Author Post : Chloe Yates

I’m a bit of a navel gazer. Always trying to work myself out like I’m a mystery when what I often turn out to be is a bit of a Gumby (‘my brain hurts’). In that spirit, I’m going to talk a bit about me. Me. Me. Me.

         I remember the moment very well. In the grand scheme of things it wasn’t much, but in the grand scheme of Me it was everything. I was sitting on a bench in St Ives with the mister, looking at the sea and sharing a bag of chips, when I decided to check my email. A sudden sharp inhale had a chip lodging in my windpipe like that ubiquitous bit of paper that buggers my hoover every Saturday. Mr Y patted me on the back – rather harder than he should have, I’d say – the chip popped out and I let out a little wail. One of those mewling sounds that confuses anyone who hears it – is she still choking? Is she laughing? Crying? Is she a nutjob? What is that man doing?

            I’d won. I’d won a competition.

It was a small competition – no, literally, I had to write a story on the back of a postcard – but it was huge in my mind. Someone liked what I’d written. What’s more, it was someone whose opinion I respected (I still do, despite her faith in me). I’ve been scribbling since I was about six years old. I’ve sent off several things over the years and every time have received positive encouragement but never been accepted or been persistent (you’ll see why). Suddenly, there I was, late 30s, having someone really tipping their hat at my work. All ten sentences or whatever it was.  You can read it here: http://katewombat.blogspot.ch/2012/05/writer-wednesday-post-card-fiction.html  (all hail the Prof)

I’ll never forget that feeling. It might seem daft, dafter to writers who’ve been in the trenches for years, but I’d spent so long entirely (ENTIRELY) doubting myself, scribbling my stories and poems then stifling them before they ever got to see the light of day, that this was like touch paper to my barely-there self-belief. Not only had I taken myself seriously, I had been taken seriously. That shit is better than gold (particularly as I’m not at all fond of jewellery). It carried me along on a little wave of positivity and paid off again later in the year (affirmation is like crack, but less harsh on the teeth). Boosted by my mighty victory, I rubbed my brass monkeys again and submitted a story for Fox Spirit’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day competition. I was one of the winner’s. I was knocked out (not literally) and the same wail thing happened again (I’ve got a feeling that’s sticking around, alas).

Now, with a couple more accepted stories under my belt, I’m teetering on the edge of taking this business and myself seriously. I’m not talking about being all ‘yes, well I am a Writer, and I shall henceforth wear only lederhosen while I work and eat only brandy snaps on a Monday, and under no circumstances am I to be interrupted when the Muse doth descend’. What I’m talking about is battling that little voice in your head that whispers, ‘they don’t really like you, you’re a fraud. You should know better than to put yourself out there, who are you anyway? I’ve never heard of you, I wouldn’t want to …’ and so on ad infinitum. (At this point, you either know what I’m talking about or you think I’m a few rubberbands short of a flicking contest. I understand.)

I’m certainly told to take myself seriously – you can’t get away with being a ballbag while the Captain (our feral leader) is on your tail – but whenever I read a story back I hate it. Who wants to read that rubbish? It doesn’t make any sense! It’s yours! What is wrong with these people? I feel like a giant nob when anyone asks me what I do. I hear myself say, ‘I’m a writer’, and then I hear a million voices in my head cackling at my audacity … but then it is audacious. And why the fuck not, because you know what? I can write. Whole sentences can turn into whole paragraphs can turn into short stories on good days. I don’t expect everyone to like what I produce, of course I don’t, but people have told me they’ve enjoyed my work and I need to put better store in that. Have I just taken a step towards taking myself seriously? Knowing deep down that I can do it and accepting that other people genuinely believe in me? Maybe admitting it to the world means I have to take myself seriously. To do otherwise might make me into a bigger gump than you already think I am.

Well, why not then? There are always going to be people who say ‘you’re not a writer until XYZ’ (and I understand anyone who says, “a couple of short stories, love, calm down”), but who cares about the naysayers while there are others who say ‘Yay! Write another one’ and while I think ‘I have another one to write’? More of that affirmation crack –internal and external please, Matron. That little voice will always be there, I suspect; it’s part of the fuel I need to keep pushing myself on (I spite thee!), but it’s time to dial that motherlicker down.

Cut the horseshit.

Let’s roll.

Seriously, I’ve got stories to tell.

Futura & Edge

Saturday saw the first Futura event at the Lighthouse in Wolverhampton. The venue is housed within the old Chubb lock factory and is gorgeous. It’s a triangular shaped building with a bright, glass roofed courtyard. I should have taken pictures, but umm, didn’t.

As it’s both Futura’s first year and Alex Davis’ first West Mids event it was quiet, but the audience was more than happy to join in discussions leading to panels that were pretty interactive. I was invited as a speaker. Some of you may have seen me on panels in the past but always in the role of moderator, it was lovely to be an actual proper panelist for the first time. I had great fun chatting with my fellow panelists and other attendees about whether SF is main stream, the life of a small publisher and where SF ends as a genre.

The event was well run, although next year the venue might want to invest in extra staff at the coffee shop to keep things moving more briskly.

I hope I will be invited back next year as i’d certainly love to do it again, if not i’ll pop it in my diary for a visit anyway.

Next up for us is Edge.Lit in Derby, where Fox Spirit will be launching Noir Carnival with wine, cake and badges. We will have the editor and a couple of Noir Carnival writers in attendance as well as many of the other skulk members who will be happy to sign things. I will have a few copies of the various books with me and in partnership with CyberWitch we will be making the ebooks available on site, on the day too. The launch will take place at lunch time and there will be wine and cake provided so please drop in and see us!

 

Author Post : Joan De La Haye

Joan has been running a series of interviews over on her blog.

13 Questions with Alec McQuay

1. What drives you to write?

Getting everything out of my head! I dwell on things so I need an outlet, and writing gives me the freedom to do literally anything with that.

2. What attracted you to writing horror?

I was looking for a longer project to move on from short stories and flash fiction and the news and the internet were banging on about opt-out organ donation, the right to die debate and this war and that war, all while charities had endless pictures of doe-eyed, starving children in every ad break. I guess rather than an attraction to horror as such it was a reaction to what I was seeing at the time.

Read on at Joan’s blog

Author Post: Christian D’Amico

Christian’s Site is here

Full-time.

It’s a word that any author would love to be able to prefix to their title, but unfortunately it’s a difficult thing to achieve. Or at least, in my experience it is, both in terms of talking to other authors and also as a aspiring/new author.

However, not being a full-time author can also bring in unexpected benefits that feed into the worlds we surround ourselves in when writing.

I’m a personal trainer. I help people get fit by educating them on proper nutrition, training and supplementation. However, coupled with this, I’m also a street dancer, both as part of a dance school, and as a crew member.

“How does this feed back into your writing?” you may ask. Good question!

As a personal trainer, I need to have an intricate knowledge of how the body works, right to chemical compounds and microscopic fibres that make up what we all are. This biological science gives me a great edge when working on my fiction, as I have the capacity to know how a body would be affected, say, if you caused an injury on someone’s thigh. How the body reacts; how the pain gets managed; how serious the injury can be. All of this and more is pulled directly from my experience in my full-time job and helps me to get my writing spot on when it comes to combat, whether that’s a bullet shattering a skull or a knife cutting flesh. Gruesome, perhaps, but all the more realistic for it, and hopefully more engaging with the reader: you.

And street dance? Well, that’s another matter.

The movements of street dance are aggressive, and very often can be changed very quickly into martial arts moves and strikes. Because of the nature of street dance and how it interprets things around itself, this means that power, speed and impact all play an important role in dance, and as that is drawn from things such as martial arts and other physical activity, can be quickly reversed to learn something new.

This means that again, I can benefit in my writing from this through the use of street dance to emulate close combat manoeuvres. Need a powerful sweeping kick? Lay out a clockwise spin with leg extended. Close-in punches to the chest and face? You want tutting (a technical form of hand movements in dance). The list goes on, but you get the idea.

So don’t look at not being a full-time author as not having “made it”. Personally, whilst I used to aspire to do this full-time, I have learnt now that I have a much bigger benefit from my life experiences and how it helps my writing, than if I had only done writing as a profession.

Author Post : Alec McQuay

Keeping on keeping on – a blog and practical demonstration.

So Adele has asked for blogs for the Fox Spirit website and, as one of the people she has caught in her big net of enthusiasm and casual author trafficking, here I am.

My own blog has been badly neglected for quite some time while I’ve been working on other things and, frankly, those things have reached a point where I need to stop and step away for a minute to do something else. It’s a thing with writing, I find, where you always feel like you need to be moving forwards but don’t always really know where you’re going. Then, as a very wise and smiley cat once said, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.’ Output for the sake of it isn’t always a good thing though, I’ve learned that from the first draft of my novel which I am currently hammering into shape in a series of edits that is to editing what a good pounding with a Howitzer is to landscape gardening. But movement, in a generally forwards-ish direction, is good. That’s the thing with writing I guess, you just have to keep doing it.

I haven’t been doing this for very long in the grand scheme of things, a couple of years man and, erm, slightly younger man, and in that time I’ve sometimes found it difficult to keep going. There’s no real money in it to speak of, the occasional reviewer will wind up and kick you right in the balls (or metaphoriballs), the hours are shit and you often only have yourself for company, which is the point when you realise how immature you actually can be. Sitting down to right/research/read or do anything towards that dream of being a real, bonafide writer, with my own private army and helipad and ting? Sounds great! Then that part of your brain goes “wonder what’s going on over at Facebook, or Twitter… Ooh! Look! A monkey farting the national anthem! Three for one on 1500000 milligram capsules of branch chain amino acids! POOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORN!”

I just realised that the end of that sentence looked a lot like poo until right at the end, which is a metaphor for a whole other kind of internet video in its own right. Hmm… Moving on then…

The point of all this rambling, vaguely coherent bollocks is that I’m not in the mood for this. I’m not. I was kept awake by someone’s horrible, horrible children last night (my wife’s and, allegedly, mine), I was late for work, I have a headache, tonight is the first meeting with my son’s first school and AFTER ALL OF THAT I’ve got a very, very heavy gym session ahead of me. Boo-frickedy-hoo, I hear you, I don’t know, type I guess, but I sat down and wrote this incoherent loud of badger-nads anyway. I moved forwards. I practiced my craft in a small and totally disposable fashion. If I hadn’t then this would have been a lunch break sat staring at the clock and thinking about the manuscript I “should” be working on, or looking at the half-painted Warhammer models that litter my desk.

Instead, I’ve done the writing equivalent of going for a gentle jog rather than sitting on my butt and lamenting my poor health. I’m not going to edit this, I might not even read it back before sending it to Adele (liar! You’re far too amused by yourself to do that) and she may or may not post it, but I did something today.

Sitting and writing something that you know will get savaged in the edits isn’t a waste of time at all. It’s like a painter doodling in a sketch pad, or a wannabe pro-footballer playing keepy-uppy or hoofing a ball against their garage door. Who knows? I might find something in this that helps me, or someone else, further down the line, or it might be one for the embarrassing dustbin of experience, one that my mum wouldn’t even stick on the fridge in case visitors started thinking she’d dropped me on the head as a child.

The point is, now that my lunch break is over and I have to stop rambling and go do something productive, that if you only write on days when you feel at your best, you’ll probably never achieve anything at all.

Author Post : Den Patrick

A little quicky interview with author Den Patrick!

——

In addition to being a Pocket Scribe you have a number of other projects going on. Can you give us a run down of what’s happening in the world of Den?

I’m definitely not suffering from a loss of things to do. I have three books out from Gollancz in August, September and October. The War-Fighting Manuals are primers on how to conduct warfare in a High Fantasy setting. There’s one for orcs,  elves, and dwarves, as you’d expect. They’re written in character, and have snarky footnotes. Each book is humorous without ever descending into parody.

I’ve submitted a handful of tales to your good self, and I’m really pleased with each of them. I’ve also completed another short story for Jurassic Publishing, edited by Jared Shurin from Pornokitsch. I think that’s top secret at the moment so…

Next year (2014) sees the launch of my first full length novel, the first book in The Erebus Sequence. I was describing it to Richard Morgan who said, ‘Excellent, Gormenghast on speed!’. It tracks the fortunes of Lucien, who is a disfigured orphan growing up in a huge castle where intrigue and secrecy are rife.

Everyone’s road to publication is a little different, how did you go from quietly scribing away to yourself to a Gollancz contract and how has that experience been?

I’d been a book reviewer and blogger for a while. I met Simon Spanton and Gillian Redfearn at conventions and signings. I did a spot of work experience for Gollancz whilst I was unemployed. Later that year I was lucky enough to be invited to the Gollancz 50th Birthday party. Simon and I were propping up the bar, talking Tolkien, as good geeks are won’t to do. We thought it would be pretty funny if someone wrote the orc guide to warfare. And then Simon said ‘Do you think you could do it?’. We met a few more times (in pubs, naturally) and the inner Games Master in me had mapped a world and sketched out a timeline before I knew it.  They were a pleasure to write.

Your agent is the marvellous Ms Mushens. A lot of new writers question the value of an agent, can you tell us in your personal experience what you have found valuable about that relationship?

I am a massive advocate of agents. For me, it’s been really useful to have someone with her experience. I certainly couldn’t have brokered the deal she did for The Erebus Sequence. Juliet’s talent isn’t just confined to contracts. She worked on the manuscript, giving me feedback on both structural and line edits. This care and attention to the story and encouragement to refine the novel really helped my confidence as a writer.

How did the Fizzy Pop Vampire come about and will there be more? Would you work in a partially visual media again, like comics and if so what appeals to you about these forms?

The Fizzy Pop Vampire was a bunch of rhyming couplets that appeared on a page one boring Saturday afternoon years ago. I’d mentioned it in passing to Sarah Anne  Langton, and she asked to illustrate it. We put the story out on the iPad, and sold over a hundred copies. We’ve a second story lined up. Hopefully a publisher will make us an offer. Who knows?

I also have a five issue science fiction comic I’d love to see in print, but making comics is like pulling teeth. It’s called Deconstructed and is homage to films like Moon, Alien and Solaris in my own quirky way,

Captain Fox and his crew are due to be recurring characters in the Fox Pockets. What made you want to go back to them after the first story or to put it another way, why should readers seek out all the pockets they appear in?

I have tendency to want to revisit many of my short story characters. I grow quite attached to them and Captain Fox especially. The main thing that characterizes the Jago Fox stories is yearning and redemption. I think anyone who’s really wanted for someone, or felt they could do better despite a troublesome past, might relate to these stories. And they have some pretty cool monsters too. I call them Supernatural Maritime stories. I hope people enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

 

Author Post : Kit Marlowe

The Curious Incident of the Cheese at the Right Time

Kit Marlowe

 

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The incredible importance of cheese to the remarkable history of the civilized world has often been overlooked. From the beginning of cheese man (and woman at least when she was not slimming) has always been the lynch pin that set the world to rights or changed the course of history, which as the scholars note, has never run smoothly.

In the beginning was the word, and the word was cheese and the cheese was good. Strict cheese creationists believe this, but those who require a more scientific explanation will do well to look at the work of curdologist Dr. Blaise Silver who posits a more natural origin stroy based on a knowledge of the fossil record and a lifetime spent with aging cheddars.

When milk from a startled wildebeest-like bison fell into a depression on the windswept plains of ancient Africa after a sabre-toothed lion-like tiger whipped off said beast to feed her young, the resultant dairy curdled in the afternoon sun creating the ür-cheese. Paleontologists refer to it as homo caseus. I have it on good authority, though the fossil record might be best described as non-existent.

Nonetheless, from the first of early hominids cheese proved a lucrative bartering good and by the time of the Egyptians, it had reached the level of near deification. As the so-called Book of the Dead recounts, prayers were said to the mighty Mish, a cheese that provided the weight against which the heart or ib was weighed.

In the Indian epic The Mahabharata the fates of the Kaurava and Pandava princes in the midst of the Kurukshetra War nonetheless digress into philosophical topics such as a discussion of the purusharthas, or the four cheese goals of life. Cheeses must have the flavour of either salt, sweet, sour or fire and guide the life stories of the princes in the medieval paneer epic.

Meanwhile over in England the story of the saintly King Edmund fired the long-standing cheese love of Britain before it had a unifying identity as one nation. Facing the fearsome cheese-raiding Vikings, the brave king declared his faithfulness to the curd and refused to give over his Wensleydale and Stilton. The Norsemen simply removed his head as well as the wheels of cheese. But in a well-documented miracle his men later found the missing head when it cried, “Double Gloucester!” and was found resting between the paws of a wolf, who tamely followed the soldiers back to their town then, given a snack of Ilchester, disappeared into the woods once more.

Of course the role of cheese in the American and French revolutions is know to every school boy or girl, so I will not teach grandma to suck Edam but merely say, let us behold the golden treasure and rejoice. Praise cheeses!

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Author Post | Rob Haines

I have invited the Fox Spirit Scribes to send through blog posts about anything writing/reading/publishing related that interests them. To kick off the series an article from Rob Haines whose story of swashbuckling pirates in a digital world ‘Pieces of 2^3’ appears in the first Fox Pocket ‘Piracy’

You can see more from Rob here

Changing the Digital Value Proposition

Who owns a piece of art?

Is it the artist, who created it? Is it the customer, who paid money for it? Is it whoever legally possesses the canvas it’s painted on, or the paper carrying the words which together build a world of the imagination? What if – in a world of digital consumption – there is no canvas, no paper, just data?

These are the sorts of questions publishers of digital media have been trying to figure out the answers to for the past decade, with varying degrees of success. To the ebook-buying public it seems simple: I paid money for a book, therefore I should own it. I should be able to take those pages, those words, and lend them to my family, my friends, to share what I enjoyed. Yet when a perfect, everlasting digital copy can be a single-click away it could be argued that such a copy is a distinct entity, an instance of the data which I didn’t buy and have no right to own.

Such arguments are beginning to pop up in more and more areas of entertainment; in an interview with Wired shortly after the announcement of the Xbox One, Microsoft’s Phil Harrison spoke about the diminishing importance of physical media, saying:

‘…assuming you have a physical disc…it’s just a repository for “the bits”. You can put that disc into [a friend’s] drive, you can play the game while you’re there, and then you go home and take that disc with you. But actually, “the bits” are still on his drive. If your friend decides that he really likes to play that game, then he can go buy it instantly…’

If it’s that easy to copy a piece of art, the reasoning goes, then the data which constitutes the art has no value in itself. If the data is infinitely reproducible, the transaction is no longer paying money for a specific piece of media (be that paper, optical disc or data), but instead paying money for the right to experience that art.

This sort of thinking results in the increasingly labyrinthine terms of use agreements drawn up by content providers like Amazon and Apple. You no longer own the content itself – after all, what is there to own? – but are instead granted a license to use it. You can’t lend it or re-sell it, except under the strictest and most tightly-controlled schemes, because it can’t be guaranteed that you no longer own a perfect facsimile of the original. And by and large, the ebook-buying consumer has either accepted these tradeoffs against the convenience of having a whole library of books at their fingertips, or else buy exclusively from those publishers and stores who’ve chosen to allow their readers the option to do what they will with the books they’ve purchased.

The more restrictive approaches seem to work best where there is a degree of compromise on both sides; I give up certain rights to share and re-sell the books I buy, and get the convenience of a weightless digital library in my pocket in return. Give and take. I need to feel that a publisher is meeting me in the middle somewhere, that every single change they’ve made to the way I used to be able to buy their product isn’t skewed unerringly in their favour. While it’s their right to change the terms they sell a product under, they also have to be aware of how that changes the value proposition for the consumer.

Microsoft’s failure in this regard over the past few weeks has become a perfectly encapsulated cautionary tale. Instead of the announcement of their new console eliciting excitement and anticipation, it’s become mired in confusion and deceit as details of how they plan to change the value proposition have crept out. They’ve chosen to take away the freedom to lend, to share, to personally re-sell, to play offline without daily internet check-ins, and giving nothing but condescension in return. Both press reaction and consumer response has been overwhelmingly negative, and it remains to be seen how much damage they’ve done to their potential audience as a result.

Meet us in the middle, publishers, and we’ll walk into this digital future hand in hand. Try to clutch every right to your chest, granting us nothing in return, and we’ll happily go on without you. There’s always more entertainment to be had elsewhere.

Piracy, live now!

Fox Spirit is delighted to announce the release of the first Fox Pocket ‘Piracy’.

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The order of the next three volumes has been confirmed as Shapeshifters, Guardians and Missing Monarchs.

Small but perfectly formed collections of stories by a den full of talented writers, put together by Fox Spirit books for your enjoyment.

The stories are flash fiction, giving the reader bite sized introductions to Fox Spirit and the writers we love to work with. All designed to fit perfectly into the pocket so you can take a little fox with you everywhere you go.

There are ten books to the collection being pub­lished during 2013 and 2014 and titled:

Piracy, Missing Monarchs, Shapeshifters, Guardians, Under the Waves, In an Unknown  Country, Things in the Dark, The Evil Genius Guide, Reflections, Piercing the Veil

Stories in Fox Pockets will wander unfettered between genres, mixing horror, fantasy, science fiction and crime. The subjects are deliberately loose to invite a wide range of interpretations. This pocket series showcases some of the wealth of new talent coming through in genre fiction.

 

The books will be available as a paperback through Lulu for 24 months after the release date of each volume. Ebook releases will take place a month after the paperback and will be available for longer, but not forever.

Fox Spirit will be offering a subscription to the paperbacks as part of a giveaway through the newsletter this summer so please subscribe on our home page to make sure you don’t miss out.

More about all our titles at www.foxspirit.co.uk

Piracy can be found at Lulu

A Foxy Fellow

Growing up the book I read most often, more than my favourite Narnia books (The Magicians Nephew and The Horse and his Boy), more than the Jungle Books whose poems I could recite by heart (and some I still can), more even than the Just So Stories, was Fantastic Mr Fox. It was my quick fix read. Full of cunning and humour and people it was easy to dislike. I grew up on a small holding, we lost our chickens to foxes over a couple of weeks and the whole thing was so messy and upsetting we never replaced them.  Yet this fictional fox was so full of charm and wit and cleverness I was very firmly on his side. I still have my original copy. The cover is missing. It fell off with over use.

As an adult (technically if not always in behaviour) of 35, there are many books I love. Many tales I’ve reread a dozen or more times and every time found something new to surprise and delight me. I still read Fantastic Mr Fox. He is still my favourite literary hero.

The stories in Fox & Fae celebrate the fox for all the wonderful attributes they share with Dahl’s creation. The book also explores the downsides of being beautiful and clever. It also visit the flip side of that, in ‘A Crackling Fart’ for example our foxy fellow’s superiority and cleverness are his downfall as much as his greed. It’s a wonderful collection of stories and I hope someone somewhere will take one of our foxes to their heart as much as I did Fantastic Mr Fox.

Tales of the Fox and Fae will be out this summer in the mean time there are plenty of other Fox Spirit titles out there.

If you check out the rest of the site you will find a small number of foxes caught on camera around the world. Fox photos are by Phil Knott.