World-building: Invasive species

On Earth, in real life, careless actions often result in displacement of native vegetation by alien or exotic plants. Invasive plant species significantly modify the ecosystems they colonize. On Earth, in Canada, we have the examples (among many) of Wild Parsnip, Purple Loosestrife, Common Tansy and Garlic Mustard. For information on these invasive species, see the Nature Conservancy’s Invasive Species Guide.

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Common tansy is a pretty plant but is considered invasive in parts of Canada

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In my books about the planet Meniscus, invasive species make up a significant part of the vegetation.  As the result of Dock-winder visits to Earth, the planet Meniscus is plagued by several invasive plants. When the Dock-winders return to Meniscus after their visits to Earth, they bring back, either accidentally or deliberately, vegetation not native to their own planet.

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Adding these species to my list of plants on Meniscus has been an enjoyable part of world-building. I like to think nasty aliens like the Dock-winders will eventually have to suffer the effects of their carelessness as invasive species modify the ecosystems of their planet.

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In my books, you will find unfamiliar plants like ransindyne, spenel and zill. You will also find some plants native to Earth.

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Banyan:  On Earth, Banyan is native to India and occurs worldwide in tropical and semi-tropical zones. Banyan begins its life as an epiphyte, a plant that grows on another living plant. The host plant is often ‘strangled’ by the Banyan.  Older Banyan trees have vigorous aerial roots and one tree can spread to create a whole grove of trees.

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On Meniscus, Banyan were introduced by the Dock-winders as a decorative tree. The tablith, a large Meniscus bird, collects bits of Banyan as nest-building material. Seedings sprout in the nests and gradually spread into the native forests. By the Earth year 2023, Banyan has become the main species of the En’ast Wood and a major component of the Sintha and Themble Woods. My character Daniel, the Slain, has tended a giant banyan and built his home of ‘Rafters’ by careful pruning of the aerial root system.

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Glasswort: On Earth, Glasswort or Salicornia grows mainly in coastal areas. It is a small plant adapted to life in a saline environment. It often grows in salt marsh. Glasswort’s leaves are reduced and modified, so the plant has a tubular translucent appearance. The plant is very salty in taste and can be used raw as a salad green.

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Since the salt mineral is rare on Meniscus, Dock-winders have harvested plants in intertidal areas of Earth as a source of salt. Glasswort, included in these harvests, has escaped to live along the ‘Churn’ and ‘Vastness’ areas of Meniscus. Odymn, a major character in my books, collects Glasswort from the wild to use as nibbling food and to flavour stews.

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Tussilago: Tussilago or Coltsfoot is a charming yellow flower that grows along the roadsides in eastern Canada. It is one of the first flowers to bloom in spring and looks a bit like a Dandelion without its leaves. Coltsfoot has anti-inflammatory properties and was used by settlers to make a cough remedy.

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When the Dock-winders visited Earth, they collected whole transport trucks of produce. During collection, the transports often crashed and plowed up roadside soil and vegetation. Seedlings and seeds of Tussilago travelled to Meniscus along with the produce trailers. Once on Meniscus, they quickly colonized areas of disturbed ground. Edward, the Human Doctor in my series, knows a bit about herbal medicine, and uses Tussilago as a cough medicine since Human pharmaceuticals are rare on Meniscus.

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Don’t be like the Dock-winders! Don’t spread invasive species. Don’t plant invasive species in your garden and don’t inadvertently transplant species by moving untreated soil from place to place. Follow suggested methods of controlling and eradicating these species.

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I hope you enjoy reading my books and keep an eye out for these species in the Meniscus landscape!

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All my best,

Alexandra

 

 

 

 

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Meniscus: The Village at Themble Hill

“I never fall,” says Odymn.

“Really?” says the Doctor, as he examines her scars.

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In Meniscus: The Village at Themble Hill, Odymn tries to cope with a loss of her independence.  With the embryonic community of Themble Hill growing around her, Odymn knows the support of friendship and love as she recuperates. But are they really safe in the new community? Will the Dock-winders ever leave them alone???

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You can find Meniscus: The Village at Themble Hill in paperback format at Amazon here. The Kindle version will be available soon. For readers in the Fredericton area, the paperback will be available at Westminster Books after May 1st.

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All my best,

Alexandra

Free book — Meniscus: Winter by the Water-climb

Here in New Brunswick we are enjoying a gentle fall – nice days and cool temperatures. but the howling winds and bone-chill will soon begin.

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So, how do the folks on other planets prepare for winter? Find out – the third book in the Meniscus science-fiction series – Meniscus: Winter by the Water-climb – follows the characters as they get ready for the chilly season.

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To help you get ready for a winter on planet Meniscus, I am running a free book promotion with Amazon Kindle. Meniscus: Winter by the Water-climb will be free in Kindle edition from October 22 to October 25, 2017.

To order, just click here.

Although this is a series, Book Three can be read stand-alone. I hope you will enjoy the read!!!!

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Meniscus Winter by the Water-climb

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Winter on the planet Meniscus is brutal — the plenty of other seasons gives way to scarcity and desperation. Unprepared for the months ahead, Odymn and the Slain find shelter with the generous Argenops, furry, friendly creatures. When Odymn has to survive without the help of the Slain, she must depend on her own wits and her skill at parkour to survive the alien landscape of the Themble. But she is not prepared for new arrivals in the Themble Wood, a group of survivors, freed from slavery when their transport crashes in the Darn’el Desert. On a planet where Human relationships are not allowed, ten people and an alien child take the first steps toward building a community.

 

In the third book first of the Meniscus series, Winter by the Water-climb follows Odymn and the Slain as they try to survive a winter apart from one another’s help and protection.

 

Even in the dead of winter, you can build another home.

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All my best

Alexandra Tims

Dock-winders, elegant aliens

On the planet Meniscus, the alien Dock-winders plague my Human characters.

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Dock-winders, angular and lean,

elongated necks tattooed,

disconcerting eyes.

 

They travel together,

bundles of eloquence,

unperturbed by depravity.

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'the Dock-winder inspects Odymn' test

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Dock-winders are purple, with chalky skin and eyes that blink one at a time. Their very long necks are tattooed to record significant transactions.

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A life-sized, stand-up cardboard Dock-winder made for the launch of my book Meniscus: Crossing The Churn.

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Dock-winders are the oppressive overlords of planet Meniscus. Most are merchants, trading in sentients, especially Humans.  Thirty years before the opening of the story, they invaded Earth and brought the first shipment of Humans to Meniscus.

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On Meniscus, Dock-winders keep Humans as slaves, keeping them in appalling conditions. Humans are not allowed to associate with one-another. Men and women are kept apart and there are no relationships, families or communities allowed. Of course, Humans seek each other out in various ways and some manage to forge friendships.

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Dock-winders are also arrogant about the environment of their planet, forgetting that transplanted species may not stay under control. When they invaded Earth, they also brought a few other Earth species back to Meniscus with them, including the very aggressive banyan. Banyan has become a weed on Meniscus and overtaken the natural forests of the planet. Banyan has become my metaphor for oppressed Humans who may not stay down-trodden for long.

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Don’est, a Dock-winder child kidnapped by the Slain. Poor Don’est has to live with Humans she doesn’t understand and who don’t appreciate her odd ways.

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Next post, I’ll tell you about the Gel-heads, the other humanoid species on the planet Meniscus.

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See you soon,

Alexandra

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Copyright Alexandra Tims 2017

world building – creating an alien language for my book

In the back of each of my books in the Meniscus series is ‘A Condensed Guide to Gel-speak’. The Guide includes all of the alien words I have used in the books to date.

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I am not a linguist. I speak English and French and I have some idea of how words are derived and the relationships between them. Who knows if our Human ideas of language and syntax would apply to an alien race!!??

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The Gel-heads in my alien world are barely sentient, driven by greed and the search for gratification. And yet, through some twist of Meniscus history, their language is the one used by most sentients on the planet. In one of the books, they will be seen in a village, teaching the children of another alien race.

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Gel-heads are covered with green gelatinous skin: their muscles, bones and internal organs can be seen through the integument!
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The Gel-head language includes clicks for word separation and emphasis, indicated by an inverted comma   ‘   .  The words are spoken with a hiss, and include many ‘th’ sounds.

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I have tried to construct words as logical associations of other words. So, for example, a building is marneth far’natha, built from the words for ‘to build’ and ‘a thing of value’ :

marneth far’natha      a building

marneth        to build

far’natha       thing of value

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Another example:

grill’             to remove

grill’en           small (something has been removed)

cardoth          moon

cardoth grill’en    the smaller of two moons

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In the top row of my bookshelf is a copy of The Klingon Dictionary (Marc Okrand, Star Trek Pocket Books, 1985). Originally meant as an assist to actors, it has become very popular among science-fiction enthusiasts. My copy has not been dusted off for many years, but I am proud to own one. The book has been issued in two editions and is translated into five languages. The Klingon Dictionary has sold 500,000 copies. So is a guide to Gel-speak silly? Who can tell?

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a few of my collection of Star Trek paperbacks … I can’t even reach that shelf, let alone find the dictionary, but it is up there somewhere!!!
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Copyright Alexandra Tims 2017

Meniscus: the series

I hope you will enjoy visiting the planet Meniscus, the setting for my six part science fiction adventure/romance series. The first book in the series is Meniscus: Crossing The Churn (March 2017).

 … After an encounter with a wandering trader, a young woman escapes squalor and servitude with his help. As he helps her elude her former masters, she feels she has a hope for a new life. Her skills at parkour and foraging fit her well for a dangerous subsistence-based life and, in spite of his refusal to speak, she feels she has met her soul-mate. Follow Odymn and the Slain in their travels through the desert and wooded landscapes of Meniscus and discover their destination!

Meniscus: Crossing the Churn is available at Amazon.ca in paperback and Kindle formats here.

what are elginards?

elginard

wingless insect, native to Meniscus; moves by floating on air currents

Have you wondered about those two black eyes tucked on the right side of my header image? They belong to an elginard, a woodland insect common in my stories about Meniscus.

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The elginard is recurring symbol in my Meniscus books. It stands for those who do not feel in control of their lives, who have no idea where tomorrow will take them. The consideration of fate versus determinism is an underlying theme in the books. The elginards are inspired by the wooly aphids that drift on the wind in autumn in New Brunswick.

Some poetic excerpts about the elginard, from the Meniscus books:

From effervescence, droplets coalesce,

drift like wingless elginards, 

purposeless, ephemeral.

………………(Book 1: Crossing The Churn)

 

Air still.

Elginards hover.

Each with a flourish

of feathery hairs

to keep them aloft.

………………(Book 2: South from Sintha)

 

Now she watches drifting elginards.

Like woolly-aphids on Earth,

facsimiles of snowflake,

predicting winter.

………………(Book 3: Winter by the Water-Climb)

 

Wounded yarnel

drips sap to elginards.

Waits for breezes to launch them 

to purposeless lives.

……………….(Book 3: Winter by the Water-Climb)

Sparks from the fire

lift, mingle with wingless

elginards, float

on wisps of midnight.

……………….(Book 4: The Village at Themble Hill)

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Copyright 2017 Alexandra Tims