Tag Archives: scifi

Yes! Natural ‘soap’ from the Yucca plant

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

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

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

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

cheers,
Meeks


The Grand Hall of the Settlement

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

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

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

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

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

cheers
Meeks


So close…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

love,
Meeks


When a fudge comes back to haunt you, or how to rappelle using the Dulfersitz

Not so long ago, I complained about the timeline in Vokhtah being out by three days. After a LOT of time and effort, which included combing through book 1 to see exactly what I happened when, I discovered that the timeline was actually out by 17 days. -pulls hair and screams-

The problem with the timeline goes all the way back to the very start of the book in which I guestimated that the journey to and from Deepwater gather would take about 50 days. As guestimates go, that fudge would not have been catastrophic had I gone back at the end of the book and worked out exact times spent. But I didn’t. 😦

I solved my timeline problem, but it’s left me very wary of any and all fudges, so when I went back to book 2 and came across a scene that involved a bad iVokh rappelling down into a ravine to chase a good iVokh, my fudge-alarm went off straight away.

Why? Because everything I know about mountaineering comes from a couple of old Hollywood movies. I think one of them starred Sylvestre Stallone:

Clearly, I could not allow the fudge to stand, so I’ve spent most of today doing research on mountaineering. To my utter surprise, the scene I wrote is actually possible using a method invented way back at the start of the 20th century by a climber called Hans Dulfer.

To use the Dulfersitz, [I think that translates as Dulfer-sit] you secure one end of the rope at the top of the cliff or wherever you happen to be, wrap it around your body a certain way, and then ‘walk down’ the near vertical face of the cliff suspended only by the friction of the rope against your body:

You can see exactly how to do the wrapping in the short video from which the still shot was taken: https://youtu.be/CLQ0IltdYd0 While revolutionary for its time, the Dulfersitz was not exactly painfree:

‘For quite a long time the Dülfersitz was the most common way of abseiling and it’s still remembered today, mainly with nostalgic memories of those gorgeous burns on the right side of your neck and shoulder along with some far less pleasant ones right next to your genitalia.’

http://stara.emontana.cz/dulfersitz-emergency-rappel/

As I don’t particularly care if the bad iVokh gets highly painful rope burn, I’m more than happy to use the Dulfersitz method. One fudge down, yay! 🙂

cheers
Meeks


An excerpt from Kahti

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“S’so? What happening?”

“Going to sleep and not rising.”

“A good death then.”

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

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

cheers
Meeks


Proof of concept – Innerscape

Forgive the grandiose title, but I’ve just read an article on Medium that details the current research aimed at creating a computer-brain interface. And that concept, taken to an extreme level, is precisely what Innerscape is all about.

I’ve known about some of the technologies for some time, but I was truly surprised by how much, and how varied, those technologies are. Some are clearly still in their infancy, but I see great potential for others…including football fans. 🙂

No, I’m not kidding. The article below contains a video about a very special ‘kickoff’. The person doing the kickoff [first kick of the game] is wearing an exoskeleton, and he’s paralyzed. He’s moving the exoskeleton with his brain. That is little short of a miracle.

You can watch a video of that kickoff, and read about the other technologies in development here: https://medium.com/predict/brain-computer-interfaces-the-next-step-in-human-evolution-a0e0723a1791

One thing I very much like about the article is that it talks openly about the elephant in the room – the ethics of some of these technologies. We humans have a habit of jumping into new tech feet first, so enamoured of the potential for good [or profit] that we wilfully ignore the potential for harm. And there is always potential for harm.

It’s Good Friday here in Australia so I’ll wish you all a Safe and Happy Easter if you celebrate it. If not, may you have a Safe and Happy Holiday.

Much love,
Meeks


Final Freebie – 3 more days

The 6th, and last, free ebook I’m offering is the Innerscape Omnibus which includes all three books of the Innerscape trilogy.

As the title says, the Innerscape Omnibus is free for about 3 more days, depending on your timezone. The promotion ends on April 3, 2021.

US https://www.amazon.com/Innerscape-Omnibus-Books-trilogy-ebook/dp/B0871W9YDH/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Innerscape+Omnibus&qid=1617103285&sr=8-1

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Innerscape-Omnibus-Books-trilogy-ebook/dp/B0871W9YDH/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Innerscape+Omnibus&qid=1617103337&sr=8-1

Australia https://www.amazon.com.au/Innerscape-Omnibus-Books-trilogy-ebook/dp/B0871W9YDH/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Innerscape+Omnibus&qid=1617103385&sr=8-1

Canada https://www.amazon.ca/Innerscape-Omnibus-Books-trilogy-ebook/dp/B0871W9YDH/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Innerscape+Omnibus&qid=1617103433&sr=8-1

India https://www.amazon.in/Innerscape-Omnibus-Books-trilogy-ebook/dp/B0871W9YDH/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Innerscape+Omnibus&qid=1617103493&sr=8-1

If you are not in one of these Amazon marketplaces, you can find the Omnibus by going to the Amazon search box and typing:

Innerscape Omnibus acflory

While you’re there, perhaps you could check out some of the wonderful books written by Sue Vincent: https://www.amazon.com/Sue-Vincent/e/B00F2L730W?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1617227018&sr=8-1


Meeks



Final Freebie – Innerscape Omnibus

The 6th, and last, free ebook I’m offering is the Innerscape Omnibus which includes all three books of the Innerscape trilogy.

If you’ve already downloaded the individual books, there’s no need to download the Omnibus, unless you want to, of course. 😉

The Omnibus is free on Amazon now, and I’ve provided some of the major links to the various Amazon market places below. As with the first five books, the Omnibus will be free for 5 days [ending April 3, 2021].

US https://www.amazon.com/Innerscape-Omnibus-Books-trilogy-ebook/dp/B0871W9YDH/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Innerscape+Omnibus&qid=1617103285&sr=8-1

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Innerscape-Omnibus-Books-trilogy-ebook/dp/B0871W9YDH/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Innerscape+Omnibus&qid=1617103337&sr=8-1

Australia https://www.amazon.com.au/Innerscape-Omnibus-Books-trilogy-ebook/dp/B0871W9YDH/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Innerscape+Omnibus&qid=1617103385&sr=8-1

Canada https://www.amazon.ca/Innerscape-Omnibus-Books-trilogy-ebook/dp/B0871W9YDH/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Innerscape+Omnibus&qid=1617103433&sr=8-1

India https://www.amazon.in/Innerscape-Omnibus-Books-trilogy-ebook/dp/B0871W9YDH/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Innerscape+Omnibus&qid=1617103493&sr=8-1

I left the Omnibus until last because I intend to unpublish it on April 14, 2021 which is two days after I first published it on April 12, 2020 – an almost-anniversary. I know we’re not in the clear from Covid yet, but at least there’s light at the end of the tunnel, so I feel it’s a good time to retire this particular version. I may drag it out of mothballs for the odd special occasion, but for now it will enjoy a well earned rest. 😀

I would love everyone to grab a copy of the Omnibus while it’s free. I’d also urge anyone who hasn’t grabbed a copy of the other books to do so now, while they’re still 99c. On April 3, they will all return to their normal pricing.

I’ve tried not to check the Amazon reports too often so I’ve been gobsmacked by how many people have downloaded the books. I’ve also been incredibly heartened by the wonderful reviews they’ve all received. That was a very pleasant surprise as I’d only been hoping for a couple of reviews for Miira and Vokhtah. Thank you, all of you. -hugs-


Meeks



How to make a primitive torch

One of the things that distinguishes the iVokh Traders from the normal iVokh is that Traders aren’t afraid of fire. In fact, they light their underground cave system with burning torches. This means the colour of the light is different – yellow flame vs blue glowworm – and the smell is distinctive.

That all came from my imagination, but now I’m writing scenes that require a more factual approach, so how did primitive peoples make torches?

I was extremely lucky to find this fabulous article online: http://www.junglecraft.com.my/index.php/how-to-make-a-burning-torch/ Not only did it explain which, easy-to-find materials were used, it also included a video showing exactly how the torches were made:

The whole video is fascinating, but the highlight for me was around the 6 minute mark.

So, what are these primitive materials, and would the iVokh have access to them?

The main ingredient in primitive torches [in the Malaysia jungle] is rosin. If any of you have played the violin, you’ll know that rosin is vital for the bow [thanks Dad]:

Rosin is a solid form of resin, the sticky substance that comes from trees that is not unlike sap….Violin rosin is made by heating fresh liquid resin, until it becomes solid. It smells a bit like pine and has a glassy, orange look.

Quote taken from: https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/instruments/violin/what-is-rosin-why-violinists-need-it/

I underlined the bit about the smell of ‘pine’ because that too is a distinctive feature of the Traders’ caves.

But wait…there’s more. I did ballet as a kid and I remember putting rosin on the soles of my ballet shoes – for grip . In fact, as I went from link to link, I discovered that rosin has a million and one uses, even today. Not so primitive after all. 🙂

Anyway, rosin is only one of the ingredients used to make primitive torches; ‘punky wood’ [dried rotten wood] is the other. Crumbled together in a 50/50 ratio, this mixture will burn quite happily for a couple of hours.

In the Junglecraft video, the presenter used bamboo as the locally sourced ‘container’ for the torch, but I’m pretty sure most of the inhabitable parts of Vokhtah are savanah rather than jungle, so I think the iVokh would have used animal horns instead. I haven’t actually created a horned creature per se, but I’m sure there must be a few somewhere in Vokhtah. Maybe down south where where only the Traders have been… 😉

So there you have it, my latest bit of research. I had fun, and I hope you did too.

Before I finish though, I have a small rant to get off my chest: I HATE the new preview function in WordPress. With the old Preview function, I could preview my post in a new tab and can jump back and forth between the two tabs, fixing typos as I find them.

With the new Preview function, I get a floating [sic] pane that can’t be moved. As the ‘edit post’ screen is underneath the preview pane, I have to close the pane each time I find a typo. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit…

Grrrr! Do none of the ‘Happiness Engineers’ ever test run their ‘improvements’? Or do none of the testers bother to fix bloody typos? Ahem… Okay, end rant.

cheers
Meeks


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


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