Month: November 2014

What would a Politics lesson from Aristotle for Cameron, Miliband, Farage and Clegg be like?

This week: my new book, Lotus, published this Friday and; What would a Politics lesson from Aristotle for Cameron, Miliband, Farage and Clegg be like?

Lotus eBook cover
Lotus eBook cover


Lotus published this Friday
Just a reminder that my new book, Lotus, will go on sale on FRIDAY but is already available for preview on Smashwords and Amazon








What would a Politics lesson from Aristotle for Cameron, Miliband, Farage and Clegg be like?
Picture the scene; Aristotle, Athens’ great teacher of philosophy, from which politics was an offshoot, is late to teach his four new students and rushes into an annex of the Parthenon, out of breath. Farage is, as usual, sipping Egyptian beer and expounding on the virtues of the lusty maid he bedded the night before:

(If you are living in a democracy outside the UK, substitute Cameron for any republican candidate, Clegg for a liberal, Miliband for a socialist and Farage for any nationalist.)

“Farage!” Aristotle bellows. “Shut up boy! Now, it says here, on my contract with your guardians, that I am to compile an end-of-year report for you all before the end of today. To help me do this, you will each debate whether the actions of the 300 Spartans in the pass of Thermopylae was a success, and I don’t simply mean in strategic terms. In half an hour, you will each take the floor to put your point for four minutes and then there will be open discussion for thirty minutes. Go!”

Cameron, wearing a fetching, sky-blue, Romanesque toga, smiles at the simplicity of the problem. Every student of Athens knew the story; Greece was being invaded by 100,000 Persian soldiers and had no time to assemble an army. King Leonidas of Sparta took his own 300 personal bodyguards to defend a narrow pass at Thermopylae. Spartans were renowned for never surrendering and they fought until all 300 were dead but they bought Athens the time it needed to arm itself. Cameron thinks it was a resounding success.

Miliband frowns. He can see that the action was successful in military terms but, to the families of the soldiers who died, it must have felt like an unmitigated disaster. He is torn.

Farage, wearing the traditional toga of the aristocracy, picks up his beer, which he had strategically hidden behind a rock, and looks towards the Aegean to consider his response.‘Of course the deaths were hard, but that is War,’ he tells himself. ‘One simply has to accept harsh realities.’

Clegg mills about, gravitating like a wayward pendulum, alternatively between Cameron and Miliband, hoping that he will overhear their ruminations. He has rolled his yellow toga up to his armpits, to signal that he is a man of the people.

The presentations are to begin. Aristotle asks for a volunteer to go first. Cameron is on his feet, knowing that first impressions count and that, even if he has a weak argument, going first will give him credit from the others for his courage.
“Thermopylae was a complete success,” Cameron announces. “It gave Athens time to respond and the families of those, brave, 300 men, were honoured and raised to the level of nobility whereas before they had simply been of the fighting class. In military, strategic and sociological terms, it was a success!” He beams in self-satisfaction and offers the floor to Clegg, who is on his feet.

Until now, Clegg wasn’t quite sure what his stance would be. But he has seen a chink in Cameron’s armour and he means to exploit it.
“I would have to put the success as about 80%,” he begins. “Militarily, it gave Athens time, yes, and of course, to the families, it was tragic, simply tragic. But in the long-term, it undermined the strength of Sparta. Later, at Sphacteria, the Spartans finally had to surrender to Athens rather than be completely annihilated. Their resolve to never surrender had been undermined by Thermopylae, thus signalling the downfall of a great nation.”

The other three contestants nodded, signalling that they hadn’t thought of Clegg’s angle at all.

Farage takes the floor, looking somewhat hesitant, but then he smiles broadly.
“Thermopylae was a resounding and complete success. 100%, no doubt about it. Who can deny that for the lives of the average Spartans, freedom had been bought? They could go on farming their crops safely and drinking a nice pint of Egyptian ale, or local wine if they preferred, in peace. Men die in War and that is a fact. Every soldier knows this and they are prepared to pay the consequences. After all, who wants foreign invaders to run the show?” He looks pleased with himself and sits down.

Miliband takes the floor. He is the least certain of the four.
“I would ask you to look at Thermopylae from the perspective of a young woman, the wife of one of the 300 brave men who fought in defense of Sparta. She has a young son and a younger daughter to look after. There is no welfare state. She also has no primary healthcare and she is suffering from malnutrition, pregnant with her third child. She comes home from the fields, where she has been working among the slaves, simply because she has no choice. A runner tells her that her husband has died but that Sparta is safe!
“Does she rejoice? Can she rejoice? Will promotion to the nobility come soon enough to save her and her unborn baby? The answer to all these is a resounding, ‘No!’”

The other three contestants look fearfully at Miliband, knowing that he only has to add something like, “To three quarters of the population, the women, children and old folk, who had lost a loved one, it was not a success,” but he doesn’t say it. They breathe a sigh of relief.

Aristotle takes to the floor. He looks at Miliband, wearing a rather dapper red toga, and smiles indulgently. Aristotle thinks, ‘If only Miliband had Cameron’s killer instinct. I never thought about the slaves before. Perhaps I have to think again.’ He looks at Cameron briefly and looks away. ‘If only Cameron had one drop of compassion in his soul.’ He looks at Clegg and shakes his head. ‘If only Clegg had a single idea of his own and could stand up for it.’ Finally, his eyes light on Farage. ‘If only,’ he thinks, ‘Farage knew what it was like to be discriminated against.’

“Now,” Aristotle announces, “I would like to introduce you to the fifth member who will be joining us for the debate. She is the great, great, great granddaughter of one of the men who fought at Thermopylae.”

A woman, dressed in slave’s rags, enters the annex and Aristotle bids her sit among the four students. Cameron looks nervously at her clothes.

“I have listened to each of your speeches,” the woman announces. “To David, I would say that you are wrong; many of the soldiers’ families were not ennobled. Mine wasn’t because we were considered third-generation immigrants. To Nick, I would say your point is an interesting one but you denigrate my ancestor’s achievement. To Nigel, I would say that you are ignorant of many basic facts of life. Finally, to Ed I would say that you are a nice man but you should stay out of politics.”

The open debate begins but nobody has anything to say. Farage tries desperately to think of something to mitigate his blunders but can think of nothing. Clegg keeps his mouth clamped closed because he knows he has insulted the woman. Cameron wants to argue but now he is not sure of the text books his father bought off the back of a wagon. Miliband is the only one to say anything at all to the woman. He takes her hand and says, “I am very sorry.”

If you had been Aristotle, how would you have marked each of them?

In a world where reality is in doubt, is doubt the only reality?

My new book, Lotus, will go on sale on 28 November but is already available for preview on Smashwords and Amazon

Lotus eBook cover
Lotus eBook cover

Here is the refined blurb:

In a world where reality is in doubt, only doubt is real

Robert Lath dies in the trenches of World War One. But he wakes to find himself on a never-ending flight of stone steps. No matter how hard he tries, he cannot reach the top or bottom. Then a face appears and offers him a choice; a choice that might damn his soul.

Six characters from different spans of history battle against illness, seemingly the result of a game with Satan, and human frailty to find salvation but are they all the same man?

A soul is trapped and gradually dissected in this intriguing and labyrinthine story of trust, betrayal, disease, death and immortality.

Other News
It’s a short post this week because I am so busy with the last stages of publishing Lotus. if you are a Newsletter subscriber, there is good news: expect another issue in the next few weeks! I am also excited to announce that I am editing Iron III: Worlds Like Dust for the final time prior to release. If you want your thriller edited by an experience thriller writer and editor, contact me or take a look at my editor rates here.

If you’ve missed it, don’t forget to listen to a preview of Too Bright the Sun with a soundtrack on

Can you find your way out of Escher’s Staircase?

This week: my new book, Lotus, a rant about Formula 1 and Who Killed JFK?

As promised, the title announces a new book, to be published in the next 2 weeks. If you receive the free newsletter, you will know what that book is.

My new book, Lotus
We have all seen the impossible staircase of M.C Escher; you know, the one where you go round and round but never go up or down? Escher’s Staircase was the working title of my new book. Here is my first stab at the blurb:

“Robert Lath dies in the trenches of World War One. But he wakes to find himself on a never-ending flight of stone steps. No matter how hard he tries, he cannot reach the top or bottom. Then a face appears and offers him a choice; a choice that might damn his soul.

A friar, helping a time-traveling werewolf, a merchant spaceman, a painter, a monk, a private detective and a Medieval knight all battle against illness, seemingly the result of a game with Satan, and human frailty to find salvation but are they all the same man?

A soul is trapped and gradually dissected in this intriguing and labyrinthine story of trust, betrayal, disease, death and immortality.”

The title will now be ‘Lotus,’ which I think is a far more appropriate, if slightly enigmatic, title for the book. The lotus, in most cultures, is the symbol for reincarnation and different colours have different meanings. I haven’t decided yet, but I am rather drawn to the red lotus, which is the symbol for passion. I also have no cover yet but that will designed in the next week. There will be more of a fanfare, once I am sure of the publication date but spread the word.

If you have a suggestion for the cover design, leave it here. If I use it, you will get a credit in the book, a free paperback and eBook of Lotus and any other free eBook of mine. Don’t be shy, give me your ideas!

Who killed JFK?
Some of you may remember my predictions for the next 30 years. Here they are:

  1. A real Short Stirling wreck will be recovered and restored to museum standard (I don’t think a real one will fly again)
  2. Fusion power will work but will not significantly affect energy prices yet
  3. Alexander the Great’s tomb will be found
  4. Whoever ordered John F Kennedy’s assassination will not be revealed and proven.
  5. NASA will not have sent a manned-mission to Mars yet

Well, I now feel strongly that I know who killed JFK and it wasn’t an assassin! If you haven’t watched the Channel 5 documentary: JFK’s Secret Killer: The Evidence, I suggest you watch it. I am not a fan of Channel 5’s dreg-like schedule but this programme was the exception; well researched, well presented and based on hard evidence.

Having watched countless documentaries on the subject, and firmly believing it involved a conspiracy, I wasn’t easily swayed but the amount of evidence and the logic that led to the programme’s conclusion really persuaded me. What is more, it has the ring of truth about it; the real cause is more disturbing that a conspiracy.

It turns out that the FBI agents in the car behind had been on a binge until 5 am that day (ample eye-witness accounts) and the only man sober enough to operate the single automatic weapon, hidden on the floor of the vehicle, was an agent who only usually functioned as a driver.

When he heard gunfire, he picked up the weapon (a photograph taken by an amateur shows this) and swung it to face the Library. The weapon’s safety-catch had been on but otherwise, the weapon was ready to fire. Releasing the catch, he accidentally pulled off a round before the barrel reached the library. Who’s head was directly in line? Kennedy’s.

It sounds bizarre but the evidence is overwhelming:

1. During the autopsy, at least 13 rolls of film taken in the room, showing clearly the massive head wound, were confiscated and never seen again
2. The huge hole in Kennedy’s skull (right side) could not have been caused by a single non-explosive round, which was what Oswald used
3. The tiny entry hole was on the left side of backbone, in the neck and not the right (as was first falsely reported)
4. The entry hole was too small for the size of round Oswald used. It was 6mm
5. The entry hole was large enough for the .22 calibre explosive round that the automatic rifle was loaded with
6. When the doctor carrying out the autopsy wanted to enter a verdict of death by explosive round, he was told ‘Not to pursue the matter further’ (my paraphrasing)
7. Kennedy’s brain was ordered to be removed by some shady FBI agent and was never seen again.
8. The agent who is said to have fired the gun was never questioned in the inquest, despite giving a false statement, in which he said he did not stand up in the car until it passed under the bridge (the photograph clearly shows him standing before the car reached the bridge)
9. Many eye-witnesses at ground level reported smelling gunpowder, something they could not have done had the shot been fired from high up in the Library

Sorry I can’t remember all the details but watch the programme and see for yourself. How bizarre that a freak accident should have ended Kennedy’s life.

Formula 1 Brazil and MotoGP

I wasn’t going go mention this but I am in the mood for a rant. I may not watch another Formula 1 race again until they make drastic changes. I watched this race and, quite honestly, I reckon 50% of the coverage was of pit stops! I don’t want to watch pit stops, I want to watch action on the track. When a sport comes to this point, there is something seriously wrong. You may not be a fan of pugilism but if you were, would you watch a boxing match where 50% of the coverage was of time outs; the bit where the guy spits out his mouth-guard and gets wiped down? Watch MotoGP instead. It still has photo-finishes and, if you are quick, you might still catch Valentino Rossi before he retires. He may prove to be the greatest Grand Prix motorcycle rider of all time.

Why is it taking me longer to publish my books?

Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate Front Cover
Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate Front Cover today

Actually, I know the answer, its a rhetorical question, but readers keep asking me this question so here is how I do it. Other processes might be better so please tell me what you do; I am eager to know!

When I first starting publishing books, independently in 2006, nobody had any interest in my books at all. Apart from one short story, which a few kind souls told me had merit, I could get nobody I knew to read my stuff, not friends or even family.

By the time of completion of my first draft for Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate, things had changed. Several people were now interested and I felt lucky to have three readers of the manuscript (MS) before publication. This helped me a great deal to improve the book although I really had to bit the bullet because I needed, among other things, to cut 15000 words from the overlong manuscript. This resulted in a big improvement so I had learned that readers of your pre-publication MS, beta readers, can be a very useful part of the writing process.

old Ordo Lupus and the Templ Gate cover
Early version of Ordo Lupus and the Templ Gate cover

Since then, my writing has become an increasingly collaborative process, to the point where I will even send out chapters or passages to people, as I write them, for feedback. For a really first class MS, this saves time but when the MS is finished, that is just the first part of the process.

If you are a writer and haven’t tried it, I thoroughly recommend you do get some beta readers and try collaborating. I am not suggesting your whole book should be decided by committee but having honest feedback about aspects of your book like; length, grammar, tone, characters and character development, the hook, the climax and the ending are all extremely useful. I believe the quality of my books and the sales figures have both shot up as a result. I think yours will too.

If you want to try my method:

Stage 1: Write the first draft (beta readers can already input now if you are brave enough!)
Stage 2: Send the MS to the beta readers (spell-check at least 3 times to save them some pain)
Stage 3: Incorporate changes required from feedback (can be extensive!)
Stage 4: Send second draft to beta readers or sections of MS
Stage 5: (If you are lucky) final proofread.
Stage 6 Publish
Stage 7: Revise from public reviews and feedback
Stage 8: Continue the cycle of annual review and release of new edition from reader feedback

Let’s look at the process in more detail:

1. You have probably already done this part or are doing it now.
2. As you can see, there are a lot of stages but it will be worth it!
3. After you get the first feedback from beta readers, you will usually have a long list of grammar mistakes and continuity mistakes as well as a long list of things the reader doesn’t like. This is the point at which you have to sit down and search your soul to find your own aspirations for the book. Sometimes, you feel you have written a world-shaking book, only to find that people think its a great adventure but no more. Sometimes you think you have written a simple adventure only to find people reading deep things into it. More commonly, readers will simply find some parts irrelevant or irritating and have big ideas for how the book can be improved.
Twice, I have cut out more than 15000 words after hearing the feedback which sounds drastic but one wants the green light from the readers and if they all say its ‘too long,’ well, you have to cut! There are times when you simply say to yourself, “This book has a deep theme and, although nobody gets it yet, I am going to keep these bits in because I am sure I am saying something.” This can often mean a reader saying, “Okay but I will not be able to write a good review then.” That’s when its really hard to stand your ground. But that’s part of the process. Personally, I don’t want to write pulp-fiction and you may not do either so you are always going to come up against some resistance or reaction. In fact, I like reactions; it means I am saying something.
4. By now, you will hopefully have achieved the Holy Grail; approval from your beta readers. It doesn’t always come so celebrate! Now can send them a second draft. This needn’t be the whole book; most beta readers are doing it for free (I am lucky that mine certainly are!) and have a day time job to cope with as well. You have to take their commitments into account and have patience when waiting for their precious feedback. Don’t try rushing them!
Usually, you will get positive comments at this stage, along with more typos and grammar changes. Be patient; it will all be worthwhile. Many of you will have seen writers who cannot take feedback well and I am sure most of us remember cases where such a writer has ended up removing their book rather be subjected to any more criticism. This is not the right approach! Take the comments in the spirit in which they are intended; to help you make a book worth reading.
5. So now you are ready for the proofread. Have somebody who is patient, loves detail and is good at spotting continuity errors read your final draft.
6. At last you are ready to publish!
7. But all the pain is NOT over! You will next find that not all reviews are positive. Some might mention the lack of climax or character development. Don’t ignore them, especially if the comment appears in more than one review. You can always publish a second edition if drastic changes are required; Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe certainly did. You might also find that some facts become out of date or even that linguistic fashions change. In my earliest book, for example, I wrote phrases like ‘in-control’ because that is how people spoke in 2006. They no longer do and the phrase now sounds weird so I took examples out recently. These are just examples of what you can change but keep your ears and eyes open. If you see an opportunity to change something for the better, make the change. However, you will never please everyone. I recently re-edited a book and took out a few commas here and there because some readers felt there were too many. Almost immediately, I received a review from a disgusted reader which said that there were ‘not enough commas’ and that they didn’t get beyond page twenty!
Warning: make sure readers who have already purchased the book and new readers know that you have made big changes by releasing a new edition. If you don’t keep people informed, you are likely to anger them. In some cases, you might even want to keep the old edition available.
8. Finally, as Leonard Da Vinci said: “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Never stop the process of revising work although I hope you will find you need to make fewer and fewer changes as time goes on.

If you liked this article and want to contribute your opinions, please drop me a line below. The best comment will get a free post on the Lazlo Ferran blog about the book of your choice!