2020 Hindsight

Soon after the year 2020 began, I wrote a post called “2020 Foresight,” as a play on the old saw, “Hindsight is 20/20.” The post looked at my publishing plans for the first part of 2020 and, for the most part, those plans ticked off just as I expected they would. Through Hadrosaur Productions, I released Sheila Hartney’s anthology Exchange Students at the end of February, which imagined exchange students traveling between worlds and times. In April, Hadrosaur released Don Braden’s novel Upstart Mystique, which imagined a colony ship from Earth encountering a civilization that had attempted to upload its collective consciousness into a computer. I released the new, revised edition of my first novel, The Pirates of Sufiro, in July. I’m happy to look back at the year and see all of these plans actually came about as expected.

As we entered 2020, one thing I knew was that the contracts for three of my novels would be up for renewal in March. I knew the publisher had scaled back operations and I suspected they would want to revert the rights to me. I didn’t discuss this in the blog at the time because I didn’t think it would be professional of me to talk about it before my publisher and I discussed the fate of these books. As it turns out, the publishing rights for these books did revert to me right as much of the world began to shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The upshot was that I spent much of the spring and early summer working on new editions. I made fairly minor changes to The Astronomer’s Crypt and Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires. I decided to re-order the chapters of Vampires of the Scarlet Order, which helped to tighten the novel’s focus. I’m pleased with how these novels turned out and I was especially gratified by the good reaction I received to the new edition of Vampires of the Scarlet Order when it was a featured selection of Boutique du Vampyre’s Vampyre Library Book Club in November.

As we moved from summer into fall, my attention turned to some new writing projects. I wrote a novelette and a novella, both of which have been accepted by their respective publishers. In fact, I spent the last week of 2020 working on edits my publisher requested for the novella. I’m really excited for its release in 2021 and plan to share details about it as soon as I can. I have also continued my work revising the Space Pirates’ Legacy novels. I’m rapidly approaching the halfway point on Children of the Old Stars. You can follow the progress of the Space Pirates’ Legacy project and I’ve been told I can provide an early sneak peek of the novella project if you sign up at my Patreon site.

It seems as each year ends, I hear a chorus of voices bemoaning the terrible year ending and hoping for better times in the new year. The transition from 2020 to 2021 is no different and, arguably, the chorus is more justified this year than they have been in many recent years. That noted, I was pleased to attend a virtual Tohono O’Odham storytelling hosted by the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum on December 30. One of the storytellers shared a traditional song that reminds us, even in darkness, there is light from the moon and stars to guide our way. My readers who have stuck with me have been a bright point of light in the year just past. Thank you. If you haven’t discovered the books I write and publish yet, I invite you to browse the selection at http://hadrosaur.com/bookstore.php and http://davidleesummers.com/.

The Weird and Wild West

The annual Smashwords End of Year Sale is underway. Many of Hadrosaur’s titles are available at deep discounts and I’ll be highlighting them over the course of the sale here at the Web Journal. The coupon codes for these discounts are automatically applied at checkout. One of the things I love about Smashwords is that they provide ebooks in all popular formats and they’re DRM free, so you can download them to your favorite device or gift them to friends without worrying about what e-reader they prefer. If you are shopping for a friend, just click “Give as a Gift” when you visit the Smashwords links!

Today I feature our two Weird Westerns. The first is the standalone novella, Fallen Angel by David B. Riley. The other, Legends of the Dragon Cowboys, contains a pair of novellas, one by David and the other by long-time Hadrosaur Productions cover artist Laura Givens. She created the cover image as well!


Fallen Angel

Fallen Angel is the story of Mabel, an angel from Hell, who accompanies General Grant’s army during the last days of the Civil War only to discover that Martians are watching the Earth with envious eyes and slowly drawing their plans against us. Not only that, but Mabel has to contend with her evil sister, who wants to have humans for dinner. Although Mabel and Grant get the upper hand before the war ends, the battle of good against evil isn’t won so quickly. Several years later, in San Francisco, Mabel just wants to have fun with her friend Miles O’Malley, when she discovers her sister and the Martians have joined forces with a college fraternity and humanity may be on the dinner menu.

Christine Wald-Hopkins of The Arizona Daily Star writes, “This quirky new novel by Tucsonan David B. Riley is a cross-genre romp, religious fantasy meets historical fiction, science fiction, zombie ‘Animal House.’”

Get the book for 50% off at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/924099


Legends of the Dragon Cowboys

Legends of the Dragon Cowboys brings you two weird western adventures by authors David B. Riley and Laura Givens. Their heroes ride boldly out of the Far East to find their way in a mythic land of danger, romance, and adventure.

In “The Venerable Travels of Ling Fung” by David B. Riley, a wandering businessman encounters a Mayan god, crooked enterprises and Yeti, the Abominable Snowman, when all he really wants is to open a gun store. Ling Fung is not any ordinary Chinese entrepreneur–he’s highly skilled in Kung Fu and he can shoot good, too. While his heart is set on business, providence seems to have other plans for him.

Laura Givens brings wily acrobat Chin Song Ping to the Wild West in search of adventure and fortune. He finds little fortune, but plenty of adventure. Chin Song Ping is a scoundrel, a gambler and a trouble magnet. His heart of gold lands him in schemes to outwit would-be gods, cannibal ghosts, insane robots, Voodoo despots and the ultimate evil–bureaucrats. But he is a romantic, and the love of his life is the true treasure he seeks. The odds are always against him but if he survives he will become the Western legend he always was in his own mind.

The Wild West just got a lot wilder!

Midwest Book Review says, “These two Western novellas are seasoned a dash of exotic adventure, featuring cowboy protagonists who hail from the Far East and pursue their dreams in the tough-as-nails frontier. Riveting from first page to last, Legends of the Dragon Cowboys is enthusiastically recommended for public library collections and connoisseurs of the genre!”

Get the book for just $1.00 at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/751811

Scary Books for Long Winter Nights

The annual Smashwords End of Year Sale is underway. Many of Hadrosaur’s titles are available at deep discounts and I’ll be highlighting them over the course of the sale here at the Web Journal. The coupon codes for these discounts are automatically applied at checkout. One of the things I love about Smashwords is that they provide ebooks in all popular formats and they’re DRM free, so you can download them to your favorite device or gift them to friends without worrying about what e-reader they prefer. If you are shopping for those last-minute gifts, just click “Give as a Gift” when you visit the Smashwords links!

Today, I’m highlighting my horror novels at Smashwords. These include The Astronomer’s Crypt about astronomers, ghosts, drug dealers, and a monster from the beginning of time colliding at a remote observatory during a violent thunderstorm. The Scarlet Order Vampire novels tell the story of vampire mercenaries who fight evil through the ages.


The Astronomer’s Crypt

Two years ago on a stormy night, in the dead of winter, Mike Teter experienced something that would change his life forever. Mike was a telescope operator at the world renowned Carson Peak Observatory in New Mexico. We won’t tell you what he saw that night on the mountain nor what happened afterward on a dark stretch of highway, because it would haunt you just as it has haunted Mike. But what we will tell you is that Mike is back at Carson Peak. And what he witnessed that night two years ago is about to become a reality…

My novel, The Astronomer’s Crypt, is pulled from over twenty years experience operating telescopes at observatories around the Southwest. You can make this journey into the dark side of astronomy for just $1.00 this month at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1025608


Three vampires. Three lives. Three stories intertwined.

Dragon’s Fall

Bearing the guilt of destroying the holiest of books after becoming a vampire, the Dragon, Lord Desmond searches the world for lost knowledge, but instead, discovers truth in love.

Born a slave in Ancient Greece, Alexandra craves freedom above all else, until a vampire sets her free, and then, she must pay the highest price of all … her human soul.

An assassin who lives in the shadows, Roquelaure is cloaked even from himself, until he discovers the power of friendship and loyalty.

Three vampires, traveling the world by moonlight—one woman and two men who forge a bond made in love and blood. Together they form a band of mercenaries called the Scarlet Order, and recruit others who are like them. Their mission is to protect kings and emperors against marauders, invaders, and rogue vampires as the world descends into the chaos of the Dark Ages.

Marita Wowod Crandle, author of New Orleans Vampires—History and Legend calls the novel, “A journey into the time of lords, battles, sailing the seas, and vampires. A wonderful escape into historical adventure.”

Buy Dragon’s Fall for just $1.00 this month at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1025606


A new generation of vampires embarks on a quest to save humanity.

Vampires of the Scarlet Order

Opening a forgotten crypt during a military exercise, Dr. Jane Heckman is made a vampire and begins a journey to unlock the secret origins of her new kindred.

Elsewhere, solitary vampire Marcella DuBois emerges from the shadows and uncovers a government plot to create vampire-like super soldiers.

Daniel McKee, a vampire working as an astronomer, moves to a new town where he’s adopted by a family, only to have government agents strip those he loves away from him.

All three vampires discover the government is dabbling in technologies so advanced they’ll tap into realms and dimensions they don’t understand. To save humans and vampires alike, Jane, Marcella, and Daniel must seek out the legendary master vampire Desmond, Lord Draco and encourage him to resurrect his band of mercenaries, the Scarlet Order.

By Vampires of the Scarlet Order for just $1.00 this month at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1038560

Smashwords End of Year Sale

The annual Smashwords End of Year Sale is underway. Many of Hadrosaur’s titles are available at deep discounts and I’ll be highlighting them over the course of the sale here at the Web Journal. The coupon codes for these discounts are automatically applied at checkout. One of the things I love about Smashwords is that they provide ebooks in all popular formats and they’re DRM free, so you can download them to your favorite device or gift them to friends without worrying about what e-reader they prefer. If you are shopping for those last-minute gifts, just click “Give as a Gift” when you visit the Smashwords links!

Today, I’m highlighting Upstart Mystique by Don Braden and the Ethereal War duology by Greg Ballan.


Upstart Mystique

On its way to a distant colony world, the space vessel Marco P loses all power and an unknown force convinces the navigator that a distant, dead world is the vessel’s true destination. Commander Malcolm Carpenter orders the crew to abandon ship to protect them and to learn how to defeat whatever force has intercepted his ship. The crew discovers a small group of inhabitants, the only people on the planet who were not uploaded into a vast computer network—a computer network captivated by upstart humans and their imaginations. To free his crew and his navigator from the planetary network’s grip, Commander Carpenter must face a moral dilemma. Can he save his crew without condemning a planet’s inhabitants and their digital ancestors to death?

Get Upstart Mystique for 75% off the cover price at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1010602


The Ethereal War duology features ex-CIA agent Erik Knight who has alien DNA which gives him superhuman powers. However, he doesn’t know the extent of those powers and that scares him. What’s more, in these two novels, Erik finds himself caught in the middle of the ultimate war, the war between heaven and hell!

Armageddon’s Son

In Armageddon’s Son, the forces of Light and Dark wage war on and above Earth as each side seeks human allies to advance either the destruction or salvation of an ignorant mankind. In one bold, desperate act, an agent of Chaos has stolen the most powerful and coveted holy relic from the very heart of Vatican City, The Ruby Crucifix of Christ. This powerful relic was carved from the very cross where the savior was nailed, and is stained with His blood. This holy relic is said to be the instrument to end Armageddon and herald a new age of Man.

Ex-CIA Agent Erik Knight is recruited to assist his mentor, Martin Denton, in discovering the identity of the mysterious thief and locate the stolen relic. The agents soon realize the clergy of Vatican City have secrets and political schemes surpassing even Washington DC’s politicians. In order to solve the mystery, the agents must break through the papal code of silence and accept that the world as they know it is mere illusion, hiding a brutal physical and spiritual war of ‘Good’ versus ‘Evil’. As Erik Knight digs deeper into the mysteries of faith, he realizes his own alien ancestry is linked to biblical prophecy. Is he the fabled ‘Armageddon’s Son’?

Armageddon’s Son is available for just $1.00 at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/928557


Battle Lines

In Battle Lines, the hidden battle between good and evil approaches a boiling point. Each side accuses the other of violating rules set down by the Creator at the dawn of time. The theft of The Ruby Crucifix from Vatican City enrages the forces of light, while the unauthorized birth of Armageddon’s Son spurs the forces of darkness to take desperate, hostile action. As both sides prepare for war, a third party, the rogue arch demon Molec, escalates hostilities by issuing a forbidden soul bounty on light’s new prophet, who happens to be the son of the Hybrid, former CIA Agent Erik Knight. The Hybrid and his trusted ally, Martin Denton, must confront demons, angels, aliens, corrupt politicians and evasive clergymen each with their own agenda and hidden motives as they hunt down Molec in a desperate, final attempt to avoid a catastrophic, world-ending battle which would have repercussions across the galaxy and the multiverse.

Battle Lines is available for just $1.00 at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/957504

Finally, I’m excited to announce that Hadrosaur Productions will be taking over publication of Greg’s first two Hybrid novels, Hybrid and Hybrid: Forced Vengeance, in 2021. These tell the story of how Erik Knight learned about his powers and set up the events in the Ethereal War duology.

Is It Worthwhile to Create New Editions?

This question has come up a couple of times in recent weeks, so I thought it worthwhile to address the reasons I decided to revise some of my novels for new editions and the way I’m going about it. In May 2017, the publishing rights to my space opera novels—The Solar Sea, The Pirates of Sufiro, Children of the Old Stars, and Heirs of the New Earth—reverted to me and I faced the decision about whether or not to republish them as they originally appeared, or update the novels and publish them in new editions. The Pirates of Sufiro was my first novel, originally published in paperback in 1995. Children of the Old Stars followed in 2000. The Solar Sea was the final novel of this set. It was published in 2005 and was a prequel to the other three.

The Old Star/New Earth Series in 2017

In the ten years between 1995 and 2005, I made a lot of progress in finding my “voice” and honing my writing style. In 1995, I hadn’t yet taken Stephen King’s adage “the road to hell is paved with adverbs” to heart. I wasn’t using the strongest verbs and I had a tendency to add in unnecessary hedging or distancing words. Also, while some readers seemed to honestly enjoy these novels, I noticed a few common themes cropping up in reader reviews in places like Amazon and Goodreads, where the novels hadn’t quite lived up to reader expectations. What I realized about those reviews as time passed was those points were, for the most part, fixable. They came about because I rushed certain scenes or didn’t describe things fully. Sometimes emotions weren’t quite genuine or characters didn’t seem quite fully formed. What’s more, the worst issues were in the earlier books, which is a great way to keep people from continuing on to the later, better books. It seemed important to bring the entire series up to a consistent level.

So that’s why I thought of this as a worthwhile exercise.

Executing the edits is a multi-stage process. The first part involves re-reading each chapter with both my own critical eyes and with reader reviews in mind. I start by making some notes on the manuscript as a whole and then I go through chapter-by-chapter. Followers of my Patreon page are familiar with my posts that include an original version of a chapter headed by my notes and impression of the chapter. I then make a first pass and revise the chapter according to my notes. In my second pass, I follow the guidelines recommended in Ken Rand’s book, The Ten-Percent Solution. The book presents a method of looking for common problem words and evaluating whether you can make the sentence they’re in clearer by tightening the language. Finally, I read the chapter aloud, doing my best to keep my critical mind engaged. “Would people really say that?” “Does it make sense that a character took a particular action?” “Is it clear why something happened when it did?” Finally, I pass it to my wife for one more round of proofreading. At this point, I post the updated chapter to Patreon.

But wait, there’s more! Once I get the whole book done, I read the whole book one more time to make sure everything still holds together and that I didn’t miss something between one chapter and the next. I’ve even started using text-to-speech as yet another tool. This allows the computer to read the book to me, which has helped me catch errors I’d miss other ways.

So, is this a worthwhile exercise or should I have spent my time writing something new instead? At a personal level, it has been worthwhile. I feel like each book is significantly improved. I’ll have a better sense whether this was lucrative after I finish both Children of the Old Stars and Heirs of the New Earth. If most people who read Firebrandt’s Legacy and The Pirates of Sufiro are sufficiently intrigued to keep following the series, then this experiment will have been an unqualified success. If you want to join me as I continue this experiment and see how it turns out, sign up over at https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers. There you can see me put these steps into practice and get some fun reading the books along the way.

NaNoWriMo-ish

November is the National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. During the month, many authors endeavor to write 50,000 words. While that won’t count as a complete novel for most publishers these days, it’s a large chunk of a novel. To reach 50,000 words in one month, you have to write about 1,667 words per day. You can even sign up to participate at nanowrimo.org and to find tools, structure, community, and encouragement to help you succeed. My daughter has signed up and participated for the last couple of years. Although I didn’t officially sign up to participate in NaNoWriMo, I wrote two novels as NaNoWriMo challenges when LBF Books was publishing my novels.

The Solar Sea

The first of my NaNoWriMo novels was The Solar Sea, which I wrote in 2004. This is a novel I’d tried to write twice before, but abandoned both times partway through. The first time I abandoned the novel, it was because I was a young writer who lacked the discipline to see the story through. The second time, I had a sense of the plot, but hadn’t really nailed down the themes I wanted to explore. Between that and not being really certain what I audience I was writing for, the novel bogged itself down. In 2004, I had two young daughters who I wanted to excite about math and science. That and the 50,000-word goal of NaNoWriMo encouraged me to write The Solar Sea as an adventure story primarily for a young adult audience. I calculated my daily word goal and set myself a time to write each day after my daughters went to bed. Once I got into the routine, I found I could meet my writing goals pretty well each day. It taught me the value of writing each day at a set schedule. You can learn more about the novel at: http://davidleesummers.com/solar_sea.html

Dragon’s Fall:
Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires

I wrote my second NaNoWriMo novel in 2005. This was intended to be a prequel to my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order which had recently been published by LBF. In this case, I knew 50,000 words would only be a little more than half the novel. When I wrote The Solar Sea, I had a clear idea of the plot and I had been thinking about certain story elements for almost fifteen years before I started NaNoWriMo. When I wrote Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires, I had a one-page synopsis. So, my 50,000 words were much more stream-of-consciousness than The Solar Sea. At the end of the month, I really liked the beginning of what I wrote, but felt the stuff I wrote at the end of the month lacked focus. Still, this gave me a solid core that I could work on and develop. It took about two years, but the novel did take shape. I added a few chapters before the original opening and then tightened the latter sections and added a solid ending. This experience helped me see that I could be disciplined while writing by the seat of my pants, and I was ultimately happy with my tale of three vampires who come form a band of mercenaries. You can learn more about Dragon’s Fall at: http://davidleesummers.com/dragons_fall.html

This year, NaNoWriMo occurred right as Kitt Peak National Observatory reopened from being shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So I haven’t participated in NaNoWriMo this year. That said, I was given the assignment of writing a novella in early September. At the time, I knew Kitt Peak would likely reopen around mid-October to early November, so I wanted to get as much of the novella written as possible before work resumed and I had to settle into a regular work routine at the observatory again. To accomplish the task, I used the skills I had gained in NaNoWriMo. In this case, I wrote a detailed outline and I set myself a clear word-count goal for each day. Even though I had an outline, my characters did their own thing at parts of the story and I did have to re-outline, but I’m used to this. I managed to finish my novella by the time I returned to work at Kitt Peak. I have since turned it in to the publisher who assigned me the project. Just this past week, the publisher sent me the contract for the story. I’ll share more details about this novella soon.

Although I haven’t participated in NaNoWriMo this month, I did assign myself the project of writing my first comic book script. In honor of being NaNoWriMo, it’s an adaptation of one of the scenes from Dragon’s Fall. I’m currently working with an artist to bring “Guinevere and the Stranger” to life and hope we’ll have something to show off by spring 2021.

Nine to Eternity

I am pleased to announce that a new anthology has just been released featuring my novelette “An Asteroid By Any Other Name.” The anthology is called Nine to Eternity: A Science Fiction Anthology, edited by M.Christian and published by Strange Particle Press.

In M.Christian’s previous anthology, Five To The Future the editor asked respected science fiction and fantasy authors to “write whatever story you want to write. No limits aside from having fun.”

Nine To Eternity: A Science Fiction Anthology takes this idea a fascinating step further, with the editor reaching out to the same authors, plus any friends they’d personally like to invite to the project, to submit “a personal favorite story: one that also, sadly, didn’t get the love they’d put into it.”

And so Ernest Hogan, Emily Devenport, Cynthia Ward, Arthur Byron Cover, as well as M.Christian himself, from the first book are joined by newcomers Ralph Greco, Jr., Jean Marie Stine, the estate of Jody Scott, and myself to make Nine To Eternity: A Science Fiction Anthology a memorable reading experience. 

Full of not just endearing characters, vivid worlds, and thrilling adventures, this anthology is also is a touching examination of what this collection of authors considers their best work. Stories included in Nine To Eternity: A Science Fiction Anthology include:

“Skin Deep,” a wistful science fiction melody of love and longing by Emily Devenport: author of Shade, Larissa, Scorpianne, EggHeads, and The Kronos, plus many other novels and stories.

“Spitzhkov Red,” a haunting tale as real as tomorrow’s headlines of comradeship and service from Jody Scott: author of Passing For Human, I, Vampire, and Devil-May-Care (all published by Strange Particle Press).

“Bombastic Christ,” the controversial story of what happens when DNA from the Shroud of Turin is cloned, written by Ralph Greco, Jr., author of Far Out Within, and who has stories in anthologies such as The Infinite Spectacle: Short Stories of Displaced Reality.

“The Great Mars-A-Go-Go Mexican Standoff,” from the “father of Chicano sf” is a rollicking future-shock interplanetary Chicano delight by Ernest Hogan: author of High Aztech, and Cortez on Jupiter (both published by Strange Particle Press). I loved seeing this story in this book, since I published it in Tales of the Talisman as well!

“A Murder” is a lyrical, but heart-wrenching story of futuristic murder by Arthur Byron Cover author of East Wind Coming, The Platypus of Doom & Other Nihilists, and Autumn Angels (all published by Strange Particle Press).

“Whoever Fights Monsters” is a ferociously powerful reinterpretation of Mina Harker from Dracula written by Cynthia Ward, editor of anthologies like Lost Trails: Forgotten Tales of the Weird West, author of The Adventure of the Incognita Countess, and with stories in magazines like Analog, Asimov’s, and Weird Tales.

“In The Canal Zone” is a dreamlike tale about a mysterious canal whose location may not even lie within our own universe written by Jean Marie Stine editor of numerous anthologies, such as Future Eves: Great Science Fiction by Women About Women, The Legendary Women Detectives: 6 Classic Novelettes, and author of novels including Season of the Witch, and collections like Herstory & Other Science Fictions, and Nowhere To Hide And Other Mystery Stories.

“Why Are There Buildings, Daddy?,” a not-far-from-home work of spec fic about a depressed young man who only ever wanted to be a writer penned by M.Christian: the editor of 25+ anthologies, 12+ collections like Love Without Gun Control, Bachelor Machine, and others. His novels include Me2, The Very Bloody Marys, Running Dry, Finger’s Breadth, and more.

Finally, my story is “An Asteroid by Any Other Name,” a classically inspired tale of rapidly approaching doom. This is a story where I look to my astronomy background as I did when editing the anthologies A Kepler’s Dozen and Kepler’s Cowboys and writing my novel The Astronomer’s Crypt. I edited and updated the story since it first appeared in the e-zine The Fifth Di… almost fourteen years ago.

You can pick up your own copy of the anthology at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08JHBGTJS/

Children of the Old Stars Revisited

This has been a busy year releasing new editions of my novels. Just as I was wrapping up work on the rewrite of The Pirates of Sufiro, which I started in late 2018, the contracts for three other novels came to term and the publishing rights to those novels reverted to me. As summer 2020 approaches its end, I’m pleased that new editions of all four novels are now available and it’s now time to look ahead and see what new projects I will tackle. I’ve been giving particular thought to what I would share with my Patreon subscribers for the next few months. Now, as I’ve been wrapping up these most recent projects, a couple of new opportunities have arisen and I am working on two new projects. Unfortunately I’m not at liberty to speak about them in detail or share them with my Patreon subscribers until they’re closer to completion.

Children of the Old Stars 2001 edition.

As I say in my Patreon introduction video, a primary focus of the site is to fund new editions of my Space Pirates’ Legacy novels. Because of that objective and because a chunk of my time will be going into new projects I can’t speak about yet, I’ve decided to continue the deep dive through the series and start working on book three, Children of the Old Stars. In The Pirates of Sufiro, we met the Cluster. The Cluster is a vast alien machine that destroys starships indiscriminately in its quest for something or someone. As Children of the Old Stars commences, Commander John Mark Ellis is booted out of the service when he fails to save a merchant ship. He believes the key to stopping the Cluster is communication. His mother, Suki Firebrandt Ellis, is a historian who believes the very leaders of the galaxy are withholding information about the Cluster. One of Ellis’s antagonists from The Pirates of Sufiro, Clyde McClintlock, believes the Cluster is God incarnate, seeking retribution. G’Liat is an alien warrior whose own starship was destroyed by the Cluster. All together, they set out to solve the mystery of the Cluster before it finds the object of its quest.

As with The Pirates of Sufiro, I’ll post a chapter of Children of the Old Stars one week along with my thoughts about it. My goal will be to post the revised chapter a week later. How well I meet that goal will depend on the other projects I’m working on as well as my evolving work situation at Kitt Peak National Observatory. That noted, I will make every effort to complete at least one chapter per month. If you want to be along for the ride, be sure to sign up as a patron at: https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers. If you do, you’ll not only get to see updated chapters of Children of the Old Stars as they’re posted, you’ll be among the first to get a peek at the secret projects when I can share.

As a reminder, supporting me at Patreon also helps to support this blog so I can continue to give you an ad-free experience.

Now, you may wonder what other projects I’ve been considering, especially since they may be back in the running after I finish my secret projects. One is a sequel to The Astronomer’s Crypt. I have a synopsis written and have given the project quite a bit of thought. There are also a handful of vocal supporters for this project. I’ve also been considering a third book in the Scarlet Order Vampire series. Now there are many vocal people who will tell me that vampires are yesterday’s genre. However, I can’t ignore that in the three weeks since I released Vampires of the Scarlet Order, it has significantly outsold every other book I’ve released this year. It’s not a statistic I can ignore, especially if it turns into an ongoing trend.

Updating the Hadrosaur Bookstore

While Kitt Peak National Observatory is shutdown for the COVID-19 pandemic, one of my jobs has been to review, edit, and update documentation on the observatory’s websites. I can’t really show off much of what I’ve been working on there since those are internal sites behind firewalls, and, unless you’re versed in astronomical observation, these documents probably wouldn’t hold much general interest. Part of the reason I edit these documents is that the observatory values my skills as a writer and an editor, which I really appreciate. Also, I’ve been coding HTML since the “Wild West” days of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s.

A benefit the company added in response to the pandemic was to make LinkedIn Learning available to employees. I first became interested in LinkedIn Learning, when Australian writer and artist Greg Long reviewed some of the courses he’s taken, so I knew there were courses there that could help me improve my skills. Because of how early I came to coding websites, there were no classes. I learned by trial and error and browsing through the w3 standards. If I remember right, when I started, all of the standards could be printed out on three or four sheets of paper! The web has evolved a lot since those days. HTML has been improved and things like cascading style sheets and Javascript were introduced. So, I knew I could do with some formal training. So I decided to enroll in a “learning path” for becoming a web developer. In LinkedIn Learning, learning paths are a bundle of courses that cover a broad topic. I’ve completed two of the courses and am about three-quarters of the way through a third.

This training doesn’t just benefit Kitt Peak National Observatory. It is helping me build a better writer’s website and a better website for my company Hadrosaur Productions. This is work I can show you and talk about.

Take One of the Hadrosaur Bookstore

A couple of years ago, my older daughter helped to redesign the Hadrosaur Productions website. She made it through several pages and they look really nice, but then she was hired away to a full-time software engineering job. One of the pages she left for me was the main bookstore page. My objective for this page was to show off our books so people could discover what we had. They could then click the covers to get more details. In the screenshot above, you can see the page as I originally coded it. It’s a rigid table structure, which looks nice on a modest home computer screen. The problem is that the grid becomes small on phones. If you are using a bigger screen, there would be a lot of wasted white space.

This particular layout does not need to be organized as a table. All it needs is to display the covers, and better yet the covers with some additional information, in a neat and orderly fashion. Fortunately, there are some tools to do that in CSS. These tools also give me “under the hood” functionality that make it much easier to add new titles as they’re released, or remove titles as they’re sold out. What’s more, the new layout will adapt so that if you display it on a phone, you’ll just see a column of book covers and titles. If you display it on a wide screen, the rows will expand to fill the browser’s viewport.

You can take a look at the updated design here: http://hadrosaur.com/bookstore.php

I’d love to hear what you think of the updated design. As I say, it’s a work in progress. In the long run, I hope to make this more searchable and sortable. While you’re visiting the page, if a book grabs your eye, feel free to click on it to learn more. The “Add to Cart” and “View cart” buttons are all hosted at PayPal, so all purchases are secure. We don’t get any of your information other than your shipping address.

Buboni-Virtual Con 2020

This weekend, I had originally been scheduled to attend Bubonicon 52 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The convention has been postponed to 2021, but it presents a unique opportunity for people who couldn’t normally afford to travel to Albuquerque for a convention. You can attend Buboni-Virtual Con 2020 absolutely free just by visiting the Bubonicon Facebook Page or the Bubonicon YouTube Channel.

If you go to the links above between 10am and 7:30pm Mountain Daylight Time, you will find panel discussions, readings, a science talk, a short art demo, and a comic workshop. If you miss the opportunity to tune in live, you’ll still be able to watch the programming after its been archived on the pages. As you watch the events, you’ll encounter such folks as Becky Chambers, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Chaz Kemp, Connie Willis, Rebecca Roanhorse, S.M. Stirling, Jane Lindskold, Walter Jon Williams, and more!

During Buboni-Virtual Con, I participate in a panel discussion with Ian Tregillis, Dr. Cathy Plesko, and Courtney Willis called “Artificial Intelligence: Will Computers Take Over the World.” The panel will go live at 5pm MDT. As scientists move closer to achieving artificial intelligence, we discuss what’s next. We’ll discuss how real AI science compares to the depictions in movies, TVs and books. We consider whether AI could save the world or be its doom. What about Asimov’s Rules? In short, we discuss the future of artificial intelligence. We recorded this panel in advance. None of us were necessarily experts on the subject but we’ve all worked with robotic systems, machine learning algorithms and other real world AIs at different points in our careers. We talk about the difference between strong and weak AIs and even speculate about what it might take for an AI to cross the line into sentience. I hope you’ll join us today and comment on the video.

Now, if Bubonicon were happening in person, I’d likely be giving a reading at some point. As it turns out, eSpec Books has been hosting an online reading series to feature authors who haven’t been able to get out and about to conventions to show their wares. The first of my readings for the series is currently live. I read from my story “The Sun Worshiper” which appeared in eSpec’s anthology After Punk. The story imagines a Victorian mummy unwrapping party gone wrong. If you’re coming to this post in the middle of Buboni-Virtual Con and want to go catch the fine programming there, please do. This video will be waiting for you. It’s mostly audio, so it’s a good one to have on in the background while you’re doing other things as well.

Another thing that would be happening if this were an in-person convention is that I would have a table in Bubonicon’s Flea Market. Even though the Flea Market isn’t happening, you can still browse my wares at: http://www.hadrosaur.com and http://www.davidleesummers.com – in either event, you can browse at your leisure, read some samples and decide what you want. The only downside is that I can’t chat with you in person, but if you do have a question, feel free to drop it in the comments and I’ll chat with you there!