Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Marion Zimmer Bradley Rejected Me in 1994

I sent my first short story out for submission way back in the early 90's to a very small print publication called Realms. Much to my surprise, they accepted the story. I still have the check they wrote me for $7. Fresh off this victory, I kept going with my writing, which went slowly because I was also getting close to finishing up work on my engineering degree.

But, in 1994, I had another story ready to send out. It was called Witchstone. In hindsight, it was pretty bad. Nevertheless, I thought it was gold, and, still glowing from my initial acceptance, I went for the bigs, sending the story to a number of notable print publications (back then, the Internet was not what it is today; online 'zines were just getting started). Of course it got rejected across the board.

Amidst the carnage, though, came this gem (click image for larger version):

MZB Rejection-small

It's a form rejection letter from Marion Zimmer Bradley, who ran the print publication, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, and whom you might know from having written a classic fantasy tale or two.

Though the letter is of a form nature, Ms. Bradley took the time to write in a few personal notes.

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The first one reads, "Just a little slow-starting. It would already have sold if there were more markets. Keep trying."

The other handwritten note is:

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Which reads, "Lots of occult clichés. If Fate were still buying fiction, I'd say try them. Weird might like it."

The comments are encouraging and supportive. Not meant to crush my spirit at all like some others who heard from her in similar fashion. Maybe I caught her on a good day, or maybe she really did see something in my writing. I'll never know. But, of all the rejection letters I have received, this is the only one I've kept. I'm not one of those "wear your rejection slips like a badge of honor" type of people. I'm not ashamed of them at all, but they take up space and, when you get down to it, what is the point of hanging onto them other than as a record of who you've submitted what stories to (something I would now do in a spreadsheet if I still submitted to small press markets)?

So why did I keep this one? Simply because of who wrote it. Plus it's a nice reminder of the early days when I was still in my twenties and ready to make my mark on the world, whether in the software industry or the world of literature.

Maybe the rejection did deter me from writing a bit, because I didn't really get back into writing until recently. But the same year I received this letter, I also graduated from college and started my career as a software engineer. I remember writing some during that initial period, but I was tired of studying (working) all day, coming home, and having to continue studying (writing) all through the night. I was ready for a life and some serious downtime. So writing got pushed to the backseat and only because of the digital self-publishing phenomenon of a few years ago has it truly resurfaced. It would seem that, for me, writing for the sheer joy of it isn't enough. I need readers, too.

As I approach the release of my next book, I feel like I owe Ms. Bradley some gratitude for keeping my writing spirit alive even if I did ignore it for a long time after that. So, here's to Marion Zimmer Bradley. I feel like I should go read something by her now.

The Next Big Thing

I've been tagged by author TL Rese to participate in The Next Big Thing. TNBT is relative, of course, since each individual's "next big thing" is different. But, since I'm the one who was tagged here, this NBT post is going to be about me and my upcoming novel, The Nullification Engine, which goes on sale December, 2013. Here's the cover in all its glory:

The Nullification Engine

What is the working title of your next book?

The Nullification Engine. It follows The Five Elements, pretty much picking up right where that book left off.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea for the series as a whole really is a culmination of all of my favorite books, series, and authors . All fantasy, of course, though in this new book you'll see some influence from the seafaring tales of C.S. Forester and Patrick O'Brian via the airship, Griffin, and her crew.

What genre does your book fall under?

That's a tough question because the content really doesn't fall under a single genre. Primarily, it's fantasy. But there elements of steampunk, pseudoscience or science fantasy, and alchemy. One reviewer described the first book thusly, "I'm not at all sure how to categorise this. There are elements of steampunk, there's alchemy, there's a fairly standard form of elemental magic and there's a fair dose of science in the mix as well." The Nullification Engine follows this same formula, so if you enjoyed The Five Elements, you'll like this one too.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When the Nullification Engine is activated, Aaron, Serena, and Ensel Rhe must stop the ancient machine before it destroys Brighton and everyone in it.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The entire book, from outlining to finished product, took about 14 months. The first draft itself, maybe 7 months. A timeline might be something like:

  1. Oct 2012 – Dec 2012: Outlining
  2. Dec 2012 – June 2013: First Draft
  3. June 2013 – Sep 2013: 2nd, 3rd, 4th drafts
  4. Sep 2013 – Nov 2013: Editing/proofreading

Keep in mind I have a day job which can occupy anywhere from 40-60 hours/week depending on what's going on at the time.

What other books would you compare this to within your genre?

Probably Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan series.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

In a general sense, the inspiration for this series comes from my love of fantasy literature but also from my background as an engineer. I play fast and loose with scientific principles, though, which is entirely on purpose. First and foremost, my writing is about entertaining. The pace is often fast-paced, so I never want that to get bogged down with "hard" science. Besides, hokum is a lot more fun to come up with.

Assassin Without a Name Titles Are Free!

It took some doing, but both of my Assassin Without a Name shorts are free on most (if not all) retailers. The stories are short, but what better way to sample my writing in a read in an hour or so format?

Here's the retailer links. I hope you visit and give them a read.

FINE WINE

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00DQZSU0S/smarlowe-20
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00DQZSU0S
Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00DQZSU0S
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/fine-wine-scott-marlowe/1116226913?ean=2940044662889
iBookstore: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id661675705
Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=1230000141461
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/8919

KILLING THE DEAD

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00DC1T2OY/smarlowe-20
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00DC1T2OY
Amazon CA: http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00DC1T2OY
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/killing-the-dead-scott-marlowe/1115632921?ean=2940016737744&itm=1&usri=2940016737744
iBookstore: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id661342028
Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=1230000141466
Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/325576

Writing Progress & Other Business #26

I realized it's been three months since I last did one of these updates.

Based solely on that, it might seem I've been on vacation. Not so.

In that time, I've:

  1. Revealed a new cover for The Five Elements
  2. Announced plans for a re-release of The Hall of the Wood
  3. Ran a LibraryThing giveaway of 80 copies of The Hall of the Wood (of which I have not gotten many reviews in return, which means I likely will not be doing another one of these for future books)
  4. Did the official release for (yeah, you guessed it) The Hall of the Wood
  5. And, THE BIG ONE, I made the official announcement for the release of Book Two in The Alchemancer series, The Nullification Engine

I have one more announcement, which is that the The Nullification Engine goes to my editor tomorrow.

That means I've done all I can do with it. Some argue that art is never really "done". That's a point I can get behind. But, in commercial works, there's a point where you have to declare it finished. I'm almost there.

Once back from editing, I have about three weeks to make all the needed changes and then it goes to proofreader 1, then proofreader 2, then proofreader 3. I'm taking the proofreading more seriously than ever before. I learned my lesson with previous works and I want as many eye balls on this as is financially reasonable.

The book will be "done, done" late November. The official release is therefore late November/early December. I'm trying to give myself the best possible chance of making back my investment on this one, which means I want it on Amazon's New Releases list between Christmas and New Year's Day. The exact release date will be determined based on those dates (I really just need to take a look at a calendar and figure the date out).

More on the official release day in a future post.

Author Interview: J.S. Riddle

Rounding out my series of author interviews is this one with J.S. Riddle, author of Rise of a Queen. Let's see what she has to say.


1. Please tell us about yourself.

A simple introduction as J.S. Riddle is a good start. I'm not old, but I'm far from young.  I was born in the UK to military parents, I left there before I was able to attend primary school. I moved around a lot, so I was always meeting new people. I currently live in the Southeastern United States, it would be hard to pinpoint because I have moved quite a bit in the past few years alone.  Aside from my love of literature and the history of it (I adore Mythology of all kinds) I have a big geek thing going on for me. I grew up on Trek and Wars never choosing either side. I'm obsessed with Doctor Who, I remember my first. The lovely Tom Baker. I like horror movies, action, comedies. I can't sit through a romantic one though. I also have realized how deep the Joss Whedon connection is to everything and have decided I live in the Whedonverse.  My favorite is video gaming.  See? A geek. But a lovely one from what I am told.

2. What's the name of your newest or latest book and what's it about?

Rise of a Queen.

Well I could go the shortest synopsis and say: Tessa became Queen of the Levé’s the moment she was turned vampire. By circumstances she is left to rule her clan alone. With gearing wars with a rival clan and human rebels, from a life she left behind, she had no choice but to fight back. with a whirlwind of deceit,and betrayal,interweaving,It is up to her to become the Queen she was meant to be.

But I would like to add that it is a lot more than that. Tessa is a very strong woman with so many choices to make she is constantly doubting herself. She has two sides to herself, I suppose like each of us; our dark and our light. You feel her plight but find yourself appalled at some of her harsher actions. She loves everything about being a vampire but she can't leave her human world behind. There is lot that happens that kind of makes that quite impossible anyway and the war with the human rebels pains her the most because she has a very personal connection. The fight with the Krone clan is something that had been going on for centuries and Tessa is the unfortunate recipient of finalizing that task once and for all. I would say there is a lot of personal growth, dark pasts, betrayal, retribution, all of which she handles in a way that I hope the reader enjoys.

3. Is this book part of a series or standalone?

It was originally supposed to be a standalone book, but I just couldn't stop writing. There is so much story to be told, characters to grow, wars to be had, that I honestly could have gone on for a very long time. Then I looked at the word count. I realized that I probably wouldn't do good to make a book as thick as War and Peace. So A trilogy was born. What was just The Vampire Realm became a series. The first being Rise of a Queen, the second I'm having trouble naming it without giving away things from the first novel. Rise of a Queen is at just the perfect stopping point that people would be satisfied with it's ending and can easily make it a standalone book.

4. How long have you been writing?

I've been writing since just before I was a teenager. I suppose you could call it writing. Good story-lines I am sure, but lots of growth through that time. I did get my college English 101 teacher to read a novella of mine and said it would be great fleshed out or make a perfect screenplay. I took that as a sign I was at least on the right track.

5. From where or whom do you draw inspiration?

I'd hate to choose just one. I loved so many that opened up each and every realization that I had. I grew up reading Tolkien  Bradbury, CS Lewis, Robin McKinley (my first introduction to how strong a woman could be), Anne Rice, Stephen King, Poe, and reading Shakespeare aloud. Of course as a teenager I enjoyed R.L. Stine's Fear Street before Stine went to more kid-friendly fare. I do believe if I could mash up the worlds Rice has written with the worlds of King, THAT would my my inspiration.

6. What advice would you give new or aspiring writers?

I'm no expert but I will give my opinion. Edit and keep editing. Research also is the key and is kind of the fun part. I would think most people would already know that marketing is tough in this social-networking age, that is something definitely not to be overlooked whether they go Indie or through the Industry.

7. Who do you see as your ideal reader?

My ideal reader is a tough one. I do not write Young Adult, if I feel awkward having my teenage nieces read my work then it's not YA. I don't write romance either so I suppose that just knocked the two of those right off the map. I think for someone to want to read my books they'd have to be ready for a change to a typical story, high intensity, my love for finding interesting ways to kill people off, and complex situations. I can't write about just one thing. There are a multitude of stories within the stories that all weave to make the tale even grander.

8. Tell us about your writing process. Are you a planner or outliner?

What are those? I don't have a technical way of doing anything. No method to my maddness. I can't force myself to sit in my chair and write so many words a day, but I do have notebooks around the house filled with notes or sections I need to add to a book even if it's not the one I am currently working on. I have pictures on the walls to remind me what I think a character should look like, and I have time-lines scribbled everywhere. I do like things in their place, though. I suppose I contradict myself. Mood sets a real tone in what I write. If I'm mad then by George you can bet that is the day someone is probably going to be axed in a not-so-nice way.

9. Are you a "write every day of the week" sort of writer or do you take days off?

Everything is sporadic. There are days where I may get four hours sleep because I am writing so much and then when I just am exhausted I sleep and stop for a while. I switch to my geek mode to the tele, movies, or video games. Those are the easiest ways for me to relax, otherwise I would burn out.

Distract me with something sparkly (not the vampire kind please) and I may be gone a while.

10. What are your thoughts on writers paying for reviews as John Locke is reported to have done?

Having to pay for reviews is not something I am fond of. As unfortunate as it is, if a person would simply review what they've read nobody would have to pay for a review. Even if that happens why would a person want to review if it will be taken down anyway?

11. Do you think retailer rating/review systems are broken? If so, any suggestions on how to fix them?

As I mentioned in the last question I think the review system is broken. I am talking mostly on the web, because everything else has been easily understood that their blurb probably was pulled out of a hat of quotes. They take an incident that is so extreme that they hurt every innocent person in the process. Everything has become a huge combination of politics and capitalism at its finest. If someone's aunt that lives across the country really, truly loves a book, their review shouldn't be taken down just for that connection. They did buy the book from their site and they read it. I can tell you right now I probably would get a stern look from my aunts and uncle for what I write, so would I expect a glorious review? Ha. A simple fan from a webpage writes a review.....stricken. The whole time they're not looking at the broader picture and taking care of the issues at hand. They are so worried about the small things that they could care less that some bitter author (this has never happened to me, but I see it constantly) goes around giving hateful one star reviews because the person is their strict competition. The paid reviews stay on the pages miraculously and the trolls. It is the true fan that gets lost in all of it and that is sad.

I wish I could say there was an easy way to fix it, but it would take more than just a bot searching for relations or words. It would take people, real people that actually care about the products on the shelves, or virtual store, to make it shine brighter and make it more accurate in the process. With each incident comes a new restriction and at some point an author will get no reviews and a book at the bottom of a bin.

12. Some book reviewers won't accept independently authored books for review. What are your thoughts on that? Are they missing out?

I have had that and it stings. I admit it, I am an Indie writer. I think they are truly missing out. There are some great writers out there that may not have the means or finances to try it in the big publishing world. Their work could be the best creation, but because it's not what is "in" at the moment it gets thrown aside. Slush pile after slush pile. The Indie has just cut through that headache and has taken it directly to the fans. There will be a time that is all they will get a chance to review, you would think they would jump on the bandwagon.

13. Some people feel indie authored books are of lesser quality than those that go through the traditional publishers. Do you agree with them? If so, how can independent authors raise the bar and remove this stigmatism?

It is their misconception that blinds them the most. I think there is an assumption that all Indie writers are a bunch of "teenagers" or just nobody's that want to see their word in print. They assume they weren't good enough to be part of the big 6, or even a smaller publishing house. I have seen the argument back and forth on both sides, both quite bitter. People that are Traditionalists are in a circle that cannot be breached unless you went through as many channels as they did and were the lucky golden ticket to be picked. Not all of them are, but I have come across a few. I have also come across someone saying they planned on writing one day so she called herself a writer. Once the pen hits the paper and words flow; that is the moment a person becomes a writer. Every Indie has a chance for greatness, no matter how they start. Every lesson is learned and because they don't have a team, or circle, of people telling them how wonderful they are I think they try even harder and are the first to admit there is always room for improvement. Indie's don't do it for vanity, they do it because they get more control over their own work and don't have to wait until the planets align for their work to get discovered.

14. Any pets? If so, tell us what role they play in your writing, if any.

I have a miniature pincher, Ares. I'm really big into mythology and use it in my writing. With him being a tiny dog with a big personality, Ares was the perfect name.

I also have a cat. Wasn't my choice but I have one. The name is River. It started out as River Song (I'm a big Doctor Who fan) until the first vet check and a thermometer. Surprise, River Song became River Phoenix. The role he plays in my writing is the game of "Give me my pen and get away from my keyboard".

15. Assuming you have an active blog, point readers to a post of which you're especially proud or think will be of particular interest to them.

I think the one that probably would make my point on how the land of social media and attention spans have changed you'd want to check out :

Whata Fickle Pickle People are These Days

My favorite one, though, is how I go into detail about my first love.

For the love of a royal (typewriter that is)

16. I made some predictions for the ePublishing industry for 2013 (http://www.scottmarlowe.com/post/ePub...). Do you think any of them will come true?

1)I hear some vile things about KDP Select and I think it gives newcomers a grandiose idea that they will get a lot of money and attention by signing up for being exclusively their. They honestly could care less for those people once they've been enrolled. Now I have to say, some people are happy with it. I just see it as a way of controlling the market TOO much and there is a reason Barnes & Noble and other brick and mortar stores refuse to deal with people who even whisper the name Amazon. I'm on KDP, not select. I've also used Createspace and it saddens me the disdain toward the company that the innocent author gets thrown in the fire with the probability of having their books sitting on their shelves. Even Indie bookstores tend to boycott anything associated. I would not doubt that Select will drop the 70%. Their hand will have to be forced one way or another.

on 2) The big 6 have been panicking and finally have come to a wake up call to the e-world. They're behind the curve. They will end up doing what it takes to get the books out there, but I don't think they would ever go so low as to lose their grasp on the publishing world. It's hard strong pride, and it will ruin them.

on 3) I think the Indie boom is already slowing down. There are so many out there things are getting mixed in chaotic talents. I'm late to the game. I doubt it would disappear, but I believe that people will think it is a big waste of time to stick their life's work out there. The economics of it in general you are on the ball. People like me have no money. We think we have talent so we write. We don't write because we want to make a lot of money. I would hope for a decent wage but I know it is far and few. Line-item editors, publicists, book cover artists ALL of those are expensive and a person doesn't really get what they put into it. There are a few of us that put in those extra hours and have to do it ourselves.  A little bit of money here and there is a lot of money not putting food on my table. I will always call myself a writer, never a hobbyist because I could not imagine anything else I want to do more.

4)I would love to have a free e-reader. Sign me up please. I own a Sony that was bought 5 years ago and i hardly use it. Something modern would be nice. If it goes that way, I think they would get a lot more sales through the e-books. Right now, people have a tough time buying them. So of course that idea doesn't flow with your #5 thought, but then I'm not really that savvy of things like that.

6) Smashwords revamping their site. I'm reading from Coker's blogs that he plans on doing exactly that, so I do hope that it happens. It is really tough to navigate around there. The erotica always flowing to the top makes it very very very hard to find something else. As they've stated the Adult Filter will filter out more than just erotica. I like the solution to stick it in its own section.

17. R.S. Guthrie wrote a hard-hitting post (http://robonwriting.com/2013/02/05/i-...) on reviewers and the veil of anonymity some of them hide behind. Your thoughts on this subject?

I think that if you give someone a computer and a hollow identity they could do some damage that is for sure. To find the right reviewer is like finding a diamond in the rough. I've mentioned already that I think the review system is flawed. If they WANT to pick up the book because it seemed like something they would like and THEN review it to their most honest breath a 1 star review is more than welcome. It was how they felt, and there was a legitimate reason. Just because you CAN review something doesn't mean you're good at it or really should. I think the mean spirited ones, the superficial ones, all of them are still playing on the playground. It takes meat, bone, grit, truth, and love for the written word to be able to write a review that means something. The others kind of kill that. That is how we get back to what I said before about every day people even attempting to write a review on a simple webpage.

18. Which retailers or others sites can readers find your work at?

Everything is listed under Rise of a Queen if I am not mistaken.

I have a paperback out at Amazon, hoping that I can get it elsewhere soon enough. But my e-book is available at the Kindle store, nook store, Diesel, Kobo, the Indie's best friend Smashwords. Hopefully by the time this is read Sony and the iStore will have gone over everything long enough to have them up also.

19. Where can readers find out more about you?

My website has the best up to date information there is. There is even a blog attached to it that I tend to ramble on about how I have such a difficult time in this social networking world that we have. There were a lot of things I am still learning. Of course some days its just normal babble, nothing profound but it is me, nothing behind a mask. I do have a profile on Goodreads that shows how bad of a current reader I am. There are so many books I have read in the past I am still trying to review them.


J.S. Riddle

J.S. Riddle was born in Oxford, England and currently resides in the Southeast United States. She's been writing since a teenager to hone her skills. The magic started on an old manual mint green typewriter from the 50's from a consignment shop for about $20.

She loves reading and enjoys Stephen King, Anne Rice, Edgar Allen Poe, William Shakespeare, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ray Bradbury, but credits Robin McKinley for her book The Hero & the Crown for her idea of woman empowerment and opened up a fantastical world for her.

Her first book (The Vampire Realm) Rise of a Queen made it to e-stores on Valentines Day of 2013. Print copies will be available soon.

Her style of writing tends to lead toward the supernatural and dark fantasy, but one never knows what the future may hold.