Tagged: sci-fi

What Now for Ten Little Astronauts?

The Christmas deadline for funding Ten Little Astronauts has now passed, but since nobody’s in the Unbound office over the holidays there’s technically nothing stopping people from contributing. If you meant to pledge before Christmas and are currently kicking yourself for missing your chance, don’t do that. There’s still time, and your support can still make a difference.

Artwork by Joe Wright

It’s pretty much certain that there are still people out there who’d pledge if they simply knew about the book – so if there’s a friend you’ve been meaning to tell about it, it would be absolutely great if you could do that – but personally I’ll be focusing on other things for the next little while. Once Unbound opens up again in the New Year I expect to hear from Scott Pack about what the options are for Ten Little Astronauts – at 72% funded and with 245 people already lined up to get a copy, I think it’s in a pretty good position right now – but until that happens there won’t be much news.

In the meantime, I’m hoping to get this year’s flash fiction anthology – We All Saw It Coming – wrapped up while it still is actually this year. Ideally I’d like to get the ebook out before 2018, but the paperback may be a little longer. I might also do a little work on the interactive sci-fi story I offered as a reward for the first 150 supporters of Ten Little Astronauts. I’ve been looking forward to working on that for a long time!

As always, thanks to everyone who’s put in a pledge for Ten Little Astronauts, or even just passed it on to somebody else. The response to this book has been just mind-boggling, and everyone who’s done anything to help it out has had a hand in that. Thanks!

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Ten Little Astronauts Artwork by Joe Wright

Joe Wright just sent over this absolutely fantastic Ten Little Astronauts artwork! It’s based on a scene from the novella that a very small handful of people will have heard me read at the International Agatha Christie Festival.

Artwork by Joe Wright

Chances are you’ll have come across Joe Wright’s work before, as he also produced the image I’ve been using in almost all my promotional materials for Girth Loinhammer’s Most Exponential Adventure. This one’s very different in terms of style, though:

I was trying to make something that was reminiscent of old sci-fi pulp novels, which I understand isn’t exactly the aesthetic you’re going for, but I think it’ll help catch the eye.

It may not be a direct representation what’s described in the book (in which the U.N. Owen is not much to look at), but for the overall tone I think this is a great match. The pulp style harks right back to the time of And Then There Were None, and the image itself certainly captures the tension at this point in the story. But to find out what’s really going on here, you’ll have to pledge for the book!

If you’d like to see more of Joe’s work, one handy place to look would be his profile on deviantART. He’s a writer as well as an artist, and regularly takes part in the same Flash Fiction Month event as I do: you’ll see his stories referenced in a number of my own, typically those written as part of a challenge involving another author’s entries for the event.

Ten Little Astronauts Has (well over) 225 Supporters!

Ten Little Astronauts has been making spectacular progress recently. So much so that it’s actually a little difficult for me to keep up: by the time I actually managed to record the 225 supporter book draw, the count was up to 233. That’s a good chunk of the way towards the next draw, which will be coming up at 250 (if we reach 250!). That next draw, by the way, will be for a brand new story written specifically for the winner: quite a prize!

This is the kind of sudden surge of interest that the book needs to reach 100% by Christmas: a tight deadline, but one that’s looking more achievable than ever now that we’re already more than two-thirds funded. Right now Ten Little Astronauts is just a hair away from 70%, and if we can reach that today there’s a chance that Unbound themselves will even step in and start promoting it more.

Basically, whether you’ve put in a pledge or not, doing something to share the book would make an absolutely massive difference to its chances of success. Tweeting it or sticking a link on Facebook helps a little, but actually sending a personal message to someone you think would enjoy a sci-fi murder mystery in particular would help a whole lot more. With so many people behind the book already, I know there must be more out there who would be willing to support it: the only challenge is reaching them in time!

Last Chance to Support Ten Little Astronauts

It’s the eleventh hour. Aragorn is making his “It is not this day” speech. The rebels are approaching the Death Star. Neville Longbottom has destroyed the final horcrux and Harry Potter is preparing to battle Lord Voldemort. I’m not familiar with Twilight, but I’m sure there’s some confrontation between Heartthrob McSparklepants and a bad guy of some kind.

The point is, there are just days left to fund Ten Little Astronauts. At 63%, it’s the bulk of the way there and it has a solid chance of reaching its target, but only if the people who want that to happen make it happen.

At this point, you’re either behind the book or you’re not: there’s no time left to “get around to it.” 213 people (at current count) have pledged for a copy of their own. Countless more have shared it, told their friends about it, and generally helped it along in less direct ways. If it’s not your kind of thing, I get it. If you can’t afford to chip in for a copy right now, I definitely get it. But if you’d like to help my career as an author all the same, doing something – anything – to spread the word about it before that Christmas deadline would make a spectacular difference to the book’s chances of success at absolutely no cost to you. Continue reading

Ten Little Astronauts in the News

One of the advantages of having already gained a substantial level of support for Ten Little Astronauts – which is now more than halfway funded with over 200 supporters – is that it’s started to attract more attention from the media. It ended up in the news twice this week, so I thought I’d go ahead and share!

This article was the result of an interview with Lev Lourie (with the photo taken at Fair Oak Library), and appeared in the new Eastleigh Times on the 30th of November:

Just the next day, on December 1st, the book also got a place in Portsmouth’s Star & Crescent under the headline: Bringing Agatha Christie into the Space Age Might Land Local Writer a Book Deal. I actually wrote this one myself, as a contributor!

It’s great to see the book reaching a wider audience, and I hope this will help to secure the rest of the funding by the Christmas deadline. Still, if you want to help the book out and would like to spread this around yourself, that would make even more of a difference!

Ten Little Astronauts at 200 Supporters and 50 Percent!

Ten Little Astronauts reached two absolutely enormous milestones on the very same day: there are now over 200 individual people who’ve put in a pledge for a copy, and they’ve collectively taken it up to 50% of its funding goal.

This is pretty fantastic, because as well as the truly massive supporter count – which is already larger than many Unbound titles ever reach – there’s now less money still to raise than has been raised so far. Yeah, it says 50% on the book page right now, but it’s actually a whole lot closer to 51%: one more pledge could do it. Continue reading

Ten Little Astronauts Christmas Deadline

This is probably the biggest development since Unbound originally launched their crowdfunding campaign for Ten Little Astronauts, so if you’re interested in the book please have a read and share with anyone you think might be interested. (Ideally everyone, because hey, you never know.) The main thing to take away is this: if the book is going to be distributed through Penguin Random House, it must reach its funding target by Christmas.

Ten Little Astronauts has amassed an absolutely staggering amount of support since it launched, and I want to stress that this success is actually part of the reason Unbound would like to call an end to the campaign. There’s already enough funding and interest to print the book as part of a new paperback list with a lower budget (which is what will happen if we don’t hit 100% by Christmas), but naturally I’m keen to take one final shot at that original goal. If we can do that, I’ll see my work distributed by Penguin Random House, and you’ll get a more impressive paperback.

It’s actually been about a week since I announced this deadline on Unbound directly (it’s taken me a while to share the news here because my priority was contacting people who’d already said they intended to pledge), and in that time the campaign has shot to nearly 50% funding. We hit the 40% and 45% milestones in the same week (and if you’re supporting the book yourself, you can find the relevant rewards here and here respectively). Basically, having an end point in sight has done wonders for the book.

If you’d like to see Ten Little Astronauts reach its goal, there are three things you can do:

  • Put in a pledge, if you haven’t already. The sooner, the better! This is ultimately the only way the book will be funded, and having lots of supporters helps shows that people have confidence in it.
  • Upgrade or donate, if you’ve already pledged. I don’t like to pester people who’ve already been kind enough to put in a pledge, but this really would help a lot. If you’re especially keen to see Ten Little Astronauts succeed, you can either upgrade to a higher pledge level for more rewards, or use Unbound’s nifty new “donate” option to chip in a little more just to help the book along.
  • TELL YOUR FRIENDS, even if you haven’t pledged yourself (but especially if you have). I understand that Ten Little Astronauts won’t be for everyone: no book is. However, if you enjoy my other work and would like to see me succeed as an author, simply telling other people that Ten Little Astronauts exists would do wonders to help that happen. People can’t pledge if they don’t know about it in the first place! Sharing these updates, or showing the pitch video to any sci-fi fans you know: it all helps the book reach the readers who’ll ultimately make it a reality.

Needless to say, it would also help me out tremendously if you could get the word out about this new deadline in particular. 🙂

Pledge Party on Gower Street!

Back in June, Unbound started running Pledge Parties – a sort of literary Dragons Den where guests hear pitches from a range of Unbound authors and pick which they want to support – and since June I’ve been putting my name in the hat every time they run one. This month I got lucky, and so I’ll be there pitching Ten Little Astronauts on Monday the 18th! It’s coming up in just a week.

If you live in London, please do consider popping over to Waterstones Gower Street for the evening. Tickets are £6 (unless you’re a student, in which case they’re just £4) and include a glass of wine and a £5 Unbound voucher. Assuming you intend to back a book, the event costs basically nothing. You can grab your tickets here (I’ve done it myself, it’s easy), get them by phone on 020 7636 1577, or turn up and hope there are some left on the day. I wouldn’t count on it, though: I made a trip in for the very first event and it was packed.

If you can’t make it to London, I’ll also be in Birmingham for EGX from the 21st to the 24th. This is the games trade fair that got me the chance to write the story for Craft Keep VR, so I’m looking forward to a busy few days. However, I expect to be free in the evenings at least so if you’re in the area and want to say hi, do drop me a line. In case you haven’t heard, I’m just about to set off for Torquay for the International Agatha Christie Festival too. If you can get there, you’ll have the opportunity to see me speak about Ten Little Astronauts, and to hear a section of the book that’s never been made available to the general public before.

Ten Little Astronauts at the Agatha Christie Festival

I’ve been invited to talk about Ten Little Astronauts at the International Agatha Christie Festival on September 14th! If you’re in the area (or planning to make a trip to Torquay for five straight days of Christie-related goodness), you can catch me at the Platform taking place at 6pm in the Spanish Barn of Torre Abbey. I’ve written a little more about my talk on Unbound, but the main thing to mention about it would be that I’ll be giving an overview of how the book came about – from devising the mystery and researching the setting all the way towards its journey to publication – as well as reading from a couple of sections that won’t have been heard anywhere else (unless you were on my MA course!).

The Agatha Christie Birthday Celebrations last year were well worth the trip, so I’m really looking forward to getting a look around the festival itself. I was only there for the day (including about eight hours of train travel) last time, and even though I won’t be around for the full five days of this event, it should be a much more relaxed trip all round. If you’re there, do let me know and say hi! Continue reading

The Dragon and the Dying Stars

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 31

Challenge #14: Write a story in the style of a fairy tale, including phrase repetition and involving stars as physical objects. It must be serious in tone but also include a Phillips screwdriver.

This challenge was set by G. Deyke.

Once upon a time, in a world far distant, the night sky grew dark. Slowly, at first, the stars grew dim. The king’s philosophers at first thought that this was nothing more than the action of passing aeons, and that more would burn anew. But ere long their numbers dwindled, and the naked eye saw plainly what no telescope could: the stars were consumed.

Troubled, the king sent out his greatest knight upon a steed of chrome. Agravane was that knight’s name, and in his hand he bore a sword born of a dying star. Never would that blade break, and never would its edge grow dull. For many weeks Agravane rode through the void, and for as many weeks the king watched through the seeing-stone that stood before his throne.

At last, Agravane found his foe, and the king at last saw who it was who plucked the stars from the aether like grapes from the vine.

It was a dragon, vast as his kingdom and black as the void. Each wing was as wide as a galaxy, and its eyes glowed like quasars. Its manner and its motions were that of a great animal; its structure and its form, that of a terrible machine.

When the dragon spoke, it spoke not to the knight before it, but to the king beyond the stone: “I have lived since before the days of time. Since before the noise of creation and beyond the notion of being. Your universe is an affront to me, but in its matter I have found a host, and that host offers a solution. From one hundred billion dying stars I built this body, and with it I shall consume all the living stars that remain. Then there shall be stillness and silence and peace until the heat death of the universe, wherein there shall be stillness and silence and peace still.”

In his throne, the king trembled at the threat of such a foe. But Agravane was fearless.

He held aloft his sword: “You might have seized your matter from the stars by force, but mine was a gift granted in a time of dire need. When I stood alone against the hordes of Far Reach and my weapon snapped in twain, bright Achernar crystallised into a blade that would never fail me so.”

But though Agravane was fearless, he was not wise, and his sword did not avail him: the dragon was forged of star-steel too, and though the blade did not dull against its scales, neither could it cut them, and the beast crushed him in its mighty hand unhindered. Agravane’s sword was lost to the aether whence it came.

Fearful, the king sent out a second knight upon a second steed. Carador was this knight’s name, and in his hand he bore a spear born of a dying star. Never would that shaft snap, nor would the point fail to find its mark. For many weeks Carador rode through the void, and for as many weeks the king watched through the seeing-stone.

“What fool comes to challenge me?” demanded the dragon, in a voice that carried even through the void.

“No fool am I,” Carador responded, keeping his distance “for I carry the same spear that came to me during the siege of Omega Centauri when my own weapon was lost.”

The dragon snorted: “Never can you pierce my scales with your stick.”

Carador took aim: “I do not intend to try.”

He did not direct his spear against the dragon’s scales, but instead towards one of its vast eyes. Unerring, the spear flew, yet clattered from the boiling orb: even the eyes were forged of star-steel, and even the eyes could not be harmed.

With a single pulse of its fiery gaze, the dragon tore the knight’s very atoms asunder, and Carador’s spear too was lost to the aether whence it came.

Holding little hope, the king summoned still one more knight. Gilhault was this knight’s name, and in his hand he bore a hammer born of a dying star. When swung, the head was weightless, yet when it struck a foe it held the mass of a thousand moons.

But before Gilhault could mount his steed, an unseen assailant cracked his visor with a cudgel so he could not brave the void: Elayn, his squire, stole the reins and rode off in his stead.

Furious, the king sent all his knights to pursue her, but all were left behind: none tended the steeds with more skill or kindness than Elayn, and so none could catch Gilhault’s, which she had so long cared for.

Elayn faced the dragon.

The dragon laughed. “Will you fight me with a simple cudgel?”

“No.” Elayn drew her own gift of star-steel from her voidcloak. “With this.”

And the dragon laughed louder, for the item she produced was but a Phillips screwdriver.

“I too was at the battle against the hordes of the Far Reach, and there my master was dismounted. I leapt through the void to reach his steed, but found it maimed beyond motion. For weeks we drifted, helpless, until we were caught in the orbit of Leporis. From that star was born this screwdriver, and with it I saved this steed.”

“Go home, little girl,” said the dragon. “You have some years yet before I trouble myself with your sphere: do not forfeit them.”

Elayn did not answer this insult. She merely charged forwards, and the dragon, without even going to the effort of stretching out its neck, consumed her whole.

But though every piece of the dragon was formed of a dying star—every piece indestructible—they were held together with screws of star-steel. And though their threads would never strip and their shanks never break, no bond held them in their place but simple force.

In this way, with nothing but a screwdriver, Elayn beheaded the monster whose neck no blade could sever.

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook CoverOsiris Likes This Cover

Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.

You might also be interested in my sci-fi murder mystery novella, Ten Little Astronauts, which is currently crowdfunding at Unbound. Most pledge levels include all the books shown above, and all will include your name in the back of Ten Little Astronauts itself as a patron of my work.

Support it here!