Tag Archives: Horror

Respectable Horror Cover Reveal

Well what more do we need to say? Coming very soon a wonderful collection of creepy tales to enjoy with the last tendrils of winter mist. 

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 

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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…

 

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Asian Monsters : Table of Contents

Monsters are coming! Margret Helgadottir is back with another fantastic line up as she returns monsters to the dark. African Monsters is presently on the short list for the British Fantasy Society award for best Anthology.

Asian monsters is the third volume in a world tour exploring horror continent by continent, beginning in Europe. Release of the books is accompanied by a series of blog posts explaining more about the origins of some of the monsters. See more about the series and the monsters here.  

Cover coming soon!

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We are pleased to announce that Asian Monsters is due out this November. Asian Monsters will be the third in the Fox Spirit Books of Monsters series that started with European Monsters and continued with British Fantasy Awards shortlisted African Monsters.

In this collection we explore the old myths and monsters of the continent of Asia in short stories and art.

Edited by Margret Helgadottir and with cover art by Daniele Serra we are pleased to reveal the table of contents for Asian Monsters:

Xia Jia: ‘A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight’ (translated by Ken Liu)
Ken Liu: ‘Good Hunting’
Eve Shi: ‘Blood Like Water’
Usman T. Malik: ‘Blood Women’
Aliette le Bodard: ‘Golden Lilies’
Isabel Yap: ‘Grass Cradle, Glass Lullaby’
Benjamin Chee: ‘Unrestful’
Eliza Chan: ‘Datsue-Ba’
Eeleen Lee: ‘Let Her In’
CY Yan: ‘The Poacher of Qingqiu’
Fran Terminello: ‘Aswang’
Sunil Patel: ‘The Vetalas’ Query’
Yukimi Ogawa: ‘Kokuri’s Palace’
Vajra Chandrasekera and Dave Johnson (art): ‘Vikurthimagga’
The book will have illustrations by Cindy Mochizuki, Vincent Holland-Keen, Kieran Walsh and Imran Siddiq.
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Cover of African Monsters

Launch Day: Dark Travellings by Ian Whates

Ian Whates is not only an established author but runs the well respected and multi award winning British indie NewCon Press where new writers butt up against legendary names such as Tanith Lee and Neil Gaiman. With numerous short stories published and novels out with Solaris and Angry Robot, we at Fox Spirit were obviously extremely pleased when Ian said yes to doing a collection with us.

This is the third collection of Ian’s short stories, and our first with him. It’s a collection of thirteen of his darker tales for fans of the fantastic.

Welcome to Dark Travellings.
Cover image is by Michael Marshall Smith, layout by Vincent Holland-Keen

dark travellings - front

Showcasing the darker side of the author’s imagination, Dark Travellings takes us from a post-apocalyptic future where music offers mankind its only hope to a quiet country lane where an apparently chance encounter leads to deception and betrayal, from rain-swept London streets terrorised by a creature out of folklore to the nostalgic beauty of a seaside town, where a young girl learns far more about her grandfather than she ever wished to. We are introduced to a cast of heroes and villains, including a brilliant artist with a unique form of inspiration, an ordinary man who stands firm against a vampire horde, and a woman who personifies a dangerously misunderstood legend. Thirteen stories that reveal the best and the worst of humanity: murder, adultery, treachery and depravity, but also compassion, hope, and love. Thirteen stories that will unsettle, delight, and entertain.

“The stories of Ian Whates manifest a vivid particularity of place and a clarity of suspenseful plotting, along with an endearing ability to conjure up vivid characters both noble and nasty.”

– Paul Di Filippo.

“Ian’s stories, unexpected yet unnervingly apt, come as a masterfully easy read that can lull or shock, please and dismay, and may quietly break your heart.” – Tanith Lee

“It is his characters who live through the story and make the reader need to know just how it’s all going to pan out, human characters who may seem familiar but then there’s that one thing, that shifted alteration that changes the world and changes the reader too.” – Interzone

“Intelligent, ingenious, often funny, and told with an easy and down to earth style.” – Adrian Tchaikovsky

“Brilliantly inventive.” – SFX

Launch Day for Eve of War

You may remember BFS shortlister ‘Tales of Eve’ where Mhairi Simpson collected fantastic tales of women seeking their perfect partner in life and the consequences of the search. Well now we see Eve’s daughters, fierce and defiant stepping out to battle.

Edited by Mhairi Simpson, who once again pulled in a great group of authors and Darren Pulsford who curated them into the anthology, we bring you ‘Eve of War’

Cover art and layout by Vincent Holland-Keen

eve of war - final

Sharp of mind and instinct; with poise and grace and power – Eve’s Daughters are a match for any opponent. Whether seeking out a worthy test or assailed by brave (but foolish) foes, she is determined and cunning, and will not fail.

Here are fifteen tales from across the ages; full of prowess both martial and magical, from an array of unique voices.

Contents:

Miranda’s Tempest by S.J. Higbee
The Devil’s Spoke by K.T. Davies
Himura the God Killer by Andrew Reid
The Bind that Tie by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Et Mortuum Esse Audivit by Alasdair Stuart
Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick by Juliet McKenna
A Veil of Blades by R.J. Davnall
In Amber by Rob Haines
Skating Away by Francis Knight
Ballad of Sighne by Rahne Sinclair
The Crossing by Paul Weimer
Lucille by Alec McQuay
Born by G Clark Hellery
Repo by Ren Warom
One Sssingular Sssenssation by Chloe Yates

Epic giveaway time!

Want to win every Fox Spirit* title we release in 2016 in paperback?

You can and it’s easy! Retweet this on twitter with the #foxyfriday hashtag or share this post on Facebook and make sure you are signed up for our newsletter to be in with a chance. We will announce the winner through the newsletter, if you aren’t signed up you can’t claim your prize!

Once the winner is announced we will send them Winter Tales and In an Unknown Country, after that they will get each book sent out at the same time as the author copies go, all year.

This is our biggest giveaway ever and who doesn’t love surprise book post!

The giveaway is open worldwide and closes at 5pm on Monday 28th March, so you have all weekend to retweet or share and sign up to the newsletter. The winner will be selected at random.

You can register for our newsletter in the sidebar or by clicking here

fox spirit - logo - small

Titles in 2016 include the remaining Fox Pockets, ‘Piercing the Vale’, ‘The Evil Genius Guide’ and ‘Reflections’, along with the re release of Vincent Holland-Keen’s ‘The Office of Lost and Found’, anthologies ‘Respectable Horror’, ‘You left your Biscuit Behind’ and ‘Asian Monsters’ and more.

*Main line only, imprint titles are excluded from the giveaway.

Respectable Horror Authors

Witches in Leipzig (via the British Library free images)Fox Spirit is happy to announce the final line up for the forthcoming anthology Respectable Horror, tales that will unsettle and disturb you without too much in the way of scandalous words, excessive gore (a little blood may drip) or any hint of lewdness —

Well, perhaps a hint.

It was an arduous selection process, the editor begs to tell you. The number of submissions outstripped expectations that it was a bit daunting especially when it came to sending rejection notices. Those who made the final cut should be especially pleased to have done so as the competition was considerable and truly global.

In a haphazard order here are the tales that will be included: the precise table of contents will be determined soon as will the cover artist. A couple names may be familiar to Fox Spirit readers, but most will be new — indeed this will be the first publication from a couple of our contributors.

Later this year, you will be able to discover the thrills and chills for yourself. Get ready for stories that will leave an indelible mark on your nights and your dreams.

The Authors

The Astartic Arcanum – Carol Borden

The Well Wisher – Matthew Pegg

The Little Beast – Octavia Cade

The Holy Hour – Chloë Yates

A Framework – Richard Barber

Malefactor – Austin Waller

The Estate of Edward Moorehouse – Ian Burdon

Spooky Girl – Maura McHugh

Full Tote Gods – Damien White

A Splash of Crimson – Catherine Lundoff

Where Demons Don’t Tread – Suzanne Willis

The Recovery – Edward Gauvin

Running a Few Errands – Su Haddrell

The Feet on the Roof – Anjana Basu

Miss Metcalf – Ivan Kershner

In These Rooms, These Houses – Jonathan Oliver

Those Who Can’t – Rosalind Mosis

 

African Monsters : Sunlight, shadow and Ichitapa by Jayne Bauling

Shadow depends on light, and light can penetrate the darkness.

There was a time in my life when, as a young adult, I read mostly horror novels and sought out horror movies. Darkness characterised most of these: we got midnight terror, lightless cellars, clouds drifting across the moon at the precise moment the graveyard begins to stir. The movies were frequently frustrating to me, just because I couldn’t see what was happening.

All very scream-inducingly terrifying, but gradually I realised that unease felt in a brightly lit landscape could be a lot creepier. I remember a sun-drenched early movie version of Stephen King’s short story Children of the Corn, and too the subtle escalation of apprehension in Peter Weir’s exquisite heat-hazed Picnic at Hanging Rock, with something or nothing always just beyond the edge of sight.

I have felt that same unease under a bright blue sky, walking in a sun-bleached sweep of veld not far from Johannesburg.

I always felt that if ever I turned to writing creepy, I must remember that Africa especially lends itself to creepiness in sunshine.

Chimamanda Adichie has talked of ‘the danger of a single story’, and for many, even today, Africa the Dark Continent is that single story. When I was invited to contribute a story to African Monsters, I knew I wanted to write one with sunlight in it, although not necessarily without shadow.

Ichitapa was the most seductive of the African monsters I researched. The Ndola sunken lakes in Zambia, with their pristine water brilliantly lit by the African sun, were ideal, surrounded by the shadowy mushitu forest, dark yet admitting sufficient light in places for shadows to be cast. Together, they fired my imagination, and my story Severed is the result.

sunken lake

Sunken Lake

Light begets shadow, and our shadows seem to be an intrinsic part of us. In some cultures, not only in Africa, and especially in earlier times, they could represent the soul, or even the darkness that exists in us all. We can speculate as to what sort of meaning JM Barrie attached to the human shadow. Peter Pan loses his shadow, and he desperately wants it back to play with, so that he can be ‘real’. Wendy sews it back on, perhaps recognising its significance as an essential part of the boy, giving him humanity.

Without our shadows, we are incomplete, so if you ever visit the Ndola sunken lakes, be careful not to let your shadow fall on the water. You don’t know what might happen.

African Monsters : The Editors

As they are the editors of the Fox Spirit book of African Monsters, we thought it could be a good idea to let Margrét Helgadóttir (MH) and Jo Thomas (JT) start the little blog tour we are having here at the Fox Spirit Books since the book is now published. In the coming weeks we are going to let the contributors tell about their monsters or other things on their minds. Let’s start with Jo, who has something she wants to say first:

JT: ‘Last year, we did a question and answer session between the two of us explaining where the Monster anthology idea came from. This year… Well, this year, you have a blog post. A slightly hi-jacked blogpost as I (Jo) got to write the first draft and have a few things to say personally. So, this year, I’d like to heap some praise on my co-editor, Margrét, and my publisher, Adele at Fox Spirit Books, for working like Trojans the last few of months in order to get everything in place. Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been moving and starting a new job, so I haven’t had much time for putting African Monsters together. So, three cheers for the hard-working team that did! And now on to the main event.’

The original intention a few years ago, the idea that formed with a Twitter conversation, was a “look at the whole world of monsters.” This eventually narrowed down to look at the monsters in our own pond, the European monsters. We were fairly eager to extend in to further volumes for other continents quite soon after imposing the restriction for European Monsters and happily Adele agreed this was a good idea.

JT: ‘This is, of course, a source of argument between we two editors, with one being raised with the five-continent model of the world and the other with the seven-continent model of the world.’

Africa became the next place to visit on the world tour. It is, of course, a continent we’re both happy admit to the existence of and we had the benefit of Margrét having spent some of her formative years there so that she had a familiarity with a number of regions and folklores. As with European Monsters, the anthology was invitation only and so we used and abused Margrét’s contacts while also researching new ones. It was important to us to make use of authors and artists who lived or had connections with the areas they were working on. Although we had hoped to have been able to have solely African authors in the book, we have not been able to secure a hundred percent African talent for the resulting anthology, mostly due to time constraints and communication problems. Also, since we mostly have authors who write English in this book, the geographical representation, is sadly not a full reflection on the world’s second largest and second most populous continent.

african

MH: ‘I feel we have learned much from editing these books when it comes to getting a good representation in the books. In following books we will try to have at least one translated story from a non-English speaking author. The key is to have the right amount of time, some luck and a good network.’

There is a wealth of skilled artists and published writers to look into and we consider our own anthology a jumping off point into the world of African fiction. But nevertheless, we have covered a small part of a large continent that we hope you enjoy. This is not the colonial “Dark Continent”—or, perhaps, not just the colonial, as that era is part of the history that formed the present day—but the stories we have gathered give grim glimpses of a darkness where the scariest thing is sometimes the bright light of day.