I’ve got some time off work at the moment, so I had a little book-shopping-binge (my favourite kind of binge) and have been catching up on some much-needed reading.
In the fiction corner we have the first book of Anne Lyle’s Night’s Masque series, The Alchemist of Souls. Historical fantasy with grit and wit, set in a fantasy version of Elizabethan England, what’s not to like? The touches of humour (this isn’t a Terry Pratchett, all-out comedy fantasy, just to clarify!) and the period are definitely putting me in mind of Black Adder the Second, which is a compliment in my books, since I was raised on Black Adder and it’s still one of my favourite TV shows of all time. At the same time, Lyle has created something intriguing and unique and it’s got me looking forward to my reading sessions to find out what happens next! If you’re not sure, you can even get a sample of the first three chapters on Anne Lyle’s website. What’ve you got to lose?!
OK, if you need any more persuasion, I am seriously crushing on her dark, dashing and dangerous main character, Mal. A definite ding dong. Go read it already.
The rest has been non-fiction, which is unusual to me, as usually the weighting of my reading pile is towards novels, but I suppose I’m on research mode.
No prizes for predicting there would be some writing books in my list. I’ve been dipping into 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn-Schmidt over the past day or so. I’m very interested in archetypes, which is what she’s based her ‘master characters’ on, so I’ve been interested in this book for a while. There’s some good stuff in here, but as always I’d warn against wholesale acceptance of anyone’s advice (mine included!), be it on writing or anything else. I’d like to speak about this one in more depth, so that’s for another post. (Also, I’d like to wait until I’ve read it all, before I really comment on it.)
I’ve been pondering plot, as A Thief & A Gentlewoman follows quite a complex one and that makes me worry whether the structure works. For now, I think it’s best to wait until I’ve written it to really see whether my plans were off the mark or not, but that hasn’t stopped me reading up on the subject. The Writer’s Journey is a well-known book on the subject, which I’ve had on my shelves for a while now, waiting to be read. Vogler also draws on archetype, using stories ranging back to myth and legend to the present to help formulate his theories. I’ve just started this one, so further thoughts to come on another day. Similarly, 20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them is another book I’ve been dipping into, but haven’t yet finished. More when I do!
I’ve got it into my head that I want to try dyeing fabric. (I blame my friend Karen who was foolish enough to let me touch some amazing sandwashed silk satin she had bought and dyed. Seriously, I was sat there stroking this stuff for at least half and hour – it feels like peach-skin, but softer and silkier and lovelier and just … swoon! It’s cheaper and easier to get hold of in its loomstate (undyed) form, so, hence the need for dye.) Anyway, being a bibliophile (like you hadn’t realised), I needed a book, so I ‘invested’ (ahem) in Ruth Isset’s Colour on Cloth, which is full of pretty colour and instructions on how to use it to make fabric and/or paper even more fabulous. There are some amazing techniques you can try, which I didn’t even have any idea of, so I’m itching to have a go at this. Some bits are a bit complicated-sounding, but I’ve been using the internet alongside this book, which has helped me find some simplified and adjusted ways of doing things.
My mind was blown by Claire Shaeffer’s Couture Sewing Techniques. It’s a real eye-opener to not only how to use couture methods, but also the real (massive) difference between couture clothing and ready-to-wear. There are things in this book that I really had no idea were even things. And I’m so wowed by it that I can’t even put it any more elegantly!
Shaeffer’s book is a classic for stitchers going beyond the basics and my next book is a classic for those whose stitching strays into corset construction territory. Corsets: Historic Patterns and Techniques contains patterns and colour photos, together with notes, for 24 corsets (and stays*) from the 1750s to WWI. This is a great way of getting a range of patterns (though they would need enlarging and checking against your measurements, so this isn’t a task for the beginner) for corsetry and generally having a good old bit of costume perving at some stunning garments. The Black Corset with Blue Flossing from 1890 on page 74 is utterly stunning. I’m feeling a real need to make this pattern. Bad photo below:
I’ve recently finished a City & Guilds qualification in corsetry, so this book is definitely going to be put to good use.
And that’s about it for my recent reading endeavours. For now, I think I’m due some dinner and another installment of The Alchemist of Souls.
* The term ‘corset’ for an undergarment only really began to be used widely in English in the 19th century, before this they were called ‘stays’ (mostly through the 17th and 18th centuries) or ‘bodies’ or ‘a pair of bodies’ (with various spellings, mainly in the 16th century). The latter being where the word ‘bodice’ comes from.