Marie Marshall

Author. Poet. Editor.

Tag: publishing


From My Cold, Undead Hand reached an exciting stage today, as I received the manuscript back from its first professional edit. Progress continues on the sequel, KWIREBOY vs VAMPIRE. In other news, I have just finished two short stories – ‘The Warlock’s Hat’ and ‘Gravity’ – as entries for the William Soutar Writing Prize. They have two entirely different settings, Dundee and South Africa, and are written in two entirely different styles. Let’s see how they fare. And I have written to the Ivan Franko National University of L’viv in the Ukraine, asking if I may have access to more of Vera Rich’s neglected translations. Watch this space.

Vampires lurk in a future NY, murderers lurk in the Bayous…

© Millie Ho

© Millie Ho

I hesitated to share some of Millie Ho’s preliminary work on the graphic version of From My Cold, Undead Hand, featuring teenage vampire-hunter Chevonne Kusnetsov, because this is as far as we got with the project. It would be doable if we both had unlimited time and no other projects on the go. However, I agreed with Millie when she said that she should concentrate on her own immediate work, and I promptly took my cue from that and dived back into my own. Nevertheless, you’ll all be pleased to know that she has agreed to produce the cover for the text and e-versions of the novel.

© Millie Ho

© Millie Ho

Meanwhile the editing process has begun. The manuscript is with my publisher’s editor, and his eagle eye has already found an obvious typo on the first page! Chevonne is surprised at that, as you can see, but it shows that the process works. I can recommend it to any fellow authors who are thinking of submitting a manuscript, by the way. It might be costly without a publishing deal, but your submission will be more polished.

Another ‘meanwhile’ – I am busy writing the sequel, provisionally titled KWIREBOY vs VAMPIRE, upper case deliberate. I know where it starts – it starts with a 1960s-style beach party for vampire surfers. I know where it ends – in a devastated DC in the depths of a dark nuclear winter. I know a lot of the middle – blood is drunk, flesh is eaten, there is madness, there is a death cult, there is good, clean fun. How the story weaves from place to place is up to my characters. I allow them to live. Well, apart from the vampires who aren’t really ‘alive’ as such, but you know what I mean.

Watch this space, then, for more vampiric newsgrabs. It’ll be totally swagger!

Yet another ‘meanwhile’. Watch out for Hagridden, a novel set at the periphery of the American Civil War – a dangerous and murderous place to be, where escape from the battle does not necessarily mean an escape from the killing. It’s written by Sam Snoek-Brown, whom regular visitors to this web site will know is a contemporary American author whose writing I admire. There’s not long to wait for this novel, as it is due for launch in August of this year. Reminders here and here.



I have been asked to do some funny things in my time, but honouring the ‘Sacred Drunken Wookiee’ has to be one step beyond. Let me explain. Sort of.

I was recently approached by a member of the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus, which is a Mardi Gras parade organization from New Orleans, and asked to provide a series of short poems. The poems would be integrated into a number of ‘parade throws’ – items to give away to the street audience as the parade passes.

The Krewe consists (according to the person who commissioned me) of in excess of five hundred wonderfully nerdy ‘sci-fi geeks’, whose mission is to save the Galaxy… one drunken nerd at a time. Their parade theme is science fiction taken not-too-seriously, eco-friendliness taken slightly more seriously, and whooping-it-up taken in deadly earnest.

We’ll be producing the parade throws between now and February 2015, when the parade season begins in New Orleans. They’ll be in the form of little boxes, into which will be placed little pictures, gew-gaws, and found items, as well as a little baked-and-painted TARDIS. The outside of the box will be decorated as a TARDIS, and the idea is either to inscribe my words on the back of the box, or include them in a little scroll inside. Whichever, I get my name and © on each poem.

It’s rather exciting knowing I’ll be part of next year’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans, if even by remote control. It’s not my first remote connection with that city, as not only were several poems in my first collection, Naked in the Sea, inspired by what I knew of it, but also another poem was inscribed on an African drum which is now on display at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Not bad for someone frae Dundee…


‘Milk of Female Kindness’ launched in Australia

Kasia James addressing visitors to the launch.

Kasia James addressing visitors to the launch.

Lovely pictures from the other side of the world (as I look at it) from the Australian launch of the anthology The Milk of Female Kindness. You may recall this collection is the brainchild of Kasia James (pictured opposite); Kasia was kind enough to include some poetry that I wrote especially for the collection, and to ask me for some editorial consultancy. The theme of the anthology is Motherhood – the title is a quotation from Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, by the way – and it contains the prose and poetry of contemporary women writers from round the world.

The launch was held at Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne, Australia. This is an important cultural centre, hosting all kinds of events. The launch took place on 24th March – it seems strange, from my point of view, typing ‘took’ because that day is only just dawning here; of course in the Antipodes, as I write this, the day is coming to an end. Or is it? I get confused!

Anyhow, here are some pictures from the launch (c) Kasia James – there was food too, and a colouring table for kids. You’ll also see the table showing other works by contributors. If you want to read a quick review of the anthology, go here. I might have mentioned this before, but I am very pleased and proud to be associated with this venture, and I’m glad it is becoming successful.

A table full of milk...

A table full of milk…

An early visitor. Apparently attendance reached three figures.

An early visitor. Apparently attendance reached three figures.

Interest in the 'Other Work by Contributors' table.

Interest in the ‘Other works by Contributors’ table.

Amongst the material on this table you can spot my book 'I am not a fish', plus fliers fro 'Lupa' and 'The Everywhen Angels'.

Amongst the material on this table you can spot my book ‘I am not a fish’, plus fliers for ‘Lupa’ and ‘The Everywhen Angels’.




Comic books, cultural catastrophes, and juggled balls.

All images shown under ‘fair use’ provisions.

V for vendettaI own only one graphic novel, Alan Moore’s V For Vendetta. Of course I do – why wouldn’t I own a book in which an anarchist superhero goes mano a mano with a fascist government in Britain? I notice that Alan Moore distanced himself from the film version, exciting though that was (and it starred the wonderful Hugo Weaving!), saying that it had been ‘turned into a Bush-era parable by people too timid to set a political satire in their own country’. Having read the script, he said,

It’s a thwarted and frustrated and largely impotent American liberal fantasy of someone with American liberal values standing up against a state run by neoconservatives – which is not what the comic V for Vendetta was about. It was about fascism, it was about anarchy, it was about England.

If this does nothing else, it points up the difficulty in adapting a work of art in one medium for another. Perhaps the greatest irony about both the graphic novel and the film of V For Vendetta, is that whilst the Guy Fawkes mask of the protagonist has become instantly recognized worldwide as a symbol of radical protest, it must be making a pretty good profit for someone.

I own three DVDs that are adaptations of graphic novels or comics (if you don’t count assorted Batman flicks in the back of the drawer). These are 300, based on Frank Miller’s and Lynn Varley’s fictionalization of the Battle of Thermopylae, and Kick Ass and Kick Ass 2, based on the comics of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.

Kick AssKick Ass is fun. It came in for a lot of abuse on account of the bad language, less for the violence – with the exception of one teenager, no bad guy is left alive by the end of the film. Its killing-spree violence is in the tradition of Peckinpah and Tarantino, subverting the bloodless wrong-righting of The Lone Ranger and Batman. I think people missed the point that it is highly satirical of the superhero genre, and simply spares no effort to de-bunk its ‘zap’ and ‘pow’ fisticuffs. It is, as the cover of the comic book says ‘Sickening violence, just the way you like it’, signaling that it does not take itself seriously and shouldn’t be taken too seriously by readers and movie-goers. The satire of the film is taken further by the character Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) adopting the phrasing of Adam West, one of the film’s Batman references along with the parting Jack Nicholson quote from Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) “Wait till they get a load of me”, and Hit-Girl’s (Chloë Grace Moretz) “Just contact the mayor’s office. He’s got this giant light he shines in the sky. It’s in the shape of a giant cock” (the bird! the bird! Omnia munda mundis!).

Alan Moore is, I guess, entitled to take pot shots at the genre from his position as an insider. If anyone knows the genre he does. In his latest diatribe, possibly his public farewell, he not only curses the modern craze for superheroes, but also tackles such issues as the depiction of rape, and the right of an author to use characters of a different race, class, or gender from his or her own. Specifically on superheroes he says:

To my mind, this embracing of what were unambiguously children’s characters at their mid-20th century inception seems to indicate a retreat from the admittedly overwhelming complexities of modern existence. It looks to me very much like a significant section of the public, having given up on attempting to understand the reality they are actually living in, have instead reasoned that they might at least be able to comprehend the sprawling, meaningless, but at-least-still-finite ‘universes’ presented by DC or Marvel Comics. I would also observe that it is, potentially, culturally catastrophic to have the ephemera of a previous century squatting possessively on the cultural stage and refusing to allow this surely unprecedented era to develop a culture of its own, relevant and sufficient to its times.

Angels Amazon coverHaving fallen almost by accident into writing for young adults, I find myself skirting superhero territory. The teenagers in my novel The Everywhen Angels have powers that they don’t quite understand, and the protagonist in my recently-completed teen-vampire novella, From My Cold, Undead Hand, is a girl who has been trained to hunt and destroy vampires. Consciously or unconsciously, however, I seem to have made these characters break a mould, or break out of a strait-jacket. Unlike traditional heroes, they don’t necessarily win, they don’t necessarily triumph over a force bigger than they are, their tales do not have a clear resolution where all is explained in a neat and tidy way. Good does not necessarily triumph over evil, and where it does it may well be by accident rather than design. Why?

I guess it is because so many action adventures in any medium, where makers justify their violence in terms of the triumph of good over evil, are little more than morality plays and wish-fulfillment fantasies. If I’m to get readers close to the characters, and the characters close to the danger, everyone is going to have to realise that kids don’t get to be kings and queens of Narnia, and they do get to screw up. I mention all this because one of the balls I’m currently juggling is scripting From My Cold, Undead Hand for adaptation into a graphic novel. It isn’t all that easy. As I was writing it I never had anything in my mind apart from painting pictures with text. In order to script it, I have to take a huge step back, almost throw out the entire manuscript, and re-tell the story a totally different way. I have to imagine how it might look on the page. Take the following note I have made about the initial image:

Exceptionally, this should be a full-page picture, opening on the right-hand page. Chevonne is striding towards us, sword strapped to her back, carbon-pistol in her hand. Her face is rather grim and determined. The angle is fairly low – we’re slightly looking up at her. She’s striding between the stacks of a library. Text in a rectangular box, or maybe two, says something like: ‘The time is a little way into the future. This is Chevonne Kustnetsov – by day a student at PS#401, New York, by night a vampire hunter. Here she is, pursuing a vampire through the University Club Library, tracking it down to destroy it…’ Perhaps change that to 1st person speech, as the text novel is in 1st. Maybe not. We can take that final decision later.

Compare that with the opening paragraph of the novella:

There’s an art to this. When a vamp de-korps I only have a split second to guess where it’s going to re-korp. This one’s tricky, clever, powerful. As I just beaded my carbon-gat at it, it blew into a thousand-thousand little bits in front of me. Thought it could fool me, but that de-korp happened too quick to be the result of my bullet.

In that opening there is no detail of who the character is, where she is, or when the story is set. Such detail is revealed within the text when it needs to be – her school, for example, is not referred to until the second chapter, and the time in which the story is set is implied by things such as the technology depicted. You can easily see that this is a total departure for me. It’s quite a challenge and I think I’ll have to put other projects on hold while I tackle it. But you know me – I’m liable to pick up and put down my writing projects in a rather haphazard way. Wish me luck.

My YA novel ‘The Everywhen Angels’ – more news

41aYN0pMq2L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_My novel aimed at young adults and older children – The Everywhen Angels – is now available internationally atAmazon, in paperback and Kindle formats. Will you be the first to review it, I wonder? I’m looking for reviews for Amazon and Goodreads.

There is no such thing as ‘modern literature’

Robert Rauschenberg, untitled.

Robert Rauschenberg, untitled.

Imagine a world where Paul Klee’s ‘Senecio’ (that’s the painting a detail of which currently heads my web site – look above) doesn’t exist. Imagine a world with no Mark Rothko, or no Salvador Dali, no Jackson Pollock, Piet Mondrian, Marc Chagall, Wassily Kandinsky, Henri Matisse, or Robert Rauschenberg to look at. Imagine a world without Györgi Ligeti’s music, or Igor Stravinsky’s, or Steve Reich’s. Imagine there’s no jazz, no John Coltrane, no Miles Davis. Imagine a world where music had been halted before Debussy and Satie, and art before the impressionists. You don’t have to, that world exists.

It’s the world of literature.

Effectively, literature operates to an Edwardian, male pattern. It’s driven by the absolute imperative of plot resolution, the cart valiantly and obstinately pulling the horse along. I’m looking at the list of winners of the Man Booker Prize, all bloody fine books, and a quick scan of the last – say – ten reveals none without a plot that resolves, and thus none that hasn’t been written with the plot driving it along, arse-about-face. We can all probably name a handful of authors who broke out of the comfort zone of writing – James Joyce, Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, and of course dramatist Samuel Beckett who famously wrote a play in which ‘nothing happens, twice’ – but they’re long gone. Even Manuel Puig’s El beso de la mujer araña, an uncomfortably brilliantly novel in dialogue form, interrupted by long footnotes and official reports, is almost forty years old.

Mark Rothko, untitled.

Mark Rothko, untitled.

I see startled looks already. “Surely,” people are saying, “a novel must have a beginning, a middle, and an end? What is it otherwise? What is it if it doesn’t ‘tell a story’?” But look at the vibrant colours of a Mark Rothko painting, or the vigorous action of a Jackson Pollock, ask the question “What is this if it doesn’t show me anything visually recognizable?” Listen to the ‘Kyrie’ from Ligeti’s Requiem, or to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, or to the jazz of Sun Ra, Charles Mingus, or Ornette Coleman, and say “What is this if it doesn’t have a tune?” You will instantly feel silly for having asked the question. Just because there is no recognizable image, no tune, doesn’t mean the work doesn’t engage your senses and your emotions, doesn’t mean that it has no aesthetic, doesn’t mean that it’s no longer painting or music.

So why not literature? Why has this particular art form stood resolutely still?

“Well feel free to experiment all you like, but you won’t sell any books!”

Is that it, then? Is literature not an art form at all, but rather nothing – nothing! – but a commercial product? Of course the argument about ‘canonical’ literature versus ‘popular’ literature is old, stale, and defunct. But seriously, when a rich patron can stage a new opera, or buy a single painting for a hundred thousand pounds, why can’t a rich patron buy a hundred thousand copies of a book to distribute to friends, family, the needy, anyone, or buy the manuscript to keep exclusively for his own?

I can’t be the first writer to ask this question. Why should literature effectively stand still? Why shouldn’t it change its face and figure and still engage us? Discuss.


Images reproduced under ‘fair use’ terms.

How Millie’s cover art came to be…

© Millie Ho

© Millie Ho

Over on Millie Ho‘s site she shares a few insights into the process of creating the cover illustration for The Everywhen Angels. Please do visit and show your appreciation.

‘The Everywhen Angels’ wallpaper – free to download!

everywhen-angels-wallpaperHow would you like the cover art of The Everywhen Angels as your computer desktop? Just click on the thumbnail to open the image in your browser, then right-click and save or drag it to your desktop. Then you can set it up as your desktop in the normal manner for your computer operating system. NB: The artwork is the intellectual property of Millie Ho, and no permission is given for its use, reproduction, adaptation, or storage other than as specified here.

‘The Everywhen Angels’ is now published!

My second novel, The Everywhen Angels, is now published!

Image © Millie Ho

Image © Millie Ho

It has taken some time for me to realise this particular ambition, but at last my second novel – my first specifically written for younger readers – is now published. It’s available in eBook format direct from the publisher at present, but as soon as it becomes available elsewhere I’ll let you all know. The timing is pretty good, as you can buy it to top up someone’s electronic stocking this Christmas.

A few years ago I was having a lively discussion with a bunch of on-line friends who were all devoted fans of a certain Scottish author and her growing series of books about a boy-wizard. I have to confess that I was being less than charitable, and the argument was getting circular (They’re not well-written – That’s because they’re for kids – But you’re reading them and you’re adults – That’s because they’re great! – But they’re not well-written…). Eventually they told me that as I styled myself an author, I should either write a fantasy set in a school and make it at least as good as one of my compatriot’s novels, or I should shut up. Well you know me, I don’t shut up that easily, so I buckled down and wrote the book. It was tried out on the thirteen-year-old daughter of a friend; the deal was that the daughter would do her homework and tidy her room, and the mum would read one chapter aloud to her every evening. Well, never has homework been so assiduously completed and never has a room been tidier. I realised I had a hit on my hands. The next task would be to convince a publisher.

The manuscript did the rounds. Head of Zeus showed interest in it but eventually declined it, at which point it was snapped up by P’kaboo, who had already published my first novel Lupa. Although P’kaboo is a comparatively small publisher, the feeling one gets from having a novel published commercially – twice! – is very pleasant. I’m not knocking successful self-publishing – that’s now an established thing with its own degree of satisfaction – but to be taken on by a publisher because they have faith in your writing does feel very special indeed. As regular readers here will know, the cover illustration was provided by Millie Ho. I’m hoping that this will mark the first of several collaborations with Millie, who is very gifted at putting ideas into images.

So what next for The Everywhen Angels? Well, of course we – P’kaboo and I – are hoping for sales. And of course I’m looking forward to reviews and to readers’ comments, from which I will quote here.

THUMBNAIL_IMAGESome more publication news came my way today. The Milk of Female Kindness is subtitled ‘An Anthology of Honest Motherhood’. Edited and published by Kasia James, it is a collection of prose and poetry on the subject of motherhood. The title is a quotation from Woolf’s Orlando. I’m pleased to say that I provided three poems for the anthology and also contributed a little ‘editorial consultancy’ work towards it. I have therefore had the opportunity to read through it already, and I have to say it is an exceptional collection. Some of the writers are known to me, most are not, and all have views on motherhood which do not necessarily reflect the image at first conjured up by the word. It is available on Createspace and I recommend it highly.

i-am-not-a-fish-cover-extractAlso today I was paying a visit to the excellent blog of San Snoek-Brown, and I found his list of recommended books for the coming holiday season. Sam has amassed a big haul of books by writers he knows, one way or another, and whose work he seems only too happy to draw to readers’ attention. My poetry collection from earlier this year, I am not a fish, is included in his list. Thank you, Sam!

It is no heavy obligation for me to reciprocate. As regular readers here will know, I’ve been raving about Sam’s fiction ever since I first came across it. So please accept my recommendation of his chapbook of short fiction Boxcutters, available from Sunnyoutside.