Not On the Cards, by Cage Dunn

Cage Dunn is an Australian writer who answered my recent call for beta readers. Cage not only tested my latest how-to book, she introduced it to two groups of potential writers at her local library. Their combined feedback was so much more than I could ever have hoped for.

Curious, I decided to read one of Cage’s books. That book was ‘Not on the Cards’, and this is the review I just left for it on Amazon:

At its heart, Not on the Cards is a story of love and responsibility: Gate Keeper to Key Master, mother to child, Gate Keeper to multiverse, yet for much of the time, its set in a carpark near Camberwell Junction. On the weekends, that humble carpark becomes a Trash & Treasure market with a deliciously bohemian atmosphere. I know, because the market is in my home town of Melbourne [Australia], and I’ve been there many times.

In Not on the Cards, that market atmosphere becomes something else, something more like a Carnival and Freak Show combined. It’s the perfect setting for Chiri, a Reader of Cards who also happens to be the Gate Keeper of the Icosa, a construct spanning multiple universes within the multiverse.

Chiri should not be in Camberwell Junction. She should not be living Saturday, over and over again. She should not be lost, unable to find her way back to the place and time where her daughter may or may not be alive.

And then the Thief arrives with a Key that isn’t really a key, but it’s the closest thing to a Key Chiri has felt in a lifetime of waiting. Trouble is, following this Key that isn’t a Key could lead to the destruction of the Icosa, the construct she has sworn to protect.

Do not expect this story to be a comfortable read that you can skim while waiting for the train or standing in a queue. Not on the Cards will challenge you, but oh how lovely it is when you ‘get it’.

The last time my brain received such a workout was when I read Firefall by Peter Watts. Very different stories and storytellers, but the same result – a reward commensurate with the challenge.

Why climb Everest? Because it’s there.

So blown away. 🙂

Meeks


Autism – nature PLUS nurture?

‘A new study is offering a clue into the origins of the disorder by finding a single dysfunctional protein may be responsible for coordinating expression in all the genes that result in autism susceptibility.’

I took that quote from an article on autism research published by New Atlas. I strongly recommend reading the entire article but the gist is that:

  1. Researchers have found hundreds of genes implicated in the Autism Disorder spectrum, not just one ‘master’ gene.
  2. These genes are like switches that can be turned on or off.
  3. While these genes are ‘off’, the person may have a tendency towards autism, but they will not be autistic – i.e. there will be no symptoms of autism.
  4. There is a protein called CPEB4 which ‘…is vital in embryonic development, assisting with neuroplasticity and helping regulate the expression of certain genes during fetal brain development.’ In other words, this is a good protein.
  5. In mouse models, not enough of this protein leads to brain structures and behaviours that are characteristic of autism. In other words, the lack of this protein causes those autism-related genes to be switched on and the result is Autism-like behaviour.

Now, mouse models are just an approximation of the human condition, but they do lend support to the idea that autism is not just a genetic condition/disorder. Instead, it may well be a case of environment acting on an underlying pre-disposition. And if that is the case, then maybe one day we’ll be able to keep those Autism related genes switched off.

Have a great weekend,

Meeks

 


Cigány primás – Zoltán Mága

My Dad has been gone for eight years now, but he returned today, in the music of Zoltán Mága. I recognized the gypsy ‘style’ as soon as the Offspring said, “Mum, you have to hear this!’

This first video clip is a csárdás – the music for a Hungarian folk dance – and Zoltán Mága is what my Dad used to call a ‘Cigány primás’, literally the prime or first violin of a gypsy band.

Dad wasn’t a gypsy primás, but he did learn the violin from one, and that influence stayed with him his entire life. I grew up learning to play from sheet music [on the piano] so I could teach Dad to play songs by ear. One of his favourites was Lara’s Theme from Doctor Zhivago.

My tastes in music ran more to classical music like the Hungarian Rapsody by Franz Liszt or Ferenc Liszt as we Magyar would write it:

But Dad would have absolutely adored this exuberant gypsy music:

Pacsirta is a kind of bird, hence the bit in the middle. 🙂

Dad was a champion gymnast, a mechanical engineer, and in the last third of his life, a busker on the streets of Melbourne. He became quite famous as the man in the tuxedo who played his violin on the trains. He was 87 when he finally stopped playing, 89 when he died.

I miss you Dad.

28/03/1996 NEWS: Violinist ‘Lolly’ with activities support officer Ray Thompson. Busker. Busking. Buskers.


KDP how-to, ebook version – betas needed!

My thanks to Chris the Story-Reading Ape for pointing out that some readers might prefer an ebook version to beta. Well, here it is, almost:

Please ignore the price. Once the ebook is live on Amazon, I’ll gift up to 5 beta readers with the ebook.

Before anyone volunteers, however, there are a couple of constraints to consider:

  • In order to gift you the ebook from Amazon, I’ll need an email address. I will not use your email address for any promotional activity such as ads or newsletters, but in the current climate, I like to put that point up front.
  • The ebook will only work on tablets and mobile phones – i.e. it will work on the Kindle Fire, but it will not work on the ordinary, black & white Kindles.
  • The step-by-step instructions were written for absolute beginners – i.e. I assumed that they would know nothing about POD publishing. If you are already experienced in POD, you may find the degree of ‘help’ too detailed.
  • Zooming in. Because the ebook was created using KDP’s Textbook Creator, you will not be able to change the size of the font, but you will be able to zoom in on the screenshots. I figured that would be a smallish price to pay for colour images and layout control.
  • The Table of Contents is very basic and only links to the chapter headings. Once the ebook version is finalised, I’ll go in and add at least another layer to the TOC, but I didn’t want to go to so much trouble when things could change a lot.

Okay, I think those are the only warnings I need to deliver. Ah, except for one: if you are not one of my beta readers, please do not buy the ebook as it will change before I’m finally happy with it. I hope the changes won’t be too substantial, but my betas may discover a glaring hole in either my knowledge or the way I’ve explained things so…

If anyone’s interested in becoming a beta for the ebook version, please contact me on:

meeka at triptychacf dot com

Thanks!

Meeks


IngramSpark cover template builder

Just a very quick post about the covers for IngramSpark.

First, you can find the template builder on the IngramSpark website here:

https://myaccount.ingramspark.com/Portal/Tools/CoverTemplateGenerator

You won’t have to register with IngramSpark to use the cover generator, but you will have to type in an ISBN for the book plus other details like total page count etc:

IngramSpark will send you an email so you can download the template [two choices InDesign or PDF].

The template will look like this:

The cover has to fit over the entire coloured area, with particular attention to the text that goes on the spine. Then the WHOLE template plus cover image has to be saved as one, converted to whatever [for me it’s PDF] and that is sent off as the cover file.

Hope that makes sense.

Night all,

Meeks


CreateSpace paperbacks – matte vs glossy

First up, I am amazed at how fast CreateSpace delivered my printed proofs of How to Print your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing. Seriously, from either the US or the UK to Australia in a week? Thank you!

Unfortunately, the proofs prove exactly why printed proofs of paperbacks are so necessary. This is what I see when I look at the cover on my computer screen:

Note: ignore the back cover text; was a quick and dirty scale down in Corel.

Now, have a look at what the cover looks like with a matte finish:

Note 2: that curly, golden looking thing in the background is the dog’s tail.

As you can see, the matte finish looks, well, awful. Not the fault of CreateSpace. My fault. All my previous covers have been printed with a glossy finish and [except for Vokhtah] they all turned out beautifully. This is one of my glossy how-to’s for comparison:

The black of the background is the same on both the matte and glossy covers. The difference between them, however, is stark.

I’m sure there are some covers that work perfectly with a matte finish, but none of mine do, and I’ll never make this mistake again. 😦

Another design mistake I made was in the choice of ‘tablet’ graphic I used. The outline of the tablet blends into the background way too much. That will have to be changed, tout suite. My only excuse is that it didn’t look that way on my screen. Not sure if that’s because of the calibration of the screen, my ageing eye-sight or just an inevitable outcome when you convert from RGB to CMYK colour modes. Actually, it’s probably a combination of all three.

And now to something that wasn’t my fault. These are smears of, I think, glossy ‘ink’ that have transferred to the matte print:

Not sure how POD technology works, but clearly it’s not quite as ‘clean’ as one would hope. As these books are just proof copies, and I’m going to change the cover slightly anyway, I’m not terribly fussed. But can you imagine how I’d be feeling right now if I’d approved this original cover for IngramSpark?…and now had to pay $25 to fix the problems with the cover?

I think my blood would be boiling, there’d be steam coming out of my ears, and the house would be ringing with four-letter words at max volume… Ahem. Luckily, none of that is happening, thanks to CreateSpace.

Lessons learned:

  • setup paperbacks to be sold on Amazon with CreateSpace,
  • request printed proofs of paperbacks from CreateSpace,
  • do not approve any paperbacks for IngramSpark until you’re sure of the ultimate quality because you’ll be working sight unseen and mistakes are costly.

There is one more lesson I have to learn, and that is to see if the IngramSpark worldwide distribution is as good as it’s cracked up to be. But that’s for another day and another post.

cheers

Meeks

 


Smiling Quokka

Because sometimes, nothing but a quokka will do!

Click a picture to be taken to its ‘home’. And if you want more, just search for Quokka.

You’re welcome 🙂

Meeks

 

 

 


Recipe – Cheese scones without butter

This is not a very accurate recipe, apologies in advance, but it is very easy and very forgiving! The only thing to remember is to be quick. This dough does not like to be over worked so rein in the perfectionist!

For non-Australian and UK residents, scones look like this:

Attribution: https://www.kidspot.com.au/kitchen/recipes/easy-pumpkin-scones-1048  The post includes a recipe for pumpkin scones.

Ingredients for Cheese Scones:

  • 1 cup self raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder [yes, a whole teaspoon]
  • pinch of salt [parmesan is salty so don’t over do the salt]
  • about 1/3 – 1/2 cup of parmesan – I used flaked but grated will do as well
  • and cream…

Method:

  1. pre-heat the oven to fan bake 160 C [conventional oven 180 C or 350 F]
  2. place a piece of grease proof paper onto a flat baking tray
  3. mix all the dry-ish ingredients in a large bowl, including the parmesan
  4. make a shallow well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add a dash of cream
  5. using a knife, or a fork, NOT hands, start working the cream into the dry ingredients
  6. keep adding a bit of cream until the scone mixture starts to hold together, only then go in with your hands [you want the scone dough to stay cool]
  7. quickly mix the dough into a ball – do not over work!
  8. place on a lightly floured board and kneed just until the dough starts to feel a bit elastic
  9. spread out with your hands [or a rolling pin if you have one] – 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch
  10. cut out scones and place on baking tray
  11. gently kneed leftovers into another ball, flatten and cut out
  12. place the scone tray in the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes

Cooking time will vary according to your oven and how thick you made the scones. They’re ready when they have a nice pale brown blush on top [very much like the photo of the pumpkin scones above].

To serve, spread with good butter and eat. Enough for two medium sized people as an afternoon snack or to have with a bowl of soup as a simple evening meal.

Good appetite. 🙂

Meeks


Trump – as seen from Russia

I don’t often post about Donald J Trump, but I just have to reblog this brilliant article by Ends and Beginnings because the perspective is so new, and chilling.

The perspective comes from a reporter by the name of Julia Davis who reports almost exclusively about Russia. The chill comes from what the Russian media says about Trump.

I really, really recommend you read the entire article:

https://endsandbeginningsblog.wordpress.com/2018/07/26/legacy/comment-page-1/#comment-11617

Meeks


Authors – were you satisfied with the quality of IngramSpark printing [in Australia]?

In the world of self-publishing, and small press publishing, CreateSpace, KDP and Lulu all offer printed proofs at cost price. These printed proofs equate to quality control. As the author, you get to check your own work and the quality of the printer’s product before approving the book for sale.

I learned the value of printed proofs with the paperback version of Vokhtah. Onscreen, the cover looked fantastic. Once it was printed, [by Lulu and KDP] I discovered that the cover was so dark, most of the fine detail was lost.

The reason for this discrepancy is that computer screens use RGB colour mode – i.e. digital colour – while printers use CMYK, and the two are not exactly the same. Added to that, the calibration of the computer screen may be off, all of which can result in a pretty dreadful end product. But I would not have known about those problems if I had not seen real, physical, printed proofs of Vokhtah.

IngramSpark, however, does not offer printed proofs. As I discovered today, I can order printed copies at cost, but only after approving my book[s]. And guess what? After I approve a book, any changes, any changes at all, will cost me $25 AUD a pop.

To highlight the enormity of this…’policy’ by IngramSpark, Vokhtah would have cost me a minimum of $75 in review fees, just to get the cover printed properly.

Do other Indies take pot luck with IngramSpark? Or do they fork out review fees without protest? Or is this one reason why most Indies use CreateSpace, KDP and Lulu to print their books?

Having tried all three, I was hoping that IngramSpark Australia would save me a boatload of money on shipping costs. Now, I’m not sure what to do.

Should I use CreateSpace or KDP to get the covers right and then print with IngramSpark?

I could, but that would still be a gamble as there’s no guarantee the IngramSpark POD facilities produce an equivalent product.

Has anybody out there had experience with IngramSpark Australia, in terms of quality? Would you recomment them?

If you can share your experiences in the poll below, I’d really appreciate it as I hate the thought of buying something sight unseen. 😦


Were you satisfied with the quality of the paperback printed by IngramSpark Australia?
(polls)

Meeks


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