Blog Without A Name

. . .and all the ships at sea

Are you among the dozens of readers who wants a signed*, even, a personalized** copy of A Liaden Universe® Constellation Volume 4?

Of course you are!

You may now preorder your signed and/or personalized copy from the Uncle.

Here’s your link.

RULE ONE RE PERSONALIZATIONS:  the authors reserve the right not to inscribe a requested personalization, should said personalization offendeth them.  There is no appeal of the authors’ refusal.

PRO TIP:  Do not offend the authors.

RULE TWO IN RE PERSONALIZATIONS:  Check your spelling!  The authors will exactly reproduce what you have typed into the instruction box.  If you made a spelling error, there will be a spelling error in your personalization.

Everybody clear?


*SIGNED means the authors write their names on the half-title of your book

**PERSONALIZED means the authors write their names and a personalized inscription, requested by the person buying the book, RULE ONE RE PERSONALIZATIONS, above, applies.


Third Question Answered

The question, please!

I know this is after your deadline, but the question didn’t appear in my attention sphere until yesterday. In some of the audio books, scenes shift mid-chapter without any indication. It’s as if the reader didn’t notice the scene change markers or didn’t find the need to include them in the story. It takes me a bit to sort out what happened and is confusing for the person encountering the story for the first time. I realize you can’t change what is already one. Is there anything that can be done about this for future audio books ?

Short answer:  Nope; not a thing we can do about audiobook production; that’s ‘way above our pay grade.

Long answer: But!  We think we figured out why this problem occurs, so at least you can know why this happens.

So far as we can figure it, this has to do with how the books are put together technically.  When we, the authors, turn in a book, we denote breaks within the same scene with the Venerable Single Hatch Mark, like this:


This is not a writer’s tool, it is a typesetting tool.  The hatch mark tells the typesetter that there’s a scene-break right here, and the typesetter, according to the traditions of her clan, removes the hatch mark and replaces it with two blank lines.  This is how scene breaks appear in finished paper novels.

Now, what happens is that the readers get the typeset edition of the book, not the author’s manuscript (this is a good thing; the typeset edition has also been copy edited, line edited, and in general made better than the manuscript, because authors do crazy things in manuscripts, I can’t even tell you).

But, wait, there’s more!  Not only do the readers get the typeset edition, they get an electronic version of the typeset edition.  Which they import into their Ipads, for ease of use (and absence of rustling pages) in the recording booth.

And what we think happens is that — between the conversions those double spaces denoting screen breaks — get lost.

So, yeah, you’re right; it’s just like the readers don’t see that there’s a new scene starting, because, well, the marker isn’t there for them to see.

Here ends the answer to the third question.


Previous Answers:
Second Questions Answered
The First Answer


Shameless Self-Promotion

All righty, then.

You all of course know that the eArc of Liaden Universe® Constellation Number 4 is now available directly from Baen books, here.  This Constellation includes previously published short works Street Cred, Due Diligence, Friend of a Friend, Cutting Corners, Block Party, Degrees of Separation, Excerpts from Two Lives, and Revolutionists — together again for the first time!  The tradepaper and ebook editions of Constellation 4 will ship on — appropriately enough — June 4.

Also!  On March 26 — Good Ghod, that’s this coming Tuesday! — the mass market edition of Neogenesis, the twenty-first novel of the Liaden Universe® created by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, will hit the shelves at your favorite bookstore.    Neogenesis is the direct sequel to The Gathering Edge and! the immediate prequel to Accepting the Lance.

NOTE:  Uncle Hugo’s SF Bookstore in Minneapolis will be taking pre-orders for signed copies of Constellation 4 and Accepting the Lance.  Pre-orders for …Lance will open after Labor Day.  We do not have a firm date for the opening of pre-orders for Constellation 4, but realsoonnow is a good guess, so keep an eye on the catalog, here.

The other things you need to know, in re Liaden publications are!

*”Dark Secrets,” a brand-new Liaden short story, will be published in the anthology Infinite Stars: Dark Frontiers in September.

*Anniversary edition of the second Liaden Universe® novel, Conflict of Honors, will be published in November as a mass market paperback.

*A short story in support of Accepting the Lance will be published to in November

*Accepting the Lance will be published in hardcover and ebook editions on December 3*

We also have five novels still under contract.  One of those novels is the book due in September, detailing the Further Adventures of the Dutiful Passage, which are happening concurrently with the action in Accepting the Lance**; another is the third Jethri Gobelyn novel, direct sequel to Trade Secret.  No, we have no idea what-or-who the other three novels will be about.  They will be Liaden Universe® novels, because the contract says so.

Here ends Shameless Self-Promotion.

*Do not, for the love of ghu, ask me ANYthing about an eArc.

**So concurrently, in fact, that we tried to write both books at the same time.  Which worked about as well as you might imagine.

Friday Ketchup

We have still not settled down into what I like to call “normality” here at the Cat Farm and Confusion Factory.  We keep trying, but it’s an uphill climb.

We’ve been entertaining earnest practitioners of heating installations, which has been about as much fun as you might expect.  I’ve been making phone calls, which isn’t even that much fun, and doing not as much writing as needs to happen, if we opt to replace the 25-year-old boiler, rather than just repair it.

In and among all that, and in place of the three-week cruise that is certainly in order, given It All, Steve and I went to see Captain Marvel  at the 12:30 show on Wednesday.  There were all of four of us in the theater, and us two, at least, had a good time.

While we were out and about, we arranged for David Mattingly’s cover art for Accepting the Lance to be framed*.  That should be home and ready to be hung in the next couple weeks. (*David has a limited number of this art available, suitable for framing.  If you’d like one for your wall, write to him at david at davidmattingly dot com.)

I don’t know how many here have been following the Saga of Moose, my new Linux desktop.  Moose was ordered in in November, and I was going to get him on line just as soon as  . . .Lance was done, but. . .Life Happened in Big Packing Case Lots.  Which meant that I didn’t get back to Project Moose until a couple weeks ago, and started transferring all the files (so many files!) in Victor F. (the Windows 7 machine, whose days are surely numbered) to Dropbox.  Once that was done, I uncoupled Victor F., wired up Moose, plugged ‘er in and!

Nothing happened.  The power switch was rock hard.  I plugged it into another outlet — same non-result.  I called System76, in Colorado, on the day of the Epic Snowstorm, and left a message, expecting a call-back sometime around April.  In this,  I was proved a pessimist; my call-back came in less than an hour, and the verdict was — Moose had to go back to Colorado for examination and repair.

Just yesterday, I got a note from System76 that Moose is on his way back home; the power cable was the culprit.  He’ll arrive on Tuesday, it says here, and Project Moose can recommence.

In the meantime, we have the weekend theoretically free, so I’m bending my best efforts to finishing the (yes, still) untitled story, so we can get that published, and I can move on to the book that’s due in September (which also doesn’t have a title.  Coincidence?  Probably not.).

So, that, I think, catches us all up.

Oh.  Here, have a picture of Victor F. and Moose.  Victor is on the left.

Books read in 2019

10. Brat Farrar, Josephine Tey (read aloud with Steve; re-read for me; first read for him)
9.  Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik
8.  Lies Sleeping, Ben Aaronovitch
7.  The Luckiest Lady in London, Sherry Thomas
6.  Release the Virgins, Michael A. Ventrella, editor (read aloud with Steve)
5.  Becoming, Michelle Obama
4.  Agnes and the Hitman, Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer (read aloud with Steve; re-read for me; first read for him)
3. the unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Ryan North, Erica Henderson
2.  Alliance Rising, CJ Cherryh & Jane S. Fancher (read out loud with Steve)
1.  A Shilling for Candles, Josephine Tey (read out loud with Steve)

Second Questions Answered

Actually, this is sort of a Theme Answer, since we have three questions about my reading habits from three different questioners.

The first question is!

Are there authors whose books you don’t read because they (the books that is) interfere with your own creative process?  And if so, why?

After a certain point in the process, which varies with each novel, and doesn’t much seem to apply to shorter works, I do stop reading science fiction.  This still leaves a wide field — romance, mystery, biography, fantasy, history.  Occasionally, I need to stop reading fiction, so its biographies and autobiographies, and histories for me.  I tend to hold off reading my non-fiction books, so I’ll have a bulwark against need, in case the Next Novel to be written is a Jealous Novel.

Mostly, this isn’t so much that a certain class of book interferes with the creative process, as much as it is that I’m a mimic.  I will at the least — all right, let’s be honest, no — provocation start writing in the style of the book I’m reading.  The Liaden books have their own voice; and it’s best, really, not to muddy the literary waters with someone else’s.

Second question!

How do you pick the books that you read? You have been reading enough years that even picking a book to reread leaves a lot of scope. But how do you choose a _new_ book to read? Do you choose books that somebody else has read and recommended to you?

Well, the same way anyone chooses a book, I’m thinking.  I hear about a title; it sounds interesting, I check it out on Amazon, because usually I’m at a computer and that’s easy, and also, if I wait until I’m at a bookstore, I’ll have forgotten the title.  I’ll read the sample.  Pretty often at that point I throw the book back because:  the voice displeases, or the set-up annoys, or I want everyone I’ve met thus far to die on the second page…the usual things.  Sometimes — rarely — I’ll buy the book immediately on the strength of the sample.  Most usually, I’ll tuck the book in my wish list, and go about my business.  If I find that I’m wondering What Happens Next a few hours or days later, I’ll go back and read the three-star reviews, and either buy the book or let it languish in the wish list.  It might catch me at some later point, but usually — not.

Or, yanno, I’ll be in a bookstore, see a book, read the first page, it clicks — and I buy it on the spot.  I bought Ancillary Justice right off the table while we were on a book tour, because one of the characters had been be a spaceship.  I have An Interest in people who used to be — or still are — spaceships.

Now, how to choose a book to read right now. . .Mood, surely; whether or not the book I’m working on won’t let me read a particular genre, or has ruled out fiction entirely; the book I just finished reading.  For instance, I just finished reading Spinning Silver, which is, among other things, a fantasy set in a kind-of Russia.  It happens that I have on my TBR shelf The Girl in the Tower, another Russian fantasy, which I hope to enjoy as much as I did the previous book in the series, but — I wasn’t in the mood for back-to-back Russian fantasies. I did eye Alice Diamond and the Forty Elephants, but, as I mentioned above, I tend to horde my non-fiction against a Jealous WIP.  I considered Fire Logic, but reports indicate that it’s a pretty serious undertaking, and I’ve been feeling…a little down, which led me to the thought that I wanted something — light.  I considered re-reading The Warlock in Spite of Himself, realized I wanted something new-to-me, and — ta-da!  How Much for Just the Planet it my next book.

I can’t imagine this is much different than how anyone else chooses a book.  I mean, how do y’all pick what to read?

Third question!

You have read “The Black Wolves of Boston” and “8 Million Gods” by Wen Spencer, why not the “Elfhome” series?

Well, there’s a question packed with assumption.

I re-read both The Black Wolves of Boston and Eight Million Gods in 2018.  I remember that I wanted to re-read . . .Gods because I had just partially re-read another book in which the narrator wrote themselves into the story as it was unfolding, and I wanted to compare how Wen and Flann O’Brien handled that situation.  I re-read Black Wolves. . .  looks at Books Read in 2018 list and does calculations — ah, I remember.  I hadn’t been feeling well, and I wanted something well-written, and comforting, to keep me company.

As to why I “haven’t read” the Elfhome books. . .This is where looking at a single year’s list of Books Read kept by someone who has been reading for sixty-odd years, and assuming that’s the whole total of her reading experience — will get you in trouble.

I read Tinker when it was published, back in — what? — 2003?  And I read Wolf Who Rules when it was published, three or four years later.  I haven’t read any of the Elfhome books because, while I enjoyed my time in not-exactly-Pittsburgh, I don’t feel a need to spend any more time there.  This is nothing against the books, or Wen, or. . .anything, really — just my own reading preferences.

Here ends the answers to the second questions.

Books read in 2019

9.  Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik
8.  Lies Sleeping, Ben Aaronovitch
7.  The Luckiest Lady in London, Sherry Thomas
6.  Release the Virgins, Michael A. Ventrella, editor (read aloud with Steve)
5.  Becoming, Michelle Obama
4.  Agnes and the Hitman, Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer (read aloud with Steve; re-read for me; first read for him)
3. the unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Ryan North, Erica Henderson
2.  Alliance Rising, CJ Cherryh & Jane S. Fancher (read out loud with Steve)
1.  A Shilling for Candles, Josephine Tey (read out loud with Steve)

Sunny Saturday

So, my office is a converted sunroom. By which I mean, when we moved in to this house, I put my desk and my supply bureau and the Comfy Chair, and my books in the sunroom and pronounced it Good.

And I may say that it performs its function as Writer’s Office with considerable aplomb. I’m pleased.

However, the room has not given over its core function. It is *still* a sunroom and it does its bit to heat, and light, the dining room and kitchen (which have no windows), and as a kindly afterthought provides prodigious sun puddles for the cats to lounge in.

This means that sun — yes, bright sunlight! — pours in through the windows early in the morning until mid-afternoon. And around about, well, now, the sun streams in the clerestory window on the right side of my desk, and I must don my cap so that I can see the computer screen.

I like my cap. It’s denim, with a long visor, kind of like a wearable sun-porch, and a structured crown sewn with four rows of tiny silver sequins, so when the sun is on it, I blaze forth glory like a Sun Goddess.

. . .which is exactly the mind-set you want to bring to answering your morning email.

Sunroom, for the win.

Health Stuff and Taking the Long Way Home

So, yesterday, we needed to take Steve to Bangor for his post-op/post-generator-change inspection.

Both inspection teams pronounce him to be healing well.  There is still a restriction on how much he can lift with his left arm, and how many Maine Coon cats are allowed to sleep on his chest (i.e. none) for another few weeks yet.

Since we’d arrived early, the appointment was finished much earlier than we had anticipated, so we came home the long way, through Winterport, and Searsport.  We stopped twice in Belfast, once at the public boat landing to view the bay, and again at the Dairy Queen to take on milkshakes before driving on to Augusta.

We made another stop at Best Buy in Augusta, to pick up various tech toys, including a Bluetooth mouse for me to have ready when Moose comes home from the tech hospital.

After shopping, we crossed the river again, picked up a quart of popcorn chicken and some fried veggies at The Red Barn, brought it home, and feasted.  The veggie leftovers are destined for inclusion in today’s luncheon omelette, and maybe some chicken, too.  We’ll be having leftover chicken later in the weekend, too*.

Back home, we both fooled around with little tasks, read a couple chapters of Brat Farrar to each other, and so to bed.

Today, it is raining, and warm.  The weatherbeans are calling for continued warm, so we have brought the heat pumps online, to see how that goes.  Having a new house to experiment with is fun.

Today is also a writing day.  With luck and no phone calls, I may be able to get a finished draft of the story I’ve been working on done.  That would be. . .nice.  Especially as I have half-a-book sitting here that needs to be looked at, and made into a whole-book.

No, the thrills never do stop.

Hope y’all are having a pleasant Friday.

*Since there are apparently Diet Police out there, let me be proactive and say that Steve’s heart issue does not stem from clogged arteries and eating Bad Foodstuffs.  He has a condition called “cardiomyopathy,” which, in short form, means that his heart muscle is weak and occasionally needs an assist, which is what the implanted I(mplantable) C(ardioverter) D(efibrillator) is for.  And, yes, we do exercise, and generally eat healthy, so Diet Police may turn their concern elsewhere, thank you.


The first answer

Methodology:  Choose a question from the screened comments on this post.

I received 35 responses to this post, containing 65 questions.  One response  contained a record 22 questions.

More than half of the questions received are massive spoilers for the Liaden Universe®.  This is fair — the name of the game, after all, is Ask Me Anything, not, I’ll Answer Anything.

So!  Today’s question is!

Do your characters sometimes head in a different direction than you were planning in your stories? And if so what do you do, do you try to force them into the original direction, cut that scene out and change characters, see where they want to go, or something else? How do you deal with a stubborn character?

Our-and-my characters always have their own ideas about where they’re going, why they’re going there, and what they will and won’t do when they get there.

We consider this a feature.

Characters who have their own ideas about themselves and their lives, and strong feelings about what is proper — or needed — are what we want.  This may occasionally spoil or even void a scene, which is certainly inconvenient, but scenes can be rewritten, after all.  Stories are about characters.  To tell our stories properly,  we need to listen to the characters.

Being character-driven writers means that we are what’s sometimes called “organic writers” — which means we don’t produce an outline at the beginning of a story and stick with it, come ice or nor’easter.  We do start with a general idea of where we, mere authors, think the story’s going, but even that’s subject to change.  As a rule, the things that must happen, happen because they are necessary to the character(s).  I would say “to the character(s) arc,” but that would imply that we have some kind of control over that.

I have gone into a book knowing that one particular character, created for that book, would not survive their arc.  In fact, they would redeem themselves in death.  Except. . .in the course of the book, they redeemed themselves many times over, and bought back their life, in essence.  Which meant I needed to write a different ending, but, hey — that’s what writers are for.

Dealing with a stubborn character — Steve and I learned our lesson there on the very first Liaden book — Agent of Change — where we were working with — a very simple outline.  But one of the set pieces was that Val Con would arrive at a certain place in need of transportation, and that he would therefore steal a spaceship.  In fact, as it clearly stated in the outline, he was to steal a ship belonging to a friend, that was berthed at the station.

I was lead on Agent, by reason of having no day-job at the time, and I was zipping right along, barely able to type fast enough to keep up with Miri and Val Con, and there!  We got to the space station, there was the ship, and Val Con — stopped.

Stopped dead, right there on the page.

I figured I needed a break, got up, took a walk, came back, wiggled my fingers over the keys and said to Val Con, “OK, then!  Time to steal a spaceship!”

Nothing happened.

I showed him the outline, where it said, clearly, Val Con steals ship.

He shrugged.

Nothing happened.  I pushed.  I put in a line, typed *** to indicate a scene change, and tried to jump ahead, to where he was already on the ship.

Nope, nada, nothing.

I went back to the original scene, and tried to give him a little shove down toward the dock, and was informed that yes, I was the one with the typewriter, and I could, in theory, make him steal the ship, but if I did, he would never work for me again.

Well, that was unnerving, so I got up and went into the kitchen to make bread.

Eventually, Steve came home from his day-job, took a look at my face, and said,  “What’s wrong?”

“Val Con won’t steal the spaceship.”

“Oh, won’t he?”  said Steve.  “I’ll talk to him, OK?”

“OK,” I said, and started to pull stuff to make dinner.

He disappeared into the living room (my desk was in a corner of the living room in those days), and I heard the typewriter start, then stop.  A couple lines were typed; paper was ripped out of the platen.  New paper was rolled in, a couple keystrokes, then. . .nothing.

At dinner, Steve said, “Val Con won’t steal the spaceship.”

“Right,” I said, and we put our heads together and talked the scene over and how we’d gotten to the scene, and, eventually, realized our error.  Val Con and the owner of the ship he was to steal were friends.  Val Con did have his honor, and while he might do many things, steal from a friend, he would not.

So, we, as writers, had a couple choices before us.  We could change the ship-to-be-stolen, so that it no longer belonged to a friend.  This was actually the easiest solution, but we thought about it some more, and decided that there was a better solution, and we went back a few pages in the manuscript and wrote in a sentence where the friend gave Val Con permission to use any resource belonging to the friend that he might need.

After that adjustment was made, we went back to the space station — and Val Con was already moving toward that ship, a spring in his step, and reviewing the best places to Jump for.

So, yanno — that’s how you deal with a stubborn character.

Here ends the answer to the First Question.