Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Writing Update #33

It's been a long while since I've posted anything that only focused on my writing progress. For a while there, I had committed to posting every week. I was using this as a way to hold myself accountable for getting some writing in on a regular basis. The reason I stopped was exactly what I worried about from the start: just doing the weekly posts became a chore unto itself. No reason I can't make a post every once in a while, though, and so here we go.

I'm still working on my second novel. Most of it is done, but I need to go back and smooth out some rough edges and consolidate the ending as I think it's too long right now. I actually set it aside for a little bit about a month ago while I shift gears to some shorter work. From that effort, I posted Fine Wine, a short story about an assassin who makes a deal, in my short fiction section. From that story emerged another, longer tale, about the same assassin who is hired for a particularly unusual job. It's called Killing the Dead, and is out to Realms of Fantasy right now. If that doesn't work, there are other top level magazines (top level being defined as those that have the highest pay rates) it will go to next and then to the lower paying markets and then possibly to the free markets. Worst case, I'll post it here.

There's something satisfying about working on a piece that is small and finite. Novels take a long time to write, with little or no reward waiting at the end. Short stories have the potential to bring satisfaction much quicker and with greater frequency. So, I'm exploring those markets now with the intention of getting a credit or two.

It's a little known fact that I do actually have one publishing credit to my name. It was so long ago I sometimes forget about it myself. I was about twenty (I'm 39 now), it was the first piece I'd ever submitted, and I made a very small amount of money off it. I actually still have the check; I never cashed it. The story itself is bad, bad, bad. I have a hard time even looking at it now, but there are few writers who don't look back on their early work and shudder.

So, that's it. I have another idea brewing for my "assassin with no name" character, as well as some initial background information that may leak little by little into each subsequent tale I spin about him. I'm having fun writing about him, especially with the shorter form; it has none of the "drudgery" of the longer one.

About Me

Scott Marlowe writes both straight-up fantasy and steamfantasy, which is a mix of fantasy and steampunk. We all know anything can happen in fantasy. But toss in some pseudoscience, an infernal machine or two, and some rampant sorcery, and you've got a true recipe for disastrous adventure and fun.

When he's not writing, Scott enjoys hitting the trails on his mountain bike or working outside around the house. He loves dogs, dark beer, and strong coffee.

Scott lives in Texas with his wife and two crazy dogs.

Fine Wine (A Tale of the Assassin Without a Name 1)

"Fine Wine" is a short piece I wrote in about an hour, with several edits following that initial brain dump. It started with a single sentence that just popped into my head: "Abelard ate a lot. That was why, after I'd slashed my knife across his belly…"

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Abelard ate a lot. That was why, after I'd slashed my knife across his belly, I half-expected his bulbous stomach, chock full of the tender roast, broccoli, soft rolls, and the most delicate shiraz I'd ever sampled—all served just an hour before by his fat merchantship's very own staff—to come tumbling out like a too swollen jellyfish. But something about the cut didn't feel right, and though Abelard clenched his hands to his gut and fell to his knees as I expected he would, there wasn't even a single, glistening trickle of gastric juice seeping out from between his fat fingers.

Seized by a moment of disbelief, Abelard gasped as realization of what had happened hit him. It's not every day a man falls prey to an assassin, especially after having just wined and dined said assassin at his own table. It's not a usual part of my fee, the wining and dining, but I don't pass it up when it can be arranged.

His lardship moaned, and fell to his back, still clutching his gut. Strange that there was no blood...

I sighed. Killing a man when he was down was too much work. Not very sporting, either. "Get up," I said.

"Why have you betrayed me, my friend?" Abelard asked between moans as he curled himself into the fetal position.

I'd passed myself off as a fellow merchant, come to the city to move some goods. "I did not betray you," I said, "for I was never loyal to you in the first place. Now, get up." It was a hard thing to ask of a man who'd just been eviscerated, but Abelard appeared to be holding his insides in well enough, so not completely out of boundaries, I thought.

"You've killed me, my dear, dear friend. I bleed, and soon I shall die."

I sighed again. I'd been warned about Abelard's theatrics.

I started to clean my knife—I'd need both hands to lift his bulbous body back into a standing position—when I noticed there wasn't anything to wipe off. I narrowed my gaze, holding it to the dim candlelight. Son of a—the damn thing had a nick in it! My best killing knife. Oiled, polished, and so sharp it cut flesh like hot butter. It was new, too, which annoyed me even more. I jammed the knife into its home at my belt, then grabbed hold of the front of Abelard's suit coat with both hands. Grunting, I heaved him to his feet.

Abelard stayed standing, barely, his eyes closed and his face turned from me. He was visibly shaking. Couldn't blame him for that.

"What have I done to provoke your ire, my friend?" he asked between clenched lips.

"Shut up. I'm not your friend." I knocked his hands away and felt at his 'wound'. His coat and shirt were cut, but there was something hard—not soft flesh—beneath it. I ripped the opening wider and raised an eyebrow at the leather money belt—stuffed full of coins—fastened quite snugly just above his bulbous waistline.

"You wear a money belt in your own home?" I asked.

Abelard had been in all day, so there'd be no reason for him to be wearing such a thing. Unless he'd been prescient enough to prepare himself for a hasty, moment's notice departure. Too late for that now, though.

"One can never be too careful." He took his own turn examining himself. When he realized what had happened, he laughed a quick, sharp laugh that died on his lips the moment he looked into my eyes. There wasn't anything humorous there.

With shaky hands, he undid the coin-stuffed belt and held it out to me. "Take it, my friend." He gestured with a flabby arm. "It's yours. Only... let me live. I beg it of you."

I knocked the money belt from his grasp. "I've already been paid."

"Yes, but—"

This was supposed to have gone down quick. The only thing keeping Abelard from screaming for help was the fact that his staff was gone for the night. Too bad they'd have such a big mess to clean up in the morning. I slid my knife from its sheath for the second time.

Abelard visibly shrank from sight of it. I reached out lightning quick, grabbing hold of him.

He did scream then, but it was such a low, pitiful sound I almost felt sorry for him.

"Sorry, Abelard, but you've made your last bad deal. You must have really pissed some people off for them to want you dead this way." Evisceration was a slow, painful, horrible way to die. It was to Abelard's fortune that I was here. I'd make the first cut like my employer wanted, let it bleed for a while, then follow it up with a quick stab under his arm and into his heart. No one would examine him that closely to notice the mercy stroke. I wasn't a complete monster.

"W-Wait!" Abelard said. "I can offer you more than just coins if only you will spare my life! I have other wealth, my friend! An estate outside the city—it's yours! My place in the Silver Gentlemen's Club—though it will pain me to surrender it—for you... Women! I know the best—"

"You have nothing I want. Now, let me finish this. I have an appointment at Lady Bellum's later this evening, and I'd rather not keep my Crusus Sabeler, '74, waiting."

Abelard wasn't giving up. "If not those things, then perhaps..." He looked about the study, perhaps hoping for some sort of inspiration. It didn't matter. He had nothing I wanted. Then something must have hit him, for his face lit up. "Lady Bellum, did you say? Her ladyship runs a fine wineshop, yes? I believe they carry a full line of honeyed and—"

"What's your point?"

"Wine, my friend! I saw you how fancied the syrah at dinner! A fine blend, made from grapes picked from my own vineyard. 'Tis a spicy combination of blackberries and pepper... one of our finest! Seasonally rare, too, my friend. We only produce so many bottles."

"So you'll give me a bottle for sparing your life?" I asked, not amused.

"No! I mean, not a bottle, but a full year's supply!"

He had my interest. There weren't very many things I'd trade a life for, but the syrah had been exquisite: soft on the tongue, satisfying going down, with only the faintest hint of spicy pepper left behind. It'd be tricky satisfying my employers. They wanted blood. They might just send someone else out to finish the job. Plus I'd take a hit on my reputation; I wasn't known for leniency. I'd have to make my next job... messy.

"Make it a five year supply and you've got a deal," I said, countering.

Abelard visibly blanched. "Five years, my friend? Five years is such a long time, and life can be so dangerous. One never knows—"

"No, one doesn't." I pressed the flat of my blade hard against his belly.

Abelard turned a shade whiter, but he was already nodding in agreement. "Five years it is, my friend. Only leave an address and I will arrange—"

I stepped away. "Have a bottle a week sent to Lady Bellum's." I could see him already doing the math in his head. A bottle a week for that many years... "Tell your coachman to put it under my name. Miss a delivery, and I'll be back."

Abelard nodded, his jowls quivering.

I put my knife away, then I turned around and left. I always was a sucker for a fine wine.

Next Steps

The adventures continues in The Killing Knife, available for free at Amazon. Give it a read and please remember to leave a review.

The Hall of the Wood, now on

My fantasy novel, The Hall of the Wood, is now available on the Barnes & Noble web site. This comes courtesy of Smashwords, which signed an agreement with BN to distribute eBooks through the Barnes & Noble site.


The retail price is the same as everywhere else: $0.99.

You can also purchase The Hall of the Wood from this site in PDF format, from Amazon in Kindle format, or from Smashwords in a plethora of formats.

The deal that Smashwords inked is a good one, I think. It gives the writer a single point of submission, and since Smashwords also signed similar deals with Amazon and Sony, you're widening your distribution with minimal effort.

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Sell Your E-books in the Amazon Kindle Store

I've been interested in Amazon's Kindle digital book reader since its inception (though, admittedly, I didn't start blogging about it until the second version came out). I haven't bought one yet because I'm waiting for the inevitable price reduction, but that doesn't mean I haven't been exploring its features and some of the content for the device.

The biggest source of content for the Kindle is, of course, Amazon's Kindle Store. The store features a lot of e-books. A quick run down of some of the categories:

Fantasy 5,267 e-books
Science Fiction 7,299 e-books
Mystery & Thrillers 13,570 e-books

Total, there's over 300,000 titles available for download to your Kindle. That's a lot of books.

I recently discovered one of the best things about the Kindle store: anyone can post products there. JA Konrath clued me into the possibility, and he does a nice job of breaking down some of his own sales numbers. You can see that he's had no small success at it thus far. Granted, Konrath is a published author, so his name is out there via other, more traditional channels, but he also puts forth a lot of effort online as well. Nonetheless, is the possibility of an unpublished writer posting his or her work to the Kindle store gold waiting to be mined? I plan to find out.

As of a couple of days ago, my novel, The Hall of the Wood, is available for purchase via the Kindle store:


I wanted to make the price $0.25, but $0.99 is the minimum allowed price. The one catch is that, of course, you must have a Kindle to which to download the e-book to. So, if you've already spent $300 for the device, what's another $0.99? ;-)

The concept of an unpublished author finding success in this channel is a challenge. As noted above, there are over 5,000 fantasy titles available for purchase in the Kindle store. How to make my novel stand out amongst those? For one, I created a book cover. Nothing fancy, but it gives the potential buyer something to look at other than "No image available". Second, I gave it a product description, which is the standard blurb taken from my web site:

Jed's wife and unborn child are dead, killed by a legacy he dare share with no one. Seeking a reprieve from his guilt, he sets out for his former home, the Ranger Hall of the Wood. Along the way, he discovers all is not well. Aliah Starbough, a friend from Jed's past, sends him a chilling warning: the rangers are dead, the Simarron Forest, thrown into peril. Nearby Homewood has issued a plea for help, a summonings which Kayra Weslin, knight errant, and her chronicler, Holly, answer. Along with Murik Alon Rin'kres, an Eslar sorcerer who harbors a secret purpose all his own, the four attempt to unravel the mystery of the missing rangers. They soon find tales of their disappearance frighteningly untrue.

The third way to gain attention is through customer reviews. This one is huge, and the one that in my mind will allow us as writers to break free of the traditional agent/publisher dependency. It's a stamp of approval, a guarantee of quality, a statement saying that your book is not crap. Customer reviews, to a point, validate a book's worth. In general, low reviews indicate a lack of quality. High reviews, the opposite. This is not to say that every review should be taken as gospel. But given enough reviews and a trend should emerge.

I often read of the struggle authors undergo in finding an agent or publisher. There's really no rhyme or reason to it: the decision-making is subjective, and how often have you come across a published novel that, to be frank, sucks? I've begun to doubt the vindication that supposedly comes with having your work blessed by a "real" publisher, and let's face it: business models change. We might be witnessing the beginning of the end for traditional publishers here. If not that, certainly a sea change in the way we purchase and read books.

The Hall of the Wood has been available as a free pdf download for a long time now. As Konrath points out, Amazon's web site gets a lot more traffic than his own. That volume has a lot of potential to increase sales. Selling on the Kindle store seems like a real no-brainer to me.