Novelette Series: Entertaining, Fast and Just Enough Plot

I’ve written about this before, about how I’ve always liked novelettes and, sometimes, their slightly longer cousin, the novella. The annual Hugo Awards for SF classify novelettes as stories between 7501 – 17,500 words (roughly 30 to 70 pages in a mass market paperback). Novellas run from 17,501 to 40,000 words (71 – 160 pages).

A lot of famous stories fall into these ranges. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is a novella. So is Jack London’s Call of the Wild (one of my absolute favorite stories). Robert Silverberg is famous for his award-winning novelettes and novellas, such as Enter a Soldier. Later, Enter Another, Hawksbill Station and Sailing to Byzantium.

Even more interesting, some writers wrote frequently at these lengths and produced a body of such works in the form of series. Poul Anderson created his Technic Civilization Saga, now reprinted in seven largish volumes, as a mix of short stories, novelettes, novellas and novels. The Sherlock Holmes series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was likewise a mix of short stories, novelettes and one novella (A Study in Scarlet).

OK, so it’s obvious that I like novelettes and novellas. Thus, it’s probably not surprising that I’m written a bunch of them, and am in the process of writing more. In fact, I’ve started organizing my work into a number of distinct series.

Science Fiction

While the bulk of my work has been in the fantasy field, I’ve still got several SF series in progress.

  • After the Fall: After spreading throughout the entire solar system and achieving a high level of technology, civilization has been demolished in a vicious war between humans, AIs and post-Singularity humans. This is a series of stories about the pockets of humanity surviving in pockets throughout the system, from the burning wastes of Mercury, a war-ravaged but terraformed Mars, the devastated Earth and other places.

          — Hell-Cats of the Burning Sands

  • Belters: In the 24th century, Jonas Kastle is a troubleshooter for the Outer Planets League (OPL) in the run-up to what may become the first interplanetary war.

          — The Deep Dive

  • Monumentalists: In the early 23rd century, Emily Dunkirk works for the Monumentalists, an organization dedicated to finding stolen artwork and returning it to its rightful owners. She specializes in retrieval, usually from people and organizations who don’t want to give up their stolen property.

          — Clash by Night

Fantasy

I have several series that are best classified as fantasy…

  • Forever House: Adventures involving the Forever House, a mystical tavern that appears in different times and places throughout the multiverse.

          — Rocco Fitch, on Fighting Evil
          — Hunting Expedition

  • Roadwerks Limited: Rocco Fitch, a wounded veteran of the war in Afghanistan, inadvertently buys a magic road…and gets far more than he bargained for.

          — Road Trip
          — Paying the Toll

The Thousand Kingdoms

The Thousand Kingdoms is a balkanized nation of anarchic kingdoms controlled by the Tars Arcana, a ruling organization of powerful mages. It’s a post-feudal setting where the existence of magic has stunted the development of science. Series existing in this setting include:

  • Big Sky Country: Brant Halvar is a skyracer on the dangerous skyracing circuit. He and his crew overcome adversity as he advances through the ranks in his effort to be accepted into the elite Big Sky League.

          — The Mad Diver of Mistveil

  • Keeper’s Guild: Demetrius is a member of the Keeper’s Guild, an organization in the anarchic city of Mozanya that preserves the integrity of the city’s for-profit legal system by ensuring the safety of plaintiffs and key witnesses.

          — The Most Dangerous Thing

  • Pageeda and Scuffee: Pageeda, a young homeless girl living in the gritty port city of Mozanya, struggles to find out what happened to her older sister. She is befriended by Scuffee, a strangely intelligent, oversized cat who has escaped from the local Arena.

          — Bitter Days
          — The Threefold Revenge

  • The Royal Protectors: Lydio Malik is the Royal Bodyguard for Princess Analisa, the heir to the throne of Salasia. He and a team of others, including the princess’s maid and the Royal Mage, defend her from powerful forces trying to topple the ruling dynasty.

          — The Rooftop Game
          — Last Day on the Job
          — Unleashed

  • The Silent Knight: Ser Kedric Hawkthorn has been betrayed by his own liege lord, the so-called Boy King. Taking refuge in a rebellious province, the disfigured knight finds himself leading troops against his former king…and his mysterious backers.

          — The Silent Knight
          — An Unexpected Journey

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Fantastic Defenders: Tuning a Cover

Cover Comparison: Fantastic Defenders

When we launched “Fantastic Defenders,” the first volume of our new Worlds Enough anthology series, we were never quite as happy with the cover as we’d hoped. The issue wasn’t with the cover art, which we thought was both excellent and well worth the money we’d paid (that’s how you get real cover art by the way…you buy it from somebody good). But the typography…the design…of the cover wasn’t quite as snazzy as we’d hoped. Additionally, the cover was perhaps just a little bit dark. Some of the key details simply didn’t stand out when the cover was shown as a thumbnail.

The thing about indie publishing is, if you’re doing it right, your book is available forever. We always knew we were going to do something down the road to improve the cover. It wasn’t horrible, it just needed some tuning.

Well, that time is now.

Maybe we should have done something sooner. In fact, yes, absolutely, we should have. But with indie publishing, there’s never a shortage of work to be done. There’s always another deadline, more words to write, another convention to prepare for, etc.

When I took on the task of tuning up the cover, I consulting with Don Anderson, a graphic artist. We discussed the flaws of the original cover:

  • Uninspired typography.
  • Unclear delineation of Worlds Enough as the series name, not the volume name.
  • Rough snow on the bottom of the page distracted from the names of the editors.
  • Despite the snow, the cover was just a little too dark.
  • Key details, especially the sword, not visible in thumbnail.
  • Remove the list of writers on the right side of the cover.

Above, you can see the Before and After versions of the cover.

One key addition was little graphic chevrons on either side of the series title. They’re small, but they subtly serve to set “Worlds Enough” off as the series title and, by contrast, emphasize “Fantastic Defenders as the title of the anthology. Although not shown, slightly stubbier chevrons are used as the bullets on the back cover blurb. So the chevrons are functioning as a unifying element of an overall theme.

The overall cover has been lightened, so some of the fine details are more visible. The sword has been lightened even more in order to make that feature more prominent (and visible in a thumbnail).

The snow at the bottom of the page has been lightened and smoothed, and the editorial designation has a drop shadow. Combined, this makes the names of the editors easier to read.

Overall, I feel like the cover has been improved. The changes might not be dramatic, but even a 10% improvement (however you might quantify that) seems like a worthwhile endeavor.

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