rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
I'm finally back to working on the series of short stories I intended to get published in time for my mother's birthday (which was in February). I can never seem to work during the semester: there's always too much else to think about, so that the stories can't percolate properly in the back of my head.

Anyway, I'm at work again at last, and have just finished the first of a new set of stories to fit into that anthology. Hopefully, they're going to pick up the thread of Mordred and Agravain, which was left somewhat hanging originally, while I focused on Gawain, Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere. I just did a retelling of the story of Erec and Enide. So far, I've tried to stick close to my sources: I even refused to write properly about the cauldron in my substitute for a grail story, the voyage to Caer Sidi, because what we've got says they don't achieve it. Only seven return from Caer Sidi, and one gets the distinct impression they're not triumphant.

Which is great, except I just identified Erec with Gaheris, on very little grounds, if any. Oh, I know other contemporary writers have done it -- one at least: Sarah Zettel -- but it doesn't quite sit right with the work I've been doing so far. At least in theory. But in practice, to me, it feels right. It fits. It leads on to other stories and links back to others. It makes the story of Erec and Enide urgent to the reader, because they already care about Gawain and Gareth, and Gaheris is their brother.

The thing about Arthurian literature is that it's not a tapestry executed by one person, but more like a patchwork quilt made up of whatever each author had to hand. You can't match your colours and thread to all of the others, because everyone used their own material and what's there already doesn't match. You just have to pick and choose what works for you -- and that's one of the things that appeals to me about Arthurian literature, and about doing my own retellings. It's a riotous mass of colour and life, held together by the basic framework which everyone knows.

So, I don't think I'm apologising for stealing Gereint/Erec's story and giving it to someone else.

Next up: a reworking of Yvain, working in a backstory from a Scottish ballad, which is also sort of cheating when it comes to sticking to my sources. I'll leave you to wonder about that one, at least for now.
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
As people can quickly figure out from glancing at this journal, I really like retellings. Especially ones that twist things a bit, turn some of the reader's expectations on their heads. Retellings that claim or reclaim something for people they didn't originally have space for.

So a friend poked me one day and asked if I could think of any women -- goddess or mortal, it didn't matter too much -- who would be down in the Underworld at the time of the Rape of Persephone. I had a think about it -- Pandora, perhaps? I thought -- and then remembered Hecate, who I knew helped Persephone in the Underworld...

And then the friend suggested I write a story for them, a lesbian twist on it. And here is that story. Details are drawn from the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, The Aeneid (trans. W.F. Jackson Knight), and the twisty paths of memory and imagination. The idea of Hecate making the journey into the Underworld in this way is mine, her payment to Charon is mine, the tears and the laughter of Persephone are mine... yet hopefully I've made something that could almost fit in the repertoire of a Greek storyteller.

This is a commission, under my model of 'pay what you think it deserves' (and remember, payment is not always money). If you ever feel like commissioning something from me, PM me and we'll have a chat about it. Everything that I post here is free, at least for the moment, but I do need to eat, so if you come across my work and think, hey, I wish I could buy her dinner sometime... Well, there's a donate button on my profile, a Flattr button on all my story posts, and a meal and a drink at my favourite cafe costs me around £8.

For [personal profile] sweet_sparrow, with lots of love, and many thanks for the seed of an idea.

The Voice of Persephone )

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rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Been reading poetry and prose-poetry today, and I've felt like writing for a few days, so I sat down to do something. Especially since I've had so little time to pay attention to this blog, and it needs content! It's about Lancelot and Elaine...

(Also, look! I made myself an icon out of the draft artwork.)

The Traitor's Heart )

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rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
So! It's the [community profile] three_weeks_for_dw fest here, and there's some interesting stuff going on in turns of writing about Welshness (there's a FAQ here all about Wales). It's been a while since I posted anything, and a while since I wrote anything for myself. And it's a beautiful day, and as I was sat out in the sun, I was thinking about Blodeuwedd. Now, before I go on I'd better tell you her story, briefly. It comes from the Mabinogion. Lleu Llaw Gyffes is the son of Arianhrod, but she curses him because he is the result of a failed test about her virginity. (Welsh myth has lots and lots of issues about women, yes.) One of the curses is that he cannot have a human wife. So, out of flowers, Math and Gwydion make a woman for him. Her name is Blodeuwedd.

The problem is, she turns out to be unfaithful, plots his death with her lover, and when they carry out their plan, he is turned into an eagle. Gwydion rescues him and turns him back, and he takes vengeance. He turns Blodeuwedd into an owl, and kills her lover.

This story takes place after that.

I was thinking about Blodeuwedd, and about how women are always blamed and considered inconstant, and I was also thinking about a prose-poem I wrote, in which Blodeuwedd pleads her case, citing Lleu's hardness and unkindness, and the fact that she is made from flowers and is by her very nature inconstant (since flowers typically grow, bloom and die in one season). I wanted to answer that, in a sense, or augment it, by writing something in which a man is similarly unfaithful.

It didn't quite turn out that way, but the message is still there -- with an added environmental one I didn't intend. I see it as an LGBT retelling, but all that happens is men holding hands and sleeping beside each other, which just meant friendship between men in medieval times (or so I'm told).

The Man of Oak and Stone )

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Help Japan

Mar. 12th, 2011 04:42 pm
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Lightning quick post -- I've put an offer up for original fiction on [community profile] help_japan, here. Will do fairytale retellings, Arthurian legends, LGBT-ified retellings...

A couple more examples of my writing for you, as promised in that comment.

Click to read 'A Warning Note', a rondeau )

Click to read three microfictions based on the story of the fall of Troy, with commentary )

Please consider bidding for my work in the auction: I will work very hard to ensure that anything you receive once you have donated is the very best work I can do.

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Day Seven

Nov. 8th, 2010 02:09 am
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Today was mostly a day off, since I haven't been well, but I have (eventually) got stuff written. And I've finally shut Ragnelle up: I forgot how chatty she is. Good for word count, but most of it will have to hit the cutting room floor. I'm pleased that I snuck in a reference to Bisclaveret, a Breton lay that I'm thinking of doing a proper (and possibly diversified) retelling of.

In the course of messing around on the Kindle store today, I found some ebooks relevant to my interests in retelling fairytales. Or to some people's interests, anyway. There's various different collections, and they all seem to be erotica, but if that interests you, here are the two most relevant: Like a Queen: Lesbian Fairytales and Like a Prince: Gay Fairytales.

I haven't read them, so I can't speak for the quality of them, but I'm sure someone among you would be interested...
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Two years ago, I wrote a story for my partner, for our third anniversary. We've actually passed our fifth, now, so this is an old story, but I thought it deserved to get out and see the world.

Obviously, it's dedicated to my partner, always, because she makes me believe in true love and sappy things like that.

Happy Ever Afters )

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rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
First off, I've started using Flattr, as an experiment. Basically, if you have a Flattr account and you've loaded money into it, and you click on my Flattr button (in my profile, and possibly in individual posts that contain my writing), I get paid part of that monthly allowance. I like the idea, so we'll see how it goes.

Anyway, I've been promising a story for a while. Well, this isn't the one I've been working on, but it is a retelling from a slightly different slant, and I hope you enjoy it. If you do, feel free to share it, link people to it, etc -- please don't reproduce it elsewhere, though, without talking to me about it first.

Letters Home )

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Oct. 6th, 2010 11:29 pm
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
I come to you from the depths of deep woe with our connection! Seriously, O2 internet with a BT phoneline? Don't do it. Just don't do it.

Anyway, I haven't really said much about myself here, yet. Mostly consciously: I want to focus on writing, not on myself. Not totally consciously, though: partly it's just that I've had an online presence for about ten years now, and I'm not used to starting new. But I do have to tell you a little bit about me and what I'm up to, to tell you about my project for NaNoWriMo 2010.

I've done NaNoWriMo every year since I was fifteen, with various levels of seriousness. At fifteen, I was deadly serious. It was going to be my magnum opus, you know? Since then, I've generally been more blasé about it, sometimes even half-hearted. This year, it kinda matters again, because I've got this big idea and it's going to be a major project and people are actually (hopefully!) going to read it. It's going to be out there for public consumption. And I'm basing it on a story that means a lot to me -- a story I've always loved, with varying degrees of passion. A story that many, many people have loved, but which originated -- as best as can be made out -- from my own culture. From Wales.

(If you haven't got it yet, I'm ashamed of you.)

My story for this year is going to be based on Arthurian legend. It's not going to centre around Arthur himself, as far as I can make out, but that's pretty much a part of the tradition. The main character is going to be Gawain (Gwalchmai), probably supported mostly by his wife (Ragnelle, aka the Loathly Lady), and his brother, Gaheris. I'm going to pull from a range of sources (the earliest being Nennius and The Mabinogion!), but it's not going to be Yet Another Arthurian Retelling with damsels and so on. Instead, Gawain's presented with a rather sticky problem: he and his brothers were the only knights away from Arthur's court when a murder took place. Fingers are being pointed everywhere, and only Gawain is judged neutral enough to investigate.

The first thing I knew was that Gawain would be the detective character. I also knew that Ragnelle and Gaheris would play a part, given that I've developed both their characters in short stories and such, and fallen rather in love with them. After that, I was stumped. Who could the murderer be?

And then I stopped, again. Never mind the murderer, who is the victim? At first, I was thinking in terms of a Nameless Knight -- the medieval equivalent of a Redshirt? -- or perhaps an emissary from Rome, who would be killed for political reasons. (In various of the medieval sources, Arthur eventually conquers most of Europe, including Rome, after they remind him that he should probably be paying tribute to them.)

After that thought came the realisation that it doesn't have to be a Redshirt. Who says this has to be disconnected from the traditional path of the Arthurian canon? And so I had my murderer -- no more hints on that score, though. That's your one and only hint! My choice for the victim came a little later, when I was reading Nennius for a class. One particular character's death clicked into place as an excellent thing to use: a small reference that no one will get, unless they've read that particular source text too, but... that's the kind of thing I'd love to see, if I were reading Arthurian novels right now.

If only my title would come this easily.

I have to say, it's so handy doing a degree like English Literature in which, if I play my cards right, research for my classes means research for my novel/s. I've done a module on Crime Fiction, and now I'm doing one on Medieval Arthurian Literature. Handy!

Still working on a short story to post here. The aforesaid research has been getting in the way somewhat!
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
No one ever warned me how hard it is to write a blog like this! Sheesh. Imposter syndrome like mad, plus the worry that everyone's already said all the intelligent things about this particular topic already. It's possibly true: I'm going to say it anyway.

Anyway, this is the fourth draft of a post that isn't quite the post I was planning to do. I realised I have some things to say about my thoughts on retellings, given that a lot of my work uses pre-existing literature, myths and legends, and given that I also translate Anglo-Saxon poetry for fun. The two processes don't seem that different -- to me, anyway -- in some ways. When it comes to Anglo-Saxon poetry, for example, there are lot of poetic features that don't really translate. Kennings are my usual bugbear. For example, in 'The Battle of Brunanburh', there's a kenning that means 'the leavings of hammers' ('hamora lafan'). You have to think about that kind of thing: do you keep the kenning, to give a flavour of the original poetry? Do you trust that your audience (or the people marking your exam papers!) know that that means 'swords'? Or do you lose the poetic stuff and go for a pragmatic, barebones translation?

Every translation becomes a reinterpretation, too. To translate something in a readable way, you have to decide what it means. Wulf and Eadwacer is my favourite example when it comes to this. Are Wulf and Eadwacer characters? Or is it a literal wolf? Or both? What exactly is happening in the poem? What is the poem -- is it a story? a riddle? a relation of an earlier myth or folktale? If you're going to translate it coherently, you have to decide. You could even decide that the ambiguity of the poem is intentional, and thus try to translate it with as much of that ambiguity as the process of translation will allow. That's still an interpretation.

When it comes to retelling fairytales, or myths, or even history, you're translating it. If you're writing a retelling of The Iliad for an eight year old, you have to leave out the things your audience won't be interested in (the catalogue of ships can hit the cutting room floor first of all). If you're aiming your work at a bunch of academics, you better not take any liberties with the text. Or say you're rewriting Anderson's The Little Mermaid -- this is a pretty good (and hilarious) modern reaction (the link goes to a youtube video called 'Advice for Young Girls from The Little Mermaid'). I can't say it better than that video does.

You also have to do something new with them. Sometimes you can do that just by fleshing out the characters more, making the world richer and wider. Or there's the ever popular change in point of view -- Wicked, anyone? Or even Jacqueline Carey's Banewreaker and Godslayer: they're pretty much Lord of the Rings from Sauron's point of view. Grendel and Mordred and Morgan Le Fay deserve their say, too.

Some retellings change it to become their own stories. If there's no story where the princess kisses another princess, or the prince kisses the frog, write one. Malinda Lo's Ash is an LGBT retelling of Cinderella, for example. Modern retellings of fairytales often flip it so that the princess becomes the questing character, as in Robin McKinley's Spindle's End. Or you can go all metafictional, or use a new style, or add in a new twist at the end...

I think I've done pretty much all of these things, in my retellings. A serving girl kisses Sleeping Beauty. The narrative voice mocks the fairytale even as it uses all the formulae. Mark tells the story of Tristan and Isolde with bitter understanding.

The main project I'm working on is going to be based on Arthurian myth, to some extent. I've been hitting the books: I've read my Geoffrey of Monmouth, my Chrétien de Troyes, my Malory. I've also dipped into modern versions (and here I'll pause, to plug Anna Elliott, who offers some of her work for free, and is also involved with Arthurian myth). Hopefully, I'm going to make something new and fresh out of the same old stories. Robin McKinley's written two versions of Beauty and the Beast, at least -- which goes to show there's plenty to mine for in these old stories, right?

I'm also working on another retellings project, somewhat smaller in scale. That might be the next thing I post. If not, I'll try to tell you more about my NaNoWriMo project for this year.


rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Rhian Crockett

August 2013



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