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Lost in Spam – a wonderful review of Vokhtah!

I was checking my emails after dinner when something made me open my spam folder. The first few items were genuine spam, but then I found an email from Chris Graham [aka The Story Reading Ape] alerting me to a brilliant review of Vokhtah. If this were fiction, you wouldn’t believe it!

“They were now just two frail iVokh pitting themselves against the might of the wild.”

Vokhtah is a difficult but rewarding book. If you like unusual conceptions of extraterrestrials, this is for you. Once you’ve read about half of it, the complexities begin to clarify themselves, but two readings are needed for complete understanding. For example, it took me quite a while to grasp that the Blue and the Messenger were the same individual, and I also didn’t realize that there were two traders’ caravans wending their way to Needlepoint – I thought the Junior and the Messenger were in the same caravan and I got confused. Part of the problem is that the characters don’t have names, only titles. In her end matter, the author addresses this – it seems there is a taboo in this culture about enunciating your real name.

Vokhtah is a grim and forbidding planet; it has two suns, one a hot white star and the other a red dwarf. Sometimes they both shine at once, creating a climate of extremes. The planet is populated with an assortment of mostly vicious and predatory lifeforms and that includes the intelligent ones, who prefer to consume their food animals live. It’s a tribute to the author that she can take these basically repulsive intelligent lifeforms and make them sympathetic. And I would recommend that any human ship of exploration steer clear of the planet Vokhtah – humans would probably be seen as prey animals!

My guess would be that the Vokh evolved from bat-like creatures – their ability to echo-locate is mentioned briefly. They have wings (which contain their lungs), so most of them can fly. They have two hearts. And they are telepathic hermaphrodites with seemingly magical inner powers, like mind-healing and also mind-killing (their Healers are also trained as assassins). There are two variant species – the Vokh (large and dominant) and the iVokh (meaning literally “small Vokh”). The Vokh have a serious flaw – breeding is consummated by means of violent rape; nobody wants to bear an offspring because the “female” always dies in childbirth (this doesn’t occur with the iVokh).

However, the people have a strong sense of honor and obligation – if you accept help from someone, you incur an obligation and if you don’t fulfill it, you are ostracized. In the second half of the book, after the episode at the Little Blue River, the main characters – the Messenger and the Apprentice – are shown developing a sense rare in these people – empathy, an ability to relate to and care about others with whom one has a relationship, beyond the obligations of the code of honor.

All this just scratches the surface of the author’s astonishing creation. I should also mention that the book is a cliff hanger, and no second volume has yet appeared.
I must say a few words about the language. Unfortunately, the Kindle version has no Table of Contents and so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the author provided a brief treatment of the language in the end matter. It seems to have no pronouns, and verbs are consistently rendered only with the present participle form, all of which helps to create the alien language effect. Certain words used in the text are self-explanatory, like “ki” for “no” and “s’so” for “yes.”

There is one etymological gaffe that I can’t help commenting on – the explanation of the word “boot” (a foot-covering). The character doesn’t know what the word “boot” means and it’s explained as a contraction of “bucket for foot.” And yet that derivation would be impossible since the iVokh aren’t speaking English. You have to assume that the Vokhtah words reflect a similar construction, which the author could have fabricated.

But that’s only a quibble – don’t be deterred! This really is an amazing book and while the culture may not be palatable to everyone (you need a strong stomach sometimes), I definitely recommend it to any serious reader of science fiction.

The review was written by Lorinda Taylor, also known as The Termite Writer. Some days just get better and better.

-hugs-

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.


Duplicate Effort by Kristine Kathryn Rusch – a review

Duplicate Effort: A Retrieval Artist Novel by [Rusch, Kristine Kathryn]

I just finished Duplicate Effort and left this review on Amazon. Can’t provide the link yet, but here’s a copy of what I wrote:

Not since C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series have I come across a saga with such great sci-fi, great storylines and great characters.

Why do I call the Retrieval Artist series a saga? Because each volume has it’s own, standalone story, but also adds to the character arc of some really interesting, no, fascinating characters. Characters like Miles Flint, Noelle DeRicci and even Ki Bowles. Bowles is not a ‘likable’ character, but she’s still 3 dimensional and human; someone we might not like but who deserves some compassion nonetheless.

And, of course, there’s Talia. 13, orphaned, traumatised, and a clone. Not a ‘real’ child. What happens to a living, breathing person who’s classified as a ‘thing’? Talia will change Miles Flint’s life. She will also make you think about what it really means to be human.

You can read Duplicate Effort as a standalone story. I guarantee you will enjoy it. But if you love deep, well thought out sci-fi and characters with a life of their own, I would very strongly recommend reading books 1 to 7 of this series in sequence. You won’t regret it.

If you’ve never read Rusch’s work before, this series is a good place to start.

Rusch began as a traditionally published author and became a very successful Indie. Some of her business knowledge and experience is distilled into a series of blog posts she calls Business Musings. She talks about everything from contracts and agents to IP [intellectual property] and copyright for Indie authors. A great resource.

cheers

Meeks


A review of Nabatea that almost made me cry

Forgive me if I reproduce this review in its entirety, but as a pantster, it’s validation of a sort I never expected to get: 

Oooh, I loved this series, and now that it’s over, I’m suffering from a book hangover.

Nabatea is the final book in the Innerscape series. Book 1 primarily introduces the main character Miira Tahn and guides the reader through her entrance into the virtual world of Innerscape. During Book 2, sabotage, scheming, and political intrigue results in multiple victims including two people close to Miira. In Book 3, the search for truth commences and resolves amidst a cover-up that threatens Miira’s life.

The plot takes off quickly when Miira is confronted with disturbing information about the murders, and her prying questions raise alarms among those who want to hide the truth. A plot to silence her brings in two dedicated investigators who start gathering clues and unraveling the web of lies.

Miira is tenacious, a strong woman, but also vulnerable both physically and emotionally. Her character is compelling and consistent throughout the series, and I teetered on the edge of my seat as the danger to her life increased. Several pivotal new characters enter the action in this book, and though late in the overall story, the author pulled it off without a glitch. All characters are distinct, believable, and emotionally charged.

Flory did a marvelous job of tangling up the truth by loading the story with lies and misinterpretations. The unraveling of the events around the murders as well as the investigation into the cover-up required an intricate job of storytelling that was rather impressive. Several characters are investigating the truth simultaneously, and because they’re coming at it from different angles, their assumptions and conclusions are often erroneous and mismatched. I would recommend reading these books in a tight timeframe to help keep all the complex plot threads straight.

The worldbuilding is exceptional, the dialog natural, the writing and editing flawless. And the ending was highly satisfying as all of the threads tie up nicely. I will definitely read more of this author in the future.

Update April 4, 2019: I was so carried away that I totally forgot to add a link to the actual review. Here it is!

https://www.amazon.com/Nabatea-Innerscape-Book-3-acflory-ebook/dp/B076NN3FZD/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Nabatea&qid=1554248624&s=gateway&sr=8-1

My thanks to Cage Dunn for reminding me. 😀

The review was written by D.Wallace Peach. I forgot to mention that too. I really am good at being an idiot.

Thank you all,

love,

Meeks


Update to Miira is permafree on Amazon

December 5, 2018 Update….I am officially an idiot. I was so excited to have Miira permafree on Amazon, I totally forgot to include the link for the book. Can I plead old age as an excuse?

A huge thank you to Cage Dunn for giving me a gentle nudge in the right direction. As Bluebottle would say: ‘I feel a proper fool’. 😦

Okay, here are the urls for Miira I should have included in the post, all of them:

Amazon

BnN
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/miira-acflory/1127308201;jsessionid=0BF6E77AA708B377617AE0D06A618016.prodny_store01-atgap03?ean=2940154886793

Kobo
https://www.kobo.com/au/en/ebook/miira

Angus & Robertson [au]
https://www.angusrobertson.com.au/ebooks/miira-acflory/p/9780648162728

Indigo
https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/miira-innerscape/9780648162728-item.html?ikwid=Miira&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0

Now I can relax. -hugs to all-

Meeks

I’m so excited, I don’t know what to do with myself. I finally got up the courage to ask Amazon to make Miira [book 1 of Innerscape] permafree to match B&N, Kobo et al,… and it’s happening!

So far, I’ve checked amazon.com and amazon.com.au, and the ebook is $0.00 on both! Sadly, amazon.co.uk hasn’t gone to permafree yet, but I’m sure it’s on the way. This has literally just happened, or at least I’ve only just noticed. If anyone sees Miira going permafree somewhere else, please let me know.

It’s odd, this feels like an early Christmas present. At least now I have the hope that more people will give Innerscape a try. And to celebrate, we’re getting pizza tonight.

-thinks- I might just indulge in some Cabernet Sauvignon as well. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


2 free days for the KDP how-to books

I should probably stretch these promotions out but…meh, let’s have some fun. 🙂

Okay, from October 23 to 24 [2 days], the ebook version of How to Print Your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing and How to Print Non-Fiction with Kindle Direct Publishing will be free on Amazon:

The difference between the two books is that the How to…Novel is pitched at absolute beginners while the How to Non-Fiction is for self-publishers who have to deal with lots of graphics. Oh and the How to Non-Fiction has a new Index of Links at the very back. You can find it by looking at the bottom of the Table of Contents.

If you’re just interested in the KDP side of the equation, both books cover the same information. This includes three appendices that contain information specifically for Aussie authors.

Both how-to books are in colour and fixed layout:

Although you can pinch-and-zoom with fixed format ebooks, you can’t change the font size to suit your comfort zone. That’s why I made the font size 24. On my Kindle Fire, that size is like a normal size 12 font in a paperback. I also made the pictures as ‘visible’ as possible so you wouldn’t have to keep zooming in and out all the time. I haven’t tried either book on a phone so if anyone gives it a try I’d love to know how well [or badly] it works.

Fixed format ebooks can only be read on one of the Kindle Fires or via the free Kindle app.  You can get the app. for a variety of devices at this web address:

https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/fd/kcp

The free promotion should start at midnight tomorrow for the Northern hemisphere. For us Aussies, it will begin at about 6 pm tomorrow.  I genuinely hope lots of people download the books, and I would really, really appreciate the odd review. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


Amazon free ebook, one day only

Just a quick post to let you know that ‘How to Print your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing‘ [ebook version] will be free in the US from 12:00am, September 26, 2018 till 11:59pm September 26, 2018.

For the Eastern seaboard of Australia, 12:00am Seattle time [Amazon] translates to 5:00pm Melbourne time. So for us, it’ll be sometime after 5:00 pm tomorrow, Thursday September 26, 2018.

Gah…I hate timezones.

Now, the ebook uses a fixed format so all the pictures fit properly. BUT. That means the ebook will only work on:

…Fire tablets and free reading apps for iPads, Android tablets, smartphones, PCs, and Macs.

 

 

Sorry, but it simply won’t work on ordinary Kindles. I will play around with a different format, to see if it works, but I’m not holding my breath; Kindles are great for text heavy books, but I suspect their ability to ‘flow’ will cause merry hell with pictures…

Anyway, even if creating a paperback of your book is still nothing but a rosy fantasy, grab a copy of the KDP how-to for future reference. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


Hunting the Phoenix, by Audrey Driscoll

I don’t think I can define the difference between a craftsman and an artist, but I know it when I see it, and Audrey Driscoll is an artist. I know, because I am a craftsman, a good one, but not an artist.

So, enough navel gazing. What is it about ‘Hunting the Phoenix’ that’s so special?

Simple answer: everything.

‘Hunting the Phoenix’ is the fourth and last book of the Herbert West series, but it is also the climax of the preceding three books. Imagine the steps of a pyramid with the Phoenix as its apex. Or if music is more your thing, imagine a classical symphony in which each movement builds upon the last to achieve the soaring notes that grab your heart and lift you out of yourself. That is the Phoenix.

At its core, every work of fiction strives for just one thing – to persuade the reader to suspend disbelief, to become part of the story, and the Herbert West series is no different. Written in a style that is reminiscent of classical literature, the story lulls the reader into a pleasant sense of security. ‘Oh, this is what the story is about…’ And then the surprises begin. Small ones at first, as you realise the author is more daring than you thought, then more profound as the truly shocking events begin to unfold.

Each book in the series is like this, but in the Phoenix the shocks go deep. I admit, there were a couple of spots where I had to stop and shake my head in disbelief. Such careful, restrained, beautiful writing and she takes it there?

Yet ‘there’ is exactly where the story needs to go in order for the ending, the climax, to feel both unexpected and absolutely right.

I’m sure no one will be surprised when I say that the quality of the writing is superb. What may surprise some people is that it is written in the First Person POV [point-of-view], and I don’t usually like First Person POV. This time, however, I barely noticed because Driscoll effortlessly avoids every single pitfall that goes with First Person POV. As with C.J.Cherryh’s Foreigner series, the POV is perfect and exactly what the story requires.

I wish I could give ‘Hunting the Phoenix’ a 10 out of 5 but even my limited math knows that’s impossible. Suffice to say that this book, in fact the whole series, is as close to perfect as a story can get. It joins a relatively short list of books, including Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’, that I consider to be exceptional, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants more.

I’m just about to use parts of this post as a review on Amazon. If you want to read the series, the order of the books is:

  1. The Friendship of Mortals
  2. The Journey: Islands of the Gulf, Volume 1
  3. The Treasure: Islands of the Gulf, Volume 2
  4. Hunting the Phoenix

And please, leave a review on Amazon because these books truly do deserve to become modern classics.

cheers

Meeks

 


Not On the Cards, by Cage Dunn

Cage Dunn is an Australian writer who answered my recent call for beta readers. Cage not only tested my latest how-to book, she introduced it to two groups of potential writers at her local library. Their combined feedback was so much more than I could ever have hoped for.

Curious, I decided to read one of Cage’s books. That book was ‘Not on the Cards’, and this is the review I just left for it on Amazon:

At its heart, Not on the Cards is a story of love and responsibility: Gate Keeper to Key Master, mother to child, Gate Keeper to multiverse, yet for much of the time, its set in a carpark near Camberwell Junction. On the weekends, that humble carpark becomes a Trash & Treasure market with a deliciously bohemian atmosphere. I know, because the market is in my home town of Melbourne [Australia], and I’ve been there many times.

In Not on the Cards, that market atmosphere becomes something else, something more like a Carnival and Freak Show combined. It’s the perfect setting for Chiri, a Reader of Cards who also happens to be the Gate Keeper of the Icosa, a construct spanning multiple universes within the multiverse.

Chiri should not be in Camberwell Junction. She should not be living Saturday, over and over again. She should not be lost, unable to find her way back to the place and time where her daughter may or may not be alive.

And then the Thief arrives with a Key that isn’t really a key, but it’s the closest thing to a Key Chiri has felt in a lifetime of waiting. Trouble is, following this Key that isn’t a Key could lead to the destruction of the Icosa, the construct she has sworn to protect.

Do not expect this story to be a comfortable read that you can skim while waiting for the train or standing in a queue. Not on the Cards will challenge you, but oh how lovely it is when you ‘get it’.

The last time my brain received such a workout was when I read Firefall by Peter Watts. Very different stories and storytellers, but the same result – a reward commensurate with the challenge.

Why climb Everest? Because it’s there.

So blown away. 🙂

Meeks


KDP how-to, ebook version – betas needed!

My thanks to Chris the Story-Reading Ape for pointing out that some readers might prefer an ebook version to beta. Well, here it is, almost:

Please ignore the price. Once the ebook is live on Amazon, I’ll gift up to 5 beta readers with the ebook.

Before anyone volunteers, however, there are a couple of constraints to consider:

  • In order to gift you the ebook from Amazon, I’ll need an email address. I will not use your email address for any promotional activity such as ads or newsletters, but in the current climate, I like to put that point up front.
  • The ebook will only work on tablets and mobile phones – i.e. it will work on the Kindle Fire, but it will not work on the ordinary, black & white Kindles.
  • The step-by-step instructions were written for absolute beginners – i.e. I assumed that they would know nothing about POD publishing. If you are already experienced in POD, you may find the degree of ‘help’ too detailed.
  • Zooming in. Because the ebook was created using KDP’s Textbook Creator, you will not be able to change the size of the font, but you will be able to zoom in on the screenshots. I figured that would be a smallish price to pay for colour images and layout control.
  • The Table of Contents is very basic and only links to the chapter headings. Once the ebook version is finalised, I’ll go in and add at least another layer to the TOC, but I didn’t want to go to so much trouble when things could change a lot.

Okay, I think those are the only warnings I need to deliver. Ah, except for one: if you are not one of my beta readers, please do not buy the ebook as it will change before I’m finally happy with it. I hope the changes won’t be too substantial, but my betas may discover a glaring hole in either my knowledge or the way I’ve explained things so…

If anyone’s interested in becoming a beta for the ebook version, please contact me on:

meeka at triptychacf dot com

Thanks!

Meeks


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