Tag Archives: Alien

An excerpt from Kahti

Before I begin, I’d like to apologise for being MIA lately. I discovered, or should I say, re-discovered that I write best first thing in the morning, when this ageing brain is still fresh.

As a result, social media has taken a back seat. But I’m happier than I’ve been for quite a while because the second book of Vokhtah is happening again. 🙂

So, what have I been up to? For starters, I went back and re-wrote the character of Death. Without meaning to, I’d made it too, um, nice. That’s the awful trap when writing about a race that’s varying degrees of sociopath.

Anyway, Death is now more like one of our corporate CEOs – not totally bad, but definitely driven by expediency rather than empathy.

In the following shortish excerpt, the Master Smith knows something that could get Death killed.

Enjoy!

From Kahti, book 2 of Vokhtah – not quite gospel yet but very close. 🙂

Early the next day, Death made time to visit the storage caverns and pick up three small gourds of pippa juice. That night, it shared two of the gourds with its escort but drank only enough to wet its lips. Once the second gourd had been opened, it excused itself and retired to its pallet, leaving the Messengers to finish the pippa juice on their own. Face turned towards the wall, it listened as they laughed and joked, their voices gradually growing more raucous as their speech slurred.

At some point, the Messengers must have decided they could stand guard sitting down, because when Death eventually crept out to check on them, it found them both slumped against the wall, fast asleep.

Knowing firstlight could not be far off, Death quickly opened the last remaining gourd of pippa juice and poured a generous pinch of the yellow powder inside. A quick shake and it was done.

More relieved than it cared to admit, Death returned to its pallet and fell asleep with the gourd cradled in its arms. The next morning, it rose early and headed off to the forge, to fulfil its promise to the Healer from the South. As before, its escort stayed out in the passage, a safe distance from the noise and heat.

The old Smith accepted the gourd with pleasure and took a healthy swallow before promising to give the Healer’s chain a higher priority.

“Thanking,” Death said. “Healer being difficult and expecting Yellow to intervene!”

“Pah!” the old Smith cried, shaking its head in disbelief. “Healer being too long from Settlement!”

“Thinking so too,” Death replied as it watched the old iVokh take another long swallow. By the time it left, the gourd was empty. Smithing was thirsty work.

Death was in the feeding cavern a few days later when it heard two Healers at a nearby table gossiping about the death of the old Smith.

“Being sick?” one of the Healers asked as it opened the cage by its side and reached in for a fresh akaht.

“Ki, just old,” the other opined as it bit down on its own meal. “Although some saying not being well day before.”

“S’so? What happening?”

“Going to sleep and not rising.”

“A good death then.”

Over at the next table, Death silently agreed. It had always liked the old Smith, and was glad its end had been peaceful.

Have a great Tuesday, Australia! And good night to all those in the Northern Hemisphere. 🙂

cheers
Meeks


Vokhtah is now free on Amazon

Power has been restored, allowing me to check the Amazon marketplaces. Yay!

Okay, Vokhtah is now free everywhere for five days. I’ve linked to the major marketplaces I can think of below:

US https://www.amazon.com/VOKHTAH-Suns-Vokhtah-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00B14OF2I/ref=sr_1_6?dchild=1&keywords=acflory&qid=1615951787&sr=8-6

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/VOKHTAH-Suns-Vokhtah-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00B14OF2I/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=vokhtah&qid=1615951847&sr=8-1

Oz https://www.amazon.com.au/VOKHTAH-Suns-Vokhtah-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00B14OF2I/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=vokhtah&qid=1615951903&sr=8-1

Canada https://www.amazon.ca/VOKHTAH-Suns-Vokhtah-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00B14OF2I/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=vokhtah&qid=1615951931&sr=8-1

India https://www.amazon.in/VOKHTAH-Suns-Vokhtah-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00B14OF2I/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=vokhtah&qid=1615951981&sr=8-2

Apologies but I couldn’t link to every single market place. If you are somewhere else, just type ‘Vokhtah acflory’ in the Amazon search bar and it should take you straight to the Vokhtah page.

cheers!
Meeks


A snippet from Kahti

Apologies. I know I’m meant to be doing marketing for Nabatea, but I just finished a scene from Kahti [book 2 of The Suns of Vokhtah] that I rather like. -dance-

Too old,” Death thought as it held a glowworm near the Escapee’s face. The iVokh on the flight ledge had been young, probably no older than a third year acolyte. This one looked to be in early middle age.


Hissing in frustration, Death placed the glowworm back on the table and began to pace. The trap it had set for the Escapees had worked, but not as well as it had hoped. Five of the seven had been caught, but the Trader was not amongst them, nor was its Accomplice. So where were they?


None of the Acolytes had reported any stolen food, and neither had the Master of Stores. If anything, the old iVokh’s scrupulous reporting had simply added to Death’s frustrations; it now spent half of every day chasing up suspicious activity that turned out to be nothing more than a figment of the old iVokh’s guilty imagination.


And the Escapees had been equally unhelpful. Four had taken the long drop already, and Death did not hold out much hope for the fifth. Nevertheless, the questions had to be asked.


“What can telling about Stranger?”
“Only knowing that smelling bad…and killing Guard.”
“Knowing why killing Guard?”
“Ki. Only supposed to be escaping.”
“Knowing of plan to escape?”

There was a long silence as the Escapee stared at the sand on which it knelt. “S’so.”

Death felt hope stir; the other four all swore they had simply followed everyone else.

“What being plan?”
“Distraction,” the Escapee said in a whisper. “Not even thinking to escape.”

That too gelled with what some of the other Escapees had said. The original plan had been to distract the Guard so the Trader and its Accomplice could escape. The general exodus had only been in response to the Guard’s death.

“Who thinking of plan? Stranger?”
“Ki! Scars organizing.”
“Scars?”

The Escapee held its hands out to the front, palms down. “Being oldest Refugee…and having scars on hands. Thick scars.”

Turning away so the Escapee would not see the surge of excitement that lit up its eyes, Death walked to the table and poured itself a cup of water. Its hand trembled slightly as it brought the cup to its mouth. None of the other Escapees had mentioned any scars. Was the Escapee making something up in the hope of earning a gentle death, or was it telling the truth? The possibility was too important to ignore.

“Where being Yellow?” Death asked as it turned towards the two Messengers flanking the Escapee.
“In meeting with Council,” the Senior Messenger replied, an upward inflection to its voice.

Death declined to answer its unspoken question. “Taking Escapee to alcove and making sure being fed.”

“Thanking! Thanking!” the Escapee cried as it was yanked to its feet and led away.

Death watched it go with a strange, hollow feeling in the pit of its stomach. Hope was a luxury none of them could afford. But at least the Escapee would get one last meal before the Yellow began its interrogation.

To provide a little bit of context, the Escapees know Kahti as the Stranger. Only Death and its master, the Yellow, know that Kahti is a Trader. They think it has infiltrated the Settlement in order to spy on the Healers.

And finally, the long drop is what happens to Escapees who do not provide the Yellow with any useful information. They’re thrown onto the midden heap, a drop of over forty wingspans. Not all die immediately.

Okay, that’s it. Thank you for allowing me to crow a little. 🙂

cheers
Meeks


Vokhtah – 18th review

I copied this review straight from amazon.com yesterday, but after the posts about Covid-19, it didn’t feel right to ‘blow my own horn’, so I decided to wait till today.
Stay safe,
Meeks

Audrey Driscoll 5.0 out of 5 stars
 A Fascinating Alien World
Reviewed in Canada on March 11, 2020
Format: Kindle Edition
Verified Purchase

This book is remarkable for the imagined world on which it’s set. Vokhtah has two suns. Its dominant life forms are the Vokh, creatures I visualized as similar to pterodactyls, and their smaller cousins and supporters, the iVokh. Most of the story is about the latter. These creatures are not human. Humans to not exist on this world, but human readers can relate to the thoughts, dilemmas, and emotions of the iVokh who are the primary actors.
The Vokh reign like feudal lords over their eyries, which are managed and maintained by the iVokh, who are divided into a variety of physical types with different abilities, including (in the case of a few) telepathy and mind control. Traders are a clan who distribute goods among the eyries, and Healers are a guild with skills and knowledge to maintain life, and end it when necessary. The interactions of the groups are governed by iron-bound protocols and traditions and complicated by secrets and enmities. Sex, especially for the Vokh, is a brutal, violent business, but outside of mating occurrences, there is no gender. The only personal pronoun is “it.”
This is not a quick, easy read. I re-read the first half of the book before writing this review to make sure I understood some of the details. The characters, even the sympathetic ones, don’t actually have names. They are designated by ranks and titles, some of which change over the course of the story. The reader is plunged into this alien world on the first page and has to figure out how things work while following the action. Some might give up in confusion, but the dilemma of the Drudge who is the first character encountered is eminently relatable. By the time that’s resolved, I was thoroughly engaged in the world and the story, keen to find out more about the strangely fascinating creatures with two hearts and inflatable wings.
The book features a constructed language (conlang), but it does not appear frequently enough to be daunting. There is a helpful glossary at the end, which also explains how the creatures vocalize. Otherwise, the prose is clear and straightforward, with description kept direct and businesslike. There is no hyperbole. Dialogue is minimal, even though the iVokh have a characteristic (and curiously attractive) way of expressing themselves.
Setting aside the alien aspects, the theme of this book is change and difference. Individual characters, and the groups to which they belong, must come up with ways to cope with situations they find unacceptable or challenging. Both the physical environment and the social structure are harsh and unforgiving. Transgressions come with a high price.
It appears this is the first book in a series, and indeed much remains unresolved at the end. I hope a second volume is forthcoming.


With humungous thanks – Kaati version 2

I asked for your help, and you gave it, making Kaati so much better than I could have hoped. Thank you, one and all!

And here’s the proof….ta dah!

If you click on the picture, it should open in a new window where you can see it at full size…I think. -fingers crossed-

Thank you again. You guys really are the best.

-enormous hugs-

Meeks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


May I introduce…Kaati

I’m almost afraid to say this but…the concept graphic is finished. I know I’ll tinker at the fine details, but the ideas floating around in my head since 2004 have finally coalesced into something ‘real’. For the first time in 15 years, I can say ‘this is what the iVokh look like’.

Sorry to make the image so big, but I wanted you to be able to see the details. More importantly, I want you to be able to tell me where I’ve missed something, or got the perspective wrong or the lighting or the biology or any one of a million things that I literally can’t see any more.

In short, I’m asking you all to be my beta testers. Not my kind, caring fan club but my critics, because I need fresh eyes, and you’re it. 🙂

-hugs-

Meeks


Eagles…and their feet

Although I was happy with the iVokh having ostrich ‘legs’, I wanted them to have more powerful looking feet. Today, I found those feet attached to the body of giant eagles capable of carrying fully grown mountain goats. If you don’t believe me, have a look at these pics:

I took those screenshots from the Youtube video below:

The narrative of the video was that a snow leopard was hunting the goat. The leopard missed, and the eagle flew in to capture the goat instead.

My interest centred around the ability of the eagle to capture, hold and fly away with a creature much bigger than itself [not counting wingspan]. Something similar played out in Vokhtah when the Six [the Vokh ruler of the eyrie], lifts and kills a huge to’pakh.

At the time I wrote that scene, I was working from imagination only. But to make the iVokh and Vokh truly come alive, I had to prove to myself that such a feat was actually possible. Today I did just that. It is possible, and my respect for eagles has soared [excuse the pun].

Now I’m off to add some eagle feet to my concept drawing.

cheers

Meeks


Still plodding along…

Apologies for being a bit slack with posts this last week. I’ve been very focused on the iVokh model, plus work, plus sorting out my new email client, plus hardware issues, plus life….

Ahem, enough excuses! On the creative side, this is the most recent concept of the iVokh’s second, mostly hidden arm. First the skeleton:

As you can see, it’s very much like the arm of a bat:

One major difference, though, is that the iVokh hand has a ‘real’ thumb. This is what the hand looks like once it has some skin:

It doesn’t look like much, but it’s a lot better than my first attempt:

According to the Offspring, this one looked more like a duck’s foot than a wing…

When I looked at that first attempt without my rose coloured specs, I realised the Offspring was right. Don’t you hate that? lol I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow of how hard it was to create the illusion of ‘folds’. Moving on.

I mentioned some time ago that I was having email issues. Well, they all stem from the fact that I refused to give up my personal email address. That email dates back to the time when I hand coded my own website, using a graphical interface that looked great, imho, but wasn’t all that user friendly:

Okay, maybe it didn’t look that great, but it was back in 2002 and clicking on one of those images took you to a new page with info specific to that image – i.e. clicking on the guitar took you to ‘music’ while the newspaper took you to ‘news’. -sigh- The website was a failure, but I’m still proud of what I did.

Anyway, in order to have a website back then, you had to have a ‘domain’. Think of a domain as a digital anchor. Once you have one, you can attach it to a web hosting service. The hosting service provides the actual ‘real estate’ on which you build your website. Once you have a website, you can use it to create email addresses. Remember, this was long before Gmail etc.

Now we get to email clients. An email client is a program [app] that sits on your computer and ‘talks’ to the server where your email lives. Outlook is an email client, and so was Opera Mail. I used Opera Mail for years until it stopped being supported. Then I paid, in advance, for one, long year using Microsoft 365 via Outlook….

-cue happy music-

That year is over, and I am now using Fastmail. 😀 Fastmail is web-based, but when I have the energy, I’ll set it up with Thunderbird [the Firefox email client]. The beauty of using Thunderbird is that it will check Fastmail for me and download any new emails…without me having to log in and out all the time! I know that sounds lazy, but I used to check my emails multiple times a day. With 365 I’d only check once a day because of the hassle. I’m really looking forward to using my email properly again.

And finally, my hardware problems have been sorted too, thanks to the Offspring. I’ll be taking one of the Offspring’s old computers into work to use as my demonstration machine which will free up my laptop for one of the students to use [during class]. -dance-

All’s well that ends well, and I hope your week was as productive as mine. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

 

 

 


How to build an alien

There’s been a lot going on in my life the last few weeks so I needed a creative outlet that I could pick up and put down as needed. For me, the natural fit was to work on the iVokh using Corel Draw 8. In this post, I’ll do a quick reveal of how I built an iVokh hand.

First I had to find some reference pictures. I was lucky enough to find a nice one showing the skeletal structure of a raptor ‘hand’ as compared to a human hand:

https://www.pinterest.com.au/remiwashere/animal-anatomy-forms/

Next, I vectored each bone of each finger…and tried to get the lighting more or less right using Corel’s gradient colour function:

The hand’s not perfect, but it is in a pose closer to what I wanted, plus the finished bones do give me a second layer of references. More importantly, each bone gives me an outline that can be used like a cookie cutter [the gradient fill is inside the outline]:

Now, I can use the vector outline to cut out textures for the ‘skin’. The following images are a kind of timeline of the process of skinning the bones:

Working from left to right we have:

  1. the vectored finger,
  2. the outline of each individual bone,
  3. the bones broken apart,
  4. the outline of the bones,
  5. the texture cut out by each outline,
  6. the finished finger

The finished ‘finger’ on the far right shows a simplistic view of the skin ‘tunnel’ in which the claws hide until they are protracted – i.e. pushed out. I took the reference from a picture I found showing a close-up of the skin around a cat’s claws.

https://www.softpaws.com/fascinating-facts-about-cat-claws/

Now, I suppose some of you are wondering why I didn’t just draw a whole finger, or better yet, a whole hand?

The reason is that I’m not that good at freehand drawing. I’m more draftsperson than artist. So while I might be able to fudge a hand once, I would not be able to redraw that hand in different poses. By creating the basic building blocks of the hand, however, I can use Corel to create different poses using more or less the same building blocks. [To get the perspective right, I’ll have to adjust the nodes on at least some of the ‘bones’, but that’s the easy part].

Is this the best way to build an alien?

Sadly, the answer is no. The vectoring isn’t that hard but finding the correct snippet of texture with just the right colour and light effect is very hard.

The best way to build an alien from scratch would be to create a 3D model using a super dooper graphics package like Maya. Unfortunately, Maya is also super dooper expensive and takes about 2 years of study to learn properly. So I’m making do with what I have, and what I know. I think I’ve done pretty well so far, for an amateur. 😉

Okay, no comments again, but as always, my thanks to all of you for being my sounding board[s].

-hugs-

Meeks


The Eye of the Spine

I have a bad cold and my brain feels like cotton wool, so rather than doing productive work, I’ve been doing jigsaws on screen. This is what I just found:

It’s a lake in the caldera of an extinct, or at least, inactive volcano. If you were to flip that image vertically and then rotate it a little, you’d end up with something like this:

Now, let’s just draw a rough outline of the lake and fill it in…

And finally, compare it to the eye of a cat…

…and…hey presto! You have the Eye of the Spine!

Many years ago, when I was working out the geography of Vokhtah, I came up with this rather crude map:

The blue blob at the top of the map [just above the label for ‘The Spine’] was my idea of how the ‘Eye of the Spine’ might look. I never imagined I’d ever find a real picture that actually looked like the eye of a Vokh! -dance-

As a quick explanation, the map is drawn from the perspective of a Vokh, one of the flying alien species in the story of Vokhtah. The eyes of both Vokh and iVokh have vertical pupils similar to those of a cat. Unlike cats, however, their nictating membrane [semi-transparent, inner eyelid] opens and closes vertically rather than horizontally.

Thus, from a certain angle, a Vokh flying high above that lake would see the shape of an ‘eye’, its own eye. Hence the name given to the lake.

I’m going to count this amazing find as ‘research’ rather than play. 😀

cheers

Meeks

 


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