The Pride of Doing

Pride sometimes gets a bad rap. Often its bad rap is deserved. But sometimes pride is important.

For those of us raised in the Christian or Jewish traditions, or even marginally aware of some of the Old Testament’s aphorisms, pride’s place as a “deadly sin” is solidified in the book of Proverbs:

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

That usage, as I interpret it, is related to hubris, i.e., excessive pride, the kind of pride that exudes from puffed-up ego rather than solid character. In contrast is a lesser degree of pride, the type that is useful and necessary to everyday life and especially important to success in everyday life: the pride of doing something well.

This is not the pride of being — being good, being smart, being beautiful, being talented — but the pride of accomplishing, the pride of making, creating, discovering. The pride of doing is the pride that derives from building up the world. The former pride, the pride of being, only builds up ourselves.

The pride of doing, and doing well, is vital. If we had no pride in our work, for instance, we wouldn’t show it to others for their evaluation, their approval, or especially their purchase. When we have worked diligently and produced something of which we are proud, our degree of pride is likely to be proportional to our work’s value — if we have judged it properly. Not that we don’t see the flaws in it, but that we are rightly proud of having produced something of quality. That is, we are more likely to receive recognition or compensation in the open market for work we are proud of than for work we disdain. It only makes sense that if we are not proud of what we have produced, chances are others may not find much value in it.


(Image: “Vulcan Forging the Thunderbolts of Jupiter,” by Rubens, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Working hard and producing something of which we can be proud, then, is an important component to being successful. It doesn’t guarantee success — nothing does — but we increase our chances of success if we judge our own work fairly and honestly and our level of pride reflects its value.

In truth, being able to distinguish between things that are shoddy — things of which we should not be proud — and things which are excellent — things of which we should be proud — is an important skill. Unfortunately, not everyone possesses that skill because the only way to develop it is to have enough pride in our work to show it to someone who will give us honest feedback about its strengths and weaknesses, and then to be willing to listen to the feedback and make adjustments.

In my professional life I regularly see the work of writers who seem unable to distinguish good work from bad as it pertains to their own results. Whether they make the distinction when it comes to others’ work, I have no idea; but like those who suffer from the “Dunning-Kruger Effect” these writers display inordinate amounts of self-confidence and pride, having produced relatively mediocre work. In contrast, many of my writer friends — even some of the most successful — are actually quite humble about their own work (even work of which they are justly proud).

So, pride of doing is important in that we want to produce things that make us proud; however, that pride should be informed, accurate, and truthful. Otherwise, our pride will go before our destruction, at least so far as our work is concerned.

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GW4GP: What’s It All About?

Have you ever been in one of those moods where you’re evaluating your life and trying to make sense of things?

Early last year I was in such a mood when I found myself driving through South Carolina and reflecting on what I do. I don’t recall what book I was listening to at the time — something related to entrepreneurship — but part of it talked about developing a clear sense of mission: not at all unusual for a book like that, except that I was more in the mood to think about it than usual.


“My crystal ball is cracked, no magic images appear.” (Photo by Christopher Rinehart.)

Anyway, on that trip I came to the conclusion that my mission, my vision, my purpose in life is to write Good Words, for Good People. I like to think that’s what I actually do, but at the very least it’s what I want to do, what I intend to do.

I know that I don’t write perfect words. I don’t write anything like great words, or monumental words, or world-changing words. But I think I write good words — whether they come in the form of stories or songs or ideas, whether you encounter them here on the blog or in my newsletter or in a book or magazine or CD or speech.

“Good” in that they are adequate to the task, usually well-suited to the occasion.

Perhaps “good” in that they provide value for the investment of time and treasure.

And hopefully “good” in the sense that they make the world, or some small part of it, a little better.

I know sometimes I fail, and what I write is poor: poorly worded, poorly constructed, poorly thought. At other times, whether I succeed or fail will be … questionable. For instance, some things I write may challenge you, contradict you, even upset you, and you may assess them as being poor while others assess them differently. That’s okay, because I can’t (and don’t) expect anyone to agree with me all the time — as I’ve written about before.

But from the perspective that I am trying to produce “good” words, I’m comfortable saying that

  • My CDs aren’t perfect, or even masterful, but they’re pretty okay
  • My book on education isn’t the best thing ever written on the subject, and it won’t change anyone’s life who reads it, but it’s pretty good and (I think) is worth a reader’s while
  • My novel may not be the best thing anyone reads this year, and it won’t be to everyone’s taste — what is? — but it’s a pretty good near-future science fiction story, and some people have even found it to be moving
  • My newsletter is no paragon of excellence, but I try to keep it friendly and conversational (plus, if you subscribe I send you a free song, a free story, and a free e-book)

So, then, Good Words — that’s one thing.

But Good People — who are they?

To my way of thinking, pretty much everybody qualifies as “good people” — certainly you do! We may not agree on much, we may barely get along, we may not even like each other very much, but we’re all doing our best, the best way we know how, and the vast majority of us are trying to do things the right way, so far as we know the right. We’re not just trying to do well, but most of us are trying to do good. And I’m serious about you fitting that category, even if we’ve never met, because I sincerely believe that anyone who takes the time to read something I’ve written, or listen to something I’ve sung, or think about something I’ve said, is “good people.”

That’s GW4GP. The more I’ve thought about it, boiling down what I do and why to its very essence, what came out of the mental crucible that day was quite simple (and perhaps even a bit elegant): I write; and what I write, I hope, are Good Words, for Good Peoplelike you.

Thanks for reading!

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P.S. If you’re of a mind, I hope you’ll visit and “Like” the “Good Words for Good People” Facebook Page. Thanks! GWR

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Authors: Don’t Lie in Your Cover Letter

Or, to be a bit more charitable, don’t exaggerate.

Why do I even have to say this? Because of a cover letter I read today, in which an author claimed that their work had been nominated for (among other things) a Nebula Award.

Nebula Award Logo

A simple search turned up no record of that author having ever made the Nebula ballot in any category: novel, novella, novelette, or short story.* (Sure, it’s possible that they had written something under a pseudonym that was nominated, but that would have been an important detail to mention.)

Pro tip: Having someone tell you that they nominated your work for a Nebula does not equate to being a Nebula nominee. That title applies only to work that made the final ballot.

Pro tip the second: The person who’s reading your cover letter probably has a computer and knows how to do a search, so your lie — or your exaggeration — is likely to be discovered. And when it turns out that you weren’t actually on the ballot for that thing you claimed, your credibility and reputation suffer.

You’re better off not including a cover letter at all than to send one that’s so demonstrably bad.

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*Or even script, back when that was a category.

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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!

___
(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!

___
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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