The world turns on stories…

Before I really get into this piece, I just want to say that there have been a lot of posts on twitter and other social media recently about what you MUST do during lockdown. I don’t want this to be one of those posts. These are my views and my take only, my experience and my approach that I wanted to share, reading is a passion and I hope I put across why that is without descending into a lecture! I really dislike posts that are applying pressure on people at the moment, there is so much going on in the world and its affecting each and every one of us in different ways, my view is very much that you need to find your own groove for coping with it. Whatever that looks like. There should be no judgement or pressure on the decisions you make to get through this, or on how you to choose to spend your time and money, what your priorities are. There certainly won’t be from me. So, to business…

… My husband is probably sick of me saying it, it’s one of my favourite sayings. But its true. The world is built on stories, true and false, fact and fiction. Those for purely entertainments purpose, those with an educational twist. Whether its catching up with the news, reading the latest blockbuster novel, reading an indie noir novel, telling your loved ones about your day, listening to your niece tell you all about the new kittens and the pink blanket they bought for them (that was last night on zoom before the family quiz, my niece is four and very excited for the kittens – both of whom are named for Frozen characters), talking about shared experiences on social media, hearing how your neighbours are doing with getting a grocery delivery slot, talking about the latest gossip and rumour at work, playing a computer game, watching a film, a soap opera, even a game show, maybe a football, rugby or ice hockey game – there is consequence to the result and you might talk about the best plays and most exciting moments, these are stories too. Everything is built on stories. We love them, we need them, whether you’re a reader or not. Whether you realise it or not. Stories are what makes the world go round. And in general, I believe we are far better for their presence in our lives.

Listening to, reading or engaging in any way with a diverse range of stories allows for us to feel far more empathy with the world around us. To understand experiences and perspectives that are not our own. In the world today, this is so important. To try and understand each other rather than judge or condemn. To try and look at situations from different perspectives, to not take everything immediatley at face value, to find stories that represent you or allow you to find yourself or to come back to yourself at a difficult time. All this is trying to put across why I read, why its been such a huge part of my life and will remain so. Reading at the moment, during this crisis, I have found oddly difficult. Last year I got through 65 books, 49 the year before. I was reading a lot and at a steady pace this year until March happened. I’ve barely picked up a book in six weeks. I’ve tried, I’ve read snippets here and there (including Nick Quantrill’s story for the new Fahrenzine, check that review out here) but I just seem to lack the focus needed. Being under lockdown affects us all differently, I guess this is one of the ways it’s affecting me. What it’s not doing though is stopping me from buying books.

Indie publishers, like many businesses are struggling at the moment. Chris McVeigh of Fahrenheit press, and great friend to this blog, posted a thread on Twitter this last week about some of the issues they are facing. These tweets sum up the threat to indie publishing, take a look…

fahrenheit thread

These tweets are why I’m writing this. I may not be reading much at the moment, and it may be a while before I post a new review (or a review of a new book, I might do some retrospective reviews). I haven’t gone away though! I’m still ordering books for the TBR, supporting these wonderful indie publishers. I will get back to reading, of that much I’m certain, and when I do, I’m going to need some awesome stories ready and waiting. I started by talking about how I believe that stories drive our world. And that diverse stories have the potential to make us more understanding people, more empathetic. Indie publishers live this ethos of diversity.

Lets take a look at the kinds of stories you can read from Fahrenheit press for instance. Locations from LA to Hull, via Berlin, Amsterdam, London and Manchester (and even my home in David Nolan’s wonderful Black Moss) and many more in between. From the 70s in Tony Cox’s great Derby set Simon Jardine novels, to contemporary LA and Vegas in the beautiful and deeply compassionate writing of Jo Perry. From the poverty-stricken estates of Hull in Nick Quantrill’s Geraghty novels, to the vividly realised world of Soho in Derek Farrell’s Danny Bird novels. And of course, the internationally set and, from what I’ve read so far – around 85 pages – stunningly imaginative and detailed Zombie heist novel from Russell Day, King of the Crows. Talking about Russ, his Doc Slidesmith novels also feature a lead from a world many of us may not be familiar with, the biker tattooist. Taking us into these worlds is one of the most important functions of indie literature for me. I could go on and on…

Instead, I’m going to turn to another publisher Red Dog Press and the wonderful gentlemen that are Dylan and Sean. Red Dog started out around the same time that I started this blog. I believe I can claim the first Red Dog review (A Hollow Sky by M. Sean Coleman), they have gone from strength to strength since, and I do hope are able to weather this storm. As well as Sean’s Alex Ripley novels, Red Dog have given us very different stories in the last year. I have to mention Heleen Kist’s novel Stay Mad, Sweetheart, a thought provoking #MeToo novel looking at the human consequences of what some do online. Its also paced to within an inch of its life, populated by wonderful people and with an ending that made me grin ear to ear. And then there’s TS Hunters Soho Noir series, a huge part of my 2019 reading year, I’ve written extensively on this series, what they meant to me personally and why I believe they are important. Check out my retrospective piece here.

My point here is that without an indie publisher like Fahrenheit or Red Dog to back them, these are stories that would not see the light of day. If we loose indie publishers during this crisis, we won’t get them back and we will be poorer for it. I’m able to carry on book buying as I’m privileged to still be able to work, that’s obviously not the case for everyone and books may be something considered a luxury for many at the moment that can’t be afforded, as I said at the top of this piece that’s a personal decision that only you can make.

All of this is why although I may not be in a reading head space at the moment, I am still buying books.

If you can afford to, and would like to support indie publishers by buying some books or merch, please do so directly and avoid that pesky Amazon commission…

Fahrenheit Press

Red Dog Press

 

 

 

 

 

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