Tag Archives: Publicity

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

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

Drag Noir: Chloë Yates

The lovely Paulina Succotash

Kiki and Me
Chloë Yates
One night in the dim and distant long ago, I was working the graveyard shift at that notorious punk drag dive, Axolotl Snot, on the grimy lower east bank of The City. The night outside was cold and inside the clientele wasn’t much warmer. One moment I was wiping down the ever-sticky bar for the hundredth time, the next I was slack jawed with awe as the infamous drag queen Kiki Le Shade sashayed into my world. She was a dame and she had balls. One look into those hypnotically glacial peepers and I was spellbound. She bent me to her will and I thanked her for every displaced vertebrae… At least that’s how I wish it had gone, but I’ve never worked in a bar and I’ve only ever admired drag queens from afar. I have, however, been in love with them since I was a kid.

 

Ideas of gender have always fascinated and appalled me. The way we step into the construct of gender identity at birth and then stick to it as though it’s all perfectly natural and right when it’s clearly absolute bollocks has plagued me my entire life. Arbitrary rules of behaviour and “deportment” (ugh) that depend upon whether or not you have a tallywackle or a witch’s cackle have never made the least bit of sense to me. I never understood why I was supposed to do this or that because I was a “girl” or why my friend couldn’t wear this or act like that because he was a “boy”. I just wanted to do the things I wanted to do because I wanted to do them. I believe that’s how everybody feels, deep down at least, but all too often life teaches us that stepping out from the baaing masses is fraught with castigation and derision – those wicked sharp whip licks of social control. Well, fuck, as they say, that shit.

 

The long and the short of it is I’m a fan of chutzpah, if you’ll allow me the indulgence. Bold, in-your-face, no apologies types are my number one poison, my idols and my role models, and who’s better at in-your-face than drag queens? Undoubtedly I have a romanticised view of them, but it certainly seems to me that drag queens make no apologies. More often than not it is their opportunity to act out, play up and throw their besequinned shit in the face of folks with wild abandon – and they seize it. Drag has never seemed like a mask to me. It is, rather, a medium for liberation. An excuse to be fearlessly bold, a ticket to kick the world in the tits while sticking your tongue out and wiggling your glitter-encrusted arse at it. That beautiful bright light of subversion being thrown so boldly in the face of a generally conservative world that pouts and frowns at “otherness” like we don’t all have secrets, fears, desires and frustrations that torment and thrill us, tickles me in all the best places.

 

Needless to say, I really wanted to write a story for Drag Noir but, after whacking my brain into inanimate object after inanimate object, I was stumped. Not because I couldn’t think of a million and one scenarios, but because I couldn’t think of the right one (some might argue I didn’t do that anyway but they can kiss my big fat bellend). Then I came across the song ‘Let’s Have a Kiki’ by Scissor Sisters. I can’t remember if it was on the telly or if someone posted it on Facebook, but it stuck in my head like only the most vicious of earworms are wont to do. It did the job though, one of those mental switch thingummies. I listened to that fucking song about eight million times while sitting in front of my screen and not once did my fingers stop typing. Kiki was pretty much born in one go, but she felt like she’d always been with me. First came the image of the faded drag queen, a shadow of her former self that long ago night at the Axolotl, sitting in a parking lot on one of those awful white plastic chairs, inches long ash clinging to a still blazing cigarette, lipstick smudged, wig askew. And I wondered what she was waiting for, because she was definitely waiting for something. Turns out, it wasn’t what I expected… which is just how I like it.


Click to buy!

Drag Noir: Paul D. Brazill

Paul DeLiberace Brazill relaxing at home (thanks to S. L. Johnson for the photo)

Paul DeLiberace Brazill relaxing at home (thanks to S. L. Johnson for the photo)

How I Wrote A Bit Of A Pickle for Drag Noir

Paul D. Brazill
It goes like this: A rainy  night in Soho, thrown out of The French House and off to Ronnie Scott’s til dawn. Then a gypsy cab driven by an Islamic fundamentalist over to the East End and a dodgy pub near a meat market.  Go for a slash on in an alleyway near Crucifix Lane and get lost just off Druid Street. Follow a group of old women into a pockmarked terraced house and realise that they’re having a séance. A tall Polish woman with a turban gives me a message from beyond. And that message becomes A Bit Of A Pickle.

Pick up Drag Noir today by clicking on the picture below and get your glad rags on.

Cover by S. L. Johnson

Cover by S. L. Johnson

Drag Noir Cover Artist: S. L. Johnson

Cover by S. L. Johnson

Cover by S. L. Johnson

Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets — faboo artist S. L. Johnson tells us how she came up with her latest eye-catching design for the cover of Drag Noir:

When I was asked to create a cover for the “Drag Noir” antho, it was quite a challenge. “Drag” is a full-on gender-bending costumed performance role, meant to be seen and heard, while “noir” is dark and nefarious, and hidden. Resolving these two ideas in visual form led to a lot of dead-end ideas, and my desire to represent both male & female gender conventions in drag further muddied the creative waters. After several false starts, I decided I would take one face and split it down the middle, with the idea of that the face could be seen as the woman or the man in drag. I felt this was the obvious solution, but in such a graphic, flat form, it would work well. It’s shadowy, a la noir, but with bright red half-lips, and a green face that represents the very made-up faces of drag queens, yet could also be corpse-like in the pulpiest way.

It works, for sure!

Be sure to check out Johnson’s other work which runs the gamut from book and CD covers to posters and more! Including her other noir covers for us.

 

Out in the world

image

Aunty Fox is going to be out and about a bit in the coming months.

First up this Saturday I will be resplendent in a yellow t shirt for Leicester Comic Con at Silver arcade.

There will be a Fox Spirit table which I have helpers for in case I have to run off and deal with volunteer things. Kate Laity will be in attendance and a few other skulk members will be dropping by and signing stuff so if you are in the area come and say hi and check out the first Leicester Comic Con in all its awesome.

In July I am at Harrogate, technically this is a holiday, I don’t work it, but I am always happy to see people so if you spot me come and say hello.

Next up is NineWorlds Geek Fest in August where I will be easily found behind the Indie books table. Small press and self pub folks can get more information about having their books on the table from allofthebooks@nineworlds.co.uk

We will only be displaying small numbers of books from each seller at any given time but are there for three days so stash extra stock in your room and come and replenish the table later. 10% of all sales will go to NineWorlds charity partner. Come by and see your Aunty Fox and peruse the small press offerings.

Finally I will be attending FantasyCon, I am on no panels this year and have not booked a table or a launch, I will be in the bar having a lovely time. come and hang out with the skulk.

There will no doubt be other small events and things I go to at short notice and I know lots of FS writers and artists are out and about at other things this year. Check out the events page for the ones I know about.

 

 

Writing is not a Zero Sum Game

AMZfinalWeird NoirI saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the virtual streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of publishing, who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating ebooks, who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated by flickering gifs…

All because they could not get a grip on a simple concept:

Writing is not a zero sum game.

JK Rowling’s popularity is not dooming you to obscurity. Nora Roberts does not bathe in the tears of would-be writers. Stephen King does not laugh at you from atop huge piles of money (probably).

But writing for exposure exposes your willingness to write for exposure. Every time you share a HuffPo link, you say, ‘I’m okay with not paying writers for their work’. The choices you make build the world around you. A world that is willing to settle for ‘good enough’ if it’s free. There are a lot of people who write ‘good enough’ and are desperate enough to see their name in print that they will accept not being paid to do so.

There is a revolution happening via ebooks, but ‘the revolution will put you in the driver’s seat’ and you have to take the wheel. It won’t just happen of its own accord. People have to be lured into change. Seduce them.

Writing is not a zero sum game.

It’s a community–that’s why we have the skulk here at Fox Spirit. Do you read as well as write? Do you write reviews? Do you rate the books you read? Do you leave the kind of reviews for books that you long to see for your own? Do you comment or share other people’s books? Do you promote other writers the way you wish people would promote you? Do you share the writers you love?

They’re not your competition.

Apathy is.

The ease of letting hours slip away on Facebook or Twitter is. The quick clicks that take you to Netflix or on-demand television or movies is. All the mindless media that allows you to be barely conscious, to idle the days away without effort — that’s your competition. Reading is more work — yet a joy for those who hunger for it. A great book makes you hungry for another, and another, and another.

Make them hungry.

Write the books you want to read, the books that aren’t out there. Don’t get caught up in how your stories get to readers, just try to get them in front of them and lure them into reading them. Don’t spend your time sneering at the kind of books someone reads. The people you might score points with probably aren’t the ones who’ll be reading your books. Share the stories that hooked you, inspired you and made you want to write. Try to convey that excitement. A hook might get you to buy a book, but it’s the story that keeps you reading even if the writing isn’t all that good.

We’re still sitting around the campfire, waiting for the magic to happen — for characters to come to life, for imaginary adventures to seem more real than the fire (or monitor or phone screen) in front of us, to fall through the hole in the page and into wonderland.

Make some magic. Write.

[with apologies to Allen Ginsberg and Gil Scott Heron]

Guardians

Ummm, Apparently I never did a line up for Guardians announcement, very remiss of me, so here is the line up in no particular order for Fox Pocket three.

Running order will be available nearer the release date.

FS3 Guardians ebook 72ppi
Alasdair Stuart – Fat Angels
Geraldine Clark-Hellery – The Guardian
Jack Gaunt – Dreaming
Chris Galvin – Arabesque
Rahne Sinclair – Warden of Valdr
Chloe Yates – Well our feeble frame he knows
Colin Sinclair – Phased
Jonathan Ward – Gateway
Margret Helgadottir – Lost Bonds
Paul Starkey – Swung
Den Patrick – Wrecked
Alec McQuay – Of the Glare
Emma Teichmann – Re-Semblance
James Fadeley – Favours the Prepared
Christian D’Amico – Defiant
Catherine Hill – My guardians guardian

Missing Monarchs

The line up for Fox Pocket four has been agreed and the writers informed so I can now share it with you all.

FS4 Missing Monarchs ebook 72ppi

Missing Monarchs

Victoria Hooper –  The Lost Queen
Ro Smith  – The Runaway King
Lou Morgan  – Oliver Cromwell’s Other Head
Jonathan Ward  – The Collector
Rahne Sinclair  – Monarch of the Glen
Graham Wynd – Headless in Bury
Paul Starkey – Checkmate
Chloe Yates – Tits up in Wonderland
Chris D’Amico – Matriarch
Geri Clark Hellery – Missing Monarch
Michael Pack – Paths in the forest
Jo Thomas –  The Lost Kingdom

running order to be confirmed.

A quick apology Ben Stewart’s  ‘The Wisdom of King Weejun’ will be appearing in Mouse & Minotaur, not Missing Monarchs, but it will be coming!

In the mean time, Shapeshifters in formatting and Guardians in editing.

The next volume to close will be Under The Waves on 15th January 2014. You can see the running order here http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/FoxPockets and it is indeed Piercing the Vale, not Veil, so don’t feel it’s ghost stories only for that one, the odd visit underhill might not go amiss.

 

Weird Noir Carnival at Bouchercon

WEB Final Noir Carnival AMZfinalWeird Noir

Fox Spirit is pleased to announce that we have arranged to hold a celebration WEIRD NOIR CARNIVAL at Bouchercon 2013 in Albany. For those unfamiliar with it, Bouchercon is a moveable feast celebrating the very finest in crime and mystery writing. Consider it the Woodstock for writers in the genre. It runs from the 19th to the 22nd of September in Albany, NY. Guests of honour include Sue Grafton, Anne Perry, Tess Gerritsen and many many more big names (and small!).

Friday afternoon at 1:30 PM we will be holding the “WEIRD NOIR CARNIVAL” with readings, promotional items and some giveaways! Join editor K. A. Laity, and authors Jan Kozlowski and Chris L. Irvin (and maybe some surprise guests!) for the fun and get weird, get noir.

Follow Bouchercon on Facebook — and if you haven’t already done so, drop by our Fox Spirit page and give us a like!

Can’t be there in person? Join our live Google Hangout!