A Cafe For Authors and Avid Readers
Geoff Nelder is a freelance writer living in Chester, UK.
A former high school teacher of geography and information technology, he has had non-fiction books published on microclimates in the UK along with several articles in academic journals such as Weather, Geographical Magazine and the Times Educational Supplement. Geoff is a part-time journalist contributing humorous travel accounts to Cycling World.
He has had short stories published and won a commendation for a story in the Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Competition. He won first prize in the Cafe Doom short story competition in 2005. Besides his 2005 released humour novel, Escaping Reality, published by Brambling Books, he won an award for mystery thriller, Hot Air, to published by a Dutch Arts Academy in 2009, and a Science Fiction block buster, ARIA: Left Luggage is published by LL-Publications. Double Dragon Publishing published Geoff's Exit, Pursued by a Bee science fiction in 2008. An urban fantasy, Xaghra’s Revenge is in the hands of the Rebecca Pratt Literary Agency.
Geoff has worked for publisher BeWrite Books and for Adventure Books of Seattle. He has been a freelance editor of novels and short stories for several years. Geoff is the 2009 & 2012 short-fiction judge for the Whittaker Prize.
What makes you proud to be a writer from Chester, UK? I was proud to be a school teacher who wrote stories in the evenings, but I can’t say I’m as proud to be a writer. It’s fun, hard work sometimes, frustrating when some publishers or booksellers don’t appreciate your art as much as others, and it’s rewarding when readers say how much they enjoy your stories.
What or who inspired you to become a writer? Tibor Fischer writes off-the-wall literary fiction that drew me back into writing. I’ve always been a writer from childhood but Fischer’s The Thought Gang is so much a celebration of words that I had to try and emulate him. I did that with my humorous thriller, Escaping Reality, but it was Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s science fiction that allowed my settings and characters to have no boundaries.
When did you begin writing with the intention of becoming published? My first published jokes and comedy scripts were for my school friends to perform on stage when I was 15. A year later and the local college magazine published my articles and comedy pieces. It didn’t seem a big deal to me then because my dad, in his spare time, was an artist for a science fiction magazine and his friend, our neighbour, was a writer and editor of that magazine, Sidereal. I grew up with writers, editors and illustrators. Only later in writing groups did I discover talented writers who’d never been published and realized how lucky I’d been.
Do you come up with your title before or after you write the manuscript? LEFT LUGGAGE was the obvious title because the story starts with the discovery of a silvery suitcase lodged in the struts of the International Space Station. So the title came after the concept but before the writing. Then it became clear that this was the first in a series and so the series name ARIA was prefixed. ARIA: Left Luggage became the title. Maybe a mistake as it is too much a mouthful. ARIA stands for Alien Retrograde Infectious Amnesia because the case contained a substance that once exposed caused the world’s population to contract infectious amnesia (which doesn’t exist in reality thank goodness).
Please introduce your genre and why you prefer to write in that genre? ARIA: Left Luggage is a medical mystery (genre one) in the context of science fiction. Readers who dislike science fiction express surprise that they enjoyed Left Luggage. No aliens, no shoot ups in space, no robots, just an alien virus affecting life on Earth. Readers have to wait for Book two to encounter the aliens. I love writing science fiction because of the way it allows us to escape the confines of Earth but I enjoy writing thrillers, fantasy and humour too.
What was your inspiration, spark or light bulb moment that inspired you to write the book that you are seeking promotion for? As I puffed, riding my bicycle up a steep Welsh hill 5 years ago I had an original idea. What if amnesia was infectious? Then what if no one was immune. I researched like crazy for 4 months to discover a) there was no known medical event of infectious amnesia, and b) that the concept – especially with retrograde amnesia (lose say a year’s worth per day backwards) – hadn’t been used in published stories, nor on TV or film. It took a year to create the first 100k draft. I showed and discussed it with SF luminaries such as Charles Stross, Robert Sawyer and Mike Resnick, who all endorsed it
What has been your most rewarding experience with your writing process? An important part of my writing is peer critique. I belong to the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Critique Group and you can see me wince in agony to open emails with copies of my work with the errors highlighted, then at the end the critter might say how much they enjoyed it and looking forward to the next instalment. Brilliant. I expect you want me to say how receiving praise from readers is a reward? Of course it is. Recently too when I scribbled some stories for infants and their beaming faces glowed at me.
Have you had a negative experience in your writing career? If so please explain how it could have been avoided? Interesting question. I’ve had negative vibes from a teacher who didn’t like my style, but balanced up by another who loved it. It disturbed my early writing career to be told by a content editor that I must ‘expunge my thats' and by others since who berated my Tell, use of filter words, adverbs and pleonasms. I’ve learnt from those stings and improved.
What has been your most rewarding experience in your publishing journey? Receiving royalty payments is an endorsement in real terms and helps to finance writing retreat stays, new computers and postage to keep sending more stories to more publishers. The most rewarding is when I worked for a season as the administrator for a small press publisher – BeWrite Books. Wow, I learnt so much about protocols, methodologies, handling printing companies and the ins and outs of contracts. It’s helped me understand when talking to potential publishers of my own work.
Have you had a negative experience in your publishing journey? If so please explain how it could have been avoided? Negative but interesting have been my experience with literary agents. The first was a woman based in Scotland. She lauded my Left Luggage and sent it to several mainstream publishers after which I heard nothing. I don’t mean she passed on rejections. I mean she stopped writing and emailing me. I phoned her office and a man said he was living there now after she’d moved out. He knew not where but gave me the landlord’s number. He said she’d done a moonlight flit on her rent and he’d discovered nearly a hundred packages all over her flat including up a staircase. Mostly unopened. He opened several to find they were book manuscripts. He moved them to the basement where they probably remain, yellowing and rotting. I did more investigation and found her living with her fiancé on a Mediterranean island. Apologies. I learnt to ask for references – other clients to chat to. Hence my current agent is real.
What one positive piece of advice would you give to other authors? If you haven’t already, have your manuscript content edited (not just proofread) or at the least join a critique group.
Who is your favorite author and why? I’ve named Tibor Fischer. Another is China Mieville, whose lateral thinking takes something like a city, then superimposes another one in and on it such that the occupants of one cannot see those of the other. Clever stuff as in The City & The City.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with us? I awoke this morning with a headache. Not your usual hangover throbbing, or dehydration fuzziness, or even a migraine jabbing on just one side, but as if a worm had crept tweaking pain receptors, and triggering childhood smells of lime ice-lollies. Yet, that wasn’t the strangest discovery I made in bed. Cranking open my eyelids, I found a mass of red hair – not mine. A woman’s sleeping face faced me. I didn’t recognise her. Had we...? My hands groped downwards and found no pyjamas... I rarely get that lucky. I edged backwards re-groping for the side of the bed. Too late, her green eyes opened followed by screaming.
Over coffee in an unfamiliar kitchen we found notes. We’d woken up like that before, many times. It’s what can happen when you have amnesia. I know because it happened to my mother. The above wasn’t really me yet it was, vicariously, because a main character in my ARIA: Left Luggage novel has amnesia and so does everyone else he meets. The damn thing is infectious. Worse, it’s retrograde so that he forgets a year’s worth of memories every week.
Please add questions and the answers to any questions that you believe your readers would like to know.
Q: Wow, is that the crux of the story?
A: The nub of ARIA is how people behave, and sadly forget themselves to death when they have retrograde infectious amnesia. It doesn’t exist in reality – at least not yet, and not on Earth – thank goodness. Or, workers would forget how to make penicillin, insulin, clean water, food and electricity. They’d forget where their work is, what bus to catch home, what home? Kids who’d just learnt to write find they forget how to read, and soon, how to talk. Older folk fare better in that it would take over a year for them to forget 52 years of memories.
Q: Anything unusual from your research for writing ARIA?
A: Often the research phase of a novel project is as rewarding as the writing. ARIA is released after a mysterious case is discovered on the International Space Station and brought to Edwards Airbase. I wanted the case to stick to the superstructure by an unknown method and fretted so much I found an email address of an engineer at NASA. He, Leroy Chaio, replied that the struts were very thin aluminium, which worried him because micrometeorites could punch holes and he was ON BOARD at the time! My agent reckons that email is a first for an author being helped from space.
How many published books do you have? 6 fiction, 3 non-fiction and several co-authored anthologies.
Alien Retrograde Infectious Amnesia Today, Jack caught a bug at work. He catches a bus home. By the time he disembarks in the desert town of Rosamond, all the other passengers and the driver have fuzzy heads. Jack had caught an amnesia bug, and it’s infectious. Imagine the ramifications: The passengers arrive home, infecting family; some shop en route infecting everyone they meet. The bus driver receives more passengers giving them change for last week’s prices and today’s amnesia. Some passengers work at the power plant, the water treatment works, the hospital, fire station. All shut down in weeks. One man, Ryder Nape, realizes what’s going on, but can he persuade friends to barricade themselves in a secluded valley, hiding from the amnesia bug?
“Geoff Nelder inhabits Science Fiction the way other people inhabit their clothes.” — Jon Courtenay Grimwood
“Geoff Nelder's ARIA has the right stuff. He makes us ask the most important question in science fiction--the one about the true limits of personal responsibility.” —Brad Linaweaver
Robert J. Sawyer calls ARIA a “fascinating project.”
“ARIA has an intriguing premise, and is written in a very accessible style.” —Mike Resnick
Cold Coffee Press Book Review For ARIA: Left Luggage
(Volume 1) - by Geoff Nelder
Let me answer the first question that came to my mind when the book ‘ARIA: Left Luggage’ arrived. The word ARIA has its roots in Italian meaning air.
Science Fiction as a genre literally is in a world of its own because human beings are obsessed with how to destroy or alter all of humanity by a single threat. It is rare that we find an author who can approach this kind of fiction from a new perspective, but Geoff Nelder has a truly unique concept.
As the first chapter begins the reader is introduced to Nelder’s large cast of characters like Vlad, Jena, Dan, Abdul and Antonio. His quantity of characters almost overwhelms the reader at first, but each has a role to play in this ordeal. The variety of solid, believable interpersonal relationships like the between Ryder Nape and his fiancée Teresa are essential as the world is threatened with massive memory loss by an alien virus. ARIA begs the intriguing question that as people lose their memories what is so important to their lives they must make a note of it to read when they wake up each morning?
The year is 2015 and there is never a dull moment as the reader joins the crew of “the shuttle, Marimar, in orbit approaching the International Space Station” and follows the science at the Dryden Space Laboratories at Edwards Air Force Base in California and the NASA Goddard Labs in Maryland. Travels to London and to the Anafon Valley in North Wales. Follow the viral repercussions to the Chester Zoo in UK, Moraine Lake in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and to Banff National Park in Canada.
The author caused this reader to ask how the world would handle such a virus if brought back to Earth from an exploratory mission, who on earth might be immune, and what secrets could NASA and WHO be keeping from us? That is what good science fiction does. It captures the readers’ imagination and takes us to places that we believe are impossible, but somewhere in the dark corners of our minds we recognize that there is a slim probability.
Cold Coffee Press endorses ARIA: Left Luggage - by Geoff Nelder (volume one in the ARIA series) as a science fiction, action filled fiction that has already won the coveted Preditors & Editors Readers Poll for best science Fiction novel of 2012. Please consider purchasing and reading the whole ARIA series (available at Amazon): ARIA: Left Luggage (ARIA Trilogy Book 1), ARIA: Returning Left Luggage (ARIA Trilogy Book 2) and ARIA: Abandoned Luggage (ARIA Trilogy Book 3). Reviewed by Cold Coffee Press on September 26, 2014. http://www.coldcoffeepress.com
Author and Co-Author Geoff Nelder’s Published Books
ARIA: Left Luggage (ARIA Trilogy Book 1)
ARIA: Returning Left Luggage (ARIA Trilogy Book 2)
ARIA: Abandoned Luggage (ARIA Trilogy Book 3)
Extreme Planets: A Science Fiction Anthology Of Alien Worlds (Chaosium Fiction)
Exit, Pursued By A Bee
How To Win Short Story Competitions
Whether it is a subject for art, films, books or poetry sooner or later we are drawn over or under a bridge. They are the subject of international competitions because they link territory and by metaphor, people with their cultural differences. (Ironbridge in Shrophshire from a bike ride)
As a climatologist I have been fascinated by and measured the effect of bridges on microclimates. In Chester, UK, the Grosvenor Bridge was the world’s largest single stone span for 30 years, when it…Continue