Monday, January 21, 2019

The Beautiful and the Repellent: An Interview with Charles A. Gramlich

Art & Beauty in Weird Fantasy

It is not intuitive to seek beauty in art deemed grotesque, but most authors who produce horror/fantasy actually are usually (a) serious about their craft, and (b) driven my strange muses. Weird fiction masters (RE Howard, Poe, Clark Ashton Smith, H.P. Lovecraft, ...) held series beliefs that their “horror” was actually beautiful. This interview series engages contemporary authors & artists on the theme of "Art & Beauty in Weird/Fantasy Fiction.” Previously we cornered weird fantasy authors like John Fultz, Janeen Webb, Aliya Whiteley, Richard Lee Byers, Sebastian Jones, and Darrell Schweitzer.

Charles Gramlich grew up on a farm in Arkansas but moved to the New Orleans area in 1986 to teach psychology at Xavier University. His degree is in Experimental Psychology with a specialization in Physiological Psychology; Charles served as chair of the department several times between 1988 and 2002. He was instrumental in developing the Psychology Pre-medical program for the department. He's since published eight novels, three nonfiction books, five collections of short stories, and a chapbook of vampire haiku. Charles likes to write in many different genres but all of his fiction work is known for its intense action and strong visuals. Check out his Razored Zen blog and Amazon page.

Previous interviews are revealing: in 2007, Shauna Roberts’ interviewed Gramlich about his Talera Cycle (also included in Write with Fire) and in 2014 Prashant C. Trikannad’s interview focused his western Killing Trail). This round we focus on his poetic take on pulp adventure. In addition to publishing many short stories that fit the bill, he published an essay iWeird Fiction Review #7 called “The Beautiful and the Repellent: The Erotic Allure of Death and the Other in the Writers of Weird Tales” (Fall 2016 edition).

In Gramlich's WF#7 essay, he notes how Howard Phillips Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe (and many more speculative fiction writers) juxtaposed content that were both repulsive & beautiful. In his words: “Repulsive elements and events are intertwined with the grotesque and beautiful ones—often through the use of poetical prose—thus transmuting the ugly into something that, if not exactly lovely, still compels attention.” He posits two types of repellent beauty in weird fiction (and associated adventure, like Sword & Sorcery/Planet). Here’s a brief overview:

Erotic Allure of Death (EAD) in which sexual taboos and an attraction with death itself is a focus, and...

Erotic Desire for the Other (EDO) which regards “the desire for that which is exotic, which is foreign or alien to one’s own identity and experiences…it disorients readers; it dissociates them from every other sense of order and brings them back to the level of flesh, the messy flesh” – CAG.
Summary quotation: “Many of the most memorable writers in Weird Tales—Lovecraft, Howard, Smith, Dyalhis, Moore—were master at the art of combining attractive and repulsive elements together in the same scene. They blended beauty with horror, turning the deadly and the alien into erotic.” - CAG

(1)   SEL: WF#7 issue is sold out via Centipede press, so I’d like to echo some of your perspective here. Can you paraphrase how some of the masters applied EAD and EOD? Black God’s Kiss and the use of blood were great examples.

CAG: One thing I’ve noticed about reading such writers as Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Nictzin Dyalhis, and C. L. Moore is that the emotional power of their prose often comes from interweaving images of beauty with the grotesque. When the grotesque images take the form of death and decay, and yet the protagonist of a story is still attracted to it, I called it EAD (The Erotic Allure of Death). As an example, I mentioned Smith’s “The Seed from the Sepulcher,” where the main character is seduced by a beautiful, parasitic monster that he’s just watched devour his companion. He knows the thing will kill him but cannot fight his attraction to it.

These same writers also often introduced what I call EOD (The Erotic Allure of the Other) into their stories. In Howard’s story, “Worms of the Earth,” Bran Mak Morn must make a bargain with a half-human witch woman of the moors to achieve his revenge on the Romans. The woman is described as both lovely and repellent. Bran is simultaneously disgusted by her and undeniably attracted to her. C. L. Moore did something similar in her story, “Black God’s Kiss,” where Jirel of Joiry comes upon a statue of an abhorrent alien god with its lips pursed for a kiss. Jirel shudders at sight of it, and yet finds herself so drawn to it that she must kiss the awful lips. Neither Bran nor Jirel are expecting or wanting to die, but both find themselves simultaneously attracted and repelled by the inhuman aspects of another being.

(2)  SEL; Approach Avoidance is a psychology term mentioned in your essay. Can you explain that convey how writers could use such tension for their own character’s dilemmas?

CAG: Typically, tension in a story is produced by the protagonist wanting something and the antagonist opposing them. For example, a police officer wants to solve a crime and save a victim from impending death while the antagonist/criminal fights the officer every step of the way. The Approach-Avoidance concept adds a deeper layer to this tension. It puts the protagonist into a position where he, or she, is simultaneously attracted to and repelled by the same goal. For example, imagine that the police officer wants to save a kidnap victim, but, at the same time, knows that saving the victim will destroy the officer’s career because of some secret the victim knows. Now, the protagonist faces two obstacles, an outer and an inner one.

(3)  SEL: On writing poetic weirdness: You also note that the memorable writers “… expressed it all in poetic prose without becoming either maudlin or prurient.” Writing accessible, poetic fiction is what drew me to you in the first place (see review snippets below). Writing poetically often implies writing abstractly; combined with weird content, this approach risks alienating the reader. Any tips on how to balance poeticism with accessibility?

“Across a snowfield that lies red with dawn, the Orc charge comes. And is met. Axes shriek on shields. Swords work against armor into flesh. The tips of spears are wetted. Gore dapples the snow...”  - CAG, Harvest of War
“In the bitter twilight of frost-rimmed peaks, Thal dreamed, the visions crimson with gore. War-horses frothed at their bits, eyes rolling like bloody pearls. Men in bruised armor and torn silks of umber and white hacked each other into ragged scarecrows. Arrows sleeted the sky like sharpened flakes of ice. When it was over the ravens gathered, scarcely moving as Thal rode among them searching. He found [spoiler]’s head on a stake.” -CAG, Bitter Steel,Sword and Sorcery

CAG: That question illustrates why this writing thing is still an art rather than a science. You’re absolutely right. Poetic writing can distance the reader from the story, and—I think—is guaranteed to distance some readers from it. Some folks just don’t like language that is highly metaphorical and overtly lyrical. For one thing, it requires more effort to read that kind of writing. And, unless the writer and the reader share certain visual affinities, the images just won’t translate. For example, I recently used the phrase “blackshine” in a poem and several members of my writing group said they just couldn’t picture it. To me, “blackshine” creates a completely concrete visualization. Imagine the shine of black satin under a silvery light. On the plus side, though, if poetic writing does connect to a reader, then the communication between the reader and writer is intensified, and isn’t that what all writers want—to communicate what’s in our heads to someone else?

I think there are some strategies that can help poetic writers communicate better with readers. One thing that you mentioned was “economy.” An economy of words and images is important. Throwing layer after layer of metaphor at the reader will probably lose them all. You select one metaphor, one poetic image, and see it through before adding another. And, whenever possible you temper the metaphorical and abstract qualities of the writing with simple, concrete language.

I like to think the following paragraph from my book Cold in the Light illustrates the process. There’s some metaphorical language (dawn creeping like a fog), and a hint of the mythical (god or demon), but the core of the piece employs simple, everyday terms like  death, life, sex, and hunger.
“By the time gray dawn came creeping like a fog he had mastered himself. He lived in the place that all warriors sought, where death and life and sex and hunger were one. Where you created your own reality and no one else's could intrude. Where you became a god, or a demon. And you didn't care which.”

(4)  SEL: Have you ever employed any EAD or EDO in your own writing?

CAG: Absolutely. As I mentioned in the article, The Erotic Allure of Death, or EAD, is basic to many horror stories, and I’ve written a lot of them. My collection, Midnight in Rosary, is mostly about vampires, and vampires are the most popular manifestation of EAD in our culture. There are very few vampire tales that don’t combine the monstrous lethality of the creature with the erotic allure. Certainly Carmilla, by Sheridan Le Fanu, and Dracula, by Bram Stoker illustrate this. In Midnight in Rosary, there is a story called “The Poetry of Blood.” In it, a man gives himself willing to a vampire because he knows that she will create a work of erotic art from his death.

To some extent, vampires also represent Erotic Desire for the Other (EDO). Vampires can be shown as “mostly” human or as far more grotesque monsters. The more inhuman the vampire, the more it can represent EDO. An example that particularly stands out for me is the scene in the movie Bram Stoker’s Dracula where Lucy is shown having sex with Dracula in his beast form. The scene is set up to be highly erotic and yet Dracula is clearly not human at that moment. I’m working on a story now that has elements of this. It’s a Krieg story; you know that character. In it, Krieg has sex with a sidhe, one of the fairy folk of Irish and Scottish mythology. At one point, Krieg realizes that he could close his eyes and imagine her as human. He chooses not to do that. He wants to experience the element of the other that she represents.

(5)  SEL: Is there something you find repellent and beautiful that others may not appreciate?

CAG: I think it’s probably clear from much of my horror writing that I find the juxtaposition of gore and beauty to be interesting. I’m certainly not alone in that. An image that I’ve used in poems and stories several times is that of the “rotted angel.” An angel is, arguably, the most beautiful being that humans can imagine. Now imagine that being with skeletal wings and rotted flesh peeling away from the bone. For me, adding a layer of gore to the angel’s beauty intensifies the image and evokes both fascination and disgust.

Another example of this kind of thing is from a story I wrote called “She Fled, Laughing,” which is a retelling of a dream I had. In the dream, I was a police officer investigating a murder scene. I found a young girl who had apparently survived. She wouldn’t let me get close to her and I finally decided I’d have to run her down to catch her. When I caught her, and spun her around, her face was just a black hole that suddenly vomited maggots and roses. So, I literally dream in images that combine the beautiful and the repellent, and I have since I was a teenager.

(6)  SEL: Any tips on how to create art that is “dark” yet “attractive”?

CAG: Probably the best answer for just about any writing question is “to read.” For dark fiction, read Poe, read Stoker, Lovecraft, Bradbury, King, Koontz, read Cormac McCarthy and Clive Barker, read the classic writers and the new ones. Immerse yourself in the wild poetry of Dylan Thomas and Bruce Boston. Beyond that, spend some time alone, watch yourself bleed, sleep in strange beds, take night walks in the woods, visit ruins and stalk dirt roads on foggy mornings.

(7)  SEL: Fine Arts: CAS was a poet, illustrator, and sculptor; many others interviewed by S.E. have other artistic talents beyond writing.  Do you practice other arts (Voodoo counts)? If so can we share them (i.e., images of fine or graphic art) or mp3s (of music). If not, which artists/pieces inspire you to write?

CAG: Writing is about it for me, but my writing interests are very broad and include poetry, essays, memoir, and scientific writing. I don’t really have any drawing or musical skills and am jealous of those who do. I was in a rock band in high school, but I was the singer because I wasn’t very good on guitar. I’m most inspired by other writers and have an “inspiration” shelf of books that I keep handy. When I’m having trouble with language, I pick up some of those books. The shelf includes the poetry of Dylan Thomas, Walden by Thoreau, The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen, and Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, as well as The Sowers of the Thunder by Robert E. Howard.

I am certainly influenced by music and art. In music, a song that stimulates me lyrically is  U2’s “Bullet the Blue Sky.” This is their hardest rock song and the music is great, but I really find the lyrics to be intensely poetical. Then there’s “Deaf Forever,” by Motorhead, the best heroic fantasy song ever written. It also has a good bit of poetry in it. I’ve often listened to this while rough drafting battle scenes. It rather makes you want to go out and kill something!

In art, well, there’s the great Frank Frazetta, of course. He created such drama in his paintings. My favorites by him are his Death Dealer and his Kane images. I also really like some older illustrators such as Roy Krenkel, who illustrated The Sowers of the Thunder, and J. Allen St. John, who illustrated a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs stories for the pulps.

(8)  SEL: Your wife is a fine landscape photographer, I wonder if you ever wrote about any of her photograph’s subjects/locations? Can we share a photo if so?

CAG: Lana’s photography work certainly inspires me and I’ve used her images on several self-published works, including “Harmland” and “Adventures of an Arkansawyer.” Her photography has the same kind of juxtaposition of emotions that we’ve been talking about here. Her scenes often contain serenity and incredible drama at the same time. I don’t know how she manages it, but the attached photo perfectly illustrates it.

Lana Gramlich Photography

(9)  SEL: You have a personal goal to publish in a variety of genre markets, and have already tackled many (westerns like Killing Trail, Sword & Planet with Talera, Sword & Sorcery and Weird Fiction in Skelos magazine). What is next in queue? And what motivation drives this?

CAG: I’ve been moving more toward crime, mystery, and thriller lately and have been reading a lot of that type of story. “The Scarred One,” my latest book, is a western primarily, but it’s also a pretty complex mystery as well. I’ve done a couple of short crime stories but I plan to do more. And I’d kind of like to write a non-supernatural thriller, something in the vein of Harlan Coben.

I think my motivation for this goal comes from several sources. One, I enjoy all kinds of writing and when I read something I like it sets my imagination loose. If I’m enjoying a western, then the ideas I get tend to be in that genre also. It’s the same for other genres. Second, it’s a challenge. I like the combination of fear and exhilaration that comes with trying something new, something I haven’t done before. Third, I like to think of myself as a writer, not just as a poet, or essayist, or fantasy author. I’ve chosen writing as a craft and I work hard to be as good at it as I can, on all levels.

(10)    SEL: If you were more juvenile and dressed up on Halloween, which one of your characters would you be? (Thal Kyrin , Bryle, Ruenn Maclang, Krieg?)

CAG: If I had my druthers, I’d look like Krieg. It would be nice to be that bad-ass. But if I had to try to carry off being one of my characters for Halloween, I’d have to go as an older, chubbier, and less robust Ruenn Maclang. I’ve got the hair, and a long coat and sword I could use. I’d just need green contacts.

(11)  SEL: Any new works you can discuss?

CAG: Well, I mentioned my latest, a western called The Scarred One. It’s under the name Tyler Boone. In keeping with my rather odd writing goals, I’ve got a children’s book that I’m about to start submitting to publishers. It’s called Farhaven and is about three orphaned fox kits trying to make their way to a wildlife sanctuary. I’m also working on another Krieg short story and something that might possibly turn into a novel about Krieg. The working title of that is Lords of War. As with most writers, I’ve always got far more ideas than I can possibly complete in a lifetime.

Links to SE Reviews/Posts about Charles A. Gramlich:

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Rathen: Into Bramblewood Forest - Review by SE

Rathen: Into Bramblewood Forest by Grant Elliot Smith
S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars

With this sequel, “Rathen” officially becomes a developed character and series. Highly recommend for fantasy & RPG fans.

Grant Elliot Smith delivers another intense literary-Role Playing Game (lit-RPG) inspired adventure with Rathen: Into Bramblewood Forest; here he continues his Rathen series with co-author Steven H. Stohler. This sequel can easily be enjoyed as a standalone adventure. Whichever one you read, you’ll be excited to read the other.

My review of the predecessor, Rathen: The Legend of Ghrakus Castle holds true for this sequel; both are fun reads, having captain Rathen lead ~a dozen adventurers; as in the first book, the first 50% is the party gathering while they travel; the latter half delivering the real conflict.

Bramblewood unfolds super-fast and is surprisingly easy to read given the number of featured characters (~11 in the main party and ~4 antagonists--all of them have backstories and motivations). Presenting at a pleasant pace and delivering intense action while offering character depth is a testimony to the authors’ ability to unfurl balanced storytelling. The authors must be meticulous dungeon masters.

Adding a Lich to the party, and ensuring he had a central role in the plot to obtain the Book of Ziz, really provided a unique take on the typical RPG party. Listen below is Rathen’s party, each member you’ll get to know and route for:

  • Rathen: middle-aged captain of the party, and his two buddies from previous adventures: Bulo (veteran gladiator) and Thack (half-orc hunter & bartender)
  • Magom (lich spellcaster)
  • Caswen (female healer,Order of Thandrall) and her guards: Marduke (male knight) & Dryn (female archer)
  • Otherworldly humanoids Rendrak, Garrick, Bandark
  • Apaca (Druid, needed to handle the trees in the titular forest)

Keeping it from a 5-star is the same melodrama that makes the tale enjoyable. There are instances of fast healing that deflate consequences of battle, but still reflect lit-RPG expectations; many subplots come across as artificial (i.e., including a few romantic relationships, and escape scenes) that develop fun tension but approach feeling forced.

Cover Art by Stawicki and Future Rathen: Longtime fantasy illustrator Matthew Stawicki provided another great cover. He has illustrated many in his career for Dragon Lance, Monte Cook Games, Milton-Bradley, Hasbro, Wizards of the Coast, Vivendi Games, and others.

I am committed to the third episode in the works, pitched as “The Battle for Korganis.”
Combing Stawicki’s website, it is touch to overlook a stunning related work which I hope/speculate reveals the next adventure, artwork called “Rathen’s Descent.”

image of Rathern’s Descent by Matt Satwicki
Rathen's Descent - Matt Stawicki

View all my reviews

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Jan Feb 2019 Groupread: Anthologies

The Sword & Sorcery Group on Goodreads invites you to join them this Jan-Feb as we read:

Anthologies (Link)

Any anthology will do (i.e., current magazine like Tales from the Magician's Skull, Skelos, Heroic Fantasy Quarter online or print). Checkout the Survey/Poll for ideas and to post what you are reading: Poll Link

Plenty of old and new to choose from. You owe it to yourself to try one of the new magazines or dig up an old book.

Banner Credits L->R

This Jan-Feb groupread continues an annual tradition since at least 2014 (though many shared the topic of Anthologies with another).






Saturday, December 22, 2018

The King of Elfland's Daughter - Review by SE

The King Of Elflands Daughter by Lord Dunsany
S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars

Donald Rumsfeld, and fantasy aficionados will enjoy the 1924 classic The King of Elfland's Daughter

Lyrical Narrative: I don’t recommend this particular book for everyone, but Lord Dunsany wrote adult fantasy fiction with lyrical prose which are must-read, enjoyable short stories too: The Sword of Welleran and Other Stories or the Time and the Gods collection for instance. Read those. But The King of Elfland's Daughter (TKoED) is a novel, and the style works less well. Unending paragraphs literally span pages. Run on sentences eventually stop, only to be followed with new sentences beginning with conjunctions.

Occasionally, he’ll break the fourth wall to answer critics requiring a link to actual history (so he calls out a unnecessary connection to 1530 Europe and the Pope in his chapter called “A Historical Fact) and an equally unnecessary apology to stereotyping the alluring willow the wisps. So thick was the main narrative style, these asides blended in smoothly as if he we talking to the reader over a camp fire.

For Adult Fantasy Aficionados: TKoED is really only recommended for fantasy fans learning great works written before or in-parallel with Tolkien’s release of his Lord of the Rings; in fact, I read this inspired by such aficionados with a groupread on Goodreads. There are clear influences that resonate with Tolkien’s Music of the Ainur (The Silmarillion) and milieus that echo that of Eddison’s Ouroboros and Anderson’s Broken Sword. You’ll enjoy this more if consider its broader place in literature:

Fields We Know, and Fields We Do Not Know: Separating the land of magicless men and the field-they-knew is a wondrous twilight which many ignore, but the timeless and geographical shifting land of elves is beyond—and over there lies fields-we-humans-do-not-know. Across this barrier, Dunsany sends the reader with a heroic human. He is heir to the city of Erl, Alveric, questing for some magic in a tale that “only songs can tell.” Alveric gains magic by luring the daughter of the Elfland King back to the city of Erl. The repetition of places-we-know, and places we-do-not-know, evokes a famous quote spoken ~80yrs after the book’s publication:
“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don't know we don't know.” Donald Rumsfeld, United States Secretary of Defense, 12 February 2002

Dunsany wants to share the unknown with us. However, he admits he cannot capture things that can only be sung, or experienced outside the pages of a book. Yet he succeeds in creating entrancing prose.

Conflict is present, but unclear: One may expect more clear conflict, but it is not the ostensible Alveric/Orion/Man vs. Elves. There are many reasons why elves and humans should avoid each other or go to war, but in the end they seem to have undramatic encounters. There is an undertone of “magic vs reality” demonstrated with the Freer (a stifling Christian priest) and his interactions with magic/elves.

The first half and end focus on Alveric. His heroic adventure is compelling. He has wondrous battles with using a magical sword against weird things. His elvish wife (Lirazel) is conflicted. His tale is dark but told friendly; it is a Fairy tale in which Alveric goes mad and follows even madder men. I would have preferred the book just focus on him and his relationship with the titular daughter of the Elfland King.

Their son, Orion, dominates the middle of the book. His hunting experiences were odd. Orion is shown to be at-one with nature, but then he hunts innocent, beautiful, peaceful & magical unicorns (which provide nothing more than glory and trophies). He even teamed with the same troll that tricked his mom into being lured back to Elfland. Content seem to drift with his story, so we get treated to pages of the troll mis-communicating with pigeons.

All in all, if you appreciate older literature you’ll find this one worth the extra effort. Even if you want to tackle this to experience Dunsany, try out his short fiction first.

Excerpts: p68: Weird, poignant, philosophizing example #1: Sad toys in Elfland
“For it is true, and Alveric knew, that just as the glamour that brightens much of our lives, especially in early years, comes from rumours that reach us from Elfland by various messengers (on whom be blessings and peace), so there returns from our fields to Elfland again, to become a part of its mystery, all manner of little memories that we have lost and little devoted toys that were treasured once. And this is part of the law of ebb and flow that science may trace in all things; thus light grew the forest of coal, and the coal gives back light; thus rivers fill the sea, and the sea sends back to the rivers; thus all things give that receive; even Death.

Next Alveric saw lying there on the flat dry ground a toy that he yet remembered, which years and years ago (how could he say how many?) had been a childish joy to him, crudely carved out of wood; and one unlucky day it had been broken, and one unhappy day it had been thrown away. And now he saw it lying there not merely new and unbroken, but with a wonder about it, a splendour and a romance, the radiant transfigured thing that his young fancy had known. It lay there forsaken of Elfland as wonderful things of the sea lie sometimes desolate on wastes of sand, when the sea is a far blue bulk with a border of foam.”

p105: Weird, poignant, philosophizing example #2: The power of ink
And little [Orion] knew of the things that ink may do, how it can mark a dead man's thought for the wonder of later years, and tell of happenings that are gone clean away, and be a voice for us out of the dark of time, and save many a fragile thing from the pounding of heavy ages; or carry to us, over the rolling centuries, even a song from lips long dead on forgotten hills. Little knew he of ink…

p7: Enchanting Magic example #1: The making of a magical sword. And. And. And …
The witch approached it and pared its edges with a sword that she drew from her thigh. Then she sat down beside it on the earth and sang to it while it cooled. Not like the runes that enraged the flames was the song she sang to the sword: she whose curses had blasted the fire till it shrivelled big logs of oak crooned now a melody like a wind in summer blowing from wild wood gardens that no man tended, down valleys loved once by children, now lost to them but for dreams, a song of such memories as lurk and hide along the edges of oblivion, now flashing from beautiful years of glimpse of some golden moment, now passing swiftly out of remembrance again, to go back to the shades of oblivion, and leaving on the mind those faintest traces of little shining feet which when dimly perceived by us are called regrets. She sang of old Summer noons in the time of harebells: she sang on that high dark heath a song that seemed so full of mornings and evenings preserved with all their dews by her magical craft from days that had else been lost, that Alveric wondered of each small wandering wing, that her fire had lured from the dusk, if this were the ghost of some day lost to man, called up by the force of her song from times that were fairer. And all the while the unearthly metal grew harder. The white liquid stiffened and turned red. The glow of the red dwindled. And as it cooled it narrowed: little particles came together, little crevices closed: and as they closed they seized the air about them, and with the air they caught the witch's rune, and gripped it and held it forever. And so it was it became a magical sword. And little magic there is in English woods, from the time of anemones to the falling of leaves, that was not in the sword. And little magic there is in southern downs, that only sheep roam over and quiet shepherds, that the sword had not too. And there was scent of thyme in it and sight of lilac, and the chorus of birds that sings before dawn in April, and the deep proud splendour of rhododendrons, and the litheness and laughter of streams, and miles and miles of may. And by the time the sword was black it was all enchanted with magic.

Nobody can tell you about that sword all that there is to be told of it; for those that know of those paths of Space on which its metals once floated, till Earth caught them one by one as she sailed past on her orbit, have little time to waste on such things as magic, and so cannot tell you how the sword was made, and those who know whence poetry is, and the need that man has for song, or know any one of the fifty branches of magic, have little time to waste on such things as science, and so cannot tell you whence its ingredients came. Enough that it was once beyond our Earth and was now here amongst our mundane stones; that it was once but as those stones, and now had something in it such as soft music has; let those that can define it.

p102: Enchanting Magical Music example #2:
Then the Elf King rose, and put his left arm about his daughter, and raised his right to make a mighty enchantment, standing up before his shining throne which is the very centre of Elfland. And with clear resonance deep down in his throat he chaunted a rhythmic spell, all made of words that Lirazel never had heard before, some age-old incantation, calling Elfland away, drawing it further from Earth. And the marvellous flowers heard as their petals drank in the music, and the deep notes flooded the lawns; and all the palace thrilled, and quivered with brighter colours; and a charm went over the plain as far as the frontier of twilight, and a trembling went through the enchanted wood. Still the Elf King chaunted on. The ringing ominous notes came now to the Elfin Mountains, and all their line of peaks quivered as hills in haze, when the heat of summer beats up from the moors and visibly dances in air. All Elfland heard, all Elfland obeyed that spell. And now the King and his daughter drifted away, as the smoke of the nomads drifts over Sahara away from their camel's-hair tents, as dreams drift away at dawn, as clouds over the sunset; and like the wind with the smoke, night with the dreams, warmth with the sunset, all Elfland drifted with them. All Elfland drifted with them and left the desolate plain, the dreary deserted region, the unenchanted land. So swiftly that spell was uttered, so suddenly Elfland obeyed, that many a little song, old memory, garden or may tree of remembered years, was swept but a little way by the drift and heave of Elfland, swaying too slowly eastwards till the elfin lawns were gone, and the barrier of twilight heaved over them and left them among the rocks.

p15: Dreamy style example #1: Fields we know; And. And. And…
“To those who may have wisely kept their fancies within the boundary of the fields we know it is difficult for me to tell of the land to which Alveric had come, so that in their minds they can see that plain with its scattered trees and far off the dark wood out of which the palace of Elfland lifted those glittering spires, and above them and beyond them that serene range of mountains whose pinnacles took no colour from any light we see. Yet it is for this very purpose that our fancies travel far, and if my reader through fault of mine fail to picture the peaks of Elfland my fancy had better have stayed in the fields we know. Know then that in Elfland are colours more deep than are in our fields, and the very air there glows with so deep a lucency that all things seen there have something of the look of our trees and flowers in June reflected in water. And the colour of Elfland, of which I despaired to tell, may yet be told, for we have hints of it here; the deep blue of the night in Summer just as the gloaming has gone, the pale blue of Venus flooding the evening with light, the deeps of lakes in the twilight, all these are hints of that colour. And while our sunflowers carefully turned to the sun, some forefather of the rhododendrons must have turned a little towards Elfland, so that some of that glory dwells with them to this day. And, above all, our painters have had many a glimpse of that country, so that sometimes in pictures we see a glamour too wonderful for our fields; it is a memory of theirs that intruded from some old glimpse of the pale-blue mountains while they sat at easels painting the fields we know.”

p40: Dreamy style example #2: trembling weeds and personified energy
“Cast anything into a deep pool from a land strange to it, where some great fish dreams, and green weeds dream, and heavy colours dream, and light sleeps; the great fish stirs, the colours shift and change, the green weeds tremble, the light wakes, a myriad things know slow movement and change; and soon the whole pool is still again. It was the same when Alveric passed through the border of twilight and right through the enchanted wood, and the King was troubled and moved, and all Elfland trembled.”

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Saturday, December 8, 2018

Holiday Card 2018 - Morris Returns

Can you spot Morris? He escaped from Santa!

Happy 2018 Holidays & New Year !

This card tradition really kicked off in 1998, a mere 20yrs ago; historical cards are shown on the Team Lindberg Craft blog.  This year's photos were actually taken early last year. Heidi shot a bunch of neat card material back then (even baked the cookies too), and with this year being busy, our design process was .... hmmm... accelerated  (confession below). 

The gingerbread theme was partially inspired to echo the 2002 "death of Morris" card. My brilliant ideas to take pictures of cookies with missing heads went ignored by my partner.

Poor Morris
Heidi has a great eye for design and has an inventory of cool photos, but she didn't think these were ready to share yet.  So they rested in storage. Many other raw photos could easily have made awesome cards (below are a few):
Heidi's photos - the powdered one's look like ghosts. Is that Morris? 
We almost skipped making a card since time was scarce; in fact, Heidi thought we were just going to let the project slide. Heidi was tied up thinking about hosting Thanksgiving (we even missed getting our tree up the weekend after Halloween, but Erin came home from college to remedy that). Pressured to keep the tradition going, I secretly raided her stock images. I was anxious to make a card without content of my own, and thought her works was splendid, so ... for the record, Heidi didn't participate in the editing process. In fact, she took the pictures and no Photoshop retouching was done (I did try to white balance the cover, which apparently could have been done better).

In an age when consent matters, I recommend being a better teammate. But after 22yrs of marriage, I had some points to spare. Of course I had to confess eventually.  With her birthday being in late November, I decided to share the proof in a faux-birthday envelope. It was like a gender reveal ceremony, without any pregnancy: "Hey honey, we are expecting a great card :)" .  Drawing a heart on the card really helped. Would have been even better if I actually had a birthday gift.
After due pause and glare, she said the cover had a slightly unacceptable green tinge, and scoffed at the kerning and font choices of the interior (below).  Thankfully I already accepted the proof and ordered a bunch, so I said "No worries, I got this."

Heidi rocks as a photographer, but sometimes she needs to be in the photo! So we turned to retired P&G imaging specialist Julie Lubbers at Teal Gate Studios earlier this year for family photos. Highly recommended.

Team Lindberg - 2018 - Teal Gate Studios
Here's wishing everyone a peaceful, safe 2019.
Go eat some cookies!

Sweetie and Shorty

Saturday, November 24, 2018