Yes, I’m Giving Teachers a Free Book for Teacher Appreciation Week

UPDATE! I’ve extended this offer through Memorial Day (May 27th). Two more weeks!

This is a little late coming — my blog became inaccessible for a little while after a server upgrade, sorry — but: as I posted on social media, it’s Teacher Appreciation Week and I’m giving teachers a free e-book.

So: Are you a teacher? Do you know a teacher?

From now until the end of the week — or maybe longer, since I got a late start — I will give away a free e-book copy of my 2016 book Quality Education to any teacher who wants one. Send me your e-mail address, tell me what you teach, and say you want the teacher giveaway, and I’ll send it your way!

Teacher Appreciation Japanese Proverb
(Image: “Teacher Appreciation Japanese Proverb,” by Shalu Sharma, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

In fact, I will give away a free e-book to any teacher you know — just send me their e-mail address and tell me what they teach, and I’ll send it to them as a gift from the two of us! 😉 Or, better yet, share this blog post with them and tell them to write me.

It’s just my way of saying “thank you” to all the teachers out there.

Thanks, and have a great day!

___
P.S. If you want, you can scope out the book on Amazon: Quality Education: Why It Matters, and How to Structure the System to Sustain It.

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Why I Want (to Start?) a New Political Party

I want a new political party.

To be clear: I want a new political party almost enough to stop playing my “Anti-Candidate” game — as fun as it’s been — and start playing the political game seriously. If I thought there were enough interest, I would pursue it.

I’ve never felt completely bound by party affiliation. I can’t remember ever voting a straight party ticket. I’ve been a Republican as long as I can remember, though, so it might have happened once or twice. But lately I’ve been displeased by my own party almost as much as by any other.

The parties today spend vast amounts of time, effort, and money trying to distance themselves from the others. “We’re not them” seems to be the rallying cry, even when their criticisms of the other side sound rather similar.

Consider, for instance, that both Democrats and Republicans like to claim that the other side is what I’d call the “party of taking.” Democrats warn that Republicans are the party of the rich, of banks and big business, who by the very fact of their wealth must be hoarders who take and take from the economy, enriching themselves and their friends at the expense of the poor and downtrodden. Republicans warn that Democrats stand ready to take what they can, from whoever they can, in order to redistribute it according to their socialistic visions.

Instead of saying what they are, they focus on what the other party is, or what they think it is, or what they want to make it seem to be.

I’m weary in my soul from all of that.

The parties rarely hold themselves up to scrutiny, rarely articulate clear visions, and rarely offer compelling arguments for their positions. What are they all about? What do they represent? With the number of issues in play, and the vast array of opinions on even the simplest subjects, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the totality of their platforms; but, in the interest of time and attention, let’s keep the focus on economic matters.

Democrats appear to want to be the “party of providing,” or the “party of giving” — emphasizing the “have-nots” of society and determined to transform them directly into “haves.” They seem to downplay the source of the largesse they would distribute, except to say that much of it would come from the hated rich. Republicans like to present themselves as the “party of protecting” when it comes to securing the blessings of liberty, and are very much the “party of earning” — especially in the way they deemphasize society’s economic safety nets. And Libertarians — while in some respects I appreciate their positions on many issues, though I shudder at how far some of them tend away from Heinleinian “rational anarchy” all the way to full anarchy — appear to be the “party of keeping,” from the standpoint of everyone keeping what they have and doing with it what they please.

I want a new party: one that is not about “giving” or “earning” or “keeping” but is about “producing.”

North Carolina Potter
Where is the political party for the creative class, and the people who produce? (Image: “North Carolina Potter,” by Robert Nunnally, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

I want a party for the makers, for the creators, for the ordinary as well as the remarkable people who design, who build, who produce and maintain everything that makes modern life possible, comfortable, and enjoyable. And I mean everything, from houses to housewares, from food to furniture, from semiconductors to symphonies. Not a party of “labor” by itself, but a party of industry — remembering that those who drive trucks are just as industrious as those who direct movies, and those who make repairs are just as industrious as those who make … well, anything.

I want a party that not only recognizes but celebrates the creative productivity — or, if you prefer, the productive creativity — that leads to inspiration, innovation, and invention. Productivity that is uncreative winds down into obsolescence, and creativity that is unproductive remains underappreciated if it is not lost forever, but creative productivity leads to great gains in every field of endeavor. I believe creative productivity is essential to establishing, growing, and sustaining any civilization, and those who are creative and productive have earned the right to be represented by a party (and a government) that values their contributions to society.

That’s the new party I want.

Is that too much to ask? Maybe. And I wonder whether anyone else might think it worthwhile.

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Winners, We Have (Audiobook) Winners!

Announcing the results of our final drawing to give away copies of the Walking on the Sea of Clouds audiobook!

Yesterday I pulled names out of the hat myself (having had family members to do it the first two days). Being the third drawing, I picked three winners:

  • Jill Berticus, who teaches English in Japan;
  • Rachel Brune, author, Army Reservist, and Jersey girl currently living in California; and
  • Scott Huggins, “Very Nearly Award-Winning” author of Racine, Wisconsin.

And to cap off the entire giveaway effort, I decided to award one additional prize to the person who had shared the news the most: that award went to Navy veteran J.J. Dunaway, accountant by day and reader, writer, and geek by night!


Look, they’re audiobooks! 😂

I’m very pleased with how the giveaway went, and if you didn’t win this time, be on the lookout for future contests and giveaways! Meanwhile, I hope you’ll check out the audiobook at Audible or on Amazon . (You can also read a review of it at The Audiobook Blog.)

Congratulations, one and all!

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In Search of a New Political Slogan

President Trump has had so much success with “Make America Great Again” — which I never fully understood, since I was convinced that the USA was pretty great already, but which I have to admit is continually effective in how it drives some people beyond crazy — that I started thinking I might need a new slogan for my ongoing “Anti-Campaign.”

(For those unfamiliar with the Anti-Candidate’s Anti-Campaign, we offer two musical introductions: “I Think I’ll Run for Congress” and “The Anti-Candidate Song”.)

My first thought was to copy the “MAGA” formula exactly, and one early contender in that vein was “Make America Gray’s Again” — but that seemed too “arrogant and megalomaniacal” even for me 😃. (If you’re not sure about the “arrogant and megalomaniacal” references, you definitely need to listen to the musical introductions above.) Plus, it would need to be somewhat different so as not to confuse people too much.

Anyway, following the “Make America [Something]” structure, we could have things like:

  • MABA — Make America Barbaric Again (for fans of Walt Whitman’s “barbaric yawp” and the rough-and-tumble days of the frontier), though in some respects we’ve crossed that bridge and burned it behind us; alternately, Make America Brave Again might be more appropriate
  • MACA — Make America Confederate Again (since some progressives seem ready to ditch the current Constitution, maybe we should revert to the Articles of Confederation — or did you think I meant a different confederacy?), though it would probably be better to Make America Constitutional Again
  • MADA — Make America Disciples Again (for those of a missionary or Dominionist bent)
  • MAHA — Make America Harmonious Again (for the “I’d like to teach the world to sing” crowd)
  • MAMA — Make America Magnificent Again (maybe too close, thematically, to MAGA … wouldn’t want any copyright infringement issues), but could also be Make America Megalomaniacal & Arrogant 😁
  • MANA — Make America Neutral Again (admit it: you thought it might say “nice” or “native” again, didn’t you?)
  • MAPA — Make America Proud Again (since, as we learned a few years ago, some people don’t have a lot of pride in the USA)
  • MARA — Make America Righteous Again (another one for the evangelicals, and particularly the fundamentalists)
  • MASA — Make America Serious Again (on second thought … naaah)
  • MATA — Make America Trustworthy Again (i.e., a country with integrity: the best friend and worst enemy another country could ever have)

None of those really fit the bill, though, do they? Maybe this is one reason why I wouldn’t be very well-suited to politics.

I’m sure if I were at all serious about running for office, I would bring some smart people into a room and come up with something. But at the moment, if I were serious, I might just turn things around and have my campaign be about GAMA: Giving America Meaning Again.

What do I mean by that? Reminding us that the USA was “brought forth on this continent” for freedom, and that the steps we’ve been taking toward statist control are anathema to freedom. Reminding us what “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” mean — and what they don’t mean. Reminding us what government is supposed to do — and what it’s not supposed to do. If, that is, anyone would ever want to listen to another voice crying in the wilderness.

So, if you were an adviser to the Anti-Candidate, or on the Anti-Campaign team, what would you suggest as a good slogan?

___

Don’t forget: As noted here, I’ve been running a series of giveaways for Audible downloads of the Walking on the Sea of Clouds audiobook, and the last drawings will be held this Monday, the 15th of April. Sign up at this link!

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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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Congratulations to Our Latest Winners!

Yesterday we held the second Monday drawing in the Walking on the Sea of Clouds audiobook giveaway — and because it was the second drawing, we had two winners!

I also enlisted the aid of more family members in this week’s drawing: my sister and my dad each pulled a name out of the hat! So congratulations to our two winners,

  • Andy Benicasa, the “Duckman” from Georgia
  • Todd Wilkinson, Trivia Geek and amateur 360° photographer from West Central Wisconsin

Congratulations, gentlemen!

Audio Book
(Image: “Audio Book,” by The Preiser Project, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Our next drawing will be on Monday the 15th — Tax Day — this time for three prizes! As I’ve said elsewhere, I want to make sure that someone gets a little good news on Tax Day. If you haven’t entered yet, you can do so by signing up for Gray’s newsletter at this special link. (You’ll get three gifts just for signing up!)

And if you’ve already entered, you can improve your chances each time you share the signup link on social media and tag Gray. Enter early, enter often!

___
P.S. Of course, if you can’t wait to listen to the audiobook, you can find it on Audible or on Amazon!

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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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Hear Ye, Hear Ye — We Have a Winner!

Congratulations to Chip Brazell — a workforce analyst from Cherokee County, Georgia — our first winner of an Audible download of Walking on the Sea of Clouds!


It’s an audio book — get it?

We have more drawings planned for between now and Tax Day! If you’re not registered, you can enter by signing up for my newsletter using this special link.

And if your name is already in the hat, you can improve your chances each time you share that link (or the Audible link, or the Amazon link) and tag Gray in your post. (We have to know about it, after all.)

So, once more for good measure: Congratulations, Chip! Hope you enjoy listening to the story.

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