Drake Newsletter #12--September 9, 2002

Dear People,

I've finished Goddess of the Ice Realm, my fifth Isles fantasy. That is I did my three edits and sent the book in. My Tor editor, Dave Hartwell, read the manuscript completely through (yes, he did) and suggested about a dozen changes. Most of these were of the 'you said this a couple chapters back' variety, which I appreciate; it's something an outside reader can do better than the author.

Two points were more significant. Dave wanted a little more bulk at the climax and suggested a couple ways of achieving it. The suggestion was probably valid--I'm really too close to know for certain--so I added another 500 words in my own fashion and worked over the scene besides.

The other suggestion (and neither of these are big in an absolute sense) was to trim a scene in which Garric is addressing a new police force. Dave said it was OK line by line, but it was boring in total. My feeling is that everybody shows his fantasy hero being heroic; I like occasionally to show my hero also being a king, which tends to be a very different thing. I hope my readers will give me two pages out of 650 in which to indulge my whim.

Dave allowed me that. Tor accepted the novel and promptly paid me (which is something worth mentioning about both my publishers, Tor and Baen; and is by no means true of all publishers, from what I'm told by other writers.) The best current guess on a publication date is November 2003.

By the way, Donato is doing the cover again. I'm really looking forward to seeing it. He's a simply wonderful artist.

I cycled down by doing a short story in the Isles universe for a Bill Fawcett project, which last I was told will be titled Masters of Fantasy. It's for Baen Books and was orginally described to me a fantasy companion to The Warmasters, but things have a way of transmuting in the publishing world.

The story was an interesting exercise. I've written a million words in the Isles series, but this a) had to be understandable to people who hadn't read any of the novels; and b) had to be complete in 5-6K words. I wrote it in 5,700 (on my tombstone you can carve He was a professional).

I think it's a pretty good story, though not as flashy as some of the things I've done. The title's The Elf House, and Cashel's the viewpoint character. As for when it comes out--well, the book's still waiting for Dave Weber's story. Those of you who know Dave's writing commitments can join me in a chuckle at that. (Come to think, I'll ask Karen to put the story up on the website: Linked from the News Page.)

The next project will be an RCN (Leary/Mundy) space opera. I've jotted down the first hundred words of a plot germ. It doesn't sound like much to me either, but I have to start somewhere. When I know what my next project is, I get that sort of germ--the equivalent of a hygroscopic nucleus--and then read lots of things and take notes from them. Business falls into place around that first bit, and eventually I start writing the plot itself. (Believe me, I'm not saying everybody ought to work like that, but it's the way that works for me.)

The paperback of Mistress of the Catacombs is out (Tor, September, 2002), and by the time you read this the trade paperback Seas of Venus (Baen, October, 2002) should be appearing. The latter reprints Surface Action and The Jungle, two short novels set on the Venus of Kuttner and Moore's 1943 Clash by Night. We--Jim Baen and I--decided to bind in the travelogue of my family trip to Belize in 2001 also. Bob Eggleton's cover, the layout by my friend Jennie Faries, and Jim Baen's production give Seas a lush, garish look, perfect for the stories themselves.

In passing let me note that the look would've been right for the March, 1943 issue of Astounding with Clash by Night also, but the magazine was in a severely proper phase at the time. Instead of dreadnought battleships blasting at one another, the cover shows prim figures walking past a memorial; it's boring art and doesn't communicate the contents of the wonderful Kuttner/Moore story. If that's what respectability means, then give me raffish every time.

Oh--I should mention that when the outside typesetters put Surface Action together from a combination of scanned text and old floppies, they got a chapter out of order. This is no big deal--that's why there are proof pages, after all, and I caught the problem immediately when I went through them. The Baen webscriptions, however, are (and are stated to be) uncorrected files--electronic galleys, in effect--so the chapters there were still out of place. I assure you that the printed copy is correct.

I've just shipped off corrections to the proofs of my military (mainly) SF collection Grimmer Than Hell. This was an interesting experience, as I hadn't reread the stories since they were first published--mostly between ten and twenty-five years ago. (A parenthetical: a passing reference to cars in Nation Without Walls dates the story to within a few months of right now. When I wrote the story, it was set 25 years in the future. I didn't change the text of the reprint.)

I was struck by two things. First, the craftsmanship of the stories is generally of high quality. (Coming Up Against It in particular isn't an especially good story--it's a straight-ahead shoot'em-up--but it was written to be bound in with a computer game. It was precisely the right thing for the purpose I wrote it.) Second, my head was in a very bad place for a long time after my body came back from Nam.

These are grim stories, and they're bitter, cynical stories. They aren't, however, despairing stories: the characters keep going on, even though there's often no obvious point in doing so. If any of you are in the place I was when I wrote them, then the best I can say is to keep going on because sometimes there turns out to be a door to somewhere better after all. My own door opened when I wrote Redliners, which is basically the second half of the tale that began with the first six stories in Grimmer Than Hell, the ones I did for The Fleet shared universe.

As for the website itself: I've done a note on Redliners for the bibliography page; it seemed fitting. There's some more Ovid up--I translated the story of Dryope from the Metamorphoses. (I've got handwritten roughs of still more Ovid, but they need several more passes before I'll be ready to show them to the world.)

There's a new home page picture, one of me wearing a Monty Python t-shirt while relaxing outside at ConGlomeration; there are more ConGlomeration photos linked from the News section. It was quite a nice con, with a really remarkable masquerade. I spent a little time in the gaming room since the Hammer's Slammers miniature game book seems to be on track. Miniature gaming is another world, but it's a positive one--like embroidery or butterfly collecting--which I find pleasing to be around even when I don't understand much of its intricacy.

There are two online fan discussion groups of, I'm told, different types. (Karen may insert a description here if she likes. I won't say the whole business is Greek to me, because I've got a little Greek.) I'm not personally involved with either site, but Karen will look in from time to time. One is a yahoo e-mail group; the other is a pair of bulletin boards. There are instructions for signing up on both posted on the FAQ page.

Apart from that, the site has been updated in lots of little ways. They keep creeping up on me. For example, Goddess of the Ice Realm is the 54th book I've written or co-written. (Jennie Faries noted that Seas of Venus was her first book but probably my fifty-fourth; I told her that I didn't count Seas in my list because it was mostly a recompilation from previous books.)

The news section has a general listing of what's coming out through March, 2003, so I'm not going to run through a batch of titles here. (At the website you get the cover art too, where it's available.) There's also a photo added to the Album page sent me by a chaplain deployed out of Bagram, showing him reading All the Way to the Gallows aboard a C-130. I'm awfully proud that a lot of vets and active service people read my stuff.

On the motorcycle front, I'm frustrated by Kawasaki. It appears that the Concours has serious internal problems caused by the dealership in Burlington not doing work I was paying them to do. Kawasaki of America insists it has no responsibility for service performed by a Kawasaki dealer at the shop to which the Kawasaki of America website directed me. I'm not going to sue the dealership because the best result from that would be the shop itself carrying out the repairs; if they can't change filters, then I damned well don't want them replacing my cam shaft. And I'm not going to sue Kawasaki of America for injurious reliance either. I practiced as an attorney for eight years; if I wanted to spend my time suing people, I'd still be a lawyer. I'd rather pay for the work and get on with my life.

But if you're considering buying a Kawasaki, you might keep my experience in mind.

On the good side, my Suzuki GS500E is a lot of fun and seems an awfully solid bike. I guess I should've gotten a Suzuki Bandit instead of a Kawasaki Concours, but I've made worse mistakes by trusting people in the past.

Besides--problems that go away when you throw money at them aren't real problems. Rereading the stories in Grimmer Than Hell reminded me very forcefully of that. I'm very lucky.

I use bookmarks to break the ice with total strangers at cold signings--that is, signings where I'm sitting in the front of a store with a pile of books. I was running low on Tor bookmarks, so when Baen Books decided to send me to the Southern Festival of Books in October I asked Jim for more bookmarks. I now have a slew of them, designed by Jennie to Jim's specifications. (The front is great--a vertical slice of the Redliners cover. The back, with four little covers and a 30% mask of my face--where I wanted a blank--to sign on, strikes me as busy, but Jim's the boss.)

Anyway, I have spiffy bookmarks. If any of you want a signed bookmark, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to:
PO Box 904
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

The bookmarks are seven inches long, so if your SASE is shorter than that the bookmark will arrive folded. Neatly folded, I hope.

Back to plotting! Or at least, back to thinking thoughts that I hope will later lead to plotting.

Dave Drake

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