Author Archives: acflory

About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes...

Yes! Natural ‘soap’ from the Yucca plant

Huge thanks to Carol from Carol Cooks 2 for her wonderful post on all things ‘soap’. One of the fascinating titbits in her post was this video about soap in the desert:

Why am I so chuffed to discover the Yucca root soap?

Because in Vokhtah [book 2], I mention something called ‘soapweed’. It’s a root that’s used for washing when water and sand are not enough. Discovering that there really is such a root is fantastic. -dance-

And as an added extra, the yucca grows in a dry, arid environment, which is almost exactly like Vokhtah. Simply could not get better. πŸ™‚

cheers,
Meeks


My first video with voice over!

I’ve been wanting to make a ‘real’ video for some time, but it wasn’t until Inkarnate and a brand new microphone came together that I finally gave it a go. This is a 5 minute youtube video I made. I tried hard not to sound like a chipmunk. πŸ˜‰

To be honest, this first video is pretty awful, but I’m posting it to show what I did wrong. First up, I should have zoomed in right from the start and…I should have been ‘showing’ rather than telling right from the start too. Oh and one more thing, you need to have a very clear idea of what you want to say before you say it.

You can’t work the mouse and read from a script at the same time, but the script helps to focus the mind, especially when you’re nervous. I was nervous!

Cringes aside, I’m pleased with the quality of the microphone, and I’ll be honing my technique in the weeks to come. In time, I may even get to be good at this! lol

cheers
Meeks


Boychik – a review

I’ve loved Laurie Boris’ work since I read her novel – Drawing Breath – back in Indies Unlimited days. That book has remained my favourite until now. Boychik has the same immediacy, the same heart as Drawing Breath, and I absolutely loved it. This is the review I just left on amazon.com:

It’s hard to define what makes Boychik so wonderful because the story has it all – great characters, a great narrative and a sense of time and place like no other. For a couple of delightful days, It transported me to Prohibition New York and beguiled me with the sights and sounds and /smells/ of that era.

I don’t actually know what ‘lox’ is, but I love pickles so I could almost taste the food being made, and eaten, in the Deli. Most of all though, I experienced all of these almost alien sensations through the eyes of two young people on the cusp of growing up. And falling in love.

Yes, there is a thread of romance running through the story, but mostly it’s about love and tradition and old expectations clashing with the culture of a new country. In a strange sort of way, Boychik made me nostalgic for a time and place I’ve never known. It made me /care/.

In my not so humble opinion, Boychik really does have it all, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Read it. You’re welcome. πŸ™‚

The only thing that makes me sad is that the story is over. But it’s a good sad. πŸ™‚

cheers
Meeks


The Grand Hall of the Settlement

I’ve been playing with digital ‘collage’ for days now, and the image below comes close to what I see in my head:

It’s not perfect but I did manage to create the ‘ramp’ which features in book 2. This ramp has been in my head for years :

‘A moment later, all thought of Vokh politics fled Kahti’s mind as the tunnel opened out into a cavern of mammoth proportions. Glowworms placed at regular intervals revealed a number of passages leading out of the cavern, but the young Trader could not take its eyes from the huge ramp that snaked around half of the cavern before disappearing through an arched opening near the roof.’

From the second book of Vokhtah, title still up in the air.

All of the scraps of texture and shape [65] that went into the final, composite image were manipulated in Corel Draw 8. No idea what I’ll do with the image, but it will be handy as a reference if nothing else. Just relieved it’s done.

cheers
Meeks


Mini House Artist

I blame Widds for this, I really do! I had such good intentions until I saw the diamond pane windows and the guttering…and downpipes.

And there are others, lots of others… -cries-

Meeks


Model House and pool

I started out looking at a couple of Tiny Houses, but my attention was hijacked by this…micro house. As in almost microscopic! lol And the pool actually holds water.

Makes me want to dust off my old tools and start making stuff.

Have a great weekend,
Meeks


Worldbuilding with Inkarnate

All speculative fiction writers know about building worlds with words, but what if you need more than words to visualise the space in which your story takes place?

I’m a bit of a perfectionist yet even so, I recently discovered that a guestimate right at the start of Vokhtah was not only wrong, it was very wrong. That, plus needing a distraction from my first jab of AstraZeneca, lead me to Inkarnate, a brilliant, fantasy map making app.

Within the first week of playing around with Inkarnate, I had a map of Vokhtah that was a million times better than the dinky map I’d made using only Corel Draw 8. The trouble was, the more I worked on the map, the more I noticed the gaps in my worldbuilding. You see, the eyries of the Vokh don’t just appear as haphazard dots on a map. They are chosen for very specific requirements, such as:

  • the security provided by the cave system,
  • the proximity to water [and hence to food animals]
  • and the distance from other Vokh [the greater the better].

But if eyries have pre-requisites, so do the Trader caravans that service them. All iVokh can fly, including the Traders, but few can fly well. As for the Plodders who carry the bulk of the Traders’ goods, they can barely fly at all. And this is where biology and terrain combine to create problems, because if eyries need to be near water, but Plodders can’t fly over obstructions like rivers, how do the caravans travel from gather to gather? [A gather is like a human market place.]

In book 1 of Vokhtah, the only river the Traders had to cross was the Little Blue, and it had almost stopped running by the end of the dry season [Tohoh]. The ford across the river was dangerous but doable. But then what about the other seasons?

In my current WIP, I sidestepped that problem by saying that no caravans could travel during the wet season [Kohoh]. Neat. Unfortunately, when I came to filling in the Inkarnate map, I could no longer avoid the issue of terrain because the story of Vokhtah continues on past Kohoh into Tuhoh [the season of new growth] and beyond.

How in heck was I going to solve the problem of river crossings?

The solution to the problem of rivers required a complete rethink of the map, starting with geology and basic physics. Water always flows downhill, and depending on the slope and density of the material it flows through, it either slows down and spreads out:

… or it runs swiftly and carves out gorges. And sometimes it creates land bridges that span the gorge from side to side:

Or sometimes the bridge is actually the rim of a pool that sits high above the river. When the level of water goes back to its normal level, the rim provides a way from one side of the river to the other:

When there is too much water in the pool, it cascades over the rim and becomes a waterfall that feeds the river below:

And yes, I spent a couple of days just researching rivers and terrain here in Australia. πŸ™‚ Much of the info. I discovered came from these videos:

The middle video was shot by an amateur so the helicopter noise is quite loud, but it feels real, as if you’re sitting in the helicopter, experiencing the trip along with the pilot and sightseers. Videos 1 and 3 are professionally produced and provide better visuals.

One of the things I learned was that Katherine Gorge, which is where most of the images were shot, is actually a deep cut through a plateau. All the images I’d seen before this were from the river level and made it seem as if the gorge had cut its way through a flat plain. Not so.

The realisation that the gorge was part of a plateau changed my whole perspective about the Inkarnate map, and how the eyries and caravans [of Vokhtah] would interact with the geology. The end result is this:

Click the image to zoom in closer. The legend on the left identifies the icons used in the map, including the eyries belonging to the Vokh, from the most powerful [large purple] to least powerful [tiny white].

The fuzzy purple areas represent the native vegetation of Vokhtah. As the planet is quite different to Earth, I had to re-imagine the evolution of plants without chlorophyll [the thing that makes Earth plants green and which they use to synthesize food from sunlight, water and minerals in the soil]. I pinched the idea from Earth plants that don’t have chlorophyll of their own. They’re basically parasites, but hey… πŸ™‚

To be honest, I can’t remember exactly why I chose purple/lavender but you’ll notice that most of the water sources on the planet are shades of purple as well. A trick of the visible light off water in a binary star system maybe? The notable exceptions are The Eye [the lake at the top of the map], and the two rivers flowing out of the Eye [Little Blue and Big Blue]. The Eye is a maar lake and it was formed from a volcanic eruption.

This is a photo of Blue Lake in Mt Gambier [Victoria, Australia]:

Click the link above to discover more about volcanic activity in Victoria.

All of the photos and videos in this post are of Australia, and this ancient land was my inspiration for Vokhtah. Thanks for coming on this little journey with me. πŸ™‚

In my next post, I’ll start posting tips and tricks I’ve learned about Inkarnate, and how to use it with Corel Draw 8 to achieve special effects.

cheers,
Meeks


Blocked from Twitter!

I’ve been rationing my visits to Twitter because so much on #auspol is either blatant spin or outright rubbish. Now, apparently, I’m to be blocked:

What the…?

And then I found out what the fuss is about. @GladysB is the newly resigned Premier of NSW who presided over the Delta outbreak that spread to my state, Victoria, and even across to New Zealand. She had to resign because she’s being investigated by ICAC on corruption. She is a monster. But inciting physical harm? Seriously?

So…the rather literary punishment of tarring and feathering is abuse…at least according to the Twitter algorithms. With so much misinformation and disinformation allowed to flourish on social media, I’m glad some steps have been taken to curb it. Just rather funny that a figure of speech triggers those algorithms but content that implies Covid is just a cold or the flu does not.

I could ‘recant’, but I won’t. Maybe by tomorrow I’ll see the funny side.

Meeks


mRNA vaccines and Myopericarditis

Some time ago, I posted about the need to aspirate the needle before injecting with AstraZeneca vaccine. When I finally had my first jab of AZ, I asked the nurse to aspirate the needle, and that simple change helped my nerves a lot.

Now, there’s proof that not aspirating the needle before injecting mRNA vaccines can cause myopericarditis, which is a rare but known side-effect of mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna.

Rather than trying to explain the research myself, please watch this video in which Dr John Campbell explains the terms, the research and the results:

I know a lot of you have already had both doses of whichever vaccine was available. But…it’s pretty obvious that we’re going to need booster shots fairly soon. That means you will once again be at the whim of fate.

The number of people unfortunate enough to develop myopericarditis is small, but it is real so, when it’s your turn for a booster…go to your GP and ASK for the needle to be aspirated. For your health and peace of mind.

cheers,
Meeks


So close…

…but I’m going cross-eyed so I have to stop for the day! This is the map of Vokhtah at about 95% complete, if you don’t count the rest of the globe. πŸ˜€

The map is HUGE, but you don’t know how huge until you start zooming in, like so:

And then, because I’ve worked my butt off on this, we’ll zoom in a little bit more…

See that waterfall? Pinky looking thing almost dead centre of the pic? That small, not-so-important image is made up of a photo of a lake that I vectored in Corel, layered with transparent textures, reworked a number of times to make the textures blend into the background in Inkarnate…and all that’s before I made the actual fall of water. Just a tad pleased with myself. lol

Okay, enough crowing. Inkarnate is a fabulous graphics tool that’s worth every cent of the measly $5/month subscription. Like all tools though, the more you try to get out of the software, the more you have to learn. For example, to turn that picture of a lake into a usable ‘stamp’ [that’s what the graphic objects are called], I had to work out how to avoid having a nasty white edge all around the vectored image.

Without going into a full-blown how-to, these are the basic steps:

  1. I found an image of a meteorite that had a great texture:

2. I cut out small sections of the texture and made them almost transparent:

3. Next, I made a background colour that would make the texture blend in to the background colour of the Inkarnate map:

4. Then, I placed the vectored image of the lake onto the top layer of images, grouped all three and exported them as a .jpeg image.

5. Finally, I uploaded the new ‘stamp’ to Inkarnate and spent a few more hours finessing the placement so there would be no straight edges to betray where my custom stamp had gone. Oh…and then I had to get the waterfall right, but luckily there were some nice ready made stamps for that.

The map still needs the trade routes pathed in, and labels, and a legend to explain what all the brightly coloured bits are, but that’s a job for tomorrow. Have a great weekend everyone, and remember to stay safe!

love,
Meeks


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