Authors Give Back

Word of shutdowns in the United States to curb the spread of Coronavirus came while I was on a shift at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Working on a remote mountaintop, it seems like we should have few concerns about the Coronavirus, but we also have visitors traveling there from all around the country and all around the world, both as tourists and as visiting scientists. Because of this, the decision was made to suspend science operations and make all the equipment safe so it could be monitored by a small, skeleton staff. The last night of my shift was the last night of regular operations. Fortunately, it was a very productive one for the DESI project. We had a nice clear night and gathered lots of good test data for the team to chew on while things are shut down.

As it turns out, because I’m an observing associate and one of the people trained to tell at a glance whether something is wrong or not, I’m part of the skeleton crew that will be rotating in to keep an eye on the facility during the shutdown period. I will likely also have some telecommuting work to do as well. In the meantime, I’m hard at work preparing Don Braden’s fine science fiction novel Upstart Mystique for release and hope to return my attention to my own novel The Pirates of Sufiro, so I can release that soon.

So far, the whole process of watching people around me go into self-isolation mode has felt a little surreal. Because the shutdown period at work happened right as I would normally start a break, little has actually changed about my personal schedule. I’m also fortunate that I can continue to work and will continue to be paid. I know a lot of people face an all too real income shortfall and many people are working to fill their time with something positive. Because of that, I am participating in the “Authors Give Back” event at Smashwords. Through the event, I’m sharing two of my ebooks absolutely free until April 20.

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.

Set in 1915, 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. This is a story filled with military action, espionage and gadgetry that’s sure to satisfy fans of steampunk and alternate history.

You can get Revolution of Air and Rust absolutely free at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/254622

The other giveaway I’m offering is my short story “The Slayers” which first appeared in Realms of Fantasy Magazine in 2001. Dragon bellies are full of powerful carbide that allows them to breathe fire. Dragon carbide is a valuable treasure. Rado is a young man who sails the winds in a flyer. He signs aboard a mighty dirigible called the Slayer to hunt dragons. However, he soon learns that Captain Obrey will not rest until he strips the teeth and carbide from a mighty gold dragon.

Since this was written, other people have done their own versions of Moby Dick with dragons, but as far as I know, mine is the original. You can download “The Slayers” for free at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/58303

A Weekend in the Wild West and an Interview

This past weekend, I attended Wild Wild West Con 9 held at Old Tucson Studios in Tucson, Arizona. This is my ninth time attending the event and I am the only author who has attended every single year the event has been held. It’s a great event and I saw many good friends from Arizona, California, Texas and beyond. As with most years, I ran a booth where I sold my books and was tempted by the wares of my neighboring vendors. In the photo, you see me sporting a new outfit I assembled at the convention. In addition to selling books, I spoke on several panels throughout the weekend on topics ranging from weird westerns to steampunk mysteries.

One of the more interesting panels this weekend was one entitled “Authors After Hours” which was held at the convention hotel on the first evening. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this panel, but we ended up delving into the deep dark secrets of the authors on the panel. As part of the panel, I discussed the genesis of my novel The Astronomer’s Crypt. As I told the audience, this was an easy novel in the sense that I knew the setting and the themes well, but it was a difficult novel to write because of peering into those dark corners of my mind. The challenge of writing the novel was so great that I really needed to write two novels after that, Owl Riders and Firebrandt’s Legacy, before I could feel ready to even consider starting the second novel in the Wilderness of the Dead series.

One popular event at Wild Wild West Con is tea dueling. This is an event where contestants dunk a cookie in a cup of tea and must be the last one to eat it cleanly before it crumbles into bits. Heaven forbid that the cookie should besmirch one’s beautiful outfit. As it turns out, my younger daughter, who has come to be called “The Cutosity” ended up being the grand champion tea dueler for the weekend. Madame Askew and the Grand Arbiter who host the tea dueling made a big show of how much she’ll be missed as she gets ready to leave for college. In the photo below, you can see The Cutosity getting ready to face down tough competition from the West Texas town of El Paso.

Seeing the amazing costumes people make is perhaps one of the major attractions of steampunk. I was impressed by the Victorian-inspired fantasy costumes many of my friends sported at the event. Below is a gallery that features just a sampling of their amazing handiwork.

Over the weekend, friends who couldn’t attend the event asked if anyone took video of panels I was on or recorded audio. I’m sorry to say, I don’t know of any recordings. However, back at Thanksgiving, Ben Ragunton and Keith Lane came up to Kitt Peak National Observatory on a blustery winter day and interviewed me. Their interview, which went live yesterday, actually covers many of the topics we discussed on panels at Wild Wild West Con. I encourage you to listen to it. Even more, I encourage you to subscribe to their podcast and learn about even more of the fine authors and creators they interview. You can find your favorite platform to listen to their interview with me by visiting: https://www.tggeeks.com/blog/2020/03/09/tg-geeks-webcast-episode-264/

Wild Wild West Con 9

Next weekend will find me at Wild Wild West Con 9, which is being held at Old Tucson Studios in Tucson, Arizona from March 5-8. Click on the title to get more information about tickets, the venue, and places to stay.

Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention (WWWC) is America’s first and only Steampunk convention and festival that takes place in a western-themed town and amusement park. Not only that, it’s the largest Western-style Steampunk Convention in the United States! The organizers have created many successful events since 2011 and I’m pleased to be returning for the ninth time!

The event takes place within Old Tucson, the famous movie studio and amusement park built in 1939 and featured in over 300 movies and TV shows. For the weekend of WWWC, Old Tucson is transformed into America’s only Western-style Steampunk Theme Park! Concerts, street performers, special events, panels, workshops, rides, games, and much more are here for your enjoyment!

I will be participating in panel discussions and I’ll be sharing a booth in the Stage 2 Barn with Diesel Jester and Drake and McTrowell. Among the three of us, we’ll have a wide range of steampunk novels and short story collections along with science fiction, fantasy, and horror books, plus other assorted treats as well! Be sure to make the trek out to the barn and see us there. As for where you can find me on panels I’ll be at the following places:

Friday, March 6

11am-Noon – Sheriff’s Office – Weird Westerns: The Greatest Genre Nobody Ever Heard Of. David B. Riley and I will be on hand to introduce you to weird western fiction. We’ll talk about movies, books, and television that contributed to the growth of the Weird Western and give you some ideas about where you can find it today.

3-4pm – Chapel – Authors of Steampunk. Diesel Jester, David Lee Summers, CI Erasmus L. Drake, and Sparky McTrowell are several of the authors attending Wild Wild West Con. We’ll discuss how we were drawn to Steampunk, what we do and what we see as trends in the field.

5-6pm – Chapel – Steampunk Mystery Fiction. CI Erasmus L. Drake, David B. Riley, Diesel Jester, and I will talk about the ways steampunk and mystery go hand in hand. What makes a good steampunk mystery? Can you just hand Sherlock Holmes a pair of goggles and call it steampunk?

9-10pm – Cholla Room of the Westward Look Hotel – Authors After Dark. Leanna Renee Hieber, Diesel Jester, CI Erasmus L. Drake, and I hold a no-holds-bard reading and discussion of steampunk writing not suitable for the younger crowd.

Saturday, March 7

11am-Noon – Sheriff’s Office – Advance Weird Western Panel. David B. Riley and I continue our discussion of weird westerns. We’ll explore the perceived lack of popularity of these books and stories and why they keep being published anyway.

1-2pm – Chapel – Magic in Steampunk Fiction. David B. Riley, Dr. Sparky McTrowell, Diesel Jester and I talk about the ways magic and fantasy can be explored in steampunk. What makes it different than more traditional magic and fantasy? Does adding magic to your steampunk make the world your building richer?

Sunday, March 8

2-3pm – Courtroom Center – Drake and McTrowell’s Hot Potato School of Writing. CI Drasmus L. Drake and Dr. Sparky McTrowell host their game show-style presentation where Diesel Jester and I will team up with members of the audience to create wild steampunk adventures.

Steampunk StoryBundle

Today, I’m excited to stoke the boilers and build up steam for a brand new StoryBundle filled with exciting books by several good friends and authors I’ve had the privilege of appearing alongside in anthologies over the years.

Kevin J. Anderson has assembled a baker’s dozen titles of gears and zeppelins, mechanical dragons, lost cities, frock coats, and tea, the best books from indie authors, all for whatever price you choose to pay. A portion of the money directly benefits the Challenger Learning Center for Space Science Education, and the earnings support indie authors.

Headlining the storybundle is Anderson’s own Mr. Wells & the Martians. Join H.G. Wells and his professor, T.H. Huxley, on an urgent mission to Mars to prevent the war of the worlds. Also, specially created for this StoryBundle, the Clockwork Boxed Set includes both of Anderson’s steampunk fantasy adventure novels coauthored with Neil Peart, the late, legendary lyricist and drummer from Rush—Clockwork Angels and Clockwork Lives.

Anthea Sharp’s The Perfect Perfume shows you the Victorian era like you’ve never imagined it before! Twelve enthralling alternate-history tales featuring intrepid heroines, hidden magic, and rollicking steampunk adventure. Marie Andreas brings Vampires, aliens, and tea—oh my! to A Curious Invasion.

Clockwork Gears and Magic Swords by Louisa Swann is a StoryBundle exclusive! Magic and gears and a taste of the weird—seven grand adventures that tickle the soul and tease the imagination. Imagine moving from New York to California on a steam-powered horse with a giant for a companion in J.R. Murdock’s Golden West: Westward, Ho!

Kristen S. Walker puts on steampunk lenses to show the truth about a pop singer’s dark past in Amena’s Rise to Stardom. Kevin McLaugliin’s Midnight Visitors: When her person becomes the target of assassination, what’s a poor cat to do? Solve the problem with tooth, claw, and brains!

In Mechanical Dragons: Fire and Water, Bobbi Schemerhorn warns that mixing inexperience with magic may cause dragons! Gun magic fuels an epic adventure in Tenlyres by Timothy Niederriter. Stroll through Tracy Cembor’s Gaslight Carnival, where fancy and freak walk hand in hand. And my friend Travis Heermann has a steampunk-horror novella, Where the Devil Resides—a supernatural Apocalypse Now. With alligators.

Last but not least, Robert E. Vardeman’s Gateway to Rust and Ruin shows a world that was used up. Now they want ours, steam and all.

You can get all 13 books in this StoryBundle for just $15 until Friday, March 13 by visiting: https://storybundle.com/steampunk

Not only does this StoryBundle feature books by writers I admire such as Kevin J. Anderson, Travis Heerman, and Robert E. Vardeman, I also have a book in the same series as one of the books in the bundle. That book would be my steampunk novella Revolution of Air and Rust. It tells the story of what Pancho Villa was up to in the world set up by Bob Vardeman in Gateway to Rust and Ruin. There are four books in all in the Empires of Steam and Rust series. You can learn more about my novella in the series and find links to all of the books in the series at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/Air-and-Rust.html

My novels of the 2010s

In my last post, I mentioned that I had the attitude of being a temporary employee at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Much of the reason I adopted that attitude in the first place is that then and now, I see myself first and foremost as a writer and editor. When I returned to Kitt Peak in 2008, I feared my writing output would fall off because of my job’s demands. I’m pleased to look back at the previous decade and realize that I actually produced more novels than in any previous decade.

In a very real way, the 2010s were the decade of the Clockwork Legion. These are my steampunk novels that chronicle what happens to Earth when a microscopic alien swarm arrives on Earth in 1876 and begins tampering with events in hopes of avoiding a worldwide catastrophe. Instead of averting catastrophe, the alien sets off the Russian invasion of the United States. Fortunately, a healer named Fatemeh Karimi and a disgraced sheriff named Ramon Morales are there to set things right.

The first novel was published in 2011. Although the original publisher changed focus, the series was picked up by Sky Warrior books and a new edition came out in 2014 quickly followed by the second novel, Lightning Wolves. In that novel, our characters find themselves caught between the miners of Southern Arizona, the Apache Nation, and the Clantons, all while the Russians continue their invasion from the first book.

In 2016’s The Brazen Shark, our characters travel to Japan and then to Russia where they bring the story of the alien’s visit to a conclusion. In 2018, I published Owl Riders, which is set ten years later and looks at the world in the aftermath of the alien’s interference and returns to resolve the conflicts set up in the second novel.

At this point, I don’t plan for the Clockwork Legion to be a series limited to the books created in the 2010s. I want to tell more about Ramon and Fatemeh’s adventures, but they are paused while I work on some other projects. In the meantime, you can learn more about the Clockwork Legion novels by visiting http://www.davidleesummers.com/books.html#clockwork_legion

The Clockwork Legion series wasn’t the only one I worked on this past decade. I also wrote a second book in my Scarlet Order vampire series. 2012’s Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order was actually a prequel to Vampires of the Scarlet Order. The Scarlet Order is a band of vampires who use their preternatural powers to fight as mercenaries. Dragon’s Fall tells the story of how the Scarlet Order was formed. We first meet Alexandra, a former Greek slave who becomes a vampire thief. Then we travel to King Arthur’s court where one of his rivals becomes a vampire and initiates the Holy Grail quest in hopes of finding redemption. Draco fails to find redemption through the Grail, but he meets Alexandra in his on-going quest. You can learn more about this novel at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/dragons_fall.html

Dragon’s Fall wasn’t my only excursion into horror. In 2016, I released The Astronomer’s Crypt, which imagines astronomers, drug dealers, ghosts, and Apache demons colliding during a terrible storm at an observatory in Southern New Mexico. Of course, this novel does pull a lot from my job at Kitt Peak National Observatory and I probably wouldn’t have been able to write it if I had not returned to telescope operations. On the surface, The Astronomer’s Crypt is a haunted house story inspired by the very labyrinthine Mayall building at Kitt Peak. However, it also imagines what might happen if different layers of existence hinted at through ancient stories collided with our contemporary and comfortable reality. You can learn more about The Astronomer’s Crypt and watch a cool book trailer at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/Astronomers-Crypt.html

I finished the decade by returning to a series that really had its genesis way back in the 1980s while I was still in graduate school. In the 2000s when the series was with Lachesis Publishing, I was asked to create a name for the series. On the fly, I came up with “The Old Star/New Earth Series.” I never really liked that name because it didn’t really capture what the series was about. I’ve now reinvented the series as “The Space Pirates’ Legacy” and my last book of the 2010s was a new first book in this series, Firebrandt’s Legacy. It tells the story of a space pirate named Ellison Firebrandt and his band of buccaneers as they pillage ships for Earth’s benefit. I’m currently working on rewriting the first book I ever wrote, The Pirates of Sufiro, which is also the second book of this series. I hope to release the new edition in a few weeks. You can learn more about Firebrandt’s Legacy at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/Firebrandts-Legacy.html

Looking back, that’s seven novel in ten years. I spent most of the 2000s as a freelance writer and wrote four novels. So, at some level, I needn’t have worried about about the observatory lessening my output. That said, I do find as the decade ends that I’m writing fewer short stories and poems now than I did at the beginning of the decade. One of my goals for this coming decade will be to spend more time on some of my shorter works again. Also, one of my first goals of the decade is to finish re-releasing the rest of “The Space Pirates Legacy” series. Concurrent with that, I hope to begin work on a new novel. I haven’t decided for certain what that will be. I’d love to visit Ramon and Fatemeh again. Also, The Astronomer’s Crypt was always meant to be the first book in a trilogy, so I may return to that world for a while. Either way, this promises to be another fun and productive decade.

Steampunk Christmas

To me, steampunk and Christmas go hand in hand. Steampunk is all about Victorian-inspired fantasy worlds. What’s more, Victorians in England and America gave us many of the trappings of the modern secular Christmas. Thomas Nast in New York gave us wonderfully detailed renderings of Santa in his workshop, using such scientific gadgets as telephones and telescopes to fulfill his mission of figuring out who was naughty and who was nice. In the meantime, Charles Dickens unleashed a series of ghosts on miserly Ebenezer Scrooge.

So, when I wrote my first steampunk novel, Owl Dance, it seemed natural to include a scene about Christmas. It’s a simple scene. Ramon Morales and Fatemeh Karimi find themselves in a poor part of San Francisco with little money. Ramon gives Fatemeh a simple gift. Always curious about other people’s religions, Fatemeh asks Ramon how people celebrate Christmas. He tells her many people celebrate with song. She then asks Ramon to sing a song of the angels, anticipating their travels to Los Angeles after the holidays. You can learn more about Owl Dance at http://www.davidleesummers.com/owl_dance.html. If you’ve already read and enjoyed the novel, remember there are three more novels in the series. You can find out about them at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/books.html#clockwork_legion.

Music is an important part of this scene because I see music as an important part of both Christmas and the steampunk aesthetic. That said, I don’t own a lot of Christmas albums. Because I grew up in a Christian family, we sang Christmas carols in church and would go out caroling. The one album that was an important part of my family’s Christmas tradition growing up was A Tennessee Ernie Ford Christmas Special. It’s just chock full of a lot of the old traditional carols sung reverently in Tennessee Ernie Ford’s booming bass voice that made the song “Sixteen Tons” a hit back in the day.

In one fun bit of trivia, I learned not too long ago that while Tennessee Ernie Ford did indeed hail from Tennessee, he actually became famous while he was working as a radio announcer for KFXM in my home town of San Bernardino, California after World War II.

A more recent favorite album is Abney Park’s Through Your Eyes on Christmas Eve. As I mentioned in my recent post Music Through the Ages, Abney Park’s songwriter and lead singer, Robert Brown, has a great understanding of older songs. The album’s title song is a new one that longs for the innocence of Christmas as seen through a child’s eyes. The rest of the album is filled with some great classic Christmas songs given the band’s signature treatment, which can include some minor key weirdness to offset the sweetness of the season and some unabashed playfulness with the classic songs. You can find this album at their website: http://abneypark.com/market/.

Whether your Christmas is more secular or sacred, I hope you have a wonderful one. If you celebrate a different winter holiday, may it be a blessed and peaceful time. If you don’t celebrate anything, I hope you at least have some time to relax enjoying what you love best. Happy Holidays!

Music Through the Ages

Even if I hadn’t been working this year, I’m not the kind of person to stand in line for Black Friday deals. That said, I did take advantage of one Black Friday special this year and I’m glad I did. It was the download of Abney Park’s New Nostalgics and in retrospect, I would have been pleased with this album if I’d paid full price for it. This album is comprised entirely of songs from the early 20th century covered in modern style by the band Abney Park. There are songs about airships, burlesque halls, and how people who built the modern world often aren’t the ones who see its benefits. What makes the download really special is a 20-minute “documentary” by the band’s lead singer and songwriter, Robert Brown, where he plays snippets of the old recordings of the songs and then follows that with how he updated them for a modern audience. You can pick up the album in the music downloads section at http://abneypark.com/market/

Music has always been an important part of my writing. Often, when I write, I like to have instrumental music on in the background that captures the mood of what I’m trying to create. In fact, one of the things I like about Abney Park is that they provide instrumental-only versions of many of their albums and I use those a lot when I’m writing steampunk or retrofuturistic fiction. I also like to collect soundtracks of favorite films or TV shows. Listening to those can be a great way for me to get into the proper mindset for a given scene, whether it be romance, action, or suspense.

While I prefer to listen to instrumental music while I’m in the process of writing, I love listening to songs from a period of time I’m going to write about as part of my research for historical fiction. It provides a valuable window into the things that brought joy and sadness to previous generations. You can often catch slang terms people might have used. If you catch an odd turn of phrase in an old song, it’s often worth looking it up to see if it had a broader meaning. Maybe it’s something you can use in your story. In setting a scene, I often like to describe the kinds of music people are listening to. Even if I don’t mention a particular song, I like to mention the kinds of instruments people heard.

That covers the past, but what about the future? While part of me loves it when a science fiction character espouses their love of David Bowie or Dolly Parton, part of me groans. While I hope these artists will still be known two or three centuries down the road, I’m pretty sure they won’t be mainstream. People in the future will be writing and singing their own songs. They’ll write about their own heroes, like Jayne in Firefly’s “The Hero of Canton” or the ballads sung about Edmund Swan in my novel The Pirates of Sufiro. There will be new musical forms and maybe even alien instruments. As a writer, you don’t necessarily have to write these songs, but you can add some color by mentioning them and talking about how they make the characters in your story feel.

With that, it’s time for me to go listen to some good music and find some inspiration. If you would like to see how I write about futuristic music, you can read The Pirates of Sufiro by subscribing to my Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers