It’s Summertime, But is the Living Easy?

Happy Summer Solstice!

It’s officially Summer, astronomically speaking, and as I said last week it turns out my novel was not a “Spring release” after all. C’est la vie. I wish I could tell you when it will be available, but alas I cannot. The good folks at WordFire Press last told me “end of June,” but that’s not looking too good from this vantage point — so I expect it to be a few more weeks yet.

By way of apology for not being able to give you more definite information, I present to you another excerpt from Walking On The Sea of Clouds. This excerpt introduces Van Richards, an irreverent but passionate “grunt” on the Asteroid Consortium team, during his mission to set up part of the infrastructure to support the lunar colony.

Bright sunlight bathed the lunar highlands: along rills and near rocks, it cast short but ever-lengthening abyss-dark shadows.

It was a lot better to get this job done in the daylight than the darkness, as far as Van was concerned. As sunset approached, there would be precious few sunlit swathes left. And the big lights on the front of the rig would barely penetrate the darkness.

A chime sounded from the control panel in front of him; if Oskar had taken off on time, he should be in the area soon. Van checked the frequency and keyed his microphone. “Oskar, this is Van,” he said, dispensing with all radio protocol. “You out there, Oskar?”

The radio crackled a little. In keeping with the Consortium’s low-ball approach, its electronics were nothing fancy but easy to repair. Van waited a few more minutes, then repeated the call. He was about to transmit a third time when Oskar’s voice blared from the speaker.

“Lima Victor November, this is Lima Sierra Oscar Victor, over.”

“Hey, Oskar! Been waitin’ for you to call. Where are you?”

Oskar sounded annoyed. “Roger, LVN. We’re coming up on your left, Van, about a thousand meters high. I can see you clearly. Looks like you’re right on time, over.”

“Sure we are, Oskar. Where else would we be?” Van snuck looks out the left-hand window for the suborbital vehicle. “Hey, why don’t you drop down and scout out ahead for us?”

“Negative, LVN. That’s not in the flight plan. That route hasn’t changed since the last time anyone drove it, over.”

Van chuckled. Oskar loved flying almost as much as Henry, but he was so by-the-book that he wouldn’t take a risk unless it really needed taking. If even then.

“You never know,” Van said. “Some transie could’ve burst out, right on our path. You’ll regret it if we drive right into a sinkhole.”

“Negative, LVN,” Oskar said.

Van chuckled again. No, I don’t suppose you would, Herr Hintener.

“I see you now, LSOV,” Van said, slurring the acronym into “ellessovee.” The suborbital vehicle was about sixty degrees up and not quite abeam—call it about 8:30, moving to 9:00, on an analog clock. He was surprised he could see the vehicle at all: the bright sunlight and the lights in the cab washed out just about every outside light source. The flyer was visible only because it caught a good bounce from the Sun. The hydrogen-oxygen flame propelling the flyer burned clear, and even if he was at the right angle the glowing hot exhaust bell would be practically invisible to him. As it was, the reflected light would change and he’d probably lose sight of it before long.

Van noted the suborbital vehicle’s forward progress, and frowned a little. Oskar wasn’t trying very hard at all. He had enough fuel to fly nap-of-the-moon, but he’d programmed a semi-ballistic trajectory that let him coast after the initial boost. Knowing him, he’d probably programmed it close enough that he’d barely have to light the engines to touch down right at the rendezvous point. You’re sharp, Oskar, but you’re not much fun.

“Looking good, Oskar. See you at the implant point.”

“Affirmative, LVN. Watch out for the transies, over.”

Van switched off the microphone. “Good one, Oskar.” Even if a transient lunar phenomenon had lit off recently right in the middle of their path—which he supposed they would know, since so many people back on Earth were watching the Moon these days—it wouldn’t affect them that much. Whether it was outgassing or a minor impact, all it might do is raise a brief spray of dust; the big truck would just roll along pretty as it pleased.

Van switched to intercom. “Grace, you up? We’re coming up on the setup site.”

She answered right away, but she sounded sleepy. “Yeah, I’m up. Oskar’s nearby?”

Van looked back into the sky, but as expected the LSOV was out of sight. “I had eyes-on a second ago, but not anymore. He’ll be down and cooling when we get there.”

“Roger. Do I have time to grab something to eat?”

“Oh, yeah, plenty. We’re still about twenty-five klicks out, so it’ll be over an hour.”

“Okay. I’ll start running the arrival checklist in about thirty minutes.”

“Suit yourself, Telly.”

“I will,” Grace said.

“Ha-ha. Hey, leave me a little something, okay?”

“Why? You never leave me anything.”

Van smiled. “I’m still a growing boy, don’t you know?”

Grace didn’t answer, but that was okay. And Van didn’t care too much if she left him anything or not; Grace Teliopolous lived up to her Georgia Tech reputation as a “helluvan engineer,” but she was not a cook.

An hour later, the LVN-1 crested a rise and Van looked down into a wide valley. In the distance a few large rock formations cast reaching fingers of shadow, but most of the low valley seemed almost to glow.

And in the middle of the glowing field stood a manmade rock that cast its own shadow in Van’s direction.

Van had already set the vehicle’s radio to broadcast. “I see you, Oskar.”

“Roger, LVN, we have a visual on you also. Come on down and join us.” Oskar sounded as if he was sitting in the cab next to Van. “Henry and I are getting ready to exit the LSOV, over.”

An “X” appeared in the box on the checklist screen to Van’s left, in front of the “Establish close proximity line-of-sight communications” step.

Van smiled at his reflection in the head-up display. He puffed his chest and said, “Roger that, Lima Sierra Oscar Victor. We read your last transmission five by five, and copy your checklist telemetry. Copy your intention to commence Echo Victor Alpha and begin stabilizing Lima Papa Papa November Three and the Romeo Oscar Papa Sierra.”

Van wasn’t sure if it was Oskar or Henry Crafts who laughed over the radio, but it was certainly Oskar who spoke. “Alright, Van, just get your ass down here and get to work.”

Thanks for reading along! I’ll post more details about the book’s release as I have them.

Moon Waxing Gibbous January 2012
(Image: ” Moon Waxing Gibbous,” by John Spade, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

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Join the Asteroid Consortium?

Or stay independent?

That’s one of the dilemmas facing the characters in my novel, Walking On The Sea of Clouds, forthcoming from WordFire Press.

If not for the Asteroid Consortium, there wouldn’t be a lunar colony for them to set up. But their dream is to be independent, and the AC causes them a lot of grief as they pursue it.


Asteroid Consortium logo courtesy of Christopher Rinehart Art & Design.

I still don’t know when the novel will be released — it won’t be a “Spring” release after all, unfortunately (since Spring ends next week). But I noted a couple of weeks ago that it’s being fairly well received, as seen in what Booklist Online had to say:

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.

I hope you agree, once you can read it.

Stay tuned, and I’ll let you know the release plans when I know them!

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Quite a Favorable Comparison

The American Library Association’s Booklist Online recently included a brief review of Walking On The Sea of Clouds, and the last line of the review compared my novel to another recent science fiction novel you might have heard of. The comparison was so nice that the good folks at WordFire Press added it to the back cover:


(Click to enlarge.)

If the image isn’t clear (e.g., if you’re reading this on a phone and it’s too small to see), the new back-cover quote is:

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.

Not too shabby. Here’s looking forward to celebrating the book’s release in a few weeks!

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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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What Can You Tell About This Book By Its Cover?

Do you think the old adage is correct, that you can’t tell a book by its cover? Maybe in some ways, but at least the cover should give you an idea of what kind of book you’ve picked up. I think mine does.

Here’s the complete cover of Walking On the Sea of Clouds:


(Click for larger image.)

Here’s what it says on the back:

“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, author of the award-winning Caine Riordan series
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ON THE LUNAR FRONTIER . . .
. . . survival and success require sacrifice.
. . . some sacrifices are greater than others.
. . . sometimes surviving is success enough.

Every frontier, every new world, tempts and tests the settlers who try to eke out an existence there. In Walking on the Sea of Clouds, a few pioneering colonists struggle to overcome the unforgiving lunar environment as they work to establish the first independent, commercial colony on the “shore” of Mare Nubium, the “Sea of Clouds.” What will they sacrifice to succeed—and survive?
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“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, author of the NYT-bestselling Runelords novels

“Two things are immediately clear. First, Gray Rinehart knows his field(s) inside out; and second, he writes with grace, skill, and professional polish. What more could any reader ask?”
—Mike Resnick, multiple Hugo-award-winning author

So, does that tell you what you need to know about the book? I hope so.

Stay tuned, here and to WordFire Press, for more info as we work our way up to release!

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Two Brief Testimonials

The novel is coming, one of these days! No release date yet for Walking On the Sea of Clouds — it’s still supposed to be a Spring release, and Spring has a few more weeks in it. I’ll let you know when to start looking for it to appear, but meanwhile I thought I’d present two more blurbs.

First, from Mike Resnick, whose stories have garnered more awards and award nominations than any other science fiction writer:

Two things are immediately clear. First, Gray Rinehart knows his field(s) inside out; and second, he writes with grace, skill, and professional polish. What more could any reader ask?

Second, from Martin L. Shoemaker, the award-winning author of “Today I Am Paul”:

Gray Rinehart knows that real engineering is messy, and that Murphy was an optimist. When whatever can go wrong with constructing the first Lunar colony does go wrong, teams on the Moon and on Earth struggle to save the project–and their lives. This is meat and potatoes for the hard science fiction fan.

If it’s permissible to put two different things together, I guess you might say that I know my stuff, and my stuff might appeal to hard science fiction fans. (I admit I really like that “meat and potatoes” line.)

So if you know any hard SF fans, maybe they’d find something to like in my novel.


Look, up in orbit, a Supermoon! (August 2014 Image from NASA/Bill Ingalls.)

Stay tuned, here and to WordFire Press, for more info!

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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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A Testimonial: ‘This book will be treasured’

We still don’t have a definite release date yet, but we continue to work on producing my forthcoming novel, Walking On the Sea of Clouds.

This week I’m reviewing the proof copy sent to me by the fine folks at WordFire Press. They say it’s a Spring release — and Spring officially began two days ago! So sometime between now and the Summer Solstice I anticipate the book being available.

Meanwhile, here’s a very nice endorsement from David Farland, New York Times-bestselling author of the Runelords series:

There is a very rare and special pleasure that comes from reading a beautifully written book from a true expert in his field. In reading Walking on the Sea of Clouds, it immediately becomes apparent that Gray Rinehart is intimately familiar with the field of near-future space exploration. He understands what it will take to get mankind to the Moon and beyond. He writes about the military as only someone who has been in the military can. He writes about bureaucracies and funding in the way that someone who has struggled with them does. When it comes to astronauts and space exploration, his characters ring undeniably true. He understands that some people are motivated to give all that they have in order to go into space simply because he has devoted so much of his life to this great endeavor.

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.

If that sounds interesting, stay tuned — here on the blog or via my newsletter — to learn when you can order a copy! (And if any of your friends are science fiction fans, let them know to be on the lookout for it, too. Thanks!)


Want to go to the Moon with me? (Image: NASA/Goddard/Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.)

Back to the editing….

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