Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

More about the Story behind Lee and Miller’s FLEDGLING and SALTATION

with 3 comments

Folks, I rarely get to have as much fun as I did today in writing a joint review for the first two books about Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s excellent character, Theo Waitley, for Shiny Book Review.

Before I forget, here’s the link to the review:

Now, let me tell you a bit more about Lee and Miller’s excellent Liaden Universe.  These two writers put out three excellent novels in the late 1980s — they are called AGENT OF CHANGE, CONFLICT OF HONORS, and CARPE DIEM — and they had a following, but their publisher apparently didn’t realize how well the books were actually selling.  (This was slightly pre-Internet, or at least previous to the pervasiveness of the Internet.)  So they were dropped by their publisher.

Normally, with writers, this forces them to try something else.  Or it forces them completely out of publishing for a while, or for good.  And in Lee and Miller’s case (they are married, and are co-writers), they took jobs but continued to work on the Liaden Universe because it interested them.

Then, as they have said in many places, came the Internet . . . and then, they found out how many people loved their three Liaden books.

At that point, they found publisher Stephen Pagel of Meisha Merlin Publishing, and he re-issued the first three Liaden books as PARTNERS IN NECESSITY, also contracting for several new books in the series — these were, not necessarily in the order written, PLAN B, I DARE, LOCAL CUSTOM, and SCOUT’S PROGRESS.  After that came CRYSTAL DRAGON, CRYSTAL SOLDIER, and BALANCE OF TRADE.  All of these were excellent books — truly outstanding — and I read and devoured them as quickly as I possibly could.

But then, something awful happened.  Meisha Merlin went bankrupt, and suddenly, Lee and Miller were sitting there without a publisher, and needing to get the rights to their own work back before they could try any of those successful books with any other publisher.

Once again, many writers would have folded here — they would’ve seen the universe as against them, or perhaps just that their work had run its course, or maybe that no matter what they did, things just weren’t going to work.

Fortunately, Lee and Miller are made of sterner stuff than this, and continued to work on the Liaden Universe.   They started writing FLEDGLING online and set up a unique way to fund it — they speak of this at the end of FLEDGLING, so I’m not “talking out of school” in any way — and finished a strong first draft of FLEDGLING that was paid for by subscription from their online friends and supporters.

At this point, Toni Weisskopf, publisher of Baen Books, entered the picture.  She wanted more Liaden Universe novels (bless her) and was in a position to do something about it, so she contracted with Miller and Lee for three novels about Theo Waitley, the first two being FLEDGLING and SALTATION, the third the hotly-awaited GHOST SHIP.  And when all the rights to the other Liaden Universe novels reverted to Lee and Miller, Baen Books decided to republish them in omnibus issues (this has already commenced, with THE DRAGON VARIATION, an omnibus that combines LOCAL CUSTOM, SCOUT’S PROGRESS, and CONFLICT OF HONORS; more of these omnibuses will follow in 2011), then bought a sequel to SCOUT’S PROGRESS, the recent, and outstanding, MOUSE AND DRAGON.

Best yet, all of the novels — every single last one of them that’s currently extant, that is — are available through Baen’s Webscriptions e-book program, or will be available through Webscriptions once finished (GHOST SHIP, I’m looking squarely at you).  Plus there’s an excellent short-story collection available called “Liaden Unibus I and II” available at Webscriptions, in case you just can’t wait to read any more stories from Lee and Miller.  (I highly recommend it; I got it as a birthday present for myself this past August.)

In short, we writers who are sitting on the outside looking in need to look at the persistence of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.  They have talent, yes — oodles and oodles of talent — but what is the most striking thing about them, aside from how well they write and how enjoyable every single last story I’ve ever read from either one of them (singly or together) is, is their persistence,  their stalwart refusal to give up.

I know that persistence is the name of the game; I can’t create luck for myself, nor for my fellow writers like Loren Jones or Jason Cordova or Kate Paulk who are very good writers just waiting for their big breaks.  But providing I can stay alive to write another day, and providing I can hold a positive thought, I can persist.

And I will.

Because I believe in the Elfyverse; I believe in what I’m doing.  I believe what I write makes sense, and that if I can just get it before someone who will appreciate it in the publishing world, maybe I can have a small sliver of the success that Lee and Miller have enjoyed.  I realize writing is not likely to be extremely remunerative — Lee and Miller, for all their popularity, can’t stay financially afloat on their writing earnings alone, nor can the excellent writer Dave Freer (who’s come out and said so on his blog; Sharon Lee has spoken of her day job, and how it helps to pay the bills, on her blog).  But I believe it’s worth my time and effort to pursue.

It takes me longer without Michael to figure out how to get out of plot problems, but I can do it.  I can finish what he left behind in his “Joey Maverick” SF universe.  I can finish what he left behind in his alternate history/fantasy “Columba” universe.  But most importantly, I can finish what I started — the three novels that (so far) comprise the Elfyverse (along with one complete short story and three others in progress).  My non-Elfyverse novel CHANGING FACES.    Many other short stories and at least one novella, all in various stages of development (or are out at magazines or publishers).

I refuse to give up on myself.  That is not the winning strategy, and as seen from the example of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, if you persist, and get any sort of shot at all, you can succeed in publishing.

So I will persist.

Michael would expect no less.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 29, 2010 at 11:03 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Supposedly, in the first hour since I’ve written this, I’ve received over 140 “views.” I have never doubted the well-deserved popularity of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller — but I’ll tell you this: I’m glad Shiny Book Review is now extant, as my reviews at never got _this_ sort of traffic. 😉

    And I would not have written this blog, about persistence, and about my observations about the persistence of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller and how we unknown writers can learn from this (we can learn a _great deal_ from this, IMNSHO), without writing that joint review.

    Barb Caffrey

    December 30, 2010 at 12:25 am

    • It happens. So books get massive views, others… not so much. I find it amusing that people find our reviews months after the fact.


      December 30, 2010 at 11:08 am

      • Yeah, agreed.

        But at least they find ’em at all. 😉

        Barb Caffrey

        December 30, 2010 at 4:21 pm

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