Another Snippet from My LOST SIGNALS Story

Late last week I announced that Lost Signals of the Terran Republic, an anthology set in Charles E. Gannon’s “Caine Riordan” universe, is available for preorder right now. In that post, I included the opening of my story, “Botwright.”

Today’s snippet pays homage to Isaac Asimov and his “Laws of Robotics” against robots harming human beings. In the scene, our misfit robot maintainer — a/k/a “botwright” — Lloyd Cramer and his friend Eric Moorefield have just been attacked by the asteroid mining foreman who murdered a young lady. In the melee, Cramer sent out a distress call to the “Semi-Autonomous Multifunctional Miner/Mechanic” (or, SAM) robots he takes care of — and which take care of him.

We pick up the action …

A SAM’s foremost port ventral arm grabbed the mining foreman by the head, then the robot pirouetted as a few of its other limbs grabbed on. Still using two limbs against grab bars, it pressed the foreman into the nearest bulkhead as if it were trying to mate with him. Ashworth struggled against it but found no purchase, and the machine … so effectively covered his face that Ashworth could not even cry out for mercy.

… Moorefield’s eyes narrowed, and he spoke in a low, almost menacing tone. “You teach that bot to do that?”

Cramer shrugged, forgetting for a moment that he wasn’t well-grounded. He grabbed a handhold and said, “I told it to protect me.”

“Didn’t think that was possible.”

Cramer looked down into the lower corner of the shop. “Not allowed … not the same as not possible.”

“True enough,” Moorefield said. “But what would Asimov say?”

Cramer shrugged again, but held himself in place. Now was not the time to debate the difference between artificial intelligence and artificial knowledge. “The laws of robotics are written by the programmers.”

What will happen next? We’ll have to see.


Pretty spiffy cover, eh?

If you want to read more — and in particular if you want to get all the stories by a tremendous group of authors — you can preorder the anthology either as a Kindle e-book or a trade paperback. Order today!

I hope you like all the stories!

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Preorder the LOST SIGNALS Anthology Now!

If you like far-ranging science fiction stories set in a remarkably solid universe of adventure and alien encounters, I highly recommend the “Caine Riordan” series by Charles E. Gannon — and not just because I had a part to play in its inception … and show up as a character in some of the novels! 😃

Welcome to the Terran Republic of the Twenty-Second Century. Just as humanity finally reaches out to the stars, it is challenged by several “exosapient” species whose motivations are as unusual as their physical forms. Troubleshooters like Caine Riordan — as well as commandos, crewmen, and correspondents — contend with both humans and aliens during the exploration, statecraft, and warfare that churn and change our post-contact world.

The best place to begin with the series as a whole is at the beginning, with the Nebula Award-nominated and Compton Crook Award-winning Fire With Fire, available on Amazon or directly from Baen Books in the Baen Free Library.

But if you’re looking for shorter fiction, there’s now an anthology of all-original stories set in the Caine Riordan universe, ready for preorder: Lost Signals of the Terran Republic.

And I have a story in it!

… no world is defined solely by the main characters who occupy center-stage. Lost Signals digs deep into the lives and struggles of those beyond the spotlight. Twenty new voices tell twenty gripping stories that blur the line between fact and fiction in the Consolidated Terran Republic, where high-stakes war and intrigue has played out over four national bestsellers.


Pretty spiffy cover, eh?

Because it’s one of the “earliest” stories chronologically, my entry — entitled “Botwright,” as in the person who builds and maintains robots … like a “shipwright” or a “wheelwright,” but with robots — comes right after a new story by Charles Gannon himself. My story puts you on an asteroid mining outpost with a socially awkward mechanic who witnesses a murder through the “eyes” of one of the robots he works on.

Mine is a quiet tale, and I tried hard to put you in the head of the main character and give you a realistic sense of his predicament. Here’s the opening:

“Uncle Lloyd! Are you in there?”

Lloyd Cramer grinned. Kelly wasn’t really his niece; she had started calling him “uncle” back on the Moon almost five years ago. And even though his smile felt distorted, awkward, on his face, Cramer would always smile for her, even when she interrupted him.

Kelianna “Kelly” Forester sailed into his workshop, trailed her fingers along the hatch to bleed off speed, somersaulted, and came to rest against an equipment locker. She was so graceful that Cramer felt clumsy just sitting on his perch.

“Yes, I’m in here,” he said. He slipped the wrench he had been using into its slot on his vest.

“I knew, anyway,” Kelly said. Her hair fluttered under a multicolored headband. “I checked your prox.”

Cramer chanced a look down at Folco. The bot’s limbs were paralyzed since he’d used its motive power supplies in other machines, but Cramer noted with satisfaction that its camera telltale was on. It had registered Kelly’s proximity implant signal, just as they all did. Or were
supposed to. “If you knew, then why did you ask?”

Kelly laughed, a bright melody that filled the space, and she pushed off the locker.

“Mind the clothesline,” Cramer said.

Kelly grabbed the cable-and-alligator-clip rig he had strung across his workshop, and came to rest beside him. She reached up and flicked one of the Mylar streamers that she had made him add for sake of visibility: the slender wire was almost invisible. “You know me,” she said, “I’m always careful.” She waited a moment for him to reply, but he had nothing to add. She was the mine’s safety director; of course she would be careful.

She shimmied a little closer along the clothesline. “Uncle Lloyd, I need a favor….”

I was very pleased to be invited and included in the anthology — with a ton of authors much more talented than I am! — and now that the book is in production I’m glad to let you know that you can preorder it now on Kindle or in paperback. I hope you do, and that you like all the stories!

And if you know any other science fiction fans, I’d appreciate it if you’d send them the link to the book (or just to this blog post) to let them know. Happy reading!

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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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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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Writers, What’s Your Main Character’s Tendency?

A few weeks ago I posted about Gretchen Rubin’s “Four Tendencies” model,* and specifically how it revealed a mistake I made in my book on education** — not an error of fact, but an error of omission due to my own failure of imagination.

Since then I’ve been thinking about the Four Tendencies as they might apply to characterization in fiction.

To recap, Ms. Rubin identified four categories into which we sift ourselves according to how we respond to expectations — both our own, inner expectations, and the expectations we perceive that others have for us. Some of us readily meet expectations, and others of us resist expectations, generally as follows:

  • Upholders: Meet both outer and inner expectations
  • Obligers: Meet outer expectations, but resist inner expectations
  • Questioners: Resist outer expectations, but meet inner expectations
  • Rebels: Resist both outer and inner expectations

Like many such schemes, this one has its strengths and weaknesses (e.g., I wish she had explored in more depth the areas where the tendencies overlap), but I find that it has some excellent insights into our choices and behaviors. As statistician George Box said, “All models are wrong. Some models are useful,” and the Four Tendencies is a quite useful model.

So how can this model apply to writing fictional characters?

Writer's Block I
(Image: “Writer’s Block I,” by Drew Coffman, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

I think anything that helps us understand that mysterious thing called “human nature” is useful in creating characters who readers will find interesting and believable, let alone relatable and sympathetic. And understanding the Four Tendencies has the potential to make a big difference in writing characters who have clear motivations and consistent reactions to the expectations of the other characters around them.

When I think about the main characters in Walking on the Sea of Clouds (now available in audiobook***), for instance, I think Stormie Pastorelli fits the pattern of an Upholder. She’s driven to succeed, and to help the lunar colony survive and thrive, with a strong “by-the-book” approach and a heavy insistence on living up to her high expectations of herself. I think her husband Frank, on the other hand, is an Obliger: he is ready and willing to do things that other people expect of him, even sometimes at the expense of his own well-being.

Of the other main characters in the novel, Barbara Richards is probably also an Obliger, and that makes her struggle about whether to stay at the lunar colony realistic. (It makes sense to me for two of the main characters to have that tendency, since Ms. Rubin points out that Obligers form the most prevalent tendency in society; honestly, I don’t think society would function if Obligers weren’t the largest group.) I think Barbara’s husband Van, though, is primarily a Questioner — perhaps with a bit of Rebel thrown in.

If you’ve read Walking on the Sea of Clouds, what do you think? Does that assessment sound right to you? How do you think I did in keeping their characteristic tendencies consistent?

If you’re a writer, do you think the Four Tendencies might help you better understand the personalities of your main characters, in order to keep their characterizations consistent? I’d be interested to know your thoughts.

As for me, I’m working on a fantasy novel these days, and I’m keeping the Four Tendencies in mind as I try to figure out my characters’ motivations and their feelings about the expectations placed on them. I hope I’ll be able to make them seem realistic! But that, in the end, will be decided by the readers.

___
*Full (and somewhat unwieldy) title: The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too).
**Quality Education: Why It Matters, and How to Structure the System to Sustain It (a fairly unwieldy title of my own).
***Reminder for anyone who missed the announcement: I’m running a series of giveaways for Audible downloads of the Walking on the Sea of Clouds audiobook. Sign up at this link!

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Audiobook Giveaways … Plural!

… and you can enter as many times as you like!

As announced previously, the Walking on the Sea of Clouds audiobook is complete and available for your listening pleasure direct from Audible or, if you prefer, from Amazon — and between now and Tax Day, we’re going to hold multiple drawings to give away free Audible downloads for it!

Why Tax Day? Because somebody ought to get some good news on that day!

Why multiple giveaways? Because anything worth doing is worth doing more than once! (And because the good folks at Wordfire Press gave me several download codes to do with as I pleased, so I’m giving a bunch away.)

How do you enter? Just sign up for my newsletter using this special link, and then every time you share the link and tag me, I’ll enter you in the drawing again!


(Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

If you’re not quite sure whether Walking on the Sea of Clouds is your kind story, here’s what some folks had to say about it:

  • 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
  • If you’ve ever wanted to be a colonist on the moon, this is as close as you will ever get without going there yourself.
    Abyss & Apex
  • … as entertaining as some of Heinlein’s early fiction, …. closer to the type of fiction Jerry Pournelle wrote in the 1960s and 1970s…. captures a pioneering era that once was and could be again.
    Ad Astra
  • 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.
    Booklist
  • Everything about Walking on the Sea of Clouds feels amazingly authentic.
    –Edmund R. Schubert
  • 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
  • This is meat and potatoes for the hard science fiction fan.
    –Martin L. Shoemaker

It’s a near-future story of survival and sacrifice during the very early days of a lunar colony, and explores the reasons why people sign up for such daring enterprises and the price they’re willing to pay to help them succeed. In addition to Audible, you can also find it in other formats on Amazon and other online sources including Baen e-books.

I hope you’ll give it a listen (or a read), and let me know what you think!

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What’s That I Hear? An Audiobook? Yes, Indeed

Ladies and gentlemen, the Walking on the Sea of Clouds audiobook is complete and available for your listening pleasure! You can score a copy direct from Audible or, if you prefer, from Amazon.

As pleased as I am to announce that the novel is in audio format, I’m even happier to announce that the voice actress who narrates it is … my daughter, Stephanie! (Surprise!)

Stephanie auditioned under her married name (Minervino), so the folks at WordFire Press didn’t realize who she was when they forwarded her audition to me. They agreed she was the best choice and worked with her through the production process long before we ever let on that we were related. (Sneaky, I know.)

If you click through to the Audible website, you can listen to a sample. And while I admit that I may be a little biased, I think she did a fine job. It wasn’t easy, with so many different accents among the characters, but she managed to give each character a unique voice!

And not only that: Stephanie did a great job portraying the emotional depth of the story, and actually added to the emotional depth of some scenes. She made me very proud! I just wish her name was a little bigger on the cover:

I hope you’ll check out this audio version of Walking on the Sea of Clouds, and if you know someone who prefers audio to print I hope you’ll let them know about it. In case you’re still unsure whether the story might be worth your while, here’s what some folks had to say:

  • “[As] entertaining as some of Heinlein’s early fiction…. closer to the type of fiction Jerry Pournelle wrote…. captures a pioneering era that once was and could be again.”
    Ad Astra
  • “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.”
    Booklist
  • “If you’ve ever wanted to be a colonist on the moon, this is as close as you will ever get without going there yourself.”
    Abyss & Apex
  • “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
  • “Everything about Walking on the Sea of Clouds feels amazingly authentic.”
    –Edmund R. Schubert
  • “This is meat and potatoes for the hard science fiction fan.”
    –Martin L. Shoemaker
  • “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

Spread the word! And if you give it a listen, I’d love to know what you think!

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I Thought I Was Signing Up for Elon Musk’s Mars Venture

Alas, it turns out I signed up for an entirely different thing! This weekend, I’ll be at the MarsCon science fiction and fantasy convention in Williamsburg, VA.

All kidding aside, I went to MarsCon once before, many years ago — in fact, at a science panel at that MarsCon I was inspired to write my first “official” filk song! It’s a fine convention, with a nice mix of tracks and entertainment, and I’m pleased that they’re letting me take part in it.

And they’re keeping me busy, as you can tell:

Friday:

  • 5 p.m. — Panel, “Future Laws”
  • 6 p.m. — Opening Ceremonies
  • 9 p.m. — Panel, “Adventures and Disasters in Space”

Saturday:

  • 1 p.m. — Baen Books Traveling Slide Show & Prize Patrol
  • 5 p.m. — Panel, “Was the Planet Killer a Keynesian Stimulus?”
  • 7 p.m. — Panel, “Tech in the Classrooms”
  • 8 p.m. — Panel, “The Delphic Oracle”
  • 10 p.m. — Open Filking

Sunday:

  • 9 a.m. — Worship Concert — songs at the intersection of faith and fandom
  • 11 a.m. — Panel, “Parody Song Writing Techniques”
  • 2 p.m. — Panel, “The Words, They Are a-Changing”


The MarsCon theme this year is “The Land of Faerie.”

I look forward to having a good time with a bunch of great people!

___

P.S. In case you’re wondering … I might just have with me a copy or two of Distorted Vision, Truths and Lies and Make-Believe, and even Walking on the Sea of Clouds….

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It’s Only Logical that I’ll Be at illogiCon

It’s time again for illogiCon, our local Research Triangle, North Carolina, science fiction and fantasy convention, happening this weekend at the RDU Embassy Suites (with some events in the nearby Hampton Inn).


(Professor Schrodington, the illogiCon mascot.)

Here’s what I’ve got going on:

Friday:

  • 7:00 p.m. — Opening Ceremonies — wherein I will play my “Convention Oddity” cover song
  • 8:00 p.m. — Panel, “That’s Just Wrong”
  • 10:00 p.m. — Panel, “I Spy with My Little Eyes”

Saturday:

  • 11:00 a.m. — Panel, “Ground Control to Major Tom” — oddly appropriate
  • 1:00 p.m. — Panel, “Networking for Introverts”
  • 2:00 p.m. — Filk Music Hour
  • 3:00 p.m. — Panel, “What Should We be Reading?”
  • 4:00 p.m. — Panel, “Star Trek: Worst. Episode. Ever.”
  • 8:00 p.m. and after — More Filking

Sunday:

  • 10:00 a.m. — Reading (Time Changed from 2 p.m.)

There’s no “Baen Books Traveling Road Show” this year, because I didn’t realize until too late that I was the only Baen representative and didn’t ask for a time slot.

On Sunday, I’ll be skating out after lunch to head to north Raleigh to host the monthly Writers Coffeehouse at Quail Ridge Books from 2-4 p.m. All writers are welcome!

Let’s have some fun!

___
Related Items:
– Speaking of filk, listen free to both of my albums: Distorted Vision and Truths and Lies and Make-Believe
– Speaking of reading aloud, watch my Public Speaking Tip: The Value of Inflection
– Speaking of nothing in particular, visit my Online Store

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