Newsletter #45

Dear People,

The major news item is that while I haven’t yet finished IN THE STORMY RED SKY, the next RCN (Leary/Mundy) space opera, I’m getting darned close. As I write this I’m in the midst of the climactic battle, and I hope I’ll have gotten into the conclusion by the time you read it. 

Anybody who’s seen one of these newsletters before knows that I worry about things. Right now I’m worrying that SKY will put readers to sleep, that I’ve lost all the skills I used to have, and that folks would find their local phone book more exciting.

Actually, I’ve probably said those very words before. You may think I’m being very silly, and intellectually _I_ think I’m being very silly. But it’s honest to goodness how I feel.

Part of the problem in my head is that my books differ one from the next. As a result, as I reach the end of each it subconsciously doesn’t feel “right” because it isn’t what I did the time before or the time before that (going back quite a ways by now).

In the case of SKY, my first reader (Dan) told me how positively impressed he’s been with the first third of this one because I’m writing a novel of character rather than a shoot’em-up. It’s good that somebody likes it, but what if nobody else wants a novel of character? Have I blown it this time by doing something different from my norm?

Well, maybe. But I’m not going to stop doing different things just because some of them probably won’t work. And the book after this one will be a different thing yet.

Mind, I’m writing a major space battle (series of space battles) right now, and there’ve been action scenes earlier in the book. SKY may be different, but I haven’t suddenly become Henry James.

In Newsletter 44 I said that Night Shade told me that the pb of my fantasy/horror collection, BALEFIRES, would be out on May 15. They’re now saying June 15 if all goes well. And as I also said in #44, I’ve been a small press publisher. They’re doing a lot better with release dates than my partners and I did.

A lot of the book stuff that follows is a rehash of #44, but some of you won’t have seen previous newsletters. I apologize for the duplication, but there are new bits also.

The pb of OTHER TIMES THAN PEACE, my most recent collection of (mostly) Military SF will be out from Baen in August. The one unique item in it is the original version of A GRAND TOUR, the novella I wrote for Dave Weber and which he edited into the Honorverse. The original hasn’t appeared before this collection.

I wrote TOUR as a dress rehearsal for my idea of structuring a space opera the way Patrick O’Brian did his Napoleonic War novels. The main thing I learned from the exercise was that to properly bring out the relationship between the two lead characters, I needed more space than a 26K word novella gave me. The specific differences between the characters in TOUR and those in WITH THE LIGHTNINGS were mostly a matter of bringing the series closer to O’Brian in detail as well as in concept.

And speaking of LIGHTNINGS, Audible (which is now an arm of Amazon) has bought audio rights to the existing RCN novels. They’ll be releasing them as downloadable audio streams, as I understand. (I’ll provide more details, including release dates, when I have them.) I’ve written and hope shortly to record a 2 minute 20 second introduction to go with LIGHTNINGS, and I expect to do the same with the later volumes as well.

THUNDER AT DAWN will be a Baen hc in September. It’s the first of the three omnibus volumes for the Belisarius series, collecting AN OBLIQUE APPROACH and IN THE HEART OF DARKNESS. I plotted the books which Eric Flint wrote (expanding my concept considerably). Each omnibus has a new intro either by me (the first two) or by Eric (the third) which gives background on how the series happened.

The Belisarius series is fun, and it’s Not Stupid. The books may not make you love history, but you should get a notion of why Eric and I love history.

THE GODS RETURN, the final book is the Isles fantasy series, will be a Tor hc in November. I’m proud both of the series and of GODS, which has another wonderful Donato cover; the full wraparound version of it is now up. I’m so amazingly lucky in my cover art!

And to reinforce that thought, Steve Hickman is doing the cover for IN THE STORMY RED SKY also. I haven’t seen the art, yet, but I’ll put it up as soon as I do.

The pb of the most recent Isles fantasy, THE MIRROR OF WORLDS, comes out from Tor in November also. The trilogy does best if you read it from the beginning (that is, start with THE FORTRESS OF GLASS and then read MIRROR), but I hope you’ll get a good book even if you start with a later volume.

The Easton Press signed and limited leatherbound edition of WHEN THE TIDE RISES proceeds apace. I’ve signed the limitation pages and had lengthy discussions with the studio doing the jacket and interior artwork.

That got a little weird. The studio is in Quebec and the artists are Francophone. The scenes they wanted to illustrate were from a docudrama and a poster, not things that were happening in the novel itself; I’m not sure they understood my attempted explanations. It’ll be interesting to see how things work out.

I am (by which I mean my agent Kay is) in the process of licensing a Hammer’s Slammers board game to Mongoose Publishing (a large UK gaming company). They’d like to do a miniatures game also, but I told them they would have to deal with Pireme (which has the rights) themselves. Back in the ’80s Mayfair brought out a board game; I have no idea how what Mongoose does will differ.

Kay tried to get creative control for me, by the way, which Mongoose refused to grant. They were right. I haven’t done serious board gaming in more than 40 years. My proper role is to pick competent experts and let them get on with their business. (This is true in most aspects of life, in my opinion. And I wish more people felt the way I do.)

I’m not actively plotting the new Tor fantasy series (I never start a new book until I’ve really finished the immediately previous one), but I’m excited about it already. In reading Nonnos (a Fifth century AD Egyptian epic poet), I ran into mention of Britomart (a Cretan goddess, maybe) and got to wondering if I could connect her with the Celtic goddess Fand; and I could, but that wouldn’t be the first book of the new series as I’ve sort of roughed the sequence out. But maybe….

I love my job, I really do. Some of it’s frustrating, a lot of it’s depressing, and there are occasional flashes of panicked gloom–those will come when I start _seriously_ working on the series structure. But I wouldn’t trade being a writer for anything.

On April 8 the Citadel dedicated a display cabinet in the university library to Jim Rigney, a graduate and a man who (as Robert Jordan) significantly remade fantasy publishing. Jim’s Wheel of Time series was left unfinished at his death.

Jim’s widow, Harriet McDougal (my Tor editor for over 12 years before she quit editing in order to reduce her blood pressure) asked me to come down to Charleston for a panel in connection with the dedication. I happily agreed. [Pictures]

While I was there, I watched as Brandon Sanderson (who’s been hired to complete the final volume of the Wheel), two of Jim’s assistants, and Harriet herself worked on that project. Jim left an outline, extensive (but not organized) notes, and some of the actual writing. The team is putting the outline into final form, whereupon Brandon will write the book and Harriet (the best line editor I’ve ever had) will edit it.

Brandon is not only a fine writer with a successful fantasy series of his own, he’s a long-time fan of the Wheel of Time. The series is in good hands, which is a better monument to Jim Rigney than a glass case.

Not much has happened on the website, and I haven’t done any new Ovid translations for the moment. The next project there will be the Pyramus and Thisbe section of the METAMORPHOSES, I think. I’ve read it over and I’m looking forward to doing the translation, but I’ve really been concentrating on SKY to the exclusion of most other things.

I’ll close with a bit of history which I wouldn’t mention had PUBLISHERS’ WEEKLY not resurrected it. The April 7 issue had an article on Military SF which struck me as amazingly knowledgeable until I noticed that it was by Scott Connors, whereupon I was no longer amazed. (Scott knows his stuff.)

The article quotes Bruce Sterling, a journalist who at one time was also a significant SF writer, as saying (I think in 1983) that writers of Military SF have an “ideological solidarity, which gives them the sort of shock-troop discipline that Lenin instilled in the Bolsheviks.” If you believe that Jerry Pournelle, Janet Morris, and I (to pick three writers whom I recall Mr Sterling named specifically) have _any_ ideological similarity, then there’s a bridge in Brooklyn that I’d like to offer you a good deal on.

Twenty-five years ago I was more naive than I’ve become since, however, so I thought Mr Sterling had just made a mistake. I called him to say that I’d never met Jerry and I certainly wasn’t a disciple of his. I thought that similar things were true of most of the other people Mr Sterling mentioned.

Mr Sterling replied, “I don’t care about facts. People can get facts anywhere. What I’m doing is molding public opinion.”

We ended the phone call on the same polite basis that we’d conducted it to that point. There really wasn’t any response I could make to someone whose view of facts differed so sharply from mine.

But it’s something you might keep in mind when you read the PW article, and more generally if you read Mr Sterling’s journalism.

Back to finishing IN THE STORMY RED SKY!

–Dave Drake

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