The Little Death

The Bene Gesserit sisterhood of Frank Herbert’s classic science fiction novel Dune recite a litany against fear that goes in part:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer
Fear is the Little Death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.

These words can apply to pretty much anyone, but I think there’s an especially strong relevance to writers. We have to confront the fear of rejection if we try to sell the book to a publisher. We have to face the fear that no one will buy the book. We have to face the fear that even if they do buy the book, they might not like it and leave one-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I have known people who have let fear dominate them at any given step in this process. They quit after receiving a rejection. They quit after book sales didn’t do as well as they wanted. They quit after a bad review. For them, fear was indeed the Little Death that brought total obliteration.

The Pirates of Sufiro

Sometimes I look back at my first novel, The Pirates of Sufiro, and think how hard it was to get up the courage to send it to a publisher. That first publisher went out of business and I had to do it all over again when I got the rights back. To this day, this is a book that gets divided reviews. I’ve seen it get a one-star review one day and a five-star review within the week. There have been plenty of opportunities to let fear influence my decisions about this novel in particular and my writing career in general.

I recently had occasion to read the novel again. From the perspective of twenty years after I wrote it, I understand and even agree with much of the thoughtful criticism about the book. That said, I really appreciate those people who love the novel and I’m delighted that they had fun with it and decided to follow the characters into the sequels. Alas, some of the criticism I’ve seen hasn’t been so thoughtful—that I just do my best to shrug off.

On reflection, rereading my first novel left me with a good feeling. Overall, I think it still works as the fun pulp-inspired novel I’d intended, but I also see why it’s not for everyone. What’s more, I’m glad I’ve persevered and continued to write, explore other genres, and improve my craft. As the Bene Gesserit litany says at its conclusion:

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone, there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

If you’d like to give The Pirates of Sufiro a try, the ebook is free at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

The Solar Sea

My publisher is currently marketing The Solar Sea as book 4 of the Old Star/New Earth series. In a way that’s a misnomer and in a way it’s reasonably accurate.

When The Solar Sea opens, humans have all but given up on space travel. They do have industrial complexes on the moon, but they haven’t gone any further. Young Thomas Quinn dreams of building a solar sail that can traverse the solar system, but Jerome Quinn, his father, tells him to set his dreams aside. There’s nothing to be gained by exploring the solar system.

Fast forward about a decade and two things happen at once. Whales all around the Earth have changed their songs overnight and particles that can travel through time are discovered orbiting Saturn. Suddenly Jerome Quinn sees a reason to build a solar sail. He assembles a team of the best and brightest to travel on the craft and learn about the time particles.

The reason I say it’s a misnomer to call The Solar Sea book 4 of the Old Star/New Earth series is that it’s not a sequel to Heirs of the New Earth. The action in The Solar Sea is set several hundred years before the action of the Old Star/New Earth trilogy. That said, the book is set in the same universe. It tells how humans finally got into space and met the Titans and Rd’dyggians of the Old Star/New Earth books.

The Solar Sea is the first novel I ever tried to write on my own. I started it during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school. I had been inspired by a story in the Planetary Society’s newsletter about solar sails. I envisioned a story about people setting out aboard a solar sail bound for Saturn. I made it about halfway through the first draft before the summer ended. As time progressed and my writing matured, I wasn’t very impressed with what I had written and I simply threw it in the trash.

I made another attempt at writing The Solar Sea in the mid-1990s while working on Children of the Old Stars. That version became mired down in details and again, I didn’t make it very far. I finally sat down and wrote the novel in 2004, when my publisher challenged me to write something for National Novel Writing Month. By that point, it had been in my head for about two decades and it just flowed out.

The novel expresses some of my frustration that enthusiasm for human space flight has waned since I was a kid. It also expresses much of my love of science. It was always meant to be a grand adventure that gave the young and young-at-heart a glimpse of the other worlds of our solar system and addressed the fact that no matter how much we think we know about the universe, there may yet be surprises.

There is a website devoted to The Solar Sea at

You could choose to read The Solar Sea as your introduction to the Old Star/New Earth series, or you could read it after you’ve finished, in order to see how the world of today became the future I envisioned. Either way, if you would like to set out on a journey through the solar system, The Solar Sea is available:

Heirs of the New Earth

Heirs of the New Earth is the novel that concludes my Old Star/New Earth trilogy. The second novel of the series, Children of the Old Stars ended on a cliffhanger. The mysterious alien called the Cluster had been sighted over Earth and soon afterward, the Earth went silent. John Mark Ellis and Suki Firebrandt Ellis are sent off to find out what happened.

Arriving at Earth, they land and discover that the once overcrowded, polluted homeworld of humanity has become a paradise of sorts. The streets have been cleaned up. People are happy. Despite that, over half the population is dead or missing and the planet’s leaders don’t seem to care. As Ellis works to unravel the mystery, sudden gravitational shifts from the galaxy’s center indicate something even worse is in the offing.

My first inspiration for this novel came while working at Kitt Peak National Observatory in the mid-1990s. We were observing the center of our galaxy in the infrared and obtained one of the deepest images ever made of the galactic core. It made me wonder what was there. I knew the radiation was too intense for humans to travel there, but I wanted to find a way for humans to actually experience the center of the galaxy.

A question that has long plagued me, and many others, is how could the German people have ever allowed the Nazis to come to power? Heirs of the New Earth explores the psychology of people in denial about their friends and neighbors disappearing when society seems to get better. It’s an examination of the issue in admittedly broad strokes but I do it as a warning that a good society is never immune from corruption by evil forces.

When I started writing Heirs of the New Earth I decided not to work from an outline. I wrote it by the seat of my pants. The novel continued with the same characters from Children of the Old Stars and I managed to write myself into a corner. I set the novel aside for a time and finally realized that what I needed were some of the characters I first introduced in The Pirates of Sufiro to make a return. So, I brought back Edmund Swan along with pirate captain Ellison Firebrandt and his first mate Carter Roberts. Armed with an outline to provide a roadmap and characters to infuse the novel with new energy, I started again and completed the trilogy.

The Pirates of Sufiro is free to download in both Nook and Kindle formats:

Children of the Old Stars is available as follows:

Heirs of the New Earth is available as follows:

Children of the Old Stars

Children of the Old Stars is the sequel to The Pirates of Sufiro. In The Pirates of Sufiro a mysterious and powerful alien called the Cluster began destroying space vessels for no apparent reason. In Children of the Old Stars, Captain John Mark Ellis embarks on a quest to determine just what the Cluster is. The woman on the cover is Ellis’s mother Suki Firebrandt Ellis, who plays an integral part in the quest.

As Children of the Old Stars opens, Captain John Mark Ellis and the crew of the destroyer Firebrandt attempt to rescue a civilian ship threatened by the Cluster. They fail and Ellis has to make the choice of taking a demotion or leaving the fleet. He decides that he can continue his quest better if he leaves the fleet. He joins a warrior/philosopher from the planet Rd’dyggia and a human who is convinced that the Cluster is God incarnate on the quest.

I grew up watching Star Trek and loved the exploits of Captain Kirk and the Starship Enterprise. As a teen, I discovered that Gene Roddenberry was influenced by the Horatio Hornblower novels of C.S. Forester. Around the same time, I also encountered the John Grimes novels of A. Bertram Chandler. Unlike Captain Kirk, who was always a staunch defender of the Federation, Grimes’s career made a detour when he resigned from the service. I loved the idea of a captain who wasn’t perfect, who might have a tarnished record, or might leave his position because of a principle. That’s where John Mark Ellis came from.

When I wrote the novel, the working title was Children of Chaos. It was an allusion to the Titans of Greek Mythology who sprang from chaos. Once the book was finished, though, I discovered I wasn’t the first person to have conceived that title. The final title is a more literal description of the alien machine called the Cluster.

To step back a little bit, astronomers divide stars into two “generations.” Newer stars like the sun are called Population I stars. Old stars like you might find in Globular Clusters or the hearts of galaxies are called Population II stars. The alien known as the Cluster is a product of those old stars. I’ll leave the details for people to discover, if they choose to read the novel!

One other piece of astronomy trivia from this novel, Ellis’s encounter with the Cluster at the beginning of the novel happens around a binary star called 1E1919+0427. It turns out that I’m one of the people who discovered that star is an eclipsing binary. I published the results in The Astronomical Journal in 1997.

Finally, I’ll note that one of the most frustrating novels I’ve ever read is From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne. The reason it’s frustrating is that he ends the novel on a cliffhanger. I did the same thing with Children of the Old Stars. If I had it to do all over again, I would have wrapped things up more neatly. But part of the issue is that I felt I needed a whole new book to deal with the issues that were raised when Ellis discovered the truth of the Cluster. That’s where the final novel of the Old Star/New Earth trilogy, Heirs of the New Earth comes in.

The Pirates of Sufiro is free to download in both Nook and Kindle formats:

Children of the Old Stars is available as follows:

Vampires of the Scarlet Order

After discussing The Pirates of Sufiro and its origin here at the Web Journal, I thought it might be fun to go back and take a brief look at all my novels, introducing them to people who haven’t read them, and telling a little about their origins. I’ll start with Vampires of the Scarlet Order, which generally has received the best reviews of all my novels.

Vampires of the Scarlet Order is an action-adventure novel with a touch of romance that tells the story of an elite cadre of vampire mercenaries who have worked throughout history as pinpoint assassins. Under the command of Desmond, Lord Draco, the Scarlet Order was involved in wars with the Ottoman Empire, The French Revolution and even the conquest of the Americas. As the 21st century dawns, vampires are too expensive, too untrustworthy, and frankly, too passé for governments to employ any longer. Nanotechnology can be employed to engineer more reliable super soldiers. However, governments might be tampering with powers they don’t really understand. The elemental forces of the universe bring the vampires of the Scarlet Order together to put a stop to the humans’ dangerous experiments.

The novel opens in 1492 Spain as the Scarlet Order is working for the Spanish Inquisition and ends in a climactic battle in 2002 Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Vampires of the Scarlet Order began in 2001 when Janni Lee Simner and I were sitting around talking. She happened to wonder what a vampire would make of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Literally, Las Cruces means “the city of the crosses.” She said she had no plans to use the idea and said I was welcome to it. About a week later, a story about a vampire telescope operator who moves to Las Cruces came almost fully formed to my mind. I titled the story “Vampire in the City of Crosses” and sold it to Margaret Carter’s magazine The Vampire’s Crypt. About a month later, I came up with a sequel called “Vampires in the World of Dreams” which Carter also bought for The Vampire’s Crypt.

Over the course of the next two years, I kept writing short stories about vampires in the Southwest. Some of the vampires lived in the present day. Some lived in the past. I finally decided to figure out how all the stories related to one another and I put them together into a novel.

As it turns out, the first draft was quite a bit different from the finished product. In the first draft, it wasn’t the United States trying to make super soldiers. Instead, aliens from another world were trying to create vampires. After setting the book aside for a short time, I decided I had stretched credulity and I changed the novel into its current form.

I have continued to write vampire stories since Vampires of the Scarlet Order. One of them is a prequel called Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order. That will be released soon from Lachesis Publishing. I also have several other standalone vampire stories. I’ve created a separate blog to discuss vampires and my vampire stories. You can check it out at: You can also keep up with news about the vampires at their Facebook page:

You can find Vampires of the Scarlet Order at:

Happy Naw-Ruz

If you’ve read my novel Owl Dance, you’ll know that one of the protagonists, Fatemeh Karimi, is Bahá’í. This past week was Naw-Rúz, the Bahá’í new year, which is celebrated on March 21. I had the opportunity to celebrate Naw-Rúz with my Bahá’í friends in Las Cruces. We had a good dinner followed by a piñata for the kids.

I have to admit, as spring begins and the grass and trees are turning green again, it feels a bit more like the dawn of a new year than it did celebrating New Year’s at the beginning of winter. It was just about a year ago that my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. At this point, it appears that she’s won the war and we are now moving forward with life. As befits a new year, I have lots of news to share.

Gaslight Gathering

I am pleased to announce that I will be one of the guests at Gaslight Gathering in San Diego, California from May 11-13.

The guest of honor is Kaja Foglio, co-creator of the brilliant webcomic Girl Genius. You can learn more about the convention and register at:

The Pirates of Sufiro skyrockets at Amazon

As mentioned a few days ago, my publisher has made the Kindle and Nook editions of the first book of my Old Star/New Earth trilogy free.

Since the announcement, The Pirates of Sufiro has climbed all the way up to number 2 in the Science Fiction Adventure category at Amazon’s Kindle Store. Thank you everyone who has downloaded the book. It’s not too late to download your own copy.

If you like that first book, don’t forget to check out the other two books in the Old Star/New Earth Trilogy. They’re Children of the Old Stars and Heirs of the New Earth. You can learn about them and find links to the ebook and paperback editions by visiting the books page at my website:

New review of Owl Dance and Sequel Progress

Trent Zelazny, the author of To Sleep Gently and Destination Unknown posted the following review of Owl Dance at “Owl Dance is a great western-style steampunk science fiction tale. Summers knows science, and it shows in really fun ways in this one, keeping this wondrous. I really enjoy the writer’s style and you can tell he is having great fun writing–I hope as much fun as I had reading it. It reads fast, and I mean this is the very good way. If you like steampunk or westerns or just a having a really great time, give Owl Dance a read. I think you’ll really enjoy it.”

This week I’ve been forging ahead on the sequel to Owl Dance tentatively entitled Wolf Posse. The novel picks up where Owl Dance leaves off. As the novel opens, Professor Maravilla and Larissa Crimson stumble on a mystery, the Russians are advancing on California and Billy McCarty returns to Lincoln County, New Mexico only to find it nearly deserted. I’m having fun working on this one.

You can pick up a copy of Owl Dance at or

Interview at Manic Readers

Manic Readers conducted a very comprehensive interview with me a few days ago. You can read the interview at:

Vampires in Springtime

Just because the nights are growing shorter doesn’t mean you’re safe from vampires! I have a new vampire story called “The Vrykolakas and the Cobbler’s Wife” coming soon in Cemetery Dance Magazine.

You can order a copy right now at:

What’s more, my second scarlet order novel, Dragon’s Fall, is due to be released soon. Keep up on all the news about my vampire books and stories at my vampire blog: and be sure to “like” the Scarlet Order Vampires at Facebook.