Read an Ebook Week

This week, Smashwords is hosting its annual Read an Ebook Week promotion. Two of my books are available for fifty percent off as part of the event.

Revolution of Air and Rust

Revolution of Air and Rust is set during an alternate 1915, where Teddy Roosevelt is building an empire and only Pancho Villa stands in his way. 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.

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. A story filled with military action, espionage and gadgetry that’s sure to satisfy fans of steampunk and alternate history. The book is available for half off until March 8 at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/254622. Remember to use the code REW50 on checkout.

A Kepler's Dozen

A Kepler’s Dozen is an anthology of action-packed, mysterious, and humorous stories all based on real planets discovered by the NASA Kepler mission. Steve B. Howell, project scientist for the Kepler mission, and I both co-edited the anthology and contributed stories. Whether on a prison colony, in a fast escape from the authorities, or encircling a binary star, thirteen exoplanet stories written by authors such as Mike Brotherton, Laura Givens, and J Alan Erwine will amuse, frighten, and intrigue you while you share fantasy adventures among Kepler’s real-life planets. The book is available for half off until March 8 at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/325583. Again, remember to use the discount code REW50 to take advantage of the sale!

Remembering Stirling Colgate

My graduate advisor, Stirling A. Colgate, passed away last weekend. He was a colorful character, president of New Mexico Tech from 1965-1974, and physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Here we see him as he appeared in the PBS Nova episode “Death of a Star” which was filmed around the time I worked for him. In the background is the Digitized Astronomy Supernova Search Telescope that he developed and I worked on for two years.

Stirling Colgate

Perhaps Stirling’s most famous contribution to astrophysics was predicting that there would be a neutrino burst during a supernova explosion. This idea was borne out by the explosion of Supernova 1987A. Stirling once told me that the reason he went into physics was that he enjoyed watching things explode. Of course supernovas are the biggest explosions in the universe.

One of Stirling’s other major accomplishments was his attempt to build a supernova search telescope. He started this telescope in the 1960s, during the era when astronomers sat out in the dome with the telescope, often taking photos on glass plates or counting photons with photoelectric photometers. Stirling’s supernova search never worked as hoped, but the papers that came from the project helped to drive further development in robotic and automated astronomy. It paved the way for remote operation of telescopes. This in turn allowed for better image quality, because astronomers didn’t have to be out at the telescope. It allowed for real-time analysis of data, because astronomers could use a computer to collect data and look at it at the same time. What’s more, because of this work, astronomers don’t always have to travel to the telescope that’s collecting their data, they can work over the internet. Among other things, this work allowed for the development of robotic space-based telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope and Kepler.

As I said, Stirling was a colorful character. His last name was not coincidence. He was an heir to the Colgate family of Colgate toothpaste fame. There are many stories I could tell that really aren’t appropriate here, but one thing he did tell a friend upon meeting him was, “You’ve no doubt heard many stories about me. Let me assure you that each and every one of them is true, even the contradictory ones!”

While I was working for Stirling in 1989, William Fowler came to give a lecture at New Mexico Tech. In 1983, Fowler won the Nobel Prize in Physics for theoretical and experimental studies of the nuclear reactions of importance in the formation of the chemical elements in the universe. Fowler had also been one of Stirling’s postdoctoral advisors. The three of us, along with Stirling’s wife, Rosie, sat around a table in Socorro’s Capitol Bar, shooting the breeze. I remember Stirling turning to Willy Fowler and asking what he thought about recent studies that showed the possibility of global warming. Fowler said if it bore out, it would have tremendous impact. It’s amazing to me that over twenty years later, we’re just starting to see the scale of the impact.

Unfortunately, over the years, Stirling’s work and mine carried us in different directions. It has been a while since I’ve had a chance to communicate with him, but he still sticks with me as an important and influential teacher. He taught me how to solder electronics, how to read an oscilloscope and how to repair cryogenic systems. He taught me about the physics of exploding stars and he taught me about statistical analysis. He taught me to always ask why things work and not just how they work.

Free of his mortal coil, I picture Stirling in a swimsuit, waiting to dive into a distant supernova and ride the waves of the explosion as far they’ll carry him.

Interview with Steve B. Howell

Anthony Cardno not only interviewed me on his blog, but he interviewed Steve B. Howell, NASA’s Kepler Project Scientist and my co-editor on the anthology A Kepler’s Dozen. You can read Anthony’s interview at Interview with Steve B. Howell and learn what a project scientist actually does, get some updates on the Kepler mission, and learn what it was like for a scientist to work on a science fiction anthology.

Yesterday, I finished the first complete draft of my novel Lightning Wolves. I’m the kind of writer who tends to edit as I go, so the first three-quarters are somewhat beyond the “rough draft” stage and I feel pretty good about them. Today, I’m working to catch up with a number of projects that have been on the back burner while I let the novel sit a little bit. Then I’ll give it another read through and turn it in to the publisher.

Interview with David Lee Summers

Today I’m wrapping up the first draft of my Wild West Steampunk novel Lightning Wolves, so I thought I’d share an interview Anthony R. Cardno conducted with me earlier this month about my anthology, A Kepler’s Dozen. He asked some interesting questions about assembling the anthology along with my work in astronomy. I discuss how my story in A Kepler’s Dozen relates to my other science fiction tales, the process of working with a co-editor, and even share my own favorite anthology. Hope you’ll drop by and take a look.

Read the interview here: Interview with David Lee Summers.

Bringing my Writing and Astronomy Careers Together – #SFWApro

Keplers Dozen

This week, Hadrosaur Productions released the ebook edition of A Kepler’s Dozen: Thirteen Stories About Distant Worlds That Really Exist. I co-edited the anthology with Steve B. Howell, project scientist of NASA’s Kepler Mission. Both of us also contributed stories to the anthology. I’m especially excited about this anthology because it allowed me to bring my passions for astronomy and science fiction together in one place.

Steve and I have been colleagues since I returned to Kitt Peak National Observatory in 2008. At the time, he was serving as the scientist for the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope. I was hired to be an observing assistant for the 3.5-meter, along with other telescopes on the mountain. Observing assistants operate the telescopes and help visiting observers get the best use out of the telescope time they’re granted. Soon after I returned to Kitt Peak, Steve learned about my interest in science fiction and fantasy and even bought a copy of the anthology Human Tales, which features my story “The Griffin’s Tail.” Here we see Steve enjoying his copy at the console of the WIYN telescope:

Human-Tales-Steve-1

A couple years later, after Steve took the job at NASA, he suggested assembling a collection of short stories set in the planetary systems discovered by the Kepler probe. I thought it was a great idea and took it to my colleagues at Hadrosaur Productions. They agreed and we decided to move forward with the project.

Hadrosaur’s primary publishing venture for the last decade has been Tales of the Talisman Magazine. Naturally, I approached a number of writers whose work has appeared in the magazine over the years to write stories for the anthology. We handled this as an invitation-only anthology simply because we wanted to make sure each story featured a different planet. We also approached other astronomy professionals with a strong interest in science fiction, including the University of Wyoming’s Mike Brotherton and my Kitt Peak colleague Doug Williams.

Our goal for this anthology was simple. The Kepler mission has been discovering hundreds of planets around other stars. We wanted to envision these systems as the real places they are and imagine what they might be like, just like H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs once imagined the planet Mars. Much as our understanding of Mars has evolved over time, we expect our understanding of the Kepler planets will as well. We may be wrong in some of our assumptions about what these planets are like, but we hope to challenge the young and young-at-heart to dream about these places and take a closer look for themselves.

Katy Garmany of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory wrote a very nice press release about the book that even shows you where the book’s planets are in the sky. You can read that here: http://www.noao.edu/news/2013/pr1305.php

The ebook edition of A Kepler’s Dozen is available at Amazon and Smashwords. The print edition is available at many online retailers including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and direct from the publisher at Hadrosaur Productions.

Shortly after the book was released, it was announced that the Kepler spacecraft had lost one of the reaction wheels that keep it pointed accurately at one place in the sky. Despite that, Kepler has already produced more data than scientists have been able to keep up with. Steve and I are already talking about a possible second anthology that imagines even more of Kepler’s worlds.

A Full Head of Steam

I just spent a busy weekend tearing my latest novel-in-progress apart, putting it back together and then moving forward again. Basically, I had a couple of story threads that just weren’t working for me and I needed to figure out what to do about them. Fortunately, the fixes weren’t too difficult and when I made them, I was able to continue the story easily.

I like to outline my projects. The reason is that I sometimes have to write them a little bit here and a little bit there when I get the opportunity. The outline serves as my road map to help me remember the plot threads that run through my books. That said, I think it’s important to let the characters grow and develop naturally. The issue I had to address was essentially a case of the outline and the characters wanting to go in different directions. Even though I believe in outlining, I also believe it’s important to be flexible. My outlines have a habit of changing considerably from the point I begin a project to the point I end it.

What’s more, in the process of tearing my novel-in-progress apart and putting it back together, I discovered a new title I liked. The novel in question is the sequel to my wild west steampunk adventure Owl Dance. I’ve been using Wolf Posse as a working title, but the title Lightning Wolves started speaking to me. Just as a little background, the lightning wolves are a set of machines built during the course of the novel. The wolf posse of the earlier working title were those who used the lightning wolves to bring others to justice.

I took the title choices to Facebook and asked for people to comment on them. Lightning Wolves was hands-down the most popular of the two titles. Although I have essentially decided to make this change, I would be happy to hear your thoughts on the two titles, especially if you haven’t already weighed in on Facebook. Which of the two titles do you like and why?

Keplers Dozen

I’ll wrap up this week’s post with a couple of updates. We’ve just finished edits on the anthology A Kepler’s Dozen: Thirteen Stories About Distant Worlds That Really Exist. I co-edited the anthology with Steve B. Howell, project scientist for the NASA’s Kepler space probe, which is looking for Earth-like planets around other stars. The book is being sent to press this week. You can learn more and pre-order a copy at http://www.hadrosaur.com/kepler.html.

Now that A Kepler’s Dozen is nearly finished, I’m turning my attention to finishing the second special steampunk issue of Tales of the Talisman. The layout is nearing completion and I’m just waiting for illustrations. The issue features stories by O.M. Grey, Douglas Empringham, Christine Morgan, and Lyn McConchie. There’s also poetry by such luminaries as Denise Dumars, Simon Perchik, N.E. Taylor and W.C. Roberts. This is an awesome issue and I hope to get it to press just as soon as possible.

My Week of Publishing Adventures

My latest novel has just been released in paperback plus I’ve been making forward progress on other projects this week. This seemed a good opportunity to step back and give you some updates.


Ten Years in the Making

Dragons Fall

My vampire novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order has just been released as a trade paperback this week. Dragon’s Fall is a prequel to my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order and tells the story of how the vampires Alexandra, Draco, and Roquelaure came together to form the Scarlet Order of vampire mercenaries. The novel opens in Hellenistic Greece, moves to Arthurian Britain, descends into the dark ages and finally comes out in fifteenth century Transylvania. I started writing the novel even before Vampires of the Scarlet Order was published. To learn more about the ten-year journey to publication, read my vampire blog http://dlsummers.wordpress.com tomorrow. Of course, you don’t have to wait to read the novel, it’s available right now in print and as an ebook at Amazon.com.


Steam Powered Talisman

Tales8-4 Cover

The spring issue of Tales of the Talisman is regrettably behind schedule, but it’s not stalled and I think it will be worth the wait. We’re stoking the boilers and moving full steam ahead for our second annual steampunk special edition. I have just finished editing the issue and have sent it to the artists for illustration. We have stories by O.M. Grey, Christine Morgan, and Tom Lynch plus poetry by Denise Dumars, N.E. Taylor, and David S. Pointer and a whole lot more. You’ll see steampunk in the future, in distant fantasy worlds, as well as the more traditional views of an alternate Victorian England. I’m hoping the boilers won’t explode and we can get copies of this shipping no later than the middle of May. If you want to make sure it arrives in your mailbox on day one, you can subscribe to the magazine at http://www.talesofthetalisman.com.


A Kepler’s Dozen

Keplers Dozen

Now that the spring Tales of the Talisman is edited and off with the artists, I’m busy laying out an exciting new anthology that will be released this June from Hadrosaur Productions. One of the things I’ve done during my “day” job at Kitt Peak National Observatory is follow up observations of planets outside our solar system made by the Kepler space probe. As of this writing, the Kepler space probe has discovered a remarkable 115 confirmed planets outside our solar system. What would it be like to visit these worlds? Thirteen scientists and science fiction writers imagine just that in A Kepler’s Dozen. You can learn more about the book, see the table of contents, and even pre-order a copy at http://www.hadrosaur.com/kepler.html


Wolf Songs 2 Honored

wolfsong2-cover

To top it all off, I learned that the anthology Wolf Songs 2 won the 2013 Epic Award for best ebook anthology! This is an anthology that follows the latest myths and legends of the wolf as written by science fiction, fantasy, and horror authors. The book contains an alternate version of my story “The Clockwork Lobo” from the novel Owl Dance. What’s more, the anthology also features stories by M.H. Bonham and Carol Hightshoe who have stories in A Kepler’s Dozen. You can learn more about Wolf Songs 2 and pick up a copy of your own at Amazon.com or Smashwords.com.

2013 eBook Winner