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Dinaelurus crassus became my new armature on which to re-build the Named. And build them, I literally did. "Big Cats" artist Mauricio Anton, when he learned about my project, kindly sent me drawings from the original Eaton (1926) paper about the fossil.
From those drawings, I built a 3-D model of the fossil skull, with the idea that I could generate my fictional species from D. crassus. A second clay model skull featured an expanded braincase to house the human-equivalent intelligence of the Named, and I now had the skull of Dinaelurus illumina sapiens, Ratha herself.
Photographing each step of the process, I did a facial reconstruction, using Anton's "Big Cats" illustrations as a guide. I began with the second clay skull, added deep muscles, eyes, overlying muscles, tendons, veins, and finally skin and a slight suggestion of fur. Having photographed the bare clay bust, I then used Photoshop to add color and fur texture.
The completed head needed a body. Existing fossils of Dinaelurus crassis have only the skull and neck vertebrae, so I would have to make an educated guess. Using drawings of cheetah and puma skeletons, I put my character together on paper.
For a speedy cat with good jumping abilities and the strength to pull down prey, I used a stretched version of the puma skeleton and gave it the rear legs of the cheetah. Once I had the skeleton, I could sketch in muscles and skin.
Another tool to visualize the Named was 3-D animation, done with Anim8tor. I had great fun putting together a Ratha model, which I could then animate. Using photos of lions, cougars and cheetahs galloping, I did a run cycle. First I had her galloping in place, then crossing the screen, then bounding in from the background in a feline grand jete'.
I settled into a steady schedule; the morning and early afternoon were for writing and story development; the late afternoon for chores, exercise and art/animation.
Early in the novel's development came a crucial question; should I continue the story of True-of-Voice and the Song-hearing(collectively dreaming group-think) face-tail hunters from Ratha's Challenge? Some readers thought that plot line; wandered too far away from the spirit of the series; others thought it enhanced the saga and wanted to know more about True-of-voice and his people. I decided that the face-tail hunters had to be in Courage, but I would focus on the effects they had on the Named and not stray off too far into the mysticism of the Song.