I’m super excited to be an author Supa-Star guest at Supanova again this year. This weekend I’ll be coming to Brisbane, then next weekend to Adelaide. The Adelaide schedule isn’t released yet, but Brisbane looks like heaps of fun. Other than being on author alley with so many cool guests (Peter V Brett, Matthew Reilly, Maria Lewis, Angela Slatter, Jane Abbott, Lian Hearn, and Kim Wilkins), there will also be a bunch of panels and a special Supa-Star Authors bookclub, where we talk about what we’re reading and what we recommend. Mad fun! There’s a Facebook announcement about that here.
So Brisbane, can’t wait to see you soon! Roll on Friday.
It’s good to have a Halloween event and this year I’m lucky to be involved with a great one! On Friday the 28th October, from 6pm until 8pm, I’ll be at Carnes Hill Library talking about horror fiction and the gothic with amazing talents Margo Lanagan, Robert Hood, Cat Sparks and Tony Thompson. For anyone interested, Tony will be running a workshop beforehand too. All the details are on the image below (click for a bigger version).
There’s a Facebook event here you can use as well, for details and reminders.
So this is a book I’m really excited about and so proud to be in. Jack Dann is a legend in the field, someone who has been around and influential for decades. His own work as an author is stunning, and his work as an editor is globally lauded. He’s done a couple of “Dreaming” anthologies before (Dreaming Down Under and Dreaming Again, which you really should check out) so this is a bit like the third in an unofficial series. And check out that cover!
Here’s the official synopsis:
A celebration of Australia’s current Golden Age of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and magical realism. Jack Dann—the multi-award-winning author and co-editor of the classic Dreaming Down-Under, the anthology that “has been credited with putting Australian writing on the international map” and the first Australian book to win a World Fantasy Award—has collected a wonderfully eclectic range of short fiction that showcases what our best fantasists are doing right now at this genre-bending moment in time.
I think this is going to be one of those books that gathers heaps of attention, and with the list of authors included, it really should. Honestly, I’m humbled to be among them. Here’s the full table of Contents (not in final order):
Welcome to the Golden Age: An Introduction of Sorts—Jack Dann
Sing, My Murdered Darlings—Sean Williams
Falling Angel—Paul Brandon
Martian Triptych—James Bradley
Northerner’s Farewell—Rjurik Davidson
Midnight In The Graffiti Tunnel—Terry Dowling
A Right Pretty Mate—Lisa L. Hannett
Eromon No More—Jason Nahrung
Luv Story—Kim Westwood
The Luminarium Tower—Sean McMullen
Neither Time Nor Tears—Angela Slatter
His Shining Day—Richard Harland
The Liquid Palace—Adam Browne
Heat Treatment—Venero Armanno
Snowflakes All the Way Down—Rosaleen Love
Served Cold—Alan Baxter
The Dog Who’d Been Dead—Anna Tambour
Fade To Grey—Janeen Webb
All Those Superpowers and What Are They Good For?—Garth Nix
Burnt Sugar—Kirstyn McDermott
In Hornhead Wood—Kim Wilkins
See what I mean? What a book. It’ll be coming out initially in two special editions, an unsigned jacketed hardcover (ISBN 978-1-848639-68-3) and a limited edition of 200 slip-cased jacketed hardcovers signed by all the contributors (ISBN 978-1-786360-17-5). I’m guessing an ebook and paperback edition will be coming at some point after that. All the details can be found at the publisher site here, PS Publishing. It’s out next month, so watch this space. Full wrap cover below (click for large view).
So I was supposed to be appearing at Book Expo this weekend, but it was cancelled at the very last minute by the utterly incompetent organisers. It’s a huge blow to many authors and publishers, not to mention readers who had bought tickets, lots of whom have invested large sums of cash in travel, accommodation and so on. However, you can tell I’m angry and disappointed, so let’s just leave it at that. But there is some silver lining!
I was originally going as a guest, along with Greig Beck and Lee Murray, of Cohesion Press, who are publishing my new monster novel, Primordial, next year. It’s co-written with David Wood and I’m very proud of it. There were going to be early Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) for people to get at Book Expo. My other books would of course also have been available there and I was looking forward to meeting readers and signing books. Well, the awesome Geoff Brown of Cohesion Press has organised a last minute replacement event at Galaxy Bookshop in Sydney.
I’ll be there from 2pm to 5pm, with all my books, including some copies of Crow Shine and those ARCs of Primordial. Greig Beck will be there with his new monster thriller, Fathomless, and Lee Murray from NZ will be there to sign her novel, Into The Mist. As an added bonus, my mate Andrew McKiernan will also be there to sign copies of his collection, Last Year, When We Were Young.
It’s a huge mass signing event at the best SFF bookshop in town! So be there if you can.
2pm to 5pm
Sunday October 9th
Galaxy Bookshop, 131 York Street, Sydney.
Hope to see you there!
I’m home from Conflux 12, my first as an official Guest of Honour, and what a wonderful con it was. I haven’t missed a Conflux in years, because it’s always great and has long been my favourite Aussie convention. So of course, to be the GoH there was a double treat. So much happened, I won’t be able to record it all, but here’s a bit of a run down on my experience of events.
The MC was the awesome Sean Williams, and the international guest was David Farland (he of the Runelords series and so much more, who you may also know as David Wolverton, the name he uses for his science fiction novels). The picture to the left there shows (left to right) Sean Williams, David Farland and myself, taken at the con banquet on the Saturday night. Both Sean and David were brilliant. I really enjoyed David’s interview, conducted by Tim Napper. David has been in the business for a long time and is a really heavy hitter (he’s the reason Harry Potter got as big as it did). His insights and experiences were fascinating.
There were numerous panels over the four days, covering a wide variety of topics. The theme of the con, based on the year in Chinese astrology, was Red Fire Monkey, so a lot of stuff was based around that. A lot of Asian-influenced SF was discussed, which is great because it’s a largely un-mined source of great fiction in the west.
One of the real high points for me was the launch of my first collection of short fiction, Crow Shine. The amazing and completely lovely Kaaron Warren was kind enough to launch for me and she said such great things about the book. I made some souvenir “moonshine” for the event that we all used to toast the launch and I sold a bunch of books. Hopefully people will enjoy the read. The book is officially released (in hardcover and ebook along with the paperback you see below) in November, so watch here and my social media for details as they come about. Here’s Kaaron and I right before things got under way.
Another high point for me was my Guest of Honour Q&A, with horror master Robert Hood interviewing me. It was a really interesting hour, where Rob’s questions had me interrogating myself and my ideas around horror and dark fiction quite deeply. I enjoyed it a lot. And when Rob opened the floor to questions, he insisted that anyone with a question take Eric the Monkey (a plushy toy monkey with an evil gleam in its eye) and try to hit me with it while I was answering. One shot got through, with Ian Nichols tossing a monkey with more velocity than I expected it capable of! I saw the shot coming and got a hand to it, but just deflected it into my own head due to the unexpected pace. The pic below shows me and Rob mid-discussion. That bastard monkey, Eric, is just out of shot to the left, waiting for his moment to shine.
And I think the other thing that really deserves a mention is the Sci Fi Tai Chi! As part of his MC duties, Sean Williams devised a new short form of “tai chi”. Most tai chi styles have moves with poetic and descriptive names, so Sean decided to develop a science fiction version, with each move referencing some SF or fantasy movement known to all fans. He taught a few moves at each significant con event, and I had the obliging Dave Versace video the final lesson from the closing ceremony, where Sean demonstrated the last three parts. I joined him in learning and demonstrating the “Sean Williams Sci Fi Tai Chi Form” and here it is on YouTube. For reference, the moves are:
Rimmer Salute Part 1
Jedi Mind Trick
Vulcan Salute and Nerve Pinch
Grab the Gungan’s Tongue and Bop Him on the Head
Neo Shakes Off the Dust
Marty McFly Checks His Watch
Know Where Your Towel Is
Get Away From Her You Bitch
Slayer Strike Right
Slayer Strike Left
I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing
Rimmer Salute Part 2
So that’s my short wrap of Conflux 12. Already, I can’t wait for Conflux 13 next year. As ever, Cat Sparks was roving around all weekend with her camera and her full photoset of the con is on Flickr here. If you can ever get to Canberra in early October for a Conflux, you won’t regret it.
I’m still coming to terms with the idea that I can be a Guest of Honour at a convention, but it’s true. I’ll be the GoH at Conflux 12 in Canberra this weekend. It’ll be heaps of fun and there’s loads of good stuff happening. We’ll be launching my collection, Crow Shine, with the inestimable Kaaron Warren. The book isn’t officially published until November, so it’s a good chance to get your hands on an early copy.
I’ll be on a bunch of panels and doing my Write the Fight Right workshop too, along with plenty of other stuff. And there’ll also be a whole bunch of fun stuff that doesn’t involve me! The full program is on the con website here. And the rest of the time, of course, I’ll be in bar. So please come along and join in the fun. All the details are on the con website. Four days of SFF fun in Canberra. Can’t wait! Hope to see you there.
So you know I have an irregular newsletter, right? It’s a great way to keep up with new releases and stuff like that, because you might miss announcements on the blog here. And I share other stuff too, like what I’ve been reading lately, short story news, appearances and stuff like that. Every now and then I include a free short story just for subscribers, and other bits and pieces as they occur to me. You won’t be bombarded either – I only send a newsletter every couple of months at most. I try to make it monthly, but I’m crap at remembering. You get a free ebook just for signing up, and there are often other giveaways too. For example, with the last newsletter that just went out, there’s a chance for people to win a copy of Blood Codex, a copy of the Balance Omnibus, or a copy of Crow Shine.
But don’t worry if you missed that, as I have a new giveaway organised for next time, and it’s a corker. If you sign up in time for the next newsletter, which will come out sometime around mid-December, you’ll learn how to win this prize pack:
Copy of Murky Depths #16 which includes my short story “Mirrorwalk”
Copy of M-Brane SF #13 which includes my short story “Trial Not Required”
Copy of Seizure #4 which includes my short story “Deep Sea Fishing”
Copy of my supernatural noir novella “The Darkest Shade of Grey”
Copy of my collaborative horror novella with David Wood, “Dark Rite”
Copy of my first Balance novel, RealmShift
Copy of my second Balance novel, MageSign
Copy of the anthology I helped put together, Dark Pages
Pretty sweet, right? A lot of that stuff isn’t in print any more, and it’ll all be signed. If you win and you want it personalised, no problem. And it won’t be a very difficult to win either. The giveaway is planned around the international release of Bound: Alex Caine #1, and will be themed on that. But to learn more, you need to be a newsletter subscriber. So sign up now, get your free ebook, and wait for the next newsletter in mid-December. Signing up is easy – I’ll never share your email address with anyone else. You’ll find the sign-up form at the bottom of the homepage (just click Home above and scroll down) or right there in the sidebar. (If you’re on a mobile device, the sidebar appears right at the bottom after all the posts, so keep scrolling down.)
I recently did a video Skype chat with the wonderful Joanna Penn, of The Creative Penn website. Jo is also an accomplished thriller writer, but in this interview (which I’ll link here when it’s posted to YouTube in a few weeks) we were talking about the art and craft of short stories. When Jo asked me who I’d recommend people read to get a good taste of short fiction, I rattled off a bunch of names, then said, “You know what? I’ll blog a list and you can link to that.” Because there are just so many. And this is that blog post. It’s certainly not exhaustive. I know damned well I’m going to miss people who should absolutely be included, but I will come back and periodically update it. (If I’ve made any egregious omissions, especially friends, mea culpa! It was hard to gather all these into one place.) And, given it’s my list, it’s unashamedly weighted to the SF/F/H end of things, but not entirely.
I’m going to make the list in three parts. First of all, the old classics – stuff from before the turn of the century that people really should check out (some of them still writing today). Then I’ll list the great Antipodeans – that’s writers from Australia and New Zealand – and then I’ll list everyone else. It’ll be mostly a long list of names, but where I’ve particularly enjoyed an author’s short fiction collection, I’ll put that beside their name. Though be sure to read all you can by all these authors.
Before the list starts, it’s my blog, so I get to plug me. My own collection of short stories, Crow Shine, is being published by Ticonderoga Publications in November. I’m so excited to finally have my own collection coming out! It’ll be published in paperback, hardcover and limited edition hardcover (limited to 100 signed and numbered editions), and ebook. The pre-order page for the three print editions is up now, so if you want to get in early, especially if you’re keen for a limited edition, go here for pre-orders.
And now, the lists (alphabetical by surname):
The Old School – the greats from before
Clive Barker – all volumes of The Books of Blood are essential reading.
Philip K Dick
Shirley Jackson – The Lottery and Other Stories
Sheridan Le Fanu
Ursula K Le Guin
Thomas Ligotti – Songs of a Dead Dreamer
H P Lovecraft
Edgar Allen Poe
The Antipodeans – Australian and New Zealander short story writers of note
Joanne Anderton – The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories
Peter M Ball
Deborah Biancotti – Bad Power
Jack Dann (American, but he’s an Aussie now!)
Felicity Dowker – Bread and Circuses
Paul Haines – The Last Days of Kali Yuga
Lisa L Hannett – Bluegrass Symphony
Robert Hood – Peripheral Visions
Margo Lanagan – Black Juice
Martin Livings – Living With The Dead
Andrew McKiernan – Last Year, When We Were Young
Greg Mellor – Wild Chrome
Angela Slatter – Sourdough and Other Stories
Cat Sparks – The Bride Price
Kaaron Warren – Dead Sea Fruit
The rest – All the great modern short story writers from elsewhere around the world
Nathan Ballingrud – North American Lake Monsters
Laird Barron – The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All
Ted Chiang – Stories of Your Life and Others
William Gibson – Burning Chrome
Ted E Grau – The Nameless Dark
N K Jemisin
Stephen Graham Jones
Usman Tanveer Malik
Clark Ashton Smith
Michael Marshall Smith
Steve Rasnic Tem
There really are so many great short story writers out there and I know this isn’t close to all of them. I also know I’ve missed some that I would like to include, and as they occur to me, I’ll come back and add them to this list. There are many not included simply because I haven’t read their work yet, though I’m sure they’re amazing. Everyone above is a writer I’ve personally read and loved, so I’m sharing that love. I’m sure you’ll find authors here that will blow your mind, so get to it!
Man, what a night I had! We launched The Alex Caine Series in style on Thursday 30th June at Galaxy Bookshop in Sydney, so now all three books in the series (so far!) are out in the wild and on bookstore shelves across Australia and New Zealand. And Galaxy have a bunch of signed copies of all three if you’re quick. I’ve also just learned today that the series took out the 1, 2 and 3 spot in Galaxy’s bestsellers for last week, so that’s just fucking fantastic. The US, UK and everywhere else will start to see their release from December this year, so hang in there, you guys! Meanwhile, I thought I’d post here wrapping up everything that’s accompanied the launch so far.
Galaxy Bookshop were fantastic, and with the publisher, HarperVoyager, they put on a great event. Garth Nix was a superb MC and official launcher, and a decent crowd turned out to make an absolutely stellar night. I’m so lucky and so grateful to everyone involved that I could enjoy such a great event. This post will collect everything in one place, starting with a video of the launch itself. It’s about 20 minutes and records the Q&A with myself and Garth, then questions from the audience. Massive respect to Alice Wood from Voyager, who I asked to film it and who stoically held my phone steady for the entire time! Also, apologies for anyone getting motion sickness watching this – I honestly had no idea how much I sway when I’m standing around talking.
After the video will be a link to a huge photoset on Flickr, thanks to the amazing Cat Sparks for that. She’s truly the Aussie SFF paparazzi master. After the link to the photoset will be a series of links to all the guest posts about the series so far, where you’ll find interviews with me, with Alex Caine, posts about fighting, writing, psychopaths and more. So enjoy, and thanks again to everyone who made all this possible. This is what it feels like to be living the dream.
Video of the launch, with myself and Garth Nix:
Here, Garth asks me all kinds of questions about the series and its origins, and I talk about favourites, paths to publishing, manuscripts under toilet doors, and more.
Photoset of the launch and the dinner afterwards, with huge thanks to the amazing Cat Sparks:
Blog tour posts:
I’ll list the interviews first. They’re all a bit different, so well worth having a squizz at them all, even if you just skim the questions for things you might be interested in.
Interviewed at Smash Dragons:
Interviewed by the wonderful Angela Slatter:
Interviewed by the also wonderful Peter M Ball:
Interviewed by David McDonald:
Interviewed by Annie Mitchell:
Interviewed by Ian McHugh – this one is just slightly spoilery.
Robert Hood interviews Alex Caine himself!
And the guest blog posts:
At Speculating on SpecFic I talk about why I write dark fiction:
At Book Frivolity I explain that I’m really not a psychopath, honest:
At Kaaron Warren‘s blog, I talk about the spark that started the Alex Caine fire:
And at the Voyager blog, I talk about fighting as a metaphor for life:
There are loads of memes flying around social media that are some variation of “How to help an author” or “Support Authors” or “Fuck you, reader, dance for me, you monkey!” The truth is, you owe an author nothing. At all. Just because I wrote a book, and that book got published, doesn’t mean anyone is under any obligation to read it or buy it, let alone do anything else. And even if you, dear reader, did read a book I wrote, and you loved it so much you went around with it stuffed down your pants for a week, you still owe me nothing. Although, you might need to consider getting out more if you really did spend a week with a book down your pants.
Put simply, there is no obligation of any kind on readers. They choose to either buy, borrow or steal a book, or not. Then they get around to reading it or they don’t. That’s it. Finished.
But, of course, there is a lot more they can do, should they so choose, and lots of those things really honestly genuinely help authors. And these ideas, while they can be listed in a trite meme, are maybe better explained in a little more detail. This stuff applies to big trad books and indie books, well-known authors and newbies. So here we go. I’m going to start by talking about the buying of books, but it’s not all about money, so read on!
Buy The Book
Well, d’uh! Right? Not entirely. What we really need are readers, but more on that later. However, at the bottom line, book sales keep authors and their publishers alive. It’s especially good with a new release if you buy the books during week 1 or 2 after release, because publishing can be a machine and it doesn’t stop. It swallows authors, chews them up, and spits out their gnarled remains. The way an author survives the machine is if they sell well enough to not be spat out. And the best way for an author to sell well is to start by selling well. Sure, many books are successful on a slow burn, but to sell they have to be on shelves. Bookstore real estate is highly contested space, so if a book sits on a shelf for a while and doesn’t sell, it will be sent back to make space for a new book. But if it shifts several copies, the shop gains confidence in it and gets more copies in. The sales data is good, it might hit in-store bestsellers charts, and stores order yet more. The profile of the book is raised and it gets more traction. That’s momentum happening right there, and that’s what we need. And if your local store doesn’t have them, order them in.
Order them at your library.
But you’re skint? No problem, man, I know those feels. Books can be a real luxury. There are other options than buying, which we’ll cover, but you know who has free books for you to read all the time? Legally? Your local library. Go there and ask them to order the books. When libraries buy a copy, that’s another sale. And authors get a small amount of money for each library borrow their books have, so that’s another income stream for them in the long term. And more importantly, it’s greater visibility of their books out in the world.
(You know what? Even if you do buy the books for yourself, order them at your local library too. Other readers will find them over time. More readers are what it’s all about.)
Buy them as gifts.
Buy for yourself, of course, but if there are any birthdays or other celebrations coming up (Xmas, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, International Day of the Needy Author) buy another copy to give as a gift. That’s more sales and more readers, who may not have bought the books otherwise. I love buying books for people and introducing them to new authors, and I love it when people do that for me. You can also give your copy away as a gift, and introduce a new reader that way. A pre-loved book is a cool gift: “I just read this and you’ll love it. Here, have it!”
Tell friends, family and colleagues all about them.
There’s much more to a book’s success than sales, and here’s where we talk more about readers. Garth Nix calls it the transfer of enthusiasm. When you love a book, don’t keep that to yourself. Talk about it! Tell your friends and family, talk about books at work, show off the copy you love so people recognise the cover when they see it again. Be enthusiastic and transfer that enthusiasm all around. Nothing works better than genuine, honest word of mouth. That’s what really sells books and that’s where books find success. A successful book is one that enjoys a groundswell of genuine enthusiasm. So recommend them wherever you can.
Lend your copy to a friend.
You don’t want to give away your loved copy as a gift? That’s cool. If you’ve loved a book, lending it is a great way to transfer your enthusiasm, and then you get it back. But that’s another reader, hopefully another fan. That’s another person talking it up to their friends and transferring their enthusiasm. Momentum!
Talk them up (and share the cover images) on social media.
If you only have 14 followers on Twitter and 38 friends on Facebook, don’t think for one second that you lack influence. People will pay attention to your social media commentary if they are your friend or follower. That’s why they’re your friend or follower. Every single eyeball counts. So just like you talk up the books in person, do it online, wherever you hang out online. And again, share the cover image so people can spot it easily in store. It really helps.
Leave a review and rating on Amazon, Goodreads, iTunes, etc.
And when it comes to talking about them online, if you can be bothered, reviews make a huge difference. You don’t need to be a great reviewer. You can write:
“this book was really grate, I loved the action. people will definately enjoy it to.”
Seriously, that’s awful spelling and grammar, but it counts. Because it’s the transfer of enthusiasm that matters, not your writing skills. And the more reviews something has, the more visibility it gains on that site, and the more likely other people are to take a chance on it, because it seems like it’s already popular.
And that’s the thing about getting more readers – the more popular something appears, the more other people will want to check it out. The more other people check it out, the more likely they are to talk about it too. Hopefully they’ve enjoyed it and they’re talking it up, so the more transfer of enthusiasm we have. That means even more readers, that means even more talking and more enthusiasm. It’s a self-perpetuating engine of literary love. The book has a greater chance of being a hit. And you helped. Only you can help, really. Readers and their enthusiasm are an author’s pulse and lifeblood. We love you people.
(And incidentally, if you don’t go to libraries, you can’t afford the book, and you don’t know anyone with a copy to borrow, you’ll be able to find it online somewhere, you naughty pirate. You know, I’d rather you didn’t, but the only thing worse than piracy is obscurity. So if you’re motivated enough to pirate a copy, do the author a favour and talk about it to friends and other readers! Transfer your enthusiasm too, with a bottle of rum and a yo-ho-ho.)
So you owe an author nothing, but if you do want to help, buy, borrow, lend, order at the library, talk, review. Be part of that great word of mouth engine. If you do any of that stuff, I genuinely can’t thank you enough. You totally rock!
Transfer your enthusiasm!