Thursday, January 19, 2017

New Treasures: Lords of Dyscrasia by S.E. Lindberg

This was in part inspired by meeting John O'Neill at the World Fantasy Convention. That was a great time, especially when Black Gate received a WFC 2016 award! 

To clarify, the artwork (50+ illustrations and cover) for Lords of Dyscrasia were done by me, by for the sequel Spawn of Dysrcasia  I commissioned Ken Kelly.

Expect more Dyscrasia Fiction in 2017 as a bridging novel emerges, with cover art by Daniel Landerman. Daimones focuses on Helen's growth from an orphan into one of Lord Lysis's acolytes.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Skelos Delivers Weird Fiction & Dark Fantasy - Fiction, Essays, Art, and Reviews

Skelos (The Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy 1)Skelos by Mark Finn
S.E. rating: 5 of 5 stars

Skelos was an ambitious 2016 Kickstarter project. Successfully funded, it aims to be an outlet for literary essays, short stories, poem, novelettes, and reviews for Dark Fiction/Weird Fantasy. As a backer, I am very pleased. Somehow, it delivered all this in its first issue and a low price. Just ~12USD for the print version. In short, it is a highly recommend periodical to subscribe.

This reviews their first issue (Summer 2016 edition, Kickstarter funding seems to guarantee at least four issues). I thought I was well versed in Sword & Sorcery and Pulp/Weird Fiction but still learned more by Robert E. Howard and Arthur Machen. I discovered new authors too. In a collection so broad, not all the contents will please everyone…the menu is just too big. The quality is good, and anyone interested in dark fantasy will be pleased. There are lot of nice touches here, including cover art by Gustav Dore’, tons of interior art, and photographs of REH's drafts. There is no common theme, but this issue leans toward 'Vikings & Plagues.' My specific comments per contribution are detailed below.

Skelos is edited by Mark Finn, author of the World Fantasy Award-nominated Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard; Chris Gruber, editor of Robert E. Howard's Boxing Stories from the University of Nebraska Press; and Jeffrey Shanks, co-editor of the Bram Stoker Award-nominated The Unique Legacy of Weird Tales: The Evolution of Modern Fantasy and Horror. They are leading Skelos Press.

Short Fiction:
‘The Dead Unicorn’ –Scott Cupp (It is depressing as its title suggests)
‘Hungry –Charles Gramlich’ (A groaner sci-fi; it may be the only contribution that infused some sort of comedy, except for the single-frame cartoon ‘By Crom’. Also, it is one of the few to have a modern milieu)
‘The Night Maere’ –Scott Hannan (Classic horror in which your sickness may take a life of its own!)
‘The Nameless Tribe Drafts’ –Robert E. Howard (Included to complement an essay; very nice touch)
‘The Yellow Death’ –David Hardy (A plague doctor experiences lots of death)
‘The Burning Messenger’ –Matt Sullivan (Two Viking-esque tribes are pitted against one another…or something more cosmically evil; this started out with too many trope’s to promise much, but turned into a wonderfully dark tale)
‘Dangerous Pearl’ –Ethan Nahté (An average pirate/Lovecraftian adventure with a satisfying denouement)

‘The Drowned Dead Shape’ –Keith Taylor (This is an engaging zombie-Viking tale; it was so good, I stopped reading Skelos, tracked down Taylor’s Servant of the Jackal God: The Tales of Kamose, Archpriest of Anubis…devoured that….then came back to Skelos)
‘One Less Hand for the Shaping of Things’ –Jason Ray Carney (A Fairy Tale /Weird Romance; this had its moments; the title seemed misrepresentative; I didn’t think I liked it until I reached the ending and realized I was more attached to the characters than I realized)

(I enjoyed having the poetry interspersed; they are short and digestible, and their presence reinforces the literary history/approach to weird fiction.)

Diary of a Sorceress –Ashley Dioses
Midnight in the Ebon Rose Bower –K. A. Opperman
The Writer –Jason Hardy
The Casualty of the Somme –Frank Coffman
Totem –Pat Calhoun
Surtur –Kenneth Bykerk

‘Nameless Tribes: Robert E. Howard’s Anthropological World-Building in “Men of the Shadows”’ –Jeffrey Shank (This details REH’s evolution of his Hyborian Age, with his Drafts complementing the essay; I didn't know REH factored in the infamous continent Lemuria and California into his world)

‘From the Cosmos to the Test-Tube: Lovecraft, Machen, and the Sublime’ – Karen Joan Kohoutek (Loved this, in part because I am fascinated in how serious Weird Fiction writers [i.e. Edgar Allen Poe, RE Howard, Poe, Clark Ashton Smith, H.P. Lovecraft] took their craft serious and often philosophized on the “Art’ in Horror. I missed Arthur Machen’s Hieroglyphics book in my hobbyist studies and will be getting that).

‘A Sword-Edge Beauty as Keen as Blades: C.Moore and the Gender Dynamics of Sword and Sorcery’ –Nicole Emmelhainz (this had potential, but could have been even more provocative, the premise being that the Sword & Sorcery genre….often stereotyped correctly as misogynistic… has some feministic qualities; strangely, the essay focuses on C.L. Moore’s female Jirel of Joiry story in The Black God’s Kiss but somehow glosses over that C. stood for “Catherine”…yes a woman writer who had to use a pseudonym to get published, or work with her husband writer Henry Kuttner who could use expose his first name. I’m not sure how the author’s gender was left out of this essay; perhaps it was done on purpose, otherwise it would not be surprising that a woman may decide to represent other woman as strong. The only indication that a reader may know Catherine’s gender is by reading the endnote reference.)

Special Features:
'Skull Session I' –Editorial by Mark Finn (This sets the stage for Skelos’s approach to provided deep and broad based weird fiction)

'Grettir and the Draugr' –An illustrated tale by Samuel Dillon and Jeffrey Shanks (Wow, they squeezed in a mini-graphic novel; the artwork by Dillon outshined the story here, which was okay.)

'By Crom!' –Rachel Kahn (A single frame cartoon)

Reviews too!
How better to reinforce Weird Fiction’s longevity than to review contemporary works? There are ~8 books reviewed depth. Despite the review’s average rating, I was unaware of Swords Against Cthulhu’s publication and will likely track this one down.

View all my reviews

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Mad Shadows II: Dorgo the Dowser and The Order of the Serpent

I really enjoyed Joe Bonadonna's Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser (review) which appeals to dark fantasy and weird fiction fans; Dorgo really is a superb blend of mystery and adventure. It is my pleasure to help announce his recently released sequel Mad Shadows II: Dorgo the Dowser and The Order of the Serpent available now! Shown below is a treat, since cover artists Erika Szabo also created a map of Aerlothia and we have it here!

Synopsis: Dorgo the Dowser lives in a world where life is cheap and souls are always up for sale. Armed with a unique dowsing rod that can detect the residue of any supernatural presence or demonic entity, he can sense the vestiges of vile sorcery used in the commission of crimes. His adventures pit him against inter-dimensional creatures, friendly ghouls, raging cyclopes, psychopathic satyrs, and monstrous insects . . . not to forget a criminal underworld of duplicitous women and dangerous men.  This time around, Dorgo falls in love with a witch known as the Girl Who Loves Ghouls, battles creatures from another dimension, and meets one very special werecat named Crystal. It’s also the first time he hears about an ancient death cult known as the Order of the Serpent. Then, after a young woman is murdered and a deadly, dangerous book of arcane lore is stolen from her, Dorgo comes closer to learning more about this secret Order. But first he must battle both humans and demons in order to find and destroy “The Book of Echoes.”  Finally, Dorgo squares off against a horde of fiends born of dark sorcery when he tries to help a young girl who became trapped inside a powerful spell while attempting to destroy someone calling himself Ophidious Garloo.  Racing against time, Dorgo the Dowser uses every trick he knows to uncover the secret identity and learn the True Name of Ophidious Garloo -- the Undying Warlock who may very well be the leader of the Order of the Serpent.

More magic, murder, mystery and mayhem in this sequel to Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser. MAD SHADOWS II -- DORGO THE DOWSER AND THE ORDER OF THE SERPENT. . . Heroic Fantasy with a film noir edge. Available in paperback and Kindle editions from Amazon, Smashwords, CreateSpace, and other online booksellers.
Map of AERLOTHIA by cover-artist Erika M. Szabo
JOE BONADONNA : Joe Bonadonna is the author of the heroic fantasy Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, published by iUniverse; the space opera Three Against The Stars, published by Airship 27 Productions; and the sword & sorcery adventure, Waters of Darkness, in collaboration with David C. Smith, published by Damnation Books/Caliburn Press. His latest novel, Mad Shadows II: Dorgo the Dowser and The Order of the Serpent has just been published by the author. He also has stories appearing in such anthologies and shared-universes as: Azieran: Artifacts and Relics, published by Heathen Oracle; GRIOTS 2: Sisters of the Spear, published by MVmedia; Heroika:Dragon Eaters; Poets in Hell; Doctors in Hell, and the forthcoming Pirates in Hell — all published by Perseid Press; and Sinbad: The New Voyages, Volume 4, published by Airship 27 Productions. His next novel, The MechMen of Canis-9, is scheduled to be published by Airship 27. He will have stories appearing soon in the shared-world anthologies Sha’Daa, in collaboration with Shebat Legion; and The Lost Empire of Sol, in collaboration with David C. Smith. In addition to his fiction, Joe has written a number of articles and book reviews for Black Gate online magazine, including the stories Queen of Toads, and The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum (from Mad Shadows 1), both of which can be read for free on Black Gate’s website.

You can find Joe on Facebook and Google+ , otherwise visit Joe’s Amazon Author’s page (link)  / or check out his blog, at:

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Goodreads Sword and Sorcery Group - Newcomers Guide

Interested in participating in the Goodreads's Sword and Sorcery group? Click on the above link to join. Here is a starter's guide:

Be civil and leave your inner savage... is our group's mantra.

Who is there and why? Readers, authors, illustrators, and editors discuss Sword & Sorcery books and related media (movies, comics, blogposts, etc.).

Goodread guidelines: This group is a daughter of the parent which has provided:

Spamming / over zealous promotions: If you decide to advertise, please do so at an appropriate frequency after reading the S&S group guidelines 

Discussions: Some confusion is normal for new comers since we have parallel conversations going on simultaneously, and some members bounce between them. Many conversations are spread out over years. Some feedback:

1) Please do initiate conversations!

2) If possible, start conversations in a folder/thread already dedicated to the topic....but don't worry too much. I suggest browsing the ~14 top folders pretty much reveal where to go. Many times members will spawn a deep discussion in the Currently Reading folder; then we try to redirect people to dedicated areas

Here are links to some of the key folders:

Note the Search tool... in the right hand side of the screen on the group homepage (above the moderator pictures); that is an easy way to find books/authors/topics of interest to you

Groupreads are staggered: 2 months periods...and two topics each. About half way thru, we'll poll to identify the topics for the next period. Final results are emailed ~1week prior, but the polling status can be seen on the group's homepage at anytime (bottom).

We never delete/archive discussions (Groupread topics or otherwise), so many previous discussions are still available ... and its perfectly fine to continue/resurrect those even if they are years old.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Lumley's Hero of Dreams - Review by S.E.

Hero of DreamsHero of Dreams by Brian Lumley
S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sword and Mythos fiction- too Entertaining to be Horrific

Brian Lumley’s Hero of Dreams is an overt mashup of Lovecraft’s Dreamcycle and Leiber’s Fafred and Gray Mouser series. The premise is great and reinforces Lumley’s Khash series written in a similar vein (i.e. fun Sword & Sorcery adventure in a Weird-Fiction, Cthulhu-esque world). The stories are too fun for a reader to feel horror or tension, but the milieu is enjoying to explore. Like Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories The Swords of Lankhmar, the Scooby-Doo vibe emanates from the story: there are horrors show, but the story is too fun to be scared.

One could argue that horrific landscapes need to be fun or they can’t be enjoyed at length (i.e. H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath comes to mind, a rare novel length adventure that is really difficult to read…even by die-hard weird fiction readers desperate to learn more of Pickman!). Hero of Dreams is reminiscent of Michael Shea’s Nifft the Lean stories; Hero of Dreams somehow makes reading about the First Ones and Eldritch Gods really easy.

Your tour guides are the waking-world dreamers David Hero and Eldin (and their woman side kick, and Dreamland native Aminza). Ostensibly, by waking day, David Hero is “really” an artist and Eldin (Leonard Dingle) a professor; these characteristics are shed in Dreamland. They have superior strength and dexterity versus the native dream things, but are not as powerful as the god-like First Ones or skilled in magic like the sorcerers they stumble upon. There are plenty of call-outs to Cthulhu and Lumley’s own Titus Crow (Lumley’s weird fiction character, i.e., from The Transition of Titus Crow). They come into direct contact with the elders and anthropoid termites as they quest for the three magic wands (with ties to Cthulhu no less).

My edition is a 1986 one from W. Paul Ganley. He printed was a conduit for Lumley into the US Market, printing mush of his work first before large publishers reprinted his works. He also had them illustrated. Jean Corbin illustrated this one and the dozen illustration do add to the adventure, with compelling renditions of night-gaunts and Ter-men.

Lumley’s Dreamland Series:
1-Hero of Dreams
2-Ship of Dreams
3-Mad Moon of Dreams
4-Iced on Aran

Hero of Dreams by Brian Lumley Ship of Dreams by Brian Lumley Mad Moon of Dreams by Brian Lumley Iced on Aran and Other Dream Quests by Brian Lumley

Lumley's Khash series, Tales of the Primal Land:
The Compleat Khash: Volume One: Never a Backward Glance
The Compleat Khash: Volume Two: Sorcery In Shad
(reprinted later in a series starting with Tarra Khash: Hrossak!: Tales of the Primal Land)

View all my reviews

Friday, December 16, 2016

Jan-Feb: Staveley's Unhewn Throne and Anthologies - Groupreads

Jan-Feb 2017 Groupreads Topics have been decided! Please join us in the Sword and Sorcery group on goodreads as we tackle:

(Link to ) Anthologies Folder : Yes this is our annual tradition of delving into new and old short stories that are at the heart of the genre.

(Link to) Staveley's Unhewn Throne Folder : And its time for novel reading too!

Masthead Banner Credits
Representing “Anthologies”: Raphael Lacoste’s cover for the Beneath Ceaseless Skies’s Issue #209, Eighth Anniversary Double-Issue — September 29, 2016. Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #209 by editor Scott H. Andrews

Representing “Unhewn Throne”: Richard Anderson’s cover for Brian Staveley’s The Providence of Fire (second in the Unhewn Throne Series).
The Providence of Fire (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, #2) by Brian Staveley Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #209 by Scott H. Andrews 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Holiday Card 2016 - Promise and Peace

May every sunrise
hold more Promise,
and every sunset
hold more Peace

 - Irish blessing

Happy New Years!

Team Lindberg 2016

To moderate embarrassment, we show Erin and Connor sans hats

2016 has been interesting, with Erin getting her driver's license and Connor growing fast enough to make his father feel small. Seth continues with his writing hobby, this year appearing and moderating on author panels for the first time (at the World Fantasy Convention); he has a few works in progress that should appear next year. Seth and Connor continue to enjoy Aikido under Domaschko Sensei (it's a great martial art for disarming folk without inflicting harm, and tossing family members). Heidi has been continuing to build her photography portfolio, and this year's card features one of her snapshots from an angel in Spring Grove Cemetery (Cincinnati OH). Some runner-up options are below:

West Chester Cemetery

West Chester Cemetery

Spring Grove Cemetery
The angel theme echoes of past angel cards from 2007 and 2011 (below); the sunset/sunrise key in 2012 and 2013 (MMXII and MMXIII). See all cards since 1998 (link).

2007 Lindberg Card
2011 Lindberg Card
With Heidi's meticulous scoping out cemeteries at various times & lighting conditions, the natural shading on the main subject was all taken care of (for many angels). The background didn't have our desired clouds, so some simple masking/merging with another photo in Photoshop fixed that. Then all we had to do is agree on some artificial color casting. Obviously, we needed to have a sunset/sunrise feel to match the interior blessing, which we eventually achieved.

Printing / Proofs / Traditional Font Disputes

Heidi always wins the font discussion. She cut my Roman Numerals (shown in the above Photoschop screen, and used previously on many cards) and then offered her keen eye on the faux sunlight. In addition to tackling the RGB to CMYK conversion, it's always best to get a proof in one's hand.  We print from which has a proofing option. It takes ~1-2 weeks to print/receive/review a proof, so much of November involved the Lindberg's bickering over subtle colors. Turns out, Heidi steered this too.

Cheers to all, and may everyone embarrass their friends and family! 
Lindberg kids loving their hats!