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.

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My special offers this week and: How do you market your books?

This week: OCD Update, special offers and: How do you market your books?

OCD Update
I am proud to announce that today is my first OCD-FREE day of this year (and for about 20 years for that matter!). It is probably just an excersise but if it works I will stick to it.

Basically I woke up this morning, took a long, hard look at things and decided I didn’t have time for the OCD any more. Anyway, my fear of getting fatal diseases (like AIDs for instance) simply haven’t come true, probably because I have been very careful. For whatever reason, now seems a good time to try this. I already feel I have burned my bridges somewhat so there may not be any way back in the short term.

No doubt, my mind will try to take over and my ‘OCD-self’ will try to gain the upper hand so watch this space. But if you don’t hear any more about my OCD, then I am free of it. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed.

In order to achieve an OCD-FREE state, I need to be very focused on something; I get bored very easily and I have a hyperactive mind, so expect me to be working very hard on the books and promoting myself in the near future. Read on, if you are interested in the promotion and please do buy one of my books if you are at all interested in my views or stories. I really appreciate the support of all of you and I would love to sell more books!

To mark the occasion of my OCD-FREE day attempt, I have changed one of the eyes of my twitter and Facebook header’s. It now represents blue sky, for optimism.

How do you market your books?
This question has plagued me recently. My sales almost stopped after 10 March. I could see no reason why. My sales were good for January and February. I was beginning to sell books at a higher price so I was happy. Then, the slump! I have thought long and hard about it and I conclude that the only possible cause must be that I am marketing less hard lately.

So I have created some new marketing images (see below) and I will be trying a few tools other than the infamous Facebook adverts over the next few weeks.

I have discovered these 2 tools:
https://app.adroll.com/dashboard
http://www.advertisingwebservice.co.uk

I will be spending half of my profits (after personal hours spent writing!) on adverts so I will let you know how I get on.

If anybody has tried either of these tools or knows anything else I can try other than Facebook or Google ads – both of which I have tried and had limited success, please let me know.

I have found that although I can achieve a fairly high CTR (click through rate) of 0.08% on Facebook, these simply don’t convert to sales. This may be because my blurb about the books doesn’t appeal or because my ads don’t relate clearly enough what I am offering. If anybody has any interesting views on this that they wish to share, please do.

Special offers
A reminder: Inchoate: (Short Stories: Volume I) is FREE if you are in the States and I have added Vampire Beneficence to it. Get it here: http://bit.ly/IRGYaE
Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate will be 99c from Friday 2 May until Tuesday 6 May. Get it here: http://bit.ly/15R1xOL

Below are the new marketing images, including my first attempt at a Lazlo Ferran logo. Please let me have your opinions and any other ideas I can try for marketing.

The new Lazlo Ferran logo in red

The new Lazlo Ferran logo in red

The new Lazlo Ferran logo in white

The new Lazlo Ferran logo in white

Ordo lupus and the Temple Gate advert image

Ordo lupus and the Temple Gate advert image

The Devil's Own Dice advert image

The Devil’s Own Dice advert image

Attack Hitler's Bunker advert image

Attack Hitler’s Bunker advert image

Do you wash your hands when you come home?

I have now created a survey to ask people about hand washing. What I want is to get a feel for whether people without OCD wash their hands when they come home or not, and if they only do it sometimes, when?
If you don’t have OCD and would like to take a moment to help the OCD community, please complete the single question: it will only take you a few seconds and you won’t have to leave any personal details. Please only complete this if you do NOT have OCD.

I want to answer the question.

This survey link will always be available on my OCD page in the menu at the top of this page.

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.

Blog: The Taste of First Blood

This week: Werewolves in Mauritius, Rewards for Reviews, Short Stirling aircraft recovery, Video Blog Tour

Werewolves in Mauritius
I often feel like a rabbit in the headlights when it comes to blog time. I simply haven’t prepared anything much and I am so busy, yet I want to give something to my readers and fans. This week it is a little easier because I came across this article on Werewolves in Mauritius. Actually it’s not the original recent article I was looking for – I heard of this phenomenon back in the summer – but the frequency of reports shows just how steeped in Werewolf culture Mauritius is.

Werewolves – or Loup Garou – the French equivalent word – inhabit the Mauritian subconscious like the sea and sun of this gorgeous island. They are said to prowl the streets and night, rape women and appear as naked men covered in oil. They are also said to be able to vanish at will but despite having such supernatural powers, they are not averse to a little high-tech gadgetry in their lives. The most recent spate of sighting this year included several eye-witness accounts of the Loup Garou carrying mobile phones and even talking on them!

I am fascinated by Vampire and werewolf… shall we call it culture, for now; I hate the terms mythology and legend. To me, vampires and werewolves are part of our very deepest emotions and views of the world. I believe man has had the idea of vampires and werewolves since he could visualise his own existence. Indeed I have been slowly developing a para-world that includes this as part of its fundamental structure. They may not be part of the physical world around us but their effect is.

I am equally fascinated by werewolves and I think they fit a similar niche in our inner-most thoughts. Shape-shifters or lycanthropes all, and welcome to my world if you believe. To this category we might also add the classic zombie – a creature which is also undead and loves the taste of human flesh. Their only real disadvantage is that they are rather impractically slow. I seriously doubt zombies of the classic Hollywood type could catch a hedge-hog, let alone a terrified human. Perhaps if we allow them a little more speed they too fit this category?

Whether you believe in the benevolent lycanthropes of early Medieval culture, or Jewish views of the seductive Lilith, or the predatory creatures of Hammer Horror, they fascinate most of us.

Getting back to Mauritius, of which I now have some knowledge, this island seems to regard werewolves as no more unusual than rain storm although they engender a much greater fear. A few things strike me about the Mauritian view:

1. The sightings are often most frequent just before, during or after a cyclone. Some claim (as quoted in the linked news report above) that these rumours are circulated by the government to deflect criticism away from their Prime Minister who claims a divine ability to stop Cyclones. If so, making the people even more terrified seems a bad tactic at a time of devastation.
2. Mauritius is not the only island subjected to tropical storms which has an endemic belief in this collection of supernatural beings. Haiti is regularly subjected to these storms and has some of the most fascinating zombie tales of all.
3. Mauritius is not the only former French colony to believe in these supernatural monsters – Haiti does too.
4. Mauritius is not the only Creole speaking community that believes in these creatures. Haiti does too.
5. Mautitius is not the only culture steeped in Voodoo that believes in these creatures. Haiti, and in fact most Caribbean islands do. Some of these use Creole too. Here is the Wikipedia page on Zombies in Haiti.

I think you probably see where I am going with this; rather than the standard view that fear of and belief in shape-changers and zombies comes from backward, third-world countries, are we looking at a belief culture that is being propagated from France – indeed the France of the middle ages?

I believe so. Furthermore, I speculate in my books, Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate, and The Devil’s Own Dice, that these creatures are born of the clash of two great cultures – the European and the Eastern which met like great tectonic plates in the Balkans and forced belief systems like Catharism into being some time between the 6th and 10th Centuries.

I do believe whatever forces brought up vampires, werewolves and zombies from the very uttermost depths of our souls, are still acting as well-springs of secret desires and fears today. I’d love to hear from you. What are your thoughts?

Rewards for Reviews
I am reducing the price of Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate to £2.99 for Christmas but I still need more reviews. I also need reviews for my new book Attack Hitler’s Bunker! As you will see further down in this blog post, I am planning a Video Blog Tour for both books soon and more reviews would certainly help persuade more people to try them. So, if you submit a review of either book to Amazon in December or January I will give over my blog for one day to you to post about your book, cd or any other product (within reason!) I will also include you in my Video Blog Tours which will provide you with loads of traffic and plenty of material to post about in the form of interviews. Two things you probably don’t know about these two books:
1) There is a pass called Pas de Loup near Rennes-le-Château which I feature in The Devil’s Own Dice. To the best of my knowledge this translates as Wolf Pass. No idea why it has that name.
2) I knew the Hollywood Oscar Winner Cliff Robertson towards the end of his life through a brief correspondence. He was a very skilled pilot and owned a Spitfire for many years. He was partly the inspiration for Attack Hitler’s Bunker!

So hurry up and get reviewing!

Short Stirling aircraft recovery
stirling
If you’ve been following my blog you will know that I write about, and am mad-keen on World War Two aircraft. I first came across the Short Stirling – the first British 4-engined bomber of WWII, when I made an Airfix model of it in my childhood. Since then I have often wanted to see a real one but there are no Short Stirlings left in the world. This seems a great shame to me. The Stirling Aircraft Society is doing its best to rectify this. Time is running out now for WWII aircraft wrecks that are viable restoration projects. After 70 years those left are mostly in the sea and too corroded to lift. The recent Dornier Do 17 lifted off the English coast may be one of the last that is raised. Let’s hope its not too late for the Stirling.

Imagine my surprise then when I saw a video on youtube showing a fairly intact example, dived on my a French team. I regularly scan the web for any news about Stirlings and hadn’t seen this. I watched it again and then immediately reported it to one of the senior members of The Stirling Aircraft Society. He told me he had seen it and tried to contact the divers but nobody had replied. Knowing how tricky it can be to communicate with youtube, I was determined to try and contact them myself. After a lot of googling and guess-work I found two email addresses and fired off two friendly emails. I received two enthusiastic replies and was able to put them in touch with the Society. Things are moving along now, with both teams working on identifying the aircraft so that the French Authorities can be contacted for permission to dive the wreck. I would be very happy if anything comes of this. Let’s hope so. If you want to watch the video, it’s here. The wreck is on its back but seems relatively intact and in shallow water. If you are interested in The Stirling Aircraft Society, they are here. As an interim measure the Society is attempting to build a replica of the forward fuselage section of a Stirling and you can read about it here. Short Stirlings feature heavily in my WWII action thriller Attack Hitler’s Bunker! Click on the menu item at the top of this page if you want to grab a copy!

Video Blog Tour
I am planning Video Blog Tours – or VBTs for both Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate and Attack Hitler’s Bunker! soon. This will hopefully be a series of interviews I do about these books with the questions set by other blogs talking about related subjects. So if you are blogging about Vampires, Werewolves, WWII, the Luftwaffe, RAF, Short Stirlings or allied bombers of WWII please leave a comment and I’ll get back to you. I am now following a long list of such blogs so if I don’t hear from you, I will be in touch!

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?

Blog: Miracles for Sale – Lazlo Ferran

This week: Facebook privacy, FREE Offers, building a social network, OCD Update and Formula One.

I haven’t actually seen the film Miracles for Sale from 1939, but having read the synopsis, I want to see it. The reason for my choice of title will become clearer if you read the section on Facebook privacy. Because You’re Worth It might have been a more appropriate choice of film title but the 2002, made for TV film has no reviews and no actors in it.

Facebook Privacy
Now I am making some progress with my project to build my own Social Network, I have to start thinking about I handle data and specifically how to keep member’s data private. Privacy is a huge issue these days; when I asked a friend for his views he told me he had joined over ten networks and that people are into privacy these days. I think he’s right. People don’t want to share their personal information with anyone but their closest friends. The problem is that Facebook is doing exactly that.

If you log in to Facebook and then click the drop down to select your Privacy settings you will see a menu on the far left which includes Apps and Ads. I suggest you turn off any aps you don’t use (I found many here listed which I never use) but for now click on Ads. At the bottom you will find a sub section: Website and Mobile App Custom Audiences.
Read this. So how does Facebook get away with this? Simples: they are very open about it.

But are they? If you click on the Learn more link in the first bullet point (it’s not very obvious because they have used a dark blue highlight with black text) you will see a video that explains how Online Behavioural Advertising works. Its all pretty simple and we know the theory behind it; by sharing some of your data with advertisers, Facebook allows the advertisers to place adverts in front of you if they think you might buy their products. In the process Facebook makes shit-loads of cash. Nothing new there.

However, Facebook is keen to point out they don’t share any of your Private Data. They only share your public data. In actual fact I found Facebook’s link didn’t work but a quick google located the website they refer to: http://www.iabuk.net/.

I was curious. This websites didn’t seem aimed at the general public but more at advertisers; they constantly talk about ‘they’ and ‘them’ when referring to the public who are viewing the adverts. It seems like another world from social networks so I hunted around and found this video: http://www.iabuk.net/video/the-evolution-of-online-display-advertising.

This is much more interesting than the first video. I had the uncomfortable feeling while watching it that I was being given the hard sell for the concept of the Ad Exchange. I didn’t really understand what it was other than a network of people sharing your personal data. I needed to do more research.

I won’t go into technical details but it seems to me that what Facebook and the Ad Exchange do is share your IP address which they consider NOT to be your Private Data. They consider this Public Data. This is because from a techy point of view, they processes simply won’t work unless they share your IP address (essentially the physical address of your computer). While it’s true that they are not connecting your browsing habits with your name, they ARE connecting them with your computer so to me, the difference between your IP address and personal name is academic. Sure somebody else could be using your pc/mac/laptop but most of the time it will be you.

I suspected as much because recently a friend of mine was caught in a retail scam and when she contacted them they managed somehow to connect her with her blog posts criticising them even though she used a false name on the blog. There is only one way they could have done this; if her IP address was shared.

Thus it looks like they have hidden a declaration of what they do beneath layer upon layer of jargon. Paradoxically it looks like the older process or infrastructure called the Ad Network is more transparent and fairer; there the advertiser buys advertisisng space on a website and trusts the publisher (usually the owner of the website) to publish their advert for them. In this process the advertiser never sees any data about you until you browse or buy their products.

While thinking about how to use RDF on my Social Network I had started to wonder how I was going to share the triples while (which is a fundamental part of the RDF paradigm) and now I have decided to develop a system along the Ad Network model.

Free Offers
Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate is still FREE on Amazon until 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.

Building a Social Network
This week I had to choose a triple store for my data. It has taken me a few weeks to think about this because it was not clear to me how one can legally or morally share data in an RDF world although the world of triples is one of sharing data. I want to contribute to the Global Graph so I needed RDF. In the end I settled on MongoDB. It’s slow (according to reviewers) at inserting triple data but this doesn’t matter to me. My primary store is MySQL and I only need to run a daily cron to update the triple store. However, MongoDB is quick to query and more versatile if I later choose to build some commercial tools. Note: I will DEFINATELY NOT be sharing members’ Private Data of my members. So if you are one of those already in the test group, don’t worry!
Since installing the triple store (thanks MongoDB makers – your instructions were wrong and caused me problems for a few hours!) I have focused on building a Facebook Ap. That is about all I am prepared to say about this for now. It’s proving a bit tricky to achieve what I want but for those of you who are interested, I will keep you updated.

OCD Update
For those of you not aware, I have suffered from OCD for the last 18 years. After a six-month period of private Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) last year, ending in November, I pursued a plan devised by myself and refined by my therapist for the next six months. My fear is of dust and germs and my flat had become difficult for me to clean. My plan was to employ a regular cleaner and this worked for a while. But then I was made redundant. SInce then I have had to make do with cleaning myself. I must admit, there has been little improvement in my OCD since then. I talked to my doctor about it and we agreed that I should apply for more treatment on the NHS. I was placed in a queue and my first appointment is on the 6 November. I will let you know how I get on.
On the same subject, there were two tv shows on OCD this week; one focusing on patients at a treatment centre and one on OCD sufferers being used to clean the flats of people who simply don’t clean. I didn’t catch the second but the first was interesting. One sufferer called James seemed to suddenly gain control of his OCD through a fairly simple exposure exercise. For those not familiar with the term, one of the techniques used in CBT is exposure; making the sufferer touch something they don’t want to touch and then not applying their normal rituals to counter the effect. I am very happy for James that he made progress so quickly. I found it quite moving I did note that OCD can look amusing to the casual viewer. One case I have heard of was a sufferer who was convinced they caused road accidents wherever they drove and so had to loop back to check the roads all the time. Their journeys took a very long time to complete.

Formula One
I am even sadder that Mark Webber will be retiring this year. He has been a very underrated driver and has suffered while at Red Bull. Their constant pushing Vettel forward and holding Webber back has curtailed a promising career. I am not normally a conspiracy theorist but I do wonder why it is that Mark always gets the technical issues. Why on earth wasn’t his KERS turned on and charged when on the grid last Sunday?