Tag Archives: Vokhtah

With humungous thanks – Kaati version 2

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

And here’s the proof….ta dah!

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

Thank you again. You guys really are the best.

-enormous hugs-

Meeks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Eagles…and their feet

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

I took those screenshots from the Youtube video below:

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

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

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

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

cheers

Meeks


Lots of hands but no feet

I’ve lost track of how many of these progress posts I’ve published, but here’s the next milestone in the creation of the iVokh:

That’s a screenshot of my desktop. It’s where I place the latest iteration of the image so I can see it without the distraction of the Corel Draw 8 work screen. Plus, I have to admit that seeing the image in a different context makes mistakes more ‘visible’ somehow. The same thing applies to writing; even a small visual change can force the brain to see what’s there instead of what should be there.

This next pic shows the Corel Draw work screen. If you look at the bottom left of the screen, you can see that the composite image is made up of 102 individual ‘objects’:

The tiny, shiny dots scattered across the image are ‘nodes’ on the objects. Nodes allow you to manipulate vectored images with great precision. For example, many images that appear to be one image are in fact many images, layered over each other to match up colours and lighting effects [as much as possible].

To keep all those objects in the right place and the correct order, I’ve used the Corel Draw ‘Group’ function to keep myself sane. This is the same image split into its component groups:

If I were a plotter instead of a pantster, I would have created a discrete ‘layer’ for each group. Layers are like transparent sheets of glass, stacked one on top of the other. Thus, you can work on an individual group without disturbing the groups in front of or behind it. Using layers would have made this simple little project [hah!] a hell of a lot easier to manage…

-sigh-

Unfortunately, I’m not a plotter and have to do everything the hard way…

Still, I am getting happier with the overall image every day. Not only am I having fun, I’m also setting the iVokh biology in stone, so to speak. Like the dictionary and mini-encyclopedia of ‘world facts’, I need to know exactly what the iVokh [and Vokh] look like so I don’t make stupid mistakes in books 2 and 3 of Vokhtah. Series are a pain like that. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

 

 


Echolocation in iVokh, dolphins and humans

I started thinking about the creatures of Vokhtah back in November, 2004 when I did Nanowrimo for the first time. I knew right from the start that the Vokh would be vicious, psychopathic hermaphrodites with wings, but as I explored their lives I realised that they couldn’t possibly live together without killing each other. That was when I stumbled across a weird fact from nature – crocodiles allow plover birds to hop in their mouths and clean scraps of meat from their teeth!

This is called ‘mutualism’, a symbiotic relationship in which both parties gain benefits. In the case of the plover bird, it gets to eat the meat it picks from the crocodile’s teeth. The crocodile, on the other hand, gives up a very small snack in exchange for keeping its teeth clean and healthy.

I have no idea how such a relationship would have evolved in nature, but it did give me the answer to the Vokh riddle: my huge, intelligent aliens would live in a symbiotic relationship with another species. Enter the iVokh.

I won’t bore you with a history of how the iVokh evolved in my mind, it’s enough to say that they had to be similar to the Vokh, but also different. One of those differences ended up being teeth, or to be more exact the shape of the iVokh jaw. You see the reason the Vokh tolerate the iVokh is because they need the iVokh to raise their offspring. Part of that requires that the newborn Vokh be fed a gruel of mashed up grains and tubers.

But if the iVokh were like the Vokh and only drank blood [sorry I’m kind of skipping a few vital facts here], then how would they know to give the Vokhling gruel?

The answer lay in the fact that the iVokh had retained their molars [grinding teeth], and hence could chew. This gave them the ability to feed on a number of different types of food, not just blood. By contrast, the Vokh were so powerful that they could live on nothing but blood. In time, their teeth and jaws evolved to make it easier for them to eat their favourite food. That required bigger, stronger fangs, not molars.

But what do molars have to do with echolocation? Before I get to the Vokh and iVokh, I’d like to give you a quick description of how echolocation works in dolphins:

https://dolphins.org/anatomy

  1. In the simplest terms, dolphins send clicks through that bulge on their heads. It’s called the ‘melon’ and it amplifies the sound.
  2. The clicks spread out through the water and ‘bounce’ against objects in the water.
  3. This bounce returns to the dolphin as a kind of echo.
  4. The echo is captured by the dolphin’s lower jaw and is transferred to its inner ear [maybe like a vibration?].
  5. From there, the echo goes straight to the auditory part of the dolphin’s brain where it is translated into a kind of ‘image’.

The important thing to note here is that the echo does not return to the dolphin’s ear, or at least not directly. First it goes to the jaw. And there, tah dah, was one perfect, evolutionary difference between the Vokh and iVokh. As the lower jaw of the Vokh changed, so too did its ability to echolocate. It can still ping enough to avoid walking into things in the dark, but not enough to ‘see’ objects at a distance.

In my mind, I see this qualitative difference as being similar to the difference between the echolocation of a dolphin and a human:

I’ve mentioned Daniel Kish and his amazing ability before, yet for all of his skill, he cannot operate in his own environment as well as a dolphin operates in the ocean.

So that’s how the iVokh got echolocation. 🙂

In case anyone is wondering, the world of Vokhtah is a strange melange of science and paranormal fantasy. Along with their physical characteristics, most of which have parallels in real biology, the Vokh and iVokh also have mental skills that don’t. Despite the best efforts of all sorts of scientists, we still lack proof that telekinesis or telepathy actually exist. But while I love science, I’m not a scientist, and paranormal talents are fun to write about. 🙂

Thanks for coming on this odd little journey with me!

cheers

Meeks

 


Binary star systems

Since starting to write the Suns of Vokhtah series again, I’ve tripped up on some unexpected hurdles, one of which is the effect the binary star system has on the day/night and seasonal changes as experienced on the planet.

I thought I’d worked it all out over five years ago, and I do have graphics to prove it, but as I looked at those graphics I realised that I couldn’t remember the thinking behind them:

Was it actually right? I no longer knew. And it niggled so much I knew I had to go back and reinvent the wheel. So these are the earliest of the new graphics:

Creating the day/night cycle in Corel Draw 8 stage 1:

As you can see, the planet obits the G2 [yellow] star in an elliptical orbit which makes EVERYTHING so much harder. The lines connecting the centre of the star to the centre of the planet are always at right angles to simulate the orientation of the planet to its star. Assuming the star and planet exist on a flat plane, I think that’s right, from the point of view of geometry. Seems logical, but I know very little about actual astronomy.

Anyway, the big yellow star is Takh and the small red one is its binary companion, Takhti.

Next step in Corel was to group the positions of the planet, and flip a copy of them horizontally. A bit of realignment was necessary to get it looking like this:

And finally, I filled in the gaps at the top and bottom:

I haven’t modelled the effect of the dwarf red star yet, so it’s hard to see the significance of the example at the very bottom, but mid-Piihoh is the time in the planetary cycle when the dwarf red sun is completely eclipsed by the G2 star.

The example at the very top is mid-Kohoh. This is when the planet experiences virtually no dark – i.e. night time. Again, this will become more obvious once I complete the red dwarf overlays. Of course, working /that/ out requires some hefty mental shifts on my part because the planet rotates in an easterly direction around its own axis, but revolves around the G2 sun in an anti-clockwise direction…

Nevermind, I sort of know what I’m doing, but it still gives me brain-ache.

cheers

Meeks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Indie Writing – about outlining in reverse

Most Indie writers will be aware of the two extremes of writing technique: pantsting and outlining. Well, I’m kind of a hybrid. Most of the time I write as a ‘pantster’, meaning that I allow my sub-conscious to direct the flow of the story rather than planning it out ahead of time. The trouble is, after a certain point, my stories become rather complex and convoluted, so I do have to think ahead, at least a little.

Nevertheless, my ‘thinking ahead’ still doesn’t constitute an outline. For me, outlining is something that happens after the story is told, not before. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the past three days. I’ve been going through Vokhtah, line by line, noting down all the bits and pieces that make up the story. These include the plot, of course, but also things like timelines, motivation/backstory and the introduction of Vokhtan vocabulary.

All in all, my reverse outlining takes up 19 pages of notations. This is just one of them:

As you can see, its data in the raw, and tomorrow I’ll have to massage it into some sort of order that goes beyond the simple chronology of the story. But that’s for tomorrow. For now, I need a coffee and a walk around the garden with the ‘kids’.

cheers

Meeks

 

 

 


The making of an Iron Age torc

In an earlier post I wrote about the Snettisham Great Torc, and how it had been created by artisans 2000 years ago. Well today I have something even more exciting to share – a video about how these amazingly beautiful objects were made using the simplest tools imaginable. And here it is:

Roughly half way through, the presenter talks about how she experimented with the technique by casting her own ingot of bronze and then patiently hammering it out into a thin piece of wire. The Iron Age artisan who made the torc must have been a master craftsman with a whole bunch of lesser journeymen and apprentices to help with the backbreaking work, but still, can you imagine how long it would have taken? And how many failures there would have been along the way? The skill, dedication and commitment of these craftmen is beyond my comprehension.

Once again, my thanks to Dawn of Dawn Gill Designs for finding this incredible video and sending me the link to it. If you haven’t yet guessed, Dawn is the blogger I call Silversmith because she makes beautiful pieces of jewellery. She’s also my go-to-person when I need information on crafting techniques. -waves at Dawn-

Okay, back to work. Today I upload Vokhtah and its new cover to Lulu! Vokhtah was my first book and the only one I have never been able to physically hold in my hands. Finally getting a print copy will signify the end of a learning curve that began in 2004. So excited. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


WordPress vs Medium

This post is not a full on comparison of WordPress and Medium. Rather, it’s a comparison of my expectations of the two blogging platforms. When I first started writing on Medium, I thought I would gradually shift my focus from WordPress to Medium. But things haven’t worked out that way. Instead, I’ve come to realise that the two blogging platforms bring out different types of writing from me. And I enjoy both.

Based on the reading I’ve done on Medium, I’d have to say that the writing is generally more ‘formal’, like articles you might find in an old-fashioned newspaper or magazine. By contrast, WordPress is more chatty, like a conversation amongst friends. Of course, these could simply be my perceptions of both platforms, but I do enjoy the freedom of being able to alternate between the two styles of writing.

lol – And then, of course, there are the weeks when the two overlap, like this week. I wrote an article about getting an ABN on Medium and posted almost the exact same article here on WordPress. I also created a ‘Books’ page for both Medium and WordPress. Nevertheless, these overlapping weeks will probably be the exception rather than the rule because I’m simply more comfortable writing certain kinds of things here.

What kinds of things? Well, recipes for example. Or music posts. Or progress reports like this:

The pic above is the new cover I’m working on for Vokhtah. It’s as rough as guts because I’m still experimenting with ideas, but I’m happier with this particular idea than I have been with earlier ones. In case you’re curious, these are some of the ones I’m less happy with:

or this:

or this:

There are a couple more, but they’re far less finished than even these. Once I have some finished covers that I’m happy with, I’ll ask for feedback from you guys, especially the artists amongst you. 🙂

Okay, well that’s it for this Friday in Australia. I hope you don’t mind if I start the weekend without you. :p

Enjoy!

Meeks


I write like H.G.Wells?

I’m normally a skeptic when it comes to apps that purport to analyse this, that or the other but…this tool is spot on. It’s spooky how accurate it is…

Okay so ‘what’ is it?

‘It’ is an online app that analyses your writing based on a sample that you cut and paste onto the webiste. This is the sample I used from the Prologue of Vokhtah [and yes, I rewrote it some time ago to make it less drawn-out-prologue and more succinct intro.].

‘Tohoh was always a desperate time of year. The shimmering heat of the dry season tested every living thing on the planet, but with the red sun drawing ever closer, the winnowing of the weakest was accelerating.

Out on the plains, the scorched grass trembled in the heat haze, and the heavy seed heads hung limp on brittle stalks. Nothing moved, not even the herds of hungry akaht. They, like all the other beasts, knew when to shelter from the suns’ ill-temper.

Only on the very fringes of the grassland, where rock met soil, was there any movement. There, the black shapes of iVokh foragers trudged slowly through the waist-high grass, their long, leathery wings tucked into their sides as they harvested the seeds the akaht had missed.

As the day wore on, and the heat intensified, the eyes of the Foragers lingered ever longer on the patches of deep shade. They longed for the day to end so they could return to the cool of the Settlement, but the approach of true dark brought its own dangers, for that was when the to’pak awoke, and they were always hungry.’

In less that half a second, the app. came back with this:

‘About H. G. Wells

Picture of H. G. Wells

Herbert George “H.G.” Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946) was a British author, now best known for his work in the science fiction genre. He was also a prolific writer in many other genres, including contemporary novels, history, politics and social commentary, even writing text books and rules for war games. Together with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback, Wells has been referred to as “The Father of Science Fiction”.

Wells’s earliest specialized training was in biology, and his thinking on ethical matters took place in a specifically and fundamentally Darwinian context. He was also from an early date an outspoken socialist, often (but not always, as the beginning of the First World War) sympathizing with pacifist views.

Whilst I did read H.G.Wells in my late teens, I swear on a stack of bibles that I knew nothing about his background, especially the bits highlighted in blue. More importantly, I’ve never seen him as a major influence in my work. Ursula K. LeGuin, yes. Frank Herbert, yes. H.G.Wells? Um…

I have absolutely no idea how the app. does what it does but I’m about to try it on Miira. And then, just for giggles, I’ll try it on one of the How-to books.

If you’re a writer and you want to see what your own writing style is like, go here:

https://iwl.me/s/a85d5606

cheers

Meeks

 


Smithing in Vokhtah – how to forge the links of a chain

The creatures of Vokhtah possess many ‘skills’ that owe more to fantasy than sci-fi, but their world is as real as I can make it, so here is some real blacksmithing that I had to research today:

Those who’ve read the first book about Vokhtah will know that the technology of the iVokh is somewhere between the Bronze Age and the Iron Age of Earth. They have Smiths who work starrock – i.e. rock that falls from the stars – in firepits. Of all the items crafted by the Smiths, two play a vital role in Vokhtan culture – timepieces and shackles.

I introduced the concept of a water-driven timepiece in book 1, and the following is a concept drawing of what such a timepiece [with extra ‘alarm bell’] might look like:

 

In book 2, however, I’ll be introducing the idea of the shackles. Think old convict shackles like these:

If you go searching for images of shackles, please be careful how you word your Google search. I learned some eye-opening things about bondage before I found the above image on Ebay. Apparently you can ‘Buy Now’ for $25.97 USD…

But after all that research, how much actually ended up in the story?

Not much. The one thing that truly hit me from the video was that without that shaped anvil, the calipers and the hammer, the blacksmith would have been struggling to make anything resembling a chain link. So how about my Smiths. Would they have possessed such specialised tools? Probably not, at least to start with. So my research boils down to half a sentence, shown in bold below:

The silence of the small chamber was broken by the clank of starrock as Tatah strained against the shackles that bound her to the cot. Held aloft by her huge, red wings, she thrashed from side to side in a vain attempt to break free, but neither the shackles nor the cot showed any signs of weakening.

Exhausted by her efforts and still not completely recovered from the Cut, she slumped back onto her belly and lay there gasping as her wings slowly deflated.

She was bitterly disappointed at not being able to free herself but was not surprised. She had commissioned the shackles at a time when she thought she could conquer the world, so her Smiths had been ordered to produce nothing but the best. They had taken her at her word, spending a year just to craft the tools they would need to forge the shackles. Then they had spent another year refining the starrock and forging it into a set of bindings strong enough to hold even the strongest Vokh.

Tatah had been delighted. But, of course, she had never dreamt that the shackles would be used against her…

Happy weekend all. 🙂

Meeks

 


%d bloggers like this: