Authors, what are you working on now?

Here is an update of what I am doing. If you are a writer or reader, tell me; what have you been up to?

New Book Covers

I have had new covers designed for The Ice Boat and The Man Who Recreated Himself. Tell me what you think. Thanks to those who have helped me; you know who you are. New covers for Infinite Blue Heaven and the Short Stories volumes are on the way.

The Ice Boat cover

The Ice Boat cover

The lovely new cover says it all about this book. A lonely man searches for love in some of the remotest, as well some of the most urbanised, places on Earth. There is a coldness in his heart that he doesn’t seem to be able to fill. The covers for Volume 2 and the Boxed Set are of the same design.

The Man Who Recreated Himself cover

The Man Who Recreated Himself cover

I love this new design! The tunnel looks like a key-hole to me and that represents the idea that, in some way, James Brennan has the key to the future of man. The butterfly symbolises metamorphosis.

The Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate – Extended Edition sale

The giveaway of this book was quite successful, with about 300 copies downloaded. What has been great is that I sold 3 copies since the sale ended!

Forthcoming releases

I have begun completely reworking the book with the working title Escher’s Staircase. I don’t like this title by the way but haven’t though of anything better yet. I guess the best way to describe this book is; reminiscent of some of Edgar Allan Poe’s work. It has that dark, gothic feel to it and an air of mystery. It is proving quite difficult to get to a state whereby it can be published but I have had some great input from those close to me and my beta readers so when you do see it, I think the wait will have been worth it. I would guess I am about one or two months from having a fair copy. It will require another read though and proof-reading after that so perhaps it will be published in January.

Worlds Like Dust, the final installment of the Iron Series, is close to the end of it’s final proof and beta read. I have no idea what changes will be required so its much harder to give an estimate of its release date. Certainly, this will be after Escher’s Staircase.

Another World War Two drama has had a few beta reads but it still in an early form. I don’t anticipate this being available for at least a year because I want to send it to a few agents; they prefer unpublished work and take a long time to respond.

I have also completed a first draft of the third book in the Ordo Lupus series and feedback from the beta readers has been good so far. Interest in it is high but I want to send this to agents too so I don’t anticipate this being available for another year.

Some of you may recall that I began a work on a book about busking. This has been shelved due to lack of interest from publishers.

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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.

Is Monica Bellucci, Naked, Profound or Banal?

This week: Two Poems and: Is Monica Bellucci, Naked, Profound or Banal?

I apologise for the belated post this week; Amazon managed to revert all my book descriptions to old versions so that I have had to spend the last three days rewriting them. Like a fool, I trusted Amazon to keep them current so I didn’t keep copies myself. I have also had Infinite Blue Heaven – A Kind and A Queen banned. I don’t know the reason why but it might be something to do with the word ‘incest’, which has been in the project description on Amazon since 2009 and on Lulu since 2006. If Nabokov, in Ada, and Thomas Pynchon, in Gravity’s Rainbow, can mention incest, why can’t I? I have emailed them to ask what the problem is and to ask for it to be reinstated so I will keep you posted.

Is Monica Bellucci, Naked, Profound or Banal?
Okay, so I have your attention! In fact the question is slightly tongue-in-cheek but there is a point to it, as we shall see.

It is often said by wiser men than I that the beauty of a woman is profound. Some would say that nothing in the Universe can be more beautiful.

In the Hollywood movie Malèna, starring Monica Bellucci, we see a beautiful woman through the eyes of a teenage boy.

She is the object of our desire and we do see her naked. I suspect every man who watched it, already knowing that Monica is famous and intelligent Italian model with outspoken ideas, identified with the boy’s vague feelings of lust for this beautiful woman.

Extend this to a photograph of the naked Monica and that man, myself included, will still feel the same lust.

And yet, if her place is taken by an unknown model, the feeling disappears. We do not lust after an unknown woman to the extent we desire a woman we admire. In fact, what we feel for the unknown model is banal; a simple urge for sex devoid of any deeper emotions.

So what is this feeling we have for Monica? In what way is it different from that for the model?

Well, there language fails us! Man has yet to find the words, or the grammar, to describe that feeling.

So there is space for our language to grow, and with it, we will grow too. I am sure you will agree with me that human society on Earth is far from ideal at the moment and so we need to grow.

However, if language is one of our learning ‘tools’, there is a problem. We simply are not trying hard enough. I heard you ask; why?

Well, let me explain. I was reading my daily dose of Edgar Allan Poe this morning. He often made a few bob from work criticising the work of other writers. Here he is talking about a story of James Fenimore Cooper (author of The Last of the Mohicans): Wyandotte.

Regarding Cooper’s sentence on the opening page of Wyandotte – ‘One of the misfortunes of a nation is to hear nothing besides its own praises.’

[This sentence] is by no means lucid. Here it will be seen, that to convey the intended idea [that compared with other nations Americans only see America’s virtues], we have been forced to make a distinction between the nation and its individual members; for it is evident that a nation is considered as such only in reference to other nations; and thus as a nation, it hears very much ‘besides its own praises;’ that is to say it hears the detractions of other rival nations. In endeavoring to compel his meaning within a brief sentence, Mr Cooper has completely sacrificed its intelligibility.

What a wonderfully analytical brain Poe had! He is basically saying that Cooper has communicated the following message: Americans can hear no sound other than praises of the good ‘ol USA!

He doesn’t go on to offer an alternative, as he does for other errors by Cooper, but nevertheless it is a withering criticism. Even in the 1840s, some writers of Cooper’s calibre were seen as ‘dumbing down’ grammar, either deliberately or by error.

Now, you and I can tell perfectly well what Cooper was trying to say and yet it is true that the sentence is ambiguous. So Poe was keen to point out that we need to be precise, and further more, it is quite clear that we are a lot less clear these days than writers of the 1840s. We have failed to pick up the challenge laid down by the likes of Poe, Dickens and even Shakespeare. Compare this chorus from the song Stupid Hoe by Nicki Minaj:

You a stupid hoe, you a you a stupid hoe
You a stupid hoe, you a you a stupid hoe
You a stupid hoe, you a you a stupid hoe
You a stupid hoe, you a you a stupid hoe
You a stupid hoe, yeah you a you a stupid hoe
You a stupid hoe you a you a stupid hoe
You stupid stupid, you a stupid hoe

Okay, so it’s an extreme example! But not only is it dumber than a hamster would tolerate of itself if it could pick up a pen, it is so ambiguous as to be completely meaningless. We don’t know if she is referring to herself, somebody in the song (she seems only to refer to herself in the rest of the song) or even the poor listener.

So what’s my point?

My point is that we are slowly losing the ability to communicate. Indeed, we are slowly losing the will to communicate.

What seems to have replaced it is the will to be entertained. I would suggest that Cooper had half a mind on entertaining the masses. During his lifetime, he was more popular than Poe; probably because he knew how to provide entertainment rather than enlightenment.

But if we carry on like this, overloading our senses with simple gratuitous pleasures like youtube videos, we will be sleepwalking into big trouble. Sooner or later, a clever malcontent like Hitler, or perhaps simple corporate greed, will shape our society in a way we want and guide our feet over the edge of the precipice, into disaster.

Oh, and my original question; Is Monica Bellucci, Naked, Profound or Banal?

Well, I think it depends on whether you know exactly who Monica is. What’s your opinion?

Two Poems

I read Poe’s critique of Rodman’s Culprit Fay this week. While Poe is scathing, I don’t think the poem is that bad by today’s standards. Judge for yourself:

Extract from: Culprit Fay – Joseph Rodman Drake

He put his acorn helmet on;
It was plumed of silk of the thistle down:
The corslet plate that guarded his breast
Was once the wild bee’s golden vest;
His cloak of a thousand mingled dyes,
Was formed of the wings of butterflies

My own efforts are pathetic by comparison. However, I have always believed that if you don’t get your own efforts ‘out there’ for others to judge, you can never improve. So here goes. Here are two poems of mine. The first, I began composing while on holiday in Spain. I was walking through a nature reserve, full of beautiful wild flowers, when a few rhyming words popped into my head. Over the next three months, I persevered with getting the thing into some kind of shape. The second, I can barely remember writing. I think it was written in ten minutes flat, after seeing an exhibition at the Tate Modern and meeting somebody new. I think you will agree that both are very poor, but please let me have your opinion.

To Play in Beds of Riotous Ray – Lazlo Ferran

Don’t you know you are the first, the utmost,
Figure-head of my dreams,
Like a sea-drunk fool, return’ed, who knowest,
Words, shaped to frame the tender feeling,
Art s’easy to snare as a unicorn,
I offer, in hope, ten stanzas,
– Ten prayers to the Holy God of Poem,
That in perfect word circumscribe,
The beauty of the lady from Kansas.

Succulent red pillows of a dew-ed rose,
Penanted breez-ed sunflower.
Precious golden corn flower posie,
Cascading sweet ellyssum bower.
The petals of a flower they only form,
A ring-ed shape that doth surround,
The central essence of your beauty’s stem
Which I first saw from afar, thence,
You seemed to withhold, mysteriously
and thus t’was, came to be bound.

I do not seek to invade, as some trou-
badour jesting in myth antique.
Chivalry, have imagin’d their false woo-
ing, but seek to befriend¬ – no tricks,
To encompass your waist, to hold your hand,
Because you, a woman, most fair,
Have power to give, th’ love that’s least detained,
From God’s deep infinite fountain,
You are the Lady to the Lord
That I do feel in your presence my dear.

Or with hold at your mercy, that which I,
Believe you to hold most precious.
I know that were I to take from you this prize,
Not cherishing its worth to us.
T’would be a sin, I could not do penance,
Adequate to pay the price to,
Absolve my soul from the evil cursed chance.
My loss too great, for I sought to take,
And took to turn and burn, our
Lady Jennifer’s heart and made it to dance.

The domicile of men is most suited,
To those who are of brutish strength.
Where words are of force, ne’er entreated,
But I entreat ‘y, must needs attempt.
To clumsy try with pen to reach you t’tell,
You how it is that to be close,
To you, would be to want to be closer still,
Let me say my dear that my most,
Delicate desire is to hold your waist,
And to let your breath my ears to fill.

Whether your breath is that quickened,
Or t’s the slow breath of sleep.
Its sweet music doth me empassion-ed,
– Smiled upon as I pass straight,
Through those gates to the garden of your heart.
To play in beds of riot ‘ous ray,
To walk hand in hand, yet we both be fast,
‘Sleep may be still ’tis we are one,
T’is just as a Night must needs have the Moon
And a Day must needs have the Sun.

Lady of the Lord that I feel I am,
When I am touch’d by your presence.
Your parapet I do walk alone,
Cautious, yet happy, I thence,
O’er see the foes advance ‘yon the walls.
I command all inside, grey stone,
Sky above, buttressed firm and resolv’d,
To protect you, to protect us,
I have built this castle, built this keep
For to keep us safe until we grow old.

I must, sure, seem to you like a dull blade,
On the battlefield of honour.
Your will so sharp to see all rank display’d,
Below you in clashing clamour,
If you had not e’en noticed your humble knight,
I would hardly have dared to try,
T’win your honour, but my aim you ignite,
And I need, on this field of conflict,
To loose the arrow, afore
I burn in the flames that burn so bright

You to me are of noblest blood,
Your features and deportment fine.
You glide like silk that marble dance-floor floods.
And glide and turn in sweetest line,
And if our twisting circles should entwine.
The Minstrel’s tune become too much,
Your eyes so close, to drink like mulled wine.
I would risk to press my case again,
And leaning close I see’st you smile
And in that while our fingers touch.

Now we have seen the form of my flower,
Radiant echo of your beauty.
See that I do not say if your bower,
Be a rose, sun-flower, lily,
Or the lilac, for it is in worship.
Of that flower called beauty,
Whose bud is true desire I fashion’d it,
In the hope that this fair missive,
May after a time, all the more
Beautifully say what my words can not.

This – the eleventh verse, is the bud,
Of my rhyme’s mimicking flower.
The mysterious creature called love,
At the centre of desire.
I say – We men are cordless without love,
Were you hence to remember me,
I’d be happy, e’en in that misty world above.
Were you to love me I would be,
Happiest of all – Were I a Saxon king,
Afire on my leafy bed,
On the lake, t’would be the last part burn’d
– The sweet mem’ry of you, in my sleepy head.

The Lighthouse – Lazlo Ferran

So dark the night.
Owls pussyfooting around my cloak muffed soul,
My destiny, three-masted, white, serene,
Glides deep, deeper into Hades sea.

Ghoul-Captained, sailors a’dippin’,
their plumbs and tinkly bone-dry fingers,
Into the still real lapping waves
As the old, oak-bound hulk shivers.

On the edge of night it is.
And yet isn’t quite extinguished
The souls of the crew,
Cry out for some Lode-Star light to distinguish.

“There!” cries a loose-socketed soul,
“I see it!” as the Dervish sweep – ,
Faery Light to guide them in,
Comes the Light House with their embrace to keep.

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.