Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Interview with MCA Hogarth

The Worth of a ShellMy novel, The Five Elements, is part of StoryBundle’s current Fantasy Bundle. Much like the fantasy genre itself, the bundle features a wonderfully diverse group of authors and books. One of those authors is M.C.A. Hogarth, author of The Worth of a Shell. The bundle’s curator, Blair MacGregor, had this to say about M.C.A and her novel:

I became acquainted with Maggie through her strong and well-thought-out advocacy of indie writers and diverse publishing options, and soon discovered her fabulous talent as a writer and an artist. The first novel of hers I read pulled me into a non-human world alive with distinct cultures, sensory depth, and the harsh consequences of daring to want life outside society's limitations. That novel, The Worth of A Shell, is in this bundle so you can make that the same discovery I did. – Blair MacGregor

I had the opportunity to interview M.C.A. Here are her thoughts.

1. Tell us a little about The Worth of a Shell. What was the motivation behind the story and characters?

I've always liked stories about aliens, and am forever making them; they're an eternal lens into questions about the human condition, and give people a way to look at those questions without bringing along the baggage of society and culture that we all drag around everywhere. If I try to write about gender with human characters, I engage all the reader's history with gender in their own life. If I give them a horse-tailed, dinosaur-browed, jack-legged neuter creature, they can leave all that at home. Or at least, that's the hope. When I'm writing about things that are especially fraught for us, I often turn to aliens to explore repercussions that would hit too close to home if written about humans.

The Jokka of the Shell universe are a lens to examine multiple issues--not just gender, which is the obvious one, but also questions about dementia and loss.

Also, I write aliens because it's fun.

2. Your body of work has a definite anthropomorphic quality. Where does that come from?

I think the anthropomorphic quality is literal. I find human qualities in things that are not human, so that we can look at what being human means. My interest is catholic: I like robots, talking spaceships, sentient tree people, were-creatures, aliens, the whole kit and caboodle. If you put it forth believably, I will be entertained! I am fascinated by diversity in experience and outlook. Science fiction/fantasy is a fantastic place to roll around in all that. As a genre, we have a long history of loving our anthropomorphic characters, from Anne McCaffrey's dragons to Asimov's robots to the million talking cat stories (from Niven's Kzinti to Diane Duane's feline wizards to Cherryh's kif from the Chanur novels). We love our non-humanoids!

3. It looks like you waited almost a decade to write Book 2 and 3 of this trilogy. What happened there?

Wow, well, all right--so I set up this big problem in Shell, knowing that I would have to resolve it somehow. And according to the rules of epic fantasy, huge societal problems can't be resolved quietly or slowly. It's gotta be nuclear, usually in the form of enormous wars. You have an unjust society, it needs to be overthrown and replaced with something more fair, right? That's how it works, how I grew up thinking it should work, and how, once I started writing, I thought I would have to make it work if I didn't want my readers to feel cheated. There should be banners and cavalry and carpets of armies facing off beneath a cloudy sky, with cold winds blowing everyone's mane heroically from their brows! There should be bloodshed and sacrifice and monuments at the end!
And... I couldn't do that with this universe. My first problem being that I'm writing a marginal society: it has so few people surviving in it that a war on the scale of something out of epic fantasy would wipe away the unjust society by rendering the species extinct. Talk about babies thrown out with bathwater! You begin to think of war as a luxury of societies with a lot of either manpower or technology, neither situation of which obtains to the Jokka.

My second problem was that I got fixated on having to follow the Chosen One through the entire narrative. It took me a long time to figure out that there was no chosen one, not really... and that the story had to be carried through other people's voices in the subsequent books, because that's where the action was. I'd been wanting to cling to Thenet all the way to the end of the trilogy, but it's not Thenet who gets us through the next important events.

Once I let go of those two things, I was shocked how quickly Books 2 and 3 came together. But I'm also glad I waited, because I think the resulting story is a lot stronger--and more unexpected--than the one I would have written had I been bludgeoning myself into writing to the imaginary rules of epic fantasy.

4. What's next? Any current projects or upcoming releases you'd like to share?

I just released a high fantasy romance novel, Thief of Songs, which is getting enough good feedback that I think I'll write a second book in that universe. It shares some commonalities with Shell, in that there are multiple genders (in this case, human ones: hermaphrodite and neuter as well as male and female), but it's a much more pastoral setting. In addition, I'm finishing up an epic fantasy trilogy wherein I once again fail to follow the epic fantasy rules--unavoidably, maybe, since I've made a cluster of philosophy students the main characters, and now they want to talk, research, and discuss their way into solutions of problems rather than do the epic stirring battle thing.

I hope I eventually do get to write an epic stirring battle! But that year is apparently not this year!

Make sure to check out the full selection of StoryBundle Fantasy Author Interviews!

Are Printed Books Dead?

With the rise of tablets and other e-readers, some are starting to pronounce the traditional hard back book as dead. As new versions of e-readers like the Kindle become more advanced, the noise about the death of books becomes louder.

Are we really part of the last generation to be able to purchase, own and consume paper books at will? Here are a few reasons why many think we are:

Book shops dwindling

In a world where we can buy things at the click of a button, many high street and independent retailers suffer as a result. In 2011 American book retailing giant Borders closed its doors for good, despite being the prime retailer of books in both the UK and USA (alongside its parent group Barnes & Noble). A lot of this was attributed to the fact that as well as there being fewer people actually reading hard back books, those who did want to read solid printed books usually bought their desired books online. Retailers like Amazon, who are a one stop shop for almost any need you have, took the custom from shops as consumers could buy books here at the same time as making any other purchase. The convenience factor plays a big role here, especially at peak retail times like Christmas. Not only that, retailers like Amazon are able to offer books both used and new at a much lower price than book shops as there are no store overheads, not to mention free delivery on orders of a certain cost, meaning the consumer isn’t put out by ordering this way so it becomes less of an issue that they may not get to open their book for a couple of days.

And so with less book shops comes less need to print as many books overall. However Amazon has contributed to the death of print in a much bigger way.

The rise of e-readers

The first Kindle launched in November 2007 and in the last 7 or so years the device by Amazon has gone from strength to strength with each new model which has been released. The small sleek design, roughly the same size as a paperback but far lighter, proved appealing for those who love to read at any opportunity. Both a popular space saver in your handbag, suitcase and in your home, the Kindle breathed a whole new lease of life into the hobby that is reading. Soon many different brands of e-reader cropped up, offering all the same benefits as a Kindle.

As a result, e-readers and in turn e-books then became popular, fashionable and affordable. As e-books don’t have to be printed and delivered to a store, the cost to produce and sell them then becomes much less than an average paperback or hardback. This means that e-books can sell for much less, and in quite a lot of instances you’ll find e-books for free available in most e-reader libraries. Therefore although you pay an initial expense with an e-reader, it becomes more cost-effective in the long run to enjoy reading this way, which then drives down the need for as many printed books.

The digital world

Although e-readers make up a large part of the digital world, our whole attitude and adoption of the digital technology available to us is another contributing factor to the death of printed books. For example, with an e-reader you can buy a book directly from the library and have it added to your device in seconds. You could have an account linked to your bank details or you may opt to use a payment method like PayPal, but either way, the transaction is almost instant and you can enjoy your books in minutes.

But it’s not just books we can consume in the digital world or even on our Kindles any more. Now you can pay your bills, play games, gamble and so much more too.

With all these factors considered, it’s easy to see why it looks like the death of printed books is near.

Indie Fantasy StoryBundle is here!

I’m happy to announce the immediate availability of StoryBundle’s Indie Fantasy Bundle!

StoryBundle Indie Fantasy Bundle

I’m especially excited about this latest offering from StoryBundle because The Five Elements is included in it!

As you can see, though, there are a number of great titles all around. StoryBundle works a little bit differently from any ol’ compilation because the books are hand-selected by a curator. This bundle’s curator is Blair MacGregor. She went into a lot of detail and provided a much better explanation of the bundle than I ever could, so I’ve included her post below for you to peruse.

Remember, the bundle is only available for three weeks, so if you’re on the fence, don’t wait too long. I don’t think you can go wrong with the above selections, and part of the money goes to charity, so what’s not to like?

Here’s more from Blair…


THE INDIE FANTASY BUNDLE

Curated by Blair MacGregor

A couple years ago, StoryBundle included my first novel in the Indie Fantasy Bundle. This time, StoryBundle offered me the opportunity to curate a bundle of my own, and I jumped to accept. I couldn't pass up the chance to share some of my own favorite writers with you.

This Indie Fantasy Bundle includes some names you'll recognize, and some that might be new. The novels give fantasy readers who love the genre a diverse feast of great reads: epics where the fate of dynasties depend on the strength of a few dedicated men and women, adventure tales that never slow down, gods who intervene on behalf of their chosen servants, cultures in upheaval when its people dare to question ancient boundaries, political intrigues fueled by magic, and characters young and old who face challenges of faith, honor, and survival. It includes a World Fantasy award winner, Gemmell and Spectrum award finalists, Nebula finalists, and Writers of the Future award winners.

The bundle includes Bradley Beaulieu's epic debut novel The Winds of Khalakovo, where dynasties and personal desires collide in secret chambers below and the wind-filled skies above, and Scott Marlowe's action-packed The Five Elements, filled with adventure and alchemy and powerful elemental magic. You'll meet a talented and clever outlaw in Sherwood Smith's Lhind the Thief, a soldier who must rediscover his own purpose in C.J. Brightley's The King's Sword, and an alien race facing challenges and discoveries that could destroy their society in M.C.A. Hogarth's The Worth of A Shell. Francesca Forrest's Pen Pal joins a child watched over by the spirits of the ocean with a woman who discovers the awakening power of the earth's fire. Judith Tarr's Arrows of the Sun sets an empire a mere century old on the brink of breaking apart. My own dark fantasy Sand of Bone casts one outcast ruler into the wilds to discover the desert's magic before her kin hunts her down.

StoryBundle lets you choose your own price, so you decide how much you'd like to support the writers. For $3—or more, if you'd like—you'll receive the basic bundle of four novels in DRM-free ebook format. For the bonus price of at least $12, you'll receive all eight novels. If you choose, a portion of your payment will go toward supporting different charities such as Girls Write Now and Mighty Writers. Over the years, StoryBundle and its participating writers have donated thousands to support awesome charities doing great work.

The Indie Fantasy Bundle is available for only three weeks. It's a great opportunity to pick up eight wonderful novels for winter reading, support independent writers who want to take you on an fantastic journey, and discover new writers with great stories along the way. – Blair McGregor

The initial titles in the bundle (minimum $3 to purchase) are:

  • The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley P. Beaulieu
  • Pen Pal by Francesca Forrest
  • The Five Elements by Scott Marlowe
  • Lhind the Thief by Sherwood Smith

If you pay more than the bonus price of just $12, you'll get another four books:

  • Sand of Bone by Blair MacGregor
  • The King's Sword by C.J. Brightley
  • Arrows of the Sun by Judith Tarr
  • The Worth of a Shell by M.C.A. Hogarth

The bundle is available for a very limited time only, via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books!

It's also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.

  • Get quality reads: We've chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
  • Pay what you want (minimum $3): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth to you. If you can only spare a little, that's fine! You'll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
  • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there's nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to charity. We're currently featuring Mighty Writers and Girls Write Now.
  • Receive extra books: If you beat our bonus price, you're you're getting eight total books!

StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.

For more information, visit our website at storybundle.com, Tweet us at @storybundle, Like us on Facebook, and Plus us on Google Plus. For press inquiries, please email press@storybundle.com.

The Killing Knife: Review Copies Available

The Killing Knife

The Killing Knife is out and I have eBook review copies available for any and all interested.

Like a good fantasy adventure story full of daring escapades, rogues, and fanatical priests hell bent on doing something with dark technology? How about a whimsical hero with a penchant for fine wine? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then I think you’ll enjoy The Killing Knife.

The Killing Knife is a compilation of the first three Assassin Without a Name stories. It includes Fine Wine, Killing the Dead, and Night of Zealotry. It’s available for sale at all major online retailers and, as a reviewer, I would ask you leave a review at any one (or more) of their web sites. Also, Goodreads works.

In order to get a review copy, just send me an email or leave a comment below with your preferred eBook format and I’ll fix you up.

The Killing Knife is followed by The Goddard Affair and, available now as a pre-order, Thief’s Gambit.

Some thoughts on The Goddard Affair

This first appeared in the From the Author section on Amazon’s product page for The Goddard Affair.

Unlike the previous installment in the series, Night of Zealotry, where the title character's prowess as an assassin is on full display, The Goddard Affair allowed me to showcase his charm and ability to blend into almost any situation. In this case, it's a high society gala event, put on by the Society for the Progression of Science & Technology. The Progressive Society was loosely modeled after the famed Royal Society of London. The governing bodies and other nuances are different, but the goal of furthering science and the general understanding of it are the same.

The Goddard Affair finds our witty assassin in the thick of things once more, but this time amidst more pleasant company a la Gwendolyn Morgan, a society member who's gotten herself into a bit of a predicament. Needless to say, the Assassin Without a Name lends her his particular skills. Readers of mine know my female characters are anything but damsels in distress, though I won't say anything more lest I introduce spoilers.

I will, however, say this: The Goddard Affair is the longest story in the series to date and it was, without a doubt, the most fun. It brings in a lot of different elements: action, intrigue, mystery, murder, technology, and, of course, mayhem. I gave a lot of thought to many of the characters because you're definitely going to see more of some of them as the larger story continues to come to light.

It's a fun series to write, so as long as readers continue to enjoy the stories, I'll keep writing them.

Thief’s Gambit, the fifth Assassin Without a Name story, is now available as a pre-order at Amazon!