marble Earth

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I grew up in a household of teachers. They taught me the history and pre-history of the earth. My mom was my teacher in grade five and taught me about the explorers those who believed the earth was a sphere. She used to tell me to look out of the plane when I flew, see the curvature of the earth.

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My father was my teacher in grade seven and taught me why the northern hemisphere is cold in winter. Again, all about the curvature of the earth.

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walking among the stars crop (2)

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curvature of the earth

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round of roiling sun

hovers above water

sits on bowed horizon

plunges into flat pan

of ocean sizzle

fired rock in a birch bark

stewing pot

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hands form

around a ball

of rising bread

a packing of snow

fast-beating heart

of a baby bird

~

we have seen

the other side

know earth

as marble

~

~

All my best,

Alexandra (a.k.a. Jane)

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New Book in the Series: Karst Topography

Only a few days to go before the fifth book in the Meniscus Series is published … October 15, 2018 !

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Review of Meniscus: Crossing The Churn, first book in the series:

I have never read a book that uses so few words to inspire so much emotion …

only 139 pages long, with each page holding 100 words or less per page … You will be amazed at how potent her words are!

I give this 5 stars for its power, its uniqueness, the fabulous graphics, and a terrific story.

Liza O’Connor, The Multiverses of Liza O’Connor

The Series follows the adventures of a group of Humans on the alien Planet of Meniscus. On Meniscus, Humans live in bondage and are not allowed to build relationships with one another. When a small group escapes the over-lords, they work together to build a new community, battling the elements, local wild life and dangerous aliens. Meniscus is the story of how Humans work to overcome any hardship.

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walking among the stars crop (2).jpeg

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Meniscus: Karst Topography

After building a new town at Themble Hill, and thinking they are safe from their Dock-winder over-seers, the Human women of the town are taken by a Prell transport. The Slain return to the town from a supply run to find their women gone. They journey to Prell and use technology to locate the women and intimidation to procure their release. But Odymn is not in Prell and Daniel (one of the Slain) is convinced that she did not survive. Meanwhile, back in Themble Hill, Odymn struggles with her injuries and worries she has lost Daniel forever. Gradually she recovers from her injuries, uses her skill at parkour to recover her strength and mobility and learns more about the strange place they have chosen to settle. Eventually she learns about the rescue mission and determines to follow and find Daniel.

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Meniscus: Karst Topography will be available October 15, 2018. There is still time to catch up on the Series. The books are written as narrative poetry, 10-20,000 words and each a quick read! A love story with lots of action and adventure. Edited by Lee Thompson.

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Meniscus: Crossing the Churn A woman on a dystopian planet wants freedom and discovers that sometimes fate returns you to where you began; the story of the meeting of Odymn and the Slain, Daniel.

Meniscus: One Point Five – Forty Missing Days  When Daniel is injured, Odymn and a furry Argenop work to return him to health; the story of how Odymn’s past trauma may get in the way of her romance with the Slain.

Meniscus: South from Sintha Daniel tries to right the wrongs he has done and learns he must bear the consequences of his actions; the story of how the Slain returns six of his contracts to their homes.

Meniscus: Winter by the Water-climb A group of people try to build the first human community on a dystopian planet and discover that their former masters have found a way to follow them; story of Odymn and Daniel’s first winter together on Meniscus and how they help six survivors of a transport crash.

Meniscus: The Village at Themble Hill A group of people try to overcome the hardships of living together in the first human community on a dystopian planet; the story of what happens when parkour-loving Odymn breaks a leg.

Meniscus: Karst Topography A group of the Slain go on a mission to rescue the woman of Themble Hill; the story of how Daniel and Odymn deal with separation.

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All my best

Alexandra (a.k.a. Jane)

 

World Building: Phases of the moon

I love the night sky. A lot of the scenes in my Meniscus stories happen at night, so I often mention the appearance of the moons (there are two moons on Meniscus). When I am revising/editing, this means I have to keep track of the days (sun-reels) that have passed and what phase the moon is in.

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xolar system
Here it is, planet Meniscus, second rock from the suns!

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To keep track of the phases of my Meniscus moons (called Cardoth grill’en and Cardoth roe) I have prepared a guide to phases of the moon. Warning, these phases are not the same as the progression of phases of Earth’s moon. For example, the moons on Meniscus move differently and so the waxing and waning occur in a different order (on Earth, the moon starts with the new moon waxing [growing] to a sickle moon as a left facing bracket and ends with the waning sickle moon as a right facing bracket; on Meniscus, the waxing and waning slivers are right and left-facing).

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Numbers on my moon chart stand for the number of days passing.

~phases of the moon.jpg

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Diagram of Earth’s Moon Phases:

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Moon_Phase_Diagram_for_Simple_English_Wikipedia

(Source: By Andonee – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38635547 )

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People have been drawing the phases of the moon for centuries. Here are some of Galileo Galilei’s sketches of the moon:

moon drawings.png

Source: The phases of the Moon’, drawing by Galileo Galilei, 1616, courtesy of https://commons.wikimedia.org

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For any world building, I find tables to be very helpful during the editing phase. A Chapter by Chapter record of settings, actions, point of view, characters, passage of time,  moon phases … status of water supplies, state of healing, or anything else pertinent to the story can help resolve issues and prevent reader confusion/frustration.

An example of a simple table from part of one of my stories:

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Ch Setting Action Point of View Characters Day # Moon Phase
42 Limestone caves in The Fault Odymn runs to build her muscle and finds Rafters Odymn Odymn Day 26 waning gibbous moon
43 City of Prell Slain tells others he is leaving for north Slain Daniel, Belnar, Vicki, Madoline, Kathryn Day 27
44 Themble Woods Odymn starts her program of parkour Odymn Odymn Day 31 waning quarter moon
45 Village of Themble Hill Belnar and Vicki arrive at Themble Hill Odymn Odymn Day 32

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cropped-scan_20170508.jpg

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All my best,

Alexandra (a.k.a. Jane)

Meniscus: Karst Topography … cover art

I have completed the painting for the cover art of the fifth book in the Meniscus Series … Meniscus: Karst Topography!

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Here is a sequence showing my process in doing the painting:

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img_5817

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The painting ‘walking among the stars’ shows my character Kathryn as she navigates a holograph of the galaxy and finds the planet Meniscus.

When the Slain return from an excursion, they discover the women of the Village have been taken by a Dock-winder transport. They set out on a dangerous journey to Prell-nan to find the women, risking their lives in the dirty streets, sordid brothels and creepy buildings of Dock-winder-run Prell. They find Vicki, Madoline, Kathryn and Meghan, but where is Odymn?

The book launches October 15! Can’t wait!

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All by best,

Alexandra

Writing Science Fiction: symbols

The use of symbols is a key element in creative writing.

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Symbols are settings, objects, characters or events containing layers of meaning. Beneath any literal meanings are figurative meanings that imbue the symbol with depth and significance. A common symbol encountered in literature is the ‘owl’. On one level, the owl is a feathered creature with big eyes and amazing head-turning capability; on another, figurative level, the owl is symbolic of wisdom.

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037 (2016_12_30 00_28_35 UTC)
my only photo of an owl … snowy owl on the Grand Lake Meadows, December 2013

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Mention an object once and it’s a prop, sometimes with associations. Mention it twice and the reader remembers the first mention, loaded with its connotations and denotations. Mention it three times and the associations can scream, suggest elements of plot. The object has become a symbol.

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The use of symbols deepens meanings and helps the plot reverberate throughout the writing.

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In the book I am currently revising (Meniscus: Encounter with the Emenpod, publication date July, 2019) my male character Rist wears gloves when he is with other people. Mentioned once, they are part of his wardrobe. Mentioned twice, the gloves are associated with his inability to touch the woman he loves. Mentioned more often, those gloves are a symbol of his separation from anyone he cares about. Even when other characters wear gloves, the reader is reminded of this separation, and all the associated history.

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'hammock'
Rist, alone, wears no gloves

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When I wrote the first draft of this book, gloves had no role in the story. As often happens, the symbol, the wearing of gloves, solved a plot problem. Once I had added the gloves, their mention had strategic importance. I also realized that gloves had already been included in the plot, in an entirely unrelated way. Once the gloves became a symbol of one character’s separation from others, their further mention built on the idea of separation and lack of understanding between cultures.

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Scan_20180805.jpg

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Symbols operate like mini sub-plots throughout story.  These mini-plots echo the main plot, and, during the story, the objects change in a way that illuminates it.  The mini-plots also tend to occur in three ‘beats’, providing a beginning, middle and end.  For example, gloves are at first worn in every circumstance; when they are occasionally removed, risks are taken; later, when the gloves are removed forever, intimacy can grow between characters.

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To strengthen the use of symbols in my work, I use tables. Once I have decided which symbols will be important to my story, I build a table of symbols and note where the symbols are mentioned (the three beats) and what mini-plot is suggested. Gaps in the table suggest possible revisions.

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Object Symbol Key Occurrences

(Chapter Number)

Mini-plot
gloves separation 7 42 65 Rist must wear gloves to avoid transfer of elements of body chemistry to other people; removing the gloves represents a step in committing to Tagret.
bell home 4 29 63 the dinner bell is introduced in Meniscus: Karst Topography (September, 2018) as a symbol of missing loved ones. In Meniscus: Encounter with the Emenpod, bell ringing is the first warning the Village is in peril; later, the ring of the bell is a sign community members will return.
kettle family 5 33 58 the cooking kettle was introduced in Meniscus: South from Sintha and has accompanied my characters on their various adventures. When tragedy occurs, a search for the kettle is representative of a search for a missing child; when the kettle is found, there is hope for the restoration of family.

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Symbols seem to take on exaggerated importance in science fiction. Perhaps this is because of the association with fantasy where objects often have magical significance. Fantasy and science fiction plots often involve the ‘quest’ for a significant object. Although I am sure other story-telling includes powerful symbols (for example, the ‘car’ in The Great Gatsby, symbolic of wealth), science fiction and fantasy genres are particularly proud of theirs (for example, the ‘One Ring’ in Lord of the Rings). All the more reason to embed symbols with maximum significance and meaning.

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IMG318_crop (2016_12_30 00_28_35 UTC)

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All my best!

Alexandra

(a.k.a.Jane)

World-building: Myth and Mystery

I think sentient creatures need a system of belief. So when I write about them in my science-fiction, I include ‘belief system’ as a world-building parameter.

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The Humans in my stories have all been ‘taken’ from Earth to serve as slaves on the alien planet Meniscus. When they come to Meniscus, their freedom is ripped from them. Freedom to come and go, freedom to associate with other Humans, freedom of religion – all are lost.

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As Humans survive on Meniscus, they sequester their existing beliefs, perhaps practicing them in private. They also encounter, and sometimes absorb, the myths, creation stories and beliefs of the alien species on Meniscus.

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All the alien species on plant Meniscus, Dock-winders, Gel-heads and Argenops, have stories of The Separation, a time when geological processes caused development of The Fault, a barrier to communication between the gentle Argenops and the self-serving Dock-winders.

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The Fault.jpg

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There are also stories of ancient peoples and evidence of their work. The Emenpod, also known as The Builders, built the stairs at the small water-climb in Meniscus: Winter at the Water-climb and the find-a-way stairs in Meniscus: The Village at Themble Hill. These ‘beings’ are so mysterious, they have been elevated to the level of ‘god’. The Emenpod will be at least partly revealed in Book Seven of the Series, Meniscus: Encounter with the Emenpod. But will they be gods or another alien life-form?

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stairs at water-climb

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At least two ‘gods’ enter the belief systems of the planet. De-al, Water-weld, is credited with making unruly water stay on Meniscus. Amblyn, God of Fire, figures into the belief systems of the Argenops who practice daily ‘arm homage’ to him. And what do the Dock-winders think of these gods? In the next book, Book Five in the Series, Meniscus: Karst Topography, to be released in September, my readers will get a tour through a Dock-winder museum where their reverence for their gods will be put on display.

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As we get to know the Human characters on Meniscus, and as they start to feel comfortable in their new-found freedom, we will catch glimpses of the beliefs they once practiced on Earth.

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Scan_20180428 (2).jpg

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One of my favourite new characters is Aisha, taken from from Tamil Nadu on Earth. How will she honour her beliefs and help others in their struggle to cope with life so far from her home? Meet her in Book Five Meniscus: Karst Topography and again in Book Six, Meniscus: Oral Traditions.

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Creating believable, well rounded characters means giving them multi-faceted backgrounds. In the next book you read, consider the author’s approach to the belief system of his/her characters.

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All my best,

Alexandra

(a.k.a. Jane)

World-building: naming the planet

Meniscus? Isn’t that something to do with knees?

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Perhaps it was inexperience, perhaps a streak of author-stubborn. But when I started my science-fiction series, the name of the planet was, had to be, Meniscus. I probably should have paid attention when Amazon, pairing my key words with advertisers, chose to link my books with books about knee surgery.

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xolar system
Here it is, planet Meniscus, second rock from the suns!

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The names of far-off worlds (real or fictional) are always a little strange. Keep in mind that planet names may be many:

  • the name of the planet according to those who live there [for example, peoples of Terra call the planet Earth (English), Gaia (ancient Greek), Tellus (Latin), Bumi (Indonesian), Erd (German), Maa (Finnish), Suravani (Sanscrit) and so on].
  • the names assigned to the planet by those in other solar systems and galaxies [perhaps the little green folk out there refer to Earth as Marble, Cloud-dance, Roil, or ²¯°±¥’%’].

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As of June 2018, there are 2,841 stars known to have planets (known as exoplanets). There is a naming convention for exoplanets, adopted by the International Astronomical Union https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exoplanet_naming_convention. Following the rules gives exoplanets names like HD 10180 j  and PSR B1620-26 b.  Proper names have also been assigned to some exoplanets, including Arkas, Dagon, Orbitar, Poltergeist and Spe.

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'walking among the stars'
Kathryn, one of the characters, encounters Meniscus in a virtual diorama of the galaxy. This is the black and white version of the painting for the cover of Meniscus: Karst Topography.

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So why did I choose the name Meniscus for the planet in my science-fiction series?

There are three main definitions of the noun ‘meniscus‘:

ANATOMY
a thin fibrous cartilage between the surfaces of some joints, e.g., the knee.

PHYSICS
the curved upper surface of a liquid in a tube.

OPTICS
a lens that is convex on one side and concave on the other.

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I chose the name of the planet because, in some way, each definition of meniscus addresses a liminal space or a boundary where transition occurs. This liminal surface (a meniscus) separates bone from bone, or water from air, or changes the way light is bent as it moves from air to glass. In each case two surfaces collide at the meniscus and change is the result.

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The word meniscus can also be a metaphor for two world-views colliding – the Human world with the Dock-winder world. Human ideas about freedom and equality are in direct conflict with Dock-winder dedication to superiority and servitude. Change (escaping servitude and building a life of freedom and equality) is at the centre of every Meniscus story.

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img_5373

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Trivia about the name Meniscus as applied to my science fiction series:

  • Water does not behave on the planet Meniscus. As a result of certain chemical and physical properties, it falls up rather than down. In a container of water on the planet, there is no formation of a meniscus.
  • Odymn, the heroine of the story, is a practitioner of parcour, sometimes called free-running. Her ability to move quickly and quietly through the Themble Wood is critical to her freedom. What happens to freedom (spoiler alert) when she breaks her leg (Meniscus: The Village at Themble Hill) and, on top of this, dislocates a knee? You can find out in the next book in the series Meniscus: Karst Topography, coming in September.
  • The Dock-winders, who actually named Meniscus, named it for the word in Gel-speak meaning ‘unruly water’.

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img825 (2016_12_30 00_28_35 UTC)
” … marble of mottled agate, swirls of orange and red.” From Meniscus: Karst Topography

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Eventually all of the known planets in the real world may have names. Perhaps someday there will be a real planet Meniscus.

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For a list of names of planets (named or unnamed) in real-life or science-fiction, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_planets

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All my best,

Alexandra