Marie Marshall

Author. Poet. Editor.

Category: news

‘the zen space’ etc.

Hello. I know I’ve been quiet, but I haven’t actually been inactive. I have been posting my poetry regularly, for example. Also I’ve been keeping the zen space going – that’s the e-zine I edit – where you can read haiku and other short forms of poetry.

picasso-2The latest Showcase (Autumn 2018) was published a few days ago, and you find a portal to it it here. As well as words it includes picture; featured this time are portraits by Man Ray, the 20c surrealist photographer, like the one of Pablo Picasso, here to the right.

By the way, I’m always on the lookout for new ‘names’ for the zen space, so if you know anyone – yourself even – who can turn their hand to short, vivid, in-the-moment poetry, then direct them to the ‘Submission’ tab at the zen space.

I am still on sabbatical from novel writing. I don’t know when that will change. Certainly not before this mornings cup of Earl Grey, that’s for sure…

Sergeant Cuff names a rose ‘Catherine Earnshaw’

I had a CRAFT moment and clean forgot about the April issue of Jersey Devil Press (the May issue’s already out, as you would imagine!). I have a poem in that April issue, with the title Sergeant Cuff names a rose ‘Catherine Earnshaw’. It was originally intended for their ‘Victorian Mash-up’ issue, but the editors slipped it in ahead of that. Jersey Devil Press is notoriously difficult to get something accepted by, unless you hit precisely the right note for them, so I’m belatedly proud. This is the first time I have submitted a poem to a journal for about five years (I stopped while I was writing my collection I am not a fish and I never got started again), so I’m doubly pleased.

Check out the April issue here, and maybe keep an eye on JDP as a whole, as there’s always some good stuff in there.

1

Farewell Iain Rossouw

I learned this morning of the death by violence of Iain Rossouw. Iain headed Honeymead Books, sister-house of my publisher P’kaboo. More can be read here on his wife Lyz’s blog. I don’t really know what to say – this is awful news.

ir

2016… 2017…

Wow, what a year for the world 2016 has been, with all the good guys checking out. Even the arguably worst person to die in 2016 was passionate about public health, public education, and anti-colonialism. I keep trying to stop myself hoping that if the carnage continues into 2017 we lose some of the bad guys too, but – hey! – I don’t like to indulge in that kind of Schadenfreude.

2017 is, as yet, an unwritten page. I do know that the Winter Words festival in Scotland has been shortened, so presumably the ‘Fearie Tales’ competition will be tougher. I have a story ready to go, as it happens.

In 2016, I suppose my major writing project was, in response to a request, to come up with a text for the ‘history’ of I Tamburisti di FIREnze for this year’s Burning Man (see previous news items here). I thought you would like to see how some of that turned out, so there follows some images of the Renaissance section of the book. Enjoy.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Images are ©

How they brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix, or not, as the case may be.

“An attempt has recently been made on the life of Robert Browning.”
Reuters.

 

I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris, and he;
I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three;
We galloped and galloped, oh Lord how we galloped,
We galloped like billy-oh over the lea.

My steed gave a whinny, Dirck’s ass gave a bray,
As Joris, who rode in the van, cried “I say,
Three riders are galloping – My, how they gallop! –
They gallop like anything, heading this way!”

We held up our gauntlets and shouted halloo,
Demanded “Whence from, lads, and whither go you
Flat out at a gallop? Good grief how you gallop!
Oh please stop your galloping, good gallants, do!”

They reined to a halt and exclaimed, “Mercy sakes!
We’re three men of Ghent, all redoubtable rakes,
Who’ve galloped and galloped and jolly-well galloped,
a-bringing good news to the burghers of Aix!”

We cried, “We’re from Aachen – that’s Aix-la-Chapelle –
And we have glad tidings a-plenty as well.
We’ve galloped and galloped, right manfully galloped –
Supposed to reach Ghent by the Angelus bell!”

One rider from Ghent, with a beard like a Turk,
Said, “Though I’m not known as the fellow to shirk
A jolly good gallop – I love a good gallop –
It seems all this galloping’s double the work!”

I wanted to answer, but Joris said, “We
Could all turn around and be back home for tea.
Oh why don’t we gallop – a rattling gallop –
Let’s all gallop back and have several hours free!

We’ll take up each other’s work; nothing will daunt
The six jolly gallopers out on a jaunt.
Let’s gallop and gallop, mon dieu how we’ll gallop,
We three back to Aachen and you lot to Gaunt.”

I sprang to the stirrup; with whip-cracks and kicks
I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all six!
We galloped and galloped, oh Lord how we galloped,
Past such rustic nonsense as hen-coops and ricks.

We galloped to Aix as the rush hour was near,
No thoughts in our minds save for pork pies and beer.
We galloped and slavered – my word how we slavered –
For pork pies and barmaids and lots of good cheer.

We reached a fine inn, and Dirck could not refuse
To galumph right in for a tray-load of booze.
He galumphed for wallop, for gallons of wallop,
And Joris said, “Hey! What about the good news?”

I muttered to Dirck, and then Joris conferred –
The subject? The substance? And so we concurred
We’d galloped and galloped, all bloody day galloped,
But of the good news had forgot every word!

I spoke to the subject: “We’ll gallop to Ghent
The very same way that the other chaps went.
We’ll gallop and gallop, bejabers we’ll gallop!”
But Dirck said, “You’re barmy – our horses are spent!”

I raised my pint Bierstein, and Joris said, “We
Can do that tomorrow. The evening’s still free
To swallow our wallop. Tomorrow we’ll gallop…
…to whatsitsname… billy-oh… over the lea!”

__________

I thought we could do with a reprise of the above piece of nonsense I wrote a few years ago. It will, of course, be lost on anyone who was never forced to read Robert Browning at School, and most of the population of America, who, if they have heard of Ghent, probably think it’s in Columbia County NY.

What have I been up to lately? Not a lot. My poetry blog ticks over, and I have recently written a couple of pieces for my satirical blog. One of the latter is yet another Keats and Chapman story, and the other a short but serious piece about Holocaust denial.

It will soon be 2017. I have no idea what next year will bring. I’m hoping to provide another macabre short story for the ‘Fearie Tales’ event at Pitlochry’s Winter Words Festival, but we’ll have to see. I can’t make any other writing promises, but I will say I’m hoping that my teen-vampire novel KWIREBOY vs VAMPIRE will be published. It was finished some time ago and, as I understand it, lacks only a cover design. If you missed the first novel to which KvsV is the sequel – From My Cold, Undead Hand – then now would be an excellent opportunity to read it, or even to buy someone the e-book as a Christmas present.

I Tamburisti di FIREnze – project now running!

12010699_1465307271.6343_funddescriptionI told you in my last news update here about my contribution to Camp Thump Thump’s presentation for Burning Man 2016 I Tamburisti di FIREnze. Well, it has grown arms and legs since then. The text has tripled and the story of the Guild – part fact, mostly fiction, and a little bit Time-Lord – has been brought up to the present day. The plan of the Project Coordinator is to adapt what I have written into a large, scrapbook-like record, to be put on display at the Guild’s mobile HQ on the Playa at this year’s Burning Man, so that people who drop in to the workshop can read it and marvel! I have to say I’m honoured.

Now, the essence of Burning Man is that things are given freely. The members of the Camp Thump Thump team give up their time, energy, materials, and finished products entirely gratis, in the spirit of that BM ethos. But outside of Burning Man – in the world in which preparations are made – things cost money. I wish they didn’t, I wish that everything in the world wasn’t reduced to a commodity and that the Burning Man ethos would spread beyond its borders, but such a thing has yet to be. I live in hope.

This year the team will be doing their bit to spread that ethos beyond its borders by making and donating a dozen drums to a school on the ‘outside’.

Meanwhile, the team is obliged to raise money for transport, workshop construction, materials, etc., and are obliged therefore to ask for donations. If you would like to know more, please click on this link, watch the video, read the blurb, and see if you are able to make a cash donation. If you do nothing else, please help by spreading the word – reblog this item, put it out on social media, tell your friends over a cup of coffee.

I can’t get there myself, but it is so exciting for me to be a ‘remote’ part of the Camp Thump Thump team, helping to create I Tamburisti di FIREnze.

BMstrip

A script to finish, a man to burn, a drum to build…

During my sabbatical from novel-writing, I haven’t exactly been idle. Here are a couple of things that are going on right now.

girl-gang

Turning my short story ‘Axe’ into a screenplay. I had been working closely with a Scottish screen-writer to turn my short story ‘Axe‘ into a drama for TV or the ‘big screen’. Currently, many scenes have been written, both from the story itself and from additional narrative material I have provided – and it’s looking good!

However, the screen-writer has had to pull out, for unforeseen private reasons, and he’s not certain whether he’ll be able to take up the task again. I fully understand the reasons he gave me, and he left the ball in my court as to what to do next. Between us we have a substantial amount of material. I think my choices are as follows:
1. Do nothing, in the hope that the screen-writer may be able to resume the project at a later date; this of course runs the risk of the whole project stalling completely.
2. Try to finish the script myself; this is not my area of expertise, and I am, after all, on a writing sabbatical.
3. Get together with my literary agent and look for another screen-writer; my previous collaborator would be okay with that, but it would need someone who could build seamlessly onto the work already done.

I’ll let you know what turns up.

I Tamburisti di FIREnze. If you don’t already know about Burning Man, find out about it. It’s a festival, for want of a better word, or rather an annual gathering of people in the middle of a desert in Nevada, USA. Whilst there, people perform, make things, share, live together, interact, laugh, work, and generally enjoy themselves. But the main thing is that they do so entirely without money transactions, or even barter transactions. Everything that is provided is a gift entirely without strings, given in the hope that everything will be paid forward in some way. It seems to work, right down to the clearing away of site debris afterwards.

renThis year the theme is The Renaissance. I was contacted a few days ago by the Project Coordinator of ‘Camp Thump Thump’, a group that regularly attends Burning Man, giving lessons in drum-making and drumming, letting people build, play, and take away their own drums. For 2016 the group has adopted a theme based on renaissance Italy – the time of the Borgias, the Medici, and Leonardo da Vinci – and have reinvented themselves as I Tamburisti di FIREnze for the duration of this year’s Burning Man. The Coordinator asked me to provide some Renaissance-flavoured text for their use, and I have been working on pen-portraits of (fictitious) 16c Guild-members for her.

I’m not yet sure whether or how my work will be used, but again if it is, I’ll let you know.

My Gothic spring continues…

The manuscript of KWIREBOY vs VAMPIRE is open in front of me, and my collection The Last-but-one Samurai and other stories is currently being edited. Meanwhile Angélique Jamail has featured another of my Gothic poems from 2010 on her blog…

candlelight

Tribute

Whenever a famous figure dies there is a race to pay tribute, as though we competed against each other for our mourning black. Though I must confess to donning a virtual black armband on Facebook from time-to-time, I don’t often do my funeral keening here. Over the past twenty-four hours two well-known authors have reminded me that we are all mortal. I don’t claim to have known either of them – I had a brush with one of their publishers recently, but let’s not go there again – but I do wish to note today that each of them had an influence on my writing.

Harper LeeAt the time I started writing seriously, Harper Lee had published one single work of fiction. However, that was the book that would come first to mind if ever one was asked to name a 21c American novel. Chances are that To Kill A Mockingbird would spring to one’s lips before anything by Hemingway, Sallinger, Fitzgerald, or even Steinbeck. Why? As a piece of literature it did not represent any great step forward, it offered no breakthrough in technique or genre. What it did do, however, was capture a 1960s Zeitgeist, and capture it early. Or did it? It was published five years after Rosa Parks had refused to give up her seat in the bus, and thirty years after the era it depicted. What was outstanding about it was that, notwithstanding its being written primarily for an adult readership, its narrative voice was that of a child; that child observed no great world events, but simply watched what happened in a small town in Alabama during the Depression, noting the attitudes of people of one race to those of another. Of course there’s much more to the book than that, and indeed if there is any change in racial attitudes by the end of the story it was the merest flicker of the needle on the dial! The tabula rasa of the child-narrator’s consciousness was a wonderful device for presenting truth without judgment, enabling the reader to see beyond the rights and wrongs that thirty years of hindsight reveal, to the ordinariness and humanity of the characters. To Kill A Mockingbird has never been out-of-print, is read by young and old, and is studied both by schoolchildren and academics.

By the time I had published my second novel and had realised that neither of them was the modern, Scottish equivalent of To Kill A Mockingbird, I knew that I would never do what this writer whom I admired so much had done. I would at one time have gladly sacrificed the two fingers I use to type, if I could have written one novel that contended with Lee’s, and then retired from writing as she did. And then last year she surprised us all by publishing a second novel. Controversy surrounded Go Set A Watchman from the beginning. Was it Lee herself who had authorised the publication, or was it released under someone else’s influence? Was it a stand-alone novel or a sequel to Mockingbird? Was it anything more than a draft of some chapters of her first attempt at a novel that followed Scout Finch from childhood to womanhood and Atticus to old age? I bought it and read it – how could I not? – and reviewed it. It inspired me to write a short story – now abandoned – about the lowering of the Confederate flag outside the courthouse of a small American town.

I wept yesterday. I’m not ashamed to say, though it is silly to admit it, that I felt bereft. Perhaps it’s not silly at all, because I have felt her influence throughout my own writing career, and it feels as though something in my own life has been wiped out. So this morning I had to steady myself afresh when I learned of the death of Umberto Eco.Umberto Eco Here was another writer from whom I claim influence. As a semiotician, Eco had a mind that was adept at cracking the codes of language, literature, culture, and philosophy, and reassembling them to tell stories. He dreamed up scenarios, pulled contexts from the thin air of history, wove plots that bent logic round like a Möbius strip, built on unlikely premises his unexpected yet inevitable outcomes, filled his books with compelling characters, played hide-the-easter-egg with references (no, not that Baskerville, this Baskerville; no, not that Foucault, this Foucault). Where he influenced me in my writing was firstly in that genius for unexpectedness. Secondly, there was his realisation that language was merely a code for something else that was going on, for a reality beyond the words themselves. I don’t mind admitting took direct from his The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana the idea of having a (supposedly) amnesiac protagonist and used it in my novel-in-progress The Deptford Bear.

Lives, ordinary or famous, do not end conveniently. Books do not close, they are left open. Curtains are not drawn, doors remain ajar, and our talk of eras ending is meaningless. What has ended, in the case of Harper Lee and Umberto Eco, is (merely?) their ongoing contribution; we may, if we wish, draw a line under the canon of each, construct a convenient timeline for them. In dying, they have not done anything that the rest of us don’t do. Their immortality will be a thing of our imagination, but in that they will be as solid to us as Atticus Finch and William of Baskerville.

HAV YU SEEN DIS GURL?

The sequel to From My Cold Undead HandKWIREBOY vs VAMPIRE – is being prepared for publication!

HAV YU SEEN DIS GURL

HAV YU SEEN DIS GURL?

The editing process has begun on the sequel to my first YA vampire novel. I’m working with the eagle-eyed editor whose built-in detector for not just typos but lame turns of phrase* is, even as you read this, scanning the manuscript. He’s making it ready for publication this year!

The story itself jumps ahead several years from the first novel, into a throughly dystopian setting. Some of the characters express themselves in a ‘conlang‘ called NU AMERIKAN, and all of the official notices are printed in it too. But don’t worry about that, as it is only seeded through the book and doesn’t hurt the flow of reading. Basically, NU AMERIKAN is a simplification of modern American English, rather the same way that George Orwell’s fictional ‘Newspeak’ related to the English of Great Britain. Creating it was a stimulating intellectual exercise – and fun.

But the prime purpose of the novel is to be an adventure. There is a new… hero? protagonist?  A couple of the characters from From My Cold, Undead Hand appear again, but it might surprise you how they appear. Importantly there will be lots of action, in a nightmare landscape full of danger. More news as I get it.

 

*Yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but sometime’s I’m guilty of that.