Updating the Hadrosaur Bookstore

While Kitt Peak National Observatory is shutdown for the COVID-19 pandemic, one of my jobs has been to review, edit, and update documentation on the observatory’s websites. I can’t really show off much of what I’ve been working on there since those are internal sites behind firewalls, and, unless you’re versed in astronomical observation, these documents probably wouldn’t hold much general interest. Part of the reason I edit these documents is that the observatory values my skills as a writer and an editor, which I really appreciate. Also, I’ve been coding HTML since the “Wild West” days of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s.

A benefit the company added in response to the pandemic was to make LinkedIn Learning available to employees. I first became interested in LinkedIn Learning, when Australian writer and artist Greg Long reviewed some of the courses he’s taken, so I knew there were courses there that could help me improve my skills. Because of how early I came to coding websites, there were no classes. I learned by trial and error and browsing through the w3 standards. If I remember right, when I started, all of the standards could be printed out on three or four sheets of paper! The web has evolved a lot since those days. HTML has been improved and things like cascading style sheets and Javascript were introduced. So, I knew I could do with some formal training. So I decided to enroll in a “learning path” for becoming a web developer. In LinkedIn Learning, learning paths are a bundle of courses that cover a broad topic. I’ve completed two of the courses and am about three-quarters of the way through a third.

This training doesn’t just benefit Kitt Peak National Observatory. It is helping me build a better writer’s website and a better website for my company Hadrosaur Productions. This is work I can show you and talk about.

Take One of the Hadrosaur Bookstore

A couple of years ago, my older daughter helped to redesign the Hadrosaur Productions website. She made it through several pages and they look really nice, but then she was hired away to a full-time software engineering job. One of the pages she left for me was the main bookstore page. My objective for this page was to show off our books so people could discover what we had. They could then click the covers to get more details. In the screenshot above, you can see the page as I originally coded it. It’s a rigid table structure, which looks nice on a modest home computer screen. The problem is that the grid becomes small on phones. If you are using a bigger screen, there would be a lot of wasted white space.

This particular layout does not need to be organized as a table. All it needs is to display the covers, and better yet the covers with some additional information, in a neat and orderly fashion. Fortunately, there are some tools to do that in CSS. These tools also give me “under the hood” functionality that make it much easier to add new titles as they’re released, or remove titles as they’re sold out. What’s more, the new layout will adapt so that if you display it on a phone, you’ll just see a column of book covers and titles. If you display it on a wide screen, the rows will expand to fill the browser’s viewport.

You can take a look at the updated design here: http://hadrosaur.com/bookstore.php

I’d love to hear what you think of the updated design. As I say, it’s a work in progress. In the long run, I hope to make this more searchable and sortable. While you’re visiting the page, if a book grabs your eye, feel free to click on it to learn more. The “Add to Cart” and “View cart” buttons are all hosted at PayPal, so all purchases are secure. We don’t get any of your information other than your shipping address.

Colonel Albert Fountain Meets Carmilla

In the cemetery behind my house is a gravestone with no body underneath. I see it almost every day I’m home when I take my daily walk through the neighborhood. Albert J. Fountain was the fourteenth lieutenant governor of Texas, serving during the reconstruction years of 1871-1873. After he finished his term, he moved to Mesilla, New Mexico. He’s probably most famous as Billy the Kid’s defense attorney in 1881. His interest in the infamous Lincoln County War and other cattle disputes continued. In 1896, Fountain was on his way home from collecting affidavits about people involved with cattle rustling. He was traveling with his eight-year-old son Henry. Fountain was 57. The two disappeared in White Sands. All that was found was a buckboard and a pool of blood.

It’s long been suspected that Fountain and his son fell prey to those men he investigated. I once read that Fountain’s wife encouraged him to take his young son, feeling that no one would be monstrous enough to harm a small child. Something about that always felt just a little naive given the reputations of cattle rustlers. I also thought it seemed naive of Fountain to agree. He was certainly not inexperienced and had lived through difficult times.

When David Boop asked me to submit a story for the anthology Straight Outta Tombstone, my thoughts went immediately to the Albert Fountain disappearance. What fantastical explanations could I come up with for the event? What if Fountain took precautions to assure he would be safe? I also thought about Albert Fountain as an older father. In the 1800s, being almost 50 years older than his son, did he worry about the possibilities of watching his son grow up? Those questions along with the pool of blood led me to thoughts of vampires.

As it turns out, the novel Dracula would not be published until a year after Fountain disappeared. That’s when it occurred to me that the novella “Carmilla” by Sheridan Le Fanu had been published in 1871, and collected into the book In a Glass Darkly with other stories in 1872. It’s not clear how widely the book was distributed in America, but it’s certainly possible it was known.

I used “Carmilla” as a way to introduce my protagonists to the concept of the vampire while they’re attempting to solve the disappearance. One of the things that appeals to me about Carmilla is the way the vampire is almost phantom like, stalking her victim in dreams. The novella also raises interesting possibilities about child vampires long before Claudia appeared in Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire.

So, how exactly do vampires relate to the disappearance of Albert and Henry Fountain? I’ve dropped several big hints in the description above, but the best way to know is to pick up a copy of Straight Outta Tombstone to find out.

Also, one week from today on October 14, I’ll be at the New Mexico State University Bookstore at 1400 East University in Las Cruces from 1:00-3:00pm for an informal discussion of “Fountains of Blood” and a book signing for Straight Outta Tombstone. I’ll also have copies of Owl Dance and Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order along with me, if you want more adventures from the characters in my story. I hope I’ll see lots of my Las Cruces friends at NMSU next week!

Discovering Steampunk Books

There are lots of tools that make publishing easy, which is great in many ways, but it can make discovering new books a real challenge. Online bookstores such as Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords have a lot of books available, but what do you do if you want to browse a shelf of books and discover something new? Fortunately, there are some kind folks who make the time to curate collections of books for you to browse on the web.

SummersOwlDance

One such collection is the Empire Booksellers Page which features books by members of The Steampunk Empire. You’ll find short story collections, graphic novels, novellas and series by independent and small press authors you might have missed in other venues. I’m honored to say the Empire Booksellers features the Clockwork Legion series.

You don’t have to be a member of The Steampunk Empire to browse the Empire Booksellers, but you’d be missing out. I have found The Steampunk Empire to be a great site to share photos from steampunk events, talk to people about steampunk books, music, writing, and events. I hope you’ll drop by and look me up while you’re there. My page is at: http://www.thesteampunkempire.com/profile/DavidLeeSummers

SummersLightningWolves

While I’m mentioning steampunk books, the Tucson Steampunk Society Book Club is reading Lightning Wolves this month. They are meeting at Antigone Books at 411 N. 4th Avenue in Tucson at 3:30 pm tomorrow (Sunday, May 12). I will be there to discuss the book with the club members and perhaps prevent a few non-spoilery previews from The Brazen Shark. If you like steampunk books and live in Tucson, please drop by! I’m sure the club would love to have new members. They always have a great selection of steampunk books to read and discuss. I just wish my crazy schedule would allow me to drop in more often!