Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Midlist Writer blog, where he talks about writing, adventure travel, caving, and everything else he gets up to. He also reproduces all the posts from Civil War Horror, so drop on by!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Military History Photo Friday: Senegalese Troops in World War One

Hello from Tangier! Actually I'm writing this several days early and scheduling it ahead of time because I'm happily without Internet for a few days so my better half and I can enjoy our 14th anniversary in the Casbah.

To keep with the African theme, here's a photo of the Tirailleurs Sénégalais in World War One. What is now Senegal was a French colony during the war and like many other colonies they sent troops. Senegalese fought with distinction throughout the war on both the Western Front and the Dardanelles.

Recruits also came from Morocco, Indochina, and other colonies. More than 72,000 colonial soldiers died during the war.

Below is a closeup of the middle two guys with their flag commemorating some of the battles they fought in. You can see they've earned some medals too.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Military History Photo Friday: The Battle of Dogali

I was chatting with science fiction author David Drake this week and he mentioned a recent visit to Italy, where he got to see this splendid painting. It's by Michele Cammarano and depicts the Battle of Dogali on January 26, 1887.

This was an early engagement during Italy's attempt to colonize Abyssinia, modern Eritrea and Ethiopia. The Italians had taken the coastline, modern Eritrea, and the Emperor Yohannes IV sent an army to push them back. After the Abyssinians unsuccessfully attacked an Italian fort, the 10,000 warriors ambushed an Italian relief column headed for the fort. The column consisted of 500 Italians, 50 native irregulars, and two machine guns. The machine guns soon jammed and the Italians were overrun.

The Italians quickly vacated the region, but came back in 1896 intent on taking the entire country and regaining the honor they lost at Dogali. Instead, they were defeated at the famous Battle of Adowa, the subject of one of my books.

The detail below certainly makes it look like the Italians are winning. Note the curved shotel sword the Abyssinian to the left is carrying. These were fearsome weapons and were especially good against shield-carrying African warriors.

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons, where you can see a large format copy of this painting.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Helping out a writer in need

Some of you may be familiar with the blog Writing in the Crosshairs, written by author Roland Yeomans. If you don't read Roland's blog regularly you might have missed the fact that he's going into cancer surgery today.

I was trying to think of a way to cheer him up all the way over here in Spain and hit upon a buy-a-thon for his books. I've been reading Her Bones are in the Badlands and enjoying it immensely since it's set on a silent film set and I'm a fan of early movies. Today I bought French Quarter Nocturne, in which some strange beasts arise in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. This one should be interesting because Roland is not only a cancer survivor, but also a Katrina survivor.

So if you'd like to read some interesting speculative fiction and make a writer's day, check out his Amazon page. What could cheer a writer up more than coming out of surgery and finding his Amazon rankings have shot up?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I'm over at Unicorn Bell today, and a comment on sexism in the writing industry

My virtual book tour for Radio Hope continues with an interview over at Unicorn Bell today. Sales have been steady but not stellar, but hey, it's only been out less than three weeks. Indie publishers have to learn patience as they build up a reputation.

Luckily, some readers are helping with that by giving me very positive reviews. Several have said they've read the book in one or two sittings. The word "inhaled" has been used more than once.

Be careful of inhaling, ladies and gents, there's a lot of nasty stuff in the atmosphere of the Toxic World! This French soldier is well kitted out for reading my novel. Make sure you are too!

Oh, and if you want to breathe some more toxic air, read this Black Gate post about the continuing mudslinging over at the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America because a few female writers dared to point out the rampant sexism in the industry. Guess what happened? Yeah, the usual nonsense.

We like to pretend that the smarter sections of our society are free of sexism and racism, but that just ain't so. Just ask a female scientist, or a female doctor, or a female writer. Will things improve in the future? I hope so. Pushing down half the intellect of the human race is just not the best way forward. Please don't make my novel come true. Respect everyone!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Book Review: The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary 1914-1918

The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary 1914-1918The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary 1914-1918 by Holger H. Herwig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The popular academic study of World War One in English has long suffered a deficit in the number of publications that use German sources. Herwig's hefty tome comes as a welcome change to this. At 450 dense pages, only serious history buffs need apply.
Those willing to make the effort, however, will find their understanding of the war enriched and changed. While we are long accustomed to hearing criticisms of the Entente's General staff, the commanders of the Central Powers are shown to have made many key blunders and to be grossly out of touch with the reality on the ground.
Herwig goes through each year and campaign in detail, backed up with a wealth of primary sources. I could have used some more personal accounts--the ones he gives are gripping--but that's not really the focus here. He shows how the high command was influenced by politics, posturing, and unrealistic expectations. The incapacity of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to wage war is well drawn, and Herwig knows just when to bring out a telling detail. For example, rubber was in such shortage that in 1917 the Hapsburg government requisitioned the pockets from all billiard tables!
Herwig takes us step by step through the evolving political, strategic, and tactical situations. A glossary of terms and key figures and some more detailed maps would have been helpful, but I can't bring myself to give this book fewer than five stars. It's essential reading for anyone who wants to truly understand the Great War in detail.

View all my reviews

Friday, February 14, 2014

Military History Photo Friday: The Valentine Tank

Happy Valentine's Day! To celebrate the day where lovers are supposed to swoon over one another while gorging on chocolate, I'm giving you a photo of a tank. But not just any tank, the Valentine tank! Aren't I romantic?

The Valentine tank was produced in the United Kingdom at the start of World War Two. The story is that it got its name because the plans were submitted on Valentine's Day. There are several more prosaic explanations, such as the fact that a leading tank designer was named Valentine.

Anyway, these tanks were hugely popular, accounting for about a quarter of all tanks produced during the war in the UK. They were also the first tanks produced in Canada and saw service in the Soviet Red Army thanks to the Lend Lease program.

The Valentine tank owed its popularity to its good armor and durability and performed especially well in the North Africa campaign. Early models were armed with an underpowered 2-pounder cannon and the turret was cramped. The cannon was later replaced with a better six-pounder but by 1944 the Valentine was getting outclassed in the tank arms race. Heavier, tougher models became necessary, but the Valentine was still used as a backup.

Photo of Valentine Mark III with Scottish infantry in North Africa courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

More reviews, the importance of minor characters, and indie publishing news

Things are busy here. Sales for Radio Hope are steady but not stellar, but it's only been out two weeks so word is still spreading. Please help with that if you can!

I've received two new reviews. One on Goodreads, by a member of my writers group in Madrid saying, "I liked it, so much so that--faced with all those empty days until the next installment arrives--to satisfy my craving for radioactive scavenging and crumbling pockets of civilisation I've started playing Fallout: New Vegas again, after several years of twitchy abstinence. So thanks a lot, Sean: Radio Hope kicked me off the wagon."

The other is on Amazon and is titled: "It's a hard life if you don't weaken. If you do, you're dead." Gotta love a reviewer who paraphrases Sillitoe. From there she compares it with The Postman (I have a better ending, thank you for noticing) and to Stephen King.

I'm over at Amlokiblogs today talking about the importance of minor characters in writing.

Far more important than all this is that indie bestselling author Hugh Howey has teamed up with a statistician to analyze how well indie authors are doing compared with traditionally published authors. The data will surprise you. If you're a writer, or a reader interested in the future of books, check out his report.

A history post tomorrow. I'm getting bored with all this self-promotion!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Radio Hope gets its first review, and it's five stars!

Less that two weeks after its release, Radio Hope has received its first review! The reviewer, blogger Sioux Roslawski, says:

The author has painted a picture of a world that we might end up with--if we keep abusing our environment and we if keep being devisive about people, keeping the "have-nots" separated from the "haves." Although this story takes place in the future, it's easy to envision it being not too far into the future...which is the terrifying part.

I appreciate that the author has given his readers some credit. Too often, books like this are full of chunks of background information. Different terms and backstories are explained at the very beginning, which slows down the story. Sean McLachlan trusts that his readers have brains and he has ensured that things are revealed in a logical, natural way...as the story evolves. (He even made us wait until the last page for a tidbit I was wondering about throughout the entire novel. I was worried I'd never find out the answer, that it would be just a forgotten detail, but McLachlan did not disappoint...)

I gave this novel 5 stars because it is normally not the kind of book I would read. However, despite it being outside of my reading box, I inhaled it. I read it in two nights, anxious to get to the end.

Sioux isn't the only person who said they've read it in two days. I take that as a good sign!

My virtual book tour is continuing. Today I'm being interviewed by Paris-based blogger D.G. Hudson.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Book Review: Legionnaire from Texas

Legionnaire from TexasLegionnaire from Texas by Gordon Landsborough
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a reprint of a 1950s novella that was recently released by Piccadilly Publishing. The publisher specializes in old and new action tales, what used to be called "Men's Adventure Fiction."
And that's what you get here. A hard-bitten man from Texas joins the French Foreign Legion for mysterious reasons, and fights Arabs in North Africa while all the time trying to get something else done. . .
The story is well-written and fast-paced, as you'd expect from this kind of book. Landsborough wrote a lot along these lines and knows how to spin a good yarn.
There were some hiccups along the way, though. The story takes place just after World War Two, yet the Legionnaires are still using the Lebel Model 1886 rifle. I'm not sure that's accurate. Also, I found the characters to be a bit cardboardy. Perhaps they develop further in the series. In addition, this is not a complete tale, having a rather abrupt ending.
In the Smashwords edition I bought there were huge numbers of formatting errors. Paragraphs kept alternating in font size and there was a lot of missing punctuation, especially periods. Perhaps this was from scanning from an old pulp magazine. Whatever the reason, someone needs to proofread the ebook before clicking publish.
I'm intrigued with Piccadilly's line of books and have bought a few more. I don't think I'll continue with the Legionnaire series, however.

View all my reviews

Friday, February 7, 2014

Military History Photo Friday: Beating Shells Into Drinking Cups

Why beat swords into plowshares when you can turn an artillery shell into a drinking cup? That's what one soldier did in World War One. Actually it was a fairly common practice and was part of a larger movement called Trench Art. When they weren't busy killing each other, stringing barbed wire, or hunting rats, soldiers took time out to express themselves. The detritus of war such as shell casings often provided the material.

These were done by a French soldier and bear the names Tahure and Hurlus, two villages near the Marne that were destroyed in the war and never rebuilt. You might also be interested in a German photo album from World War One that's just been published. Click the link for some gripping images.

Oh, and I'm over at Sioux's Page today talking about Writing About Women When You're a Man. Drop on by!

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Sins after the Apocalypse

My virtual book tour for Radio Hope continues with a stop at a fellow author of post-apocalyptic books--Hart Johnson. This time I'm talking about how none of our sins will go away with the fall of civilization (except texting).

This old movie poster from 1917 has nothing to do with anything. I just love the look at that woman's face. What's he asking her to do?

More guest posts coming up! And no, I haven't forgotten this blog either. Some new posts are on the way.

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Writing Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

Sorry I missed posting yesterday, but I was down in Madrid catching up with old friends and enjoying the cafe culture. Now I'm back in Santander awaiting the next ocean gale while my virtual book tour continues. I've had two more stops and both focus on writing post-apocalyptic fiction.

First up is Constructing A Destroyed World at the Post-Modern Pulps page. I've also done a post on Post-Apocalyptic Fiction: What it is and What it Isn't over at The Five Year Project. Head on over and check them out, and feel free to leave a comment. I'll be lurking there, ready to bushwhack you and steal your food and gear. All's fair in the apocalypse. . .

Image courtesy NASA.

Monday, February 3, 2014

People won't be naked in the apocalypse

That caught your attention, didn't it? I'm kicking off my virtual book tour for Radio Hope with a guest post over at Alex Cavanaugh's blog, where I'm tackling the tricky question of why in all those post-apocalyptic books and movies people won't actually be dressed in rags. In fact, the apocalypse will mean we all get to dress better.

Head on over and say hi! I'll be doing several guest posts for blogs over the month of February. Stay tuned.

This shot of the lovely "Monster Guards" hanging out at Bulgaria's Extreme Film Fest 2011 courtesy podoboq.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Radio Hope out now!

My post-apocalyptic novel Radio Hope is out now. No zombies, no aliens, just regular people trying to live with their grandparents' mistakes. It's in the Kindle Select Program so if you're a Prime member, you can borrow my book for free. And if you want to help out a struggling writer, please tweet, share, like, and all the other things people do to get attention on the Internet. As a relative unknown, I can use all the help I can get.
And to all my beta readers--thank you very, very much. You really helped me out! Your contributors copies are coming next week.
Here's the blurb:

In a world shattered by war, pollution and disease. . .
A gunslinging mother longs to find a safe refuge for her son.
A frustrated revolutionary delivers water to villagers living on a toxic waste dump.
The assistant mayor of humanity's last city hopes he will never have to take command.
One thing gives them the promise of a better future--Radio Hope, a mysterious station that broadcasts vital information about surviving in a blighted world. But when a mad prophet and his army of fanatics march out of the wildlands on a crusade to purify the land with blood and fire, all three will find their lives intertwining, and changing forever.