Forests of light, the trials of writing, and an interview of you (and me)

I completed the book that I wanted to submit in time for The Wild Rose Press Lobster Cove series. The ball, as they say, is in the other court.

I’m so glad I finished the book, and that I like it. That’s a good first step. I’m also glad that I made it outside last week to enjoy the Tahoe National Forest. Hopefully you will enjoy this collection of images from our hikes.

Wildflower meadow, Tahoe National Forest
Wildflower meadow, Tahoe National Forest

I would love to know if you had a goal over the summer, or any time, that challenged your ability to balance other things you like to do.

Log in water
Log in water

Did you reach your goal?

Trees with moss
Trees with moss

What did it cost you and was it worth it? Why or why not?

Dry creek
Dry creek

What motivated you to pursue that goal?

To be fair, I will answer for myself:

  • Did I have a goal over the summer that challenged my ability to balance other things I like to do.
    Yes, writing the sequel to Love Caters All in time for it to be included in the Lobster Cove setting, where it takes place.
  • Did I reach my goal?
  • What did it cost me and was it worth it? Why or why not?
    It cost me being able to relax more this summer, and it cost me anxiety, or I should say, it gave me anxiety! Yes, it was worth it because the book pushed me through to a new way of writing, one that I have dreamed of, but that I didn’t think I had in me. I feel that I became a more natural writer. It was also worth it because the book is meaningful to me, and it is amazing to create meaning. In addition to being about a romance, this book is about loving and caring for someone who is disabled. When my characters took up this meaning and told me their story, rather than letting me impose the story upon them, I was amazed and fulfilled. I was also, I think, changed as a writer. I hope it sticks! LOL
  • What motivated me to pursue that goal?
    This changed over time. First it was simply the next thing I planned to do. I set up a series with three sisters, not realizing how difficult series can be! Ah, the blind ambition of the ignorant. Then several readers wanted to know what is going to happen with the other two sisters, so the readers motivated me. I didn’t want to let down the people who took a risk and read my debut novel! Then my critique partners helped me so much that I didn’t want to let them down. I mean, they worked hard to help me pan the bits of gold out of the first draft. Finally what motivated me to push myself very hard, to push through moments of hopelessness when I was throwing out more words than I was writing with the deadline looming nearer and nearer, was my husband. He often is a bit of a writing widower. He also helped me a lot with the book as he always does. I simply couldn’t let him down. After I finished, I confessed this to him, and he said I wouldn’t have. Nice to know! One thing I learned about myself with writing this book is I care the most about my relationships with people. Oddly enough, that’s sort of what the book turned out to be about.

So now I am in waiting mode. This book might be rejected. Or it might not be loved by readers. This is what happens when we undertake to write stories for an audience. But you know what? Those things don’t matter as much as I thought. At least I hope I have the courage to remember this no matter what happens with the book. We have to look inward for our rewards. Yes, we create for others, but if we are satisfied with what we have created, then we must feel fulfilled and whole. And if we are not satisfied, then I think we need to be kind to ourselves, maybe set this aside, and try again. It is very often the case that later in our careers we will know what we need to know to bring that creation into being in a way that fulfills the vision we have, the feeling we have for it.

I’d love to hear from you if you would like to answer any of the questions or just describe a bit about an experience you’ve had of pursuing a goal.

A turkey and a farmhouse

Here are two more photos from Rancho San Antonio.


I am practicing what I’m learning in my Photoshop class. I think the turkey may be a bit “overdone.” But fortunately not in the way that he would really hate! Photoshop cooking doesn’t hurt the bird at all.

I’m happy with my little farmhouse.


When can I move in?

Lake Tahoe as a canvas

I think I finally figured out how to work with water as a colored texture. I like the idea of textures, but I wanted the water color. The key was to select just the subject from the photo you want to paste onto the texture. For the pinecone I did this with freehand select using my digital pad and pen. For the bush I used select by color, copy, paste, as many times as I could stand. I was okay with a little bit of an abstract bush. It’s not all filled in, but that allows more water to come through.

The pine cone was very small! I put it on a post to photograph it. I should have changed off my telephoto lens, but I managed to clean up the slight blur on the cone afterwards by using sharpen. The bush is from the East side of the Sierra, growing at around 5,500 feet above sea level. (Lake Tahoe is 6,000.)




Ready-made frames

To shrink the photo to fewer pixels in Photoshop Elements, use Image->Resize->Image Size, then check the box Resample Image then change the Pixel width to 1000 (or X). The height adjusts automatically because Constrain Proportions is checked by default. Changing the pixel size is not available until you check Resample Image.

In the feature photo and in the one below, all the Photoshop Elements auto processes from the Enhance menu were applied except Auto Red Eye Fix.


Mystical evening, Saratoga, California, March 28th

Software tips follow photos.

with some Nik Color Efex processing
with some Nik Color Efex processing



Well, as everyone who follows this blog knows, I am an avid follower of Leanne Cole’s Photography blog. (That link takes you to her latest post.) Now, Leanne is a professional artist. I am an absolute beginner. So why do I offer tips? Because I think there is value in the little things an absolute beginner has to offer to other people who might think like her and be in the same stage. Even if it’s only one other person out there in the blogisphere, who thinks like Nia Simone and finds value in her little trial-and-error discoveries on the way to someday, 20 years from now, actually being any good.

Leanne has talked about Nik software and Silver Efex. I recently  have acquired a Bamboo Craft. An amazing digitizing device. It was $50. (Another thing you’ll notice about Nia Simone’s blog, is everything has to be free or very inexpensive. I think actually, a lot of people can relate to that part!)

Anyway, the device is unbelievably wonderful and so is the software that came with it!!!! Corel Painter Essentials (heaven), Photoshop Elements (frightening, but I haven’t done the tutorial yet) and Nik Color Efex ( very hard to find –  it is under the Layer menu in Photoshop.)

The photo in the Featured Image of this post was taken in the evening with my DLSR propped on the top of my Subaru. (Tripod anyone?) The first photo in the post has had the Color Efex  layer applied. I lowered brilliance and warmth, merged the layers, and saved as JPEG. Then opened it in GIMP to scale it to 1000 pixels, my standard for this blog. I could not figure out how to do that in Photoshop.

The (art) education of Nia Simone, stencils

Inspired by this fellow blogger and artist:

Pedro Holderbaum and especially this painting Menno, start studying stencils.

A link to a video about how to do it correctly: Four ways to do multi-colored stencils.

First stencil, step 3, stick it on (step 1 was getting a photo, turning it into black and white and increasing the contrast (see and printing, step 2 was cutting it out with an Exacto knife.)first stick on

Step 4. (Should be mowing this grass!)

I should be mowing this grass First try at spray paint

Failure. Bleeding from overspray.

First attempt failure

Step 3 again, this time using this cool wax you can get at the office supply (note the original stencil is black now):

A lot of patience and some sangria
Sangria to help with nervous tension. Recipe: Make iced Passionberry Fruit Tisane from The Monterey Bay Spice Company ( Mix with red wine. A few ice cubes. Be careful with the Exacto knife.

Applying wax to the back side of stencil for second try

Re-stuck for second try

The cool waxy stuff:

Stencil wax

Step 4 again, this time with tempera paint:

Note cappuccino instead of sangria.
Note cappuccino instead of sangria.

Step 5, remove stencil, discover step 4 failure. Also ruined stencil.

Second attemtp failure


Research how to do it completely with GIMP.

It didn’t work out exactly as described so here is documentation of the additional steps:

Thankfully have a photo of the spray-painted stencil, which is black now, and start with that. Make it a stencil using GIMP as described in completely with GIMP.

Thinking… Can I flip black and white? Should be simple. There’s something called Invert. Click. Nothing happens.

Struggle and experiment, use handy Select by Color (Tools->Selection Tools->Select by Color) to grab all the black.

Stencil from GIMP 2

Have dotted lines. Look in the Select menu. Find Float! Try that. (Note: This screen shot made by creating a new image, then File->Screenshot, selected The Whole Screen, then crop the result.)

Screen shot of float

It’s floating. Can it be dragged free of that background? Yes.

Floated stencil

Now what? Click Edit->Copy. Now it’s in the clipboard.

Now create a new image, (1000×750, basic working size) and paste. Notice, probably didn’t have to move it off to the side as that actually had no effect. Just making it float was the key to detaching it from the background and copying it into the clipboard.

Paste into new imageI

It’s still floating. Can I invert it now? No. Instead, Tools->Selection Tools->Select by Color and click on the white part. Now white part is selected; you can’t tell, because the borders that are highlighted = borders of black, but it really is the white part, which you can tell when you do this: Edit->Fill with Pattern:

Fill with pattern

Do Tools->Selection Tools->Select by Colors again and click on the black part. Does Invert work now? No. That would be too easy. How about Edit->Fill with Background Color? Expecting the vinyl paneling in the stencil, get this instead, the whole point of the entire stenciling exercise!

White stencil

Okay, can it be less white? Yes, but can’t remember how to make it gray. Did that somehow. (Will update this post when it’s re-discovered.)

However, can now just Control C or Edit->Copy the floating image, open the background (purchased from canstockphoto for $3) and paste from the clipboard. The image is still floating. Drag it to where you want it.

Last step, anchor it. Could this be easy? Of course not. Go to Windows->Dockable Dialogs->Layers. Find the layer in the box to the right. First adjust the opacity down so it’s kind of transparent. Then, at the bottom of that dialog box, find the little anchor symbol and click it. Sometimes. Little anchor symbol was no longer there when this was written but it was there the first time. No hallucination… really, just had coffee. Whew, anchor also exists under the Layer menu.

floated onto background

Hint: If you accidentally lose the ability to move your floating level, go to Tools->Transform Tools->Move. That puts you back in move mode.

Jason on T-shirt
Ta da!

Conclusion: Since the spray painted stencil was less of a disaster than the tempera paint, sangria is better for art work than coffee.

The (art) education of Nia Simone, GIMP

Blogging brings new people and new things to try, like learning art, for now a self-education, but one day, who knows?

Today’s discovery: How to tone down the green after auto-enhancing the color in header photo.

Original photo:

Original header
Original photo (cropped out of a photo to fit the header shape)

To increase pop, perform Colors->Auto->White Enhance then Colors->Auto->Color Enhance:

Experiment 1 with auto white balance, then auto color enhance. (Tongariki on Easter Island.)

Too green. But… better than the washed-out original.

A week later, notice something called “Fade Color Enhance” appears in the Edit menu, but only after you have performed a color enhancement. If you perform a color enhancement, close the file and re-open it, you do not get this operation showing in the Edit menu.

Use Edit->Fade Color Enhancement to tone down the color on the whole picture. It gives you a preview and a sliding scale so you can see what the adjustment is doing. Get the undesired color down to where you want it, then tone up the colors you want to intensify. 

In this example, select the other colors (non-green) one at a time by using Tools->Selection Tools->By Color Select, then Colors->Auto->Color Enhance.  

When all the colors are done, use Select->None to eliminate the selection dashes so you can see the results. If you like it, File->Export it to JPEG. Otherwise, use the same process to intensify more colors. 

The result is at the top of today’s post (and in the new blog header image). There is not so much green on the statues.