A Dreamstress with a Singer

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My friend, Blythe (an eerie Cassandra if ever there was one, and a fantastic author, too. Read her stuff!), referred to me as a dreamstress the other day. I love this term because it is an incisive encapsulation of the sort of sewing I do. I don’t sew clothing. Nothing you can find in a store will ever emerge from my machine, because bo-ring. I have made one ready-to-wear dress that I never ended up wearing and one hippie skirt that I never finished hemming. I’ll sew for mending sometimes, but I only make the sorts of things that you might want to take along on a trip to Faerie.

Anyways, NPR told me this morning that today is the anniversary of the day that the Singer sewing machine received its patent, so it seemed a fitting day to post a progress update on the coat I’m making.

Saturday was cutting, pinning, and Loki-appreciation day at Marie’s. We watched Thor, Thor II, and Iron Man 3 (no Loki in that one, but I so disliked the third Iron Man film that I wanted to give it another chance).  Marie introduced me to the wonderfully insightful reviews written by Sonya Taaffe. I love the way she reads films and actors. These are the kind of reviews that make me want to go back and watch films again so that I can look for the nuances that she picks up on. Fantastic stuff.


Oh, and I guess I did some sewing. Mostly, I did some re-patterning to make a man’s coat fit a woman’s shape. I adjusted the front hemline to be assymetrical, and I did a bit of tinkering with the collar and sleeves. I’m a  little miffed because the pattern I’m using doesn’t have the same seaming as the coat on the book cover. I could change it, but I really like the way the front hangs. I’m going to wait and see what Beth says. This might be the sort of detail that only another dreamstress would care about.

Poke Trio and Nojito: the proper care and feeding of your Dreamstress
Dinner was a poke trio and a nojito: the proper care and feeding of your Dreamstress

I took Sunday off (well, no. I did a bunch of work-work and editing on Sunday. There are no days off, only Zuul), and I started the actual sewing last night while I caught up on So You Think You Can Dance. I’m really happy with how this one is coming along. The fabric isn’t slipping or crawling as much as I feared it would, and Thrace only attacked the project once. I’ve pricked myself a few times, but I haven’t bled yet. It’ll happen, though. It always does. The blood christens the work. Makes it whole. Makes it holy. It’s not a completed project unless you’ve bled on it a little bit.

(and this is when Beth emails me and lets me know that, really, she doesn’t need the coat, kkthxbai!)

Game tonight, friend’s birthday tomorrow, and I have proofreading to do for Women Destroy Horror, so I probably won’t be getting any more work done on this until the weekend. I expect I’ll finish the major work on Saturday and do the buttons and finishing work on Sunday.

Ugh. Buttons. I hate buttons. Maybe I can talk Beth into frogs or swing clasps…

Every Steampunk Writer Needs a Good Coat

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Months and months ago, Beth Cato revealed the fantastic cover of her debut novel, The Clockwork Dagger.

This is a pretty important moment for a writer. This is the moment where you receive the first and most obvious fruits of putting your baby into someone else’s hands and seeing how those people represent it to the world. The moment is all the more fraught because authors have little control over this process. There are many forces at play that are not only counter to representing the author’s vision, but that can seem downright counter-intuitive (like the fact that marketers are not always marketing to the general public; often they are marketing to the book-buyers. In that case, you want a cover that looks like all the other covers, so that someone buying in bulk can look at it right away and know where the book is going to go/who it is going to sell to. Or, that has been the conventional wisdom for a long time. Please god let it be changing.)

Beth lucked out. Beth got an AWESOME cover:

So much hotness, right up front.

Trigger the following Facebook exchange:

Me: Omg, I totally want that red coat.

Beth: I want the green one; it’s my favorite color.

Me: I could totally make that.

Beth: [jfwoiefja;oije ío;jlas;dihg!!!! [I paraphrase. She was much more articulate in her enthusiasm!]

Months pass. Emails and measurements and cover-sample-photos-that-I-cannot-share are exchanged. I tell Beth that I never sew for money–only materials reimbursement–because, if I’m actually getting paid for something like this, I get exceedingly anxious about it not being PERFECT! Also, it puts me in a deadline situation, and my life is too busy for those.

In June I journeyed to my favorite cheapy-mc-cheapmeister fabric store down in San Jose because screw Joann’s and their crappy selection and over-priced goods. After a few miscues on what fabric to go with, I found the PERFECT material!


Armed with cotton lining in the same green, a heavy muslin for patterning/interfacing, and a Simplicity pirate coat pattern for me to gut, I was ready to sew! Which, of course, is why everything sat by my desk for two months.

The calm before the storm. Also known as Thrace’s new cat toy.
Geometry was the only math class I did well in, believe it or not.

Like I said, there’s a reason I don’t sew for money.

But this is the weekend I tackle this project! Last night I hied myself over to Marie Brennan’s place. She’s got a large floor, an absence of cats, and a similar enough body-type to Beth that I can use her to rework the pattern I’m using. For payment, I might need to make her a duplicate coat (this green is also HER favorite color), but I’m okay with that.

We chatted plot issues on Marie’s forthcoming novel, Chains and Memory, while I cut out the pattern pieces I would need. Then we watched The Avengers, talked about writing ensemble casts, and sighed many sighs over Loki (that was mostly me doing the sighing) while I tried to make Simplicity’s stupid geometry fit into reality. I finally gave up around the time the Hulk was taking out S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Helicarrier and laid out the pieces in the way that made the best sense to me. I mean, it’s $1/yard muslin. I don’t need to conserve it.

I have all my pattern pieces cut in muslin. I’m going back to Marie’s today to make a mock-up, adjust the pattern, cut the fabric and lining, and probably start on the actual sewing. I’m thinking today’s sewing movies will be Thor and Thor II. Loki is my muse.


Clarion West Write-a-Thon Week 1 Update

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I am, demonstrably, already late with my week 1 progress report. Life has been so busy lately that my time has been carved into three categories: write, work, edit.

Thank god for holiday weekends that allow me to catch up!

Anyways, the final edits for “Ill Met in Tanivar” are turned in, and I should have a cover soon. As promised, I’ve successfully written every morning. Well… I’ve written every morning. Some of the writing this week went in a wrong direction, so it might get scrapped. However, other writing yielded a character pairing that I love so much, they may end up getting their own spin-off series.

So that’s 6.5k words on “To Kill a Queen” (tentative title), plus another 2k-ish that I still have to transcribe. I transcribe things I might dump because otherwise they are lost forever in the bowels of my journal pile.

The snippet of the week actually fits in near the climactic finale of the novelette. I’ve got this one plotted out fairly heavily, so this is likely to make it into the story in one form or another:

“Do you know what Tanivar means in the old tongue? Tân Yfwyr. Fire drinkers. We are the land of the fire drinkers. We built our kingdom on the strength of Summerwen brandy.” Queen Morwen held out a cut crystal glass filled with amber flame. “Drink. Or you insult my land and line.”

Admiral Jardun’s jaw tensed. His shoulders straightened. He didn’t take the glass.

“No? Not to your taste?” The Queen swirled the brandy once before downing it. “Fancy that. Arrest him.”

See there? Those two years of Welsh are paying off. What, you were hoping for something spicier? Okay, how’s this:

It was so like the fastidious Asamir to skirt death, only to grumble about smelling bad. Sinjin’s irritation broke. He leaned over and kissed Asamir’s brow, staying just a moment too long, appreciating that Asamir could still stink and complain and totter out of bed before he was supposed to. “There’s some spare nightshirts in the clothes press.”

“I’ll still smell like a sack of sweaty balls.”

“Some of us like the smell of–Ow!” Sinjin rubbed his side where Asamir had pinched him. “Fine. Sponge bath it is.”

Happy now?

Edits to Chiaroscuro go slowly. I printed out Act III and I’m trying to sink into it, but after the crit session I had a few weeks ago, my brain is torn in two directions. Part of me knows I need to fix the last act before I can go back and start working through the issues that came up in the crit, but another part of me just wants to FIX ALL THE THINGS at once.

Day by day, the work gets done.

Want to sponsor me? You still can! And then you’ll receive my lovely updates by email before they ever get posted to my blog. Oooooooh!

Speaking of work, back to it!

Yoda can take his tone argument and shove it

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Some friends have been posting this article on Facebook, and I realized I had more to say than a simple share warranted.

A few years ago, my dad advised me not to call myself a feminist. He said the word turns people off, turns them away from listening to what I might have to say. I spent a long time explaining to him the road I took to calling myself a feminist, how I resisted it for a long time, how I had to dismantle my own prejudices against the word, my own fear of being ignored and dismissed because of the label. I explained how I had to learn that there isn’t one feminism, but as many views as there are feminists (although these views can be loosely categorized into movements and sub-sets). I explained how using the word was my way of acknowledging the work that has already been done by people before me, how it is my refusal to be a nice girl, a good girl, a friendly girl. To be silenced by what is essentially an ad hominem attack.

I’ve had friends call me out because they found my anger, even when it wasn’t directed at them, uncomfortable. The question tends to be ‘why are you so angry.’ The more crap I see every day in big and little ways, the more my response has drifted into the realm of ‘why aren’t you?’

[Edit to note: this reaction of mine isn't in response to people who are burned out/tired/can't get angry anymore. Spoons. I get it. You have to do the self-care thing first. But then, those people never ask why I'm angry. They know. It's to the people who honestly don't see what I'm so worked up about. To them, I just kind of want to gesticulate wildly at the giant TYRANNOSAUR OF DOOM and be all "Don't You SEE It?!"]

I missed a lot of this weekend’s news about the shootings in California and the #YesAllWomen response because I was enjoying myself in a safe, feminist space at WisCon, surrounded by wonderful people of all sorts of genders. I was too busy to check my usual news sources or Twitter. I even, in a rare moment of candidness, talked publicly about how I don’t perceive myself as a gendered being until I come into conflict–often traumatically–with social expectations and societally-imposed norms. In these moments, I become hyper-aware of how I’m perceived and will be perceived, and in those moments I cease to be an Alyc doing Alyc things, and I become a peg that has to shape myself to a variety of holes that don’t fit: do I push against the expectations? Do I engage in a behavior that I’m aware will conform to and confirm a gender identity I don’t actually experience myself as having, even if my own motivation is expedience or preference rather than gender performance?

Despite my internal perception-of-self, I realize that I will never pass as anything but a woman, and because of this, I get to enjoy all the dangers that women and people who society reads as women experience (however, I am unlikely to experience any of the dangers that trans people experience in addition to this).

I had such a good weekend not being angry, not encountering all the crap I usually encounter, that I almost wanted to let this whole thing pass by without comment. But I can’t, because safe spaces are a rarity, and the only way to make them more common is to not be silent.

New Hair!

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I’m sad that the camera doesn’t pick up all the gradients of blue and purple. In real life, it looks like octopus tentacles sprouted from my head. Also, my timing is totally off. It’ll be faded by the Nebulas, and I’ll need to redo for Wiscon.


Deepsea Dark Space Unicorn

Just Another Inspirational Quote

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“Words signify man’s refusal to accept the world as it is.” Walter Kaufmann

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” George Orwell

Open Yuletide Letter

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Dear Author, First and foremost, thank you thank you thank you for volunteering to write for me. I will try to give you sparks for ideas, but I’m a pretty easy cookie to please, so if you had a fic you really wanted to write that doesn’t quite fit with any of my suggestions, please write the fic you wanted to write. That tends to work out better for everyone in the end.

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