Brave Knights and Heroic Courage (New Video)

(Another in the series of quotes to start the week.)

Today we look at a quote from C.S. Lewis.

Lewis is well-known as the author of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — published on this date in 1950, from what I understand — but this quote comes from his essay “On Three Ways of Writing for Children”…

Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.

I think that holds true when writing for anyone, not just writing for children. I much prefer stories with characters who face up to difficulties and do what’s necessary to work through them, even if they might not be “heroic” in the truest sense. And, especially for those of us who don’t have to practice it day by day, stories can remind us that we ourselves are capable of courage, and perhaps instill in us the bravery we need to face our challenges, if not actual enemies.

Have a great week!

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(Possibly) Related Videos:
We Are All Leaders
Stand Tall in Troubled Times
Every Student A Scholar?
The Musashi-Heinlein School

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Celebrating My Debut Novel!

This past Sunday, I threw a party to celebrate the only debut novel I’ll ever have. (If you just happened onto this blog, it’s called Walking on the Sea of Clouds, and I’d be much obliged if you would check it out. Folks have compared it to The Martian, if you’re into that sort of thing.) Anyway, we had a pretty good turnout even with a few cancellations — not a packed house, but I think we would have overflowed the room we were originally supposed to be in.

Some pictures made it onto Facebook on Sunday, but I thought I’d hang a few more here on the blog. First up, anyone who’s seen me speak or give any sort of presentation knows that I tend to gesticulate, and that day was no exception:


Making a point during the introductions.

While folks continued to trickle in …


What are we here for, again?

… local “Wizard Rock” band The Blibbering Humdingers provided musical entertainment:


The Blibbering Humdingers! — L-R, Eddie Mowery, Kirsten Vaughan, Scott Vaughan, Chuck Parker.

And because I can’t be satisfied with just talking or reading — oh, no! — I had to play some music, too …


Playing “Tauntauns to Glory” for the folks.

… which folks tolerated pretty well.


They didn’t leave!

And then came the big moment:


Reading from Walking on the Sea of Clouds — first time ever reading from the actual book.

After reading a bit, we ate …


The real reason people stayed!

… and ate …


Fantastic desserts from Once in a Blue Moon Bakery.

… and we actually ran out of barbeque, because more people came than had RSVPed! So it was okay that we had some cancellations, or I would’ve had to order some pizzas or something.

While the Humdingers played a final set, we ended by signing books …


Some folks even bought books!

… and saying goodbye to folks who had come out …


My Aunt Frances (on the left) won the prize for traveling the farthest to the event — all the way from Florida!

… and gathering for commemorative pics:


With the family.

I thought the event went pretty well, and folks seemed to have a good time. I appreciate everyone who came out to help me celebrate, and especially everyone who helped put the party together!

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Once again, that’s Walking on the Sea of Clouds, a near-future novel of survival and sacrifice, love and loss, in the early days of the first commercial lunar colony. Ask for it at your favorite bookstore!

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The Gray Man … is on a Bookplate

If you want a signed copy of Walking on the Sea of Clouds or Quality Education — or of either of my CDs — but you’re not going to be with me at a convention and you don’t want to pay for postage to mail your things to me, I’ll be happy to sign and send you a bookplate:


Ninth Moon, LLC did this custom bookplate design for me.

Just send me a stamped, self-addressed envelope, and be sure to tell me if you want the bookplate personalized. (And if you want to throw in a buck to cover the cost of the bookplate itself, I’d be okay with that.)

Thanks, and have a great day!

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Guest Post! from Author Beth Cato: Cinnamon Twist Cookies, and CALL OF FIRE

In honor of her new novel, Call of Fire, being released today, welcome my friend, Beth Cato!

I’m Beth Cato, the author of two steampunk fantasy series with Harper Voyager. The second book in my Blood of Earth trilogy is Call of Fire, which is out today. These books feature a 1906 America that is allied with Japan as a world power, and in the process of dominating mainland Asia.

My heroine, Ingrid Carmichael, has spent much of her young life working as a secretary, housekeeper, and cook, all while hiding her powerful earth magic. I do a fair share of cooking myself — I run a food blog called Bready or Not. Every Wednesday at BethCato.com, I post a new recipe. I’m most famous/infamous for my cookies, which I’m known for bringing to conventions and signing events.

These Cinnamon Twist Cookies give you a chance to play with cookie dough. The result is a delicious cookie with a pretty appearance and delightful oomph of cinnamon.

Cinnamon Twist Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven at 375-degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the butter, sugar, vanilla, and egg. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Divide dough in half. Stir cinnamon into one half until it’s mixed in and brown.

Grab equal pinches of both kinds of dough, place them side by side, and gently twist into a short rope. Place on cookie sheet, with several inches around each to account for expansion. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until the cookie is set with the pale dough just tinted brown. Let cookies cool on wire rack. Store in a sealed container for several days.

The original post with the recipe and more pictures can be found at:
http://www.bethcato.com/bready-or-not-cinnamon-twist-cookies/

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More about Call of Fire:

At the end of Breath of Earth, Ingrid Carmichael had barely survived the earthquake that devastated San Francisco and almost crippled her with an influx of geomantic energy. With her friends Cy, Lee, and Fenris, she flees north, keenly aware that they are being pursued by Ambassador Blum, a cunning and dangerous woman who wants to use Ingrid’s abilities as the magical means to a devastating end.

Ingrid’s goals are simple: avoid capture that would cause her to be used as a weapon by the combined forces of the United States and Japan in their war against China, and find out more about the god-like powers she inherited from her estranged father. Most of all, she must avoid seismically active places. She doesn’t know what an intake of power will do to her body — or what damage she may unwillingly create.

A brief stopover in Portland turns disastrous when Lee and Fenris are kidnapped. To find and save her friends, Ingrid must ally with one of the most powerful and mysterious figures in the world: Ambassador Theodore Roosevelt.

Their journey together takes them north to Seattle, where Mount Rainier looms over the city. And Ingrid is all too aware that she may prove to be the fuse to alight both the long-dormant volcano … and a war that will sweep the world.

Call of Fire is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers.

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More about Beth herself:

Nebula-nominated Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger duology and the new Blood of Earth trilogy from Harper Voyager. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat. Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.

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Thanks, Beth! I love cinnamon, so those cookies sound awesome, and I wish you much success with your new novel!

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It’s a Slow Process, So Here’s a Brief Tidbit

It’s beginning to look as if Walking On The Sea of Clouds may not be a “Spring” release after all. Hopefully the actual date won’t drift too far into Summer, but I’ll keep you posted as I learn more!

Meanwhile, would you like to read an excerpt from the novel?

If so, here’s the start of the scene in which one of the main characters, Stormie Pastorelli, is about to undergo an experimental nanotechnology medical treatment — called a “picophage” treatment in the text — that’s required because she was exposed to pathogens while saving an accident victim’s life.

Hope you enjoy it …

The only warm color in the room was the red-brown ribbon of blood that flowed through translucent plastic tubing from Stormie’s right arm to the scanner and back again.

The rest of the antiseptic room blazed cold under the fluorescent lights: the row of cabinets labeled with machine-like precision, the stainless steel table with its orderly array of implements, the ubiquitous anatomy poster. The IV drip into her left arm was clear as ice water. Even the scanning and filtration unit itself, squat and boxy in its cream-colored housing with sky blue faceplate, seemed unwarmed though her blood flowed through it.

Over-conditioned air bit through the hospital gown, and Stormie wished she had taken the thin blanket the nurse offered. At least the gown was a tri-fold—a wrap-around with three arm holes—even if it had to be the standard putrid green.

Nothing to be afraid of, she told herself. Nothing but a million microscopic hunter-killers coursing through your blood.

Stormie squirmed a little on the padded table, and the paper covering crackled loud as thunder. The tubing pulled against the tape that secured it to her arm. In places where the light hit the tubing just right, her blood looked as dark as her skin.

Dr. Nguyen’s smiling face appeared in the wire-crossed glass set in the door. He waved, then came in carrying the brushed aluminum clipboard with all the release forms she’d signed. She hadn’t read them, of course; she supposed no one did. Written in the most obscure dialect of legalese, their clauses and codicils were inaccessible to those uninitiated in the lawyerly arts, even people who were otherwise smart; if system administrators could erect electronic barriers as formidable as lawyers’ linguistic barriers, no computer firewall would ever be breached. The papers all boiled down to I-understand-the-risks-associated-with-this-procedure-and-accept-the-improbable-but-very-real-possibility-that-it-may-result-in-my-death-or-permanent-disability. She had signed them with barely a first thought.

Dr. Nguyen’s black, greasy hair stuck out above one ear, as if he’d just gotten up from a nap at his desk. “How are you doing?” he asked. He reached out his slender hand and Stormie shook it for the third time this morning. “Everything still okay? No irritation?” He bent toward her arm and examined the needle site.

“Seems okay,” Stormie said. “I’m cold, though.”

The door opened again and the same stout, blonde nurse who had witnessed the paperwork—Nurse Myracek—carried in a plastic transit case about the size of a six-pack cooler. The dark, almost hunter-green case contrasted with the room’s stark brightness. She set the case next to the equipment on the steel table as Dr. Nguyen asked her to bring Stormie a blanket. She gave Stormie an “I told you so” look, but smiled and nodded to make it a friendly comeuppance.

“You’ll want to lie back now,” Dr. Nguyen said.

Stormie complied, and the clean paper sheet scrunched against her back. Her empty stomach complained about the preparatory fast. In a moment, Nurse Myracek had her expertly swaddled under a soft, robin’s-egg-blue blanket and put a small pillow under her head.

Stormie remembered something in a poem about the night, lying on the table … something about anesthesia … she tried and failed to recall the line. It might be appropriate, somehow.

Dr. Nguyen snapped opened the clasps on the transit case. They clattered down one by one, then he took off the lid and lifted out a syringe about the size of a cigar. He started making notes on his clipboard.

“Just think,” Nurse Myracek said. “That came from outer space.”

Stormie smiled a little. The nurse made it sound as if the picophages in the syringe were alien creatures brought back to Earth by some survey team. They didn’t come from outer space per se, they were grown and processed in the high-vacuum, medium-orbit foundry that the Low-Gee Corporation developed from the space station nanocrystalline laboratory. “Pico-” was marketing hype: they were smaller than almost any other nanomachines, but not three orders of magnitude smaller. So far they were one of only two commercial products that seemed to require low-gravity manufacture, but on that shallow foundation Low-Gee had built a small technical empire. A greater hurdle than making the things in the first place had been figuring out how to prepare them for descent into the Earth’s gravity well; the shock-and-vibration-damping packaging was expensive, but still cheaper than sending people into orbit for treatment.

Stormie nodded. They came from outer space. And you’re going to put them in me.

Clear Night Sky
(Image: “Clear Night Sky,” by Alex Leier, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Hope that gave you a feel for what to expect. Thanks for reading along, and stay tuned for more info!

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Another Testimonial: ‘Amazingly Authentic’

In the run-up to publication of Walking On the Sea of Clouds, here’s what award-winning editor (and author of This Giant Leap) Edmund R. Schubert had to say about the novel:

From the science to the science fiction costume party to the one scientist’s African accent, everything about Walking on the Sea of Clouds feels amazingly authentic. They say an author should write what he knows, and based on this book, I’d say that Gray Rinehart has been in outer space, walked on the moon, thrown up in a NASA-approved barf-bag, fired thruster engines, and driven an LVN (gotta read the book if you want to know what that last one is). You can experience all that and more for yourself, too; just jump in on page one and don’t stop until you get the end.

Orange Moon #1
(Image: “Orange Moon #1,” by Alex Leier, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

I’m sorry to say we still don’t have an official release date yet. But stay tuned for more info!

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Writing Revitalizes

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

Yesterday we held our first meeting of the Research Triangle chapter of The Writers Coffeehouse. I wasn’t sure how many people to expect, and said I’d be happy with a half-dozen, but we ended up with eleven people total! So, I’m pretty pleased by that for a first showing, and that most people indicated they were interested in coming to future meetings.

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

In honor of the first meeting going so well, here’s a quote from a master of the writing art, Ray Bradbury, offered without commentary because I have a blazing headache:

And what, you ask, does writing teach us?

First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is gift and a privilege, not a right. We must earn life once it has been awarded us. Life asks for rewards back because it has favored us with animation.

So while our art cannot, as we wish it could, save us from wars, privation, envy, greed, old age, or death, it can revitalize us amidst it all.

Have a great week!

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Something New in the Research Triangle: The Writers Coffeehouse

Are you a writer? Do you live in or near the Research Triangle? Then you’re welcome to come to The Writers Coffeehouse!

The Writers Coffeehouse is a monthly networking event, originally started in 2002 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania by NYT-bestselling author Jonathan Maberry. The Writers Coffeehouse now operates nationwide, with chapters in San Diego (which Jonathan hosts), Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco … and very soon here in the Research Triangle.

The first meeting in this area will be Sunday, May 7th, at 4 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble at the Streets at Southpoint. Mark your calendar, and spread the word!

The Writers Coffeehouse

Jonathan describes The Writers Coffeehouse as “a bunch of writers sitting around talking about writing … with coffee.” There are no entry requirements, and “no previous publishing experience necessary.” As Jonathan says,

The Writers Coffeehouse attracts everyone from absolute beginners to award-winners and bestsellers. We’re all writers, whether we write fiction, poetry, plays, screenplays, comics, nonfiction books, articles … well, pretty much anything. A writer is a writer and we all share some common ground.

The Writers Coffeehouse will operate according to guidelines that Jonathan set out:

  • No agenda … just chat about the latest trends in the industry, about the craft of writing, about markets, about pitching and selling, about conquering frustration and defeating writers block, and about all of the good things that come from the community of writers.
  • There are no fees, no registration, no publishing requirements. Every writer of any kind is welcome.
  • This is not a peer critique group. This is discussion and networking.
  • The events are ideally held once a month and typically for three hours. (So, yes, the meeting on the 7th will run until 7.)

In short, it’s a pretty informal gathering that will be run pretty informally. As Jonathan says, the idea “started with a bunch of writers sitting around after a writing workshop. We had coffee, we talked shop. It grew from there.”

If that sounds interesting, join the Facebook group — and share this post with any other area writers you know!

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Another Testimonial: ‘You’ll feel like you’re there’

The WordFire Press team and I have made progress on my forthcoming novel, Walking On the Sea of Clouds, though I’m still not sure what the actual, definite, no-kidding release date is yet. I’m still counting on it being a Spring release — which, if you’ve seen previous posts about the book, you know I take to mean between now and the summer solstice.

In the meantime, I’m pleased — and, I must admit, quite humbled — to present another endorsement, this one from Charles E. “Chuck” Gannon, author of the award-winning Caine Riordan books:

You’ve always wanted to go to the Moon. You’ve always loved hard science fiction. You’ve always gravitated toward believable characters. You’ve never found a way to get all three in the same place, at the same time. Well, now there’s a way. Here’s how:

You pick up Gray Rinehart’s Walking on the Sea of Clouds, the most faithful and gritty ‘you are there’ novel of early lunar settlement I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. This is hard SF at its hardest — by which I mean that not only is the science spot on and largely off-the-shelf, but the characters conform to the emotional and psychological limits of folks we interact with every day. There are no galactic crises to be overcome, no interpersonal conflicts that erupt into homicidal rage, and no cast of quirky tycoons, femme fatales, or wise-cracking test-pilots. This is the Moon as it’s likely to be in the early days of colonization, where even the smallest problems have impacts far beyond what living on Earth has trained us to anticipate.

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.

Hopefully that whets your appetite for the story, or you know someone who might like the kind of story Chuck described. And hopefully in the next few weeks we’ll be able to tell you how to order a copy!


Want to go to the Moon? (Full Moon image from Apollo-11, from NASA.)

Let me know if you have any questions, and feel free to share this with anyone who might be interested!

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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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