Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Relic Hunted - Guest Post by Ohioan Terry Ervin

Today we welcome author Terry Ervin as guest blogger as he announces his newest novel Relic Hunted (released - January 18th, 2016).  Here he discusses his inspirations for writing.

Terry W. Ervin II is an English and science teacher who enjoys writing fantasy and science fiction. He hails from central Ohio. His First Civilization’s Legacy Series (fantasy) includes Flank HawkBlood Sword, and Soul ForgeThe Crax War Chronicles, his science fiction series, includes Relic Tech and Relic Hunted (his most recent release from Gryphonwood Press). In addition to writing novels, Terry’s short stories have appeared in over a dozen anthologies, magazines and ezines. Genre Shotgun is a collection containing all of his previously published short stories. You can get his work from a variety of vendors and sites (link).

What Ifs

Readers, and occasionally writers early in their careers, ask where I come up with ideas, because indeed, some of my ideas are out of the mainstream, even for fantasy and science fiction.

Thoughts strike me when driving and thinking, or while watching a Discovery or History Channel program on TV. Sometimes it’s the news or something I’m reading, or maybe simple curiosity on my part. Now, a lot of people have ideas and ‘what if’ questions that strike them. But a writer is someone like me that types (okay, word processes) them out, and gets them published for others to read.

My first published story “Tethered in Purgatory” originated from pondering what might happen to souls of individuals placed in cryogenic preservation. I was curious—heck, aren’t you, at least now that I brought it to your attention? So, after a research and reflection, I wrote a story that explored one possibility.

I read about and study history and follow modern politics, after a fashion. Recalling an episode of Space, Above and Beyond (a short-lived and moderately interesting series) that featured a black hole as part of its plot-line, while doing a little research on Winston Churchill, I came across one of his quotes:
"If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves."
From that combination of thoughts (black hole, Churchill quote, modern politics), I wrote “Seconds of Eternity” where humanity, through shortsighted leadership, is on the brink, facing its twilight. Enter Mac ‘Race’ Parson, a second line fighter pilot with his green wingman, Bronco Bob, in their antiquated Starfury IVs. What will Mac Parson risk—be willing to endure—on a long shot bid to stave off humanity’s extinction for maybe another six months?

A fantasy example? That would be where the notion for Flank Hawk originated, which became the initial novel in my First Civilization’s Legacy Series. The initial spark occurred while driving home from work. I was thinking about two books I’d recently re-read, Zelazny’s Guns of Avalon and Turtledove’s World War: In the Balance. One of the main turning points in Guns of Avalon occurs when Prince Corwin discovers a way to get gunpowder to function in the magical city of Amber. In the Balance is about an alien invasion during the height of World War II. The disparity in technology between the invaders and humanity is a major element in the novel’s conflict. Then I began to ponder, what would happen if a dragon encountered a World War II aircraft? Okay, maybe one can see how the line of thought formed. From there I began to devise a world where such an encounter could take place.

Next came the people and creatures that would inhabit the post-apocalyptic world, how it came to be, and the long-running, multi-layered power struggle that would come to influence events in the plot that I was devising. Finally, came Krish and Lilly, Roos and Road Toad—the main characters in the novel.

Relic Tech, the first novel I wrote, but not the first one published (an interesting story there, but not germane to this article), came from a combination of me thinking about socio-economic disparity, and what type of socio situation might segregate humans in the future. The notion of technology, including access to and use of it, took center stage. Also, at the time, I was presenting some literary terms and devices to my classes (I’m an English teacher). One of those concepts was a Frame Story.

From there, Relic Tech was born, with the protagonist, 4th Class Security Specialist Krakista Keesay. Being an R-Tech or Relic, Specialist Keesay uses and depends on late 20th century technology to do his job—serving as a security specialist aboard the Kalavar, an aging interstellar civil transport. With shotgun and bayonet, brass knuckles, and a chip on his shoulder, Specialist Keesay gets caught up in political and corporate intrigue, all while trying to survive an overwhelming interstellar invasion that threatens humanity’s existence. Or, better yet for Specialist Keesay, killing as many Crax as possible before they bring him down.

That brings me to my newest release, Relic Hunted, the sequel to Relic Tech, as part of my Crax War Chronicles. To the backdrop of the continuing Crax War, again meaning plenty of action, the theme of security vs. personal identity is explored.

To contact Terry or learn more about his writing endeavors, visit his website at www.ervin-author.com and his blog, Up Around the Corner at uparoundthecorner.blogspot.com

Friday, January 15, 2016

Fiction & Art Inspired By the Mappae Clavicula, Guest Post by S.E. Lindberg

Fiction & Art Inspired By the Mappae Clavicula, Guest Post by S.E. Lindberg

"...I have to say this is probably the most interesting guest post I’ve ever read! I love hearing what inspires the other authors, I really do, as for me ‘the story behind the pen’ is at least as interesting as the story itself...."
Sincere thanks to my host Jennifer Loiske who extended an invitation to discuss my muses & recent contribution to Perseid Press’s Heroika: Dragon Eaters. Please follow the link and check out my answers to:

1)  What are your muses?

2) What is the Mappae Clavicula?

3) How did medieval artists source their materials?

4) What is magical about making paint and art?

5) What is the allure of alchemical writings?

6) How did alchemy inspire your Heroika: The Dragon Eaters contribution?

7) Do you write other books inspired by alchemy

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Stephen Leigh - Immortal Interview

2021 Update: This interview was refreshed for a Black Gate posting with a annotated/deleted chapter!

The series of "Art & Beauty in Weird/Fantasy Fiction" interviews engage contemporary authors & artists to reveal their muses; this one features Stephen Leigh, author of many books including Immortal Muse (S.E. Review link), which is a beautiful blend of historical fiction and alchemical fantasy. Let's learn about his muses.

Bio:  Stephen Leigh (SL) hails from Cincinnati and has professionally published over 26 novels and ~50 short stories (including those in George RR Martin's WILD CARDS).  Steve has several identities, having also written under the pseudonyms “S. L. Farrell” and “Matt Farrell” in both the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres.  He is a musician and vocalist too, active in several local bands. Stephen teaches creative writing at Northern Kentucky University and has mentored many via his teaching and his online essays.

SE: Pseudonyms & Genre Muses:  You've written dozens of novels in various genres. Do you have different muses per genre?

SL: No, I just have wide tastes in what I like to read, which means I have similarly wide tastes in what I like to write.  To my mind, there’s only one Muse, no matter what creative endeavor I’m engaged in or what genre I’m writing.

SE: Cross-over Muses: Is there any muse that inspired you to express something in multiple forms?  If so, please identify the books/music that are connected.  If not, have you considered linking the content of your music and writing?

SL: In CROW OF CONNEMARA, my latest book (like IMMORTAL MUSE, a stand-alone novel... sorta), one of the main protagonists is a musician. As a result, there’s a lot of Celtic music referenced and quoted in the novel, and at one point, he sings one of his ‘original’ songs… but of course that’s one of mine, actually.  Unfortunately, though I’ve played the song out several times on gigs, I don’t have a recording of it to share…

Similarly, in the WILD CARDS shared world series (edited by George RR Martin), with which I’ve been involved since the beginnings way back in the mid-80s, one of my characters is “Drummer Boy”, who’s in a band called “Joker Plague.”  The Joker Plague lyrics I’ve quoted in a few books in that series are all mine, some from songs I’ve written, other just made up for the situation.

SE: Fine Arts: You play in bands and write, but your bachelor's degree is in Fine Arts. Any chance your foundations will emerge publicly? Is there a sketch, photograph, or painting we can share? 

SL: Here are a few…  Below is a sketch I did a few years back -- of nothing in particular, just a landscape in my head...
S.Leigh Sketch 
Here are a couple others, another pencil sketch and a watercolor, again imaginary landscapes.
S. Leigh Watercolor and Sketch

A Miccail, by S. Leigh
And just for a change of pace, I drawing I did of a Miccail for DARK WATER’S EMBRACE, which never went into the original publication, but was added when I got the rights back to the book and re-published the novel through Arc Manor/Phoenix Press -- that version’s still available on Amazon.

On my website, in what I call “The Attic,” there are some old illustrations that I put together to help me visualize the setting of a novel, but were never used by the publishers.  The Attic’s at http://www.farrellworlds.com/oldpages/Attic.html if anyone wants to check them out.

Oh… and for epic fantasy books set in alternate worlds, I generally create a map to help me ‘see’ the landscape of the world.  You’ll find such in the Cloudmages series (by S.L. Farrell:  HOLDER OF LIGHTNING, MAGE OF CLOUDS, and HEIR OF STONE) and in the Nessantico Cycle (also by S.L. Farrell: A MAGIC OF TWILIGHT, A MAGIC OF NIGHTFALL, and A MAGIC OF DAWN) -- for all of those, I created the maps that are in the books.

SE: Pubs and Beer: Is there a bar/pub within greater Cincinnati/Newport that inspired Immortal Muses' "Bent Calliope"? Is there a coven of artisans who meet there?

SL: I like the idea of a ‘coven’ of creative types, but I’m afraid not; the Bent Calliope was wish fulfillment on my part. I’ve played music in (and had a drink or two in) lots of bars and taverns over the decades. I wish here was a local bar like that -- a kind of creative “Cheers” where everybody knows your name (and what you wrote/composed/drew/painted/sculpted/published), and where a real Muse occasionally dropped in to enhance what you were doing -- wouldn’t that be nice!

But if one exists, I’ve yet to find it.  Alas.

SE: Art & Alchemy? Prior 1600, scientists and artists had overlapping interests/skills; scientists had to draw their own data in sketchbooks; conversely, artists had to craft/prepare their own pigments and materials (via chemistry). Artists and alchemists frequented the same apothecaries. The art & science of transmuting materials was a shared goal. What inspired you to fictionalize alchemical history and begin Immortal Muse?

Modigliani's Jeanne Hébuterne
SL: Honestly, the alchemy came in late in the process -- for me, inspiration for novels generally springs from more than one source.  Here’s how it happened with IMMORTAL MUSE… (It’s a longish tale, so settle in…I’ll try to be concise. Honest.)  In January of 2010, I’d finished A MAGIC OF DAWN, the last of the ‘Nessantico Cycle’ books (written as “S.L. Farrell”) and I’d begun thinking about what I wanted to write next.  In the mornings, I generally go through a short list of websites as part of my routine; one site was the BBC’s “Pictures of the Day” (alas, they no longer do this…) where they collected striking photographs from around the world.  That day, one of the pics showed a woman reflected in (I believe) a hubcap, which stretched and elongated her figure.  Huh, I thought, that reminds me of the Modigliani paintings from my Art History classes… which sent me off googling Modigliani.

In doing that, I noticed that many of Modigliani’s portraits were of the same woman, Jeanne Hébuterne.  Here’s one. So I also googled Jeanne Hébuterne, and came across a photograph of her.
Jeanne Hébuterne
I was immediately struck by her, especially those wonderful, dark, soul-searching eyes.  I looked up the incredibly tragic story of the love affair between Jeanne and Amedeo (I’ll leave it to the reader to find that for themselves). I also wrote a blog post about that bit of serendipitous research, the last line of which was: “If a (much younger and unattached) me were sent back to 1916 or so, I might go looking for Jeanne. Maybe I'll just put her in a story instead...”  Mind you, I had no thoughts of actually doing that at that moment.  But the thought was now in my subconscious.

So, moving on…  I habitually read a lot of non-fiction (I think of it as “mining for ideas”) and one such was a book by Francine Prose called THE LIVES OF THE MUSES, about several well-known women who had been the muses of and influenced the artistic creations of the artists whom they loved.  It was a decent book that I enjoyed reading (though someone needs write a book which includes male muses…).  And I started wondering: What if…  What if there was a genuine Muse, a person who literally did enhance the creativity of an artist?  Maybe that could be my next book: an urban fantasy around that concept.  Hmm…  But I couldn’t quite find the ‘hook’ I wanted in that idea.  (And so that thought went into the subconscious hopper, too).

While I was flailing around, I read through some old novel proposals I’d started and abandoned.  One was about two immortal people chasing each other through time.  The proposal really sucked (which is why I never sent it out), but I found that I still had some fascination with the core idea there.  (Into the hopper…)

Thinking about immortality took me into doing some research on alchemy, which quickly led me to Nicolas and Perenelle Flamel, and the story that after Nicolas died (as a fairly rich man), grave robbers broke into his tomb because they thought there might be valuables buried with him… and found that the tomb was empty.  And there were rumors that people had glimpsed Nicolas and Perenelle long after their supposed deaths.  Hmm…  Into the hopper.

I was also at the time reading another non-fiction book (translated from French) called PARIS IN THE MIDDLE AGES, by Simone Roux.  It looks at the same timeframe as the Flamels (though it doesn’t particularly mention them) but there were lovely atmospheric details in the book that drew me into wanting to set a story in Paris in that time.  Yes, into the hopper…

And (finally, at last!), at a dinner with some friends, we started talking about vampires and why every other book in the bookstores at that time seemed to be another vampire story.  (No, IMMORTAL MUSE has no vampires!)  I posited during that conversation that one reason vampires had such popularity is that can potentially live forever, and that hey, I might be willing to trade having to suck blood from the living for that chance.  (Into the hopper…)

It all came together in the shower, a morning or two after that conversation. (I know, try to get that image out of your mind…)  What if -- again, that lovely seminal phrase for so much science fiction and fantasy -- Perenelle Flamel had been Nicolas’ muse, and he hers in return?  What if she, not he, created the immortality potion that was half of the Philosopher’s Stone?  What if that accomplishment really ticked off Nicolas?  What if -- as a result of taking the elixir -- she was ‘cursed’ (somewhat vampirically, if I can coin a word) by being required to ‘feed’ on creative energy: she must be a Muse for the entirety of her immortal life?  What if Nicolas has also taken her potion and has been similarly cursed (though he ‘feeds’ on physical pain -- in the book, Nicolas is not a good person). He is chasing Perenelle through time, eternally angry with her? What if some of these famous artistic muses of history were actually Perenelle?

Aha… The structure of the book began to fall together for me:  a ‘present-day’ thread that would go through the entire novel, with historical tales layered in-between.  Why, Modigliani and Jeanne could be one of those… I wrote up the proposal in a creative heat in March of 2010 and sent it to Sheila Gilbert at DAW, who’s my editor; she loved it.  I started researching artists and muses, and putting together the book…

Mind you, the book would undergo several significant and major changes during the writing and revisions.  For instance, I wrote up a long (15,000 words or so) historical segment with Modigliani and Jeanne that I really liked, then realized that for a few good reasons it didn’t work with the overall arc of the book, and ended up reluctantly cutting it.  A similarly long and completed Nathaniel Hawthorne sequence was likewise abandoned, as were unfinished segments with Sonya Noskowiak (a photographer) and Artemisia Gentileschi (one of my favorite Baroque painters).  The Gustav Klimt, Charlotte Salomon, and Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier segments emerged late in the revisions, partially as ‘replacements’ for the cut sections.

Sometimes, no matter how fond you are of what you’ve written, no matter how much effort and labor you’ve put into the creation of a segment, you have to kill it to make the book a better book.

     SE:  Is there a specific Klimt or Salomon work that you worked from?

SL: I’ve always been fascinated by Klimt’s paintings and drawing, and his distinctive style.  From a research standpoint, I read GUSTAV KLIMT: Painter of Women by Susanna Partsch, as well as VIENNA MODERNISM 1890 – 1910 by Isabella Ackert, along with some online, spur-of-the moment research at need.  Again, I borrowed real historical characters from his life and times, but the ‘Perenelle’ in this timeframe, unlike most of the others, is entirely fictional.

Salomon's "Life? Or Theater?"
Klimt's Lady With Fan (Emilio Floge)

Charlotte Salomon I hadn’t been familiar with, but in researching artists of the WWII era (because I felt I needed someone from that timeframe), I came across her and was fascinated by her story.  Like Anne Frank, her life was tragically cut short, and who knows what she might have done had she lived.  Still, her evocative autobiographical paintings are a great legacy.  For research there, I read TO PAINT HER LIFE: Charlotte Salomon in the Nazi Era by Mary Lowenthal Felstiner, as well as doing a fair amount of research into the political environment in France at the time.

For those interested in what was true and where I took fictional liberties in the various historical eras, I detail that in the Afterword of IMMORTAL MUSE.

Waiting for a Muse: In your essay "TenThings I've Learned (As A Writer)" you address how mature professionals have to move past waiting for their muses. Can you comment on your current relationship with your muse? Is she understanding that you can't always work on her timing?

"4: Make writing a dirty habit
In my early career, I waited for the muse to appear before I wrote. I thought stories were supposed to flow in sparkling fire from my pen to the page, fully formed and perfect. I’d always been told (by people who weren’t writers themselves but who taught literature) that this was how Capital-A Art worked. 
That’s complete and utter bullshit. 
... What I slowly realized was that if I hoped to forge a career as a writer, I couldn’t wait for the fickle muse to appear. I had to write without her… because once you start writing, the muse can’t stand to be left out and eventually shows up at your side. The very act of writing attracts the muse to you." - S.L. Farrell
I think it’s more a matter of me realizing that my job is to write, whether or not the Muse sits down with me or not. If what spews out onto the page is crap, well, that’s why we revise (and revise, and revise again).  Unlike the math tests I remember in school, writers don’t have to ‘show their work.’  No one except the writer is required to read the ugly, deformed drafts or view all the changes that get made, scenes we’ve cut,  rearrangements we’ve made, mistakes we’ve made and corrected, essential foreshadowing we added at the last minute, and so on.

If you persist, eventually the Muse does show up. Eventually. At some point, things start to gel and come together.  All we give our readers is the final, polished version. My task as a writer is to make sure that what I send out to Sheila and other editors is the best I’m capable of writing at the time. If I don’t like what I’ve written, then it doesn’t go out. If I can honestly say that I couldn’t write the story any better than I’ve written it at this point in time and with the skill that I currently have, then I’ve done my job (and so has my Muse).

If the editor to whom I send the piece passes on it, that’s their decision -- it happens. If a reader, once the piece is published, doesn’t care for it, well, that happens too; I’ve no control over that. Writers write. Once the writing is done and the work has found a home somewhere, our job’s done.

Thanks to Stephen for taking the time for revealing all these details. Readers can learn more about him via his blog and reading his work!

       Amazon Page

Friday, January 1, 2016

Immortal Muse - An Entertaining Blend of Art and Alchemy

Immortal MuseImmortal Muse by Stephen Leigh
S.E.Lindberg rating: 5 of 5 stars

**update: the author was kindly open to an interview which uncovered all sorts of splendid perspectives and fine art (link) **

Stephen Leigh’s Immortal Muse blends modern day fiction with alchemical history. As a chemist and artist, and fantasy genre fan, this was a perfect match for me. How neat would it be if your muse was not just a one-way source of inspiration? What if you muse was a person who provided feedback and even shared a symbiotic relationship with you such that your creations benefited her? What if your muse’s life was threatened by a darker counterpart?
“Yeah, artists want immortality all right, but the immortality we’re after is the kind you don’t know you achieved because you’re dead when it happens. It’s the work that’s supposed to live forever. Not the artist.”

Complementary Art & Alchemy: Prior 1600, scientists and artists had overlapping interests/skills; scientists had to draw their own data in sketchbooks; conversely, artists had to craft/prepare their own pigments and materials (via chemistry). Artists and alchemists frequented the same apothecaries. The art & science of transmuting materials was a shared goal. Alchemists codified their goal in the substance called the “philosopher’s stone,” which was either the understanding to transmute materials into anything they wanted (i.e. gold)…or the base material itself. Harnessing the power of the stone could also enable one to live forever (in which case the “stone” was called “the elixir of life”).

Immortal Muse blends these complementary disciplines. It is half contemporary fantasy (New York, 2010), and half Historical Fiction, which covers a range of times, European geographies, and art (detailed below). This is an entertaining soap-opera/thriller.
-1400, Paris: Perenelle Flamel & Nicolas Flamel (scribes, alchemists)
-1635, Rome: Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Roman artist &sculptor)
-1737, Vienna: Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (Musician)
-1790, Paris: Jacque-Louis David (Painter)
-1814 England: William Blake, Percy Bysshe Shelly (Poets)
-1900 Vienna: Gustave Klimt (Painter)
-1940 Nice, Italy: Charlotte Salomon (Jewish artist)

Artistic Philosophy: Immortal Muse is chock full of artistic perspectives and shout-outs. I was thrilled for the mentioning my favorite artisanal recipe book : Mappae Clavicula: A Little Key to the World of Medieval Techniques. There is a somber but nicely executed arc regarding the persecution of Jews, beginning with the ~1394 Jewish migration from Paris and ending with Charlotte Salomon’s tragic plight during the Holocaust. There are plenty of moments like the quote below in which an artist is caught between following their muse (and creating something to be shared) and lacking the trust of the audience to care or judge them (or having their art taken away).

“Ana let the pages of the sketchpad fall back and handed it to [Charlotte]. She pressed it to her chest as if she’d never expected to have it returned.”

Author Stephen Leigh: The writer taps his own artistic experience for this. As a musician and creative writer, who also practices Aikido, it is obvious that he funneled a lot of his own muses in this. I half wonder if there is a bar called the Bent Calloipe in Cincinnati which he plays his guitar. I'll have to track him down for an interview (I was able to catch his book signing in 2014).  His Immortal Muse is recommended for historical fiction, art philosophy, alchemy buffs, and fantasy enthusiasts.

Immortal Muse book signing - Barnes & Noble Mason OH (3-8-2014)

View all my reviews

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Dyscrasia Fan-Fiction - The Village of the Blood Hills

The Village of the Blood Hills

by EEL Dec 2015 (this is the first ever fan fiction of Dyscrasia Fiction)
A.N. This story takes place after Spawn of Dyscrasia, in the flesh world that Helen and Lysis explore.

            As Helen surveyed the land, the inverse nature only appeared more grotesque. She swung her feet from where she sat on the wooden porch, partly built into the thick, wine colored blood flowing downstream. It terrified her to know what she really rested upon were the recycled corpses of the dryads, but, as they had told her earlier upon arriving to the tiny, secluded village, the flesh land had given them very little to build with. Therefore, when each nymph passed from age or battle, the bodies were reused for the sake of the community. The longer she remained in this demented land, she thought, the less it seemed to frighten her, despite her instincts screaming at her otherwise. As the time passed, searching for Master Echo, she had begun to assimilate culturally.
            Helen peered at the opposite bank, twisting a lock of stark-white hair around one finger. The flesh rose and fell in deep valleys, where the bottoms would gather blood as it trickled down the hills from disturbances in the thick layer of skin. Every once in a while, she could see the red sunlight glint off the fingernail formed cliffs in the distance, overlooking the lake where blood and tears met and turned the liquids rosy pink. There was an eye, too, buried into the side of a hill, bloodshot and the surrounding flesh purple and blue. Above it, a dryad’s tree struggled with the land to survive, roots digging into the eye socket, as the mossy green iris nearly disappeared while the pupil dilated.
            Yes, this world was strange.
            Helen gripped her staff. The wooden beads clanked as she stood up. Behind her, she could hear the dry, scratchy footsteps of a dryad, startling her from her daydreams.
            The dryad held up its hands in surrender, the long, gnarled, spindly fingers spread. Over her wooded body of twisted branches, strings of Spanish moss formed a thin covering, spotted with blue baby’s breath flowers. Huge, phosphorescent moss eyes glowed bright green. Around her neck were several polished and carved ivory necklaces.
            The nymph, Druantia, noticed Helen’s interest in the necklaces and the carvings. “Do you like them? There is a clan to the north who dig deep into the flesh in search of bone to carve and sell to other villages. It’s messy work, and costly, as the land never heals and turns into the murky swamplands of pus and blood and roughly covered skin, but it pays them well.”
            “The carvings are very pretty.” Helen scrutinized the small pictures on the bone. “What’s that?”
            “Oh, the creature?” Druantia peered at the serpentine, yet plant like monster depicted in mid-roar, the body of several Chromanti dangling from its mouth, others attempting to bring the creature down, only to be knocked back by the wide leaves. “It is the Venus, who live in the lake down river. It eats the flesh creatures foolish enough to get too close. If you watch long enough, you might be able to see it.”
            Helen pulled her cat pelt over her shoulders. She pointed in the opposing direction of the lake. “What about that, over there?”
            “The great mountain range is composed mostly of teeth of all sizes and shapes. Sometimes, you can find a gap in-between the larger teeth and live there. There is a village that trades with us jewelry and housewares, even just teeth with carved symbols. Here.” Druantia untied a leather pouch from her belt. Inside, Helen could see hundreds of teeth ranging from human size to that of a mouse. Each one was carved with intricate markings. Druantia took one from the bag. “This means spirit. It is a common symbol nowadays, to protect us as the Chromanti continue to wage war with the others in this world. Here, you can have it. To protect you on your travels.”
            Helen took the tooth. It appeared similar to the shape of a cat’s fang. Around the base and tip was a tiny, yet simple border, enclosing the elaborate and graceful swirls. She took the fang and began to work another braid into her hair, to put the fang in. “Thank you, Druantia.”
            “Anything. You kept the Queen of the Chromanti away from the village with your magic, you and your companion upon the giant ant. Do you know when Lord Lysis returns from scouting the villages downstream?”
            Helen shook her head. “No. He wishes to follow the trail further, see if Lord Echo is following the queen and her army. I don’t mind the wait, though. It gives me the chance to practice my magic, and add a few layers of protection around the village.” She closed her eyes, searching deep inside herself. Helen opened her scarred eye, surveying the land. She could see the wild, white fire forming a ring around the village, and the ghosts of the feline guardians enforcing her will. They patrolled the border, snarling at the quivering eye, digging their claws deep into the iris and tearing it apart. It would not surprise Helen if her spells would destroy the abomination.
            Her own cat spirit lay content by her side, purring and rubbing its tufted ears with one large paw. It was almost comical, such a creature capable of injury and of noble features acting like a common house cat. Helen smiled to herself.
            Then a small wisp of green caught her eye. She looked at her hair, where the fang now resided, tangled in her long locks. Apparently, it did contain magic of some sort, the shamrock colored energy wrapping around her like vines, keeping the darker forces at bay.
            Helen opened both eyes again, peering at the normal world. Instinctively, she turned to the grand lake. Overhead, a flesh reaper, its wings of stretched skin flapping sporadically, flew over the great expanse of tears. It released a skin-rendering screech.
            From under the lake, a deep rumble shook the landscape. Druantia smiled. “Just wait.” She said.
            The surface of the lake began to ripple. The flesh reaper sensed to danger it was in, and began to fly frantically towards the cliffs. However, from the lake sprang a gigantic plant springing from the depths, shaking blood and tears over the landscape. Its flat, green mouth, the inside pinky red from its recent kills, swooped up and snatched the flesh reaper from the sky. Behind her, Helen could hear the villagers stop to watch the spectacle.
            The Venus, once done with its meal, wasted no time folding up and resting on the bottom of the lake. The lake’s surface rippled; then began to settle.
            Yes, the land was strange, Helen thought to herself. But she had begun to grow used to the strangeness of it all.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Sword & Sorcery Anthologies - Jan-Feb 2016 Groupread

Sword & Sorcery - Anthologies Jan-Feb 2016 Groupread: Wow, don't assume that anthologies of Sword & Sorcery only form the genre's roots! 2015 had at least three quality anthologies surface which are featured in the banner. Officially, the group read is Jan-Feb 2016, but start whenever you want. Treat yourself to a Holiday gift! Time to find new and established authors.  Below are the banner/cover art credits.

Discussion folder is open (link)!

Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters edited by Janet E. Morris ; Designed by Roy Mauritsen with "St. George" engraving by W.Roffe after a medallion by W.Wyon, published in the Art Journal, 1850.
Weirdbook 31 edited by Doug Draa; Front cover Dusan Kostic (Stephen Fabian’s back cover is shown here) 2015
Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues edited by J.M. Martin cover by , Arman Akopian 2015.
Heroika 1 Dragon Eaters (Heroika, #1) by Janet E. Morris Weirdbook 31 by Doug Draa Blackguards Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues by J.M. Martin 

Having difficulty choosing?
(1) . The group read Poll results offer a representative selection (link)

(2) Also browse a partial collection in our bookshelf (this is not rigorously maintained but may spark an connection) : Books in the group shelf marked Anthologies. (Feel welcome to add or update the meta data).

(3) There are many. Check out these great listings by GW Thomas:
(a) Anthologies and contents of each - 1963-1985
(b) Anthologies and contents of each - 1986-2008

Weirdbook31 back cover by S. Fabian 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Happy Holidays 2015 - Snow Flake Trapping Experiment - Lindberg Greeting Card

Happy Holidays and New Year too!

This year's theme is “snowflakes” – real ones. Due to winter's erratic precipitation and the self-imposed theme, we had to start early on this design--no snow would be present the months preceding card distribution (Aug-Nov) so we started in Feb 2015.  We were eventually successful. The snow flake design displayed on the card are actual shapes of flakes harvested and imprinted in West Chester Ohio. It took ~4 attempts, two of which were ~4AM since that is when the snow came. If interested in trapping snowflakes and learning how the card was made, then follow this link/blog post detailing to how this Snow Flake Card was made (previous 17 years of cards are displayed on Lindberg Craft Blog).  

Capturing Snow flakes 

0) Collect Snow Trap equipment: namely glass microscope slides (available via Amazon) & hair spray; put them in a garage to cool.

1) You need to have snow falling at the "right" rate/density: snow needs to be falling at a slow but steady rate.  Too much snow, and they do not imprint separately...not enough, and you won't catch enough on on your "snow trap" described below. This took several rounds of testing.

2) The snow trap consists of microscope slides coated with hair spray (cheers to Aquanet, the champion of 1980's hair styles!).  Most hairsprays are dissolved polymer solutions that, once exposed to atmosphere, evaporate allowing the polymers harden. Using "hot" (i.e. room temperature) hairspray will melt fresh snow.  Using cold/old coatings will not work since they will not be too dry or too hard to be imprinted. The trick is to coat the slides right before use with pre-cooled hairspray. Keep hair spray and slides in a cold place (i.e. garage); freshly spray the slides right before a snow event and lay them out in the yard.

3) Weigh down the slides on card board otherwise, wind (that often comes with snow) will flip your adhesive coated slides over...and you'll have mulch/debris embedded through out (tested that too).

4) Keep the slides cold as the water melts & polymer hardens: after harvesting the snow flakes, place them in a cold garage. If the snow is coming down heavy, you'll have to retrieve the slides before they get too covered. You need to let the polymer harden and dry before taking them into a warm house. Wait for the snowflakes to melt/evaporate.

5) Image these via (a) a photographic macro-lens with the flakes are still present.... or (b) via a microscope after the flakes melted and evaporated (leaving their image in cast). You'll see that many flakes are only half embedded or overlap.  The camera used on the scope is monochrome which reflects the colorless imprint.  Simple bright-field imaging is used.

Monochrome Raw Data 

7) Faux-color in Photoshop & Font Battle:  These monochrome images are now doctored up in Photoshop with lots of false coloring, masking, and layering options; a number of the snowflakes are isolated atop a template provided from PSprint.com (one of many online printers screenshot below). Art Director Heidi may initiate a war over appropriate fonts, and you should expect to lose. My blocky carved ice letters were "not right for this project" and I was convinced to follow her advice to use a sleek font instead. Erin and Connor concur with mother as per their training. The next battle is with the computer to ensure the printing of CMYK reflects the RGB coloring; this is resolved via opening & exporting the template in Adobe Illustrator (see variety of blues/cyans below). The template is made read for printing.  A proof confirms all is well. 

Team Lindberg Update

2015 had Connor growing taller than his dad (he's now 6 feet tall at 13yrs of age, cripes). Erin, Connor and Dad were promoted in the Kyu ranks in Aikido (Mushinkan Dojo in Liberty Township under Sensei Domaschko...a great place to learn self-defense without striking/harming your opponent…highly recommended to all).  Heidi ramped up her photography hobby to the point she is beginning to take portraits for clients (family photos, Linkedin head shots, & pet portraits). Dad continued pressing his writing hobby and saw his first short story appear in an anthology Heroika: Dragon Eaters (17 authors chronicle the killing of serpents across as many centuries--Seth covered ancient Egypt); also audio books for Seth's dark fiction were released thanks to voice professionals found via Amazon's ACX service. 2016 promises to be fun, as Team Lindberg tackles crazy artistic endeavors!

Best to all, Seth, Heidi, Erin, and Connor (Shorty & Sweetie too)