Wishing everyone the best of the season, whatever that means to you: relaxing, socializing, walks in the snow, fun at the beach, cooking, eating, reading, or even writing. Felicitous combinations of good things to all!
Here is a really useful element for creating images: fractals.
What are fractals? Well, here’s what Wikipedia says (among other things): “…fractal is a term used to describe geometric shapes containing detailed structure at arbitrarily small scales.”
From that comes fractal art, which “…is a form of algorithmic art created by calculating fractal objects and representing the calculation results as still digital images, animations, and media.” There’s lots more in the Wikipedia article.
If you go to Pixabay and key in “fractal,” you will be rewarded with a wealth of shapes and patterns. Some are beautiful, like the featured image. Some are weird. Many can be combined with other design elements to produce something unique, or at least make an ordinary image interesting.
Here are a couple of fractals I haven’t incorporated into anything as yet, but I couldn’t resist downloading them from Pixabay.
I upload the fractal images to Canva and use it to assemble and adjust. (Canva also includes fractals in its photo library.) I do some cropping to size and fiddle with the degree of transparency. That’s one of the nice things about Canva–you can easily layer images and change transparency to make abstract shapes like these fractals into backgrounds or nearly transparent foregrounds.
A word of warning, though: messing around with images can eat up a lot of time.
The Tree and the Stone, the Land and the Sky
Where is she?
Who stood beneath my greening boughs
With bluebells at her feet
Where has she gone?
Where is she?
Who embraced me
And sought within
For my stories and my songs
Where has she gone?
Fear not, I hold her safe
Her substance cradled on my breast.
The hills are clothed in purple heather,
Bright streams bejewel them.
She is home.
Her spirit has returned to Light.
Star Bright, she shines
Forever in the hearts of those who knew her.
In memory of
Happy Holidays, etc.
To fellow Pressers of the Word, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Blessed Solstice, or whatever else you may call this special time.
Celebrate, read, think, and write! And let’s hope 2021 is better than 2020.
Pictures for Several Thousand Words, Part 1
Somewhere in the process of becoming an indie author, I discovered I enjoy messing around with images. I’m not talking about the photos of my garden I post on the blog. I hardly ever do any post-processing on those.
But ever since I found out about Canva, an easy-to-use graphic design tool, I’ve been creating images to represent my writings. Often, I complete one or more long before I finish writing the novel or story to which they belong. The image-designing process must use different parts of the brain than whatever it is that transforms ideas into words.
When I published four of the stories in Tales from the Annexe as separate ebooks in 2016, I made cover images for them, and I designed the cover image for the collection years before I needed it. More recently, while writing the the new stories that completed the set, I created an image for each of them as well. I didn’t need cover images for these stories, but I did need regular breaks from writing them.
My first idea was to include all these images in the book, but I didn’t want to swell the ebook’s file size to the point it incurred a hefty delivery fee. Moreover, not all e-readers display images in colour. I decided to feature them here on my blog instead.
Below are the images for the first seven stories, which are by-products, off-cuts, spinoffs, or supplements (I haven’t found a congenial word for this concept) to the four novels of my Herbert West Series.
They appear in “chronological” order, i.e., the first three happen during the time period covered by the first novel. The fourth, fifth, and sixth happen between Books 3 and 4 of the series. The last story of this group takes place decades later, following She Who Comes Forth, the novel that’s a kind of sequel to the series.
Available at a special pre-order price of $0.99 USD (or equivalent) from these Amazon outlets
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Cover Image Whimsy
Not long ago, I wrote a post about whether or not to write a new and different version of my first novel, The Friendship of Mortals. I decided not to do that, but while writing the book’s tenth anniversary post, I had a look at the original cover image I created when I published the book in 2010.
That image was replaced with a professionally designed one in 2014, but I thought I would see what I could do with the original using Canva, which I discovered a few years ago. The free version offers way more capabilities than MS Paint, which is what I used for the 2010 cover image.
I started with a modified version of the original photograph. My idea (back in 2010) was to make it look like an old, damaged photo. With MS Paint, I gave it a sepia shade and added a rusty paperclip mark, a creased corner and a few suspicious stains. I also executed a handwritten annotation — not easy to do using a touchpad mouse!
In the end, I didn’t use the modified photo for the first cover image, but I thought it might be a starting point for a new one. With Canva, I added a texture background and the text for title, author and series, aiming for a style similar to what the professional designer achieved with superior tools and skills.
One thing I like about this image is that it includes the four colours of alchemy — black, white, yellow, and red. The story includes references to alchemy, where it also serves as a symbol.
I have no intention to replace the current glowing purple cover image for The Friendship of Mortals, but I am rather pleased with my revision of the original. And creating it was fun, which would not be the case with a rewrite of the novel itself.
The original photo and all three cover images are shown in the post header. If you have any thoughts about them, or cover image design in general, please add a comment!
Wishing all Pressers of the Word a splendid holiday, however celebrated!
Followed by an inspired 2020!
And another reason to celebrate…
The Smashwords End of Year Sale
December 25th 2019 through January 1st 2020
All my books are on sale, along with hundreds of others. At the Smashwords ebook store only.
Tints and Shades
I’ve mentioned recently that we have been repainting our living room. For 27 years, walls, ceiling, and woodwork were a dingy, flat, chalky-looking white. There was no incentive to change this until the sagging plaster of the ceiling was repaired. This happened early in May, when we finally connected with an actual, real live plasterer.
Once the plastering was finished, we beavered away for weeks, stripping multiple layers of old paint from the window frames, door frames, and baseboards. Stripping (with heat guns) and sanding (a miserable business, in my opinion) was the hardest part of the project. Picking colours was the most fun.
The world of paint colours is fascinating. Each one has the retailer’s alphanumeric code, but they all have names — in both English and French here in Canada. There must be people whose job it is to think up names for the thousands of paint colours available. It may seem frivolous and silly to name colours, but it does have a certain appeal.
I now have a sizable collection of paint chips for various pale greys and off-whites. It’s interesting to compare names to colours. Examples: Starry Night and Daydream have hints of violet; Rhinestone, Sea Salt, Tinsmith, On the Rocks, Skater’s Pond, Waterscape, and Rainwashed are all greys with different degrees of blue or green. Passive, not surprisingly, is a kind of beige. Some actually have colours in their names: Silver Strand, Slow Green, Lazy Gray, Agreeable Gray, Accessible Beige. (So I’m wondering — is there a Speedy Green? Industrious Gray? Or Aggressive Gray? What about Remote Beige? I could have fun with this!)
For what it’s worth, our renewed living room ceiling is now Alabaster (Albâtre). That colour, a warm white, is called Fuzzy Mitten (Mitaine en peluche) in another company’s scheme. The walls are Window Pane (Carreau), which is a lot like a tint elsewhere called Bluegrass White (Blanc bluegrass). It’s a pale and subtle mixture of blue and green. Parts of the woodwork are Morning Fog (Brouillard du matin), one of a million shades of grey.
Having worked so hard to strip layers of paint from the wood of the window and door frames, and because it’s old growth fir of a quality no longer available, we couldn’t bear to cover it with paint, so varnished most of it instead. Traces of the former paint are still visible in spots, but they are part of the house’s history, like scars and wrinkles on a body.
About Writers…Slouching through the Mire.
Here is a post by Roger about some of the tough parts of being a writer. Be sure to read to the hopeful end!
A Quick Visit to Ancient Egypt
On Saturday, November 24th, I spent a few hours surrounded by objects from ancient Egypt. After a couple of years immersed in researching and writing a novel featuring such items, I was delighted when the Royal BC Museum hosted a travelling exhibit called Egypt: The Time of Pharaohs. (It continues until December 31st, for anyone who might be in or near Victoria, B.C.)
And I was intrigued to hear that on this particular day, an anthropology class at a local college was to stage a mock ancient Egyptian funeral right in the exhibit space. The project was part of a course called Anthropology of Death. The students did a lot of work to create the atmosphere and physical objects. They had even mummified a chicken, which was on display just outside the exhibit space.
A human dummy mummy (not a real one!) was carried along the twisting path through the various dimly-lit rooms, into a life-size replica of the tomb of Sennedjem, an artisan of Thebes. It was placed into a coffin (a borrowed theatrical prop), and the correct ceremonies were performed, including the all-important “Opening of the Mouth.”
Photos taken with a phone in dim spaces with lots of reflecting glass (exhibit cases) and small spot lights, among crowds of people jostling around, aren’t the best. (That’s my excuse, anyway.) I focussed (yes, indeed!) on items of special interest to me, either because they appear in my recently published book, or, in the case of the cat statue and mummy, just because.
This photo of the Bennu Bird was one of the best, along with the one of the Osiris image at the top of the post.
This stone sculpture of the head of an unknown queen was in a dark corner, and my photo (somewhat enhanced) makes her look quite creepy.
False doors (or “spirit doors”) appear in my novel, so of course I took a photo of this one. It dates back to the Old Kingdom, which makes it about five thousand years old.
Shabtis (or ushabtis, or shawabtis) are small human figure sculptures that were placed in tombs so they could work for the deceased person in the afterlife. They were pretty much mass-produced, but sizes and materials varied somewhat. This one struck me as looking quite sinister, so I touched up the image to emphasize that.
Most people know the Egyptians had a reverence for cats. At least I think it was reverence, since there was a cat goddess, Bastet. Many cat mummies have been found, and this exhibit included one. My photo makes it even weirder than it looked in
real life reality. The covering is quite intricately patterned, and the fake eyes and ears are touching.
As always, one exits through the gift shop. I couldn’t resist buying a pair of fake shabtis. (You have to read my book to find out why.)
I’ve always been a sucker for blue glass, so this little jug was an obvious choice. I like that it was made in Egypt (as were the shabtis) from recycled glass.