Month: January 2014

How do you get a U-Boat through Gibraltar Straits in 1945?

Did you know the typical U-Boat torpedo was steam-driven and had a range of 12 Km?
Below in this post is an excerpt from my forthcoming book December Radio. This part is where a team of fantatical German nuclear scientists are being smuggled out of German held territory in a U-Boat. But I don’t want to give too much away…

I did have to think very hard about how even a very talented U-Boat captain would get through the Gibraltar Straits. Every trick seems to have been tried in the Hollywood movies like Torpedo Run, The Cruel Sea, and Run Silent, Run Deep. What is more, by 1945 the Royal Navy pretty much owned the Straits and no U-boat had got out through the Straits since 1942. They had got in, but not out.

Some of the usual techniques used are:

1. To fire either oil, debris or even a dead body out of the torpedo tubes so impersonating a stricken U-Boat in the hope that the destroyer above assumed you are sunk
2. To lie on the bottom and keep silent so that the enemy thinks you have gone. Sonar (sea-penetrating radar) was not very good during WWII and could not penetrate to depths beyond about 50-60 fathoms (300-400 feet).
3. To stay underneath the destroyer so that it mistook your sonar signal for its own
4. To use the currents; in WWII it was known that there was a cold-water current flowing out of the Straits and into the Atlantic. This was faster – about 5 knots at shallower depths of around 200 feet but it decreased in speed down to the deepest part of the channel at about 700 feet. Conversely, at shallower depths there was a warm-water current flowing in to the Mediterranean. This would probably have been the predominant current near to the land masses of Spain and Morocco where the depth was at its shallowest.

But I didn’t want to use any of these. The Straits are about 9 miles wide at their narrowest point. During even the late stages of WWII they didn’t have nets across the Straits to catch submarines but they did have patrolling submarines, aircraft, destroyers and plenty of mines. So how does my captain get the U-Boat through the Straits? I am looking for ideas which I can include in the book. Please comment below. The best answer will receive a free eBook of December Radio and a credit when it is published.

December Radio
Copyright © 2013 by Lazlo Ferran
All Rights Reserved.

The U-669 began to drift with the current. There were only small pools of water on the floors now so Carl was able to get his breath back. Fifteen minutes went by. Suddenly the tense silence in the Control Room was broken.
“I have activity,” said the sonar operator. “Bearing two-seventy nine degrees. Far away. At least ten thousand metres. Sounds like depth charges but I can’t be sure. One… two…. three… four… fading. Maybe more.”
“Yes! They fell for it!” Riddaker said, slapping the periscope column. “Helmsman. Hold her steady. How are we doing?”
“Three knots. Eastbound.
“Good. A bit slow though. Hm. Up ten fathoms!”
“Up ten fathoms!” echoed the Helmsman.
“You can go back to your bunk Sturmbannführer. Get some rest. I may need you later. And tell that lazy pilot – whassisname – Stengler to get his ass up here!”
Carl made his way, staggering from side to side, back to his bunk. He found Roth being sick in one of the bilges.
“Captain wants you. I think there’s a bit more water to be drained out,” Carl told Roth.
“Fuck Riddaker! Asshole!” If I have to look at another bucket on this stinking hell-hole of a basket-case crate!”
Carl smiled weakly and continued to his bunk. He had just enough strength to clamber into it before falling into a deep sleep.
He was woken six hours later by Roth. The short pilot handed him a black coffee.
“Now it’s your bloody turn.” Roth rested his head on the edge of Carl’s bunk. Carl could see Roth was breathing hard. Carl patted him on the shoulder. He sipped the coffee.
“Hey. Is this real coffee?”
“Yeah… Oh, by the way, the bloody Royal Navy figured out Riddaker’s trick. They are on to us. Expect some action.
Carl picked up the bucket dropped by Roth in the Control Room just as the explosion rocked the U-Boat.
“Enemy approached from astern. Estimated 34 knots, distance 1000 metres.”
“How deep is it here First Watch?”
The Lieutenant studied the char on a table.
“Forty fathoms. No more.”
“Damn! They will have us. Engines. Full power. Full ahead. Starboard twenty.
“But that will take us right into the central channel!” exclaimed the First Watch.”
“We have to make a run for it. It’s deeper there,” Riddaker replied pensively.
The Lieutenant, second in command on the submarine, hesitated for a moment before issuing the order.
“Full power – estimated eight knots,” the Helmsman replied.
“Down twenty!” commanded Riddaker.
“Down bubble. Twenty degrees.”
Carl hadn’t seen Schumann arrive but he was standing just inside the hatch of the Control Room. The scientist looked angry.
“I think you have a problem Captain!” he shouted at Riddaker.
“What is it Herr Schumann. I’m rather busy!”
“Hoffe is very ill. Fumes from the battery compartment. I think you have a leak.”
“Yes, well we’ll worry about that later.”
“And what’s in the central channel anyway? Do you realise those crates could be damaged?”
“Subs. The British have at least three submarines patrolling there. Still, it’s our best chance.”
“Well, I hope we make it or else your name is not going to be worth as much as your shirt button, let alone a medal in the Reich!”
“Don’t worry. I’ll get us through!” Riddaker looked like he had eaten something bad. Clearly the two men didn’t like each other.
Another explosion, this time much closer, rocked the submarine. Carl was thrown from his feet and water began rushing in through cracks in the submarine’s outer casing. Carl began bailing. Another, then yet another, explosion rocked the submarine.
“Lucky bastards!” Riddaker yelled.
The red lights went out for a few moments before the emergency power bus kicked in and they flickered back into life. Six more explosions followed before the submarine was beyond the reach of the depth charges.
By now everything was wet and the sound of moaning and women screaming echoed around the stricken submarine.
“God help us!” muttered Riddaker. “I can’t think! Can somebody shut those damned women up! And the men too for that matter! And get these leaks plugged! Level out. Hold at sixty fathoms.”

The Moon, Shape-changers and Consciousness – what is the truth?

This week: The Moon, Shape-changers and Consciousness – what is the truth?

The Moon, Shape-changers and Consciousness – what is the truth?
I recently started a discussion group around the concepts in my Ordo Lupus series. You can find the group here and I invite you to join. I am planning a pure Vampire novel as a follow up to this series and I want to try to understand further how shape-changing has become buried so deeply in our consciousness and explore whether it actually exists in humans.

Notice how I carefully say ‘humans’, for it certainly exists in other animals. Look at butterflies, moths and flies for instance. The crysalis stage is a fascinating example of metamorphosis in nature.

In Vampire Beneficence I go one stage further and suggest that it exists in humans and that the change to a kind of benevolent ‘super-being (which we currently call vampire or werewolf though sheer superstition and fear) is triggered by diet. In other words, when man became adept enough at gathering food that a diet of pure blood was possible, the human body could transform into something quite different.

In conversation I often say to people that I am affected by the phase of moon but I experience the worse effects during the new moon. Twice I have felt out of sorts and guessed it’s a new moon and I was accurate to within 2 hours and 1 hour.

In my Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate FB group we recently had a discussion that went like this:

I said:

Another member said: No [werewolves don’t exist], but full moons, Friday 13th and clock changes do seem to have an adverse effect on those who are psychiatricly unstable.
Possibly in times gone by, those people may have been considered ‘wild’ or ‘animalistic’ in behaviour.
I said: Personally I am absolutely convinces that my mood is affected by phases of the moon. Twice I have suddenly felt it was a new moon and when I checked, I was accurate to within 1 hour. As somebody said to me, the brain is over 70% water so why should not the pull of the moon have an effect?
Yet another member replied: I do hope Werewolves do not exist, same as with non-Twilight Vampires. Last thing I want to discover it that we’re not at the top of the food chain. Why no problem with Twilight-Vampires, because at worst they’ll try to seduce dumb 16yo girls. Not such a risk for humanity, if anything they’d be doing us a favor by making sure dumb 16yo don’t pass on their genes to anyone else.

Seriously though, the phases of the moon do affect mood swings, as far as I know.


I went on to do some research: I watched a program about Metamorphosis: the Sea Urchin is really strange. It had an a juvenile which grows inside a larva and when it is ready the larva dives to the bottom of the sea and the juvenile breaks out of the larva fully formed and eats it!! this raises all sorts of questions for me, as one who believes in the soul:
Where is the soul when the larva is being eaten by the emerging adult?
If it’s in both bodies of matter how can a consciousness be in two places at the same time?
If the above are both the case, does one defer to the will of the other?

You can see my problem. How does one get around the idea of a consciousness occupying two bodies at the same time. Is it possible that vampires and werewolves have a parallel existence within this world? Or do the lycanthropes or shape-changers just exist within a separate world of pure ‘consciousness’?

What do you think?

Other news
I estimate that I am within 2 days of completing the first manuscript of The Ice Boat Volume II! It has been tough going making something out of something I wrote ten years ago. And yet somebody I know is actually reading it and they like it! I was told, “Dude, your description of that Santana album while they were high was AMAZING, a true joy to read,” and that the book is erotic. Expect it to be published as an unexpected bonus for 2014. Sign up for my Newsletter to get the release before anyone else.

Do your characters drive the story?

This week: 1. Do your characters drive the story? 2. Sneak Preview from The Ice Boat II.

Do your characters drive the story?

I am really enjoying writing my latest novel now (provisionally entitled December Radio) because I have reached the part where the story is writing itself. I no longer have to spend hours thinking about plot. I suppose you could say that I am at the beginning of the final act but it isn’t always this easy. Stories only write themselves – I think – when the characters are so well developed, that they make the decisions for you.

This is how it works: You come up with maybe three or four main characters (probably three if it’s a romance). You have some idea about them and they may possibly be sketched out to fit the climax you want to achieve (no sniggering at the back!). Then as the story progresses you develop the characters more; you see different sides to their natures – strengths, weaknesses and more importantly, they develop relationships with other characters. All this is grist to the mill for a writer and it can be a revelation sometimes. Wow! Would he really do that? Yes he would! Could she really do that? Yes, she could!
If you are really doing this properly, the characters will continue to develop until suddenly you find that you cannot go one way with a plot, only another. because the characters demand it. This can be a bit annoying sometimes when you have to rewrite parts of the main plot but it’s really great when things become more visceral, more real. I often find that the story has a life of its own; more organic and subtle than I could have ever conceived. Does this happen for you? I want to hear from you.

Sneak Preview

The Ice Boat Volume II
Copyright © 2013 by Lazlo Ferran
All Rights Reserved.

Exciting news! For those who read The Ice Boat Volume I, I am close to finally finishing the manuscript for Volume II. It’s only taken me ten years! The book is largely autobiographical but also a modern odyssey along the line of many old Greek tragedies. Here is a sample:

Driving hard, and not stopping for lunch – although Dave munched some sandwiches Phil had brought while he drove – they reached Magadan – further along the coast – at nearly 10 o’clock.
“We’ll take a day off here, I think!” announced Phil. I have some friends here and you look like you could do with a rest!” He grinned.
They were following the far eastern coast of Siberia, about to drive north beside the Sea of Japan, before heading inland at Gel’Bmezya. This coastline was largely pristine wilderness, often verged by huge mountain ranges. They provided Dave with some awesome vistas as they drove. Fir trees were almost the only trees and they were everywhere.
For now though, they were taking a break in Magadan. The town stood on a south-facing coast which gave some shelter from the bitter winds. Dave left the hotel after sleeping until midday and eating a, mainly fried, dinner. He wanted to take the opportunity to look around.
The town reminded him of a large, sleepy, English holiday resort, complete with red buses struggling up steep roads past building with something like Victorian grandeur, but not quite.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all my friends! And now you are probably sleepy from all that drinking and partying we have the most difficult quiz you will do in 2014!
I recently discovered a new species – Nicki Minaj. So here is the question: which would you rather be: Nicki Minaj, Miley Cyrus or Armande the crazy lizard with a superbrain?