Newsletter #87

Newsletter 87: July 7, 2015

Dear People,

I continue to chunk forward on DEATH’S BRIGHT DAY, the next RCN space opera. I’m at over 80K as I write this. I’ll have more to say about this at the end of this newsletter.

Baen’s new trade paperback edition of The Hunter Returns is an August release (I’ve got my copies). This is my expansion of Jim Kjelgaard’s 1951 YA Fire-Hunter, one of Jim Baen’s two formative books. (The full story is here.)

The cover is the same Charles R Knight painting that gave Jim and me the title for the expansion, but Toni Weisskopf has vignetted the art. The hero, Hawk, is much more advanced than the Neanderthal of Knight’s full painting, so this was a good change.

My friend Mark Van Name has turned in the mss of the tribute volume, Onward, Drake!  I’ve now read the contents. They are of remarkably high quality. Original anthologies are a crap-shoot. You can choose the people you invite, but even the best writers have bad days. They didn’t have their bad days here.

The other interesting thing about the contents of Onward, Drake! is that they’re all over the map in style, tone and subject. Three stories are by literary writers–Cecelia Holland, Barry Malzberg, and Gene Wolfe–at the top of their game. They’re as different from one another as any of the three differs from the two stories I wrote for the book–which differ from one another.

I don’t know that any reader will like all the stories in the volume, but I’m pretty sure that every reader will like at least a few of them. And as I said, if your only criterion is quality, you’ll have a really good time.

I’ve mentioned in the past that I do yard work for exercise. Larger trees and branches I saw up and split for firewood (which I give away; we’ve got gas logs rather than a fireplace, because I work outdoors and wood smoke is unpleasant), but smaller stuff I grind to mulch in a chipper/shredder.

The chipper/shredder I’ve been using finally gave up the ghost from vibration. Pieces had been falling off for some time, but the input chute fell off because the body had fractured around the bolt heads, and one of the bars on the output grating was gone also. I told my mechanic I was going down to Lowes to buy a similar one; he suggested I look at a DR instead for the level of use I give them

I now have a new DR chipper/shredder. It isn’t much bigger, but it’s at least twice as heavy (and it cost more than twice as much). I am creating mulch happily as my wife Jo uses it in her extensive gardening.

I figure the chipper/shredder keeps me as fit as fancy exercise machines or a bicycle, and the garden gains by it as well. Life is good!

Air and Darkness was the last book on my existing Tor contract. Tom Doherty and I agreed a new project at WFC last year, but it’s taken more than six months to get things moving through Tor’s bureaucracy. (My editor’s had a lot of personal problems.) I haven’t worried about it because I’ve got plenty of Baen contracts and Baen, judging from my most recent royalty check, is making a lot of money on me. I look forward to working with Tom, though, if not exactly to working with Tor.

I miss the old days when a contract was a verbal handshake; I think Tom does also. Tor is way too big for that to be practical, but in large measure it’s still true (for me at least) with Baen.

There is a picture on the website of me holding my Father’s Day present from Jonathan. It’s self-explanatory.

Some of you may have noted, as I certainly did, that I’m proceeding on Death’s Bright Day at a slower pace than what has been my norm for decades. Air and Darkness, my Tor fantasy (due out in November, 2015) was written at the same slow pace also. I wasn’t sure why this should be, and it bothered me.

It then struck me that these are the two novels I’ve written since I whipped depression with the help of Tennyson’s verse (see Newsletter 79). Since the early ’70s I’ve used writing as a way to insulate myself; I’ve focused on work because life was too bleak to bear if I spent time looking at it.

I no longer have to dodge life in that way, and this reduces my productivity. I still get up every morning and get to work, but I’ll take longer breaks reading (for example) The Oceans of Kansas instead of diving straight back into my novel. (I’ve learned fascinating things about long-necked plesiosaurs!)

The work I’m doing is of the same quality, but I’m averaging closer to 600 words/day instead of 1,000 words/day. That means I’ll die having written fewer books than would be the case if I’d remained depressed. So long as the quality stays up, I’m willing to make the tradeoff.

Hmm. I suddenly wondered if now that I’m no longer depressed all the time, personal problems will prevent me from doing my job (which has never been the case in the past). I’ll hope not to have personal problems, but I suspect it would turn out to be a self-correcting situation. If I couldn’t work I would get really depressed–and then presumably I’d be able to work again.

May all of you avoid both depression and personal problems!

–Dave Drake

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