Brave Knights and Heroic Courage (New Video)

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

Today we look at a quote from C.S. Lewis.

Lewis is well-known as the author of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — published on this date in 1950, from what I understand — but this quote comes from his essay “On Three Ways of Writing for Children”…

Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.

I think that holds true when writing for anyone, not just writing for children. I much prefer stories with characters who face up to difficulties and do what’s necessary to work through them, even if they might not be “heroic” in the truest sense. And, especially for those of us who don’t have to practice it day by day, stories can remind us that we ourselves are capable of courage, and perhaps instill in us the bravery we need to face our challenges, if not actual enemies.

Have a great week!

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(Possibly) Related Videos:
We Are All Leaders
Stand Tall in Troubled Times
Every Student A Scholar?
The Musashi-Heinlein School

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Introducing the Adventure Sci-Fi 2017 Bundle!

Want a bunch of books for a little money, and the chance to support a worthy charity? Then read on …

NYT-Bestselling author — and my publisher — Kevin J. Anderson has curated the Adventure Sci-Fi 2017 Bundle, a collection of novels and short stories that not only promise hours of out-of-this-world entertainment but also provide a means to support the Challenger (as in Space Shuttle Challenger) Learning Centers.

Kevin says,

We’re Full of Stars!

Strap into your cockpit, fire up the faster-than-light engines, and set course for the nearest star. I’ve got a grab bag of 13 excellent science fiction books all in one new Adventure SF StoryBundle. Get them all for as little as $15, and help out a great charity, too!

I put in a brand new action-packed story, The Blood Prize, featuring the popular character Colt the Outlander from Heavy Metal magazines, with all new art by the Aradio Brothers. Robert J. Sawyer offers his classic novel Far Seer (a planet of intelligent dinosaurs!). Raymond Bolton’s Awakening shows a fantasy civilization on the cusp of the industrial revolution faced with an alien invasion. You’ll read different adventures on very different lunar colonies in Gray Rinehart’s Walking on the Sea of Clouds, Lou Agresta’s Club Anyone, and T. Allen Diaz’s Lunatic City, as well as Louis Antonelli’s alternate space race in Dragon-Award nominee Another Girl, Another Planet. Jody Lynn Nye’s Taylor’s Ark follows the adventures of a veterinarian to the stars, and Brenda Cooper’s Endeavor-Award winning The Silver Ship and the Sea is a gripping story of prisoners of war abandoned on a rugged colony planet. Acclaimed, award-winning author Paul di Filippo gives a collection of his best stories in Lost Among the Stars.

And for thrilling military SF, the bundle also has Honor and Fidelity by Andrew Keith and William H. Keith, Recruit by Jonathan P. Brazee, and the hilarious adventures of Phule’s Company in Robert Lynn Asprin’s Phule’s Paradise.

Take Note: This Adventure SF StoryBundle runs for only three weeks. You can pay the minimum price to get the books, or you can pay more and designate a portion to support the Challenger Learning Centers for Space Science Education.

More details …

The StoryBundle has two purchase levels. The initial titles, available as a minimum $5 purchase, are:

  • Lunatic City by T. Allen Diaz
  • Phule’s Paradise by Robert Asprin
  • Awakening by Raymond Bolton
  • Taylor’s Ark by Jody Lynn Nye
  • Honor and Fidelity by Andrew Keith and William H. Keith, Jr.

The bonus level, available for $15, adds the following eight titles:

  • Lost Among the Stars by Paul Di Filippo
  • Another Girl, Another Planet by Louis Antonelli
  • Club Anyone by Lou Agresta
  • The Blood Prize by Kevin J. Anderson
  • Walking on the Sea of Clouds by Gray Rinehart
  • The Silver Ship and the Sea by Brenda Cooper
  • Far-Seer by Robert J. Sawyer
  • The United Federation Marine Corps Book 1: Recruit by Jonathan P. Brazee

What a bargain! Check out the the Adventure Sci-Fi 2017 Bundle today!

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P.S. What is the StoryBundle program, and why should you care? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides:

  • Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
  • Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
  • Support authors who support DRM-free (i.e., Digital Rights Management-free) books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want — restriction free — will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to the Challenger Learning Centers for Space Science Education!
  • Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you’ll get the bonus books!

Every bundle allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books!

It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards — which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle — and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.

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Celebrating My Debut Novel!

This past Sunday, I threw a party to celebrate the only debut novel I’ll ever have. (If you just happened onto this blog, it’s called Walking on the Sea of Clouds, and I’d be much obliged if you would check it out. Folks have compared it to The Martian, if you’re into that sort of thing.) Anyway, we had a pretty good turnout even with a few cancellations — not a packed house, but I think we would have overflowed the room we were originally supposed to be in.

Some pictures made it onto Facebook on Sunday, but I thought I’d hang a few more here on the blog. First up, anyone who’s seen me speak or give any sort of presentation knows that I tend to gesticulate, and that day was no exception:


Making a point during the introductions.

While folks continued to trickle in …


What are we here for, again?

… local “Wizard Rock” band The Blibbering Humdingers provided musical entertainment:


The Blibbering Humdingers! — L-R, Eddie Mowery, Kirsten Vaughan, Scott Vaughan, Chuck Parker.

And because I can’t be satisfied with just talking or reading — oh, no! — I had to play some music, too …


Playing “Tauntauns to Glory” for the folks.

… which folks tolerated pretty well.


They didn’t leave!

And then came the big moment:


Reading from Walking on the Sea of Clouds — first time ever reading from the actual book.

After reading a bit, we ate …


The real reason people stayed!

… and ate …


Fantastic desserts from Once in a Blue Moon Bakery.

… and we actually ran out of barbeque, because more people came than had RSVPed! So it was okay that we had some cancellations, or I would’ve had to order some pizzas or something.

While the Humdingers played a final set, we ended by signing books …


Some folks even bought books!

… and saying goodbye to folks who had come out …


My Aunt Frances (on the left) won the prize for traveling the farthest to the event — all the way from Florida!

… and gathering for commemorative pics:


With the family.

I thought the event went pretty well, and folks seemed to have a good time. I appreciate everyone who came out to help me celebrate, and especially everyone who helped put the party together!

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Once again, that’s Walking on the Sea of Clouds, a near-future novel of survival and sacrifice, love and loss, in the early days of the first commercial lunar colony. Ask for it at your favorite bookstore!

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New Video: Two-Dimensional Characters, and Education

In writing, we try to make sure our characters are realistic; rather than “flat” and two-dimensional, we want them to be lifelike. So too in education, we want students to grow and mature in multiple dimensions. But is “well-rounded” the best metaphor?

I’d already posted the video to YouTube when I caught an error in it, so this version includes a correction I inserted.

Hey, nobody’s perfect.

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Related Stuff:
– As mentioned, The Musashi-Heinlein School video
– A lot of this derives from what I wrote in Quality Education: Why It Matters, and How to Structure the System to Sustain It

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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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Imagination, Daydreams, and ‘the Betterment of the World’

(Another in the continuing “Monday Morning Insight” series of quotes to start the week.)

Today is L. Frank Baum’s birthday (15 May 1856 – 6 May 1919), and it won’t surprise anyone familiar with his novel The Wizard of Oz to find that he had something to say about imagination. In 1917, in the introduction to The Lost Princess of Oz, he wrote (emphasis added):

Some of my youthful readers are developing wonderful imaginations. This pleases me. Imagination has brought mankind through the Dark Ages to its present state of civilization. Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity. Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine, and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities. So I believe that dreams — day dreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain machinery whizzing — are likely to lead to the betterment of the world. The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to create, to invent, and therefore to foster civilization.


(Image: “Daydreams,” by Thomas Couture, from Wikimedia Commons.)

If you didn’t know, Baum’s imagination wasn’t limited to the Oz novels (of which he wrote over a dozen). He wrote over fifty novels in total, including additional fantasy novels, plus short stories, poems, scripts, and other things. And if we follow his example, and that of other creative people we admire, we won’t limit our imaginations nearly as much as we usually do.

I hope this week you can let yourself daydream a little! See what you can imagine, and what you can create, to make your part of the world a little better.

Have a great week!

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Writing Revitalizes

(Another in the continuing “Monday Morning Insight” series of quotes to start the week.)

Yesterday we held our first meeting of the Research Triangle chapter of The Writers Coffeehouse. I wasn’t sure how many people to expect, and said I’d be happy with a half-dozen, but we ended up with eleven people total! So, I’m pretty pleased by that for a first showing, and that most people indicated they were interested in coming to future meetings.

Just Write
(Image: “Just Write,” by Sean MacEntee, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

In honor of the first meeting going so well, here’s a quote from a master of the writing art, Ray Bradbury, offered without commentary because I have a blazing headache:

And what, you ask, does writing teach us?

First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is gift and a privilege, not a right. We must earn life once it has been awarded us. Life asks for rewards back because it has favored us with animation.

So while our art cannot, as we wish it could, save us from wars, privation, envy, greed, old age, or death, it can revitalize us amidst it all.

Have a great week!

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Something New in the Research Triangle: The Writers Coffeehouse

Are you a writer? Do you live in or near the Research Triangle? Then you’re welcome to come to The Writers Coffeehouse!

The Writers Coffeehouse is a monthly networking event, originally started in 2002 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania by NYT-bestselling author Jonathan Maberry. The Writers Coffeehouse now operates nationwide, with chapters in San Diego (which Jonathan hosts), Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco … and very soon here in the Research Triangle.

The first meeting in this area will be Sunday, May 7th, at 4 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble at the Streets at Southpoint. Mark your calendar, and spread the word!

The Writers Coffeehouse

Jonathan describes The Writers Coffeehouse as “a bunch of writers sitting around talking about writing … with coffee.” There are no entry requirements, and “no previous publishing experience necessary.” As Jonathan says,

The Writers Coffeehouse attracts everyone from absolute beginners to award-winners and bestsellers. We’re all writers, whether we write fiction, poetry, plays, screenplays, comics, nonfiction books, articles … well, pretty much anything. A writer is a writer and we all share some common ground.

The Writers Coffeehouse will operate according to guidelines that Jonathan set out:

  • No agenda … just chat about the latest trends in the industry, about the craft of writing, about markets, about pitching and selling, about conquering frustration and defeating writers block, and about all of the good things that come from the community of writers.
  • There are no fees, no registration, no publishing requirements. Every writer of any kind is welcome.
  • This is not a peer critique group. This is discussion and networking.
  • The events are ideally held once a month and typically for three hours. (So, yes, the meeting on the 7th will run until 7.)

In short, it’s a pretty informal gathering that will be run pretty informally. As Jonathan says, the idea “started with a bunch of writers sitting around after a writing workshop. We had coffee, we talked shop. It grew from there.”

If that sounds interesting, join the Facebook group — and share this post with any other area writers you know!

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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
_____

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?
_____

“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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P.S. I’ve got a new sign-up form for my mailing list. If you’re not getting my every-once-in-a-while newsletter, use the form in the upper right to sign up.

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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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