Author: Laurel A. Rockefeller
Page count: 186
Genre: Science Fiction, Action-adventure, Romance
Laurel A. Rockefeller is a talented writer, commercial photographer, amateur educator, and social scientist originally from Lincoln, Nebraska. A gifted soprano and song-writer from childhood, Laurel’s first publications were poems and songs in local newsletters. 1991 changed all that when the American Tolkien Society published her poem “Why Bilbo?” in its prestigious Winter, 1991 edition honoring the 100th birthday of J.R. R. Tolkien.
Laurel’s first prose publications came in 2003 when a central New Jersey newsletter published several of Laurel’s historical research papers. In 2008, Laurel was published twice by Bird Talk magazine. More publications followed – on Helium, Examiner.com, and Yahoo Voices. Today, Yahoo Voices has published over 130 articles by Laurel on everything from politics to religion to movie reviews to historical research to how-to guides and beyond.
Laurel A. Rockefeller is a graduate of the University of Nebraska with a BA in Writing, Psychology, and History. She currently lives in Johnstown, Pennsylvania with her cockatiel, Mithril.
Great Succession Crisis is a science-grounded work of fiction set in another galaxy. Drawing upon Earth history and anthropology, planet Beinan is a complete world with its own weights, measures, cultures, religions, and constitutional monarchy.
Great succession Crisis is the story of a young princess, Anlei, daughter of Beinan’s sovereign Queen Isabelle who faces a personal and political crisis when the Great Council of Beinan refuses to overturn an ancient law rooted in the clan warfare of their distant past. This law states that no woman may pass the crown to her daughter, only to a son.
After the Great Council refuses the royal petition to change the law, Anlei finds herself a political pawn in a chess game of competing noble houses with nothing less than her virtue, her life, and the future of planet Beinan at stake in a political thriller that will have you guessing right through the final chapter.
How long did it take to write the book?
Underlying research in mathematics, physics, and astronomy were conducted in March, 2011, before writing a single paragraph to the book. Writing of the first draft took 14 months, after which Great Succession Crisis began its series of revisions lasting from June through about November, 2012 (correcting minor errors post-release). Editorial persisted beyond August, 2012 in part because key names in the book (such as the planet name, terms for Beinarian days, even key character names) changed about four times during the writing process.
What inspired you to write the book?
Great Succession Crisis (and, by extension, the entire Peers of Beinan trilogy) was inspired by some of my favorite science fiction television, motion picture, and book series. Careful and thoughtful analyses of these favorites revealed to me a list of “dos” and “don’ts” for science fiction series. For example, the idea for the unique weights and measures comes from original Battlestar Galactica. Political themes were inspired by Babylon 5, Star Wars, and a non-science fiction influencer: the West Wing. J.R.R. Tolkien showed me the wisdom of creating a complete and original world rather than borrowing from the works of others. And Benji, Zax, and the Alien Prince really inspired this book as a personal, character-driven story about a young princess trying to find her way through difficult circumstances.
As much as I LOVE Star Trek, it taught me not to use Earth-references for non-Earth cultures and planets while also teaching me how to explore current events in a way that invites discussion, not offense.
Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?
Great Succession Crisis (and the entire Peers of Beinan trilogy) is rooted in research. The writing of this first book began with a lot of hard work researching the latest scientific discoveries and working with an engineer to precisely calculate planetary conditions for Beinan. This has also involved a lot of time watching PBS’s “Nova” which I think is a highly under-watched source for scientific data.
Once I developed the basics of my world, I let my imagination flow. Process-wise I free wrote a lot, creating a first draft that ultimately became very different than the final form you see today. In my first draft, I essentially gave away the ending in chapter one. In the spring of 2012, about a year after laying down the book, I engaged in some very brutal rewrites, shaping my villain and creating the suspense that I think makes this book more than just a collection of astronomical calculations! It was also in this time that I re-named key people, places, and terms, even the book title, several times.
Last, I wrote the prologue and epilogue to serve as a bridge between this book and its sequel, “Ghosts of the Past,” which is set three generations later and explores the consequences of the choices made in Great Succession Crisis. It was only at this point that I realized that I had applied my vast knowledge of history (I’ve been a re-enactor with the Society for Creative Anachronism since 1990) to the book, in particular the stories of Queen Catherine de Valois and Queen Elizabeth I whom I have studied extensively. Another big area of SCA influence: the heraldry!
Something I learned in researching and writing this book and book two (in process) is the importance of learning as much as possible about as many different subjects as possible. As a character-driven author in particular, I have found myself studying more things I previously avoided learning about simply because the story merits it. For example, you cannot describe a sword fight if you don’t know the vocabulary of fencing. I have found that the more I learn, the better the story gets!
What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
That’s a hard one because my purpose, like J.R.R. Tolkien’s, is entertainment first! But I hope that readers finish book one eager to read book two to see what happens next. I also hope that readers have a greater appreciation for what it means to be born a female in a royal family, the particular price these women, going back from antiquity through the present, really do have to pay in their lives. I hope we can be kinder in our judgment towards these women. I also hope that in exploring this subject of gender and politics that maybe, just maybe, our current political system will leap ahead when it comes to social issues that face women and just in the sheer number of women serving in leadership roles across our country.
Where can we go to buy your book?
Most major retailers (including the ibookstore) offer “The Great Succession Crisis” in at least one version (digital, paperback, large print paperback). The best places to get the digital (from an indie author pov) are on Smash Words (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/211181 ), Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Great-Succession-Crisis-Beinan-ebook/dp/B008YKSKYQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1357496432&sr=1-1). For paperback, check out Create Space (https://www.createspace.com/3969238) or Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Great-Succession-Crisis-Laurel-Rockefeller/dp/1479144800/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1346946730&sr=1-1&keywords=laurel+a+rockefeller). Large print copies are at Create Space (https://www.createspace.com/3971580) and Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Great-Succession-Crisis-Large-Print/dp/1479159948/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1357496511&sr=1-1&keywords=large+print+great+succession+crisis )
Links to all of these are on my website at www.peersofbeinan.com/where.html.
Any other links or info you’d like to share?
Please visit www.peersofbeinan.com. Not only will you learn about each book in this trilogy (book two is more than half finished as of this date), but I include some neat extras on the website. For example, book two features numerous songs (I am first and foremost a singer-songwriter!) whose lyrics are posted on the website well in advance of the book’s release.
Excerpt from book:
Except from chapter two of the “Great Succession Crisis”
The knighting of a squire was one of the oldest and grandest ceremonies for the Knights of Ten-Ar—and proudest. In a cavern-like ceremonial chamber that resembled a temple built slightly underground, Lord Culain, Lord Prince Bevin, and several of the more academically accomplished squires of Ten-Ar processed to flutes, zithers, and the Beinarian version of a soprano shawm, a light, sweet double-reeded instrument. In the amphitheater-like setting sat Princess Anlei in a place of honor among other dignitaries. Behind her were many of Corann’s classmates, all dressed in their finest fabrics and brightest colors. As Bevin and Culain took their ritual places, the music changed to a heraldic tone, signaling those in attendance to rise. Corann glided in his processional in a crimson tunic and trousers, his clothing unbelted and unmarked in any way; even his soft black leather shoes were unremarkable.
Though his heart soared, especially when he dared to look at Anlei in her lavender gown, he maintained the composure of a man who had been in vigil all beinor long and endured many trials and tribulations to reach this point. As much as his spiritual abilities allowed him to survey the soft contours of her soft body, he refused to show anything…though deep in his heart and even reaching his conscious mind, he felt pleased at her beauty. He noticed the way Anlei had braided and ornamented her hair in silver ribbons and white pearls around and through her crown braid. Silver and lavender ribbon streamers fell out of the pins placed in her hair and a white rose-like flower with the softest and most alluring fragrance served as a center piece comb at the center back of the braid, just above it and anchoring just under it.
Anlei was…breath taking!
Almost against his will, Corann smiled at her as he reached his assigned ceremonial spot. Anlei smiled back. Composing himself once more, he knelt and looked into Lord Culain’s green eyes. Lord Culain laid his hands on the crown of Corann’s head, “Corann, son of Cariadoc, for many yen-ars have you studied and suffered, enduring the trials set before you of mind, body, heart, and spirit. Now the journey’s end has come and a choice lies before you. Do you choose to join the brotherhood of Knights of Ten-Ar as is your birth right by your father, Lord Cariadoc…or leave this monastery for the temple that is also, through your mother, your birth right?”
Corann’s grey eyes beamed with spiritual devotion as he grasped Culain’s wrists ceremoniously, “Master, hear me now before these witnesses! I choose as I have always chosen all my life: to dedicate my mind, body, heart, and soul to this house and this place! If the brotherhood will have me, I vow myself to be, now and for forevermore, sword brother and peer, a lord of Ten-Ar.”
Lord Culain removed his hands from Corann’s head and anointed the center of his brow with fragrant sacred oil, “Then in the name of the Knights of Ten-Ar and as your master, I confer on you the rank of Knight and Lord of Ten-Ar!” With a nod, one of the squires knelt nearby, bearing a great sword in a gold and silver scabbard and on a strong leather belt in a bright green. Kneeling, Lord Culain girt it about Lord Corann’s waist.
Rising, Culain turned to Bevin who in turn turned to a second squire bearing a narrow silver-like circlet on a cushion. At the front center of the very narrow band was a great marquise-like cut bright blue gem with strong, triangular corners that sparkled like an earth diamond and displayed a pattern of light onto other objects when the Beinarian sunlight shone strongly upon it. Lord Prince Bevin picked up this circlet and handed it to Culain who ritually held it over Lord Corann’s head, “Lord Corann, Knight of Ten-Ar, this, as much as your sword, is the sacred symbol of our house. As your sword aids in obtaining the peace, let this blue stone of wisdom guide you in keeping the peace. May your soul always travel in harmony with the goddesses and may they always help you find paths that will unite, and never divide, our people!” Corann’s grey eyes met his as the circlet softly lowered onto his head and into his hair. He felt the weight and the stone’s energies at once as Lord Culain kissed his forehead like a father and with his forearm raised him up from his long kneeling position. “Brothers of Ten-Ar, nobles of many houses, I give you Lord Corann, Knight of Ten-Ar!”
Realizing he was on his feet and fully initiated, Corann allowed himself to smile, but his gaze quickly wandered to Princess Anlei who smiled at him discretely like a shrewd political princess. As the gathering rushed to greet him and congratulate him, he noticed that she did not, waiting and keeping her gaze as far from the crowd as she could. Lord Corann could not help but to recognize the training and allowed the crowd to thin on him before he made his own moves towards her direction. Food and drink by now were being served as part of a formal reception. Lord Corann grabbed two glasses of something that resembled a sparkling wine and walked to Anlei, extending a glass to her, “You look like you were waiting for something to happen…or perhaps someone!”
“A princess does not need to rush into the fray like some …starving creature, but moves deliberately, with a purpose. I did not think for a moment that this gathering would end without you speaking to me at some point,” she smiled, accepting the glass and taking a sip.
“You know me well for someone who has only known me a few xiao-shir,” smiled Corann.
“You forget…I’ve seen you around the palace many times! Do you really think that you and grandmother were completely alone during all those meetings? Grandmother let me get away with more things than you realize!”
Corann laughed, thinking about times at the palace as a youth when Queen Wehe tutored him, “People think your grandmother is the evil queen at times, but she’s really not that bad! She can be a real kind and generous soul! I would not be surprised at all if you turned out more like her than people guess!”
Anlei laughed, “Who me? Like my grandmother? Her royal priestessness? Perish the thought! I’m a woman of science, not faith! I am not sure any of these goddesses are real at all…and I don’t see any point in this religious mumbo jumbo! Why anyone would confuse her and I beyond the obvious genetic similarities is beyond me!”
Corann tilted his head and opened his mind psychically, allowing himself to sense her more deeply. This was, after all, his first real time alone with Anlei to speak to her as two people! He blushed from what he sensed. What is it with her to enchant him so? Such a soul! Could any soul be more beautiful?! Why did she try to cloak it with this faux atheism? Or could it be that she did not herself realize how much she actually believed in the goddesses? “Maybe on some level you think all that is religious nonsense. But I wonder if perhaps your adverse opinion of religion has more to do with the practice of religion than with divinity itself, Anlei. It’s important not to confuse the two. One may see the faults with the way that people worship or talk about religion and see abuses in our religious system—and these are valid. But the system and practice is not the same thing as theology or the beings behind it. They say that on many other worlds, other cultures struggle with these issues. It is not just you remotely!”
“You surprise me, Lord Corann! I know you are a student of my grandmother’s, but I did not think of theology as the first subject of interest to any knight of Ten-Ar!”
Corann smiled softly, “You might be surprised how we knights of Ten-Ar are actually educated. In arts of war, yes, certainly, but that is only perhaps 20% of our education now. Hundreds of yen-ars ago…yes, it was much more about fighting and defense of our people. But now we understand that the best way to defend our people is with clear thought and strong minds. We are a house of peace more than war! It should really not be so surprising my father Lord Cariadoc fell in lust with one of the most powerful priestesses in the temple…well, so they say! “
Anlei smiled back, “You mean as my grandfather fell in lust with my grandmother?”
“Something like that yes! Isn’t it strange how we both owe our existence to the lust of some man over some powerful priestess…and that same priestess’s willingness to use his desire to attain something she wanted? Your grandmother wanted to become queen and bear legitimate heirs to the throne. My mother wanted to stay in the temple, but bear some powerful son who would merge two powerful lines…and still have the right to be part of this…noble house! I am sure that even the best efforts to protect the innocence of a princess have not kept you from hearing of that most unfortunate custom among the houses regarding the best way to disgrace a rival house—or rival individual for that matter?” Lord Corann spoke carefully now, particularly of such a delicate subject, no doubt, to a woman now entering prime age to be victimized.
Anlei looked into his eyes, suddenly afraid and vulnerable, “I am aware of it, yes!”
Corann met her eyes. Perhaps it was his training, and perhaps it was an immediate effect of his elevation…he felt this overwhelming need to protect her, “Do not fear it from me, Your Highness!” Taking her hand, he knelt, “I pledge to you, my princess, ever shall I serve you. The sovereignty of your house is in my heart. I pledge by my life and by my death as a knight of Ten-Ar, never shall a man place a hand on you in violence or hate—or if he should and evade my sword at the time, I swear by my life and death to avenge you!” Turning her hand, he kissed her palm to seal his vow, then kissed her palm twice more very tenderly out of desire. Anlei felt a wave of spiritual energy crawl up her arm from his kiss, stealing her breath. She stumbled by a step. Instinctively, Lord Corann steadied her with his hand…softly on her delicate waist. The soft fabric caressed his fingers. The sweetness of her body for just that tiny instant enraptured him.
Steadied by him, Anlei regained her footing and with her hand tugged on Corann to rise again. “Thank you!” she whispered in his ear. Resuming a more appropriate distance of two friends talking, she replied, “Your service is accepted, Lord Knight Corann. Gladly will I take you as my protector. Keep your vow to me always, Lord Knight Corann and never let anyone—not yourself, not a friend, not a foe — common, noble, or royal — lay a hand on my body except in kindness, friendship, or love. As daughter of Queen Isabelle I charge you with this task for all the beinors of your life and mine.”
Lord Corann drew his sword. It gleamed brightly and sharply in the hidden lights, “From this moment until death, I am yours…protector, friend, and servant!”