Space Pirates’ Legacy Update, March 2021

Children of the Old Stars

This month marks the third anniversary of the re-release of The Solar Sea, which is the prequel to my Space Pirates’ Legacy series. I’m also nearing completion of updates to Children of the Old Stars, which is book three of the series in its current incarnation. I thought this was a good moment to take stock of where I am in this project and look ahead at what’s left to accomplish.

The Space Pirates’ Legacy series was originally released by LBF Books as the Old Star/New Earth series. The series consisted of The Pirates of Sufiro, Children of the Old Stars, and Heirs of the New Earth. The series title was something quickly cobbled together from the last two books. My publisher billed The Solar Sea as book four of the series. However, as I mentioned before, it’s more a prequel to the series and a standalone story. It’s been released as such in its current incarnation.

After the books of the Old Star/New Earth series had been released, I wrote several short stories about pirate captain Ellison Firebrandt and his crew before they are stranded on the planet Sufiro. I decided to put those stories together with new material and, once the rights to the other books in the series reverted to me, I decided Firebrandt’s Legacy was a logical, new first book in the series. I also decided to give the series a catchier name. Long before I came up with the name “The Space Pirates’ Legacy” series, I’d been referring to the Old Star/New Earth series as my legacy series because it was my first series published. Thing is, there actually is a space ship called the Legacy in these books and it has a prominent role in three of the four novels. What’s more, as you might imagine with books called “Children” and “Heirs” these are books about the heirs to the original space pirates. Space Pirates’ Legacy suddenly seemed like a good fit.

Firebrandt’s Legacy

Back in May 2020, Lynn Moorer of the radio show “All About Books” interviewed me about the new first book in the series. In this universe, most ships have to jump to speeds greater than light at gravitational nodal points near stars. An important element of Firebrandt’s Legacy is how pirate captain Ellison Firebrandt lays his hands on a special kind of engine that allows him to jump to speeds faster than light without jump points. In her interview, Lynn asked me about the drives and how they work, plus she had me read some excerpts from the novel. The interview is archived on the Las Cruces Community Radio site at: https://www.lccommunityradio.org/archives/all-about-books-david-lee-summers9615141

I assembled Firebrandt’s Legacy with the help of my Patreon supporters. Each month, I shared one of the stories from the novel along with some commentary about how it fit in the story arc I was assembling, then shared the finished, polished chapter. Overall, I ended up with a book that pleased me. Once the novel was finished, I took my Patreon supporters on a deep dive as I tore my novel The Pirates of Sufiro apart and put it back together again. I shared each chapter as it originally appeared along with commentary about the chapter, then I shared the revised chapter. The Pirates of Sufiro was the first novel I ever wrote and it took quite a bit of work to bring it up to the standard of Firebrandt’s Legacy. Still, I think I succeeded and I believe The Pirates of Sufiro now works as a strong follow-up to Firebrandt’s Legacy.

The Pirates of Sufiro

Lynn Moorer interviewed me about The Pirates of Sufiro last month. This time, her interview focused on both the characters and the gadgets the characters used. She had me read three excerpts from the novel. You can listen to this new interview at: https://www.lccommunityradio.org/archives/all-about-books-david-lee-summers8108468

About a year ago, as I was wrapping up the first pass of The Pirates of Sufiro with my Patreon subscribers, I re-read the last two novels of the series. I didn’t feel those novels needed as much work as Pirates, but they still needed some work. In Children of the Old Stars, Ellison Firebrandt’s grandson, John Mark Ellis goes on a quest and seeks help from a warrior named Arepno. I felt like Arepno’s teachings needed to be fleshed out. The novel’s quest involves understanding an alien called the Cluster. Children of the Old Stars was probably my most “seat of the pants” novel. I didn’t outline. I didn’t work out exactly what the Cluster was beforehand, I just started writing until I came to what I thought was a satisfactory conclusion to the quest, which then created bigger problems and lead us into the final novel of the series. Looking back at it, I realized I needed more hints in Children of the Old Stars about what the Cluster really was.

At this point, I expect to wrap up Children of the Old Stars by early May. Once it’s complete, I’ll set a release date and format the novel for publication. I’ll give it one more proofread to assure that it’s still internally consistent. The novel should be out by this summer. Once that’s finished, I’ll turn my attention the final novel in the series, Heirs of the New Earth. This final novel doesn’t need as much work as the others in the series. I’m not certain yet whether I’ll give it the same “deep dive” as the other novels in the series. What I do know is that my patrons at Patreon will get the first look at the new edition and I’ll be discussing the process of its creation with them. If you’d like to join us, you can sign on at https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers

Saturn’s Shrouded Moon

I love a good mystery and I love exploring new places. These two facts go a long way to explaining why I love astronomy. The universe is vast and we know so little about it. The NEID spectrograph at the WIYN telescope on Kitt Peak is just getting started on its mission helping to learn about planets around other stars. The DESI spectrograph on the Mayall telescope is starting its mission of mapping the northern sky with hopes of understanding dark energy. Of course, dark energy is one of those fundamentally great mysteries because we see evidence of its existence, but we really don’t know yet what it is. Fun space operas like Star Trek or even my Space Pirates’ Legacy series make space exploration look inevitable and even easy, but in fact, we’ve barely started. People have only been to the moon a few times and robots have just visited a few of our neighbor worlds in our own solar system. We have almost a hundred billion stars in our galaxy alone.

But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Today, I want to focus on one small world within our own solar system, Saturn’s moon Titan. It’s the second largest moon in the solar system and one covered with a dense atmosphere. It’s a place of real interest for those people seeking life in the solar system. The Cassini mission discovered that Titan has a salty sea underneath its icy crust. Its atmosphere is teaming with organic molecules that get deposited on its methane-ethane lakes and seas. We’ve sent a probe to Titan’s surface and we’ve even made good headway at mapping the surface. We’ve even started naming some of the features on Titan’s surface as you can see in this map from the US Geological Survey.

Map of Titan

By the way, you can download a good, high resolution PDF of this map at: https://planetarynames.wr.usgs.gov/Page/Images. It’s the one called Titan with VIMS Bacground and Radar Strips. I love that we have a map of Titan with this much detail, but this map also makes me think of old maps of the Earth with great undefined places. You can even imagine the legend “There be dragons here” somewhere on this map. We have learned a lot about the solar system and the universe in the last century, but this map makes it clear we still have a lot to learn about Titan.

This is one of the reasons I enjoy writing science fiction. I like to dream about the things we might find in the solar system and in the galaxy. I like to consider the more blurry places on the Titan map and wonder what might be there that could surprise us. In my novel, The Solar Sea, I imagine scientists discovering particles that travel through time on Earth’s moon. Once they understand the energy signature of these particles they go looking for them throughout the solar system and discover them in great abundance on Titan. This becomes the reason the Quinn Corporation decides to build a solar sail spacecraft to go find these valuable particles. The thing is, when they get to Titan, they look beneath the shroud and find…

Well, that would be spoilers. Fortunately though, you can get the book as part of the amazing Expansive Futures SciFi Bundle. The bundle includes eighteen great science fiction novels curated for the SFWA by Amy DuBoff. This is last call. The bundle is only available until Thursday March 4 at https://storybundle.com/scifi

Perseverance on Mars

It was exciting to see the successful landing of NASA’s Perseverance rover in Mars’s Jezero Crater this past week. Although I don’t study Mars as part of my work at Kitt Peak National Observatory, the red planet has long fascinated me. I love the journey of discovery we’ve taken in learning about the planet from the nineteenth century through the present day, from early observers who noted linear artifacts on the planet’s surface and thought they were canals to modern day engineers who are sending robots to explore the red planet. I have been asked why we need another rover to drive around a crater rather than going to a more exciting place like Olympus Mons, the tallest mountain in the solar system or Valles Marineris a canyon that dwarfs Earth’s Grand Canyon. The simple fact is that the primary mission of Perseverance is to look for evidence that life existed on Mars. No mission has looked for direct signs of life since the Viking landers in the mid 1970s, a mission I followed with keen interest as a kid!

Close up of a river delta in Jezero crater Perseverance scientists hope to explore. Image credit: ESA/DLR/FU-Berlin

Perseverance’s landing site was Jezero Crater, which shows evidence of once having held water. There are inflow and outflow channels, plus a river delta. This makes it a great site to look for evidence of either existing or fossilized microbial life. Not only is the landing site interesting, but the rover is not just a copy of previous successful rovers. It also includes the ability to gather samples, save them, and put them on a rocket which can be blasted into orbit, where a future mission can bring them back to Earth. This is a truly exciting aspect of this mission. When I heard geologist and astronaut Dr. Harrison Schmidt speak at Bubonicon a couple of years ago, he emphasized how valuable samples in an Earth-based laboratory can be. He pointed out that geologists are still making discoveries from the lunar rocks he brought back in the 1960s. Getting some Martian rock samples back on Earth would be a real treasure.

Perseverance also includes some cool features. My personal favorite is the Ingenuity helicopter. As I understand, this little helicopter is currently stowed in Perseverance’s belly. When it’s deployed, it’ll give engineers the opportunity to test powered flight on Mars. If this works, this might allow us to send more sophisticated flying craft to Mars in the future that could go farther and learn more than the wheeled rovers we’ve been sending. Another cool instrument on Perseverance is a microphone. Believe it or not, for as many times as we’ve been to Mars, we don’t know what it sounds like to be on the surface. As a writer, I look forward to that extra layer of sensory experience.

You can follow Perseverance’s progress on NASA’s website. This map shows where Perseverance is and will chart it’s progress as it begins it journey of discovery: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/mission/where-is-the-rover/

You can learn more about the rover and its mission objectives at: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/mission/overview/

Although this mission doesn’t take us to some of Mars’s more dramatic sites, it does pave the way for future journeys to those places. I really want to see those places and I imagine a visit to both Olympus Mons and Valles Marineris in my novel The Solar Sea, which is available until March 4 as part of the Expansive Futures StoryBundle. In that bundle, you get eighteen excellent science fiction books for one low price. Learn more at: https://storybundle.com/scifi

The Expansive Futures Sci-Fi Bundle

“Since the early days of science fiction, authors have explored the future of humanity and what other life might be out there among the stars. From cybernetics to spaceships to alien contact, future-focused sci-fi lets us explore complex issues while escaping from everyday life. Eighteen diverse visions of Expansive Futures have been gathered in a special collection curated by SFWA members, now available in a limited-time bundle,” says Nebula nominated and USA Today Bestselling author, Amy DuBoff.

Learn more about the Expansive Futures Sci-Fi Bundle at: https://storybundle.com/scifi

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) is an organization dedicated to promoting and supporting science fiction and fantasy writer in the United States and Worldwide. I have been a member since 2001 and they have helped me with legal and contract questions as well as providing me some great networking opportunities. The Expansive Futures StoryBundle is a collection of science fiction novels featuring award-winning authors along with fresh new voices. I’m excited that my novel The Solar Sea was chosen to be part of this collection which is sure to please fans of futuristic sci-fi and space opera. The Solar Sea imagines humanity’s first voyage through the solar system aboard a solar sail space vessel.

In addition to my novel, this bundle includes the Nebula Award finalist novel Eternity’s End by Jeffrey A. Carver; When You Had Power, the first novel in a new hopepunk series by bestselling author Susan Kaye Quinn; and Starship Hope: Exodus by rising star author T.S. Valmond, among many others. The Expansive Futures bundle will run for three weeks only, so grab this fantastic deal while you can and discover great new writers!

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of five books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Ganymede by Jason Taylor
  • The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth
  • Raptor by John G. Hartness
  • The Chiral Conspiracy by L.L. Richman
  • Exodus by T.S. Valmond

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus THIRTEEN more! That’s 18 books total!

  • The Cost of Survival by J.L. Stowers
  • Two Suns at Sunset by Gene Doucette
  • Claiming T-Mo by Eugen Bacon
  • The Solar Sea by David Lee Summers
  • Eternity’s End by Jeffrey A. Carver
  • A Fall in Autumn by Michael G. Williams
  • Knight Errant by Paul Barrett and Steve Murphy
  • Warrior Wench by Marie Andreas
  • Annihilation Aria by Michael R. Underwood
  • Glitch Mitchell and the Unseen Planet by Philip Harris
  • Iron Truth by S.A. Tholin
  • When You Had Power by Susan Kaye Quinn
  • The Hammer Falls by Travis Heermann

This bundle is available only for a limited time via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub, .mobi) for all books!

It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to their gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.

  • Get quality reads: They’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
  • Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
  • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America!
  • Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you’ll get the bonus books!

StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.

Space Pirates at a Steal

The annual Smashwords End of Year Sale is underway. Many of Hadrosaur’s titles are available at deep discounts and I’ll be highlighting them over the course of the sale here at the Web Journal. The coupon codes for these discounts are automatically applied at checkout. One of the things I love about Smashwords is that they provide ebooks in all popular formats and they’re DRM free, so you can download them to your favorite device or gift them to friends without worrying about what e-reader they prefer. If you are shopping for those last-minute gifts, just click “Give as a Gift” when you visit the Smashwords links!

Today, as I look forward to the new year and the rerelease of the penultimate novel of the Space Pirates’ Legacy novels, I feature those novels in the series currently available along with the series prequel, The Solar Sea.


The Solar Sea

In The Solar Sea, whales around the world changed their songs the day scientists announced the discovery of powerful new particles around Saturn’s largest moon which could solve Earth’s energy needs. The Quinn Corporation rushes to build a solar sail space craft to unlock the secrets of these strange new particles. They gather the best and brightest to pilot the ship: Jonathan Jefferson, an aging astronaut known as the last man on Mars; Natalie Freeman, a distinguished Navy captain; Myra Lee, a biologist who believes the whales are communicating with Saturn; and John O’Connell, the technician who first discovered the particles. Charting the course is the mysterious Pilot who seems determined to keep secrets from the rest of the crew. Together they make a grand tour of the solar system and discover not only wonders but dangers beyond their imagination.

T. Jackson King, the author of Battlestar and Star Glory says, “This story follows the private space industry exploration of the Moon and becomes a kind of Voyage of the Beagle as the solar sail ship Aristarchus visits Mars, Jupiter, then Saturn and its giant moon Titan … Highly enjoyable read. Highly recommended.”

Get the book for $1.00 at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/805692


Firebrandt’s Legacy

In Firebrandt’s Legacy, Ellison Firebrandt fights the good fight for Earth. Under a letter of marque, he raids the ships of Earth’s opponents, slowing down their progress and ability to compete with the home system. On the planet Epsilon Indi 2, he rescues a woman named Suki Mori from a drug lord, only to find she isn’t so happy about living a pirate’s life. However, when the captain finds a new engine that will make him the most successful pirate of all, Suki is the only one who can make it work. Now Firebrandt must find a way to keep his crew fed and his ship supplied while relying on a woman who barely trusts him and while every government in the galaxy hunts him to get the engine back!

Midwest Book Review says, “A grand space opera filled with high adventure from cover to cover, Firebrandt’s Legacy is highly recommended.”

Get the book for $1.00 at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/916916


The Pirates of Sufiro

The Pirates of Sufiro is the story of a planet and its people—of Ellison Firebrandt the pirate captain living in exile; of Espedie Raton, a man from the streets of Earth looking to make a fresh start for himself and his wife on a new world; of Peter Stone, the geologist who discovers a fortune and will do anything to keep it; and of the lawman, Edmund Ray Swan who travels to Sufiro seeking the quiet life but finds a dark secret. It is the story of privateers, farmers, miners, entrepreneurs, and soldiers—all caught up in dramatic events and violent conflicts that will shape the destiny of our galaxy.

Jane Lindskold, author of the Firekeeper Saga says, “When I first ‘met’ Ellison Firebrandt in Firebrandt’s Legacy, the last thing I even imagined was a future where our hero and his devoted crew did not immerse themselves in swashbuckling space battles with clever intrigues played out against challenging opponents within the dark reaches of outer space. Firebrandt’s creator, author David Lee Summers, was far more ambitious in the future he envisioned for his hero.

“In The Pirates of Sufiro Firebrandt faces challenges that press even his courageous heart and clever mind to the limit, as well as testing the loyalty of those he loves and trusts most deeply. This dynamic generational saga provides enough twists and turns to satisfy the most devoted space opera fan.”

The book is available for $1.00 at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1031018

Is It Worthwhile to Create New Editions?

This question has come up a couple of times in recent weeks, so I thought it worthwhile to address the reasons I decided to revise some of my novels for new editions and the way I’m going about it. In May 2017, the publishing rights to my space opera novels—The Solar Sea, The Pirates of Sufiro, Children of the Old Stars, and Heirs of the New Earth—reverted to me and I faced the decision about whether or not to republish them as they originally appeared, or update the novels and publish them in new editions. The Pirates of Sufiro was my first novel, originally published in paperback in 1995. Children of the Old Stars followed in 2000. The Solar Sea was the final novel of this set. It was published in 2005 and was a prequel to the other three.

The Old Star/New Earth Series in 2017

In the ten years between 1995 and 2005, I made a lot of progress in finding my “voice” and honing my writing style. In 1995, I hadn’t yet taken Stephen King’s adage “the road to hell is paved with adverbs” to heart. I wasn’t using the strongest verbs and I had a tendency to add in unnecessary hedging or distancing words. Also, while some readers seemed to honestly enjoy these novels, I noticed a few common themes cropping up in reader reviews in places like Amazon and Goodreads, where the novels hadn’t quite lived up to reader expectations. What I realized about those reviews as time passed was those points were, for the most part, fixable. They came about because I rushed certain scenes or didn’t describe things fully. Sometimes emotions weren’t quite genuine or characters didn’t seem quite fully formed. What’s more, the worst issues were in the earlier books, which is a great way to keep people from continuing on to the later, better books. It seemed important to bring the entire series up to a consistent level.

So that’s why I thought of this as a worthwhile exercise.

Executing the edits is a multi-stage process. The first part involves re-reading each chapter with both my own critical eyes and with reader reviews in mind. I start by making some notes on the manuscript as a whole and then I go through chapter-by-chapter. Followers of my Patreon page are familiar with my posts that include an original version of a chapter headed by my notes and impression of the chapter. I then make a first pass and revise the chapter according to my notes. In my second pass, I follow the guidelines recommended in Ken Rand’s book, The Ten-Percent Solution. The book presents a method of looking for common problem words and evaluating whether you can make the sentence they’re in clearer by tightening the language. Finally, I read the chapter aloud, doing my best to keep my critical mind engaged. “Would people really say that?” “Does it make sense that a character took a particular action?” “Is it clear why something happened when it did?” Finally, I pass it to my wife for one more round of proofreading. At this point, I post the updated chapter to Patreon.

But wait, there’s more! Once I get the whole book done, I read the whole book one more time to make sure everything still holds together and that I didn’t miss something between one chapter and the next. I’ve even started using text-to-speech as yet another tool. This allows the computer to read the book to me, which has helped me catch errors I’d miss other ways.

So, is this a worthwhile exercise or should I have spent my time writing something new instead? At a personal level, it has been worthwhile. I feel like each book is significantly improved. I’ll have a better sense whether this was lucrative after I finish both Children of the Old Stars and Heirs of the New Earth. If most people who read Firebrandt’s Legacy and The Pirates of Sufiro are sufficiently intrigued to keep following the series, then this experiment will have been an unqualified success. If you want to join me as I continue this experiment and see how it turns out, sign up over at https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers. There you can see me put these steps into practice and get some fun reading the books along the way.

NaNoWriMo-ish

November is the National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. During the month, many authors endeavor to write 50,000 words. While that won’t count as a complete novel for most publishers these days, it’s a large chunk of a novel. To reach 50,000 words in one month, you have to write about 1,667 words per day. You can even sign up to participate at nanowrimo.org and to find tools, structure, community, and encouragement to help you succeed. My daughter has signed up and participated for the last couple of years. Although I didn’t officially sign up to participate in NaNoWriMo, I wrote two novels as NaNoWriMo challenges when LBF Books was publishing my novels.

The Solar Sea

The first of my NaNoWriMo novels was The Solar Sea, which I wrote in 2004. This is a novel I’d tried to write twice before, but abandoned both times partway through. The first time I abandoned the novel, it was because I was a young writer who lacked the discipline to see the story through. The second time, I had a sense of the plot, but hadn’t really nailed down the themes I wanted to explore. Between that and not being really certain what I audience I was writing for, the novel bogged itself down. In 2004, I had two young daughters who I wanted to excite about math and science. That and the 50,000-word goal of NaNoWriMo encouraged me to write The Solar Sea as an adventure story primarily for a young adult audience. I calculated my daily word goal and set myself a time to write each day after my daughters went to bed. Once I got into the routine, I found I could meet my writing goals pretty well each day. It taught me the value of writing each day at a set schedule. You can learn more about the novel at: http://davidleesummers.com/solar_sea.html

Dragon’s Fall:
Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires

I wrote my second NaNoWriMo novel in 2005. This was intended to be a prequel to my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order which had recently been published by LBF. In this case, I knew 50,000 words would only be a little more than half the novel. When I wrote The Solar Sea, I had a clear idea of the plot and I had been thinking about certain story elements for almost fifteen years before I started NaNoWriMo. When I wrote Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires, I had a one-page synopsis. So, my 50,000 words were much more stream-of-consciousness than The Solar Sea. At the end of the month, I really liked the beginning of what I wrote, but felt the stuff I wrote at the end of the month lacked focus. Still, this gave me a solid core that I could work on and develop. It took about two years, but the novel did take shape. I added a few chapters before the original opening and then tightened the latter sections and added a solid ending. This experience helped me see that I could be disciplined while writing by the seat of my pants, and I was ultimately happy with my tale of three vampires who come form a band of mercenaries. You can learn more about Dragon’s Fall at: http://davidleesummers.com/dragons_fall.html

This year, NaNoWriMo occurred right as Kitt Peak National Observatory reopened from being shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So I haven’t participated in NaNoWriMo this year. That said, I was given the assignment of writing a novella in early September. At the time, I knew Kitt Peak would likely reopen around mid-October to early November, so I wanted to get as much of the novella written as possible before work resumed and I had to settle into a regular work routine at the observatory again. To accomplish the task, I used the skills I had gained in NaNoWriMo. In this case, I wrote a detailed outline and I set myself a clear word-count goal for each day. Even though I had an outline, my characters did their own thing at parts of the story and I did have to re-outline, but I’m used to this. I managed to finish my novella by the time I returned to work at Kitt Peak. I have since turned it in to the publisher who assigned me the project. Just this past week, the publisher sent me the contract for the story. I’ll share more details about this novella soon.

Although I haven’t participated in NaNoWriMo this month, I did assign myself the project of writing my first comic book script. In honor of being NaNoWriMo, it’s an adaptation of one of the scenes from Dragon’s Fall. I’m currently working with an artist to bring “Guinevere and the Stranger” to life and hope we’ll have something to show off by spring 2021.

Updating Book Trailers

Over the last few months, I’ve been releasing new editions of several of my novels. Some of these had video trailers associated with them. Last month, I discussed updating the trailer for The Astronomer’s Crypt. That was a really premium cinematic trailer and the only things that went out of date were the cover and information about where the book was available. I did need expert help to fix those elements because they were so well done, but most of the trailer is just the same as it was back when it was first released.

The very first book trailer I ever made was one for my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order. I was fortunate enough to have a batch of beautiful interior illustrations by Steven Gilberts to work with. One of my neighbors came over and played music on guitar and I mixed that with audio of myself reading the book description. Since the illustrations were black and white, I used filters in my video editing software to give the images some film stutter and scratches, so the whole thing looked like an old film. It was pretty cool. The only thing I didn’t like was that the audio was a little muddy because I didn’t have a great microphone and it was recorded on tape rather than digitally. Two years ago, I dusted off the old trailer and gave it a new ending because the information about the book’s availability had become outdated, but I knew the whole trailer could use a thorough overhaul.

Screenshot from the new Vampires of the Scarlet Order trailer.

This year, when Chaz Kemp did a whole new cover for Vampires of the Scarlet Order, I saw that as a great opportunity to redo the trailer. As part of his work, he sent me individual illustrations of the characters. I was able to apply filters in Adobe Photoshop to photographs I have of real locations from the novel to make them look like paintings. I then placed the characters over them. Once that was done, I read the updated book description and found some cool music that matched the mood from Keven MacLeod at http://incompetech.com. Although all the images are stills, I think the trailer has a neat animated-movie like vibe.

Once I made this trailer, I realized I also wanted to update my trailer for The Solar Sea. The original version of that trailer featured illustrations Laura Givens had made for a website promoting the novel. Also, I used her illustration of the novel’s solar sail to create an old-fashioned animation of the solar sail entering orbit around Jupiter. The only thing I didn’t like about the original trailer was that the music was a little short for the video length and I didn’t narrate it. I used intertitle cards like one might find in a silent movie. This time I recorded narration and I found a really dramatic piece of music that highlighted the narration.

I find trailers like this fun to make, but they do take time to get right. The tech required is pretty simple. I used Windows Live Movie Maker for the first video. I used the OpenShot Video Editor for the second one. This was necessary when I found Windows Live Movie Maker wouldn’t import the Movie Maker files with my animation from a decade ago. OpenShot is available at http://openshot.org

As for creating images for this kind of trailer, the best advice I can give is to get on good terms with your cover artist or an artist who can create art to match the flavor and style of your book. Make sure you’ve paid your artist fairly for their work. Recording narration is like any skill. It takes practice. Write your script. Practice reading it at the microphone and record a few takes. It’s easy to flub a word or miss the sound of something like a motorcycle passing the house or a lawnmower next door.

Finally, have fun! I had a blast creating these videos and I hope they’re fun to watch. Of course, I hope they also tempt you to learn a little more about the novels. If you would like to, drop by http://www.davidleesummers.com

The Space Pirates’ Legacy

The annual Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale is underway. It gets its name because where I live in the northern hemisphere, readers are loading up their e-readers for great beach reading and vacations. In the southern hemisphere, it’s the middle of winter and people are spending time in a warm and cozy place reading. All of Hadrosaur’s titles are available at deep discounts this month and I’ll be highlighting them all month long here at the Web Journal. If you’re looking for a specific title, you don’t have to wait for me to highlight it, just visit http://www.hadrosaur.com/bookstore.php and click on the book you’re interested in. On its page is a link to Smashwords if its available there. The coupon codes for these discounts are automatically applied at checkout. One of the things I love about Smashwords is that they provide ebooks in all popular formats and they’re DRM free, so you can download them to your favorite device.

Today, I’m getting ready for the release of the twenty-fifth anniversary edition of my very first novel, The Pirates of Sufiro. It originally started a trilogy of novels, but as I thought about the series, I realized it really needed to be the second novel. Today, I share the current first novel of the Space Pirates’ Legacy series, Firebrandt’s Legacy, along with The Solar Sea, which is a prequel that tells the story of how humans came to be part of the galactic civilization I envision in those novels.


The Solar Sea

In The Solar Sea, whales around the world changed their songs the day scientists announced the discovery of powerful new particles around Saturn’s largest moon which could solve Earth’s energy needs. The Quinn Corporation rushes to build a solar sail space craft to unlock the secrets of these strange new particles. They gather the best and brightest to pilot the ship: Jonathan Jefferson, an aging astronaut known as the last man on Mars; Natalie Freeman, a distinguished Navy captain; Myra Lee, a biologist who believes the whales are communicating with Saturn; and John O’Connell, the technician who first discovered the particles. Charting the course is the mysterious Pilot who seems determined to keep secrets from the rest of the crew. Together they make a grand tour of the solar system and discover not only wonders but dangers beyond their imagination.

T. Jackson King, the author of Battlestar and Star Glory says, “This story follows the private space industry exploration of the Moon and becomes a kind of Voyage of the Beagle as the solar sail ship Aristarchus visits Mars, Jupiter, then Saturn and its giant moon Titan … Highly enjoyable read. Highly recommended.”

Get the book for $1.00 at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/805692


Firebrandt’s Legacy

In Firebrandt’s Legacy, Ellison Firebrandt fights the good fight for Earth. Under a letter of marque, he raids the ships of Earth’s opponents, slowing down their progress and ability to compete with the home system. On the planet Epsilon Indi 2, he rescues a woman named Suki Mori from a drug lord, only to find she isn’t so happy about living a pirate’s life. However, when the captain finds a new engine that will make him the most successful pirate of all, Suki is the only one who can make it work. Now Firebrandt must find a way to keep his crew fed and his ship supplied while relying on a woman who barely trusts him and while every government in the galaxy hunts him to get the engine back!

Midwest Book Review says, “A grand space opera filled with high adventure from cover to cover, Firebrandt’s Legacy is highly recommended.”

Get the book for $1.00 at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/916916

LightSail 2 – One Year After Launch

This past Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of LightSail 2’s launch into orbit. LightSail 2 is a crowdfunded solar sail project managed by the Planetary Society and it’s the first craft propelled entirely by sunlight. The Planetary Society hosted a webinar to celebrate the event. Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye, Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Vaughn, Program Manager Dave Spencer, and Project Manager Bruce Betts all spoke. The presentation was moderated by Planetary Radio host Mat Kaplan. I am pleased to have been one of the mission funders and I was delighted to have had an opportunity to attend the webinar live. I gather the presentation will be viewable soon at https://www.planetary.org/multimedia/planetary-tv/. I found the presentation fascinating and I took three pages of notes. I’ll touch on a few highlights below and in Tuesday’s blog post, but if you’re interested in this project, be sure to check out the full video at the link above. You can learn more about the Planetary Society by visiting http://www.planetary.org.

Screen shot of the live webinar featuring Bill Nye, Dave Spencer, Mat Kaplan, Jennifer Vaughn, and Bruce Betts

The most exciting news from the webinar is that LightSail 2 is still flying one year after launch. It was placed into an orbit about 720 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, which is still low enough to have a very small amount of atmospheric drag. Despite that, the spacecraft has only lost about 10 km of altitude over the course of a year. It’s not certain how long it will be before it de-orbits, but current estimates say LightSail 2 could continue its mission for another year.

Bill Nye opened the presentation by noting it was 17th century astronomer Johannes Kepler who first speculated on the possibility of solar sails after observing the comet that would ultimately be known as Comet Halley. He reasoned that whatever force from the sun could produce the comet’s tail could propel a sailing vessel to other planets. The specific particle that can be used to propel a solar sail is the humble photon. Light has momentum and that momentum can be transferred to the sail for motion.

LightSail 2 has been able to perform so well because it can be turned like a sailboat’s sail. In this case, the craft is turned by momentum wheels aboard the ship. Momentum wheels are just gyroscopes, but tradition suggests that the word “gyroscope” is used principally when applied to navigation. When LightSail 2 is in a position to get a boost from sunlight, it turns so the sail catches all the light. When the light pressure would work against the sail, the craft turns 90 degrees so it presents the sun with the least amount of surface to push against.

Many great photos were shared during the webinar. My favorite was this one showing LightSail 2 over the Nile and the Red Sea. As you’ll notice, there’s a thin blue line at the Earth’s left edge. That’s our atmosphere, which looks very thin and fragile. I also imagine measuring the spectrum of that thin film on a planet in some distant stellar system from a telescope in our solar system. It’s a real technical challenge, but it looks like we may be getting close to a point where we could do that. This is something we’ll need to do in order to determine whether or not an exoplanet is potentially habitable.

LightSail 2 over the Nile and Red Sea. Image from The Planetary Society.
The Solar Sea

One of the things that makes all of this personally exciting is that I first joined the Planetary Society when I was in high school as a result of a letter sent to Star Trek fan clubs by Gene Roddenberry. I first learned of the Society’s interest to make solar sails a reality in the society’s newsletter, The Planetary Report. The idea caught my imagination and in high school, I started to write a novel called The Solar Sea. I didn’t complete it then, but the idea stayed with me and I made several attempts until I wrote a version that pleased me. That version was published in 2008 and you can learn more about it at: http://davidleesummers.com/solar_sea.html