Thursday, December 22, 2022

Happy Holidays, from Orphan Maker?! Dyscrasia Fiction Emerges From the Skulll #9

S.E. Lindberg shown here in intern garb & magical holiday helm of hope +1, tickled with his being blessed with a story in Issue #9 of Tales From the Magician's Skull

Dyscrasia Fiction debuts in Tales from the Magician's Skull #9 with "Orphan Maker."

Kickstarter backers are getting their copies now, right before Xmas 2022. Pre-orders for the general public can be done at Goodman Games - Issue 9 link! Obviously, I am honored to be in the same volume as James Enge, Dave Ritzlin, Nathan Long, and others (the full table of contents is below). This publication builds on Dyscrasia Fiction 2022's appearances in DMR's Terra Incognita and Rogues in the House's Book of Blades anthology 

2022 offered a full year of writing/networking: being the Event Coordinator for the 2022 GenCon Writers Symposium & moderating several panels, debuting on the Rogues in the House Podcasts, surviving an internship for the Skull (which earned me the titles of both "the only named intern" and "intern of the year").  Heck at GenCon, in addition to hanging out with Matt John from RitH (and Deane), I even got to chill with S&S/Weird Fiction guru Jason Ray Carney (who, with Chuck Clark, edit/publish Whetstone; Issue #2 of that has a Dyscrasia Fiction entry too). 

Previous posts captured videos of the GCWS 2022 panels & podcast and more:

  1. The Skull from Tales from the Magician's Skull roams the Exhibit Hall
  2. Moderating Sorcery & Sorcery, Horror, Pulp, and Game Panels
  3. Rogues in the House Podcast (with the Skull)
  4. Conan IP Owner and the Board Game - Playing with Rogues
GenCon and Intern Translocation Mystery Reveal
Many of the GenCon events were captured in a photo recap inside Issue #9. There is also a touching side-bar farewell to the only "named intern" who found himself embroiled in other traps/opportunities (that mystery is, in truth, me evolving from being on the organizing committee for the GCWS.... to being the Chair of GCWS 2023. More to come on that early next year as the Translocation Process completes.) 

One of the best honors of getting accepted into the Skull is being blessed with interior art. You'll have to get the PDF or print for high-res versions, but Samuel Dillion and Aaron Kreader created these for "Orphan-Maker"!

Tales from the Magician's Skull #9 (click to order)


Three Festivals by James Enge 

A Tale of Morlock Ambrosius 

Kalx, brazen defender of the city, had left a trail of ruins in his wake. Morlock followed the trail until he passed the border of the city — the line that Zlynth had called the pomerium. By the time Morlock caught up to the brazen monster, Kalx was already outlined in scarlet flames, fighting a cloud of Furies. 

The Raven-Feeder’s Tower by Philip Brian Hall

The skeleton was held upright by a tall stake driven deep into the ground, to which support its spine was fixed by leather bonds. The breastplate covered bare white ribs and the helmet’s visor protected merely the empty eye-sockets of a morbidly-grinning skull. 

Blue Achernar by Tais Teng 

An Homage to Clark Ashton Smith 

Lady Magida had slept in the tombs of magicians so feared that their names had never been written down, walking into their death-dreams, leafing through their grimoires that had long ago turned to dust. When she strode through the necropolises the ghûls fled like whimpering hares.

Pawns’ Gambit by Nathan Long 

A Tale of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser 

The monks howled at this violation of their sacred place, and Mouser saw he had been incorrect when he had thought them all unarmed. From every sleeve sprang a dagger, and they held them high as they rushed to encircle him. 

Orphan Maker by S.E. Lindberg 

“It is her time to sacrifice,” Ingrid explained while adjusting her mother’s hair. “Ma resisted. She escaped from the Bleeding Tree.” She laughed while shrugging. “But her blood is stronger than her faith!”

The Necromancer and the Forgotten Hero by D.M. Ritzlin 

The wound was still fresh, but not a drop of blood escaped from it. Hyallbor wondered what sort of necro- mantical energies were sustaining him. 

The Glass Dragon by David Gullen 

Rhayder staggered grey-skinned from the mouth of a labyrinth of seventy-seven turns wielding a felling axe with a head of star-forged iron. 


The Monster Pit by Terry Olson

Enter the monster pit! Down here in the pit, we provide tabletop RPG fans with playable DCC RPG game statistics for the creatures in this issue of Tales From The Magician’s Skull.

The Skull Speaks by The Skull Himself

Edited by: Howard Andrew Jones
Cover Illustration: Sanjulian
Interior Illustrations by: Chris Arneson, Randy Broecker, Samuel Dillon, Jason Edwards, Tom Galambos, Doug Kovacs, Aaron Kreader, Brad McDevitt, and Stefan Poag

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Shattered Dreams by Ulff Lehmann - Review by SE

Shattered Dreams by Ulff Lehmann (Crossroad Press, March 16, 2018)


As reviewed on Black Gate Dec 2, 2022: 


Shattered Walls, Book 4 of Ulff Lehmann’s Light in the Dark Book series, released this November, 2022. This post reviews Book 1, Shattered Dreams, to lure dark fantasy readers into the Dark. Do you like Tolkien-esque worlds with a unique perspective, perhaps sprinkled with Grimdark battle and horror? Shattered Dreams will whet your appetite. It’s a fresh, dark spin on traditional fiction.  You’ll be thrown into a mire of fractured perspectives and nightmares, and Lehmann controls the process of refining it all with a host of characters (the cursed Drangar Ralgon stealing the limelight). You’ll enjoy this if you enjoy mysteries, brutal melee, and Elvin worlds.

Shattered Dreams Cover Blurb

Epic Fantasy filled to the brim with Grimdark Reality.

If one looks too long into the abyss, the abyss looks back. Drangar Ralgon has been avoiding the abyss’s gaze for far too long and now he turns to face it. For a hundred years the young kingdom of Danastaer has thrived in peace. Now their northern neighbor, mighty Chanastardh, has begun a cunning invasion. Thrust into events far beyond his control, the mercenary Drangar Ralgon flees his solitary life as a shepherd to evade the coming war and take responsibility for his crimes.

In Dunthiochagh, Danastaer’s oldest city, the holy warrior Kildanor uncovers the enemy’s plans for invasion. As ancient forces reach forth to shape the world once more, the sorceress Ealisaid wakes from a century of hibernation only to realize the Dunthiochagh she knew is no more. Magic, believed long gone, returns, and with it comes an elven wizard sent to recover a dangerous secret.

World Building & Puzzling Style

Multiple Perspectives: Shattered Dreams introduces readers to lots of sundered bits of information, ranging from echoes of epic warfare to the intimate mysteries of a cursed character’s plight. The fun is experiencing it clarify. Each chapter rotates points-of-view from all sorts of perspectives. The introductory prologue is a bit heavy on background; in short, a nation of mostly humans is rebuilding civilization after a series of epic conflicts (the Heir War, a war of wizards, and a demonic invasion). Dangerous relics of the past obviously resurface. Chapter one is still diversionary, with a dose of how grim elves can be and a reminder that supernatural powers are boiling under the surface of everything. Chapter 2 (which is the third section) we get introduced to our primary protagonist….

Drangar Ralgon

Drangar Ralgon is a recluse veteran haunted by his past, and he really shines as the main character. His memories and present nightmares are difficult for him to process, but as a reader you’ll be along his side trying to do just that. As soon as you get introduced to him, you’ll want to learn more about why he’s so haunted. When you learn that his past is woven with the Heir/Wizard/Demon wars…you’ll be rooting for him. It will take about 25% of the book for all the pieces to begin gelling.

Grim Take on a Familiar Milieu

Despite the familiar setting of man, demon, and elves acting as a foundation, it’s all shown in a different light. The Elves are a darker set of folk here than the tropes, many using children’s sacrificial blood to fuel magic….and we learn they also apparently ran away during the Heir and/or Wizard Wars; at first this “elven retreat” reminded me of Tolkien’s Undying Lands, but Lehmann actually shows the readers via several character’s perspectives. It’s a mysterious place, but you’ll gain access to it.

It All Coalesces

All the various perspectives and the shattered mysteries of Drangar’s past resolve in the city Dunthiochagh. You’ll be left wanting for even more though, and the series delivers.


There are too many exclamation points; Lehmann’s writing is solid and need not rely on them. Also, I grew strangely attached to a squirrel character; I liked its setup as much as Drangar Ralgon’s, but without spoiling, I do not expect any more focus on it-who-had-a-bright-future (sigh). The strength of Shattered Dreams is its deep world-building, but its epic-ness can be challenging too. I’m not a linguist, but its nomenclature for places & characters resonant vibes from Welsh/Irish/British (another potential Tolkien vibe); however, the abundance of consonants, length of words, and the fact that most start with B, C, or D made it challenging for me to get a feel for the place (or I got confused about who/what I was being referred to). This list provides some of the key players/places:

Human Elements

  • Drangar Ralgon (mysterious protagonist, with roots in the city …
  • Dunthiochagh (the oldest city in the nation of Danastaer)
  • Jesgar Garinad (spy within Dunthiochagh)
  • Cumaill Duasonh, Baron of Higher Cherkont and Boughaighr (with a cousin named Braigh)
  • Urgraith Mireynh, High General of the armies of Chanastardh
  • Church of Eanaigh

Elf, Demon, More-than-Human:

  • Kildanor, Chosen of Lesganagh (Sun and War God); the Chosen are humans who live a long time…unless butchered.
  • Ealisaid (Phoenix Wizardess; a Lainthraght/Lightbringer)
  • Priests of Jainagath (Deathmasks, have extending lives due to their worship/allegiance)
  • Lloreanthoran (an elf)
  • Danachamain had opened the Scales-cursed gates long ago

Expect more in Ulff Lehmann’s Light in the Dark Series

Browsing the blurbs of the subsequent books, we learn the whole series coalesces around Drangar Ralgon journey, which is most welcome:

  1. Shattered Dreams (Light in the Dark Book 1) Mar 16, 2018
  2. Shattered Hopes (Light in the Dark Book 2) Aug 25, 2018
  3. Shattered Fears (Light in the Dark Book 3) Sep 3, 2019
  4. Shattered Walls (Light in the Dark Book 4) Nov 2022

About Ulff Lehmann

German-born but English writing author, Ulff Lehmann, was raised reading, almost any and everything, from the classic Greek to Roman to Germanic myths to more appropriate fiction for children his age. Initially devouring books in his native language, he switched to reading English books during a year-long stay in the USA as a foreign exchange student.

In the years since, he has lost count of the books he has read, unwilling to dig into the depths of his collection. An avid fantasy reader, he grew dissatisfied with the constant lack of technological evolution in many a fantasy world, and finally, when push came to shove, he began to realize not only his potential as a storyteller but also his vision of a mythical yet realistic world in which to settle the tale in he had been developing for 20 years.


Saturday, November 26, 2022

2022 Holiday Card

Happy Holidays 2022!

Heidi resurrected the Holiday Card tradition last year with her deer illustration. This year she comes through again. This one evolved from inspirations for making a linoleum print.  She uses Procreate on an iPad.  Watch the "Making of" this card in a 30-second timelapse video:

Watch Heidi illustrate at warp speed!

Connor is starting to co-op for his Environmental Engineering degree at the University of Cincinnati (he'll be working with the Army Corp. of Engineers in Louisville, KY after the holidays). This past Fall, Erin landed a role at Procter & Gamble in Mason, OH, where she's applying her user-experience/media-communications background toward making Power BI dashboards; turns out, some of her managers and coworkers have been receiving versions of our Holiday Cards since ~1999, and some have the "goofy" family pictures I included (sorry, Erin). So... lesson learned. No family pictures this year. :)

Wishing everyone a peaceful 2023!

Check out the last 20+ cards here on our other website.

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Barczak 2022 - Mystics in Norman

Fellow Perseid Press author Tom Barczak and I built a relationship in 2014 when I interviewed him about his Evarun series. Since, we've shared a table of contents in several anthologies, most recently Mystics in Hell.

Every November I visit Norman for the Institute of Applied Surfactant Research consortium annual meeting and seek out Tom before the meeting starts; I have a blogger tag/label dedicated to our visits. 

We share a common muse to create Dark Fantasy experiences via mixed media (art, prose). I purchased one of his sketches on a prior visit. This round, he graced with an orc drawn with conté sticks.  Thanks Tom for the friendship, discussion, and the art!


Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Tameshigiri - Mat Cutting 2022

 Tameshigiri 2022

During Covid, we spent time practicing weapons (i.e., jo and bokken) and also some Iaido. 
Finally, we rolled some tameshigiri mats and practiced some cutting.

Join us in West Chester, OH.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Day of Might 2022, Oct 23rd 2022

Let us prepare for the Day of Might celebrations!

Callouts in this snippet extend to:
  • Steve Babb
  • New Edge Sword And Sorcery, Oliver Brackenbury
  • James Enge
  • Rogues in the House Podcast, Matt John
  • Whetstone: Amateur Magazine of Pulp Sword and Sorcery, Jason Ray Carney
  • DMR Books,
  • Douglas Draa & Weirdbook
  • and more...

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Two Liars from Hell in Chicago

A work trip brought me to Chicago, and I managed to meet up with Joe Bonadonna for a few hours.  In 2021, I visited the same restaurant in lieu of that yr's canceled GenCon Writer's Symposium. Had hopes of tracking down David C. Smith again, and perhaps John O'Neill, but fate would not have it. Turns out Greg Mele is nearby too. Next time, I'll have to track them all down!

Of course, Joe is hoot. He and I have been collaborating with our Heroes In Hell stories, ensuring themes and characters are shared. Enjoy satire and horror?  Check out Liars in Hell!  

I recently interviewed Joe for my Beauty in Weird fiction series on Black Gate.  He really does make dark-fantasy fun.