Sally Sprocket and Piston Pete

Sally Sprocket and Piston Pete

In October last year, I had the pleasure of meeting artist Alejandro Lee at the Gaslight Steampunk Expo in San Diego, California. He had a booth in the vendor hall where he was selling copies of his creator-owned graphic novel Sally Sprocket and Piston Pete: The First Adventure. I’m always delighted to explore cool-looking indie titles, so I decided to pick up a copy. I was surprised and delighted when he also threw in vinyl figures of the title characters as a bonus.

The story is set in a post-apocalyptic steampunk world with overtones of the Wild West. Pete is a robot built sometime in the past who has lost much of his memory, but is compelled by a strong need to fix anything that’s broken. Given that he lives in a post-apocalyptic steampunk world, there are a lot of broken things that need fixing. Early in the story, he stumbles upon the crash of an airship and finds a little girl, barely hanging onto life. He takes her back to his workshop and gives her a robotic body. Like him, she’s lost much of her memory, so he names her Sally Sprocket and she becomes his sidekick.

Pete also works to bring reliable power to the town of Kratera. He finds a capacitor that allows him to collect energy from one of the many fierce storms that rage across the hostile landscape. However, this puts him at odds with a mad scientist Morticus Angstrom IV, who also claims the capacitor. Both Pete and Morticus are vying for a highly coveted place in the Daedalus League, an elite academy of science. One of Pete’s supporters is Doc Governess, the chief physician of Kratera, manager of its orphanage, and who seems to know something of Pete’s mysterious background.

I love the artwork in Sally Sprocket and Piston Pete. For the most part, Lee works in a subtly sepia-tinted grayscale evocative of old photographs. Occasionally, he drops in vivid color for effect. The art style walks the line between cartoonish and realistic. While Lee’s style is uniquely his own, I’m reminded of Brian Kesinger’s steampunk work. I cared about the characters and the story engaged me. One of the challenges of comic writing is making sure that all your panels tell a complete story, but you don’t bog the story down with unnecessary details. I felt like there were a couple of places where Lee wasn’t as successful with this as he could have been. That said, I get the impression Alejandro Lee is a serious student of comic books and graphic novels and is improving his narrative skills as he progresses. I would absolutely pay full price for a sequel to see what happens next in the adventures of Sally and Pete.

If you would like to read Sally Sprocket and Piston Pete: The First Adventure, you can find the book on Etsy at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ThePistonAndSprocket. The Vinyl figures are also available at their Etsy store. You can see Alejandro Lee’s amazing art and read some samples of the graphic novel at his DeviantArt site: https://www.deviantart.com/47ness

Breaking Records

It occurred to me it’s been a while since I’ve shared a behind-the-scenes look at my work at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Now that the DESI spectrograph is on the Mayall Telescope and the NEID spectrograph is on the WIYN Telescope, we’ve fallen into a fairly regular routine where, most nights, I check in with the observing team at 4pm via video chat, then go to the control room where I’ll eat dinner, open the telescope and start observing through the night. We wrap up as the sun starts lightening the sky in the morning. Targets for the night are predetermined before observing begins for the night. Once observing begins, much of my job is watching that the telescope doesn’t try to move to a position where it physically can’t and I’m the first line of defense in case the telescope or instrument malfunctions. I also watch the weather to make sure rain, wind, or snow don’t damage the telescope.

A slice through the 3D map of galaxies from the first few months of the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI). The Earth is at the center, with the furthest galaxies plotted at distances of 10 billion light years. Each point represents one galaxy. This version of the DESI map shows a subset of 400,000 of the 35 million galaxies that will be in the final map. Image courtesy NOIRLab.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we expected that both the telescope operator and lead observer for the night would be working in the same room, possibly with some support scientists. As it turns out, I wrote a post recently describing how these plans had to change so we could operate safely in these times. As things currently stand, I work in a control room alone and coordinate with the rest of the team via video conference. You can read that post here: https://www.desi.lbl.gov/2021/11/17/social-distancing-while-mapping-the-universe/

All this steady plugging away, observing the sky night after night with DESI is paying off. It was just announced that after just seven months of operation, DESI has already surpassed 7.5 million galaxies mapped, which means it has already generated the largest 3D map of the universe to date. And we’ve only completed about 10 percent of the survey. When we’re done, we expect to have mapped over 35 million galaxies. The picture with the post is a slice of the map so far. The map is presented such that Earth is at the center. Each point on the map is a galaxy. I encourage you to take a look at the press release about the DESI results so far. It’s at: https://noirlab.edu/public/news/noirlab2203/

One of my favorite images at the press release is an interactive image where you can look the map above and compare it to all the data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey in New Mexico. Sloan has been an on-going, ground-breaking project in its own right. I was fortunate enough to be on hand when that telescope was dedicated and the survey began. At the time, I worked as an engineer for a 1-meter telescope just a few yards away from the Sloan at Apache Point Observatory. I think it’s fair to say that DESI would not have been able to achieve what it has so far if Sloan hadn’t paved the way.

As it turns out, DESI’s value isn’t limited to creating a big map of the universe. Yes, that’s important and hopefully it’ll give astronomers clues about how the universe is expanding and how that may be related to this thing called dark energy. However, DESI is also creating a giant database of all these spectra that researchers will be able to use for years to come to understand more about the different types of galaxies and quasars we’re observing along the way.

On a good night up here, everything seems quiet and routine, which doesn’t give me a lot to share here, but it is producing lots of data and expanding our knowledge of the universe. Of course, routine nights also give me a chance to ponder the universe and continue to inspire me. As always, you can find links to my books and stories at http://www.davidleesummers.com

The Way-Out Wild West

I am excited to announce the publication of Hadrosaur Productions’ latest short story collection, The Way-Out Wild West by Lyn McConchie. I’ve been publishing Lyn’s work since Tales of the Talisman volume 8 in 2013. Ever since she started submitting to me, I’ve found it difficult to resist her tales. Our stories have also appeared together in the tables of contents of several anthologies and magazines including Six-Guns Straight From Hell, The Vampire’s Crypt, and Science Fiction Trails. I’ve been familiar with her writing since 2002 and I’m delighted to publish her latest book, which is a collection of twenty-two weird western tales, many of which are set in Bodie, Arizona.

Bodie, Arizona can be a difficult place to locate on a map. Some say it’s because Bodie has been home to inventors who meddled in things humans weren’t meant to know. Others say it’s the visitors from the stars who seem to frequent Bodie. It’s just possible Bodie has become unstuck in time, making it a difficult place to pinpoint. Being unstuck in time, Bodie may have drifted close to the boundaries between life and afterlife. Whatever the case, Bodie is a wild place. In this collection, Lyn McConchie chronicles the adventures of Bodie’s denizens and those of nearby towns, counties and states from the nineteenth century to the present and beyond. Saddle up for this collection of tales where you will glimpse the way-out, wild west.

In this collection, you’ll find tales of ghosts and tales of magic. You’ll also find science fictional tales. In some stories, aliens visit the wild west. In others, we see the wild west’s sensibility move out into the stars or even across universes. Lyn’s stories often focus on strong women, and many of these characters remind me of the women in my family who homesteaded in Texas and New Mexico. What’s more, Lyn has a strong connection the animals who were so important to the Western experience. Horses are almost ubiquitous in Western tales, but she also remembers the importance of cattle, sheep, chickens along with cats and dogs. When I acquire a book for publication, I know I’m going to read it many times over during the editorial process, so I always look for books that will be a delight to read. I saw something new and exciting in each of these tales every time I read the book. The Way-Out Wild West is a page-turning, magical collection.

Lyn McConchie started writing professionally in 1990, since then she has seen fifty of her books published and over three hundred short stories. She has written SF/F, but also true-life humor about her farm and animals (7 books known as the ‘Daze’ series), children’s books, a YA quartet set in her own New Zealand, a western, a dozen Sherlock Holmes pastiches, half a dozen post-apocalyptics, and one non-fiction. Lyn says her imagination is related to the Energizer Bunny, and she hopes to be writing for many years to come.

The Way Out Wild-West is available in print at:

The collection is available as an ebook at:

More online retailers will have the book soon! We will have copies of the book available for our dealer’s table at Wild Wild West Con in March.

A Fey Tale: End at the Beginning

As we settle into this new year, I’d like to welcome author Karen J. Carlisle to the Web Journal to tell us about her latest novel A Fey Tale. Karen and I have appeared together on the pages of a handful of anthologies, plus, even though she’s in Australia, the rise of virtual cons has allowed us to meet and get to know each other at some events. She is a talented author and a great person. Please welcome, Karen J. Carlisle.


David asked me to do an ‘Introduction to Aunt Enid’ for my post. At the time, I didn’t know his post would be last official stop on my blog tour. So I thought: why not end at the beginning?

Of Origin stories and Inspirations.

It’s fitting in a way. A Fey Tale is the second book in The Aunt Enid Mysteries. In book one, Aunt Enid: Protector Extraordinaire, we meet (Great) Aunt Enid for the first time, through the eyes of her great niece, Sally who finds herself plunged into a hidden world of magic and fantastical creatures. Enid Turner is ‘your average seventy-something year old. She loves to cook, is a regular at bingo and spends hours in her garden, talking to her army of garden gnomes and fussing over the colour of her hydrangeas…

In book two, Aunt Enid is back, but something’s different, but with the same premise: daemons, fairies, and magic are all real.

This time, there’s a deal with fairies to solve a mystery and prevent a war… and it’s up to Aunt Enid and the Protectors, with a little help from the self-appointed Fairy Hunter, to solve the mystery, return the kidnapped heir and save the humans from Otherworldly retribution. It’s now a race to save the Earth from becoming a battleground for a magical war.

A Fey Tale is a prequel, set one hundred years before the first. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is visiting Adelaide for a lecture tour. Enid Turner – and friends – are invited to a picnic in his honour, only to be caught in a web of treachery and betrayal from the Otherworlds.

In this tale of beginnings, we meet past Protectors, Olive and Sylvia, and discover the origin stories of other characters and a little more about Enid herself – such as: why she doesn’t drive and why she took up crochet.

This series really began with childhood memories and new memories of my adopted home of Adelaide, South Australia. I melded them into a fantasy world, blurring the familiar with the speculative:

When I was a child (less than eight years old) we owned a purple Wolseley car. We called it the Purple People Eater. It broke an axle going down the steep hill where we lived. I can still smell the massive metal stove my own Great Aunt Enid used when we made lemon butter. It had a multitude of doors and stove tops. It seemed to fill the entire wall. She had hydrangeas at the base of the wooden stairs of her old Queenslander house.

Many times we stayed at my grandmother’s house in Nambour. There was a huge frangipani tree in the front yard, and chokoes and persimmons out the back. There were large rooms with wooden floors and long wispy curtains.  These were happy memories of a less complicated era, embedded in darker memories of my childhood.

My grandmother had spunk, kindness, and a sense of humour. She was my hero. And still is. These women of a certain age deserved to honoured. Together, they inspired Great Aunt Enid – a beacon of light and strength in my fantasy world.

But, I only know one side of the family. Of my father’s side I know next to nothing – no relatives, no history. I’ve often wondered: what hidden truths I would discover?

In book one, Sally embodied my fearful curiosity as she discovered the truth of her mysterious great aunt and her own destiny.

In A Fey Tale, we travel back in time, in the wake of the Great War and Spanish Flu, to (almost) the beginning of Enid’s story. We discover past relationships and how they shaped her. We meet creatures from the Otherworlds desperate to prevent their own Great War – and other creatures determined to encourage it. As a Protector, it was, is, and always will be Enid’s duty to defend our world. And duty always has a cost.

As always, there will be tea and scones with lashings of Enid’s award-winning lemon butter.

But this is not the end for Enid. There’s more books planned. There are many more Otherworlds and legendary creatures to endanger our world. I already have plans for book three. But first, I need a lighter project. Next on the ‘to-be-written list’ is book two of The Department of Curiosities. Aunt Enid’s third mystery currently scheduled after that.

Get your copy of A Fey Tale at book blog special price

To visit other stops on the book blog tour, visit: https://karenjcarlisle.com/2021/12/17/a-fey-tale-book-blog-tour-schedule/

BIO

Karen J Carlisle is a writer and illustrator of steampunk, Victorian mysteries and fantasy. She was short-listed in Australian Literature Review’s 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. She is currently writing the second book in her cosy fantasy mystery series, set in Adelaide. Her short stories have featured in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’, ‘Where’s Holmes?’ and ‘Deadsteam’ anthologies.

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Remembering Anne Rice

Two of my treasured Anne Rice volumes

I was saddened over the weekend to hear about Anne Rice’s passing. Her writing entertained me, provided food for thought, and even inspired me. I’m afraid I never had the opportunity to meet her in person, but I was fortunate enough to find a signed copy of Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis at the Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans a few years ago and while I’ll admit it’s not my favorite entry in the Vampire Chronicles, it’s still a treasured part of my collection. In the photo with my signed copy is another treasured part of my book collection. It’s an early copy of Interview with the Vampire. I especially like the back cover where actors posed as Lestat, Louis, and Claudia.

I discovered Anne Rice’s writing in the early 1990s while working at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Those of us who worked nights at the telescope were often referred to as the vampires of the observatory because we generally weren’t seen when the sun was up. One of my fellow telescope operators was a fan of Anne Rice and encouraged me to give Interview with the Vampire a try. At the time, boxed sets were widely available with all the Vampire Chronicles in print at the time, which were Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, Queen of the Damned, and Tale of the Body Thief. I breezed through all four novels in rapid succession. I especially enjoyed Rice’s take on the vampire as protagonist and even misunderstood hero. Soon after reading the books, I read an interview with Rice and learned that she wrote Interview with the Vampire as part of dealing with the grief of the loss of her daughter. Having lost my father at a young age, I’d long been oversensitive to the notion of my own mortality and I began to think about what I would do if I ever decided to create a vampire hero.

Those thoughts coalesced just a few short years later when I moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico and a friend wondered what a vampire would make of “the City of Crosses.” This led me to my first vampire short story. After a few more, I felt I understood my characters well enough to write the novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order.

Of course, even as I wrote, Rice continued to write. Her next Vampire Chronicle was Memnoch the Devil. One of the things that began to appeal to me about vampire stories was how you could view large swaths of history from a single character’s point of view. In the fifth vampire chronicle, not only did Rice look at Biblical history but considered theology through Lestat’s vantage point. I’ve never quite questioned my faith in the ways that Rice questioned her own, but I have had questions about my faith and the interplay of that faith with dimly viewed moments in history, such as Arthurian legend. Her open and frank approach to Memnoch the Devil would inspire me when I wrote Dragon’s Fall, the prequel to Vampires of the Scarlet Order.

I’ve continued to enjoy Anne Rice’s vampire chronicles and other novels. I wrote some reviews of her later novels, which I was pleased to see her share on social media. While I’m sorry I never had the opportunity to meet Anne Rice in person, I’m glad to have been able to share how her work had touched me. While I thought some of her novels were much stronger than others, all of her novels entertained me. I’ve been starting to think about a third Scarlet Order vampire novel. I’m sure Rice’s works will continue to speak to me as I think and plot and plan. Like her own hero, Lestat, I’m pretty sure Anne Rice will live forever.

Lightning Wolves Update

As I mentioned two weeks ago, Hadrosaur Productions is in the process of releasing updated editions of the Clockwork Legion novels. This week, I’m proud to announce the release of the second edition of book two, Lightning Wolves. Although the cover is much the same as the previous edition, sharp-eyed folks will notice that Laura Givens adjusted the look of Professor Maravilla. He now looks much more like I pictured him in the novels. Lightning Wolves was a top-ten finisher for Best Steampunk Novel of the Year in the 2014 Preditors and Editors Reader’s Poll.

For those unfamiliar with the Clockwork Legion novels, Lightning Wolves takes place a few months after Owl Dance in the year 1877. At the end of the first novel, the United States army had thwarted the Russian assault on Denver, but the Russians still occupied the Pacific Northwest. Now that they have regrouped, the Russians, under the direction of the alien Legion, are advancing into California. New weapons have proven ineffective or dangerously unstable and Professor Maravilla, the one man who can help, has disappeared into Apache Country, hunting ghosts. A healer named Fatemeh Karimi and a former sheriff named Ramon Morales lead a band into the heart of the invasion to determine what makes the Russian forces so unstoppable while a young inventor attempts to unleash the power of the lightning wolves.

As with Owl Dance, this edition is not markedly different from the previous edition because I didn’t want it to deviate from the audiobook read by Edward Mittelstedt, which has not been updated. However, the ebook and print editions have been reformatted.

Neal Wilgus wrote the following in Small Press Review: “David Lee Summers is a talented spinner of pseudo-science adventures with nary a vampire or zombie in sight. This may not be ground-breaking literature but it’s great fun to read and well worth the time spent doing so. Don’t miss it!”

You can pick up the paperback edition of Lightning Wolves at Amazon.com.

The ebook edition is available at Amazon and Smashwords.

Edward Mittelstedt’s reading of Lightning Wolves is available at Audible.com.

As I mentioned in my earlier post about Owl Dance, there will be a brief pause before the updated editions of The Brazen Shark and Owl Riders appear. This will allow me to make more progress on other books I’ve committed to editing. Watch for news about Greg Ballan’s second Hybrid novel, Forced Vengeance, and Lyn McConchie’s collection of weird western tales, The Way-Out, Wild West, soon.

In the meantime, I learned that Comixology’s Independent Comic platform is being folded into Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Because of that, I had to hustle and create a version of my comic Guinevere and the Stranger according to KDP’s guidelines. Fortunately, because my artist and letterer delivered great, high-resolution files, this wasn’t terribly difficult. The upshot is that you can now get an electronic copy of Guinevere and the Stranger through Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09N9JVMQV/

Of course, you can still purchase print copies of the comic directly from me by visiting https://www.hadrosaur.com/GuinevereStranger.php

Guinevere and the Stranger is an adaptation of a chapter from Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires. The comic book introduces the vampire Roquelaure and shows how he met Queen Guinevere in the years after the fall of Camelot.

Neutrinos and the Day After Tomorrow

In Episode 178 of the Gerry Anderson Podcast, Chris Dale featured the film The Day After Tomorrow on his Randomizer segment. This is not the 2004 film about climate change. Instead, it was a 1975 segment of an American after school series called Special Treat, which offered educational programming aimed at teenagers. It appeared soon afterward on the BBC. The show was produced by Gerry Anderson and starred Nick Tate, Joanna Dunham, and Brian Blessed. The show was produced between seasons one and two of Space: 1999 and it shares models and props with the television show. One of the show’s goals was to introduce kids to Einstein’s theory of special relativity. Anderson apparently had the notion that he might turn this into a series, so wrote it in such a way that more episodes could follow the special.

I was intrigued by Dale’s discussion of the show on the podcast, so decided to seek it out. The episode is available on the DVD The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson, along with several other one-shot gems produced by Anderson. The Day After Tomorrow reminded me of what Lost in Space might have been like without the Robot or Dr. Smith. Two families travel in a near light-speed craft to Alpha Centauri and beyond. Of course, this becomes our “vehicle” for discussing the effects of special relativity. Nick Tate, best known as Alan Carter in Space: 1999, is the captain and he travels with his daughter. Brian Blessed and Joanna Dunham play a husband and wife scientist team with a son. Like the Robinson kids in the early episodes of Lost in Space, these kids are smart, but manage to avoid crossing over into the annoying territory that kids in science fiction shows have been known to do. Since this is 1975 and well before Brian Blessed became known for “Gordon’s Alive!” in Flash Gordon, he delivers a subdued and believable performance as a scientist.

While I was prepared to see the cast to discuss the wonders of Einstein’s theories, there was a moment that truly surprised me about two-thirds of the way into the show. Joanna Dunham’s character, Dr. Anna Bowen, is observing a red giant star when she warns that she’s detecting “massive neutrino emissions from the red sun.” A moment later, the sun explodes into a supernova! As it turns out, the notion that a supernova would be preceded by a neutrino burst is a theory proposed by my graduate advisor, Dr. Stirling Colgate, in a 1966 paper. This theory would finally be demonstrated in 1987 when a neutrino burst was detected just before Supernova 1987A was observed.

Stirling Colgate at the Digitized Astronomy Observatory after the detection of neutrinos from Supernova 1987A

It’s hard to look at the special and say that it was full of groundbreaking or mind-blowing science. Mostly it seemed like a fun, action adventure show that tossed in some tidbits about special relativity. Still, writer Johnny Byrne had done some homework in astronomy to know that it had been theorized that a neutrino burst would precede a supernova explosion. As a science fiction writer, I know story and character come first, but I really do appreciate a moment like this when I see a writer going the extra mile to understand his subject matter.

2021 Holiday Season

As we kick off the 2021 holiday season, it strikes me that I’ve been back to my “new normal” work cycle for a little over a year now. Kitt Peak National Observatory had been closed from mid-March 2020 through the end of October 2020. During that time, I worked from home on upgrades to our operation manuals and served on a committee, which developed a plan for safely reopening the observatory. Since November 2020, I’ve been at work following that plan. When I’m at work, I’m alone in a control room interacting with others over video conferencing software.

The New Normal: Alone in the Console Room

We’ve also been minimally staffed for nighttime operations in the year since the telescopes have been back online. One member of our team found a new job and moved on while we were closed. Fortunately, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to find and hire a new first-rate operator. It’s been a challenge training a new person while maintaining physical distance, but we’ve managed. However, it has meant that I haven’t had a proper vacation in that time. I did take some vacation time to help move my daughter into her dorm room at the beginning of the semester, but I took advantage of a period when the telescopes were closed for maintenance.

Making Dinner in a Tiny Kitchen

Over Thanksgiving weekend, my wife and I decided rather than have our daughter travel home for the holiday, we would take the holiday to her. It was a nice time. We prepared a lot of the Thanksgiving meal in advance and finished it off in our daughter’s tiny dorm kitchen. The food itself proved very good and we had fun enjoying a card game with our daughter and one of her friends. While traveling, we see lots of front line workers, from the staff at our hotel, to gas station attendants, to grocery store clerks. It’s occurred to me that, like me, lots of these folks have also been going full-tilt for much of the last year and a half and I wonder how many have been able to take some time off. These people remind me to do my best to be kind and patient this holiday season.

While on the Thanksgiving trip, I found myself, as usual, being inundated by Black Friday ads. As a business owner, I considered whether or not to make some Black Friday specials available this year through hadrosaur.com. I ultimately decided not to make a big push. In part, I know there are plenty of people looking for your dollars at this time of year. Also, because my wife and I were both on the road, I knew we couldn’t fulfill orders right away. What’s more, I have several editing projects in process this holiday season and wanted to focus on getting them done right, but also wanted to leave some time for family at the end of the year. As I noted, it’s been a busy year and time has been at a premium. Still, I hope you’ll consider shopping at hadrosaur.com this holiday season. Even at regular price, indie books are inexpensive, yet unique gifts and when you buy them, you’re contributing to the royalty stream of some great authors, who will be encouraged to write more awesome things for you in the future. I appreciate and am thankful to all of you that have supported our publishing ventures in the last year and look forward to bringing you more great stuff in the weeks and months to come!

Owl Dance Update

I hope my readers in the United States are having a good Thanksgiving weekend. I’m spending the weekend with family and reflecting on those things I’m thankful for. One of the things I’m thankful for has been the opportunity to work with some great publishers and editors over the years, such as Sky Warrior Book Publishing who published my Clockwork Legion steampunk series. Sky Warrior connected me with some great editors, gave me excellent marketing tips, and generally supported my efforts as an author. Still, after some discussion this fall, we decided it was to our mutual advantage for Sky Warrior to return the publishing rights to me. We’re parting ways, but I’m thankful that we’re parting ways as friends.

Owl Dance

The new edition of the first book in the series, published by Hadrosaur Productions, is now available. The new edition hasn’t changed much from the previous one. The paperback edition has a spiffy new layout featuring some cool-looking separators designed by Laura Givens. Laura also remixed the cover slightly to make it a little brighter. I only gave the book a cursory edit, looking for any minor copyedits that might have been missed. Partly that’s because the wonderful audiobook edition read by Edward Mittelstedt is still available and I don’t want to revise the text so the audio and text don’t match. I hope to make the new edition of Lightning Wolves available in about two weeks.

Owl Dance is set in 1876. In the novel, Sheriff Ramon Morales of Socorro, New Mexico meets a beguiling woman named Fatemeh Karimi of Persia, escaping oppression in her homeland. When an ancient lifeform called Legion comes to Earth, they are pulled into a series of events that will change the history of the world as we know it. In their journeys, Ramon and Fatemeh encounter mad inventors, dangerous outlaws and pirates. Their resources are Ramon’s fast draw and Fatemeh’s uncanny ability to communicate with owls. The question is, will that be enough to save them when a fleet of dirigibles from Czarist Russia invades the United States?

Richard Harland, author of some of my favorite steampunk novels, including Worldshaker and Song of the Slums, says, “Owl Dance has everything. Airships, owl-ornithopters, a clockwork wolf, a multiple alien entity, a fast-shooting sheriff, a Russian plot to conquer America, and a very sexy, eco-aware, Bahá’í Persian healer-woman – I mean everything! Heaps of fun!”

If you’ve already read and enjoyed Owl Dance, thank you for your support. If you haven’t discovered the series yet, this is a great time to start. As I say, the new edition of the sequel, Lightning Wolves will go live in about two weeks. After that, it’ll probably be about six weeks before the final two novels are published, since I need to finish some editing and layout work on two new Hadrosaur titles from Greg Ballan and Lyn McConchie.

You can purchase the paperback edition of Owl Dance at Amazon.com.

The ebook edition is available at Amazon.com and Smashwords.

Edward Mittelstedt’s reading of Owl Dance is available at Audible.com.

The book should be appearing at more vendors soon. You can see a book trailer and find all the places where the book is available at http://www.davidleesummers.com/owl_dance.html

Perry Rhodan Comics

Given my love of comics and my recent dive into the world of Germany’s Perry Rhodan space opera series, my birthday present from my wife this year was a complete digital set the Perry Rhodan comics published in 2015 by Cross-Cult Comics. The comic series is written by Kai Hirdt with art by Marco Castiello. The only catch is that these comics are only available in German. However, it provided a fun opportunity for me to dust off my German language skills and explore some Perry Rhodan as originally written. Cross-Cult’s Perry Rhodan series only ran for six issues and there are two three-issue story arcs. So far, I’ve read the first three-issue arc, titled “The Cartographers of Infinity.”

The comic is set in the year 3540, which places it well after the early Perry Rhodan adventures I’ve been reading in Perry Rhodan Neo, and before the ones in Perry Rhodan Lemuria. In the comics, Perry is leading a deep space expedition aboard the Starship Sol. The Sol is a massive starship 6.5 kilometers long, holding 10,000 crewmembers. Among the crew are some characters, who I believe are well known to regular Perry Rhodan readers. These include: Gucky, a “mouse beaver” who is a telepath and can teleport people and objects from point to point; Tolot, a massive warrior with four arms; Belayn Parcer, a space jet pilot; and Irmina Kotschistowa, a human mutant who can heal through touch.

In this story, the Sol is lost in space and the crew is trying to find their way home. Fortunately, they find a space observatory crewed by an insect-like race called the Skra’Bji. Unfortunately, it’s under attack by a group of aliens called the Umal Pact. The crew of the Sol drive off the attackers, but they can’t read the data and the only surviving Skra’Bji named Tr’Frel is seriously wounded. So, they take her to her homeworld to find a blood donor. Once there, they discover her world has been occupied. Meanwhile, Gucky has entered Tr’Frel’s thoughts and learned her history and supports her cause.

The story is solid space opera adventure with lots of action. My only script complaint was that we have a few pages where it seems like someone is shouting NICHTS! (NO!) every two or three panels. The artwork feels very much like what one would expect to find in an American comic. The only character I knew before reading this was Perry Rhodan himself and he looked like the square-jawed American astronaut I would have expected from the books. I enjoyed the characters. The focus is largely on Perry and Gucky, but Belayn and Tolot both get great moments to shine. I can see a lot of story potential for Irmina and she had some great lines, but because she heals through touch, she’s dressed in a skimpy outfit and the artist does indulge in “male gaze” more than once.

If, like me, you know some German and enjoy space opera comics, Cross-Cult’s Perry Rhodan series is a worthwhile introduction to the Perry Rhodan universe. Digital copies are available at Amazon.com for $4.99 each and a hardcover collection of the first three-issue story arc is also available. I had fun exercising my language skills. I spent a lot of the first issue using Google Translate to refresh my vocabulary but by about the middle of issue 2 I was mostly just using Google as a check on my comprehension.

As always, you can find my space opera stories at http://www.davidleesummers.com. Just look for The Solar Sea or the books in the Space Pirates’ Legacy series.