Kindle Free Book Deal: Intro to the Meniscus Sci-Fi Series

Meniscus — a planet far from Earth. When humans are taken there, they face a life of hardship and servitude. But humans are resilient. Follow the story of the humans who struggle to escape from the oppressive Dock-winders and build a home in an alien world.

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Rist and Tagret foreground.jpg

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In the sixth book of the Meniscus series, Meniscus: Oral Traditions, meet Tagret. The Dock-winders have taken her from Earth and deposited her on the streets of the alien city of Sintha. Tagret feels helpless, but she soon meets other humans who will help her get along in this strange and dangerous place.

One of these is Rist, a Slain, a genetically modified human who has forged a life for himself. He does not want or need a tag-along to burden his days. But when Tagret is sold at a Dock-winder auction, Rist uses all his tickets to save her from a terrible fate. Tagret feels safe with Rist and makes plans for the future.

But Rist has a secret …

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Meniscus: Oral Traditions is a great entry point for readers who think they’d like to find out more about the humans on Meniscus. Each Meniscus book is written as a readable long poem and is illustrated by the author. The books are a quick read, and include both adventure and romance.

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For five days next week (August 5 to 9, 2019), I will be running a Kindle Free Book Deal and the e-version of Meniscus: Oral Traditions will be free at Amazon.  here

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Oral Traditions cover blue (5)

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I will be sending reminders during the Kindle Free Book Deal, so stay tuned!!!!!

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All my best,

Alexandra Tims

(a.k.a. Jane)  

Meniscus: Oral Traditions … available on Amazon!

I am pleased to announce, the next book in the Meniscus Science Fiction Series, Meniscus: Oral Traditions is now available for order in paperback here.  It will be available in e-book format within a few days.

Oral Traditions cover blue (4)

Meniscus: Oral Traditions is a stand alone book, fitting within the story of the Humans on planet Meniscus but introducing new characters as they learn to live in the shadow of the Dock-winders.

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Meniscus: Oral Traditions

Margaret, with her Masters Degree in Chemistry, works at a call centre. Her days are uneventful, answering the questions of pet owners and walking along the river with her dog Winston each evening.

Then everything changes.

One minute she is explaining to a call centre customer how to convince her labradoodle to swallow its medication.

And the next, her hair has grown four inches and she is in the streets of an alien city, surrounded by unfamiliar spaces, water that climbs and aliens with skin like green gelatin.

In the next weeks, Tagret (no one will use her proper name) learns about her new home on Meniscus and meets one of the Slain, Human males who have been genetically modified by the Dock-winder aliens. Rist is like no other Slain. He is strong and has a Slain’s special weaponry and abilities, but he also sings and jokes and makes Tagret feel safe on this alien planet.

Together they set off on an adventure that will put Tagret’s chemistry knowledge to use.

But Rist has a secret. He has taken a vow . . .

Rist and Tagret foreground

For those of you who live nearby, I will have copies of Oral Traditions by May 30 or earlier. After that, they will be available from me directly or from Westminster Books in Fredericton.

So happy to be able to share this story with you! As author, my favorite to date!

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All my best,

Alexandra

coming soon – Meniscus: Oral Traditions

Coming March 2019 – the sixth book in the Meniscus Series. The setting is the planet Meniscus, but in this book, we meet new characters who will eventually become part of the town at Themble Hill.

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Meniscus: Oral Traditions

Margaret, with her Masters Degree in Chemistry, works at a call centre. Her days are uneventful, answering the questions of pet owners and walking along the river with her dog Winston each evening.

Then everything changes.

One minute she is explaining to a call centre customer how to convince her labradoodle to swallow its medication.

And the next, her hair has grown four inches and she is in the streets of an alien city, surrounded by unfamiliar spaces, water that climbs and aliens with skin like green gelatin.

In the next weeks, Tagret (no one will use her proper name) learns about her new home on Meniscus and meets one of the Slain, Human males who have been genetically modified by the Dock-winder aliens. Rist is like no other Slain. He is strong and has a Slain’s special weaponry and abilities, but he also sings and jokes and makes Tagret feel safe on this alien planet.

Together they set off on an adventure that will put Tagret’s chemistry knowledge to use.

But Rist has a secret. He has taken a vow . . .

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Meniscus: Oral Traditions will be available March 31, 2019 !

Rist and Tagret foreground

I hope you will like this new story about Humans on an alien planet!

All my best,

Alexandra

 

 

 

 

 

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: what to eat on an alien planet?

Food is one of the most basic Human needs, necessary for survival. But what do Humans eat on an alien planet? What do they eat when they escape from the tyranny of the Dock-winders and have no access to the high-tech resources of the planet?

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Odymn, the heroine of the Meniscus stories, is skilled at finding edible wild plants. This is in part because her father taught her the basics of natural history at home on Earth. She also uses her curiosity to discover the edible among the plants she finds.

Odymn picks

a leaf

from an unfamiliar plant.

Takes a nibble.

 

Shoos Madoline’s hand away.

 

“I test new plants I find,”

says Odymn.

“Just one per sun-reel,

so I know

which leaves or roots or berries

make me sick.”

(Do not try this at home on Earth!)

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When they combine Odymns knowledge and the wood lore of the furry Argenops, the Humans of Themble Hill have a range of foods to choose from:

  • roots – arbel corms and ransindyne
  • fruit – spenel berries, yarnel, thief-bush berries and sloe
  • seeds and legumes – gettle gourds and grammid beans
  • greens – slag-fern, glasswort, ishlin, and zill
  • and the sweet sap of the pilinoth tree

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The Slain hunt for wild kotildi meat and have access to the Dock-winder markets, so they add to the variety of the diet. Items include oranges (brought from Earth since they will not grow on Meniscus), MRE (meals ready-to-eat, also from Earth) and chocolate (no diet is complete without chocolate).

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Kathryn, who escaped a transport crash to join the Humans of Themble Hill, is an artist and she has drawn many of the plants in the Themble Woods.

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arbel

The nodding arbel is the first edible wild planet introduced in the Meniscus Series.  The plant produces an edible corm and its leaves can be used to make an analgesic tea.

Gnaw of an empty stomach.

A cluster of arbel flowers,

green and nodding.

 

She digs with her good hand.

Finds the corm, rubs it white,

slides it into her mouth.

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arbel

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yarnel

In Meniscus: Crossing The Churn Odymn uses her parkour skills to reach the branches of yarnel and its juicy fruit. The bark of yarnel is bulbous, depicted on the cover of Meniscus: The Village at Themble Hill.

A glimpse of crimson,

high in the canopy.

 

Rolls to running. Two steps on a trunk.

Grabs a branch. Swing and push

to standing.

 

Yarnel kernels gleam.

A pomegranate turned inside-out.

Tart and juicy. 

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'yarnel'

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gettle

The gettle gourd is first introduced in Meniscus: Winter by the Water-climb as a staple in the gardens of the furry, friendly Argenops. The seeds are a major food-source. The gourds can be used as an odd-shaped ball in a game or as a substitute for a jack-o-lantern.

Nine hollow

gettle-shells

arranged at intervals.

 

Belnar picks one up.

Reaches in.

Pulls out

a half-burned candle.

 

“Don’est,”

says Vicki.

“Signalling

to her people.”

~

'gettle'

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I hope you have enjoyed this brief look at the vegetation on planet Meniscus. If the plants resemble some of Earths plants quite closely, just know I am a strong believer in convergent evolution.

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All my best,

Jane

World-building: homes on other worlds

In the next couple of posts, I will consider the needs of the rag-tag group of Humans trying to build a community on the distant planet Meniscus. In each of the books in the Meniscus Series, the Humans work very hard to survive, always concerned about how to get water or a next meal, or find protection from predators.

Remember Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs? After basic physiological needs are met (needs for air, water, food, sleep, and sex), people then move up the triangle, seeking safety (clothing, shelter and removal from danger), belonging (relationships, love, affection and community), esteem and finally self-actualization (spiritual needs and achieving individual potential). For more information on Mazlow’s hierarchy, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs

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This needs hierarchy is useful for writers of science fiction, especially fiction about colonization or dystopian survival. In my stories about human struggles to live on the planet Meniscus, most are about seeking the basics. The air is OK to breathe, and the water, although uncooperative (it flows upward and is hard to swallow) is plentiful. My characters spend most of their time trying to find food.

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Safety is next on the hierarchy. Shelter is key to coping with dangers. The planet Meniscus is rife with carnivorous plants, venomous slear-snakes, wolf-like kotildi, and the ever-present danger of the alien Gel-heads and Dock-winders.

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On Meniscus, there are several kinds of shelters available for Human use. These range from very simple to technologically complex.

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Hammock hovel

Hammocks are cheap, light, portable and relatively inaccessible to predators. They can accommodate one or two people and come with a flysheet for rainy conditions and a portable ‘floor’ (although it is awkward and heavy and often discarded after a few days of travel). Hammock hovels are used in towns as temporary lodging and by some Slain in their travels.

'hammock'.jpg

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Link-shelter

Although simple in design, the link-shelter is technologically advanced. It is light and portable, but when assembled, the components link to form durable bonds and an assembled shelter will bear the weight of a large man without collapsing. Portable pop-up shelters made of fabric are presently available on Earth and assemble with the flick of a wrist. But just try to collapse them without a You-tube credit course!

Odymn and the Slain use a link shelter.

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Rafters

During the years he travelled from place to place on Meniscus in his occupation as trader, the Slain built a future home for himself at Rafters. Beginning with a single banyan, he cultivated, pruned and trimmed until he had a large area impregnable to carnivores. At the centre of the area, he hollowed out a large tree to use as a sleeping area.

When the Slain is fully committed to Odymn, he shows her his home at Rafters and asks her to share it with him.

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Argenop hovels

Humans can use alien houses or hovels when they need shelter. The Argenops, furry friendly forest folk, have hovels adapted to their tree-living origins. With two-level platforms and sturdy hanging bars, creatures with prehensile tails are right at home. Humans will fit into the Argenop hovel, but getting comfortable is difficult.

As seen in the map below, the Argenops have about fifty hovels in four communities. Odymn and the Slain used an Argenop hovel when they lived with the Argenops in the village of Garth.

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Dock-winder honey-combs

Female Humans who are captives of the Dock-winders are stored in horizontal cells during non-working hours. The cells are arranged efficiently in tiers called honey-combs. Each cell is equipped with climate control, an aluminum mattress and a pool-noodle- shaped warmer. Male Humans are left to fend for themselves and end up sleeping in alleyways under squares of carpet.

Odymn lived in a Dock-winder honey-comb for ten years when she worked in the Gel-head sex-trade and as a factory seamstress and waitress.

'Prell alleyway'.png

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High tech dwelling

Some of the Slain have been able to use Dock-winder technology to build complex dwellings. Rist, a Slain in an upcoming book, took years hauling components on his back to build his home. It has four stories, floor-to-floor access via ladder, and a ‘skin’ to camouflage itself and provide heat. Another character in the book describes it as being as large as a trampoline at the base and as tall as a telephone pole.

Rist has a number of technological improvements to the basic building, including a  multi-compartment storage unit that will sort itself, bioluminescence for light, and a ‘friction-fireplace’ constructed of layers of amblion (when the panels rub together they create friction to simulate the sparking and heat of a fireplace). There’s a comfortable mattress too!

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With all these choices, what shelters do the Humans use when they build the Village at Themble Hill? Not much information is given in Meniscus: The Village at Themble Hill, but the story implies Zachary, the carpenter, used methods he knew and materials at hand – wood, stone and vegetation fibres. The completed village consisted of a common kitchen and eight small wood-frame huts, each providing sleeping space for one or two people.

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You probably would not trade your current shelter, however humble, for one of the shelters described above. Despite its comforts, I would not want Rist’s high-tech house since my arthritic knees would not tolerate the ladders!

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All my best

Alexandra

vanilla and cinnamon – aromatics and aldehydes: five ways to describe smells in your writing

If you build a world in science fiction, describing the world should involve all the senses. Of the five senses, I find sights and sounds the easiest to describe. Smells, touch and taste are more difficult. Especially in my early drafts, aromas, tactile sensations and tastes are often missing.

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Including smells in my writing is much more than writing “the market smelled like boiling cabbage.” The range of methods and words to describe smell is full of possibilities.

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Gel-heads, aliens in the Meniscus series, smell disgusting. Words like oily, putrid, rank, rancid or foul would be suitable to describe their smell.Gel-heads, aliens in the Meniscus series, smell disgusting. Words like oily, putrid, rank, rancid or foul would be suitable to describe their smell.

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I don’t want a story stinky with description of smells, so, in the story I am working on, I chose five places and three characters to understand in terms of their olfactory landscape.

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The challenge is to describe these places and characters in ways to bring the reader into the experience. This can be done in several ways. The writer can describe smells in terms of:

  1. Parts of speech: verbs (waft, distract, permeate, intrude, bake, fry, rot, burn), nouns (wisp, aroma, odour, pocket, fragrance, stench, stink, smell), and adjectives (moody, acrid, crisp, earthy, shrill, putrid, rancid, salty, sharp, repulsive, spicy, stale, aromatic, fetid, loamy);
  2. The classes of odours (camphoraceous, musky, floral, pungent, ethereal, minty, putrid, almond, aromatic and aniseed);
  3. The chemistry of smells: the interesting words of chemistry might not suit every story, but occasionally, used from the point of view of a character who is a chemist or a perfumer, occasional use of a chemistry term might fit. We have the smells of human waste such as butyric acid (vomit), hydrogen sulphide ( rotten eggs), valeric acid ( rancid food), and ammonia (urine). Nutty smells like popped corn, baking bread and coffee are the product of alkylprazines. Bananas and wintergreen result from esters, and chemicals of cinnamon, wintergreen and vanilla are aromatics. One of my first labs in university chemistry taught me how to extract limonene, the terpene of citrus fruit peel.
  4. Experiences connected to smells, especially universal experience. Smoky smells of fire, pungent smells of drying autumn leaves, the revolting smell of sour milk, and acrid smells of a skunk’s spray are experiences common to many readers.
  5. Characteristics not usually assigned to smell: dark or bright, lite or heavy, sharp or dull, crisp or soft, creamy or brittle, soft or hard.

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If I ‘climb inside’ my landscape, I can describe the smells of a space using the five sources listed above. Then, as I encounter the landscape in my story, I have a ready-made list of odours.

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The woodlands on planet Meniscus have characteristic smells : the grammid trees of the Sintha Wood smell like cinnamon, like apple pie. Words like intoxicating, spicy, subtle, warm, aromatic, permeate, wisp.

The woodlands on planet Meniscus have characteristic smells: the grammid trees of the Sintha Wood smell like cinnamon, like apple pie. Words like intoxicating, spicy, subtle, warm, aromatic, permeate, wisp could be used to describe the smells of this space.

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The method above can be used to describe tastes encountered in the story, or touches and sounds.

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All my best,

(have fun with your writing)

Alexandra