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!

Countdown to Christmas Day 6

by Michele Fry

I love The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. I’ve never read a novel written wholly in verse before, so that was a treat, as was Xiomara’s strong, fierce, and powerful voice. I fell in love with Xiomara from the very beginning and was willing her on, wanting her to find a way to voice her feelings and questions, her fears and her experiences of being a young black woman who’s talked over, talked down to, or simply ignored at every turn. This book made me cry, made me cheer, and made me happy to have met Xiomara, a beautiful, brave, black girl. I cannot
recommend it highly enough.

I extra love (!) Passing Strange by Ellen Klages a fascinating and compelling historical love story with supernatural/fantastical elements about a bisexual artist and a lesbian singer. Set in San
Francisco in 1940, it looks at the ways in which queer cis and enby women try to express their queerness and/or nonconformity to the gender binary [sic] while still complying with the law. It’s a tragedy with a happy ending.

The Green Man’s Heir is EVERYTHING I love about Juliet McKenna’s work:
a skilful, careful, and seamless blend of folklore, mythology, and fantasy sensibilities with a modern setting and modern concerns regarding ecological & environmental issues, masculinity, news reporting, and policing, but without a single moment of hectoring or lecturing. And all wrapped up in a compelling tale that will make you want to read all night.

The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark is totally immersive (I read it in less than a day), full of well-crafted worldbuilding (of the alternate Black history kind), intriguing mythology, engaging and well-rounded characters whom I found utterly fascinating, and it was at once exactly the right length (for the story it told), but far too bloody short (because I need more, more, MORE (please!) about Jacqueline and Captain Ann-Marie of the airship Midnight Robber.

When the Letter Comes by Mx Sara Fox is a story about magic, growing up, being left behind, becoming someone different, with a transgender protagonist whose younger sister gets invited to go to magical school while Henry (she hasn’t decided on a new name yet, but she will one
day) is left behind. Then a war comes, and Henry meets Caden, who’s non-binary and who brings Henry to where her sister Gabrielle is involved in a war between those who think technology is destroying magic, and those who don’t. And all the time Henry is struggling to feel comfortable in her skin, to accept who she is, and struggling with others, particularly her parents’, difficulties with accepting who she is. This is a beautiful, compelling short story that gripped me from the first line.

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.

Countdown to Christmas day 2

Please check out Sarah’s link too, she is trying to get children’s books out to food banks this Christmas which seems worth supporting if you can.

Five Beautiful Children’s Books For Christmas
(Sarah Daniels)

Cinderella Of The Nile by Beverly Naidoo
In this haunting retelling of Cinderella by Beverly Naidoo, Rhodopis is stolen from her family by
pirates. She’s eventually sold as a servant to a family with three older sisters. It’s illustrated in the
beautiful and distinctive style of Marjan Vafaein.

Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland
Norse Myths tells the stories of the Vikings from creation to destruction. Twenty three exciting
chapters bring Odin, Thor and Loki to life. Jeffrey Alan Love’s illustrations use silhouette and a
stunning colour palette to emphasise the high drama of the stories.

The Fox And The Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith
This hardback book is perfect for those that crave fairytales. A deep dark forest dwelling fox has
just one friend: the star that lights the forest paths at night. Coralie Bickford-Smith is a book
designer who draws on the Arts and Crafts movement to produce a stunning volume.

The Sleeper And The Spindle by Neil Gaiman
A young queen becomes the hero of this fairytale when she sets off to rescue a sleeping princess.
Chris Riddell’s illustrations are captivating and strange. The metallic ink gives the book a magical
feel that is perfect as a Christmas gift.

The Storm Whale by Benji Davies
My children love the Storm Whale by Benji Davies. It’s a gentle, charming story about a lonely boy
who finds a whale washed up after a storm. This hardback edition with slipcase highlights the
breathtaking illustrations of this moving 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. 

 

Sisyphus and The Long Tail

Another small press closes its doors. One that has been run sensibly, with a good business head and great books. One that hasn’t madly over reached or got itself into trouble in anyway. So why has it closed?

Well I guess it’s time to speak frankly about the realities of running a small press.

We have over 50 titles out. One has made a profit. A non fiction one. Two others have come close to covering their costs. Then Nun & Dragon counts as profitable because it was done on pure profit share right at the start. It has probably paid for the first couple of years of the URL.

Creating and producing books costs money. In the case of FS, we’re working with people who are willing to take mates’ rates and token payments, but that’s still money. More if it’s an anthology, or has extra artwork. Add to that the costs of author copies and postage, my gods the postage The books are print on demand for us, so that’s printing and shipping in the US to the UK, around £60+ to get the books here, then I post them all on.

So a paperback, of which we sell more, takes roughly £1.00 per copy sold. 70p to the author in most cases. 30p to us. So, to cover costs of the average anthology we need to sell around 1,350 copies. Of each book. And again, these are at the greatly reduced rates for work that we’ve negotiated with friends and people who want us to do well!

This is before we look at the costs of going to events, web hosting, marketing materials, launch events – even an accountant because we are a Ltd company now so we need to do formal business accounts. The annual return to Companies house. It all adds up. We don’t offer many hard copies for review because of the cost. We don’t submit to many awards because, even if you only have to send copies, it’s a cost. Every time we try an advert somewhere new… it’s a cost and a massive risk.

all of the books indie table at Nine Worlds
all of the books indie table at Nine Worlds

The funds come mostly from what the accountant charmingly calls ‘director loans’. Those come out of our day job wages. If we can’t afford to go a friend’s birthday it’s because the money is sunk into getting a book out.

And none of the accounting includes the time myself and my business partner and Mr Fox put in. There is neither the time nor the money for holidays, and much of my time is spent on the verge of burnout. If I seem to nap a lot it’s because I haven’t slept well since Nun & Dragon came out.

Running a small press occupies most of my free time and most of my disposable income. It’s a labour of love and boundless hope and optimism and waking up at 3am worrying about the costs of the latest thing and the lack of sales for my authors and whether the last book went out with typos we’d missed and a million other small things.

If I am saying NO a lot more often it’s because it’s the only way we can survive. I still need to get better at it.

More presses are looking to Patreon to help keep them going, or Kickstarter so books are effectively no or low risk. Many people running small presses have other jobs which either subsidise the press or subsidise the bill paying or both.  Some small presses are folding, it just doesn’t pay. Brexit and the uncertainty and additional costs it brought with it – another nail in the small press shaped coffin.

Thing is, as a business, few small independent presses really make sense. We don’t. Oh, we believe we can get there but it’s a long way and we tell ourselves that we have to survive that little bit longer to start to see that upswing.

BUT…

In a time when large publishers are tightening belts and taking fewer chances on those quirky projects and cross genre works, small press is a life line for a lot of writers. Authors who don’t want to do it all alone, who want editing support, professional cover art, and the business aspect managed by a trusted partner. It’s a lifeline for readers who want something a little different, a way of discovering new voices and new stories, of trying something that fills a peculiar niche or appetite.

If you want to help, if you want to keep your favourite presses open, if you want those unusual little projects to be published… the simple truth is they need more sales. You don’t have to buy all the books yourself – there are other ways you can help. Tell people about them! Review the books! 50 is a magic number on amazon, but 10 is the minimum for any kind of impact, or to even be considered for a lot of marketing systems. Share posts and retweet. Help build word of mouth. Come to their events and their tables and enthuse because honestly just seeing people there and hearing that we are loved can help get through the next month of bleak sales. Put them forward for fan awards, many of us are too dignified to sneakily do this ourselves, but those nominations and long lists mean the world, they mean someone is paying attention. Tweet nice things to the authors because when they get their sales figures and meagre royalties your words help them believe it’s still worth it (like Tinkerbell and the clapping thing).

Moments like this, keep us going.
Moments like this, keep us going.

Small presses may not always be as professional and business-like as larger ones. They may not always go into it knowing everything they should. But the hard truth of it is, if it weren’t for our naïve passion, most of us wouldn’t exist at all.

Not The Fox News: One Weird Trick To Help EVERY AUTHOR EVER

Hi everyone, welcome back to Not The Fox News. The Sun is shining, the weather is good, awards season is in full swing and we have a special correspondent to fill you in on what you missed. Former President and full time fictional person Jed Bartlet!

 

 

Yeah that about covers it.

I know, I know some of you will go ‘Oooh what’s occurring?. So,  google ‘Hugo awards 2015’ start reading and be prepared for realizing it’s somehow  a week later and you’re crying and angry and muttering ‘How? How can so many words that mean SO LITTLE be generated for so, SO long?’.

Because the internet, bunky. Because the internet.

Which is depressing. This sort of dusty ethical brushfire war has been going on for longer than a lot of people have been alive and it’s not slowing down any time soon. Worse still, it can feel very tempting to jump in and declare that you, are in fact, there to save the day. I did.

See. Not just you. Oh and nothing happened aside from one thing; I got distracted. I took my eye off the work I should be doing and tried to fix a problem that wasn’t mine to fix. That’s why so much of this stuff is so tiresome; it’s an ideological conflict in a village, a West Side Story dancefight with no dancing but way too many crappy response posts. Not to mention a mystifying belief that Fisking is the nuclear weapon of debate when it’s not even the nuclear weapon of Fisking. (DO NOT CLICK THAT LINK IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH. Or haven’t seen Daredevil yet.)

There are some interesting, good pieces hidden in the conversation, certainly. But the operative word is most definitely ‘hidden’.

So, world’s most rubbish kaiju battle going on in the genre, vast amount of signal being swapped out for noise, you caught in the middle, no sign of Cherno Alpha. What is an internet savvy, articulate, positive reader like yourself to do?

Well, there is that one weird trick…

1-Read a book. There are LOADS of them. A lot of them are great. Go pick one. I just finished this and it’s top. This too.

2-Have opinions about that book.

3-Write a review. It doesn’t have to be a magnum opus. It can be two lines or forty. It can be a full scale blog post or just ‘I really liked this, especially the characters.’ Write how you write. Talk about what you loved. Talk about what you didn’t. Look at the experience of your interaction with the book and the things that make your heart beat faster or that you really want to tell other people about. Make a note of them. Write up your notes. Congratulations, it’s a review.

4-Follow the two rules. Firstly, run a spellcheck. I have friends who have dyslexia and similar conditions who sometimes worry that the problems that causes them prevent them from doing this sort of thing. That’s where your spellchecker comes in. I have other friends who sometimes don’t believe in the second draft as a stage of their process or a philosophical construct. On occasion those friends are me. That’s where your spellchecker comes in.

-4b-Don’t be an asshole. If you read your review back and chortle at the creative ways you’ve insulted the author, you’ve done it wrong. There’s a whole conversation about if negative reviews have value that I don’t want to go into here. Firstly because I like you people, secondly because I don’t really want Jed to keep headbutting the desk and thirdly because they do, with one qualifier; don’t be an asshole. If you didn’t like a book, explain why. If you’re personally offended by the book’s existence and feel the need to vomit your electronic bile over the internet, don’t bother. That vacancy was filled a very, very long time ago.

5-Post your review to your blog, your local Amazon and Nook sites and any others you want to and GoodReads. Some of you, like me, will view GoodReads as a cruel User Interface joke inflicted on us all by angry time travelling developers from 1991. That’s fine. It is. But post it there anyway.

Also, about Amazon, I know a lot of people have problems with them as a book seller. I know they’re all valid concerns.

I also know every single author in history enjoys being paid, eating and being able to pay bills.

 

So, to sum up: Every single review for a book helps. If you hated it, say why but make sure you follow 4 and 4b up there. If you loved it, say why. But please, please say it and say it in as many places as possible. Here’s some good places to start:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Amazon Germany

Amazon Japan

GoodReads

Nook US

Nook UK

Because every single time you post a review, you do four things;

-Express your emotional response to a piece of culture using the largest megaphone in human history.

-In doing so, release much needed brain space to go fill with the next piece of culture you encounter.

-Help an author not only get more visible but feel like everything they went through getting the book to print, or indeed, electron, was worthwhile.

-Make this a more positive space for us to all be in.

One weird trick, four positive outcomes. Looks like good value to me, what do you think Jed?

 

Awesome. See you next month, folks.

 

New Release: Akane

G Clark Hellery’s new YA sci fi / fantasy novel ‘Akane Last of the Orions’ is available now!

Akane cover

When the Shadows arrived on earth, everyone assumed they were another benign alien race looking to live peacefully among us. However, they soon showed there true intentions and now the only person between them and the annihiliation of human race is Akane, one fo the last Orions. On the run from the police and not knowing if she can trust even her oldest friends Akane must uncover the full power of the locket passed down through her family. Will she be in time to save her family and the rest of the human race or will the Shadows drag them all into darkness?

We are looking for reviewers for the book so please contact adele @ foxspirit.co.uk if you are interested.

 

Reviews 5 : latest news

Our latest releases have had some great reviews so I wanted to share those.

The Stars Seem So Far Away

Books Abound among others has left some lovely feedback for the book on Goodreads : For me, there was a very distinct essence to the prose that I loved. It wasn’t too flowery and seemed to reflect the state of their world. Beautifully nuanced in all the right ways

And novelist E.P. Beaumont had lovely things to say : The narrative compels through spare suggestion — short story on the boundary with poetry — and implies a world of vast sweep in its pauses. The Stars Seem So Far Away is set in a post-apocalyptic Far North, where much of the middle latitudes of Earth have become uninhabitable and streams of refugees have found their way to cities built where currently nothing lies but tundra.

Emily Nation

The Tentacled Tribunal has lovely things to say about our Cornish Assassin : McQuay’s novel bears the grungy, post-apocalyptic DNA of 2000AD, Shadowrun, Tank Girl, or Mad Max.* These are post-apocalyptic cyberpunk westerns, where the plains are nuclear ash wastes, and the bandits and crooks jostle for position between cyborgs, mutants and crazed artefacts from a bygone age of horror and violence. But where 2000AD is entwined with 80s satire and brash Americana, and Mad Max has a more arid outback mania to proceedings, McQuay’s Emily Nation is intrinsically bound to the author’s home; Cornwall.

Reviews 4: Down the Rabbit Hole

Weirdmage

Tales of Eve edited by Mhairi Simpson

‘The quality of the storytelling is very high here, above what can be expected from any anthology. It really is consistently very good throughout. Every author in here has delivered something that they can be proud of, and something which I have really enjoyed.’

Fox Pockets: Piracy edited by Adele Wearing

‘It is short, as are the stories in it, and it is all the stronger for it. This is excellent for those that want some short fiction that will fill a few minutes now and then. For those that like their fiction to come with a piratical leaning, this is an absolute must.’

Neil Williamson

Fox Pockets: Piracy edited by Adele Wearing

‘Did I mention the cover design? How much I love it? No? Well I do. Look to your left. See what I mean? I reckon artist Sarah Anne Langton has created something truly iconic with this set of simple elements and limited palette.’

Liquorice UK

Weird Wild by G Clark Hellery

‘The mix of styles and genres, incorporating elements of thriller and fantasy works well on the whole and the descriptions of the wood are wonderfully vivid and rich, beautifully capturing the eeriness of the setting.’

Killer Aphrodite

Requiem in E Sharp by Joan De La Haye

‘As you all may know, Killer Aphrodite is run from Pretoria and we are well aware that sometimes the truth is much more terrifying than fiction… especially around these parts, which means that De La Haye was able to capture the truly gruesome realities that we have to face more often than not and turn it into a book that will give you a proper scare. ‘

White Rabbit advert 2

A whole bunch of carrots… or reviews for White Rabbit by K.A. Laity

Alasdair Stuart : This is supernatural fiction mixed with noir, coffee and incense, whiskey and blood, all swirled together in a novel that’s compact, punchy fun. Life is messy, death is too.

Antonio Urias : White Rabbit is fast paced, pitch perfect noir with a well-developed fantasy world and tight characterization. Highly enjoyable.

Crimeculture : Laity’s writing is punchy and readable and she has a knack for slang and banter. The whole style of the genre mash-up keeps the reader on their toes, because with noir, the supernatural and the Carroll-bunny theme all in play, we never know what’s coming next.