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?


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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Monday Morning Insight: the Goal of Writing a Book

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


In my college years, I read a lot by James Clavell (who was born on this date in 1924), and particularly enjoyed Shogun, Noble House, and King Rat, which was inspired by Clavell’s experience as a prisoner of war in Changi Prison in Singapore in World War II. Later, I discovered his translation of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, the introduction to which is well worth reading even if you are already familiar with Master Sun’s masterwork.

Clavell was born in Sydney, Australia, as Charles Edmund Dumaresq Clavell. He eventually became a naturalized U.S. citizen after settling in California, where he was the screenwriter for the classic science fiction film The Fly (among other notable films). Quite an amazing man!

In a 1986 interview, Clavell said:

… the goal of writing any book is to create the illusion that what you are reading is reality and you’re part of it.

I love that quote, and try very hard in my own writing to make my fiction seem realistic. Whether I ever succeed, of course, is up to my readers to decide.

Keep Calm and Read a Book

Even if you don’t read my book — which I would appreciate — I hope you can find the time to read some good books! (Image: “Keep Calm and Read a Book,” by Robert Burdock, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)


In that same interview, Clavell also said,

All stories have a beginning, a middle and an ending, and if they’re any good, the ending is a beginning.

That’s another thing to strive for, I think: to make the end of a story a jumping-off point for other stories. Not necessarily sequels, and not even necessarily stories that will be written, but stories that the reader can imagine because the characters and the situations seemed real and resonated.

I can only hope that my fiction achieves those things.

Speaking of which, my newest story, “We Side With the Free,” is coming out in the November issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact. If you read it, or anything else I’ve written, let me know how you think I did with respect to Clavell’s advice.

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Monday Morning Insight: Do You Like Books? Great!

I spent the weekend at the ConCarolinas science fiction and fantasy convention, where I had the great pleasure of talking with a few people about my novel that’s in the publication pipeline — which is a bit surreal to me — so it seemed fitting to select a quote that relates to books to start the week. Teddy Roosevelt wrote,

Books are almost as individual as friends. There is no earthly use in laying down general laws about them. Some meet the needs of one person, and some of another; and each person should beware of the booklover’s besetting sin, of what Mr. Edgar Allan Poe calls “the mad pride of intellectuality,” taking the shape of arrogant pity for the man who does not like the same kind of books.

All of us who write and who hope our writing reaches an audience would do well to remember that some of what we publish will “meet the needs of one person, and some of another.” That follows along with Lincoln’s observation about not being able to please everyone all the time. We can only hope that our work finds its way to those who will appreciate it, and perhaps even to those who will value it.

Old books

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


But Roosevelt is right that we should beware of dismissing books that meet other people’s needs, and thereby of dismissing those other people. In the science fiction and fantasy field, especially recently, fans and even authors have taken sometimes excessive delight in disparaging works we consider hackneyed or offensive or otherwise worthy of derision.

In some cases we’ve reacted to what we perceive as unmerited success (“How could so many people buy X?”), and in our most self-conscious moments we might admit to coveting that success for our own work. Alternately, we might think we are being discerning, perhaps even sophisticated; we might think we are making important statements about art and its relation to the world; we might just be trying to make a joke.

Regardless of the reason we find to scorn a book or someone else’s taste in books — we dislike the author (or the person) on some level, we prefer another subgenre, we haven’t had enough fiber that day — we would do well (I would do well) to realize that what we think of as a book’s faults or merits will differ from what someone else thinks, and we should allow one another our different opinions. The market, and time, will always be the final arbiters.

So, do you like books? If yes, great! If no — if you don’t like any books — then maybe you just haven’t found the right books for you yet. I hope you’ll keep looking!

And if so, what books do you like? Excellent! Whatever books you like, for whatever reason, that’s wonderful. Keep reading!

And have a terrific week!

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Spotlight on Books: the 'Mother of Milstar,' Eating Clouds, and Subversion

A few new books that have come to my attention, that I’d like to bring to yours …

Over at New Scientist, there’s a review of a new book about actress Hedy Lamarr, who invented the frequency-hopping and spread-spectrum techniques that made Milstar satellite communications secure … and that make WiFi and other modern communications possible.

(Artist’s conception of Milstar satellite. USAF image.)

My commander at the 4th Space Operations Squadron, where I “flew” Milstar satellites, called Ms. Lamarr the “mother of Milstar” because of her invention. This new book sounds as if it captures not only the essence of her invention but also the trouble she ran into as a movie star who also happened to be a first-rate thinker.

Meanwhile, my writing friend Edmund Schubert has a new short story collection out entitled The Trouble with Eating Clouds.

Ed’s stories are very entertaining, often thought-provoking, and sometimes a little quirky. You might already have guessed that from the title, if not from the striking cover art, but I figure there’s no harm in stating the point.

And speaking of short stories, the folks behind Crossed Genres magazine (which published my story “The Tower” in one of their quarterlies) have brought out an anthology entitled Subversion, which they describe as “science fiction & fantasy tales of challenging the norm.”

Of course, ’tis the Season: if you know someone who might enjoy one of these books, now you can satisfy their Christmas wishes.

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DRAGONFORGE, by James Maxey

Finished reading DRAGONFORGE today, on the plane from Atlanta to Raleigh-Durham, and I must say my friend James Maxey has crafted a tight, compelling story that picks up where his excellent BITTERWOOD left off. I thoroughly enjoyed DRAGONFORGE — but how could I not enjoy a book in which one of the leading characters is a dragon named Graxen the Gray?

Seriously, James did a great job expanding and enriching the future world he described in BITTERWOOD. I haven’t been reading much SF or F recently, because I see quite enough in the slush pile that already distracts from writing my SF novel, but I’m glad I read DRAGONFORGE to be reminded of what good genre fiction is supposed to be.

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More Books I Want to Read

“So many books, so little time” has been a refrain in my life for years. My Christmas list is full of books, and I barely get through the ones I receive one year before the next set of gift books arrives. (I’d do better if I didn’t go to the library and pick up books from time to time.)

This evening I had a nice chat with John, a friend from church, and he told me about two books from the Barna Group that I added to my “want to read” list. The first is unChristian, and it presents “research into the perceptions of sixteen- to twenty-nine-year-olds” that “reveals that Christians have taken several giant steps backward” in terms of how we come across to nonbelievers. The second is Pagan Christianity, which traces the historical development of the church structure and service to see how different the current church is from the original church. Both of them sound fascinating to me.

In Heaven, after the feast is over, you can find me in the library. 😉

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Boredom Sets in and We Die

Which of my high school friends came up with that phrase, which we repeated at some point in almost every class? I think it was either Joe or Shawn, but it was so long ago I’ve forgotten the source. How long ago? In those days, many of us carried pocket knives — from Barlow, Boy Scout, and Swiss Army knives to more exotic blades like butterfly knives — to school without fear of reprisal; and not too many years before, an afternoon hunter could keep his shotgun in his locker during the school day.

But enough reminiscing.

What brought to mind that mantra of frustration? I thought of how sharply it contrasts with a Boston Globe article I read yesterday: “The joy of boredom,” by Carolyn Y. Johnson.

As [Richard Ralley, a lecturer in psychology at Edge Hill University in England] studied boredom, it came to make a kind of sense: If people are slogging away at an activity with little reward, they get annoyed and find themselves feeling bored. If something more engaging comes along, they move on. If nothing does, they may be motivated enough to think of something new themselves. The most creative people, he said, are known to have the greatest toleration for long periods of uncertainty and boredom.

The usefulness of boredom, in spurring us to explore new possibilities, makes sense. It seems that a key factor is what we find rewarding. I slogged away for years at writing THE ELEMENTS OF WAR, “with little reward” except my own satisfaction; frankly, it’s brought more than its share of disappointment (q.v. my entry yesterday). But the same is true for most of my writing. The internal reward keeps me going, even if the pursuit becomes difficult (and yes, boring).

Sometimes that internal reward is barely enough; I hope for more. I keep writing and sending out stories, etc., in my arrogant belief that they have worth beyond the confines of my own mind. So far the world mostly disagrees, so I labor — I slog away through the boredom and doubt — to prove the world wrong.

Boredom sets in … and I write.

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