Month: August 2013

Blog: How to Model a Life


This week’s subject is modelling but I simply couldn’t find a well-known movie with the word ‘Model’ in the title. Hence the break in tradition for the blog’s title.

Sneak Preview
This week it is from a section called Monk in Escher’s Staircase. This is the penultimate chapter of the book so I am not far from completing the first draft.

Escher’s Staircase
Copyright © 2013 by Lazlo Ferran
All Rights Reserved

At the eleventh hour of the day, my duties in the dairy being completed for the morning, I was, as usual, in contemplation. Kneeling in the third pew back of the main Abbey Chapel, I watched the glossed back of the black ant. Reflecting the pillar of holy light shafting through the stained-glass window, the tiny ant’s carapace dipped up and down as it negotiated the uneven surface of the bible rail. This was my favourite time of day.
But this day in particular, something was different. Deep inside me, in the nebulous area where dreams of the night before are placated by the ambitions of the day ahead, something surprising was lurking. Malignant, and hard, like a vinegar-boiled conker, it just wouldn’t be shifted. Not a memory, or an idea, however it was more like a memory. This was the more surprising since my memory had never been good. Indeed I could barely remember my childhood and relied on others for details.
With all the teaching that the ancients, such as Aristotle, and our more modern thinkers like Bernard of Clairveaux had imparted to me, you would think I could rid myself of unwanted thoughts. But they traipsed through my mind like miscreants on the average village street.
Suddenly the full horror of the thought expanded in my mind into an image I could not contemplate or articulate. I shuddered, closed my eyes and prayed for all I was worth. Slowly, so very slowly, the thought subsided and shrank back into the depths of my soul.

How to Model a Life
I had a strange dream last night wherein I was in a toy-shop which had just about everything I ever wanted as a little boy: every train set and accessory you could imagine; Scalextric sets off all kinds and every plastic aircraft model kit that was ever made. I could have anything I wanted! Of course it was like being in Heaven. Of course they are all models.
When we are children it’s very natural for us to model things; girls model using dolls and dolls houses, boys model using toy trains, cars and planes and even kittens model using balls of string. Modelling is how we eventually build an image of the Universe that will allow us to exist and either thrive or fail within it. We each of us hope we have the correct model but it is subject to change.
Gurdjieff said that many of us lose the ability or will to remodel as we get older – usually around the age of 30. I think this is the norm but many of us continue to try and re-model even in very old age.
For me writing allows me to do this continually. Each character, every location I attempt to describe, I do so using the utmost of ability to replicate what I see in the real world. And each relationships is just as I perceive it.
Writing is the best form of modelling ever! It’s the most fun too! You get to create worlds, societies, people, even vehicles if you so desire. You can recreate moments in history or invent moments in the future. I recommend it to anybody who loves modelling. Another answer to the old question “Where does your inspiration come from?” is probably the fun of modelling.

Another is invention. When writing science fiction this is a particularly necessary skill. Inventing something is not simply a case of thinking of something and mentioning it; it has to feel real.
In the case of nano-generators in my Iron Series, I wanted something about the size of a microwave oven that can reproduce anything small enough to fit inside.
I had read about the theoretical possibility of nano-generators some years ago so I already had the facts at my disposal: nano-bots which take organic or non organic material (and in the case of my generators; plasma cubes) and copy any real object either by scanning it or working to a 3-d plan. Scientists are expecting that these generators will be the size of microwave ovens within the next 100-200 years. That part is simple enough.
Next I wanted a term for them that would immediately show how they had been absorbed into culture as every-day objects. In the real world, we tend to anthropomophise everything around us so we make cars that have fronts resembling faces and we also make technical names sound more friendly. Refrigerators have become fridges and vacuum-cleaners Hoovers. It does not always involve a simultaneous shortening of the name but usually does. Hence my nano-generators first became Trion Nano-generator Mark Is and then simply n-gens. Who is really going to care what model they are if they work properly.
Finally you simply invest the object with quirks – such as the plasma tabs left over in Jake’s flute and also have your humans use them for unconventional purposes and then they will seem real.

Edge-manship in Writing
I wrote my first article a few weeks ago the creative part of the writing process. My second article – in the form of a video blog, was about Serendipity in the writing process. Another aspect is Edge-manship. Perhaps a better term might be ‘being out there’ or ‘being on the edge’.
There are times when one cannot seem to find the words. You are nervous about putting pen to paper or finger to key in case you write something mediocre. These are moments when you simply have to ‘jump’. By that I mean that you have to put yourself on the edge, out into the unknown where you have no sentence in mind, no image or scene. You simply put finger to key in good faith that the right word will come. I have found that if you have faith enough and a good creative urge in general, something surprising will happen. Words will come and they will often take you in unexpected directions. Sometimes they will actually represent some thought or feeling much deeper than you would normally have managed to express. An example would be the snake dream in The Painter section of Esche’r Staircase. I was out of ideas at the time and beginning to think I should take a short break from writing. I had this image in my mind of a snake in an oasis and it seemed completely irrelevant to the story so I ignored it. But nothing would come for several hours when I tried to write. In frustration I just started writing a sentence and the word ‘snake’ ended up in the sentence and then I was off. At first I felt slightly uncomfortable with the idea because it seemed like a complete break with the previous story line but the more I thought about it, the more I realised it added another dimension to the story. So simply taking a deep breath and leaping into the abyss in good faith can work.

Other News
I hardly need to mention it again do I? Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate will be free from 30 August-3 September on Amazon so tell everyone, their dogs, their friends and their dog’s best friends!
The new cover for The Devil’s Own Dice is now available on the paperback. I anticipate Attack Hitler’s Bunker! will be available in the next month; it is long overdue and I apologize for the delay but it has to be right before I let it go.

Further to my thoughts on a private company policing nations rather than the UN, what if all nations sign a treaty to allow only this private company to have nuclear weapons. This would only be an extension to such as the SALT treaty and would seem to me to solve two problems: how to present the greatest danger to threatening dictators and how to maintain a nuclear arsenal (which can hardly be forgotten) without individual nations getting their hands on them.

Blog: Who Dares Wins

This week’s Excerpt

Escher’s Staircase
Copyright © 2013 by Lazlo Ferran
All Rights Reserved

Again it’s from The Detective section from Escher’s Staircase. If you like US Muscle Cars, you’ll love this section.

It’s you or me now, Blue. Killing one of your own! Shame! But now I have the proof… Macar Tadek!
My breathing slowed almost to a stop while I focused through the infra-red sight. I held my index finger delicately over the trigger and waited. I could see no movement. Minutes went by.
Surely he has to move!
I saw just the faintest variation in light up on a second floor balcony of the fire-escape. Something had moved.
Is it a cat? A branch of some flower in a pot., moving in a breeze? But there is no breeze!
I re-aligned the barrel to the point of movement. Then there was another, on the steps below the first point. Something was descending. I still had no view of the target. It or he, was just a patch of darkness like the background. Whoever it was moved like a cat.
For a fat man he sure is stealthy. But then again, Korea. I have to be very… very careful.

Then something stooped over the body on the ground. There was no doubt about it. It was Macar. I still couldn’t see his head. But I didn’t need to. I lined up on his shoulder and gently… oh so gently squeezed the trigger. The large body slumped over the one beneath. I could hardly believe my luck. I clambered down and stealthily walked to the two bodies. Macar wasn’t moving. I kicked his body but he didn’t react. I had to move fast!
I ran back to the van, slung the rifle in the back and pulled a camera out of my bag. I took a quick shot from the van. Then I rushed over to and took photographs from four angles of the two bodies, especially picking out Maca’s sniper rifle which lay by his side. He had on a black balaclava. I pulled it off to take another photograph but I stopped, shocked.

Other News
I have finished The Detective section of Escher’s Staircase now. Only one more chapter to go! In many ways it should be the most interesting: about a monk and nun in the 11th Century. Next will be a final edit on Attack Hitler’s Bunker! and then another go at my book on busking. After this I will continue work on something I am calling The Farmer’s Wife.
Just a reminder; Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate will be free from 30 August-3 September on Amazon so tell everyone, their dogs, their friends and their dog’s best friends!

I am despondent about the situation in Syria. Assuming it is proved that Assad is using chemical weapons (and I don’t think there remains much doubt), I just hope something can be done to stop their use. It seems unlikely given Obama’s understandable reluctance to get the USA involved militarily.
It seems the United Nations is very nearly redundant. Paralysed by indecision and diametrically opposed interests of its main stakeholders: the US, Europe, Russia and China, it might never be a deterrent to determined dictators again.

I would be a fool to claim I have a clue what the solution might be but I am reminded of one suggestion, that of the philosopher Josiah Royce that we need some kind of insurance scheme. He thought that if countries took out policies to protect them in the case of invasion, the money provided could fund an ‘police’ force with overwhelming power.
Nearly half a century after him the kernel of the UN follows a similar template but with one major difference; the policy is administered by the policy-holders. Perhaps this is the problem. How about if the countries funded an independent, private company that oversees the provision of the policies? Just an idea.
I have bought Gravity’s Rainbow to read. 900 pages! Phew! And good luck to both Valentino Rossi and Marco Marquez tomorrow in MotoGP.

Blog: The Fast and the Furious

This Week’s Excerpt
This week it comes from the upcoming publication which is currently going under the name Escher’s Staircase. I am going off that title though; anyway its an erotic suspense novel with deep philosophical angles (I hope!). This part is from an unnamed section but lets call it The Detective. If you read the novel you will know where it fits in.

Escher’s Staircase
Copyright © 2013 by Lazlo Ferran
All Rights Reserved.

The red 1971 Pontiac LeMans Convertible streaked along the highway at full speed. The muscular driver behind the wheel was wearing Ray Ban’s and his medium-length brown hair was ruffled violently by the air-stream over the windscreen. He seemed intent only on the road ahead. He held the accelerator flat to the floor with his foot. On the passenger seat was an elegant blonde. Her hair too was flowing out behind her head in the turbulent air. Her head was reclined and at rest on the top of the seat. She appeared to be asleep. The car raced on.
This case started – as I’d always dreamed the best one would, with a blonde walking into my office. Actually, she was better than the blondes I have dreamed of. Tall – statuesque even, with an hourglass figure a man could kill for, she somehow had the face of a top call girl but the eyes of childhood innocence. She looked like my first, my last love, and I was hooked.
I had to take another drag on my cigarette before I could talk:
“Yes? Can I help you?”
“I hope so. I need you to find a killer.”
“My sister’s.”
I stubbed my cigarette butt out and blew a long stream of white smoke towards the window. “Okay, so why aren’t the LAPD interested?”
“They gave up, Mr Andrews.” My name slid off her tongue like an oyster but I wanted to hear her to use my first name.
“Right. You have funds?”
“I have what it takes.”
“Yeah. Let’s just start with the basics.” I took out a creased pro-forma and filled it in as she supplied the answers. When I had finished, she had lit an expensive cigarette. It floated between her fingers as if she were trying to stop it drifting away. “That’ll be one grand for the first month, including expense, payable half in advance and half on completion. You will receive a full, written report at the end of the month and a free one hour consultation as part of a revue. If you wish to continue, the rate will probably be similar. Does this sound okay?”
“Okay. Sign and print your name here and then if you would like to pay the deposit, I have a few questions.” She signed using her own pink pen from her handbag. She was wearing a blue three piece with a very short, tight skirt and a matching hat. Whoever’s woman she was had to be paying for this investigation. I put her at twenty-two.
“I’ve no doubt … Miss Stevens …” I began, reading her name from the form. “…I can find out a good deal from the Court Records but suppose you tell me what I won’t find there?”
“Alright. My sister… older sister by two years, was murdered … shot near the corner of Sunset and Vine late one night while leaving a restaurant and walking to a car. The car belonged to Johnny Chico. Here’s her photo.” She pulled a folded, glossy 10×8 from her handbag, opened it up and lay it in front of me.
“She looks just like you; could be your twin?” The blonde opposite nodded noncommittally.
“I’m going with him now. He likes young blondes.” She blew a plume of white smoke to emphasise her point. “I have reason to believe it’s Johnny’s ex who had my sister shot. Shavaun would not have done anything to deserve being shot. I believe it was to punish Johnny. I want you to find him.”
“I presume Johnny is paying for this.”
“Yes, but he tried to stop me. You see, I think his ex, Stella, wants to kill me now. She is only interested in money. If I don’t catch the killer – and her, it will be my head on her plate next.”

Other News
As I begin to think about starting work on my out-and-out Vampire novel this track has become my inspiration (Well it is from Romania!). It’s hauntingly beautiful so give it a listen: by Cleopatra Stratan. Enjoy! She’s on Facebook, search for Cleostratan (her profiles seem to change around a lot).
Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate will be free from 30 August-3 September on Amazon so tell everyone, their dogs, their friends and their dog’s best friends!

Other News
A review of an old classic this week: the film The Naked Jungle (1954). I watched this with the g/f and its pretty much the first film of my choice we have watched together.
It’s an old pot-boiler with Charlton Heston, Eleanor Parker and William Conrad (who went on to play Cannon, the detective. Really it is mostly Heston and Parker thrashing out a bizarre bride-by-post situation on a plantation in deepest South America around the turn of the century. In fact Conrad plays the guy who stood in for Parker’s character at the marriage-by-proxy ceremony and he does his best to defend her against an nihilistic and increasingly agitated Christopher (Heston). Parker is brilliant as the gorgeous and forceful Joanna who has walked into the marriage with both eyes open and is determined to make a success of it. Moreover she actually falls for Christopher who is stubborn, ambitious, innocent of women but above all, lonely. He himself says he only knows how to be first and he soon finds out that as far as men go, he is not Joanna’s first. Heston hams it up brilliantly and ad-libs a scene where he throws perfume over her before demanding she leaves on the next boat. The scene is brilliantly echoed by the director when the gooseberry – a swarm of lethal Soldier Ants come to town: Christopher throws a glass bottle containing one of the ants against a painting of his own plantation hitting it squarely in the building – his palace.
The ants swarmed every 25 years (this actually has some truth to it though I believe it is not expected to happen again) and threaten to destroy Christopher’s empire. The ants throw the couple together in a struggle to survive and save the plantation.
Heston does overact a bit towards the end and the climax is rather truncated but the film comes in at a tight 95 minutes so even my girlfriend didn’t get bored! Its early Heston at his best and does Parker proud. The direction and editing is pretty good too. An early example of disaster movies and a very good one. Watch it!

Blog: Creation

Full marks this week if you knew the film after which this post is named.

This week’s excerpt
Since I am back on the story with a working title of Escher’s Staircase, we do have an excerpt this week. Here it is, from a section entitled Painter.

Escher’s Staircase
Copyright © 2013 by Lazlo Ferran
All Rights Reserved“I’m sorry, darling,” I explained as I sat down to my cornflakes and honey in our sunny, pine-furnished kitchenette.
But suddenly she wasn’t speaking to me. Typical! I don’t know whether to be grateful when she doesn’t pity me or angry because maybe she doesn’t care. On this occasion I was angry. As any man who has been in a long-term relationship with a woman will know, it’s the woman who decides where and when battles will be fought. The only choices I now had were what weapons to use. Righteousness? Jeez, no! Never to be used unless you are absolutely in the sight of God, correct. How about abject repentance. Perhaps worth a try. The old faithful; ignoring her too. Can work but tends to lend righteousness to her argument and prolong the battle. Time is the one thing I don’t have. Okay let’s try this one; the peace-offering from a friend combined with an explanation. Should at least win some Brownie points.
“Had a bad dream this morning. Only, not sure if it was a dream at all!” No response. She is still tidying away her own breakfast.
“There was this crow …”
“You know I’m no good at interpreting dreams, Ariel! And I’m really busy. Can you just call Jay? He might have fallen asleep again.”
Ah, a response. Worth continuing.
I leaned back in my chair and hollered. “Jay! Time to get up. I’ll come in, in five minutes, if you’re not up!”
Faintly, “Oh dad!” is heard.
“You could have gone to the door! The neighbours will hear!” Christy muttered.
“Anyway, as I was saying …”
“When are we going to tell him?” I had to count to five after this one. Every chance she gets, she asks this and she knows the answer.
“Tell him what? We don’t even know if it’s really going to happen. I might even recover. Not that you’d care!”
“Oh, don’t be stupid. I will even love your corpse.” Ouch. Now, I’ve really dug level two through to ten of my hole.
“Sorry, baby. I didn’t mean that.” I stood up, went around the table and put my hands around her stomach. I kissed her neck and she tilted her head obligingly.

How does creativity work for a writer?
Often get asked that question. There is no simple answer.

Like a shaman, do I summon from the murk something to make shine bright?

Yes, in a sense I do. But the process by which this (hopefully) happens varies. My best time of the day for ideas is about 10.30-11.30 am. I usually spend about a year developing a story from a germ of an idea to an actually story outline. Very often I will abandon an idea very early on. So in the early life of a story, I am often spending a lot of time in the morning thinking about it.

Afternoon and evening seem better for simply getting things down. While I was still working full-time in the IT industry, evening was usually the only time of day available for me to writer. Very often, I could only manage one hour or so after eating before my focus would be completely gone.

However, my writing is almost always cathartic. I don’t pretend it isn’t. For me this seems to mean that I have a very considerable resource of creativity. I won’t say it never runs out but it rare that I don’t feel like writing. I was a very angry child. ‘Cathartic’ means I don’t really have much control over it; the quality varies. Obviously, if I could I would write only my best stuff all the time but the very best comes only occasionally and usually when I am ‘in the zone’. Usually I have to accept writing quite a bit ‘in the zone’ before I will recognise that I have written one or two good phrases. Sometimes I don’t even see them until I read it back for the first time. Sometimes good passages are born of desperation: I will be trying to write and thinking it’s rubbish and something in my mind just takes a leap into the unknown and comes up with something good.

I think accepting that one has to write a lot of stuff that is very good rather than ‘inspired’ is one of the hardest aspects of writing. I don’t think anybody can be great all the time so one just has to keep working on one’s technique to make sure the good stuff is very good. Then the great stuff might be really great!

Other News
I have finished the firsts draft of Iron III: Worlds Like Dust. Expect to see this out some time late this year. At the moment two people are reading the draft so they can feed back to me on the general story structure.

You can now also dream up your own film cast for my books on I have put together my own cast so why not sign up today and have a go.

I am witnessing a strange phenomena right outside my window. We live above a park and in the last few weeks Polish migrant workers have started sleeping in large groups under my window! For some years now Polish construction workers have come to my area because of large Wickes and B&Q branches here. There have been articles on news programmes showing these workers waiting outside these branches early in the morning waiting for a builder who needs casual labourers for the day. Polish men are renowned as hardworking builders who work to very high standards. That’s why I am pretty sure these are migrant workers looking for building work. But why have they nowhere to live. The night before last there were thunderstorms all night and they stood under trees as long as they could before running of somewhere. Last night, again it rained and they had to sleep through it under blankets. They haven’t even got sleeping bags.

This morning my girlfriend and I gave them a loaf of bread. It bothers me that nobody is concerned about them. I thought now that Poland was part of the EU, we would have more of an obligation to watch out for them. During WWII we could not have won the Battle of Britain without these tough, brave men.

There is something else that bothers me. Last year the news programmes told us that now the UK was in recession Polish migrants were returning to Poland where wages were rising in comparison with the UKs. They are back. I guess that’s because we are slowly climbing out of recession. But before, when they came, they never slept in the park. What’s changed? Is it just the Government?