TIH 534: Alan Baxter on Sallow Bend, The Gulp, and Australian Horror Fiction

TIH 534 Alan Baxter on Sallow Bend, The Gulp, and Australian Horror Fiction

In this podcast, Alan Baxter talks about Sallow Bend, The Gulp, Australian horror fiction, and much more.

About Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter is a multi-award-winning author of horror, supernatural thrillers and dark fantasy liberally mixed with crime, mystery and noir. This Is Horror podcast (hey, that’s us) calls him “Australia’s master of literary darkness” and the Talking Scared podcast dubbed him “The Lord of Weird Australia.” He’s also a martial artist, a whisky-soaked swear monkey, and dog lover. He creates dark, weird stories among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia, where he lives with his family and other animals. Find him online at www.alanbaxter.com.au

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Bob Pastorella (00:00:29): Welcome to This Is Horror, a podcast for readers, writers, and creators. I'm Bob Pastorella. In every episode alongside my co-host Michael David Wilson, I chat with the world's best writers about writing life lessons, creativity, and much more. Today we are going to be chatting with Alan Baxter, and this was recorded as part of the Special House of Bad Memories. This is Horror podcast weekend to coincide with the release of Michael David Wilson's House of Bad Memories. It's been a little while since we actually had Allen on the show, and so we've spent a little time catching up with them and we had a deep and far reaching conversation and I believe everyone's going to really enjoy it. Before we get into that conversation, it's time for a quick advert break. Maree Hartwell is a death doula aiding people as they exit. This world isn't just her job, it's her calling. Unfortunately, being a doula has caused Marky her girlfriend Paula, in her future together. When a hospice notification informs Marqui did. A patient named Franklin is dying alone with no family, friends or neighbours to comfort him. Markey sets off in the worst storm she's ever seen because no one should die alone. The death doula, the L Sea, is now available in paperback and ebook from Cemetery Gates Media

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Bob Pastorella (00:02:18): Okay, with that said, here it is, it is Alan Baxter on This is Horror, Alan Baxter.

(00:02:30): Welcome to this is horror podcast, as part of the House of Bad Memories Podcasting Weekend. How are you doing?

Alan Baxter (00:02:39): Well, thanks for having me. We were just talking before and you said you're only into hour five, so fresh as a daisy still at this point, what happens about 10 hours from now?

Michael David Wilson (00:02:50): Yeah, yeah. Well, people are going to find out. It's all going to be recorded, but I mean was

(00:02:59): At when we last spoke for a full, this is horror podcast and unbelievably, but I probably should believe it because the records don't lie. It was in fact March, 2020, so we've gone three and a half years without having you on the podcast. I dunno if this is the point where you stand up and decide to leave, you're offended that we took so goddamn long.

Alan Baxter (00:03:27): Yeah, no, that's amazing. Now I knew it had been a while. I didn't think it was that long. I remember that I was saying to Bob before I remember that I was having internet problems and I ended up driving to the top of the hill

(00:03:39): Four miles from where I live with my phone to get the best 3G reception that I could because I kept dropping out. So I remember sitting in my car in the dark at 10 o'clock at night or something, but there you go. That was three years ago. I was a guest at Supernova in March, and they were worried that they were going to get shut down because of numbers of people gathering. And then the government on the Saturday, they said as from midnight Sunday, we're limiting gatherings to 500 people. That was right at the start of Covid. And of course the restrictions got stricter, stricter rapidly, but that was the first level of restrictions. And so the Supernova was a big pop culture convention. They were super pleased they would get to open all day Saturday, Sunday like they planned. And yeah, that was the start of it. And that was mid-March, so that would've been right around the last time we talked.

Michael David Wilson (00:04:28): Yeah, yeah, I know it was all kicking off in China about December, 2019, so then it was being covered in the news like China and Japan, December, January. But yeah, it wasn't until really March where it started becoming a thing in the UK and America and presumably, yeah, yeah, clue is in the name people. And at that time, I mean, I was relocating back to Japan, so I actually arrived back in Japan the day before they stopped letting anyone else into Japan. So I was one of the last people to get back in, and if I'd have booked my plane ticket one day later, well there would've been no plane and I would've had to have waited until October or so. So it was fortunate timing.

Alan Baxter (00:05:31): Yeah, because a friend of mine was working there, Joan Tonne, actually. Joanne Anderson, she's a superb author. Everybody should read her stuff. She's brilliant. But she was living in Japan at the time. She was teaching, doing the ESL thing in Japan, and then she got an opportunity to come back. I can't remember exactly when it was, but it was maybe June, July, August, something like that. And it was like, here's a window to come back if you don't take it. We don't know when the next one is and it cost us thousands of dollars. But she did it and she was sharing these photos. She was the only person on the plane, and then she was the only person in Sydney airport when she arrived and stuff like that. But she took that opportunity to slip back into the country because she didn't know when she would otherwise.

Michael David Wilson (00:06:17): Yeah, yeah. And I remember when I came back to Japan, obviously because they knew that they were going to stop letting people in the next day, so they're being super vigilant and stuff and having a good look at you, checking your temperature and all that. But I was fine on the flight until about 15 minutes before landing. We started getting really insane turbulence. Also, I can never sleep on planes, so I'm getting pretty sleep deprived at this point, which makes me feel a bit sick. And then I'm trying to concentrate on not actually being sick, but the concentration was so much that I was started sweating and I thought, I'm looking like I'm breaking out in a fever. So literally when I landed, I just went to the bathroom to fucking pull myself together. It's like you can't go to try get through immigration when you're literally visibly sweating. It's like I knew I didn't have covid and I'd taken a test and I had the test to show, but it's like, well, you've got a test that says one thing, but you're sweating, panicking faces saying quite another.

Alan Baxter (00:07:39): Oh

Michael David Wilson (00:07:39): Man, it worked out in the end, but bad timing. He probably looked like John Lithgow from Twilight Zone. Yeah, Jesus Christ. But I mean, talking about those three years, I mean, I wanted to ask, as I often do when we get a returning guest, what the biggest changes both personally and professionally have been. Obviously having gone through a pandemic is one of those, but I know that you've had a number of books out including S Bend and the Gulp. So talk us through the highlights both personally and professionally.

Alan Baxter (00:08:22): Yeah, right far out. I mean, it takes some figuring out in a way, trying to remember how things went. I know that when the first restrictions on the pandemic and everything kicked in, because I run a Kung fu school, my day job is all sorts of different times of the day and night, but running classes and of course all that got shut down

Michael David Wilson (00:08:45): And I

Alan Baxter (00:08:45): Had to pivot to doing Zoom classes, and that really took up so much of my brain space. So my kid was home and we were having to homeschool. I was having to do Zoom classes. And like I mentioned before, right at that time our internet was really dodgy. So because I was allowed to travel for work, I would take laptop and phone and gear and stuff into the studio where I would normally teach and set up with the laptop and the tripod to use the broadband that was available in town so I could teach that way, and I would have a stable signal at that first sort of six months of things when everything just turned to shit and nobody knew what was going on. I kind of hardly wrote much at all because there was so much else I was trying to get my head around and deal with. But because of that as well, I ended up writing The Gulp because the year before for a joke, I'd written The Roo.

(00:09:56): Which turned out to be one of my most popular books. I wish all my books sold as well as the RU does. And it was a bit of a gag, but it's really sort of resonated with people. And that made me think at the time, maybe there is a market for really Australian horror stories. I mean, that one's really gonzo. That one's deliberately kind of a homage to every gonzo bonkers creature feature ever happened before. But it was unapologetically Australian and it was super popular, especially in the us. And so I thought, well, maybe I ought to stop setting stuff in ambiguous settings that sort of could be here, could be there. Maybe I need to really lean into and embrace that Australian vibe. And for a long time I'd been toying with the idea of my own sort of castle rock or whatever where I could create a fictional geography that was really Australian and I hadn't done it. I kept putting it off and kept putting it off. And then the success of the Roux followed by the Great upheaval at the start of Covid, I just went, fuck it, I'm just going to start writing a few of these stories instead because I feel like I'm still producing work. I dunno what I'm going to do with 'em.

(00:11:12): And I had this idea that it would just, I wanted this weird isolated Australian harbour town that would share, it was sort of a bit like an Australian Inn's mouth, but also a bit like an Australian dairy or castle rock and those kinds of vibes. And that became a bit of a pandemic project that because I could focus on these smaller ideas, and I ended up writing five novellas that sort of linked and cross-referenced each other and then told a bigger story across the course of all five. And that became the Gulp. And because it was in some ways a niche project like that and because was up in the air and I had no idea what sort of publishers might be interested, I just decided to put it out independently like I'd done with the Roux. And it turned out to be really popular as well.

(00:12:03): I was really pleased with how well received it was. And then the following year I ended up doing it again and wrote the four with another five that were all interlinked with the first five and now across all 10, and both books is an even bigger story, and hopefully at some point I'll write a third one. I've got the ideas and plans for most of it. So in the early part of the pandemic, that's sort of what became my focus, and it was largely everything else that was going on that kind of pushed me towards doing that because the novel I was writing at the time, I had to put aside because I didn't have the brain capacity to keep that kind of big picture in mind. And then subsequently after that, as we started getting a bit more used to things and we found a bit of equilibrium, then I got back to the novels and subsequently that's when I wrote Sally Bend and so on, and then that came out with cemetery dance at the end of last year.

(00:13:00): So yeah, it was an interesting time, but it's funny how adversity creates these sort of diversions that we might not have done otherwise. And the other thing that I did actually, now that I think about it, is that at the start of the pandemic, I wrote something just for my kid who would've been seven at the time, well, coming up seven. And it was always like, I can never, I write for adults. So I wrote a middle grade because my kids a pretty advanced reader, and so I wrote a middle grade fantasy novel that was all sort of dragons and pirates and all that cool shit that I wanted to do. And I didn't know what I was going to do with it, but it ended up being this sort of 50,000 word, middle grade sort of fantasy novel with the character was named after my kid, one of the main characters.

(00:13:56): And all this stuff was going on, and I just produced one really nice little hardcover and it said Special edition, one of one on the back, and just presented that to help the pandemic times trying to find new things and bright things in that dark and weird time we keep talking about, or I keep talking about, can I take that to a publisher? And I keep getting told, no, you wrote that for me. That's special. That's mine. So it might be the book I wrote that literally one copy exists and that's that. But who knows? I keep tempting. We could share the royalties as capitalism gets its grip, it might change the attitude, but so I ended up, the Pandemic time meant the Gulp and the fall happened, and I wrote a middle grade fantasy novel of which one copy. So yeah, that's kind of what I've been doing over the last few years. And there's been several novels now since Slo Bend came out. New one is coming out, blood Covenants coming out with cemetery dance in May, and a new novel has just gone to my agent last week. So I've been busy since.

Michael David Wilson (00:15:11): Yeah, and in terms of the middle grade novel, I mean, as you say, wait for capitalism to get its clause in or university debt or something, there'll be a reason he needs those royalty checks.

Alan Baxter (00:15:27): It might be shit, I might go to publishers and they're like, look, don't do this. Stick to the adult horror novels. I dunno. It was enjoyed in the House with the audience of three, so it's not exactly a wide pool to judge it by, but we'll see what happens.

Michael David Wilson (00:15:42): Yeah, well, there's two blurbs or three blobs if you want to go full Garth Meringue and Blob your own book.

Alan Baxter (00:15:51): That's true. Yeah. Yeah. I could become the Garth Meringue of middle grade fantasy fiction.

Michael David Wilson (00:15:58): Yeah. Well, I accidentally almost became Garth Megi earlier when I was speaking about House of Bad Memories, and I nearly said it's the funniest book I've read, but I meant that I'd written, it's like, wow, it's quite an endorsement for your own fiction

Alan Baxter (00:16:15): House of Bad Memories by Michael David Wilson, the funniest book I've ever read. Michael David Wilson. Yeah, I mean that would be a cover.

Michael David Wilson (00:16:24): Yeah, yeah. No, I mean sometimes I toy you with these ridiculous ideas just basically because I think it would be funny to me, I mean I've even toyed with the idea, and I might do it one day putting out a short story collection that's like self-titled like Michael David Wilson by Michael David Wilson, because we see that with bands like Metallica by Metallica, but you don't see that with or as much, and I quite like to do that. Yeah,

Alan Baxter (00:16:56): Michael, David Wilson's new novel like Yeah,

Michael David Wilson (00:17:01): Yeah, we'll have self-titled Untitled, the Black book, the White book.

Alan Baxter (00:17:06): Sorry. I was going to say if you did do that, you would subsequently have to self blurb it as well. So

Michael David Wilson (00:17:12): Yeah,

Alan Baxter (00:17:13): You might

Michael David Wilson (00:17:13): As well just go all in at that point. Yeah, yeah,

Alan Baxter (00:17:17): Yeah, exactly.

Michael David Wilson (00:17:19): But I mean, you mentioned independently publishing the Gulf and independently publishing the Ruse. So I mean, has that experience and those experiments in independent publishing, has it changed kind of your perspective on publishing or your model going forward? I mean, you've also now got books coming out via cemetery dance, but I suppose do you view Indie publishing in a more favourable light? How do you decide whether to send it out to other publishers or your agent and whether to just go the indie route?

Alan Baxter (00:18:04): I've always had a lot of respect for indie publishing. I kind of started out that way right back in the beginning. My original novel, the first novel I published was Realm Shift that I originally went the traditional route with that got an agent that ended up at acquisitions twice with two different publishers, and both times didn't get quite over the line. And this is a long time ago, this is coming on 20 years ago now. And back then I was like, well, fuck it. I'm just going to put it out myself and write the next one and see if I can generate some interest that will maybe then help to sell the next thing. For example, you can tell how long ago it was because at Smashwords, one of the independent publishers where they do eBooks, they were new at the time, and the URL of the book, there's a big number at the end, and that's the number of the book it is, and they're up into the multiple millions and stuff.

(00:18:59): Now realm shift is like 397 or something, so literally within the first few hundred eBooks in that sort of first great renaissance of that independent publishing. But the thing is that what that taught me really quickly was that while it was becoming easier to do with eBooks and print on demand and everything else, I realised I didn't want to do it. I didn't want to have to have those skills of layout and managing all that sort of stuff. And it's like I want to write and let publishers do that stuff that they're good at. Gryphon would press picked up realm shift and made sign, and then off the back of that Hyper Voyager, hyper Collins in Australia picked up the Alex Kane trilogy and sort of things carried on. And I've had work with various publishers, sort of mid-sized independent press and stuff like PS Publishing and cemetery dance and whatever.

(00:19:57): But I've also had some independent press not really come to the party as much as they should. I've had some presses go under and take books down, and then we've had to work on getting the rights back and figuring out what's going on. And back in whenever it was 2019 I guess I think, or no, the start of 2020, I think it was when the RU came out because that was such a ridiculous book and it was a novella and it was just gonzo and it was like, well, who the fuck would I send that to? And because I'd had issues with some smaller presses and stuff, I was like, you know what? Maybe I ought to get my eye in again on doing some stuff independently so that no matter what else happens, maybe I've always got a handful of books that aren't contracted to a publisher that might go under or that won't run into those problems.

(00:20:52): And so I used the rou as practise to self-publish again and sort of had to update my skills to where things stood all these years later, and it went quite well. And then as I said that, because with the pandemic and the gulp being that pandemic project and what I thought at the time was actually quite niche, I ended up going, well, you know what? I'm just going to put that out as well. So the Roo, the Gulp and the fall are all independently done. And then I've done a six story sort of mini collection. I've written several times for the snafu anthologies, which is basically military horror and monsters. That's the sort of remit. One of those stories is the one that I was fortunate enough that got picked up for Love Death and Robots that was involved in halls in tomb, that was in snafu survival of the fittest.

(00:21:43): So I put together a mini collection of five previously published snafu stories, and I wrote a new one that hadn't been in any of those snafu anthologies, and I independently published that little collection as well. So at this point, oh, and I did one more, I just remembered there's another short novella called Golden Fortune Dragon Jade, which was like Aja Chinese Australian fantasy novella that was written for a project that never really got much off the ground. And so I put that out independently as its own little version as well. So I've got this handful of stuff that I've done independently and that stuff is always going to be under my control and I can manage that, but the base principle still applies that I still do prefer to work with a publisher because all the work involved with the layout and the uploading and managing the files and all that is a pain in the ass.

(00:22:32): I don't really like it. And whatever reach I may have, having been in this gig for a while, it's only my reach. Whereas if I go with a publisher, you get their reach as well, and you don't have to pay for the covers and the cover up because they do that. You don't have to pay for the layout because they do that. So they earn their cut of the royalties by doing that stuff, but then hopefully they have an audience and a marketing that gets more readers in. And at the end of the day, that's what it comes down to. I want to focus on the writing and not the publishing, and I want to get as many readers as I can. So I always default to publishers first, but I think I will always have a little sort of side catalogue, if you like, of this independently published stuff because it's just kind of nice to have that there. And that's always as safe as anything like that can be. But I always will default to publishers first. It's that top down idea, just go for the big publishers, go for the indie publishers, the small press, and just have a handful of self-published stuff on the side.

Michael David Wilson (00:23:39): Yeah, I think a lot of people are increasingly going for could I guess, be termed this hybrid model where you are primarily such as yourself publishing with more traditional publishers, but you've got this little side catalogue, almost like an insurance policy. It's like, look, whatever happens, I've got these ones that are completely mine completely with me. Now you're talking through the process. I'm wondering how does your agent figure into this? I mean, even with things like the ru, did you have a conversation beforehand and say, look, this is what I'm planning to do, or do you get advice as to whether to put this out yourself or who to send it to?

Alan Baxter (00:24:31): Well, interesting situation there. I mean for a long time, I've just recently signed with a new agent, so I'm with Becky JE with Bond Literary in the US now. And my Australian agent was very much in favour of that because her position basically was, look, I don't really know horror that well and I don't have the same contacts. You need someone in the US that knows horror and has the right code. So she was kind of encouraging for me to kind of level up, if you like, in the agent front on that front. Alex has been a brilliant agent and we've got all sorts of deals together that way. She got the trilogy through with Harper Collins, for example, here in Australia. So it's been superb, but her focus is a lot more fantasy and children's fiction and not so much sort of horror thriller and not so much the US market, which is sort of where we want to reach.

(00:25:31): But she's always been of the mind, it's like, I'll read anything and if I think I can sell it, I'll sell it, but otherwise do what you like with it kind of thing. So when it came to something like the Room, it's like I know there's no point in even approaching her with that because it's alright, it's so niche, it's so weird, it's a novela, she's going to have real problems selling it, but I would always just let her know what's going on and she's like, yeah, cool. Let me know if I can help. And it was always a really good relationship like that. And same now that I've signed with Bond literary in the us, there's some stuff from before that still contracted to Alex. That was stuff that she dealt with and she made those deals and that will remain contracted to her.

(00:26:17): So it's an interesting position to be in. But from this point on, I think everything now will go through Becky Bond literary and I don't know what, if anything, I might subsequently self-publish into the future and I'll just figure that out. I think as we go along at the moment, I'm sort of concentrating on novels and concentrating on trying to hit those bigger more traditional publishers. Again, if I do finally get around to writing the third instalment in the Galp books, I might then do that independently as well to match the others. And I would have a conversation with Becky then about that when and if that came up I guess.

Michael David Wilson (00:27:02): Yeah, and there's so many agents these days, so it begs the question, why Becky and why Bond literary?

Alan Baxter (00:27:15): It comes down to a lot of the time it comes down to just sort of paying attention to the industry and sort of who's doing what with who. And it was just one of those sort of situations where I did want to try to get an agent in the US who was more across horror and dark fiction. And then I heard about Becky at Bond because she was working with some authors who I just had a lot of respect for and who do similar stuff to what I do. She's got people like Gemma Files and Todd Keesling and stuff like that on her catalogue. And so I reached out to her on that front because it just felt like a good fit and I knew that and people, we talked to each other and people I'd talked to were like, yeah, she's great and the work she's doing is clearly great. And then the first Zoom we had, she's wearing a camp Crystal Lake, so sometimes you just know things that you're on the right path. So it just came together like that. It was just one of those sort of opportunity, timing, whatever sort of things. And then when she read stuff and she was like, yeah, I think it's good. I think I can work with this and made the official sort of offer of rep. So off we go.

Michael David Wilson (00:28:37): All right, well, yeah, makes a lot of sense. Yeah, I mean the kind of literary agent landscape, it can almost be overwhelming, got so many options and you've got so many bad options as well as good options. So you've got to kind of almost wade through and I mean really look at, well, who can offer me something? I think sometimes we can put agents up on a pedestal, so we are just trying to get an agent, but it's like, no, this is as much a kind of two-way conversation. This is an interview for the author as well as the agent. And I think,

Alan Baxter (00:29:24): Yeah, you don't have to have an agent, whereas a good agent can be absolutely amazing. Equally, a bad agent or a bad fit can be a fucking nightmare for both of you.

(00:29:39): Very much a symbiotic relationship in this landscape. As you say, a lot of people are in there, I just need an agent. It's like, well, no, you don't. You need the right agent. And it is really hard to find the right one. Previously to approaching Becky, I had started collecting a list of agents and I was paying attention to who was representing who and what sort of things they did. And if they were people I knew and could chat to online or whatever, I was like, Hey, what's your experience been like with this person? And that's what a lot of people do and that's what people need to do really to get the feel of whether that person's going to be right for you and whether you are going to be right for that person because it's perfectly okay to be an author and go, I would love you to be my agent, but are you going to do the right thing by me?

(00:30:28): Not, oh God, yes please. I just desperately need an agent. So finding that balance that does work for both people is really important and it's important for the agent to feel comfortable being able to work with the author and be honest and open and do the best. And it's important for the author to know that that agent is going to be doing the best work they can and that they're going to be honest with you and everything else. So like you said, it is a mess. It's something you've got to wade through, but a lot of the time it just comes down to sitting back and paying a bit of attention and seeing who's doing what. The same as you would do with a publisher. You wouldn't approach a romance publisher with a hardcore horror, extreme violence novel. It's like you would approach the right publisher for the right work, and the same way you approach the right agent with the right work, and you hope to find that equilibrium and you're not always going to stick with the same agent. You might not get one, you don't need one. There's so many permutations.

Michael David Wilson (00:31:23): Yeah, no, it's good advice for people. And I mean, to go back to something you said before, you mentioned putting out a number of stories with the snafu anthologies,

Alan Baxter (00:31:37): And

Michael David Wilson (00:31:39): This might be a kind of bizarre turn, but you mentioned snafu and then I think, oh, Jeff Brown, also known as GN Braun, and then I thought, wait, what happened to Jeff? It's like, hang on, you're asking Alan as a question. Do you know what's happened to Jeff? Yeah, I guess that is where we are going. He did some stuff with this as horror. He was doing so much with military horror and snafu, and I guess one of his primary social media networks was Facebook. It occurs to me as I'm saying this, it's like not what happened to Jeff, it's what happened to me. I went off Facebook and now I'm like, where's Jeff? And it's like he's still there. You ran away from him. He's still there. He's still doing, so

Alan Baxter (00:32:32): Jeff's a great guy. So Jeff, he's the executive editor of Cohesion Press. So on that side of things, they do the snafu series of anthologies. So the first one was snafu situation, normal or fucked up, an anthology of military horror, and it was really popular. So then they then developed a line of anthologies and there's been like I think 13 or 14 of 'em now or something, and I think I've been in seven of 'em.

(00:33:01): And then they did for a while, they picked up and started doing novels and stuff like that that didn't quite work out with the distribution and they chopped everything back and they gave novels back to authors and just focused on the anthology line and that works really well. And Tim Miller, who is the sort of main brains behind Love Death and robots and stuff is a big fan of the snafu series along with a number of other things. He's a huge short story fan, which is why several snafu stories ended up being picked up for Love, death and robots here and there. And so Jeff is still doing all that stuff and he also owns a abandoned haunted asylum down in country

Michael David Wilson (00:33:39): Victoria.

Alan Baxter (00:33:41): And so his sort of day job, he runs Ghost tours of a haunted asylum and just next weekend, I think next week, well no two weeks, Halloween, Halloween weekend he's running Asylum Fest, which is the new Australian Horror Convention, which is going to happen. Last year was the first one. It was kind of a test. This year is the first one where they're going, this is now a regular feature on the calendar, and the plan is that every Halloween weekend Asylum Fest will be the annual hocon to go to, and it's right on my kid's birthday, so unfortunately I can't get down for this one, but they've got trade tables, they've got panels and all that sort of stuff. They've got a short story competition, all that cool stuff that goes along with conventions. So Jeff's still very much around, I don't think he's writing that much himself at this point, but he's running Cohesion Press, he's still doing Snuffer anthologies with AJ Sping.

(00:34:38): She's a brilliant editor who co-edited with him. He's running the asylum and he's in charge. Him and Marty Young, so Marty Young who originally set up the Australian Horror Writers Association, which is now the Australasian Horror Writers Association. I've been the president of that for the last few years and I'm actually stepping down this year that's been around for nearly 20 years. And so Marty who founded that and Jeff are the two guys who are mostly in charge of organising Asylum Fest so that we'll end up with an annual horror. So yes, Jeff Brown is still a busy fella and he's still on Facebook.

Michael David Wilson (00:35:20): There you go. Evidently it's like I'm the problem. I ran away from Facebook, but what I think this shows, and I guess this is quite timely for you because you were kicked off Twitter, so now you're kind of starting again on Blue Sky and a number of people have voluntarily left Twitter. We're talking to one of them, it's not me, but it is a good old Bob pastor there, and it just shows, I guess how, what's the word really just kind of temporary. Some of these connections can be, and it's like if you lose one network then you can lose a kind of

Alan Baxter (00:36:08): Whole

Michael David Wilson (00:36:09): Crop of people and connections that you would talking into. And I'm not sure what kind of the takeaway is there. I mean, I think a good takeaway have a newsletter list because that kind of indie publishing is something you can control.

Alan Baxter (00:36:28): Yeah, I think the two really important things to have, you have your own website, so you have your fixed place on the web so that if anybody goes, what happened to fuck? Where did that guy go? If they search, if nothing else, they're going to come up with a website and a website at the very least will just have a bio and a contact page. I know there have been editors in the past who've been like, I wanted to reprint a story and just can't reach the author. They don't have a website, they're not on socials or whatever. So I think it's really important that you have that. And it can be a simple free site, just something that will come up when people Google your name, which is a fixed place. And keeping a good newsletter list is also valuable because that way any communications go directly into people's inboxes regardless of where else you might be on the web.

(00:37:21): But yeah, I mean Twitter was a really interesting one. I've been on Twitter since quite early back in 2009 I think I was first on there and it really was home for me online. It was very much the social media of choice and then fucking Musk shows up and just shits all over everything. So honestly, it'd been getting just worse and worse for the year or so since he's been in charge. I was really struggling more and more with the ethics of staying on there anyway, just because of the sort of voices that he was amplifying and the way he was managing things. It really was becoming more and more of just a trash fire. But I'd been on there 15 years or whatever, I had 17,000 something followers and before he took over, it was a great place with great engagement, it was a really nice place to hang out.

(00:38:11): We would have chats with other authors and editors and publishers as well as readers and fans in general. It was a good place, so it was kind of hard to give up, but I was really starting to think this place is just a shit hole and getting worse, and I was really struggling with the ethics of it. And then I happened to tweet that. I can't even remember which particular asshole it was about now, but the tweet included the line, we really need the guillotines in reference to the super rich and apparently Musk and his great fragility or the team had been setting bots to search tweets for the word guillotine, and were just basically mass suspending accounts on that front for it was incitement to violence I think was the official sort of rule that you contravened and it says, if you disagree with this, let us know.

(00:39:03): And of course, I sent the thing in and I was like, what the fuck? And they were like, no, we stand by. Well, they weren't. I'm sure it was just a bot, but it was like, no, we stand by your account's permanently suspended and we won't be reversing this decision. So that's it. They made the decision for me and I got kicked off. The only thing I'm really annoyed about on that front, it was actually a bit of a load off in some ways, much as I am really disappointed to lose the power of that reach, which was valuable for, I'm not a big name and nobody mid-list a name like me. That kind of extra reach was really valuable. But otherwise, the only thing I'm annoyed about is that because they've suspended the account and I can't get into it, I can't now go and delete my tweets.

(00:39:46): So if I was, the plan to leave voluntarily was at some point, and I was getting very close to it was at some point I'm just going to download the archive, delete my tweets and delete the account. And they booted me before I had the chance to do that. So I did download an archive about a year ago. I've still got a record of most of my history there, but it kind of shit me that it's so if at some point they unsuspend that account, then those tweets come live again and with all this shit they're doing where they're saying your tweets are now available, if you are here, you agreeing that your tweets can train our AI and stuff like that, so well, I don't agree with that. I would rather just delete all that, but I haven't got the option. So with any luck, the servers will just melt down at some point and Twitter will just cease to exist in any shape or form. It's probably at this point, the best thing that can happen for it's taking the old horse out the back and shooting it in the head. It's like there's nothing left for it now. It's like,

Bob Pastorella (00:40:51): Yeah, my experience is pretty much the same as yours except for getting permanently suspended. It got to the point, I was saying this earlier that, and I was literally having to search my mutuals just to see what they were doing. I had to search, this is horror to find post to repost because they weren't showing up in my feed no matter how I did my feed. And so I just got really fed up with that. And so I've deactivated and it takes 30 days. The only thing I haven't done is I just haven't pulled the trigger and haven't figured out which company I want to use is, but you cannot delete your tweets for free. You must pay a third party to do that. And so I have to decide how I'm going to do that because I've got close to 10,000 tweets and I'm not going to sit there and go delete, are you sure? Yes,

Alan Baxter (00:41:58): I've got over

Bob Pastorella (00:41:58): 150,000 that was going to happen. Yeah, I'm busy and I'm way, even if I wasn't doing shit, I'm way too busy to do that. So I think that the lowest price I saw was about 10 bucks. So I mean, I can get the service and do a mass delete and get rid of 'em all and just end the service just for 10 bucks, get rid of all of them at one shot. But I was not aware that you could not delete your tweets for free. I was like, what the fuck? Serious, I got to pay someone to do this.

Alan Baxter (00:42:38): But it's just a snapshot of what's going on there. All these right wing fuckwits who are just, they're literally giving a billionaire $8 a month for privilege, and they're the voices that are getting lifted and he's paying ad revenue to people with the most just egregious hot takes. It's not about truth or veracity, it's not about interest, it's not about helping anyone, it's just literally about how much engagement you can drive. So the worst people with the worst takes are making the most egregious tweets and getting shitloads of engagement from other idiots and getting paid musk for the process. Just the whole thing has just become a parody of everything it actually stood for and everything that actually made it good. I mean, we knew that Musk was the living embodiment of the Dunning Kruger effect, but it's amazing just how quickly he's destroyed this place and how thoroughly he's just made it. It's like every single decision has just been so fucking bizarre. So self-destructive, amazing,

Bob Pastorella (00:43:50): Really, it's like he's doing it on purpose out of spite because he got picked on and it's the typical super rich mentality that if I can't beat it, I'll buy it and destroy it from within. And he's worse super villain ever. In terms of deleting tweets, I understand what Alan is saying in that you don't want your Twitter account to be reinstated and then your tweets magically

Michael David Wilson (00:44:31): Appear and then who knows what they're going to use them for. You've said possibly training ai, which is not an unreasonable conclusion. I think Twitter have pretty much admitted to wanting to do that anyway, or if not, Twitter and other similar companies. But Bob, you're talking about deleting your tweets since this is a se question out of complete ignorance, but if I go to at Bob Pastor, then it basically says, this account doesn't exist. So

Bob Pastorella (00:45:07): That

Michael David Wilson (00:45:07): Doesn't mean your tweets have gone, I guess I'm being a bit dumb here, but I feel like if the account doesn't exist, then they're probably not going to use your tweets. So why do you need to? And presumably to delete them, you'd have to temporarily reinstate the account and then delete them and then delete it again. I'm not understanding why do you need to pay a company to delete your tweets?

Bob Pastorella (00:45:39): So if you deactivate your account, if you deactivate your account, you have 30 days

Michael David Wilson (00:45:44): Before,

Bob Pastorella (00:45:45): It'll be completely deleted to where the name won't even be there anymore.

Michael David Wilson (00:45:52): But I could log

Bob Pastorella (00:45:52): In right now and all my tweets will be reinstated.

Michael David Wilson (00:45:55): Right,

Bob Pastorella (00:45:56): Okay, so they're still there. Okay. So I'm not worried about other people seeing my tweets. I've never said anything that could be used as screenshot against me to try to cancel me or anything like that. I've been extremely careful on social media. I keep all my personal thoughts

Michael David Wilson (00:46:12): And things like

Bob Pastorella (00:46:13): That usually to myself, that way I don't get fucking cancelled for saying something stupid or taken misconstrued in the wrong way, but I don't want them to have my tweets. And so they

Michael David Wilson (00:46:28): Probably already got

Bob Pastorella (00:46:30): For my own personal peace of mind that I've removed them from the server. That's where that would be, because even though, yeah, they've got 'em and they've got 'em stored, and in 10 years when quitter's down, there's going to meet that one guy and you call pay him like, Hey, I'll give you 500 bucks to get my tweets back, and he gives you a little three and a half inch disc. Here you go, buddy. It's

Michael David Wilson (00:46:55): On a flash

Bob Pastorella (00:46:56): Drive. I found them on the net, one of those type things. But it is from my own personal peace of mind that I just don't want 'em there. I think

Alan Baxter (00:47:10): That's the same for me as well. It's that idea that if they're deleted, they're actually gone, but if they're not deleted, then that data exists in the Twitter servers and you can't guarantee that if they are deleted, it is genuinely gone and they're not in a backup somewhere or something like that. But at least from that point forward, they're inaccessible. And that's the same when I say the only thing I'm really annoyed about is that I didn't get to do that before I left. They kicked me out, and that's what it is. It's that idea that all that stuff that I wrote is, and because as well on Twitter, I would write these little kind of Twitter stories and stuff like that. I would thread these little horror stories together and all sorts of stuff. All of that was cool. It was fun. But they have said quite, they've stated in their terms of service that if you tweet, you agree that your tweets will be used to train our language learning models and all that sort of stuff.

(00:48:09): And if my account's suspended, I don't know if the content of my account is still available to that database, I assume. Whereas if I'd had the opportunity to delete my tweets, then I would assume, or I would hope that it's not available to that database. And that's the difference for me. So who knows at the end of the day really what exists or not out there, it's nothing I'm concerned about being public, it's just something I don't want to be used without my consent. AI is so much about just stealing stuff without consent and without compensation, and anything we can do to push back against that is important, I think.

Michael David Wilson (00:48:52): Yeah, yeah. No, that makes sense. I mean, it sounds like for both of you, it's a trust issue. It's like you don't trust, even if in Bob's case it says this will be permanently deleted in 30 days, Bob's like, well, I'd rather permanently delete it now so that I know that I have done my bit. Because I guess if you had a trust issue to begin with, you don't necessarily believe that that is permanently deleted. Although it occurs to me as we're talking about this, and I guess one of us could even check, but I wonder if all of our tweets can't really be permanently deleted anyway because maybe they exist on the way back machine. Maybe we can just access all tweets there anyway.

Alan Baxter (00:49:43): Yeah, I mean, does the Wayback machine save the entire Twitter database at some point? Yeah, I dunno. Yeah, I don't know enough about it to be informed, I guess is part of the problem. But yeah, anyway, in the same way that the ethical conundrum was taken out of my hands, so is this, and Blue Sky is an excellent, it's not a Twitter replacement, but it feels it's the first time something else has felt a bit like how Twitter felt back in the day. Lots of other things like Mastodon is just, I likened maed onto that thing where you go to play d and d with a new group and the guy spends the first

Michael David Wilson (00:50:20): Hour

Alan Baxter (00:50:21): Just talking about the fine minutiae of the rules just because you wanted to switch from a sword to an axe. It's like, can we just play the game? That Mastodons really got that feel about it and it's like, I can't be doing with this and all these different things, just sort of nothing really picked up. But then Blue Sky, it's still restricted under that invite model, but it has that feel the early Twitter had, and it's got a nice vibe. It's obviously being sort of a Twitter clone of a sort. It's got a very similar interface. And it's, to give a good example actually of what we were talking about with Twitter just turned into shit. I had 17,500 or so followers on Twitter, and subsequently now I've got probably 1,500 followers on Blue Sky. The engagement I get on Blue Sky is equal or better than the engagement I was getting on Twitter in the last six months, definitely, just because I don't pay Elon Musk $8 a month and nobody was reading my shit.

(00:51:27): No one could find it. I would never see stuff. You would post stuff and people would never engage. You used to post stuff and have a chat and a laugh with people about all sorts of things, and it just slowly stopped happening on Twitter. And whereas on Blue Sky, that is happening again because there's not algorithms that are suppressing the sort of tweets of people who aren't paying for it. Yeah, I mean it really, it's like you're getting the same kind of interaction with a 10th of the followers because it's not being destroyed. So yeah, it's an interesting situation we're in.

Michael David Wilson (00:52:03): Yeah. So it sounds like at the moment the main network to connect with you is Blue Sky, is that right?

Alan Baxter (00:52:12): Yeah, well, so my website is alan baxter.com au, and there's everything you actually sort of need to know is there, and my email's there. But otherwise, in terms of social media, I'm still on Facebook, although I don't really like it. I've been on Instagram forever and that's fun. But Instagram's not the sort of social network where there's a lot of engagement. And so it really does seem like Blue Sky is the place where there's actual engagement where you chat to people and you have a laugh and you share stuff and you respond to stuff that feels like that's the place where that's happening now. Facebook to some degree as well. But yeah, of the new stuff at the moment, it is very much feels like Blue Sky's the place to be. It's certainly the place I'm spending more time than anywhere else at this point.

Michael David Wilson (00:53:01): Right? Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, you mentioned before the release of S Bend, which was via cemetery dance and arguably your most Stephen King book if one can say such a thing, I guess one can, and that one was me and I just did, but I mean, how did several people

Alan Baxter (00:53:29): Have made that comparison actually? And I'm certainly not going to complain about that.

Michael David Wilson (00:53:34): Yeah. How did Boths Bend itself come about, and then how did this relationship with Cemetery dance, which is like if you're going to have your most Stephen King book, you can't get a much better publisher than Cemetery Dance. So talk us through both of these and it's like what came first, the book or the publisher, or is this the Chicken and the Egg? No one actually knows.

Alan Baxter (00:54:03): Yeah, I hadn't really thought about it in that frame before, but yeah, I guess you're right. It's one of those strange situations. It's a bit tricky to sort of pin down, but S Ben was a book that I'd been meaning to write for some time, like the central kind of conceit of the book, the main sort of thing that happened that sort of triggers everything off was an idea I'd had for a long time and wanted to write it and hadn't got round to, hadn't got round to. And then I finally did get around to writing it and it had a couple of false starts, but then once the whole book, once I'd finally got the whole book drafted, I was like, oh fuck, okay, this is great. This has actually really worked. It took me a long time to get to it. And I guess as well coming off the back of that, all that pandemic stuff that we were talking about before, and it was a first sort of full length novel I'd written since The Gulp and all those sorts of things. And I honestly can't remember quite exactly how it happened or where the connection was, but probably just me being a cheeky fucker because I tend to do that sometimes when I see the opportunity to chat to someone. And I ended up managing to ask Richard Chema if he'd be interested to take a look at it, and he very kindly said that he would. And then round about that same sort of time, he got really busy with the whole chasing the bogeyman thing.

(00:55:33): And at a similar point in time, Kevin Lucia was sort of announced as the new editor in chief of the paperback line, and they were bringing back the cemetery dance paperbacks and all that sort of stuff. And so I sent Kevin a message and was like, I think this is awesome cemetery dance doing the paperback of ebook line again, because it feels like that's that real bread and butter vibe for cemetery dance. They do these amazing limited editions and hardcover and whatever, but they're also that real sort of paperback publisher, like the Dorchester or The Leisure or the Zebra or whatever. They got that vibe about 'em, and I said it so awesome to hear that you are doing this. Rich has got a book of mine at the moment, and he's really busy, and this is me being cheeky again, but I would love to run through with you on the paperback line if you wanted to take a look at it. And he said, sure, I'll take a look. Let me talk to Richard about it. Like I said, I can't remember exactly how all the conversations started. They all started with other situations that sort of led to that kind of opportunity, and Kevin read the book and enjoyed it and picked it up, and we were off to the races, and it's been my most successful book today, which I'm really pleased about. It's done really well. It's been really well received.

Michael David Wilson (00:56:57): And you said that you have other books now planned with Cemetery Dance too?

Alan Baxter (00:57:03): Yeah, one more at this point. So my next novel, which is also another standalone horror novel, is a supernatural horror novel that's called Blood Covenant, and that's coming out with Cemetery Dance in May next year, may 24. So Kevin was kind enough to buy another book off me. So obviously the whole situation with Slo Bend went well enough, so that's good. And yeah, where things go from there. I don't know. The new novel that I've written that's with my agent that we talked about before, that is a slight departure for me because it's the first time I've written anything novel length that's not supernatural. It's a straight up kind of psychological thriller, and there is a hint of a supernatural element to it that's sort of secondary to one of the characters. But the whole drive plot process, all that sort of stuff is not supernatural. And that's the one that's with my agent now. So who knows where things go. We're always working, looking for opportunities and whatever, but I'm really pleased to be working with Cemetery Dance and I'm really looking forward to Blood Covenant coming out in May. Yeah, I'm excited for people to get a chance to have a look at that one, so we'll see how that goes.

Michael David Wilson (00:58:19): Yeah. Do you find it quite difficult kind of classifying or marketing your fiction when you write such a broad range of things? I mean, I know that when we first spoke with you, we talk a lot and joke a lot about you being the master of Dark Fantasy, as I believe it was dubbed on your website, or perhaps that was Grey Oppress who came up with that, I'm not sure, but actually these days, I mean, yeah, you seem to be gravitating further and F from Dark Fantasy. It's more supernatural or straight horror and obviously monster horror as well. So I don't know if this is a curse or a blessing or one of these things, or it's a little bit of both.

Alan Baxter (00:59:08): Yeah, I don't know. When I first started writing seriously, I was very much writing that dark urban fantasy, so it was with the Alex Kane series realm shifter maid sign. My first books were like that. Hidden City then was the book that kind of really bridged the gap between that magic and urban fantasy and horror because the Hidden City, even though the entire Alex Kane trilogy and Realm Shifter Maid sign, they've all got real dark elements, they've definitely got horror elements. I've always had that kind of horror undercurrent to everything that I do. I did lean a lot on that dark fantasy. And then with Hidden City, I kind of leaned more towards the horror as well as the fantasy. And I mean, Clive Barker has always been the biggest sort of influence on me, and I love that concept of the dark, fantastic, that weird sort of broken, creepy, but also magical, fantastical.

(01:00:09): He does that sort of stuff so amazingly well and the great and secret show and Weave world and those sorts of things. But then he also writes things like Cabal and the Midnight Meat Train and that sort of stuff. And that's kind of where I've fallen in a way. And in some ways it was a move from with the Alex Kane series and with Hidden City and stuff like that. I ended up, these stories ended up building into these really great big world threatening sort of threats that these people were kind of bringing back under control, which is that kind of fantasy element. There's always the big bad that can potentially sort of destroy the world kind of thing. And I wanted to move away from that a little bit and tell more personal stories. And so when I wrote Devouring Dark, which was the novel after Hidden City, that was very much a novel about two people, and it had supernatural elements, it had that urban fantasy sort of vibe a little bit, but it was very much an urban horror novel.

(01:01:14): And in many ways, I think it was just because I tightened my focus. I tightened the lens in on characters instead of such a big story. And I really enjoy that kind of stuff, and I really enjoy the weird stuff happening, the weird sort of small town horror stories and the real character driven horror stories and that sort of stuff. And so in my mind, I'm still very much writing that weird, magical, fantastical, dark horror, whatever, still all in that same sort of sandpit, but in some ways, I guess just the focus changes a little bit. And to be honest, with the latest book where I talked about it not being supernatural at all, because everything novel length I've written before has supernatural elements in terms of magic and monsters and whatever other supernatural things you can imagine. And it was my Australian agent, Alex ert, who was like, if you wrote me a thriller, I could definitely sell it.

(01:02:15): I don't think you can do it. I don't think you can write something that's not supernatural. And was like, oh, really? Well, challenge fucking accepted. Thank you very much. Partly because I had in mind this book that I wanted to write that was very much more a sort of psychological thriller, and there was a supernatural element through it, and I was like, I'm just going to take that out and write the straight thriller, the supernatural element sort of stayed in, but it's not actually supernatural. It's just something one of the characters dabbles in, but doesn't actually affect anything in the overall events that go on. Then there's sort of the southern gothic noir Eli Carver books that are basically a haunted hitman and like you mentioned yourself, the military horror stuff I write for snafu, but that's still magic monsters, supernatural themes, cosmic horror very much in a lot of those snafu stories. So to my mind, I'm still sort of writing largely the same stuff. It's always that sandpit that I'm playing in. It is just that where I focus specifically sort of changes a bit. I think that's what it feels like to me, whether that's true or not, I dunno.

Michael David Wilson (01:03:34): Yeah, and I'm not sure if you won or your agent won the bet because you took the soap and natural out, but then you said you kept a tiny thread of it in, so it's like, does that mean

Alan Baxter (01:03:46): Up by the new agent? So it's like, yeah, the whole thing's fucked in many ways.

Michael David Wilson (01:03:51): Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, I think she was just egging you on to make sure you absolutely wrote it, and then it's like, ha ha, look, I tricked you into us both becoming rich, but the twist is that you changed agent and then she doesn't become rich and it's like, wow. Yeah.

Alan Baxter (01:04:11): But equally, she'll very much, I mean, obviously the first thing will go to Bon ero and how they deal with it, but with any luck if once you get territorial, then hopefully the Australia ANZ rights territory will hopefully still be managed by Alex from time to time as a subagent anyway. So yeah, fingers crossed everybody. What would be best for me, what I would be happiest with is if everybody still stays in the game and everybody benefits one way or another.

Michael David Wilson (01:04:41): Yeah, yeah. No, I think that's the way to do it. And I think in a broader sense, that's the way to do it. With the horror genre as a whole, it can be tempting to be competing against one another, competing against other offers, competing against other podcasts or whatever it is that you are in. But really it's like if one of us does well, then we all do well is essentially what happens. We want to raise the profile and the game of horror in general.

Alan Baxter (01:05:19): Yeah. I've never understood the mindset of competition like other authors, other publishers, other podcasters, none of these people, they're all allies against facing up to the same issues and the same problems. So a bunch of people reading my book is not suddenly going to stop them reading other books. We all read Voraciously. You don't just have one author and go, no, I just read and I'm Baxter. It's like, I'm not taking all those readers away from everybody else, even though I work hard and I can be quite prolific when I'm working hard, I'm still at best only putting out a book or two a year. And there are people out there reading 50, a hundred, 300 books a year. It's not like anyone's in competition with anyone else, but the more we can raise the profile of horror and dark fiction, the more we can raise the profile of podcasts and movies and books and all this sort of stuff that addresses this subject, the better it is for everyone. Because if somebody gets the movie deal you wanted, you're like, well, I really want a movie deal. It sucks. That guy got it. It was like, yeah, but if that guy got it, that means that you can too. Because if they got a movie deal and they're doing what you are doing, that's just proof that. So you, all you've got to do is keep working hard and keep hoping for your opportunity to come around. A rising tide lifts all boats. The more we keep horror popular, the more chance there is for everyone to succeed.

Michael David Wilson (01:06:52): Yeah, that was exactly the phrase I was looking for about the rising tide in boats, but we're now into the sick f really, it's like, I'll just come out with something like that. We're all in a fucking boat, and there's the tide and it's like, you hallucinating. What are you talking about

Alan Baxter (01:07:10): About us together? I dunno. It's like somebody said with the pandemic, bringing that back around, a lot of people were like, oh, we're all in the same boat. And somebody else was like, no, we're not. We're all in different boats, but we're all in the same storm. And I think that's something to bear in mind is that everybody has very different experiences about this, but we are all in the same storm. That's true with publishing. We might be in different boats, but we're in the same storm of publishing, so people have different privileges and different opportunities and advantages and whatever. It's good to recognise that and to make the most of what you can and help out other people where you can and whatever, because it's the storm we're all negotiating. So yeah, I think it's important to keep it in mind. It always comes back down to that same thing. At the end of the day, if you can't be anything else, be kind and in this industry treating other people, your competition is not the kind approach. Right?

Michael David Wilson (01:08:07): Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I would say personally, it's a good job that I didn't create loads of

Bob Pastorella (01:08:16): Rivalries with other

Michael David Wilson (01:08:17): Podcasts because it's very handy for me when I've then got a book out to actually be able to go on the other shows. It's not like Neil from Talking Scared was like, no, fuck, you started so much public shit. You were like, fuck talking scared me and Bob were the kings of horror. Tried to have a car park, fight with him.

Alan Baxter (01:08:42): It didn't happen. Have fight. Yeah,

Bob Pastorella (01:08:48): The Kings, the Kings of Horror, the Kings of Horror, the thought of me being associated with that is ludicrous. It's a very

Michael David Wilson (01:08:58): Bro horror podcast

Bob Pastorella (01:09:00): Named The Kings of Horror. The Kings of horror. I mean, I feel the same way y'all do. To me, the only person I compete with is myself. I want to get better, and I know that I'll never be as good as I can be because that's the mindset you have to be, you always will be improving. And so for me to see other writers, I quit subbing to get better. I was disgruntled with a lot of the process, but I quit subbing stories for 10 years to improve my craft

Alan Baxter (01:09:48): To

Bob Pastorella (01:09:48): Get better. And I think a lot of that too, talking about doing independent, doing it yourself is I didn't want to do the work either. And I said, well, shit, I'm going to have to get really good. If I don't want to do the work and I want to have someone else do the work for me, then I'm going to have to get really, really good. And I am still not at that point. I'm a published writer, but still to me, I've got room to grow. I'll always be growing. The only person I'm in competition with is myself.

Alan Baxter (01:10:24): Yeah, it's something, it's a really important thing to bear in mind. And it's something like writing and the martial arts are the two major things in my life, and they're both arts. And one of the things that I like the most about both of them is that it doesn't matter how much you achieve or how good you get, it's not a journey that ever ends. It's a lifelong path that you just continually learn and improve and develop. And at some point, hopefully you can reach a point where you can help other people on similar paths develop and you can be an influence on them as well. And just one of the things I like the most about it is that it's something that you do, that there's no end in sight because you can always get better, you can always improve. And that's where the passion in it lies.

(01:11:19): If you hit that point where you're like, oh, look, I don't think I can get any better at this, you're kind of losing the passion of what made you want to do it in the first place. And so yeah, I always want more readers. I always want better deals, and that's because that to me is a sign that I'm better at what I do. And so I'm always striving to be better at what I do in order to, so it becomes this cyclical process. If I can get as good as I can possibly get, then with any luck, I'll get as many readers as I can possibly get. And the more readers I have, the more it's going to push me to get better and on and on it goes. And that's one of the things I love about it is that drive to continually improve on what you had before, and it can become unhealthy. Sometimes you have to keep thinking in perspective, but it's important, I think.

Michael David Wilson (01:12:10): Yeah, I think if I reached a point where I or I can't get any better, then I would say, okay, I'm done with writing or I'm done with podcasting, or whatever it is, because if I genuinely believe that I've reached the peak and this is optimal, MDW, if one can imagine such a beautiful thing, then I would just quit. I would be like, right, well, I'll move on to the next thing. Write in, completed it, mate, let's move on to the next thing. But yeah, I don't think, yeah, I don't any of us.

Alan Baxter (01:12:51): Sorry. I was going to say so many people in the martial

Michael David Wilson (01:12:52): Arts that

Alan Baxter (01:12:53): So many people in the martial arts, they look at the black belt and they're like, I want to get a black belt. It's like, why do you want to get a black belt? Well, because that's like the ultimate and well, no, it's not. The black belt is just the start of a whole new journey, and it just proves that you got good enough to get a black belt. Now here's where you get better. And our mindset in the modern world is that we have to mark everything. They have to be levels. My style of Kung fu is a very traditional style. It doesn't actually have belts. We use belts partly because it's expected in the Western mindset, partly because if governments do start legislating and licencing in certain ways, you need to have a sort of codified system in place or whatever. But even though among the traditional arts that have always had a coloured belt system and a black belt, once you get a black belt, you might go first down, second down, third down, once you've got the down, even if you've achieved the top level of whatever grading system there is, and you can't grade any further, you've still far from finished.

(01:14:01): You've just got to a point where you've gone, right, I've completed that part of the journey and now all this stuff opens up for me. And that's something if I managed to hit the New York Times list, so I would never go, yes, done it. I've won writing, I've completed it. It was like, okay, well what's next? What else do I want? What else do I need? Where else can I improve? What award haven't I been nominated for? What list haven't I hit? What book haven't I written yet that I just really have this urge to write? It's like any level of achievement is just the start of the next part of the journey,

Michael David Wilson (01:14:34): And you're going to confuse the hell out of other New York Times bestsellers like Josh Malman and Paul Remley, if you're like, I've completed it. And they're like, why didn't we get the memo?

Alan Baxter (01:14:44): Yeah, what are you talking about? I could have stopped. I

Michael David Wilson (01:14:46): Stopped. It's finished. I've been writing for a lot longer than that. But yeah, I think it's good that we have this thirst for self-improvement and for always getting better. And in a way, I think it would be really liberating if I felt I had completed it. It's like, good, I can have a little rest now. But I don't think it's reality, but fair play to people like Thomas Harris who essentially do a few books and then they feel like, right, well, that's it. That has scratched that writing gauge.

Alan Baxter (01:15:26): Well, it's easy to do that when you write a few books that make you a multimillionaire, so it's easy to sit back, go, what else do I want to do now that doesn't involve any work? How do I enjoy all this massive pile of cash that's sort of sitting in my garage? So it is desperately trying to put food on the table is fucking motivating. But yeah, I'd like to think that no matter how much I did make at this, if I ever did get that kind of level of sales where you just potentially making millions, I honestly believe that that drive to continue to tell stories would still be there. So it sure would be nice to not stress each day where the groceries are coming from and how are you going to pay the credit card each month? That would be a lovely achievement to reach. But equally, no matter where that was, I would still have the urge to continue to write these stories. I think. I hope that never goes away,

Michael David Wilson (01:16:25): And to give people a realistic look at things. I mean, how much are you fighting every month for every year? What does the struggle look like and how much are you working on a weekly, on a daily basis on the writing? Obviously balancing that with the Kung Fu school as well. And I mean, what do you do in those difficult times where you've got a month where you've got a period of times where it is the money isn't coming in, but it needs to be coming in? I mean, is there a buffer that you've got as well? These are quite personal questions, but I think it's good for people to get an insight into the process and the lifestyle.

Alan Baxter (01:17:15): Well, I am incredibly privileged. On the one hand, we don't make very much money, so reaching the bills can be a problem. Equally, an inheritance, many years ago when my parents died, does give us a buffer. That means we're in a position where we can afford to take these risks, so we are not close to destitute, but equally, it is a struggle every month to cover everything. I get to be a writer and to run a kung fu school. My wife's a fucking brilliant artist, and we get to do those things, which is an enormous privilege, and it's taken us a long time to make enough money to be able to scrape by doing those things. It would be really nice to not just be scraping by on that front, but we do. And a lot of the writing income I get is not just royalties from books.

(01:18:13): I do appearances. I do workshops, I do talks, I do mentoring for a company. I work with a company called Spectrum Writing where there are people who are aspiring writers or emerging writers who are on the autism spectrum. And I work as a mentor with a number of those people to help bring their writing up, all sorts of things I do as well as writing books that are writing, but not just me sitting writing books. So a level of success for me would be a point where I can really pick and choose the sort of workshops or events I do, because I don't have to do them to promote my work, and I wouldn't have to do the extra mentoring and stuff for the extra money that brings in because I could cover the bills just from book sales. That would be amazing. It's just not reality at this point.

(01:19:10): So like we've said before, with my wife and I, with the painting and the writing and the Kung Fu school and everything else, none of it makes a living, but all of it together just about scrapes us by, because we are in a position where we have this privileged kind of foundation. So none of it's easy, but we are in a position where we are in a lot better off than someone who has to have a full-time, nine to five or even more kind of job, and is trying to fit writing around that. We've been able to create a situation with ours that are a lot more compatible to what we want to do. And as I said, it would be really nice to make enough doing that that we could not worry about the bills and put some aside all the time, because you do your best not to think about retirement funds when you're a creative person because there's no superannuation in this job or anything. So yeah, that's something that can keep you awake at night sometimes, wondering where that's going to go. So with any luck, my kid will become super successful and just afford the best care home for us at some point. You never know. It's a bit of a gamble to rely on that, but yeah.

Michael David Wilson (01:20:30): Yeah, and I think that the act of writing and creative arts and painting it is inherently quite optimistic anyway, and that's kind of why we keep doing it, because we're like, well, what if or why not me? If I keep doing this, then perhaps a book or a film deal will come along and will change my life, and maybe it will, maybe it won't. But if you keep creating, then you're maximising your, it's kind of buying another ticket to the lottery, as it were. You've given yourself another chance for success.

Alan Baxter (01:21:10): That's it. I mean, it really is true. That really is the insane hope of all creatives really. But in the process of that as well, if you do work hard and you build a backlog and you build a reputation, then that long tail of work that you have and that you do does slowly increase and improve with what's going on. And with any luck, even if you don't get the big sudden New York Times bestseller or you don't get the movie deal or whatever else, if each thing that you do reaches a few more people than the thing before, and some of those people go back and check what you did before, and then the next thing you do reaches a few more, and you have this slow incremental build at some point.

(01:21:55): I do make more of a living as a writer now by a significant amount than I did 10 years ago, and I'm still fucking poor in terms of cashflow. But it is significantly, it is a noticeable difference on what it was 10 years ago. And so you trust in the process to some degree that that's going to be something that continues if you continue to work and continue to build and grow, and you hope to have things to fall back on if you come. I could teach more classes if I needed to. I could take part-time jobs if I needed to, and it's ideal not to have to do that, and I could take on more mentoring, editing, all that sort of stuff. But anything that you do like that to pay the bills does take time away from writing. And so in then, to use your analogy, then you are buying fewer tickets that way into that hopeful future. So the whole process is a real weird balancing act, and it's certainly not a stress-free way to live, but you kind of believe in yourself and believe in hope, and you live the life you want to or you don't.

Michael David Wilson (01:23:06): Yeah, and I mean, in terms of, so-called retirement funds, I mean, the way I think about it as well as with my writing, this is a lifelong pursuit for me. So I can't imagine however old I get being like, oh, that's it. I'm going to stop writing now. I mean, there's so many writers that they literally wrote until the day that they died. And if you look at directing and things like Clint Eastwood is still going at it now. So I mean, one would hope, as you say. I mean, the larger your bank catalogue, the more kind of passive income from decades worth of work previous you're going to get. And even if you're just adding a new book, even let's say every two years, at that point, you're getting gone here. Maybe you're 80 or something. So two years is about right. But if you've got decades of work before, it's probably going to be sustainable.

Alan Baxter (01:24:18): Well, this is the hope. Yeah, this is the plan. And so if all the time you continue to work towards that goal, then all the time it sort of appears to be working, then roll with it. But if you lose the passion or things crash in certain ways or whatever, I guess you need to have some sort of contingency plan in mind. But yeah, we pursue the dream, chase the dream. I'd rather be poor in chasing the dream than sitting here paying the bills every month going, fuck, I wish I had, I wish I this. I wish I that.

Michael David Wilson (01:24:53): Yeah. Well, people often say at the end of one's life, it's the shots that you didn't take, the opportunities that you didn't take that you regret, rather than regretting things you tried and failed at. I mean, if you try and failed, then you've got an answer.

Alan Baxter (01:25:12): That's it. Yeah. I would rather try and fail than never try.

Michael David Wilson (01:25:16): Yeah, that's it. Well, as we're talking about getting older, this is a strange segue, but I know that in the time since we've last spoke, you turned 50, and often when we enter a new decade, it's like an opportunity for reflection and taking stock. So I'm wondering, have there been any kind of pivotal changes since then? Or is it business as usual? Bob's given a look like you said that to me, I'm going to knock you out.

Alan Baxter (01:26:00): You reassess things. To some degree,

(01:26:06): Many years ago, I had this goal in mind, and it's such a nebulous and immeasurable thing anyway, but it's like, I want to be successful at this gig by the time I'm 50. And it's like, well, how do you measure that? Am I successful making a comfortable full-time living at it? In which case I didn't achieve it? Am I successful that I'm still doing it well and I'm doing better than ever at it? It's difficult to draw these, and it's dangerous in a way as well, to put these kind of very specific markers into things. I must admit that age is not something that ever really, it was never really much on my radar until I became a parent. And then all of a sudden, your brain kind of automatically does this math. Every time there's a report on the news of some celebrity death or something, they'll say, so-and-so dead at 64, my brain just automatically goes, kid would be 21.

(01:27:16): My brain automatically does the math of age, which you never did before. And so in some ways, I didn't give a shit about turning 30 or turning 40. I never even noticed it, but for the first time, it felt like I really noticed it when I turned 50. And it's like, well, I mean, I guess it's half a century. It's not an insignificant fucking age. But also it was the first time I'd had one of those decade markers as a parent as well. And my perspective on age kind of really changed on that front. And both my parents died pretty young in their sixties. My mom was 62, my dad was 67, and my brain just bang, bang goes, how old my kid would be at those ages sort of thing. So in the same way that it was never really much on my radar before, it isn't really now generally speaking, but it was the first time I ever noticed one of those decade tick overs with any kind of real gravity to it. And I think it more than the age or where I'm at, it was the first time one of those had happened. As a parent, I was 43 when my kid was born, so I came to parenthood quite late in that respect.

(01:28:39): But yeah, I don't know. I don't really set those goals, age-based goals anymore. And like you said, yourself, this is not something I'm ever going to age out of short of physical decline or Alzheimer's or who knows what else. I've got every intention to just carry on doing this indefinitely. And even with the Gong Fu side of things, there'll be a point where my body's not really up for the hardcore martial arts training anymore, but there's the Qigong and Tai Chi side of what we do. That again, is something I can pursue for as long as I'm able to stand up out of a chair. So I don't really see either of those things changing in any way. So I don't really apply much in the way of age to it anymore. I think I've only got, the only real goal I have is to just be around as long as possible for my kid to have a parent, a father, for as long as possible, and ideally to outlive my parents. It's fairly short-term goals in those respects. But yeah.

Michael David Wilson (01:29:47): Yeah. And in terms of the martial arts, I mean, I think that Joe Lansdale or still does martial arts to a point, and he's 71. So that,

Alan Baxter (01:29:59): I'll tell you the one difference that you notice on that front is that I still do the same stuff that I did before. And I'm far from the physical peak I was at in my twenties when I was fighting a lot and competing a lot on all that sort of stuff. But I'm still capable of doing most of what I did then. But the one thing that you really notice is the injuries. And I don't get injured any more often than I used to, but it's the sort of lifestyle that injury is inherent in the lifestyle. But when I was in my twenties and thirties and something would happen and I'd be like, well, fuck, that's going to bother me for two or three weeks now when it happens, it's like, oh, fuck, that's going to bother me for at least two or three months because it's that healing time that takes longer.

(01:30:44): So something you do to yourself that you would've got over in a few weeks before is going to hang around for a few months, and then that means that the next thing's probably going to happen before that's healed. And so you start to get these overlapping injuries. And so that kind of management of your physical condition becomes a much more important thing, and that restricts what you can do more than age itself. That expansion of healing time becomes a real issue. I blew out the meniscus on my knee a few years ago, and it was nearly a year before I could use it properly again. And so trying to teach and train around that for a year, that's a significant challenge when it's part of what you do for a living. So that's the only place that the age really factors in at this point. And despite that, I've got no intention of slowing down. I love what I do, and I have every intention to be just like Joe Lansdown and everyone else, and still throwing hands at conventions when I'm 75 or whatever. I, I'm up for it. I don't mind.

Michael David Wilson (01:31:47): Yeah, and I totally relate on the injury front because unfortunately I have arthritis and I've had that most of my life. I think it was formally diagnosed when I was 18, and I've got that in remission mostly through a gluten-free diet and restricting sugar. But as I get older, I have to be more and more strict, and anytime I injure myself, it just takes months for it to get better to the point where I like working out. But as you may be able to tell from the way that I approach writing and podcasting, I'm not good at doing things by halves. Anything I do, I will push myself. So I'm generally not lifting weights anymore because it's better for me to do callisthenics and body weight exercise, with the exception of a limited amount of kettle bail stuff, because I will just push myself and then I will injure myself, and then I'll just be annoyed. So yeah.

Alan Baxter (01:33:06): Yeah, it's a real issue. And something else, it's difficult though. And something else I've discovered as I've got older as well, is that the injuries that you did get when you were younger that you didn't think too much of come back as arthritis when you're older. And so it's like that toe you broke in competition or that shoulder you dislocated, it's like you popped it back, you didn't worry about it was sore for a few weeks, and then you hit 42, 44, and all of a sudden you're like, why the fuck does this just hurt? And then you realise, oh, that's what I did 20 years ago, and now I've got arthritis there. So you just feel that foreverness. So that's something that's always going to be there. And that toe thing is just always going to be there. I'm glad I won the fight, but it's just now I get a permanent reminder of that competition like 25 years ago or whatever.

(01:33:56): Yeah. But these also, this is the physical history of a life well lived as well. So I try not to get too, too annoyed about it because my teacher refers to bandages as uniform and bruises as metals. So you turn up and you've got something strapped up and he's like, ah, you're wearing a uniform. You've been training hard. And it's like, ah, you earned a medal today. And so yeah, it's like it is true. The knocks and things that we take, the scars that we bear are the, that's the history of our lives written on us.

Michael David Wilson (01:34:34): Yeah, yeah. It's quite like the shock to the system when you first go to the doctor about something, let's say like, oh yeah, you got lower back pain. And you're like, right, well, what can I do to get rid of this? And he is like, you're just getting old. And that just happens. That's just part of you now. Yeah, that's it. You're old. I dunno what to say. This bear that lives inside

Alan Baxter (01:35:02): You, try not to wind it up, say, oh, fucking hell. Okay.

Michael David Wilson (01:35:06): Yeah. But honestly, that's how I found the gluten-free diet because with the arthritis, I just had to keep taking more and more pills. And it got to a point where I was taking 10 prescription drugs a day. I was injecting myself with methotrexate once a week, which is also in higher forms than anti-cancer drug. And I went to the doctor, I'm 21 at that time, and I'm like, what are we doing to get better? This is a kind of plaster, a bandaid, but what are we doing to actually heal you? Keep upping the medication, and I feel if I'm taking 10 tablets a day, that doesn't sound good for my overall lifespan. And he is like, well, how many are you going to be taking at 50?

(01:36:01): And he is like, this is how it is. So he said that my personality was like, right, I reject that. So I just started, I started researching different things and was very desperate because I'm in pain all the time at this point. I can't walk anywhere without hobbling. So I'm basically like, look, if this continues, I'm going to be in a wheelchair, not just before 30, but before 25. And so I will try anything. And for some reason, I hear about people who had gone vegan and they'd had good success. So I'm like, right, well fine. We'll give that a go. But during that, I got concerned about where's the protein? Where are my protein sources? So I'm Googling vegan protein sources. Somehow I end up on a website called the Primal Blueprint, which is basically advocating for the paleo diet. So it's almost the opposite of vegan.

(01:37:09): It's like eat a lot of meat and fish and eggs. I mean, it's basically whole foods. And then the pitch of the guy Sisson who owns the website is try this for 30 days, try it strict for 30 days, and if there's no improvement, then what have you lost? You've lost 30 days. So I was like, right, fine. So obviously not a committed vegan at all. I'm only doing it to try not to be in any pain. So I believe my first thing to do was buy an entire rotisserie chicken. So that was a sharp jump from veganism and tried it for 30 and had so much less pain, came off all of the medication, and here we are. It's like if I eat gluten or I eat sugar, then I feel some pain, but just don't eat it. And it's as if I don't have arthritis. But unfortunately, the older I get, if I deviate just a little bit, then it's not only more painful, but it takes longer for me to even recover from it. But it speaks a lot to the power of diet. And so when I say, this needs to be gluten-free, this isn't a fad, this isn't me trend saying this is like, no, I'll be in pain if it gluten-free.

Alan Baxter (01:38:46): I think people are learning a lot more about diet and it's influence on physical and mental health, the gut biome and all that sort of stuff. Different people are definitely within Chinese medicine, they've got this principle of preventive. Traditionally, if you lived in the village, everybody would pay the doctor a certain amount every week. And if got sick, you stopped paying until you were better again. So it was in the doctor's best interest, not to make you better when you got sick, but to stop you getting sick in the first place. And so it was in, the doctor would advocate healthy diet and exercise and all these sorts of things. So we have this kind of ask backwards approach to it these days, but it's a good way to think about things that that's the more you can do to maintain a healthy state from that outset, then the less you have to do to fix shit that goes wrong. And people are coming back around a lot to that idea, that diet doesn't have to be really strict in any particular direction, but experimenting to figure out what sort of diet works best for you and what has the best results to make you feel better and not get sick, then that's good. And so it stops people relying on pills to fix things when they can rely on food to not need the pills in the first place.

Michael David Wilson (01:40:09): Yeah. Yeah. I'm going through that with my diabetes. I had, I guess an old fashioned doctor for about 10 years and had me on two insulins and several pills and always advocated, Hey, you need to lose weight. And it's very, very difficult to lose weight when you're shooting up that much insulin, which I did not know. And so my doctor retired and I informed him that I had found another doctor and was going to go see them on the last time I went and seen him. And he said, well, he goes, they're more modern than me. And he said, they're going to change up a lot. They're going to change up a lot. And he

Bob Pastorella (01:40:52): Goes, I think it may be what you need. And so I went to them in January and they put me on Ozempic, which I know there's a lot of controversy about that, but I've lost 30 pounds. I have reduced from two insulins to one insulin, and I'm pretty sure within the next six months I'll probably be off insulin. So that kind of ruins the whole myth that once you get on that you're on it forever. And so that's not true. Basically, it's like they did so much blood work to determine, Hey, you actually are still making insulin even though you've been shooting up this insulin in your body for the last 10 years and taking these pills, your pancreas is still producing very effective insulin. So we're going to make you lose weight. We're going to force you to lose weight to make your pancreas.

(01:41:55): We're going to kick your pancreas back into overdrive to where it's actually going to work. We're going to wean you off of insulin, and then we're going to take you off of ozempic. The rest will be up to you, but this is what we're going to do. And so they're seeing me every three months and they're like, we want to see you every six months after all this, and then maybe once a year. Well, we don't want you here all the time. The idea is to try to give you a better lifestyle. So I'm like, okay, well, I finally found a doctor who actually caress that they don't want you to be on all these chemicals. So the injuries that I've had in the past that if I bang my knee when I was on insulin and I was overweight, if I banged my knee that I messed up 30 years ago, I would literally vomit.

(01:42:46): So the other day, I mean, if I hit it hard enough, it'd make me throw up. And so the other day when I was at work and I hit my knee pretty much the same way, and I was like, no big deal. Even my friends who I've worked with for 10 years, they're looking at me going, dude, that's your bad knee. I'm like, yeah, I'll bet I'll be fine. Didn't it hurt that bad? It's like they'll like those injuries. They're not because I'm healthier, I'm able to do things, and I'm 56. I don't feel like I'm 56. I don't know. I've never been this old before, so I don't know how I'm supposed to fucking feel. I still feel like I'm 20 years old, but man, when those old injuries, which you were talking about when I was overweight, those things would kick my ass, bang my knee the wrong way. It's like, shoot, man, I'm going to go home.

Alan Baxter (01:43:36): Yeah. I've always maintained that there are three ages that you've got your chronological age, which you can't do anything about because that's just time passing. There's nothing you can do about that. But then you've got your mental age and your physical age as well. And both of those things, you can affect your age with exercise and with diet and with everything else. You can affect how fast your body ages and with your mental age, how much you engage your mind. You can deal to some degree with how much your brain ages, but also your mental attitude to things and not just going, well, I guess I'm 40 now, so I need to accept this, that and the other. No, fuck it. I mean, you make smart decisions, but the way you choose to engage with the world and the way you choose to use your body and treat your body, you have a significant amount of control over those two things. And people are kind of trained into thinking they don't, and it pisses me off. I mean, as a lifelong martial artist, I've always been aware of mental discipline, the physical discipline and stuff like

Michael David Wilson (01:44:36): That.

Alan Baxter (01:44:36): But yeah, people kind of have this mindset where they're like, well, I'm this age now, therefore I should be. And it's like, look, fuck that. It's like you decide you have no control over the actual passing years, but everything else is you have control. You have some control over that.

Michael David Wilson (01:44:54): And I think we're all in agreement and kind of fits in terms of what you were saying about the Chinese medicine and the doctor in the village. But I mean, unfortunately, to be really cynical at the moment, the way that the pharmaceutical industry works in the West, particularly in America, but I think it's infecting other countries as well, is like they will get commissions for pushing different drugs and different brands of drugs. So it's kind of in their best. Yeah. So it is in their interest, it's in big pharma's interest to kind of just put these bandaids on you rather than teach you about these healthy habits and these processes that will actually enable you to actually thrive and to be better and to be fitter. And as I'm saying this, I'm thinking it would be fucking funny if somehow this podcast got banned because LA is speaking out about big pharma. This is horror, have done it, man. It's like we could talk about all the kind of torture methods in the world. We can talk in great detail about chapter 22 and how's a bad memories, but you start criticising big pharma or you're going to be in trouble. Don't mention

Alan Baxter (01:46:24): Guillotines either.

Michael David Wilson (01:46:26): Yeah. So I'm glad that you've mentioned it again. So hopefully the algorithms are searching, they go in absolutely nuts. I'll just have to throw in some other keywords like Snowden and Julian Asan crazy. Now, what am I? But I mean, in terms of your mental and physical health, what things are you personally putting in place to stay on top of that? I mean, I think it is something we should talk more about. It is something that writers are obviously concerned with because this is not only a solitary pursuit, but it is a pursuit where we're spending a lot of time just sitting in a chair and typing or writing.

Alan Baxter (01:47:22): It's incredibly unhealthy if you're not careful. It's solitary and it's sedentary. I spend so many hours right here. But the yin and the yang to that for me is the martial arts, because I love to train still. I love to still practise martial arts. I love to teach because I love the feedback that it gets when you see students improving. But equally, the privilege of teaching is that it also means that I have to get out of this chair and I have to go and interact with other people. And so I teach classes here, there and everywhere through the week where I socialise and I move and I'm physical and whatever else, and I take the dogs for walks on frequent occasions, and when I don't just stroll along with the dogs, but I have a vigorous fucking walk because if I can take the dogs out for an hour and get that passive exercise that goes along with that, I try to, as the weather warms up again now as it's starting to, we live about two or three kss from my kids' primary school.

(01:48:33): So I try to encourage riding the bicycle there together rather than taking the car, stuff like that. So for me, the martial arts, the practise of the forms, the memory of the forms, the teaching and the passing, that knowledge on the physical act of training as well as the Qigong and the Tai chi and the meditation that comes with that, all of that stuff is a job. But one of the great benefits of that job is it also is the perfect antidote to the other job, which is just sitting right here. And I try to take incidental exercise wherever I can. So if I've got work to do in the garden, I won't just sort of potter about at it. I go hard at it and go, well, if I smash, I've, I've got to cut the grass. I've got to mow the lawn. It's like, well, I could stroll up and down listening to a podcast, or I could just bang, bang, bang and pound say, how fast can I mow the lawn and get the exercise out of it?

(01:49:26): So I'm a really big believer in incidental exercise and always taking the stairs and not the escalator always. If you're going for one, the dogs are one of the, I tend to prefer the company of dogs to people. Most of the time they're amazing, but apart from anything else, if you have a dog, you have to at least once a day for that dog's health, you have to go for a walk. So if you're going to walk the dog, walk vigorously and walk briskly so that you get the exercises, so yeah, that works well for me. And I do, even when I'm doing writing and I'm sitting here for hours at a time, I try to frequently stretch and move and I'll push the chair back, stand up, I'll drop on the floor and do 10 pushups and 10 squats and sit back down and carry on.

(01:50:16): When I have that little brain gap, because I'm aware of the fact that sitting still for too long is not good for me. And so I try to actively move around. I have a little counter thing, a timer thing, that's an app that will just go off every 30 minutes and you can snooze it, stop it, or just let it roll. And so whenever it goes off, even if I'm in the middle, I'll be standing like this and I'll stand up and just, it makes me move around while I'm doing stuff, even if I don't want to break the flow of that thought. And if I feel like I can break, I might literally get up, walk around the house, squat, push, go sit down again. I think all that stuff's really

Michael David Wilson (01:50:57): Important.

Alan Baxter (01:50:58): Yeah. But it's habit forming and you have to actively make it a habit, so you need to find some sort of physical activity that you enjoy doing. If you have to do it and you're forcing yourself, you're not going to do it. You find something that you enjoy doing, and then you get into the habit of doing that thing frequently, and then you get the exercise and the physical health benefit from it that way.

Michael David Wilson (01:51:24): Yeah. Yeah. I think the problem for some people, I would say for the vast majority of people is just getting started. And then if they're not exercising a lot and they're raising the bar too high, they're thinking, well, I don't have an hour in the day to exercise. And it's like, that's okay. Just do one pushup or one squat. If you can't do a pushup, just do a wall pushup,

(01:51:52): Because if you go down and you can be bothered to do one, you're like, okay, fine, I'll do two, maybe I'll do three. And just literally saying that, right? I commit to doing a minimum set, something absurd that you know can definitely do. I'll do one wall pushup a day. Okay, well, I can do that. So then suddenly it becomes like 10 wall pushups or 20 or suddenly it becomes like five regular pushups. It's just about scaling and building, and if you miss a day or whatever, then not being harshly yourself. I mean, personally for me, I found because I'm so susceptible to injury, I'm also slow to recover. So typically at the moment it's like, right, I've got my pulling day, I've got my pushing day, I've got my leg day, I've got my abs day, and then I've got a few just general movements or stretching days where I'm not doing so much. But yeah,

Alan Baxter (01:53:02): It's habit forming as well. It takes about 30 days to form a habit, but if you push yourself to do that little achievable thing every day after 20, 25, 30 days, it does start to become a habit. And it's very easy to continue then. And it's very easy to sort of push that increase and increase that load and strive to be better. Like we talked about before, it applies to everything in life, and it's usually, it's like the blank page, fuck it, just start typing. It's like the exercise, fuck it, just start walking anything. You start and then after you start and you make it a habit, after 2, 3, 4 weeks, it becomes a habit. And then you just keep that habit and it becomes healthier, and then it's much easier to improve on something that exists than to start something in the first place.

Michael David Wilson (01:53:51): Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for chatting with us, and thank you too for the awesome blob that you gave me for House of Bad Memories and for reading that wild. Right.

Alan Baxter (01:54:06): No worries. Good luck with it. It's a great book. I hope it goes gangbusters for you.

Michael David Wilson (01:54:10): Yeah, thank you very much. Do you have any final thoughts or things you would like to leave our listeners with?

Alan Baxter (01:54:18): No, not really. Do your best. Be kind. Come and find me on Blue Sky. How's that?

Michael David Wilson (01:54:22): There you go. Thank you very much. Thank you for listening to the This Is Horror podcast with Alan Baxter. Join us again next time when Michael will be chatting with David Moody and Dan Howard as part of The House of Bad Memories. This is Horror podcast weekend. If you want that and every other episode ahead of the crowd, become our patron at patreon.com/this is Horror. You can also submit questions to each and every guest Coming up soon, we'll be chatting with Chuck Palahniuk and Matthew Holness, also known as Garth Marenghi. Okay, before I wrap up, a quick advert break.

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