Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Why You Should Read ARC's

Dark RainEOS Books has a call out for advanced readers for Tony Richards' Dark Rain.

I'm not in on this one only because I need the time to work on my current WIP. Participating as an advanced reader is a great experience, but it’s one of those things you have to sometimes temper your enthusiasm over. Personally, I love being one of the first people to see an author’s finished work. Also, it’s free stuff, and who doesn’t like that?

Ultimately, though, participating in these endeavors (along with a great many other things) can become a distraction. There’s typically a deadline associated with the ARC and its publication date. So you have to commit to a reading schedule. Then, you have to write a review. I like to put some thought into mine, and possibly do a little research about the author in the process. For me, it becomes a more fulfilling process that way. In any case, what this boils down to is time. Time away from other things, like writing.

One way to help deal with this is to limit the number of ARC’s you sign up for. Do one every two or three months, or every six months if that works better. But don’t not participate. ARC’s are a great way to get exposure to authors you might not otherwise read. I, for one, think it is of the utmost importance that a writer read outside of his or her field. It’s a sort of research, both into other content as well as writing style.

As for Dark Rain, here’s what EOS has to say about it:

Raine's Landing, Massachusetts, can't be located on any map. On the surface it appears an ordinary New England small town, but anyone who stumbles in wants to leave immediately . . . and once gone, they forget they were ever there. Real magic pervades this village of shadows, practiced by powerful adepts descended from the original Salem witches. But a curse has made it impossible for any resident to step beyond the town line. Those born here must die here as well.

That sounds awesome.

If you’ve got the time in your schedule, go check it out.

Free eBooks from Jeffrey A. Carver

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SF Signal reports that Jeffrey Carver is giving away not one but two of his Chaos Chronicles books, Strange Attractors and Neptune Crossing.

Carver reports on his site:

All the novels of the The Chaos Chronicles are here or coming soon—free!—as well as some short stories. This is a great way to rejoin the story before reading the soon-to-be-published Sunborn. Also planned—a podcast audiobook of Sunborn.

Carver is no stranger to giveaways: Tor gave away his Battlestar Galactica pilot episode adaptation back in July. I didn't download it, only because I'd already seen the pilot episode on TV at least twice and didn't really need to read it.

However, as far as these two giveaways go… I already downloaded them and can't wait to jump in.

You should, too. Go get'em.

NOTE: As of 9/22/08, Jeffrey has made all three books in The Chaos Chronicles series available as free downloads.

Book Review: Seeds of Change by John Joseph Adams (editor)

Back in early June, John Joseph Adams sent out a request for advanced readers for his Seeds of Change anthology. Of course, I took him up on it.

Adams is the assistant editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, but he's also been on a tear of late editing anthologies. There's The Living Dead, Wastelands, and, now, Seeds of Change.

While Adams gave plenty of advanced notice of the imminent release of the anthology, I fell behind with some other reading and wasn't able to start it until after it had already been released. Fortunately, Seeds of Change is a fast-paced, easy read (though I have to admit I did not read every story through, see below), and so this review comes only shortly after the official release. You can purchase Seeds of Change in hardcover or Kindle formats.

Now, on to my review…

I'm going to start with an introduction pulled from the Seeds of Change web site to give you a taste of what this anthology is all about:

Imagine the moment when the present ends, and the future begins–when the world we knew is no more and a brave new world is thrust upon us. Gathering stories by nine of today’s most incisive minds, Seeds of Change confronts the pivotal issues facing our society today: racism, global warming, peak oil, technological advancement, and political revolution.

A heady claim, to be sure, but Seeds of Change delivered, for me, seven out of nine times.

That calls for an explanation: There are nine stories in total; two of them didn't do it for me, and I had to stop reading. But of the seven stories I did finish, I found each of them both entertaining and thought-provoking. That's a rare combination, IMO. Often an author will go too far into the literary realm, which is all well and fine when one is looking for that sort of thing. But these days I'll take entertaining over literary nine times out of ten. It was a pleasant surprise that Seeds of Change provided both, and probably why I found it such an easy read.

Of the seven stories I completed, the most entertaining were those by Jay Lake, Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, and Ted Kosmatka. Tobias Buckell was up there as well, but I found his Pepper story contribution a bit of a letdown. Perhaps I'd gotten too used to the character's zombie butt-kicking ways from Sly Mongoose that to see him thoughtful and almost introspective threw me. On the other hand, this anthology is about change, so seeing things in a different light may be what it's all about.

Seeds of Change scores a ten on quality of writing. Regardless of what I might have thought about a story's theme or characters, the authors each come through with a wholly engaging style. That goes for the two stories I didn't finish as well.

For the record, those two were "A Dance Called Armageddon", by Ken MacLeod, and "Artists Aren't Stupid", by Jeremiah Tolbert. There was nothing inherently wrong with either story. The oration simply wasn't doing it for me. At my age (I'm 38), that's enough for me to give it a pass.

But that fact takes nothing away from the anthology. If you're looking for a healthy dose of thought-provoking literature leavened by a hefty shot of entertainment to put an exclamation on these final summer days, I highly recommend Seeds of Change.

Writing Update #5

This Monday's writing progress is coming in a little late because (1) today is Labor Day and thus a holiday and (2) my wife and I have been out all day biking and then celebrating my dad's birthday.

However, I do have some progress to report, so let's jump into it.

Let me throw up the latest graph:

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I'm currently editing page 329, an improvement of 16 pages over last week's status. That puts me at a completion percentage of 79.47%. Last week I was at 75.24%.

As you can see, my completion percentage over time is very linear:

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A few more stats: Total pages dropped by 2 to 414, word count dropped also from 123,508 to 122,866.

That's about it for this time. I'm still chugging away on editing, and I think based on some information I found and posted about regarding total word count I have a tough decision to make. I'm going to have to cut something fairly big in order to reduce the total word count down to where it needs to be. I have something in mind, but I need to finish the first pass, then take a look at the big picture before I make any rash decisions.

Till next time.

Fiction: How Long Is Too Long?

1028208_man_thinking Those of you who've been following along know that I am mired in a first-pass edit of my current novel. One of the main goals of this edit is to reduce the overall word count. Currently at 123,319 words, I still have some work to do. However, considering it peaked at 135,785 words before editing had begun, I think I'm doing OK.

Why care about word count at all? Because staying within the acceptable range is one less reason to be rejected, that's why.

Still, how long is too long? At what point do you know you're in the right, saleable range?

First, it depends on stature. Established authors have more leeway; they've got a proven track record, and a publisher is more likely to lay out the cash (longer books cost more to produce) because they are considered less of a risk than a first-time author.

Second, you have your first-time authors. Publishers want minimum risk and maximum profit, so they'll likely stick to their guns on word count unless you've produced a truly stellar, standout novel.

Third, it depends on genre.

Let's take that third one and break it down based on word count information gotten from Colleen Lindsay of the swivet blog, with an understanding that there are always exceptions to these numbers. Here's the data:

micro fiction 10-300 words
flash fiction 300-1000 words
YA fiction 50K - 80K
urban/paranormal romance 80K - 90K
mysteries/crime fiction 60K - 70K
chick lit 60K - 80K
literary up to 120K
thrillers 90K - 100K
historical fiction up to 140K
novella < 50K
space opera/fantasy up to 100K
epic fantasy 120K - 130K

I write fantasy, so the last two categories are of the most interest to me. I find those numbers a bit alarming because my book is not epic fantasy. It's more non-epic. Therefore, I need to cut out another 23,000 words??? I'm all for killing my darlings, but cutting to 100,000 words is a tough one.

Rachelle Gardner, an agent with WordServe Literary, has this definition:

Full-length fiction: 80,000 to 100,000 words is by far the best range to stay within. Some pubs will look at manuscripts from 70,000 to 110,000 words, rarely outside of that.

OK, so now we're at a maximum of 110,000 words. But she doesn't mention specific genre, which we know from above is important.

JA Konrath has this to say:

First novels have a better chance of selling if they are under 90k. The reason is wholly monetary. Your publisher will probably lose money on your first book. But a 150k book will cost more to print, more to ship, and less will fit in a carton. Cost of production figures heavily into a publisher's decision whether to buy or not to buy. 

He goes on to say this (highlighting mine):

Some genres, such as fantasy and historical romance, tend to be lengthier.

But he doesn't really go on to explain in more detail. That's OK. Joe's thing is mystery thrillers, anyway, not fantasy. (Consequently, Joe has some great advice in that post; go read it.)

So where does that leave me?

I could no doubt troll the submission guideline pages of my favorite agents and publishers and acquire more information, but I think the above more or less supports what I had originally thought on this subject. One thing is clear: I need to keep cutting. There comes a point, however, where the story itself becomes compromised. I'll have to cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, I have a new goal: 110,000 words.