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World of Keiko 2017-09-19

Hello again, folks! Sorry about the delay in posting this update. It was delayed due to a post-holiday recovery from a junk and fast food coma, as well as my desire to indulge in a short hiatus from blogging. Not the best excuse, I know, but I am trying to be honest here.

You’ve likely noticed that I just finished the Publish an Ebook learning pathway at LYNDA. As with originally planned, I started the first course in the Improve Your Drawing Skills learning pathway soon after. Then, I got distracted. Okay, maybe “distracted” isn’t the best word. Due to hitting a wall during the plot and world-building revision for Freak, I decided to work on something else instead and settled on the Loquis world setting.
Loquis is the closest thing to a Steampunk setting. It isn’t hard steampunk but does have some technology such as airships and trains in a world where prayers are sometimes answered and magic is real. I’ve done a bit of work on the setting on the years but wanted to create a working world map based on where some of the places are. So, I started digging around for free resources online, with the intention of using GIMP2 software for editing the image after I have the foundation down. I didn’t want to have to trace or hand draw the land masses if I could avoid it.
After trial and error on several online tools, I settled on one in particular. Roll For Fantasy has a neat Map Creator tool that worked like a treat. I generated several 25 by 15 maps until I found a good base to work with. I tweaked it via the online interface. Coastlines were edited, islands were added and lakes were introduced until I had a world map that I was happy with. It took nearly three hours between the random generation and tweaking. However, I didn’t add in features such as forests, mountains, dunes, or other features due to some of these tiles completely over-riding the cell which could remove coastlines and other features in the process. I intend to create reusable tiles and brushes for this purpose later on.
I also went about looking at some tutorials for map-making with GIMP. The best collection of videos that I have come across so far is by YouTuber The Coffee Bean GM, entitled Gimp Mapping. It covers both world maps and smaller maps for roleplaying, such as Dungeon maps. I’ve already played around with some of the features that he covers in the playlist and found his method a great way to also create random maps that you can customise with whichever terrain and features that you see fit. Is it the quickest and cleanest method? I have no idea, but I do know that I learnt a lot and like the result whilst tinkering.
This brings me to my newest course undertaking. Whilst I will be doing the Improve Your Drawing Skills learning pathway at LYNDA, I checked out what the site had in the way of GIMP offerings. The lone offering is GIMP Essential Training by Mike Rankin. The course was released in June of this year and is pretty good so far. I am still in the early parts of the material but the future chapters cover a lot of the features that I haven’t used yet. It will be a bit of a learning curve, but I anticipate that it will be worth it.
I have also begun creating templates for flags in GIMP using the GEGL Operation. The Checkerboard function makes it easy to make some of the basic layouts but isn’t the be-all and end-all. I will have to create other artwork such as symbols and elements such as Cantons. This doesn’t include work that I will need to do on crests and coat of arms for the various groups but it is do-able. I want to learn and I am willing to put in the time to create this extra material. I also think that it will be helpful in keeping visual references. It is nowhere near finished but I am having a lot of fun.

In other news, hubby was kind enough to get me a compound bow on the way back from our trip. I did archery in high school and have had a desire to get into the sport in the decades that followed. We’ve now got targets set up and I find myself looking forward to each practice session. It is still a lot of fun. Hubby likes it as well, but it is a pain in the ass to change the bow draw and poundage every single time that he wants to practice. In a few months, it is likely that I will be getting a new bow and he will be inheriting the old one. This is all dependent on me getting better at archery and healthier. Hubby is now talking about getting a gun for sports shooting…
Hubby is currently waiting on information regarding some possible car parts for the beast. This will be an expensive purchase but it will result in an Autocross-fit vehicle in next to no time. If you don’t know what Autocross is, I highly recommend that you look it up. Those vehicles are nimble AF.
On top of this, hubby is talking about getting some half-half motorbikes and I find myself excited about it. I don’t have a license for either a car or a bike, meaning that I will have to get learner’s permits for them both. I’ve been wanting to get a driver’s license for a while now, but it was continually been put off over the years out of slackness. This will be a good incentive to get one for both vehicle types. I now have to get to a healthy weight in order to be able to pick up and manoeuvre a motorcycle.
All of these things cost money. However, such purchases remove a barrier to entry and create a means for ongoing entertainment that also gets both of us out of the house. We don’t have much in the way of vices, with our computers and mobile devices being an ongoing consideration. This lack of expenses obviously makes it easier to budget for these sports. I anticipate that the purchases will be worth the investment and am looking forward to learning (and doing) new things.

So, there’s been a lot going on with me. How about the rest of you guys? Have you done anything interesting? Made any life-changing decisions? How about your health? Read any good books or watched any good shows? Feel free to let me know about it in the comments section as I am genuinely interested in seeing what you guys are up to. I leave you guys with the following clip.


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Course Review: Ebooks: Distribution and Marketing

Teacher: Dave Wogahn
Length: 3h 16m (course link)

In this course, Dave Wogahn goes over the various things that you’ll need to consider when you distribute and market an Ebook. This includes sales trends, search trends, market analysis, market history, promotional materials (press releases and book synopsis), promotional methods (social networking, blog networking), reviews, direct distribution versus aggregation services, pricing, and several other things worth taking into account. It was a lot to go over but it was well-worth the undertaking.
However, I will point out is that the course was produced in 2013, making several services obsolete, such as the now-defunct Shelfari. In this regard, you can use the course to teach you what to look out for when deciding the route that you will take with your Ebook. It will also offer a checklist of steps to take as well as some other relevant information to keep on hand when you are about to release your Ebook.
I highly recommend this course to anyone looking to distribute and market an Ebook, as well as those curious about what to expect from the process. If you do decide to release an Ebook, then I wish you the best in the undertaking. Just make sure to release a polished product.

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Course Review: iBooks Author Essential Training

Teacher: Chris Mattia
Length: 6h 55m (course link)

Whilst the previous courses in the Publish an Ebook learning pathway dealt with EPUB and MOBI format Ebooks, this course gives a comprehensive look at how to make an Ebook for iDevices using iBooks Author. This piece of software is available free of charge and is impressive, to say the least. I was stunned at the available features. It is a powerful piece of software and I really wish there was an option for Windows users. (No, I am not inclined to create a virtual machine in order to use other operating systems.)
Chris Mattia begins the course by giving us an overview of how to modify an existing template before going into the creation of a project from scratch. You will learn how to add media such as video and image files; modify imported media; add and create graphs, tables, with objects and shapes; import content from Word, RTF, Apple Pages and LaTeX; and add interactive elements such as multiple-choice questions for textbooks. This is all followed up by a chapter on exporting as different formats and a final chapter on publishing your finished product to the Apple Store.
I was pretty impressed with what I learned during this course. While a lengthy title, it made me somewhat jealous of folks with Apple MAC computers. iBooks Author is such an awesome piece of software that I wish that I had a MAC to experiment with it. It also looks logical from a user experience viewpoint. If I ever get enough money to purchase a MAC on top of my Windows gaming rig then it is a serious consideration. Alas, that might be some time into the future.
In any case, I highly recommend that folks consider checking out this course. Chris Mattia is an awesome teacher as well, with some neat activities to give us some hands-on experience with the truckload of features. And if you are looking to learn the editing and publishing aspects, then this title will teach you everything that you need to get you up to snuff.


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Course Review: Creating Fixed-Layout Ebooks for the Kindle

Teacher: Kevin Callahan
Length: 2h 29m (course link)

In this course, Kevin Callahan goes over some formatting and organizational requirements for creating a high-quality fixed-layout Ebook for Kindle. Whilst Tony Harmer uses software such as Sigil and Calibre, Callahan uses programs such as Adobe InDesign and Dreamweaver. Callahan also discusses components such as the OPF file, creating pop-ups, regional magnification and a few other neat features. You’ll also see a few videos on programs such as Kindle Kids’ Book Creator to give students something fun to play with.
I found this course very useful because of how Kevin Callahan approached the material. He was concise, demonstrated features clearly and built on complexity over time without lingering too long on any given subject. He covered new material not previously covered in other courses of this learning pathway. Throughout this course, Kevin also offers some recommendations for other great resources for furthering your knowledge and as repositories for useful content such as fonts.
Creating Fixed-Layout Ebooks for the Kindle was a great addition to my learning so far. As such all of this in mind, I highly recommend this course to anyone looking to understand what is involved in the messy business of getting an Ebook up to snuff. Heck, just enrol in the entire “Publish an Ebook” pathway and you should have a really good understanding of the process and some of the tools used for creating Ebooks in next to no time.

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Course Review: Creating Ebooks for the Kindle

Teacher: Tony Harmer
Length: 2h 11m (course link)

In this course, Tony covers some of the same ground as Tony’s course on CSS, but with more of a focus on setting up Ebooks for old and new Kindle devices. As with his last course, he uses Sigil and Calibre software for the MAC. However, he made sure to also give instructions for Windows users as well.
He discusses markup and metadata. Due to how varied formats are, he covers how to convert from MS Word, Apple Pages and rich text formats. This also includes how to save into multiple Kindle formats. He teaches students about batch formatting, breaking up larger files and merging files. More is covered before the last chapter on publishing to Amazon.
As with Tony’s previous course on CSS, Creating Ebooks for the Kindle is concise, sticking with the meat rather than wandering off into numerous distracting tangents. He also does it in an engaging and conversational matter that makes this course a must for anyone wanting to learn how to utilise software such as Caliber to create an Ebook for Kindle.

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Anime Movie Review: A Starry Tale Endless Constellations

Language: English dub of Japanese production (Kagaya Studios)
Online: MAL
Genre: Spoken Word, Art, Fantasy

A Starry Tale: Endless Constellations is a short, animated film offering a fantastical look at the constellations tied to Greek Mythology. The film itself shows artwork by talented digital artist Kagaya Yutaka. It runs for just under half an hour.

The artwork for A Starry Tale Endless Constellations is attractive. It is a mix of CG and 2D artwork intended to a 360 screen. The narration and music evoke a sense of wonder. Given that I absolutely love both astronomy and mythology, it further appealed to me.
However, do not expect a story. The film is atmospheric in nature. Some reviewers rightfully suggested how well it would fit as ambience during a museum tour of specific exhibits. Kids will likely appreciate the artwork as well due to the bright colours.