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Late last spring, I was inspired to do a little more, sartorially speaking, when I appeared at a book event. I had always tried to dress up a little, half-heartedly doing a sort of Dale Evans/cowgirl/Santa Fe western style as a means of at least looking the part. A member of the old on-line writers’ group who had written several historicals set in 19th century China had a magnificent set of mandarin robes, with accessories, which he wore to book events, to wild acclaim – so I seemed to have been on the right track, if not with the right selection of my chosen ‘author drag.’
The inspiration last spring came from my daughter insisting on a trip to the nearest Handcock Fabric store, as it was announced they were going out of business within months. My daughter wanted to check out their assortment of embroidery threads, both for hand and by machine embroidery. And I went off to flip through the pattern books in a desultory manner, more or less to kill time. However – in the Butterick catalog, there was a section for ‘costumes’ – a market for providing such to reenactors and cosplayers must have become significant in the last couple of years. Only logical, when you think on it. People are still sewing, but not for making every-day clothing as it was when my mother made all my school clothes, and I made the same for my daughter. Every-day wear is cheaper to purchase ready-made; those sewing garments today are more likely to be making special occasion outfits; prom and bridal dresses … and costumes.

Among the costume patterns was one for an Edwardian-era walking suit, which I liked the look of, the more I contemplated it. Tailored jacket, ankle-length skirt – not very much removed from what I wore when I worked in an office for various enterprises which required standard women’s business attire. The Edwardian suit wasn’t from the era in which most of my books are set – but I nixed the idea of going full corset-crinoline and bonnet to a book event, not least because stuffing me and all that into the front seat of my daughter’s Montero and then helping to set up the pavilion and the tables of goods in that get-up was simply out of the question. But an Edwardian, or even late Victorian outfit, with a narrow, ankle-length skirt or perhaps a slightly fuller skirt and modest bustle; that was doable, and potentially very eye-catching. I bought the pattern and a length of marked-down suiting and lining materiel, and went to work. That first outfit came out OK, but I did another one in even more marked-down brown tweed suiting which came out very, very well (it’s my favorite, actually) … and then I got ambitious, once I had my long-disused Singer sewing machine tuned up.

I bought a Butterick pattern for making various vintage-style hats. Millinery is just a special sort of sewing and requires an ability to follow written directions and nothing in the way of raw materials that is not readily available from places like Joann’s or Hobby Lobby. The hats and bonnets, bashed from various patterns available here and there all came out so well that by fall I had a different outfit for every day of a three-day event; something to wear for every book event over the Christmas season. My ambition now is for a wardrobe of six or eight different 1880-1910 period outfits with all the appropriate accessories – an evening gown, a couple of lightweight cotton day dresses in cotton or lawn, plus the walking suits. Hats, gloves, reticule, whatever …

The eye-catching thing worked out, which is why I decided to expanded the wardrobe of author drag in the first place. All attention is good, when it’s a lead-in to talking about books: “Hi – I write historical fiction, so why not dress the part?” is a fantastic ice-breaker, and a lot more dignified than a bald, “Hey, wanna buy my books?” There is another very curious effect, too – the effect that the whole thing has on males of a certain age – say, older than forty, or so. And let me put it out there right away – I am not movie-star spectacularly attractive, and never was, really. I am sixty-plus, overweight, and in the bloom of youth might at best be described as “cute,” or “not bad looking.” But when I am in one of my full author drag outfits – hat, gloves, reticule, and all, it absolutely astounds me how courtly and full of gentlemanly deference certain men become. It’s almost as if they are channeling manners from a more courteous era than this present one. It’s quite charming, actually. And another good reason to go full out with the period wardrobe and accessories.

23. January 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

24. December 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

And a lovely carol to go with it – sung by the chapel choir of King’s College, Cambridge, England.

03. November 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

OK, the holiday season schedule of markets is complete – as of yesterday. This is what it looks like –
November 12th – At the Bulverde Senior Center on Cougar Bend, Bulverde, Texas, for the Christmas Craft market.
November 19th – at the New Braunfels Weinachtsmarkt in the New Braunfels Civic Center on Coll Street. I’ll only be there for Saturday morning.
November 25, 26, 27: a three-day event in Johnson City, Texas, in the vendor area around the Courthouse. We have hopes for this, as it is a huuuuge festival, with a parade, lavish lights all over the Courthouse Square into the late evening on Friday and Saturday.
December 3 – in Miss Ruby’s Author Corral, at the public library in Goliad, Texas. Another community event at the Courthouse Square.
December 10 – At the Old Courthouse in Blanco, Texas – in the vendor area around the courthouse square.
December 17 and 18 – in Boerne, at the Cowboy Christmas market on Town Square.
And this year, I am offering a special gift pricing; Celia’s Christmas Gift Bundle. This is selected sets of my books; all tied up in raffia, with a gift tag and a wee Christmas ornament. This pricing only applies to the gift sets at these specific events. See you there!

holiday-marketing-bundles-2016

Well, here we go, my daughter and I, poised like divers at the very end of the board above the deep end of the pool, ready to plunge in to the long schedule of weekend markets that will keep us busy and occupied … and hopefully well-remunerated for our labors into mid-December. The projected schedule has every weekend in November locked in, and the first two weekends, or at least the Saturdays in that month. This is an exhausting schedule, one way or another: but these are book events and markets, markets and book events, mostly within an hour’s drive of San Antonio. This is when people are purchasing stuff – regardless of events political in the national sense and in the international.

It was my daughter’s insistence that we broaden our market schedule, since participation in back-to-back markets in San Marcos – both to do with the Mermaid Festival – proved to be so very profitable for her. The Boerne Book Festival a couple of weekends ago was marvelous for me, after a couple of rather discouraging experiences over summer … pro tip: the chances of book sales in mid-summer are rather slim, unless the event has been advertised to a fare-the-well – and your name is J.K Rowling, Stephen King or some other smith of words blessed and anointed with a regular lease on the NY Time Best-seller list. None the less – one must still keep doing them, just to keep the brand out there. The third Luna City book is out there already (and yes, I fixed the booboos with the Kindle version.) The next historical, The Golden Road – the adventures of a very young Fredi Steinmetz in the gold mines of 1850s California will also be available in mid-November. By then, I will be offering a special Christmas book-bundle gift package; details to be posted later, as soon as I have the cover for The Golden Road sorted. (Not to give away any plot points at all, but Fredi encounters a whole raft of semi-famous Western characters at the peak of their fame, or more often, even before they were famous: Sally Skull, Roy Bean, Lotta Crabtree, Jack Hays, Charlie Goodnight, and Mary Ellen Pleasant, and many others.)

So – there is the schedule, posted on my Amazon Author Page – look for the pink pavilion with the black and white tiger-striped top. Don’t know where we will be exactly in the various markets, as these things are variable, and in some cases the event is an indoor venue where the pink pavilion will not play a part. In that case – I’ll be in period garb with a totally flamboyant hat.

So that was a fun Saturday, although exhausting as it always is to pack the Montero, drive a certain distance, unpack the Montero, find a good spot, transport the canopy, tables, the tubs of books and the tub of table dressing and giveaway materiel, and the two camp chairs to it, and set up, ready for business. Then – four to six hours of face-to-face direct sales, broken by a sandwich from the HEB deli (No, lunch is a chancy thing at these events. There may be a food truck or a concession handy with something that we’d want to eat and don’t mind paying for … or not. We have wised up. We bring HEB deli sandwiches, and an insulated bag of bottles of drinking water.)

This is the second year for the Boerne Book Festival – last year there were about twenty of us, spaced out in a back room in the main building. If records and memory serve, we did sell a handful of books, but mostly, us authors were reduced to looking at each other after a certain point in mid-afternoon. I did have a table across from a local historian, Jefferson Morgenthaler, who did a very good book about the German settlements in the Hill Country – a book that I absolutely recommend, as he covered the same territory in non-fiction the same ground that I did in fiction. He is one of those local authors that I knew of, but had not met until that point – so last year’s event was not a totally wasted effort.

Neither was this year’s; they set us up on the landscaped grounds of the library, under the trees where a winding paved path went down to an amphitheater which was the venue for a couple of scheduled events, starting with a children’s ballet company performance: the mini-dancers performed as various forms of sea-life to the music of Saint Saen’s “Carnival of the Animals”. This was the most-well attended segment of the presentations in the amphitheater, I will have to admit, although the later presentations/discussions did have an audience. One of the authors wrote zombie thrillers and was of sufficient celebrity as these things go to have the local Barnes & Noble store with a representative sample of his books.

There were about thirty-five authors present, plus Alan of the Texas Author’s Association, who had a booth filled with books by members of the association. One of them was Clay Mitchell, who was a client of Watercress Press. Alice and I had done some substantive and line editing for his book, Amid the Ashes and the Dust, which is a terrific and evocative read, set in East Texas. Another was John Keeling, who has started a western series about cattle ranchers in Texas; the first book is called Take ‘em North: The 2E Brand Begins. We had a brief chat about writing about the post-Civil War long-trail cattle drives; always go back to the primary sources, we agreed. Just about anything about that enterprise that you saw in a movie or a TV show during the Golden Age of the Western (say from 1930-1970)  is liable to be howlingly inaccurate.

Boerne is one of those towns just about commute-distance from north-side San Antonio; with a very distinct identity, and a well-established historical district. The ambiance is one of very substantial proto-yuppie prosperity. A couple of new developments on the outskirts of town have sprouted up in the last few years, and the various businesses in the historic downtown have – for as long as we’ve been visiting – been very, very upscale. It is, in a word – a prosperous place.

My daughter and I did venture by turns into the used-book store, which is an outgrowth of the Patrick Heath Public Library; a lovely building on the grounds, with a two-level terrace at the back, and a beautifully-arranged selection inside. Seriously – this is a library used-book outlet, which was as well-sorted and set out as any high-end retail book store. My daughter bought Alison Weir’s bio of Henry VIII and I found a copy of the Crabtree and Evelyn cookbook, which I bought for sentimental reasons. And yes – I can’t resist cookbooks of a certain sort. I really used to love that company when they had an outlet in North Star Mall, across the street from the office building where I had a job, some years ago. Sadly, the Crabtree & Evelyn outlet vanished, seemingly between one week and the next. Eventually, there was nothing left in that mall which I was interested in, on my lunch hour, save maybe the Williams-Sonoma outlet. It all became high-end designer clothing, makeup and jewelry. I commiserated with the volunteer cashier at the bookstore about that. She was leafing enviously through the cookbook during the time it took for me to go back to our tent and get my purse. ‘Hah!’ I said. ‘You had your chance!’

So – a very good and reassuring start to the last-quarter-of-the year selling season. One of the readers that we sold a set of the Luna City Chronicles to, stayed for a while to lament about how her widely-geographically-spread friends visualized Texas … in a most unflattering way, of course. My daughter has marveled at how her English FB friends seem to think that we all live in little desolate towns, where tumbleweeds roll through deserted unpaved streets, and everyone lives in tumbling-down shacks with outhouses out at the back and gunfights in the streets on a regular basis.

No, it’s not like that – not anything like that at all… But perhaps we want to keep that quiet, because then everyone would want to move here, and that would quite wreck the place. Say, did I mention how hot it is in Texas during the summer? It’s boiling hot, miserable-hot, fry-egg-on-the-sidewalk hot. For five whole months, and sometimes six! No, stay away, stay away!

Anyway, the Daughter-Unit and I are planning out the next market events on our schedule; Johnson City and Blanco are a go for their markets, and Saturday morning at the New Braunfels Sophienburg’s Christmas marked in November at the New Braunfels Civic Center. Dates to be posted as soon as confirmed.

27. August 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

I visited Pompeii in 1970, and then again in 1985 with my daughter. It is a fascinating place, a ghost town, and once away from the main gates, quite empty; winding little streets between walls that stand higher than a single story. It’s easy to close your eyes and picture it as it might have been …

15. August 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

Mighty Moth Mascot Image

The Mighty Fighting Moth!

 

10. August 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

… And call me a biscuit. My books are in Walmart. Not in the actual stores that I can see, but on the Walmart website.
Link here.

14. June 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic, Uncategorized

Yes – the Edwardian walking suit and the spectacular feather, lace, net and flower-trimmed hat did everything that I had hoped for at the Wimberley event; attract attention, in a room full of forty or so other authors. It did not attract much in the way of immediate sales (although there has been a good follow-on, as we passed out flyers, postcards and bookmarks throughout the day). But as my author friend with the books set in 19th century China who had a full rig of formal Mandarin robes with all the trimmings advised – you gotta do what you gotta do. The formal Mandarin robes worked for him in a crowded field, the Edwardian suit and flamboyant hat worked for me, and were actually not as uncomfortable as other people seemed to think. (And some of them were incredibly awed that I had actually sewed them myself; hey, I am not just a pretty face!)

What with a full schedule of author events this summer and fall – I mean, there is at least one a month, and by the time we get into the Christmas shopping season there’ll likely be something every weekend, and a couple of them may go for more than one day – I have a thought to adding to my collection of outfits. I may as well do so on the cheap right now, since the fabrics at the going-out-of-business sales at Hancock Fabrics are hitting the 60% off threshold, and there is still a goodly selection available at the nearest store to us. (It’s the last remaining open in San Antonio, apparently – so they have stock from the other local stores and their warehouse.)

The Next Project

Picture this in dark violet with gold lace trim … and me wearing it, of course.

One fall events – the Giddings World Wrangler features an evening reception – and what better option than a period evening gown? Edwardian again, since that period was relatively uncomplicated, in comparison to – say, the full Gone With The Wind massive hoopskirt, or the massive Gilded Age bustle and trailing train. Butterick Patterns has a perfectly lovely pattern for a relatively plain evening gown, Downton Abbey style. I recalled that I had bought some lovely amethyst earrings and a matching brooch/pendant with a stone in it the size of a pigeon’s egg when I was in Korea. Something in a color that would set that off, would be grand, although I think that a tiara would be over the top. Something in lavender or purple, or perhaps brown … although my daughter warned that I would likely look like a fat ripe grape in the first, and not to consider brown… Anyway, we found some heavy dark lavender satin at about $4 a yard, and I had the idea to look for the thick lace trim in gold and found it on Amazon – naturally. So – the next seamstressing project. I aim eventually to have about four different outfits, relating to my books and the period they are set in; perhaps Sophia Brewer Teague’s Harvey Girl black dress and white apron, and Isobel Becker’s tailored riding habit. There are patterns out there which are within my skill set to make, and with the prices for fabric plunging throughout the next month at the Hancock Fabric outlet, there is no better time. Someone in a comment thread over the weekend also recommended this particular fashion blogger for costuming on a budget through creative use of a thrift store and craft store finds.

And I promise – I will come up with pictures of me wearing the outfits. Soon. Promise.