Monday, 27 October 2014

Trench Raiders at a discounted price

I've just reduced the price of my World War One action novel Trench Raiders to $2.99. This is the lead up to book two in the series, Digging In, coming out next month. Trench Raiders is available from all the Amazons, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and all other major outlets.

In other news, I'm going to be participating in National Novel Writing Month starting November 1. This year's project will be We Had Flags, Book Three of my Toxic World post-apocalyptic series. Should be fun!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Book Review: Girl of Great Price

Girl of Great PriceGirl of Great Price by Milo James Fowler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this novella, Fowler blends hardboiled detective fiction with a futuristic dystopian society and delivers with effective storytelling.
Charlie Madison is your typical down-at-the-heel detective with seedy connections in the underworld and a desperate need for a real life. His associates are the kind of people you'd expect in a gritty 1950s noir film and Fowler sets the mood well. I couldn't help but picture the action in black and white!
The twist is that the story is set in a near future where pollution and lawlessness are the rule of the day and the crime syndicates have all but taken over. Madison's case brings him in contact with several players in this world and this helps flesh out the setting nicely. Given that this is a short work, I can't really get into the plot without giving away spoilers, but it's an intriguing story with a hint of fantasy to add spice to the science fiction.
My only criticism is that I would have liked the story to be longer in order to round out the characters a bit more and wrap up the case more completely. Seeing as this is part of a series, I suppose that will happen in later books.
If detective science fiction is your thing, you'll enjoy this book.


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Friday, 24 October 2014

Military History Photo Friday: Indian Troops in World War One

This week's photo shows Indian troops on the march somewhere in France during World War One. India was still a British colony at the time and contributed 1.5 million men to the war effort. They fought in every theater of the war. The Indian troops weren't the only colonial troops. Every colonial power drew upon their overseas possessions for the war effort. I've written about this more at length, and with some cool photos, over at Black Gate.


Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Book Review: Z Boat

Z-BoatZ-Boat by Suzanne Robb
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm always up for a good sea tale so I was looking forward to reading this. What I found was a mixed bag.
The plot of this book is basically "zombies on a dystopian submarine". That's not a spoiler because you find that out in the first page. The world is declining rapidly thanks to corporate greed, government corruption, and spreading pollution. While I love a good dystopian tale, I found parts of this hard to swallow. For example, global smog is so thick you can't see the Sun in the middle of the ocean, yet somehow life manages to survive on Earth. Also, even people with relatively decent jobs can't afford clean water. The submarine crew drinks a tainted brown gunk. Even my Boy Scout training taught me two ways to get rid of that--boiling through a retort or filtering. An industrial civilization could no doubt come up with many more techniques.
More curious details emerge within the submarine itself. It's a late 20th century model, now a floating antique, yet it doesn't sound like any known sub. Hallways are five feet wide, doors are large, none of the crew has first-aid training, and the sub's davit (a small crane for lifting cargo or lifeboats) lifts the sub out of drydock, over the other vessels, and into the water. Um, no. Robb needs to research submarines if she's going to write about them.
The lack of editorial oversight is apparent in the text too, with many awkward sentences, misused words, and confusion between "lie" and "lay". The slow middle needs to be tightened up, and Robb has an irritating habit of telling right after showing. I lost track of the number of times a long paragraph would clearly show what a bad situation the characters were in, and end with some banal statement like "It didn't look good."
And yet I kept reading. Robb is a master at bringing characters to life and making you care about them. The crew is a wonderful collection of misfits suitable for the Nostromo or the Serenity and their interactions, loves, and feuds makes this book. The gorefest fight scenes are fun too if you have a high splatter tolerance. The ending is a rollercoaster ride that leaves it way open for a series (which is in fact continuing).
All in all, the most frustrating thing I found about reading this is was watching a bad book smother a good one. Robb has heaps of potential, and with a bit more care for her craft, and a much firmer editorial hand, she could produce some astounding works of fiction.
2.5 stars out of 5.
(I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

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Monday, 20 October 2014

What National Novel Writing Month Taught Me

National Novel Writing Month is just around the corner! Are you participating? If you're a writer--pro, amateur, or aspiring--it can be a great help. I did it for the first time last year and will be doing it again this year. Below is a reprint of a post I did after the 2013 NaNoWriMo talking about what I learned.

Like many fellow indie writers, I participated in National Novel Writing Month. I managed to finish an entire post-apocalyptic novel of 71,000 words in the month of November. It's a post-apocalyptic thriller called Radio Hope.

OK, enough self-promotion. What did writing a novel in a single month teach me? Here are ten things I learned.

1. If you are mostly unemployed (I recently lost my travel blogging job when Gadling laid off all their regulars) your word count goes way up.

2. Keeping your word count up helps with your self-esteem when you're mostly unemployed.

3. Keeping your word count up after the challenge is over maintains your self-esteem. I'm working on the sequel right now. (Update: that's called Refugees from the Righteous Horde. It's now out. I'll be working on book three of the series this year).

4. You'll help your confidence if you get a jump on the game by writing a lot on the first day. November 1 was my most productive day, with 5,300 words.

5. Write every day, even if it's just 500 words (my worst day) because that forward momentum keeps you from getting stuck.

6. It's good to find a group to help you. I was down in Madrid on November 1 and got to hang out with other members of my old writers group. We took over the back room of a cafe and wrote like mad!

7. If you give the project sufficient focus, you will not have a drop in quality as you increase quantity.

8. You will, however, make more typos. A lot more. Really embarrassing ones.

9. The online community at the NaNo website is super supportive, helpful, and friendly, and disappears after November 30.

10. It's really, really fun!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Finished writing my next WWI action novel: Digging In!

This weekend I finished Digging In, the sequel to Trench Raiders, my WWI action novel. I'm going to give it another hard edit and then send it out to my uber-cool team of beta readers. This book has Company E trying to survive the First Battle of Ypres in 1914. Things do not go well for either side!

For the next two weeks I'm going to work on some short stories, including Christmas stories for my Trench Raiders and Toxic World series, and then I'm going to do National Novel Writing Month. My project will be We Had Flags, Book Three of my post-apocalyptic Toxic World series. The folks in New City are going to have some surprise guests whose appearance will open old wounds and get everyone talking about who was to blame for the fall of civilization. For those of you who have read the earlier books, you know that being found guilty of Blame gets you branded and exiled, but if everyone starts doing it. . .

Friday, 10 October 2014

Military History Photo Friday: German Trench Armor from World War One


This clunky looking thing is a handmade suit of armor used by a German soldier in 1916. Over at Black Gate, I blogged this week about Medieval Arms and Armor in World War One. Check it out for some more strange pics of primitive devices used in what is billed as the first technological war. I blog there every Wednesday about history, travel, and silent film.

I have another article out too, this time in Writing World. It's about writing what you don't know.

Have a great weekend! Mine's going to be filled with writing. I need to finish Digging In!

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
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.