I had a great chat with Mike Davis of the Lovercraft Ezine. We talked about about social media for creators, about small-town horror, about my books, and more! Find it all here:
This is my latest newsletter that just went out to subscribers.
How are you doing? Man, January was a long year, huh? Anyone else get that vibe? It felt like January went on for way longer than any month has a right to. But here we are in early February and the year is very much underway.
For me, being involved in Chinese Kung Fu and, by extension, Chinese culture, this is another new year for me. The western new year of January 1st is one thing, but around the end of January/start of February is when the lunar new year rolls around. Traditional kung fu schools are heavily involved with providing lion dance celebrations, so this is an incredibly busy time of year for us. And this lunar new year is set to be a tumultuous one if you’re of a superstitious nature. I’m not a superstitious guy, but I do love these kinds of mythologies from a storytelling point of view. I wrote a whole thing about this lunar new year on my Patreon – it’s free to read whether you’re a patron or not. Go and have a read of that here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/year-of-wood-96694703
Otherwise not so much has been happening on the professional front lately. Which is ironic, in a way, because on a personal level this summer (since a little before Xmas and still ongoing now) has been one of the most hectic and tumultuous I’ve ever known. Maybe there’s something to this Wood Dragon business after all… except that year hasn’t started yet. Oh no.
Anyway, I’m fine and things will be okay, but it’s a truly bonkers time for me right now.
I’m staying as focussed as possible on work during this time. I’m about 83,000 words into the first draft of the new novel and it’s looking like it’ll be quite a big book, because I’m only just heading into the final act now. I’m not entirely sure how it’s all going to go down, but I’m enjoying the journey. I’m really pleased with how the story is shaping up.
In the meantime, I’m chatting a lot with Cemetery Dance about Blood Covenant which comes out at the end of May. Really exciting things happening there that I’ll talk about more as I’m allowed to. We’ve got another Francois Vallaincourt cover (he did Sallow Bend) and it’s truly epic. I can’t wait to show you that.
The other big change that’s happening right now is that my novel, Devouring Dark, my second collection, Served Cold, and the three Eli Carver novellas are no longer with Grey Matter Press. All of those books are currently out of print and looking for a new home. I’m chatting with my agent about possibilities there. GMP made wonderful books of all of those and I’m really pleased with the first incarnation they had. Hopefully they’ll find a new berth soon and go on to even greater heights. I think all of those books are great and deserve a wider audience. Fingers crossed there. If you want hard copies of any of them, I have a few (are they rare first editions now?) so give me a shout if you’re keen. Otherwise, watch this space for news about re-releases in the future.
And on the subject of signed books, I’ve had some event stock come back, so I have extra copies of Sallow Bend, The Gulp, The Fall and The Leaves Forget available. Details here:
Of course, if you want any of my books signed, just drop me a line.
What I’ve Been Enjoying
We’re always on the look out for TV series we can enjoy as a family – which means things that appeal to both us parents and the 10 year-old. Years ago I loved the Joe Hill graphic novels, Locke & Key, and we saw there was a Netflix adaptation of that. We binged the series recently and absolutely loved it. I highly recommend it.
And on the Joe Hill front, I read his novel, Heart-shaped Box, recently. It’s a great book. It felt to me like it went on a little bit too much, but the ideas and the characters are great. Well worth a read. I’ll be checking out more of his prose stuff for sure.
Another book I can’t recommend highly enough is Maeve Fly by C.J. Leede. I knew nothing about this book except I kept seeing it recommended all over the place. So I gave it a go and I’m glad I did. Try to do like I did and go in without spoilers. I heartily add my own recommendation to all those others.
Okay, that’s about all from me for now. As always, feel free to drop me a line. I’ve been posting a bunch of cool stuff on Patreon, so have a look there. And I’ll send another newsletter in a few weeks that will hopefully have a lot more stuff about Blood Covenant.
Until then, take care and be good to each other and especially yourself.
This is something that comes from movies, but I find it really useful for books too. Everyone’s heard of the elevator pitch, right? The idea there is that you explain your book in the time it takes to ride an elevator a few floors. So if you’re at a party or you suddenly meet a big Hollywood producer and you get the chance to explain your book, you need to hit ’em hard and fast. Distill your novel down to its absolute core. It’s shitty and hard but it’s really useful.
For example, the elevator pitch for my novel Devouring Dark is:
A supernatural assassin, whose power is slowly killing him, gets caught between a corrupt cop and a gangster boss, who both want to use him for their own benefit. He thinks he has nothing to lose until he meets someone else, with a power just like his, except it isn’t killing her.
Or the elevator pitch for Sallow Bend:
When two girls go missing from the small rural town of Sallow Bend, everyone starts looking for them. Even the carnival folks, recently arrived and prime suspects, pitch in. When the girls are found, everyone celebrates. Except one man. Caleb Jackson seems to be the only one who sees that something else has come back with the girls, and it’s deadly.
One more? Elevator pitch The Gulp:
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.
Some of these you may recognise are very similar to, or direct pulls from, the back cover copy. The blurb on the back and the elevator pitch are often very similar.
But none of those are a tag line. A tag line says a lot less, but simply captures a vibe. Think of some famous movie tag lines:
Alien – In space, no one can hear you scream.
The Thing – Man is the warmest place to hide.
The Truman Show – On the air. Unaware.
You get the idea right?
So these days I really like to use a tag line for my books. It’s really useful in this age of multimedia and especially social media with limited characters available. And it’s great for hashtags, to keep track of stuff. It’s also really useful when I do signings. I always personalise a signed book, and I usually write a little message too. But I started noticing some things on Instagram and places like that where people would compare what was in the book and I saw a couple of complaints that some people didn’t get as long a message as others. I felt bad! Sometimes I have more time when I’m signing. So I decided I would start using the tag line instead, So now I write:
If someone asks for something else, I try to accommodate, of course. Anyway, this brings me back to the point of this post. I was having a nightmare coming up with a good tag line for my new book, Blood Covenant (out in May!)
Those examples above all had good tags:
Devouring Dark: Embrace the darkness.
Sallow Bend: It’s happening again.
The Gulp: Welcome to The Gulp (or sometimes I write above the title “Don’t go to…” and with the sequel, The Fall, I write “Prepare for…”
But I was really struggling with something good for Blood Covenant. Then last night it came to me:
Blood Covenant – Whatever happens, don’t bleed.
And that also gives me the hashtags:
So now I’m excited. I can use those tags on any promo for the book and I have something to write when I’m signing. The cover is going to look amazing and we should have ARCs available any day now. I’m looking forward to May 24th.
What do you think? Does the tag line grab you?
I’ve had a bunch of event stock come back to me so I have some books I’d love to sell for several reasons:
- I don’t have much room in my office for boxes;
- I need to pay the bills;
- Signed books are a damn fine gift to yourself and/or your loved ones;
- They’re damn good books even if I do say so myself
These are the ones I have extra stock of, and direct links are below the pic.
Here are the direct links to buy (if you want more than one use the back button each time to add another title):
Sallow Bend ($24.95)
The Leaves Forget (hardcover, not limited edition) ($34.95)
The Gulp ($24.95)
The Fall ($24.95)
If you’re in the Wollongong region, I’m teaching a writing workshop on March 30th for the South Coast Writers Centre (the workshop is in Coledale). Pace, Tension, Action! All the details at the link.
Just a quick note to let folks know that my novel Devouring Dark, the Eli Carver novella series, and my short story collection Served Cold are all currently out of print. Hopefully this will only be a short-term situation and we’ll see these books available again soon. If you want hard copies of any of them, I have a few (are they rare first editions now?) so just give me a shout if you’re keen. Otherwise, watch this space for news about re-releases in the future.
This is the problem with definitives like “this is my last newsletter for 2023” – something always comes along to fuck it up. In this case, nazis. Honestly, there was a world war that should have been the final word on nazis and yet here we are.
In short, it’s been known for a while that Substack not only platforms nazi and far right voices, but actively promotes them in order to profit from them even as they profit from their hate. Nowhere is free from the influence of these shitstains, but there’s a line between the fact that they exist and actively promoting and profiting from their hatred. A recent open letter demanding some comment from the owners of Substack on this subject resulted in a mealy-mouthed response that basically said, “Yeah nah, good cash, the nazis stay.” Which makes it unsustainable for a lot of us, me included, to continue to use the platform. I am so fucking tired of rich and bigoted arseholes coming along and stinking up the spaces where we try to interact and engage with folks.
Anyway, here we are. So I will be moving away from Substack. Which is infuriating because it’s a great interface and it’s free. But I can’t ethically support them given their clearly-stated stance. But moving away isn’t easy. It’s the middle of the holidays and finding alternatives takes time and research. Half the problem is that most of the good alternatives are subscription models that lowly creatives like myself simply can’t afford. I think I’ve found a potentially good WordPress plugin to use directly through my own website, but I’m still exploring that.
I know the temptation to unsubscribe from Substack newsletters is strong. I really do get it. But you’re punishing the creator when you do that, not the platform (in the short term). If you unsubscribe now there’s no way for us to let you know where we go. Please, friends – bear with us. We don’t want to be on the nazi platform either, but figuring out where to go takes time and effort. Please hang in there and give us some time.
If, in a month or two, people are remaining on Substack with no indication they plan to leave, then sure, maybe that’s the time to unsubscribe. But rest assured, I’m looking into alternatives and will hopefully manage to migrate to a new platform seamlessly enough that you may not even notice. I really hope you’ll bear with me.
Big love, everyone – I hope your 2024 is epic and nazi-free. I’ll see you in a while.
(My latest newsletter, reproduced here.)
Well, damn, it’s been a long time between newsletters. Sorry about that. I do have a few excuses. Firstly, have I told you lot about our new dog yet? That’s him above. His name is Maximo and for some reason he likes to sit on my shoulders. He’s a delight and also a complete monster. He’s just turned 6 months old, so we let him get away with a lot right now while we’re also training him to be better. Thankfully he seems to have stopped eating books, so that’s a massive improvement on past behaviour.
But a lot of other stuff has also kept me busy. It’s funny how this gig works, where the more success you see, the less time you have for the thing you’re trying to be successful at. It’s a good problem to have, and I always recognise how fortunate I am to be invited to things like Supanova, Oz Comic-Con, to be asked to teach workshops at libraries and so on. I love doing those things, but it does take time away from the actual job of writing. I haven’t written any new words of fiction for weeks, unless you count today, when I wrote a new flash fiction for patrons.
I’ve started doing this thing on Patreon where I ask for three words or phrases as writing prompts and then I write a new short fiction piece using those prompts, and I promise to never take more than a week to post the result. The first one went up over there today and it all worked out pretty well. People liked it. Hooray! I plan to do a lot more stuff like that on Patreon in the future.
I also post a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff there and that’ll be happening some more too as I’m finally ready to get back into the novel I started earlier this year but which I had to put aside when I got really busy. I also got really fucking sick – perhaps as sick as I’ve ever been – and that set things back a bit. But other than a little fatigue still lingering around, I’m over that now and raring to go once again. (It wasn’t Covid, I think it was a bad hit of influenza.)
So here’s where things currently stand with work you can expect from me. The Leaves Forget is out now (and I think a few of the limited edition hardcovers are still available from PS Publishing). Next up is my new standalone novel, Blood Covenant. That comes out from the awesome folks at Cemetery Dance Publications on the 24th May next year. 24/5/24 is a pretty auspicious publication date. Unless you’re American, when you fuck it up and make it 5/24/24, which is just weird, but you do you, American pals.
Blood Covenant is the story of a bank robbery that goes horribly wrong, so the crims run off into the country to hide out. They find a hotel that’s closed for another month and decide that would be a great place to lie low until the heat’s off. Except the family who run the hotel have just arrived to get the place ready for opening and suddenly we have a hostage situation. Then something starts to wake up out in the bush, and it’s thirsty for blood…
Blood Covenant is set in the mountains west of Enden in the Gulpepper universe, so while it’s not an actual Tale From The Gulp, it is in that geography. More news on that release as things progress.
In the meantime, I’m very excited to have signed with a new agent. I’m now represented by Becky LeJeune at the Bond Literary Agency and I’m hopeful for lots of future success with her. The first thing under way is my new novel, The Past is a Dark Country, which she’s got out submission right now. I’m not nervous. You’re nervous. Shut up. I won’t say much about that book other than it’s a psychological horror thriller set in Australia (in the city of Wollongong, in fact) and it’s the first novel-length thing I’ve written without any actual supernatural elements. There are occult things, but… I’ll say no more. Please wish me luck on landing a good home for that. I’m really hoping to level up in terms of publisher and distribution with that book.
And that brings us full circle back to the novel I had to put aside earlier this year when I got so busy (and then sick).
I need to go back and re-read what I’ve done so far to get my head back into the book and the characters, but it’s a standalone coming-of-age horror novel set in Monkton, again in the Gulpepper universe. There are some solid Gulp easter eggs in this one – one character is an orphan after events in The Fall, for example – but it’s otherwise an entirely self-contained story. As of next week I’ll start my re-read and get back to work on it. I’m about 50,000 words in already, so I hope to have a first draft finished by early in the new year.
You know me, I like to stay busy.
On the short fiction front, other than the Patreon stuff mentioned earlier, I’ve had one new publication out this year and a couple more in the pipe. You can find “Clean-up Crew” in SNAFU: Punk’d, ed. A J Spedding (Cohesion Press) which is out now, and then “All the Eyes That See” is coming out in Cosmic Horror Monthly in December and “Sunlight On Clear Water” in Dread Volume 1, ed. Kevin Lucia and Brian James Freeman (Cemetery Dance Publications) which I believe is also due out in December. That last one is a new Tale From The Gulp, the first actual Gulpepper story since The Gulp and The Fall. Another brand new and recent story is “Old High Hills”, published exclusively on Patreon in September.
A relatively lean publishing year for me by my usual standards, but there are several things on the horizon. This business is nothing if not inconsistent.
What I’ve been Enjoying
So what stuff have I read and watched?
As a family we’ve been watching the new Lost In Space on Netflix. We’re about halfway through the third (and final, I think) season right now and we’re enjoying it. It takes a lot of different directions from the old 60s show, but it’s cleverly written for the most part and equally appealing to myself and my wife and our 10 year old, so that’s always a sign of good viewing.
I also watched the new Mike Flanagan series, The Fall of the House of Usher. It’s a really clever limited series, with each episode celebrating a different Edgar Allan Poe story. I enjoyed it a lot. Not his best series, I don’t think, but absolutely compelling viewing all the same. Apart from anything else, Mark Hamill is just amazing in it.
Reading wise, I’ve enjoyed a few great books lately. I mentioned before that I was reading the third of C S Humble’s weird western The Light Sublime trilogy and I enjoyed that a lot. The whole trilogy is superb. Lee Murray has a new novella out called Despatches which is brilliant – full of heart and horror. J. Ashley-Smith never disappoints and his new collection, The Measure of Sorrow, is outstanding. The title novella ripped me to pieces – I haven’t been that affected by a piece of fiction in a long time. Fuck you, Joseph, for being so good. What Moves The Dead by T. Kingfisher is a superb retelling (again!) of Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher and well worth a read. I’m quickly becoming a huge T. Kingfisher fan. Ring Shout by P. Djeli Clark is an incredible novella, not quite like anything I’ve ever read before. And rising Australian star, Zachary Ashford, has a new heavy metal horror novel out called Polyphemus and I had a lot of fun reading that. You honestly can’t go wrong with any of those books above.
And right now I’m re-reading Peter Straub’s Ghost Story for a thing that’s coming up in a couple of weeks. I’ve long been a fan of Straub and this re-read once again confirms for me that he’s possibly the most under-rated author of his generation. He should be as big as King, he’s an absolute master.
Okay, that’s about all from me for now. Keep in touch, I always enjoy hearing from people. On that front, with social media in such flux, I keep a linktree now where all the most up to date links of where to find me can be found. That’s here: https://linktr.ee/alanbaxter
Big love to all, until next time.
It is with some mixed feelings that today at the AGM I stepped down as President of the Australasian Horror Writers Association.
I’ve greatly enjoyed my time in the role and feel like I’ve achieved a lot. However, after three years as President (and a year or two before that as VP) it’s time to move on. The AHWA is a wonderful beast and does so much for the horror community in the Australasian region and around the world. It’s been a privilege to be a part of it and to help it grow, and I have no doubt it will continue on from strength to strength. But this volunteer position takes a lot of time and mental energy and I have a finite amount of both to spare. I need to focus on my writing and other aspects of my life, so it’s time to let go of the AHWA as President. I will always be a proud AHWA member and will always do all I can to help the Association and promote the good work it does. Massive thanks to the awesome committee for their hard work and support during my tenure. Here’s to us all breaching new dark horizons into the future!
And thank you for this privilege.
This is very exciting news! Served Cold is being translated and published in Taiwan! It comes out there next month (November 2023) with this sweet cover. Huge thanks to Alex Adsett for scoring this deal, along with Greyhawk Agency 光磊國際版權公司 and Global Group Publishers. Now I can add Taiwanese to French, Spanish, German, and Japanese for translations of my stuff.
Also, big thanks to Edward Lipsett for this: “That’s an outstanding translation of the title. It uses the meaning of cold that includes an emotionless coldness, rather than just cold temperature, and it incorporates the meaning of revenge, which isn’t in the actual words of your title at all, but clearly contained in the peripheral meaning. To translate it back, maybe something like stone-cold revenge might be close.” I think that’s truly awesome. Maybe one day I’ll get to visit Taiwan and see the book on shelves there.