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.

The Last Bucelarii

This weekend, I’m at Las Cruces Comic Con being held at the Convention Center by the University. Click the link to get all the details. You can find me in the vendor hall at booth E23. If you can’t catch me at Comic Con, no worries. Next weekend, I’ll be signing books at Branigan Library here in Las Cruces on Sunday, September 18 from 2 until 4pm.

blade-of-the-destroyer

Meanwhile, here at the web journal, I’m excited to share information about a dark fantasy series by my friend Andy Peloquin. The second book in his series “The Last Bucelarii” has just been released. The first book is called Blade of the Destroyer. In the novel, we meet the Hunter of Voramis. He is the perfect assassin: ruthless, unrelenting, immortal. Yet he is haunted by lost memories, bonded to a cursed dagger that feeds him power yet denies him peace of mind. Within him rages an unquenchable need for blood and death.

When he accepts a contract to avenge the stolen innocence of a girl, the Hunter becomes the prey. The death of a seemingly random target sends him hurtling toward destruction, yet could his path also lead to the truth of his buried past?

Blade of the Destroyer is available as a Kindle Ebook and in Paperback at Amazon. Click the links to order, or mark it to read on Goodreads!

lament-of-the-fallen

Andy has just released the sequel, called Lament of the Fallen. Alone with the bloodthirsty voices in his head, fleeing the pain of loss, he has one objective: travel north to find Her, the mystery woman who plagues his dreams and haunts his memories.

When he stumbles upon a bandit attack, something within urges him to help. His actions set the Hunter at odds with the warrior priests commanded to hunt down the Bucelarii.

Left for dead, the Hunter must travel to Malandria to recover his stolen birthright. There, he is inexorably drawn into direct conflict with the Order of Midas, the faceless, nameless group of magicians that holds the city in a grip of terror. All while struggling to silence the ever-louder voice in his mind that drives him to kill.

From feared assassin to wretched outcast, the Hunter’s journey leads him to truths about his forgotten past and the Abiarazi he has pledged to hunt. His discoveries will shed light on who he really is … what he really is.

You can buy Lament of the Fallen as a Kindle e-book, from Amazon in Paperback, or you can add it to your Goodreads Shelf.

I’ll wrap up this post with an excerpt from Lament of the Fallen. Enjoy!

    He filled his lungs with the fresh night air. The taste of smoke mixed with the earthy scent of loam. The warmth of the fire soothed and relaxed him, the hypnotic rhythm of the dancing flames calming his mind. The fatigue of the day washed over him, and he allowed his eyelids to droop.

    The visions came then; memories leapt out at him.

    Within the bright depths of the flames, he saw the hell he had glimpsed in the Serenii tunnels. Lord Jahel’s face appeared in the fire, laughing, mocking. Bone and skin morphed into the faces of Lord Cyrannius and the First of the Bloody Hand. Shuddering waves of flesh and gristle writhed, shifting, transforming.

    Demons roam Einan once more. People treat them as myth and legend, but I know the truth.

    The Hunter retreated deeper into his blankets, his sword clutched to his chest. He told himself it was out of habit rather than fear.

    He had left Voramis behind, not only to find the truth of the woman whose face plagued him, but to discover the truth of the demons. Curiosity drove him to learn of his past, and his own heritage as a Bucelarii—descendant of the Abiarazi horde.

    The demon added its voice to the swirling maelstrom in the Hunter’s mind. ‘He disowns his blood, all to play the hero, the protector.’

    The Hunter was too tired to fight it off.

    I’m no hero. If it was up to me, they’d all rot.

    He had no desire to save the world. He had no reason to save humans from themselves.

    A vision of horror flashed through his mind. Creatures of nightmares seized a screaming child, tearing at pale skin with razor-tipped claws. Blood splashed across chitinous armor as the demons ripped the child apart in their haste to devour the flesh.

    The girl bore Farida’s face. She lay bloody, mangled, discarded like refuse, gasping her last agonizing breaths.

    Oh, child. I am so sorry.

    He wished he could scrub the memory from his mind forever. With it gone, the sorrow would leave. He needed no reminder that he was once again alone.

    He turned his back on the fire and buried his face in his cloak.

    He could turn his back on those who had feared and hated him, yet he had not the strength to hide his face from the suffering of innocents. People like Old Nan, Ellinor, Little Arlo. They would suffer most should the Abiarazi find their way into the world once more.

    The demon whispered in his mind. ‘Why must you protect them? You are not one of them, after all. You are Bucelarii.’

    They do not deserve such suffering.

    He squeezed his eyes shut and pushed back against the demon’s voice.

    I’m doing this for them.

    He pictured Farida the way he had seen her that day in the Temple District, with that same bright smile. She was happy. That was what mattered, and that was what he would remember.

    I’m doing this for her.

Science Fiction Titles 25% Off Today – #AReBlast

All my science fiction titles at OmniLit are 25% off today to celebrate the first day of summer!

SummerBlastbanner

This post will give you links to those books they have available. I hope you’ll add one or more of my books to your summer reading list.

The Solar Sea

The Solar Sea A new energy source is discovered around Saturn. The Quinn Corporation builds a solar sail to investigate. Along the way, they discover humans may not be alone in the solar system. Get it at:
https://www.omnilit.com/product-thesolarsea-184660-235.html

Children of the Old Stars

Children of the Old Stars A disgraced starship captain, an alien warrior, and a cult leader go on a quest to learn about a mysterious space vessel that destroys everything in its path. Get it at: https://www.omnilit.com/product-childrenoftheoldstars-90549-245.html

Heirs of the New Earth

Heirs of the New Earth Captain John Mark Ellis must race against time to free the Earth from invasion and stop aliens from altering the structure of the galaxy itself. Get it at: https://www.omnilit.com/product-heirsofthenewearth-183797-235.html



My vampire titles are also on sale! Visit the post at the Scarlet Order blog for a list of titles and links to them.

Artistic Inspiration

As a writer, I sometimes turn to artwork for inspiration. Danforth-painting A number of years ago, I bought the painting at the left from the wonderful artist Liz Danforth. As I recall, this was painted as an illustration for a collectable card game, but I liked the mysterious western story it implied. I asked myself who the lawman was and who was the mysterious figure lurking outside the window. Over time, as I worked with the characters and made them my own, the lawman became the owl-like, bespectacled sheriff, Ramon Morales. The figure outside the window seemed perhaps Arab or Persian, could be male or female. I imagined a witch, but as the character came to life in my mind, I realized she was really a healer who was misunderstood. If I were to describe Ramon and Fatemeh from Owl Dance and Lightning Wolves, I don’t think you’d see the characters in this painting, but the painting started the creative process rolling.

Speaking of the novel I’m writing, I managed to get stalled out over the holidays. It wasn’t really writer’s block or anything of that sort, just life getting in the way and being busy. I had to push past the inertia to get writing again. ornithopter While at Her Royal Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium in Long Beach last month, my artist’s table was next to the Nathaniel Johnstone Band. Nathaniel’s wife is the amazingly talented Laura Tempest Zakroff. I came to admire her artwork and asked if I could pay her to do a rendition of the owl ornithopters from my steampunk books. The illustration at right is the result. The feeling of adventure inspired by the mechanical owl in flight made me want to leap back into that world again and continue on.

For Valentine’s Day, my wife gave me a lovely knitted turquoise Jackalope. jackalope His contented expression and metallic antlers speak to me and suggest story ideas. I don’t know yet where a jackalope or something like one will appear, but I’m guessing it will happen sooner or later and it might well happen in the book I’m writing now.

If you’d like to meet Ramon and Fatemeh and see the owl ornithopters in action, try out a copy of Owl Dance or Lightning Wolves. Following the links will take you to pages where you can read sample chapters and find a variety of buying choices.

Has a piece of art inspired you? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

Kreativ Blogger Award and Updates

I was honored this week to receive “The Kreativ Blogger Award” from Paige Addams. She presented the award both this site and my Scarlet Order Vampire Site. Paige blogs about paranormal romance and is sharing her novel-in-progress. She’s raised some interesting writing issues there and it’s definitely a blog worth checking out.

For those who aren’t familiar with “blog awards” they basically are a way for people to share blogs they like. The “Kreativ Blogger” award was started in Norway by a lady named Hulda and she literally handcrafted the award and posted a photo to her blog. Here’s the original version that first hit the internet in May 2008:

The spirit of these awards is to “pay it forward” and recommend other blogs you like. Let me start out by recommending those blogs I have linked in the left-hand sidebar. Ernest Hogan, Emily Devenport, Robert Collins and Gayle Martin all have great things to say at their sites.

In addition to these, I have to give a special shoutout to Emily Guido who has been a loyal follower of both my blogs. I have been enjoying her excerpts from the “Light-Bearer” series about a group of angelic light bearers and their allies, the blood hunters. She also honored me with the “Lucky 7 Meme Award” which I’ll cover as part of tomorrow’s post at the Scarlet Order Vampire’s page.

Sky Warrior Books runs a blog I highly recommend. They post news of interest to writers along with some great marketing tips.

O.M. Grey’s Caught in the Cogs is a blog worth checking out. She is podcasting her steampunk vampire novel Avalon Revisited and talks about polyandrous relationships. This last won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but she has really good advice about relationships in general.

Finally, go check out Paige’s blog. I’m truly honored that she’s enjoyed both of my blogs enough to “pay it forward” and recommend me to her readers. Thank you, Paige!

Let me close out this section of the post by “paying it forward” another way. Is there a topic you’d like me to address here at the Web Journal or over at the Scarlet Order Vampires site? If so, drop me a comment. Topics related to writing, editing and astronomy will generally be covered here at the Web Journal. Topics about vampires and horror will likely be covered over the Scarlet Order Vampires page. I’m happy to see what I can do!

Coming Soon: Dragon’s Fall

I just finished reviewing the galley proofs for Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order. This is the novel that tells how the Scarlet Order—a band of vampire mercenaries—were formed. It makes a journey from Hellenistic Greece through Arthurian Britain, into the Holy Land, and finally winds up in Vlad the Impaler’s Transylvania. The novel is the prequel to Vampires of the Scarlet Order which is available as:

Dragon’s Fall is my sixth novel. Now, if you have a copy of Owl Dance, you’ll see the blurb on the back touts that as my seventh novel. The reason for that is two-fold. First off, I finished writing Dragon’s Fall before I finished writing Owl Dance. Also, although the entire novel is just now moving into production, parts of Dragon’s Fall have been available for a while. Dragon’s Fall is a novel in five acts. Here are links where you can learn about the first two acts:

Tales of the Talisman Submissions

Tales of the Talisman Magazine opens to submissions tomorrow, July 1, 2012. We will remain open until full. Most likely that will be somewhere around August 15, 2012. We are reading for the Spring 2013 Steampunk Issue and the Summer 2014 issue. The Summer 2014 issue will return to our potpouri format of science fiction, fantasy and horror. So, all types of speculative fiction submissions will be welcome. Be sure to follow our guidelines at: http://www.talesofthetalisman.com/gl.html. If you can’t be bothered to follow the guidelines, don’t expect me to bother reading your story. Simple as that! If you’re confused about a point, feel free to ask. I look forward to your stories and good luck!

Ray Bradbury, A Personal Remembrance

In May 1983, I was 16 years old and a junior at San Bernardino High School in California. One of my best friends, Rodney King, was a senior at Pacific High School across town. Rod told me that Ray Bradbury was scheduled to give a presentation at his school. I was on San Bernardino High’s newspaper and persuaded my teachers to give me permission to report on the presentation.

RAY BRADBURY Pictures, Images and Photos

On the morning of Ray Bradbury’s presentation, Rod picked me up and we went to Pacific High School. We were walking across campus, when we were stopped by the principal. She saw I was carrying a tape recorder and asked if we were reporters from other schools. I confirmed I was. She then said, “Mr. Bradbury is having lunch in the library, would you care to join him?” Of course, we leaped at the opportunity. We found Ray Bradbury in the library talking to teachers and administrators. He seemed pleased to see some students there as well and we joined in the conversation.

Once we finished lunch, we adjourned to the auditorium where Bradbury spoke and answered questions about his work. Afterwards Rod and I went forward to say goodbye and thank him for talking to us. He pulled us aside and said, “I’m going out for cocktails with some of the teachers after this. Would you care to join us?” Of course we agreed and spent another hour with him. It was truly a magical day. I remember he told the story of how he came up with the story “The Veldt” from The Illustrated Man. He read some of his poetry. He encouraged us to read and write everyday. All of that has remained with me over the years.

I next had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Bradbury about two years later when he spoke at California State University at San Bernardino. That was a brief visit and he signed a copy of Dinosaur Tales for me. What I most remember is that when I stepped up to him in the autograph line, he immediately recognized me, stepped around the desk where he was signing, and gave me a hug.

I didn’t see Mr. Bradbury again until early 1995. At that point, I was living in Tucson. He came out to speak at a writer’s workshop held at the University of Arizona. I attended with my wife, Kumie, and my friend, William Grother. He gave a wonderful presentation over lunch where he told us a person should read a short story, a poem and an essay every day. “Imagine how much you will learn,” he said. He also told us about his experiences in Ireland, writing the Moby Dick screenplay for John Huston. Again, I had an opportunity to visit with Mr. Bradbury. He gave me and Kumie hugs and we left him to speak to other fans.

ray bradbury Pictures, Images and Photos

After that workshop, Bill, Kumie and I decided to create a science fiction and fantasy anthology series called Hadrosaur Tales. We dedicated the first volume to Ray Bradbury and sent him a copy. He sent back a letter praising the stories along with signed photos for all the contributors.

A couple of years later, I saw a copy of Green Hills, White Whale, which collected Ray Bradbury’s stories of working for John Huston in Ireland. I remembered his stories from the workshop so fondly that I immediately bought the book and read it right away.

About that time, I was also reading submissions for Hadrosaur Tales. There were three in a row that told the story of a knight climbing a mountain to slay some hapless dragon. I found myself asking, “Isn’t there a fresh way to tell this story?” I thought of Ray Bradbury in Ireland, writing Moby Dick. The question occurred to me, what if teams of people flew out in airships and hunted dragons? I wrote the story of a young man named Rado who joined such a crew. Rado was named for Ray Douglas Bradbury. When the story was published in Realms of Fantasy magazine, I sent Mr. Bradbury a copy and told him the story of how I came up with the idea. He wrote back a few days later and said how much he enjoyed that day in 1983 at Pacific High School, how proud he was of me and that the “The Slayers” was a “fine story.”

Back in 1983, Ray Bradbury told the story of visiting a carnival when he was a child. A man called Mr. Electrico strapped himself into an electric chair. With lightning arcing all around, Mr. Electrico pointed a lightning rod at the young Bradbury and said, “live forever!” That’s the moment Ray Bradbury decided to be a writer, so he could live forever.

That day, Ray Bradbury pointed at me and said, “Live forever, submit your stories now!” I have lived by that ever since and now it’s my turn to point to you. “Live forever!”

Outlining Success

One question I have been asked in some recent discussions is whether I’m an outliner or a pantser. In other words, do I outline my stories and books or do I write by the seat of my pants? Over the years, I have written both ways, and I have even combined the two approaches. These days, though, I’m primarily an outliner.

In the most recent issue of the SFWA Bulletin there was an excellent article by C.J. Henderson that dared authors to consider whether or not they were ready for success. People who want to be writers often hear how they need to be prepared to face rejection and failure, but what happens when you’ve stood up to all that and suddenly find yourself with a contract for a book you haven’t written? Part of my personal answer to that question is to be an outliner. Admittedly, this might not work for everyone, but it’s a technique that works for me.

You see, there have been two cases where I tried to write novels by the seat of my pants and failed in my first attempt. The first was Heirs of the New Earth. The second was The Solar Sea. In the first case I wrote myself into a corner and I could see no way out, so I set the novel aside and wrote Vampires of the Scarlet Order instead. In the second case, I was getting bogged down in plot and character details that were neat, but didn’t drive the story forward at all. I ended up abandoning that version of the manuscript altogether.

The problem is, when confronted with a contract for a novel or a series of novels, I can’t afford to write myself into a corner or spend too much time on details that don’t matter to the story’s ultimate outcome. Sorting out the major plot points, understanding the novel’s direction, and turning that into an outline is one of the best ways for me to avoid that trap.

With that in mind, let me present some outlining techniques that have worked for me.

  1. Outline on note cards instead of using the computer. Each note card contains exactly one plot or character point. This allows you to shuffle the points and add new points as necessary until you create a strong plot with good character growth. This is exactly the method I used to get out of the corner I had written myself into with Heirs of the New Earth.
  2. Be mindful of your characters and their reactions as you outline. When you create a plot point, think about how all the affected characters will react. Sometimes you’ll find your story comes to life even as you’re writing the outline. In this way, you preserve some of the organic essence you can get when writing by the seat of your pants.
  3. Don’t outline too tightly. Restrict your outline to simple plot points. This gives your imagination some freedom as you’re writing.
  4. Don’t be afraid to deviate from your outline. If your characters say or do something surprising while you’re writing, let them. Feel free to explore a subplot or a ramification. Your outline is a map, but having a map doesn’t mean there there aren’t multiple ways to reach your objective.

Just to note, I ultimately did write The Solar Sea from scratch by the seat of my pants during the National Novel Writing Month in 2004. So, I’m by no means against being a pantser. That said, I outlined both Owl Dance and my vampire novel Dragon’s Fall. Outlines are useful tools for marking the trail. Don’t be afraid to deviate from the trail periodically and explore the surrounding countryside, though! The outline only exists to help you find your way back to your objective.

Interviewed at Long and Short Reviews: