Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Science Fiction, Anyone?
Please help me welcome David summers to the blog. David, we're glad you came. Could you tell the readers a little bit about you and your work?
Thanks for having me, Elaine. I'm an author, editor, and astronomer living in Southern New Mexico. I have written and published six novels and over fifty short stories. I've also edited two anthologies of science fiction short stories and I edit a science fiction and fantasy magazine called Tales of the Talisman. My "day" job is operating telescopes for Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona.
Four of my novels are science fiction: The Solar Sea, The Pirates of Sufiro, Children of the Old Stars, and Heirs of the New Earth. Those last three form the Old Star/New Earth trilogy that tells about a vast alien intelligence on a quest through the galaxy for a missing part of itself. It becomes interested in humans, and life on Earth is changed forever. The Solar Sea is set in the same universe, but earlier. It tells the story of humanity's first voyage to the outer planets aboard a solar sail spacecraft.
The other two novels are Dragon's Fall and Vampires of the Scarlet Order. Dragon's Fall is being released as a series of five e-novellas and will eventually be collected together in one print novel. It tells the story of how a disparate group of vampires come together and become a band of mercenaries. In Vampires of the Scarlet Order, those mercenaries are called on to save the world when scientists embark on a plan to create vampire-like super soldiers. I should note that the vampire books are intended for an adult audience. My other works are generally suitable for all ages.
My anthologies are Space Pirates and Space Horrors. They form two volumes of Flying Pen Press's Full-Throttle Space Tales Series. In Space Pirates, fifteen authors explore all aspects of piracy among the stars. In Space Horrors, seventeen authors conjure up their worst nightmares about vampires, zombies, wraiths and man himself in space.
Tales of the Talisman magazine evolved out of Hadrosaur Tales magazine, which William Grother and I founded in 1995. We've been publishing a wide variety of science fiction and fantasy over the years and have been fortunate enough to feature such authors as Neal Asher, C.J. Henderson, Richard Harland, Marge Simon, and Mike Allen to name a few. Hadrosaur Tales was a pretty bare-bones fiction and poetry magazine. When we changed the title to Tales of the Talisman six years ago, we decided to add illustrations to the magazine and improve the layout. It's been recognized as one of the best-looking small press magazines in the business thanks to our art director, Laura Givens.
2.Goodness, that's impressive. Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?
I've been writing as long as I can remember. However, one of my first serious projects was writing a Star Trek novel with a friend in high school. Around that time, Ray Bradbury came to my friend's school and we got to have lunch with him. We told him about our book and Ray Bradbury looked me in the eye and said "Send your book to a publisher now." Well, we were high school kids in the 80s without an agent, so there was essentially no chance of getting the book published.
However, that encounter stuck with me in two ways. First, Ray Bradbury's confidence in my abilities has always been an inspiration. Second, I started thinking about how I could turn our book into something marketable outside of the Star Trek universe. I ended up creating my own science fiction universe with a great confederation of humans and aliens. There were battleships and space pirates. This ended up being the foundation of my Old Star/New Earth series and the space pirate stories I've sold to a few anthologies.
My first novel, The Pirates of Sufiro, was written in the early 90s. Like many authors, I was uncertain what to do with it once I'd finished it. At the time, my wife was completing her MBA at the University of Arizona. She came up with the idea of a small press that specialized in audio books for her thesis. So, we gathered together some equipment and some friends and turned The Pirates of Sufiro into an audio book. Unfortunately, the recording technology we could afford then wasn't as good as it is now and because the books were on tape, we had to price them higher than we would have liked.
Around the time we were experimenting with the audio book, I found an agent who in turn found a publisher for The Pirates of Sufiro. That publisher went bankrupt and my agent went to jail for fraud. The upshot is that I never saw any money for the first edition. Once I got the rights back, I brought out a self-published edition of The Pirates of Sufiro through Xlibris.
During this time, I kept writing. I wrote the sequel to Pirates and my work at the observatory ultimately inspired me to write Vampires of the Scarlet Order. In short, that happened because I worked on the night shift and, at the time, we referred to ourselves as the vampires of the mountain. I began to think, what if there really were vampires that worked at observatories?
About the time I started shopping Vampires of the Scarlet Order around to publishers, a friend of mine had been hired as art director for a new press called LBF. He encouraged me to submit the book there and they snapped it up. They also asked about other books and accepted The Pirates of Sufiro and Children of the Old Stars. They also asked me to finish the third book in the trilogy. As it turns out, the Old Star/New Earth trilogy is back out in an audio edition that can be downloaded for free from Podiobooks.com – just search for the titles of the books.
In the midst of all that, I wrote quite a few short stories. Of course, I received quite a few rejections, but I started receiving some acceptances. The moral of the story is to be persistent. Keep writing and keep improving your craft. Keep submitting.
3.That's good advice. What are you working on now?
Work on Tales of the Talisman magazine is on-going. When I'm not writing or working at my day job, I'm often reading submissions for the magazine or working on layout.
I just finished a Wild West Steampunk novel called Owl Dance. It's currently being looked at by the publisher who solicited it. I hope to have some news about it soon. The novel is based on a series of short stories that have appeared in Science Fiction Trails magazine. The magazine is available at http://www.sciencefictiontrails.com
Another publisher recently contacted me about putting together a collection of my space pirate stories. To get to that publisher's required word count, I'll need to write some new material for the collection, so I'm brainstorming and making notes about that now.
4.What’s the hardest part of writing for you? The easiest?
I think the hardest part of writing is letting go of all the things going on around me and quieting my mind so that I can visualize my characters and my settings and just write. It's easy to be distracted by the kids, email, day job work and so forth. I'm fortunate enough to have a writing office in my house where I can shut the door and it's probably no surprise that I get most of my writing done when the kids are in school.
The easiest part of writing is coming up with ideas and plotting out scenes. With my current observatory job, I typically stay at work for seven nights at a time. The trade-off is that I get about seven to eight days at home afterward. This is why I can live in New Mexico and work in Arizona. The upshot is that I have a five-hour drive to and from work each week. Although I've never been good at composing into a tape recorder, I use the quiet time in the car to visualize upcoming scenes in my novels or hash out story ideas so that I can be more effective when I actually do sit down at the keyboard.
5.Has being an author made you feel differently about yourself? If so, how.
Being an author has allowed me to see aspects of myself that I never really saw before. When I write characters like pirates and vampires, I find they can say things about the world and make observations that I never could. They don't care about being politically correct or hurting anyone's feelings. I don't always agree with my characters, but they help me sort out my feelings. It's a little like cheap psychotherapy, I suppose.
Having some success as a writer has helped me develop a self-confidence I didn't really feel when I was younger. However, the fact that I still get rejections and the occasional bad review helps keep me from developing too big an ego to go with that self-confidence!
6.Please share your links with us so we can find you on the web.
My website is: http://www.davidleesummers.com
I have a blog at: http://davidleesummers.wordpress.com
There's a website about The Solar Sea at: http://thesolarsea.com
To learn more about my vampires visit: http://dlsummers.wordpress.com
For more about Tales of the Talisman magazine: http://www.talesofthetalisman.com
7.We’d love to read an excerpt from one of your books. Don’t forget to give us a buy link so we can get it.
Here's an excerpt from The Solar Sea. The book may be purchased at: http://www.amazon.com/Solar-Sea-David-Lee-Summers/dp/1897370830/
Thomas Alonzo Quinn sat in the hub of the Aristarchus, preparing to control the ship's entry into Jupiter's orbit. This stage of the flight was crucial and he wanted to see what was going on outside the ship with his own eyes. If he got it right, the ship would get ten orbits of the gas giant planet, then be primed to enter into a hyperbolic orbit that would slingshot the sailing ship onward to Saturn at a speed that would get them there in a little under six months. If he got the calculations wrong, their flight would be slowed so much, they would be better off turning around and going home to Earth.
Pilot's console in the hub displayed information about Jupiter's most unpredictable feature, its bow shock - the place where the solar wind collided head-on with Jupiter's own intense magnetic field like warm air and cold air colliding over Kansas to create a tornado. The last few months of the journey, the solar wind had been a bit more intense than normal. It was not the primary force pushing Aristarchus, but Pilot realized that the outflow of charged particles from the sun was contributing more to their motion than predicted. He tried to tell himself that was the source of the vibration he knew he could feel yet the techs could not measure. Pilot took several deep breaths as the ship approached the bow shock, telling himself several small, unmanned spacecraft had done the very maneuver he hoped to accomplish, there was no reason he should be afraid.
He began a countdown, "Ten, nine, eight ...." When he got to five, his hands drifted over the sail controls, ready to adjust course to compensate for the bow shock, if needed. When he got to three, there was a loud bang. The ship hit the bow shock unexpectedly early.
Lights flickered on and off intermittently on the console. Before hitting the bow shock, Jupiter seemed to stand still. Now, it was easy to tell they were moving toward the planet. Even though the motion appeared slow, the dial on Pilot's console confirmed what he now realized, they were careening into the planet. Gently, he eased the sails around, trying to bring the ship into orbit. As he did, the ship began to shake violently, rattling his teeth. He was slowing the ship, but not fast enough.
Jupiter's gravitational field, the collision of charged particles from the sun and Jupiter, along with photon pressure from both sources were causing the sails to vibrate at their resonant frequency.
"The masts are reaching critical stress," called Neb O'Connell from C-and-C. "If you don't back off the sails, they're going to snap."
"If I back off the sails, we'll go sailing right into the planet!" said Pilot through gritted teeth. "LaRue, give me some thrust! Help me out."
The ship's thrusters fired. If anything, the ship vibrated even more.
"There's a stress fracture developing on the number three sail." There was a hint of panic in Neb's voice. "We've got to do something quick or the ship's going to fly apart."
Pilot looked at the readout on his console and suddenly had a thought. He put his hands on the sail controls and locked his gaze on the clock on his console, counting down seconds.
"Prepare to jettison number three sail," called Jefferson from C-and-C. "LaRue, stand by on thruster control. Get Berko to the towing shuttle, now."
"No! You don't have time for all that. It's too late!" said Pilot.
"I'm not going to let this ship fall into the planet," said Jefferson, threateningly.
Without another word, Pilot commanded the sails to turn ninety degrees from where they were. As the sails turned, the ship shuddered hard and he almost bounced into the wall. All of the console's indicators moved into the red. Holding onto the console so hard, his knuckles turned white, he discerned something just a little hopeful. The planet began to visibly slow. As the sails reached position, the vibrations settled down.
After several achingly slow minutes, the planet drifted to the side. They were no longer plunging toward Jupiter. He counted down on his clock again, then moved the sails forty-five degrees back to normal. The console indicators crawled back into the yellow zones. One or two remained red. The ship was damaged. The question was, could it be repaired?
David, I loved your excerpt. I've been a sci/fi fan for a long time. Good luck with your books and your magazine.