Worlds of Words

Last weekend, I was at the Tucson Festival of Books, which brings together authors of every genre imaginable from around the world to talk with readers about their work. The entire University of Arizona mall is taken up with tents occupied by vendors selling books and exhibiting products, services, and information. There was also an area called Science City which focuses on STEM literacy.

I love walking through the festival and seeing the books for sale and meeting the authors exhibiting their wares. Bookmans Entertainment Exchange is a chain of used bookstores in Arizona and one of the sponsors of the festival. They had a large tent and it was especially fun to go in and discover they had a copy of my novel Owl Dance for sale. What’s more, it was sitting on top of a copy of Bridges of Longing by my friend Marsheila Rockwell. As it turns out, I’d just spent time visiting with Marcy and her husband Jeff Mariotte a few minutes before at a tent where they were selling their books.

Fun as it is to visit the vendors, my favorite part of the festival are the tremendous panel presentations. On Saturday morning of the festival I joined J.L. Doty for a panel on Scientists Writing Science Fiction. I discussed how science influences my writing and editing. For example, science brought me together with Steve Howell of NASA Ames Research Center to assemble Kepler’s Cowboys, a collection of stories about planets discovered by the Kepler Space Telescope. I also noted that working in science doesn’t always influence my science fiction. The 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak is a big, spooky building, especially at night and it inspired me to write my horror novel The Astronomer’s Crypt. We also discussed bringing the discipline we learned in science to our writing. In that context, Jim mentioned how he writes without an outline. On the other hand, I do use outlines. In both cases, we think carefully about what we’ve written and plan our next writing sessions so we do any required research ahead of time.

I also moderated a terrific panel on building fantasy worlds. The panel included my friend Gini Koch. I was also delighted to meet Samantha Shannon, Erika Lewis, and Brian McClellan. We discussed the process they go through when creating their alternate worlds and how they keep track of the places within those worlds so they’re believable to the readers. I thought it was especially interesting to hear that Samantha was a fan of A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, because I saw some influences in The Mime Order. That said, she noted that she’d actually removed some of the more overt influences because she didn’t feel they were working in the context of her work. The photo above was taken after the panel was finished and we gathered to sign books.

By itself, a terrific weekend at the Tucson Festival of Books would have done a great job of recharging my batteries so I could continue work on my fourth Clockwork Legion novel Owl Riders. However, just a couple of days after the festival, I was delighted to find a new review of book two of the series, Lightning Wolves posted at Geek-o-Rama. Reviewer Katrina Roets wrote, “Do you want to know how you know that you’re really enjoying a book? It’s when the power goes out and you curl up on the couch with a flashlight so that you can keep reading. Seriously. This happened to me last night.” Knowing that I wrote fiction that kept a reviewer reading through a power outage gives me a great, warm fuzzy feeling and makes me ready to write even more.

Elizabeth Guizzetti’s Top Seven Fairy Films

Today, I’d like to welcome a very special guest to the Web Journal. Elizabeth Guizzetti is author of the story “Under the Roses” in Wee Folk and Wise: A Faerie Anthology edited by Deby Fredericks. weefolka I’ve long been a fan of stories about the fae and a few years ago, I was even on a panel at CopperCon in Phoenix which asked whether vampires or the fae are scarier. Our conclusion was the fae, because you always know where you stand with vampires. With the fae, things aren’t always so clear!

Wee Folk and Wise: A Faerie Anthology is available on Amazon. You can find out more about Elizabeth at her home page: elizabethguizzetti.com

Elizabeth shares seven of her favorite films about fairies, many of which I’ve seen and highly recommend. Those I haven’t seen I’ll be checking out. And, as you can see, the fairies in her list aren’t always sweet and innocent.


Though fairy tales are everywhere now, both in rewritten and classic form, I have loved fairy stories since I was a little girl. In conjunction with the release of Wee Folk and Wise, I want to share my top seven movies that star fairies, pixies, brownies and the like.

Maleficent (2014)
Explore the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain in the classic Sleeping Beauty. In an unforgiving mood after a neighboring kingdom threatens her forest, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) places an irrevocable curse on the king’s newborn daughter, the Princess Aurora. But as the child grows, Maleficent finds herself becoming fond of the girl. And as the conflict between the two realms intensifies, Maleficent realizes that Aurora (Elle Fanning) may hold the key to peace in the land.

Why I love it: A remake of the Disney classic, Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent is a fairy betrayed by her first love. This took the basic story and turned it into a completely different movie.

In revenge, she curses the king’s infant daughter Aurora. She soon discovers the other three fairies charged with watching Aurora are negligent. After rescuing the child during her toddler years, Maleficent changes one of the creepiest love stories, it is a mother figure/child love story.

By far, this is the best Disney movie I’ve seen. The acting is great. This movie has amazing actors starting with Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning. They fit each role perfectly The amazing musical score sets the right mood in every scene.

Willow (1986)
A reluctant farmer (Warwick Davis) dreams of learning magic. When his children find a baby in the river, he sets off on a quest to protect the baby from an evil queen.

Why I love it: I must have seen this film at least a dozen times when I was a child and a dozen more as an adult. (It played at the dollar theater near my childhood home) This movie has everything: dwarves, brownies, heroes, evil queen, the greatest swordsman that ever lived and a defiant princess. Great directing by Ron Howard, awesome acting by the whole cast, including Warwick Davis, Val Kilmer, and Joanne Whalley, an enchanting and exciting plot, excellent special effects, and plenty of humor and action.

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
In Spain of 1944, the bookish young stepdaughter Ofelia of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world.

Why I love it: It mixes the gritty real world with a dark fantasy world. No matter where Ofelia is, every scene is staged beautifully. There is graphic violence in the real world which is scarier than the dark fantasy that Ofelia enters. The characters feel so real. The costuming feels rich and the special effects feel lifelike.

I am a fan of director Guillemor del Toro and have enjoyed every one he has made. This film was so special to him, he gave up his entire salary to see this film made including back end points.

Legend (1985)
A young man must stop the Lord of Darkness from both destroying daylight and marrying the woman he loves.

Why I love it: Fauns! Fairies! Goblins! Unicorns! Tim Curry! Tom Cruise plays Jack a boy of the forest, Mia Sara plays a young beautiful princess who loves him. The story is not just about innocent true love, it has an innocence about it. It is a true fairy tale with a fight between good and evil. And it has a solid fairy character: Oona is not to be messed with. She has more power than anyone knows and a quick wit. “You look like mourners at your own funerals.”

The Hallow (2015)
A family who moved into a remote mill house in Ireland finds themselves in a fight for survival with creatures living in the woods

Why I love it: This horror movie is a creature feature of the best kind. The filmmakers are careful to not use the word “fairy” but they used the changeling legends.

These fairies steal babies and replace them with their own. They can’t touch iron. Joseph Mawie and Bojana Novakovich move into a new house with their infant. A local farmer tries to warn them against walking in the near by wood and taking down the iron bars that cover their windows. Other than not listening to someone who basically seems crazy, they are smart about their growing problem. Every scene builds upon the suspense, until the viewer is holding their breath.

Labyrinth (1986)
Babysitting infant brother Toby on a Saturday night isn’t young Sarah’s (Jennifer Connelly) idea of fun. Frustrated by his crying, she secretly wishes the Goblins from her favorite book, Labyrinth, will carry Toby away. When her fantasy comes true, a distraught Sarah must enter a maze of illusion to bring Toby back from a kingdom inhabited by mystical creatures and governed by the wicked Goblin King (David Bowie).

Why I love it: Awesome puppetry. David Bowie in all his glory. Okay while its about goblins, more than fairies, there are lots of different types of fantastical creatures that Sarah runs into while in the maze. They do show fairies as annoyance, like mosquitos. Talking worms, monsters, dwarves, and as a girl with younger siblings, I identified with Sarah.

The Secret of Roan Inish (1996)
10-year-old Fiona is sent to live with her grandparents in a small fishing village in Donegal, Ireland. She soon learns the local legend that an ancestor of hers married a Selkie – a seal who can turn into a human. Years earlier, her baby brother washed out to sea in a cradle shaped like a boat; someone in the family believes the boy is being raised by the seals.

Why I love it: It was a sweet family film in a beautiful setting. Though it is a very different movie than The Hallow, like The Hallow, it took a myth seriously which is why I loved it. Jeni Courtney who plays the lead is a sweet girl, but she has an inner strength that moves her adult relatives to action.

Those are my top seven fairy films. What are some of your favorites?

On Turning 50

Over the weekend, while at TusCon in Tucson, Arizona, I celebrated my fiftieth birthday. It’s one of those points in life where I find myself looking back to see where I’ve been as well as looking forward to see where I’m going.

david-at-50

In my first fifty years, I’ve written and published nine novels, eighty-four short stories, and fifty-four poems. I’ve edited three anthologies, plus two magazines for ten years each. I contributed to the commissioning of the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope and the NMSU 1-meter telescope. I’m co-discoverer of two variable stars and I helped take data that contributed to the discovery of dark energy. Most of all, I’m proud to be the father of two incredible young ladies, one in high school, the other in college, who have a wide range of talents in such areas as computer science and mathematics.

Looking ahead, my tenth novel, The Astronomer’s Crypt, is nearing release. I have two anthologies in the publication queue: Kepler’s Cowboys and Maximum Velocity: The Best of the Full-Throttle Space Tales. I have four short stories accepted and awaiting publication. Beyond that, I’m in the early phases of writing a new novel and I have a “fix-up” novel a little over half completed. Plus I have story treatments for four more novels. Presuming no major funding shifts, I expect to be involved in commissioning two new instruments at Kitt Peak in the coming years.

As I reach fifty, I’m arguably in the best health I ever have been. The arthritis that plagued me for years is in remission and I regularly take long walks through my neighborhood. Nevertheless, one specter looms over me. My dad was only fifty-two when he died suddenly of a heart attack. In the plus column, my doctor is helping me watch my heart health and both of my brothers have now outlived my dad by over a decade. I have no immediate reason to fear for my imminent demise. Nevertheless, I find myself grieving for how truly short my dad’s life was cut and watching my health has taken on a new urgency.

In short, as I turn fifty, I feel proud of what I’ve accomplished. My regrets are minimal. While there are some harsh words and rash actions I’d take back if I could and some friends I’ve lost touch with over the years, it’s hard to say I’d have a better life if I’d taken a different path. I have several exciting things to look forward to in the coming months and years, plus plans and goals for the years beyond that.

Thanks to my readers for sharing some of this fifty-year journey with me. I look forward to sharing the coming years with you as well.

Spellbound

Today, I want to tell you about the first book in an exciting Young Adult fantasy series by my friend Tricia Drammeh and the best part is it’s free! Keep reading to find out how you can get a copy of Spellbound, the first book in the Spellbringers series. Tricia Drammeh is an author of multicultural fantasy, young adult paranormal, and contemporary fiction. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband, children, and three adorable animals. When she isn’t writing, she can be found devouring books and consuming vast amounts of coffee.

Spellbound

In Spellbound, the Demon Re’Vel stalks his prey in the forest of dreams, slowly gaining control over the mind of his victim. Rachel doesn’t realize the Demon is real. In fact, she doesn’t believe in magic, Demons, Hunters, or any of the other things the Alexanders have warned her about. She resists their protection, but can’t resist her overwhelming feelings for Jace.

Alisa has been drawn to Jace since the day she saved him from a Hunter attack. A mere human in a world of Spellbringers, Alisa has been embraced by the Alexander family as a hero, but not everyone is willing to accept her. Jace’s intimidating older brother, Bryce, keeps his emotions and his secrets hidden. When Bryce confides in Alisa, it puts her relationship with Jace and the entire Alexander family at risk.

Danger, secrets, and betrayal collide, and when the Demon makes his claim, the small, southern town of Oaktree becomes a battleground for Rachel’s life.

As I mentioned above, you can get Spellbound for free by visiting the following places:

You can connect with Tricia at:

Weird Westerns as Fairy Tales

Today finds me at the 2nd Annual Steampunk Invasion of Bookmans on Speedway Blvd in Tucson, Arizona from 10am until 4pm. I’ll be signing my novels plus I have a couple of anthologies including my stories. The link takes you to more information. If you’re in Tucson, I hope you’ll drop by. There will be other authors, tea dueling, craft panels, movies, raffles and more.

Last night, I watched a 2010 New Zealand-South Korean film called The Warrior’s Way. It tells the story of the greatest swordsman in the world who defeats his enemies, but doesn’t have the heart to kill the enemy clan’s last princess. The_Warrior's_Way_Poster He flees with her to the heart of the wild west. There he finds a desolate, broken town. At one end of town is a traveling circus that stopped and put down roots. In fact, many of the town’s residents are the circus performers. Our hero, Yang, discovers that he prefers making beauty to constant destruction. Despite that, western outlaws and assassins from his country have other thoughts. The movie has elements of acid westerns, which I’ve discussed, and weird westerns which I write. Filmed on green screen with Geoffrey Rush’s narration, the story has a distinctly fairy tale quality and perhaps that’s the best way to describe The Warrior’s Way.

My Clockwork Legion novels straddle the boundary between steampunk and weird westerns. A “weird” western is basically a western story with some element of science fiction, fantasy, or horror. I’ve heard it said that westerns are America’s mythology. There are numerous stories of daring and villainy and they often are metaphorical for the American experience in much the way classical mythology provided metaphor for the lives of those in classical civilization. With that in mind, I’d argue that weird westerns are a uniquely American brand of fairy tale.

Wikipedia defines a fairy tale as “a type of short story that typically features folkloric fantasy characters, such as dwarves, elves, fairies, giants, gnomes, goblins, mermaids, trolls, or witches, and usually magic or enchantments.” The American Heritage Dictionary says a fairy tale is “a fanciful tale of legendary deeds and romance.” I think it’s clear that many westerns include tales of legendary deeds and romance. If you throw in any of the characters such as Wikipedia mentions, you’d easily have a weird western. Furthermore, I’d argue that America has often mythologized its innovation and technology to the point that they really fit alongside the magical and supernatural elements found in classical fairy tales, especially when those ideas are carried to extremes not realized in history.

Clockwork-Legion

If you want to experience my brand of American fairy tale, you can check out the Clockwork Legion Series:

Also, coming soon will be my short stories “Reckoning at the Alamo” which will appear in Lost Trails, Volume 2 from Wolfsinger Publications and “The Jackalope Bandit” which will appear in the anthology Den of Antiquity published collectively by the members of the Scribbler’s Den writing group on The Steampunk Empire. Do you have a favorite American Fairy Tale? If so, let me know about it in the comments!

Harmonizing

Two weeks ago I mentioned that my oldest daughter was performing in the New Mexico All-State Symphony Orchestra. Today, my youngest daughter is performing in the New Mexico All-State Choir here in Las Cruces. I’m looking forward to hearing her perform. She has been part of the Doña Ana Youth Choir for the last few years and I’m always amazed by the performances those kids deliver.

Dona Ana Youth Choir 2012

Talisman 9-2

Much of this past week, I’ve been focused on Tales of the Talisman Magazine. We mailed out most copies of volume 9, issue 2—the autumn issue. I sent the winter issue—volume 9, issue 3—to press and copies have been ordered. They should be here within the week. Now, I’m busy reading stories for volume 10, issues 1 and 2. I’m pleased with my short list and I’ve sent out the first acceptances. Things are going well enough that I’m planning to wrap up the reading period in about a week on February 2. If you have a story or poem that you want to get in, this is the time to send it.

Tales-9-3-cover-big

I find the process of selecting stories and poems for the magazine to be a little like gathering the voices of a choir. I look for a wide range of talent. I want stories and poems that both work well together and counterpoint each other. Every now and then, people take me very literally and decide to send me a story and a poem they wrote that they feel go together. Although that can be interesting, that’s not really what I’m looking for. I find it much more interesting when two authors who perhaps have never met send me things that address a common topic in different ways. I love it when that happens!

Of course, like any good choir, I want the final composition to be entertaining and satisfying. You can find the current issues of Tales of the Talisman at Amazon.com. The links for each issue are:

space_pirates1

Arguably, themed anthologies are even more like a choir than magazines are. The theme itself gives you that element that ties the stories together. When doing a themed anthology, I like to pick a theme that’s broad enough to allow a wide range of stories, while still being narrow enough to get different viewpoints on the same general topic.

Space Horrors

As January draws to an end, we approach the final days that my anthologies in the Full-Throttle Space Tales series will be in print. The first editions of Space Pirates and Space Horrors go out of print on January 31. In the former anthology, I loved how the stories looked at pirates as both anti-heroes and villains. The horrors of the latter anthology took many different forms and we saw how they could pull people together and drive them apart. I’m planning to bring both of these anthologies back later this year, but if you want the originals, now’s the time to get them! Here are the Amazon links:

Bubonicon 45

Hard to believe it’s almost time for Bubonicon again! Bubonicon is an annual science fiction convention held each year in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This year, it will be held from August 23-25 at the Mariott Uptown. The writer guests of honor are Brent Weeks and Tim Powers. The guest artist is Alan F. Beck and the Toastmistress is Diana Rowland. You can learn more about the convention at their website, bubonicon.com

Bubonicon Logo

Hadrosaur Productions will be back with a table in the dealer’s room. We have all kinds of great new products including my novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order and the anthology A Kepler’s Dozen: Thirteen Stories About Distant Worlds that Really Exist. When I’m not on panels, you will likely find me there. My schedule at Bubonicon is as follows.

Friday, August 23

  • 9:30-11:00pm – Astro Boy Salon – For the Love of Cheese: Son of the Cheese Magnet. In this panel, I’ll be discussing many of my favorite cheesy movies and the fine line between “classic schlock” and “just plain bad”. On the panel with me are Adam Jarmon Brown, Craig A. Butler, Victor Milán, Scott Phillips, Robert Vardeman, and John Jos Miller.

Saturday, August 24

  • 10:00-11:00am – Main Room – Short Fiction in the Era of Digital Publishing. My fellow panelists and I will explore the implications of digital publishing on the realm of short fiction. On the panel with me are Daniel Abraham, Suzy M. Charnas, Joan Saberhagen and Josh Gentry.
  • 2:30-3:00pm – DC Comics Salon – 25 Minutes with David Lee Summers. Let me tell you a tale. I’ll give a short reading from my new novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order. I may also give a quick sneak peak at Lightning Wolves.
  • 5:20-6:30pm – Main Room – Mass Autographing Session. I’ll be there along with all the other Bubonicon authors to sign my books.

Sunday, August 25

  • 1:30-2:30pm – Main Room – What if Humans NEVER Go Into Space Again?. I’ll be moderating this provocative panel exploring what might happen to science fiction writers and humanity in a world where people never go into space again. On the panel with me are Mario Acevedo, Doug Beason, T. Jackson King, and Morgan J. Locke.

If you’re in Albuquerque next weekend, I hope to see you at Bubonicon 45!