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/.

Two New Readings

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

My German Grimm collection.

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

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

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

David Lee Summers reads from “The Steampowered Dragon”

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

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

David Lee Summers reads from Breaking the Code.

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

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

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

Meeting Old Friends for the First Time

This weekend, I’m sorry I’m missing Phoenix Comicon, an event I’ve enjoyed attending as an author for the last few years. My schedule at the observatory just didn’t allow it to happen. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to return next year. However, I am grateful my schedule allowed me to attend Balticon 50 in Baltimore, Maryland last weekend. Balticon was special for me because I’d worked with several of the attending authors and editors over the years, but this was the first opportunity I’d had to meet them face to face!

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Ostensibly, the reason I went to Balticon was for the release of the anthology Gaslight and Grimm edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Diana Bastine. Indeed, just about the first thing that happened upon my arrival at Balticon was a wonderful, warm welcome from Danielle, promptly followed by instructions to sit down and sign 150 copies of the anthology. Dani’s husband Mike and author Chris Hiles helped by pulling out boxes and handing them to me one by one until we got the job done. It was a fun way to start the convention and made me grateful for my arthritis being in remission!

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My first official event was a pirate reading on Saturday night. I joined Jack Campbell, Laura Nicole and Misty Massey to read selections from our pirate stories. I shared the story “Calamari Rodeo” which features Captain Firebrandt and the crew of the Legacy. The story is scheduled to appear in the Hadrosaur Productions anthology Kepler’s Cowboys. Writers can read the guidelines to learn how to submit. Readers can stay up to date about the anthology by following this blog or by signing up for my mailing list. Of course, you can read about Captain Firebrandt’s later adventures in The Pirates of Sufiro, available for free from my publisher. Not only were there fine readings, but there were prizes and even rum! These little touches made for a memorable evening.

The next day, I was on a panel discussing mistakes beginning writers make. On the panel with me were Mike McPhail, Chris Hiles, and Michael Ventralla. Among the mistakes we discussed included being paranoid about editors stealing your idea, falling for writing scams (remember money flows to the writer not from the writer!), and standing out to editors in bad ways. Examples of that last include sending your submission in such a way that it forces the editor to stand in a long post office line to pick it up, sending it on perfumed paper, or emailing it in a format the editor can’t work with.

As I mentioned at the outset, a real thrill of Balticon was getting to meet people I’ve worked with over the years. This includes Danielle Ackley-McPhail who I published in Space Pirates, Space Horrors, and Tales of the Talisman. I also got to meet Christine Norris, whose Talisman of Zandria I edited for LBF Books and Patrick Thomas who appeared in Space Horrors and whose “Dear Cthulhu” column ran in Tales of the Talisman. Patrick also recommended me for the anthology Apocalypse 13. All of these were people I’d only really worked with via email or in internet chat sessions, so it was wonderful to finally meet them in person and not only better cement our business relationship, but now honestly think of them as friends.

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Of course, the reason I was invited to Baltimore was to be on hand for the release of Gaslight and Grimm. Here you see with me with most the authors of eSpec books at the release party. I’m wearing a very nice clockwork dragon scarf my wife knitted for me. The party was great with good food, a raffle for great prizes and good conversation. At the party, I got to meet another Tales of the Talisman contributor, Vonnie Winslow Crist, which was a real treat.

Although I didn’t have any events scheduled on Monday of the convention, I did stay around and spent time in the dealer’s room. I had pleasant conversations with Ian Randal Strock of Fantastic Books, who published Uncle River’s collection The Mogollon News, which features a photograph I took on the cover.

Before I wrap things up, I have to give a shout-out to two friends I knew before attending Balticon. I met Missy Gunnels Katano through my friends Marsheila Rockwell and Gini Koch. Missy graciously met me at the airport and took me to the convention. Nicki Fatherly, who once lived down the hall from me in college, kindly shuttled me around during the convention. They did a lot to make my first Balticon all the more fun by keeping it very stress free.

I hope I’ll get a chance to return to Baltimore before too many more years go by. In the meantime, I look forward to keeping you posted about the ongoing collaborations with many of the fine folks I finally met in person at Balticon.

Forgotten Tales of the Weird West

Next weekend, I’ll be at Balticon 50 in Baltimore for the release of Gaslight and Grimm! I’m looking forward to that. As of this writing, I haven’t yet seen my full schedule, but for those in Baltimore, the release party will be Sunday, May 29 from 7pm to 9pm.

This week marks the release of another book featuring a steampunk story. The book is Lost Trails 2: Forgotten Tales of the Weird West and includes a story where members of the Clockwork Legion encounter a Lovecraftian horror from another world. Here’s the blurb for the book:

Lost Trails V2-cover

    If you’ve gained your knowledge of the Wild West from Hollywood and history textbooks, your mage of the Western frontier is simple and clear: White men winning the West and saving helpless white future wives from outlaws or hostile Indians or Mexican bandidos.

    You won’t find that here.

    Here you’ll find: U.S. Marshal Frederick Douglass fighting invaders from outer space. A Navajo girl who must thwart the god who threatens all she holds dear. A Hasidic high planes drifter who faces New World bandits and Old Testament demons. A Catholic priest who contends with a magic-wielding half-breed—or is she an indigenous spirit?—as the fate of the Canadian Métis province of Assiniboia hangs in the balance. Outcast women who enter the Southwestern desert to die…or win their lady loves and great mecha steeds. A lost gunman who may find himself in a Chinese gold miner’s maze of mist and magic. Roving spirits and Civil War survivors and runaway factory slaves losing or finding family or love in uncanny new guises. Hoboes robbing a train of myth and dream. An Eastern city slicker who may outsmart only himself in a contest with Old West magic. A black homesteader who fights fae in defense of land and family. A werewolf-hunting frontier shapeshifter shattering every expectation. Steampunk airships that may unite West and East—or leave them forever apart. The ascendant Aztec facing endless destruction if the god of war triumphs. The South rising again at the Alamo—if it can gain eerie otherworldly assistance.

    This anthology, like its predecessor, Lost Trails: Volume One, exists to recognize and celebrate the diverse realities of the historical West with excellent and entertaining Weird West stories.

    Welcome to the Weird West more realistic than many a mundane Western!

The anthology features stories by: Rie Sheridan Rose, Tobias S. Buckell, Ken Liu, Don Webb, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Rebecca McFarland Kyle, Gemma Files, Ernest Hogan, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Aliette de Bodard and many more.

In my story, Marshal Larissa Seaton, Professor Maravilla, and Billy McCarty travel to San Antonio to track down the inventor of the lightning gun who has teamed up with a Confederate Major who wants the South to rise again and will seek the help of frightening forces from other worlds to make it happen! I actually wrote the first version of this story several years ago. When I went to the World Science Fiction Convention in San Antonio in 2013, I finally had the opportunity to visit the Alamo. I was pleased to see I got the details of the location right for my story, but I did do a rewrite and of course editor Cynthia Ward did an amazing job helping me to polish the story to a true shine.

Lost Trails 2: Forgotten Trails of the Weird West is available at:

Note: Although this is volume 2, the stories stand on their own and volume 1 is not required reading, however it is recommended just because it also has good stories. Volume 1 is also available at Amazon and Smashwords.

A Steampunk Trifecta

This week brings three news items which I hope will be of interest to steampunk fans or those just curious what this steampunk thing is all about!

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First off, I’m delighted to announce that the anthology Gaslight and Grimm is now available for preorder at Amazon. If you order, it will be delivered to your Kindle or shipped to you on May 29 and here’s what you can look forward to:

Once Upon a Time, ageless tales were told from one generation to the next, filled with both wonders and warnings. Tales of handsome princes and wicked queens, of good-hearted folk and evil stepmothers. Tales of danger and caution and magic … classics that still echo in our hearts and memories even to this day, told from old, cherished books or from memory at Grandma’s knee.

Oh yes, tales have been told … but never quite like these. Journey with us through the pages of Gaslight and Grimm to discover timeless truths through lenses polished in the age of steam.

With tales by James Chambers, Christine Norris, Bernie Mojzes, Danny Birt, Jean Marie Ward, Jeff Young, Gail Z. and Larry N. Martin, Elaine Corvidae, Kelly A. Harmon, Jonah Knight, Diana Bastine, and Jody Lynn Nye.

My story in the collection is called “The Steampowered Dragon” and is inspired by a little-known tale from the Grimm library called “The Dragon and his Grandmother.” In my version, three reluctant soldiers in India are given everything they ever wanted by a magical, steampowered dragon. Can they solve the dragon’s riddles and keep their freedom? Pre-order the anthology and find out!

Also, stay tuned because the book will be launching at Balticon 50 in Baltimore, Maryland this Memorial Day Weekend. I’m planning to be on hand along with many of the other contributors. I’ll announce the plans here soon.

Now, I realize pre-ordering things can be a little less than satisfying, though, to tell the truth I do kind of like the anticipation. Be that as it may, the second part of my steampunk trifecta involves instant gratification and its free! I recently read part of my novel Owl Dance for the Creative Play and Podcast Network. Click on the podcast link to listen to my reading or you can download it for offline listening.

For some reason, I gave Professor Maravilla something of a British accent when I read him, even though he’s supposed to be from Mexico. Afterwards, though, I realized that although we know he’s Latino and he lived and taught in Mexico, we really don’t know many details beyond that. Perhaps his British accent is a clue to some other aspect of his character. I’ll have to give more thought to what my subconscious was telling me.

Finally, for my third bit of steampunk news, one week from today on Saturday, April 23 will be the Steampunk Occupation of Bookmans, which will be held at the Bookmans on Speedway in Tucson, Arizona from 10am until 5pm. You can expect the usual shenanigans from the Tucson Steampunk Society—costuming, tea-dueling, exhibits, crafting. and various vendors—as well movies, literature, and a steampunk swap-meet. Spacial guests include Gentleman Robot and Madame Askew. If you’re in Tucson, I hope to see you there!

The Brazen Shark Available in Print

My third Clockwork Legion novel, The Brazen Shark is now available in print from Amazon.com. Here’s what Drake and McTrowell have to say about the novel: “Pack your goggles and your telescope and your atlas because the Clockwork Legion is taking us on another whirlwind adventure. And this one covers the globe in the air, on the sea, on terra firma, undersea … and even into space!”

Drake and McTrowell

Drake and McTrowell know their globe-spanning adventure. In the photo above, I crossed their path aboard the Queen Mary as they were bound for another exciting destination. You can read about their adventures at drakeandmctrowell.com. There, you’ll find five books of their adventures available to read on-line absolutely free. However, if you’re willing to send them some money, and I strongly recommend you do, you can pick up the hardcover edition of their first book featuring illustrations by Brian Kessinger and an introduction by Professor Elemental, or you can buy the audio version of their first adventure, which is fabulous.

Brazen Shark-300x450 The Brazen Shark is the third novel of my Clockwork Legion series. However, if you haven’t read the first two books, feel free to dive in right here. If you like what you read, you can always go back and read the first two! Set in 1877, this novel tells the story of a one-time sheriff named Ramon Morales who gave up his career in law enforcement to save an outspoken Persian healer named Fatemeh Karimi from a witchcraft trial. We’ve watched their romance develop over the last two books and this is the story of their honeymoon. However, it’s a honeymoon unlike any other when they find themselves embroiled in a plot by samurai warriors who have stolen a Russian airship to overthrow the Japanese emperor. The cover art is by the ever-talented Laura Givens.

The Brazen Shark is available in paperback and ebook. The paperback is ready to ship now. The ebook will be sent to your Kindle on February 1, 2016.

While I’m discussing steampunk writing, I’ll remind you there’s still time to support the Kickstarter for Gaslight and Grimm. This awesome anthology project is already funded, so there’s no risk in supporting it at any level. The book features my story “The Steam-Powered Dragon and His Grandmother.” It also features steampunked retellings of “The Three Little Pigs,” “The Nightingale”, “Red Riding Hood” and more by such authors as James Chambers, Jean Marie Ward, and Christine Norris. Lots of great stretch goal bonuses have been added already and if we receive enough funding, we’ll also have stories by Jody Lynn Nye and Gail Z. Martin in the anthology as well. So drop by and reserve your copy of Gaslight and Grimm today!

Going Back to the Classics

martian-anthology This week saw the release of The Martian Anthology edited by David B. Riley, which includes my story “Arachne’s Stepchildren.” The story imagines that the crew of a Martian colony discovers dangerous microbial life in an underground cavern. The supplies they need to study and possibly neutralize that life are coming aboard a solar sail from Earth. However, something has gone wrong with the spider robots that maintain the solar sail, hence the title of the story.

A lot is made of coming up with the idea for science fictional stories, but in this case, the science fictional ideas all came together rather quickly. I knew I wanted to tell a story about Martian life. I’ve loved the idea of solar sails ever since I first heard about them in the 80s and The Planetary Society’s LightSail Project had me thinking about cool uses for small, unmanned solar sails. What eluded me for a while in this story wasn’t the science fictional idea, but discovering what the characters learned about themselves in the story. In this case, Greek Mythology turned out to be a great source of inspiration.

One way of making the fabric for solar sails is to weave very light fibers together. Because of that, I had the idea of little nano “spiders” that could be deployed on solar sails to repair them en route. They would extrude and weave new reflective sail material. That sent me to the story of Arachne, most famous for winning a weaving contest with Athena. However, Athena proved to be a sore loser and turned Arachne into the first spider. That story didn’t quite mesh with the tale I was telling, but another story about Athena did. That was the story of how Athena adopted the son of Gaia and Hephaestus and raised him to be the first king of Athens. To see how I weaved that legend into the story, pick up a copy of the anthology at Amazon. In addition to my story, you’ll find great stories about Mars by such writers as J.A. Campbell, Sam Knight, Carol Hightshoe, and Nicole Givens Kurtz.

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In addition to the release of The Martian Anthology, the Kickstarter for Gaslight and Grimm also went live this week. This is a very exciting project for me, since fairy tales are near and dear to my heart. I talk about that in detail in an interview I did with eSpec books. Also, there are some awesome people associated with the project including Jody Lynn Nye, Gail Z. Martin, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Christine Norris, and Jeff Young. I’ve been a fan of the Grimm Brothers’ faerie tales since I was a kid and I gained a deeper appreciation during my college days when I read “Little Snow White” in the original German. When Disney’s Snow White came out on DVD, I was inspired to buy the complete German language collection shown here. This collection is special to me because it not only has the stories, but the Grimms’ notes about the stories.

My story in Gaslight and Grimm is called “The Dragon and his Grandmother” and I started the story by translating it myself from the German. This helped me get very familiar with the tale, which then allowed me to re-imagine the characters in a steampunk reality. You’ll also find steampunked retellings of “Little Red Riding Hood,” “The Three Little Pigs,” “Cinderella,” and the Baba Yaga legend. I look forward to reading it. If you haven’t supported this project, please drop by the Kickstarter page and giving it some support. Only $5.00 will get you the ebook plus there are lots of bonuses at higher levels. If you have supported the project, thank you!!! The Kickstarter has been live for less than a week and we’re over halfway funded. Still, we can use any additional help. Even if you have pledged, take another look, maybe there’s something that can entice you to another reward level, or maybe there’s an add-on gift you’d like. Let’s help this project fly!

Happy New Year 2016!

A new year has just started and I hope yours is off to a terrific start! As it turns out, I rang in the new year by myself in my dorm room at Kitt Peak National Observatory. My shift started the night of the first and I wanted to get up the mountain before Tucson traffic got too crazy. What’s more, the thermostats in our rooms are set to go into a power saving mode after 12 hours, so my room was only 45 degrees Fahrenheit. I wanted it a little warmer than that when it came time to sleep!

Despite the new year’s humble start, I did have some fun during the day of New Year’s Eve with my family. We spent the day in Tucson and visited the Yume Japanese Gardens. One of the things I like about the gardens is that they have a traditional Japanese house. Here, my daughter and I sit on the floor by the table.

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In my novel The Brazen Shark which is scheduled for release on February 1, 2016, I imagine nineteenth century Japanese airships and the cabins look very much like what you see here. So, in essence, this visit to the Japanese Gardens allowed me a chance to get a taste of what life might be like aboard one of the airships.

Another exciting book coming out this year is the anthology Gaslight and Grimm: Steampunk Faerie Tales edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Diana Bastine. It will be published by eSpec Books. They will be starting a Kickstarter campaign on January 5. If you click on the link, you will be taken to the preview page where you can ask to be notified when the Kickstarter goes live. The anthology includes steampunk retellings of “The Three Little Pigs” by Christine Norris, “The Nightingale” by Jean Marie Ward, and “The Goose Girl” by Bernie Mojzes. If stretch goals are met, we’ll also see stories by Gail Z. Martin and Jody Lyn Nye!

My story in the anthology is based on a little-known Grimm Fairy Tale called “The Dragon and His Grandmother.” The title is sometimes translated as “The Devil and His Grandmother.” I translated the story from German for Tales of the Talisman back in 2003. In this new version, I’ve sprinkled in a dash of Kipling and moved the action to India, mechanized the dragon, and gave my wayward soldiers an interesting lesson to learn. Among the Kickstarter rewards are signed copies of my steampunk novels and an opportunity to appear as a character in “The Steampowered Dragon and His Grandmother.” Be sure to visit the link to find out about the other cool rewards and be notified the minute the campaign goes live!

Here’s wishing you a wonderful 2016!