Monday, 7 March 2016

Writing Resources

I've been doing this writing lark properly for a few years now and I've learned a massive amount, enough to be helpful to others. On the fantasy fiction and writing forums I frequent I encounter the same basic questions being asked again and again from less experienced writers:

-What do you think of my idea X (very cliched idea)
-I've written something - now what? this punctuation correct?
-How do I make it better? How do you edit?
-How do I find publishers/markets?

With that in mind I've decided to create a writing resources page on this site that I will update with other sites and resources of interest to people developing their writing skills. I'm hoping that some of you will find it useful.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Simple 4-in-1 chainmail

Over the last year I've been learning how to make chainmail, and steadily working away on a chain haubergeon. It's surprisingly easy....mostly.

The basics are very simple indeed. Here's how to construct European 4-in-1 maille.

You can either start with a spool of wire and construct a mandrel and cut your own rings or you can buy jump rings like I did (not having the space for such equipment, and I'm working in stainless steel to complicate things.) Sites I can recommend for supplies would be Armchair Armoury in the UK and The Ring Lord in the US/Canada.

Start with a pile of jump rings:

Taking two pairs of flat-nosed pliers, clamp them down on either side of the ring and twist to open some of the rings. I find doing strips of 10s works well for a larger project but you can do whatever length of strip you wish:

Once you have 10 open rings, get some more untouched rings and then close 22:

Put 4 closed rings through 1 open ring and then close that ring. That will serve as your starting point. Then put 2 closed rings over the other 9 open rings but do not close them just yet:

Lay that starting point out like so:

Notice that the middle ring has 4 rings though it. This is what we mean by European 4-in-1 maille, every ring should be joined to 4 others. There are many other kinds easily findable via web search, such as dragonscale maille.

Next, take one of those still-open rings with 2 closed rings on it and thread the open ends through the starting point's closed rings like so:

Flip the whole thing over and use your pliers to twist closed those open ends on the other side, then lay it back out as before.:

Rinse and repeat and soon you will have a strip of 10:

If you lay two strips side by side you will see four closed rings just ready to have an open ring threaded through (from right to left in this case, through the rightmost column's middle two rings, and then the second column's) and then the ends closed using pliers.

In this way you can easily create patches of maille ready to be joined together to make a larger item. Trust me, it's FAR easier working with small patches than adding row after row to a large, awkward and heavy shirt.

Up and Coming: Stories from the 2016 Campbell-Eligible Writers

Up and Coming: Stories from the 2016 Campbell-Eligible Writers (Which includes me!) anthology has been released, available for free download until the end of March from the folks at Bad Menagerie.

Thanks go to SL Huang & Kurt Hunt for organising and compiling this years' anthology.

It includes stories from writers currently eligible for the John W.Campbell Award for best new science fiction or fantasy writer, which means writers who had their first sale to a professional paying market within the last two years. I expect to be reading awesome fiction from many writers I haven't encountered yet.

This anthology also includes me after the publication of The Economist & The Dragon by Buzzy Mag in 2014. So hurrah for that! :D At the time Buzzy Mag also posted me THE most ridiculously lovely hand-written thank you card when they accepted the story, saying that they enjoyed it very much. That blew me away - so nice of them!

Tuesday, 1 March 2016


This year I will be attending Eastercon in Manchester in March and Satellite 5 in Glasgow in May, and possibly Fantasycon by the Sea in Scarborough in September.

It's always good to go to some of the more interesting panels, but even better to catch up with friends :)

Feels a little strange to think that my first ever con was only in 2013, that being World Fantasy Con in Brighton. It was a big and bustling venue and as a newbie to cons I found it quite intimidating at first, but fortunately a goodly number of the GSFWC crew were down for it and I quickly met some other rather interesting writers. That first con is also notorious for the 'Ambush Opera' organised by Neil Williamson.

Glasgow Science Fiction Writers' Circle 30th anniversary anthology

As some of you might know, I am one of the editors for the Glasgow Science Fiction Writers' Circle 30th anniversary anthology. It's been an eye-opener.

For the first time I am on the other side of the editorial fence. I'm much more used to submitting fiction and waiting for the inevitable rejections to arrive (Boo! Hiss!), interspersed with the occasional and joyful acceptance email when my stories find the right home. Instead I'm reading my way through other people's submissions and making comments for our other two fine editors. Fortunately we have a group of excellent writers sending us stories so I will miss out on the pleasure of reading outright gibbering bonkers and bad writing that open submission markets must get. It's early days yet but I can reveal that we have already had some really fascinating fiction hitting our inboxes.

This anthology project has got me thinking about the role of editor. It's proving very time consuming, even with the relatively small numbers of submissions that we are dealing with. I am reading a story for initial enjoyment, having a think, then reading it again for quality of prose, style, plot and character - breaking down what does and does not work for me. Fortunately as a seasoned GSFWC'er with some stinker trunked stories behind me (as we all have), I'm used to this critiquing process. Fortunately I have the time to go through each submission this way for our anthology - I really doubt an editor for a commercial fiction market has anywhere near that kind of time. I know many writers moan about receiving form rejections, but with their volume of submissions, if something didn’t grab me in the first few pages I'd not be keen to read on. I've always appreciated when editors take a little time (in very short supply) to say why a story of mine didn't work for them, and often that's allowed me to improve it for the next market, but it's no wonder many have slush readers to weed out the poor or unsuitable stories. Fortunately, as with my fellow GSFWC 30 editors on occasion, opinions do differ, and one editor’s lacklustre story can be another’s piece of gold.

Cover artwork, edits, more submissions...editing this anthology is proving most interesting.

I'm also very aware I'm currently wielding the mighty spiked Hammer of Rejection! It's kinda scary.
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