The random endeavours of a fruit loop

Month: April 2013

How to Make a Hand-Bound Book: Part 1

I have been making hand-written and hand-bound version of some of my stories lately to both sell and giveaway as prizes. I thought I’d run through how I do it so others can follow suit.

The first part is finding the right paper. For the latest one I made I bought parchment paper in A4 sheets. Using the dimensions of the sheet folded in half I worked out a margin around the page and how many lines would fit on if they were 8mm tall and I left room at the bottom of each page for the page number.

Once I’d done that I worked out roughly how many of these pages I’d need to fit the entire wordcount of the story. In the case of Wandering to Belong (the example I’m using for my pictures), Which is 16,150 words long, I’ve got 22 A4 sheets which will give me 88 pages to work with (187 words per page being my work with number). I’ve split the sheets in three and folded each set of 7, 7 and 8 A4 sheets in half together, making 88 pages in the new booklet. Please bear in mind the front two pages will just be title and then a blank page or page for a message before you start the book.

I recommend splitting pages into groups where there are between 6 and 12 sheets per section and the sections are as even as possible. So this could also have been split into 11, 11 to make it two sections rather than three(I usually lean towards the smaller number for eace of recalculating as I go through). Only do the next few steps for the first section as you may find your calculation was a little off and you need to adjust the number of pages in each section to account for the extra or less words you can fit on a page. (The more of these you do, the more you’ll get used to what you need).

Once the pages have been folded and there is a nice defined fold line right in the middle, hold them open and mark 6 dots at even intervals along the middle with each end dot being 1.5cm’s away from the edge of the paper (if you use A4 paper the dots go at 1.5, 5.1, 8.7, 12.3, 15.9, and 19.5cm’s along the centre fold). Then, using a sharp needle (you will definitely need some kind of thimble) make holes through all the sheets in the section at the same time. I find this easiest with the pages almost totally folded over the needle and it standing up so I’m pushing the needle horizontally. That way I can make sure the needle comes out the fold at the back and doesn’t veer off to one side.

I then pick my colour of thread. Sometimes I pick a colour that blends in and sometimes I deliberately pick a colour that stands out. Here I’ve got black thread. I cut off about 6 times the length of the folded edge for my thread length and make a reasonable large knot in one end. Then I start from the back and the top hole and thread through to the front, then move down a hole and thread back, without pulling the thread through too tightly. I want it to be reasonably tight but not to risk pulling the knot through the top hole or ripping the page.

On reaching the bottom there should be three sections of thread on the inside with equal length gaps and two sections on the outside. I then thread back up to the top, filling in these gaps, so by the time I’m back where I started it’s a continuous line of thread both inside and outside (with the 1.5cm margin at top and bottom still).

Repeat this another two times (3 times down and then 3 back up in total) and then tie off the lose ends on the outside. You should then have a continous line of black down the back of the section and in the middle of the section, with your small knot on the back where it can be covered up.

Then you need to mark out to write in straight lines (unless you feel confident about writing neatly and consistently). Now depending on how thin your paper is you probably won’t be able to print out a sheet with lines on to hold underneath, so I’ll assume you can’t and explain my other, slightly more complicated method. This will mean you need a very good rubber that doesn’t smudge and a lot of patience, however. You will also need to make sure the little lines you make are feint enough to be rubbed out but prominent enough to see while you’re writing.

Firstly I mark out my lines (8mm wide, leaving room for 10mm at the top and not marking the final line at the bottom so there’s room for a page number) by putting the ruler up against the left hand edge of the page(the bottom on the pictures) and making a small not too deep mark on the right hand side. I do this all the way down and then flip the page 180 and repeate the process for the other side.

I’ve now got marks to aim for to help keep my lines straight. It’s not entirely fool proof but they act as a guide and often you can write over the top of them so it hides them as you go.

When I’ve finished writing every page in a section I go back through with that really good rubber and remove the marks that can be seen still. It doesn’t take too long and it’s not entirely perfect. Anyone looking really closely can often see one or two remaining here and there but anyone reading through and focusing on the words is sless likely to notice and at a glance it should be fine.

Viola you have your first section.

This is when the hardwork begins. I then write out the book as far as the middle A4 sheet (the one either side of the centre stitching) and stop before I write on this middle sheet (for clarification see the two next photos). At this point I work out how many words I’ve got written and just double check I’m on target for the right number of pages.

The reason I stop here is because the easiest sheet to remove (if I need to) is this middle one. If I found I needed to just take out 1 sheet from the full count (in this case 22, becoming 21, or 88 pages of 185 words becoming 84 pages), I would remove the extra sheet from the section I’ve not made up yet and have 7,7,7, rather than try and undo what I’ve got already. And the same if I needed to add 1, I’d add it to one of the later sections.

If, however, you’re already starting with uneven numbers of pages and it’s going to make the difference between sections more than 1, you can remove this page by cutting very carefully up the centre fold.

Adding pages to this section is significantly more difficult (and less likely to need to happen as you always have to round up pages anyway) so unless you really can’t add pages to another section don’t add any at this point. If you do have to add some, the best way is probably to undo your stitching (you might have to cut some knots off), add the page to the middle and then re-stitch.

Once this section is complete and every page is written on, you can move on to making your next section, follow all the steps above and, just in case, I usually recalculate my word count and page requirement at this point too, always remembering it’s a lot easier to take pages out of the middle of a section than  it is to add them.

In my next how-to blog I’ll run through stitching the sections together and then making a binding for the whole thing.

The Tourist: A Review

I finally succumbed and checked out what was meant to be one of the worst Johnny Depp movies of all time.

I wasn’t totally thrilled when I heard the news Depp and Jolie were going to be working together. They’re both pretty amazing in the sorts of films they normally do together and I just wasn’t quite sure their special own brands of magic would work that well together.

Also I remember there being sum hoo-ha over a shower scene between the two of them (which was cut from the TV version I saw, if it ever made it into the cinema release) and Mrs Depp not liking the combination much either, probably due to the way Jolie picked up her last two partners, although she does seem pretty settled with her current fella so that may have just been an unfortunate coincidence.

But back to the film. The plot was so-so. Fairly standard action/spy plot with no way near enough explosions. Jolie did pretty much no action sequences at all and I think that’s some of the issue. Her action’s usually fantastic. The whole time in this she was pretty much aloof and uninvolved. I know to some degree the character is meant to be this way but I just didn’t buy it.

In terms of Depp I could also see what he was trying to do. He mostly came across as this gorgeously sweet, bumbling math teacher who was out of his league and paunfully aware of it. And sometimes this was brilliant. He seemed shocked in all the right places and uncomfortable in all the right places, but he also seemed uncomfortable in all the wrong places. It was like he was on his guard all the time and the infatuation between him and Jolie just never came through when it was meant to. Even in the few  times they kissed.

I actually found myself a little sad at the end of this film. I really wanted to love it. I even got quite excited when Paul Bettany appeared and I could enjoy the gorgeous Jarvis voice (Iron Man’s software), and then I got excited again when Rufus Sewell appeared, but it just didn’t quite have me convinced enough to love it. I was entertained well enough for the evening but not swept away. Oh, and I totally saw that ending coming!

Location Spotlight: Southstoke

In Sherdan’s Prophecy I mention that Sherdan and Anya head to a small village off the south of Bath to enjoy a picnic together, this village is Southstoke.

During the book I happen to mention they sit down on the ground in front of a stone bench, set into the hillside. The picture above is that very stone bench.

I found this location not very far from the house I used to live in while out walking with my mum and very much fell in love. The views from the seat are amazing.

This is what it looks like during the day, which as you can see it quite spectacular. In the book Sherdan takes Anya when it’s dark so they wouldn’t have been able to see all this detail but the view is still really rather special, even then (yes, I’ve also been at night, but photos don’t come out that great).

For any intrepid explorer types who want to find this bench and view, it’s a very short walk away from Southstoke and you can park right where Sherdan parks if you wish. Below is a map. You can come in from Bath, via Combe down and then park at the hill, then follow the black dashed line to the bench.

I don’t want to plot spoil so I won’t say too much about their visit here but I do think it has a certain charm to it.

The Palaver Tree: A Review

I grabbed this book a few months ago and offered to review it for the author, so here’s what I thought.

I’m so glad I picked up the book. Really so glad.

Other than the setting of this book I’m not sure the cover and title quite do this book justice. This is one of those intrigue and suspense novels that makes it tough to put down, even when you have too. I loved the sense of realism to this book.

Unfortunately I’ve had the misfortune of knowing someone very similar to the bad guy of this book which served to show this as being even more realistic.

I loved the ending too! Maybe not the most moral of endings but it seemed to suit perfectly. Just what the character needed to do I think.


Writer’s block

I’ve been asked quite a few times what I think of writer’s block and how often I get it so I thought I’d post about it on my blog.

I don’t actually believe in writer’s block as such. I actually just think one of two things happens. We either get worn out creatively and need to recharge our memory banks with experiences or we get distracted too easily. Both can slow down a writing schedule alone but when both strike together it can pretty much kill a well planned schedule. I know that from first hand experience. As I write this I’m actually struggling with both. My creative capacity feels dry and I just don’t seem to have any motivation to ignore the many distractions trying to get my attention.

Today I want to talk about ways to refill that creative well and get the new ideas and juices flowing again.

The first thing I try when struggling is a good old fashioned walk. I know where all the good walks are near my house for good and bad weather. I also find walking to a coffee shop can help but sometimes it’s just good to get out the house and let the brain dwell on anything else it might want to process before it can get back to my complicated plots and character’s lives. The sunshine is also really good and stops me appearing quite such a pasty faced geek.

If that doesn’t work I’ll take a day or two off and indulge in all my hobbies. Anything that might put ideas into the pot, like reading books, watching films and playing computer games. It’s important that there is inspiration coming into the mix and fresh ideas so I usually find this is a good time to read, watch or play something a bit more out there and different to my usual fare.

If that still leaves me feeling uninterested or uninspired I switch to one of my other creative pursuits. Either clothes design or drawing or anything else that’s different enough I can get the pressure off and try and create without deadlines or need for it to be any good. If pressure or worry about something not being good enough has been the killer of my creativity then this works a charm.

Finally, if I’m still struggling after all that I’ll consider my options carefully. I may just need some more time off because it’s stress that’s caused the problems. I may just need to recharge and talk to people, or I may need to just give myself a good kick up the butt and get working again. Very very occasionally I might need to stop the project I’m struggling with and come back to it a few months down the line. Sometimes the timing just isn’t right.

Either way. It usually get’s resolved eventually. Now I’m off to play some games…

The Invention of Lying: A Review

This was one of those films I wasn’t sure about watching when I saw the trailors. I’m just not sure they quite sold what the film really was, but when I noticed it was being shown on TV I thought it would be worth a viewing.

This was a funny film, as to be expected but even this little slogan didn’t entirely summarise what the film was like. You see, not only were people only able to be truthfull, they said, whatever they were thinking. They had to tell you exactly what they had just done and no one seemed that embarrased by finding out.

So this actually leads to some really deep suggestions on the idea that lying sometimes might actually be a good things. Over emphasising the good qualities of something can actually be very good for building hope. Sometimes not saying the exact things we are thinking but saying something else in order to be positive and encouraging can acually be a benefit to society.

I actually found this film, both making me laugh, and making me think, and was pleasantly surprised how much I liked it. Ricky Gervais did a really good job and although there was a little bit of rudeness, here and there, for him it was pretty clean and it’s given me a new sense of respect for the guy as an artist.

The whole thing really was quite clever and observational humour is one of my favourite types so definitely worth my time to watch it.

Character Spotlight: Bronwen

I thought I’d spice up my sharing blogs a bit. For ages they’ve been excerpts from my books or other creative endeavours. I’ve never really written anything especially for these blogs, just showcased something I’d already made. I’d like to try something new in every other sharing blog, so once every 24 days roughly I thought I’d do a character spotlight. I may also do a few location spotlights but they won’t be so regular.

All my stories are character driven so for me the most important thing when starting work on a new idea is getting to know the characters involved. Sometimes this can take a while and I can have imaginary people floating around my head for ages. Occasionally they come back after a few months break with some fresh information but mostly I sit down and chat with them during the planning and plotting stage of each book.

When I first started out as a writer I wrote a lot of this information down and even did interviews but as I get better at my craft I’ve been doing this less. Now I just chat to them and let them unfold a bit more as I write.

One of the characters who came to me quite suddenly, let me write her story and then left again without even much of a goodbye was Bronwen. She’s the main character in The Path Home, one of the shorts in Innocent Hearts.

In this blog I’m going to put the spotlight on her, who she is, why she’s where she is at the start of the story, plus anything else I think you might like to know about her. This is going to talk about aspects of the plot and things mentioned in the story, although I will try to keep spoilers to a minimum it may be better to have read The Path Home first. If you’ve not and would like to, you can pick up an ebook copy of her story and Learning to Fly for just 77p here


At the start of The Path Home, Bronwen is alone in her small cottage, upset and packing to go on some kind of journey. I don’t really fill in a lot of her past in this short. I never really intended to as in my head there was always going to be some kind of novel sequel. Almost two years later I still have no idea what that sequel would really look like, so I’ll start with some more backstory of hers.

Bronwen is half elf and half human. Her mother was the elf side of things and her father, human. She’s grown up with both parents in her cottage (Probably a lot like this cottage <– by Thomas Kinkade). To start with she had a pretty basic home life, with the exception of few visitors and no other people living nearby.

The lack of major social interactions coupled with the fact elves live a lot longer than humans means she’s not as emotionally mature as she should be for her age. Although I never specified her age in the books, she’s about seventeen, maybe eighteen but she acts more like thirteen. A very lost and alone thirteen.

Being in a house so far from other civilisation does kinda beg the question why. Unfortunately, Bronwen herself doesn’t entirely know. It seems to have had more to do with Dad than Mum, as Mum regularly went to visit her kin in the elf city Invareph, to the north of home.  But neither of them ever explained it to her and before she had thought it might be good to ask they were both dead. Needless to say there’s obviously something about her past she needs to find out and I imagine it bothers her that no one can explain it for sure.

Bronwen had been feeling restless and not quite satisfied with being at home ever since her mother died. Before then her mother would satisfy her vast curiosity with a few odd tales and letting her see the ornate elvish jewellery she had. Her Dad, out of the pain of losing the woman he loved, closed up and never told her anything. As such Bronwen’s curiosity grew worse and worse.

Before the story only two things have stopped Bronwen leaving home. Her love for her father. He does dote on her and is fiercly protective, maybe a little too protective. Also her inability to survive. Mostly because her father is so concerned for her she’s never been out in the wilderness without him. She’s never had to hunt for food and can only cook a little and knows very little about surviving for more than an afternoon out in the wilds.

When her father dies too she finds not only are her two reasons for staying put gone but she has no choice but to leave and find others if she wants to survive. Fate pushes her out the door to go find her mother’s people, just like she’s always wanted.

It’s the only thing she’s ever really wanted, to go to Invareph too and be surrounded by all the other elves her mother told her about. And like all good stories, in The Path Home, that’s exactly what happens by the end. Some other stuff happens along the way and it’s not all plain sailing  but by the end, she’s achieved what she set out to do.

So there’s Bronwen and what I know about her so far. Maybe she’ll visit again sometime. If anyone has any more questions about her feel free to put them in the comments below and I’ll see what kind of answer I can give.

Good, Clean, Murder: A Review

I’ve read a couple of books by this author and when I saw she was releasing another book I just had to pick this one up and help support her launch.

I picked this book up in the morning and didn’t put it down again, except to fix some breakfast, until I’d read the whole thing. Jane was gorgeous in every way and I totally adored her from the first moment.

The mystery was great and I was left guessing until the big reveal at the end. I also felt every moment of Jane’s confusion in what to do with her life. Trying to follow God’s calling is never easy and combine that with crime solving and you’ve got quite a recipe for a headache.

Just like the other books I’ve read by this author, this keeps the lighthearted feel to it with the moments of humour and general awkwardness, while still feeling tense enough to keep you page turning.

On top of all that I really liked the snapshot of US living. For someone not from the UK instead I still felt like I could picture the book and what things were like from how everything was described. Sometimes I read books by US authors and they take for granted that the reader knows certain things that are actually locational. I didn’t find that was the case with this book and it made it so much easier to get into it.

Learning the Craft of Writing

A lot of people start out on  the journey of writing a book and never finish and I’ve talked about the things I often do to help myself finish the things I start, but today I want to talk about the next stage.

Often when the very first story is finished it’s not that great, and it can be very tempting to sit down and edit right away, wanting to get it ready to show others. I’ve found it’s better to leave the book for a few weeks. When I come back to it I find it easier to spot the mistakes because my brain has had time to forget what I meant to say. Also, during that time of reading and writing in between I’ve already grown a little more as a writer (at least I’d hope I had).

It can also be tempting to just keep editing. And then edit again, based on the rules we’ve learnt since the beginning and the suggestions of those first few readers. While this does help a little, it can actually kill that precious voice and style that is unique to each of us.

When the pen first hits paper (or our fingers press those keys) we are in our creative mode. The words are flowing from the more subconscious part of our brains. The part that more intuitively knows what it’s doing. It’s been reading books and words since we were kids so it’s picked up on more than the conscious part of the brain has. It will already have an idea of who it is and how it should sound too. But near the beginning of our careers our critical side, the part a lot of people edit in, is not so clever. It’s read those books too but it used to just enjoy them. It never looked at the way other authors did things. A blog I read recently even goes so far as to suggest we shouldn’t really edit in our critical mode because it will never be as good as our more intuitive creative side.

Everyone who writes is different, there’s no one way to do things and I think this includes how we edit. I have found, as I’ve written more books the need to edit has lessened. I’ve got better from reading books and finding tips all over the internet in a more intuitive manner so my first drafts are getting closer and closer to perfect (If you don’t include typos and other grammar issues I’m still struggling with) and my editing is getting less and less.

If I’d spent all that time editing up the first few of my stories (which really aren’t as good as the work I’m doing now) I don’t think I’d be as good as I am now.

In short what I’m trying to say is, read the how-to’s and learn what you can from reading other books, but when it comes to your own work, do as little editing as you can get away with; at the very least typos, grammar and structure editing. Then spend the rest of the time writing something new, with what you’ve learnt from the previous attempts. You’ll get better, faster that way.

Wreck It Ralph: A Review

I’m a bit of a computer game geek so was pretty thrilled when a new film was announced about the bad guy in an aracde game no longer wanting to be a bad guy. This was one of those films I made sure I saw in the cinema, although I do want to have a little moan at the Odeon in Bath for having no showing in the evening on a Wednesday that me and my friends could get to in time after work. Also the Vue nearby which did have a viewing when we checked the Monday before suddenly didn’t when we checked again on the Tuesday! We had to drive into Bristol to see the film.

Eventually I got to see this film and I’m so glad I did. It was a great laugh and very retro. The oneliners even made a joke about what being retro meant!

Wreck it Ralph was fantastic and unintentionally wreaked havoc everywhere he went, all because he wanted to party with the good guys.

In this film the games in the arcade are all connected by a hub (the inside of the extension lead sockets) and all the characters can meet up with each other. Wreck It Ralph decides to go awol and try some other games. Introducing us to the woman just to the right of Ralph in the picture above (not the little girly on this shoulder, the other one). Her lines were fantastic, my favourite being – ‘Doomsday and Armageddon just had a baby and it… is… ugly!’

In terms of the plot etc. It was a pretty standard kids film. Main character tries to be something else because he’s bored with who he is, goes off on an adventure to try and find what he wants to be and realises he’s awesome the way he is. Goes back home with a new bunch of friends.

On top of that the soundtrack was amazing, even the credit songs at the end were awesome. So awesome we sat and listened right up until the end (sorry cinema cleaner upper person, we know we kept you waiting). I’m definitely getting both film and soundtrack.

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