Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Where is The Alchemancer series going?

A couple of weeks ago Ritesh Kala of Ritesh Kala's Book Reviews reviewed The Five Elements. Go read it. It's a good review and I thank Ritesh for taking the time to read, let alone review, my book. But (there has to be a 'but', otherwise there'd be no point to this post) he touches on something at the end of his review which I wanted to take a moment to discuss. Here's the part of his review:

But, the ending of the book is just a bit too perfect for me. It seems as if the author has made this book into a series as an after-thought, after this book was already released. The story ends at a place where we can’t see any villain in sight, and the protagonists are now as happy as you can expect them to be. The central conflict of the book also seems to have been resolved. I have no clue what the author will be writing about in the remaining books in the series. There are no plots or story lines which are left unexplored to really keep me interested.

First off, let me say that I believe the reader's perception is always right. If he or she fails to "get" something then I've failed as a writer and not the other way around. So I'm not going to say Ritesh is wrong. When I read the above passage I realized that I did not leave enough hooks in place in order to open the reader to the larger possibilities and to where the characters might go next.

[Side note: This leaves me with an interesting predicament. In the old world of publishing, I'd be stuck. But in the new digital world, I have the option of modifying the content Lucas-style and uploading a new version literally the same day. I'm not suggesting I'm going to do that, but the idea is intriguing.]

The truth of the matter is that TFE was always intended to be the first book in a series but in a direction I didn't give enough hints about. The whole deal with the druids and the elementalists is done. I can see why a reader might have expected that particular storyline to balloon into something larger, though. While I did use the whole "war that started over 500 years ago" thing as the base of the current tale, I didn't want that to become the sole focus. In fact, I didn't want it as a focus at all moving forward. What I'm trying to do with this series is give the reader a view into a certain period of these characters' lives while hopefully avoiding as many tropes as possible along the way. In short, looking at only the druid/elementalist angle is holding to a focus that is too narrow.

This leaves me with the question of where things are headed. Ritesh thought the story was pretty much wrapped up. Here, then, are the threads I intend to pick up in the next novel (WARNING: not entirely spoiler-free):

  • Aaron has just made an awful decision. Something he will not heal from overnight. Expect to see the ramifications of what he did influence the decisions he makes in the next book.
  • Aaron still has to deal with Krosus and his hounds, who want to kill him.
  • Ensel Rhe has avenged his son's death, but he has a daughter and wife and he still has enemies. Expect to see more on this.
  • There are a lot of refugees from Norwynne. Where will they go?
  • The Griffin is still out there with a big hole in her side.
  • The dwarves of Fire Rock are still onboard the Griffin with an unfulfilled purpose. Expect to see more of them.
  • The captain of the Griffin has a lot of Erlek's journals and research. What will he do with such information?
  • Serena, who was not given the same depth as some of the other characters, figures to play a major role in the next book. Why exactly was she out in the middle of nowhere studying under a master sorcerer?
  • Shanna wrecked a lot of devastation in her local region, but what about the rest of the world? Nearby cities were impacted by her actions as well. We'll start to see some of this in the next book.
  • The elementalists were technologists who created the Four Elements. What else might they have engineered? They broke off from the druids, but who's to say they did it as a unified group? Maybe a splinter group didn't agree with the Elements approach and went their own way. (This figures prominently in the next book)
  • Erlek was very interested in the technology of the elementalists. Wouldn't others have similar interests?
  • Erlek had a long time to think and scheme. Who knows what things he might have left behind or deals he may have made in order to further his own ends. The people on the other ends of these deals are still around.

In a perfect world I would have hinted at all of this in the first book and would have been more comprehensive overall. But at some point a book has to be "done". I purposely closed up certain storylines--Shanna, the whole druids/elementalists thing, the Four Elements—so that I could move on to other things. All I can say at this point is enjoy the story for what it is and, as for the next novel, wait and see. The lure will be the book's description and how it ties back into events that unfolded in TFE. Personally, I think it's going to be good.

Magic Appreciation Tour

The Five Elements is now part of the Magic Appreciation Tour site. Here's my listing:

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The MA site serves two purposes: (1) it connects authors with other authors and (2) it gives fantasy readers a place to find some great, new reads. The proprietor of the site, Daniel Marvello, also organizes "reading tours" where authors help each other out with reviews and other promotional "stuff" (Twitter, etc.). This isn't an uncommon practice and there's no obligation to either read or, more importantly, review something, especially if as a reader/reviewer you find it's something that isn't working for you.

The Summer 2012 Tour approaches. There was a previous Tour in the Spring of which I did not participate because I wasn't aware of the site at that time, but I'll happily jump into this one. I'm not entirely certain how the Tour will take shape, but you may wind up seeing some related posts here once things get going.

What to do with an Amazon review containing spoilers

I set out the other day to start a blog post on an entirely different subject when I noticed this review out on Amazon for The Five Elements:

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No one likes getting 1 star reviews, though I'm finding so many are of the "dump and run" type that it's easy to ignore them. Given that this person chose to give me a 1 star review solely because he didn't like the novel's ending further discredits the review, IMO. Also, this review is so short, indicating the reviewer gave very little consideration to it, and written with maybe the grammar level of a 1st grader (am I insulting 1st graders with that snipe?), that it would have been easy to put it out of my mind if the person didn't also GIVE AWAY A HUGE PART OF THE ENDING IN THE REVIEW.

As you can see, I blocked out the spoiler. If you really want to see it, jump out to Amazon and check it out. My immediate reaction was to contact Amazon about either removing the review or, at the very least, editing it to remove the spoiler. Long story short, after a brief exchange over email, I heard from an Amazon "senior" customer service rep who basically told me the review was not in violation of their guidelines and that they therefore would not do anything about the situation.

Funny thing is, including spoilers in a review without indicating that the review contains spoilers is a violation of their guidelines. But only if you look at the right set of guidelines.

Turns out Amazon has two sets:

General Review-Creation Guidelines

General Review Creation Guidelines

Those listed under "General Review-Creation Guidelines" look like this:

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The ones under "General Review Creation Guidelines" look like this:

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There's a subtle but oh-so-important difference: the second set of guidelines points out as its very first bullet point under "Inappropriate content":

Inappropriate content:
Crucial plot elements (unless you offer a clear "spoiler alert")

Seems pretty clear to me. I presented this information to Amazon and they basically ignored it. So much for that. The review—and the spoiler—remain. My options are limited. I suppose I could unpublish the eBook and maybe re-publish under a different name/ASIN. I'm not ready for that extreme of a step, though. Not to mention, what's to stop someone else from just doing the same thing? Amazon clearly takes a very hands-off approach inasmuch as customer reviews are concerned, going so far as to ignore their own guidelines.

It's nice to know, however, that I wasn't the only one put off by this person's lapse in judgment. Numerous people posted comments against the person's review saying hey, no spoilers. Unfortunately, I doubt the reviewer will ever see those comments or bother to take action because of them. Also, the review has been so slammed by people marking it as 'unhelpful' that it's been pushed to the bottom of the 11 reviews out there right now. I can only hope people do not walk away knowing too much because of it.

So, basically I'm left with a bad review (which I can handle) that contains a major spoiler (which I remain annoyed about). It's a disservice to me and to potential readers which apparently is going to remain unresolved. I've posted my own comments out there as well, pointing out to the reviewer the error of his ways. Again, I doubt he has enough sense to take action and correct his lapse in judgment.

Sadly, I've spoken with other authors who have had similar reviews and similar inaction taken on Amazon's part.

I'll continue to stew a bit, but life will go on. I'll keep writing, too.

5 out of 5 stars for The Five Elements

Continuing down the path of narcissism, I give you another stellar review for The Five Elements, this one from a very nice Goodreads member who won a copy of the novel via a Goodreads giveaway I ran not too long ago.

Here's the review:

I loved this book! Read it through in one night! The characters take you along for quite an adventure! The characters are very believable in some unbelievable situations but they display very real and sometimes raw emotions. Very well written. An exciting plot and subplots which weave a fantastic adventure. If you like The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, you will definitely enjoy this book. I personally hope to see more from Scott Marlowe! Well done! – Phoenix Carvelli

I'm stunned she read it through in one night. I'm also stunned—and appreciative—that she seemed to have liked it so much.

Thanks, Phoenix!

My Free eBooks This Week

I'm rounding out the remainder of my KDP Select free promotion days for both The Five Elements and The Hall of the Wood this week. If you're one of my two blog readers, then get your trigger finger ready, cause it's almost time to download.

Unlike some other promotional runs, I'm not going to go crazy promoting this one. This post will go up, then get syndicated over to Amazon and Goodreads and that's it. Alright, so I'll put it up on Twitter, too, but that's really it. This promotional stuff wears you out after a while. I'm also trying to keep my focus on the next book in The Alchemancer series which follows The Five Elements. It's going to be good, and that's all I'll say.

As for the free promotions, here's how it's going to go down:

4/10 – 4/11 (Tue-Wed): The Hall of the Wood goes free.

4/12 (Thur): For 1 day only, The Five Elements goes free.

The Five Elements for whatever reason always does well with these things. Thousands of downloads which then translate into hundreds of sales for so many days afterwards. The Hall of the Wood gets a fair amount of downloads—in the hundreds—but then never really does much after that. I guess it's the content. The Hall of the Wood is Tolkien-like, traditional fantasy, which just ain't in style anymore. The Five Elements is most definitely not traditional fantasy. Come Thursday, download it, read it, review it. That's all I ask.