Serial Novella

Ghost of the Black back in print

January 17, 2014

photoAfter a few requests from various places, I’ve made my sci-fi noir novella, Ghost of the Black: A ‘Verse Full of Scum, available in print again. It was originally self-published in serial form on this very website (and is still available to read here), then I made it available as an ebook and paperback through my little micro-press, Blade Red Press. It’s still available there as an ebook, even though Blade Red is on indefinite hiatus.

However, thanks to the wonders of CreateSpace, it’s now available in paperback again. You can find it in on Amazon here. It can also be ordered via Ingram’s and will propagate out to all the other online bookstores over time.

It’s a bit over 100 pages of magical, science fiction, crime noir fun, so if you’re keen, grab yourself a copy. Or it would make a fine gift for a friend. Here’s the blurb:

Ghost is possibly the best bounty hunter in the universe and he always gets the job done. At least, that’s the reputation that he rides on. When the DAP employ him to track down and capture a rogue Magicker who’s running across the galaxy killing anyone who gets in his way, Ghost realises that this is a job that could cost him his reputation. It’s also a job that could cost him his sanity. A sci-fi noir novella from the author of RealmShift and MageSign.


The Darkest Shade Of Grey ebook now available

March 23, 2012

DSOG-coverI’m really excited about this, so excuse me while I Snoppy Dance. My novella, The Darkest Shade Of Grey, is now available as an ebook, from Amazon and Smashwords. It’ll soon populate out through the Smashwords Premium catalogue to iBooks and all the other good places for ebooks.

David Johanssen’s drinking problem goes beyond the usual need for self-medication. He sees things he shouldn’t be able to see, things no one could handle seeing. And he has no one but himself to blame.

When a chance encounter offers the possibility of answers, he follows the bloody trail in spite of his own fears. It could be the big story he needs to keep his job. It could be the meaning of life. Or it could be the end of his world.

The story is published by The Red Penny Papers, and serialised on their site in four parts. Those four parts and a mini interview with me have subsequently been collected into this ebook edition, which will only cost US$1.99 of your Earth money. Less than half a cup of coffee for what the publisher calls “stunning supernatural noir”. How can you go wrong?

Don’t trust me or the publisher? Well, don’t panic. I’m also Snoopy Dancing due to this excellent review of The Darkest Shade Of Grey from the Australian Godfather of Darkness, Robert Hood. I couldn’t be happier that someone I respect as much as Robert Hood enjoyed my work and gets what I was trying to do. Thanks, Rob, for a great review!

I’m very proud of this story and pleased that it’s been publihsed by such a classy outfit as The Red Penny Papers. Go get some. If you do read it and enjoy it, please leave a review at Amazon, Smashwords or wherever else you usually hang out. Reviews are the very life essence of a writer’s career. Well, actually, love and royalties are the real life essence, but they’re powered by reviews.

The Darkest Shade Of Grey at Amazon.

The Darkest Shade Of Grey at Smashwords.

The Darkest Shade Of Grey at The Red Penny Papers.


The Darkest Shade Of Grey now complete, and ebook on the way

March 12, 2012

The Darkest Shade Of GreyI’m very proud of this story, and it’s now up at The Red Penny Papers in its entirety. It’s a novelette in four parts, totalling about 18,000 words. I’m also very pleased to announce that it will be the first in a new range of novella and novelette ebooks from Red Penny Papers. They run regular serials as well as their short story editions, and now all the serial authors will have the option to have their serial collected in an ebook edition after the initial web run. The stories will stay on the web as well, and be available on Amazon Kindle and via Smashwords. The Darkest Shade Of Grey ebook will be out next week for $1.99. Bargain! Details here. I’ll make another quick post with links when it’s available, or you can read the story now at The Red Penny Papers. Click the link or the book cover on the left.

And what a great cover it is, too. Megan Eckman was commissioned by RPP for that and she did a great job. It really captures the story, I think.

The story itself was inspired by a friend of mine, who told me about something that happened to him back in his days as a journalist. From that account, the germ of this story idea grew and it just blossomed into what eventually became The Darkest Shade Of Grey. The story is set in Sydney and tells of a bitter, divorced, alcoholic journalist, David Johanssen, who’s desperately trying to see the point to his existence. He’s saddled not only with his bitterness and alcoholism, but with unwanted supernatural abilites he developed after messing with occult practices he should have left well alone. And then one day he crosses paths with a very strange homeless man, who sets in motion a series of events that could make David’s career. Or destroy him completely.

The publisher describes the story as “a bit of stunning supernatural noir”.

I hope you enjoy it. Please tell your friends and colleagues if you do and share the links around.


Guest post – The Copper Promise by Jennifer Williams

March 7, 2012

I’m pleased to present a guest post today from Jennifer Williams, where she talks about the way writing often seems to have a life of its own. I hope you enjoy it. – Alan

Copper PromiseThe Copper Promise

Where did it come from? How did it go from a small thing to a big thing? This is what I’ve been thinking about lately. Sometimes I feel like I’m a scientist in a 1950s B-movie, looking sadly from the broken cage that once contained a small, docile bunny rabbit, to the very large and ominous bunny-shaped hole in the wall. Around me there are test tubes of various lurid colours. Some of them are gently steaming. From outside I can hear the distant screams of people being devoured by a giant bunny monster, and I’m not really sure how this happened.

I’d written some short stories, you see, enough that people started to ask me if I’d written anything longer. I have actually, I’ve written a number of chunky old novels, but the trouble with these is that they all require a severe beating with the editing stick and that sort of treatment takes time. So my thought was that I could write a longer thing, a story especially for the people who wanted something to get their teeth into; it would be longer than a short story, but not as huge and unwieldy as a novel. It would be a novella: it would be zippy and sexy, it wouldn’t take all that long to do, and I could pop it straight up on Amazon for people to download onto their kindles.

In terms of keeping it small I didn’t get off to a great start. My first idea was a horror story about the ghost of a serial killer haunting part of South East London. Zippy, I thought. Super-fast. Unfortunately the story ballooned, and eventually became The Snake House, a full-length novel containing all sorts of nasty stuff I didn’t realise I was capable of, and just as needful of a damn good editing as all my other books. So, not so zippy.

I tried again. I asked myself, what do I really love? At the time I was reading a lot of fantasy, and had just launched into a merry re-read of the Discworld novels. Gradually, an idea formed; at this stage still a tiny wee fluffy thing with a pink nosie and tiny feet. Perhaps, I thought, I could write a novella that looked back to the golden age of pulp fantasy fiction. It would be quick and zippy and sexy, and that would be appropriate for a fast-paced adventure. I could make it modern too, trim off some of the sexism and racism that sometimes cropped up, and populate it with realistic characters.

At what point did The Copper Promise bloom into a series of novellas? It is difficult to say. One minute I had a bunny-rabbit of an idea, curled into my hand, peaceably munching on a carrot, and the next I had a beast chewing at my elbow. Perhaps, you could say, I have no self-control. You might suggest I got a little experimental with the test tubes and it’s all my fault. Personally, I blame it on the genre.

The thing with fantasy books, and I genuinely believe this, is that they grow. All by themselves. I suspect there have been many fantasy writers, their beards glistening softly in the pearly light from their laptops, wondering how this little book, this off-the-cuff thing that was supposed to be 70,000 words at the most became a sprawling twelve book epic, taking up its own shelf at their local Waterstones.

I think fantasy has a life of its own. As George R.R Martin said (he of the glistening beard and sprawling seven book epic) “the best fantasy is written in the language of dreams”; it’s coming from a place deep inside us that we can’t necessarily control. There are whole worlds inside us and sometimes they make themselves known. I think this explains a lot.

And perhaps I can blame it on the characters a little bit too. Wydrin of Crosshaven, my charming rogue who was born out of a desire to write a strong female character and a love of Fritz Leiber’s Gray Mouser, soon stopped listening to my instructions and disobeyed appallingly. Similarly, Lord Frith and my dear knight Sebastian soon showed themselves to be more fun than they had any right to be, and I knew that I couldn’t leave them after just the one novella. The monstrous bunny flexed its terrible hairy muscles, booted open the door of the cage and sprinted off into the night, smelling faintly of mead and leather.

My short zippy experiment is now a serial. I suppose I’m lucky really; The Copper Promise will be about the length of a normal book when it’s finished, and will still look puny next to the multi-volume epics. Although I do look at those test tubes, and I wonder…

Jennifer Williams is a fantasy writer from South East London. She started her career by making up scary stories to frighten her school friends, and when this inevitably attracted the ire of certain parents she took to writing them down instead. The Copper Promise is the first in a short series of sword and sorcery novellas.

These days she lives in one of the more excitingly eventful bits of London with her partner and their cat, and when not frowning at notebooks in pubs and cafes her spare time is often spent gesticulating wildly at her Xbox. Jennifer blogs about things like writing, video games and fandom at


The Darkest Shade Of Grey, episode 2 now live

February 28, 2012

My serial novella, The Darkest Shade Of Grey, is being published in four weekly installments by The Red Penny Papers. It’s free to read online, so get on over there and check it out.

Episode 1 is here.

Episode 2 is here.

Episodes 3 and 4 will be published over the next two weeks.

If you enjoy it, please do share the links with your family, friends and colleagues.


The Darkest Shade Of Grey Episode 1 now published online

February 20, 2012

I’ve been very excited about this one for a while. My novelette, The Darkest Shade Of Grey, is finally published. At least, Episode 1 is now up. It’s being serialised over four weeks at The Red Penny Papers. Firstly, check out this sweet cover, by awesome artist Megan Eckman.

The Darkest Shade Of Grey

Click on the cover for a bigger version.

I just love that image – it really captures the heart of the story. The publisher describes the story thus:

It’s a bit of stunning supernatural noir about a hard up journalist whose drinking problem goes beyond the usual need for self-medication. David sees things he shouldn’t be able to see, that no one could handle seeing — and he has no one but himself to blame for opening the door to them.

Click here to read Episode 1 and I’ll post each week when the next episode is up. Parts 2, 3 and 4 should be posted each Friday/Saturday (depending on your timezone) over the next three weeks. I’m incredibly proud of this story, so I really hope you all enjoy it.


For the love of online fiction magazines

February 10, 2012

I’ve had my work published in just about every medium in which fiction can be published. I’m very proud of that. My novels are in print, ebook and, very soon to be released, audiobook. I’d love to see them make it into graphic novel and film. Maybe one day. My short fiction has been published in print and electronic magazines, print and ebook anthologies, podcasts and online magazines. And one of my stories is currently being adapted into a short film. There was a time when print was considered the only “real” publishing and everything else was a poor cousin at best, an exercise in vanity at worst. That’s changing dramatically.

To be clear, I love my brag shelf. That’s the part of my bookcase which houses all the magazines and books that feature my work. It’s a thing of beauty. I’m a bibliophile and I love to hold books and feel the pages. I love the scent of ink on a glossy magazine page. But, as a writer, I want to be read by as many people as possible. I want people to enjoy my work, talk about it, get something from it and share it with their friends. And I can’t help thinking that we’ve moved to a place where that isn’t best achieved with print any more.

There are numerous ways to get “published” these days, and that in itself can be a problem. I use quote marks there for a reason. Just because a website will post your story on their garish page, pay you nothing and, probably, don’t really care about quality, doesn’t mean you should be dancing in the aisles. It’s quite likely that nobody is reading that page beyond you and the other contributors. And ask yourself, did you read any of their stories?

Of course, anywhere that an editor of any kind chooses your work over someone else’s is cause for celebration – congratulations, you are a published writer. But we should all aspire to higher things. Personally, I aspire to being paid for my work, ideally being paid well, and being read by as many people as possible.

This is where online magazines are really starting to earn a place of reputation. There are many online zines now which are run just like a “proper” magazine, with editors only choosing the best work and actually editing it. With pay scales that venture well into pro-rates, recompensing authors for their painfully extruded word babies, and with a readership numbering into the many thousands. All these things are great for a writer’s career – recognition, payment and readership.

Many of these magazines are using technology to its best advantage, and making themselves into a kind of hybrid model. For example, they may start with an online edition but also make each issue available as an ebook for people to read at their leisure on their Nook, iPad, Kindle or whatever marvel of reading technology they favour. Some sites also produce limited print runs of each issue, or chapbooks, with added value – signed and numbered, maybe – that readers can collect. Some also produce an annual anthology of their stories, or a Best Of the year anthology. Others use a combination of online text and downloadable podcast. All these things can also help to generate income for said online zine and keep it alive and keep it paying its authors.

All these things are getting the blood, sweat and tears of us crazy writers out to the hungry minds of readers in a variety of ways, of which print is arguably the least important. And they’re doing it with those two most important criteria well in evidence – payment and editing. As a result, hopefully, they garner a wide readership.

The other advantage of the primarily online model is the ubiquitous and permanent nature of the thing. If you read a great story in an online magazine, you can tell a friend pretty much anywhere in the world and that friend can instantly access the story themselves. They don’t have to track down a book or magazine, or pay expensive overseas shipping rates. Bang! One new reader, maybe one new fan. With social media, it’s as simple as tweeting a link to spread the magazine joy out among people well beyond your circle of actual friends and family.

Of course, should the website ever go down or get deleted, the work goes with it. Should that friend I mentioned not have an internet connection, they are excluded. That’s one reason I’m a fan of the secondary print/hybrid option (chapbooks, POD anthology, etc.) as that means the work is preserved, in however a limited way, beyond the inevitable EMP that destroys civilisation. Plus, authors get something for their brag shelf. (We’re petty, vain creatures. Love us and love our work, please!)

On that front, and as a slight – well complete and total – tangent, I’ve recently paid fifty bucks to put all my short fiction to date (around 200,000 words of it) into two Print-On-Demand hardcovers. They’re just for my own shelf, a preserved hard copy of my work. It’s easy today with sites like Lulu automating the process. After all, I back up everything I write on hard drive, memory stick and cloud storage. Now it’s easy to back up in print too.

Online magazines are starting to be recognised industry-wide, pulling in all kinds of awards for themselves and the fiction they publish. More power to them, I say. It’s never been easier for writers to reach more people, though of course, it’s still bloody hard to get work accepted by the really high-echelon, pro-paying online zines. But there’s that aspiration again. I plan to continue submitting to those places and thereby continue to support them by offering my work as well as reading the work of others they already publish. And I’ll tell as many people about them as I can. It’s good for me, my career, the magazine in question, and all its readers and fans. In a future post I intend to list a run-down of my favourite online fiction magazines, which is why I’ve avoided mentioning any specific ones here.

Well, I’ll just mention one. My new novelette, The Darkest Shade Of Grey, will be serialised over four weeks at The Red Penny Papers, starting in a week or two. I’ll be sure to let you know when that’s up. As the publication is so imminent, I couldn’t resist a quick plug.

In the meantime, what are your favourite online fiction magazines? Let me know and I’ll try to include them in the future post I mentioned. Do you read much online fiction? Prefer it over magazines? Buy the ecopy later? Share your habits.


Interview at the Tara Sharp site

November 25, 2011

The wonderful Kylie Fox interviewed me recently for the Tara Sharp site. We talked about what I’m working on, my future publications and how a lot of my stuff has crime or mystery tropes at its core.

Check it out here:


Read an ebook week

March 7, 2011

March 6th to 12th is Read An Ebook Week. You may or may not enjoy ebooks already and I’m not here to convert you. But, in celebration of the week, my publisher is making all their books half price on Smashwords. That includes my novels, RealmShift and MageSign.

To get into the spirit of the thing, I’ve also made my Ghost Of The Black novella free for the week. Yep, free. But wait, there’s more. My little publishing outfit has made its two anthologies – Souls Along The Meridian by Bill Congreve and Dark Pages 1 edited by Brenton Tomlinson – half price as well.

So that’s two great novels and two great collections all for $1.50 each and a noir sci-fi novella for nothing. This week only. It’s an ebook bonanza. All you need to do is go to the relevant page and purchase the book and then use the code RAE50 at checkout to apply the discounts. Direct links below. Go get ’em:



Ghost Of The Black.

Souls Along The Meridian.

Dark Pages 1.

All Gryphonwood Press titles.


Free fiction and the value of our efforts

February 3, 2011

The advent of the internet has had many effects, not least of which is giving a voice to pretty much everybody. We’re all sitting at keyboards making noise, like a flock of a billion seagulls fighting over one bag of chips. It’s not a bad thing, as far as I’m concerned. The really strong voices lift above the white noise and everyone gravitates towards those voices that interest them. It’s a big world and an infinite internet, so there’s room in this sandbox for everyone. However, another aspect of that easy online voice is a million wannabe writers posting their stuff online and hoping people will read it. Again, not necessarily a bad thing, but a potentially damaging one for a writer’s career in the long run.

I’m one of those voices, obviously. I’ve got some of my own fiction posted here for anyone to read. I’ve engaged in the Friday Flash phenomenon. Is this damaging for my career? I don’t think so. I think it’s helping my career, by giving potential readers an insight into some of my stuff. I’ve had some nice comments from people about stories they’ve read here. But I’ve engaged in the practice with careful forethought.

I decided to write about this after reading this post on Benjamin Solah’s blog. You may remember that Benjamin guest posted here about a week ago, talking about his experiment self-publishing an ebook of his fiction. The power of the internet gave him some pretty solid and honest feedback very quickly. It can be summed up quite well in these comments on Ben’s post by Jason Fischer:

My two cents is this: trunk stories belong in your trunk. You either take them apart and make them good enough to sell, or you leave them there. Why would you want anyone to see a piece of your writing that isn’t working? If your career takes off, do you *really* want these out there?…

There’s so much fiction out there for the reading, even more with the new e-book markets. As such, it is remarkably easy to slide into the infamous “90% of everything that is crap” of Sturgeon’s Law. You should be aspiring to be in the other 10%, not taking the path of least resistance and self-publishing your unsellable trunk stuff.

Work on the nuts and bolts of your writing first and foremost. Be brutal with your own writing, edit, and edit some more. If you can’t get it to work, trunk it and try something else, and LEAVE IT IN THE TRUNK. You can promote something till the cows come home, but if it’s no good, no-one will want it…

These comments are culled from a longer conversation and it’s worth reading Ben’s post to see the whole discussion. Jason is someone worth listening to – apart from being a top bloke, his advice comes from great experience. He’s made many quality short fiction sales and is a recent winner of Writers Of The Future, among many other awards and nominations. Check him out here.

I agree with his sentiments. So how is what I’ve done with fiction on my site different to Ben’s experiment? There’s one simple difference – all the fiction I’ve made available to read here is previously published somewhere (with a couple of exceptions that I’ll talk about in a minute). Some of it is older stuff published in non-paying markets, but it’s still stuff I’m proud of. Other stories are published in better markets and the links here are directly to sites where the story can be found. The point is that it made it past an editor, so I’ve got unbiased, third party confirmation that it’s worth a read. For that reason, I’m happy to direct people towards it and say, “Here’s some of my writing for you to check out, I hope you like it.” If I wasn’t able to sell that story to an editor, even “sell” it to a for the love market, then I certainly won’t put it up here with a pouty face and a “well, I think it’s good enough” attitude. Because it’s not. Writers are the worst possible critics of their own work. Of course we love everything we write – we wrote it!

If people do like it, with any luck they’ll seek out some of my other stuff, they might take a punt on my novels. Hopefully then they’ll enjoy my books and recommend them to friends or buy copies to give as gifts. Using the same hypothesis, the first three chapters of both my books are available here (just click on book covers to find them) so that people can try before they buy.

The other exercise in free fiction I engaged in was Ghost Of The Black: A ‘Verse Full Of Scum. In an effort to generate return visits to my site and more interest in my fiction, I wrote a 30,000ish word novella in a series of episodes, which I then posted here every Monday during 2008. This was a conscious decision to write a piece of fiction that I had no intention of trying to sell. Rather, it was a deliberate exercise in giving something away to showcase my writing. It’s still available on the Serial Fiction page and it’s also available as an ebook and print book, that I’ve self-published. On the whole it’s been very well received and garnered a few decent reviews. Whether it’s really done much to enhance my career is hard to say, but I certainly don’t think it’s done any damage. Whether I leave it here indefinitely is also hard to say. For now, I’m happy to leave it for people to enjoy. I may take down the Serial Fiction page one day, and just leave the ebook and print edition available for people to buy. I may take those away too at some point. (Leave a comment if you have a particular opinion about that – I’d be interested to know.)

What I haven’t done is post here those stories that I couldn’t sell. Believe me, my story trunk is a dark and nasty place, full of things I really don’t want anyone else to see.

Another example of free, unpublished fiction here comes from my occasional jaunts into the Friday Flash meme. This is essentially a community of writers that post flash fiction on their websites and promote it with the #FridayFlash hashtag through Twitter and Facebook. A lot of those people don’t care about getting published, they’re just happy to be part of a community of likeminded people. Things that I’ve posted on Friday Flash are stories that I’ve decided are a good idea and an entertaining little yarn, but one that I don’t want to spend time trying to sell or expand into a longer piece. They’re all taster stories, exercises in writing and storytelling.

For me, writing is a very serious business. Friday Flash was a brief hobby. I don’t mean to denigrate the community by this statement at all, it’s just my own personal situation now. I’m not likely to post any more Friday Flash – I agree with the comments on Ben’s post that it’s a time-sink and I intend to spend that time on sellable short stories and novels. I’ve had fun with it, but now I’m moving on.

These days I only approach semi-pro and pro markets with my work. I know I can get stuff published in other places, but I’m improving my craft and expecting better results from myself. If I can’t sell a story to at least a semi-pro market, I won’t sell it at all. Nor will I post it here on my website. As the things on my site here attest, I was happy to get acceptances from much smaller markets before. Every writer starts somewhere. But I won’t stay there. I want to improve as a writer and I want to sell my work to better and better places all the time. I intend to be a pro writer, as in, get paid pro rates for my work, and I’ll keep working towards that. Recent sales are bearing out the worth of this endeavour – I’m making better sales all the time. I’m still yet to crack the big time pro markets, but I will one day.

In the meantime, I’m happy to leave the stuff here that I’ve already posted. I may well decide to take it all away at some point. Who knows?

What do you think? Do you appreciate free fiction as a taste of a writer’s work? Are you a writer for or against the idea? Have you had good or bad experiences posting fiction on your site? Do you think I should leave free fiction here or take it away? Leave your comments – I’m interested in people’s thoughts.



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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