Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Johnny Halloween by Norman Partridge

Rating

Review

*** This review originally appeared on Out of this World Reviews. ***

Johnny Halloween by Norman Partridge is a collection of Halloween-themed horror short stories. All but one of the stories appeared previously in other publications. Partridge is perhaps best known for Dark Harvest, which won the Bram Stoker Award in 2006. This collection contains references to that novel in multiple stories, and concludes with a story set in the same town as Dark Harvest aptly called “The Jack o’Lantern: A Dark Harvest Tale.”

In fact, a word of caution: DO NOT READ “The Jack o’Lantern: A Dark Harvest Tale” until you’ve read Dark Harvest. That story is so closely related to Dark Harvest that it will ruin it for you if you read the story in this collection first. I did, and, yes, it did indeed ruin the ending of Dark Harvest for me.

Johnny Halloween is a fairly quick read. It took perhaps two hours to consume its 125 pages. While every story is not specifically Halloween related, at minimum they each contain a spooky overture inline with the spirit of the holiday. Supernatural elements are present in only some of the stories, though the setup for something otherworldly is there in almost every story, so it isn’t until the end that you find out just what you’re dealing with. When a story does delve into the supernatural, it does it effectively, with the right amount of spookiness and unexplained mystery. The author’s style, which is easy and flows well, reminded me a lot of Stephen King. There’s a fair amount of swearing, but it’s used effectively.

The best story in this collection was “The Jack o’Lantern.” It contains the heaviest dose of supernatural elements and was a real page turner. The worst? Calling anything in this collection “worst” doesn’t feel right because I found all of the stories well-written and enjoyable in their own way. But if I were to call it the “least ranked” instead, I’d say the story “The Man Who Killed Halloween” rated the lowest. The author makes a point of discussing in the introduction how he grew up in the 1960’s in the Bay Area where the Zodiac killer struck multiple times and so this story is obviously his expression of that time period in his life, but it fell somewhat flat for me. I don’t doubt having the fear of a serial killer hanging over your every waking moment is something tangible and real, but I didn’t feel those elements were conveyed well in the story itself.

All told, Johnny Halloween is a good collection and a worthy read for this Halloween or any other. I give it three rockets.

Book Review: On Basilisk Station by David Weber

On Basilisk Station by David Weber is the first book in the Honor Harrington series. The series started in 1992 and, while the main Honor series concluded in 2012 with A Rising Thunder, Weber has written a number of additional series since that time chronicling the continuing adventures of his Royal Manticore Navy captain. In all, there have been some thirty-four Honor Harrington novels. The prospect of reading all of those books is daunting to say the least, which is why I intend to concentrate on reading only the thirteen novels in the original series first. If all goes well with that series, I may continue on. Regardless, anyone coming into the numerous Honor series has many, many books to settle into and get comfy with Honor Harrington as she puts all on the line for queen and country. Some will find that very appealing, others, not so much.

On Basilisk Station begins with our main character just having been promoted to the rank of commander and given her first ship, the Fearless. During her and her new crew’s first war games simulation, Commander Harrington proves too clever for her own good, scoring an early kill on the opposition’s flagship. The flagship may be out of commission, but not so the remainder of the opposition’s fleet, which proceeds to score kill after kill on Fearless as retribution for “destroying” their fleet’s command ship. Politics come into play afterwards, and Fearless is assigned to Basilisk Station, a remote outpost where good commanders are sent to idle their careers away performing useless patrols.

But not long after she arrives, Harrington begins to discover the machinations of some unknown persons bent on disrupting the system and possibly more. What follows is a multi-layered story that moves along at a sufficient pace (most of the time) right up to the final, climatic ending where Commander Harrington’s stubborn perseverance, tactical expertise, and ability to inspire her people to perform great and heroic actions are on full display.

Weber’s writing is serviceable. With the exception of some rather large infodumps (one just as the action is really getting good, no less!) early on and toward the end, he shifts perspectives, injects new information, and heightens the stakes just enough to keep my interest from one chapter to the next. He also spends considerable time introducing us to the crew of the Fearless, which helps to establish these supporting characters as more than just cannon fodder. Bad things do happen; their suffering is felt more poignantly as a result of having gotten to know them.

All told, On Basilisk Station is both a good standalone story and a good introduction to Harrington and the ‘Honorverse,’ as it’s called. I’m looking forward to picking up the next book in the series.

Announcing AssassinTales.com

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Assassin Tales is an all-new site dedicated to my Assassin Without a Name series of fantasy assassin stories. Every few months I’ll post a new story in its entirety onto the site. Currently, there are seven stories already written; I’ve already posted the first three stories in the series to the site and will continue with the others at regular intervals based on how far I get with writing the next stories in the series. In order to minimize the lag between postings, I intend to first build up a small backlog of stories. I already have many of these outlined, but they have yet to be written. All stories posted to Assassin Tales are complete and free to read.

Based on reader interest and feedback, I may also make these new stories available for download or purchase on Amazon.com. Posting to Assassin Tales costs me nothing. But for an actual published work the bar (and the cost in dollars) is so much higher. There’s professional editing costs, book cover costs, and a whole lot of my time formatting and proofing the digital Kindle file to ensure the reader experience is the best it can possibly be. That’s a level to which I do not intend to take the remaining stories in the series unless I can see a solid ROI so that I can at least recoup editing and book cover costs.

AssassinTales.com is therefore intended to satisfy my own self-interest in seeing the series completed. I love writing and world-building and creating awesome characters and throwing them into impossible situations. The business end of writing can really cloud all of that sometimes. Assassin Tales is therefore my attempt to not worry about that part of things and just focus on the fun aspects.

Visit AssassinTales.com today, read a story or two, and leave a comment when you’re done. Thanks.

It’s Release x2 Day! New Assassin stories are here.

Release x2

What’s better than announcing one new book? How about two?

First up is Witch’s Imperative. Witch’s Imperative is the 7th Assassin Without a Name story. It rounds out the series nicely and enables me to collect those first seven stories into an all-new collection, The Assassin’s Blade.

Following the pricing of the other stories in the series, Witch’s Imperative retails for 99 cents. For something that’s over 100 pages, that’s a steal.

The Assassin’s Blade, which comes in at over 400 pages, retails for $4.99. But, because it’s release day, I’m holding the price at $2.99 through the weekend. Get it while you can.

What I’ve Been Up To Lately

I’ve been busy. That’s the short answer. The longer, more detailed answer to what I’ve been up to lately follows.

Sometime last year I started outlining the third Alchemancer book, tentatively titled “The Inversion Solution.” I actually completed that outline, then switched gears back to my Assassin Without a Name series because I’m trying to round that one out with a solid ten stories (the story being told in that series will go longer than 10 stories, but 10 seemed like a good number to shoot for as an incremental goal). After spending some time with my witty assassin, releasing The Goddard Affair, Thief’s Gambit, Assassin’s Justice, as well as compiling the first three assassin stories into a collection called The Killing Knife, I changed my focus back to Aaron, Serena, and Ensel Rhe. I did leave them in a somewhat precarious position at the end of The Nullification Engine, so I know it’s important to get back to that series and get the next book out. The problem was that I was not satisfied with the outline. It needed more.

So I re-worked it from the ground up. Along the way, I realized there was too much going on to wrap the series up with only one more book, so I decided to add a book four. At that point, given the complexity of the various storylines, I knew I needed to outline book 4 before even thinking about starting to write book 3. I hate writing myself into corners or missing an opportunity for foreshadowing or some other tie-in. Plus, I really needed to work out the details to make absolutely sure I was telling the best story possible. So I pushed through and finished the outline for book 4. With both outlines now finished, I’m poised to finally begin writing the next book. People on my Facebook Page have been asking about it, too, which is kinda nice and cool at the same time. It’s good to know someone out there is looking forward to getting their hands on it.

Meanwhile, I also finished the outline for “Witch’s Imperative,” the next/seventh Assassin Without a Name story, and started writing it. I’m about 5,000 words in.

The plan moving forward is to split time between the two series, most likely giving more of my time to “The Inversion Solution” simple because it’s going to be longer than "Witch’s Imperative," and thus will take longer to write, and because I know readers have been waiting for it for a while now.

Last, I’ve commissioned a very talented artist to create a character illustration of everyone’s favorite witty assassin. I’ve received pencil sketches and some initial color blocks and absolutely cannot wait to see the final illustration. It’s going to look fantastic. The next step after that is to have full illustrations worked up for each of my major series. Think Aaron and Shanna in the middle of a chaotic, elemental storm for The Five Elements or Ensel Rhe and his daughter, Jakinda Rhe, battling a host of skeva for The Nullification Engine. I’d also like to see the Assassin Without a Name with Elizabeth at his side caught in the middle of a host of Jakaree priests. Exciting stuff. The business purpose of these illustrations is to use in advertising, on my web site, and in other promotional capacities, so there is reason beyond the coolness factor.

And that’s about it. I don’t write full-time; I’d need to sell a whole lot more books for that to ever happen, so I make use of what time I can outside of my day job.

One last parting word... If you’re on Facebook, stop by and like my author page, why don’t you? You’ll get occasional updates like this one as well as other genre related goodies and you can post stuff and ask me questions or just strike up a conversation. I'm very approachable and love to talk to people who share a common interest in all things fantasy.

Until next time!