Posted in design, fiction, FYI, Tips and Hacks, video

I’ve Made My First Book Video Promo!

So, I’ve been working on getting out my first box-set of stories out before the end of 2020. With the technical bugs that had to be sorted out on the epub, I had some time to finally mess around on Blender and get a video on the book out!

It’s my first video in forever (the last I edited video was on iMovie back in the early 2000s) so it was a steep learning curve.

Thanks to the tutorials by Ducky 3D and Blender, it wasn’t too difficult (just time consuming) to get back into the vid-ed seat 😀

I created the map visuals on GIMP and am so chuffed that both programs work so harmoniously together without crashing my system! Interesting fact, I also created the 3D box image on GIMP. More about that in another post.

Next stop, animation!
But only when I have the time:-(

Check out the video (and the book just published today) and let me know what you think. Is it too long? Would you watch it to the end?

Thanks, and happy creating!

Leenna

PS. Routes To Love will be at a special price with $2 off from mid December 2020 to early February 2021.

Available only in eBook from selected e-stores and libraries, including Googleplay Books and Overdrive.
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Posted in audio, design, FYI, Tips and Hacks, Uncategorized

Resources Worth Checking Out: Hightail File Transfer

Hightail is a stable professional tool for serious remote workers

* This review is based on my personal use and experience with Hightail. I am not affiliated with them and this post contains no affiliate links.

Hightail’s website landing page

I’ve been using Hightail for confidential transferring and public sharing of media for over three years. I found it via an audio file share from a well-known personality in the Mind Body and Soul community in 2017 and decided to give it a try for those tarot readings I can’t email because the files are over 15MB.

It’s one of the most stable and professional sites that consistently renews my faith that developers and site owners (or some at least) know what they’re doing. Except for one week in July 2018 when it took forever to upload a 30-40MB file (I think they might have been upgrading the site then) Hightail works efficiently every time for my audio files, even with my slow internet connection.

There’s so much I enjoy about using Hightail. It allows you to create a separate space with a dedicated shareable link for different projects or clients. Team members or clients can go directly to the platform’s viewers, audio and video players to view the files or download the material. Comments are also enabled, allowing for direct communication (though I don’t use this feature much).

Spaces menu and a typical space in grid view

Viewing your spaces is easy in the grid or list view, allowing for quick access to projects and files.

The clean design is very professional without any kindergarten-feel fonts, colours or imagery. The functions are easy to find and intuitively laid out.

I have to confess Hightail has my favourite progress bar! Once a file begins uploading, it calculates the most time it would take, then constantly recalculates with two visuals—a bar that fills up as the files loads and a circle that does the same over the file icon. They’re both quite consist with each other and, most importantly, with their accuracy. For me, the most impressive thing about Hightail is that it doesn’t waste my time and data. The uploads are quick and it doesn’t drop my file data during the upload unlike some other sites. I mostly upload mp3s and so far have had no problems with Hightail’s players refusing to play back my media. I’ve also shared large PDFs and Photoshop files. Some day, when I can afford one of the Premium plans, I’ll share videos as well.

Hightail in-app audio player and controls.

Best of all, all but one of my clients had no problems using Hightail or accessing their files. For that reason, if I were running a team, especially one that shares larger files, I’d choose Hightail over Slack (which I dislike because it’s so hard to find files easily among all those threads).

Are there any cons to using Hightail? There’s only one that I’ve experienced, but it hasn’t happened in a long while. Sometimes, when my internet was interrupted, I would need to upload the entire file again. And sometimes the Hightail player isn’t available immediately after upload. It could take a minute or two for you to be able to preview the audio before sending to your client/colleague.

So, if you’re working from home, need more confidentiality than most file sharing systems, and hate having your time and data wasted, I recommend giving Hightail a go. You can try out their Lite plan for free.

Posted in design, FYI, Uncategorized

Evolution Of A Book Cover: Situation No Win

Situation No Win is finally revised and re-released! Along with the new chapter and polishing of the prose, comes the new cover.

I think it’s my best yet, even better than Three Million’s A Crowd. Scroll to the end of the post to see the final 2020 cover or read on.

The Situation No Win cover has come a long way from the hastily one done over a couple of late nights after class in Harbin. It’s actually taken over three years to complete! That sounds like a lot but it’s been an on and off project. After all, this revision of Situation hasn’t been that easy for me, with the big a-ha moment of what needed to move things into focus regarding the story only happening last year during the prep for my Tarot For Writers course, and then…Well, this year just about everything has been delayed by one thing or another, right?

So, I thought I’d take you on a walk-through on the evolution of this particular cover in celebration of the book being available again!

The Original Brief

As a new writer and cover creator, I wanted Situation No Win’s cover to reflect the main, unique location of the Mu Desert. For me, back then, that’s what made the story special. Also, as a reader, I hate when book covers mislead as to content and location. I didn’t want to be that cover. I also didn’t want readers to think the story was related to No Distance To Run—a cover that had been quite effective. So, I settled on dunes as the main image.

Yep, there’s dunes all right.

I had wanted to draw some kind of artifact on the image as well, but didn’t have the illustrative abilities. I had a limited range of fonts and limited software as GIMP wasn’t quite as advanced then, or so I thought, compared to Photoshop that I’d been used to working on as a DTP/Junior Designer. I loved the 2013 result, but it’s underwhelming…more so by today’s standards.

In 2015, when I began my first effort on the revision (yes, there was more than one), I decided to bring in some effects of the device after realising I couldn’t draw the intricacies of the device in a way that would also signal that the story is an adventure thriller with fantasy elements. So, I added some effects over the sky to bring in a sense of tension and mystery. I had still a lot of growing to do as both a writer and cover creator. You’ll see that I was still hesitant to deviate from my original cover. This was the result.

Yep, those dunes are still there…but it’s starting to look like a Leenna!

By 2017, I was maturing as a cover creator (and writer) and decided to experiment away from my original brief. I wanted to signal the power of the device even more, and what better imagery to use than lightning, shot in Ladysmith by my trusty of Canon D10. I added a snazzy font from dafont.com to bring in the some flavour of the device and region. The faded hieroglyphs were just random scribbles from the original notebook I’d written the story in. They were my attempt at getting a visual of the glyphs as Lui and Tom would have seen them.

I also darkened the overall feel tending towards more black as I’d enhanced the No Distance To Run cover to a purer black and liked how it look. By this point, I also wanted to readers who looked at No Distance To Run to consider Situation No Win, too.

If I had completed the revision in 2017 or 2018, I would have definitely used this cover. For that period, I think the cover would have stood a good chance of capturing eBook readers attention. What do you think?

Still those dunes, but it’s beginning to show the excitement of the story..I hoped.

Along Came 2020…

Then we got to 2019/2020 and I realised that last cover wasn’t good enough. I did two more versions, adding one totally new concept using photos from Yulin and integrating some of the elements from my 2017 cover.
I polled my Patrons as to which cover they most likely would click on. Which one would you choose?

Using my patron’s suggestions, I tweaked the most liked cover and ended up with this:

Nothing says mysterious, powerful artifact more than a deep, dark cave…

It’s come a long way, but I’m glad the cover has completely matured. Best of all, it remains true, although re-conceived, to the intentions of the original brief—to reflect the story and story elements inside.

What do you think?

Read the first chapter of Situation No Win on my Patreon.

Posted in artists, design, Interview, Limelight, mock covers, Photos

In the Limelight: Laszlo Zakarias

Laszlo Zakarias became my new GD Hero (Graphic Design Hero) when he designed the book cover for my soon-to-released series for Fiction Vortex and Fictionite. The brief for the artwork had a particular request I thought would be hard to manage. But Laszlo succeeded so well, and exceeded my expectations of the cover so much, that I absolutely had to look at more of his work! And ask him a few questions. I know you’ll be just as delighted with him as I am 😀

 

You design book covers, illustrations and Photoshop art. Can you tell us why these projects interest you?
I’ve always been interested in reality—especially in changing the reality somehow. I worked as a video editor for more than 10 years, which was a way to modify the objective raw material to produce emotions, and thoughts, in a viewer’s mind. Later I found this possibility on other platforms too, like drawing illustrations and modifying photography, and I found this very-very exciting 🙂

As for the book covers: I read a lot. I was in love with book covers since I was a child, so it was only a matter of time to bring together these three (or four) things: the books, the illustrations, design, and me.

What did you most like about working on The Quest For The Wholly Pale fantasy cover?
Making the photo!

Coming soon to the Wizards in Space Storyverse from Fiction Vortex and Fictionite.

I was searching for the right photo for the cover, the one I imagined, but didn’t find anything quite similar to what I had in mind. So I decided to shoot the photo myself, of myself. I put the cover together in my head, then I set up a little studio in my living room, found some old sheet, took a paper and a pen in my hands as place-holders for the paper roll and the wand, and shot a few photographs. It was really fun.

Your brief for the The Wholly Pale had a strange request: a man’s six-fingered hand. It’s a difficult detail to get right, but you did it beautifully! Can you tell us a little about how you did it?
Yeah, fortunately I have six fingers on my left hand, so I just took the photo and that’s it.
No, just kidding. It wasn’t as hard as it seems to be. I just duplicated the little finger and made it look like part of the hand.

Have you had other book or illustration requests which had you thinking ‘out the box’? Can you tell us about one or two of them?
Yes, I like those requests. I don’t really like to make the same thing twice, or something similar to other works. There are a few styles I like and use repeatedly, but I like it most when I can try out something new.

I love visual metaphors, associations, and telling stories with visual elements, so if I have freedom in my work, I usually work with these. Though these are not book covers (yet), here are a few examples.

You’ve done other covers for Fiction Vortex: Gridiron and FuturePunk. These two covers have a different look and feel to your other FV covers. Do you prefer working on a special Laszlo look, or do you think of yourself as a design chameleon?
I don’t think that there would be a special style that could be called my own, and that’s not my goal. The FuturePunk cover was made with 3D software which I just learned to make the cover.

For the Gridiron cover I looked through the internet to learn something about these Aztec-style tattoos and drew them myself. I like to use different styles. It’s much more exciting for me if I can find the right style for the actual task.

Your other work is also fascinating. I love your musical typographical art. What gave you the idea to create them, and how do you choose the songs to use?
I saw this typographic art somewhere, and loved it. I did some quick research and experimented a lot. Then I found out how it goes and started to make these. I only choose songs I love, and which have a special meaning for me.

 

There’s lots of fun stuff on your website, like the illustrated quotes and your photography. Do you ever get to sleep, or are you permanently hooked into your machine while drinking coffee? 😀
I quit coffee a few years ago, so I sleep well 🙂 But seriously, yep, I’m trying to spend my time being healthy. I work, sleep, eat, do sports, meet people; so I try to keep a balance between doing and experiencing.

 

About Laszlo from tsg.pictures
I’m Laszlo Zakarias, a Hungary-based freelancer graphic designer. I studied IT but never worked as an IT guy, but have decades of experience in video-editing, photography and graphic design. I’m interested in movies and screen-writing, books, photography (as a hobby), and especially in philosophy—philosophy as a practical science—even if it sounds strange :). I think of Earth as a living being, and humanity as the part of this one big living thing.

Find Laszlo and his work

website

Facebook

Behance

Posted in artists, design, FYI, Limelight

In the Limelight: Afrikartworx/Sana Desai-Raftopoulos

I first came across Sana’s designs on the Redbubble Group on FB. I fell in love with her fun, bright designs of creatures—marine, of the veld, and of the air. A fellow South African, Sana’s got years of design experience (and life experience) so I thought I’d ask a few questions and share some of her work with you. Enjoy!

 

Leopard Zig-zag Border

You cut your teeth in fashion design. How did you transition into graphic design?
It was never a transition for me as I always incorporated graphics into my designs: I designed textile prints as well as prints for placement printing on clothing.
Although I would never describe myself as a graphic designer, as it really is a field on its own.

Do you miss fashion design? Would you re-enter that field again?
I don’t really miss the fashion industry as it has changed so much during my career. Thanks to Redbubble, though, I am able to do fashion, home décor and other design spheres.

You use a variety of mediums: sketching, illustration and digital art. Which do you prefer? Has it always been this way?
I just LOVE experimenting with various mediums, I prefer digital! Although when I need some stress release I turn back to drawing.
I started with hand drawn and painting, I only learnt computers in 2006.

 

Contemporary Identity Africa

 

If I had to describe your work at the moment, I’d call use terms like ‘whimsical’, innocent’, ‘fun’. What, so far, has been your favourite description of your work?
A poem which I use with afrikartworx is:
“Designed with sparks from the new and unexpected,
From imagination and reality,
With LOVE, WIT and INDIVIDUALITY.”
I would also like to use words like Afrocentric, contemporary, urban, and decoloniality.

 

Mosaic Whale Ocean Wave

 

I love you marine collection, so joyful and full of energy. Where do you get the inspiration for things like Whale?
Coming from Cape Town, of course I have two oceans and spend lots of time there for regeneration and inspiration. I am also influenced by many cultures, Africa, India, Japan, China, too much to mention actually.

 

Big Bee

 

Works like ‘BEE 141 HONEYCOMB’ and ‘PANGOLIN 133 IN A PATCH’ also seem inspired by nature. Is there a special place you visit when the creativity wanes?
Yes! Nature of course, we have to highlight the plight of our environment especially for the generations still to come who may never see some of our beautiful creatures….Climate change is our biggest threat.

As a designer, I tend to play around until I find a variation I like. Are you the same when it comes to variations, or do you have very specific plans and ideas before hand?
There is no one formula that works in art. No piece evolves the same. I doodle, I draw, and if I can teach anyone anything it’s the importance of variation, it stretches the creative imagination and can take you to places you may never go.

Tell us more about Afrikartworx. How did it come about?
I was retrenched and needed to re-invent myself. I did what I do naturally and created Afrikartworx. I felt a need to highlight Africa, with a more modern brush. I never liked the blank faces in African art, depicting no identity. The fact that there are new lines depicting beauty in this new age. My life has also always been influenced by politics due to my dad and his circle of friends (who were P.A.C.) in London.

 

Mosaic Seahorse Light Ocean

 

And the future? Which direction would you like to go in next?
I am helping a fellow artist Walter Chinoda (a sculptor/artist living in the diaspora). He has a stall in Franschoek. “Art and Sculpture Collide”.
You can support him on the following links:
https://www.facebook.com/chinoda.africanart/
https://www.zazzle.com/chinoda
I will continue to work on the pods that I belong to and hopefully one day a large chain will see and understand my vision and buy my goods… Yes I will continue to dream!

About Sana

My name is Sana Desai-Raftopoulos. My History is deeply embedded in that of my Fathe,r Ebrahim Desai (a political exile), and my Mother Janie (a talented seamstress/designer) who both played their part in influencing my passions in life. I grew up in England (London).
My loves are Fashion, art, stationery, music, dance, and film.
I am a Mother of two boys, grandmother of two, and wife, married to renowned Academic (in the region and internationally) Professor Brian Raftopoulos.
I believe in Local promotion will then equal job opportunities and growth. We need to celebrate our ART, MUSIC, FILM, Writers, PHOTOGRAPHY, MIXED MEDIA, PERFOMANCE, FASHION, STYLISTS etc. AS AFRICA
After working in the fashion industry for well over 30 years, I am continuing my journey as an artist/ entrepreneur.

Find Sana

https://www.facebook.com/afrikartworx
https://www.redbubble.com/people/sana90
https://shopvida.com/collections/afrikartworx
https://www.zazzle.com/afrikartworx
http://designers.printedvillage.com/members/afrikartworx/
https://hellopretty.co.za/afrikartworx
https://www.instagram.com/afrikartworx/?hl=en

Posted in design, FYI, MOOCs, Uncategorized

Sketchnote1: Designing The Future Course

It’s that time of the year again when I subscribe to too many courses on FutureLearn. This year, I’m finally doing a design course — Designing For The Future run by RMIT.

As part of the first week’s task, we had to take a problem from our environment which we’d like to find solutions to and, using sketchnotes, define the problem and brainstorm solutions.

So here’s my first ever sketchnote. It’s not pretty, but I was amazed at some of the solutions I think would work.
The ‘build taller’ (we’ve lost the sea views anyway) is nothing new, but after remembered discussions with my students while in China, I know there’s lots of wonderful and do-able ways to make tall buildings green from the word go. Even better, they’d work out much cheaper in the long run 😀
And the best bonus would be our local birdlife (we have gorgeous hawks and other birds around most natural green areas left) and other wildlife (including mongeese and the odd duiker) will see in the next century with us instead of as exhibits in the natural history museum.

 

sketchnote-1-probsol-dbnnorth-lnaidoo

The idea that excited me the most was the ferry idea. I love taking ferries and short local ferries (like the one that used to run from The Point to The Bluff) needn’t be expensive, and could provide more jobs too, as well as help tourists see Durban from a different view.

Overall, I realised that when it comes to traffic congestion, the ocean is a resource Durban totally ignores. I hope this gets someone thinking somewhere 😀

What do you think:

You can find out more about the MOOC from Futurelearn.
Posted in design, FYI, redbubble

Whispering Tree

Have you ever sat near to or under a tree and heard it whisper to you?

I’ve been lucky to have experienced this more than once, admittedly these were during breezy days.

One such tree was was this one in Yulin, at Central Square.

m_YulinTree

Another was this tree in Broken Hill, Australia.

m_Tree Broken Hill I was so taken by the beauty of its bark in contrast to the other sights along Bromide Street (it’s a mining town, it really is) that I stood for a few moments just gawking and marveling at it. This tree had a story, perhaps more than one… And all I knew for sure was that I wanted to paint it.

Months later in Harbin, I found I’d ended up sketching it in black ink. Back in SA, I decided to add colour to it with gouache.

And what did the tree whisper to me? Well, parts of it are on the painting, and the rest…that’s between me and the tree 😀

 

What story would your favourite tree tell you if you could understand its whisperings.

Find it on Redbubble.

Posted in design, FYI, redbubble

Coffee with salt…

Often a thing, or a place, will suddenly seem…wrong…off, bringing a confused distasteful curl to your lip.

It may take you a while to figure out what exactly went wrong. Reaching for the salt instead of the sugar…being distracted…or finding your trusted source of sustenance is either having a bad day or taking out their hatred of the world on you…

Most of the time that sense of something missing, or of it being substituted by a distasteful look-a-like, is the result of missing a beloved…
a sweet face…
a spirit-lifting smile…
a loud guffaw…
a playful bark…
or sulky meow…

On the sunniest days, missing your beloved turns all sugar to salt, even in the finest coffee…or tea.