Guinevere and the Stranger Now Available

Print copies of the comic Guinevere and the Stranger are now available to order. I wrote the comic, Michael Ellis illustrated it, and Bram Meehan lettered it. The comic adapts one of the standalone interlude chapters from my novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I often present these when I’m asked to give a short reading because they are not only short, but satisfying, complete tales. This comic tells a story of Queen Guinevere after the battle of Camlan. She’s now a nun in a convent and some kind of monster is killing her fellow sisters. As the former Queen of the Britons, she’s not going to stand by while innocents die. Believing it to be a wild beast, she goes on a hunt and is surprised to discover not a beast, but a vicious, beast-like man.

I’ve long wanted to try my hand at scripting a comic book. It’s a medium I enjoy greatly as a reader. I’ve also enjoyed collaborating with other artists on projects, and comic books are very much a collaborative art form. What’s more, I enjoy minimalist writing, such as short poems or flash fiction. If anything, comics are writing stripped to its bare essentials. In the process of writing the comic book, I learned that there is a little more involved than just the words people speak or that appear in captions on the finished page. I learned you have to give the artist fairly detailed descriptions of what you imagine. I did my best with this and I also gave the artist the original chapter as a reference. I also sent him links to some of the web pages I used as research when writing the story, so he could see images of the real places as they are today and as historians have reconstructed them.

As the artwork came in, I took a lot of delight in seeing the emotion that Michael brought to the characters. I loved seeing the expressions on their faces as they delivered the lines and I thought he did an amazing job of showing what I hoped to convey. I also gained a solid appreciation of the letterer’s art. It may seem simple to put words in balloons, but they need to flow so that readers can follow the dialogue. Bram also added touches to help convey emotion through the lettering, showing hopelessness at one point by reducing the font size. Not only did Bram create the lettering in the word balloons, he laid out the cover, the credits page, and an ad in the back which pointed people to the novel. He also made sure I had the book delivered in a format ready for the printer, which made for a completely trouble-free printing experience. He also formatted the comic for digital presentation and I’m excited to announce it will be available tomorrow, June 23 from Comixology.

Troy Stegner of Zia Comics in Las Cruces has reviewed the comic and shows off some of the interior pages.

You can grab a print copy of Guinevere and the Stranger exclusively at https://hadrosaur.com/GuinevereStranger.php

If you’d like it signed, just go to the contact page at hadrosaur.com after you place your order, drop me a note, and let me know who you would like the book signed to.

The digital edition will also be linked to the Hadrosaur Productions page when it goes live tomorrow.

Update 6/23/2021: The digital edition is now available! You can grab it at https://www.comixology.com/Tales-of-the-Scarlet-Order-Vampires/digital-comic/948321

It Came From Her Purse

My story “Dusty Violet and Bleached Bones” is now available in the anthology It Came From Her Purse, published by Hiraeth Publishing. “Dusty Violet and Bleached Bones” is a dieselpunk fairy tale set during New Mexico’s dust bowl. Billy Bones dreams of getting as far away from the desert southwest as possible. He’d love nothing more than joining a pirate crew and look for buried treasure. Violetta is a Native American girl escaping Santa Fe’s Indian School. The two find themselves pursued by none other than La Llorona.

It Came From Her Purse is an anthology of literal and figurative purses, not to mention a variety of containment systems! Viewing the contents of a woman’s purse can be a frightening experience, or so I’ve been told … the editors would extend this fright to include men’s satchels, go-bags, and such. Check out this anthology that peers into the collective psyches of artists, poets, and storytellers to bring forth these oft quirky, occasionally demented, and definitely fantastical tales! The anthology is edited by Terrie Leigh Relf and Marcia A. Borell,

This is a slim book, but it’s packed with some nice stories and poems. Tyree Campbell’s “Hermit Crab” imagines a scientist who looks for intelligent life out in space and owns a pendant she doesn’t realize connects her with life from another kind of realm. “Live by the Sword…” by t. santitoro imagines a school student who discovers her eraser can make more than the lines on the page vanish. The subject of “Pandora’s Purse” by Tim Mendees is pretty obvious from the title, but he brings the story into the modern era and gives it some nice twists. Steven Wittenberg Gordon’s “Results are Guaranteed” is a story about a man who visits a weight loss clinic and meets a doctor who produces astonishingly good results. “Tangled Fate” by Scott Coon tells a story from the perspective of objects that no good purse should be without, yo-yos! As it turns out, there are only a few literal purses in these stories. In most cases, the “purses” are a metaphor for the power wielded by one of the story’s women.

In addition to the short stories, there are four poems which follow the same themes as the stories. Of the poems, my favorite was “Shopping for Voodoo Dolls” by Marge Simon, but the poems by Francis W. Alexander, Gary Davis and John C. Mannone were all well done.

It Came From Her Purse is available at Amazon.com and directly from the publisher, Hiraeth Publishing.

Owl Dance (Queen Titania’s Court) — Wyrmflight

This past weekend, Fatemeh Karimi, one of the protagonists of my novel, Owl Dance, visited the court of the fairy queen, Titania. As the segment opens, Fatemeh follows an owl into the queen’s court. The queen then asks her whether she’s an insider or an outsider in her own land and who is her best friend. It should come as no surprise to longtime readers of the series that her best friend is Ramon Morales.

The queen then turns to me and asks me questions about how I chose to write wild west steampunk and where I seek inspiration for my stories.

To see the answers, you’ll have to go visit the post which is linked right here:

Welcome to Queen Titania’s Court!

Owl Dance (Queen Titania’s Court) — Wyrmflight

When you drop by Deby Fredericks’ blog to read Queen Titania’s interview with Fatemeh, be sure to stick around and read the other posts in the series. Queen Titania is interviewing characters from a wide variety of fantasy novels all month long. So far, you’ll see interviews with Lizzie St. Laurent from C.S. Boyack’s Lunar Boogie, Aris the Gleeman from Alma Alexander’s Fractured Fairy Tales, and Thurid Severiens from Astrid Brandon’s Investigation in Nottingham. What’s more, Queen Titania is not finished asking questions. Look for more character and author interviews as the month goes on and do please join the fun and ask questions as well. Both Fatemeh and I are certainly happy to answer any more questions you might have.

It’s been a little while since I’ve written anything with Fatemeh or Ramon. Even though this was more of a short interview segment, it was still fun to get a chance to write in Fatemeh’s voice again.

Over the course of the last year or so, I’ve been focused on bringing out new editions of my older novels now that the rights have reverted to me. Once that process is completed, I hope to return my attention to both the Clockwork Legion series and the Wilderness of the Dead series. At this point, I have one more novel in the Space Pirates’ Legacy series to revise and re-release, Heirs of the New Earth.

Children of the Old Stars – Twentieth Anniversary Edition

Children of the Old Stars

I am excited to announce that the twentieth anniversary edition of my novel Children of the Old Stars has just been released. This is the third novel in my Space Pirates’ Legacy series. In the novel just before this, an implacable alien intelligence called the Cluster arrived in the galaxy and began literally dissecting space ships. In an effort to stop the Cluster, the Confederation of Homeworlds united all the fleets and started building new ships, but a civil war on the galaxy’s key mining facility had slowed construction to a halt. Commander John Mark Ellis had been dispatched to get the scoop on the civil war and stop it if he could so mining the mineral, Erdonium, would resume. While at Sufiro, the Cluster appeared and Ellis had an experience which made him think he communicate with it.

Now, in the second novel, Ellis is on his way home after a successful mission when he’s called in to rescue a ship threatened by the Cluster. He tries to communicate with the Cluster and seems to succeed. The only problem is that from the crew’s perspective, he fainted on the bridge of his ship and the distressed ship is destroyed. Ellis is booted out of the service, but feels compelled to find a way to stop the Cluster. He seeks help from an alien warrior named G’Liat. The warrior suggests there might be a conspiracy regarding the Cluster that involves the galaxy’s most ancient lifeforms, the Titans. Ellis sends his mother, a renowned historian, to learn what she can about that. In the meantime, the leader of one of Sufiro’s armies also thinks he can communicate with the Cluster, but Clyde McClintlock has convinced himself the Cluster is nothing less than God incarnate.

Kate Hill, author of The Chieftain’s Bride said, “In Children of the Old Stars, David Lee Summers has created a wonderful mix of characters and a gripping plot. From the aliens to the whales of Earth, who now communicate with people, each character seems to come to life from the moment they enter the story.”

I love it when characters do their best to do the right thing even when they face insurmountable odds. I also love it when characters learn something about themselves while involved in such a quest. I gave Ellis a chance to grow and learn in this novel. Although Ellis is not a space pirate like his grandfather, we see Ellis come to embrace the legacy his grandfather left for him. Like The Pirates of Sufiro, I spent time revising this novel for the new edition. The plot is largely the same as it was in earlier editions, but I took more time to define G’Liat’s beliefs so he could convey them better to Ellis in the pages of the book. I fixed a lot of awkward moments in the dialog and action and did my best to improve the novel’s overall consistency.

You can order the ebook edition of Children of the Old Stars at the following places:

You can order the print edition of Children of the Old Stars at:

But, It Wasn’t a Dream

At the end of the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wakes up in her room, relieved to be home after her journey to distant land of Oz. Her Aunt Em tells her, “You just had a bad dream.”

“But it wasn’t a dream,” insists Dorothy. “It was a place.”

My journey through L. Frank Baum’s original Oz novels has brought me to the sixth book in the series, The Emerald City of Oz, and sure enough, Aunt Em will learn that Oz was no dream!

The Tin Woodsman is ready to defend The Emerald City of Oz

As the novel begins, we learn that Uncle Henry and Aunt Em are facing serious financial trouble. Henry had to take out a mortgage to pay for a new farmhouse after the first one was swept away by a tornado in the first book. Now the payment is due, but Henry hasn’t made enough money. All along, Princess Ozma has been asking Dorothy to move to Oz permanently. Given the dire straights in Kansas, Dorothy finally agrees, under the condition that Uncle Henry and Aunt Em also be allowed to move to Oz. The next day, Ozma uses her magic belt to yank Uncle Henry and Aunt Em to the magical land.

So where did this magic belt come from? That goes back to book 3, Ozma of Oz. The magic belt used to belong to the Nome King who lives across the deadly desert from Oz. Well, it turns out the Nome King wants his belt back and what’s more, he’s decided to take over the land of Oz. As the Nomes begin to tunnel under the deadly desert, the Nome general, Guph begins to recruit allies to help with the invasion.

While all this is going on, Dorothy decides to take her uncle and aunt on a tour of Oz. They’re accompanied by the wizard, the Shaggy Man, the sawhorse, Billina the Hen, and Toto. Along the way they see such sights as the land of the Fuddles inhabited by living 3-D jigsaw puzzles, a land populated by living paper dolls, and Bunnybury, a land of civilized rabbits. Fans of groan-worthy puns don’t want to miss Dorothy’s side trip to Utensia, a land of kitchen utensils. Eventually the party makes their way to the castle of the Tin Woodsman, who is now the Emperor of the Winkies. He’s learned about the Nome invasion and the whole group return to the Emerald City to warn Ozma and prepare a defense. Along the way, they pick up their old friends the Scarecrow and Jack Pumpkinhead.

The steampunk in me was delighted when Dorothy suggests that airships might be a great way to get around Oz. Then after that, the wizard realizes that could be a problem, after all, he arrived in a balloon and Dorothy made her first trip by cyclone. If airships become too numerous in our world, they may eventually find Oz. Not only did I enjoy the reference to airships, I loved how this further suggested that Oz was a real place in our world one could just travel to, assuming one could cross the deadly desert that separated it from the rest of the world.

I have to admit, I’ve long been conflicted about the ending of the 1939 film. The problem I run into arguably isn’t the fault of anyone involved in the writing or production of the classic movie. Dorothy’s return home is nicely handled and the audience can draw their own conclusions about whether Oz was a dream or not. In fact, in the Oz novels, Aunt Em and Uncle Henry don’t believe in Oz until they’re brought there in the sixth book. The problem I have is that I’ve seen too many fantasy stories after The Wizard of Oz that send a hero into a fantasy world, give the hero many heart-wrenching, death-defying adventures, and then bring them back home to discover “it was only a dream.”

What I don’t like is the cliché. If I invest myself in a fantasy story, if the characters engage me enough, I want to believe the world they inhabit could exist. I want to believe that my concern for the character had been justified. I want to believe airships could fly over the fantasyland by accident. The Wizard of Oz screenwriters had good narrative reasons for its ending. If you’re going to put me through a harrowing emotional journey, then tell me the whole experience was just dream, you better have reasons that are just as good or you’ll lose me as a reader.

Justice Society: World War II

A little over a month ago, I was excited to learn there would be a DC animated movie featuring the first ever super hero team from comics, the Justice Society of America. I’ve discussed the Justice Society a few times here and I’ve enjoyed many of their incarnations in the comics from their earliest appearance in 1940 up through their more modern appearances in the 1990s and early 2000s. This new movie promised to return the Justice Society to World War II to punch some Nazis.

Justice Society: World War II

The story opens with President Franklin D. Roosevelt learning about the Justice Society from Colonel Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman’s long-time romantic interest. Trevor suggests these heroes could make a real difference in the war effort. We then jump ahead to what appears to be the present day. Barry Allen, the Flash who first appeared in the Silver Age comics, is having a picnic with his girlfriend Iris West when a fight breaks out between Superman and Brainiac. During the fight, the Flash attempts to stop a speeding Kryptonite bullet from hitting Superman. In the process, he speeds up so much he appears to go back in time to World War II, into the middle of a battle where the Justice Society is involved. The only thing is, Barry has never heard of this superhero team and the whole concept of superhero teams is alien to him. Still, the Flash from the modern era earns the trust of the heroes of the past and they begin following leads to a Nazi invasion of North America. The climactic scenes involve a battle between Nazi-controlled sea-dwelling kaiju-like creatures and the Justice Society.

Over the course of the movie, plenty of Nazis are punched or dispatched in other ways. At the risk of a minor spoiler, Barry learns that he didn’t travel back into the past, but to an alternate Earth. In the comics, this was a pretty typical conceit used to bring the Justice Society and Justice League together for an annual team-up. The best character arc involves the romance between Steve Trevor and Wonder Woman, which then pays off in the story involving Barry Allen and Iris West.

I was pleased to see that the early Justice Society was well represented. Hourman, Hawkman, Jay Garrick’s Flash, Black Canary and of course Wonder Woman are all present and accounted for. That said, Hourman and the original Flash were the only two Justice Society members we don’t see as familiar, regular characters again in the Silver Age and beyond. I would have enjoyed seeing at least a couple more of the early Justice Society members such as Alan Scott’s Green Lantern, the Sandman, or Al Pratt’s Atom. I also think it’s past time for the original Red Tornado, Ma Hunkel, to get a little more of the spotlight.

That all noted, I was pleased to see Wonder Woman depicted as the leader of this Justice Society incarnation. Wonder Woman’s first appearance was, in fact, in the back of an issue of All-Star Comics featuring the Justice Society and she was soon made a member. However, she was relegated to the role of secretary and rarely went on actual adventures. So, giving her the spotlight was nice.

Although I liked several elements of this movie, I didn’t think it quite lived up to the quality standards of earlier DC animated films. It’s tricky to give people good character development in large team-up pieces like this, but the script writers managed it in movies like Justice League Dark and Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. Aside from the parallel romance story, the characters weren’t explored much at all. Also, the climactic battle just seemed a little too big and over-the-top like what we’ve come to expect in the DC live action movies. I wanted to see the Justice Society punch Nazis. Somehow, a battle with a gigantic shark-octopus hybrid felt a little anti-climactic.

It was nice to see the Justice Society get the spotlight in an animated film and I hope they get a chance to appear again. I also hope they can get a stronger story and more time for less-familiar characters to show us what made them as cool as more modern heroes.

In the meantime, I’m in the process of sharing my debut comic book over at my Patreon site. We’re taking a break for the weekend, but we’ll be back with a new page on Monday. Even if you haven’t subscribed, you can see the first two pages for free. After that, you would need to subscribe. To learn more, visit https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers

Crossroads in Oz

My travels through L. Frank Baum’s original Oz novels continued with book five, The Road to Oz. Dorothy and Uncle Henry have returned to Kansas by the time the story opens. A hobo called the Shaggy Man comes by the farm and asks Dorothy for directions to the town of Butterfield. He seems scattered and Dorothy decides to take him to the road that will lead to the town. As they walk, the surroundings become unfamiliar and they soon come to a place where many roads intersect. Dorothy is confused because she would remember such a place so near home. They decide to follow one of the roads and soon meet a young boy who calls himself Button-Bright. A little while later, they meet Polychrome, daughter of the rainbow king who is light and joyful and enjoys dancing through life. I couldn’t help but think about the famous song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in all her scenes. Our group soon comes to Foxville, a kingdom of talking foxes and we learn that Princess Ozma will be having a birthday party soon! Of course Dorothy and her new friends will make it to the birthday party, but what makes this party special is that many of the guests come from Baum’s other novels!

The Road to Oz and The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum

I love it when an author can find a good reason for characters from different books they’ve written to meet. I’ve done it a couple of times. The vampire Mercedes Rodriguez has a cameo in my novel Owl Dance. The Scarlet Order Vampires come into more direct contact with the Clockwork Legion in the story “Fountains of Blood” which appears in the anthology Straight Outta Tombstone, edited by David Boop.

Princess Ozma’s birthday party proves to be a great excuse to bring together characters from Baum’s other fantasy novels. Among the guests are Queen Zixi of Ix from the novel of the same name, John Dough from the novel John Dough and the Cherub, and the Queen of Merryland from the novel Dot and Tot in Merryland. Of course, the true star guest is none other than the protagonist of Baum’s Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. Not only is Santa there, but he brings some of friends, the Knooks and Ryls from the Forest of Burzee.

Admittedly, I’ve jumped ahead a bit. On their way to the party, Dorothy, Toto (who is back for only the second time in the Oz novels), Polychrome, the Shaggy Man, and Button-Bright have their share of adventures. Most are actually rather tame and for the most part, the people they encounter just want an invite to the big shindig in Oz. The exception is when they cross paths with the Scoodlers. If we ever play Oz poker, I’ll take your Flying Monkeys and raise you a Scoodler. The Scoodlers are two-sided with a face looking forward and a face looking backward. Their only desire is to turn our heroes into soup! What’s more, they can take off their heads and throw them at you! Fortunately, the Shaggy Man saves the day and they are able to get away.

Eventually we come to the deadly desert surrounding Oz, but because the Shaggy Man has connections, they get a boat that can cross the sand. I was delighted when they reached Oz and the first familiar people they meet are Billina the Hen and Tik-Tok the Mechanical man from Ozma of Oz. We also get some time with the tin woodsman, the scarecrow, and the cowardly lion.

In a way, The Road to Oz feels like a nice tame road trip (with the exception of the Scoodlers!) designed to give fans of the books so far a chance to spend time with old friends. And yet, Baum sneaks in some subversive politics as the tin man lets us know without a doubt that no one would be so uncouth as to use money in utopia like Oz.

Looking forward to my next trip to the land of Oz. In the meantime, you can learn a little more about my novel Owl Dance at http://davidleesummers.com/owl_dance.html. You can learn more about Straight Outta Tombstone at http://davidleesummers.com/shorts.html. What’s more, the Scarlet Order Vampires are experiencing an adventure in a brand new comic book over at my Patreon site: https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers.

Fevre Dream

I first became aware of George R.R. Martin’s vampire novel from a review Kurt MacPhearson wrote for Tales of the Talisman Magazine back in 2010. His enthusiasm for Fevre Dream caused me to put it on my to-read list. I finally had a chance to dive in and my only real regret is that I waited so long to read the book.

Fevre Dream Novel

Starting in 1857, Fevre Dream tells the story of Abner Marsh, owner of a small steamboat company in St. Louis, who lost most of his boats the previous winter when they were crushed by ice during an unusually harsh winter. A stranger named Joshua York shows up on his doorstep and offers to buy half the company and gives Abner enough money to build his dream steamboat, which Abner calls the Fevre Dream after the river which flowed by his home town. The Fevre Dream sets off down the Mississippi with Marsh and York serving as co-captains. It soon becomes apparent that York only appears at night. What’s more, York insists that the steamboat make many stops on its journey where he will disappear for days at a time. Meanwhile, on a plantation near New Orleans, we meet Damon Julian, leader of a vampire nest. A human thrall named Sour Billy Tipton buys slaves and brings them to the plantation for the vampires to drain dry. It soon becomes clear that Marsh, York, and Julian are heading toward a confrontation. Martin offers some twists and turns that kept me guessing about the exact nature of the confrontation.

I loved Martin’s description of steamboats. The places the Fevre Dream visits in the novel came to life through his writing. Martin also did a great job of creating vampires that felt like they could be real creatures who exist in the world we know. Also, instead of simply dismissing vampire mythology as so much nonsense, as many other writers did in the 1980s and 1990s, he lets his characters speculate about how that mythology built up around the real creatures, which I liked. I was less impressed with his use of an offensive word for African-Americans. While it lends some authenticity to the novel in its period and setting, and it ultimately serves a good story point, there are some points where the word just feels overused.

Fevre Dream Comic

One of the things that led me to read the book now was discovering that Daniel Abraham had adapted the novel into a comic book. Abraham is one-half of the writing team who created the Expanse novels under the pen-name James S.A. Corey. Since I recently went through the exercise of adapting an episode from one of my vampire novels into a comic book, I was curious what the comic adaptation of this novel was like. He did a good job of paring the novel down to it’s essence and hitting the key plot points. In a comic book, the art needs to do a lot of the heavy lifting of conveying the story’s emotions. At some level, a comic writer’s job is to give the artist all the tools needed to show the story to the reader. Overall, the art did seem to capture the emotions I felt when reading the novel. I did catch a couple of places where it seemed like important plot points were mentioned in passing and if I hadn’t known they were important from the novel, I might have missed them in the comic. This is a challenge in comic book writing because you have to be so minimalist that you have to make choices about what to emphasize and what not to. I might have made a different choice, but without more experience than I have, I don’t know if it would be a better choice.

For those people looking for an interesting, historical vampire tale, I do recommend either the novel or the comic book adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s Fevre Dream. Studying how Daniel Abraham adapted Martin’s novel has given me some ideas about what I would do in further adaptations of my own work.

As a reminder, I will be sharing my comic book, Guinevere and the Stranger with my Patreon subscribers starting on Monday. If you want to be first in line to read the comic, be sure to subscribe at https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers. What’s more, print comics have arrived and will go on sale at https://www.hadrosaur.com soon after it’s appeared for Patreon subscribers.

The Wizard’s Return to Oz

My wife and I share a love of great science fiction and fantasy. When we met, she had a large collection of great books and that collection has only grown. In that collection were most of the 29 Oz novels published by Del Rey Books in the 1980s. These were lovely editions of the novels featuring realistic covers by Michael Herring, inspired by John R. Neill’s original illustrations. I went back to the shelf the other day to appreciate them, when I learned this month was the 165th birthday of L. Frank Baum, the original Royal Historian of Oz.

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz

It’s hard to overstate the importance of the Oz novels. In a very real way, they were the first long-running fantasy series. They inspired early silent movies and Baum even created a comic strip featuring some of the Oz characters. The first novel in the series would, of course, inspire one of Hollywood’s most famous films, the 1939 Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland. It’s a truly magical and wondrous film, but it’s really only the beginning of the trip down the proverbial yellow brick road. You don’t have to read many of the books to see that Baum had an incredible imagination. Each book features a whole array of new and colorful characters and creatures.

I’m sorry to say I haven’t read quite as many of the books as I should, and I’ve vowed to continue my journey through Oz. Until this month, I’d read the first three novels in the series, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Marvelous Land of Oz, and Ozma of Oz. So, I embarked on book four, The Wizard and the Dorothy in Oz. Of course, time is always a factor, and it’s not always easy to just pick up one book when I already have an extensive to-read pile threatening to topple over. This is when I had a sudden epiphany and realized Baum’s Oz books are in the public domain. I soon discovered that free audio editions of the books exist on Librivox.org. What’s more, the books are almost the perfect length to listen to during my commute from home to work at Kitt Peak National Observatory. So, now, I get to commute to work via the marvelous land of Oz!

As Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz opens, Dorothy and her Uncle Henry are visiting friends and relatives in California. As Dorothy meets up with Zeb the farm hand, an earthquake opens a fissure, sending them plummeting into the Earth along with Jim the Cab Horse and Dorothy’s kitten, Eureka. Fortunately, air gets thicker the further they go into the Earth and they land gently in a country inhabited by intelligent vegetables. Soon, the great and powerful Oz, the wizard who departed in a hot air balloon at the end of the first book reappears and joins Dorothy. All together they begin a quest to return to the surface world where they belong. Along the way they meet wooden gargoyles, invisible bears (oh my!), and even dragons. Eventually, in something of a deus ex machina twist, they end up in Oz, where their friend, Princess Ozma welcomes them with open arms. The wizard returns as a permanent resident of Oz, though he’s no longer the guy in charge.

The book takes some dark turns as our heroes travel from one dangerous land to another. What’s more, their troubles don’t end when they reach Oz. Jim finds himself in conflict with the sawhorse, who is faster and more robust its flesh-and-blood counterpart. Also, Eureka is put on trial when it’s suspected she ate Princess Ozma’s pet piglet. The book is not without its flaws, but it presents an original adventure with imaginative creatures and never once talks down to the kids in its audience. I’m looking forward to taking more trips to the land of Oz and seeing whatever strange folks I’ll meet.

Breaking the Code Now Available

Yesterday was release day for my novella, Breaking the Code, published by NeoParadoxa Press, an imprint of eSpec Books. My copies have arrived as seen below, and I think they look wonderful. If you pre-ordered a copy, I hope it’s been seamlessly delivered to your e-reader or on its way by means of a reliable delivery service.

Breaking the Code print copies

As it turns out, I celebrated the release of the book while operating the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope at Kitt Peak on a blustery, windy night. The telescopes can only be used on sky when the wind is below 45 miles per hour. It was above that for at least some of the night. When it gets that windy, we hear the building rattle and thump in the wind. In fact, one of the scariest experiences I had working at the observatory was on a very windy morning. I was in the dome with the telescope doing maintenance and the wind was howling. I was tired after being up all night and the thumping and rumbling and wild howling made me think something was tromping over the land and if I didn’t finish my work fast, I would be at the mercy of a mountain spirit.

In fact, Kitt Peak National Observatory is on the land of the Tohono O’Odham and it’s believed powerful spirits and even gods inhabit the land. Working on this mountain for nearly 20 years, I’ve always respected those beliefs, but on that scary morning, the notion that spirits live on the mountain seemed much less abstract. I brought that sense of respect to my work on Breaking the Code.

Even though the observatory is in Southern Arizona, it’s high enough that it gets snow in the winter and just like that fierce wind storm, I’ve spent some fierce snowy nights on the mountain as well. Those conditions helped to influence the opening of my novella.

The novella is set in early 1942, right at the beginning of World War II in New Mexico as Marines are recruiting Navajo youth. As it turns out, I have a personal connection to that aspect of the novella as well. My parents were raised in New Mexico and my dad went to high school during the World War II years. When he graduated, he joined the Marine Corps. After the war, he went to work for the Santa Fe railroad and soon met my mom. I thought about his stories a lot while writing the novella. Although the characters in my novella experienced different specific events than my mom and dad, I tried to be true to the emotional experience they conveyed to me.

You can read the novella’s first chapter and learn where you can get a copy by visiting http://www.davidleesummers.com/Breaking-the-Code.html