William Shatner in Space

Earlier this week, William Shatner took a ride into space aboard a rocket built by Blue Origin, a company founded by Jeff Bezos, best known as the founder of Amazon. The rocket launched from outside Van Horn, Texas, a town about two and a half hours to the southeast of my home in New Mexico. As a long-time Star Trek fan, I thought it was great that Shatner, who brought the role of Captain Kirk to life, had the opportunity to go into space for real. What’s more, at 90 years old, Shatner is the oldest person to go into space. I’ve long thought, I hope to be doing as well as William Shatner when I’m 90!

Glen de Vries, Audrey Powers, William Shatner, and Chris Boshuizen in Space. Image courtesy Blue Origin

As a kid, when I first became aware of Star Trek, the last Apollo missions were still flying. I remember thinking that Star Trek was just another document of a real mission into space. My parents soon explained to me that it was all just make-believe, but in a way that excited me just as much. That made me pay attention to the opening credits and notice those writers who made up Star Trek’s vision of exploring space. In the end Star Trek’s captivating writing helped to launch my careers in both astronomy and writing. So, it should come as no surprise that I watched Shatner’s journey from the moment he entered the rocket until he landed again in west Texas near the launch site.

Some have criticized Jeff Bezos for investing his personal wealth in space flight rather than causes to help the planet. He’s argued that developing space flight is one way to help the planet. I think he has a point. Developing space technology has a long track record of creating other technologies that help us on the Earth. I also believe there’s no reason we can’t work on solutions to problems on Earth while developing space technology. We have no shortage of people. Among the challenges are training and directing them to places where they can do the most good.

This all noted, I don’t feel I can let Bezos completely off the hook. According to Yahoo Finance, Bezos’s income is somewhere in the ballpark of 110 billion dollars per year and he invests 1 billion of that in Blue Origin. To put his income in perspective, you only have to multiply minimum wage by a single digit to get to my income. You have to multiply minimum wage by six digits to get to Bezos’s income. Over a million people could be employed at better-than-minimum wage with his income alone.

There are plenty of reports that suggest working conditions for front-line workers at Amazon are not great. As an author I do business with Amazon. In the last year and a half, I’ve received several packages in poor condition. They look as though they were rushed out the door without care and some books have arrived in unsellable condition. This makes sense if workers are being rushed to get things out the door without concern for quality of service. I’ve also had to call Amazon at times to resolve issues. Most of the time, their representatives are very helpful, but I’ve had at least two instances where I asked them something that clearly went “off script.” They promised to call me back and simply didn’t. Again this smacks of putting perceived efficiency ahead of customer service.

Given what’s reported of Jeff Bezos’s salary and what that must imply for Amazon’s total profits, there must be room for Amazon to improve salaries, make conditions better for front-line workers, and improve service. Star Trek suggested that humans would be ready for space exploration when we learned to appreciate our own diversity and treat our fellow humans with respect and dignity. Sometimes making the planet better starts with how corporate executives and upper management treat and pay the people who are making them the money that allow them to invest in cool things like space exploration and who make it possible for someone like William Shatner to visit the final frontier.

The Baron and the Firebird

“I hate vampire stories!” One of my co-workers made that statement at the dinner table this week. It’s a sentiment I sometimes hear at conventions when people glance at my vampire novels without learning more about them. Of course, what they mean is that they hate the proliferation of vampire romances and it’s actually a sentiment I can appreciate, especially when the protagonist vampire is creepily stalking a girl centuries younger than himself. I read a book this week that definitely doesn’t fit that mold.

firebirdebook J. A. Campbell’s novelette The Baron and the Firebird is a vampire romance, but most definitely not one involving a vampire pretending to be a high school student. The story opens with a Russian vampire named Peter in a New York diner looking for his lost love—a woman with a beautiful voice named Zoya. A waitress at the diner suggests he try a musical that recently opened. Having nothing to lose, Peter takes her advice.

The story then flashes back to Russia in 1725. Peter, known back then as Pyotr, is a Baron managing lands. Even though he’s a vampire, he’s learned to subsist on goat’s blood so he doesn’t have to drink the blood of his subjects. Pyotr is able to walk in sunlight through the aid of magical cherries that grow in his garden. Only a small number grow in the harsh Russian winter and he parcels them out carefully because they help him to be a good and effective ruler of his land. Unfortunately, a bird has entered the orchard and has started eating the magical cherries.

This is not just any bird, but a magical firebird. Pyotr traps her. Entranced by her beauty, he builds her a bigger cage. One day, he’s surprised to find not the firebird in his cage, but a beautiful woman. He lets her out and they talk. She makes a bargain to stay a year for each cherry she ate from his garden.

As you might infer, events happen which cause them to become separated, since Pyotr is searching for her years later. I was delighted by the fairy-tale like quality of this particular vampire story. I also appreciated that this story explored the love of two immortal creatures, one of light and one of darkness. The vampire elevates himself to become better than most would expect while the firebird comes down to Earth. Campbell effectively builds tension, making us wonder whether or not the vampire and the firebird will be able to build a love that can last forever.

The Scarlet Order vampires would be pleased to make the acquaintance of Pyotr and Zoya. If you like tales of timeless romance, classic fairy tales, or just want to read a good, non-formulaic vampire tale, then The Baron and the Firebird is the book your looking for. You can pick up a copy in print or ebook format at Amazon.

The Brazen Shark Available for Pre-Order

Brazen Shark-300x450 I am proud to announce that the ebook edition of my ninth novel, The Brazen Shark, is now available for pre-order from Amazon.com! The Brazen Shark is the third novel of the Clockwork Legion series which began in Owl Dance and continues in Lightning Wolves. In this latest chapter, pirate captain, inventor, and entrepreneur Onofre Cisneros sweeps his friends Fatemeh and Ramon Morales off to Hawaii for their honeymoon. Once there, a British agent makes Cisneros an offer he can’t refuse and the captain must travel to Japan. Wanting to see more of the world, Ramon and Fatemeh ask to accompany the captain only to find themselves embroiled in a plot by samurai who steal a Russian airship, hoping to overthrow the Japanese emperor. I hope you’ll join me for this thrilling ride!

Back when the first Star Trek movie came out, Pocket Books acquired the rights to release the tie-in novels. I read each new one ravenously and one of my favorite authors was Robert E. Vardeman. In the years since, I’ve discovered Bob’s other series and my respect for his work has grown. He’s written more than fifty science fiction and fantasy novels and he writes amazing historical westerns under the pen name Karl Lassiter. He’s combined his love of science fiction and history in his steampunk novella Gateway to Rust and Ruin and you can find his story “The Transmogrification Ray” in Steampunk’d edited by Jean Rabe and Martin Greenberg. I was honored when Bob agreed to read The Brazen Shark. This is what he says: “Airships battling! Samurai fomenting war with Russia! Historical characters and powerfully drawn fictional ones mixing it up with political intrigues make David Lee Summers’ The Brazen Shark a steampunk novel not to be missed. Put it at the top of your reading list. Now!”

In the last few months, well-meaning folks have asked if it matters when they buy my book, or in what format. For the most part, the money to me is about the same no matter how you buy it, but this is one of those times it does matter. When you pre-order a book it sends a message to my publisher, Amazon, and really the entire industry if the sales rank goes high enough, that this is a book that matters to you. So, if you were going to buy the ebook and you’re a fan of the series, I hope you will pre-order the book. It’s only about the cost of a grande or venti mocha at Starbucks, and it’ll last longer!

Here are the links to all the books in the series:

And, if you want any of these autographed, I can! There’s a cool, free service called Authorgraph and you can find all my novels there. If you request an autograph through them, they will send me an email and I’ll send you a personalized PDF inscription you can store on your ereader. How cool is that! Request an Authorgraph today!

Now, I know a number of you out there don’t do ebooks and that’s cool. I love print, too! Never fear, the print edition is on its way. A little owl told a friend of mine that it might even be out a little before the February 1 ebook release. I’ll be sure to announce here when the print edition is available.

Owl Dance for your Kindle

One of my favorite things to do during the holidays is to settle into a cozy chair with a good book. Increasingly, that good book is on my Kindle. From what I’ve seen that’s also true of many of my readers. Because of that, it’s with great pleasure that I announce that my wild west steampunk adventure novel Owl Dance is now available for Kindle at: Amazon.com

Owl Dance Cover

Owl Dance is set in 1876. Sheriff Ramon Morales of Socorro, New Mexico, meets a beguiling woman named Fatemeh Karimi, who is looking to make a new start after escaping the oppression of her homeland. When an ancient life form 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 airships from Czarist Russia invade the United States?

In honor of the holidays and the novel’s Kindle release, I thought it would be fun to share a Christmas excerpt from Owl Dance. This scene finds Ramon and Fatemeh in San Francisco.


Ramon returned to the room he shared with Fatemeh late on Christmas Eve. Fatemeh noticed that he was wearing a new pair of glasses. Like his old pair, they were round and gave his face an owlish appearance. He held his hands behind his back. Fatemeh stood and wrapped her arms around Ramon, but was surprised when he didn’t return the embrace. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing.” Ramon’s voice held a sly edge.

“It looks like you were successful in finding new glasses.”

Ramon smiled. “Yes, these are even better than the old ones.” He shrugged. “The optometrist thinks my eyes have been getting a little worse.”

“That’s too bad.” Fatemeh returned to her chair.

“However, I did have enough money left over to get you something.” He brought his arms out from behind his back. In his hand was a narrow box, about eight inches long. “Merry Christmas!” Just then he pulled the box back. “Do Bahá’ís celebrate Christmas?”

“Not normally,” said Fatemeh, “but as I’ve said, we respect the teachings of Jesus. I’m happy to celebrate his birth with you, Ramon.” She held out her hand and Ramon handed her the box. She opened it and saw a necklace. Adorning it was a hand-carved wooden bead in the shape of an owl.

“I bought the necklace. I carved the owl myself, though.”

“It’s very sweet.” Fatemeh smiled and put the necklace on. She stood and kissed Ramon, but held his hands as they parted. “How is our money doing?”

“I think I can find a job, but it’s not going to pay much,” admitted Ramon. “We could stay here about six more days and I could keep looking, or we could move on.”

“I like the idea of moving on.” Fatemeh returned to her chair. “I really didn’t like the reception we had on our first day and it’s loud here, even late at night.” She looked out the window at a saloon across the street.

“Where would you like to go?”

She pulled out a map and set it on the small table between the room’s two chairs. “What do you know about Los Angeles?”

“It’s a small town. There’s some farms and some industrial work.” Ramon shrugged.

“What does Los Angeles mean?”

“It means ‘belonging to the angels,’ The name’s short for something like town of the queen of angels.”

“Sounds lovely. Can we leave tomorrow?”

Ramon laughed. “Tomorrow’s Christmas. I doubt the trains are even running. What about the next day?”

“That sounds perfect.” Fatemeh put her hand to the new necklace. “I’m afraid I didn’t get you a present. What else do people do on Christmas?”

“We sing songs.” Ramon sat in the empty chair next to Fatemeh.

“Teach me a Christmas song worthy of the angels, Ramon.”


I have a special present for all of my readers this week. Follow me on Twitter (@davidleesummers) and keep an eye out for the Five Days of Owl Dance starting on Christmas Day.

In the meantime, I wish you Happy Holidays and a Terrific New Year!

Web log – November 24, 2012

First off, I hope all of my readers here in the United States had a Happy Thanksgiving this week. For me, this has been a pretty remarkable week. On Monday, my publisher emailed me to say they had reduced the price of Children of the Old Stars—the second novel of the Old Star/New Earth series—to 99 cents. They also said the novel was going to be featured in the Bookbub Newsletter.

Sales of the book picked up nicely at Amazon that day. Also, since it was book two of the series, people began downloading book one—The Pirates of Sufiro—which is free. The result was quite pleasant. For most of this week, I have been on Amazon’s list of the 100 bestselling authors in Science Fiction.

As I watched all this happen, I realized people who had downloaded the book, or discovered me from the bestselling author list, might want to learn more about me by visiting my website. As such, I took a good hard look at davidleesummers.com and realized that it had been far too long since I had updated some of the pages, including the front page, which is the first impression people will have.

Now, my website has been around for a while. It will be 20 years old next year. When I first built it, the “Information Superhighway” was a shiny, new concept. So, I dubbed my little stop on that highway as a “wrong turn” right from the outset, because often the most interesting stops are the ones you never intended to visit! I have taken the website through several upgrades in 20 years and done my best to keep it up to date, but it’s easy to get used to one’s own website. I needed to evaluate the site with a fresh eye, and that brings us to the subject of this week’s post.

The word blog is a contraction of the words “web log.” Web logs were the place where system administrators would record changes made to a web site. However, some system administrators would use the web log as a place to talk about philosophy, their favorite TV show, or their favorite game. Eventually other people began using this web logging software to post their own thoughts and thus modern blogging was born.

Today, I’m taking the blog back to its roots and recording the updates to my website!

First off, I took a good hard look at the first page. I realized that at first glance, it was not clear what kind of website you had landed on. It was too wordy. So, I streamlined and better organized the text. This allowed me to move the Amazon widget that displays my books into a better position. I also added a few of the reviews people have given my books to the first page. My goal has been to make it clear that you have landed on an author’s site while retaining the kind of retro-future look to the site that I believe characterizes much of my writing. I also wanted it to be welcoming and inviting, encouraging a visitor to look around.

I’ve done a pretty good job of maintaining my pages that tell about my novels, short stories, and show my events calendar, so I did very little work on those pages.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve realized people have taken a real interest in my astronomy work. To that end, I put a lot of attention into sprucing up the astronomy page. I added a couple of recent photos and made them clickable so you can see them full size. I also added more detail about my astronomy background including some links to places where I’ve worked. Finally, I updated my publication list with this year’s new supernova paper that I contributed to.

I then moved on to the bio page. Sadly, I had let that page get very outdated. I also realized that it was very clunky looking with three old photos of me. Those photos were fun to see, but they were a bit outdated. I updated the text, updated the photo, and included links where you can find me online and interact with me.

Finally, I took a look at the links page. I discovered a number of dead links and saw that the format was not really conducive to easy navigation. So, I cleaned up the page, removed the dead links, and added a few new ones. Just to note, I take this list of links very seriously. My goal is to link to people and organizations who my readers would also find appealing. Some friends were left off, for example, simply because I didn’t think we had a strong overlap in potential readers. I also wanted to keep the list manageably short so people could use it as a good jumping off point to explore more. So, if you’re a friend and don’t see yourself there, don’t take it personally. Ideally, I’ll come back in a few months and shuffle the list around and add some different links just to keep it fresh. We’ll see if I actually manage to do that!

You’ll likely notice that I kept much of the “highway” theme going as a tribute to the site’s history. After all, we’re coming up on the 20th anniversary. It would be a shame to dump it now. In 2014, I’ll take a fresh look at the site’s place on the Information Superhighway and decide if it needs another makeover.

So please, drop by davidleesummers.com, explore and let me know what you think. I’m hoping you’ll find some of these changes fun and informative.

Looking Back in Time at Mars

The “All Martian Spectacular” issue of Science Fiction Trails Magazine has just been released. The magazine features wonders for the imagination and ripping good stuff. Lyn McConchie, Joel Jenkins, Laura Givens, John Howard, Kit Volker, Sam Kepfield, Gary Fitzimons and Lou Antonelli share their tales of nineteenth century Martians.

Also included in this issue are my original story “Commodities of Nature” and my non-fiction article “Destination Mars”. The article discusses advances in nineteenth century astronomy and how those allowed people to imagine Mars as a real place that people could visit, and not just a point of light in the sky. People who have seen my “Victorian Astronomy” presentation at science fiction and Steampunk conventions will recognize some of the material I talk about, but I uncovered some new facts for this article and present sources of further information.

Unfortunately, the links that were supposed to appear in the article were deleted in typesetting. For those who would like to read The Planet Mars: A History of Observation and Discovery by William Sheehan, it’s available online at: http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/onlinebks/MARS/CONTENTS.HTM

I also mention an article about Nathaniel Green, including many of his maps and paintings published by the Journal of the British Astronomical Association. It is available online at: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/full/2004JBAA..114…13M

The story “Commodities of Nature” picks up where the article leaves off. In addition to astronomy, some early radio pioneers claimed to have received signals from Mars. One of those early pioneers was the famed—at least in Steampunk circles—Nikola Tesla. In the story, an engineer has a grand vision of delivering water to all of the parched Southwestern United States through a series of canals like those observed on Mars by Percival Lowell. The engineer receives a letter from none other than Mark Twain, who urges him to visit Tesla in his Colorado Springs laboratory. There, the engineer gets a rare look at the scientist’s famed Teslascope.

Admittedly Nikola Tesla has become so highly celebrated in Steampunk circles that using him in a story runs the risk of feeling clichéd. However, I feel he’s important to the story and I bring up a few items about him that I haven’t seen in other stories. What’s more, I feel like I’ve known about Tesla far longer than he’s been popular. A friend of mine and I spent many late nights in a lab at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in the late 80s working on a Tesla Coil, and even scaring some professors in the process!

I hope you’ll check out this special issue of Science Fiction Trails Magazine.

Heirs of the New Earth

Heirs of the New Earth is the novel that concludes my Old Star/New Earth trilogy. The second novel of the series, Children of the Old Stars ended on a cliffhanger. The mysterious alien called the Cluster had been sighted over Earth and soon afterward, the Earth went silent. John Mark Ellis and Suki Firebrandt Ellis are sent off to find out what happened.

Arriving at Earth, they land and discover that the once overcrowded, polluted homeworld of humanity has become a paradise of sorts. The streets have been cleaned up. People are happy. Despite that, over half the population is dead or missing and the planet’s leaders don’t seem to care. As Ellis works to unravel the mystery, sudden gravitational shifts from the galaxy’s center indicate something even worse is in the offing.

My first inspiration for this novel came while working at Kitt Peak National Observatory in the mid-1990s. We were observing the center of our galaxy in the infrared and obtained one of the deepest images ever made of the galactic core. It made me wonder what was there. I knew the radiation was too intense for humans to travel there, but I wanted to find a way for humans to actually experience the center of the galaxy.

A question that has long plagued me, and many others, is how could the German people have ever allowed the Nazis to come to power? Heirs of the New Earth explores the psychology of people in denial about their friends and neighbors disappearing when society seems to get better. It’s an examination of the issue in admittedly broad strokes but I do it as a warning that a good society is never immune from corruption by evil forces.

When I started writing Heirs of the New Earth I decided not to work from an outline. I wrote it by the seat of my pants. The novel continued with the same characters from Children of the Old Stars and I managed to write myself into a corner. I set the novel aside for a time and finally realized that what I needed were some of the characters I first introduced in The Pirates of Sufiro to make a return. So, I brought back Edmund Swan along with pirate captain Ellison Firebrandt and his first mate Carter Roberts. Armed with an outline to provide a roadmap and characters to infuse the novel with new energy, I started again and completed the trilogy.

The Pirates of Sufiro is free to download in both Nook and Kindle formats:

Children of the Old Stars is available as follows:

Heirs of the New Earth is available as follows:

The Pirates of Sufiro are free!

The ebook edition of my first novel, The Pirates of Sufiro, is now available absolutely free at Amazon.com and BN.com.

Here are the links so you can download your copy today:

Of course, if you like it I hope you’ll keep reading. Children of the Old Stars and Heirs of the New Earth complete the Old Star/New Earth trilogy. If you click “David’s Library” on the right-hand side of the page, you can learn about those books as well.

About 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, the con-man looking to make a fresh start for himself and his wife on a new world; of Peter Stone, the ruthless bank executive 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.

Don’t take my word for it

The Pirates of Sufiro is a fast-paced adventure filled with vivid characters including rebels, pirates, interplanetary pioneers and the mysterious Clusters — the children of the old stars. The first book in David Lee Summers’ trilogy starts the tale in rip-roaring, page-flipping action against a backdrop reminiscent of Asimov’s Foundation series.” Gary Every, Pushcart and Rhysling-nominated poet and author of Inca Butterflies

“Not unlike his other works, David Lee Summers’ novel, The Pirates of Sufiro offers extraordinary story-telling, diversity, and battles combined with fine writing, tight plots, and rich, memorable characters. This is definitely one author I’d read again and again.” Nicole Givens Kurtz, author of Zephyr Unfolding

“Along with fine storytelling, David Lee Summers shows a fine wit for cultures.” Uncle River, author of Promethius, the Autobiography

Here are two in-depth reviews of The Pirates of Sufiro: