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!

___
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.

___
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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Proof of … Something

An update, for those who are following along at home: This morning I received the proof copy of Walking on the Sea of Clouds, which includes notes and corrections from the copyeditors for me to check.

Meanwhile, the folks at WordFire Press have sent Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) — uncorrected copies — to reviewers. I have electronic versions of the ARC that I’m also sending to folks who want to review a pre-release version.*


(Click for larger image.)

Still no definite release date yet. It’s supposed to be a Spring release, and technically Spring begins next Monday — but Spring runs all the way to the Summer Solstice, so we have a few weeks to finish putting all the pieces together!

Stay tuned …

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*If you want the ARC to review, or you know a reviewer to whom I should send one, let me know!

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Cyrano de Bergerac, Science Fiction Author

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

That title is not a joke.

Before we get to it, let me admit my ignorance: I did not know, until I started looking for this week’s quote, that Cyrano de Bergerac — the real-life de Bergerac — was one of the earliest science fiction authors.

Today is Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac’s birthday (6 March 1619 – 28 July 1655), and it turns out he was not just a character in a story who helped his friend woo the woman he really loved. That was made up by Edmond Rostand, whereas in real life de Bergerac was a French soldier, a playwright, and — as it turns out — a science fiction novelist.

He actually wrote two science fiction novels, both of which were published posthumously: L’Autre Monde: ou les États et Empires de la Lune (The Other World: or the States and Empires of the Moon, 1657), and Les États et Empires du Soleil (The States and Empires of the Sun, 1662). The first was published as the “Comical History” of the States and Empires of the Moon, thanks to being renamed by Henry Le Bret, de Bergerac’s friend, who also excised material he considered objectionable.

But let’s get to the quotes….

This bit in L’Autre Monde may come across as comical to us, until we consider that de Bergerac wrote it over 300 years before the Apollo program made the Moon’s nature more familiar to more people:

“I think the Moon is a world like this one, and the Earth is its moon.”

My friends greeted this with a burst of laughter. “And maybe,” I told them, “someone on the Moon is even now making fun of someone else who says that our globe is a world.”

I read some foreshadowing of H.G. Wells in there, as I think of how The War of the Worlds opens. We know so much now about our Solar system that we did not know then. (And as one whose forthcoming debut novel concerns the early days of a lunar colony, I confess a bit of jealousy: it might have made my own writing easier if I hadn’t had to try so hard to make the fiction part live up to some real science.)

But de Bergerac did not limit his imagination just to the Moon. Consider that he wrote this in the 1650s:

I think the planets are worlds revolving around the sun and that the fixed stars are also suns that have planets revolving around them. We can’t see those worlds from here because they are so small and because the light they reflect cannot reach us. How can one honestly think that such spacious globes are only large, deserted fields? And that our world was made to lord it over all of them just because a dozen or so vain wretches like us happen to be crawling around on it? Do people really think that because the sun gives us light every day and year, it was made only to keep us from bumping into walls? No, no, this visible god gives light to man by accident, as a king’s torch accidentally shines upon a working man or burglar passing in the street.


A representation of the Copernican model of the Solar System. (Image: “Harmonia macrocosmica …,” by Andreas Cellarius, 1661, from Wikimedia Commons.)

What would de Bergerac have made of our efforts to peer into the depths of space, by which we have found dozens of exoplanets — planets orbiting distant stars? I think he would be pleased, and perhaps a little disappointed that we had not yet found ways to reach them.

I think de Bergerac’s literary achievement is all the more impressive when we put him and his novels in relation to other science and literary luminaries:

  • Copernicus (1473-1543): formulated the heliocentric view of the Solar system
  • Galileo (1564-1642): confirmed by observation the Copernican view
  • Johannes Kepler (1571-1630): in addition to formulating the laws of orbital mechanics, also wrote in 1608 what some consider the very first work of science fiction, Somnium (The Dream), published in 1634
  • Francis Godwin (1562-1633): Anglican bishop, wrote The Man in the Moone, published in 1638
  • de Bergerac (1619-1655): The Other World: or the States and Empires of the Moon, 1657; and The States and Empires of the Sun, 1662
  • Voltaire (1694-1778): in addition to his philosophical works, wrote a short story about an alien visitor to the Earth, Micromégas, 1752
  • Mary Shelley (1797-1851): Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, 1818
  • Jules Verne (1828-1905): From the Earth to the Moon, 1865

I had been under the impression that Frankenstein was the first science fiction novel, and had no idea that so many authors had explored the notion of space travel two centuries before Verne’s classic was published. Maybe you knew all that, and knew that Cyrano de Bergerac was more than just a character in a story. I’m glad I know it now, and probably shouldn’t have been surprised to learn just how far back science fiction started — just as authors today extrapolate from the findings of current science, why shouldn’t authors have done so 350 years ago?

My dad is fond of saying, “Learn something new every day.” Maybe this can qualify as your “something new” for today. But even if it doesn’t, I hope you learn something new today, and all this week!

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