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Oakbrook Creations

I have a new website: Oakbrook Creations. For a while now I’ve not been happy with using my own name and wanted something different. After much soul-searching, and debate, I decided to name the site after the fictional town of Oakbrook from my Portal novels. I hope you’ll visit.

Oakbrook Creations

The shop has moved over to Oakbrook, and there will be more content in time. But for now both sites will run side by side.

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Rewrites are evil

For NaNo2019 I decided to be a rebel. I’ve not been completely happy with the Portal series for a long time, and NaNo gave me the push to start work. Can I say, rewrites are evil.

The best way to rewrite a piece, is to literally start with a fresh document and write the story again. So, that’s what I did. In proper NaNo tradition, I opened a blank document on the first of November and started writing. I knew the characters, the story, this should be easy, right? I even had a new cover, that needs changing too.

rewrites are evil

But no, it was hard, really, really, hard. I came across poor writing, did I really think that was good? There were whole sections of filler, pointless action that gave nothing to the plot or characters. I deleted more than I wrote. Characters no longer exist, characters changed gender, appearance. Relationships morphed into something different. Plot development scenes moved in the timeline. Place names needed to be changed when I realised my fictional town actually exists. Sorry, Wingate. With each change, tiny or huge, came an avalanche of other changes.

The sheer volume of characters proved impossible to balance, so several got culled. Some were simply superfluous. Other characters from later in the story would have been present, so they got an earlier introduction. More had to be given more depth, more identity.

It’s like writing the first book from scratch, again, with someone looking over your shoulder and telling you it’s wrong. The cascade of changes ripples through the narrative, washing away large sections, changing the course of the story.

Rewrites are evil, but necessary. I think I have a better book. It’s shorter, by about 20,000 words. In a couple of days it’ll be ready to send out to the first readers, trusted friends who will give an honest opinion.

I’m half expecting, “you changed it, I don’t like it.” But we will see. With luck, the new edition could be ready for release later this year. Then those snowball changes mean the other books will need to be rewritten too. Wish me luck.

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Making books

Still absolutely the worst at blogging. But now and then I find there is something I would like to share. I’ve been making books, and it’s fun!

Over the past month or 2 I have been teaching myself book binding. I’ve been using whatever I have available, and it doesn’t take much in the way of specialist tools to have a go. It takes some practice, but with time and patience, I have made some nice books.

Making books

Isn’t it pretty? If I’m going to be critical, the front cover flap is slightly misaligned, and I’d like for it to line up with the front cover perfectly.

This one has multicoloured pages, and secures at the front with blue ribbon and a toggle button that slips through the ribbon if you want. I was quite pleased with it, and as a result, thought I’d test the waters on eBay with it.

Everything used to make this book was already in the house. The only things I had to buy new were a couple of tools (bone folders) and a pot of PVA glue.

This one has a cover made from wallpaper. I particularly like the way the embossed metallic squares catch the light. The leaf print enhances the design with a natural look.

My eBay items for sale.

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Making time

Today is about making time to do things. Over the winter I’ve let things slip, rested back on habits and conveniences that aren’t ideal. We’ve eaten ready meals, far too much junk food, and fallen asleep on the sofa way too often.

Then on lottery, or euromillions, day, we sit and play the what if game. If we win, we’ll have this house, we’ll move and live there, if we have more time to do stuff we’d write, grow things, etc. But would we? really? If we’re not making time to do those thing now, why would a bigger house or more money make that much difference?

I fancy having a go at lino printing, so why wait? Recently I wanted to get back into writing but I find that despite having hours in which to write, I don’t.

I think it’s time for a change in attitude. So, yesterday I loaded up the slow cooker and make a batch of what I call mince mix. It’s a tomato base with onion, courgette, pepper, mushrooms, which is blitzed smooth using my hand blender when it’s cooked. Then I add in a large pack of beef mince and let is cook for a couple of hours. That gets made into pasta bolognese when it’s fresh. Once it’s cool, I make lasagne, or freeze portions.

But my freezer is over-full and needs defrosting. So, 2 of us had pasta bolognese last night, 2 of us are having cottage pie or pasta bake tonight. I like cottage pie, my daughter doesn’t, so I made individual dinners. And I made a 4 person lasagne for when my son and his girlfriend visit at the weekend, and a 2 person lasagne for my daughter and I another day.

My point is that I am making time to cook more healthy food from scratch, in advance. It makes meals easier.

It’s far too easy to fall into habits that don’t actually help us. So, I’m trying to change that, at least a little bit.

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A change is sometimes needed

You know when you’re working on something, a long term project that’s going to take months to complete? Sometimes you need a break. A change of view, something different.

If whatever you’re working on is that big, that time consuming, it can be frustrating. In the evenings, while watching TV with my daughter, I like to knit or crochet. I’ve been working on a blanket for over a year, probably more like 18 months. The blanket is now almost double bed sized, just to give you an idea of the amount of work that’s gone into it.

change

It started with a large bag of assorted yarns that my Mum left when she died. I have woven memories in with the stitches. But it’s now close to finished, and it takes forever to go around the thing, and it’s heavy, and awkward to work on. Although the rhythm of the crochet is relaxing, it can be boring too…

So, I thought I’d try something a bit different.

Always keen to reuse and recycle, I often take unwanted clothes to local charity shops, and I’ll often find stuff to buy in there too. But what do you do with the t-shirts that can’t be donated? You can make chunky yarn with them! It’s really easy, even if my first attempts are uneven, and the fabric seams have a tendency to tear.

t-shirt yarn

For a change in pace, I decided to make yarn with some of my own old t-shirts and make a mat for the bathroom. It was either that or dusters, and everyone knows I don’t dust! Being mostly cotton the mat will be absorbent, and I can chuck it in the washing machine.

I’m using a 9 mm bamboo hook, purely by trial and error. Four random t-shirts cut into roughly 1 inch strips made the yarn. It would have been more even if I’d bothered ironing the shirts and measuring properly. But this was a rough try to see if it would work.

And it did! There’s still work to do, but I’ll have a colourful bathroom mat instead of t-shirts in the bin.

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