We Will Congregate at ConGregate

Here we go, NC folks! The ConGregate science fiction and fantasy convention runs Friday through Sunday in High Point, with all the usual festivities! It’s a small but extremely well-run convention, full of fun and friendly people — plus me! 😂

Here’s what I have going on:

Friday:

  • 1:00 p.m. — “Science Fiction Writer’s Showcase”
  • 3:00 p.m. — Open Filk
  • 4:00 p.m. — Solo Concert!
  • 8:00 p.m. — Reading

Saturday:

  • 11:00 a.m. — Open Filk
  • 1:30 p.m. — Baen Books Traveling Slide Show & Prize Patrol
  • 4:00 p.m. — More Music (in the “Cantina”)
  • 6:00 p.m. — Open Filk
  • 9:00 p.m. — Panel, “How Much Science Should a Science Fiction Writer Know?”

Sunday:

  • 9:00 a.m. — Prayer & Praise Service
  • Noon — Open Filk
  • 1:00 p.m. — Round Robin Music Fest

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it to the Research Triangle Writers Coffeehouse on Sunday, but a friend volunteered to moderate that session so it will go on as scheduled!

Here’s looking forward to a lot of fun with my fannish friends!

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Research Triangle Writers Coffeehouse Meets Tomorrow!

Yes, it’s the third Sunday instead of the usual second Sunday of the month, but The Writers Coffeehouse will convene tomorrow at 2 p.m. at Quail Ridge Books (4209-100 Lassiter Mill Road, Raleigh). We slipped the schedule a week so as not to interfere with Mother’s Day last Sunday. Note that the unusual day also means an unusual setting: we’ll be meeting upstairs instead of in our normal spot.

If you’re a writer and you are in the Research Triangle region of North Carolina, you’re welcome at our branch of the Writers Coffeehouse — a nationwide set of free monthly networking events, originally started in 2002 in Pennsylvania by NYT-bestselling author Jonathan Maberry. All writers — young or old, published or unpublished, struggling or accomplished — are welcome at every meeting. As Jonathan says, we’re just “a bunch of writers sitting around talking about writing … with coffee.” (Note that you have to bring your coffee [or the beverage of your choice] with you, but there are a couple of places nearby that are pretty convenient.)

The Writers Coffeehouse

You can learn more about (and join!) our local group at the Research Triangle Writers Coffeehouse Facebook page. But if you’re free on Sunday afternoon, we’d love to meet you! (I, however, will have to meet you at the June meeting — I have another commitment tomorrow, but two people were kind enough to step up to moderate the discussion in “tag team” fashion.)

And, rest assured: It doesn’t matter what you write, where you write, or how much you write, you’re welcome at The Writers Coffeehouse!

___
P.S. In case you missed it, Lost Signals of the Terran Republic, an anthology set in Charles E. Gannon’s “Caine Riordan” universe and that includes a short story by yours truly, is available now — order your copy today!
P.P.S. Also in case you missed it, my novel Walking on the Sea of Clouds is available as an Audible audiobook. Check it out!

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The Next Research Triangle Writers Coffeehouse is This Sunday

Yes, we know it’s Palm Sunday — but it also happens to be the second Sunday of the month, and we decided to keep to our usual schedule. Which means that all writers in or near the Research Triangle are invited to come to The Writers Coffeehouse this Sunday at 2 p.m. at at Quail Ridge Books (4209-100 Lassiter Mill Road, Raleigh).

Briefly, the Writers Coffeehouse is a nationwide set of free monthly networking events, originally started in 2002 in Pennsylvania by NYT-bestselling author Jonathan Maberry. All writers — young or old, published or unpublished, struggling or accomplished — are welcome at every meeting. As Jonathan says, we’re just “a bunch of writers sitting around talking about writing … with coffee.” (Note that you have to bring your coffee [or the beverage of your choice] with you, but there are a couple of places nearby that are pretty convenient.)

The Writers Coffeehouse

You can learn more about (and join!) our local group at the Research Triangle Writers Coffeehouse Facebook page. But if you’re free on Sunday afternoon, we’d love to meet you!

And, rest assured: It doesn’t matter what you write, where you write, or how much you write, you’re welcome at The Writers Coffeehouse!

___

Reminder for anyone who missed the announcement, but I’m running a series of giveaways for Audible downloads of the Walking on the Sea of Clouds audiobook. The last giveaway drawing will be Monday the 15th, but you can still sign up at this link!

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A Hazard of Haphazard Songwriting

I debuted a song last night in the first RavenCon “open filking” session that illustrates that my slapdash approach to songwriting is often more slap than dash. (I don’t know if that makes sense, but I didn’t get much sleep so it’s all I’ve got.)

Anyway, with this particular song I’ve been having trouble with the transition from the chorus back to the verse — thinking it was a key issue, because keys are a thing that songs have but I don’t know much about (being pretty much theory-less when it comes to music). But then I played through it a couple of times by myself — here’s the chorus, if you’re interested —

Tommy’s up for fighting, Tommy’s up for risks
Never shies away from danger, or putting up his fists
So pick up your shillelaghs, boys, and bring ’em to the fight
‘Cause Tommy’s going to make a lot of noise in the spaceport pub tonight

— and I finally tried to count out the beat … and discovered that while the chorus is in 4/4 time the verses are actually in 6/8.

Did I do that? Apparently I did, and now I have to finagle my way out of (or around) it.


(Photo by Christopher Rinehart.)

I imagine other songwriters — those who have some amount of musical knowledge — think rather deliberately about things like keys and time signatures when they begin writing a song. Or, if not, then I imagine they figure that sort of thing out fairly early in the process. But not me! Me? I just do this for fun!

And it usually is fun. That chorus is fun (do you like it?). And the process itself can be fun, until I write myself into a proverbial corner and have to figure out how to cut my way through the wall. Not that demolition isn’t fun, because it can be … it’s just usually pretty messy.

Anyway, that’s one of the hazards of haphazard songwriting: having to figure out weird transitions and things. But, at least it’s fun!

___

Reminder for anyone who missed the announcement, but I’m still running a series of giveaways for Audible downloads of the Walking on the Sea of Clouds audiobook. The next drawing is Monday, so sign up at this link!

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What’s That? Another Winner? Yes, Indeed!

Congratulations to Elaine Isaak — an author of historical fantasies, from Bedford, New Hampshire — for winning our second Audible download of Walking on the Sea of Clouds!

congratulations
(Image: “Congratulations,” by Sean MacEntee, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Elaine is proof that the more times you enter, the greater your chances to win. She shared the news about the drawings on social media and responded to my newsletter for an extra entry.

So if you want to improve your chances of winning — and the next drawing be on Monday the 8th, for TWO prizes — just share out the signup link and be sure to tag Gray in the post. (Alternately, you could share out either the Audible link or the Amazon link to the audiobook itself….)

And if you’re not registered, sign up today!

But for now, join us in congratulating Elaine on being our latest winner!

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Thus Quoth the Raven: RavenCon!

This weekend I’ll be at the RavenCon science fiction and fantasy convention in Williamsburg, Virginia. RavenCon is a terrific convention, run by a great group of people, and I’ve enjoyed attending and serving as a guest at it for many years.

This year, in addition to a number of panels, I get to play two concerts! Here’s what I have going on, if you’re curious:

Friday:

  • 5 pm — Guests Meet and Greet
  • 7 pm — Opening Ceremony
  • 8 pm — Panel, “Music and Art Influences in SFF Stories & Novels” (Moderator)
  • 10 pm — Open Filk

Saturday:

  • 10 am — Concert: Gray Sings Silly Songs! (one of which might be “Tauntauns to Glory”)
  • 11 am — Reading
  • 1 pm — Panel, “Purple Prose” (Moderator)
  • 4:30 pm — Baen Books Traveling Slide Show & Prize Patrol
  • 10 pm — Open Filk

Sunday:

I hope to debut a new serious song (that I just finished last week!) in my Sunday morning concert, and I may also debut a work-in-progress silly song during one of the open filking sessions. Should be fun, all around!

Safe travels to everyone who’s headed anywhere, and especially to all my fannish friends coming to the con!

___
Related Items of Interest:
Enter to win one of several free downloads of the Walking on the Sea of Clouds audiobook by signing up for my newsletter at this link — and check out the audio sample on the Audible site or at Amazon
– Listen to both of my albums for free at Bandcamp — Distorted Vision, and Truths and Lies and Make-Believe — or, if you prefer, buy them there or at Gray’s Online Store

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Writers, What’s Your Main Character’s Tendency?

A few weeks ago I posted about Gretchen Rubin’s “Four Tendencies” model,* and specifically how it revealed a mistake I made in my book on education** — not an error of fact, but an error of omission due to my own failure of imagination.

Since then I’ve been thinking about the Four Tendencies as they might apply to characterization in fiction.

To recap, Ms. Rubin identified four categories into which we sift ourselves according to how we respond to expectations — both our own, inner expectations, and the expectations we perceive that others have for us. Some of us readily meet expectations, and others of us resist expectations, generally as follows:

  • Upholders: Meet both outer and inner expectations
  • Obligers: Meet outer expectations, but resist inner expectations
  • Questioners: Resist outer expectations, but meet inner expectations
  • Rebels: Resist both outer and inner expectations

Like many such schemes, this one has its strengths and weaknesses (e.g., I wish she had explored in more depth the areas where the tendencies overlap), but I find that it has some excellent insights into our choices and behaviors. As statistician George Box said, “All models are wrong. Some models are useful,” and the Four Tendencies is a quite useful model.

So how can this model apply to writing fictional characters?

Writer's Block I
(Image: “Writer’s Block I,” by Drew Coffman, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

I think anything that helps us understand that mysterious thing called “human nature” is useful in creating characters who readers will find interesting and believable, let alone relatable and sympathetic. And understanding the Four Tendencies has the potential to make a big difference in writing characters who have clear motivations and consistent reactions to the expectations of the other characters around them.

When I think about the main characters in Walking on the Sea of Clouds (now available in audiobook***), for instance, I think Stormie Pastorelli fits the pattern of an Upholder. She’s driven to succeed, and to help the lunar colony survive and thrive, with a strong “by-the-book” approach and a heavy insistence on living up to her high expectations of herself. I think her husband Frank, on the other hand, is an Obliger: he is ready and willing to do things that other people expect of him, even sometimes at the expense of his own well-being.

Of the other main characters in the novel, Barbara Richards is probably also an Obliger, and that makes her struggle about whether to stay at the lunar colony realistic. (It makes sense to me for two of the main characters to have that tendency, since Ms. Rubin points out that Obligers form the most prevalent tendency in society; honestly, I don’t think society would function if Obligers weren’t the largest group.) I think Barbara’s husband Van, though, is primarily a Questioner — perhaps with a bit of Rebel thrown in.

If you’ve read Walking on the Sea of Clouds, what do you think? Does that assessment sound right to you? How do you think I did in keeping their characteristic tendencies consistent?

If you’re a writer, do you think the Four Tendencies might help you better understand the personalities of your main characters, in order to keep their characterizations consistent? I’d be interested to know your thoughts.

As for me, I’m working on a fantasy novel these days, and I’m keeping the Four Tendencies in mind as I try to figure out my characters’ motivations and their feelings about the expectations placed on them. I hope I’ll be able to make them seem realistic! But that, in the end, will be decided by the readers.

___
*Full (and somewhat unwieldy) title: The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too).
**Quality Education: Why It Matters, and How to Structure the System to Sustain It (a fairly unwieldy title of my own).
***Reminder for anyone who missed the announcement: I’m running a series of giveaways for Audible downloads of the Walking on the Sea of Clouds audiobook. Sign up at this link!

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Audiobook Giveaways … Plural!

… and you can enter as many times as you like!

As announced previously, the Walking on the Sea of Clouds audiobook is complete and available for your listening pleasure direct from Audible or, if you prefer, from Amazon — and between now and Tax Day, we’re going to hold multiple drawings to give away free Audible downloads for it!

Why Tax Day? Because somebody ought to get some good news on that day!

Why multiple giveaways? Because anything worth doing is worth doing more than once! (And because the good folks at Wordfire Press gave me several download codes to do with as I pleased, so I’m giving a bunch away.)

How do you enter? Just sign up for my newsletter using this special link, and then every time you share the link and tag me, I’ll enter you in the drawing again!


(Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

If you’re not quite sure whether Walking on the Sea of Clouds is your kind story, here’s what some folks had to say about it:

  • 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.
    –David Farland
  • If you’ve ever wanted to be a colonist on the moon, this is as close as you will ever get without going there yourself.
    Abyss & Apex
  • … as entertaining as some of Heinlein’s early fiction, …. closer to the type of fiction Jerry Pournelle wrote in the 1960s and 1970s…. captures a pioneering era that once was and could be again.
    Ad Astra
  • Much like The Martian, Walking on the Sea of Clouds puts you on a lifeless rock and makes you think about why we explore new frontiers even as it explains how it can be done.
    Booklist
  • Everything about Walking on the Sea of Clouds feels amazingly authentic.
    –Edmund R. Schubert
  • Annoyed you haven’t been to the Moon yet? Then pick up Walking on the Sea of Clouds; you’ll feel like you’re there.
    –Charles E. Gannon
  • This is meat and potatoes for the hard science fiction fan.
    –Martin L. Shoemaker

It’s a near-future story of survival and sacrifice during the very early days of a lunar colony, and explores the reasons why people sign up for such daring enterprises and the price they’re willing to pay to help them succeed. In addition to Audible, you can also find it in other formats on Amazon and other online sources including Baen e-books.

I hope you’ll give it a listen (or a read), and let me know what you think!

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Research Triangle Writers! Come to the Writers Coffeehouse

Are you a writer, in or near the Research Triangle? Then you’re welcome to come to The Writers Coffeehouse this Sunday, 10 March, at 2 p.m.!

The Writers Coffeehouse is a nationwide set of free monthly networking events, originally started in 2002 in Pennsylvania by NYT-bestselling author Jonathan Maberry. As Jonathan says, we’re just “a bunch of writers sitting around talking about writing … with coffee.”

The Writers Coffeehouse

The Research Triangle Writers Coffeehouse meets on the second Sunday of the month at Quail Ridge Books (4209-100 Lassiter Mill Road, Raleigh). All writers — young or old, published or unpublished, struggling or accomplished — are welcome at every meeting. You will have to bring your own coffee (or the beverage of your choice) with you, but there are a couple of places nearby that would love to serve you.

So, one more time: It doesn’t matter what you write, where you write, or how much you write, if you’re a writer in or near the Research Triangle, you’re welcome at The Writers Coffeehouse!

Hope to see you Sunday!

___

Shameless P.S.: As I pointed out in the Facebook group yesterday, if I’m smiling a little more than usual at this month’s meeting it’s because my novel Walking on the Sea of Clouds was just released as an Audible audiobook.

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What’s That I Hear? An Audiobook? Yes, Indeed

Ladies and gentlemen, the Walking on the Sea of Clouds audiobook is complete and available for your listening pleasure! You can score a copy direct from Audible or, if you prefer, from Amazon.

As pleased as I am to announce that the novel is in audio format, I’m even happier to announce that the voice actress who narrates it is … my daughter, Stephanie! (Surprise!)

Stephanie auditioned under her married name (Minervino), so the folks at WordFire Press didn’t realize who she was when they forwarded her audition to me. They agreed she was the best choice and worked with her through the production process long before we ever let on that we were related. (Sneaky, I know.)

If you click through to the Audible website, you can listen to a sample. And while I admit that I may be a little biased, I think she did a fine job. It wasn’t easy, with so many different accents among the characters, but she managed to give each character a unique voice!

And not only that: Stephanie did a great job portraying the emotional depth of the story, and actually added to the emotional depth of some scenes. She made me very proud! I just wish her name was a little bigger on the cover:

I hope you’ll check out this audio version of Walking on the Sea of Clouds, and if you know someone who prefers audio to print I hope you’ll let them know about it. In case you’re still unsure whether the story might be worth your while, here’s what some folks had to say:

  • “[As] entertaining as some of Heinlein’s early fiction…. closer to the type of fiction Jerry Pournelle wrote…. captures a pioneering era that once was and could be again.”
    Ad Astra
  • “Much like The Martian, Walking on the Sea of Clouds puts you on a lifeless rock and makes you think about why we explore new frontiers even as it explains how it can be done.”
    Booklist
  • “If you’ve ever wanted to be a colonist on the moon, this is as close as you will ever get without going there yourself.”
    Abyss & Apex
  • “Annoyed you haven’t been to the Moon yet? Then pick up Walking on the Sea of Clouds; you’ll feel like you’re there.”
    –Charles E. Gannon
  • “Everything about Walking on the Sea of Clouds feels amazingly authentic.”
    –Edmund R. Schubert
  • “This is meat and potatoes for the hard science fiction fan.”
    –Martin L. Shoemaker
  • “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.”
    –David Farland

Spread the word! And if you give it a listen, I’d love to know what you think!

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