G.O. Clark’s Collection of Robot Poetry

A few days ago, I received a collection of poetry in the mail from long-time Tales of the Talisman contributor, G.O. Clark. built-to-serve-g-o-clark-200x300 It was a copy of his new poetry collection, Built to Serve. In this collection, Clark tackles the subject of robots from many different angles. Of course, robots are no longer just the stuff of science fiction, they’re part of our every day world. I started my astronomy career working with a robotic telescope and over the course of my career, I’ve seen automation make many aspects of astronomical observation more efficient. I’ve long thought about artificial intelligence and my daughter recently took a college course in machine learning, which led to some interesting discussions. What’s more, writers have long used robots as metaphors for low wage workers or even slaves.

Clark’s collection takes a look at robots from both the practical and metaphorical angles. He starts the collection in an almost steampunk alternate reality and imagines robots of the past moving forward into futures of obsolescence, much as humans do in life. As he notes in “The Steam-Powered Robot”:

    Funny thing about the future,
    it never waits for anyone. His mainspring
    driven moment slipped away: old iron
    bones recycled for a newer model.

Clark compares and contrasts the sensations robots might experience to those of humans. He also imagines how humans might themselves go against the spirit of Isaac Asimov’s laws of robotics and use robots to hunt down other humans. In a familiar science fiction trope, Clark imagines robots transforming the world into a better place, which doesn’t always go so well for the humans who created them.

C;arl reminds us that many of our first encounters with robots are with toys and he looks at those encounters with both fondness and terror. Some of the robots he introduces us to are toys of the more adult variety, but even they can induce nightmares such as the lady robot in this poem:

    Heading back towards the
    closet, she deftly unzips, then
    steps out of her perfect tan skin and
    hangs it upon a custom hanger.

It’s true Clark covers many familiar robot tropes, but he does it well and often times he gives those tropes fresh twists. Moreover, he looks at humanity through the eyes of robots and helps us understand more about ourselves. This is a collection well worth seeking out. You can find copies at the Alban Lake Store and at Smashwords.

New E-book: The Astronomer’s Crypt

This week marks the release of the ebook edition of my novel The Astronomer’s Crypt which tells the story of astronomers, ghosts, drug dealers, and a monster from the beginning of time colliding at an observatory during a ferocious thunderstorm. Here’s the cover and the back cover blurb.


astronomers-crypt-453x680If you scare easily, don’t read this book.
If you dare to read it, you’ve been warned.

Two years ago on a stormy night, in the dead of winter, Mike Teter experienced something that would change his life forever. Mike was a telescope operator at the world renowned Carson Peak Observatory in New Mexico. We won’t tell you what he saw that night on the mountain nor what happened afterward on a dark stretch of highway, because it would haunt you just as it has haunted Mike. But what we will tell you is that Mike is back at Carson Peak. And what he witnessed that night two years ago is about to become a reality…


This horror novel, of course, was inspired by many nights working as an observing associate at Kitt Peak National Observatory. In fact, cover artist Laura Givens clearly used the Mayall 4-meter as her model for the telescope enclosure on the cover. This is fitting, since the building was the inspiration for the enclosure in the building. The Mayall 4-meter is a labyrinthine building filled with twisting corridors, dark stairways, and darkrooms abandoned when astronomical cameras went digital. People have taken wrong turns and gotten lost in the building. Bats sometimes congregate at the top of the dome. More than once, visiting astronomers have commented the 4-meter would make a great setting for a haunted house.

Clearly the telescope on the cover isn’t in the Arizona desert. The novel is set on a fictional peak in the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico. When I first went to work for Kitt Peak, one of its draws was the relative ease of access compared to almost every other observatory I’ve worked at. I wanted to drop the creepy building into a remote and isolated place where help wasn’t just a phone call away.

The idea for this novel came to me during the World Science Fiction Convention in San Antonio which was held in 2013. My editor asked if I had any ideas for a creepy or suspenseful novel. I pitched the idea of a haunted house story set at a telescope and we tossed ideas back and forth over the course of the weekend. I left WorldCon that year with a nearly complete outline for a novel. Now, three years later, you can read the results. When you visit the retail sites, you’ll see this is Book 1 of the “Wilderness of the Dead” series. Yes, I have plans for at least two more books set in the Carson Peak Wilderness area of New Mexico. Lots of creepy stuff happens in the old towns and surrounding mountains.

You can pick up the e-book of The Astronomer’s Crypt at:

The Last Bucelarii

This weekend, I’m at Las Cruces Comic Con being held at the Convention Center by the University. Click the link to get all the details. You can find me in the vendor hall at booth E23. If you can’t catch me at Comic Con, no worries. Next weekend, I’ll be signing books at Branigan Library here in Las Cruces on Sunday, September 18 from 2 until 4pm.

blade-of-the-destroyer

Meanwhile, here at the web journal, I’m excited to share information about a dark fantasy series by my friend Andy Peloquin. The second book in his series “The Last Bucelarii” has just been released. The first book is called Blade of the Destroyer. In the novel, we meet the Hunter of Voramis. He is the perfect assassin: ruthless, unrelenting, immortal. Yet he is haunted by lost memories, bonded to a cursed dagger that feeds him power yet denies him peace of mind. Within him rages an unquenchable need for blood and death.

When he accepts a contract to avenge the stolen innocence of a girl, the Hunter becomes the prey. The death of a seemingly random target sends him hurtling toward destruction, yet could his path also lead to the truth of his buried past?

Blade of the Destroyer is available as a Kindle Ebook and in Paperback at Amazon. Click the links to order, or mark it to read on Goodreads!

lament-of-the-fallen

Andy has just released the sequel, called Lament of the Fallen. Alone with the bloodthirsty voices in his head, fleeing the pain of loss, he has one objective: travel north to find Her, the mystery woman who plagues his dreams and haunts his memories.

When he stumbles upon a bandit attack, something within urges him to help. His actions set the Hunter at odds with the warrior priests commanded to hunt down the Bucelarii.

Left for dead, the Hunter must travel to Malandria to recover his stolen birthright. There, he is inexorably drawn into direct conflict with the Order of Midas, the faceless, nameless group of magicians that holds the city in a grip of terror. All while struggling to silence the ever-louder voice in his mind that drives him to kill.

From feared assassin to wretched outcast, the Hunter’s journey leads him to truths about his forgotten past and the Abiarazi he has pledged to hunt. His discoveries will shed light on who he really is … what he really is.

You can buy Lament of the Fallen as a Kindle e-book, from Amazon in Paperback, or you can add it to your Goodreads Shelf.

I’ll wrap up this post with an excerpt from Lament of the Fallen. Enjoy!

    He filled his lungs with the fresh night air. The taste of smoke mixed with the earthy scent of loam. The warmth of the fire soothed and relaxed him, the hypnotic rhythm of the dancing flames calming his mind. The fatigue of the day washed over him, and he allowed his eyelids to droop.

    The visions came then; memories leapt out at him.

    Within the bright depths of the flames, he saw the hell he had glimpsed in the Serenii tunnels. Lord Jahel’s face appeared in the fire, laughing, mocking. Bone and skin morphed into the faces of Lord Cyrannius and the First of the Bloody Hand. Shuddering waves of flesh and gristle writhed, shifting, transforming.

    Demons roam Einan once more. People treat them as myth and legend, but I know the truth.

    The Hunter retreated deeper into his blankets, his sword clutched to his chest. He told himself it was out of habit rather than fear.

    He had left Voramis behind, not only to find the truth of the woman whose face plagued him, but to discover the truth of the demons. Curiosity drove him to learn of his past, and his own heritage as a Bucelarii—descendant of the Abiarazi horde.

    The demon added its voice to the swirling maelstrom in the Hunter’s mind. ‘He disowns his blood, all to play the hero, the protector.’

    The Hunter was too tired to fight it off.

    I’m no hero. If it was up to me, they’d all rot.

    He had no desire to save the world. He had no reason to save humans from themselves.

    A vision of horror flashed through his mind. Creatures of nightmares seized a screaming child, tearing at pale skin with razor-tipped claws. Blood splashed across chitinous armor as the demons ripped the child apart in their haste to devour the flesh.

    The girl bore Farida’s face. She lay bloody, mangled, discarded like refuse, gasping her last agonizing breaths.

    Oh, child. I am so sorry.

    He wished he could scrub the memory from his mind forever. With it gone, the sorrow would leave. He needed no reminder that he was once again alone.

    He turned his back on the fire and buried his face in his cloak.

    He could turn his back on those who had feared and hated him, yet he had not the strength to hide his face from the suffering of innocents. People like Old Nan, Ellinor, Little Arlo. They would suffer most should the Abiarazi find their way into the world once more.

    The demon whispered in his mind. ‘Why must you protect them? You are not one of them, after all. You are Bucelarii.’

    They do not deserve such suffering.

    He squeezed his eyes shut and pushed back against the demon’s voice.

    I’m doing this for them.

    He pictured Farida the way he had seen her that day in the Temple District, with that same bright smile. She was happy. That was what mattered, and that was what he would remember.

    I’m doing this for her.

Holiday Book Sale

Today, I’m signing copies of my books at Bookmans on Speedway in Tucson, Arizona from noon until 2pm along with a number of other great, local authors. If you’re in Tucson, I hope you’ll drop by and shop a great collection of books from local authors.

Lachesis Black Friday ad

If you’re not local to Tucson, you can still take advantage of some great deals on my books. Lachesis Publishing, who publishes my space opera and my vampire novels has put all the ebook editions on sale for 99 cents through Monday, November 30. Click the banner to get to a search page for all my books at Lachesis, or follow the links to specific novels below. If you already have all of these books, I have have two new novels coming soon. I’m making the final proofreading pass on my horror novel, The Astronomer’s Crypt, and will be sending it back to my editor, Joanna D’Angelo, at Lachesis Publishing within the next two weeks. My steampunk novel, The Brazen Shark, is in the queue for publication at Sky Warrior Books. I hope to have more news about that soon.

Lachesis-Cover-Banner

Old Star/New Earth Series

The Scarlet Order Vampires

Ad-Astra

One of my favorite elements of the holidays is sharing good food with friends and family. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have produced a fun cookbook full of food for parties which includes information about how the recipes relate to the authors and their work. The cookbook features recipes by such folks as Larry Niven, Gail Carriger, David Brin, Connie Willis, John Scalzi, Vonda N. McIntyre, and many, many more. I’m honored that my recipe for Caldo de Pollo, which appears in Lightning Wolves is included. You can learn more about this fun cookbook and order a copy at: http://www.sfwa.org/sfwa-publications/preorder-your-sfwa-cookbook-now/

Summer at Kitt Peak

In a typical year, July and August bring monsoon rains to Arizona and New Mexico. The rain is much needed in the desert, but it does mean poor observing conditions for most of those two months. Because of that, the observatory typically shuts down its major telescopes for ongoing maintenance and upgrades that help keep them state of the art.

WIYN in Rain

Those of us who work principally at night, often get a more relaxed schedule, which enables us to take vacation time. When we’re at work, we often get a chance to lend a hand on projects around the observatory. This past week, I worked during the daytime, helping with a couple of projects at the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope. One of those projects was cleaning, tuning, and testing the actuator control cards on the back of the WIYN telescope.

Actuator Work

Here you see the back of the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope. Each of those disks at the back are attached to a motor and a rod, which deform the telescope’s primary mirror so it has the optimal shape, no matter where it’s pointed in the sky. With time, the electronics in each of those actuators becomes less reliable.

So, for example, the WIYN primary mirror weighs about 4200 pounds. When working properly, the actuators should measure that weight pretty accurately. However, with wear and tear, they reached a point where they were measuring the weight as 4570 pounds. As I write this, we’ve tuned about about one third of the cards and now the weight is reading 4370 pounds, much closer and an indication that we’re doing much-needed work. Here’s one of the control cards in its test bench setup.

Actuator Card

Another project I helped with this week was upgrading the drives for the filter arms on the One-Degree Imager at WIYN. In essence, the whole objective of having a camera on a telescope is to accurately measure the amount of light coming into it from distant stars and galaxies. However, visible light is made up of all the colors of the rainbow. Red light, blue light, and violet light are all jumbled together. So, the best way for us to measure light accurately is to take black-and-white pictures with colored filters in front that allow light of precise frequencies to pass through.

The One-Degree Imager has filters that are approximately one-foot by one-foot square. It takes a lot of force to move those pieces of glass and hold them rigidly in place.
ODI-Filters In the photo on the left, you’re looking down on the filter arms. The filter arms used to be held in place by a series of gears. However, the force required to move those arms was so great, the gears were literally grinding themselves to dust. So the gear system has been replaced by a system which utilizes a chain drive like that you might find in a motorcycle! You can see the chain on the bottom of the photo. I’m looking forward to the new observing season when we get to use this new filter drive system. It promises to move and hold the filters much better than the old system.

Another project that’s moving forward is the Extreme Position Doppler Spectrometer which NASA is contracting for the WIYN telescope in order to support space missions searching for planets around other stars. This week, I was asked if I would provide input into how to practically operate this device. It sounds like I’ll learn more this autumn, but I’m looking forward to the challenge and hoping I’ll have something good to contribute which will both help achieve the mission objectives and make it a user-friendly instrument.

In the meantime, I have not forgotten my literary endeavors. I just finished editing a four-short story collection called Sugar Time written by Joy V. Smith. Hadrosaur Productions published an audio book edition some years ago, but this will be an ebook and chapbook containing the four original stories with new cover art by Laura Givens. Look for more details in next week’s blog post.

Also, if you live in New Orleans or will be visiting on the weekend of August 22, please drop by Boutique du Vampyre in the French Quarter between 3 and 6pm, where I’ll be signing copies of Vampires of the Scarlet Order and Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order.

Lightning Wolves Unleashed

Lightning Wolves

It’s 1877 and Russians 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.

It’s official! My eighth novel has just been released. Lightning Wolves is the sequel to my wild west steampunk novel Owl Dance. This particular novel was inspired by my love of Tombstone, Arizona and its surrounding areas. Although this novel is set around Tombstone, you won’t find Wyatt Earp or his brothers. This is a few years before the Earps arrived, when prospectors were exploring for silver and rustlers went south of the border to steal Mexican cattle. In my world, the Russians have invaded America and occupy the west coast, changing history as we know it. What if a mad inventor built a mining machine that could also be used as a powerful weapon? How would you defeat it? That’s the story I tell in Lightning Wolves.

If you visit the Lightning Wolves page at davidleesummers.com you will find a sample chapter and links where you can order the book. What’s more, because this is July and my publisher, Sky Warrior Books is awesome, you can get the book for half off at Smashwords by using the code SSW50 when you check out.

You say you haven’t read the first book in the series? Well Owl Dance is also 50% off at Smashwords this month. Just remember to use that SSW50 code when you check out!

Finally, a reminder that I now have a mail list. To sign up, please visit http://eepurl.com/XEWqn

The Scarlet Order Vampires at Lachesis

As I mentioned in last week’s post, Lachesis Publishing has unveiled a brand new website. In addition to publishing my Old Star/New Earth science fiction series, they also publish my Scarlet Order vampire novels. For better or worse, vampire and paranormal romance novels seem to be everywhere these days. While it’s true the Scarlet Order vampire novels have their share of romance along with beautiful and dangerous vampires, I believe they offer something a little more. The Scarlet Order is a band of vampire mercenaries. They use their speed, agility, and strength to aid the world’s countries. What’s more, I find it interesting to look at the modern world through the eyes of creatures who have seen the world grow and change. Without further ado, here are the novels in the Scarlet Order series.

The Scarlet Order Vampire Series

Dragons Fall

Three vampyrs. Three lives. Three intertwining stories.

Bearing the guilt of destroying the holiest of books after becoming a vampyr, the Dragon, Lord Desmond searches the world for lost knowledge, but instead, discovers truth in love.

Born a slave in Ancient Greece, Alexandra craves freedom above all else, until a vampyr sets her free, and then, she must pay the highest price of all … her human soul.

An assassin who lives in the shadows, Roquelaure is cloaked even from himself, until he discovers the power of friendship and loyalty.

Three vampyrs, traveling the world by moonlight—one woman and two men who forge a bond made in love and blood. Together they form a band of mercenaries called the Scarlet Order, and recruit others who are like them. Their mission is to protect kings and emperors against marauders, invaders, and rogue vampyrs until their closest friend, Vlad the Impaler, proves to be their ultimate nemesis.

Click here to learn more about Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order at Lachesis Publishing.


Vampires of the Scarlet Order

Vampires of the Scarlet Order is an action-adventure novel about an elite cadre of vampire mercenaries who have worked throughout history as pinpoint assassins. Under the command of Desmond, Lord Draco, the Scarlet Order was involved in wars with the Ottoman Empire, The French Revolution and even the conquest of the Americas. Now, at the dawn of the 21st century, vampires are too expensive, too untrustworthy, and frankly, too passé for governments to employ any longer. Nanotechnology can be employed to engineer more reliable super soldiers. What’s a vampire to do?

Click here to learn more about Vampires of the Scarlet Order at Lachesis Publishing.


If these novels intrigue you, I invite you to drop by my other on-line journal, The Scarlet Order, where I regularly discuss horror writing, vampires, and other matters of interest to night creatures.