Monday, June 16, 2008

Writing and day jobs

Hi everyone! My name is David Lee Summers and I'm the author of four science fiction novels, a vamprie novel, and a vampire flash fiction collection. I also edit a science fiction and fantasy magazine called Tales of the Talisman. In addition to that I have a "day" job operating telescopes at one of the country's foremost research facilities, Kitt Peak National Observatory.

There is an old saying, write what you know. As editor of a science fiction magazine, I see a lot of stories and it quickly becomes clear that the ones that don't work are ones that don't feel "real." So, how can you "write what you know" when you're writing science fiction and fantasy? Well, that's actually one place where my day job has come in handy, and believe it or not, it has come in just as handy for my vampire/paranormal fiction as for my science fiction.

You see, about a dozen years ago, when I first worked at Kitt Peak -- I was there, moved on to another job and am recently back -- those of us who worked the telescopes at night, referred to ourselves as the "vampires" of the mountain. I began to ask myself, what would it be like if a vampire really did operate telescopes at Kitt Peak. The following short excerpt shows some of the result:

"It was sunset and I was groggy, barely awake. I sipped a cup of coffee, trying to stimulate the old blood in my veins. I needed new blood, but it’d be a while before I could partake of my 'night lunch.' Instead, I dutifully stepped into the console room of the 2.1-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona and sat behind a computer console. I began my ritual of preparing the telescope for observations. At the other end of the room sat a visiting astronomer. He controlled the camera and I controlled the telescope.

"Using the computer, I opened the observatory dome and pointed the telescope to the first star of the night. It all appeared on my screen like a video game. Even now, I long for the past when I used ropes and pulleys to open the dome, then sat on the cold, lonely observing floor pushing the telescope by hand. Now, astronomers sit in a room apart from the telescope. The observatory engineers are afraid that body heat will disturb the frail air around the instrument. Little do they know that the only heat I generate comes from the coffee I sip and the new blood I drink. Both sources of heat dissipate rapidly. No wonder I had been one of Percival Lowell’s best observers at the beginning of the 20th century."

You can find out what happens in Vampires of the Scarlet Order available from LBF Books. For more about me and my writing, you can visit

Thanks so much Ginger for inviting so many of us to drop by this week! I hope to drop by again, later this week if my schedule at the observatory allows. Best wishes to all.

David Lee Summers


Unknown said...

So happy to have you join all these women. It's a rare treat to have male authors share their work with me and my readers. I enjoyed learning about your profession and the stimulation behind your work. Thanks for sharing, and do come back. :)


Katie Alexander said...

Ya, another vampire book for me to sink my teeth in. That excerpt sounds good so far and I will have to look it up.

davidleesummers said...

Once again, thanks so much for having me, Ginger. I'm delighted to be here and to share. I'll do my very best to drop by again this week!

Thanks so much for the kind words, Katie. Hope you enjoy the book once you get a chance to sink your teeth in!

Anonymous said...


Do you always plan to have the day job, or are you working towards quitting to write full time, one day?

How do you juggle both careers?

davidleesummers said...

Good questions, Tracy.

I actually left the day job for about six years and was writing and editing full time. I returned to astronomy because the folks at Kitt Peak recruited me back to the job and I feel the work is important. I also think the day job is a good inspiration for my writing. How long I stay in the day job will depend on a lot of factors that I don't really know yet, but I suspect I will return to full time writing in the future.

The particular job I'm in is actually a good one for juggling writing and work. I typically work about 80 hours in six to seven days then get eight to nine days off in a row. So, I get to do a lot of writing in those days off.

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