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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Ideas as Rabbits, Writing as Horse-Racing?

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

Today is John Steinbeck’s birthday (27 February 1902 – 20 December 1968). Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, and wrote classics such as Of Mice and Men, Cannery Row, and The Grapes of Wrath (which won the Pulitzer Prize). As you might expect, Steinbeck had a few things to say about writing.

In the April 1947 issue of Cosmopolitan, for instance, Steinbeck said,

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.

The trick, of course, is to turn the ideas into fully-formed stories and books. It’s not always easy, and it’s not the most predictable line of work, as Steinbeck observed in a December 1962 issue of Newsweek,

The profession of book-writing makes horse-racing seem like a solid, stable business.

That’s why so many of us ply other trades to support our writing habits. But we persist (as I pointed out last week), whether we consider it art or craft or simply obsession. But how can we persist long enough to create something worthwhile? In June 1969, Steinbeck told The New York Times,

The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.

Certainly the prolific writers I know prove that writing is the most important thing in their worlds — and I suspect one reason why my output is not what it could (or possibly should) be is that I don’t think of my own writing as all that important, and am too quick to prioritize other things over it.

Horse Racing
How does writing compare to horse racing? (Image: “Horse Racing,” by Peter Miller, on Flickr, under Creative Commons.)

But before this blog post devolves into self-recrimination, how about something completely different?

Given our current political environment, it seems important to close with something Steinbeck wrote in one of the essays in the last book he published, 1966’s America and Americans.

The President must be greater than anyone else, but not better than anyone else. We subject him and his family to close and constant scrutiny and denounce them for things that we ourselves do every day. A Presidential slip of the tongue, a slight error in judgment — social, political, or ethical — can raise a storm of protest. We give the President more work than a man can do, more responsibility than a man should take, more pressure than a man can bear. We abuse him often and rarely praise him. We wear him out, use him up, eat him up. And with all this, Americans have a love for the President that goes beyond loyalty or party nationality; he is ours, and we exercise the right to destroy him.

Thus it has ever been. So even if writing is less stable than horse-racing, maybe it’s not so bad after all.

(But I still think I’d make a good President.)

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Couldn’t Make It to the Reading? Here’s a Video

A couple of weekends ago, at the illogiCon science fiction and fantasy convention, I read (performed, maybe? depending on your point of view) part of my forthcoming near-future science fiction novel, Walking on the Sea of Clouds. And because I’m a little odd, I started off my reading by singing one of my songs, “Another Romulan Ale”.

Thanks to the videography of Calvin Powers, there’s documentary evidence of the event:

If you’re interested, check it out by starting the video above or going directly to YouTube for Gray’s illogicon 2017 Reading.

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Did You Know? Or Have You Not Heard?

This past weekend, some friends told me they had listened to Truths and Lies and Make-Believe while they were traveling recently, and wondered when I was going to do a new CD.

Truth to tell, I had hoped to record a new CD this year — I’ve got a few scratch tracks down, and some more songs I haven’t quite worked up. If I managed it, and could get it released before the end of the year, then I’d have completed a new CD every two years since the first one.

In the course of explaining that I don’t think I can make it happen this year, though, I realized that they didn’t know I already had a second CD out … even though it came out almost 18 months ago!

That’s how bad I am at self-promotion.

promotion
Have you heard? Did you know? (Image: “promotion,” by Platform4, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

And that’s the reason for the question in the title. Did you know, or have you not heard, about these things? Then I really haven’t done my job, have I?

I try very hard not to beat people over the head with what I’ve done, but clearly I could do a little better when even my friends are unaware of new releases.

So now you know. It’d be great if you let someone else know, too!

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Why I’m Not Self-Publishing My Novel, Part III

(If you’re interested, Part 1 of the series is here and Part 2 of the series is here.)

Since 2016 was a year ago already (!), a brief recap: my near-future science fiction novel, Walking on the Sea of Clouds, is in the pipeline to be published by WordFire Press. Way back last year (!) a newsletter reader sent in this question: Why did I go with a small press instead of self-publishing? I came up with three reasons. The first two are linked above, and lead in sequential fashion to:

Third, and Possibly Most Important: Publishing is Hard

I say that with the authority of experience, because I’m already a publisher. I produced and published my two CDs — though I reckon the term is “released” in the music business — and that wasn’t a trivial effort. Granted, I didn’t engineer or master them and my performance on them was limited to what I could reasonably do, but once the tracks were mastered I handled the rest of the production process.

I also say “publishing is hard” with the authority of vicarious experience. Several friends of mine are in the self-publishing business, writing and publishing and art directing and marketing their own work. Some of them have enjoyed very high degrees of success. For my novel I could learn from their examples and follow in their footsteps and take on all those responsibilities as well, but, as Simon Tam said in an episode of Firefly, “That thought wearies me.”

Books

(Image: “Books,” by Moyan Brenn, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

The thought wearies me because I know how much effort it entails based on my experience in the nonfiction world. As my blog and newsletter readers alike know, late last year I self-published the revised and updated version of Quality Educationavailable here (and you and all your friends in education should definitely check it out). Not only did I restructure the book so that it’s nearly unrecognizable from the original print version, but I got it formatted for e-book as well as for print-on-demand production, consulted on the cover design (I knew better than to try to do it myself), and have since been trying to market it in the midst of everything else I’ve got going on.

The thought of self-publishing my novel wearies me because the experience of self-publishing my music and my education book nearly wore me out.

So, when we get down to the proverbial brass tacks, I really like the idea of participating in the publishing process with my novel, rather than running the process. And I hope that by leaving the details of production to the good folks at WordFire, I might actually free part of my brain to write some more songs and more stories — short and long!

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P.S. For a different take on self-publishing’s place in the larger publishing universe, Larry Correia recently “fisked” an article from a “literary” author who had little good to say about self-publishing.
P.P.S. As noted at the outset, this brief blog series was originally an issue of my every-once-in-a-while newsletter. You can subscribe to get the latest on my shenanigans.
P.P.P.S. Seriously, I would greatly appreciate it if you would take a look at Quality Education, and encourage your friends in education to take a look at it, too. Thanks!

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Why I’m Not Self-Publishing My Novel, Part II

(If you’re interested, Part I of the series is here.)

To recap: my near-future science fiction novel, Walking on the Sea of Clouds, is in the pipeline to be published by WordFire Press, and a few weeks ago a newsletter reader sent in this question: Why did I go with a small press instead of self-publishing? I came up with three reasons.

Last week I laid out my first reason: the value a publisher adds to a novel. So here we go with:

Second, I Value Publishers’ Selectivity

I may be more aware of this aspect of publishing because I’m on the front lines of selecting novels for a major publisher — Baen Books — but in general novels selected for publication by big houses and small presses alike have crossed a certain threshold of quality, simply by virtue of being selected from a large number of submissions.

Be the first to read...

Imagine that you can only afford one (or maybe two) out of all the books on all those shelves — that’s what a publisher faces in selecting novels to publish. (Image: “Be the first to read…,” by Thomas Leuthard, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

The “threshold of quality” assumption may not be equally true in all cases — some publishers take chances on novels and other books they might not usually take, for various reasons — but in most cases a novel gets into the publication pipeline because someone declares it good enough to carry the publisher’s logo. In fact, often it’s multiple someones: an initial reader (or two or three), maybe a senior editor, perhaps others in the marketing and management end of things, and of course the in-person publisher.

I consider that a vote of confidence in my favor, and I appreciate it.

The publisher’s selectivity is not, of course, a guarantee of success. There are no such guarantees. I don’t know if the story will capture people’s attention, though I certainly hope it does. We’ll see, won’t we?

Meanwhile, next week I’ll cover the third reason I’m trusting a publisher with my novel instead of self-publishing it.

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P.S. This blog series was originally an issue of my every-once-in-a-while newsletter. You can subscribe to get the latest on my goings-on and projects.

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Why I’m Not Self-Publishing My Novel, Part I

One of my newsletter readers asked this question, so I obliged and answered it in a newsletter issue, but I thought some other folks might be curious about the inner workings of publishing … so I’ll answer it here, too.

We pause here for a word from our sponsor: Yes, you too can subscribe to my newsletter and get the latest news or whatnot I decide to send out, and even get to ask me questions like this one. And now, back to our story…

If you hadn’t heard, my near-future science fiction novel, Walking on the Sea of Clouds, is in the pipeline to be published by WordFire Press, a small press in Colorado. A few weeks ago a reader sent in this question: Why did I go with a small press instead of self-publishing? The question is even more appropriate now, since just last week I self-published a new edition of my first book, a nonfiction examination of education and how the system might be improved.

I came up with three reasons why I was happy to join forces with a small press instead of trying to self-publish my novel, and I’ll hit them one at a time in three separate posts. First,

I Think a Good Publisher Adds Value

The continuum of opinions on this is probably pretty wide, so let’s see if I can explain my position. Each time we read a book (or listen to a CD, or watch a movie, or whatever), we evaluate it, whether we write a review or not — this is where I might ask you to post a review of one of my CDs or of my book(s), except that I’m terrible at doing reviews myself — that is, we assess the book’s subjective value in terms of our reading experience against its objective value in terms of what we paid for it.

EDIT>

(Image: “Edit,” by Matt Hampel, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

What goes into our subjective evaluation is different depending on our expectations and what adds to or detracts from the experience. A major factor in fiction is the story itself: does it flow well, does it transport us to a time and place we enjoy, do the characters and their situations resonate with us, etc. A good publisher can put a book through successive stages of editing to improve the story. For instance, my novel has gone through the “developmental” edit stage and will go through additional edits as the process continues.

One thing that can affect our enjoyment of the story is simply how easy the book is to read, not in terms of style but in terms of presentation. With respect to that, a book that is well-edited and laid out nicely so that it’s easy to read will probably score higher than one that is sloppy; a good publisher can therefore add value by making an average book better, and a good book beautiful. We may also factor in such things as cover art, and a good publisher can often retain better cover artists than a self-publisher can.

So, even before we consider that a good publisher has marketing and sales connections beyond what most self-publishers can muster, they can add value to the product, the book, itself.

And that’s the first reason I’m not self-publishing my novel.

I’ll cover the other two reasons in future posts. In the meantime, I need to get back to the day’s writing and editing.

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P.S. Before I go, here’s where I ask you for your help: If you know a parent, teacher, or anyone interested in ways we might improve our educational system, point them to the new edition of Quality Education — completely restructured and updated from the original version — available now on Amazon in both electronic (Kindle) and trade paperback formats. When I released it last week, it reached as high as number 13 on Amazon’s “Education Policy and Reform” list.

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A Tale of Two Covers

Check out the stark difference between the covers of the old and new editions of Quality Education:

Left: The cover of the ASQC-Quality Press edition. Right: The cover of the new, self-published edition, designed by Christopher Rinehart. (Click to enlarge.)

 

I don’t think the original cover was all that bad, but the motif is a little dark.

The new edition, however, by virtue of its being completely overhauled — even though most of the content is the same, the new structure makes it feel to me like a completely different book — needed an updated, more interesting cover. I think the new cover works very well, and graphically represents that a lot of different elements go into making a sound educational cornerstone for society.

What do you think?

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P.S. Obligatory shameless plug: If you or someone you know is a parent, teacher, or just an interested observer of the goings-on in our educational system, the new edition of Quality Education is available now on Amazon in both electronic (Kindle) and trade paperback formats. Earlier this week the Kindle version reached as high as 13th place on Amazon’s list of “Education Policy and Reform” bestsellers.

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Would You Like to See the Complete Cover?

For those who are interested, here’s the full wraparound cover for the new version of Quality Education:

Cover design by Christopher Rinehart. (Click to enlarge.)

 

Of course, the wraparound will only be available on the print version.

If you are (or someone you know is) a parent, student, teacher, or administrator interested in improving not just individual classes and schools but helping the entire system operate at a high level, then this updated and completely restructured edition of Quality Education might interest you. Stay tuned for more information — the release is imminent!

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Cover Reveal for the New Edition of ‘Quality Education’

I shared this with my newsletter subscribers a couple of weeks ago,* but here’s the cover to the completely revised and updated edition of Quality Education, which will be available as soon as we work out a few last details.

Cover design by Christopher Rinehart. (Click for larger image.)

 

The full title of the book is Quality Education: Why It Matters, and How to Structure the System to Sustain It, and it’s updated and completely restructured from the original edition. That version was published in the early 1990s by the American Society for Quality Control, and was one of the first books to apply the organizational and operational principles of continual improvement to the educational system.

The book presents education as a transformative process and covers expectations, roles, and inhibiting factors for parents, students, teachers, and administrators. With special emphasis on the quality philosophy of Dr. W. Edwards Deming, the text adapts Deming’s systems flowchart, Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle, and “14 Points” to the problems and processes of education.

The book also examines education’s customers, differing definitions of quality with respect to education, and the failure of well-intentioned reform efforts such as the “National Education Goals” (also known as “Goals 2000”) of the late 1980s. It includes chapters on programs for gifted and talented students, values education, and curriculum and other standards, and presents strategy ideas and discusses leadership required to develop and sustain quality education.

As we get closer to releasing the final version into the world, I’ll post updates!

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*Yes, if you subscribe to my newsletter you will get news like this before anyone else, too.

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