Newsletter, June 2010
In one's 80s and with medical issues, health is commonly a subject of interest. So— at age 83 I'm reasonably well, thanks; not much in the way of aches or pains. But I tire easily and recharge slowly. And while my thinking has slowed and I'm pretty absent-minded, my doctor tells me that Herr Dr. Professor Alzheimer's sinister syndrome has not yet homesteaded my brain. Also, since I've been on full-time oxygen, my emphysema seems to have stabilized, or near enough to make no immediate never-mind.
Meanwhile I'm assessing my projects and plans, prioritizing. There are things I particularly want to get done while I still can. Just now this newsletter is priority number one.
(An aside to Shirley, sister-in-law extraordinary, and friend for more than half a century; and to Jim Burk, a friend of some 20 years: I made noises to you about sending a draft of Tea River Tales soon. But in fact it's going to be much delayed, a victim of…prioritizing!)
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Travels? Yep! I spent the Memorial Day weekend at MisCon, a four-day science fiction convention at Missoula, Montana. Because I've become increasingly subject to confusion amidst complexity, a pal (Tom Craig) flew from Spokane to Ohio to escort me and tend my mobile oxygen equipment. Then, from Spokane, he drove us over I-90 through northern Idaho's absolutely gorgeous mixed conifer mountain scenery to Missoula. With the usual halfway stop at the Silver Dollar for a large juicy bconburger and large thick milkshake.
About MisCon: it was an enormous treat, a homecoming with hundreds of friends, hundreds of hugs, great parties, fine beverages, and excellent programming.
Cthulhu Bob and his dedicated merry crew did outstanding work. The GOHs were Harry Turtledove (author), Sarah Clemens (artist), and the Eben Brooks Band (musicians). Along with a considerable supporting array that included, among others, long-time major author Carolyn J. Cherryh; Patty Briggs, who has homesteaded the N.Y. Times best seller list; Mary Jane Engh, a Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America author emerita; prominent artist-illustrator and bon vivant William Warren; and Dragon Dronet, a Hollywood designer and maker of costumes, armor, and weapons, martial arts choreographer (Renegade Effects Group), stunt and fight double…and sometime actor. Oh! And Dragon also plays a wicked sax, supported by a pair of cool dudes whose names I should have written down but didn't. Along with some 700 other good folks.
I stayed fairly alert despite Toxic Waste (courtesy of RadCon), Scotch, Brandy, Irish beer, and minimal sleep. Even got kissed! (A daughterly peck on the cheek, thank you Sparky; oh Lenora, you don't know what you missed.) Attended several excellent readings, for my taste the most memorable being chapters from the second of Mary Jane Engh's historical novels on Galla Placidia. Finish it, Mary Jane, finish it! I wants to read it! (God luv 'er, that MJ's more than just a scholar; she's a marvelous stylist as well.) This one'll put her on the NY Times best seller list with Patty Briggs's latest Mercedes Thompson novel (number one yet!). (Waves at Patty, who was also at MisCon with husband and daughters.)
There were numerous babies and small children, too, soaking up the ambience and getting a proper start in life.
Oh, and I was invited to sing at the opening ceremonies: my rendition of Bunnie Berrigan's 1938 hit, "Can't Get Started with You," but without Berrigan's memorable trumpet interludes. (If I ever get invited again, I'll try my impression of Maurice Chevalier singing "Old Devil Moon.")
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As for family news: granddaughter Kristen has moved to Arizona — a long way from Ohio, but electronically right next door. Grandson Ian remains in farther-off Seattle, and Ryan in Chicago. I don't know where grandson Jacob is now, but he's probably a few years out of college, unless he's a grad student. He has other grandparents, a life of his own, and a future to create.
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Books: My top priority, after this newsletter, is the preparation of a new section on this blogsite. It's should be open later this month. I'm calling it (fanfare!) —
The John Dalmas Electronic
Free Book Emporium
and Authorial Tutoring Center
It'll be the place to go to order my old books as e-books. Gratis! Free! I'm not selling them, I'm giving them away! Most of them are out of print now. I've had the rights of some already reverted to me; others have been applied for.
("What's the point, John? If there's any interest in them, they'd still be in print.")
Not so fast, kemo sabe! It's not that simple. When sales slack off, stores stop reordering — except to fill requests. And when publishers' stocks run out, even stores can't get them anymore, unless they reprint. And POD — "Print on Demand" — hasn't gained traction yet, so to reprint is expensive; only large print runs are deemed economically feasible. Thus titles go "out of print; requests don't have to dry up, they just have to slow sufficiently for books to "go out of print."
Then authors with reputable contracts can request that rights to those out-of-print titles be reverted to them.
And my books, in their time, were promoted only to science fiction markets. But they also have a degree of broader appeal which I hope to actualize.
("Just a minute, John, there's something you're not telling us. You said you'd give them away. Free! So what's your pay-off?")
Satisfaction is my pay-off, your satisfaction, and by extension mine. I have nothing against money, but in 1977 I left a good job — pretty much my own boss, work I liked, a healthy paycheck every two weeks — a nice home in a nice neighborhood, backed up by 9,300-ft Mt. Elden and just half a mile from the Coconino National Forest boundary…
Qui, and took off to California to pursue a screen writing career. "What?" you say. You can't believe it? Join the club. I hardly can either. I was 50 years old! But I did! And ended up joining a cult which I decline to name! Talk about a mid-life crisis!
I also sold a motion picture option for a novel titled the Varkaus Conspiracy, but it lapsed without being filmed.
From 1984 to 2005 I earned my bread writing, mainly novels. Then Gail (God love her) became crippled, and for three years I wrote little. (See http://www.johndalmas.com/sci-fi_essay/40/about-aging-part-4.html ) Now I've slowed way down, and my income is quite largely from Social Security. I've been rereading my novels, and find them better than I'd realized: kinder, more human, more perceptive — with more soul. Basically, as it turns out, and without being planned that way, they explore practical ethics in difficult, even harrowing situations, and compassion dwells in their pages — along with action, adventure, ideas, and colorful characters. (My youth was not wasted.)
Furthermore, I believe I can write effective promo for them — promo for folks not necessarily drawn to science fiction.
And besides all that, I'm old, old I say! J Old enough to have caught myself doing dumb stuff; learned some good stuff; hobnobbed and lived with interesting folks and types (oh my); and had some good mentors at critical stages. Those of you who know me personally have heard me tell about loggers, coal-heavers, old-timey farmers, cultists, bars, fleabag hotels, hiring halls (Gordon Lightfoot caught the hiring-hall atmosphere in a single line), smokejumpers, and professors. Food for stories! Food for thought! Nourishment for mind and soul!
And finally, some people have very large appetites for books, and we are experiencing hard economic times. Free books are attractive.
There are, of course, folks who, having read one of them, may want to, and feel able to, send money. I will not throw rocks at them. But I will be abundanttly pleased if you simply encourage friends to visit my site and sample my wares, all in the comfort of their own home. Or if you simply tell yourself "well, that was a good story. I liked that."
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As for the "Authorial Tutoring Center"— I'll reassemble and post my past contemplations and commentaries on creative writing, then add to them, with links to others. They hold insights unmentioned by — perhaps unknown to — most teachers and editors, which I downloaded from the mystical world of Iz. (What is, Iz, though it may have a tinge of Oz from time to time.)
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So while my writing muse is alive and well, my physical equipment is somewhat impaired, including my neuromuscular system. Thus writing has become a stumbling, somewhat hunt and peck process, requiring considerable tidying up. (One of my "wanna" projects is to record an autobiography, or more precisely a memoir of a life. Then someone else can actually write it if they care to, preferably someone who knows me personally.)
Ah the lessons in life! They're not always what they seem when we receive them. Reevaluation (call it updating) can be appropriate. Then, if this lifetime outlasts my eye-sight and my ability to communicate, contemplation may perhaps remain, to continue my earthly education till my diploma arrives.
My sincere love to you and yours.
John Dalmas/cousin Jerry/Dad/Grampa/Onkel Sven