Thursday, 1 December 2016

Finished National Novel Writing Month!

Hello from Morocco! I'm down here for one of my regular writing retreats and making a rare appearance online. I mostly ignore the existence of the Internet when I'm here. Anyway, I just wanted to announce that I made it through another National Novel Writing Month, a movement of mass craziness every November when people around the world write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Actually it's not as hard as it sounds. Like any other skill, writing becomes easier with practice. The more you write, the more you can write. It helps that in Morocco I don't have any distractions to lower my word count!

Mostly I've been working on the fourth of my Toxic World series of post-apocalyptic novels, Emergency Transmission, which sees the reappearance of the mysterious freighter`and the reappearance of a certain crazed cult that wasn't fully done away with in the first book. I also did some ghostwriting. I've been getting a lot of that sort of work lately.

I'll be in Morocco for another couple of weeks. I'll post some pictures when I can!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Voting follows old patterns in Missouri (again!)

Four years ago, on the day after the election, I wrote the following post about the breakdown of voting in Missouri. While the name Obama has been replaced with Clinton and I had to change the percentage of the popular vote, otherwise everything remains true.

In the weeks running up to the election I became obsessed with CNN's Election Center. With all the results in, I took a look at voting in Missouri. CNN posted an interesting map showing how Missouri voted county by county.

As you can see, Clinton only carried three counties. They were St. Louis, Jackson, and Boone. She also carried St. Louis city. St. Louis County is part of the metro area, Jackson is home to Kansas City, and Boone is home to Columbia, which serves as the setting for my Civil War novel.

Knowing Missouri, I never expected Clinton to win there. She did pretty well, though. St. Louis and Jackson are, of course, the most populous counties, and Boone is number 7, so while Clinton only managed to carry three counties and St. Louis city, she did get 38% of the popular vote.

What's interesting is that St. Louis, Kansas City, and Columbia were the three main strongholds for Union sentiment during the Civil War. More rural areas (called "Outstate" by Missourans) tended to be for the South. They supported the Democrats, who back then were a conservative party that wanted to preserve the status quo. If you wanted to find supporters of the liberal alternative to the Democrats, the Republicans Party, you had to look in St. Louis, Kansas City, and Columbia.

A sweeping generalization, I know, but one that still has a ring of truth 150 years later. The three cities are still liberal and the rest of the state is still conservative, all they've done is switch parties! 

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Black Gate Wins World Fantasy Award

Regular readers of this blog know that on Wednesdays I'm over at Black Gate blogging about travel and history. Black Gate started out as a fantasy fiction print magazine before migrating online, where it has become one of the leading blogs covering genre fiction. Doing what I do, I'm a bit of an oddball among the bloggers, but I'm made to feel welcome and I enjoy working on it.

Now Black Gate has been recognized for its contributions in the field by getting the World Fantasy Award at the latest World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, Ohio. Congratulations to my editor John O'Neill and all my fellow bloggers! You can read more about the award here.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Insecure Writer's Support Group: My Favorite Aspect of being a Writer

Welcome to the Insecure Writer's Support Group, where on the first Wednesday of the month we vent our feelings to a cold, uncaring world. The subject for this month is our favorite aspect of being a writer.

Well, it sure isn't the fame (haven't got any) or fortune (ha!) so it must be the self expression. I got started with writing in the 1990s back in the zine days, submitting travel articles to tiny little homemade magazines. I'd just come back from a year traveling across the Middle East and Asia and had a million stories to tell. The main story was that I went to lots of "scary" countries like Syria and Iran and had a great time meeting wonderful people. That became a thread in my writing that continues to this day.

My career has since shifted to mostly fiction, and the self expression continues. Whether I'm writing about a soldier on the Western Front or a scavenger in a post-apocalyptic wasteland or a guy on Skid Row in Tangier, there's a little bit of me in all my characters. What other job lets you do that?

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Doing National Novel Writing Month Again This Year!

It's that time of year again, when writers all around the world brew an extra post of coffee and pound their keyboards until their fingers bleed. That's right, it's National Novel Writing Month, when we go for the goal of writing 50,000 words in a month.

This year is a bit different for me because I'm in the middle of a bunch of things, so instead of writing a whole novel in a month, I'm finishing one ghostwriting novel, starting another, and continuing work on Emergency Transmission, the fourth in my Toxic World series of post-apocalyptic novels. I guess that means I'm doing National Partially Write Three Novels Month. Whatever, as long as I make 50,000 words!

If you're doing NaNo and want to hook up online, you find me at my participant page.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Book Review: Islamic Art by David Talbot Rice

Islamic ArtIslamic Art by David Talbot Rice
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a classic and much-reprinted primer on the highlights of Islamic art. I got the 1975 revised Thames & Hudson edition for free at a library giveaway (yippee!) so this is the edition I'm reviewing. I found the text clear and wide ranging. While it didn't go into as much detail as I would have liked, this is meant as a short introduction to a huge subject and does that quite well. I've studied Islamic art in a casual way for 25 years now and I still learned a lot from the text.

My main complaint is that the illustrations aren't up to par. Most are in somewhat grainy black and white and don't do these magnificent works of art justice. Even some of the images of illustrated manuscripts are in black and white. There are several color plates in this book but they are not of terribly good quality. I recommend this book for anyone looking to learn more about one of the world's great art traditions, but suggest that you look for a later, better illustrated edition.

View all my reviews

Sunday, 23 October 2016

I'm Starting a Newsletter!

I'm finally starting a newsletter. Yes, it's one of the things in an author's toolbox that I've been lacking. The first issue of Sean's Travels and Tales will come out in a week's time. I plan to have it come out every two months or so, and each issue will include a travel article, a short story, announcements for any new books, and a coupon for a free or discounted book.

Issue #1 contains an article on "The Lamest Snake Charmer Ever" and a short story from my Toxic World series called "Movie Night at $87,953", which as fans of the series know, is the most popular bar in the apocalypse. Read on if you want to find out the origin of the weird name.

So click on this link to sign up to my newsletter. I promise not to share your email with anyone, because that's a sure way to tank my career!
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.