Tag Archives: 2018

A European Christmas…Downunder

As some of you may know, I was born in Hungary and was four when we arrived in Australia as refugees. To keep some of our Hungarian heritage alive, we spoke only Hungarian at home, and we always celebrated Christmas on the 24th. That’s a tradition the Offspring and I have continued to this very day, so we’ve already had our Christmas, but now I’d like to invite you all to share a digital Christmas feast with us. 🙂

We had duck last year, so this year I decided to cook a whole eye fillet with scalloped potatoes [a la Mumma], and the Offspring made a huge green salad. No turkey [not fond of turkey], and salad instead of hot vegetables because it was hot, hot, hot yesterday. I think it got to about 35 C [roughly 95F].As it was, to counteract the heat of the oven, we had to have the air conditioner on all day.

If any of you cooks out there are interested, I made a stuffing/marinade for the eye fillet by mixing together:

  • 3 large cloves of garlic [mashed],
  • 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard,
  • 1-2 tablespoons of peanut oil,
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh, finely chopped parsley,
  • freshly ground black pepper,
  • a pinch of dried chillies,
  • a heaped tablespoon of breadcrumbs,
  • a pinch of salt.

Next, I lightly scored the ‘skin’ of the eye fillet [just enough to expose the meat underneath] and gently pressed the stuffing/marinade all over the top of the fillet. Then I placed the fillet in a small baking dish, covered it with foil and placed it back in the fridge for about 8 hours [overnight is fine too].

About an hour before we were ready to eat, I placed the dish containing the fillet in a cold oven and turned on the heat [approx. 160 C on fanbake]. I left the foil on for the first 1/2 an hour so the meat would cook gently.

After 1/2 an hour, I removed the foil and continued baking the fillet for another 1/2 an hour until the ‘stuffing’ on top turned into a crust. I allowed the fillet to rest for about 15 minutes before serving.

Baking the fillet for an hour created a moist, juicy roast that was just a tiny bit pinkish in the middle. That’s how we like our beef. If you want your beef to be more rare, reduce the amount of time the fillet stays under foil.

I have to say that the fillet was literally melt-in-the-mouth tender, and the tiny bit of heat from the chillies went perfectly with the full cream goodness of the scalloped potatoes and the tart freshness of the salad.

Everyone has a scalloped potato recipe, and mine comes from my Mum. It starts with pink, Desiree potatoes. I cooked them, in their skins, along with the eggs. The eggs came out first, obviously, and went straight under cold tap water. The cold water causes the inner membrane of the eggs to slightly detach from the whites so the eggs are dead easy to peel.

Next, I tested the potatoes with a bamboo skewer. As soon as the skewer just managed to go through, I drained the water and plunged the potatoes into cold water as well. Again, this made it much easier to peel the skin, plus it stopped them from cooking further.

Finally, I sliced both eggs and potatoes and layered them in a baking dish with a generous drizzle of cream and a sprinkle of table salt between in each layer. I drizzled more cream over the top, then placed the dish into the same oven as the fillet. When the potatoes turned a golden brown, everything was ready to come out of the oven:

To say that the potatoes were rich would be a monumental understatement. To cut that much richness, you just have to have a big salad:

The Offspring made the salad with Romaine lettuce, sweet red capsicum [peppers?], cucumber and spring onions [scallions?]. The dressing included oil, Balsamic vinegar, crushed garlic, Dijon mustard, salt and freshly chopped parsley [about 1 tablespoon].

But, of course, no feast would be complete without dessert. The Offspring made Gingerboys, lots and lots of Gingerboys:

…and I made chocolate mousse cupcakes:

These cupcakes were made using the exact same recipe as for Chocolate Mousse Cake. The only difference was in the banking. I made ten little sponge cupcakes [approx. 7 minutes in the over], glued two together with about an inch of chocolate mouse and shaved dark chocolate over the top. Bite sized versions of death-by-chocolate. 😀

Wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing, The Offspring and I wish you all a very happy Holiday with oodles of delicious food and even more good company.

-massive hugs-

Meeks & The Offspring

Christmas 2018

 


Update to Miira is permafree on Amazon

December 5, 2018 Update….I am officially an idiot. I was so excited to have Miira permafree on Amazon, I totally forgot to include the link for the book. Can I plead old age as an excuse?

A huge thank you to Cage Dunn for giving me a gentle nudge in the right direction. As Bluebottle would say: ‘I feel a proper fool’. 😦

Okay, here are the urls for Miira I should have included in the post, all of them:

Amazon

BnN
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/miira-acflory/1127308201;jsessionid=0BF6E77AA708B377617AE0D06A618016.prodny_store01-atgap03?ean=2940154886793

Kobo
https://www.kobo.com/au/en/ebook/miira

Angus & Robertson [au]
https://www.angusrobertson.com.au/ebooks/miira-acflory/p/9780648162728

Indigo
https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/miira-innerscape/9780648162728-item.html?ikwid=Miira&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0

Now I can relax. -hugs to all-

Meeks

I’m so excited, I don’t know what to do with myself. I finally got up the courage to ask Amazon to make Miira [book 1 of Innerscape] permafree to match B&N, Kobo et al,… and it’s happening!

So far, I’ve checked amazon.com and amazon.com.au, and the ebook is $0.00 on both! Sadly, amazon.co.uk hasn’t gone to permafree yet, but I’m sure it’s on the way. This has literally just happened, or at least I’ve only just noticed. If anyone sees Miira going permafree somewhere else, please let me know.

It’s odd, this feels like an early Christmas present. At least now I have the hope that more people will give Innerscape a try. And to celebrate, we’re getting pizza tonight.

-thinks- I might just indulge in some Cabernet Sauvignon as well. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


Celebrate Nanowrimo 2018 with a free how-to ebook

Here in Australia it’s December 1 already, so Nanowrimo is over for another year. I didn’t even come close to winning Nano this year, but my heartfelt congratulations to all those who did. 50,000 words in 30 days is a great accomplishment, so well done. 🙂

For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, Nano is still in its final hours, and I imagine a lot of you will be furiously writing to catch that November 30 deadline. I congratulate all of you as well. No one can ever take this achievement away from you, but memories fade, so I suggest that you print the page that contains your 50,000th word and frame it. I did that with my first Nano; the word was ‘gut’. Not exactly poetic but hey…-shrug-

And finally, a word for those who didn’t make it. I know you’re probably feeling pretty disappointed at the moment, but you have to remember that winning Nano is not the end, it’s just the beginning. Your writing doesn’t have to end on November 30. Use what you started as the jumping off point for the story you’ll write all through 2019.

Win or lose, this next bit is for everyone. When your Nano story is polished to perfection, you will probably want to publish it. If you decide to self-publish your work, you will have a number of options:

  1. publish as an ebook
  2. publish as a paperback
  3. publish as both an ebook and a paperback

If you decide to go with options 2 and 3, then I can help. ‘How to Print your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing‘ is my step-by-step guide to publishing a paperback with KDP. In it you will find information about trim sizes, bleed, PDFs, formatting, Amazon distribution, royalties and heaps more. Each step is illustrated with screenshots and examples, close to 150 of them so even complete beginners can follow the instructions.

To celebrate the end of Nano 2018, I’ve made the ebook version of ‘How to Print your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing’ free for one day on December 1, 2018. [Click the link to be taken to the Amazon page or click the image of the book on the sidebar].

Due to timezone differences, the guide will become free on Amazon at about 6:00 pm, Australian Eastern time. For Northern Hemisphere writers, it will be free from midnight.

This is what the guide looks like on the Kindle Fire 6:

 

Because the ebook is in colour, and fixed format [so the layout of each page is controlled], you will only be able to use it on the following devices:

If you need the free Kindle Reading app., you can get it from here:

Clicking that link will open the following popup:

From this popup, you can select the device on which you want to use the app. I’ve only done it for the PC, but I think it should be fairly easy for all devices.

So there you have it, my free guide to printing your finished Nano Novel. Even if you don’t intend to publish for some time, download the guide now and save yourself some money. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

 

 

 

 

 

 


Nano2018 – when a Pantster just has to Plot

In a previous post I waxed lyrical about how I’d worked out what made Bountiful so deadly. Flushed with euphoria, I thought I was home and hosed, and that the writing would now flow. Not so much…

Since then, I’ve had to acknowledge that the core of my Nano story this year is actually three-fold:

  1. What made Bountiful so deadly?
  2. How did Beaumont cover it up?
  3. How did James Milgrove, aka the Burning Man, discover the Beaumont cover up?

I thought I had the answer to no. 2, but I soon realised that if I went with that particular solution, no. 3 would be almost impossible to achieve. I say ‘almost’ because I could have fudged the solution. ‘Oh  look, I just found a memo that proves Beaumont were culpable. How lucky is that?’

Just writing those two sentences raises the hackles on the back of my neck because it’s such a cheap trick, and so patently unrealistic. I mean really, with billions of dollars at stake, readers are supposed to believe that Beaumont cares enough to send an assassin to Innerscape, but not enough to burn the evidence?

Fortuitous events do happen, sometimes. Most of the time, however, big events are the result of a cascade of tiny, seemingly unrelated events, and the decisions taken over each one.  And that’s where plotting becomes a necessity.

Although I call myself a pantster, the truth is that I’m a hybrid who does a lot of research and a lot of plotting to make the base mechanics of the story work. In the case of P7698, that core revolves around the pseudo-science of Bountiful. In the Innerscape trilogy, the core centred on the constraints of the digital world itself. In Vokhtah, it was the whole world vs the biology, culture and history of the Vokh and iVokh.

Science fiction may demand more, in terms of these core mechanics, than some other genres, but I know that the best fantasy results from the same, fastidious attention to detail. Characters have to react to believable events and circumstances or their actions will come across as ‘fake’, and none of us want that. So here I am, a little bit stuck on points 2. and 3. 😦

I gave up the idea of winning Nano almost a week ago, and I can live with that; the element of competition was just a little added extra to keep me going. But getting this stuck is seriously depressing as I know I’m going to have writer’s block until I find solutions that feel real.

Anyone else having this problem?

Meeks


Last chance to burn off, Warrandyte

Just in case you’ve missed the signs, Monday November 19, 2018 is the official start of the fire season here in Victoria.

That means no more burning off. Period. After the 19th, you will only have the weekly green bin collection to get rid of fallen branches, twigs and gum leaves. Given that eucalypts continue to drop branches and leaves right through the fire season, you’ll need the green bin space for new flammable material, not old.

That November 19th deadline also means you have just 3 more days to get rid of the fuel load around your houses. Unfortunately, the only day that will be really perfect for burning off is Sunday. According to the Bureau of Meteorology [BOM], Sunday the 18th of November will be:

Sunny. Light winds and afternoon bayside seabreezes around 10 km/h.

Today will be:

Mostly sunny. Light winds becoming west to southwesterly 15 to 25 km/h later this morning then turning southerly 20 to 30 km/h during the afternoon.

Tomorrow is supposed to be:

Morning cloud then afternoon sunny periods. Winds southerly 20 to 30 km/h becoming light in the late evening.

For both predictions, it’s not the heat that matters, it’s the wind, and the wind doesn’t have to be a northerly. The fire that destroyed two houses in Warrandyte on February 9, 2014 could have wiped out  the whole township because a really strong southerly was pushing the flames towards the village.

What constitutes a strong wind? I take no chances. To me, 25 km per hour is enough to make me twitchy. If I can hear the ‘freight train’ sound of gum trees wooshing in the wind, I’m lowering the shutters and checking my pumps.

From all indicators, this fire season is going to be a bad one so please become a little paranoid. And take this last chance to burn off.

cheers

Meeks


Apples, alpacas and some results

First and foremost, to all those who re-blogged and retweeted my ebook free promotion over the last two days…THANK YOU! There were 40 downloads and I’m grateful for each and every one. 🙂

And now to soothe my frazzled nerves and yours, I thought I’d show you what else I’ve been up to:

Exhibit 1 – one of the alpacas that mows my grass, strips my rose bushes and turns my fruit trees into umbrellas

You may also notice that there’s not much grass on the ground. This time last year, the two alpacas would have been chewing through knee high growth. It’s been dry, very dry.

Exhibit 2 – the apple tree inside the new fence

I got  a bit artistic with this shot. 🙂 The metal framing the picture is actually the reo ‘gate’. More on that in the next shot.

This whole project started because I was determined to save the apple tree from the alpacas. Most of my fruit trees are tall enough to survive having all their lower branched pruned into an umbrella shape by the ‘girls’. The apple, however, is kind of a dwarf, and I made the mistake of planting it too close to the fence. As a result, even when the alpacas are locked out, they just reach over the barbed wire and nibble away [that’s why there’s new growth in the middle of the apple tree but not on the ends of the branches].

The first step, therefore, was to put wire mesh above the fence. To do that, I had to hammer some star pickets into the ground and then screw another star picket half way up to increase the combined height [star pickets have holes along one flange so if you marry up the holes you can screw them together]. Then the wire was attached to the ‘posts’.

You can see how the star pickets are attached in Exhibit 3.

Exhibit 3 – the fence

The grid of metal wired to the star pickets is the ‘gate’ leading into the fenced off area. The grid is called ‘reo’ by tradies, but it’s official name is ‘reinforced wire mesh‘. Reo is used to reinforce concrete as it’s being poured. The heavy duty variety is also rigid enough to make an excellent gate. And that’s what I did. Haven’t quite finished so the gate is just wired shut for now.

Exhibit 4 – the enclosure

This last pic just shows the wire enclosure around the apple tree. If you look closely you can see the doubled up star pickets and wire mesh.

Apple tree 1, alpacas 0. -fist pump-

My hands are covered in bandaids and my back hurts, but seeing the apple tree burst into green makes it all worthwhile.

cheers from Warrandyte!

Meeks

 


2 free days for the KDP how-to books

I should probably stretch these promotions out but…meh, let’s have some fun. 🙂

Okay, from October 23 to 24 [2 days], the ebook version of How to Print Your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing and How to Print Non-Fiction with Kindle Direct Publishing will be free on Amazon:

The difference between the two books is that the How to…Novel is pitched at absolute beginners while the How to Non-Fiction is for self-publishers who have to deal with lots of graphics. Oh and the How to Non-Fiction has a new Index of Links at the very back. You can find it by looking at the bottom of the Table of Contents.

If you’re just interested in the KDP side of the equation, both books cover the same information. This includes three appendices that contain information specifically for Aussie authors.

Both how-to books are in colour and fixed layout:

Although you can pinch-and-zoom with fixed format ebooks, you can’t change the font size to suit your comfort zone. That’s why I made the font size 24. On my Kindle Fire, that size is like a normal size 12 font in a paperback. I also made the pictures as ‘visible’ as possible so you wouldn’t have to keep zooming in and out all the time. I haven’t tried either book on a phone so if anyone gives it a try I’d love to know how well [or badly] it works.

Fixed format ebooks can only be read on one of the Kindle Fires or via the free Kindle app.  You can get the app. for a variety of devices at this web address:

https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/fd/kcp

The free promotion should start at midnight tomorrow for the Northern hemisphere. For us Aussies, it will begin at about 6 pm tomorrow.  I genuinely hope lots of people download the books, and I would really, really appreciate the odd review. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


How to fudge an Index with Kindle Create

There used to be a number of individual Kindle applications you could download and install, now there’s just one: Kindle Create.

When you open Kindle Create on your computer, you’ll be presented with two options – text heavy novels or graphics heavy non-fiction:

The one I use is ‘Textbooks, Travel Guides, Cookbooks, Music books’. It requires a PDF file and allows me to control exactly where and how text and graphics appear on the page [of the ebook].

Termed ‘fixed format’, these ebooks behave almost exactly like print books in that the size of the e-reader screen is the size of the ‘page’, and the text and graphics have to be sized to suit that page.

The screenshot below was taken from within Kindle Create and shows how the fixed format ebook will appear on a Kindle Fire:

The three things you should notice are:

  1. The page is in colour,
  2. The page contains a graphic image that fits exactly within the margins,
  3. The page contains a hyperlink.

All three elements, and their placement, were set in the original Word file, before it was converted into a PDF. Kindle Create then imported the PDF and converted it to a proprietary format called .kcb. [When the file is ready to be published to the Kindle, it will be converted to its final format which is called .kpf]. The important thing to note is that all three elements are retained in the .kcb file, including the hyperlink.

You won’t be able to do much in the way of editing, but you will be able to create a Table of Contents. The TOC is bog simple, manual and only allows for one TOC entry per page. It also allows for only one level of TOC.  Effectively, this means that you will be able to create a table of chapter headings and not much else. And, of course, there is no option for creating an Index.

The lack of a deep TOC and no Index means that non-fiction ebooks are kind of hard to dip into and ‘browse’. Yet that is precisely what most non-fiction readers need. How was I going to make my e-textbook more user friendly?

The answer was kind of obvious, once I thought of it. -sigh-

As mentioned before, Kindle Create gives you the option of preserving any hyperlinks present in your PDF. This means you can tap a link inside the ebook and be taken directly to that location…both inside the ebook and out.

-cue light bulb moment-

What if I added a list of hyperlinks to my Word document before I converted it to the PDF?

If Kindle Create preserved all those hyperlinks, I’d end up with a list of links in alphabetical order! I’d end up with an Index of Links!

As with all great ideas, mine turned out to be a wee bit harder than expected.

I started by creating a simple two column table in Word.

Then I printed off the Index pages of the paperback and marked the most important Index entries. I then typed those into the left hand column of the table with one Index entry per cell.

Next, I trawled through the print Index a second time, marking the most important ‘Subentries’. They went into the right hand column with one subentry per line.

Finally, I selected a subentry, opened the Insert tab and clicked Link:

The screenshot above shows the ‘Insert Hyperlink’ dialog box in Word 2016. If you have text selected before you open the dialog box, Word will automatically make that text the ‘Text to display’ [see two linked orange circles]. In other words, you will see that text rather than the hyperlink itself.

The orange circle labelled as ‘A‘ shows that ‘Place in This Document’ has been selected as the general location of the hyperlink.

The orange circle labelled as ‘B‘ shows the TOC sub-heading selected to be the actual location of the hyperlink.

Wait…’TOC sub heading’?

Yes. When you create a link within a document, Word looks for the same heading styles that are used to generate a Table of Contents. As my document contains five levels of heading styles – i.e. from Heading 1 through to Heading 5 – those headings are the locations I can use for my hyperlinks. Effectively, I’m using all the TOC levels Kindle Create won’t let me put into its Table of Contents to create an Index of sorts. It’s not perfect, and this work around does entail a lot of work, but…a fudged index is better than no index at all.

In case you’re wondering, this is what the Index of Links looks like in Kindle Create:

Apologies for yet another how-to post, but I was kind of pleased with my little solution. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

 


Melbourne – wind direction

Just checked the VicEmergency website and took this screenshot of the wind-direction[s] around Melbourne at the moment:

The little arrows indicate where the wind is coming from, and where it’s going to. The bottom of the picture is ‘south’ so you can see that in the lavender coloured areas down the bottom, wind direction is a steady ‘south easterly’ – i.e. coming from the south and east. In the pale areas, however, the wind is all over the place. Literally.

Why bother with wind direction?

Because you need to know whether a bushfire is being blown towards you or away from you.

To see the wind direction overlay on the VicEmergency map, click the Filter option as shown:

This will open a drop down list. Scroll down the list and click ‘wind direction’. This will display the lavender map at the top of this post.

To get rid of the wind direction overlay, open the Filter menu again and select ‘None’.

If you’re looking at the VicEmergency app on your phone, you have to tap your watch zone first. Once it opens, the Filter option is located up the top on the right-hand side of the screen [next to the ?].

Tap Filter and select the option for wind direction as for the website.

Given how dry and horrible this Spring has been, I think I’ll be keeping that wind direction overlay on at all times.

Stay safe,

Meeks


Amazon free ebook, one day only

Just a quick post to let you know that ‘How to Print your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing‘ [ebook version] will be free in the US from 12:00am, September 26, 2018 till 11:59pm September 26, 2018.

For the Eastern seaboard of Australia, 12:00am Seattle time [Amazon] translates to 5:00pm Melbourne time. So for us, it’ll be sometime after 5:00 pm tomorrow, Thursday September 26, 2018.

Gah…I hate timezones.

Now, the ebook uses a fixed format so all the pictures fit properly. BUT. That means the ebook will only work on:

…Fire tablets and free reading apps for iPads, Android tablets, smartphones, PCs, and Macs.

 

 

Sorry, but it simply won’t work on ordinary Kindles. I will play around with a different format, to see if it works, but I’m not holding my breath; Kindles are great for text heavy books, but I suspect their ability to ‘flow’ will cause merry hell with pictures…

Anyway, even if creating a paperback of your book is still nothing but a rosy fantasy, grab a copy of the KDP how-to for future reference. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


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