Doc Holliday’s Faro Table

This weekend finds me in the midst of a long shift at Kitt Peak National Observatory. I’m working fifteen nights out of twenty-one with two three-night breaks. After the fire at Kitt Peak, we have a real risk of landslides if there’s rain. Because of that, those of us on staff have to convoy up the mountain at either 8:00am or 2:30pm and we can only leave the mountain at 3:45pm. So, if I finish a shift on Friday night, I can’t actually leave until 3:45pm on Saturday. The upshot is that three-day breaks are actually closer to two-day breaks and given that I have a five-hour drive home, a two day break rapidly becomes one day.

Because of this, and because I’m working on some short stories, my wife suggested a weekend a little closer to Tucson. So, we spent the first of my two breaks in Tombstone, Arizona, site of the famous gunfight at the OK Corral. I’ve been to Tombstone on other occasions and I enjoy the Old West ambience and the saloons that serve up a nice range of burgers and local beer. She found a new bed and breakfast in town called “The Dragon’s Keep Inn.” It seemed clear from the description that the owners were science fiction and fantasy fans near and dear to our heart. Currently the inn has two rooms and two RV spaces. They hope to open a small shop in the near future and it’s a nice change of pace from the usual Tombstone establishment that names everything after Wyatt Earp or Ike Clanton.

Kumie and I at The Dragon’s Keep in Tombstone

My goal for the weekend was mostly to write. I’m working on a story set on a railroad among the mining towns of Colorado, so being in a mining town in Arizona seemed like good ambience. The Dragon’s Keep proved a nice place to write and I made good progress on my story. Still, being in Tombstone, we wanted to see some of the sights. One place I hadn’t visited before was the Bird Cage Theatre, which is one of the few buildings in Tombstone that actually dates back to the time of the famous gunfight.

The Bird Cage Theatre

The Bird Cage Theatre also has a reputation as a very haunted place, so they offer nightly ghost tours. Since The Dragon’s Keep Inn is on the south end of Allen Street, not far from the Bird Cage, we decided to go on the ghost tour. One thing that made the ghost tour worthwhile is that it’s a small group. We were on the 9:30pm tour and we only had four people in our group. The tour guide was quite knowledgeable and I enjoyed learning about the history of the Bird Cage. You get to see the small rooms where bordello girls plied their trade. There are bullet holes in the ceiling where rowdy cowboys fired off their weapons during shows. They also have some artifacts from early Tombstone such as this Black Mariah hearse, which carried many of Tombstone’s residents on their last ride to Boot Hill.

Black Mariah at the Bird Cage Theater

Admittedly, I’m something of a skeptic when it comes to ghosts. If the Bird Cage is haunted, the ghosts were rather quiet that night. The one odd occurrence I experienced happened while standing near the Black Mariah. I could swear I felt someone touching the back of my head. I looked around and no one was there. It was a very light touch, almost like I’d walked into a spider web, but I saw nothing to account for it. Perhaps my favorite artifact at the Bird Cage Theatre was the faro table used by Doc Holliday.

Doc Holliday’s Faro Table

I had a special connection to this faro table because when I wrote my novel Owl Riders, I made a point of writing in a couple of scenes where Doc Holliday and Ramon Morales play faro on an airship ride from New Orleans to Tucson. Of course, Doc couldn’t bring the full table along, but he had his shoe for shuffling cards and a mat for laying out the hands. I found it great fun to actually see a piece of history directly connected with something I had written about. You can learn more about Owl Riders at: http://davidleesummers.com/owl_riders.html

Return of the Owl Riders

Since the middle of 2021, I’ve been updating and releasing new editions of my Clockwork Legion novels. Today, I’m proud to announce that process is complete. Book four of the Clockwork Legion series, Owl Riders is back in print. This novel picks up eight years after the events of The Brazen Shark. Ramon and Fatemeh Morales now live in the French Quarter of New Orleans and the alien Legion is long gone, but the world is much changed because of Legion’s influence.

Owl Riders

Now, when Fatemeh Karimi married Ramon Morales, she neglected to share one small detail. She was already betrothed to a merchant named Hamid Farzan. She had no interest in Hamid or an arranged marriage. She wanted to live life on her own terms. Eight years after marrying Ramon, she assumed Hamid had long forgotten about her, as she had him.

In New Orleans, Ramon works as an attorney, Fatemeh owns a pharmacy, and they’re proud parents of a precocious daughter. Out west, Apaches armed with powerful battle wagons have captured Fort Bowie and threaten Tucson. Businessmen with an interest in a peaceful solution ask Ramon to come west and settle the conflict. Meanwhile Hamid arrives in New Orleans and he has not forgotten Fatemeh or her vows to him.

The famed Owl Riders must assemble once again to reunite Ramon and Fatemeh so they can tame the Wild West.

Taking place on two continents and three countries, this novel is at least as world-spanning as The Brazen Shark. Although Owl Riders follows the events of the first three books in the series, I designed it so it could work as a standalone novel, a series conclusion, or even the first book of a new “sub-trilogy” within the bigger series. So whether you’ve read the earlier books or not, this is a great place to jump in and meet Ramon, Fatemeh and their friends, Marshal Larissa Seaton, the former samurai Masuda Hoshi and Imagawa Masako, gunslinger Billy McCarty, and former pirate captain Onofre Cisneros.

Several historical characters make appearances as well, including the Apache warrior Lozen and the writer Lafcadio Hearn who did much to introduce the world both to New Orleans cooking and Japanese culture. Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday also make appearances in the novel. What’s especially fun about including such familiar characters is that they become anchor points in the story. People know who they are, but you can see how they’ve changed in response to this alternate history I’ve created for them to inhabit. As an author, I find it fun to get to know these characters. It wasn’t until I wrote this book that I learned Wyatt Earp was a teetotaler, which introduced a plot problem I had to solve.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab a mechanical owl and take flight! You can get your very own copy of Owl Riders:

Just as a reminder, if you get the book direct from the publisher, I am happy to sign it for you, just make a request through the contact form on the site.

Owl Dance Update

I hope my readers in the United States are having a good Thanksgiving weekend. I’m spending the weekend with family and reflecting on those things I’m thankful for. One of the things I’m thankful for has been the opportunity to work with some great publishers and editors over the years, such as Sky Warrior Book Publishing who published my Clockwork Legion steampunk series. Sky Warrior connected me with some great editors, gave me excellent marketing tips, and generally supported my efforts as an author. Still, after some discussion this fall, we decided it was to our mutual advantage for Sky Warrior to return the publishing rights to me. We’re parting ways, but I’m thankful that we’re parting ways as friends.

Owl Dance

The new edition of the first book in the series, published by Hadrosaur Productions, is now available. The new edition hasn’t changed much from the previous one. The paperback edition has a spiffy new layout featuring some cool-looking separators designed by Laura Givens. Laura also remixed the cover slightly to make it a little brighter. I only gave the book a cursory edit, looking for any minor copyedits that might have been missed. Partly that’s because the wonderful audiobook edition read by Edward Mittelstedt is still available and I don’t want to revise the text so the audio and text don’t match. I hope to make the new edition of Lightning Wolves available in about two weeks.

Owl Dance is set in 1876. In the novel, Sheriff Ramon Morales of Socorro, New Mexico meets a beguiling woman named Fatemeh Karimi of Persia, escaping oppression in her homeland. When an ancient lifeform called Legion comes to Earth, they are pulled into a series of events that will change the history of the world as we know it. In their journeys, Ramon and Fatemeh encounter mad inventors, dangerous outlaws and pirates. Their resources are Ramon’s fast draw and Fatemeh’s uncanny ability to communicate with owls. The question is, will that be enough to save them when a fleet of dirigibles from Czarist Russia invades the United States?

Richard Harland, author of some of my favorite steampunk novels, including Worldshaker and Song of the Slums, says, “Owl Dance has everything. Airships, owl-ornithopters, a clockwork wolf, a multiple alien entity, a fast-shooting sheriff, a Russian plot to conquer America, and a very sexy, eco-aware, Bahá’í Persian healer-woman – I mean everything! Heaps of fun!”

If you’ve already read and enjoyed Owl Dance, thank you for your support. If you haven’t discovered the series yet, this is a great time to start. As I say, the new edition of the sequel, Lightning Wolves will go live in about two weeks. After that, it’ll probably be about six weeks before the final two novels are published, since I need to finish some editing and layout work on two new Hadrosaur titles from Greg Ballan and Lyn McConchie.

You can purchase the paperback edition of Owl Dance at Amazon.com.

The ebook edition is available at Amazon.com and Smashwords.

Edward Mittelstedt’s reading of Owl Dance is available at Audible.com.

The book should be appearing at more vendors soon. You can see a book trailer and find all the places where the book is available at http://www.davidleesummers.com/owl_dance.html

Owl Dance (Queen Titania’s Court) — Wyrmflight

This past weekend, Fatemeh Karimi, one of the protagonists of my novel, Owl Dance, visited the court of the fairy queen, Titania. As the segment opens, Fatemeh follows an owl into the queen’s court. The queen then asks her whether she’s an insider or an outsider in her own land and who is her best friend. It should come as no surprise to longtime readers of the series that her best friend is Ramon Morales.

The queen then turns to me and asks me questions about how I chose to write wild west steampunk and where I seek inspiration for my stories.

To see the answers, you’ll have to go visit the post which is linked right here:

Welcome to Queen Titania’s Court!

Owl Dance (Queen Titania’s Court) — Wyrmflight

When you drop by Deby Fredericks’ blog to read Queen Titania’s interview with Fatemeh, be sure to stick around and read the other posts in the series. Queen Titania is interviewing characters from a wide variety of fantasy novels all month long. So far, you’ll see interviews with Lizzie St. Laurent from C.S. Boyack’s Lunar Boogie, Aris the Gleeman from Alma Alexander’s Fractured Fairy Tales, and Thurid Severiens from Astrid Brandon’s Investigation in Nottingham. What’s more, Queen Titania is not finished asking questions. Look for more character and author interviews as the month goes on and do please join the fun and ask questions as well. Both Fatemeh and I are certainly happy to answer any more questions you might have.

It’s been a little while since I’ve written anything with Fatemeh or Ramon. Even though this was more of a short interview segment, it was still fun to get a chance to write in Fatemeh’s voice again.

Over the course of the last year or so, I’ve been focused on bringing out new editions of my older novels now that the rights have reverted to me. Once that process is completed, I hope to return my attention to both the Clockwork Legion series and the Wilderness of the Dead series. At this point, I have one more novel in the Space Pirates’ Legacy series to revise and re-release, Heirs of the New Earth.

Diplomacy

I find the process of diplomacy fascinating. I watched the recent summit between the president of the United States and the leader of South Korea with interest. Perhaps even more interesting were the glimpses we had of all the work behind the scenes that led to that historic face-to-face meeting. One of the people who has worked behind the scenes for a long time is New Mexico’s former governor Bill Richardson. Of course, before he was governor of the state I call home, he had been a congressman, ambassador to the United Nations, and Secretary of the Department of Energy.

My latest novel, Owl Riders is largely a reflection of my interest in diplomacy. A lot of books, especially in the science fiction and fantasy genres, are about wars and fighting. That certainly can make for exciting reading, but I’ve long believed there can be a lot of tension and suspense in stories about the people who struggle to keep conflicts from blossoming into full-scale wars.

Ramon Morales, one of the protagonists of my Clockwork Legion series, was created as a man of action. When we meet him, he’s sheriff of Socorro, New Mexico, but he’s not altogether happy with his lot. The city has been changing and most of the people he knew growing up have moved away. He’s also tired of breaking up fights and facing angry people with guns. I introduced him to the series’ other protagonist, Fatemeh Karimi. She’s a healer fleeing injustice. She sees the process of making peace as a kind of healing.

Initially, Ramon was inspired by real life lawman Elfego Baca, who was quite a character in New Mexico history. He gained fame when he kept several Texans from breaking their compatriot out of the local jail in a gunfight. After being sheriff of Socorro, Baca went on to be an attorney. Unlike Ramon, Baca never really had a diplomatic career. The closest he came was when he served as counsel to General Huerta during the Mexican Revolution. Apparently this resulted in Pancho Villa putting a price on Baca’s head!

Early in the Clockwork Legion novels, Ramon and Fatemeh encounter a microscopic alien swarm that calls itself Legion. Because it’s microscopic, no one can see it or touch it, but it can communicate with people directly through their brains and it can communicate with several people at the same time. This ultimately proves to be an advantage when Ramon is first making his reputation as a negotiator. Legion helps him see and understand things about the other parties that no one else can.

In Owl Riders, Ramon’s career is on a track similar to that of Elfego Baca, or even Bill Richardson. He has gained his Juris Doctorate. He’s working as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Louisiana when he’s called in to settle an Apache uprising in Arizona. The challenge for Ramon is that Legion is long gone and now he has to do this himself. What’s more, Fatemeh has been taken captive by a man from her past. Will Ramon be able to save the woman he loves and successfully negotiate peace without extraterrestrial intervention? I hope you’ll join me on the pages of Owl Riders to find out.

You can learn more about Owl Riders, read a sample chapter, and find out where to order at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/owl_riders.html.

Road Trip to New Orleans

The Airship Ambassador’s Steampunk Hands Around the World event is going on a road trip and exploring new places. One of the things I’ve enjoyed doing when writing my Clockwork Legion books is visiting places around the world and imagining them with a steampunk twist. So, I thought it would be fun to visit some of the places that appear in the novels and share my connection to them. For this final post in the series, I’m going to the Big Easy—New Orleans, Louisiana. Unlike Tokyo in my last post, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting New Orleans several times.

The fourth novel in the Clockwork Legion series, Owl Riders, opens with Ramon and Fatemeh living in a flat in New Orleans. The approximate location I imagine is near site of the Boutique du Vampyre, which is near the corner of St. Ann and Royal Streets. The Boutique is well worth a visit for fans of Gothic literature and lifestyle. It is full of amazing curiosities and I have it on good authority that some of my books are on the shelf there as well.

Ramon works at the building that would have housed the United States District Court in 1885, which was the U.S. Custom House. The building still stands and it now houses the Audubon Butterfly and Insectarium in the French Quarter.

Fatemeh surreptitiously owns a pharmacy in New Orleans. Her ownership is surreptitious because women weren’t allowed to own pharmacies in New Orleans in 1885. On the books, the establishment is owned by her assistant, Picou, but everyone knows who really runs the Blessed Life Apothecary. I had a lot of help visualizing Fatemeh’s business when I visited the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. It’s a fascinating place and well worth making it at a time when they’re giving their guided tour.

The novel actually opens with Ramon and Fatemeh paying a visit to the World Cotton Exposition which was held in New Orleans staring in the winter of 1884. The exposition buildings no longer stand, but the site is Audubon Park in New Orleans, which is a great place to go for a stroll. It’s right across the street from Tulane University. If you continue through the park, you’ll arrive at the Audubon Zoo.

New Orleans with its old-fashioned charm, magic in the air, and party atmosphere makes a grand setting for steampunk and Gothic stories. I’m glad I’ve gotten to know the city and I look forward to more visits in the future.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this final steampunk road trip stop. Owl Riders is due for publication later this spring. While you’re waiting for the book to be published, be sure to check out the first three novels in the Clockwork Legion series at http://www.davidleesummers.com/books.html#clockwork_legion. There are omnibus editions of the first three volumes available for one low price as well as the individual books and ebooks. You can also visit the Owl Riders page at http://www.davidleesummers.com/owl_riders.html and preview the novel’s first chapter today!

Road Trip to the Grand Canyon

This year, the Airship Ambassador’s Steampunk Hands Around the World event is going on a road trip and exploring new places. One of the things I’ve enjoyed doing when writing my Clockwork Legion books is visiting places around the world and imagining them with a steampunk twist. So, I thought it would be fun to visit some of the places that appear in the novels and share my connection to them. For this first post, I’m going to the Grand Canyon in Northern Arizona.

A lot of steampunk has a very urban and gritty feel set in places like London of the nineteenth century. However, in my novel Owl Dance, I introduced Professor M.K. Maravilla, an engineer and naturalist who builds machines to mimic the animals he studies. Because of that, you don’t tend to find him in urban environments, but out in nature. In Owl Dance, Ramon Morales and Fatemeh Karimi encounter the professor at the Grand Canyon.

The reason the professor is at the Grand Canyon is that he’s built ornithopters in the shape of owls so he can study how they fly. An ornithopter is an aircraft that flies by flapping its wings like birds. I actually had the idea for the ornithopters from a visit to canyon and seeing California Condors gliding on the canyon’s air currents. This was especially amazing to me because I grew up in California and remember a museum exhibit that discussed how California Condors were near extinction. I never figured I would ever see them in real life, yet I saw them flying and swooping over the canyon and couldn’t help but think how much fun it would be to be them, swooping and flying over the canyon.

The reason I used owls instead of condors in the story is two-fold. First off, the condors were introduced to the canyon as part of a breeding program to help increase their numbers. Even in 1877, while there likely would have been condors in the canyon, their numbers wouldn’t have been numerous. Second, Professor Maravilla develops an interest in owls from his association with Fatemeh Karimi. So, the interest had a direct narrative connection.

Back in 2015, while at Her Royal Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium, artist Laura Tempest Zakroff was selling her art next to us. I admired her wonderful artwork and commissioned an illustration of Professor Maravilla’s owl ornithopter. You can see her work above. In the novels, the professor sells the ornithopters to the army and the industrialist, Captain Cisneros, also develops his own version. The owl ornithopter in Laura Givens’ cover for Owl Riders is different from Tempest’s design, but Givens’ design reflects several years of in-world development!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this steampunk road trip stop. If you would like to explore Owl Dance and all the places visited in the novel, you visit http://www.davidleesummers.com/owl_dance.html to get more information and find all the places the novel is available.