Tag Archives: excerpt

My Favourite Bits…Vokhtah [2]

Flying. We’ve all had the dreams, and most of us have travelled at some point in our lives, so we know what it’s like to be up in the air, flying through the cloud layer. Or looking down, and seeing cars the size of ants. But back when I was young and stupid, I had the glorious experience of flying in absolute silence, with nothing to hold me up but the air. I’m talking about gliding of course:

As you can see from the photo, gliders have no engine at all, and rely on those incredible wings to stay in the air. Getting up into the air usually requires a ‘tow’ from a plane that does have an engine. The two are connected by a long cable and the plane literally pulls the glider up into the air. Once they’re high enough, the cable disconnects and the glider is on its own.

The most amazing thing, however, is being in the air. I was only ever passenger material, but I’ll never forget how amazing it felt to be up there, cradled in the thermal, watching the world change around me.

A thermal is a column of warm air that rises until it cools [at the top]. Birds and glider pilots use thermals to gain height and spiral up inside the thermal. Once they’re high enough, they can glide for miles until they reach another thermal, or decide to land.

Part of the reason I gave the Vokh and iVokh wings was because I never forgot how wonderful it felt to glide. Not all iVokh are good at flying though. In the following short excerpt, the main character [the Messenger] is trying to catch up to the caravan [on the ground] that had left without it. An expert Flyer is sent up to help:

Up in the air, the Messenger was focused so hard on reaching the cluster of tiny dots on the distant hillside, it did not notice the Flyer approaching. It almost stalled when the small Trader suddenly dropped down on it from above.

“What doing here Messenger?” the Flyer shrilled into the wind as it cupped its wings to match the slower speed of the healer.
“Caravan…” the Messenger huffed.

The two iVokh flew side by side for a short while in silence as the Flyer tried to send a message to the Apprentice. The small Trader only had a very weak talent, and was not having much success until it suddenly felt the Apprentice bridge the gap between them. Huffing in relief, it quickly informed the Apprentice who was coming, and why.

“Thinking Messenger being very determined,” it added, “because not being very good flyer…”

There was a short silence before the Apprentice asked, “Can helping Messenger flying this far?

“Can helping Messenger flying easier,”the Flyer sent back. “But healer already looking exhausted.”
Doing whatever can,the Apprentice sent back.

Messenger!” the Flyer shrilled. Flying into wind being too hard. Following!

The Messenger was well aware that flying into a headwind was difficult; it had been battling the wind since leaving Two Rivers. Unfortunately, it simply did not know any other way of reaching the caravan.

“Not…turning back!” it wheezed as it continued pumping its tired wings into the wind.
“Ki!” the Flyer shrilled. “Taking to caravan!”

Despite the Flyer’s assurances, the Messenger continued straight ahead for a long moment before finally nodding in agreement. Even so, when the Flyer began banking to the left, away from the hills, the Messenger had to force itself to follow.

Its wings wobbled, threatening to lose their grip on the air as the wind began pushing it sideways. Panic was very close when it finally felt the sudden uplift of a thermal beneath its wings.

Delight erased fear as it rose effortlessly on the current of warm air. The Flyer had been right. It was much easier flying with the elements than against them.

I hope you enjoy this vicarious bit of flying. 🙂 Have any of you flown? Are any of you pilots? Gliders? Would love to hear your experiences.

Oh, and you can find direct links to the free download of Vokhtah here.

cheers
Meeks


That dark scene I mentioned…

I know I should be writing a post about Vokhtah, but I haven’t been this inspired in a long while, so here’s that dark scene from my latest WiP instead. And because so much of that inspiration has flowed from Lucas King’s incredible compositions, I’m including another dark track that I discovered today. It’s called The Grinning Man:

Excerpt from ‘Kahti’, book 2 of the Suns of Vokhtah

The Escapee took a long time to die, and all the Messengers stationed outside the door breathed a sigh of relief when its wordless keen finally stopped. All, that is, except for Death; it stayed silent and unmoving until the Yellow opened the door and ordered it inside.

Once inside, however, Death could not suppress a hiss of disgust as the melange of blood and body wastes assaulted its cilia. The stench grew progressively worse as it followed the Yellow down the short passage from the door to the main cavern.

“Throwing in pool,” the Yellow said, pointing a long finger at the body curled up in the middle of the floor. “And not forgetting…head first.”

A wet stain had spread around the body, blurring its outlines, but there was no sign of a wound until Death grabbed the Escapee by the ankles and flipped it onto its back. Only then did it see the bloody ruin where the groin sack had been, and the two eyeballs lying orphaned on the sand.

Jumping back with a hiss, it stared at the body in shock. It had seen bodies, or parts of bodies before, out in the Wild, but never anything to rival this deliberate, careful savagery…

The Yellow’s mocking laughter echoed from the passage until it was cut short by the slamming of the door.

Quivering with hatred, Death dragged the body into the bathing cavern and hauled it into the pool. Wrestling it into the correct position, however, proved to be an exercise in frustration as the current kept trying to suck the wings in first. In the end, it was forced to pull the body out of the pool and roll it up in its wings before feeding it into the fissure again. This time the Escapee was sucked away without a trace.

Once the body was gone, Death grabbed the slop bucket and returned to the main cavern where it sank to its knees beside the stain. It had almost finished digging out the filthy sand when it noticed a glimmer of white on the floor, near the Yellow’s perch. The glimmer turned out to be a jagged shard of ceramic, roughly the length of a finger…

And sharp“, Death thought as it hurriedly withdrew its hand. A drop of fresh blood dripped from its finger as it scurried back to the bathing cavern. Grabbing a drying cloth, it hurried back to the main cavern where it kept one eye on the passage as it wrapped the shard in the cloth and placed the bundle in the bucket. It had just shovelled the last of the dirty sand on top when a voice said, “Still smelling bad.”

Startled, Death spun around and saw one of the Messengers standing at the end of the passage.

“Yellow wanting to know how much longer being,” the Messenger said, its cilia retracted to half their normal length.
“Just finished,” Death said as it reached for the bucket. “Only needing to empty rubbish.”

Out in the main passage, the Yellow and the other Messengers flattened themselves against the walls as Death edged past with the bucket.

“Pah!” one of the Messengers cried as it fell in behind Death.

As expected, both Messengers stayed well back to avoid the smell, and neither followed Death into the waste pit. The moment they were out of sight, Death put the bucket down and hurried over to the edge of the wooden platform that jutted out over the waste pit. The platform had been part of the ramp building project, and each plank rested on two massive beams that had been attached to the walls of the shaft with arm-long starrock spikes. Some of the spikes stuck out more than others.

Dropping to its belly next to the wall on the left, Death dug the claws of its feet into the gaps between the planks and hung its upper body over the edge. If it twisted just so…

The small ceramic pot hung in a cradle of sturdy leather that was hooked over the end of one of the spikes. Unhooking the cradle, Death pulled the pot up onto the platform and quickly undid the knots.

It had stolen the pot of fast acting poison four years before, soon after being assigned to the Yellow. But the Yellow had never eaten anything prepared by its Assistant, and so the pot had remained unused. But not discarded. Death had thought about the pot many times during that first terrible year, but things had never been quite bad enough…

And now having something better,” it thought with glee as it held the pot out over the void and opened its fingers.
The pot fell for a long time before a distant smash signalled that it had finally met its end. The easy way out was gone.

Hurrying back to the bucket, Death dug the shard out of the sand and hissed in dismay when it saw that the soft cloth was already worn through in spots. The fat end of the wedge would have to be blunted or it would useless. Luckily sand was an excellent abbrasive.

Wrapping the cloth around the tip of the wedge until it formed a thick, padded lump, Death dug the fat end into the sand, again and again, until the sharp edges were scraped away. If there had been more time, it would have bound the blunted end in overlapping layers of leather, but there was no time so it cut a rectangle of cloth instead and wrapped it around the blunted end of the shard before securing the lot with a strip of leather.

The knife was far from perfect, but Death’s cilia quivered with joy as it gently inserted its new weapon into a crack and hid the end with a couple of pebbles. Messengers did not use weapons, but Tellers did, and whatever else Death may have become since entering the Settlement, it still knew how to use a knife.

“What taking so long?” the Junior Messenger demanded when Death finally emerged from the waste pit.

Death knew it should ignore the question, but as it pushed past its escort, a daemon of mischief made it say, “Trying to escape, of course.”

The two Messengers snorted in contempt, but when Death finally lay down on its pallet and closed its eyes, it slept like a newborn.

For those who haven’t read anything about the iVokh before, they’re humanoid-ish aliens who are all hermaphrodites. Because of their biology, they only ever refer to each other using gender neutral pronouns. And because the iVokh are distant cousins of the much bigger, aggressive Vokh, they follow the Vokh custom of keeping their personal names a secret. Thus they refer to each other as either ‘it’ or as the position in society that they occupy – e.g. Healer, Acolyte, Teller, etc.

Oh, and they all fit somewhere along a continuum of sociopathy. A subset of iVokh called Traders are the least sociopathic and have a strong sense of community, and honour. Death was once a Trader, but now it’s a Messenger, one of the enforcers of the Guild of Healers.

I hope most other things in the excerpt you can work out for yourselves because now I want to talk about this music! Widds commented in the last post about the bass notes of The Silent Place, and how it made us feel ‘wibbly-wobbly’. 😀 Well, this piece is very similar in that the melody is carried by the bass notes, all of which have a…resonance…that is almost visceral.

In most of the music we’re used to, the melody is carried by the higher notes while the bass provides a kind of ‘rhythm section’; it’s subordinate to the treble. In the Grinning Man this pattern is almost completely reversed with the higher notes [played by the right hand] being an almost hypnotic accompaniment to the growling melody played by the left hand. Most of that melody is also in a minor key – the ‘sad’ key. Put it all together and you have a piece of music that you, or at last I, cannot forget. 🙂

I’ve come across some brilliant Indie composers since I discovered SoundCloud, and I’ve showcased some of them on this blog, but Lucas King is the only one I would unashamedly label a ‘genius’. His music is classical but different, yet he isn’t going all atonal just to be seen as ‘different’. He’s simply writing what he feels, and boy does it speak to me. And he’s still in his twenties.

Okay, I’ll stop gushing now. Thank you for reading, and listening.

Love you all,
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


My Favourite Bits…The Godsend [2]

I’m a little late with this post, but finding ‘favourites’ to post has been a lot harder than expected. Not because I don’t like The Godsend. Far from it. In some ways it’s my favourite part of the story because there’s a lot of action in it, and horrible choices, and gaming. But…that’s actually the problem. Most of my favourite bits are either spoilers for the whole story, or lose their impact without the context of what comes before. And that would be another spoiler.

So apologies, but no action bits. Instead, I’ve chosen a chapter called The New Girl. It’s not as long as it sounds and introduces a new employee to Innerscape. Her name is Marisa Bell, and she’s been recommended by the Chairman of the Board, Andrew Walker. CEO, Peter McAlister isn’t happy about having to find a place for the Chairman’s protégé, but he has to suck it up and make the best of it:

The New Girl

The taxi dropped Marisa Bell off at exactly 3:50 pm the next day, and Peter McAlister watched her every move through closed circuit holo as she swung muscular, silk-clad legs out of the taxi and adjusted her short grey skirt. The skirt was part of a retro power-suit that highlighted curvaceous hips and a narrow waist. Her bust, however, was surprisingly small.

Zooming in on the woman’s face, Peter saw bright red hair, attractive features, and deep green eyes. She was attractive enough but nothing out of the ordinary, certainly not the femme fatale he had been expecting.

If anything, Marisa Bell looked more challenging than seductive, a far cry from Andrew Walker’s normal squeeze. The current Mrs Walker was a pneumatic blond with more ambition than brains, and the previous Mrs Walker had been same, both of them airheads, except when it came to money.

Had Andrew Walker finally changed his taste in women? Or was his story about a ‘friend’ actually true?

Shrugging slightly, Peter turned off the surveillance display and sat back in his deep, comfortable chair. True or not, Marisa Bell was now his problem. But at least she looked smart, which might help with Emily.

As the Nursing Liaison of Patient Care, Emily could not refuse a direct order, but she could make life very unpleasant for Marisa Bell, if she chose to do so.

If that happened, Peter would have to ‘rescue’ the Chairman’s protégée by placing her in another department somewhere, or taking her into his own office, heaven forbid-

The chiming of the comms unit broke into Peter’s thoughts, and he sat up straighter as his secretary, James, announced the arrival of Ms Bell.

“Any word from Emily Watson yet?” Peter asked.

“Not yet, sir,” James said. “Should I offer Ms Bell some refreshment while she waits?”

“Yes, good idea. Oh, and let me know as soon as Emily gets here.”

“Yes, sir.”

Rising from his chair, Peter walked to the huge plastiglas window that took up one entire wall of his office and stared out at the gardens. The rain had stopped, but the unseasonal weather continued. He hated waiting, for anything.

 

* * *

 

Emily had always meant to be a little late, just to keep Peter McAlister off balance, but just before she was due to leave, a genuine emergency had cropped up, making her well and truly late. And now she was busting to go to the bathroom.

Well, they’ll just have to wait a bit longer, she thought as she came out of the elevator and headed straight for the Ladies room.

Beautifully appointed, with flattering lighting and not a single full length mirror in sight, the executive bathroom was usually a treat Emily liked to savour slowly. Today, however, she was in a hurry and barely noticed that one of the stalls was already occupied.

When she came out a short time later, a woman in a well-cut grey suit with rich red hair done up in a chignon, was washing her hands at one of the white marble sinks.

Innerscape did not get too many casual visitors. Could this be her?

Acting on impulse, Emily smiled at the woman in the mirror as she washed her own hands.

“I always love using this bathroom,” she confided. “Makes me feel important.”

“Oh, but nurses are important!” the woman said with a quick smile of her own. “My mother was a nurse, and the stories she told us about doctors! Make your hair stand on end.”

“Are you a nurse, too?” Emily asked.

“Me? No, I was never smart enough. I just do filing and that sort of thing, although I’ve been told I’m a good listener. Sometimes patients need a friendly ear, you know?”

“Very true,” Emily said. “As nurses we try to provide emotional support as well as medical support, but the medical has to come first.”

“Oh, I’m sorry!” the woman said, her expression horrified. “I didn’t mean to imply that nurses didn’t listen. I just meant-”

“No, it’s fine. I’d be lying if I said we can be all things to all people. So what are you doing here today? Do you have a relative coming to Innerscape?”

“Oh, no. I…I’m here for a job interview.”

“A job interview? Oh, how silly of me!” Emily said. “You must be Marisa Bell!”

“I…yes?” the other woman replied, her expression uncertain.

“Not to worry,” Emily said. “You’ll be working in my department, so Peter McAlister asked me to sit in on the interview.”

“I hope I didn’t offend you-”

“Far from it. I like honesty. I think we’ll get along just fine.”

“Thank you, that means a lot to me.”

“Well, we’d better go, or Peter will fire us both!”

 

* * *

 

“So what do you think?” Peter McAlister asked after Marisa Bell had gone.

“She’s nothing like I thought she’d be,” Emily answered slowly.

You can say that again, Peter thought. He was still having trouble reconciling the competent woman he had seen getting out of the taxi with the sweet creature who had just left his office.

“But she does seem…very nice,” he said, wondering if Emily had picked up anything odd.

“Yes, she does,” Emily said with a frown. “I just hope she isn’t too kind hearted. Sometimes Patient Care can be rough.”

“She’s probably stronger than she looks,” Peter said carefully.

At one level he was glad Emily had taken to Marisa Bell, but on another he could not shake the feeling there was more to Marisa Bell than met the eye.

“I hope so,” Emily said as she rose to leave, “because I think she’ll actually make a great addition to our staff.”

“Well, that’s good news,” Peter said. “Keep me posted.”

“Of course,” Emily said with a laugh. “But I don’t think there’ll be much to report.”

I hope not, Peter thought as Emily bustled out. I really hope not because I’ve got enough on my plate already.

 

I hope you enjoyed meeting Marisa Bell. Apart from Miira herself, Marisa is my favourite female character. She’s ‘bad and mean’, to quote from the Louis the Fly commercial, and yet she’s not all bad. She likes cats, and dreams of owning her dream home one day. And she’s broken.

As a student of human nature, I’ve always been fascinated by why people turn out the way they do, what makes them tick. In my not so humble opinion, we are all the result of nurture on nature. In other words, our experiences act on our innate traits to mould us into the adults we eventually become. Nowhere is this process more stark than in the people [or characters] we call villains.

To an outsider looking in, all villains may appear the same. They do bad/cruel/vicious things so they are bad, cruel, and vicious. But very few people see themselves as evil. In fact, to quote Rebecca Solnit ‘We are all the heroes of our own stories…’ And that includes ‘villains’. They do not see themselves as bad. And unless they are born psychopaths who really don’t care, they find reasons to excuse their bad behaviour, or diminish its ‘badness’.

So, is Marisa Bell truly bad? Mwhahahaha! You’ll have to read the book to find out. 🙂

cheers
Meeks


My Favourite Bits…The Godsend

If the first book of Innerscape is all about Miira, the second is all about the two men in her life – Kenneth Wu and Jaimie Watson. Jaimie is the eighteen year old son of Charge Sister Emily Watson, and the accident that almost took his life is the reason she moved heaven and earth to have him inducted into Innerscape. Kenneth Wu is a brilliant doctor whose research changed Innerscape forever, but he has demons, and now the life he constructed for himself is unravelling. Read on:

Home is Where the Heart is

Despite it being the end of spring, the day was overcast and sullen when the taxi bearing Kenneth Wu drew up in front of his house.

“We have arrived,” the onboard AI said politely. But Kenneth refused to take the hint. Instead, he stared up at the immaculate little Victorian cottage as if he had never seen it before.

When he was a kid, the house had been a waypoint, a place to rest before going on to some place else, and little in his adult life had changed that sense of transience. Now though, he would have to go inside and stay there, licking his wounds until something happened to kick-start his life again.

But what if nothing ever happened? What if that house swallowed him whole and never let him go?

“Dear Passenger,” the taxi’s AI said apologetically. “I must ask that you vacate the taxi as another Passenger has requested transportation.”

“Of course,” Kenneth said, a bitter smile twisting the corner of his mouth. Apparently not even the taxi company wanted him around. At least the house would never throw him out.

“Here,” he said as he jabbed his thumb at the meter.

The biometric device hummed happily as it read his thumbprint and charged the fare against his account.

“Have a nice day, Sir!”

Yeah, Kenneth thought as he slid out of the taxi and began walking up the artfully designed crazy paving that led to the front door. A box trundled three steps behind him, its wheels going clickety clack on the uneven flagstones.

The box contained the sum total of the last five years of his life: a mug, a couple of first edition text books, some clothes, the folded frame of his exercise bicycle, and a few letters of appreciation from the families of his patients. Everything else, all the important stuff, was proprietary, born of his mind, but not his to take.

At least he would not bring shame to the family by going to jail. That was something.

Find something good in every day,” the therapist had advised his teenaged self, and Kenneth had tried to take her advice. But if not going to jail was the only good thing to emerge from this awful day, then what on earth was he supposed to find for the next day, and the day after that?

Placing his palm on the keypad, Kenneth let himself into the house and quickly reached for the control panel next to the doorframe, but he was not quite quick enough.

“Welcome ho-” The voice of the house AI began before it was cut-off mid greeting.

No, Kenneth thought as he listened to the echoes repeat down the long, empty hallway. This is not my home.

Home was his laboratory in Innerscape, but he would never be allowed to go there again.

Why this scene? Because this is the scene in which you start to get a hint of the seriousness of Kenneth’s childhood problems.

I know that therapy is common in some countries, but here in Australia it isn’t, especially for children, so knowing that Kenneth received therapy as a teen conjures up all sorts of negative possibilities. The fact that the mantra ‘Find something good in every day‘ continues to have relevance in his present hints at the depth of trauma he [may] have suffered.

I’m a pantster, so I knew Kenneth’s trauma would be bad, and I had a feeling it would involve his mother in some way, but I had no idea how or why until I wrote this scene. For me, this is the moment it hit me. This is the moment I knew. I also knew that I could not tell Kenneth’s story yet, and it almost killed me! But you see, Innerscape is Miira’s story so by necessity, Kenneth and Jaimie, and eventually Marisa Bell, had to be secondary characters. Their stories had to wait.

And before anyone says “But…”. Yes, I know they all became 99% major characters, but that 1% I managed to claw back had consequences. So for what it’s worth, I love this scene because I hinted at a heck of a lot but managed to restrain myself. 😀

There are also a couple of little things that most readers wouldn’t have noticed, and both involve the semi smart box that Kenneth brought home with him. Modern tech meant that he could command the box to follow him, but the ‘…clickety clack on the uneven flagstones’ comes straight from my childhood! lol

When I was about eight or nine, I had a little wagon which was just a box on wheels that I could pull behind me via a long handle. The reason I loved that little wagon was the noise it made. It was such a cheerful sound. In my mind, that contrasts so acutely with the sadness of Kenneth’s homecoming.

And last but not least, I love the paragraph about the contents of Kenneth’s box – ‘….Everything else, all the important stuff, was proprietary, born of his mind, but not his to take.’ Like Kenneth, my Dad was an innovator, but because he worked for one of the largest corporates of his day, when he left, he couldn’t take any of his inventions with him. They belonged to the company, paid for by a salary that was no bigger than that given to all the other engineers who only worked 9 to 5. Emlékszem Apu. I remember how much that hurt him.

So there you have my first favourite bit from The Godsend. The ebook will be free on Amazon for 5 days from February 2 to February 6, 2021. It goes without saying that I would love a review or two, but I’ll be happy if the story finds a few more readers. 🙂

cheers
Meeks

p.s. oh and I put a graphic of the schedule of promotions up on the sidebar. Clicking on it will take you to the post in which the graphic occurs.

p.p.s. Just had a very strange experience. When I went to publish this post, WP displayed an error message to the effect that I was not allowed to use ‘the provided terms’. After some experimentation, it appears that the tag ‘My Favourites’ is what caused the error. Some weird kind of copyright/trademark infringement? I thought you couldn’t trademark common words and phrases?


My Favourite bits…in Miira

Stephen King famously advised writers to murder their darlings, but thanks to Audrey Driscoll, another excellent writer, I’m about to do the exact opposite! I’m going to tell you which of my ‘darlings’ I like the most, and why. But I’m also opening these questions up to my writer friends. Which bits of your stories do you like the best? More importantly, why those bits instead of others?

I thought long and hard about those questions myself, and in the end, I kept coming back to two, very different scenes from Miira, book 1 of the Innerscape science fiction trilogy. The first one features the main character, Miira Tahn.

In the following short excerpt, Miira has just entered Innerscape [a virtual world for the old, sick and dying, or at least those wealthy enough to pay the price of admission]. As the final step in her ‘orientation’, Miira must attend a fashion show at which she will meet most of Innerscape’s current Residents. She’s been hurt by these kinds of people before, but she’s learned to beat them at their own game:

Thanks to Miira’s determination to find just the right ‘armour’, she and the girls were fashionably late by the time they finally arrived at the venue for the fashion show. All around them, beautiful people filled the spacious room, chatting over exquisite canapés and sipping the finest simulated champagne.

Yet even so, their arrival did not go unnoticed. Emily, and Jane wore lovely pastel frocks that enhanced their colouring, but both looked a little insipid next to Miira’s neon presence. She sailed through the crowd like a bright red exclamation mark, impossible to miss and even harder to ignore.

Smiling and nodding at the Residents she recognized, Miira led the way to their seats as if unaware of the ripples she was causing.

The front row seats they had been assigned would give them an unobstructed view of the gorgeous creations soon to grace the catwalk, but Miira knew the seats would also give the Residents an unobstructed view of her. She would be under the microscope, and heaven help her if they found any chinks in her armour.

She had always hated the scrutiny that was part and parcel of her role as the Lady, but over the years she had learned to give as good as she got. Now, as she waited for the show to begin, she welcomed the gorgeous people who approached with a half-smile and a knowing look.

The women did not like her, air-kisses notwithstanding, but each man looked her up and down with cool intent.

Miira returned their looks, her hooded eyes hinting at promises she had no intention of keeping.

Taken from Miira, book 1 of Innerscape

Miira is not me. But she may be the person I would like to have been during the six, miserable years I spent in an all-girl, Catholic convent school. I’d always gotten on better with boys than girls in primary school, so high school with only girls was… a shock. I learned that girls en masse are not always kind.

So the chip on Miira’s shoulder was probably inherited from me, but I like how she fought back. And I like the colour red.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about another one of my favourites, but this time the person wearing red will be the assassin. Make of that what you will. lol

Your turn!

Meeks

p.s. Don’t forget that Miira will be free on Amazon.com for five days starting on January 19, 2021!


Motivation and muddying the waters

The iVokh are winged, sociopathic aliens, but their motivation is not that different to our own – pride, a Machiavellian lust for power, fear, hatred – and none exhibit those emotions more clearly than the Yellow. As the most powerful Healer in the Guild of Healers, its power is absolute, but only in the Settlement. While its rival, the Blue, remains free, danger could strike from the shadows at any time.

The following is a critical scene from the second book of Vokhtah in which the Yellow’s Assistant brings the news that the Blue may be dead. But it learned this news from someone who might be a Trader. The distrust between Healers and Traders goes back generations, and the Assistant itself was once a Trader.

To get at the truth, the Yellow uses its power to feel the Assistant’s emotions while it’s being interrogated [think paranormal polygraph test], but it’s the Yellow’s own emotions that colour how it interprets the results.

This is a critical scene, and I need fresh eyes to see if it makes sense, if the motivation and the thinking it engenders ring ‘true’. All beta responses gratefully accepted!

Scene in the Settlement between the Yellow and its Assistant:

The Yellow’s eyes narrowed to hard, vertical slits as it stared at the head beneath its hands. A Trader, on the very last day of Tohoh, and carrying the chain of a dead healer who might have been the Blue?

Sitting back on its haunches, the Yellow wiped its hands in the sand as it tried to sort fact from fiction. It very much wanted the Blue to be dead, but that was no secret. Was it being told what it wanted to hear, or was its Assistant reporting what actually happened? Yet if the Refugee really was a Trader, then the story of the Healer’s death was almost certainly a lie, but to what purpose?

“Where being this…Trader now?”

“With other Refugees, Master,” its Assistant said eagerly. “Thinking might being useful…”

Useful, yes, but to whom? If the Blue died while travelling with the caravan, why not simply return the chain it was wearing? Passengers died in the Wild all the time. No one would have given it a second thought. Why lie about how it died? It did not make sense unless the Traders wanted the Guild to think the Blue was dead. But again, to what purpose? They gained nothing from-

but what of Blue?

The gears inside the Yellow’s head seemed to click and whir as the events surrounding the Blue’s disappearance suddenly took on a new significance. First the report of a stolen chain. Then a few days later, the return of the missing Timekeeper’s ladle, along with the description of a ‘tall, thin Messenger’ who had paid for passage on the last caravan of the season…with a blue gem shard. Clearly, the so-called Messenger had been the Blue, and now it was beyond reach.

But what if the Blue had not left with the caravan at all? What if its disappearance had been nothing but a cunning charade? What if it had been hiding in the Traders’ Quarter ever since, spinning a web of deceit to undermine the Guild-

Ki!…not Guild, the Yellow thought, its stomach suddenly churning with bile. Self!

The two had been rivals for decades, and the Blue had always hated being second best. It would never just slink away. It would want to revenge itself on the one who had brought about its downfall, and what better place to do so than in the Quarter? Close enough to sneak in and out of the Settlement, but the one place no one would ever think to look. And, of course, the Traders would not be averse to undermining the Guild as well, especially if they were paid well enough.

It all made perfect sense, except for one thing: why had the Blue waited until the very end of Tohoh to have the chain ‘delivered’. It would have been far better to have the Trader bring the chain into the Settlement while there were still genuine Refugees to mask its arrival.

That was what the Traders had done in the past when they tried to infiltrate the Settlement. Waiting until the last moment, and then sending in a lone Trader was simply stupid. They must have known the Guard would turn it away…

but guard being Assistant

The sense of betrayal was so overpowering, the Yellow almost lost control and killed its Assistant there and then. Leaping to its feet, it retreated to the other side of the cavern and poured itself a cup of pippa juice, sipping slowly until the bloodlust subsided. Killing its Assistant before extracting every last detail would not be wise…

especially if being others

Because Messengers were never assigned to gate duty. Yet that was precisely where the Yellow’s Assistant had been sent, by the Master of Acolytes. Coincidence? A desire for maximum humiliation? Or a sign that the Master was part of the plot as well?

The Yellow put the cup down with exaggerated care and forced itself to breathe, long and slow. It had not clawed its way to the top of the Guild hierarchy by being precipitate. Its Assistant might be capable of conspiring with the Blue, but the Master of Acolytes possessed less guile than a rock. That was one reason it had never been elevated to the Council, that plus the fact that it had never shown the slightest interest in politics. Every speck of energy it possessed had been expended on finding a healer-seneschal. And it had not deviated from that obsession despite decades of failure and the open contempt of most healers. Making a fuss in public was very much in character, plotting in private was not.

Yet if the Master was not involved in the Blue’s plot, then the Assistant could not be involved either because it could not have known that it would be assigned to gate duty. Of course that did not preclude the young fool from helping one of its own when it saw the opportunity, but again, the Blue would not have known that. So why would it initiate a plan so likely to fail?

To successfully infiltrate the Settlement, it would need everyone to believe that it was dead, without question. Yet this botched plan had done the exact opposite, raising questions where there had been none. It would have done far better to simply leave the chain somewhere for the guards to find. The gate guards were not known for their intelligence, but even they would know better than to leave seven starrock links out on the…

“Takh preserve!”

Shock held the Yellow frozen for a moment. Was that it? Was the Trader supposed to fail? Was it supposed to be turned away…after it delivered the links? Because of course the guards would take the links to someone in authority, and of course that someone would try to discover who the dead Healer had been.

Once the links were connected to the Blue, its supposed death would be accepted as fact because there would be no one to interrogate. In the meantime, the so-called Refugee would be safe inside the Trader’s Quarter, mission accomplished.

A cunning plan, and worthy of the Blue, but something had gone wrong. Instead of being confronted by a stupid gate guard, the Trader had been met by a Messenger with divided loyalties, and now that Trader was languishing inside the Settlement with the rest of the Refugees!

A trill of pure delight burst from the Yellow’s cilia as it stared at its Assistant. Far from being a conspirator, the young fool may have inadvertently helped foil the Blue’s plot!

But only if being true, the Yellow thought as it strode across the cavern and dropped to its knees in front of its Assistant. Arranging itself comfortably on the sand, it reached out and initiated the truthsaying once more.

“Why hiding Master’s visit?”

“Not hiding! Just…not wanting to bother Yellow with…”

The Yellow felt a surge of contempt rise and fall beneath its fingers.

“With?” it asked gently.

“Having great respect for all Healers! Truly. Especially Masters but…”

Again that surge of contempt.

“Speaking freely.”

A swell of anger rose beneath the Yellow’s fingers before its Assistant finally spoke again.

“Everyone knowing healer-seneschal being impossible! Master being-…”

The angry out-pouring cut off mid-word, but the seething anger continued for some time as the young Trader struggled to control its feelings. It clearly blamed the Master of Acolytes for its current predicament.

Well pleased with what it had learned, the Yellow sat back on its haunches and considered its options. It was convinced its Assistant knew nothing of the Blue’s plot, but the young Trader might still prove to be useful in other ways, at least for the moment. None of the other Messengers knew how Traders thought. That could be important during the interrogation. If the Trader could be convinced that its story was believed, and it was then allow to escape, the Blue might feel safe enough to return to the Settlement. A lot of ifs and mights, but well worth the effort if the Blue could be killed once and for all.

“At first light should visiting Healer from South. Finding out if chain being one stolen by Blue.”

“Thanking, Master! Thank-”

“Then should visiting…Refugee. Finding out if truly being Trader.”

“S’so! Not being disappoint-”

The flood of gratitude turned into a squeal of pain as the Yellow sank its claws into the body beneath its hands. The squeal turned into a high pitched keen as it dragged its claws through the soft flesh. The wounds were not fatal, but the scars would demonstrate what happened to any iVokh who dared to cross the most powerful Healer in the Guild.

Thanks for reading,
Meeks


When the middle becomes the beginning…

I’ve been writing this damn sequel for years now, yet the beginning has never satisfied me. Or perhaps I knew, deep down, that it wasn’t right, that one of its hearts was missing. Sorry, small pun there.

Anyway…after the umpteenth rewrite of the beginning, I gave up trying to massage the existing story into shape and sat down for a rethink, another one. I knew that Kaati [the Apprentice from book 1] had to meet a character called Death in book 2, but no matter how I tried, I couldn’t work out why Death would be at that location.

Everything I tried felt contrived. Either the social constraints didn’t quite work, or the internal motivation of the characters didn’t gel. I knew I was on the right track, but for my internal bullshit-o-meter to be satisfied, everything had to slot into place with a sense of ‘oh…of course.’ But it wasn’t. And then…

Eureka!

I remembered something I’d written ages ago, and suddenly I felt as if a key had turned in my head, a key that made everything else slot into place. And this, with a slight change of emphasis, is that key:

The Master of Acolytes stared at the closed door in dismay. The Assistant had promised to speak to the Yellow, but something about its response had not rung true. Its expression had been too polite, too controlled…

As if just humouring self, the Master thought with an unaccustomed spurt of anger. Its hand rose, but the anger faded before it could knock again.

Surely the Assistant wouldn’t dare ignore the request of a Master?

Of course not. The Yellow would never allow its Assistant to overstep the bounds like that.

Nevertheless, as the Master of Acolytes headed back towards its own quarters, it decided to check back in a day or two, just in case. Because whatever the Yellow’s Assistant might think, finding a healer-seneschal was important. Very important.

The Master did not hate the Traders. It did not even object to sharing the Settlement with them, however it did fear another Great Unrest and knew the Guild would never be truly safe while all communication with the outside had to go through the Quartermaster.

All the eyries had to communicate through the Trader Quartermasters, but at least they had Seneschals of their own and were not forced to share an eyrie with the Traders.

The Settlement, however, had never had a seneschal of its own. Ever since the Great Unrest, the Guild of Healers had debated the value of employing a non-healer as their seneschal, but the move had always been stymied by the need for secrecy, and trust. Out in the eyries, Seneschals bonded with their Vokh, so their loyalty was unassailable. In the Settlement however, the Guild could only form such a relationship if its seneschal were also a healer, and so far they had not found any.

They had tried and failed, for two hundred years, because the two talents seemed to be mutually exclusive. An iVokh could either heal, or speak mind-to-mind, never both.

Or so the common wisdom said. The Master, however, had never been completely convinced by the common wisdom. Despite past failures, including its own, it still believed a healer-seneschal was possible, but only if the iVokh possessed both talents in sufficient measure before the Quickening.

Finding iVokh with the mindspeech was relatively easy as the talent tended to manifest itself at a young age. The talent for healing, however, was much less straightforward and seemed to need the shock of the Quickening to reveal itself. Thus, creating new healers was always a hit or miss affair. Often those who seemed to have the most potential turned into the worst disasters. However the records showed there had been exceptions, even to this rule.

Before the devastation wrought by the Rogue, healers had always arisen naturally, but their numbers had been few, and only the most powerful Vokh could claim them. After the death of the Rogue and the Great Nine, however, the new Nine had decreed that the remaining healers had to be shared by all the surviving Vokh. That was how the Settlement, and the Guild had begun.

In the hundreds of years since then, the Guild had perfected the Quickening to the point where most candidates survived the process. Picking good candidates, however, still involved a great deal of guesswork as very few displayed clear signs of talent before hand.

Of course wild talents did crop up, even now. In fact, the former Blue had been one such talent. Sadly, it had never shown the slightest ability to mindspeak. The young Tanner though…

A shiver ran down the Master’s spine as it remembered how close it had come to dismissing the claims of the Senior from Deepwater. How could a Tanner’s apprentice possess even one of the great talents much less two?

Yet, right from the start, the young Tanner had demonstrated an uncanny ability to soothe the newborns placed in its care. When asked how it did what it did, it said that the newborn were simply uncomfortable; once their needs were met they settled down easily. What it could not explain was how it always seemed to know which particular discomfort to ease.

But the Master knew. Despite the young Tanner’s small stature, and the lingering stench of the Tanning pits, it possessed the ability to feel the newborn’s discomfort. It was something all Healers had, at least to some extent.

Of course, feel alone did not guarantee that the Quickening would trigger the full range of healer talents. Some could feel but not control the ability enough to actually heal. Others, like the Messengers, could feel but were not distressed by another’s pain.

Nevertheless, the Master was convinced that a natural ability to feel was the best indicator of latent talent. That was why it had arranged for the young Tanner to take the position of Acolyte at Needlepoint. The Triad assigned to the Needlepoint eyrie was lead by a Raised Senior of exceptional ability. If anyone could bring out the youngling’s latent abilities it was that Senior…

Who could guessing? the Master thought as it entered its own quarters and closed the door behind it.

Needlepoint was one of the best hidden eyries in the north, yet the Seven of Five Rocks had taken it anyway. Neither the young Tanner nor the Triad were harmed, but in raids, anything could happen, especially if the Triad attempted to save its Vokh. And now the Challenger was heading north as well. It seemed to attack eyries at random, but those it chose were destroyed utterly. If the Nine did not rise soon, the Challenger would decimate the north as it had the south.

Something had to be done. The Guild’s one chance of securing a line of healer-seneschals could not be left to chance. Returning the young Tanner to the Settlement was vital, no matter what the Assistant to the Yellow might think!

Apologies for the long excerpt, but I just had to share.

cheers
Meeks


Hello and goodnight!

I was just about to toddle off to bed when I received an email from Sally Cronin of Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore, saying she’d posted an excerpt from The Godsend on her blog. -dance- And, she’s included Diana Peach’s fabulous review as well. As you can imagine, I’m thrilled.

The excerpt is a short bit about Kenneth, my broken hero. Hope you like it.

Here’s the link: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2020/05/14/smorgasbord-cafe-and-bookstore-share-an-extract-scifi-the-godsend-innerscape-book-two-by-a-c-flory/

And now I really must go to bed. Sleep tight if you’re in my timezone. If not, have a happy day, and stay well.

cheers
Meeks


Self-publishing a paperback – trim size and bleed

The following extract is taken from my how-to books and explains about two key printing terms: ‘trim size’ and ‘bleed’.

Trim Size

The term ‘trim size’ refers to the finished size of your book – i.e. after the pages have been glued inside the cover and trimmed off neatly.

There are many trim sizes available, but the most popular sizes for non-fiction are shown in Table 1 below:

As even the largest of those trim sizes is slightly smaller than a normal A4 page, the trim size you choose will inevitably change the total page count of your book.

Note: the size of a default Word document is A4, and A4 is 8.27” x 11.69” in size.

This change in page size will have consequences in terms of layout. For example, you may find large gaps on pages where the graphics no longer fit. As a result, some re-formatting will be required. Furthermore, as the spine of the cover depends upon the number of pages in the book, trim size will indirectly affect the width of the spine as well.

You can see a complete table of trim sizes available in KDP – in both inches and cm – at the web address below:

https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G201834180#trim

Bleed

Although selecting the right trim size is the first critical step in printing your book, ‘bleed’ can be the second.

To illustrate the concept of ‘bleed’, consider the two pages below:

Note: the dotted green line represents the trim line.

The image on the left extends past the trim line into the ‘bleed’. When the page is trimmed, the image will have a crisp, clean edge with no white showing. By contrast, the image on the right does not extend into the ‘bleed’ and will have a thin white edge after it is trimmed:

Although most novels do not contain photographs, some do include maps and illustrations, and for them, bleed may be an issue.

If those images sit within the normal margins of the page, the book will not need bleed, but if they extend to the very edge of the page, the book will need bleed. This point is highlighted in the two pages below:

So keep ‘bleed’ in mind when you select the trim size of your book.

Another factor to consider is the length of your book.

A short book printed in a large trim size may end up looking too thin. A long book printed in a small trim size may end up looking too ‘fat’. More importantly, the spine may not be wide enough to allow for the printing of the title.

Note: KDP requires a minimum of 100 pages to print the title on the spine.

And finally, there’s the question of genre. Books are tactile objects and readers get used to a certain size in their favourite reading material.

Note: books that are either too big or too small for their genre may not be as ‘visible’ to a reader intent on buying a book.

Table of trim sizes – with and without bleed

The following is a table of trim sizes available with KDP:

I hope this proves to be useful. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

 


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