A Week of Editing

My third Clockwork Legion novel, The Brazen Shark is due at the publisher in just under a month. Ten Percent Solution In the memoir, On Writing, Stephen King says, “Your job during or just after the first draft is to decide what something or somethings yours is about. Your job in the second draft—one of them, anyway—is to make that something even more clear. This may necessitate some big changes and revisions. The benefits to you and your reader will be clearer focus and a more unified story. It hardly ever fails.” One of the tools I’m using to clarify things in the second draft of The Brazen Shark is a little book called The 10% Solution by Ken Rand, shown here in front of my keyboard.

Phyllis Irene Radford, my editor on Lightning Wolves introduced me to The 10% Solution and I now see that Sky Warrior Books recommends that all authors apply the book’s methods before submitting a manuscript for publication. In short, the method is to use your word processor to highlight the adverbs, the over-used words, and the wishy-washy verbs and adjectives like “was” and “very” so you can evaluate them, so you can decide if you can say them more clearly or in a stronger way. Lightning Wolves clearly benefited from the technique and I feel The Brazen Shark is getting stronger as I work through it using Ken Rand’s methods.

Not only am I editing the novel, I recently received notes from an editor about a story I’d submitted to an anthology she’s editing. In essence, her notes went right to the same point. She was working to get me to be more clear and precise. I’d written the story before I read The 10% Solution, but after going through her suggestions, I’m guessing the story would have needed less work if I’d applied those lessons ahead of time. Fortunately, she likes the story enough that it’s likely to appear in the anthology. The first moral of the story is that a good story can sell even if it needs work, so don’t worry too much about making it perfect. The second moral of the story is that your chances greatly improve the better the story is the first time around!

Tales10-4-cover

Finally, I’m in the process of editing Tales of the Talisman volume 10, issue 4. This will be the last issue before we take a break. Stories will be going out to the artists early next week. At this point, I suspect we’ll get the issue out in June. Although it’s a little sad to think about this phase of the magazine coming to an end, I have been excited to think about the directions we might take in 2016. Once I get The Brazen Shark turned in, I hope to start making more definite plans. Stay tuned!

Discovering Steampunk Books

There are lots of tools that make publishing easy, which is great in many ways, but it can make discovering new books a real challenge. Online bookstores such as Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords have a lot of books available, but what do you do if you want to browse a shelf of books and discover something new? Fortunately, there are some kind folks who make the time to curate collections of books for you to browse on the web.

SummersOwlDance

One such collection is the Empire Booksellers Page which features books by members of The Steampunk Empire. You’ll find short story collections, graphic novels, novellas and series by independent and small press authors you might have missed in other venues. I’m honored to say the Empire Booksellers features the Clockwork Legion series.

You don’t have to be a member of The Steampunk Empire to browse the Empire Booksellers, but you’d be missing out. I have found The Steampunk Empire to be a great site to share photos from steampunk events, talk to people about steampunk books, music, writing, and events. I hope you’ll drop by and look me up while you’re there. My page is at: http://www.thesteampunkempire.com/profile/DavidLeeSummers

SummersLightningWolves

While I’m mentioning steampunk books, the Tucson Steampunk Society Book Club is reading Lightning Wolves this month. They are meeting at Antigone Books at 411 N. 4th Avenue in Tucson at 3:30 pm tomorrow (Sunday, May 12). I will be there to discuss the book with the club members and perhaps prevent a few non-spoilery previews from The Brazen Shark. If you like steampunk books and live in Tucson, please drop by! I’m sure the club would love to have new members. They always have a great selection of steampunk books to read and discuss. I just wish my crazy schedule would allow me to drop in more often!

Walks Through the Cemetery – Part 3

David Lee Summers:

In part thee of my series on “Walks Through the Cemetery,” I find the marker for Billy the Kid’s defense attorney and uncover a mystery.

Originally posted on The Scarlet Order:

Last week, I discussed the man who shot Billy the Kid, who is buried in the cemetery behind my house. It turns out there’s a gravestone for the man who defended Billy the Kid at his trial as well. Fountain This one’s an interesting gravestone in that no one is actually buried under it. Albert Fountain and his son disappeared in 1896 and to this day, no one knows what happened to them.

Albert Fountain’s career started during the Civil War, when he was a sergeant in the Union Army’s California Column, which took New Mexico back from the confederacy in 1862. After the war, he moved to El Paso, Texas and became a Republican politician at a time when it was not popular to be a Republican in Texas. He served in the Texas State Senate and served as Lieutenant Governor for a time. His views angered many Texas Democrats…

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Time for Yourself

This past week I finished the first complete draft of The Brazen Shark. I phrase that as “first complete” because I’m the kind of writer who does a lot of revision as I go, so it’s not exactly a “rough draft” or a true “first draft.” In fact almost everything but the last chapter has been through some level of revision. However you count it, reaching the end of new manuscript is something of a milestone, so I took a little time for myself this week. I’m a fan of anime and I love to build models. Recently, I found a model of Captain Harlock’s ship, the Arcadia on eBay. I spent a couple days this last week building the model, shown next to the Starship Enterprise.

Arcadia and Enterprise

As an aside, I show these two side-by-side because they are, according to their manufacturers, almost to scale with each other. So, if you ever wondered how big Captain Harlock’s ship was compared to Captain Kirk’s, you now have a pretty good idea. I also find myself wondering what might have happened if Luke Skywalker and Ben Kenobi had encountered Captain Harlock and Mimay in that cantina in Mos Eisley instead of Han and Chewbacca.

Returning to the topic at hand, the point I want to make is that I think it’s important for writers to take some time and just play. Now your play and mine may be different. I like building models. You might like playing golf or a favorite musical instrument. You might like gardening or watching movies. It doesn’t really matter what you do, these things give your mind a necessary respite before moving on to the next project.

I have a short story I need to write and I have at least one, possibly two more revision passes to go on the novel before I turn it in. However, if I went straight into those things, I know I wouldn’t be effective. I’d slog through and I might get the job done, but I wouldn’t be happy with it.

I also recognize that there’s a lot of pressure to spend time on social media, market your books, write new stuff, and possibly have a day job. Sometimes it just doesn’t seem like anyone is going to give you the time you need to have a break. In short, no one is going to give you that time. You’re going to have to have the discipline to make that time. In much the same way that your recreation may be very different from mine, the time you take may be very different. I took a couple day block after several intensive work days. Others might take an hour a day. Still others might plan half a day a week. Different strategies work for different people. Find a strategy that works for you.

I will note that after a couple of quiet days not thinking about writing, I almost couldn’t stop ideas flowing on that short story I need to write. That’s what I’ll be working on later today. Then, with that little bit of space, I’ll definitely be ready to tackle those revisions, which means, hopefully, book 3 of the Clockwork Legion will be available to you soon! In the meantime, the first two novels, Owl Dance and Lightning Wolves are available right now. Just follow the links to learn more.

Walks Through the Cemetery – Part 2

David Lee Summers:

Continuing my series on how walking through the local cemetery has inspired some of my writing.

Originally posted on The Scarlet Order:

Last week, I discussed how walks through the cemetery provide historical inspiration. In addition, walking helps me clear my head and focus better on my writing. Walking through the cemetery is really just an easy and practical choice because it’s one of the nicest spaces in my neighborhood to go for a stroll without worrying about traffic. Of course, it’s also interesting to discover someone in the cemetery who is in the history books and has been immortalized in many books and films.

Pat_Garrett

The photo shows the grave site of Pat Garrett and his wife Apolinaria. Pat Garrett is most famous as the man who shot Billy the Kid in 1881. He also investigated the disappearance of attorney and newspaperman Albert Jennings Fountain, who I’ll discuss in a later post of this series. Toward the end of his life, Garrett was appointed a customs collector in El Paso, Texas by…

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Multitasking

This has been a busy week at Kitt Peak National Observatory. I’ve been helping with infrared images of supernovae, taking spectra of galaxies to understand their composition, and taking images of some of the earliest known galaxy clusters. In the meantime, my third steampunk novel is due with Sky Warrior Publishing in about six weeks. So I’ve been reviewing the manuscript so far and making edits here and there as I have time. Here you see me on a typical night, operating the telescope.

Operating Telescope

When moving a telescope from one target to another, there are several jobs that must be accomplished quickly. You must make sure you’re moving the telescope to a position it can reach mechanically. You have to make sure that an off-axis camera is set up to keep the telescope on target. You have to make sure the telescope is in good focus. You must check to make sure the dome and the mirror support systems are working properly. You have to pay attention to see if the visiting scientists are having problems or questions. When I learned how to operate the telescope, the woman who trained me used to hover behind me and say, “Multitask! Multitask!”

Research suggests humans are actually pretty poor at multitasking. Now, if you read the article I linked, they define multitasking as focusing on several things at one time. Instead of being able to multitask well, they say that humans are good at focusing on discrete tasks and shifting their focus from one thing to another very quickly. It’s a subtle but real distinction.

Because I work long hours at the telescope—as long as 16 hours a night in the middle of winter—I’m often asked if I write while I work. In fact, I find it difficult to compose stories while I’m at work because so many things vie for my attention and I have to shift attention quickly. To compose a story or a chapter, I need to be at home away from too many distractions. I’m definitely not the kind of person who can sit in a coffee shop and write.

What I can do at the telescope (when the programs allow it) is read and edit. I’m using something more like the analytical parts of my brain than when I’m composing new material. I can shift my focus quickly from editing tasks to a job at the telescope if I need to.

In order to be a successful writer, you need several related skills. You need to be able to compose a story. You need to be able to evaluate and edit what you’ve written. You need to read good works by others critically. This is all before the economic reality of putting on your marketing hat and telling others about your work.

Write everyday is great advice and I’d argue that a true writer can’t help but follow it. That said, writing is composed of several discrete tasks and I don’t necessarily do every task every day. If you find composing something new everyday is difficult, as I do, why not identify the discrete parts of your writing job and do them when you can? Carry your manuscript with you. As you see in the photo above, I have my laptop with me at work. Pull out a work in progress and go back over it. If nothing else, carry a book with you and read for a while. Instead of “write everyday,” I like to say “do the job of a writer everyday.” Multitask! Multitask!

For those who may have missed it, I was featured author this past week at the Lachesis Publishing blog. Here are the posts:

Walks Through the Cemetery – Part 1

David Lee Summers:

This post over at the Scarlet Order blog directly relates to my post about visiting the high school. I mentioned visiting the cemetery for inspiration, which definitely got attention.

Also, I’m featured over at Lachesis Publishing’s Blog all this week. Be sure to follow the posts at: http://lachesispublishing.com/?page_id=169

Originally posted on The Scarlet Order:

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to a local high school class here in Las Cruces about the steampunk genre and my writing process. One of the things I mentioned is that I like to take walks through the cemetery. Now this may seem a little morbid, but I find one effect is that it puts me in touch with local history. I see gravestones and I ask who these people were and what they did. One tombstone that regularly catches my eye belongs to Mr. Charlie Miller.

Charlie Miller Tombstone

In this case, I haven’t researched Mr. Miller, but the tombstone goes to show how iconic Pancho Villa is in the Southwestern United States. His raid on Columbus, New Mexico led to America’s first incursion on another country in which we used air power.

When Robert E. Vardeman asked if I would be interested in contributing to his “Empires of…

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