Saturday Snippet: Cossack patriotic overkill

In 1835, Nikolai Gogol published his famous work Taras Bulba. It’s an over-the-top patriotic panegyric to the Cossack people and culture of the time, wildly exaggerated, but very popular ever since.  Wikipedia says of it: The main character is based on several historical personalities, and other characters are not as exaggerated or grotesque as was common in Gogol’s later fiction. The story can be understood in the context of the Romantic nationalism movement in literature, which developed around a historical ethnic culture which meets the Romantic ideal. Initially published in 1835 as part of a collection of stories, it was much more abridged and evinced some

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Saturday Snippet: a fast Viking getaway

Here’s another excerpt from my Viking fantasy novel, a work in progress of which I’ve already published two excerpts in these pages (see here and here).  The background to this snippet is that Alvar, now in his mid-teens, has joined the crew of a trading ship that Olaf, his mentor, has taken to the upper reaches of the Baltic Sea to look for amber, a valuable commodity in Viking trading.  Olaf has taken a party of warriors inland on his quest, while Alvar and other younger men hold the trading vessel in readiness for a quick getaway – which is about to be

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Saturday Snippet: The sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse in 1941

Americans tend to forget that Japan didn’t only attack Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.  She simultaneously attacked across a wide swath of the Pacific Ocean, including the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies and Malaya.  Britain had just sent to Singapore one of its most modern battleships, HMS Prince of Wales (which had recently played a part in the destruction of the German battleship Bismarck), accompanied by a World War I battle-cruiser, HMS Repulse.  Operating together as Force Z, they attempted to attack a Japanese landing fleet near Singapore a few days later, with disastrous results. This description of what happened was written by then-Sub-Lieutenant (equivalent to

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The trials and tribulations of an indie author – review edition

I’ll be very grateful if those of you who’ve bought and read my latest novel, “A River of Horns”, fourth in the Ames Archives, my Western series, would please leave a fair and honest review on its page at Amazon.com. I fear that launching it shortly before Christmas as I did, many people bought it, but didn’t read it immediately;  and now, having done so, they’re not putting up reviews.  Despite selling reasonably well, it has only 14 reviews at the time of writing (all of them very positive, but simply not enough of them). Reviews are critical to independent authors

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Saturday Snippet: a Viking hunting adventure

Readers seemed to like the snippet I posted from a proposed Viking/fantasy novel a couple of weeks ago:  so here’s another one.  The book is taking shape very quickly, and should be ready shortly. In this excerpt, the young Alvar (by now entering his teens) is hunting an elg, which is the Norwegian (and Viking) word for what we in North America call a moose.  A pund is a Viking measure of weight equalling approximately twelve US pounds:  a mark weighs approximately eight US ounces.      We happened upon the tracks of a large elg, following a narrow game trail through the forest.

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Stocking stuffers from friends

Several friends have published new books in recent weeks.  Here they are, in no particular order. First, J. L. Curtis (more widely known as blogger Old NFO, among other things) has published the fifth and last volume about his protagonist, John Cronin, in the “Grey Man” series.  (It was originally planned as a trilogy, until he got carried away!)  This one’s titled “The Grey Man – Twilight“. The blurb reads: Never count an old man out, even when he’s hanging up his hat! Deputy Sheriff John Cronin is looking forward to a quiet retirement, working on the ranch, and handing it off

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“A River of Horns” is published!

My latest Western novel, “A River of Horns“, fourth in the Ames Archives series, has been published in e-book format.  A print edition will follow soon The blurb reads: Walt Ames and his Texas partner, Tyler Reese, know that the U.S. Army is bound and determined to push the Comanche and Kiowa tribes onto the reservation for good. Once the Texas Panhandle is pacified, millions of acres of land will become available. They aim to be among the first to set up a ranch there – but that’ll take money… a whole lot of money. How do you raise money

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“Trouble in the Wind”

Earlier this year, authors Chris Kennedy and James Young partnered to bring to market a trilogy of alternate-history short story anthologies of combat.  They called it “The Phases of Mars“.  The first book, “Those in Peril“, dealt with the sea and naval combat.  The second volume, “To Slip the Surly Bonds“, dealt with aircraft and aerial warfare. The third and final volume covers war on land, and includes a story by yours truly.  It’s titled “Trouble in the Wind“, and has just been published.  In less than 24 hours, it’s already reached the #1 New Release position on Amazon.com in Science Fiction Anthologies. The

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Saturday Snippet: Elephants and their noses

Rudyard Kipling is famous for many books, but not too many people on this side of the Atlantic Ocean are aware of his “Just So Stories“. It’s a volume of a dozen stories for children, including many favorites such as “How the Camel got his Hump” and “The Cat that Walked by Himself”.  I grew up with them, and greatly enjoyed them (and still do). In order to introduce them to those who don’t know them, here’s one of the stories in full.  It’s titled “The Elephant’s Child”, and tells how the elephant got his trunk.  The cover illustration above

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Saturday Snippet: Repairing a capitalist motorcycle in communist Yugoslavia

Tim Severin is almost legendary among modern explorers and historians.  From his college days, he’s specialized in studying an ancient voyage of discovery or some other historical travel narrative, and recreating it using technology of the period and in as practical a way as possible.  In doing so, he’s dispelled many myths, but he’s also proved that many stories thought to be myth and fable were, in fact, firmly grounded in reality.  (Two of the most fascinating are the legend of Jason and the Golden Fleece, and Ulysses’ voyage from Troy to his homeland of Ithaca, both re-enacted aboard a galley built in

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