So, Where Are We

A comment by one of my readers about whether the Panylraeans — the aliens of the first book, Sorrow Mystica — return in later novels got me thinking about how I have arrived at a position where I know there will be at least seven novels (Nodes 0 and 2-6), and possibly eight if Node 1 (Operation Flashlight) ever gets finished. And possibly more. And that the Panylraeans may not (but then again, they might) return.

So – to begin at the beginning. The first of the Dereham Nodes to be written is the one recently published, Raven of Dispersion. As it was my first novel, there were things I wasn’t happy with, so several million rewrites occurred. Okay, so several million is an exaggeration. About twenty drafts.

During these travails I helped Kevin Goodman write his UFO Warminster: Cradle of Contact. After we finished that, Kevin suggested we write something else. Knowing of his interest in science fiction and UFOs, I suggested fiction with a sci fi bent. Of course, Kevin wanted aliens in there somewhere. I wanted to subvert such notions. So we kind of compromised on a Ruth Rendell-style sci fi involving aliens, contactees, relationships and… well… read it, and you’ll see how it all came together. But, because Raven already involved the paranormal and young people looking for flying saucers, I thought it might be fun if we set at least part of this new novel in Dereham, the ufological hotspot I had already invented for Raven. Thus the new novel, Sorrow Mystica,  was also set in Dereham, and the seeds for a series were thus sown.

After I’d finished writing Raven of Dispersion and was editing that and Kev’s book, I had an idea for a novel I thought of as “Band Novel”, that would move the characters of “Raven” to 1984 — older, possibly wiser, possibly madder in some cases, some of whom would be, yes, you guessed it, in a band. So I started making notes.

However, while I was making notes for “Band Novel”, I was looking at some of my old writing notes, and noticed one that involved a hitman. What, I thought, if a bunch of young Wiltshire hippies were confronted with somebody who claimed he was a hitman? Wouldn’t they just think him delusional? And what if they started following him around. What would happen? And so The Ethical Hitman – which will be the next novel published – took shape.

Meanwhile, Kevin had become interested in what had happened to some of the characters from Sorrow Mystica, and what they might get up to after that book finished. So he started sending me rough ideas for a kind of thriller spy-type book. Given that I’d already started working on The Ethical Hitman, and knew “Band Novel” would happen at some point in the future, I could see ways to tie all these together, and make fun interconnections between all the books.

Kevin wanted  what was to become Crossing the Line to be a spy-thriller-guns-explosions type of book. But I wanted to subvert that. So, we compromised on a Ruth Rendell-style spy-thriller-guns-explosions type book. Yes, we were mashing genres again. We wrote Crossing really quickly, enjoying ourselves immensely, finishing it and the drafts of Sorrow while I was still on draft 12 of Raven.

Sorrow Mystica and Crossing the Line are set in 1971/1972, while Raven of Dispersion is set in 1976. It made sense then that, when I decided to self-publish, the novels should be released in the same order as their timeline.

So next to be published will be The Ethical Hitman, Genial (both set in 1976), and then German Overalls (set in 1984).

Kevin and I are also working on Panlyrae: A Message for Mankind and Operation Flashlight, which would be nodes 0 and 1, and will be set in the 40s/50s/60s. These could be released at any point in the series.

And then, there might well be something set on the planet Panlyrae at some indeterminate point in the age of the universe. I have ideas…

There might also be something about a couple of characters from Dereham dithering about whether to take a trip on the Settle and Carlisle railway. This one will be a hoot. I might need Kevin to subvert the rather Ruth Rendell-ish, Anita Brookner-ish nature of it with guns, bombs, aliens and spies.


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Review: A Burnt Out Case

A Burnt Out Case
A Burnt Out Case by Graham Greene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A quick review of A Burnt Out Case.

A fine read. Well-crafted and honed. A novel in which the oppositions of faith and apostasy, religion and irreligion, belief and atheism are discussed and played with, without seeming preachy, heavy or tedious.

The well-paced plot skilfully reveals the life of the protagonist Querry, and why and how he has ended up in deepest Africa, at a mission and hospital for lepers. The denouement was a surprise, and well-crafted; though surprising, it seemed a natural way for the story to conclude.

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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…