Friday, June 26, 2015

Sure, I Can Make an Irish Solo Dress...

You see the price tags on the USED dresses and think to yourself that you have years of sewing experience. You even have experience in costuming. You can embroider, you can bead. Hell, you once made a dress that weighed almost forty pounds, a little baby Irish dress has got to be cake.

Well, it's not. It's so much more than a dress. It has to hang correctly when stationary and when moving. The skirt has to be weighted to stay down, but light enough to pop up with kicks. The bodice can't be form fitting, but should show the dancer's posture and form. The sleeves should always been in the down position and hang correctly that way, but the dancer needs to be able to fix her wig.

For my first dress I was worried about putting in a zipper. One YouTube tutorial later and the zipper was the least of my worries. In the long run, my biggest struggle (construction-wise) was with the sleeves. The detail work took some getting used to as well. I hated the idea of working with glue and opted to stitch on all the beads. This resulted in a dress that, up close, had a home-made quality. I still think it danced well, but I was too stuck in my own vision to consider resale.

This is a good source that answers questions about Irish dresses. I also found this very helpful when it came to patterning and applique. Then there is always just looking at the dresses, figuring out how the professionals pieced them together (this has been the most helpful). To look at some of the big name designers, click on the images included in this post.

I had a similar experience when it came to writing my first book. I'd always been a big reader, but didn't think, "Hey, I could write this," until I started reading romance (my Mom's Fabio collection). I realize now that I didn't have a respect for the genre or the writers at that time. Not until, years later, I struggled with my own story arc did I really pick apart what made a good book and gain appreciation for the nuances of the story building.

My first book was a labor of love, based entirely on my vision of how it should be. No, it didn't/hasn't sold. There's been interest, yes - but ultimately I hear that it's more like historical fiction than historical romance.

Just like with my first solo dress. I received compliments, sincere ones about how pretty the dress was. But was it an Irish solo dress? I'm learning.

My point here is that, from the outside, sometimes things look simpler than they are in reality. This is not new news by any means, but it's a lesson I learn over and over again. Knowing this has made me a kinder person, less critical. I appreciate the work that goes into making something great so much more than I did when I was full of unjustified confidence.

And thus, I am finished with another adequate blog post.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Aphrodisiac Flash Fiction

I wrote this short piece for Romantic Friday Writers a in 2012. Since then, this is the post most of my friends recount to me when we discuss my writing. I thought I would re-post it just for fun (and to keep my posts more regular, a goal of mine).

Aphrodisiac Schmaphrodisiac
The goose was rubbed down with honey and citrus. I had been drawing cup after cup of rendered fat away for the past three hours. Oysters chilled on their bed of ice in my sink with only a little of my blood still staining the drain from my first practice shucking. The artichokes were steaming and the olive oil, caper, and dill drizzle was setting, drawing and blending flavors. The wine had been decanted, my prized Waterford red wine goblets, polished.
I had eschewed my regular floral perfume for a spicy cinnamon body lotion. My hair was loose, my cleavage bountiful. I had followed the Aphrodisiac Cookbook to the letter, but knew if all else failed, I could count on my breasts.
One way or another, I was going to get laid tonight. No, not 'laid'–seduced. My needs were basic; I wanted to be wanted. I wanted to feel. For so long I had been a wife and mother. Toward the end, when the Huntington's had disabled the man I married, I was more caretaker than wife. Now, with Jason finally at peace and the boys in college, it was time to be a woman again. I blinked away the threatening tears and checked my eyes in the mirror. The mascara was definitely worth the eight dollars, though the lip stain looked too contrived. Grimacing, I wondered if I should have colored my hair. The strands of silver among the auburn screamed, "Old lady." And no one seduced an old lady. No, they helped her open jars and cross the road. My skin was still smooth. Without the grey, I could, maybe, have pulled off thirty-nine. With the grey I was every inch of forty-seven. I ran a finger over my brows, and gave myself a smile. I looked... well, I look like me. And Mr. Harris, David, already knew what I looked like.
The chimes sounded. He was here. I took a deep breath and slipped my bare feet into the kitten heeled slings I bought years ago for a Caribbean cruise but never wore. They still felt sexy.
He stood in the doorway, tall and clean cut in his casual slacks. My son’s former soccer coach, I’d never seen him in anything but his team jersey and sweats.
“Good evening, Mrs. Walsh.” He smiled and brought his hand from behind his back. Roses.
I blushed like an idiot and took them, my smile  so big it hurt. “Gemma, please.”
“Sorry. Old habits.”
I stepped back and he stepped in, wiping his feet on the rug. I should have moved further back—I was too close, in his space. Before I could, he took my hand.
“I’ve been looking forward to tonight for a long time.”
His voice was deeper than I remembered. He was holding my hand—should I squeeze? Pull away? Stay limp? I blushed again, burying my face in the roses. Jeese, you’d think I was sixteen, not someone who couldn’t open jars.
“David,” his name sounded decadent on my tongue, “would you like some wine?” I gestured with the bouquet, but stayed beside him, my hand warm in his.
“Umm, yes,” he cleared his throat, “Or no. Not now. Christ, I’m no good at this.”
“Good at what?” My voice was breathless.
He stepped closer, tracing my cheek with his finger. My breath caught in my throat as he leaned toward me.
            “This,” he whispered. Lowering his head he brushed my lips with his. His hand cradled my jaw, his fingers spearing back into my hair.
I leaned closer and he pressed his mouth more firmly against mine. Closing my eyes, I melted into him and he wrapped his arms around me.
The roses fell to the floor, the timer on the oven beeped, and the wine continued to breathe. None of it mattered. This man, David, he wanted me, grey hair and all, without aphrodisiacs.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Naughty, Naughty Me

Today I packed up my classroom and completed all the check-out procedures at my school. While I waited for my exit interview with my principal, I decided to work on one of my blog posts on a school computer. Our filters are really ineffective, but they worked today and I was blocked. Not only was I blocked, I was given a summary of all the reasons.

Wow. I guess this is what I blog about. I'm pretty daring. One might even say I'm naughty. The block made me laugh, but I couldn't explain it to my colleague because a parent walked in.

I'm not sure what else there is to say, Diladele Web Safety said it all. I do wonder, though, why the terms 'free,' 'petite,' 'tour,' and 'teen' were blocked. As for 'blonde,' that goes without saying.

Maybe this should be part of my blog tag line.

Spock Writes Romance
The blog where you'll find erotic sexual content such as anal fetish porn, twats and more twats, rape, fetishes, blonde whores, sluts with fingers, full frontal, a few more whores, and much, much more!

Man, I hate the word twat.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Defining Literary Fiction

In jumping the romance ship (sort of) I have to acquaint myself with norms for the much broader umbrella of literary fiction. That said, it seems there are no norms other than telling a good story. Then again, that could be said for any of the genre fiction categories -- the underlying factor that makes them genre is that the bulk of the story meets a certain angle. In my case, romance requires an emotionally satisfying happily ever after. All of my manuscripts meet this romance norm, but the romance between my main characters does not always meet the aspect of fantasy implicit in romance, hence the switch.

Part of my research brought me across "Literary Fiction vs. Genre Fiction," a Huffington Post article by Steven Petit. I agree with much of what he says about the difference between genre and literary fiction except for the distinction that genre fiction is to entertain and literary fiction is an expression of the writer's being. Gotham Writers points out that "literary and genre fiction aren’t exclusive of one another." Every thing I have written has been an expression of my soul and I would argue that many author's of genre fiction put themselves into their books and consider them art, albeit art that entertains. Art is successful when it draws forth an emotional response and I like to flatter myself that my writing does just that (even with a happily ever after). Maybe that's because I am amazing. Sure. Why not? 

I struggle with maintaining the norms of one sub-genre of romance. My historical romances are too  chick lit and historical fiction to have a clear shelf space (and I've heard this from my critique partner, my beta readers, AND industry professionals so it's insane that I'm only now accepting it as truth). My paranormal are too historical and thriller/suspense to even be categorized under romance at all. The only clear genre fiction I have in the works (notice it's not finished) are my contemporary, but contemporary romance in itself is also skirting the boundary of chick lit, so bully for me.

In short, I think good writing is "Literary Fiction is comprised of the heart and soul of a writer's being, and is experienced as an emotional journey through the symphony of words, leading to a stronger grasp of the universe and of ourselves" (Petit).  This description can apply to all genres and gives me hope of being successful as I look into a new pool of agents and publishers.

For now I'll ignore the niggling doubt that reminds me many of the agents I have queried in the past represent more than romance. That said, if they saw something more like literary fiction in my manuscripts, wouldn't they have instigated the change? Or were they looking only for romance norms since that was the description they started with?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Romantically Retarded

I have been boy crazy for as long as I can remember. I also have been horribly insecure about it all. For a long time I could NEVER let someone know I like them because that made me vulnerable. And God forbid that someone like me first- - I would assume something must be very wrong with them and instantly and irrationally dislike them. I had (have) issues and owe a few boys an apology.

The result was the only boyfriends I had were ones who I hunted down and trapped. The couple that pursued me didn't last long and left me feeling creeped out even if their only sin was liking me more than I liked them. My husband doesn't know how close I came to bolting based on pure fear/freak-out after he brought up the idea of marriage before I was ready to talk about it. The thing is, I don't believe in soul mates. I believe you chose your love and then love your choice. The whole idea of something 'meant to be' is anathema to me.

And this is why I shouldn't write romance. In fact, I don't think I do write romance after all. Yet again, like with relationships past, I was forcing something to be something it wasn't.

My love stories are way too practical and involve people deciding they want to be together instead of NEEDING to be together. I lack the magic. I like to read romance and enjoy the love-conquers-all story, but I also enjoy science fiction/fantasy. I guess I see true love and dragons under the same light. No wonder I don't write it convincingly.

I am now researching the possibility of marketing my books as literary fiction with strong romantic elements. That's a different set of norms, industry players, etc...  I'm starting over (only with several books already written) and have a lot of work ahead of me.

Wish me luck.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Creative Outlet

My first dress.
Currently for sale, btw. :)
I just finished my third Irish dance solo dress. The first two were for my oldest daughter and were true labors of love. The third was made for a good friend who was in need and I rose to the occasion. Of these experiences, the third was by far the most stressful. Why? I was making it to someone else's specification. Whether or not they liked it mattered. The quality of my product would be judged by someone other than myself. AND I was on a very ambitious deadline (one week).

Overflowing with insecurity, I did the final fitting and tried to read every micro-expression, gauge every raised brow, every assessing glance. Did they like it? I couldn't tell -- they said they did, but there was that momentary look of confusion when they looked at it, the hint of disappointment. It crushed me.

My second dress on left.
The dress on right is a school dress.
They asked me to make the dress because of a desperate need, and, because I recognized the need I agreed. The moment money changed hands, I went from a friend doing a favor to an employee providing a service.

In the end, the young dancer had a very elegant dress. When she was on stage she beamed and held herself proudly. When she danced I knew she loved the dress.

Let me be clear that I am not complaining about the experience; I'm detailing the stresses involved as they relate to my growth as a Irish solo dress designer/seamstress. The biggest life lesson here was how difficult it was to make sure we all had the same expectations. Despite sketches, swatches, and explanations, I wasn't able to explain my vision to my clients OR (worse) understand their vision/expectation. We thought we were all on the same page, but I could tell by the look on their faces that the dress wasn't what they imagined it would be. Did I deliver a good dress? Yes. Was it what they wanted? Ehrrrmmmm... not sure. Probably not.

My third dress (and first commission project)
I have my own perspective on solo dresses. First, I don't want them to look just like everyone else's dress. What's the point of it being a solo dress if it's a carbon copy of this year's trends? So far every dress I've made has been quality, elegant, and met all the performance costume guidelines (the one linked is only one set. There are small differences between different regions). Solo dresses are supposed to get the judge's attention, but I'd rather have that be because it looks beautiful on the dancer rather than because the dress punches you in the eyeball. I want my dresses to move well, fit well, and suit the dancer. Of course I don't want it out of place in the line of dancers, but I don't want it to blend in either. That said, not everyone will like my designs.

This ties in perfectly with my experience in writing. It must be a common thread in all the creative production professions. Making what you believe in compared to making what you think will sell. Communicating your vision and inspiring others to feel as strongly about it as you do... it's all the same beast. Of late I've felt more satisfaction in designing/creating dresses than I have in writing -- perhaps because with the dresses I can see them out there, dancing. My books sit idle, waiting.

My dresses are entry level solo dresses so far, not elaborate enough for Worlds (above). 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Death by a Thousand Cuts

This is Sam Elliot. It was actually the 'mustache rides" t-shirt that made this win over all the other images that came up under my "crazy mustache biker dude" search.

This is what I must have looked like today at Princess Nails when I had my brow waxed and my insanely huge mustache threaded. I'd noticed a few hairs that were darker than blonde and though I should take care of it before I go downhill fast. I can't just wax my lip thanks to the cold sores I get whenever that space is abused. Hence, threading. Holy Mary, Mother of God. I left with tears streaming down my face, trying to smile as I paid for this torture.

Why subject myself to this? Well, I'm going to a writing conference.

What does my mustache have to do with writing? This is the big question. The real answer? Nothing. However, in an effort to look like a well-groomed, confident, competent, not-crazy person, I put a lot of time into getting into my writerly character. This involves shaving my legs regularly, not just the day I need it, so that my skin looks healthy, nourished, and isn't covered in red bumps. It also involves reacquainting myself with my flat-iron and make-up bag. It means a more regular skin regime, not just using a daily moisturizer with spf30. Why? Because most people put more effort into their appearance than I do on a daily basis and, during a conference, I have to fake it in such a way that it seems natural. It's akin to Renee Zellweger putting on weight and taking on a job at a British publishing company to prepare for Bridget Jones's Diary (only much less cool.) I pretend to be socially acceptable and hope it sticks for the duration of the conference.

The amount of which I simply do not care about how I look would astound most people. This is offset by occasional bouts of caring, but not enough to actually do anything on a regular basis. At conferences I plan to promote myself like a high priced whore (without the sex). It's what I always do. Usually I'm sort of hyped about the process, ready to conquer the world, and the Stanislavskian character development/method acting begins a good month in advance.

Not so this time. I leave tomorrow for Los Angeles and I just gave in to the self-inflicted pressure and took one small step towards my packaging (losing the mustache I didn't even know I had). I made the monetary investment and allowances for time away from my family a while ago, but I haven't committed to my pre-conference prep. Why? I don't seem to care. Yeah-- I know, it's dumb. I mean, I care like crazy about getting published but, lately, when I think about pitching, I just get tired. I don't know if can be that go-getter who is serious about her career (I am very serious, btw), smiling at strangers and trying to network. I think the problem is that there is only so much abuse a person's ego can take. How many times do I get told the industry doesn't want my manuscripts before I start to believe it? I might be there already. I'm pitching my finished work this time, but I've stopped seeing them as viable and count only on my works in progress when I think about the possibility of that first deal. I've lost steam.

This could be a good thing. I mean the high-on-life social butterfly I force myself to be at these things hasn't worked. It's possible I come off as on crack (not the first time I've heard that) and am off-putting. Maybe, the new, relaxed conference version of me will be more appealing. Heck, maybe I should just go for hard-to-get and make myself a challenge. If you can spark MY interest, you might get to represent my three historical romance novels, two supernatural romantic suspense novels, and possibly my contemporary romances (if you're lucky). I'll be aloof and mysterious. Come and get me.

Yeah, I don't have high hopes for that either.  So, as it stands, I will probably doll up (professional with personal touches that speak to artistry) and pretend to be gregarious then sleep hard for a week. We shall see.

If you see me at the California Dreamin' Conference, please say hello. I'm friendly even if I'm not naturally outgoing. Or, maybe I will be on crack and say hello to you first. Who know's? It's a mystery.
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