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So you’re going to pitch your book – a guide.

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September 19, 2014

It seems that lately there have been more opportunities than ever before for writers to pitch their as-yet-unpublished manuscript to industry professionals. At writers conventions, festivals and so on, more agents, editors and publishers are making themselves available to hear about your magnum opus. It really is a superb opportunity and these things usually get booked out. But man, I’ve heard some horror stories! It’s a hell of a thing, trying to sell yourself and your work with nerves making your guts into an ice storm. So I thought I’d ask a few key people in the industry for some tips to help you formulate your pitch should you get the chance.

Firstly, I’ll throw a tip or two of my own at you, then we’re going to hear from a small press publisher, a literary agent and a big press editor.

My tips are simple: Know what your book is about so you can formulate a killer elevator pitch. This is so named because it’s based on the premise that you meet a publisher in an elevator and have a few seconds before they reach their floor to sell them on the idea of your book. Here’s the elevator pitch for BOUND, as an example:

Underground cage fighter, Alex Caine, is drawn into a world he didn’t know existed – a world he wishes he’d never found. The harder he tries to get out, the deeper he’s dragged in. It’s magic, monsters, mayhem and martial arts in a fast-paced dark urban fantasy thriller.

After that, my suggestions are to have good ideas for explaining further what your book is about, what it’s like and who might enjoy it. Know your target market. Then have confidence in your work and yourself without acting like a dick. Remember, these folks taking pitches are just regular human people like yourself and they want to find good books. They’re not looking for an excuse to shut you down.

So, let’s hear from some of them directly.

Tehani Wesley is owner/editor at small press outfit Fablecroft Publishing. But don’t let small press fool you, I’m sure this publisher is going places. She’s going to be taking pitches for the first time at Conflux in Canberra in October. Here’s what she had to say:

What do you look for in a pitch?
A confident presentation with a tight synopsis that doesn’t tease me with the story – if I’m going to publish the book, I need to know where it goes, spoilers aren’t an issue! And don’t underestimate the value of a polished manuscript. I also need to see that the author has an understanding that the manuscript is not the end product – and neither is publication. There is a lot more to a successful book than great writing (much as we might wish it otherwise), and I need to work with someone who is willing and able to help drive the book beyond publication.

What advice do you have for pitchers?
I want to see authors passionate about their work – both the manuscript they are discussing, and their passion for writing in general. It’s really hard to work with writers who are negative about their own skill, their work, the life of being a writer, or publishing in general.

*****

Alex Adsett of Alex Adsett Publishing Services is an agent of exemplary power and skill (and I don’t only say that because she’s my agent!) Alex really knows this business, so listen hard.

What do you look for in a pitch?
I’m looking for full length genre fiction only for YA and adults, so SF/F, horror, crime & mystery and romance. Within that though, I’m pretty open to all comers. I’m also looking for a polished manuscript – so it is good to hear that an author has gone through multiple drafts and not only just typed “the end”. I also want to hear that the author has more manuscripts on the go and that they see this as an ongoing career for them and do not just have the one manuscript.

What advice do you have for pitchers?
Don’t panic! The person you are pitching to is there to hear your story and, maybe, see if you have a spark of connection. We do not mind if you read your pitch or just chat to us, it really all comes down to your story, and we don’t read that until later anyway.

Saying that, be prepared. Have an idea of what your book is about and how to articulate that within 3 minutes. To be safe, you should try to have three versions of a synopsis – one sentence, one paragraph and one page, so no matter how much or little time you have with your pitch person, you have something ready to go.

Do your research on the person you are pitching to. For example, there’s no point pitching me your memoir when I’m only after genre fiction. One of the best pitches was when the author rocked up with a coffee for me. I was a big fan of that author. At the same time, the most important thing is that I love the manuscript.

What’s the most common mistake pitchers make?
Panicking! So many authors are incredibly nervous about pitching their manuscripts. This isn’t a mistake, but is unnecessary.

Be careful pitching a manuscript that isn’t ready yet. On the one hand, we probably won’t mind and you might like the practice and building your contacts, but some publishers might feel you’re wasting their time to pitch if it isn’t finished and polished.

Was there ever one particular pitch that just blew your mind? (Not personal details, just generalities.)
Pitches that have a really tight premise that ticks my boxes and make me sit up and take notice. One of the best pitches I ever had was from author J.T Clay. She pitched her zom-rom-com – zombie comedy romance, and it was smart, funny and I just loved the premise. The manuscript absolutely matched the quality of her pitch, and I was desperate to sign her up as one of my authors. That novel is now published with Momentum as The Single Girl’s Guide To the Zombie Apocalypse, and it’s like an Australian Shaun of the Dead with lots of zombie in jokes.

*****

Rochelle Fernandez is the Associate Publisher of Voyager, the science fiction and fantasy imprint of HarperCollins, and Impulse, the digital imprint. She has been an editor for ten years, across fiction and non-fiction and tweets at @roch_town. You can often find her in a bookstore or at a Rabbitohs game. Here’s what she says about pitching:

What do you look for?
In a submission, I look for good writing first and foremost. An original concept is great, and so is an unoriginal concept told in an original way or written in a compelling way. I look for strong, interesting characters – characters people can empathise with, characters that are not caricatures — a too-good hero is just as boring as an all-bad hero.

In a pitcher, I look for someone who knows the benefits of their story. I look for someone who is confident that they have written the best story possible and can articulate what is so great about it. I look for someone who knows who their book is for, who has thought about the type of person who would like to read their story (often writers write for themselves, and that’s fine, but if you want to be published, then someone else must want to read it too!)

I look for whether it fits with what Voyager publishes. I look for whether this sort of story is popular.

What advice do you have for pitchers?
Don’t be nervous! Or if you are nervous, try to hide it. You believe in your story, now make me believe in it too!

Don’t get bogged down by trying to tell the whole plot to me – a few lines about the general gist will suffice.

Think carefully about comparisons – tell me who your work resembles but tell me why it resembles that. Pick accurate comparisons, not just ones you knew sold well or were made into a movie.

Hone your elevator pitch! A snappy line that will stick in my head is a great way to get me hooked into your story.

Don’t expect an immediate answer – it usually takes me about 2 months (sometimes longer!) to get to read a submission.

Tell me if you’ve self-published or submitted to another publisher or been published before.

Tell me what spurred you on to write the book.

Tell me a little bit about yourself too – where you work, what your writing influences are etc.

Describe to me the person who you imagine will buy your story – your target market. Tell me where they shop, what they eat for breakfast, what else they read. The more detail the better!

What’s the most common mistake pitchers make?
Use up all their time telling me the intricacies of the plot instead of condensing it into a few sentences to get me hooked.

Being too nervous and shy and self deprecating. If you don’t believe in your book, why should anyone else?

Was there ever one particular pitch that just blew your mind? (Not personal details, just generalities.)
One was a completely original concept that was such a great storyline I was just blown away. However … I am still waiting for the manuscript! Perhaps that should be a tip – make sure you are ready to supply the manuscript if I like your pitch.

One was really solid – a good concept, well thought out and nicely delivered. There was nothing really stand out about it, but I knew the book was going to be good by the amount of thought the pitcher had put into it.

*****

So there you have it. That’s some seriously good advice from some stellar industry professionals. I hope you find it useful and it helps you to hone your pitch should you get that sweet opportunity. Good luck!

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Photoshop Bound giveaway winners

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July 7, 2014

So I stole this idea from Mark Lawrence and asked people to photoshop the cover of Bound into whacky pictures, just for a laugh. I was going to pick a winner. Then I couldn’t decide and asked people to go the Facebook album where I put all the pics and Like their favourites. Then I decided to reward the top three, which turned out to be four due to a tie! So I’ll be sending out four signed copies this week.

Here are the results:

Geoff Brown’s entry was a clear winner with 27 Likes (plus it panders beautifully to my ego.)

10406946 901985129828400 6411272847290657643 n 300x131 Photoshop Bound giveaway winners


Also:

David Wood with 11 Likes (you sick fuckers, all o’ya!)

10472731 902581919768721 2932070921505772847 n 300x220 Photoshop Bound giveaway winners
And joint third:

Voytek Zochowski and Josh Connolly with 7 Likes each. And come on, Bruce Lee and CoD Predator? Top work.

10488154 901410969885816 990162268133634488 n 300x294 Photoshop Bound giveaway winners

10500272 901373406556239 5073336900287324176 n 300x214 Photoshop Bound giveaway winners

Click on each image for  larger version. Those Likes might change, but that’s how they stood at 11pm Sunday when I decided to call it.

I’ll contact the winners privately for address details. Congrats all, and thanks to everyone who entered. What a lot of fun that was!

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Photoshop competition for a signed copy of Bound

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June 24, 2014

I saw this done by Mark Lawrence on Facebook and I’m shamelessly stealing it because it’s a very cool concept. The idea is that you photoshop my book into another image and link me to your work of art. The one I like (or perhaps the one that disturbs me) the most, gets a signed copy of Bound. Even though the book is only out in the Australia and New Zealand region this week, I’ll send the comp winner anywhere in the world, so you could score the book long before it’s available in your area.

The cover images are below. Click on them for a higher res version, then right click and save as, and let your creativity fly. You don’t have to be a dab hand at photoshop either – I don’t care about your technical skills so much as the idea. Dodgy graphic art can be hilarious. Impress, amuse or disturb me and you could score the book. Think things like King Kong reading a copy of Bound atop the Empire State Building, or Batman with a copy in the Batmobile or Bound as the Necronomicon or… or… the possibilities are endless. Get surreal, get nightmarish, get weird. When you’ve made your image, you can post a link to it in the comments here, or post it on my Facebook page here, or Tweet it to me here. I’ll start a gallery of entries on my Facebook page and pick a winner at some future point not too far from now.

EDIT: Some entries are coming in and they’re very cool. I’ve started to collect them in an album on my Facebook page here.

Here are the images – have at it!

Front cover:

bound cover large 195x300 Photoshop competition for a signed copy of Bound

Full cover:

COV Bound med 300x212 Photoshop competition for a signed copy of Bound

3D book mockup:

Bound 3D Cover 300x300 Photoshop competition for a signed copy of Bound

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Devilish Dr Slatter Digs the Dirt

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June 18, 2014

My good pal and extraordinarily talented writer, Dr Angela Slatter, had me over to her blog the other day where  she dug into the skinny on all things Bound. She introduced the interview thusly:

So, my mate Alan Baxter has a book out on 1 July 2014. Bound is an action-packed, kickass, pulpy urban fantasy with martial arts, evil demons (is there any other kind?), a troubled hero, a take-no-crap heroine, and a really really scary grimoire. Yeah, I’ve read, and it’s already getting some terrific reviews.

She goes on to ask me about the inspiration for Bound, my early life as a writer, my favourite writers, kickass female heroes, the lack of a title on the front cover and much more. See all my innermost thoughts* laid bear over at her blog, here.

*Note: Might not be all my innermost thoughts. No one needs to see those.

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Obligatory eligibility post for award season

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January 17, 2014

It’s award season in the SFF world and I’ve seen several people post things on Twitter and Facebook and the like that basically say, “Yes, I want a reminder of what you’ve had published in 2013 so I can make informed votes, but no, I don’t want to be spammed upside the head with it constantly.” Which is really fair enough. I’ve been enjoying several of these posts and remembering books and stories I enjoyed last year. So, I’ll just leave this post here for people to do with as they please.

In short fiction, I’ve had the following publications in 2013 (if there’s a link, you can read it online):

Not the Worst of Sins” – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #133 (October 31st, 2013)

“Roll the Bones” – Crowded Magazine issue #2 (August 2013)

“The Beat Of A Pale Wing” – A Killer Among Demons anthology (Dark Prints Press, June 2013)

“The Fathomed Wreck To See” – Midnight Echo Magazine, issue 9 (May 2013)

“On A Crooked Leg Lightly” – Dreaming Of Djinn anthology (Ticonderoga Publications, May 2013)

“Quantum Echoes” – Next anthology (CFSG Publishing, April 2013)

“A Time For Redemption” – Urban Occult anthology (Anachron Press, March 2013)

“It’s Always the Children Who Suffer” – Midnight Echo Magazine, issue 10, Winner of the 2013 AHWA Short Story Competition (due end of December, 2013)

“Exposure Compensation” – Midnight Echo Magazine, issue 10 (due end of December, 2013)

Also published in 2013 was “Dark Rite”, the short horror novel I co-wrote with David Wood. That’s some good, pulpy, Hammer-esque horror fun if you’re into that sort of thing, and barely more than a novella, so a quick, easy read.

All the anthologies, magazines, novels and so on I’ve talked about above, and all the others I’m involved with, can be tracked down via this page: http://www.alanbaxteronline.com/books/.

So if you enjoyed any of the above last year and you fancy voting for it anywhere, I would be most grateful. And remember to check in with the blogs of your favourite writers for a reminder of their eligible stuff. The more people who vote in popular awards, the better the awards reflect the will of the reading public. Have at it.

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2012 storySouth Million Writers Award notable stories

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September 25, 2013

Well, this was a very pleasant surprise today, and many thanks to Josh Melican who pointed it out to me on my Facebook page. The news came via the website of Jason Sanford, one of the judges of the storySouth Million Writers Award, and the news is that one of my stories made the cut to be shortlisted among the notable stories of 2012.

You can learn more about the award at storySouth.com

The judges are currently reading the shortlist to pick the top ten, released in October, which will be eligible for more than $1,000 in cash and prizes. I’m not too sure how it all works, but I’ll certainly be watching closely now.

My shortlisted story is Tiny Lives, originally published in Daily Science Fiction. It’s a story that’s working hard for me, as it’s already been picked to be included in the latest Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror, due out soon, which is very exciting. To be shortlisted here as well is great news.

There are quite a few notable stories on the list and it’s an honour to be among them. Full list below.

2012 storySouth Million Writers Award notable stories
(Stories listed in random order)

“Freezing Time” by Murli Melwani http://www.asiancha.com/content/view/1268/357/

“All the Things the Moon is Not” by Alexander Lumans http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/lumans_05_12/

“Dirwhals!” By Ethan Rutherford http://www.fivechapters.com/2013/dirwhals/

“For Old Times’ Sake” by Billy O’Callaghan http://www.mendacitypress.com/20OCallaghan.html

“Red Planet” By Jo Ann Heydron http://www.pacificareview.com/?p=372

“Polly” by Nik Korpon http://blackpetalsks.tripod.com/yellowmamaarchives/id434.html

“Invisible Men” by Christopher Barzak http://christopherbarzak.com/invisible-men/

“Shadows under Hexmouth Street” by Justin Howe http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/stories/shadows-under-hexmouth-street-by-justin-howe/

“Secrets of the Sea” by Jennifer Marie Brissett http://futurefire.net/2012.24/fiction/secretsofthesea.html

“Give Her Honey When You Hear Her Scream” by Maria Dahvana Headley http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/give-her-honey-when-you-hear-her-scream/

“The Grinnell Method” by Molly Gloss http://www.strangehorizons.com/2012/20120903/grinnell-f.shtml

“Hands” by Lou Gaglia http://www.waccamawjournal.com/pages.php?x=423

“Tiny Lives” by by Alan Baxter http://dailysciencefiction.com/fantasy/modern-fantasy/alan-baxter/tiny-lives

“After We Were Nothing” by Alan Stewart Carl http://www.dzancbooks.org/the-collagist/2012/6/11/after-we-were-nothing.html

“The Battle of Candle Arc” by Yoon Ha Lee http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/lee_10_12/

“Distance” by Susan Tepper http://www.thricefiction.com/pdf/ThriceFiction007X.pdf

“Sasha, That Night” by G. K. Wuori http://www.eclectica.org/v16n3/wuori.html

“Lightning My Pilot” by Samuel Snoek-Brown http://www.bartlebysnopes.com/lightningmypilot.htm

“The Three Feats of Agani” by Christie Yant http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/stories/the-three-feats-of-agani/

“Lone Wolf” by Eric Freeze http://carvezine.com/2012-winter-freeze/

“An Occurrence at School” by Okechukwu Otukwu http://www.eclectica.org/v16n2/otukwu.html

“The Anastasia Caper” by Bruce Graham www.eclectica.org/v16n2/graham.html

“West” by Ryan W. Bradley http://www.pankmagazine.com/west/

“Woodrow Wilson” by Tim Horvath http://www.mhpbooks.com/woodrow-wilson/

“Birthday Americana” by Erika Swyler http://www.litro.co.uk/2012/07/erika-swyler-birthday-americana/

“Cousin Barnaby is Dead” by Clifford Garstang http://www.joylandmagazine.com/stories/midwest/cousin_barnaby_dead

“Reform, AL” by Christopher Lowe http://baltimorereview.org/index.php/winter_2012/contributor/christopher-lowe

“The Cathedral of Es” by Michael Stein http://www.pilvaxmag.com/the-cathedral-of-es-by-michael-stein/

“Mother Ship” by Caroline M. Yoachim http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/mother-ship/

“Who Cooks for You” By Holly Goddard Jones http://www.fivechapters.com/2012/who-cooks-for-you/

“Why I Hate the Holidays” by Andrea Broxton http://www.eclectica.org/v16n1/broxton.html

“Confidante” by Michael Barber http://www.eclectica.org/v16n1/barber.html

“And the Hollow Space Inside” by Mari Ness http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/ness_02_12/

“Chlorine Mermaid” by Rachel Steiger-Meister http://carvezine.com/2012-spring-steiger-meister/

“Serkers and Sleep” by Kenneth Schneyer http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/stories/serkers-and-sleep-by-kenneth-schneyer/

“Art Lessons” by Gleah Powers http://www.primenumbermagazine.com/Issue17_Fiction_GleahPowers.html

“Household Management” by Ellen Klages http://www.strangehorizons.com/fund_drives/2012/special-issue-household-f.shtml

“Everyday Murders” by Jasobn Ockert http://www.storysouth.com/2012/09/everyday-murders.html

“Watching Alice Watch” by Nan Cuba http://www.storysouth.com/2012/03/watching-alice-watch.html

“Literature Appreciation” by Man Martin http://carvezine.com/2012-winter-martin/

“The Raven” by Jacqueline Kolosov http://cimarronreview.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/kolosov4web.pdf

“The Ones” by Nicholas Rombes http://fiddleblack.org/journal/issue-6/the-ones

“Treasures Few Have Ever Seen” by Mary Akers http://www.primenumbermagazine.com/Issue29_Fiction_MaryAkers.html

“And the Ruin of That House Was Great” by Ric Hoeben http://tampareviewonline.org/fiction/and-the-ruin-of-that-house-was-great/

“The Eternal Youth of Everyone Else” by Adrienne Celt http://carvezine.com/2012-summer-celt/

“The King’s Huntsman” by Jennifer Mason-Black http://giganotosaurus.org/2012/09/01/the-kings-huntsman

“Melt With You” by Emily C. Skaftun http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/skaftun_04_13/

“The Tree Poachers” by James Zerndt http://www.spiltinfinitive.com/the-tree-poachers/#.UfBgNVOt7-c

“The Butterfly Effect” by Daniel Harris http://madhattersreview.com/issue13/cnf_harris.shtml

“Ocean of Ash” by Kirsten Perry http://www.wordriot.org/archives/4450

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You don’t owe me anything

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June 28, 2013

boy reading 263x300 You dont owe me anything Mea culpa. I am guilty of this and I’m putting my hand up right now to accept that and change my position. I’m getting more than a little sick and tired of authors demanding things of their readers. Back in 2011, I wrote this blog post where I said such things as “You’re a reader and you have a new responsibility” and “it’s an act of true benevolence to leave good reviews of stuff you enjoy, or drop by websites and leave a star rating. You can write a single line or single paragraph review and copy that to all the sites you visit or shop at. If you do blog, then reviewing a book on your site is fantastic. But whatever you do, do something.” While I still believe that stuff has true value, the last part is bollocks and I take it back. You don’t have to do something. You don’t have to do jack shit.

I also posted a thing recently which listed all the ways readers could care for authors – it was a funky little infographic and had things like leaving star ratings at Amazon and Goodreads, reviewing, telling friends and family and so on. Again, all those things are great, but you don’t have to do anything.

If you bought a book, give yourself a pat on the back, because you are a fucking legend. You did all you had to do. Anything else is gravy. I do log all the books I read on Goodreads. I usually leave short reviews, and cross-post to Amazon if I can. I’m one of three contributing editors at Thirteen O’Clock, a dark fiction review site. But you know what? I really enjoy all that stuff. I’m happy to do it. But I don’t have to do any of it and neither do you.

I honestly believe that reviews are the lifeblood of authors. Whether those reviews are on a dedicated blog, at sites like Goodreads or over a beer in the pub with your friends, only honest word of mouth really works. That’s the holy grail of marketing right there. People talking up your shit is the stuff of dreams. But if someone bought your book, enjoyed it and never mentioned it again, anywhere, it doesn’t matter. They haven’t slacked off in their readerly duties at all.

Too often now I’m seeing things like the stuff I posted before, but it’s starting feel wrong. Where my intention in posting it was a genuine entreaty for mutual support between readers and writers (who are often the same person, incidentally), I’m seeing a more and more militant approach lately and it’s pissing me off. It makes the stuff I wrote before seem just as militant and I don’t like that. I don’t want to demand anything of my readers. Fuck me, you bought my book! I’m dancing like a freaking numpty over here, because that is the absolute top of the line result right there.

If you want to do more, like write reviews, tell your friends, even buy more copies as gifts for like-minded friends and family, then you shit solid gold and your breath smells like roses dipped in chocolate and don’t let anybody tell you different, because you went above and beyond, dear reader. You, sir or madam, are a diamond encrusted behemoth of a human being. Because you didn’t owe me anything. No one does. But if all you did was buy and read my books, you still have gold shit, chocolate-rose breath and diamond encrusted body parts, because there’s nothing “all you did” about it. You bought and read a book. You. Fucking. Rock.

So yes, I do still stand by the value of all those lovely things readers can do, but I retract any assertion that they have to do those things. Because it’s getting kinda creepy and nasty out there and the last thing we need to do is be creepy and nasty around our readers. Talk about taking a crap in your food bowl. Readers are awesome and that’s all writers really want – to be read. So buy the book, read it and hopefully have a good time. If you choose to signal boost that book in any way, you’re brilliant. If you don’t, you’re still brilliant, because you’re a reader. And you don’t owe anyone anything.

*drops mic*

*reads*

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Home to nice reviews

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April 29, 2013

I’m back from Conflux 9 and a damn fine time was had by all. Great to catch up with old friends, make some new friends and drink too much. I’ll write up a proper report soon, probably tomorrow. I’m too brain dead today and have a bunch of classes to teach, so might go for a little lie down for while beforehand. But I came back to some very nice reviews of Dark Rite, which is always wonderful.

Firstly, the very cool Damien Smith wrote us this review for Thirteen O’Clock, where he says: “a rollercoaster ride that kept me turning the pages until I was almost late for work” among other nice things.

And US author Terry Ervin II had this to say:

“Unraveling the mystery of his dad’s death turns into a nightmare as Grant finds himself mired in a dark cult’s secret that long ago engulfed a small town, and threatens Cassie, a girl he’s fallen for. Grant knows he’s doomed, but that doesn’t mean the demon worshipers have to win.

As the plot began to unfold, I found myself unwilling to put the book aside until I reached the end.”

–Terry W. Ervin II, author of Blood Sword

Bloody lovely. But for now, a snoozzzzzzzz…

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Dead Robots’ Society Podcast

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April 24, 2013

Pic DRS Dead Robots Society PodcastI got up a bit earlier than usual this morning to be a guest on the Dead Robots’ Society Podcast along with David Wood. We had a lot of fun, talked about genre fiction and horror especially. Of course, we were mostly talking up Dark Rite as that’s the new and current thing.

It’s a great podcast and we had a good laugh with hosts Justin Macumber and Paul Elard Cooley. The episode is up and available already, so go here to have a listen.

On that front, I was very happy today to see that Dark Rite is at number 42 in Horror Hot New Releases on Amazon, and number 17 in Occult Horror Hot New Releases. Thanks to everyone who had bought a copy – you people rock.

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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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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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