Book Launch Part 2 No Spider Harmed…

The second half of our Eighth Anniversary extravaganza, so big we had to load it in two parts! (if you missed part one it is here)

You can buy the book from our website, (or a bookshop, but we see more of the money if you buy direct, and if I’m feeling generous, you might get a random badge too)
We are also having a sale (this book not included) Add ARACHNEVERSARY at checkout to get your discount and check out the special offers button too.
If you want an ebook your usual supplier will have it, We recommend Hive for ePub.

This half features

Emma Lee – Moonlight is Web Coloured (Poem)
Carolyn Robertson – Sicarius (story)
Stella Wulf – Femmes Fatales (poem)
David Mathews – Stowaway (Story)
Joanne L M Williams – Gifted (poem)
Marcel Hirshman performing Natalie Rowe‘s ‘If You Kill a Spider the Rain Will Come’, in BSL (Poem)
Math Jones as Robert the Bruce (Monologue)
Phoebe Demeger – Clearing Out the Shed (Story, followed by BSL translation by Marcel Hirshman.)
Chukwudi Onwere as Anansi (monologue)
Seth Crook – The Matter of the Metta (Poem followed by BSL Translation by Marcel Hirshman)
Hugh Findlay – Spider Haiku (poem)
Elizabeth Hopkinson – Web of Life (story)
with introductions by head Arachnid, Cherry Potts

cover design by Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier used repeatedly!

dancing spider gif created from photo by Martha Nance

Get ready for Book Launch for No Spider Harmed in the Making of this Book

It’s nearly here – weeks of planning, recording, editing, uploading … You may not be able to hear it but thousands of spiders are twanging their webs and stamping their feet in celebration. Join us on this Saturday, 8/8/2020 8pm….

You can buy the book from our website, (or a bookshop, but we see more of the money if you buy direct, and if I’m feeling generous, you might get a random badge too)
We are also having a sale (this book not included).
Add ARACHNEVERSARY at checkout to get your discount and check out the special offers button too.
If you want an ebook your usual supplier will have it, We recommend Hive for ePub.

The file for the launch ended up being so HUGE I had to split it, so there is a brief interval and the other half is at 9.02pm* BST. Just time for a comfort break or to refill your glass.

Where and when to find Part 1

You Tube https://youtu.be/40BHRD1GID0 (8pm)

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ArachnePress/videos/983508885447541/ (8pm)

Website https://wp.me/p2dpP2-5vK (8.02 to give YouTube a chance to get going – the files are too big to load directly)

Introduction by Cherry with BSL translation by Marcel Hirshman.

Kate Foley- Spin (Poem)
A. Katherine Black – Even People who’d been Accidentally Turned into Giant Murderous Mutant Spiders (story extract)
Greg Page as Incy Wincy (Monologue)
Daniel Olivieri Revenge. One JSTOR article at a time (Story)
Jackie Taylor – Goodbye Spider (Story)
Carrie Cohen as Ms Muffet (monologue)
KT Wagner – Across the Void (story)
Marcel Hirshman performing Jennifer Rood’s Spider Queen, in BSL (poem)

Where and When to find Part 2:

You Tube https://youtu.be/9uV5wjgY5SE (9pm)

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ArachnePress/videos/303396004197939/ (8.50)

Website https://wp.me/p2dpP2-5vV (9.02)

Emma Lee – Moonlight is Web Coloured (Poem)
Carolyn Robertson – Sicarius (story)
Stella Wulf – Femmes Fatales (poem)
David Mathews – Stowaway (Story)
Joanne LM Williams – Gifted (poem)
Marcel Hirshman performing Natalie Rowe’s ‘If You Kill a Spider the Rain Will Come’, in BSL (Poem)
Math Jones as Robert the Bruce (Monologue)
Phoebe Demeger – Clearing Out the Shed (Story, followed by BSL translation by Marcel Hirshman
Chukwudi Onwere as Anansi (monologue)
Seth Crook – The Matter of the Metta (Poem followed by BSL Translation by Marcel Hirshman)
Hugh Findlay – Spider Haiku (poem)
Elizabeth Hopkinson – Web of Life (story)

cover design by Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier used repeatedly! Dancing spider gif created from photo by Martha Nance

 

Lockdown Interviews: no29 Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier interviewed by David Mathews

Twenty-ninth  in a series of author-to-author interviews to distract them, and you, from lockdown torpor.

David Mathews interviews Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier (Noon, No Spider Harmed in the Making of this Book) about her writing, photography and book design work, which includes the cover for No Spider Harmed…

Preorder No Spider Harmed… – out 8th August for our eighth anniversary, when we will be launching online at 8pm BST, with readings from authors, including David.

See more of Karen’s photography and designs  on her website  and follow @KBG_Tweets

Black Duck and her Eggs a Guest Blog/Story from David Mathews

Earlier in the lockdown,Arachne author David Mathews told us about his friend Jorge, and his dislike of spiders, and how he, David, was apologising for bringing the matter up by writing a story about the creature of Jorge’s choice.  Here it is!

David Mathews20200412_092644_Burst02

Black Duck and her Eggs

Easter is a dodgy time for fowl. Let me show you.

Come to a country garden, scruffy and large, full of hidden corners, on the bright, spring evening of an Easter Saturday. A family, three generations, has arrived at their customary gîte, an old farmhouse, and unpacked. Adults and children are making themselves at home in their various ways. Bottles are opened, and children are told to play nicely.

In her nest, well back from footpaths and the rowdy children, in a hollow in the roots of a willow, Duck sits on her eggs, fourteen of them. She laid the last ones four days ago. Next month, she will take her ducklings to swim on the millpond, calm these days, and a short waddle away. For the time being Duck simply needs to guard her eggs and keep them warm, easy enough when she is not disturbed. Duck’s eggs are white. Duck is black, mostly. Her drake is black all over. He comes and goes, but it was he who saw off a weasel at dawn two days ago, having got lucky with a beak in weasel’s eye.

The children, seven of them, in and around the house, not counting the baby, are used to feeding ducks and counting how many ducklings have been born each time, knowing that mother ducks can count them too, and never lose any, not through their own fault.

The older children, like the grown-ups, enjoy a duck egg for breakfast, on special occasions.

Tomorrow, on Easter Sunday, will come the Easter egg hunt. Where will Grandpa hide the chocolate eggs this year, on his own, without Granny for the first time? Where will the children search; how daring will they be? The children huddle to rehearse their plans in whispers, and trade chocolate futures.

‘If I find three, you can have one.’

Odd one out in a generation of daughters, the boy plots alone, almost.

‘I know how the game is played,’ the boy says. ‘They hide the eggs in the night, and then we look for them in the morning. And you keep the ones you find. And you eat them.’ The baby girl, to whom this intelligence is addressed, gurgles.

‘But if you go out in the dark, you get first dibs. And I’ve got a torch.’ Baby hiccups in response to his whisper, then burps.

The boy has brought his catapult, though he was told not to, not after last year and the squirrel and the woodpecker.

The sun drops behind the low distant hill. Long shadows vanish, and Duck stirs herself, needing to drink, eat and poo before dark. She arranges grass and down over her eggs; instinct tells her that will keep them warm enough for a while. Duck heads for the water, pecking at beetles and grass as she goes.

She drinks, steps into the water and bathes in her element, ducking and tumbling to wash dust from her feathers. On land she stretches her wings, and water droplets fall. Now she feeds in earnest, fast and catholic, among grass and weeds, but never out of sight of the tree beneath which her clutch lies warm. When she returns to the nest, she has been away 30 minutes, not that she knows this. She simply knows to settle over her eggs once more, her need to do so greater than her taste for more insects and seeds.

As the light fades, the children are called in for supper. The garden quietens to the evening song of birds’ nesting and asserting their territory. Near Duck, mice and voles rustle, but nothing larger, except for the drake who comes by. He quacks at Duck, feeds, swims, then flies beyond the millpond – to another duck.

Time passes.

Under a crescent moon, and among the willow’s roots, Duck and her eggs vanish into the dark. With her head tucked in, Duck’s few white feathers are hidden, and her eggs completely enveloped.

From the house comes a tall figure, bearing a basket.

‘No, I’ll be fine. I won’t be long,’ he says to someone indoors.

He moves around the garden, pausing, bending, reaching; he makes more noise than all the night creatures combined. As he comes closer, Duck draws her head in tighter. Her defences are stillness and her black plumage. At the base of the tree the man stops and tucks a silver egg into the tree roots, inches from invisible Duck, and another into a low fork in the branches.

He bends to float a toy boat on the millpond, attaches a mooring string to a reed, and sends a cargo of three eggs shining across the twinkling, moonlit water to the shadow of low bushes. When he stands, he clutches his back, and winces. For long minutes he gazes across the pond. He lets out a deep, deep sigh, wipes his eyes, and returns to the house.

The windows go dark, downstairs first, then upstairs.

A distant bell chimes twelve.

A beam of light sweeps back and forth at the side of the house, and advances towards dense shrubs. When a torch is placed on the ground, the searcher is revealed as a boy, the only boy. He tuts, having found nothing, picks up the torch, and sweeps the beam again, now higher in the air. The light reaches the willow tree.

‘Yes,’ says the boy, and he swishes through long grass towards where he has seen the glint of silver among the fresh green leaves.

Duck wakes, alert to coming danger, but she does not move.

The boy stands on tiptoe to reach the wedged egg in its silver foil, which he does, just, with his fingertips.  The egg slips. He grabs at it a second time, but drops the torch, which lights the egg that Grandpa placed among the roots. Eager, he reaches for the second egg, and Duck, mistaking his quick movement for attack, pecks his reaching hand.

‘Ow,’ says the boy, and sucks the back of his hand.

He sees Duck’s eggs, remembers a breakfast last year, kicks out at Duck and stretches towards the nest.

Duck has no notion of escalation, not in the way of a military commander, but nevertheless attacks the boy’s hand and bare legs as if her previous peck were a mere warning, and this now is all-out war. She lets loose quacks of panic and rage that bring her drake flying across the millpond, equally vocal. Between the two, they raise the household, and, black fiends in a dark night, chase the boy into the arms of his mother.

Surely his fright will elicit sympathy?

‘You little sod,’ his mother says. ‘That’s why you went to bed with no fuss. Give me that egg. And frightening that poor duck. You should be ashamed of yourself. What will Grandpa say?’

The lad’s booty is confiscated, and the family members retreat into the house.

Duck and her drake still quack, though more grumbling than urgent now, and find their way back to the nest and the fourteen eggs, still safely warm. Duck settles. Drake flies back to his other duck, whose fresh-laid eggs will, late on Sunday, be plundered by Grandpa for his traditional Easter Monday scrambled duck eggs and smoked trout with fresh squeezed orange juice and Blanquette de Limoux, Brut.

 

David has two stories in our forthcoming eighth anniversary anthology No Spider Harmed in the Making of this Book

Preorder No Spider Harmed… – out 8th August 2020

 

Lockdown Interviews: No10 David Mathews, interviewed by Jeremy Dixon

David MathewsDavid Mathews has stories in Solstice Shorts: Sixteen Stories about Time (Wednesday Afternoon was one of the judges’ five favourites),  Liberty Tales, Shortest Day, Longest Night, DUSK and Story Cities.

Jeremy Dixon

David is interviewed by Jeremy Dixon,  author of In Retail Jeremy also has poems in The Other Side of Sleep, Liberty Tales, Dusk.

 

 

 

JEREMY:       You have a couple of stories in the forthcoming Arachne Press book No Spider Harmed in the Making of this Book. Could you tell us about them, what was the inspiration (apart from spiders!) and how did you develop the idea into a story? And how did you know when it was finished?

DAVID:          I already had a spider story, set in space, outer space. I’d made a couple of kind of newsletters – ‘Stories of sorts, all short’, I’d called them – and one had a spider in a heroic role, if you like. I know next to nothing about spiders, but I like how hugely varied they are in appearance and, especially, how they work, as it were. So after I’d written my new spider story for Cherry, I risked sending her this old bit of nonsense too.
As for the one I wrote specially, I was keen to avoid anthropomorphising spiders. I don’t know how a spider thinks. What’s their consciousness? No idea. But how might a spider behave in a situation where things could go well or badly? Get the reader to wonder. Spider doesn’t. Spider just does her thing. I did learn how spiders are adapted to detecting vibration, and that ability gave me some real spideriness in the story. The thread, you might say. Sorry.
And you asked when it was finished? When all the changes I was making were reversions to earlier words or phrases. That and Cherry’s deadline, of course.

JEREMY:       What influence, if any, does your personal history have in writing a short story?

DAVID:          No big single way, but in lots of small ways, I suppose. For example, I was a work psychologist, and part of the job was to describe people’s work in very exact and concise ways. The habit of choosing words for that exercise is bound to come through in making short stories. Maybe it was a good training. Trouble is, it also makes me rather intolerant of novels. Most of them seem to me to need a damn good edit, though I’ve read some brilliant exceptions recently.
And then, where I come from matters. I grew up in Barry, not far from where you now live, Jeremy, and many of my stories are set in Wales. Can I put my finger on the precise difference that that makes? Not just like that, but I do feel that the English suffer from a kind of imperial condescension towards Ireland, Wales and Scotland. I’m also in many ways quite shy, which is not a problem for writing as such, but it’s there. So, for example, how much does, for example, my sympathy for my characters stem from Welshness, or from having been a psychologist – or is it just me?

JEREMY:       Has the lockdown had an effect on your writing or your writing routine?

DAVID:          Not too much. And in any case, ‘routine’ is rather a strong word for what I do. ‘Habit’ would be a better word. I do miss being in cafés, and miss walking whenever and wherever I like, for the relaxation and time away from the keyboard. And casual conversations. And overhearing people talk.

JEREMY:       Can you share any details of what you’re working on currently?

DAVID:          Two stories. One about a search for perfection. A woman trying to make the perfect pot. Then there’s Mrs Cadwallader, landlady in the Vale of Glamorgan, and fierce opponent of three boys, becoming young men, who feature in several stories. There’s one in Liberty Tales. Via the boys I’ve been pretty hard on Mrs C, and I feel I should make it up to her. Her dead husband was a sailor. In May and June 1966 there was a seaman’s strike, and that becomes her moment. Working title, ‘Mrs Cadwallader rides again’.
And something that will probably end up as a chapbook. Thomas à Becket was killed in Canterbury Cathedral 850 years ago come December. I’ve drummed up a few friends to write some ‘Beckets’, stories between 1118 and 1170 words long, inspired by the drama, the man and all that followed, like pilgrimage and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Working title ‘Thomas à Becket’s Cat’, so you can see it’s not meant to be pious or devotional. I’m wondering whether the cat should be called Julian.*

JEREMY:       What advice do you have for any new and aspiring writers who may be reading this?

DAVID: I should be asking you that, on account of your booklet on writing tips, Allow Your Pen to Lead the Way? I can’t imagine that anything I could say would be of any use to anybody. But – and this is dodging the question of course – show me a story, and I would certainly have something to say. I am wary of generalisations, because we learn more from specifics. When I was in my first job, back in the dark ages, my boss called me in about the first significant report I had put in. On her coffee table was my document, covered in red ink. Seeing my face, she laughed. Don’t worry, she said, if it was no good, I wouldn’t have done that. Perhaps that’s advice in a way.

JEREMY:       You have a history of working with Arachne Press as a publisher, are your experiences with them different to other publishers you have worked with?

DAVID:          Two stories in particular would not have been what they are if Cherry had not got her hands on them. ‘Mouse’, my Longest Night story was decent, but Cherry’s guidance made it sharp. I wouldn’t have got there on my own. I’ll tell you a secret, if you want to know where stories come from. Read Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo, then read ‘Mouse’.
And then there was the first story of mine that Arachne published, Wednesday Afternoon (in Solstice Shorts, Sixteen Stories about Time). I’d got the story sorted. It’s based, very, very loosely, on a real, long-term liaison. But I had told the story from my perspective, reporting what someone else told me. Cherry cut straight through that. She made my informant the narrator, and introduced a device to give credibility to her knowledge of the intimate details of the two lovers – the narrator and the woman of the couple routinely sharing a glass of Muscat. I did the rest, of course, but what a difference that made.
And then Cherry asked Carrie Cohen to read it. I’d never heard anyone read a story of mine in public before, so on the day I was pretty anxious. It was a thrill. And it was hilarious. And she’d found in the story nuance that I had barely recognised myself.

You can buy all the Arachne books mentioned from our webshop, we will post them out to you. Preorder No Spider Harmed… – out 8th August for our eighth anniversary!

If you would prefer eBooks, all these books are available from your usual retailer. we recommend Hive for ePub.

Watch Carrie Cohen read ‘Wednesday Afternoon’ at Solstice Shorts 2014 on YouTube

www.davidmathewsstories.com

*Is this a reference to Julian, the Arachne Press chief editor? [ed]

Lockdown Interviews: no5 David Mathews interviews Neil Lawrence

Neil Lawrence is a debut Arachne author, with his first ever published story in Time and Tide.

Here he is interviewed by Solstice Shorts veteran, David Mathews who was one of the five winners of the Solstice Shorts Festival Short Story Competition.

He has stories in Solstice Shorts: Sixteen Stories about TimeLiberty Tales, Shortest Day, Longest Night, DUSK and Story Cities.

You can buy all the Arachne books mentioned from our webshop, we will post them out to you!

If you would prefer eBooks, all these books are available from your usual retailer. we recommend Hive for ePub.

Beyond spiders: how stories start

The first in a series of guest blogs by Arachne Authors in Lockdown,  in the run up to our Eighth anniversary.

This one is by David Mathews, who we first published in Solstice Shorts: Sixteen Stories about Time, with Wednesday Afternoon, for which he was one of the 5 winners of the competition.
Since then David has graced the pages of
Liberty Tales – Border Country
Shortest Day, Longest NightIn the Gloaming, and Mouse
 Dusk – Flickerin’ Shadows
 Story CitiesBackwater
David has two stories in our forthcoming anniversary anthology, No Spider Harmed in the Making of This Book .We are still consulting on the title of one, but the other is Stowaway, which took up my challenge of writing about spiders in space!

Over to David.

Beyond spiders: how stories start
On the 24th, I went to post a letter, and was a child again. ‘Going to the post’ was one of my earliest errands, and I loved it. Into the tall, glowing pillar box went letters, postcards, small packages. I knew that in next to no time – for local letters, later the same day in a wondrous second post – they would drop on the doormat of Auntie Vi or Mr Jones the grocer.

So as I trotted down a street as empty as those of my childhood to send a friend a birthday card, I looked for Bingo, a dog who furiously chased cars, but who would run happily alongside a pedestrian for no greater reward than kind words.

Before my brief outing I had sent out to friends and others a rousing email invitation to order No Spiders Harmed. ‘It’s nothing too dystopic,’ I had written, ‘perfect reading for the times.’ At lunchtime I found a couple of quick positive responses and a reply from my chum Jorge.

My epistle, which had asked people to go easy on the spring-cleaning, had ended with, ‘Spiders. Forever in your debt.’ I had pushed my luck.

‘Can’t, brother,’ Jorge had written, ‘I was in hospital four days with a red leg due to a bite from one of the precious ones … hate them with force … sorry, not this time. Keep writing.’

Jorge, an artist who works in leather – no, don’t be silly, you know what I mean – is regularly encouraging of my scribbles. But this time, clearly, I had gone too far. Howard Jacobson says that writers should always go too far, but I don’t think he meant to aggravate people’s well-founded phobias.

(Jorge owes me 1.40€, by the way. A bet, from several years ago, about whether Brexit would happen. In the café by the market, after buying a coffee, 1.40€ was all Jorge had left to lay on the chance that we might not leave. Not a bet I wanted to win.)

‘Not so much eight legs good, then, as nine legs bad, Jorge. Sorry. I could do you a beetle story. How are you with those little tinkers?’

‘Stories on hares, birds, squirrels, tigers, lions, or pumas please.’

Not Cyril the Squirrel again, I thought. Jorge has already seen ‘Mouse’ from Shortest Day Longest Night, and, coming from Argentina, he knows more about pumas than I could hope to glean in a short time.

My friend was, let’s say, amenable. ‘Okay, avoid squirrels. Replace them with ducks, the current nuisance at present.’

Jorge lives in the Tarn, south west France. A good few ducks are eaten there, and by and large they go to their fate philosophically – far too much so, many people think. Now it seems that Jorge’s neighbouring fowl have become noisy and forward. With human’s ‘social life’ closed down, maybe the ducks have a stay of execution, and are making merry with it.

Jorge wants a story.  The ducks are getting uppity. What might that mean for a particular duck? Might she and Jorge meet? And eggs. We were due to be with Jorge and his wife for their Easter Day egg hunt, but now of course …

Black Duck and her Eggs. How does that sound?

Easter Saturday. The duck had sat on her eggs, fourteen of them, for four days now. The nest, well back from the footpath and the rowdy children, was overhung with …

‘Keep writing,’ said Jorge.

to be continued…

Audio recordings from Departures Launch

Thanks to everyone who came along to celebrate the launch of Departures at Brockley Brewery last night, it is so lovely to have a packed venue!

And huge thanks to the readers for instilling such passion and humour into their readings, and to the Brewery for hosting us.

Normally I video everything, but in the heat of the moment I didn’t hit the record button till part way through, so there are only audio recordings for the first two readings, massive apologies to David Mathews and Sarah Lawson for that, but the recordings are good.

David Mathews

Here’s David reading Midday Bus

 

and Sarah reading Through SecuritySarah Lawson

More tomorrow, with actual videos…

You can buy a copy of Departures from our webshop

 

Story Cities at Old Royal Naval College day 2

Rather delayed (by crowdfunding mainly) here is audio of our second outing at ORNC’s bowling alley. A little echoey!

Readings from Nic Vine, Rosamund Davies, Cherry Potts, Shamini Sriskandarajah of their own stories and some by other people too – Catherine Jones, David Mathews, Rob Walton and Steven Wingate.

Rosamund reads You Stand in the Secret Place by Steve Wingate

Cherry Reads Backwater by David Mathews

Shamini reads Coffee

Nic reads Go Directly to Go by Rob Walton

Cherry Reads Lost and Found by Catherine Jones

Rosamund reads The Right Place

Cherry reads Foundation Myth

Nic reads Tech Down

Bespoke short story – crowd fund reward

Pledge £60 or more in our crowd fund to raise cash for Noon and receive a bespoke story from David Mathews

David

Here’s the deal – commission David to write something tailored for a friend or a loved one for, say, a Christmas pressie? 1000 words. David needs three weeks’ notice. One week to write and two to edit, with your input if you want it. Printed and Bound. Copyright stays with David, but you can distribute widely.
David has been published by us several times, and was one of the winners of the 1st Solstice Shorts competition, with his brilliantly funny Wednesday Afternoons.

There is only 1 of these on offer, get it while it is still available!

This was a popular reward last year!