Countdown to Christmas Day 8

Five Books That’ll Keep You Warm in Winter

by Lynn E. O’Connacht

For many of us in the northern hemisphere, December is often cold and dreary.
Personally I always feel that there’s too little snow to make suffering through the cold worth it, but at least we always have books. December is a great month to read books and I wanted to share some of my favourite December reads with you all. Hopefully they’ll lead you on to discover some fantastic new-to-you authors!

These five books are in no particular order, although there’s a definite ‘includes snow’ theme going on, but I hope you’ll find at least one that makes a great present for yourself or others this month.

Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis

Speaking of snow, this is a delightful wintery novella set in an alternate Earth setting where fairies and magic are real. This is a light read, perfect for those days when you don’t want to go out. Though it’s a gentle story with a strong romance, it also tackles some deep topics, such as the way women are often treated in academia. It’s a perfect balance, ensuring a lot of reread value.

As a bonus, it’s the first in a series, so if you enjoy it, there’s more to explore!

The Raven and the Reindeer by T. Kingfisher

We’re not done with the combination of winter settings and utterly warm writing yet. The Raven and the Reindeer is a brilliant retelling of The Snow Queen. Unlike some of Kingfisher’s other retellings, this one stays fairly traditional and, in doing so, enhances the smaller ways in which the story subverts the original tale. This story is worth it just for Mousebones alone. Add in a discussion about abuse and depression as well as a cute f/f romance and it’s sure to brighten up any dark December day.

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Set in the heart of winter, this is the darkest book on the list, dealing as it does with mental illness, but the prose is so lush and pitch-perfect. I couldn’t imagine a better time to read Wintersong than in the heart of winter, which is currently is where I’m  located. Liesl is a powerful protagonist, determined to save her sister from the Goblin King.

This is the first in a duology, so if you reach the end desperate for more Jae-Jones has got you covered!

Wingborn by Becca Lusher

What’s this? A book with no snow?! Well, there may be some, but there are certainly plenty of clouds. Reminiscent of Tamora Pierce’s Tortall novels, Lusher deftly weaves a narrative of girls joining a previously male-only institution (yes, plural) with a Regency-inspired setting as Lady Mhysra struggles against social norms to follow her heart and care for her feathered companion. It’s lush and gorgeous and this series will make you long for the open skies.

Wingborn is the first in a series – and there’s a companion series – so readers who love getting stuck into a setting will find plenty to enjoy. (Lastly, this book also contains winged puppy antics and TEAM BUMBLE FOREVER.)

A Lake of Feathers and Moonbeams by Dax Murray

From clouds back to forests in this queer retelling of Swan Lake where nothing is exactly what it seems. If you’re looking for something to accompany Disney’s The nutcracker and the Four Realms as a seasonal fairy tale, do check this out. It’s very different, but touches on similar themes. The characters in this book were a delight, especially Princen Alexis and their relationship with their best friend, Tatiana. It’s a very sweet polyamorous story with some great twists on the original tale.

And that’s it. Five books that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and find comforting in months when the days are short, the wind is howling and there’s just not enough snow to make all this cold worth dealing with. If gifting any of these to yourself, add in a nice hot beverage of your choice, snuggle up in your favourite reading spot and enjoy!

Happy holidays!

Christmas Countdown Day 3

Christmas Books reviewed by Anna Thomas

Of all the books Ive read this year, I was particularly impressed with the novels by Japanese authors. Here are four of my favourites.

  1. Yoko Tawada, and Margaret Mitsutani (Trans.), The Last Children of Tokyo, (Portobello Books, 2018).

The Last Children of Tokyo is set in a post-apocalyptic future where Japan has isolated itself from the rest of the world. Vividly imagined, disturbingly so at times, it is the elderly, now long lived and healthier, who are tasked with the responsibility of looking after their fragile children, who often die in their youth. I was taken by the relationship of Yoshiro and his great grandson, Mumei, and the everyday struggle to survive. Its a short book at 138 pages, but the brevity lends additional weight to the dark undertones. Perfect for those who enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction and feel like branching out.

2) Hiro Arakawa, and Philip Gabriel (Trans.), The Travelling Cat Chronicles, (Doubleday, 2017).

I love cats, and while I primarily bought this book because the protagonist is a cat, the novel is both delightful and heart wrenching. Found as a stray by Satoru Miyawaki, Nana lives with him for five years. When Satoru is then faced with the awful prospect of having to rehouse Nana, a road-trip ensues, as he tries to find a suitable candidate. I enjoyed Nanas snark and his generally pragmatic personality, which succeeded in being rather endearing at the same time. It was interesting to view a person, or several peoples lives from the perspective of the cat, and see how deeply animals can be affected by their owners.

3) Sayaka Murata, and Ginny Tapley Takemori (Trans.), Convenience Store Woman, (Portobello Books, 2018).

Convenience Store Woman examines the life of Keiko, a thirty six year old convenience store worker, trying to get by when otherswants for her life do not match the life she wants to lead. Societal expectation is the main theme here, as an unmarried thirty-something is pressurised to give up the thing she loves. The author is a convenience store worker herself, and this intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the store shines throughout; you can almost smell the coffee. The writing is excellent, presented in an uncluttered manner. I read this book in an afternoon, and like good chocolate cake, it was rich, satisfying and I know I will come back for more from this author!

4) Hiromi Kawakami, and Allison Markin Powell (Trans.), The Nakano Thrift Shop, (Portobello Books, 2016).

Ostensibly, this a love story, but there is little caveat in this tale. A happy ending is not a given, and all the characters have to work at their respective relationships. Set against the backdrop of the Nakano Thrift Shop, Hitomi and Takeo struggle from the beginning. They struggle to understand one another, and sometimes fail completely, hurting one or the other without quite knowing what it was they did wrong. It is a human tale, and its human fragility is what stands out; the idea of love or being in love, not being as transformative as it is often made out to be. Sometimes the grass doesnt look greener, nor the sky bluer. Sometimes, you still feel lonely, or misunderstood. I did get a sense of hope as I finished this book though, and would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to read an unconventional story.

Blog posts needed for December

You know what makes a great gift? A book!! Books are amazing, you can pick them up all over the place, they fit into stockings and under pillows, and they provide endless adventures. So all this December we are inviting you to share a review of a favourite book or give us five of your favourite books with just a few lines for each.

We are not looking for reviews of Fox Spirit Books for this, (although if you pop those on Amazon or Goodreads we will love you forever, obvs).

Just send your submission to submissions@foxspirit.co.uk and title it ‘Christmas Books’. We are offering a £5 token payment for these posts so also include a paypal email.

We are looking for titles from any time, old or new and we are keen to see books proposed by under represented groups, such as POC and LGBT+ writers. 

 

A weekend of Words

Well the Foxes had a busy weekend.

Saturday we got up bright and early and headed to Nottingham in the light rain and chilly air for Other Worlds. A one day event run by the ever excellent Alex Davis and Nottingham Writers Studio. I pretty much spent the day downstairs, being on and watching panels. 

Among the guests were Gav Thorpe, J.R. Park, Alison Moore, Justina Robson, Stephen Aryan and Charlotte Bond. A stellar line up I was delighted to be part of. I moderated a discussion on short stories. As a huge fan of the short it was lovely to get writers takes on their role in the industry. I also sat on the Tropes panel which had some lively discussion around the role of tropes, for better and for worse. The other panels of the day were superb, with intelligent and varied contributions from writers who clearly really engaged with the subjects. Gav realised last minute that he was moderating but ran the panel brilliantly. I would later come to regret teasing him.

I wore fox ears. Of course.

Mr Fox and I then pootled off to get the train to Sheffield. After a very relaxed night at a premier inn which included pizza in bed and sleep, we were just about refreshed and ready for the final day of Sci Fi in the City. The book programme is run by Sam Stone and David Howe and they always put together an excellent and busy selection of treats for the event. 

I started with a one on one interview with Sam, which was up against cosplay so we had a small audience allowing for a very relaxed conversation with some input from others. I might have been a bit over excited about the colouring story book Zena the Zombie and tried to persuade Sam custom crayons were the way to go. 

After a break, during which pop up puppets did their hilarious version of Jaws (do see them if you get the chance), I moderated a panel on self publishing which looked pretty openly at the pros and cons, and why you might choose to self pub and the practicalities. Followed this up with what was originally posted as a small press discussion but ended up being ‘Aunty Fox and Ian Whates have a damned good catch up and chat about the stuff that goes on’. We covered a lot of the joys and hard truths of small press and while it felt very indulgent to spend a whole hour talking to the lovely Ian in this way the audience seemed happy to just occasionally provide a topic. A rare opportunity for those who attended to hear how it really is. 

Finally the afternoon wrapped for us with a writing SF & Fantasy Panel. I had to eat my words from teasing Mr Thorpe because I realised 5 mins before my 3 hour stint started that I was down to moderate this. I obviously stole some of the questions from the tropes panel, and honestly with the guests I had very little moderating was needed, it was more like throw something out and let them run with it. An absolute joy. I met some utterly delightful people, caught up with old friends including several skulk members and found some even bigger fluffier ears. We came home with lots more books and a whole load of others on my list to try. A fantastic weekend. My guests over the course over the day included Sam, Ian, Bryony Pearce and Rob Harkess among others.

I now have a couple of weeks for my voice to recover before Fantasycon at Chester, where I am pleased to say I am just a punter this year. If you are there I will be the one in giant fluffy ears. 

Just one final shout out for the weekender, to these fabulous cosplayers who went back for the cat. 

 

 

 

Living on the EDGE.LIT

Today is the day. Early start, loads of boxes, a day at the QUAD in Derby and for me a day behind a table in the dealers room getting to see some of the fabulous people who support our work in a myriad of ways, buying stuff not being the least of it.

It’s meant to be another warm weekend too. Todd and Reynard recommend books to help with the heat. 

At 4pm we will have the signing of Children of Artifice with the fabulous Danie Ware! There will be biscuits and books and badges, all good stuff. 

I am also pleased to announce that you kindle people should now be able to Skytown, Children of Artifice and Into the Blight to your collection. And you definitely should, they are wonderful.

If it is your first Edge.Lit have a blast, it is a lovely friendly convention, if you aren’t able to make it, maybe we will see you next year, in the mean time all our titles are available on Amazon and check out the guest list for some great writers to read. 

 

 

 

Edge.Lit is almost upon us

Normally at this time I do the ‘what panels am I on’ post for Edge.lit, but somehow this year I am not on any! I am free to do whatever I want, so obviously I will be behind a table all day in the dealers area and then almost certainly at Ask for dinner. 

We will have many many books by all sorts of fabulous people, some of whom are also at the event.

Particularly of note is Danie Ware who is having a low key launch of Children of Artifice at our table in the dealers room at 4pm. Danie will be happy to sign books or anything else you want, within reason, and there are fabulous Artifice cookies to devour from 4pm. 

I will be bringing some of our travel mugs, tote bags and notebooks to sell too, so if you are looking for gifts for bookish loved ones, or yourself, Fox Spirit can provide. Also look out for the Foxy goodies in your attendee goodie bags.

Now we are Six

Thank you to everyone who remembered our publishing birthday yesterday. We posted our very first post on June 2nd 2012, which I think makes us six. SIX! I had no idea we would make it this far.

Charlie Fox and the MutherFudger cakes

It’s been an incredible journey, working with any artists, hundreds of writers, our team of editors, formatters and the wonderful readers who keep coming back and supporting us.

We hope to continue it for many years to come. This years titles will start pouring out soon, in the mean time we have around 70 already out there for your enjoyment, SFF, a little crime and horror, books for kids and young adults, anthologies that are tightly drawn on theme and tone, others that meander through genres on a word, we have #ownvoices, new voices, experienced voices, the well known and the intrepid adventurers, all are fearless genre warriors! We have fencing manuals, and essays, we have illustrations and incredible cover art, we are more a militia than a cult. We have cookies.

If you are new to us, welcome to the Skulk! If you have travelled some of all of these first years with us, thank you for all your support. Strap in, there is much more to come. And plenty of pamphlets.

Women in Horror : Round Up

Well, this wraps up Women in Horror month and our series of guests posts, by women about horror.

Elvira, Hostess of Horror

We will do a quick link round up of all the posts so you can make sure you haven’t missed anything on our tour of movies, books and horrors from mythology, but first we just wanted to state the obvious. Women don’t only do horror in February. There are a huge number of talented writers, musicians, directors, artists and other female creatives out there living and breathing the horror genre. So while we hope our month of celebration has got you thinking about where you can find women doing horror and how women are treated or mistreated by the genre, we hope you won’t stop there. 

We recommend checking out, The Cultural Gutter, Popshifter, Ginger Nuts of Horror as great starting points. 

The blogs

K.A. Laity : The Haunting of Hill House
Snippet Sunday : Winter Tales
Kim Bannerman : Disability, Motherhood and Personal Autonomy
C.A. Yates : A Monstrous Love, Crimson Peak & The Writer
Jan Siegel : Fear of the Female in Vintage Fiction
Aditi Sen : Bengali Ghosts
Interview of Emma Bridges By Margret Helgadottir : Making Monsters 
Snippet Sunday : Respectable Horror
Su Haddrell : The Weird in the Normal
Jenny Barber : Short Fiction Queens
Kerry Fristoe : My Bloody Valentine 
Sharon Shaw : Women who Fight Back
Leslie Hatton : ‘What Have You Done to Solange’ Exposes the Legacy of Misogyny 
Snippet Sunday : Pacific Monsters
Angela Englert : Once, Twice, Three Times a Villainess: Karen Black, Sex, and Twist Endings in Trilogy of Terror
Amelia Starling : Female Spirits and Emotions in Japanese Ghost Stories
Snippet Sunday : Asian Monsters
Zoe Chatfield : Lost Cities (Unfriended)
Carol Borden : Cat People

All I Want for Christmas Is Books

Well, and coffee, and time at home with my family of cats and Mr Fox. Books are always high on the list though. 

I thought it was about that time of year that we remind you that Fox Spirit titles make amazing gifts.

For the swordsperson in your life, we have translations of the Italian Masters in our Vulpes line.

We have novels for those who like to commit and novellas for those who only want to commit briefly. 

If you aren’t sure what they are into try one of our many splendid anthologies or collections including the stocking sized Fox Pockets. 

We even offer poetry and non fiction prose along with titles for YA and younger readers.

Our titles are hard to pin to a single genres, so we gave up on that entirely, so if the bibliophile in your life is bored of the same old tropes, try something a little bit foxy.

If we can’t tempt you with our wares, then we humbly ask that you consider small press purchases, there are many good ones, or sign up your loved ones to explore the indies with Ninja Book Box.

We also recommend the lovely Lounge Books if you are looking for inspiration on what to gift.

Aunty Fox Reads…. quite a bit really

I have been asked about books. Not the ones we publish, but what I buy outside of Fox Spirit and specifically what other small presses I look to for my reading material.

I went for quite a long time since starting FS without reading much outside of it, then I changed jobs. Just over six months ago I found myself with a commute by train and it has been heaven. So let’s start with a list of books I have read and enjoyed since August and the reasons I read them.

A note before I start, every one of these books was excellent and I would recommend them all so assume high stars all round. I am bad at reading books that don’t draw me in quickly.

books delicious books

13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough – I know Sarah a little and have read her work before, so was happy to buy and read her recent releases, confident I would enjoy them.
The Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho – Zen did a story for us which was superb. I like to support writers who have supported us with their stories by buying their books, add to which, I really like reading all the writers we work with so it’s a low risk strategy.
Burning Embers by James Bennett – James is a friend, a Fox Spirit writer and a fantastic story teller. No brainer.
Sparrow Falling by Gaie Sebold – I loved Gaie’s earlier novels, I nearly died of squee when she did a story for us so obviously I had to have this.
The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky – Adrian is a fantastic writer and again, has worked with FS.
Alice by Christina Henry – The original Alice always struck me as darker than people think, I was intrigued. I was also looking for interesting novels by women.
Lost Girl by Adam Nevill – Apt 16 terrified me, Adam is a great writer and a lovely man, we must try and weedle a story from him one day.
Wolf in the Attic by Paul Kearney – this one just looked interesting and Paul’s name is one of those where I am always a bit, have we met? Or have I just come across his name so many times I think we have met?
How to be Dull by Basil Morley Esq – Basil Morely is actually K.A. Laity who writes and edits for FS among others and never fails to entertain me.
The Red Tree By Caitlin Kearnan – Picked this up years ago because it looked interesting, and it languished on the shelf. I thought I would give it a try as part of my bid to make my reading more diverse and I was rewarded richly.
Geekerella by Ashley Poston – recommended and indeed supplied by a publicist friend who knows what I like
Escapology by Ren Warom – Ren is amazing, which I know because we published her novella so obviously I had to read this.
How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran – Rare occasion where I actually got around to the book group choice but a fantastic book that has set me off collecting up more feminist non fic.
Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac – Part of my personal challenge to be more diverse in my reading. Joseph is a Native American writer and I loved the sound of this particular book. It’s great btw.
Nemesis by Agatha Christie – I love Christie, I love this story, charity shop comfort read.
Clockwork Heart by Dru Paliassotti – Bought this forever ago, and it appealed when I did a shelf search.
Miss Peregrine’s home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Briggs– enjoyed the film but was curious as a friend who loves the books was very cross about the changes.
Love across a Broken Map by The Whole Kahini – A friend was involved in editing and producing this and so I had great confidence in it being excellent. It was.
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough – see previous Pinborough. Also one of the main characters is called Adele, how could I resist?
The Red Queen by Christina Henry – Sequel to Alice which I loved.
The Ocean at the end of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – again it’s been on the shelf a while, but I have read a number of Gaiman’s books over the years and had no doubt I would enjoy it. 
The Stars and Legion by Kameron Hurley – Read God’s War as a BFS judge, loved it, read the next one, love Kameron’s fiction and will just keep buying and reading them.

 

Books I am dipping into

They do the Same things Differently Here by Rob Shearman – Shearman is an incredible short story writer and possibly the loveliest man alive.
Nasty Women by various – Saw a lot about this and with the world as it is it felt like a must read.
Frazzled by Ruby Wax – Because I am basically.
The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla – Part of my efforts to challenge my reading habits. Enjoying this greatly.

So you will start to see a pattern.

I like to support writers I know, especially ones I have worked with or who I enjoy chatting with on online of F2F, which is helped by the fact that I am confident I will enjoy their work.

I buy from small presses and indie authors a lot at events, it’s not well represented here but I have a stack of books I have read or want to read from the likes of Grimbold, Kristell ink, Newcon and others both past and present. Things I look for in small presses tend to be that people running them I know share some of my tastes or values, or writers in common as that is a good sign I will enjoy the stuff they put out. Some of the presses I love, like Boo and Jurassic sadly closed, which I talk about at length in the Sisyphus post, so I won’t go back over it here. Not all indie presses are so small of course, Angry Robot and Titan, along with Abaddon and Solaris often make their way onto my shelves, I recently discovered Quirk and will be going back there again. Then there are specialists, like 404Ink and Dhalia who offer something more specific but from time to time overlap with my genre preferences or just hit my needs in the moment and who are doing high quality work. There are lots I haven’t mentioned but browse the dealer room at any genre con and you are surrounded by people I would buy from. 

At bookstores I have a system. Check for new books by people I know/like already either F2F or from reading their work. Then browse for writers that expand my reading, so at the moment looking for books by non white writers is a big part of my store search technique for or openly LGBTQIA writers, writers of colour or non fiction books. Finally, anything that just looks interesting or a bit different (harder than it sounds tbh). I have been known to purchase books for their covers, or indeed because of the cover artist.