Archive | Jul 2013

Five avoidable errors by Indie authors

Cover art for The Great Succession Crisis, 1st edition paperback as published in September, 2012.  Thanks to constructive criticism from reviewers, this cover art changed for the revised edition.

Cover art for The Great Succession Crisis, 1st edition paperback as published in September, 2012. Thanks to constructive criticism from reviewers, this cover art changed for the revised edition.

Great Succession Crisis paperbackIndependent authors have a mixed reputation.  With big publishing houses no longer serving as gatekeepers, deciding who to publish and what works will be published, the market trend is towards self-published, independent authors.

Publication by a big name doesn’t guarantee quality — as a recent conversation with a friend regarding the infamous “Fifty Shades of Grey” revealed, a book widely regarded in literary circles as filled with unprofessional writing and countless technical errors — not to mention shallow characters and the glorification of what many people consider abusive behavior towards women.

Even so, ask most people if they expect great literature from a big name publisher or an independent author, the perception remains to side with big name publishers.

After interviewing authors for consideration for this blog, certain errors do seem to come up over and over again.  Let’s look at them and how you can avoid them in your own writing:

1.  Grammar/punctuation errors

There is a reason why the advice sites tell authors to hire an editor — or at least have a friend go through manuscripts with a fresh set of eyes before publication.  Editing yourself is HARD.  People miss errors in their own work that others will catch.  Looking at the 1st edition of “The Great Succession Crisis,” my own struggles with this are pretty clear.  That edition was far from perfect.

Fortunately, some very kind souls gave me constructive feedback reviews which I listened to.  The result: in January 2013 I released the revised edition.

Let me be clear:  errors are normal.  The difference between a professional and an amateur (in my humble opinion) in this print-on-demand publishing world is what the author does about errors once located.  Do you let miss-spellings, grammar errors, and/or punctuation issues persist, or do you edit and resubmit once you find mistakes?  

Professionals want their work to be as absolutely error-free as possible and make the edits.

2.  Poor cover art

Not everyone is a graphic artist or has great visual instincts.  But most readers can spot stock book covers (such as those created in cover creator programs) a mile away.

Your book cover is the very first thing a reader uses to determine if your book is worth reading. It’s your critical first impression.  If it looks like you just slabbed some text over a generic image, odds are really good potential readers will not take a second look.

3. Over/under pricing

Pricing is hard; it’s taken me a fair amount of trial and error to figure out how to price my books.  But as a rule, the extremes look bad.  That is to say, if you offer your digital book for free or 99 cents (special, limited promotions not withstanding), people are going to often times assume it’s not worth paying for at all.  Unless your “book” is a very short work, DON’T DO IT!

Likewise, don’t price your book outrageously.  A digital book of less than 600 pages selling for more than $20 (I’m going extreme here) comes off as arrogant and not worth buying.  In fact, the poorest reviews I’ve ever seen on a digital book were for books priced well above and beyond normal expectations.

4. Poor book descriptions

Your book description is the second piece of information potential readers see when looking at your work.  Book descriptions ARE HARD as I’ve discovered from personal experience, especially if your book falls into more than one genre at the same time or involves a particularly complex story.  At the same time, your description needs to be clean and professional.  This is not the time to show off your fluency with colorful colloquial language.  When people see grammar errors, spelling errors, and colloquial language in a book description, the inevitable conclusion is the rest of the book is of the same character.

5. Publishing before your work is ready.

Is your story compelling and interesting TO OTHER PEOPLE?  Have you researched your setting and other details thoroughly? Do your characters make sense?  Are your details accurate and believable.

Writing is not about you; it’s about your readers.  Publish quality work others want to read.

Remember:  you are your brand.

Repost: Awesome Gang Interview of Laurel A. Rockefeller

Here is the Awesome Gang’s interview of author Laurel A. Rockefeller

author Laurel A. Rockefeller in 2012

author Laurel A. Rockefeller in 2012


Beinarian Astronomy: Names, Objects, and Locations Explained

M31 galaxy is known as D395 on planet Beinan

M31 galaxy is known as D395 on planet Beinan

Reposted from “The Great Succession Crisis Extended Edition”

Just as with modern Earth astronomy, stars, galaxies, and planets are named systematically.  For example, D425E25 Tertius, LK39, and B105K7.  This names are not random, but consist of specific elements used to specify an astronomical object’s exact location.  Here is exactly how a Beinarian object is named

Region of space:  the first letter in an object’s name indicates the region of space where it is located.  This name runs from single letters to double letters.  A single letter indicates the object is located 5 million light yen-ars away (15 million light Earth years) or closer, while a double letter is used for objects calculated as more distance than 5 million light yen-ars.  Objects in the A region are located in Beinan’s original lenticular galaxy.  Objects in B region are located in Beinan’s own galaxy.  C represents the remaining galaxies in Beinan’s local galactic group while D represents galaxies in the adjacent local group as observed through interstellar travel. 

Since Beinarian astronomers observe the universe as “cauliflower shaped,” it is understood that the number and location of objects in any given region of space will be highly variable.


Galaxy designation:  the numbers following the first letter(s) in the location name signify the specific galaxy within that region an object belongs. The galaxy designation number may consist of any number of digits, though seven is the greatest number observed for any specific region of space. Examples: LK39 is an elliptical galaxy 12 million light yen-ars on the edge of the known universe first observed during the Great Migration.  D425 is a medium sized spiral galaxy located only 846,000 light yen-ars from slightly larger D395 galaxy. 

On D425E25 Tertius, D395 is known as the “M31” galaxy.


Star system name:  star systems are assigned an alphanumeric name based on their exact location within their galaxy.  Depending on the galaxy and type of galaxy, star systems may have up to three letters and from two to six numbers in their names.  For example, E25, and DLG4821

Object name:  Objects (primarily planets and moons) are named by their position in their star system.  Planets are named numerically (Primus, Secundus, Tertius, Quartus, Quintus, Sextus, Septimus, Octivus, Nonus, Decimus, etc.).  Moons are designated first by their planet location, then numbered, started with the closest moon to the planet.  For example, D425E25 Quintus has sixteen moons large enough to be classified as moons (dwarf objects such as asteroids are not named).  The nearest of these moons is therefore named D425E25 Quintus Primus whereas the most distant of these moons is named D425E25 Quintus Sextus-Decimus.


Dwarf objects, asteroid fields, rings, and other features are designated by the object they rotate around.  For example, the asteroid field between D425E25 Tertius and D425E25 Quartus is named simply D425E25 Luanxing (pebble of the star) whereas the ring system around D425E25 Sextus is called D425E25 Sextus daixing (ribbon of the stars).




Latin Numerals:  Numerals with English Equivalents,”


“The Andromeda Galaxy,”

An intimate look at my life as a low vision author

This is one of the few pictures of me with a white cane taken in July 2010.  I'm only a size 2 in this picture following three years at the time of taking a very strong prescription migraine medicine that nearly killed me (I weighed just 83 lbs at the time).

This is one of the few pictures of me with a white cane taken in July 2010. I’m only a size 2 in this picture following three years at the time of taking a very strong prescription migraine medicine that nearly killed me (I weighed just 83 lbs at the time).

My dear friend Alexandra Butcher interviewed me this weekend regarding the special challenges I face as a low vision author.  Since I don’t want to be typecast into people’s stereotypes of the differently-abled, I usually don’t talk about my sight loss and my books at the same time.

This is one of the most intimate portraits ever of my life.

Corann and Elendir: contrasting heroes of The Great Succession Crisis and The Ghosts of the Past.

Every adventure nImageeeds a hero.  Across the Anlei’s Legacy arc (Peers of Beinan books one, two, and three), three knights of Ten-Ar emerge as great heroes, each facing very different challenges and each with very different skills and personalities.   Let’s look at the first two of these heroes:  Lord Knight Corann from “The Great Succession Crisis,” and his descendant, Lord Knight Elendir from “Ghosts of the Past.”

In book one, The Great Succession Crisis, we meet Corann, son of the legendary knight Cariadoc and Lady Priestess Cordelia.  At least one reviewer to date describes Corann as “archtypical” and in many ways they are right.

Based in part on medieval literary figures such as King Arthur and Sir Lancelot of Camelot and historical figures such as King Richard I (Lionheart) and Prince Edward (the Black Prince) of Woodstock (historical note: Edward was not called the “black prince” until the 16th century), Corann is the emblem of medieval chivalry, honor, military talent, and courtly ways.  As the son of the most powerful knight of his time and the second most powerful priestess of his time (Lady Priestess Cordelia was the first protege to High Priestess/Princess Consort Wehe), Corann is a sort of prodigy, intentionally conceived to become the ultimate priest-knight — not unlike the legends concerning King Arthur.

Corann rarely makes mistakes.  Following the medieval ideal of unrequited love, he loves Anlei for many yen-ars (Beinarian years; one yen-ar is equal to three Earth years) without a word to anyone else concerning his feelings.  In fact, it takes the very real possibility of losing his true love to the power-game of the Great Succession Crisis to provoke Corann into speaking his heart to the woman he loves.  Corann serves without thought of reward in a true embodiment of medieval chivalry.  Corann, the perfect knight, succeeds where others fail, taking his place at the side of the woman he loves until the very end.

Three generations later, Corann’s descendant by King Lyr IV’s eldest daughter  Elaine is Lord Knight Elendir, son of Lord Healer Devon and Lady Healer Keelia.  Where Corann was perfect, Elendir is flawed.  As a writer, I designed Elendir to face the same challenges as most of us face.  In chapter one of “Ghosts of the Past” we see Elendir elevated to knighthood at the age of sixty yen-ars (roughly age 20 by our lifespan).  Orphaned by two terrorist attacks on healing centers, Elendir starts off life haunted and wounded in spirit.  This makes Elendir vulnerable manipulation by women like Princess Cathryn and Lady Elita who know how to use their feminine charms for their own agendas in a way very similar to what so many of us experience as we grow into young adulthood.

Despite Elendir’s intense training as a knight of Ten-Ar, Elendir really struggles in the first three or four chapters of “Ghosts of the Past” against the pull of his hormones.  He sets goals, then fails, overcome by first Cathryn, then Elita — to the ruin of countless innocent lives.

In the end, it is the talents of Lady Mind-Healer Feawen that finally helps Elendir become the man he always wants to be.  Unlike his ancestor, he cannot overcome his flaws alone.  It takes psychotherapy to overcome his flaws and help him grow past the vulnerabilities of his youth.

Despite common blood, Corann and Elendir could not be more different as men.  As ideal as Corann is, Elendir is equally flawed.  Both men are good.  Both are heroes.   But both men walk radically different paths and make very different choices.  The archtypical knight, Corann, lives as a role model of love, chivalry,and martial prowess.  Elendir lives his life fighting against his flaws, against grief and against his lack of will power.  In that, he is just like us, struggling each day against himself as much as against the external forces tearing Beinan apart.

Miriam’s Song in Judaism, Peers of Beinan

I realize this is the wrong time of year to be thinking about Passover, but I want to share this link with lyrics to probably my favorite Passover song:

This song inspired the story of Miriam in the Peers of Beinan, a character echoing the Jewish stories about Miriam, the Prophetess, sister of Moses, as an unexpected leader and shaper of her society.

The Great Succession CrisisIn The Great Succession Crisis, Lady Ecter is the eldest surviving daughter of Lord Knight Cariadoc of house Ten-Ar and Lady Jebez of house Shem, making her full sister to Lord Janus and half sister to Lord Corann.

After Janus discovers Lady Ecter has fallen in love with a nephew of Dowager Princess Wehe, Janus decides to test his plot to seize the throne out onto his sister — by raping and impregnating her.  After Lady Ecter safely delivers her daughter Miriam, her family beats and brutalizes her as a whore, despite all the evidence in her favor.  Fleeing for her life, Lady Ecter crashes the royal wedding, begging for her life and that of her now frail baby.

Corann embraces his half sister and his niece with open arms.  Together, mother and daughter start a new life in the temple of Abka Biya in the coastal city of Bira Hecen.  From her humble beginnings, Miriam grows into a strong and highly educated young woman determined stop her father from carrying out his threat of revenge against those who saved her life as a baby.

Lady Ecter and Miriam go on to found the Choire Ar Cerridwen in the mining town of Amba Narel, a secret sanctuary and archive that becomes critical to discovering who is behind the terrorist bombings of Beinarian healing centers.

Miriam’s song and the role Miriam played in Jewish history inspired this tale of Lady Ecter and Lady Miriam whose heroism and dedication to goodness saves countless Beinarian lives — just as Miriam herself saved countless lives during the Exodus.


–Laurel A. Rockefeller

The Peers of Beinan series

CreateSpace maximum page counts

Ghosts of the Past paperback photo Great Succession Crisis Extended paperback Great Succession Crisis paperback

Self publication can be confusing, especially when it comes to the technical requirements for releasing a paperback or large print paperback book.  Most of the time, even locating your printer’s technical data can feel like a game of hide and seek or, worse, trying to find a needle in a haystack.  Page count limits seems to one of the most elusive pieces of information to locate.  So, after a call to CreateSpace customer service, I was happy they sent me this valuable link:

Have a resource to share?  Please post here in the comments section of this post!

–Laurel A. Rockefeller

The Peers of Beinan series

A rare look at “Ghosts of the Past” in its first draft

Final heraldry design for Lord Knight Elendir of house Ten-Ar

Final heraldry design for Lord Knight Elendir of house Ten-Ar

Every book starts out different than its final, published form.  Writing, re-writing, and editing is a a normal part of the process.

So imagine my surprise this morning when I discovered that in March, 2012, a full year before publication of “Ghosts of the Past,” I had published a first draft excerpt of what became “The Ghosts of the Past.”

Normally I destroy my previous drafts on a project.  But here, a draft from chapter one remains preserved as part of the behind-the-scenes story of what I consider my greatest and best work to date as a writer.

So take a look, peer through time, and discover this rare 1st draft written five months before publication of “The Great Succession Crisis.”

–Laurel A. Rockefeller

The Peers of Beinan series

Good-Bye A672E92 Quintus brings readers back in time

The original heraldry for house Miyoo from the beginnings of Beinarian evolution on A672E92 Quintus

The original heraldry for house Miyoo from the beginnings of Beinarian evolution on A672E92 Quintus

Good-Bye A672E92 Quintus brings readers of the Peers of Beinan series back in time with a story set on “original/old home world,” A672E92 Quintus, a planet located in a distant galaxy from planet Beinan whose proper name in Beinarian astronomy is B345A15 Quartus.


–Laurel A. Rockefeller

The Peers of Beinan series

Where in the world is Princess Anyu?

Where in the world is Princess Anyu?

Where is Princess Anyu?  You tell me!  If D425E25 Tertius turns out to be Earth, where should the princess spend her seven yen-ar long exile and why?


–Laurel A. Rockefeller

The Peers of Beinan series

Ghosts of the Past shows a sexier side to Beinarian society

Ghosts of the Past digital cover

Ghosts of the Past is book two of my Peers of Beinan series.  Set three generations after “The Great Succession Crisis,” and spanning four generations, Ghosts follows the descendents of Princess Anlei as they struggle with terrorism and violence.  Readers of “The Great Succession Crisis,” will remember the revenge promised by Lord Janus.  Now Janus takes his revenge from the grave directly through his new incarnation and through his descendants in this story where you never know who or when someone will fall to terrorism or murder.

True to my narrative style, none of this violence is graphic; you don’t need to see every drop of Beinarian green-yellow blood to know someone is dead!

Sex too is an inevitable part of Ghosts of the Past as generation after generation is born.  None of this gets explicit, but there is a lot more sex to Ghosts than its prequel.

A reader or two has suggested that this sex is not necessary.  So this morning I would like to take a look at this sexier side.

Character building and sex:

As early as chapter one, we see our first hero, Lord Knight Elendir, seduced by Princess Cathryn, then by Lady Elita in the chapter of the same name.  Is this sex for the sake of sex?

Let’s take a look at what happens and why.

Early in chapter one, we watch the sixty yen-ar old Elendir elevated to knighthood.  This sounds pretty old, until you realize that Beinarians come of age at 50 yen-ars and live over 300 yen-ars barring accident, illness, or violence.  Ages 50 to 80 for Beinarians are therefore roughly equivalent to Earth humans aged 18 to 21 with all of the same habits for reckless behavior that comes with that age.

Typical of a such a young man, Elendir starts out vulnerable to his hormones, finding it difficult for him to assert mind and will over his body, especially when faced by attractive women who know how to exploit this flaw.  As a knight of Ten-Ar, he has been trained to resist his body, of course, but is far less successful at it than his ancestor, Lord Knight Corann, from book one. Elendir is therefore a flawed young man whose failings come to haunt him — and those he loves — later on in life.

Elendir’s best friend, Prince Kendric, also has some serious problems.  The treaty that “resolved” the Great Succession Crisis has forced him to marry a woman he doesn’t know and doesn’t love over the woman he is very deeply in love with.  But Princess Lidmila is not your typical nobleman’s pawn.  With secret connections to the same terrorists behind the healing center bombings, she abuses Beinarian fertility technology to drug and control her unwilling husband.  These drugs take a serious toll on the young prince who in time resumes his relationship with his sweetheart, Lady Aurnia.  As with Elendir, the sex described after the fact is used to convey key information about Prince Kendric, Princess Lidmila, and Lady Aurnia.

Finally, there is Kendric’s youngest daughter Constance who becomes the youngest ever Gurun dynasty queen after her father’s murder (celebrated in the song she sings at the crime scene).  Constance is in a tight place.  Both her parents are dead.  The terrorist strikes have now raged for over 100 yen-ars (300 Earth years), decimating her family, and the future of the planet is on her narrow, adolescent shoulders.  Attracted to Elendir’s son Corann, she marries according to her political instincts.  But time cannot erase her attraction and affection for Corann, setting in motion what comes later.

Ghosts of the Past IS a sexier story than its prequel, but for good reason as I hope I have demonstrated.  Far from erotica (most of it is done through metaphors and vague descriptions), it shows very poignantly the consequences of our choices and the impact of poor decisions from our youth on the rest of our lives — and others’ lives by extension.  In Elendir’s vulnerability to his body, he becomes more real to us than some cookie cutter knight from a storybook; whether we admit it or not, every single one of us has felt the intensity of that particular fire from adolescence.  Therefore in sharing this experience, we also feel his agony regarding the deaths of his parents by terrorism and feel his struggles more intensely.

This I hope makes Ghosts of the Past more than just a murder-mystery, but a story we all can relate to, even from a galaxy far far away from Beinan!


–Laurel A. Rockefeller

The Peers of Beinan series

Personal Heraldry for Princess Anlei

Personal Heraldry for Princess Anlei

Here is Princess Anlei’s personal heraldry featuring the Gurun coronet royal under the Beinarian star on a field of Beinarian royal blue. Princess Anlei is the central character of “The Great Succession Crisis,” book one of the Peers of Beinan series and part one of the Anlei’s Legacy Arc. For more information about the princess, check out or discover the Kindle book at


–Laurel A. Rockefeller

The Peers of Beinan series