Blog: The World Is Not Enough – Lazlo Ferran

This week: Para-Worlds, Social Network build and Free Offers.

Para-Worlds
I have spent most of this week defining a para-world. When I sit down to work on one of my literary projects now, I often feel hesitant: have I forgotten the thrust of the book; does what I am going to write fit into the world-view o the main character; oes the story express the world view I want to show. With about ten books published it is getting increasingly hard to keep track of the different world-views my stories encompass. moreover its becoming harder to invent new stories that are either so radically different from my existing ones that I don’t have to worry about any incongruity or ones that are similar enough to existing ones that I need to avoid the reader saying, “Hey, this doesn’t fit with that previous story – what’s going on?”

So I decided to think about coming up with a para-world which could encompass my sci-fi and fantasy stories. I am not exactly coining the term ‘para-world’ but I had better define what I mean. I mean by that a world that explains the unexplained elements of our own world; the hidden world as I see it if you like. Actually it is more like a hidden world as I see it; it is not the only view I have and is probably not the one I use in my day-to-day life.

I am not the first to try it either; Tolkien did it on a monumental scale; The Silmarillion can hardly be equaled for breadth of vision. I certainly don’t expect to equal it. I have come up with something though. To my delight I have found that it can accommodate most of what I am writing and most of what I have written. It does make me wonder a bit if it wasn’t there all the time without me knowing it. I have documented it and will develop it in the future. It may well remain a secret although bits of it will obviously seep out.

Social Network Build
If you follow my blog and read last week’s post, you will know that I am developing my own social network; I have the skills from my years in the IT industry and I may well have the will to do it now. Three of my friends have accounts now so that we can develop some ideas.

This week I added an email module to Drupal so that one can sign up on the test version without the admin having to unblock accounts. I also downloaded the Zen theme so that I can mess around with the look and feel. I have an idea or two to try and will probably develop them this week.

Free Offers
Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate will be FREE on Amazon from 1-5 November for Halloween.
Attack Hitler’s Bunker! will be FREE on Amazon from 6-10 November. This will be its first free promotion so make sure you grab a free copy.

Elsewhere
Has anybody noticed that Eddie Jordan is looking more like Woody Allen every Formula 1 race? I would love to see Woody Allen commentate on F1. He would be even funnier as the pit-lane reporter.
David Coulthard: Woody, did you see that tyre change? What more can you tell us from the Ferrari pit?
Woody: Jake? Is that you? I am having a… what’s the name… a panic attack! Oh my god! This woman with something above an F-cup just walked up to me and asked me for her autograph. She thought I was Niki Lauda.
David Coulthard: I see. That’s great, Woody.
Woody: Yeah, it would be but she didn’t have a pen. She didn’t have paper either but she wanted me to sign her thigh. Needless to say I left my pen in the ladies toilet. I could hardly say, “Come with me and I’ll take you to my pen!”
David: How did it get left in the ladies loos?
Woody: Yeah. Well, that’s another story… Anyway, turns out she’s a psychotherapist so I think I got it made!
David: Thanks Woody for the latest from the pit-lane.

For me, F1 is getting very boring. I rarely even make the effort to watch now. Apart from the domination by a young man who has been spoiled into thinking he is the best, the technology has become somewhat stagnant. I look forward to the return of turbos next year.

I also wish Valentino the best in tomorrow’s MotoGP. Great that Hayden made it onto the front row, a very rare thing for Ducati these days. They really need to get their company philosophy sorted out. Do they want to be the best small manufacturer out there or an average medium-sized manufacturer? Also, it was a terrible error for Marquez last week but he is young: you can’t go through a rookie season without a few big mistakes.

Blog: Back to the Future – Lazlo Ferran

This week: Social Networking website dev and RDF, Lord of the Rings radio series, review of La Vie en Rose (Edith Piaf biopic).

No sneak preview this week. God! Another week when I haven’t a clue what to write. I will just have to wing it!

Social Networking Site
This week’s blog title is due to my first tentative steps into the AI world of Web 3.0. For the last two or three years – since stumbling upon an article about Resource Description Framework (RDF), I have been championing the whole idea of large data sets of triplets describing resources in a meta-data kind of way. Tim Berners-Lee – inventor, if you like, of the World Wide Web – has pronounced it as the precursor to and foundation of Internet Artificial Intelligence. I believe him. Without some way of aggregating data and meta-data there will soon be just too much information around to be used by humans. We need an intermediary, an intelligence that can filter it for us. For that we need large data stores of meta-data. That is where RDF comes in. It has been around for many years but, like HTML, it has been adopted by developers in a role for which it was never intended. It’s simplicity is probably it’s main virtue, and asset – as with HTML.

I always intended to dabble myself in this field, if only to keep up with the latest IT developments. I was on the very first HTML course – just five of us – in South Kensington. This was way back in 1996. I had discovered the internet and world wide web the previous year while temping at Nortel. The little dog cursor, running in ftp, has fascinated me. I consequently booked a place in Islington’s Central Library on the first internet connected PC for the public in North London. For the next six months, mine was the only signature in the bookings. There was only black and white text then, and only a few American sites (UCLA for one) had cracked images. It was a frontier. I love frontiers; few rules. From that I was able to walk into my first job as a webmaster and command my own fees.
This may all seem a million miles from writing but at the root of both my writing and internet projects is a love for connecting with people and observing how they behave. For this reason I have decided to try and build my own social network website.
I have gone with the WAMP paradigm: Windows (cos I have a windows PC), Apache, MySQL and PHP.
Tutorials for installing these were easy to find on youtube and I chose the ones my lucidnerd. He speaks very clearly and seemed to know what he was doing. Unfortunately he left me in the lurch somewhat when I reached the point of installing my cms for the social network. I chose Drupal. I used it in my last job and found it to be pretty stable. Sure enough lucidnerd did a turorial for installing drupal on Windows 8 so I thought I had it made. Wrong… At the beginning of the tutorial I find that he uses the WAMPserver application – a kind of one-click application to install all of the above three apps.I could find no help at all in installing Drupal 7 on the above development environment.
Therefore, I had to just install Drupal 7 on my own. Everything went fine until I told Drupal where the database was and what user/password to use. The next screen had a brief message telling me the table ‘properties’ already existed and the rest of the page was blank. I googled this error and found many others had experienced the same problem. The cause seemed to be browser related so I tried again in firefox and explorer – several times. The problem was worse in Firefox with not even an error message and explorer wasn’t any better. It was only when I returned to Chrome that I received a similar error, but this time naming a difference missing table. I thought… hm, this sounds like a memory issue. Sure enough, further googling revealed a comment by a developer that a problem with his flavour of drupal could be fixed by increasing the execute time and memory allocated to Drupal. I increased both hugely and… success!

So now I have Drupal installed and RDF ready. I have been researching themes and it looks like Zen is the one to go for: mobile friendly, versatile and quick. From here I will want to extend the application using a NoSQL data store and RDF.

Now I just need an idea for my site. Ideas on a postcard please.

I will keep you informed of my progress with this project.

Other News
There will be an announcement here shortly of two free promotions of my books. Watch this space.

Elsewhere
I watched La Vie en Rose – the biopic of Edith Piaf this week. It’s an excellent movie but Piaf is such a boor. If it wasn’t for a passionate singing voice, I don’t think there would be anything likable about her. As a performer of chanson réaliste songs, she was impressive but I don’t think she quite matches up with other modern chanson singers like Jaques Brel. Nevertheless the film is colourful and well-directed. You won’t get bored if you are the slightest bit interested in singers or her life. My only criticism was the jump cuts – backwards and forwards throughout the film. This could have worked very well if they had jumped ‘back’ to only one segment of her life but the director chose to randomly visit various stages of her career. The clarity was not helped by fluctuations in her appearance – it could deteriorate and then improve with her heavy drug additions and recoveries. The confusion was even further exacerbated by lack of information about her various romantic relationships: men appeared and disappeared, including a husband with little or no explanation. Four out of five I think.
I have also stumbled upon a radio series of Lord of the Rings which I was unaware of. I will start watching it tonight. If anybody else has listened to it, I would like your views. I don’t yet know why it is labelled ‘notorious. Here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTledKaqoJ4

Blog: Copycat Killers by Lazlo Ferran

This week: Sneak Preview, plagiarism and Lord of the Rings (movie and book).

Sneak Preview

I should just mention that this week’s blog title is a joke. Normally I use film titles and of course there is the film Copycat with Sigourney Weaver and  Holly Hunter, but I thought that film was called Copycat Killers and I like the title so much I am copyrighting it here, right now.

Copycat Killers

Copyright © 2013 by Lazlo Ferran

All Rights Reserved

A story about love, death and the habit of murder.

Now on to the except. This week’s its from my imminent busking blockbuster, King of the buskers! Just joking. This project is still sitting in the sidings waiting for somebody to take it on. If any publishers out there are interested, please get in touch. I have rewritten the end to Chapter One and this is the revised version.

King of the Buskers

Copyright © 2013 by Lazlo Ferran

All Rights Reserved

[My parents] visited me. The atmosphere was congenial enough at first. We went for a curry around the corner and then back to my flat. It was only when my mother went out of the room for a while, that my father said something very peculiar to me. He asked how Lina was, and I told him I had split up with her.

He said, “I dunno. You always go for girls with exotic names.”

Now although Lina is in fact a typical name for a Dutch girl, it may well sound a little exotic to a man born in 30s England. But my previous two girlfriend’s names had been very typically English and not exotic at all. It may sound like an inoffensive comment but it made me start to think.

What if my father is deliberately undermining me – trying to play on any insecurities I might have? What if he often does that? What if he has always been doing that since I was about three?

The last thought occurred to me simply because I could remember that far back clearly, and I recalled that my father had always made little comments like that. He had also recently started saying that music was too tough an industry and that I would never make money from it.

I had already been living largely off income from busking since the autumn, and had already contemplated living solely off busking. To my knowledge nobody had ever done this before. Was it even possible I wondered?

Now I determined that this was what I was going to do. What’s more, I was going to do it for three years. I was also going to move – and not tell my parents where I had gone, or leave any clues. If I was living off cash alone, this should be possible, I thought. I would become invisible to those I didn’t trust. What I needed was space to think. My scientific, analytical and empirical brain had decided that the best way to separate out what was manipulative bullshit from the truth, was to isolate myself and remove as much external stimuli as possible. From there I could piece together what was truth and what was fiction. I have always been passionate about truth, and now I needed it more than ever.

The last piece of the jigsaw that led to a major break with my past, was my contemplation of religion and my faith. I am not an evangelist and I won’t belabour the point, but I was thinking more and more that meditation was only giving me half of what I wanted. It didn’t, for instance, satisfactorily answer the fundamental question of what happened when we died. I already believed in reincarnation, but what happened at the point of death? I found some answers in Gurdjieff. In particular, I found a reference to a very old tale, told by the wise, in remote parts of Afghanistan and Armenia: that at the point of death, time slows to a standstill and infinity opens up before you. Your life flashes in front of you but in the end, there is infinity.

I was strongly attracted to this idea and decided it would be a good subject for a concept album. It was nothing if not ambitious!

So that was it then: My plan was to move to a secret location, begin recording my concept album, and for three years, and attempt to live solely off busking. It was a momentous decision. In a strange way this was the moment when everything I had gone through up to the point came together. It was the moment when I finally accepted that my father wasn’t going to change. Breaking away to be myself rather than trying to compromise with his views, I had to put my ideas to the ultimate test. I knew I was putting my life on the line; busking can be a dangerous occupation at times. I was certainly also putting my reputation on the line so one thing was for sure; if I survived, my life would never be the same again.

Plagiarism

It occurred to me this week to talk about plagiarism. My partner often asks me if I don’t think something has been copied from somewhere else. In particular she has been watching the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies and feels that a very well-known (and very rich) writer may have copied a very well-known series of books from J. R. R. Tolkien.

I am not disagreeing with her. I happen to know, however, that the author in question claims to have been ‘inspired’ (my parentheses) by Tolkien, but not to have copied him. Quite often an author is unaware of the extent to which they have copied something. They are adamant that they haven’t done so and yet the evidence seems against them. This complicated matters.

Also, there are many books which openly ape or satirize well-known books. I remember chuckling through a few tertiary college break-times while reading Hordes of the Things by Andrew Marshall, a satyr on Lord of the Rings. Did the Tolkien estate complain? No. Would J K Rowling complain if something similar were done for Harry Potter? Probably.

So why is satyr allowed and yet inspirational versions are called into question for their validity? I think the answer is that the public feel plagiarism is the act of copying something without adding something meaningful and possibly making something inferior for the gain of profit. And plagiarism is illegal.

Collins English Dictionary has plagiarise as: “to appropriate (ideas, passages, etc) from (another work or author)”

In other words, plagiarism to make a work or parts of a work one’s own without reference to the original.

Clearly Horde of the Things is felt to be a new work and only inspired by Lord of the Rings.

Whereas when a work is claimed to be original and yet the main characters and main plot seem in many instances to bear a great similarity to the original, the author really needs to examine their conscience. Yes, writers all know that a ‘quest’ is a common theme in a book and a ‘magical device with great power’ is also a common motif. Indeed there are reckoned to be only roughly 18 (some would have it as few as 8) themes in the whole world – ever. However when the movie version of the ‘inspired’ work casts a similar looking lead actor to the original work and they both have the same genre and themes, it leaves the public feeling slightly queasy. It puts my hackles up even further when the ‘inspired’ writer protests loudly, and long, their innocence and proceeds to prosecute anybody and everybody who says otherwise.

Do the Tolkien estate (led by the redoubtable Christopher) prosecute all and sundry for writing satyrs, guides and critiques of J. R. R. Tolkien’s work? No. Why, because they know the story is so deeply original and enchanting that no reader could possible be duped into preferring a fake version.

Or could they?

Lord of the Rings

Please note, I am not saying that this article is in any way related to the article above about plagiarism.

Let’s just say that my partner, who is not English  and is discovering our heritage slowly, has finally discovered Lord of the Rings.

So much does she shun Harry Potter, that I thought this would never happen. I even lent her The Hobbit – a friend had taken her to see the film – but to no avail. Then I told her a bedtime story about a wizard and a magic ring and a log fire into which the ring was thrown to reveal secret, evil writing. Well, you must admit it sounds enticing. I must have done a good job because the next day, she wanted to give The Fellowship of the Ring a go. After enjoying the first few chapters she then wanted to see the films. Of course I was delighted so we settled down to watch together. She was full of questions.  She wanted to stay up all night to watch to the end. The films only made her more hungry for the books.

However, she could not understand why the books had evaded her. Why had somebody told her they were just like the Harry Potter books? Furthermore, why were the books so much better than Harry Potter books?

I can only say that I am delighted we have watched all three films and she is now close to starting the second volume.

As a footnote, I had accidentally deleted the third film from my Virgin Media library so we had to watch the extended edition. While it did have some nice extras – the Mouth of Sauron was particularly good – on the whole, the film was too long. Then, of course, there is the absence of Tom Bombadil in the first film, even the extended edition; such a loss.

Other news

I haven’t written much at all this week; not writer’s block but just me easing back into writing after a long-needed break. As you can see, even in this break I have done a little work on the busking book. Several readers are part way through Iron III and I will let you know their opinions when they have finished.

Elsewhere

I set out not sure what I was going to write today and I have written quite a lot! I just wanted to mention the MotoGp tomorrow. I saw Valentino Rossi narrowly miss getting another pole position today. Good luck to him tomorrow.

Lazlo Ferran on Google

Blog: Writer’s Block

This week: writer’s block and how to overcome or avoid, guest post on LOB Blog, Gravity’s Rainbow and Kirk Douglas.

Writer’s Block

There is no sneak preview this week because I haven’t written anything. I have also broken my own traditional use of Film Titles again because writer’s block is such an important subject for all writers and I want to make this article as easy to find using search engines as possible. I have a few tricks to share.

To be truthful, I don’t think I am actually suffering what we call the ‘classic’ writer’s block; I simply need a short break from writing. I have written three complete novels this year, two short stories and contributed to three more as well as also editing the novel The Journals of Raymond Brooks and completing my term in a prominent IT role at a London Science Institute. It’s a lot for anybody to take on and only natural that I need a break once in a while. If you read Tip 1 you will see that I simply need to take it easy and get some input from my favourite sources; movies, books and simply thinking. The last for me is something I have always enjoyed. One of the great Greek philosophers once said, if you want to experience please without pain, try philosophy. My thinking more or less involves reflecting one what I have achieved recently including any mistakes I have made, thinking about what I want to do, thinking where all my endeavors fit into the world and my aspirations, and sometimes listening for that illusive ‘voice of the muse’.

There are several techniques I have learned to deal with and even avoid Writer’s Block:

Tip 1

Input or stimulation: I was once told forcibly by a Metropolitan Police officer that if one wants to flourish in any society you need to spend less than your income. In other words input > output. This lesson was most forcibly driven home to me by a few hours in a locked office with a female officer who accused me of verbally abusing her; a completely trumped up charge.

“We have a prison cell ready for you,” I was told. “You only have to make one more mistake and you will be in there.” And with my hair in a pony tail I had no doubt my experience would be very unpleasant. I was a busker at the time and my only crime had been to try and protect a fellow busker’s harp and amplifier while he went for a cup of tea. I was told to abandon it or be arrested. I foxed them by managing to carry my amplifier and guitar, his amplifier and harp, and his seat out of the station. The damage had been done though. It was only after I discovered the female police officer and I both shared a love of cats that I escaped the cell.

This has been a massive digression but it may  explain why this rule of input > output has stuck in my head so firmly. I have since found that you can apply the rule to any creative project just as effectively. Whether you are a painter, writer, poet or musician, YOU NEED STIMULATION. You cannot go on forever creating without getting input from the work of others. Be  it film. music, books or some other form of  art or what we loosely term ‘culture’ these days, you need large doses of it. You need a bare minimum you should get the same number of hours input per day as your output. ie if you write for 2 hours per day, you should get 2 hours stimulation per day.  I would recommend that you get about 30% more stimulation than output.

Tip 2

I have found that working on several projects simultaneously is very good at controlling writer’s block. If you get a bit bored with one, you simply switch to the other. I am not sure whether both projects need to be writing ones. Perhaps this works when combined with music too; it’s worth trying.

Guest Writer Post #68 on the LOB blog (Laurence O’Bryan)

I was invited by Laurence, writer of The Istanbul Puzzle to post on his blog and I have had a lot of traffic from it. Laurence said a few nice words about me which helped; you can never underestimate how important it is for writers to help each other, Thanks Laurence. The post is on the LOB blog.

Gravity’s Rainbow

I am up to about page 280 of this long novel. At 900 pages it is longer than Lord of the Rings! Thomas Pynchon probably breaks every rule of writing; some sentence have no capital at the beginning and others are half of a very long page in duration. Actually, I tell a lie; I think he does always use full stops which is a relief. There are some amazing purple patches of prose. Pynchon has a very easy and relaxed way of moving from one  vivid image to another and he has a seemingly endless font of images to share. I am sometimes reminded of Huxley and I do wonder if he was using some kind of pharmaceutical stimulation when he wrote this book! The book is, as I mentioned, very long and I don’t know how long it is going to take me to finish.

Kirk Douglas

My partner and I watched Spartacus the other day, She loved the premise: slave is the first to visualise the world without slavery and actually nearly achieved it. She hadn’t heard of Kirk Douglas so I have just sent her the link to  his blog: http://www.kirkdouglas.com/posts/reflections. Apart from being the only voice from the golden age of Hollywood still talking, the old guy is still worth listening too. I know there has been some controversy recently in an accusation about him and Natalie Wood but I think it’s worth popping over and reading his blog.