I used a fire extinguisher for the first time today

In the purest sense, NaNoWriMo is not going too well for me. I reached 15,000 words pretty quickly and then stopped. I’m not unhappy with that–it’s 15,000 words more than I started with. And as words go, they’re pretty good ones with plenty of potential.

However, to keep up the creativity, I decided to shoot a Christmas still life like I did last year:

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I ran across this tutorial on 500px ISO about using sparklers in glass jars. It looks amazing and seemed doable so I thought I’d give it a go.

I decided to set it up in my garage because it’s entirely concrete and thus fire-proof. Great decision number 1.

I also brought along the fire extinguisher I keep in my kitchen and put a bucket of water nearby as well, just in case. Great decision number 2.

This was the set-up I decided on:

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I reused the glass reindeer from last year because I quite like it. I went to a dollar store for the decanter and wine glasses because the tutorial mentioned that the heat from the sparklers could cause the glass containers to crack and I didn’t want to break anything expensive. Great decision number 3.

It turned out to be really difficult to get the sparkler bits in the bottom of the decanter to ignite. I tried various things–varying the amount of sparkler bits, dropping in lit matches, using a taper. I think the main issue was the shape of the bottle. Anyway, it took a long time but eventually I got it to light.

That’s when it went wrong.

Instead of the delicate spray of sparks bouncing off the interior of the decanter, I got this:

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That’s right. I accidentally created a homemade blowtorch that went off with a very unsettling roar. Like any good photographer, I kept my finger on the shutter while I panicked about what to do. My first thought was to grab the fire extinguisher but all the fire was enclosed by glass, which was less than helpful.

Fortunately…? a moment later the decanter exploded, showering glass everywhere and setting fire to the backing fabric:

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This was the very last shot in the burst.

Of course, that meant the fire extinguisher would be effective so I got things under control pretty quickly.

All in all, this shoot did not go to plan. However, I persevered through the ensuing clouds of smoke to get the shot of the wine glasses and with a bit of work in post, I ended up with this:

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It’s a bit different to the image I’d originally planned but it’s got a certain drama that I quite like. Overall I’m pretty happy with it. Maybe don’t try this at home, though, kids.

Steampunk Christmas Murder Mystery

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Lord Abraham Pennington-Smith has once again invited his family and friends to his annual Christmas party aboard the skyship Astral Ranger. Of course, this year might be a little…tense.

There’s a rumour that Lord Abraham is planning on revising his will. And there’s his recent acquisition–the most powerful focusing crystal in the world. And the fact that every one of his guests has a secret might also complicate things. But it’s sure to be a wonderfully festive event…

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My steampunk Christmas murder mystery party went better than I expected. We ended up with 9 players/characters–each with their own backgrounds, motivations, secrets and goals–aboard a drifting, sabotaged airship trying to solve the murder of a wealthy old man. Valuable game items were stolen and traded; secrets were uncovered; people were double-crossed and betrayed; the murderer accidentally fell to her death trying to escape at the end.*

What really surprised and pleased me (aside from everyone having a great time, obviously) was that the twist I tried to put in at the end even worked.

In case you’re wondering, the reason why I’m being so cagey with the details is that, at the end of the night, one of my friends suggested that I should publish the game. That was something that hadn’t occurred to me, despite the amount of work that I put into it. I was just doing it because it was fun.

Now, though, it seems like a great idea and I’ve added it to my list of projects. In some ways I think a game might be easier to finish than a full novel. A lot of the work is already done–I wrote almost 5,000 words just to make it playable. Now I just have to explain the mechanics so that anyone could pick it up and play, set up all the material that needs to be printed in a sensible format and commission an artist to make it look a bit more special.

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The game itself is designed to be very free-form. Players are given a character, some information about what’s happened, their relationship to several other characters and a list of personal goals. The host then reveals the situation and it’s basically up to the players to unroll the story from there. Not all of my characters were interested in finding the murderer; some were actively hindering the investigation and others were just out to create chaos for their own ends. It’s designed so that you could play it with different groups of people and get completely different experiences each time.

Once I’ve got a draft together, I’ll have to run it again (or get someone else to run it) to iron out any issues, sort of like a drafting process. By Christmas time next year, I plan to have a murder mystery game on the market. And that is a sentence I never imagined I would ever utter. It’s as exciting as it is unexpected.

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* In-game, of course. Only fictional characters died.