Marie Marshall

Author. Poet. Editor.

Tag: fantasy

Claire Pellucida – a Fable

castleOnce there was a town. In the middle of the town stood a castle, and in the middle of the castle stood a high tower, and at the highest point of the tower was the chamber of a princess. Her name was Claire Pellucida, and the people of the town loved her, because she was pretty, and her eyes shone. They found her wise, because they would come to her and ask her what she could see from the window of her chamber, and she would tell them the most wonderful things. And the town itself was called Pellucida, in honour of its wise and pretty princess.

One day the people of the town assembled in the courtyard of the castle, and called up to the princess. “Princess Claire Pellucida, tell us what you can see to the north.”

The princess looked to the north, and said, “Far away I see mountains, with summits and pinnacles as sharp as needles. There are trees growing there, that are of solid silver, and on them hang fruits and berries that are pearls and hard diamonds. There is a river of clear crystal, like ice, that flows with such slowness. And in amongst the silver trees I see the glint of the eyes of ermines and foxes; and above the trees, on snowy wings, fly white birds like eagles, with silver beaks.”

The townspeople were amazed, and very happy that they had such a wise princess, who could see so far and tell them such wonderful things. But visitors from the north laughed at them.

“You Pellucidians are fools,” they said. “There are no such mountains to the north of here, no such trees, nor birds, nor animals, nor a crystal river!”

But the people of the town believed their princess, and one day, when Claire Pellucida had grown into a beautiful young woman, they assembled in the courtyard of the castle and called up to the princess. “Princess Claire Pellucida, tell us what you can see to the east.”

The princess looked to the east, and said, “Far away I see a forest, standing stark against the rising sun. The trees are an army of gigantic soldiers in a livery of black and dark green, and they roar in the wind, brandishing their long spears angrily, because they cannot march upon us.”

The townspeople were amazed, and very happy that they had such a wise princess, who could see so far and tell them such wonderful things. But visitors from the east laughed at them.

“You Pellucidians are fools,” they said. “There is no such forest of roaring giants to the east of here.”

But the people of the town believed their princess, and one day, when Claire Pellucida had grown into a handsome matron, they assembled in the courtyard of the castle and called up to the princess, “Princess Claire Pellucida, tell us what you can see to the south.

The princess looked to the south, and said, “Far away I see a land where the sands ripple as the sea does, and the mountains are like children’s bricks, stacked chequered – white limestone, red sandstone, pink granite. And the trees wave in the breeze, like many-fingered hands, and amongst them step lithe girls and boys in linen robes, gathering the amber fruits that hang on them.”

The townspeople were amazed, and very happy that they had such a wise princess, who could see so far and tell them such wonderful things. But visitors from the south laughed at them.

“You Pellucidians are fools,” they said. “There are no such mountains like children’s bricks to the south of here. Nor are there such waving trees with amber fruit.”

But the people of the town believed their princess, and one day, when Claire Pellucida had grown into a stately old woman, they assembled in the courtyard of the castle and called up to the princess. “Princess Claire Pellucida, tell us what you can see to the west.”

The princess looked to the west, and said, “Far away I see a peaceful sea of liquid silver, where the sun shines like copper. There is an island on that silver sea, and a great city on that island, with tall towers of yellow-veined marble, on which the copper sunlight glints, and shines, and dances. And upon that silver sea sail great golden dhows.”

The townspeople were amazed, and very happy that they had such a wise princess, who could see so far and tell them such wonderful things. But visitors from the west laughed at them.

“You Pellucidians are fools,” they said. “There is no such silver sea to the west of here. Nor is there such and island city, nor golden dhows.”

But the people of the town still believed their princess, as they had always done.

The night after she had looked to the west, and told the people of the town what she had seen there, Princess Claire Pellucida was wakened by a great glow outside the window of her chamber. She rose from her bed, and looked out of her window, to the west. There was the silver sea, the copper sunset, the island with its city of yellow-veined marble; and more marvellously, a silver river was running from the silver sea right to her castle. And on that silver river was a great, golden dhow. And on that great, golden dhow stood tall mariners and fine ladies, all dressed in saffron cloaks sewn with golden-thread. There were circlets on their heads of interwoven white gold and yellow gold, and torques of copper round their necks and wrists, and rings of gold upon their fingers. And they saluted and bowed, and called out to the princess.

“Princess Claire Pellucida, come down and sail with us to the island in the silver sea; for the island city with its towers of yellow-veined marble, has need of a queen to rule it.”

So Princess Claire Pellucida came down from her chamber in the highest point of the tower, in the centre of the castle; and she sailed away with the tall mariners and fine ladies, to the sunset, to the silver sea, to the island city with its towers of yellow-veined marble. And there she ruled as their Queen for ever.

But that is not the end of things.

The next morning, the people of the town of Pellucida gathered in the courtyard of the castle, and called up to their princess. But she did not answer. One brave townsman entered the castle, and climbed the tower, and from the window of the chamber at its highest point, he called sadly for five of his friends to join him.

In the chamber, the six men stood, and looked down at the bed, on which lay Princess Claire Pellucida. She lay smiling and peaceful, as though she slept, and in her face the six men could see the fleeting prettiness that had been there when she was a girl, the beauty that had been there when she was a grown woman, the loving gentleness that had been there when she was a matron, and still, still the stately splendour of their dear princess in old age lingered also. But they knew that she was not sleeping. She had left them, and was dead.

But even that is not the end of things.

The six men carried her, with great sadness and reverence, down to the townspeople, and they all processed solemnly out of the town, and laid the body of the princess – as was their custom – a mile away, in the great, open wilderness that surrounded the town for mile upon mile, for the wild beasts and the birds to devour.

But even that is not the end of things.

The townspeople continued to tell stories to their children, of all the wonderful things that the princess had seen from her chamber in the castle tower, and of all the things she had told them. The children believe the stories, and worshipped the tower where the princess had lived. They told the same stories to their own children. These children did not believe them, but still they told the same stories to the next generation. The children of that next generation believed nothing at all, except what travellers from the north, from the east, from the south, and from the west told them.

And who knows if that is the end of things!

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I’m thinking of putting together a collection of my short stories – most of which you have not seen here on the web site, and presenting them for publication. What do you think? If you would like to read through the short stories that I have published so far on this web site, please click here.

M

‘From My Cold, Undead Hand’ sold out at Waterstones

jpegI just heard that all copies of From My Cold, Undead Hand have gone from the shelves of the local branch of Waterstones. Don’t worry though, vampire-fiction fans – you can still order a copy at the counter. Just ask an assistant and they’ll get it for you.

2014 in review

41ayn0pmq2l-_sy344_bo1204203200_I’m taking a moment to review how things have gone in 2014. Sometimes, at the end of a year, I feel that I haven’t achieved anything; but when I stop and think about it, actually quite a lot has happened.

In January, for example, my first novel aimed at the teenage market, The Everywhen Angels, became available from Amazon, and in March by order at any branch of 1Waterstones. Then in February my short story Da Trow I’ da Waa was read aloud to the audience at Pitlochry Festival Theatre. This was the fifth time in seven years that one of my stories has been featured at the Winter Words literary festival, and I consider that to be quite an achievement.

may prismThroughout the year both old and new poems of mine have been published in anthologies and magazines. Notable among the publications have been The Milk of Female Kindness (ed. Kasia James) in March, May Prism 2014 (ed. Ron Wiseman) in May, although I didn’t find out about that until August, and Rubies in the Darkness (ed. P G P Thompson) in December.

jpegIn September, of course, my third novel was published – From My Cold, Undead Hand – and what more need I say about it! And a short time ago I put the final full-stop at the end of the sequel, KWIREBOY vs VAMPIRE. Since then I have placed it in the hands of a couple of beta readers, and have had first reactions from one of them. Amongst her comments were the words “… great job!maelstrom of action and adventure…” and I am still basking in that rosy glow; however, a writer herself, she drew my attention to several things in the general readability of the novel about which I am going to have to think very seriously.

This year someone likened the quality of my poetry to that of Sylvia Plath. I have been continuing to write poetry, mainly in short snatches, for my poetry blogs Kvenna Ráð and a walk in space. As well as that, I have been keeping up the quarterly Showcases at the zen space. With regard to that, I am always on the lookout for ‘new blood’, for people who can express something in very few words – not just traditional haiku, but any form of short, in-the-moment poetry. Drop me an email if you either want to submit or to recommend someone.

So, all-in-all, it has been a busy and a fruitful year. How was it for you?

Have a Cold, Undead Christmas! :)

cover 200 disposalI was very pleased to see a copy of From My Cold, Undead Hand on the YA fiction shelves at my local branch of Waterstones the other day. There is still time, if you want to buy a copy as a Christmas gift for the bloodthirsty teen or vampire fanatic in your family – just pop along and order it at the counter. You can, of course, buy it on line in print form or as an ebook/Kindle download. Hurry!

I am currently doing minor tweaks and polishes to KWIREBOY vs VAMPIRE. I have sent copies to my ‘beta readers’ to get some initial comments, before I finally give it to my publisher. I’m hoping for a publication date later in 2015, but that has to remain a hope for now. Be assured I’ll let you know.
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The next Showcase at the zen space is due out on the first of next month, by the way, and I am looking for new blood (Oh – how appropriate!). Are there any poets out there who can use imagism or the haiku form to say something wonderful in very few words? If so, please get in touch.

M.

‘KWIREBOY vs VAMPIRE’ – first draft complete!

ShevToday’s big news is that I have finished writing KWIREBOY vs VAMPIRE, the sequel to From My Cold, Undead Hand. So now I plan a period of leisure – no more novel-writing until well into Spring 2015.

But wait! Leisure? I have to read through and revise KWIREBOY vs VAMPIRE, maybe making tweaks here and there. I have to find my trusted ‘beta reader’ and persuade her to read it. A busy writer herself, she may not be able to; but if she can, then I will be reading her new novel by way of exchange. I ought to try to find a second beta reader as well.

Then I have to attend to writing a macabre short story for Scotland’s Winter Words Festival – I have something in mind, but getting it from mind to paper is another matter.

Can I really leave novel-writing alone, though? I have two or three novels in plan form, some with test sections written, searching for the right ‘voice’. There’s my steampunk story of a young mountebank mentalist in Victorian London, a trail of bizarre murders, revenge, and detection – with a possible cameo appearance of Anna Lund! (Who? Read From My Cold, Undead Hand!). There’s my cynical wizard, working for the Chthonic Intelligence Agency. There’s a boy who finds he can work miracles. There’s a fictionalised life of Branwell Brontë. You see, if I wanted to immerse myself in novel-writing right now, I could.
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If you would be interested in reading a short review I wrote recently about Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, you can find it here. on Angelique Jamail’s blog.
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My last piece of news today is that I have just received the latest issue of Rubies in the Darkness, the magazine of ‘Traditional Romantic Lyrical and Spiritually Inspired Poetry and New Renaissance Writing’. On page 38 of this issue is a poem of mine from 2008. At that time I had restricted my poetry, by and large, to a formal style, in an effort to give my work discipline and technical power. It wasn’t just an exercise, however, as I greatly enjoyed using form, even in a light-hearted way, as in the poem below. It is called ‘We woke up to snow’:

snow

Rubies in the Darkness is available from The Red Lantern Retreat, 41 Grantham Road, Manor Park, London E12 5LZ.

A good review at BestChickLit.com

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BestChickLit.com is a review site mainly dedicated to reviewing literature by and for women readers. It also has a thriving ‘Young Adult’ section, where it has featured my previous YA novel The Everywhen Angels, and has now featured From My Cold, Undead Hand. Reviewer Nikki Mason called it ‘a great adventure book’, and appreciated the fact that the vampires are ‘unequivocally the bad guys’. Drop in at the site and check out the review. Many thanks, Nikki.

By the way, this is what BestChickLit.com has to say about Nikki:

Nikki

 

‘From My Cold, Undead Hand’ now available at Amazon!

jpegYes! I’ve just been up-dating the page on this site for From My Cold, Undead Hand to take account of the availability of the novel worldwide in more formats. You can still get it in ePub format direct from the publisher from their site, and with it some extra text and an audio file. But now it’s additionally available from Amazon in both Kindle and paperback. So, if you’re choosy about  your format you are now spoilt for choice! I will give you more news about its availability via bookshops as and when I have it. Why not follow me on Twitter @MairibheagM and keep up with my news in brief!

A big thank-you from me to P’kaboo, my publisher, for all their effort and support, and also to my trusty agent.

Just how many kinds of vampire are there?

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Big ones, little ones, new ones, centuries-old ones, perhaps ones that have had extensive orthodontic work, and perhaps even ones who have a secret that is kept until the sequel. Yes, there will be a sequel to From My Cold, Undead Hand! More about that later – much, much later – but right now all eyes are on the 15th of September, which is publication date! That’s when you’ll be able to get your teeth into it…

The book will first be available in e-book format direct from P’kaboo Publishers. Shortly after that it will be available via Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. However, if you want some bonus extras, in the form of extracts in text and audio of the ‘diary’ of one of the characters, then the e-book direct from the publishers is the way to go. You can even pre-order to make sure!

As you can imagine, I am very excited about having my third novel published. It is, in a way, also a ‘first’, being the first one I have written as a commission from a publisher, my first venture into the genre of teen-vampire fiction, and the first of a planned trilogy. If you would like to know about it, click here to find my answers to questions about it when I was interviewed recently.

If you have any questions about it yourself, please contact me and let me know.

MM

Review of ‘Finis’ by Angélique Jamail

Finis cover 200Finis
Angélique Jamail
Amazon Kindle format
review by Marie Marshall

The best fantasies are the ones which have one foot in reality, in a world or society in which there is enough recognizable for a reader to be drawn in without having to have anything explained. A writer’s skill in doing so is necessary for the metaphor – the unreal, the less-than-recognisable that nonetheless stands for something in our own world – to take hold and be convincing, and Angélique Jamail’s skill is apparent from the very beginning of Finis.

We instantly enter a familiar world where work is tedious, landlords are mean, family is disapproving, neighbourhoods are patrolled by gangs, and where to be different is to be in danger. But in his corner office, the boss is a monster, quite literally a monster capable of goring any secretary who misses a staff meeting. In an environment where to be recognised as fully human one also has to be fully animal, one wonders just how bizarre the Minotaur of legend must have been if ‘Somewhere in Crete a maze is missing its pet’! Similar in feel to the way Philip Pullman’s characters develop a companion ‘dæmon’ as they mature, humans in Jamail’s story take on important aspects of members of the animal kingdom, until they are a fusion of the two. People who never develop this full nature are referred to as ‘plain’.

Elsa, Jamail’s protagonist is a ‘Plain One’, enduring reactions from her colleagues and superiors that range from pity, through discrimination, to bullying, and meeting little better from her immediate family. Even her cat wants to claw and bite her, and in fact is the only one who (spoiler alert! from now on they come thick and fast) actually understands her true nature from the beginning. Jamail’s portrayal of her nagging, unsympathetic father is convincing…

When Elsa doesn’t muster the same enthusiasm as the rest of the family, her father asks what her problem is.

   “Dad, you know I can’t swim – “

   “No, you won’t swim,” he grouses. “There’s a difference.”

This is technically true. Elsa chooses not to submerge herself in vats of acid too.

as is her mother’s fretful ‘Why doesn’t she ever go out? Why doesn’t she ever bring friends over at the holidays? Is she ever going to get married?’ The only member of Elsa’s family with whom she has any affinity is her cousin Gerard – “We both like seashells and hot chocolate”.

A tantalising ichthyological theme runs through the story like a bright thread – an aquarium, tuna sandwiches, references to water everywhere, even the punning title of the story and the last word on the page – loading the narrative with proleptic irony at every turn. Suddenly a clue comes, a newspaper story about the possible appearance of a Phoenix. Perhaps this is how Elsa will develop, with a rebirth in fire, and perhaps this explains her fear of water. But this is partly a red herring (!), although for Elsa it does suggest that maybe her own rebirth means surrendering to the very element that she fears. Eventually she becomes – what? A fish? A mermaid? Her transformation is left less than clear, but for her it is satisfying, it is an ending and a beginning. The conclusion is open-ended, and it almost leaves the reader with a feeling of unease. The problems of plain-ness have not gone away in Elsa’s world simply because she has escaped it, and the point of story has suddenly become her comfortable conformity.

Any niggles I have with the execution of this story are minor. For example, the process of change is referred to as ‘blossoming’, which to my mind is floral rather than faunal, and therefore less than appropriate. Overall it is a lesson in how to write from a point of ‘otherness’. It is short, but just the right length to carry readers and keep attention along a fairly simple narrative. Very worth reading, if my spoilers haven’t given the game away.

Read the first chapter of ‘From My Cold, Undead Hand’!

FMCUH cover final 500

Click on the illustration above to be taken to the publisher’s page for From My Cold, Undead Hand. Once you’re there, click on the cover illustration there and you can read the whole of the first chapter as a preview to the novel!