Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Online References, Part 2: Thesauri

There are a lot of online reference resources out there. In this short series, I'm going to highlight just some of them. Here are the primary types I'll take a look at:

  1. Dictionaries
  2. Thesauri (this post)
  3. Quotations
  4. Style & Grammar
  5. Word of the Day
  6. Fun With Words

Big Huge Thesaurus
Hey, they can call it whatever they want.

The Cook's Thesaurus
Yeah, you're seeing that right. The Cook's Thesaurus is a cooking encyclopedia that covers thousands of ingredients and kitchen tools.

Merriam-Webster
You have to click on the 'Thesaurus' tab. I don't care for the extra step.

The Synonym Finder
The Synonym Finder reads like a dictionary, except instead of word definitions it's chock full of synonyms.

Thesaurus.net
The thesaurus for thesaurus enthusiasts. Quickly becoming my new standard 'go to' synonym and antonym resource.

Thesaurus.com
A standard resource for many. Affiliated with Dictionary.com.

Urban Thesaurus
Because an Urban Dictionary just isn't enough.

Visual Thesaurus
Makes finding synonyms fun!

Your Dictionary Thesaurus
It's the Your Dictionary… Thesaurus. Think of it as Your Thesaurus and everything will be ok.

Online References, Part 1: Dictionaries

There are a lot of online reference resources out there. In this short series, I'm going to highlight just some of them. Here are the primary types I'll take a look at:

  1. Dictionaries (this post)
  2. Thesauri
  3. Quotations
  4. Style & Grammar
  5. Word of the Day
  6. Fun With Words

The American Heritage Dictionary
Online but also available as an iOS or Android app.

Cambridge Dictionaries
Cambridge University Press publishes a range of dictionaries for learners of English all around the world.

Dictionary.com
The world's largest free online dictionary with definitions, spell check, word origins, example sentences, pronunciations, and a Word of the Day service.

Google
Type "define < your word goes here>" in any Google search box and Google will bring up the definition as the first search result.

Merriam-Webster.com
For more than 150 years, Merriam-Webster has been America's leading and most-trusted provider of language information. (Note from Scott: Or so says their About page)

OneLook.com
Pulls in definitions from multiple sources.

UrbanDictionary.com
Slang definitions. I guess some people out there actually use these words in sentences.

Wordnik.com
Beautifully done definition pages. Where my Word of the Day posts originate.

YourDictionary.com
It's YOUR dictionary, not mine.

Worldbuilding: Even the Dogs Have Names

Three Gardens of the Moon.jpg

Worldbuilding is something most writers have to think about to some degree. But none so much as a fantasy writer. In fantasy, everything is "made up". Content might be based on elements of reality, but the finished product is always fictitious. The dilemma is how far to take it. When John Scalzi wrote Old Man's War he made up only what he needed to tell the story. He might have mentioned such and such place, but unless that place was actually visited by his characters he didn't do anything more than create the name. The other side of the pendulum is someone like Tolkien who spent his lifetime developing the world of Middle-earth and only wrote a handful of novels as a result.

The solution to this dilemma is to find some middle ground. Create enough to make the world believable but not so much the writing itself never gets done.

Which brings me to my point of including the cover for Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon above. Gardens of the Moon is the first novel in The Malazan Book of the Fallen series. The series spans ten books with various other novels and novelettes written in the same world.

One of the things that struck me as to the deepness of Erikson's worldbuilding is his cast of characters listed at the beginning of the novel. In its entirety, the cast listing spans four pages. There's the usual soldiers, gods, wizards, rulers, etc. But there's also dogs. Yep, even the dogs have names.

(As an aside, I have to say it is sooo much easier flipping to this cast listing anytime I need a refresher on who's who with a print book as opposed to an eBook.)

Now, these are no ordinary dogs but Hounds of Shadow. Here are their names:

  1. Baran
  2. Blind
  3. Gear
  4. Rood
  5. Shan
  6. Doan
  7. Ganrod

It's no surprise that each Hound winds up having as much personality as any other character in the series. By giving them names, Erikson has made them relevant, substantial, and marked them as players in the vastness of this epic series, one book of which is even called Toll the Hounds.

This unexpected relevancy is something I've taken to heart as I continue work on my own Alchemancer series. Cause, you know, I have some hounds of my own who could very well have personalities of their own in the next novel. They're still around, they're still mean, and they still want to kill Aaron, so why not? Whereas Erikson has a pack of seven hounds, I have a pack of a dozen. And it is a true pack, with an alpha, a bitch, and their brood. It's going to make for a fun dynamic for some characters who were important in The Five Elements but who really didn't play a major role.

The Effect of Negative Reviews, or Why I've Stopped Reading All Reviews

Someone out on KindleBoards asked the following question:

Do negative reviews ever make you feel like giving up?

The responses were varied but there's definitely a common theme: Don't let them get to you.

Early on negative reviews did bother me. Now? Not really. In fact, I've gotten to the point now where I don't even read reviews. It doesn't matter if they're good or bad. I know a lot of writers do this. I can't help it if a person likes my writing or not, and while it's validating and reassuring to read a good review I tend to get sucked into the negative ones too once I'm out there. I can't do anything about them either way, so unless the person has pointed out some mechanical errors what am I going to do with it?

Another reason I've stopped reading reviews is because I think readers and reviewers should be left alone by the writer. I didn't always think this way. Initially I was liking and commenting on any review that came my way. I think some of that early writer enthusiasm has worn off, though, and so now I've taken on a more hands-off approach. It's different if a reader/reviewer initiates contact first either through Twitter or Goodreads or some other channel, but if that relationship has not already been established I leave it alone. It doesn't matter if it's a good review or a bad one. People are all over the map on this. Some think that because we're now living in such a connected world that such behavior is normal and even appreciated. I don't know… I think as a reader and reviewer myself that having an author jump on a review of mine with comments, etc. is kind of creepy. Almost stalker-like. Even worse, it makes me hesitate to say what I really think. I don't want my own reviewers to have any hesitation. I want the gospel on their thoughts. So Stalker Scott is laying low.

The last reason I've stopped reading reviews is because they really don't nudge me one way or the other on my writing journey. I'm not doing this to be liked or loved or to gain the appreciation of the masses (or the opposite). I'm also not doing this for money (read this if you have any illusions about the potential for independent writing riches). Last, and this goes against the goals of many other indie writers, but I'm also not doing this in order to enter into a new career. I like my current occupation as a software engineer just fine.

All this being said, I do appreciate people taking the time to leave reviews, but I've come to believe that those reviews are not for me. They're for other readers to help them make an informed decision about their next read. I can only control the product itself. Not what other people think of it once it's 'out there'. If I've learned anything out of life at this point it's to only worry about the things I can control. Reviews isn't one of them.

Where I'm at on the Web

Last post I talked about some of the marketing efforts I'm typically engaged in for my books and that I'd decided to take a step back. It wasn't until I dug into where I was spending my time that I realized just how many places online I was dipping my toes. I thought I'd list them out. Some are pretty obvious. Twitter, for example. Some I've established a presence on but never use (Google+). Others I'm on too much. I say too much because those sites take away too much time from my writing.

I suppose I need to focus down on just 1 or 2 of these. Especially the forums, though I do spend most of my forum time on KindleBoards. One place I really need to start spending less time on is Goodreads. Goodreads is for readers, and while I am a reader I'm also a writer. Sometimes the distinction gets blurred.

Here's the list along with profile links. How many of these are you on?

Twitter

Facebook

Web Site/Blog (i.e., this site)

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads

About.me*

KindleBoard Forums

MobileRead Forums

FantasyFaction Forums

Google+*

* = presence established but don't really use