Birthday Reflections

Today is my birthday. The day comes with mixed emotions, as I know it does for many adults. Today, I’m delighted that I get to spend the day at the TusCon Science Fiction Convention in Arizona with friends and fellow fans. Also, I received a nice gift from my wife, a set of digital comic books, which I hope to read and then blog about in the near future. Despite all that, birthdays make it hard to escape thoughts of growing older and mortality. Still, I’m delighted to know that I share a birthday with one of my literary heroes, Robert Louis Stevenson.

Celebrating my third birthday with my grandma

This week, I was curious about birthday celebrations and looked up some articles about them. They seem to have their roots in ancient ceremonies marking the births of certain gods. In Ancient Egypt, the birthdays of pharaohs were celebrated as a way to equate them with the gods. Over time, birthday celebrations came to be fairly commonplace for national rulers along with certain other rich and powerful people. Most other people wouldn’t routinely celebrate their birthdays until around the middle of the nineteenth century.

Several different things came together to make birthdays an occasion to celebrate. As Europe and the United States moved into the Industrial age, keeping track of time gained importance. People had clocks and calendars in their homes and time became much more regimented as people went to work in cities. As medical science advanced in this period, special note was taken of how people changed as they aged. The number of years one had lived became a way to measure a standard of growth in children and then a standard of overall health as adults. People kept track of their birthdays and began to note how old they were.

Another thing that happened in the nineteenth century was that families started having fewer children. I’ve seen it suggested that around this time, children became seen less as commodities and resources and became more cherished as individuals. Even by this time, some bakers in Germany had come up with the idea of marketing cakes for children’s birthdays and the idea would eventually travel to America.

At this point in my life, my birthday is a good excuse for a fine meal with family and a few friends. I’m perfectly happy to enjoy a piece of good cake for dessert. I look back on the years that have passed so far and hope I’ve learned from my mistakes. I look forward to new challenges and discoveries in the years ahead and hope my children, who I cherish, continue to prosper. Of course, the best birthday present you can give an author is to read one of their books. You can find mine at http://www.davidleesummers.com. If you’ve already read one of my books and loved it, please leave a nice review. Trust me, that’s something that would make a fabulous birthday gift!

A Time of Milestones

The middle of May 2015 marks several milestones in my life. In chronological order, my youngest daughter celebrated her thirteenth birthday, I turned in my tenth novel for publication, Hadrosaur Productions celebrates its twentieth birthday, and my wife and I celebrate our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.

Twent-Five-Years

On the left are my wife and I about a year before we were married and the photo on the left was taken a little over a year ago. I have to say, those twenty-five years have gone by quickly. While it’s a little sad to see my little girl grow up, I’ve had to remind myself it’s the nature of life and I’m proud of the young woman she is growing into. She has a bright future ahead.

Novel number ten is The Brazen Shark, third novel in my Clockwork Legion Steampunk series, contracted by Sky Warrior Publishing. Beta readers have gone over the book and given me feedback, which I’ve applied to the novel as I’ve polished it for submission. It now joins novel number nine, waiting to begin edits. Number nine is The Astronomer’s Crypt, which is at Lachesis Publishing. I’m told my editor is ready to begin work and I’m just waiting for the contract to arrive.

Hadrosaur Productions was founded as part of my wife’s final project for her Masters in Business Administration at the University of Arizona. The original vision of the company was to produce audio stories, but the focus soon shifted to books and Hadrosaur Tales Magazine, which we published for ten years. Afterwards, we reformatted the magazine and called it Tales of the Talisman. Now as we celebrate our twentieth anniversary, the magazine will be going back into a chrysalis phase. Of course, Hadrosaur Productions has been much more than a magazine publisher. We also publish anthologies, have served as a cooperative publisher for novels, and we sell books at conventions. Of course, we also do have three audiobooks. To celebrate this particular milestone, we’re offering 20% off all our novels, anthologies, and audiobooks for the next month. This includes many of my novels! Drop by hadrosaur.com and celebrate twenty years with us.

Last but not least, this brings us to the twenty-five years of marriage with Kumie Wise. Fact of the matter is, none of these milestones would have been possible without her. Not only is she mother and wife, but as noted in the paragraph before, founder of Hadrosaur Productions. She’s also my biggest fan—the one who makes sure I don’t get distracted with other projects, and actually finishes the books I’m working on.

Of course twenty-fifth anniversaries are a common time for people to ask, how did you make it work? I routinely come back to one of the great quotes by Robert A. Heinlein’s character Lazarus Long: “Formal courtesy between husband and wife is even more important than it is between strangers.” The quote reminds me that it’s important to be considerate of feelings. It reminds me that no matter what, we’re in business together. In this case, I’m not talking about Hadrosaur Productions so much as the business of running a household and raising kids. Being courteous with each other, helps us set an example for the kids. Yeah, we’ve often forgotten this, but part of formal courtesy is knowing the importance of apology, forgiveness and moving on. Here’s to the next set of milestones!

A Second Childhood

Today, my wife is celebrating a milestone birthday. She’s declared it to be the beginning of her second childhood. We’re having a party and those guests who bring presents are encouraged to bring toys. There’ll be a barbeque and our daughters are baking the cake. It should be a fun time!

David and Kumie

Kumie likes to point out that although this is the beginning of her second childhood, she’s never really grown up, so the second childhood is starting just as the first one ends!

In fact, Kumie and I have always tried to keep a sense of fun and adventure in our lives. We’ve both collected toys, read books, and watched movies that appealed not only to our children but our own inner children as well. This isn’t to say that life has been all fun and games. There have been plenty of difficult times, too, and hopefully we haven’t behaved too childishly during those, but often its a sense of hope and optimism that sees us through.

I find it interesting that this particular milestone occurs as our oldest daughter prepares to embark on her college career. She’s had a lot of questions about why we made the choices we did as she sets about making her own life choices. When I was her age, I was interested in both writing and astronomy. I decided to pursue the latter, even though I arguably found math and science more challenging at the time. That said, I saw more opportunities to write with a physics degree than there were opportunities to explore space with an English degree. Since that time, technology and the arts have come together in many fascinating ways and my daughter hopes to explore that combination. I find myself wondering what choices I’d make if the choices open to her now had been open to me then.

Despite my musings, I can’t say I set myself on a terrible path. I do get to explore the universe in my “day” job at Kitt Peak. I get to play pretend as a writer. Although “free time” sometimes seems a rare luxury, both avocations do afford me a measure of fun. Here’s hoping you’re having fun, whether you’re on a first or second childhood, or somewhere in between!