SQ Mag 14 out now including my story, The Darkness in Clara

sq-may-2014-cover-with-text1Issue 14 of SQ Mag is out. It’s the Australiana Special Edition and includes loads of great stuff like new stories from Kaaron Warren and Sean Williams, lots of other top stories and features, and my novelette, The Darkness in Clara.

I’m really proud of this story and I hope other people like it too. I was honoured to learn that it inspired the cover for this issue.

The best thing about SQ Mag, apart from the stellar content obviously, is that it’s all free to read online. Here’s the opening to my story:

The Darkness in Clara
by Alan Baxter

Michelle saw Clara’s feet first, absurdly suspended a meter above the ground, toes pointing to the carpet, ghostly pale and twisting in a lazy spiral. The rest of the scene burst into her mind in one electric shock a fraction of a second later; Clara’s wiry nakedness, limp arms, head tilted chaotically to one side. Her tattoos seemed faded against ashen skin. Her so familiar face grotesque and wrong, tongue swelling from her mouth like an escaping slug. And her bulging eyes, staring glassy and cold as Michelle began to scream. Light from the bedside lamp cast Clara’s shadow across the wall like a puppet play, glinted off the metal legs of the upturned chair beneath.

I bought her that belt, Michelle thought, as she stared at the worn black leather biting deep into the blue-tinged flesh of Clara’s neck, and she drew breath to scream again.

Read the rest here.

And be sure to explore the rest of the issue too. I’d love to hear what you think.

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2014 Ditmar Award ballot released – featuring me!

I got a wonderful surprise on Saturday when a few messages started coming in saying something along the lines of, “Congratulations on your Ditmar nomination!” I hadn’t realised the Award shortlist had been released, but it only took a moment to see social media alive with the news (at least, spec fic related social media in Australia.) It turns out that my story, Not the Worst of Sins, published in issue 133 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies magazine, has been noninated in the Best Short Story category. Thanks so much to everyone who voted for that, it’s a real honour. The Ditmars are an Australian national award decided by popular vote. Anyone active in the SF scene and fandom can nominate works, then anyone who was at the previous year’s NatCon (National SF Convention) or has a full or supporting membership for this year’s NatCon can vote for the winners.

This year, the NatCon is Continuum X in Melbourne in June. The awards ceremony will be held there. If you went to Conflux in Canberra last year, or you’re going to Continuum this year, you can vote in the Ditmars. I really recommend that you do vote, as the more people who get involved, the more the winners will reflect the opinion of the wider community. If you’re not going to the cons, but you want to vote, you can buy a supporting membership for Continuum X for just $35, which gives you several benefits including voting rights. And you can vote online in a matter of minutes. Couldn’t be easier! Voting is open now until one minute before midnight AEST (ie. 11.59pm, GMT+10), Wednesday, 28th of May, 2014.

I’ll post the full list of nominated works in all categories below, but here are a few relevant links:

You can vote for your choice of winners (as per conditions above) online here.

You can learn all about Continuum X and get your membership here.

You can read my nominated story free online here at BCS. (If you like it, I’d love to get your vote.)

So please do get involved. My own inclusion notwithstanding, I honestly think this is one of the strongest Ditmar Award ballots for years, in every category. You could do worse than getting hold of everything on this list (and anything on the Aurealis Awards list from last month) and you’d be set up with some fantastic reading of Aussie spec fic.The AAs and now the Ditmars are showing very clearly that Australian spec fic is stronger than ever.

So, get your membership and get voting (or if you went to Conflux last year, just get voting!) and if you’re going to NatCon this year in June, I’ll see you there!

Here’s the full list of nominations for the 2014 Ditmar Awards:

Best Novel

* Ink Black Magic, Tansy Rayner Roberts (FableCroft Publishing)
* Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead, Robert Hood (Wildside Press)
* The Beckoning, Paul Collins (Damnation Books)
* Trucksong, Andrew Macrae (Twelfth Planet Press)
* The Only Game in the Galaxy (The Maximus Black Files 3), Paul Collins (Ford Street Publishing)

Best Novella or Novelette

* “Prickle Moon”, Juliet Marillier, in Prickle Moon (Ticonderoga Publications)
* “The Year of Ancient Ghosts”, Kim Wilkins, in The Year of Ancient Ghosts (Ticonderoga Publications)
* “By Bone-Light”, Juliet Marillier, in Prickle Moon (Ticonderoga Publications)
* “The Home for Broken Dolls”, Kirstyn McDermott, in Caution: Contains Small Parts (Twelfth Planet Press)
* “What Amanda Wants”, Kirstyn McDermott, in Caution: Contains Small Parts (Twelfth Planet Press)

Best Short Story

* “Mah Song”, Joanne Anderton, in The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories (FableCroft Publishing)
* “Air, Water and the Grove”, Kaaron Warren, in The Lowest Heaven (Jurassic London)
* “Seven Days in Paris”, Thoraiya Dyer, in Asymmetry (Twelfth Planet Press)
* “Scarp”, Cat Sparks, in The Bride Price (Ticonderoga Publications)
* “Not the Worst of Sins”, Alan Baxter, in Beneath Ceaseless Skies 133 (Firkin Press)
* “Cold White Daughter”, Tansy Rayner Roberts, in One Small Step (FableCroft Publishing)

Best Collected Work

* The Back of the Back of Beyond, Edwina Harvey, edited by Simon Petrie (Peggy Bright Books)
* Asymmetry, Thoraiya Dyer, edited by Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
* Caution: Contains Small Parts, Kirstyn McDermott, edited by Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
* The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, Joanne Anderton, edited by Tehani Wesseley (FableCroft Publishing)
* The Bride Price, Cat Sparks, edited by Russell B. Farr (Ticonderoga Publications)

Best Artwork

* Cover art, Eleanor Clarke, for The Back of the Back of Beyond by Edwina Harvey (Peggy Bright Books)
* Illustrations, Kathleen Jennings, for Eclipse Online (Nightshade Books)
* Cover art, Shauna O’Meara, for Next edited by Simon Petrie and Rob Porteous (CSFG Publishing)
* Cover art, Cat Sparks, for The Bride Price by Cat Sparks (Ticonderoga Publications)
* Rules of Summer, Shaun Tan (Hachette Australia)
* Cover art, Pia Ravenari, for Prickle Moon by Juliet Marillier (Ticonderoga Publications)

Best Fan Writer

* Tsana Dolichva, for body of work, including reviews and interviews in Tsana’s Reads and Reviews
* Sean Wright, for body of work, including reviews in Adventures of a Bookonaut
* Grant Watson, for body of work, including reviews in The Angriest
* Foz Meadows, for body of work, including reviews in Shattersnipe: Malcontent & Rainbows
* Alexandra Pierce, for body of work, including reviews in Randomly Yours, Alex
* Tansy Rayner Roberts, for body of work, including essays and reviews at www.tansyrr.com

Best Fan Artist

* Nalini Haynes, for body of work, including “Defender of the Faith”, “The Suck Fairy”, “Doctor Who vampire” and “The Last Cyberman” in Dark Matter
* Kathleen Jennings, for body of work, including “Illustration Friday”
* Dick Jenssen, for body of work, including cover art for Interstellar Ramjet Scoop and SF Commentary

Best Fan Publication in Any Medium

* Dark Matter Zine, Nalini Haynes
* SF Commentary, Bruce Gillespie
* The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond
* Galactic Chat Podcast, Sean Wright, Alex Pierce, Helen Stubbs, David McDonald, and Mark Webb
* The Coode Street Podcast, Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan
* Galactic Suburbia, Alisa Krasnostein, Alex Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts

Best New Talent

* Michelle Goldsmith
* Zena Shapter
* Faith Mudge
* Jo Spurrier
* Stacey Larner

William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review

* Reviews in Randomly Yours, Alex, Alexandra Pierce
* “Things Invisible: Human and Ab-Human in Two of Hodgson’s Carnacki stories”, Leigh Blackmore, in Sargasso: The Journal of William Hope Hodgson Studies #1 edited by Sam Gafford (Ulthar Press)
* Galactic Suburbia Episode 87: Saga Spoilerific Book Club, Alisa Krasnostein, Alex Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts
* The Reviewing New Who series, David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Tehani Wessely
* “A Puppet’s Parody of Joy: Dolls, Puppets and Mannikins as Diabolical Other”, Leigh Blackmore, in Ramsey Campbell: Critical Essays on the Master of Modern Horror edited by Gary William Crawford (Scarecrow Press)
* “That was then, this is now: how my perceptions have changed”, George Ivanoff, in Doctor Who and Race edited by Lindy Orthia (Intellect Books)

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Ten Rules of Writing

People are always posting rules of writing and it annoys me. I have opinions about many things, and this is definitely one of them. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ll know I think writing rules are generally a load of bollocks. They often contain good advice, but “rules” can go and get fucked. So, [engage irony mode] [irony mode engaged] [remove hypocrisy filter] [hypocrisy filter removed] here are my ten rules for writing. They’re the only rules you’ll ever need. See if you can spot the pattern.

1. WRITE

No matter what, if you write, you’re a writer. If you don’t write, you’re not a writer. Wanting to write, intending to write or really loving the idea of writing is not writing.

2. WRITE

Doesn’t matter when, where, how or how often, just do it. Once a day, once a week, once on month, whatever. Sit your arse down somewhere and write. The more often you do it, the better you will be.

3. WRITE

You won’t find time to write. No one has time to write. You make time to write. Can’t make time? Then you don’t want it badly enough.

4. WRITE

Seeing a pattern yet? Write anything. A description of the room you’re in. How you can’t think of anything to write about. It’s like weight lifting – you gotta do a lot of reps.

5. WRITE

You can’t write very well before you’ve practiced. You’re probably rubbish at first, your writing sucks. Who cares? Keep writing and get better – it’s how we all do it, and continue to do it.

6. WRITE

Emulate writers you love, but let your voice come out. You won’t have a strong voice at first, but you will if you keep writing. Take advice and critique, go to workshops, join a writers’ group (IRL or online) and always strive to improve your craft.

7. WRITE

Don’t wait for inspiration. Just write. If you sit around waiting for inspiration, you’ll be sitting around a lot. If you have an hour, write for an hour. Waiting is a luxury you can’t afford.

8. WRITE

It will be shit, but who cares? Just write. You can make it good later, but not if you haven’t written anything. Allow yourself to write crap, finish something, then polish it into a gem. Repeat. Polishing turds into gems is the alchemy of the writerly way.

9. WRITE

Be determined to write. If you don’t really want it, it’s not going to happen. And that’s okay. But if you do really want it, you need a skin like a rhino and a bloody-minded determination that makes lesser beings drown in your wake. Do. Not. Stop. Submit your polished gems, brace for rejection, repeat. Keep going.

10. READ

C-c-c-combo breaker! Read everything. Read voraciously: fiction, non-fiction, in your genre and out, the newspaper, signs while you’re driving. Reading is the fuel of your rhino-skinned determination. It’s the backbone that supports your writerly muscles. If you don’t read, you can’t write.

So there you have it – that’s my ten rules. Obviously, it’s really only two rules: read loads and write loads. Don’t stop. Take advice and learn. Keep getting better, don’t give up. Of course, all kinds of other things will work for you and you’ll develop methods and habits. But those things won’t work for everyone and other people’s stuff might not work for you. When it comes down to it, there are only two actual rules of writing: Read and Write. There – you are a writer. Now, go forth and scatter words before you.

For your convenience, below are these ten rules in a handy graphic. Click for a larger version. Feel free to share.

ten-rules-of-writing

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2013 Aurealis Award winners announced

Saturday was a big day. I drove down to Canberra, took part in the Conflux Writer’s Day minicon, where I did a highspeed “Social Media for Authors” presentation, then went for a quick change of clothes in order to attend the Aurealis Awards ceremony. Nicole Murphy, who organised everything that day, did a truly amazing job. The writers day and awards ceremony were both superb. We caroused and drank and laughed, and fantastic Australian fiction scored very well-deserved awards.

Here are all the fantastic nominees and winners. If you want a sampler of excellent recent Aussie spec fic, here’s your huckleberry:

(The winners are separated at the top of each list of nominees.)

Best Science Fiction Novel

  • Lexicon, Max Barry (Hachette)


  • Trucksong, Andrew Macrae (Twelfth Planet)
  • A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists, Jane Rawson (Transit Lounge)
  • True Path, Graham Storrs (Momentum)
  • Rupetta, Nike Sulway (Tartarus)

Best Science Fiction Short Story

  • “Air, Water and the Grove”, Kaaron Warren (The Lowest Heaven)


  • “The Last Tiger”, Joanne Anderton (Daily Science Fiction 5/17/13)
  • “Mah Song”, Joanne Anderton (The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories)
  • “Seven Days in Paris”, Thoraiya Dyer (Asymmetry)
  • “Version 4.3.0.1”, Lucy Stone (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #57)

Best Fantasy Novel

  • A Crucible of Souls, Mitchell Hogan (self-published)


  • Lexicon, Max Barry (Hachette Australia)
  • These Broken Stars, Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)
  • Newt’s Emerald, Garth Nix (Jill Grinberg Literary Management)
  • Ink Black Magic, Tansy Rayner Roberts (FableCroft)

Best Fantasy Short Story

  • The Last Stormdancer, Jay Kristoff (Thomas Dunne)


  • “The Touch of the Taniwha”, Tracie McBride (Fish)
  • “Cold, Cold War”, Ian McHugh (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 6/13/13)
  • “Short Circuit”, Kirstie Olley (Oomph: A Little Super Goes a Long Way)
  • “The Year of Ancient Ghosts”, Kim Wilkins (The Year of Ancient Ghosts)

Best Horror Novel

  • Fairytales for Wilde Girls, Allyse Near (Random House Australia)


  • The Marching Dead, Lee Battersby (Angry Robot)
  • The First Bird, Greig Beck (Momentum)
  • Path of Night, Dirk Flinthart (FableCroft)

Best Horror Short Story

  • “The Year of Ancient Ghosts”, Kim Wilkins (The Year of Ancient Ghosts)


  • “Fencelines”, Joanne Anderton (The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories)
  • “The Sleepover”, Terry Dowling (Exotic Gothic 5)
  • “The Home for Broken Dolls”, Kirstyn McDermott (Caution: Contains Small Parts)
  • “The Human Moth”, Kaaron Warren (The Grimscribe’s Puppets)

Best Young Adult Novel (Tie)

  • These Broken Stars, Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)
  • Fairytales for Wilde Girls, Allyse Near (Random House Australia)


  • The Big Dry, Tony Davies (Harper Collins)
  • Hunting, Andrea Host (self-published)
  • The Sky So Heavy, Claire Zorn (University of Queensland Press)

Young Adult Short Story

  • “By Bone-Light”, Juliet Marillier (Prickle Moon)


  • “Mah Song”, Joanne Anderton (The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories)
  • “Morning Star”, D.K. Mok (One Small Step)
  • “The Year of Ancient Ghosts”, Kim Wilkins (The Year of Ancient Ghosts)

Best Collection

  • The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, Joanne Anderton (FableCroft)


  • Asymmetry, Thoraiya Dyer (Twelfth Planet)
  • Caution: Contains Small Parts, Kirstyn McDermott (Twelfth Planet)
  • The Bride Price, Cat Sparks (Ticonderoga)
  • The Year of Ancient Ghosts, Kim Wilkins (Ticonderoga)

Best Anthology (Tie)

  • The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2012, Liz Grzyb & Talie Helene, eds. (Ticonderoga)
  • One Small Step: An Anthology of Discoveries, Tehani Wessely, ed. (FableCroft)


  • Dreaming of Djinn, Liz Grzyb, ed. (Ticonderoga)
  • The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Of The Year: Volume Seven, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (Night Shade)
  • Focus 2012: Highlights of Australian Short Fiction, Tehani Wessely, ed. (FableCroft)

Best Children’s Fiction

  • The Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie, Kirsty Murray (Allen & Unwin)


  • Kingdom of the Lost, Book 2: Cloud Road, Isobelle Carmody (Penguin Group Australia)
  • Refuge, Jackie French (Harper Collins)
  • Song for a Scarlet Runner, Julie Hunt (Allen & Unwin)
  • Rules of Summer, Shaun Tan (Hachette Australia)
  • Ice Breaker: The Hidden 1, Lian Tanner (Allen & Unwin)

Best Illustrated Book/Graphic Novel (Tie)

  • Burger Force, Jackie Ryan (self-published)
  • The Deep Vol. 2: The Vanishing Island, Tom Taylor & James Brouwer (Gestalt)


  • Savage Bitch, Steve Carter & Antoinette Rydyr (Scar Studios)
  • Mr Unpronounceable Adventures, Tim Molloy (Milk Shadow)
  • Peaceful Tomorrows Volume Two, Shane W Smith (Zetabella)

The annual Aurealis Awards ceremony took place at the Great Hall, University House, Australian National University, Canberra. All the details of the awards can be found at the Aurealis Awards website.

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees!

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Far Voyager Postscripts #32/33 ToC announced

Pete Von Sholly's "Troop Inspection" for Far Voyager.
Pete Von Sholly’s “Troop Inspection” for Far Voyager.

This has been far and away the longest gap between a story sale and story publication, for many reasons mostly out of everyone’s control, but I’m very happy to say that Far Voyager Postscripts #32/33 from P S Publishing is finally coming out and it will include my story, Thirty Three Tears to a Teaspoon, along with a plethora of amazing writers. I’m really thrilled to be a part of this one. See the solid list of names below. And also check out that amazing cover artwork. It’s Pete Von Sholly’s “Troop Inspection”. You can click on that image for a larger version.

What’s also very exciting, apart from being in this publication myself, is that quite a few other great Aussies are in there too. As it’s a very well-respected UK publisher, it’s always great to see Australian voices represented. Along with myself are Angela Slatter, Lisa Hannett, Angie Rega, and Suze Willis.

The full ToC is shown below. I’ll be sure to post again when you can pre-order/buy the release.

Far Voyager — Ian Sales
3 A.M. in the Mesozoic Bar — Michael Swanwick
Dear Miss Monroe — Andrew Jury
The Case of the Barking Man — Mel Waldman
One Hundred Thousand Demons and the Cherub of Desire — Andrew Drummond
An American Story — Darrell Schweitzer
Irezumi — John Langan
Sister Free — Rio Youers
A Little Off the Top — Tom Alexander
Sweetheart, I Love You — Mel Waldman
Winter Children — Angela Slatter
A Girl of Feather and Music — Lisa L. Hannett
Thirty Three Tears to a Teaspoon — Alan Baxter
The Rusalka Salon for Girls Who Like to Get Their Hair Wet — Angie Rega
The Psychometrist — Suzanne J. Willis
Sea Angels — Quentin S. Crisp
Plink — Kurt Dinan
Xaro — Darren Speegle
We Are Not Alone — Richard Calder
The Curtain — Thana Niveau
Playground — Gio Clairval
What Once Was Bone — Gary A. Braunbeck
Darkscapes: Three Journeys to the Night Side — Mel Waldman
Services Rendered — Bruce Golden
GW in the Afterlife — Robert Reed
Eskimo — Andrew Hook
With Friends Like These — Gary Fry
An Inspector Calls — Ian Watson
Confessions — Mel Waldman
A Legion of Echoes — Alison Littlewood
Talk in Riddles — Mark Reece
The Mermaid and the Fisherman — Paul Park

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