A Master of Djinn

I have been a steampunk fan since before I knew the subgenre existed. For that matter, I’ve been writing in the subgenre before I knew it existed. My first steampunk story, “The Slayers,” was published in Realms of Fantasy Magazine in 2001 and I didn’t really become aware of the genre until the release of Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker in 2009. My love of steampunk stems from looking at history and asking “what if” questions. When I was growing up, it seemed like the only fantasy stories available were set in a world that felt like medieval Europe. So I loved the idea of fantasy and alternate historical science fiction that opened up the time periods where these stories could be set. There seems an expectation that “steampunk” must be associated with Victorian England, but again because I came at these kinds of stories from sources like The Wild Wild West and Jules Verne’s Voyages extraordinaires, I never really saw England as a necessary component. I’m always delighted when a steampunk or fantasy tale takes me someplace I’ve never been.

A Master of Djinn

Over the last few years, I’ve been delighted by the novellas of P. Djèlí Clark. The first I read was The Black God’s Drums set in post-Civil War New Orleans about a young woman who wants to escape the streets by earning the trust of an airship pirate crew. She thinks the key might be some information she’s gained about a Haitian scientist. Fortunately, the young woman, Creeper, can also manipulate the weather. As far as I’m concerned Clark told another amazing tale in The Haunting of Tram Car 015, which is set in 1912 Cairo. In the story, agents Hamed Nasr and Onsi Youssef of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities are tasked with removing a malevolent supernatural entity from an aerial tram car.

I was delighted to see that Professor Clark returned to his alternate Cairo in a full length novel, A Master of Djinn. Although Hamed and Onsi appear in the novel, they aren’t the point of view characters. This time, we meet Fatma el-Sha’arawi, a woman working for the same ministry. The novel is basically murder mystery. Someone has killed every member of a brotherhood dedicated to al-Jahiz, who opened the veil to the magical realm allowing djinn to return to our world. The murderer claims to be al-Jahiz returned and he threatens to start a popular uprising. Agent Fatma must get to the bottom of who this person is before he disrupts an important peace conference being set up in Cairo.

A Master of Djinn proved a fun, fast-paced tale with some fascinating glimpses at North African, Islamic culture. Tucked in the narrative is a little background on the 1001 Arabian Nights, which I enjoyed, especially after some of my own research for a story I wrote called “Horse Feathers,” which I hope to say more about soon. While waiting for that, you can explore my steampunk world, which starts in the American West of 1877 and finds its way to Mexico, Japan, Russia, and Iran. You can get more details about the Clockwork Legion series at: http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#clockwork_legion

Hadrosaur’s New Payment Buttons

About a year ago, I received an email announcing that PayPal had deployed new payment buttons. I set it aside, knowing I needed to look into it as soon as I could clear some time. An upgrade like this typically means that older code, like that I used for my original PayPal buttons, will be deprecated and not maintained. Still, a quick look at PayPal’s development site told me I’d need to do some coding and testing, plus the old buttons still worked, so it was easy to convince myself to put it off.

One thing I liked about the old PayPal buttons was that when clicked, they would detect the buyer’s location and charge a suitable shipping rate for their address and the amount they purchased. As time went on, I came to realize I needed to update my shipping rates. Domestic postal rates had increased from the time I’d set up the rates and I knew I needed to take that into account. Also, because I can now drop ship from a vendor with locations in much of the world instead of exclusively from my local post office, some of my international shipping rates were too high. I recently went into to PayPal to see if those changes could be made and discovered I could no longer access the area where I used to set those numbers. So, it was time to upgrade to the new buttons PayPal had told me about a year ago.

New look for book pages at Hadrosaur.com

The new PayPal payment buttons basically come in three flavors. There’s a “plug-and-play” option where you enter some options and then you’re given a link to insert into into your code. Pretty much this will work if you have exactly one specific item you’re selling, but it’s not suitable for a bookstore where the books have different prices. The second option provides a set of “buy now” buttons as I have. It requires some basic knowledge of JavaScript but allows you to place buttons that charge different amounts on different pages. The third option allows for more customization so you can add items to a shopping cart and add the kind of location detection I had with the old buttons, but much of this needs to be coded through your own website or through any tools provided by your webhost and isn’t automated through PayPal like it used to be. In other words, they provide the tools so you can do these things yourself.

So far, my experience is that most people drop by Hadrosaur.com to buy a single book per visit, which does make the “buy now” style buttons I have an appropriate choice. Also, I have a pretty good idea of a “typical” shipping price, whether I ship from my local post office or drop ship an item. It’s possible I may need to adjust this, but it can now be adjusted directly on my site without having to rely on access through PayPal’s site. Plus, the new PayPal buttons are called from the site and they promise to keep them secure and up-to-date. If you do drop by my site and would like to buy several items at one time, the best option is to let me know through the website’s contact form and I can invoice you for the items plus the shipping cost for those items. Often combined shipping will be less per-item than it would be if you simply ordered each item individually.

So, please go visit https://hadrosaur.com right now. If you’re a fan of science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, or horror, I’m betting you’ll find a tempting book, audio book or even comic book. And, if you buy one of my books, the “Thank you” message at checkout will even tell you how to get it signed and personalized!

Prisoners of the Wailing Tower

Today, I welcome Deby Fredericks to my blog to introduce her high fantasy novella series, Minstrels of Skaythe. She’s just released the latest installment, Prisoners of the Wailing Tower. I have edited two of Deby’s novels and read several other works she’s written. I always enjoy them. With that, I’ll turn it over to Deby.


What if the forces of light did not prevail against darkness?

That question is the basis for my high fantasy novella series, Minstrels of Skaythe. The evil mage Dar-Gothull has reshaped everything in his own terrible image. Skaythe is an upside-down world, where merciless strength is “good” and caring about others is “bad.”

In creating this setting, I wanted to challenge some of the standard assumptions in fantasy. Our great legends tell us that freedom from tyranny can only be won in battle. Or that some sort of “chosen one” will lead an army to rescue the people. And that every problem must be solved at the point of a sword or gun.

Personally, I question that warfare makes anything better. So, I set out to explore ways that people of good conscience might resist a despot without resorting to violence. My heroes travel as minstrels. Music and dance, juggling and puppetry are their weapons. Rather than fighting to overthrow Dar-Gothull’s regime, they try to comfort the suffering of the people. For this crime they are branded as renegades and hunted throughout the land.

In the second novella, Dancer in the Grove of Ghosts, Tisha explains some of their philosophy. “Always is an illusion. It is a lie the powerful tell – to themselves and to the world. It saves them from admitting that their way has not always been, and that one day their cruelty will have an answer.”

These novellas are my answer.


About Prisoners of the Wailing Tower:

Alemin only wanted to help an innocent. Instead, he was caught by the dreaded hunter-guards. Now he finds himself flung into the Larder, where the very walls are steeped in nightmares and his fellow inmates are vicious killers. Worse, Warden Ar-Lizelle seems intent on tracking down his friends, the Minstrels, who have devoted their lives to undermining Skaythe’s tyrannical regime.

On the outside, the renegade mage Lorrah receives a premonition of Alemin’s plight. She’s desperate to save a man she cares for, but the Larder is commanded by someone she has hated for years and can’t bear to face: her cruel sister, Ar-Lizelle. Luckily, Lorrah is not alone. She has help from the fierce women warriors of Badger Squad. Yet even their combined forces might not be enough to get Alemin free from Dar-Gothull’s Larder!


Where you can get Prisoners of the Wailing Tower:


About Deby Fredericks:

Deby Fredericks has been a writer all her life, but thought of it as just a fun hobby until the late 1990s. She made her first sale, a children’s poem, in 2000.  

Fredericks has six fantasy novels out through two small presses. More recently, she self-publishes her fantasy novellas and novelettes, bringing her to 14 books in all. Her latest is The Minstrels of Skaythe. Her short work has been published in Andromeda Spaceways and selected anthologies.

In addition, she writes for children as Lucy D. Ford. Her children’s stories and poems have appeared in magazines such as Boys’ Life, Babybug, Ladybug, and a few anthologies. In the past, she served as Regional Advisor for the Inland Northwest Region of the Society of  Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, International  (SCBWI).

Songs in Oz

With book number ten, I feel like I’ve reached a milestone in my journey through L. Frank Baum’s original Oz novels. Rinkitink in Oz opens up on the Island of Pingaree in the Nonestic Ocean, some distance from the land of Oz. The title character, king of a land adjacent to the domain of the Nome King, which we’ve visited in several other Oz adventures, arrives on Pingaree with his talking goat Bilbil. He’s a jolly sort who is happy to enjoy all the perks of being a king, but really doesn’t want the responsibility. He’s happy to eat, swap stories, and sing, but doesn’t really want to do the hard work.

Soon after Rinkitink arrives in Pingaree, the island is invaded by a force from the twin islands of Regos and Coregos. The people of Pingaree, including the island’s king and queen, are hauled away as slaves. Rinkitink, Bilbil, and the island’s young prince, Inga, are the only ones who elude capture. Fortunately, Inga had just learned about three magical pearls which give him hope for rescuing his people. One pearl gives him great strength, one gives him invulnerability, the third one gives him sage advice. With the pearls of strength and invulnerability ensconced in the prince’s shoes, he sets out with Rinkitink and Bilbil to rescue his people. All along the way, Rinkitink is happy to entertain his traveling companions with a song.

I’ve always found it interesting when songs appear on the pages of novels. I often find myself trying to sing the words and I wonder how close I might have come to what the author heard in their head. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been listening to these novels on audio. The Librivox recording of Rinkitink that I listened to featured a full cast. The good king was acted, and sung, by an audiobook narrator named Angleet. I thought he did a fantastic job singing Rinkitink’s songs. I don’t know if the melodies were those Baum heard in his head, but they were nicely done and felt true to the fairy tale-like atmosphere of the Oz books

In reading the Oz books to date, I’ve had the impression that L. Frank Baum was a fan of the Brothers Grimm. We see evidence of that in Dorothy’s magical shoes, the talking animals of Oz, and the witches, both good and evil. That noted, the books still have a distinctly American flavor as plucky, independent adventurers such as Dorothy or Trot find their way through the dangers of these lands. For much of its length, Rinkitink feels the most like a Grimm fairy tale of all these novels. In fact, our familiar Oz denizens don’t come into the story until the final chapters of the novel. At the risk of a spoiler, the most American aspect of this novel is how Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz come riding to Inga and Rinkitink’s rescue near the novel’s end.

Like Baum, I’m a fan of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I’ve translated a few of the tales and done my own retellings. They are available in the anthologies Gaslight and Grimm and It Came From Her Purse. Click on the links to learn more about the books.

Also, this coming weekend is the second installment of Buboni-Virtual-Con. I will be on the panel “Writing Badass Women,” which is scheduled from 6:30-7:30pm Mountain Daylight Time on Saturday, August 21. The schedule for the entire convention and information about how to watch the panels from your computer will be on Bubonicon’s website at: http://www.bubonicon.com/.

What are we going to do tonight, Queen Ann?

“The same thing we do every night, Private Files. Try to take over the world!”

Okay, Tik-Tok of Oz doesn’t actually start out like an episode of Pinky and the Brain, but I was reminded of the show when Queen Ann Soforth of Oogaboo decides to lead the eighteen men of her country out to conquer the world. Meanwhile a young girl named Betsy Bobbin and her mule Hank find themselves shipwrecked in a strange fairyland. They go on a quest to find a safe refuge, when they come upon a greenhouse, which is the home of the Rose Kingdom. While they’re there, the Shaggy Man from earlier Oz books literally drops through the roof. The flowers of the Rose Kingdom send Betsy, Hank and the Shaggy Man on their way along with their newly plucked queen who they’ve decided to reject, a cousin of Princess Ozma named Ozga. We soon learn the Shaggy Man is on a quest to find his brother. Princess Ozma discovered the Shaggy Man’s brother was a captive of recurring villain, the Nome King Ruggero.

On their way to the Nome Kingdom, our band meets Polychrome, the rainbow’s daughter who we last met in The Road to Oz. A little further along the road, they come upon a well and find the title character, Tik-Tok, the machine man of Oz. Tik-Tok has long been one of my favorite steampunk-like creations. For all intents and purposes, he’s a true clockwork robot. His thinking, speech, and movements all have to be wound up to work. It turns out that Princess Ozma teleported Tik-Tok to help the Shaggy Man in his quest. Unfortunately, Ruggero found him first and dumped him down the well.

By and by, our two bands encounter each other. Queen Ann’s army consists of sixteen officers and one soldier. The one soldier, Private Files, defects when he doesn’t want to harm the Rose Queen Ozga, Betsy Bobbin, or Polychrome. Queen Ann then recruits Tik-Tok to be her army. The mechanical man agrees under the condition that the first place they invade is the Nome Kingdom, which will, in turn, help the Shaggy Man in his quest.

Despite the title, the book is more about the Shaggy Man and the Nome King than Tik-Tok. Still, I enjoy seeing Tik-Tok in this book. There’s a nice moment near the end of the book where Ozma uses a two-way communication device to talk to the Shaggy Man while watching him through her magic picture. I couldn’t help but think that L. Frank Baum had anticipated video chat in his 1914 novel. Dorothy and her little dog Toto only appear briefly at the end, but we have a wonderful moment where we learn why Toto only barks and wags his tail when other animals who come to Oz, such as Billina the Yellow Hen, learn how to talk.

As with The Patchwork Girl of Oz, I was swept along by the quest story. This one felt different from earlier ones in the series, and I had the sense that Baum was growing more comfortable telling stories with his troupe of characters and bringing new characters into the mix to add spice. That noted, it didn’t seem that Baum paid as much attention to continuity in this volume as earlier books in the series. Polychrome didn’t seem to remember meeting the Shaggy Man back in The Road to Oz. Also, Tik-Tok felt as though he was played more for comedy here rather than being the stalwart defender of his friends. Still, after trying to eschew the series and move on, it feels like Baum is now having fun with these characters and I’m glad to keep reading and having fun as well.

But, It Wasn’t a Dream

At the end of the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wakes up in her room, relieved to be home after her journey to distant land of Oz. Her Aunt Em tells her, “You just had a bad dream.”

“But it wasn’t a dream,” insists Dorothy. “It was a place.”

My journey through L. Frank Baum’s original Oz novels has brought me to the sixth book in the series, The Emerald City of Oz, and sure enough, Aunt Em will learn that Oz was no dream!

The Tin Woodsman is ready to defend The Emerald City of Oz

As the novel begins, we learn that Uncle Henry and Aunt Em are facing serious financial trouble. Henry had to take out a mortgage to pay for a new farmhouse after the first one was swept away by a tornado in the first book. Now the payment is due, but Henry hasn’t made enough money. All along, Princess Ozma has been asking Dorothy to move to Oz permanently. Given the dire straights in Kansas, Dorothy finally agrees, under the condition that Uncle Henry and Aunt Em also be allowed to move to Oz. The next day, Ozma uses her magic belt to yank Uncle Henry and Aunt Em to the magical land.

So where did this magic belt come from? That goes back to book 3, Ozma of Oz. The magic belt used to belong to the Nome King who lives across the deadly desert from Oz. Well, it turns out the Nome King wants his belt back and what’s more, he’s decided to take over the land of Oz. As the Nomes begin to tunnel under the deadly desert, the Nome general, Guph begins to recruit allies to help with the invasion.

While all this is going on, Dorothy decides to take her uncle and aunt on a tour of Oz. They’re accompanied by the wizard, the Shaggy Man, the sawhorse, Billina the Hen, and Toto. Along the way they see such sights as the land of the Fuddles inhabited by living 3-D jigsaw puzzles, a land populated by living paper dolls, and Bunnybury, a land of civilized rabbits. Fans of groan-worthy puns don’t want to miss Dorothy’s side trip to Utensia, a land of kitchen utensils. Eventually the party makes their way to the castle of the Tin Woodsman, who is now the Emperor of the Winkies. He’s learned about the Nome invasion and the whole group return to the Emerald City to warn Ozma and prepare a defense. Along the way, they pick up their old friends the Scarecrow and Jack Pumpkinhead.

The steampunk in me was delighted when Dorothy suggests that airships might be a great way to get around Oz. Then after that, the wizard realizes that could be a problem, after all, he arrived in a balloon and Dorothy made her first trip by cyclone. If airships become too numerous in our world, they may eventually find Oz. Not only did I enjoy the reference to airships, I loved how this further suggested that Oz was a real place in our world one could just travel to, assuming one could cross the deadly desert that separated it from the rest of the world.

I have to admit, I’ve long been conflicted about the ending of the 1939 film. The problem I run into arguably isn’t the fault of anyone involved in the writing or production of the classic movie. Dorothy’s return home is nicely handled and the audience can draw their own conclusions about whether Oz was a dream or not. In fact, in the Oz novels, Aunt Em and Uncle Henry don’t believe in Oz until they’re brought there in the sixth book. The problem I have is that I’ve seen too many fantasy stories after The Wizard of Oz that send a hero into a fantasy world, give the hero many heart-wrenching, death-defying adventures, and then bring them back home to discover “it was only a dream.”

What I don’t like is the cliché. If I invest myself in a fantasy story, if the characters engage me enough, I want to believe the world they inhabit could exist. I want to believe that my concern for the character had been justified. I want to believe airships could fly over the fantasyland by accident. The Wizard of Oz screenwriters had good narrative reasons for its ending. If you’re going to put me through a harrowing emotional journey, then tell me the whole experience was just dream, you better have reasons that are just as good or you’ll lose me as a reader.

Crossroads in Oz

My travels through L. Frank Baum’s original Oz novels continued with book five, The Road to Oz. Dorothy and Uncle Henry have returned to Kansas by the time the story opens. A hobo called the Shaggy Man comes by the farm and asks Dorothy for directions to the town of Butterfield. He seems scattered and Dorothy decides to take him to the road that will lead to the town. As they walk, the surroundings become unfamiliar and they soon come to a place where many roads intersect. Dorothy is confused because she would remember such a place so near home. They decide to follow one of the roads and soon meet a young boy who calls himself Button-Bright. A little while later, they meet Polychrome, daughter of the rainbow king who is light and joyful and enjoys dancing through life. I couldn’t help but think about the famous song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in all her scenes. Our group soon comes to Foxville, a kingdom of talking foxes and we learn that Princess Ozma will be having a birthday party soon! Of course Dorothy and her new friends will make it to the birthday party, but what makes this party special is that many of the guests come from Baum’s other novels!

The Road to Oz and The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum

I love it when an author can find a good reason for characters from different books they’ve written to meet. I’ve done it a couple of times. The vampire Mercedes Rodriguez has a cameo in my novel Owl Dance. The Scarlet Order Vampires come into more direct contact with the Clockwork Legion in the story “Fountains of Blood” which appears in the anthology Straight Outta Tombstone, edited by David Boop.

Princess Ozma’s birthday party proves to be a great excuse to bring together characters from Baum’s other fantasy novels. Among the guests are Queen Zixi of Ix from the novel of the same name, John Dough from the novel John Dough and the Cherub, and the Queen of Merryland from the novel Dot and Tot in Merryland. Of course, the true star guest is none other than the protagonist of Baum’s Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. Not only is Santa there, but he brings some of friends, the Knooks and Ryls from the Forest of Burzee.

Admittedly, I’ve jumped ahead a bit. On their way to the party, Dorothy, Toto (who is back for only the second time in the Oz novels), Polychrome, the Shaggy Man, and Button-Bright have their share of adventures. Most are actually rather tame and for the most part, the people they encounter just want an invite to the big shindig in Oz. The exception is when they cross paths with the Scoodlers. If we ever play Oz poker, I’ll take your Flying Monkeys and raise you a Scoodler. The Scoodlers are two-sided with a face looking forward and a face looking backward. Their only desire is to turn our heroes into soup! What’s more, they can take off their heads and throw them at you! Fortunately, the Shaggy Man saves the day and they are able to get away.

Eventually we come to the deadly desert surrounding Oz, but because the Shaggy Man has connections, they get a boat that can cross the sand. I was delighted when they reached Oz and the first familiar people they meet are Billina the Hen and Tik-Tok the Mechanical man from Ozma of Oz. We also get some time with the tin woodsman, the scarecrow, and the cowardly lion.

In a way, The Road to Oz feels like a nice tame road trip (with the exception of the Scoodlers!) designed to give fans of the books so far a chance to spend time with old friends. And yet, Baum sneaks in some subversive politics as the tin man lets us know without a doubt that no one would be so uncouth as to use money in utopia like Oz.

Looking forward to my next trip to the land of Oz. In the meantime, you can learn a little more about my novel Owl Dance at http://davidleesummers.com/owl_dance.html. You can learn more about Straight Outta Tombstone at http://davidleesummers.com/shorts.html. What’s more, the Scarlet Order Vampires are experiencing an adventure in a brand new comic book over at my Patreon site: https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers.

Interviewed by Greg Ballan

In my last post, I shared an interview I conducted with Hadrosaur Productions author Greg Ballan. During that same conversation, we turned the tables and he interviewed me. We discussed my writing along with the history and future of Hadrosaur Productions. The first book of mine he read was Heirs of the New Earth. In the current scheme of my series, it’s the fourth novel of my Space Pirates’ Legacy series. He jumped right in at the end, but still seemed to enjoy the read.

As with my last interview series, we recorded our conversation and I have posted it to YouTube. the questions and answers are organized in small, related blocks. If you don’t have time to watch the entire 45-minute conversation, you can listen to those parts that interest you the most.

As the interview starts, Greg discusses Heirs of the New Earth. He notes that it shows a hopeful, advanced society, but not a perfect one. Earth is still polluted and humans are still tempted by totalitarian regimes. He asks me what I think the future of the Earth will be like.

In the second video, Greg asks me what led me to move from being a writer to being an editor and publisher. As I tell him in the response, these decisions were not disconnected.

In the third video, Greg and I discuss the future of Hadrosaur Productions. In that context, we also discuss the future of bookstores. If bookstores go away, we consider what that will mean for the future of ebooks and print books.

From here, the conversation returns to my writing and Greg asks what spurs my creativity. In a twist from the usual plotter vrs. pantser question, he asks whether I’m an architect or a gardener.

From here, Greg asked me what was the one incident that actually made me want to write books. For me, it was more of a process that happened throughout my youth.

In this next video, Greg asks me to share my greatest personal accomplishment along with my greatest setback. Of course, a bad setback is really a way for us to learn and I tell how others helped me through that difficult time and how the work I did at that time helped me turn that setback into a success.

In the next video, I discuss a favorite book and a favorite movie. Greg also asks me what one piece of advice I would give to a new writer.

Greg saves his hardest hitting question for last. He asks me whether I prefer Marvel or DC comics. I have to say, it’s tough, because both companies produce titles I love, but you can learn about one of my very favorites by watching the video.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these insights into my writing and editing life, even if you just watched one or two of the videos. You can learn more about my writing at http://www.davidleesummers.com

You can learn more about Hadrosaur Productions at http://www.hadrosaur.com

Greg Ballan Interview

This past weekend, I had a wonderful opportunity to talk to Greg Ballan, author of the Hybrid: The Ethereal War duology which I’ve had the honor to edit and publish. The novels are Armageddon’s Son and Battle Lines. These books tell the story of Erik Knight, a detective who was born with alien DNA which gives him terrifying super powers. In the Ethereal War novels, Erik finds himself literally caught between the forces of heaven and hell.

We recorded our conversation and I have posted it to YouTube. I made each question and answer a separate video, so if you just have a few minutes, watch the introduction, then come back and watch the others as you have time. This is an interview you don’t want to miss!

In the first video, I ask Greg to tell readers about the Hybrid: The Ethereal War novels.

In the second video, I ask Greg to tell us about his protagonist, Detective Erik Knight.

Next, I ask Greg to tell us how he brought a new twist to the idea of the war between Heaven and Hell.

In the earlier videos, Greg mentions Erik Knight’s mentor, Martin Denton. In private conversations, Greg has told me that Martin was inspired by his father. I asked him to give me more details about that.

Of course, Greg has written other novels besides those in the Hybrid: The Ethereal War series. He tells us about them in this next segment.

As we begin to wind down the interview, I ask Greg what science fiction he’s watching now.

Finally, I wrap up the interview by asking Greg the question about what side he takes in the ultimate battle: Star Trek or Star Wars?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at Greg Ballan and his thoughts on writing. You can learn more about his books by following the links:

Authors Give Back

Word of shutdowns in the United States to curb the spread of Coronavirus came while I was on a shift at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Working on a remote mountaintop, it seems like we should have few concerns about the Coronavirus, but we also have visitors traveling there from all around the country and all around the world, both as tourists and as visiting scientists. Because of this, the decision was made to suspend science operations and make all the equipment safe so it could be monitored by a small, skeleton staff. The last night of my shift was the last night of regular operations. Fortunately, it was a very productive one for the DESI project. We had a nice clear night and gathered lots of good test data for the team to chew on while things are shut down.

As it turns out, because I’m an observing associate and one of the people trained to tell at a glance whether something is wrong or not, I’m part of the skeleton crew that will be rotating in to keep an eye on the facility during the shutdown period. I will likely also have some telecommuting work to do as well. In the meantime, I’m hard at work preparing Don Braden’s fine science fiction novel Upstart Mystique for release and hope to return my attention to my own novel The Pirates of Sufiro, so I can release that soon.

So far, the whole process of watching people around me go into self-isolation mode has felt a little surreal. Because the shutdown period at work happened right as I would normally start a break, little has actually changed about my personal schedule. I’m also fortunate that I can continue to work and will continue to be paid. I know a lot of people face an all too real income shortfall and many people are working to fill their time with something positive. Because of that, I am participating in the “Authors Give Back” event at Smashwords. Through the event, I’m sharing two of my ebooks absolutely free until April 20.

Revolution of Air and Rust is a stand-alone novella set in the Empires of Steam and Rust world created by Robert E. Vardeman and Stephen D. Sullivan.

Set in 1915, the American Expeditionary Force under the command of General “Black Jack” Pershing has invaded Northern Mexico. Pancho Villa leads his revolutionary army in a desperate raid against the American force only to be outflanked. Just as Pershing’s airships prepare to deliver the death blow, Pancho Villa is transported to a parallel Earth where he finds an unexpected ally and the technology that might just turn defeat into victory. This is a story filled with military action, espionage and gadgetry that’s sure to satisfy fans of steampunk and alternate history.

You can get Revolution of Air and Rust absolutely free at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/254622

The other giveaway I’m offering is my short story “The Slayers” which first appeared in Realms of Fantasy Magazine in 2001. Dragon bellies are full of powerful carbide that allows them to breathe fire. Dragon carbide is a valuable treasure. Rado is a young man who sails the winds in a flyer. He signs aboard a mighty dirigible called the Slayer to hunt dragons. However, he soon learns that Captain Obrey will not rest until he strips the teeth and carbide from a mighty gold dragon.

Since this was written, other people have done their own versions of Moby Dick with dragons, but as far as I know, mine is the original. You can download “The Slayers” for free at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/58303