Marie Marshall

Author. Poet. Editor.

Tag: publishing

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.

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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.

So, what are you doing if you’re not writing?

Apart from feeling guilty, you mean? No, seriously, that is an issue.

authoressWhen I think about it, my output over the past few years has been quite something. I have to remind myself that, since about 2005, apart from having finished four novels (three of which have been published and the other is with my publisher awaiting publication), having had at least two-hundred-and-fifty poems published in collections, anthologies, magazines, and e-zines, having written enough short stories to fill over two volumes, I have taken part for five years in a poem-a-day project. So why stop? Why stop that poem-a-day, and why halt progress on my latest novel after 20,000 words? Well, let me be clear about this – I needed a break, and believe me I’m feeling the benefit. Output had taken over from quality, and I was exhausted and frustrated.

So where does the guilt come from? I don’t know. Maybe from the little imp on my shoulder who keeps whispering to me, “You’re an ex-writer, that’s what you are! Now you’ve stopped, you’ll never start again.”

Maybe, in fact, it has to do with the continuing output of fellow-writers I respect. There they go, merrily taking part in NaNoWriMo and suchlike, galloping though the creation of a novel in a single month, filling their blogs with poetry, writing columns of advice for colleague-authors, posting their goals and how they have achieved them… I could go on line now and find, with ease, confident articles on the discipline and routine of writing, and below each I would find an almost endless roll of comments thanking the writer for his or her sage advice. And I would know that, try as I might, I couldn’t stick to anything like such a routine. I might manage it for a week… ten days…

And yet, there’s all my output. I must have had some impetus and discipline somewhere. You would think so. A colleague said my writing was ‘visceral’, meeting that it sprang from emotion, from feelings rather than thoughts. When I consider that such movements in art and writing as modernism, expressionism, and imagism have influenced me, I guess she could be right. Certainly when I set out to write something, with certain exceptions, I do not start out with the goal of reaching a goal. By that I mean that my work is seldom driven by the end, I do not start my novels, for example, with the resolution of the narrative already in my mind*. I describe such a practice a ‘male’ writing, by which I mean it is driven along by the desire to reach a single climax, to use a sexual analogy. It’s the authorial equivalent of ‘getting your end away’. And it is something that is so ingrained in our culture, that it is hard to counter, hard to offer any other way of doing things. As we say in Scotland, ‘it’s aye been’, or at least its ingrainedness gives that impression. Writers like Virginia Woolf showed us that it simply didn’t have to be so, it didn’t have to be the unwritten rule that we all revered like Holy Writ. Yet it lurches along still, like some kind of zombie. There, that’s today’s thought – ‘Zombie male writing’.

To me, there was so much left undone in modernism, as though they picked up the ball, ran with it, passed it to the next author, who just stood there and let it drop. I know, I know, my mixed metaphors are murder today…

Where was I? Oh yes – what have I been doing if not writing. Well, same as ever. Holding down a job, editing, playing my part in family routine, coping with physical and psychological conditions (my own and others’), reading, in fact all the things I was doing while I was writing. Y’know, I wonder where I found the time to write so much! So will I let all these mundane necessities fill the available time, will I become used to them, so used to them that I will one day forget to write, forget that I ever wrote? Well, let’s face it, one day we will all close our eyes on daylight and not simply forget what we were but lose the forgetting too. Life is about letting go. So it is, of course, possible that I will never write again, ever.

Possible, but improbable.

Despite the imp on my shoulder, I’m not an ex-writer. Hell, what am I doing right now if not writing? I haven’t stepped away from my work entirely. I jot stuff down, the odd word, the odd phrase, the odd idea. I go through my unpublished corpus to see if there is anything worth submitting to a poetry magazine**. Ideas on how to progress my novel – the one I’m half way through, the one I always wanted to write – keep circulating in my head. And anyway, competing with the guilt-imp is the wee wight on my other shoulder, telling me that if I don’t go back to writing someday soon, I’ll end up in that charming little beauty spot located, I’m told, near Harrisburg PA.

Near Harrisburg PA

Gonnae no dae that! Gonnae no!

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*Many writers claim not to do this, but frankly it’s what most of ‘em do!

**I haven’t submitted anything since about 2013, at which time I devoted all my energy to writing a collection specially for a publisher. The result was my prize-nominated I am not a fish.

Silver threading – among the gold

091815_1943_inherownwor1Silver Threading is a web site that has as its theme ‘Authors Supporting Authors’. This support can take the form of interviews, book reviews, articles, and so on. Recently they featured me, in an article mainly drawn from my own words. You can read it here.

‘Abandon the Shadows’

jpegAbandon the Shadows is a slim but poetry-packed anthology by ‘Poets Collective’, a cooperative of versifiers. I was invited by Toni Christman, one of the coordinators of the book, to contribute, and I replied with a specially-written sonnet called ‘Haply Slappy’. The anthology, as you might gather from its title, and from the title of my poem, is about optimism – there’s not a lot of that around these days, so that’s one good reason to buy the book! You can get it at Amazon, or you can get in touch with Poets Collective direct. Here’s what coordinator  Mary Boren has to say about it:

Amazon search results numbering in the millions attest to the fact that new poetry abounds in the world today, if not on the shelves of bricks-and-mortar bookstores, certainly in the countless internet venues where poets congregate and the varied creative outlets that facilitate self publishing.

Cheerful poetry with substance, however, is not as readily found. In this collection twenty-six contemporary poets lend their voices to a rousing sunny side chorus – not in sugar-coated greeting card fashion, but in authentic acknowledgement, contemplation, and ultimate acceptance of the challenging circumstances we all witness and experience in life. In styles ranging from traditional formal to minimalism, the tone of underlying resolution rings clearly. We hope you are pleased with the sound.

You’ll find my ‘Haply Slappy’ on page 67. It isn’t going to be published anywhere else, by the way, so if you want to read it, buy the book, and you get all these other poets for free! 😉

Looking forward in 2015

Happy New Year!

My previous entry was a review of what had happened during 2014. This one will be what I might expect of 2015. I’m not going to make any resolutions, because one of the first things that happens is I break them! So, no commitment to x hours per day writing, I shall simply write when I can.

Last year, as I reported, I had a story – my fifth success – read aloud at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre. This year I am trying for my sixth. So I do need to get busy, as entries have to be submitted this month. I do have a story partly completed, so this is doable.

KWIREBOY vs VAMPIRE will need some serious revision after beta reading. After that I will be letting my publisher see it. I am not expecting instant acceptance, but I am hearing murmurs that it will be an exciting year for P’kaboo anyway.

Ideally, I would like a rest from serious writing until the spring. Then I would really like to return to one of my adult/general readership novels, probably my partly-written The Deptford Bear. It seems to be turning into a hybrid work, with elements of detective mystery, psychological exploration, and Steampunk. What I have already is set in a ‘telescoped’ Victorian era in London, with one or two technological oddities, and with a host of folk rituals cropping up on the streets. There will be hints of vampirism – yes, I can’t leave the subject alone! – but these will probably be dismissed. Let’s see if the return of flowers and birdsong to my own city will prompt me to take up that project again.

No promises!

Meanwhile, I came across the image below recently on line. The more I look at it, the more I think there’s a story there. What do you think? What does it suggest to you? And how is your year going to go?

M.

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Fairy folk, writing advice, and no borders!

My publishers recently had a couple of little display stands at the Fairy Folk Market in Murray Street, Pretoria, SA. The hawk-eyed among you will spot my first novel, Lupa, featured on the shelves.

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fairy folk 2

I must confess I keep forgetting it’s summer down in South Africa!

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I recently came across this piece of writing advice from Ernest Hemingway. It’s good advice, and I find that unconsciously I have already been following it…

The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is never write too much at a time. Never pump yourself dry. Leave a little for the next day. The main thing is to know when to stop. Don’t wait till you’ve written yourself out. When you’re still going good and you come to an interesting place and you know what’s going to happen next, that’s the time to stop. Then leave it alone and don’t think about it; let your subconscious mind do the work. The next morning, when you’ve had a good sleep and you’re feeling fresh, rewrite what you wrote the day before. When you come to the interesting place and you know what is going to happen next, go on from there and stop at another high point of interest. That way, when you get through, your stuff is full of interesting places and when you write a novel you never get stuck and you make it interesting as you go along.

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Something else I came across recently was this art ‘installation’ by Indian artist Shilpa Gupta. Basically she has created rolls of ‘incident tape’ on which the words ‘THERE IS NO BORDER HERE’ are repeated. The tape can be brought into use anywhere – anywhere the public can see it – wrapped around and along fences, suspending a miniature globe, in short stretches almost as a single slogan. But the main installation at art galleries is in the form of a paragraph of what can be fairly called concrete poetry, in the shape of a flag. Gupta is drawing our attention to the arbitrariness of lines on a map, to things that divide one human being from another.

there-is-no-border-here

The exhibition in which Shilpa Gupta’s work is displayed is currently in Scotland, and I would like to get along to see it. (I’m grateful to Paul at Bookseeker Agency for the photograph, taken at Glasgow, I believe.)

‘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

Seeing cover art take shape.

© Millie Ho

© Millie Ho

The wonderful thing about having cover art by Millie Ho is that it feels like a collaboration, it feels as though we are making something together, that the book and the cover artwork are a seamless whole. Hers is not the work of a hack cover-artist, but of someone who has read the book and understands what it’s driving at. This is one reason why I’m rather sorry that we had to abandon our attempt to turn From My Cold, Undead Hand into a graphic novel – but we both had other work to which we needed to give priority.

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© Millie Ho

Anyhow, here Millie has given us an insight into how the cover illustration evolved from a sketch to a finished piece of ‘noir’ artwork; it is fascinating to watch the video of the hand-drawn and computer-finished picture being executed. Exceptionally, Millie produced two completed works, one with a white background and one with a black. The black one fitted my vision for the cover perfectly. However, my publisher might go with other design, because of thumbnail issues, and put it on a coloured background – maybe red. We’ll have to see. Whatever is the case, I am grateful beyond words to Millie for her work, and I hope I have the opportunity to produce more writing that she will be able to illustrate in the future. By the way, as we did with The Everywhen Angels, after publication I hope to offer some free wallpapers based on the book cover. Wait and see what turns up!

Of sequels, threequels, and w.h.y.

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Just when I thought I had enough balls in the air, someone throws me another one. Instead of dropping them all, running, and hiding, I catch it and add it to the juggling act. Okay, last time I reported in, I was doing the final edit of From My Cold, Undead Hand, progressing the sequel KWIREBOY vs VAMPIRE, finishing two short stories – ‘Gravity’ and ‘The Warlock’s Hat’ – for a competition, and contacting a Ukrainian university about Vera Rich’s translations of Ivan Franko’s poetry.

Well, it all seemed manageable. I now have the finalised manuscript of From My Cold, Undead Hand here. It will ready for publication as soon as we have cover artwork and layout. I return to KWIREBOY vs VAMPIRE as often as I can. The short stories have had their final edit, which involved opening up the sealed envelope I was about to mail them in. I have been looking at Vera Rich’s translation of ‘Death of Cain’, comparing it to an earlier translation by the Rev Perceval Cundy, wondering why she rendered ‘город’ as ‘city’ and not ‘garden’ in the context of the poem, and surprising myself at my own cheek at questioning an expert! So, all balls describing a neat arc in the air above my head. Then I found another ball in my pocket – the threequel to From My Cold, Undead Hand (working title KLONE vs OVERLORD) – and added it to the juggled bunch, rather shakily at first, then it too joined the arc. Equilibrium.

Then blow me down! An idea casually tossed to me by a fellow writer exploded in my head, and suddenly I have a plan for a sequel to The Everywhen Angels. With the working title of Among the Grove of Stones (which readers will recognise as a line from an extempore poem in the first book), it will tell the story of Connor Shaw, King Shaw’s nephew, and of how Ashe Sobiecki went missing, of what had been happening to the tulpas of dead Angels as they tried to pass through one last, forbidden door at the moment of death, and of why Angela and the other Unified Angels feel disturbances in the flow that even they can’t control. All of a sudden my control on all the juggled balls is becoming unsteady. I’m hoping I can prioritise and get everything in some semblance of equilibrium again by autumn, and then maybe I will be able to concentrate on finishing one of these jobs at a time.

I think I’m addicted to writing. My hits keep getting bigger.