Monthly Archives: August 2009

Brimstone Press releases Eye Of Fire ezine

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4
August 31, 2009

As a member of the Australian Horror Writers’ Association, I got sent the first issue of Brimstone Press’s Eye Of Fire ezine automatically today. Brimstone Press is a great Aussie publisher that concentrates on the darker side of things, so they obviously get my vote. They started producing Black magazine, but distribution costs forced them to stop after just three print editions.

With Eye Of Fire they’ve announced that they would really like to revive Black in print, using direct dsitribution rather than newsagency distribution, if they get enough interest. That would be a very good thing. In the meantime, Black will be an online magazine. It’s currently in development. Eye Of Fire is coming out now with various bits of news along with feature articles, interviews and short fiction. You can subscribe directly to Eye Of Fire to stay informed on all this stuff. It’s worth a look. Download the first PDF of Eye Of Fire here – www.blackmag.com.au/EoF01-Aug09.pdf and you’ll find all the subscription information inside. (Right click and Save As to keep the PDF – it’s about 4MB).

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ebooks are the future

By
50
August 30, 2009

When RealmShift was first released I was against the idea of ebooks. I wanted to write and sell real books, dead tree books, solid books with pages that get dog-eared from being read over and over again. I love books. I’m a bibliophile of the highest order. As far as I’m concerned, there’s magic in books. Not just in the imagination of the stories or the knowledge contained in the content, but in the very act of being a book. Books are modern day magical items. The more books you have together, the more magic you can feel. You know the feel of your favourite bookstore? The vibe you get in a library? That’s the magic of the existence of books surrounding you. Terry Pratchett gets it – he calls it L-Space, or Library Space, where every book that has ever been written, or not written, exists.

So yeah, I’m a fan of real books. I love it when I sell hard copies of my books. I love opening the book to the title page and signing it for someone, knowing they’re going to take that book home and curl up in a chair to read it, enjoying the feel of the pages against their fingertips. It’ll sit by their chair or bed, then it’ll sit on their bookshelf. Friends and family will look at it, pick it up, read the blurb, say things like, “You’re still reading this shit?”

But all of that is going to become a niche activity.

There will always be a place for real books because there will always be people out there like me that can crap on for two paragraphs, waxing lyrical about them. But ebooks will become the mainstream, and it’ll happen pretty soon. I can’t say, “That’s right, you read it here first” because loads of people are already talking about this.

My own books sell better in Amazon Kindle editions than any other format. The print editions of my books are produced primarily through Print-On-Demand technology. There has been a print run and I do have a few boxes of books at my house, ready to sell to people at conventions or post out when people want or win a signed copy and stuff like that. But more ebooks sell than print books. Not only Amazon Kindle, but multi-format, non-DRM editions through Smashwords.com. And soon, Smashwords will be acting as a distributor for Barnes & Noble, so that means Smashwords editions become available in places like Fictionwise too. My novels are also available as ebooks on DriveThru.com, where you can get both RealmShift and MageSign for US$5 all up. Ebook popularity and sales are skyrocketing.

I recently upgraded my phone plan. I’m currently waiting on delivery of a shiny new iPhone. The reason for this is partly pure geekery, but also convergence. For my life as a writer, martial arts instructor and media whore, I like to have several things around me. I need a phone; my iPod is essential; I like to carry a camera to snap shots for the blog here or to capture images of my dog doing something nuts at the beach; I’m a social media whore, so having access to all those virtual street corners while I’m out is very appealing; having a quality portable video player for martial arts instruction is very useful. Instead of carrying a phone, iPod, camera, laptop and portable DVD player – which is a lot of shit to schlep about – I can get all of the above in an iPhone. Seriously. All of it. That’s some freaky sci fi technology happening right there. But you know what really sold me on the idea? On top of the convergence of all that other stuff? Stanza.

iphone stanza ebooks are the future

Stanza is an iPhone app that lets you read a variety of ebook formats. With the 32GB iPhone, you can carry an awful lot of music and video and all that stuff, plus a truckload of ebooks. Along with everything else, I’m going to have a variety of reading matter right there in my pocket, all the time.

It’s never going to compare with holding a real book and enjoying that reading experience. But it is going to make it possible for me to read more. I’m going to be able to get cheap or free ebooks and check out authors that I might not otherwise have had the time or money to look into. And imagine the people that are only now just starting to read. My mate’s two year old already handles his iPhone like a pro and she doesn’t read yet. This kind of tech is going to be completely natural to her.

Ebooks and ereaders have got an awfully long way to go yet – we need non-exclusive formats, we need readers that read all formats (Stanza is a bloody good start), we need publishers to stop being dickheads and charging full price for ebooks, and so on and so forth. But here’s my prediction – 99% of the books of the future will be either electronic or Print-On-Demand. Within twenty years or so traditional off-set print runs will be used exclusively for high-end collectors edition books. (I’ll be one of those collectors, natch). And the iPhone will seem archaic. My friend’s two year old will have her funky new tech and she’ll look back on the iPhone with a laugh and say, “I used to play with those when I was a 2 year old!” You know how we look at Pac-Man and Space Invaders arcade machines now? It’ll be like that. And long before that entire shift has occurred, ebooks will become a mainstream media. It’s happening already – I’m just one example. Just like there are still music stores and people still buy CDs, there will still be bookstores and people will still buy books. But like people also buy or steal MP3s, people will also buy or steal ebooks, in massive numbers.

Have a read of this excellent article by author Joe Konrath. He talks about Stanza and the future of ebooks, and he also explains a lot about formats. He and I think very much alike on this subject.

What do you think? Would you ever read an ebook? Before you answer, think back to things you did ten years ago compared to how you do things now. Then leave me a comment – love to hear your thoughts.

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My first #fridayflash effort

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42
August 27, 2009

So, following yesterday’s post, here’s my first flash fiction piece for the #fridayflash community of writers and readers. Please feel free to share the link for this post around. As mentioned yesterday, this little yarn was my entry in the last ever Flash Fiction Contest over at Scribe’s runboard, which is closing down soon. The Scribe contests were always themed and the theme for this one was ‘forgiveness’. Love to hear what you think of it in the comments.

Forgiveness

I lay on the ground in the chill of my own cold sweat and all I could feel was trembling. Every muscle vibrated with uncontained, uncontrollable terror. My mouth was dry, lips dragging across sandpaper teeth as I tried to speak. “Please…,” was all I could manage. My elbows and tailbone began to throb icily from the impact of being slammed onto the hard asphalt.

Her face, a beautiful pale moon swimming above me, was vague through the haze of my fear. But deep, dark eyes and blood red lips stood out starkly through that fog of terror. Those lips parted in a feral smile. “Please? Please what?”

I drew a ragged breath. “Please…” The words stuck in my throat, like trying to cough up cotton balls. “Please, forgive me!”

She smiled again, broader this time. “Forgive you? For what? For thinking I was a victim? For dropping that rohypnol in my drink? For leading me out here in the dark where you thought that I would be your prey?”

I sobbed like a child, my blood running colder than the winter street beneath me. “Please!”

Her smile grew broader still. “Oh, I forgive you. It would be hypocritical of me to hold your hunter’s nature against you. No hard feelings, eh?”

My eyes widened, my hammering heart beating erratically as my mind tried to process what she had said. She laughed raucously, row upon row of razor sharp teeth standing bright against her scarlet lips. “Oh, I forgive you.”

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#fridayflash online fiction community

By
8
August 26, 2009

Back at the end of May I blogged about a new idea doing the rounds called Fiction Friday. The idea was to have people write a short piece of flash fiction (less than 1,000 words) and post it on their blog. They would subsequently Tweet the link on Twitter, with the hashtag #fictionfriday, and people could follow that hashtag and watch the community. Readers would get a batch of new fiction every week and writers would get a chance to showcase their skills to a wider audience.

Well, I was planning to get involved, but life got in the way and I didn’t do anything about it. How often have we heard that story? Now I’m planning to get on board again. The idea has evolved. It’s now under the hashtag of #fridayflash (which I think is much better), has a burgeoning community and a Facebook page.

The rules of the idea are pretty much the same. The founder of the concept, J M Strother, wrote an explanatory piece on Editor Unleashed today, so have a look at that for a clear rundown of what’s involved. A writers’ board that I’ve been a part of for some time is closing down and I’m using that as an opportunity to shift my flash focus. That board had monthly flash fiction contests (you can find some of my placed entries on the Dark Shorts page here). As that board is closing we’ve just had the last competition. My last entry there, which shared a joint first place, is going to be my first entry in #fridayflash.

I really enjoy flash fiction and often write pieces that I try to sell or have traditionally published. I think this concept will be a good exercise in writing and connecting with readers, so I plan to get in on this idea too. Watch this space tomorrow for a brand new flash fiction piece and we’ll see how this thing goes. If you’re a writer, why not get on board as well? If you’re a reader, enjoy the flash and comment on people’s blogs, at Facebook or at Twitter to let them know that you’re reading and what you think of their work.

Anyone else going to get involved?

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Call Yourself a Writer Meme

By
9
August 24, 2009

The lovely Joanna Penn over at The Creative Penn website tagged me with this meme. You can find Jo’s answers here. You can find the original meme (with rules, no less!) here.

So, on to the questions then.

Which words do you use too much in your writing?

An editor once told me, ‘Try not to have all your characters say “Indeed” all the time.’ It’s a bit harsh, but I think there’s some validity in that. It does seem that any character over 40 in my work does have a propensity to say ‘Indeed’. I’ve been working on avoiding that. Apparently I also overuse the word ‘chuckle’. I did chuckle when a reader told me that. Oh, wait…

What’s your favourite piece of writing by you?

I’m really not sure about that. I’m so proud of everything I’ve written that it’s hard to pick something specific. RealmShift is always going to be very close to my heart as it was my first full length (completed) novel. I’m also very proud of a lot of my short fiction. I’m so pleased that I managed a second novel that most people have declared better than the first. Basically, I don’t have a favourite. Isn’t it wrong for parents to have favourite children?

What blog post do you wish you’d written?

This is really weird. I have no idea. In fact, I’d like to have written the blog post that caught the attention of major publishers and film makers that subsequently resulted in a multi-book, multi-million dollar publishing contract with associated film options and full merchandising. Or would that just be selling out? Screw it, though – if we’re dreaming about the ultimate blog post, let’s aim high.

Regrets, do you have a few? Is there anything you wish you hadn’t written?

I wish I hadn’t written “Mr Linnel is a beardy cunt” on the toilet wall in high school. But I only regret that because I was caught and fairly severely punished. He did have a mighty beard, though. Otherwise I’ve yet to write anything that I really regret and I hope I can keep it that way.

How has your writing made a difference? What do you consider your most important piece of writing?

I hope that some of my writing has made people stop and think. I don’t necessarily want to change anyone’s mind, just challenge them to question why they have the mind they do. Make them pause to decide if they really feel that way or if they’re just blundering blindly on. As it says on the About page here at The Word, “Above all, I try to tell a good yarn with my fiction but I would also like to make people think. Not enough people actually stop to think these days, to make informed decisions for themselves about everything from the brand of soap they buy to the version of deity they choose to believe in.”

Name three favourite words:

Love, adrenaline, art.

…And three words you’re not so keen on:

Arrogance, selfishness, vaginoplasty.

Do you have a writing mentor, role model or inspiration?

I have been extremely lucky to have had the advice and assistance of the wonderful Dr Van Ikin over the years, to whom I’m incredibly grateful. Otherwise my inspiration is through those other writers out there whose stories move me and make me think, ‘I want to write stories this good!’

What’s your writing ambition?

To keep writing and to gain more and more readers as the years roll by. Not much to ask, is it?

Plug alert! List any work you would like to tell your readers about:

I’m sure you’re all more than well aware of this already, but you can find all about my work right here. The novels are here, the short stories are here.

In the spirit of the meme, I tag:

David B Coe

Zoe Winters

R J Keller

Avery Tingle

Joan De La Haye

Chuck Norris

(Seriously, I know Chuck Norris isn’t a writer, but imagine if he responded. He’d probably just give my blog a roundhouse kick to the face. Besides, I just wanted an excuse to link to the excellent Chuck Norris Facts website. Click it, you know you want to.)

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Blog book tour article

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2
August 24, 2009

For those of you interested, Pat Bertram asked me if I would write up an article about my recent blog book tour for her Book Marketing Floozy website. So if you’re thinking about doing something similar to promote your own writing, this article pretty much gives you all you need to know to get started, with examples from my own tour.

You can read the article here.

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Excellent advice for short story writers

By
7
August 20, 2009

I recently entered the Katherine Susannah Prichard Speculative Fiction Awards 2009, an Australian short story competition. Sadly my story didn’t win a prize or a recommendation, but that’s okay. I have another story to put back into the market now and see if someone will buy it. (You have to look for the positive in rejections to survive as a writer.)

However, the wonderful Tehani Wessely (editor, writer, Aussie legend) was the judge of the comp this year and she sent out an excellent letter with the announcement of the winners. The letter was excellent because in a single page it summed up the most important things to consider when submitting your short fiction for publication or competitions; we should expect nothing less from an editor with Tehani’s experience. The letter has already been published on the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre website here, but I’m going to copy it down in this post too, because I want this advice right here on my own website. Whether you’re a new writer or an old hand (or somewhere in between) it would pay to read over this from time to time.

Katharine Susannah Prichard Speculative Fiction Awards 2009
Judge’s Report
Introduction

It was an absolute pleasure to judge this competition, with such a large number of high quality entries in the Open category. My long list was long indeed, and winnowing down the short list was a challenge. The percentage of highly readable and interesting stories was very high, higher in fact than I’ve come across in some stints slushreading for various publications, which is impressive indeed. As an editor of Australian speculative fiction, reading so many stories that hit my marks for character, plot and plain old “grab” factor made me feel that the position of Aussie SF is excellent and will continue to strengthen in the years ahead.

It’s perhaps worth pointing out a couple of the problems with stories that consistently knocked them off the longlist. The first such issue is that of a work that is overlong for the story being told. This happens more frequently than most readers and writers realise. As an editor, I often come across a story that grabs me, is beautifully written, with engaging characters, but drags the plot out to a point where I lose interest. As an editor, if the story is strong enough, I know I can work with the author on tightening up the writing to eradicate this problem, but the very best authors (and this is often something that comes with experience) are those who tighten their stories themselves. Again, as an editor, given a choice between two stories with great characterisation, plot and writing, will ALWAYS choose the tighter piece. It generally comes with practise, but one method I recommend to fledgling authors is putting a story aside for some weeks on completion, and coming back to it with a fresher view, looking specifically for places where the words simply don’t advance the plot. Don’t be precious about your words! Be thrifty with them.

Another problem that arose across a number of stories was that of an overused story trope that was not executed in a fresh or exciting way. There’s an adage that there are only nine plots in the world. That may be true, but plenty of authors find plenty of new ways to work those plots! Marvellous story tellers like Margo Lanagan take this quite literally in their use of traditional tales in their work.Your job as an author is to find your own new way to inject energy into a story idea, because there truly are no new stories, just new ways of telling them.

One final note that will always deflate a story in my eyes, is when a story has not been thoroughly proofread and self edited. Typos, spelling mistakes, misused grammar and punctuation, faulty paragraphing and other common errors MUST be tidied up before the story is sent out. If your manuscript does not look professional, your story is less likely to be taken seriously.

So there you have it. Tehani then goes on to talk about the actual winning and commended stories and describes what it is that set them apart. If you want to read on about those stories, click the link above; it’s all very interesting stuff.

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New Markets For Writers page here at The Word

By
0
August 19, 2009

I’ve been meaning to get around to this for a while and I’ve finally got it done. Another thing I can tick off the ever-growing To Do list.

I’ve had a links page here for a while now with interesting online places for you all to visit. I’ve now expanded that and added a new page of links specifically for writers. This page lists markets both in print and online that are open to submissions of short stories, flash fiction or novels. The majority of them are specualtive fiction markets, given that that’s what I write. But not all of them are, and I’ve included a few digest sites to help you find other markets that I might not have listed. The list includes some places that have published my stuff, some places that I’m still trying to crack and some sites that I think publish great stuff even though I haven’t tried them with my work yet.

Have a look and see if you can find anything useful here. Good luck getting your stuff published – you have to keep plugging away!

The new Markets For Writers page – click here.

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Ultraviolence is the only defence against zombies

By
4
August 18, 2009

We already knew, from the infallible source of George Romero, that ultraviolence is the only defence against zombies. Well, now it’s been mathematically proven. My good friend (and invaluable IT support guru) James pointed me in the direction of this article in The Register.

zombie Ultraviolence is the only defence against zombies

Professor Robert Smith? of Ottawa University, an infectious-diseases specialist, has published an authoritative mathematical model of zombie plagues. Firstly, let me point out that this profs name is actually Robert Smith?, question mark included. It was a name he legally adopted because “you have no idea what it’s like to be entirely invisible on Google… at least it differentiates me from that guy from The Cure. It’s been 20 years now and sadly his career shows no sign of drying up.”

Seriously, I really like this guy.

Anyway, his modelling was based on the fact that zombies don’t die. Obviously. That’s why they’re zombies. But the point is that most infectious diseases kill their host. The most virulent, like ebola, kill their host very quickly and there’s only so much the disease can spread. So containment is possible. Zombies, however, carry on shambling about after they’re dead, eating more brains and spreading more zombification. This makes the concept of a zombie plague utterly devastating for humanity. Smith? describes that point like this:

Human-zombie coexistence is impossible… Since all eigenvalues of the doomsday equilibrium are negative, it is asymptotically stable. It follows that, in a short outbreak, zombies will likely infect everyone.

He has a way with words. And he maintains that a cure for “zombie-ism” is only going to be effective if it’s also a vaccine, meaning the cured zombie can’t become re-zombiefied.

Therefore, only instant, targetted and relentless violence would save us against a zombie plague. According to Smith?:

An outbreak of zombies infecting humans is likely to be disastrous, unless extremely aggressive tactics are employed against the undead… In summary, a zombie outbreak is likely to lead to the collapse of civilisation, unless it is dealt with quickly… the most effective way to contain the rise of the undead is to hit hard and hit often… Only sufficiently frequent attacks, with increasing force, will result in eradication, assuming the available resources can be mustered in time.

So there you have it. Mathematical proof that should a zombie plague ever break out, absolute violence is the only sensible recourse. Marvellous.

shaun of the dead zombies small Ultraviolence is the only defence against zombies
Kill them all, with extreme prejudice!

Read the whole article here, which even includes a link to a PDF of the maths paper in question, which is in itself a truly remarkable document.

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Marketing fail of the week

By
2
August 18, 2009

My wife spotted this in the paper the other day. It was a full page ad showing fifteen different bras on sale at Myer. The one that really caught her eye was this one:

minimising comfort Marketing fail of the week

You’d think that a marketing department would avoid suggesting that a piece of clothing minimised comfort. Ladies, we present the most uncomfortable bra possible! Obviously, they mean that the bra is a minimising design (for those unsightly large boobs? I’m a guy, how am I supposed to understand that?) yet it’s designed to minimise while offering the best possible comfort.

But that’s not what it actually says.

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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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