A Midnight Clear, a modern take on HC Andersen’s Little Match Girl

It’s not my fault! Honest. Deb put me up to it. My publisher and accomplished writer sent me this short Christmas story (which was published in the same anthology as my own a bit over a year ago) to read (in the hopes of a review along the lines of “I trust your judgement and I will kill you if you don’t like it!”) And upon opening it, I noticed that the Little Match Girl was referenced. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have made the connection between this tragic classic and A Midnight Clear. Not that there aren’t parallels, they’re just not that obvious.

The cover of Deb's Christmas story taking place in her HBTC universe.

The cover of Deb’s Christmas story taking place in her HBTC universe. The cat’s name is Jinja, and yes he plays a major role in this story.

A Midnight Clear is a novella, using characters from Deb’s Hiding Behind The Couch (HBTC) series, which by now is a universe consisting of  almost 1.4 million words, 7 seasons of episodes, 4 novels, 6 novellas and 5 works in progress. A Midnight Clear is one of those novellas, a story taking place over the Holidays in England, in – as I learned – a parallel universe, or, to be exact, and I’m quoting the author here to make sure not to fuck this up (she’s here to visit me this week, and my life is under Damocles’s sword for the next couple of days):

Here’s the thing. In between writing HBTC #2 and #3, I wrote a short science fiction novel called And The Walls Came Tumbling Down. I say it’s science fiction; it’s posited in superstring theory, so it’s theoretical contemporary fiction. The story is about a young man whose dead-beat existence gets turned upside down by a chance meeting with an anthropologist from another dimension. It needs a good edit, which I’ll get around to doing one of these days, but the indie published edition is still online.
In the process of researching for And The Walls…, it dawned on me that potentially, these world we authors ‘create’ are not actually creations at all, but inter-dimensional incursions.
Within superstring theory (the 10-dimensional version), the first 4 dimensions are our understanding of space-time; the 5th dimension is a world that is slightly different to ours; the 6th dimension is a plane of worlds that have the same starting point as ours – I’ll leave it there, because it’s the 5th dimension that is relevant here (this page offers a good layperson’s explanation: http://www.universetoday.com/48619/a-universe-of-10-dimensions/).
We can’t readily perceive beyond three dimensions – we struggle to comprehend the 4th (time) in anything but linear form, and our limited 3D perception effectively renders the other dimensions invisible (see Carl Sagan’s explanation of Flatland for how this works  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0WjV6MmCyM).
As I say, we can’t readily perceive those other dimensions, but there are theoretical models that support the idea that at least some of the experiences purported to be ‘channelling spirit’ may be moments of inter-dimensional perception: surplus gravity (potential evidence for a multiverse), ‘ghost’ sightings and other supernatural occurrences are theorised to be the consequence of an inter-dimensional incursion – a momentary connection between the fifth dimension and ours?
Those experiences are not dissimilar to the way in which many authors produce stories. It certainly describes my experience of writing Hiding Behind The Couch. I know the characters like I know people in the world around me. They have distinct personalities, preferences, daily routines. I have no control over the events in their lives.
Hiding behind the couch

This is how it all began, and I think this is where you all should begin to discover the HBTC universe!

Did I mention she’s crazy? She says so herself: “…which is surely definitive evidence that I am in fact quite, quite mad.

Which is incidentally true for all us authors, to a degree, Deb just takes it to the fifth dimension…
So, back to the story. We meet Libby, a young girl who’s run away from home, for very good reasons. She gets stuck in a rural English town, picks up a kitten, and eventually meets George and Josh, two of the characters from HBTC. I won’t even attempt to summarize the story. Just read it. You won’t regret it. I promise!
Now as a regular reader of this blog you’ll know that I’m not a big fan of series, and Deb knows that, too. The prospect of tackling 1.4 million words is scary, to put it mildly, particularly for a Gemini. Although I promised, under duress, to do so, if and when I’m ever old and retired, by which time undoubtedly, the universe will have expanded ever further… She is quite mad, you know! But in the best possible way, a brilliant (!) writer and not just for the way she describes milieus (second to none.) She has a way to pull you into the story, her characters are so realistic (she’d probably say making you see that fifth dimension), that I don’t doubt her words that she knows them like real people.
I’m not unlike that, mind you. When I recently finished Jonathan’s Promise, having had to relive the passing of Dan (he dies at the end of the first novel) had made me cry like a dog, and after finishing the book, I mourned more than when I lost most humans I lost, which is the main and only reason I wrote book three. Read the title and you know where this is going… Or, even better, watch the trailer!
Yes, call us crazy, but to our brains, the love we feel for the people we meet in our subconscious is no different then the love we feel for those who are present in the physical realm, those first four dimensions of Deb’s. As a student of brain psychology this isn’t news, and I don’t have an issue with it. Although, to most others, we’re just utterly mad. I can live with that. After all, it takes one to know one, right?
No, Deb's universe is nothing like Knots Landing, but Hollywood celebrities always make for good pictures, don't you think? Photo credit: Knots Landing Wiki

No, Deb’s universe is nothing like Knots Landing, but Hollywood celebrities always make for good pictures, don’t you think? Photo credit: Knots Landing Wiki

Back to the story (which I’m supposed to review): There are limitations to how much you can enjoy a story when you meet people you don’t really get to know. They’re all fleshed out already (like spin-offs on TV; anyone remember Knots Landing?) and the story expects you to already know them. But in this case, although I don’t know either Josh nor George, for the sake of the story, it’s okay. It’s Libby we should worry about, get to know (which I already had, much later, in another book I reviewed, a cross-over between two of Deb’s universes (I wonder which dimension that takes place in?), aka Dallas meets Dynasty, between HBTC and the Checking Him Out series. Confused? Join the club, get in line! Just re-read this latest paragraph and you’ll understand just who complex navigating this all is… 🙂

But yes, you can read this story stand alone, and like me, you’ll finish it, craving more, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll have your dislike for series confirmed yet again. So yes, by all means, you should read this novella, because it’s excellent writing, the Christmas spirit is there, and HC Andersen’s bleak ending is replaced with a more positive outlook on things. But if you’ll allow me a recommendation, I would suggest you start at the beginning, something I should’ve done a long time ago, with the original novel, Hiding Behind The Couch. From there, you can branch out in any direction you like and discover Deb’s universe more fully.
We've been at it ever since...

We’ve been at it ever since…

Allow me to finish with an anecdote related to this story. Two years ago, in January, 2014, Deb and I exchanged our first words on Twitter, when she contacted me about a translation she needed for HBTC.

It’s kind of cool that this book series brought us together in the real life, and now she’s actually here, in Sweden, visiting me, to work with me on the edits to my coming novel.
Life, eh? Who knew? A Midnight Clear provides us a small glimpse into the life of rural England, that of a very interesting couple, George and Josh, their circle of friends and a very foul-mouthed mother (even I don’t swear quite as much.)
It also shows that metaphysically, if we cut through the crap of multidimensional theories and what not for a second, that there is a lot of Deb in her books. Personally, I think that is the highest form of flattery I can pay her writing, because she’s one hell of a human being!
A Midnight Clear is available from Beaten Track Publishing or e.g. Amazon.

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Have a wonderful hump day and make the best of the rest of your week. I know I will, having my friend and publisher here with me!


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