Friday, 22 June 2018

The Internet ain't what it used to be

The first time I “went online” was in the 80s using a BBC microcomputer borrowed from work. I dialed a long distance number to connect via a very slow modem to GreenNet to access a bulletin board about environmental issues, for a magazine I was running. Being an expensive call, I set all content to spool to a text file as I was “browsing” the text (there were no images), and got offline again as soon as possible, reading the content later, and then incorporating it into the magazine.

Then around 1999 I discovered the free dial-up service FreeServe. Well, the service was free but it might take up to six attempts before I managed to fully connect, and I was charged for those attempts to connect. Whether this was due to issues with the new technology or a deliberate policy to swell their coffers, I do not know.

Wild West

I created my very first web site around that time, and found the usenet newsgroup alt.sufi, meeting people from around the globe who were actually interested in the Way, which opened up a whole new world. This was before the first big groups like Yahoo! groups came along and began to kill off usenet.

The internet was far more open then, and there was a lot more searching around and exploring. In those days, someone might come along to the web site and stay there for ages, slowly browsing through most of the pages on the site, or (being in a web ring of like-minded sites for a time) they might browse my site having just come from the previous site in the ring, and then wander on to the next site in the ring. Again, in those days, search engines would crawl and index the whole of the site and especially at AltaVista and Yahoo! you could find my site on the first page of many results, even though it was just a chicken shack operation.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Etienne de L'Amour: Meet the author, Part 2

Q: The front cover design of Escape From the Shadowlands is “different”, shall we say. What was your thinking behind that?

A: Let's wind back a little. Originally, I came across a black and white photo of the Museum of Antiquities in Antwerp, and I was quite taken by the male figure standing there in the archway and casting a long shadow on the cobbles. That's actually how I see Marie picturing the young stranger she meets in one of her lucid dreams.

I liked the image because of its olde worlde appearance, the link to the dream, and the shadow cast by the character. No matter how fast you run, you can't escape your shadow, as the saying goes. I used that image in the first edition of the Escape From the Shadowlands. However, I felt that perhaps some readers might recognize the museum in the “real world” (or what most people think of as the real world, our everyday world of steel, concrete and glass, that is), and that might partially break the spell, since the book is set in another, parallel and yet familiar world.

Wanting a replacement for the image, I went hunting on Wikimedia Commons which hosts photos with Creative Commons licences that can be freely used as long as you do things like attributing the work to the author. As soon as I came across the painting Schattenspiele (shadow games) by Lovis Corinth (1858–1925), I knew that was the one for me. Yes, it's a landscape image and so there's no way that it would stretch across the entire cover, but that was actually an advantage, because I wanted something that hinted at what you might call “Plato's Cave 2.0” with people mesmerized by the shadow play, living in their own little world of appearances, as it were, which is far removed from and a mere similitude of what the mystics would advisedly call the Real World. With the image as a box beneath the book title and above the author's name, it also hinted at what is, by and large, our confined thinking. And the text on the front cover of the book, again using fonts that are free for commercial use (Englebert, with the word “Shadowlands” in grey Berkshire Swash), was meant to be as legible as possible, especially in thumbnail images, but not so bold or ornate that it detracted from the image itself.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Etienne de L'Amour: Meet the author, Part 1

Escape From the Shadowlands.
Q: What inspired you to write this first novel in the Shadowlands series?

A: I think the ideas have been stewing for several decades now. It all started perhaps in my childhood, growing up in a pretty poor, struggling and hard-working family in the North of England with a brother older than me by ten years and who was very successful even in those early years. Unable to compete, I had to find a quiet niche for myself. So many life experiences, really. Discovering the alternative possibilities of Shangri-La in Frank Capra's 1937 film, Lost Horizon which was adapted from James Hilton's novel of the same name; a book that I went on to study much, much later in a course on the writers' craft.

Fast forward a few years to a misspent youth as a hippie freak, foolishly experimenting with illicit – albeit mind-broadening – substances, and reading dozens of books along the lines of practical astral travel, Lobsang Rampa's The Third Eye, and Helena Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled. I read a few books by folk who turned out to be fakes, but they nudged me in a certain direction, down a wonderful, winding road much less travelled. Reading With Magic and Magicians in Tibet by Alexandra David-NĂ©el represented a notable turning point, and I was also fortunate to stumble across a thin pamphlet by the then-embryonic Buddhist Society in the UK. I remember reading several of their publications and writing to the Secretary of the society inquiring whether it was better to become a Bodhisattva (especially a Bodhisattva of the Household who worked in the everyday marketplace of life, one who has achieved nirvana and returned to help others) or an Arhat (whom I envisioned sitting on some distant Himalayan mountaintop in quiet and solitary meditation). Needless to say, the Secretary sent a reply, suggesting that I was perhaps putting the cart before the horse. Well, even I could see now that there was no “perhaps” about it, really. I was all over the place in those days.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Article 13 of the EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market

If you're a blogger, use social media, or run a search engine, expect stuff to hit the fan when the EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market comes into force very soon.

This meme has been removed under Article 13 of the EU
Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market.

If you're skeptical, please check out:

 • The death of the meme could be upon us
 • The EU's Copyright Proposal is Extremely Bad News for Everyone, Even (Especially!) Wikipedia
 • Wikipedia's Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market.

Image: Paolo Tiramani and Donald Trump.
Author: Mggcb.
Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Font: Englebert (Free for commercial use).

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Escape from the Shadowlands (2018) by Etienne de L'Amour

With a little less fanfare than the Royal Wedding, I'm delighted to reveal that the mystical scifi adventure, Escape from the Shadowlands, the first book in the series which I wrote ten years ago under the pseudonym Etienne de L'Amour, has been revised, edited, reformatted and has now been republished for the Kindle.

The book is available for download at:
Amazon UK:
Amazon US:

Although preceded by a historical prequel and a prequel, this book is best read first.

Any help with spreading the message would be an enormous help and greatly appreciated. Thank you!

 • Meet the Author, Part 1
 • Meet the Author, Part 2.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Hannibal Fogg and the Supreme Secret of Man by Tahir Shah

Hannibal Fogg and the Supreme Secret of Man centres around a mysterious device that Alexander the Great took with him on his campaigns over 2,000 years ago, and which reputedly gave him an advantage over his enemies, often in spite of overwhelming odds. When the intrepid explorer and visionary Hannibal Fogg found out about the device, he was determined to locate it and determine its secrets, which he realized could be of world-changing magnitude.

Unfortunately, however, Fogg disappeared in mysterious circumstances on an expedition to Manchuria, and to compound matters, the British establishment sought to discredit Fogg and — in what came to be known as the Great Foggian Purge — virtually all trace of his life and work were deliberately and systematically erased.

By what turns out to be far more than a stroke of good fortune, Hannibal Fogg's great-great-grandson, Will comes to inherit what little appears to be left of Fogg's estate — an old iron key — which, though he doesn't know it at the time, opens up a whole new world of possibilities for him, as he becomes determined to discover more about his mysterious ancestor and the intriguing ancient device that had come into Hannibal Fogg's possession, with a string of clues to guide him.

FTC disclosure: I received an advance copy of the text for proofreading purposes and I later received a copy of the book, free of charge, as a thank you for that proofreading. Having enjoyed reading the book, I decided to write a short, fair and honest review of the work.