Newsletter #3 mailed out 15 February 2001

Dear People,

I finished Mistress of the Catacombs, the fourth fantasy in the Isles series. Like the others, this one is a hair over 200,000 words. I'm completely wrung out.

I experimented this time by using a sketchier outline, one of approximately 12,000 words instead of 20-26,000 like the outlines of the first three books in the series. It worked quite well, though I did pause to do something more detailed when I got to notes like, THEY BREAK THALEMOS OUT OF PRISON. PART ONE.

I'd planned to put the whole novel on my website for free download. My feeling is that nobody's going to print out a 644-page manuscript to read unless they're real fans. Those are the people you want talking up your work early, and they'll probably buy the book when it's available anyway.

I still think that's the case, but I asked my publisher, Tom Doherty, and got a resounding, 'No!' Tom feels that having the book available on line dilutes sales of the printed version. We both have the same desire--to sell as many copies of Mistress of the Catacombs as possible--and I bow to Tom's expertise on what will sell books. There's nobody better in the business since Judy-Lynn Del Rey died.

I knew that Scott Card had been putting his Tor novels up on line, though, so I asked Tom about that. Scott had indeed done so--without telling Tor what he was doing. When Tor learned, they had a discussion with Scott and he stopped doing it. I'm much more puzzled by a writer putting his books on line without telling his print publisher than I am at the print publisher frowning on the practice (though I still think Tom is wrong.)

(If anybody really, really, really needs to see the book before it hits the stores, send me an e-mail. We'll discuss it.)

What is (are) on line now are the novellas Mark Van Name did and I did for FOREIGN LEGIONS, the shared universe built around my novel Ranks of Bronze. (The other three novellas are by Eric Flint, Steve Stirling, and Dave Weber.) The website is giving me all sorts of new experiences--the latest being downloading Adobe Acrobat Reader so that I could read my own story on the site. I can't imagine that anybody receiving this newsletter is less computer literate than I am, so the stories are available to anybody who wants to click.

Other additions to the site since the most recent newsletter are comments on The Hunter Returns and Starliner, and pictures of Jim Baen at the new home of Baen Books near Wake Forest, NC. (My wife Jo and I went there for dinner Christmas Eve.) One of the shots is a Twofer, Jim holding the cover art for The Tide of Victory, the fifth book in the Belisarius series written by Eric Flint from my outlines.

Speaking of Eric, he has a very nice new website at The Java script on some of the special effects--little spinning doohickies--may give you problems loading, but the content and general ambiance are well worth the effort.

Christmas brought me the remaining two issues of Air Wonder Stories; there's a picture of me holding issue #1 (July, 1929) in the News section now. I've started to read Science Wonder Stories (later to become Wonder Stories) from issue #1 (June, 1929). I couldn't explain the attraction of pulp fiction to anybody who doesn't feel it themselves and I'm under no illusions as to the quality of the stories (mostly very bad indeed); but I take both pleasure and comfort in the pulps.

The next project is a series of five linked Hammer novellas for Baen Books. I woke up yesterday morning realizing that I was about to finish Mistress of the Catacombs and that I didn't have a clue as to what the plot of my next project would be. I immediately realized it was time to get out my Polybius (in translation; my Greek allows me to correct a translator's misuse of a military term, but I'm sure not reading the whole text in the original) and start taking notes. That sort of politico-military history is exactly the right background for my military sf (which this will be) and space opera (like Lt Leary, Commanding).

So I can't tell you the plot or setting of the next book--but I'm working on it.

I hope this finds all of you well; and I hope that when my wheels stop spinning wildly, I'll find myself well also.

All best,
Dave Drake

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