Here’s a video by Alex Carter (Lexica Films) explaining a little about the anodised aluminium necklaces I’m offering as a reward for supporters of Ten Little Astronauts, as well as a rare opportunity to see how they’re made! There’s also a little more information going in this Shed post on Unbound’s site too.
If these catch your eye at all (or you’re looking for an extra-special Christmas gift for someone), do consider putting in a pledge for the book. The entire necklace reward level (which also includes signed copies of Ten Little Astronauts and Face of Glass, all the ebooks I’ve ever released, and an audio collection of my most popular fiction) is actually going for less than the usual cost of the necklace alone. That’s £50 worth of book rewards, plus a £90 necklace, for £75.
If that’s not good enough for you, Unbound are also running a promotion at the moment that gives 20% off your first pledge: the code is snowman16, and naturally it’s best used for a big reward like this. There’s little point using it to shave £2 off an ebook when you could be getting £15 off a huge bundle of stuff! To use that offer, just hit the “Pledge £75” option under “Anodised Aluminium Necklace” on the book page and enter the promotional code when prompted.
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
Since the launch of Ten Little Astronauts by Unbound (in fact, more or less since it was first accepted), I’ve been planning to turn up at various places and talk about it. From the very beginning Fair Oak Library was more or less guaranteed to be the first, though in the end wasn’t because Charlotte Comley got in there really quick and invited me to a meeting of The Writers at Lovedean.
Fair Oak Library may be small – as you might expect for a village whose biggest landmark is a tree – but it’s special to me because I still remember going there for storytime when I was considerably smaller. It was the source of an awful lot of the books I enjoyed as a child, as well as the copy of The Well of Lost Plots I read in the run-up to the first Winchester Writers’ Festival that I attended, where the keynote speaker was Jasper Fforde.
If you’d like to drop in and say hi on Saturday, I’ll be there all morning: from 9:30 when the library opens until 1pm when it closes. I’ll have with me all my current books, plus a necklace of the sort I’m offering for a select few supporters of Ten Little Astronauts. I’m not sure how many people reading this will be in a position to just pop in, but if you’re not too far away then you might like a visit: the village is very pleasant, as are Stoke Park Woods just to the West of it. And if it sweetens the deal at all, the library itself is one of the area’s few PokeStops.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
Well, I’ve had “craftsman” in my Twitter bio for long enough that I should probably post some crafts online. It’s also been a whole year since the screen of my battered old LCD watch started periodically fading to a clean grey slate, so I think this post is overdue in more ways than one. So here it is: my steampunk wristwatch.
While some effort went into picking a watch that would suit my work, it’s worth noting I haven’t modified the watch itself in any way. All I did was pop off the horrible plastic-leather buckle strap and replace it with something of my own making (which is a really neat project if you fancy having a go yourself). Also, while I say “steampunk,” I’m really not too sure how to describe this thing. “Clockpunk” would seem to be more accurate–it is literally clockwork, after all–but that tends to conjure up images of delicate brass cogs whirring away, while this is a fairly hefty lump of metal on a chainmail band. To me, it looks more medieval, and given the age of the technology involved, that’s not too far off the mark.
The watch has a skeleton dial, and there’s an acrylic panel on the back, so you can see all the gubbins ticking over inside. It’s a manual mechanical watch, meaning that there’s no battery: just a spring you wind by hand. It’s also possible to get mechanical watches with an automatic/self-wind movement–featuring a semicircular weight that swings when you move, gradually winding the watch as you wear it–but there’s something nice about knowing that the only energy stored in the watch is what you’ve deliberately fed into it yourself, and the large weight of the winding mechanism would have obscured the gears. Also, the company I ordered this from sent me the wrong one. That was probably the biggest factor, if I’m honest! Since the spring can keep the watch going for almost two days, it’s not too much trouble to wind, and without relying on a mechanism to do it for me, I won’t suddenly find that it’s wound down through lack of motion.
The photos above should also give a pretty good idea of how the strap is put together. You’ll notice that the strip of chain connected to the “bottom” of the watch–the side where the six would be if it didn’t have that stupid “Winner” branding instead–is significantly shorter than the strip connected to the “top” (with the stupid “Winner” logo). That’s so that when I put it on or take it off, with the watch resting on the top of my wrist, the clasp is towards me, where I can easily see and handle it. If both sides of the strap were the same length, the clasp would be right underneath my wrist, making it dig in when I type and generally be really inconvenient (especially to fasten). I’ve made chainmail watch straps before (I actually had one on my last watch for years, since the original snapped) and that’s a problem I ran into right at the beginning. If you haven’t come across these clasps before, it’s essentially two tubes, with one sliding inside the other. It’s definitely not the easiest option, particularly for something that has to be a snug fit around your wrist: I get the impression they’re intended more for bangles or bracelets with beads on stretchy thread. However, since they connect the entire width of one strap to the entire width of the other, and come with four “links” handy to weave the chain into, it’s by far the best option for this kind of project.
Since each individual row of links in the chain is so small, it was possible to tailor it to be just the right size. Obviously it’s not adjustable, but in practice I haven’t found that this is a problem. I never found my last watch getting too tight or too loose, and if I do for some reason suddenly develop He-Man arms, I can always weave in another row of chain. I ordered these links online, but I usually make them myself with a mandrel and a pair of wire cutters: I only outsourced the job this time because online it’s possible to get them saw-cut (so that the cut ends of the links are flat and fit flush together), while my hand-cut links have messy (and surprisingly sharp) edges. Also, I got a batch of 500, and this strap used only 322. Provided I don’t use up the rest in some other project, I should have more than enough lying around to provide the seven or so necessary to loosen up this strap. If you’re interested in trying something like this yourself, the weave is “European 6-in-1,” and the links are stainless steel with a wire diameter of 0.8mm, and an inner diameter (that’s the diameter of the space inside the ring) of 4mm. But if you’ve never woven any chainmail before, I don’t recommend starting with 6-in-1 or stainless steel: the former is pretty confusing, the latter springy and unforgiving.
So there you have it: a steampunk/clockpunk/somethingpunk watch featuring a chainmail strap. Believe it or not, I completed this entire project, start to finish, in a day, and I’m pretty happy with the results. The only thing I’d like to change is the pair of coilled wire components connecting the strap to the watch’s springy pins. They work just fine, but they look a little sloppy. One alternative I’m looking into is to get a couple more tubular clasps and sawing them down so I can slip them over the pins. But even as-is, I feel like this strap makes a vast improvement to the watch as a whole. The one it came with was truly abysmal–a slimy, shiny strip of cheap plastic with pressed-in “stitches” that only drew attention to its flaws–which is a shame given that the watch itself seems amazing for the price (it cost slightly less than the steel for the strap, so in the quite likely event the tiny little mechanism breaks I can always get a replacement). Also, I think there’s something kind of poetic about the combination of watch and chain: a watch like this is just a jumble of brass, steel and synthetic rubies. Individually, none of these parts do anything, but together they form a device that’s been keeping time in much the same form for half a millennium. Similarly, a sheet of chainmail is made up of identical, unremarkable metal rings. One on its own is virtually useless, but hundreds linked together can form a knight’s armour or a butcher’s glove.
And if anybody else is tempted to try something like this, let me know! I’d be happy to share what I’ve learned.