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On the inspiration of sewing and costuming

Through a long series of connections (and with too much time on my hands), I found myself wandering the Internet, looking at historical costuming blogs.

Now I’m not a seamstress. I can work a basic sewing machine, follow a pattern and mend a seam. That’s about it. I have none, and I mean none, of the basic skills needed to be a really good seamstress — color coordination, design sense, the ability to visualize in 3D using 2D materials, etc. At the same time, it is an art form I feel closely mirrors my own writing. Creating clothing is a process of trial and error; drape, pin, move and re-move; sew, sew, sew; try it; sew, sew, sew; pull out the buttons; sew, sew, sew; start over in a different color with a zipper next time.

There’s also the way that clothing and costuming is constantly shifting under the pressures of fashion and practicality. I feel that writing in “genre” fiction can be very much about hitting the fashion of the year or rather, the fashion of next year.  The dress that flops on this year’s runway may be picked up in five years and be a complete smash. Some fashions are best evaluated in hindsight because of what they reveal about the world in which they were created, what they describe about perceived femininity/masculinity, the stories they tell of trade and travel. Aren’t stories the same way?

Speaking of stories — I did do a new writing challenge this week, but the result is far too dis-jointed to share. I have this terrible fear that I’ve got a new cast of characters coming together for a new long-form-not-quite-novel. The last thing I need is another “too long for a short story too short for a novel” piece of fiction. But like with sewing, sometimes you have to work your fabric stash. You never know, it might be enough for that Victorian ballgown you’ve been dreaming of if you piece it right.

I leave you with my newest online costuming obsession: Rate the Dress.

Like I said, I’m no costumer, but the idea of looking back over history’s clothing and evaluating it for cut, color, and desirability just appeals to all my senses. If I knew just a little bit more I’d be tempted to start voting. But that’s the deep end of the pool and as you know, Internet people aren’t always kind when you’re in their pool.

After all this dress talk, I feel the need to leave you with a picture of a dress. So here you go, my current favorite use of the color red:


Dress, silk, 1887, White Howard & Co.:25 W. 16th St.:New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, CI68.53.6ab



As I was putting together my plan for self-publishing, it quickly became clear that task #2, after finishing QUEEN OF HUNGER, was having a great cover done. A cover is the first step in the presentation of a book. And as a new author, convincing new readers to pay a few bucks for my work, I knew I needed to nail that first impression. My cover artist helped me do that to the nines.

If you’re looking for an experienced, fun, creative artist, I present to you Darne Lang. And the cover to my book.

Teach in her world

Cover Art by D.Lang for QUEEN OF HUNGER.

I’m lucky to know an amazing number of skilled artists and craftspeople, both personally and professionally. I know jewelers, pewter-smiths, stained glass setters (is that a glazier? A stained glazier? How does that work, linguistically speaking?), custom seamstresses, and a number of 2-D visual artists in both digital and traditional media. I met my cover artist several years ago, but this is our first collaboration – the first of many I hope. I definitely learned a lot in working with her, most notably that “I don’t know, can you make it more Oakland?” isn’t actually good creative feedback.

Let me know what you think in the Comments. Feel free to share through all your social webs; if not because the QUEEN OF HUNGER is an awesome book, which it is, then because the cover is just good.

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