Liaden Universe® InfoDump No. 116

I think we managed to publish two different InfoDumps number 114, so I’m setting this one at 116 on the dial.

 NEW ECHAPBOOK AVAILABLE

Sleeping with the Enemy, Adventures in the Liaden Universe(R) Number 22, has been published at Amazon, BN, ibooks, Kobo, Page Foundry, Scribd, Tolino, 24Symbols.  Sleeping contains two stories — “Chimera,” which was originally published on Baen.com, and “Friend of a Friend,” which is new to this chapbook.  The chapbook also includes an author’s introduction.

HOW DO YOU SAY IT?

The long-promised podcast demonstrating the authors’ pronunciation of some key words and names in the Liaden Universe(R) is now live!  Well.  At least one of the authors, and the first of what looks to be several podcasts.  You can listen here:  http://splinteruniverse.com/?page_id=1266

STILL NEED A SIGNED COPY OF ALLIANCE OF EQUALS?

Uncle Hugo has mailed out all pre-ordered, signed and/or personalized copies of Alliance of Equals. While it *is* too late to get a personalized copy, you can still score a *signed* copy, just by placing an order here:http://www.unclehugo.com/prod/ah-lee-miller.php

THE AMAZON READER REVIEW CHALLENGE

We are trying to reach at least 200 reader reviews for Alliance of Equals on Amazon.  As of this writing, there are 93 reviews posted, leaving a mere 107 reviews between us and victory.

If you’d like to participate in the challenge, here are the rules:
1.  You must have read Alliance of Equals, in any edition — eARC, eBook, hardcover, or audiobook
2.  You must write a REAL review, not just a “Love this book,” but a short discussion of why you liked, or didn’t like it, who your favorite characters are, and so on.
2a.  Please do *not* say, “but don’t start with this book.”  Here’s why:  http://sharonleewriter.com/2016/07/buy-my-book/

3.  If you abhor writing reader reviews, consider recommending the book to a friend or coworker.  Thank you!

LIADEN GEAR AVAILABLE AT OFFWORLD DESIGNS

What’s the well-dressed Liaden reader wearing this year?  A denim shirt or polo from Offworld Designs, often while sipping tea, coffee, or Other Beverage from their Liaden Universe mug.  Go here for the full catalog — yes!  They do offer ladies tees. http://www.offworlddesigns.com/liaden-universe/

ONE MORE STOP COMING UP ON THE ALLIANCE OF EQUALS BOOK TOUR!
August 14, 2 pm: Barnes and Noble, 1920 N. Rock Road, Wichita, KS  http://stores.barnesandnoble.com/store/2319?view=

WHERE IN THE WORLD ARE LEE AND MILLER?
MidAmeriCon II (https://midamericon2.org/), the 74th World Science Fiction Convention, August 17-21, Kansas City Convention Center, Kansas City, MO.  Guests of Honor Kinuko Y. Craft, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Tamora Pierce, and Michael Swanwick; Toastmaster Pat Cadigan.Rhode Island Comic Con (http://www.ricomiccon.com/), November 11 – 13, Rhode Island Convention Center, Providence, RI.

Blogs and Other Webly Things of Note
Sharon Lee’s blog, Eagles over the Kennebec: http://rolanni.livejournal.com/
Sharon Lee’s “Professional” blog: http://sharonleewriter.com
Splinter Universe Discussion List: http://splinterverse.livejournal.com

Lee and Miller Patreon Support Page: https://www.patreon.com/leeandmiller?ty=h

Facebook Connections — please feel free to add us!
http://facebook.com/kinzel — Steve Miller
http://facebook.com/rolanni — Sharon Lee

Pinbeam Books: http://www.pinbeambooks.com an online catalog, with vendor links, to all Lee-and-Miller eChapbooks
Splinter Universe: http://www.splinteruniverse.com features outtakes, splinters, oddities from the Lee&Miller writing career,currently changes irregularly.
Welcome to Liad — The official homepage for Liaden Universe® news — http://www.korval.com

Liaden tshirts, polos, denims, and mugs from Offworld Designs: http://www.offworlddesigns.com/search.php?search_query=Liaden

Liaden Interest Groups on Facebook
Clan Korval: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=38719490864&ref=ts
Friends of Liad: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/group.php?gid=16280839259&ref=ts
Flaran chamenthi: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/group.php?gid=2213414696&ref=ts
Twitter
Steve’s on Twitter: http://twitter.com/bechimo
Sharon’s on Twitter, too: http://twitter.com/ClanKorvalPinterest: http://pinterest.com/rolanni/

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: http://www.fireopal.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/liadenuniversenews

Recent Publishing News

Liaden Universe® novelette “Wise Child” by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller available to read for free at Baen.com.  Here’s your link.

Alliance of Equals, the 19th novel-length Adventure in the Liaden Universe® will be released tomorrow, July 5, in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook!

The Gathering Edge, the 20th Liaden Universe® Adventure is tentatively scheduled to be published in May 2017.

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller will be doing a micro-mini-book tour in support of Alliance of Equals, starting tomorrow, July 5, at Flights of Fantasy, in Albany!

Here’s the schedule:

July 5, 7 pmFlights of Fantasy, Albany, NY
July 8, 7 pmAnnie’s Book Stop of Worcester, MA
July 9, 2 pmToadstool Books, Milford NH
July 16, 2 pm:  Children’s Book Cellar, 52 Main Street, Waterville ME

Liaden Universe® InfoDump No. 113

. . .or possibly 114; there seems to have been some slippage, somewhere.

New Liaden Novelette

“Wise Child,” a Liaden Universe® novelette, is now on Baen.com, where it can be read for free!  It begins on the front page, or you can read the whole thing here.

Please take a moment to like it on FB or tweet about it (buttons at the bottom of the story) so the boss knows people care. Thanks.  If you don’t Facebook or Tweet, consider sharing the link on your blog, if any, or email it to friends who may like SF or who Just Need To Have a short taste of the Liaden Universe(R).

Thanks.

Alliance of Equals Book Tour Changes!

There have been changes in the Alliance of Equals micro-mini tour.  Short form:  the Pandemonium Books event has been cancelled, but our local indie bookstore, Childrens Book Cellar, has signed on!  Also? We’re going to Wichita.

Here’s the schedule as it now looks:

July 5, 7 pm: Flights of Fantasy  Albany, NY
July 8, 7 pm: Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester, MA
July 9, 2 pm: Toadstool Books, Milford NH
July 14, 7 pm: Pandemonium Books Cambridge MA *Cancelled*
July 16, 2 pm:  Children’s Book Cellar, Waterville ME
August 14, 2 pm: Barnes and Noble, 1920 N. Rock Road, Wichita, KS

Want a Signed Copy of Alliance of Equals?

You can still order one from Uncle Hugo’s SF Bookstore in Minneapolis.  Here’s your link.

PLEASE NOTE:  Preorders for personalized copies closed on June 1.

Where in the World are Lee and Miller?

In addition to the micro-mini book tour, above, Steve and Sharon will be attending the following conventions during the latter half of 2016:

MidAmeriCon II, the 74th World Science Fiction Convention, August 17-21, Kansas City Convention Center, Kansas City, MO.  Guests of Honor Kinuko Y. Craft, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Tamora Pierce, and Michael Swanwick; Toastmaster Pat Cadigan.

Rhode Island Comic Con, November 11 – 13, Rhode Island Convention Center, Providence, RI.

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

Lee and Miller Patreon Support Page

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, oddities from the Lee&Miller writing career, currently changes irregularly.
Welcome to Liad — The official homepage for Liaden Universe® news

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

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

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.

Alliance of Equals Northern Kingdom Book Tour

Steve and Sharon will be visiting a few bookstores to talk about Alliance of Equals.  If you’re in the area, stop by and say hi!

July 5, 7 pmFlights of Fantasy, Albany, NY
July 8, 7 pmAnnie’s Book Stop of Worcester, MA
July 9, 2 pmToadstool Books, Milford NH
July 16 2 pm:  Childrens Bookcellar, Waterville ME
August 14, 2 pmBarnes and Noble, 1920 N. Rock Road, Wichita, KS

Liaden Universe® InfoDumpling

A Liaden Universe® InfoDumpling is a small InfoDump, sent out sporadically, when there are only a few, hot, news items to share.

Uncle Hugo’s Opens Pre-Orders for Signed and/or Personalized Copies of Alliance of Equals
Alliance of Equals, the 19th Liaden Universe® novel, will be published on July 5.  As has become his pleasant habit, the Uncle is once again taking pre-orders for signed and/or personalized books.

Here is the link to the pre-order page at Uncle Hugo’s website.

Here is a link to an explanatory blog entry.

There is a deadline involved!  All personalization requests must be made no later than June 1.

Thank you!

Offworld Designs Adds New Items to its Liaden Category
In addition to mugs, and basic black apparel, the good folks at Offworld Designs have added lady’s v-neck t-shirts, t-shirts in forest green, polo shirts in forest green, and *blue* denim shirts.

You can start shopping here.

Another All-New Story at Splinter Universe
As previously advertised, Sharon did post a second Archers Beach short story to Splinter Universe back at the end of January.  You may read “Will-o’-the-wisp” here.

For those who missed the first story, “The Wolf’s Bride,” it can be found here.

Boskone Was Great!
We had a splendid time at Boskone.  Thanks to all of the manymany volunteers who help make the con happen every year (in February!  in Boston!).  And thanks to everyone who attended!

Information about next year’s Boskone may be had here.

Lee and Miller Upcoming Conventions
Ravencon,  April 29-May 1, Williamsburg, Virginia, Doubletree. Writer Guests of Honor, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller; Artist Guest of Honor, Vincent DiFate.

BaltiCon 50,  May 27-30, The Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel, Baltimore, MD.  Writer Guest of Honor: George R.R. Martin; Artist Guest of Honor, John Picacio.  Also! All of the 50 previous GoHs who are willing to attend.  Steve and Sharon will attending as Past Writer GoHs of BaltiCon 37.

MidAmeriCon II, the 74th World Science Fiction Convention, August 17-21, 2016, Kansas City, MO. Sharon and Steve have purchased their attending memberships.

Alliance of Equals Mini Book Tour
Sharon and Steve will be visiting some bookstores in support of the publication of Alliance of Equals, in July.

July 5, 7 pmFlights of Fantasy, Albany, NY (book party!)
July 8, 7 pmAnnie’s Book Stop of Worcester, MA
July 9, 2 pmToadstool Books, Milford NH
July 14, 7 pm: Pandemonium Books, Cambridge MA

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.

Lee and Miller Boskone Schedule

As previously advertised, Steve and I will be at Boskone (February 19-21, 2016) in Boston, MA for New England’s longest running science fiction and fantasy convention. It’s going to be a fun weekend filled with books, film, art, music, gaming, and more, and we’d love to see you there! For more information about Boskone, check out The Boskone Blog, Twitter, and Facebook. Visit the Boskone website to register.  The Full Con Schedule may be found here.

Our schedule for the weekend is below.  Also look for us in the Art Show, the Dealer’s Room, and sitting around the lobby, chatting with friends.

We also try to host a Friends of Liad breakfast each year at Boskone.  Because this requires active collaboration with the hotel restaurant staff, we will not know time or day until we are on-site.  As soon as we know, we will Put the Word Out.

Boskone Schedule:

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

FRIDAY

Collaboration: Writers, Artists, and More!
Friday 6:00 – 6:50, Harbor III (Westin)
Creative collaboration is an endurance event. Each experience is different, whether working in a shared universe, co-writing a story, or working word by word with another author. Whatever the scenario, it can be an immensely rewarding experience. However, personalities can clash and the final decision isn’t always mutual. If you’re curious about creative collaborations and want to find out where to start or how to avoid the most common missteps, this panel is for you.
Steve Miller (M), Julie C. Day, Teddy Harvia, Stephen Hickman, Sharon Lee

SATURDAY

Kaffeeklatsch 2: Sharon Lee, Steve Miller
Saturday 10:00 – 10:50, Harbor I-Kaffeeklatsch 2 (Westin)

Foppish Fiction: The Dandy in SF/F/H
Saturday 11:00 – 11:50, Harbor II (Westin)
The Scarlet Pimpernel and Zorro both hid their secret identities behind foppish appearances. We’ll explore their descendants, both male and female, in speculative fiction. Then there’s the effete ruler of a decadent empire as a trope (or is that a meme?) of our genres. And what about the sidekick with a flair for fashion? Why are our protagonists all Winters in jewel tones, and none of them Autumns in burnt umber?
Sharon Lee (M), Ellen Asher, Debra Doyle, Grady Hendrix, Walter Jon Williams

Reading: Steve Miller & Sharon Lee
Saturday 12:00 – 12:25, Griffin (Westin)

How You Get the Word Out: Starting and Running a Successful Podcast
Saturday 2:00 – 2:50, Harbor III (Westin)
Podcasting gives us an outlet to share our thoughts and ideas with the world, and everyone seems to have something (perhaps a lot) to say. But is podcasting right for everyone? How do you go about “bootstrapping” a podcast? What do you need and what do you need to know? How do you attract and keep an audience? Where do you find a place to host your site? Successful ‘casters pass on their secrets.
Steve Miller (M), Kate Baker, C.S.E. Cooney, Don Pizarro, Brianna Spacekat Wu

Romance Across Space and Time
Saturday 3:00 – 3:50, Marina 2 (Westin)
Romance shows up in the unlikeliest places: from prehistory to the far-flung future; from pole to pole; from fantasy and science fiction to horror. Must it be a guilty pleasure? Or should we proudly proclaim the heart of the matter: wherever they may find it, all the world loves a love story!
Darlene Marshall (M), D L Carter, Mary Kay Kare, Steve Miller, E.J. Stevens

Writing: Pinning Down Your Plot
Saturday 4:00 – 4:50, Marina 3 (Westin)
Complicated plots need proper handling. Writers who lose control of a twisty tale can confuse and/or alienate their readers. But just how do authors manage a complex story line? Come hear their tips for keeping track of the trickiest of plots.
Steven Popkes (M), Ken Altabef, Sharon Lee, Christie Meierz, Vincent O’Neil

Boskone Book Party
Saturday 6:00 – 7:20, Galleria-Stage (Westin)
Join us for Boskone’s Multi-Author Book Party, see what’s new from authors you love, and discover new favorites. Boskone is also launching three NESFA Press books tonight: The Collected Stories of Poul Anderson Vol 7, Conspiracy!, and The Grimm Future. (Authors and publishers with a new book and a current Boskone membership are welcome to take part; contact program@boskone.org for details.)
D L Carter, Tom Easton, Grady Hendrix, Carlos Hernandez, E. C. Ambrose, Judith K. Dial, Sharon Lee, Steve Miller, Cerece Rennie Murphy, N.A. Ratnayake, Erin Underwood

SUNDAY

NESFA Book Club: Conflict of Honors by Sharon Lee & Steve MIller
Sunday 11:00 – 11:50, Griffin (Westin)
This February, the NESFA Book Club hosts its monthly meeting at Boskone. Join us as we discuss Conflict of Honors by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, who will join the group halfway through the discussion in order to lead a Q&A. All members are welcome and newcomers are encouraged to attend.
Michael Sharrow (M), Sharon Lee, Steve Miller

Autographing: James Cambias, Sharon Lee, Steve Miller
Sunday 12:00 – 12:50, Galleria-Autographing (Westin)

Take Me To Your Leader
Sunday 1:00 – 1:50, Harbor II (Westin)
Does SF/F get leaders all wrong? How do leaders in large organizations actually act? Are leaders creative? What motivates them? Let’s compare character archetypes from page and screen to real-world leaders.
Stephen P. Kelner Jr. (M), A.C.E. Bauer, Vincent Docherty, Sharon Lee, Teresa Nielsen Hayden

Exoplanets Are Out There
Sunday 1:00 – 1:50, Burroughs (Westin)
Did you ever expect to view exoplanets from Earth? SF writers since Doc Smith seemed to assume we’d discover planets only when we approached the stars they orbited. Now astronomers have confirmed 2,000 exoplanets and counting; they’re designing new devices to resolve their spectra and hint at their habitability. Was this a failure of imagination, a choice to build drama, or an unexpected success of astronomical instrumentation? Didn’t any writers get it right?
Charles Gannon (M), Jeff Hecht, Beth Meacham, Steve Miller, Mark L. Olson

Since y’all have been so good — a Yule present. . .

. . .from Sharon and Steve, and from Toni Weisskopf at Baen, who agreed that this had to be done.

Here is your Very First Taste of Alliance of Equals, the 19th novel set in the Liaden Universe®, by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.

Chapter One
Dutiful Passage

He rushed her, a tall Terran male, overtopping and outmassing her. Padi dropped back one step, flat-footed and centered, knees flexed — and he was on her, keeping himself tight, seeking to overturn her with his speed, and flatten her under his weight. She ducked inside his reach, snatching at belt and elbow, twisting her upper body, letting him lift himself over her shoulder. Momentum, it was all his own momentum, and, in the last instant before she let him go, she straightened, adding her motion to his, throwing him with every ounce of strength she possessed before she released him — and continued the spin, completing the move and dissipating unused energy.

Her late opponent hit the floor some number of his own body lengths down the room. Hit, rolled, and leapt to his feet; turned. . .

. . .and bowed, vanquished to victor.

“Your follow, having thrown your attacker far away?” he inquired in Terran.

Padi’s bow was from student to teacher.

“I would have run, sir, and been many blocks distant before he regained his feet.”

“And if he had a partner at the top of the street?”

“I would have shot her,” she said coolly, “and run on.”

“I see.”

Arms Master Schneider looked around the practice room, as if he were seeing something other than the padded walls and floor.

Padi folded her hands and waited. Arms Master Schneider took time with his words, and there was no speeding the man up, no matter how much one might wish it. Padi supposed it another sort of practice, and did her best to recruit herself to patience.

“I wonder,” he said eventually, walking toward her, his posture soft, and his hands unthreatening. Padi remained at center, and allowed her hands to unfold into neutral positions at her sides.

Her instructor did not seem to notice; he continued to walk gently forward; his eyes on her face.

“It’s very natural,” he said, resuming speech without giving voice to what it was he had wondered; “to want to throw an enemy as far from yourself as possible, gaining the opportunity to run. But it seems to me, Padi, that your solution to a rush is invariably to throw.” He smiled, and added, “Even if you are able to throw impressively far.”

He paused, well inside Padi’s defense space, and settled deliberately, hooking his thumbs in his belt.

“We’re fortunate to have such ample practice space, but I wonder what you would do, if you were on-port, and had to counter an attack in, let’s say, a small space. An alley, a vestibule, even a ‘fresher? What, for instance, if the person standing peaceably next to you suddenly — lunged?”

He did so, far too close for mercy. There was only one imperative, here: survive to protect her pilot, and her passengers — a little boy with two infants in his charge.

She knew the answer; she had drilled the answer until it was reflex.

Ducking, she stepped into his lunge, raised a hand and snapped into a short, savage jump. The extended palm should have caught him under the chin, but Arms Master Schneider was far too canny for that. He arched into a backflip, using the space he had only just been scolding her for utilizing. Padi landed lightly in place, shaking her arms to release the energy she had withheld. Delivered with full force, the strike to the chin would have snapped her attacker’s head back and broken his neck.

It was of course very bad form to kill one’s instructor; besides, she liked Arms Master Schneider — and it was practice. Even if the blow had landed, he would have been in no danger, though he might have had a headache, after.

“Your reasoning?” he asked, from two body lengths away.

Padi bowed.

“You had posited cramped quarters and an assailant well within my space. The only sure answer in such a case is a kill. I cannot risk a deflection; I might find myself snatched and immobilized, unable even to call a warning. I cannot risk a prolonged engagement, if indeed, as you had also offered, the first attacker was one of a team. I am alone, and I must prevail quickly, if I am to survive.”

There was a long silence while Arms Master Schneider told over his store of words.

“Let’s try another scenario, in that same small space, in a confusion of wind and darkness, let’s say. A person is grabbing for you, and crying out. What’s your answer?”

Padi frowned, and paused to consider the question twice, suspecting a trick. But, a second examination revealed nothing that might change her answer.

“It is the same,” she said, calmly. “I must take definitive action.”

“And if it’s later found that the person who reached for you was asking for your assistance — or warning you of danger? Your answer would kill an innocent — even an ally — no differently than a villain.”

But this is play-acting! Padi thought irritably.

“The only intent I can be certain of is my own,” she said, which was straight from the training tapes they had Learned on the Rock. “Others depend upon me. I cannot risk myself.”

“What do you risk, by dancing an avoid before the kill?”

“Time,” she said promptly; “tempo. Opportunity.”

Arms Master Schneider pressed his lips together, which he did when he was considering something especially difficult.

“We have a few minutes left,” he said eventually. “Let’s practice some of the common avoids. Particularly, we should pay attention to how much time is lost to the move, and if tempo can be preserved — or even created. You will take the part of the attacker.”

He bowed, and she did. Both centered themselves.

“At will,” he said, and Padi launched into action.

* * *

There was no new correspondence in his mail queue.

There was, for instance, no letter from the Terran Trade Commission confirming the committee’s decision to upgrade Surebleak Port from Local to Regional. Such confirmation had been promised to him by the committee chair no later than the end of the relumma. Which was fast approaching.

Additionally, there was no letter from Lomar Fasholt, which he had been expecting daily, if not hourly, since Theo had reported that his former trade partner had broken with her Temple, and subsequently disappeared from her homeworld.

Nor, for that matter, was there a message from Theo, acknowledging receipt of his pinbeam, and reporting that she, her ship, and her crew were enroute to Surebleak and the safety of Korval’s clanhouse.

Shan glared at the empty in-box. It hardly seemed fair or fitting that a circumstance which ought to have afforded real, if fleeting, pleasure should instead generate strong feelings of frustration.

He felt his fingers moving in a soothing, familiar rhythm, glanced down and saw a chipped red gaming counter, its edges showing naked wood, moving across the knuckles of his left hand. The token crossed the last knuckle, his hand turned, palm up, to catch the thing before once again setting it on its journey.

He sighed.

He had acquired the gaming token, and the fingering exercise, elsewhere, and some little while ago. In fact, he had lately considered himself quit of both, having gone so many days undisturbed by either. Only to find them manifesting again, and with the Passage barely out of the homeport. Simple sleight-of-hand, that was all. Completely unremarkable, save for the manner of its. . .acquisition.

Three times, while he watched, the token walked across his knuckles. At the end of the fourth journey across the back of his hand, it did not fall into his waiting palm, but seemed instead to vanish into plain air. That would, perhaps, have been comforting, if he did not know with a certainty that had nothing to do with logic, or even understanding how the trick was done, that the token was, now, in his right front trouser pocket.

Blast the thing.

He took a deep breath to cool his irritation, and looked back to the screen.

Certainly he had other work to fill his idle hours, even if he had no mail.

The touch of a key banished his unsatisfying inbox and brought the sketch of the new trade route onto the screen.

It was, truth told, a malformed and unbalanced thing, hardly worthy of a novice trader, much less a master. He knew how to build routes, of course, but the sad truth was that most of his work as Korval’s master trader had been the maintenance and modification of long-established routes built by the master traders who had gone before him.

He hadn’t built a major new route since. . .well. Since the Bestwell-Kessel-La’Quontis Route, the year that Padi was born.

“Admit it, Shan,” he said aloud, “you’ve gotten soft.”

There being no argument forthcoming from himself, he reached for his wine glass and sipped, eyes on the inelegant shambles adorning his screen.

He might, he thought, putting the glass aside, be somewhat kinder to himself. The route as described revealed not so much a master trader whose skills had atrophied, as a master trader who was required to feel his way, combining discovery with design.

The first part of the route — that had been well enough, with six stops of light trade, all at ports known to Korval ships, if not to Dutiful Passage herself. At each of those six ports, in addition to the trade, he and Priscilla had met with allies and business partners, to strengthen old ties, and to build new ones, where necessary, the two of them empowered by the delm to speak with Their Voice.

They were now embarking upon the second phase, wherein they would be on the search for new trade partners, allies, and business associates. They would also, in this phase as in the former, be demonstrating to the universe that Clan Korval, doing business as Tree-and-Dragon Family, was doing business; that it was not afraid of its enemies; nor ashamed of its past actions. Miri had dubbed the plan playing chicken with the universe, but she had agreed with him, Priscilla, and with Val Con, that the demonstration was required.

Though the actions that had seen Korval banished from Liad had been justified, not to say necessary, they had — people, rumor, and politics being what they were — their character to redeem, and the sooner they began that work, the sooner they would succeed.

Also, they labored under another piquant truth: the clan’s purse was. . .less than plump. Oh, they were by no means destitute, and Ms. dea’Gauss was hard at work establishing new income streams and researching new investments.

Still, there had been a cost in removing themselves, and their finances, from Liaden society, and Liaden economy. In the long term, Liad would pay the larger portion of that invoice, which, while satisfying to contemplate, did nothing to mitigate the necessity of Korval’s holding household while establishing a firm base of operations on a rather backward planet, and seeking to expand their resources.

Historically, the clan had expanded resources through trade. And it was his duty, as Korval’s master trader, to build new routes — strong, viable, profitable routes — and build them quickly.

Which adventure, he had best be about.

So. Their first new stop on the route they were simultaneously discovering and building was Andiree in the Kinsa Sector. According to the Guild Quick Guide, Andiree was a solid port, rated Safe, for whatever comfort that might lend to the naive, or those who made it their business to be unsafe. It declared itself Terran, yet had included in its colonizing population a small number of Liaden artisan clans.

That was of interest, being something like the situation in which Korval now discovered itself. The Liaden artists of Andiree, rather than forming an enclave from which the greater planetary society was excluded, as Liadens had done on other worlds where they were the minority population. . .the artists had embraced the local culture, first on the level of craft, as they joined with those who shared their passions for pottery, sculpture, painting, paper-making, carving, and weaving, and from that base spreading out, into, and finally joining with, the planetary society.

According to the anthropologists who had studied the place, what had occurred over time was not the assimilation of one population, with its customs, into the other, but a melding that had produced a separate-but-equal third society with entirely new customs. The primary unit of personal allegiance, for instance, was neither clan nor family, but guild. Contract marriage existed, but between guildmasters only, as a political tool, rather than for progeny. Balance existed, administered formally through the guilds, while Balance between individuals was socially unacceptable.

Shan sighed. Andiree was perhaps a glimpse of Korval’s future, though it was difficult to imagine Surebleak’s blunt and rugged culture allowing itself to accept anything of Liaden sensibilities — or even Korval House custom.

It was. . .profoundly disturbing, to think that they — that who they were, and had been since the Great Migration itself, would be lost within a generation, or two. . .

The door to his office hissed slightly as it opened and he spun from his screen, coming to his feet as his lifemate entered.

She paused, brows knit, as the door closed quietly behind her.

“Shan? What’s wrong?”

In addition to her melant’is as lifemate to the thodelm of yos’Galan, and captain of the Dutiful Passage, Priscilla Delacroix y Mendoza was a Witch — or, according to Liadens, a dramliza. She would have read his emotions even as he now read hers, thereby learning that she was tired, and slightly irritable. A meeting with the third mate, then, he thought, moving around the desk.

“Nothing so much as wrong,” he said, opening his arms. “I was only reflecting on Korval’s future, and how we will soon become strangers to ourselves.”

Priscilla stepped willingly into the offered hug, her arms going ’round his waist. She sighed, deeply, and dropped her head to his shoulder. He lay his cheek against her soft curls, and breathed in her fragrance.

“He’s a bit stiff in the honor, the third mate,” he murmured.

Priscilla hiccuped a small laugh.

“He is, isn’t he?”

She sighed again, and he tasted the particular tang of a relaxation exercise, even as her body softened against his.

“I ordered a tray brought to us here,” she said, straightening slowly out of the embrace. “I hope you’ll join me.”

“Breakfast or supper?” he asked, lightly.

“Both — or neither. Or perhaps a midnight snack, before I seek my bed.” She smiled at him, and added, “My lonely bed.”

He laughed.

“Underhanded play, Priscilla!”

“Nothing more than the truth.” She tipped her head. “The change in Korval’s estate worries you.”

“Not our estate so much as our future,” he said, moving toward the cabinet. “May I pour you a glass of wine?”

“Please.”

Priscilla preferred white wine. He poured generously.

“Val Con was pleased to leave Liad, though not,” she added thoughtfully, “necessarily with the manner of it.”

“Val Con is yos’Phelium, and a scout. He’s obliged to find the — former homeworld tiresome.” He sighed, and shook his head. “It may be that I refine too much. After all, if we’re to become something else, it was Father who began it, with his Terran lifemate. Only see what came of that!”

“Even more Terran lifemates?” Priscilla asked, taking the glass from his hand with a smile.

“Three, so far, in the following generation,” he agreed, turning toward the desk to retrieve his own glass. “The gods alone know what — or whom — Nova may embrace.”

“If anyone,” Priscilla said, and glanced toward the desk an instant before the incoming message chime sounded from the comm.

Shan stepped ’round the desk and tapped a key.

The letter in-queue was from James Abrofinda.

Shan smiled. He was fond of James Abrofinda, and met him too seldom. He’d been a Tree-and-Dragon contractor for at least twenty Standards, and —

Notice of Buy-Out

Shan blinked, and sat down, carefully, in his chair.

Immediately after Korval’s action against the Department of the Interior base beneath Liad’s surface, which had, regrettably, left a crater in Solcintra City — he had received quite a number of buy-out notices, most from Liadens, as would be expected. He had by this time rather thought he was done with buy-out notices. To receive one now, and from such a source — a Terran small trader running a long, stable route; open to trying new, or slightly outrageous, cargoes; quick to communicate what worked and what didn’t. . .

But, wait, there was a letter, too. Shan tapped a key, and felt a light hand settle on his shoulder.

“I thought we’d seen the last buy-out,” Priscilla said.

“As I did, but here — James has done us the kindness of explaining himself. . .”

A quick scan put him in possession of the facts. James had come in to Capenport, where he was not only well-known, but expected. Before the hull was cool, the port had slapped him with a fine equal to half his cargo —

“Because he’s our contractor?” Priscilla said, reading along with him.

“And because Capenport decided that Korval committed crimes against a planet and is therefore outlawed,” Shan read the next bit aloud.

I’d been hearing some muttering here and there about Tree-and-Dragon turning bad, but I put it down to the usual. This, though — I’m a small shipper; I can’t afford another fine like this one.

Outcome is that I dumped the cargo, next port up, and cleared the logos and call-signs off the hull and out of my landing packet. I never thought I’d do this, but there’s no other way; I’m buying the contract out. The deposit’s been made to my usual account. I’m sorry for it, there’s no acrimony in it, except for the pinheads at Capenport. You and me, and the Dragon, we’re in Balance, but we can’t do business.

Here’s my advice: Change the trade-name, if you want to keep on with the family business. I don’t like to think about what might have happened if Pale Wing or the Passage had come onto Capenport, considering what they felt was just punishment for a contractor.

Be careful, Shan.

He sighed, and leaned his head back into Priscilla’s hip.

“A rational man, James. Of course, change our name is just what we can’t do, the delm being adamant in their opinion that we have comported ourselves with impeccable melant’i and are in no way ashamed of our actions.”

“Korval revealed and weakened a hidden enemy of Liad and its people,” Priscilla said, her fingers quietly kneading his shoulders. “Not only have we done nothing wrong; Korval is a hero.”

“Not to hear the Council of Clans tell it. And various of the news sources. But I agree — Korval’s honor is unscathed, and our melant’i in the matter of the Department of the Interior is pure.” He sighed.

“Poor James. A two cantra buy-out on top of that fine? And he’ll have dumped the cargo at salvage rates.”

“Send the money back. Tell him it’s compensation for his loss; that Tree-and-Dragon doesn’t expect its contractors to bear the expense of false accusations.”

Shan laughed.

“Priscilla, that’s reasoned like a Liaden.”

“No,” she said, seriously; “it’s reasoned like an honorable person, who wants to do well by those who have done well for him.”

A chill froze him for a moment before he shook his head.

“Yes, I am going to have to become accustomed, aren’t I?”

“It’ll come,” Priscilla said, and he felt the brush of her emotions — amusement and concern, with concern the greater part of the mixture.

“I suppose it will,” he said. “Padi’s generation will be the last, I think, to consider themselves Liaden. Those who follow will be Bleakers.” He sighed. “Who names a planet Surebleak?”

Priscilla laughed.

“It was descriptive, surely?”

“Oh, surely; and still is. Until Mr. Brunner gets those weather satellites up and tuned, and even then, I fear we’ll only have graduated to Halfbleak.”

“Our house will be there,” she murmured, which was perhaps an attempt to give his thoughts a more cheerful direction, in which she was partly successful.

“Our house will be there if ever Architect vin’Zeller will finish with the plans and send them to us! I’d hoped to break ground during the current year’s summer. If we need to wait through another winter –“

A chime sounded, sweet and high: the door annunciator.

“Your midnight snack arrives,” Shan said to Priscilla, and raised his voice slightly. “Come!”

The door whisked aside, and Arms Master Schneider brought his tall and muscled self into the office. He paused and inclined slightly from the waist, his compromise between a bow and a Terran nod.

“I hope I’m not inconvenient,” he said.

“Not in the least,” Shan assured him, considering the swirl of the man’s emotions. “What may I be honored to do for you, Jon?”

Jon came another step into the office, and gave them each a solemn glance, in turn.

“Well, sir — ma’am — I’d like to talk to you about Padi’s defense training.”

Alliance of Equals
A Liaden Universe® Adventure
©2015 Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Publication Date: July 5, 2016, Baen Books

Sneak Peek Eye Candy: Alliance of Equals

Here we have something rare and precious — a sneak peek of the comp of the cover for Alliance of Equals.  Which is to say a suggested layout.  Sort of like the cover version of a first draft.

We are cautioned that the final cover may change, but this is where the Art Department at Baen is currently tending.

Art by David Mattingly, and yes, this does illustrate an Actual Scene from the book.

Art by David Mattingly