Acceptance, Book One of the Acceptance Series

For more than two thousand years, a small community of humans has lived in harmony with vampires, giving their blood and obedience in exchange for protection. And for all that time, it’s been a peaceful occupation.

When Kalyn Reid comes of age and pledges herself to the vampires, she has no reason to worry. She’s paired with Anselm for her training, and she couldn’t ask for a kinder, more patient mentor. She also couldn’t ask for anyone better-looking.

But before she has a chance to learn her new responsibilities–or get a date–her idyllic life goes up in flames. Without warning, the humans and vampires in her group are murdered by a strange new type of vampire and the few survivors are forced to flee.

Anselm and his brother, Micah, vow to hunt down the murderer, and they take Kalyn with them–thinking they can keep her safe. But when the killer finds them first, it’s they who must rely on her if any of them are to survive.

It reminded me of Game of Thrones, except with less incest and more vampires. - Author Michelle Proulx

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The Bloodsuckers, Episode 42: Road to the Lion’s Den

Scott idly watched the western sky while Josie drove them to Nashville for her family’s Hanukkah gathering. The sky was dark, save for a deep pinky-purple on the horizon. He had always thought sunsets were more beautiful in the winter—maybe because the sun was at a lower angle relative to the earth, making its rays diffuse through the atmosphere instead of coming directly at the viewer.

He wasn’t sure if that was factual or not, but it sounded impressive—probable, even.

What was it that Mark’s book on lying had said?—if a person believes something strongly enough, it won’t register as a lie on a lie-detector test. Repeat a lie enough times, and the brain will simply reconstruct the memory to accommodate the lie and it will become truth.

It was one of the reasons why witnesses could be unreliable—especially if something happened suddenly or was shockingly violent. The older the memory, the more likely it was to end up altered—not because the witnesses intentionally altered it, but because they internalized other people’s narratives, news reports—hell, even dreams of the incident could introduce things that weren’t there in reality, and those things would get stuck in the actual memory.

That didn’t mean that a person was incapable of remembering something correctly—and some people admittedly had better memories than others—but it did mean that you should be cautious. Two witnesses saying the same thing were better than one—especially if they weren’t in contact. If they were close—family members, friends, or neighbors—then, as they talked about the incident and shared their version of it, their narratives would start to meld until they were more or less telling the same story—even if they had originally remembered two different things. That’s why interviewing witnesses separately and quickly was crucial; the mind did funny things with memories; it corrupted them even as it attempted to save them.

It gradually dawned on Scott that his thoughts had been wandering randomly for nearly a half hour—namely because neither he nor Josie were talking.

He didn’t like the silence; it was foreboding. It could just be because they were heading into the lion’s den, but Scott feared it was because of Josie’s pregnancy. He worried—perhaps justly, perhaps only out of paranoia—that a rift was growing between them. Did Josie blame him? After all, he was the one who was supposed to be sterile. He had put her in this situation.

The appropriate thing to do would be voice his concerns. He ought to ask her, point-blank, if she harbored any resentment towards him and if she was contemplating leaving him.

Instead, he broke the very pregnant silence—no pun intended—with: “Clarice’s birthday is right the corner and I don’t have anything picked out for her. What do you think I should get?”

“She’s going to be ten, right?”

“Yeah.” Just thinking about that made him depressed. He kept telling himself that it didn’t matter to him, since he wasn’t actually getting any older, but it still seemed sad that his daughter’s childhood was flying past. Before he knew it, she’d be grown and probably moved away.

Josie pressed her lips together, looking thoughtful. “She might like makeup.”

Scott shuddered. “She’s too young for that.”

“She’s too young to wear it out, but that doesn’t mean she can’t play with it. Most girls like playing with makeup—like dressing up.”

“I don’t think her mother would appreciate me getting her makeup.”

“Does Maggie not wear any?”

“Not much.” Saying so surprised Scott. He hadn’t ever thought about it before, but Maggie had worn very little makeup. Josie, on the other hand, was always nicely made up. It wasn’t that he felt makeup was a necessity—Josie was still pretty, even when she wasn’t wearing it—but it just further reinforced the difference between her and his ex.

“Is that because she doesn’t want to, or doesn’t believe in it?” Josie asked.

“I’m not sure. That’s why I don’t really want to test it.”

“Of course, Clarice could keep it at your house and Maggie need never know,” she offered.

Scott waved his hands. “I don’t want to get her any,” he said. “It’s a short jump from wearing makeup to being interested in boys.”

Josie laughed.

“What?” Scott demanded.

“I think you’ve got that backwards.”

“What… boys come first, then the makeup?”

“Yep.”

“Are… you just speaking in general, or do you know something I don’t?”

“Both.”

Scott felt a little sick to his stomach. “Who is he?”

“Some boy named Jeremy. He’s a grade older.” Josie said this with great emphasis, as if it was very significant.

“I don’t like the sound of that.”

Josie laughed. “Don’t worry; apparently he doesn’t know she exists. That’s why she was asking me what she could do to get his attention.”

“Definitely no make-up. I don’t want her to have his attention.”

“Scott, little girls get crushes on little boys; it’s normal.”

“At ten years old?” he asked incredulously.

She laughed at him again. “Hell, Scott, my first great love was in kindergarten. Actually, come to think of it,” she said thoughtfully, “I think I had two. I had a crush on David—a boy in my synagogue class—and Ian, a boy at school.”

“Both at once?”

“Yeah. That way, I never had to go too long without seeing one or the other.” She grinned. “David was my first kiss. Somehow, we ended up in the synagogue library together—it was dark because the lights were out—and I told him he should kiss me, and he did. Then I ran out, because I was suddenly bashful.”

“Your first kiss was in kindergarten?” he said, appalled. But Josie’s tone was more blissful; for her, it was a sweet memory.

“Yeah. I seem to recall I told him our parents had arranged our marriage when we were born, so we might as well start acting like a married couple.” She laughed at her own boldness. “I have no idea where I came up with that. I think I might have just lied to get him to kiss me.”

“So, what you’re saying is you lied to seduce a boy in synagogue? And here I was worried about what the boy might do. You’re obviously ten times worse.”

She just laughed unapologetically.

He shook his head. “I can’t imagine what my Sunday School teacher would have said if I had done that. Condemned me to hell, I’m sure.”

“Welcome to the differences between Jew and Gentile.”

Scott looked out over the dark road, the white line reflectors flashing in the headlights. “I have a feeling I’m going to get schooled in those differences a lot tonight.”

Read the entire series–The Bloodsuckers: Vampire Lawyers of Middle Tennessee

One Writing Project Down, Eleven More to Go

Alright, time for me to peek in on my blog again. This is starting to become a monthly tradition… or maybe that’s quarterly.

Even if I’m not writing on my blog, though, I am doing some writing.

A couple of weeks ago, I finally finished my fan fiction. Mind you, this was just something I was playing around with while I was in the process of moving and couldn’t devote myself to my regular work. My motivation was to see if I could write a game—complete with background story, character development, weapons, dungeons, bosses, etc.

Conclusion? Why yes, I can write a game (provided said game broke the mold and was a two-player interface instead of a solo player).

Things I learned in the process:

  1. Writing an entire game by yourself is harder than you would think. I didn’t have a problem with developing a storyline, but coming up with different weapons and bosses was hard. And we won’t even get into how to make mazes. I stand in awe of the maze developers.
  2. You have to plot adventures. This is really important, as you need to know what people and things you will need later. For example, weapons are often introduced before they’re needed—or they might be needed multiple times.
  3. Even when I have a plot, I still “pants.” I found writing just to a plot was rather restricting (suffocating, even)—especially as I came up with good ideas along the way. So, what happened in actuality, was that I pantsed between (and sometimes in the middle of) plotted chapters.
  4. When you simultaneously pants and plot, you end up with twice as much product as you intended.

How much product, you ask?

Originally, I plotted 50 chapters—certainly a respectable amount when you consider that my shortest chapters were around 1,200 words, and major chapters—dungeons and bosses—could have as many as 8,000-12,000 words.

The reality? This story clocks in at 114 chapters and 459,339 words.

Let that sink in for a minute. Acceptance, which is, according to industry standards, a bit on the long side for a first novel—even one that’s urban fantasy—has approximately 109,000 words.

My fanfic is a little longer than four Acceptance novels—or, in other words, as long as the entire planned series.

The Flames of Prague, which is long even to historical fiction standards, is roughly 80,000 words. It would take nearly six of those to equal this one fan fiction.

It took me right at a year and a half to write it. That means I averaged 25,519 words per month—or roughly half the speed you work during a NaNo month—only this lasted 18 consecutive months.

I’m not disappointed by those figures. If I applied that same work ethic to my new stuff, then I could turn out a historical fiction novel roughly every three months. (Of course it’s not the writing part that’s really time-consuming; it’s the editing. Editing takes two or three times longer than the initial writing, I’ve found.)

Maybe one of these days I can afford to hire an editor/proofreader to do that heavy lifting and I can put more of my effort into writing new stuff. Just in the last year, I’ve come up with two more ideas for historical novels (I’m loathe to call one a romance, since the lovers will die at the end). That makes a grand total of three historical romance novels waiting in the production line, not counting the sequel to Flames, a potential sequel to the sequel, or any of the Acceptance series (of which there are three more to go, plus an estimated 3 prequels).

I don’t have to worry about widespread writer’s block any time soon; I have enough to keep me busy for some years.

Now that my fanfic is done, I plan on turning back to The Flames of Prague. It’s had a major edit already, and I’ve handwritten the secondary edit; I just need to get those corrections typed up. Then it will need to undergo several rounds of proofreading. I’m hopeful that I can get it out by the end of the year.

I also plan on picking up The Bloodsuckers again. I’m not sure if I want to commit to one episode a week again. That has its benefits—in that it prevents procrastination, and desperation can shake all sorts of things loose—but it also its drawbacks in that it forces smaller episodes and more filler. My fan fiction was written as a serial novel, but I rarely did one chapter a week; it was more like one chapter every 2-3 weeks. This allowed me to make longer chapters (something a lot of people have complained about with Bloodsuckers). Another thing is that the quality of writing seems better in my fanfic. This could be because practice makes perfect (if you’ve got one million words of crap in you, then I just sloughed about half of that; including the other stuff I’ve written, I’ve passed the one million word mark), but it could also be that I took more time with my fanfic; I didn’t feel the need to hurry things along until the very end, when I just got tired of it and was ready to move on to other things.

I think I might try plotting some of The Bloodsuckers, too, because I want it to take a darker and more adventurous turn. Plotting will allow me to set up some situations and characters that will come into play in the future. It will also help me avoid sitting at a blank computer screen and wondering what in the world I’m going to do next. When in doubt, follow the plot. But if I want to go off-script a little, too, there’s room for that.

Just as my fan fiction started with a challenge—to see if I could write a video game—The Bloodsuckers originally started with a challenge, too: to see if I could write a serial novel of equivalent size and scope as Varney the Vampire. My fan fiction has proven that I can lay down some serious wordage when I want to (although it’s still nearly 200,000 words short of old Varney), so it’s not a matter of if, but of when.

And, to that end, expect to see a new episode shortly.

Guardians of the Galaxy: This Was the Best You Could Do?

GOTG-posterSo, the hubby and I watched Guardians of the Galaxy last night—mainly because so many of our friends said it was great, with a sugary coating of awesome-sauce on top. Normally, we’re not big fans of comic book movies, but there have been some we’ve liked.

This would not be one of them.

I didn’t even make it through the entire movie before I got bored and decided that playing some Candy Crush would be more entertaining. Hubby made it through all of it, but it got a one-shrug rating from him. The best he could say of it was, “It was mildly entertaining.”

Problems I had with it:

I had absolutely no idea who the bad guy was. There seemed to be two bad guys: Bad Guy A and Bad Guy B. Bad Guy B was working for Bad Guy A—I think—but I never established which person on the screen was A and which was B. Or if they were the same species. Or why they were working together in the first place. Or even what made them Badass #1 and #2 in the galaxy. I mean, everyone said they were afraid of at least one of them, but I didn’t see much that made them fearful (of course, that could be because the movie was so damn dark, I could barely see anything on the screen at all).

imagesOne of these bad buys wanted to wipe out an entire planet because of some long-standing feud, but I’m not sure which one. (Or maybe it was both of them.) And when one of them eventually acquires Magical Item 1 that blew up a human-looking girl, but which doesn’t blow him up, he appears to become Badass #1. Maybe. I didn’t last long enough to see if they had a showdown for the Badass of the Galaxy Championship Belt.

And one of them had two daughters—who looked nothing alike. We find out that green daughter was actually forcibly made part of the family and had to do daddy’s dirty work. And, in fact, her daddy lent her out to the other one to help steal Magical Item 1. But I was never clear if she was the “daughter” of Bad Guy A or B, and whether she was working for A or B or both or neither. Were they both her enemies? I don’t know. And the blue girl identified as her “sister”—was she the actual child of the bad buy, or another orphan pressed into this Greek tragedy of a family? I have no idea.

So green girl has this long rap sheet of killing people for her “father.” But, when she tells Good Guy that her father (and maybe other Bad Guy) sent her to get Magical Item 1, but she’s going to double-cross both of them (despite the fact that they are Badass #1 and #2 and everyone else is afraid of them), he instantly believes her and decides that he, too, needs to get in on challenging Badass #1 and #2. Because… Green Bitch.

320x240 Yes, I know Captain Kirk established the Rule of Green Bitches, but are we even in the same galaxy? Maybe the Rule doesn’t apply to Green Bitches in different galaxies. And certainly we’re in a different time period; Kirk operates several hundred years into the future. Maybe Green Bitches have not yet established themselves as the harmless vixens that they will later become.

In short, there’s no reason to trust this particular Green Bitch. But Good Guy does immediately.

How does he manage to stay alive as a petty thief and smuggler if he’s trusting random Green Bitches at the drop of a hat—especially if it also means taking on Badass #1 and #2?

indexNot only that, but he immediately falls in love with her. And not the kind of “love” that he’s felt for all the other colorful floozies he’s had from one end of the galaxy to the other (really, is that the best we can do for aliens? Different-colored humanoids?)—no, we’re talking True Love™.

The problem with that is that I don’t see any reason why he should fall in love with her. She doesn’t seem to be any different than the pink girl (or was she orange?) that he had earlier. He doesn’t even spend any time waxing eloquent on her ability to beat up a lot of people—including him—and kick her leg over her head. I can see how such abilities would be appealing to a man like him, but apparently he doesn’t, because he never spends any time talking about them—not even an open-mouth, bug-eyed stare, coupled with a little drool of longing.

No, he just decides to save her—multiple times—for no particular reason. He doesn’t even seem to be motivated by greed (which is a plausible reason to do it to start with; True Love™ can develop over the course of the movie).

peter-quill-chris-prattFrom the set up at the beginning of the movie, I was expecting him to be an anti-hero—a thief who is really a good guy deep down, but who needs something (or someone) to motivate him to choose his good side over his bad. But that would involve character development, and the writers gave that idea the middle finger.

Why make interesting characters when you can just have a lot of CGI stuff and a Green Bitch that can kick her leg up so high, she hits the guy behind her in the face? That sells tickets!

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You’re having a good day when you can drop an Alice’s Restaurant’s quote like a boss.

The same thing’s true for the rest of the team members. So the raccoon and the tree (Groot—I got his name, at least) are bounty hunters and they try to hunt down Good Guy. Apparently bounty hunting in Peaceful City gets you put in jail. Or maybe they had outstanding warrants; I don’t know. Regardless, everyone ends up in jail together (they don’t even believe in sex segregation at this particular jail; Green Bitch goes in with everyone else). Even before the raccoon and Groot can work out a profitable deal with Good Guy, they’re trying to help him survive the mean world of father rapers, mother stabbers, litterbugs, and other nasty criminal types who create a public nuisance.

Shouldn’t they at least be mad that he caused him so much trouble? He was supposed to be an easy meal ticket, but instead they ended up in the slammer with him. They should have hard feelings about that—at least until their greed overcomes their dislike.

But no, they’re instant partners. And even the addition of Green Bitch and Pointless Blue Guy to the team barely elicit a raised eyebrow.

guardians-of-the-galaxy-star-lord-top-100609

Lame-ass beard you’ve got there, boy.

Sure, we’ve always been a two-beast bounty-hunting operation, but what the hell? Let’s add on a Good Guy who can’t grow a real beard, a Green Bitch who was formerly Badass #3 in the galaxy and belongs to/has been working for Badasses #1 and #2, and a Pointless Blue Guy.

As Dr. Evil says about not even watching during overly-elaborate and easily-escapable executions, “I’ll just assume it went according to plan.” Rocket the Raccoon is Dr. Evil: he’ll team up with some retched scum and villainy and just assume it will go according to plan. They’ll never double-cross him or anything—despite the fact that they have death sentences in twelve star systems. They’re, like, totally trustworthy.

Drax_GotG

Why do I care about this guy? What does he do? When will he ever see a doctor about that monster shingles rash?

This movie would have worked a LOT better if it did what it appeared to do in trailers, which is make fun of sci-fi hero movies. It desperately tries to do that—what with the oddly-placed 60’s and 70’s music (played on a magical cassette tape that never wears out and breaks!) and awkward attempts at humor by Good Guy—but overall, it takes itself seriously, which means those funny bits thrown in at random seem stilted and out of place.

It either needs to be serious or funny; it can’t do both successfully.

Of course, the movie might make a lot of sense to people who have followed the comics. But as a movie it fails because it can’t be understood without reading the source material first. I watched The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hunger Games, and Divergent before reading the books and they all made sense. Movies should be capable of standing alone. This one isn’t.

Maybe, in the end, Green Bitch betrayed all of them. Or maybe the raccoon took the money and ran. That would be entertaining—and in keeping with these people who are supposedly thieves and bounty hunters and assassins. But from the way things were going more than halfway through the movie, that didn’t even look like an outside possibility. And with boring, unmotivated (and sometimes pointless) characters, there was nothing to look forward to but a typical fantasy plot: misfits form a team, beat Bad Guys A and B, and recover Magical Item 1.

maxresdefaultYawn. I think I’ll just be over here, trying to make a candy bomb.

Plundering My Own Fabric Horde

So, how are things going with my writing and sewing projects? Well, despite the slow start, they’re going surprisingly well. I’ve made it a point to dedicate one hour each night to each project (I even have time to get in an hour of Sims, too!), and that’s keeping me well on track. I’m also getting 45-60 minutes of writing in at lunch every day, and between the two sessions, I’ve been more than making my daily word counts. I’m still hopeful that I will have my story done by the end of November.

I have to admit that I feel like an old pro tackling NaNo. I’ve conquered it three times (and failed it once), and I’ve had a lot of practice writing in between years. Working on a story that’s already somewhat plotted, I can write 800-1,200 words in an hour. Once, 1,667 words a day seemed like a monumental task, but now I can toss that out in my spare time without thinking anything about it. The old adage about things getting easier the more you practice applies to writing as well.

(And if it’s true that everyone has a million words of crap in them, I’m getting close to reaching that goal as well! My fanfic is over 300,000 words, and each of my books come in at 100,000 to nearly 200,000 words each (pre-edit). Not even counting blog posts, I think I’ve probably hit that goal. So maybe everything I write from now on will be gold! LOL)

As requested, here are some pictures of my sewing project. These are the pants.

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I put a boot on one leg so you can see how it’s supposed to blouse over the top of the boot.

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A close up. Pleating the leg to the cuff was a bitch, but it looks fab!

The fabric is a light sage-green flannel that is so nice and soft. And because these pants are so loose (I have them pinned tightly to my dummy; they’ll be even looser on my husband), they should be really comfortable to wear all day.

I ended up changing my mind about the color scheme when I found this fabric in the back of my closet. I’m still going to use the dark green linsey-woolsey for the coat (it will contrast nicely with these light pants), but I’m going to use some more found fabric–a dark gold cotton twill–for the tunic. It’s not as colorful as I initially wanted, but it pairs well and I already had all of it. (And someone gave me the gold fabric, so it didn’t even cost anything.) I’m going to do some quickie embroidery on the tunic for a little splash of color, then there will be the fox fur on the coat.

eastern_viking

A reminder of what I’m aiming for.

It’s a Blog Post about Nothing!

So, how did my weekend go?

I did no work on my fanfic and no work on the hubby’s Viking outfit. I did, however, (at the last minute and at great expense) put together my group’s newsletter (a needful thing, since it was due Monday) and I built the most awesome medieval house for my Sims ever!

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Now, you might legitimately ask, “How does building the most awesome medieval house ever further this month’s goals of making a Viking outfit and completing your fanfic?”

It doesn’t.

Of course, I could make the argument that I’ve been really busy lately and wasn’t recovered from last weekend’s demonstration and campout, and therefore I needed to sit on my ass and do mind-numbing tasks like scour The Sims Resource for blacksmith tools (found an anvil and hammer, but no forge) and laundry room supplies (found the mother-load!).

But that would sound like an excuse.

I could also make the argument that the Sims can actually be a great tool for writers because it allows you to design houses and other buildings that only exist in your head. Houses contained solely in the head are often vague and incorrectly proportioned; putting them “on paper” (if you will) allows you to correct design flaws and have an actual model to work from; your descriptions will be richer.

But the house I built doesn’t exist in any of my novels.

So, yeah, I totally goofed-off this weekend. And I don’t feel the least bit remorseful; it felt good to do a lot of nothing after doing a lot of everything; I wish I could have one more day of doing nothing. It was the ultimate in introvert recharging. Hopefully it will now give me the boost I need to knuckle down on my sewing and writing projects.

Speaking of which, I wasn’t totally unproductive on the writing front since my last post; Friday, during my lunch hour, I made a new…

Wait for it…

…Bloodsuckers episode!

Are you ready for the catch? (You know there’s a catch; if I had an episode ready, I would have posted it instead of this.)

It’s out of sequence. As is typical with me, I’ve written a scene in advance. I still have to go back and reread the series (because I’ve forgotten parts of it) and pick it back up with Scott meeting Josie’s parents for the first time at Hanukkah. The main reason why I stopped working on the story when I did was because I have no idea how to roll with that scene. It’s obviously going to be ugly, but it needs to be so ugly it’s good. I have high expectations, since I feel that the Halloween episode was the best one of the entire series; Scott meeting Josie’s parents should be no less great.

In other words, I’m paralyzed by my own sense of perfection.

But, if I can ever get over that hump, I’ll be good for a little while, because I’ve actually got several future episodes lined up and waiting in the wings.

With my fanfic hopefully off the table by the end of the month, we shall have to see if we can’t make December’s goal resurrecting The Bloodsuckers.

(You know, for a hare-brained idea born out of a concept for a sitcom based on the crazy stuff that happened in the law office where I worked, I’m really surprised at how well-received the series has been. People that I would have never expected to like something like that—like my mother and vampire-hating friend, Carla—frequently badger me for new episodes. People I barely know will randomly say, “I read your Bloodsuckers; when are you going to write more?”

People just like the idea of a real, blood-sucking lawyer. Or maybe they like the idea of a good guy who has been down on his luck, but is trying to make the best of life. Scott is a vampire, but he’s also an everyman.)

Oh, and because I know you’re reading this, Michelle, I did re-read Imminent Danger this weekend (between anvil and laundry basket downloads). All I can say is the next book better involve a trip to Rakor and I think a baby at some point would not be remiss, either. What better way to make Eris and Varrin even more hunted than if she was carrying the ultimate in royal bloodline corruption? Just sayin’.

(And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you should check out Michelle Proulx’s book, Imminent Danger and How to Fly Straight Into It. It’s a fun, romantic science-fiction romp. Michelle’s really great at imagining (and describing) aliens and I’m envious of her ability to create a believable anti-hero.)

A-Viking We Will Go

I am about to have a very busy November (so what else is new?)

I’ve decided that I am once again going to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNo). This is what produced my first and second books, as well as a redraft and work on the sequel to Acceptance.

This year, I’m going to use it to finish up my fan fiction so I can get that off my plate and move back to my books. Writing the fanfic was fun while I was in the midst of moving and didn’t have the time to work on my regular stuff, but now that we’re settled, I need to get back to my serious work.

(I’m also going to count any work I do on my blog towards NaNo, since I also need to revive that and get back in the habit of posting regularly.)

So, task number one: write 50,000 words in November. That should be enough to complete my story so I can move on to new things in the new year.

(Have I mentioned that I have an idea for a new romance novel? I’ve already got a basic plot planned and the time and place set. Ideally, I will get Flames of Prague published sometime next year and I will write the new book—tentatively called The Siege of Orléans—during next year’s NaNo.)

My second task for November is to make my husband a Viking outfit. A good friend of ours in the SCA recently lost his 7-year battle with cancer, and his wife is preparing a Viking memorial and sendoff for him and has asked that people come dressed. Despite the fact that we have a closet full of medieval clothes, my husband has nothing which is Viking-era. In fact, we almost never deviate from the 14th century. The exceptions are my husband’s Elizabethan, which he wore to a friend’s Renaissance-themed Laurel elevation, and a Saxon outfit that I made for myself on a whim.

Since the Saxons were repeatedly invaded by the Vikings—and a settlement of Vikings ended up living alongside the Saxons in England—my outfit will work. So that leaves me just making something for my husband.

What’s kind of odd about my husband not having anything Viking or Viking-era is the fact that “early-period” clothing is very commonly worn in the SCA. The T-tunic style is generally considered easy to make (although, for some strange reason, I’ve not found that to be true for me), you don’t need a pattern—measurements will do, both men’s and women’s styles typically take less fabric than most other options, and both wear better in the summer in the South than later-period clothing (that’s because Vikings roamed prior to the mini Ice-Age setting in, so summers in Europe were as warm or even warmer than they are now, and people all over dressed lighter than they did in later centuries).

So, needless to say, Viking wear is popular (even before the television show came out).

But I wanted to make something different—something you don’t see a lot of—while staying true to the theme of the memorial.

Swedish Viking While researching men’s Viking-era clothing, I came across this new interpretation of pre-Christian Viking-wear by Annika Larsson, based on digs in Sweden and Russia.

We knew, of course, that the Vikings traded/raided quite far into Russia for a few hundred years, but it’s obvious that they brought back some Russian clothing styles as well—although this style was probably local to Sweden. As we like to say in the SCA, “Viking” isn’t a people, it’s an occupation. And Danes, Norwegians, Swedes, Gotlanders, and Finns—i.e. Norse people—went viking separately and quite possibly collectively. So, while there was a lot of trade and communication back and forth between them, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your Swedish Viking is wearing the same things as your Danish one.

Unfortunately, my husband didn’t like this style; he said it looked too much like an apron in the front.

eastern_vikingUndeterred in my quest for unique Viking wear, however, I continued to scour the internet until I came across yet more Swedish coats—this time, sans apron.

b043a7eb84bb60dccc9912af58aa8196This style met with his approval; we both like the horizontal bands across the chest. It’s also versatile. Late November in Tennessee can be cold or it might be decent–bordering on warm. We’ll be in a hall most of the day, which is climate controlled (and therefore warm), but may be outside after dark, when it might be cold. He can take the coat off if he gets too warm and put it on if it gets cold outside.

The coat will be a dark green linsey-woolsey and I’ve decided that the undertunic will be blue. The question now is what color I will use for the coat trim and the undertunic embroidery. I plan on trimming the coat with fox fur—including that shoulder piece from the red outfit—and make a matching hat. The fur is orangey-brown, so I’m thinking that red will clash with it (although I wanted to do red embroidery on the blue undertunic; I may end up not putting fox around the bottom of the coat so it doesn’t directly clash). I was thinking yellow for the trim on the green coat, but I’ll have to see what matches the fur.

Think it will look weird if I carry a somewhat mangey-looking old fox fur coat into Jo-Ann’s to compare fabric to it?

 

My PINK Cotehardie

I keep fighting to establish a routine in my life–like blogging once a week–but I keep getting distracted. Before, we lived far from our friends and family, and a good 30 minutes’ drive from the nearest city; it was easy to sit down and write a book or blog because there wasn’t much else to do. (That, and I had down time at work–something I never have now.) Now, we’re near almost all of our friends and my family, and everyone wants to visit with us, and when we’re not being social, we’re usually eating out or going to a movie (how novel!). And we’re also going to events again–now that we have money and live in a central location–and meetings and fighter practices.

At some point–surely–the new will wear off of us (and off the city) and we’ll go back to staying home most of the time. Then, maybe, I can blog again.

To catch up a little, I’ve been doing some serious sewing lately. I have gone to handsewing all of my clothing (with the exception of a quickie dress I’m making right now; I’m cheating and using knit velvet). One benefit to having high speed internet is that I have access to all sorts of new documentaries on Nextflix, Hulu, and YouTube; I love to watch (or more like listen) to documentaries while I work. It makes the project seem to go by faster, plus I learn stuff as I go. (The drawback to having high speed internet is CandyCrush.)DSCN0183

I made this pink dress like the yellow one I did last year. Here it is, inside out, on my dummy, with the lining partially attached. Unlike the yellow dress, which has a muslin lining, this one actually has a linen lining. And I don’t like it as well. Sure, it’s period-correct–unlike the muslin–but linen stretches. And when you sweat in it–as is wont to happen in Tennessee in the summer when it’s 90+ degrees outside–it stretches even more. Which means you end up with a lot less support in the bust at the end of the day and you start looking like you’ve melted–literally and figuratively.

I think I’m going to go back to muslin linings for all my dresses except the ones I enter into competitions. At the very least, no more linen linings in summer dresses; I think they’d do alright in the winter, but not the summer.

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Here is where the lining is sewn to the armhole. Check out that shoulder seam; it looks machine sewn. It’s not!

I really like half-lining or bodice-lining my dresses. It gives me the look of a lined dress without a lot of extra fabric. I learned to appreciate the beauty of a lined garment when I was at The Original Re-Enactor’s Market in England and everyone was wearing lined garments. However, it gets very hot in Tennessee. The first time I wore this dress, it was in the upper 90’s, with a heat index (thanks to the humidity that we have in abundance) of 104 (that’s 40 degrees Celsius for the non-Americans). When I lived in Ireland, by contrast, I wore a light jacket to the pub on the Fourth of July, made my mother mail me my flannel footie pajamas (which I wore all summer), and the hottest it got the entire time I was there was about 89 degrees (32 C). That lasted one week, then it went back to being comfortable pants and long-sleeve shirt weather.

And that was in Kilkenny, which is one of the driest, warmest parts of Ireland. I have a picture of me, in the middle of August–at the same time I would be melting in 95-degree, 80% humidity weather in Tennessee–wearing a zipped up coat and sitting huddled on a rock in the Burren on the west coast.

So, unfortunately, I can’t get away with wearing all the layers and linings that people in Europe can wear. Hence why I half-line.

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And here’s a picture of the sleeve. I learned my lesson from the yellow dress and flat-felled all my seams before I put in the lining.

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Here is is completed and right-side out. The vertical slits are called “fitchets.” This is the first time I’ve put any in a dress, and I have to say I like them. While they don’t have to be a contrasting color, I like the extra splash of color.

The yellow around the front of the dress and neckline is a tiny piece of braid made from embroidery floss. Despite my best ironing efforts, the lining wanted to roll up and show around the edges. On my yellow dress, this isn’t a problem because the lining is beige muslin and the linen is a pale yellow; you don’t notice it. But on this dress, the lining is a natural wheat color and it does show around the pink. So, in an effort to hide it, I braided the thread and sewed it onto the edges. This is meant to simulate the card-woven edges that were found on some woollen garments. (The purpose is to make sure the wool doesn’t fray on the edges and become fuzzy and ugly.)

While it was meant to be corrective, I ended up liking the bit of yellow trim around the edges. It gave it a very finished look.100_6710This purse was something of a first for me, too. I’ve made exactly one purse for myself and that was 11 years ago, when I first got into the SCA (and I almost never used it). Fitchets, however, make it a lot easier to wear a purse. Just tie on a belt under your dress, attach the purse and pull it through the hole. (If you expect cut-purses, though, you can keep it on the inside.)

The design on the purse is block-printed and I’ve never done that before (block-printing is period, although it seems to have been largely imported into Europe from the middle east and India–where it’s still done by hand today). I bought a block at the flea market in Nashville and this was the first time I tried to use it. It was harder to use than I expected; it wasn’t like using a sponge or rubber stamp. I guess the paint didn’t lay on the wood as well as it does on rubber, so it was hard to get the print to transfer without overloading it with paint and creating a blob instead. There was definitely a sweet spot that you had to hit with how much paint  you put on it. I found that putting my fabric on top of another piece of fabric–creating a soft work surface–helped. I guess the springiness of sponge or rubber helps transfer the pattern, too; since wood lacks this, you have to make up for it. Still, I made a number of impressions before I had one I was satisfied with (I used the second-best print for the backside of the purse).

In period, it’s unlikely that your purse would have matched your dress that well. It likely would have been made from a really nice fabric or embroidered, and most women would probably have only had one. So it ended up being worn with all your outfits, whether it matched, coordinated, or clashed spectacularly. (Although I’m not sure if medieval people had a sense of “clashing;” some of the combinations of color and prints you see in paintings really makes you wonder.)

I kind of don’t like how matchy-matchy the purse is, and yet I couldn’t think of anything else to make it out of that wouldn’t clash, and I hated the idea of clashing even worse. But if I do fitchets again–and I’m planning to in my next dress–I will probably make a purse that doesn’t match.

Speaking of my next dress, here’s the material for it:

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This is a light-blue and white Celtic key pattern. This is actually the reverse side. The front side is kind of a synthetic-looking chenille, but the back is a very heavy, nobbly cotton that passes for wool unless you touch it. It will make me a very nice, heavy winter dress (which I will like, since I get cold easily). I was just thinking that I might trim the neckline in white fur.

And, before I go, here is me wearing the pink dress. (Our camera lens was very dirty, so that’s why there’s a blur, even after I ran the pictures through Photoshop.)

Devious Altered

My yellow underdress is synthetic and barely stretches at all, so I managed to keep a decent-looking bustline all day at this particular event. But the first time I wore it, when it was so bloody hot, I wore a cotton gauze chemise under it that provided very little support on its own, and coupled with the stretchy linen, gave me what I termed the “melted birthday cake” look.

Good Picture Altered

In the 14th century, women often posed with their hands on their abdomens and their elbows pointed out. I learned, while wearing a sideless surcoat, that the reason for doing this is to allow the contours of the waist to be seen; if your arms are hanging down at your sides, it hides your curves and can make you look fatter. One of the reasons why I like the fitchets is that it gives you a place to put your hands, while creating that medieval silhouette. (Other people say that they’re nice in the winter for keeping your hands warm. I’ll find out in my next dress–especially if I trim the holes with fur. Mwahaha!)