still...and Rieveschl's lab notebooks (see photo)!

Permanent Exhibit: Lloyd Brothers

The Lloyd Brothers set up shop in Cincinnati ~1885 and had a rich tradition of researching botantical chemistry and medicines.   Of particular interest to soap makers of past and present (i.e., Cincinnati soap makers Procter & Gamble), was their "clean" long, lasting soap: $1.40 for a dozen cakes!  

Online ExhibitThe Magic and Myth of Alchemy 

This is a very comprehensive website that blends historic drawings of real scientists with the subjective, trippy alchemists.  LLM description: "This is a permanent online exhibit: "The Magic and Myth of Alchemy" exhibit was created in honor of the International Year of Chemistry, an event celebrated by chemists and chemistry associations throughout 2011. In truth, however, there has been a wish to present the alchemical holdings of the Lloyd Library and Museum to the general public for some time. While we do not hold the most ancient treatises from Asia or the Middle East, the Lloyd holds a wealth of materials from the Early Modern and later periods, along with translations and later editions of some of the earlier volumes. A quick search in the Lloyd's online catalog yields no less than some 140 titles pertaining to that topic in some fashion, dating from 1544 to 2010. The collection includes the works of Paracelsus, Maier, Glauber, Hermes Trismegistus, and that alchemist made even more famous through a mention in the Harry Potter ™ series, Nicholas Flamel."



Friday, August 1, 2014

Diorama Map Making

Making Maps Feel Real; Diorama Design

Maps have a special role and meaning for fantasy novels.  For one, they are often needed to orient readers to crazy, new worlds; but to make the fantasy-world be realized, I decided to depict the maps for Dyscrasia Fiction real landscapes (not common cartographers' maps). Below, the color version of the Land made for Spawn of Dyscrasia (publication in process Summer 2014) is a photograph of a 5' x 3' diorama constructed in my basement.  This post details the making of it.  First, note that there is no compass rose; instead, the sunrise indicates East.  The predecessor Lords of Dyscrasia had maps that appeared as hand-drawn sketches of the same landscape, which were used to guide the scaling (they are available online too as interactive maps--link).
Spawn of Dyscrasia Map
Lords of Dyscrasia - Maps made interactive online

Inspiration Real Places

New places are featured in Spawn of Dyscrasia, and old places have evolved.  It was important that each key area was identifiable and unique, just like a living person. I drew inspiration from real places with haunting beauty such as: the colored sandstone of Zhangye Danxia, China (for the Arenite Range),  the Island of the Dolls, Mexico (For the Gray Orchard),  the Maijishan Grotto, Gansu, China (for the Chromlechon Keep), and the La Brea Tar Pits, California (for the Blood Bogs).  La Brea is the only site I saw in person, the others are on my bucket list.

Plastering Terrain & Setting Viewing Angle

Then the fun began.  The existing map of the Land was drawn on a large foam core board.  Then pictures of the key places were laid out.  From the beginning, the desired output was a map that fit a portrait page design (to accommodate print and eBook viewing).  It was critical to plan a vantage for photographing this, and the topography was tweaked to present the desired perspective. The tripod placement was decided early on to capture a cross-section of the Underworld and the key Land features.  Then newspaper, bubble-wrap, and cardboard were used as skeletons for the mountains and terrain.  

Visible and Hidden Details

All was coated in plaster-coated gauze. Successive coatings of plaster and paint consumed weeks.  An undercoat of gray and brown blocked out terrain types.  The surface was coated in all sorts of crafty materials: trees were made from lichens, colored sand was used for the sandstone range, diorama-friendly powdered grass and faux bushes polished off the vegetation;  polymer melt faux water was used for the Pyre atop the Keep and the Underworld sea of oil.  Mixing black-oil paint with white-aqueous paint made for some wild textures since the "gray" would phase split during painting, and the black oil would slowly bead atop the white.  There are all sorts of details not accessible from the photo, including real cicada shells  in the Underworld, fluorescent paint around the magical areas (which require a black light), and real minerals for the crystalline tombs of Clan Tonn. 

Photography 

Luckily I know a competent photographer.  My art-director and wife Heidi imaged the diorama from all sorts of angels and lighting.  She preferred natural light, with strong shadows from the setting sun...so we hauled the beast outside.  It is amazing how many photos were taken.  In the end, I took the one taken from the initially designed vantage, but weaved in close-ups (digital magic via Photoshop) to ensure it was all in focus. 

Photoshop and Cover

With a color map in hand, I was ready to complete the cover.  Understand, that the only way I could provide a color copy of the book (and keep it affordable) was to incorporate the map on the back of the cover (the interior is all black and white). It took some creative thinking, but the fire from Ken Kelly's masterpiece art was weaved into the backcover landscape.  Print copies will be available soon (Sept 2014, available globally via online retailers like Amazon, BN.com, etc.), with eBooks too.