Monday, May 31, 2004

The Day After the Con

First of all, this Con takes the Holly Award for being the second-worst organized event I've ever attended. (First place goes to the martial arts competition I attended a few years back, but that was the first year of that event being held, so I have to extend them some credit.) Also, I didn't see any hard figures, but by my estimates we had about 30-40% fewer attendees this year. I know I personally didn't see about ten or twelve people with whom I am on a first-name basis, from previous years. Maybe there were scheduling conflicts this year.

This con was much more fan-oriented than literary-oriented. There were fewer books and more weapons in the dealer room. There were much more gaming activities this year--four whole rooms, I believe. Also two theaters, one dedicated to anime. For all their talk about getting more costumers, I can't say I saw very many. The best costumes definitely came out of the art room. Shara and I were asked to be "hall judges," so we went around giving little rainbow-colored ribbons to everyone in costume. That part was fun.

Hell, it was all fun. We met some new people, got to know folks we'd met last year. Of course, when you're in costume, you're on display, and it's an instant icebreaker because then people can come up and ask about your outfit. The art show was quite good; there were more displays, more variety of techniques, and all of it was of better quality than I've seen before.

Here are some of the high points of the weekend.

======

My and Shara's panel presentation went well. Not a lot of attendees, but a respectable number of friends showed, and we made a couple new ones. Ann was supposed to be chairing the panel, but she had already done one the day before, so when it came time to start she said, "They're more interested in what you have to say than what I was going to say," and left. So we had the floor, and made more of a round-table discussion than a panel. We dressed Shara up in her Victorian undies. Everyone was very interested in the corsets. Kerry and Ratman were there, but their specialties lie in other eras, so they were politely interested in the different style. Also got to meet Juliana there--Hi, Juliana! Love the tats, babe!

======

I learned this weekend that pincurls are very, very, effective in my hair. I rolled it Thursday night before going to bed. On Friday I had brillo-hair, which was super-easy and bulky to updo, so I rolled it back from the temples to go with my forties look. That evening, I simply rolled up the back as well, and added a few decorations to go with my gold gown. It felt great and looked better. When I went to bed around 2 am. Saturday morning, I simply took the pins out and slept with it loose, figuring I'd wash it in the morning. But no! When I got up Saturday, I had Julia Roberts hair! My silky-straight auburn wisps had become a thick, wavy mane! I couldn't get over it. I scrunched a little gel into it, flipped the front to one side, and was done! Why o why, in all the years I've been buying hot rollers and styling products, didn't someone tell me that $0.88/worth of bobby pins would do the trick? The wave and body was still there on Sunday, even, but by that time I had way too much styling product, not to mention gold paint, in my hair, and it was starting to feel gross, so I washed and curled it as usual. But I am definitely going to make use of those bobby pins in future. If nothing else, it saved soooo much time in the morning.

=====

My gold gown was a huge success. I wore it first on Friday night to the Regency Dance Demo/Lesson, which meant I had to go down the elevator and through the convention hall. Heads started turning as soon as I got off the elevator. The crowds around the art show literally parted for me; people fell back and gawked--there is no other word for it. Flashes went off. People said, "Oh! Go get so-and-so! He has to see this dress!" I couldn't walk three feet without someone stopping me for a photo or compliment. A small crowd gathered at the edge of the dance exhibition, but none of them stayed to dance. I think they just came in to see my dress.

Well, fashion is my art, and fabric is my medium. I could probably make some money doing it, if I were only willing to let go of my creations.

Shara observed that nobody was that appreciative when I told them I was a writer, which isn't strictly true, but I knew what she meant. People tend to be apprehensive of writers, because there are so many bad ones out there, and if you're a pro, and somebody finds out you're a pro, they usually want you to look at their work for free, praise it, and pass it along to your glamorous contacts in New York. The visual arts can be appreciated with little or no commitment: you look, you judge, and if the verdict is favorable, you might look a little longer. Also, if you're a costumer, people assume you're just there to be admired. And I was. Glad I'm not a real celebrity. After three days I could go back to my nice anonymous life.

=======

We had a tornado "scare" Saturday evening. Shara and I were having dinner with a couple of new friends when the sirens sounded. The waitress was literally standing over our table with our entrees in her hands, and we were clearing space for her to set them down, when the manager approached her and said that everyone had to go to the basement. Terrific. So we got to be packed into the bowels of the hotel with five hundred strangers--some stranger than others; the mundanes were looking more afraid of us than of the tornado--for about thirty minutes. And of course, as we were heading downstairs, we passed a couple dozen people heading out to the parking lot to watch the sky. We Midwesterners are incredibly blase' about twisters.

======

Darla and Drusilla were very well received, although the Masquerade was thrown badly off-schedule by the tornado drill and the resultant schedule-shifting. We ended up sitting in the green room for an hour and a half. I was very cranky by the time we got to go on. But we did well; our performance was spot-on. We got a collective gasp of appreciation as we came on-stage, lots of laughter at the appropriate spots, and many people complimented us, together and separately, on our acting as well as our costumes.

We were much-photographed, and a couple from the organizing committee for Costume Con 2006 specifically invited us to attend.

======

Speaking of inviations, I was propositioned by more people than usual this weekend. When you say you're a writer, people want you to do things for them. When you're a costumer attending in a largely decorative capacity, people want to do things for you. Of course, being a young slim female with great hair doesn't hurt either. I was asked several times whether I was a professional model and/or costume designer. Kinda surprised that I didn't get asked if I would do custom sewing for people. Not that I mind, because I don't.

I did get asked if I would be willing to model, first by Ratman, then by an artist named Mike Cole. Shara and I were formally invited to Costume Con; Mike offered to donate his guest membership if it would get us to Archon (still up in the air, but at the top of the Wish List). A local B-movie maker asked if I would come and act for him. Shara volunteered for that--she's always been more into theater than I have, and of course she has far more free time available. He said he'd be glad to have us both.

======

Jody A. Lee, who was the artist Guest of Honor, drew the portraits of several people in costume, including me and Shara. We both bought our portraits at the charity auction on Sunday--although I was out of the room when mine came up for bid, and I had to beg the buyer to sell it to me. It's a lovely pitchur. I may redo my home page and put it on there. Does that violate copyright if it's an original of me, a unique copy, and I own it? What about if I give her credit? I'll write Jody and ask her.

======

The one negative note in the weekend (aside from not winning best of show, but that was more a bitter irony) was my latest bootscraper--one of those guys who follows you around like something stuck on the bottom of your shoe. See, I operate on the philosophy that everyone I meet is a new friend, and I'll talk to anybody, even if they're boring or a little socially inept. Hell, I'm not the best small-talker, either, so if somebody wants to deliver a monologue, I'll just nod and smile and stuff my face with Oreos. It's less work and I get a reputation as a good listener.

So this guy approaches me in the art show, and I'd noticed him hanging around but figured he was shy, so I said hello and listened to him stammer for a while. He asked if I was a professional something--artist or costumer or model, I don't remember--and I said no, I was a writer. So he wanted to know what I wrote, I said nothing that was published, he said why not, etc., etc., and then he starts telling me what I need to do to get published. Well, right there it becomes obvious that he has no idea what he's talking about, because he doesn't even know the difference between an editor and an agent, nor what their respective functions are, and anyway my panel was coming up, so I disentangled myself and said we'd talk later--which means, Only If I Can't Manage to Avoid You.

So the guy, whom I'll call D, approaches me again on Sunday, and tells me he'd approached some other author at the Con on my behalf, and this guy "has real connections, he's big time," and supposedly said Big-Time Guy said he would look at my work and see if he could help me.

Now. Few things piss me off more than a man making pseudo-helpful gestures, which are really nothing more than patronizing attempts to manipulate me into feeling grateful toward him. Especially a man who does not know me, who is clearly incompetent, has no claims on me and does not in fact know my last name (I hope). Even if said Big-Time Author were really in a position to help me--which is doubtful, because I have met most of the professionals in this particular venue--I certainly would not want D-man acting as my representative. Talk about lousy first impressions! Anyway, I got rid of D as fast as I possibly could--and I really had no time to stand around and talk on Sunday afternoon--and later pointed him out to Rob, the host of my writer's group and a good friend. Lo and behold, turns out D had also approached Rob about me. Seems D was trying to find out which writers' group I was in and where it met. Rob told him I was on hiatus from the group and wouldn't be back for the summer, which is true, because I'm working weekends until Labor Day.

Game, set, match. Eat net, loser.

Nevertheless, it was a lovely weekend. I got to play movie star, we had good food, good conversations, a nice long soak in the hot tub, and a really cheap silver plastic frame with our award certificate in it. The party gods were kind.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

grr

My web site is down. Temporarily, so they say. They claim my account exceeded its transfer limitations. That may be so, as I sent a rather large Rich Text file as an attachment a few minutes ago. I hope the site will be back up in an hour. I hope they don't audit my code or content. I am straining the limits of the Terms of Use agreement as it is.

In other news, I've had six good crits on Leviatech. That is not to say that all the crits were positive, but for the most part they were, and even the more negative ones left me with the impression that they liked the piece but were reading out of some preconceived rulebook that says you can't start out a story that way.

I admit, the beginning of Leviatech could be snappier. But to make it so would be a violation of Breck's character and voice. She's a beginning-to-end girl, and I really hate to wedge in an X-Files teaser beginning, as one well-meaning hack suggested. I won't do that. I hate it when writers do that. It's so amateurish.

I think I could, however, shift focus to the center of Breck's conflict, which is her abandonment complex and her determination to play within the rules of her adoptive family, Leviatech. That "speed bump" at the beginning of chapter three may be the key to the whole thing:

"I didn’t cry the night my parents left me at the campus. I was five. I, like most of my classmates, had been up to the school several times before that, for tests and physical exams and interviews, but that first night, after our parents signed us over into the company’s guardianship, everybody cried except me.

One of my first memories at Leviatech is of lying in the semi-dark of the girls’ ward, wearing the nightgown my mother had packed, clinging to my fuzzy black bear so hard my elbows ached, and listening to snivels and whimpers all up and down the room. Nannies moved like cool gray shadows between the beds, murmuring and soothing. One of them stopped by my bed and adjusted my covers, but I lay stiff as a frozen fish, eyes squeezed shut, not making a sound. She smoothed a hand over my forehead and moved on.

You see, my mother had told me if I cried, she wouldn’t come back to see me."


That's the matter in a nutshell, kids. This story is about Alison's revolution. The war is merely a backdrop.

Anyway, the reviews on this story have been varied. Some think the characters are great, some find them--especially Alison--distant and unendearing. One guy says that I'm telegraphing the bad things to come, somebody else said I needed more foreshadowing.

Workshops are a big help. Yeah.


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

more wasted time

If I were ever to do an 18th century dress, it would be something along these lines. I love the cream ombre'ed stripes and the graceful line of the back. Also, this doesn't have the crazy panniers on it. Maybe the museum people didn't have spare panniers to put under the skirts, but it doesn't look to me like the skirt is cut for it. Besides, this is the 1780's, so maybe they were going out of style by then.

Pictures from Jenny La Fleur's site.

resident of the week

As some of you may already know, I've taken a second, weekend job at the rental office of my apartment building. It's been a while since I've been in customer service, and I like to think I've acquired a certain Zenlike detachment from the rest of humanity. Armed with that, I am endlessly amused at the tragedy that is human intelligence.

I think I'm going to start cataloguing the more interesting encounters here.

This week, we have two stories, because I suspect I'll be hearing more about this second guy.

Helpless Resident of the Week: Called to inform us that there was a dead mouse in the middle of her kitchen, and wanted me to sent the maintenance man to remove it. Now, our maintenance guy is on-call for emergencies on Sundays, but I doubted he would be ready, willing, or able to rouse himself for a dead mouse. I implied that Pat was tied up with emergency air conditioner fixings and suggested that she scoop up the corpse with a dustpan or piece of cardboard and throw it in the trash. She wasn't happy about it.

Creepy Resident of the Week:
There's a guy; we'll call him Barry. He's a very low-grade con artist who's been living scot-free in our complex for about two months now. He claims to be a psychic. He claims to be a lot of things. So far he has:

  • Swindled a free apartment out of the leasing manager by promising free advertising for the complex;
  • Told each of the women in the office (other than me) something "shocking" and "private" about themselves which he supposedly divined via his psychic ability;
  • Charged at least two of my new co-workers $100 for a "private reading" session during which he "hypnotized" them and "took them back to a past life."
  • Has failed to follow up on the ad thing (big surprise) and then got defensive and bullying when the manager tried to call him on it.
  • Has solicited my weekend co-worker, Crystal (the name tells you everything you need to know about her--she's a sweet girl but as brittle as spun sugar) about being in a "limosine commercial," and tried to get her to go out with him, despite the 20-year age difference and the fact that he has no money, no car, no job, and is generally pretty creepy.


Now, all of these things except the last happened before I came to work there. This weekend, Barry came in on Sunday afternoon and tried to engage Crystal in conversation about the limo commercial. He pretended to make a couple of phone calls, making loud plans about filming said commercial, asking Crystal what size dress she wore, talking about cameras and locations, etc. Crystal and I both knew he was talking to dead air. The first time he tried to dial, he accidentally dialed into the office main line and it rang the intercom at my desk. Oops, dialed the wrong number, he said. Then he said, "Well, I'm off to detail a Ferrari," and left.

I am just dying for him to tell me some shocking and private thing about myself. I bet Crystal five bucks he wouldn't even come near me. That type never does.

If he comes in and starts tying up the phones and making himself a nuisance like that again, I'm going to throw him out. I've done it a couple of times before, at the title company. Been awhile.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

mesh corset

Here is a fascinating account of building a mesh corset, for wear during hot weather. I never would have imagined such a thing.

Wesley is dead. Long live Whedon.

Watched the Angel finale last night. I had little emotional reaction to the episode itself, except to feel grateful that Wes was finally out of his misery and glad to see that bastard Lindsey shot.

I was mildly annoyed with Whedon for leaving the whole Angel/Spike/prophecy issue unanswered, but I guess it's his fan base and he can jerk them around as much as he wants. Kinda pisses me off, though. They're your characters--take hold and lead them! More than a little depressed at the thought of the TV wasteland that stretches forth for the rest of my life.

As far as the sewing goes, I've gotten most of the pressing stuff done and now I'm just hanging around waiting for the day to arrive. Mostly wishing I had a digital camera so I could post photos of the finished pieces. Instant gratification becomes not only the norm, but a necessity, with the spread of the Internet.

"Leviatech" is on the block at Critters and I'm having a hard time caring. Mostly wondering whether anyone will bother to wade through the exposition at the beginning to get to the chocolatey center. I'll probably rewrite that first chapter again, someday. It's not bad now, but I think it could be smoother.

My hat is done except for 4 more ribbon roses and some judicious application of green silk ribbon streamers. I bought the rollers and styling products for my wig and I'll probably work on that this weekend. Saw some samples of wigs styled in similar 'dos and I'm feeling a little more confident.

Going over to Shara's tonight. I'm currently at work, avoiding work, packing my face with Reese's Pieces and listening to Tori. Need to hash out some of what I plan to say about costuming/character creation. Also need to block out the skit. Think I'm going to make a little speech in Darla's voice about how the show is dead but the characters live on--she's died twice, after all.

Bored now. Guess I'll do some work, see if it makes the time go faster.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

a dyeing lesson

Interesting thing about kid leather. It can't take heat.

If you've ever used RIT dye, you know that the instructions demand a HOT water bath. Ergo, things that can't take heat, can't be dyed. This is nonsense, of course. I once dyed a silk duvet cover in a (new) garbage can in my front yard, using water from the hose.

The kid gloves I bought were both stamped "washable" inside. I washed the gray pair in lukewarm water with a little Neutrogena shampoo. They came out fine.

I tested my dye bath with muslin squares, then with some pieces of scrap leather I had lying around. Color was good. Leather seemed fine. Dye bath was simmering, not boiling, but just hot enough to steam, on the stove.

Dropped the grey kid gloves into the dye bath. It was just like something out of a horror movie. OH MY GOD SHE PLUNGED THOSE GLOVES INTO A VAT OF SHRINKING SOLUTION THEY'RE SHRIVELING UP LIKE THE WICKED WITCH OF THE EAST UNDER DOROTHY'S HOUSE!

Needless to say I was a bit alarmed. I fished them out with the tongs and ran them under cold water, tried to wring them out, but no go. I saturated them with conditioner and tried to stretch them, but they began to split along the seams. They would stretch somewhat in the width, but not in the length.

Now, I have washed, stamped, and sewn leather before. I know that some shrinkage must be expected. But this was unreal. I have a size 7 1/2 to 8 hand, with broad palms for a woman. Those gloves fit me perfectly. They are now the right size for a 4-year-old. That's about 75% shrinkage.

I had to assume that the other pair (I *knew* there was some justification for buying both of them) would do the same thing. I cut about 1 inch off the forearms of the other pair and dipped a sample: It shriveled like an earthworm on the sidewalk. I took the dye bath off the heat and let it cool. Stood there feeling sick to my stomach.

It was only a $10 loss. But still, those gloves were quite nice, fit well, and I hate to see things go to waste.

I let the dye cool to lukewarm, tested the other leather strip. It was fine. Dyed the second pair of gloves in the cooled dye (dying my nails slightly brown in the process). They came out fine, and a nice chestnut color. They're air-drying in my bathroom. I shall rub a little mink oil in them tomorrow and I feel optimistic about the results.

The rest of you, be warned.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

progress

I sent in my registration for ConQuest yesterday. Also made hotel reservations on Monday. Oh so excited.

Finished my cape last night. Not entirely happy with the cut, but it will pass muster. Green trim is nice. It has a weighty, rich, smooth look to it. Need to tack on tassels.

Also tried on my bodice, both with and without the corset underneath. Am seriously considering wearing a push-up bra, instead of a corset, for the masquerade. Am Pretty Sure that's what Julie Benz was wearing. It's not period, but then neither was the original. Darla had a sinuous, curvy look, and the corset just makes me look stiff.

See, I have lost about 8 lbs since making that corset, and it comes up too high on my back, creating a line around the armpits of my bodice that makes me look as if I'm wearing a Kevlar vest. Furthermore, with the extra padding gone from my hips, the waist-cinching effect is less than previous. I was quite curvy 8 pounds ago, but these days I'm more angular so I come off looking like a boy in a doublet. I've been toying with the idea of putting a dart in the waist of the corset, near the small of my back, but I suspect that would make a lump and be very uncomfortable.

If I were going to a period-accurate event, I would wear the corset. But the bodice is boned enough to give the smooth line, and I need cleavage more than I need torso compression. Problem is, I don't think I own a push-up bra anymore.

Well. I shall be working on the hat tonight, I think. May also do some work on my sleeves. I didn't like the lace cuffs so I took them off. However, the peach cotton I used to line the cape is a perfect match to the peach satin, and a whole lot finer. I think I'm going to broomstick some of it and make wide frilly ruffs to finish the sleeves. Hmmm. Yes, that's a nice idea. Peach frills on the forearms, with little green satin bows above. Darla likes.