Elizabeth Patton Crockett

I’m home at last after a trip that took me up to Colorado to sign the anthology Straight Outta Tombstone, to Louisiana to sign my vampire and horror novels, and to Bubonicon in New Mexico where I promoted all my recent books and debuted Maximum Velocity: The Best of the Full-Throttle Space Tales. In the middle of all that was Texas and on the way from Colorado to Louisiana I stopped in Acton, just outside Dallas to visit a memorial to a distant relative of mine, Elizabeth Patton Crockett.

Elizabeth was Davy’s widow and she was granted a plot of land after Texas became a state in gratitude for Davy’s service at the Alamo. She moved from Tennessee to Texas in 1853 and lived on the land until her death in 1860. There seems to be some debate about whether the statue is supposed to depict Elizabeth Patton Crockett or a pioneer woman in general. I like to think of it as Elizabeth, or at least an idealized form of Elizabeth. The one painting I’ve seen of her could be an older version of the woman immortalized by the statue.

Another homesteader in the area around Acton was a fellow named Isaac C. Burson, born in Alabama around the outbreak of the War of 1812. He died the year after Elizabeth Patton moved to the area around Acton. His daughter Martha married one of Elizabeth’s sons from her first marriage, a fellow named James C. Patton around 1859. As it turns out, Martha’s brother, Elisha Micah Burson was my great great grandfather. Three of Elisha Micah’s sons picked up and moved out of the Acton area. Two of the brothers homesteaded in Briscoe County, Texas in the late nineteenth century while my great grandfather, James Daniel Matthew Burson went on to homestead in the northeastern corner of New Mexico. The photo to the right shows him at his general store in Des Moines, New Mexico circa 1920.

My daughter, who accompanied me, thought this little side trip through the heart of Texas to see a statue dedicated to the memory of a pioneer woman connected to our family was worthwhile. It’s rare to see a statue to a woman and, indeed, this one is hidden away in a quiet little cemetery. The “Acton Historic Site” is supposedly the smallest state park in Texas and is Elizabeth Patton Crockett’s grave site. I grew up knowing several women like Elizabeth Patton Crockett and elements of their personalities became templates for characters such as Fatemeh Karimi and Larissa Crimson in my Clockwork Legion novels.

If you’d like to read the novels, they are:

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Lightning Wolves on Audible

Lightning Wolves, the second novel in my Clockwork Legion steampunk series, is now available as an audiobook at Audible.com. In the novel, it’s 1877 and Russian forces occupy the Pacific Northwest. They are advancing into California. New weapons have proven ineffective or dangerously unstable. The one man who can help has disappeared into Apache Country, hunting ghosts. A healer and a former sheriff lead a band into the heart of the invasion to determine what makes the Russian forces so unstoppable while a young inventor attempts to unleash the power of the lightning wolves.

One thing that makes this release special is that I love to listen to audiobooks while I’m driving from my home in New Mexico to the observatory where I work in Arizona. Elements of this novel were inspired by the very same commute. Almost every week, I pass the Whetstone Mountains which house Kartchner Caverns State Park. I drive by the turnoff for Tombstone, famous for the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. I drive through the Dragoon Mountains where Apache warriors made camp. All of these locations feature in Lightning Wolves. I look forward to giving the book a listen during a couple of my upcoming commutes through the region. Here we have a look at one of the real-world settings in the novel.

As it turns out, I’m revisiting a lot of these same locations in the novel I’m currently writing. I left a few plot threads dangling at the end of Lightning Wolves which didn’t get resolved in The Brazen Shark because pirate captain Onofre Cisneros took my protagonists Ramon and Fatemeh first to Hawaii and then to Japan. Also, it seemed like it would be fun to leave those dangling plot threads alone for a few years worth of story time and see how they develop. The result is that Southern Arizona is in quite a mess by the opening of Owl Riders and you know Ramon and Fatemeh will be right in the middle of it, presuming other aspects of their life don’t get in the way.

The audiobook is narrated by Edward Mittelstedt who did a terrific job on Owl Dance. What’s more, Lightning Wolves was a top ten finisher in the best steampunk novel category of the 2014 Preditors and Editors Reader’s Poll. My daughter Autumn created Larissa, the young inventor mentioned in the story’s description. She served as the model for Larissa on the book’s cover.

You can listen to a sample and buy a copy of the Lightning Wolves audiobook at: https://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Lightning-Wolves-Audiobook/B0716QC53Y

Bubonicon 48

Next weekend I’ll be in Albuquerque, New Mexico for Bubonicon 48. The theme is Rockets, Robots, and Rayguns and the guests of honor will be Rachel Caine and David Gerrold. Joe R. Lansdale will be serving as Toastmaster and Lee Moyer is the guest artist. I’ll be serving on three panels over the weekend and participating in the Mass Autographing Session on Saturday. On Sunday, I’ll be the host at the 1pm session of the Author’s Tea and pouring tea during the 2:15 session.

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Friday, August 26

  • 4-5pm – Main Room – Soylent Green: It’s a Cookbook. On this panel we’ll be exploring favorite recipes or foods from SF & Fantasy. Has a science fiction or fantasy story or book inspired you to culinary creativity? Characters need to eat, right? So, what do they eat? What about drinks and alcoholic beverages? How do food choices affect the story’s plot and “flavor”? Can a meal reveal factoids about the culture and society of the characters? Does it really all have to taste like chicken? I’ll be moderating this panel that features Jane Lindskold, Laura J. Mixon, Sage Walker and Corie Weaver.

Saturday, August 27

  • 10-11am – Salon A-D – Where Have All the Publishers Gone? Anybody There? More and more people are self-publishing today. Will all writers eventually go to this format? Will we miss publishers when we don’t have them (if that happens)? What are the advantages and perils of dealing with a publisher or magazine editor? On the panel with me are Rachel Caine, Emily Mah, Gabi Stevens, and Pari Noskin. Robert Vardeman will be moderating.
  • 5:25-6:40pm – Main Room – Mass Autographing Session All the authors attending Bubonicon will be on hand to sign their wares.

Sunday, August 28

  • 10-11am – Main Room – Are Robots Still Scary? Danger Will Robinson! Robots once ran rampant on the pages of pulp magazines and across movie screens. Has familiarity with computers and perhaps Wall-E softened the image of the robot? Do we still fear the day the robots take over? Should we? Can we invent even scarier scenarios now that we’re more familiar with robots? I’ll be moderating this panel consisting of Mario Acevedo, Steven Gould, Jane Lindskold, Laura Mixon, and M.T. Reiten.

Of course, when I’m not on a panel, you’ll likely find me at the Bubonicon Flea Market at the Hadrosaur Productions table. Please come by, say “hi” and check out our newest books. If you’ll be in Albuquerque next weekend, I hope I’ll see you at Bubonicon!

Windows into the Past

I enjoy looking at old family photos. It’s an opportunity to recall good memories and sometimes even get a glimpse of those relatives I wasn’t fortunate enough to know personally. Unfortunately, my maternal grandmother died during the Great Depression. My mom barely knew her own mother. Given that my grandmother died in the 1930s, it’s not surprising, most of the photos of her are portraits. Back in those days, few people went around shooting pictures with their cell phones! Still, I’m fortunate enough to have two candid photos of my grandmother as a girl and young woman.

Tabitha Seaton

My grandmother moved to the small town of Des Moines, New Mexico with her family before statehood. In the photo above, my grandmother is on the mule to the right. I’m guessing the photo was taken right around the time of New Mexico’s statehood. I wonder whether my grandmother was just out riding for fun, or if she was doing chores. To me, the photo looks like something right out of a Sergio Leone Western with the stark landscape, simple buildings, and even laundry drying. This next photo was taken only a few years later.

Chemistry Class

This is a photo of a chemistry class at Des Moines High School in 1917. My grandmother is the young woman second from the left. I enjoy the juxtaposition of these two photos. Remember, that chemistry lab is in the very same dusty small town where my grandmother was out riding on a mule.

Even though my grandmother grew up at the beginning of the 20th century, New Mexico was still very much part of the wild west, but even in the wild west, high schools had chemistry labs. SummersOwlDance It’s just another one of the reasons I’m attracted to steampunk stories. It may seem fanciful to imagine mad science or incredible technology in Victorian times or the wild west, but in fact, it wasn’t so far from the story my family lived. My novel Owl Dance starts out in rural New Mexico, in a town not so different from the one my grandmother grew up in. The book is available at Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble.

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.

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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:

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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:

A Collaborative Adventure

Myranda and Fish

Today I’m in Albuquerque, getting ready to hear my daughter Myranda play bass in the New Mexico All-State Symphony Orchestra. She’s worked hard to be there. The last three years, she made the All-State Concert Orchestra. Making symphony is a step up in prestige for her and I’m proud she succeeded in this goal.

As a writer, I love symphonies. At the basic level, the music often inspires my writing, making me think of stories. At a deeper level, I think it’s fascinating to see how all of those instruments come together to make a piece of music. Hollywood director Nicholas Meyer once said, “The director is a bit analogous to the conductor of a symphony orchestra. It’s a collaborative adventure.”

Of course, writers often work alone, and the creation of a story or a novel doesn’t always feel very collaborative. However, at the fundamental level, a story is like a song and a novel is like a symphony. The writer uses the words like a composer uses notes. When the right words are used, its wonderful. When that doesn’t happen, the story or novel grates.

That simple analogy aside, I have to say my best experiences as a writer have come from genuine collaboration. They’ve come when I’ve worked with an editor to improve an outline or to make the words in a finished work shine.

I’ve also had great experiences working with artists illustrating my work. I know some writers who get very disappointed when an artist doesn’t interpret their writing exactly the way they imagined it. I actually find it fascinating when that happens. Sometimes it tells me I wasn’t as clear in my writing as I thought I was. Sometimes I see new things in my own writing that I had missed before. If I’m lucky enough to get the illustration before I’ve finished polishing a work, I’ve been known to go back and use elements from the illustration in the writing, making the process truly collaborative.

My only regret about being in Albuquerque this weekend is that it coincides with Her Royal Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. I had an excellent time participating as a writer the last two years and I hope I’ll be able to return next year. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll drop in. You’ll see the magic of Dyno Staats, hear music from such fabulous artists as Abney Park, Unwoman, and Lee Presson and the Nails, and much more. Clearly, though, it was important to celebrate my daughter’s accomplishment and I look forward to seeing many of my Southern California friends at San Diego’s Gaslight Gathering this spring!

Lightning Wolves and Outlines

I’m settling in to write the last few chapters of my wild west steampunk adventure Lightning Wolves over the next few weeks. Today, I took a walk down by the Rio Grande to get myself in the old west frame of mind.

Picacho-Peak

The debate between working from an outline or writing by the seat of one’s pants is an old one. I tend to prefer working from an outline because I have a day job that takes me out of town to an observatory every other week. I’m never quite sure when I can squeeze in a few minutes here or there to get some writing in.

That said, I’m not slavishly devoted to my outlines. I review them periodically as I’m working and adjust them if I see that the plot is going in a slightly different direction than I thought it was going to. That happened this past week with Lightning Wolves.

In fact, the plot had not deviated very far from the outline, but the characters were in somewhat different emotional places than I imagined they would be. The decisions they would make at this point were not the ones I imagined when I originally outlined the book, so I changed course and reworked the outline of the novel’s ending. This actually proved to be a good thing since there were a few things I’d originally written in the outline I wasn’t sure how I would resolve. Now, I have a resolution that works for me.

Owl Dance Cover

Will I continue to follow the updated outline through the rest of the novel? I’m getting close enough to the end that it’s likely, but I will allow myself room to change and room for my characters to grow.

Lightning Wolves picks up where my novel Owl Dance leaves off. If you want to learn about the first novel visit http://www.davidleesummers.com/books.html#owldance