Castle Marsh 2017

Castle Marsh: Christmas with Fred and George pt2

I went visiting Castle Marsh instead of story-writing – you can see how it started last week.  Now read on!

Castle Marsh Christmas

In which I discover that the Steward stands in for the King at all times

I’m flying in one of George’s new inventions towards Castle Marsh to visit King Fred in time for a Yuletide interview for you.  Last week I explained about the flying machine, and George told me Fred had gone south to sort out some sabotage on their food stores.

Now we’re approaching Castle Marsh, standing on its rock in the middle of the reed-filled marshes.

Or at least they were, when I last visited.

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cheeky parrot

Cheeky Parrot: Christmas with Fred and George pt1

I am at the Cheeky Parrot on my way to Castle Marsh. I didn’t get a new story written for Christmas this year, but I did attempt to research one.  Here’s what happened when I went to interview some old friends.

The Cheeky Parrot: Christmas with Fred and George

In which I find travelling in the Realms a-wash with problems

I am sitting at a table in the Cheeky Parrot, a sort of traveller’s rest stop at Castle Wash.  It’s just outside the walls of the castle itself, but the whole city is called after the castle, as is the custom in these lands.

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Victor – an interview #A2ZChallenge

a to z VVictor has appeared on the A to Z several times – in 2015 when I was about to launch his book Bravo Victor (Book 6 of the Princelings of the East), my theme was the phonetic alphabet.  That gave me ample opportunity to plug the book!  Guinea pig Victor also ran George’s Guinea Pig World, the blog currently run by Kevin and Percy, who are blogging from A to Z this year, as Victor did in 2012, and Dylan and Dougall (who star in Book 8 of the Princelings of the East) did in 2015.

Victor the character

Victor is the bar-keeper of the Inn of the Seventh Happiness in the Princelings of the East series, although he’d rather make his name as a business guru. Like all the characters, he’s grown up over the years.  Here are a few snippets from the books about him… Continue reading


Question of the Month: Your First Kiss

Oo-er!  The Question of the Month for November is:

“When was your first kiss?”

Now, I can’t remember whether it was Mick B, David A or a boy I liked at Kindergarten, but I have lots of clear recollections about David A, which I’m not going to tell you about at all!

So I thought I’d ask some of my characters the question…. first from the Viridian series:

Pedro Garcia (Big Pete): Harvest time on Corsair.  I was fifteen, Chloe was sixteen, although only because her birthday was in June and mine in October.  She’d been sidling up to me and giggling for years, this year she kept her distance and chatted up the older lads.  I got a bit confused by this, because I was ready to suggest dating, but hadn’t plucked up the nerve.  I was hanging about in the alleyway outside the barn, wondering where she’d got to, when she came out of the barn, brushing hay out of her dress and hair, and saw me looking.  She laughed, grabbed me, and before I knew it, I was in the barn too, kissing her.  It was very wet, as I remember.  I don’t remember much else, though!

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Friday Character Interview: Zito

In our final character review of this summer, I get to talk to Zito, the fixer of just about anything, who I sort of modelled on Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.  But then I used that in the Paradisio flash fiction that kicked this whole thing off. It’s about 1500 words.


Zito has booked a table for us at Hercules’, the poshest place in town.  It’s quiet, has chandeliers and drapes, mirrors and mid-brown wood.

“But I wanted to see your place,” I protest.

“My place is a miners’ dive. Loud, squalid, all types of low-life, even a bit of crime and possibly shooting.  Not a place for a lady.”

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Friday Character Interview: Willoughby the Narrator

Willoughby finishes his story, and jumps off the platform called the fiddlesticks to rapturous applause.  Quite how he got so popular in such a short time nobody really knows, except he brought some new angles on old stories, and new stories to liven things up, and he’s brilliant at telling them, so his fame spread.  His background is somewhat mysterious too, and a bit of mystery never hurt an itinerant story-teller, travelling from castle to castle all over the Realms, which is what a Narrator is.

He finishes chatting to well-wishers, and rubbing noses with his female fans, and comes over to join me at the table, where I have a bottle of Dimerie white wine in an ice bucket, waiting for him (and me).

“Well, that went well, I think,” he says, looking at the bottle.

Why a narrator?

I put out glasses of wine for both of us. “So my readers understand who you are, tell me how you came to be a Narrator.”

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Friday Character Interview: Big Pete and the Swede

This time travel stuff is weird, but tiring.  I arrive at the spacedock of Pleasant Valley, one of the synchronous third planets of the sun Viridium, without really knowing how, and satisfy myself I am some 800 years in my future.  Then I take the shuttle to Sunset Strip, where Big Pete is waiting for me.

“Good trip?” he asks, grabbing my tablet and my bag and throwing them into an egg-shaped  vehicle he calls a yelocab.  “Hop in.”

It is only a few minutes until we get to a sprawling villa on a promontory above a sea-green sea.  Everything here is a slightly green shade of another colour.  It’s disconcerting, and makes me slightly nauseous.

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Broads 78

Friday Character Interview: The Princelings of the East

As promised last month, I have a series of interviews for you during July, and maybe August, while I’m away at Camp NaNoWriMo.  Here’s the first.  Picture above of me about twenty years ago (cough) sailing on the Horsey Cut, Norfolk Broads, UK. And at the end, Castle Marsh from across the marsh (by me).

Jemima interviews Princelings Fred and George

We are sitting in a flat-bottomed wooden boat in the shade cast by an awning held up by poles front and back, with a ridgepole down the centre.  Fred has poled us out to the middle of a medium-sized lake surrounded by reeds.  The wind sends ripples across the water, making the reflected clouds wave about and sometimes turn into mosaics.  It’s warm enough for insects to buzz around us.  Fred and George, once the Princelings of the East, don’t mind the insects, but some of them alight on my arms and try to bite me.

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original traveler

Interviewed by Kai Strand

Today I’m being interviewed by Kai Strand on her blog Strands of Thought.  Kai is a children’s author, and blogs fiction for children and teens.  That sounds just the right place for me.

She’s asked me some interesting questions, like who do I admire and what books do I recommend everyone should read… and some of these may surprise you!  So please pop over and give Kai some thanks.

I’m not sure what time the post will go up, so give it time 🙂

Meanwhile, to go with some of those Wednesday options I said I was going to do Quotes and also  Character posts from time to time.  Last month we had a Quote and Question, this month I thought I’d ask the characters those two questions above and see what they said!

Who do you most admire?

King Fred of Marsh (that’s Fred, to you):  Sir Isaac Newton.  He was an amazing thinker – look at all the ideas he came up with and formulated in a scientific way.  A true genius.

Queen Kira: Lady Nimrod.  She’s amazingly helpful to all of us, and supportive of our quest to play a greater role in the running of the Realms.  She should be a queen, really.  She’s very enigmatic about her past.

Prince Engineer George of Marsh: Hmm.  Probably the Wright Brothers.  They did the first powered flight.

Victor: The Lady Nimrod.  She’s very wise and works to help us folks in lower places make the best of ourselves, giving us opportunities like education that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Hugo (Lord Mariusz): It’s rumored that my great-great grandfather was Lord Capone of Windy Castle.  He really knew a thing or two about keeping people in their places.  Not a lot about the Revenue Service, though.

What books do you recommend everyone should read?

Fred: A History of Natural Philosophy.  I’m writing it at the moment.

Kira: Practical Castle Management from Top to Bottom.  It involves everyone in managing the castle, something we’re very keen on.  Fred’s writing that, too.

George: The Owner’s Guide to the Short C42 Empire Flying Boat.

Victor: Basic Accounting Practice for Independent Business People and Authors.

Mariusz: The Wozna Story.  I’ve updated it to include later developments like Diet, but my grandfather, the one that invented Wozna Cola, wrote the original book.

Do you guys ever read fiction?  Anything you’d recommend that’s a little lighter?

Fred: The Wind in the Willows

Kira: Halitor the Hero.  I read that to the kids, too.

George: The Time Machine

Victor: Practical Bar Management?  I haven’t got enough time to read stories.  I’d like to, though.

Mariusz: The Traveler in Black and White.  That’s brilliant.  Everyone should buy a copy.  Two – give one to a friend.

#MGBookElves – a fireside chat

In a cosy room at Castle Marsh, Fred and George are relaxing after a nice meal with their guests, Max the Tonkinese cat from the Shadows of the Past series and Stanley the labrador dog and Katrina von Cat from the Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets.  Fred tells all here.  After the conversation there is a chance to enter the BookElves Giveaway to win one of these books, or others from the 12 Authors of Christmas.

BookElves Badge

In which Fred tells what happened when Stanley, Kristina and Max came to visit Castle Marsh.

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Yuletide, by Queen Kira of Marsh

Here we are in the middle of Yuletide again.  It’s such a busy time, but very enjoyable, and although he would never admit it, it’s a time Fred finds very stressful these days.

There are a lot of duties on the King of Marsh, and he’s already despatched three of them, starting with the Solstice Speech, which traditionally reminds us of the passage of the sun round the sky and the Circle of Life.  This is not exactly what Fred’s Philosophical Thoughts say, as he has it on good authority that our world travels round the sun.  This year, with the help of one of the people that came to the summer study last year, he set up a complicated sculpture in our newly extended Library.  People can set it in motion and watch the balls that represent the earth, sun and moon, and other planets too, all whirring round each other.  It’s fascinating, but I’m supposed to be telling you about Yule.  So Fred has adapted his speech, which still focuses on the passage of time and renewal, but the older people complained and muttered about “progress for it’s own sake”.

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Yuletide at Castle Haunn

Castle Haunn
Castle Haunn v1

Our castle is built into the crags above Port Haunn. I’m Princeling Dylan and I live there with my brother Dougall and our uncles and aunties and cousins and friends.  Mostly we’re related.  We live on the far west of an island.  There are three castles on the island, us, Craig and Sarlen. Four if you count Tober Hold.  We are the smallest but it doesn’t stop us having fun at Yule.

Usually there’s a big log that we drag in during the year from the forests behind Sandy Bay.  It takes us all year because the tracks are rough and steep and rocky.  We send a party one day a week to bring it closer. We hide it under a big rock until Solstice.  The Laird makes a speech at Solstice and then we pull the log into the arena.  That’s what we call the flat sandy area inside the castle.  It’s surrounded by rock but open to the sky.  Then some people make the log burn.  I’ve never been allowed near it when they do that.  Apparently I went near it when I was little and it singed my hair.  I don’t remember it.  I have very thick long hair.  It keeps me warm.

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Celebrating the Yuletide season at Castle Vexstein, by Lord Pogo

Castle Vexstein
Castle Vexstein v1

The Yuletide season is one of relaxation and happiness for all who belong to Vexstein, from the lowliest to the highest, currently my uncle, Baron Smallweed, who succeeded this autumn following the death of my other uncle, the late Baron Darcy.

The relaxation stems in part to the fact that we close down production at the brewery for the ten day holiday.  This allows everyone to have a good break and for all the equipment to be thoroughly cleaned and overhauled.   So Solstice really starts with the end of the last shift, and to mark that, we have a firework display over the brewery, and a street market with vendors selling hot drinks and snacks, playing music and dancing, on the streets outside the castle walls.

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Solstice and Yuletide at White Horse Castle, by Humphrey

White Horse Castle
Castle White Horse

The Solstice is next week.  This is when the day is at its shortest.  The night is at its longest.  There is a post in the middle of the inner courtyard at White Horse Castle that records the shadow and where it falls through the year.  It is very short in the summer and very long in the winter.  On Solstice it doesn’t appear at all because even if the sun is out, it doesn’t go above the castle roof so the post stays in shadow all day.

It is a tradition to keep the post company on Solstice day.  I know this sounds funny because it’s just a post, but you never know whether objects have feelings, you know.  I have been contemplating it.  We put a wreath of holly and ivy round the post at daybreak on Solstice morning.  Then at noon everyone crowds into the inner courtyard and the King makes a speech about Solstice and days getting longer and what we achieved in the year that is finishing and what we aim to do in the one that is just starting.  Then we have a feast and a party in the outside courtyard. I find parties a little stressful and sometimes I go and talk to the books in the Library.

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Buckmore at Yule, by Willoughby

Castle Buckmore v2.1
Castle Buckmore v2

Season’s Greetings to you, dear reader. I am Willoughby, Narrator-in-Residence at Buckmore.  My job is to fill your soul with delight as you imagine the lights, laughter and love to be found during the Yule season at Castle Buckmore.

You know Buckmore of course, by reputation if nothing else. Set in the gentle rolling western hills, at the edge of the wilderness but the heart of civilisation.  In the summer, gentle breezes waft sounds and scents of love and plenty around the tree-filled courtyards and through elegant homes.  In winter, the ice cracks on the crags and the people gather in warm bars, round log fires, and in the Great Hall where food and drink are freely available.  The bounty of Prince Lupin, King of Buckmore, his beautiful Queen, Nerys, and the Lady Nimrod ensure that all are welcome, and everybody feels that they belong and contribute to Buckmore’s success.

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George, an intelligent engineer

George and I are back home in Castle Marsh after our five day trip to southern Gaul.  It was a fascinating and, at times, scary trip.  George flew us round the castle as we got lower in the sky, preparing to land, and he told me afterwards he’d been trying to work out which landing strip to use since the wind was very strong.  It certainly was: I had been holding on for dear life and being bounced around in the passenger seat even though I was both strapped in and wedged in, since the seats weren’t built for my sized person.  The little flying machine was rocking as we approached a wide length of water that had been cut free from the reeds, and I was scared the wings would touch the ground and tip up or something, but no, George steadied it, held the nose slightly upwards and once more I imagined a swan coming in to land on the water, its feet held forwards as its wings took the weight.  We touched, there was a plume of spray on either side of us, we gradually drew to a halt and the water subsided.  We turned and made our way to the landing stage at the side, where I threw a rope to the person waiting.  I have become quite good at throwing this mooring rope during our trip and for once it didn’t land in the water and get all wet, and soak me as I coiled it up to throw again.  We reached the shore without incident, and we strolled back to the castle, chatting as we went. Continue reading

Ludo, the Pirate King

With George’s help, I have managed to rendezvous with Ludo, formerly King of Castle Marsh, now just a pirate.  He sent a message to meet him at the Isle de Giens, in the Central Sea south of Gaul, on the coast to the east of a major port there.  George spoke to his flying friends who gave him directions.  It was a long flight.  We flew across the water to Gaul, stopped five times, including overnight, and followed a large river south for most of the second day until it split into many channels.  We took the easternmost one till it spilled into the sea, turned left, and stopped at every island till we found the right one.  George has taken a ferry back to the mainland in search of stocks of strawberry juice, while I sit with Ludo at a beach table under a cloth awning, drinking the local wine.  I ask him how the pirating business is going, and how he got into it in the first place.  He glares at me a lot.

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Sundance, the one for a life or death situation

I’m sitting at a picnic bench under a willow tree by the side of a river.  Sundance crosses the lawn from the inn carrying a tray with two drinks on it, a Vex for him and a Kira Cooler for me.

“The meals will be right along, they said,” he says.

“They” are the bar staff at the Bridge Inn, the meals are a Melange du Jour for him and a stuffed artichoke with a side salad for me.  The food here was recommended, and the menu lived up to this reputation.  The food, as it turned out, exceeded it.  Sundance suggested we meet here since it was out of the way, yet on the main routes, and we were unlikely to be disturbed.  It was also an extremely attractive setting.  He’d not given me much notice, but such is the way when you are dealing with someone whose job title is as vague as his.  “In Intelligence” or “Secret Agent” or “In the secret service” were generally the terms used when people referred to him. Continue reading

Kira, adventurer in birth, marriage, life and death

We are at Castle Marsh, in a room in the south-east of the castle, looking out over the marshes.  Silvery streams break up the sea of susurrating stems.  Small birds fly across the streams every now and then and disappear back into the reeds. Someone seems to be reeling in a fishing line for hours on end, and I comment on this to Kira as she points out various features to me.

“Oh that bird! Yes, George calls it a grasshopper warbler.  It is a funny sound, isn’t it?  I don’t know how George knows so much about the birds here, but I suppose he’s used to paying attention to detail in his work.  He says there are reed warblers and sedge warblers out there too.”

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