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Angel of the Sands: Part 1

So this is my usual sharing blog and that’s when I normally give you lovely readers an excerpt from one of my books soon to be released or something like that, but for a while a couple of years ago I ran through an entire novel with you all and it seemed to go down well (you guys like free stuff right?) so I thought I’d do that again, except I also really like those create your own adventure things where every page has an option at the end of it and the reader gets to decide what happens next, so, on that note, I thought that’s exactly what I’d do.

Yup, you read that right. I’m going to write a blog with story in it, in the usual second person narrative style, and then give you the options of what happens next. Readers can comment and vote for the option they want and then I will write the most voted for option two weeks later. So, here goes.

The first thought in your head is how pink the backs of your eyelids are in the bright sunlight, the next is how every inch of your exposed skin feels like someone has set it alight. You wince as you try and open your eyes but they’re crusted shut with gunk, you must have been sleeping a long time. As the sounds of horses snorting reaches your ears you try to move. Hot sand greets the feel of your fingers and you try once more to open your eyes. This time you open them just enough to see a bright blue sky before the pain of the grit forces you to close them again.

Barely seconds later you hear the sound of feet in the sand and a shadow moves over you. You try to pull away from it, not sure if the caster means you harm or not, but your body refuses to work properly, resulting in a feeble scuffle where your hands sink into the burning hot sand either side of you. Instead you try to sit but your head spins and nausea grips at your stomach, deterring you from trying again.

A man’s voice says something in a language you don’t understand as he kneels beside you.

“You’re safe,” he says in a thick accent, struggling with the s and f sounds. With that, he pushes his arms through the sand underneath you and lifts your body to his bare torso. Knowing your female body would be no match for the effortless strength in him, you don’t struggle. The movement makes your head pound so you lean into him and rest against his shoulder. As you inhale the scent of horse and fresh sweat mingles with spices and coconut. It ought to be unpleasant but you find it strangely comforting.

You feel the sands shift underneath him as he turns and carries you towards the sound of more horses and people. Discussions in hurried whispers follow you, but most are too quiet to make out and the few that are loud enough are spoken with words entirely foreign. After what feels like forever he stops and places you upon soft cushions and fabrics that feel cool to your skin.

“Rest,” he says and withdraws, pulling something over you to shade you from the sun at the same time. Whatever you’re resting on sways gently as someone climbs up beside you. The sweet smell of coconut milk fills the small enclosure. You try once more to open your eyes and see a young woman, tanned a deep brown sitting beside you before your body forces them closed against the pain again.

Moments later you feel her lean forward, making the bed rock gently again, and wipe a damp cloth over your eyes, removing some of the grime and cooling the sun-scorched skin. You sigh with relief as she continues this treatment until you can see again. She then moves on to the rest of your face, neck and bare arms, washing your skin with the blend of water and coconut milk from a bowl cradled in her lap.

While you’re being pampered your thoughts are allowed to wander and you soon feel the memories of the previous two days returning to you. One moment you were in London, walking in the botanical gardens and the next you were in a small oasis in the middle of a desert. Ever since then you had been losing a battle to live. If these people hadn’t come along you’d probably have died, still not knowing how you got here or why.

When she’s finished cleaning you try and sit up to thank her but your head and stomach remind you that they don’t want to. Even if they hadn’t she shakes her head and gently places her hand on your torso to push you backwards. For a moment she stares at you and you stare back, until you give in to her and lie down again. Instantly your head feels better.

From your comfortable position surrounded by silk cushions you watch as she moved to a small opening in the canvas shade and calls out to the rest of the people. After a minute or two she’s handed a bowl with some mashed oat like food within and a wooden cup. She places the bowl near you and comes close to help you lift your head to drink. The water is warm but fresh and soothes the ache in your throat.

It takes you several minutes to drink the liquid at the pace she’ll allow you to have it, but she doesn’t seem to mind the effort. Once you are done she strokes your blonde hair with her fingers to neaten it, an almost envious look in her eyes. Her hair is so dark brown it might as well be black and cut short to frame her face but not get in the way of any tasks.

With her tasks seemingly over she gives you a brief smile, bows in an awkward manner given that she already knelt to fit beside you and backs out of the opening. You get a glimpse of the many horses and people outside before her hands close the gap entirely, leaving you alone with the bowl of food and no utensils to eat it with.

Only a few seconds later the bed you are in sways and wobbles before settling into a gentle rhythmic motion that matches the sounds of movement outside. Whoever they are they’re taking you with them.

What do you do?

Eat the food with your fingers and rest to regain your strength.

Get up and try to make them understand you want some utensils before you will eat.

Get out of the litter and try to get away from the people who’ve taken you.

Comment with the option you want and any questions you might have, although I reserve the right not to answer some things if it spoils potential plot.

This story is entirely free to the reader and will continue to be throughout, but as you might have gathered from the website around this I make my living from writing fiction. This post is over 1000 words long and took me a few hours to write and polish. Although it’s definitely not a must, if you enjoyed this and want to say thank you in a monetary fashion please consider becoming a patron of mine at Patreon (a lot like kickstarter but more of a pledge per episode/installment sort of thing). You can also say thank you by sharing this with friends who might enjoy it or dropping me a message here or through my email address.

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 thanĀ  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.