The Fox Spirit Book of Love

The Fox Spirit Book of Love edited by Chloe Yates

I love writing for anthologies. There is always a central theme that ties a book together, and as a writer it’s actually pretty interesting to write within constraints. Every single writer interprets the theme in a slightly or completely different way. That’s what makes anthologies great.

My submission for the Fox Spirit Book of Love was quite random. I almost didn’t do it. I had this story that I really loved, but I had no idea where it was going to find home. It’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea in both style and substance. But I’m glad it turned out to be Chloe Yates’ cup of tea – the estimable editor of the Fox Spirit Book of Love. This anthology has stories by several writers who are well-known names in the British SFF indie scene, so I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

Recently, Alasdair Stuart did a full review of the anthology in his weekly newsletter, The Full Lid. If you aren’t familiar with it, I highly recommend it. It covers all things pop culture. For my story, The Holy Waters, he said:

The Holy Waters’ by Dolly Garland packs a book’s worth of history and background and tragedy into one short story. As a pair of monarchs struggle to deal, in very different ways, with the loss of their children, the story pulls back and back until we get if not comfort, then context. If not understanding, then acceptance. It’s intensely ambitious and one of the best pieces in the book by some distance.

That certainly made my day. Reviews are subjective, of course. And you may hate the story that someone else likes. But as writers, when we put our heart and soul into a story, we hope that at least one person out there gets what we’re trying to say. This particularly applies to this anthology, which is all about love. Different kinds of love that speak differently to each of us.

If you are interested in some heart warming stories, do check out the Fox Spirit Book of Love.


Ishmael and the failings of the human race

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I just finished reading Ishmael, a novel by Daniel Quinn, which was recommended to me by Nik Perring (his book Beautiful Words is truly beautiful, and a lesson in how you can say a lot of things in few words). 

This is a philosophical novel. It is dialogue between a teacher and a student, where the teacher is encouraging the student to see through the myths human culture is trapped in. The teacher is a gorilla and the student is a human. It may sound weird, but when you read the book, the concept works. This book was awarded Turner Tomorrow Fellowship Award in 1991, a $500K price, before it’s formal publication in 1992. 

I don’t want to give spoilers, because if you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend that you do. Though published in 1992, it is in fact even more relevant today when we consider the situation humanity, and the planet is in. The dialogue is Socratic, based on logic. And like any logical conclusion, once you figure it out it seems obvious. It highlights the failings of humanity, but more importantly, WHY we fail as a race.

I read about 50% of this book on my kindle while running 17.29 miles over two days on the treadmill. If you have ever attempted to run on a treadmill, you will know that it’s very difficult to stay entertained. I breezed through it, and it was easier than running with music or movies. It’s written in easy-to-read style, not heavy academic/jargony prose. It is basically a conversation between two people, and you can agree or disagree.

It may not change your perspective, it may not change your idea of humanity, but at the very least it will make you think. Perhaps it will encourage you to see things from a new angle. Isn’t that what good books are supposed to do?



Book review: Lexicon by Max Barry

No spoilers!

I haven’t reviewed books here before, but I just finished reading Lexicon by Max Barry. It’s the kind of book that reviewing on Amazon alone isn’t enough. I want to tell everyone about it. I want to tell people to go and immediately buy this book and start reading.

Therefore, I have decided to review it here. Maybe from now on, whenever I feel particularly inspired about a book, I will include a review.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to include any spoilers. It’s annoying when people just ruin the book you may want to read before you have a chance to decide. So all reviews will be spoiler free.

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I came across Lexicon when I was browsing in Barns & Noble in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was a random visit, but the blurb really appealed to me, as did the quality of the reviews on the book.

This is what it says on the back of the book:

Sticks and stones break bones. Words kill.

They recruited Emily Ruff from the streets.
They said it was because she’s good with words.

They’ll live to regret it.

They said Wil Parke survived something he shouldn’t have.
But he doesn’t remember.

Now they’re after him and he doesn’t know why.

There’s a word, they say. A word that kills.

And they want it back…

That blurb wasn’t merely some clever copywriter’s ploy. The entire book matches the quality the blurb promises. It’s a thriller, a suspenseful ride that will keep you turning the pages. It may seem merely a technological thriller, but it’s much more than that. Though at times, it will leave you wondering that yeah everything it mentions is logical.

Barry’s writing is beautiful. Not the kind of beauty that uses big words to bog you down in the language, and leaves you with pages full of blocks of texts. But the kind of beauty that is just pure high-quality writing, while remaining a fast-paced book.

The story is told in third-person from a few different point-of-views, and each point-of-view adds depth. It is genuinely clever, and in no way feels contrived. When you are done with the book, you can see how these events happened the way they did, and how it all makes sense.

The thing that makes this book exceptional is that for all its cleverness, and beautiful language, it still remains a great story. Because that is what fiction is for. To tell good stories. And Max Barry told one hell of a story in Lexicon. A story that will leave you wondering what happens next will make you sad at times, and curious. It will make you ache for some characters, and root for them.

Barry has achieved so much in this book, and one of the greatest is the depth of characters. His characters are people. They are not black and white. They are grey. Like all real humans. When characters become real, so does the story.

As a writer, I also appreciate the skill that went into writing this book and its plotting. Every detail matters. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing is without purpose. It’s the type of book where you will likely learn something different the next time you read it.

So if we are to use a start system – 5* absolutely!! Buy this book, and start reading it straight away.