Small Press

Mythic Resonance is out now, featuring a story from me

February 16, 2012

mythic600 193x300 Mythic Resonance is out now, featuring a story from meMythic Resonance is The Specusphere‘s first printed publication. It is an anthology of speculative fiction short stories by Australian writers following the theme of myths and legends.

I’m proud to say that my story, The Everywhere And The Always, is included. Here’s the full ToC:

Foreword — Sue Hammond and Stephen Thompson
The Salted Heart — N A Sulway
The Everywhere And The Always — Alan Baxter
Annabel and the Witch — Paul Freeman
Through these eyes I see — Donna Maree Hanson
A Tale of Publication — Les Zigomanis
La Belle Dame — Satima Flavell
Glorious Destiny — Steven Gepp
Meeting my Renaissance Man — Vicky Daddo
Wetlands — Jen White
Man’s Best Friend — Tom Williams
In Paradise, Trapped — Kelly Dillon
Holly and Iron — Nigel Read
Brothers — Sue Bursztynski

The print version is available now with an ebook due out any time.

All the details here.


Online Spec-Fic magazines you should be reading

February 14, 2012

So I mentioned in my post a few days ago, where I gushed about my love of online magazines, that I would post a follow-up where I list some of the best ones. Here we go then. Please note that this is just a taster based on my own reading habits and by no means definitive. Please do comment below with your favourites so we can all find new good stuff out there. I’ve copied the About section from each of their sites to give you an idea of what they do. Click the title to visit their site.

Online Spec-Fic magazines you should be reading:


Lightspeed is an online science fiction and fantasy magazine. In its pages, you will find science fiction: from near-future, sociological soft SF, to far-future, star-spanning hard SF—and fantasy: from epic fantasy, sword-and-sorcery, and contemporary urban tales, to magical realism, science-fantasy, and folktales. No subject is off-limits, and we encourage our writers to take chances with their fiction and push the envelope.

Lightspeed was a finalist for the 2011 Hugo Award, and stories from Lightspeed have been nominated for the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Award.

Edited by bestselling anthologist John Joseph Adams, every month Lightspeed brings you a mix of originals and reprints, and featuring a variety of authors—from the bestsellers and award-winners you already know to the best new voices you haven’t heard of yet. When you read Lightspeed, it is our hope that you’ll see where science fiction and fantasy comes from, where it is now, and where it’s going.


Clarkesworld is a monthly science fiction and fantasy magazine first published in October 2006. Each issue contains at least three pieces of original fiction from new and established authors. Our fiction is also collected by issue in signed chapbooks, ebook editions/subscriptions and in our annual print anthology, Realms.

Strange Horizons

Strange Horizons is a magazine of and about speculative fiction and related nonfiction.

Speculative fiction includes science fiction, fantasy, horror, slipstream, and all other flavors of fantastika. Work published in Strange Horizons has been shortlisted for or won Hugo, Nebula, Rhysling, Theodore Sturgeon, James Tiptree Jr., and World Fantasy Awards.

The Red Penny Papers

One rainy afternoon, I found my dear sister-in-law alone in the sitting room. To my shock and potential mortification, she had my collection of sensational literature out of its (obviously inadequate) hiding spot behind the leather-bound editions of Thackeray. She looked up from an eight-part adventure of Black Bess to say, “My dear Maggie! What is this rubbish?”

“Clara, my love, they’re adventures.”

“They’re those– those red pennies!”

“You mean penny bloods, my dear? Or perhaps penny dreadfuls?”

“Oh, yes. Perhaps I do.”

She looked from the lurid literature in her lap to me, and then back again several times. And then she finally said, “Have you any more?”

And so were born the Red Penny Papers.

Incidentally, Red Penny Papers are publishing my novelette, The Darkest Shade of Grey, in four episodes, starting this Friday. It’s a story I’m very proud of and I hope you guys like it too.

Wily Writers

The Wily Writers site publishes two short stories per month in both audio and text formats. They host a celebrity editor for each theme, and they choose the stories along with the producer (Angel Leigh McCoy).

They publish only short fiction that falls under the genre umbrella of speculative fiction: horror, fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal romance/mystery/adventure, and have specific themes that they ask writers to follow.

I’ve had great experiences with Wily Writers over the years. They’ve published two of my stories, Stand Off and Declan’s Plan, and I’m the current guest editor, where I’ve picked two great post-apoc stories for this month.


COSMOS is a literary science magazine with a global following. Australia’s #1 science media brand, it reaches 400,000 people every month via a print magazine, a daily online news website and a weekly e-newsletter. Our COSMOS Teacher’s Notes reach 65% of Australian high schools, and we produce a wide range of quality editorial products (such as websites, booklets, posters and DVDs) for a range of clients.

COSMOS internationally respected for its literary writing, excellence in design and engaging breadth of content. It’s the winner of 45 awards, including the Magazine of the Year trophy in both 2009 and 2006, and twice Editor of the Year, at the annual Publishers Australia Excellence Awards. COSMOS has also won the American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award, the Reuters/IUCN Award for Excellence in Environmental Journalism, the City of Sydney Lord Mayor’s Sustainability Award and an Earth Journalism Award.

While this is primarily a print magazine, with fiction included in the print edition, they have an excellent online section of fiction for stories they can’t fit in the print edition.


ticon4 launched in 2008, the fourth incarnation of TiconderogaOnline, which began way back in 1999.

Originally published by Russell B. Farr, the webzine is now edited by Liz Grzyb. We provide fiction, reviews, interviews and other tidbits to do with speculative fiction.

ticon4 is part of independent publisher Ticonderoga Publications, and is able to present you with excellent fiction for free, through donations and book sales.


Hub started as a physical magazine in December 2006. Originally intended to sell as a bi-monthly title, with the very best new fiction, features, news, reviews and interviews, the magazine was well-received by all those that read it.

Despite healthy orders and a growing subscriber base, Hub was unable to attract the advertising revenue necessary for this type of magazine to survive, and the print edition folded after just two issues.

Buoyed by the reception Hub had received, I decided to keep the momentum going. Rather than allow Hub to fold, I and co-editor Alasdair Stuart turned the magazine into an electronic journal. Foolishly optimistic, we decided that Hub was to become a weekly magazine, publishing one piece of short fiction every issue, along with regular reviews and occasional features and interviews. The first electronic edition (issue 3) was distributed to around 900 readers on April 20th, 2007.

Kasma SF

Based in Ottawa, Canada, Kasma SF is a completely free online magazine featuring quality science fiction from some of the genre’s brightest new (and sometimes more established) voices. We publish fiction on the first of every month, our blog weekly, so have a look around, have fun, and please check back often.

My story, Mistaken Identity, was published at Kasma SF in 2011.


Redstone Science Fiction publishes quality stories from across the science fiction spectrum. We are interested in everything from post-cyberpunk to new space opera. We want to live forever. Get us off this rock.

We have all been reading Science Fiction and Fantasy since we were children. It has been a key element in our lives.

From writing and submitting our own stories, we’ve learned that there are only a handful of online & print magazines that pay a professional rate for original science fiction stories.

We decided that there needed to be one more.

We know the magazine will probably not be profitable, but we have planned for that.

We will focus on producing a quality science fiction magazine and on exploring every opportunity to make Redstone Science Fiction a long-term success.

Abyss & Apex

There’s no About page for me to copy and paste for this one, but Abyss & Apex is a great magazine with consistently good fiction.

Daily Science Fiction

Original Science Fiction and Fantasy every weekday. Welcome to Daily Science Fiction, an online magazine of science fiction short stories. We publish “science fiction” in the broad sense of the word: This includes sci-fi, fantasy, slipstream—whatever you’d likely find in the science fiction section of your local bookstore. Our stories are mostly short short fiction each Monday through Thursday, hopefully the right length to read on a coffee break, over lunch, or as a bedtime tale. Friday’s weekend stories are longer.


This was only a quick selection, and only a selection of online magazines. Much as I love them, there are loads of great print and other format magazines out there and it’s worth checking them all out. And, if you’re a writer, you should be submitting to all these places too!

So, I know I’ve missed plenty – fill in the gaps. What are your favourite online SF/F magazines? Give us a link in the comments.


Tuesday Toot – Lisa L Hannett

February 14, 2012

Tuesday Toot is a semi-regular feature here at The Word. An invite-only series of short posts where writers, editors, booksellers and other creatives have been asked to share their stuff and toot their own horn. It’s hard to be seen in the digital morass and hopefully this occasional segment will help some of the quality stuff out there get noticed. It should all be things that readers of The Word will find edifying.

Today, it’s Lisa L Hannett.

bluegrass Tuesday Toot   Lisa L HannettWho is Lisa?

Lisa L Hannett hails from Ottawa, Canada but now lives in Adelaide, South Australia — city of churches, bizarre murders and pie floaters. Her short stories have been published in venues including Clarkesworld Magazine, Fantasy Magazine, Weird Tales, ChiZine, Midnight Echo, Shimmer, Electric Velocipede, Tesseracts 14, and Ann & Jeff VanderMeer’s Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, among other places. Her work has appeared on Locus’s Recommended Reading List 2009, Tangent Online’s Recommended Reading List 2010, and has been published in the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2010. The February Dragon, co-authored with Angela Slatter, won the ‘Best Fantasy’ Aurealis Award in 2010. Lisa is a graduate of Clarion South.

Her first collection, Bluegrass Symphony, was published by Ticonderoga Publications in 2011. Midnight and Moonshine, a second collection co-authored with Angela Slatter, will be published in 2012.

What are you tooting about?

I recently wrote a short piece on the Weird West in fiction for, in which I was also given the chance to talk about my first book, Bluegrass Symphony – and it goes a little something like this:

Bluegrass Symphony is a collection of twelve dark fantasy stories, set in a territory riddled with dangers. People in the wilds of Alabaska, Two Squaw, Plantain, and Tapekwa Counties may not follow the law as we know it, but their towns are far from lawless. Justice and honour come from smoking guns — and nothing is missed by the mysterious Reverends’ eyes. This is a land of great magic, great risks. Shapeshifting is both a bootlegger’s skill and a twig-wife’s cruel punishment. Desperate deals are brokered between rough woodsmen and Minotaurs, Fae creatures and midwives, soul-smoking Mayors and Pegasus-riding delivery girls, Sheriffs and highwaymen — for safety, as well as selfishness. But as Ann VanderMeer points out in the book’s introduction, “These stories are about more than people just trying to get something from one another. These stories are about power and redemption, transformation, and sacrifice.” Everyone in the Weird West is the agent of their own fate — but in Bluegrass Symphony the line between defeat and salvation is often as thin as the soil under a wolfboy’s spurs.
What other people have been saying about it:

Publishers Weekly wrote: “Hannett’s first collection shows off her fondness for lush imagery, unsettling concepts, indirect prose, and multilayered plots…a collection for fans of weirdness, wonder, and oft-disturbing twists.”

Robert Shearman says: “Lisa L Hannett’s collection plays like a country music album composed in the darker places of imagination, the little corners that you don’t want to look in as you tap-tap your foot to the catchy beat. Coolly beautiful, then coldly brutal, this is one of the most unnerving debuts in years.”

Kirstyn McDermott says: “Take a scruff of minotaur hair and a handful of mermaid scales, mix them with mothdust and the bloody feathers of a murdered oracle, and you might get a taste of the strange and dream-soaked magic that Lisa Hannett conjures with this remarkable debut collection. Bluegrass Symphony introduces a rare and original voice whose stories linger, dark and luscious and bold as tarnished brass, long after you have finished reading them.”

You can buy a copy of Bluegrass Symphony at (or Book Depository, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers).

What’s in store for Lisa:

Midnight and Moonshine, co-authored with Angela Slatter, will be published in November 2012 (Ticonderoga Publications).

Midnight and Moonshine traces the origins of the icy and dangerous Fae and explores their interactions over the centuries with the Laveaux and Beaufort families. Driven from their realm, the Fae come to America with Viking raiders in the 10th century; when the Vikings discover the nature of their stowaways, they desert them in the new land. Left to their own devices the Fae worm their way through history, largely keeping apart from humanity, but occasionally making connections that come to have long-term effects in America’s alternative Deep South.

I have also recently received a grant from Arts SA to write the first book in a dark fantasy trilogy, The Familiar. So for the next 8 months, I’ll be writing a novel I’ve been planning for ages, which is all about witches and shapeshifting and lunatics… You know, all the usual things!

Finally, Simon Marshall-Jones gave me the greatest Christmas present ever this year: on Christmas day, he bought Smoke Billows, Soot Falls for Spectral Press’s gorgeous chapbook series. Simon describes the story as “beautifully bleak and spookily haunting” and promises that “it’s a belter of a tale!” Keep an eye out for it in 2014!

You can find Lisa online at and on Twitter @LisaLHannett.

[You'll remember I was recently crowing about just how brilliant Bluegrass Symphony is. And it really is, so get yourselves a copy. I'm also a big fan of Angela Slatter's work, so the thought of a co-authored collection coming out soon is very exciting. - Alan]


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.


Tuesday Toot – Andrew McKiernan

January 31, 2012

Tuesday Toot is a semi-regular feature here at The Word. An invite-only series of short posts where writers, editors, booksellers and other creatives have been asked to share their stuff and toot their own horn. It’s hard to be seen in the digital morass and hopefully this occasional segment will help some of the quality stuff out there get noticed. It should all be things readers of The Word will find edifying.

Today, it’s Andrew McKiernan.

aurealis46 thumb Tuesday Toot   Andrew McKiernanWho is Andrew?

Andrew J McKiernan is an author and illustrator living and working on the Central Coast of New South Wales. His first short story, Calliope: A Steam Romance, was published in the 2007 anthology Shadow Plays and was named in a number of year’s best recommended reading lists for fantasy. Since then his stories have been published in magazines such as Aurealis, Midnight Echo and the Eclecticism e-zine, as well as the anthologies In Bad Dreams 2, Masques, Scenes from the Second Storey, Macabre: A Journey Through Australia’s Darkest Fears, and Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2010. His stories have twice (2009 & 2010) been shortlisted for both Aurealis and Australian Shadows Awards, as well as a Ditmar Award shortlisting in 2010. His story The Desert Song from the Scenes from the Second Storey anthology received an Honorable Mention in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year Vol.3. Andrew’s illustrations have appeared on many book and magazine covers, as well as featuring in the collections Shards: Short Sharp Tales by Shane Jiraiya Cummings from Brimstone Press and Savage Menace & Other Poems of Horror by Richard Tierney from P’rea Press.

What are you tooting about?

Three short blasts from my own trumpet today…

Toot the First

In a land where the veil between life and death has been torn aside, how far would you go for the one you love? This is the question asked in Love Death, my new story appearing in Aurealis #46 on Kindle and at Smashwords. It is about the death of love and the love of death and how those two things entwine like lovers within the human psyche. It has romance. It has love lost and love regained, and love lost again. It has life and death and states in between. It is exotic and erotic and disturbing by turns. And in the end, there is hope. But most importantly, it is available to read for FREE from Smashwords!

Toot the Second

After a 650,000 year round-trip through the Oort Cloud, long-period Comet C2094VI is returning to our solar system. The Peregrine Expedition is sent to the very edge of the Kuiper Belt to land on Comet C2094VI. Their mission? To unlock the scientific secrets trapped within its icy time-capsule. But what nameless horrors lurk at the comet’s heart? And what does its return mean for the future of humanity? Find out in my Lovecraftian SF story The Wanderer in the Darkness available now in Midnight Echo 6, the official magazine of the Australian Horror Writers Association.

[NB - My own story, Trawling The Void, also happens to be in that particular issue of Midnight Echo - Alan]

The Final Blast

Having just passed that most wonderful Festive Season of stress, depression, credit card debt and familial disfunction, what could be more appropriate to our mood than an anthology of Christmas themed horror? Ho Ho Horror from The Australian Literature Review is now available in both print and e-book formats. Edited by Steve Rossiter and featuring stories from both new and up-and-coming authors such as Gordon Reece, Belinda Dorio, Sam Stephens and Cameron Trost this anthology is certain to have you quaking in your santa boots. And believe me, I know! I had to illustrate each of their sordid and depraved tales for the anthology, as well as supplying the full-colour cover illustration! Even weeks after reading the stories, I still can’t look at a plum-pudding or sprig of mistletoe without a shiver of terror. Go get it now… it will make a great stocking filler for your kids next year.

Andrew’s website:


Damnation And Dames ToC and cover art announced

January 26, 2012

damnation dames ed grzyb pillar web1 Damnation And Dames ToC and cover art announcedSeriously, how sexy hawt is that cover? This is the new anthology coming soon from Ticonderoga Publications, called Damnation And Dames – Sixteen Stunning Tales Of Paranormal Noir. Or, as I’ve decided to called it, paranoirmal. That’s right, suckers, I’ve just named a genre. Remember, it all started here.

Well, it actually started with editors extraordinaire Liz Gryzb and Amanda Pillar, who came up with the concept for this book and put out the submission call. It’s a great theme. I love noirish stories and all my work tends to have some influence from the noir or crime angle. Even a lot of my sci-fi – I just can’t help it.

And yes, I have a story in this book, of which I’m very proud. But it’s not as simple as that, because I can’t take all the credit for the story. For the first time ever I’ve collaborated on a piece of writing, and the story in this book is called Burning, Always Burning, and was co-written with the hugely talented Felicity Dowker.

I would often see collaborative stories and think to myself, “How the freaking fuck do people do that?” My work is usually so personal. I sit here in my cave and tap away at my keyboard, letting the sweating babies of my fetid imagination creep out into the world. How could I ever share that process with anyone?

As it happens, it was surprisingly easy. Felicity and I have been good friends for a long time, and have long respected and enjoyed each other’s work. During an email exchange one day, when we should have been working, we started slinging lines back and forth in a noirish, Mickey Spillane kinda way, just for shits and giggles. We only got about half a page of stuff down before it petered out, but we both agreed it would be kinda fun to write something together one day.

A while later, Liz Grzyb and Amanda Pillar put the call out for paranormal noir stories. It seemed fated. So we decided to give it go and dusted out those couple of parapgraphs, polished them up, talked about our ideas and plot and then just started bouncing the thing back and forth. We’d write about 500 words, edit the previous 500 and email it away. Sooner or later, it would come back – the 500 new words edited and another 500 added. Or so. It just worked. The story grew. We live nearly a thousand kilometres apart, but through emails and text messages we came up with our yarn and, without any subjective bias of any kind, it’s fucking great.

We submitted it and we’re both very proud that it was accepted. Seriously, look at the company we’re in:

Lindsy Anderson – The Third Circle
Chris Bauer – Three Questions and One Troll
Alan Baxter & Felicity Dowker – Burning, Always Burning
Jay Caselberg – Blind Pig
M.L.D. Curelas – Silver Comes the Night
Karen Dent – A Case to Die For
Dirk Flinthart – Outlines
Lisa L. Hannett & Angela Slatter – Prohibition Blues
Donna Maree Hanson – Sangue Sella Notte
Rob Hood – Walking the Dead Beat
Joseph L Kellogg – The Awakened Adventure of Rick Candle
Pete Kempshall – Sound and Fury
Chris Large – One Night at the Cherry
Penelope Love – Be Good Sweet Maid
Nicole Murphy – The Black Star Killer
Brian Grant Ross – Hard Boiled

And you’ll notice among that stellar company the All-Time Collaboration World Champions, Lisa L. Hannett & Angela Slatter. Sixteen stories, eighteen authors, paranormal, noir, sexy covers, murder and mayhem, monsters and mysterious femme fatales. How can this book not be freaking awesome?

Damnation & Dames will be launched at Swancon 37, Easter 2012, and will be available in trade paperback for $30, and as an ebook in Kindle format post-launch. The anthology will be available from Ticonderoga’s online shop at, and internet bookstores such as and Seriously, I can’t wait.


Holiday reading

January 9, 2012

We’ve just enjoyed a week away in the Snowy Mountains (which is why it’s been a bit quiet around here lately, my apologies.) One of the best things for me about holidays is the unfettered reading time, so I thought I’d share with you all what I’ve been reading over the Xmas/New Year break and our recent week off.

Firstly, there were a couple of contributor copies of things I have work in that I hadn’t got around to yet. Apart from the obvious joy of getting published and sharing a Table Of Contents with some seriously talented other writers, having a story in a publication usually (and should!) means that I get a copy of said publication. Free reading material – one of life’s highest pleasures.

ME6 Cover small Holiday readingMidnight Echo 6 – I’ve mentioned this a few times recently, so I won’t bore you again. Suffice to say that it is a bloody brilliant issue of the magazine, and I don’t say that only because I have a story in it. The standout story for me was Joanne Anderton’s Out Hunting For Teeth. But every story is great and there’s extra interviews and all sorts of stuff. This is the sci-fi horror special and you’d think that might make for saminess. (Yes, that’s word, so get fucked.) But it doesn’t. There’s a great variety here and as the issue also includes the winners of the AHWA Flash and Short Story competitions, there’s a couple of non-sci-fi horror stories too. Great bang for your buck.

AbE cover for blog Holiday readingAnywhere But Earth – This is another contrib copy for me, as it features my story, Unexpected Launch. However, mine is only one of 29 stories in this 728 page epic tome of a sci-fi anthology. I think this book will go down as a must-read in modern science fiction. The scope of the stories and the talent of the contributing authors is astounding. It really is a fantastic array of ideas and style. If you’re a sci-fi fan, you’ll dig this book. If you’re not, it’s a great place to start. And if you know someone who says they don’t like sci-fi and you want to try to convert them, buy them this book. There were a handful of stories that didn’t really work for me, but that’s the case with any anthology. And this one has 29 stories, so there’s definitely something for everyone and I would bet that the majority of people would really groove with the majority of stories in here. Probably the standouts for me were Penelope Love’s SIBO, William R D Wood’s Deuteronomy, Robert Hood’s Desert Madonna, Damon Shaw’s Continuity, Brendan Duffy’s Space Girl Blues, Angela Ambroz’s Pyaar Kiya and Steve Cameron’s So Sad, The Lighthouse Keeper. Although the real star of that last story is a secondary character. In fact, a brick.

bluegrass symphony web Holiday readingBlue Grass Symphony – This is the debut collection from Canadian-born Australian writer Lisa L Hannett. It’s an outstanding achievement. A selection of tales of magic, darkness, intrigue, mystery. Hannett’s style is clear throughout, even though the stories cover very different ground. There’s a brilliant vampire story here that’s worth the cover price alone. Seriously, if you thought vampire stories had been done to death, buy this book and read From the Teeth of Strange Children. There isn’t a bad story in this book and it’s a superbly dark and twisted exploration of life in mythical Blue Grass towns and counties. Great characters, great stories. Lisa is a friend of mine, but this isn’t just mate’s favours. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

TNBoysV9MockUp Holiday readingThe Boys, Vol. 9: The Big Ride – Garth Ennis is one of my favourite writers and I’ve been loving this series. The Boys is about a world where superheroes exist and they’re a bunch of dangerous, narcissistic prima donnas and The Boys exist to keep them in line. If you like your graphic novels to be powerful, irreverant, digusting, offensive, thought-provoking and just downright fucking brilliant, you should read The Boys. In fact, you should read everything by Ennis. And volume 9 knocked me sideways. The end of the book just takes your guts and wrenches them out. Stunning. And for the comic book nerds out there, check out the cover and think about The Dark Knight Returns. Classic.

prophecy Holiday readingProphecy by Joanna Penn. You may remember I was talking about Joanna Penn’s first book, Pentecost, a while back. This is the new one, a sequel and the next ARKANE thriller. It’s a short book, around 65,000 words I think, and rocks along nicely. It’s a religious thriller, with a kick-arse female protagonist called Morgan Sierra. Sierra is a bit like a female James Bond/Jason Bourne/Indiana Jones hybrid. In this book she’s in a race against time to unravel a mystery before a powerful international health and wellbeing company can destroy a quarter of the world in accordance with the prophecy of the Four Horsemen. Penn’s ability as a writer is improving and her characters are developing well. There’s clearly going to be a series of ARKANE books (the next one is touted at the end of this one) and I think they make for great reading. Penn has a degree in theology and her knowledge and research, of ideas and locations, really shines through in these stories. In some ways I preferred the story in the first book, but I loved the ideas in this one. There’s nothing world-changing here, but as rollicking thrillers these books are great – perfect for holiday reading.

So that was my recent word consumption. I’ll also post these comments on Goodreads and Amazon. Remember, folks, we’re the gatekeepers now. If you read things and enjoy them, talk about them – blog, post reviews at online stores, tell your friends and families. As authors, we’ll love you for it.

So what about you? Did you read any great books over the end of year break?


Spectral Press – limited edition ghostly chapbooks

December 21, 2011

 Spectral Press   limited edition ghostly chapbooksSpectral Press is a small independent imprint publisher, issuing very-limited-edition signed and numbered single story chapbooks in a high-quality presentation on a quarterly basis, and concentrating on the ghostly/supernatural end of the literary spectrum. They’re an invite-only publisher and they’re putting out some fantastic work.

I was lucky enough to see the first four chapbooks published so far.

Spectral I – What They Hear in the Dark – Gary McMahon

An absence is more terrifying than a presence…

Rob and Becky bought the old place after the death of their son, to repair and renovate – to patch things up and make the building habitable. They both knew that they were trying to fix more than
the house, but the cracks in their marriage could not be papered over. Then they found the Quiet Room.

This is an excellent tale of loss and grief and the damage it can do to people. McMahon has created such a depth of bleakness and melancholy that it takes you down into the black depths of the character’s lives and it’s not an entirely pleasant place to be. But it is excellent writing and compelling storytelling.

There are some truly horrible ideas in this one, not least the hoods themselves, which I won’t spoil here. The Quiet Room as well is a brilliant device, something so simple yet so ethereal.

Spectral II – Abolisher of Roses – Gary Fry

It’s not always the guilty who have the darkest secrets . . .

Peter has been married to Patricia for nearly thirty years. He’s a practical man, the owner of a thriving factory and the father of two fine lads.

He also has a secret mistress.

One day, his wife takes him along to an outdoor arts exhibition involving some of her paintings, staged in a dark, deep wood. But his are not the only secrets in this marriage, and as Peter strays off the only path through the woods, he soon realises that Patricia has more than a few of her own…

In this story Fry creates a kind of artistic warning that’s extremely well contructed. We go on a journey of self-discovery with Peter in this excellently written piece. What seems initially to be a very harmless and possibly boring environment, certainly to the protagonist, turns out to be anything but. Very creepy.

The characters are strong in this story and in no way the kind of stereotypes it would have been easy for the author to fall into. It’s details like these that set apart truly quality writing from the merely good.

Spectral III – Nowhere Hall – Cate Gardner

We want to live…

In the ballroom, wallflower mannequins stretch their fingers towards Ron. He can’t ask them to dance. He’s already waltzing with other ghosts. Someone stole the world while Ron contemplated death. They packed it in a briefcase and dumped him in the halls of the ruined hotel – The Vestibule.

A nowhere place.

This is a beautiful story, haunting and powerful. It’s superbly written, with rich, stirring language and an excellent sense of place. It’s one of those stories where you think you know all along what’s happening, but even at the end you’re left wondering if you got it at all. It bears reading and re-reading, to savour the idea as much as the exquisite writing.

In fact, it’s the kind of writing that makes other writers, like myself, shake our heads at the sheer levels of artistry involved. Inspirational and aspirational stuff. Absolutely top notch.

Spectral IV – King Death – Paul Finch

In 1348, England is stricken by the Black Death.

The worst pandemic in human history has reached the kingdom of the warlike Edward III, a monarch who in battle against human adversaries cannot imagine defeat. Two thirds of his subjects now perish. Woods become wild again, farmland goes to rack and ruin, villages, towns and castles are left empty, inhabited only by ghosts. Little wonder that fear of the supernatural reaches an all-time high. Little wonder stories ignite about witches and demons spreading the plague, about ‘King Death’, an awesome harbinger
of doom from whom there is no protection.

Cynical opportunist Rodric doesn’t believe any of these. With reckless indifference, he sets out to enrich himself…

Unlike the previous three stories, all contemporary settings, this is a medieval story, historically accurate. It’s told in fine language, evocative of the time – so much so that a glossary is provided at the end to explain some of the terminology.

It’s another brilliant piece of writing, and a dark and hypnotic story of opportunity and bleakness. The protagonist here is an excellent creation, an antihero of sorts who we can probably all relate to. It’s difficult to see where human evil and the sheer horror of nature blur one into the other with this story.


Editor and publisher Simon Marshall-Jones can certainly pick a damn fine tale and he’s putting together something very special here. Definitely a publisher to watch – keep an eye out so you don’t miss any.

Forthcoming titles are:

Spectral V Rough Music – Simon Kurt Unsworth (March 2012 – SOLD OUT)
Spectral VI The Eyes of Water – Alison J. Littlewood (June 2012)
Spectral VII What Gets Left Behind – Mark West (September 2012)
Spectral VIII Title TBC – Wayne Simmons (December 2012)
Spectral IX Creakers (provisional title) – Paul Kane (March 2013)
Spectral X Cold Havens – Simon Bestwick (June 2013)
Spectral XI Soul Masque – Terry Grimwood (September 2013)
Spectral XII Title TBC – Thana Niveau (December 2013)
Spectral XIII Title TBC – Robert Shearman (March 2014)
Spectral XIV Home and Hearth – Angela Slatter (June 2014)


Great offer from Murky Depths

November 27, 2011

You may remember that I was recently lamenting the demise of Murky Depths magazine. That’s still a very sad thing, but there is some good that’s come of it. It was always hard to get Murky Depths outside the UK, as shipping costs were so high. Now there’s a special offer going on, directly from the publisher. Any non-European country can get any issue of Murky Depths for US$12.50, including all postage and fees. So US$12.50 is all you’ll pay for any issue. It’s a pretty sweet deal. If you only buy one, might I recommend issue #16, which contains my story, Mirrorwalk? But seriously, they’re all great.

You can also get a boxed set of issues 1 to 8, which would make a great Xmas present, for yourself or someone else.

Hop to it!


Murky Depths magazine is no more

October 29, 2011

murky depthsissue16 200 Murky Depths magazine is no moreI’m very sad to report that Murky Depths, the UK dark fiction magazine, has gone under. Here’s the relevant post from the publisher, Terry Martin. It’s a bloody shame, because Murky Depths was a consistently good magazine, with great fiction and articles, awesome illustrations and so much more. It took out the British Fantasy Award (last year, I think) and was always well reviewed. But it couldn’t stand against the tide of financial crises, e-publishing and so on.

I’m very proud to have had a story in Murky Depths while it was still going – my yarn, Mirrorwalk, is in issue 16 (pictured above). And, as the blog post I linked points out:

While Murky Depths, the anthology magazine, may be no more, it’s far from dead and The House of Murky Depths is to continue publishing paperbacks and graphic novels using the experience it has gained over the last five years. Murky Depths is dead. Long live Murky Depths.

You can still buy back-issues of the magazine until they’re sold out, so go to the site and get shopping.

Vale, Murky Depths magazine, and many thanks Terry Martin!



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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