Botanic art – the Beckler Project

I’ve been a fan of Anne Lawson’s work for a long time now – I’m the proud owner of one of her garlics – but I didn’t realise that the work she and her colleagues do is real ‘citizen scientist’ stuff that will help in the longitudinal study of Australia native plants in the Minindee area. The following is a small snippet from her post:

‘If you have been following my blog for a while you will remember the annual trips that the Fella and I make up to Menindee, a little country town about an hour out of Broken Hill. If you are new to the blog, or have forgotten let me briefly explain.

I am part of a group of botanic artists who go up to the semi-arid area of Outback New South Wales to collect and paint the plants that were found on the Burke and Wills Expedition of 1860. Dr Hermann Beckler was the collector as well as the doctor on the Expedition. Our Project began in 2010, and the Fella and I have gone up since 2011.’

You can follow the link below to read more about the project and admire some of Anne’s work:

https://annelawson.wordpress.com/2017/06/23/an-update-on-the-becklers-botanical-bounty-project/

cheers

Meeks

 


The Godsend – Innerscape, book 2 cover

Just a quick update to show you what I’ve been obsessing about while I should have been writing blog posts. 🙂

This is just a mockup as the ‘spine’ will be wider in the final – I haven’t worked out the total pages in book 2 yet but it will be a lot wider than the one for book 1.

Okay, that’s it. No comments on this one.

cheers

Meeks


Using the Createspace cover template with Corel X8

This post is a bit premature as I haven’t yet shown you how to find the exact number of pages of your manuscript, but…I’ll do it now while it’s fresh in my mind. So, here goes. To create the cover, you will need:

  • the trim size of your finished book – i.e. the finished size you want the book to be. Mine is 5.5 x 8.5. You’ll find info. on trim sizes here.
  • the number of pages you end up with when you pour your manuscript into the appropriate trim size template – i.e. with the margins, etc., preset by the template.
  • and some kind of graphics package. The one I use is Corel Draw X8.

Finally, you will need the Createspace cover template for the trim size of your choice:

You can find the ‘Build Template’ here:

https://www.createspace.com/Help/Book/Artwork.do;jsessionid=5C5EE350ED4B426685472D15E9996AB3.2129a643a7ae5ba6aeba4b626969fb21

To use the Build Template, simply select the trim size of your book from the drop down list like so:

Then type the total number of pages into the box for ‘Number of Pages’ and click the ‘Build Template’ button. The little app. does its thing, and in a moment you should be looking at something like this:

Click the ‘Click here to begin Download’ button and save the file to your computer. As the file is a compressed zip file, you will need a program to unzip it. Most people use Winzip. I prefer a non-Microsoft product called PowerArchiver. Whichever product you use, the file will be unzipped to look like this:

5.5×8.5_BW_230 is the name of the unzipped cover template and it comes in two versions – pdf or png. As I don’t have an app that works with pdf files, I imported the png version of the file into Corel X8.

This is what it looks like:

 

The instructions for using the template start with ‘Create a new layer in your image editing software. This layer will serve as the design layer.’ In other words, keep the cover guide separate from the graphic you build on top of it.

This is good advice as you don’t want to accidently meld the guide and your cover, with potentially drastic results. Nevertheless, I didn’t use the layers in that way. After tracing the dimensions of the cover template, I superimposed the tracing over my background image and worked with the tracing on the same layer as everything else. That’s what the faint white line is on the cover:

 

I could have used the guidelines in X8, but at one point I had so many of them all over the place, it would have been impossible to see what I was doing. Now I just have to remember to delete the guidelines before I send the image off to Createspace. [And boy do I hope I haven’t just jinxed myself!]

I hope you’ve all had a pleasant weekend,

cheers

Meeks


Corel Draw X8 – Miira cover final

I thought that X8 would be X6 with a slightly different interface, but it does actually have some nice features that I wasn’t expecting – like links to some very sophisticated fountain fills and a much improved transparency feature. Those features may have influenced the rather radical changes I’ve made to the cover of the first book:

Unfortunately, the image doesn’t quite show the depth of colour in the cover as the CMYK black has come through as a rather washed out charcoal in RGB [for web display]. Once the cover is printed it will be much sharper and the silvers will ‘pop’ more…I hope. Anyway, I’ll probably fiddle with the balance a bit longer, especially if you guys point out things I’m too blind to see, but this is basically the front and back cover spread that will go to Createspace for the print version.

One of the hardest things to figure out was what to put on the spine. Once I’d worked out the total number of pages for Miira, including copyright, Afterword, etc., I plugged the number into Createspace’s calculator, and it spat out the exact size the spine must be. Unfortunately, as the first book is quite ‘slim’ there’s not that much real-estate to work with.

I experimented with a number of fonts, but none gave me the crisp look I was after. And then, as I looked at the circuit board, I suddenly realised that I had all the components from which to make my own ‘font’, one that would mimic the wiring of the circuit board. Thank goodness, the end result didn’t turn out to be too kitsch. The new look circuit board also gave me the pattern for the back cover blurb. Making the text fit, however, was another exercise in patience.

And finally, a word about the new background photo. I was all set to use the bush sunset photo I’ve shown you before when I found a pic I’d taken ages ago of my own backyard:

 

I was trying to capture the amazing play of light through the trees and fluked it. The shot is nowhere near perfect, and I haven’t touched it up in any way – I don’t know how – but I instantly knew it would give me the feel I’d been searching for. Pretty happy with the result but annoyed at myself for wasting time and money on the bush sunset pic. Ah well…

I promise to do a how-to post about the Createspace calculator as soon as my eyes uncross. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

 


Flow #batteries for electric cars are coming!

In a previous post I talked about possible innovations that might make electric cars more convenient in the future. Well here’s another one, and it could be the most effective of the lot:

https://futurism.com/new-instantly-rechargeable-battery-deals-a-fatal-blow-to-fossil-fuels/

In a nutshell, these batteries can be instantly recharged by replacing the fluid electrolytes. Thus, instead of topping ‘er up, you’d drain out the old and replace it with new. The ‘stale’ fluid electrolytes could then be taken away and recharged using one of the renewable energy sources. Or maybe recharged at the service station itself.

Flow batteries aren’t new, but until now, they haven’t been efficient enough for commercial use. The Ifbattery avoids most of the problems of the old technology while being cheap to make and safe to use. And just think of all the new jobs that will mushroom from this renewable technology!

cheers

Meeks


Circuit board vectoring, version xxxx….

I’ve deliberately turned comments off this time as the graphic isn’t done…I just wanted to share what I’ve done so far:

505 separate objects, no background as yet so the silver effect isn’t that obvious, and the edges have to be trimmed blah blah, but I think the circuit board will look good in print and reasonable in thumbnail. That’s what I’ll be testing out next but for now I feel as if my eyes will never uncross!

I hope you’ve all had/are having a great weekend,

cheers

Meeks


What I learned from House of Cards and a young ventriloquist [Updated]

And another update – WordPress reset my default settings, that’s why comments have been ‘off’. If you’re getting ‘Likes’ but no comments, you might want to check the settings for your blog posts. 😦

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Whatever you do…PLEASE watch the video of the little girl and her puppet. Please…:)

C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

House of Cards has returned to Netflix and I binge watched, just like all the other seasons. As I took it in, I wondered what lessons I could apply to my own writing.

Here are my thoughts:

  1. When too much time passes between seasons (or between books in a series) it’s easy to lose the thread. I sat there thinking, who are these people and what are they talking about? I have to put out my books in series faster. If I can’t, I need good recaps.
  2. I’m a fan of varying the tone. House of Cards was especially witty in its first season. Now it’s relentlessly grim. Plots should be music with up ups and down downs. This is the drone of an air conditioner.
  3. When the plot gets so convoluted that you have to make a character say, “I meant to do that all along,” the plot’s not working. I…

View original post 569 more words


Architecture – underground [update!]

Apologies – for some reason, comments were turned off on this post. Slip of the finger perhaps. 😦 Anyway, comments are now back on and thank you for the likes.

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Ever since the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009, I’ve daydreamed about building an underground house that would be naturally protected from the ravages of fire. This stunning house in Greece would need some additional work to make it fire proof but the design is so beautiful I couldn’t resist featuring it:

The interiors are designed so that natural ventilation and clever use of shade mean there is no need for air-conditioning, even in the height of summer:

This I like. I’m less enamoured of the stark white interior design. There is nothing cosy about it, and as so often happens with many modern designs, it only looks good when everything is just so, ticketty boo. Perfect to look at but not to live in.

You can find the complete article and all the pictures at:

http://newatlas.com/lassa-villa-ypsilon/49801/?utm_source=Gizmag+Subscribers&utm_campaign=d6b90786de-UA-2235360-4&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_65b67362bd-d6b90786de-92416841

Off to lunch with my sister-in-law. 🙂

Meeks


#Corel X8 vector graphics vs photos

In my last post about the new Innerscape cover, I vented about the trouble I was having getting the silver effect I wanted. Your suggestions were brilliant so I thought I’d do a quick update of my progress. The pic below is a test graphic to illustrate the difference between the two methods and how they might look in the finished product:

The silver ‘wire’ was created using Corel X8’s fountain fill. It is clearly silver, even when I reduce the size down, i.e. it scales well. Unfortunately it is absolutely uniform, something a real ‘wire’ would never be.

By contrast, the gold ‘wire’ is a photo taken of a thin needle shape covered in foil. The foil was silver, but the lighting created this decidedly golden effect [evening, overhead light and table lamp, both with bulbs of ‘warm white’]. I only know this with the wisdom of hindsight. 😦 If you look closely at the column on the right, you will see that when I increase the size of the gold wire, it becomes more and more pixelated, i.e. it doesn’t scale well. [Clicking on the image should display a larger version]

Finally, I created two, identical slices of the circuit board. Both were made by creating the individual components and ‘grouping’ them together. The silver, vectored one is shown below:

Although each of the tubular components comes from the one, basic shape, I fiddled with the fountain fill to a) make the image more realistic, and b) to reduce the uniformity. The golden slice is also made up of individual components, but essentially I just cut them out and stuck them together. I really like the way the image turned out, and I like the golden colour, but it’s not what I was after.

Which will I use?

This question is not as either/or as it looks. In designing the covers for the Innerscape print version, I wanted each one to:

  • have a unifying ‘theme’
  • be different
  • tell a subtle visual ‘story’

Thus, as book 1 is about Miira leaving the real world and entering a virtual one, I want her facing towards the stark, artificial image of the circuit board. That’s why the image has to be instantly recognizable as part of a computer. Books 2 and 3, however, will show a gradual blurring of the lines between real and virtual, with the changing circuit board being the unifying ‘theme’ that binds each image of the series.

At least, that’s the idea. Whether I can actually pull off this ambitious idea is moot. To make it work I’ll have to create two, completely different images of the circuit board – one with the silver wires and one with the gold. As each small wire will be made up of at least 3 components, it’s going to be a huge job. Not impossible, but it will test my patience as the original circuit board image has very few wires that are exactly the same.

To be honest I think I’m crazy to even think about doing this, and yet…how often do you get to create your first print book? Sitting here, calmly typing about my options, I know I’d hate myself if I gave this project anything less than my best, and fudging the graphics would definitely be a cop out. So…I’m going to be a busy girl. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


#Facebook selling children’s pain

Just read an article on the Passive Guy about ‘…a leaked confidential document prepared by Facebook that revealed the company had offered advertisers the opportunity to target 6.4 million younger users, some only 14 years old, during moments of psychological vulnerability, such as when they felt “worthless,” “insecure,” “stressed,” “defeated,” “anxious,” and like a “failure.”

I was shocked. I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I don’t like Facebook. I’ve even compared Facebook to Big Brother, but this? This goes beyond anything that I would call ‘normal’ business practices. Is this truly the shape of the new world? Are we truly prepared to accept this behaviour as normal?

But wait, there’s more. One of the comments to the article was this:

‘ If you are that entwined with Facebook then you pretty much deserve what you get.’

Really? I replied with this:

‘I’m Australian and I don’t automatically blame the victim. I loathe Facebook and the more I learn about it the more I hate what it’s doing. If this article is accurate, then it’s Facebook that deserves condemnation, not the young and vulnerable who are only doing what millions? billions? of other vulnerable people are doing worldwide…’

Facebook is a monster that we created because we are the only product that Mark Zuckerberg sells. Think about it.

Meeks


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