Children of the Old Stars

Children of the Old Stars is the sequel to The Pirates of Sufiro. In The Pirates of Sufiro a mysterious and powerful alien called the Cluster began destroying space vessels for no apparent reason. In Children of the Old Stars, Captain John Mark Ellis embarks on a quest to determine just what the Cluster is. The woman on the cover is Ellis’s mother Suki Firebrandt Ellis, who plays an integral part in the quest.

As Children of the Old Stars opens, Captain John Mark Ellis and the crew of the destroyer Firebrandt attempt to rescue a civilian ship threatened by the Cluster. They fail and Ellis has to make the choice of taking a demotion or leaving the fleet. He decides that he can continue his quest better if he leaves the fleet. He joins a warrior/philosopher from the planet Rd’dyggia and a human who is convinced that the Cluster is God incarnate on the quest.

I grew up watching Star Trek and loved the exploits of Captain Kirk and the Starship Enterprise. As a teen, I discovered that Gene Roddenberry was influenced by the Horatio Hornblower novels of C.S. Forester. Around the same time, I also encountered the John Grimes novels of A. Bertram Chandler. Unlike Captain Kirk, who was always a staunch defender of the Federation, Grimes’s career made a detour when he resigned from the service. I loved the idea of a captain who wasn’t perfect, who might have a tarnished record, or might leave his position because of a principle. That’s where John Mark Ellis came from.

When I wrote the novel, the working title was Children of Chaos. It was an allusion to the Titans of Greek Mythology who sprang from chaos. Once the book was finished, though, I discovered I wasn’t the first person to have conceived that title. The final title is a more literal description of the alien machine called the Cluster.

To step back a little bit, astronomers divide stars into two “generations.” Newer stars like the sun are called Population I stars. Old stars like you might find in Globular Clusters or the hearts of galaxies are called Population II stars. The alien known as the Cluster is a product of those old stars. I’ll leave the details for people to discover, if they choose to read the novel!

One other piece of astronomy trivia from this novel, Ellis’s encounter with the Cluster at the beginning of the novel happens around a binary star called 1E1919+0427. It turns out that I’m one of the people who discovered that star is an eclipsing binary. I published the results in The Astronomical Journal in 1997.

Finally, I’ll note that one of the most frustrating novels I’ve ever read is From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne. The reason it’s frustrating is that he ends the novel on a cliffhanger. I did the same thing with Children of the Old Stars. If I had it to do all over again, I would have wrapped things up more neatly. But part of the issue is that I felt I needed a whole new book to deal with the issues that were raised when Ellis discovered the truth of the Cluster. That’s where the final novel of the Old Star/New Earth trilogy, Heirs of the New Earth comes in.

The Pirates of Sufiro is free to download in both Nook and Kindle formats:

Children of the Old Stars is available as follows:


Phoenix Comicon Schedule

On Memorial Day Weekend, I’m honored to be one of the participating authors at Phoenix Comicon in Phoenix, Arizona. Billed as “the signature pop-culture event in the Southwest” Phoenix Comicon features such guests as William Shatner, LeVar Burton, Brent Spiner, Peter S. Beagle and many, many more. I’m just scratching the surface with this list. Be sure to follow the link above to learn all about the convention.

Unfortunately, my schedule at the observatory only allows me to attend Saturday and Sunday of Comicon, but I still look forward to seeing what I can while I’m there.

In the meantime, here’s where you can find me at the event:

  • Steampunk Fiction
    Saturday 3:00pm – 4:00pm.
    Also on the panel: Michael Spradlin
  • In Space, No One Can Hear You Say Arrrr!
    Sunday 10:30am – 11:30am.
    Also on the panel: Gini Koch
  • The Micro Publishing Option
    Sunday 1:30pm – 2:30pm.
    Also on the panel: Bob Nelson
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry
    Sunday 3:00pm – 4:00pm.
    Also on the panel: Marsheila Rockwell and Larry Hammer

If you’re in Phoenix for Memorial Day Weekend, I hope to see you there!

Vampires of the Scarlet Order

After discussing The Pirates of Sufiro and its origin here at the Web Journal, I thought it might be fun to go back and take a brief look at all my novels, introducing them to people who haven’t read them, and telling a little about their origins. I’ll start with Vampires of the Scarlet Order, which generally has received the best reviews of all my novels.

Vampires of the Scarlet Order is an action-adventure novel with a touch of romance that tells the story of an elite cadre of vampire mercenaries who have worked throughout history as pinpoint assassins. Under the command of Desmond, Lord Draco, the Scarlet Order was involved in wars with the Ottoman Empire, The French Revolution and even the conquest of the Americas. As the 21st century dawns, vampires are too expensive, too untrustworthy, and frankly, too passé for governments to employ any longer. Nanotechnology can be employed to engineer more reliable super soldiers. However, governments might be tampering with powers they don’t really understand. The elemental forces of the universe bring the vampires of the Scarlet Order together to put a stop to the humans’ dangerous experiments.

The novel opens in 1492 Spain as the Scarlet Order is working for the Spanish Inquisition and ends in a climactic battle in 2002 Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Vampires of the Scarlet Order began in 2001 when Janni Lee Simner and I were sitting around talking. She happened to wonder what a vampire would make of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Literally, Las Cruces means “the city of the crosses.” She said she had no plans to use the idea and said I was welcome to it. About a week later, a story about a vampire telescope operator who moves to Las Cruces came almost fully formed to my mind. I titled the story “Vampire in the City of Crosses” and sold it to Margaret Carter’s magazine The Vampire’s Crypt. About a month later, I came up with a sequel called “Vampires in the World of Dreams” which Carter also bought for The Vampire’s Crypt.

Over the course of the next two years, I kept writing short stories about vampires in the Southwest. Some of the vampires lived in the present day. Some lived in the past. I finally decided to figure out how all the stories related to one another and I put them together into a novel.

As it turns out, the first draft was quite a bit different from the finished product. In the first draft, it wasn’t the United States trying to make super soldiers. Instead, aliens from another world were trying to create vampires. After setting the book aside for a short time, I decided I had stretched credulity and I changed the novel into its current form.

I have continued to write vampire stories since Vampires of the Scarlet Order. One of them is a prequel called Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order. That will be released soon from Lachesis Publishing. I also have several other standalone vampire stories. I’ve created a separate blog to discuss vampires and my vampire stories. You can check it out at: You can also keep up with news about the vampires at their Facebook page:

You can find Vampires of the Scarlet Order at:

Gaslight Gathering Schedule

From May 11-13, 2012, I’ll be one of the guests at Gaslight Gathering II: The Expedition in San Diego, California at the Town and Country Hotel. More information about the event is available at the website:

Here is my tentative schedule for the weekend:

Friday, May 11

2:pm-2:50pm – Chivalry and Courtesy in the Age of Steam – Is the art of polite conversation and good manners dead? Come discuss whether steampunk is appealing because we recreate a more genteel and courteous time. Scott Farrell, David Lee Summers. Brittany Room

5pm-5:50pm Role of the Empire: Influences on Steampunk From Outside the US & UK – From the Congo to the vast outback of Australia, steampunk stories can take us far from our familiar streets and western frontiers. Listen as some of our most esteemed authors discuss the transcontinental power of steampunk to cross borders and visit exotic destinations. Nancy Holder, Tim Powers, David Lee Summers, James Hay (M). Garden Salon One

7pm-8pm – Victorian Astronomy – The stars have always held a special fascination to us mere mortals who look up into the heavens. I’ll tell about some of the discoveries, inventions and mad scientists of the Victorian Age. If weather permits, we’ll view Mars after the presentation. David Lee Summers – Claredon Room

Saturday, May 12

1pm-2:15pm – Paranormal Steampunk – Sink your fangs into this amazing panel as our authors discuss the many supernatural species that have invaded the steampunk genre and why readers can’t get enough of them. Scott Farrell, Nancy Holder, Suzanne Lazaer, and David Lee Summers – Garden Salon Two

5pm-6pm – How to Write Steampunk – Get ready to start writing your own steampunk story with some helpful hints from some of our incredible authors on how to get inspired and get your steamy ideas down on paper. James Blaylock, Nancy Holder, Suzanne Lazaer, and David Lee Summers. Brittany Room

Sunday, May 13

11am – Autograph Table – Dealers Room

2pm-3pm – Victorian Magic Vs. Science – Magician Dino Staats again pairs up with scientist and author David Lee Summers to bring you the real story behind the Victorian views on science and magic. Dino Staats, David Lee Summers – Brittany Room

3pm-4pm – Steampunk without technology?? – Come be part of a lively discussion on whether steampunk can exist without gears, gadgets and steam powered machines. Let the science fact versus the science fantasy debate on what the steampunk genre requires begin here! James Hay, Stephen Potts, Tim Powers, David Lee Summers. Brittany Room.