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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How do you e-read?

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August 5, 2014

This has come up a couple of times in various conversations recently, so I thought I’d talk about it here. Ebooks are here to stay, obviously. While there will always be print books too, even if that does eventually reduce to Print-on-Demand and collector’s folio editions, ebooks will only continue to gain strength. There’s the whole format and DRM thing to still sort out – Amazon aren’t about to give up the mobi format any time soon, and a lot of places are struggling with where they stand on DRM – but these are all ongoing teething problems. I’d like to imagine a utopia where ePub is the standard across all vendors and publishers (which it already is if you don’t include Amazon) and where DRM is a thing of the past. But regardless of how it all shakes down, ebooks are mainstream now.

I love ebooks. I dig that I can carry hundreds of books around on my phone. Honestly, how living-in-the-future is that shit? And I do read on my phone. But primarily I read from an iPad Mini. I love my Mini – it’s the perfect size and does all the things I want. Plus, I have this sweet leather cover for it that makes it look like a cool old hardback book. Here it is:

photo 300x298 How do you e read?

Pretty sweet, huh? I use it for internet, email, videos, TV, games and loads of other stuff as well as reading. It’s just the best thing ever, technology-wise.

But I didn’t always read ebooks on the Mini and I use several apps even now. Other people I’ve spoken to use a variety of devices and all swear by them. Some people consider dedicated ereaders a cul-de-sac technology that’ll die down to almost nothing because tablets are so much more versatile, while others love their dedicated ereader precisely because it’s just for reading and has no other distracting functions.

I got onto the whole ebook bandwagon pretty early on. For example, when I originally self-published RealmShift back in the day, it was the 376th book to be uploaded to Smashwords, as evidenced by its URL there. There are now over 300,000 books on Smashwords. I would read ebooks on my PC from very early on too. I guess I knew right off the bat that this technology was going to quickly become the norm and it most certainly did. Interestingly, that massive rush into the mainstream that ebooks made was largely encouraged along by Amazon and their Kindle device. They really saw an opportunity and exploited it with expert (some might say evil) skill.

Amazon Kindle 3 203x300 How do you e read?After reading on my laptop and phone for a while, my first dedicated ereader was an old generation Kindle 3, like the one pictured on the left, and I got hooked fully into the Amazon ecosystem. I was already there really, using the Kindle app – I even converted ePub files to mobi to use on the Kindle. I didn’t mind at all at the time – Amazon always had the most content, you could buy with one click and it would roll straight onto your reader. And the battery life of the Kindle is awesome. The reading experience is great too, with no backlight and all that jazz. Apparently, the new Paperwhite is even better, but I’ve yet to see one of those in the flesh… plastic… whatever. But I don’t use my Kindle any more. My wife uses it a bit and I do actually miss it in some ways, but it became superfluous to my needs.

I used the Kindle app on my phone while I used my Kindle 3 and that was awesome. If I was out and had ten minutes to spare, I could dial up whatever book I was reading and the app would automatically sync it to the last place I’d read. But I began to get more and more disillusioned with Amazon and at the same time, more or less, got my iPad Mini. The Kindle was no good for comics and I read a lot of those, so an iPad was a great choice. I got the Kindle app for it and discovered that the backlit screen really doesn’t bother me at all. So the Kindle 3 became unnecessary luggage.

Now my phone and iPad are all I carry, and they do all I need. But I’m not all about Kindle any more. There are so many reading apps out there. Rather than buy in to the Amazon ecosystem entirely, I started looking at other options. I found that a lot of publishers sell direct from their own websites, a lot of small press use places like Smashwords as well as Amazon, and I recently discovered that the Kobo store is great. All of these use ePub, and don’t tie you to Amazon. And I particularly like ePub because I discovered a couple of years ago an app called Marvin. It’s only for iDevices at the moment, but apparently an Andriod version is in the works. It’s my favourite ereader now and I’ll always look for an ePub file that I can sideload to Marvin as my first port of call when I want a new book. If I can’t find that, I’ll shop at Kobo and use the Kobo app. As a last resort, I’ll go back to Amazon and read with the Kindle. I also still use the Kindle app to read PDFs and Word documents that I send myself  using my Kindle email thing. It’s really a case of what’s best for any given situation, but always looking for ePub first.

So while I almost exclusively read ebooks on the iPad Mini now (with occasional forays on my phone), I do it with a variety of apps and stores. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a dedicated ereader. And I read about 50/50 ebook/print, so I’ll certainly never abandon paper books. I’m an utter bibliophile and love my bookshelves. I love to get beautiful editions, especially hardbacks, of my favourite books, though income doesn’t allow me to indulge that as much as I’d like. And if I read an ebook that I really enjoy, I’ll get the paper edition for my shelves. Most recently that happened with Nathan Ballingrud’s amazing debut collection of short stories called “North American Lake Monsters”. I bought the ebook, absolutely loved it and, as soon as I’d finished reading, I flipped from the reading app to the browser on my iPad and bought the last signed hardcover from the Small Beer Press website. All without leaving my couch. There’s that living-in-the-future shit again. So brilliant.

So what about you? What’s your ereader of choice? How do you shop for ebooks? Let me know in the comments and let me know too about any great apps or readers I might have missed out on.

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What can $7 buy you?

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August 5, 2014

It’s a fair question, right? What can $7 buy you? Maybe a coffee and a cookie. That’s nothing to be sneezed at (who wants a sneezed on cookie anyway?) but it’s some short term pleasure that’ll be over before you know it. And all those cookie calories… Or $7 can buy you half a movie ticket. But you can’t even see half a movie – you have to buy the other half of the ticket even if you only stay for half the film and that’s just stupid. And you’re not stupid, obviously. It’ll buy you about 5-10% of a pair of jeans, but you’ll just get arrested going around with only 10% pants on. Or it can buy you two full length, awesomely exciting novels. Come on, you know where this was going. At the moment (only in Australia and NZ, sorry*) you can get BOUND for $1.99 and the sequel, OBSIDIAN, for $4.99 in any ebook format of your choice. That’s just $6.98 for two entire books. Amazing, I know. And the third book of the trilogy, ABDUCTION, will be out in less than a month, and that’s only another $4.99.

Such a ridiculous amount of entertainment for such an incredible price. And way better than a movie, even if you went for the exciting second half. You can go to iBooks, Amazon.com.au, Kobo or Google Play and get those books right now (any of those links will take you directly to the book). I guarantee you’ll enjoy them. And if you do, please tell your friends and family about it – hell, tell your enemies too.

$7. Two books. How can you not?

(* Sorry to everyone elsewhere in the world – we’re working hard to secure a deal to get the Alex Caine books available everywhere outside the A/NZ region. )

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Talking up the good stuff

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July 30, 2014

I’ve been going on a lot lately about Bound. It’s no surprise, really. I have a book out from a major publisher and it’s on shelves in bookstores and everything! I’m still finding it hard to believe, but I’m certainly enjoying it. However, now I want to spread the love – I’ve been going on so much lately about myself, it’s time I talked about other people a bit. Below are the books and stories I’ve been really enjoying lately and I highly recommend you check them out. Let’s go:

The Hunt for Pierre Jnr By David M. Henley (the sequel, Manifestations, is out now too.) As the blurb says, “He can make you forget, he can control you and he is only eight years old. Three months after his birth he escaped. An hour later he was lost to surveillance. No one knows where he has been for the last eight years … Now Pierre Jnr is about to return.” Sounds good, right? It is.

Home & Hearth by Angela Slatter. All you need to know about this one is covered perfectly in Andrew McKiernan’s review here. I agree with him completely.

Last Year, When We Were Young by Andrew McKiernan. I had the pleasure of MCing the launch of this excellent debut collection of short stories. It’s fantastic and Greg Chapman sums it up nicely in this review here.

Exile by Peter M Ball. Okay, I haven’t read this one yet as I’ve only just bought it, but Peter Ball’s stuff is always good and I expect this novella to be up there as well. So I’m including it here.

Perfections by Kirstyn McDermott. This is a great novel and I reviewed it myself at Thirteen O’Clock, so head over here to learn more.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. I mean, really, it’s enough that it’s by Gaiman, right? But this is a wonderful book and very British in style and setting. As an ex-pat Brit, that appealed to me a lot. But whether you’re British or not, it’s well worth your time.

SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror edited by Geoff Brown and A J Spedding. I had the honour of writing a foreword for this collection of military horror short stories. There’s fantastic variety here and it’s a tremendous collection. You’ll be surprised at the scope.

Trucksong by Andrew Macrae. A post-apocalyptic Australia with sentient trucks fighting and fucking and stuff. I know, right? It’s written in an incredibly well-developed Australian voice and is something quite different.

Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto. This is the guy who wrote True Detective, which is some of the best television I’ve seen in recent years. This is a southern crime noir kinda thing, fantasically written. I loved it.

North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud. Possibly the best short story collection I’ve read in recent years. Again, I reviewed it for Thirteen O’Clock, so go here to read me gushing about it.

Lexicon by Max Barry. My book of the year last year and it won an Aurealis Award. A fantastic story about the power of words and language and modern magic rolled up with science and it’s a thriller and… and… Just read it.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. A superb supernatural serial killer, crime thriller thing. This book has had loads of attention and all of it well-deserved. A must read.

And next up on my list are Guardian by Jo Anderton (which will be great because it’s book three after Debris and Suited, which were great), Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes (after the awesomeness of The Shining Girls, I can’t wait for this one) and Dreaming of Zhou Gong by Traci Harding (which I only got yesterday, signed no less, and I’m looking forward to a lot). Very exciting reading ahead, I think.

A quick web search will reveal any of these to you, so off you go and get some good stuff. Let me know what you think. And if you’ve read something simply brilliant lately, drop a mention in the comments and we can keep this sharing of good stuff going.

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The Bound train is staying in the station for a while now

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July 28, 2014

Well, it’s been a truly glorious ride so far. Bound came out on July 1st and we’ve been pimping it all over the place. The Sydney launch at Kinokuniya was fantastic, we’ve been to Adelaide and Brisbane, also excellent. I’ve been up and down the south coast of NSW visiting stores. For now, the Bound train is rolling into the station and taking a break. We’re hoping to get down to Melbourne for an event there, but probably not until September when all three books will be out in ebook (and hopefully print won’t be far behind.) I’m doing a signing and author event at Nowra Library on Thursday August 28th at 11am, but nothing in particular between now and then. Other things may come up, of course, so watch the blog here and Facebook and Twitter. Links in the righthand sidebar.

I’ll still visit shops wherever I can, but thank you to everyone who’s got behind me and the book so far. It’s really been an absolute trip. I’ll list below all the places that have some signed stock, in case you’re keen for a signed copy Bound. Meanwhile, if you have been kind enough to pick up a copy, either print or ebook, and if you enjoyed it, please do talk about it. Regardless of all the touring and everything else, nothing is as effective as word of mouth. If you love a book, talk about it. Tell your colleagues at work if the opportunity comes up in conversation. Tell your family and friends about it, buy it for someone as a gift – I honestly think one of the best gifts you can give a person is a copy of a book you yourself have recently enjoyed. If you can be bothered to rate and/or review it on Goodreads, Amazon, iBook Store, Kobo, etc., then that’s also of fantastic value to authors.

The bottom line is simply to talk about the things you enjoy and other people will likely give them a go. My next post, as I’ve been crapping on about the Alex Caine books so much lately, will be all about the other books I’ve recently enjoyed. Meanwhile, Alex Caine #2, Obsidian, is out now in ebook. Alex Caine #3, Abduction, will be out in ebook soon. If you’re keen to see those in print, hassle your bookstore and ask them to hassle their rep about getting the print editions in. Meanwhile, you can get a signed copy of Bound (for you or as a gift!) from:

Kinokinuya Bookshop, Sydney

Galaxy Books, Sydney

Dymocks, Rundle Mall, Adelaide

Collins Booksellers, Edwardstown, Adelaide

Avid Reader, Brisbane

Pulp Fiction, Brisbane

Dymocks, Brisbane City

Dymocks, Indooroopilly

Riverbend, Brisbane

Bowral Books, Bowral

Dymocks, Nowra

Dymocks, Wollongong

QBD Bookshop, Shellharbour

… I think that’s it. There may be that are eluding me now as my brain is a bit mushy. If you want a signed copy, but cant find one or aren’t near any of those stores, give me a shout and we’ll figure something out.

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Obsidian, Alex Caine #2, out now in ebook in Aus and NZ!

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July 22, 2014

Obsidian cover 196x300 Obsidian, Alex Caine #2, out now in ebook in Aus and NZ!Hard to believe, I know, given that it seems like Bound has only just come out. Well, that’s because Bound has only just come out! But Harper Voyager are giving ebook readers that digital first binge read opportunity. Bound is still free until the end of July, and Obsidian, Alex Caine #2, is out already and only $4.99 across all Australian and New Zealand ebook stores.

Obsidian is another standalone Alex Caine book, but it’s the second in a series and effectively the middle book of the first trilogy. Could I make it any more complicated? Yes, I probably could, but it’s actually not so bad. Each Alex Caine book is a standalone novel. There are threads that continue throughout the series and several major parts of a bigger story arc are wrapped up the first three books. But there are still some small things left tantalisingly hanging that I’ll hopefully get the opportunity to address in future installments.

Here’s the blurb for Obsidian:

Alex Caine wishes he had a direction, but it pays to be careful what you wish for.

Alex Caine is looking for direction and trying to build a new life with his recently acquired magical talents, and Kin girlfriend, Silhouette. He is recruited by a secret organisation to head off an impending doom, foretold by Seers as already somehow linked to his destiny. Claude Darvill is desperately trying to get in touch with his father, Robert Hood. When the company, Black Diamond, reveals that Hood had gone missing after chasing Alex Caine, Darvill takes over control of Black Diamond and starts hunting Caine himself. Alex and his crew close in on three amateur mages in Britain’s north, who think they have uncovered ancient magic that will reveal great powers. But they are caught in a vortex and pulled through to a strange lost city, isolated in the void. Trapped in a place removed from everything they know, ruled by a hierarchy of monsters, Alex and his friends must find a way to escape Obsidian.

This is my great “lost city” novel that I’ve always wanted to write and I had a load of fun with the worldbuilding. It’s got the same great action, martial arts, monsters and twisted mythology that you found in Bound, only ramped up even more. You can learn more about it on the Obsidian page here, or just go and buy it from your favourite ebook store right now.

If you’re keen to see the print edition of Obsidian (and let’s be honest, who isn’t, right?) be sure to hassle your local book shop for it. The shop will tell their reps, the reps will tell the publisher and we’ll get everything moving along sooner rather than later.

I really hope you enjoy Obsidian. If you do enjoy Bound and Obsidian, please tell people about them. Nothing is of more value to an author than word of mouth, so even if you’re not the type to review or rate on Goodreads and the iBook Store, etc., just telling people about books you enjoy is absolutely gold. Mention it on Twitter or Facebook, tell your friends and colleagues and family. And not just about my books, but about all the books you enjoy. Signal boost the good stuff by telling people how good it is. It makes you a better person and every time you recommend a book, an orphan gets a new puppy. It’s true, it’s like magic, you wouldn’t believe it.

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Five Qs with Dr Angela Slatter

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July 21, 2014

Angela3 206x300 Five Qs with Dr Angela SlatterYou guys have heard me talk about Angela Slatter plenty before. She’s a good friend of mine, but more than that, she’s one of the best writers I know. Specialising in dark fantasy and horror, she’s the author of the Aurealis Award-winning The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales, the World Fantasy Award finalist Sourdough and Other Stories, and the Aurealis finalist Midnight and Moonshine (with Lisa L. Hannett). And that’s just a fraction of her bio. She’s the first Aussie to win a British Fantasy Award too. Check out all about her publications and awards here.

Angela has a new chapbook out from Spectral Press called Hearth and Home. It’s a great read and I’ve asked her five questions about it and about horror and her writing in general. The questions are below, but before you read them, go and get the chapbook, as it’s limited edition and there aren’t many left. You can send an email to spectralpress[AT]gmail[DOT]com or maybe get one of the last ones from Angela herself by emailing me[at]angelaslatter[dot]com

You won’t be sorry. So, on with the Qs:

1. What’s “Hearth and Home” all about and why did you write this story?

Well, it’s about a woman whose teenaged son has come home after a lengthy trial. He was found innocent but things are not as they should be, life doesn’t return to ‘normal’. Basically it’s the story of Caroline’s journey through figuring out just how far from normal things are. I wrote it because Simon Marshall-Jones from Spectral Press had said ‘Sooo, hey, how about a chapbook story?’ And I’d seen the work he’d done with other authors such as Gary McMahon in the chapbook series and thought ‘Yep, get me some of that!’

2. What’s the real draw card for you with horror?

I don’t mind gore if it’s well used and cleverly placed for maximum effect, but I really, really hate explicit shock for the sake of shock. It has a numbing effect after a while and that is not the point of horror for me. Horror is about the creeping shiver that becomes a full-blooded scream … I enjoy the psychology of that journey, that’s what wraps me up in a good horror story.

Home Hearth Front Cover 211x300 Five Qs with Dr Angela Slatter3. Chapbooks are still cool. Why?

I think they’ve never really gone out of fashion in particular, i.e. genre, quarters, and they’re now riding the wave of small press resurgence. I think that’s because small presses are in a unique position to create books that aren’t your traditional trade paperback with the imperative to sell millions. That’s not to say they don’t want to make money, but there’s definitely a place for books are collectable artefacts that remains even in an age of e-books and the throwaway paperback.

I also like to think that you can see the craft in them, they don’t necessarily look like something that’s from a cookie cutter … there’s an individuality to them that feels very human and person-made.

4. If you could organise one of those haunted house murder mystery dinners, who would you invite? And who would be the killer?

Oooooh. I’m going to ask the living and the dead, the real and the imagined! Angela Carter and Tanith Lee, Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Shearman and Lisa Hannett, Mark Gatiss and Christopher Lee, Helen Marshall and Helen Mirren. And Neil Gaiman, who would be the killer and whom no one would suspect coz he always seems so nice.

5. What’s next for Doctor Slatter?

Dr Slatter has three books out this year: The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings (from Tartarus Press), Black-Winged Angels (from Ticonderoga Publications), and The Female Factory (written with Lisa Hannett and coming out from Twelfth Planet Press). No matter what anyone tells you, I am open to working with publishers that don’t start with the letter ‘T’.

I currently have a novel called Vigil doing the rounds; I am finishing my novella for Spectral Press, which is called The Witch’s Scale; and I’m finishing up my collection The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales, which is the result of my Queensland Writers Fellowship year; I’m working on another novel called Scandalous Lady Detective, and going back to an old novel called Well of Souls to finish it off.

In between I am occasionally offering an editing and story development service, but it’s starting to feel like a bit of a time-squeeze at this point!

Find out more about Angela here: www.angelaslatter.com/

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Adelaide this weekend, Brisbane the one after

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July 15, 2014

So the Bound train rolls on, and I’m having a ball! I’ll be heading down to Adelaide this weekend, then up to Brisbane the weekend after. If you’re near either of those cities, I’d love to see you. Below are the details and a few links to relevant events.

Adelaide

Saturday, July 19th I’ll be doing a signing at Collins Edwardstown from 1.00 to 2.00pm. There’s a Facebook Event page here. Please come on by and say hello – it’s at Collins Booksellers, Shop 54, Castle Plaza, 992 South Road, Edwardstown.

If you can’t make it on Saturday, the day before, Friday, July 18th, I’ll be dropping briefly into Dymocks in Rundle Mall around 12.30, so if you’re in the city, it would be great to see you then.

Also on Friday afternoon, I’ll be having a chat with Richard Stubbs on ABC 774 Melbourne via live link.

Brisbane

Friday, July 25th is going to be loads of fun. From 6.00 to 8.00pm I’ll be at Avid Reader Bookshop at 193 Boundary Street, West End, where I will be in conversation with the excellent Kylie Chan, hosted by the equally excellent Trent Jamieson. There will be a bunch of other awesome writers in attendance and all kinds of other cool people, plus wine. How can you go wrong? There’s a Facebook Event page for this one too, right here, and here’s the Avid page where you can book a ticket.

I’ll try to visit other stores in the region of these events and sign stock, so watch my Twitter and Facebook pages for updates.

And Melbourne, we haven’t forgotten you! We’re working on something in your fine city and I’ll be sure to let you know when and where that is once it’s sorted out.

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What a wonderful launch for Bound

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July 11, 2014

I’m on the train heading home from Sydney, tapping away on my iPad, still a little stunned by the awesome night I had last night. Bound was launched at Kinokuniya Bookshop and I have to admit, I was a little nervous.

The bookshop were being wonderfully supportive, the truly excellent Margo Lanagan had agreed to be my official launcher, my publishing team (Rochelle Fernandez, Amanda Diaz, Shona Martyn, my agent, Alex Adsett, and many others) were all in my corner and assuring me it would be great. But what if no one showed up? What if it was a complete flop? At 6pm I started hoping we’d get enough people to have at least one or two folk in each row of seats. By 6.30, all the seats were full and there was an arc of people two or three deep across the back. I couldn’t believe it!

My editor, Rochelle, did a great job introducing us and said things about the book I didn’t know. Things like how it was the third biggest seller at Sydney Supanova. Wow!

Then Margo did a fantastic job of launching, saying truly humbling things about the book and asking me searching questions. There is now such a thing as a “kettle scene”. Here’s a great photo by Jodi Cleghorn of Margo and I enjoying ourselves immensely:

photo1 300x225 What a wonderful launch for Bound

I really did enjoy the whole experience and it seems that everyone else there did as well. They laughed in all the right places and I signed a load of books afterwards and got to chat with an array of excellent people. If I didn’t get to chat with you for long or at all, I’m sorry. The whole evening is a bit of a happy, hazy blur for me and not only because of the wine.

I’m utterly humbled by the event. I am genuinely living the dream here and I plan to soak up every bit of it I can. And it’s all due to the best people out there: my publishers and their belief in me, my friends for their support, and all the people who have taken a chance on buying Bound. I really hope you enjoy it and come back for the next books in the series. I can’t thank all of you enough. All I did was write the best book I could – you all made it real. I couldn’t be happier.

The always generous Cat Sparks took photos throughout the evening and you can see them at her Flickr page here. Thanks Cat!

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The best work is always unofficially collaborative

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July 9, 2014

I was reading stuff online today, procrastinating because sleep-deprived, when I came across this great post by Peter M Ball on the value of his weekly Write Club. Basically, he gets together with Angela Slatter once a week and they help each other get the writing done and get it done well.

It got me thinking. My most recent short story is all my own work supposedly. But it was critiqued by three of my best writing pals. It has significant additional scenes in the middle from one pal’s suggestions, a completely reworked end from another pal’s suggestion, much juggling of motivations from the third pal’s concerns and greatly polished final words from the input of all three. All of those things I’ve just credited separately were actually raised by all three because they’re bloody good advisors. It’s the solutions I used that I’m crediting really, all of them tempered with my own ideas. The best critiquers don’t tell you how to fix something – they just tell you what doesn’t work and maybe why (for them). It’s your job to decide whether to take that on board and it’s your job to fix it.

Let’s tie this back to Bound, as I’m harping on endlessly about that at the moment because of course I am. That book was turned from an okay manuscript into a great one by my mate, Paul Haines. It was subsequently thoroughly beaten senseless by Angela Slatter and Joanne Anderton. Without the help of those people it would not be published. No way. It wasn’t good enough. All the potential was there, of course, but those people said what didn’t work and I fixed it. They weren’t nice about it. Haines in particular has an acerbic crit voice that’ll take the skin right off your flesh. Fuck, I miss him for so many reasons, and that’s only one. But that’s what a writer needs. Not people who will say, “You’re brilliant! That story is great!” because it almost certainly isn’t. It could be, but it’s not yet.

You need that critical honesty from someone who wants to see you be the best you can. And you can do the same for them.

I get asked more and more often: “What advice do you have for aspiring writers?” My standard answer is always my best advice:

Write. Write as much as you can, always strive to get better and don’t give up. When not writing, read.

That’s still my best advice. You can have that for nothing. But on top of that, here’s part two:

Find a few like-minded friends and be honest with each other. If you can find people better than you, that’s great. (I was lucky cos I did!) But very little of any real quality happens without help.

With that kind of help, the stuff you produce will always be better than it might have been if you did it without help. To paraphrase one of my favourite bands, All writers need a little help from their friends.

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The website of author Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter, Author

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

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