Newsletter #4 mailed out 11 April 2001
1) Probably the most interesting thing--in the Chinese sense--that's happened to me since the most recent newsletter is that I've started using Word for Windows instead of Word 5 for DOS. The A drive of my last working DOS machine died, so I couldn't get material off it in a fashion I could e-mail or send by disk.
I've always told people that I could convert to Windows whenever I had to--and I did. Furthermore, it was a lot better to convert in the middle of a 31K novella than it would've been in the middle of a 210K novel--the situation that would've obtained a few months earlier. Having said that, it was pretty stressful, especially dealing with design features in WfW which make it much easier to make text vanish forever than it used to be under DOS. I question whether there's one serious writer in a thousand who considers that a beneficial change.
It'll make it a lot easier to replace computers in the future, though. Right now I'm happy as a clam, using a Pentium 90....
2) I'm at work on the next project, a thematically linked collection of Hammer novellas for Baen Books. The first of these, Choosing Sides, is complete at 31K; it'll be part of MASTERS OF WAR, a Baen original anthology packaged by Bill Fawcett along with an Honor Harrington novella by Dave Weber (which is supposed to be done by the end of April) and a Belisarius novella by Eric Flint which will be done when life and the Baen Free Library give Eric a moment.
I figure my collection will be four novellas. I know the subject of the remaining three and am pretty well along with the plotting for the second one (working title Task Force; I don't have a title for the whole collection yet). They're all based on incidents in the Eastern Mediterranean during the late 3d century BC. This is an interesting period (and well documented, though not well known to general readers) while the Hellenistic kingdoms were breaking up and Rome, though an influence, hadn't yet taken the region under direct rule.
For my underlying background I've used the Rhodes-Byzantium War of 219 BC, but some of the incidents come from Egypt, the Seleucids, and Macedonian operations in the Peleponnese during the period. A love of history means you never have to invent situations....
3) The other project I've been working on--to the degree it counts as work--is a military SF anthology for Betsy Mitchell at Warner Aspect. She called Marty Greenberg, asking him to get me to do a reprint anthology based around Liberty Port, the novella I did for her when she worked for Jim Baen. I had that put together in 24 hours, and then scrambled a bit over a problem Marty raised regarding electronic rights. Warner's insists on buying them while the agent for Kuttner and for Matheson refuses to sell them. This strikes me as an extremely silly thing to fight about, but we solved the problem by providing slightly different contents for the e-published and print versions of the anthology.
The cover artist will be the wonderful Donato Giancarlo who did my Queen of Demons, Servant of the Dragon, and The Voyage. Virtually everything is complete, save that Warner's hasn't sent Marty a contract so that he can acquire the reprint rights. There in a nutshell is modern publishing.
4) Speaking of Donato, he turned in a stunning cover for Mistress of the Catacombs (the fourth Isles book, due from Tor in September). It's up on my site now, along with the first three chapters of the novel in PDF. (You can also find those chapters in HTML on the Baen, not Tor, site. Tom Doherty, Jim Baen, and I are all friends and have a sense of humor.)
5) Also added to the site are comments on Birds of Prey and a discussion (I think under Personal) of my involvement with Stu Schiff's Whispers magazine. (http://david-drake.com/whispers.html) At some point I expect to put up the most recent novella in PDF--probably when Foreign Legions comes out in June and I take down Mark's and my novellas from that shared-universe anthology.
6) This past weekend (April 5--10) I was at Jersey Devil Con in South Plainfield. The folks there couldn't have been nicer, but it was possibly the most disorganized con I've ever been to. (Generally cons manage to put the names of panel participants in the program book; not here.) It was nonetheless a good time, for me and I think for all attending.
The main reason I decided to go was that my first contact (by phone) with Manly Wade Wellman was when I called to ask if his 1950 Weird Tales story The Pineys was based on a real folktale. He told me it was, but that he set the story in the Sandhills of North Carolina where he was living when he wrote it. The folktale was from the Jackson Whites, descendents of Hessian mercenaries, living in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey where he'd lived previously. I was feeling nostalgic about Manly at the time the GoH request came--I really miss him--and agreed. The Friday of the con, friends took me to the Pine Barrens and we wandered around. It was really a wonderful day; and there's a picture of me with a tree near Batsto in the News section.
7) By the way, the article on Jim Baen and the Baen Webscriptions did come out in the March 21, NYT Business Section. I was really glad to see Jim get some of the recognition he deserves for being a true innovator.
I guess that's all for now. I'm going back to plotting a novella....
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