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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


On Nerves: Having them and getting on them

Yes, it is October. However, consider this your September update, as that’s when all the thinking happened.

Book Status: QUEEN OF HUNGER continues to sell regularly, which is fabulous considering how little advertising I’ve done. It isn’t selling “I’m going to Hawaii for my birthday” well, but well enough. In addition, the feedback I’ve gotten from readers has been really encouraging and inspiring. If I could get half the people who’ve told me they loved it to say so on in a review…but I know not everyone is a “reviewing” type. Heck, I don’t have a Yelp account myself, so how can I complain? I can’t. Still, it is good to know people like it and recommend it and are looking forward to the next book. That makes me inexpressibly happy.

Writing Status: I am definitely writing, producing a small but steady amount of new content every week, which is helping to pull me out of my post-publication doldrums. Yes, post-pub blues. I’m realizing now that’s what I’ve had/have/will have for a bit longer. Those blues are manifesting in one serious crisis: I’ve lost my nerve.

Public art is about risk. Committing words to paper is great, but putting those words in front of strangers takes an awful lot of moxie — a fact I hadn’t really come to grips with until I did it for the first time a few years ago. And now, after taking the big risk, I find myself constantly battling doubt: what if the next book isn’t as good? or is too good? What if someone steals my ideas? or I’ve stolen theirs? What about the characters, are they interesting? complex? amoral? cynical? Is it too long? MY GOD EVERYTHING I WRITE IS TOO LONG!

Writing in a vacuum was so much easier than writing with the will to publish. My second-guessing demon is working overtime.

This makes for slow going. And re-writing. And pep talks with fellow writers. And more coffee than I ever thought I’d consume in a day — and I attended grad school, so my coffee intake upper limit is significant.

So while book two grows day by day, whether it will grow in time for a reliable publication date is up for debate. In the meantime, however, I do have some other shorts that are shaping up to be interesting enough to share. They aren’t in the same world as Teach and the Assembled, but you probably won’t mind. I mean, it’ll be free fiction. What’s not to like?

PS — I’m making additions to the Inspirations page too!

A New Page and Writing Status

Yeah, I know, I know, it has been a while since I wrote.

I’ve been busily working on the outline and character sketches for book two of my little series, entitled QUEEN OF CROSSROADS. I’m hoping to have some preview content up in the next few months. QUEEN OF CROSSROADS leaves the comfortable west coast and centers on a new heroine settled comfortably, or uncomfortably, in the midwestern regions of the Commonwealth. The characters are younger, the Assembled just as complicated, and there’s a baby. I think you’ll like it.

QUEEN OF HUNGER is going along well. I don’t have any new readings scheduled for the fall, but as with Westercon there’s no telling what will fall into my lap. Now that the initial flush is off the sales, I’m considering some new marketing venues — we’ll see how it goes.

To help myself with my ongoing writing (both for QUEEN OF CROSSROADS and some other projects) I’m compiling a list of inspirational websites. These links now have their own page here at TALES OF THE ASSEMBLED — Inspiration. Clever, I know. These are pages that I find myself going back to for some spark or detail. That page will keep growing, so if you’re a writer who could use a kickstart now and again, it might be for you.

With that, I’m off. Take care all and as always, thank you for reading.

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