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Showing posts from 2014

One Last Time

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Two years ago, when the first Hobbit film came out, I took a retrospective of my relationship with Lord of the Rings , and Legolas in particular.  I commented that it was ten years since my first fan poem, "Legolas", which was to spark a whole wave of fan fiction, and lead me back into creative writing as a professional. Now, fresh from viewing the final Hobbit film, I would like to complete that retrospective (although my writing relationship with Middle-earth will never be ended).  It has been wonderful to see Mirkwood on screen, to see Legolas and Thranduil together, and to see another person's angle on those classic fan girl questions: "What was Legolas doing during the Battle of the Five Armies?"  "Did he really get on badly with Thranduil?" And, "What about Legolas' mother?"  I'm sure a lot more of those thoughts will come out on the extended DVDs, but for me, watching the Hobbit films has been like being inside a living fanf

The Wolves are Running

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My vintage copy of The Box of Delights by John Masefield I made a wonderful discovery this week.  This year - 2014 - marks 30 years since the BBC first showed their iconic TV dramatisation of The Box of Delights, the magical Christmas story by John Masefield.  I was 10 years old in 1984, and I remember it well.  Herne the Hunter.  Curates who turn into wolves.  Kidnapped choirboys.  "The Boy" appearing out of a table.  The mysterious Punch-and-Judy man, Cole Hawlings.  And the phrase that still has the power to put a shiver down my spine: The wolves are running. 30 years on, and the magic hasn't died.  I've read the book Christmas after Christmas.  I've watched the series again on YouTube as an adult.  The Carol Symphony by Victor Hely Hutchinson, used as the theme tune, is on my Christmas playlist.  And I'm still trying to write The King of Ice Leaves, influenced by The Box of Delights.  One day... Recently, I've been reading some books on ol

Amputation in Fairy Tales

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                            The Red Shoes: The Archers/J Arthur Rank, 1948 The other night, I was watching the classic 1948 film, The Red Shoes.  When the film was over, I decided to read up on the original tale by Hans Christian Anderson, which brought me back to the subject of amputation in fairy tales. When I was writing my novel, Silver Hands (based on Grimm's fairy tale, The Handless Maiden) I had to think carefully about how I was going to approach amputation in my re-telling.  I decided early on that, in my version, the hands were not going to grow back as they do in my source tale.  The 2012 Paralympics made everyone in my country much more aware of the achievements of amputees.  In real life, limbs do not grow back; what can grow, however, is confidence and new abilities.  This was what I wanted to portray in Silver Hands.  Margaret learns new skills in painting and calligraphy, and gains the self-confidence to face up to Van Guelder, only after amputation.  She loses her

Steampunk in Haworth

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I don't know about you, but I do like a bit of steampunk.  I've written a few steampunk stories in my time, including The Marvellous Machine and Sense of Duty.  But I've never actually been to a steampunk event until today, when I decided to pay a visit to Haworth Steampunk Weekend.  It was a great chance to get free entertainment, shop for Christmas presents, and walk round one of my favourite local tourist spots in one of my (many) more flamboyant outfits, and still feel underdressed! Unbelievably for Haworth in November, it was nice enough to eat lunch outdoors, while being serenaded by a band that included a sousaphone.  (Nobody can be uncheered by a sousaphone).  There was a craft fair, as well as all the usual Howorth shops.  But the best fun was to be had looking at people's outfits, which ranged from a mere nod towards steampunk fashion to fantastic creations that had obviously taken a lot of time and money to make.  One lady had a dress that was

My Christmas Wish List

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It's now the time of year when people usually start to ask the famous question, "What do you want for Christmas."  Usually, for me, it's books and films.  What more can anyone ask than a story that takes you away to a magical time and place?  Last week, I discovered that three animated films I had been waiting to be released have already been longlisted for Oscars.  One is already on DVD.  They're from three different countries and are all totally magical, and my wish  is now to see them all before next Christmas. 1.  Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart. I have been waiting for this one ever since I read the book it's based on - The Boy With the Cuckoo-Clock Heart by Mathias Malzieu (original title: La Mécanique du Coeur) .  The English translation of the book came out in 2009, so it's been some wait... http://youtu.be/v7VHN4hGlk4?list=LL015t4QOwi2PPh995q4ZIvg 2.  Song of the Sea This beautiful Irish film is made by the same people as The Secret of

Autumn Giveaway!

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For the next couple of weeks, I'm running a giveaway for a lucky winner to receive one of these handmade flash fiction bookmark/wristbands from my Etsy shop .  They would make a lovely gift for a friend (dare I say an early stocking filler?!) or just for yourself, to cheer up a gloomy day. The bookmark is printed with a magical and haunting fairy story, that hasn't been published anywhere else.  It is decorated with its own fairy toadstool, and comes with a detachable French-knitted wristband.   All you have to do to enter the prize draw is to leave a comment, either on this blog or on my Facebook page before 4th November.  And you could have your very own autumn fairy wristband to treasure!

It's Festival time!

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                      Nicola Griffith and her novel Hild  at Ilkley Literature Festival  Autumn is drawing on fast (in my part of the world, at least).  The nights are closing in, and it's time to curl up in front of the fire with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book.  So it's not surprising that, in many places just now, literature festivals are taking place. My nearest big festival is Ilkley Literature Festival, which was born in the same year as me - 1973.  Long-term fans will know I have a long-standing relationship with the festival.  It was here, after a one-to-one, that I first made the decision to pursue professional fiction writing as an adult.  I have performed in the Open Mic twice.  And I have twice appeared in the festival Fringe, with themed short story readings -  Bradford: City of Fantasy and Tales of Royalty and Imagination.   This year, I have joined the review team.  (You get free tickets!)  My first review has just gone live, a report on

It's time for Evelina!

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                                 It's that time of year (in Britain, anyway) when, as the nights start to draw in, drama makes a welcome return to our TV screens, especially costume drama.  Within the last week, we have had The Village (1920s), The Suspicions of Mr Whicher (Victorian), Houdini (late C19th-early C20th), Our Zoo (1930s), and Cilla (1960s), and Sunday sees the return of the all-conquering Downton Abbey. Many costume dramas are based on books.  I am still anticipating (with equal amounts of excitement and dread) the promised adaptation of my favourite historical fantasy of all time, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.  I would venture to suggest that the two most adapted authors are Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.  Dickens, of course, was prolific.  He wrote 15 novels, plus novellas and short stories.  Jane Austen only wrote six completed, adult novels (there are examples of unfinished novels and juvenilia).  But this doesn't seem to prevent more and more Austen ad

Karin Bachmann - A Blog Hop Interview

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For my blog this week, I am proud to present a "blog hop" between myself and Swiss children's author Karin Bachmann.  Karin and I first met at Swanwick Writers Summer School about 10 years ago, and have been friends ever since.  We have each asked the other 14 questions.  To read Karin's questions for me, and my answers, go to Karin's blog  Karin is the author of THE VENETIAN PEARLS, the first book in the N.C.D. Mystery series, and a number of short stories.  She also tweets for Swanwick Writers Summer School.  Karin lives in the canton of Berne, Switzerland. Your blog is called Stories 4 7-77.  Can you explain that title to us? I write mainly for children but occasionally also for adults. And don't we all love to listen to stories, no matter whether we are 7 or 77? I wanted the title of my blog to mirror that, hence "stories for seven to seventy-seven". To express that in numbers was actually my mother's idea. On your blog,

She Stoops to Conquer - with leopard breeches

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Last night, as my wedding anniversary date, I went to see Northern Broadsides' production of She Stoops to Conquer at the Viaduct Theatre, Halifax, West Yorkshire.  I had never been to this theatre before; it is built under the arches of an actual old viaduct, a great place to watch historical plays.  As you can see from the photos we were allowed to take before the play, the audience sit on two sides of the stage.  Along with the wonderful scenery, this made it feel like sitting in an old inn yard theatre, which is especially good because the main plot of She Stoops to Conquer centres around the local squire's house being mistaken for an inn. The play was one of the most enjoyable I have ever seen.  She Stoops to Conquer is a very funny play, full of disguises, mistaken identity and - ultimately - true love.  I know I had to read it at school once, but I didn't remember anything until it got to the part where the carriage is stuck in the horse pond. (Why did that stick in

Baroque in Berlin

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This time last week, I was visiting my brother in Berlin.  Known for the Brandenburg Gate, the Wall and Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin is maybe not the first place one associates with the delights of the 18th century.  But my visit happened to coincide with the annual Nikolai Festspiele, a living history festival that takes place in the historic Nikolai Quarter, an 18th-century square surrounding the medieval Nikolai church.  The whole place was bombed during the Second World War and has been lovingly reconstructed, with the much-rebuilt church now a museum (housing some wonderful baroque decoration).  The houses of the square are associated with key figures of the Enlightenment.  If I went again, I would very much like to go inside them.  But for last week, there was enough entertainment from the festival itself. It truly was a treat for lovers of early modern history.  Reenactors and residents paraded the streets around the square dressed in costumes ranging from the Renaissance to the p

A Feast of Fools

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As I write this, there are only 15 days to go until the UK publication of Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb.  I am a huge fan of the Farseer/Tawny Man trilogies, and especially of the Fool.  I was devasted by how his story was left hanging at the end of Fool's Fate, and am very excited (and somewhat nervous) to see how things will progress in the Fitz and the Fool trilogy. Robin Hobb's Fool is one of the all-time great fantasy characters.  However much we get to know him, he will always remain a mystery.  (Is he even truly a he, for a start?)  A self-confessed coward yet courageous, affectionate yet capable of inflicting deep hurt, learned yet a fool, he shifts gender, changes colour and is impossible to pin down.  His love for Fitz is heartbreakingly touching, and his androgyny and insistence that love doesn't require sex make him, for me, one of the great asexual icons. The Fool has influenced me professionally as well as personally.  It is safe to say that

A Castrato in London

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Back in March, I wrote a post about "the castrato poet", Filippo Balatri.  I said it would be great if someone who knew Italian could translate a website I'd found about him and his autobiographical poem, Frutti del Mondo. It gives me great pleasure to say that Leon Conrad, who I interviewed in my last blog, has done just that!  What follows is Leon's rough (and amazingly speedy) translation of a section of Frutti del Mondo  dealing with Balatri's visit to London.  According to Leon, this extract really shows off Balatri's sense of humour, as well as being a fascinating insight into the life of a castrato singer.  A huge thanks to Leon for this favour. It’s dedicated to ‘The Hon. Mr W orld’ by his humble servant.   This is a rough summary of  the section which covers  his trip to the UK , along with some additional notes added on to the text on the website.   I  arrive in  a marvellously walled city. Accompanied by a nobleman. I ask him to leave me at an inn.

Introducing... Liberalis Books

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I've decided to have some guest posts here in the Hidden Grove.  Today we begin with a two-way interview with Leon Conrad of Liberalis Books, a new imprint of John Hunt, the publishers of Silver Hands.  Liberalis' website says: "Liberalis is a Latin word which evokes ideas of freedom, liberality, generosity of spirit, dignity, honour, books, the liberal arts education tradition and the work of the Greek grammarian and storyteller Antonius Liberalis. We seek to combine all these interlinked aspects in the books we publish." Leon is also Co-Author of Odyssey: Dynamic Learning System A simple, innovative educational intervention with inspiration hard-wired in it. Due to be published in late 2014 by Liberalis Books. Leon's questions for me What comes naturally to you and what do you value in terms of technique when it comes to storytelling? I think humour comes naturally to me.  Even in serious stories, there's often a lot o

Amazing Asexuality

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One of my most popular posts on this blog has been, "Giving Birth to Hairy Worms", all about the Renaissance belief in spontaneous generation (ie giving birth without the need for sexual reproduction).  While the idea may seem far fetched, it turns out that spontaneous generation is in fact all around us.  And it's called parthenogenesis. In fact, it's right in my garden.  The round things growing on my tree are oak galls.  They are created by wingless, asexual female gall wasps, which are born from galls in the tree roots, created by winged females, who have mated with males.  The tree galls hatch more wasps, which begin the double cycle again.  So every other generation of female gall wasps will be asexual and wingless.  The next generation will be sexual and winged. Other creatures that reproduce asexually incude aphids, which produce exact clones of themselves, and a certain species of ant. Amazingly, parthenogenesis is not limited to small creatures like insects.

Where are the shy heroines?

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Last night, my daughter and I watched Frozen for the first time.  (Yes, I know, we took a while getting around to it).  I don't intend to write a review of Frozen here (basically, I didn't think it was as good as Tangled ).  But I do mean to say that I found the heroines a bit annoying.  They were too loud for me, too independent, too feisty. I've never liked feisty heroines.  Right from reading Little Women as a child.  I know so many people wanted to be Jo, but I wished Beth could have been the writer (as well as a pianist).  Then she would have been like me, right down to the name.  Growing up, I identified with Marty South (Thomas Hardy's The Woodlanders) , following Giles about, too afraid to admit she loved him, Fanny Price (Jane Austen's Mansfield Park ), bossed about by everyone in the house with only Edmund treating her like a human being) and especially the Lady of Shalott, trapped in her tower, unable to cross the room.  (Yes, we're back to women in t

Silver Hands - Your Questions Answered

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Yesterday, I did an author event at Blackwell's Universty Bookshop, Leeds, talking about my historical fantasy novel, Silver Hands.  Seeing as only people who were available at 2pm in  Leeds could be there on the day, I thought I would post the answers to one or two Frequently Asked Questions about Silver Hands and writing in general. Q: How long did it take you to write Silver Hands? A: I got the first ideas for the story after reading The Handless Maiden in Grimm's Fairy Tales in 2007.  I started actually writing down the story in June 2009.  I finished editing and started submitting in 2011, and the book was published in 2013. Q: How do you discipline yourself/Do you have a writing routine? A: I always find this question hard to answer, as I think my feelings about writing are more devotion than discipline.  I would rather be writing than doing anything else, but sometimes it is hard to get motivated because of anxiety/depression.  The best advice I ever had for that situati