Owl Riders Cover Reveal

This week, I have a special treat for all you patient readers. I’m proud to reveal the cover of Clockwork Legion Book Four, Owl Riders. I think Laura Givens did an outstanding job. Hope you like it as well. What’s the book about? Scroll past the cover to learn more.

When Fatemeh Karimi married Ramon Morales, she neglected to share one small detail. She was already betrothed to a merchant named Hamid Farzan. She had no interest in Hamid or an arranged marriage. She wanted to live life on her own terms. Eight years after marrying Ramon, she assumed Hamid had long forgotten about her, as she had him.

Settled in New Orleans, Ramon works as an attorney, Fatemeh owns a pharmacy, and they’re proud parents of a precocious daughter. Out west, Apaches armed with powerful battle wagons have captured Fort Bowie and threaten Tucson. Businessmen with an interest in a peaceful solution ask Ramon to come west and settle the conflict. Meanwhile Hamid arrives in New Orleans and he has not forgotten Fatemeh or her vows to him.

Now, the famed Owl Riders must assemble once again to reunite Ramon and Fatemeh so they can tame the Wild West.


The book is currently scheduled for release this spring.

While you’re waiting for the book’s release, you can read a preview of the first chapter at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/Owl-Riders-Preview.html. Enjoy!

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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

Owl Dance Excerpt 7: Dreaming of Airships

In this final excerpt from Owl Dance, General Gorloff goes to one of the great Russian scientists, Dmitri Mendeleev. If you’ve taken a chemistry class, you likely remember Mendeleev as the creator of the Periodic Table. However, he was also interested in airships. What if he had the resources to actually build one?


General Alexander Gorloff strode down a corridor at St. Petersburg University and knocked on a door.

“Come in,” called a distracted voice on the other side.

The general opened the door and was astonished to see a desk surrounded by books, some open, others closed—all in some kind of disarray. The desk itself was covered by papers. On the wall was a black chalkboard covered in incomprehensible scribbles that—as far as the general could tell—were some combination of hieroglyphs and a foreign language. None of this astonished the general as much as the man who sat behind the desk. His head was covered with a wild mop of gray-streaked, black hair. A bushy beard hid most of the man’s face.

The general introduced himself. “You are Mendeleev?”

“Yes, yes,” said the scientist, impatiently without rising from his chair. “What can I do for you, General?”

The general turned and closed the door. “I wish to discuss a matter of some secrecy that is important to our Czar.”

At this, Mendeleev turned his attention fully to Gorloff. “Go on.”

“In my duties as military attaché to the United States of America, it has come to my attention that the young country poses a threat to the Russian Empire.”

Mendeleev scowled. “This does not surprise me. It is a country of cowboys and loose cannons who have no respect for intellectual pursuits. The country has been around for a century and I cannot name one decent university or important literary work that has come from there.”

“I have heard some critics speak highly of a novel called Moby-Dick,” ventured the general.

The scientist waved his hand as though subjected to a bad smell. “A long-winded book about a madman hunting a whale? It has no value. Poe showed some promise, but he was obviously influenced by the French.”

“Obviously,” muttered the general in agreement. He sat down and decided to steer the conversation back to the topic at hand. “While in America, I also learned that there are vast reserves of gold and oil in Alaska,” continued Gorloff.

Mendeleev’s disdainful frown turned into a smug grin–although the general had some difficulty telling that through the thick beard. “I knew it was a mistake for the Czar to sell Alaska.”

“America poses a threat to Russia and the stability of the whole world,” declared the general. “I ask you, as a patriot, will you come to the aid of our country?”

“I am loyal to the Czar, General Gorloff. He has a good heart. He showed that when he freed the serfs. Ask what you will.” Mendeleev folded his arms across his chest, his eyes intent.

“We need a way to move quickly to the United States without being stopped by their navy,” explained the general. “We also need a way to deploy troops and heavy artillery across large sections of western North America.”

Mendeleev nodded and thought for several minutes. His head fell forward and for a moment, the general thought the scientist had fallen asleep. Just as he was leaning forward to tap Mendeleev on the shoulder, the scientist leapt to his feet and erased a section of the chalkboard. He drew a large ovoid shape. Next, he added boxes with something like ship propellers attached. Underneath, he drew a bigger box. “Imagine if you will, a ship of the air,” said Mendeleev, pointing at his drawing. “We build a steel frame. Inside will be great bags that we fill with a gas that’s lighter than air—say hydrogen.” He pointed to the boxes and propellers. “It will be light enough that small steam engines can be deployed to move it through the air. Underneath, like a balloon’s gondola, is a pilothouse. Within the steel frame structure, we can place troops, artillery, whatever you like.”

The general stared at the drawing wide-eyed. “Will such a thing really work?”

“I have been working on the problem of such a craft for the past few years.” As Mendeleev spoke, he continued sketching on the board, showing the airship from underneath. “The only thing that has kept me from building it is funding. If the Czar is serious about having such a war machine, I believe I can design it and we can build a small fleet.”

“This year?” Gorloff shook his head in wonder.

“If enough resources are dedicated to the problem.” Mendeleev stepped aside. The silhouette of an owl adorned his new sketch.

“Why do you adorn your airship with an owl?”

“My ancestors are Kalmyk, General Gorloff. A story has been passed down through the generations that an owl saved Ghengis Khan’s life. To us, owls have long been talismans of great power. These ships will be like great owls, expanding the Russian empire. We will guide the Americans to a more civilized age.”

Gorloff nodded satisfied. “Begin work designing these ships. Send word to the palace and let us know what materials and personnel you need. We will make sure they are sent.” The general reached out and shook Mendeleev’s hand. “It was a delight meeting you, Professor Mendeleev.”

“The pleasure was mine.”

Back out in the hall, the general heard Legion in the back of his mind. What a fascinating individual.

“You did well.” Gorloff’s voice was barely above a whisper. He didn’t want to attract attention as he walked down the hall. “It seems Professor Mendeleev responded quite well to the visions you showed him.”

We showed Professor Mendeleev no visions.

“What?!” The general shouted, then looked around quickly to make sure that no one had heard him. “What do you mean you showed him no visions?”

We didn’t need to. Those were Mendeleev’s own ideas.


First off, a big thank you for reading the excerpts today and helping to make this launch of Owl Dance a real success. I hope you have enjoyed the excerpts. You can find out more information about the novel, or buy a copy, at the following:

Owl Dance Excerpt 6: Kid Antrim

In this excerpt, Fatemeh Karimi rides to Silver City, New Mexico along with a reporter named Luther Duncan. Ramon has been jailed unjustly in Socorro and Fatemeh and Duncan are trying to solicit the help of a deputy sheriff named Dan Tucker. While there, they meet a teenage troublemaker.


“Who’s your prisoner?” Duncan looked toward the cell.

“Calls himself Kid Antrim.” Tucker chuckled to himself. “He’s been making a real pain in the ass of himself over at Fort Grant in Arizona.” He blushed and tipped his hat at Fatemeh. “Pardon my language, ma’am. They say he keeps stealing their supplies out from under them. His mother lives here in Silver City and I finally caught him this morning.”

“You wouldn’t o’ caught me if it wasn’t for this ankle,” grumbled the kid.

Fatemeh stood and stepped over to the cell. “What happened to your ankle?”

“Sprained it, hopping onto a horse.” The kid looked as his feet, apparently embarrassed at the notion of being clumsy.

“A horse that he stole.” The deputy sheriff scratched the back of his head. “I’m taking him back to Arizona tomorrow so he can stand trial at the fort. Even if I wanted to, I’m not sure there’s anything I could do to help Búho Morales. What you need is a good attorney and a judge sympathetic to your case, not a deputy sheriff like me—no matter how much I admire his reputation.”

“Whacha really need is someone to break him outta jail,” said the kid.

Fatemeh ignored the comment and returned to her seat at Tucker’s desk.

“Is there anyone you know that could help us?” Duncan leaned forward.

Tucker dropped his feet back to the floor. “Not around here. You might try Albert Fountain in Mesilla. I hear he’s pretty good with difficult cases.”

Fatemeh looked at Duncan with narrowed eyes. He gave an apologetic shrug. She redirected her gaze to the deputy sheriff. “I’m sorry we’ve bothered you, Mr. Tucker.”

“No bother at all, ma’am.” Tucker smiled faintly. “May I ask what the bishop was going to lynch you for?”

“His brother-in-law, Randolph Dalton, accused me of running off his miners. I was a better curandera than the ones in his parish…” She began counting off items on her fingers.

Tucker held up his hand and smiled. “I get the idea. If you’ll excuse my language again, you were a pain in his ass.”

Fatemeh grinned at that. “I think that about sums it up.” She looked toward the cell. “I wonder if you would allow me to treat the young man’s sprained ankle?”

Tucker shrugged. “It would sure make getting him to Arizona a lot easier if he could walk on his own two feet.”

Fatemeh nodded, then stood and left the sheriff’s office. She tried to think if there was anything else she could say to persuade Dan Tucker to help them out. It was clear he admired Ramon’s good reputation as a lawman. However, he was right. They needed a lawyer to get Ramon out of jail, not a deputy sheriff. She approached her horse and patted it on the nose, then went to her saddlebag and retrieved a bottle and some bandages. A few minutes later, she returned to the sheriff’s office.

She took the chair from in front of Dan Tucker’s desk, placed it in front of the jail cell and sat down. “I have something to help your sprain,” she said.

“Much obliged, but these things heal themselves with time.” Kid Antrim looked at the bottle suspiciously.

“This will help. I promise.”

Kid Antrim limped over to the bars. Gingerly, he pulled off his boot, then stuck his foot through. Fatemeh uncorked the bottle and the kid quickly pulled his foot back. “What in the name of Hell is that?” he cried, wrinkling his nose.

“Horse liniment. It’s the best thing I know for sprains.”

“I ain’t no horse.”

“Stick your foot back through the bars.”

He complied and she massaged his ankle with the liniment. Then, she wrapped his ankle snugly with the bandages.

“Hey, that feels better already.”

“Sure you don’t want to help me get him over to Arizona?” asked Tucker. “He listens to you better than he listens to me.”

“I would consider it, if you could help me with my problem.” Fatemeh put the cork back in the bottle of horse liniment.

The deputy sheriff scratched the back of his head, as though giving it serious thought. “The problem is I just don’t see any way I can help you, short of breaking Morales out of jail. If I really thought he’d been wronged, I might even help you do that, but from what you tell me, he admitted he was guilty of running away from his duties. It sounds like he may be facing a bad situation in Socorro, but how do I know what you’re telling me is true?”

“You don’t.”

“If you can think of any way to help, send word to me at the Mesilla News,” offered Duncan.

“I’ll do that.” Tucker stood from the desk and showed the visitors to the door.

That evening, Fatemeh and Duncan ate dinner at the hotel. Afterwards, they planned to get some sleep and ride back to Mesilla the next day.

“So tell me, Mr. Duncan, why exactly did we ride all the way out here, when we could have just spoken to this Albert Fountain back in Mesilla?”

Duncan sighed. “Albert Fountain is a very high powered attorney. I thought his services would be more than you could afford.”

Fatemeh looked down at her plate and stirred the food around with her fork. “I suppose you’re right.” She looked back up into Duncan’s eyes. “So what exactly are we going to do?”

Just then, the hotel door flew open and the scrawny fifteen-year-old kid from the sheriff’s office appeared. He slammed the door behind him and looked around. Seeing Fatemeh and Duncan he made for the table.

“What are you doing here?” Duncan’s eyes were wide.

“My ankle felt better, so I broke out of jail.” The kid smiled. “I didn’t feel like waiting around to go back to Arizona, so I thought I’d come here and see if I could help you all.”


Owl Dance is now live at Amazon.com.

Owl Dance Excerpt 5: A Glimpse of the Future

In excerpt 3, we met the alien Legion. In this scene, Legion encounters the Russian attaché to the United States and shows him a vision of the future.


Alexander Gorloff thought he heard voices. His eyes fluttered open and he felt the rumbling of the train. He looked around, searching the darkness, but didn’t see anyone. Finally, his eyes drifted shut. A short time later, the general had the most remarkable dream.

He found himself in a vast white space, surrounded by a swarm of some strange species of insect. They neither landed on him nor bit him, but he heard soft whispering voices as though they were speaking to one another. He plucked one out of the air and looked at it. It was soft and malleable, but he could not squish it like an insect. It flew away from him and joined its comrades.

“We are called Legion,” came a velvety voice speaking Russian.

“Where are you?”

“All around you.”

“You’re the insects?” Gorloff raised his eyebrows.

“We are a swarm, but we are not insects. We have come to learn about your world.”

“My … world? Where are you from?”

“We are from a distant island of stars.” The scene around him changed. At first, Gorloff thought the room had become black and the swarm was now white, but then he realized he was looking at the night sky. However, when he looked at his feet, he realized he was not standing on a surface. Instead, he was floating, carried by the swarm, which swathed him like a blanket. The swarm carried him through the sea of night to a great whirlpool of stars. “This is where we came from.”

Legion then carried the general back through the sea of stars. Finally, Gorloff saw a blue-green ball that floated in the void. In the distance he saw the sun, but it looked strange floating in a sea of black, instead of hanging in a blue sky. The blue-green ball unfolded and Gorloff realized he was standing in the white room again, looking at a remarkably detailed map of the world. Light whispers continued in the background—so many voices, but so soft, it was almost a white noise. The general was aware of questions being asked and suggestions being made very gently, as though Legion didn’t want to break something delicate.

Gorloff found himself studying the Russian Empire and the United States. As he did so, Legion helped him to understand things about their relationship that he had never known before. The memory of Alaska’s sale to the United States came to the forefront of his mind. He remembered the land as a potential target should Great Britain renew its hostility toward Russia. As a strategist, the Russian general had agreed that the sale of the land to the United States was necessary. However, Legion showed him there was great wealth in Alaska that he had not known about. Not only were there great gold deposits, but there was oil, which was vitally important to machinery. Alaska’s sale to the United States had been accomplished less than a decade before, but after Legion’s revelations Gorloff began to wonder if it was a mistake.

The military attaché shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. “This is a crazy dream.” His tone was harsh. “America is our friend.”

The swarm appeared at Gorloff’s side. Its whispers were more audible to him now. “Analyzing political and economic structures of countries called the United States of America and the Russian Empire. Recent war in the United States will have lasting effects on the population, including increased economic stress in certain sectors. There is a 90% likelihood that such stress will result in an uprising by the labor class to improve their well-being. This movement will likely spread around the world…”

The voices continued. Although Gorloff did not understand all the words, he found that if he did not listen closely, he followed the meaning surprisingly well. He began to have a vision within his dream. He saw workers rising up in Russia and toppling his beloved Czar. In spite of that, Russia grew even more powerful. America also increased its might. Eventually, a time came when the two countries were directly in conflict. He saw a future where Russia and the United States of America developed horrible weapons—weapons that could murder every man, woman, and child in the world. Finally, Gorloff had a vision of a charred and blackened Earth, floating dead in space.

“This is terrible.” Gorloff put his hands to his head. “I cannot let this happen.”

Legion’s soft murmurings changed and the general saw a new vision. This time the Civil War ended differently and America was permanently cleaved in two. In the world that resulted, neither the Union nor the Confederacy would ever become a dominant world power. The labor class of the United States would not rise up in the same way and there was a chance the Czar could keep his power, especially if he made conditions better for Russia’s laborers.

General Alexander Gorloff saw a future where Russia was the strongest country in the world.

“The only problem,” said Legion, who sensed the general’s thoughts, “is that machines will become increasingly important. Although Russia has resources, they may not be sufficient to power the machines necessary to obtain dominance.”

Gorloff’s attention went back to Alaska. He thought about the American Civil War and how it almost divided the country. Looking at the map in front of him, a plan began to form.

“Can you help me?”


Will Legion help Gorloff? Find out in Owl Dance. More information about the book along with an interview of me at: http://flyingpenpress.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=49.

Owl Dance Excerpt 4: A Clockwork Wolf

This excerpt begins after Ramon has seen a poster in the town of Mesilla, stating there is a bounty on wolf carcasses. He’s decided to collect the bounty, even though Fatemeh objects. An alternate version of this chapter will also appear in the anthology Wolf Songs: Volume 2 edited by M.H. Bonham.


Ramon found a hidden spot in a ring of rocks just at the edge of the little grove. There, he laid out his bedroll. Opening his rifle he aimed the barrel toward the moon and checked that there wasn’t too much powder buildup, then loaded a shell into the barrel so he’d be ready to fire without delay. He was determined to shoot a wolf, but tired as he was, he fell asleep instead.

He dreamed of a time when he was a child, running through a field on his way home from school. He saw two wolf pups wrestling with each other in the tall grass. Nearby, a mother wolf watched him. The young Ramon thought they were cute and wondered if he could pet the pups. Remembering his dad’s warnings to stay away from wild animals, he decided he should give them a wide berth. Just then, he felt a sharp pain and heard a loud snap.

He woke suddenly and realized the snap was a nearby twig. There was another sound as well—a strange whirring and buzzing, not unlike the soft sounds that came from Mr. Castillo’s clock.

Slowly, he reached for his rifle and turned toward the grove. The moon was high and there were deep shadows amongst the trees. His throat was parched and he wished he had time to take a drink from his canteen. However, he soon spotted movement. A lobo stepped from the shadows and strode confidently toward the cattle down the hill.

Ramon tried to swallow, but no saliva would come to his mouth. He thought he detected a flash of movement behind him, and quickly looked around. Not seeing anything amongst the rocks and deep shadows, he turned his attention back to the strange lobo that walked so brazenly in plain sight. Ramon thought a wolf would have been more cautious when stalking prey, but he was glad for its erect stance, and slow, steady stride. It was an easy target. He carefully aimed his gun at the wolf.

Just as Ramon started to squeeze the trigger, someone pushed the gun. His shot went wide, missing the lobo. Ramon cursed and turned, finding himself facing Fatemeh’s angry glare. “What are you doing out here? That animal doesn’t deserve to be shot just so you can have a few dollars.”

“It’s not about…” Ramon shook his head. Fatemeh would not understand. “We really could use the money.” He looked down, avoiding her gaze.

She sighed. “I know, but there are other ways.”

Ramon looked at the lobo. The gunshot had not spooked it. It strutted through the grove, ignoring its surroundings. It didn’t even seem to notice the strange clicking and whirring sounds—Ramon looked around, trying to figure out where they were coming from. When he looked back at the wolf, he saw that it was headed straight for a rock. Surely it would turn before it got there, but no. It walked right into the rock and the most amazing thing happened. There was a bright flash of light accompanied by a loud popping. The top of the wolf’s head flew off and its body toppled over sideways.

“What the hell?” Ramon scrambled out from his hiding place. Fatemeh followed close behind.

He reached the wolf and peered inside its head, expecting to find a bloody mess. Instead, the head was mostly empty and separated into two compartments. At the back of one of the compartments was a small, glass photographic plate. The other compartment held the charred remains of some kind of powder. The wolf’s eyes were lenses with black metal just behind them. Ramon reached in and felt around, then dragged the wolf’s body out into the moonlight where he could see better. It was much heavier than a wolf would be, as though most of the body was made from metal rather than skin or bones.

Fatemeh looked inside. “It’s like a camera.”

Ramon nodded. “There’s some kind of spring-loaded mechanism that lowers these metal contraptions just behind the eyes.” He pushed on a rod inside the wolf’s head and sure enough the metal plates lowered, which would, in turn, expose the glass plate at the back of the head to light—except that the plate had already been exposed when the top of the head was blown off.

“But what caused that bright flash of light we saw?”

“Flash powder,” said a voice from the trees.


Whose voice came from the trees? You’ll find out more in Owl Dance available at Flying Pen Press: http://flyingpenpress.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=49

Owl Dance Excerpt 3: Legion

In this excerpt, we see that Owl Dance is not your ordinary western novel. This section introduces Legion, an intergalactic explorer who will become involved with Ramon and Fatemeh.


His name was Legion.

For millennia, the nanite swarm that was his current form explored galaxies and visited planets populated by thousands of races. He hadn’t always been this way. Many centuries ago he had another name on a planet now nothing more than dust, gradually drifting outward from the exhausted core of a dead star. On that world, he’d possessed a mortal body. The thing called Legion remembered that world, and remembered his old body, and also the first computer he lived in, but he knew such memories meant little in the face of his immortal existence.

Unconstrained by a mortal lifetime or the distance he could travel, Legion gathered information about everything he came across. The universe contained so much variety that if he grew bored in one location, he simply moved on to another.

Eventually, he found his way to a small cluster containing two spiral galaxies and several dwarf galaxies. While ambling through one of the spirals, he came across a middle-aged yellow star that supported a handful of planets in stable orbits.

Legion was especially interested in the problem of intelligence. How did it evolve? What was its purpose? In all of his travels, he had yet to find a satisfactory answer. This humble solar system looked like one that could nurture life.

As he approached one of the inner, rocky worlds of this system, Legion grew excited. The planet contained large bodies of water broken up by landmasses, not unlike the world where he evolved. As he drifted closer, he saw straight lines cut into the ground and regular, geometric patterns of growing things. Not only was there life on this world, but there was life that altered its landscape. That indicated intelligence. Legion decided on a closer look.

On the world, he found corporeal beings, similar to the creature he once was. Legion realized these beings might be at the perfect stage to help him answer a few of his questions about the purpose of intelligence. They had developed agriculture and industry. However, they still appeared primitive. All the devices he saw could have been built by hand or through the use of rudimentary machines. The creatures of this planet appeared to be on a path to become as intelligent as he was, yet they were still primitive enough he might be able to glean some understanding of how that intelligence came about.

He sought out an intelligent being so he could study its neural structure and attempt to interpret its thoughts with minimal interference or detection. Because of that, he chose to seek out a being in a sparsely inhabited area. He found a river valley that he hoped would serve his purpose.

It was windy in the valley and Legion allowed his component parts to ride the air currents. The wind came in gusts, propelling him some distance, but then quieting, allowing him to regroup and scan his surroundings. He passed what appeared to be a military fortification near the river and then he saw ruins of much older habitations. Walking among the ruins was a lone creature, who looked around with interest.

The being was perfect. He was clearly the same type of creature who had altered the landscape. Moreover, the creature was alone. If Legion affected the creature adversely, detection was unlikely.

Before the next gust of wind, Legion drifted over to the creature.

The being took a deep breath and some of the components entered its nasal passages. Those components traveled into the being’s lungs and ultimately into the bloodstream where they were carried to the brain, scanning and transmitting information as they went. Other components scanned the ruins and still others, further down the river valley, analyzed patterns of technological development and settlement, then compared that information to data collected from other worlds.


Learn more about Owl Dance at: http://flyingpenpress.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=49. Today, September 16, it’s on a special pre-publication price of $10.95!