Category: Too Bright the Sun

Will replicants inherit the Earth?

This week: OCD update and Hot off the Press: an extract from my forthcoming sci-fi novel Worlds like Dust, about replicants in a battle to save Earth.

OCD Update
I finished my course of therapy over a month ago but that is not where the treament ends. My therapist recommended a great book for me – The OCD Workbook: Your Guide to Breaking Free from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. There is a scheme in the USA and now in the UK to get copies of this from your library. It’s called Books on Prescription so go to your library and find out about the scheme, if you need the book. I can recommend it. A link to this book will be available from now on if you go to my OCD page.

I managed the first few chapters without difficulty over the last 2 weeks but when it came to ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) I hit a barrier. My belief that something bad will happen is way higher than the book accepts as practical for this exercise. Too bad they only told me that after I did the exercise. Ha! Ha! THe book recommends a limit of 70% and I am 90%.

So the book then recommended that I skip to Chapter 7 and try Imaginal Exposure. I have never heard of this but it sounded great. I always feel that I have fears I simply am unable to articulate, even to myself. In this exercise you have to write down the situation and outcome you most fear. I won’t reveal my own fears but the document does make pretty grim reading! I am not easily shocked but I was surprised by what I wrote. You then need a means of reading it back to yourself, for an hour each day. I chose to use the Windows application Narrator although I had to slow the speed down a bit to get maximum effect (I need time to visualise each event). This then needs to be repeated until the belief comes down to about 40%

So far, mine went up slightly and now has dropped to 70%. I have a long way to go. The books suggests that this should take about 2 weeks but I guess there is no limit. It’s hard to imagine I will drop to 70% in 2 weeks, but I hope so. At the moment I am finding it really tough. This exercise is, without doubt, the hardest thing I have tried, during my battle to kick OCD. It is putting a strain on my relationship. But I must continue. I hope I will have good news in a few weeks.

Hot off the Press
What is it like to be a replicant? Will replicants inherit the Earth? These questions I explore in my forthcoming Science Fiction novel Worlds like Dust. For any that have followed the Iron Series you will remember that in Iron I: Too Bright the Sun, Jake Nanden started out feeling persecuted and isolated as an alien. All that changed. Now the story continues. The story has expanded somewhat, from my original draft, so Worlds like Dust will be published in two volumes. Below is an excerpt from near the end, where I am in my last but one edit. This is so hot off the press, I revised it between writing the last sentence of the blog and posting it!

Exiting onto Deck 41, we encountered three Ischians guarding the approach to the recycler section. However, their backs were turned to us. I drew my knife silently from its cloth pouch and stealthily crept after the rearmost alien. The noise of battle covered my approach but even so it swung to face me just before my blade reached the jugular vein in his neck. Two of my grunts were right behind me. Grabbing my Ischian as it turned, I drove my blade as deep into his neck as I could. The Ischian’s weight and strength were enough to send me spinning with it as it continued to turn. Orange blood sprayed my face as we crashed into the wall. The alien grabbed my arms and tried to push me away. I released the blade, leaving it in his neck; an old trick I learned in my frontline service days on Io. The Ischian let go of me and grabbed for the blade which was futile. The damaged was already done. I stood up and kicked his arm as it grabbed for the blade, wrenching the blade into his neck at an angle. Something grabbed me from behind just as my victim bellowed in agony and went into convulsions.”
“Got him!” somebody shouted behind me. Suddenly the huge arms released me and I fell to my knees. I glanced behind me to see two men sitting on one dead alien and three more on the other, which was still struggling. As I watched, both aliens managed to get to their feet. Both were cocking their lasers and it looked like it would be all over for us. I searched wildly on the ground for my Ischian’s laser and found; a clover leaf carbine. I wrenched it from its position, half under the alien, cocked it and fired wildly at the aliens. Both went down with gaping holes in their chests, but not before one of my grunts was wounded in the leg.
“Never seen it done sir!” said the nearest grunt to me. “Read about it. We never thought you really could kill an Ischun this way but you showed us!”
“Alright!” I said, gasping. “Let’s keep moving. Give that man a hand!”
Things became a little hotter as we neared Dragodes position.

Do you think its inevitable that replicants will inherit the Earth? Have your say by leaving a comment.

Where could vampires have come from?

This week: An interview with Jake Nanden from the Iron Series and: Where could vampires have come from?

Where could vampires have come from?
I am not going to say here whether vampires exist or not; that is a question I might never find an answer to. But where could they have come from if they do exist? That is an interesting question.

funnily enough, since the beginning of man’s history, vampires have been seen to be some kind of ‘elite’. They are even idealised versions of humans in some stories. Recently this thought has played on my mind a lot.

It would seem logical to assume that the natural suspicion working and middle class people feel for royalty and nobility might naturally lead to an attribution to them of ‘unnatural powers’. I don’t think this is a modern trend and might have even been more prevalent in the age when Royalty were seen to be mandated by by God to rule

Vlad III, known posthumously as Vlad the Impaler because of his cruelty was just one such ruler. His first name, Dragwlya, is the origin of the modern name Dracula and Vlad is most likely the source of the legend of Dracula – a fiend who drank blood.

Then we have Elizabeth Báthory (be patient if I seem to be going over old ground here). She was also accused of drinking the blood of virgins.

What do both have in common? They are both European royalty. What else do we know about European Royalty (and indeed what did common folk know at the time about them)? They tended to inbreed. what sort of symptoms can one expect from inbreeding? An increased chance of haemophilia. Indeed Vlad III is rumoured to have suffered from it.

According to wikipedia: Haemophilia lowers blood plasma clotting factor levels of the coagulation factors needed for a normal clotting process.

In genetics it is linked to the X-Chromosome. Men have an X and a Y chromosome and women to X chromosomes and a Y chromosome. Thus haemophilia in women is very rare: if one X-Chromosome will not support the coagulation, the other X-Chromosome will express it. That is perhaps a good thing because the gene for haemophilia is inherited through the mother. The last thing you want in a royal family is a woman with haemophilia. If she is a silent carrier, her sons are 50% likely to suffer from haemophilia, if she herself shows symptoms, her sonds are 100% likely to suffer. And certainly in the middle ages it dramatically cut life expectancy; few sufferers would even reach adulthood.

But guess who was a silent carrier? Queen Victoria. From her, were born most of the European royalty for the next 100 years. And of course Czar Nicolas’s son suffered from haemophilia. A haemophilia sufferer will tend to be mororse, tend to stay inside and probably exhibit a paler complexion than other children or adults (if they are lucky enough to reach maturity). Is it too much of a stretch of imagination to suppose that haemophilia, and more particularly, haemophilia in royalty may be the source of the legend of vampires?

I am not discounting the idea that Vampires have a separate existance from this and indeed a legitimate place in the tree of evolution. But I propose that one of the legends around them originates in the European Royal Disease – haemophilia.

What is your opinion? Please let me know and join in the debate by commenting below.

An interview with Jake Nanden from the Iron Series

This interview appeared on the Library of Erana blog a few weeks ago. Thanks very much to Alexandra Butcher for permission to publish this.

Tell Us About Yourself

Name (s): Jake Nanden

Age: 34

Please tell us a little about yourself. I am 5’11’, dark hair, short – Army cut, slightly curly. Green eyes.

Describe your appearance in 10 words or less. Getting middle aged, slightly paunchy with drying skin – like paper in places – except my mech arm. That’s synthetic skin on there and as smooth and supple as the day it was sprayed on. I even had mine tattooed but don’t tell anyone.

Would you kill for those you love? I kill every day – most days – to keep my culture intact. I would say that is killing for those I love. Of course there is a moral code… And as a soldier the moral code is almost everything. After a while… killing… it sometimes seems to be the only thing you have left. Family are too far away.

Do you like animals? I love animals. Their love is unconditional. You can never quite be sure with humans, can you?

Do you have a family? Ha! Ha! Yes. A test-tube. No seriously my mother – Mary, my sister Justine and a dog – a collie called Frisky. My adoptive dad was the famous robotics designer Robert R. Nanden but he’s dead. My mother was his assistant and pretty accomplished at that!

Can you remember something from your childhood which influences your behaviour? I am not sure about any of my childhood memories. They are probably all implanted. I am a replicant. The first memory I am sure about is playing on the grass with my adoptive mother watching me playing cricket.

She shouted out, “Jake! You are such a talented cyborg!”

Even at my tender age, I knew a replicant was not the same thing as a cyborg and I knew that she should know, as her first husband had been a famous robot designer. Her words had always stuck in my head.

But anyway, adoptive parents of replicant children are always told to create some vivid experience for their kid in the first few days so that the imprinting takes properly. So it’s probably not significant.

Do you have any phobias? Mirrors. Can’t stand them. They make me sweat and… well, I’m very nervous around them. I avoid them.

Please give us an interesting and unusual fact about yourself. I write books – well, I am writing my first; a detective thriller. It’s kind of Raymond Chandler-ish. I call it Chandleresque, but I guess that’s bad English. My adoptive parents are first generation J5 – that’s a space station – so they kinda inherited a USAC – United States of America and Canada – accent. Anyway, I am rambling. The main character is Dusty. He’d a sucker for the pretty ladies!

Tell Us About your world

Please give us a little information about the world in which you live. Well, I was born on Mars – at least I was adopted on Mars. We lived under a dome for most of my childhood. My most precious memory is of my dad taking me out on a hoverbike to see the real Mars sunset. Of course, you could see sunsets from the dome, but the U.V. protection took out most of the colour and I had nagged him for weeks to take me outside to see one. With difficulty, because my fingers were so small, I lifted the outer U.V. filter and gasped. The white disk of the sun almost burned a hole in my head. Its white was so intense it was almost blue and the blue became a corona as my eyes quickly looked up and away from it. The corona gradually faded into a riot of colour that filled the rest of my vision. The purples and oranges were deeper than those in a bowl of the freshest and most tangy grapes and peaches.

Does your world have religion or other spiritual beliefs? Do you travel in the course of your adventures? If so where? That’s three questions in one! Yes of course there is religion but I struggle to believe in anything other than a goal of justice – for my friend’s death. We have the usual Christianity, Islam and Hinduism, and a few others that go way back on Earth. Plus we have the got Mech! Well, what can I say about him? It started with cyborgs and androids worshipping the God of mechanical things. They believe Mech created humans to service the machines. Lately even replicants are converting. Most replicants find it difficult to have faith in anything other than themselves.

Name and describe a food from your world. We can make what we like using n-gens; nano-generators. ‘Fried’ is my favourite: bacon, eggs, potatoes, beans, fried-bread and mushrooms. I am old enough to remember what these things are called, and what they look like. To most grunts they are just ‘fried’,

Does your world have different races of people? If so do they get on with one another? We are more concerned with Ischians – aliens. We call them ‘Dogs’ because they have evolved from something like dogs. Pretty formidable though… You don’t want to mess with Ishuns. Races? I don’t think anybody notices any more. Still a stigma to being a replicant though. I think that’s where people’s racism has gone.

Name a couple of myths and legends particular to your culture/people. Mech, the god for all A.I. beings, as robots and androids were now permitted to call themselves, lived in a red world of dust which corroded him and he had three sons, Iron, Tin and Wire. They lived in the desert for they were afraid of the sea, but one day Iron, who was the eldest son, committed a sin by openly doubting Mech and Mech banished him. Iron wandered alone until he came to the sea, and left his mark upon a rock but no more was ever heard from him again.

I guess the other one is that God looks after us all. Replicants don’t agree. You should see the size of funeral urns replicants get. Then you would know all about inequality.

Author notes:

Book(s) in which this character appears.

The Iron series: Iron I, Too Bright the Sun, Iron II, Unknown Place, Unknown Universe and Iron III (published soon) Worlds Like Dust

Don’t forget to sign up for the Newsletter using the menu above (or if you are a Facebook user go here http://ow.ly/t6L4R) for a FREE GIFT!

Why should your main character have flaws?

This week: Sneak Preview, news about an Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate promotion and: Why should your main character have flaws?

Why should your main character have flaws?
All of my main character (and thus protagonists) have flaws. In my earlier books I think it was just instinct that led me to this. In fact you could argue that for James Brennan in The Man Who Recreated Himself and King Vaslav in Infinite Blue Heaven the question of whether they are flawed or not is the main theme examined in the novels. James is perhaps naive and Vaslav is perhaps sexually weak, being a willing participant in incest, something not uncommon in the 17th century. In The Ice Boat, which is my first novel completed, it’s very obvious that David Dee is flawed; naive and confused by life. Physically he is in good health however, as are the other two characters mentioned.

The practice of giving the main character (MC) flaws probably began in Greek literature with Odysseus. He is a superb physical specimen, canny and intelligent far beyond the abilities of most around him. He takes on the Gods and wins. He dreams up the Trojan Horse trick which had become legend. But, he has a kind of self-loathing, and considers himself ‘odious’, from which the author – nominally Homer – gave him his name. However, Odysseus is not part of a tragedy; he does regain his Kingdom, his wife and his son – eventually. In Greek tragedies we have perfect beings that suffer terribly as a consequence or despite of this. King Leonidas (whose name incidentally derives from the root ‘lion’) doesn’t seem to have had a fault; incredibly brave, resourceful, physically strong and tough, and loyal to Sparta beyond consideration of his own life. Moreover he was real; he actually lived. Of course he probably wasn’t perfect but his exploits have become legend. With 300 Spartans of his own personal guard, he held the pass at Thermopylae against at least 10,000 Persians long enough for the Greek navy to assemble and defeat the Persian navy. He and all his men were lost. This is the essence of Greek tragedy: great deads and great intentions that end in disaster for the main protagonist.

It is said that we no longer write tragedies: perhaps we no longer can. All modern MCs are flawed. We even have the ‘anti-hero’ now; a character so flawed he would probably be the equivalent of the baddie in Greek Literature. Perhaps it’s because we no longer look to stories for moral guidance. Nobody likes being preached to and even authors of quite ‘high’ moral literature such as J. R. R. Tolkien distance themselves from any suggestion of allegory in their work. Nowadays we prefer to sympathise with characters. We are looking for escapism. All we want to do is imagine that we are the MC in a book or one of the main protagonists and absorb ourselves in the world the writer has created for us.

In Iron I: Too Bright the Sun, Jake Nanden has his flaws: he has mechanical body parts and is terrified of mirrors. He also has the deep lack of confidence that is the realm of replicants. Jake was a fascinating character to create and write about because he saw himself as non-human so he felt he had a perspective on the whole human race. Stone, in Iron II: Unknown Place, Unknown Universe is a self-proclaimed douchebag. They don’t come more anti-hero than Stone. I loved writing his part because I could make him as selfish, self-absorbed and obnoxious as I wanted. Then of course there are the aliens! Chief among them as protagonist is Kek-suîxjh. Super-intelligent, he nevertheless suffers from an innocent awe of the world that slips dangerously over into naivity at critical times.

My most flawed MC is the anonymous hero in Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate. He has an eye defect, a kind of spiritual’weakness’ and suffers from extreme bad luck. Incidentally one of the other protagonists in this book, Georgina, is much-loved by fans and readers despite the fact that she is a baddie and out to exploit the MC. Strange how such characters can sometimes gain sympathy.

I am about to start work on a pure Vampire novel. Now the MC will have no flaws other than that he is a vampire. Is this a flaw? I don’t know but certainly some people view vampires as super-beings. Perhaps vampires, werewolves and other shape-changers or mutants and the last domain of the ‘perfect’ being, albeit in disguise. It will be interesting to see if a ‘perfect’ character manages to gain audience sympathy. In fact this leads me to my main question this week: could a perfect character gain acceptance from an audience today? I want your views so please post your comments here.

Sneak Preview
This is from my latest project, December Radio:

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

Roger Dyce was beside himself with frustration. His eaglet frame paced up and down inside the small anti-chamber within the Cabinet War Room complex while Mr Brown sat, apparently calmly, on one of the wooded chairs placed against the wall.
“Sit down Dyce! You have nothing to worry about!”
“I’m not worried sir! I’m… well, I’m very angry! And frustrated! Yes, that’s what it is. Didn’t I say…?”
“Yes! Yes! We’ve been all through that. But perhaps this is your chance. Don’t blow it!”
That made Roger sit down. “First of all nobody will listen to me! And then it is implied that I’m somehow to blame for sitting on evidence!”
“Yes. Okay. I know, War is never fair.”
“And I’m nervous! But why here?” he continued. Brown didn’t answer. Dyce stared at the flaking cream paint smeared across bricks. During the last fifteen minutes they had heard the sound of muffled shouting from within the Map Room where the British Prime Minister was about to receive them. At that moment the door to the Map Room was flung open and out stumbled a well-built man whose facial features were so pleasingly regular and whose receding hair was so neatly minimal that they both looked as if painted onto an egg. He was wearing a neat blue suit. He nodded curtly to Brown and smiled curtly at Dyce. Roger could see the man was hurt underneath a brave façade of brisk efficiency. Whoever he was, Roger didn’t want such a powerful man as his enemy. They both followed the man though the door and took seats facing Winston Churchill.
For brown, this was only the second time he had met Winnie but he was no less nervous than Roger for it. Winston was in a foul mood:
“Now, you may wonder…hm, why we are meeting here?” The Prime Minister’s face was graven. “The truth is, from what I have learned yesterday, the War is not as over, as I thought it was! Indeed, we are in the most grave danger! Grave! I have no intention of leaving here until this is resolved. Brown, you’ve met J. J Llewellin, MP and currently serving on the board overseeing the American Nuclear Bomb programme. And this, I understand is the young Dyce!” A fleeting smile from the Prime Minister showed Roger that he alone in the room was above blame. This gave him confidence.
He smiled. “Yes, Prime Minister!”

Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate promotion
I have just signed up to a new website promoting covers and first pages of novels. The website is run by internationally selling writer Laurence O’Bryan, a writer much respected and with nearly 200,000 followers I am hoping to get some decent exposure from this promotion. I have chosen Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate for the promotion because it’s my best-selling novel and is most like Laurence’s own work. The promotion will run for one year from the day it starts (in the next week or two) and to mark the occasion I did one last edit on the novel to create the Third Edition. The website is: http://booksgosocial.com
Apart from some small corrections to the text to make it more readable I have taken out the Author’s Notes and the Secret Codes that they referred to. I felt that the book has stood the test of time and no longer necessarily needs the Secret Codes to be enjoyable and furthermore, they may put off some of the more serious adult readers. I am quite sure the book’s contents are mature enough to please such readers.
However the Secret Codes, for anybody who wants to try deciphering them and nobody has successfully done so yet, will still be available in the Second Edition. For some reason, known only to Amazon, even though this is still available, it’s not associated with the Third Edition and is only possibly to find by searching specifically for Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate – Second Edition.

How does Jake Nanden, replicant from Too Bright the Sun, interview?

There is an interview with Jake Nanden from the Iron Series here today:

http://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/character-interview-number-seven-jake-nanden-sci-fi/

If you want to read more about Jake Nanden, read the page for Too Bright the Sun or its sequel, Unknown Place, Unknown Universe.

And don’t forget to subscribe to the Newsletter for Chapter One of Too Bright the Sun for FREE!

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.

Blog: How to Commit the Perfect Murder – Lazlo Ferran

This week: How to Commit the Perfect Murder, Rant about Adespresso, updated bio, book price increases.

How to Commit the Perfect Murder
There is no Sneak Preview this week because I am still only slowly progressing with the latest book. If I excerpted every week you would soon have read all of it 🙂 Instead let me write about something which has preoccupied me this week and does for some time during most books I write. There is often a murder and one often has to think through just how the murderer in the book is going to handle it. There are many ways of murdering somebody so that it is unlikely you will be found out but very few people can or actually, do it in cold blood. It is more often done out of passion and on the spur of the moment ( it is more commonly state-sponsored executions that are planned). Serial Killers I won’t count here because they are not generally sane, usually psychopaths and don’t think rationally about what they are doing.

So my main character finds himself with a knife in his hand and the means, and motive, to kill somebody. It is war-time and you might think nobody will notice a missing person, or will care about a body in the street. But you would probably be wrong. Apart from cleaning up the crime scene (if he or she can do the deed) as best they can, the murderer will next have to consider either how to dispose of the body or how to conceal the act and make the death look natural. In my case (ie the character in my book, not me!) the latter is not possible, nor does the character need to fake his own death, but he does want to take the place of the deceased for a while. Therefore he needs to dispose of the victim.

Acid
Acid is of course one method but very difficult to execute: one needs to order large quantities of the acid, transport them, store them and have a device to fully immerse the body parts. You then have to dispose of the slush that results.

Immersion in water
Immersing in a fast flowing river or the sea is better.
This was my chosen method; in the murder’s location there are many ditches and canals. None of these are fast flowing. The next problem is therefore how to sink the body. Initially I just thought of using a sack of coal tied to the poor victim’s feet but this seemed at the same time too easy and  too dangerous. Where do you get the coal? Where do you get the sack? A crate suggested itself and then mud or stones. A combination might be quite good as long as all the soil doesn’t get washed out of the crate.

I had the person doing the concealing (who I must reveal here is not the murderer) using the victim’s belt to attach the crate to the body but then there is the question of whether the crate should be put on top of the body or underneath as an anchor.

Of course in time the body will rot. At first it will sink but then later it will tend to float. It’s hard for anybody doing the concealing to allow for thinks like tide, varying depths of water (in drought for instance), the action of boats, children, even animals chewing through the leather of the belt. Then there is flooding.

It’s a perplexing problem for the concealer and the writer too. The concealer can only hope that the body stays concealed long enough to decay beyond recognition. Of if at sea, that it gets washed out into the great oceans and decays there. I’m glad it’s not something I have ever had to consider for real and I hope I never have to.

Rant about Adespresso (http://www.adespresso.com/)
I tried out a so-called Beta package called Adespresso; software which allows you to compile advertising campaigns and post them to Facebook through the Facebook Ad API. It all looked good but first of all I received warnings saying that neither of my ads had posted! I received to notifications that the tech team were aware of the problem and would sort it quickly.
“Fair enough,” I thought.
Nothing happened and the campaign durations were almost at an end. Then I tried to contact the Adespresso team. The contact form didn’t work in Firefox or Chrome! I couldn’t believe it. I searched on the internet and found that it had the capability to import my existing ads from Facebook. This would be really useful so I resigned myself to the fact Adespresso didn’t work properly but could help me decipher my already-complete campaigns. I found the setting to import the campaigns and clicked the button. I had a jolly message telling me:
“Congratulations. It worked! You will be able to see the campaigns shortly.”
Did I, Hell! Nothing happened at all! I tried several times – nothing!
Oh- I did finally manage to submit the contact form – it only works in Internet Explorer. I thought such days were gone!

My assessment: Okay it didn’t cost me anything but they call it a Beta! Its more like an Alpha if you ask me and in reality its just a pretty web page that does absolutely nothing! Either they are very optimistic (about both their customers and their own capabilities) or very cynical. Its just possible of course they have bitten off more than they can chew but don’t want to admit it to their investors. I did see one of the campaigns appear in the Facebook Campaign dashboard so it’s hard to tell whether it is Facebook at fault, Adespresso or both.

Very disappointing. Avoid Adespresso.

Updated Biography
I have updated my biography across all websites to reflect the new fans I have gained in the Far East, Middle East, and Egypt. Welcome to all of you. I hope you find something of interest here.

Book Price Increases
I have had to put my book prices up – generally to around the £3.99 mark. This is partly because Amazon are charging me a ‘supply’ cost for my kindles of up to 15p each and partly because I think this is just a fairer price for my books. I hope we will soon be far enough out of the recession that people can easily afford these prices. It is very little for projects that take a year of my life. I will be keeping down the price of Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate  to £0.99  for just a little while longer and Too Bright the Sun will stay at that price. Oh and by the way, the title of the blog this week is from a TV series and not a film.

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: Creation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIDEO OF POLISH MIGRANTS IN PARK ON YOUTUBE

This week’s Blog – Mars Attacks!

Hot off the Press!

Hot of the press replaces previous ‘Excerpts’. It will be excerpts that I have just written; little tasters of what I am up to, but not too much. I think I can just about manage this final one from Iron III: Worlds Like Dust.

Worlds Like Dust

Copyright © 2011 by Lazlo Ferran

All right Reserved

“Good thinking, Caron. However that still doesn’t help much. I don’t think any of us would get far … wearing a suit outside the port is gonna look pretty strange … And I don’t even speak Ischian!” After half hour deliberating they still had no decent plan. “Anyways, I am gonna get some kip. Bryant, you are on watch. Wake me in one hour. I’ll sleep on it!”

When they drifted cautiously into Dock 422 in Mars Space Port, they still had no plan beyond the inchoate one suggested by Caron.

Built in the late 21st Century Mars Space Port, also known as Port Brutus, named after the first man to set foot on Mars, was still very impressive. Built from the then-cheap black seribdenum alloy, the matt surfaces on the ten mile long aisles and shorter piers appeared blacker than black. Only the twinkling pot lights highlighted its profiles and gave an almost sickening perspective to it.

Ischian cruisers were larger than human ones and the docks could barely hold them so McNeill had to use every bit of skill to dock without damaging the ship. They knew they would be scrutinized, and probably reported if they made an error. They didn’t need the attention. McNeil was sweating when the cruiser finally came to rest and the docking clamps juddered into position. Osei, in the Ischian suit, used a translator to respond by keyboard to the Port’s new controller while keeping the others off the comms viewing screen. A stern looking Ischian Commander demanded an explanation several times for the suit and the lack of vocal communication.

‘Were involved in a skirmish with a stolen cruiser, Commander,’ Osei typed. ‘In Earth’s vicinity. We sustained damage to our recyclers and comms equipment.’

“But I can see no sign of damage to your ship, Captain!”

‘They had Ischian cruiser, Commander. That means they had disrupter. They may be poor shots but they were lucky.’

“Yes, I know. We have been told a confirmed damaged cruiser is possibly heading this way. I presume that was the skirmish you were involved with?”

‘Yes.’

“I see. You need a Repair Crew? I can’t spare one until tomorrow …”
‘We barely made it here, sir. Need to contact our Commander and request a brief for a new mission.’

“Hm. Your unit is near the Earth’s Moon, subduing Rebels, I believe. He won’t have time for that. What’s his name? I might be able to get a message through …”

“Wait. Our old Commander was killed yesterday. We have a new one but I forgot the name.” Osei broke the link. “Quick! Somebody get me a name … From the logs; from a bunk; the suits … I don’t care!” There was chaos as the three grunts turned the deck upside down. Caron found a tag in one of the suits.

“Kreikos …? Something like that, I think. My Ischian’s not so good …”

Osei reconnected with the Dock Control. ‘Kreikos,’ he typed in.

“Right.” I’ll get in touch. You report to me directly you get port-side. Understood?”

‘Yes, sir.’

***

Other News

It looks like editing on The Journals Of Raymond Brooks, Second Edition is complete so I look forward to seeing that published on Amazon soon. The new cover of Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate seems to be working for me; I have sold 11 copies in the first week. I really hope to finish Worlds Like Dust in the next two weeks so that I can move on to stories which have languished too long in a half finished state. I am also starting work with Omri Koresh on the new cover for Ordo Lupus II: The Devil’s Own Dice, so look for that in August or September.

Elsewhere

Just a quick word about the Shopper Discount Scam. A close friend of mine was angry to find they had been paying £10 per month to a company they had never heard of the other day. It turns out that thousands of people have been caught by the same scam: you pay for something on a reputable website like Argos.co.uk or Prontaprint.co.uk and unwitting find yourself becoming a member of the shopper discount service. They do offer a voucher for £15 (or something like that) off your next purchase but proceed to debit your credit card account by £10 per month indefinitely. it is quite difficult to stop them and neither the banks nor the website companies (ie Argos) seem interested in helping you. It does smell  badly of bad practice at the least and I am amazed something like this is allowed to go on in the consumer-conscious 21st Century.

Too Bright the Sun

BookCoverPreview

As you will see in the post below, I was very happy to find out today that Too Bright the Sun entered the Top 100 FREE Kindle books list on all three: Amazon USUK and Canada on Monday. Promoting my work takes me away from writing so it’s really nice to get some reward for all the effort I have put in over the last few weeks. I only wish I knew exactly what number it reached. You can rest assured I am watching the progress of Vampire: Beneficence (Short Stories III) very closely. Below I will discuss the results of the Amazon KDP Free Promotion for my books so far.

Vampire: Beneficence (Short Stories III)

So far there have been 131 downloads, 17 of them in Germany. It seems to be taking longer to get people’s attention with this one although it’s doing much better in the US than here. Perhaps the UK market really isn’t so keen on Vampire stories. Then again it’s been my experience that lycanthropy stories do well here in winter and not summer whereas for Science Fiction it’s the other way round,

It’s languishing around the 3000 Ranking on both Amazon US and UK so if you haven’t downloaded a copy, please do.

Unknown Place, Unknown Universe

Interestingly, I did a two-day paid advert for 29-30 June on Facebook for this and I think it made very little difference. There have been 103 downloads (the promotion is now finished) which is about half what Too Bright the Sun achieved. But then Amazon continued billing me for half of the 1st July before I could stop the advert!! Needless to say that I have complained to Facebook about this but have not heard back. Their promotional blurb is misleading if this is how the promotion works: you have to delete or pause a campaign to stop them from billing you after the campaign is due to finish. I am also waiting for reply to my complaint about having the link to Too Bright the Sun declared spam! There was only one option from drop downs for the complaining email: ‘my Human Rights have been violated’! Anyway, in that 2.5 day period 168,500 people were reached and there were 52 clicks giving a ‘conversion’ rate of  0.005%.However it doesn’t mean these 50 people downloaded copies. I am doubtful many of them did because if I look at the access statistics for my Lazlo Ferran page I see that I reached 97,000 people in India in the last month (the highest reach for any country) followed by Germany at 44,000, Uk at 31,000, Canada at 20,000 and US at 15,000. And yet I only had 5 downloads from India. It is however worth noting that the high number reached in Germany might explain why the downloads for Germany were so unexpectedly high. I haven’t paid for an advert for the Vampire book and downloads are soon to exceed those for Unknown Place, Unknown Universe.

Results of Caption Competition for Too Bright the Sun’s Laser Weapons

I decided to do a caption competition half way through Too Bright the Sun’s promotion and had some great suggesions.

The winner for the Alien Laser Rifle is Organic Plasma Rifle by Dominic Kay @DBCK83.

The winner for the laser pistol is Laser Carbine LC5150 ‘Bullpup’ by David Bayne @david_bayne.

The names will be included in Iron III: Worlds Like Dust and of course there will be a credit both winners!

Other News

I have added some more background information and pictures in a section ‘From the Author’ for both Iron Series books; Too Bright the Sun and Unknown Place, Unknown Universe so be sure to take a look by clicking on the menu above. Also if you are a writer and interested in lycanthropy or high tech science fiction please join my discussion group on Facebook.

Don’t forget, the Free Promotion of Vampire: Beneficence: (Short Stories III) is still FREE to download until 8 am Sunday UK time or midnight 6 July in the US.