Friday, January 16, 2015

Artifacts and Relics:Extreme Sorcery - Review by S.E.

Azieran Adventures Presents Artifacts and Relics: Extreme SorceryAzieran Adventures Presents Artifacts and Relics: Extreme Sorcery by David C. Smith
S.E. Lindberg rating: 5 of 5 stars

Azieran Adventures Presents Artifacts and Relics: Extreme Sorcery delivers exactly what is promises: fantastic adventure with a focus on artifacts. Highly recommended for dark fantasy fans, or readers looking for varied adventure.

Rogue Blades Entertainment (RBE) and Azieran: In many ways “Artifacts” continues the RBE tradition of themed anthologies (The Return of the Sword, Demons: A Clash of Steel Anthology, Rage of the Behemoth, and Writing Fantasy Heroes). Here Azieran advocates Christopher Heath and V. Shane lead the way, but the Azieran influence is limited to Heath’s two contributions and a shout-out from Bonadonna’s Dowser story. It is noteworthy that Heath contributed tales for RBE’s The Return of the Sword and Demons: A Clash of Steel Anthology with the tales Claimed By Birthright and Azieran: Racked upon the Altar of Eeyuu. In Artifacts, RBE authors appear again: (1) The Mask Oath’s author Steve Goble (from RotS) delivers a great tale; (2) Artifacts contains a reprinting of Bill Ward’s By Hellish Means (originally in Demons; Ward also wrote Wyrd of War for RotS); (3) and more prominently, RBE steward Jason M. Waltz provides an introduction which continues his excellent track record of concisely relaying the motivation for reading a themed collection (as he had for the RBE books):
“…it's pretty safe to say this creation of and questing for ultimate devices is a fixture of myth and fantasy…The Golden Apples. The One Ring. The Holy Grail. A dozen swords followed close by another dozen each of crowns and amulets and all sorts of doodads. Think of it, and there's most likely at least one tale of the one and only “Iron Skillet of Cooking.” Why? What drives our fascination? Superstition, faith, desire both baleful and beatific. That lucky rabbit’s foot — a relic of superstitious belief passed through the ages. Does it really work? Who knows — it seemed to once, and that's all that is necessary. Fortune, like gods and demons, is fickle and cannot be counted upon to strike often or consistently. Or conveniently. And so — unless we are gods ourselves, or blessed with powers beyond the norm — we quest for the next best sure thing.” Jason Waltz Intro.

Azieran Adventures Presents Artifacts and Relics: Extreme Sorcery is a dozen tales, with a variety of styles, lengths (3 novella’s included), and milieus; all are adventurous and entertaining. Readers will get a dose of classic weird, pulp fiction, alongside grim sci-fi blends that pits sorcery against technology (as well as swords). The Table below lists the artifacts of interest per story with notes. Anthologies are a great device for discovering authors, and I did yet again. I enjoyed the whole book, but a few stood out:

(1) The Lovers Quarrel by James Beamon opens the book. I do not seek out sci-fi/gun literature much (Swords & Sorcery for me please), but this duel of sorcery versus guns worked even for me.

(2) The Book of Echoes This was my first Dowser/Joe Bonadonna experience; this is a blend of mystery, noir, horror, and sword & sorcery...with a sprinkling of humor. According to him (via Facebook conversation) the first scene and finale were somewhat influenced by the 1950s film version of Mickey Spillane's "Kiss Me, Deadly." I enjoyed this so much that I purchased Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser before finishing the anthology.

(3) The Sword Cult by Steve Goble was poignant and direct. I became a Goble Fan from RotS and am fascinated with his “Faceless Sons” stories; this was my first Calthus experience and was equally engaged. Apparently a collection has been in the works--I would welcome that.

(4) The Highest Price: I’m not a Arthurian Legend fan per se, so I was not excited at first when I stumbled into the story on Excalibur; but Anderson’s perspective was fresh and won me over.

(5) The Black Abbot of Puthuum: Clark Ashton Smith’s classic tale rounds out a great menu; a selection from his Tales Of Zothique worked well.

Being a proud Ohioan, I always am excited to highlight the state’s participation in fantasy fiction. Steven Goble hails from northern OH, and the anthology ends with a story from Oron author David C. Smith. Some minor quibbles: The Lovers Quarrel felt more like a flash fiction outline than it did a fleshed-out story, and Azieran: Assimilation by Second Dawn did not really seem focused on the sword Darkannis (actually there were many weapons/artifacts that shared the stage).

Table of Contents
Artifact / Title / Author / Notes

------------ / Foreword / Jason M. Waltz / another great Waltz introduction

Heart of Alora (red gem #1) / The Lovers Quarrel / James Beamon / Steampunkish, grim duel, guns and magic

Chaos Key / Coup / Fred C. Adams / a short tale

The Book of Echoes (book#1) / The Book of Echoes / Joe Bonadonna / Mystery-Noir, horror adventure, doses of humor; Novella; A Dowser tale

Darkannis (sword) / Azieran: Assimilation by Second Dawn / Christopher Heath/ Magic vs technology; gothic robots!

Red Heart of Dolfar (red gem #2) / The Red Heart of Dolfar / John M. Whalen / Swashbuckling deviltry on the sea

Liber Malefactum (book #2) / By Hellish Means /Bill Ward / Weird hellish duel; reprint

Pipe of Mahmackrah (musical instrument) / The Mad Song/ David J. West / Deserts & ghosts

Stor and Krellindoom (sword #2) / The Sword Cult /Steve Goble / A great Calthus tale

Excalibur (a.k.a Caliburn, sword #3) / The Highest Price / Colleen Anderson / Neat perspective; Celtic lore delivered well

Collar of the Dragon Lords / Azieran: The Slaver of Karsith Keep /Christopher Heath / Dragon fighting, novella

Talisman of Uldor / The Black Abbot of Puthuum / Clark Ashton Smith / Poetic awesomeness; weird desert nightmare from his Zothique cycle

Arax, Spear of the gods / Shadow-born, Shadow-taken / David C. Smith/ warring gods play with human puppets, novella

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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Dyscrasia Fiction - Beyond 2014

2014 Dyscrasia Fiction

2014 was a busy year, with Spawn of Dyscrasia hitting online book shelves and the Kindle Store in July.  The video trailer accompanied its release (embedded below). By year's end, the book was featured on two reviewer blogs as being highlights of the year.

2015 Dyscrasia Fiction

2015 is promising to be as busy. Audio books of both Lords and Spawn are in production already, due for a March 2015 release via Cover icons below. Expect more video trailers, this time with professional narrations from Kathy Bell Denton and Thomas B. Hackett! Of course, Book III is underway (working title "Seer Helen"), aiming for a 2017 release.

Thanks to all for reading, reviewing, and listening.  Feel welcome to track me down on Dyscrasia Fiction on Facebook or the Goodreads Sword & Sorcery group that I co-moderate.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Gonji: The Soul Within the Steel (Deathwind 2)

Gonji: The Soul Within the SteelGonji: The Soul Within the Steel by T.C. Rypel
S.E. Lindberg rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gonji: The Soul Within the Steel, Book 2: The Deathwind trilogy was really one book cut into three parts: so the story arc is spread out accordingly. I enjoyed Part-1 (Red Blade From the East) but was left wondering about character motivations; also my mind struggled to contain a geographic scope that seemed to only grow. The second installment pleasantly explored all the characters and mysteries posited in the first; geographically, it focused on one location essentially (Vedun city and the adjacent Castle Lenska). It delivered on every aspect I hoped, and the conflict/story leapt forward every chapter; it unveiled truths behind several key secrets & motivations behind the characters, and ramped up the adventure (which was at a high level anyway). Great adventure fantasy that is more dark & pulpy than it is historical. I like the content in Book-1 more now, and I can’t see how any reader could not stop at the end of Book-2. Take home message: if you decide to follow Gonji, just plan on reading the whole trilogy. I’m on to Book-3 to learn more about the mysterious Deathwind….

I copy/paste my review of the first book for completeness below; after I read the third portion, I’ll work to consolidate all into one review.

Gonji’s Deathwind (Book 1)– The Godzilla of Sword & Sorcery?
Some splendid reviews already exist for Gonji: Red Blade from the East, in particular Fletcher Vredenburgh’s January 21st 2014 Post on Blackgate is extremely thorough. This provides another summary, and some more complementary information.

Gongi Is A Unique, Entertaining Mashup: Gongi is a wandering, displaced warrior--a Ronin (master-less samurai) roaming 16th century Europe. This is not historical fiction, however. This is Sword & Sorcery in vein of R.E. Howard’s Conan…but it is a solidly unique take on the genre. Firstly, Gonji is a cross-breed of a Japanese warlord and Viking sword-maiden; rather than the Hyperborean continent of REH, Gonji explores a realistic version of Europe’s geography (Ottoman–Habsburg times). Plenty of creatures and magic infuse compelling fight scenes. I half expected Godzilla to emerge on multiple occasions!

Gonji is a mysterious, intelligent character. Stretching plausibility, he knows many languages (Japanese, Spanish, Italian, German, English, more?) sufficiently to converse with everyone. He is a bit moody too, which is ostensibly related to his mixed heritage (disciplined father, wild mother). His allegiances are difficult to predict, sometimes joining mercenary bands, sometimes rescuing weak townspeople. Generally, the blend of cultures and Gonji’s mysterious motivations are engaging.

By the end of this first installment, we know only that he is seeking the “Deathwind,” and we know he gets closer to this goal when he reached the city of Vedun, but otherwise the core of his quest is unclear. There is parallel conflict with some apparently evil occupiers of Vedun; but their motives are not clear by the end either, at times brutally dominating folk and at times letting them live in peace. I would have enjoyed a bit more clarification; the demarcation between the first and second book may just be due to the publication history.

Series: The initial Zebra books of the 1980’s essential split one long novel into a trilogy (I suspect the split was arbitrary). T.C. Rypel’s 1980 series has been released in a more complete forms (more books, eBooks, audiobooks). The newer releases from Borgo Press seem to have maintained this split. I’ll need to read the second and third books to confirm that, and I plan to do that. Actually, Rypel has a lot more Gonji in mind, and has books 4 and 5 available now. Books 1-3 are the original trilogy:
1) Gonji: Red Blade from the East: The Deathwind Trilogy, Book One
2) Gonji: The Soul Within the Steel
3) Gonji: Deathwind of Vedun: The Deathwind Triology, Book Three
4) Gonji: Fortress of Lost Worlds
5) Gonji: A Hungering of Wolves
Gonji  Red Blade from the East  The Deathwind Trilogy, Book One by T.C. Rypel Gonji  The Soul Within the Steel by T.C. Rypel Gonji  Deathwind of Vedun  The Deathwind Triology, Book Three by T.C. Rypel Gonji  Fortress of Lost Worlds by T.C. Rypel Gonji  A Hungering of Wolves by T.C. Rypel

Social Media, Cover Art, and Maps: T.C. Rypel is very accessible via Facebook(Gonji Page) and the Goodreads Sword and Sorcery Group. If you check those websites you can (a) communicate with him and (b) just read/learn fascinating tidbits. For instance, from these I learned the artwork of Serbian illustrator Dusan Kostic graces most of the new releases, which seem more appropriate than the 1980’s covers that seem to mirror the James Clavell books (contemporary for 1980’s works, but of different genre). Also, The Kindle editions of the Deathwind Trilogy books do not include artist Joseph Rutt's 1982 Maps that appear in the front of the print editions. Note that Joe Rutt also drew covers for Ted Rypels 1970's Outer Limits books.

Ohio Rocks: Incidentally, T.C. Rypel has Ohio roots, as do many Sword and Sorcery authors; in fact, 20% of the original Swordsmen and Sorcerers' Guild of America (SAGA, 1960-80s) came from my home state OH. The unassuming state of OH has ties to many relevant authors including including: David C. Smith, Andre Norton, Stephen Donaldson, John Jakes, Richard Lee Byers, Roger Zelazny, Dennis L. McKiernan, Steve Goble, and more.

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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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