Genial: The Love Song of Simon and Julie

In July I published the latest in the Dereham Nodes, Genial: The Love Song of Simon and Julie. Genial is the next novel in my Dereham series of novels. I don’t like to think of it as a series, really. The novels are stylistically and generically different. The novels are simply interconnected. They are set in the same town, and that is where the interconnections occur.

Genial is Node 4.5. Why Node 4.5, you might wonder. There is a reason, naturellement. This node is more a novella than a novel, as it is only about fifty thousand words. The story is also, in terms of genre, quite different to the other novels. It’s a love story, as the subtitle indicates. It doesn’t really involve spies, UFOs, the paranormal, crazy people, or any of that stuff. It does involve friendship, which, I realise, is quite a theme of the later novels in this series. It also takes place in the background to everything that is happening in Raven of Dispersion (Node 4), while Simon later becomes a major character in The Ethical Hitman (Node 5). So, to me, it felt like a novel that was in the same network, but slightly off the main routes.

So, what is Genial about? It’s about the summer of 1976 — the dazzling summer, the long hot summer, the summer when the sun shone always, and would shine always and forever — and young old friends Simon and Julie drift through the glorious lazy holiday that stretches before them, wondering what they should do about the loves they somehow left behind, before the sun came out. As they share time together under the blue skies, in the sultry heat, with their friends — the friend who loves his car, the friend who loves fixing cars, the friend whose boyfriend loves his drink, the friend who loves all the boys, the friend who loves somebody else’s girlfriend — they wonder who it is they should love. Out on the hills, out in the fields, and riding in cars with the wind in their hair, Simon and Julie become languorously entangled. Can this entanglement last longer than sunshine? Or is it only a creation of this magical summer? Their story is episodic, picaresque, sentimental, romantic. And most genial.

Various characters from other novels appear, and Simon and Julie themselves re-appear in later novels in the series. The novel also holds another secret or ludic notion, a notion at which the blurb on the back of the book hints.

I had a break from writing after finishing Genial. It’s been a pretty intense 15 years of writing and editing (especially when you consider that my day-to-day job is technical  writing!), including five novels and three non-fiction books. However, this year will see me get back into the groove as I work with sometime co-author Kevin on Node 0, and start writing Node 6. And I will be chasing a publisher/agent again.

Dereham Connections – Node 3 – “Crossing the Line”

Having established (see previous posts!) that all the Nodes in the Dereham Connections have some linkage to Dereham, how are they connected?

Well, I can’t tell you too much without giving several games away. While all the books are designed to stand alone, inevitably, things happen in the books that will affect other books.

Still, Node 3 is called Crossing the Line. In Crossing the Line, several lines are crossed. Spies spy on people they really shouldn’t, agencies operate where they’re not allowed and chase information fruitlessly. An agent falls in love with the sister of the woman he was watching. Security services work with terrorists. A bad man becomes much worse. And all because Peta Shepherd might finally have discovered something and told nobody except Archibald Franklin Conn. Everybody is searching for information. Many people are searching for Archie, for various reasons. All Archie is searching for is an easy life.

Set in London, South Wales and Reading, in late 1972 and early 1973, Crossing the Line is the book that has least to do with Dereham. And yet the events in Dereham, described in Sorrow Mystica, are the impetus for the drama in Crossing the Line. And the man who Archie becomes in Crossing the Line reverberates through the connections and has consequences in 1976, in Node 5.

After the vague sci-fi feel of Sorrow Mystica, Crossing the Line crosses into the spy and thriller genres. There are no aliens or spaceships, no skywatchers or paranormal mysteries. But the aliens we meet in Sorrow Mystica, and their channel, Peta Shepherd, provide the McGuffin that propels Crossing the Line.

Crossing the Line should be available early in the new year.

(For more information on the series of Dereham Connections novels, see the Come to Dereham blog and Facebook page.

Sorrow Mystica — Why Connections, Why Nodes…

The perspicacious among you might have noticed the subtitle to Sorrow MysticaDereham Connections: Node 2 — and wondered what that was all about…

Well, the novels so far written are all connected in some way. They are a series, a chronicle, or what have you. Informally, they were known for some time as The Dereham Chronicles; but that implied they were all set in the imaginary Dereham — that they were a chronicle of the town. However, the series is not so much about Dereham, as about people whose lives intersect and are in some way influenced by events in the town. (Although, if the books also lead you to want to move to Dereham, I’ll have done my job.)

Still, I wanted to give notice that the novels are connected in some way. I thought an overall title like A Dance to the Music of Time might work. But then I thought something like that might be a bit too… precious… for some scifi-spy-thriller-paranormal-romance-based novels; such a “series” title might make the books appear as, “that is to say, literature”, as Henry Miller once wrote. And the fact that at least one of the books is not set in Dereham bugged me. And then one day I concluded that the books were about the connections between the characters in them; it was the connections that were important. And that’s how Dereham Connections came to be.

And then I saw each novel as a coming together, a meeting point, of the strands and webs of the lives I was weaving, where the connections created a knot, a tangle of wires — a node. And that was how each book came to be called a Node. So why is the first book Node: 2? Because there is no Node 1. Not yet, at any rate. All the Nodes are ordered by when they are set – starting in 1971 for Node 2, and ending in 1984 for Node 6. But they might yet be published in a different order; expect the unexpected.

Anyway, here are the nodes that we — co-author Kevin and I — know for sure will be published over the next year or so:

Node 2         Sorrow Mystica                                                    
Node 3         Crossing the Line
Node 3.5      Genial — Being the Tale of the Courtship of Simon and Julie
Node 4         Raven of Dispersion
Node 5         The Ethical Hitman
Node 6         German Overalls

Only Node 6 remains unwritten — but I know what it’s about. There are notes. And it has to be written. Nodes 2 and 3 are co-written with Kevin. Nodes 3.5 through 6 are written solely by me.

There are other nodes in the pipeline, but they remain a little vague (and depend on my co-author)…

Fifty Years of Mystery

This blog has rather been in the doldrums since before Christmas. In part, Christmas can be blamed; but I was also tidying up drafts in preparation for (self-) publishing a new book about the Warminster mystery.

The mystery was 50 years old on Christmas day 2014. Until the 1960s, Warminster had never been famous for much. It is an army town, home to the Land Warfare Centre (formerly the School of Infantry). Salisbury Plain, to the north of the town, is used for military manoeuvres and training, including live firing. Very few luminaries had come from the town, and very little had happened there. In the 1960s, that was to change. Warminster was to become famous – notorious even – for its UFO sightings. These UFOs were described in the books of Arthur Shuttlewood, a local journalist. However, these books can only be found, if at all, second-hand, and only take the story of the mystery up until the late 1970s. Much has happened since then that needed recording — not so much UFO sightings, but information on what happened to those who documented the mystery, and the mystery’s slow re-emergence from the half-light of forgotten memories.

The mystery is being discussed and celebrated at a conference in Warminster in August this year (2015). It was in August 1965, during the summer holidays, that the town was first invaded by hordes of curious skywatchers who camped on the hills surrounding the town to look for the mysterious lights and listen out for the strange sounds they had learned about through TV, radio and newspapers, caused by a phenomenon the locals called the Thing.

To provide an introduction to the Warminster mystery — for those who might be new to it or revisiting it after many years — Kevin Goodman and I have written a new book that describes the fifty years of the mystery. The book reviews what happened during the crazy, exciting years of the Warminster mystery, and also what has happened since the mystery faded away. It is not a long list of sighting reports; it is a short history of the events — the lights and sounds — and the media reports and characters that shaped the Thing.

For information on the Warminster mystery, see the UFO Warminster Website.

The Warminster mystery is described in the following currently in-print books:

History of a Mystery: Fifty Years of the Warminster Thing

In Alien Heat: The Warminster Mystery Revisited

UFO Warminster: Cradle of Contact

For information on out-of-print books that discuss the Warminster mystery, see the Books page of the UFO Warminster Website.



Drafting and Drafting and Drafting….

A couple of nights ago, I finished reading draft two of the novel known as Crossing the Line for the second time. The draft now contains lots of markups, and editing began last night.

When I’ve finished editing Crossing the Line, my intention was to return to editing the novel known as Panlyrae — which is on draft nine, I think — and after that, Raven of Dispersion, which is at draft 18!!

After editing Panlyrae and Raven, I will edit draft eight of the novel known either as Archibald Franklin Fucking Conn or The Ethical Hitman. And there will be at least one more draft after that, as well — this draft will better dovetail some loose ends, and add some scenes, and these additions and changes will need at least one more edit.

And then — finally — I’ll be able to begin writing the new novel — tentatively titled German Overalls, after a Peter Hammill song — that has been rolling around my head in images, and for which I have been making notes, for the last four years.

At the same time, I need to create, edit and self-publish what I amusingly call The Dead John Miscellany, which is a book of the collected writings of my friend John, who died back in 2009, and was my co-author on In Alien Heat. As an executor of his estate, I became de facto his literary executor, and I’m not going to let his poems, lyrics and short stories be forgotten — among his friends at least — so intend self-publishing his collected works using available cheap platforms, such as Kindle and CreateSpace.

My editing plans have already gone awry, however. Last night, my intention had been to edit Crossing the Line. Crossing and Panlyrae are linked, and when I began editing Crossing I realised that I had no idea where I was in time, and how the timeline connected to the end of Panlyrae. The novels are structured so that they can be read as independent novels; however, for those who do read both, the timeline should be clear and make sense. I am, therefore, now going to edit Panlyrae first, and during the edit ensure I understand the timeline — because if I can’t. who will… 

Still, it keeps me off the streets…

Wiltshire Songs on Kindle

For various reasons, I needed to experiment with creating a Kindle book; the processes, the layout, and so on. For my experiment, I collected together some of my thematically similar poems and made a little book of poetry.

I’m not entirely sure now that I know how something is going to look when it gets on to somebody else’s Kindle, and they use different sized fonts, or if they read it on an iPhone. Still, it was a valuable couple of hours of learning and there is now a Kindle for purchase…

Goodreads Review: The Vale of Sad Banana

The Vale of Sad BananaThe Vale of Sad Banana by John Lymington

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Vale of Sad Banana is an easy-to-read science fiction adventure by a now little-known author.

I came to John Lymington via a circuitous route. Kevin Goodman and I collaborated on an examination of the Warminster mystery, and Kevin’s experience thereof, in UFO Warminster Cradle of Contact. I am particularly interested in cultural precursors to the Warminster mystery, and Kevin had discovered that Lymington’s science-fiction novel Night Of The Big Heat had been dramatised for television in 1960. (It was to be subsequently dramatised for cinema in 1967, starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.) The television drama relocated the events of the novel to Salisbury Plain. The novel involves aliens and UFOs; the drama sets these elements on Salisbury Plain; Warminster nestles beneath the Plain. There is, thus, a possibility that the television dramatisation of Night Of The Big Heat, four years before the Warminster mystery exploded, was one of the cultural forebears of the phenomenon.

While exploring this interesting cultural antecedent, I looked at the Wikipedia page for Lymington (…). I was interested to read that this author, about whom I knew nothing, had been so prolific. Credited with writing over 150 novels, “including 20+ SF potboilers”, he had “made a steady income by delivering thrillers to Robert Hale (the publisher) at a chapter a week”.

I became intrigued, and wanted to know what this little-known but prolific writer was like. What was his style, how tightly were his novels plotted, how distinctive was his voice? I searched the Amazon listings for a reasonably-priced paperback, and settled on The Vale of Sad Banana, as much for its title as anything else.

The novel at least entertained me enough to keep me reading until the end — and there are many other novels, from better-known authors, for which this has not always been true. The Vale of Sad Banana is a science fiction novel set in a small village in England, at some time in the late 1970s or early 1980s. We quickly learn that something is wrong with the universe; the universe is “stopping”. Things are out of kilter. When the universe stops, people become depressed, melancholy, empty and afraid. Nobody knows why the universe is “stopping”, although there is some fear it might be caused by an intelligent defence satellite that has gone rogue. The designer of the satellite lives in the village, and at first the novel centres around him, before expanding to take in more characters, including the boy Bobby, around whom events will later coalesce.

The characters are thinly-drawn, however; and the settings feel only vaguely sketched. I felt no sense of place as I was reading. I didn’t care enough for the characters. The novel was often dialogue-heavy, and included conversations that were, I thought, supposed to be witty and sharp but only sounded, to this ear, clunky and flat. (Although, humour being perhaps the most subjective of discourses, I realise that others might disagree with me, and find the dialogue crackling with wit.) Another problem was that the science of this science fiction novel was flaky, to put it mildly. Nonetheless, I kept on reading. There were no particular surprises in the novel. There were no developments in character. There were no unreliable narrators. Still, I kept on reading. The ending itself was unsurprising.

Why then, if my response was so lukewarm, did I continue reading? Because, I suppose, I did want to know how the set-up was going to play out, and what the pay-off would be.

The novel was not great; it was adequate. The plot was not great; it was adequate. The writing was not dazzling; it was adequate. If you start it, you will probably want to know what happens at the end; if you don’t care enough to know what happens at the end, you will probably persevere long enough to discover what the vale of sad banana is.

Lymington knows how to write a story. He knows how to fill that story with enough interesting incidents to shape it into a novel. He can handle characters and dialogue well enough. He is, then, on the evidence of this novel, of his continued and copious output over many years, and of his continued relationship with Robert Hale, a skilled craftsman, plying his trade to an appreciative audience.

As a novelist manqué, I am a little envious that Lymington has written over 150 novels, ‘including 20+ SF potboilers’, and had a steady income from a respected publisher. Would that I were so crafty…

View all my reviews