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08 Jan 2013 14:30 #30014 by brantley
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More than 300 hits in the past week for the EMPRESS OF THE DAWN update. Thanks, guys!

--Brantley

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14 Jan 2013 02:23 #30113 by shadar
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I re-read Empress part 1 before starting on the second part, and was once
again struck by how very good a story it was. It has it all, drama, love,
sex, battle, intrigue and discovery, starting by introducing us to the very
first Companions as they left Velor and discovered many things about
themselves. Exciting stuff.

From there, we are immersed in a wonderful bit of world-making, drawing as
Brantley does on the history of the Byzantine Empire on Earth and how it might have been
transported to another planet.
We see how a great dynasty is
built and maintained, and also how political marriages can produce heirs who
lack many of the good qualities of the original Patriarch that Kalla is
indentured to — Feodor. How ruling families can produce both admirable and
disgustingly bad rulers thanks to their political marriages.

With Feodor and Kalla, Brantley lays out a classic love story, one that
started in disrespectful fashion (he purchased a concubine!!) and then
develops into a great love that is based on both respect and adoration.

At the same time, we begin to see how this concubine (actually a Companion)
begins to shape not only the ruling Andros Family but also an entire planet.
Given her long life (for all purposes, she’s immortal), her influence
crosses the generations. To her credit (and in respect to the local culture)
she always tries to work behind the scenes. Yet she alone makes the
difference between a world that could be caught forever in feudal decay and
battle, but instead takes strong steps to develop into a world that casts
off its superstitions and begins to develop a true technology and a basis
for trade. All of which begins to slowly lead toward the develop of a middle
class, a technology and an education system, which in the fullness of time
could introduce a measure of equality among its people and between the
sexes. It is a microcosm of the development of a great civilization on
Earth, which is undoubtably what the Seeders and hoped for. (Although others
would simply say these are experiments by the Galen on humans. Its anything
but an experiment to those who live on the seeded worlds. Its their life.)

There were many outstanding scenes in the story, including one where a
defeated conquering ruler stands atop a high tower and throws Feodor’s heir,
and infant son, from the tower. (That reminded me a bit of Sauraman standing
atop Orthanc as Gandalf and company stand below to offer amnesty — which he
does not take advantage of.) Kalla of course can’t allow the heir to die, so
she reveals more of herself to more people than ever before. Up to that
point, in every pivotal moment of the development of this world, Kalla is
there, making a difference, even if very few people witness or even know the
roles she plays.

Beneath it all is a nice ticking clock in the form of Festus and his invading
army of devotees to the Orthodox Church. That drives the story forward,
creates tension, and makes the reader truly care for the outcome. The battle
is nicely set and well described and fought, with an ending that only Kalla
could bring about, all without revealing herself.

And in the middle of all this, we see the battle between enlightenment and
knowledge on one side and superstition and corruption on the other. A battle
between Humanism and the Church if you will.

While Feodor can be hard and even brutal when he has to (ala Ned Stark in Game of
Thrones season one), he is also merciful when he can afford to be. He most
certainly isn’t cruel. His son Kyros is nothing like his father, and its
heartbreaking to see Kalla bound to serve the son the way she was his
father. Yet she comports herself according to the rules of a Companion, even
while working to encourage others to pursue learning in areas that were not
traditional for their people, all with the occasional help for her friends
among the Scalantrans. A distinction no other Companion can claim.

In essence, we see this lowly girl from Velor, a concubine of the Velorian
priests before being sold into the same role on a distant world, as the
driving force behind the development of an entire civilization. We can even
see the earliest seeds of the development of that great interplanetary
federation, the Enlightenment. It’s a tale that only a Donaldson fan could
appreciate.

I could go on forever on Part 1, but this is supposed to be about Part 2.

At first, part 2 pleased me with a continuation of the excellent story line
of Part 1, and while it is very satisfying when it comes to further showing
us how a world can be created through the sacrifice and hard work of its
people (with some key contributions from Kalla), it lacks the kind of
ticking clock drama of the first part. No grand battle to decide the future,
but lots of palace intrigue. It does a nice job of preparing the way for the
second major pivotal moment in the planet’s development, that drama remains
to be told, presumably in Part 3.

However, I found the lack of a driving plot made it somewhat difficult to
absorb all the characters that we are introduced to. Way too many characters
for me to keep track of, to be frank. Of course, that’s the way of real
dynasties, who required many, many family members who often warred with each
other to drive toward the future. Lots of politics and intrigue and
backstabbing. Brantley shows that the bright future we see hints of could
collapse anytime back into a dystopian future if not for continued
interventions from Kalla.

Yet she’s both humble and devoted to the development of the planet, working
as she does behind the curtain in the ruling family. But she might as well
be a goddess in the way she reaches down and saves the situation from
sliding into ruin. Brantley does a really great job of trying to show how
someone can be both powerful and powerless at the same time. How humility
can be stronger than bravado. How one determined woman with a clear purpose
(albeit someone who remains young for centuries and has Velorian abilities)
can influence an entire world.

In the telling, we begin to see how the Velorians moved from being a truly
depressed, abandoned and unlikable race, powerful without the slightest clue
to how to use their power, and how they move closer to being the mighty
Protectors that we read about in later stories. Its a fascinating tale of
the limits and opportunities of physical power, but more than that, it tells
the story of how a single determined person can change the future for
billions of people. All while living a life that would be regarded by most
as amoral and shallow, a life that we presume most of her other Companions
have not risen above.

Hopefully Brantley will carry a critical subset of his characters
(and their descendants) into a Part 3 which will show us how the planet now
named Andros become a space power and a modern world. Most importantly, we
have the great conflict with the Aureans to look forward to, given they will
undoubtably pay attention to Andros and its Companion once they find their
way into space. I can easily foresee Part 3 becoming very dramatic, filled
with action, as it further sets the stage for a work that I’m trying to
revive which deals with how we moved from the era of Companions into the
First Protector.

In so many ways, this work is a cross between the AU and the great works of
world-building SF. Brantley clearly understands what those great works were
built on. Yet instead of being stuck in a single time and place (ala the
excellent and very contemporary Song of Fire and Ice — Game of Thrones),
Brantley is showing us how worlds and civilizations are built.

So while Part 2 was a bit of a pause and a head filler after the wonderful
story of Part 1, it has necessarily set the stage perfectly for a return to
an exciting Part 3.
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14 Jan 2013 14:00 - 14 Jan 2013 15:53 #30121 by brantley
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For those of you who don't keep up with the Aurora Universe, EMPRESS OF THE DAWN grew out of a concept that Shadar himself had posted years ago:

velorian.net/auow/Andros/scrapbook01.htm

Of course, I ended up changing a lot of the details. To begin with, Shadra imagined Andros having been seeded with ancient Greeks. But Feodor isn't a Greek name. In both classic and modern Greek, the name is Theodor. But Feodor was the equivalent in old Russian (which didn't have the Th sound) at the time the Varangians (who came from Sweden, like the ancestors of the Velorians) founded the Kievan monarchy in 882 and adopted the local language. The Varangians/Kievan Rus became involved in war and then trade with the Byzantine Empire, and some of them settled in the Empire. Although we call it the Byzantine Empire, the Byzantines called it the Realm of the Romans (Romaioi) because they saw themselves as inheritors of the Roman Empire even though they hadn't ruled Rome or spoken Latin for centuries. So I went with that. In a bit of serendipity, the gown Shadar shows Kalla wearing at the time of her indenture is actually very much like the stola, formal female attire in Byzantine times, so I used it accordingly in Book One:

www.brightempire.com/empress.pdf

I drew on other elements of Byzantine history and culture, but the battle of Nesalonika is a variation on the Battle of Nagashino in Japan, where firearms from fixed positions were first used. But I had to adopt a different narrative strategy for Book Two

www.brightempire.com/Empress-2.pdf

I faced the problem of covering a lot of ground in no more space than devoted to less than a year in the reign of Feodor. Not more great wars; if there had been, it would have meant that Feodor and Kalla had failed in their purpose. So instead I turned to mini-stories of political maneuvering and progress in technology, trade and education. As usual, I did a lot of Googling to make details about other seeded worlds, Fujiwakoku and Indra, authentic in terms of how they might have developed from the societies of medieval Japan and Gupta India. I brought in more Andros family members to give Kalla a sense of family that I don't think she would have experienced on Velor -- and also to show them as taking part in building progress; these people aren't just idle aristocrats. Beyond that, it was important to give Kalla a greater sense of commitment. This comes in an exchange with Pateria, Methodios' lawful wife, who is willing to sanction Kalla's relationship with her husband, on condition that she protect him from Kyros. And even after that...

“Protect my daughters, and their loved ones. You must swear it."
"I swear," Kalla said, after only moment's hesitation.

Kalla is now bound by honor to do more than her indenture requires, and the protect the family even after her indenture expires. The chapters posted Jan. 1 are motivated by that commitment, and she will have to see that through in further chapters -- in a time when she is helpless to protect others from the madness of Kyros (I have to point out that Shadar carelessly identified him as the son of Feodor; he is actually a grandson, and half-brother to Methodios -- he inherits the throne only because Methodios, the older son of Feodor's heir Jayar, never had a son of his own -- only daughters.).

--Brantley Thompson Elkins
Last edit: 14 Jan 2013 15:53 by fats.

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08 Mar 2013 23:15 #30687 by brantley
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FIRST PROTECTOR was first conceived by Shadar in 2007, and the two parts of his original version still appear at the AUOW site. But when he bequeathed AU-3 to me recently, it was the first project I wanted to take up. I'd taken over and completed two major stories of his, The High Cruel Years and Encounter at Westfold, and in both cases I had some world building to do – Shadar has never been terribly interested in that. But First Protector has been more of a challenge, because it's set near the close of the 15th Century, yet contained obvious anachronisms like "coeds" and "OK." Beyond that, it didn't give any sense of how Tazzi's World came to be as it was. I didn't want to burden the narrative with information dumps, and I wanted to be true to the characters – perhaps truer than Shadar. Kev, during the course of the story, turns out to be half-Aurean; but before that he seems too human in relation to Jana – and thereafter too superhuman (and too ignorant of things Velorian) in relation to Vespyr. So I've tried to steer a middle course. As for the background, it occurred to me that the third part should get into not only the journey of Vespyr to Velor, but what happens to Kev and Jana on Tazzi's World – where they are in peril for having defied Gazrall in conniving with Vespyr. It was through their story, I found, that I could do some historical backfilling about Tazzi's World itself – to account for how such a necessarily insular and conservative seeded culture could have evolved into the cosmopolitan and hedonistic one Shadar imagined. And even how the planet got its name! By the way, today's the eighth anniversary of the Hostway version of The Bright Empire.

brightempire.com/First.pdf
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16 Mar 2013 01:51 #30777 by brantley
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brightempire.com/First.pdf

Off-the-board reaction to my first redaction and expansion of FIRST PROTECTOR hasn't been exactly favorable. There were a number of scientific glitches and logical holes I inherited with the original version. But since a strict approach to dealing with these would require rewriting the story practically from scratch, I've tried to deal with the basic problems, or perhaps only gloss over them, by ratcheting up the conspiratorial elements -- which were there to begin with. It's all a matter of who you can trust, which is practically nobody, including not only Gazrall and his ilk but the Scalantrans and even Vespyr herself (who has her reasons, but is "playing" everyone else). Maybe this won't satisfy critics, but it's the best I can do.

--Brantley

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31 Mar 2013 14:08 - 31 Mar 2013 14:10 #30911 by brantley
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"The Popcorn War" and "Blind Justice" were posted only yesterday afternoon. By midnight, they had gotten 170 and 60 hits, respectively – and most of these must have come from here (on the Aurora Universe thread) and the AURG, because the What's New page had only 20. Thanks, guys!


brightempire.com/Popcorn.pdf

brightempire.com/Justice.pdf

By the way, FIRST PROTECTOR has gotten 780 hits since it was posted March 8.

--Brantley
Last edit: 31 Mar 2013 14:10 by brantley.

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01 Apr 2013 14:34 - 01 Apr 2013 14:36 #30929 by brantley
Replied by brantley on topic At The Bright Empire....

brantley wrote: "The Popcorn War" and "Blind Justice" were posted only yesterday afternoon. By midnight, they had gotten 170 and 60 hits, respectively – and most of these must have come from here (on the Aurora Universe thread) and the AURG, because the What's New page had only 20. Thanks, guys!


brightempire.com/Popcorn.pdf

brightempire.com/Justice.pdf

By the way, FIRST PROTECTOR has gotten 780 hits since it was posted March 8.

--Brantley


Not a real update, but I noticed I'd neglected to update a 2008 story, "Judgment Day," to conform to my usage of "Aureans" as opposed to "Arions" (to avoid confusion with "Aryans" as used here on Earth):

brightempire.com/Judgment.pdf

As of last night, about 360 hits for "The Popcorn War" and 150 for "Blind Justice."

--Brantley
Last edit: 01 Apr 2013 14:36 by brantley.

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01 May 2013 22:46 #31333 by brantley
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brightempire.com/Passion.htm

Passion Play, the first part of which appears today (a traditional Spring
holiday in Europe, long before it was adopted by the Labor movement), is about a
Velorian heroine who has appeared here before. She's bcome one of the most key
players in my own fiction, and yet I can't claim credit for her, any more than I
can claim credit for the Aurora Universe itself.

Alisa-zar Kim'Vallara, alias Alisa Liddell, was the creation of Shadar (then
still calling himself Sharon Best) for Ordinary Velorians, a serial that began
at his old Aurora Universe site Jan. 12, 2003. We had some correspondence about
it at the time, and as best I can recall he thought of her as a female version
of Star Trek's Spock and the Survey Service ships of Kelsor 7 to be the
equivalent of the Enterprise.

A couple of months later, after posting four episodes set on Reigel Five, and
without having gotten to the point of Alisa's refusal of the Rites and escape to
Kelsor 7, Shadar took down the Sharon Best site. I ended up writing the last
three chapters of Ordinary Velorians and, when he returned with his Aurora
Universe: Other Worlds site, collaborated with him on Alisa's Story, which
appeared there July 28 and has been revised a couple of times since. And then
came Shore Leave, a monster of a serial – mostly by Shadar but with input from
me and a couple of other collaborators who didn't want their true names revealed
although they got credit under their initials.

I'd already made Alisa a supporting character, decades later (her time) in
Throne of the Gods, which dates back to Feb. 15, 2003 – just after the fourth
installment of Ordinary Velorians. She returned later (but earlier in her own
life) in Pictures of an Expedition, and much later in terms of both real time
and her imagined life in Encounter at Westfold – one of several projects begun
by Shadar and taken over by me. I could tell that all of these works were part
of a life story. For some years now, I've been toying with the idea of a story
about the highlights of her life, as seen by her in later years, and at various
times I've written various segments of Passion Play.

But it's been awkward, because I found it nearly impossible to reference the
events of previous stories without simply rehashing them. This was especially
the case with Shore Leave; that may still be the most awkward part. In the
present version, I've tried to convey the sense that Alisa is reminiscing about
her time on Rostran, as she is in other segments, and that her reminiscences
focus on her relationships and her learning experiences rather than on the
events per se. I've added a few bits of dialogue that fit the situation, but
weren't in the original serial. The opening scene of Passion Play and the first
flashback will be new to readers here, as will the early scenes aboard the
Anders Flame, the details of Alisa's breakup with Peter Durgin, and the love she
and Andre Kalik find with each other on the return from Rostran. The terrible
fate that awaits them at Cygnias 275 has been alluded to in Encounter at
Westfield and elsewhere, but the next installment will deal with the aftermath –
and be entirely fresh material. A note of thanks to Velvet Belle Tree: for
advising me to change the narrative to first person, and for proofing the text.

Those who have followed the saga of Alisa from the beginning should be familiar
with the events. But I'm also posting slightly revised versions of The Gwyndylin
and Primal War, the first two segments of Shore Leave. The changes relate only
to Durgin's attitude towards Alisa, and my updated concept of the Cygnias 275
wormhole that already figured in Encounter at Westfold – but there's also a
brief reference to the language of the Rostrans, and to the need for a quick
Deepteach course to allow the Kelsorians to communicate with them. For those who
may need them, I'm including links to those stories, Ordinary Velorians and
Alisa's Story at the end of the Passion Play file.

brightempire.com/ShoreLeave1.htm

htto://brightempire.com/ShoreLeave2.htm

Also new today is an op-ed piece by Velvet. She's a fan of all sorts of things,
and she has always been refreshingly frank in her opinions. In "A Tale of Two
Musicals," she offers her take on South Pacific and Carousel, two Rodgers &
Hammerstein musicals that are generally regarded as classics. Only, are they
actually both deserving of their praise? Not in her contrarian view!

brightempire.com/Musicals.htm

One last thing: an entry on my Occasional Blog, the first in more than a year,
not about AU fiction as such but the decline in fan participation.

brightempire.com/Blog.htm

So much for May Day. Now M'aidez. All you lurkers out there, de-lurk. Post
comments and suggestions!

--Brantley Thompson Elkins

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15 May 2013 21:25 #31607 by brantley
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brightempire.com/Corrididor.pdf


CORRIDIDOR first appeared in 2004 at Aurora Universe: Other Worlds, and was all Shadar's work -- one of his best.

But it tied in with the story line of Ordinary Velorians, and even with my THE HIGH CRUEL YEARS, although in a strange way: I gave detective Vance Calloway, whose front story Shadar tells, a backstory on Reigel Five that leads to him leaving that troubled planet.

If you haven't already read CORRIDIDOR at AUOW, it has to do with a nuclear reactor disaster in the making at an asteroid mining colony, but the core of the story isn't in the reactor, but in the characters: the B-Class Velorian Vera Sho'tovic, who welcomes the chance to escape the stifling kind of life people of her class live on Velor, the people she meets while dealing with the crisis, especially the engineer Calen Donaldson and, later, Detective Calloway; and the Aurean Zarla, torn by conflicting loyalties.

My main edits have to do with some aspects of Vera's freedling gang background on Velor that seemed too mundane, too much like Earth; and to clarify several instances of who knew what and when and how. But the essence of the story remains the same; I just couldn't and wouldn't tamper with that. Nor with the character of Vera.

--Brantley

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22 Jun 2013 02:45 #32035 by brantley
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www.brightempire.com/First.pdf

FIRST PROTECTOR is proving a tougher job for me than other projects that I've been involved with from the start. Some have complained that the details of the on-again, off-again testing program for the heavy GAR are implausible, and one of the reasons for this is that Gazrall, the plutocrat who holds Vespyr's indenture, is so enigmatic – rather like Grigory Arkadin in Orson Welles' MR ARKADIN. Where does he really come from? What's his real game?

For a new chapter, I'm introducing a hint that he has a secret past elsewhere, but in such a vague way that this might turn out to be a red herring. Most of the chapter is admittedly a sort of information dump – things Vespyr needs to know that she couldn't have learned back on Tazzi's World. Trpcic takes its name from the costume designer for FIREFLY, the cult TV series created by Joss Whedon, so of course the Scalantran factor general there is named Jossalem. It was seeded from what is now Slovakia, hence "sokol"(falcon) and "zubor" (aurochs). But I'm trying to make this transitional chapter as entertaining as possible, with our heroine getting some needed R&R, and learning a few things about interstellar trade.

Happy Summer Solstice!

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08 Aug 2013 20:46 #32610 by brantley
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What a difference a few days make! Hardly had I posted the July 20 update of First Protector than Shadar was shaking his metaphorical head and arguing that the story just wasn't working. It didn't need updating, but relaunching, as two separate and yet related first-person narratives from the viewpoints of Kevin and Vespyr. He's busy with the first part now, and I've made some changes to the second, but I need to see his part before I fine-tune the details. I also have some new ideas about how to carry the story of Vespyr forward. But meanwhile, I'm getting ready to hit the road with Velvet to visit her family, and I want to give readers a going away present.

"Arden" is a short story Shadar wrote last fall as a one-shot. When he sent it to me, we'd just been hit by Hurricane Sandy, and although I read it at the time and did a few copyedits, it kind of fell between the cracks because I was caught up in other projects, including The Popcorn War, Empress of the Dawn and, of course, First Protector. As I said, "Arden" was intended as a one-shot. But it implicitly tied in with First Protector in featuring a Halfen (halfling) Aurean character, and it occurred to me to tie the two stories together explicitly – not in terms of plot, but in terms of background. It's set in what I imagine to be within the first two centuries of the Enlightenment, and one of the early Protectors figures off-stage. But the story itself is still the same. It's a love story with what romance fans call an HEA (Happily Ever After) ending.

www.brightempire.com/Arden.pdf

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16 Sep 2013 16:12 #33072 by brantley
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Book Two of Empress of the Dawn is almost finished today. One last chapter remains to be written, and that may be an anti-climax compared to "Necessary Murders." Here is where Kalla decides that she must become a killer in cold blood to save her adopted world Andros from a catastrophe even worse than it is already experiencing under the mad Patriarch Kyros.

I'd alluded to this eight years ago in a conversation between Kalla and Ju'lette I wrote for Homecoming II, knowing full well that I was writing myself into a corner. It was only three years ago that Empress of the Dawn itself, based on an outline by Shadar, began to appear, and only last year that I got to work on Book Two. But I knew all along I'd have to face up to having Kalla face up to what she had to do, and I knew I couldn't weasel out of it. So here it is, and I hope I've succeeded:

www.brightempire.com/Empress-2.pdf

I have also made some tweaks to the scene in Homecoming II, but only in a few details. And I've uploaded a slight revision to Book I of Empress, correcting a few glitches.

www.brightempire.com/Homecoming-2.pdf

www.brightempire.com/empress.pdf

Shadar might be weighing in this week. He's just returned from one long trip, and is soon to embark on another. The reboot of First Protector has been in abeyance for several weeks as a result, but I'v been working on my end.

--Brantley Thompson Elkins
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03 Nov 2013 21:13 #33976 by brantley
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www.brightempire.com/Empress-2.pdf

It's my birthday today, and I have something to show for it: finally, finally the final chapter of Empress of the Dawn 2, plus an epilogue that sets the stage for Empress of the Dawn 3 -- in which Kalla Zaver'el will spearhead a space program for Andros, and lead the world's defense against an Aurean attack.

It's taken longer than I expected to finish Part Two, because while the crucial events were clear in my mind, I needed to find a new way to lead up to them, and give them more substance, greater nuance. Moreover, I had to deal more effectively than I did before with the hard choices Kalla had made, and why she made them, and the pain that they brought to her.

Of course, there's also a teaser at the end about Alexius. He'll appear again in Part Three, but he already appears in the epilogue of Homecoming 3, and will play a part with Vespyr in First Protector -- not that he can have any idea of such a destiny at the tender age of 16!

--Brantley
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04 Nov 2013 02:43 #33981 by shadar
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Happy birthday, Brantley... will be off to read the new episodes soon. Thanks,

Shadar

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04 Nov 2013 02:57 #33982 by ong76win2
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Happy Birthday Brantley. Thanks for sharing Empress 2.

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04 Nov 2013 04:46 #33986 by Raa
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Happy Birthday.

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04 Nov 2013 12:30 #33991 by Woodclaw
Replied by Woodclaw on topic At The Bright Empire....
Happy birthday from me too.

(formerly Anon, still Librarian)

"What is the point of having free will if one cannot occasionally spit in the eye of destiny?" ("Gentleman" John Marcone)

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05 Nov 2013 00:22 #34011 by brantley
Replied by brantley on topic At The Bright Empire....
Now I have to get to work on Part Three!

--Brantley

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13 Dec 2013 18:43 #34679 by brantley
Replied by brantley on topic At The Bright Empire....
Was hoping to work more on FIRST PROTECTOR for a Winter Solstice update, but details of that depend on an update of what is now a prequel by Shadar, which is still delayed. I could also do an update of EMPRESS OF THE DAWN with a first installment of Part Three, but the details haven't gelled yet.

And then I thought of SHORE LEAVE. Last spring I fiddled with Shadar's old version in connection with another story about Alisa Liddell, PASSION PLAY. But PASSION PLAY didn't get much readership because it couldn't just rehash the events of SHORE LEAVE as part of her background, but without that background it's impossible for the reader to understand where she's coming from. So now I'm taking another look at SHORE LEAVE and its two sequels, trying to do a bit more world-building (The façade of Rostran versus the reality), and clear up some confusion of the whys and wherefores and multiple conflicting motives, and take a more serious look at what it will mean to Alisa and Andre Kalik -- who are the real center of the story, however spectacular the events around them. I may also tweak a couple of other stories to accommodate this, and will do major surgery on PASSIONPLAY.

--Brantley

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15 Dec 2013 19:50 #34699 by brantley
Replied by brantley on topic At The Bright Empire....
Busy with Part One. Changed one name to avoid confusion, and have rearranged some chapters to better convey the timeline of the story. Plus I'm using a few less mundane titles for key Rostran characters.

--Brantley

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