Friday, December 26, 2014

Jan-Feb 2015 Groupreads - "Gemmell's Legend" AND "Anthologies"

groupread jan-feb2015 LEGEND and ANTHOLOGIES 

The 2-topic, 2-month group reads have been selected for the Jan-Feb 2015 Sword & Sorcery group. Start off the new year with us!

(1) Anthologies (Link to Anthology Discussion Thread) : Since Sword & Sorcery was largely born through the short-story format, collections are an appropriate way to learn the genre and discover authors. Don’t know where to start? Ask the group for a recommendation, or check out the sampling of Anthologies, old and new, as shown in this group’s bookshelf. You are challenged (invited?) to track any one down and share your journey with the group. Feel welcome to add to the bookshelf if you know how, or ask for help to expand the list.

(2) David Gemmell's Legend ( Link to LEGEND Discussion Thread): This topic narrowly beating out “Sword’s and Orcs.” Actually any of Gemmell’s works will suffice for discussion, but the default will be his debut, and arguably his best work, Legend.

Banner credits:
L. Sprague de Camp's The Spell of Seven (1965 cover artist Virgil Finlay)
David Gemmell's Legend (2003 cover art credited to John Picacio by isfdb)
Legend (Drenai Saga, #1) by David Gemmell The Spell of Seven by L. Sprague de Camp 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Nine Heroes Anthology review by S.E.

Nine Heroes: Tales of Heroic FantasyNine Heroes: Tales of Heroic Fantasy by Walter Rhein
S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nine Heroes: Tales of Heroic Fantasy delivers nine tales of heroism as promised. The writing style and types of hero are varied, as most anthology readers expect and desire.

I am biased toward deeper, intricate writing, so I devoured the Morris’ Homeric contribution that introduces Rhesos, a demi-god. The character is likely getting a dedicated novel in the near future. Check out Donny Swords on-line 2014 interview with Janet Morris to learn details. Black Sword is very thoughtful story that blends, myth, history, and fantasy.

I’m huge fan of Barczak’s peotic dark style (his Veil of the Dragon is a great read) though his entry was only a flash-fiction piece—I desired more. Butcher’s entry was timely interesting since I just read The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles; I liked Coel as a character, as well as exploring the land of Erana more, but he did not seem to be heroic in the story—I gather that he does become a hero in other Erana novels.

Author Fishing: In anthologies I hope to discover an author who intrigues me: R.A. McCandless sufficed. The plight and past of Pel Rogue was very engaging, and the character development most engaging. I'll have to look out for more McCandless.

Navigation warning for the Kindle: There was no linked table of contents, so if you want to skip to a chapter/author… you’ll have to scroll/search your way there. With only nine tales, this is workable; but anthologies should be available for non-linear reading.

Table of Contents (Heroes in parentheses)
(demi-god “Rhesos”) Black Sword by Janet E. Morris and Chris Morris
(insubordinate soldier “Kinter”) The Act of Sleepless Nights by Walter Rhein
(villager “Mattock”) To Kill a Myth by Jesse Duckworth
(dragon hunting “Rasi”) No Life Too Small by Douglas R. Brown
(nameless gladiator?) To Live by Tom Barczak
(champion “Seutzingol”) Dozen by shane porteus
(emerging thief “Coel”) Just One Mistake by A.L. Butcher
(warrior priest “Shoutte”) Witness to Death by Teel James Glenn
(servant of the peace “Pel Rogue”) Through the Sting of Fairy Smoke by R.A. McCandless

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Lindberg Holiday Card 2014


Crafting Holiday cards has been a tradition in our family since ~1998.  Most of the cards are on display on a website, clicking on recent ones (2010 onward) provide links to how they were made. This year, Heidi pushed me away from the art board. To make this beautiful rendition of a Poinsettia plant, she blended her photography, batiking, and design skills. Here is how she did it:

Summary: Photography > Batik > Digital Design

Phase 1: From Picture to Cloth
Photograph Poinsettia > Print Copy Onto Paper
Expand in Copy Machine > Outline Edges on White Cloth

Heidi took the Poinsettia picture Dec. 2013 and has been eyeing it ever since. It was destined to be a template for some other craft.  Printing it Summer 2014, she used an enlarged copy to trace the outlines onto a cloth.  This enabled subsequent dying.
Phase 2: Selectively Color Cloth 
Trace Edges to Cloth - Mask Areas With Removable Wax
The art of batiking involves masking sections of the cloth with removable wax.  Using the photograph to guide which areas should be kept light (i.e. the white background), the artist protects the cloth with wax.  Then the artist dyes the entire cloth, setting the darkest areas first. The original wax is kept on, and more wax is applied on the next gradation of color. Then the cloth is dyes again.

Adding Color
  1. Masking & Dying & Drying (mask lightest areas first..i.e. white, pink, etc.)
  2. Applying new masks... Mask On Areas Desired To Be Lighter/Pinker…
  3. Repeat...darkening the exposed areas

Phase 3: Iterative Masking – Dying - Drying
Beware, annoying husband's hell-bent on documenting the process may photograph you with your hair "up." Crackled wax provides a cool, vein-like pattern. The wax can be removed by bathing the cloth in hot water...the wax melts and floats to the top.

Phase 4: Photoshop
Finally, the cloth is photographed and Adobe Photoshop is used to experiment with some lettering.

In this case, "Noel" in landscape mode wins! Then an inside needs to be made to match the front:

Print copies are sent to an online print company.  First proof arrived Nov 13th.  It looked fine, so it was approved.  A stack was ordered to arrive ~Nov-20th.  This allows a few weeks (over Thanksgiving) to prepare the cards and issue them prior mid-Dec.

This marks the 17th year of hand-crafted Holiday Cards!  Check out the others at:Team Lindberg Cards.  So that's it.  From our family to yours, have a great 2015!  Sincerely, Team Lindberg (Seth, Heidi, Erin, and Connor).

The Kids!

Cool Update: The McCrone Research group's card also features a poinsettia!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Sex and Sorcery - Light Beyond the Storm review

The Light Beyond the Storm ChroniclesThe Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles by A.L. Butcher
S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sex and Sorcery: The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles is a unique mash-up of erotic and fantasy fiction. One reason I read this was to lure me out of my comfort zone of Sword & Sorcery, and this was a fun route to take. If one were to take a typical dark fantasy novel with elves & grand battles, and replace all the warfare with steamy sex scenes, then you would get this book. In fact, this book has no real battle scenes with substantial duels or military tactics on display. This book may define a new sub-genre: "Sex and Sorcery."

The closest thing I have ever read to this would be Brian McNaughton's The Throne of Bones, which has copious amounts of ghoul sex (~zombie sex). "Throne" was not stimulating as much as it was horrific & weird. The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles likely reflects more traditional romance novels.

The book's primary conflict regards the mistreatment of elven women, which are subjugated to rape and slavery by humans. A human magician who sympathizes becomes the savior of many elves. What can be jarring (to a "virgin" erotic fiction reader at least) is the willingness of the victimized women to satisfy their savior with the same carnal tricks the bad humans desire. The good human is also older than the elf he saves/falls-in-love-with; this coupling inflamed two-decades of sexual harassment training "no-no's" I have received by various employers. I eventually forgave this discomfort since this was (a) a fantasy book and (b) the human was not being deceptive as an influential mentor.

There were hints that love-making may empower sorcery, but the connection was not explicit. This is just the beginning of a series, and I would welcome the notion of the sexual energy fueling magic being developed more. A small quibble: the author's voice strangely sneaks into all of the dialogue (across characters). They all...pause as they...consider a synonym...or...recast their words.

In all, an entertaining read. Not recommended for young adults due to content; not recommend for those seeking bloody battles. This is recommended for fantasy readers who desire some...spice in their reading.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Cook's "The Black Company" - Review by S.E.

The Black Company: The First Novel of 'The Chronicles of The Black Company'The Black Company: The First Novel of 'The Chronicles of The Black Company' by Glen Cook
S.E rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gritty, Mysterious Adventure: Glen Cook’s Chronicles of the Black Company starts off a lengthy series with a large following (which I have finally joined). Thanks to a Sword & Sorcery group read on Goodreads I did not entirely miss a series born in 1984, which I had naively figured was just another fantasy series. I mistakenly thought it was just tales about silly comrades, with more brawn than brain, going from one job to another. The Company is not just some band of brutes going from one mission/employer to the next; it is a professional army for hire that has a history longer than most States/Kingdoms. Expect lots of intricate gritty warfare infused with warrior magicians dolling out spells that liquefy mountains and topple the sky. By reading these chronicles, you are (more or less) reading the Annals; well, you almost become part of the Company.

This first-person narrative is compelling: Our narrator, Croaker, is a physician and warrior, but he has the singular duty of recording the Annals of the Company. Below are a number of quotes to convey his voice. His succinct observations add an unexpected, very satisfying, level of intelligence. The Annals (as physical books) are rarely mentioned/accounted for; however, the storytelling was so engaging I often overlooked the notion that Croaker appears bookless.

Pleasantly mysteries adventure: Cook throws the reader into the deep-end from the start. Strangely even this reprint has no map (which would have been welcome to orient readers). The scale of adventure ranges from skirmishes, to grand battles, to sorties with selected members. The Company seems to range in size from one hundred men to a few thousand. Their employees and their enemies are many and complex.It becomes clear that the conflicts are many and intertwined, but thankfully consistent. Without spoiling anything, I can reveal that it will take 50% of the book to communicate that the Lady is the primary employer of the Company, and her secondary commanders are the Taken (usually undead/possessed sorcerers) which also battle one another. All these are in battle with another army led by the Rebel (and his Circle of eighteen). Somehow Cook manages to dose out just the right amount of information to keep you hooked.

Characters are interesting and a strength They have concise names whether they be the narrator (Croaker), an enemy (Rebel, or Dominator), a Company member (Captain, Lieutenant), or sorcerer (One-Eye, Catcher, Lady, etc.). We learn about everyone via Croaker’s narration which is often profound. One-Eye and Goblin are two of the Company’s few sorcerers (Silent being another Key one); they continually have contests of antagonistic sorcery, like brothers. Then there is a new addition who joins early on named Raven who has a truly mysterious backstory. Croaker voted to enlist him saying, “I voted aye. I smelled a mystery and did not want it to get away.” Which is what I feel now about these book. There are many mysterious left in the series of the Black Company … and I do not want them to get away!

Cover Confusion/Caution TOR used the beautiful Raymond Swanland cover for both (a) a release of Book #1 Black Company and (b) and Omnibus edition of Books 1-3 of the series. I recommend just buying the omnibus from the start (same cover, almost same price, more books).
Raymond Swanland Black Company

Croaker’s Voice (Various, disconnected quotes)

We all have our pasts. I suspect we keep them nebulous not because we are hiding from our yesterdays but because we think we will cut more romantic figures if we roll our eyes and dispense delicate hints about beautiful women forever beyond our reach.

When I reflect on my companion’s inner nature I usually wish I controlled one small talent. I wish I could look inside them and unmask the darks and brights that move them. Then I take a quick look into the jungle of my own soul and realize that I cannot. Any man who barely sustains an armistice with himself has no business picking around in an alien soul.

One-Eye is at least a hundred years old. The Annals mention the wizened little black man’s tempers throughout the last century. There is no telling when he joined. Seventy years’ worth of Annals were lost when the Company’s positions were overrun at the Battle of Urban. One-Eye refuses to illuminate the missing years. He says he does not believe in history.

One-Eye cheats. But never when Raven is playing.

Silent smiled, shrugged, stalked over to the stone pile and seated himself. He was done with the question game. Of all the Company he is the least concerned about the image he portrayed in the Annals. He does not care whether people like or hate him, does not care where he has been or where he is going. Sometimes I wonder if he cares whether he lives or dies, wonder what makes him stay.

I am a haunted man. I am haunted by the Limper’s screams. I am haunted by the Lady’s laughter. I am haunted by my suspicion that we were furthering the cause of something that deserves to be scrubbed from the face of the earth. I am haunted by the conviction that those bent upon the Lady’s eradication are little better than she…I am haunted by the clear knowledge that, in the end, evil always triumphs.

My last glimpse of Catcher was of a weary person slumped in unhappiness. I guess it is hard for them to live up to their reputations. We all want people to like us.

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Soap, Disease, and Dragons - Visiting Norman OK

Talking art, books, and synesthesia with illustrator and artist of Viel of the Dragon 
  1. SOAP: 

  2. This month I visited Norman OK, with the primary goal of attending a consortia on surfactants run by chemical engineering professors at Oklahoma University (IASR).  I am not the only scientist attending who has an artistic side; in fact Professor John Scamehorn has ventured into producing film (he is leading a steampunk web series no less, due out in late 2015).
  3. DISEASE: 

  4. Before the consortia began, I managed to connect with writer/illustrator Tom Barczak who resides in Norman. I had interviewed Tom Barczak early this year (July 2014)
    Over some Starbuck's coffee we discussed art, writing, and disease. Of course, my own series fictionalizes the alchemical humors, posing them as a source of necromancy; an imbalance of humors was called a Dyscrasia (a word popular in 1880). 

  5. Tom, ever fascinated with sensing strange/beautiful things, discussed Synesthezia.  This ailment is a modern one, and refers to a secondary stimulus of senses.  For instance, a subset is called Chromesthesia, in which listening to sounds will trigger recoloring of whatever is being viewed by eye: one could be looking at a white wall and it would change to red or blue as certain music is played.  Great material for magic/fantasy! I can't wait to see how Tom translates his insights.


Tom has a wonderful illustrated, poetic series that begins with 
Veil of the Dragon (reviewed May 2014). He is just now releasing an audio book voiced by Neil Hellegers. Check out the below video trailer.  If you like dark, poetic fantasy, you'll enjoy this.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Beauty in Ruins reviews Spawn of Dyscrasia

"In a post-apocalyptic sort of fantasy world where the 'good' guys are undead necromancers and hybrid monsters, the remaining humans must make difficult choices to ensure that there's a future for any of them... It's all very well-constructed, with an interesting system of magic to drive the plot forward, but it's hardly what one would call your typical heroic, uplifting fantasy. In fact, it's as much a horror novel as it is a fantasy novel, but it's in that clash of genres that Lindberg distinguishes himself."
Beauty in Ruins provides comprehensive book reviews on speculative fiction, and just dissected Spawn of Dyscrasia. I highly recommend following the Beauty in Ruins website.  Below is copy of most of the review:

"I didn't think it was possible, but this is an even darker fantasy than the novel that opened the saga. It's a story full of death and decay, of pain and pressure. In a post-apocalyptic sort of fantasy world where the 'good' guys are undead necromancers and hybrid monsters, the remaining humans must make difficult choices to ensure that there's a future for any of them.

Just to give you an idea of what you're getting into here, the story opens with a dying young woman, her body and soul slowly being consumed by the necromancer she serves. Her own ghost picks a replacement from out of the crowd, damning one of her oldest friends to the same sort of helpless, hopeless, inevitable doom. That friend, Helen, dutifully accepts the charge laid upon her and prepares to embark upon a future of sacrificing herself to save Lord Echo, the necromancer, in an effort to preserve her people.

Like the first volume, this is a very dark, very bleak, very sort of hopeless future, one in which the monsters have already won. It's all very well-constructed, with an interesting system of magic to drive the plot forward, but it's hardly what one would call your typical heroic, uplifting fantasy. In fact, it's as much a horror novel as it is a fantasy novel, but it's in that clash of genres that Lindberg distinguishes himself. This reads very much like an epic fantasy novel in terms of language and imagery, but one dealing with a dark, gruesome, horrific sort of subject matter. It's a gorgeous, textured, intricately layered story where every word counts, and where no phrase is wasted. Make no mistake, it makes for heavy reading, but you feel the weight of every word.

While I would have liked to see Helen play more of a heroic role, rather than serve as damsel in distress or sidekick, this is not really a world where humans have a significant role to play. It is a world filled with hybrid monsters and ruled by god-like beings, a world in which power is infected by an insidious sort of disease. Having said that, she's an admirable character, for all the flaws of her situation, and she does have her moments, especially as we approach the climax.

Overall, I found the pacing and flow much stronger, compared to Lords of Dyscrasia. It's a clearer, more consistent tale, one with those narrative bridges that I felt were lacking in the first book. As sequels or follow-ups go, Spawn of Dyscrasia is one of those rare novels that tops its predecessor in almost every way, which definitely bodes well for future installments. If you're open to something new, and have the patience to really pay attention to the narrative as much as the plot, then by all means pay Lindberg's world a visit - you'll be impressed at what he's able to accomplish in so few carefully chosen words, and you'll certainly appreciate the visit."
- Bob Milne 2014