Another Atlanta Labor Day Weekend

Once again I’m in Atlanta, Georgia, where I will spend the weekend with thousands of my closest friends — at least 80 thousand, I believe — at Dragon Con, one of the largest science fiction and fantasy conventions in the world. This year I get to kick off the Filk Music Track’s concert series; I’m playing music twice for Art Show patrons; and I’m part of several other shows as well!

Here’s my schedule, at least as it exists right now:

Friday

  • 10:00 am: What is Filk? / Meet, Greet, Filk (Hyatt Hanover F/G)
  • 11:30 am: Gray Rinehart in Concert (Hyatt Hanover F/G) — mixing a few favorites from Distorted Vision and Truths and Lies and Make-Believe with some Dragon Con debuts!
  • 2:30 pm: Art Show music (Hyatt Grand Hall East)
  • 7:00 pm: Princess Alethea’s Traveling Sideshow, with Alethea Kontis, Leanna Renee Hieber, Mari Mancusi, Diana Peterfreund, and Mikey Mason (Marriott A707)

Saturday

  • 10:00 am: Art Show music (Hyatt Grand Hall East)
  • 2:30 pm: Baen BooksTraveling Slide Show & Prize Patrol, with Toni Weisskopf, James Minz, Christopher Ruocchio, and many more (Hyatt Regency V)
  • 5:30 pm: Panel, “Tooting Your Own Horn: Marketing Yourself,” with John Hartness, Cecilia Dominic, Courtland D Lewis, Quincy J Allen, and Matthew Kressel (Hyatt Embassy A/B)
  • 7:00 pm: Peter S. Beagle & Authors Perform (Hyatt International North) … I’ll open this show, then head over to
  • 7:00 pm: World of Harry Potter Tribute Show, with Brobdingnagian Bards, Hawthorn & Holly, Nick Edelstein, Toucan Dubh, Foot Pound Force, Mikey Mason, and Misbehavin’ Maidens (Hyatt Hanover C/D/E)

On Sunday, my only official event is at 5:30 pm, when I’ll be giving a reading and special guest Nick Edelstein will play some music. If I can arrange it, I may have some other guests, too! That will be in the Hyatt’s Marietta Room.

As usual, when I’m not performing or working I’ll probably be attending concerts by my musical friends, or hanging out with my writerly friends or Baen Barflies. Or trying to catch a little bit of sleep!

If you’re in the area, I hope I get to say hello — but whatever you’ve got going on this weekend, I hope it goes well!

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Writing that Crosses the Spiritual Divide

(Cross-posted, with some light edits, from my 12 June 2018 guest post on the Speculative Faith blog.)

The conventional wisdom is that authors shouldn’t read reviews of our own work.

If the reviews are good, they can inflate already outsized egos, and if the reviews are bad, well — egos don’t always just deflate. A hot-air-balloon-sized ego, pierced by a bad review, might slowly settle into a mass of hard-to-wrangle canvas, but a smaller, more fragile ego might burst into shreds that are impossible to reassemble.

Nevertheless, some of us are drawn to reviews like moths to flame. If we’re lucky, the flame is a gentle candle and we just get singed if we get too close. If we’re unlucky, it’s a napalm-spewing flamethrower and we get terribly burned.

Sometimes we just get confused, as I was at two contrasting reviews of my novel, Walking on the Sea of Clouds. First, an Amazon reviewer gave the novel three stars and noted that it was a “good story” with strong character development but was “a bit bible-preachy [sic] for [their] tastes in hard science fiction.” Then the first issue of the Lorehaven online magazine included a brief, positive review that warned those seeking discernment that the story “only briefly referenced Christianity.”

Same story. Bible-preachy. Only briefly referenced Christianity.

I think this illustrates the fact that every reader brings their own experiences, attitudes, and expectations to the stories they read. Orson Scott Card told us in his writing workshop that whatever we’ve written is not the story, because the real story is in the reader’s head — and what’s in your head when you read a story is different from what’s in another person’s head when they read the same story. You might agree on some points, but you’ll disagree on others, and that’s okay.

In the case of my novel, someone who was not used to reading about believers and faith in the context of hard science fiction was put off by it. I have no way to know whether that person is a believer who was just surprised or a nonbeliever who was repulsed, and that really doesn’t matter. Their reading of the text is just as valid as anyone else’s — including the Lorehaven reviewer who might have been looking for more overt Christian themes. Was that person disappointed not to find them, or just surprised? I have no way of knowing, and again it hardly matters because however they read the story was the right way, for them.

Same story. Different readers. Different results.

It reminds me of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, about the message of the cross seeming foolish to the lost, but representing the very power of God to those of us who believe (1 Corinthians 1:18). Same message. Different audience. Vastly different results.

Even within the body of believers, though, we can differ in our interpretations of Scripture. How much more should we expect to differ in reading science fiction and fantasy stories?


My friend Keith Phillips (Colonel, USAF, Retired), with whom I served in the 4th Space Operations Squadron, showing off his copy of Walking on the Sea of Clouds.

What does it take to cross the spiritual divide effectively in a literary or artistic work? Is it foolish even to try? I hope not, because in this age of growing doubt and disbelief I believe that Christian ideals, values, and themes still have a place in literature and art, whether science fiction, fantasy, or more mundane creations. And not just Christian principles, but Christian characters belong in fantastical stories — even in technology-heavy hard science fiction — just as surely as Christian people belong in every profession.

Unfortunately, sometimes the Christian characters in these stories end up being caricatures more than characters, reflecting the authors’ preconceptions rather than being portrayed as individuals, as people. I’ve found this to be true in stories by believers and nonbelievers alike, and it was something I tried to avoid.

That is, I tried to cross the spiritual divide by including Christian characters where they’re not always found — and by representing them as individual people with their own virtues and flaws, and even with different attitudes toward and expressions of faith. Some talk about it, some hide it, some deny it. Some ignore it, some sneer at it, some question it. That seemed realistic to me, and above all I tried to make the story seem realistic.

And maybe those two contrasting reviews — too much Bible to some people, not that much to others — show that I struck the right balance after all.

If you’ve read the story, I’d love to know what you think! And if you haven’t read the story, then now you know a little more of what you might find in it.

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Only 10 More Days to Volunteer for LIVE SLUSH

Want to have your novel submission evaluated LIVE and nearly in-person?

A couple of years ago I did a series of workshops at science fiction and fantasy conventions in which I did just that: gave direct personal feedback to participants who brought in material for review. Now Baen Books publisher Toni Weisskopf has agreed to join me while we put on a similar workshop, live over the Internet — if we can get enough volunteers!

Here’s the official announcement that went out a couple of weeks ago (emphasis added):

See and hear a recreation of Baen’s Slushmaster General’s Face-to-Face convention workshops, wherein actual slush manuscripts are considered and sorted out loud by real live Baen editors. The mysterious process is made clear. All we need are some volunteers! If you have a manuscript under consideration, just send us the submission number at e-editors@baen.com. If you have a new, completed manuscript you’d like to be considered, submit it now and e-mail us the submission number you receive. We will keep the names of the submitters anonymous in all cases. We need 10 volunteers by April 1 — no fooling! — and will livestream the session in May. If no one is brave enough to volunteer, we won’t do it. Stay tuned for details about how and when to watch!

So folks only have 10 more days to volunteer! If you want your manuscript included, send us a note to let us know — and if you know some writers you think would like to volunteer, please share this blog post and encourage them to sign up!

Thanks, and have an awesome day!

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It’s Not Illogical, It’s illogiCon!

This weekend is our local Research Triangle, North Carolina, science fiction and fantasy convention: illogiCon!


(Professor Schrodington, the illogiCon mascot.)

Here’s what I’ve got going on:

Friday:

  • 3:00 p.m. — Panel, “Geeky Gateway Drugs”
  • 7:00 p.m. — Opening Ceremonies — I get to play the opening song!
  • 8:00 p.m. — Panel, “They Blinded Me With Science”

Saturday:

  • 10:30 a.m. — “Office Hours” — come by and chat! (and maybe buy a book or CD)
  • 12:00 noon — Baen Books Traveling Road Show
  • 4:00 p.m. — Panel, “Science Clickbait”
  • 6:00 p.m. — Reading

Sunday:

  • 12:00 noon — “Music for the Road” Farewell Concert w/ David Tyberg

I’m glad I only have one convention-related event on Sunday, because I’ll be heading to north Raleigh right after I’m done to host the monthly “Writers Coffeehouse” at Quail Ridge Books — from 2-4 p.m., all writers welcome!

Should be a good weekend!

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Fayetteville ComicCon Preview

This weekend I’ll be down in Fayetteville at, as noted above, Fayetteville ComicCon.

I will have a table in “Author’s Alley,” where I’ll try to interest folks in anything and everything: Walking on the Sea of Clouds, of course, plus Distorted Vision, Truths and Lies and Make-Believe, and maybe even Quality Education if that’s more their thing. I’ll also be giving out flyers I made up for the Adventure Sci-Fi 2017 Bundle (which is available through Thursday of this coming week, and if you haven’t checked it out you really should — it’s for a good cause!).

I will also be on two panels:

  • Military in Science Fiction, Saturday at noon
  • Science Fiction vs. Science Fact, Sunday at 11 a.m.

No concerts, no readings, just chatting with folks and trying to interest them in my stories and songs. If you know anyone who’s going, tell them to come find me and say hello!

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What Are YOU Doing for Labor Day Weekend?

I’m in Atlanta, Georgia, with thousands of my closest friends — 70 or 80 thousand, I expect — at the annual Dragon Con science fiction and fantasy convention. In addition to giving a solo concert as part of the Filk Music Track and playing music for folks at the Art Show, I’ll be telling anyone who will listen about my novel!*

Here’s my schedule, at least as it exists right now:

Friday

  • 4 p.m., Science Fiction Literature track panel, “Series Here, Series There: What’s Become of the Standalones?” with Bill Fawcett, Chuck Gannon, Chris Jackson, and S.M. Stirling
  • 7 p.m., “Princess Alethea’s Traveling Sideshow” with Alethea Kontis, Leanna Renee Hieber, Mari Mancusi, Diana Peterfreund, and Zoraida Cordova

Saturday

  • 11:30 a.m., Concert — mixing a few favorites from Distorted Vision and Truths and Lies and Make-Believe with some other fannish tunes, plus some Dragon Con debuts!
  • 2-5 p.m., Baen Books information and author signing booth in association with The Missing Volume bookstore (America’s Mart booth 1301) — as a result, and contrary to the official schedule, I won’t be at the Baen Books Traveling Roadshow and Prize Patrol
  • 6-7 p.m., Bard’s Tower information and author signing booth (America’s Mart booth 817)
  • 10 p.m., Star Wars Tribute Concert with Mikey Mason, The Blibbering Humdingers, The Brobdingnagian Bards, Tom Smith, and more!

Sunday

  • 11:30 a.m., solo busking at the Art Show entrance
  • 2-4 p.m., Baen Books booth @ Missing Volume
  • 4-7 p.m., Bard’s Tower

Monday

  • 10 a.m., solo busking at the Art Show entrance
  • 1-3 p.m., Bard’s Tower
  • 4-5 p.m., Baen Books booth @ Missing Volume

As usual, when I’m not performing or working I’ll probably be attending concerts by my musical friends, or hanging out with my writerly friends or Baen Barflies. Or trying to catch a little bit of sleep!

If you’re in the area, I hope I get to say hello — but whatever you’ve got going on this weekend, I hope it goes well!

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*That would be Walking on the Sea of Clouds.

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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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We Will Congregate with the Congregation at ConGregate

This weekend I’ll be in the bustling metropolis of High Point, North Carolina, for the ConGregate science fiction and fantasy convention — which is also hosting DeepSouthCon this year!

Here’s where you’ll find me:

Friday:

  • 4:30 p.m. — Concert — playing a mix of songs from both of my albums, plus new music … and some extras!
  • 6:00 p.m. — Panel, “On Writing Short Stories,” with Steven S. Long, Arylias Nova, Edmund R. Schubert, and Stephen J. Simmons

Saturday:

  • 10:00 a.m. — “Allen Wold’s Regionally Famous Writers Workshop,” with Allen Wold, Edmund R. Schubert, and Darcy Wold
  • 2:00 p.m. — Concert — presenting an overview of “filk,” the music of SF&F fandom
  • 5:00 p.m. — Baen Books Traveling Road Show, with Toni Weisskopf and Alan Pollack
  • 7:00 p.m. — “Java & Pros,” with Nicole Givens Kurtz — where I will in all likelihood read from my novel, Walking On The Sea of Clouds … which is coming out in less than two weeks!

Sunday:

  • 9:00 a.m. — Non-Denominational Prayer Service
  • 10:00 a.m. — “Allen Wold’s Regionally Famous Writers Workshop” (conclusion)
  • 12:00 p.m. — Signing, with Chris Kennedy — stop by and sign up for my mailing list to register for a drawing to celebrate my novelGrand Prize over $50!

Of course there are plenty of other things going on as well: ConGregate is a great little con, and since it’s hosting DeepSouthCon 55 this year I expect it to be better than ever. At least, I intend to do my best to help!

So, let’s have some fun!

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New Music Video: The Books We Call Baen

Most science fiction and fantasy fans know the name Baen Books — or at least know the names of some of our authors! Here’s a tribute song to Baen Books* and its founder, Jim Baen, from my album, Distorted Vision.

Hope you like it!

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*Full Disclosure: I’m a Contributing Editor for Baen. But I figure that’s all the more reason to do a tribute song!

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Other music videos:
Tauntauns to Glory
Help My Unbelief

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Science Fiction and FREEDOM! — LibertyCon

I don’t have any updates on my novel, so today I thought I’d share my schedule for LibertyCon, which takes place this weekend in Chattanooga. We’ll be celebrating science fiction and fantasy, and the freedom we have to enjoy them!

My convention schedule is heavily weighted toward Friday events, which will leave me time later in the con to relax:

Friday:

  • 1 p.m. — Reading
  • 2 p.m. — Panel: How to Approach Publishers
  • 5 p.m. — Opening Ceremonies
  • 7 p.m. — Author’s Alley
  • 8 p.m. — Concert

Saturday:

  • 11 a.m. — Panel: Space Debris and the Issues of Satellite Survivability
  • 12 a.m. — Luncheon
  • 2 p.m. — Baen Books Traveling Road Show

Sunday:

  • 10 a.m. — Kaffeeklatsch
  • 11 a.m. — Autograph Session

It should be fun — hope to see you there!

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Related Items of Interest:
– If you can’t make it to my concert on Friday, you can at least enjoy the “Tauntauns to Glory” music video
– You can also listen free to both of my albums, Distorted Vision and Truths and Lies and Make-Believe

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