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!

___
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!

___
*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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Ideas as Rabbits, Writing as Horse-Racing?

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

Today is John Steinbeck’s birthday (27 February 1902 – 20 December 1968). Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, and wrote classics such as Of Mice and Men, Cannery Row, and The Grapes of Wrath (which won the Pulitzer Prize). As you might expect, Steinbeck had a few things to say about writing.

In the April 1947 issue of Cosmopolitan, for instance, Steinbeck said,

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.

The trick, of course, is to turn the ideas into fully-formed stories and books. It’s not always easy, and it’s not the most predictable line of work, as Steinbeck observed in a December 1962 issue of Newsweek,

The profession of book-writing makes horse-racing seem like a solid, stable business.

That’s why so many of us ply other trades to support our writing habits. But we persist (as I pointed out last week), whether we consider it art or craft or simply obsession. But how can we persist long enough to create something worthwhile? In June 1969, Steinbeck told The New York Times,

The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.

Certainly the prolific writers I know prove that writing is the most important thing in their worlds — and I suspect one reason why my output is not what it could (or possibly should) be is that I don’t think of my own writing as all that important, and am too quick to prioritize other things over it.

Horse Racing
How does writing compare to horse racing? (Image: “Horse Racing,” by Peter Miller, on Flickr, under Creative Commons.)

But before this blog post devolves into self-recrimination, how about something completely different?

Given our current political environment, it seems important to close with something Steinbeck wrote in one of the essays in the last book he published, 1966’s America and Americans.

The President must be greater than anyone else, but not better than anyone else. We subject him and his family to close and constant scrutiny and denounce them for things that we ourselves do every day. A Presidential slip of the tongue, a slight error in judgment — social, political, or ethical — can raise a storm of protest. We give the President more work than a man can do, more responsibility than a man should take, more pressure than a man can bear. We abuse him often and rarely praise him. We wear him out, use him up, eat him up. And with all this, Americans have a love for the President that goes beyond loyalty or party nationality; he is ours, and we exercise the right to destroy him.

Thus it has ever been. So even if writing is less stable than horse-racing, maybe it’s not so bad after all.

(But I still think I’d make a good President.)

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Writing is a Risk

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

Today is author Richard Matheson’s birthday (20 February 1926 – 23 June 2013), but the quote I’m going to focus on doesn’t come from any of his famous works. Matheson is probably best known as the author of the vampire novel I Am Legend, which not only made it onto the big screen itself but was the inspiration for one of the most iconic zombie movies of all time, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. In addition, Matheson wrote for movies and television, where one of his leading works was the Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”

In 1994, Matheson was interviewed in The New York Times, in which he said:

Life is a risk; so is writing. You have to love it.

The “life is a risk” part is pretty straightforward. Life is risky, and it’s important to acknowledge that, perhaps especially in this day of legislative and regulatory efforts to eliminate the riskiness of our day-to-day existence.

But how is writing a risk?

Risky?
It’s dangerous out there…. (Image: “Risky?,” by Pig Monkey, on Flickr, under Creative Commons.)

In the abstract, writing is not risky in terms of danger to life or limb. Not all risk is physical. A case could be made that writing itself, the act of writing, is no risk at all; but those who have faced persecution over things they wrote would surely disagree.

For most of us, the risk is not so dire. When we write, we privately face the uncertainty of whether our words will be adequate to express the fullness of our thoughts, and uncertainty is part of risk.

The risk increases when we dare release what we’ve written into the world. Whether we’ve posted something for free on a message board or blog, or offered something for sale in some way, we run the risks of being rejected, being misunderstood, perhaps even being vilified for the thoughts we’ve articulated and the way we’ve stated them.

So we may not usually face bodily risk, but if our thoughts are personal to us, meaningful to us, the risk we perceive is real even though not tangible.

Yet we persist. Possibly we do so because we believe in what we’ve said; possibly because we think whatever reward we might receive is worth the risk of failure; possibly because we’re driven to do it for reasons we can’t articulate. But doing it out of love makes it easier to persist for very long.

Sometimes I wonder if I love it enough.

___
P.S. It’s good for those of us who write to concede that reading is also a risk. Feel like taking a small risk? As I’ve said before, Quality Education won’t magically transform your life, but I’m confident you can find some worth in it.

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Don’t Expect Instant Transformation

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

Many years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. James “Jim” Belasco speak at a conference. Belasco is known for his entertaining and insightful books on business and management, such as Teaching the Elephant to Dance and Flight of the Buffalo. He gave an entertaining talk, or so I recall after looking at my notes over the weekend. I particularly liked this quote I wrote down:

Unfortunately, reading my book … will not result in instant transformation.

I can relate to that.

Open Book Series
What will you get out of a book? (Image: “Open Book Series,” by Kristin Bradley, on Flickr, under Creative Commons.)

That resonates with me because it’s certainly true of Quality Education, the book I revised and released last year. Reading it will not magically transform your life or your thinking, nor will it automatically revitalize any school system — but I’m confident you can find some good things in it.

It will be equally true of the novel I have coming out in a few months, Walking on the Sea of Clouds. It’s a pretty good book, I think — not perfect, not close to being “great” as such things are reckoned, but good enough for what it is. If near-future science fiction is your thing, you’ll find some things to like in it.

I suspect what Dr. Belasco said rings true for a lot of my writer friends. We do what we do and what we can, and put what we’ve done out in the market for you to consider. We hope you’ll like what we have to offer.

But for me, it’s important that you don’t expect too much. Don’t look to me for something that will change your life or revolutionize your world: you’ll be sorely disappointed. All I try to provide is good words, be they stories or songs or whatever: not great words, not matchless words, but good words — for good people, like you.

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Couldn’t Make It to the Reading? Here’s a Video

A couple of weekends ago, at the illogiCon science fiction and fantasy convention, I read (performed, maybe? depending on your point of view) part of my forthcoming near-future science fiction novel, Walking on the Sea of Clouds. And because I’m a little odd, I started off my reading by singing one of my songs, “Another Romulan Ale”.

Thanks to the videography of Calvin Powers, there’s documentary evidence of the event:

If you’re interested, check it out by starting the video above or going directly to YouTube for Gray’s illogicon 2017 Reading.

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Did You Know? Or Have You Not Heard?

This past weekend, some friends told me they had listened to Truths and Lies and Make-Believe while they were traveling recently, and wondered when I was going to do a new CD.

Truth to tell, I had hoped to record a new CD this year — I’ve got a few scratch tracks down, and some more songs I haven’t quite worked up. If I managed it, and could get it released before the end of the year, then I’d have completed a new CD every two years since the first one.

In the course of explaining that I don’t think I can make it happen this year, though, I realized that they didn’t know I already had a second CD out … even though it came out almost 18 months ago!

That’s how bad I am at self-promotion.

promotion
Have you heard? Did you know? (Image: “promotion,” by Platform4, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

And that’s the reason for the question in the title. Did you know, or have you not heard, about these things? Then I really haven’t done my job, have I?

I try very hard not to beat people over the head with what I’ve done, but clearly I could do a little better when even my friends are unaware of new releases.

So now you know. It’d be great if you let someone else know, too!

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illogiCon: SF&F in the Research Triangle


(Professor Schrodington, the illogiCon mascot.)

The illogiCon science fiction and fantasy convention starts tomorrow! I’m going — are you? If so, stop in and see me …

Friday:

  • 7 p.m. in the Cameron Room — Nerd Music Unplugged, with Madison “Metricula” Roberts
  • 9 p.m. in the Smith Room — “Hell Week” Panel, a look at the Space Shuttle disasters
  • 10 p.m. in the Crescent Room — Drop-in Music and Filk Circle

Saturday:

  • 11 a.m. in the Cameron Room — “Famous First Words” Panel, a look at story & novel beginnings
  • 12 p.m. in the Cameron Room — “Famous Last Words” Panel, a look at story & novel endings
  • 1 p.m. in the Crescent Room — Reading … possibly something from my forthcoming novel?
  • 2 p.m. in the Reynolds Room — Baen Books Traveling Road Show
  • 4 p.m. in the Smith Room — “Live Action Slush” Panel, in which we consider the story openings of brave volunteers
  • (Tentative) 10 p.m. in the Crescent Room — Open Filk

illogiCon includes a number of unique events, including the illogiCon Brewmaster Competition, which has a “Steampunk” theme for 2017. I’m honored that they chose my tune, “Another Romulan Ale,” as the competition’s theme song!

Hope to see you there!

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