Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Tor Free E-book: A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham

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I flipped through A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham, which just so happens to be this week's Tor Free E-book Giveaway, and was immediately taken with the author's dedication:

To Fred Saberhagen,
the first of my many teachers

The name Fred Saberhagen sure brings back some memories. I absolutely devoured his Swords books when I was younger. The fact that Mr. Abraham so notes his own appreciation of Saberhagen has me stoked to see what A Shadow in Summer is all about.

I snagged this synopsis fragment from Bookmarks Magazine:

Debut novelist Daniel Abraham bolts out of the gate with an enthusiastic recommendation from SF guru George R. R. Martin. The critics agree with Martin's appraisal, and reviewers welcome Abraham's rich characterization, deft plotting, and the particularly ambitious central conceit that ideas can be made flesh—and controlled by poets, no less.

This, too:

The Empire hangs on, literally, by a thread; the cloth industry depends on the ability of andat Seedless to magically remove seeds from cotton plants to keep commerce flowing and the barbarians in check.

Sounds intriguing. Anytime you find a real economic system put into a fantasy setting you have some great potential for realism and world-building.

I did a little digging on the author: Mr. Abraham's web site is sorely outdated, the last bits of news having been posted in May of 2007. He does, however, have a blog which at least shows some activity as recently as last month. He has an impressive list of short fiction and a handful of novels, A Shadow in Summer being his first. It is, in fact, the first book of the "Long Price Quartet", so if you like this first installment you have some more of his writing to experience in the same world.

I also noticed as I was searching around that you can view the entire book on Google Book Search. Or, of course, sign up for Tor.com's newsletter and get it as a free download.

For a running list of all of Tor's free e-books, go here.

Recommended Reference - The Synonym Finder

The Synonym Finder

I'm starting a new blogging series to focus on reference sources I find useful on a day-to-day basis as I'm writing, editing, and proofing. Think of it as a recommended reading list, though it may encompass other blogs that focus on the craft of writing or even web sites. Really anything of value to the mechanics, style, or general process of writing.

This, then, is Part 1, to focus on my 'go to' thesaurus of choice, The Synonym Finder, edited by J.I. Rodale. I've got a copy of Roget's International Thesaurus (Fifth Edition), but it became a secondary reference source not too long after I bought The Synonym Finder.

This begs the question: How is The Synonym Finder different from any other thesaurus? I'll use Roget's (Fifth Edition) since that's the other thesaurus I own as comparison.

The Synonym Finder reads like a dictionary, except instead of word definitions it's chock full of synonyms. To find a synonym, you simply flip open the book, find your keyword alphabetically, and you're presented with a listing of synonyms. Straightforward and simple.

Roget's, on the other hand, has an index at the back of the book. You start by looking up your keyword, which in turn either has a page number next to it or, alternatively, a short listing of words or phrases which might be synonyms or might simply be words you might be looking for. Each of those words or phrases has a page number next to it. Once you've decided on a word, you go that page number where you are presented with a listing of synonyms. If you're unsatisfied with the results or simply chose the wrong 'similar' word or phrase, then it's back to the index where you need to repeat the process.

To explain better, let's run through an example. This will also serve to demonstrate which reference book provides better results. This may be a wash, but let's give it a try.

I'll randomly flip open to the index of Roget's and select a word. I've got "noodle". Roget's quirky index shows:

noodle
n member 2.7
head 198.6
brain 918.6
v think over 930.13

Let's say I'm really looking for synonyms of the second entry. I'll go to 198.6 as it suggests. It shows:

198.6 head, headpiece, pate, poll, crown, scone, noggin, brow, ridge

Not bad. But I don't like that I had to flip to an index, figure out what word I really want, then I have to flip again to find the synonyms.

Let's see what The Synonym Finder has to say. I flip to "noodle" (it's easy since everything is alphabetical) and immediately see a block of entries--easily more than what Roget's has listed. We have:

head, skull, cranium, cerphalon, brainpan, poll, pate, sconce, mazard, costard, think tank, thinker, upstairs, upper story, belfry, noggin, dome, bean, nut, nob, crumpet, gourd, conk

The Synonym Finder comes up with 23 possible synonyms for "noodle". Roget's? 9. Seems as if, in this case anyway, The Synonym Finder wins by offering me more than twice the number of possible synonyms.

Granted, this was only one word, but there's a reason I keep The Synonym Finder nearby whenever I'm writing or editing. Nothing beats its ease-of-use and it gives me results fast.

No wonder The Synonym Finder is the first book I look to when I need a synonym.

Free Tor E-book: Touch of Evil by C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp

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Tor is giving away Touch of Evil by C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp this week. It's a "paranormal romance". Ugh. I don't like romances.

This one has vampires in it. Werewolves, too. Sounds like Underworld. But without Kate Beckinsale and her guns.

From the synopsis:

Eschewing recent trends, the vampires in this series are not sexy or funny, and this form of vampirism is spread by a parasite in saliva causing those bitten to become part of the herd, or "Thrall," a hive entity led by queens.

Now it's got me thinking of the Borg meets I Am Legend.

To be fair, I'll put aside my preconceived notions and completely misplaced dislike of romances since I've never actually read one and dig a little deeper.

Turns out 'vampires' here are not of the undead variety. Neither are werewolves. Vampires are actually host bodies taken over by a Thrall, a parasitic life-form that hatches within the host then latches onto the host's brain and takes control (think Goa'uld). That sounds kinda cool.

Alright, I'm intrigued and, given that the book is free, I have nothing to lose by reading the first fifty pages to see if I'll like it.

For a running list of all of Tor's free e-books, go here.

Robert Asprin has passed

Image result for thieves worldSeems like too many legends (or at least notable people) in the science fiction and fantasy genres have been passing into the next world all too often of late.

This time it's Robert Asprin whose greatest influence, for me, was the Thieves' World series. The only thing left to say is: Thank you, Mr. Asprin, for such a wonderful collection of stories. It held me enthralled many a night when I was a child.

In honor of Mr. Asprin, I'm re-posting my Thieve's World post taken from my old blog. Here you go:

Thieve's World

I read a lot when I was younger. Before college, before my first job back in California, before a move to Texas, a house & new job, marriage, dogs, another new job, realizing that I'm not getting any younger and if I really want to have a book published I better get on it... back when it seemed I had nothing but time (relative to how hectic life is now, anyway). I do still read, of course, just not as much. Where before it might have taken me a week or less to plow through a book, now it takes me 2-3 weeks if not longer.

Of those books I read when I was in my more formative years were such classics as Robert E. Howard's Conan series, Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Pyrdain, C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, Stephen R. Donaldson's The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Terry Brooks's Shannara books, and, last but not least, the series which will always have an honored place on my bookshelf, the 12-book anthology known as Thieves' World.

Let's go back a little. The original Thieves' World series began in 1979 with the debut book generically named Thieves' World. Later anthologies came out about once/year (or more) and ran until 1989 when the series went on hiatus, which basically means the authors/creators/editors all (or singly) decided it was time to take a break and devote time to other projects. Thieves' World was a "shared-world" anthology, meaning multiple authors had a hand in its creation, evolution, and in its cast of characters. As you can imagine, when you throw in such authors as Lynn Abbey, Robert Asprin, David Drake, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Poul Anderson, C.J. Cherryh, and others, you've got something special and, more importantly, a playing field fit for some real competition. You see, the authors were continuously trying to one-up the other, pitting the characters they created against those created by the other authors. Theft, extortion, kidnapping, blackmail, torture... all of these things were allowed. The one thing that was not allowed, the "golden rule" as it were, was that no author could kill another author's characters. Barring that, anything goes, and did.

Image result for thieves worldThieve's World was an inspiring series, both then and now. Lynn Abbey, you see, has started the series anew. The first book is Sanctuary, a novel length work that takes place many years after the heroes and villains of the original series are dead and gone or simply moved on. Most of them, anyway. As I read through Sanctuary, revisiting the city of the same name where much, if not all, of the storytelling takes place, I find myself longing to go back and re-read the first 12 books again. The Street of Red Lanterns, the Vulgar Unicorn, characters such as Shadowspawn, Tempus Thales, Molin Torchholder... by the gods, this is the stuff of legend! Imagine a boy first getting his glimpse of this wondrous place... a city where gods walked the streets, thieves and assassins plied their respective trades, priests, witches and hazard-mages met for a quiet drink or to do battle, the S'danzo read the future, and the walking dead ruled in a part of the city called The Shambles.

Now, the series continues with Sanctuary. Written by Lynn Abbey, who is one of the original editors and contributors of the series, Sanctuary is a novel that bridges the time-gap between those original 12 books and what appears to be a new shared-world series with multiple contributing authors. I won't say a whole lot about the novel Sanctuary right now other than that I like it. I'll save the rest for a future review.

Look at your own world in your fiction and see if you think you might invoke such nostalgia and wonder 10, 20, or even more years from now when some reader is reminded of your work. All too often fiction of all kinds comes and go's, forgotten as it falls out-of-print. Even the original Thieves' World books are out-of-print, though there is a movement to revive the series.

For now, though, if you don't own a previous run of those first 12 books and can't find them on eBay, you'll have to satisfy yourself with Sanctuary and the books that come after.

ARC: Sly Mongoose

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Thanks to Tobias Buckell for providing me an advanced copy of his upcoming science fiction novel, Sly Mongoose. I hope to have finished reading the novel within a month (yeah, I'm slow) at which time I'll make a follow-up post to include my review.

I'll admit I've never read anything by Buckell (pronounced 'Buck Ell' not 'Buckle'; from the author's web site), but I've seen his other works around town, namely Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin.

As for Sly Mongoose, this excerpt I pilfered from the author's site had me hooked from the start:

Welcome to Chilo, a planet with corrosive rain, crushing pressure, and deadly heat. Fortunately, fourteen-year-old Timas lives in one of the domed cities that float 100,000 feet above the surface, circling near the edge of a monstrous perpetual storm.

Oh, the possibilities stemming from that are virtually unlimited, so I'm eager to see where Buckell takes it.

One last comment: My intentions are not completely unselfish here. The current novel I'm slaving away on also features a roughly fourteen year old protagonist, so I'm curious to see what life Buckell breathes into young Timas for purposes of comparison if nothing else.