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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The Shortest Fight

This is easily the shortest fight scene I’ve ever written in one of my stories. It’s from “The Rooftop Game,” a 16K word novelette of mine that will be appearing in May in the anthology, “Worlds Enough: Fantastic Defenders.”

The basic premise is “Die Hard, on the roof of a castle tower.” While the King is away, the castle the royal family is staying in is overrun. Unable to escape, Lydio Malik, the Royal Bodyguard for the infant Princess Analisa, takes refuge on the roof of a tower where his enemies will have trouble getting to him.

This is the scene:

   The Kashmal fighter heaved himself over the edge of the roof, lunged to a standing position, drew his sword and took a step towards Malik.
   The fighter’s forward boot slipped on the wet tile where Malik had urinated only a few moments before. He fell forward, audibly cracking his chin as he landed face first on the orange roof tiles. Stunned, he dropped his sword, which slid off the roof, followed almost immediately by the screaming rebel warrior.
   A few seconds later, there was a thud and clatter as the fighter hit the ground below.
   Malik couldn’t help grinning. All of his fights should be that easy.

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“Bitter Days” Goes to Beta

Let the Beta Readers Begin!I just sent my latest story, “Bitter Days,” to my beta readers. Many thanks to those members of the Loudoun Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers who volunteered to be beta readers. The story is 14,500 words, so it’s solidly in novelette territory. It’s Episode 1 in the Pageeda & Scuffee serial, which I’m projecting to run for five episodes (for this first “season”). This series is, in turn, part of a larger canvas that I’m working on called The Thousand Kingdoms.

Here’s my elevator pitch for the story:

Somebody once said: “Our enemies define us.”

A young homeless girl, raised on the streets of a grim fantasy city by her older sister, vows revenge when her sister is seized by the Nazi-like religious cult that is steadily taking over the kingdom.

She’s so overmatched by her enemy, she has no choice but to become extraordinary. Anything less is unacceptable.

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