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Further Adventures in Jewellery Making

Well, technically the adventures were mostly had once I actually turned up at another craft event and started talking to people, but I have new photos of shiny things to share so I figure that counts for something. While my last attempt at running a craft stall was at an exhibition organised by an art and craft society I’ve been a member of for a while now, this one was at a local garden centre so I got to meet some new craftspeople as well as just talk to everyone who stopped by my table.

The success I had at the last event let me branch out into slightly fancier materials for this one--including these sterling silver and cubic zirconia earrings.

The success I had at the last event let me branch out into slightly fancier materials for this one–including these sterling silver and cubic zirconia earrings.

I also started experimenting with square profile wire, which makes for a very interesting mirrored effect.

I also started experimenting with square profile wire, which makes for a very interesting mirrored effect.

Things were also different for me specifically. While I came to the last one really hoping just to sell and advertise my books, with the jewellery as something of a sideline, this time it was all about the jewellery, and I made much more of an effort with the display.

This lovingly spraypainted papier-mâché hand does a great job of showing off rings or dangly bracelets when standing up, but also helps give shape to the more solid sheet-weave bracelets I do.

This lovingly spraypainted papier-mâché hand does a great job of showing off rings or dangly bracelets when standing upright, but also helps give shape to the more solid sheet-weave bracelets I do.

While the hand above was bought from a craft shop–and I’m pretty sure is intended for just this kind of purpose–I also stumbled across a great way of displaying necklaces and earrings: anything that looks best dangling, rather than draped. The display stand below is actually a circle of black card fixed to a stainless steel chafing dish. The “dish” itself is in this case actually more like a thick wire frame, so it’s possible to either poke earrings through the card or to hang them from pins pushed into it.

Trailing Vine Bracelet (hanging)

Remember the Trailing Vine Bracelet from my last craft update? Well, here it is hanging in a more natural position.

Despite being at the kind of big retail venue you’d expect people to visit casually on a weekend–compared to the last sale, which was in a village hall–the craft fair wasn’t enormously busy. I sold enough jewellery to cover the cost of the table, which I figure is an automatic win for me, but didn’t make a whole lot beyond that. Still, the opportunity to talk to the other people running tables there made the day well worthwhile. The woman right next to me was selling small bags of interesting buttons alongside her handmade things, so I picked up a couple of choice wooden ones with the intention of working them into earrings.

And what do you know--it worked!

And what do you know–it worked!

Handily, the holes in these buttons were spaced exactly the right distance from the edge to provide a snug fit for the very largest of my bright aluminium rings. Matching the crazy design with an equally crazy weave of chain–Rhinos Snorting Drano–seemed like an obvious move, and it’s one that I think paid off. Apparently the woman selling the buttons thought so too, because she gave me a couple more to work with–of a style that, she explained, wasn’t selling all that well. She said she’d be interested in seeing if I could do anything with them.

I’ll be honest, my first thought was that I probably couldn’t. Not only were the buttons…well, not the sort of thing I’d usually think to bolt into jewellery (and seriously, I’ve considered using cows’ teeth), they weren’t even physically well suited to it. There was absolutely no way I’d be able to just hook a ring into these ones and get it to look right. But I fiddled around a bit, found myself a way of adding a wire loop to the top of each button, and–bizarrely–they also seem to work!

Full Persian Cat Earrings! Get it?

Full Persian Cat Earrings! Get it?

Though–in my opinion–these grumpy cat buttons don’t look like much as buttons, they really come to life when they’re dangling on the end of chain earrings. They’re pretty cute! The fact that “Persian” is both a weave of chain and a breed of cat is also quite amusing to me, though I can’t help but feel that the funniest thing is the amount of work that goes into turning them into earrings in the first place. The length of wire goes through both button holes (kind of like a staple), and the lower end hooks up and over the upper end, which in turn folds up to form the loop above the cat’s head. The result isn’t as neat as anything you’d expect from a purpose-made bead, but overall I think they have a lot of character.

Since these were actually the third pair of button earrings I ended up making that day, the woman at the other stall extremely kindly–and totally out of the blue–gave me a whole bunch more buttons. Including loads and loads of these little cats.

Full Persian Cat Earrings (mismatched)

Did I mention that they come in a variety of colours?

I really wasn’t expecting that. Given that a lot of the other craftspeople seemed to be doing this at least semi-professionally, I would have understood if they were just focused on doing their own thing, but actually everyone was really approachable and had lots of advice and anecdotes to share.

This seems like a good time to mention that this new earring stand allows me to take photos using a tripod, which makes them just so much clearer. Before I’d be happy as long as the chain looked reasonably crisp at a glance. Now you can zoom in to see teeny-tiny details. For example, did you spot that this second pair of cats have pupils while the first pair doesn’t? I’ve literally just noticed that myself. Didn’t even realise it while I was making the things.

Anyway, all in all I feel like this was another good event. It was a fun day, I made a bunch of totally unique earrings, and as an added bonus I heard about a couple more upcoming craft sales, so if all goes well I could be doing this again within the next few days.

Earring Display

Here’s the full batch of button earrings. The display I actually had on the table was neater, I promise!

In other news, I’m now totally enrolled on my Master’s Creative Writing course, I’ve been to a couple of welcome events–was pleased to find that some of the other students write in very similar genres–and am due to actually get started early next week. Beyond writing a ton of stuff for the course itself, I’m not sure how that’ll affect my creative output, but overall I’m expecting it to make a massive difference. I’m keen to build on what I already know, but at the same time to try some totally new things, so I’ll see how it goes. They gave each of us a copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, so in the immediate future I’m hoping that’ll help me find an agent, since that was pretty much the main goal I walked away with at the end of the Winchester Writers’ Festival.

So, lots going on and lots still to come. At this point I’m not certain exactly what I’ll be doing even two weeks from now–it’ll largely depend what the course demands, and what I can manage to work around that–but it’s bound to be good and include lots of writing so that’s alright.

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I Do Jewellery Now!

Flash Fiction Month may be over, but I’ve been busy ever since. I’m a member of a local arts and crafts society, and when one of the other members suggested that I sell my books at an upcoming tabletop sale, I thought “Why not?” But then it proved impractical to order in paperbacks, and I’m reluctant to encourage people to pay for my flash fiction collections since the ebooks are free, so it was pretty much just Face of Glass on disc. I actually feel like I’ve put together something really good–you get multiple ebook formats on the same disc as the audio of the three tales–but with a six foot table you really need to be selling more than just one thing.

Face of Glass CD ExteriorFace of Glass CD Interior

So I dusted off my tools and put in a couple of orders for some shiny new materials and I spent a week or two weaving bracelets. If I’m honest, it really was more about making the table look good–and not just showing up at a craft sale with a bunch of identical (if carefully produced) CDs like some kind of weirdo–than it was about making something I actually expected to sell. Still, I was pretty happy with the results.

This one has actually been sold, but the buyer wants a different kind of clasp.

This one has actually been sold, but the buyer wants a different kind of clasp so I’ve still got it for now.

I’ve been focusing on writing for the last couple of years–the last five or so if you count academic work–but before that I actually did quite a bit of jewellery. I had some in a local shop for quite a while, but despite having my work (more or less) available on the high street it didn’t do tremendously well. I sold a handful of things, and it brought in a bit of money, but the jewellery was most useful as an option for unique Christmas and birthday presents. I hate getting people chocolate or anything else you have once and then it’s gone, but it’s a nightmare trying to find something else different year after year.

Trailing Vine Necklace

Fun fact: I originally got into jewellery by making armour. The “leaves” of this trailing vine necklace are more commonly used in scale armour.

Long story short, I went in on Saturday morning thinking that if I made my money back on the table, I’d be happy. And I did! Plus a fair bit more. By the end of Saturday, as far as I was concerned, Saturday had been a roaring success. I’d made a little money, I’d got my books in front of a crowd for a whole day, and the jewellery had attracted a lot of attention. I was looking forward to more of the same the next day, but at that point Sunday was a bonus.

I came up with the idea of weaving a handful of brightly coloured anodised aluminium links into some items. It's subtle, but it makes a massive difference.

I came up with the idea of weaving a handful of brightly coloured anodised aluminium links into some items. It’s subtle, but it livens up the whole thing.

Sunday was not a bonus. Sunday was three times as busy. A lot more people stopped by my table and a lot more took an interest in the actual process of making the stuff. There were more kids around on Sunday, which definitely helped–they were really keen to find out more about how everything was put together and how long it took, and once I was talking to them more people came to listen. There was actually a bit of a crowd at one point!

The swirling sections of this chain are known as "Mobius Roses," so the clasp was an obvious match.

The swirling sections of this chain are known as “Mobius roses,” so the clasp was an obvious match.

But while the event was already a success just in terms of being a fun weekend with lots of interesting people, it turned out to be a very good move financially as well! It’s definitely not enough money to let me quit my day job, but since I don’t have a day job it’s pretty much the best thing I’ve got going on at the moment. It seems as though there are a lot of craft sales coming up nearby, and if this one is anything to go by then my main problem will be making things faster than people buy them! Admittedly that’s mostly down to the fact that these bracelets each take hours to make, but I feel like this is still a good position to be in. It’s got the added bonus of being something I can do in my own time, so I’ll be able to keep it up (or stop suddenly without seriously annoying an employer) while studying for my MA over the next year.

So it looks like I’ll be doing this again pretty soon, and I may even open up an online shop at some point. In the meantime, if you see anything you like then just let me know!

Craft Keep Coming November 10th!

You might recall Craft Keep VR from my writeup of EGX 2016, where I was lucky enough to try out the virtual reality fantasy artisan game first hand. Well, there’s some exciting follow-up news. First of all, Craft Keep is coming to Steam Early Access on the 10th of November: that’s less than a week away!

Second, I’m writing this thing! At EGX I got talking to the developer, Arvydas Žemaitis, who said that he was looking to include an interesting story as the player travels about setting up shop in all these weird and wonderful locations around the world. Naturally I sent off an email about it after the event, and here we are! Continue reading

Alresford Literary Festival and Book Fair

On Saturday the 4th of June, I’ll have a table set up at the Alresford Literary Festival from 14:30-16:30. I’ve never been before, but Robert Hardy (who played Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter Films) is going to be there so it promises to be a pretty interesting event. I’m hoping I’ll get a good chance to talk to people while I’m not manning my table.

SAM_2228

The display is more or less finalised, but prices aren’t yet. (Sadly, the Osiris Likes This paperback won’t actually be going for £1!)

I’ve taken the opportunity to build on my display from last year’s Hampshire Writers’ Society Book Fair. The publication of Osiris Likes This hasn’t shaken things up too much, as it occupies a space that used to be taken up by flash fiction ebook CDs. Though the ebooks on disc have been handy as freebies–and the processes involved in creating them proved absolutely essential for one of my more adventurous MA projects–they’ve never attracted a lot of interest and Osiris Likes This is far more deserving of the space. Plus I gave all the CDs away at last year’s Writers’ Festival, so it’s something of a moot point. Continue reading

Book Fair Writeup

Tuesday evening marked two firsts for me: the first book fair I’ve taken my work to, and the first meeting of the Hampshire Writers’ Society I’ve been able to attend. Both were well worthwhile.

HWS Gala Evening

The overall experience setting up and sitting behind the table was uncannily familiar after bringing jewellery to so many craft fairs last year, but at the same time it was amazing to be at an event that was all about books. Though I wasn’t the only author there with an anthology, people seemed very interested in flash fiction and the Flash Fiction Month challenge. I think part of that might be down to the table display: the bold colour scheme for the FFM series really jumps out, while the more muted orange-red for Face of Glass kind of blends in. Given that Face of Glass is a serious prehistoric fantasy novel while my flash fiction collections tend to involve naked breakdancing wizards and foxes on drugs, I figure that’s acceptable, but when you get a chance to meet readers in person it’s the sort of thing you notice.

Thinking about cover design, this seems like a good time to mention that I was quite impressed by the paperbacks on the table next to me. Shadows in Sunshine, the book advertised on the banner in the image above, is Richard V Frankland‘s most recent instalment in the Vaughan Thrillers series. What immediately caught me was how nicely the covers tied all the books together:

A Cast of Hawks CoverBATSU COVER9781843869689

Laid out as thumbnails, there’s just enough to connect them: the author’s name, a face-on animal photo, and white/yellow text. What you don’t see here is that each of the paperbacks has the eye of the animal at the top of the spine. It’s the sort of thing I think would look really good on the shelf.

All in all, it was a great evening. The organisers had already been doing a lot to get the books out there in the run-up to it, and I noticed a huge increase in the number of people downloading the free flash fiction anthologies. In that respect, the event was also interesting because the availability of the free downloads (and the ₤1 CD version) didn’t discourage people from buying the paperbacks. That’s something I’ve noticed online—indeed, the recent Immerse or Die review of Bionic Punchline is of the paperback version—but it seems particularly significant when people can pick up a leaflet or pay for a book. Paperbacks are a great format to have available, even if your ebook is free.

Though a clash with my MA course had stopped me turning up to any earlier Hampshire Writers’ meetings, I was surprised to find that I’d already bumped into quite a few people there at various readings and author events at the university. HWS doesn’t meet again until September, unfortunately, but I look forward to being able to get involved more often when things get going again. Also, there’s a good chance I’ll see quite a few members at the Winchester Writers’ Festival, which is coming up in exactly one week. Between that, Flash Fiction Day, and Flash Fiction Month, it looks as though I’m in for a fun several weeks!

Book Fair Goodies

Book Fair GoodiesWith the Hampshire Writers’ Society Gala Evening just a week away, my table space is more or less sorted. I’ve got multiple copies of all my paperbacks, with the Flash Fiction Month anthologies all lined up on one display and all the Face of Glass copies on another. You wouldn’t think that hours of experience selling handmade jewellery or shelving videogames would ever help with preparation for a literary event, but actually putting these displays together felt like a little of both!

In addition to the paperbacks, I’ve also assembled some new discs. The Face of Glass CDs aren’t actually new: I tend to have them on hand at craft events. However, most of the ones here are freshly assembled as my original batch had been whittled down to the last two.

Face of Glass Case

These Face of Glass discs contain both the ebook itself in multiple formats, and audio recordings of The Three Tales from the novel. I’ve now assembled a desktop computer that makes burning the discs considerably simpler, and (though a somewhat smaller investment) I’ve got a set of scalpels and a cutting mat that make for some very neat case inserts.

Face of Glass Disc

The process of putting together these ebook CDs is now straightforward enough that I’ve also brought out a very small number of Flash Fiction Month discs. The ebooks are still free to download, but I figure that for anybody who wants a token physical version the disc could be a fun option. The colour scheme of the covers looks pretty good laid out this way, and the clear clamshell cases do a good job of showing it off.

FFM Discs

ObsidianI’ve still got a few more bits and bobs I’d like to sort out, but with the books on hand and the discs put together, I think the display is just about ready to go. I’m even planning to bring along a couple of chunks of raw obsidian to place alongside Face of Glass, since it’s always interesting to be able to connect the imaginary world of a book to something more tangible. I had the larger of the two stones on hand most of the time I was first writing Face of Glass, and though most of the actual research into Stone Age cultures came through books, museums or the internet, having that one bit of black glass to hand was useful too. It’s a fascinating material, both beautiful and practical, and seen in person it’s not hard to imagine why it developed ritual significance.

If you’re interested in turning up, the Gala Evening starts at 6pm on the 9th of June, in the Stripe Building at the University of Winchester. Further information is available on the Hampshire Writers’ Society events page. Their website also lists all the authors who’ll be at the members’ Book Fair alongside me.

Belated New Year Mega-Update

Why, hello there! It’s been a while.

It’s actually been so long that I’m struggling to remember exactly how much progress I’ve neglected to update people with. First things first, I guess, back in 2012 I made the first little bit of Inhuman Resources available online and, in response to the interest it gained, promised I’d let everyone know how it was getting along. Well, that didn’t go entirely as planned. I figure I’ve mentioned it perhaps two and a bit times in those two and a bit years. However, in this case no news is good news: I’m actually still working on it on a semi-regular basis. The main thing slowing it down at this stage is that other, smaller projects (and various jobs I’ve had, and the Master’s course I’ve since started) end up taking priority.

I’d also like to reassure people that, though it’s been a while since the last chapter appeared, Beyond the Black Throne will also continue. It might even continue soon, since the next chapter is already written. My main concern at this point is that I set a schedule that won’t involve immediately dropping it for several more weeks in a row. Which leads in nicely to the next thing it’s probably worth mentioning: Continue reading

Bad Journey, Good Luck

My journey to university comes in two chunks: a bus to the nearest train station, then a train into the city. By car, it takes twenty minutes or so. By public transport I’ve got to head off about an hour and a half before I need to be there. It’s actually not that bad since I can use the time to catch up on reading and/or pick stuff up from the shops on the way.

But yesterday I had a perfect storm of mishaps that really screwed things up. I had intended to go in an hour early and see if I could work on my current coursework project (which involves Twine) on the university computers. However, I’d forgotten that the buses come slightly earlier in the hour if it’s earlier in the day, so I missed the one I was aiming for. The next one got me into town just in time for the train, but there was nobody selling tickets at the station so I had to queue up to get mine from one of the machines. That took long enough that by the time I got to the platform, the train was just leaving.

Which is where the good luck comes in!

Figuring that I had more than half an hour before the next one, I headed over to the game shop where I worked last Christmas. I’d handed in a CV a while ago hoping to get some more seasonal work, so it seemed like the thing to do would be to follow that up. As it turns out, that was definitely the thing to do. I start tomorrow!

While having a job again will almost certainly force me to prioritise some things (namely the course and the job) over others (the Alterworld collection, my jewellery sales and Beyond the Black Throne), I’m hoping that it won’t totally eat up all the time I could possibly be spending on personal projects. If nothing else, I’m still hoping to produce regular (if nothing else, fortnightly) Black Throne updates, and I’m also hoping to put together something rather ambitious for Christmas this year. I wouldn’t like to spoil the surprise, but as I’ve just got the news and I’m feeling good about this right now, I will mention that I’ve got an entire freakin’ orchestra behind this one. Alright, I’ve got permission to use a wonderful piece of music they’ve already recorded, but I’m still chuffed to have this kind of talent on board, and I’m determined to make the most of it.

So yes. The course is engaging, my own projects are going places, and I’ve got a job again. Things are good right now, even if–perhaps because–public transport can be kind of a nightmare.