Tag Archives: science fiction

Worldbuilding with Inkarnate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cheers,
Meeks


I’ve been interviewed! -dance-

I’ve been a huge fan of author D.Wallace Peach [Diana] since I read her speculative fiction novel, The Bone Wall , so when she asked if I’d like to be interviewed about Vokhtah, I felt honoured. Then I read her questions, and I could barely contain my joy. Here’s a taste:

THE most original sci-fi book I’ve ever read is Vokhtah by Andrea Flory. The depth of her world-building and character-construction is highly creative and intensely alien, right down to the language these insect-like creatures use. I’ve been wanting to interview her and finally got the chance. Welcome Andrea!

1. You decided to create an alien world without humans. Lots of authors do that, but their characters are often “human in disguise” with human-ish thoughts and emotions and cultural variations. Your characters are definitely NOT human. What inspired you to create a completely alien species?

Aaaah Diana! Thank you for inviting me, but…you’ve opened a real Pandora’s box here. What inspired me? I could say it was the original Mr Spock played by Leonard Nimoy, or the character of Dexter, the ‘good’ psychopath, or the aliens of The Left Hand of Darkness by the late Ursula K. Le Guin, but that would only approximate the truth.

To give you a genuine answer I would have to change your question to ‘Why do so many humans create aliens in the first place?’

To that question, my answer is that we’re looking for answers about ourselves.

You can read the whole interview, and Diana’s review of Vokhtah here:
https://mythsofthemirror.com/2021/08/05/vokhtah-sci-fi-world-building-with-acflory/

I’m off to chat to people on Diana’s blog, and I’d love to see you there as well.

Hugs,
Meeks


And then there were two…

This has never happened to me before: two reviews in the one day, the first in the US, the second in the UK. I’m a little stunned, but also incredibly happy. 🙂

Nabatea 5/5

This last book in the series has more unexpected plot twists, turns and surprises than an aristocrat’s hedge maze / labyrinth.
Whatever you thought you knew from the first two books, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet…

I think the thing that has given me the greatest joy is that both reviews ‘got it’ in different ways.

As a Resident of Innerscape, Miira is like a digital ghost; she can communicate with the real world, but she can no longer touch it. Yet in Nabatea she has to step up and become the hero, despite her fears and lack of power. So I gave her the courage and persistence to use what she did have. I guess I wanted to show that we don’t have to be Arnold Schwarzneger in order to be heroic. 🙂

And the series as a whole? I didn’t decide to make each book different. It just happened that way, possibly because I need to explore new challenges with each new book. But boy am I thrilled that the reviewer noticed!

This truly has been a red letter day, and I haven’t even had breakfast yet!

To all those who downloaded my books. Thank you.
To all those who read my books. I love you.
To those who made the time to leave a review, you are my heroes.

much love,
Meeks


And one for Nabatea!

I didn’t intend to post again so soon. I’m always a little wary of boring you guys to tears but…I just found this review for Nabatea:

Imagine living on in a virtual world when you can no longer exist in the real one. Innerscape is such a world, and I thoroughly enjoyed escaping into it. Miira is a compelling and resourceful protagonist, not to mention relatable and likable. In this final book of the series, she must use what resources she has within the realm of Innerscape to uncover the mystery behind her love interest’s downfall. Crisp, evocative prose and impressive world-building make for a thoroughly engaging read.

Given how slack I’ve been on the marketing side, I really didn’t expect to generate much interest for Nabatea so this 5-star review was a very welcome surprise. I am now set for the day, maybe the whole week. lol

cheers
Meeks


My Favourite Bits…Nabatea

Due to the difficulty of finding excerpts that don’t give too much away, I’m only going to post one favourite bit from Nabatea, and this is it:

The control room of the Innerscape facility was hushed as all eyes watched the numbers counting down on the wrap-around wall monitors.

“Any second now,” the duty tech said softly.

Standing right behind the tech, Phil Jacobs could see for himself that Alex Tang, murdered two days before by Kenneth Wu, was finally breathing his last.

The AI and specialist medical teams had done their best, but the outcome had never really been in doubt. It had simply been a matter of time. Now, all the monitors focused on Alex Tang’s vital statistics told the same story – he had put up a heroic fight, but the battle was almost over.

Relief and sadness jostled for position in Phil’s mind as he stared at the heart monitor.

“Flatline,” the duty tech said, his voice almost drowned out by the bleep of the alarm.

The heart monitor was joined a moment later by the Brain Interface Monitor.

Patting the tech on the shoulder, Phil signalled for the alarms to be turned off. In the sudden silence, the voice of the AI seemed unnecessarily loud as it confirmed brain death at 1:46 pm, Sunday the 25th of December, 2101.

Merry Christmas, Phil thought as he affixed his biometric signature to the death certificate.

“Inform the police forensic team that death is confirmed.”

“Yes, sir.”

Glancing up at the wraparound screen, Phil watched as the yellow-clad technicians waiting in the Catacombs sprang into action. They, too, had been waiting for Alex Tang to die, and now that he was gone, they were free to take possession of his containment unit…with him still in it.

Once the unit was disconnected, the forensic team would put it inside one of their huge Hospice trucks and take it away for examination.

“I don’t get it,” the duty tech said as he watched the frenzied activity on the central monitor. “Why all the portable batteries? It’s not as if they need to keep him alive during transit. And why take his AI as well?”

“They probably don’t want to miss anything,” Phil replied, his tone bleak.

“But we already know how he died.”

“No one’s ever been murdered by the common cold before,” Phil replied, his eyes never leaving the monitor. “So this is all new territory. And they don’t trust our systems.”

In fact, the police had found a great deal not to trust, from Innerscape’s reliance on the AI to Phil’s own handling of security.

Dr Jacobs, can you explain why you didn’t revoke Dr Wu’s permissions when he left Innerscape?”

Just thinking of that interview made Phil’s ears burn hot. He had been forced to explain that, as Kenneth had not, technically, been fired, he could not, technically, have his permissions revoked. It had even, technically, been true as the AI did assign security permissions automatically, based on the employee’s position in the company.

What Phil had left unsaid was that those permissions could have been changed manually, using the CEO’s executive override, had anyone foreseen the need to do so. But no one had.

Least of all me, he thought as he forced his eyes away from the monitors. If he had, Alex Tang might still be alive. But then again, who could have guessed that Kenneth Wu would turn rogue?

For those who have never read any of Innerscape, each patient’s body is kept in a containment unit, about the size of a large coffin. Each containment unit has its own AI whose job it is to keep the body alive and functioning. Once the patient is in the containment unit, nothing is allowed to enter the sealed internal environment because even a breath of outside air could introduce a virus or bacteria. Nothing deadly. Just the common cold. Opening the door to the containment unit is a death sentence.

Why did I choose this short excerpt from the very start of book 3? Because every time I read it, I’m surprised that I wrote it.

Since publishing Vokhtah in 2013, I’ve become a lot more comfortable calling myself a writer, but there are times when I still feel like a bit of a fraud. Me? A writer? Yeah, right. But when I read this bit I feel as if yes, maybe I do deserve that title after all.

I really like the epilogue as well, but I can’t tell you about that, or about Kenneth’s grandmother, or the scent of lemon, or sensory deprivation, or a host of other things. All I can do is hope that you take a chance and read Nabatea for yourselves on February 16th when it begins its five days of free on Amazon.

cheers
Meeks


I’m a genius!

-grin- no really! I just read a New Atlas scientific article about :

“…biohybrid synapses that let living cells communicate with electronic systems, not with electrical signals but with neurotransmitters like dopamine.

New Atlas: https://newatlas.com/computers/artificial-synapses-living-cells-communicate-dopamine/?utm_source=New+Atlas+Subscribers&utm_campaign=ff0315b360-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_06_17_12_51&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_65b67362bd-ff0315b360-92416841

Remember when Miira was inducted into Innerscape and basically lost her whole skull so Kenneth Wu’s nano interface could connect the AI to her brain? Not quite there yet but…this article shows that it’s coming. And I actually forecast it…

Okay, okay, probably not that hard to do if you read sci-fi, but I’m still proud as punch.

Ahem, that’s all. As you were….


New Book Page

Just a quick post to let you know that I’ve changed my book page. Instead of listing links to my books on non-Amazon sites, I’ve simply provided links to those books which are free for download as epubs [suitable for Kobo etc].

As before, the free books are available via the sync.com site and no registration or sign-in is required. Click the ‘Free Books by acflory’ tab at the top of this page to access the links.

I currently have two ebooks available for free download:

  • Miira, book 1 of Innerscape
  • The Vintage Egg

Please feel free to download both of them.

Okay, that’s it. I’ve done my admin., vacuumed and mopped all the floors, washed and disinfected surfaces, soothes disgruntled cats and generally been very productive…now it’s time for play!

cheers
Meeks


Faces, then and now

My how time flies…

Back in May, 2015, I wrote a post about faces which included photos of real people who reminded me of Miira Tahn and Kenneth Wu, two of the main characters of the story I was writing. Then, late last year [2019] I discovered Plotagon and learned how to create animated cartoon characters for a different kind of storytelling.

These are some of the faces from Innerscape, then and now:

At the top, Miira as she might have been in real life. Below, Miira in Innerscape.
On the left, Kenneth Wu as he would have appeared in the real world. On the right, his avatar in Innerscape.

I haven’t found photos for the rest of the characters in the trilogy, but here are some Plotagon versions:

Emily Watson and her son, Jaimie.
Alex Tang and the Woman in Red

And last, but not least, Charles McGragh and Peter McAlister, both of whom work for the Innerscape corporation:

If any of you come across a real face that you think might suit one of these Plotagon cartoons, please let me know!

And now a reminder – the Innerscape Omnibus is still free and will remain so until midnight April 24, in the northern hemisphere.

If you’re as timezone challenged as me, you can look up the time conversion here: https://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html?iso=20200425T065900&p1=234&p2=152

To start, type in the name of the first city. I chose Seattle because that’s where Amazon is located.

Next, choose your own city. For me that was Melbourne, Australia.

The converter will now show you the current time in both cities. To work out what the time will be when the free period ends, click on the date in Seattle and change it to April 24. Next, click on the time and change that to 23:59 – i.e. one minute to midnight.

The timezone converter will now show you precisely when the promotion will end in your part of the world. For Australians along the east coast it will be at… :

…4.59 pm, Saturday April the 25th, 2020.

lol – you’re welcome. 🙂

Meeks


The Taming of the Blurb!

In my last post I sent out a call for help, and my wonderful online friends answered.

This is the ‘before’ blurb:

‘Innerscape is marketed as a digital paradise where the terminally ill live out their lives in young, pain free bodies indistinguishable from the real thing. But Miira Tahn, last Lady of Dhurai, soon discovers that all is not well in paradise; an assassin is stalking the Burning Man, and nothing is what it seems. Together with friends, Kenneth Wu and Jaimie Watson, Miira becomes embroiled in a deadly game of cat and mouse where losing means death. Only by fighting back can she save herself, and those she loves.’

This is the ‘after’ blurb that will accompany the Omnibus onto the Kindle:

Innerscape: a virtual paradise where the terminally ill live out their lives in young, pain free bodies.
But Miira Tahn discovers paradise is an illusion.
An assassin stalks the Burning Man.
Lies masquerade as truth.
Together with her friends, Miira plunges into a deadly game of cat and mouse.
If she loses, she loses everything.
Her life – Those she loves – All of Innerscape.

So much better. 😀

My thanks to Yorgos, Dawn, Carol, Audrey, Cage, Elizabeth, Chris J and Chris G. You turned a sow’s ear into a silk purse. I love you all. 🙂

Meeks


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