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

Hadrosaur’s Anthologies on Sale

This week is the annual “Read an Ebook Week” promotion at Smashwords. Hadrosaur Productions is offering all of their anthologies on sale for 75% off. The coupon code EBW75 should be automatically applied at checkout. This includes Hadrosaur’s newest anthology, Exchange Students! One of the things I like about Smashwords is that you can ebooks for just about any reading app or device you might have.


Exchange Students

Study abroad! See new places! Meet new people!

In our exchange student program, you can literally study anywhere or anywhen you can imagine. We’ll send you to new planets. We’ll send you to new dimensions and realms of existence. We’ll send you through time itself!

Don’t believe me? This exciting anthology contains many tales of our thrilling and educational exchange student program. You’ll read tales of aliens coming to earth and humans traveling to alien worlds. You’ll meet a denizen of Hell who travels to Heaven. Some students will discover their super powers on their journey. Other students will have encounters with the undead. You’ll meet a law enforcement officer who travels to the realm of the fae to help solve a crime of truly interdimensional proportions.

Featuring twenty-two amazing stories by Roze Albina Ches, Jaleta Clegg, Ken Goldman, Paula Hammond, Sheila Hartney, Chisto Healy, Joachim Heijndermans, Sean Jones, Tim Kane, Alden Loveshade, Tim McDaniel, J Louis Messina, Jennifer Moore, Brian Gene Olson, David B. Riley, Katherine Quevedo, Holly Schofield, Jonathan Shipley, Lesley L. Smith, Emily Martha Sorensen, Margret A. Treiber and Sherry Yuan

Exchange Students is available for only $1.25 at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1005851


Kepler’s Cowboys

keplers-cowboys-display

NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has discovered thousands of new planets.

Visiting, much less settling, those worlds will provide innumerable challenges.

The men and women who make the journey will be those who don’t fear the odds.

They’ll be Kepler’s Cowboys.

Saddle up and take an unforgettable journey to distant star systems. Meet new life forms—some willing to be your friend and others who will see you as the invader. Fight for justice in a lawless frontier. Go on a quest for a few dollars more. David Lee Summers, author of the popular Clockwork Legion novels, and Steve B. Howell, head of the Space Sciences and Astrobiology Division at NASA Ames Research Center, have edited this exciting, fun, and rollicking anthology of fourteen stories and five poems by such authors as Patrick Thomas, Jaleta Clegg, L.J. Bonham, and many more!

Kepler’s Cowboys is available for $1.25 at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/698694


A Kepler’s Dozen

HowellSummersKeplersDozen

Of course, if you’re going to explore the Kepler planets, I know you’re going to want to get them all!

A Kepler’s Dozen presents thirteen action-packed, mysterious, and humorous stories all based on real planets discovered by the NASA Kepler mission. Edited by and contributing stories are David Lee Summers, editor of Tales of the Talisman Magazine, and Steve B. Howell, project scientist for the Kepler mission. Whether on a prison colony, in a fast escape from the authorities, or encircling a binary star, these exoplanet stories will amuse, frighten, and intrigue you while you share fantasy adventures among Kepler’s real-life planets.

A Kepler’s Dozen is available for $1.00 at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/325583


Legends of the Dragon Cowboys

Legends of the Dragon Cowboys brings you two weird western adventures by authors David B. Riley and Laura Givens. Their heroes ride boldly out of the Far East to find their way in a mythic land of danger, romance, and adventure.

In “The Venerable Travels of Ling Fung” by David B. Riley, a wandering businessman encounters a Mayan god, crooked enterprises and Yeti, the Abominable Snowman, when all he really wants is to open a gun store. Ling Fung is not any ordinary Chinese entrepreneur–he’s highly skilled in Kung Fu and he can shoot good, too. While his heart is set on business, providence seems to have other plans for him.

Laura Givens brings wily acrobat Chin Song Ping to the Wild West in search of adventure and fortune. He finds little fortune, but plenty of adventure. Chin Song Ping is a scoundrel, a gambler and a trouble magnet. His heart of gold lands him in schemes to outwit would-be gods, cannibal ghosts, insane robots, Voodoo despots and the ultimate evil–bureaucrats. But he is a romantic, and the love of his life is the true treasure he seeks. The odds are always against him but if he survives he will become the Western legend he always was in his own mind.

The Wild West just got a lot wilder!

Legends of the Dragon Cowboys is available for $1.00 off this week at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/751811.

Exchange Students

I am pleased to announce the release of the latest anthology from Hadrosaur Productions. It’s called Exchange Students, edited by Sheila Hartney.

Study abroad! See new places! Meet new people!

In our exchange student program, you can literally study anywhere or anywhen you can imagine. We’ll send you to new planets. We’ll send you to new dimensions and realms of existence. We’ll send you through time itself!

Don’t believe me? This exciting anthology contains many tales of our thrilling and educational exchange student program. You’ll read tales of aliens coming to earth and humans traveling to alien worlds. You’ll meet a denizen of Hell who travels to Heaven. Some students will discover their super powers on their journey. Other students will have encounters with the undead. You’ll meet a law enforcement officer who travels to the realm of the fae to help solve a crime of truly interdimensional proportions.

This anthology features twenty-two amazing stories. The full table of contents is as follows:

  • “Switching Worlds” by J Louis Messina
  • “We Are Allan” by Tim Kane
  • “Home Is(n’t) Where the Heart” Is by Chisto Healy
  • “A Coral Study” by Katherine Quevedo
  • “Take Him to Your Leader. Please” by Jennifer Moore
  • “The Blog of Thomasona Brown” by Paula Hammond
  • “Interplanetary Relations” by Margret A. Treiber
  • “Advanced Precognition” by Emily Martha Sorensen
  • “My Book Report on Starlight” by Joachim Heijndermans
  • “Flunk, Juggle & Frog” by Jonathan Shipley
  • “A Visit From Lady Lydia” by Ken Goldman
  • “Claudius” by Sheila Hartney
  • “Easy Peasy” by Holly Schofield
  • “An Averted Tragedy” by Brian Gene Olson
  • “The Pupil” by David B. Riley
  • “Starseeds” by Sherry Yuan
  • “The Lionel, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by Lesley L. Smith
  • “Orange Sun, Grey Sky” by Alden Loveshade
  • “Where Were You Last Night” by Roze Albina Ches
  • “Bessarabia” by Sean Jones
  • “Student Database Notes 3/25 – 6/27” by Tim McDaniel
  • “Fairyland Border Investigations, Training Academy Class 937” by Jaleta Clegg

I’m pleased to see a number of contributors from Tales of the Talisman and Hadrosaur’s anthologies returning for this book. I’m also pleased to see several new names in the table of contents. At this point, I’ve read the anthology cover to cover several times, in my roles as publisher and copy editor. The book is great fun and I enjoy more each time I read it. This is a book you should add to your collection.

2020 Foresight

In the last post, I looked back to the previous decade. Now, I want to take a look forward at what’s coming next. As it turns out, I’m entering the year 2020 with three projects right at the final editing and typesetting stages, so those are occupying much of my attention at the moment and I expect they will all go “live” in the first quarter of this year.

One of the projects that will appear in the next couple of months is the anthology Exchange Students edited by Sheila Hartney. It features twenty-two stories from a diverse group of authors who explore the idea of exchange students in a variety of settings. Some stories imagine interplanetary exchange students, some imagine time traveling exchange students. We have an exchange student from Hell visiting Heaven. There are also stories about exchange students crossing between our world and fantasy worlds. Throughout the book, you’ll hear stories from the perspectives of the teachers, students, and parents who find themselves in these situations. The final edited manuscript has just been delivered to me and I plan to start typesetting the book this week, then I’ll get in touch with the cover artist about finishing the cover, teased in the thumbnail at the head of this paragraph.

I’m also excited to be presenting Don Braden’s first novel. Don is a retired high school teacher who has often used science fiction as a teaching tool in the classroom. Don has also written for Tales of the Talisman Magazine. What’s more, I’ve almost literally known Don my entire life. He was my brother’s English teacher before I was even old enough to go to school.

Don’s novel is called Upstart Mystique. The novel opens with the space vessel Marco P en route to a distant colony world. The ship loses all power and an unknown force convinces the navigator that a distant, dead world is the vessel’s true destination. Commander Malcolm Carpenter orders the crew to abandon ship to protect them and to learn how to defeat whatever force has intercepted his ship. The crew discovers a small group of inhabitants, the only people on the planet who were not uploaded into a vast computer network—a computer network captivated by upstart humans and their imaginations. To free his crew and his navigator from the planetary network’s grip, Commander Carpenter must face a moral dilemma. Can he save his crew without condemning a planet’s inhabitants and their digital ancestors to death?

I’ve finished the first typesetting pass of Upstart Mystique. It needs a cover and a final check by the author, then it’ll be ready to go to press!

The third book I’m working on is the 25th Anniversary edition of my own novel, The Pirates of Sufiro. When the rights to the “Old Star/New Earth” series were returned to me, I wrestled with how much to re-edit these books. They were my early books and I renamed the series “The Space Pirates Legacy” in part because one of the major characters has a vessel named Legacy and in part because I do see it as my “legacy” series. It’s the series where I cut my teeth as a writer, so to speak, and mostly I wanted to bring them back so they were available to fans who wanted my early work. Still, I felt like Pirates had some cool ideas that were buried in awkward writing. Also, the only ebook edition of the book had some problems that made it even more of a challenge to read. If I was going to put this book back on the market, I owed it to readers to improve what I could. I’ve just completed the actual rewriting portion of the project. I have a few more edits to do, then I’ll start typesetting. Again, the actual book should be available for purchase in the very near future. That said, people who support my Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers will get a code to download it for free once it’s released.

After this, it’ll be time to move on to the next wave of projects. While typesetting and finishing these books, I hope to make some decisions about what will be next. Some things are clear. I’ll be revising and re-issuing the rest of the Space Pirates Legacy series: Children of the Old Stars and Heirs of the New Earth. At this point, I don’t expect they’ll take the kind of time I’ve devoted Pirates, but I do need to re-read and evaluate them. I do plan to polish and work on some short stories I have in mind and send them out to editors. Presuming Children and Heirs don’t prove as time consuming as Pirates, I’ll probably start work on the next new novel. You can share your thoughts about what that should be in the comments below, although I’ll also be asking my Patreon supporters and I do give their thoughts more weight.

Fantastic Settings

Today, I’d like to welcome author Deby Fredericks to my blog. I’ve had the honor of editing her novels The Grimhold Wolf and Seven Exalted Orders. I enjoy her writing and she has a new book out called Dancer in the Grove of Ghosts. In today’s post, she discusses the importance of setting in science fiction and fantasy.


One thing that sets fantasy and science fiction apart from other literature is the incredible worlds we set forth in our pages. While stories in other genres will take place in the real world or something close to it, fantasy really takes you away. Whether to dream lands and magic kingdoms, or to domains of our nightmares, we show our readers sights they’ve never seen before.

In creating my high fantasy novella series, Minstrels of Skaythe, I’ve been showing a landscape that is fairly natural, yet nevertheless woven through with magic. Enigmatic, silvery roads criss-cross the dusty plains, leading nowhere. Pockets of gloom linger where nothing should cast a shadow.

During the first novella, The Tower in the Mist, the characters explored the Hornwood, an ancient woodland shrouded in mystery. For the latest novella, they only pass through the Hornwood to reach another legendary site.

One hundred years ago, the evil Dar-Gothull laid a curse on Seofan Holl in the form of a drakanox. This beast was so poisonous that its breath made stone crumble, metal rust, and it killed every living thing, from the magnificent oleya trees down to the fleas in the pelts of dogs. No life has recovered there in all the time since.

My heroine, Tisha, is an extraordinarily gifted healer. She is driven to discover whether the curse is like an illness that she can heal. Here is what she finds in Seofan Holl:

Gray — that was her first and most striking impression. The land formed a shallow bowl, rather oval and slightly curved to the north. This was filled with pale gray, lacy clouds that Tisha quickly recognized weren’t clouds at all. They were the leafless twigs and branches of a vast orchard. Tree trunks stood in orderly rows, spaced just so, a formation stretching as far as she could see.

Beneath those ghostly groves, the soil was pale and dry, covered with ashy dust. Even the least breath of wind raised a thin haze to muffle the sky. Rickety fences stitched between sections of orchard. On the wall above, moss had been growing on every stone. Here was none at all.

I hope you’ll journey along with Tisha to the desolate Seofan Holl, and see if she can restore life to the grove of ghosts.


Dancer in the Grove of Ghosts

“He’s dead. He just doesn’t know it yet.”

Mortally wounded, Cylass is abandoned on the battlefield by comrades who would just as soon have him out of the way. But as he waits for death, a strange savior appears. The dancer, Tisha, heals him with her forbidden magic, but also draws the wrath of his cruel former lord.

Soon guardsman and renegade mage are on the run. Will Cylass help Tisha, as she helped him? Or will he do the smart thing, and turn her over to the vicious Count Ar-Dayne?


Amazon e-book:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07ZXLHC62

Other e-book formats:
https://draft2digital.com/book/496360

Author website:
http://www.debyfredericks.com

Author newsletter:
http://eepurl.com/geV_nX

Last Call for Summer/Winter Sale

The Smashwords Summer/Winter ebook sale ends tomorrow. After that, all of the Hadrosaur Productions books return to regular price. What I like about buying books from Smashwords is that you can download them for your your favorite device, whether it be a Kindle, a Nook, a Sony ereader, or your tablet or phone. What’s more, they’re DRM free, so you can copy them to multiple devices without worrying about whether or not it’s an “approved” device.

Our weird westerns are on sale for 50% off this month. These include one of our newest books, David B. Riley’s Fallen Angel, which tells the story of Mabel, an angel from Hell, who accompanies General Grant’s army during the last days of the Civil War only to discover that Martians are watching the Earth with envious eyes and slowly drawing their plans against us. Not only that, but Mabel has to contend with her evil sister, who wants to have humans for dinner. This books is only $1.50 at Smashwords while the sale lasts.

Legends of the Dragon Cowboys brings you two weird western adventures by authors David B. Riley and Laura Givens. Their heroes ride boldly out of the Far East to find their way in a mythic land of danger, romance, and adventure. Their heroes encounter Mayan gods, Native American spirits, Yeti, Voodoo despots and more! The Wild West just got a lot wilder! This book is only $2.00 at Smashwords during the sale.

You can learn more about these books and get direct purchase links at: https://davidleesummers.wordpress.com/2019/07/09/hadrosaurs-weird-westerns-on-sale/

Other books available for 50% off the cover price include Armageddon’s Son by Greg Ballan, Sugar Time by Joy Smith, and Revolution of Air and Rust by yours truly.

In Armageddon’s Son, ex-CIA Agent Erik Knight is recruited to assist his mentor, Martin Denton, in discovering the identity of the mysterious thief who stole the Ruby Crucifix of Christ from the very heart of Vatican City. In order to solve the mystery, the agents must accept that the world as they know it is mere illusion, hiding a brutal physical and spiritual war of ‘Good’ versus ‘Evil’. You can snag this book for just $2.00 this month!

In Sugar Time, you’ll meet Sugar Sweet. When her Uncle Max falls ill and his collaborators disappear, she investigates the old Victorian mansion where he conducted his research. She soon finds the collaborators — or what’s left of them — along with an angry Neanderthal. She also finds her uncle’s research project, a working time machine. Get this book for just $1.50 this month.

Revolution of Air and Rust is set during 1915 when the American Expeditionary Force has invaded Northern Mexico. Pancho Villa leads his revolutionary army in a desperate raid against the American force only to be outflanked. Just as American 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 turn defeat into victory. This book is available for just $1.50.

Learn more and get direct links for purchasing these books at: https://davidleesummers.wordpress.com/2019/07/16/adventures-through-time-and-space/

One of my tasks this month has been to investigate how the results of NASA’s Kepler and K2 missions have influenced science fiction. One direct result are the two Kepler anthologies I had the pleasure to edit with NASA’s own Steve B. Howell. Like the other books featured this month, they are half off the cover price.

A Kepler’s Dozen presents thirteen action-packed, mysterious, and humorous stories all based on real planets discovered by the NASA Kepler mission. Get this anthology for just $2.00 from Smashwords.

NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has discovered thousands of new planets. Visiting, much less settling, those worlds will provide innumerable challenges. The men and women who make the journey will be those who don’t fear the odds. They’ll be the Kepler’s Cowboys of the title. Saddle up and take an unforgettable journey in this anthology of science fiction stories about planets discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission. The follow-up anthology is only $2.50 for today and tomorrow.

You can get the direct links to purchase these books by visiting: https://davidleesummers.wordpress.com/2019/07/23/celebrating-keplers-success/

Last but not least, my own science fiction novels are available at Smashwords through the end of the month for just $1.00. That’s a full 75% off the cover price!

In The Solar Sea, whales around the world changed their songs the day scientists announced the discovery of new particles around Saturn’s largest moon which could solve Earth’s energy needs. The Quinn Corporation rushes to build a solar sail space craft to unlock the secrets of these strange new particles. The crew makes a grand tour of the solar system and discovers wonders and dangers beyond their imagination.

Space pirate Ellison Firebrandt is already a force to be reckoned with when he discovers a remarkable new drive system and meets a woman who can help it reach its full potential. You can read about their adventures in Firebrandt’s Legacy.

Direct links for these books are at my post: https://davidleesummers.wordpress.com/2019/07/02/celebrating-the-future/

Guest Post: Gender Swapping Characters

Today, I’d like to welcome author Deby Fredericks to my blog. I’ve had the honor of editing her novels The Grimhold Wolf and Seven Exalted Orders. I enjoy her writing and she has a new book out called The Tower in the Mist. In it, she presents a group of non-traditional warriors. Presenting characters in non-traditional gender roles is something I have done as well, and I thought it would be interesting to hear Deby’s take on this subject. Without further ado, I’ll turn it over to Deby.


When I began writing The Tower in the Mist, I did not plan to include a group of Amazonian warrior-women. A woman mage had been captured by warriors who served an evil wizard. But the more I worked on that setting, in the Land of Skaythe, the more I realized that the minions of an evil wizard were also going to be evil. And what will a group of evil men do after capturing a female prisoner?

I did not like where this was leading me.

As an author, each one of us has to choose what “content” we include. How much bloodshed, how much moralizing, whatever. We all balance what our audience is looking for against what we are comfortable writing. Every story is personal to its author. No one can tell us that we “have to” put in anything we don’t want to.

Personally, I did not want to put myself into the mind of a woman being raped as violently as these evil warriors would do. But even more than that, I believe that we as a society have a real problem with violence against women. A big part of the problem is how media, including literary arts, seem so okay with that violence. For most writers, the rape of a woman prisoner would be no big deal. It shows how bad those guys are, and anyway, the audience loves sex. Even the most disgusting, ugly sex there is. Writers “have to” give them what they want.

No. We don’t. Call me squeamish if you want. The Tower in the Mist is still my story. Go get your sick thrill on someone else’s pages.

ANYWAY! I didn’t like where my story was going. As the author, I can change whatever I need to, in order for the rape not to happen. What I did was to swap everyone’s gender. Instead of a woman captured by men, a man was captured by women.

Immediately, the characters sprang to life. Skaythe is a land of dark sorcery, where might makes right and mages rule because of their mystic power. The prisoner, Keilos, had dedicated himself to non-violence. He was defying every expectation of masculine behavior. That’s much more interesting than rape. Meanwhile, the warriors, who had been very cardboard characters, became this group of misfits who were just trying to survive an evil system that used them as cannon-fodder. Their leader, Zathi, was a tough warrior who had fought many battles, both physical and political, to regain control over her own life. Again, much more interesting than it had been before.

I would not advocate that every author should swap the genders of their characters. I didn’t do it to make people laugh, or solely to make a political point. The swap was what my story needed to become amazing. And it worked! The Tower in the Mist is a much richer and more poignant tale because of it.


The Tower in the Mist

Zathi’s job is to capture renegade mages, but Keilos isn’t like any other mage she’s dealt with. Her drive to bring him in only leads them deeper into a cursed forest. Together, warrior and mage will face deadly beasts and grapple with decisions that compromise every principle. Until they stumble upon a place of ancient, forgotten magic. Zathi must choose — allow Keilos to claim it, or kill him once and for all.

Pre-order Links

Kindle format: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07QL476BJ

Other formats: https://books2read.com/u/3nK1Mo


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. The latest is The Grimhold Wolf, released by Sky Warrior in 2015. 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).

Sisters of the Wild Sage

My parents loved to watch western movies on weekend afternoons when I was a kid. As I’ve mentioned before, I never really saw the appeal until I happened upon the TV series, The Wild Wild West starring Robert Conrad and Ross Martin. Ostensibly, the show was a mashup of the western with spy shows that were popular in the day, but it also introduced science fictional and magic elements to the western. The Wild Wild West was my first real exposure to the weird western genre.

Another show that changed my mind about the western was the mini-series adaptation of James Michener’s Centennial. The series and book told the story of a Colorado town, showing the continuum of history from the Native Americans who lived in the area through the fur trappers to the early settlers, the farmers, the cattlemen, and ultimately finishing up in the present day, which was 1976 when the book came out. The classic western story exists in a brief moment in history, typically somewhere between about 1870 and 1890 and tends to ignore what led up to that time and what came after.

When Nicole Givens Kurtz asked me a few days ago if I’d like a preview copy of her new weird western story collection, Sisters of the Wild Sage, I jumped at the chance. I already knew Nicole’s talent. I’d published two of the collection’s stories in Tales of the Talisman Magazine. What’s more, her story “Justice” appeared in the anthology Six-Guns Straight from Hell alongside one of my stories and her story “The Wicked Wild” is in Straight Outta Tombstone.

Many of this collection’s stories are set in the mythic old west in a fictional town called Wild Sage, New Mexico. It’s not exactly that 1870-1890 time period. Instead the setting is the very early twentieth century, around the time my own family came to New Mexico, and still a time when New Mexico was very much the Wild West. These stories often tell about African American women just trying to find a peaceful existence in the world but having to deal with men who want to pull them back into the slavery they or their parents had just left behind. Fortunately, these women are often empowered by magical gifts that help them fight injustice.

My favorite of these “traditional” weird western tales was “Belly Speaker” which provides some truly scary twists to the spooky ventriloquist dummy story. “The Wicked Wild” is also a strong story about a cleaning woman who can summon wind having to battle a demon-possessed cowboy. In the collection’s title story, men come to run a pair of sisters from their land. Fortunately, one of the sisters can control plants and the other has a magically accurate aim with her six-gun.

Like Centennial, this collection spans time, giving a more complete view of the west. Stories like “Kq'” feature Native Americans, possibly even before people of European or African descent arrived in the west. Stories like “Los Lunas” and “The Trader” feature magic in the contemporary west. Nicole even takes us to the future in stories like “The Pluviophile” and “Rise.”

I highly recommend Sisters of the Wild Sage. The anthology will take you on a tour of the weird west not only as it existed in the past, but as it might exist in today’s dark shadows and also as it might exist in the future, especially if we don’t take steps to change the world we live in now. You can pre-order Sisters of the Wild Sage at: https://www.amazon.com/Sisters-Wild-Sage-Western-Collection-ebook/dp/B07PBP3S7X/