Newsletter #13 mailed out 6 November 2002

Dear People,

As a general rule, these newsletters are about my writing life. That isn't going to change, but the main reason for this particular newsletter is something I didn't myself write.

My friend Mark Van Name was put in charge of a David Drake roast at a local convention. Mark checked with me first; I doubtfully agreed. As I told Mark, nothing anybody could say would embarrass me as much as the fact it was going on at all. (I don't think most of the people who do surprise tributes realize the impact they have on the subject. I recently watched a tape of Patrick McNee's appearance on This Is Your Life [from ca 1980]. McNee, a professional actor, was taken completely aback and was in tears during part of the event.)

The core of the presentation was books Mark and our friend Jennie Faries mocked up--new lines for the expanding Baen Books, to be kicked off by David Drake in his trademark style. These are screamingly funny and demonstrate.... Well, let's just say that there are jokes that only those who know me very well will get, in addition to jokes that had total strangers laughing their heads off. I recommend people check them out at, though if you're on a phone-line modem they'll take a while to download.

As an aside, Jim Baen (who of course was on the roast panel, though he didn't know about the books ahead of time) stared at the cover for the Western. "There's no cut line!" he said, pointing to the tank inserted into a Frederick Remington painting. "Well, of course not," said Jennie, who does cover design for real Baen titles as well. She thinks it's easy. Jim, who's seen a lot of Photoshopped covers, knows better.

As for my own work, I've started the third RCN space opera under the working title The Far Side of Heaven. I'm having a good time with it so far, and I expect that will continue throughout the process (though the outline for the last third of the book is schematic rather than detailed; that is, Colorful space battle here rather than 500 words of detailed choreography covering the maneuvers of two squadrons).

As a result of a conversation with Mark, I got an insight into why I'm frequently depressed about my writing progress. The one part of existence that I try to control is my prose, and I don't really understand the way I make things work. But I don't need to know how I do it; by this point I should be comfortable in the awareness that my fiction does work, that the pacing and characters of the current project will be as competent as they've been all the many times before in the past decade or two, and that the situations and responses will ring true to the people who've been at the sharp end themselves. That last is a really big one with me.

So I proceed, still pretty much in the dark but not so greatly concerned that somehow this time I've dug a tiger trap in my own path. It feels pretty good.

Apart from that, I'm just back from World Fantasy Con, the premier professional gathering of the fantasy/SF field. I spent money in the dealer's room as usual, and I listened to some panels. The programming was generally pretty unfortunate, but there was a very interesting discussion on the Punch and Judy show followed by a performance the next day; both greatly impressed me.

And there was the business part. I'm not--and I'm not going to become--a squeaky wheel, but the fact I don't get feedback from my Tor editor during the year allows me to imagine all sorts of awful things happening with my career. At WFC I see the publisher, Tom Doherty, and come away reassured for another year. Tom's been a friend for many years, and it's a pleasure--I suspect a mutual pleasure--to talk business with somebody who won't bullshit.

I'm tough--trust me on this--but I'm just as paranoid as the next writer, and I'm prone to depression anyway. I don't think the people I work with have been generally aware of those aspects of my character. I had a discussion with my editor at the con, so the situation my change in the future.

Besides Tom, I had dinner with folks from Del Rey who had a really interesting proposition. I was flattered, but I turned it down because it would've involved me getting my head deeply back into Viet Nam. That wouldn't be comfortable, and I'm not entirely certain it would be survivable.

As a particularly nice side-benefit of the trip, my webmaster had found that the Minneapolis Institute of Arts was hosting American Sublime, a traveling show focusing on the Hudson River School. The centerpiece was the entire five-painting series by Thomas Cole, The Course of Empire. (The series doesn't have a heck of a lot to do with the stated theme of the show, but believe me I'll make an exception this time.) It was quite wonderful to see the paintings themselves--I'd been trying unsuccessfully to find even reproductions of the series.

As for what's new in the way of my books, Seas of Venus and the paperback of Mistress of the Catacombs are in stores now. The only thing I can think of to add to what's in Newsletter 12 (which you can check in the archive) is that I've seen the cover for Conqueror, the second and final omnibus in the General series. It is a quite remarkably silly piece of art, complete with the Fantasyland Castle in the background. The text--of the third, fourth and fifth paperback volumes of the series--is fine; and I can only hope that people want the books for the text which Steve Stirling ably wrote from my outlines.

Apart from the roast covers, there've been no revisions to the website. I've got a fair amount of Ovid in draft, but I still haven't gotten around to polishing my translations for display. (I've actually been translating Valerius Maximus for my own pleasure, but I won't put that on line. I don't share Valerius' naive belief in virtue and religious observance, but it's oddly heartening to read someone to whom the issues were really that simple.)

Back to Adele Mundy, as Mistress Sand briefs her on a mission in which she--and Daniel Leary--will be operating as private citizens rather than officers of the Republic of Cinnabar Navy....

Dave Drake

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