Monthly Archives: February 2015

Interview: Fantasy Writer Scott Marlowe

Welcome to the World of Scott Marlowe

Scott Marlowe defines himself as a “first-generation Texan.” (His family had heretofore been staunch New Yorkers). After bouncing from one end of the country to the other, he finally returned to his beloved Lone Star state where he lives with wife and “two crazy dogs” (the crazy dogs’ response to their interview was “grrrr”). A software engineer by trade, he had long been a reader of fantasy. He founded a fantasy-science fiction ezine Pegasus Online and wrote a “terribly written story” (hey, we’ve all been there), but not so bad it wasn’t published. But writing books was on his horizon. He launched The Alchemancer, followed by A Tale of the Assassin Without a Name. He lives in a strange little world called Uhl, but they like him there. You’ll like him too. Read on.
(Copyright 2015, G G Collins)
Author Scott Marlowe

Author Scott Marlowe

How does a software engineer stray into the fantasy/sci-fi arena? Was it an escape from machines or a natural next step for you?

It actually was a first step. Like most authors, I was a reader long before I became a writer (or a software engineer). I started with such classics as The Chronicles of Prydain and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Also, I got hooked as a child on Harryhausen movies. Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans (the original, not that travesty of a re-make). Classic stuff which led me into the pulp works of Robert E. Howard, the horror of H.P. Lovecraft, and the sword and sorcery masterpieces penned by Fritz Leiber and Michael Moorcock.

Tell us how you add that touch of steampunk to your stories.

Coming from a fairly classic fantasy reading background, steampunk was something new for me. I liked reading it, but when it came time to get back to my own writing, it was back to the usual fantasy sorts of things. But then I started writing one book in particular and it just hit me that the story needed an infernal device of some sort. I already had the powerful magical device trope in there, but I started to think, what if this magical device was actually a mechanical device? Even better, what if it was a blend of science and sorcery? The story—and the series—took a completely different turn from there. I wound up incorporating these same technological elements into my other series; I kind of had to since they take place in the same world, albeit at different geographical locations.

So what started as a single infernal device prompted a certain proliferation of other technology: handheld devices to measure energy; mechanical, alchemically-driven carriages to whisk people around the larger, more modernized cities; and, of course, airships, some with specialized engines for high altitude travel.

Despite this, however, the overall feel of my stories remains fantasy. I didn’t want to stray too far from that, so it’s very much a pre-industrial world, where the overall presence and use of technology remains at the fringes, its potential benefits—and dangers—still looked upon with a skeptical, wary eye by many.

Introduce us to the World of Uhl and some of the “creatures” who reside there. I especially enjoy the cat-people. Me-ow!

"The Five Elements"  The Alchemancer: Book One

“The Five Elements”
The Alchemancer: Book One

Uhl (pronounced “ool”) is the world where my stories take place. It’s a world without gods—they destroyed themselves five hundred years ago—where science and sorcery have risen to fill the void left behind. It’s populated by a diverse group of races: humans, dwarves, eslar, skeva, krill, raspel, sitheri, and others.

Humans are what you might think. They’re spread out amongst the Four Fiefdoms, which is the remnants of a single kingdom, and the Freelands, which is a “lawless land of outlaws and bandits,” depending on who you talk to.

My dwarves are much like one might expect in fantasy, though mine are also raiders, a bit like Vikings.

Eslar are a blue-black skinned race that lives far to the east. They’re a bit of a mystery to readers because I’ve only dealt with them through three characters: one in The Hall of the Wood, a sorcerer, and the other two, Ensel Rhe and his daughter, Jakinda, in The Alchemancer series. But, in the next, upcoming book, I’ll deal with them some more and continue to reveal bits and piece of their society and way of life over time.

"Hall of Wood" Marlowe's Debut Novel

“Hall of Wood” Marlowe’s Debut Novel

Skeva, or rat-men, live beneath other cities. They’re featured quite prominently in the second Alchemancer book, The Nullification Engine. I had a lot of fun writing them. The best part? Bringing out their human qualities.

Krill, or cat-people, most definitely do not make ‘meow’ sounds.  They’re vicious hunters, strict xenophobes, and all-around mean people. That’s what they want the world to believe, anyway. Gerwyn, a krill character in The Nullification Engine, is actually quite friendly and a bit of a gentleman. He’s also weapons master to Jakinda Rhe, Ensel Rhe’s daughter.

Raspel are an insect-like race of traders and sitheri a tribal people who exile their warriors from their swamps, not allowing them to return until they’ve collected a certain number of scalps from their kills. They’re not a very friendly species.

When working with fantasy and science fiction subjects, how much research can you do and how much is left to imagination?

Because I’m primarily writing fantasy, I leave a lot of it to imagination. But I often start with a subject which is better served by science fiction, then bend and twist it to conform to more of a fantasy norm. It gives me free “reign” to play with things like negative energy, dark photons, anti-gravity, and other theoretical topics. I then research those topics as much as needed for the story or for whatever hokum I happen to need at the time. A lot of ideas on how to pull these concepts into a fantasy world come out of just the research itself.

You have two series: The Alchemancer and A Tale of the Assassin Without a Name. Describe your protagonist from each. What do they have in common? Or not?

Author, and outdoors-man, Scott Marlowe hitting the trail.

Author, and outdoors-man, Scott Marlowe hitting the trail.

Interesting question because the characters are almost complete opposites. The Alchemancer features Aaron Shepherd, a young sorcerer’s apprentice who finds himself in that role because of his intellectual abilities and not because he has any aptitude for magic. In fact, he has no skill with magic at all. Aaron is a selfless individual, always putting the problems of other people ahead of his own. He’s most definitely an intellectual character, so it’s not likely you’ll ever see him in a physical role.

The title character in the Assassin Without a Name, on the other hand, was called by one reader an “endearing sociopath.” Where Aaron often finds himself in situation where he is in over his head, my assassin character never does, simply because, in his mind, there is no situation he can’t handle. He is completely confident in his skill with weapons, his charm, his wit, and his cunning. Of course, this is only in his own mind. He often finds himself contending with situations where he has no choice but to rely on others to succeed or, even more fun as an author, where he simply falls flat on his face.

I think the only common ground between these two characters is that, ultimately, they both want to do the right thing. My favorite witty assassin may make sure his interests are taken care of in the process, but even he has others he cares about, so it becomes a question of eliminating the greater of two evils where he is concerned.

“Thief’s Gambit” is your forthcoming book, the 5th in the Assassin Without a Name series. Give us a sneak peak.

Click on the picture to pre-order "Thief's Gambit"

Click on the picture to pre-order “Thief’s Gambit”

Thief’s Gambit is a rip-roaring escapade where readers find out why the Assassin Without a Name, well, doesn’t have a name. It’s much more revealing about the character than any of the previous stories, and it moves the overall storyline along nicely as we find out that the Warders, who have seemed benign up to this point, may not have the good people of Alchester’s best interests at heart after all. Elizabeth West, the title character’s love interest and the thief referred to in the title, is back, leveling insults at my main character while making sure he doesn’t get himself killed. The series has been a lot of fun to write and this story, I think, is the best yet.

An outdoor guy, how does your love of the great outdoors influence your stories or characters?

I think some of that came out in The Hall of the Wood, one of my earlier works, especially because most of the story takes place outdoors. But all of my work after that has been inside city walls mostly. It’s probably a good thing since a lot of people think The Hall of the Wood is “overly descriptive.” Oh well. What can you do?

Just for fun. I’m a dark beer fan too. What are your favorite 3 beers? 

Only three? My favorites change, but right now I love a good Blue Moon Mountain Abbey Ale. The Sam Adams Octoberfest last season was a real good one, too. I love seasonal beers. Also, New Belgium has a black lager called 1554 that I never turn down. I generally go for stouts (Guinness was a favorite for a long time) and I’ve been on an IPA kick lately. New Belgium’s Ranger IPA is one of my current favorites.

Find Marlowe on Twitter: @scottmarlowe & Facebook: www.facebook.com/ScottMarloweAuthor. Also on Goodreads, Pinterest and Google+. His books are available on Amazon. Click on the book pictures above for a direct link.

Copyscape Do Not Copy

Advertisements

Book Review: “Tombstone Courage” by J A Jance

Sheriff Joanna Brady is Every Woman

Reviewed by G G Collins     (Copyright 2015)

* * * * * When last we saw Joanna Brady in series premier, Desert Heat, her husband was murdered while running for sheriff of Cochise County, and she was under suspicion for drug trafficking.

Tombstone Courage J A Jance William Morrow & Company

Tombstone Courage
J A Jance
William Morrow & Company

After she was instrumental in solving the case, which included corruption in the sheriff’s office, her friends urged her to run for the office once held by her father.

Joanna Brady’s first day on the job as sheriff is a stressful one. Two bodies have been discovered in the county, her chief deputy openly campaigned for one of her opponents and thinks the sheriff’s office is no place for a woman, and the ditzy office receptionist makes no effort to hide her hostility. Her personal life is complicated by young daughter, Jenny, when she has ambivalent feelings about mom’s new job. What if she gets killed too?

Joanna struggles to reassure her child, gain respect at the office, all the while sorting hideous clues involving one of the dead men, his estranged daughter and a lawsuit.

Holly Patterson, once a rising star in Hollywood and now a has-been, has come home with therapist and lawyer in tow. As an alleged victim of repressed childhood sexual abuse she is suing her father for his entire ranch. If she wins, it would displace her sister Ivy who has worked the ranch side by side with her father for forty years.

Before Holly’s father, Harold Patterson, has a chance to set things right he is killed leaving more questions than answers. Did Burton Kimball, Patterson’s attorney and nephew commit the crime in a drunken stupor after a blowup with his uncle? Ivy Patterson hasn’t spoken with her father for sometime because she has come to believe her sister’s accusations. Could she have murdered her father? She did, after all, delay overnight before calling authorities after finding her father’s body. No one knows much about Russian immigrant, Yuri, who has suddenly become engaged to Ivy. Was he looking at a quick ticket to citizenship?

Tombstone Courage refers to one of the ten tragic errors made by law enforcement officers–failure to call for backup. Sheriff Brady for all her pluck has yet to learn this valuable lesson probably because life has taught her to handle things on her own.

Joanna Brady, first woman sheriff in Cochise County, is a great character. She deals head-on with resentment, sexism, and political shenanigans with aplomb and when warranted, force.  Yet she is vulnerable to her child and everyday irritations such as runs in her hose. She shows cagey inventiveness as she assembles a new life for herself and her child.

This book isn’t really about law enforcement–the mystery almost gets in the way–but the exploration of the American woman on the move, meeting daily challenges, and rising to the occasion.

Every woman in America is not a sheriff, but Joanna Brady is every woman.

Tombstone Courage by J A Jance  (Joanna Brady Mysteries Book 2) 
William Morrow & Company ♦ 304 pp ♦ June 1994 ♦ Now available in Kindle format

Copyscape Do Not Copy

 

%d bloggers like this: