Monthly Archives: February 2011

A world-shaking idea, yours for 3 mill

February 28, 2011

Hat tip to my friend Cat Sparks for this one. She pointed me to this Bleeding Cool post on the subject. There’s an offer on ebay at the moment that must have film producers all over the world fighting each other to get the mouse click in first. Or maybe not. Seriously, this is more than hilarious. It’s actually a little bit sad, but it could also be a hoax, so I’m going to roll with it and rip the piss out of this bloke. It could be his internet 15 minutes of fame either way, but I really don’t think it’s going to be his retirement fund. Basically, this dude is offering an idea for sale. The bidding starts at $3 million with a Buy It Now option at $10 million. Yeah, you read that right. He’s trying to sell an idea.

According to him it’s:

a STORY to topple Star Wars, Harry Potter investment

At least, that’s the title of the ebay offer. We can see immediately why he hasn’t written this idea himself. He admits as much:

I am by no means a writer.

That’s right, folks – he’s an ideas man.

I am selling my story that I have been creating for 10+ years. (not constantly writing, but of piecing everything together in a cohesive manner) It can be compared to stories like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Matrix, Indiana Jones and other titles in those categories. This is a really great story I have. This story needs to be completed by a professional writer or Ghost Writer.

Firstly, what categories exactly? There’s a general genre vibe about it, but he’s clearly just looked up the highest grossing movies to force home his point. He’ll be kicking himself when he realises he left Avatar off the list.

I would rather not sell it at all and just find investors to help hire a celebrity Ghost Writer, which would cost 250,000. The company that hires these writers out, guarantee the book to be a New York best seller.

Apparently there’s a company (just one by the sound of it) that can hire out ghost writers, celebrities no less, and guarantee a best seller. Fuck me, I need to find out who this company is and send them a CV. Sounds like any idea can be ghost written into a best seller if you can just find this company. Maybe their office is on Atlantis or something.

This is a serious auction, I’m not looking to rip anyone off. If you win this auction and decide you don’t like the story, then you don’t have to pay, and you will be refunded fully.

So you basically need to have $10 million to hit the Buy It Now button, hear his idea and then say, “Nah, it’s shit. Don’t want it.” Then you get your 10 mill back. And if it is some world-shattering idea, you can go and write the book or make the movie anyway, given that there’s no copyright on an idea. After all, he’s no writer, hasn’t written anything down. Of course, this would be fairly unethical, but when have ethics ever had much sway in Hollywood?

This story will bring in endless fame and money to anyone who takes it.

Endless money? Guaranteed? But he’s willing to let it go for 3 mill. The man is clearly mad.

If it sounds like too much money then you are not the kind of buyer I’m looking for.

Actually, it sounds like too much stupid. But thanks for the entertainment.

You know, there are a million people out there with great ideas. I get people suggesting ideas to me all the time. They’re usually fairly lame. Or someone hears that I’m a writer and they say, “I have this great idea for a book. I wish I could find the time to write it!”

You know what? That’s what makes someone a writer – finding the time to write it. If you really aren’t a writer, you can learn, or you can collaborate with someone. You can pitch an idea to a film company. You can contact someone that is a writer and ask them if they’d be interested in developing your idea. (They almost certainly won’t be, but you could try.) You know what you don’t do? You don’t try to sell the idea on ebay.

It’s the treatment more than the idea that makes a blockbuster. Even a brilliant idea can be ruined by a crappy novelisation or script. On the other hand, a really lame and weak idea can be a blockbuster with the right treatment. Yes, I’m looking at you James Cameron. When you get the great idea combined with the great treatment, you land one of those rare and awesome gems.

Still, I’ll be watching this one closely. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here. The fact that so many of us online are mocking the poor bastard might backfire – if he gets enough press someone might pay to hear the idea. It might turn out to be the greatest idea anyone ever had. But I’ll bet you three million dollars it isn’t.


Night-Mantled: The Best of Wily Writers (Volume 1) available now

February 28, 2011

Night MantledMy short story, Stand Off, was published in text and podcast by Wily Writers back in 2009. I was honoured when Wily Writers then contacted me and bought the story again to reprint in their first Best Of anthology. This is my first inclusion in a Best Of book, hopefully the first of many.

Night-Mantled: The Best of Wily Writers (Volume 1) is now available from Amazon. Here’s the blurb:

This anthology of speculative fiction short stories from exceptionally wily writers will take you from looking over your shoulder to pondering the wonders of the universe and back again. The podcast chooses only the best two stories per month from its submissions and records them for your listening pleasure. This volume collects Year #1’s best of the best.

Here’s the ToC:

* Alan Baxter: “Stand Off”
* Jennifer Brozek: “Honoring the Dead”
* SatyrPhil Brucato: “I Feel Lucky”
* Nathan Crowder: “Ink Calls to Ink”
* Richard E. Dansky: “Small Cold Thing”
* Seanan McGuire: “Julie Broise and the Devil”
* Lisa Morton:“Sane Reaction”
* Ripley Patton: “A Speck in the Universe”
* Grant Stone: “The Salt Line”
* Joel A. Sutherland: “The Death of Captain Eugene Bloodcake and the Fall of the Horrid Whore”
* Bruce Taylor: “The Prey”
* Mark W. Worthen: “The Minimart, the Ruger, and the Girl”

It’s a great list of authors in which I’m very proud to be included. Get your copy here.


Australian Shadows Awards shortlist announced

February 25, 2011

Dark PagesThe 2010 shortlists for Australia’s premier dark fiction awards, The Australian Shadows Awards, have been announced. First off, I’m incredibly proud to have the Dark Pages anthology among those finalists. While the book is really the baby of editor Brenton Tomlinson and the contributing authors, it was published by my small outfit, Blade Red Press, and the original concept was my own. I also had a fair hand all the way along the process, including the nuts and bolts of typesetting, cover design and production, as well as a vote in the final selection of stories after Brenton had created a shortlist from over 250 submissions. For Blade Red’s first anthology to be nominated for an Australian Shadows Award is just fantastic.

I’m also very pleased to see some good friends and fantastic works shortlisted in the three categories. Here’s the full list of finalists:


* Madigan Mine by Kirstyn McDermott (Picador Australia)
* The Girl With No Hands by Angela Slatter (Ticonderoga Publications)
* Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healy (Allen & Unwin)
* Under Stones by Bob Franklin (Affirm Press)
* Bleed by Peter M. Ball (Twelfth Planet Press)


* Macabre: A Journey through Australia’s Darkest Fears, edited by Angela Challis & Marty Young (Brimstone Press)
* Scenes From The Second Storey, edited by Amanda Pillar & Pete Kempshall (Morrigan Books)
* Dark Pages 1, edited by Brenton Tomlinson (Blade Red Press)
* Scary Kisses, edited by Liz Gryzb (Ticonderoga Publications)
* Midnight Echo #4, edited by Lee Battersby (AHWA)


* “Bread and Circuses” by Felicity Dowker (Scary Kisses)
* “Brisneyland by Night” by Angela Slatter (Sprawl)
* “She Said” by Kirstyn McDermott (Scenes from the Second Storey)
* “All The Clowns In Clowntown” by Andrew J. McKiernan (Macabre: A Journey through Australia’s Darkest Fears)
* “Dream Machine” by David Conyers (Scenes from the Second Storey)

I don’t envy the judges selecting winners from that lot. Massive congratulations to everyone involved. The winners will be announced on April 15th.


Where are the flying cars?

February 24, 2011

I’m always complaining that we don’t have flying cars yet, but there is some truth to this comic. Oh, xkcd, how I love thee…


The Borders and A&R collapse

February 22, 2011

Everyone is blogging about the collapse of REDgroup, the company that owns the bookshop chains of Borders and Angus & Robertson (and Whitcoulls in New Zealand). I was going to write a big long ranty post all about it, but the truth is it’s all been done. A quick web search will yield more opinions than you can fit on a ballot sheet. But I will add, very briefly, my perception of the whole thing. (Which probably means I’m about to write a big long ranty post!)

Lots of people are trying to establish exactly what this collapse is and what caused it. I’ll tell you what it’s not. It’s not the great ebook revolution; it’s not shitty management by REDgroup; it’s not the global financial crisis; it’s not the rising cost of physical shop rents; it’s not the massive surge in online shopping and stores like Amazon stealing business. At least, it’s not any one of these things. It’s all of these things.

It’s the progress of industry. Sure, the management of the whole group was blindly stupid and greedy, but without the other factors they’d probably have survived. Sure, Amazon, Book Depository and stores like them are having a massive impact on brick and mortar bookstores, but without the other factors they’d probably have survived. When you combine all the factors at once, this stuff is inevitable. Pretty much every major bookstore chain will suffer. The nature of the industry is changing. It’s a terrible shame for all those people that are going to lose their jobs, but that’s a part of life. It’s like the shipbuilders on the Tyne, the coalminers in the Welsh hills, the dudes that used to run photo processing shops specialising in dark room development. The world moves on, things change, technology develops and old methods and jobs slowly disappear. But new ones also emerge. The smart and the rich are the ones that stay ahead of the curve.

Putting shitty American coffee chains in shitty American book store chains wasn’t going to suddenly make Borders a going business concern. Turning Angus & Robertson into cheap remainder bins with plate glass windows was never going to ensure their survival. High street and mall book stores, just like paper books, are going to be disappearing. There will still be paper books (I’ve talked about this a lot before) but they’ll be specialty books, or Print On Demand books from online stores. Just the same, there will still be book shops, but they’ll be specialty stores, catering to a particular niche of collectors or genre and they’ll have to diversify – comic books, trading cards, games, collectibles – all the stuff that fits the niche.

Whether we like it or not, the world is constantly changing. With change comes death and rebirth. Some things crumble to dust while others are born from the ashes of their predecessor’s demise. There were once people that were skilled at many things that no longer have a place in the world. You can’t blame any one thing except progress. The same is true of the recent book store collapse. There are many mitigating factors that contributed to the stores going under at this particular time, but that’s the small stuff. The changing face of publishing, reading and book selling is going to keep changing.

Within the next decade, I predict, we’ll see very few, if any, big chain book stores. Mass market stuff will be in all the department stores and K-Marts and places like that, but mainly online. Eventually you’ll only get your mass market release in hard copy at a POD booth or ordered that way online. There’ll be specialist stores dealing with specialist buyers and collectible books, while pretty much everyone else buys their stuff online. And the vast majority of it will be ebooks, with a small chunk held by POD releases. There’ll be a rise in collectible, beautiful, probably limited edition hardback releases. Kids starting school now will look at print books the same way we look at vinyl and tape cassettes. If you compare books to albums, you can look at the ebook as the CD and the print book as the vinyl release. The ratios will be pretty similar soon enough, I expect. And before long the CD and will disappear unless you order one, POD style. There’ll be a rise in small press releases with short print runs, and more small press will utilise online bookstores and ebooks for their distribution. Eventually the small press print run will be a thing of the past.

It’s all going to happen, so trying to find a particular reason for the demise of Borders is like trying to look for a particular reason for the demise of the Victorian era. It didn’t die because Victoria did – it ended because we all moved on, in a slow and incremental way with all kinds of contributing factors. That’s life.

Told you I wasn’t going to write a big long ranty post.


Swancon – in Perth this Easter

February 17, 2011

I’ve just booked my flights and accommodation for Swancon 36, Perth’s annual SF convention, which is happening this Easter. More than that, it’s this year’s Australian NatCon, the 50th Australian National Convention, so it looks like being a good one. It’s from 21-25 April 2011 at the Hyatt Hotel, Adelaide Tce, Perth.

I’ll be running my Write The Fight Right workshop there and there’s loads of other stuff happening, so do your best to get along. You can learn all you need to know here.

A couple of things that are really worth your attention are these:

WriterStream @ Swancon

The Swancon Thirty Six WriterStream is aimed at writers who are seeking to take the next step in the business of writing: how to become a writing professional and support in the writing process.

Featuring many of the Swancon guests including internationally acclaimed editors Ellen Datlow and Jonathan Strahan, British writer Justina Robson, and Australian authors Sean William, Simon Haynes, Kaaron Warren and Juliet Marillier, this stream is a must-see for anyone looking to write on a professional level.

When: Saturday April 23
Cost: $70

Also, the ASFFA Short Story Competition is part of Swancon, with some pretty solid prize money.

OPEN: 1st prize $250 | 2nd prize $100
JUNIOR: (18 and under): 1st prize $100 | 2nd prize $50
Free entry for Junior category and to members of the Swancon Thirty Six | Natcon Fifty.
$10 for other entrants.
THEME: Historical futures
CLOSING DATE: Friday April 1, 2011

Again, all details of these and other things at the SwanCon website. It’ll be my first Swancon and my first visit to Perth, so come along and say hello.


The power of strong characterisation – Dexter Morgan

February 16, 2011

dexter-morganI’ve been mainlining Dexter recently. Let me state from the outset that it’s the TV series I’m currently loving and I haven’t yet read any of the original books by Jeff Lindsay. I’d certainly like to and will eventually, but right now I want to talk about the TV series. I started wondering what made the show so compelling and how we can get so invested in a serial killer. The performances are superb and the writing is brilliant, so that makes for great television, but what is it about Dexter Morgan that is so enthralling? The reason, I think, is that Dexter is such an incredibly well developed character and so utterly believeable. I won’t put any spoilers in this post talking about particulars of the show, but I do want to talk about why Dexter is such a good character.

To start with, let’s establish the facts – Dexter Morgan is a largely emotionless, mentally broken serial killer. He has a code that he lives by very strictly and only kills other killers. Here’s the first thing that lets us associate with him so deeply. We all want to see killers that escape justice pay for their crimes. Dexter makes that happen. But he kills them in a hideously ritualistic way because he has to kill. He has what he calls his “dark passenger” that fills him with an insatiable urge to kill and he regularly, though only briefly, satisfies that urge by killing bad guys, thereby having a certain justification for his heinous acts. But he enjoys it, and he enjoys cutting up the bodies into component parts afterwards before disposing of them. How can we associate with that part of him?

Dexter lives more than a double life. He works for Miami Metro Homicide, which gives him access to all the things he needs to find his victims. He has a lover (slight SPOILER – later he has a family), which he needs to protect from his true self. He has a sister that he cares for, and again has to protect from his true self. Make no mistake – the real Dexter is the broken, ritualistic serial killer. The job, the family, the sister, the social life – these are all contrived masks that he holds together to protect his true nature. Therefore he lies to and manipulates these people all the time.

So sure, Dexter kills bad guys, but he’s a horrific person that lies and cheats and manipulates. And kills. So why is he so compelling? Why do we associate so much with him? When you watch the show, you’re desperately hoping he won’t get caught. We want him to carry on. Why?

I think it’s a many faceted thing. Firstly, the writing is superb, with Dexter developing as a character all the time. Through the course of his life he learns more about what made him the way he is, which gives him personal insight and we get that insight too. As his relationships grow with the people around him, so too does his personal character. He learns that he does care about his wife, her children, his sister and his colleagues. He grows as a person even while he remains a slave to his dark passenger. This all helps to invest us in him as a character.

dexter_killBut more than that, I think the reason we really enjoy the show is because we can empathise with Dexter. We hate what he does, but we can see ourselves in it. We can see the potential for us to do similar if our own morals and emotional responses were dampened. Part of us can’t stand it, but most of us wants him to get away with it. We all have a dark passenger to some degree. For the vast majority of us that passenger is small and quiet and rarely does more than irritate us from time to time before sinking down again. But that tiny part revels in Dexter’s ability to let his demon out completely and give in to those dark, nasty desires that reside in everyone.

On top of that, it’s an adrenaline rush to ride with Dex. We constantly fear that he’ll get caught and while his emotional responses are so dampened that his own stress and panic levels are way more controlled than ours, we still get that vicarious buzz at watching him ride the risks the way he does. We like Dexter for the same reason we like rollercoasters and scary movies.

Dexter makes mistakes and feels guilt when he does, even though he doesn’t necessarily recognise guilt for what it is. But he is flawed even within his own code and abilities. He has incredible rushes with his successes, amazing highs when he satiates that dark passenger ever so briefly. And we rise and rush and fall along with him.

Dexter does terrible things but there’s enough redemption in the character for us to root for him. It’s an incredible achievement in storytelling and character development that we care for such an anti-hero. Especially as that character only gets more and more compelling.

So we can learn from this that great characterisation comes from a well-rounded, well developed character, with a shared and satisfying genesis. One that continues to grow and develop while still maintaining the core of what makes them who they are. One that makes mistakes and learns from them. One that has an internal consistency in their actions while still being affected by the world around them and responding to it. This kind of intelligent character building can even make us root for a ritualistic serial killer without making us feel like sickos for doing so.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my assessment? Are you as fascinated by the character of Dexter Morgan as I am? Leave a comment and mention some other examples of great characterisation if you have any in mind.


Night-Mantled, the best of Wily Writers

February 15, 2011

Night-MantledIt’s all about the announcements right now. You may remember in a post a few days ago I was talking about great fiction podcasts. One of those I mentioned was Wily Writers. They do great podcasts, with two new stories every month. Well, their first print anthology, called Night-Mantled, the best of Wily Writers Volume 1, is due out in March and I’m very proud to have a story in it. As you can see, the cover art has been released.

Wily podcast my story, Stand Off, back in July 2009. It’s an Isiah short story (the protagonist from RealmShift and MageSign) and I’m really pleased to see it selected as one of the Best Of stories for this book.

Here’s the blurb for the anthology:


Out of the darkness come the monsters, the mysteries, and the miracles that engage our minds and engorge our hearts.

This collection of short stories from exceptionally wily writers will take you from looking over your shoulder to pondering the wonders of the universe and back again.

The Speculative Fiction podcast chooses only the best two stories per month from its submissions and records them for your listening pleasure.

This volume collects Year #1’s best of the best.

Author Lineup:

* Alan Baxter: “Stand Off”
* Jennifer Brozek: “Honoring the Dead”
* SatyrPhil Brucato: “I Feel Lucky”
* Nathan Crowder: “Ink Calls to Ink”
* Richard E. Dansky: “Small Cold Thing”
* Seanan McGuire: “Julie Broise and the Devil”
* Lisa Morton:“Sane Reaction”
* Ripley Patton: “A Speck in the Universe”
* Grant Stone: “The Salt Line”
* Joel A. Sutherland: “The Death of Captain Eugene Bloodcake and the Fall of the Horrid Whore”
* Bruce Taylor: “The Prey”
* Mark W. Worthen: “The Minimart, the Ruger, and the Girl”

You can learn all you need to know here. I’ll let you know when the book’s available for pre-order or purchase.


Ditmar Award nominations open, and I could use your vote

February 14, 2011

The Ditmar Award (formally the Australian SF (“Ditmar”) Award; formerly the “Australian Science Fiction Achievement Award”) has been awarded annually since 1969 at the Australian National Science Fiction Convention (the “Natcon”) to recognise achievement in Australian science fiction (including fantasy and horror) and science fiction fandom. The award is similar to the Hugo Award but on a national rather than international scale.

The awards are open for nominations now, so if you have favourite stories, novels and so on from the last year, and if you’re a member of NatCon or active in fandom, get your votes in now for the people you’d like to see nominated.

There’s a list here of eligible works, though the list is incomplete and you’re encouraged to add to it.

The rules of the Awards can be found here.

So get involved and have your say in who wins awards this year.

Of course, this post is slightly self-serving, which I tried to make clear from the title onwards. I have two stories published in 2010 that are eligible for Ditmars this year. They are Trial Not Required, published in M-Brane SF Issue #13, February 2010, and The King’s Accord, published in Flesh & Bone: Rise of The Necromancers, an anthology from Pill Hill Press, August 2010. Trial Not Required is a science fiction story and The King’s Accord is a dark fantasy yarn. If you read those stories and liked them, and are eligible to vote, I’d love your nomination vote.

If you’re eligible to vote, but haven’t read those stories (as they’re both US publications it’s possible that a lot of eligible voters haven’t seen them) then I’m more than happy to send you a copy to read. If you did take the time to read them and consider them, I’d be very grateful. I don’t really like asking for things like this, but the truth is that people can’t be expected to read every publication every year and often you’ll only get a story noticed if you point it out to people.

So if you’d like a see the stories and consider them for voting, leave me a comment or send me an email (email address in bold under the typewriter on the right hand sidebar) and I’ll get copies off to you right away.

Regardless, I’ll keep you all up to date on Ditmar news as it happens.


New Age Of Publishing – 10 – Essential reading

February 12, 2011

So I’ve been running a series of guest posts about the new age of publishing, talking about ebooks, indie authorship, where the traditional bookshop is headed and so on. One of the guest posts was from Shane Jiraiya Cummings and he’s running a similar series of posts on his own blog right now.

I’ve been watching his series with interest and today he has a post up that is an absolute must read. It’s from Elfwreck, “an avid (some would say fanatic) ebook reader with over 10 years professional experience with digital imaging and over 25 years with document conversion and editing.”

It’s a brilliant post, in three parts, covering loads of detail and I agree with every bloody word of it. Seriously – go now, and read.



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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