Waxing Lyrical at Fox Spirit

Fox-Spirit-Logo-BFS-293x300Proving that you don’t need to be at a convention to be inspired by it, you’ll find me talking about the wonderful world of SFF online fiction over at the Fox Spirit Books blog. Yes, there are lists. Because how could there not.  And links aplenty! Hop on over!

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Winter Downs: Interview with Jan Edwards

Winter Downs Jan Edwards front coverAnnnnnd, welcome to the next stop in the Winter Downs Blog Tour, celebrating the launch of the ever excellent Jan Edwards’ new book – Winter Downs – a thrilling ride of 1940’s crime fic starring the kick ass Bunch Courtney.   I interrogated Jan to find out more…

Winter Downs is the first in your Bunch Courtney Investigates series – who is Bunch and what can we expect from future books in the series?

Bunch Courtney is a well connected young woman who is set adrift  by the changes that the coming of war has imposed on her, and knows that the life she was brought up to lead will never return. When she stumbles on a murder she discovers a talent and taste for sleuthing as she interacts with the local police force; and with Chief Inspector Wright in particular.

Bunch Courtney Investigates is an open ended series with the next two already mapped out in note form and ideas for at least two more. I am hoping people will love Bunch as much as I do so that I can see her through to D-Day at the very least. After that? It could be fun to take her into peacetime; maybe as a private investigator.

How difficult or easy did you find it to get the flavour of the era, were there any research holes you fell into, and did you find any elements of women’s life in the era that resonated with you?

I do like writing period pieces. I’ve written for a number of Sherlock Holmes anthologies and have a series of diesel punk/cosmic horror tales staged in the early 1930’s and starring Captain Georgianna Forsythe.

Immersing myself in the language and social mores can be a lot of fun, and the research required is jam on the top. I do get lost in seeking out small details. I can spend hours, even days, looking for one tiny fact. It is amazing what comes to light!

The lives of woman of the 20th century are so very different to the 21st.  Bunch, for example, finds herself controlling the farm as the men were gradually absorbed into the war machine, even as early in the war as January 1940, yet still treated as a ‘girl’ by many of the men in traditional positions of power; police, the military, farm manager, even her own family.

I worked for 20 years as a Master Locksmith – the first female ‘practising Master’ working in the UK. I know first hand the frustration of having men (and sometimes women)  peer around me as they ask to speak with the Locksmith, because they just ‘know’ it couldn’t possibly be me… I never whacked any of them with a spanner, though the temptation was there – everyday!

You and fellow writer Misha Herwin regularly appear on 6Towns radio – how did that start, what things do you talk about and where and when can listeners find you?

I think it began with a general call to local writers who may want to guest on the Curtain Call show on 6 Towns Radio  http://www.6townstv.com/   And because we had a series of events to push it somehow morphed into a semi-regular gig. We talk about writing events and our own fiction going into print as well as writing in general.

How has your radio experience impacted your public speaking ability?

I guess it has made me less self-conscious about public speaking, though talking in a studio with just the show hosts present is rather different to sitting in front of a live audience.

You and Misha also regularly organise the 6×6 Writers Café – could you tell us how you started, what it is, where, when, and how people can find out more and/or get involved.

6X6 came about because we were trying to get reading gigs for new local writers but because of library cut backs the slots available were getting very scarce. Poetry does okay for events  but prose not so much. We had heard of a regular event in Birmingham that gives writers a set time to strut their stuff and decided Stoke on Trent could use something similar – 6 writers – 6 minutes.

It’s a quarterly event at City Central Library, Hanley, Stoke on Trent. To take part people can go to the 6X6 blog at https://6x6writingcafe.wordpress.com/ and follow the guidelines!

Having been a long time organiser of, and attendee at, Fantasycon and other events, how important are festivals and conventions to the writer at the beginning of the career, and how does this change as their career progresses?

Conventions, conferences, lit, festivals  and events such as 6X6 or Fantasycon are all great opportunities for writers to both network with industry professionals and to find a readership. It’s essential for those starting out and remains true for writers at almost every stage of their career. Yes, when someone reaches the top echelons they will be the main attraction for readings and signings and guesting at conventions etc. but they will still be out there. Not that these things should be seen as purely business, though that is an essential part of the process. I’ve made lifelong friends from going to cons either as organiser, bookseller, author or reader. They are a fun as well as productive part of being a writer.

As a member of the Authors Electric site, how important is being a part of online writer communities and what ones do you recommend?

Blogs such as Authors Electric provide support and encouragement for writers and help to connect them with readers. Having an online presence is an essential part of being an author and popping up in regular slots helps in getting a wider reach  for your profile.

What would I recommend? Authors Electric of course 🙂

You’re in a crime story – are you the detective, the victim, the villain, the red herring or the plucky sidekick?

Detective naturally. Though being the villain could be fun, and the Watson personna has the advantage of being an observer of the action at close quarters.

What are you up to next?

I am on the scripting team for White Witch of Devil’s End, a Dr Who world DVD out this autumn – along with a book of the film. It concerns the life of Olive – the witch who appeared in the Dr Who story The Daemons from the Pertwee Who era.

I have a couple of other projects, but none I can talk about right now!

I should be at Fantasycon in the autumn, and had to make the Theakston Crime festival, but moving house and launching Winter Downs has been more than enough to deal with 🙂

But Winter Downs is the big one this year!  Of course there is Bunch Courtney Investigates: Book Two coming next spring (or sooner).

Thank you for talking to us Jan!

Jan ps 1Jan Edwards is a Sussex-born writer now living in the West Midlands with her husband and obligatory cats. She was a Master Locksmith for 20 years but also tried her hand at bookselling, microfiche photography, livery stable work, motorcycle sales and market gardening. She is a practising Reiki Master. She won a Winchester Slim Volume prize and her short fiction can be found in crime, horror and fantasy anthologies in UK, US and Europe; including The Mammoth Book of Dracula and The Mammoth Book of Moriarty. Jan edits anthologies for The Alchemy Press and Fox Spirit Books, and has written for Dr Who spinoffs with Reel Time Pictures.

Winter Downs is published by Penkhull Press and is available in paperback and kindle editions from Amazon.

Don’t forget to check out the next stops on the Winter Downs blog tour:

jan blog tour

Women for the Win!

ghost-summerThis morning I’m delighted to be part of Mark West’s latest short fic mixtape – it being Women in Horror month, the theme is, quite naturally, Women in Horror. My personal pick is for one of the many excellent stories in Tananarive Due‘s Ghost Summer: Stories collection, which is a book I enthusiastically recommend you all go out and buy, just because!   But the particular story I’ve picked is also available online at m’beloved Lightspeed so you can pop over to read the Mixtape then link through to read the story! (Is that a deal or what?)

Elsewhere across the interwebs, the gloriousness that is the Girl’s Guide to the Apocalypse has resurrected from its shallow grave to fight the good fight once more, so you’ll find me and many others popping up there with info, meta and all manner of oddness.  Thus far we’ve covered survival rations and stocking your pantry, the art of protest signs, humour as an essential survival tool, how to date an egomaniacal dictator and my own contribution – a vaguely Resident Evil inspired ramble on Beware the Monsters.

Apocalypse Girl2

Mixtape Mayhem

skele crewUp today on the very lovely Mark West’s site, is the American Horror Mixtape – in which a selection of fine and funky folks pontificate on their favourite horror shorts from US-ian and Canadian authors.  My pick is a classic Stephen King thing – ‘Mrs Todd’s Shortcut’ from Skeleton Crew.  Not that it was easy to pick just the one King short, mind, but ‘Mrs Todd’s Shortcut’ is a particular favourite.

obsidian

Not only, but also!  A couple of months back our man West hosted The Brit Horror Mixtape – in which a bunch of us babbled about our favourite horror shorts from Brit authors.  Another tough pick, that, but Sarah Pinborough’s ‘Do You See?’ won out as my contribution.

Pop over to see who picked what else, and stand by for future mixtapes!

State of the Jen: May 2016

pocketssml.pngAs you can see from the lovely picture, I’ve got my contributor copies of the latest Fox Spirit goodness!  (Fab foxy mug not included!)

So, published in December 2015 in the very cool Fox Pockets Vol. 6: Things in the Dark, was my flash fic ‘In Darkness Dreaming’ – with a trainee mermaid-pirate, monsters of the deep and underwater ruins.  Three of my favourite things!

Then in February 2016, in the very fabulous Fox Pockets Vol. 7: In An Unknown Country, ‘The Strongest Conjuration’ was published.  This one’s a tale of a haunted city, portal hopping refugees, with the odd mermaid-pirate for good measure.  Because, of course there is. 😉

And coming up next Tuesday will be Fox Pockets Vol.8: Piercing the Vale, with my story ‘Dead Women’s Tales’ – this one continues with the refugees in the haunted city and gives voice to the restless dead.  (The mermaid-pirates are having the night off!)

In other news!  This week I was the guest blogger on Sarah Ash’s Nobody Knew She Was There blog series – check out Get Shorty for babbling about short fiction and lisssssssts, precious!  So many lists!  And don’t forget to peruse the rest of the blogs in the series as there’s been some awesome genre gals talking all manner of intriguing things.

Wicked Women Anniversary Interview: Adele Wearing

And today we welcome the genius mastermind behind Fox Spirit Books – Adele Wearing, take it away!

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to read:

Adele picOk, about me, by day I’m a mild mannered (or slightly grumpy) local authority employee, by night Aunty Fox. Ok it’s not quite such a clear divide, but key things are I hate to be bored and I always feel I’m at my best in that sweet spot between waving and drowning.

My reading tastes go in phases, I used to read a lot of horror, these days I lean more to fantasy. I particularly devour urban fantasy, it brings together the sort of noir crime tropes I love in a fantasy setting. That said I’ve always just loved a good yarn, I want characters that engage me (even if I don’t like them) and storytelling. I engage less with the complex world building and politics of some of the big doorstop epic fantasy and sci fi series.

What’s the story behind Fox Spirit – how did you get started, what are you looking for and what are your hopes for the future?

I was conned! Ok not exactly, but it makes for a better story. I ran Alt.Fiction in 2012 and had a houseful of awesome creatives. By the end of the weekend, with a soundtrack of Buffy and the English countryside to inspire us, we had decided to do an anthology Tales of the Nun & Dragon. It was going to be a one off on profit share, just for fun. By the time it came out Fox Spirit was born. If any of us there that weekend had owned a pub it might never have happened.

What we look for is always the story first. It’s much easier to fix the writing (or so I assure my editor, the tireless Daz, who actually has to do it) with the author than it is to fix the idea or lack of. We like things that pull from whatever genre the story wants, ignoring traditional boundaries. We have a lot of fun and put out stories we think deserve a readership.

Hopes for the future are of course world domination. We have another Vulpes (HEMA) title coming up and this year we start our FoxGloves (martial arts) range. We have another announcement coming this summer and I’d love for us to grow our income enough to pursue all the different angles in our heads. There are some audio and film project ideas that are going to take time to develop and get out, but we are determined to do.

What’s the appeal of short fiction for you and do you have any short fiction recommendations?

I love quick reads. There is a sense of guilt for many of us in taking the time to read a book, which is ridiculous, but it’s still there. Stories you can fit into a coffee or lunch break are a wonderful guilt free treat. Also I think there is a freedom with short stories to play about, to not tell the whole story. A novel, even a novella, really needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. A short story can pick up at a peculiar point in the plot and exit without explanation. I don’t feel the same need for a satisfying conclusion. If a novel is a journey a short story is an interlude, it’s the motorway services, a look through a window without the benefit of the full view. I love that.

Both history and fiction are replete with women who aim to misbehave – do you have a favourite wicked woman and why?

KayleeIn fiction I have an enduring soft spot for Kaylee in Firefly, she is such a charming balance of girly ruffles and tough resilience. She’s more afraid and has fewer resources than the other women in the series, for physical conflict, but she still stands up for herself and her friends. To me she is the closest representative for most of us. I realise she doesn’t at first seem wicked, but she is the mechanic on a pirate ship, that’s pretty wicked really.

In real life I suppose I am a little charmed by Bonnie Parker (Bonnie and Clyde). She’s not exactly a great role model, but she’s fascinating. Also the women who lived secret lives to work at Bletchley or as spies, the real life Agent Carter’s of the UK, smart, capable and living outside of cultural expectation. It’s a reoccurring theme with me. I get a bit Moley (hang whitewash) about expectations. I think society puts so many behavioural and physical expectations on everyone and it’s hard to learn to block them out, but it’s the best way to be happy.

What kind of apocalypse will it be and what do you have in your Go Bag?

I actually have started putting together a go bag, it has windproof matches and water purifying tablets, a compass and a collapsible water bottle along with a few other bits and pieces. It’s useful during power cuts.

Obviously with the various martial arts we do and well me being me, the house is well equipped with bows, bladed weapons and axes.

Sadly I think the apocalypse will be the slow inevitable destruction of our world at our own hands. I still hold out hope for zombies, I live in the country and as long as we are all home I feel fairly well equipped to deal with zombies. Capitalism I can do less about.

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?

Oh, now that’s tricky. It’s easy to say ‘zombies have been done to death’ or something but in the right hands even the oldest clichés and tropes can be fresh and brilliant. So I would like to 101 the faux medievalism and laziness of women being raped/abused etc in fantasy as a standard motivation or plot device. I think we are ready for something a bit more subtle and intelligent and ‘it’s historical’ is neither accurate nor a good excuse in fantasy. You are building the world, you get to make the rules, make them better. Violence and abuse happens, but writers should ask themselves if it’s balanced, nuanced and necessary or whether rape is just a short cut.

What are you up to next?

Fox-Spirit-Book-6-Thing-In-The-DarkAfrican Monsters and Things in the Dark have just come out and this year we are having a bit of a launch do for African Monsters at Forbidden Planet London at the beginning of March. That will pretty much kick off the year in terms of appearances. We will be at Edge Lit this summer with a table, so you can find all manner of wicked women and other delights.

Thank you for joining us Adele!

Adele Wearing, know to the skulk as ‘Aunty Fox’ is a lifelong genre fan, was for some time a book blogger and then set up Fox Spirit in response to, well trickery and cunning on the part of her friends. Seriously, it was set up!

Aunty Fox takes care of a skulk of writers, artists, editors and other foxy folk, while trying to keep everything in place to get the books out. In addition she has a full time day job (which we do not discuss). Since she lacks the swiftness and cunning that typifies her species, Aunty Fox trains in mixed martial arts, in order to ensure her grinning muzzle and infamous brush tail don’t end up on a huntsman’s wall.

Wicked Women Anniversary Interview: Sarah Anne Langton

Today we welcome the fabulous cover artist of Wicked Women – Sarah Anne Langton, take it away!

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write and draw:

Sarah-Anne-Langton-Ha, well I was the kid who desperately wanted to be an astronaut and firmly believed there was, indeed, ‘something nasty in the woodshed’. Finally realising that joining NASA probably wasn’t an option I ended up at art college, fed on a diet of William Gibson, Tim Powers, Fortean Times, 2000AD and Ray Harryhausen movies.

So any urban occult weirdness, preferably involving crazy-ass science and I’m up for that. Even better if there’s dinosaurs! I managed to do half an Open University Astronomy degree, so I’m pretty big on radio telescopes… which hasn’t, erm, exactly found many artistic openings yet… Somebody out there has a ‘Fourth Reich jacks the Arecibo radio telescope and uses the Spear Of Destiny to summon unspeakable space evil’ novel in them. I am just biding my time!

How long have you been an artist and how did you get started?

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00024]After completing an art degree I went to work as an archaeologist for a few years, obviously, then was employed in a comic shop – all whilst dabbling in a little freelance illustration. So I have an ace Indiana Jones hat and know way too much about the X-Men, ideal for a career in illustration! I moved down to London Town about five years ago and the lovely Anne Perry and Jared Shurin at Jurassic London asked if I fancied doing a book cover… I think I said “yes, if you’ll buy me a vodka”. From there folk just kept asking me to draw stuff for them – which is awesome!

Which authors and artists have influenced you and why?

Ooooooooow tricky. I particularly like the work of Eduardo Paolozzi, one of the early British Pop Art guys. His artwork mixes pop culture references and technological imagery, man-machine stuff – I love the décollage mix! Swiss graphic design studio Büro Destruct are a favourite – super-clean, simple typography, something I always, well, try to do. And the work of artist Bill Sienkiewicz – as somebody who totally ignored how traditional comic book illustration ‘should’ look and brought in a healthy dose of fine art. Ignoring how something is traditionally supposed to look is always a plan. I’m basically a pop culture junkie – and probably shouldn’t ever have been given access to the Internet – so anything from 1950’s advertising to pulp comics!

And authors? Rudy Rucker’s crazy-ass science fiction and non-fiction, for challenging my understanding of science and visual representation. The Fourth Dimension & How To Get There made me learn how to question my perception of space, dimensions and, well, pretty much everything. Robertson Davies for a love of myth and magic – seeing the hidden archetypes in our dull little everyday lives – with a healthy dose of humour! Anything from Lovecraft to Robert Anton Wilson, I guess it all seeps into Mr Brain and influences how you visually represent the written word.

Both history and fiction are replete with women who aim to misbehave – do you have a favourite wicked woman and why?

Jeanne de Clisson, The Lioness of Brittany is a pretty damned interesting lady. Ms de Clisson mercilessly hunted down the ships of King Philip VI’s fleet, to avenge her husband’s death, during the Hundred Years War. de Clisson fought as a pirate for thirteen years, not just commanding a single ship, no she sold off her land and bought a fleet! She had her ships painted black and dyed their sails red to intimidate her enemy, earning them the title of “The Black Fleet”. Her merciless sailors, under her orders, would kill entire crews, leaving only one or two alive to carry news to the king that she had struck again. A woman with the courage of her convictions, who didn’t do things by half.

You’ve illustrated for a wide array of media ranging from comics and games to music events and publishing – are there differences in your approach to projects in different media and do you have a particular favourite venue your work has appeared in?

Hodderscape-Dodo-LogoThe design process for everything is usually something like… google images, tea, google images, tea… flap out for several hours, then make tea. Eventually I’ll find the killer image to actually use for the project but I do quite a lot of pottering about the internets for inspiration. Virtually all of my work is entirely digital, regardless of the medium, I design straight into photoshop. My main problem is people writing interesting books, hence fascinating imagery, so I then get distracted reading about Antarctic ice flows online or something.

Not a venue but it always amuses me to see Pickwick the dodo, the Hodderscape logo which I worked on, running around on Twitter and getting into stuff on the internet!

What can you tell us about the Fizzy Pop Vampire?

Ah, right… the little guy is the product of Mr Den Patrick’s peculiar brain. A fat little vampire… erm, thing, that sneaks into you kitchen at night to steal your lemonade! Basically a tiny book for kids about the terrible consequences of not cleaning your teeth. Lots and lots of fun to draw as Den’s quirky sense of humour is great to illustrate. The one and only thing I draw by hand so there’s lots of wobbly trees and giraffes! The Fizzy Pop Vampire’s best friend is a giraffe, named Keith. Obviously.

What’s the appeal of short fiction for you and do you have any short fiction recommendations?

Books oPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00007]f short fiction are like a lovely author selection pack – there might be the odd dodgy Orange Crème but there’s bound to be something tasty you really love. Always a great way to discover new writers and I’m fascinated how, given a single theme, how many wonderfully diverse tales come out of a single idea.

Apart from Fox Spirit’s Wicked Woman, because clearly everybody should have taken a look at that…. ahem, the Apex Publications Books Of World SF are a great introduction to some authors whose work I hadn’t read before. Oh, and Super Flat Times: Stories by Matthew Derby was one of my favourite short fiction reads this year – very Franz Kafka meets Phillip K. Dick – a fascinating set of genuinely weird tales set in a brutal future where technology has died. Well, if that’s your thing!

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?

But there’s so many! Just the one? Okay…. ‘Evil Emperor’s beautiful daughter falls in love with the hero.’ ‘All it takes it the love of a good man’ syndrome. YAWN – this clearly intelligent woman has unlimited wealth, power, flying monkeys an’ probably a zombie army – she’s really not going to be impressed just because some dumb-ass bloke has a big sword!

(Also: Mysterious taverns, FOR NO REASON. They can go as well, as I’m here. Oh, and people inexplicably dressing in ancient costumes in the future. There is no reason anyone would wear a Roman togas in deep space. Really, there isn’t.)

What are you up to next?

Fox-Spirit-Book-6-Thing-In-The-DarkOoooow, I have a set of covers coming out for Angry Robot next year, just finished the design for Jurassic London’s Jews Vs Zombies & Jews Vs Aliens Omnibus, comic book illustrations for Lavie Tidhar’s New Swabia are out any time now-ish. There’s a tiny short story by me in Fox Spirit’s Fox Pockets Anthology Things In The Dark. Erm, and I appear to be drawing a suicide rollercoaster poster for Lavie’s new book Central Station. Yeah, I’m just going with that…

On the random front, I’m forcing myself to go to zazen more often, looking for stardust with http://stardustathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/ and watching Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D, when I should be drawing 🙂

Thank you for joining us Sarah!

When not planning world domination Sarah Anne Langton draws things, writes and catalogues her ever-growing shoe collection. Qualified Astronaut. Part time archaeologist. Full time geek.

zombie-attack-barbieSarah has worked as an Illustrator for EA Games, Hodder & Stoughton, Forbidden Planet, The Cartoon Network, Sony, Apple, Marvel Comics and a wide variety of music events. Written and illustrated for Jurassic London, Fox Spirit, NewCon Press, Hachette and ‘The Fizzy Pop Vampire‘ series. Hodderscape dodo creator and Kitschies Inky Tentacle judge. Daylights as Web Mistress for the worlds largest sci-fi and fantasy website. Scribbles a lot about the X-Men, shouts at Photoshop and drinks an awful lot of tea. Responsible for ‘Zombie Attack Barbie‘ and ‘Joss Whedon Is Our Leader Now‘. Her work has featured on io9, Clutter Magazine, Forbidden Planet, Laughing Squid and Creative Review.
British Fantasy Award 2015: Best Artist Nominee.

Her website can be found at http://secretarcticbase.com