Tag Archives: Australia

Cities without streets?

This is the jigsaw puzzle I completed this morning – just to see what the image was actually about:

Isn’t it amazing? A straight, boring street completely re-purposed to provide a beautiful green space for both residents and casual visitors to enjoy.

I know nothing about that street, other than the title of the jigsaw puzzle: ‘Lombard street’. If anyone knows where it is, please share in comments!

Anyway, the Lombard Street puzzle got me thinking about another place that I did know about: Havana. It’s become the urban agriculture capital of the world, with citizens and government working together to create food gardens on every available urban space. There are chickens and rabbits being ‘grown’ on roof tops, vegie plots on balconies, larger communal gardens in the middle of parks, and street markets selling the locally grown produce back to this city of two million.

The birth of Havana’s urban agriculture was painful to say the least, and driven by need. You can read the history in this great article:

https://www.dwell.com/article/havana-world-capital-of-urban-farming-659b65ad

The point though, is that it began as a grass roots movement with ordinary, hungry people taking food production into their own hands because they had to. The food they grew was organic because Cuba couldn’t afford herbicides and pesticides. The food Havana grows is still organic or semi-organic because the Cuban government recognized the value of what was happening and formalised it. Commercial pesticides are not allowed within the city limits. And the weird thing is that those organic, urban gardens really do supplement the diets of Havana’s residents.

Getting back to the jigsaw puzzle that triggered this post, I started wondering how much real estate our cities devote to roads. What if those roads could be re-purposed for parks and open spaces and communal gardens? What if we had alpacas wandering down Swanston Street, mowing the grass? [I chose alpacas coz they poop in the same spots all the time, making clean up a lot easier].

Seriously, we could go from this:

Image copyright Anthony Frey Photos – click photo to visit site

to this:

Original image by Anthony Frey Photos. Alpacas by acflory

Now I know that roads are like the veins and arteries of a city, but do they have to be so wasteful? Surely we have the technology to put them underground? Maybe not all of them, but the freeways could definitely go…

I’m sure that anyone with real engineering experience will shoot this idea down in flames, but still…it appeals to me. At some point we really will have to rethink the design of our cities. Maybe then we’ll find a way to stop wasting all that space on roads. πŸ™‚

cheers

Meeks


Sakura festival…in Melbourne!

Despite loving all things Japanese, I’ve never been to Japan, but now I can say I’ve been to a Sakura [Cherry Blossom] festival. Ta dah:

[Apologies for the size of the photos. I wanted them to be as lovely as possible]

These are ornamental cherry trees gifted to Melbourne by the government of Japan. The grove was planted in Banksia Park, which is situated on the boundary between the suburbs of Heidelberg and Bulleen.

Not all of the cherry trees survived the harsh, Australian conditions, so the Japanese community in Melbourne took the fledgling grove under its wing, saving as many trees as possible and caring for the whole grove. The photo below shows one of the cherry trees that was saved:

You can see how close this poor tree came to dying.

Thanks to the efforts of the Japanese community, people like me can now enjoy a little taste of Japan without having to leave home.

Arigato gozaimasu!

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 timeΒ [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. πŸ™‚

cheers

Meeks


New cover, image 1

The second KDP how-to is almost ready to go. This one is for a tiny marketplace of those who want to publish memoirs and other graphic heavy non-fiction books. Soooo…I’ve been playing with images. πŸ˜€

I found the original image on freeimages.com and it looked like this:

It was a great beginning but I wanted the image to tell the story of the book. So I added some images that are unique to my writing.

Anyway, I had fun. Oh! And the very first IngramSpark print book arrived today! I have to say that the quality is excellent, and I’m now ready to get all my books printed in Australia. More on that in a future post.

It’s been a good day, and I hope yours was enjoyable too. πŸ™‚

cheers

Meeks

p.s. no comments as this is just a little post.


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. πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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


Australian #Selfpublishers needed to beta test KDP how-to guide

Apologies! I’d love to send beta copies of the paperback overseas, but the postage is a killer so this plea is for Aussies only.

So what do I want and what do you get?

I’d like 5 volunteers, anywhere in Australia, who’d be prepared to test the KDP how-to for functionality. I’ll send you a questionnaire to make things easier, but essentially, the questions I’d like answered are:

  • do the step-by-step instructions leave anything out that a real beginner would need?
  • do the examples make sense?
  • are the screenshots good enough?
  • are the page numbers in the Table of Contents accurate?
  • are the page numbers in the Index accurate?
  • if dipping into a guide is your style, do the Table of Contents and Index help you find what you’re looking for? Quickly? Easily?
  • is the cover too garish? Tone down the green? Pick another colour for the back cover entirely?
  • and of course, typos, but only if they hit you in the face. Don’t worry about combing through each page.

In return, you get to keep the proof copies I send you. No strings, no obligations. However, if you return the questionnaire, I’ll also send you a ‘first edition’ of the final, finished version. If you want it signed, I’ll do that too, but you can have it naked if you prefer. Again, no strings, no obligations. πŸ™‚

Almost as important are the things I won’t do:

  • no using your email address in any newsletters, either now or in the future,
  • no contacting you directly with any promotional stuff, and
  • no pressuring you to write a review.

So there you have it. I’m hoping to have the proof copies ready within 2 weeks, so if you think you’d be interested, please contact me on:

meeka at triptychacf dot com

or

@acflory on Twitter.

Many thanks,

Meeks


IngramSpark for Australian Authors

Just finished a long conversation with a very nice lady from IngramSpark Australia, and I thought I’d share what I learned with other Australian self-publishers.

First and foremost, IngramSpark have a print facility right here in Australia. That translates to massive savings on shipping costs for Australian authors.

How massive? Roughly $4.90 for 1 to 28 medium sized paperbacks if you live in Melbourne. That’s because the IngramSpark print facility is located in Melbourne. Delivery charges to other states will obviously be higher. Nonetheless, I doubt those charges would come close to the cost of shipping books in from overseas.

Secondly, IngramSpark printing costs are a bit higher than CreateSpace but lower than Lulu. They also have:

  • a full range of trim sizes
  • hardbacks if required
  • global distribution to countries not available through Amazon.

Amazon distribution has become a sore point with Australians as they cannot buy print books on Amazon Australia. In the past, they would have to order print books from Amazon US or UK and pay shipping costs that often doubled or tripled the cost of the book. Now that we’ve been geo-blocked from Amazon international, print books will no longer be available at all. Unless…

And this brings me to my conversation with IngramSpark today. I rang to clarify whether I could use IngramSpark to provide print books to Amazon Australia. The question was complicated by the fact that I wanted non-Australian Amazon markets to continue selling paperbacks printed via CreateSpace and KDP.

Aussie authors will be pleased to know that the answer from IngramSpark was ‘yes’. πŸ™‚

Basically what happens is that my book[s] will be available for world wide distribution – to countries not covered by Amazon as well as markets already covered by Amazon. When someone buys one of my print books from Amazon US, UK or EU, Amazon will fulfil the order from their own ‘feed’. In other words, if they can supply from CreateSpace OR KDP they’ll do so.

But…for markets such as Australia, Amazon will source the print book from IngramSpark. That means my paperback will be available to Australian readers from Amazon.com.au, and it’ll cost readers a heck of a lot less in shipping.

Apart from availability and shipping, there is one more reason to print books with IngramSpark here in Australia, and that harks back to their distribution capabilities. If I can persuade a local bookshop to give my book[s] a try, the bookshop can order direct from IngramSpark at wholesale prices. Wholesale discounts range from 30% to 55%, which puts self-publishers/small publishers on a more even footing with large, traditional publishers.

-dance-

Okay, I’ll stop high-fiving myself now and get serious again because there are also disadvantages to printing with IngramSpark. The two biggest disincentives are:

  • the setup cost of $53 AUD per book, and
  • the need to have an ABN [Australian Business Number].

If you’ve never run a small business before – for example as a sole trader – the idea of getting an ABN can be daunting. The truth, however, is that it’s both free and relatively painfree to apply for one.

For detailed, step-by-step information about getting an ABN see this post. And see this one about why you should NOT pay for that ABN [because it’s free].

Now for a word about the cost. $53 AUD is a steep price to pay when you’ve got more than one book to setup. I have 7 to-date, so that would have been an upfront charge of $371 AUD. Luckily, I managed to setup all 7 books during a free promotion run by IngramSpark.

I’m not sure exactly when or why IngramSpark runs these promotions, but from what I can gather, they seem to happen once, or maybe twice a year. I have two more how-to books in the pipeline, so I’ll have to pay the full setup charge for those, but at least the cost will be staggered for them.

Oh, and one more disadvantage – once a book has been approved [by the author] and is available for sale, any changes will incur a $25 fee. So…be very sure your book is as ready as it’ll ever be before you approve it for publishing/sale.

Okay, that’s it for now. I’ll be ordering proof copies of all 7 books in the next day or three. Once they arrive I’ll take pics and write an update on the quality, timing etc.

cheers

Meeks

 

 


Profiting from the ‘war on waste’

I rarely watch commercial TV and almost never during the morning, but today I did, and it made me hopping mad. I don’t know the name of the show as I only tuned in when the panel started arguing about shopping bags, but essentially, one guy was being very vocal about how great the new ‘multi use’, plastic shopping bag initiative was. Another guy was making the point that it was a pointless exercise because the bags were still made of plastic AND Woolworths was now charging for them as well.

I don’t have a picture of the new, you-beaut plastic shopping bags [because I refuse to buy any], however I think most of us know what they look like. They’re thicker and look suspiciously like the bags we used to get shoes and other jazzy apparel in.

Yes, these bags are a bit bigger and yes, they are a bit stronger too, but they’re still plastic. Worse, they’re made of a plastic that is even harder to get rid of than the so-called single-use bags. I do have a picture of those:

They are ugly, and a menace and impossible to recycle…but they can be re-used. I use at least some of mine as rubbish bin liners in the kitchen [in Nillumbik we have to sort waste into 3 bins]. I also use them to pick up dog poop and other nasty things, thereby saving on plastic gloves as well. At the end of the day, however, these plastic shopping bags still end up in landfill, so I’m all in favour of getting rid of them. The big problem is: what do we replace them with?

Greenies bring their own heavy duty shopping bags which look something like this:

These are fine, in theory, but hands up how many of you forget to take them with you when you go shopping?

I have about 10 of these stupid bags – in the house, in the boot, even on the back seat of the car. D’you think I remember to take them? Nope.

“I just need to pop into the supermarket for milk and eggs…”

Yeah right. I’ve yet to leave a supermarket without at last four bags of unplanned necessities. And you guessed it…they’re in grey plastic shopping bags.

It’s not that I don’t want to do the right thing for the environment, I do. But I’d really love to know why this debate has been hijacked by the supermarkets and the plastic bag manufacturers?

Am I the only old[er] person who remembers string bags that scrunch up into next to nothing? And how about those heavy duty paper shopping bags?

I admit paper bags don’t last as long as the plastic ones, old or new, but when paper becomes unusable, it can be recycled, or used to start a fire, or thrown into the compost where it really will decompose. In fact, if we’re talking about paper, how about using up some of our recycled paper to make paper bags? All kinds of paper bags. What’s the point of zeroing in on plastic shopping bags when almost every single items that goes in those bags is also wrapped in yet more plastic?

Can’t be done? Bull$hit. From memory, the green grocer in Eltham [next to Coles] provides customers with the option of using small paper bags instead of clear plastic bags. And IGA in Warrandyte is selling heavy duty shopping bags made from paper. Each bag costs 10c,Β  and is surprisingly durable. Wet things will put a hole in the bottom of the bag, but for them, you can use these:

The dark blue plastic lump next to the cup-and-saucer is a plastic shopping bag. Yes, I know, but bear with me. I bought 2 of them a couple of days ago from the Eltham 2 Dollar shop. I’d gone in there to ask about old-fashioned string bags [they are trying to order some in for me], and decided to make do with these tiny plastic ones in the interim.

When you open them out, they look like this:

Each one of these bags can take a heck of a lot of shopping, yet will fold up into a package small enough to fit into a pocket. And that’s exactly where I keep mine, in the pockets of my hooded winter jacket. As I wear this jacket whenever I leave the house, it means I now have two re-usable shopping bags with me at all times. No more old lady memory. If I pop into a supermarket for milk and eggs, I’ll always have a bag to put them in.

Oh, and one more thing, when you shop with a trolley, why put fruit and veg into clear plastic bags? Small things like fresh peas or green beans I can understand, but apples, potatoes, lettuce etc can sit quite happily in the trolley without any packaging at all. And once you’ve paid for them, they can all get thrown into a shopping bag. If you’re worried about loose fruit and veg falling out of the shopping bag, just tie the handles.

And people…there is no excuse for buying fruit and veg in polystyrene ‘trays’ with plastic wrap over the top. Seriously.

I’m all for the war on waste, but I fear it’s become a trendy ‘fad’ that will disappear after a few months of inconvenience. The problem is real and has to be tackled realistically. And that means there is no room for purists. Convenience will always be an issue. Poor memory will be one as well. We need to address the worst case scenario and find solutions that everyone can live with. String bags are one. Tiny, foldup plastic bags are another. Durable cloth bags and paper bags should be readily available as well.

The one thing that should not be promoted is heavy duty plastic because it’s worse than the problem it’s trying to solve. And no, supermarkets should not be making a profit out of our desire to make this world a better place for our kids and their kids.

Get real Australia

Meeks

 


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