Zen of the Dead

This past weekend saw the release of Popcorn Press’s seventh annual Halloween celebration of horror poetry and short fiction, Zen of the Dead. ZotD The collection includes two of my haiku and one of my tanka. One of my haiku was inspired by this past summer’s trip to New Orleans. The tanka takes inspiration from my “day” job operating telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory.

Each year, on October 1, Popcorn Press hosts an open call for horror-themed poems and stories. By October 31, they have a finished document published in ebook form, with a print version close on its heels.

This book is the result of that creative marathon. Inside are works from writers new and old, pros and newcomers alike. Some few are previously published pieces deserving new readership; the majority have never before seen the light of day. In addition to my work, you’ll find poems by such Tales of the Talisman contributors as Gary W. Davis, F.J. Bergmann, David C. Kopaska-Merkel, Kelda Crich, Deborah P. Kolodji, Christina Sng, and Dwarf Stars winner, Greg Schwartz. I was also thrilled to see Stephen D. Sullivan among the contributors. He wrote Heart of Steam and Rust which is one of the stories in the Empires of Steam and Rust steampunk series that I’ve also contributed to.

Editor Lester Smith’s goal each year is simple: to encourage a wider audience for poetry and short fiction. Halloween provides a perfect opportunity.

Zen of the Dead, then, is the result of Popcorn Press’s month-long Halloween party—though you are welcome to read the contents at any time of the year, ideally after dark…alone. (Or perhaps with a friend or two for company, to stave off the chills.)

Zen of the Dead is available at Amazon and directly from Popcorn Press.

This is the fourth Popcorn Press anthology I’ve contributed to. You can also find my work in Vampyre Verse, The Hungry Dead, and Halloween Haiku.

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Vampires on the Road

This past week, my steampunk novel Owl Dance was featured as part of Terri Giuliano Long’s Literary World Trip. Drop by to read an excerpt, learn a little about the novel, and a real place featured in the novel.

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This particular scene is fun in that it features a possible cameo by one of the Scarlet Order vampires. In Vampires of the Scarlet Order we meet Mercy Rodriguez, a vampire created by the conquistador Rudolfo de Cordoba and who inspired the La Llorona legend. In Owl Dance Ramon Morales also meets a Mercy Rodriguez living in the same area, who is accused of being a vampire. Are they one and the same? Or, are these parallel universes in which this Mercy is just a human with a condition that causes people to accuse her of being a vampire? If you’ve read both Vampires of the Scarlet Order and Owl Dance, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject!

Also, on the subject of literary travels, you might recall last week that I mentioned discussions were in process for a possible book signing. It looks like that signing will be happening. I’ll be signing both Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order and Vampires of the Scarlet Order at Boutique du Vampyre in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 22 from 3-6pm.

Boutique

This is exciting because I’ve never done a book signing in New Orleans before, but I could use your help! If you’ll be in New Orleans that day, please drop by! Do you know someone who will be in New Orleans and likes a good vampire book? By all means tell them about the event. There is even a Facebook Event page for the signing, if people would like to sign up in advance. Thanks and I hope I’ll see some of you there!

Zombiefied: Hazardous Materials

Quarantined: What Now?

It’s the apocalypse—again! It’s come in the form of shambling, brain eaters. What are you going to do? Pick up your copy of Zombiefied: Hazardous Material of course!

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The anthology edited by Carol Hightshoe and published by Sky Warrior Publishing features my story “Born Again Miners.” The story is set in the steampunk world of Owl Dance and Lightning Wolves, or a closely related one. The mine owner Randolph Dalton finds a mysterious patent medicine salesman making a pitch to his workers. Dalton sends the men scurrying back to work but some time later, he finds the patent medicine salesman can cure what ails a mine owner losing money—he has a way to introduce cheap labor. Dalton is definitely interested, but might find the price a little more than he wants to pay!

The anthology features a total of 27 humorous, poignant, scary, and thought-provoking stories by such writers as Lyn McConchie, Cynthia Ward, David Boop, John Lance, and Rhonda Parrish. One read and you’ll be Zombiefied!

Zombiefied: Hazardous Materials is available at:

Walks Through the Cemetery – Part 1

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to a local high school class here in Las Cruces about the steampunk genre and my writing process. One of the things I mentioned is that I like to take walks through the cemetery. Now this may seem a little morbid, but I find one effect is that it puts me in touch with local history. I see gravestones and I ask who these people were and what they did. One tombstone that regularly catches my eye belongs to Mr. Charlie Miller.

Charlie Miller Tombstone

In this case, I haven’t researched Mr. Miller, but the tombstone goes to show how iconic Pancho Villa is in the Southwestern United States. His raid on Columbus, New Mexico led to America’s first incursion on another country in which we used air power.

When Robert E. Vardeman asked if I would be interested in contributing to his “Empires of Steam and Rust” series which presents an alternate 1915, the first thing that came to mind was Pancho Villa, John Pershing and the use of airplanes. In this alternate history, the Wright Brothers never made their famous flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Instead, America’s air power rested in Zeppelins. So I asked what if Pancho Villa found a new way to fight such cumbersome aircraft? This became the foundation of my novella Revolution of Air and Rust.

As it turns out, Revolution of Air and Rust just got a really nice review by Neal Wilgus in the magazine Pablo Lennis. Air-and-Rust-150 Here’s an excerpt: “…Villa stumbles into a portal into a parallel Earth, which not only saves his bacon but allows him to return to his home world with a flying machine equipped with machine guns. That’s the basic situation in this fast moving and gripping story by David Lee Summers&hellip…”

You can find copies of Revolution of Air and Rust at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

Terror from the Skies

Working at an observatory, perhaps the question I’m asked most frequently is whether or not I’ve seen anything strange in the sky. By strange, they usually mean alien spacecraft or something coming down from the heavens to threaten life and limb. I can honestly say I’ve never seen an alien spacecraft, but this past week I did work with a pair of astronomers whose job it is to watch for asteroids that provide an all too real threat from above.

4-meter

The astronomers work for Spacewatch, a group at the University of Arizona’s Lunar Planetary Lab whose job is to search for and study the various populations of small objects in the solar system. In the photo above, the two Spacewatch telescopes on Kitt Peak are in the two foreground domes. One contains a 0.9-meter telescope. The other contains a 1.8-meter telescope. Although great telescopes, they aren’t quite large enough to see the smallest or most distant objects. Every now and then the Spacewatch team gets time on the 4-meter telescope, the big one on the top of the hill, which I operate.

At this point, I don’t know of any objects definitely destined to strike the Earth. Back in 2013, I did help an observer use the Kitt Peak 2.1-meter telescope watch as an asteroid called 2012 DA14 pass near the Earth. At that point, it was the closest observed approach by an asteroid of that size. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Earth, a meteor that no one had observed previously struck Russia. It was one of the most amazing coincidences imaginable and and a reminder of how much work is needed to catalog the small objects of the solar system.

An asteroid strike is a very real and terrifying idea. At this time, we have no way to defend against such a possibility, and even if we could defend ourselves, we still have a lot to learn about exactly what is out in space. A few years ago I wrote a story called “An Asteroid By Any Other Name” which imagined an asteroid-hunting team in the future identifying an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. Although they successfully destroy the asteroid, debris rains down on the jungles of the Amazon. The real problems start when the asteroid remnants start to move on their own, devouring the plant life.

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The story was nominated for the James Award and appears in the anthology Wondrous Web Worlds 7. It’s available at the Sam’s Dot Publishing On-Line Bookstore and at Hadrosaur Productions.

Vamped for the Holidays!

This past week has been amazing for the Scarlet Order vampires. First off, I’m pleased to have been invited to write an article for the website Vamped.org. I tell the story of how I discovered vampire movies and literature and how that discovery in turn led me to create my own vampires in the article Three Faces of Dracula.

Lee-Dracula

I hope you’ll drop by. Leave a comment, especially if there are other interpretations of the Dracula character you think I may have left out. I was especially impressed with site administrator Anthony Hogg’s choice of illustrations to go with the article. They brought back wonderful memories of the movies and books and I discuss. While you’re at the site, be sure to visit the other wonderful articles. There are book reviews, discussions of folklore and even debunking of vampire myths. Anthony Hogg and Erin Chapman have created a fine site for vampire enthusiasts and it’s already added to my reading list.

Last week, I presented my reflections on Anne Rice’s new novel Prince Lestat. I was honored to see Anne mention the review on her Facebook page and the blog post drive some discussion there.

Finally, I would like to remind everyone that I’m giving away five copies of Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order over at Goodreads. If you have an account, be sure to sign up for the giveaway. I’ll be sending these out to five lucky winners right after the beginning of the year. You can find the giveaway at: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/118410-dragon-s-fall-rise-of-the-scarlet-order

The Scarlet Order Vampires would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very Merry Christmas, a wonderful holiday season and a prosperous 2015. Blessings to you all.

Blood Canticle

Anne Rice originally intended Blood Canticle to be the final chapter in her Vampire Chronicles. Blood Canticle To me it read less like another Vampire Chronicle and more like Blackwood Farm part 2. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I rather liked Blackwood Farm and felt it was a worthy, if imperfect, chapter in the Chronicles. I loved its descriptions of New Orleans and rural Louisiana. I enjoyed meeting a new vampire plagued by mysterious ghosts who struggled to make an existence with his mortal family. However, instead of giving us something new, Blood Canticle remained focused on the goal of wrapping up the loose ends of Blackwood Farm and thoroughly intertwining Anne Rice’s vampires and witches.

Even this focus would have been fine, except that the novel felt uneven. At times, I felt flashes of brilliance in the vampire Lestat’s desire to be a saint, including his musings about the recently canonized San Juan Diego from Mexico, America’s first indigenous saint. At times, though, the book seemed to drag, such as during a long expository scene where Rowan Mayfair and Michael Curry tell us about the Taltos. My sense as I read the novel was that Anne Rice had her mind on other things—perhaps her next book. Although she looked back fondly on Lestat and the Mayfairs, she really wanted to do other things, but had to write this book to fulfill a contract.

Then I looked at the dedication and realized Anne Rice wrote Blood Canticle the year her husband Stan died. Reading a little more deeply, I learned that Stan fell ill after she started writing. He died soon after the novel was completed. Yeah, I kind of think Anne Rice must have been distracted when she wrote Blood Canticle.

In a way, I can relate to this story. I wrote my vampire story “Experiment in Survival” for the anthology Healing Waves while my wife underwent surgery for breast cancer. Healing Waves Kindle Cover It kept me from sitting in the waiting room, imagining terrible things that I was powerless to confront. Instead, I imagined a brave samurai warrior battling a spider-like demon who created vampire-like entities. I think the story makes an interesting entry into the whole Scarlet Order mythos, and sales benefit the victims of the 2011 tsunami that struck Japan. You can find copies at Smashwords and Amazon.

Over a decade has passed since the release of Blood Canticle and we now look forward to a new entry in the Vampire Chronicles. I hope the break has rekindled Anne Rice’s interest not only in Lestat but in the vampires Louis, Armand, and Marius. I hope we also get to reacquaint ourselves with some of the newer vampires such as Thorne, Benji and Sybelle, and even David Talbot. I even hope to see a little more of Quinn Blackwood and Mona Mayfair. Although the world has been the vampires’ stage, Anne Rice clearly has a special love for New Orleans and hope she takes us back, at least for a visit. Here’s looking forward to Prince Lestat.