Two New Readings

Back in September, I shared two readings from the eSpec Books Author Reading series. I recently had the opportunity to record two new readings for eSpec Books. One comes from my story “The Steampowered Dragon” which appears in the anthology Gaslight and Grimm. The other is from Breaking the Code, my forthcoming novella.

My German Grimm collection.

The anthology Gaslight and Grimm presents thirteen steampunked fairy tales by authors like Jody Lynn Nye, Jeff Young, Christine Norris, Gail Z. and Larry N. Martin. As you might expect from the title, most tales in the volume are reimaginings of stories originally collected by the Brothers Grimm over two centuries ago. The project fascinated me a great deal in part because I studied the Grimm Brothers as part of a German literature class at New Mexico Tech. One of our projects was even to translate “Schneewittchen,” or “Little Snow White” into English.

Since that time, I picked up a copy of the Grimm tales published in Germany. One of the fascinating things about this collection is that it includes some notes by the Grimm brothers about the tales and variants they had heard. I have translated a few of the stories over the years for my own amusement with a particular interest in some of the lesser known tales, such as “The Griffin” and “The Dragon and his Grandmother.”

The story I wrote for Gaslight and Grimm, is a reimagining of “The Dragon and his Grandmother.” The original is set during a nameless war and three soldiers desert the battlefield. A dragon (or is it the devil, depends on how you translate it!) appears and offers the soldiers unlimited wealth. The catch is, the dragon will return after a few years and, unless the soldiers can answer some riddles, they will be the dragon’s servants for the rest of their lives. To give this story its steampunk twist, I made the villain a mechanical, steam-powered dragon. I also set the story in Afghanistan during the period of the “Great Game” when Britain and Russia vied for control of central Asia. Here’s my reading from the beginning of “The Steampowered Dragon.”

David Lee Summers reads from “The Steampowered Dragon”

You can learn what happens in “The Steampowered Dragon” by buying a copy from Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, or wherever fine books are sold.

My other new reading is something of a sneak peek at a forthcoming work. I recently shared the cover and the description from my novella, Breaking the Code. This excerpt comes from chapter one of the novella. Set in 1942, two Marine sergeants are in Gallup, New Mexico recruiting soldiers for the war effort. One of the young men they recruit is a Jerry Begay. In this scene, he returns home from the recruitment rally at his high school and tells his parents what happened.

David Lee Summers reads from Breaking the Code.

The very best way to get a copy of the novella is by subscribing to Cryptid Crate at: https://www.cryptidcrate.com. Not only will you get my novella and the goodies that come with it, you’ll get the other novellas in the series as they’re released.

If you would rather just get the book by itself, it is available for pre-order at fine bookstores including:

If you enjoyed these readings and want to listen to more, go over and subscribe to eSpec’s YouTube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/c/DanielleAckleyMcPhail/videos. Not only will you find a whole bunch of great readings, Danielle Ackley-McPhail has an unboxing video for the Cryptid Crate, which will give you an idea of what you’ll get when you subscribe!

Sneak Peek at Breaking the Code

Last autumn, my friends at eSpec Books asked me to submit a novella for their NeoParadoxa imprint, which features books about cryptids. Many of these titles will be featured in Box Mountain’s monthly Cryptid Crate subscription boxes which include cryptid themed art and decor for your home in addition to the books.

What are cryptids? They are creatures lurking in our world. Obscure creatures long relegated to myth and legend. They have been sighted by a lucky-or unlucky-few, some have even been photographed, but their existence remains unproven and unrecognized by the scientific community.

These creatures, long thought gone, have somehow survived; creatures from our nightmares haunting the dark places. They swim in our lakes and bays, they soar the night skies, they hunt in the woods. Some are from our past, and some from other worlds, and others that have always been with us—watching us, fearing us, hunting us.

These are the cryptids, and the Systema Paradoxa books tell their tales.

Because the book will be featured in the Cryptid Crates, the folks at eSpec Books have asked me not to give away too much of the surprise of what’s inside. So I’m limiting myself to sharing the cover and a short book book description.

1942. Gallup, New Mexico. Marine recruiters have come to town looking to fill their ranks with a secret weapon against the Axis powers-what would become Navajo Code Talkers—but not everyone supports the prospect of young native men going off to war.

When one new recruit is found dead, and a rancher’s cattle are mutilated, whispers of witchcraft and skinwalker filter through the town, and interest in enlisting wanes. Is there evil afoot, or is that just what opponents to the cause want everyone to think?

Whether guided by magic, mischief, or malevolence, without a doubt, nothing is as it seems…

If you’re excited for the release of the novella, the very best way to get a copy is by subscribing to Cryptid Crate at: https://www.cryptidcrate.com. Not only will you get my novella and the goodies that come with it, you’ll get the other novellas in the series as they’re released.

If you would rather just get the book by itself, it is available for pre-order at fine bookstores including:

eSpec Books Author Reading Series

At the microphone

In my post last month about Buboni-Virtual Con 2020, I shared a reading from my story “The Sun Worshiper” which was part of the eSpec Books Author Reading Series. This has been a cool service offered by eSpec Books, giving authors an opportunity to showcase their works during the COVID-19 pandemic when we can’t get out and about. The excerpt I shared in the earlier post was from a story in an anthology published by eSpec Books called AfterPunk. The story features steampunk stories in the afterlife. My story in the anthology tells about a Victorian mummy unwrapping party gone wrong. Reading the story was a lot of fun. Several years ago, I’d created audio book editions of my Space Pirates’ Legacy series. Unfortunately, those audiobooks are no longer available, but I dusted off the equipment for this reading. I had so much fun, I hoped for a chance to do some more reading.

As it turns out, eSpec Books hasn’t limited readings to books they’ve published. They invited me to read some of my other material as well. In this video, I read an excerpt from my novel Firebrandt’s Legacy.

In the novel, Ellison Firebrandt fights the good fight for Earth. Under a letter of marque, he raids the ships of Earth’s opponents, slowing down their progress and ability to compete with the home system. On the planet Epsilon Indi 2, he rescues a woman named Suki Mori from a drug lord, only to find she isn’t so happy about living a pirate’s life. However, when the captain finds a new engine that will make him the most successful pirate of all, Suki is the only one who can make it work. Now Firebrandt must find a way to keep his crew fed and his ship supplied while relying on a woman who barely trusts him and while every government in the galaxy hunts him to get the engine back! You can learn more about the novel at: http://davidleesummers.com/Firebrandts-Legacy.html

I also share an excerpt from Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires.

The excerpt I read is actually the very first scene I wrote for the novel, though it actually appears between parts one and two.

This novel tells the story of three vampires. Three lives. Three stories intertwined.

Bearing the guilt of destroying the holiest of books after becoming a vampire, 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 vampire 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 vampires, 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 vampires as the world descends into the chaos of the Dark Ages. Learn more about Dragon’s Fall at: http://davidleesummers.com/dragons_fall.html

Hopefully this has just whetted your appetite for more readings. You can find many more reading by visiting the eSpec Books blog at: https://especbooks.wordpress.com/. They have lots of good books as well and several of their authors have appeared in books and magazines I’ve edited. You can find my stories in Gaslight and Grimm as well as AfterPunk.

Buboni-Virtual Con 2020

This weekend, I had originally been scheduled to attend Bubonicon 52 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The convention has been postponed to 2021, but it presents a unique opportunity for people who couldn’t normally afford to travel to Albuquerque for a convention. You can attend Buboni-Virtual Con 2020 absolutely free just by visiting the Bubonicon Facebook Page or the Bubonicon YouTube Channel.

If you go to the links above between 10am and 7:30pm Mountain Daylight Time, you will find panel discussions, readings, a science talk, a short art demo, and a comic workshop. If you miss the opportunity to tune in live, you’ll still be able to watch the programming after its been archived on the pages. As you watch the events, you’ll encounter such folks as Becky Chambers, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Chaz Kemp, Connie Willis, Rebecca Roanhorse, S.M. Stirling, Jane Lindskold, Walter Jon Williams, and more!

During Buboni-Virtual Con, I participate in a panel discussion with Ian Tregillis, Dr. Cathy Plesko, and Courtney Willis called “Artificial Intelligence: Will Computers Take Over the World.” The panel will go live at 5pm MDT. As scientists move closer to achieving artificial intelligence, we discuss what’s next. We’ll discuss how real AI science compares to the depictions in movies, TVs and books. We consider whether AI could save the world or be its doom. What about Asimov’s Rules? In short, we discuss the future of artificial intelligence. We recorded this panel in advance. None of us were necessarily experts on the subject but we’ve all worked with robotic systems, machine learning algorithms and other real world AIs at different points in our careers. We talk about the difference between strong and weak AIs and even speculate about what it might take for an AI to cross the line into sentience. I hope you’ll join us today and comment on the video.

Now, if Bubonicon were happening in person, I’d likely be giving a reading at some point. As it turns out, eSpec Books has been hosting an online reading series to feature authors who haven’t been able to get out and about to conventions to show their wares. The first of my readings for the series is currently live. I read from my story “The Sun Worshiper” which appeared in eSpec’s anthology After Punk. The story imagines a Victorian mummy unwrapping party gone wrong. If you’re coming to this post in the middle of Buboni-Virtual Con and want to go catch the fine programming there, please do. This video will be waiting for you. It’s mostly audio, so it’s a good one to have on in the background while you’re doing other things as well.

Another thing that would be happening if this were an in-person convention is that I would have a table in Bubonicon’s Flea Market. Even though the Flea Market isn’t happening, you can still browse my wares at: http://www.hadrosaur.com and http://www.davidleesummers.com – in either event, you can browse at your leisure, read some samples and decide what you want. The only downside is that I can’t chat with you in person, but if you do have a question, feel free to drop it in the comments and I’ll chat with you there!

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:

Interview with Danielle Ackley-McPhail of eSpec Books

Today, I’d like to welcome Danielle Ackley-McPhail, publisher of eSpec Books to my blog. Danielle’s work has appeared in my anthologies Space Pirates and Space Horrors plus she’s been featured in Tales of the Talisman Magazine. G&GRed-Gold Leaf-150 Her story “Last Man Standing” from Space Horrors will be appearing in the forthcoming anthology Maximum Velocity: The Best of the Full-Throttle Space Tales coming from WordFire Press. My work has also appeared in some of Danielle’s projects including Bad-Ass Faeries 3: In All Their Glory and the steampunk faerie tale collection, Gaslight and Grimm. I was really impressed by the super job Danielle and eSpec Books did with the Kickstarter for Gaslight and Grimm. They’re running a new Kickstarter and Danielle has taken time from her busy schedule to talk to me about her company and what they have going on.

DLS: What is the mission of eSpec Books? What do you think sets eSpec Books apart from other publishers?

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DA-M: We created eSpec Books to form a more stable platform for speculate fiction in the niche market. So many of the independent publishers we have worked with have faded away over the years either due to burn-out or because they grew too fast and couldn’t sustain that growth. eSpec is starting from a foundation of solid industry experience. We also have the benefit of seeing in advance many of the pitfalls out there and have a plan in place to avoid them, growing slowly, but steadily, using a balance of strictly electronic publications and higher profile titles in both print and ebook. Since we as individuals have been a presence in the fan and publishing community we have the benefit of an established network of connections, a pre-existing audience, and a knowledge of what our audience is interested in. We also have a solid reputation from our previous work for other publishers as both designers and editors.

DLS: What are some of your favorite science fiction/fantasy classics? What makes those books stand out for you?

DA-M: My fandom started out when I was 13, firmly on the fantasy side of things with Piers Anthony’s Xanth series and Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels. From there I discovered Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series and PC Hodgell’s God Stalk. I pretty much read all over the place though. On the sci fi side, Andre Norton’s Forerunner and Joan D. Vinge’s Cat’s Paw. One of the reason all of these stood out for me is that I am a fanatic for myth and legend and strong world building. I also love character-driven fiction and mystical, magical things.

DLS: What do you look for in a book you’re considering for eSpec Books? In other words, what makes the ideal eSpec Books title?

DA-M: Because we are just starting out…our two-year anniversary is in three weeks…almost all of our projects have been in-house, with anthology projects conceived and developed by our own editors. That having been said, we know when to say yes to an interesting project when it’s brought to us. Our title The Weird Wild West is an anthology that was brought to us with Misty Massey as the packager. The concept and the names involved were worth making the exception. That brings us to the other thing that we are looking for at this stage in our growth as a publisher. Names. As a new publisher still proving ourselves to the industry names are important. Not only do they have a built-in audience that they bring to the table, but they also increase visibility of the press as a whole, helping to establish our credibility. This doesn’t mean we are only interested in names, but in our early days and with our plan for a smart, slow build, we are not yet in a position to entertain outside projects. Our anthologies, however, do all have a mix of beginning and established authors.

DLS: You publish a number of anthologies. How do you develop your anthology ideas? Do you take proposals from freelance editors, or do you develop ideas in house? Why do you take the approach you do?

DA-M: I am an idea person. I cut my teeth in this industry by creating anthologies for other publishers. Best known of these is the award-winning Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series. I have a real strength for developing themes and playing with concepts to come up with collections that capture the interest of our audience. I love taking an idea from concept to completion so for the most part our projects will continue to originate in-house. This is not to say we won’t strategically partner with seasoned editors that bring us a solid idea, provided it is one we can see an audience for. Because anthologies have a limited profit-margin this will likely remain our process even once we begin to grow as a company.

DLS: As a business owner, I like brand loyalty as much as the next guy, but as a reader, I recognize that variety is the spice of life! What are some ways small presses can work together to help each other as well as serve readers’ interests?

DA-M: One of the joys of small or independent presses is that most of them have been started by fans and industry professionals with a specific interest and focus. They are the epitome of niche, in fact, the most successful ones remain niche, focusing on what they know and doing it well. The way that we help one another is cross-promotion, by directing our fans to offerings by fellow presses that meet other interests. Sharing knowledge with fellow publishers also builds a community and helps improve the credibility of the industry as a whole.

DLS: You’ve run some exciting Kickstarter campaigns to fund your books for publication. Can you tell us about your current campaign? What is the project and what are some of the cool things supporters might get if they choose to back the project?

DA-M: Part of the eSpec Books business model is to use crowdfunding to fund our high-profile projects, the books we intend to produce in both print and electronic format. We do this for several reasons. From a business standpoint this ensures that we have the resources to produce the books in advance. This means we remain in the black from the beginning and do not need to earn back production costs before turning a profit. By using this model we can create a stable platform on which to grow as a publisher.

Our current project is an important part of that growth. It is our first campaign for novels by two bestselling authors, Jack Campbell (The Lost Fleet, The Lost Stars, The Pillars of Reality) and Brenda Cooper (Building Harlequin’s Moon (co-authored with Larry Niven), The Wings of Creation). We were fortunate enough to sign these books for two reasons. First, because they are very different than the authors’ previous titles and so their usual publishers passed on them. Second, because both authors are familiar with us and our skill in producing books.

These are two very different coming-of-age stories.

Jack Campbell’s The Sister Paradox is an urban fantasy turned epic adventure, where a teen boy crosses dimensions to fight dragons and basilisks and other manner of magical creatures beside the sword-wielding younger sister he never had.

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Brenda Cooper’s POST is a post-apocalyptic journey novel, where a girl name Sage leaves the safety of the botanical garden she grew up in to discover the world outside and, with hope, help rebuild it.

We have all the basic pledge rewards you find with any publishing campaign: ebook only, print only, both together, but we also have pledge levels where you can get additional autographed books, where you can be a character in one of the books, and even pledge levels that will get the backer an ultimate fan experience at next year’s Balticon, where we cover air fare, hotel, and convention membership, plus the backer gets one-on-one time with their favorite author. From a production standpoint we have some premium pledge levels where the backer can have their work evaluated or even created by an experienced editor, designer, and crowdfunder.

In addition to the pledge rewards we have both a Pre-Funding Bonus (electronic bonus stories every backer will receive when we hit $3000 regardless of if we fund) and a We-Funded Prize Pack (a prize one backer pledging $20 or higher will win at the end of the successful campaign, details available on the campaign page).

We are 73% funded with 20 days left in the campaign. Those interested can check it out at http://tiny.cc/Novels2016

kickstarter