Westercon 70

Next weekend, I’ll be a program participant at Westercon 70 in Tempe, Arizona, also known as Conalope and LepreCon 43. Julie Dillon is the artist guest of honor, Connie Willis is the author guest of honor, Bjo and John Trimble are special media guests of honor. Sharing the spotlight with them are local author guest of honor Gini Koch and toastmaster Weston Ochse. Be sure to drop by the Westercon 70 page at westercon70.org to get details about the location, all the guests, and programming.

I will not have a dealer’s table at the event, but Duncan Rittschoff of Duncan’s Books and More will have a selection of my books in the dealer’s room. Also, it sounds like we may have copies of Straight Outta Tombstone in time for the show. I’m keeping my finger’s crossed!

Here’s my schedule for the event, which of course is subject to last minute change. Also, apologies if I missed a fellow panelist in the program grid.

Saturday, July 1

  • 3:30-4:30pm – The Return of Space Opera – Room: Jojake. With the return of Star Wars, the success of The Expanse on TV and Pierce Brown’s Red Rising, the space opera has returned. The panelists look at the appeal of these action-filled adventures where the science doesn’t get too hard and the characters have plenty of drama and romance. On the panel with me are Colette Black, H. Paul Honsinger, and Michael D’Ambrosio.

Sunday, July 2

  • 9:30-10:30am – The Science of Steampunk: What Makes the Gears Go Round? – Room: Jojake. Steampunk style is filled with all sorts of clockwork creatures and fantastical machines. Scientists and authors look at the science and tech behind airships, submarines, and giant mechanical spiders. On the panel with me are Ashley R. Carlson, Bruce Davis, Suzanne Lazear and Steve Howe.
  • 11:00-noon – The Future of Steampunk Writing – Room: Jojake. Vaughn Treude and Arlys Holloway will join me to discuss our thoughts on the future of steampunk writing.
  • 12:30-1:30pm – Autographs – Room: Cloister. Drop by the autograph table and I’ll be happy to sign books for you! Jenn Czep, T.L. Smith, Thomas Watson, and Natalie Wright will also be signing at the same time.
  • 3:30-4:30pm – Jackalopes and Other Cryptids – Room: Sand Lotus. In honor of Conalope’s mascot, authors will pay tribute to the strange creatures that may or may not inhabit the dark corners of the world. On the panel with me are Weston Ochse, Thomas Watson, and Ernest Hogan.
  • 5:00-6:00pm – Alien Autopsy of ET – Room: Dolores. Would it be possible for an alien species which found water poisonous to even land on Earth? How would two hearts work? What does green Vulcan blood say about their circulatory system? Join scientific experts and authors as they get to the guts of creature creation and make sure that “damned alien biology” is more than just a vague explanation. On the panel with me are Syd Logsdon, Bruce Davis, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, and Thomas Watson.

Monday, July 3

  • 9:00-10:00am – Exoplanets – Room: Augustine. In this presentation, I discuss how exoplanets are discovered and present some highlights about the kinds of exoplanets that have been discovered.
  • 3:30-4:30pm – Steampunk Roundtable – Room: Jojake. What is it that makes Steampunk an enduring pop-culture phenomenon? Attend this roundtable discussion of steampunk represented by contributors in a variety of fields. On the panel with me are Katherine Stewart, Dirk Folmer, and Madame Askew.

Tuesday, July 4

  • 9:30-10:30am – Bullets in Space: Putting the “Sci” in “SciFi – Room: Campanile. Hard sci-fi requires intensive research and lots of math to make sure everything adds up. We talk about that process, where to find the scientific answers and how to make sure your story doesn’t get bogged down in physics calculations. On the panel with me are Michael D’Ambrosio, Steve Howe, Amy K. Nichols, and Thomas Watson.
  • 11:00am – noon – Autographs – Room: Cloister. Another opportunity for you to get your wares signed by me and other panelists! Those other panelists would be Michael D’Ambrosio, T.L. Smith, Thomas Watson, Stephine Weippert, and Connie Willis.
  • 3:30-4:30pm – Reading – Room: Boardroom. In honor of release day, I plan to read my short story “Fountains of Blood” from Straight Outta Tombstone. There’s also a good chance, I’ll be able to give attendees a special, early, sneak peak at a very exciting short movie project I’ve been working on. Also reading during this session will be Cynthia Ward and Thomas Watson.

It looks like it’s going to be a busy weekend, but I can’t wait. Also, just for fun, if you come to the convention and cosplay a character from one of my books, I’ll give you a free book from those I have in stock at hadrosaur.com. Since I won’t have a dealer’s table, I may have to send it to you afterwards, but we’ll make it happen!

Lightning Wolves on Audible

Lightning Wolves, the second novel in my Clockwork Legion steampunk series, is now available as an audiobook at Audible.com. In the novel, it’s 1877 and Russian forces occupy the Pacific Northwest. They are advancing into California. New weapons have proven ineffective or dangerously unstable. The one man who can help has disappeared into Apache Country, hunting ghosts. A healer and a former sheriff 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.

One thing that makes this release special is that I love to listen to audiobooks while I’m driving from my home in New Mexico to the observatory where I work in Arizona. Elements of this novel were inspired by the very same commute. Almost every week, I pass the Whetstone Mountains which house Kartchner Caverns State Park. I drive by the turnoff for Tombstone, famous for the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. I drive through the Dragoon Mountains where Apache warriors made camp. All of these locations feature in Lightning Wolves. I look forward to giving the book a listen during a couple of my upcoming commutes through the region. Here we have a look at one of the real-world settings in the novel.

As it turns out, I’m revisiting a lot of these same locations in the novel I’m currently writing. I left a few plot threads dangling at the end of Lightning Wolves which didn’t get resolved in The Brazen Shark because pirate captain Onofre Cisneros took my protagonists Ramon and Fatemeh first to Hawaii and then to Japan. Also, it seemed like it would be fun to leave those dangling plot threads alone for a few years worth of story time and see how they develop. The result is that Southern Arizona is in quite a mess by the opening of Owl Riders and you know Ramon and Fatemeh will be right in the middle of it, presuming other aspects of their life don’t get in the way.

The audiobook is narrated by Edward Mittelstedt who did a terrific job on Owl Dance. What’s more, Lightning Wolves was a top ten finisher in the best steampunk novel category of the 2014 Preditors and Editors Reader’s Poll. My daughter Autumn created Larissa, the young inventor mentioned in the story’s description. She served as the model for Larissa on the book’s cover.

You can listen to a sample and buy a copy of the Lightning Wolves audiobook at: https://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Lightning-Wolves-Audiobook/B0716QC53Y

Beautiful Sunsets

My work “day” at Kitt Peak National Observatory gets going in earnest when the sun sets. We have a saying at the observatory that beautiful sunsets mean poor observing. For better or worse, we’ve had some beautiful sunsets this past week.

There is some truth to the notion. Clouds can make dramatic sunsets, but they also obscure the view of even the most powerful optical telescopes. Red sunsets are often caused by dust or smoke in the air. Both are bad for observing in their own right. They make the sky hazy, but they can also settle out on telescope optics, which then becomes a problem when the weather gets even better. Unfortunately, big telescope optics are not easy to clean and the particulates can even damage them.

The wind that kicks up particulates or dries out the brush, giving us fire conditions, can also be a problem for observing. An unsettled atmosphere can make objects magnified with a telescope look fuzzy and distorted. It’s what we call bad “seeing.”

Nights with these kinds of poor, but not stormy conditions, can be the most difficult in my work life. We have to be ever vigilant to make sure the winds don’t get too high to safely operate the telescopes or the clouds don’t build up to ones that might drizzle. Even a little bit of water on telescope optics can ruin a telescope operator’s night. The wind can actually blow the telescopes around enough that we have a difficult time tracking targets precisely.

Our best nights are those when the sky is clear and calm at sunset. A few high clouds on the horizon aren’t ideal, but they’re not necessarily terrible. This was a sunset taken on a pretty good night.

This sunset’s pretty cool because I caught just a little of the “green flash” effect. I was just using the camera on my Kindle, so it doesn’t look as green as it did watching it, but you can see the after image of the sun just above the setting sun itself. That’s caused by atmospheric dispersion stretching the image of the sun like a prism or a rainbow. So you see the green/blue light of the sun set after the yellow light.

So, yeah, you can have pretty sunsets on good nights, too. They may just be a little less dramatic than the sunsets on the difficult nights.

If you want to see what happens when I imagine a truly dramatic night at an observatory, read my book The Astronomer’s Crypt. You can learn more about it here: http://www.davidleesummers.com/Astronomers-Crypt.html.

Like telescope operators, vampires also come out when the sun sets. I imagine a vampire telescope operator in my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order. Read a sample chapter and learn more at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/VSO.html.

Grandmother Montana and Aunt Arizona

The other day I stumbled into a quest back in time and through my family history. This particular quest began with Ming the Merciless, always an indication of a truly bad-ass journey.

Specifically, I was watching some of the old Flash Gordon serials starring Buster Crabbe as Flash and Charles Middleton as Ming. As I was watching, I had this feeling I’d seen Charles Middleton in some other films and went to IMDB to check his list of credits. Sure enough, Charles Middleton appeared in a lot of films, I’d seen. Perhaps most notably was Jesse James. What makes Jesse James notable is that my grandfather was hired to cook for the cast and crew, which of course means my grandfather once cooked for Ming the Merciless. Cool!

Unfortunately, back in 1939, behind-the-scenes crew on movies didn’t get credit, but I was curious whether any documents on the web might discuss my grandfather’s involvement in the film. Alas, I didn’t find anything but I did find a photo of my grandfather’s tombstone on a rather ominous sounding, but very useful website called findagrave.com. I’d actually seen this site before, and I’ve found it helpful when tracking down some genealogical information.

What was new, since the last time I visited was that the site for my grandfather included a link to my mom. I clicked there, and sure enough, I found the tombstone she shares with my dad. This part of the quest was sad and I took a moment to pay my virtual respects. Before I moved on, I noticed that my dad’s parents weren’t linked, even though they’re buried in the same San Bernardino cemetery as my parents. Call this an action item when I have more time to research the site’s submission requirements.

This little side journey led me to wonder if any of my other Summers ancestors were listed at findagrave.com. I soon discovered listings for my great grandparents, James and Montana Summers. Much as it was interesting to find photos of their tombstones, the real treasure I discovered was that someone had posted their obituaries.

For me, the real magic of genealogy is not just learning who you’re descended from and where they came from, which is cool, but actually learning the stories behind the names and dates. These obituaries gave me one of the first real glimpses into the kinds of people my great grandparents were.

As it turns out, I have a transcript of a letter Montana’s father, Paul Teter, wrote to his hometown newspaper describing his time as a Confederate soldier in Missouri and his subsequent business career. James’s father, by the way, also fought in the Civil War, but as a Union soldier. I’ve always been a little curious to know why my great grandmother was named Montana, especially when her siblings had relatively ordinary names like Fred, Paul, and Sarah. It is true that my great grandmother was born just a few months after the founding of Montana Territory, but none of her other siblings were named after new territories—or so I thought.

It turns out, according to the website, my great grandmother had a half-sister named Arizona. No, the title of this post isn’t some clever metaphor, I actually have a great grandmother named Montana and discovered I have an aunt named Arizona. However, that’s not the end of the quest. Although Montana lived her entire life in Missouri, Arizona married a man who went to work for the Santa Fe Railroad, the same company my dad worked for. They eventually moved to California and lived in Orange County, not far from where I grew up.

While it seems likely the founding of Montana territory inspired Montana’s name, I’m at a bit of a loss to know why her sister, born in 1885, was named Arizona. The seminal Arizona event of 1885 seems to have been the founding of the territory’s two major universities: The University of Arizona and Arizona State University. Perhaps my great great grandfather just liked the name!

You might note that Montana and Arizona were the daughters of Paul Teter. That line of the family inspired the name “Mike Teter” for the protagonist of my novel The Astronomer’s Crypt. I was pleased to make a stronger connection to that part of my family.

As quests go, it might not have been Earthshaking. I didn’t destroy the Death Star, keep Mongo from conquering the Earth, or destroy the one ring, but I did learn a little more about myself—perhaps the best outcome from any great quest.

TusCon 43

This coming weekend, I’ll be at TusCon, an annual science fiction convention held in Tucson, Arizona from November 11-13 at the Radison Hotel at the Tucson Airport. The writer guest of honor is George R.R. Martin, author of A Song of Ice and Fire, which HBO has adapted in to A Game of Thrones. The artist guest of honor is Peri Charlifu, an award winning artist from Colorado with over 30 years experience in the field. The event is already SOLD OUT and I am told there will be no tickets at the door.

tuscon-43

My schedule at TusCon is as follows:

Friday, November 11

  • 6:00pm – 7:00pm. New hotel, same ol TusCon. Panel Room 1 (Valencia). In this panel, we discuss what’s new and what’s the same at TusCon. We even have a recycled Guest of Honor, although chances are only the panelists know that. On the panel with me: Curt Stubbs, Wendy Trakes, Scott Glener, Earl W. Parrish
  • 7:00pm – 9:00pm. Meet the Guests. Ballroom (Seville). Come rub elbows with the convention guests, enjoy the cash bar, be regaled by Toast Master Ed Bryant.
  • 10:00pm – 11:00pm. Discovering New Worlds. Panel Room 2 (Palo Verde). The Kepler Space Telescope along with many ground based surveys have literally found thousands of planets around other stars. What kinds of worlds are we finding and how do we find them?
  • Midnight – 1:00am. The Astronomer’s Crypt. Panel Room 1 (Valencia). I read from my latest horror novel inspired by my work at Kitt Peak National Observatory. In the novel, astronomers, ghosts, drug cartels and monsters from the beginning of time collide at an observatory on a dark and stormy night.

Saturday, November 12

  • 10:00am – 11:00am. Is serialization making writers forget how to write a good, solid, stand alone story? Panel Room 1 (Valencia). Now that everything successful must get a sequel how much time should be devoted to planting the seeds for the series? How much does that impede telling a satisfying single story? On the panel with me are Janie Franz, Jeffe Kennedy, and Van Aaron Hughes.
  • 11:00am – Noon. Autograph Session. Autographs (Upper Terrace). I’ll be autographing my wares alongside such notable folks as Dr. David Williams, Geoff Notkin, and Thomas Watson.
  • 1:00pm – 2:00pm. The physics of sci-fi space battles. Panel Room 1 (Valencia). Most of sci-fi is filled with space battles between giant carriers, or fighters buzzing every which way, firing lasers and missiles at each other. In reality, space battles will be determined almost completely by orbital dynamics. There is little room for surprise attacks, little opportunity to change trajectory once they’ve begun, and their outcomes are probably easy to forecast well in advance. This will change how war is waged in space, and even hard science fiction authors often fail to address these changes. It might be fun to watch a few classic battles, readdress them with physics, figure out the differences, and see what probably should have been different. On the panel with me are Gautham Narayan and David A. Williams.
  • 9:00pm – 10:00pm. Pitch Perfect – You can get published now! Ballroom (Seville). Bob Nelson of Brick Cave Media, Janie Franz of Museit Up Media, and I will take one-minute pitches for projects we’re editing. In my case, I have a spot reserved in the anthology Kepler’s Cowboys. Can you earn one of the last spots in the book. Come along and give it a try, but be sure you read the guidelines first!

Sunday, November 13

  • Noon – 1:00pm. Is conflict overrated? In the age of the antihero, maybe we just need more stories about nice people doing nice things. Ballroom (Seville). Remember when protagonists were… well… protagonists? Why have we left those days behind? On the panel with me are Jill Knowles, Thomas Watson, Earl W. Parrish, and Van Aaron Hughes.

In addition to all these great panels, Hadrosaur Productions will be in the dealer’s room. What’s more, book dealer Marty Massoglia and I will both be celebrating milestone birthdays over the weekend. There will be a celebration at some point. If you’re at TusCon, track us down for details! Hope you have your tickets and we’ll see you there!

Vermilion Cliffs

This past week, my friend Charles Corson and I made a road trip to Vermilion Cliffs in Northern Arizona to see a retired co-worker from Kitt Peak named George Will. George operated telescopes until he retired about five years ago. Here I am with George on a hike we took along a ridge that paralleled the Paria River, which feeds into the Colorado River.

Dave-and-George

The Vermilion Cliffs are just north of the Grand Canyon. I love the area, as I’m sure many who have read Owl Dance and Lightning Wolves can guess. Soon after he retired, George found a place to rent adjoining the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. This is the view outside his window.

Vermillion-Cliffs

Besides going to see George, this was a great opportunity to get out and exercise. I’ve been hearing a lot recently about research that indicates exercise is necessary for healthy brain function. I certainly have found that a daily walk does a lot to make me feel better and more mentally alert. What’s more, I’ve also heard about research that indicates the necessity of getting out in nature. Our brains seem to be wired such that spending time in wild areas helps us out considerably. Here’s a photo Charles took of me walking along a small tributary canyon that feeds into the Grand Canyon.

Dave Exploring

I didn’t really go on this trip with any particular research goals for upcoming works, but I always like to keep an open mind about the history of a region. It’s hard to say what you might see that might be an idea down the road. At the point where the Paria River feeds into the Colorado Rives is Lee’s Ferry. It’s named after John D. Lee, a Mormon who ran the only ferry crossing across the Colorado River. Due to the geography of the region, it’s one of the few places where you can access the river from both banks for hundreds of miles. John D. Lee ran the ferry from 1870 until his execution in 1876, for his involvement in the Mormon Meadows Massacre. The ferry service continued until 1929 when the first bridge was built across the Colorado. Here’s the view of the Lee’s Ferry Crossing.

Lees-Ferry

Not only do I find inspiration from history, but from the land itself. Sometimes on our hikes we would wander through an area and I would think about what kinds of stories I might set there. Is this a place on Earth or on a distant world? At this point, I don’t know, but several places such as the one below are filed away in my subconscious waiting to see what it does with them.

Tributary

My only problem with a trip like this is that it has to come to an end. However, I did receive some good news on the trip. My editor is nearing the end of her second pass of The Astronomer’s Crypt and the anthology Lost Trails Volume 2: Forgotten Tales of the Weird West is in its final round of production. I hope to have more news about both of these projects soon.

TusCon 42

TusCon42

This weekend, I’m in Denver, Colorado at MileHiCon. Next weekend, I’ll be in Tucson, Arizona at TusCon 42. The convention will be held at the Hotel Tucson City Center InnSuites Conference Suite Resort from October 30th through November 1. Spanning Halloween weekend, there’s sure to be lots of fun cosplay and treats. The author guest of honor will be Seanan McGuire and the artist guest of honor will be Bridget E. Wilde. Special guests include Geoff Notkin and Autumn Ivy. Ed Bryant returns as Toastmaster. My schedule is as follows:

Friday, October 30

  • 5-6pm – Is it wrong to be nostalgic about retro? – St. Augustine. Everything old is new again, but is that idea old enough to be new again? On the panel with me will be Paul E. Clinco, Eric Hanson, and Gloria McMillan.
  • 7-8pm – Meet the Guests – Copper Ballroom. Cash bar, bellydancing, buffet food, and stories from toastmaster Ed Bryant, plus a chance to meet the cool people who participate in TusCon.

Saturday, October 31

  • 4-5pm – Mass Autographing – Copper Ballroom. Come get your wares autographed by all the cool TusCon authors.
  • 5-6pm – How to stretch the reader’s mind without breaking the suspension of disbelief – St. Augustine. Where is the line between being crazy and unbelievable? Just how much strange stuff can you throw at your audience before they check out? Is there real stuff that’s so far out you can’t actually put it in a story? On the panel with me are Jill Knowles, Rick Cook, J.L. Doty, and T.M. Williams.
  • 7:30pm-11pm – Marty and Dave’s Birthday/Halloween Party – TBA. Marty Massoglia and David Lee Summers celebrate their respective birthdays a couple of weeks early at their annual room party. Stop by for snacks and good conversation. If I haven’t announced it here, look for Marty or me at the convention and we’ll be able to tell you what room we’ll be in!

Sunday, November 1

  • 10-11am – What happened to our 21st Century? – Copper Ballroom. We were going to have flying cars, and rocket planes, and colonies and all this cool stuff. Unless you were into cyberpunk in which case we were going to have mass homelessness, rebreather and computers in our eye. So why are we living like none of the above? On the panel with me are Earl Billick, Codi Dolenac, and Eric Flint.
  • 1-2pm – Fen as Family – St. Augustine. How do chronically anti-social loners gain geek friends that stay with them for life, or is that just a myth? Do we really pull together in times of trouble? Has this dynamic changed since we took over pop culture and are no longer the insular group we used to be? On the panel with me are Gloria McMillan, Wolf Forrest, Bruce Wiley, and Liz Danforth.