Children of the Old Stars Revisited

This has been a busy year releasing new editions of my novels. Just as I was wrapping up work on the rewrite of The Pirates of Sufiro, which I started in late 2018, the contracts for three other novels came to term and the publishing rights to those novels reverted to me. As summer 2020 approaches its end, I’m pleased that new editions of all four novels are now available and it’s now time to look ahead and see what new projects I will tackle. I’ve been giving particular thought to what I would share with my Patreon subscribers for the next few months. Now, as I’ve been wrapping up these most recent projects, a couple of new opportunities have arisen and I am working on two new projects. Unfortunately I’m not at liberty to speak about them in detail or share them with my Patreon subscribers until they’re closer to completion.

Children of the Old Stars 2001 edition.

As I say in my Patreon introduction video, a primary focus of the site is to fund new editions of my Space Pirates’ Legacy novels. Because of that objective and because a chunk of my time will be going into new projects I can’t speak about yet, I’ve decided to continue the deep dive through the series and start working on book three, Children of the Old Stars. In The Pirates of Sufiro, we met the Cluster. The Cluster is a vast alien machine that destroys starships indiscriminately in its quest for something or someone. As Children of the Old Stars commences, Commander John Mark Ellis is booted out of the service when he fails to save a merchant ship. He believes the key to stopping the Cluster is communication. His mother, Suki Firebrandt Ellis, is a historian who believes the very leaders of the galaxy are withholding information about the Cluster. One of Ellis’s antagonists from The Pirates of Sufiro, Clyde McClintlock, believes the Cluster is God incarnate, seeking retribution. G’Liat is an alien warrior whose own starship was destroyed by the Cluster. All together, they set out to solve the mystery of the Cluster before it finds the object of its quest.

As with The Pirates of Sufiro, I’ll post a chapter of Children of the Old Stars one week along with my thoughts about it. My goal will be to post the revised chapter a week later. How well I meet that goal will depend on the other projects I’m working on as well as my evolving work situation at Kitt Peak National Observatory. That noted, I will make every effort to complete at least one chapter per month. If you want to be along for the ride, be sure to sign up as a patron at: https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers. If you do, you’ll not only get to see updated chapters of Children of the Old Stars as they’re posted, you’ll be among the first to get a peek at the secret projects when I can share.

As a reminder, supporting me at Patreon also helps to support this blog so I can continue to give you an ad-free experience.

Now, you may wonder what other projects I’ve been considering, especially since they may be back in the running after I finish my secret projects. One is a sequel to The Astronomer’s Crypt. I have a synopsis written and have given the project quite a bit of thought. There are also a handful of vocal supporters for this project. I’ve also been considering a third book in the Scarlet Order Vampire series. Now there are many vocal people who will tell me that vampires are yesterday’s genre. However, I can’t ignore that in the three weeks since I released Vampires of the Scarlet Order, it has significantly outsold every other book I’ve released this year. It’s not a statistic I can ignore, especially if it turns into an ongoing trend.

Explore New Worlds from Home

In my last post, I mentioned how fortunate I am to have a fairly secure income during this difficult time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people are finding themselves unemployed or under employed. Fortunate as I am, it’s likely our family will also be affected by current events. I’m waiting to hear whether events I attend to promote my writing will be going forward. If not, this could result in a loss of sales for my books. What’s more, my wife performs bookkeeping duties for many small service-industry businesses. So far, these businesses have continued to operate, but some have had to limit their operations and depending on how long we’re asked to practice social distancing, may have to shut down for a time.

This crisis also comes at a time when my youngest daughter is preparing to graduate from high school and go to university. She’s been busy working on assignments at home, but we have had to defer a visit to her future school because of current events.

So far, my writing and editing work is keeping me busy, but I know this enforced period of isolation is hard on many people. That’s one of the reasons I’m participating in the “Authors Give Back” event at Smashwords. On Saturday, I shared two books I’m giving away for free. Because I do have family responsibilities, I can’t afford to give away all of my books, but I can offer deep discounts on two additional titles and give you a chance to explore the solar system and the galaxy in the process.

The first book I’m offering at 60% off the cover price is my novel The Solar Sea. In the novel, 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.

In the novel, I use my experience as a professional astronomer to bring the solar system to life for the readers. You can get The Solar Sea for 60% off the cover price at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/805692

The second book I’m offering at a discount is Firebrandt’s Legacy. In this book, 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!

This book sets the stage for The Pirates of Sufiro, which I’m working on right now, along with the rest of the Space Pirates’ Legacy series. In the opening chapter, Captain Firebrandt attacks a ship and discovers a whole cargo hold of … toilet paper. It’s just a small moment, but who knew that would be a thing? You can get Firebrandt’s Legacy for 60% off the cover price at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/916916

2020 Foresight

In the last post, I looked back to the previous decade. Now, I want to take a look forward at what’s coming next. As it turns out, I’m entering the year 2020 with three projects right at the final editing and typesetting stages, so those are occupying much of my attention at the moment and I expect they will all go “live” in the first quarter of this year.

One of the projects that will appear in the next couple of months is the anthology Exchange Students edited by Sheila Hartney. It features twenty-two stories from a diverse group of authors who explore the idea of exchange students in a variety of settings. Some stories imagine interplanetary exchange students, some imagine time traveling exchange students. We have an exchange student from Hell visiting Heaven. There are also stories about exchange students crossing between our world and fantasy worlds. Throughout the book, you’ll hear stories from the perspectives of the teachers, students, and parents who find themselves in these situations. The final edited manuscript has just been delivered to me and I plan to start typesetting the book this week, then I’ll get in touch with the cover artist about finishing the cover, teased in the thumbnail at the head of this paragraph.

I’m also excited to be presenting Don Braden’s first novel. Don is a retired high school teacher who has often used science fiction as a teaching tool in the classroom. Don has also written for Tales of the Talisman Magazine. What’s more, I’ve almost literally known Don my entire life. He was my brother’s English teacher before I was even old enough to go to school.

Don’s novel is called Upstart Mystique. The novel opens with the space vessel Marco P en route to a distant colony world. The ship loses all power and an unknown force convinces the navigator that a distant, dead world is the vessel’s true destination. Commander Malcolm Carpenter orders the crew to abandon ship to protect them and to learn how to defeat whatever force has intercepted his ship. The crew discovers a small group of inhabitants, the only people on the planet who were not uploaded into a vast computer network—a computer network captivated by upstart humans and their imaginations. To free his crew and his navigator from the planetary network’s grip, Commander Carpenter must face a moral dilemma. Can he save his crew without condemning a planet’s inhabitants and their digital ancestors to death?

I’ve finished the first typesetting pass of Upstart Mystique. It needs a cover and a final check by the author, then it’ll be ready to go to press!

The third book I’m working on is the 25th Anniversary edition of my own novel, The Pirates of Sufiro. When the rights to the “Old Star/New Earth” series were returned to me, I wrestled with how much to re-edit these books. They were my early books and I renamed the series “The Space Pirates Legacy” in part because one of the major characters has a vessel named Legacy and in part because I do see it as my “legacy” series. It’s the series where I cut my teeth as a writer, so to speak, and mostly I wanted to bring them back so they were available to fans who wanted my early work. Still, I felt like Pirates had some cool ideas that were buried in awkward writing. Also, the only ebook edition of the book had some problems that made it even more of a challenge to read. If I was going to put this book back on the market, I owed it to readers to improve what I could. I’ve just completed the actual rewriting portion of the project. I have a few more edits to do, then I’ll start typesetting. Again, the actual book should be available for purchase in the very near future. That said, people who support my Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers will get a code to download it for free once it’s released.

After this, it’ll be time to move on to the next wave of projects. While typesetting and finishing these books, I hope to make some decisions about what will be next. Some things are clear. I’ll be revising and re-issuing the rest of the Space Pirates Legacy series: Children of the Old Stars and Heirs of the New Earth. At this point, I don’t expect they’ll take the kind of time I’ve devoted Pirates, but I do need to re-read and evaluate them. I do plan to polish and work on some short stories I have in mind and send them out to editors. Presuming Children and Heirs don’t prove as time consuming as Pirates, I’ll probably start work on the next new novel. You can share your thoughts about what that should be in the comments below, although I’ll also be asking my Patreon supporters and I do give their thoughts more weight.

Literary Cosplay

Before the term “cosplay” came into common use, I always loved Halloween as one of the times I could create a costume and become someone else for a day. Nowadays, pop culture conventions also provide a fun excuse to dress up. Of course, most people who dress up for conventions make costumes based on their favorite television shows, movies, or comic books. A creator has already designed the costume and it’s up to the fan to make their own version. Likewise, most commercial Halloween costumes are also based on these same mass media heroes. However, novels can also be a great source of costume ideas and they often provide a wide latitude of ways to interpret characters. This can be especially useful if you’re looking for materials you can grab from a thrift store or something you can create with some simple make-up effects.

I have been known to dress up in outfits inspired by my novels. Back in 1993, I went to a Halloween party dressed as a Rd’dyggian (pronounced Red-dye-chian) from my Space Pirates’ Legacy novels. The Rd’dyggians are aliens with orange skin and a purple mustache-like array of tentacles under their noses. On top of that, they like to wear long, flowing robes. I was able to create a version using some face paint, hair dye, and some odds and ends from the closet. I didn’t match the Rd’dyggians from my novels perfectly, but I was close enough that my friends who had read the novels understood what I was supposed to be. Those who hadn’t read the novels still understood that I was some kind of alien.

I will note that when I first got into science fiction fandom, costume contests were a big part of conventions. You can still find contests, but an important element several years ago was that most of the people who dressed up created costumes based on favorite novels they’d read, rather than favorite visual media. This allowed them a lot of creativity in how they interpreted their costumes. These days, most of the literary-inspired costumes I see are at steampunk conventions.

As a steampunk author, I often dress up for the conventions I attend. It’s rare that I dress up as a specific character from my novels, but I do like to wear clothing like I describe in my novels. Here I am from an event last week, where I went to Ruidoso to speak about my Clockwork Legion Novels to the Fortuitous Book Club. The club at the recommendation of my dear friend, Margo McKee, read my novel Owl Dance. What’s more, Ruidoso is in Lincoln County, the heart of Billy the Kid Country. So, while I didn’t dress as a specific character from the novels, I did put on an outfit that said Wild West steampunk. Most of the outfit is just western wear, which is easy to find in New Mexico, but topped up with a pair of goggles and a cool steampunk looking watch. Of course, my outfit also evokes the feeling of the old Wild Wild West television series starring Robert Conrad and Ross Martin, which was one of the inspirations for my series.

If you’re looking for an original costume this Halloween, or want to find something new and unique for a pop culture or science fiction convention, I encourage you to look no further than the pages of your favorite novel. See what it inspires you to create. If you want to look at my novels for inspiration, click the links below to learn more about the series:

Enterprise Cut-Away Model

Last Christmas, my family presented me with a wonderful cut-away model of the U.S.S. Enterprise from the classic Star Trek series. This is actually something I wanted long before the model actually existed. I was a fan of the original Star Trek from a very young age. The very first model I ever helped my dad build was a model of the Enterprise from the show. The one in the photo below is the new one, but it looks very much like that original I helped with.

I remember when the Universal Studio Tours started up in Southern California and my aunt and uncle went. When they came back, I asked them how it was. My aunt told me all about how they learned how movies and TV shows were made. I asked her if they had a model that showed the inside of the Starship Enterprise, because at that young age, I equated the imagined reality of the show with how the show was made. In order to placate me, my aunt assured me that such a model must exist. I was disappointed when I went to Universal Studios with my parents a few weeks later to discover such a model did not exist after all.

Flash forward some forty years and I saw just such a model in a Hastings store in Albuquerque. After doing some research, I specifically requested a version of the model produced during 1996, during the show’s thirtieth anniversary. My understanding was that the mount was more steady and the pieces fit together better than the later edition of the model. My wife found the one she gave me on eBay.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to dive right into building the model. I had a novel to finish this year, plus I worked on the book trailer for The Astronomer’s Crypt. However, once both of those projects were complete, I finally built the model and was pleased with how it came out. In the photos of the exterior, you’ll see some seams, but those are simply the places where the model comes apart to reveal the interior.

When I was a child, I confused the idea of what the fictional ship would look like with the sets a TV show would be filmed on. However, as I became a professional writer, I found detailed visualizing and understanding of how a fictional ship works is very handy for selling it as a real machine in my writing. Over the years, I’ve spent quite a bit of time understanding the deck layouts of the ships in my Space Pirates’ Legacy universe and how the solar sail Aristarchus works in my novel The Solar Sea. Given that perspective, it was fun to return to one of my first science fiction loves to see how the creators of Star Trek envisioned the interior of the Enterprise.

The photo above shows the completed interior. One thing that was disappointing in the 30th Anniversary edition of the model was that it included a very limited decal set. It did not include the interior decals for the secondary hull decks you see above and many of the exterior decals were the wrong size for the model scale. I discovered that Round-2, the company that owns AMT who produced the model, had improved the decal set. What’s more, they sell decal sets for their models. So, I simply bought the decal set for the later model and used those instead of the decals that came with the model.

This year, I came full circle on the idea of visualizing spaces for a novel and learning how to realize them for film. While writing The Astronomer’s Crypt I kept a chart of my fictional 5-meter telescope at Carson Peak Observatory. While similar to the Mayall 4-meter at Kitt Peak where I work, there were key differences and those differences made it easy to get confused. When we filmed the book trailer, I had hopes we could use the control room at the 4-meter. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get permission, so we dressed an office space to look like a control room, which really isn’t that much of a stretch. We had to put together shooting locations that weren’t adjacent to one another and make it look like they were. If you haven’t seen the results, you can check out the trailer at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIcXPxmnVmQ.

Firebrandt’s Legacy at Patreon

I’m releasing chapter two of Firebrandt’s Legacy for patrons to read at my Patreon page today. Firebrandt’s Legacy is a book that collects my short stories about space pirate Ellison Firebrandt and his crew in one volume. These short stories have been released in several anthologies over the years published by several different publishers. I suspect it’s unlikely anyone besides me and my wife have read them all! Even if I’m wrong about that, I do plan to add some new short stories to the mix. What’s more, each of the short stories is being completely re-edited for this volume and I’m also doing “Behind the Scenes” posts for each story to give patrons a glimpse into the history and my inspirations for each story.

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!

I have unlocked the first story at my Patreon page. Without paying anything, you can check out Laura Givens’ beautiful cover in full resolution and read the first story to decide if you want to support this project. Once this project is complete, I plan to continue with the other three books in the Space Pirates’ Legacy series, so you’ll find good stuff there for a while.

It would be fair to ask why you should support this effort on Patreon. After all, I have a good job operating telescopes and I make income from my other books. Can’t I just assemble this book and sell it like the others? My goal here is two-fold. First of all, this isn’t the only project I’m working on. I’m also finishing off edits on my steampunk novel Owl Riders and I need to start work on my second Wilderness of the Dead novel. Knowing that I have patrons who expect to see at least one story from me each month is a great motivator for me to actually make sure I keep this project moving forward while I work on those other projects. What’s more, my “day” job’s salary is paid through government agencies whose budgets are set by congress each year. People in my position can and have been laid off with minimal notice in times of budget shortfalls. While my job is quite compatible with my writing and I have little desire to leave, I never know when I might find myself unemployed. While I have no complaints about my salary, it’s hardly extravagant. Money from my books and sources such as Patreon are necessary for me to afford travel to conventions and give presentations about writing and even astronomy.

Also, getting money through Patreon allows me to pay other artists, such as Laura Givens, who did the wonderful cover for Firebrandt’s Legacy. I’m also hoping to put together a full-cast audiobook of Firebrandt’s Legacy and support on Patreon helps me pay actors a fair wage to do that. In other words, lots of fun things can happen through your support. I’m honored by those who’ve already decided to support me and I hope others will join them.

Click the button below to visit my page, read the first chapter, see the high resolution cover and decide if you’re brave enough to join the crew of the Legacy on its voyage of adventure.