Archive for the ‘Liaden Universe®’ Category

Lee & Miller history lesson re “crowd funding”

Most of y’all know this story.  Generally, I’m putting it here for those who have heard a garbled version, or who are justifying something they want to do by convincing themselves that we did that thing, and so it’s OK for them to do it.

In general, I’m not comfortable with being a justification for the actions and decisions of anybody else.  I mean, jeez, if you wanna do something, do it, and see what happens.  Though, I don’t — I really don’t — think it’s a good idea to quit your day-job and ask your friends to support you while you “try this writing thing,” if you don’t already have publishing experience, and a reader base.


Once upon a time, ‘way back in the last half of the 20th century, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller were working day-jobs and writing on the side, as one does.  We had collaborated on, and sold to a magazine called Fantasy Book, two short stories about a not-very-bright, if well-meaning, accidental wizard by the name of Kinzel.  The editor was very encouraging about the stories, asking for more of this, please, so we wrote a third in the series, and sent it off, feeling like we had a sure sale.

Lesson the First:  There are no sure sales.

The story came back by return mail, with a form letter attached, that said (paraphrased): Fantasy Book has gone on hiatus, due to lack of funds.  Just as soon as we have funding, we’ll let all our writers know.

That was in 1985.  Fantasy Book is still on hiatus.

Well, that was a disappointment, to say the least.

Now, for those who were born since those Halcyon Days of Yore, I will just mention here that home computers, cell phones, tablets, and the like did not always exist.  In fact, desktop computers were just starting to become available to regular people, and, courtesy of our advance money for Agent of Change, purchased in 1985 by Del Rey Books (an imprint of Random House), we had a Kaypro so-called portable computer and a 9-pin printer.  The Kaypro computer had an internal 300-baud modem, and we were members of several Baltimore (we were living in Baltimore, Maryland at the time.  In fact, we were both born in Baltimore, Maryland, in the 1950s.  No, I never rode a dinosaur to school.) area computer bulletin boards (computer bulletin boards were pre-internet chat and (sometimes) group game systems).  We were on Midnight, KC’s Place, and. . .(memory fails:  Fallen Angel ran the place, that’s all I remember.  Lovely woman.  ‘Til Dawn, maybe it was called.). . .all of which were heavily messaged-based.  There was quite a tight-knit community of BBS users, and one night, Steve was “talking” about the Fantasy Book situation, and the fact that we had an orphaned third story in a “trilogy” and no other magazine was likely to take it, when one of his correspondents said, “Why not publish it yourself?”

“Takes money,” said Steve.

. . .and two days later, when we went to the post office to collect our mail, among the advertisers and the bills was an envelope containing two $20 bills, and a note that said, “Toward publishing your fantasy stories.”

Steve had the skills to do layout, having worked for several newspapers in several capacities.  He did the figuring — how many pages to publish not just the third, but all three Kinzel stories, got the quote from the printer, added in probable postage, asked Colleen Doran how much she would need to draw us a cover, and put the whole package before the BBS community:  This is how much it would cost to get this done, and everyone who donates — I forget.  $5? — to the project will get a copy of the finished chapbook.

Donations — I kid you not — poured in, we produced the book, friends from the community came over to our house to help us collate and saddlestitch it (we saved money by doing that part ourselves, rather than having the printer put the book together), we mailed them to subscribers, and!

That was our very first crowd-funded project.

Historic touchstone:  Agent of Change was published as a paperback original by Del Rey Books in February 1988; Conflict of Honors, was published as a Del Rey paperback original in July 1988; Carpe Diem was published as a paperback original in October 1989, as a Del Rey paperback original.  In 1991, I guess, Del Rey rejected the option book, and our editor there told us we were has-been writers.

We continued to write, though nobody bought our stuff, and we worked day-jobs to keep cats and house together.  I was a copy editor on night-side news at the local daily.  Steve was childrens librarian at the Oakland Public Library.  I was office manager for a wastewater service company; Steve did sales in a computer store.  I was executive director of SFWA.  Steve was internet librarian for a that went bust. You know the drill.

Around 1995,  SRM Publisher, Ltd. came into being, and?  Most of our 25 chapbooks, three trade paperbacks, and two hardcovers, were pre-funded by subscription — crowd-funded, if you will.

Then — we’re still in the 20th Century, now — Del Rey Books having dropped us, though, as I said, we continued to write — we got a call from Stephen Pagel, who was starting a publishing company called Meisha Merlin.  The idea behind the company was to reprint “underpublished” books — by which Stephe (that’s what he called himself, “Stephe,” and that’s how he spelled it; not a typo, OK?  A man can decide what he wants to be called and how it’s spelled) meant mostly 1970s and 1980s paperback originals that had been read to literal pieces and were now out of print, so people couldn’t replace their worn-out, much-loved books.

NOTE for those who were born into another time:  Ebooks existed at this time, but, since ereaders with nice resolution did not, nobody wanted to buy them.

So, Stephe at Meisha Merlin had heard good things about our three novels, and wanted to reprint them, if the rights were available.

Well, not only were the rights available, we had five more books (we’d continued to write, remember?) in series ready to go, and Stephe — for good or ill — purchased them on the spot.

Plan B, the fourth novel in the Liaden Universe® was published by Meisha Merlin in February 1999; our last book with Meisha Merlin — Crystal Dragon — was published in February 2006.  By that time, we were full-time writers, and earning more than the day-jobs had ever paid us.

Right around the time of Crystal Dragon’s publication, Meisha Merlin stopped paying us, and by the winter of 2006, we here at the Cat Farm and Confusion Factory were. . .in serious financial straits, barely afloat, despite the income that SRM was still bringing in.

Obviously, we needed to do Something, and in the end, we did three things.

1.  I went — as my colleagues there charmingly put it — “back to work” as a secretary in the History Department at Colby College.

2.  Steve and I put together the first five chapters of a Liaden book we called Fledgling, about a never-before-seen character, Theo Waitley, and announced to the interwebs that we would be posting the first chapter, free for anyone to read, on January 7?, 2007.  The next chapter would be posted when we had collected $300 in donations.  We further promised that anyone who donated $25 or more would receive a hard copy of the novel, if one were ever published.  (At that point, like the Kinzel stories, we figured we would publish the book ourselves.)

NOTE:  Kickstarter did not exist at this point.  In a sense, we pioneered the Kickstarter model in science fiction publishing.

3.  We asked our agent to send two active proposals for fantasy novels, to Baen Books, who had picked up the erights (which we owned) to the (then) 10 existing Liaden novels.

Number 1 above covered our health insurance, and brought in a modest amount of money, bi-weekly.

Fledgling did very well for us; and the following year we wrote the second Theo book, Saltation, in the same manner.

Baen purchased the two fantasy novels — Duainfey and Longeye.

In due time, Baen picked up the rights to publish both Theo books — and, the rights having finally been recovered from the smoking wreckage of Meisha Merlin — new Liaden titles, as well.

We are now full-time writers; I quit my day-job in the summer of 2011, because the loss of opportunities it caused outweighed the benefits it produced.  We will in May turn in our. . .twelfth novel to Baen books.  Our entire backlist is currently in print, as books, ebooks, and audiobooks.

. . .I think that’s it.  Who has questions?


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Liaden Universe® InfoDump Number 106

Sharon and Steve are very sorry to have to cancel out of Boskone and SasQuan.  The reasons are complex, having to do with a challenging combination of financial, time, and health resources.  We’re not happy about this, but — our health comes first, as do the two Liaden books that are to be delivered in 2015.

NOTE:  We are, with appropriate time to schedule and prepare, available to Skype to conventions and/or fan gatherings.  Please write to Steve via Facebook or at kinzelATkorvalDOTcom if you would like to coordinate a Skype event.

In early June, Baen will be sending Steve and Sharon on a Northeast book tour in support of Dragon in Exile, the 18th novel of the Liaden Universe(R).  More details as they are forthcoming.

We had a great time as Principal Speakers at PhilCon, in mid-November. Thanks to the ConCom for inviting us; for all the folks who stopped to talk with us; and the stuffies who made it their business to attend the Teddy Bear Tea.  Also, a special shout-out to Gene Olmstead, for his outstanding assistance with the Teddy Bear Tea, elevating what we expected to be a pleasant, low-key gathering into one of the High Points of the Season.

For those who were not able to come to PhilCon, the text of our Guest of Honor speech may be read here:

Carousel Seas, the final book in the Archers Beach trilogy, was published on January 6, 2015, and is now available as a trade paperback; an ebook; and an audiobook!  In addition, signed copies of the trade paperback, as well as other Lee, and Lee-and-Miller novels, are available from Uncle Hugo’s SF Bookstore in Minneapolis.  Uncle Hugo’s does mail order around the world. Here’s your link:

Also!  Archers Beach novelette, “The night don’t seem so lonely,” has been published at, where you may read it for free.  Here’s the link:

Sharon recently chatted with Baen editor Tony Daniel about Carousel Seas and the Archers Beach Trilogy, here:

Steve and Sharon talk about A Liaden Universe® Constellation Volume 2, here:

Check out the other many fine podcasts with Baen authors here:

For those who missed it, and for those who would like to see it again, here’s the link to David Mattingly’s cover for Dragon in Exile:

We’re told by those who read kanji and Turkish that the two signs on the sides of the alley read: The Dragon in Exile; and The Dragon is in the Coffeehouse.  Which is really going the extra mile.  And, yes, there is a cat in the painting, as always.

Those who would like a print of this cover art (and, also, possibly of others of the Mattingly covers), write to David Mattingly at davidATmattinglyDOTcom.

Award Season is upon us, where authors point to their work published in the previous year, and ask readers to remember those works when it comes time to vote on the Nebulas, Hugos, and other awards and best-of lists that are coming up.

Lee and Miller had published several novelettes in 2014.  Here are the titles, and the links, so that you may read, or re-read, the work:

The Rifle’s First Wife, published January 20, 2014, at Splinter Universe:   (novelette)
Roving Gambler, published April 15, 2014, at Splinter Universe:  (novelette)
Code of Honor, published May 5, 2014, at Splinter Universe:  (novelette)

IN ADDITION, Sharon Lee saw published a novel, a short story, and a novelette, listed below, with links, for your convenience:

Gift of Music, short story published January 15, 2014, at
Carousel Sun, novel published February 15, 2014, by Baen
The night don’t seem so lonely, novelette published December 15, 2014 at

In case you haven’t noticed, Gus Fleischman and various other volunteers have been building a wiki designed especially for those interested in things Liaden. You can find it here:   and you’ll see it covers such things as a timeline, names, bows, and more – lots more – there are 75 pages worth so far. If there’s something you’d like to see (Is there a section on weaponry? How about a list of planets? What food (if any) has been named?) you can add it, help beef up what’s there, or make a request to your friends. If you’ve always wanted to reach out to other Friends of Liad, this is a good place to start!

Jeff Somers writes about military sf/space opera for BN News:

January 6:  Carousel Seas, final book in Sharon Lee’s Archers Beach Trilogy
May 15:  Short story for, title TBA
June 2:  Dragon in Exile, 18th novel of the Liaden Universe(R)  EARC published approximately 60-90 days prior to paper publication
August 4:  A Liaden Universe® Constellation, Volume 3

DELIVERY SCHEDULE  (NOTE:  these are deadlines for turn-in Madame the Editor, NOT publication dates)
April 15, 2015:  Short story for, title TBA
May 29, 2015:  Alliance of Equals
November 15, 2015:  Sequel to Alliance of Equals (aka Third of Five)
August 15, 2016:  Fourth of Five
May 15, 2017:  Fifth of Five

Blogs and Other Webly Things of Note
Steve Miller’s blog, Journeyman:
Sharon Lee’s blog, Eagles over the Kennebec:
Sharon Lee’s “Professional” blog:
Splinter Universe Discussion List:

Facebook Connections — please feel free to add us! — Steve Miller — Sharon Lee

Pinbeam Books: an online catalog, with vendor links, to all Lee-and-Miller eChapbooks
Splinter Universe: features outtakes, splinters, and oddities from the Lee&Miller writing career, currently changes irregularly.
Welcome to Liad — The official homepage for Liaden Universe® news —
The Hyperspatial Boardwalk Shop: T-shirts, mugs, more! —

Liaden Interest Groups on Facebook
Clan Korval:
Friends of Liad:
Flaran chamenthi:

Steve’s on Twitter:
Sharon’s on Twitter, too:

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, to unsubscribe from the Liaden Universe® email list, or to change your delivery email address, go here:

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Eye candy

This just in from Madame the Editor.

-- art by David Mattingly

— art by David Mattingly

This is the eighteenth novel detailing the adventures of Clan Korval and other residents of the Liaden Universe®.

The hardcover will be in bookstores in June 2015.  For those who treasure a passion for eArcs, count backward four months from June for your probable release date.  No word yet on whether there will be an audiobook edition.


More news as it becomes available.

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Sunday Cat Spam

This was the scene of debauchery we discovered in our living room, yesterday afternoon:

How many coon cats are in this picture?

How many coon cats are in this picture?



This morning, we slept in somewhat, in celebration of the fact that tomorrow heralds the return of The Schedule.  Steve made us asparagus omelets with hollandaise sauce for breakfast, after which I retired to the couch to elevate my foot and finish the book I was reading.  Those tasks now accomplished, I will turn my attention toward speech-writing, and laundry-finishing, as Steve has dealt with the dishes.

For those playing along at home — we’ve gotten feedback from a fan on Dragon on Exile, which I reproduce here:  “Wow.”

So, that’s coming in June 2015.

. . .and I think that’s all the news that’s fit to print.


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In which the author continues to goof off

So, yesterday was various errands, including the Getting of the Flu Shots, and tomorrow there are more errands.  Today, I believe there is cleaning, including post-writing disaster control of my office.  Which, to be fair, is Slightly Less Awful than it Often Is in terms of Sheer Volume.  On the other paw, I can’t just sweep stacks of paper into trash bags, either, because there are Large Swaths of at least one other book interleaved with the pages that finally came to make up Dragon in Exile.

Speaking of Dragon in Exile, or at least, speaking of Val Con and Miri, who are more-or-less major actors in the novel, something went past my eyeballs a while ago, regarding characterization in the Liaden Universe®. The assertion of the writer was that while the authors get positive points for writing strong female characters, those points are crushed under the number of  negative points the authors get for pairing said strong, intelligent females with a male characters who are even stronger and smarter.

It probably goes without saying — but I’ll say it anyway — that I don’t see it that way.  Speaking specifically of Miri  and Val Con, what I see is two smart, capable people who have had vastly different lives, and who therefore have different strengths, and weaknesses, who happen to complement each other.

As a question of craft, I’ve always felt that it’s a cheat to demonstrate that one’s female character is strong and intelligent by deliberately pairing her with a weak or venal, less-intelligent male.  Just as it’s a cheat to demonstrate that your hero is strong, smart, and morally upstanding by pairing him with Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes.

Also, just personally, I wonder why a strong, smart character of any gender you like would partner with a dummy (OK; maybe in terms of muscle or money).  But, generally, in terms of survival, wouldn’t you want the smartest, strongest, most sympatico person you could get for your partner?

So, anyhow, that’s what I think.  What do you think?

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One good thing about cleaning out file drawers

. . .is that you find the coolest stuff.

I, for instance, found an outtake from Crystal Soldier which (1) I had forgotten I (I was writing Cantra at that point; Steve was working with Jela) had written and (2) is Actually Really Nice.  Too bad it wouldn’t fit in the book as it came to shape up.

It has now been published to Splinter Universe, here.

There’s also a small, generally incoherent, author’s intro, here.

Oh.  And here’s a picture of what’s left of yesterday’s Big Pile of Typescripts:

Yes, those folders are EMPTY

Yes, those folders are EMPTY

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She’s so mean, but I don’t care; I love her eyes and her wild wild hair

We’ve got some catching up to do here, so let’s get to it!

First!  Quicksliver Chapter Five is now on the web, for your perusal.  Here’s your link.

Second! The Science Fiction Romance Brigade Summer Blog Hop is on!  Talk about your favorite Science Fiction Romance, get suggestions for lots of great reading, and maybe win an Amazon gift card.  Here’s your link.

Third! AsyouknowBob, Steve and I are looking to move out of our house here in the country (which is harder to contemplate in this season than in, oh, Deep Winter), and Into Town. Which town is still up in the air.  We have to seriously consider Waterville which is, after all, where our doctors and the vets and most of the people we know are.  On the other hand, I’m still trying to finagle, if not a $400,000 condo oceanfront, at least a move that gets us closer to Old Orchard Beach, Portland, the train outta town &c.  So, it’s being a dance.

We have been talking to a real estate agent, who kind of ran us through how this was going to go, from the buyer side and the seller side.  One of the things she went over was putting down earnest money, when we found the House of our Dreams (which, honestly, we’re not likely to do, but give her a break; she’s never been to Liad).  And she said something like, “So, you’ll put down a couple hundred dollars in earnest. . .”  At which point I looked at Steve and Steve looked at me and we did not laugh, even though we were recalling that when we found this house, we put down two dollars in earnest money.  Steve put down his silver dollar that he always carried, and I put down mine.  Our agent at that time had been a social worker.  He took the coins, and wrote us out a receipt as it it were perfectly unexceptional.  Shame he’s long retired.

One of the things this agent said to us, when she came out to look at our house was something to the effect of how much STUFF we had.  A couple weeks later, the contractor echoed that.  Now, I don’t disagree that we have stuff — books and papers, mostly — but I didn’t think we were out of line for writers, really.  I said something to the effect that creativity is messy, and kind of got a Look.  Today, however, Trulia search service sent me this house as possibly of interest.  It’s in Rockland, which isn’t actually near Portland, or OOB, or the train, but does abut the Atlantic Ocean, and is home to several museums, and has a robust summer music program.  Here’s the link.

By golly, creativity is messy.

Let’s see, what else?

Oh!  I bought some socks (don’t judge me! I had a coupon), which have, so Socks Addict tells me, shipped.  They have shipped via the United States Post Office second-day priority, with insurance, and will require an adult’s signature when they arrive.  I mean, I knew they were stripe-y socks, but I didn’t know they were as racy as that.

. . .I think that may be all the news that’s fit to print at the moment.  Which is good, because I need to get to work.


Today’s blog title is brought to you by Escape Club, “Wild, Wild West.”  Here’s your link.

* * *

Progress on One of Five
70,000/100,000 OR 70% complete

“Our Rys bids fair to become a poet.”

He laughed again, feeling his cheeks warm.

“I fear I am eloquent only on subjects dear to me.”

“Well, that’s as should be, isn’t it? But tell me now, Rys Silvertongue, are these grapes jam or are they supper?”

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In which there are announcements among the raindrops

I am remiss in announcing that Chaz Brenchley’s guest story, “2 Pi to Live” is now available for your reading pleasure on Splinter Universe.  Here’s your link.  Remember that the donation button at the bottom of the story goes direct to the author, if you wish to show your appreciation for their work.

Also, the three newest Liaden stories on Splinter Universe will be coming down sooner rather than later, as they will be among the sweet fruits collected in A Liaden Universe® Constellation, Volume 3See this, in case you missed that.  So!  Read ‘em while they’re free.

Regarding Splinter Universe in general, and those stories in particular, I want to thank everyone for their generosity.  Very much appreciated.

In other news, it’s raining (boo!  hiss!), so we have canceled the trip to Portland to tour the ferry, window-shop and generally goof off, and you know what that means, right?

Right.  It means today is a working day.

Also?  There was a Cooper’s Hawk perched in the ravaged pine tree nearest the deck yesterday afternoon (and me without a camera!), obviously shopping the bird feeder for lunch.  He flew off when he encountered my ill-bred stare, but I fear he will be back.   Sigh.  It’s a jungle out there.

So, what’re you doing today that’s fun?

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And not only that!

Steve reminds me that today! is Book Day for the mass market edition of Necessity’s Child!

So, those who’ve read/listened to previous editions, you want to tell people who may have been hanging back, not sure that they want to read a book that’s not in the “main line” why they should give Necessity’s Child a chance?  No spoilers, please.


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So, Today I Read Agent of Change

Agent of Change (it says here) was completed in October 1984.  It was acquired by Del Rey Books in December 1986, and published on February 1, 1988.

That’s like. . .wow.  Written thirty years ago.

According to this list here, 1,496 science fiction and fantasy novels were published in 1988.  Lee and Miller were responsible for two of those — Agent, and Conflict of Honors (completed in 1986, a mere 28 years ago).

Now, what you need to understand about Life, and Science Fiction, and All, back thirty years ago, is that. . .Things Were Different.  It’s rather amazing, how many things/ideas/cultural norms have changed in a mere thirty years, including science fiction, how it was written, and who it was written for.

The happy proliferation of women kicking ass that we enjoy today; stories of strong relationships between passionate equals. . . that’s a recent development.  Thirty years ago?  We didn’t have that.

We were starting to have it.  Lois Bujold had already published Ethan of Athos, Shards of Honor and Falling Free (among others, but those especially), by the time Lee and Miller got their break.  And of course, Anne McCaffrey had been doing her particular thing since 1967.

What Agent of Change, and Conflict of Honors were, back a quarter-century ago?  They were ground-breaking.

And the thing is?  We meant to do it.

We meant to tell stories about strong, capable, smart women.  We meant to tell stories about men who weren’t threatened by strong, capable, smart women, and who were themselves strong enough to accept the vulnerability that comes with being in touch with their own emotions.

We meant, in short, to effect change.

We intended, ourselves, to be agents of change.

And! Because we were determined to write science fiction, we had to do all this, like Ginger Rogers, while dancing backwards, in heels.  We had to write a science fiction adventure story that would appeal to the audience science fiction was at that time written for — that mythical fourteen year old boy.

On all those levels, Agent still succeeds.

There are car chases and gun fights and bar brawls and Interesting Aliens and All Kinds of Exciting Things Going On, and even a Girl In Trouble.

However.  Miri Robertson is a self-directed woman who is more than capable of taking care of herself and, as needed, her less-than-completely-sane partner, and the other women in the book are equally powerful: Suzuki Rialto is the senior commander of a mercenary unit; Liz Lizardi is retired from the same business.  Even the daughter of the local mob boss has moxie and self-worth, and, frankly?  Angus is not gonna be wearing the pants in that family.

And the struggle of Miri’s less-than-completely-sane partner?  Is the struggle for his integrity, and his soul.

So, my thoughts upon reading the child of our youthful ambition?  Am I ashamed of it?  I am not.  Do I think we could have done better?  Not at the time.

I think Agent still stands.  Yes, it was written thirty years ago, by young and possibly too earnest writers.  And, if it’s no longer a subversive work; it still stands as an adventure story, with heart.

. . .If you’d like to read Agent of Change, you may download it, for free, from the Baen Free Library or from Amazon.


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