Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Author Sean McLachlan, A Fine Likeness

Today's guest is Sean McLachlan, an avid hiker and traveler.  He's talking about his release, A Fine Likeness.

AUTHOR: Sean McLachlan
BOOK TITLE: A Fine Likeness
PUBLISHER: Kindle Direct Publishing
A Fine Likeness is available at Amazon, Amazon UK, Amazon DE, and Amazon FR

Why don't you start with telling us a little about yourself? What genre do you write in and why?

I am a full-time freelance writer living in Santander on the north coast of Spain. My day job is blogging for the travel blog Gadling and writing history books. When I’m not writing I’m traveling, hiking, or watching obscure movies. I’m a big silent movie fan.

Tell me about your current book which you are promoting.

A Fine Likeness is firmly stuck between genres. It’s set in Civil War Missouri and may (or may not) include paranormal elements. Some characters certainly believe there’s something paranormal going on! The easiest label is to call it historical horror, although much of the evil comes from men’s hearts. Here’s the blurb:

A Confederate guerrilla and a Union captain discover there’s something more dangerous in the woods than each other.

Jimmy Rawlins is a teenaged bushwhacker who leads his friends on ambushes of Union patrols. They join infamous guerrilla leader Bloody Bill Anderson on a raid through Missouri, but Jimmy questions his commitment to the Cause when he discovers this madman plans to sacrifice a Union prisoner in a hellish ritual to raise the Confederate dead.

Richard Addison is an aging captain of a lackluster Union militia. Depressed over his son’s death in battle, a glimpse of Jimmy changes his life. Jimmy and his son look so much alike that Addison becomes obsessed with saving him from Bloody Bill. Captain Addison must wreck his reputation to win this war within a war, while Jimmy must decide whether to betray the Confederacy to stop the evil arising in the woods of Missouri.

How long have you been writing?
I got started during the 1990s zine boom. Back then I was an archaeologist and had my own travel/archaeology zine called Ichthyoelectroanalgesia. Other zinesters started asking me to contribute articles about my travels, and I began to write more and more. The tipping point came in 1999 when I realized that I didn’t want to spend my life as an archaeologist. I still enjoyed the thrill of discovery, but dreaded the office politics and petty territorialism that come with an academic career. Choosing to write seems the natural way to go.

Do you outline before you write? If not, what’s your initial process?

Before I put pen to paper I generally know where I’m going. It starts with fragments of scenes. The characters begin to flesh out and a story arc develops. I don’t write a single word until I have a clear mental picture of the whole story. I find that to write something down gives it strength, and that can be limiting. For me, it’s best to allow the story and characters to develop naturally, without restrictions. Of course, some things begin to change once the writing starts.

Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?

The character I most pity is Bloody Bill Anderson, a real person who certainly earned his nickname. He was a nobody before the war and became a guerrilla like many Missouri rebels in that Union-occupied state. The Union forces couldn’t catch him and in an attempt to make him surrender, they arrested his sisters and put them in jail in Kansas City. The jail, which was a rickety old building, collapsed and killed several of the inmates, including one of Anderson’s sisters.

This drove him insane. He went on a binge of drinking, stabbing, shooting, and scalping. There’s no evidence that he was the high priest of a Chaos demon, but if there had been one in the Civil War, it would almost certainly have been him.

Bloody Bill is a perfect example of how an otherwise normal person can be turned into a monster due to circumstances and personal trauma. 

Did your book require a lot of research? How long does it take to write a book for you?

A Fine Likeness is set in Civil War Missouri, and I had already written three books on Missouri history and two on the Civil War. The action takes place in Union-occupied Missouri during the 1864 Confederate invasion. I have written and researched extensively on this particular campaign so I had pretty much already done all my background reading for this historical novel. I weave my fictional protagonists into real events with real historical figures. Sometimes I even used actual dialog from newspaper reports.

History was very cooperative. Bloody Bill’s guerrilla band disappeared for a week just when I needed them to do something fictional!

How long a book takes is a hard thing to answer. Generally about a year, although I’m always working on other projects. I enjoy writing a fiction and nonfiction title at the same time, plus blogging almost daily over at Gadling. This gives me enough variety to get through my 50-60 hour week.

What are some of the challenges in your writing process?

Getting enough time and avoiding distractions. For example. I recently finished a major deadline for my next book with Osprey Publishing. I enjoy working for them, but when a deadline looms my blogging begins to slack off and my fiction writing reduces to almost nothing.

Then, of course, there’s life. I have a wife, a kid, and friends. August Derleth once told his children, “You can waste my money if you want to, but don’t waste my time!” I don’t agree with that parenting philosophy.

Describe your writing space.
When my son was born six years ago I lost my home office and have been working at the dining room table ever since. Later this month, though, we’re moving into an apartment where I’ll have an office with a broad view of the Bay of Santander. I can see the ships come in. A writer can’t ask for a better view than that!
The office is pretty large, so I’ll be able to spread my organized clutter all over. I’ll also be covering the walls with various photos, articles, and quotes that help inspire me.

What so you see for the future of publishing and e-books?

It’s the Wild West out there right now. A lot of people are making a lot of claims. Personally I fall between the various extreme points of view. I don’t think paper will disappear. Some people will always prefer print and it makes sense for things like children’s books and art books. POD is what’s going to keep print economically viable. As for ebooks, they will gain a greater and greater share before eventually stabilizing a few years from now.

Kindle Direct Publishing is proving highly successful for some, and a big disappointment for others. I think it will peak in popularity in the next couple of years and then taper off when those who aren’t really all that serious realize how much work it is to market your books and get them into the hands of readers. When you read the KDP boards you see a lot of people who think it’s some sort of get-rich-quick scheme. It isn’t.

What are your current books out right now and what are the books coming up for

Current books:
Ride Around Missouri: Shelby’s Great Raid 1863 (Osprey Publishing: 2011)
Armies of the Adowa Campaign 1896: the Italian Disaster in Ethiopia (Osprey Publishing: 2011)
Medieval Handgonnes: The First Black Powder Infantry Weapons (Osprey Publishing: 2010)
American Civil War Guerrilla Tactics (Osprey Publishing: 2009)
Outlaw Tales of Missouri (Globe Pequot Press: 2009)
Missouri: An Illustrated History (Hippocrene Books: 2008)
Moon Handbooks London (Avalon Travel Publishing: 2007) (out of print)
It Happened in Missouri (Globe Pequot Press: 2007)
Byzantium: An Illustrated History (Hippocrene Books: 2004)
The Insiders’ Guide to Phoenix, 3rd and 4th editions, with Mary Paganelli (Globe Pequot Press: 2002, 2005) (later editions are available)

Upcoming books:
A Fine Likeness (Civil War horror novel) (Kindle Direct Publishing, 2011)
Hard Winter (Epic fantasy novel) (Kindle Direct Publishing, 2012)
The Last Ride of the James-Younger Gang: Jesse James and the Northfield Raid 1876 (Osprey Publishing, 2012)

What is your marketing plan?

Luckily with my historical writing I already have a base for marketing my Civil War novel. That doesn’t mean I can rest on my laurels, though! I’ll be doing an extensive virtual book tour for A Fine Likeness and will continue my blog, Civil War Horror. I started that back in July to build up a readership and initial buzz for the novel. Now I’m getting well over a thousand hits a month. I also participate in various online forums and will be sending press releases to Civil War and Missouri publications, including those I’ve written articles for.

What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?

Concentrate on the writing. Don’t worry about marketing or genre or formatting right now. Don’t worry about other people’s opinions. Just write. You can join a writer’s group later. You can read the forums later. Just write.

Where can people learn more about you and your work?

Learn more about Sean and his fiction, travel, and history writing at his Civil War blog, Facebook page, Goodreads page, and Twitter feed.

A Fine Likeness is available at Amazon, Amazon UK, Amazon DE, and Amazon FR.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chatting with Nicola E. Sheridan

Today, my guest is romance author, Nicola Sheridan.  Her latest release is Magical Creations from Eternal Press. She'll be giving away an e-copy of “Magical Creations” to one luck commenter! Be sure to leave your contact information!

AUTHOR: Nicola E. Sheridan

BOOK TITLE: Magical Creations
PUBLISHER: Eternal Press

The paperback will be available in a few more weeks!

Why don't you start with telling us a little about yourself? What genre do you write in and why?

I’m a West Australian author of paranormal/fantasy romance and have an enduring love of magic and mythology, which led me to competing a double major in Archaeology and Anthropology at University. I’m a mother of two, married with two cats and a geriatric dog. In my spare time (what spare time?) I enjoy drawing comics, 4x4ing, gardening and spending time with my family.

Tell me about your current book which you are promoting.

“Magical Creations” is the second in a three part series about Genies. It’s based on Omar, a sub-character from my debut novel, “Magical Gains”. It’s set in a world where magic and magical creatures are real and just considered minority groups. However, when magic is a commodity to governed, traded and stolen, just like any other, certain magical beings become valuable and both Omar (a Genie) and Antigone (a Nephilim) take great pains to keep their nature a secret. Suffice to say, nothing ever runs smoothly, and when both are captured by the Magical Mafia, their lives and loves are put to the test. I loved writing this book. It was a lot of fun.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since I could write. I was forever jotting down stories to entertain myself as a child, and at high-school spent countless hours writing to entertain my friends with what I realize now were quite fun but crude fantasy romances.

What got you interested in writing, and what inspired you to write your first book?

I blame my dad. He is a great story teller and regaled stories of industrious ants and angry Mr Wind whenever we asked. He also read us the Hobbit, and I think that drew me into the world of paranormal/fantasy. “Magical Gains” was my first published novel, and I was inspired by a biscuit commercial to write about Genies. In the commercial, a woman has a gorgeous Genie to do her bidding, and all she wants is a packet of biscuits that never ends… Really? I thought, I’d ask for a lot more – but then the Government would find a way to tax it. It was with that thought that the world of my “Magic” series came to life.

Do you outline before you write? If not, what’s your initial process?

No I don’t outline. I’m really terribly disorganized. I tend to just think about what I want in the novel and write it and hope for the best!

What comes first: the plot or the characters?

Hmmm. Great question. I think my characters come first. I love names, so usually I think of a name first, then a ‘being’ (a Nephilim, a human, a Genie, a Siren, whatever) and then I build a situation around them.

Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?

I don’t think I hate any of my characters. Even my ‘baddies’ have their reasons. Although I have to say in my current WIP (Magical Redemption) I really dislike the character of the ‘Bomoh’, he’s a Malaysian witch-doctor, and he is absolutely nasty. I probably pity Omar the most, he’s had a really rough time and deserves his happily ever after! As for love, I don’t know, I think I love them all!

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The hardest part of writing the book is probably, finding the time to do it. Making sure the world and its characters are consistent in each book is also difficult, and as I don’t keep notes on anything, I tend to have trawl back through previous books to check facts etc. That’s  hard and time consuming.

Did your book require a lot of research? How long does it take to write a book for you?

Yes, I do a lot of research into the myths and magical beings in my stories and often sketch out images of them to clarify the image. It takes roughly a year to write a novel for me.

What are some of the challenges in your writing process?

Critically revising my own work is challenging for me. I tend to just get re-absorbed in the story and read it, rather than edit it.

Describe your writing space.

I sit in my study. My desk faces an ochre-colored  wall, on which I have a pin board covered in notes and sketches. I often take a breather and turn my head slightly to right and stare out the window. It’s a lovely a corner window looking out over my garden and the street. At the moment (it’s spring in Western Australia) the garden is heavily laden with flowers, and the trees are very green. It’s a gorgeous little view. My two cats often sit there in the sun and stare out over the street with me!

What books or authors have influenced your writing?

I don’t think any authors have really influenced my writing, but I do really, really love Kresley Cole at the moment. I can’t put her ‘immortals after dark’ series down. Heaven’s knows what I’ll do when I read them all. I also really like Karen Marie Moning. Her heroes are gorgeous.

What so you see for the future of publishing and e-books?

I think e-publishing is probably going to get even bigger, which is sad for the little bookstores around the world. I happen to love bookstores, so I hope that they can survive the e-revolution.

What are your current books out right now and what are the books coming up for release?

“Magical Gains” and “Magical Creations” are out now (although the paperback will be available in a few more weeks). I also have a novella “Mimosa Black” coming out in December through Eternal Press.

What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?

Keep trying, keep writing and keep sending your manuscript out. Rejections aren’t personal, no matter how personal they feel. Also enter some competitions to get some feedback and get yourself a good critique partner who has the guts to tell you where you’re going wrong.

Where can people learn more about you and your work?

I have a website,, a blog, (where I spend a fair amount of time). I’m also on Twitter and Facebook so you can follow me there too!

Thanks so much Penny for having me. I’ll be giving away an e-copy of “Magical Creations” to one luck commenter!


Sometimes freedom comes with a painful price.

Omar is a ‘masterless’ Genie and freedom has given him an Achilles heel no enemy can miss. When desperation drives him to search for services of a Nephilim – with the ability to see, touch and take souls - Omar finds the sassy Antigone Watson who is running from demons of her own.

With magic a commodity to be governed, sold and stolen just like any other, the Magical Mafia  are always on the look-out for new talent and soon the hunt is on. Together, Omar and Antigone realize that weakness of the flesh can be remedied by strength from the soul and true love can be born of dreams…


Omar turned to face her, his dark, impassive eyes absorbed every inch of her now rumpled jacket, moisture-stained trousers and broken heel. His eyes narrowed and he walked towards her.

Before Antigone was even aware of it, he loomed in front of her, larger than life. Involuntarily, she stumbled back and collided with the shop window behind her. Omar was an inch or so taller

than her and his face was a masterpiece of masculine perfection. Antigone’s cheeks reddened at the sudden unbidden thought. She realized dimly that instead of feeling shocked and horrified,

Omar’s close proximity was turning her feelings to something much more pleasant.

How is that possible?

The thought was cut short as he leaned forward. The pressure of him pushed a confused gasp from her lips, and her eyes widened.

“You look disheveled,” he commented, his breath blowing gently against her hair. “Allow me to rectify the situation.”

Before Antigone had time to process his meaning, smooth, shimmering arms of red smoke wove themselves around her. They smelled warm, spicy, and intoxicating. She closed her eyes

for a brief moment and when she opened them again, Omar had moved away and she was standing alone, leaning back on the shop window, feeling a little dreamy. An annoyed flush of embarrassment

threatened to bloom on her cheeks, but with substantial willpower, she forced it down.

“What did you do?” she snapped, and stepped away from the window. Omar’s black eyes flashed as he observed her with interest. On the first footstep, Antigone realized that the heel on her

sweet Jimmy Choo was mended, so she took a cursory glance at her jacket and trousers. She was as neat as a pin once again.

“How did you do that?” she asked incredulously.

Omar shrugged. “It’s a talent.”

NOTE:  Antigone is pronounced "An-tig-uh-nee"

Monday, November 28, 2011

Problems Commenting?

We seem to be having problems with commenting on John's wonderful guest post.  I'm adding this to see if it will give us a place to leave comments.

Writing Across Genres, John Rosenman

Today, my guest is multi-published author, John Rosenman.  MuseItUp Publishing has released several of his novels, and he enjoys writing in more than one genre.  His upcoming release, Steam Heat, is an erotic tale with an interesting twist to the conclusion.

Writing Across Genres:
From Science Fiction to Erotica, Humor to Horror . . . and Beyond
John B. Rosenman

Buy Link for Dax Rigby, War Correspondent (available now) and Steam Heat (coming in December):

Though I like to write science fiction, I like to write other things, too.  Science-fiction Fantasy, Science-fiction Horror, Humorous Science Fiction, Horror, Humorous Horror, Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Erotica, Dark Erotica, Romance, Mainstream, Mystery, even Metafiction, which pokes fun at the creative process itself.  You name it, and I’ve probably tried it at one time or another.  Sometimes I mix them together, creating hybrids.

Today, more than ever it seems, writers are typecast.  We live in the age of specialists, and a writer’s latest novel is packaged as a product to appeal to a select market.  Stray from the formula, write something just a little bit different, a mystery instead of a romance, and your agent is likely to question your sanity.  As for your fans, more likely than not, they will spend their money elsewhere. 

To me, the creative landscape is too vast and rich for me to settle on a little postage stamp of soil.  Thus, while my science-fiction novel, Dax Rigby, War Correspondent (recently published by MuseItUp Publishing) deals with one of my favorite themes of a hero traveling to a distant world and having amazing adventures, my short story, Steam Heat, due for release in December by the same publisher, is out-and-out erotic horror.  Both, I feel, are good, engrossing tales, but they are miles apart.  To me, it’s fun and challenging to s-t-r-e-t-c-h my creative legs and see what unplumbed abilities I have waiting inside me.

To give an example of the difference in these two stories, here are two excerpts.  The first is from Dax Rigby, War Correspondent.  In it, Dax and Casey Frank, a seductive pilot, are flying in a copter above the tropical plain of Arcadia, a world 900 light-years from Earth.  Beneath them, two alien species do battle:

As the copter approached, he took out his cam, set it to zoom, and started to record. In the viewport, the alien antagonists were immediately terrifying and vividly monstrous. The Flyers, three meters tall, he recalled, flapped bright crimson wings and attacked and retreated before their even taller six-legged grasshopper-like enemy.

Dax saw green, olive, and brown bodies with yellow markings, sword-shaped antennae, and huge upper hind legs well adapted for leaping. And the Hoppers did more than leap. They also used those legs for savage blows and charges while the Flyers gnawed and ripped at them with razor-sharp teeth and claws. Watching closely, Dax saw blood gush: dark red for the Hoppers, green for the Flyers.

“Delightful, isn’t it?” Casey asked. “Reminds me of a family reunion.”

“We’re half a klick away now from the beasts,” Dax recorded, wondering when or if those on Earth or its colonies would view this event. “As can be seen, they are truly savage and ferocious.”

No one could tell him there wasn’t a war going on here. He watched in fascination as several combatants launched brutal assaults against each other. “Can you get a little lower, maybe circle them?”

In response, the copter dropped several meters in the air, leaving his stomach behind.

Dax gulped. “Hey! You don’t have to—”

“I’m not. Something’s wrong. The engine isn’t responding.”

“Isn’t responding? You mean—”

“I mean it’s dead.” Her hands raced over the control panel, pressing buttons and turning dials. “Oh shit. Shit shit shit.”

            Oh, the joys of alien world building, of creating alien species who are truly alien and yet in some ways, similar to us.  And the joys, too, of creating a burgeoning romance on that world between Dax and Casey, who as we leave them, are about to plunge toward what looks like certain death.

            Now here’s an excerpt from Steam Heat, which was inspired by a health spa I pump iron at.  In erotic horror, sex is often dangerous, conveyed in a lush style that lingers over and savors every nuance of sensation, and your partner is likely to be evil in ways you can’t even imagine—or more importantly, prepare for:

            After a good hot spray he entered the steam room, finding it empty.  Climbing in his swim trunks to the top level of the multi-tiered wooden bench, he looked around. Heavy steam filled the air, partly obscuring his view of the pool through the floor-to-ceiling window.  At best, he could make out only a few swimmers.
Ah, the heat felt good!  He'd sweat a bit and decide who he'd see this weekend.  Maybe someone kinky like Michelle.

            Lying down, he covered his eyes with his towel. His chest rose and fell in the hot, humid air.

            The door opened and closed. Listening, he could hear no footsteps. How odd. Was the person simply standing there? As he started to remove his towel, a hand caught his.

            "I don't want you to see," a soft voice said.


            "No, Chad.  It spoils the fun."

            It was the redhead! Obviously, she'd seen him watching her and had dumped her loser before finding out his name. He grinned.

            "Can't I even peek?"

            "No, it could prove dangerous. After all, I might be Medusa."

            He laughed, imagining her lovely face. "Hey, come on. If you looked at Medusa—"

            "Shhh.  Don't even say it."  Fingers slid behind his head, tying his towel securely so he couldn't pull it off.  A moment later, he felt sharp nails glide down his chest and stomach and start to remove his trunks.


            "What's the matter? Don't you like to live dangerously?"                                    

            What was with this girl? Having her strip him while he was blindfolded put him at a decided disadvantage, put her in control. What’s more, they were practically in plain sight! Any moment someone could come in.


            Something in her voice stilled his protest, soothed it away.  "Okay," he shrugged.  "Only you get to peek and I don't.  It hardly seems fair."

            Her hand took his and glided it along a smooth, bare thigh, up her stomach to her breasts. 

            He caught his breath.  She was naked!

Okay, exhale, and take a cold shower.  Here’s one last example.  “Play It Forever, Sam!” was published in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine several years back.  It is humorous, absurdist metafiction, fantasy high on weed.  It is also about as different from my first two stories as I can get.  A spoof on the movie Casablanca, it features Humphrey Bogart trapped eternally in perhaps the most popular flick ever made, and yearning to get out:

I bang the table.  "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine!"

            There.  It's one of my big lines in the movie, and I say it just right.  Soon after I ask Sam to play her song. 
            "Well, I don't think I can remember it."
            "If she can stand it, I can," I say.  "Play it again, Sam!"

            I almost snort rotgut through my nose.  Why the hell did I add "again, Sam!"?  Huh, might as well ask why I'm caught in the endless loop of this damned piece of shmaltz in the first place.  It sounds absurd, but I'm convinced I'm in this hell because the movie became a cult classic, the most beloved soap opera of all time.  It keeps changing and has acquired a weird life of its own
because it's been endlessly misquoted and misremembered.  Here I am, a homely hack actor dead over fifty years, and I still can't shake this place.  For me, Rick's never closes, and the same customers keep rollin' in. 

But for me, I try not to let the same fictional customers keep rollin’ in.  If I repeat myself too much, then I run the risk of creative stagnation.  Gentle Readers and Fellow Writers, I urge you never to be afraid to take chances, to try something different and spread your creative wings.  And Dear Penny, thank you so much for inviting me once again to be a guest on your site.