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Venus Rising

On the face of it, I haven't been up to much creatively recently. Indeed, it has been something of a fallow period, but like the crops lurking beneath the earth shielded from the colds of winter, much has been going on quietly and spring should see plenty of evidence of that. For various reasons I have been thinking of the astrological significance of Venus as discovered by the French scientist Michel Gauquelin. At first, he could find no evidence that the position of Venus at birth affected an individual's path in life, whereas others such as those of Mars and Jupiter did. Venus was more subtle, as it turned out, not necessarily favouring any career at all though later groupings of writers, artists and musicians did feature. (See Gauquelin.) What I inferred from this, was that individuals with Venus predominant in their charts may well eschew career and ambition in favour of living, loving, laughing... I take comfort in the fact then that this fallow period, if ruled by Venus, I at least get to spend in good company.

Years ago when I still had ambitions in television, I designed a show with the working title Almeira (or Arabian Knights). It was in part inspired as a response to the predominant portrayal in the media of the Middle East as a place of barbarism and terror. Where was the rich art and architecture of Islam, the sensuality of the culture, the wisdom of the Sufis, my childhood memories of Sinbad and the Arabian Nights? Thus I set out to depict a fictional country in the modern day where magic and romance still flourished. It was intended for family viewing in something like a Doctor Who slot, with powerful storylines, compelling characters and lots of intrigue, action, romance and humour. Pitched as 'The X Files meets Sinbad the Sailor', I couldn't get anyone interested to take it further. As it definitely veered precariously and drunkenly between political correctness and music hall humour, I can see how people would struggle with it superficially. My imagined new Age of Romance never came to pass.

Yet one of the episode titles 'Ishtar Rising' could be applied to my next writing projects. The fourth novella in the X-Dimensional series is about to be published. I say fourth, but it was actually one of the first in the septology to be written. I simply didn't feel ready, or that the world was ready, for it to be out there. I'm still not sure! It might be revealing a bit too much... What is reassuring is that many of the themes from Almeira are still present, even if somewhat in the background. Venus may never be named as such but its presence is on every page.

For the cover art, I always had in mind another picture from Pramada Wells. Unlike with those adorning The God of New York and Alien Humanity, this one was already painted. There were two of his on display in his gallery that I liked, both of which captured the feel of the book. If I could I'd use both of them. However, production limitations force me to choose just one and so I let go of the one called 'Flower Biter' (bottom of page) and focused on this which is pitch perfect.

Already there has been some concern. I recalled the hysteria in America when Janet Jackson revealed a naked breast. All sorts of violence is acceptable apparently, but the sight of a female breast causes panic. (Thus, the power of Venus.) As the printer my publisher uses is American - I won't say its very famous name - I thought we had better check this. So the picture has gone back and forth in cyberspace but we think it will be all right. When the police raided an art exhibition by D H Lawrence, they couldn't decide what was pornography and what was art. After some deliberation, they ruled that anything showing genitalia was pornography. As Lawrence wryly remarked, if he had stuck bits of tape over the offending parts of anatomy, they would have left all the paintings in place. So when the book is published, if you see the above picture with some discreet bit of cloth or something over the upper part of her torso, you'll know why.

I realise I am being evasive as to the actual title of the book and what it is about. All will be revealed later after publication. In the meantime, I am hoping the pictures here will provide sufficient clues in terms of ambience at least and whet your appetite for now. The Age of Romance may be beginning after all.

Paintings in order from top: Study For Le Manteau Legendaire by Leon Francois Comerre, Fairy and Lover by Pramada Wells, and Flower Biter by Pramada Wells

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