Monday, March 25, 2013

Mushinkan Aikido Dojo - Website and Logo Design

An earlier post mentioned how my artistic understanding of human anatomy was being augmented by my learning of Aikido. Aikido focuses on throwing/rolling rather than hitting/kicking, and helps one learn self-defense as well as how to fall correctly.  My family and I have been attending Domaschko Sensei's Mushinkan Aikido dojo for a few years now (Liberty Township, Ohio; classes held at Martin Martial Arts).  

This posts highlights how my wife Heidi and I helped with Mushinkan's new logo and website design.  Firstly, Heidi designed a logo that roughly represents Domashko Sensei's face as a Samurai-like mask; she employed Adobe Illustrator to realize her vision (note her blog: DESIGNlab link) and Domaschko Sensei approved. Armed with Sensei's brochures and photos..and Heidi's Logo...I designed a blog-site for the Dojo

Looking to learn self-defense with an aim to subdue/control an attacker rather than inflict harm? Live near Cincinnati? This is the place.  

Friday, March 22, 2013

Ghor, Kin Slayer: The Saga Of Genseric's Fifth Born Son - Review

Ghor, Kin Slayer: The Saga Of Genseric's Fifth Born SonGhor, Kin Slayer: The Saga Of Genseric's Fifth Born Son by Robert E. Howard
S.E Lindberg rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ghor Kinslayer – A Weird Sampling of Legendary Authors: The author line-up for this series is beyond incredible (see below recopied book description), and the idea for developing one of R.E.Howard's unfinished tales ... just awesome! But the delivery was just so-so. Actually, the first few tales had me hooked. Then I came upon Michael Moorcock's contribution and couldn't get over his over-the-top, misogynistic introduction of the female Shanara. I was really disappointed in this, since it poisoned the tone of the subsequent chapters…and I had expected more professionalism and better style from the creator of Elric (in which he better balanced violence/weirdness/machismo). But the collection serves as a great sampling of legendary authors. Get it for historical interest if nothing else.

Availability: Amazon has used hardcopies. It is still available “new” from the publisher, directly for ~$8USD. Here is the description:
Robert E. Howard, Karl Edward Wagner, Joseph Payne Brennan, Richard L. Tierney, Michael Moorcock, Charles R. Saunders, andrew j. offutt, Manly Wade Wellman, Darrell Schweitzer, A. E. Van Vogt, Brian Lumley, Frank Belknap Long, Adrian Cole, Ramsey Campbell, H. Warner Munn, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Richard A. Lupoff: Ghor, Kin-Slayer: The Saga of Genseric's Fifth-Born Son, A Necronomicon Press Trade Paperback, 176 pp., $8.95

Seventeen leading fantasy authors ...

One epic novel of heroic fantasy ...

Only Robert E. Howard could have begun it ... left by his parents to die, and subsequently raised by wolves, Ghor becomes the mightiest warrior of his time, driven by a boundless desire to revenge his abandonment.
Decades later, this unfinished tale by the creator of Conan sees completion by sixteen of the top fantasy authors of our time, each bringing with them their own unique style and vision to the adventures of Ghor, Kin-Slayer. The reader will not only be guided through a rousing adventure of heroic fantasy, but discover intriguing elements of weird fiction, with even a touch of H. P. Lovecraft's "Cthulhu Mythos" thrown in for good measure.
Available [at] for the first time in its complete form, Ghor, Kin-Slayer is the rare opportunity to read a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration between Robert E. Howard and the finest fantasy authors of the past several decade.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Tim Lebbon's Dusk - Book Review by S.E.

DuskDusk by Tim Lebbon
S.E. Lindberg rating: 5 of 5 stars

The cover blurb from author Paul Kearney promised that Dusk Is Fantasy For Grown-Ups… An Excellent Book.” I agree and cannot think of a better topline summary.

For Grown-Ups? Yes. Dusk is chock-full of: explicit gore, adult sexual situations, profane language, alluring drug trips, etc. This book is not for young adults. It is also not for adults looking for a light read.

Is it Fantasy? Yes. A brief summary (minus the “adults-only warning”) would even seem to describe a typical young adult fantasy book:
-Naïve Farm Boy: Rafe is a central character, an orphaned farm boy who singularly holds the keys to bringing hope to Noreela (read “world”). There is a loose prophecy associated with his existence.
-Fellowship: Also, there is a band (a.k.a. obligatory fellowship) of unlikely individuals with unique skill sets that resemble the expected motifs (thanks to Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons): 1) vulnerable, naive farm boy; 2) a human thief; 3) a Shantasi warrior (read “Elf”); 4) a human witch; 5) a drug-addicted, miner (read “Dwarf”); and lastly another empathetic girl, a human scholar.
-Series Worthy: Lastly, this is the first in a series of Novels (the others: “#2 Dawn” “#3After the War: Two Tales of Noreela” “#4 Fallen” “#5 Island” )

Cliché or not Cliché: But this is not a coming of age novel, nor is it common fantasy fare. It is the first in a series for the horror-fantasy sub-genre that stereotypically works best in short stories, novellas, or single novels. But Dusk works well as a series opener, perhaps because it employs the framework of common fantasy series.

Clarifying “Magic”: Lebbon presents a strange world, Noreela, that has lost its “magic”; but he defines magic differently than what you may expect. This is a problem for some readers since there are many arguably magical things present in this magic-devoid world. This could undermine the conflict in the book (i.e. who cares if Rafe can bring magic back to Noreela if it is still a fantastical place?). The success of the book hinges on a satisfying demonstration of what magical means. So let me clarify to set future readers’ expectations:

In Noreela, the baseline magicless assertion still allows for:
-Out-of-body mind trips, telepathy, and mind reading (if you take the drug called fledge, or are a Mage)
-Seeing/sensing wraiths (souls disembodied from their corpses)
-Communing speaking with animals (ravens) is doable with alchemy and practice
-Swords that hunger for blood (these are nearly sentient swords that cannot be sheathed until sated)
-Being butchered alive without being hindered, well beyond the limits of biology and physics (Red Monk capability)
-Living hundreds of years (for some humanoids, Shantasi, Red Monks, and a select undead Krote warrior)
-Creatures like giant-hawks and metallic-tumbleweeds exist

So what does “magic” encompass? What is missing that is so valuable? Magic is akin to the Star War's Force, it being a limitless potential of energy. Here, it is inextricably connected to the land’s health. Without it, humans have turned toward apathetic lifestyles, dependent on drugs, without hope of regaining civility. With magic present, select individuals can horde the power and become a god (a Mage): a mage can heal people, raise the dead for sure…but more impressively a mage can control the flow of rivers, animate stone/metal/vegetation to raise armies of golem-like machines, control the weather and even time (well probably).

Lebbon delivers on his strange promises: For every strange perspective presented, for every conflict of importance, he closes the loop. He does so with bizarre, horrific style, but the motivations and workings of Noreela remain consistent. Read this, and even if you consider yourself a veteran fantasy reader, you will be taken to appealing strange worlds. Below are several excerpts that serve as taste-testers. If you enjoy these terrifying and dreadful appetizers, then you will enjoy Dusk!:

Crazy creatures constantly harass our heroes:
“The tumbler left an intermittent bloody track across the cleaned stone square as it rolled. Crushed into its plant-like hide was a second man, dead, pierced by the thing’s many natural spikes and hooks. One arm flipped free as the tumbler rolled, thumping the stone in a rhythm that gave that silent place a grotesque heartbeat.”

“A shape burst from the opening, a Red Monk, its decidedly feminine mouth wide open in a frozen grimace of agony and shock…its hood was snagged back by a spear of wood, and Kosar could see its bald head, veins standing out like worm-trail, red, leaking where they split the skin. Its eyes were wide and surely sightless, such was the rate of their expansion and the scarlet pooling of blood in their whites…”

Despair permeates the land of Noreela:
"Few in Noreela had any inclination to even come in [the library] and read a book, let alone await the opportunity to slink in and steal one when her back was turned. Sometimes she wondered whether there was any intellect left in the world where famine also starved the mind, and dust and fading gods ate away at the tenacity of the people… nobody would notice, and if they did they wouldn’t say anything. And if they did it would not matter.”

“[The machines] were all incorporated in some way, chopped and changed and altered as if those that had used them were frustrated at their lack of animation. The channels were there within these machines, the empty reservoirs and sacs and current routes that had given them the strange life they once lived, but they were dead. Dead as the sand beneath the dweller’s feet, dead as the air they exhaled, dead as the corpse Rafe saw in the gutter in one or two places. There was a fledger, his or her body twisted and ripped from whatever had killed it. There was something else, something that once could have been fodder because of its size, exposed ribs torn back and knotted by the accelerated growth, slabs of flesh and muscle ripped from its wet corpse…"

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Rage of the Behemoth - Anthology Review

Rage of the BehemothRage of the Behemoth by Jason M. Waltz
S.E.Lindberg Rating: 4 of 5 stars

“There is a monster for each of us to face. Some we conquer; some we flee; some we negotiate with; some we suffer; some we… become.” So opens the preface by editor Jason M. Waltz.

And what would life be without behemoth challenges? And what would fantasy fiction be without monsters? Cripes… why are so few anthologies devoted to them? Rogue Blades Entertainment (RBE, publishers of the superb Return of the Sword) filled this much needed gap in literature.

Rage of the Behemoth has 21 quality tales from contemporary authors. Many heroic fantasy anthologies feature the deceased masters, but RBE consistently focuses on showcasing today’s authors. Few will disappoint. I highlight my personal favorites for each of the five environmentally-themed categories:
Depthless Seas: “Black Water” by Sean T.M. Steinnon
Frozen Wastes: “The Wolf of Winter” by Bill Ward (my favorite of the entire anthology)
Scalding Sands: “Black Diamond Sands” by Lois Tilton
Mysterious Jungles: “Yaggoth-Vor” Bruce Durham…and “Beyond the Reach of His Gods” by Brian Ruckley
Ageless Mountains: “The Rotten Bones Rattle” C.L. Werner

Some of the behemoths: The list below has names conjured by me (not the authors), and are not listed in order of appearance…to avoid spoiling the fun: Ursine God, Behemoth Boar, Cockatrice, Djinn Storm, Dragon, Eldritch horror, Griffin, Human Centipede, Ice Hydra, Loch Ness Leviathan, Lovecraftian Giant Crab, Lyncanthrope, Manitcore, Mineral Snake, Roc (Giant Bird), Rock Golem, Scaled Pachyderm, Serpent, Shape-shifting Demon, Skeleton Titan, Wolf God.

Given the number of tales, their quality, and their variety, this is a definite recommended read.

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Sword & Sorcery Group Read Mar-Apr 2013 - Sword & Mythos

Sword & Sorcery Group Read: Mar-Apr 2013 - "Sword & Mythos"

We have 2 group reads for the Mar-Apr 2013 period; please join us at the Sword & Sorcery group on 
  1. Focused Topic: Campbells’ Ryre Character - LinkNote ~4 of these tales were printed individually in the Swords Against Darkness anthologies, and the entire set is available from (affordable, but shipping is not instantaneous and has some extra hurdles for non-US based members); see the disucussion thread for more details.
  2. Thematic Read: Sword and Mythos Theme-Link: What is this theme of Sword and Mythos? Many members interpreted this option in the poll as any books with a “Lovecraftian Cthulhu” Mythos flare. That said, the idea of the group read is to encourage discussion, and some interpret “Mythos” as anything emphasizing Myth: Discussion Thread on Sword and Mythos
Bookshelf Examples: Feel welcome to browse for some member-identified Sword and Mythos books (and tag your own selections): Sword and Mythos Bookshelf

The banner is a montage of relevant covers.  Credit for the cover parts as they appear from left to right are below (Artist / Book):
Bob Eggleton: Brian Lumley's Sorcery in Shad: Tales of the Primal Land
Frank Frazetta: R.E.Howard's Bran Mak Morn
Stephen Fabian: R.E. Howard's (2004)Robert E. Howard's Weird Works Volume 1: Shadow Kingdoms 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Return of the Sword- Anthology Review by S.E.

Return of the SwordReturn of the Sword by Jason M. Waltz
S.E. Lindberg Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Highly recommended for new and veteran fantasy readers.

The “Return of the Sword” is aptly titled: the Heroic Fantasy (Sword & Sorcery) genre may have originated with R.E.Howard’s Conan ~1920’s, but it is alive and well; this anthology captures the renewed direction(s).

Anthologies are a great way to discover new authors (well, new for the reader anyway). They offer a buffet of stories, so a well-done anthology should contain some stories that, despite being well written, are not what one may normally read. “Return of the Sword” does this job in superb fashion. It is full of great stories with wondrous variety. I wanted to discover more contemporary S&S authors/styles and am well satisfied. Some of my personal favorites I marked to re-read are:
-Wyrd of War (Bill Ward)
-The Last Scream of Carnage (Phil Emery)
-To Be A Man (Robert Rhodes)
-The Hand that Holds the Crown (Nathan Meyer)
-The Red Worm's Way (James Enge)
-The Mask Oath (Steve Goble)
-Storytelling(E.E.Knight) was an entertaining but serious primer--nice addition.

Amazon Reviews capture the synopses of all 21 stories well enough that I need not repeat them here. But to highlight the effectiveness of this anthology, I list three of my take-aways:

1)Author Discovered (for me): I was completely taken with Phil Emery's "The Last Scream of Carnage" (notably the editor's pick). It was poetic like his “Fifteen Breaths” contribution to the Demons: A Clash of Steel Anthology, and pushed the bounds of the genre a bit. The delivery may prove off-putting to many others; I had to read it twice to really absorb it all. RESULT: not only did I enjoy this author, I enjoyed his style enough to want to track down more of his work  (I just ordered Emery’s novel “Necromantra”).

2)Humor can be ok: I have a personal bias toward liking the grittier-horror side of the genre, but this book showed me that humor can be applied well without distracting or “cheesy”. “To Be A Man” (Robert Rhodes) and “The Red Worm's Way” (James Enge) were engaging, well written, and laced with well-delivered humor.

3)Another Author Discovered: Key ingredients for tales I like include: deep motivations, vivid horror, realized myths, and a touch of artistic flare (poetic or aesthetic). The “Mask Oath” had these, and left me hungry for more. More “Faceless Sons” short stories are out there, but those stories were harder to track down than the author Steve Goble (whom I connected with in the Goodreads Sword and Sorcery group). RESULT: even though I considered myself a veteran S&S reader who read just about everybody in the genre, Return of the Sword revealed another author that hooked my interest again and set me searching for more. 

In summary, Return of the Sword is recommended for fantasy readers looking for contemporary Sword & Sorcery authors… and to veteran readers who have exhausted the works of R.E.Howard, F.Leiber, M.Moorcock, and D.Gemmell.

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Friday, February 1, 2013

In Savage Lands - Book Review

In Savage LandsIn Savage Lands by Jason E. Thummel
S.E.Lindberg rating: 5 of 5 stars

J. Thummel is a great storyteller. With “In Savage Lands” he invites you to be carried away. Trust his craft. Three words summarize this memorable short story collection:

Tour: Feeling the need to escape? Not looking for a 700page starter to an endless series? Then read this. Across these tales you will have many guides ready to take you away: veteran fighters willing to martyr themselves, nameless heroes with just causes, amoral fighters looking for revenge, naïve and overmatched victims, sentient swords, dragon hunters, and even those possessed by demons! And where will these characters take you? A splendid variety of locations (from deserts, high seas, mountains alien worlds, highland battlegrounds).  Beyond the thrill of exploring these destinations, there is an additional level of suspense provided by the storytelling.

Mystery: Although these tales are best classified as heroic fantasy, “mystery” best describes the author’s style. Almost every tale has a delightful, believable plot twist or dose of irony; sometimes many are delivered overtly, via unexpected perspectives. If you read them sequentially, you will become acquainted with this style quickly; then you will enjoy another level of suspense, knowing that every tale has a unique spin waiting to be revealed...not knowing what it is.

Magical: Every story is laden with fantasy creatures, characters, and environments. From icy mountains to steampunk battlegrounds and savage jungles, prepare for anything. And the tone varies too: hopeful, gritty, horrific, and even humorous.

“Magical Mystery Tour” should evoke trippy memories of the 1967 Beatle Film & Album; unbeknownst to many in the U.S., Mystery Tours involve the attendees setting budget/timing constraints to go on a trip to an unidentified location; the thrill of the unknown and the promise of adventure awaits the travelers. With “In Savage Lands” J. Thummel delivers such an adventure in book form (less trippy and more organized for sure, but sodden with fantastical mystery).

The author’s “mystery” style influence is represented in his other fantasy (The Spear of Destiny and Cult of Death…Lance Chambers mysteries), and fuels these thirteen tales. Thorvald’s Tale and The Dreamer Wakes were the most horrific (and thus my favorite), but I marked 12 of the 13 as worth rereading… so really I need to highlight the entire table of contents (below). It is difficult to summarize each of these without introducing spoilers, so I just list the titles. Lastly, to quote Lennon/McCartney…“Roll up, roll up for the mystery tour…. The magical mystery tour is coming to take you away…”

Table of Contents:
1)A Stand in the Eye of the Needle (First appeared in Flashing Swords, Issue 10, Cyberwizard Productions, 2008)
2)Dragon Hunter
3)The Spider's Web
4)The Dying Light of Day
5)Mortismagus First appeared in the anthology Magic and Mechanica, Ricasso Press, 2009
6)Nargal of Zagg
7)The Fortunes of War: A Tale of Vladius and Stongi
8)The Homecoming of Brother Antonitus9)The Devourer of the Shunned
10) Thorvold's Tale
11) The Gift of the Unspoken God
12) The Dreamer Wakes
13) Runner of the Hidden Ways First appeared in the anthology Rage of the Behemoth, Rogue Blades Entertainment, 2009

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