Fox Spirit is Seven! #skulkisseven

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Fox Spirit is Seven! How did that happen?!

Did you know there’s an ebook store right here? And that you can use coupon code ‘skulkis7‘ to celebrate our 7th birthday with 25% off throughout June!! What are you waiting for?

It’s a milestone that makes you thoughtful. Shakespeare talked about the ‘seven ages’ of human life in his ‘All the world’s a stage’ speech. The first is birth which he describes as

At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.

Fox Spirit managed to avoid that unpleasantry: it was born with a song in its heart, a laugh in its mouth and a pub on  its mind — the Nun & Dragon. It was meant to be a one off, but here we are seven years later! Which in Bill’s words means:

Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school.

I suppose we can see a little bit of that: hands up skulk members who would rather be writing/drawing/plotting than creeping to our jobs and other duties? Yes, you can put your hands down now. We itch to have the luxury of time, but there are always new responsibilities. In the mean time we can remember that we are yet young and have so many ways to grow.

What will the next anniversary bring? More books? More multimedia efforts? Games? Skulk Island? World Domination?

Time alone will tell — but the skulk has ambitions, you can bet your floof on that. All kudos to our fearless leader Adele!

Respectable Horror: C. A. Yates

Respectable Horror front cover

Respectable Horror front cover
The author of ‘The Holy Hour’ may perhaps be better known for tales of another type:

With regard to my story ‘The Holy Hour’ soon to be presented to you under the auspices of Respectable Horror:

Respectable, you say? Well now, it’s a good job you came to me, my dears, for it is well known about these parts that I am the very embodiment of the well-turned heel of etiquette, the nine-time retriever of Lady Windermere’s Fanny, the epitome of Respectability. Its goddamned quintessence, I say. Yes, indeed, I am all about the corsetry and manners, my sweetest hearts, the decadently clad dandy wilt throw no shade on me. My writings, for the most part, are not that of some rabidly cussing blood-crazed termagant, it’s not all effing and bloody jeffing, with dismembered limbs akimbo and boiling pans of severed heads on the stove – I mean, I once wrote a story about a Sub-Aquatic Opera Company, for goodness’ sake. That’s a positively cultural orgasm of respectability right there, a full on lah-di-dah rigour of protocol and decorum.

Don’t listen to today’s rabble, my loves! Theirs is the voice of indignity and ignorance.

Free yourself from the restraints of the heathenism of modern hedonism and run with me into an old-fashioned gothic phantasmagoria that will chill your spine and … well, actually, I feel quite foolish now, because there aren’t any creaking old houses, or sinister mazes, or spinster phantoms plaguing ruthless rakes in the night. No tastefully bosom-heaving heroines or gargantuous-foreheaded uncles with their eye on their innocent ward’s prize, no creatures that will cause the blood to run slow in your veins, and there are most certainly no books that will twist you into folly itself. There’s a wife; she’s alone and she’s sad. She might be me one day. I hope not, but I fear it.

Wait! There’s a church, they are très respectable, aren’t they? Well, it might be a church, or it might not now I come to think about it, I’m not a believer myself, at least I don’t think I am… there’s definitely a dog. Everyone likes dogs, all respectable households have one.

And no one – I repeat NO ONE – gets eaten.

Respectable? Fucking A.


C.A. Yates.

P.S. Blame The Cure. I do.

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: 


Drag Noir: Becky Thacker

Becky Thacker
Portrait of the author in her younger days

How I Came to Write ‘Geezer Dyke’

Becky Thacker

A port stop during a cruise disembarked us in Mexico, facing a row of tour vans and buses.  Most of these were staffed by sign-wielding native folks with weary, worldly-wise faces; obviously they did this job for the living it provided and not because they found it fun. One of the tour guides was a lesbian, white-skinned, aging none too gracefully, and it was evident from her accent that she’d begun life as a North American Midwesterner. She looked and clearly felt, however, more akin to her brown-skinned career associates than to the flocks of North American tourists who surrounded her. We wondered what, or who, had led her to this path.   And of course, romantics that we are, we wondered whom she went home to when her day of tourist-wrangling was over.

DRAG NOIR: Out this Halloween!

Cover by S. L. Johnson
Cover by S. L. Johnson


Getting Foxy 4 – Sarah Cawkwell


Sarah Cawkwell is an established and fabulous writer of fantasy, comic fantasy and sci fi and probably anything else she wants when it comes down to it. She’s also a total games geek, which can really only be a good thing.

Sarah is also an utterly lovely human bean and a fantastic panelist so if you ever get the chance to hear her speak at a convention, take it!


Sarah has published a novella in a fairly traditional fantasy set up, Blood Bound, which has left audiences wanting more from the creepy mage and his warrior companion.


She also created the hapless but heroic Gilrain and his fatherly squire Therin, for Tales of the Nun and Dragon and will be revisiting the humorous fantasy world of this duo in Tales of the Mouse and Minotaur. We are also gently nudging her towards a collection of short adventures with these popular characters.


Getting Foxy 3 – Alasdair Stuart

Alasdair Stuart: ‘Ladies’ Geek, Geek’s Geek, Geek About Town’ with his encyclopedic knowledge of geekdom and everything in it has the distinction of being one of the very nicest people in all the nine worlds and our regular columnist here on the FS site bringing you views from outside the den.


Al does write fiction and we will be featuring some of his shorts in the forthcoming Fox Pockets, however what he is perhaps best known for is his genre journalism and hosting of Pseudopod and Escape Pod.

His first book for us ‘The Pseudopod Tapes Vol 1’ came out almost exactly a year ago and is a series of his outro’s for the much loved podcast. His honest and personal way of writing makes for compelling reading even if you don’t know all the references. The next volume in the series is to follow in 2014.


Getting Foxy 2 – K.A. Laity



Kate Laity, The Prof, is not only a multi talented lady (university lecturer, writer, editor and the rest) but a multiple personality. She writes in various genres under various names, so you don’t get a shock expecting shamans vs aliens and discovering the raunchy adventures of Chastity Flame.

WEB Final Noir Carnival

for us here at FS Kate is the editor of the ‘Noir’ Anthology series. Each time she thinks she’s done we pull her back in with another title she can’t resist. Muwahahaha. The Prof has also had some short stories with us and will be publishing a novella ‘Extricate’  as Graham Wynd and a novel’White Rabbit’ under her own name with Fox Spirit in 2014.

extricate ebook 72ppi

In the mean time you can find her fantastic stories under K.A.Laity (fantasy and fairy tales), Kit Marlowe (romance with the importance of pockets) and C.Margery Kempe (erotic with a thrilling spy story line).

Getting Foxy 1: Joan De La Haye

Fox Spirit is 18 months old or there abouts this Christmas, as it my nephew. So I thought it was a good time to remind you all what we’ve been doing the last 18 months, especially those of you who are new to the den and the freshly minted Skulk. Hopefully it’ll also distract from the deadlines I didn’t quite make in 2013. Over the next few weeks instead of an advent calendar I am going to do a series of posts highlighting the people and books we have out there for your delectation. I’ll come back to Nun & Dragon when I look at some of the other anthologies. First of all I want to spotlight Joan De La Haye. You can find reviews of Joan’s books on our publicity page DSCN1370 Joan took a chance and threw in her lot with Fox Spirit when it was still little more than an idea. Really if she hadn’t we might never have done anything more than Nun & Dragon so you have her to thank/blame at least in part for all that has come after. First and foremost a horror writer Joan has also turned her hand to crime, drawing in the corruption rife in South Africa to a dark procedural. Joan has three books with us as well as some short stories and a fourth book slated for 2014. Shadows is a dark, unsettling psychological horror with cruelly dysfunctional relationships, personal demons (literally) and the horror of doubting your own sanity. mirror-3   Oasis crams a lot of story into 50 pages in a zombie novella with a fresh twist. oasis cover 600x800   Requiem in E Sharp is a serial killer story that is delivered with Joan’s trademark darkness. Requiem Cover   If you like to curl up with the fire lit and a blanket over you, the curtains pulled tight and indulge in some genuinely creepy reading check out Joan’s books.

Author Post: Ruth Booth

Desert Islands

A few weeks ago I went to see an exhibition by Toby Phips Lloyd called Desert Island. Known for exploring self-conception, Lloyd had recreated his childhood bedroom, right down to the painted over-wallpaper and drawing pin holes in the wall. This sat in a giant wooden box in the centre of the exhibition, while on footage played in the background, Lloyd took the role of interviewer and interviewee to ask himself about his life and the records in the style of Desert Island Discs – also supposedly broadcast from the radio in the corner of the bedroom.

As a fellow teen in the nineties, I got a kick out of the possessions on show (Pitchshifter CD, Red Dwarf on VHS, Hunter S Thompson clippings…) – but what made me think was the contrast between what Lloyd-as-interviewee remembered, versus Lloyd-as-interviewer’s analysis of his teenage years. The bullying wasn’t as bad as he recalled it, and he considered that perhaps some of the choices of song or reading material reflected how he wanted to be seen more than anything else.

Most of us look back on our teenage years with mild embarrassment – things that we said or did. More often it’s that we so readily used XYZ to dictate what we thought or who we made friends with. Often we forget how important it was to us to have that grounding in common culture, a sense of community, when the ways we regarded ourselves and the ways we were regarded by others were first ripped from their moorings, and set in perpetual motion.

Yet we also forget that little has changed since then. Log on to your social network feed, and you’ll find friends linking to cool things they have found, sharing their opinions of this and that, demonstrating support of causes and struggles around the world. We share photos and videos of ourselves looking sexy and exciting – and hide the ones we don’t like so much. In many ways, engaging in social media is a lot like is a lot like decorating your teenage bedroom – hell, they’re even called walls. We communicate in books and movies and games. We present a picture to the world of a version of ourselves, and this is ever changing. Just as we did back then, we are still making ourselves, every single day.

With this in mind, it’s little wonder we fear control and monitoring of our online profiles. It’s not only about personal information getting into the open, it’s a violation of our sanctum, abusing and using the face we show without our permission. Think about the word­ we use to describe posting as someone else on Facebook – “frape”. And identity fraud isn’t just about stealing your credit, or your money. It’s about stealing you.

Memory is a fluid thing. We rewrite the stories of our lives as we go along. Often the use of cultural tropes as shorthand is considered a bit teenaged, or indicative of a lazy brain. In some creative contexts, sometimes it’s even frowned upon, or considered vulgar to be referential in this way. Some forms of art are considered “lesser” for doing this. But why is that? Cultural tropes are ways of exploring and sharing the world and how we interpret it. Like pirates, we should always treasure our own desert islands.

Vincent Holland-Keen

Vincent Holland-Keen has joined Fox Spirit with his novel ‘An Alternative History of Balesley Green’ which will be coming out from Fox Spirit Books.

Balesley is a darkly comic novel about the things that can happen in an apparently sleepy village in the English countryside.

‘When we were kids, this was a place of excitement, mystery and adventure…’

balesley green 2