The Black Sable

In recent months, I’ve been enjoying Zenescope Publishing’s Van Helsing series which tells the story of Liesel Van Helsing, inventor and daughter of Dracula’s famous nemesis. Like many comic companies, Zenescope features a large common universe with characters who meet and interact. While learning more about their universe, I came across their space pirate character, the Black Sable. As someone who has written his share of space pirates as well as vampires, I decided to check this out.

Zenescope has been making a name for itself by creating a set of strong women characters. Most of these women are the type who kick ass now and ask questions later. The Black Sable is no exception to this. Set one century in the future, we find that humankind has developed a star drive and colonized much of the galaxy. They’ve also bumped up against the Mer, a race of vicious shark-like people. Humans have come out on top so far, but the Mer want to reclaim their place as the dominant species. The shark people are one of many ways we see that although this is a space saga, this pirate yarn is modeled strongly on tales from the golden age of piracy.

The story opens when Sable’s ship, the Fury, attacks a cargo transport only to discover the ship is hauling alien slaves. Sable refuses to make money off of slaves and frees them. As a result, they go back to a safe harbor to see if they can learn about any new sources of plunder. Sable runs across an old acquaintance named Blake who has a line on Korvarian Fuel Cells, which are, apparently quite valuable and should be an easy score. The two make plans to find these fuel cells. This immediately takes them into the middle of the conflict between the humans and the Mer. Not only that, but another pirate, Captain Blood, has also gotten word about the Korvarian fuel cells.

Over the course of the story, we learn that Sable herself was born a slave and has a deep connection to Captain Blood that she’s not aware of. I liked the fact that Sable is written as a pirate with something of a moral compass. The story is written primarily as swashbuckling adventure and doesn’t delve very deep into character motivations or the politics of the struggle between the Mer and humans and the corporation that’s also involved. Still, there’s enough there that the story kept me turning pages. Given that the story features nautical-inspired space pirates, they get bonus points for giving us a battle with a space kraken.

I had fun seeing some parallels between The Black Sable and my own Space Pirates’ Legacy series. Like Sable, Ellison Firebrandt is a pirate with a moral compass. Although he’s not born a slave, he does run up against slavery in The Pirates of Sufiro. A large, red, alien investigator named Officer Stanas reminds me a bit of my Rd’dyggian characters Arepno and G’Liat. Even the space kraken brought to mind the implacable alien threat of the Cluster in my novels. You can, of course, learn more about the Space Pirates’ Legacy series at: http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#pirate_legacy

The Black Sable was published in 2018 and it’s not clear how this story could feed into their bigger fantasy universe which is largely set in the present day. Still, it was such a fun ride that I hope they haven’t given up on this story and will produce another arc, or at least a one-shot, down the road. You can pick up a copy of the graphic novel at: https://zenescope.com/products/the-black-sable-graphic-novel

Learning from Loss

In 1976, when I was in elementary school, my teacher taught us about elections by having some of the students “run for office.” Of course, we weren’t running for any real political office, but the idea was to make campaign posters, have a debate, and let the class vote on who won. I ran for senator and thought I would be a shoe-in. Of the two people running, I was the one known to be the “smart kid.” I remember making some great posters with great slogans. In the end, I lost that election and I was devastated.

One of my friends came up and presented a hard truth to me. This friend did like me, but couldn’t vote for me because the other kid talked a lot more in the debate. I pointed out that the other kid made promises they couldn’t keep. My friend noted they actually said they would do something while it wasn’t clear I would do anything. Looking back, I realize that part of why I failed on that occasion was my own introverted personality. I wasn’t comfortable speaking to groups, so I didn’t say everything that was on my mind. More to the point, I learned to cope with the loss and move on. I didn’t get bitter. I didn’t say the other kid cheated. I knew I’d lost fair and square and I learned what I would need to do should I ever choose to run for a real elected position.

Losing is a powerful, albeit painful teacher. Whether one loses an election, a sporting event, or a competition of any sort, you can learn from the experience and do better. In fact, it’s such a great teacher that I’m hesitant to trust anyone who tries to tell me they never lost and that they succeed at absolutely everything they ever attempted. What’s more, the older they get without losing, the more I worry because I know the first real loss they face will be all the more difficult.

In the 1990s, I started reading through A. Bertram Chandler’s space opera series about John Grimes. Growing up as a Star Trek fan, I really enjoyed these books. John Grimes was a character much like Captain Kirk. As I read, I came to the novel The Big Black Mark, which is a novel about Grimes screwing up big time. He actually gets booted out of the service and has to find a new career. At that point, Grimes suddenly became a much more interesting character to me than Captain Kirk and it was precisely because he lost and had to learn from his mistakes and become better. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a Star Trek fan, but I find Grimes’s journey a bit more interesting.

I took this to heart when I wrote my Space Pirates’ Legacy series. The Pirates of Sufiro is about Ellison Firebrandt coping with losing his life of being a successful pirate. In the next book, Children of the Old Stars, his grandson makes a blunder when attempting to communicate with an alien race invading the galaxy and must start his quest all over again outside the military. I wrote these books when I was young and I hadn’t experienced as many losses as I have at this point in my life. One reason I’m revising them for new editions is that I’m better able to tap into the emotions that go with loss and moving on in new ways.

In the end, losing an election or a competition doesn’t make you a “loser.” It’s how you cope with the loss that demonstrates your true nature. I hope you’ll join Ellison Firebrandt and John Mark Ellis on their journey’s of loss and redemption. You can learn more about the Space Pirates’ Legacy series by visiting: http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#pirate_legacy

Authors traveling through Time and Space

In several recent posts, I’ve shared my thoughts regarding classic seasons of Doctor Who that have been released on Blu-Ray. One topic that has come up several times in the special features on these disks are the Doctor Who audio adventures produced by Big Finish Productions. These are original stories produced in audio with the actors who played the Doctor and his companions reprising their television roles. For actors like Colin Baker as the sixth Doctor, it’s given fans a peek into a more developed and nuanced character than we saw on television. For actors like Paul McGann as the eighth Doctor, we finally get to see more episodes than his one appearance in the TV movie. There are standalone adventures for several of the Doctor’s more popular companions and there are even standalone episodes for the Master, one of the Doctor’s greatest enemies.

I grew up in an era before home video. Some time in elementary school, I hit upon the idea that I could preserve and enjoy some of my favorite TV shows if I recorded them with an audio tape recorder. In the case of shows like Star Trek, listening to episodes was almost as good as watching them. Part of this was because I’d seen them numerous times on reruns, so I could visualize the episodes. However, part of it was that the writing, sound effects, and acting were so evocative that I didn’t need to visuals to understand what was happening. The Big Finish Doctor Who stories are like that. These are “pure” dramatizations with no narration. You just hear actors delivering their lines with sound effects and music to help you picture the scenes. As it turns out, these are great productions for me to listen to on my long drive from home to Kitt Peak National Observatory, because there’s no visual element to distract me while driving.

Because these are so good to listen to while driving and because we’d been hearing about them on the Doctor Who Blu-ray sets, my wife bought me a gift card with the idea that I would spend it on audio episodes at Big Finish. Two of the episodes I bought were “The Lovecraft Invasion” featuring Colin Baker and “The Silver Turk” featuring Paul McGann.

Both of these audio adventures feature the Doctor having an adventure with a famous author. Over the course of Doctor Who’s run, there have been several episodes where the Doctor has encountered authors. The second doctor encountered Cyrano de Bergerac. The sixth Doctor took H.G. Wells on a journey through time. The ninth Doctor met Charles Dickens. The tenth Doctor had adventures with William Shakespeare and Agatha Christie.

In “The Lovecraft Invasion,” the Doctor joins forces with 51st-century bounty hunter, Calypso Jonze, to hunt down the Somnifax: a weaponized mind-parasite capable of turning its host’s nightmares into physical reality. Chasing it through the time vortex to Providence, Rhode Island in 1937, they arrive too late to stop it from latching onto a local author of weird fiction, none other than Howard Phillips Lovecraft. The episode was interesting in that its author clearly demonstrated admiration for Lovecraft’s world and creations while showing contempt for his racist worldview. It was well performed and a ripping good story that also let me ponder questions of admiring a writer’s work while noting their problematic views. I appreciated that the episode didn’t retreat to the safety of considering Lovecraft a man of his time. They did this by giving the Doctor a companion from roughly Lovecraft’s time who didn’t appreciate his views any more than the Doctor did.

“The Silver Turk” took a different tack. In this case, the Doctor actually has a famous author as a traveling companion. In this case, the famous author is none other than Mary Shelley. He takes her to the Viennese exposition of 1872 where they find an amazing automaton who can play piano and beat all comers at chess and checkers. It turns out, the automaton is actually a Cyberman. Like Star Trek’s Borg, Cybermen are a mix of organic and machine parts without emotion but with a strong desire to capture others and make more of their kind. Of course, this brings Shelley into contact with reanimated dead bodies. There’s even a scene where a Cyberman gains more power using a lightning rod. The real joy of this episode is hearing how much the Doctor enjoys traveling with an author he admires. Julie Cox did a wonderful job as Shelley, though I have to admit, I kept visualizing Elsa Lanchester’s Shelley from the beginning of Bride of Frankenstein.

If you’re a Doctor Who fan, I highly recommend browsing Big Finish’s titles and finding a story to enjoy. Their audio adventures range from about $2.00 to $30.00 and they even have some first episodes you can download for free. The more I look through their catalog, the more I want to listen. They’ve even expanded their offerings to audio adventures besides Doctor Who, such as Dark Shadows and Space: 1999. You can learn more about them and listen to their offerings at https://www.bigfinish.com.

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/.

Space Pirates at a Steal

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, as I look forward to the new year and the rerelease of the penultimate novel of the Space Pirates’ Legacy novels, I feature those novels in the series currently available along with the series prequel, The Solar Sea.


The Solar Sea

In The Solar Sea, whales around the world changed their songs the day scientists announced the discovery of powerful new particles around Saturn’s largest moon which could solve Earth’s energy needs. The Quinn Corporation rushes to build a solar sail space craft to unlock the secrets of these strange new particles. They gather the best and brightest to pilot the ship: Jonathan Jefferson, an aging astronaut known as the last man on Mars; Natalie Freeman, a distinguished Navy captain; Myra Lee, a biologist who believes the whales are communicating with Saturn; and John O’Connell, the technician who first discovered the particles. Charting the course is the mysterious Pilot who seems determined to keep secrets from the rest of the crew. Together they make a grand tour of the solar system and discover not only wonders but dangers beyond their imagination.

T. Jackson King, the author of Battlestar and Star Glory says, “This story follows the private space industry exploration of the Moon and becomes a kind of Voyage of the Beagle as the solar sail ship Aristarchus visits Mars, Jupiter, then Saturn and its giant moon Titan … Highly enjoyable read. Highly recommended.”

Get the book for $1.00 at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/805692


Firebrandt’s Legacy

In Firebrandt’s Legacy, Ellison Firebrandt fights the good fight for Earth. Under a letter of marque, he raids the ships of Earth’s opponents, slowing down their progress and ability to compete with the home system. On the planet Epsilon Indi 2, he rescues a woman named Suki Mori from a drug lord, only to find she isn’t so happy about living a pirate’s life. However, when the captain finds a new engine that will make him the most successful pirate of all, Suki is the only one who can make it work. Now Firebrandt must find a way to keep his crew fed and his ship supplied while relying on a woman who barely trusts him and while every government in the galaxy hunts him to get the engine back!

Midwest Book Review says, “A grand space opera filled with high adventure from cover to cover, Firebrandt’s Legacy is highly recommended.”

Get the book for $1.00 at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/916916


The Pirates of Sufiro

The Pirates of Sufiro is the story of a planet and its people—of Ellison Firebrandt the pirate captain living in exile; of Espedie Raton, a man from the streets of Earth looking to make a fresh start for himself and his wife on a new world; of Peter Stone, the geologist who discovers a fortune and will do anything to keep it; and of the lawman, Edmund Ray Swan who travels to Sufiro seeking the quiet life but finds a dark secret. It is the story of privateers, farmers, miners, entrepreneurs, and soldiers—all caught up in dramatic events and violent conflicts that will shape the destiny of our galaxy.

Jane Lindskold, author of the Firekeeper Saga says, “When I first ‘met’ Ellison Firebrandt in Firebrandt’s Legacy, the last thing I even imagined was a future where our hero and his devoted crew did not immerse themselves in swashbuckling space battles with clever intrigues played out against challenging opponents within the dark reaches of outer space. Firebrandt’s creator, author David Lee Summers, was far more ambitious in the future he envisioned for his hero.

“In The Pirates of Sufiro Firebrandt faces challenges that press even his courageous heart and clever mind to the limit, as well as testing the loyalty of those he loves and trusts most deeply. This dynamic generational saga provides enough twists and turns to satisfy the most devoted space opera fan.”

The book is available for $1.00 at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1031018

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.

Children of the Old Stars 3rd Edition Cover Reveal

I have been working on the third edition of my novel Children of the Old Stars. The novel first appeared in a self-published edition in 2000. I created the first cover in Adobe Photoshop using a photo of a globular cluster and a model of the Cluster, the enigmatic machine-like intelligence that invades our galaxy in the Space Pirates’ Legacy novels. The novel was acquired by LBF Books in 2005 and Laura Givens created a much more professional looking cover. Given that the Space Pirates’ Legacy novels tell the story of pirate captain Ellison Firebrandt and his descendants, I had the idea that The Pirates of Sufiro should feature Ellison Firebrandt, Children of the Old Stars should feature his daughter Suki Ellis, and finally Heirs of the New Earth should feature Firebrandt’s grandson, Mark Ellis. So, Laura’s cover show’s Suki trying on the moon Titan trying to find out what the leaders of the galaxy know about the Cluster. The Cluster itself looms over the dome in the background.

The back cover of the novel reads as follows:

“An implacable alien intelligence called the Cluster has arrived in the galaxy and dissects almost every star ship it encounters. Grandson of an infamous space pirate, Commander John Mark Ellis is disgraced and booted out of the space service when he fails to save a merchant ship from the Cluster. Even so, Ellis believes he holds the key to communicating with the invader. His mother, Suki Firebrandt Ellis, is a historian who believes the galaxy’s leaders are withholding information about the Cluster. Clyde McClintlock believes the Cluster is God incarnate and provides the path to salvation. G’Liat is an alien warrior whose own star ship was destroyed by the Cluster. All together, they set out to stop the Cluster’s reign of destruction.”

In the novel, John Mark Ellis, Clyde McClintlock, and G’Liat find employment aboard a stellar mapping vessel called the Nicholas Sanson as part of their search for the Cluster. Laura’s new cover depicts Ellis and McClintlock on the Sanson along with Kirsten Smart, the ship’s corporate officer. They’re pondering a hologram of the Cluster. I think this new cover gives more a sense of colorful characters on a quest, which is what the book delivers.

Children of the Old Stars – 2021 Edition

I’m in the process of revising the novel for its new edition. I’m presenting each chapter as it appeared in the 2006 edition and discussing elements I thought worked along with ones I thought could use rethinking, then I’m giving patrons a first look at the revised chapters as I work my way through the novel. Patrons can also go back to older posts and download copies of other novels from my catalog. If you care to join John Mark Ellis and the crew of the Sanson on their journey, sign up at http://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers

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.

Battle Angel

November is my birthday month and in this modern age of digital shopping, that usually means a slew of coupons find their way into my email over the course of the month. I don’t use all the coupons. If I did, I’d probably go broke saving all that money. That noted, the coupons that tempt me most are the ones that get me to shop at bookstores. Among other things, the coupons become an excuse to try some books I haven’t explored before.

Battle Angel Alita

This time around, I found myself looking at the manga shelf at the local bookstore when Kodansha Comics’ beautiful deluxe edition of Battle Angel Alita caught my eye. Mostly I knew of Alita from the recent film directed by Robert Rodriguez and starring Rosa Salazar. I’d put off seeing the film because I knew it had been based on a manga and I wanted to know the source material before going to see the film. Among other things, I’ve often been disappointed by American interpretations of manga and anime.

Kodansha’s deluxe edition of the manga features an introduction by Brenden Fletcher, beautifully reproduced artwork at large size and some great translator notes. From the introduction, I learned that this cyberpunk manga by Yukito Kushiro had its origins in the early 1990s. Its Japanese title might best be translated as “Gun Dream Gally.” The manga first appeared in the United States in the mid-1990s, which probably explains why I wasn’t familiar with it. I was busy being a new dad at that point. However, arriving in the mid-1990s, manga and anime characters were still subject to having their names changed by translators, so Gally (or Garii) became Alita.

Battle Angel Alita is set in a dystopian, dark futuristic version of Kansas City, which sits under a floating, modern city called Zalem. A cybernetics specialist called Ito finds a beautiful robotic head in the scrap dropped by Zalem. He repairs the head and attaches it to a body and thus Alita is born. It turns out that Ito isn’t just a cybernetics specialist, he’s also a bounty hunter who dispenses justice to humans and rogue cyborgs who have broken the laws of the factory, which has become the central authority in this version of Kansas City. Alita’s first volume is largely a martial arts adventure story as Alita discovers she is a skilled warrior. She must battle a rogue cyborg called Makaku.

In the second volume, Alita falls in love with a boy named Yugo who dreams of going to the floating city. The only problem is that Yugo is illegally killing cyborgs and harvesting their spinal columns, the only part of the human body cyberneticists can’t duplicate. This volume explored the Yukito Kushiro’s science fictional world much more and I found myself much more engaged by the complicated set of emotions experienced by Alita and Yugo. Overall, I highly recommend this deluxe hardcover manga.

Upstart Mystique

It turns out that Battle Angel Alita was also made into a short original video animation. As of this writing, the anime can be watched for free on YouTube and it does tell much the same story as the manga, though somewhat condensed. Having watched the anime and read the manga, I’m now interested in seeing the American film.

As with many of the best cyberpunk stories, Battle Angel Alita explores questions of our relationship with machines. In the future, how much will machines become part of our bodies? Will we be able to move our consciousness from one body to another? Can the brain live long enough to be transplanted? Can consciousness survive in a computer without the brain? I was pleased to edit and publish a novel that also explores these questions, though it’s set on a distant alien world encountered by the crew of a starship. If you’re intrigued by these questions, I also encourage you to read Upstart Mystique by Don Braden. The book is available at: http://hadrosaur.com/UpstartMystique.php

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.