Newsletter 22nd May 2024 – Blood Covenant is imminent!

Hello fiends

How are you? I hope you’re navigating your way with something close to control. I feel like I’ve been mildly out of control for months, but now we’re slowly coming good again. In case you’re new here and not up to speed, I’ve recently moved house. Not only moving house, but moving state and moving overseas. Australia is big, y’all. Like, really fucking big. Not big like space, but compared to most other nations, it’s pretty massive. We recently moved from New South Wales to Tasmania, a journey of about 1,600 kilometres, 450 of which are across the Bass Strait, either in a plane (for my wife, kid and the cats) or on a ferry (for me and the dogs in my car). So factor in the packing up of the old house where we’d been for 16 years, the costs and traumas of shipping containers, and all the associated other problems with a massive relocation, suffice to say it’s taken up approximately 96% of my brain capacity since February. They say the five most stressful things in life are the death of a loved one, divorce, moving, major illness or injury, and job loss. Moving is number three on the list? I believe them. Whoever “they” are.

But we’re here now, in the valleys of southern Tasmania, and it’s bloody lovely. This is genuinely one of the most amazing places on Earth and I’m thrilled and privileged to live here. It’ll take a while to settle in properly, find some work to supplement the writing and so on, but we’re getting there. On that front, don’t forget I have a Patreon that gives you loads of extras for not much a month, and that really helps me out. Right now, we’re so in the hole it’s going to take a while to climb out. Moving, especially when crossing a body of water is involved, is just heinously expensive.

But it’s not all stress. Only a few weeks after we got here, there was one of the biggest solar storms in decades. Tasmania is quite far south and we get to see the Aurora Australis from time to time. What I didn’t realise is that it’s often not really visible to the naked eye and you catch it with long exposure photographs. Not the case this time. We went out with the intention of walking up the hill near our place, away from the streetlights, in the hope we’d see it, and my kid immediately yelled, “I can see it!” And sure enough, right from our back yard, the sky was lit with waves of red and green. That photo above is one I took pretty much from our house. Absolutely mind-blowing. Awe-inspiring. You see shit like this and understand exactly why people with far less knowledge of science had to invent gods to explain rare phenomena. Honestly, it’s fucking bonkers. What a welcome to our new home.

Okay, what else is happening? Let’s start with new book news. The release of Blood Covenant is imminent – it’s officially out this Friday! – and I’m as terrified and excited as ever. This feeling, it seems, never goes away. The official release is May 24th, but you can pre-order the paperback from Cemetery Dance right now, and you can pre-order the Kindle from Amazon. And for the moment, that’s only 99c. Which is wild. No idea how long that will last, so get on board quick if that’s your flavour. I had a couple of amazing pre-release blurbs from people I admire. It blew me away to receive these:

“Baxter effortlessly jukes and feints between crime fiction and supernatural horror, taking this story to darker, stranger places. I am foolishly late to the party on Alan Baxter, but BLOOD COVENANT makes it clear I need to catch the hell up.” – Chuck Wendig, NYT bestselling author of Aftermath and Black River Orchard

“Blood Covenant blends horror and crime into a monstrous, perfect hybrid. A fast, sharp, tense, violent, bloody novel that starts with the pedal to the metal and never slows down. This is a hell of a good time, and it’s Baxter’s best work yet.” – Gabino Iglesias, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Devil Takes You Home

I mean, WHAT?! Chuck and Gabino are two of the best in the business, so for them to say such nice things about Blood Covenant is amazing. Thanks, guys!

On the subject of Blood Covenant, I had the absolute pleasure of chatting with Neil McRobert on the Talking Scared podcast again. Neil is a real big brain in horror and asks deep and searching questions. Honestly, he had me wrong-footed several times during this chat where I really had to think hard about the stuff he was asking, which is always wonderful. We talk about the book, of course, but also about all kinds of other stuff including Aussie horror in general, blending crime and weird fiction, and more. Have a listen to that here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1322413/15100512

And on the subject of listening to me, if you’re not sick of me by now, I was recently a guest speaker for the Dungeons & Toast group where they got me to do a presentation on Worldbuilding in Horror. That talk is available on my YouTube channel right here: https://youtu.be/6K_AEzHZCpU?si=I4aU4o9ZhJ0z19iz. And please do subscribe to my YouTube, as I plan to use it a lot more in the future.

It’s not all wins though. Last weekend I lost two more Aurealis Awards. The Leaves Forget was a finalist for both Best Horror Novella and Best Fantasy Novella. However, while it would have been awesome to take home the shiny, it genuinely is an absolute thrill to be nominated and I’m extremely proud of that book and the attention it’s garnered. For anyone keeping count, I’ve been a finalist in the Aurealis Awards 15 times now and have so far won exactly once, for The Gulp in Best Collection. Someone asked me recently how many times I’ve been an awards finalist, so I counted it up. I’ve been shortlisted 15 times in the Aurealis Awards, 14 times in the Ditmar Awards, and 9 times in the Australian Shadows Awards. 38 award shortlistings. That’s amazing. I’ve also made the Preliminary Ballot for the Bram Stoker Award 3 times, but have yet to reach an actual shortlist there. One day. And those Ditmar nominations are a win in themselves, as I’ve never actually won that award, but no one else has more nominations without a win than me. I’ll take it!

And talking of the Ditmar Awards (nice segue, Al) they’re currently open for nominations. The Ditmar Awards are similar to the Hugo Awards but on a national rather than international scale. Anyone active in Aus fandom can nominate (and yes, that means you if you’re an Aussie fan of Aussie writing). You can nominate via an online form right here: https://ditmars.sf.org.au/nominations/nominations.html and if you’re not sure if you’re eligible to nominate there’s a bit where you can name a reference, so feel free to name me there. If you did think my stuff from 2023 was worthy of nominating (thank you!), here’s my eligible work from last year:

THE LEAVES FORGET (Absinthe Books, September 2023) is eligible in Best Novella or Novelette

And these are eligible in Best Short Story:

“All the Eyes That See” – Cosmic Horror Monthly issue #42, ed. Charles Tyra (December 2023)

“Clean-up Crew” – SNAFU: Punk’d, ed. A J Spedding (Cohesion Press, October 2023)

“Old High Hills” – a horror short story published exclusively on Patreon

There’s a fairly comprehensive list here of stuff published in 2023, so do please nominate everything you think worthy. The more people who get involved with nominating, the more the awards represent the views of the wider reading community.

And again, you can do your nominating here: https://ditmars.sf.org.au/nominations/nominations.html

Maybe this year I’ll get one and lose my never-winner record!

What I’ve Been Enjoying

Okay, I feel like I’m going to be outstaying my welcome if I crap on for too much longer, so let’s talk about other people’s stuff for a minute. It’s been a long time since I read an entire novel in a day, but I’ve been on the lookout for Whalefall by Daniel Kraus for a while. I was travelling recently (had to fly to Canberra to give a presentation) and I saw it at the airport, so I grabbed it. And I fucking inhaled it. It’s an outstanding book. I won’t spoil it in any way, but suffice to say it’s a book about a guy who gets swallowed by a whale. And it shouldn’t work. But it’s amazing. Kraus is a hell of a writer and this book is compelling. Read it, you won’t be sorry.

In terms of TV and movies, I’ve been continuing my catch-up of American Horror Story. Since the last newsletter I’ve watched Season 8, Apocalypse and Season 9, 1984Apocalypse started off a bit shaky for me, but then it tied in with a previous season, Coven, and had so much callback and stuff that I ended up really enjoying it. They did a pretty bang up job with that one. 1984 is an amazing homage to all things 80s, including serial killers and the slasher genre. It’s a wild mash-up of classic slasher tropes and is pretty over the top, really, but there’s a cool new twist on the idea and they managed it really well. I’ve now just started in on Season 10, which is known overall as Double Feature. It starts with Red Tide, which is a 6 episode Massachusetts vampire story. I’m two episodes in and it’s quite good so far. I like the tone and the twist on the vampire origin. Then apparently the second half of the season is four episodes called Death Valley. I guess I’ll be talking about both of these next time.

So, until next time, adios my fiends. Be good to yourself and each other. Keep in touch and if you do give Blood Covenant a go, I really hope you enjoy it. Either way, let me know, but more importantly, please let other people know. Books live and die by word of mouth, so if you can see your way clear to giving the book a shout out on your social media, at school or work, even just yell about it from a dark alley in the middle of the night, it all really, really helps.

Big love to all and I’ll write again soon.

Al

https://alanbaxter.com.au/

https://linktr.ee/alanbaxter

(c) Alan Baxter

Ditmar Awards open for nominations

The Ditmar Awards, similar to the Hugo Awards but on a national rather than international scale, are open for nominations. Anyone active in Aus fandom can nominate (and yes, that means you if you’re a fan of Aussie writing). You can nominate via an online form (link at the the end of this post) and if you’re not sure if you’re eligible to nominate there’s a bit where you can name a reference, so feel free to name me there. If you did think my stuff from 2023 was worthy of nominating (thank you!), here’s my eligible work from last year:

THE LEAVES FORGET (Absinthe Books, September 2023) is eligible in Best Novella or Novelette

And these are eligible in Best Short Story:

“All the Eyes That See” – Cosmic Horror Monthly issue #42, ed. Charles Tyra (December 2023)

“Clean-up Crew” – SNAFU: Punk’d, ed. A J Spedding (Cohesion Press, October 2023)

“Old High Hills” – a horror short story published exclusively on Patreon

There’s a fairly comprehensive list here of stuff published in 2023, so do please nominate everything you think worthy. The more people who get involved with nominating, the more the awards represent the views of the wider reading community.

And you can do your nominating here:

https://ditmars.sf.org.au/nominations/nominations.html

.

Newsletter 16th April 2024

Here’s a copy of my newsletter from April 16th, 2024. Sign up via my website to get newsletters directly to your inbox (and remember to check your Spam folder for the confirmation email when you sign up!)

Hello fiends!

Moving is stressful as fuck. Holy crap, friends, I haven’t moved house for 16 years and the last time I did it was from a two-bedroom apartment to a house only a couple of hours away in the same state. This time, I’ve just moved from that house (with 16 years of accumulated shit) into a new house not only in a different state, but overseas as well. Still Australia, but to Tasmania, which is like moving to a different country, really. The Bass Strait is 450km across between Geelong in Victoria and Devonport in northern Tasmania, which is the route the ferry takes. I drove the 850 km to Geelong with my dogs then took that ferry after weeks of packing up the old house, throwing away stuff we didn’t want any more, cleaning, fixing, and more. My wife did an amazing job of cleaning and repainting lots of stuff to leave the old house in as best shape as we could and now it’s on the market. Fingers crossed for a good and quick sale. But after all that stress, what a relief it is to finally be in our new place.

It’s bloody lovely down here in Tasmania. We’ve wanted to move here for years and finally stopped talking about it and took the leap. It’ll take a while to settle in, but I’m so glad we did. And in case you’ve been wondering why it’s been a while since the last newsletter, well… now you know.

In the meantime life has been progressing in spite of us. There’s a few bits and pieces to share here. Firstly, and very exciting, is that pre-orders for my new novel, Blood Covenant, have started. At this point you can only pre-order the paperback direct from Cemetery Dance Publications or the Kindle from Amazon. Other stores will follow presently and the release date is officially May 24th. It’s all very imminent. I’m really excited about this release and hope you’ll give it a go.

Here’s the official blurb:

Whatever happens, don’t bleed.

What should have been a breeze of a bank heist for James Glenn and his crew goes violently wrong, forcing them to flee, blood-stained and angry. They stumble onto a remote lodge that doesn’t open for another month – a perfect place to lie low until the heat’s off.

Except it’s occupied.

The Moore family, just arrived to prepare for the season, are taken hostage by the criminals, but not without bloodshed. And when blood gets spilled, something ancient notices. Something malevolent. Something ravenous.

Their only hope is the youngest Moore, teenager Rueben, outside and unseen when James and his gang arrive. It’s up to Rueben to get help and save his family, but the influence of the ancient evil is taking a toll on him as well.

And here’s the page on my website dedicated to the book, where you can read the first three chapters for a taster. Those pre-order links are live there too and there’s also a Goodreads button, so please add it to your Goodreads shelves if you’re keen.

Nothing works better magic in publishing than word of mouth, so please tell people about this book. And second to that is pre-orders, so if you are able to, a pre-order helps enormously. Thank you!

In other news, my novella from last year, The Leaves Forget, has been nominated twice in the Aurealis Awards. Twice! It’s a finalist for Best Horror Novella and Best Fantasy Novella. It’s a thrill to score those nominations and the all the shortlists are simply packed with amazing talent, so check out everything there for some good reading.

And on the awards front, my story “All the Eyes that See”, which was published in Cosmic Horror Monthly (issue 42), has been nominated for an Australian Shadows Award for Best Short Fiction, which is also a solid thrill. Again, check out those jam-packed shortlists for a plethora of great reading.

Fingers crossed on all counts there.

As for what’s happening now and in the future, my new novel is with my agent right now, so I’m looking forward to some feedback on that before too long. And the one before that, which is yet to find a home, will probably be my next big project. I had a chat with my agent about that book and how I might rewrite it a little bit to make it more appealing to publishers. I’m a bit daunted by the task, but I will tuck into it with gusto because I am a fucking professional.

Before that, however, I have a couple of short stories I’ve been commissioned to write, so I think I’ll probably tackle those first. Staying busy as always.

What I’ve Been Enjoying

With the move and all the subsequent mayhem around that I haven’t been reading and watching as much as usual. However, I have been slowly working through the American Horror Story franchise. I fell out of watching those some time ago and decided I needed to catch up. I recently wanted AHS: Roanoke, which was a clever idea and pretty well-realised. I almost stopped watching because Kathy Bates’ accent was so atrocious and you only find out why about halfway through. I’m glad I stuck with it though. That was season 6. Season 7 was Cult and that had loads of potential. The problem there was that it felt like it was written by committee and stayed on for too long. If it was only about 8 episodes it could have been amazing, but it was just dragged out too far. I’m about to start in on season 8, Apocalypse. We’ll see where that goes.

As for reading, I’ve been catching up on more Charlie Parker thrillers. I bloody love this series by John Connolly. There’s something like 20 books in the series and I’m up to about 15 now. I get the audio versions read by Jeff Harding, who does a brilliant job. Highly recommended.

Right, that’s about it for me for now. Sorry I’ve been quiet and I’ll try to get back onto the roughly monthly schedule of newsletters again now as things settle down.

Take care of each other and especially of yourself.

Al

BLOOD COVENANT pre-orders now live!

BLOOD COVENANT pre-orders are now live at Cemetery Dance. You can grab yours by clicking right here. Pre-orders make a huge impact on a book’s release, so if you’re keen, please jump in. It gives the publisher confidence in the book and that can mean a great marketing push. And it’s best for the publisher and me if you order direct from them. Please and thank you!

You’ll also find the Kindle edition at Amazon if that’s your preferred flavour. You can find that here.

I really hope people get behind this book, and I can’t wait for it to be out in the wild.

Screenshot

Lunar New Year and other things

This is my latest newsletter that just went out to subscribers.

Hi Fiends

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:

https://alanbaxter.com.au/signed-books-get-em-while-theyre-hot/

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.

Al

Picking a good tag line

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:

For [Person]

[Tag Line]

Signature

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:

#BloodCovenant #DontBleed

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?

Signed books, get ’em while they’re hot!

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:

  1. I don’t have much room in my office for boxes;
  2. I need to pay the bills;
  3. Signed books are a damn fine gift to yourself and/or your loved ones;
  4. 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)

https://alanbaxter.com.au/?add-to-cart=16019

The Leaves Forget (hardcover, not limited edition) ($34.95)

https://alanbaxter.com.au/?add-to-cart=18141

The Gulp ($24.95)

https://alanbaxter.com.au/?add-to-cart=14065

The Fall ($24.95)

https://alanbaxter.com.au/?add-to-cart=15450

Thanks, folks!