Girls and Ghosts, Release Day!

It’s that time of year, Halloween just past and in the UK Bonfire Night is upon us. It’s a time when ghosts may wander abroad and fires offer more than a place to burn the unfortunate Mr Fawkes, they give us safety against the drawing dark and the things that move within it.

So it’s the perfect time to release the Ghosts volume of Anne Michaud’s trilogy of short story collections.

Five Girls, Five Ghosts. Five Tales of hauntings and secrets. In this collection Anne Michaud brings us empathy and horror. Never underestimate the anger of the dead or the resilience of the living.

‘Anne Michaud’s writing is haunting, powerful and often beautiful’ – Amanda Rutter

Get it now
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Fox Spirit E store

Happy Halloween

I love Halloween. I love masks and mayhem and all the whispered promises of the coming winter. So this year we have a Halloween tale by the utterly marvellous Tracy Fahey.

Grandma’s Tale: The Girl Who Loved A Ghost

It was dark outside, dark as only autumn can be; a velvety midnight blue sky, no stars. Vivian shivers and draws the curtains. Inside, the sweet peat-smoke from the open fire warms the air. Grandma stands, stirring the pot of stew on the stove. From time to time she hums; an abstract, repetitive little melody.

‘I’m going out now,’ says Vivian.

Grandma turns.

‘Just over to Tommy’s.’ Vivian can read the unspoken question. ‘We’re picking out our trick-or-treat outfits.’

‘You’re going out tomorrow night?’ Her grandma looks troubled.

‘Yeah.’ Vivian is surprised. ‘We always do it in Dublin.’

Grandma looks at her steadily. ‘It’s a dangerous night at the best of times, but more so in the country than in the city. There you have precious little of the old ways left; it’s all bright lights and new inventions. The Good Folk are nearly gone from that place.’

‘But here…?’

‘But here they’re still strong. And never more so than on Samhain.’

‘Samhain?’

‘You call it Halloween. But it’s just a shadow of the ancient festival of Samhain.’ Her voice has taken on that familiar cadence, low and strong. ‘It’s the time of great power for na Sidhe, the Good Folk, the fae. They’re at their most devious then, during that time when the veil between the living and the dead grows thin.’

Vivian is fascinated. ‘So people stay indoors then?’

Grandma looks at her seriously. ‘They do, child.  Sure your own grandfather’s family know well what can happen if you don’t.’

‘The MacArthurs?’ Vivian is intrigued. Her grandma seldom mentions the infamous MacArthurs.

‘Yes. I could tell a story about them…’

She doesn’t need to say any more. Vivian grabs her grandma’s hand. ‘Tell me.’

#

The Girl Who Loved A Ghost

A long time ago, way back further than you or I could even imagine, hundreds of years ago, your grandad’s family lived in the Big House in the village here. They were a proud, haughty family that didn’t mix with the villagers. They charged a hard rent, they cared not one bit about the ordinary people. All bar one of the family, that is. There was a girl, Nora, a few years older than you. Nora was her name. Her mother was dead, and her father was often absent. Her older sisters were fine ladies who went to balls in Dublin and wore dresses made of the finest silks.

But Nora was different. She liked to roam around the countryside by herself. She spent her days watching birds, picking flowers, eating berries from the hedges. ‘You look like a beggar,’ said her sisters with scorn. But Nora didn’t care.

One autumn day when she was on her travels, she met an old woman carrying a bag who was trying to cross a river. The water was low, but the old woman moved stiffly, afraid of overbalancing.

‘Let me help you.’ Nora was a kind girl. She took the old woman’s arm, and steered her across the ford.

‘Thank you,’ said the old woman, once they reached the other side. She put her hand in her bag and pulled out an apple.

‘Thank you,’ said Nora, always pretty-mannered, and raised it to her lips. It was a lovely apple, shiny red like blood, and its warm scent smelled like summer. The old woman raised a hand.

‘Don’t eat it now,’ she said. ‘Leave it in your pocket, and only bite into it if you’re in danger.’

It was an odd thing to say. Nora watched the old lady until she reached the bend of the road. A wind swirled up and carried the leaves from the ground into a twirling stream that blotted her from view. When Nora looked again, she was gone. She shrugged, and went on her way, the apple in her pocket.

#

The next day was  Samhain. Now all the local people knew that this was a dangerous time. On Samhain the dead go walking. The new dead can come home, but only for one night. So to this day, on that night we light candles in the window to see them home, we set the table to entice them in with food, we sweep the floors and make the house neat for their return.

It’s also the night the fae are abroad. They walk with the dead, they walk with the living. And that’s why people dress up, even today. It’s to confuse the fae, so they don’t know who belongs to this world and who belongs to the next.

But Nora knew none of this. It was a beautiful late afternoon and she wanted to go walking. So as the servants were cleaning the house, and getting out the candles, she slipped away into the fields.

When she got to the river, she half-expected to see the old woman again, but there was no-one there. Only the setting sun reflected in the shimmering water. She stopped for a moment to admire the sky streaked with orange.

‘It is beautiful isn’t it?’

She jumped. Beside her was a young man, his face pale and sad.

‘Yes, yes,’ she stuttered. ‘Where did you come from? Who are you?’

‘I am James Blackwood. I live near here,’ he said. ‘Would you like to walk with me?’

And so they walked together as the sky above them darkened and the breeze grew still. Even the birds stopped their chirruping. A blank silence settled over the landscape.

And as they walked they began to talk. Nora, who had never thought about boys before, decided she liked this young man. He talked of nature, of the foxes he’d seen late at night, cavorting like dogs at play, of the beauty of cherry blossom trees shaken by the wind, scattering their confetti over the ground.

And when he put out his hand, she took it. His hand was cold, but she didn’t mind; her own hand warmed his as they walked.

‘Would you like to visit my family?’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ she said, and smiled at him. They walked up a twisting path into the hills, a path she hadn’t walked before. It grew darker and the stars peeped out, pale at first, then dazzling against the blackness of the sky.

‘Is it much further?’ she asked. Her legs were tiring now.

‘Not much further,’ he said, and held her hand tighter. It was too dark now to see, but he walked along, surefooted, and she followed. Eventually he stopped.

‘Here we are,’ he said and let go of her hand.

With that, the moon rose, and in the silvery light she saw that she stood, not in front of a house, but a cemetery. Within the ancient gates she saw a large tomb with the word ‘BLACKWOOD’ engraved on it.

And then she grew cold and afraid because she knew that the young man beside her was not one of the living. She stepped back, and as she did so, the apple bumped against her leg. |She remembered the old woman’s words: ‘Leave it in your pocket, and only bite into it if you’re in danger.’ Trembling, she took it out and bit into it. It tasted sweet as honey.

As she bit into it, there was a thunderclap and a fizz of lightning and she saw she was alone. Nora turned and ran down the hill, all the way home to where the candles glimmered in the windows of the Big House.

And so, because of the kindness she showed that old fairy woman, she was saved. But for many nights after she wandered down to the river, hoping to see the pale young man again. For beside him, every man seemed ordinary and humdrum. She never married, and to the end of her days she remembered that night, the night she fell in love with a ghost.

#

‘And that, my dear Vivian,’ says Grandma. ‘That is why we don’t go out in the darkness on Samhain.’

10 Things to do before Committing to a Tattoo

Continuing our ’10 things women really want advice on’ series with another article from Molly Bruton, 10 things to do before Committing to a Tattoo.

10 Things to do before committing to a Tattoo

By Molly Bruton 

Design

Before deciding to even go and look at the tattoo parlour you need to have an idea of what kind of tattoo you want whether this is style or exact design. It is always best to have a couple of images of some other people’s tattoos that may be of a similar style so you can see how it might turn out.

The Tattoo Parlour

You’ve done the research, you’ve looked at their facebook page, you’ve found the parlour for you. Now it’s going and seeing it. Check reviews online to see what the atmosphere is like – you don’t want to go somewhere that you’ll feel uncomfortable as this will make you more tense and therefore will be a less enjoyable experience.

The Artist

You may have found a shop with multiple artists, or you may be going to a shop for a certain artist. If it’s the former, go in and ask who would be best to do your tattoo as some artists are more skilled in some areas such as portraits than others. Always chose the artist best for you.

Talk to them

Discussing your design with the artist is the best way to get what you want and what will look best. These artists have experience in that field and will want to give you the best tattoo they can, therefore if you go in with some pictures of other tattoos similar to what you (stylistically or design wise) you’ll be making it much easier for the artist to get the design right.

Don’t be afraid to speak up

If the artist is changing your design while you’re planning it, don’t be afraid to speak up and tell them that isn’t what you were hoping for. They will listen, take it into account and change it to suit you. This is your tattoo, it will be there for life, you need to love every aspect of it.

Artist Opinion

If you’re unsure of where you want your tattoo, whether you want it in black/grey or colour or anything relating to the design of the tattoo – ask the artist what they think. Although this is your tattoo, these artists know what will look good and what will fit better where and are more than happy to take the time with you to figure these things out.

Time

How long will the tattoo take? The bigger the tattoo the more time it will take – I feel like this is quite obvious, but it’s always better to ask the artist this as you can then plan around it knowing you’ll be busy for that chunk of time. It’s always better to over estimate than under estimate when it comes to tattoo timings.

Cost

Some tattoo parlours charge by the hour, some charge based on design – this is the same with artists. If it is length of time that will be much easier to work out than design. However, if you ask your artist how much it’ll be and get them to give you the largest estimate, you are able to budget for that and take that amount with you.

Aftercare

One of the most important things about a tattoo is the aftercare.  If it’s not cared for properly, or allowed to heal there’s no way the tattoo will stay in good shape or good quality. Ask what aftercare there should be and what products are best for healing a tattoo. Most places have a leaflet or handout that they can give you with everything you need to know.

Stay Calm

One of the main things about getting tattooed is knowing that it will hurt – it’s needles of course there will be pain. However, if you go in relaxed and calm and try not to get yourself worked up before hand about the pain the experience will be much more enjoyable and will end up being much less painful than your mind set it out to be. However, if you are really concerned – talk to your tattoo artist, they might be able to ease your mind a bit.

The main thing when deciding to commit to a tattoo is communication with your tattoo artist, they’re doing the tattoo and will be the best port of call for any of your concerns or queries.

 

Hire Idiots is live!

If you have been following the issues in academia in the US and to some extent the UK, or just like a good murder, Prof Nemo is here to help with ‘Hire Idiots’, which seems to be the rallying cry of academic institutions at the moment. 

Hire Idiots by Professor I.M. Nemo
Cover by Jenny Haines
Edited by Daz Pulsford

‘This is a work of fiction.Any resemblance to the living or the dead is purely coincidental and ought to make you ashamed at the comparison.’

PROMINENT PROFESSOR STABBED TO DEATH AT KINGSLEY COLLEGE!

Unfortunately, the murder may get lost in the confusion of new vice presidents, marketers, focus groups, assessors and protestors as the administration tries to make education profitable. There’s no time for mystery!Professor Clarence Van Dyke finds himself bewildered by the changes, but determined to get to the bottom of the killing. He wants his friend to rest in peace – or perhaps he just wants to spend more time with the attractive Detective Riordan. But isn’t he the primary suspect?

Curious about the Italian writing retreat?

We asked Damien Seaman how he ended up inviting writers to the Italian countryside for some serious writing time in the first place…

How my dark week of the soul could help you fix your crappy novel (no offence)

By writing blogger and hotelier Damien Seaman

If you’re of a literary bent and you’ve ever had the feeling of bashing your head against a brick wall, congratulations. You must have written a novel.

Or attempted to write one, at any rate.

Why do we fools do this to ourselves?

Take my head-bashing story…

Three months, it took me. To struggle through writing the first half of the first draft of what remains my only full-length novel.

And then came my dark night of the soul.

More like a dark week, actually.

A week of crapping my pants

I reached the half-way point of the manuscript and got stuck.

Like, really stuck. Pants-crappingly I’m-a-shit-writer-why-can’t-I-ever-get-one-of-my-stupid-ideas-to-work-out? stuck.

You know.

Stuck.

The ending I’d had in mind just would not work. It refused. Downed tools and went on strike.

Whatever I did to change the perspective, I could not make the events of the book hold together in a way that concluded satisfactorily.

So I took a week off work and wandered around the house. Outside the house, too. Up and down the side of the local canal. Morning, noon and late at night.

This was some serious shit.

I would never make it as a writer. I was kidding myself. I didn’t have the talent. Or the skill. Or whatever.

Whatever a writer needs. I did not have that.

Panic? Yes, you could call it that.

But at the end of my week of furious pacing, I had my ending right in my mind. Somehow. Don’t ask me how, cause I couldn’t tell you.

The threads lead where they ought, though. And at that point, it took only three weeks to write the second half.

That’s the thing with plotting a novel. Devilish difficult, no?

And time-consuming.

I mean, I wasted a whole week of my free time just to wear a hole in my shoes because I was stuck writing a book no one would read.

Not writing, mind you. Just pacing. And thinking.

Talk about mad.

You don’t have to suffer like I did

Well, now that I’m co-running a small hotel in northern Italy, I haven’t forgotten those dark, dark days.

Nor the fact that it had taken me three years of stopping and starting and researching and abandoning book ideas before I’d got far enough into writing one to even have my dark week of the soul.

Three years!

The real madness is that I did not have to go through all of this. There is always a simpler way.

If you have the humility for it.

I’m talking about asking someone else for help.

Another writer or a writing tutor, that is.

I mean, your significant other might be lovely and cuddly and supportive. But what do they know about writing?

Your parents? They’re still mad at you for not becoming a doctor.

And your kids? Please. Those guys are just idiots.

No, let’s be real for a moment…

All work and no play making your novel a dull read?

“I have written two novels to date, one of which I think may have some mileage but with necessary revisions to the plot and central character but not sure how to effect these changes…” one woman from Scotland told me in a recent email.

“…am on my second novel but stuck on it!” wrote another.

Aside from both feeling stuck with their novels, these women have something else in common. 

They’re coming along to our trouble-shooting retreat this October to solve their writing woes. 

Do you feel this way about your current work in progress?

You’re likely too close to it to see the problems. Much less how to solve them.

The good news is that you don’t have to go round in circles. Or start chasing your family with an axe, like Jack Nicholson in that Shining movie…

Instead, creative writing tutor, author and publisher Amanda Saint has crafted this exclusive writing retreat in Italy. To help you…

  • See and solve your story issues
  • Grip your reader and never let go
  • Create characters that leap off the page
  • Develop the right pace for your story
  • Write the very best version of the book that’s inside you

The two women I quoted above will be there to work through the problems with their novels.

They’ll be joined by a half dozen other authors. All of them looking to get that breakthrough in their work. And to get to know other aspiring novelists – just like you. 

If you’re interested, check out the details here: https://albergoleso.com/escape

And, if you’re a Skulk member, you can also get 10% off the price.

(The details for the discount are on the skulk members page)

Damien Seaman is a restaurateur and hotelier in training in the mountains above Verona, where he day dreams of working in a shitty office. He also interviews authors and publishers and puts the results on his blog

 

 

American Monsters Part 2 – TOC

It is time for the big reveal or our penultimate monsters book. It’s been a hell of journey so far and we aren’t letting up!! Keep in mind particularly with the America books, we are dealing with Continents not countries in these volumes. We will close out the series next year with Eurasia. 

American Monsters Part Two – Table of Contents

Fox Spirit Books of Monsters, edited by Margrét Helgadóttir, has dark fiction and art about monsters and dark creatures from around the world, seven volumes between 2014 and 2020. The series is like a grand world tour and we have so far been to Europe, Africa, Asia, the Pacific region, and Central and South America. The series end next year with Eurasia (including Russia, Eastern Europe and the Balkan).

This November we bring you 17 dark tales about scary beasties and Monsters from North America, including Canada, USA, Mexico and the Caribbean Islands.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Cory Doctorow: Return to Pleasure Island
Kelly Sandoval: It’ll Be Fine
R.S.A. Garcia: Douen Mother
Ernest Hogan: Cuca
Anne Michaud: The River Song
Tobias S. Buckell: Trinkets
Pepe Rojo: On Desire and its Cure
Catherine Lundoff: Hunger
Carmelo Rafala: What Happened to Mrs  Eleonora  Valdemar
Krista Walsh: Not for Amateurs
Tonya Liburd: Mimosa Versus The  Soucouyant
Federico Schaffler: The Fifth Hand of The Ahuizotl
Pedro Cabiya: Lay of The Land, Law of The Land
Charles Payseur: Stitched Together
Mathew Scaletta: The Sound a Raven Makes
Darcie Little Badger: The Whalebone Parrot
Lewis Shiner: Lizard Men of Los Angeles

We will have one translated story in this volume, with translation help from Fabio Fernandes.

Illustrations will be by the artists Kieran Walsh, Lynda Bruce, Soussherpa, S.L. Johnson, Vincent Holland-Keen and Andrea González.

Daniele Serra is once again providing cover art, which we will launch later this autumn.
Margrét Helgadóttir as editor.

New Release! Caleuche

Caleuche by Jonathan Ward,
Cover by Kieran Walsh

Jericho has fallen.

The world lies in ruins: overrun by an endless tide of self-replicating killing machines known as the Bugs. Only a fraction of its population managed to flee the planet aboard whatever ship would carry them, heading for jump points that would take them to new solar systems and, hopefully, to safety.

The last ship to escape from orbit is the passenger vessel Caleuche: populated by a band of traumatised refugees, piloted by the mind of a murder victim. They face a desperate struggle for survival in the pitiless void of space, as fear and mistrust threaten to doom them all.

Yet they may not be alone, out there in the darkness.

Opening Paragraphs:

‘Programmable Construction Drones (PCD), or Bugs as they are more commonly known, are poised to forever change life as we know it. Equipped with cutting-edge nanotechnology, they can carry out almost any task, and are even able to build the tools they need to accomplish their objective.’
…..
‘It is, however, my recommendation that the JCCO retains full control of all PCD-related technology. Although the potential of the Bugs is almost limitless, the extreme care required in their programming coupled with the dangers unfettered nanotech poses means that the oversight of a central authority is required. If Bug technology were to fall into the wrong hands, the possible consequences could be horrific beyond all measure.’

– Excerpts from report submitted to
the Jericho Colonial Control Office, August 23rd, 2145

Sophia:

For an unknowable length of time, Sophia drifted, enveloped by slow, placid dreams of gentle ocean waves and the heat of the sun beating down on a tropical shore. She was filled by a sense of peace so overwhelming that she could feel little else, and didn’t care to: no fears or concerns could break through the tranquillity and intrude into her thoughts. Indeed, she could imagine nothing other than an eternity of relaxation.

 

Get your FCon on!

Just a reminder folks. FantasyCon is on in October in Glasgow. Sadly I can’t be there, but I have no doubt there will be plenty of Skulk around.

FCon, was my first Con as a reviewer, it was the Con were I met a whole bunch of people active running or commenting on book blogs, many of whom are now published authors. It’s where I first met a lot of the people I would come to work with after launching Fox Spirit. Although Edge.Lit is our local family con, FCon is in many ways our true fox spiritual home. I look forward to returning to it properly myself next year. 

If you have never been to a con you should give it a try! I believe there are still tickets available

Eater of Names is Live!!

Cover by Tabatha Stirling

The sequel to Hobgoblin’s Herald is now available in kindle and paperback formats on Amazon worldwide as well as in ebook formats via our own website! We are obviously very excited. If you haven’t read the first book yet, grab it quick and get caught up! 

You can get an idea of what you are in for in Hobgoblin’s Herald from its excellent Goodreads reviews

Eater of Names

Time is the Death of Heroes. Time is the Eater of Names.The old knight is lost.Sir Aethed, disguised as a merchant’s bodyguard, travels the world seeking to reunite his crusading king Aaren with the mythical blade Moontalon, so that the crusader king might turn the tide against Ivak Mornscour and save Guien from his horde of travesties.But stranded on the frozen, windswept tundra of Ashebos, Aethed must face child-eating demons and mammoth gods, with the unwelcome aird of a wretched band of hobgoblins and the strange, savage girl who serves as their herald.

Bantz With The Foxes 1 – How Brainstorming Happens

From the pen of K.A. Laity the genius behind Con-Eire comes the first in a series of uncannily accurate short audio pieces by your very own Aunty and Mr Fox. 

Some of you actually asked for this, I hope you are ashamed of yourselves! 

Enjoy… and do check out the rest of the youtube channel where these will be going up along with other bits n bobs.