Cool Places to Visit

Excellent promo video for Notions Unlimited

May 22, 2012

You may remember a while ago that Chuck McKenzie had a Tuesday Toot slot here at The Word, talking about his new specialist bookshop in Melbourne. The shop is called Notions Unlimited and specialises in speculative fiction – science fiction, fantasy and horror titles, as well as related genres such as paranormal romance, media tie-ins (Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, etc.), graphic novels, manga, roleplaying supplies, art books, non-fiction, and some esoteric titles. They have a major focus upon Australian small-press, with a great range of titles available, and have a commitment to providing a level of in-store customer service that guarantees the best browsing/shopping experience possible. (That’s from the website, so it must be true.)

This, folks, is the future of the bookshop – Chuck’s a great bloke and he’s setting a brilliant example.

They have a website here and a Facebook page here.

Anyway, Chuck has recently put together a promo video for Notions Unlimited and it’s excellent – worth a watch even if you’re not anywhere near Melbourne and have no intention of ever being there. Here, watch:


So you don’t understand Twitter?

June 22, 2011

I really love Twitter and find it one of the most useful social networks I use. But I regularly get people saying to me things like, “What’s the point of Twitter? I think it’s stupid. I don’t get it.” And therein lie two different things. Asking what it is and saying you don’t understand it is like saying, “What’s the point of French? I don’t understand it.” Well, if you learned French, you’d understand it and find it really useful. Especially in France. So I always try to explain what Twitter is, as that seems to be the best starting point. And that’s not as easy as it sounds.

Half the trouble when new people come to Twitter is figuring out what it really does. And when people like me, absolute Twitter converts, have trouble explaining it, you can see why a lot of people give up on the whole idea. So I was driven to figure out a decent, clear, concise description. Here it is:

So what is Twitter?

Over time, with a bit of effort, Twitter becomes a self-curated news feed of information, gossip and conversation that you’re personally interested in, with all the noise you don’t care about filtered out.

If people are still interested after that, we can spend a bit more time explaining it. Notice that I open with, “Over time, with a bit of effort”. This is a fundamental point. You can’t just go to Twitter, look at the thing and expect to understand it and benefit in any way. It doesn’t take much time and effort to get started, but it takes some.

You start by setting up an account. Once you have an account I highly recommend a third party Twitter application. I use Tweetdeck, because I can sort my feed into columns and keep much better track of things that way. Using Twitter directly from the Twitter site is messy. Also, I have Tweetdeck for iPhone, so I can tweet and read tweets wherever I am. Once you have an account, you must fill in your bio and pic, then you can start to tweet things, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Getting the most out of Twitter is all about following the right people. Whenever someone you follow posts a tweet, it will appear in your news feed. So don’t follow people who don’t interest you – only follow people who you think might say stuff you care about. Initially you can do a few searches with keywords. For example, you can search for things like:

science fiction
dark fantasy
martial arts
kung fu

The list above is an example of the kind of things I’m most interested in. Those are the sort of searches I started with. When people cropped up with those things mentioned in their tweets or their bio, I followed them. If they tweeted interesting things I would reply to them, maybe retweet them to share what I found interesting with people who follow me. If they were boring or inactive, or just on a hard sell, I’d stop following them.

Once you’re following a few people you’ll start to see who they follow. It’s a fair bet you’ll all have shared areas of interest, so follow some of their friends. The hashtag #ff or #followfriday is useful for this. It’s when people list all the people they follow who they think their followers might enjoy. So check out some of those people too.

You see how this is taking a bit of time and effort? It doesn’t have to be much. You can have a search and follow a handful of new people a day. Before long you’ll start to have a very busy news feed. And a lot of those people will start to follow you back. You’ll start to interact with them and away you go.

What do I post?

So, let’s get to what you post. First, you absolutely must fill in your bio and add a picture. Twitter is all about interaction and sharing, so you have to tell people something to help them decide if they’re interested in you. Here’s my Twitter bio:

Alan is an author from NSW, Australia. He writes dark fantasy, sci-fi & horror, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu.

It’s concise, as it has to be in the restricted world of Twitter, but says plenty about me. It says what I do, what I like and where I’m from. That’s enough to start with. After that, people will read my tweets and continue to follow if I interest them. So what do I tweet? Everything!

I tweet interesting or funny things that happen to me or that I notice.

I tweet about writing projects, progress on them, ups and downs of publishing.

I tweet about my dog and cats and regularly tweet photos.

That’s all the chit chat stuff. I also share all the links that I find interesting. And here lies the real power of Twitter. On the one hand I interact with people and have a chat and a laugh. On the other, I share information I find interesting. I also find stuff that the people I follow post. If I really like it, I’ll retweet it and share it around some more. Interesting blog posts, news articles, submission calls, new releases, movie reviews – you name it, if it’s interesting, I’ll post the link. That way my followers can see the tweet, which might say something like: Great review of the new X-Men movie , and they can choose to go and read that review or not. If you spend a bit of time reading the tweets of others you’ll soon get the idea.

This is where it becomes a self-curated news feed. I only follow people who interest me, so they’re likely to post links I’m interested in. In the reverse, my followers are likely to be interested in the links I post. There are Twitter users posting links to pony club announcements and Barbie Doll parties (whatever the hell they might be), but I don’t know about it because I don’t follow those people. The folks interested in ponies and Barbie Dolls follow them. See how it works?

I get most of my news from Twitter now, as I follow the BBC, ABC, Reuters and a few others. They post headlines and links and I’ll read the stories that catch my eye. If people’s tweets start to bore me, I’ll stop following them. I’m always following new people who strike me as interesting. And you have to accept that most of what happens on Twitter you’ll miss. Just get used to only seeing the tweets that happen to go by while you’re actually checking Twitter and let the rest slide. All the really good stuff comes around again in retweets anyway.

Finally, here’s a few things not to do:

Don’t just promote yourself – I’ll often talk about my writing and occasionally promote it and ask people to buy my books in one way or another, but very infrequently. I want at least 10 tweets about other stuff to every 1 tweet about myself, and a much bigger ratio when it comes to actually pushing my stuff. It’s not about selling yourself – it’s about being yourself. If you’re interesting, people will check out what you do.

Don’t just vomit minutiae constantly – If you have a really good breakfast, sure, tell us about it. But we don’t care about what you have every day.

Don’t spam people – Just chill and interact, all casual-like.

Here’s a golden Twitter rule:

Will this tweet entertain or inform my followers in any way?

Ask yourself that question before every tweet and don’t post if the answer is no. Of course, a lot of people are pretty poor at judging that stuff and think they’re a lot more interesting than they really are, but we’ll let natural filtration take care of them.

Here I am – follow me if you think I’m interesting: @AlanBaxter

What about you? Do you tweet? Feel free to offer your tweeting advice in the comments.


I love a bit of hippy kak

October 24, 2010

It’s true, I can’t deny it. I love markets with stalls selling all kinds of old kak. I love festivals where you get the inevitable stalls of tie-dye and incense and models of elves nursing tiny dragons. And I love towns like Berry, not far from where I live, that has shops full of hippy kak. Pendants and tarot decks, angels and fairies, colourful clothes and bags with OMs on them. You can find these awesome pressed leather notepads, with funky Celtic designs tooled around the edges. I saw some today with dragons on them, that would have been awesome except the dragons were upside-down. Or the book was from Asia, maybe…

But it is a slice of fantasy to explore shops like that. It’s both ridiculous and charming. One thing today that did make me laugh was this. In a cabinet of “Genuine Magickal Amulets” (by which I question their use of the word genuine) I saw this:

In case it’s hard to read, it says that this is an “ABRACA TRIANGLE” and it’s “For Unexpected Good Fortune”. Now, call me cynical, but if you bought that pendant, and it worked, then any good fortune would hardly be unexpected. Unless you didn’t expect the pendant to work, then got some good fortune. Or perhaps… you see my problem with this particular bit of hippy kak.

Then again, it’s in the same store that sells this bumper sticker:

So they clearly have no fucking idea what they’re talking about. Listen to children? Everything would be mad if we listened to kids.

Still, I do love a bit of old hippy kak nonetheless.


Guest post for The Heir Of Night Launch

October 7, 2010

At Worldcon I was lucky enough to be asked to do a reading of my work. I was also lucky in that I was able to share that reading session with Helen Lowe. Helen is an awesome author from New Zealand and she read from her forthcoming book The Heir Of Night. Well, that book launches in Australia and New Zealand today. I’m looking forward to reading it – the excerpt she read at Worldcon really caught my interest.

As part of her launch party she’s arranged for a series of guest posts at her blog, with F&SF authors from all over Australia and New Zealand posting about why writing F&SF rocks their world. I get to be first cab off the rank and my post about why I love F&SF goes up tomorrow. In the meantime, check Helen’s site to see the great list of awesome people she’s got visiting over the next few weeks. Also today there are book giveaways and all sorts of cool things happening.

I’ll post a reminder tomorrow about my guest spot, but check out the site today, as it’s launch day and there’s loot to be won!


Facebook at last

April 19, 2010

I’ve been on Facebook for a long while, but I’ve always tried to keep it on a semi-personal level. Basically, I only accept friend requests on Facebook from people I actually know. I may not have ever met them, but in this internet age there are some people that I know really well even though we’ve never met “IRL”.

With that in mind my Facebook friends are people that I know personally or have had some interaction with on some level, be it physically or virtually. Given that my books are due out from Gryphonwood Press any time now (and based on several friend requests that I’ve ignored because I don’t know who the people involved are) I though it might be prudent to have a more public Facebook presence. With that in mind I’ve taken the rather narcissistic and embarrassing step of setting up a fan page for myself.

Anyone can become a fan and I’ll cross post any writing related stuff to the fan page and keep my own Facebook profile in a slightly more private domain. After all, my handful of readers don’t need to see photos of me drunkenly singing karaoke. They may want to see those pictures, but they don’t need to.

So, if you want to keep up to date with stuff via Facebook and give me a little ego boost into the bargain, go here and click the Become A Fan button. There’s also a Facebook button in the Stalk Me section of the lefthand sidebar now too. I promise you won’t actually become a fan – it’s all just virtual nonsense.

Australian spec fic till your eyes bleed

January 16, 2010

The Australian speculative fiction blog carnival is off to a galloping start for 2010. You can find the January collected posts at Egoboo WA.

There’s loads of stuff there, including a few bits by yours truly. Things about Continuum, Natcon, feminism in spec fic and the furore surrounding it, reviews, fiction, interviews, publishing news, giveaways. By Odin’s Mighty Bollocks, it’ll take you till next month just to get through it all.


My short horror story now published at Seizure

December 2, 2009

You may or may not know about SeizureOnline. According to the website:

Seizure is

* a new avenue for authors to get published
* a collection of serialised novels
* a website with RSS feeds, sub-divided by each story with its own feed
* available worldwide
* released monthly in collected book format.

It’s a pretty cool and very slick little venture. Primarily Seizure is interested in serialising longer works over several editions. However, they also want to publish occasional one-off short stories in various editions and they were kind enough to accept my sea monster horror story Deep Sea Fishing for publication in issue 4. The story is available online and in a collected print edition through Amazon.

They were also nice enough to conduct a quick interview with me, which is also up on their website. Other than the question about the story itself, all the other questions and answers are rather silly. So, go and support a quality market for writers and find some great fiction as well. Love to hear what you think of my sea monster story.

Here are all the relevant links:

The interview with me on the Seizure blog.

My story, Deep Sea Fishing, at SeizureOnline.

Amazon page for the print edition featuring my story.


New Markets For Writers page here at The Word

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.


Continuum 5 Galaxies By Gaslight – the report

August 16, 2009

I’m very tired today. It’s been an excellent weekend, but tiring. This is because I flew down to Melbourne (boy, are my arms tired… boom-tish) for the Continuum convention, Galaxies By Gaslight. There was a general steampunk theme to this fifth Continuum and it was a lot of fun to be involved in. I’ll write a bit about it below and be sure to click on any linked names you see and you’ll learn about some great SF writers.

The general mood of the con was quite quiet and calm. It wasn’t ever really packed and many of the panel audiences were small, but everyone was in good spirits, there was a great sense of friendliness in the air and lots of socialising going on.

I was on a panel with fellow AHWA members Robert Hood, Talie Helene, Rocky Wood and Garry Fay (sorry Garry, couldn’t find a website for you!) We had a small audience but a very interesting discussion on what really scares us in this modern age. There was much talk of the rise of “torture porn” movies (a term I had never heard before, but now love) such as the Hostel and Saw films. We talked about how the visceral nature of schlock horror and torture porn was becoming popular in our sanitised society while the real horror, the implied terror, the monster under the bed or the ghost right behind you, is still the really scary thing. There was even a suggestion that there’s no such genre as horror and, controversial though that may be, I’m glad that I’m not the only one that thinks that way.

A lot of bookshops will stock “horror” titles in the Crime & Thriller section now. I always refer to my own stuff as dark fantasy or dark fiction, because horror is too narrow and oft-misinterpreted a term anyway. Any genre can contain elements of horror. I was glad that the general consensus of the panel and audience this weekend was that the torture porn is popular but a largely irrelevant glitch in the zeitgeist and that real horror and terror, the stuff contained in good dark fiction, is alive and well and will continue on, much like a determined zombie.

I sat in the audience this weekend on a few other very interesting panels. One on time travel in fiction was good fun, with the general consensus being that any time travel tends to really fuck up a good story 99% of the time, with a very few outstanding exceptions. Of course, it’s worth it for those exceptions, but anyone writing yarns with time travel in them needs to be very careful. That panel also pointed out to me that I’m about the last human left on earth still watching Lost. Apparently everyone else has given up on it.

I also caught up with and attended a few readings from great writers like Rachel Holkner, Gillian Polack, Lucy Sussex, Sean Williams, Deb Biancotti, Cat Sparks and Sean McMullen.

Good fun was had by all as far as I can tell. One of the strangest things that happened to me was in the dealer’s room on the Saturday afternoon. I stopped by one table to look at some comic collections by a guy called Jenner. They’re medical based comics, with animals as the stars. Jenner is also a doctor and writes and draws these comics from his experiences with patients and staff. It started as a small habit for medical publications, grew into a web comic and now he sells them in books too. Why was this strange for me? Well, while I was browsing he kindly offered to draw a caricature of me for free while I checked out his books. Who can turn down an offer like that?

So here it is:


I think it’s very good. And not entirely unlike the author photo I usually use (the one in the banner at the top of this site). You can find Jenner’s cartoons here.

The next con on the agenda is Conflux 6 in October. See you there.


Drive Thru Stuff

August 11, 2009

@mlvalentine on Twitter pointed me in the direction of this very cool site –

It’s an online store where you can buy and download all kinds of… well, stuff. There’s RPG (Role Playing Game) stuff, comics, wargaming and so on. But of course, my real interest lies in the fiction sections: DriveThruFantasy, DriveThruHorror and DriveThruSciFi. These pages are packed with all kinds of great fiction, mainstream titles and indies, all at a wide variety of prices.

I’ve now got my books available there and as a special promotion you can buy them both for US$5. Usually the ebook editions of RealmShift and MageSign are US$3.50 each (both on Smashwords and DriveThru) but you can buy them both as a bundle from DriveThru for US$5 total. I’m also glad to report that Smashwords will soon be offering a similar option to bundle books and I’ll be making the same offer available over there. The Kindle editions of my books are a bit more expensive at US$3.99 on Amazon. You can find my stuff on DriveThru by clicking here.

So head on over and have a look around. I think it’s a great site with loads of stuff on offer. Leave a comment and let me know what you think of it.



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.

Learn more about me and my work by clicking About Alan just below the header.

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