Friday, August 27, 2021

Sept-Oct Groupreads - Brackett and Andersson


The Swords & Sorcery Group on Goodreads

This announces our next two month group reads. All are welcome to join us:

Sept-Oct Groupreads

A) Leigh Brackett - link to discussion, focus on the Skaith series
B) C. Dean Andersson - link to discussion, memorial tribute focus on Hel

Banner Credits
"The Reavers of Skaith" cover art by Chris Achilleos 1985 (Leigh Brackett)
"Hounds of Skaith" cover art by James Ryman 2008 (Leigh Brackett)
"Warrior Witch of Hel" cover art by Boris Vallejo 1985 (C.Dean Andersson writing as Asa Drake)

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Exalted Blasphemies - Fan Made Expansion for Deep Madness Boardgame

This is a portal page to a variety of other posts, all regarding my immersion into the Depp Madness universe. Phil Blake, an (the?) uber fan of Deep Madness (Diemension Games), painter of miniatures, and game addict had a vision: make playable scenarios for all the epic monsters" from the Kickstarter Campaign who did not get a proper one. 

For those not familiar, Kickstarter enables Diemension Games to crowdfund a cosmic-horror dungeon crawler; extra monsters (i.e. bosses) were designed as miniatures as stretch goals (bonuses). However, so many Epic Monsters were funded, they were birthed without scenarios to play them. Of course, the bosses could be inserted into existing scenarios, but they did get specific scenarios designed for them!

Phil Blake championed the fan community to get a team together, and I played a small part: writing intro stories for two Epic Monsters scenarios to fill the gap. Many others helped Phil Blake, and he has been gracious in communicating thanks to all. This post reveals how to access the entire expansion. My stories can be read in the other two posts revealed today:

Deep Madness - Scenario Guide, Interview & Book Review

As it turns out, I have already worked with Phil Blake to create the Deep Madness scenario guide (Scenario Guides version 8, link): How many scenarios are there across all the official expansions? Where does one start? How does the story develop...and which ones feature your favorite epic monster? The guide has it all.

Alas, my OCD extended further in the past. I had already cornered Deep Madness writer Byron Leavitt for a Black Gate magazine interview.  This goes into his creative process, his cancer challenges, and his work with the Diemension Games team. Also, I reviewed his Deep Madness inspired novel Shattered Seas.

Here's how to access and print the entire Exalted Blasphemies Expansion

I'm simply reposting the instructions Phil Blake came up with. Generally, if you are a fan of the game (or plan to become one) you are invited to join the Deep Madness Fans on Facebook ... and secondarily the Board Game Geek community. In both places, you'll find all the scenario guides and expansions. 

Just want to print a PDF yourself at home? Grab the PDF here: 

Want to print a hardcover via Lulu?  Follow Phil's instructions (copy/pasted from his post):

This is the Interior content of Exalted Blasphemies, designed for use for professional printing in hardback. You will also require the separate cover file that can be found here:

link to cover on Facebook Files

Instructions on how to get it professionally printed are found further below:
Exalted Blasphemies is a fan-made expansion for Deep Madness, focussed around granting specific scenarios for the Epic monsters that where available as paid add-ons during the KS campaigns. I hope people in turn get more life out of these epic monsters and enjoy the selection of diverse scenarios and stories contained within this free expansion, and the greatest reward would be seeing photos of people playing the scenarios or commenting on the stories.
Hardcover Printing Instructions for Lulu
Since this is a free, fan-made book, I am not morally or legally allowed to set up a print on demand distribution. Which means you will need to set up an account with a print on demand company and upload files for printing (for personal use only). The directions I list below are for the company Lulu, but you are free to use any print on demand company you choose.
Go to and create an account.
2. Under the CREATE tab, click the PRINT BOOKS option.
3. Click the button START YOUR PRINT BOOK
4. Enter your login credentials
5. In the START YOUR PROJECT section, choose PRINT BOOK
6. In the SELECT YOUR GOAL section, choose PRINT YOUR BOOK. (Do NOT select Publish your book for sale on Amazon. You will get sued. 🙂 )
7. In the BOOK DETAILS section, enter a project title of your choice. I recommend Exalted Blasphemies. Enter a language and CATEGORY, which is required.
8.Click the DESIGN YOUR PROJECT button at the bottom of the page to proceed to the Design page
9. In the INTERIOR FILE UPLOAD section, upload the file named "Exalted Blasphemies Interior Final PDF"
10. Wait for the file to upload and normalize. This can take a few minutes. Be patient and get yourself a cold beverage.
11. When the upload finishes, you will see some warnings. Like most warnings in life, feel free to ignore these.
In the BOOK SPECIFICATIONS section, the BOOK SIZE AND PAGE COUNT should already be pre-filled at US letter and 34 pages, respectively.
12. In the INTERIOR COLOR section, choose COLOR PREMIUM for the best quality color.
13.In the PAPER TYPE section, choose 80# COATED WHITE for the best paper quality.
14. In the BOOK BINDING section, choose HARDCOVER. Feel free to choose a different binding if that floats your boat.
15. In the COVER FINISH section, choose GLOSSY or MATTE, your choice.
16. Wait a moment for the PRINT COST to load. For me it was almost £12. This is a printing fee for Lulu, and I do not receive a penny of this, nor does Diemension Games.
17.In the DESIGN YOUR COVER section, make sure the UPLOAD COVER FILE option is selected.
Upload the file named "Cover Exalted Blasphemies PDF"
After a minute, the PREVIEW will load. This preview will give you a basic idea of what the book will be like, but it is just a preview and not super-high quality. (note the final picture of Forsaken does not show on the preview but will still print.)
18.When you are ready, click the REVIEW BOOK link at the bottom.
19.This brings you to a page where you can review the final specifications. Click the checkbox next to CONFIRM BOOK SPECIFICATIONS AND FILES
20.Click the ADD TO CART button when it becomes enabled
21.Click the CART icon at the top of the page and make the purchase. The shipping for me was around £3.50, but of course that will vary depending where you are located. (Also keep an eye out for discount codes on the home page.)
22. Feel free to print a copy for yourself or your friends, but DO NOT PRINT COPIES FOR SALE.
Note: The hardback book you receive from Lulu will not be perfect. There might be alignment issues with the binding, scratches, the interior margins might be tight, and the endsheets will be a boring white. That being said, it will still kick ass!
A massive thanks goes to Fabio Faletti for his many, many hours (and so many edits) to make this document as graphically pleasing as possible. Just don't mention the Forsaken.
Seth Lindberg and Saamm Dean Dean for contributing their artistic talent to provide additional stories and share that burden as well as additional proof reading.
Oscar Bok and Mark Turner for their time in playtesting these horrific scenarios to make sure things played smoothly, made sense and asking all those great questions.
and also to Byron Leavitt and the rest of the DM team for generally providing support, sharing files and keeping the community engaged.
Lastly credit to Ken Meyri whom paved the way in organising fan made content to be professionally printed, and whose instructions to achieve this I shamelessly stole.

Dimension Sickness by S.E. Lindberg

Another introductory story for the Exalted Blasphemies - Fan-Made Expansion for Diemension Game's Deep Madness board game; designed for the Epic Monster: Dimension Rift. Phil Blake championed the Expansion set, and there will be another post for how to access/download/print that.  For now, enjoy a short dose of horror by S.E..... get lured into Deep Madness.

Overview: Exalted Blasphemies Fan-Made Expansion for Deep Madness
Hunger Pains (for Omega Ravenous Epic Monster) Story
Dimension Sickness (for Dimension Rift Epic Monster) Story   <-- You  are here

Game Overview for "Dimension Sickness" (featuring Epic Monster Dimension Rift)

Pressure fluctuations triggered alarms from the Lower Mining deck. You go to inspect for fissures inside Shaft-1, the tube designed for transporting fluidized minerals from the ocean floor to Kadath Facility’s underbelly. With the tube evacuated, the pressure readings should have equilibrated, but they vary erratically. Perhaps sensors needed replacing. Having donned protective gear, you open the inspection hatch. Corrupt dampness wafts out, somehow infiltrating your suit. Frost spawns on your eyebrows and noise hairs. The threshold sparkles, coated with angular crystals. Inserting your head, you see the interior appear like a split geode.

Despite all this beauty, you feel nauseous. Nor do you trust what you see. Kadath’s lead engineer, Edgar Kayce, had warned you about Dimension Sickness that spawned from Dimension Rifts. All those working the Lower Levels succumbed to hallucinations eventually. Unearthing strange minerals from nature’s hidden depths threatened to uncover sentient earth. Edgar claimed to have repaired invasive rifts before and created traps to ensnare the octopian creatures responsible. You have yet to employ those. The cyclopean hoarfrost coating this umbilical tube has you considering Edgar’s words and traps. In any event, inspecting this channel would be treacherous. The sharp crystals may pierce your gear. The scents toxic. Perhaps you should retrieve a trap out of precaution.

Yet you are pulled inside before you do so, lured into the darkness by a mysterious attractor. You stumble into the tube. Crushing the crystals emits dissipating vapours. Your eyes dilate as the doses of gas snake through your sinuses. By design, this mine shaft should be linear and clear of fouling. It was twisted now, curled like an intestine, and the crystals seemed to grow before your eyes. Dizzy, but drawn downward, you begin crawling. Your light dims as your lighting frosts over. Your face-shield blurs with glistening fog. You struggle to discern the chaos in front of you.

Suddenly, the crisp vision of a tentacled mass jolts your senses. Adrenaline races through your veins. Your heart races. Frantically back-pedaling, constantly relying on the walls for support, you arrive back at the hatch. Someone extends a hand into Shaft-1 to tug you out. Curses, Edgar was right!

Slapping sounds compel you to look back. A whipping tentacle breaching the hatch gropes the chamber. Wherever it contacts, crystals nucleate. Some part of you wants to help it, to pull it into the chamber as someone helped you. You crave the comforting embrace of mystery. You long to be bejewelled in cosmic crystals. Then, your partner grabs your shoulder and drags you to safety, and shoves one of Edgar’s traps into your hands. Time to act.

A Dimension Rift has occurred, threatening to engulf the whole facility, as reality itself is torn asunder. Can you disrupt the rift long enough to slay the creature behind it or will you all be dragged into an eternal darkness of twisted worlds? Combat the mental sickness and utilize Edgar Kayce’s traps to repel the horror of the deep, combat and seal the Dimension Rift.

Hunger Pains - By S.E. Lindberg

Introductory story for the Exalted Blasphemies - Fan-Made Expansion for Diemension Game's Deep Madness board game; designed for the Epic Monster: Omega Ravenous. Phil Blake championed the Expansion set, and there will be another post for how to access/download/print that.  For now, enjoy a short dose of horror by S.E..... get lured into Deep Madness.

Game Overview for "Hunger Pains" (featuring Epic Monster Omega Ravenous)

Dome Three Mess Hall closed at 10 p.m.. It will not open to employees again until 4 a.m.. That is hours from now! Stomach growling, mouth salivating, head aching, you are starving. Who has hours to wait? In minutes, hunger promises to spark some desperate, preternatural urge to hunt. Recalling the Mess Hall has vending machines, you stride there boldly in pajamas. Slippers beat the vacated corridors, footsteps echoing over buzzing fluorescent lights.

The vaulted chamber of the Mess Hall rivals a gymnasium. Three trains of tables run parallel across the greater length. Each line has ten tables positioned end-to-end, and each table spans six feet. White linens adorn them. The Hall is devoid of life, as empty as your stomach. Where are those vending machines?

What’s this? The tabletops are not flat. Gossamer veils cover amorphous heaps. Perhaps the staff has prepared a special breakfast—the cloths must cover hundreds of chafing dishes. Who needs vending machines if there is a buffet available? Sudden abdominal cramps compel you to collapse. Crawling, while cradling a roiling tummy, you approach a table. Grasping for support, the cloth gets in the way. It’s not linen. Tugging on it more, a blanket-sized gauze pad spills onto the floor. Red gore streaks the shroud.

From the opposite end of the chamber, wet slaps demand attention. Peering around the endcap, a humanoid creature can be seen in the distance, its ribcage split open like a turned mouth, a tentacle-like tongue flapping from a malformed head. Red gore splatters as it mounts a table. It pays no attention to you. Whatever it is, it is hungry; and it has a carcass to eat.

Food! Swelling organs push against your ribcage, buckling the sternum. Pain lances through each rib as they strain. Rolling in the fetal position fails to alleviate the pressure. Your heart rate plummets abruptly. An aura of peace stills any panic. Four more beasts have joined the first. As the pack grows, any reluctance to rise wanes. Pain and mental resistance recedes.

Standing, the tabletop comes into view. Food is not on the menu. A splayed deceased miner lies supine and naked. A recent, unfinished autopsy left its raw internals exposed. This not a cafeteria table. This is a gurney. This is no Mess Hall, but a mortuary. How did you get here?

The ravenous creatures across the Mess Hall do not radiate fear now. Dozens feed in a cluster, focused and frenzied. As they aggregate, fear lessens. They do not appear like grotesque demons anymore. They are familiar and share a common hunger, an urge to consume. Succulent, human meat beckons. It looks delicious! You lean into the offerings. A cannibal is born.

“Intrusion Alert!” the intercom sounds as emergency lights strobe. “Dome Three, Level Two, Mess Hall. Alert!” A band of investigators armed with crowbars, axes, and utility knives breach the chamber interrupting the feast to attack…

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Tribute to C. Dean Andersson


Black Gate Article Posted Regarding:



July 5th, 2021 marked the passing of CDean Andersson (a.k.a, Asa Drake). Christopher Fulbright (author, a journalist turned technical writer, and owner/webmaster of Realms of Night) posted a moving tribute this month online.

Andersson had his fame with both horror fans and the fantasy crowd for his Sword & Sorcery heroine Bloodsong.

This Black Gate post honors him by combining a review of his Bloodsong Saga (a.k.a. Hel Series) with a reposting of a 2014 interview regarding his creative process (with 3x illustrations he made to complement his written art, shared below).

We may never see the fourth installment (Valkyries in Hel)...sigh. Peace to C. Dean Andersson.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Ernst Haeckel interviewed about "Mystics"

I have a guest post over in the Library of Erana, and it all supports the release of Mystics in Hell.  Several authors will be posting author & character-perspective interviews for their contributions. My contribution is "Fool's Gold."

New to Hell? You may want to check out Joe Bonadonna's Black Gate article: PANIC AT THE INFERNO: MYSTICS IN HELL, PUBLISHED BY PERSEID PRESS that delves into this current collection.

There are formally >20 books in the satirical/dark-fantasy Heroes in Hell series, starting in 1986 and stalling in 1989 to be picked up again by author and champion Janet Morris. In 2011 she jumpstarted the series again with Lawyers in Hell. So Lawyers would serve as a natural starting point, but readers can jump in with any volume. Most readers select a book/theme that resonates with them. Each theme emphasizes historical events/characters. Mystics is appropriately full of religious zealots and devotion to deities.

Here is a link and teaser of what to expect in the guest post:

Interviews from Hell – Ernst Haeckel/Seth Lindberg Aug 2021 

Welcome to the Infernal Interview Service. Today we feature one of the characters and his writer from the acclaimed Heroes in Hell series. Ernst Haeckel (and his writer Seth) feature in Mystics in Hell.

What puts you above all the other self-proclaimed ‘mystics’ in Hell?

EH: Some consider me a mystic, but I am more of a scientist who searches for spiritual truths (I am certain you have read my treatise The Riddle of the Universe at the Close of the Nineteenth Century). Lately, I am wrapped up with mystics of the hierophant and alchemical type. See, there is a gold rush in hell! King Midas swallowed the Philosopher’s Stone and transmutes food into gold. He’s minting the promising new gastro-currency: buttcoin. I know, that sounds absurd, but the economy and nature of Hell is cruel. Anyway, the damned Forty-Niners are digging through excrement in attempts to get rich. The imprisoned Thoth, the Egyptian god of mysticism, has charged me to retrieve the Philosopher’s’ Stone. With it he can regain control of the afterlife, rescue me from Hell. So there is hope for me.

Ernst Haeckel

Monday, August 2, 2021

The Green Knight Movie - review by SE

I just saw The Green Knight movie. The trailer was awesome. The reviews were promising..... but it was terrible. Beyond cinematics, it was not engaging, it was slow and incoherent. Sigh ..... stick with Excalibur (1980s), Clive Owen's "King Arthur", or even Guy Ritchie's Legend of the Sword. Well...there is always Monty Python's Holy Grail too.

Before I jump in, you may want to check out author Sean Poage's take. He is much more knowledgable than I am about the Gwain legends, having written one of his own too (The Retreat to Avalon, more on that below). Interestingly, he and his wife hit the movies as I did with mine (i.e., a post covid, first-time-back-to-movie-post-covid-wave-1 date). Here's his review of Gawain's legends and movie (link).

We are not treated to many Sword & Sorcery movies, let alone ones that promise some sense of intellectual content. So I was looking forward to this. As part of my grieving process.... I will go on a small rant.

Promises to be Broken

The intro sets up very clear "rules of engagement" (as revealed in the trailer). The Green Knight challenges a knight to strike him, and a year later he will return the wound to the challenger. Gawain cuts off the Green Knight's head...and a year later must confront the Knight again (who survived).

Bait and Switch Conflict

Although I am cool with a man-vs-self conflict..... the trailer, title, and beginning all promise a man-vs-man/creature (Gawain vs. Green Knight) conflict (which is not at the forefront). But let's say you get past that as you begin witnessing multiple, slow side-quests.

Incongruent Rules of the Game & Meaningless Fluff

The visuals were awesome. The pace couldn't have been slower....which I would have been okay with if the "rules of the game" were followed. Remember the super clear rules of the beginning? To Heck with clear rules going forward. One could literally cut the entire middle ~1.5hrs out (anything between the initial and final Green Knight interactions) and not change the impact of the climax. Actually, I think I would have loved this movie if were only 30min long.

Source Material?

Many claim that you can look beyond the "mysterious" presentation of the journey, and delight in a portrayal of the source material. Well, the movie should stand alone of course. Also, two of the best vignettes were not based on existing Gawain legends (the Saint Winifred tale is arguable a UK-thing, but it was never Gawain specific...and the cool, naked giants were just a throw in for fun and not tied to the story or myths....if you want to see a visionary story in which the giants are tied to the story, watch the anime or movie versions of Attack on Titan).

(below explains more with some obtuse/minor spoilers)

Gawain has several important items (sash, ax, jingle-bell, and fox) to take on a journey to reach the Green Knight's location. He loses sight of said items, and they reappear and disappear in ways that are incongruent across ~3-4 side quests/challenges/tests. Did he earn them back? Just stumble across them? How/why did they come back to him? You should care. Gawain doesn't.

The handling of the "rules" didn't feel intentionally done to be mysterious or engaging. It felt like the producers stitched together a few different historical legends of Gawain's journey/tests, and they did not harmonize the meaning/rules across them.

Frankly, if the conflict is indeed "man-vs-self" then Gawain strangely doesn't really seem affected/changed....nor does he seem surprised that his key items come back to him for no clear purpose... and he doesn't even seem to be in denial or fretting about his impending duel. What seemed clear is that the ~3-4 side quests (~1.5hrs of the 2hr movie) were actually pointless (they did not build-up to the climax or develop the character) and they were also full of non-sequitur events.

The Retreat to Avalon

So what should we do about scratching the Arthurian Legen itch? Monty Python's Holy Grail would have us "Run Away, Run Away!" Well, I recommend retreating..... ie to read Sean Poage's "The Retreat to Avalon" which will likely leave you excited about Gawain and Arthurian legends! Sean Poage is an accomplished author with a knack for storytelling.

Book Blurb:

Fifteen hundred years have turned history into legend…

After three generations of struggle against ruthless invaders, Britain has finally clawed its way back within reach of peace and prosperity. Across the sea, Rome is crumbling under an onslaught of barbarian attacks, internal corruption and civil war. Desperate for allies, Rome’s last great emperor looks to Britain and the rising fame of her High King, Arthur.

Arthur believes the coming war is inevitable, but many are opposed. Dissent, intrigue and betrayal threaten to tear the fragile British alliance apart from within, while the enemies of Britain wait for the first sign of weakness.

Meanwhile, Gawain, a young warrior craving fame, is swept up in Arthur’s wake as the king raises an army. While Gawain’s wife and kin face their own struggles at home, the young warrior finds himself taking on more than he bargained for, and heading into the greatest battle his people have faced in generations.

The Retreat to Avalon is the exciting beginning of the historical fiction trilogy The Arthuian Age, introducing readers to the origins of King Arthur and the world he lived and fought for.