Tag Archives: SCIENCE FICTION

Zombies, Bram Stoker Awards, and author Joe McKinney #horror #scifi #amreading #amwriting

Author Joe McKinney is serious about zombies. Image: moonbooks.net

Author Joe McKinney is serious about zombies.
Image: moonbooks.net

In our ongoing series THE BOOK THAT HOOKED YOU at the Lachesis Publishing Daily Blog we feature Q and As with established and successful authors who tell us about the books and authors they love as well as telling us about the books they are working on.

Today’s Q and A features Joe McKinney, the multi-talented and a Bram Stoker Award winning author (multiple times) of horror fiction, science fiction and crime thrillers. Joe McKinney is based in San Antonio where he is a sergeant for the San Antonio Police Department where he helps to run their 911 Dispatch Center. He has been a homicide detective and a disaster mitigation specialist. 

$_35200px-Sc48Take us back to when you first discovered horror and science fiction. When did you become a reader? How old were you? What were some of the books that made an impact on you?

JM: My gateway drug was Stewart Cowley’s SPACEWRECK. An absolutely beautiful book. Every page featured a full size colored painting of some eerie, abandoned spaceship. There was a two or three page short story to go with each painting, and I would spend hours going through them. I must have read that book a thousand times. I think I was seven when I first found that book, and after that I went into Robert Heinlein’s juveniles. My favorite of those was SPACE CADET.

51lQEI1IcrL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_bl_26_ebookimg-swan-song_134432244231Tell us about a few of the authors who inspired you, when you first started in your own writing career?

JM: One big inspiration was Lee Thomas. We met at a convention in Dallas shortly after I published my first novel, and we’ve been friends ever since. Lee has been through just about joy and nightmare the publishing world can throw at an author, and he was a tremendous mentor. As to authors who inspired me, I’d have to point to Robert McCammon. His early works were amazing takes on classic horror tropes, like vampires and zombies and werewolves. But after that, he went into these fantastically lush novels like Boy’s Life and Swan Song that set the bar impossibly high. When I write, I push myself to try to be that good.


51XeozUmMVL._UY250_
51zJ3HUbaCL._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_You write horror, science fiction, and crime novels. Tell us what draws you to those three genres?

JM: You know, I think the genre finds you and not the other way around. It’s like water finding its own level. You end up in horror because you have to be there. I’m a pretty upbeat guy most of the time, and I try to have a great deal of fun in everything I do, but when I write, it just ends up going to dark places. I wish I could give you a better answer than that, but that’s about the size of it.

Image of Joe McKinney perpetualpublishing.com

Image of Joe McKinney perpetualpublishing.com

You’re a police supervisor in your “day job”. How does your very challenging police work impact your writing?

JM: Well, police work has colored my entire writing career. Not only because a lot of my characters tend to be cops, but also my approach to characters. In fact, I think it’s impossible to underestimate the influence it’s had on my writing. You can’t do this job without it changing you in a fundamental way. Maybe that’s where the dark stuff comes from.

51JOK-Blf7L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Tell us about a book that you’ve read recently (past year) that blew you away (can be from any genre).

JM: That’s easy. 14 by Peter Clines was an amazing science fiction adventure story with a crazy Lovecraftian turn at the end. A young man is looking for a cheap apartment in the heart of LA. He finds one, but after he moves in, finds one odd quark of the building after another. Any one of them wouldn’t amount to much, but when taken in their totality, they add up to a mystery with shades of a government conspiracy and cosmic horror. Trust me, one of the best times I’ve ever had between the covers of a book. I also loved The Martian by Andy Weir and Ready Player One by Earnest Cline.

What is the coolest thing a reader has ever said (or done) for you?

JM: I once wrote a magic typewriter story called “Writing for Exposure.” A fan of mine enjoyed it so much he found a 1939 Underwood typewriter, completely restored it, and sent it to me as a gift. It has a special place of honor on the shelf in my office.

510hvfHPSeL._SX296_BO1,204,203,200_You’ve won the Bram Stoker Award twice now – tell us about your books that won and how you feel about being on that illustrious list?

The first time I won was for my novel Flesh Eaters. That’s the origin story for my zombie series, The Dead World. You can probably tell from what I’ve written above that I’m a huge Robert McCammon fan. Well, he was one of the presenters for the award, and when I went up to the stage to receive it, McCammon leaned in and whispered, “Great job, Joe. I love your book.” I nearly fainted right there. To this day, that remains one of my finest writing moments ever.

51QLxzTbdLL._SX302_BO1,204,203,200_Tell us about your latest release THE DEAD WON’T DIE (part of an ongoing series) Tell us about the book and the series.

JM: The Dead Won’t Die is Book 2 in my new zombie series, The Deadlands. It’s been thirty years since the zombie apocalypse, and only little pockets of humanity have survived. One of those communities is a place called Arbella. Arbella has not only survived, but thrived, and now they are getting so big they need to expand. The trouble is, nobody knows what’s out there. So, one of the up and coming members of the community, First Deputy of the Constabulary Jacob Carlton, organizes an expedition to go explore the Deadlands. In the first book Jacob and his friend Kelly Banis barely survive their encounter with the nomadic communities that wander the Deadlands. They are rescued by a super advanced society called Temple. The Dead Won’t Die takes us into a vast conspiracy that is threatening to destroy Temple from the inside out. Fun stuff, with tons of zombie action thrown in to boot.

THE-RETREAT-both-coversWhat are you currently working on and when can we expect it to be released?

JM: I’m currently finishing up Book 3 in a series that I’m writing with Craig DiLouie and Stephen Knight. My installment is called Die Laughing. The series takes place in the present day, along the Eastern seaboard. A new disease called The Bug appears on the scene, and it turns its victims into unspeakably cruel and viscous killers. The disease victims are called Klowns because they cannot control their laughter. It’s how they process pain, both their own and their victims. A battalion of light infantry is in Boston when the series starts, tasked with protecting the populace. But they never had a chance, and now they are in full retreat. The first book was about getting out of Boston. The second book was about the rolling gunfight that got them to Philadelphia. That’s where I pick it up.

You’re a writer of horror and crime and sci-fi. What truly scares you?

JM: Well, snakes and heights. But those are just things that give me the creeps. When I think about things that truly terrify me, I think about Alzheimer’s disease. I watched my grandfather die of that, seeing his mind taken from him just scared me to death. Now that I’m older, the fear is even stronger.

Bonus: What is your “go-to” snack when you’re writing?

JM: Popcorn. Definitely popcorn.

limbus-inc-coverJoe McKinney is the San Antonio-based author of several horror, crime and science fiction novels. His longer works include the four part Dead World series, made up of Dead City, Apocalypse of the Dead, Flesh Eaters and The Zombie King; the science fiction disaster tale, Quarantined, which was nominated for the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award for superior achievement in a novel, 2009; and the crime novel, Dodging Bullets. His upcoming releases include the horror novels Lost Girl of the Lake, The Red Empire, The Charge and St. Rage. Joe has also worked as an editor, along with Michelle McCrary, on the zombie-themed anthology Dead Set, and with Mark Onspaugh on the abandoned building-themed anthology The Forsaken. His short stories and novellas have been published in more than thirty publications and anthologies.

Connect with Joe McKinney via is his website, on facebook, twitter, @JoeMcKinney and you can email him at joemckinney2033@gmail.com

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Filed under Best-selling authors, Bestselling Authors, CRIME, CRIME THRILLER, DARK PARANORMAL ROMANCE, DARK URBAN FANTASY ROMANCE, FICTION, HORROR, HORROR BOOKS, Lachesis Publishing, SCIENCE FICTION, science fiction thriller, SUPERNATURAL, SUSPENSE THRILLER, THRILLER, Zombie Thriller

The Very First Book I Ever Wrote by Alison Bruce (romantic suspense author)

Alison Bruce has an honours degree in history and philosophy, which has nothing to do with any regular job she’s held since. A liberal arts education did prepare her to be a writer, however. She penned her first novel during lectures while pretending to take notes.

In the interest of veracity, I didn’t pen that novel in either history or philosophy. In fact, it was before attending university and the program wasn’t liberal arts. Ryerson is a university now, but when I attended it was still a Polytechnical Institute. I was taking Home Economics because I didn’t make it into the journalism program.

51WZTkQj29L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The course was Nutrition. It was BOR-RING, not because I had no interest in food and food science, but because I already knew quite a bit of the material. Not all of it. In fact, I think the only reason I got a passing grade was because I had perfect attendance. My attendance was perfect because the class was a great opportunity to write.

I was in my science fiction phase. I had read everything by Robert Heinlein, Asimov’s Foundation series, Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Frank Herbert’s Dune plus a selection of other classic SF books and even more humorous SF. I was also a Star Trek fan and had written some fanfic for the amusement of my friend and family.

The friend was my BF Nancy. The family was my sister Joanne. I did not have a wide audience at this stage of my career.

Inspiration came, as it still does sometimes, in dreams. All the day dreams and what if scenarios that bombarded my brain during the waking hours would scramble and sort themselves out into mini-movies in my dreams. Sometimes I was watching the scenes. Sometimes I was part of them. Sometimes I just knew stuff that had happened to fill in the gaps. Taken together, they made up plotlines with more holes than Swiss cheese. But they gave me a start.

I had plotted out this dream-inspired story start to finish, with notes for a potential sequel. I had about fifty pages written, in longhand, stored, with my plot and character information, in a clipboard folder. The day’s class notes were in there too, but I cleared them out every day to leave room for my novel. One day, between Nutrition and Chemistry (a class I didn’t dare write in) I left the whole kit-and-caboodle in the second floor washroom of the Quad.

I went back right after Chemistry but the clipboard was gone.

That was the end of that novel.

I don’t remember the details of the story. The loss was so traumatic. It had to do with a youth program that covered for the gathering of a team of special kids that would go into space. That much I remember because, a year later, I heard about the Canadian youth program Katimavik. It gathered young adults from ages 17 to 21 and sent them to different parts of Canada to engage in community projects. The spiel was almost exactly what I’d made up for the program in my novel.

Naturally I had to apply. Who knows, I might have been selected for a special program like my main character.

I wasn’t. However, I did start my second novel in Katimavik. It gave me something else to think about while doing a particularly disgusting job. I still haven’t finished that book–though it has been plotted out a dozen times or more–but that’s another story.

A Bodyguard to Remember by Alison BruceAlison Bruce is the author of  A Bodyguard to Remember, a romantic suspense with a light touch. This is Book 1 in the Men in Uniform Series for Lachesis Publishing.

You can get your copy of  A Bodyguard to Remember at Lachesis Publishing as well as amazon, Barnes and Noble, kobo, and iBooks.

You can connect with Alison on her website and on facebook and twitter.

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Filed under books and reading, Lachesis Publishing, romance books, ROMANCE FICTION, ROMANCE NOVEL, ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

Q and A Tuesday (Round 2) with David Lee Summers (horror/parnormal and science fiction author)

S FALL COVEROur Round 2 Q and A  is with Lachesis Publishing author David Lee Summers. David has written several horror and science fiction novels for Lachesis including The Pirates of Sufiro which is free, and Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order.

What was your favourite book as a child and why?

Two books stand out for me from my childhood. The first is Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I was captivated by the lush illustrations and the simple, yet evocative language. The Wild Things scared me as a kid, but Max impressed me by taming them and becoming their king. The other book is Pecos Bill: The Greatest Cowboy of All Time by James Cloyd Bowman. It was the first chapter book I remember reading. I loved the fact that it was a fantasy set in the Wild West. It included elements from the stories my mom, dad, uncles, and aunts told me about homesteading in New Mexico, but ramped them up and made them even wilder. Really, I think this book more than any other laid the groundwork for me learning how to adapt stories from my life into science fictional or even horrific settings.

Who was your favourite teacher growing up and why?

My favorite teacher was Elfriede Mayor. We called her “The Frau.” She taught both high school German and journalism. In her German class, I learned a love of language and words. I also discovered the original Grimm Fairy Tales and learned they were much darker than I thought. In her journalism class, I learned to express myself and write regularly and how to do a word count.

One time, I wrote an editorial criticizing the school’s policy of covering natural areas with blacktop. The school board actually wrote a letter demanding an apology. The Frau stood beside me and said I owed no apology, that I had presented a fair criticism and supported my opinion. I never forgot that lesson in democracy and standing up for my opinions.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Why?

When I was about eight or nine years old, my parents bought me the book The Trouble With Tribbles by David Gerrold. It told the story of how Gerrold wrote and sold the episode of the same name to Star Trek. At the time, I liked making up stories and writing them down. Gerrold showed me it was possible to do that for a living. I was hooked by the idea.

Who in the writing/publishing world do you admire and why?

This is a difficult question because there are so many people I admire, but if I have to pick just one, I’ll go with Ray Bradbury. He spent years in the library reading great works, then used the lessons from that time to become a great writer in his own right. He transcended genre and defies classification. He wrote poems, short stories, novels, plays and screenplays. He used whatever medium worked best for the story he wanted to tell. He went from an unknown, penniless writer to one of the best known, best loved writers of all time. When I first met him in 1983, he was literally one of the nicest people I ever met. Even as a teenage kid who’d barely written anything, he made me feel like a peer. What’s more, he had a great family life and raised four daughters. He helped many other writers get started in the world and he always supported other writers. When my story “The Slayers” appeared in Realms of Fantasy Magazine, he wrote me a note congratulating me. Ray Bradbury is the person who comes to mind not only when I think of the kind of writer I want to be, but the kind of person I want to be.

Tell us about your daily writing routine – what do you typically do every day?

My “day” job is operating telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory. This is a job I do from sunset to sunrise for six nights out of every fifteen, hence the reason “day” is in quotes! When I’m on duty at the observatory, writing is irregular, especially during the long nights of winter. However, when I’m off duty, I try to spend quality time writing.

On a typical writing day, I wake up and have breakfast and coffee while checking my email. I then shut that down to avoid distractions and write for a couple of hours. From there, I’ll take a walk to get some fresh air, clear my head, and think about the next scenes. When I return home, I typically write for a couple more hours, then break for lunch. After lunch, I may run errands, or catch up on social media. If I have time before my wife and kids get home, I’ll usually get in one more afternoon writing session. Evenings are for family. We share dinner and often enjoy a good science fiction show or even a scary movie.

What is your favourite snack or guilty pleasure food that you (may or many not 😉 indulge in when writing?

My writing day always starts with a steaming mug of black coffee beside me. It’s a critical part of my writing process. I also like to snack on nuts when I write. Cashews are a particular favorite. I also love habanero almonds. A square of chocolate often serves as my reward for a successful writing day.

HEIRS OF THE NEW EARTH COVERWhat does “writing voice” mean to you? Describe your own writing voice.

“Writing voice” is the way a writer puts words together to present a narrative. For some writers it’s informal and fun as though they’re sitting in the room chatting with you and relating a story. For others, it can be more gothic and poetic, as though they’ve picked each word with the utmost care. Because of my background writing papers in astronomy, I think my writing voice is clear and direct. Many have described my writing voice as similar to Ernest Hemmingway’s, which I take as a great compliment.

What do you want to accomplish in the next five years in your writing career?

We live in a multimedia world and I’d love to see my works transcend the printed page and move into audio books or even visual media of some sort. Over the next five years, I would love to learn more about what I can do to turn that dream into reality. In addition to that, I plan to complete my Clockwork Legion steampunk series for Sky Warrior books and hope to complete my Wilderness of the Dead horror series for Lachesis.

It’s the season to give thanks. What are you thankful for?

I am thankful for publishers such as Lachesis Publishing that have believed in me and published my books. I am thankful to my family for standing by me and supporting me, even when times have been difficult.

piesPumpkin pie or Pecan pie?

As someone who loves to munch cashews and almonds, and as someone who lives in one of the great pecan growing regions of the United States, I have to go with pecan pie.

Connect with David Lee Summers. online via facebook and twitter, and check out his web site.

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The Big Bang Theory of Sci-Fi Books: Beyond the Geekery by David Lee Summers

Geeky DaveI have a degree in astrophysics and operate telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory.  I have collected science fiction memorabilia ever since Kenner announced its “Early Bird” Star Wars action figure set in 1977. I collect comic books and eagerly await each new season of Doctor Who. In many ways, I bear more than a passing resemblance to Dr. Sheldon Cooper and his friends from The Big Bang Theory.

That said, I’ve been married for twenty-four years. I have two beautiful daughters. I love to cook and go on hikes. I travel whenever the opportunity permits. I own a house and deal with all the responsibilities of keeping it up. Yeah, I may be a geek, but in many ways, I’m also a pretty ordinary middle-aged guy. It’s that ordinary guy who is going to do his best to tell you why science fiction appeals to him.

I’ve already mentioned the year 1977. That was a pretty magical year for me. It was the year Star Wars came out.  We all remember how the movie only appealed to nerds and geeks. Only tech-savvy people went to see it and it went on to relative obscurity.

Oh, that’s not what you remember? Well neither do I!

NovelsWhat I do remember was finally reading a novel written for adults. It was the novelization of Star Wars and I read it because Star Wars was cool and I couldn’t get enough of it. I loved how the novel gave insights into the characters’ thoughts and presented details that weren’t in the movie. It gave me a hunger for more science fiction books. At that time, the other big name in science fiction was Star Trek and I noticed the writing credits in big bold letters at the opening of every episode. There were names like Harlan Ellison, David Gerrold, Norman Spinrad, Jerome Bixby and Theodore Sturgeon. I found out many of these people had books at my local library. I began to read them and a whole new world opened up for me.

What I soon learned was that although it was called “science fiction” and much of it was set in the future, surprisingly little sci-fi actually dealt directly with science. Most of the stories talked about what would happen to people if certain things in the world did or didn’t change. It was a way to imagine what people would be like under different conditions. Sometimes those stories were scary when the author imaged a future where evil dominated the land. Sometimes those stories were fun when they imagined whole new pioneering adventures among the stars. Sometimes the stories were titillating if they imagined a whole new sexual morality. What can I say? I was a preteen boy and this was the disco era, baby!

Sure, there were some pretty geeky books out there, too, which featured stories that would tell you how to build a starship or give you mind-numbing detail about how the orbit of a planet affected the plot.  Admittedly those stor9780441810765_p0_v1_s260x420ies appealed to the Sheldon Cooper in me, but the other stories are the ones I still remember because they appealed to the ordinary guy. Growing up in Southern California during the cold war, those books imagined a future where the air was cleaner, people appreciated each other because of their differences, and Russia and the United States didn’t have missiles aimed at each other.  And, you know what?  Most of that optimism has borne out over the years.

Okay, I don’t have a flying car. That disappoints me . . . greatly. But you know what? Given the way people drive, that’s perhaps not such a bad thing.

pirate-of-sufrio-500x724Here’s another interesting fact.  It’s not the scientist in me that writes science fiction. Every time the scientist tried to write a book, he failed. What inspired me to write my first successful science fiction book was a novel by Robert A. Heinlein called Time Enough for Love.  In it, settlers move across an alien planet in a wagon train to start a new life.  I realized that was the story my mom used to tell about her grandmother moving from Illinois to Texas at the end of the nineteenth century.  Being a scientist might allow me to imagine how characters could get to a planet, but the real drama came from the human stories all around me. I could pull from the stories of my grandparents and my daily life. I could draw from history and imagine different futures. It’s once I made that leap and realized that science happens mostly off the page that I could sit down and write a story that people cared about reading. That first novel was The Pirates of Sufiro. (Which you can get for free right here). It was inspired by stories of New Mexico homesteaders, farmers and miners battling for territory, and dangers presented by unstoppable forces such as the weather.

The best science fiction, like the best literature, is about our hopes and our fears.  It looks at the past and imagines where we might be going. The best science fiction is about people like you and me. Give it a try. I’m guessing you’ll find a book you love.

Connect with David online via facebook and twitter, and check out his web site.

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Filed under FREE BOOKS, free e-book, FUTURISTIC, SCIENCE FICTION

Summer Lovin’ Reads: What books do you love to read in the summer?

Summer time is a great time for reading. It’s the time when many of us take vacation or head to a cottage or cabin on the weekends. The days are longer, we get up earlier and so we have some extra time to tuck into a good book.

1943a51e38f837556c4390de954716b5When I was growing up, my mum worked in a nursing home as a housekeeper. The old ladies loved her and would give her treats to bring home to her girls, including bags of Harlequin romances! I would spend the entire summer reading those books. Okay, okay, many of them had that formula where the guy is a jerk the entire way through and then lo-and-behold at the end of the book he declares his love for her. But some of them were romantic comedies, my favourites, because the hero and heroine were far more engaging and fun.

Of course summer time was also when I’d get to read all my big fat historical romances – which I’ve written about before. One summer I went through all of Kathleen Woodiwiss’s entire collection. I remember everyone was crazy about Shana but I never liked the heroine. The Wolf and the Dove will always be my favourite.

The-Amityville-Horror-Novel-200x321Summer time was also great for reading horror books like The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson, but I would always get so scared, I’d end up hiding them behind the other books on my shelf, so I couldn’t see them. One summer I got into the true story books – Fatal Vision by Joe McGinniss and The Burning Bed by Faith McNulty. I read a lot of those books. I truly believe that everything I read as a kid had an impact on me – inspiring me to study journalism and film, and eventually becoming an editor. 🙂

I have a big TBR pile of books I want to read this summer, but for now, I’m enjoying reading through manuscripts.

So what books do you like to read in the summer?

See you next week!

I know that Lachesis Publishing has some great reads for summer right here!

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100_4277Joanna D’Angelo is Editor in Chief at Lachesis Publishing Inc. She loves Cinnamon Dolce Lattes, blogging and summer reading.

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Filed under CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE, COZY MYSTERY, CRIME, FANTASY/ADVENTURE, FICTION, HISTORICAL ROMANCE, HISTORICAL WESTERN ROMANCE, HORROR, LOVE STORY, MYSTERY SERIES

Sneak Peek Monday: Stardust by Ann O’Bannon (science fiction romance)

STAR-DUST-COVERToday’s Sneak Peek is the compelling science fiction romance Stardust: First Contact by Ann O’Bannon.

What it’s About:

Earth’s first deep space mission seems doomed from the start when Captain David Alexander wakes up after seven years in cryogenic stasis with no hope of surviving the trip home. Then he spots a UFO in the vicinity of the Titan moon and believes he’s got a chance after all, until the alien shoots his ship and forces him to crash land.

After a devastating entry into the Milky Way, Shimuran Commander Zara Darien is only trying to keep David’s strange vessel at bay by firing a warning shot. But saving his life doesn’t win her any favours. Even so, Zara and David must overcome their mutual animosity, join forces and alter Earth’s future. In so doing, they unknowingly take the first step to fulfilling a thousand-year-old prophecy.

“O’Bannon delivers an incredible story with staying power. It’s exquisitely sensual, futuristic and reflective. If you have any interest in space exploration, change and growth for the better of mankind or the power of love, this book is a must-read.” — 4 ½ stars, RT Book Reviews

EXCERPT:

Arianna stepped through the glass of the stasis chamber and enveloped Captain David Alexander’s frozen body within her wings. The angel drew on her spirited powers, intervening before death’s cold hand claimed her charge. She pressed her ethereal lips against his mouth, filled his lungs with life, and strengthened his failing heart.

“Awake my child.”

He sucked in a sudden, deep breath then exhaled with a pain filled moan. His teeth started chattering, and his body shook uncontrollably. Pain singed his nerves as if the hounds of hell were nipping at his flesh.

Utter terror beset him, but a surge of adrenaline helped him break free of the oppressive, stifling nightmare.

“Shhh,” Arianna whispered. “Your destiny draws near.”

With a flap of her wings, she restored time to its rightful schedule.

Warm, gentle arms held him lovingly, and a soft feminine voice sang sweetly in David’s ear. He ceased struggling and relaxed against the soft downy pillow while her musical voice droned on.

Arianna placed her palm against David’s brow, infusing her ethereal energy with his life force to awaken long dormant characteristics that had been passed down from generation to generation, waiting for this exact moment in time to give birth to a legacy.

Did you like what you read? You can get Stardust: First Contact right here.

Connect with Ann online on her web site and on goodreads.

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What inspires your writing? (guest blog by David Lee Summers – sci-fi and horror author)

S FALL COVEROur guest blog today is by Lachesis author David Lee Summers. David has written several horror and science fiction novels for Lachesis including The Pirates of Sufiro which is free, and Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order.

Our ongoing topic is: what inspires your writing? Over to you David . . .

When asked what inspires me, I think of the 1985-92 television series Ray Bradbury Theater. During the intro segment, Ray Bradbury walked into an old cage elevator and came out in an office full of memorabilia and toys. He referred to it as his “magician’s toyshop.” All he had to do was look around and begin. As it turns out, I first met Ray Bradbury in 1983 and he encouraged me to go through life with eyes wide open, because an author never knows where inspiration will strike.

As with most writers, books can be an inspiration for me. Several years ago, I read Robert A. Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love and John Nichols’ The Magic Journey, back to back. Both told stories of life in a frontier. In Time Enough for Love, the frontier was space. In The Magic Journey, the frontier was New Mexico. As I read the two books, I thought of my grandparents and great-grandparents who homesteaded New Mexico at the end of the nineteenth century. I wondered what it would be like to tell that story in space. Ultimately, that became the genesis of my first novel, The Pirates of Sufiro.

4-meterMy “day” job is operating telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory.  Not only do I have the opportunity to contribute to world-class science, I find myself awash in inspiration, and sometimes in very unexpected ways. Back in the 1990s, one of my fellow telescope operators was a fan of vampire novels. She loved everything from Bram Stoker to Anne Rice, and she hooked me on the genre. We used to joke that telescope operators were the vampires of the observatory because we were only visible from sunset to sunrise. This made me ask what if a vampire really was a telescope operator? As I considered that question, I wrote down what would ultimately become the first chapters of Vampires of the Scarlet Order.

Of course, working at an observatory, having the opportunity to see planets, stars, and galaxies regularly, also inspires me in more expected science fictional directions. One night, while observing the heart of our own galaxy in the infrared, a visiting astronomer remarked that we were seeing farther into the center of the galaxy than any human had seen before. I began to imagine ways humans really could visit the center of the galaxy and that started me on a writing path that ultimately led to my novels Children of the Old Stars and Heirs of the New Earth.

My current writing project takes some inspiration from my job at Kitt Peak. The 4-meter telescope is housed in a 17-story tall skyscraper on a remote mountain in Southern Arizona. At night, the building is mostly empty. Stairways go off in unusual directions. Doors open onto odd-shaped, closet-like spaces. What few lights there are, are typically red and dim. Astronomers often remark how scary the building feels. Because of this, I’ve been working on a new novel that imagines a terrifying night at a haunted observatory called, The Astronomer’s Crypt.

Magician-ToyshopOver the years, I’ve been building my own magician’s toyshop. I collect things that grab my eye, build models of spaceships that capture my imagination, and buy prints from science fiction convention art shows that depict alien worlds. On the wall in the picture (on the left), you can see a model I built of a solar sail, a type of spacecraft NASA and other space agencies are trying to build. It’s the thing that looks a little like an old farmhouse windmill. Imagining travel aboard a solar sail spacecraft led to my novel The Solar Sea

In general, inspiration comes in favorite songs. It comes when I spend time with my kids and my wife. Sometimes inspiration finds me while I’m taking a walk through my neighborhood, hashing out an idea. I’ve found Ray Bradbury’s advice to me all those years ago to be absolutely true. A writer must go through life with eyes and ears open, because inspiration is everywhere.

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