Marie Marshall

Author. Poet. Editor.

Tag: fiction

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.

‘Pitlochry, as the dread hour approaches.’

I don’t appear to have a ‘reblog’ function, so I can’t re-post my agent’s report on the reading of my short story ‘The Ice-House’ here. So, please click the photo of Pitlochry Festival Theatre at dusk to be taken there.

theatre2

‘From My Cold, Undead Hand’ reviewed.

fmcuhReader Anastacia Zittel recently sent this review of From My Cold, Undead Hand to the Readers’ Favorite web site:

From My Cold Undead Hand (Where the Vampires Are, Volume 1) by Marie Marshall is the first book in what promises to be a thrilling, interesting take on vampire legend and lore. Chevonne Kusnetsov is a teenager living in the near-distant future, a world that you will recognize but it is subtly different from our own. Chevonne is like any other normal teenager – she goes to school, has friends, has a mother who worries about her, stays home alone after school reading books, but her ‘job’ is not the job of normal teenagers – she researches and kills vampires. This isn’t a Buffy the Vampire Slayer world, where the vampires are all beautiful, but our world where the vampires just want you dead. Chevonne is a Resistance fighter, and she’s out to save mankind.

Marshall does a fantastic job with creating an alternate world for us, where the action happens at a breakneck pace. From using technology that isn’t developed yet, to using weapons not designed yet, to using language and phrases not spoken yet, she creates a universe that is strangely familiar to us, yet it’s a place where you have to watch your back or you’ll be dead. Vampires aren’t glamorous, it isn’t romantic to meet a vampire in the alley behind the school, and they most certainly don’t sparkle. Marshall also does a remarkable job of tying in the classic vampire novel, Dracula, but makes you believe that it’s all real. This is a book that will leave you breathless for more!

The sequel, KWIREBOY vs VAMPIRE – Volume 2 of Where the Vampires Are – should be published this year, so watch this space!

It doesn’t hurt to ask, but don’t build your hopes up.

watchOver six months ago several things came to a head seemingly all at once. Firstly the flying of the Confederate flag – or rather its lowering – became an issue all over the southern states of the USA. Secondly a prominent activist was outed as trans-racial. Thirdly, Harper Lee’s publishers released Go Set A Watchman.

The latter was significant to me. Harper Lee had always been a heroine of mine, for writing one of the monuments of American Literature – To Kill a Mockingbird – and then retiring. I wanted to do the Scottish equivalent, but as soon as I published my second novel that was out of the question anyway – that fact always makes me smile.

With the near-coincidence of these three things, it occurred to me to write a short story, set in 2015, in which a young female couple, one of whom is of mixed racial heritage, have a rendezvous in the Alabama town where one of them has her roots. Together they see how the town has coped with the realities of the twenty-first century. The central event in the story is the lowering of the Confederate flag at the town’s courthouse; but also the couple visit, in passing, an elderly lady who can remember her childhood in the town, during the Depression. My story remained unfinished. I had planned it as a tribute to Harper Lee, and it only really made sense if I could call the elderly woman ‘Jean Louise Finch’. This was, as I say, to be a serious story and a tribute, not ‘fanfic’. So I did the polite thing and got in touch with Ms Lee’s publishers to ask permission, leaving the story unfinished.

Well, seven months later, long after I had forgotten about the project, I got my answer. No. Not only could I not call the elderly character ‘Jean Louise Finch’, I could not use any character names out of To Kill A Mockingbird or Go Set A Watchman. That’s fair enough, I guess. Not only that, but I could not call the town ‘Maycomb’. Okay, I can see the logic in that, given the interdict on character names. But apparently I could call the town ‘Monroeville’ if I wanted. Well thanks, I know I could – any writer is free to set a story in a real place – but the point would be lost. In any case, seven months after the event(s), the moment for the story has passed. It remains unfinished.

But I thought I would share a passage with you, just for the heck of it. Very little else of the story has been written, and now probably won’t be; so what you have here is a little insight. The accompanying pictures are of the old and new courthouses in Monroeville – and just to be clear, the new courthouse can be seen to be flying the Stars-and-Stripes and the Alabama State Flag, not the Confederate flag, which was another reason why fictionalisation was necessary. By the way, the story was to be called The Standard of the Camp, which is a reference to Numbers 1:52 and Numbers 2:2 in the Bible.

*
monroeville1

Judith parked the car a few blocks away, and we walked hand in hand, joining one of the little streams of people approaching from every direction to swell the small crowd in front of the building. It was indeed a small crowd as a proportion of the population – only a few hundred – but unless a person had a reason to wish to be there for what was, after all, only a minor piece of history when taken with the bigger picture, why make a fuss and stir yourself? To Judith and me, with our own union being also a small part of a bigger picture, there was a reason to come. There was to be no ceremony. Simply, at six o’clock, the Confederate flag was to be lowered from the flagpole outside the courthouse, never to be raised there again. It was to be an occurrence, that’s all.

“Has that flag always flown here?” I asked Judith.

“Not sure,” she said. “The way I heard it, it wasn’t raised anywhere at all until the nineteen-twenties. There’s a picture somewhere of the old courthouse during World War Two, and it had the Stars and Stripes on the flagpole, and another picture taken during the Cold War that shows the same. Someone told me that a group of local politicians pushed through some measure when Obama got elected President. But hell, I’ve hardly ever been down this part of town before, so I wouldn’t know.”

“I guess people didn’t really notice until it became an issue.”

“You got that right!” said someone near me.

I get that. When something is just part of the scenery you don’t notice it. Then one day it’s gone, maybe a tree is cut down or a building demolished or something new built, and the best you can do is wonder what’s wrong with this picture. The Stars and Bars on a biker’s jacket or tacked up in the back of a neighbor’s garage can just be scenery. Until someone decides to become a semiotician, and – bam! Just how important to us all was disposing of this symbol? Apparently it was important to APT and WSFA as they had cameras there, so it was potentially news.

The clock at the old courthouse began to strike the hour. A side door of the newer building opened, two uniformed court bailiffs came out and began to walk diagonally across the lawn towards the flagpole. The buzz in our little crowd died down. I could see that a reporter from one of the TV stations had stationed herself between the cameras and the flagpole and was talking into a microphone. There were no salutes, there was no fuss, one of the bailiffs untied the hoist from its cleat, and began to hand-over-hand it. The flag began to descend, slowly. As it did, a knot of men nearer the front began to chant.

“USA, USA, USA…”

I could see a veteran’s cap, I could see a biker’s bandana, I could see a couple of hand-held Stars and Bars being waved.

“God, they say we Americans have no sense of irony, and they’re right,” said Judith.

“Look at another way, honey,” I said. “The way these guys see it, the ideal of the United States is that the whole is not greater than its parts, there is no over-riding principle that can impose itself on a constituent state, and indeed upon the right of an individual’s expression. In some way that’s what they believe in. In their view of history, that’s what the Confederacy was fighting to establish and the Union was trying to crush.”

“That’s an extraordinary opinion to come from an African-American,” said a voice behind me. I looked over my shoulder at the woman who had spoken. I hadn’t heard any hostility in her voice and I couldn’t see any in her face.

“I guess I’m repeating something I heard from someone here in town,” I said. “Don’t get me wrong. To me that flag is just what they say it is – the symbol of white supremacy – and although I’m not from these parts myself, I’m glad to see it taken down. It’s just that the person who gave me that idea also told me that something like nine out of every ten Confederate soldiers had never seen a black person, let alone owned one. They didn’t decide what the flag meant. Somebody else did.”

“Hmm.”

Judith nudged me, and I turned back. People had their iPhones out, taking pictures of the lowering. Some were taking selfies.

“You want a picture?”

“Nuh-uh. No thanks.” For many reasons I did not.

The flag came to the end of its journey. The guys chanting fell silent. I stood on tiptoes to watch the two court bailiffs detach it from the hoist and fold it without any flourish. One of them tucked it under his arm and they began to walk back towards the courthouse. What would happen to it now? As long as it never flew again, did I actually care? Judith and I turned to go.

monroeville2

*

I recall a similar thing happened when I had an idea for a full-length adventure novel featuring a character created by a fellow-Scot. Her creation was not a pleasant character, he was in fact the arch-rival of her protagonist. But I saw in him the potential lead in a story about a cynical adult wizard. So I wrote to her publishers and asked for permission. And of course the answer came back in the negative. Now, I am all for authors protecting their intellectual copyright, given current social and commercial circumstances. I feel no rancor to either Harper Lee or to JKR because their people said no. Indeed, my cynical adult wizard – Agent Delta of the Chthonic Intelligence Agency© – still exists on my virtual drawing-board, is not named as anyone in any other work of fiction, inhabits a milieu nowhere near any boarding-school, and may come to life in a way that infringes no copyright.

1On the other hand, when I got in touch with Irvine Welsh and asked if I could use his name as the central character in an epic poem – Welshday – in which he journeys through the city of Edinburgh in the company of an inebriate detective and a living statue, in a tribute to James Joyce’s celebration of ‘Bloomsday’, he replied “Why not! Go for it!”. All of which leads me to the point of this post: it doesn’t hurt to ask. Countless authors have based novels and stories on pre-existing characters – the Flashman novels, James Bond novels by Kingsley Amis and William Boyd, and so on. Sometimes a living author will hand on the baton willingly to a successor, and the worst that can happen is that they’ll say no.

As it happens, Welshday was never finished either. I know the concept of unfinished writings seem strange, almost like the idea of failure. But I draw the analogy with a painter’s studio – no one finds it strange to find drawings, sketches, studies, and unfinished works there, so I have no qualms about admitting to countless novels, stories, and poems that never made it (yet!) to completion. In fact Welshday gave rise to some good stand-alone poems, so here’s one of them for you. Our journeying hero and his inebriate companion visit a bar in Leith, where they are accosted by a Russian seafarer who claims to be the only survivor from the sinking of the submarine Kursk. It’s a sestina:

 

Old Rimbaud said, “Let’s go and take a glass
of whiskey in a jostling pub I know.”
I, like a sodding numpty, dogged his steps,
And tracked him to a clapped-out, frowsy dive,
Where half the clientele were missing ears –
the other half were shouting to be heard!

We’d been there half an hour when I heard
a Russian sailor tap the falling glass;
he grabbed my sleeve, said “This is for your ears
alone, no other bugger has to know.
I heard my skipper calling dive-dive-dive,
as I slid down the conning-tower steps…”

Old Rimbaud, blootered, sunk down on the steps;
the Russian bellowed at me, to be heard.
“The air inside gets hotter when you dive,
the sea is slagged and dark as bottle-glass.
The ghost of every bugger that you know
floats by, and there’s a pounding in your ears!”

His sliding, slootered accent hurt my ears.
I thumbed my belt and slipped some salsa steps;
I said, “Now tell me something I don’t know,
no half-arsed, half-cocked tale already heard,
no shite enigma darkly in a glass,
no bonny buck-and-wing, no duck-and-dive!”

He scowled at me and, miming a crash-dive,
resumed the tale that battered at my ears,
while I, to ease my pain, sucked at my glass.
“Kolesnikov took all the proper steps,
and we went aft – perhaps you might have heard –

but when you’re frigging shark-bait, boy, you know!”
I shut him up, and said, “Here’s what I know –
no fucker made it home from that last dive –
They all asphyxiated, so I heard!”
He laughed, he jeered, I stopped my ringing ears,
and sat down with old Rimbaud on the steps,
to spit at all the demons in my glass.

When ghosts well from a glass you always know,
You’re sitting on the steps of some sad dive,
and though you stop your ears you’ll still have heard!

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!

golden 2

__________

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

In the dead of night, somewhere in the Highlands…

As I said in my last post, I have been amongst the winning entries in the ‘Fearie Tales’ Competition six times now, in eight years. They don’t rank the eight winners, but it’s a safe bet if you have been scheduled to round off a Saturday evening’s storytelling you can be pretty proud of yourself. I had that spot on Saturday 14th February, and pro actor Helen Logan read out, or rather performed, my story ‘Voices’.

The story concerns an Australian scientist – a woman with one foot in rationalism and the other foot in the ‘Dream Time’ of an old Aboriginal mentor – who camps at the summit of a remote Scottish mountain, intent on investigating ‘random voice phenomena’. What happens next defies explanation. Is it supernatural? Is it psychological? Whichever, the consequences are dire. It is all set out in the spoken commentary to her video diary.

Helen Logan, for whom I had specifically written the story having seen her deliver my previous story, threw herself into the role of the Queenslander, pitching the disintegration of the narrator’s mind at quite a high level of histrionics. It worked; at times it was comic, and at other times it was terrifying.

(c) Bookseeker Agency

(c) Bookseeker Agency

Despite this being my sixth win, it was only my second visit, thanks to the kindness of my ‘fan base’. I lurked at the back of a full room. ‘Fearie Tales’ is popular with festival-goers, and it was good to hear my work being applauded.

I now have quite a portfolio of short stories. A handful of them have been blogged, six of them have now been read aloud publicly, but many of them are simply set by in case they are needed. If collected together, they would make a decent-sized book. I shall have to think what to do with them. Maybe I should consult my agent (a good idea anyway) and discuss options.

__________

By the way, the folk at Indies Unlimited asked me to expand a comment I made on an article about self-publishing into an article in its own right. They asked me to set up an ‘author page’ at Amazon, which is one of the features they like anyone to have, if they are due to be featured on their site. So I have done just that. Just check out amazon.com/author/marie_marshall. The four books of mine which are available at Amazon (not counting the books I have had a hand in editing, or in which work of mine is featured) are listed there.

2015 ‘Fearie Tales’ to feature my ‘Voices’

Story reader Helen Logan.

Story reader Helen Logan. Photo (c) Bookseeker Agency

This weekend sees the start of the annual Winter Words Festival at Pitlochry Festival Theatre, the literary festival that kicks of Scotland’s literary year. Each evening two professional actors will be reading out two macabre stories, winners of the annual ‘Fearie Tales’ competition. I’m proud to announce that for yet another year I am amongst the winners! My short story ‘Voices’ will be featured this coming Saturday evening, 14th February! So if you are near Pitlochry in the Scottish Highlands this Saturday evening, drop in… the terror begins at 9.45pm!

Parade throws and other lovely stuff

When they speak of ‘Mardi Gras’ in New Orleans they don’t just mean Shrove Tuesday, they mean a whole season when parades and all kinds of other high jinks can take place. It may surprise you to know that the parade season has already started there. Part and parcel of the parade procedure is the ‘throw’. Throws are gew-gaws and souvenirs that the marchers give away – literally throw into the crowd. This means that on Saturday all the throws containing my quick-fire poems about Doctor Who landing the TARDIS in New Orleans have… gone! Not one remains! Well, what does remain is the blog record of the assembly line – check it out here!

Ben Crystal

Ben Crystal

In other news, renowned Shakespearean actor Ben Crystal, who is the son of linguist David Crystal and the brains behind the project to present Wm Shakespeare’s plays in their original pronunciation, declared my ‘A sonnet to explain why Veronica Franco misses the first hint of spring‘ to be “Lovely stuff!” Let me explain something: Ben really understands iambic pentameter, and I’m honoured that he should have even read my little piece of not-so-serious sonnetry.

Anything else been happening this weekend? Well, I have been working on some extra material for the possible TV adaptation of ‘Axe’, and have picked up one of my shelved novel projects, The Deptford Bear, to see if I can get it moving again. So far it stands at a little over 11,000 words and I think it can work.

‘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.

‘Crocodilism’ – a dem⦁n’s definition

crocodilism, n.

 

  1. The political principle whereby a state claims or occupies smaller states, territories, or disputed regions; extended to any corporation, body, or individual who appropriates possessions by virtue of their proximity rather than by any recognised right.

 

  1. The practice of girls walking in a long column of twos whilst holding hands; extended to the progress of any slow-moving procession of objects close together.

 

  1. The practice of weeping or making any pretence of woe for the purpose of entrapment; extended to the general philosophy that such pretence and the gaining of an advantage by it is acceptable.

 

  1. The worship of Sobek.

 

  1. The deliberate eating of something considered by others to be unnatural or unacceptable.

    “Thes forsothe among polutid thinges shulen be holde, of hem that ben meued in erthe; a wesil, and a mouse, and a cokedril, eche after his kynde.” Leviticus 11:29 Wycliffe version (1395)

 

  1. The practice of a philosophy where captious or sophistical argument is used; extended to any deliberate use of trick questions.

    “A woman sitting by the side of Nilus, a Crocodile snatched away her child, promising to restore him, if she would answer truly to what he asked; which was, Whether he meant to restore him or not. She answered, Not to restore him, and challeng’d his promise, as having said the truth. He replyed, that if he should let her have him, she had not told true.” Thomas Stanley, The History of Philosophy vol. II, viii, 57 (1656)

 

  1. The affectation of flattery, clemency, or any other favourable behaviour by a person holding any power or influence over others.

 

  1. The habit of removing irritations from a person from whom one wishes to gain favour.

 

  1. The hoarding and bringing into use of things past their time of practical usefulness.

 

  1. The condition of being all mouth and no ears.

[I recently rediscovered this introduction to a poetry project. I thought it might be worth popping here. M.]