A Vampire in Daylight

In my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order, I introduced Daniel McKee, a vampire who works as a telescope operator. In my novels, the vampires often need to find ways to earn incomes since I’ve always been a bit skeptical that it’s easy to stash away vast amounts of wealth given nothing but time. Of course, being vampires, my characters must find night work, which can be a challenge, especially in some professions. Fortunately, Daniel was an astronomer when he became a vampire, so his progression to an all-nighttime position wasn’t difficult.

Daniel is autobiographical only in the sense that he’s a telescope operator. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, the Mayall 4-meter is undergoing a major refit. The entire top ring in the picture above will be coming off and replaced with a new top ring that holds 5000 optical fibers which will be used to collect light from millions of objects around the sky. Because the refit is so extensive and so time-consuming, there’s no nighttime work to do on the telescope, so those of us who work as telescope operators have been spending one shift a month supporting the refit operation during the day. I find myself wondering what Daniel would make of that!

In fact, Daniel would probably quit to find an operator’s position elsewhere. Otherwise, he might find work to do that would allow him to remain on a nighttime schedule, such as programming or manual writing. Sadly, Daniel would miss out on a fascinating engineering endeavor and some good camaraderie. In the photo above, the engineering crew is installing a scaffolding that will give them access to the telescope’s top end. However, the scaffolding isn’t just for access. It will help hold the telescope struts in place after the current top ring is removed and before the new one is installed. It will be sturdy to support people and to assure that the telescope will function after this exercise is over.

What’s more, observatories require more than night time staff to function. There is a large contingent of people who work at the observatory during the daytime. They support the infrastructure, such as water services, electricity, and internet. They provide engineering support, keeping the telescopes operational years after construction when original parts are no longer manufactured and the telescope must be upgraded to work with new electronics. This is a great team of people that I unfortunately don’t get to interact with on most nights because they go home right as I’m starting my work day. So it has been great to get to know some of these “unseen” co-workers.

Sadly once you become a vampire, even good people can look like a tasty treat, so perhaps it’s just as well Daniel wouldn’t interact with the observatory’s day staff, but I’m delighted I’ve had the opportunity!

You can read more about Daniel’s adventures in Vampires of the Scarlet Order. Learn more about the novel at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/VSO.html

The adventures of the Scarlet Order before Daniel became a member are featured in Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order. Read a sample chapter and learn more at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/dragons_fall.html

I will be signing both of these novels next month on the Friday, May 25 at Boutique du Vampyre in New Orleans, Louisiana from 3-6pm. That’s the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. I’ll also be doing a special reading from the novels afterwards at Potions, an amazing speakeasy bar nearby. Be sure to drop by the signing to learn more about the reading. Mark your calendars!

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Road Trip to New Orleans

The Airship Ambassador’s Steampunk Hands Around the World event is going on a road trip and exploring new places. One of the things I’ve enjoyed doing when writing my Clockwork Legion books is visiting places around the world and imagining them with a steampunk twist. So, I thought it would be fun to visit some of the places that appear in the novels and share my connection to them. For this final post in the series, I’m going to the Big Easy—New Orleans, Louisiana. Unlike Tokyo in my last post, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting New Orleans several times.

The fourth novel in the Clockwork Legion series, Owl Riders, opens with Ramon and Fatemeh living in a flat in New Orleans. The approximate location I imagine is near site of the Boutique du Vampyre, which is near the corner of St. Ann and Royal Streets. The Boutique is well worth a visit for fans of Gothic literature and lifestyle. It is full of amazing curiosities and I have it on good authority that some of my books are on the shelf there as well.

Ramon works at the building that would have housed the United States District Court in 1885, which was the U.S. Custom House. The building still stands and it now houses the Audubon Butterfly and Insectarium in the French Quarter.

Fatemeh surreptitiously owns a pharmacy in New Orleans. Her ownership is surreptitious because women weren’t allowed to own pharmacies in New Orleans in 1885. On the books, the establishment is owned by her assistant, Picou, but everyone knows who really runs the Blessed Life Apothecary. I had a lot of help visualizing Fatemeh’s business when I visited the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. It’s a fascinating place and well worth making it at a time when they’re giving their guided tour.

The novel actually opens with Ramon and Fatemeh paying a visit to the World Cotton Exposition which was held in New Orleans staring in the winter of 1884. The exposition buildings no longer stand, but the site is Audubon Park in New Orleans, which is a great place to go for a stroll. It’s right across the street from Tulane University. If you continue through the park, you’ll arrive at the Audubon Zoo.

New Orleans with its old-fashioned charm, magic in the air, and party atmosphere makes a grand setting for steampunk and Gothic stories. I’m glad I’ve gotten to know the city and I look forward to more visits in the future.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this final steampunk road trip stop. Owl Riders is due for publication later this spring. While you’re waiting for the book to be published, be sure to check out the first three novels in the Clockwork Legion series at http://www.davidleesummers.com/books.html#clockwork_legion. There are omnibus editions of the first three volumes available for one low price as well as the individual books and ebooks. You can also visit the Owl Riders page at http://www.davidleesummers.com/owl_riders.html and preview the novel’s first chapter today!

New Orleans Vampire Haunts

Two weeks ago today, I drove into New Orleans right as the solar eclipse began. It seemed particularly auspicious since I had come to town for a book signing at the amazing Boutique du Vampyre. Unfortunately, New Orleans was out of totality’s path, but my daughter and I were fortunate enough to have solar eclipse glasses on hand and we were able to share the eclipse with Lia, one of the wonderful vampire assistants who works at the Boutique. Vampire that I am, who works at night, I enjoyed the eerie dimming in the middle of the day at the French Quarter. Here I am checking out the eclipse.

Since my last visit to New Orleans, Boutique proprietor Marita Crandle, has opened a speak easy specializing in serving traditional absinthe called Potions. I found it a pleasant alternative to some of the more boisterous New Orleans night spots. I visited on two nights during my stay and enjoyed good conversation, drinks, and even some puzzles and games. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a vampire or two in attendance. If you’d like to visit, you’ll need to stop by the Boutique du Vampyre during business hours and ask.

One day while walking around the French Quarter, doing research for my novel Owl Riders, my daughter and I stopped in front of the Ursuline Convent. I told her the story of how in the 1700s, the French sent a group of young ladies to New Orleans to find husbands. These ladies were noted for carrying casket-shaped cases. Unfortunately, the young ladies were abused and forced into prostitution. Afterwards, the cases were placed in storage in the convent’s top floors, which are sealed off to this day, even in the sweltering New Orleans summer. As we stood there, the gates opened and three very large, very expensive cars rolled in. It struck me that whoever that was would know the secret of what sat in the top floor of the Ursuline Convent! By the way, if you like scary stories like this, you should know that Marita Crandle has a new book called New Orleans Vampires – History and Legend coming out on the 25th of this month. I’ve preordered my copy and know it will be fantastic! Clicking the title will take you to the order page.

The signing itself was on the afternoon of Wednesday, August 23. Unfortunately, my schedule forced me to do a mid-week signing, but even so, several people dropped into the shop early on, even a couple of people specifically to see me and have books signed. The signing hit a quiet spell during the middle as occasionally happens, but things picked up again around 5pm and more people came in and chatted with me about books. It was a good time and here’s a photo Vampire Assistant Lia took of me at the event.

If you’d like to pick up signed copies of my vampire novels, just click on the links below:

The Boutique also has copies of The Astronomer’s Crypt and Straight Outta Tombstone. Those aren’t on the website as of this posting, but I bet if you call them at the phone number at feelthebite.com the Vampires or their assistants will be happy to help you out.

New Orleans Vampires and Bubonicon 47

I’m sorry to miss Sasquan, the 73rd annual WorldCon being held in Spokane, Washington this weekend. Sky Warrior Publishing, publisher of my Clockwork Legion Steampunk books is there. If you’re at Sasquan, be sure to visit them and support them by buying their books. They have a terrific selection. Also, I have friends in the running for the Hugo Award, which will be presented at Sasquan tonight. I wish them luck and I wish I was there to support them! I know it’s been a turbulent year for the Hugos, but I hope tonight’s festivities hold nothing but fun for those involved.

Although I’m genuinely sorry to miss WorldCon this year, I find myself thinking of one of my favorite moments from the San Antonio World Con two years ago. I was staying at a motel some distance from the convention, both for budget reasons and so I could have a quiet retreat from the convention. One night, I stopped at a Subway sandwich shop on the way to the motel. I was the only one there, along with the clerk. It turns out he was a science fiction fan, but couldn’t afford to go to WorldCon. We spent several minutes chatting. I told him about highlights of the day. He asked me what I wrote and he ended up buying one of my books. The episode reminds me that not all fans are at WorldCon and even those who don’t have to travel far can’t go for various reasons.

Boutique

Today, I’m grateful to have been invited to sign my vampire novels at Boutique du Vampyre in New Orleans, where I am this weekend on family business. I’ll be at the Boutique from 3 to 6pm. Be sure to drop by and check out my books and the great selection of vampire goodies. I’m delighted for the chance to make friends and meet fans in New Orleans this weekend.

Next weekend, I’ll be at Bubonicon in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This year’s theme is “Women of Wonder” and the guests of honor are Catherynne M. Valente and Tamora Pierce. The toastmistress is Mary Robinette Kowall. Here’s my schedule for the weekend:

Friday, August 28

  • 4pm – Main Room – Whither Ghost? Dancing with the Definitely Dead. Zombies are hot (which must startle them), but let’s not abandon ectoplasm. What roles do true ghosts play in the metaphoric dance of SF/F? What archetypes do they carry? Or are they just devices, good for frisson? How do ghosts in a story affect time and space? The forms ghosts take vary from culture; what are some wonderful ones we may be unfamiliar with? On the panel with me are Mary Robinette Kowall, Betsy James, Darynda Jones, and Sarena Ulibarri.
  • 8:45pm – Santa Fe Room – 40 Minutes With David Lee Summers. I tentatively plan to read my Lovecraftian Steampunk story “Reckoning at the Alamo” which is scheduled to appear in the second volume of the Lost Trails anthology series. If time permits, I may also read “Born Again Miners” from Zombiefied: Hazardous Materials
  • 9:30pm – Main Room – Who Can it Be Now? Characters With Flaws. Is a flawed character, hero or villain, necessary in today’s fiction? Are the days of the white and black hats over, or can today’s readers tolerate a purely good or evil character without inner or outer flaws of morality, ethics, and motivations? Were there ever such characters at all? Conversely, how much anti-hero and sympathetic villain nature can be tolerated by readers before they are turned off? Which flawed characters work best? On the panel with me are Ben Bova, S.M. Stirling, Caroline Spector, and Walter Jon Williams.

Saturday, August 29

  • 10am – Main Room – Red or Green. N.M. as a Mars Analog. Does New Mexico share common features with Mars? Does the Red Planet have special appeal to NM scientists, readers, and writers? How are the two similar? Is NM a great training ground for a manned Mars mission? NM is lucky enough to have Larry Crumpler on the Mars Rover team, and Zachary Gallegos as one of the 100 finalists for the proposed Mars One Mission. What other NM scientists are doing Mars research? What does the appeal of the New York Times bestseller The Martian by Andy Weir mean for present and future Mars interest and projects? On the panel with me are Larry Crumpler, Zachary Gallegos, Loretta Hall, Christine MacKenzie, and Catherine S. Plesko.

Sunday, August 30

  • 10am – Main Room – It’s Alive: Scientists in Science Fiction. In Hollywood, everyone “knows” that scientists are typically treated as supervillains or antisocial nerds. But more and more, it appears that scientist characters are playing the hero. Have scientists truly escaped the old stereotypes? If so, what’s with the change of heart? What caused the stereotypes in the first place? The Atomic Age or maybe “messing around in God’s Domain?” I’ll be moderating this panel that also includes Daniel Abraham, Josh Gentry, Jeffe Kenedy, Catherine S. Plesko, and M.T. Reiten.

In addition to these events, I’ll be helping out at the Bubonicon Author’s Tea, which is a special event where the authors of Bubonicon say “thank you” to the fans by presenting them with a fun, event. As of this writing, I don’t know which sessions I’ll be helping with, but seating is limited and it’s worth coming to any of them.

When I’m not otherwise scheduled, you’ll find me at the Hadrosaur Productions room in the dealer’s room. Please drop by and say “hi!”