Category Archives: Monday Methods

Monday Methods: Promotion

If you’re one of the Skulk, the hearty band of Fox Spirit authors, there’s good news. The hard work of promotion is helped by being a member of the Skulk. We’re all in this together! The rising tide — and hey, it’s definitely rising! — associated with the AWARD-WINNING quality of Fox Spirit Books helps every one of us. But it’s not the be all and end all.

YOU NEED TO PROMOTE YOUR BOOK.

Look around you. Small presses are closing their doors in frightening numbers. Why? The very best of small presses are all living on a short margin. Fox Spirit Books is held together by the sheer determination of Adele and a handful of intrepid folk who work well below cost (we have ridiculously talented editors and artists). When they put together a book, it’s because they believe in its quality.

Your job is not done when you hand in the manuscript: it’s just begun. You could have the best book in the world, that’s ever been written, that will make the planets align, feed the hungry, end all wars, or even one that could make the world finally join hands, sing hallelujah and bring peace on earth, but it won’t happen if nobody knows about it.

Fox Spirit will feature it on the website, Facebook and Twitter. Adele usually makes the effort to pull out interesting extracts to tempt readers. THAT IS NOT ENOUGH.

  1. At the very least you need to retweet/share all the things that Fox Spirit does on your social media platforms. It doesn’t have to be all at once: stagger them throughout the day. Not just on your release day, but afterward continue to follow up.
  2. Follow the other Fox Spirit skulk members. We are mighty. We generally retweet other skulk members’ stuff when we see it. Include @foxspiritbooks in your tweet in some way like ‘Wow, my awesome book has just come out from @foxspiritbooks #fantasy that includes capybaras!’ If you’re in a collection, tag the other folks you know who are in it. You’re not on your own: you’re SKULK! Rahr! Be proud.
  3. Be creative: don’t just tweet out boring ‘here’s my book, buy it!’ Has that ever worked with anyone? No! What made you interested enough in this story to write it? Do you just think ‘Capybaras are awesome!’ There are bound to be other people who think so, too. Find communities who will be interested in what you’ve written. Maybe you already belong to a group that shares your interest. Let them know! Join in a bigger event: there are all kinds of hashtag topics that occur weekly — for instance, I write a lot of folklore & fairytale stories, so I am an enthusiastic participant in #FolkloreThursday. Find your people.
  4. Blog: the death of the blog, much like the death of the novel, has often been suggested to no avail. Blog on your own site (you do have a website, right? if not what are you waiting for?) but also consider other places that could use your expertise — including the Fox Spirit blog. Got a topic for one of our features: Monday Methods, Five for Friday, What I Learned from Cult TV? Let Adele know. There are oodles of genre blogs out there, many of them happy to take outside content that fits the interest of their readers. Think bigger than yourself: community is what it’s all about.
  5. Offline and local: bookstores can be tough for small press. They only generally buy from distributors. Some local independent stores carry local authors. Get in touch and find out. Send out press releases to local radio and television emphasising the local author angle or something newsworthy. Glom onto a popular topic in the news (‘Are Capybaras More Popular than Cats on the Internet?’). Don’t overlook your local library: many love to draw on local authors for talks on popular topics or how-to talks. Writer organisations in your area can also be something to look into both for promotion and for sharing experiences.

Writing is a career. You don’t just do it for a day. Everybody talks about ‘branding’ these days: all that means is letting people know who you are and what you write. Let your personality shine through: don’t think of it as ‘selling’ (which is hard for some people) or just promotion, but communicating.

Just remember: your book’s success reflects the effort you put into it. Don’t go to the trouble of writing a book only to let it languish in the shadows. Step out into the spotlight and let the world see your work!

And make Adele happy!

Happy Skulk Leader

Monday Methods : N.O.A. Rawle

Virginia Wolfe longed for a room of her own and a £100 a week/month. As a 21st century writer and mum these things are essential still a consideration, but not so much as time of one’s own. With all the pressures of work and family responsibilities squashing me into a warped distortion of what I would be if I lead a life of leisure, we just had a little more time I think time to one’s self is the essential thing any writer needs. I have choices along the lines of: write at 2 am or zombify the kids with a DVD or a new game for the tablet, abandon all those essential tasks like cooking/cleaning/marking (I’m a teacher in my other life). I know these are not the best mothering/living/teaching techniques but when deadlines are drawing in, and then emergency measures must be taken!

IMG_20151029_001143

Then there’s the silence. Ok, so headphones and instrumental music or songs I’ve heard so many times that I am not distracted by the lyrics will work most of the time, but there are moments when you just need silence to write in.

The space and the place are of no consequence (I perch in the corner of a room with a desk smaller than my laptop and work still gets done) but time and silence really are golden.

Monday Methods : Kim Bannerman Continuum

Kim’s final Monday Methods post for us. 

Monday Methods – Continuum

At the beginning, there are only words. They don’t necessarily relate. Like a pile of excitable puppies, they fall all over each other, tumbling out and racing around with too much energy, not enough focus.

awww

Adjectives aplenty! Adverbs gone wild! The craziest euphemisms you’ve ever seen!

Then, as the words progress, they start to fall into patterns. Fragments cohere and make sense. They start to move together, find their rhythm, and the words become sentences. There is no story yet, but there is motion. A pulse begins and the first signs of life flicker between the letters.

And then, at some point, the words and sentences begin to breath on their own. This moment of quickening isn’t a sudden revelation or a lightning strike, but more of a gentle recognition by the author that this are more than a mere clutch of words; ideas lurk below the surface. There is meaning. There is direction.

The sentences become rivers with strong currents, pulling the writer towards a conclusion. It may be a horrible ending, a boring ending, a sudden ending, an ‘it was all a dream’ ending, but it’s still an ending and that’s okay. With patience, stubbornness and perseverance, that first babble of random gibberish has travelled along a line to coalesce into a hero’s journey. The author might not be able to point to the exact moment that chaos became order, but it doesn’t matter. The first draft is complete.

Monday Methods : Kim Bannerman Time

The second in Kim’s series of three Monday Methods posts.

Monday Methods – Time

Once upon a time, when I first started to tell stories, I would write whenever the muse visited me. At first, we were madly in love, my muse and me, and we would spend hours in each other’s company. I looked forward to her visits, I anticipated her bolts of inspiration, and I couldn’t wait to see what adventures we’d have together.  I wrote every day, for hours and hours, because she was wonderful.

Then, we started to grow bored with each other. I mean, my muse was still great and fun to hang out with and everything, but there were other things needing my attention, too. I was working full time. There were some really great movies coming out. I had television to watch and dishes to do. I told her that, while I still thought she was lovely, maybe we should just be friends.

She visited less and less. Why would she bother to come around? I hadn’t been there for her, so why would she be there for me?

I started to miss her. I wondered how she was, what she was doing. I wondered if maybe she’d found someone new who loved her more, and that stung. I started to pine for her, looking for her in alleyways and libraries, but she was no where to be found.

Then, early one morning, I decided I was sick of waiting around for her to come back. The sun was starting to rise, and I needed to write something. So I did.

I guess that piqued her interest. I was writing without her, and she was curious to see what I could do on my own; she popped by to say hi, real friendly-like, and we hung out for an hour. It was fun, but cautious.  Could we repair the damage I’d done? Was this relationship worth it?

time

The next morning, very early, I started writing again. The words that came out were stilted and ugly, but they were words – they still communicated my ideas, even if they were without grace or beauty.  My muse watched, interested, and gave me a few pointers to make it a little better.

On the third morning, once more very early, my muse sat at my side in the coffee shop and we wrote together, and it was as beautiful and pure as the first time we’d met. I wrote until my wrists ached and my fingers cramped. My heart sang. She was so lovely, gracious and generous. She was funny and crass and full of surprises. I thought that yes, this might work, and I could see in her smile that she was hoping the same.

I don’t wait for her anymore. That’s unfair, to put all the responsibility on my muse. I wake early and I write in the morning, and I am happy when she chooses to join me, but I don’t begrudge her if she doesn’t come, either. Maybe she likes to sleep in. I’d never again take her for granted, or pressure her to be more than she is.  My muse provides the inspiration, but the work of writing is my responsibility, and I always make sure to show up to the job on time. She knows where to find me; I’m happy when she does.

Monday Methods – Noir by Graham Wynd

Cover by S. L. Johnson

Cover by S. L. Johnson

by Graham Wynd

If you write noir then you know the murky streets where darkness and rain seem nigh on constant. When Monday rolls around it’s just another day and you face it with a hangover more often than not. The slug of whisky in your coffee is just enough to stop the shakes and the dame that rolls into your office looking too slinky for the daylight reminds you how you got into this state in the first place.

But she’s got that one thing you need: a story. That’s the real drug. You can sit at your battered Underwood—issued to all would-be noir writers at the inception of their careers—and open a vein as Red Smith suggests, but blood only gets you so far. You need a narrative to lasso your reader and drag them along behind you.

If you’re writing noir, you need atmosphere too. It helps if you have the kind of heart that’s heard “too many lies” because after all “one more tear won’t make no difference to the rain”. Your heart has to yearn for something it’s not likely to get, yet that goal has to be close enough to your grasp to make reaching for it irresistible. That’s what keeps the shadowy streets, rainy nights, cool dames and dangerous guys from slipping into cliché.

It helps if you have an ear for dialogue. You can go plain and hard, like the Continental Op, but once the bodies pile up you find yourself spitting out phrases like, “This damned burg’s getting to me. If I don’t get away soon I’ll be going blood-simple like the natives.” You have to feel isolated, like you can’t trust anybody really, even if you need to relax once in a while. Every description reminds you that death lurks behind every transaction. The Op hears things like, “Polly De Voto is a good scout and anything she sells you is good, except maybe the bourbon. That always tastes a little bit like it had been drained off a corpse.”

If there isn’t the risk of death, the stakes aren’t high enough. Sit down and list your characters: figure out what they want and how they suffer and see where the lines cross. Make them doubt every step of the way—make them also think they’re the one who’ll get away with it, that they’re ahead of the game.

And make them suffer. Make them all suffer. Take another shot of whisky. You’re bleeding now.

Graham Wynd

A writer of bleakly noirish tales with a bit of grim humour, Graham Wynd can be found in Dundee but would prefer you didn’t come looking. An English professor by day, Wynd grinds out darkly noir prose between trips to the local pub. Wynd’s novella of murder and obsessive love, EXTRICATE is out now from Fox Spirit Books; the print edition also includes the novella THROW THE BONES and a dozen short stories. See more stories (including free reads!) here.

FS4 Missing Monarchs ebook 72ppi

Monday Methods : Kim Bannerman Space

For the return of Monday Methods, Kim is exploring three areas of importance to her over three mondays. First up Space. 

Monday Methods – Space

Writing demands that I seek out a place – a humble spot on the earth – that provides the necessities of creation: a table, a window, and a cup of coffee. This spot can be private, such as my office, or it can be public, such as the cafe down the street. Both have their advantages. But they must have those three items, or writing will fail.

The table is for my computer to sit upon, and the window is for my eyes to gaze outside at the passing world when I stop my incessant typing to think. If I’m writing in a public space that has no window, then my glazed and day dreamy eyes magnetically drift towards another coffee shop patron, and that’s just uncomfortable for both of us.

“I’m sorry, yes, I AM staring at you, but I’m not really LOOKING at you. I’m just imagining ways to kill someone. No, wait! You misunderstand — I’m writing a mystery — oh, please don’t have me kicked out again…”

In a public space, I’d rather watch mountain bikers ride passed on their way to the trails; in my private space, my window looks out over the forest, providing a clear view of an old hemlock tree where a couple of ravens have built a nest.  Private space also provides the helpful access to books aplenty, while public space provides rare moments of chitchat with friends who drift passed. Both of these are benefits. Books are awesome. And socialization, well… it’s helpful to remember that not all of my friends are imaginary.

space

The final piece in the puzzle, coffee, is most important.

If ever I questioned Pavlov’s research, I have only to look as far as my coffee cup to see, the man was on to something. One sip of joe and my imagination is whirled away to far off places, my fingers start to tippy-tap the QWERTY dance, and my characters come to life. I hear them, you know. They wake to the taste of a good dark roast, and start jabbering away in my head. Tea won’t cut it, and neither will hot chocolate – they symbolize other times, other functions. Tea is for family gatherings, hot chocolate is for wintertime, after snowshoeing. Drinking either of these beverages only confuses my subconscious.

Coffee is the starting pistol. Coffee is the clang of the gates opening. Coffee is pure magic.

When it comes to writing, the space I inhabit is the foundation of creativity and can’t be ignored. Over the years, I’ve had four offices and visited hundreds of coffee shops, but I’ve grown to love a few, and sometimes, they even become cherished settings in a story. I’m not picky about which coffee shop I visit, but it must have those three things: table, window, good coffee.

Where do you write? What elements do you need to spark the fire in your head?

 

Monday Methods : Alec McQuay

Alec’s book ‘Emily Nation’ is officially released in paperback TODAY! Post apolcayptic Cornwall, an alcoholic assassin, a mysterious benefactor…

emily nation

Now here is Alec with a Monday Method for you all.
Monday methods!

I thought I’d start by summing up my writing environment in one neat little picture. In the background you can see what I like to call organised chaos, but what everyone else at work thinks of as an unholy mess. They’d probably be right, and if I had to submit a metaphorical picture of the inside of my brain, a big heap of bits of paper, probably teetering on the verge of falling over and crushing me to death, would about do it. I’m not the organised kind in anything that I do. You want a wedding planned for next June amidst the softly swaying trees of rural Pembrokeshire? Nope, can’t help you. Oh, the shit just hit the fan, the doves are attacking the guests, the priest is stuck at the bottom of a well, the venue (a busy roundabout) is on fire and you have to get married within the hour or you’ll turn back into an ornamental bedside lamp? Well hold on to your fucking petticoats,  you’ve come to the right place…

teaalec

I’ve got a full time job, two kids, three cats, a dog and more hobbies than I can shake a stick at, and I still find the time to write. That doesn’t make me special though, if you ever find yourself at a convention (try Edge Lit in Derby, tis a good ‘un) you’ll find out this is quite close to the norm. We all have our ways of getting it done, and this is mine. It’s all about controlling my environment, and the way I do that is really simple. I stay up really late when everyone else is sleeping, pour myself a huge brew the colour of Black Beard’s shaded parts, crank up the tunes to FUCK YOU, EARDRUMS! type levels and get typing. A lot of people can’t write to music; personally I find it’s best to avoid anything you’d normally sing along to, avoid rap as the music is heavily dependent on the words and, for preference, opt for a band with a vocalist whose indecipherable singing you can’t understand anyway. Keeps the distractions to a minimum, but you can still stop to shred an air-guitar solo every now and then. That’s a given. There’s no-one around, I can’t hear anything that I didn’t put there to be heard and the whole world is kept at arm’s length while I try and turn the internal chaos into something resembling a story.

Sometimes it actually works.

Monday Methods : Phil Thorogood

The Most Important Tool

In the past year, I have been a rider of dragons, a war-weary veteran, a brilliant but slightly psychotic rogue, and a genetically-enhanced post-human killing machine. Before you back away slowly, keeping eye contact and trying not to make any sudden movements, I’ll let you in on a secret – you’ve probably been some of those too. At the very least, I guarantee that you’ll not have been yourself at some point in this past year.

What I’m talking about is a writer’s most important tool; not a word processor, as some of you might answer that question. Not a notepad constantly on their person, nor passion, or even an editor (sorry editors), though they are all admittedly important in their own rights. The tool I’m talking about is super compact, totally mobile and (hardly ever) runs out of power. I am, of course, talking about the potential of the human mind, or more specifically, imagination, one of the most underrated gifts we are all given.

from 'How to Train your Dragon'

from ‘How to Train your Dragon’

Now, some of you will claim not to have an imagination, or that someone you know doesn’t own one. I put to you that that claim is false. What happens when you think of what to have for dinner tonight? When you plan an outing to the zoo with your friends or family? While you’re reading a good book? Imagination happens. Whether you actively realise it or not, all the time you are imagining things, and it is this gift that a writer makes use of the most.

As a writer, we imagine what would happen to X if they chose not to Y, as everyone else would expect them to. We wonder how the world would be different if historical events hadn’t occurred. Not only this, but we rely utterly on imagination even after the story has been written – when a reader picks it up, we count on their imagination to conjure up the action that we have penned, and they trust us to lead their thoughts into the realm of fiction.

So join me, now, in petitioning the government to make this day World Imagination Appreciation Day! …or just take a moment every now and then to acknowledge the gift that we are all given, either’s good.

Monday Methods : Chloe Yates

Monday Methods

Chloe Yates

 

  1. Wake Up
  2. Wander around the house in my nightie trying to remember why I’m here.
  3. Existential misery.

    Puss knows existential misery

    Puss knows existential misery

  4. Cup of tea.
  5. Exercise (with varying degrees of success. There’s a lot of sitting)
  6. Wonder about showering. Sit at desk while wondering, check FB, peruse pointless articles, get distracted by a new episode of whatever Real Housewives is running (because I’m shallow), finally reminded to shower by the distinct whiff of me.
  7. Lunch
  8. Cup of tea.
  9. Remove damp towel from still slightly damp body and realise it’s already 2pm and I should have started work hours ago. Also realise that I’m standing in front of the office window and the blinds are not shut. Smile and wave at neighbours, exit office.
  10. Take ages agonising over what to wear for no reason at all other than it being a convenient procrastination opportunity. A writer should never miss one of those.
  11. Decide to buy only black clothes in the future. Think about nice black clothes.
  12. Dress
  13. Cup of tea.
  14. Sit at desk.
  15. Open Word.
  16. Stare at it.
  17. Cup of tea.

And so it goes.

I’ve never really thought about myself as having a “method”. Madness doesn’t count, apparently. There are no particular rituals, no self-flagellation (ok, that one’s a lie), no special foil hat, no Hail Marys and a shot of Tabasco before I hit the word mines. Last night, however, I was chatting to a gentleman who wanted to know about my work. He asked me about my process et cetera, and it occurred to me that I do actually have one… sort of. When I’m writing a short story, the original tale is always completely different to the final product because I rewrite it and rewrite it until it’s done. Sounds basic, I know, but it took me a long time to learn that words are not concrete, plans are not set in stone and clichés can be useful when your brain’s running on slow (like now). Turns out, words are malleable – they serve you the writer, not the other way around. They’re your clay not your boss. Reworking my work (ahem) is my method.

Secondly, no matter how shit bollock crazy a story may be, it’s always based on something concrete, something I’ve researched and used as a jumping off point. No matter how far away from it a story might end up, it’s always inspired by something I’ve found in the “real” world.  Plus, research is another excellent opportunity for procrastination. Brucie bonus.

So that’s my terribly sophisticated method and its revelation has undoubtedly rocked your tits off. Research, write, rewrite, rewrite… Plus yellow legal pads, pencils and a lot of scratching my arse, natch.

Monday Methods : R.B Harkess

My writing day starts absurdly early, thanks to my partner who I have to taxi down to the train station at the ungodly hour of six in the morning. Having said that, it does mean I am sitting at the

kitchen table, ready to start, by about 6:30. Things tend to go something like this.

Open Mac, log on

Realise I forgot to make tea

Put kettle on

Log back on to Mac

Open Scrivener

Kettle boils, make tea.

Log back on to Mac, open the right scene.

Dry cat off, because it raining and he’s just come in soaking wet and jumped up onto my lap.

Log back onto Mac, compose thoughts, ready fingers above keyboard

Try to stop the cat, who is now hungry, from stomping all over the keyboard

Feed Cat

Log on to Mac — make note to extend the screensaver time-out

Type twenty words

Dry the other cat, who has just come in soaking wet…

not the author's cat

not the author’s cat

And so it goes on for about an hour. Eventually they get bored with harassing me and settle down, and I can finally get around to some real writing.

At the moment, I’m working on the third and final book of the Warrior Stone trilogy (as yet unnamed). I used to say I was more ‘pantser’ than ‘plotter’, but these days I’m not so sure. I start off needing to know all the backstories, what the motivations are, and some fairly detailed notes on any new characters. All of this is done pen on paper, preferably with my special ‘writiing pen’ that my partner gave me about 20 years ago. From that, I go to what I call ‘scenes’; two or three lines, like ‘Somebody tried to kill Claire by….’ or ‘Claire is at the hospital with her parents. Stuart comes in and they…’ (You didn’t actually expect I was going to tell you what happened, did you?)

From there, its time to transcribe everything into Scrivener, and then I start filling in the blanks. In this phase, first draft, I’m doing the equivalent of scribbling in pencil so fast I can hardly make out what I’ve written. This is one of the most wonderful parts of the whole writing process to me. It’s like giving birth to the story; quick and rushed and exciting and at then end of it I know if I’ve got something I can work with.

There are some that say being a plotter takes away the fun of exploring the story as you write it. All I know is that since I started plotting, I’ve finished every novel that made it as far as a list of scenes, and that I have a drawer full of 20-30,000 word false starts I didn’t plan first.

Happy writing