Sunday, 24 August 2014

Fancy one of the first copies of the 1st editions of The Pot-Belly Cook? 2 chances to win!!!

As you know the next book is almost, almost, almost ready to roll - (but not quite).

So in the meantime why not enter our competition to win one of the very first copies of the 1st edition  print run of  The Pot-Belly Cook and the Three-Legged Dog.

All you have to do is look at the pictures below and identify which iconic record covers they are based on and email your answers back to 

Just retweet this link on Twitter or Like and Share on Facebook.

competition closes on 01/11/14





Good luck.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

It's time to rebuild our website....  old site

Having made the obligatory amendments to the PBC, It was time to sit back and relax while the book goes off to the printers.

It would have been a nice plan, but life is never that easy.

All it took was a visit to our website  to realise that there is so much work still left to do.

In short, our website sucks!! It's disengaging, uninteresting and doesn't do us justice. It is one of those flat-pack almost-free-websites that you can get with a range of templates that somehow look all seem to look the same.  Drag something here, drop something there and ' hey presto' a website.

It's true that we don't have a massive back catalogue, but one day who knows.  (I am expecting the next 12 months to be very exciting with several other projects coming into fruition.)

Recently I concentrated  all my efforts towards the website and have messed about here and there with basic flash animations; before coming to the conclusion that if we are going to have a good website - I may as well build it myself.  I mean, if there already almost 1 billion websites, - how hard can it be?

With this in mind, I have decided to abandon updating our current website in favour of a brand spanking new one.

Thankfully I do have access to all the tools to make it one of those all singing, all dancing websites - what I don't have is the technical knowledge or the faintest idea where to start.

I dabbled initially with Flash, then with Fireworks and then Edge Animate, before having a look at Dreamweaver as a canvas to display to the world.... then I got a little bit down.

It's going to take ages to get my head around just one of these programs, let alone all of them - it's not just the software, it's the on-line tutorials and forums that use an almost alien vocabulary.

Seeing as I don't know any language I may as well try and slowly develop a knowledge of HTML5.  From what I can gather it's the one to know.

I have about 4 weeks to make it happen.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The book's ready to go... now for the hard part

It's taken a long time but I am pleased to say that The Pot-Belly Cook and The Three-Legged Dog is finally ready to go to print and it's left me a little bit lost for what to do next?

My writing skills have become very rusty after spending the best part of a year bringing the book to life, navigating my way around new software and sorting out major hardware difficulties and this has resulted in virtually no new material to start work on and dithering over each sentence I write.  Which is why it has taken over a month to update the blog.

Admittedly I have been distracted by the World Cup, the long bouts of sunshine (very rare for Manchester U.K.), summer walks and have even given up meat and smoking in the process.  My dad gave me a bike and on the rare occasion I have even cycled to work.

I suppose I am getting myself in shape for the inevitable fame that will come with the book.  (lol)

At the moment I feel pretty good about everything,  have a relaxed positive outlook on the future and have even lost a few kg in the process.  

Naturally being this calm, just wont do - and since finishing the book I have thrown myself into Flash Professional CC6 just to remind me how insignificant in the world of writing I really am.  It's early days in the animation and game design stakes and I have absolutely no idea how long Flash is going to take to get my head round,  but be on the lookout for a upmarket makeover for our woeful website in the near future.

I am working towards a September publishing date and between now and then need to get as much exposure for the book as possible.  

In a perfect world my campaign would go a bit like this
 "Buy my book - it's brilliant!, and while you're  it buy my other one as well", and then people would buy one and then go and tell everyone they know to do the same and the process would continue infinitely. 

In reality though it's writing blogs like this one and sending them out into the world.  

Friday, 9 May 2014

The Pot-belly Cook's Woodland Potato cakes

Although he didn't give me his secret recipe for "Green Smelly Cheese".  The Pot-belly Cook did pass over this little foraging gem, that Maya-Rose and myself made.

   The Pot-belly Cook's Woodland Potato Cakes

(Whilst all of the foraged ingredients in this recipe are relatively common place and easily identified - I can't stress how important it is to do a fair bit of research before you feel you are confident enough to go out and forage for yourself. )  


500g Mashed Potato
1 egg
200g Self Raising Flour
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Foraged Herbs

Armed with my trusty book  The Wildflowers of Britain and Ireland by Charles Coates, I made my way to the foothills of the Peak District and went routing around and came up with these.
  1.   Nettle Heads,
  2.   Ramsons Flowes (white),
  3.   Ramson Leaves,
  4.   Dandelion Heads,
  5.   Cleavers,
  6.   Chervil .

There are a few common sense things to bear in mind though, 
  • Don't pick anything from the side of a road, path or verge that has a high passing traffic of dogs. 
  • If you don't like the look of it or are in anyway unsure - don't pick it - simples.  Take a photo and go away and research it.
  • Only pick the nettle heads (and do be careful because they do sting).  Never pick a head that has started to flower.
Here are a few more pointers to identify the above items.
I am assuming that most of you know how to identify a nettle, but for those who don't its quite easy.  The plant is usually a deep green with razor edged leaves with tiny hairs on them that grow in pairs up the stem. If you are still unsure, touch the topside of a leaf and if it stings you - it's a nettle!!click here to find out more about nettles

Ramsons or Wild Garlic is usually found in dark damp woodland areas and usually share their habitat with bluebells.  They have long fat leaves and carry a really heavy aroma of garlic.  They have white almost spherical flower heads which are also edible.  click here to find out more about Ramsons

Dandelions grow just about everywhere and are one of the most versatile of wild flowers - to the gardener they are a pain, but for the Pot-belly Cook and other adventurous tykes they are a real versatile food source - with all the plant from root to flower being edible. (please note that being edible is not the same as being tasty) click here to find out more about dandelions

Almost every child who has gone on a country walk would have at some point found a Cleaver, those long sprawling plants that just about stick to anything, especially brothers and sisters.  click here to find out more about cleavers.

Now for the foody part.

I gave everything a good rinse when I returned home and left it on the side to drain.  I then separated the dandelion heads and cut the petals just above the green base.  (Take a moment to go thought the petals to remove any green leaves and fine hairs.) 
  Add the rest of the herbs and chop finely.

In a large bowl, mix together the mash potato and 1 beaten egg,
add the chopped herbs and mix again, slowly add the self raising flour and baking powder until all the ingredients are combined well.

 Turn out onto a floured surface and gently need adding extra flour if necessary until it resembles a moist dough.

Place the dough onto a baking tray and gently stretch it out into the corners.  Using your fingertips, press down gently onto the surface to create an impression before drizzling olive oil, salt and pepper all over the surface. Place in a preheated oven at 160o fan and cook for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and serve - I had baked beans, sausage and egg but anything goes.    Let me know if you try to make it.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

To Belly or not to Belly? That is the question.

Over the weekend my attention has turned to the design of the front page and which fonts to use where.  Apparently using Comic Sans is classed as a huge No No amongst the graphic design "Hoy Polloi" (Ancient Greek for "the many".)   I personally think it worked really well in the HPM and really wanted to use it in the PBC - but then again I never studied at Uni' and am probably missing out on something blatantly obvious. At the moment though - the font I am using for the titles is not as important as the nagging doubt in my mind about the title of the book.  

The Pot-bellied Cook and the Three-legged Dog.  

Technically there is nothing wrong with it as the cook has a Pot-belly and the dog only has the legs.  However I think the use of the words "bellied" and "legged" - (whilst grammatically correct) don't look right on the front cover; or elsewhere in the book for that matter and may appear too daunting to encourage anyone to pick up the book for the first time.

I tossed the phrase back and forth in my mind until a slight fizzle of inspiration led me to change the title to a more childish:

The Pot-belly Cook and the Three-leggy Dog.

This is obviously an incorrect use of the English language but to me it feels  more inviting and memorable for a child due to it's quirkiness.

I would be interested to know what everybody else thinks. 

Monday, 28 April 2014

The Pot-bellied Cook and The Three-legged Dog.

It took a while, but I am pleased to say that the first rough draft for the Pot-bellied Cook and The Three-legged Dog is finally complete and it is starting to look the business.  I wanted to go to print by the end of May and I think I might just be able to do it.

As you can see, I have managed to get some pleasing results from my limited knowledge of Photoshop and InDesign and with a few more images here and there - the PBC should be ready.

Carol, has done a spectacular job with the illustrations, and it's time to let the world know about them.  With that in mind I realised that it's time to start cranking up my game a bit and get myself a bit of exposure.

This blog needs to be given a lot more love and attention with more updates about the PBC which, in turn can be drip fed onto Twitter and Facebook.

The website is looking a bit shabby and needs a complete revamp. I do have the facility to make some banners and other simple animations but I am really not sure when I am going to get the opportunity to learn how to do it.

Despite not having a confirmed publishing date I still need to register it with Nielsen and re-establish contact with the big distributors Bertram's and Garner's and maybe get some promotional posters printed up.

Once we have the book in our possession then the fun and games begin all over again.
First up is the book launch,  I have a shop in mind but it's always good to have a plan B as well. Schools, libraries and bookshops need to be contacted - readings need to be organised and then of course it's about getting the word out there using the local media.

Somewhere down the line I am going to need an agent as combining my real life job with that of an Author is going to be really tricky.

On the bright side though, it is a long time since I've been bored.

Friday, 21 March 2014

The Pot-bellied Cook and the Three-legged Dog

 Naively, I thought I could race through the production of the PBC within a matter of days; have it ready for print within a month; into the shops by May and have a complete diary of school and library readings booked by the start of the World Cup.

rough draft  2
However, this doesn't look like it's going to be the case.  Having to get to grips with Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator CS6 all at the same time is proving a "tad" bit tricky, and despite all my efforts so far - I've not come up anything that makes me want to puff out my chest and go "Hey, I did that".

Of course I could just opt for the traditional Text vs Images but then the book wouldn't stand out and will always be measured against the HPM.

 The past month has been spent trawling through the thousands of online tutorials that are available in a bid to absorb as much skill and technique as I can.  (As you can see from the spread above - I don't have a particularly high absorption rate.)  The other problem I have is being able to work within the tiny pockets of time that I have alone and come up with something constructive.
rough draft 3

The book will get finished, but there is a huge amount of work needed to do the images justice.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Back with a bang

Pot-bellied Cook and the Three legged Dog (1st rough draft)

I know it's been half a year since I last wrote anything of note - but sometimes life gets in the way and there is nothing you can do about it.  However, over the coming weeks and months I am going make up for lost time by constantly bombarding you with blogs and updates about my new book -

 The Pot-bellied Cook and the Three-legged dog.

Our brilliant illustrator Carol completed the last of the the images in December and normally I would have jumped straight into the project and the book would be well under way.  Alas, life's never easy and one hard drive and operating system replacement later I am finally in the position to start laying out the book and get it ready to print.

It's almost been 5 years since we assembled The Hairy Plug Monster and a lot of the knowledge I picked up then has been buried under piles of other useful/less information.

I seem to remember that every minute detail of producing the HPM took hours of procrastinating, discussion and arguing before we were finally happy with the layout and I think that the PBC is not going to be any different.