Posts Tagged ‘swords & sorcery’

Summer’s so hot! It isn’t safe. You should stay inside and read. Try my new swords and sorcery novelette, The Weight of Their Souls. It’s brand new and just $.99!

The Weight of Their Souls

The epic war is over, the great Enemy destroyed. A ragtag band of survivors makes their way home, only to discover there were survivors on the other side, too. And even a lesser evil from that vicious host can still be a deadly threat.

It’s swords against sorcery, with more than just their lives on the line. The travelers, who barely know each other, must summon the courage to face one more battle.

Get it now from Amazon or  in your favorite e-book format through Draft 2 Digital.

Want to help a writer? -Read! -Review! -Recommend!


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Today I’m reviewing a new release by my friend, Charles Yallowitz. The Life and Times of Ichabod Brooks is a collection of fantasy short stories featuring an adventurer named… You probably guessed. Here’s the cover copy:

“Some heroes seek fame. Some seek fortune. Others want to save the world. Ichabod Brooks only wants to put food on the table for his family.” Through the 11 stories of this collection, he does just that. With uncommon humility, he attempts to discourage the ever-present bards who seek to make their own reputations by telling exaggerated tales of his exploits.

The stories are set in the same world as Yallowitz’s main series, Legends of Windermere, so many things will be familiar to anyone who has read the other books. For those unfamiliar, it’s similar to a certain role-playing game we all know and love. Ichabod rubs shoulders with races such as Halflings and Dwarves, plus a few new one like Calicos (cat people) and Chaos Elves.

The author does a good job capturing the free-wheeling feel of those role-playing sessions where spells are flying and every character has a bizarre collection of enchanted boots, weapons, cloaks, rings, necklaces, etc., etc. He keeps things moving with an almost-cartoonish combat style and plenty of humor.

Although Ichabod is joined by a few recurring friends, the action is mostly his. Each story contains a unique challenge and setting, so they don’t become redundant. There’s even an impressive sea serpent for those who need their daily dose of dragons.

The Life and Times of Ichabod Brooks is available through Amazon, and it’s a bargain at $2.99. I urge you to check it out.

Blog: http://www.legendsofwindemere.com
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Website: http://www.charleseyallowitz.com


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection

Masters of Air & Fire, Lucy D. Ford’s middle-grade novel

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

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This is from my soon-to-be-published Swords and Sorcery novelette, The Weight of Their Souls. To be truthful, I’d hoped to have it published by now, but I’m waiting for the cover art. (Aren’t we always waiting for the cover art?)

We gathered in the doorway, and Malachai drawled with casual disdain, “What is it with you, Ravenbeard? We’re facing this unholy thing, and you say you won’t stand with us. Why?”
“Brother,” Mordekai said sternly. “Leave it. We don’t have time for this.”
“The way I see it, we aren’t the ones short on time.”
“That’s between me and my mates,” I answered.
Malachai crossed his arms stubbornly. “Funny, I don’t see any of them here.”
I wanted to punch him, or maybe throw up. “That’s right,” I said through gritted teeth. “You don’t. We fought the wyvern on Vanra Field. What did you do?”

The Weight of their Souls should be coming out soon! Meantime, here are a few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection

Masters of Air & Fire, Lucy D. Ford’s middle-grade novel

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

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That’s right — I have a new project in the works. The Weight of Their Souls, the swords and sorcery novelette that I podcast back in 2013, will soon be available as a 99-cent e-book. Cover art will be by Diana Harlan Stein. She’s an old acquaintance from Pern fandom, and I’m excited to bring her in on this project.

While Diana’s hard at work, I’m doing behind-the-scenes setup through Bowker, Draft 2 Digital and Kindle. Once art is complete I should be able to drop it in, and viola! My next book should be out around May 1st.

Here’s the blurb:  The epic war is over, the great Enemy destroyed. A ragtag band of survivors tries to make their way home, only to discover there were survivors on the other side, too. And even a lesser evil from that vicious host can still be lethal. It’s swords against sorcery with more than just their lives on the line. The travelers, who barely know each other, must summon the courage to face one more battle.

Those of you who’ve helped out with swapping reviews and blog appearances in the past, I hope you’ll support me again. Reviews, signal-boosting, it all helps.

And, don’t forget my other books!

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection

Masters of Air & Fire, Lucy D. Ford’s middle-grade novel

The Grimhold Wolf, my gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

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More about the video game Dragon’s Dogma (Capcom, 2012).

As with most games any more, you have great freedom to choose what your character will look like. Characters can be male or female without penalty, and can appear of any race and age. So you could make your character look like a Tolkeinian dwarf or a small child or a grizzled old woman. You also get to design your main pawn to your liking. None of this affects gameplay.

Another feature that’s become common in fantasy games is that you can hire other pawns up to a total of four (including Arisen and main pawn). If you are online, you can use other people’s main pawns. I’ve found it very interesting how some people dress their pawns. (A fighter in a g-string. Really?) You can give equipment to your pawns and have them carry things for you. On the down side, they continually make inane comments like “Tis a grand fortress,” and there’s no way to turn off the repetitive chatter.

Although you can tailor your character’s appearance, there are only three character classes: Mage, Strider or Fighter. These can move up, if you wish, to Warrior, Sorcerer and Ranger. Each class has only a limited set of attack skills to choose from, and they don’t stack up. If you change classes, you select new attack skills from a new list.

There are no secondary skills. I missed being able to choose from a wide array of skills, the way you can in games like Oblivion. None of that “warrior with a bit of magic” in this game.

Allegedly, Dragon’s Dogma is an open world where you can wander anywhere, gather materials to craft items, and explore caves or ruins. I found the landscape pretty small compared to games like Skyrim. Most locations are related to various quests, so you can’t just wander around exploring ruins and such.

The story aspect is also fairly limited. You have one main quest and a number of side quests which you pick up at message boards in the inns and taverns. Characterization of the NPCs is cursory. More frustrating for me, there are no dialog options for my character to say all the snarky or heroic things I wanted to say. Perils of a novelist playing video games, I suppose.

That said, the main plot does have a payoff in a climactic scene where Grigori (the dragon) poses a really interesting, lady-or-tiger challenge for the Arisen. You make your choice and pick up the pieces. My decision led me to another big confrontation where my choice affected the direction of the game. Indeed, the first time I clicked the wrong button and ended up transforming my character into a dragon, which flew off to afflict the land. Not the ending I intended! I like this approach, since in so many fantasy games you just cut people down, take their stuff, and go on without a thought.

All the above may sound like I’m down on this game, but I’m not. Though it isn’t as good as Oblivion or Skyrim, I found myself planning my next character as I approached the end of the game. So it will have replay to keep me busy for a while, and I’ll pick up some of those quests I passed on the first time. I know there’s an expansion, called Dark Arisen, and I’ll probably pick that up at some point.

Dragon’s Dogma hasn’t been a bad way to spend my summer, all in all.

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The first of Moorcock’s Elric stories was published in 1961. Like many series of that era, it was not planned to be such. The stories were simply popular enough that editors asked for more, and Moorcock obliged. So the series unfolded as a sequence of novellas and novelettes in various genre magazines. These were stitched together into six novels and published in 1976-1977 by DAW Books. The books are Elric of Melnibone, Sailor on the Seas of Fate, The Weird of the White Wolf, The Sleeping Sorceress (a.k.a. The Vanishing Tower), Bane of the Black Sword, and Stormbringer.

Moorcock had started writing these stories in his twenties, a stage of life when young people often begin to confront deep questions like the meaning of life, whether the world is basically evil or basically good, and how (or indeed, whether) a well-intentioned person can navigate life’s challenges when it seems that all men are only out for themselves. The result of his meditation is a strong and unique statement that, even decades later, I don’t want to spoil.

Regardless of the shortcomings, some of which I mentioned in my last post, Moorcock’s doomed hero left an indelible mark on the genre. Some of the now-familiar themes Moorcock gave us include: intelligent, malevolent swords; sorcery as a grueling and visceral process; travel through dimensions and time; Law and Chaos as two competing pantheons who strive against each other for control of the universe. Echoes of Moorcock’s dark vision can still be heard in corners as diverse as George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, various incarnations of Dungeons and Dragons, and the anime series Full Metal Alchemist; Moorcock’s hero is likely the person Edward Elric is named after.

If you are a venturesome reader, someone who can tolerate a very different approach or appreciates the writing styles of a bygone era, give Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga a try. You won’t be disappointed.

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This summer I’ve been revisiting some of the books I read when I was in high school. Works that blew me away and made an indelible mark on the whole genre. And the first of these is Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga. These are the ultimate swords-and-sorcery novels, where a massively flawed hero strides a stunning (and sometimes bizarre) mythic landscape, battling both demons and humans who have given in to their baser natures.

The title character, Elric of Melnibone, is emperor of a mighty empire, founded on sorcery and the creed of seeking pleasure at any cost. (And preferably with others paying that cost.) He’s an albino, afflicted with weaknesses that leave him exhausted after modest physical effort unless he takes special drugs. Later editions have attempted to recast these as herbal remedies, but the edition I’ve been reading refers to them quite openly as drugs.

Elric is a misfit as emperor, not only because of his physical differences but because of his thoughtful nature. Most Melniboneans expect their emperor to rule with hideous cruelty; Elric actually studies tomes about how to rule with honor and compassion. Not surprisingly, one of his kinfolk decides he would make a better emperor — and the series takes flight from there.

Speaking of flight, dragons are part of the Melnibonean life and heritage. They were present on the island when the first Melniboneans arrived, 10,000 years before the saga’s opening. These mighty flyers had venom that caused everything it touched to burn. Yet the Melniboneans had entered into a pact with Arioch, Duke of Hell. In time they domesticated the dragons and used them as steeds to conquer the surrounding lands. In the first volume, Elric of Melnibone, one of Elric’s best friends is a dragon keeper. Flying on dragons is referred by as a popular pastime. Dragons are used in warfare, although they must rest in between battles. Also the crown Elric wears is in the shape of a black dragon, and his robes and armor at various times are decorated with dragon motifs.

It’s probably been 30 years since I first read these books. What surprises me, after so long, is how many things Moorcock does that writers today are told we should never, ever do. He opens the books with scenery. He talks directly to the audience. He tells instead of showing and uses really long sentences. Here’s the opening paragraph from the second novel, Sailor on the Seas of Fate:

“It was as if the man stood in a vast cavern whose walls and roof were comprised of gloomy, unstable colors which would occasionally break and admit rays of light from the moon. That these walls were mere clouds massed above mountains and ocean was hard to believe, for all that the moonlight pierced them, stained them, and revealed the black and turbulent sea washing the shore on which the man now stood.”

— See addendum below —

Wow, that’s a lot of words! In addition, racial and gender equality were not vital concerns. There are black characters, but mostly they’re brigands, and the few female characters are there only as bait or to be rescued. I say this not to chastise the writer — nobody in that era was worried about social justice — but because it seems jarring if you don’t expect it.

There’s a lot more to say about Elric… next time.

— Addendum —
As a comparison, here’s the opening paragraph from Jim Butcher’s Changes, a Harry Dresden novel published in 2010: “I answered the phone, and Susan Rodrigues said, ‘They’ve taken our daughter.'”

Totally different approach, isn’t it?

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