Vellum: a list of wants without the tantrum

I have a strange relationship with Vellum. It’s one of the most expensive apps I own (or rather license), and it’s the app that I probably use the least. And yet it’s one of the few apps I wouldn’t be without, because when I do get round to using it, it saves be a bucketload of time and churns out professional quality results without me pulling out what little hair I have.

So for the uninitiated, Vellum is sort of like a word-processor … though not really. You can load a file (.docx, .rtf) into it, or type your book straight in, and Vellum will churn out beautifully formatted ePubs for a handful of mobile platforms such as Apple Books, Amazon Kindle, along with PDFs that be dropped into CreateSpace or Ingram Spark.

Yes, I know that I can do the same thing in Word and Scrivener, but even Scrivener can’t deliver such a clean, well-dressed output without some fiddling afterwards. Vellum will space out your text to make sure all the pages are balanced without leaving those niggling single lines on a page before skipping off to the next chapter.

I’m not a believer in the one-stop-shop kind of an app, but Vellum is so easy to use and so well thought out, I find myself wondering what would it need so I could use it more.

So here’s is my list of wants for Vellum, based on nothing more than my own sense of entitlement (there’s a lot of it about after all).

Continue reading “Vellum: a list of wants without the tantrum”


This one comes from the Pixar Studios, which as far as I can remember, has never put a foot wrong. The film was supposed to be out last summer, but suffered the same fate as a lot of movies set for a June outing: faced with the prospect of empty cinemas, the studios delayed the release, hoping that the pandemic would be sorted by Christmas.

Well, for the UK and the US . . . not even close. So with no end in sight, the studios have three options:

  1. Keep delaying the film until audiences can return to the picture houses, and hope they’re still interested in seeing it. (No Time to Die)
  2. Release to the cinemas anyway and hope enough people are willing to risk infection to see it. (Wonder Woman 1984)
  3. Release it to a streaming service and see if it attracts new customers.

Pixar went for option number 3 (which they can do since they can stream on Disney+), and frankly, they deserve to have the gamble pay off.

Continue reading “Soul”

Book review: The Queen of Sidonia by Richard Fox

This one was from the ‘random grab and read a few pages’ list. I’ve got a lot of these books sitting in what I laughingly call a ‘short queue’, and a lot of them stay there for years. Every so often, I’ll pick one out, read a few pages, and if I carry on reading then we have a … Oh my god … is that … a slush pile?

Queen of Sidonia was up next, and after page ten, I realised it was the just kind of book I was in the mood for: an unpretentious middleweight sci-fi story with plenty of action and a nice tidy ending.

And it wasn’t advertising itself as anything else. I mean, the cover is basically telling you this isn’t Shakespeare, but you’ll have a damn good time all the same.

And yes, I really did enjoy it. The story is nothing that you haven’t seen before, and the characters will be exactly who you expect them to be: we’ve got an idealistic, straight-laced hero; a feisty princess; a ruthless villain and a fop. Still, they all have their quirks so you’ll have no difficulty remembering who’s doing what to who, and the dialogue is distinctive and punchy. Fox doesn’t waste time having his characters chatting about stuff you don’t need to know.

But back to the story. Yes, it’s nothing too original, but as I’m always saying, it’s not what you tell, it’s how you tell it, and this is told with flair, humour and without wasting a single word. The world-building is one of the best I’ve ever come acros, weaving the structure and politics of the future civilization into the story with leaving a seam. Great stuff. The plot thunders along without straining the reader too much, building to a climax that is perhaps a little too predictable aside from one nice touch which, if I’m honest, I didn’t see coming.

So, after taxing myself with something a bit more heavyweight (and probably far less fun), I’ll be back for the sequel: The King of Sidonia.