Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Ask the Author on Goodreads

Ask the Author is a new program on Goodreads where readers can ask any author who opts into the program any question they like.

Want to know what I'm currently working on? When the next Alchemancer book is coming out? Why the Assassin Without a Name doesn't have a name (can't guarantee I'll give you a satisfactory answer on that one as it would involve spoilers)?

Visit my Ask the Author page and I'll gladly answer anything you throw my way.

Here's a couple of stock questions I've already answered:

Ask the Author: Scott Marlowe

Free Assassin Without a Name eBooks Available

I'd like to get some more reviews for my Assassin Without a Name shorts. Fine Wine has some, Killing the Dead a few, Night of Zealotry only one, and The Goddard Affair, which was just released, has none. To that end, I'm willing to give you, dear reader, a free copy of each eBook in exchange for a review. You can already download Fine Wine and Killing the Dead for free from your favorite online retailer. So here's the deal: Leave a review for one or both of those and I'll gladly send you a copy of the third story in the series, Night of Zealotry. Read and review that one and I'll send you a copy of The Goddard Affair. I'm still working on the next story, Thief's Gambit, but I'll send you that one when it's ready if you write a review for The Goddard Affair.

The only thing I need you to do is contact me with the link to your review and your email address so I can send you a download link for the next story. I won't use your email address for anything else, nor will I auto-add it to my regular mailing list. If you want to sign up for that, that's entirely up to you.

As for where you should leave your review, any online retailer, Goodreads, or your own blog or web site all work for me.

The Assassin Without a Name series is a fast-paced series of short stories featuring a witty assassin with a penchant for fine wine and a knack for getting in the middle of bad situations. They're a lot of fun to write and, hopefully, for others to read.

Release Announcement: The Goddard Affair

The Goddard Affair, the 4th story in the Assassin Without a Name series, was officially released to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the iBookstore, Kobo, Google Play, and DriveThruFiction today.

On Goodreads? You can add The Goddard Affair to your TBR list now!

The Goddard Affair is the best Assassin Without a Name story thus far. It's got family rivalries, intrigue, murder (of course murder; this is a story about an assassin, after all), action, a host of cool new gadgets, and, last but not least, our witty assassin narrator. Remember Abelard from the first Assassin tale, Fine Wine? Well, he's back too.

Here's the official blurb and look down a bit further for a sneak peek at the first few pages of the novella.

The Assassin Without a Name is on the hunt, looking for the secret organizations which recently tried to kill him before they can try again. But the work of his trade doesn't stop just because he's involved in personal business, so when a new client named Walter Goddard comes around wishing to have a rival eliminated, the Assassin Without a Name takes the job.

Only after the task is complete does he learn that Walter Goddard is a member of the Society for the Progression of Science and Technology, one of the very same organizations he's been seeking. At one of the society’s premiere technology galas, the Assassin Without a Name meets Gwendolyn Morgan, a beautiful widow who has run into problems of her own with the society. Not only does she believe the organization hired an assassin to murder her husband, but she’s certain she’s next. Convincing himself he’s only helping Gwendolyn in exchange for the society’s darkest secrets and not because of his part in making the woman into a widow, the Assassin Without a Name finds himself in the unusual role of protector as the society dispatches their Black Guard watchdogs to kill them both.

And here are the first few pages. Enjoy.

I TOOK THE MARK OUT from behind. A gloved hand over his mouth, my knife plunged into his back, and it was all over for him.

“Make it look like a robbery,” my client had said.

So I hid inside the closet in Reynold Morgan’s study until he’d had enough of nodding off at his desk to finally call it a night. He’d made it halfway across the room when I sprang on him and took care of business. I waited until he’d expired to ease his body down—didn’t want him thrashing about or hitting the floor with a thump—before fulfilling the remainder of my client’s orders: make it look like the mark had surprised a burglar in the act, tried to stop him, and paid for his efforts with his life. The single wound to the back wasn’t enough to satisfy that requirement, so I stabbed him in the chest twice and sliced cuts onto one arm and both his hands. I wasn’t going to win any contests, but it was good enough.

The man who’d hired me hadn’t been specific about what to take, only that the items should be business-related. So I opened most of the desk drawers, rifled through and took some of the papers I found, and, last, grabbed the ledger the mark had left open on the desk. I knew from my research that Mr. Morgan had dealt in the production and sale of various commodity goods; the theft of his records pointed the finger at one or more professional rivals. Nothing out of the ordinary as far as business went in Alchester, and little chance anyone would suspect the crime was more personal in nature. Given the ruse I’d been instructed to stage, I didn’t see how it was anything but personal. But the reasons a client wants someone dead aren’t always relayed to me, and since it’s not my business to ask, I don’t.

With the job done, it was time for me to leave. The residence’s only other occupant, the wife, retired early most nights, and since it had all gone down with nary a whispered shout of alarm or scream of pain, I didn’t expect any trouble from her as I made my way out of the study, down the hallway, and to the same guest bedroom window I’d come in through earlier. From there it was an easy drop into a tangle of shrubbery, a quick jog down a darkened alley, and, after a quick removal of my mask, just like that I was back on the street as if out for nothing more than an evening stroll. A very late evening stroll, dressed all in black, with padded shoes and half a dozen weapons concealed throughout my person, but a stroll nonetheless.

I saw few others out and about at this late hour. A gent at the other side, hands in his coat pockets and his top hat pulled low, hardly glanced my way. Some others—a couple, drunk and giggling, and a group of young rabble-rousers out for a little mayhem, also paid me little heed. The night felt cool but comfortable, though I expected that to change over the coming weeks as the southerly winds sweeping in from the sunbaked Vernesse Steppes shifted, allowing the blustery chill of the Ugulls to gain its seasonal, icy grip on the city. Winter was coming, and with it my busy season, for as the days grew shorter and the nights longer, the gentry of Alchester, grown bored and desultory, would turn their attention away from the seasonal slowdown in trade to take care of a different sort of business, namely the settling of a year’s worth of scores. Not that I wasn’t busy all year round trying to keep things evened up for anyone with the coin and the will to hire me, but the colder months brought with them a greater than usual desire amongst some to right the wrongs of the year with blood. I’m sure a poet or philosopher would find the subject a rich one. As the person actually doing the killing, I try not to think too hard about my clients’ motivations. I provide a service, nothing more. Ordinarily, I’ve no personal stake in any of it. Ordinarily, but not always.

I usually liked to settle into Lady Bellum’s for an hour or two after a job. At one time, it was a celebration of sorts. A congratulatory gesture for a job well done. Now it was just part of the ritual. Not tonight, though. Right now, I had other business in Dover Heights, a quiet neighborhood a few blocks of easy walking away. I followed the line of the first wall I came across as it curved along the property of one particular estate. I’d been here a few times before, always in clandestine fashion but for that very first time when I’d arrived as a guest of the property’s owner. On that occasion, I’d been in disguise, with a contract to kill the man who lived here. All had worked out in the end, which is to say Abelard Whitfield had survived our encounter and I’d come away with something for my trouble.

Once I’d pulled myself up and over the wall, I found myself greeted by a dark and sleepy house. From there, a bit of skulking found me at the manor’s service entrance. Ever since that night when I’d threatened his life, Abelard had kept every door and window locked tight. I didn’t think he was concerned about keeping me out, but rather some other assassin hired by the same person who’d taken the contract out on him in the first place. Never mind that the original contract had finally been cancelled. For Abelard, the realization that someone had wanted him dead had brought about a change in him. Such knowledge would change anyone. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not. In Abelard’s case, the jury was still out. But the man had a fear in him now. The kind of fear that kept him locking every door and window regardless of the time of day, made him look over his shoulder whenever he was out and about, and hopefully had him thinking twice about ever repeating the mistake which had gotten him into trouble in the first place.

As for keeping doors and windows locked tight at all hours, I applauded Abelard for his efforts, though such precautions were wasted on a professional like myself. At one side of the service entrance was a drainage pipe I used to climb to the first story roof. From there, I crept up the slanted shingles to a window set into one of the gables. The window overlooked an upstairs reading room and, despite its precarious height relative to the floor inside, was locked. Abelard obviously didn’t know that these particular windows had faulty hinges; the point of my knife inserted just so, a quick lift, and the entire window came loose. It was a bit tricky putting it back into place once I was inside and hanging from the ledge, but I’d used this method to gain entry to the house several times before, so I’d actually gotten rather good at it.

The hour was late, and with no visible lights, I figured I’d find Abelard asleep in his bedroom, dreaming dreams of golden crowns and silver denars. Sure enough, he lay in his four-poster bed, snoring loud enough to wake the dead. I pulled over a chair, making no effort to keep the legs from screeching across the wood floor. The noise didn’t even cause a ripple in his breathing. I took a seat, hoping the thump of my feet propped on the bed would wake him. When that didn’t work either, I leaned in and gave him a good shake. That finally woke the old moneygrubber. He shot upright, blinking to clear away the haze of sleep as he struggled to make out if I was friend or foe.

“Relax,” I said. “It’s me.”

Recognition set in and he sighed with relief. “So it is, so it is. How did you…? Never mind.” He propped himself up with the aid of a few pillows. “I tried remaining awake to wait for you, but, alas, it’s been a long and arduous day, and these tired bones of mine demanded rest.”

If Abelard sought sympathy, he was looking in the wrong place. But if he’d truly been busy today, maybe he’d done as I’d asked. “Does that mean you have something for me?”

“Indeed! Indeed, I do!”

The Goddard Affair, now available at all major online retailers:

Amazon   Barnes & Noble  iBookstore  Kobo  Google Play  DriveThruFiction

Word Count Classifications for the Assassin Without a Name series

I'm getting ready to release the next Assassin Without a Name story, The Goddard Affair. Since these stories are not novels, I'm often having to look up, based on their individual word counts, how exactly to classify each story. Is it a novella? A novelette? A short story? Is coming up with such a classification even that important? Maybe not, but it helps with pricing, which is always a bit of a conundrum unto itself because pricing isn't based solely on word count, but other factors such as genre, popularity, and what the market will bear.

That being said, I plucked two sources from the web on the breakdown of word counts as it relates to the classification of a piece. The first, from Wikipedia, has this:

The second, from the SFWA's criteria for a Nebula candidate, has:

  • Short Story: less than 7,500 words;
  • Novelette: at least 7,500 words but less than 17,500 words;
  • Novella: at least 17,500 words but less than 40,000 words
  • Novel: 40,000 words or more.

Those look exactly the same to me. I don't know if they each came up with those numbers independently, but they're good enough for me.

Given the above, the Assassin Without a Name series breaks down as follows:

Fine Wine 1693 words short story
Killing the Dead 4512 words short story
Night of Zealotry 14522 words novelette
The Goddard Affair 18997 words novella

One of my goals with writing this series is to not regress in terms of word count from one story to another. That means I'd like each story moving forward to come in around 20,000 words. That puts it squarely at the low end of novella range, but with a wide enough margin from novelette consideration. It also gives readers a bit more bang for their buck. Total, the series stands at 39,724 words. The next story should push that into the 60,000 range. At some point I'll consider a compilation, but for now I'll continue releasing them one at a time as novellas.

What is Negative Energy?

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It's believed that when the Big Bang occurred some 14 billion years ago that equal amounts of positive and negative energy were produced. But where positive energy is readily observable in the world around us, negative energy is not. This is because negative energy does not exist in non-vacuum conditions. Introduce a vacuum, however, and you'll not only find negative energy present, but also that positive energy seems to have gone missing.

Stephen Hawking uses the following analogy to describe the existence of negative energy: Imagine a man with a shovel digs a hole. As dirt is shoveled out of the hole, it is made into a pile on the surface. Once the man is finished, he is left with a hole and a mound that perfectly balance each other out. Such is the case with positive and negative energy.

Hawking's analogy applies to the creation of our universe as well, which supposedly was created from nothing. Since the Big Bang produced equal amounts of positive and negative energy, something was created from nothing; take the sum of those two amounts and you're left with 0.

So what exactly is negative energy?

It's not antimatter, which has positive energy. For example, an electron with a positive charge, or positron, is considered anti-matter.

It's also not dark energy, which is thought to make up 68.3% of the universe's mass (on a mass-energy equivalence basis).

Negative energy is perhaps something stranger. Described as "the inherent fluctuations in energy that exists in any energy or magnetic field," negative energy is referred to as a form of "exotic matter." As a concept, negative energy was first proposed in 1928 by British physicist Paul Adrien Maurice Didec. Negative energy was a component of his formula, the Dirac equation, which held that quantum states of positive and negative energy were in balance with one another. In a non-vacuum environment (like here inside our planet's atmosphere), negative energy is not observable. However, inside a vacuum, negative energy is present while positive energy is not.

\left(\beta mc^2 + c(\alpha_1 p_1 + \alpha_2 p_2 + \alpha_3 p_3)\right) \psi (x,t) = i \hbar \frac{\partial\psi(x,t) }{\partial t}

In 1948, the Dutch physicist Hendrick Casimir predicted that a small attractive force could exist between two uncharged, parallel plates in a vacuum. Should the plates be resting extremely close to one another, negative energy is produced since the number of electromagnetic waves between the two plates becomes less than that of surrounding space. In essence, a negative state of energy becomes present when the wavelengths of particles in a certain region of space are less than what may normally be measured.

Negative energy has been produced in a lab via what's called the Casimir effect. This phenomenon revolves around the idea that vacuum, contrary to its portrayal in classical physics, isn't empty. According to quantum theory, vacuum is full of electromagnetic fluctuations. Distorting these fluctuations can create negative energy.

An interesting phenomenon observed within a negative energy vacuum is that light actually travels faster than it does in a normal vacuum. This has fueled interest in the application of negative energy fields to theories involving FTL travel. Further interest in this area has been fueled by experiments demonstrating that negative energy can distort space-time. In regions of extreme space-time curvature, the existence of negative energy may someday allow for the creation of sustainable wormholes.

It is theorized that negative energy that 'falls back into' a black hole has the effect of lowering the black hole's total mass. In effect, as more and more negative energy falls back into the black hole it will diminish over time, evaporating until nothing is left. This is contrary to the belief that black holes gain in mass indefinitely (or at least until the entire universe has been swallowed).


Negative energy is only one of an assortment of strange phenomenon of which we still do not know enough about. I have my own theories on negative energy, however, and how it might fit into our universe. More precisely, I have ideas on how it fits into the world of my fiction.

Different forms of energy (made-up or not) have already played a major role in some of my writing. For example, in The Alchemancer series, elemental energy plays a substantial role in the story. Negative energy has also made an appearance, though in somewhat subtle fashion as in when Aaron turns his encorder on Ensel Rhe to discover that the eslar's life force signature is negative. Negative energy will play a larger role moving forward into the next book, The Inversion Solution.

Also, negative energy is coming into play in the Assassin Without a Name series. Look for its specific mention in The Goddard Affair, set for release on June 4, 2014. It's already made an appearance in Night of Zealotry, the 3rd assassin tale in the series, when the Jakaree activated their mysterious black energy machine.

Negative energy, as well as other exotic, similar types, will continue to play a role in my fiction. I hope you enjoyed this brief primer.