Graced by Amanda Pillar – Guest Post

February 27, 2015

A big thank you to the Warrior Scribe, Alan Baxter, for posting this blog entry on my debut novel, Graced! [Aw, shucks! You’re welcome. – Alan]

Graced by Amanda Pillar

Graced by Amanda Pillar

Graced is an urban fantasy story that follows the journey of four diverse characters; it features vampires, weres, humans and a race called the Graced.

But, rather than another synopsis, I thought I’d share some of the background research that helped me develop the Graced universe!

  • It could take only 10,000 years for evidence of a society of our technological level to disappear and become nothing more than archaeological ruins
  • Blue eyes do not have blue pigmentation to make them blue
  • Speciation is occurring all the time in nature; there are animals even now in our world that are evolving new adaptations (the Australian yellow-bellied three-toed skink is changing from laying eggs to having live young)
  • Gun powder was originally developed in China and used for fireworks
  • The general ranking of the English peerage was King/Queen, Duke/Duchess,  Marquis/Marchioness, Earl/Countess, Viscount/Viscountess, Baron/Baroness
  • The colour of mourning varies from culture to culture in today’s world (red, white and black among other colours are worn)
  • Marriage was often once a political alliance, rather than an exclamation of love
  • Eye colour inheritance isn’t the simple four step process we were taught in school eg a brown (B) eyed parent, and a blue (b) eyed parent equals BB, Bb, Bb, bb. It actually does not.
  • Aside from dire wolves having a dramatic name, it was the largest canis species although it has been extinct for at least 10,000 years. Grey wolf males on average weigh up to 45 kgs.

So while the above points may have had a hand in the development of the Graced world, not all of them are apparent in the book. But that’s the beauty of world-building. All of these things helped shape Dante, Elle, Clay and Anton’s world.


Amanda_small-1Amanda Pillar is an award-winning editor and author who lives in Victoria, Australia, with her husband and two cats, Saxon and Lilith.

Amanda has had numerous short stories published and has co-edited the fiction anthologies Voices (2008), Grants Pass (2009), The Phantom Queen Awakes (2010), Scenes from the Second Storey (2010), Ishtar (2011) and Damnation and Dames (2012). Her first solo anthology, Bloodstones (2012), was published by Ticonderoga Publications. Amanda is currently working on the sequel, Bloodlines, due for publication in 2015.

Amanda’s first novel, Graced, was published by Momentum in 2015.

In her day job, she works as an archaeologist.


US Amazon search still being a dick

January 6, 2015

So Amazon US are still being weird about showing the Alex Caine books in searches. All the other stores are fine, just the biggest one being a dick. We have no idea why and my publisher is trying to fix it (and it’s not only my books, so there’s that at least.) Meanwhile, here are the direct Amazon.com links for all three, and BOUND is still currently FREE:

BOUND: Alex Caine #1

OBSIDIAN: Alex Caine #2

ABDUCTION: Alex Caine #3

Please feel free to spread this post far and wide. Thanks!


The year that was and the year to come.

December 31, 2014

I posted this on my Facebook page and then decided to copy it here too. Mainly it’s for my own reference – a reminder of successes to buoy me up in those times of doubt and rejection. Because those doubt and rejection times are the norm, while successes are infrequent beacons that flare now and then. That’s normal and with any luck the successes will continue to occur and only get bigger and better. Meanwhile, it’s important to celebrate not only those successes you’ve had, but also the work you’ve put in. So here’s my writing year in review:

My writing and publishing stats are pretty good for this year. In 2014 I had three novels published (The Alex Caine Series – Bound, Obsidian and Abduction), one novelette (The Darkness in Clara, SQ Mag 14), and six short stories. Four new short stories are sold and due for publication during 2015, so I’ve already got a jump on the year to come!

I have five short stories currently out on submission, two of which are shortlisted, and I’ve got a novella out on submission with my agent.

For 2015 I have one novel “finished” that I will redraft when I hear back from a beta reader and then send that to my agent. I have another novel started that I will finish in the first half of the coming year. And I’ll certainly write and submit some more short stories. I also have plans for another novel that’ll get started at some point and hopefully finished in first draft before the end of the year. I intend to write at least one new novel every year along with as many shorts/novelettes/novellas as I have time and inspiration for.

Goals for 2015 include seeing Obsidian and Abduction in print in Australia, all three Alex Caine novels in print globally and at least six published short stories. I’d also love to see the latest novel, after a final polish, sold in 2015. Even published by year’s end if I’m lucky. The same goes for the novella currently with my agent.

So I’m staying busy and will continue to work my butt off.

Thanks to everyone who’s bought and read my work in 2014. I plan to do even better in 2015. Happy new year to you all, and may you exceed all your goals and achieve your wildest dreams.


Kiama Library Q&A on Tuesday 18th November

November 13, 2014

The ongoing Bound train continues to roll and next week I’ve got a hometown appearance. I’ll be at Kiama Library talking about writing, the Alex Caine Series and answering questions and all that stuff. Here are the relevant details:

6pm Tuesday 18th November

Bookings essential – call (02) 4233 1133

7 Railway Parade,
Kiama NSW 2533

Email: library@kiama.nsw.gov.au

Copies of Bound will be available for purchase and signing, or if you already have a copy, bring it along if you’d like it signed.

So if you’re a local like me, or near enough to get to the lovely harbour town of Kiama, do come along. Might I suggest you arrive early and have some fantastic fish and chips for dinner down at the harbour, before walking around the library for 6pm. You know, I might even do it that way myself. Look forward to seeing you there.

Click the image below for a bigger version:



Not the Worst of Sins podcast at Tales to Terrify

September 27, 2014

My Ditmar Award-nominated story, Not the Worst of Sins, from Beneath Ceaseless Skies Magazine, is up at one of my favourite podcasts, Tales To Terrify. I’m so pleased to have a story there.

Lawrence Santoro, the original host of Tales To Terrify, read the story in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and wrote to me asking if he could have it narrated for his podcast. Of course, I said yes!

It’s so very sad that Larry died so unexpectedly. It makes this appearance of my story a bittersweet thing. But Stephen Kilpatrick has done a great narration for it, which makes me happy. It starts at 57.30, after the Lights Out documentary piece. Go listen! And subscribe to Tales to Terrify while you’re there. It really is one of the best fiction podcasts on the web.

Here it is: http://talestoterrify.com/tales-to-terrify-141-lights-out-baxter/


Conflux in less than 2 weeks, 3rd to 6th October, includes Canberra BOUND launch

September 22, 2014

Conflux, the annual Canberra SFF convention, is happening again in less than two weeks. It’s over the weekend of Friday 3rd to Monday 6th October. It’s always a great con and I haven’t missed one in years. I’ll only be able to make the Saturday and Sunday this year, sadly, but it’s going to be great, and it includes the official Canberra/ACT launch of Bound, once again MCd by the wonderful Margo Lanagan. You can come to the launch even if you’re not a member of Conflux or attending anything else over the weekend, so if you’re in Canberra on Saturday, October 4th at 5.30pm, please come along!

Here’s my schedule:

2pm Saturday: Our panel discusses good plotting for good gaming! Forest Room 3.  Panellists: Alan Baxter, Matthew Farrer, Aidan Doyle, and Rik Lagarto.

5.30pm Saturday: Conflux Registration area. MCd by Margo Lanagan. If you already have Bound, feel free to bring it along to be signed. You can come to the launch even if you’re not a member of Conflux or attending anything else, so if you’re in Canberra on Saturday, October 4th, please come along!

3.30pm Sunday: Promotion has become increasingly important in today’s publishing industry. Authors in a variety of genres face unique challenges in promoting product especially with the digital landscape of today. Our panel reviews different approaches: working with publicists vs. doing it yourself and methods of promotion (conferences, book launches, book clubs, social media, awards, blogs, events, and other avenues). Forest Room 2. Panellists: Alan Baxter, Phill Berrie (Moderator), Kat Clay and Ingrid Jonach.

5.30pm Sunday:
This century has seen new ways of “doing” book business, from the major publishing house to small and indie press, from print to ebooks. Small press and independent titles are attracting both award and review attention. Panellists have experience with a range of publishing strategies and share their insights. Forest Room 2.  Panellists:  Alan Baxter, Jack Dann, Alisa Krasnostein and Aimee Lindorff.

I’ll be shooting out in between panels to visit a few bookshops and do some ninja signings, but otherwise, of course, you’ll find me in the bar.

Hope to see you there! All the details about attending are here.


Why do there have to be dragons? – Guest post from Donna Maree Hanson

September 18, 2014

Canberra writer, Donna Maree Hanson, has a new book out. It’s called Shatterwing (which is a sweet title, if you ask me) and is the first in her Dragon Wine series. As you can probably tell, it’s fantasy and has dragons in it. It’s actually a dark fantasy, and here I have Donna talking about just why there are dragons in it. Take it away, Donna.

IMG_0916I’ve recently had the first book in my series, Dragon Wine, published. The first book is Shatterwing (Sept 14) and the second book Skywatcher (Oct 14) out with Momentum books. As you can tell from the series name, there are dragons in the story and it’s a dark, epic fantasy set on a secondary world called Margra.

I’ve not been particularly fond of dragons in the past. I’ve not read a lot of fiction with dragons. So I ask myself why does there have to be dragons in the Dragon Wine series.

I go back to the beginning. I was working on my small vineyard, checking the grapes, spraying them with sulphur (as you do) and slowly the opening scenes came about. The scene where there are grapes and dung and the odour of sulphur and dragons riding the thermals overhead. Salinda was tending the vines as I was, but in her case it was a prison and the wine had magical properties and the vines were growing in dragon dung, an excellent fertiliser.

Dragons were naturally a part of the world of Margra that I didn’t think twice about it. However, just last night I was talking about the dragons and I really couldn’t answer the question: ‘why dragons?’ ? I didn’t put the dragons in there on purpose, they were just there. I throw up my hands. You get it don’t you?

I know some readers love them and others hate them. I can’t win there. To me they are just part of the landscape, the world and the situation that I didn’t give them a second thought.

This probably gives you a hint about the world building. I didn’t sit down and plan it all out. It evolved with the writing process and with time. That’s what I love about this series, the rich history, the post-apocalyptic trauma to the landscape, the people and even the heavens. The dragons came there when the world split and answering the mystery of why, where and how will be something to be explored during the course of the series.

That is the fun part of writing for me. Getting in there and exploring the world, imagining new histories and backstories and puzzling out the future.

Also, the dragons are physically large and threatening and have a power of their own. I imagine that they think of us humans as transient things, a sort of food, a mild annoyance and not very interesting. I believe they have a very strong connection to the planet, but who knows.

Lastly, who doesn’t like big monsters??? Come on.

dragon_wine_1Dragon Wine Book 1 : Shatterwing is available from all major ebook retailers or direct from the publisher.

Dragon wine could save them. Or bring about their destruction.

Since the moon shattered, the once peaceful and plentiful world has become a desolate wasteland. Factions fight for ownership of the remaining resources as pieces of the broken moon rain down, bringing chaos, destruction and death.

The most precious of these resources is dragon wine a life-giving drink made from the essence of dragons. But the making of the wine is perilous and so is undertaken by prisoners. Perhaps even more dangerous than the wine production is the Inspector, the sadistic ruler of the prison vineyard who plans to use the precious drink to rule the world.

There are only two people that stand in his way. Brill, a young royal rebel who seeks to bring about revolution, and Salinda, the prison’s best vintner and possessor of a powerful and ancient gift that she is only beginning to understand. To stop the Inspector, Salinda must learn to harness her power so that she and Brill can escape, and stop the dragon wine from falling into the wrong hands.

More info here: http://momentumbooks.com.au/books/shatterwing-dragon-wine-1/


Book Expo Australia this weekend in Sydney

August 29, 2014

This weekend, all weekend, is Book Expo Australia in Sydney. Click on the link there for all the time and location details and a full (very full!) program. All kinds of bookish stuff going on all weekend with loads of cool authors, publishers, booksellers and more.

I’ll be there all day Sunday, on a panel and doing a reading and signing. Get yourselves along to this utterly book-focussed event and come and say hi. Bring books to be signed or buy them on the day. Hope to see you there.



Cultural appropriation and the inclusion of the other

August 8, 2014

I read this excellent article by Jim C Hines today. I agree with it completely. There has been much discussion on published writing, especially SFF, being an old white man’s club and that we need to see more diversity in the stories we read. Then there are people saying that white people shouldn’t/can’t/aren’t allowed to write other cultures. It’s not actually a problem, because the second opinion is bullshit. Let me explain.

I don’t believe any subject or culture is off-limits for fiction. With fiction we actively engage with the world around us, we interrogate our reality and look at how it reflects back at us and we try to make some sense of it. Even the most dense, hard SF is, at its core, an exploration of simple humanity. In my world I’m surrounded by people of many races and cultures. I’m surrounded by people of varying sexuality. I will absolutely reflect that in my fiction. If I don’t, the darkest and most fantastical part of any dark fantasy or horror I write is this imagined homogenous world of hetero cis white people like me. That’s just horrible. I do not want to be a part of that vanilla environment.

But, and here’s the big but, I also firmly believe in the simple premise of don’t be a dick. I’m not going to take a white character and simply blackface them for the sake of some perceived cultural diversity. I’m not going to take a hetero guy and stick someone else’s cock in his hand and cry, “See! A gay character!” That’s not only disrespectful, it’s just bad writing.

But I’m equally not going to try to make a point of otherness either. Unless a character’s sexuality is key to the story, it’s not going to be a big deal beyond her saying “my girlfriend” rather than “my boyfriend”. Thereby we know she digs girls, that’s a part of who she is and that’s all we need to know. I’ve written gay couples who just act like any other couple throughout the story, because, you know, they’re humans. The fact that they’re together says enough. Unless the practice of their sexuality is key to the story, it doesn’t matter. Just like in real life, you don’t spend all your time with your gay friends talking about their lovelife, or your straight friends, for that matter. Most of the time, if not all of it, they’re just your friends and you talk about all the normal shit.

My story “The Darkness in Clara”, published in SQ Mag has a gay couple as it’s central protagonists. Their gayness has a direct influence on the story as the story deals with country town bigotry. I hope I did a good job with that yarn, but the story is more about bigotry that about being gay. The characters are just people who have their own problems to deal with. That story is free to read online, so you can judge for yourself.

Same thing with People of Colour (PoC). I know people of many cultural backgrounds, so I include that in my stories. In the Alex Caine books there are people described as having black skin, of Maori descent, of Chinese descent and so on. Those people add to the richness and diversity of my fictional world just like they do to my real world. But they’re just people. Their race is not relevant to their humanity or their role in the story. If and when a cultural history or race becomes relevant, then I use it and I try really hard to use it respectfully and accurately. I research, I ask friends, I try to get beta readers on the case. I’ve done proof reading for a publisher when they have an American writing a scene in England, because that’s my culture. In one case, I corrected the English characters so they said pavement instead of sidewalk and torch instead of flashlight and stuff like that. Otherwise, that would be lazy appropriation on the part of the American author not doing their research and not recognising difference.

When that laziness and disrespect is poured onto a culture or group already marginalised and struggling for recognition and inclusion, it’s even worse. It’s disrespectful and emotionally damaging. But should that mean we can’t or shouldn’t do it? Hell, no. It means we need to work harder, be better and do it right.

I try to get that stuff right. If I get it wrong, I want to be told. I’ll try harder. But to suggest that anything is off-limits is bullshit. It’s being a dick that’s off-limits and that will always be the case. So this long arse post is basically just me agreeing with Jim Hines in his post that I linked at the start. But I felt it necessary to say so in detail for myself. I’d be interested in your opinions.

EDIT: All this applies to female characters as well, of course, but that really should go without saying. They make around 50% of the world and they’re human too.


On output and quality

June 1, 2014

I’ve been reading a few posts lately that seem to contradict each other. What do you know – there’s no one true rule. I won’t bother linking to all those posts, at least partly because I can’t remember where they all are. But the general gist of it all was either:

Write as much as you can, it’s the only way to be noticed and have a career!


Stop just writing for the sake of it! There’s too much shit out there, you need to write well, not lots.

Obviously I’ve paraphrased the general messages there. The thing is, they’re both right. The reason they’re both right is because there are many types of writers out there with many styles of work and opportunity to write. It also depends what you want from your career.

You certainly need more than one book to build a career, unless you’re Harper Lee. It’s true that the more people see from you, the more likely they are to check out your stuff and the more likely you are to build a loyal fan base. But don’t be in a rush.

If you write purely for output’s sake and you’re desperate to get as much stuff out there as quickly as possible, then you may well get noticed. The thing is, your work is likely to be fairly mediocre. Are you happy with a mediocre body of work? If so, then bully for you, but I think you’re doing a disservice to yourself and readers. There’s a lot of noise out there. That’s where the second generalisation above supersedes the first. It’s better to send out the absolute best stuff you can. It will mean you have work you can be absolutely proud of and readers will know they can expect quality from you. There are plenty of readers happy to consume masses of mediocre fiction, but is that really where you want to be?

However, this doesn’t mean that prolific writers are therefore all mediocre. Some people are excellent and prolific. A lot of that has to do with how much writing time they create. Two good examples of what I’m talking about are Ted Chiang and Jay Lake. Chiang publishes stuff very infrequently, but his skill is exemplary. Lake writes heaps of stuff, and his skill is exemplary too. Jay Lake writes everywhere he can. I don’t know about Chiang, he writes whenever he writes, but obviously has a much lower output rate. Regardless, these two are producing excellent work at very different rates. They’ve both built excellent skills over many years, not through purely getting work out as fast as possible, but by building up at a pace that suited them and ensured they put out quality stuff. (Sadly, Jay Lake has recently entered hospice care after a long struggle with cancer, so it’s good for us that he was so prolific. Vale, Mr Lake.)

So ask yourself – are you putting out the best work you possibly can, whether that means one story a year or ten? Three books a year or one every three years?

Or are you happy churning out mediocre work and just adding to the noise?

It’s really okay however you answer, but you need to make sure you answer the question honestly and then decide whether or not that’s really who you want to be.

I’ve created a lot of writing time in my life and I can be fairly prolific as a result. But I always try to make the best work I can and always improve. I like to think I’m managing that, very slowly. How about you?



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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