Women in Horror

February is Women in Horror Month. There are women out there writing some amazing horror and I love it that WiHM exists to highlight them. I plan to only read women in February (mostly horror, but maybe not exclusively) and I wanted to help with the highlights by listing below some of the awesome women horror writers out there. Some of those listed will also be people who are maybe horror-adjacent, but certainly writers of dark fiction. Now, I know I’ve missed a bunch of wonderful people (including my friends, I’m sure!) and I apologise. Mea culpa! This list kinda got out of hand. So many amazing women out there. But, if you’re a woman in horror but not on the list, drop a comment and introduce yourself there!

So, no further ado – find yourselves a bunch of this stuff and get into it. At the start are a couple of groups to follow, then all the people. The list is in alphabetical order (by first name), but just to shake things up, it’s reverse alphabetical order. Give all those Zs a highlight over the As for a change!

Ladies of Horror Fiction @LOHFiction
Ladies of the Fright Podcast @LOTFpod

 

A J Spedding https://twitter.com/AJSpedding
Alma Katsu https://twitter.com/almakatsu
Angela Maher https://angelajmaher.com/
Angela Slatter https://twitter.com/AngelaSlatter
Bernie Rutkay https://www.linkedin.com/in/bernie-rutkay-85996040
Caroline Angel https://carolineangel.com/
Cassandra Khaw https://twitter.com/casskhaw
Cat Sparks https://twitter.com/catsparx
Christina Henry https://twitter.com/C_Henry_Author
Christine Morgan https://twitter.com/CMorganAuthor
Claire Fitzpatrick https://www.clairefitzpatrick.net
Cynthia Pelayo https://twitter.com/cinapelayo
Doungjai Gam https://twitter.com/djai76
Ellen Datlow https://twitter.com/EllenDatlow
Gabrielle Faust https://twitter.com/Gabrielle_Faust
Gemma Amor https://twitter.com/manylittlewords
Gemma Files https://twitter.com/gemmafiles
J H Moncrieff https://twitter.com/JH_Moncrieff
Joanne Anderton http://joanneanderton.com/wordpress/
Kaaron Warren https://twitter.com/KaaronWarren
Karen Runge https://twitter.com/RungeKaren
Kathe Koja https://twitter.com/KatheKoja
Kathleen Jennings https://twitter.com/tanaudel
Kathryn Hore http://www.letmedigress.com
Keri Arthur https://twitter.com/kezarthur
Kirsten Cross https://twitter.com/KesCross
Kirstyn McDermott https://twitter.com/fearofemeralds
L Zedda-Sampson https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16201109.L_Zedda_Sampson
Laurel Hightower https://twitter.com/HightowerLaurel
Lauren Beukes https://twitter.com/laurenbeukes
Lee Murray https://twitter.com/leemurraywriter
Linda D Addison https://twitter.com/nytebird45
Lisa L Hannett https://twitter.com/LisaLHannett
Lisa Morton https://twitter.com/cinriter
Livia Llewellyn https://twitter.com/TheNuminous1
Lucy Snyder https://twitter.com/LucyASnyder
Margo Lanagan https://twitter.com/margolanagan
Maria Lewis https://twitter.com/moviemazz
Marlee Jane Ward https://twitter.com/marleejaneward
Mary SanGiovanni https://twitter.com/marysangiovanni
Meghan Arcuri https://twitter.com/MeghanArcuri
Nadia Bulkin https://twitter.com/nadiabulkin
Nancy Holder https://twitter.com/nancyholder
Olivia White https://twitter.com/NoSleepOlivia
Rebecca Fraser https://writingandmoonlighting.com/
S D Perry https://twitter.com/sdp668
S P Miskowski https://twitter.com/SPMiskowski
Sara Tantlinger https://twitter.com/SaraTantlinger
Sarah Read https://twitter.com/Inkwellmonster
Shauna O’Meara https://twitter.com/OMearaShauna
Silvia Cantón Rondoni https://poetsilviacr.wixsite.com/poetsilviacr?fbclid=IwAR127tiTGL3l1C5-Azg_WjIAgScDiqC_vBWjGFSBltHsQYnwehAjUbhRfjs
Stephanie M Wytovich https://twitter.com/Swytovich
Tananarive Due https://twitter.com/TananariveDue
Theresa Braun https://twitter.com/tbraun_author

 

 

Books read in 2020

I won’t go into too much detail here, but it’s always interesting to look back and see what books accompanied me through any given year. I use the Goodreads challenge to keep track. I wrote a bit about that here, and how from now on I’m setting my goal at 10 books to remove pressure. According to Goodreads, in 2018 I set my goal at 50 books and read 65. In 2019 I set the goal at 50 and read 70. In 2020, I set the goal at 50 and read 57. Given the hell year that 2020 was, that’s not a bad effort. The images below show all the books I read in 2020. A quick scan shows a fair amount of variety. Or does it?

Using a completely arbitrary system of people’s names and my own knowledge (apologies for any mistakes!) I see there’s 15 books by women. That’s a terrible amount out of 57! That is partly offset by the fact that I read multiple books in a series by single authors who were men (Moorcock, Sapkowski) but that’s not really an excuse. Funny, as I thought I’d read more women this year, but there you! I’ll try to balance that up in 2021. I’m reading Fonda Lee’s second in the Green Bone Saga right now (Jade War), so that’s a good start.

Only four books by POC authors that I can see, so that needs rectifying too. While the books I’ve read are pretty diverse in genre and subject, the authors sure seem to be overwhelmingly white and male. Whether they’re straight or queer I don’t know. Regardless, more women and POC authors need to get to the top of my TBR this year. There’s only five non-fiction books on there that I see, but that’s five I finished. I always have a few on the go. Sapkowski’s Witcher books are the only ones in translation too, so I need to read more non-English books this year.

Whether I will manage these things or not remains to be seen, but it’s always good to be aware of our reading habits and biases and try to address them. That takes conscious effort. I tend to read things that call to me, but I also need to put myself in a position to hear the call of work outside my unconscious bias.

Onwards into 2021. I’m off to set my Goodreads challenge to 10 books and see how I go. First I need to finish Jade War, which I’m loving. Can’t believe I’ll have to wait until September for the final book in that trilogy.

No one is keeping secrets from you.

I get one or two emails or private messages a month on average asking some variation of this question, so I thought I might as well write a blog post about it. Then I can reply to those emails with a simple link. Firstly, if you’re one of those people who have written to me, especially recently, please believe this is not a passive-aggressive dig at you. This is the result of many examples over a long time. And it mystifies me that I get them. I mean, who the hell am I? I can only assume other writers do as well. What am I crapping on about? Well, the emails (and DMs, in-person queries, etc.) usually go something like this:

I’ve written these stories/books/what-have-you and they just don’t sell. No one is noticing my work. The secrets of publishing success are just out of reach. Please tell me what I need to do or who I need to talk to.

Or some variation of those themes.

You know, once I even saw someone bail up another writer during a room party at a con and say, “Just tell me! What do you know that people won’t tell me?”

I mean, that’s some serious conspiracy-driven loopiness and 99.9% pf people are not like that. (Also, do NOT do that, ever.) Most people are genuinely frustrated trying to break into this thankless industry, and I get that. Oh man, how I get that. I absolutely sympathise with the frustration. It’s easy to think there’s something you’re doing wrong, or some fundamental thing you’re not doing. You’re working your arse off in every other way, honing your craft, sending submissions, querying agents, self-publishing books with great editing and professional covers, but you’re not soaring on the wings of publishing success. It’s easy to think the problem lies in some secret formula people are keeping from you.

There is no secret. No one is withholding that vital key.

The simple fact is brutal, but true. Most don’t make it. The ones who do did one thing and one thing only: they didn’t quit.

It’s frustrating as hell when you see a new writer burst onto the scene with their first book or first stories and just go stratospheric. Suddenly everyone is talking about them, you see their book everywhere, they’re hitting the Best Of The Year lists and you’re sat there staring at your screen thinking, What the fuck, man?

We’ve all been there. Believe me when I say, those people are the serious outliers. And good for them! Amazing to get that lightning strike of luck right out of the gate. It almost never happens. You notice it on the rare occasion when it does.

For 99% of us, this gig is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s Sisyphus pushing his rock up the mountain, except your rock is a book and the mountain is what separates you from readers. For most people who are seeing great success, who frequently crop up on lists, who seem to be in every magazine or anthology, whose books always sell, well they’ve been busting their hump at this gig for years. They’ve been bloody-mindedly, relentlessly pushing their rock, refusing to quit.

Success in publishing is built from three things: talent, hard work, and luck. Anyone who denies any of those is deluded or lying to you. And you want to know the shittiest part of it? The most important one is luck. And that’s the only one you don’t control. The only one you can’t control. But you can work to improve your talent. The longer you do this, the better you’ll get. You can work hard. And the longer you do it, the smarter you’ll work too. And the beauty of those two things is this: the harder you work, the luckier you’ll get.

And now for another downer: luck is variable and often doesn’t last. But that’s okay. Because every little bit of luck helps. You know the parable of the crow and the water? It goes like this. The crow was thirsty as fuck (that’s you, thirsty for publishing success) and he found a glass with water in the bottom (that’s publishing). But the crow couldn’t reach the water. The crow, however, was smart. He put his birdy back into some hard work. He found a stone and dropped it into the glass. Then another, and another and another (that’s you working and not quitting). Slowly, as the stones filled the glass, the water level began to rise. Eventually the crow got a drink. That’s what publishing is like for most of us. And sometimes, the fucking glass cracks and all the water pisses out, and you have to go and find a new glass, and start over with the stones. Every once in a while, the glass randomly and inexplicably overflows and you nearly drown in it. You have no control over those things. All you control is finding the glasses and putting the rocks in.

I’ll move away from the analogy now for fear of over-stretching it!

Assuming you don’t get one of those early lightning strikes that lasts, you’ll be plugging away repeatedly and relentlessly, and you will, over time (oh, such a long time), start to generate a reputation, and a following. You’ll learn what resonates and what doesn’t. Every tiny success from one small bolt of luck could lead to another. You get a story in one place and an editor sees it and might invite to submit to another place. You get a book review in one place and it might lead a bunch of new readers to buy your book, and maybe even your back catalogue. Or those things might not happen and you have to keep going, feeling like nothing works, feeling like some secret is eluding you. It’s not. This is a bullshit industry and you need the hide of a rhino and the bull-headedness of a… fucking bull, I guess. And when it comes to the work, diversify. Short stories, novels, novellas, non-fiction. Spread your wings, get your work out there in a variety of ways to help build your skill and your reputation.

Get good, work hard, get lucky. That’s how it works. You have to be good and working hard in order to recognise the luck when it comes, and in order to grab hold of that luck and milk it for all it’s worth. You develop skills at these things the longer you’re at it. It sounds fucking awful, huh? It is. But it’s not all awful. If you’re still reading, that’s good. That means you’re not a quitter. So here’s a few tips on ways you can try to improve your luck and thereby find some success:

Improve your skill – we never stop learning.

Figure out what you like to write and zoom in on that. Some people try to write to market, and some can do that, but for most of us it’s superficial and lacks heart. People want to read your soul laid bare on the page. If you have passion for what you’re writing, people will respond to that authenticity.

I hate the concept of “author branding” but there is some merit to it. People need to know what to expect from you. That doesn’t mean you’re constrained to one genre or style, but find your voice and work with it. It will develop naturally over time, so let that happen. I’d like to think that by now people have an idea of what they’ll get from an Alan Baxter book. I try to both give them that and surprise them with each new release. Not easy, but nothing worthwhile is. That’s part of the work.

Learn the landscape. That means being across the publishers and publications out there. Understand who’s doing what and pay attention to any opportunities. Target your work well. And know the landscape changes frequently. And like I said above, work with novel and short story length stuff. It’ll improve your skills, improve your reach, and potentially improve your income in the short term too.

HELP OTHER PEOPLE! For all the truth of the fact that there are no secrets, people do help each other. If I see an opportunity, I’ll share it. If I see something that seems to suit particular people, I’ll let them know. If I see work being released by people whose work I’ve enjoyed in the past, I’ll share it. Not for any perceived reward but simply because a rising tide lifts all boats. And if you support and promote other people, they’ll get to know you and most likely support and promote you too. That’s you and them building your careers – we’re all in this together. We are allies, not competitors.

Go to cons, book launches, and other bookish events. In these Covid-times, this one is tricky. And for some people, the expense, the travel, the social anxieties, are all too real. But it does pay off. When you immerse yourself in the active culture of something you want to be a part of, you become a part of it. You hear about opportunities you might miss otherwise. You discover authors whose work resonates with you and you learn from it and them. People meet you and discover that you exist, and they hopefully also discover that you’re not a complete dickhead. This works best in person, but it’s true online as well. Some of the people I know best and respect most I’ve never actually met in meatspace.

Success in this business comes from people knowing about your work. No-one can read a book they don’t know exists. Most people won’t know you and your book exist, especially if all you do is yell about it from your small corner of the internet. Get involved with other people’s stuff, and then other people learn about you. Networking is key, online or in-person, and networking doesn’t mean wandering around asking what people can do for you. It means looking around to see what you can do for other people, even if that just means chatting like not a psychopath. Eventually it all comes around.

When you start to see some success, keep at it. And keep helping others. Success will rise and fall like a stormy sea. Things you never thought would take off go ballistic while the thing you love, the best thing you ever wrote, sinks without a trace. It might rise again later, or it might not. Keep going. The best marketing for your book is to write another book. The best salve for rejection is to submit again. Be part of the industry in whatever way you’re able, keep producing your best stuff, and keep working hard. The more stuff you put out there, the more chance you have of people discovering your work. When it comes right down to it, the only way to build a career is to have other people reading and talking about your stuff. And that doesn’t mean churning out as much egregious shit as you can. It means writing your best work and getting it out there in the best way you can, then rinse and repeat. Again and again and again.

Just by the way, this is all only my opinion on the subject, of course. I’ve talked with lots of people and most share this view, but I certainly can’t speak for all. I mean, the idea that I’m even successful is something else! I recognise that I’m in a position loads of people would kill for, but I don’t sell thousands of every release. I wish I did. I don’t make a full-time living at this. I’m constantly trying to increase my readership and I’m always on the hunt for that break-out book. But everything I’ve discussed above has got me this far, and I trust it’ll keep me going on a generally upwards trajectory. Out of all the stuff I’ve talked about, writing the best stuff I can and putting it out there is the most important part.

Stay productive, stay kind, and DO. NOT. QUIT.

 

********************************************************

If you enjoy my content and feel like shouting me a coffee, click here.

Nostalgia magic.

Reading is a special kind of magic. I think it was Stephen King who called it a “uniquely portable magic”. Books are mystical portals to other worlds, they let us experience being another person, they permit travel without moving. It’s escapism, but it’s also immersion. It’s mind-altering. It blows my mind, as a writer, that I can put these words down and trigger actual emotional responses in people I’ll never meet, never know about. I’ve recognised this power since I was a child, always loving that uniquely portable magic. But something else has happened as I’ve grown older. Magical echoes.

Certain books stay with us in powerful ways. There are some reading experiences I remember in vivid detail – some of the scared from early reading of Stephen King himself, some of the wonder from my early reading of fantasy and science-fiction. But some memories are more nebulous. I used to read a lot of fantasy in my early years. From about 9 years old and onwards, fantasy was my first love. I read it voraciously. It stands to reason that a lot of it would blur together. While I still read modern fantasy and enjoy stuff coming out today (like Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight books, Anna Stephens Godblind trilogy, Devin Madson’s The Reborn Empire, and so many more) I’ve recently been revisiting the old fantasy of my youth.

I’ve made it a habit of recent years to reread some of my favourite series, maybe two or three series a year. I reread all the Elric and Corum books by Michael Moorcock, which are still so fantastic. But interestingly, I always preferred Elric as a kid. Now I think the Corum books are far better. Next up are the Hawkmoon books. Every couple of years I reread Ursula K Le Guin’s Earthsea books, because they are just ambrosia to me. Everything about them is perfect. I also reread the entire Chronicles of Morgaine by C J Cheryh at the start of last year and that was just as awesome as I remember.

And here’s where something strange happened. You see, since I was a teen, there was this one scene from a fantasy novel that really stayed with me. I remember a magical woman and her warrior partner, trudging through a landscape that was flooded, the water up to their knees, with nowhere to sit down. In every direction, nothing but smooth water, as they searched, exhausted, for a gate out of that world. I don’t know why, but I’d always loved that imagery, it stayed with me. Except I couldn’t remember which book it had been in. Apart from the fact that I wanted to revisit all the wonderful fantasy from the 70s and 80s, part of my decision to reread these classics was 1) I wanted them on my shelves again for my son to discover, and 2) I really wanted to find that scene again. When I got hold of an omnibus edition of The Chronicles of Morgaine I thought, Powerful woman! Warrior companion! Travelling multiple worlds through strange gates! This has to be it! I reread the entire thing, some 1,500 pages or more, and I loved it all over again, but that scene wasn’t in it. I was a little bereft.

Oh well, the search continues. I kept reading old classics in between modern fantasy (I’m doing the same with horror and thrillers too). Then earlier this year I was in a secondhand bookshop and they had a whole lot of 70s and 80s fantasy. A treasure trove! I found a bunch of Moorcock’s I’d been looking out for as well as a variety of other stuff. And then I found Six of Swords by Carol Nelson Douglas. I got a nostalgia punch right in the gut. I’d forgotten all about the series, but seeing the cover I instantly remembered it. Irissa, the Torloc seeress with silver eyes, who could never look directly at anyone for fear of seeing her reflection in their eyes and losing her powers. Kendric the Wrathman, a seven foot giant of a warrior. And I remembered too that they were searching for a Torloc Gate. More than the memory of this book, though, was the sequel, Exiles of the Rynth. That particular book had blown me away as a teen, so much better than the first. I’d forgotten all about it until then. And could it be the one I’d been looking for? So I bought Six of Swords. I read it again and it was awesome. It ends with them going through a gate. I finally managed to track down a copy of Exiles of the Rynth (it had to be the old Corgi editions like I’d had before). I just finished reading it last night. So good still, such original ideas. And right towards the end, Irissa and Kendric walking knee deep through floodwaters, looking for the gate. I found it! I can’t describe the sense of relief. It was like striking gold after panning for years. There’s a certain sense of completion now, a coming home. My fantasy journey gone full circle. Now I’ve also managed to find the sequel trilogy to that original duology, which I’d never read as a teen. Keepers of Edanvant, Heir of Rengarth, and Seven of Swords, in their original Corgi editions, are sitting on the shelf, ready to go. But I’m not searching for something from the past any more. I can forge forwards.

More magic ahead.

 

THE GULP signed paperbacks up for pre-order now.

The Gulp is officially published on January 12th, 2021, which is only 5 weeks away. Exciting times! Most stores are showing pre-order details now, although for some reason Amazon are being a pain in the arse about it and showing the paperback as “Temporary unavailable” instead of there being a pre-order button. I don’t know why and I’ve tried to get Amazon to fix it, but we all know how easy that is. Anyway, the Kindle is up for pre-order and the paperback will go live on the 12th even if the pre-order never comes up. Which sucks balls, but I’ve decided there’s no point in getting upset about things I can’t change. OMMMMMMM! There’s always Book Depository, after all.

Meanwhile, I know lots of folks are keen for a signed paperback. I can make that happen! I now have an online store to help me manage direct sales and you’ll find The Gulp here.

HOWEVER, please be advised that signed books have to ship from here in Australia. That’s no drama at all for Australians, of course. But if you’re overseas, the shipping can be brutal. If you scroll down to the bottom of Item Details on the book page, there’s a spot for you to put your country and postcode and it’ll calculate shipping for you, without you needing to actually put anything in your cart. This way you can check very easily what the whole cost will be. Bear in mind that if you’re in the US, the shipping will be more than the book! All prices are in Australian dollars and I think you’re looking at about AU$62 for the shipped book to America, which is about US$45. I know that’s a lot, but it’s a signed copy and the prices are entirely out of my control. Aussies, you’re looking at about AU$34 including shipping, which isn’t too bad at all!

If you’re overseas and you want a signed book, but can’t stretch to 45 of your American dollars (entirely understandably) there is another option. I have these book plates that are basically stickers you put in the book that you buy locally. So if you want to buy The Gulp (or any of my other books) from your local book store, Amazon, etc., then you can buy this option and I’ll send you signed plates to put in them. The price is a flat rate for as many as your want.

So get your orders in now! But please remember, the book isn’t officially published until January 12th, so you can pre-order now and signed books will start to go out that week. Hopefully yours will arrive on or close to the publication date, but I apologise if it’s a few days behind. Of course, you’ll find a bunch of my other stuff at my online store as well, so feel free to order any signed books that take your fancy. Don’t forget, a signed book is a really cool Christmas present. If you put the instructions with your order, I’ll even gift wrap it and you can put the shipping address as your friend or loved one to receive to the book directly.

Any questions, hit me up. And thank you!

 

Good reading over Goodreads.

Someone posted this on Twitter the other day and it really resonated.

Now, I love Goodreads. It’s primarily a reader space, but I’m an avid reader too, obviously. As Stephen King said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” I believe that entirely. But I recognise Goodreads as one of those places that’s entirely for readers, so while I keep a page there, I also keep a very low profile. I do believe in promoting the good stuff, of course, so I always post and rate the books I enjoy. One of the things I like most about Goodreads is that I can keep track of what I’ve read. To that end, I’ve been doing the Goodreads Challenge for the last few years. I set it to 50 books, and I usually exceed it. Seems I tend to read about 60 to 65 books a year on average.

But here’s the thing. I’m constantly aware of that number hanging over me. 50 books. You have to read at least 50! And you know what? Fuck that actually. I still recognise the challenge as a good way to keep track of books read, but next year and on into the future, I’ll be setting my goal to 10 books. I don’t want to be constantly thinking about reaching that number. Writing is work for me – work I love, but still a job – so why the hell would I make reading seem like work too? From now on it’s going to be good reading over Goodreads challenges. I’ll easily clear 10 books a year, so I can just not think about it any more. I wonder if, as a result, I might read less than 50 books next year? It’s possible, but I don’t care. Reading is my joy, my escape, my release. Time to take the challenge out of it again.

 

2020 Awards eligibility post

It’s that time of year again. I know people are thinking about Awards, the Stoker Awards Recommended Reading List is up, and so on. I think it’s always worth reminding people of what you’ve had published in any given year, so here’s my post to that effect. In all honesty, I’ve been pretty busy this year, but not had a great deal of work published. It’s the first year in a while that I haven’t had a novel-length work published, but I have had three novellas out. That’s about one novel. And there have been 5 short stories published this year.

So here’s what I’ve done in 2020:

THE ROO – a gonzo creature feature novella (self-published, March 2020)

SANCTUM (Jake Crowley Adventures 0) (Adrenaline Press, March 2020) – Action/adventure thriller (prequel novella).

RECALL NIGHT – Eli Carver 2 – a supernatural crime noir novella (Grey Matter Press, August 2020)

These are all eligible in the Long Fiction category of awards – 17,500 and 40,000 words, EXCEPT SANCTUM which is technically a novel, but only around 44,000 words.

As for Short Stories (up to 7,500 words), I’ve published the following in 2020:

“Liminal” – One of Us: A Tribute to Frank Michaels Errington (ed. Kenneth W Cain) Bloodshot Books (November 2020)

The Normandy Curse” – Does the Dog Die in This (June 2020)

“Yellow Dog” – Black Dogs, Black Tales: A Mental Health Charity Anthology (ed. Tabatha Wood) Things in the Well Publications (May 2020)

A Star Has Died” (A Silhouette Story) – self-published on my Curious Fictions page (May 2020)

“The Demon Locke”  – SNAFU: Medivac (A Charity Anthology for James A Moore), ed. A J Spedding (Cohesion Press, February 2020)

If you think any of these are award-worthy or nomination-worthy, thank you so much in advance! Awards don’t always equal sales, of course (I’d always much rather get more sales and fewer awards), but they certainly do help to raise an author’s profile, and they sure are a nice boost in this often thankless business. If you are able to get involved in any awards voting, please do. The more people involved, the more awards reflect the actual opinion of the reading public.

 

Welcome to The Gulp!

If you follow me on social media it’s entirely possible you’re already sick of hearing about this book, but I hope not, because I’m really fucking proud of it. I thought I’d talk a bit about what it is and how it came about. In many ways, The Gulp is the culmination of many things, the meeting point of several paths in my writing career thus far. I’ve always written dark, weird, fantastical stuff. With The Balance books and The Alex Caine Series, that manifested in a kind of gritty, black urban fantasy. With Hidden City, I pushed harder into the horror while keeping the urban fantasy high in the mix. With Devouring Dark, I pushed harder still into horror while letting the fantasy sit back a bit. To be honest, all those things are on a sliding scale and trying to categorise them is a dark tunnel that ends in madness. They’re all Alan Baxter books. Let’s hope that’s starting to mean something.

Along with those novels, I’ve always loved to write short stories. My two collections, Crow Shine and Served Cold, are both award-winners. And I love longer short stories, that wonderful novella length that lends itself so well to genre fiction, especially horror. My stuff like The Book Club and Manifest Recall really took advantage of the novella format and I think they’re some of my best books. And the came The Roo.

A lot of my stories are set in my home country of Australia, but none of them were so unashamedly Australian as the gonzo splatterpunk carnival that is The Roo. And for whatever reason, no doubt a combination of talent, luck, and timing like all publishing, The Roo has been by far my most popular book. Honestly, I wish all my stuff sold as well as The Roo sold (and is still selling!) If you’ve only read The Roo so far, and that’s how you’ve found me, I implore you to check out some of the stuff listed above. You’ll dig it, I promise. You’ll find everything under the Books By Alan link in the menu at the top of this page.

When I saw the success of The Roo, and saw how much people were enjoying this fucked up, fully Aussie horror yarn, I realised something. For a long time, I’ve had the urge to write stories set in a fictional town that I can revisit again and again. A lot of authors do it – Stephen King revisits Derry and Castle Rock a lot, for example – but I’d never done it yet myself. The city of Cleveport in Hidden City is a great fictional location and I’d love to write more stories there, but that’s fictional America. My urge was to write something in a quintessentially Australian town, but I thought maybe it was too niche. Maybe there was no market for it. The Roo proved that to be absolute bollocks. Of course, the appeal of a giant rampaging killer roo is more the cause of that book’s success than anything else, but it proved people from all over the world loved a true blue Aussie yarn. So maybe I should write those stories I’d been toying with.

I live near a regional harbour town. That combination of country Australia and the sea is delicious to me. It’s like Innsmouth and Wake In Fright and Wolf Creek all rolled up together. Of course, the town I live in isn’t anything like that remote, but the seed of the idea came from there. I thought I could create the coolest gestalt entity rural town – isolated, surrounded by bush, right on the ocean. I could play with all those weird and wonderful country town archetypes. In The Roo I’d done the dry and dusty outback town. I may do more of that, it’s so appealing and so good for horror. I’ve set several short stories out there. But now I get to do the coastal weirdness that appeals to me so much. Thereby the town of Gulpepper was born. But only outsiders use the full name. Locals call it The Gulp, because the place has a habit of swallowing people.

It’s no surprise to anyone who knows my work that I love a weird, cosmic, dark fantastique vibe in stories. With The Gulp I let off the brakes and dove headlong into that sandpit. There are five novellas in the The Gulp. I’ve had all kinds of ideas floating around for these stories for a long time, but two in particular were quite well-formed in my mind. As soon as I started working more seriously on this book, I realised I would need a story to frame the idea, and then I could let loose. I realised the ideas were interconnected, and that was exciting. While each of the five stories in The Gulp works perfectly as a standalone, there are lots of crossovers. As you read through you’ll get easter eggs galore where characters or situations from one story appear in another. I bloody love nerdy stuff like that. And the whole book is also a kind of mosaic novel as a result. The sum of the parts is greater than those parts themselves. And I’m billing it as “Tales From The Gulp Volume One”, because I have so many more stories to tell in this cool and creepy place. I really hope people get behind it and enjoy the book so I get to justify writing another set of stories. I can already visualise a second novella collection. And there’s the possibility of novel-length stories set here as well. The Gulp can be my Castle Rock, and that fills me with joy and the urge to write.

Of course, there’s something unique about any place. A good story can take place anywhere, but a good location adds something indefinable to a story that makes it far more, far better, than it could otherwise be. You could write exactly the same story, for example, and set it in New York or Hong Kong or Sydney. Potentially, it could remain unchanged, as the essence of the story might be the same wherever it happened. But for me, that’s not enough. The setting is a character in every story I write and if that’s ignored, the story suffers for it. When it’s embraced, the story is improved by orders of magnitude. In some ways, the stories in The Gulp could happen anywhere. I could have set them in any generic location and they would still be good stories. But they’re not generic. These tales take place in Gulpepper, in regional New South Wales, Australia, and that matters. More than most of my other stuff, the fact that they take place there is fundamental to what happens. And each story contributes to the myth and history of Gulpepper. Every future story I set there will feed of these that have come before. And I can’t wait to write more.

Here’s the blurb for the first five stories from The Gulp.

Strange things happen in The Gulp. The residents have grown used to it.

 

The isolated Australian harbour town of Gulpepper is not like other places. Some maps don’t even show it. And only outsiders use the full name. Everyone who lives there calls it The Gulp. The place has a habit of swallowing people.

 

A truck driver thinks the stories about The Gulp are made up to scare him. Until he gets there.
Teenage siblings try to cover up the death of their mother, but their plans go drastically awry.
A rock band invite four backpackers to a party at their house, where things get dangerously out of hand.
A young man loses a drug shipment and his boss gives him 48 hours to make good on his mistake.
Under the blinking eye of the old lighthouse, a rock fisher makes the strangest catch of his life.

 

Five novellas. Five descents into darkness. Welcome to The Gulp, where nothing is as it seems.

On the subject of quintessentially Australian horror, I recently hosted a panel for the virtual convention, InCONceivable,  about exactly that subject, with horror legends Robert Hood, Aaron Dries and Joseph Ashley-Smith. You can watch that panel on YouTube – I’ll embed the video at the end of this post.

I genuinely think The Gulp is one of the best books I’ve written, and I hope you’ll give it a try. Pre-orders for the paperback and ebook are live now* (all the links can be found here), you can find it on Goodreads, and it comes out in just a few weeks, on January 12th, 2021. (*Some Amazon stores are being dicks and showing it as unavailable. Hopefully that’ll change soon, but if nothing else it will become available on publication day, January 12th, so don’t worry if you can’ t pre-order. Follow me on Twitter, etc. and I’ll be sure to sing out when the book is available.)

Welcome to The Gulp, where nothing is as it seems.

Here’s that Aussie Horror panel:

Signed books for Christmas

Christmas is coming around again, whether we like it or not. I’m probably quite well known by now for my disdain of the whole thing, but I do my best to get into the spirit. To be honest, seeing Christmas through my son’s eyes these last few years has given it a new perspective that I quite enjoy. And the excuse to gather with friends and family to eat and drink is always a winner. But of course, this year is not like other years in so many ways, most especially in the way that travelling to be together is potentially deadly. I mean, even by Christmas standards, that fucking sucks. I hope everyone is able to stay safe.

The other side of Christmas, of course, is the gift-giving. And that’s something we can hopefully keep largely unaffected by plagues and political upheaval. Naturally, we can’t literally hand over gifts like we normally do, but we can send them. Or have them sent. And here’s my offer to you. Books are a great gift – giving someone a reading experience that you’ve enjoyed is a unique present. You get to talk about it and have something to share beyond the book itself. Or you get to give someone an experience you think they’ll enjoy. It’s not just an object – it’s hours of escape, a mental journey they will always have. Sending them that experience signed by the person who wrote it is an extra bonus, and another layer of specialness in the gift. Especially if that author writes a personalised dedication. And that’s what I’m offering you. I’ll even gift-wrap the book/s and send the parcel directly to the recipient if you like, so you don’t have to receive it and then post it on.

So that’s a signed book (or books), personally dedicated, gift-wrapped, and sent directly to your friend or loved one. I can do this anywhere in the world, but I would warn that postal rates outside Australia are pretty brutal. Regardless, the process is now very easy as you can order via my online Eventeny store. Shipping is calculated based on your location and you can check that before you even add a book to your cart if you want. If you do decide to go ahead, you add the book/s to your cart, then there’s an option to “Add a note to Alan Baxter” (right under the cover image) and there you can let me know who to sign it to and any other dedication or gift-wrapping requests you have. All prices in the store are in Australian dollars. Currently available are:

Novels

The Alex Caine Trilogy – BOUND, OBSIDIAN and ABDUCTION – $60 for all three

DEVOURING DARK – $25

HIDDEN CITY – $25

Short Story Collections

SERVED COLD – $25

CROW SHINE – $25

Novellas

MANIFEST RECALL – $16.95

RECALL NIGHT – $16.95

THE ROO – $16.95

(Click on the image for a bigger version)

I only have a few copies of some books, so get in quick.

So that’s it. If you’re keen, head over to my online Eventeny store and make your order. At the moment I’m pretty sure we can get stuff anywhere before Christmas, but for overseas orders I would move fast as I can’t guarantee how well the postal service will manage that. Within Australia, there’s plenty of time, but get your orders in sooner rather than later to make sure you get the books you want and to make sure I have time to get them posted well before Christmas.

If you have any problems or questions, give me a shout and we’ll figure stuff out. And happy Christmas to you all. Let’s hope 2021 is a vast improvement on 2020.

.