Monday, 16 May 2016

Off to Tangier!

I'm heading down to Tangier this morning for one of my regular writing retreats. I'll be there for two weeks and probably take a trip to the Atlas Mountains as well. So I won't be on this blog much, but I will be trying to promote my Tangier novel, The Last Hotel Room, which is up for voting on Kindle Scout. Click on the link and check it out.

If you vote for it and Amazon decides to publish it, you get a free copy and I'll donate $500 to a charity to help refugees. There's some stiff competition, so winning is far from assured!

See you when I get back!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Help Me Win A Book Contract Through Kindle Scout!

I've just launched a campaign for my latest novel, The Last Hotel Room, on Kindle Scout. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the program, writers upload their unpublished book for 30 days, and readers get to vote on them. Those with the most votes are considered for electronic publication via Amazon, with a $1500 advance and 50% royalties. If the book is published, those who voted for it get a free copy of the ebook.

My book is the one I was writing during all those trips to Tangier. It's set in contemporary Tangier and deals with refugee crisis. A blurb is below.

He came to Tangier to die, but life isn’t done with him yet.
Tom Miller has lost his job, his wife, and his dreams. Broke and alone, he ends up in a flophouse in Morocco, ready to end it all. But soon he finds himself tangled in a web of danger and duty as he’s pulled into scamming tourists for a crooked cop while trying to help a Syrian refugee boy survive life on the streets. Can a lifelong loser do something good for a change?
$500 of my advance will go to a charity for Syrian refugees.

You can check out the book's page and read a sample here. Voting requires you to sign in to your Amazon account or create one if you don't have one. Also check out the other titles, there are some good ones. I've already put a vote in for a science fiction novel I wouldn't mind getting for free!

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

More Honest Numbers from a Kindle Giveaway

Back in March I blogged my numbers for an Amazon free promotion of my post-apocalyptic novel Radio Hope. Click the link to see the data. I just finished another giveaway, this time for The Scavenger, a 10,000 word short set in the same world. It also includes the first three chapters of Radio Hope as a teaser.

As usual when I do a promo, I tweeted and blogged about it, and I bought an ad in Book Barbarian, a newsletter catering to fantasy and science fiction fans. It goes out to more than 12,000 subscribers and my ad was posted on their Facebook page, which has 12,867 fans. The ad cost $25 and ran on May 6. Here are my numbers broken down by country:

Thursday, May 5: US (47), UK (3), Germany (1), Spain (1)

Friday, May 6 (Book Barbarian ad): US (616), UK (1), Germany (1), Netherlands (1), Canada (1), Australia (1)

Saturday, May 7: US (118), UK (2), Germany (1), Canada (1)

Sunday, May 8: US (52), UK (1)

Monday, May 9: US (29), UK (1), Canada (1)

TOTAL: US (862), UK (8), Germany (3), Spain (1), Netherlands (1), Canada (3), Australia (1)

GRAND TOTAL: 879 downloads

As you can see, there was a major spike on the day of my ad, and a sizeable tail for the following day. That launched me into the top five in two categories, where I remained for the next couple of days.

Otherwise the giveaway was rather lackluster. I have a couple of explanations for this. First off, this was the fourth time I've done a giveaway for this title, meaning quite a few people who search for this genre have already downloaded it (or decided they're not interested!). Second, note that my categories are in Kindle Short Reads. When Radio Hope got in the top ten for post-apocalyptic novels, that led to a lot more downloads than I'm seeing this time. It's been shown time and again, with my data and others, that readers prefer full novels to shorts. It appears that considerably more people are checking the top free books in novels than in Kindle Short Reads. I'm one of those people!

It's also interesting to note how few downloads I had outside the US. Normally about 15% of my sales on any given month are to the UK, with another 5% to the rest of the world combined. But for this giveaway non-US downloads accounted for only a little more than 2% of the total. The Radio Hope giveaway also didn't do so well beyond the US. I have no idea why this is the case, although part of it certainly is that low initial downloads kept me from getting into the top ten of these markets, hurting visibility and stifling downloads.

So was it worth the $25 I paid for the ad? Yes. Getting my book on 879 devices will lead to a lot more readers, some of whom will go on to buy the other books in my series. These giveaways are part of an ongoing process to raise the profile of my writing. There won't be any overnight successes, but a gradual climb upwards. It's already been heading that way thanks to my previous giveaway.

I hope this helps some of my fellow writers out there!

Friday, 6 May 2016

Military History Photo Friday: Armor in the Museo Cerralbo, Madrid

This week over at Black Gate I blogged about the amazing collection at the Museo Cerralbo, Madrid. Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa (1845-1922), 17th Marquis of Cerralbo, gathered together a vast collection of art and antiquities in his mansion in Spain's capital. He had everything from old books and Roman intaglios to ornate brass lamps and suits of armor. It's now a fun museum.

Sadly, there isn't much signage in the museum and I'm not much of an expert, so I won't be able to tell you much about these pieces. If you can identify any, please drop me a line in the comments section! Hit the link above to see the full article!

Photos copyright Sean McLachlan.

A lovely suit of samurai armor.
A German zweihander (two-handed sword), plus bits of barding (horse armor), and two types of polearm--a halberd (left) and a corseque (right)

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Free Post-Apocalyptic Story!

I'm offering my post-apocalyptic story The Scavenger for free on Amazon for the next five days, May 5-9.

This story is a 67-page teaser for my Toxic World series, which starts with the novel Radio Hope. The Scavenger is a standalone story, but it gives a different perspective on some of the places and characters that appear in Radio Hope.

The blurb is below:

In a world shattered by war, pollution, and disease, a lone scavenger discovers a priceless relic from the Old Times.

The problem is, it's stuck in the middle of the worst wasteland he knows--a contaminated city inhabited by insane chem addicts and vengeful villagers. Only his wits, his gun, and an unlikely ally can get him out alive.

Set in the Toxic World series introduced in the novel Radio Hope, this 10,000-word story explores more of the dangers and personalities that make up a post-apocalyptic world that's all too possible.

It's free on Amazon US, Amazon UK, and all the other Amazons. Enjoy!

Monday, 2 May 2016

Book Review: Dark Matters: Memories by Andrew Leon Hudson

Dark Matters: Memories (Dark Matters #4)Dark Matters: Memories by Andrew Leon Hudson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Full disclosure: Andrew Leon Hudson is in my writers group and I have been a beta reader on several of his stories, including one that was in this volume. Still, I'll try to be objective.
Speculative fiction author Andrew Leon Hudson continues his collection of short story two-packs with this one on the theme of the Great War. The first story, "The Palimpsest", is my favorite of all his stories and follows a WWI veteran and artist as he sketches ruins in England's remote north. Strange things start to occur reminiscent of M.R. James ghost story. Hudson captures the feel of a James story quite well and the ending is powerful. Very well done.
I was less intrigued with "The Foundation", another tale of memory as it relates to the Great War. I thought the dream sequences were handled well and the overall writing was good but it lacked the punch of the other story. Perhaps I've read too much, "we must not forget" literature for this sort of thing to gut punch me anymore, especially when nothing is added to the premise. Others might find it more moving. Even if they don't, "The Palimpsest" is well worth the low price of admission.
Hudson is a writer to watch, and I hope he'll start writing longer works in the future.

View all my reviews

Friday, 29 April 2016

Civil War Photo Friday: Black Civil War Soldiers Fighting Bloodhounds

I've been researching the Civil War for more some 15 years now and this is the first time I've come across this little tidbit. Titled, “Terrible Fight with Bloodhounds,” this engraving appeared in Leslie’s Illustrated magazine in March of 1864. It illustrates the strange fight of one of the very first African-American regiments organized during the Civil War.

On October 23, 1862, the 1st South Carolina Regiment (Colored) was attacked by the Confederates at Pocatalago Bridge, South Carolina. The rebels sent bloodhounds after the black troops. These dogs, as any student of black history knows, were commonly sent after runaway slaves and most black people were terrified of them. Things had changed, however. Now these former slaves had rifles and bayonets. As their hated canine enemies charged at them, the Union soldiers bayoneted them.

This odd little fight made quite an impression on both the black and white population and highlighted that black soldiers were not to be trifled with. They weren't scared anymore!
Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

You can also find him on his Twitter feed and Facebook page.