Category Archives: Guest Post

Respectable Horror: C. A. Yates

Respectable Horror front cover
The author of ‘The Holy Hour’ may perhaps be better known for tales of another type:

With regard to my story ‘The Holy Hour’ soon to be presented to you under the auspices of Respectable Horror:

Respectable, you say? Well now, it’s a good job you came to me, my dears, for it is well known about these parts that I am the very embodiment of the well-turned heel of etiquette, the nine-time retriever of Lady Windermere’s Fanny, the epitome of Respectability. Its goddamned quintessence, I say. Yes, indeed, I am all about the corsetry and manners, my sweetest hearts, the decadently clad dandy wilt throw no shade on me. My writings, for the most part, are not that of some rabidly cussing blood-crazed termagant, it’s not all effing and bloody jeffing, with dismembered limbs akimbo and boiling pans of severed heads on the stove – I mean, I once wrote a story about a Sub-Aquatic Opera Company, for goodness’ sake. That’s a positively cultural orgasm of respectability right there, a full on lah-di-dah rigour of protocol and decorum.

Don’t listen to today’s rabble, my loves! Theirs is the voice of indignity and ignorance.

Free yourself from the restraints of the heathenism of modern hedonism and run with me into an old-fashioned gothic phantasmagoria that will chill your spine and … well, actually, I feel quite foolish now, because there aren’t any creaking old houses, or sinister mazes, or spinster phantoms plaguing ruthless rakes in the night. No tastefully bosom-heaving heroines or gargantuous-foreheaded uncles with their eye on their innocent ward’s prize, no creatures that will cause the blood to run slow in your veins, and there are most certainly no books that will twist you into folly itself. There’s a wife; she’s alone and she’s sad. She might be me one day. I hope not, but I fear it.

Wait! There’s a church, they are très respectable, aren’t they? Well, it might be a church, or it might not now I come to think about it, I’m not a believer myself, at least I don’t think I am… there’s definitely a dog. Everyone likes dogs, all respectable households have one.

And no one – I repeat NO ONE – gets eaten.

Respectable? Fucking A.

Oh.

C.A. Yates.

P.S. Blame The Cure. I do.

Respectable Horror: Anjana Basu

There was a white mansion hidden behind wrought iron gates across the road from the school. I knew it was white because the daughters came to school to be chivvied by the nuns through their classes and their brother studied at Xavier’s  several streets away. Occasionally I met their stately mother at my mother’s tea parties and greeted her with a demure, “Hello Aunty” before vanishing into my room.

After school we all went our different ways, so I forgot all about the daughters, though I would continue to meet their mother at various social gatherings, turning greyer and statelier with each passing year.

Then one year I heard a whisper that a body had been found on the roof of the mansion. Well, a body that had been charred to the point of recognition except for a pair of feet. One of the daughters it was said had crept upstairs during the afternoon siesta and killed herself. The sleeping house had not heard a thing and the body was not found until the police were called in.

The possibility of murder was frequently hinted at over martinis for a while – mother and son had apparently colluded to do away with the inconvenient girl who was refusing to let them sell the house. Then the whole story died down with no arrests made.

From there came my story of the ghostly footprints.

 Anjana Basu has to date published 7 novels and 2 books of poetry. The has BBC broadcast one of her short stories. Her byline has appeared in Vogue India and Conde Nast Traveller. 

Facebook / Twitter

Respectable Horror: Matthew Pegg

MR James Ghost StoriesHaunted Objects.

Sometimes it can be quite hard to put your finger on exactly where a story came from or what inspired it, because so much of writing happens in the subconscious. I usually start out with a snippet of a plot, or a character or an idea, but once I start writing other things accrue and attach themselves to it; events occur that I wasn’t expecting, characters pop up and demand to take part, the story takes on a life of its own.

But I can put my finger on some of the influences on The Well Wisher.

I’ve always liked classic horror and ghost stories, ever since reading my grandparent’s copy of A Century of Thrillers: From Poe to Arlen, which sat on their small and only bookshelf, along with The Passionate Witch by Thorne Smith. (I’ve still got the book and the bookshelf.) A Century of Thrillers is a chunky volume, published by The Daily Express newspaper in the 1930s. Its a great collection of classic tales and well worth tracking down.

I wanted to write a story in that vein and thought it would be interesting to write about a haunted object. M.R. James’s The Mezzotint, A Candle in Her Room, (a terrifying children’s book by Ruth M. Arthur,) and Stephen King’s Christine all tackle this concept in quite different ways.

James’s haunted engraving replays a horrific incident from the past but doesn’t offer any real threat to its observers. You could argue that the true horror of the tale lies in the fact that the protagonist is powerless to influence the events he sees slowly unfolding in the picture.

In A Candle in Her Room the wooden doll Dido exerts a malign influence over three generations of the same family. It is the way that possession of the doll changes its owner that is frightening.

The Witch DollChristine, the 1950s Plymouth Fury, is the most concrete haunted object of the three, quite capable of killing you on its own. But like Dido, possession of Christine changes its owner. I like the way King turns the classic 1950s car, a symbol of the American Dream, into something evil. I also like the detail, missing from the film, that Christine’s milometer runs backwards: the more you drive it the newer the car gets. When thugs trash the car, owner Arnie pushes it round the block all night, putting his back out in the process, until the car repairs itself. There’s something satisfying about the physicality of that action.

I had a feeling that if you’re going to write about a haunted object then it should be a functional object, and if its normal function can become threatening in some way then that seemed to me to be satisfyingly neat. Of the three examples of haunted objects above, I think only in Christine do you get a sense of what has caused an inanimate object to turn nasty: Christine has been created by the human hatred of its previous owner, rather than any supernatural force. So its progenitors are Frankenstein and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde rather than Dracula: we create the monster and we become the monster, rather than the monster being a threat from elsewhere.

I like structure in stories. I find it satisfying when things have some kind of internal logic. So I wanted to know why my haunted object behaved the way it did. And that ‘why’ had to also be something to do with it’s function. That was what I was trying to achieve and I hope it works.

I’m being a bit coy about revealing too much about The Well Wisher because I hope you’ll read it and I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Miss Andrews, the central character, evolved all on her own to become a troubled, clever, kind, brave, flawed person. And I can’t claim to have planned any of that, it just happened. I do know that one influence on her was Jane Eyre. I’d recently seen a theatre version of the story and it was rattling round in my brain, especially Jane’s orphan status and poverty, which define the choices she can make in life.

For an unmarried Victorian woman, educated but not wealthy, being a governess was one of the few options available. Charlotte and Anne Bronte did this in real life and that experience is reflected in both Jane Eyre and Anne’s first novel Agnes Grey.

I felt that the Victorian governess was in a rather uneasy position, not quite one of the servants, but not truly a member of the family either. I liked that sense of isolation, unease and insecurity.

So Miss Andrews became a governess, sometimes too forthright for her own good but worried about her future, and much braver than me. I would like to know what happens to her next.

But as I said at the start, a lot of any story emerges from the subconscious. So when I was reading the proof copy of Respectable Horror, I was struck by how much of The Well Wisher seemed quite unfamiliar. “Where did that come from,” I wondered, “And that?”

I can’t even claim credit for the double meaning in the title….
 
Matthew Pegg is a writer based in Leicestershire in the UK. Most of his writing has been for theatre and includes work for puppet companies, youth theatres, community plays and a script designed to be performed during a medieval banquet. His most recent theatre work was Escaping Alice, a love story with chains and handcuffs, for York Theatre Royal. He’s also completed a community radio play based on the life of Wordsworth and has been commissioned to create a puppet play to tour to care homes for people suffering from dementia. In 2012 he completed an MA in Creative Writing, and since then he has been working on a novel, and placing short fiction with a variety of publishers. Website: http://www.mpegg.co.uk 

Save

Respectable Horror: Ian Burdon

We’ve got a scintillating new collection of stories coming: Respectable Horror. As you might guess from the title it’s a return to creepy spooky unsettling tales — think Shirley Jackson and M.R. James. Here’s one of our writers telling you about how he came to write his story:

Polin seasideIan Burdon

I used to write.

I used to start things, then abandon them because they were crap. That isn’t false modesty, I still have some of them on floppy disk, or even typewritten with copious Tippex corrections (yes kids, that’s how old I am). I keep meaning to destroy them, but somehow can’t; so sometimes I take them out and read them, and they’re still crap.

Eventually I stopped writing fiction; not for any real reason, just the usual job and family things that took up my time. And I wrote stuff for work, which sublimated the urge to make things up (though I was a civil servant, so…).

I even got published.

Then one day my wife and I were on a remote single-track road in the Highlands, and, as we rounded a blind corner, a spume of characters and ideas blew in through the open car window and into my notebook. I started plotting a novel, somewhat inspired by my first degree (Theology) and Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, but set in Caithness, with characters who might or might not exist, depending on your point of view. I knew two things straight away: I wanted to write that story, and I didn’t have the skills to do it. So I wrote lots of practice pieces to try and develop, sharing my efforts with friends in similar circumstances.

Eventually, after lots of words, and lots of deletions, I produced a couple of scenes that I knew were qualitatively better than previous efforts, and promptly went on holiday.

This time, we were walking on a remote Sutherland beach [photo above!] where I was reminded of Jonathan Miller’s classic 1968 adaptation of Oh, Whistle, And I’ll Come to You, My Lad. Gosh, I thought, we’re walking through the middle of an MR James story. Out came the notebook. Not long after, the first draft of “The Estate of Edward Moorehouse” was complete.

I didn’t write it with publication in mind, and I didn’t expect to write anything in the horror genre, respectable or not; it’s not what I normally read. Authors whom I’d like to emulate in one way or another include Muriel Spark, Edna O’Brien, Dorothy Dunnett, George MacKay Brown, M John Harrison and Christopher Priest.

Since Edward Moorehouse, I’ve completed several stand-alone stories and a 105K word collection of linked short stories—that began when I found myself inadvertently writing a vampire story and knew I didn’t want to write any such thing. I’m currently working on a sequel to that. And I still have that other novel to write, and the one about sex workers in post-war Edinburgh, and by the way did I tell you about the monk who talked to lizards, and the boy who rode trains with his coyote, and…

 

Save

Waxing Lyrical : Orange is the New Black by Ferdinand Page

(If you are interested in writing for Waxing Lyrical please contact adele@foxspirit.co.uk)

Orange_is_the_new_Black

For every fiction writer, the book shares roughly the same gestation period of a newborn infant. On arrival, both share the same fate; however special, individual and unique, it gets a label stuck on it.

At the submission stage the infant book must be allocated an age range, readership and genre(s), rather like, to quote the magnificent Della in Raised By Wolves, “pushing an enraged otter into a jumpsuit.” When I drew up the first submission letter, I admit I’d pushed the idea of writing for the market around the plate, until my writer’s stomach rebelled, but the book was what it wanted to be by then, characters and plot repeatedly hijacked by a story which wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Unpacking the phrase I admit I’d pushed the idea of writing for the market in the interests of explanatory splainy, my first experience of writing commercially was on the fringes of a big concept. I got sucked in, like that time the Millenium Falcon got sucked into the pull of the Death Star, then spent a lot of time in start-up production companies in Soho or whatever space the leading commercial creative could cadge for meetings. Mostly it was in cafés where I found I was paying the bill. My bit of the project was to adjust the story to accommodate various amazeballs marketing opportunities. So Billy wasn’t dyslexic, he was a skateboarder; it was partly manga so the production company could play around with a very cool technique they were developing, but the sound therapy and dynamic yoga had to get in there somewhere. We were up to seven interlocking universes by the time I said I was losing my way a little amongst the high-concept stuff and I’d like to write my own book.

I still had Billy and he was dyslexic but everything else was completely different. Until the obvious market demands were removed, I didn’t realize the biggest force on writing in any genre, even bigger than the Death Star, is the story, an unstoppable, sucky, manipulative force breaking and re-making the outline and carefully constructed arcs of the first few drafts.

At some point the story has to be shoved, kicking and snarling, into the constraints of commercial publishing and marketing. Readers are as wide and diverse as people, but books go on shelves. Which shelf? You have to get slotty, or shelvish which is the same thing but looks like Lionel Bloom and has pointed ears. First you are brave and upfront in describing the book as written for, well anyone really, then you use the word crossover, then you realise you’ve gone over to the dark side and in a couple of sentences you’re going to stab Han Solo your own father between the second and third ribs. Didn’t you hate that bit? I hated that bit.

It gets worse. Having removed a few genre crossovers because anything that difficult to shelve isn’t going to get past the first submission (good plan) you find that the label your story goes under, the shelf allocation for your genre, isn’t fashionable.

Orange is the new black in your genre.

There is only one label left, the one they tie on the body in the morgue? No. Genre is always a matter of labelling, and the market in publishing is subject to fashions. As labels go, my speculative fiction is mainly urban fantasy. Some months ago an agent told me they were “not taking urban fantasy”, which another source informed me was, well – dead. But whatever the label, and still under that label, urban fantasy exists.

You can choose another label, my submission letter now refers to ‘contemporary fiction’, or invent your own, or push it as retro-pastiche.

But don’t try and hack the unfashionable genre out of the story. The story knows what it is and fashions in genre apart, it is what it is. Stick whatever label on it you need to, what gets the book published is the story.

Trust the story.

Waxing Lyrical : Should we censor children’s books? by G. Clark Hellery

Waxing Lyrical: Should we censor children’s books?

It started as it always does these days with a comment on Facebook. I’d taken my daughter into the children’s section of Waterstones to choose her ‘All Hallow’s Read’ for Halloween. A mother was looking at the Christmas book display with her young son (I’d guess his age to be about 3-4years) when he happened to wander towards the Halloween books.

‘Come away from them! They’re too scary!’ the mother snapped, dragging her child the three feet back towards the glittering Christmas display.

This irked me to say the least. I’m not sure how Peter Rabbit getting lost in the pumpkin patch, or Meg & Mog could possibly be scary and I rather loudly asked my little one to choose her book (she loved the pop up haunted house but we agreed on @@@), cooing over the witches, frogs, pumpkins and ghosts. As we left I *might* have waved our book at the mother while my daughter let out a dragon roar.

peter rabbit

apparently terrifying

I ranted to my Facebook friends that I felt the mother had been too judgemental about the books, without even looking at their content. Certainly if her son had been looking in the real crime or horror sections, then yes, those books would probably have been too scary, but I really don’t believe The Worst Witch or Room on a Broom are going to give him nightmares. However, it would seem I opened a can of Halloween gummy worms as there were friends who agreed with me while others said they censor their children’s reading and suggested that perhaps I should wait until my little one was more capable of choosing her own books before passing comment because then I’d be very likely to change my cackle (I’m going to warn you now, there’s going to be a LOT of Halloween puns!).

This got me thinking about my own reading as a child. I was lucky and my parents didn’t really restrict what I read and I was a voracious reader to say the least (books bought on a Saturday morning trip to the bookshop would be finished by lunchtime). The ‘Point Horror’ series was going strong and I still remember staying up to the decadently late hour of 11pm reading who the psychotic lifeguard was going to kill next, I read a lot of King and even got my hands on ‘real life’ hauntings and True Crime books. I don’t remember any of these books ever giving me nightmares but am sure some would argue they’ve warped me. However they have shaped my own writing.

So why would parents ban books? Robin Beery wrote an excellent piece looking at 10 Reasons Books Are Banned, and 5 Reasons Not To which I’d recommend all parents, librarians & teachers read. Some don’t feel comfortable with their children reading about issues they feel they are not mature enough for: puberty, relationships, death, religion. In a 2014 interview, Judy Blume stated that, in her opinion, children read over what they don’t understand and I’d have to say on this I’d agree with her, certainly I didn’t understand a lot of what was happening in the King novels I read (although I know adults who don’t either) and rereading them years later brings a new depth of understanding with more than on ‘aha’ moment when I finally understood a phrase or action.

Blume was a staple on the playground, with books borrowed and shared from older sisters. She was far more explanatory about menstruation, kissing and even the ‘first time’ than our teachers or parents and because of her honesty, has frequently been censored over her 30 year career so much so she’s described as an ‘anticensorship activist’ and discusses it on her website.

banned books

Even books we now consider ‘classics’ have been censored and banned. Mark Twain’s ‘Adventure’s of Huckleberry Finn’ has been banned due to it’s portrayal of the poor, John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice & Men’ due to it’s profanity (honesty moment, I studied this book for my GCSE’s and I can’t remember that much profanity. I have also taught it to an advanced English class and it provoked really interesting discussion) and most bizarrely ‘The Wizard of Oz’ by L Frank Baum due to its depiction of women in strong leadership roles – I’m not sure how Dorothy Gale would feel about that but I like to think she would click her red heels together and say ‘I want (censors) to go home?’

The Harry Potter series has been banned in some schools in the US (and one in the UK) on the grounds it promotes witchcraft and is inherently ‘evil’. I’m paraphrasing JK Rowling when I say that banning children from discussing issues is far more damaging to children than reading about something the parents might feel they’re not ready for. I will say that I, and a lot of friends, were more traumatised by not getting our ‘Wingardium Leviosa’ charm to cause biscuits to drift across the table than any ‘satanic’ undertones. I respect a parents right to censor their children’s reading but at the same time feel you may be doing them a disservice. Alex Sanchez said in an interview that ‘Books can have an astounding effect on people’ and I agree with him, especially with groups who already feel marginalised or misunderstood such as LGBT. Children find characters they relate to and this can offer a coping mechanism for situations they may otherwise struggle with.

So where does that leave me? As a mother, I’m keeping my ‘Hellraiser’ firmly out of reach, but my Blume books will be waiting for my daughter when she’s ready. As Commissioning Editor for Fennec Books I feel a sense of responsibility towards our readers: both children and adult. Fox Spirit has positioned itself as a fearless publisher of genre fiction and I’d expect its younger sibling to do no less. I’m passionate about children’s books and encouraging both children and adults to read. I hope that our selection will offer children and adults something fun, diverting and different, and if it generates conversation with their parents and friends, then we’ve done good work. Now, I’m off up to the attic to chat to the house ghosts.

Happy Reading!

Sources:

All Hallow’s Read: http://www.allhallowsread.com

Point Horror: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Point_Horror

Stephen King Official Web Page: http://stephenking.com

Judy Blume: http://judyblume.com/censorship.php\

Judy Blume interview: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jul/11/judy-blume-interview-forever-writer-children-young-adults

JK Rowling quote: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/886905-i-have-a-real-issue-with-anyone-trying-to-protect

25 of the most banned children’s books of the last 25 years: http://www.bustle.com/articles/88633-25-of-the-most-banned-childrens-books-of-the-past-25-years-because-all-those-picture

10 Reasons for Banning Books and 5 Reasons Not To: http://www.punchnels.com/2014/09/18/10-reasons-for-banning-books-and-5-much-better-reasons-not-to/

Alex Sanchez: http://www.alexsanchez.com/Banned_Books/banned_book_1.html

22 Authors on Censorship and Banned Books: https://www.bookish.com/articles/22-authors-on-censorship-and-banned-books/

Waxing Lyrical : The Business of Writing by Haralambi Markov

If you are interested in taking part in the Waxing Lyrical series please contact adele@foxspirit.co.uk

***

So You’ve Sold Your Writing…

(What Happens Next & Other Conundrums)

No two careers are alike in our field though one thing remains constant – you get paid for the work you do, unless you agree to do it for exposure (in which case, I hope you know that most living things die from exposure). What I’m saying is that once you start selling, you’re going to transform into a business and a player in the Great Game of Finance, something I didn’t at all grasp when I sold my first story back in 2012 at the age of 23.

I’d grown up in a financially inept family that’s always in debt and without additional income outside my parents’ main employment. Prior to my first sale, I’ve held positions in the tourist industry and several offices – all situations where the employer paid benefits and taxed my income as an expense. I never had a reason to know how to interpret the intricate rituals at the National Revenue Agency in Bulgaria, so I was in for a rude awakening when I finally had a reason to interact with the NRA.

How do I declare income? What is expected of me after I send in the right paperwork? What are the deadline for filing taxes for the previous year and how the hell do I make sense out of the form? Bulgaria as it turns out has a rather archaic, convoluted system, which feels as if it’s made to confuse regular people and make sure accountants never go out of clients. Perhaps in your country the set-up is different. Either way you need to get a feel for the lay of the land as soon as you start submitting your work, because I’m pretty sure failure to declare income is a subject to fines.

accounts

As I transitioned from the nine-to-five office lifestyle to freelancing as a copywriter (not quite identical to fiction writing, but a useful parallel for writers who have enough projects going), I had to file even more paperwork to the point where I hired an accountant to file my invoices and interact with the NRA on my behalf. This has only resulted in additional expenses on my part as I’m in charge of paying benefits, accountant fees, income tax every trimester and once I file an overall annual income declaration, I may have additional fees to pay (don’t ask).

This is where budgeting comes in. Before, I relied on steady income and as long as I had cash in my wallet until paycheck, I thought I was doing fine. Now, I have to plan for my spending in advance, factor vital expenses and always secure a small financial cushion for unexpected ones. I wish I had been smart enough to budget at the start so I’d have something to save me during my first dry spell in my freelancing when no work came and rent was due.

Fiction writers experience this dip in income due to how irregular payments can be. I waited a year or so to receive a payment for a short story once. Novelists are used to receiving spaced out payments. I recommend these articles by Chuck Wendig and Kameron Hurley that go into greater detail on the subject of advances. You can never rely on a paycheck. Budgeting has helped me mimic the stability I once enjoyed at my office jobs. It’s a hard trick to pull off and I’m not as successful as I’d like to be, but those are the risks when you pursue a career in the arts.

filing

International writers who target US markets will also come in contact with the W-8BEN form – a means to avoid double taxation, since short story payments are subject to a 30% flat tax in the US. Bulgaria mercifully has an Income Tax Treaty with the United States, so filling out the W-8BEN form saves me from this 30% rate and my income is only subject to Bulgarian tax rates.

Has your country signed such a treaty? Is the W-8BEN applicable in your case? How do you fill out this form (you’ll be thankful to know it comes with thorough instructions)? All great questions to answer before you get to sign your first contract, but even if you don’t, the good thing about our field is that people are helpful and patient. I wouldn’t learn as much without a published friends reading my first contracts to check, if they’re all right, and helping me make sense of forms.

Turning writing into a career with its financial obligations is a long-term process. However, those who learn early to look at their craft as a business, too, have a much easier time later on.

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/09/23/peaks-and-valleys-the-financial-realities-of-the-writers-life/

http://www.kameronhurley.com/the-cold-publishing-equations-books-sold-marketability-love/

 

Waxing Lyrical : Not Working 9-5 by Theresa Derwin

Not 9-5 by Theresa Derwin

I’m not Dolly Parton (though I share some of her assets) yet I can still see the allure of working 9 ~ 5. But sometimes, it just isn’t possible.

I spent a good hour the other night chatting online to a fellow writer. As the chat progressed I discovered he has had a long term health condition since age nine, just as he discovered I’ve been ill for ten years and lost my job in 2011 because of the very utilitarian nature of the job. To cut a long story short, I suffer primarily from Fibromyalgia which manifests as exhaustion (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and muscular pain and spasms. The day job didn’t offer the right level of reasonable adjustments at that time to help me to stay in work. But things have changed since this. I adapted, made changes to my life style, discovered spoons (more on that later) and started submitting stories. Pretty soon I was getting acceptances and working in a way that felt write for me. And I’m not alone in this.
It’s not an unusual story. If I had a penny for every artist, writer or other creative with a health problem I’d be rich!

Which brings me to my next point. I had a form to fill in for official reasons recently. A form in which I would declare my weekly hours, rate of pay and employer.
Employer: Self/No one
Rate of pay: LMAO
Weekly hours: As many as I can manage between 4 – 8 per week, normally as vampires rise and other good little day folk go to bed.

So, why am I writing this?
Because ‘one size’ does not fit all.
What I’ve found in my time since becoming self employed is that there are a lot of folk like me. Creatives who work on the cusp of dawn, because they can only work when their strength allows them to. This is where spoon theory comes in, along with pacing and adaptations to my ‘workspace’ I.e. The sofa.
I’ll start with adaptions.
I learnt the hard way about three years ago, that with my condition I can’t sit at a standard desk and work 9 – 5.
I sleep odd hours, have restless nights and find it difficult using a laptop, because of the physical position and actually lifting it up. But there are ways and means.
I use an iPad. I’ve downloaded Word (basic version) and Evernote to my iPad to work on. I start a story or a blog/book review on Evernote. When the first draft is ready, I’ll email it to myself, copy it from my inbox using my finger and then insert to a brand new Word document saved to my ‘Cloud’. I have loads of fantastic friends in the community who support me, so I’ll generally forward that document to beta readers for proof Reading or editing.
When it come back, that’s when I worry about managing Tge edits, which I have to do on the laptop.
Occasionally a friend will tweak the edits for me. There are also other pieces of software such as Dragon Dictate that can help. Of course, I reckon I’d have problems teaching it to understand Brummie.
Then we get to the crux of the matter; spoons and pacing.
I’ve already mentioned my terrible sleeping patterns. This often means I’m awake between three and six am, which is when I write. At least, working for myself, I don’t have to ‘clock in’. But if I get excited an overdo it, I know about it the next day, I can tell you! So I pace myself using spoon theory.

Imagine you’re fit and well, work a day job and have six ‘spoons’ to last all day. One spoon is getting ready for work and travelling home. Three spoons are the 9 – 5 activities and it costs another spoon travelling home then cooking dinner for the family. You only have one spoon left to use that evening on household tasks, hobbies or family time.
Now, imagine you have a long term health condition or disability. Imagine further, that getting up and out of bed costs a spoon, because it takes more of your limited energy. Getting showered and dressed takes another spoon. That’s two spoons gone, four left, and you haven’t even started thinking about eating or travelling, let alone working. You get the idea, so far. What it means in real terms, is you most likely have to work weird hours and part time hours.
Next, you decide to go to a convention. It’s necessary for your creative work. Besides, you meet friends there, and it’s bloody good fun.
So, you have to get ready and travel. Three spoons are gone. Let’s say you’re staying over, so minimal spoons needed to get back to your hotel. That leaves you three spoons for the entire convention. That’s why you’ll often see me spending mornings attending panels listening but sitting, or taking actual part on a panel later in the day, when my energy levels have increased and I’ve ‘gathered’ more spoons.
And if you don’t see me at breakfast the next morning? It’s probably because I can’t get out of bed. The aftermath of a weekend con normally takes me four days to recover from. And I know I’m not the only one.

spoons

So, the odds are if there are writers or artists like me out there, they’ll never make a true living. But what they’ll get is so much more important;
Self esteem
Creative free will
A voice ‘out there’
The chance to try a job without the 9 – 5 mentality and prejudice
I’m proud of the £15.83 I’ve earned this year.
It’s mine.
My talents netted that value.
And you know what? If I keep fighting, if I keep plugging away. One day, it might be more.
Thought it’s not about the money.
It’s about pride,
Pride for a job well done.
So, if you see a blog or a post from an author or an artist, remember this; they are sharing their soul with you this day.
Remember to share yours back.

Waxing Lyrical : Daz Pulsford on Editing the Fox Spirit Way

Welcome to the waxing lyrical series in 2016. The series is open to any creative (writers, artists, publishers, editors, musicians etc) who want to air their opinions on the creative industries, from any perspective. If you are interested in contributing please contact adele@foxspirit.co.uk for more information. The only real rule is no personal attacks, we don’t have to agree with you but we won’t support attacking a person or group of people. 

Daz has been editing for Fox Spirit since we began and has always been fairly flexible with us about enforcing the house style on submissions, however as we’ve got busier it has become more important so here he is with some tips to make sure your submission is in tip top shape. It’s important to note that any publisher or agent will have their own submission rules and (and this can not be said enough) you need to follow them, or you risk your submission being discounted without even being read. 

***

Editing the Fox Spirit Way.

(Or how I learned to love the ellipsis…)

First up: let me begin by saying how utterly wonderful all you lovely authors are, with your colourful use of languages, broadly acceptable adherence to word count and slightly less than universal conformity to Microsoft Word 97-2003 or later. I’ll waive the varying acceptance of English (UK) as standard because it’s actually fun adding the letter ‘u’ and reversing instances of ‘er’ over and over again.*

House Rules on submission guidelines are on our website at: http://www.foxspirit.co.uk/sample-page/submissions/

Please read them – you would not believe** the number of stories I have to spend ten minutes simply reformatting and tidying (fonts, double spaces, random tabs, wrong dialogue marks and other egregious crimes.)

Please note – if you submit a story in Open Office, a very old Microsoft (MS) Word format, or some other random hipster notepad format, I will hammer and curse at it until it opens in MS Word and does as it’s told.

Stop waffling and tell us what you mean!

Sorry – what I am stressing  is the importance of reading our House Rules, plus any additional rules on language, tone, sex & violence etc. set out by either Aunty Fox or your Editor (if it’s for an Anthology). It will ease my burden considerably and make us far nicer to you.

Because I’m frightfully vain and convinced half of you think editing is worthless before the Proofing stage; I have a lesson for you: using Review in MS Word.

Proper use of Tracked Changes:  (see screenshot)

It’s on the Ribbon under the Review Tab. My amendments are shown in the left hand column. Any changes you accept will disappear. I suggest you do these one at a time if there are not many, or if you plan to dispute or amend your text further. Any changes you make will show in the left column with your reference in (which is whatever name you set in the Word Options menu – you did do this, right?)

There is an ‘Accept all changes in document’ option, but make sure you are happy with all the edits first. This way both you and I can see what has been accepted as an edit and what further there is to look at.

I turn Review Changes on after I have made broad formatting changes – otherwise your eyes would bleed from all the hundreds of Red lines and notes about using double spaces after a full stop (stop it, I mean it!) and using an ellipsis 3 different ways in 27 instances.

Comments are left for suggestions, or ‘What on earth are you babbling about here?’ sort of questions. They cannot be accepted, only deleted. Ideally; you make the suggested change, or comment yourself about it and leave the original comment there.

See It wasn’t that painful was it? Now, with comments accepted, your own changes made and comments dealt with – send it back and I’ll decide you’re talking nonsense and put it back the way I had it it’s really rather nice now and ready to add to the ‘Completed, no bribes extracted’ pile.

Please – learn to use Track Changes. If you don’t have MS Word, there is still likely to be an alternative within your software that will know what my edits are trying to show you and convert them.

Things to avoid

This is an ‘Oh no, they didn’t,’ list compiled from the array of blisteringly baffling returns I’ve had.

  1. Typing your edits out into an email, either as text fragments or with line references. This is instant head/desk for me, and also I re-format the document for margins, line numbers are irrelevant.
  1. Using the wrong language. Sending us a Novel? Use whatever language you like, it’s yours. Submitting to an Anthology? Check with the Editor – it’ll usually be their language or English (UK) as default.
  1. Accepting all the changes, including the ones you made after getting the edits back. Not helpful – how do I know what you’ve changed?!***

    63878429

    No kittens or authors were harmed in the making of this post.

  1. Leaving my email in Spam because you haven’t been checking after Aunty Fox sends out the ‘Edits will be with you soon’ email. I don’t mind chasing you up once. Twice is a disappointment. Three times means missed deadlines and starting another voodoo doll with your name on it.

And that’s it – your easy guide to keeping the Editing Den moving efficiently and pleasantly.

*Find & Replace you say? Try it – see what happens…

**If you do any copy-editing yourself then obviously you will be shaking your head and muttering about ‘blinkin’ authors, coming over here with their freedom from any sense of formatting and crazy ideas about dashes.’

***Actually, I do know, and can fix it – but I’m not telling you how as it will only discourage you from paying attention to Leaving The Tracked Changes On, Please.

Waxing Lyrical : What if I told you… by Alec McQuay

Welcome to the waxing lyrical series in 2016. I did a small number of these posts last year and have decided to change things up this year. The series is now open to any creative (writers, artists, publishers, editors, musicians etc) who want to air their opinions on the creative industries, from any perspective. If you are interested in contributing please contact adele@foxspirit.co.uk for more information. The only real rule is no personal attacks, we don’t have to agree with you but we won’t support attacking a person or group of people. 

Without further ado, Alec McQuay with some thoughts on positivity and support in the new year.  It’s a bit sweary in places.

***

What if I told you… by Alec McQuay

morpheus

Today, I’m going to have a little moan. Not about the gym, or at least not SPECIFICALLY about the gym, but on the subject of support.

It’s January at the time of writing this and the hills are alive with the sound of lives turning around, glass ceilings being smashed, goals being set and demons conquered and honestly, I think it’s brilliant. Even if a lot of the things people are promising themselves never come to fruition they’ve at least made that important first step of realising they’ve got a problem, or that there’s something in their lives that they want or something they wish to strive for. Say what you like about resolutions but pretty much everyone who achieves anything begins with that knowledge.

Now, that cheeky little meme up there. I find it funny, but it also irritates the living crap out of me, and not just because the lack of a question mark. Online and out in the wild I hear two things very often that tie into that poster for me. The first is that a person is unhappy with their health, fitness, weight or appearance and the other is that a person “has a book in them” or is struggling with their writing, getting published, getting a published book sold or whatever. That’s just my circle of friends and relations and your mileage will vary, but I’d bet good money against bad that we have something in our lives that people around us wish they could achieve. It might be signing up to the Open University, or learning to draw, learning a new language, getting a promotion, moving to a bigger house so they can finally have a baby, finally having two pennies to scratch their ass with…

There isn’t always anything you can do, but don’t hold other people back. It takes confidence to make a change in your life and that can be in short supply for some, for some people it’s never in anything but short supply, so when they finally do something the last thing they need is shit to make it harder. Especially from the people they call friends.

I’m not saying you have to take an interest in things that bore you senseless, but if you’ve got nothing constructive to add, would it kill you to just keep scrolling? If someone tells you they’ve finally managed to finish their manuscript, that’s not your moment to tell them you’ve always wanted to write a book but don’t have the time, or any one of the other bullshit excuses I’ve ever heard. Writing a book is hard for a lot of people and when they finally skid over the finish line, their radiator bursts, oil shoots into the air and all their wheels fall off, that’s their moment. It’s not yours. Back the fuck up a bit. You can have your turn later. Not now, Bernard.

Before you make some comment about “What if I told you you can go to the gym / dinner / on a date / get drunk / read a book / write a book / go to a movie / pass your degree / survive childbirth / teach your kid to ride a bike / complete Mortal Kombat without losing a single life (yeah right) / pass your driving test / learn Mandarin without telling Facebook about it,” try to remember that the people you put down today might well be the people you want support from in the future. Try to remember that what isn’t important to you might be the most important thing in another person’s life and that every now and then, all it takes is one last shitty, passive-aggressive, inconsiderate comment from someone to bring the whole house of cards tumbling down on them.

Chances are, there’s something you love that I would think was pretty stupid, but what do I know? I’m a 30 year old man who watches cartoons, plays with toy soldiers, thinks picking up heavy things is entertaining and emotionally fulfilling and writes stories in his spare (ha, “spare”) time. Try and be a bit supportive of people if you can, and if you can’t?

Jog the fuck on.