Monthly Archives: March 2009

The Top 50 Australian blogs on writing

March 29, 2009

I had a very pleasant surprise this morning. Jonathan Crossfield contacted me on Twitter to let me know about a post on his blog listing the top 50 Australian blogs on writing. I thought that sounded like a pretty useful resource. Imagine my surprise to discover that this little corner of the interwebs that I call my own came in at number 9.

As Jonathan says, “Many people have recommended blogs to me for inclusion on the list over the last two weeks and not all of them were included. Sometimes, they weren’t sufficiently about the act of writing. Even though the blog owner may be a writer, if the topics of the blog did not cover advice and observations on life as a writer, it wasn’t included. A blog by a writer that only discusses their daily non-writerly activities could not be considered a blog about writing. Sometimes the blogs hadn’t been updated for months and therefore could be considered to be inactive. Some blogs discussed books and reading but not writing and therefore did not fit the mould.”

So, not only do we now have a list of 50 really interesting and useful blogs (some of which I already follow and some of which are a very nice find), The Word is also included among them. And it’s not just based on peoples’ opinions. Jonathan has ranked the list of blogs using things like the Technorati ranking, the Page Rank and so on. So I guess I must be doing something right. And I would also like to throw a shout out to my good friend James Frost, in chilly Scotland, for his help with website support and SEO. I couldn’t do all this technomological malarkey on my own.

Check out the post at Jonathan’s blog and have a look at a few of these sites. There’s some that are really worth your while.


Short story published at Antipodean SF

March 28, 2009

Antipodean SF is an online speculative fiction magazine that specialises in flash fiction. Short, sharp, clever pieces of fiction that never exceed 500 words. From the website:

AntipodeanSF ‘online’ exists to let the world know that there is such a beast as an Australian (i.e. antipodean) science/speculative-fiction writer… In a nutshell, AntipodeanSF wants to bring the ‘other’ briefly, and sometimes horribly, into view (as most good SF does).

It’s a great publication and I’ve been trying to get something published there for a while. Fortunately, I’ve finally cracked it. This was one of the publications on the short list of places that I’m really keen to be published in. Other than the pleasure of having something accepted in a well respected publication, it’s having something accepted in a publication that I always enjoy reading that really makes me feel warm inside.

Anyway, get on over to Antipodean SF and have a read of my flash fiction piece there, Terminal Illness. Let me know what you think, here in comments or by email as usual, and be sure to rate the story for me over there. Read the other stories too – there’s some good stuff in this latest issue.


I’ve been to cheese country

March 28, 2009

Sorry things have been a bit quiet around here lately. I won’t bore you with the details, but things have been bloody hectic for the wife and I lately, and they’re only going to get more pandemonic (it’s a word now, if I say so). We decided to run away for a week and went off to a little cabin, 12km down a dirt track in the middle of nowhere. Just me, Halinka and Penry the dog. Bloody marvellous.

Anyway, that’s why I haven’t been posting much. I did see this that I thought I’d share with you. We stayed near Bega, which is a town famous for its cheese. The cheese is even called Bega and there’s a cheese museum there. Rather cheese obsessed really, the whole place, but there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m a big fan of cheese. How many times can I write cheese in a single paragraph? I was pretty impressed when I saw this:


Now, I know that’s supposed to be read as Bega-Cheese Training Centre (as in the training centre for the Bega cheese company). But I just can’t help reading it as Bega Cheese-Training Centre. I can imagine cheese in gym shorts and t-shirts, doing all kinds of exercises, getting in shape for the Cheese Olympics or something.

Like I said, I was on holiday.

Normal service will resume shortly.


RealmShift reviewed at Horrorscope

March 19, 2009

Check out the latest review for RealmShift posted at Horrorscope – The Australian Dark Fiction Web Blog.

Overall a pretty good review – very thorough, well thought out and largely positive. That’s pretty much the best we can hope for in a review.


Metal As Fuck – the world’s most obliterating metal zine

March 19, 2009

Some of you may be aware of my broad and ecclectic taste in music, others may not. However, one of the things that I’ve always had a passion for is powerful, ball tearing, throat ripping heavy metal. I’m also a massive fan of all sorts of other genres and I think that Pink Floyd are the greatest band that’s ever been. But metal has always been something that moves me. I like the music I listen to to be emotive and powerful. Power can come from the quietest space between two perfect notes or from the sonic assault of thrash metal. I’m not precious about it.


Anyway, as metal is such a passion for me, I’m very happy to say that I’ve got involved as a contributing writer over at The name says it all really. MaF is an online metal zine and community. From their press release:

Metal as Fuck is the world’s most obliterating metal magazine. Unlike all other metal ezines and online metal communities, and especially unlike others produced in Australia, Metal as Fuck has a truly global, integrative focus, and will bring about the first ever on-the-ground interaction between bands, fans, and the industry.

Since going live on Friday 13 March 2009, Metal as Fuck has gained thousands and thousands of page impressions – and is set to become your only logical place to go for all things metal.

Produced by prominent and gutsy Australian house, Brascoe Publishing, who are rapidly moving to the top seat in independent Australian publishing – and edited by one of the country’s prominent music industry educators, tour and metal label rep, and publicist Kelli Wright – Metal as Fuck will features writers from all over the world. From correspondents in the USA and Europe, to local columnists – including metal supermodel Sam McSatan – and with some of Australia’s best metal journalists on board, the content for Metal as Fuck is brutal, new, and relevant to metalheads all over the world.

That last line is where I come in (I’m not saying I’m among Australia’s best journalists or anything, but you know…) I’ve already posted a couple of reviews over there – one for the new Inevitable End album and one for the new Cauldron album. I’ll be working a lot with these guys, so I’ll let you know when reviews, articles, whatever are coming out. So if you’re a metal fan, head on over there and join in with the community. The place is gonna rock.


‘Cibola’ by David Wood released tomorrow

March 16, 2009

David Wood is a good friend of mine and a top notch author. He’s been kind enough to read and blurb on my books before and he’s an invaluable source of ideas and help in the field of indie publishing and all that related stuff. He also posted a guest blog here at The Word just a little while ago.

David’s first novel, Dourado, was well received and still holds a pretty solid Amazon sales rank. His new novel, Cibola is available now, officially launched tomorrow. You can get it in print or Kindle from Amazon, or other ebook formats from Smashwords.

Here’s the official blurb:

1539- In a remote Spanish outpost, one man holds the secret to the greatest treasure and deadliest secret in human history. Utah, Present Day Cave paintings in a newly-discovered Indian site provide evidence that Christ visited the New World. Or do they? Dane Maddock returns in another unforgettable adventure! When Dane rescues beautiful archaeologist Jade Ihara , he joins her on asearch for the legendary Seven Cities of Cibola. Cibola takes the reader on a journey across the American southwest, where the ruins of the mysterious Anasazi hide deadly secrets, and foes lurk around every corner. Dane and his partner “Bones” Bonebrake must decipher clues from the fabled Copper Scroll, outwit their enemies, and be the first to unlock the secret of Cibola.


I was fortunate enough to get a pre-release read of the book and was happy to supply an endorsement for David. It’s a classic Indiana Jones style adventure romp with cool speculative overtones that’s really good fun. I’m happy to recommend it as a worthwhile read.

And on top of all that, David will be donating half the royalties from every copy of Cibola sold to the Brain Tumour Foundation. Read about that at his blog.


Some changes at The Word

March 16, 2009

You might notice a few small changes here at The Word. I’ve made a new page dedicated for links (see the new button in the Navigation panel on the left) and removed all the links boxes from the lefthand sidebar, just to tidy things up a bit. I’ve also tidied up a few other items in the sidebars and removed some bits and pieces that seemed to be cluttering up the place.

I hope you like the neater new look. Please let me know if you can’t find something you usually use or you come across any broken links, missing pages and stuff like that.

Any suggestions to improve the site would be gratefully received, so if you have any ideas let me know by commenting here or sending me an email. Enjoy.


How could I not photograph this?

March 14, 2009

I was wandering around one of the local towns recently, window shopping with my wife, when we saw this sign posted in the window of a shop. It was one of those shops that sold all kinds of weird and tacky stuff, like signs that say “You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps” and “MUM – Multi-tasking Underpaid Miracleworker”. The sort of shop that has woven baskets, rubber shoes and strangely disturbing carved wooden, hanging mobiles all hanging on the same rack. You get the idea.

Anyway, how could I not photograph this sign:


“Usage of Mobile Phones in this store is prohibited. Including No Photography.


Seriously, were they concerned that people would photograph their woeful stock and use the inside knowledge to set up a rival store across the road? Or perhaps they were just really militant mobile phone haters, the kind that still seem strangely prevalent. Aren’t we over the whole mobile phone-a-phobia thing by now?

Sure, it’s rude to talk on your phone while at the counter. But talking on the phone in a shop is no different really to talking to another person in a shop. It’s not a library, after all. Besides you might be saying to your friend, “Hey, you have to come down to this shop and check out the sweet woven wine bottle holders I’m looking at!”

I was tempted to walk in there with the phone on loudspeaker and take photos while I described to a friend elsewhere about this crazy sign I’d seen. But that’s just being unneccessarily confrontational. Besides, I have a blog for that sort of stuff.


The six word story meme

March 13, 2009

I picked this up over at Writing Forums:

Apparently Hemmingway once wrote a six-word ‘story’ and called it his best work. Wired Magazine challenged a phalanx of SF/F and horror authors to try this. Some examples:

Automobile warranty expires. So does engine.
– Stan Lee

Machine. Unexpectedly, I’d invented a time
– Alan Moore

“Cellar?” “Gate to, uh … hell, actually.”
– Ronald D. Moore

Epitaph: Foolish humans, never escaped Earth.
– Vernor Vinge

It’s behind you! Hurry before it
– Rockne S. O’Bannon

I’m your future, child. Don’t cry.
– Stephen Baxter

Nevertheless, he tried a third time.
– James P. Blaylock

Lost, then found. Too bad.
– Graeme Gibson

Deadline postponed. Five words enough…?
– David Brin

Mind of its own. Damn lawnmower.
– David Brin

Will this do (lazy writer asked)?
– Ken MacLeod

Finally, he had no more words.
– Gregory Maguire

There were only six words left.
– Gregory Maguire

In the beginning was the word.
– Gregory Maguire

He read his obituary with confusion.
– Steven Meretzky

Steve ignores editor’s word limit and
– Steven Meretzky

Some of those above are great. I love the concept – it’s like distilling flash fiction down to a single, viscous blob. Here are some of my own efforts:

As the door closed, darkness swallowed.

Far away, a flash of supernova.

Blood dripped, then ran, then poured.

Through a haze of pain, light.

His last words were, “What’s this?”

It’s actually quite a good exercise for ideas. It has a slight haiku vibe to it. Have a go yourself and leave your masterpieces as comments below. Pass it on with your own blog if you like the idea – consider yourself tagged.


Friday Guest Blog – Amazon And The Indie Author: Frenemies? by April Hamilton

March 12, 2009

aprilhamiltonApril Hamilton is an indie author with a number of successful titles to her name. Here she writes about the love/hate relationship indie authors and publishers have with Amazon.

Amazon And The Indie Author: Frenemies?

I had a discussion about Amazon with a writer friend recently. She was annoyed that the profit split for Kindle books created using Amazon’s DTP is 35/65, with 65% going to Amazon and 35% going to the author/publisher; she called it robbery. I know many indie authors agree with her, but I don’t really understand why.

I reminded her that when a mainstream author gets a book published in whatever format (print, e or audio), the publisher keeps about 55% of the retail price as recompense and the bookseller, whether online or brick-and-mortar, gets a standard 40% cut of the retail price for any book they sell. This amounts to a 5/95 split, with 95% going to the publisher and bookseller and just 5% (or less) going to the author. True, some authors are able to negotiate more attractive terms that grant them up to a 15% royalty (sometimes even more on subsequent print runs), but this is not the norm, particularly for first-time authors with debut books.

With DTP books, Amazon is acting as both publisher and seller, yet the split is 35/65—not the 5/95 or even 15/85 split you might expect. And anyone who’s still not happy with Amazon’s split is free to go through another ebook publisher/seller outlet, like Smashwords (85/15 split, 85% to author/publisher and 15% to Smashwords), so it’s not as if your choices are limited to Amazon vs. not publishing ebooks at all.
As an indie author and advocate for the indie movement, my positive opinion of Amazon is risky for me to express publicly because so many indie authors were left out in the cold when Amazon pulled its big power play (publish through Lightning Source, BookSurge or Createspace, or say bye-bye to your “Buy” buttons). I was not affected because I’ve always published my trade paperbacks though Createspace, but I know plenty of authors who were suddenly forced to choose between losing their Amazon listings or paying for new print runs. Had I been in their place, it would’ve been a tough row to hoe for me, too. Which may lead anyone reading this to wonder how I can count myself among indie authors and be at all accepting of Amazon’s move.

I look at it this way… My husband runs a pond maintenance business and he used to buy water plants from growers for resale to his customers. When he discovered he could do a better job of plant quality control, deliver the plants faster and at a lower cost by growing them himself, that’s exactly what he started doing. I’m sure those growers from whom he used to buy plants are none too pleased with his decision, but that’s not his problem. His problem is to ensure his own business’s survival by offering his customers the best product at the lowest cost. That’s true for any business, Amazon included.

Frankly, like I’ve said on my blog, businesses must earn their customers. I chose to publish my trade paperbacks with Createspace long before Amazon’s power play, and I chose CreateSpace because no other POD outfit comes anywhere close to CS’s per-copy production costs on POD books. Low production costs allow me to price my CS books right in line with comparable mainstream books while still keeping a royalty of about 3x what a mainstream author gets. Admittedly, CS is a totally DIY solution; you must deliver a print-ready book and cover, and there will be no handholding or quality control from CS whatsoever. But that was precisely the kind of service I wanted, and if CS can offer straight POD printing services at such a bargain, why can’t Lulu, iUniverse, Wordclay, and all those other self-pub printers?
This is the point at which the discussion with an Amazon-averse indie author usually takes a turn. They’ll generally acknowledge the logic behind what I’m saying, but then raise the specters of the ‘what ifs': what if Amazon gets to be a monopoly, what if they decide to enlarge their share, what if they raise their prices for publishing services, what if, what if, what if. And I always say the same things in response.

1) Amazon will never get to hold a complete monopoly on book sales because they can’t match indie booksellers for service or depth of knowledge, and can’t match other outlets (i.e., Target, B&N, Borders, etc.) for instant gratification and convenience. I blogged on the matter of Amazon vs. indie brick-and-mortar stores recently, and again, I don’t see Amazon as a Big Bad Wolf in that scenario.

2) Amazon will never get to hold a complete monopoly on ebook readers because the Kindle just isn’t that great—yet. There are much cooler dedicated devices already in development, and plenty of people are happy to keep reading ebooks on non-dedicated devices.

3) In the early years of Amazon people used to predict that as soon as Amazon came to dominate the online retail market they’d jack up their prices, but it hasn’t happened yet. Lulu, WordClay and other self-pub outfits have definitely got CreateSpace beat when it comes to customer service and author support services, so if Amazon allows CreateSpace’s production costs to get very close to those of its competitors and starts charging for Amazon listings the way most other self-pub outfits do, I and plenty of other indie authors will jump the CreateSpace ship with nary a look back. I’m pretty sure Mr. Bezos knows that, and I don’t think he’s stupid enough to let it happen.

4) Even if Amazon does manage to get a monopoly on ebooks and ebook readers (which, again, is not at all likely to happen), they’ve still got 20-30% more of your author royalty to eat up before they’re eating up as much as mainstream publishers already do. And even if that comes to pass, how will that situation be any worse than the deal mainstream authors are getting today? I don’t hear of mainstream-published authors being ticked off at their publishers for their royalty percentages, so I can only assume the vast majority of them find their 5-15% arrangement equitable.

I really don’t get all this I’m-sure-Amazon-is-evil-because-they’re-big-and-totally-dominate-the-marketplace stuff. Amazon is probably the best thing that ever happened to indie authors, because they’ve leveled the playing field for us. They’ve given us access to their huge, global audience of book-buyers, as well as some fantastic promotional tools (i.e. Amazon reviews, Listmania!, tagging for Amazon search) to help us reach those buyers. There’s no segregation between indie books and mainstream books on Amazon, our books appear in searches right alongside mainstream books. With the possible exception of Amazon’s recently-introduced Author Stores, Amazon offers no advantages to mainstream books over indies. Yet even that may be a temporary advantage, since it appears that Amazon intends to roll this feature out to all authors with at least two books for sale on Amazon following the feature’s current, beta phase.

Amazon is the 400-pound gorilla on the bookselling scene, no doubt, but it’s a 400-pound gorilla that has offered to carry us indie authors around on its shoulders and share its bananas with us.

April L. Hamilton is an author, blogger, Technorati BlogCritic, leading advocate for the indie author movement and the founder of Publetariat, the premier online news hub and community for indie authors and small imprints.

If you have any questions for April, regarding this post or anything else, leave a comment and I’ll make sure that she answers here – Alan.



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. Zetetic.

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