Guest Post #1 – A. L. Butcher, who just published Tales of Erana: The Warrior’s Curse

This week, I am giving over my blog to the author, A. L. Butcher who runs the excellent Library of Erana website, which, among other things, showcases writing talent and has featured interviews with me on two occasions.

The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles - Book 1

The Light Beyond the Storm – Book 1

Welcome to A. L. Butcher (Alexandra); author of The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles.

Hi Alexandra, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Hi, and thanks for the interview. Let me see, I am British author of fantasy, fantasy romance and poetry. I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember. Aside from the writing and reading I like science, history, astronomy, gaming and movies.

1. What were you like at school?
Rebellious 😉 I was raised to be individual, to stand up for my beliefs and to question things. This caused problems, especially with rules I saw as a bit…. pointless. Lessons I liked I was happy to attend, the boring ones – well I guess I was a pain to teach. (Sorry). I actually co-led a student rebellion at college (high school to the Americans). There were several issues with the management of the college – and I mean pretty serious issues such as alleged fraud and misdemeanours of that nature… Anyway I was vice president of the Students’ Union and we had a tiny rebellion….a sit in – and press coverage etc. We actually had the support of some of the teaching staff, the National Union of Students and a proportion of the student body.
Other than that I worked hard at the subjects I liked, but I was always a bit of a loner and considered a bit weird.

The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles - Book 2

The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles – Book 2

2. Were you good at English?
Yes. I loved English Lit and Language and went on to study English Lit at college.

3. Why do you write?
Because I enjoy it, because I have stories to be told and because it keeps me sane (ish).

4. What fascinates you about fantasy?
Fantasy is such a versatile genre. Anything can and does happen. More than that it is at the root of our culture – think of all the influences. I’m English and our patron saint is St George, he of the dragon slaying. Britain has a rich culture when it comes to fantasy, folklore and magical beasties. We have fairies, wizards, dragons, heroes, magic swords, mermaids, giants, goblins, elves and so much more. I love the lore, the worlds and the freedom the genre brings, and I love the storytelling of mythic tales of heroes and monsters.

5. Who is your favourite author and why?
Just one? I doubt I could pick one. Fantasy – Tolkien, Janet Morris, Homer, Terry Pratchett, David Gaider, Mary Shelley. Historical/classics – Ellis Peters, Philippa Gregory, Dumas, Victor Hugo, the Brontes, HG Wells, Jules Verne. I love the stories they tell. In many instances these authors were pioneers in their genre, or at least broken new ground. Anything that can still be read over and over and often years later is a masterpiece.

6. When did you write your very first book and what was it about?
The first actual book is under my bed, in several notebooks. It is/was a Phantom of the Opera story. I dare say it will stay where it is. The first fantasy – the first book in the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles was published in 2012. It sprang from something else I’d written. Book I is the story of an elven sorceress in a world where magic is illegal and elves live as slaves. Once she escapes from her wicked master she has to find a way to survive and to help discover the plight of a missing elven child. It’s a story of courage, self-discover, inequality, hardship and heroism set in a dark and dangerous world. The later books follow this elf, Dii and her friends as they seek to right injustice and find freedom.

Tales of Erana: The Warrior's Curse

Tales of Erana: The Warrior’s Curse

7. How much research do you do?
I’ve researched herb-lore, medieval weapons, castles, swamp and forest flora and fauna, recipes and quite a bit more.

8. What books have most influenced your life most?
Oh gosh, another long list.  Wuthering Heights, Lord of the Rings, Soul Music, I, the Sun, Watership Down, War of the Worlds, Schindler’s List, Chronicles of Narnia, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, Frankenstein.

9. What book are you reading now?
I’ve just started Oblivion’s Forge by Simon Williams. So far it’s very good.

10. Do you write full-time or part-time?
I have a day job, so I only get time to write in the evenings and at weekends. I’d love to be able to write full time but I need to pay the bills.

Spectacular Tales

Spectacular Tales

11. Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
Read, watch a movie, try and write something else. I find ideas come from other ideas. I have a folder filled with half-ideas and random scribbles, sometimes I look through that and an idea pops up. If it doesn’t then it doesn’t. If you have to force yourself to write then likely as not what comes out won’t be very good. It is OK to go and do something else for a while.

12. Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
JD Hallowell and his War of the Blades books I really enjoyed. Also Leeland Artra’s Thread Slivers

13. What are your current projects?
I’ve just released a short story – Tales of Erana: The Warrior’s Curse which is a tale within a tale of heroes, monsters and dark magic. I’m working on another short story about a desperate elf and the simple farmer who helps her. I’m also working through Book III of the Chronicles – aiming for release in spring 2015.

14. Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My friend Diana has been my rock. She’s my sounding board for ideas.

15. Who designed the covers?
Oxana Mazur is the photographer for books I and II and I used Mia Darien for the cover for book III

16. What is your latest book?
As I’ve said Tales of Erana: The Warrior’s Curse is the latest release.

17. Do you have any advice for other writers?
Keep writing. Treat people the way YOU want to be treated, if you’re a jerk in your social media then expect the consequences. There will ALWAYS be someone who doesn’t like your book – it happens, move on and don’t respond to the reviewer.

18. How can readers discover more about you and you work?

To support Alexandra’s Tales of Erana Thunderclap event please click the link, support and share: http://thndr.it/1w9Qz2a

Blog: www.libraryoferana.wordpress.com
Facebook: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DarkFantasyBeyondTheStorm
Twitter: @libraryoferana
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6430414.A_L_Butcher

Amazon Author Pages:
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Alexandra-Butcher/e/B008BQFCC6/
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Alexandra-Butcher/e/B008BQFCC6/

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is the UK Film Industry becoming puerile?

News
This week’s post will be brief. I have only just completed a big promo for Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate. Sales were satisfying but now I need time to write. Whisper it: I have just started work on Ordo Lupus III. So:

 

 

 DO NOT DISTURB!

 

 

 

The Devil’s Own Dice: FREE in Exchange for Review
Today is the last day you can download occult thriller The Devil’s Own Dice for free on Storycartel in exchange for a review. Here is what some people are saying about it: “Amazing tale” “Richly satisfying” “Highly recommended” Make sure you make the most of this unique opportunity and grab a copy NOW!

Just a Brief Rant
A movie of Pudsey? Will they stop at nothing? I sometimes wonder if the puerile at the top of the BBC that oversaw Jimmy Saville’s reign aren’t now in charge of the UK movie industry!
It can’t be long before we get an adult semi-porno version of Captain Pugwash and then, who know, maybe even Andy Pandy, the Movie!
Meanwhile, they will ignore gems like The Aeronauts, UFO, Catweazle, The Crusader, The Flashing Blade and Robinson Crusoe. They will even manage to ignore my personal favourite, Captain Scarlet.

What’s your opinion?

The Jesus Monster entered into competition
I have entered an updated version of The Jesus Monster (one of a collection of short stories in Vampire: Beneficence into the Writers of the Future quarterly competition. Thanks to all who helped me prepare the manuscript and please keep your fingers crossed for me!

OCD Log 1

This week, first of my new OCD updates and FREE eBook Offer: Eighteen, Blue

OCD Log 1
To make it easier to find my updates on OCD, I am starting from today to name them Log 1, 2 etc. Too often, these posts might get lost among other subjects and I am aware there are many sufferers out there.
In my last OCD update, I announced my first OCD-Free day. It was really just an experiment and I didn’t expect it to work. But it seems to have worked.

OCD-Free is a strong term however. I think it would be more accurate to say that I have ‘broken the back of my OCD’ or ‘turned a corner’. The OCD is still there; every day I catch myself doing something that I call ‘OCD behaviour’. I just stop myself, say, “That is OCD behaviour. I am not going to do that,” and then ignore the impulse.

This tactic doesn’t always work. Strangely, it works better for physical events than purely mental ones. I am still prone to moments of hesitation or what I will call ‘colour blocks’ – a distaste or guilt, if you like, for looking at cert.

But on the whole, things are much better. My partner is over the moon and suddenly I can eat what I want, and I have much more time each day to focus on writing and practical tasks. OCD was a big waste of time and I knew it.

So how have I made this leap forward?

1. There are complex factors but I think the biggest is the boredom I suffered after giving up music full time in the early 1990s. Music really absorbed me. I was passionate about it but to earn enough money to survive, and produce albums, I had had to busk and this physically exchausted me. At the end, I had severe back pain, so bad I could only sleep on the floor, and I was too tired to move. It was then, I decided to go into IT. I don’t denigrate IT at all, I earned a good living from it for almost 25 years but it was not so interesting as music for a very creative person.

2. My last job, in IT, was extremely stressful. There was a lot of ‘office politics’ totally unnecessary for the job at hand, and this drained me.

3. I must say a word about my partner. She has been a mountain of strength. Her patience and understanding are LEGEND as far as I am concerned. She has definitely been one of the biggest factors in helping me overcome OCD. If you are a sufferer, never underestimate how much support your loved ones can give you. And if your loved one has OCD, never underestimate how much support they need.

I should also mention The OCD Work Book. I am not sure how much help this book was, but I know some of its exercises were so mind-numbingly boring that they gave me a big incentive to ‘make a break’! You can find a link to the book on my OCD page.

So if you are an OCD sufferer, or think you might be, have patience. I had it for 20 years, 18 of those without acknowledging it and without help, and I have managed to make progress.

If you have something you want to say about OCD, please don’t hesitate to comment here and I will do my best to give you an answer.

FREE eBook offer!
To celebrate my progress with the OCD (and because I need the publicity!) Eighteen, Blue: (Short Stories Volume I) is FREE from 24-26 May on Amazon. Here is the link: http://bit.ly/19xmNJq

I have rarely offered this book free and in fact, this may be the first time so make sure you grab a copy. It will be the only chance you have to read the short stories, Eighteen, Blue and the romantic science fiction tale, Another one for No. 19.

Eighteen, Blue
On the Rebel held wastelands of North American in the 22nd Century, biker bounty hunters choose their victims according to their playing card rank. But in this life-or-death game of poker, one player holds the trump card.

Another one for No. 19
Machine 19, the last Janitor bot still moving, travels on to its last assignments as Isha and Danel in NewYork District of Central City wonder how to change their meaningless lives.

This book may well soon become available on Amazon because they have banned one of my books which has forced me to seek other outlets. But more of that next week.

How does OCD affect your life?

This week: FREE offer, a new Sneak Preview and: How Does Obsessive Compulsive Disorder affect your life?

Vampire: Beneficence: (Short Stories Volume III) is FREE this week on Amazon here: http://bit.ly/17EaUkcm A vampire fights to save his lover and daughter. “Brilliant” “Fast paced and gripping”
Also included are other short stories and first chapters of Ordo Lupua and the Temple Gate, Too Bright the Sun and Attack Hitler’s Bunker! Snap it up!

How does OCD affect your life?
It’s been a while sinced I blogged about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I have been receiving intensive Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and here is an update on my progress.

Background
From work with my therapist, I now think my OCD started in about 1993. It is often latent in children so it may go back further but I first noticed something was strange – I didn’t think of it as ‘wrong’ then – when I gave up full-time busking in 1993. I was just about to complete my second music album as a 12″ vinyl record. I was very proud of this but I knew that my career in music would have to be put on hold. We were in a deep recession in the UK then and I was not making any money. Worse, musicians were abandoning the cause like flies and I couldn’t even find musicians good enough and dedicated to continue performing with a band.

My last performance in London was at the Jazz Club in the basement of the Pizza Parlour in Wardour Street. I had written a blues song years before and a next-door neighbour turned out to be a jazz/blues singer of some reputation, having recorded quite a lot with Marc Bolan late in her career. She recorded my song and then asked me to make a guest appearance at the Jazz Club one night in late 1993. I wasn’t even going to go. I remember eating my dinner and then saying:
“What the fuck! Let’s do it!”

I had seen a girlfriend, who was an excellent Jazz singer, perform there a few years before. The club was a smokey, cramped basement and all the great and good from the jazz world made informal appearances there; people like Andy Summers (ex-Police guitarist for those of you who are old enough to remember them), Jeff Beck and Ronnie Scott and Tubby Hayes (I think it was called The Flamingo in the 60s). A house band provided backing for any song you elected to sing and you took your turn on stage. In short, it terrified me! However, I wanted one last blast so I climbed on stage when my time came and sang an experimental song I had just written. The house band gave up after a few bars but I had a big round of applause and felt elated. Since then, I haven’t performed in public.

Perhaps my life, after that, seemed boring and that is what sparked the OCD. I remember cleaning the windows, as I did religiously every Monday, and having to repeat it because I didn’t feel I had done it ‘right’. I thought it odd then, but the thing with OCD is that it is so insidious. It creeps up on you. Over the next ten years I gradually had more difficulty doing basic tasks like cleaning and using public transport. It came to a head when I started working in a very prestigious position within the IT industry. I had lost contact with many of my musician friends, especially the buskers because buskers never give real addresses or telephone numbers; it’s an illegal profession. Many of my friends from school and my previous career in graphics had settled down and no longer ventured out at nights, even for drinks. I was lonely. My mind had plenty of time to dwell on past successes and failures and perhaps there seemed to be more failures than successes. In any case, I found that I was doing the laundry two or even three times, was avoiding letting my trousers touch weeds or curb-stones and washing up took hours, when I could actually face it. My biggest fears were of dust and dirt on items in my flat. Both were significantly different.

Fear of Dust
The fear of dust may well come from busking; I had to sing for up to ten hours per day, seven days per week, to pay for my rent, and food for myself and my cat, Beep. As any opera singer knows dust can aggravate a sore throat, or if you are really pushing your voice, make a voice sore. I used to spray water around the top of the room at nights to keep the dust down. That may be where my fear of dust was born. However there is also the little story of how I used to get frustrated painting my plastic model aircraft as a kid. There would always be a speck of dust on a wing and I would want to repaint it. I tried using an expensive airbrush, using the garage and spraying the garage with water (Aha! That’s where that technique came from!) but nothing worked. Eventually I would become dissatisfied with a model and would lose interest. I rarely finished any of them. My dad said I was too much of a perfectionist. Perhaps I was but other modelers didn’t seem to have the same problem. I once watched a friend paint a model. He did nothing special but the paint went on smoothly; no dust at all!

Fear of Dirt
The fear of dirt in the flat doesn’t seem to have been so bad until my marriage in 2006. For some reason, since my wife left, I don’t like touching anything she might have touched.

As I said, my OCD peaked in the early 2000s. I knew something was wrong and I started to make efforts to get to grips with it. It was clear to me it was ‘all in my mind’ because when I went to Kyrgyzstan for 6 weeks, getting to know my future wife, I didn’t seem to have OCD any more. Let’s face it, in a country where people wash their hands in puddles and some flats don’t even have running water, let alone soap, I didn’t have much choice. Things seemed to slowly improve after this.

It was when stress mounted at work in about 2010 that things started to deteriorate. Then somebody noticed my ‘sensitivity to dirt’ and the HR team sent me to see an occupational therapist. The conclusion was that I had OCD but that it was not too severe, in fact remarkably mild considering the length of time I had struggled with it, and that the prognosis was good. Using the private health scheme I was paid up to, I referred myself to one of the best therapists in the country; Dr David Veale. He has written an excellent self-heop book on OCD so if you are interested, it’s on Amazon here. I am going to create a permanent page here for OCD sufferers which will have the link to David’s book and a little bit of information. You will find the link in the menu at the top of this blog.
He then referred me to another therapist who I saw for 4 months during late 2012. My health scheme only gave me funding for about 8 sessions. During the last few I made a plan to carry out over the next year: I would employ a proper cleaner and get my flat cleaned regularly. This certainly seemed to help but then I was made redundant! I could no longer afford a cleaner. I was still useless at cleaning myself; either to fussy or simply afraid to do it.

Then I met my new partner and it was quickly clear that the OCD was going to damage our relationship. Something had to be done. I went to my GP and told him I needed more help. They recommended me to a clinic nearby so that I could get treatment on the NHS. The waiting list was about 3 months but since then I have been under intensive CBT. This is every week and very different to the previous therapy. It is focused on giving me practical tools to deal with the OCD myself rather than simply focusing on understanding the root of the problem. I have two weeks left to go of the current course and again, I am developing a plan to help me carry on recovering after the course starts.

So what has changed?
Am I recovering? Yes, I think I am. This week I have drank from a cup which I know contained dust. How do I know this? I took a torch with me into the kitchen, and after I rubbed my hands (which I always do to remove dust before touching food) I shone the torch over the cup and saw dust! What is more I saw dust going into the cup. It proves to me that no matter what I do, there will always be dust everywhere. I cannot stop it going in my mouth. Strangely, I have found that science often helps me overcome OCD (Perhaps this is because I had a scientific upbringing; my dad was an engineer and fascinated by science).

Several times my arms have touched parts of the flat which I felt were dirty and I have not given in to the urge to wash that part of my body. This would have been impossible a few months ago. My therapist says that when I touch something which I feel is dirty and I am trying to counter the urge to clean, I should consider that I am ‘cleansed by life’. This certainly seems to work for me.

Furthermore I have decided to take a pragmatic idealist approach to hygiene. I think I am possibly a pragmatic idealist (if you are interested look up Josiah Royce), although perhaps I am in a subdivision: those who aim for a vision or ideal but can accept less than this (pragmatic approach) for a limited amount of time to get from A to B. I apply this principle to most of my life but I never applied it to hygiene. I don’t know why but now I will try. This will mean accepting the concept of ‘degrees of cleanliness’ rather than having a black and white view; ‘there was a spec of dust and therefore everything is dirty’. I hope this will help. Today I am going to try another exercise to put this idea into practice.

I have also managed to make progress with ‘hesitation’, which is a common problem for people with OCD and is sometimes referred to as brain-lock. IT is well known, though not understood, that OCD sufferers have great difficulty going from a static state (ie thinking, sitting, sleeping, watching tv) to an active state (moving, walking, using the remote control). The moment of decision often produces a disconnect in the chain of thoughts and leads to a kind of hesitation. This can be very bad and sometimes force people to repeat tasks over and over again, or complete rituals to escape the disconnect.

Finally, I would like to end on a funny story: OCD can be really very funny sometimes. Last night, I had to clean my mouth out because of a mistake. In the old days this would have been with hand soap, but now we have good quality mouth washes (incidentally, like most OCD sufferers, I used to use pure bleach to clean my hands but my life has changed now with anti-bacterial hand lotions and soaps). Anyway, part of this ritual is to stand absolutely stock still in the kitchen for twenty minutes. Now you have to know here that we have had very occasional visits by mice to our flat for years. Our block is old and full of dodgy plumbing, with holes in the walls around poorly-fitting pipes. So I am standing there, stock still, and, after only two minutes, I see a little black shape emerge from behind the washing machine and scuttle across the floor. I nearly jumped out of my skin, but then that would be moving so I controlled it and tried to remain calm. Guess what? The little bugger decided to investigate my feet and came right up to my slippers. I could just see him out of the corner of my eye – I am trying to look straight ahead you understand – sniffing around my slippers. He walked right around this giant ‘human statue’, as he must have thought it was. I actually flinched and he was gone in a flash.
“Thank God!” I thought.
But a minute later I saw him peeping out of a cupboard and then he came back! And I still had over fifteen minutes left! This time he went behind me, out of view, and then I felt something tickling my ankle. The little bastard was either nibbling my ankle – God knows why cos I don’t think I taste that nice – or trying to climb up my socks. I wasn’t actually wearing any trousers so the thought occurred to me that if he was going to get any higher he would have to dig his little claws into my flesh.
‘Argh!’ I thought. “Please God, no!” For any human this would be bad enough, but for an OCD sufferer, it is beyond your wildest nightmare.
‘And what will happen when he gets to my underpants?’
Anyway, I was relieved when I didn’t feel the dreaded claws in my flesh and then I saw him regain the safety of the open cupboard. I was careful to wiggle my toes every minute after this and so we reached a sort of truce, a peace treaty, which lasted until the twenty minutes were up. Of course I tried to find him at the end but he had gone, through whatever dark passage he used to get into the flat.

So that is my OCD. I know that post is a little long, but I hope in being as honest and open as I can, I might help other people who are suffering by showing that they are not alone. Perhaps a few of them will recognise some of the situations and this will help them.

Are you an OCD sufferer? If so, what course are you taking to manage or recover from it? Please get in touch by leaving a comment.

Sneak Preview
I don’t want to disappoint my regular visitors, who are not OCD sufferers, by only speaking about OCD this week so here is another sneak preview. This one is from my new project, provisionally entitled December Radio. I am hoping this will be published some time late in 2014.

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

Carl deliberately arrived at the ball with Frida on his arm. Carl had paid a premium to have his one suit pressed on the ship’s only press in time for the party. It was held in a section of the Tivoli’s hold which the Countess he leaned on the Commodore to convert for her. Makeshift led down to a makeshift floor but a big effort had made the rest of the space look grand. Bunting hung between girders and the ship’s frame. Two large mirrors had been hung above a stage which was draped in blue cloth. Chairs and tables were placed around the edge of a dance space, each draped in a white tablecloth, courtesy of the ship’s stores. There was even a large chandelier which somebody had fabricated from bits of iron truss and spare chain. The inner sides of the hold had been given a lick of white paint, with blue decoration to resemble panelling and loud music blasted from the gramophone.
At the entrance, a grinning Hans Edelmann, dressed in a black tuxedo, handed out a pamphlet and glasses of champagne.
“Well, well!” Carl whispered in Frida’s ear. “This is fun! Champagne too. I must admit, Schumann and the Countess know how to organise a party.”
“I doubt Schumann has much to do with it. The Countess practically runs the show now! That’s probably why the rolling has eased. She personally asked the Commodore to seek calmer waters for tonight!”
“What does the sheet say?”
“Nicely printed! It says there will be a beauty pageant at 10 pm which will include bathing suits; a dance competition at 9 pm: three dances including a waltz, a foxtrot and one step of your choice; a beauty competition for men at 11 pm – wear your best suit and at midnight a talent contest. All competitions are for prizes. And the culmination of the evening is a surprise at 1 am.”
“I wonder what that is? Are you entering any of the competitions?”
“Of course. The beauty completion! The Countess wouldn’t let anyone off, even a Jewess! Actually I don’t think anybody has told the ignorant bitch I am Jewish!”
“You have a fine figure, Frida! Very fine!”
“Oh, it’s not bad for my age. Not as good as your Maria’s!”
“She’s not my Maria anymore!”
“Have you told her?”
“No. No chance but she will know by the end of tonight. Watch out for her Frida. She can be nasty.”
“You’re warning me?”
“Good. We should enter the dance contest.”
“Yes! And you must enter the male beauty contest!”
“No!”
“Oh you must! With those eyes…”
“I’ll think about it.”
They had hardly sat down to the hor deuvres of avocado and eggs when Maria, dressed in the fabulous red dress, tapped Carl on the shoulder. He ignored her. Roth quickly took the vacant seat at the table next to Carl.
“You don’t mind?”
“No. Of course not. Frida. This is Robert Stengler, a Luftwaffe pilot. He will be rescuing us if we need to make a quick getaway, back to the Third Reich! We first met in Trauen, some months ago now. Max; Frida Zimmet.”
“Charmed, I’m sure, Mac said curtly to Frida. He didn’t even glance at her. I fancy I saw the lovely Maria at Trauen too. But I may have been mistaken! Carl, she seems to have the eye for you. What is your secret?”
“Ha! What is yours?”
“Touché, as I think the lovely French say.”
Carl’s game of cat and mouse with Roth continued until the beauty contest. Half way through a five course meal was not the best time for the beauties to put on their new navel-baring swim suits but the women gamely put on a show. Carl had to admit Maria looked the best but he reserved his smiles only for Frida. Nonetheless Maria won, the Countess came a dubious second and Frida, third.

What is the most effective way to promote a Sci-Fi book launch?

This week: What is the most effective way to promote a Sci-Fi book launch? Also Lazlo Friend Newsletter, Hinduism and HAL 9000

What is the most effective way to promote a Sci-Fi book launch?

Two beta readers have now completed Iron III: Worlds like dust and it is getting nearer to publication. Science Fiction books are always hard to promote: sci-fi simply doesn’t get the attention of other genres, which is a shame, because it allows you to develop characters and explore elements of human nature in ways that no other genre allows. So I am faced with the problem: how do I promote this book?

In both Book I and Book III of the iron series there are video blogs recorded by some of the main characters; the corporation that supplies arms to the USAC army does so in exchange for sole rights to these video blogs recorded only by officers. The viewers are civilians looking for kicks. It occurred to me that since these blogs are done into a small camera (much like a web-cam today) anyway, they would be really fun and easy to shoot for real.

During one of the free promos for Too Bright the Sun, I met up with Dominic Kay – a British actor who has acted in Hollyoaks and happens to look exactly like my personal image of Jake Nanden. I asked him if he would be willing to shoot a Promo Video for the publication of the third and final part of the Iron Series: World Like Dust, and there is a slim chance he will do it – with a full professional camera crew. It won’t be free for me but I am hoping that it will be a nice way to introduce the final episode in what has become a fairly epic story. The scene choice is the three below (at a push Dominic could pass as Hani Deitner – a character in World Like Dust):

Jake Nanden in Iron I

There are two possible scenes for Jake (the star of the show and only character in all three books).

1. This is midway through the book when he is hastily promoted to replace a dead officer:

I glanced at the piles of crates in the corner of the office marked ‘Roanald’. They had been left for me to go through but I couldn’t face them now. The only crate I was interested in was marked, ‘Nanden’. I flipped the catches and peered inside. It contained the only personal possessions of mine to be retrieved from the CMS which was blown up by the IM. I smiled and reached inside. “Marcus!” I lifted out the crushed pot with a pile of dry soil held to the clay shards by the roots of the miniature sunflower. I couldn’t believe he was still alive and I was grateful some grunt somewhere had even bothered to crate it. The sunflower looked almost dead and was bent right over like a crippled old man. I went to the n-gen and ordered four glasses of water and a large bowl. I replanted the flower in the bowl and poured on all the water before setting it on my desk. I would need a UV light but I could organise that in the morning. I turned on the comms unit and recorded my last company commander message for Amtel.
“Record. Today I’ve taken up my new position as Acting Lieutenant Colonel. I cannot tell you where I’m stationed now or what my new mission will be but I just wanted to say thank you to all of you who’ve followed me over the years and I hope you find another commander to follow. Thanks. Over and out! End record. Terminal on.”

2. This scene is filmed on a space-liner (as in 2001 A Space Odyssey) but you could do it so your face fills the camera or perhaps it could be in a booth on the ship.

(This is Jake talking in first person)
I was tired when I woke in my recliner four days in, on the flight to Mars, but I wanted to send a quick message to Jena. I had thought several times over the last few days of sending one to Katie, but the business with Jena was unfinished and it seemed faithless to abandon it. It was easier to send a message rather than record video or set up a vid meeting. I groggily put on my headband and pressed ‘On’.
“Record: message to Jena Ω. Hi Jena. I spent four days with Mum and Justine… I woke up the other day having had an argument with myself. At least it seemed like it… There is part of me I’m just not… connected with. I cannot remember its voice or words. It is something unknown to me… and it disturbs me. At the same time I am curious about it. I wanted you to know… Thinking about u. Jake. End record.”
Then I sent a brief one to Katie. “Record: message to Katie. Hi space boogle. Just spent four days on J5. Going back now to J4. Got promoted to L. Colonel. Cool eh? See u soon. J. End record.”

Hani Deitner in Iron III

The first bit is background leading up to the recording – the video blog bit is obvious.

Lieutenant Hani Deitner returned with his detail to the Operations Room after just over one hour. They had not been able to take the truck far, and he was exhausted. But every last soldier still able to shoot a laser, now knew what he was doing, and to be at the Hanger in 5 hours.
“Reporting, Colonel: all remaining forces now instructed for retreat!”
“Good work, Lieutenant. Now, you better get a few hours’ sleep. I am gonna need you fully alert for our exit. Oh, and one other thing. I am going to put you in charge of a squad. That means you now have to record your activities for the Amtel blog?”
“Yes, Ma’am! But I thought it had been closed down. Surely there’s no subscribers left?”
“That’s probably true. Today’s will be the last possible entry. The transmitter in the MCS wouldn’t reach the Moon or any other likely remaining allies even in peacetime. But with the Ischians blocking transmissions there’s no hope. This will the only chance for us all to record our last wills and testaments. Even the privates have borrowed sets from commanders to leave theirs. Use the third room on the right. It’s Pfeninghaven’s. Record you message and get some sleep.”
“Yes, sir. Sir?”
“What is it?”
“I had an idea.”
“Go on. I need any ideas I can get.”
“I saw this film, once – a nature film, about a bird which pretended its wing was broken, to avoid predators. What I was thinking was that we should deliberately damage the MCS. Take of one of the POD s and make it look like it’s been torn off. Then rig the side of the Hanger to blow out. We then slip out quietly, looking like the MCS has fallen out. If we drift for a while, the Ischians may assume it’s just a wreck.”
“Hm. I don’t like the thought of losing a POD. But something like that … I will get the engineers on to it. Nice idea Deitner. Sleep well.”
Climbing over debris, and negotiating the corridor to the Senior Staff quarters, Hani Deitner found door 3 and sealed himself inside. He wearily pulled on the Trion head-band and said, “Record. Hm. This is the log of Lieutenant Hani Deitner June 3, 2136.”
He sat looking at the small screen blankly for a few moments. His dark brown hair, stubble and goatee made him look like a criminal. Goatees were forbidden in USAC regulations, but since the alien attack, the book had been thrown away and discipline had become secondary to survival. One of his fellow Corporals was the first to try a goatee and had persuaded Deitner to try it.
He tried his first words. “Hello subscribers – on Earth, Mars, the Moon, or wherever you may be now. That is… if any of you are left alive. I don’t know what to say. I’ve never done one of these before!” He laughed nervously. “I don’t have parents, or relatives – what replicant does? I had some time with a foster family in New Brooklyn – on the bad side of the Moon dome! Anyway, I doubt they remember me much now. The USAC is my family now. But I joined late. Ran with the mob in Lunar City; stealing hoverbikes, cars, shoplifting – the usual. USAC made me. I don’t have anything to leave – I had a collection of lager cans, but my bunk was blown to pieces by the Ischian Dogs – should I say that? Oh well, seems a bit late for … protocol. This is going to be a fight to the death. Probably the end for us. Let’s see. I think that’s it. Oh, and if anybody knows me, I got promoted to Lieutenant!” He grinned like a stupid kid. Then he said, “End recording.”

The final step will be to stick it on YouTube and see what happens. By the way, get ready to share this video with all your friends when it gets made.

So, that is my idea for a promo campaign, what would be yours? let me know your ideas. I really want to hear them so please comment below. If I like your suggestion enough, there may be a prize in return.

 

Lazlo Friend Newsletter

As you will have seen in my previous  post, there will now be a Lazlo Friend Newsletter every three months. Please subscribe: you will receive publication dates in advance, news of Freebies and Competitions. There is a permanent link to the Newsletter in the menu at the top of this blog.

 

Hinduism and HAL 9000

A friend of mine is a Hindu. The Hindu religion never ceases to amaze me. If you haven’t already seen it, you should think about watching the Mhabharat. There is a short British version but a much longer one  on youtube so you will need plenty of time. We were watching 2001: A Space Odyssey the other day and of course the scene where HAL is turned off was as impressive as ever. I have never sympathised with HAL. He had already killed. My friend didn’t. Surely only a Hindu would say, “He didn’t deserve to die. They were cruel to him.” The Hindu religion holds all life, and all consciousness in such a high esteem: no other religion could engender this kind of attitude. Only my opinion. Please let me know what you think.

Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Cliff Robertson Biography film

Just a quick post:

I had a very short correspondence with Cliff at the end of his life because I was a huge fan of his since I was a child and I wanted to ask him some questions about my favourite film 633 Squadron. He was mad about aircraft himself. I found Cliff to be incredibly warm and friendly and he tried to answer most of my questions. He even asked me over to do a ‘mano a mano’ interview. I would have loved to have gone but I couldn’t really find the time. I regret this now because I didn’t know how ill he was. Please help raise some money so we can honour this outstanding and inspirational man. Click on the link below and find out more:

http://www.thomcomm.com/cliffrobertsondocumentary.php

You can also like the Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/cliffrobertsonhonorarydocumentary

and comment on the blog:

http://cliffrobertsonhonorarydocumentary.blogspot.com/

I have asked Steve Thompson  who is guiding this project to post about this project on this blog in the next few weeks.

Blog: Amazon Women on the Moon – Lazlo Ferran

This week: Walking in Buckinghamshire, Reviews, OCD update, Badger culling, Free Offers

Walking in Buckinghamshire
There is no sneak preview this week because the stuff I am working on is very complex and time-consuming. Hence I haven’t actually written that much. If I do sneak previews every week there would be no need to publish. Instead I will tell you about my ramble in the Chiltern Hills of Bucks on Sunday. It was a beautiful day. Originally I had intended to go on Saturday but it clouded over. The forecast said Sunday would be more completely overcast but warmer. In the end, there actually was some sun. The autumn leaves thickly carpet the ground now and bathed these ancient clay woods with a yellow light. I used to spend a lot of time there in my childhood but I don’t remember them looking more bewitching. Most were still in church so the woods were quiet although I had a strange incident. As I parked my car among those of the worshippers at a tiny church, the priest spotted me and said, “Ah! You!”.
He looked Asian which intrigued me; this area of Bucks is true-blue Conservative terrortory (ha! ha! Pun intended). I thought by the way he was talking that he must recognise me from my youth although this seemed very unlikely as I didn’t recognise him and I have a very good memory for faces. When I walked up to him, a crowd gathered around the ‘stranger’ and I asked, “Do you know me?”
He said, “No!”
I wanted to say, “What the fuck did you speak to me like that for then?” but I just said I remembered the place, and the priest, before his time. The onlookers relaxed and nodded with everything I said. I explained I was here to walk and that I had to leave. He mumbled something and seemed to physically reach out for me.
‘Desperate,’ I thought.
I walked away and heard others saying they, “Had to leave.” The crowd scattered and he was left alone.
I know the church is getting desperate – I am a believer but I don’t like the ritualised formality of Church – but why do they have to try desperate tactics like pretending they know you? It’s more like the sort of behaviour I expect from evangelical Born-Again Christians on Tottenham High Road.
Anyway the beauty of the woods soon relaxed me. The sun also came out and while walking along an old track I saw some mushrooms growing on a tree-stump. I had a clean, spare bag with me so I picked them up with this to take home for cooking. Later a woman walking her dog passed and smiled. Even later still she crept up on me and asked me if I was ‘mushrooming’. I had to deny it, explaining I had only picked half a handful. Funny that in this day and age you have to defend picking a few mushrooms. I have head of criminals being caught with 40 tonnes of topsoil containing blue-bells in May. They are the real criminals. But it was all good-natured on Saturday. As the sun began to set I started back towards my car. Imagine my surprise when I saw a dark brown butterfly or moth. I think it was a butterfly actually, but I can’t be sure. Either way to see large lepidoptera on 1 December is very unusual. Perhaps its not so cold an autumn as I thought. I also passed a line of very ancient cherry trees. These are some of the oldest in Britain and nobody is quite sure why they have lived so long or grown so tall. No longer yielding any berries, nevertheless they tower majestically some 80-100 feet above the main path. Normally its unusual for cherry trees to grow taller than a two-storey house. If you know of any similarly tall ones, let me know.
I did notice that the woodland quiet was rent by the squarkings of thousands of birds. Even the pigeons were singing at the top of their lungs. I have no idea why and its the first time I have noticed this.
Then it was back to the car and a nice drive home with a Snickers along the way to fill my hungry stomach.

Update: Despite thoroughly using all the websites I could find to identify the mushrooms, I could not do so. I had to throw them away; there are mushrooms which are so poisonous you have to have a kidney transplant to survive.

OCD update
I am now four weeks into the new course of intensive Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). I must say doing it once per week instead of every three weeks is helping a lot. My therapist is not wasting time either. He is really encouraging me in getting to the root of the issue and I am even attempting ‘exposures’ myself. ‘Exposure’s are instances of attempting something you usually avoid when you have OCD. In the woods on Sunday I jumped off a fence and although I was wearing gloves, I had to put my hand down during a heavy landing and some mud got on my hands. Normally I would probably get pretty anxious about this but I left it (after checking there were no rabbit droppings on that patch of soil!). Later I cleaned my hand with some clean grass and that was it! When I returned home I didn’t even clean my hands before eating. This could be progress but we will see after I discuss it with my therapist. There was a funnier incident when, in the middle of some dense undergrowth, I found an old abandoned and collapsed shed with some kind of large, heavy bowl outside. It was full of black water and could have once been a tractor hub or something. In any case somebody – probably one of the gypsies who were frequent visitors in the 60s – probably used it as a stove. It was very heavy. I tried turning it over with my foot to see what it was. I couldn’t move it at first but then it moved slightly and spilled all its contents on my foot. Normally I would be horrified; after all there could be anything in that old water. This time I just accepted it as a test. I later thought of the phrase, ‘getting reinfected with reality’ to describe my feelings about it. I will keep you updated, as usual, with my OCD. If you suffer from OCD, or think you do, do not hesitate to seek help. There is plenty out there, even if you just google it on the web. Some websites offer self-help guides but you can get help for free on the NHS although the waiting lists are about 10 weeks at the moment. If you are not sure but think you might have OCD, these are some of my symptoms:
1. Obsessive and repeated washing of hands, accompanied by rituals
2. Fear of dust and germs
3. Anxiety when going outside unless wearing gloves
4. Generally repeating actions a lot to make sure you did them correctly
5. Episodes of Brain-block: this is where your mind gets stuck and you find it hard to start of finish an action. OCD sufferers often have great difficulty moving from ‘inactive’ activities (such as thinking, sleeping) to active activities (such as walking, moving)
6. Using rituals to avoid certain unpleasant thoughts.
This book by David Veale is excellent as a starter but do seek professional help: Overcoming Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A Self-Help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques. I may well do an OCD page in the near future with some useful resources.

Badger Culling
It seems that the two experimental culls have come up way short of the 70% fatality they were aiming at. For those not following this grim story, the Government led culls need to kill at least 70% of the badgers in any area to effectively wipe them out. Any less than this and the colony will survive. The hope is that even babies safe in the set will not survive if 70% of the whole group is not killed.
Of course the Government is claiming ‘illegal activity’ on behalf of protesters as the cause of the failure. Frankly, I don’t care as long as it stops. Killing innocent animals when an effective vaccine (just requiring a little more time and Government investment) is just around the corner is inhumane. Perhaps David Cameron and George Osborne are just hoping an excuse for a return to hunting is in the air?

Reviews
I have had some great reviews on Amazon lately. Here are two:

Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate
Exciting read
In the genre of The Da Vinci Code, this is a good read. It is well plotted, very well researched & I liked the characters. If you liked the Da Vinci Code, you will like this book.

Attack Hitler’s Bunker!
Great read
Great concept.It really captured the dedication and spirit.Not to mention the bravery it took to stand up to the task of defeating an evil axis.

Free Offers
With the exception of Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate, And Attack Hitler’s Bunker!, all my kindle books will be free for periods between now and Christmas to give you a chance to give one as a present.

Other News
In case you’re wondering this title is from the excellent and very funny 1987 film. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. The title is also a reference to my issues with Amazon this week.
I have become weary of sellers on Amazon offering my paperback books at extortionate prices even up to £40 in one case. There are currently more copies on offer than I have actually sold. This means either sellers are offering them (including used and quoting the condition ) before actually buying them or buying them, tearing them apart, copying them and printing them.
I spoke to Amazon’s support about this and the representative said Amazon allows them to charge whatever they like for products and cannot prove if they like and has no way of checking whether they have actually bought the item or not. It seems they don’t even care if the item is a fake or illegal copy. He said the onus was on me to prove something illegal was going on and than to email copyright@amazon.com.
Consequently I have had to spend quite a bit of time getting a detailed royalty payment history from Createspace – who publish my books. I mentioned that Amazon own Createspace but was told it made no difference. They still couldn’t access the data on my behalf! Now I have emailed Amazon at the above email address with the detailed account history and list of the offenders I have found on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. I have also emailed the sellers directly warning them of my actions (one of them – any_book removed the book immediately, another – gb_book is trying to, so they tell me! Another Pamaxs hasn’t responded). If you see these sellers, avoid them. I have also put up the prices of most of the books (older books and Iron I being the exceptions) to make it not worth while anybody copying one and selling it. If you are selling a paperback at a low price and it’s popular, watch out! Somebody might be copying it and selling it!
I guess for a writer publishing on Amazon, being independent means having no support at all!

Update: I just received Amazon’s reply (although I don’t understand it or their apparent lack of interest)
“Amazon respects a manufacturer’s right to enter into exclusive distribution agreements for its products. However, as the enforcement of these agreements is a matter of contract between the manufacturer and the distributors, it would not be appropriate for Amazon to assist in enforcing these agreements.”

Elsewhere
I was a big fan of Time Team in its early days. In recent years its got a bit too long in the tooth. I was fascinated by their Special programme on the 1066 Battlefield. I would love to see more like this. I only regret that they didn’t have enough time to do more than speculate that the actually centre of the battle was at the centre of Battle (no pun intended). Let’s hope they have another go soon. No evidence of the battle has ever been found but it has to be there somewhere.
I have also found the recent series on the Cold War fascinating. It’s very worth watching if you can get it on catch-up TV if only for the idea that Brent Cross shopping centre won Britain and the US the Cold War! The series has been good material for my current project (hint!). The presenter is a bit too pro-Maggie Thatcher for my liking; I am one of those who narrowly avoided a prison sentence for busking under her ‘iron’ rule. Many people suffered terribly and who can forget the pole-tax?