Tag Archives: how-to

ESO and the kitchen sink…

I promise, this post will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen before! Mwahahaha…

– serious face –

One of the things I love about ESO [Elder Scrolls Online] is the powerful, and very flexible housing system. All my gold goes on recipes for housing ‘furniture’. But while I can make a great looking bath tub, complete with steam rising from the water, there is no recipe yet for kitchen sinks, or bathroom sinks for that matter. And don’t get me started on the lack of loos!

Ahem. In an odd twist, the very lack of a kitchen sink has generated more innovation amongst ESO housing enthusiasts than just about anything else I can think of. And I’m obsessed as well. 🙂

The video below [not mine!] shows how to create a couple of kitchen sinks from other ‘things’. When you smoosh these things together, you get some amazing results:

Smile. 🙂

Meeks


Milk and Chocolate Shortbread

This is another Offspring special, a basic shortbread recipe with added chunks of Plaistowe dark cooking chocolate. My contribution was the milk. 😀

The photo is a little washed out because it was taken at night with a flash. The shortbread actually looks more like this:

For those who have never tasted shortbread before, it’s an odd combination of dry, crumbly texture that literally melts in your mouth. It’s very easy to make and we love it. If you want to try it yourself, the recipe follows:

Traditional Shortbread [with added chocolate]

Note: the recipe is on the back of the McKenzie’s rice flour packet, and you will need rice flour in addition to ordinary wheat flour.

Ingredients:
  • 225 gm of plain flour [all purpose flour], sifted,
  • 115 gm of rice flour, sifted
  • 115 gm of caster sugar, sifted
  • pinch of salt
  • 225 gm of unsalted, room temperature butter [do NOT use spreadable butter as the oil and/or process used changes how the butter works in recipes].
  • about 1/4 cup good quality cooking chocolate, chopped into smallish ‘chunks’. We used Plaistowe cooking chocolate because it’s actually good enough to eat on its own so long as you don’t like your chocolate very sweet.
Method

Pre-heat oven to 150 C. This is a slow oven.

Grease your baking tray [we didn’t, we lined it with baking paper instead].

Combine both flours, sugar and salt in a bowl.

Rub in butter and knead gently until a smooth dough forms.

Add the chopped chocolate and gently mix into the dough.

The recipe says to transfer the dough to a floured surface and ‘shape as required’. That basically means you can cut pretty shapes out of it. We don’t do any of that. We place the dough directly onto the baking tray and spread it out by hand or with the back of a spoon until it’s about the right ‘depth’. Shortbread should not be thick! 1/2 an inch is more than thick enough.

Prick the dough with a fork. We also ‘score’ the surface lightly with a knife. This makes cutting the cooked shortbread easier.

Bake for 20 – 30 minutes until a light, golden brown. The end.

A tip from us: leave the shortbread on the tray and gently cut along the scored lines while the shortbread is still a bit soft and pliable. The shortbread will firm up as it cools. Cutting it once it’s cold and crumbly is…not very successful.

And there you have it. Another day, another treat. If you have favourite treats of your own, please link to them in comments. Oh, and if you have favourite cups or dishes to go with the treats, please link them as well.

Cheers
Meeks


WordPress – how to add a slideshow to your blog

The following how-to uses the WordPress interface [as at July, 2020], not the old Admin. Dashboard. When you’re done, you’ll end up with a small, slideshow of images that can be quite effective at catching the eye of casual visitors.

Requirements

You will need at least one sidebar in your theme – i.e. a visible area next to or below the spot at which your blog posts normally appear. I have two sidebars on my theme and they both appear to the right of the blog post area:

WordPress sidebars depend on the chosen theme

My particular theme also allows me to have a ‘footer’ bar, and this is where I’m going to put my slideshow.

Next, you will need to have images to place in your slideshow. Yes, obvious, I know, but you will need to:

  • edit the images so they’re all the same size – it looks better,
  • upload the required images to the WordPress media library before you begin creating the gallery.

Once all the images have been uploaded* to your media library, you’re ready to begin:

  1. If you are in Reader, click the tab for ‘My Sites’ [top left of your WordPress screen],
  2. From the list of available options in My Sites, click ‘Design’,
  3. Design has two further options – Customize and Themes. Click ‘Customize’,
  4. From the Customize options click ‘Widgets’,
  5. You should now see the areas that can take Widgets**

As mentioned earlier, my particular theme has three such areas and they look like this:

Areas capable of taking Widgets

Finally, select the area in which you want your gallery [Widget] to appear. For me it was ‘Footer Widget Area’.

You should now see a button for ‘+ Add a Widget’. Click it to be taken to a list of available widgets [listed in alphabetical order]:

List of available widgets

Scroll down the list until you reach ‘Gallery’. Select it. You should now see the gallery widget, ready for you to use:

Type a title for your gallery [because you can have more than one], and then click the ‘Add Images’ area as shown above [big red arrow].

You should now see the images in your Media Library. Unfortunately, there is no helpful message to tell you what to do next. A simple ‘Select an image’ would have been so helpful…ahem.

Click the first image you want to include in your gallery. Don’t worry about the order because you can change that later.

On the right of the library of images you will now see a box for adding information about the image you have chosen. Type in the title and…

DO. NOT. CLICK. ‘Add a New Gallery’ ! ! ! This is not how you complete the selection of your first image! ! !

Okay, I’m really going to get grumpy here with the WordPress developers. Not giving any clues as to where bloggers are supposed to go next is just asking for trouble. Most people are not mind readers. Really poor design.

To complete the selection of the first image and go on to select a second image…just click another image. Yes, I know, about as intuitive as a kick to the head.

Continuing clicking images until you have selected all the images you want to place in your slideshow. At this point, mine looked like this:

Images selected for the gallery/slideshow

Down the bottom of the screenshot you can see the six images I chose. The bit on the right shows details for the last image I chose. I added a title for clarity, but you will get a chance to add a caption later. Last but not least, there is the blue ‘Create a new gallery’ button. Now you can click it.

The next screen will be the ‘Edit Gallery’ page. Here you can re-order the sequence of images by dragging and dropping them into the correct position. You can also add captions to each image and change the size of the image [Thumbnail is the default]:

The Edit Gallery page

I only added two captions to these images, but I did move the image for The Vintage Egg to the end of the list.

When I was happy with the sequence of images, I clicked the small down arrow next to ‘Type’ to show the available display options [the default is Thumbnail Grid]. Down the bottom of the list is ‘Slideshow’. Click it and then click the blue ‘Insert gallery’ button as shown.

Almost done! You should now be looking at a preview screen. As my gallery is in the footer, I had to scroll all the way to the bottom to see it working:

The preview screen showing the slideshow working

If the preview doesn’t work as expected, click the ‘Edit Gallery’ button to the left of the preview. If everything does work as expected, click ‘Done’ [to save the gallery].

Finally, click ‘Save Changes’ to save the whole lot.

To exit from the customize area, click either the back button or the ‘X’ button [to the left of Save Changes].

Apologies for making this such a long how-to, but I wanted it to be suitable for even the newest blogger. And some of the interface was down right murky.

Have fun,
Meeks

p.s. this post was created using the block editor. To get the * asterisks down the bottom to show as asterisks [instead of automatically beginning a bullet point list], I had to press the spacebar a couple of times. Apparently this ‘told’ the block editor that I wanted to stay in the paragraph block. -rolls eyes-

* Please contact me in Comments if you need help getting to this step.

** Widgets are small ‘apps’ that you can insert into your blog to make it work the way you want it to. Widgets can include anything from images and buttons to galleries and links. Widgets can only be placed in certain areas of your blog. Those areas will depend upon the type of theme you chose when you first created your blog.


How to cheat a paranormal polygraph test

I’m in the middle of a scene where the Yellow [a very powerful healer] is interrogating Death using its paranormal talents to work out whether Death is lying or not.

Death must lie, and the Yellow must believe the lie, but how can it when it’s aware of Death’s feelings?

That was the point at which I remembered that sociopaths were supposed to be very good at cheating real world polygraph tests. As iVokh are essentially sociopaths, I realised that what worked in the real world might also work in Vokhtah.

That led me to the internet where I found this fascinating article in Wikihow: https://www.wikihow.com/Cheat-a-Polygraph-Test-(Lie-Detector)

If you’ve ever secretly wondered how people can cheat the polygraph test, it boils down to knowing how the machine and the interrogator asking the questions work together. This can be broken down into a few key things:

  1. The control questions – i.e. the harmless questions – allow the machine to gauge what physiological reactions the subject has when ‘telling the truth’.
  2. These reactions then become the baseline against which the ‘real’ – i.e. dangerous – questions are compared.
  3. If you can change your physiological reactions to the control questions, the baseline will be faulty.
  4. Then, when the real questions are asked, the machine will not be able to tell which answer is a lie because the lies will resemble the baseline.

Of course the skill of the interrogator also comes into it, but I now have enough to write the scene convincingly. -joy-

cheers
Meeks


Breathing exercises that may help

I’ve found two videos that demonstrate:

  1. specific breathing exercises recommended for those with Covid-19 infection,
  2. posture exercises that coincidentally ‘open’ the chest area and may help with breathing.
Doctor learns from nursing staff

I keep using the word ‘may’ because there is no definitive evidence that any of this stuff will help with Covid-19. But…if something does no harm but may do some good, I believe it’s worth a try.

Stay well.

Meeks


Unpublishing a book

I’ve just unpublished ‘How to Print your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing’.

It’s not the first book I’ve unpublished – I had to unpublish the two CreateSpace versions after CreateSpace ceased to exist. Nevertheless, hitting that ‘Unpublish’ button on KDP felt very odd, especially as I’m not sure whether I’ll ever republish in the same way again.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I unpublished the KDP how-to book because it was first published in 2018, and parts of it were now quite out-of-date. KDP only made a few changes, but Thorpe-Bowker [the agent for ISBNs in Australia], and the National Library of Australia, had both completely changed their websites. I would have to update much of the second and third parts of the how-to, and basically create a ‘second edition’ of the book.

Unfortunately, when you create a second edition of a book, you have to publish it with a new ISBN, and that costs money. Given that I haven’t earned a single cent from the how-to, it didn’t make sense to invest yet more money into a project that no body seemed to want.

Around about this point, I sat down and did some hard thinking.

Was the how-to bad? Was the Kindle Fire version too restrictive? Was the paperback too expensive?

Or could it be that people have grown used to finding information online? For free?

Given how much research I do online, for free, I could hardly fault others for doing the same thing. So I had to decide whether to keep flogging that poor dead horse, or move with the times. I chose to move with the times and publish the entire how-to, online, for free on my blog.

Was this a completely altruistic decision? Hah… -cough-

The truth is, self-publishing is hard. Making yourself visible on Amazon is hard. Selling your books and making money is next to impossible unless you’re:

  • very lucky,
  • very good at marketing,
  • have oodles of cash for advertising, or
  • have some way of enticing people to your blog

I suck at the first three, but I am good at teaching people how to do things. At least half of all the people who visit my blog are there for one of my how-to posts. So if that’s my strength, how do I translate it into increased visibility for the rest of my work?

Honestly, by the time I got to that question, the answer was pretty obvious – the smart thing would be to self-publish the how-to on the blog and hope that increased exposure would lead to…something. -shrug-

I’m realistic enough to know that very few of the people who come for my how-to posts stay to chat, or buy my science fiction. But you have to work with what you have. Besides, I’ve put so much work into my how-to books I’m damned if I’ll let them sink into complete obscurity.

So, allow me to introduce you to the new, updated, 2020 edition of ‘How to print your novel with Kindle Direct Publishing. -points to sidebar on the right-

Clicking that image should take you to a Table of Contents which contains all the links to all the sections/chapters of the how-to. Alternatively, you can click the link below:

Click here to display the Table of Contents

Enjoy,
Meeks


Section Breaks

Click here to display the Table of Contents

In Word, the purpose of a section break is to isolate one part of the document from the rest. The new, isolated section can then be formatted differently to the rest of the document.

This is particularly useful when printing novels because the page numbering of the three parts – front matter, back matter and chapters – is usually different for each part.

For example, a typical novel may have no page numbering for the front matter, but the chapters will have Arabic numerals [ 1, 2, 3 ], while the back matter has Roman numerals [ i, ii, iii ].  To complicate matters further, both the Arabic and Roman numerals are required to start at ‘one’.

The only way to set different page numbering, and number styles, for different parts of a book is to ‘isolate’ each part using section breaks.

As a general rule, most books need to be broken up into three sections – one for the Front matter, one for the Chapters and one for the Back matter – but you will only need to set two section breaks manually. The third section break is set automatically by Word and includes the parts of the document that are left over – i.e. that remain outside the manual section breaks.

There are four types of section breaks in Word:

  1. Continuous – sets a section break but allows the text to continue on the same page.
  2. Next Page – starts the new section on the next page.
  3. Odd Page – begins a new section and attempts to start it on the next, odd-numbered page.
  4. Even Page – this section break works in the same way as the Odd Page break, but it attempts to start the new section on the next even-numbered page.

All of the section breaks have their uses, but I recommend using the ‘Next Page’ section break only.

Apart from choosing the correct type of section break, there are also do’s and don’ts governing how and when to set section breaks. These include:

  • Do your formatting and set your ordinary page breaks first.
  • Always begin inserting section breaks from the end of the document, not the beginning.
  • Always set the section break command in front of the new section, not at the end of the previous section.
  • Unlink the sections, starting with the last one.
  • Do not try to format the page numbering until the section breaks have been unlinked.

How to set a Section Break

To set the first section break, navigate to the end of the document and click just in front of the first word of the Back Matter [see Front Matter, Back Matter & ISBNs].

Next, open the Layout tab on the Ribbon and click the Breaks option:

This will open the Breaks menu which contains options for Page and Section Breaks.

From Section Breaks, click the Next Page option.

Word inserts the section break, but you won’t see it on the page because it is hidden inside the Headers and Footers.

Headers and Footers are located in the white space above and below the area where you type:

How to open Headers and Footers

The easiest way to open ‘Headers and Footers’ is to double click the blank spaces above or below where you type the text on the page.

Note: to close ‘Headers and Footers’, simply double click inside the body of the page – i.e. inside the area where you type.

As well as displaying repeating text, such as the name of the author, Headers and Footers also display section breaks. 

With Headers and Footers open, you should now see something like this:

Note: the Header displays ‘Section 2’ even though only one section break was set. That’s because Word counts the area of the document outside the section break as a section as well, so that area automatically becomes ‘Section 1’.

‘Same as Previous’ indicates that the current section is ‘linked’ to the previous section and shares its formatting.

You will not be able to change the formatting of individual sections until they have been ‘unlinked’, but you should set all the section breaks before you ‘unlink’ them.

To set the final section break, navigate to the very first chapter of your document and click in front of the first word of the chapter heading.

Next, open the Layout tab and click ‘Breaks’.

Select ‘Next Page’ from the list of section breaks.

Now if you open ‘Headers and Footers’ again, you will see that Word has updated the number of sections to three – i.e. the two that you set and the one that Word set to contain everything else in the document.

Once all the section breaks have been set, you are ready to unlink them.

How to unlink the Section Breaks

As before, navigate to the end of your document, to the first page of the Back Matter [where you set the section break].

Double click inside the top margin of the page to display the Headers and Footers.

Opening ‘Headers and Footers’ automatically opens the ‘Headers & Footers Tools – Design’ tab [as shown below].

Note: if you do not see these options, click Design on the tab.

The first thing you should notice is that the command ‘Link to Previous’ is highlighted on the Ribbon. This shows it is active.

To unlink Section 3 from the earlier sections, click the Link to Previous option to deselect it. Once ‘Link to Previous’ is deselected, the Header for Section 3 should no longer display ‘Same as Previous’:

With ‘Headers and Footers’ still open, click inside the Footer and deselect the ‘Link to Previous’ option from there as well.

After you have unlinked Section 3, find the first page of Section 2 and unlink the Header and Footer as for Section 3.

Once you have Sections 2 and 3 unlinked, you will have three, completely separate areas in your Word file, each one ready to be formatted in a different way.

The next chapter will look at setting up different page numbering, and page number formatting, for each of the three sections in your book file.

Click here to display the Table of Contents


Create a Table of Contents

Click here to display the Table of Contents

Although it’s not strictly necessary to include a Table of Contents [TOC] in a paperback novel, Word does offer two automatic TOC styles that are very easy to use. Both are based on the Heading styles, so if you used Heading 1 on your Chapter headings, most of the work has already been done.

As well as being easy to use, Word’s automatic TOC styles are also easy to update – for example if you add or remove significant amounts of text from the document.

How to generate a simple Table of Contents

If you have not already done so, format each chapter heading as ‘Heading 1’ (see ‘Designing the interior format of your book, Using Heading 1 for Chapter Headings’).

Next, click at the end of the Copyright Page and insert a Page Break as shown:

The cursor will now be positioned at the top of the new page.

Open the ‘References’ Tab and click Table of Contents:

You should now see a drop down list of options. At the top of the list are previews of the pre-set TOC styles. At the bottom are four further options. The fourth option is only available with Custom Table of Contents.

Click either Automatic Table 1 or Automatic Table 2 to select it.

Note: if you generate a Table of Contents before formatting the page numbering of your book, Word will use its automatic numbering system – i.e. counting the Title page as ‘1’ – for the Table of Contents. After you have formatted the page numbering, you will need to update the TOC to reflect the correct page numbers.

How to update a Table of Contents

Any changes to your document, such as the addition or subtraction of pages [or the formatting of the page numbering], will mean that the Table of Contents must be updated.

To begin, click inside the Table of Contents to automatically select the entire table. It will look something like this:

Next, open the References tab and click the Update Table option:

Word will check every Heading in the table and update the page numbers as required.

Note: if you have made substantial changes to the document, Word may ask if you want to update the page numbers or the entire table. Select the entire table.

How to remove a Table of Contents

Click inside the Table of Contents to select the entire table.

Next, open the References tab and click the option for Table of Contents.

On the Table of Contents menu, click the Remove Table of Contents option:

This will remove both the TOC entries and the table itself.

Note: You can click ‘Remove Table of Contents’ without first selecting the TOC entries, but this will cause a Continuous Section Break to be left behind. Not only will this section break clutter up the file with unnecessary commands and functions, it may also interfere with manual section breaks inserted later on.

In the next section we will look section breaks and how to use them.

Click here to display the Table of Contents


Frequently Asked Questions

Click here to display the Table of Contents

What is Kindle Direct Publishing?

Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP for short, is part of Amazon.com and provides a one-stop-shop for both ebooks and paperbacks. KDP uses ‘Print On Demand’ [POD] technology to produce trade paperbacks that are automatically listed for sale on Amazon.

What is POD?

POD is a relatively new technology that makes it possible to print just one book at a time.

Before the development of POD, all books were printed using offset technology. This involves etching the book onto metal plates, an expensive process. To be economically viable, large quantities of books have to be printed at one time. This is called a ‘run’. 1000 units [books] is often quoted as the realistic minimum per offset print ‘run’.

At such quantities, the cost per book is very low, but the total cost of the ‘run’ can be prohibitive for self-publishers. A POD book is more expensive, per unit, than a book printed the traditional way, but it has other advantages that make it ideal for self-publishers.

How does POD work?

On Amazon, POD works like this:

  • A customer sees your book and buys it,
  • Amazon sends the order to KDP,
  • KDP receives the order and produces a single copy of your book,
  • Amazon then posts your newly printed book to the customer,
  • The customer receives your book in the mail and the order process is complete.

Why use POD?

The most compelling reason to use POD is that it costs the author nothing up front. The cost of printing and selling the book is subtracted from the sale price of the book…after a customer buys it. The difference between the sale price and the total cost of printing and distributing the book is the author’s royalty.

What if I want to sell my book through bookshops?

At the present time, large bookstore chains do not sell self-published books. These chains are geared towards the traditional publishing houses which allow retailers to return unsold books. These books are then pulped.

Local, independent bookshops, however, may agree to stock self-published books.

Which version of Word does the guide use?

Most of the screenshots and examples used in this guide were developed using Microsoft Word 2016. For certain critical steps, however, information is also provided for Word 2003, 2007, 2010, and 2013.

More generally, anyone familiar with the Word Ribbon should have little trouble following the instructions, and the section on KDP does not require Word at all.

Requirements

To use this guide, you will need:

  1. your manuscript [in Word],
  2. the ability to save and retrieve files [in Windows],
  3. a connection to the internet [to access KDP],
  4. an email address.

Click here to display the Table of Contents


Introduction – is this guide right for you?

Click here to display the Table of Contents

‘How to Print Your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing’ is a step-by-step guide specifically designed for new authors who struggle with the concepts and terminology associated with self-publishing a paperback novel.

POD? ISBN? Trim size? PDF? Bleed?

In PART 1 – How to Prepare Your Novel,  you will learn what these terms mean, where to find them and how to use them to convert a simple manuscript into a professional standard book file.

Imprint? Distribution channels? Sales percentage? Royalties?

In PART 2 – How to Set Up Your Novel, you will learn how to turn your formatted book file into a Trade paperback that can be sold on Amazon.

And finally, in PART 3 – Australian authors will learn about:

  • purchasing an ISBN in Australia,
  • US Withholding Tax exemption,
  • the National Library of Australia Legal Deposit requirement.

With examples and over 140 screenshots,  ‘How to Print Your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing’ takes no step for granted and leaves nothing out.

Click here to display the Table of Contents


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