Now Available: New Version of Walking on the Sea of Clouds

Take a look at this evocative cover art for the new edition of Walking on the Sea of Clouds:


(Cover art by Stephen Minervino of 2024 version of Walking on the Sea of Clouds.)

The main character, Stormie Pastorelli, looks very much as I imagined, and I think the image brilliantly captures her hopefulness and inner strength. My son-in-law, Stephen Minervino, did an outstanding job, didn’t he?

You may ask, though, why a new edition? Because the original publisher, WordFire Press, returned the rights to me earlier this year. Instead of letting it “go gentle into that good night,” I decided to commission new artwork and make this version available myself.

If you know anyone who should have read the book the first time around but didn’t, let them know they can pick it up in paperback or as a Kindle e-book. (The original audiobook is still available, too!

And if you need any graphics work, check out Stephen’s website and contact him to see what he can do for you!

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Oh, Those Savvy Ancient Greeks

A couple of years ago, I got on a kick of reading through some classics that I’d never read before. I wrote about that in a couple of posts at the time — Epicurus, Seneca, and Jesus, and More from Seneca: Unhappiness, and Grief — and recently I dug up some notes I made on a few more gems that seem quite appropriate to today’s world.

Consider, for example, this excerpt from The Nichomachean Ethics (Book III, section ii) by Aristotle:

… our characters are determined by our choice of what is good or evil, not by our opinion about it.

Let’s stop right there, before we get to the rest of the passage, and focus on the last phrase: not by our opinion about it. In this age when opinions are shared frequently and widely in all manner of social media, it’s good to be reminded — by someone who lived about 2300 years ago, no less! — that our opinions do not form our characters. Rather, our choices do: Our choices of how we do our jobs, whether well or shoddily; of how we treat people, whether with respect or with disdain; of how we live, whether nobly or basely.

Aristotle continues,

… a choice is more properly praised for choosing the right object than for being correct in itself; but an opinion is praised for being in accordance with the truth. Also we choose what we know very well to be good, but we form opinions about things that we do not really know to be good. It seems, too, that the same people are not equally good at choosing the best actions and forming the best opinions; some are comparatively good at forming opinions, but … fail to make the right choices.

Far be it from me to say that Aristotle was wrong here, but he may give us too much credit when he says we “choose what we know very well to be good.” Rather, in my experience — i.e., based on my personal choices and the choices I’ve observed others make — we choose what we believe will be good, in the sense of being beneficial. But that’s not the most damning thing about this passage.

The thing in this passage that finds us lacking is his assertion that “an opinion is praised for being in accordance with the truth.” Certainly we should strive to make sure our opinions reflect truth, and I’m enough of a fan of humanity to believe that most of us think our opinions accord with truth as we know it; certainly, we should praise those opinions which most closely align with truth; but these days many opinions are praised not because they represent the truth but because they align with the hearer or reader’s perhaps petrified beliefs.


(Image: “Bust of Aristotle. Marble, Roman copy after a Greek bronze original by Lysippos from 330 BC; the alabaster mantle is a modern addition,” from Wikimedia Commons.)

Moving on,

I mentioned social media above, and in Book III, section iii we find something that, if we adhered to it a little bit better, would make our lives much more peaceful. After stating, “what we deliberate about is practical measures that lie in our power,” Aristotle continues,

Not even all human affairs are objects of deliberation; thus no Spartan deliberates about the best form of constitution for the Scythians; each of the various groups of human beings deliberates about the practical measures that lie in its own power.

Oh, how quiet X (nee Twitter) would be, and how uplifting our Facebook and other feeds would be, if each group only deliberated about things in its own power, instead of deliberating about other groups and the things that lie in their power. The wider world itself might be a bit quieter, if nations likewise deliberated about their own dealings more than others’.

To a certain extent, the same could be said of each of us as individuals — as my mom used to say, we should tend to our own knitting. I have been guilty of it myself, more times than I care to admit. I have been guilty of it on this blog, and on the socials, and probably will continue to be. But I will try to be somewhat more aware of it — and perhaps I can reform myself.

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A Tale of Two Cancers

Yesterday began with bad news and ended with good, and left me pondering the randomness of life.

Yesterday morning came a message that a high school classmate had lost his battle with cancer. Yesterday evening came a social media post that a friend had beaten her cancer to the point that she needs little further treatment.

I feel a bit like Scrooge, pondering a Christmas yet to come that mixes great sorrow with great joy. How capricious life can be! Is it any wonder it may seem meaningless at times?


(Image: “Fuck Cancer,” by Myriam von M, on Wikimedia Commons.)

We, and those we love, and those we don’t even know, are afflicted with pains and sufferings and difficulties too numerous to count–TNTC, a phrase doctors applied to the tumors filling my spleen back in the mid-1990s (tumors which thankfully turned out to be benign)–and it is impossible to know who will be next, and when, and where. Yet, we have it within ourselves to make meaning out of even the worst things, if we can find the wisdom and the courage and the strength to do it.

At this moment, however, I am at a loss. I must say goodbye to one friend, while I wait to see another and greet her with a congratulatory hug. And it all seems so terribly arbitrary.

So fare thee well, my friends, whatever trials you face. May the meaning you find in them, or the meaning you make out of them, light the world a little more.

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My New, 2-Year-Old Fan

A couple of weeks ago I woke up to a message that made my day, my week, and really, my month! The fellow gave me permission to share it, so here goes:

Hello Gray,

I was flipping through a Star Wars book with my 2-year-old this morning (The Illustrated Star Wars Universe, a collection of concept art for the original trilogy) and she was very interested in the tauntauns on Hoth.

In the car on the way to daycare, she started crying and saying “Want tauntaun song please … want tauntaun song … tauntaun song please!” I tried explaining to her there is no tauntaun song. Then, I tried making up my own (it was … not good) and I think she actually stopped loving me for a few minutes.

Finally, I went to Spotify (don’t worry, I was stopped in traffic) and found “Tauntauns to Glory.” We listened to it three times.

So, anyway, thanks for writing a song about tauntauns!

How about that? I thought that was marvelous.


(Image: “Luuk (sic) on Tauntaun,” by Anton Van Dort, on Deviant Art under Creative Commons.)

And if you don’t know what all that fuss was about, you can queue up “Tauntauns to Glory” on Spotify or listen free at this link!

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Happy Explorers Day

Or Discoverers Day, if you rather.

I know some folks have Christened this “Indigenous Peoples Day,” but that has always seemed a cop-out to me. Making Christopher Columbus a scapegoat centuries after his accomplishment — and it was an accomplishment — is emblematic enough of this age of sensitization in which we live, but celebrating people who stayed where they were and lived out ordinary lives in place of those who risked life and limb in pursuit of their dreams is emblematic of something deeper, and sadder: a loss of drive, of purpose, of spirit. It’s a surrender. A capitulation.


(Banner illustration from “10 Great Explorers in History,” at https://www.historyanswers.co.uk/people-politics/10-great-explorers-in-history/.)

So on this day I celebrate all who ventured forth in pursuit of something new, someplace different, whether grand and glorious or smaller and more personal. All the explorers and discoverers, whether in the wider world or in the confines of the laboratory, the library, the studio.

Perhaps even you, in your pursuit of your best life. As I wrote on this subject nearly ten years ago: May You Find What You Seek.

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Thursday is the New Friday at Dragon Con

Okay, technically Thursday has been the new Friday for a few years now when it’s Labor Day weekend in Atlanta! At least, it has at Dragon Con, one of the world’s biggest and best science fiction and fantasy conventions.

I missed Dragon Con last year, because I was in the midst of moving — I spent the weekend filling a shipping container with some of my worldly goods — so I’m going to make the best of being back! Here’s my schedule, unless something changes:

Thursday

  • 7:00 pm: Geeky Sea Shanties (Hyatt Hanover C/D/E)

Friday

  • 11:30 am: Panel, “What is Filk?” (Hyatt Hanover F/G)
  • 1:00 pm: Panel, “Filk & Cookies — Meet, Greet, Filk!” (Hyatt Hanover F/G)
  • 2:30 pm: Panel, “Music of the Spheres: Using Music in SF” (Hyatt Embassy A/B)

Saturday

  • 12:00 pm: Baen Books Info & Author Signing Booth (Americas Mart) (until 2:00 pm)
  • 2:30 pm: Baen Books Traveling Roadshow & Prize Patrol, with Toni Weisskopf et al (Hyatt International North)
  • 5:30 pm: Group Sing: Dungeons & Dragons! (Hyatt Hanover C/D/E)

Sunday

Monday

  • 9:00 am: Baen Books Info & Author Signing Booth (Americas Mart) (until 11:00 am)

As usual, when I’m not performing or working I’ll probably be attending concerts by my musical friends, or hanging out with my writerly friends or Baen Barflies. Or trying to catch a few winks of sleep!

If you’re at the con, I hope we get a chance to connect — but whatever you’re doing this weekend, I hope it goes well!

___
Related Items of Interest:
Taking You Out to See the Stars is still my newest album, and still available on Bandcamp and streaming services like Spotify
– Here are The Gray Manโ€™s Recommendations for Near-Future, Near-Space SF Novels
– Watch the music video of “Tauntauns to GloryFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

It’s Not Just a Con, It’s ConGregate!

Or: Storming the Bastille of Fandom! ๐Ÿ˜‚ Get it? It’s Bastille Day! ๐Ÿคฃ

Anyway, the ConGregate science fiction and fantasy convention is this weekend in Winston-Salem, NC. I’ve got a pretty busy schedule this year, starting with my first solo show in over a year:

Friday:

  • 4:00 p.m. — Concert — in which I sing some songs I don’t usually sing in concerts ๐Ÿ˜œ
  • 5:30 p.m. — Improv Show, “Whose Con Is It, Anyway?” ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ
  • 7:00 p.m. — Opening Ceremonies: E Como Mai

Saturday:

  • 10:30 a.m. — Panel, “So, You Want to be a Writer?”
  • 12:00 p.m. — Baen Books Traveling Roadshow & Prize Patrol
  • 1:30 p.m. — Panel, “Authentic Military References in Writing”
  • 3:00 p.m. — Special Event, “White Plectrum and Friends” Concert
  • 6:00 p.m. — Reading — with four other writers! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ
  • 7:30 p.m. — Panel, “Building Mythology and Ritual into Genre Writing”

Sunday:

  • 8:30 a.m. — Prayer & Praise Service
  • 10:00 a.m. — Panel, “Ask Me Anything — Publishing”
  • 11:30 a.m. — Panel, “‘Put Explosion in Here’ and Other Editing Mistakes”

Hope to see lots of friends there — and if that’s you, don’t be a stranger!

___
Related Items of Interest:
Taking You Out to See the Stars is still my newest album, and still available on Bandcamp (listen free!) and streaming services like Spotify
– Here are The Gray Manโ€™s Recommendations for Near-Future, Near-Space SF Novels
– Watch the music video of “Tauntauns to GloryFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Out of Context? Out of Our Minds

This thought occurred to me tonight:

To take any single verse of the Bible and claim that it represents God, or describes God, or gives insight into the mind of God, is like taking one cell of a body and claiming that it represents the whole person, or describes the person, or (especially) gives insight into the person’s mind. And larger parts are not much more definitive–a chapter is like an organ, a book like a bodily system, but only the entire living body really represents, describes, or gives insight into the person.

Some part of the person is in the cell, in the organ, in the system; even at the subcellular level (the letters, the words) resides the DNA that outlines the totality of a person. But cellular DNA is only potential, and the cell is not the person. Just so, the verse is not God, nor even a microscopic glimpse of God.


(Image: “The Gutenberg Bible,” by Kevin Eng, on Wikimedia Commons.)

More literally, the verse is not the Bible, and the Bible taken as a whole is still not the Lord God. The Bible, taken as a whole, is a picture of God–and often not a very clear picture–but it is not God.

It may be that a single cell describes the entire population of human beings that have ever lived and will ever live, better than a single verse in the Bible describes the totality of God.

But, what do you think?Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

LibertyCon! and, DeepSouthCon!

I’m so glad to get to go to LibertyCon again! My lady Lisa and I will be driving to Chattanooga — a shorter trip than it used to be, since the move — for the 35th iteration of the best fannish family reunion, which this year is also the host site of DeepSouthCon 61! The convention officially starts Friday, though I hope to get in a game of Terraforming Mars Thursday evening.


LibertyCon!

Here’s my official schedule:

Friday:

  • 5 p.m. — Opening Ceremonies — at which I will sing my newest LibertyCon song
  • 6 p.m. — Give Me LibertyCon! and Onward LibertyCon! Roundtable and Mass Autograph Session
  • 11 p.m. — Open Filk — come join in!

Saturday:

  • 10 a.m. — Brunch Banquet — always a fun time listening to the Guests of Honor!
  • 2 p.m. — Baen Books Traveling Road Show & Prize Patrol
  • 5 p.m. — Authors/Artists Alley — come by and chat!
  • 11 p.m. — Open Filk — more nerdy music fun!

Sunday:

  • 9 a.m. — Nondenominational Prayer Service
  • 10 a.m. — Kaffeeklatsch — which for me involves tea or the like
  • 11 a.m. — Panel, “Tales from Mission Control / Space Operations” — in which I try to remember what I used to do in the Air Force …
  • 2 p.m. — Reading — with my friend Karl Gallagher!

In between I’ll be attending other events, hanging out here or there, maybe even wandering a bit around town. I know it’ll be a grand time, though — it always is! — so let’s have some fun!

___
Related Items of Interest:
– Watch the music video of Tauntauns to Glory
– Listen to Taking You Out to See the Stars, Distorted Vision, or Truths and Lies and Make-BelieveFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Another Memorial Day Rhyme

Occasionally, on days like today, I get the urge to express myself — an urge that often manifests in verse of questionable quality (though sometimes also in blog posts of questionable quality).

Here’s today’s offering:

You are more of a hero than I will ever be
You stood your post and did your most so that others could be free
Or ran into the danger when you could’ve run away
Just the sort of hero that we need with us today

Rest in peace, all of you who paid the greatest price
Rest in peace, and may you feel our gratitude in paradise
Rest in peace that you yourself never lived to see
Rest in peace, more hero than I will ever be

Tomb of the Unknowns ("Unknown Soldier") - U.S.
(Image: “Tomb of the Unknowns,” by Tony Fischer, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

For comparison, here’s one I wrote five years ago and posted, like many of my little semi-poetic musings, on Facebook:

To the Heroes Looking Down on This Memorial (28 May 2018, Memorial Day)

Can you feel some of the gratitude I have for you,
And all you did to secure this life for me?
Can you hear me simply saying, “Thank you,”
For all you gave to the cause of liberty?

Can you see the tears I shed because I miss you
And wish you had not fallen in the fray?
Can I ever truly show how much I owe you,
Unless I keep your memory alive today?

Can one day on the calendar suffice to
Plumb the depths of the thankfulness I feel?
Can I count the cost of the living debt I carry
And pay it forward though I’m always in arrears?

All I do today is salute your mighty sacrifice
And raise my glass to you, until we meet in paradise.

It’s not much to offer, I admit, but it’s all I have.

May your Memorial Day be peaceful, and may we always remember those to whom we owe our freedom.Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather