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Not the Worst of Sins podcast at Tales to Terrify

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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/

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

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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:

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

BOOK LAUNCH: BOUND (ALEX CAINE #1) BY ALAN BAXTER
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!

PUBLICITY AND MARKETING PANEL
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.

CURRENT TRENDS IN BOOK BUSINESS PANEL.
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.

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

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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 0916 199x300 Why do there have to be dragons?   Guest post from Donna Maree HansonI’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 1 225x300 Why do there have to be dragons?   Guest post from Donna Maree HansonDragon 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/

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Book Expo Australia this weekend in Sydney

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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.

20140829 152136 55296628 Book Expo Australia this weekend in Sydney

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Cultural appropriation and the inclusion of the other

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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.

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On output and quality

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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!

vs

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?

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Bound reviewed at Marianne de Pierres’ blog

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June 1, 2014

The early reviews of Bound are starting to come in, and the reaction so far is pretty fantastic. I’m so pleased people appear to be enjoying it. Recently Marianne de Pierres was kind enough to host on her blog a review from Jamie Marriage. Here’s an excerpt:

Bound is a fantastically gritty and modern view of dark fantasy, with twisted mythologies, sexual deviancy, and unapologetic characters. Most chapters have plenty of action, but not enough to hide the fact that there is a great story-line and dialogue going on from cover to cover. Greed, gluttony, wrath, and lust are all demonstrated in large portions throughout, and no character is without their vices and imperfections. It all comes together to create a book that’s difficult to put down and thoroughly worth re-reading. Baxter has proven he has real skill with this genre, and if this first novel is anything to go by, there are even greater things to come.

Honestly, it really doesn’t get any better than that. Read the full review here:

http://www.mariannedepierres.com/jamie-reviews-bound-by-alan-baxter/

I’ll be over here Snoopy dancing.

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The winners of the Bram Stoker Awards® for 2013

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May 11, 2014

The winners of the Bram Stoker Awards® for 2013 were announced at the Awards Banquet on May 10, 2014, at the Bram Stoker Awards Weekend and World Horror Convention in Portland, Oregon. The winners for superior achievement in each of the categories are:

Novel
Stephen King – Doctor Sleep (Scribner)

First Novel
Rena Mason – The Evolutionist (Nightscape Press)

Young Adult Novel
Joe McKinney – Dog Days (JournalStone)

Graphic Novel
Caitlin R. Kiernan – Alabaster: Wolves (Dark Horse Comics)

Long Fiction
Gary Braunbeck – “The Great Pity” (Chiral Mad 2, Written Backwards)

Short Fiction
David Gerrold – “Night Train to Paris” (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Jan./Feb. 2013)

Screenplay
Glen Mazzara – The Walking Dead: “Welcome to the Tombs” (AMC TV)

Anthology
Eric J. Guignard (editor) – After Death… (Dark Moon Books)

Fiction Collection
Laird Barron – The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All and Other Stories (Night Shade Books)

Non-Fiction
William F. Nolan – Nolan on Bradbury: Sixty Years of Writing about the Master of Science Fiction (Hippocampus Press)

Poetry Collection
Marge Simon, Rain Graves, Charlee Jacob, and Linda Addison – Four Elements (Bad Moon Books/Evil Jester Press)

The following awards were also presented:

The Lifetime Achievement Award
Stephen Jones
R.L. Stine

The Specialty Press Award
Gray Friar Press

The Silver Hammer Award (for outstanding service to the Horror Writers Assn.)
Norman Rubenstein

The President’s Richard Laymon Service Award
JG Faherty

Congratulations to all the winners!

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AHWA winner judges report

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November 29, 2013

I just received the judges report for my AHWA Short Story Competition winner. Here’s what one of the judges said:

‘Showing his great proficiency of the written word, Alan Baxter gives an all too believable tale with “It’s Always The Children Who Suffer”. Classic, creeping horror to linger in your mind and prey upon dark little fears, both real and unexplained.’
- Ashlee Scheuerman

That’s very nice to read! You can find the story in Midnight Echo issue 10, out at the end of the year. You can pre-order print or electronic versions now at the Midnight Echo Magazine site. I have another story in that issue (two yarns in one mag!) along with loads of other great stories and features by tremendous authors. You know you want it.

http://midnightechomagazine.com

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Great and powerful opening lines

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November 17, 2013

My pal and horror writer extraordinaire, Robert Hood, wrote a blog post recently about great opening lines. He links to an interview with Danel Olson on the subject, since Olson’s anthology, Exotic Gothic 4 (P S Publishing), recently won the World Fantasy Award (and contains an excellent story by Rob.)

Rob listed a couple of his favourite opening lines and asked if anyone else had any. I’ve got loads! It’s a bit of a pet subject for me. So I shared some of mine on Rob’s Facebook post and then thought I might post them here on my own blog, as I think they’re well worth sharing. This is just a few that immediately sprang to mind as powerful enough to stick with me. The strength of an opening line can never be underestimated.

“The island of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-wracked Northeast Sea, is a land famous for wizards.” – Ursula Le Guin, Wizard of Earthsea

“The abyss should shut you up.” – Peter Watts, Starfish

“This is the story of a man who went far away for a long time, just to play a game.” – Iain M Banks, The Player of Games

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” – William Gibson, Neuromancer

“No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own…” – H G Wells, The War of the Worlds

“Of all the rash and midnight promises made in the name of love none, Boone now knew, was more certain to be broken than: ‘I’ll never leave you.’” – Clive Barker, Cabal

I could go on and on, but I’ll leave with one more, my all-time favourite. Not quite the opening line, but the end of the opening paragraph:

“Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet.” – Robert E Howard, The Phoenix on the Sword

Awesome.

Have you got any?

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Welcome

The website of author Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter, Author

Author of horror, dark fantasy & sci-fi. Kung Fu instructor. Personal Trainer. Motorcyclist. Dog lover. Gamer. Heavy metal fan. Britstralian. Zetetic.

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

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