Tag Archives: how-to

My first how-to video! Kinda sorta…

In a recent post, I wrote about my search for a screen capture app and showed you two short videos I made using Bandicam. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that I was not using a free app. I was using a demo version with severe limitations. I was tempted to buy the app, but the price was a little too high for my liking.

After some more searching, I discovered RecMaster which combines dead easy screen capture with a [very] basic video editor. I bought a year’s subscription for $19.99 USD and made a video…but when I inserted it into this post, I was horrified by how hard it was to read!

The problem is two fold. First, the default Windows fonts used in titles and menus are so small that when you reduce them even further to a standard video format, they become impossible to read. Then I discovered that WordPress makes them even smaller. Vimeo does have a fullscreen setting:

Click to toggle full screen on and off

But I worried that people would not know to turn it on. So I fiddled with the Windows screen settings. They are now much too big for normal use, but they’re just about right for a video…on Youtube. Here on WordPress, the size is still impossibly small.

I was going to update all my how-to posts, especially the self-publishing ones, by adding videos of important bits, but now I’m not sure I’ll bother. Or maybe I’ll bite the bullet and get a Youtube account.

Do you use the fullscreen mode in either Youtube or Vimeo? Is it more trouble than it’s worth? Should I keep experimenting and make the default Windows fonts even bigger?

Anyway, the video below was recorded using the larger fonts. To me it’s still horribly squint-worthy. What do you think. Please be honest as I don’t want to waste my time making videos that no one will watch.

How to change image compression and resolution in Word 16

Many thanks,
Meeks


How to make a primitive torch

One of the things that distinguishes the iVokh Traders from the normal iVokh is that Traders aren’t afraid of fire. In fact, they light their underground cave system with burning torches. This means the colour of the light is different – yellow flame vs blue glowworm – and the smell is distinctive.

That all came from my imagination, but now I’m writing scenes that require a more factual approach, so how did primitive peoples make torches?

I was extremely lucky to find this fabulous article online: http://www.junglecraft.com.my/index.php/how-to-make-a-burning-torch/ Not only did it explain which, easy-to-find materials were used, it also included a video showing exactly how the torches were made:

The whole video is fascinating, but the highlight for me was around the 6 minute mark.

So, what are these primitive materials, and would the iVokh have access to them?

The main ingredient in primitive torches [in the Malaysia jungle] is rosin. If any of you have played the violin, you’ll know that rosin is vital for the bow [thanks Dad]:

Rosin is a solid form of resin, the sticky substance that comes from trees that is not unlike sap….Violin rosin is made by heating fresh liquid resin, until it becomes solid. It smells a bit like pine and has a glassy, orange look.

Quote taken from: https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/instruments/violin/what-is-rosin-why-violinists-need-it/

I underlined the bit about the smell of ‘pine’ because that too is a distinctive feature of the Traders’ caves.

But wait…there’s more. I did ballet as a kid and I remember putting rosin on the soles of my ballet shoes – for grip . In fact, as I went from link to link, I discovered that rosin has a million and one uses, even today. Not so primitive after all. 🙂

Anyway, rosin is only one of the ingredients used to make primitive torches; ‘punky wood’ [dried rotten wood] is the other. Crumbled together in a 50/50 ratio, this mixture will burn quite happily for a couple of hours.

In the Junglecraft video, the presenter used bamboo as the locally sourced ‘container’ for the torch, but I’m pretty sure most of the inhabitable parts of Vokhtah are savanah rather than jungle, so I think the iVokh would have used animal horns instead. I haven’t actually created a horned creature per se, but I’m sure there must be a few somewhere in Vokhtah. Maybe down south where where only the Traders have been… 😉

So there you have it, my latest bit of research. I had fun, and I hope you did too.

Before I finish though, I have a small rant to get off my chest: I HATE the new preview function in WordPress. With the old Preview function, I could preview my post in a new tab and can jump back and forth between the two tabs, fixing typos as I find them.

With the new Preview function, I get a floating [sic] pane that can’t be moved. As the ‘edit post’ screen is underneath the preview pane, I have to close the pane each time I find a typo. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit…

Grrrr! Do none of the ‘Happiness Engineers’ ever test run their ‘improvements’? Or do none of the testers bother to fix bloody typos? Ahem… Okay, end rant.

cheers
Meeks


Whetstones – what are they, and what are they for?

Back when I was a kid, my Dad used to sharpen all his own tools with a whetstone. This is a modern day whetstone, and how to use it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdNBHmA6Pts

I really enjoyed that video because it was instructive and funny. Unfortunately, the iVokh don’t have modern day tools, so the next step of my research was to see how primitive peoples sharpened things. This is what I found:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohFx0smhX6c

This video explains how to sharpen a stone arrowhead, but what I really want to know is how to sharpen a claw…a to’pak claw. Luckily, the tool used to knap the edge of the arrowhead is an antler, and antlers are made of bone. As an aside, the presenter sharpened his antler tool on a piece of sandstone. Yes! Getting closer.

And here, at last is what I was looking for – a [replica] black bear claw with a sharpish point that could be sharpened even further with that sandstone!

In the scene I’m currently writing, the Yellow sharpens a to’pak claw and uses it to carve Death’s hide…as a punishment. Thrilled that it’s possible in my world as well as theirs. 🙂

Happy weekend,
Meeks


The Morning Sun – by composer Brock Hewitt

Soundcloud strikes again! I fell in love with this track first thing this morning and have been playing it on repeat ever since. To hear the track for yourself, simply click the orange ‘play’ button below:

The Morning Sun – a track from ‘Stories in Sound’ by composer Brock Hewitt

If you want to place Soundcloud tracks in your posts, ignore the confusing instructions about embedding etc and just start a new paragraph [in block editor]. Next, copy the URL shown under the Share option in Soundcloud. It’ll look something like this:

To copy the URL [web address] circled in red above, simply click inside the address box. The whole URL will be highlighted in blue.

Now, press the CTRL C keys on your keyboard [this will ‘copy’ the URL to your Clipboard].

Finally, go back into your WordPress post, click inside a new paragraph and press the CTRL V keys on your keyboard [this will copy the URL from your Clipboard into WordPress.

Note: these two keyboard shortcuts will work on any computer running a Windows operating system – e.g. Windows 7 or 10 etc.

After WordPress does its magic, you should see the track displayed with the background image and the Play button. Click Play and away you go!

Hope you like this track as much as I do.

cheers
Meeks


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


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