Tag Archive | science fiction

The Peers of Beinan: A Literary Journey

Castle Fantasy BackdropThere is a lot of science fiction on the market from independent authors published these last five years since I first published “The Great Succession Crisis.”  It is a crowded field where it is easy to get lost in. As with many popular genres, a huge number of books seek to emulate the plot and character elements of mega hits on the assumption of that what works for one highly profitable author must work for them as well. We’ve seen this with “Twilight” style paranormal romances.  We’ve seen this with “Five Shades of Grey” styled erotica.  The list goes on and on.

As moderator of a book promo group on facebook, I get to see the copycats almost ad nauseam. Books all look the same after a while. And while the premise of copying another’s ideas is repulsive to me as both a science fiction author and as a dedicated historian, I do genuinely see some success in these authors following those formulas — if the measure of success is Amazon rankings in any event.

But open these books and the blandness of copycatting shows itself. The writing lacks the sort of literary luster of the books and authors whose work holds the test of time. That is, perhaps, the best distinction one makes between commercial and literary fiction.  Commercial fiction is about today’s sale.  Literary fiction is about creating timeless works of art.  My fiction is literary fiction.

The Peers of Beinan Series is everything I love about the classics. As a free thinker and intellectual with a life-long passion for learning, it has never been my habit to follow the crowd – on anything. Whatever was “hot” or “trendy” was never of interest to me.  I always liked to be different. On occasion what I’ve liked and what the greater society is into have coincided — but never by my conscious design and rarely in precisely the same way.

I started my writing career with the Peers of Beinan because I saw an America becoming more and more socially and politically divided, an America where it was becoming more and more difficult to engage in civil conversations about the stuff that matters. I saw an America that was increasingly creating false equivalences between fact and opinion and where acts of hate against those who are different was going unpunished and ignored. Sound familiar?

I wanted to engage in an honest discussion with people about the subjects that matter to me most. Looking to the great science fiction/fantasy authors I like best — Gene Roddenberry, Dorothy “DC” Fontana, Ray Bradberry, Frank Herbert, Issac Asimov to name just a few — what I noticed is they often tackled some really big social and sometimes political subjects in their books — without offending people in the process.

I wanted to do the same.  I wanted to talk to people and encourage people to really think about things that matter to me. And I wanted people to open their minds to ideas and possibilities that put a different way to them they would never listen to.

And that is, in essence, what the Peers of Beinan Series is. It’s my reaching out across the universe and saying “this is important, please think it about it” from a group of stories that don’t ask that question directly of people.

house-personal-heraldry-collage

In personal interactions I am known for my point-blank directness. I don’t play the stereotypical gender roles game — not any more at least. And so I am “bold” as a woman and a writer. The Peers of Beinan is less point-blank than I usually am. It seeks to provoke thought without being confrontational. And just as important to me personally:  it seeks to bring you hope. For in the greatest darkness and despair, there is always Light. That’s how I overcame the great adversities of my life and how you will too.

 

Recipe: Beinarian Slatkos with Kara, Kelan, or Nanla Filling

Created for The Great Succession Crisis and appearing in the 2nd Edition  (recipe was deleted for the Third Edition; both editions are available in paperback), slatkos are a fusion of breakfast pastry with Italian cannolis and filled with approximations of Beinarian kara, kelan, or nanli fruits.

slatkos

Beinarian Slatkos with Kara, Kelan, or Nanla Filling

Created by Laurel A. Rockefeller; Kristeen Shuga and Alayna Hoglund of “What’s the Occasion” bakery.

 

Beinarian slatkos are buttery baked pastry filled with fruit fillings popular across Beinan at formal events and sometimes for breakfast.  Slatkos made be filled with any number of fruits and/or nuts from across the planet.  While kara, kelan, nanla, and other Beinarian trees cannot grow here, their flavors can be closely replicated as demonstrated in this easy recipe.  It works best when stainless steel cannoli forms are put in the middle while baking; without the forms, each slatko bakes completely flat, greatly reducing the amount of filling and requiring the scooping out of some of the bread in the middle.

 

Pastry Puff Shells

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup cold butter, divided

¼ cup ice water

1 ½ teaspoons water

2 tablespoons beaten egg

 

  1. In a small bowl, combine flour and salt; cut in ¼ cup butter until crumbly. Gradually add water, tossing with a fork until a ball forms. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12 inch x 6 inch rectangle.

 

  1. Cut remaining butter into thin slices. Starting at a short side of dough, arrange half of the thin butter slices over two-thirds of rectangle to within ½ inch of edges. Fold unbuttered third of dough over middle third. Fold remaining third over the middle, forming a 6 inch x 4 inch rectangle. Roll dough into a 12 inch x 6 inch rectangle.

 

  1. Repeat steps of butter layering and dough folding until all the butter is incorporated into the dough, ending with a 6 inch x 4 inch rectangle. Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate for 15 minutes. Roll dough into a 12 inch x 6 inch rectangle once more. Fold in half lengthwise and then width-wise. Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate for 1 hour.

 

  1. In a small bowl, combine egg and water. Roll dough into a 12 inch square; cut into four squares. Brush with half of the egg mixture. Place squares onto cookie sheet and grab the two opposite corners and connect them over a stainless steel cannoli form.

 

  1. Bake at 450° for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool until warm but not burning hot. Gently slide cannoli form out.  Cool completely.  Fill as directed below.

Substitution: baked shell dough may be substituted with crescent roll or turnover dough located in your local grocery store. Of the “crescent” dough options available in the supermarket, we prefer the new Pillsbury Crescent Recipe Creations Seamless Dough Sheet which is uncut crescent bread dough. To use pre-purchased dough, simply unroll, separate (or cut to size if using the dough sheet), bring the corners together over each cannoli form, seal, bake, and fill.  For the flakiest shells, use turnover dough or Grands biscuit dough rolled/pressed out to size.

 

Fillings:

1 ½ cups berries or chopped fruit

¼ cup sugar (if the fruit is tart or slightly unripe)

3 tablespoons cornstarch diluted in enough COLD water to dissolve it.

 

  1. Puree with blender or mash thoroughly to a smooth to slightly lumpy consistency. Push through a sieve if you want to remove the seeds. Put puree in a pot on medium heat on the stovetop; add sugar and starch liquid; stir constantly. Bring to a boil until well thickened. Cool completely. This will become very thick and tastes very fresh.

 

  1. Once cooled, place some filling into either pastry bag or a sandwich bag. Cut hole into bag and squeeze slightly into pastry to pipe in the filling. Alternatively, a small spoon can be used to carefully fill each slatko shell. It is easier if you fill half on one side and half on the other as well.

 

Beinarian fillings:

 

Kara fruit filling

¾ cup blackberries (approximately 1 6 oz. container)

¾ cup blueberries (just under ½ of a standard pint container)

 

Kelan fruit filling

¾ cup blackberries (approximately 1 6 oz. container)

¾ cup lingonberries (approximately ¼ to ⅓ pound)

 

Nanla fruit filling

1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and chopped into small but not fine chunks

¾ cup kiwi fruit (about 1 to 2 fruit, depending on size), peeled and chopped

 

Nanla fruit filling should be coarser than most slatko fillings; do not puree completely smooth.

 

Toppings:

 

After baking and filling, the tubes may be doused with powdered sugar, sprinkles, iced at the ends, or just left plain.

Ghosts of the Past: the Dark Side of Medieval politics

Ghost of the Past Chinese webLast week the Ghosts of the Past debuted in Chinese language edition thanks to the careful work of some of the best translators in all of Beijing.  One measure of feedback I received from my editor was just how dark and sexy the book was.  Given my well deserved scholarly reputation as a historian, Ghosts of the Past and its equally saucy sequel Princess Anyu Returns might seem out of place from the rest of my work.  Out of place until you look deeper into history and explore the treacherous realm of sexual politics that was the experience for most medieval noble and royal women.

Life for women has always been somewhat of a treacherous experience filled with dangers.  With few or no legal rights or protections, women rarely decided for themselves who to have sex with, let alone marry.  Instead the men in their families, their governments, and their religions held almost complete control over their bodies.  Among women of high social status this meant that women’s bodies were tools for gaining wealth, power, and social status by those in position to use them.

Ghosts of the Past cover webThis social and political reality for women underscores the sometimes brutally dark sides to Beinarian society.  Sex and childbearing are tools the villains (both female and male) use at their leisure to impose their will on others, advancing mysterious agendas that only become clear after Princess Anyu Returns from her exile.   These agendas add spice to both Ghosts of the Past and Princess Anyu Returns with twists and turns around every corner.  Villains use sex and violence freely to achieve their goals, predating on the innocent and using every method at their disposal to thwart the heroes and heroines.  They are just as likely to kill as seduce and use offspring created at the expense of their enemies as weapons against them.

It is a dark, dystopic realm where only the bravest dare tread.

Are you brave enough to travel there?

 

Find the Ghosts of the Past in English on Amazon, Barnes/Noble, Smashwords, and iTunes or in Chinese on Amazon, Chinese Amazon, and Douban.

Why some book series should be read in the order written

Goodbye 3D

Good-bye A672E92 Quintus is chronologically the first book in the Peers of Beinan Series. However it was actually written FOURTH of the six books.

I love a great book series.  From the JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Avalon Series, I find it satisfying to stay within the same world, getting to know characters, places, and events intimately.  It’s one reason why serialized fiction is so popular and entertaining.

Like both my aforementioned literary mentors, I do not write in chronological order.  With the Legendary Women of World History series this makes sense:  each biography is a stand alone book.  The series designation signals consistency in theme and approach to historical data.  But the books themselves are not necessarily strongly connected (the exception:  Mary Queen of the Scots and Journey to Gloriana).

By contrast, the Peers of Beinan Series is much more traditional with the same cultural, historical, and environmental setting across the books.  The books were written in the following order:

  1. The Great Succession Crisis (along with its companion Data Files, now out of print).
  2. The First King
  3. The Ghosts of the Past
  4. Good-bye A672E92 Quintus (most editions integrate The First King into the text)
  5. The Poisoned Ground
  6. Princess Anyu Returns

This means that the bulk of the world building and explanations of the world building are achieved in The Great Succession Crisis and The Ghosts of the Past — much like George Lucas establishes his world building in Star Wars (A New Hope) and The Empire Strikes Back.  Viewers of Return of the Jedi and of the three prequel films are expected to know ideas like Jedi Knights and Sith Lords before viewing these films.

And so does the Peers of Beinan Series.  The result:  a chronological reading of the series as the first reading of the series is a little bit confusing.  Especially with the novellas (Good-bye A672E92 Quintus and The Poisoned Ground) I found myself not re-describing the wheel already built.  And, to risk sounding pompous, I honestly did not expect to need to do so.  These books are for young adults and adults, after all — not middle grade children like the biographies.  So I expect a higher level of education and deductive reasoning/critical thinking skills from Peers of Beinan Series readers than I do with the biographies.  After all, science fiction readers are some of the smartest and best educated of literary audiences.  As lovers of science fiction we expect our books to be factually accurate, imaginative, and thought-provoking.   We expect to be challenged intellectually and emotionally.  As a life-long science fiction fan, I wrote the books that I most want to read myself.

And so the series best makes sense when you read it in the order that I wrote it in with a chronological reading (such as you find in The Complete Series) best for the second and subsequent readings.  In that, I continue to follow the greats I love:  JRR Tolkien, Frank Herbert, George Lucas, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Dorothy “D.C.” Fontana,  J. Michael Straczynski, and Stan Lee.

Read these in the order I wrote them and i know you will love them too!

Name Your Own Price Comes to the Peers of Beinan

Complete Series 3DThe Peers of Beinan Series is my epic medieval social science fiction series focusing on the adventures of Beinarian nobles and royals from the Gurun dynasty.  It is a six book series with a Legacy of Princess Anlei Trilogy edition and a Complete Series volume.  There’s also The Complete Data Files reference book and The Lost Tales companion book for a total of ten total book titles.

 

Effective the 12th of April 2015 all regular Peers of Beinan series books are now name your own price on Smashwords.  The two books that are staying regular price are the two you expect:  the Legacy of Princess Anlei Trilogy edition and The Complete Series volume because these contain multiple books at already low prices.

Returns 3D

Name your own price is only available on Smashwords; on all other retailers such as Amazon, Barnes/Noble, and iBookstore the books are all at their regular prices.

 

View and purchase the entire Peers of Beinan series on Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/byseries/2371.

On Air: The Speculative Fiction Cantina (10th April 2015)

Complete Series 3DFriday 10th April 2015 at 600pm eastern daylight time is very special.  At that time I will be LIVE ON AIR with the Speculative Fiction Cantina hosted by S. Evan Townsend.  This is a call-in radio programme for both guests and listeners.  Join in by calling 347 945 7246 (New York City area).  Take a listen at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/writestream/2015/04/10/the-speculative-fiction-cantina-with-laurel-a-rockefeller-and-k-a-laity both live and after the one hour broadcast.

During the programme both K.A. Laity will be reading from our books for about five to eight minutes each.  Expect singing from me as I read to you from chapter eight of “The Ghosts of the Past.”

In preparation for the show and simply because I cannot sing all the Peers of Beinan Series songs in the time allotted, I recently made youtube video recordings of the songs.  These are music videos and not book trailers; not one of the videos include any marketing messages nor any links to buy any of my books.  These exist purely for their entertainment value and for the satisfaction of making them and sharing my music.

Here they are in order presented in the series:

This is from chapter three of The Great Succession Crisis.  It was added to the book when I released the extended edition in January 2013 and does not appear in the rare first edition (1st edition is a major collector’s item if you have one).

This song is “I Shall Always Find You” from chapter seven of “The Ghosts of the Past.  It is a song about love, hope, and reincarnation and is sung by Lady Mind Healer Feawen.  This song reprises as a duet between Lord Knight Elendir and Princess Anyu at the very end of the book.

This is the entire scene featuring “Here Lays My Father and My Lord” and is most likely the section I will read on air.  The song tells the story of King Kendric’s reign which is otherwise skipped over in the book.

The Coronation Hymn is the final song in the Peers of Beinan.  I wanted to perform this scene in full on Friday, but it contains way too many spoilers.

Music is very important to my life.  I hope you enjoy these songs and will share them with others.

Excerpt: Princess Anyu Returns (Enter Anyu Wen)

Princess Anyu Returns digital cover web

It’s finally here!  The final chapter to the Peers of Beinan Series!  Released on 1st February, 2015, Princess Anyu Returns tells the story of Princess Anyu’s exile on D425E25 Tertius and of her return home to Beinan to face the murderous and very treacherous Lord Yelu.  In this scene from chapter two, Enter Anyu Wen, you are treated to a Firefly-influenced opening followed by the introduction of a very dangerous alien.

————————

Music filled Anyu’s ears as she wandered the mall, light, rhythmic and sweet with the familiar sound of shawms and flutes.  As if in a dream of the home she knew existed no more, Anyu drifted towards the sound.  In the center of a large open space near an escalator, a small troop of performers dressed very much like Beinarians danced and played the sweet music.  Recognizing the dance, Anyu put everything down and joined the forming circle.  Memories swelled.  Her feet knew the steps, transporting her and surprising the performers while the crowd of shoppers applauded.  As the song ended, she disappeared, collecting her belongings once more.  One of the dancers, a man with brown eyes, jet black hair, and apricot skin followed her, “Who are you?”

Anyu turned and faced him, “I beg your pardon?”

“You appeared and disappeared as if from nowhere.  I have never seen you before, yet you knew the steps to our dance.”

“Everyone knows that dance,” remarked Anyu casually.

“Not in this time and place, they do not,” countered the man.

Comprehension filled Anyu, “Ah!  You must be of this Society for Creative Anachronism that people told me about!”

“I am.  My name is Seo-jun.”

“Strange name.”

“It suffices. So what are you doing here?”

“Shopping.  New dress,” motioned Anyu at the fabric of her dress.

Seo-jun raised an eyebrow, “With a heavy pack like that and a basket of food?”

“Sure, why not?”

Seo-jun’s eyes changed from brown to metallic blue, his voice lowering, “You are not from around here.  As a matter of fact, you are not from anywhere near here – not even this galaxy.”

Anyu tensed and instinctively raised her hand to her hip, forgetting for the xiao-shir that her sword was buried in her pack, “Who are you?”

Seo-jun grabbed her arm, “Let us take a walk, Princess!”

 

Seo-jun dragged Anyu to the parking lot outside of the mall.  Forcing her onto the back seat of his black two door Ford Fiesta sedan, he threw her belongings into the car hastily, spilling out one of the kolaches from its basket.   Suddenly a dark-haired and grey-eyed man wearing white trousers, a white t-shirt, and white linen blazer leapt out from behind a nearby station wagon, his laser épée humming fiercely, “Let her go!”

Seo-jun laughed, “Why?  You cannot harm me!” To prove his point, Seo-jun concentrated; the doors on the sedan locked with a loud click.  Anyu tried to pry open the locks; they would not budge.

Understanding her life was in danger she quickly found her sword and drew it from her pack as the man stepped towards Seo-jun with his laser épée.  Closing his eyes and controlling his breath, the locks flew open.  Anyu rolled onto the ground to safety. Lifting a finger, the stranger threw all of Anyu belongings out of the car including the stray kolache which rolled in its protective plastic sandwich bag until it hit Anyu’s pack as Anyu found her feet.

The man with the épée advanced on Seo-jun, “You will leave this world, Seo-jun.”

Seo-jun sneered, “And who will make me?  You?”

“If I must,” confirmed the man, raising his épée and planting his feet firmly to attack.

“Your powers of mind are limited.  Your powers of flesh are even more limited.  When can your kind ever defeat us?” guffawed Seo-jun.

“Perhaps I will die trying,” offered the man.

Anyu raised her sword, taking a defensive position with her strange benefactor, “If he dies, he does not die alone!”

“I did not come here for you, Princess.  But if you wish to die too, I can arrange that.  Pity though; you are worth so much more to me alive – unlike your friend here,” frowned Seo-jun.

“Come now, what would Lady Laela think if she heard you talk that way?  You cannot simply dispose of her favourite pet without provoking her wrath!” cried the stranger sarcastically, his feet instinctively falling into the ritualized martial arts forms of the knights of Gurun.  Anyu smiled, recognizing the steps from countless lessons by Lady Knight Aldris of the knights of Gurun, her feet gliding into complimentary forms in accord with the Gurun style of fighting.  Their two swords – one heritage and one modern – seemed to dance joyfully as they met each other’s eyes.  Two complete strangers yet suddenly comrades in arms.

Undaunted, Seo-jun rolled his eyes, half amused at the irony of a man from the past wielding the modern weapon while the adolescent daughter of Beinan’s conquered queen wielded a heritage sword. It was, from a larger perspective, downright comical while being, from another point of view, rather heroic. “You both surely must realize how useless both your weapons are against me.”

“That has yet to be seen,” challenged the stranger.  “I have never actually attacked one of your species before – but since you obviously are intent on taking one or both of us to Lord Yelu, I see little incentive to not at least try.”  In affirmation, the stranger lunged at Seo-jun with his blade, much to Seo-jun’s annoyance.

Seo-jun deflected the blade with a wave of just one finger, “I am no longer amused.”  Anyu, unaffected by Seo-jun’s telekinesis, glided closer, cutting her blade down and slicing ever so slightly into his shoulder. A few drops of black blood spilled onto the ground, sizzling against the payment acidly.  Seo-jun faced her, his eyes like blue flames, “Unwise!”

Just as Seo-jun was about to throw Anyu into a nearby car with his mind, he observed several native humans approaching their position, obviously attracted by the noise.  A man wearing the navy blue uniform of the State College police department approached cautiously, his firearm drawn.  Seo-jun’s eyes changed back to their brown disguise.  Stepping back towards his sedan, he opened the door, “Very well then, since this place is far too crowded for my taste, let us defer this conversation for another beinor.  I trust you will make peace with your goddesses by then.  I would hate to see your soul trapped around this world.”  Sitting down in the sedan, Seo-jun closed the door, engaged the internal combustion engine, and drove away.

Relieved, the stranger stepped out around a car to turn off his laser épée out of sight of the police officer.  Anyu pulled her sword sheath out of her pack, “What just happened?”

“I would think that would be obvious,” answered the stranger as the police officer reached them.

“State College police,” announced the officer.  “Are you okay?”

Anyu looked at the officer and offered a respective bow, “Yes!  Yes we are – thanks to you!”  The police officer tipped his cap politely before turning back, unwilling to get more involved than absolutely necessary.  Anyu turned once more to the stranger, “Well, now that’s over – did you know that Seo-jun creature?”

‘I do; I did,” admitted the stranger as he re-joined Anyu.

“Who is he?  Perhaps more importantly who are you?”

“That is a long story – to both questions.  I am not entirely certain I know who you are – except that you are not of this world. Why did he call you ‘princess?’”

“I do not know how you know I am not of this world – but he called me ‘princess’ because I am the daughter of my people’s reigning sovereign queen.”

The stranger took off his watch, “This looks like an ordinary multi-function time piece such as local men of wealth wear – but it is not.”  Demonstrating, he tapped the surface of the timepiece rapidly three times.  The display changed. “As I hope you know, all life on this world is kol-based, not silizium-based like we are.  This function scans for silizium-based life.  That is how I found both Seo-jun and you, actually.  All three of us are silizium-based.  But beyond that – all I can tell is that Seo-jun appears to be after both of us – not just me.”

“That name – Lady Laela – sounds familiar. Who is she?”

“Assuming these readings are correct and you come from B345A15 Quartus, also known as planet Beinan?”

“Yes, that is my home world.”

“Mine as well.  Have you ever been to the castle temple of Abka Biya overlooking the Amba Mederi Ocean in Bira Hecen?”

“Yes.

“Do you remember a strange woman with metallic blue eyes who takes care of the temple’s observatory?”

“Vaguely – she did something – scanned me perhaps?  I came to the temple to seek refuge from strange dreams I was having.  She said I was seeing someone I knew in another life – someone named Janus who I later came to recognize as the same soul as this Lord Yelu the Bastard who has no doubt overthrown the Gurun dynasty.”

“Precisely.  That is Lady Laela.”

“You know her?”

“Better than you do – and so does Seo-jun.”

“Who is he?”

“A very dangerous person from an ancient race – Lady Laela’s race actually.  We first met them – we call them ‘The Amur’ – during the Great Migration.  Woe to all Beinarians that beinor ever came.”

“My name is Anyu – Lady Engineer Anyu.”

“You are both a princess and an engineer?”

“Yes.  You find that strange lord…”

“The locals call me ‘Christopher.’”

“That is not your name.”

“No.”

“Why give me an alias?”

“I will tell you my birth name – in time.  This is hardly the place to discuss our world.”

“Agreed.”

“I have a home in town where we can talk more privately – it is not far from here.”

“Lead the way!”