Newsletter #46

Dear People,

Foof. I _did_ finish IN THE STORMY RED SKY, the latest RCN (Leary/Mundy) space opera, as I said in #45 that I hoped to do soon. Usually by the time I’m three-quarters of the way through the rough draft, I start to come out of the Slough of Despond (“This book is crap. People would find a phone book more interesting. My career is doomed.”) This book was more of a stretch than most, and it depressed me more and longer than most do. 

But I finished it anyway. The friends who’ve read the final all say that it’s one of my best (and no, they don’t always say that). I hope they’re right; but regardless, I’m busy plotting the new Tor fantasy series (about which more below).

Steve Hickman’s sketch for the cover of SKY is up. Gee, I’m lucky in the art my publishers give me!

In #45 I mentioned that I needed to do oral introductions for the Audible audio downloads of the RCN series. Having now completed the first one, I know that the business is much more difficult than it seems to me that it should be.

Writing the pieces is tricky but rather fun. Audible asked me to provide a bit of unique information in each one. I’ve been doing that, and in the course of writing them I’ve learned new things about my own work.

Recording the intros without excessive background noise is a big problem, though. A worse problem for me is that the whole business makes me very uncomfortable. I’m capable of effective public speaking (in high school, I got a One at state level in Extemporaneous Speaking), but it sure isn’t my idea of a good time.

By now I’ve written three more of the five intros I need, but I haven’t yet called my friend with the equipment to record them. Soon, soon. I hope.

Easton Press has sent me copies of their edition of WHEN THE TIDE RISES. It’s leather-bound with gold embossing and gold page edgings. Each volume has my original signature and a copy of the certificate of limitation. There’s a new color frontispiece which is striking and phallic. Strikingly phallic, in fact.

I don’t have a clue as to what this edition costs. I hope it’s a success for Easton, as they’ve treated me in a very professional manner.

I have various books coming out from November, 2008, through April, 2009. Since I went over them in #45, I don’t need to repeat myself here.

The pb of my latest Baen short story collection, OTHER TIMES THAN PEACE, is in my hands and should be in stores momentarily. (And maybe is in stores now.)

Which brings me to the pb of BALEFIRES, my fantasy/horror collection from Night Shade. I think it may be their first mass market edition; or anyway, it will be when it finally appears. Jeremy says that will be realsoonnow.

I’m looking forward to seeing it. I’m proud of both the book and the stories included in it.

There are also a couple pieces of news which aren’t about me but which please me a lot. BREAKFAST IN THE RUINS by my friend Barry Malzberg has won the Locus Award for the best related book in the SF field. I hope it will shortly win the Hugo also. It’s a wonderful, funny, provoking, and deeply educational work.

And THE BOOKS OF THE WARS, an omnibus by Mark Geston, will be out as a Baen pb in March, 2009, with a great Alan Pollack cover. These books had an enormous impact on me, in Viet Nam and in the difficult years after I came back to the World. I recommend the omnibus highly.

I mentioned that I’m plotting my new Tor fantasy series. More accurately, I’m taking notes toward a plot. Right now, I’ve just completed reading Valerius Maximus and excerpting bits which I think may be useful in this novel or later novels.

As an example of what I mean: Page 59: Seated in a shrine, an aunt holds a marriage divination for her niece who is standing behind her. They are waiting for a word which will give them direction.

When I read that bit, I started thinking about Alphena, the teen-aged girl I’m planning to use as a viewpoint character. Instead of an aunt, what if her stepmother Hedia, a very worldly woman in her early Twenties, was conducting the divination? And what if the voice they hear in the sanctuary says something really dire? What specifically would that prophecy be?

As I say, these are notes toward a plot. They spring directly from original sources, though. It’s a lot of fun, but believe me it wouldn’t happen without concentrated effort on my part also.

This isn’t my first attempt at writing the series. Back in 1995 I created 4,000 words of plot notes, but when I looked at them (immediately after I shipped off SKY) I found them less useful than I’d hoped. I’m much more experienced at plotting a complex series now than I was all those years ago, of course, but there’s another factor which I think is even more important. In 1995 I wasn’t really plotting a novel: I was creating a show piece to convince publishers who hadn’t worked with me in the past that I was capable of writing epic fantasies.

I failed miserably in my aim. No new publisher would touch me.

Instead, Tom Doherty encouraged me to do LORD OF THE ISLES on a pre-existing Tor contract. He got behind the book and then behind the Isles series. As a result, I have a reputation now as a fantasy writer.

When Tom called to chat the other day, I thanked him for having given me that chance. He insisted it wasn’t a big thing: it had been a good business decision for Tor.

Yes, it was–after the fact. Before the fact, Tom was the only publisher who was able to see that. I’m lucky, and the whole SF field is lucky, that Tom Doherty is head of Tor Books.

Life is a lot easier with friends to help. I hope all of you have something like the kind of support that helps me get through each day.

–Dave Drake

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