Friday, 28 June 2013
Tuesday, 25 June 2013
Friday, 21 June 2013
Excerpt of the Week might have to replaced by moan of the week at the rate things are going!
First of all, I have badly pulled a muscle at the base of my back so that's one reason for the title Back to the Future this week! The other is that I simply feel I am going backwards at the moment. I simply cannot get my blog accessible in mobile devices whereas it did work before I pointed my domain lazloferran.com at it. But more of that later!
Problems with Barns & Noble
As promised here is the story of my problems with Barns & Noble on their website BN.com. Theirs is the most useless Customer Service system I have yet come across. I participated for the last 5 years in the Premium programme for my books sold though Smashwords.com. This meant that other affiliates like Sony, BN.com could sell the books for their own devices (Sony Reader and Nook). Now I want to try the Amazon KDP programme, as you know, and this requires me not to have my ebooks (entered in the programme) for sale anywhere else than Amazon. Consequently, I removed most of them from the Smashwords programme and they should have been removed from all the affiliates' websites. However Too Bright the Sun was still available on bn.com two weeks later.
I made use of their online chat to talk to their Customer Services team about removing their book but they told me they couldn't help and that I had to contact a different division on this email: firstname.lastname@example.org. So I did. A week later nothing had happened. I hadn't even received a reply other than an automated reply saying that they had received my email. So I went back onto the bn.com website and chatted again. The operator told me that he was sorry I had received no reply but that there was nothing I could do for him and he suggested I telephone the department instead. I mentioned that bn.com has been making money from my book for the last 2-3 years and I considered myself a cutomer: I didn't see why I should spend money on a phone call when I am currently not working full-time. Anyway I could get no further. He said to email them again. He assured me I would defintely get a response and he would record my case notes so they would have something to refer to. So I emailed them again and waited for a response. I waited another week!
By now I was approaching the FREE promotion slots for the second book in the Iron Series so I really needed to get Too Bright the Sun into the KDP programme fast! I was becoming very frustrated with Barns & Noble. Finally this week - after nearly a month, they removed the title. But I dont't see why they couldn't respond to ANY of my emails. Come on Barns & Noble. It's not good enough!
Problems accessing the Blog on Mobiles - Zoneedit DNS Management
I hope this is the last time I have to whinge for a while. I am very unhappy with the services I have been getting from Zoneedit. I used to get their services for free to manage my domain lazloferran.com. Now I have to pay for it but I was happy to do so - until now.
Basically I made a cock-up creating a domain record using their wizard for www.lazloferran.com instead of lazloferran.com. I don't know why I did this: I have been creating records for over ten years and never made this mistake before. Anyway, I told zoneedit to remove the record which they did but not all of it. There is still some rogue data and it hasn't been removed. It's interfering with the new record and stopping it working properly. This means that the redirect on blogger.com doesn't work properly. I don't know why it affects only mobiles but it does. But the point is that zoneedit have not responded to two subsequent emails asking for updates and two new tickets asking for the work to be completed. As a result, I am forced to consider moving either to wordpress for my blog or changing my domain and certainly changing my domain name management company. it's all very frustrating and stressing me out! This is the worst possible time for this to happen with me just starting to promote my books' FREE sale period on Amazon.
I'm still working on Iron III and it's getting near to completion. I hear that The Journals Of Raymond Brooks is also near to a completed Second Edtion so that is something to look forward to.
Isn't it funny how illness suddenly makes the TV your best friend? Last night when my back went, I could only lie on the bed. I barely managed to get the remote control before I lay down. I watched movies on TCM and found that I was happy to watch anything that came on. Even that weird old movie with Spencer Tracy as an aged rock climber with Robert Wagner as his (very young!) brother was pretty entertaining.
Don't forget the 3 books that are going to be FREE on Amazon in less than a week now. Here are the dates again:
24-28 June: Iron I: Too Bright the Sun
29 June-3 July: Unknown Place, Unknown Universe
2 July-6 July: Vampire: Beneficence
Please tell your friends, your neighbour, your parents, your neighbour's dog - and the cat and hamster if they have one, and retweet or post on facebook and anywhere else you can think of if you like my work. Thanks!
Friday, 14 June 2013
Blog Updated 16 June in Other News section
Update on Blog access issues
I am still working with zoneedit who I pay to manage my DNS settings. They have omitted to delete an old record which is giving conflicting data to the new record and thus causing issues, particularly for Mobile device users. Despite my repeated emails this still hasn't been fixed despite their reply that it would. I can only hope this is fixed very soon.
Virgin Media Issues
Damn Virgin Media! I have had a broadband fault for 3 weeks. Richard Branson wouldn't be too pleased if he knew. I had an engineer round to check. He swapped the superhub as routine but found no issue. He gave his name as Michael and his mobile and said to call if I had problems. I did the next day because I couldn't get online and the voice-mail said it was John! He never called me back. So I fixed a second appointment. With OCD, and being busy, I only agreed to give access again if it was the last time. I was assured it would be because a Senior technical engineer would come. He arrives and says it's local area issue becaue he visited another flat with the same issue nearby. He gets me to sign form saying it's fixed (stupid of me - I didn't see he had checked the 'fixed' box!) and says it will take 2-3 weeks to locate the issue so I must be patient. I wait a week and call Virgin to see how its going. He never even reported it! I get at best 1 hour online some days.
Update: I get some credit on my account from Virgin Media which really amounts to about £20 at this point and somebody called Gareth calls me and apologizes and says two engineers will come out the following day. On arrives about noon and asks for access to my flat without warning. Now Gareth assured me they would probably not need access but this guy then wants access twice! And at the end, after testing my hub again and disconnecting wires he tells me he found a note in the exchange cabinet down the road saying there was an issue at the exchange and that it was due to be repaired on the 20th - which was a week away! I don't know why he needed access twice to my flat to tell me this but I thank him and he went. Gareth had assured me he would call every day until the issue was fixed and he hasn't called back since the morning after his first call. I am still having big issues and its getting on for a month later. Come on Virgin - pull your socks up!Extract of the Week
This week's is from Iron III and as you can see, I am deeply into the climax now. It's action all the way from here on. I won't be able to do any more extracts from this story because then I will give the story away.
Copyright © 2012 by Lazlo Ferran
All Rights Reserved
“We’re going in!” came the sudden command. “We may be ramming the door. Everyone hold tight!”
Colonel Mayer held on to the back of the pilot’s tall chair. They had been talking to the Ischian flight control but had been cut off in mid-transmission. Now Mayer could see several enemy cruisers turning their bows to face the intruder and on the great battleship, lasers were being trained.
“Okay. Let’s go. Fifteen knots!” he ordered.
Inside the hangar, Sergeant Tucker turned to the Lieutenant. “I can see it! I think it’s Mayer! He’s coming in!” Lieutenant deLion pulled himself away from the mayhem of lethal laser beams and shouting, screaming men around him to peer through a port. He briefly saw something yellow approaching fast.
“Clear the doors! Get out of the way. All you in front of the door – get out and grab something! Move! Tucker, open the bloody doors!” He cupped his hands around his mouth and bellowed, “Helmets on!” Then he jumped to the side of the huge hangar doors, pulled his visor down and grabbed a rail.
The cruiser came crashing through the barely-opened doors moments later.
Sergeant Tucker had left the Ischian equivalnent of s-grav on in the hangar and the cruiser’s belly was torn apart by the Magneton clamps as it smashed onto the deck and slid towards the far wall. Pieces of broken cruiser and decking flew into the air like hellish rain. Even where men and alien were fighting for their lives they ducked or dived for cover. At the same time the rush of air as the hangar de-pressurised knocked many over and sucked the air from those who hadn’t dropped their visors in time. Automatically the hatches at the end of the corridors closed to seal the hangar off.
All this was taken in by DeLion during the fraction of a second it took for the cruiser to reach and smash into the far wall. There, it crumpled against the frame of the huge battleship and came to a shuddering halt. Instantly the hatch on the furthest side from the attackers opened and a bewildered looking Colonel Mayer staggered out on to the deck. His eyes probed the scene of carnage eagerly for deLion who waited a few seconds more until the compartment was completely de-pressurised before wading through wreckage to the Colonel. He made a quick assessment of numbers on the way.
Vampire Beneficence: (Short Stories III) has been selling steadily; even better than Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate. The virality of my posts using Hootsuite (the measure of what percentage of readers actually go on to do something like re-tweet or comment etc) has hovered around the 5-7% mark but only on a few tweets and posts. I have yet to learn what affects this but the idea must be to home in on such posts. The reach (how many people read the post) has really varied according with the book or subject. Sometimes there seems little rhyme or reason to it. Iron III should be finished within the next month and Attack Hitler's Bunker! is receiving it's last proof-reading; this time from a proof-copy of the paperback. I have reissued all the Short Stories series with new covers. My stats are saying that a lot more people are looking at my books on Amazon but sales are not noticeably up. Perhaps a possible redesign of the covers of the Ordo Lupus series might help. All my books are now in the Amazon free promotion and lending scheme (called KDP) so that all my books will be offered free for short periods of a few days throughout the rest of the year. There was an issue removing one title from Barnes & Noble but more of that next week. Hopefully this will encourage more people to read them and pass the word. First dates will be announced in blog update over the weekend.
Promotional Campaigns for Iron series and Vampire: Beneficence (inc. The Jesus Monster and Ordo I and Iron I Chap 1 Free) The dates have now been set. The books will be FREE on Amazon on these days:
24-28 June: Iron I: Too Bright the Sun
29 June-3 July: Unknown Place, Unknown Universe
2 July-6 July: Vampire: Beneficence
I watched a number of youtube videos of Bob Mitchum interviews yesterday. He was a very underrated actor and very polite about other actors and directors (most of the time). Unfortunately the last interview I watched - just before his death and when he looked very ill, was not good: the female interviewer kept asking inane questions about his relationships with actresses and missed the opportunity to ask him some penetrating questions. Its particularly criminal because it's clear, he was at last ready to reveal more about his life. There was a cheekiness behind his droll, disinterested expression that I have only seen in one interview many years ago, just after Ryan's Daughter. I also found out over the weekend that Kate Bush has managed to sneak out another album: 50 Words for Snow so soon after Aerial. I can't believe it! I am a huge fan of Kate's and usually she takes about 5 years for an album these days. To think she managed to get one out this quick and with no publicity that I can detect is amazing. I have listened to one track and it sounds good. Will listen to the rest as soon as I get time. As usual, good luck to Valentino Rossi and Marc Macquez in MotoGP tomorrow.
Sunday, 9 June 2013
Friday, 7 June 2013
A break in tradition this week. I will be talking about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - OCD.
I found a new place to walk last weekend. On many weekends I like to take my car and drive out of London to somewhere peaceful. I grew up in deepest Buckinghamshire, and while it is an insular community, I do very much miss the stunning countryside. Chalk soil leads to a wonderful variety of woodland: beech, oak, sycamore, giant and very ancient cherry trees and hawthorn trees as high as a house. Yes, my favourite woodland is very ancient and will remain a secret for now.
However, I am not yet rich and so Bucks is too far to go regularly. Consequently I usually explore closer to North London. In the last ten years - in my little car, I have discovered villages with beautiful streams and lovely quiet woodland walks where the solitary can find solace. I have had two favourite spots during this time but I was getting a little jaded.
At last I have found somewhere new! Furthermore, it's the best spot yet. It has an isolated lake and woods opposite to die for, complete with a few blue bells though not as many as the Bucks woods; these need chalky soil. I can walk for hours under leafy bowers and not meet a soul. Oh okay well I did get bitten by a few mossies so there are souls there. But they are modest souls and only interested in making a modest living. I can share my woods with them. No doubt, eventually, I will encounter some grumpy farmer or landowner who will ask tetchily if I am. "Enjoying their woods," and urge me to, "Stick to the paths and don't cause any damage." But for now I am happy in my little paradise."
"So what's this all got to do with OCD?" I hear you asking. Some of you will know that I have suffered from OCD for many years. It's hard to pin down when it started but it may well have been when I stopped busking and had just completed recording my second LP (Does anybody remember those?) in about 1993. It was the middle of a recession and I was sharing a house in Islington with squatters who were fond of guns. It was a very stressful time: I was rescued by the Council and the Metropolitan Police. Perhaps this had something to do with the onset of OCD. I don't know. It crept into my life slowly, insidiously although I kept telling myself I was just 'very clean' and 'wanting order in my life'. It was only in the last 5 years that it started to become what I would call debilitating. True, it interfered with my socialising quite a lot and inhibited me at work, but I am fairly solitary anyway so these seemed of little consequence.
Infact in some ways it has even been a boon. Several people have commented that they think it explains how I have been so well-organised which has led to me achieving quite a lot in a short time. There is some truth in this. My attention to detail and ability to focus and concentrate is pretty good. It's no secret I have not always been monogamous (although currently I am): I have been what is currently called polyamorous but I have always been totally honest with each partner and encouraged them to be likewise. However OCD really gets you down when it starts to impact on your intimate relationships.
When you see a loved one wrestling with OCD, it really hurts and hurts badly. I feel guilty and responsible. I want to just kill it there and then: to say that I don't have it any more or sometimes to blame it and say, "It's just the OCD. It's not me!" But it's not as simple as that when it's somebody you really love and respect. You cannot lie to yourself. You cannot easily get out of the reality that it is getting others down. Sometimes I even think about saying that they should go because I don't want to hurt them. The last thing I want is to damage their lives or to induce any kind of neurosis in them. Thank god so far, my close friends and loved ones have, for the most part been supportive.
It's also true that I am making a recovery. Since seeing a therapist early in 2012 I embarked on a planned course (which I came up with) and it has yielded results. My OCD is mainy about cleanliness and specifically the avoidance of two things: germs and grime. I have made significant progress with both thanks to some very wonderful and experienced councilors and those close to me. I am not sure if I should mention all their names but I can certainly mention David Veale whose wonderful book with Rob Willson - Overcoming Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is very well worth reading if you suffer from OCD or care for somebody with OCD.
You can never underestimate the value of honesty. I am quite lucky that I am an outspoken person: I had little difficulty announcing to my co-workers in my last job that I had OCD and at my leaving party somebody came up to me and told me they thought it was a wonderful thing that I had spoken about it. I also find that it offers me some interesting insights I can use in my book, not to mention the benefits to an editor like myself of having very high standards of concentration (I have often wondered if the IT industry doesn't in part induce OCD on some because of the long hours focused on tiny details. Indeed a girlfriend of an IT co-worker once observed that all IT men are 'fucked-up'). So it's not all bad. In fact rather than an embarrassment, I see OCD as the scars of war, and scars heal in time. If you are an OCD sufferer please feel free to discuss it either by commenting on this post or emailing me at the email address in the header of this blog.
The woodland escapes are extremely important to me. It allows me a place where I do feel in control, if only for a little while. Also their incredible beauty has to be a tonic for any kind of anxiety or illness. If you live in London and never find time to get out, make time. Last week I heard a familiar, yet strange sound. I looked up and saw a bird of prey; something I havent seen for a very long time. I am not very good on birds so I don't know exactly what i saw but I might take the binoculars next time, so I might let you know. If you can guess where my secret place is and I see you there between 10 am and 2 pm on a Saturday you can have a set of all my kindle books or any paperback for FREE. Please keep quiet about it though!
I can't leave you without any update on where things are. I am well into the climax of Iron III now and it is truly a pleasure to write when all the pieces come together like this. Over the last week I have also been experimenting with Hootsuite and although it does make scheduling tweets a lot easier it doesn't allow me to post to my Lazlo Ferran Facebook page which is awkward. It means I either have to post separately to that, which then will post again to twitter or I post something different on my Lazlo Ferran Facebook page. My stats for reach and virality have gone up considerably due to my efforts but sales are still slow. So if you are at all interested in reading one of my books, please do have a go. And don't forget to like my Book pages on Facebook by clicking on the links to the right and then following the links to Facebook. Please also tweet, friend, FB or use any other means to spread the word about my books and about my activities. Remember I am publishing at least 3 books in the remainder of this year so there is a lot happening. It should be a good year for all you Lazlo Ferran fans. Finally, I am still looking for lots of interesting, vibrant and creative tweet messages I can use to promote my books. If you can come up with 10, I will give you any free ebook of mine that is available up to the end of this year.
There is an elsewhere section this week! I could leave you without mention of a curiosity I found this week. I am a huge Marlon Brando fan (who isn't?) and I stumbled upon a whole load of really interesting interviews with him this week on youtube. If you haven't seen them take a look. This one is particularly interesting because he and a group of Native Americans are talking about the problem of investment and exploitation of the native tribes of America. It's only 1973 but there are films included and they talk about CO2 emissions, total energy, sustainable industry and - believe it or, not sea-farming. This is 1973!!! And we think we are getting somewhere with Global Warming! Way to go Marlon. You were a great guy.
Marlon Brandon 1973 interview with Native Americans (interview part 5)
Marlon Brandon 1973 interview with Native Americans (interview part 6)
Saturday, 1 June 2013
No Excerpt this week
Instead, I am asking for feedback on the following four synopses. Please have a read and let me know how I can improve them. There will be a free e-book copy of each book for any synopsis that I accept. This can include any book I publish this year.
Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate
His teenage daughter is viciously murdered in Lyon by a long-forgotten biblical monster. A former WWII MI6 agent, our hero is suspected of her murder by the police and his divorcing wife.
With supernatural powers of foresight he goes on the run to clear his name. He has only one friend - a historian and member of the modern Knights Hospitaller but with his help he embarks on a white-knuckle ride to salvation.
In Paris a witch servant of the mysterious Catholic assassin sect Concilium Putus Visum seduces him during his quest for the secret weapon of the Cathars. If he can solve a puzzling set of clues to find the weapon, he might kill the monster and save his marriage.
But why do the assassins and the monster seem to be protecting him?
Lover’ of Dan Brown’s evocative mix of mystery and history will love this Occult Thriller – a dark and powerful tale.
His crippled wife is kidnapped by the witch Georgiana, now allied with the assassin sect Concilium Putus Visum, and transported back to feudal 13th Century France.
He is only one man against the vicious and murderous forces of Hell unleashed once again in the form of the shape-shifting Biblical Serpents.
Suddenly trapped in an escape-proof dungeon he must somehow escape, and train to be a knight so he can enlist the help of a corrupt count. Along the way he must overcome his sense of revulsion about his own supernatural power.
He must fight at the epic Battle of Bouvines and survive a climactic nail-biting duel to the death with a seemingly indestructible knight in a strange tower if he is to rescue his wife.
If you love Dan Brown, Anne Rice or Hilary Mantel you will adore this rich, twisting, writhing erotic masterpiece. Iron I: Too Bright the Sun
Seeking revenge for the death of a friend ten long years ago, Major Jake Nanden has pursued his own personal demons with an almost religious fervour through life and through battle.
He is a soldier so highly decorated that his fame reaches far beyond the desolate moon Io where he is stationed. His victories in the Jupiter Wars are hollow though, for he is a man scared of his own soul.
His life seems to be a trap from which he cannot escape. His is the Replicant Company, and replicants are despised by all.
Likened to a cross between Blade Runner and Paths of Glory, you simply must read this beautifully constructed, intensely dark and powerful Science Fiction tale-with-a-twist if you love Phillip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov. Iron II: Unknown Place, Unknown Universe
The daughter of a prominent feminist, a nerd and a self-proclaimed douchebag are three student pilots who crash land on an unidentified primitive planet. They must resolve their differences to escape through a worm-hole and get back to Earth.
An alien rebel steals a space-cruiser to escape certain death and go looking for the mythical home of his god. An alien technologist is on the verge of a great discovery.
Though they don’t know it yet, all are in the eye of a storm. The storm is a war of destruction that will engulf the Universe. Both groups must come together in an effort to warn Earth which stands at the brink of disaster.
If you like Stephen Baxter, Arthur C. Clarke or Greg Bear you will just have to read this breath-taking part two of the epic Iron Series.
As you can see I have been hard at it reworking the way my current books are presented on Amazon. I have been reading three self-help books for authors and applying the lessons I have learned from them. The books are: How I Made Over $42000 in 1 Month selling my eKindle Books by Cheryl K Tardiff, Secret Amazon Hacks and Other Cool Tricks for Kindle Authors by C Preston Stone and The Amazon Analytics Bible: How to use Analytics to Sell More Books on Amazon by Tom Corson-Knowles. As you can see one of the tricks they have all picked up is to include as many keywords in your title as possible! The biggest lesson for me is that Amazon KDP - their lending programme really works for authors so I will be trying it out. As a result, only 2 books are now available on Smashwords although I am still waiting for Barnes and Noble to stop selling my books before I am allowed to put those two; Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate and Too Bright the Sun into the programme. I will let you know how I get on. One of the other lessons was that my synopses needed to be shorter and include more emotional words - hence the new versions above. Apparently authors are really bad at writing their own synopses so I will be grateful for any help.
I also finally managed to get enough likes for my Facebook page to get into their Insights programme so that I get stats on how people use my pages and what they do with my posts. Thanks to everybody who liked my page and helped me out. The Insights programme is very interesting. I can see that some posts are going slightly viral and others not at all. I will be watching and playing around with these to see what posts generate the main interest. Again, I am fairly crap at these so if you have read any of my books and can come up with some tweet/FB post that is fresh and original I will reward you for each ten that I accept with a free eBook of your choice. This can include any book I publish this year.
My short story Vampire: Beneficence has been selling quite well and has had two nice reviews. This leads me to believe that this is subject ripe for exploration. Indeed the short story was really an experiment with some new ideas and these ideas can easily be expanded. Consequently I will be writing a full-length Vampire novel in the winter.
I have now created three groups on Facebook for discussing general fiction, science fiction and Lycanthropy (vampires and werewolves) so if you want to join me for discussion please do. I have also put links to these at the end of the relevant excerpts or full length stories in my eBooks and a link to my blog at the front. People do preview these on Amazon and can click on the blog link if they wish. I have had quite a few clicks so it proves people are at leas previewing my books if they are not buying them as quickly as I would like. (These links inside books are a trick I picked up from Tom Corson-Knowles)
The last thing I can think of that I have changed this week is that I have joined a few tweet groups and author help groups on Facebook. I was actually in a lot of trouble in one of the tweet groups for no fault of my own: I had tweeted 2 tweets of new authors who had forgotten to include the group's hashtag so my tweets weren't picked up and consequently I was accused of not cooperating!
As you can see, I hav been working hard to market myself more effectively this week. Let's hope it pays off. I am already seeing my links shared more often though my stats on Facebook and bitly so we will have to see if this translates into sales. All this has not left me much time to write, which has been frustrating but I need to sell books. ==========================================================
The web address www.lazloferran.com now points to this blog so if you have bookmarked the old addresses of writers-blog1.blogspot.com or writers-blog1.blogspot.co.uk please delete them and add the new one: it will make your browsing much quicker. I hope I move up the google listings, at least for Lazlo Ferran if not for writing! I have also now created a permanent link on the right to my merchandise.
I noted (and thanks to Ash for the link) that the Dornier Do 17 recovery operation has run into difficulties and with only a few days left to recover it, my best wishes go with the team attempting it. Hopefully a Short Stirling will follow. If not then I hope Hollywood will want to make the movie of Attack Hitler's Bunker and then build one from scratch!
Finally, I am a keen player on www.Warthunder.com and I am having trouble with my laptop because it doesn't have the equivalent of a mouse-wheel. If anybody knows a way to get round this, please let me know. That's it for this week. Good luck to Valentino and Marco in tomorrow's MotoGp.