This Punk Can’t Punctuate

… consistently, that is.

File this under, “how a manuscript becomes a published novel.”*

I spent the last week or so poring over the proof copy of Walking On the Sea of Clouds, and realized that I’m not as good at the mechanics of writing as I thought I was.

  • Spelling? Not too shabby. I think all the spelling errors had been caught by the time this proof was done.
  • Grammar? It was pretty clean on that front as well, with the exception of a few things that could go either way. For instance: they changed one brief passage from simple past tense to past perfect tense, to avoid some confusion.
  • Punctuation? Abysmal.

And what’s worse, every punctuation error in the proof came straight out of the manuscript I submitted. They didn’t change them, I guess because they thought I wanted them that way, but very soon I wanted to grit my teeth at my own inattention to detail.

My main problem was hyphenating words that didn’t need hyphens, such as writing “pre-fabricated” where “prefabricated” is a perfectly good word, or “set-up” instead of “setup.” Not a tragedy, by any stretch, but what annoyed me most was that I had been inconsistent within the document itself and used both versions here and there — “de-briefing” in one spot, say, and “debriefing” in another — with no rhyme and certainly no reason.

So, herewith I apologize to the editorial and production team at WordFire Press for not being more diligent in catching all those errors sooner.

Employee Must "Wash Hands"
Punctuation can be pretty important. (Image: “Employee Must ‘Wash Hands’,” by Sean Graham, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

I suppose I could have kept silent about my punctuation problems. Once the errors were corrected, folks who hadn’t seen an advance reader copy wouldn’t know how inconsistent my punctuation was in the early going. But I thought it was better to come clean about it, by way of expressing my thankfulness for the opportunity to catch the problem in production. To me, it validates my choice to go with a small press instead of self-publishing.

Will the final product be perfect, in the sense of having no flaws? Of course not. But it will have fewer flaws than the version I just saw, and that’s what matters.

And the good news is that this stage of the proofing is done, so now we press on. Wish us luck!

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*That line sparked a strange idea: To write a song to that effect, along the lines of the old Schoolhouse Rock number, “How a Bill Becomes a Law.”

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What’s in the Details?

(Another in the continuing “Monday Morning Insight” series of quotes to start the week.)

Happy Birthday to my publisher, Kevin J. Anderson, and to Firefly leading man Nathan Fillion. And to you, if it’s your birthday!

Today is also the birthday of German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (27 March 1886 – 17 August 1969), who in 1959 was quoted in The New York Herald Tribune as saying,

God is in the details.

You might also be familiar with the saying, “The Devil is in the details,” so there seems to be some contention there. I poked around a bit and found that the van der Rohe quote could perhaps better be expressed as “God dwells in the details,” and I quite like the way that sounds.

Details
As we look deeper, we see more and different details. (Image: “Details,” by Tom Magliery, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

I like to think of it in terms of systems: as we pull a system apart into its subsystems and components and parts and materials, we uncover additional details about it and hopefully come to understand it better — but in some ways the system becomes even more mysterious the deeper we go, the way the subatomic quantum world is stranger and harder to fathom than our everyday world. But there is still order and beauty there, and where we struggle with the details as we try to create (or re-create) something orderly and beautiful we begin to find God, the creator of order and beauty.

But we can get trapped in the details, too, which is where the Devil whispers to us that the details are all there is and we’ll never get the details right. So it’s important to back away sometimes, to once again try to apprehend how all the details work together in the whole.

I guess I would say that God dwells in the details and permeates the whole. But when we focus too much on the details and lose sight of the whole, we can also lose sight of God. It’s a matter of perspective.

I hope you have the chance to see God in your world this week!

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What to Do With an Empty Mall?

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit a mall near my hometown. Here’s a picture of the inside of one of the stores:


An empty store in a nearly empty mall.

That wasn’t the only empty store, and I understand that mall properties in other places have also had difficulties due to the way online shopping has impacted anchor stores as well as smaller businesses. It was a little sad to walk through and see most of the big stores vacant and the remaining stores struggling.

Walking through the largely abandoned space, I wondered whether vacant malls might be ready-made infrastructure for expanding schools. A couple of years ago, not too far from where I live now, a new school was built in what was once a factory building — why couldn’t a local district purchase a declining mall and refit it into a school?

Could is the key word: of course they could, but that doesn’t mean it would be the smartest decision. In addition to up-front costs of purchase and refit, the long-term maintenance costs would have to be considered and compared to land and new construction. (Costs of a mall property might be particularly prohibitive in the out years, for instance, if the mall owners did not keep the physical plant healthy.) But schools have been built into malls before: e.g., in Joplin, Missouri, as a temporary measure after a tornado devastated the town in 2011.

For some areas, turning malls into schools may make reasonable economic sense. And mall properties are big enough that they might even provide the opportunity for collaborative educational enterprises, say between a school district, a community college, and a local business incubator. (I’m big on collaboration between schools and the wider world.*)

What do you think? Do you have a mall nearby that is fading into obscurity? What would you like to see done with it?

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*I wrote a little bit about that in Quality Education: Why It Matters, and How to Structure the System to Sustain It.

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A Testimonial: ‘This book will be treasured’

We still don’t have a definite release date yet, but we continue to work on producing my forthcoming novel, Walking On the Sea of Clouds.

This week I’m reviewing the proof copy sent to me by the fine folks at WordFire Press. They say it’s a Spring release — and Spring officially began two days ago! So sometime between now and the Summer Solstice I anticipate the book being available.

Meanwhile, here’s a very nice endorsement from David Farland, New York Times-bestselling author of the Runelords series:

There is a very rare and special pleasure that comes from reading a beautifully written book from a true expert in his field. In reading Walking on the Sea of Clouds, it immediately becomes apparent that Gray Rinehart is intimately familiar with the field of near-future space exploration. He understands what it will take to get mankind to the Moon and beyond. He writes about the military as only someone who has been in the military can. He writes about bureaucracies and funding in the way that someone who has struggled with them does. When it comes to astronauts and space exploration, his characters ring undeniably true. He understands that some people are motivated to give all that they have in order to go into space simply because he has devoted so much of his life to this great endeavor.

This book will be treasured by anyone who has ever dreamt of visiting the Moon, walking on another world, or bathing beneath the light of a distant star.

If that sounds interesting, stay tuned — here on the blog or via my newsletter — to learn when you can order a copy! (And if any of your friends are science fiction fans, let them know to be on the lookout for it, too. Thanks!)


Want to go to the Moon with me? (Image: NASA/Goddard/Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.)

Back to the editing….

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Political vs. Personal Priorities

(Another in the continuing “Monday Morning Insight” series of quotes to start the week.)

It’s been said that “politics makes strange bedfellows,” and over the last few years we’ve been treated to some evidence of that. It’s also been said that “power tends to corrupt,” or (if you prefer) that power “is magnetic to the corruptible,” and I daresay that’s been evident from time to time as well — on both ends of the political spectrum.

But no matter where we are on that spectrum — left, right, or center — it seems prudent to remind ourselves that politicians’ priorities rarely match ours. As Thomas Sowell said,

No one will really understand politics until they understand that politicians are not trying to solve our problems. They are trying to solve their own problems — of which getting elected and re-elected are number one and number two. Whatever is number three is far behind.

Can you think of very many politicians who pursue causes that are independent of their reelection prospects? How many would risk losing their positions in order to achieve something on behalf of someone else?

(Not The Anti-Candidate, that’s for sure.)

Political Guide
Instead of “new ideas,” I think “different ideas” would be more fitting, but in general this seems to hold true for many people, much of the time. (Image: “Political Guide,” by Jason Nelms, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

If Mr. Sowell is correct, and the evidence suggests that he is, maybe we’re better off taking care of our own priorities ourselves, and helping our friends and neighbors with their priorities when we can, instead of entrusting them to and relying on politicians who clearly have priorities of their own.

Something to think about. Hope you have a great week!

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Proof of … Something

An update, for those who are following along at home: This morning I received the proof copy of Walking on the Sea of Clouds, which includes notes and corrections from the copyeditors for me to check.

Meanwhile, the folks at WordFire Press have sent Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) — uncorrected copies — to reviewers. I have electronic versions of the ARC that I’m also sending to folks who want to review a pre-release version.*


(Click for larger image.)

Still no definite release date yet. It’s supposed to be a Spring release, and technically Spring begins next Monday — but Spring runs all the way to the Summer Solstice, so we have a few weeks to finish putting all the pieces together!

Stay tuned …

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*If you want the ARC to review, or you know a reviewer to whom I should send one, let me know!

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Doing Good, ‘Slowly, Gently, Little by Little’

(Another in the continuing “Monday Morning Insight” series of quotes to start the week.)

Four years ago today, Pope Francis was elected to serve as the 266th Pope. So far he has proven to be one of the most popular and inspirational people to hold that sacred post.

Just a few weeks after ascending to the Papacy, Pope Francis said at Mass:

The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! “Father, the atheists?” Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. “But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!” But do good: we will meet one another there.

do good
Sound advice, here. (Image: “do good,” by potential past, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

I love all of that, from the principle that the redeeming work of Christ was sufficient to redeem everyone — even those who don’t accept it — to the point that we can make the world better and more peaceful the more we (as Scripture says) persist in doing good.

I hope this week that we all make the most of any opportunities we have to do good! And as always I wish you and yours the very best.

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Look: It’s a Book Cover!

At least, that’s what it looks like to me:


(Click for larger image.)

What do you think?

The novel is a Spring release from WordFire Press. Stay tuned for more information!

And if you know anyone who might be interested in a near-future science fiction story of survival and sacrifice on the Moon, encourage them to watch this space or sign up for my newsletter for updates.

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Cyrano de Bergerac, Science Fiction Author

(Another in the continuing “Monday Morning Insight” series of quotes to start the week.)

That title is not a joke.

Before we get to it, let me admit my ignorance: I did not know, until I started looking for this week’s quote, that Cyrano de Bergerac — the real-life de Bergerac — was one of the earliest science fiction authors.

Today is Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac’s birthday (6 March 1619 – 28 July 1655), and it turns out he was not just a character in a story who helped his friend woo the woman he really loved. That was made up by Edmond Rostand, whereas in real life de Bergerac was a French soldier, a playwright, and — as it turns out — a science fiction novelist.

He actually wrote two science fiction novels, both of which were published posthumously: L’Autre Monde: ou les États et Empires de la Lune (The Other World: or the States and Empires of the Moon, 1657), and Les États et Empires du Soleil (The States and Empires of the Sun, 1662). The first was published as the “Comical History” of the States and Empires of the Moon, thanks to being renamed by Henry Le Bret, de Bergerac’s friend, who also excised material he considered objectionable.

But let’s get to the quotes….

This bit in L’Autre Monde may come across as comical to us, until we consider that de Bergerac wrote it over 300 years before the Apollo program made the Moon’s nature more familiar to more people:

“I think the Moon is a world like this one, and the Earth is its moon.”

My friends greeted this with a burst of laughter. “And maybe,” I told them, “someone on the Moon is even now making fun of someone else who says that our globe is a world.”

I read some foreshadowing of H.G. Wells in there, as I think of how The War of the Worlds opens. We know so much now about our Solar system that we did not know then. (And as one whose forthcoming debut novel concerns the early days of a lunar colony, I confess a bit of jealousy: it might have made my own writing easier if I hadn’t had to try so hard to make the fiction part live up to some real science.)

But de Bergerac did not limit his imagination just to the Moon. Consider that he wrote this in the 1650s:

I think the planets are worlds revolving around the sun and that the fixed stars are also suns that have planets revolving around them. We can’t see those worlds from here because they are so small and because the light they reflect cannot reach us. How can one honestly think that such spacious globes are only large, deserted fields? And that our world was made to lord it over all of them just because a dozen or so vain wretches like us happen to be crawling around on it? Do people really think that because the sun gives us light every day and year, it was made only to keep us from bumping into walls? No, no, this visible god gives light to man by accident, as a king’s torch accidentally shines upon a working man or burglar passing in the street.


A representation of the Copernican model of the Solar System. (Image: “Harmonia macrocosmica …,” by Andreas Cellarius, 1661, from Wikimedia Commons.)

What would de Bergerac have made of our efforts to peer into the depths of space, by which we have found dozens of exoplanets — planets orbiting distant stars? I think he would be pleased, and perhaps a little disappointed that we had not yet found ways to reach them.

I think de Bergerac’s literary achievement is all the more impressive when we put him and his novels in relation to other science and literary luminaries:

  • Copernicus (1473-1543): formulated the heliocentric view of the Solar system
  • Galileo (1564-1642): confirmed by observation the Copernican view
  • Johannes Kepler (1571-1630): in addition to formulating the laws of orbital mechanics, also wrote in 1608 what some consider the very first work of science fiction, Somnium (The Dream), published in 1634
  • Francis Godwin (1562-1633): Anglican bishop, wrote The Man in the Moone, published in 1638
  • de Bergerac (1619-1655): The Other World: or the States and Empires of the Moon, 1657; and The States and Empires of the Sun, 1662
  • Voltaire (1694-1778): in addition to his philosophical works, wrote a short story about an alien visitor to the Earth, Micromégas, 1752
  • Mary Shelley (1797-1851): Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, 1818
  • Jules Verne (1828-1905): From the Earth to the Moon, 1865

I had been under the impression that Frankenstein was the first science fiction novel, and had no idea that so many authors had explored the notion of space travel two centuries before Verne’s classic was published. Maybe you knew all that, and knew that Cyrano de Bergerac was more than just a character in a story. I’m glad I know it now, and probably shouldn’t have been surprised to learn just how far back science fiction started — just as authors today extrapolate from the findings of current science, why shouldn’t authors have done so 350 years ago?

My dad is fond of saying, “Learn something new every day.” Maybe this can qualify as your “something new” for today. But even if it doesn’t, I hope you learn something new today, and all this week!

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The High Honor of Cultural Appropriation

I recently learned that last year a columnist claimed that, “You should only be allowed to enjoy the culture of your own race.”* Even if that was meant to be a joke, I thought I’d put the proverbial stake in the ground here, with something I’ve said verbally and on the Book of Faces (where everyone, including me, spouts off about everything): Cultural appropriation is the highest form of societal flattery.

That is to say, so far as cultural “appropriation” is a real phenomenon, we appropriate what we appreciate.

If your culture is being appropriated — if elements of your culture are being borrowed and copied and used by others — it is only because people find value in them. No one appropriates cultural elements that have no appeal.

Culture
This way to the culture…. (Image: “Culture,” by Scott Beale, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Life is too short to spend very much time eating foods we dislike or wearing clothes that don’t suit us or participating in activities we loathe. We feast on foods we love, no matter what the people looked like who originated them. We wear clothing that helps us feel comfortable and look good (so far as that’s possible, for some of us), no matter what language the people spoke who first wove the cloth or designed the patterns. We take part in games and rituals and enjoy music and drama that we find uplifting, that speak to us, that give us pleasure in company or alone, regardless of what patch of earth was home to the people who first made up those pastimes or told those stories.

I hope you take pride in your culture, and defend it fiercely from misuse or misappropriation. Certainly some cultural copying is intended to criticize or mock, but that’s the exception, not the norm. (And in a society of free people who value free speech, even that is a valid form of expression.)

But it remains that imitation, as it is said, is the highest form of flattery. In personal terms, we emulate people we admire. We say we want to be like them, and sometimes we go so far as to pattern our lives after theirs, although some of them may not appreciate the attention they get. So it is with cultural appropriation.

If elements of your culture are being appropriated, then, it’s because they are valuable — and valued.

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*From a HuffPo piece that I’m not sure was meant to be serious or absurdist. (Whatever it was, it needed to be edited before it was posted.)

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