Monday, 31 December 2007

Status update for end of 2007

On the last day of 2007 - what's happening for me?

I said back in March that I planned to do these status updates "from time to time" - I'm glad I didn't set a specific time period. This is my second update.

Writing: City of Masks is in its final stages of being (self)-published. I'm gearing up to do a big promotion with press releases and so forth.

I'm having some fun putting together a podcast of myself reading it - each small section of the book will be an episode. Because it's told in journal entries (and other documents), and the first one is dated "the sixth of the first month", I'm going to try to release all the podcasts on the correct dates as per the timeline of the book. The first one is recorded and I plan to record the second later today. I'm using incidental music from Jon Sayles, a classical guitarist and Renaissance music enthusiast who loves it so much that he gives it away for anyone to use for any purpose. I emailed him and he's just as pleased as I am that I'll be using it, which is very cool.

The Journey in Four Directions didn't go anywhere this year. It's reaching the point where I feel the need to rewrite or at least redraft it, and I'm thinking of doing that by blogging bits here, once City of Masks is less central to my attention.

I haven't done any more substantial writing this year - just the blog, and hypnotherapy scripts. Next year, more writing.

Spiritual practice: my on-again, off-again relationship with centering prayer is off again. I just don't seem to stick to it if any kind of disruption comes along - this time it was being unwell for most of December (persistent cough, which has pretty much gone now). I think I may need to do myself a hypnotherapy script on creating a disciplined practice.

Exercise: I've started using the crosstrainer we bought for Erin to help with her fitness programme, so that she doesn't need to go to the gym after work and then get stuck in traffic (and for after her gym membership finishes). She's getting fit for ankle surgery. I'm getting fit for general life improvement. I'm only doing five minutes at a time but I'm getting faster and going further in that five minutes.

Tomorrow, Julianne and Mark M. are coming round and we're going tramping in the Waitakeres, something I've wanted to get back into for a while.

Hypno NZ: I'd hoped to have my online shop up and running by now, but there aren't yet any completed recording sets to put in it. Because of the cough and general voice roughness, I haven't recorded many scripts yet, though I've written several that are waiting for recording time. One this afternoon is a possibility.

Nobody has used the online booking form to book an appointment, and only one person has used the "tell me about yourself and your issue" feature (and never replied when I contacted her). Sigh.

I've been getting about one client a week since taking out an ad in the local paper. There's another, larger ad in a different free newspaper coming out in a couple of weeks; I'm going to try to "out" myself to my new boss before it comes out because someone at work is sure to see it. (So far there's never been a good time to mention at work that I'm developing a hypnotherapy practice on the side.) I think Max will be cool with it, as long as my work isn't compromised.

The therapy room is pretty much fully set up now, except I never did get a larger rug for the floor; it has two comfortable chairs, a set of drawers, a little table for my laptop, and a plant on a stand. I have all my diplomas and so forth nicely framed in the entryway.

Study: I'm in the process of enrolling for a Certificate in Health Science from Massey, which I'll be studying extramurally. It's the first step towards a bachelor's degree in health science, which could well lead to a Master's (endorsed in psychology) - though that would be about 10 years away unless I go full-time for a while, which isn't likely.

I was looking for a course where I could study anatomy, physiology, body systems in sickness and in health, nutrition, cognitive science and so forth, so that I can fill out my hypnotherapy skills with knowledge of the human mind-body system and basically help my clients more effectively. There are several around that are for naturopaths and medical herbalists and the like, but they all include things like iridology and homeopathy which I consider pseudoscience. I finally thought of checking Massey - their course hadn't come up on any of the Google searches I did, they need to work on that. It's pretty much exactly what I was looking for, from a reputable research-based university that's part of the NZ government's education system, at about the same cost as the dodgy ones.

I will have to take a couple of compulsory courses which sound fairly uninteresting and not all that useful, but they may have redeeming features that don't come through from the course descriptions. My current planned curriculum also doesn't quite give me a major in psych for the bachelor's degree, which would mean I'd have to make a case to get into the master's programme, but - cross bridge when come to. By the time I get to that point, if I even do, they may have changed the degree regulations anyway.

So, 2007 was kind of a ramp-up year. I'm looking forward to lots going on in 2008.

Friday, 21 December 2007

New novel idea

I might have known that once I got the previous novel all-but-published, the next one would pop its head up.

Here are my thoughts so far.

There are seven main characters. I think this one will probably more third-person, although rotating first-person might be interesting - hard to do, though. It's set in a kind of eighteenth-century Praguish place, to the extent that City of Masks was set in early Renaissance Venice (i.e. it has the general atmosphere but not the historically solid detail).

THE MUSICIAN feels like he's two people; a graceful, expressive master when he plays or composes, and a stammering, stumbling, almost incoherent idiot the rest of the time.

THE POET is, by contrast, not short of words, in fact he never shuts up. But what he can never find a way to express is the sense he has of something essential missing or lost.

THE PAINTER pays fierce attention to the world as an object, then vigorously depicts it, but seems almost blind to himself - and to the world as something he can interact with.

THE MODEL, the painter's mistress, is attempting to herd the abovementioned cats, with some limited success. She at least manages to make sure that they eat and sleep most days, and that many of the bills get paid almost on time. None of the artists notice this particularly.

THE MYSTIC is a herbalist, of uncertain age, who owns the house in which he, the three artists and the model live. He seldom speaks but is always worth listening to, and spends much of his time, when not making and dispensing remedies or meditating, on reading books with words in the titles that even the poet doesn't recognize. The books line the halls and other public spaces of the house; only the bedrooms of the three artists are free from them. He tries to live as the inheritor of the traditions described in the books, the previous living practitioners of which have all died years ago.

The mystic suggests, surprising everyone, that the poet and the musician might find resolution for their ills of the soul if they write an opera together, and agrees to tell seven stories over seven nights, from which they can select one as the story of the opera. The painter offers to design the sets.

THE FINANCIER is one of the painter's subjects, who agrees to be the patron of the opera. His money is inherited and his relationship with it is a difficult one, particularly as he suspects it wasn't earned entirely honestly.

THE DIVA is a beautiful young woman of peasant origins, hired to play the leading female role in the opera. The musician and the poet immediately fall in love with her, eliciting their finest work. However, at first unbeknown to them, she begins a liaison with the financier. The model befriends her, and together they... I'm not sure what yet. The mystic figures in it somehow.

Over the course of the novel, each person, without realizing it, chooses a story to live out from the seven told by the mystic, and their redemption is shaped accordingly.

Working title is Shadow Play, though I've also considered Shadow Work.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Climate change - action at last

We can all rest easier after a triumphant conclusion to the Bali conference on climate change.

The world's leaders, the "international community", have boldly compromised, firmly softened their stances, and decisively set a deadline for attempting to agree on some possible targets, maybe.

When your house or mine is destroyed by wild weather, we can at least be confident that our leaders are doing everything they can and treating this issue with the urgency it deserves.

What this means, of course, is that it's up to us to act sensibly in the absence of clear government leadership (from most of the world's governments; not necessarily NZ's).

Friday, 14 December 2007

City of Masks proof

The City of Masks proof arrived from CreateSpace just now - impressive, considering that it was shipped on Tuesday (and I ordered it on Monday). Especially impressive this close to Christmas.

The cover looks great, title, cover illo, C-Side Media logo, even the spine text is correctly aligned, despite CreateSpace's dire warnings about the risks of putting text on the spine of a book under 130 pages (it's 128).

However, something's gone wrong with the ligatures in the interior copy, and the letter combination "fi" has dropped out almost everywhere it occurs (also fl, all apostrophes, and probably some others). It looks fine in the PDF I have here. I've just sent a support request; hopefully they can help me out.

I was going to do another proof in any case, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I'm now planning to dual-publish at CreateSpace and Lulu. Lulu has much better pricing once you start buying in bulk, but getting distribution through Amazon with Lulu is relatively complicated, costs extra, and has certain limitations, so publishing through both at once makes sense. Unfortunately, when I was doing the original CreateSpace setup I picked the size 8.5 x 5.5 inches, completely arbitrarily - and Lulu doesn't print in that size. They both do 9 x 6, which just involves putting an extra quarter-inch all the way around the pages, so I should be able to do that without too many issues. (EDIT: No, I can't. CreateSpace doesn't let you change your mind about the trim size after you've ordered the first proof. Damn!)

The other reason I need to revise it is that I put a URL on the cover and in the front matter for a Wordpress blog, before I'd thoroughly investigated the functionality available at I was relying on a description I'd read that said "Wordpress can do such-and-such", without realizing that while Wordpress the application can do a great many things when hosted on your own site, Wordpress the site is very sandboxed and paranoid and will let you do hardly any of them. In particular, you can't put HTML in your Wordpress blog which includes a form, so I can't include a signup form for my mailing list on the blog. That's a dealbreaker for me; people are much more likely, in my opinion, to sign up from a simple form than they are from just a link. So I'm going to be using as my promotional blog for the book.

I'm planning to record myself reading the book and release it as a series of podcasts, then sell it as an audiobook. I may even, if I get myself organized, release the podcasts on the corresponding dates to the dates in Gregorius's journal (most of the book is told through journal entries). That would be kind of fun, and would give me a deadline.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Fenimore Cooper the Postmodern Novelist

I've just been reading a collection of short works by Mark Twain, and have discovered conclusive proof that Fenimore Cooper (Last of the Mohicans, The Deerslayer etc.) was a postmodern novelist far ahead of his time.

The Twain piece is called "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses". It begins with quotes from two professors of English literature praising Cooper, which is a fairly good start on being a postmodern novelist. But the real proof is in what follows. This is what Twain says, with tedious repetition removed:

There are nineteen rules governing literary art in domain of romantic fiction -- some say twenty-two. In "Deerslayer," Cooper violated eighteen of them. These eighteen require:

1. That a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.

2. That the episodes in a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help to develop it.

3. That the personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others.

4. That the personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there.

5. That when the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject at hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.

6. That when the author describes the character of a personage in the tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description.

7. That when a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven-dollar Friendship's Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a negro minstrel in the end of it.

8. That crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader as "the craft of the woodsman, the delicate art of the forest," by either the author or the people in the tale. [This is a bit obscure; what Twain apparently means, judging from his later examples, is that some such label should not be used to justify any ridiculous ability or achievement that enters the author's head for the characters to possess.]

9. That the personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.

10. That the author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and in their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones.

11. That the characters in a tale shall be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency.

In addition to these large rules, there are some little ones. These require that the author shall:

12. Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.

13. Use the right word, not its second cousin.

14. Eschew surplusage.

15. Not omit necessary details.

16. Avoid slovenliness of form.

17. Use good grammar.

18. Employ a simple and straightforward style.

Any novel that violates all eighteen of those rules is clearly a postmodern masterpiece.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

City of Masks about to be published at last

I finally decided to stop waiting until I was happy with the game for City of Masks and just publish the novel without it.

I'm going through CreateSpace, since that gets me straight into Amazon (who own CreateSpace). So far it seems pretty straightforward.

I've used LyX for my typesetting, which was somewhat frustrating for a while but I finally figured out how to get it doing what I wanted. It's one of those programs that has two levels: Incredibly basic and very, very technical. I managed not to stray too far into the very, very technical side but it did take me some messing about. I'll be able to use it much faster next time.

I did the cover in Inkscape, because I find the Gimp totally unintuitive; I always end up frustrated whenever I try to use it. I should probably download GimpShop, which skins the Gimp to look like Photoshop. Not that I've used Photoshop for years, but it may be an easier interface to work with.

The cover illustration of the mask comes from an Italian artist, appropriately enough, at DeviantArt ( She very kindly let me use it for free with acknowledgement.

So my total outlay for getting my book into print (and distribution) will be $5.71 USD plus shipping, for the proof to be printed and sent to me for approval. Amazing.

Publishing certainly has changed since I were a lad.