Books

A Killer Among Demons available now

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July 10, 2013

1069201 601532619887529 526555381 n 224x300 A Killer Among Demons available nowYou may remember that I’ve been talking up this great anthology from Dark Prints Press. I’m so pleased to be one of ten authors included in this anthology of supernatural/paranormal crime. I read it last week while I was on holiday (as I got an advance ecopy from the publisher) and it is outstanding. I’m very proud of my story, The Beat of a Pale Wing, and the other nine stories are exemplary. A really diverse range of ideas. And that fantastic Vincent Chong cover. Seriously, this is a great book. Here’s the full list of amazing authors:

Stephen M Irwin – ’24/7′
Angela Slatter – ‘Cuckoo’
William Meikle – ‘Truth Decay’
Alan Baxter – ‘The Beat of a Pale Wing’
Marilyn Fountain – ‘The Intruder’
Greg Chapman – ‘A Matter of Perception’
Chris Large – ‘New York, New York’
SJ Dawson – ‘The Tape’
Madhvi Ramani – ‘Angel’s Town’
Stephen D. Rogers – ‘Grievance Visitation’

I honestly can’t recommend this book highly enough. You like magic? Horror? Dark fantasy? Crime? Who doesn’t, bitches? Go, buy the book now. It’s available in print and ebook from here.

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My holiday reading

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July 8, 2013

I’ve recently had a week’s holiday in the sun. The best thing about holidays is the unfettered reading time. Of course, seeing another place, spending quality time with my wife, snorkeling amazing coral reefs and all that was fantastic too and it rates up there with the reading time, but, you know, reading. It’s brilliant and on holiday, apart from all that other stuff and drinking, it’s all about reading.

I read an interesting bunch of stuff while I was away, so I thought I’d share it with you.

Joyland My holiday readingJoyland by Stephen King

This is King at his best. Poignant, beautifully drawn characters and a fantastic sense of place. I love a good carny story and this is just that, wrapped up in some crime and a touch of the supernatural. It’s a short novel and showcases King’s talent for story. It’s also a good ending, which is something King often falls down on for me. It’s still something of a deus ex machina ending (King’s usual flaw) but in this case, it makes sense and it’s well foreshadowed. A highly recommended read.

burial rites My holiday readingBurial Rites by Hannah Kent

This is a simply outstanding novel. And that it’s her first novel is mind-blowing! Her portrayal of the people and place at the time of the story’s setting is flawless and utterly convincing. An incredibly powerful book, beautifully written. I’m not generally a fan of historical fiction, and this story is based on true events, but in this case I loved every page. Kent’s research was exhausting for this book and it really shows. One of the best things I’ve read this year.

The Burning Girls by Veronica Schanoes

This is a dark fantasy novelette available to read at Tor.com. This is the direct link to the story – http://www.tor.com/stories/2013/06/burning-girls It’s a tale of Jewish folklore and magic and a journey to the new world. It’s superbly written and well worth the time, especially as it’s free!

Critique My holiday readingCritique by Daniel I Russell

This is a very well-written journey through desire and addiction, but not addiction to drugs. It has gross-out moments that work very well within the context of the story. There’s no great surprise to how it pans out – you can pretty much see what’s coming – but it’s handled really well nonetheless. It’s a horror story, but this is still something a bit different done very well. The cover is truly awful, however, and does the book no favours at all.

18039179 My holiday readingA Killer Among Demons, edited by Craig Bezant

Caveat – I have a story, The Beat of a Pale Wing, in this collection.

However, aside from my story being in it, this is a fantastic collection. Craig Bezant, the editor, should be proud of a job really well done. He’s collected ten stories of supernatural/paranormal crime and the first thing you realise is just what a tremendous job he’s done collecting ten brilliant but very different stories (if I do say so myself!) The variety here is impressive and the quality very high. This is an anthology that will hopefully get noticed, because it’s different and very good. Highly recommended.

9654818 My holiday readingBlack & Orange by Benjamin Kane Etheridge

This is a dark fantasy/horror novel, a Stoker Award winner no less, but I had serious problems with it. I’ve just posted a full review over at Thirteen O’Clock, so head over there for a read of why this didn’t work for me nearly as well as it should have. Which is annoying, because I really wanted to like it and it had such potential. But even though I didn’t like it, I still enjoyed reading it. It’s excellent writing. Ah, click the review link to save me saying it all again here.

So all in all, I had a pretty solid selection of holiday reading.

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On reading widely and the power of titles

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May 10, 2013

Stephen King 2max On reading widely and the power of titlesIt was Stephen King who said, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write. Simple as that.” And let’s be honest, Stephen King is a frood who knows his shit when it comes to the writing caper. In all honesty, I can’t imagine anyone trying to be a writer without a voracious appetite for reading. All the writers I know are basically pathological readers – the kind who will rip your head off if you keep interrupting them near the end of a book.

I remember getting in trouble at school once because I was reading before the start of class. I even remember the book – it was, appropriately enough, Stephen King’s “It”. I was a teenager, technically sitting in a classroom in my high school in Camberley in the south of England, but I was actually miles away in Maine. Slowly, pushing through the story, I became aware of the sound of my name. Then again. And again. I was so near the end of this great book and someone kept calling my name. So rude! Eventually I looked up with a terse, “WHAT!?”

It was my teacher, trying to get my attention because the bell had rung, she had arrived, everyone else had their work books out, and I was still in Stephen King’s head. The whole class laughed at me, the teacher scowled at me and I spent the next few hours until lunch with a burning pain in my chest because I needed to finish that freaking book!

I tell this story to illustrate what I think it’s like for most writers. Of course, it’s like that for all those other voracious readers out there who don’t have the accompanying and equally powerful need to write. But for writers, I think it’s essential. Readers don’t have to write, but writers have to read. Reading, man, it’s the dog’s absolute bollocks. Best thing out there. Nothing like a good book.

When it comes to being a writer, the other thing about reading is that we should read as widely as possible. It’s important to read outside the genre we write in too, just to experience all those other styles and storytelling techniques. I do read mostly in the genre I write, but I try to stretch out as much as possible. Reading every kind of fiction and non-fiction, even newspapers and magazines, it’s all good for the wordy parts of your brainmeats.

westerns 300x300 On reading widely and the power of titlesWhich brings me to this. Check out those three sweet books I picked up in a thrift shop today. They’re hardback western novellas/short novels and were only $5 each. Bargain! I love a good western. I finally turned my hand to the genre with my western ghost story, which I’m very pleased to have sold to Beneath Ceaseless Skies. The story is called Not the Worst of Sins – I’ll be sure to let you all know when it’s published later this year. For that I read a lot of western fiction and developed a new found taste for it. I’d read it a lot when I was younger, but had fallen out of the habit.

When I saw this stack of books in the thrift shop, I had to get some. There were a dozen or more, all $5 each, and I managed to resist the temptation to buy them all. Mainly because I couldn’t afford them all. So I decided I’d treat myself to three. Then I had the brain tease of picking which three. It all came down to the titles. So it’s worth bearing in mind that titles really are strong selling points for books. I’ve been paying much more attention to titles these days – even if I choose a single word title for a work, it has to be exactly the right word.

So out of that stack of books I chose these three purely based on cool titles: War at Wind River sounds exciting, and I want to know why a river is named Wind. Five Guns South sounds like a posse tale, with five gunslingers heading south for some reason, maybe on the trail of a bad guy or gang. And Red Silver! because it’s a contradiction of sorts and it has an exclamation mark! I’m guessing maybe a massacre of some sort, maybe in a town called Silver. Bear in mind that I deliberately didn’t read the back cover blurb on any of these. I picked titles that excited me and I’m looking forward to being surprised by them. Hopefully pleasantly surprised.

So the message today for all you word-wranglers out there is read voraciously, read widely and pick your titles with as much care and consideration as you give to all the other words in your work, if not more!

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Dark Rite out now!

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April 19, 2013

Dark Rite web 186x300 Dark Rite out now!It’s official! Dark Rite, the short horror novel/very long novella I co-wrote with David Wood, is available now! *trembles* You can find it in any ebook format you prefer, DRM-free, from Smashwords, or you can buy the Kindle or print edition from Amazon. Only $2.99 for the ebook and $7.99 for print. How can you possibly go wrong? It’ll be available in all the usual places soon, so watch your favourite store if you prefer to shop elsewhere. If you click on the cover image there, it’ll take you to a page of information about the book with direct buy buttons.

So it’s happy book day to myself and Dave. It’s always very exciting when a new book comes out, and I hope any of you horror fans out there enjoy it. Here’s a few responses we’ve had from early readers:

“Wood and Baxter have delivered a stunning tale that reminds of an early Stephen King’s talent for the macabre with a pinch of Graham Masterton’s flair for witchcraft and terror. A sinister tale of black magic and horror – not for the faint hearted.” – Greig Beck, bestselling author of Beneath the Dark Ice and Black Mountain

“With mysterious rituals, macabre rites and superb supernatural action scenes, Wood and Baxter deliver a fast-paced horror thriller.” – J.F. Penn, author of the bestselling ARKANE thriller series

“Wood and Baxter have taken on the classic black magic/cult conspiracy subgenre, chucked in a toxic mix of weirdness, creepshow chills and action, and created a tale that reads like a latter-day Hammer Horror thriller. Nice, dark fun.” – Robert Hood, author of Immaterial and Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead

That’s right – Greig Beck said it’s a bit like Stephen King and Graham Masterton. Holy shit, you guys! I think I’ll leave it at that. If you do buy a copy, I’d love to know what you think. You know where to find me.

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Book day nerves and why they’re a good thing

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April 16, 2013

Dark Rite books Book day nerves and why theyre a good thingI’m trepidatious. Kinda nerve-wracked. The novella I’ve co-authored with David Wood, Dark Rite, is due for release tomorrow. Hopefully it will become available then, or very soon after. I’ll be sure to let you know. And because of its imminent release, I’m quietly terrified.

I’m also very excited, of course. It’s great to get a new book out there. While this is technically a novella, it kind of bridges the gap, because it’s bloody long for a novella. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America specify word lengths for each category of its Nebula award categories like this:

Novel – over 40,000 words
Novella – 17,500 to 40,000 words
Novelette – 7,500 to 17,500 words
Short story – under 7,500 words

As far as I know, the Aurealis Awards here in Australia use the same categorisation. Dark Rite is something like 42,250 words. Which is sorta dumb of us, because it will be classed as a novel rather than a novella for awards and we could have cut 2,251 words and dropped it back into the novella category if we really wanted to. But we talked about it and were happy with the tightness and finish of the story. It seems presumptuous and counter-productive to chop at a story purely for award lengths or to accurately describe its category. The story is exactly as long as it needs to be, so we’re sticking with it. And I’ll describe it as a very long novella, even though it’s technically a very short novel.

Nelson Muntz 300x292 Book day nerves and why theyre a good thingBut I digress. Nerves. I was talking about book day terror. Whether it’s a full-length novel, a long novella/short novel, a novelette or a short story being published in a magazine or anthology, the same kind of nerves are always there. Will people like it? Will people read it and point and laugh like Nelson Munz? Will I be revealed for the try-hard, pointless hack my inner demons often tell me I am, in the darkest corners of the night when I’m wondering why I fucking bother.

If it’s a magazine or anthology, the terror is that mine will be the story reviewers talk about for all the wrong reasons. “A tremendous collection of short fiction, with only one story out of place. You have to wonder what the editor was thinking, including this sloppy turd by Baxter.”

Of course, that kind of thinking is an insult to the editor, because they picked the story and included it for a reason, and their name is all over the publication. But publication nerves know nothing of common sense and laugh in the face of logic.

If it’s a book or novella, something that is going out there on its own merit, the nerves are the same, only amplified. There are no other works to hide among. It’s just you, out there in public without your pants on. Metaphorically speaking. You know you can’t please everyone, even Neil Gaiman gets one star reviews, but you hope to please more people than you offend. You want more cries of Bravo! and very few Ha-Has! But you don’t know if you’ll get them. Hell, you don’t know if anybody will even read your work. The only thing worse than bad reviews is no one turning a single fucking page of the thing you slaved over. At least a bad review meant the thing got read.

But I realised, especially reinforced after the recent series of guest posts I’ve run about Ongoing Angst, that this stuff is not only common among writers of every level, but actually a good thing. I’m bloody nervous, because I care. I care not because I want people to like me, but because I want them to like the work. I want people to read my stories and get something out of them, be moved in some way, have a rollicking good time and recommend their friends and family read my stuff too. They don’t ever need to know who the fuck I am, as long as they know and enjoy the work. And my fear comes from the thought that my work might not be good enough. And that fear drives me to always do my best, to always try to be better.

I strive to get better all the time. I work my arse off trying to make my writing as good as it can be. Nerves like this are symbolic of an artist striving to be good enough. If I ever don’t get nervous when a publication is due I’m going to wonder where my fire went. Because I’m certainly not arrogant enough to think people are automatically going to like everything I get published. Nerves are a good thing – they remind you that you’re alive and striving. That this shit matters. Because it really does matter. Through fiction we look at our lives and the life around us, and it matters. Even fun, pulpy horror like Dark Rite has things to say about society and humanity. It’s deeper than just a gloss imagery. And I care about it. I really hope readers do too.

I’ve got a bunch of stuff due for publication over the next two or three months, in magazines and anthologies, and it’s all kicking off with the release of Dark Rite any day now. So I really hope you like it. I’ll be over here, chewing on the bony tips of fingers, cos I finished eating through the nails a couple of days ago.

(Of course, the beauty of this one is that it’s co-authored. So it if does go down well, I’ll bask in all the glory. If it tanks, I’ll just blame David Wood.)

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Cover reveal and blurb for Dark Rite

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March 29, 2013

Dark Rite 5 186x300 Cover reveal and blurb for Dark RiteI’m very excited about this. David Wood and myself have collaborated on a new novella (almost a novel, in fact) called Dark Rite. It’s coming out in a few weeks from Gryphonwood Press and look at that sweet cover. When my wife saw it, she said, “Ooooh… eesh…” which is *exactly* the reaction I like to hear! When I say it’s almost a novel, it’s actually about 42,000 words, so it’s right at the upper end of novella territory. A lot of the old pulp novels were around the 50-60k word mark. I’m very happy with what David and I have come up with, so I hope readers enjoy it too. Here’s the back cover blurb:

A small mountain town hides a dark secret…

When the death of his father brings Grant Shipman to the tiny Appalachian town of Wallen’s Gap, he believes his biggest problem will be dealing with the slow pace and odd townsfolk. But something sinister is at work. A dark power rises, an echo of the town’s bloody past. A book of blood magic offers an unspeakable horror a gateway into the world of the living, and only Grant stands in the way of their Dark Rite.

And we’ve got a couple of great reactions so far:

“Wood and Baxter have delivered a stunning tale that reminds of an early Stephen King’s talent for the macabre with a pinch of Graham Masterton’s flair for witchcraft and terror. A sinister tale of black magic and horror – not for the faint hearted.” Greig Beck, bestselling author of Beneath the Dark Ice and Black Mountain

“With mysterious rituals, macabre rites and superb supernatural action scenes, Wood and Baxter deliver a fast-paced horror thriller.” J.F. Penn, author of the bestselling ARKANE thriller series

I’ll post again when the book is available to buy. It’ll be available in print and ebook wherever books are sold, and hopefully an audiobook to follow eventually.

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Video trailers for RealmShift and MageSign

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March 28, 2013

I’m very pleased with these. My publisher, Gryphonwood Press, has put together these two simple video trailers for my dark urban fantasy novels, RealmShift and MageSign. I’m very much of the opinion that a simple trailer for a book is the best option. If you have loads of money to spend on a really professional, slick video, then great. But if you do it on the cheap, it looks tacky and… well, cheap. And that does no favours for your book. But Gryphonwood Press commissioned top notch voice actor Jeffrey Kafer to voice these trailers and just used the book covers for the visuals. The result is simple and effective. At least, I think it is! What do you think?

Here’s RealmShift:

And here’s MageSign:

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Urban Occult has landed

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March 15, 2013

IMG 6773 300x300 Urban Occult has landedI got this today, my contributor’s copy of Urban Occult from Anachron Press. It includes my story, A Time For Redemption, about a young university student who discovers an amulet that allows him to stop time. He sees a way to get back with the girl he lost. Of course, it’s not that easy.

I’m looking forward to reading the other stories in this one too. Get your copy wherever books are sold.

Black Feathers: The Black Dawn, Volume One by Joseph D’Lacey – review

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February 26, 2013

BlackFeathers Black Feathers: The Black Dawn, Volume One by Joseph D’Lacey – reviewBlack Feathers: The Black Dawn, Volume One
by Joseph D’Lacey
Published by Angry Robot Books
UK ISBN – 978-0-85766-345-0
US ISBN – 978-0-85766-344-3

Black Feathers is the first volume in a new horror series by Joseph D’Lacey. The story follows two main threads simultaneously. We have young Gordon Black, a thirteen year old boy living in a slightly alternate version of our own modern day. In Gordon’s England, the world is sinking into economic collapse and being ravaged by various naturally destructive phenomena like solar flares and earthquakes. The land is ruled with an iron fist by The Ward, a combination of brutally right wing political party and zealous corporate conglomerate, driven by a greed for money and power. The people of most countries have voted The Ward into control globally after the successful lobbying of the party to convince the populace that only The Ward can protect the people against the swift descent into Armageddon facing them all.

Concurrent with this story is the tale of Megan Maurice, a young girl living far in the future, in a green and pleasant post-apocalyptic land where people have returned to living with the Earth, putting back as much as they take out and revering the Great Spirit and The Earth Mother. Megan is approached by Mr Keeper, a very revered holy man among the people, and he tells her that it is her destiny to walk the Black Feathered Path. This is a path of Shamanic learning, where she puts herself in the path of the stories of the Crowman, for someone must keep the tales alive in order to never lose the knowledge.

By now I’m sure you’re getting the feel for where this book is going. Gordon’s family are abducted by The Ward, but Gordon escapes and goes on the run. He is told he must find The Crowman, a terrifying creature of modern legend who some say is pure evil and others say is a force for good. As Gordon runs, the world descends quickly into its destructive cycle as the Earth Mother shakes off the scourge of humanity and The Ward are desperately hunting Gordon, as he is prophesied to usher in the end times, which is something they can’t allow if they are to maintain their grip on power and profit.

It should be quite clear by now that this is a book with a very clear and unashamed agenda. D’Lacey has an affinity for the Native American mythology of the Earth and it manifests throughout this narrative. The thing is, D’Lacey is a brilliant writer and while the message is something of a sledgehammer throughout, the story, the characterisation and the sheer beauty of the prose make that okay. This is an excellent story, very well told.

Read the rest of this review over at Thirteen O’Clock.

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Emma Newman and Between Two Thorns

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February 21, 2013

If you’re a regular here, the name Emma Newman probably rings some bells. It should, because she’s a mighty talented person and I’ve talked about her a bit. I was lucky enough to be asked by her publisher to pre-review and blurb her short fiction collection, From Dark Places. You can see that review here. I was also happy to host one of her Split Worlds stories here last year.

Well, now the Split Worlds has expanded into the first of a series of novels, published by Angry Robot Books, called Between Two Thorns. And the reason I’m talking about it now is because there’s a sweet little pre-order special offer happening.

Between Two Thorns is an urban fantasy novel. Here’s the blurb:

Something is wrong in Aquae Sulis, Bath’s secret mirror city.

The new season is starting and the Master of Ceremonies is missing. Max, an Arbiter of the Split Worlds Treaty, is assigned with the task of finding him with no one to help but a dislocated soul and a mad sorcerer.

There is a witness but his memories have been bound by magical chains only the enemy can break. A rebellious woman trying to escape her family may prove to be the ally Max needs.

But can she be trusted? And why does she want to give up eternal youth and the life of privilege she’s been born into?

Sound interesting? Well, here’s the offer:

Pre-order a copy of Between Two Thorns for a chance to win a great prize!

BetweenTwoThorns COVER1 e1355137730189 Emma Newman and Between Two ThornsPre-order a copy of Between Two Thorns and you’ll be entered into a prize draw. If you win, you’ll have a character named after you in All Is Fair – the third Split Worlds novel (released October 2013) – and a special mention at the end of the book.

You have to admit, that’s a pretty cool prize.

How to Enter

Pre-order a copy of the book from your favourite retailer (if you pre-order from Forbidden Planet you’ll get a signed copy).

If you order from Forbidden Planet or robottradingcompany.com (for ebooks) you don’t need to do anything else – Angry Robot will take care of your entry for you. If you pre-order from anywhere else you’ll need to email a copy of your order confirmation to: thorns AT angryrobotbooks.com and they’ll assign a number to you.

Here are links to all the places you can pre-order:

Forbidden Planet (signed paperback) http://forbiddenplanet.com/97907-between-two-thorns/

Angry Robot Trading company – for DRM-free ebook http://www.robottradingcompany.com/between-two-thorns-emma-newman.html

Amazon (paperback) UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Between-Two-Thorns-Split-World/dp/0857663194/

US http://www.amazon.com/Between-Two-Thorns-Emma-Newman/dp/0857663208/

The Book depository (Worldwide free postage)

UK Edition http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Between-Two-Thorns-Emma-Newman/9780857663191

US Edition (bigger) http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Between-Two-Thorns-Emma-Newman/9780857663207

There are two UK launches and an international one using the magic of telephone conferencing. All the details are here: http://www.enewman.co.uk/real-world-adventures/between-two-thorns-launches-prizes-and-parties

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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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