Nothing warms your heart like an unexpected free plug

Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, was interviewed recently by Smashwords is a site where independent authors and publishers can create ebook versions of their work. I’ve talked about it here before – this is the ebook version of RealmShift at Smashwords – 4.7 stars out of 5 and some nice reviews so far, which pleases me greatly. It’s still in the top 5 bestsellers over there since hitting the number 1 spot briefly on its release.

Anyway, the interview. Here’s a good example of how some time and effort spent on quality cover design can get you noticed. Mark Coker was interviewed about the nature of epublishing and the site he has created with Smashwords. To go along with the Q&A interview, they wanted a good looking book cover to give an example of the sort of thing that Smashwords makes available to the public. They chose RealmShift.

So as part of an article about Mark and Smashwords, with no effort on my part, I get the following free plugs:

Moderator’s note: Alan Baxter’s RealmShift, the SF-and-fantasy novel shown here, is one of the five-star-rated titles on Smashwords, a site for self-published writers and their fans. “Samuel Harrigan is a murderer,” reads part of the plot descrption. “He used ancient blood magic to escape a deal with the Devil.”


Mark Coker, CEO and himself a self-pubbed novelist, sees Smashwords as a chance to help the Baxters of this world to bypass publishing’s gatekeepers and connect directly with readers. Down in Australia, Baxter is also working through his own small press, putting out a paper editon, as Mark would encourage him to do, given the small size of the e-book market today.

So with that I got links for this site, my book on Smashwords and my indie publisher, Blade Red Press. All because I have an eye-catching, professionally produced book cover. So, perhaps people do judge a book by its cover after all. We’d all be fools to think that they didn’t.

I only found out about this after Mark put me onto it, so it’s very heart-warming to know that my stuff is out there getting noticed in different ways. If you’re going to make something, make it the best it can be.

The whole article, including the Q&A interview with Mark, can be found here. Have a read – it’s very interesting stuff.


Another list – 100 seminal SFF reads

Where would we be without lists? Seriously, before the internet, what did we do for lists? How did we know what a heavily biased cross-section of sub-culture thought about any given irrelevant point before Web 2.0? Anyway, it’s okay, as we have lists now. Here’s another one for you.

This arrives in a bit of a roundabout way, but it’s a good list, so worth the effort. I found it on Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, who took it from Stego on the Song of Ice and Fire Forums. This is Stego that used to run the Speculative Reviews blog, but that’s been on hiatus for ages. Anyway, Stego says:

I put out an SFF Reading List a few years ago with about 500 works on it. People threw rocks. It was kind of amusing. Here is a far more condensed list of what I believe to be the seminal works of SFF since Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. Limited to a mere 100. The paring down was heartbreaking.

This is my first reading list in years and is certainly an opinionated result of my years of amateur scholarship.

The only thing I do promise is that there is merit in all of these works. Chances are you would fall in love with most, if not all, if you give them a chance.

So why have I bothered to reprint all this stuff that can be found elsewhere? Two reasons. One, it’s a damn fine list and anyone would do well to have a look at any of the content and two, it’s another one of those ‘put an X by what you’ve read’ memes. Well, it is now anyway. So consider yourself tagged and share the meme, thereby sharing the quality list. Here it is, with my Xs to indicate which I’ve read (which I anticipate being a small percentage):

Asimov, Isaac: The Best of Isaac Asimov 1974

Asimov, Isaac: The Gods Themselves 1972

Atwood, Margaret: The Handmaid’s Tale 1985

Bakker, R. Scott: The Prince of Nothing 2004-2007

Ballard, J.G.: High Rise 1975

Banks, Iain M.: Use of Weapons 1990 X

Beagle, Peter S.: A Fine and Private Place 1960

Bester, Alfred: The Stars My Destination 1956

Blish, James: Cities in Flight 1955-1962

Brackett, Leigh: The Long Tomorrow 1955

Bradbury, Ray: The Martian Chronicles 1950

Bradbury, Ray: Fahrenheit 451 1953 X

Brunner, John: Stand on Zanzibar 1968

Bulgakov, Mikhail: The Master and The Margarita 1940

Card, Orson Scott: Ender’s Game 1985 X

Clarke, Arthur C.: Rendezvous With Rama 1972 X

Clarke, Arthur C.: Childhood’s End 1953

Clarke, Arthur C.: The Fountains of Paradise 1979

Crowley, John: Little, Big 1981

Danielewski, Mark Z.: House of Leaves 2000

Dick, Philip K.: The Man In The High Castle 1962

Dozois, Gardner: Best of The Best: 20 Years of The Years Best SF 2005

Dozois, Gardner: Best of The Best 2 2007

Dunsany, Lord: The King of Elfland’s Daughter 1924

Ellison, Harlan: Dangerous Visions 1967

Ennis, Garth: Preacher 1995-2000 X

Ford, John M.: The Last Hot Time 2001

Gaiman, Neil: American Gods 2001 X

Gaiman, Neil and Pratchett, Terry: Good Omens 1990 X

Gemmell, David: Legend 1984

Gibson, William: Neuromancer 1984 X

Grimwood, Ken: Replay 1987

Haldeman, Joe: The Forever War 1975

Heinlein, Robert A.: Starship Troopers 1959

Heinlein, Robert A.: Stranger In a Strange Land 1961 X

Heinlein, Robert A.: Have Spacesuit — Will Travel 1958

Herbert, Frank: Dune 1965 X

Hoban, Russell: Riddley Walker 1980

Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World 1931 X

Jackson, Shirley: The Haunting of Hill House 1959

Joyce, Graham: The Tooth Fairy 1998

Kay, Guy Gavriel: Tigana 1990

Keyes, Daniel: Flowers For Algernon 1966

LeGuin, Ursula K.: The Dispossesed 1974

LeGuin, Ursula K.: The Left Hand of Darkness 1969

Lem, Stanislaw: Solaris 1961

Lovecraft, H.P.: The Dunwich Horror and Others 1963 X

Lynch, Scott: The Lies of Locke Lamora 2006

MacDonald, George: The Princess and The Goblin 1872

Martin, George R.R.: A Song of Ice and Fire 1996-Present

Matheson, Richard: I Am Legend 1954

McCarthy, Cormac: The Road 2006

McDonald, Ian: River of Gods 2004

Meynard, Yves: The Book of Knights 1998

Mieville, China: Perdido Street Station 2001

Miller Jr., Walter M.: A Canticle For Leibowitz 1960

Moore, Christopher: Lamb 2002

Morgan, Richard K.: Black Man 2007

Newman, Kim: Anno Dracula 1992

Niven, Larry: Ringworld 1970 X

Orwell, George: 1984 1949 X

Pangborn, Edgar: Davy 1964

Poe, Edgar Allan: Tales of Mystery and Imagination 1837-1845 X

Pohl, Frederick: Gateway 1977

Pohl, Frederick and Kornbluth, C.M: The Space Merchants 1953

Powers, Tim: The Anubis Gates 1983

Powers, Tim: The Fisher King Trilogy 1992-1997

Priest, Christopher: The Glamour 1985

Robinson, Kim Stanley: The Mars Trilogy 1992-1996 X

Russ, Joanna: The Female Man 1975

Shelley, Mary: Frankenstein 1818

Shephard, Lucius: The Best of Lucius Shephard 2008

Shippey, Tom: The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories 1992

Silverberg, Robert: The Book of Skulls 1972

Silverberg, Robert: The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume One 1970

Simak, Clifford D.: City 1952

Simmons, Dan: Hyperion 1990

Smith, Cordwainer: The Rediscovery of Man 1993

Smith, Michael Marshall: Only Forward 1998

Stapeldon, Olaf: Odd John 1935

Stephenson, Neal: Snow Crash 1992

Stevenson, Robert Louis: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1886 X

Stewart, George R.: Earth Abides 1949

Straub, Peter: Ghost Story 1979

Sturgeon, Theodore: More Than Human 1953

Tiptree Jr., James: Her Smoke Rose Up Forever 1990

Tolkien, J.R.R.: The Lord of The Rings 1954-1955 X

Vance, Jack: The Jack Vance Treasury 2007

Verne, Jules: Journey To The Centre of the Earth 1864 X

Vonnegut, Kurt: Cat’s Cradle 1963

Vonnegut, Kurt: Slaughter-House Five 1969 X

Wells, H.G.: The Time Machine 1895 X

Wilde, Oscar: The Picture of Dorian Gray 1891

Wolfe, Gene: The Wizard Knight 2004

Wolfe, Gene: The Book of The New Sun 1980-1983

Wyndham, John: The Day of The Triffids 1951 X

Wyndham, John: The Midwich Cuckoos 1957

Zelazny, Roger: Damnation Alley 1969

Zelazny, Roger: Lord of Light 1967

There, I think that was 22. Not too bad. I often wonder when I do these things how often I mess it up. It’s hard to be certain of all the books I’ve read and I might have marked one book on one list and not on the other, or maybe just missed one scanning through. Anyway, it’s all a pile of bollocks, so it doesn’t matter. It’s just an excuse to reproduce a good list.

The reason I particularly like this one is that it covers SFF from the earliest works to the most recent, plus it includes graphic novels (i.e. The Preacher – essential reading for everyone) and it doesn’t seem to follow any particular bias other than a love for quality SFF.

And if that wasn’t good enough for you, here’s Stego’s original full 500, which is actually 570. This list is awesome. Not only is the first thing on the list by someone called Wanker Abercrombie, it also includes things like Eiji Yoshikawa’s Musashi, Alan Moore’s Watchmen (which I can’t believe didn’t make the Top 100 cut) and Michael Moorcock’s Elric stories, among many other things. While the top 100 above is a really pared down list, with only one thing from each author, the full list is an incredible cross section of excellent SFF in all its forms. Interestingly, I score a better percentage of read stuff on the full 570 than I do on the top 100.

So, if you’ve ever wondered what you should be reading in SFF, this list should keep you busy for a while.


Philip José Farmer, 1918-2009

A sad day for SF fans. From Locus Magazine online:

Philip José Farmer, 91, died around 4 a.m. on February 25, 2009 at home in Peoria, Illinois after a long stay in intensive care. Farmer, born January 26, 1918 in Terre Haute, Indiana, burst onto the SF scene with the 1952 publication of his groundbreaking novella “The Lovers”. Over the course of his long and prolific career he produced many noteworthy works, including the Riverworld series; the World of Tiers series; the Dayworld series; and his sprawling Wold Newton universe, which tied together the stories of early fictional heroes like Tarzan, Doc Savage, Phileas Fogg, Sherlock Holmes, and many more. He was named a SFWA Grandmaster in 2001, and his many honors include a World Fantasy Life Achievement Award (2001), three Hugos, and a First Fandom Award. He is survived by his wife Bette, their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.



Edit: Here’s the official Philip José Farmer page.


The BBC 100 book meme

I picked this up from Evolving Thoughts. You might remember a little while ago I made a post about the Get A Life Movie Meme. This is a similar thing for books.

In April 2003 the BBC’s Big Read began the search for the nation’s best-loved novel. Listed below are the top 100 (which I think I may have posted about before, but that doesn’t really matter now). The list is pretty UK centric, being a BBC project, but that’s all right with me.

The idea is:

1) Look at the list and put an ‘x’ after those you have read.

2) Add a ‘+’ to the ones you love.

3) Add a ‘*’ to those you plan on reading.

4) Tally your total.

So, after proving that I have no life with the movie meme, let’s see how I do with the books…

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien x
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman x
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams x
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling x
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee x
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne x
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell x
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis x
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller x
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger x
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame x
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens x
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling x
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling x
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling x
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien x
26. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck x
30. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll x
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens x
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl x
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson x
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert x
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams x
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas x
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell x
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens x
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett x
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck x
53. The Stand, Stephen King x
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl x
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell x
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett x
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton x
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman x
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett x
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding x
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett x
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens x
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley x
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist x
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo x
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett x
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

Well, I’ve read 43 from that list of 100. Not bad. Of course, the list came out at a time when fantasy was popular again (with Harry Potter, Narnia and all that stuff having a bit of a renaissance) so it sort of skewed the list towards a lot of speculative fiction. I’m always going to score well there.

I can’t be arsed with the ‘+’ and ‘*’ tags. Consider yourself tagged if you read this far.


Old RealmShift review thanks to Google Alerts

I have a Google homepage and a couple of gmail addresses and all that stuff. I like to keep as much of my online activity actually online these days and I’m therefore able to interact with all my email and social networking from pretty much anywhere. Naturally, I still get the DTs whenever I’m away from my computer for too long. All those files that are on the HDD start calling to me like hungry birds straining from the nest after a couple of hours, but I do my best to cope with that. I know the option exists to have your files held online, but that’s a lot of uploading and downloading and I don’t compeltely trust the idea just yet.

Anyway, one of the things I discovered with the Google homepage thing is the option to sign up for Google Alerts. In a nutshell, what these do is very simple and quite cool. You put in a search term and add some criteria and you get an email alert every time Google sweeps across that term. So I use it to keep abreast of what people might be saying about my books and myself – I have Google Alerts set for “RealmShift“, “MageSign” and “Alan Baxter”. That way if people talk about me or my books online I can notice it and go and have a read. It seems incredibly narcissistic, which it is, but it’s also very useful.

For example, I just recently discovered this review of RealmShift, that I’d never seen before. And it’s a pretty good review. The amount of people that say how my books would make great films is amazing. Perhaps I should be writing screenplays.

Anyway, you can also use Google Alerts to keep track of news stories, products, industries and so on and you can set it to only inform you of mentions in blogs or videos or across the web. Give it a go – it’s a great tool.