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!

Film for a Friday: The Tale of the Fox (1930)

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Le Roman De Renard is a wonderful stop-motion animated feature made by Iréne and Ladislas Starevich [Władysław Starewicz] and scripted by her as well. The Reynard stories were exceedingly popular across Europe in the Middle Ages and continue to be so (you may see some Reynard references in a Fox Spirit release later this year!). When they ran out of funding for the film in France, Germany came through with funding, so the first version premiered in Berlin. It was only the third animated film to have sound.

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The animation is amazing and inventive. Reynard is accused of all kinds of mischief (including eating chickens, of course!). Here’s the corpus delecti. But Reynard is too clever even in the face of such evidence — and with the help of the Badger Barrister.

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The poor little chick! There are so many wonderful animated animals — from the troubadour cat to the terribly nervous rabbit who tries to get Reynard punished but quickly loses his nerve. The fox has no shame!

Eventually the king has had enough of the trickster and lays siege to Reynard’s Castle.

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But the fox is ready for him and defends his home with the help of his family and a host of very Home Alone-like tricks for the would-be invaders, who end up with bumps on the head or face down in the moat.

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Best of all it’s out of copyright and available online for your amusement.

It will leave you with a sunny feeling. Celebrate the Fox Spirit!

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New Release! The Jackal Who Came in From The Cold

Fox Spirit’s first foray into an entirely Furry anthology is now live! 

Tales, or tails, from behind enemy lines. Stories of daring and some downright shenanigans. You can wander through wars and stumble on adventures as our brave and sneaky spies conduct their business. This collection of furry shorts brings us a broad range of spy stories and an equally ranging look at Furry literature.

 

Cover Art by Tyler Arseneau and layout by Vincent Holland-Keen

Introduction by Dan Leinir Turthra Jensen
A Treacherous Thing by C. A. Yates
Survivors of the Holocene by Madison Keller
Starlight and Thorn by K. C. Shaw
The Man in the Background by Miles Reaver
Dirty Rats by Jan Siegel
The Sentinel by Will MacMillan Jones
Pay the Piper by A McLachlan
The Long Game by Neil Williamson
Agent Friendzone by Kyell Gold
Big Bird by Frances Pauli
The Off Air Affair by Huskyteer
Game of Shadows by  H. J. Pang
The Winged Fox by K. R. Green
Le Chat et la Souris by Tom Mullins

Available in print from Amazon (ignore the out of stock, it’s a quirk of Ingram and Amazon’s relationship)

Coming soon as an ebook available direct from our estore in mobi and epub, to suit most readers.

Christmas Countdown Day 13

Emily Nation by Alec McQuay 

Review by S. Naomi Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

[This review may contain spoilers.]

At some unspecified point in the future, the world is an arid wasteland thanks to a war without explanation. Onto this stage steps Emily Nation the eponymous protagonist of this remarkable and thoroughly enjoyable novel.

Emily is an assassin, and by all accounts a pretty good one at that. When her work follows her home to her wife and daughter one day things start to turn very bad indeed, and Emily is left wrecked and ruined, surviving on a diet comprising of mega-violence, casual sex and alcohol in varying amounts, right up until the point she’s dragged back to her home town of Camborne to help the locals fight off a gang of rabid raiders whilst simultaneously trying to figure out what’s going on with the daughter she thought dead.

I really enjoyed this book, and given that there are plenty of questions left unanswered at the end I’m supremely hopeful for a sequel some time soon. It’s borderline hardcore violence with more than a hint of distinctly dark humour, and rattles along at a fair old pace. In places I was reminded of Tank Girl at her best, but with a twist of some of the edgier elements of cyberpunk thrown in for good measure. All in all a fun read and one I would recommend without reservation. Not quite five stars, but not that far off.

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.

Respectable Horror: Matthew Pegg

MR James Ghost StoriesHaunted Objects.

Sometimes it can be quite hard to put your finger on exactly where a story came from or what inspired it, because so much of writing happens in the subconscious. I usually start out with a snippet of a plot, or a character or an idea, but once I start writing other things accrue and attach themselves to it; events occur that I wasn’t expecting, characters pop up and demand to take part, the story takes on a life of its own.

But I can put my finger on some of the influences on The Well Wisher.

I’ve always liked classic horror and ghost stories, ever since reading my grandparent’s copy of A Century of Thrillers: From Poe to Arlen, which sat on their small and only bookshelf, along with The Passionate Witch by Thorne Smith. (I’ve still got the book and the bookshelf.) A Century of Thrillers is a chunky volume, published by The Daily Express newspaper in the 1930s. Its a great collection of classic tales and well worth tracking down.

I wanted to write a story in that vein and thought it would be interesting to write about a haunted object. M.R. James’s The Mezzotint, A Candle in Her Room, (a terrifying children’s book by Ruth M. Arthur,) and Stephen King’s Christine all tackle this concept in quite different ways.

James’s haunted engraving replays a horrific incident from the past but doesn’t offer any real threat to its observers. You could argue that the true horror of the tale lies in the fact that the protagonist is powerless to influence the events he sees slowly unfolding in the picture.

In A Candle in Her Room the wooden doll Dido exerts a malign influence over three generations of the same family. It is the way that possession of the doll changes its owner that is frightening.

The Witch DollChristine, the 1950s Plymouth Fury, is the most concrete haunted object of the three, quite capable of killing you on its own. But like Dido, possession of Christine changes its owner. I like the way King turns the classic 1950s car, a symbol of the American Dream, into something evil. I also like the detail, missing from the film, that Christine’s milometer runs backwards: the more you drive it the newer the car gets. When thugs trash the car, owner Arnie pushes it round the block all night, putting his back out in the process, until the car repairs itself. There’s something satisfying about the physicality of that action.

I had a feeling that if you’re going to write about a haunted object then it should be a functional object, and if its normal function can become threatening in some way then that seemed to me to be satisfyingly neat. Of the three examples of haunted objects above, I think only in Christine do you get a sense of what has caused an inanimate object to turn nasty: Christine has been created by the human hatred of its previous owner, rather than any supernatural force. So its progenitors are Frankenstein and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde rather than Dracula: we create the monster and we become the monster, rather than the monster being a threat from elsewhere.

I like structure in stories. I find it satisfying when things have some kind of internal logic. So I wanted to know why my haunted object behaved the way it did. And that ‘why’ had to also be something to do with it’s function. That was what I was trying to achieve and I hope it works.

I’m being a bit coy about revealing too much about The Well Wisher because I hope you’ll read it and I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Miss Andrews, the central character, evolved all on her own to become a troubled, clever, kind, brave, flawed person. And I can’t claim to have planned any of that, it just happened. I do know that one influence on her was Jane Eyre. I’d recently seen a theatre version of the story and it was rattling round in my brain, especially Jane’s orphan status and poverty, which define the choices she can make in life.

For an unmarried Victorian woman, educated but not wealthy, being a governess was one of the few options available. Charlotte and Anne Bronte did this in real life and that experience is reflected in both Jane Eyre and Anne’s first novel Agnes Grey.

I felt that the Victorian governess was in a rather uneasy position, not quite one of the servants, but not truly a member of the family either. I liked that sense of isolation, unease and insecurity.

So Miss Andrews became a governess, sometimes too forthright for her own good but worried about her future, and much braver than me. I would like to know what happens to her next.

But as I said at the start, a lot of any story emerges from the subconscious. So when I was reading the proof copy of Respectable Horror, I was struck by how much of The Well Wisher seemed quite unfamiliar. “Where did that come from,” I wondered, “And that?”

I can’t even claim credit for the double meaning in the title….
 
Matthew Pegg is a writer based in Leicestershire in the UK. Most of his writing has been for theatre and includes work for puppet companies, youth theatres, community plays and a script designed to be performed during a medieval banquet. His most recent theatre work was Escaping Alice, a love story with chains and handcuffs, for York Theatre Royal. He’s also completed a community radio play based on the life of Wordsworth and has been commissioned to create a puppet play to tour to care homes for people suffering from dementia. In 2012 he completed an MA in Creative Writing, and since then he has been working on a novel, and placing short fiction with a variety of publishers. Website: http://www.mpegg.co.uk 

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Skulk / Grimbold Tee

Good morning Fox fans. We have been talking to our good friends over at Grimbold, and we all feel that sometimes what you really need in life is a fox and a cat riding a dragon.

art by Vincent Holland Keen
art by Vincent Holland Keen

See, isn’t that just improving your day already?

Well as a one off run for 2016 we are going to offer these as T shirts. It will be pre order and prepay but a total one off. We are currently getting prices, but if you are interested email me at adele@foxspirit.co.uk and title you email ‘grimfox’ with the number you would want and sizes so we can get a more accurate quote. This is for anyone who wants to show their support for #TeamGrimbold or #TeamFoxSpirit or indeed #TeamGrimFox out in the world and we will only be printing this design once.

Epic giveaway time!

Want to win every Fox Spirit* title we release in 2016 in paperback?

You can and it’s easy! Retweet this on twitter with the #foxyfriday hashtag or share this post on Facebook and make sure you are signed up for our newsletter to be in with a chance. We will announce the winner through the newsletter, if you aren’t signed up you can’t claim your prize!

Once the winner is announced we will send them Winter Tales and In an Unknown Country, after that they will get each book sent out at the same time as the author copies go, all year.

This is our biggest giveaway ever and who doesn’t love surprise book post!

The giveaway is open worldwide and closes at 5pm on Monday 28th March, so you have all weekend to retweet or share and sign up to the newsletter. The winner will be selected at random.

You can register for our newsletter in the sidebar or by clicking here

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Titles in 2016 include the remaining Fox Pockets, ‘Piercing the Vale’, ‘The Evil Genius Guide’ and ‘Reflections’, along with the re release of Vincent Holland-Keen’s ‘The Office of Lost and Found’, anthologies ‘Respectable Horror’, ‘You left your Biscuit Behind’ and ‘Asian Monsters’ and more.

*Main line only, imprint titles are excluded from the giveaway.

Waxing Lyrical : Should we censor children’s books? by G. Clark Hellery

Waxing Lyrical: Should we censor children’s books?

It started as it always does these days with a comment on Facebook. I’d taken my daughter into the children’s section of Waterstones to choose her ‘All Hallow’s Read’ for Halloween. A mother was looking at the Christmas book display with her young son (I’d guess his age to be about 3-4years) when he happened to wander towards the Halloween books.

‘Come away from them! They’re too scary!’ the mother snapped, dragging her child the three feet back towards the glittering Christmas display.

This irked me to say the least. I’m not sure how Peter Rabbit getting lost in the pumpkin patch, or Meg & Mog could possibly be scary and I rather loudly asked my little one to choose her book (she loved the pop up haunted house but we agreed on @@@), cooing over the witches, frogs, pumpkins and ghosts. As we left I *might* have waved our book at the mother while my daughter let out a dragon roar.

peter rabbit
apparently terrifying

I ranted to my Facebook friends that I felt the mother had been too judgemental about the books, without even looking at their content. Certainly if her son had been looking in the real crime or horror sections, then yes, those books would probably have been too scary, but I really don’t believe The Worst Witch or Room on a Broom are going to give him nightmares. However, it would seem I opened a can of Halloween gummy worms as there were friends who agreed with me while others said they censor their children’s reading and suggested that perhaps I should wait until my little one was more capable of choosing her own books before passing comment because then I’d be very likely to change my cackle (I’m going to warn you now, there’s going to be a LOT of Halloween puns!).

This got me thinking about my own reading as a child. I was lucky and my parents didn’t really restrict what I read and I was a voracious reader to say the least (books bought on a Saturday morning trip to the bookshop would be finished by lunchtime). The ‘Point Horror’ series was going strong and I still remember staying up to the decadently late hour of 11pm reading who the psychotic lifeguard was going to kill next, I read a lot of King and even got my hands on ‘real life’ hauntings and True Crime books. I don’t remember any of these books ever giving me nightmares but am sure some would argue they’ve warped me. However they have shaped my own writing.

So why would parents ban books? Robin Beery wrote an excellent piece looking at 10 Reasons Books Are Banned, and 5 Reasons Not To which I’d recommend all parents, librarians & teachers read. Some don’t feel comfortable with their children reading about issues they feel they are not mature enough for: puberty, relationships, death, religion. In a 2014 interview, Judy Blume stated that, in her opinion, children read over what they don’t understand and I’d have to say on this I’d agree with her, certainly I didn’t understand a lot of what was happening in the King novels I read (although I know adults who don’t either) and rereading them years later brings a new depth of understanding with more than on ‘aha’ moment when I finally understood a phrase or action.

Blume was a staple on the playground, with books borrowed and shared from older sisters. She was far more explanatory about menstruation, kissing and even the ‘first time’ than our teachers or parents and because of her honesty, has frequently been censored over her 30 year career so much so she’s described as an ‘anticensorship activist’ and discusses it on her website.

banned books

Even books we now consider ‘classics’ have been censored and banned. Mark Twain’s ‘Adventure’s of Huckleberry Finn’ has been banned due to it’s portrayal of the poor, John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice & Men’ due to it’s profanity (honesty moment, I studied this book for my GCSE’s and I can’t remember that much profanity. I have also taught it to an advanced English class and it provoked really interesting discussion) and most bizarrely ‘The Wizard of Oz’ by L Frank Baum due to its depiction of women in strong leadership roles – I’m not sure how Dorothy Gale would feel about that but I like to think she would click her red heels together and say ‘I want (censors) to go home?’

The Harry Potter series has been banned in some schools in the US (and one in the UK) on the grounds it promotes witchcraft and is inherently ‘evil’. I’m paraphrasing JK Rowling when I say that banning children from discussing issues is far more damaging to children than reading about something the parents might feel they’re not ready for. I will say that I, and a lot of friends, were more traumatised by not getting our ‘Wingardium Leviosa’ charm to cause biscuits to drift across the table than any ‘satanic’ undertones. I respect a parents right to censor their children’s reading but at the same time feel you may be doing them a disservice. Alex Sanchez said in an interview that ‘Books can have an astounding effect on people’ and I agree with him, especially with groups who already feel marginalised or misunderstood such as LGBT. Children find characters they relate to and this can offer a coping mechanism for situations they may otherwise struggle with.

So where does that leave me? As a mother, I’m keeping my ‘Hellraiser’ firmly out of reach, but my Blume books will be waiting for my daughter when she’s ready. As Commissioning Editor for Fennec Books I feel a sense of responsibility towards our readers: both children and adult. Fox Spirit has positioned itself as a fearless publisher of genre fiction and I’d expect its younger sibling to do no less. I’m passionate about children’s books and encouraging both children and adults to read. I hope that our selection will offer children and adults something fun, diverting and different, and if it generates conversation with their parents and friends, then we’ve done good work. Now, I’m off up to the attic to chat to the house ghosts.

Happy Reading!

Sources:

All Hallow’s Read: http://www.allhallowsread.com

Point Horror: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Point_Horror

Stephen King Official Web Page: http://stephenking.com

Judy Blume: http://judyblume.com/censorship.php\

Judy Blume interview: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jul/11/judy-blume-interview-forever-writer-children-young-adults

JK Rowling quote: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/886905-i-have-a-real-issue-with-anyone-trying-to-protect

25 of the most banned children’s books of the last 25 years: http://www.bustle.com/articles/88633-25-of-the-most-banned-childrens-books-of-the-past-25-years-because-all-those-picture

10 Reasons for Banning Books and 5 Reasons Not To: http://www.punchnels.com/2014/09/18/10-reasons-for-banning-books-and-5-much-better-reasons-not-to/

Alex Sanchez: http://www.alexsanchez.com/Banned_Books/banned_book_1.html

22 Authors on Censorship and Banned Books: https://www.bookish.com/articles/22-authors-on-censorship-and-banned-books/

In an Unknown Country release day!

It’s time! No 7 of the Fox Pockets ‘In an Unknown Country’ is finally here!

They are coming thick and fast ow folks and this summer we will be celebrating all 10 volumes being out in our home town of Leicester. Watch out for more details on Volumes 8-10 and that party!

In the mean time journey in to the unknown!

Other Worlds, unfamiliar territory, places we should not be! Wanderers in strange lands and those who have strayed just a little off the path face their fates in an unknown country. A selection of short and flash fiction exploring the unfamiliar. Exploring new worlds and new perspectives.

And Eve Called Her Husband’s Name by Paul Currion
Overwatch by Alasdair Stuart
Walker Of Worlds by C.D. Leyenaar
Cape of Storms by K. Bannerman
The City is of Night, But Not of Sleep by Chloë Yates
An Unexpected Storm by Cindy Dunham
Hiatus by Jonathan Ward
Wherever You Go, There You Are by Tracy Fahey
A long lost land by Ed Fortune
Tombstone by Emma Teichmann
Finding Home by Rahne Sinclair
Arnhild by Margret Helgadóttir
The Strongest Conjuration by Jenny Barber
Somebody Else by Ashley Fox
Stroppendragers by James Fadeley
Lianus Invaded by Christian D’Amico
Are You Listening? by Sarah Anne Langton
Reversal by Philip Thorogood

pockets