Half off the Clockwork Legion

Smashwords is having a special promotion through July 31, which means this is an opportunity to grab my Clockwork Legion Steampunk novels for 50% off the regular ebook price!

Owl Dance Cover

In 1876, Sheriff Ramon Morales of Socorro, New Mexico meets a beguiling woman named Fatemeh Karimi of Persia, escaping oppression in her homeland. When an ancient lifeform called Legion comes to Earth, they are pulled into a series of events that will change the history of the world as we know it. In their journeys, Ramon and Fatemeh encounter mad inventors, dangerous outlaws and pirates. Their resources are Ramon’s fast draw and Fatemeh’s uncanny ability to communicate with owls. The question is, will that be enough to save them when a fleet of dirigibles from Czarist Russia invades the United States?

Fred Cleaver of the Denver Post calls Owl Dance “…a fun steampunk Western filled with adventures.” Richard Harland, author of Worldshaker and Liberator says Owl Dance “…has everything. Airships, owl-ornithopters, a clockwork wolf, a multiple alien entity, a fast-shooting sheriff, a Russian plot to conquer America, and a very sexy, eco-aware, Bahá’í Persian healer-woman—I mean everything! Heaps of fun!”

Owl Dance is available at Smashwords. Use the code SSW50 on checkout to get the 50% off discount.


Lightning Wolves

It’s 1877 and Russians have invaded the Pacific Northwest and are advancing into California. New weapons have proven ineffective or dangerously unstable and the one man who can help has disappeared into Apache Country, hunting ghosts. A healer and a former sheriff lead a band into the heart of the invasion to determine what makes the Russian forces so unstoppable while a young inventor attempts to unleash the power of the lightning wolves.

Neal Wilgus of Small Press Review says Lightning Wolves is “…great fun to read and well worth the time spent doing so. Don’t miss it!” Deby Fredericks, author of Seven Exalted Orders and The Grimhold Wolf says Lightning Wolves is “…full of adventure and crazy inventions but with some honesty about the prejudices and mores of the day. This is as much alternate history as adventure tale, with an ethnically diverse cast fighting battles that never were.”

Lightning Wolves is available at Smashwords. Use the code SSW50 on checkout to get the 50% off discount.

Pluto and Las Cruces

This has been an exciting week as the New Horizons Probe has flown by Pluto. The views of this little world and its moon Charon have really made them come alive as places on the distant edge of our solar system. Although I’m not directly involved with the Pluto teams, I know several people who are, including one person on the imaging team who brought us the now famous image of the “heart” on Pluto and a person who was responsible for helping the craft navigate Pluto’s crowded system of five moons. However, perhaps the person connected with Pluto, I was most honored to know was Clyde Tombaugh, the man who made the initial discovery.

This July 13, 2015 image provided by NASA shows Pluto, seen from the New Horizons spacecraft. (NASA via AP)

This July 13, 2015 image provided by NASA shows Pluto, seen from the New Horizons spacecraft. (NASA via AP)

I can’t say I knew Clyde well. He had retired by the time I arrived at New Mexico State University in 1995. Still he regularly attended astronomy department colloquia and maintained an interest in the department’s activities—not surprising, since he founded the NMSU astronomy department. I attended Clyde’s 90th birthday party, hosted by the department and learned a lot about him from the department chair’s address. Sadly, I attended his funeral less than a year later. This week, as New Horizons flew by Pluto, the Albuquerque Journal interviewed me about my recollections of Clyde.

I maintained two of his telescopes—a small solar telescope used for department events and a larger telescope which was in Ecuador in the 1950s and used to search for small, undiscovered bodies orbiting the Earth. The negative result for that study had important ramifications for the next decade’s space program. Two years after Clyde passed away, I was asked to portray him at Las Cruces city events celebrating the 150th anniversary. This video shows a public service announcement which ran on KRWG TV where I portrayed Clyde:

As it turns out, discovering Pluto was only the beginning of Clyde’s career. Afterwards, he went to college and graduate school. That’s right, Clyde only had a high school diploma when he discovered Pluto! He discovered several asteroids. He was one of the first people to notice that the universe had a large scale structure. As I mentioned earlier, he looked for, but didn’t find, objects besides the moon orbiting the Earth, and he founded the astronomy department at New Mexico State University. He also founded the Unitarian Church in Las Cruces. Now, he’s also the first man whose ashes are being carried outside the solar system on the New Horizons probe.

SummersSolarSea

My own explorations of the solar system have been much more humble. I’ve helped look at asteroids that would pass near the Earth and I’ve also helped with programs looking for distant Kuiper Belt objects beyond the orbit of Pluto. Nevertheless, I find the whole process of exploring the solar system exciting and would jump at the chance to do so. I imagined such a voyage in my novel The Solar Sea. You can learn more about the novel, watch a book trailer, read a sample chapter, and see some cool illustrations based on the novel at TheSolarSea.com

The Author as Brand

I started this week thinking about some updates I’d like to do for a website that promotes my science fiction novel, The Solar Sea. SummersSolarSea As the week progressed, a possible book signing opportunity for my vampire novels came up, which got me thinking about those stories and what kinds of things I’d like to do as part of the event. Yesterday, a letter arrived which had a nice review of my steampunk novella, Revolution of Air and Rust. It’s been something of a fun, but dizzying dance and it’s caused me to think a bit about the notion of the author as a brand.

If you pick up a book by Stephen King, you know there’s a good chance you’ll get a strong, character driven horror story. If Diana Gabaldon wrote the novel, there’s a good chance it involves time travel, romance, and Scotsmen. At some level, I’m not so easy to pin down. I’ve written about space pirates in the far future, vampires in the present, and mad scientists in the Arizona desert of a century ago. I have fun exploring all these things and I’d have a difficult time picking just one topic to explore in my writing.

I have to admit, thinking about myself as a “brand” always feels a little weird. Revolution of Air and Rust That said, I think there are some common features among all David Lee Summers novels and stories. I see much of my writing as a search for the magic within science and conversely a search for science within magic. Specifically, I like to find ways of making magical things seem plausible and explainable, but I temper that with a sense that science is a process of learning, which means we don’t always know as much as we think!

In various conversations, it’s clear that not everyone who likes my science fiction is interested in my horror. Not everyone who reads my horror is interested in my steampunk. That doesn’t bother me at all. My own reading can depend on a lot on my mood on a given day. Still, there are some people who seem to like it all and find those threads that link the books together.

I’m not the only writer who has an interest in several genres. Some take on pseudonyms for the different genres they write. Others, such as Cherie Priest and Jane Yolen, have found some success writing for multiple audiences and in multiple genres under their own name.

One reason I raise this topic is that I’ve been thinking about setting up more of a presence for my books in venues like Facebook. Dragons Fall An easy solution would be to set up a page for “David Lee Summers, Author.” As I mentioned earlier, though, I find it a little strange to think of myself as a “brand.” It easier to think of “The Scarlet Order Vampires” as a brand or “The Clockwork Legion” as a brand. In fact “The Scarlet Order Vampires” have their own blog and page on Facebook, which leads me to wonder if it would be better to create pages for my different book series. The problem then, is providing new and fresh content regularly for all the pages!

So, I thought I might throw this question out to those who read the ol’ Web Journal. Do you prefer to follow one author’s site or Facebook page, even if they write series that don’t interest you? Or, do you prefer to simply follow those series which interest you? I’m guessing there’s no one right answer, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Day Jobs and Talismans

I spent last weekend at LepreCon in Phoenix, Arizona, where I had a great time presenting science talks and speaking on steampunk panels. The convention was large enough that I kept busy, but small enough that I could have some good productive conversations with people. Tales10-4-cover-big I came home to find the final illustrations waiting for the last issue of Tales of the Talisman Magazine. So I spent much of this week finishing the layout. Today, I wrote my final introduction for the magazine. We’ll be proofreading in the coming week, then sending it to the printer. Needless to say, this has been something of a week for reflection.

When I started Tales of the Talisman in 2005, I was working as a full time writer and editor. No one was more surprised than me at the end of 2007 when I received a call from Kitt Peak National Observatory asking if I would be interested in returning to operate telescopes. To be honest, I thought it would be a short-term job. The funding situation for the national observatory looked bleak and it was unclear how much longer the National Science Foundation would continue to operate the facility in an era when bigger and better telescopes needed construction funds.

I left astronomy in 2001 because I’d moved into a position that ate so much of my time I had little left over for my own writing, much less Hadrosaur Tales, the predecessor to Tales of the Talisman. I returned because I thought I could help out, I thought it was short term, and a regular paycheck looks good to banks when you’re trying to get a mortgage! I also had the promise of a regular schedule that effectively gave me every other week off. (Just as an aside, I’ll note that I average 80 hours of work in six nights at the observatory. It’s an intense schedule!)

Seven and a half years after I returned to Kitt Peak, the situation has changed dramatically. The Dark Energy Spectrographic Instrument (or DESI) is being developed for the Mayall 4-meter telescope. Also, NASA is pushing ahead with the Extreme Precision Doppler Spectrometer (or EPDS) for the WIYN telescope. In these volatile times, it’s hard to say what will happen in the coming months and years, but right this moment, Kitt Peak’s future looks bright and I’m excited to be a part of it.

In this era of promise for astronomy, I also find my writing load has increased. I just turned in The Brazen Shark, which is book three of my four-book Clockwork Legion Steampunk series, and I signed the contract for the horror novel, The Astronomer’s Crypt. If all goes well, that latter project will be the first of a series. I was already finding it challenging to keep up with a relentless, quarterly publication schedule. Also, publishing has been evolving in the past decade and I’ve recognized the need to create a sustainable electronic edition of any book I publish. It’s not much more work than creating a print-only edition, but it’s enough extra that I haven’t managed it regularly.

So, volume 10, issue 4 is the last issue of Tales of the Talisman … for now. Who knows quite what the future will hold as both publishing and astronomy evolve. What I can say for sure is that I will continue to find ways to publish short fiction, but in a way that I can manage with the astronomy work and my writing commitments. At LepreCon last weekend, I had a great discussion with Jennifer Brozek, who has been nominated for the Hugo Award for best editor.

Jennifer-and-David-S

We also got to play with a really cool Star Trek transporter prop. I can’t say too much about our discussions until more discussion happens, but I can say a viable project is in the works, and it might just be as much fun as playing with a working transporter console. Stay tuned.

Here’s wishing all of you a Happy Independence Day!

777 Challenge

Steve Moore, author of Royal America, and fellow Denizen of the Scribbler’s Den on The Steampunk Empire challenged me to play the 777 game. In this game, we go to page seven of a work in progress, scroll down seven lines and post the next seven sentences.

777-Challenge

Since Steve is a fellow steampunk writer, I chose The Brazen Shark which has recently been handed off to the tender mercies of my editor:

    She took a sip, then dug into the hearty breakfast.

    Ramon gathered up the second plate and cup, but felt uncomfortable and lazy as he returned to the chair. Ramon had been many things including a sheriff and a ranch hand. He enjoyed working, but Captain Cisneros insisted Ramon and Fatemeh were guests and must enjoy their time together. Despite his lethargy, Ramon’s stomach rumbled. He gulped down breakfast and sopped up the leftover egg yolks and chile with a tortilla.

    “Slow down,” said Fatemeh.

As it turns out, I have two works in progress. My horror novel, The Astronomer’s Crypt is also in the hands of its editor. Here are seven lines to tease you about that novel as well!

    They progressed slowly and steadily about two miles until they came to a bridge over a place called Nana’s ravine. The car ahead hit a patch of ice and spun out of control. Mike’s mouth dropped open as the car slammed into the guardrail just beyond the bridge and toppled over the side.

    As Mike reached the bridge, he felt the wheels of his own car start to skid. He geared the engine down low and eased his foot onto the brakes. The car fishtailed across the bridge, but he maintained control. Once on the other side, he pulled up to the broken guardrail.

These challenges typically ask you to tag more people, but I like to leave these open-ended. Especially in this case I know a lot people who have already been tagged. If you’d like to play, just drop a link to your blog in comments and I’ll update the post with up to the first seven who respond.

Update: Challenge accepted! I tag:

  1. Maxwell Grantley
  2. Karen J. Carlisle
  3. Noelle Hardy, The Empress

A Professor on Stage

This last week, I was surfing the internet when I came across references to a play called Oppenheimer put on by the Royal Shakespeare Company in England. One of the characters in the play was J. Robert Oppenheimer’s young protégé, Giovanni Rossi Lomanitz. Thing is, Ross Lomanitz was one of my professors at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. Here he is as I knew him.

Lomanitz

Huffington Post UK has a review of the play, which also includes a photo of actor Oliver Johnstone as Ross.

I took Modern Physics from Ross during my sophomore year. Not only that, but I met my wife in his class. A few years later, Ross’s wife Josephine would be one of the musicians at our wedding. Of course Ross was there as well. In addition to that Modern Physics class, I went on to take both undergraduate and graduate level quantum mechanics from Ross. I enjoyed his classes and got A’s in them.

As I mentioned, Ross himself was the student of J. Robert Oppenheimer. After World War II, he was summoned before Joseph McCarthy’s Senate Committee to testify about his ties to the Communist Party. Ross stated his loyalty to the United States and also pleaded his fifth amendment rights. The upshot was that he was blacklisted and could not get a job as a physicist for many years until he was hired at New Mexico Tech in 1962.

The Pirates of Sufiro As it turns out, not only was Ross a beloved physics teacher, he and his wife were also members of the first writer’s group I belonged to. Ross worked on a memoir of his post-McCarthy days. In the meantime, I worked on a story called “A Quiet Burning in the Darkness” which would ultimately become the first chapter of my novel The Pirates of Sufiro. Ross and Jo made comments that helped me shape the novel. What’s more, I’m sure the story of a pirate captain exiled from civilization and forming a society based on his own moral compass owes a lot to Ross.

Sadly, Ross passed away in 2003. I hope the play Oppenheimer will find its way over to the United States. It would be a chance to see Ross again, even if only through the lens of theater.

As for The Pirates of Sufiro, you can pick up a copy at Lachesis Publishing. The eBook is free, but if you want a real treat, pick up the paperback with its illustrations by Laura Givens.

LepreCon 41

Next weekend, I’ll be a participant at LepreCon 41 in Phoenix, Arizona. The convention will be held from Thursday, June 25 through Sunday, June 28 at the Embassy Suites Phoenix North. This year’s guests include David Gerrold, Jennifer Brozek, and Dayton Ward. It’s especially exciting since I’ve had the chance to work with or alongside each of those people in at least one project. For more information about LepreCon, visit their website at http://leprecon.org

My schedule at the convention is as follows:

Friday, June 26

    3-4pm – Suite E – Discovering New Worlds. A presentation about the techniques used to discover planets beyond the solar system and a look at the kinds of worlds discovered. This presentation will focus more on how new worlds are found. My presentation on Saturday called “Planets Outside the Solar System” will focus more on what kinds of planets are being discovered.

    5-6pm – Suite D – How to Make Your Own Telescope. I show you how you can make a simple and stylish Newtonian telescope from easy-to-find, inexpensive parts that’s easy to transport and set up so you can enjoy the night sky

    7-8pm – Suite C – East Coast Steampunk meets West Coast. How does Steampunk fashion and style differ from the east coast to the west coast? On the panel with me are Dee Astell and Ileana Herrera.

Saturday, June 27

    11-11:30am – Suite E – Autographing. Bring your books for me to autograph. I’ll also have a few of my own wares along to sell.

    2-3pm – Suite E – Planets Outside the Solar System. A look at how we discover planets outside the solar system, what kinds of planets we’ve discovered, what we know about them, and the future of planet hunting. This presentation will focus more on the actual planets discovered.

    10-11pm – Suite C – Steampunk and History. Steampunk blends elements of history, science fiction, and fantasy. How much historical research needs to go into your steampunk story? Can you completely reinvent history for your steampunk story? Does it even have to be set in history to be called steampunk? I envisioned this as a panel with multiple people, but it looks like I’m doing it by myself, so come equipped with questions. I’ll likely do a reading or two to show how I’ve approached issues of steampunk and history.

Sunday, June 28

    10-11a – Suite E – Mars: A Land Across the Aether. A presentation about Mars of the 19th century and how it became a place in the popular imagination. Where did the Martian canals come from? A look at the early debates about Martian life. Listen to Tesla’s recordings of extraterrestrial signals.

If I missed you at Phoenix Comicon, I hope to see you at LepreCon! Also, remember, the Favorite Heroines Blog Hop is still going on. Be sure to drop by my last post and enter to win a copy of Lightning Wolves.