nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Zoe finds a nest

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Every Christmas my kind brother-in-law gives us a beautiful basket, filled with homemade pickles and treats and done up with such style. I always save the basket and this morning put it in a chair to go upstairs. Not three minutes later, I came out to the living room to find Zoe in the basket, the straw rearranged to suit her. Not very apologetic either! Sorry, I realise the Net is overrun with photos of well-loved cats!

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Copyright Jane Tims 2017

Written by jane tims

February 22, 2017 at 7:05 am

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A muse takes over – final edits

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This week I am working towards final publication of my first sci-fi novel on CreateSpace – Meniscus: Crossing The Churn.

I have incorporated the comments of my editor ( Lee Thompson Editing + https://leethompsonediting.com/ ) into my final draft.

I have sent my beta-version to my six beta-readers and will make a few edits based on their comments.

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A glimpse of the book in final editing. The blue paper was a gift from my husband who thought he was buying white paper! The yellow tabs are just a few last minute changes. The white frame is my way of seeing how the book will look on the final page size!

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At the last minute I decided my font was too small and switched from Garamond 12 to Garamond 14. It took a while to get all those drawings back to the left hand page!

Now, I have printed out a final version to have one last view before I load the cover, text and other information into CreateSpace.

A comment about independent versus traditional publishing:

I realize how patient the publisher was with all the edits for my poetry book within easy reach (Chapel Street Editions, 2017).

I also realize that my publisher made the final call and ‘pushed the button ‘ regarding the final, final, final draft. Left to my own, I realize I am a bit nervous about this last step and find myself procrastinating, just a little.

To that end, I spent all morning, not working on Meniscus:Crossing The Churn, but on the early draft of the fifth book in the series!

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Copyright 2017 Jane Tims

 



Written by jane tims

February 20, 2017 at 1:27 pm

Snow days!

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We have had lots of snow in central New Brunswick. So, just a few photos to show you my day on Friday and all the piles of snow!

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Our driveway, partly plowed …

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The impressive piles of snow in the box store parking lot …

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My husband and his tractor, clearing snow …

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Copyright 2017 Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

February 13, 2017 at 7:16 am

a muse takes over – character arcs

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Every character in a novel needs a background and a story arc of their own, in order to make them interesting and realistic. This creates challenges as I proceed through the drafts of the five books of my sci-fi series ‘Meniscus’.

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In Book One (Crossing the Churn), I have only two main characters, Odymn and the Slain.

In Book Two (South from Sintha), they rescue three new characters from servitude under the Dock-winder aliens and a simple community begins to take shape.

In Book Three (Winter by the Water-climb), a transport crash brings six more humans to the settlement.

By Book Four (The Town at Themble Hill), the settlers  are actively seeking new recruits to the community and there are sixteen characters for the writer (me) to manage.

At the end of Book Five, even I don’t know how many characters will survive/be added!

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Character arcs assist with the forward motion of the entire story. Each character’s story arc contributes to the whole and is usually connected in some way to the main story arc.

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I express my character story arcs in a three-part sentence — what the character wants, the obstacles he or she encounters, and the resolution.

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For example, one of the new recruits in Book Four (The Town at Themble Hill) is Edward, a medical doctor. Although the settlers can get the help of an alien elder, a doctor who has actually treated human illness will be a great asset to the community. When he enters the story, he has been a Dock-winder slave, used to treat the ailments of other human slaves.

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In the Dock-winder city of Prell, Edward has been able to work with complex technologies. But in the new human settlement, deep in the Themble Woods, even simple tools like stethoscopes or standard pharmaceuticals don’t exist. Edward has to reinvent his approach to medicine, developing his own methods with available tools and embracing alien natural medicines and techniques he previously belittled.

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So, Edward’s story arc is expressed as follows:

Edward wants to help his patients but when technology is no longer available, he has to learn to embrace alien methods and natural herbal medicines.

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This sentence, once written, can help determine the mood of the character, his attitude towards other characters, his response in various situations and the risks he is willing to take.  Now I can revise my draft to make it consistent with Edward’s story arc.

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There are often three ‘bumps’ to move the character’s story arc along. Edward’s three ‘bumps’ are consistent with his story arc:

  • Edward is skeptical of the Argenop methods (the Argenops are primitive aliens, cute and furry)
  • He encounters a medical challenge that, with technology, could be easily resolved
  • He tries an alien, herbal treatment and learns to trust new methods

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Back to work!

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Copyright 2017 Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

February 9, 2017 at 8:32 pm

a muse takes over – telling a story through the seasons

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In New Brunswick, the passage of time is measured in part by the seasons. Right now we are in winter, in the midst of another snow storm and taking a lot of care when walking on all the ice. Soon it will be spring with crocuses blooming on the lawn and water in every hollow. Then summer, days on the deck and keeping cool. Finally, my favourite season, autumn, colourful leaves and starry nights.

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Since I am a writer embedded in the winter-spring-summer-fall cycle, it’s natural that changing seasons are an important part of my sci-fi novel. Although weather is often a factor in story telling, I find many books ignore the changing of the seasons.

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Seasons on planet Meniscus occur in a cycle of four, as in the northern and southern latitudes of Earth. On Meniscus the seasons are the result of a changing heat regime as once per ‘year’ one of the twinned suns slips behind the other. Whether the physics of this makes much sense, I can’t say. “I’m a biologist, Jim, not a physicist!”

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Book One, Crossing the Churn, begins in summer. Foraging for food is easy. As the days pass, leaves begin to fall and soon the characters wade rather than walk through the forest.

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Book Two, South from Sintha, finishes in autumn, as the days grow colder.  New characters in Book Two are looking for a home before winter sets in.
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Book Three, Winter at the Water-climb, takes place in a world of ice. The plot focuses on the coming of cold weather and shorter days. Foraging for food is difficult since everything is hidden under snow drifts.  Survival depends on what has been put into storage.

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Book Four, The Town in the Themble Wood, celebrates the coming of spring and the vibrancy of summer. The Slain and Odymn scout the Themble Wood for a town-site and help the other Humans establish a new community.

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Book Five, so new it has no name, will take the characters back into autumn. In many ways this book will be a race against time as winter approaches and the Slain must find Odymn and other characters who have been lost after a crisis.

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Including seasons in my story adds to the possibilities for describing setting. The cinnamon scent of trees in the autumn Themble Wood, tracks in the snow of the new town, and melting water-springs add to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes my writing can explore.

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The progress of getting my first book into CreateSpace has been hampered this week by the appearance of ‘The Blue Screen of Death’ on my computer. It is fixed now, but I am sure the folks on Meniscus have never faced such a challenge!!!

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Copyright 2017 Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

February 8, 2017 at 7:04 am

a muse takes over – creating alien animal species

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In this post, I’ll show you some of the animals I have invented for my science fiction tale of life on the alien planet Meniscus. If you think I have gone crazy, keep reading anyway!

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Hiking through the woods on planet Meniscus is dangerous. At any moment my characters can be attacked by carnivorous club-mosses, voracious bird-like reptiles seeking hair for their nests, packs of wolf-like ‘kotildi’, or three-eyed ‘slear-snakes’. Writing the scenes with these creatures has been so much fun.

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… the wolf-like kotildi are denizens of the Meniscus woodlands – wild, they are voracious, but tame, they are endearing!

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… Odymn and the Slain spend a bit of their time fending off trolling ‘slear-snakes’ …

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Probably because I love birds, I have included lots of birds in my list of species on Meniscus.  These include large flightless and burrowing ‘grell’, the wheeling ‘wind-fleers’, and woodland song-birds.

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… Odymn sees a bird that looks like a ‘scarlet minivet’ on one of her adventures … not afraid of her at all …

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Here is a list of some of the animals on planet Meniscus.

animal description
elginard wingless insect; moves by floating on air currents
evernell feral cat-like scavenger, with whiskers; slinks, sprays saliva
grell-swallows large burrowing birds; used for a food and fat source
kemet striped horse-like animal with hooves and a long tail
kotildi woodland carnivore, like a large wolf with a hump and mane; source of meat
midlar territorial, tree-living rodent; hoots
nelip small external parasite, infesting fur and hair
slear-snake snake-like reptile with poison teeth, claws, and pincers
warbel song bird living in the woodland
windfleer heron-like bird; moves in flocks

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My favorite species on Meniscus is a small insect, the ‘elginard’. Wingless and fluffy, it follows currents of air, at the whim of the universe. Dandelion fluff and wooly aphids were my inspiration for the ‘elginard’.

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Copyright 2017  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

February 6, 2017 at 7:00 am

a muse takes over – creating alien plant species

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When I was in university, we spent lots of time in botany courses discovering the concept of ‘form follows function’. This means that plants have adapted to their surroundings so almost every physical feature reflects the requirements of landscape and habitat. Good examples:

  • thorns discourage predators
  • tubular flowers to enable pollination by insects with long mouth parts
  • hairs on leaves help conserve moisture by blocking air flow

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This concept is foremost in my mind as I try to populate my fictional planet Meniscus with plants. Plants are important to my story because my characters have to forage for their food (the main character, Odymn, is particularly good at finding food in the forest). My alien plants have to serve the purposes of the story. They also have to be credible and follow biological logic. Form must follow function.

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parkour-through-the-woods

This drawing of Odymn practicing her parkour in the woods shows two plant species on Meniscus — a banyan-like tree and ‘slag-fern’. This banyan is great for climbing and jumping!!!

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Some sci-fi readers prefer authors not to invent new species, but to use our familiar species. I decided to create new species because my story is about what humans have lost when they were brought to an alien planet.  I plan to help my readers by including a glossary of alien plants in the back of each book.

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Although they are alien, most of my plants are reminiscent of our species here on Earth. A good example would be ‘arbel’ a small woodland plant used to treat ailments on planet Meniscus. One of the chemical components of ‘arbel’ is ASA (acetylsalicylic acid or aspirin), making it similar to tea berry (Gaultheria procumbens), a plant common in our woods. I imagine ‘arbel’ to look like our woodland species trout lily (Erythronium americanum). Like trout lily, ‘arbel’ has edible corms.  Also like trout lily, ‘arbel’ has thick leaves to conserve water on a planet where surface water is rare.

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'Trout Lilies'

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Another of my alien plant species is a carnivorous club-moss, a dangerous inhabitant of the Themble Woods. Sheets of this moss crawl across the woodland floor, engulfing their prey.  I want to include carnivorous plants on Meniscus because our own carnivorous plants, such as the sundew (Drosera sp.), are so intriguing.  My carnivorous ‘club-moss’ has glands to absorb nutrients from its prey and touch-responsive tendrils to help it crawl through the forest. For a while I thought I would use carnivorous vines but I have seen too many movies where vines take over the earth!

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Odymn falls asleep in the woods and is overtaken by a carpet of carnivorous club-mosses.

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An earlier drawing showing vines attacking Odymn.

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Following is a list of the plants I have planted on Meniscus.  Beverages to keep the folks on Meniscus awake are brewed from the leaves and berries of ‘thief-bush’!

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plant description
arbel nodding woodland flower; corms edible
glasswort transparent, low-growing plant, adapted to the edges of the Churn
grammid tree with orange leaves and edible seed pods; smells like cinnamon
ransindyne plant grown for its edible root
slag-fern fern-like plant with leathery leaves
spenel small plant with edible berries
thief-bush bush with thick leaves and blue berries; used to make beverages
tussilago plant similar to colts-foot, used to sooth a cough
walking-vine vigorous vine native to the edges of the Darn’el desert
yarnel tree with edible fruit like pomegranate

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This writing has given me new appreciation for the interesting and complex plants we have on our own planet!

Next post I will show you some of the animals on Meniscus!

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Copyright 2017 Jane Tims  

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