Newsletter #81

NEWSLETTER 81: July 11, 2014

Dear People,

All is well, but I don’t have much to say. This is a placeholder just to assure people that I haven’t died or given up writing or been kidnapped by white slavers.

I do expect to die, though I’m not in any obvious risk of that at the moment. I was quite pleased in fact when the waitress at the restaurant the other night (it was my turn to pay for the household) was surprised when I said I was 68. I had my card case out, so I handed her my driver’s license. From her expression, she was serious when she said she’d guessed me at 53.

Believe me, I’m not. But I’m an apparently healthy 68. (I say “apparently” because avoiding doctors is one of the ways I stay healthy. I also exercise and eat reasonably.)

Above I mentioned “the household.” This is beach week, when the Van Name/Drake extended family takes a big house on Holden Beach and does beachly things. In my case (and that of many) this is mostly to read and relax.

And to eat. When I say I eat reasonably, I don’t mean that I count calories or practice any form of formal diet. I eat a hearty evening meal, I eat dessert when I feel like it (which is rare), and I snack on nuts and bread during the day.

I don’t recommend this for everybody (I don’t recommend it for anybody; I’m not a dietician), but it works for me. Here at the beach I eat hearty evening meals of seafood, and they’re darned good meals.

I’ve got well over 100K words in Air and Darkness, the final of the four Books of the Elements for Tor, but it’s not done and I’m not going to finish it here. The amount I have in draft fills my mental buffer, I find. If I had more headroom, I would probably get more work done here at the beach–I could shrug off the disruption.

The main difference between here and home is that I’ve decided that I lose too many computers by taking them out in the salt air. In addition, though, there’s TV noise, the large number of people around (there’s about twenty at any given time), and the fact that I’m sharing a room with (my wife) Jo rather than having a large house to pick a private spot in (as I would if weather drove me inside).

I’ve decided that the forced break is a good thing. At a basic level, I don’t believe anything really matters: everyone dies, everything dies, and the heat death of the universe will eventuate. (This is my belief, not an attempt to convert anyone else.) In that sense my writing doesn’t matter either, but I certainly behave and feel as though it does.

But missing my normal daily word count for a week–that doesn’t matter to anybody, not even to me. So I’m reading books which I find interesting and generally relaxing.

I said I expect to die. I don’t expect to quit writing before then, however. I turned to writing seriously to keep myself between the ditches after I got back to the World. Things have calmed down a lot in my head during the past forty-odd years. Even so, it’s as well for my general peace of mind that I have the escape that writing provides. Besides, I like what I’m doing, particularly when I’m getting good stuff.

There’s no news to speak of (beyond the fact that I’m still working on Air and Darkness, darn it). Another of the General two-volume omnibuses is out, Hope Renewed, but I probably mentioned that two months ago.

There is, however, a cover comp (which means the presentation may change but the art will probably be the same) for Into the Maelstrom, the second book of the Citizen Series, written by John Lambshead from my outlines. Dave Seeley did the art for this one, blending the 18th century background (I’m using the life of George Washington as my plot matrix) with high tech. I find the result very satisfactory… which I didn’t really feel about the cover of the first book of the series, Into the Hinterlands. Bob Eggleton has done wonderful covers (including All the Way to the Gallows for me, but I wasn’t thrilled with the Hinterlands cover until Baen designer Jennie Faries got through working on it.

Above I said that I wrote to keep myself between the ditches. Only recently–maybe in the past year–have I realized what a difference that makes between me and most of the writers and wannabes whom I meet. I want to be a successful writer, because writing is my job; but being a writer isn’t and never was my goal.

My goal was to keep from letting out the violence inside me in a fashion that would land me in jail. Writing, finding a socially acceptable outlet for the anger, was the tool I used. Even now that the danger of my killing some officious fool has receded, the writing acts to calm me.

As a general rule, the folks who talk to me about writing have always wanted to be writers. From their viewpoint, I’m living the dream.

The truth is that I may be living their dream, but my dream–or hope, anyway–was to be a moderately successful attorney in civil practice. Vietnam put paid to that, and a writing career is what I got in exchange.

I’m not complaining about the way things worked out. I don’t care much about fame, but I have a lot of friends today who would never have heard of me if I were a lawyer in the Triangle region of NC. Financially I’m probably better off than I would have been as the kind of lawyer I envisioned becoming.

But you know? The first twenty-five years after Nam were a pretty unpleasant time in my head, and even today there’s a lot of what I think and feel which I’d just as soon have missed. It doesn’t really matter, though, because I wasn’t given a choice I was willing to take.

Go out and be nice to people. The world will be a better place, and you may find (as I have) that folks will remember for decades the little kindnesses you did and forgot about.

Me, I’m going to finish a fantasy novel.

–Dave Drake
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