The Weird Western Showdown

This Saturday, I’ll join bestselling authors Jim Butcher, Kevin J. Anderson, Sarah A. Hoyt, Peter J. Wacks, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Naomi Brett Rourke, Sam Knight and editor David Boop to discuss the genesis of the anthology Straight Outta Tombstone, reminisce about our careers, and sign our books. 5280Geek podcast will be there recording, and with every book sold, a portion will be donated to Reading Partners, an organization dedicated to helping children K-4 improve their reading scores!

In my story “Fountains of Blood,” Billy and Larissa from the Clockwork Legion series tangle with Marcella and Rosen from the Scarlet Order vampire series while caught up in the historical Albert Fountain disappearance. I’m not the only author revisiting familiar characters. Jim Butcher reveals the origin of one of the Dresden Files’ most popular characters in “A Fistful of Warlocks.” And Kevin J. Anderson’s Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I., finds himself in a showdown in “High Midnight.” Plus there are stories from Larry Correia, Alan Dean Foster, Jody Lynn Nye, Michael A. Stackpole, Phil Foglio, Robert E. Vardeman and many more. Readers in Las Cruces and Tucson might even find copies I’ve signed at their local Barnes and Noble stores.

Lots of fun and a few surprises at this event! Mosey on down and celebrate this amazing anthology!

Here are the details:
August 18th, 7pm
Barnes and Noble
960 S Colorado Blvd
Glendale, CO 80246
Call for more information, 303-691-2998 or
RVSP on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/251489345342065/

When Research Derails Your Plot

Before I sit down to write one of my novels, I like to plot them out. These days my plots are fairly detailed with a sentence or two about every scene I plan to write. This helps to guide my research so I learn what I need to know before I start writing the novel. Despite that, details sometimes slip through the cracks.

For example, I’m currently working on my fourth Clockwork Legion novel, Owl Riders. The historical Wyatt Earp is an important side character. In one scene, a character wants to buy Wyatt a drink. Now, I’ve watched many western movies featuring Wyatt Earp and he’s often shown in a saloon, playing faro or poker. In my research, I found this to be reasonably accurate, so it seemed fair to assume that Wyatt was a drinking man.

I thought it would be fun to add a little authenticity to the story and have the character buy Wyatt not just any drink, but his favorite drink. Wyatt Earp’s life is so well documented, I thought it might be possible to find out what he liked to drink. As it turns out, I did indeed find out. Wyatt Earp didn’t drink alcohol at all!

At this point, I faced two choices. The first, and perhaps most controversial would be to declare that in this alternate history Wyatt does drink. I’d argue this is actually a fair choice, but if you do go this route, you should do even more research to understand why Wyatt Earp didn’t drink and decide what circumstances in your alternate world would make him a drinking man. While you might not dwell on that choice in the story, you probably should say a few words about it. I would only recommend considering this route if major plot points down the road required that Wyatt Earp be a drinker for some reason and pulling that element out of the story would make it fall down like the proverbial house of cards.

In addition to being a writer, I’m a professional scientist. All my training is built around the idea that if I do research and find something that doesn’t fit my preconceived notions, I have to accept that finding. Between that inclination and the fact that Wyatt Earp having a shot of whiskey, scotch or anything else was simply not critical to the story in its own right, I did a little more research. I discovered that Wyatt Earp was a big fan of ice cream and ice cream parlors were just starting to spring up in the old west of the 1880s.

Returning to my novel, I used this bit of trivia to create a minor plot complication for my character who had to scramble to find Wyatt’s favorite ice cream parlor to continue his plans. It adds an interesting moment to the story, as well as a little bit of fun, historical trivia.

For me, this is one of the most fun parts of writing the Clockwork Legion novels. I get to learn about history and figure out how that history is changed by the world-altering events I’ve proposed. Conversely, I figure out what things would be constants in this new world and how that affects the story I want to tell.

If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll join me on this thrilling ride through history. The links below will take you to my pages about the books where you can find out how to purchase, read sample chapters, see book trailers and more. Also, note the first two books are available as audio books as well as print and ebooks.

The Solar Sea on Clearance

This past week, I’ve been reading the fine steampunk adventure Arabella on Mars by David D. Levine. It’s a fine novel that won the 2017 Andre Norton Award for best young adult novel. One of this fantasy novel’s conceits is that it imagines an atmosphere in interplanetary space that allows ships to sail between planets in the 1800s.

When I read the novel, I couldn’t help but think that while sailing between the planets without an atmosphere would have been beyond nineteenth century technology, it’s not beyond our current technology. In fact, I wrote a futuristic science fiction novel about such a journey called The Solar Sea. Solar sails don’t work by harnessing wind, or even the so-called solar wind, but they move by light pressure. About three years ago, I wrote a post that goes into some detail about how it works. You can read more here: https://davidleesummers.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/solar-sailing/

In my novel, I imagine a future where humans got as far as building lunar factories, but the will to go farther out into space died. While I know there’s still a strong interest in exploring space, I fear many of the people who control this country’s money don’t see the value in investing real money in all aspects of space exploration. As an example, the Trump administration routinely touts it’s support of space exploration, yet proposed significant cuts to astronomy funding in its initial budget.

I sometimes wonder if it will take a major discovery to give us the impetus to push out into space again as we did in the 1960s and 1970s. In the novel, a technician from the Very Large Array radio telescope in New Mexico discovers powerful particles orbiting Saturn’s moon, Titan, which could be a new energy source. When the discovery is announced, whales around the world changed their songs.

This chain of events encourages the owner of the powerful Quinn Corporation to build a solar sail to find the source of these particles in Titan’s orbit. He gathers the best and brightest team to pilot his craft: Jonathan Jefferson, an aging astronaut known as the last man on Mars; Natalie Freeman, a distinguished Navy captain; Myra Lee, a biologist specializing in whale communication; and John O’Connell, the technician who first discovered the particles. All together they make a grand tour of the solar system and discover not only wonders but dangers beyond their imagination.

Earlier this year, my publisher and I decided to take The Solar Sea out of print. There were several reasons for this. Partly, science and technology have caught up with the novel and I thought I worthwhile to revise it to make it more accurate. Partly the ebook was created ages ago and wasn’t up to the standards of newer ebooks, so I want to address this aspect as well. Once I finish work on my steampunk novel Owl Riders, I will turn my attention to some of my out of print titles.

In the meantime, I have a few copies of the first edition of The Solar Sea left in my stock and I’m even offering them at half off the cover price. You can order copies at http://www.hadrosaur.com/bookstore.html#solarsea. I would be delighted to sign any copies you buy. Just email me at hadrosaur [at] zianet [dot] com (replacing the info between the brackets with the relevant characters) and let me know that you would like it signed. If you would like them personalized, just tell me so and let me know who to sign the book to.

Accelerate to Maximum Velocity!

This week saw the release of Maximum Velocity: The Best of the Full-Throttle Space Tales published by WordFire Press. This is an exciting reprint anthology I’ve been working on for a little over a year. I teamed up with editors Carol Hightshoe, Dayton Ward, Jennifer Brozek, and Bryan Thomas Schmidt to assemble the best stories from the Full-Throttle Space Tales anthologies we edited between 2008 and 2012. These action-packed, high octane, science fiction stories span the genre’s full potential. We’ve collected stories about pirates, women, soldiers, monsters, vagabonds and battles. Captain Firebrandt and his crew from my space pirate tales have a story in here, plus you’ll find tales form Mike Resnick, Irene Radford, C.J. Henderson, Danielle Ackley-McPhail and many more. This is a must-have volume both for fans of the original anthologies and those fans of action-oriented science fiction who missed out the first time. Each story includes a new introduction by the editor who originally selected it.

Here’s the complete list of stories:

    From Space Pirates:

  • “On the Eve of the Last Great Ratings War” by David Boop
  • “Space Pirate Cookies” by C.J. Henderson
  • “Earth-Saturn Transit” by W.A. Hoffman

    From Space Sirens:

  • “Outpost 6” by Julia Phillips
  • “Hijacking the Legacy” by David Lee Summers
  • “Rebel Moon” by Carol Hightshoe

    From Space Grunts:

  • “Price of Command” by Irene Radford and Bob Brown
  • “Finders Keepers” by Scott Pearson
  • “Granny’s Grunts” by Alan L. Lickiss

    From Space Horrors:

  • “Last Man Standing” by Danielle Ackley-McPhail
  • “Into the Abyss” by Dayton Ward
  • “Listening” by Anna Paradox

    From Space Tramps:

  • “Backup” by Ivan Ewert
  • “The Frigate Lieutenant’s Woman” by Erik Scott de Bie
  • “Oh Give Me Land, Lots of Land, Under Starry Skies Above” by Shannon Page and Mark J. Ferrari

    From Space Battles:

  • “The Thirteens” by Gene Mederos
  • “The Joystick War” by Jean Johnson
  • “Guard Dog” by Mike Resnick and Brad R. Torgersen

You can find the book at the following retailers:

The Bionic Woman

Today, my wife goes in for knee-replacement surgery. She essentially has no cartilage in either knee and walking has been quite painful for some time. To do the replacement, doctors have imaged both of her knees and are building custom implants. I’m told the surgery will only take about an hour and recovery time should be relatively fast.

All this brings to mind the 1977 TV series, The Bionic Woman, in which professional tennis player Jamie Sommers is seriously injured in a skydiving accident and has her legs and right arm replaced with mechanical prostheses that effectively give her the super powers of increased strength and speed. It doesn’t sound like Kumie will get super powers beyond those she already possesses, namely sending cancer packing a few years ago and putting up with me, among others.

What truly amazes me is how far medical technology has come in my lifetime. I gather the success rate of this kind of knee surgery is high. When I was a child, the only treatment for people with this kind of damage was pain management. There’s a good chance that if Kumie were born a few decades earlier, she would have been confined to a wheelchair in later life. At this point, there’s a good chance she’ll maintain full mobility for years to come.

By the same token, I’ve seen dramatic improvements in arthritis treatment since I was diagnosed in the early 1990s. At that time, I fully expected the arthritis to progress until I could no longer walk and possibly have serious problems using my hands. Medications developed in the later 2000s not only impeded arthritis, but seem to have sent it into remission. I’m now pain-free without the use of any medication.

Of course, we’re facing this major surgery at a time when the senate is debating federal funding for healthcare. As with most Americans, I’m following this debate with interest. I’m incredibly fortunate to work for a company that provides good health insurance. However, as an astronomer, whose long term job funding is always uncertain and as a writer, whose funding is even more uncertain, this debate takes on even more personal meaning.

As far as I’m concerned, it benefits a country to have a population in good health. I don’t mind the idea of paying an extra tax if it means doctors and researchers get paid, and everyone has access to the benefits of that research and reasonable medical care. It’s apparent the Affordable Care Act has problems. Like many Americans, I’m frustrated by the emotional tirades in Congress. The legitimate issues with the ACA need to be resolved through a thoughtful, careful examination of the system. I just hope our senators and representatives can grow up enough to do that. If not, I hope Americans will hold them accountable at the polls.

In the meantime, especially if you missed it when I first shared it, you can learn more about my wife and I by reading a special feature that appeared in our alumni magazine at: http://www.nmt.edu/images/stories/advancement_office/website/GoldPanSummer-S17.pdf. If you want to take Kumie’s admonition to “Buy Dave’s books” to heart, you can learn more about my fiction at http://www.davidleesummers.com. It’s the kind of thing that helps us save up for the proverbial rainy day, and given the way things are going, we may need it! (And besides, you’ll get some cool reading in the bargain.)

The Calm Before the Storm

The Calm Before the Storm is an exciting fantasy novel I edited in 2006, when Hadrosaur Productions served as an imprint for LBF Books.

It has been nine hundred years since the Jyniae were besieged by the Human and Aanian armies, forced into the rugged northlands and imprisoned there. Alyxandr Jeffries and Jhonia are both half-human. Jhonia is part Jyniae, and because of that he is able to touch the Source, able to use the magic of his people. Alyx is part Rydi and with his Rydi blood comes the grace and skill that are attributed to that race.

Alyx and Jhonia soon discover their worst fears have come to pass, the Jyniae plan to seize the lands and cities that once belonged to them. War is on the horizon. As Alyx and Jhonia begin a journey that will take them from the Nomadic Rydi tribes of the Southlands to the far Northern reaches of Jhonia’s forsaken Jyniaen homeland, their loyalty and trust will be tested.

Disturbing choices must be made to prevent a war of the races, to save the world from this cataclysmic event. Amid friends, there is now deceit and betrayal and the outcome of the world isn’t so clear.

M.H. Bonham, author of Prophecy of Swords and Runstone of Teiwas says, “The Calm Before the Storm is an engrossing fantasy with a unique voice and memorable characters. A sure winner!”

If you’re in the mood for a quest fantasy like Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien or The Sword of Shannara series by Terry Brooks, I believe you’ll enjoy Joe Lawson’s The Calm Before the Storm. I have two copies of the original edition left in my stock on sale for half off the cover price. They’re available at: http://hadrosaur.com/bookstore.html#Calm-Storm

Revision Hell

This past week, I’ve been reading and revising my rough draft of Owl Riders, getting in shape for beta readers and ultimately getting it ready to submit to my publisher. Despite the post’s title, the process hasn’t been hellish, but it does eat time. Owl Riders is the fourth novel in my Clockwork Legion series and the fun of this process is that I enjoy playing in this world. It’s because I enjoy it that I feel I have a responsibility to tell the story in the best way possible.

I’m a believer that to succeed in writing, you need to sit down and write. As with my other recent novels, I wrote Owl Riders on my weeks off from my observatory job. Typically, I managed two chapters every other week. I didn’t worry too much about getting just the right words the first time through. I wrote from an outline to keep me on track and help me know where I was in the story, but I didn’t worry too much about tracking details. So my job this time around is to assure continuity, make sure I didn’t repeat facts I already conveyed in earlier chapters, and improve the prose so I tell the story in the best way possible.

To do this, I employ a three-prong approach for each chapter. First, I make a pass through the printed manuscript, rereading and making changes. I also make notes of facts I should remember for later chapters. Some of these facts are just matters of maintaining consistency of small details through the novel. Some of these facts are things I’d forgotten I highlighted, but are fun to revisit later in the novel as the characters have grown. I recently acquired a copy of Scrivener, the book writing software from Literature and Latte. It’s been a great help keeping those notes handy so I can check them as needed.

My second pass through each chapter uses a technique highlighted in the book, The 10% Solution by Ken Rand, which I’ve mentioned in other posts. My publisher also recommends following the book’s approach before submission. In short, the book highlights several common overused words (the infamous adverbs, the verb “to be”) and filler words (things like “of,” “about,” and “by”) that are all too easy to drop in your manuscript when you’re writing. The idea is to search for these words and then evaluate the phrase where it occurs and decide if you could find a better way to say it. I tend to catch a lot of this in the first pass, but searching always highlights more of these. The important thing about Ken Rand’s technique is that he doesn’t say you must make changes when you find these things. He just suggests evaluating the sentence and seeing if you can say it better. I usually make several revisions in this pass.

My third pass is to read each chapter aloud. This helps me smooth out prose from the first two passes, helps me to hear where I may have repeated phrases, and I often catch important elements I either cut or never wrote in the first place.

At this point, I’m about halfway through the revision pass. I hope to get more work done during my next break from the observatory. In this fourth novel, the Apaches have built battle wagons and they’ve carved out a land claim in Southern Arizona. Ramon is pulled into the conflict. Meanwhile, the man Fatemeh was once betrothed to in Persia seeks retribution for her decision to run away. If you haven’t already, be sure to read the first three novels in the series. The links below will take you to pages with more information and purchase links. All of the books are available in print and as ebooks. The first two novels are also available from Audible as audio books!