Saturday Morning Cartoons

Perhaps one of the things I miss most from years gone by is the ability to tune in to network television on Saturday morning and find a wide variety of animated cartoon programming. Much of this is due to television networks in the period of 1992 to 2002 deciding they didn’t make enough money to continue supporting animated programming. Also, around 2001 my wife and I decided that neither cable nor satellite TV were necessary items for our budget and we could see all the TV we wanted with other media such as DVDs. Of course, our decision was all part of the national trend that helped to kill animation in the first place. Not many people eschewed broadcast TV altogether as we did that early, but the number of choices available made it harder for networks to justify the expense of animation when certain cable networks specialized in it.

I grew up watching cartoons in the 1970s. I fondly remember many teams of crime-solving kids from shows such as Scooby-Doo and Josie and the Pussycats. The Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Hour provided some great comedy, much of it originally produced much before my time. I was already a Star Trek fan and loved the animated adaptation that aired in the mid 70s. There were even some cool live action experiments during that time such as Land of the Lost about a family trapped in a land of dinosaurs and the superhero-themed Shazam/Isis Hour.

I never really fell out of love with cartoons, but the 1990s ended up being another high point for me. That was in the early days of my astronomy career and cartoons became an escape from my working life. They were also a welcome treat when my first daughter was young. What I particularly remember from that period were some exceptional superhero shows such as Batman: The Animated Series and X-Men. There were also some great animated superhero parodies such as Earthworm Jim, The Tick and Freakazoid.

Of course, for all the gems, there were many forgettable shows as well. Still, what I find amazing living in the times we do is how many of these shows that I thought I would never see again are readily available on video or with the touch of a button on the internet. For a guy like me who occasionally wants a dose of nostalgia, these are great times. That said, the real joy of those Saturday mornings was the fun of discovery and I think that’s what I really miss is having that easy means of discovering new favorites.

Giving people a way to discover new authors was much of the reason I edited Hadrosaur Tales followed by Tales of the Talisman. Publishing those magazines also helped me appreciate the economic reality that caused the networks to take Saturday morning cartoons off the air. Like TV shows gone by, you can still get most of the back issues of both magazines. There are some great stories there by authors such as Neal Asher, Nicole Givens Kurtz, David Boop, and Janni Lee Simner and many more. You can find the back issues of each at:

As it turns out, I can do better than just give you nostalgia, Hadrosaur Productions has published two anthologies of stories set around planets discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission. Be sure to check out:

Too Early for Halloween Decorations?

As long as I can remember, people have complained about Christmas decorations appearing in stores earlier in the current year than the previous year. This year is the first time I can remember people commenting—mostly in a lighthearted way, it seems—about Halloween decorations appearing early. As it turns out, I actually don’t mind a little lead time on the Halloween season. I love Halloween, but because of my observatory job, I only get a couple of weeks at home in a month. If I’m working on a writing or editorial deadline, I might not get to a store that has decorations to remind me Halloween is approaching until very close to the date. fsf-sep2016 Also, although I attend several science fiction, steampunk, and comic conventions each year where cosplay is encouraged, I don’t often get to go full-out since I’m appearing as a professional on panels. Halloween is a definite chance to play.

Speaking of conventions, when I was at Bubonicon in Albuquerque a couple of weeks ago, I picked up a copy the David Gerrold Special Issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction from Gerrold himself. He was kind enough to sign it for me. The issue has proven to be worth the money just for Gerrold’s fine science fiction novella “The Further Adventures of Mr. Costello” and Peter S. Beagle’s “The Green-Eyed Boy,” which is a prequel to The Last Unicorn. However, I’ve also been enjoying the fact that the issue contains several spooky tales about ghosts and murder most foul. It’s done a great job getting me into the Halloween frame of mind!

2020-visions As an aside, David Gerrold is actually the first professional science fiction author I met. We met at a convention in California circa 1981 and he signed my copy of his book The Trouble with Tribbles which told how he created the Star Trek episode of the same name. I was honored to appear alongside Gerrold in the anthology 2020 Visions edited by Rick Novy. The anthology tells stories set in the year 2020. You only have a little more than three years to find how good we did predicting the future!

Back on the subject of Halloween, this is one of those years where I have to work at the observatory on the big day itself. Unfortunately, that means I can’t really go all out on costuming this year, but I’m still thinking about dressing up. Perhaps I’ll go as an astronomer’s ghost in honor of my forthcoming novel, The Astronomer’s Crypt!

Queries, Marketing, and Talismans

It’s been a little over a year since Tales of the Talisman volume 10, issue 4 hit the streets and I thought I’d take this opportunity to update you on the magazine’s hiatus.

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I took the break, in part, to finish three novels under contract. Where those stand is as follows: The Brazen Shark was published earlier this year. I just turned in the first round of galleys for The Astronomer’s Crypt. I still need to write Owl Riders. My goal is to work on that novel this autumn and winter. Lurking in the background was also the anthology which is now called Maximum Velocity: The Best of the Full-Throttle Space Tales. As I mentioned last weekend, construction of that book is well underway.

I’m also conducting an experiment to see whether it’s a better business decision for Hadrosaur Productions to focus its publishing efforts on anthologies rather than a magazine. That experiment is on-going and you are welcome to participate. If you’re a writer, we’re reading for the anthology Kepler’s Cowboys right now. Find out what we’re looking for at the Guidelines Page. If you’re a reader, be sure to visit my homepage at davidleesummers.com and sign up for my newsletter so you can be among the first to know when the book is released! Just as a brief update for those writers who have submitted, the first short-listed stories are with my co-editor Dr. Steve Howell right now to get his opinion. If you want to check on the status of a submission, please feel free to query.

Which brings me to a brief digression for some writerly advice. Over the last few weeks, I’ve received a few queries about Tales of the Talisman and other projects. When writing a query, keep it short, on point, and avoid presumptuousness, no matter the reason for the query. A specific example comes to mind when someone queried to see if I’d be interested in reading an essay they’d written. About mid-way through the query, they said something to the effect: “This essay is longer than your guidelines specify, but the material is so interesting, I’m sure you’ll want to take a look.” A writer needs confidence, but this is not the best way to express it. Better would be a simple statement of the length. This would allow me to decide if I’m willing to bend the rules. Best would be to indicate willingness to work with the editor if changes are desired. In this case, don’t even indicate that it’s the length that’s at issue. The problem with the query letter was that it was so specific on the point of length that I suspected the author wouldn’t be willing to make any changes. Even if I had been buying essays for Tales of the Talisman, this would have made me less likely to consider the essay.

As far as the hiatus is concerned, I estimate I’m about two-thirds of the way through the time-critical projects that I knew would take a lot of my attention from the magazine. The experiment to see whether anthologies are a better product for Hadrosaur is really just gaining momentum. The upshot is that the hiatus will continue through 2016 as planned and will continue into 2017. About mid-way through 2017, I’ll take another look and see where things stand.

Of course, the one thing that speaks volumes to any editor or publisher considering a project is sales. The thing that would most convince me to bring back Tales of the Talisman sooner than later is a surge in back-issue sales, which actually brings me to another writer tip. For me, one of the hardest things about marketing is tooting my own horn. However, magazines and anthologies offer a way around that difficulty because there are great works by a number of authors. Instead of tweeting “buy my book” you can encourage people to “check out this magazine with an awesome story by Lee Clark Zumpe and an terrific poem by Beth Cato.”

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If you go to the “Issues” link at TalesOfTheTalisman.com you’ll find the four issues of Volume 10. More than that, if you scroll to the bottom, you’ll find links to all the past volumes. For an extra special treat, check out Tales of the Talisman’s predecessor, Hadrosaur Tales. Many of the back issues are available at the HadroStore! These older issues are a real bargain. If you’re a writer who wants Tales of the Talisman back as a market, why not recommend a few of these older magazines to your readers. I encourage readers to browse and find something they’d like to try. Even though the issues have dates, stories and poems don’t spoil. They’re just as fresh as the day they were published.

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.

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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!

17th Annual Preditors and Editors Poll

Welcome to a new year and I hope it’s off to a terrific start. The start of a new year means it’s time for the annual Preditors and Editors Readers Poll run by Dr. Andrew Burt and the Critters On-Line Writing Workshop. Now the Preditors and Editors poll is admittedly something of a popularity contest and the fact that it’s open to all means it’s dominated by a lot of small press and self-published titles vying for attention. Several years ago, I was one of those authors out there working hard to get every vote I could. Then the pendulum swung the other way for me and I went through a few years where I practically ignored the contest altogether. I’ve decided to devote a little time to it this year because, frankly, I feel proud of the work I’ve done.

To vote in the Preditors and Editors Poll, all you have to do is follow the links I give below. Vote for your favorite title, remember to fill in the information at the bottom, including the book cover CAPTCHA to prove you’re human. Once you’ve voted, you’ll receive an email with a validation link. Click that link to confirm your votes. The poll is open until January 14.

Without further ado, here are the works I have in the running at the Preditors and Editors Reader’s Poll.


Lightning Wolves

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Lightning Wolves is my latest steampunk novel in which an inventor exiled from Mexico hunts ghosts while the U.S. Army seeks any means necessary to break the back of the Russian force that occupies North America’s west coast. In the meantime, former sheriff Ramon Morales must put the pieces of his life back together and figure out the next step in his life before he marries the healer Fatemeh Karimi. The novel is in the running for the following two categories:

Steampunk Novel
Vote at: http://critters.org/predpoll/novelsteam.shtml

Cover Artwork
Vote at: http://critters.org/predpoll/bookart.shtml


Hiding in Plain Sight

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“Hiding in Plain Sight” is a science fiction story that appears in the Taurin Tales shared world anthology edited by J Alan Erwine. The stories in the anthology cover a wide range of life on the Taurin planet. It was fun to explore a new world literally through alien eyes. In the story, an object invisble to telescopes on the ground and only visible with two of the Taurins’ five eyes collides with a space station. Tensions run high as the Taurin nations assume an act of war. A space shuttle crew races against time to determine the true cause of the incident. “Hiding in Plain Sight” is in the running in the following category:

Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Story
Vote at: http://critters.org/predpoll/shortstorysf.shtml


Three Faces of Dracula

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“Three Faces of Dracula: A Personal Story” recounts how I came to write vampire fiction. It’s a fun, lighthearted piece that discusses several of the vampire books and films that inspired me in my journey and how they directly influenced my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order. “Three Faces of Dracula” is in the running in the following category:

Nonfiction Article
Vote at: http://critters.org/predpoll/nonfiction.shtml


Tales of the Talisman

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Tales of the Talisman is the science fiction and fantasy magazine I’ve edited for the last ten years. We present the best science fiction, fantasy, and horror short stories and poetry with beautiful illustrations selected by art director Laura Givens. Of all the categories I list, this is the one I’d love to see make a strong showing in the poll, just because I do feel strongly about all the great work we’ve published over the years. Poems in the magazine are frequently nominated for the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Rhysling Award. The magazine has received Honorable Mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Year’s Best Horror anthology. I think both of these facts speak to the magazine’s quality.

Magazine Editor – David Lee Summers
Vote at: http://critters.org/predpoll/zineeditor.shtml

Fiction Magazine
Vote at: http://critters.org/predpoll/fictionzine.shtml

Poetry Magazine
Vote at: http://critters.org/predpoll/poetryzine.shtml


Thank you for your consideration. I appreciate your votes. Even if you choose not to vote, I appreciate the support you’ve given me for these books and stories. Here’s looking forward to more great stuff to come in 2015!

A Potpourri for Christmas 2014

As usual, it’s a busy time as we move into the holidays. I started my most recent break from Kitt Peak National Observatory by stopping into one of my favorite annual holiday events, the Tucson Steampunk Society Dickens Tea.

Wolf Heads

At the Dickens Tea, Michael Jacobson showed off his clockwork wolf head. Although it’s not inspired by the clockwork wolf of Owl Dance and Lightning Wolves, it was still cool. The event was good inspiration for work on The Brazen Shark, the third novel in my steampunk series. That said, I didn’t write quite as much as I would have liked, but I did quite a bit of reading and research and I feel like the novel is getting stronger for the work. Unlike the first two novels in the series which are set in the wild west, the third novel is set largely in Japan and Russia.

One of the reasons I didn’t write as much as I would have liked was that I was getting Tales 10-2 cover Tales of the Talisman volume X, issue 2 off to the printer. The issue is now available at Amazon.com. Copies are winging their way to me now and I’ll send copies to subscribers and contributors as soon as I have them. Also, as soon as I have the copies, I’ll post volume X, Issue 2 as the current issue at TalesOfTheTalisman.com.

It turns out there have been some exciting happening with my horror and vampire novels. Drop by the Scarlet Order vampire blog on Monday for details.

Don’t forget, if you’re on Goodreads, you can enter to win one of two of my novels. Details are in last week’s post.

Also, remember that if you want signed copies of my books, you can order through my company Hadrosaur Productions. Just message me when you purchase and let me know how you would like the book sign. Unlike the giant online retailers, I can’t make promises this late about getting the book to you in time for Christmas, but if you order this week, I’ll get it out to you priority mail so you can have it just as fast as you can!

Wishing you a delightful and joyous holiday season!

Tales of the Talisman – Autumn 2014

Admittedly winter is almost upon us according to the calendar, but we still have a couple weeks of autumn left and I’ve been working hard this past week to finish the Autumn 2014 issue of Tales of the Talisman Magazine. Tales 10-2 cover The issue has something of a mad science vibe with stories of elder gods manipulating the Large Hadron Collider to break through to our world and Thomas Edison working to contact the dead. We also meet nineteenth century scientists working on the first artificial heart and we see a world where the wealthy reenact early space flights.

There are plenty of other stories as well, including the tale of a man who seeks King Arthur’s grave to implore the once and future monarch to rise and save the world. A doctor visits a village in Mongolia only to encounter terrifying magic. Another man peels up the corner of the world to reveal the elephants underneath. Of course, the issue itself is supported and enhanced by wonderful speculative poetry and terrific illustrations. I hope to send the issue to press sometime in the week of December 14. My guess is we’ll be shipping it out early in 2015. Please watch for it to appear at TalesOfTheTalisman.com and support the fine work of the authors and artists who have made this issue possible.

I suspect most people have heard by now that Tales of the Talisman will be going on indefinite hiatus. I thought I would take this opportunity answer some questions I’ve received about our break from the magazine.


Why are you going on hiatus?

In short, both Art Director Laura Givens and I have a lot of new, exciting opportunities on our plates and we could use more time to focus on them. I am contracted to deliver two novels to Sky Warrior Publishing in the next eighteen months. I will start working with my editor on a third novel for Lachesis Publishing early in 2015 and I have several other projects both personal and professional that have long been on the back burner simply due to lack of time.

By my estimate, I spend about 4.5 months of my year working at Kitt Peak. This is pretty much on par with an ordinary eight-hour per day, five-day per week job. Tales of the Talisman requires about 4 months of my year. That leaves about 3.5 months to do everything else, which has included writing a novel roughly every other year, multiple short stories, and attending conventions to promote my work.

In 1995, I assembled a small anthology called Hadrosaur Tales. That soon grew into a magazine, which I edited until 2005. At that point, in consultation with several people, we decided to take the magazine to the next level and add illustrations and give the stories the presentation they deserve. This became Tales of the Talisman.

For most of those twenty years, Hadrosaur Tales and then Tales of the Talisman supported themselves. However, they neither made me nor any of their contributors a living, much less making us rich. I have been delighted to have seen all the stories and poems that have come in to Tales of the Talisman and Hadrosaur Tales over the last twenty years, but I also felt like twenty years marked a good point to take a break and pursue other opportunities while I consider the next, best way for Hadrosaur Productions to present short fiction


When will Tales of the Talisman come back?

The most straightforward answer is, I don’t know. In short, deadlines are upon me for some of the projects I’ve mentioned above, plus I’m still spending time working on getting the final issues of Tales to press. I simply haven’t had time to consider that question. I plan to have a more definitive answer by the end of 2015.


Will Tales of the Talisman come back?

I’m not entirely certain, at least as it exists in its present form. Hadrosaur Productions, the company that publishes Tales of the Talisman remains committed to presenting great short speculative fiction. What we have to consider is whether the magazine is the best, most cost and time-effective way to do that. I have been considering other options, including an annual or semi-annual anthology, which might allow for quicker ebook conversion and easier distribution.


How long will Tales of the Talisman be published?

We have purchased stories through the spring 2015 issue. So, including the one that’s about to go to press, we have three issues to go. The artists are currently working on the winter issue, so I hope it will be released well before the spring winds start blowing here in New Mexico. We have all the material we need to fill those issues, so there will be no further reading periods until such time as we start up again, in whatever form that happens.


How will subscriptions be handled that extend past the last issue?

We don’t have many of those at this point. If you are one of those subscribers, I’ll contact you after we ship the final issue and find out if you want a refund for the balance of your subscription or if you’d like a product from the Hadrosaur Productions catalog for the value of the subscription.


If you have a question that I haven’t covered, feel free to ask in the comments. I want to thank all those people who have supported Tales of the Talisman and Hadrosaur Tales over the years. I ask that you continue to support my work and growth as a writer in the coming months. I hope that growing as a writer will help me grow as an editor as well. When we come back—in whatever form that is—I want the short fiction and poetry venue of Hadrosaur Productions to be a strong, vibrant home for the best voices in speculative fiction. My goal for this hiatus is to grow so that the material I choose and guide remains on that cutting edge. Please visit davidleesummers.com, browse my books and sign up for my newsletter.