Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?

On May 19, my daughter graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans. The day’s events included an amazing unified commencement ceremony in the morning where all the graduating students gathered in the Super Dome. That afternoon, we watched her walk across the stage as she received her diploma from the College of Science and Engineering. Honorary doctorates were conveyed to notable people at the unified commencement. Among them were Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, who sang her song, “It’s Raining.” The unified ceremony also included an inspiring and thoughtful commencement speech by two-time National Book Award winner, Jesmyn Ward.

While my wife and I had visited New Orleans several times on previous trips, visiting the campus and taking our daughter to school, our visits had, for various reasons been limited. This time, we saved up some money cleared our calendars and decided to spend a week in New Orleans, exploring the city and its surroundings. Even a week in New Orleans might have been beyond our means, except that we had a place to stay where we could make many of our own meals. The food in New Orleans is terrific and part of the experience that should not be missed, but it can be expensive.

Among the highlights of our trip were visits to the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, the Voodoo Museum, and the Audubon Aquarium. One morning we drove down to Jean Lafitte National Park and took a swamp tour, where we saw numerous alligators and turtles. While we were frugal with our food budget, we did splurge on a fine dinner at Muriel’s on Jackson Square. The food was fabulous and I especially appreciated the care the wait staff gave to our daughters and they’re challenging suite of food allergies. They went the extra mile to make sure everyone went away happy. One highlight of Muriel’s is the haunted room upstairs. I took several photos, but never saw any ghosts. There were sarcophagi, which seemed fitting given the release of After Punk the day we dined there.

What makes New Orleans truly special for me is less the touristy stuff and more a magical blend of the people and the overall atmosphere of the city and its surroundings. New Orleans essentially exists in a wetlands environment and life surrounds you. Not just human life like you’d find in a big city like New York or Los Angeles, but magnolia trees and pines, insects and small animals. Of course, you do see a wide variety of the human condition from the desolate, to many people struggling to make a living, to people of privilege throwing cash around at every opportunity. Of course, it’s a city in peril every time a hurricane or even a drenching rain comes through. Global sea level rise could threaten the city. Yet the science fiction writer in me has a hard time imagining the city vanishing forever. It’s versatile and it changes and adapts. There is literal magic in the air. Sometimes it’s just a helping hand from a stranger when you didn’t expect it. Sometimes it’s sitting on a balcony and listening to a trumpeter a block away giving you the gift of his songs. Sometimes the magic comes in walking down the street and seeing a parade break out for no reason that you’ve heard about.

It’s probably fitting that we spent our final evening in New Orleans actually watching a magic show presented by Dr. Joe Dalgo at Potions Lounge. The show captured a lot of what I love about New Orleans. He drew me in with storytelling and history. It felt less like a “show” or an “event” and more like a gathering to appreciate Dr. Dalgo’s talents and knowledge. It was entertaining but I also felt I went away having made new friends.

Speaking of friends, Marita Crandle, who runs Potions Lounge also runs Boutique du Vampyre. She hosted a marvelous signing for me and is one of the people who truly makes me feel at home in New Orleans. If you visit the Crescent City you should visit the Boutique and also pay a visit to Potions. If you can’t make it to New Orleans, you can still shop online at: http://feelthebite.com. Not only will you find signed copies of my vampire novels in the Vampire Library section, but you’ll find my wife’s Monster Eye Bag Charms in the Cabinet of Curiosities.

My daughter has left New Orleans and that makes it hard to say when I’ll be back. I’ve been gone less than a week and yet it beckons me back. I don’t know when the next trip will be, only that there will be a next trip because I have indeed learned what it means to miss New Orleans.

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After Punk

I had a great signing yesterday at Boutique du Vampyre in New Orleans. For those who missed the event, I left behind some signed books which can be bought through their website. Tonight, in Baltimore, eSpec Books will be unveiling a cool new anthology that features my story “The Sun Worshiper.” Unfortunately, my schedule doesn’t allow me to attend, but I would encourage anyone in the Baltimore area to go check out the release party tonight at Balticon. Click the link for more information about the convention. Meanwhile, allow me to tell you more about After Punk and my story.

While mankind can scarce hope to pierce the Veil without crossing it, a few intrepid souls will ever bend their will against the aether, combining artifice and the arcane to uncover its secrets.

From voodoo death cults to the Day of the Dead, mummy parties, the wheel of reincarnation, the practice of death portraits, and so much more, these tales leave no gravestone unturned.

Be it heaven or hell or the limbo in between, the hereafter is about to get ‘Punked.

With stories by Jody Lynn Nye, David Sherman, Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin, James Chambers, Michelle D. Sonnier, Jeffrey Lyman, Bernie Mojzes, Travis I. Sivart, Jeff Young, L. Jagi Lamplighter, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, and yours truly.

My story, “The Sun Worshiper,” is about a spiritualist named Dinela Stanton who is invited to a mummy unwrapping party in London hosted by a prominent scientist. When she arrives, she finds all her fellow guests are scientists who have denounced her as a fraud. To make matters worse, it would appear that the scientist who invited Dinela is attempting to perpetrate a deception of his own.

The story was born from two sources. When I was in elementary school, I had the opportunity to see the Tutankhamen exhibit as it toured the United States. I was captivated, as were many, with all the wealth and beautifully preserved items found in the king’s tomb. Of course, as a young boy, I was both creeped out and fascinated by things like canopic jars and mummified cats.

I’m also intrigued by the Victorian obsession with séances and attempting to contact the spirit world. While studying the paranormal and the scientific method in college, I learned how many spiritualists managed to fool people. Despite that, I sometimes find myself wondering what would happen if a real spiritualist would come along and demonstrate real ability to the most ardent skeptics. To my mind, a true spiritualist wouldn’t help but be captivated by the idea of contacting the spirit of an ancient Egyptian mummy, and might even stick around in the face of her detractors.

After Punk is available in paperback and ebook at:

New Orleans Book Signing

This Friday, May 25, I’ll be signing copies of my novels, Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order, Vampires of the Scarlet Order, The Astronomer’s Crypt, and Owl Riders at Boutique du Vampyre at 709 1/2 St. Ann Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

Boutique du Vampyre is a unique store that offers everything from jewelry and apparel to art and dolls to both vampires and mortals who are friends of vampires. My two Scarlet Order novels are clearly right at home at Boutique du Vampyre and I’m proud to be featured on their shelves alongside such authors as Alys Arden and Bruce T. Jones.

While The Astronomer’s Crypt doesn’t feature literal vampires, I’ve long thought of those of us who work all night long at observatories as kindred. We start work at sunset and leave before sunrise. It’s possible to avoid the daylight entirely in the job. Some observatories do have actually have crypts on site, and perhaps it’s not surprising that we hear our share of ghost stories. There are also more than a few mundane dangers that come with working at remote high-altitude locations late at night. The book imagines what happens when ghosts, gangsters, a monster from Apache lore, and astronomers collide during a terrible thunder storm. The Astronomer’s Crypt may not be a vampire novel, but it sits comfortably in their company!

Owl Riders is my latest novel and like The Astronomer’s Crypt does not feature vampires. Much of the novel, though, is set in the New Orleans French Quarter and the character Marie Lalande is a Voodoo practitioner. What’s more the novel’s protagonists, Ramon and Fatemeh Morales, live on the same French Quarter block as Boutique du Vampyre. This will be the novel’s first official book signing and it seems fitting to release it so close to Ramon and Fatemeh’s fictional home.

While getting ready for the signing event, I was going through files on my computer and found a book trailer I’d created for the novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order about twelve years ago, but never released. Overall, I felt like it held up. The only problem was that some of the information at the end was incorrect, but I was able to fix that with some judicious editing. So now, the trailer is live on YouTube and you can watch it here.

I created the trailer from illustrations Steven C. Gilberts did for the novel and gave it some film stutter and scratches, so it had the feeling of old vampire films I remember watching, such as Dracula or Nosferatu.

After the signing, I’ll be reading from my vampire novels at Potions Lounge on Bourbon Street. If you come by the signing the staff at Boutique du Vampyre will give you all the details about when to join us. If you’re in New Orleans for Memorial Day weekend, I hope you’ll join us for a truly special event. If you can’t make it, you can order signed books from Boutique du Vampyre by visiting http://www.feelthebite.com.

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!

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!”