How we do it

Some folks have had questions about The Book Presently Known as George, also known as TBPKAG and, more familiarly, as George. Also, I am reminded that I promised to talk about our “process,” which I feel may not be as interesting as expected, but a promise is a promise.

Firstly, yes, George is the book I wanted to write, as opposed to the next book due. It helps to bear in mind here that I am an extremely flighty person with a brain that craves candy. Happily for you, I also possess a degree of low animal cunning and am therefore able, pretty often, to convince my candy-loving brain that the next writing project, whatever it is, will be sweet as no project has been before. Many writers deceive their brains this way; if they didn’t, nobody would ever write anything.

Unfortunately, my brain, addicted to sweets as it may be, isn’t a total schlub — and memory is on its side. My brain therefore remembers that Ghost Ship did not write easily. Remembering this, and as it has done many times in the past, it demanded something different, to sort of clean its palate. I wave my hands around, showing that, Something Different, I have it not.

At this juncture, the back brain, which plays both sides against the middle, can usually be counted upon to toss out something Completely Off the Wall which I then persuade the brain to view as new and exciting.

In this manner, Some Writing gets done, which is good, rather than No Writing getting done, which is bad.

Now, sometimes, we don’t have the luxury of writing what we want, when we want, no matter what our brains crave. There are contracts, for instance; and the House gets to say which of multiple books pitched it wants next. So it is with the contract just closed with Baen. We pitched three books: George, Dragon Ship, and Trade Secret. I hoped that we might be able to convince Toni to take George first; she wanted Dragon Ship, which makes a Great Deal of Sense in terms of preserving the momentum of the Ghost Ship sequence, and so the delivery dates were set.

…Some of you may recall a fluffy confection called Mouse and Dragon. That book was also a Sweet of a Different Flavor. We had just finished writing, in very short order and several simultaneously, four novels: Duainfey, Longeye, Fledgling, Saltation, and we were just about out of energy on all levels. Writing M&D was fun; it was everything we low authors tell our brains that writing a book should and will be. It served to renew our energy, and our faith in our craft; and gave us the courage to pitch Ghost Ship.

You’ll note that the new contract came with rather tight deadlines; there are reasons for that, having to do with keeping new stuff with “Lee and Miller” on it on the shelves — career building stuff, which is not always the same as writing stuff.

Steve and I talked about how we were going to handle a slightly increased pace of writing, noting that five books in 18 months was not supportable. This new contract will have us writing three books in 19 months. Should be doable, barring excessive amounts of Life.

In our scheme, Steve will be doing the first draft of Dragon Ship while I work on George. On July 1, when my day-job goes to the Summer Schedule, I’ll get the draft and do my various things, while Steve moves on to Trade Secret. My hope and plan is that George will be finished in first draft by the time Dragon Ship hits my desk, and that I may have time to squeeze in another Archers Beach novel. I’m not quite confident that I can pull that off. We’ll see.

…which kind of segues in to a discussion of our “process.”

There are two of us, which is a blessing. If there were one of us, and it was me, with three books due in 19 months, and the one my brain really wanted to do right now slated for second, I’d either try to placate my brain with some Utterly Trivial short stories before I kicked in to pay copy, or try to write the first and second books simultaneously — which I feel might not be entirely satisfactory for anyone. So, it is a blessing and a mitzvah that there are two of us.

In case there was any doubt.

Alert readers will have noted that the kinds of stories told within the Liaden Universe® vary wildly. We have action! We have adventure! We have romance! We have YA! We have milSF! We have comedy of manners! We have, well…space opera, really.

This diversity of story within a single fictional universe is a direct result of there being two of us.

Our “process” consists of one of us bumping into a story idea. We may live with it for a couple days, to see how it wears, or we may blurt it out the instant it occurs. Once the idea is out there on the creative table where we can both see it, we talk about it, role-play a few possible scenes, try out some dialog, and in general kick it around to see if (1) it’s viable as a story, and (2) we really want to do it, because life is too short to write books you don’t really want to do.

Once we’ve determined that the story is one we want to tell, we rough out — verbally; our “process” includes a great deal of role-playing at all stages — a storyline. At some point, one of us will begin typing. The day’s pages are typically given to the non-typing partner at the kitchen table before the last meal of the day. They are read; the meal and its aftermath usually taken up with discussion of future scenes and dialog.

Because there are two of us, and because we do, occasionally, disagree, the person who first brought the story idea to the table is what we call the “cop” for that book — essentially, the “cop” is the third vote; the tie-breaker, in case we can’t resolve a difference of vision in some other way.

Usually, we do manage to resolve differences in vision without resorting to the cop’s vote. We do this by deferring to the characters; their necessities and the events they have set in motion. This works 99% of the time. In the whole course of our writing partnership — 18 collaborative novels and counting — the third vote has been invoked. . .twice.

Once the first draft is done by whomever is doing that, it goes to the other partner, for reading, comment, adjustment. The manuscript then goes through one more, clean-up stage before it’s put on the bus to the publisher.

…and that’s it. Exciting, no?

Whatever day

Long weekends mess up my sense of what day is this, really. I’ve been thinking all day that it’s Sunday, but, no! It turns out that today? Is Saturday. It’s like being given a whole extra day, free of charge.

Whatever its name, today was slightly fragmented. I did finally finish the filing, except for the small mountain of galleys and turned-in manuscripts that I feel compelled to keep, but have no place to file. Well. There’s a file cabinet in the basement. I think there may be a spot of spelunking in my future.

I’ve started work on my next book*, which sadly has no title. For the purposes of discussion, this book shall, until such time as a Proper Title presents itself, be referred to as The Book Presently Known As George.

There’s been some discussion of taking in an early movie tomorrow. The local Flagship, in a un-looked-for fit of randomosity, is showing not one, but three! movies that we could view with interest: Burlesque, RED, and Harry Potter Part One of Two. All things being equal, I expect we’ll go with Potter.

Everybody having a fine and fun-filled weekend? What are y’all up to? Finished shopping? Tell all.

Progress on The Book Presently Known as George:
2,187 words/100,000 OR 2.19% complete

———
*Steve is in the hot seat for Dragon Ship

Books read in 2010

The Messenger, Jan Burke
Rumpole Misbehaves, John Mortimer
Strange Bedpersons, Jennifer Crusie
Shinju, Laura Joh Rowland
A Matter of Class, Mary Balogh
Chill, Elizabeth Bear
The Replacement, Brenna Yovanoff
Ghost Ship, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Merchanter’s Luck, C.J. Cherryh (reread)
Mr. Monster, Dan Wells
Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
I Am Not a Serial Killer, Dan Wells
Deceiver, C.J.Cherryh
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson
Half Magic, Edward Eager
Unknown, Rachel Caine
The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
Sunshine, Robin McKinley
Bone Crossed, Patricia Briggs
‘Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis
The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield
The Ten-Cent Plague, David Hajdu
Bridge of Birds, Barry Hughart (reread)

Daughter of PSA: Holiday gift giving

As delightful as books are to receive, signed books are a special treat.

For those who want to add that extra touch of glitter to their gift of reading, signed books are available from the following wonderful vendors:

Ellen Richmond, Children’s Book Cellar, 207.872.4543, kidsbookscellarATmyfairpointDOTnet (where AT and DOT replace The Usual)  — Lee and Miller titles, and Carousel Tides.

Jeanne Peterson Kamfonik, Beggar’s Ride Studio and Gallery, 207.937.2673, or request on www.facebook.com/beggarsrideartCarousel Tides only.

PSA: Holiday gift giving

Remember that books make perfect holiday gifts!

For those folks on your list who have — or who will receive — an ebook reader of any flavor, remember Baen Webscriptions for all of their space opera, milSF, classicSF, and fantasy needs.

Electronic editions of all published Lee and Miller novels, a good number of the short stories published in SRM Publisher chapbooks, and Lee’s Carousel Tides are available here.  Shop carefully, there are some duplications, due to various promotional packages.

In addition to the Webscriptions offerings, electronic editions of Sharon Lee’s Maine (aka Jen Pierce) mysteries, as well as some early short stories, are available from Fictionwise.

For those who prefer the comforting weight of a bound book in the hands, remember to hit your local independent bookstore early and often.

Purely to assist in your shopping, below are a list of Lee and Miller, and Lee books that have come out this year:

Fledgling

Saltation

Mouse and Dragon

The Dragon Variation

Carousel Tides

For those procrastinators among us — you know who you are — gift certificates to your favorite bookstore are a way to give today and tomorrow.

Lee and Miller books coming out in 2011 include:

The Agent Gambit

Korval’s Game

Longeye

Ghost Ship

The Crystal Variation

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

The rest thing

The coon cat contingent is especially pleased with the day, it having eventually encompassed long periods of myself on the couch, artfully draped with both the floofy snowflake blanket and the venerable african.  They disposed themselves elegantly and commenced in to snoring while I did the rest thing, which meant nodding off from time to time and also reading.

Reading is, it says here, restful.  I would just mention here that it’s probably more restful if you can avoid laughing yourself into a coughing fit, and that I, too, want a Henderson.

The morning snailmail brought a surprise check for royalties from Fictionwise, making three on the year.  This particular check is especially satisfying because, what with one illness and another, Steve and I had decided that the Thanksgiving Buffet at one of the local establishments is what we shall do in terms of an Autumn Feast, and the funds just in will handily cover that and the tip.   Win.

Before that happy outing, however — tomorrow, in fact — I need to get to the day-job to do catch-up from today, and set-up for the long weekend.  Possibly, this will not take all day, but, with one of the searches on its last day, that’s not really the best square on which to place one’s last coin.

I believe I will take the elevator from The Street to the attic.  That’s rest, surely?

For now, I’m going to mooch back to the couch with Jan Burke’s The Messenger, and read to the coon cats some more.

For those celebrating this week — what are your Thanksgiving plans?

Books read in 2010

Rumpole Misbehaves, John Mortimer
Strange Bedpersons, Jennifer Crusie
Shinju, Laura Joh Rowland
A Matter of Class, Mary Balogh
Chill, Elizabeth Bear
The Replacement, Brenna Yovanoff
Ghost Ship, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Merchanter’s Luck, C.J. Cherryh (reread)
Mr. Monster, Dan Wells
Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
I Am Not a Serial Killer, Dan Wells
Deceiver, C.J.Cherryh
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson
Half Magic, Edward Eager
Unknown, Rachel Caine
The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
Sunshine, Robin McKinley
Bone Crossed, Patricia Briggs
‘Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis
The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield
The Ten-Cent Plague, David Hajdu
Bridge of Birds, Barry Hughart (reread)

Liaden Universe® InfoDump No. 85

After a relatively quiet summer we have lots of news!

THREE NEW LIADEN UNIVERSE BOOKS aimed for Baen! Right, Jennifer Jackson, our hardworking agent, brings us word that Baen Books publisher and editor Toni Weisskopf has accepted proposals from Lee & Miller for THREE new Liaden novels to be turned in before the end of 2012. Publication dates are far from set, but the base schedules usually have books appearing in print 6-9 months after they are turned in.

Tentative title #1: Dragon Ship … this is a Theo story, yes. To be turned in around or just after next year’s WorldCon — September 2011.

Tentative title #2: To be Determined. . . due to the publisher a little after New Year’s 2012 — a Surebleak-centric story, with new characters and familiar characters expanded.


Tentative title #3: Trade Secret … this is a Jethri story, following closely on the heels of Balance of Trade. This ought to be turned in before Worldcon 2012.

AFTERMATH OF HOSPITAL VISIT
In case you missed the news, Steve was hospitalized for about a week in October, due to pneumonia and complications. He’s basically recovered now (though still subject to some follow-up medical visits), but that time out put a crimp in a planning for the holiday chapbook, especially since he’s also involved in moving the SRM Publisher office *(see note below). So, yes, the usual Yule chapbook will not appear before the end of the year, for which he apologizes.

SKYBLAZE DUE IN FEBRUARY
Right, this year’s slightly delayed holiday chapbook from Lee & Miller will arrive in February, and will be titled SKYBLAZE.

We expect to start shipping on Groundhog’s Day 2011, (that’s February 2 in the US). Preorders can be made here — http://www.korval.com/skyblaze/ — through February 1, 2011. No pre-orders will be accepted after that date. The chapbook will feature a novella centered in the midst Korval’s tumultuous exit from Liad and arrival on Surebleak. Don’t miss it!  Again, that’s http://www.korval.com/skyblaze

CAROUSEL TIDES LIFTS OFF AT THE BEACH!
Sharon Lee’s Carousel Tides seaside fantasy has been getting good reception from readers and reviewers following a unique book launch party at Old Orchard Beach, Maine’s summer holiday mecca. Held at Beggar’s Ride, a one of kind art gallery and artist’s center, the Carousel Tides event brought dozens of people from as far away as Huntsville, Alabama; Maryland; Virginia, and points north and west to meet Sharon and get their very own signed copy direct form the author’s hand.  Carousel Tides is set in Archer’s Beach, Maine, an alter ego of Old Orchard Beach, and a place where the land and sea bring power together to help a guardian hold a very special gate. Carousel Tides is available at most genre shops and brick-and-mortar bookstores as well as from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online sites; both an ebook version (from Baen) and an audible.com audio book are also available. One reviewer said …  “In one reading, this book is seamless, the work of a master who knows what she’s doing. It’s the best fantasy Sharon Lee has done, I’ll even say her best book, and a keeper. It’s one to remember come award time. And even better – this book can stand alone for all eternity, like the rocks it is built upon, or it can carry the weight of a sequel.” (http://alfreda89.livejournal.com/476622.html#cutid1 )

BOSKONE UNCERTAINTY
As much as Lee and Miller like to support Boskone, this year’s convention may have to do without the authors, depending very much on scheduling and medical permissions.  Watch for future InfoDumps, or authorial blogs, for more information.

*NOTE BELOW ABOUT SRM
SRM Publisher will be moving operations during November and quite a few of the Meisha Merlin books available are in short supply. During November and until December 17 expect one day specials and other short-term offers on a changing group of books and chapbooks.  Plan B is sold out.

WHERE IN THE WORLD ARE LEE AND MILLER?
Sharon and Steve will be signing at the Barnes and Noble Marketplace in Augusta, Maine on Saturday, December 4, beginning at 1 p.m.

DISCLAIMER STUFF
This InfoDump is a product of the Liaden Universe®, accept no imitations. You have received this message because you asked for it. If you wish to subscribe to the Liaden Universe® email list, go: http://www.fireopal.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/liadenuniversenews

Errands and Awards

Steve and I had plans to meet at the Framemakers in downtown Waterville at 3:30 today.  Therefore, I left the day-job, detoured to Tim Horton’s  for much-needed caffeine and sugar To Go, and headed for Main Street.

At the Framemakers, Amy was. . . let’s say that Amy was Highly Appreciative of David Mattingly’s Ghost Ship art.  The three of us played with matte-board and frames for a while, which is always fun, and agreed that the purple and gold scheme was stunning.  That decided, we left Amy to do the hard part, while we went down the block to Barrels, where we shopped mustard (mmmm, mustard) and jam, coming away with three jars of the former (Raye’s Winter Garden, Classic, and Lemon Pepper) and one jar each of blueberry and pumpkin butter.

At home, I found in my inbox a notice from SFWA (that’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) that the nominating period for the Nebula Award ballot is now open, closing on February 15, 2011.

Last year, I’d read a couple of works that I thought deserved recognition; this year, I haven’t (1) read that much and (2) been blown away by anything that I did read.  I hope that will change before the closing date for nominations.

In the meantime, if you are an Associate or Active member of SFWA, you are eligible to nominate works to the Nebula ballot, which will be voted on by Active members in March.  Winners will be announced at the Nebula Awards Weekend, in Washington D.C., over the weekend of May 19 – 22, 2011.

This year, Lee and Miller have two novels eligible for nomination:  Saltation, and Mouse and Dragon.  In addition, Sharon Lee has an eligible novel:  Carousel Tides.

Tonight, Steve has a library trustee meeting.  Ball o’fire that I am, myself, I plan to curl up on the couch with a coon cat or two and. . .read a book.

Everybody have a good evening, ‘k?

My husband and I write books, did I mention that?

. . .first one published was Agent of Change, a mass market original from Random House/Del Rey, in February 1988, then Conflict of Honors, in June 1988; Carpe Diem in October 1989; and Plan B in trade paper in…

February 1999.

Yeah, little bit of break, there.

Starting with the February 1999 release, though, we got more regular in our habits, with the result that we just recently handed in our eighteenth collaborative novel.

A lot of you have heard this story before.  The reason I’m doing a refresher right now is. . .

. . .with the assistance of Madame the Agent, and the willingness of Toni Weiskopff at Baen. . .

. . .we just today sold three more Liaden Universe® novels.

Dragon Ship, the sequel to next August’s Ghost Ship, is due in September 2011.  Trade Secret, the sequel to Balance of Trade, is due in May 2012.  In-between those two — due in January 2012 — is an as-yet-untitled Surebleak-centric story featuring some interesting new characters.

Keep in mind that the above are the authors’ delivery dates and not publication dates.  We don’t know what the publication dates may or will be.  That comes later.

First, we need to write like heck.