Podcast interview with Scenes & Sequels

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September 1, 2014

Dave Kearney of Scenes & Sequels – The podcast for readers and writers of genre fiction – was good enough to interview me about the Alex Caine trilogy and all things writing. I did a reading from Bound and we talked about determination, influences and all that good stuff.

All the details and a download link can be found here.

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Book Expo Australia this weekend in Sydney

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August 29, 2014

This weekend, all weekend, is Book Expo Australia in Sydney. Click on the link there for all the time and location details and a full (very full!) program. All kinds of bookish stuff going on all weekend with loads of cool authors, publishers, booksellers and more.

I’ll be there all day Sunday, on a panel and doing a reading and signing. Get yourselves along to this utterly book-focussed event and come and say hi. Bring books to be signed or buy them on the day. Hope to see you there.

20140829 152136 55296628 Book Expo Australia this weekend in Sydney

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Alex Caine trilogy all out now and still only $12 total for all three

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August 25, 2014

Today sees the ebook publication of Abduction, Alex Caine #3, in Australia and New Zealand. So now the entire trilogy is out there in ebook (only for Australia and NZ readers at the moment, but as I’ve mentioned before, my agent and editor are working hard to secure US and UK deals for the books too.)

And you can still get the entire trilogy for less than twelve dollars. That’s barely the same as a single movie ticket. For three entire novels. Crazy! Book 1, Bound, is currently still $1.99 – for how long, I’m not sure, so get in quick. Book 2, Obsidian, is out now and only $4.99. Book 3, Abduction, is out today and also only $4.99. That’s all three books for $11.97. That won’t last, so get it while you can. Go to Amazon AUS, iBooks, Google Play or Kobo and search my name. Or start here and select the store of your choice for Bound.

And if you have read these books, or you plan to, and you enjoy them, please talk about them. Tell friends and family, tell colleagues at work, mention them on Twitter or Facebook, Goodreads and so on. Nothing works better than word of mouth, so if you love a book, talk about it and share the love. Authors will love you for it. Your voice is just as important as anyone else’s when you recommend a book to someone. And thanks for reading!

Caine three covers spread web 300x150 Alex Caine trilogy all out now and still only $12 total for all three

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Here’s your writing motivational for the day. I needed this one myself today.

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August 19, 2014

keep writing Heres your writing motivational for the day. I needed this one myself today.

The entire Alex Caine trilogy in ebook for less than $12!

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August 18, 2014

It’s only one week until Abduction, Alex Caine #3, comes out in ebook in Australia and New Zealand. That’s very exciting, as it means the entire trilogy will be out there. Sadly, this is only for Australia and NZ readers at the moment, but as I’ve mentioned before, my agent and editor are working hard to secure US and UK deals for the books too. (Feel free to lobby (politely!) Harper Voyager in the US or UK if you’re really keen to read them and don’t live Down Under!)

However, for you lucky ANZ readers, you can get the entire trilogy for less than twelve dollars at the moment. I know, that’s just mental! Book 1, Bound, is currently still $1.99 – for how long, I’m not sure, so get in quick. Book 2, Obsidian, is out now and only $4.99. Book 3, Abduction, is out next week and is available for pre-order now and also only $4.99 – so click to buy it now and it’ll download next week. That’s all three books for $11.97. That won’t last, so get it while you can. Go to Amazon AUS, iBooks, Google Play or Kobo and search my name. Or start here and select the store of your choice for Bound.

And if you have read Bound and Obsidian, or you plan to, and you enjoy them, please talk about them. Tell friends and family, tell colleagues at work, mention them on Twitter or Facebook, Goodreads and so on. Nothing works better than word of mouth, so if you love a book, talk about it and share the love. Authors will love you for it. Your voice is just as important as anyone else’s when you recommend a book to someone. And thanks for reading!

Caine three covers spread web 300x150 The entire Alex Caine trilogy in ebook for less than $12!

All about The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings

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August 12, 2014

By now you all know I’m good friends with Angela Slatter. You should also know that I’m a huge fan of her work – it’s great when one of your friends is also one of your favourite writers. One of the best books I’ve read in recent years was Sourdough & Other Stories, Angela’s collection of short stories published by Tartarus Press. Not only is it a collection of brilliant stories, it’s a beautiful artifact of a book too. Tartarus make wonderful things. Well, Angela was supposed to write a sequel collection, but being the contrary writer she is, she wrote a prequel collection instead. It’s called The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings. Tartarus agreed to publish it and Angela scored the amazing Kathleen Jennings to do internal illustrations for it. The result is a book even more beautiful than Sourdough, and equally chock full of amazing stories. I know that, because I’ve read it. The book’s not out til September 1st, but we’re friends, remember? So I got Angela and Kathleen to talk a bit about it and the process of its creation. You can read that below. At the end is a link to the Tartarus Press website where you can pre-order the book, and I really, really recommend that you do. And if you haven’t read Sourdough, buy that too and you can read it while you wait. I’m not just talking up my friends here, either – Sourdough was nominated for the World Fantasy Award and the Aurealis Award for Best Collection. These are books you do not want to miss. Over to Angela and Kathleen.

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Angela3 206x300 All about The Bitterwood Bible and Other RecountingsAngela:

My Author’s Note to Bitterwood goes thus:

The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings is intended as a prequel to Sourdough and Other Stories. It was meant to be a sequel, but the tales were determined to defy me—they insisted upon telling what had happened before, to show how the books of Murcianus came to be, how Ella came into the world, where Hepsibah Ballantyne—who appears only as a name on a headstone in Sourdough’s Lodellan cemetery—began the chain of events that are traced through the mosaic of this book. Bitterwood expands and builds upon the world of Sourdough and, I hope, makes readers feel they are coming home once again.

I’d written “The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter” in 2011 as a standalone story for Steve Jones’s A Book of Horrors anthology, and that seemed the place to start. Hepsibah had gone from being a name on a grave to a powerful presence, so that story is one that threads through the whole of Bitterwood. As I wrote the stories fell into place and I can honestly say that this collection was one of those rare things that a writer dreams of: knowing exactly what was going to happen, when, and to whom. I was able to weave together so many of the things I love: elements of history and myth and fairy tale and folklore. There are little nods to writers as diverse as Umberto Eco and Kim Newman. There are vampires, boarding schools for assassins, pirates who are being hunted to extinction, a brazen head that tells the future, bakeries and rats, transformed badgers and dreadful revenges − and books. So many books.

bitterwood7 225x300 All about The Bitterwood Bible and Other RecountingsAs the narrative came together I started to think not about a cover, strangely, but about internal illustrations. I love Kathleen Jennings’ artwork and I knew she had an ambition to do endpapers, so I asked if she would like to beta read the stories as I finished them and, if perhaps the spirit moved her, do some illustrations as she read? She said yes, which was lucky for me; luckier still the lovely people at Tartarus took both the collection and agreed to use Kathleen’s illustrations. I feel very fortunate and privileged to have drawings done that truly capture the spirit of the tales I wrote. And of course there was the absolute wicked delight of having Kathleen text me photos of what she’d done as she read a story.

It was such a pleasure to work with her and I hope I was a well-behaved author! I don’t think I was critical or asked for any kangaroos to be added to The Last Supper. I’m doubly spoiled because Kathleen also did the artwork for my limited edition collection of Black-Winged Angels (Ticonderoga Publications), which echoes the silhouette technique of Arthur Rackham, but has its own wonderful unique beauty.

kathleen colour 287x300 All about The Bitterwood Bible and Other RecountingsKathleen:

Angela would keep dropping hints about the most beautiful parts of her stories, often before they were written – badgers (sigh) and a school for poison girls, doors in trees, dangerous quilts… so any workload-related resolve was fairly well weakened by the time she sent me the manuscript, because now they were here! They were real stories in the world, and I could read them!

I spent a lot of time in cafes, reading and sketching, sending Angela texts with reactions and pictures – each gaining energy from the other’s excitement! We’re still doing this, if you saw our comments back and forth when Tartarus released pictures of the Actual Book.

It was a lovely way to work, actually: just a free hand to sketch my way through the book. Because the original plan was to try and sell Tartarus on the idea of endpapers, I was going for multiple small images and the individual pressure was off – I could just draw anything that caught my fancy. And then Angela would edit it out of the manuscript. But anyway.

bbparts All about The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings

I’m still haunted by images from this book. Images and titles (‘Now all pirates are gone’). And Tartarus did a lovely job of putting the pictures in just where they ought to be – Angela and I had to check in with each other to say, “Did you see where they put the badgers? I knowwww!”

Still haven’t drawn endpapers.

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The Tartarus Press website is here and you can buy Sourdough & Other Stories here (This is a link to the paperback. I think the beautiful hardback is sold out, but worth sending an email maybe) and pre-order The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings here. Go. Now!

You can learn more about Angela here and more about Kathleen here.

bitterwoodfinis 300x215 All about The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings

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Cultural appropriation and the inclusion of the other

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August 8, 2014

I read this excellent article by Jim C Hines today. I agree with it completely. There has been much discussion on published writing, especially SFF, being an old white man’s club and that we need to see more diversity in the stories we read. Then there are people saying that white people shouldn’t/can’t/aren’t allowed to write other cultures. It’s not actually a problem, because the second opinion is bullshit. Let me explain.

I don’t believe any subject or culture is off-limits for fiction. With fiction we actively engage with the world around us, we interrogate our reality and look at how it reflects back at us and we try to make some sense of it. Even the most dense, hard SF is, at its core, an exploration of simple humanity. In my world I’m surrounded by people of many races and cultures. I’m surrounded by people of varying sexuality. I will absolutely reflect that in my fiction. If I don’t, the darkest and most fantastical part of any dark fantasy or horror I write is this imagined homogenous world of hetero cis white people like me. That’s just horrible. I do not want to be a part of that vanilla environment.

But, and here’s the big but, I also firmly believe in the simple premise of don’t be a dick. I’m not going to take a white character and simply blackface them for the sake of some perceived cultural diversity. I’m not going to take a hetero guy and stick someone else’s cock in his hand and cry, “See! A gay character!” That’s not only disrespectful, it’s just bad writing.

But I’m equally not going to try to make a point of otherness either. Unless a character’s sexuality is key to the story, it’s not going to be a big deal beyond her saying “my girlfriend” rather than “my boyfriend”. Thereby we know she digs girls, that’s a part of who she is and that’s all we need to know. I’ve written gay couples who just act like any other couple throughout the story, because, you know, they’re humans. The fact that they’re together says enough. Unless the practice of their sexuality is key to the story, it doesn’t matter. Just like in real life, you don’t spend all your time with your gay friends talking about their lovelife, or your straight friends, for that matter. Most of the time, if not all of it, they’re just your friends and you talk about all the normal shit.

My story “The Darkness in Clara”, published in SQ Mag has a gay couple as it’s central protagonists. Their gayness has a direct influence on the story as the story deals with country town bigotry. I hope I did a good job with that yarn, but the story is more about bigotry that about being gay. The characters are just people who have their own problems to deal with. That story is free to read online, so you can judge for yourself.

Same thing with People of Colour (PoC). I know people of many cultural backgrounds, so I include that in my stories. In the Alex Caine books there are people described as having black skin, of Maori descent, of Chinese descent and so on. Those people add to the richness and diversity of my fictional world just like they do to my real world. But they’re just people. Their race is not relevant to their humanity or their role in the story. If and when a cultural history or race becomes relevant, then I use it and I try really hard to use it respectfully and accurately. I research, I ask friends, I try to get beta readers on the case. I’ve done proof reading for a publisher when they have an American writing a scene in England, because that’s my culture. In one case, I corrected the English characters so they said pavement instead of sidewalk and torch instead of flashlight and stuff like that. Otherwise, that would be lazy appropriation on the part of the American author not doing their research and not recognising difference.

When that laziness and disrespect is poured onto a culture or group already marginalised and struggling for recognition and inclusion, it’s even worse. It’s disrespectful and emotionally damaging. But should that mean we can’t or shouldn’t do it? Hell, no. It means we need to work harder, be better and do it right.

I try to get that stuff right. If I get it wrong, I want to be told. I’ll try harder. But to suggest that anything is off-limits is bullshit. It’s being a dick that’s off-limits and that will always be the case. So this long arse post is basically just me agreeing with Jim Hines in his post that I linked at the start. But I felt it necessary to say so in detail for myself. I’d be interested in your opinions.

EDIT: All this applies to female characters as well, of course, but that really should go without saying. They make around 50% of the world and they’re human too.

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How do you e-read?

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August 5, 2014

This has come up a couple of times in various conversations recently, so I thought I’d talk about it here. Ebooks are here to stay, obviously. While there will always be print books too, even if that does eventually reduce to Print-on-Demand and collector’s folio editions, ebooks will only continue to gain strength. There’s the whole format and DRM thing to still sort out – Amazon aren’t about to give up the mobi format any time soon, and a lot of places are struggling with where they stand on DRM – but these are all ongoing teething problems. I’d like to imagine a utopia where ePub is the standard across all vendors and publishers (which it already is if you don’t include Amazon) and where DRM is a thing of the past. But regardless of how it all shakes down, ebooks are mainstream now.

I love ebooks. I dig that I can carry hundreds of books around on my phone. Honestly, how living-in-the-future is that shit? And I do read on my phone. But primarily I read from an iPad Mini. I love my Mini – it’s the perfect size and does all the things I want. Plus, I have this sweet leather cover for it that makes it look like a cool old hardback book. Here it is:

photo 300x298 How do you e read?

Pretty sweet, huh? I use it for internet, email, videos, TV, games and loads of other stuff as well as reading. It’s just the best thing ever, technology-wise.

But I didn’t always read ebooks on the Mini and I use several apps even now. Other people I’ve spoken to use a variety of devices and all swear by them. Some people consider dedicated ereaders a cul-de-sac technology that’ll die down to almost nothing because tablets are so much more versatile, while others love their dedicated ereader precisely because it’s just for reading and has no other distracting functions.

I got onto the whole ebook bandwagon pretty early on. For example, when I originally self-published RealmShift back in the day, it was the 376th book to be uploaded to Smashwords, as evidenced by its URL there. There are now over 300,000 books on Smashwords. I would read ebooks on my PC from very early on too. I guess I knew right off the bat that this technology was going to quickly become the norm and it most certainly did. Interestingly, that massive rush into the mainstream that ebooks made was largely encouraged along by Amazon and their Kindle device. They really saw an opportunity and exploited it with expert (some might say evil) skill.

Amazon Kindle 3 203x300 How do you e read?After reading on my laptop and phone for a while, my first dedicated ereader was an old generation Kindle 3, like the one pictured on the left, and I got hooked fully into the Amazon ecosystem. I was already there really, using the Kindle app – I even converted ePub files to mobi to use on the Kindle. I didn’t mind at all at the time – Amazon always had the most content, you could buy with one click and it would roll straight onto your reader. And the battery life of the Kindle is awesome. The reading experience is great too, with no backlight and all that jazz. Apparently, the new Paperwhite is even better, but I’ve yet to see one of those in the flesh… plastic… whatever. But I don’t use my Kindle any more. My wife uses it a bit and I do actually miss it in some ways, but it became superfluous to my needs.

I used the Kindle app on my phone while I used my Kindle 3 and that was awesome. If I was out and had ten minutes to spare, I could dial up whatever book I was reading and the app would automatically sync it to the last place I’d read. But I began to get more and more disillusioned with Amazon and at the same time, more or less, got my iPad Mini. The Kindle was no good for comics and I read a lot of those, so an iPad was a great choice. I got the Kindle app for it and discovered that the backlit screen really doesn’t bother me at all. So the Kindle 3 became unnecessary luggage.

Now my phone and iPad are all I carry, and they do all I need. But I’m not all about Kindle any more. There are so many reading apps out there. Rather than buy in to the Amazon ecosystem entirely, I started looking at other options. I found that a lot of publishers sell direct from their own websites, a lot of small press use places like Smashwords as well as Amazon, and I recently discovered that the Kobo store is great. All of these use ePub, and don’t tie you to Amazon. And I particularly like ePub because I discovered a couple of years ago an app called Marvin. It’s only for iDevices at the moment, but apparently an Andriod version is in the works. It’s my favourite ereader now and I’ll always look for an ePub file that I can sideload to Marvin as my first port of call when I want a new book. If I can’t find that, I’ll shop at Kobo and use the Kobo app. As a last resort, I’ll go back to Amazon and read with the Kindle. I also still use the Kindle app to read PDFs and Word documents that I send myself  using my Kindle email thing. It’s really a case of what’s best for any given situation, but always looking for ePub first.

So while I almost exclusively read ebooks on the iPad Mini now (with occasional forays on my phone), I do it with a variety of apps and stores. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a dedicated ereader. And I read about 50/50 ebook/print, so I’ll certainly never abandon paper books. I’m an utter bibliophile and love my bookshelves. I love to get beautiful editions, especially hardbacks, of my favourite books, though income doesn’t allow me to indulge that as much as I’d like. And if I read an ebook that I really enjoy, I’ll get the paper edition for my shelves. Most recently that happened with Nathan Ballingrud’s amazing debut collection of short stories called “North American Lake Monsters”. I bought the ebook, absolutely loved it and, as soon as I’d finished reading, I flipped from the reading app to the browser on my iPad and bought the last signed hardcover from the Small Beer Press website. All without leaving my couch. There’s that living-in-the-future shit again. So brilliant.

So what about you? What’s your ereader of choice? How do you shop for ebooks? Let me know in the comments and let me know too about any great apps or readers I might have missed out on.

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What can $7 buy you?

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August 5, 2014

It’s a fair question, right? What can $7 buy you? Maybe a coffee and a cookie. That’s nothing to be sneezed at (who wants a sneezed on cookie anyway?) but it’s some short term pleasure that’ll be over before you know it. And all those cookie calories… Or $7 can buy you half a movie ticket. But you can’t even see half a movie – you have to buy the other half of the ticket even if you only stay for half the film and that’s just stupid. And you’re not stupid, obviously. It’ll buy you about 5-10% of a pair of jeans, but you’ll just get arrested going around with only 10% pants on. Or it can buy you two full length, awesomely exciting novels. Come on, you know where this was going. At the moment (only in Australia and NZ, sorry*) you can get BOUND for $1.99 and the sequel, OBSIDIAN, for $4.99 in any ebook format of your choice. That’s just $6.98 for two entire books. Amazing, I know. And the third book of the trilogy, ABDUCTION, will be out in less than a month, and that’s only another $4.99.

Such a ridiculous amount of entertainment for such an incredible price. And way better than a movie, even if you went for the exciting second half. You can go to iBooks, Amazon.com.au, Kobo or Google Play and get those books right now (any of those links will take you directly to the book). I guarantee you’ll enjoy them. And if you do, please tell your friends and family about it – hell, tell your enemies too.

$7. Two books. How can you not?

(* Sorry to everyone elsewhere in the world – we’re working hard to secure a deal to get the Alex Caine books available everywhere outside the A/NZ region. )

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Talking up the good stuff

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July 30, 2014

I’ve been going on a lot lately about Bound. It’s no surprise, really. I have a book out from a major publisher and it’s on shelves in bookstores and everything! I’m still finding it hard to believe, but I’m certainly enjoying it. However, now I want to spread the love – I’ve been going on so much lately about myself, it’s time I talked about other people a bit. Below are the books and stories I’ve been really enjoying lately and I highly recommend you check them out. Let’s go:

The Hunt for Pierre Jnr By David M. Henley (the sequel, Manifestations, is out now too.) As the blurb says, “He can make you forget, he can control you and he is only eight years old. Three months after his birth he escaped. An hour later he was lost to surveillance. No one knows where he has been for the last eight years … Now Pierre Jnr is about to return.” Sounds good, right? It is.

Home & Hearth by Angela Slatter. All you need to know about this one is covered perfectly in Andrew McKiernan’s review here. I agree with him completely.

Last Year, When We Were Young by Andrew McKiernan. I had the pleasure of MCing the launch of this excellent debut collection of short stories. It’s fantastic and Greg Chapman sums it up nicely in this review here.

Exile by Peter M Ball. Okay, I haven’t read this one yet as I’ve only just bought it, but Peter Ball’s stuff is always good and I expect this novella to be up there as well. So I’m including it here.

Perfections by Kirstyn McDermott. This is a great novel and I reviewed it myself at Thirteen O’Clock, so head over here to learn more.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. I mean, really, it’s enough that it’s by Gaiman, right? But this is a wonderful book and very British in style and setting. As an ex-pat Brit, that appealed to me a lot. But whether you’re British or not, it’s well worth your time.

SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror edited by Geoff Brown and A J Spedding. I had the honour of writing a foreword for this collection of military horror short stories. There’s fantastic variety here and it’s a tremendous collection. You’ll be surprised at the scope.

Trucksong by Andrew Macrae. A post-apocalyptic Australia with sentient trucks fighting and fucking and stuff. I know, right? It’s written in an incredibly well-developed Australian voice and is something quite different.

Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto. This is the guy who wrote True Detective, which is some of the best television I’ve seen in recent years. This is a southern crime noir kinda thing, fantasically written. I loved it.

North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud. Possibly the best short story collection I’ve read in recent years. Again, I reviewed it for Thirteen O’Clock, so go here to read me gushing about it.

Lexicon by Max Barry. My book of the year last year and it won an Aurealis Award. A fantastic story about the power of words and language and modern magic rolled up with science and it’s a thriller and… and… Just read it.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. A superb supernatural serial killer, crime thriller thing. This book has had loads of attention and all of it well-deserved. A must read.

And next up on my list are Guardian by Jo Anderton (which will be great because it’s book three after Debris and Suited, which were great), Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes (after the awesomeness of The Shining Girls, I can’t wait for this one) and Dreaming of Zhou Gong by Traci Harding (which I only got yesterday, signed no less, and I’m looking forward to a lot). Very exciting reading ahead, I think.

A quick web search will reveal any of these to you, so off you go and get some good stuff. Let me know what you think. And if you’ve read something simply brilliant lately, drop a mention in the comments and we can keep this sharing of good stuff going.

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Welcome

The website of author Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter, Author

Author of horror, dark fantasy & sci-fi. Kung Fu instructor. Personal Trainer. Motorcyclist. Dog lover. Gamer. Heavy metal fan. Britstralian. Misanthrope. Learn more about me and my work by clicking About Alan just below the header.

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