Tag Archives: Jo Thomas

Fool if you think it’s Over!

The last installment of the Elkie Bernstein trilogy by Jo Thomas is here! 

As far as Elkie’s concerned, it’s all over and her happy ending is just around the corner. She’s on her way back to Wales having freed Ben from the clutches of the controlling Dr Olsen and ensured that Dave, her ex-everything, will never be in a position to kill again. She’s even managed to find herself a (somewhat unwilling) father figure in Conn, the one werewolf in the world who seems to have his shit together. All she has to do is say “thank you” to the Valemon, a company so at odds with Olsen they were willing to support her, then get on a plane for home. Easy, right?

cover art by Sarah Anne Langton

Available now in paperback! 

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.

African Monsters Table of Contents

African Monsters, the second in the FS Books of Monsters series that started with European Monsters, is due out this Christmas. There will be a launch party in London early in 2016, please keep an eye out for more details.

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

Edited by Margret Helgadottir and Jo Thomas and with Cover art by Daniele Serra we are pleased to reveal the table of contents for African Monsters:

Nnedi Okorafor: On the Road

Joan de la Haye: Impundulu

Tade Thompson: One Hundred and Twenty Days of Sunlight

Jayne Bauling: Severed

Su Opperman: The Death of One

T.L. Huchu: Chikwambo

Dilman Dila: Monwor

S. Lotz: That Woman

Toby Bennett: Sacrament of Tears

Chikodili Emelumadu: Bush Baby

Joe Vaz: After The Rain

Dave-Brendon de Burgh: Taraab and Terror in Zanzibar

Nerine Dorman: A Whisper in the Reeds

Vianne Venter: Acid Test

Nick Wood: Thandiwe’s Tokoloshe

James Bennett and Dave Johnson (artist): A Divided Sun

The book will also have illustrations from Su Opperman, Kieran Walsh, Mariam Ibrahim, Eugene Smith and Benali Amine.

The third book in the series will be Asian Monsters coming Christmas 2016.

European Monsters

European Monsters

 

Signings at FantasyCon

Lots of the skulk are going to be at FantasyCon this year and many of them are on panels, but we also have a few signings going on!

fox spirit - logo - large - signed copy

K.T. Davies will be signing Breed at the mass signing on Sunday, we will have some copies available but feel free to buy in advance and bring it with you to avoid disappointment. Breed is on the shortlist for Best Fantasy Novel so we will be chewing our nails at the awards ceremony!

Breed Final Digital Cover for Upload

 

Additionally Steven Savile will be signing King Wolf and Steve Lockley will be signing Always a Dancer & Other Stories over at the Pendragon Press table at 4pm on Saturday. There might even be cake!

Pendragon have kindly agreed to host a small number of Fox Spirit titles for the weekend which will be available from Saturday morning. The Lonely Dark by Ren Warom, The Elkie Bernstein novels by Jo Thomas and European Monsters will also be available in limited numbers.

 

Revisited : 25 Ways to Kill a Werewolf by Jo Thomas

Today we launch the second Elkie Bernstein novel at Edge.Lit4, so it seems a good time to revisit the first in the series.

Elkie is a great heroine, with nothing but her determination, her wits and the strength of any girl living in rural Wales to help her she survives focused attacks, personal betrayal and more. Elkie is an ordinary woman in extraordinary circumstances.

25 Ways Wrap 72ppi

25 Ways to Kill A Werewolf by Jo Thomas
Cover Art by Sarah Anne Langton

‘My name is Elkie Bernstein. I live in North Wales and I kill werewolves.’

When Elkie finds herself fighting for her life against something that shouldn’t exist she is faced with the grim reality that werewolves are real and she just killed one. Part diary, part instruction manual Elkie guides the reader through 25 ways you can kill a werewolf, without any super powers, and how she did it.

Opening paragraphs

My name is Elkie Bernstein. I live in North Wales and I kill werewolves.

I’m human and nothing special. No quick healing, no super strength, no fantastic reflexes, no mutant powers. Just human. I get hurt and the injuries take their own time to heal. It leaves me weak and vulnerable so I avoid it. I can’t fight a million attackers at once — I don’t have the raw talent or the trained skill — so I avoid doing it. I can’t read minds or call lightning from the sky so I avoid situations where they would be my only possible line of defence.

I’m nothing special. But anyone who tells you that you have to be special to kill werewolves hasn’t been trying hard enough. And anyone who says there’s only one way to kill a werewolf needs to experiment more. A lot more.

Cover Reveal : A Pack of Lies

The second Elkie Bernstein novel is coming out very shortly and will have a launch in its honour at Edge.Lit in July.

In the mean time here is the cover for A Pack of Lies by Jo Thomas

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A Pack of Lies is the second in the series and while it isn’t a requirement to read the first book to follow the story, we would still suggest you do, because it’s superb and they make a gorgeous pair. The artwork is by the fabulous Sarah Anne Langton.

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European Monsters : The Editors

As the editors of the Fox Spirit book of European Monsters, Margrét Helgadóttir (MH) and Jo Thomas (JT) have been invited to contribute to the Fox Spirit blog. Now, they could explain how the book sprang out of a Twitter conversation between the editors-to-be, along with a few other guilty parties, about how monsters have been declawed. They could try to find words to explain how happy they are for their first book as editors to see the light of day. Or they could wax lyrical about the stunning stories and breath-taking artwork.

They’re not, though. They’re going to discuss where monsters come from…

MH: So, you wanna go first? What monsters are you afraid of, and why?

JT: I guess the answer to that is rather trite in that it isn’t monsters that scare me. Don’t get me wrong, if I ran into any of the monsters that made the cut for our book, I’d probably collapse in a boneless heap. But the idea of monsters doesn’t scare me as such because they just do what monsters are supposed to do.

In other words, it’s human beings that scare me. As I can’t read them especially well and don’t know what to expect of them–particularly the ones I don’t know–I find human beings unpredictable. So humans are probably my biggest phobia.

Next to mirrors in the dark, but that’s another story.

So, what scares you?

afraid-of-the-dark-copy21

MH: I think I would say something similar. I am very scared of the dark. I’ve always been. I used to check under my bed before turning the light off–and sometimes I still do–I think I would probably die of shock if some day, something was staring back at me. But it has become easier as I have become an adult and more rational. But still, once in a while, I can’t turn off the light. But like you, it’s the humans who scare me the most, more than monsters. I think I can read humans quite well, but maybe that’s the problem. Sometimes I look at a person in a crowd and I think she or he has cold eyes, and it frightens me. When you think about what humans are able to do to other humans or animals–That’s scary.

I always cover my large mirror before I go to bed.

So, what do you think has been most important in shaping your ideas about monsters? Fairy tales, popular culture, something your neighbour told you?

JT: The first monster I remember being in the house was the three-toed snorty-blog. Something to do with a birthday card from an aunt and, obviously, the monster was supposed to be cute and cuddly. I spent several years thereafter being told I was actually the three-toed snorty-blog–what with my being unable to breath properly (I had near permanent colds).

Technically, though, I suppose the first monster in the house was my older sister being told that there were witches hiding down the toilet and they’d eat her if she went at night. This was my dad’s attempt to stop her going to the toilet in the night and she still has to turn the lights on if she wakes up in the night. I do, too, but my monsters are in the mirror, not down the toilet.

Anyway, that’s what monsters should be as far as I’m concerned–a way of explaining something that doesn’t make sense away that can be as good or as bad as it likes–very much like Nature. It might be misunderstood, it might be good at heart, but it probably doesn’t care about you either way. I think the sea monster stories in our book in general capture that well but the Icy Sedgewick story we collected does a particularly good job.

How do you think of monsters?

Boogeyman

MH: To do the academic approach first, I agree with you. I think monsters throughout our history have been merely products of humans’ inability to explain things, be it the strange mountain shapes, thundering and lightning, or the neighbour who died so sudden. Several of the stories in European monsters is based on such folklore and legends. Aliya Whiteley’s story, for instance, builds on a myth about ‘the beast of Exmoor’, a very interesting legend about an enormous phantom cat roaming the wilderness of Exmoor, most likely a cat which escaped from the zoo, and sadly not so much a real monster. I think also some people in a position of power, be it parents—like your story about your dad and sister–bishops or the elders of a society, have used an idea of a monster or something evil as an efficient tool, as a way of controlling people. And then we have the freak shows and carnivals lurking in our cultural past, and the horror stories told by the camp fire. I think people just love to be scared.

Personally I adore monsters and the idea that there are monsters. Have you experienced how you sometimes can wake up in your bed in middle of the night, certain that you are not alone in the room, but you can’t move, not a muscle? And the air feels icy, and you are terrified that if you open your eyes, something really is in your room? What if the thought that you don’t dare to say out loud–that there is a nightmare, a monster there–is true? How terrifying, but wonderful.

JT: Ah, sleep paralysis and nightmares. I sometimes get that, complete with padding paw-steps coming up the stairs. The first time I had one, I was enraged at being unable to move. I wanted to invite the dog on to the bed but couldn’t because I was paralysed and unable to speak. I was too asleep not to realise the dog I heard wasn’t real as I didn’t have one at the time, but too awake to find the situation scary.

(I’ve also heard other people talking about the same or very similar. Some of them interpreted it as a haunting, some as alien abduction.)

MH: Why do you think monsters have been so overused and watered down?

JT: I think I just unintentionally covered that in the sleep paralysis story I just shared. We start to sympathise with monsters–recognising something of ourselves in them, maybe–or think their powers are pretty awesome and we wouldn’t mind having them as pets if we can’t actually be them.

I guess that’s what bothers me about the Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Romance tendency to de-claw by making monsters love interests. It ends up being an unhealthy, obsessive kind of romance about an ideal on a pedestal instead of a recognition of the individual who has dangerous potential. That said, much as I love reading romances, I find romance is right next to insanity when observed in real life so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Anyway, this is why I wanted to work on a project like European Monsters, a project that gives them their teeth back and takes away the romance.

What particular monsters do you consider overused?

MH: That is exactly why I wanted to do the European Monsters project too. I think especially the humanoid monsters like the vampires and the shapeshifters might have been used too much, if you can say ‘used’ about monsters. I have read hundreds of books about vampires, for instance. I adore these creatures, but I think the images of them in the western popular culture the last decade might have become stereotypes. After Anne Rice introduced the vampires as melancholic and beautiful monsters who are outsiders of the (western) human society, and who only long to be humans and part of the human society, maybe find the true love, we have seen so many interpretations of this. This goes for many monster stories of today, not only stories about vampires: the lonely monster who only wants to be friends with the humans. Many of these stories I think can be read as stories about patterns in the human psyche. But that’s not bad. I love these stories. I have even written a few myself. But sometimes I want to be introduced to different monster stories where the monsters just are monsters, and no philosophy around their existence. Many of the monsters we know are based in western popular culture. I look forward to get to know monsters from other parts of the world, as we continue with the book series.

lestat

And about nightmares. I think humans’ fears are often revealed through the nightmares: The monster that stalks you, and how you are glued to the ground not able to run away. Or being eaten alive or invaded. I think there is much to Freud’s theories about dreams. I believe our minds work with our anxieties and worries when we sleep just like they renew our cells and heal physical injures or sicknesses. And sometimes in this process our minds produce dreams that might relate to the worries you have, or something you have witnessed, like many trauma victims who suffer from awful nightmares. Yet, now and then I wonder if our dreams are something entirely different, something we have no names for yet. I write some of my dreams down and use them in my writing. But not all these dreams and dream monsters can be tracked back to something I have witnessed or experienced. Some of these monsters, what if they just were there? I don’t make sense now, do I?

You have written about werewolves yourself. When you have been writing these books, have you been conscious about werewolves in western culture?

JT: Yes. I made a conscious decision to “dial back” to an older version–the putting on a wolf skin is a part of the mythology that has been abandoned with the more modern Western / Hollywood version. However, I haven’t been able to escape the idea that werewolves are, at least in part, humans. Which means that some of them are good or behave well because that potential is in all human beings. Not that most of them act on it, as those people who choose to become werewolves are generally after the power, not being nice and fluffy. So, I didn’t go far enough back to ensure that they were driven to do ghastly things, only ensure that they were physically capable of doing it and often inclined to it.

This thing of werewolves, though, really comes from the idea that the Hollywood version wouldn’t work nagging at me. Obviously, the magic for my kind of werewolves doesn’t exist, either, but it feels more consistent and logical, closer to how the world seems to work to me than the glamorous Hollywood version. I wouldn’t have been able to puzzle that out if I hadn’t spent time creating characters and situations to act it all out for me.

What monsters do you feel you need to put some time into to find out how they work? What calls in your dreams or sits in the back of your mind when you’re writing?

MH: I have written a couple of stories based on Norwegian folklore, like our stories about the grey people and the goblins, who are far scarier than the Hollywood version. I have also written a few stories about unbalanced humans, but it’s the shapeshifters who have mainly been haunting my monster writing. Shapeshifters fascinate me, because of the balance between the parts that are human, animal, wild and monstrous. But maybe mostly about how different from humans they are. I don’t have any particular favourite yet and I have written about several kinds. One of these shapeshifters, a lion, has the putting on skin mythology, that you mentioned. It was a belief that existed amongst the sami people and even the vikings. Not any of my shapeshifters have changed by being bitten yet.

I’m also very fasinated by the folklore around shapeshifters and how humans long for the animal characteristics, strength etc. In Norway it’s been common since the old Norse days to name boys after animals (Bjørn-bear, Ulf-wolf, Are-eagle, Orm-snake, Rein-reindeer etc), mainly because one thought the boys would get the animals’ attributes too.

What calls in the back of your mind when you are writing?

JT: Pack. More precisely, the awareness that even if I don’t understand the wider world, I have two dogs that I have to live with and care for. They are my immediate family (barring parent, siblings and their offspring) and I wish I could understand them better. I guess I envy their not being human… But I wouldn’t choose to be a werewolf as I suspect that one can’t be a particularly good wolf unless one knows how to socialise with other wolves.

Roots. I was born outside of the UK, although we returned while I was still a toddler. My parents and grandparents moved quite a bit and I was always encouraged to remember the traditions of the places we came from and had been as well as the places we were living at the time I grew up. So a lot of what I write often appropriates from all over Europe with a touch of the Caribbean. It’s not intentional, more an echo of the material that went in with reading.

Nature. I grew up rurally–although not as wild as it could have been in other parts of the country–and I think it shows. Nature is a true beauty, no matter how tamed you think it is. It can also be monstrous. It doesn’t care, it can as easily be bad for your health as it can be good for you, it works on a grand scale and yet so much of it is made up of critters so small we can’t even see them. I should find a way to include it as a protagonist more often. Perhaps working with monsters is actually part of that.

I guess this leads to asking: As you’ve moved around a bit yourself, how do your travels reflect in your writing?

MH: That is a very difficult question you are asking. So far my stories have been heavily influenced by my Nordic background, Norway and Iceland, where I have lived most of my life. I have a work in progress that takes a place in Africa. I have been thinking about trying to write more stories from Africa for a while. I have moved lots around in general, which has led to a sense of rootlessness and homelessness. I think this might be reflected in my writing. Many of my characters are on the road and on hunt for a home or themselves. This also includes the stories about shapeshifters. I’ve written one story about a young shapeshifter girl who has lived in an orphanage, not knowing who she is or where she is from, but when she becomes a sea eagle, she instinctively knows where her home is.

I think also many of the stories in the anthology European monsters address this balance between the human society and the wilderness and nature, as we have talked about now. And many of the protagonists are searching for something. The girl who lost her boyfriend to the lake monster in Kirsti Walsh’s story, the monster in James Bennett’s story who longs for his home land, or the girl who travels across the world to a woman she doesn’t know in Nerine Dorman’s story.

…And now you know a little bit more about where our monsters came from.

’25 Ways to Kill a Werewolf’ in the Wild!

I am delighted to announce that 25 Ways to Kill a Werewolf will be available in print this week from Amazon.

August titles will be available as ebooks in September from Amazon and Spacewitch

‘My name is Elkie Bernstein. I live in North Wales and I kill werewolves.’

When Elkie finds herself fighting for her life against something that shouldn’t exist she is faced with the grim reality that werewolves are real and she just killed one. Part diary, part instruction manual Elkie guides the reader through 25 ways you can kill a werewolf, without any super powers, and how she did it.

25 Ways Front 72ppi

Jo Thomas is also one of the Editors on ‘European Monsters’ coming out at the end of this year.