Newsletter #59

Dear People,

Just as I predicted in Newsletter 58, I’m completely wrung out. Most of that is connected with the one major thing in this newsletter: I completed OUT OF THE WATERS, the second (of four) fantasies in my new Tor series. It’s scheduled to come out in July, 2011, with a Donato cover. 

I haven’t seen the cover painting, but I believe Donato is using a scene with high cliffs and a sea serpent–a scene which I wrote while thinking about Donato’s cover for MISTRESS OF THE CATACOMBS, the fifth book of my Isles fantasy series. Everything in the world really fits together. Sometimes the connections are more obvious than at other times, but they’re always present. The musings of Ilna in my Isles series aren’t a million miles away from those of her creator in a reflective mood.

I shipped off WATERS on September 17; why am I still exhausted? Well, I did two complete drafts after I finished the rough on September 1; this included keying in the very extensive changes I’d made in holograph on the rough typescript, followed by the less extensive changes I made in holograph on the second draft. I was on the verge of despair after two days of brutal work had only gotten me fifty pages into the 560 page manuscript, but the edits slacked off (generally) after that. The early portion of a book always needs a lot of work, but this time it seemed extreme.

Those of you who know something about the business will realize that the book was scheduled before I finished writing it. This is a token of Tor’s confidence in me and for that reason was welcome. On the other hand, it certainly didn’t reduce my stress.

Over Halloween I attended the World Fantasy Convention, as I’ve done more years than not. This is the major professional convention in the SF/fantasy genre. (The world SF con and regional cons–many of which have greater attendance than WFC–are fan/social gatherings.) Everything went fine: my panels were good ones and I didn’t embarrass myself as best I recall. (Moses Siregar III put a YouTube video of one of them on his blog so you can judge for yourselves if you want to.)

The reason I go to WFC, however, is to meet the people I do business with; this time including Steve Feldberg of Audible for the first time. Speaking of which, the audio version of WHAT DISTANT DEEPS, my latest RCN (Leary/Mundy) space-opera, is out from Audible right now.

Throughout my career, I’ve chosen to work for people whom I like rather than with the people who might pay me the most for a particular book. (In the longer term, I think working for people I like has also led to me earning more than if I had gone for short-term income.) Meals and just general chats with the folks I work for were therefore friendly affairs; but four days of face-to-face business contact is still stressful for a guy whose chosen milieu is the deck of a house in the middle of 23 acres with his dogs and a keyboard.

Also in July, 2011, Baen Books is reprinting the paired Tom Kelly thrillers (SKYRIPPER and FORTRESS) as an omnitrade under the combined title LOOSE CANNON. Tom Doherty really liked Tom Kelly; I didn’t, not least because Kelly could have been me if things had gone wrong (or anyway, had gone wrong in a different fashion).

Kelly is a very angry man. I’m less angry now than I was in the ’80s when I wrote the novels; that said, I can still see Kelly when I look far enough back inside myself. That’s a good reason to have refused to write more books in the series when Tom wanted them; and it’s an even better reason not to look very deeply inside myself.

The cover is by Dave Seeley. I think he did an excellent job. A mockup of the cover is at

It’s not ideal to have books coming out from two different publishers in the same month, but I don’t think there’ll be too much crossover between a new fantasy and a pair of 25-year-old thrillers. (Except for completists, I suppose, if there are Drake completists. Presumably a true completist will buy both with only a slight twinge at the expense.)

What would have been bad is if INTO THE HINTERLANDS, which John Lambshead wrote from my outline, were coming out from Baen in July. Thank goodness, it’s a September book. The cover by Bob Eggleton catches the novel’s theme of spiritual growth instead of focusing on shoot’em-ups on exotic planets (which would also be a valid description of the book).

Ever since the glory days of John Campbell’s _Astounding_, there have been a lot of engineers writing SF; there haven’t been nearly as many real scientists. My friend John Lambshead is a world-class scientist (a molecular biologist), and I am delighted with the way his knowledge enlivens my plot.

There are a few new pictures up on the website. Our hound Sam died at age 15 (or so; all our dogs have been rescues). We now have Red, probably 2, and (mostly) a Jack Russell, to keep company with Comet, our old part-sheepdog. Sam was a wonderful dog, but so is Red; and a dog weighing something over 20 pounds is a lot easier to convince to do something than a dog of over 100 pounds is.

While at WFC I visited not only the Columbus Art Museum but the house in which James Thurber lived with his family while he was at Ohio State. This is the setting of _The Night the Bed Fell_, and I found it very evocative.

There’s also an example of visual bragging: a picture of me with a pile of roots and the tools with which I ripped them up as the final stage in my land clearing. Every time I get a sufficient pile, I burn them; this was one pile of over a dozen. Land-clearing is darned good whole-body exercise.

I said above that I’ve gone to most WFCs. That includes the first one, and this was the thirty-sixth. _That_ realization brought me up short.

The first WFC was at a Holiday Inn in Providence, RI, in 1975. My agent, Kirby McCauley, booked the space and told me I had to come: it would be very different from the 1974 worldcon which I’d just experienced (and which was one of the more unpleasant events of my life which did not involve uniforms).

WFC _was_ different: a few hundred people, and fewer of the really unpleasant ones. We shared the hotel with two other conventions: an association of handicapped people, and a legal secretaries’ group. (Let me tell you, legal secretaries know how to party.)

I was on a New Voices in Horror panel. I’d been professionally published nine years before; Ramsey Campbell had been published eleven years before; and even the two relative newbies, Karl Wagner and Charlie Grant, had made their first sales seven years back.

I don’t know that I’ve said anything in print about the second one (a disaster in Manhattan; the only time the convention has been held in NYC). I was placed as an afterthought on a panel on heroic fantasy. The stars on the panel were Roland Green and Christopher Stasheff.

I recall quite a bit of the wisdom I was offered at that con. I proceeded in my own fashion; not because I disagreed with what I was being told, but because it was my life. As things turned out, I might reasonably have disagreed as well.

In 2010 I’m one of the seniors at WFC… but I don’t _feel_ any different, even when I’m chatting with people about things which I suddenly realize took place before they were born. I’m nervous before panels and extremely nervous before the autographing session–even though now I know that I won’t be sitting there with a fixed smile as people bustle past with books for others to sign. (The organizers actually set me at a solo end table because they didn’t want my line to get in the way of other writers. Friends brought over tables to join mine, thank goodness.)

I’m still me, still the scared kid who in his heart expects people to make a point of insulting him (as goodness knows happened often enough in the ’70s). If you were there and met me, I hope I was courteous; I really try to be. But whatever I may have said or done, remember you weren’t seeing a senior writer/editor/publisher (I’ve been all those things); it was the kid from Dubuque who writes as well as he can.

–Dave Drake

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