City of Masks "pirated"

I just discovered (via a Google search) that the City of Masks ebook has been uploaded to Scribd, under an Attribution-Noncommercial Creative Commons license.

Now, in fact I have never released the ebook under any CC license. I have released the audio version (the podcast) as CC-Attribution-Noncommercial, but not the ebook. So I'm within my rights to complain to Scribd that this violates my copyright, and have it taken down.

I'm not going to do that, not right now, anyway, because I don't see that it's doing me any great harm (and it may do some good - someone may read it, like it, and seek out my other work here). I suppose for legal reasons I should say that I'm not giving up my legal rights by deciding not to exercise them at this time and on this occasion, blah blah.

City of Masks is in my copyright. I choose to distribute the ebook, from my own website, and not charge any money; I can do that because I own the copyright. I would prefer the file not to be uploaded elsewhere, because if it is on my own site I can control it. (Recently, for example, I put in a note at the end directing people here. I can't do that to the copy on Scribd.)

Technical ways to effectively prevent anyone at all with an internet connection taking the file and doing anything at all to it do not exist and never will, and I won't make life more annoying for honest people by implementing the ineffective ones that do exist. As I remarked above, at the moment I am also choosing not to pursue my legal ways to prevent this; it's just not worth it to me and I don't want to be the Copyright Ogre.

However, if you're thinking of uploading the file somewhere yourself, I have two words for you: Please don't.

Link to the copy on my site instead. Thanks.

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Happy New Year. Just thought I'd alert you to Goodreads, which is a great social site for people who enjoy books. You can rate and review books, discuss them in groups, see what your friends are reading and so forth.

City of Masks is on Goodreads, and I'd love to get some reviews. You can also "friend" me and compare books with me - probably best if you rate or review City of Masks first, so that I don't just think you're spamming me.

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Preorders open for Changing Health Behaviours

It's the end of the year - time to finish projects.

I know you came here for the fiction, so I'll be brief in mentioning that my non-fiction project Changing Health Behaviours is now available for preorder at a special preorder price of $17.50 (NZD), until 31 December 2008, when the price will rise.

Changing Health Behaviours cover

Preorder books will be personally signed by me. Along with the book you get 20 hypnotherapy tracks on MP3 CD.

You can find out full details on my hypnotherapy and health blog.

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Gu is finished (sort of), and future projects

I've just posted the last episode of Gu, so if you were waiting until it was finished to start reading, the first episode is here.

I have several candidates for a next project. I thought about running a poll here, but I may just start them all and let people vote with their feed subscriptions (or continue working on the one I feel like working on at the time). This is one nice thing about not having a publishing contract.

Speaking of which, I keep going back and forth over whether to submit City of Masks to a conventional publisher or not. Sales of the self-published book have been disappointing, considering the number of subscribers I've had over at Podiobooks and the positive comments I've been getting. Not that I'm in it for the money (and not that you get much from a conventional publisher unless you're in the top tier anyway), but wider distribution would possibly be a good thing.

If you have strong opinions one way or the other, please post a comment here. Thanks.

Getting back to future projects, I have three main candidates at the moment. In no particular order:

  1. Up the Line, a science fiction novel in the same setting as Gu (which I'm perhaps inevitably thinking of as the Guniverse). This is the one with the White Star Order chaplain at the bottom of the space elevator and the United Nations inspector up in orbit, and is largely about the people they meet - refugees, migrants, opportunists and other everyday quirky characters. It doesn't focus on engineering in any way at all.
  2. A currently untitled Young Adult novel (meaning that the protagonists are young adults; this seems to be what makes a novel YA). The premise is that these YAs are orphans, they have strange abilities, and they don't know why, or why a sinister man in a brown coat is pursuing them. Since I don't know exactly why yet either, we can all find out together.
  3. An also untitled, and possibly more "commercial", novel in a low-magic fantasy setting. It may be very low magic indeed, almost deniable magic, in fact. Premise: Insecure female thief infiltrates castle in search of loot, gets caught up in plot of sinister fanatic, finds herself forcibly married to the rightful lord of the castle as part of this plot, which involves having her bear the lord a controllable heir so that said lord can be killed off and the fanatic can control the supposed power site in the castle. She's not having this, and he's a decent man (if rather scholarly) who refuses to rape her despite threats of torture, so they escape together into the wilderness, pursued by, um, pursuers of some sort. Personal growth and, eventually, romance ensue, followed by justice against the would-be usurper.

I suppose I'm in the market for title suggestions, as well, aren't I?

It's funny. I can come up with great titles for which the stories just won't come, and vice versa, but seldom both at once. I mean to say, "Gu"?

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I've been playing with Wordle, a Net toy which takes any text and produces an attractive "word cloud" based on the frequency of particular words in the text. The layout and colours are purely decorative.

Here's this blog, demonstrating that I say "actually" too much (I knew that, actually):

Here's my Gu novel blog, demonstrating that it isn't about technology at all, it's actually about people:

Here's the text of City of Masks, the novel. Corius is clearly the main character:

And the City of Masks storygame, which is indeed about Face:

Click any of the thumbnails to see a large version.

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Life Leverage: my new nonfiction project

I pay the bills with IT support, and I write novels because I love it, but I'm also building up a practice as a hypnotherapist and health coach because I find that very fulfilling and want to make it my career.

Over at my Hypno NZ site I've just announced Life Leverage: Simple techniques to improve your health and wellbeing.

The project is a book-and-CD combo, with the hypnotherapy tracks on the CD supporting the lifestyle changes that the book talks about making.

I've created a mailing list where you can sign up for updates on this and my other hypnotherapy-related projects, such as audio recordings and videos. The idea is to assess demand so that I can decide what kind of a print-and-distribution model to adopt.

If health is a topic that interests you, please take a look. I try to stay on the scientific end of the health advice spectrum and make sure that my recommendations are well supported, but at the same time treat human beings as human beings and not squishy machines.

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The City of Masks storygame

One of my excuses for delaying publication of City of Masks was, for a while, the City of Masks storygame. I was going to include it in the book, but I eventually realized that while the novel was finished, the game was still a work in progress and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

So, what's a storygame? Like any term, the definition is argued about passionately (notably on the Story-Games forum, where I hang out under the handle MikeRM). My own definition is that it's a game which is designed to produce a story. The game elements guide and influence the story elements and vice versa, so that you end up with a story that you wouldn't (or couldn't) have just sat down and made up in the form it eventually attained. It's also, almost always, a group activity, like most games, so you get the interaction of multiple creative minds.

Storygames are descended from (and usually also are) roleplaying games, which themselves have only been around for a little over 30 years, so it's a new and exciting medium, and people are coming up with great innovations.

The Scandinavians, for example, are doing some interesting things with their "Jeepform" games, which are quite constrained scenarios within which a group collectively improvises a story - like improv theatre, but with more definition upfront.

In the English-speaking world, one of the emerging masters of the storygames form is Jason Morningstar, who has just won the prestigious Diana Jones Award (shared with another winner) for his game Grey Ranks. In Grey Ranks, you play Boy Scouts and Girl Guides in World War II Warsaw during the Warsaw Uprising - dealing with all the usual teenage problems, plus fighting Nazis who have invaded your city.

Some other prominent current storygames:

My Life with Master: You are Igor-like minions of an evil master. By making connections of love with the townsfolk, who are oppressed by Master, you can overcome your weariness and self-loathing enough to kill Master on their behalf. It's about getting out of abusive relationships, basically.

Primetime Adventures: You are the cast and writers of a TV show, one with an ensemble cast that focuses on the characters’ stories and their development as people. You plan and then play out a series of shows.

Breaking the Ice: You are two would-be lovers. You play out the ups and downs of the couple's first three dates.

Dogs in the Vineyard: You are “God’s Watchdogs”, in a setting loosely based on pre-statehood Mormon Utah, and you must protect the towns of the Faithful from the consequences of sin and heresy. It is up to you how far you go – but using violence will have consequences.

A Thousand and One Nights: You play members of the Sultan's Court, whiling away the sultry nights by telling pointed stories to advance your own ambitions. Navigate the social maze and you could win your heart's desire; offend the wrong person and you suffer the Sultan's wrath.

Sons of Liberty: To quote the game's creator, "Have you ever had Alexander Hamilton wind up your clockwork power armor, jump out of Thomas Paine's ornithopter, and land in the middle of the Battle of Yorktown to punch General Cornwallis in the face? No? Well... would you like to? Take on the role of the Founding Fathers to kick ass and take names for truth, justice, and the American way in the only Roleplaying Game of Freedom and Badassery. The game's fast-paced card mechanics ensure high-action madness and revolutionary heroics. If you are playing Benjamin Franklin and you aren't swinging an electrified kite over your head to clear the streets of redcoats, then you are playing it wrong."

The Story-Games site has a codex which will tell you about many other games.

So - the City of Masks storygame. It uses cards (ordinary playing cards) and dominoes (mainly because of the association with domino masks, I have to admit; you can substitute ordinary 6-sided dice if you don't have a set of dominoes). You play young nobles in Bonvidaeo, the City of Masks, who are just entering the adult world with its intrigues and plots. It takes place about 50 years before the events of the novel so that you won't bump up against any of the characters or events.

The reason I mention it now is that I've been approached by someone who wants to run it, at the storygames meetup known as the Nerdly Beach Party. This takes place at the San Simeon State Park in California on September 19-21. So if you can get there then and are interested in playing a game in the setting of City of Masks, here's your chance.

Edit: the City of Masks game is scheduled for Friday 19th.

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Any questions?

I enjoyed doing those interviews with Evelyn - I hope you enjoyed them too.

I'd love to answer your questions about City of Masks. You can post them in the comments or email me (masks at csidemedia dot com).

If you email, please tell me if you don't want me to mention your name in my reply or if you just want me to use a first name. Not everybody wants to be Googleable.


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Collaborators wanted

I'm looking for one or more artist collaborators for a couple of graphic novel projects. I see them as following the free webcomic/POD print version model.

Project 1: Guardian of the Gates. A young thief-girl is sent to steal an elaborate watch from a mysterious man, and discovers that he is the guardian of gates to other dimensions. The wizard who commissioned her wants to take over his power, but as she grows to know the Guardian, and accompanies him on his rounds, she realizes where her destiny lies.

I see this one as being illustrated in a very beautiful painterly style.

Project 2: Four orphan teenagers come together and discover that they have some unusual abilities, and that a mysterious man in a brown coat is after them. They try to piece together the story of their past and defend themselves, while confronting the personal issues which their powers reflect and intensify.

This one would suit a more manga style.

So, tell your artist friends! Send them here, or send me to their portfolios via the comments.

And artists, take a look at the links in the sidebar to check out what my fiction is like.

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Video interview 4 – innocence, themes, language, voices and the Countess

The last of the four interview videos. I've uploaded this one at higher resolution ("broadband" instead of "ISDN"). I may go back and do the same for the second and third (the first is at about the same resolution as this one).


Q: You dedicated your book to your late father, who taught you to be an honest man, you say. Are you the Innocent Man?

A: I wish I was, in a way. I'm not. My blog - or one of my blogs - is called the Innocent Man, but it's an aspiration rather than an attainment. And I think that you can become, if not innocent, at least simple-hearted, and that in a way that's the goal of a lot of spiritual practice, a lot of spiritual teaching, that you once again gain the straightforwardness that Bass is displaying. So I would like to be.

Q: Going on to what is happening outside of your story - like the Narnia series and Tolkien's trilogy, is this story a spiritual metaphor wrapped in Renaissance narrative?

A: It's... like Narnia and like Tolkien, it's not intended as an allegory. It has aspects of metaphor, as I've already talked about with the masks being a metaphor for the way that we portray ourselves as people that we're not, or as people that we are. I think it's kind of its own thing, it is what it is, but inevitably that reflects on questions like identity and intent and how we present ourselves to other people.

Q: So if, boiling it down further, if your book were to be studied by 7th-form English classes in the future, what would students study as themes?

A: Definitely identity, the masks are all about identity. And roles, roles that people play.

Q: And when it came to answering in their school exams "What was the author trying to say in writing this novel", what would a good answer be?

A: Ooh. They say if you want to send a message, call Western Union, but I suppose what I was saying is... a lot of it's encapsulated in Tamas's sermon, actually, that very hypocritical sermon which he preaches about being who you appear to be while he's being somebody else. Yes, it's saying we all have the ability to be authentic and we should strive towards that. And that when you're at your most authentic that is when you're at your best, in a way.

Q: Linguistically, you do some language tricks in there. Where would you say you learned to work with language like that?

A: Well, my degree is in English. I studied a lot of 16th and 17th-century literature, also Middle English and Old English, but most of what I studied was language. So that kind of gave me a feel for language and a feel for manipulating it. And the language of City of Masks isn't actually late-medieval or early-Renaissance English, though it gives the flavour of being. It's closer to 18th-century really, for more accessibility as much as any other reason, and because it's easier to write. But I was setting out for a tone of antiquity and formality - there's a lot of formality in the City of Masks.

Q: There are no contractions, are there?

A: No. Actually, I did find one when I was podcasting it, when I was reading it aloud. I found one "don't", I think.

Q: Who says it?

A: Bass. But that was a mistake on my part.

Q: It was a slip.

A: It was a slip, yes. And I tried also to give each of the characters a distinctive voice. That came out much more when I was doing the podcast, obviously, when I could speak in a different voice. But Corius is the only one who says "yea" and "nay", for example. Everyone else says "yes" and "no". And that sets Corius off as being, despite his education, a member of a different social class, with perhaps a little bit of a dialect.

Q: And what of Corius? Is he the only male self-possessed enough in the story to deny the Countess's advances, and does this explain his mysterious disappearance?

A: Well, sometimes you just have to not explain things, and I deliberately didn't explain why Corius got into the trouble that he got into, because the story stands without knowing that. It tells us about the Countess, is its function, rather than necessarily needing to be a mystery that we have the answer to.

Q: We can only imagine what it was like. Well, any final comments?

A: Well, I have to say it's been tremendous fun writing the book and also semi-dramatizing it, reading it aloud, doing the various voices. I really regretted when I was doing it that I hadn't given the Countess more lines, because her voice is wonderful to do.

Q: Can you give us a demo?

A: "I am hinting to you, Bass." She has that rich, honeyed voice that is full of threat and possibilities.

Q: Which he instantly picks up on when she comes by his ear at the beginning. There's definitely - that scene has weight, that she's someone to look out for.

A: Yes, the Countess stands out in any company. She's always at the centre. She's the spider at the centre of the web. And one of the people who read it said, "I wanted to hear more about the Countess, I wanted to see more of her."

Q: You have to get out the psychology books, don't you, to understand her, given her family happenings.

A: Yes, she's definitely a bit of a mess.

Q: A psychotherapist's dream. Especially with the havoc she wreaked.

A: Yes. But Bass was tremendously fun as well to do, the ponderousness and the... I'm sure a lot of my listeners think I'm much larger than I am, and will be surprised if they watch these videos to see that I'm actually quite slightly built.

Q: And very tall.

A: Yes.

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