marble Earth

~

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.

~

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.

~

walking among the stars crop (2)

~

curvature of the earth

~

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

~

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)

Advertisements

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 !

~

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.

~

walking among the stars crop (2).jpeg

~

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.

~

cover trial.jpg

~

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.

~

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.

~

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.

~

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.

~

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.

~

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.

~

The Fault.jpg

~

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?

~

stairs at water-climb

~

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.

~

~

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.

~

Scan_20180428 (2).jpg

~

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.

~

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.

~

All my best,

Alexandra

(a.k.a. Jane)

Writing a science fiction series: building recurring ideas from book to book

I like to view Series as one longer story, told in parts. Although each book may have its own story and character arcs, there is continuity between books. Books in the series may share characters, settings, world view, spiritual beliefs, mythologies, principles of chemistry, biology and physics and so on.

~

Books in a series may also build, from book to book, on ideas not explored fully in earlier books.

~

Examples from my own books about adventures on the planet Meniscus include the story of Belnar’s missing tooth.

~

'Belnar' paperback

~

Belnar is a Slain, a genetically modified Human. Like other Slain, Belnar has exceptional endurance and strength, has unusual physical features such as nictitating eyelids, and uses electricity for protection and weaponry. Belnar also has a personality different from other Slain – he is brash, a joker, self-serving, irreverent and aggressive. In an encounter with another Slain, Belnar loses his front incisor. A small physical defect causes him to have pronunciation problems but he uses the defect to advantage, mostly to make himself seem more charming.

~

~

Although not critical to any particular story, Belnar’s tooth (or lack of tooth) recurs, story after story.

Crossing The Churn – Odymn finds Belnar’s tooth in a packet of Daniel’s contract trophies

'a trophy for every contract'

South from Sintha – Odymn and Daniel release Belnar from the island where he is a captive and the story of the tooth’s loss is described

Winter by the Water-climb – mentioned as a physical feature

The Village at Themble Hill – the missing tooth and the whistle in his speech help Belnar make friends with an alien child

Karst Topography – Belnar gets a dental implant in Prell to make Vicki like him

Encounter with the Emenpod – Belnar gets in a fight with another Slain and loses his brand new tooth

~

'the Slains battle'

~

A small idea, the story of a tooth, but recurring ideas serve a few purposes in a book series:

  1. The missing tooth is a symbol of Belnar’s edgy personality,
  2. The missing tooth is a metaphor for recurring problems that never seem to be resolved
  3. Readers familiar with the series watch for recurring ideas and feel an ‘insider’ connection
  4. Later stories in the series may seize on a well-developed idea with ‘history’ and use such an idea as a plot focus.

~

Who knows the future of Belnar’s missing tooth? At this point in the writing of the series, it remains an idea rife with possibilities.

~

If you are writing a series, do you introduce recurring ideas to serve story-building purposes?

~

All my best,

Alexandra

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?

~

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!)

~

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

~

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).

~

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.

~

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.

~

arbel

~

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. 

~

'yarnel'

~

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'

~

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.

~

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

~

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.

~

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.

~

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

~

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

~

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.

~

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.

~

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.

~

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

~

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!

~

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.

~

~

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!

~

All my best

Alexandra

Picking a character name

At the launch of my new book Meniscus: The Village at Themble Hill a member of the audience asked “How does a writer choose character names?”

~

Although the question could apply to any genre, my answer was specific to my science fiction writing. I think of a name fairly quickly and, unless there is a compelling reason to reject the name, I usually keep it. Once I have written a bit of action and dialogue, done a character sketch and drawn my character portrait, I cannot change the name or I experience a sort of writer/character dissociation.

~

'Eu-hom' Nov 11 2016 (2016_12_30 00_28_35 UTC)
The Slain … his name, Daniel, is not known until Book 2

~

 

Some of my characters have ordinary names — Daniel, Vicki, Kathryn. I  choose the names of characters from cultures-not-my-own by looking at lists of popular names for specific years in the country of origin. My Asian character Ning and my Indian character Aisha got their names in this way.

~'Ning' paperback.jpg

Aisha paperback.jpg

~

I also have alien characters and put lots of thought into these names. My Argenops (gentle furry folk) have names like Wen-le-gone, Gar-le-gnoss and Ban-le-kin. The Gel-heads (transparent green humanoids) tend to have names beginning with ‘W’ — Waglan, Wenda and Wrall. Dock-winders have complex names of no particular pattern — Dressor, Bar’ma, Garg and Don’est. Human characters with Gel-head names (Sen-eth, Fell-eth) have an ‘-eth’ added to the name since ‘eth’ is the alien word for Earth.

~

~

The book I am writing at present has a character with an odd name — Rist. The name is a shortened form of Tristan, but Rist suits him. I did not want to ‘mystic’ him by calling him Rhyst. However, his name means some phrases are unlikely to be written — “Rist’s wrist” or even “Rist’s hand”.

~

Rist paperback.jpg

~

I have a few thoughts on choosing names that may help other writers:

  1. Try to choose names scattered through the alphabet. I once read a book with a Mary, a Marie, a Michael and a Mark. I referred back to the front of the book so much, the cover fell off. The ultimate similar-name novel has to be Wuthering Heights — Cathy and Catherine left me too confused to really love the book.
  2. If you select a strange name for a character, make it pronounceable and try to have it make sense to the reader. For example, my main female character is called Odymn. She explains to the Slain that her father named her for the rare earth metal Neodymium because it was the colour of her hair (red). This will help the reader remember a strange name.'Odymn'.jpg
  3. Hesitate before naming a character after a well-known character in another story. When I named a new character Tagret, I considered if it was too close to the Game of Thrones character Ygritt or the Harry Potter character Hagrid. I would not call a character Luke (Skywalker) or Leia.Tagret paperback2018.jpg
  4. Consider the meaning of the name. Some readers are attuned to this. Many common names have a biblical origin and an associated story. My Slain’s name is Daniel and the image of a good man in a den of lions comes to mind when I see his name. Darth Vader’, which means ‘dark father’ in German, was an obvious spoiler for the reveal that Darth is Luke’s father.
  5. Think before naming a character after someone you know well. I named a minor character in my stories after a friend I like well. However I wonder if my friend may feel uncomfortable about this. At least, the character I named Zachary is a good guy, through and through!

~

Character names matter. My favourite book is by Daphne Du Maurier. Strange that in a book called Rebecca, the main female character is not named (Rebecca is the name of Max De Winter’s first wife). In the book, the main character’s husband says,

You have a very lovely and unusual name.

My father was a lovely and unusual man.

A point among many to make me love this book!

~

I hope you have fun naming your characters and find helpful ideas in the thoughts above!

My best always,

Alexandra