Penry

My dog is gone. Penry, my best friend for over a decade, died in my hands.

He was diagnosed with incurable cancer in December last year. They gave him 3 to 6 months. We could have tried major surgery, but the specialist said there wasn’t any way to get all of the tumour. It might buy him another 6 months, she said. Maybe more. Maybe less. But there wasn’t any guarantee the cancer hadn’t already metastasised (into lungs, liver, elsewhere), and there was a risk of fecal incontinence from the surgery. Not to mention months of chemotherapy post-op. There was no dignity in that, no way we’d put him through such significant physical invasion with those risks and outcomes, for a possible 6 months extension. Maybe more, but the risks were too high. I’ve seen cancer too many times. I’ve seen the futility of intervention at certain advanced stages. No, we wouldn’t put him through that. We’d give him the best 3 to 6 months we could. He made it 7 months before we saw a rapid change and the first signs of distress. There were lots of things to deal with along the way, but we managed. He trusted us. It wasn’t pleasant at times, but it was okay. He was still happy and energetic and living his life.

We said from the outset that we wouldn’t let him suffer. As soon as pain or distress presented itself, we would make that hardest decision of all and call the vet. That day came. It was the right thing. The right time. We had a good last day with him, all of us together in the garden. It was bright, the sky clear blue. Penry managed to play a little, he enjoyed lying in the sunshine. He was with his people and content. At the end of the day, the vet came. I held Penry. It was peaceful and calm.

But still I’m broken. I don’t know how to be without my Penry. He was part of me, part of my identity. His loss is an abyss.

The morning after he died, the garbage was collected. The silence as the big green monster lifted the bins was deafening. No matter how much we told Penry not to bark at the garbage truck, he couldn’t help himself. He was protecting us. That’s what he did. He was PC Penry, policing the things that needed his attention.

When Rufus came along two years ago, Penry taught him everything. He had a new lease on life with that crazy brown puppy around. They were instantly best buddies. Rufus will have some adjusting to do now, and we’ll all help each other through this.

I will never be okay with it. All dogs are good, they’re all special. But I’ve known a lot of dogs in my life and Penry was something more. He had a dignity and rare individuality. Penry was his own dog. He was pragmatic. Things were done a certain way and any deviation from the norm was met with disdain. We share that trait, he and I. He was also exuberant, his happiness with life infectious. When people saw him in the street, they smiled. There really will never be another like him. He had a presence far bigger than the physical space he occupied. He was kind and sweet and gentle, especially around kids and babies, and other small animals. He once tried to play with a frog. I loved him, and I respected him. I’ll never be the same without him. This is the price we pay for such total, unconditional love.

Penry loved everybody. The more people around, the better, as far as he was concerned. He would play in the garden for hours. He loved to swim. Sticks were great for chasing or chomping up. He learned so many tricks like shaking paws, roll over, play dead, and more. He enjoyed playing with other dogs, so much biteyface, and he and Rufus would play chase and tug in the garden for ages. But nothing was better than people throwing a ball. He would fetch a ball (or a rope or a rubber bone or anything else) all day long, 100% focus.

Aside from all that, Penry enjoyed nothing more than being with his family somewhere out in nature. Somewhere no cars would come and he could run and sniff and be free. Chasing a ball at the beach was his nirvana. That’s where we’ll scatter his ashes soon.

We had so many good times together, so many holidays with him. As long as we were all together, that’s all that mattered. We’re not together any more. He should have had years longer, but cancer is an evil thief that robs us all.

I don’t know how to be without Penry. He was my best mate and we did everything together. He was always a part of me. Now his absence will always be part of me. Notwithstanding the end, he had the best life. I’ll be forever grateful for the time we shared. I’ll have to learn to live with this hole in my life, as I’ve learned to live with others. But this one is hard. This one cuts so far, to the core of me. This pain is deeper than my bones. I have a beautiful family and we’ll hold each other up through this.

He was the best boy. I love you, Penry.

This is the last photo taken of Penry alive, on the last day we had together.

 

(Click on any of the pics in this post for a bigger version.)

REVENANT: Jake Crowley 3 is alive!

For any of you out there who enjoy the books I co-write with David Wood, I have some good news. The third Jake Crowley book is up for pre-order now. It’s called REVENANT. After the events of Anubis Key, Jake and Rose Black decide to take their time heading back to England, and have a road trip ending up in New York City to visit Jake’s Great Aunt. But we all know that Jake and Rose can’t stay out of trouble for long. Here’s the official blurb:

Archaeologists excavating a mass grave in a historic New York City cemetery make a gruesome discovery: stacked like cord wood are skeletal remains going back decades, but all have one thing in common. Each skull bears a hole in the exact same location. When their friend is murdered investigating this bizarre discovery, Jake Crowley and Rose Black set off in search of the killer. Their path will take them to abandoned hospitals, hidden chambers, and into the depths of the strange world that lies beneath New York City in search of Edgar Allan Poe’s secret journal.

An occult murder mystery wrapped in an action-packed thriller!

We had a lot of fun writing this book and it was cool to have a whole story set in the one city. For all the years that Dave and I have been working together, we’d never actually met in the flesh. Until last year when we hung out together for a while in New York City and researched the locations for this story. Pre-orders really help a book gain momentum on release, so please do jump on if you’re keen. The official release is only 5 days away on the 15th July, so you don’t have long to wait. All the various stores can be found here.

We’ve also had the jackets tweaked to make a fine looking matching set now there’s three books in the series. (They look great, huh? Click for a bigger picture.)

And there will be more Jake Crowley, but I think we’re going to work on a new Sam Aston book next. And don’t forget, my second collection of short stories, SERVED COLD, is out in September, so I’m staying busy.

If you like what I do, the best way to support my work is buy my books, and share the word about them. Alternatively, you can also buy me a coffee at my KoFi page. Thanks!

Survival as an artist

It’s hard to make a living as a writer. Sure, there are the Stephen Kings and J K Rowlings out there making a mint, but they’re so far around the bell curve, we can’t see them from here. For most of us it’s a daily struggle and almost every writer I know has a day job too. It’s good in some ways, because a job gets us out from behind the keyboard once in a while, which is only good and healthy. But financial stability is not common in a writer’s life.

One way to deal with that, other than the obvious retaining of the day job, is to diversify our income streams. I write as much as I can and always primarily aim for more readers. That’s always the real goal. So please do tell your friends and colleagues about my books, talk them up on social media, review them at Amazon and Goodreads, lend them out, buy them as gifts, order them at your local library. All that stuff really helps so much. The more readers I get, the more books I sell, the more sustainable my career. But I have to look out for myself too, so I work hard at other things. I love short fiction, and try to sell stories, then sell reprints. I write some non-fiction and articles, I do workshops and presentations, I self-publish some stuff as well as working with a variety of publishers. It’s all important stuff. But it’s still hard. I’m not complaining, this is the best job in the world. But I’ve also often thought about other ways of making a bit more money at it. After all, making money from our art is not something we should ever be ashamed of. Sure, we get to make art for our job, which is awesome and bizarre, but we need to eat too. I’ve seen some people do well with Patreon and sites like that. It’s a cool idea, but the only people really killing it there are folks with an established and big following. That makes the extra work worthwhile for them. For most of us, it would be a lot of extra work for very little return. And I want all my work to be available to everyone, all the time.

So I’ll keep writing, keep getting published with any luck, and hopefully build a sustainable career. You can help with that as mentioned above, all those things work wonders and they’re a necessary part of a creative career. Without readers, we’re nothing. And you know a good way to help authors for about the price of a coffee, or even less? You can gift people ebooks. Kindle via Amazon allows you to send someone a book as a gift. That makes you a great friend, and it’s a sale for the author, plus you might end up getting that author a new reader. Almost endless benefit!

But if you would also like to buy me a virtual coffee (all my books are basically coffee and whisky distilled into words, after all) there is a way to do that. There’s this site called Ko-fi where you can show your appreciation for a creator with a once-off payment just like treating them to a coffee, as a kind of thank you for what they do. I really like the idea, as it doesn’t require any special treatment or restricted content, it’s just a friendly treat and nothing more. So if you like what I do and you want to buy me a coffee, I can’t thank you enough. You can do that by clicking here.

Meanwhile, please share the good word about my books in whatever way suits you, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that either. Cheers! I’d better get on with writing this next book. I might just make a coffee first…

Alan’s Ko-fi page.

Award nominations-arama!

Well, award season is on us and I have to say, I’m both stunned and ecstatic about the shortlists that are coming out. Australia has three national genre awards – the Aurealis Awards (covering Australian fantasy, sci-fi, and horror, and jury voted), the Ditmar Awards (covering Australian fantasy, sci-fi, and horror, and fan voted), and the Australian Shadows Awards (covering Aus and NZ dark fiction, and jury voted). All three shortlists of finalists have been announced now and my dark novel about gangsters, corrupt cops and supernatural assassins, DEVOURING DARK, is on all three of them! What the actual fuck!? So awesome. Devouring Dark is a finalist for Best Fantasy Novel in the Aurealis Awards and Best Novel in both the Ditmar Awards and the Australian Shadows Awards. And as if that wasn’t enough, my story about bullying and cyber-weirdness, “Crying Demon”, from the anthology Suspended in Dusk 2, is a finalist in the Best Fantasy Short Story category of the Aurealis Awards. Amazing.

All these awards really do showcase the cream of ANZ genre fiction, so to see my work among the other incredible finalists is a real honour. Here are all the full shortlists for each award:

2018 Aurealis Awards shortlists

2018 Ditmar Awards shortlists

2018 Australian Shadows Awards shortlist

Huge congratulations to all the nominees, and massive thanks to all the judges and everyone who makes these things happen.

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SERVED COLD – new collection published by Grey Matter Press

I’ve just had a mega time at Supanova Melbourne, and next weekend I’m doing it again at Gold Coast. But in the meantime, I’m super excited that this news is finally public. I’ve signed another contract with Grey Matter Press, the amazing publisher behind my novella, MANIFEST RECALL, and my novel, DEVOURING DARK. In a nice trifecta of fiction lengths, they’ll now be publishing my next collection of short fiction in September this year. It’s called SERVED COLD and will have sixteen previously uncollected stories, three of them brand new and never before published. I couldn’t be happier to be working with GMP again. Here’s the official press release:

CHICAGO, April 4, 2019 —Author Alan Baxter and Grey Matter Press are aiming for a horror trifecta with today’s announcement that the Chicago-based independent publisher will release its third volume from the multiple award-winning author known worldwide for his exceptional horror, urban fantasy and noir fiction when Baxter’s Served Cold arrives this fall.

Served Cold is the author’s second collection of short stories, arriving only three years after his 2016 debut release of the award-winning Crow Shine. With Served Cold, Baxter follows up with 16 provocative and intense short fiction offerings never before collected into a single volume. Together they effectively demonstrate the author’s unique ability to effortlessly blend elements of horror, fantasy and dark fantastique into a truly memorable volume of dark fiction.

“I’ve always had a great affinity for short horror fiction. It’s a great way to explore all that can be done with limited space,” said Baxter, the critically acclaimed author of the popular Alex Caine dark fantasy series, several novels and more than 80 short stories and novellas. “And I’m so very proud of the work in this collection, as it represents all the varied approaches I take to writing horror. It’s dark, visceral, and emotional.”

Served Cold features a selection of Baxter’s recent fiction that includes several unpublished and uncollected works, while featuring his Aurealis-award nominated novelette of the same name. Upon its release, Served Cold, becomes the first of the author’s collections published by the multiple Bram Stoker award-nominated Grey Matter Press, following the company’s publication of Baxter’s gritty horror-noir novella Manifest Recall and his supernatural thriller Devouring Dark, both released in 2018.

“I’m thrilled to once again be working with Alan and to have the honor to bring his dangerously flawed characters and incredible storytelling to readers in this newest collection,” said Anthony Rivera, publisher at Grey Matter Press. “If you’re already a Baxter fan, you know this cross-genre collection is going to be a take-no-prisoners ride through the darkest corridors of the human condition. But if you’re new to his work, I can safely say you’re in for a literary experience you won’t soon forget.”

When Served Cold is released, the title will be available from Grey Matter Press in both trade paperback and common ebook formats at booksellers worldwide.

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ABOUT ALAN BAXTER

Alan Baxter writes supernatural thrillers and urban horror, rides a motorcycle and loves his dogs. He also teaches Kung Fu. He lives among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia. Read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website – warriorscribe.com – or find him on Twitter @AlanBaxter and on Facebook at facebook.com/alanrbaxter.

ABOUT GREY MATTER PRESS

Grey Matter Press is a Chicago-based publisher whose mission it is to discover and cultivate the best voices working in the dark fiction genre. The company is committed to producing only the finest quality volumes of literary fiction containing exceptional tales of horror, fantasy, science fiction and speculative fiction. More information about Grey Matter Press is available at greymatterpress.com

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Award season is upon us!

Firstly, the Ditmar Awards are open for nominations as of right now. These are the fan-voted national genre awards here in Australia. Anyone “active in fandom” can vote for work they think worthy – that means if you’re a writer, reader, watcher or any other fan of SFFH, you can nominate. There’s a full list of eligible work here, an explanation of voting rules here, and you can nominate work easily with this online form.

If you think any of my 2018 work is worth your nomination, I would be hugely grateful. I have the following eligible stuff:

In the Best Novel category:

Devouring Dark, Alan Baxter, Grey Matter Press, November 2018.

Hidden City, Alan Baxter, Gryphonwood Press, Feb 2018.

In the Best Novella or Novelette category:

“Manifest Recall”, Alan Baxter, in Manifest Recall, Grey Matter Press, June 2018.

In the Best Short Story category:

“Crying Demon”, Alan Baxter, in Suspended in Dusk 2, Grey Matter Press, August 2018.

“Waters Strangely Clear”, Alan Baxter, in What October Brings, Celaeno Press, October 2018.

“Simulacrum of Hope”, Alan Baxter, in Strange Aeons Magazine issue 23, ed. Justin Steele, October 2018.

So if you’d like to nominate any of that work, I’d be mighty appreciative, but also make sure you nominate any other work published in 2018 that you enjoyed and think worthy. Given that this is a fan-voted award, the more people voting means the more representative the award is of public feeling. Tell your friends to get involved, spread the word, and make the Ditmar Awards as good as they can be.

Meanwhile, in other award news, I’m absolutely stoked to see that I got two finalist nominations in the recently announced Aurealis Awards shortlists. The Aurealis Awards are Australia’s premier genre fiction awards, voted on by panels of judges. I’m so thrilled to see Devouring Dark is a finalist for Best Fantasy Novel, and “Crying Demon” is a finalist for Best Fantasy Short Story. And seriously, every single shortlist is just jam-packed with amazing work by incredible authors. Check out the full list of finalists here.

Finally, the Australian Shadows Awards, which are the national jury voted awards for dark fiction and horror, closes to entries in two days. So get your stuff in! All the details here.

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Melbourne, Gold Coast, and Rotorua, New Zealand!

This writing gig is a funny old thing and sometimes it takes me to distant and interesting places. It’s a genuine honour when I get invited to these things, and it’s always so much fun. I’m a lucky dude. Already 2019 is getting busy and I can’t wait to get out of the BaxCave and meet your animated skeletons in meatspace.

In April, those amazing people at Supanova Comic Con & Gaming have invited me back as a guest to be on tour with them to Melbourne (April 5-7) and Gold Coast (April 12-14). I haven’t been down to Melbourne in about three years, so that’s definitely overdue for a visit. There will be heaps of fantastic guests there, and a great line-up of other authors, so come along and say hi. I’ll have loads of the Alex Caine trilogy, heaps of Hidden City, Manifest Recall and Devouring Dark, all at discounted prices, all signed for free. And anyone who buys any book will get a Devouring Dark pin while stocks last.

And in June, there’s a really exciting event where I’ll be a Guest of Honour at an overseas convention for the first time. Those Geysercon folks in New Zealand have invited me to join Kaaron Warren, Laura VanArendonk Baugh and Alena Van Arendonk as a guest for the NZ Natcon from May 31 to June 3. Same details as Supanova above, plus loads of other fun stuff like panels, awards ceremonies and general shenanigans. This will be the first time I’ve been to New Zealand in about twenty years, so I’m excited about that.

Click on the links above to get all the details and I hope to see you there!

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2018 in review.

2018 has been a pretty solid year for original publications! Three novels HIDDEN CITY, DEVOURING DARK, and OVERLORD (co-written with David Wood), one novella, MANIFEST RECALL, and four short stories: “Simulacrum of Hope” in Strange Aeons Magazine (a weird Australian horror story), “Waters Strangely Clear” in the What October Brings anthology (a Lovecraftian story set in Innsmouth), “Crying Demon” in Suspended In Dusk 2 (a digital horror story), and “Her Grief In My Halls” in the Te Kōrero Ahi Kā anthology (an Australian gothic ghost story).

I’ve never has four books out in one year before, and likely won’t again, but that’s the strange timelines of publishing for you. I certainly didn’t write all this stuff in one year. This also sees 10 books with my name on the cover (and a further 5 with my name and David Wood’s) and that feels like quite a milestone. I’m incredibly happy with this. And, with a bit of luck, I’m well on the way to 2019 publications, as I’m always working on something new. Often more than one something.

2018 has also been a stellar year for writerly things in general. I’ve had the privilege to be a guest at Supanova in Sydney and Perth, a guest at Oz Comic-Con in Sydney, and a guest instructor where I taught workshops for the Sydney Writers’ Festival Live & Local event in Wollongong, at the Shaolhaven Writers’ Festival, and the Wollongong Writers’ Festival. I’ve had several other book store and book club events around the country, the pinnacle of which was the recent amazing book tour for the launch of DEVOURING DARK which took in Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra.

And in March I went to the US for the first time and attended StokerCon (as a member, not a guest) and that was an incredible experience. I’m hoping to go again in 2019.

All this is possible because there are you folks out there who want to read the shit I make up. Which blows my mind on a daily basis. I’m honestly blessed and privileged to be able to do all this stuff, and it’s thanks to you, out there, the readers. So if you’ve ever read a book of mine, talked about one, reviewed one, shared one or gifted one, I seriously can’t thank you enough. You are a rock star. For my part, I promise I’ll keep doing what I do, and hopefully you’ll keep coming along for the ride. With any luck we’ll pick up more folks along the way, so do be sure to keep spreading your enthusiasm for my work. Reader word of mouth is the blood in the veins of a writer’s career. Thank you.

Onwards!

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Signed books for Xmas, including a very special offer!

Ho ho ho, Christmas is coming. It’s that time of year when you show friends and loved ones how much you care with gifts and togetherness. And you know what the best gift is? Whisky. But after that, it’s books. Honestly, you can’t go far wrong with books as a gift. You’re showing love by sharing a thing you’ve loved. You’re saying, “This story bent my brain in all the good ways and now I want to bend your brain the same. Then we can talk about how brainbent we’ve become.” It’s both gift and togetherness. But you know what’s better than a book? A book signed by the author. It adds that something extra special. Books are special enough, but when it’s signed by the author and dedicated to your friend or loved one by name, that’s the pinnacle of gift giving.

So, here’s the thing. I’m happy to send any of my books to you or anyone else, signed to whoever you choose. Just reach out to me via the contact page here and we can sort it out. You pay for the book and postage, which makes it not only the best gift, but also a damned affordable one. Bonus!

Unless you live outside Australia, that is, as AusPost are bloody footpads when it comes to international postage costs. But fear not! There are always solutions. Two options. 1. You pay exorbitant postage costs (like $US20-40 or something, depending on weight/number of books) and enjoy the knowledge you’ve gifted something wonderful, or 2. You buy the book/s in your own country from Amazon, Indiebound, wherever, and then you hit me up for signed bookplates that you can stick into the book before gifting it. I’ll sign as many bookplates as you want and post them anywhere in the world for the nominal postage fee of US$5. Then you turn a sweet book into a sweet signed book like some gift-giving wizard.

And now here’s a very special deal for people in Australia (and overseas too, but the previous caveats apply. Read on.)

When the Alex Caine trilogy (BOUND, OBSIDIAN, and ABDUCTION) was originally published in the US, it was with Ragnarok Publications. Sadly, they went under not long after publication. Thankfully the series was picked up by Gryphonwood Press, and it lives on. However, the result of the Ragnarok collapse was that they ended up sending me a few boxes of books, the US editions of the trilogy. As it’s published by HarperVoyager here in Aus and NZ, I can’t sell those copies here, due to territorial rights. But I can give them away. Happy Christmas! So, if you want a signed trilogy, you just have to pay postage. A pre-paid satchel from AusPost within Australia is AU$14.55. I’ll need to bubble wrap the books to make sure they arrive safe, so we’ll add a couple of bucks to the price to make sure it’s all covered, then there’s PayPal fees – so let’s call it AU$18 all up for a signed trilogy. That’s only $6 per book! They’d make a great Xmas present too, so if you want more than one trilogy, let me know. I’m not sure how many I have, but probably a couple of dozen or so. First come, first served! So get in quick.As above, email me via the Contact page here to order.

IF YOU’RE OUTSIDE AUSTRALIA, the postage is brutal. It’ll cost something like AU$45 to post them overseas. Which is insane. Of course, I’m more than happy to send them to you under the same deal (but that’s $50 instead of $18), but you could buy the new Gryphonwood Press editions much cheaper – it’s about US$30 for all three. If you want to buy them in the US and have me send you signed bookplates to stick in them (as per above), that’s not a problem at all. If you’re really keen to have these last few Ragnarok editions (maybe they’ll be collector’s items one day?), then I’m happy to send you those.

This is what you’ll get:

So, if you’re interested, get in touch asap and when they’ve all gone, that’s it. I made this offer to newsletter subscribers first, and there’s only a handful of books left, so get in quick. All my other books, or the Voyager editions of Alex Caine, are plentiful of course.

For anyone outside Australia, you’ve only got about a week left to guarantee Xmas delivery, so don’t delay.

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Curious Fictions for short stories and articles.

I’ve signed up at Curious Fictions. I’ve always struggled with the idea of a Patreon or similar account, as I don’t know that I’d be able to generate much income from it, but I would feel obliged to provide a lot of content for anyone who kicked into it. I’ve always thought that ratio would be tough for me as I’m so time poor. But, it is true that as authors, we need a variety of income steams to survive. Curious Fictions is a bit different from Patreon and its ilk. People can subscribe for a small amount and then have access to anything I post there, and the focus is on short stories and blog type posts. I won’t be blogging there – hell, I hardly blog here any more now that social media is so pervasive – but I will be using the account to post hard-to-find or out-of-print short stories, novel excerpts, experimental pieces, and the occasional non-fiction article. I may use it to curate all the guest posts and articles that end up all over the net. After they’ve had a month or two of exclusivity at their destination, I may collect them at Curious Fictions.

So far, there are three short stories and the first chapter of Devouring Dark up there, so if it sounds like your kind of thing, click here to check it out. And thanks!

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