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.

TheAlchemistOfSouls-197x300In 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.

45 master characters

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.)


20 master plots

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!

colour on clothI’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!

I have a new appreciation for the kind of work that goes into a garment like this.  Alexander McQueen, 2008, haute couture.

I have a new appreciation for the kind of work that goes into a garment like this. Alexander McQueen, 2008, haute couture.

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:

Flossing, cording, boning, oh my!

Flossing and cording and boning, oh my!

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.


Best Writing Advice Ever …

Yes, I am still here.  Yes, I’ve had a crazily busy academic year.  Yes, I’m getting back on the blogging horse!

But more on that another day.

For today, I’m pointing you towards the best piece of writing advice there is, very succinctly put by a woman who knows, Nicola Morgan: Write the damn book.

Which is what I’m working on, now that pesky job of mine is out of the way for a month’s holiday (a month!!!  Yesssss!).

The Best Laid Plans …

… of Mice and Writers.

Note to self: don’t try to do anything at the start of the academic year.  Really.  Don’t bother.

And definitely don’t try to finishing a sodding novel!  I’m not going to moan about it, but I will say two things:

1. The past month and a bit at work have been ridiculously busy and stressful.  And that’s working part-time (allegedly).  (Have got some fab students, though!)

2. I did get 10,000+ words written before the madness began, so that’s something.

Looking ahead, I plan to give things another go now I’ve started to get a handle on the insanity of work and I’ll post my thoughts about the BIAM system soon.

In other news – I’ve been reading bits and pieces for work, including some Shakespeare.  Henry V – better than I was expecting!  Some lovely themes in there and a wonderfully complex main character; I love that you could view Henry as this arch-Machiavel or the ideal king.  Intriguing stuff!

I am ridiculously excited to read Wolf Hall, which is sat in my Kindle’s memory, waiting for my attentions.  I must have been living under a rock for the past few years, as it didn’t hit my radar until Mantel won her second Man Booker prize for the sequel.  A seriously big  rock.

But, for now, bed!

(It’s a bit complicated (and I’m very tired, so probably not explaining nor writing in the best possible way), but I’m posting this because I thought I already had posted it and I mentioned to a lovely lady from my corsetry class that she could find links on my blog.  Not sure why I hadn’t already posted about this because it is quite fascinating and intriguing and exciting and all kinds of good things!)

So, popular belief has it that boobs weren’t treated as separate entities and hoisted up in bras (as opposed to smooshed up in corsets) until the 20th century.  At the earliest, you could suggest that some Regency undergarments were close-ish to modern bras.  But discoveries in an Austrian castle that were only publicised earlier this year seem to refute all we believed.  Check out what they found:

There are plenty of articles on these amazing finds – fabric that have survived some 600 years and have the potential to re-write our understanding of undergarments – so I’ll let the experts fill you in better than I can (though, worth noting that they found pants and knickers [Edit – I did originally write ‘knickers’ here, too, but when I re-read one of the articles I found that actually the bikini-like briefs are believed to have been men’s pants.  Apologies, no knickers to see here.  Move on!] too – bonkers!):

Yahoo News

This one shows the knickers, which look suspiciously like tie-up-bikini bottoms – I think we need to re-think who invented the bikini!

More details later emerged in this article, which I found via the good Comtesse (who is definitely worth following if you like to be kept – ahem – abreast of history news (sorry to manage an oxymoron and pun in the same sentence – I’m sure that’s word-play overkill, but please let me off, I’m so tired!).

Hope you enjoyed this instalment of ‘Sleepy Writer talks Medieval Underwear’!


BIAM: First Day

Just to give you an idea of my first day’s progress: I got home from work just after 5pm, read today’s chapter in BIAM and read the last chapter I wrote for AT&Gw; I then wrote from 6pm until 8pm today, had an hour off for dinner and to call my Dad for his birthday, then I wrote again from 9pm until 10:20pm.  I didn’t find it nearly as difficult to get my head down and actually write as I thought I would and I’m really pleased to say that I wrote 2,327 words today!

That’s a pleasant surprise – I really thought I’d struggle to write 500 words today, considering it’s my first day writing in over a year.  But I just made myself sit and do it.  No excuses.  I didn’t let myself get up from the computer or go online, I had to write, even if I found it hard to write something scintillating or maintain my focus.

This was a slightly non-representative day as I finished work slightly later than usual (I’d normally be finished about by 4:30, rather than 5), but I also had nothing I needed to do this evening.  Starting next week, I’m going to be teaching an evening class on Tuesday nights and I’ll be learning at one on Wednesday nights, so that’s two evenings taken out of the week, plus I have another group activity on Monday nights, so I’ll really have to play catch-up on my Fridays off and at the weekend.

But anyway, yay for reaching my word count aim on the first day – may this be the first of many!

Starting ‘Book in a Month’

Today I’m starting to use the Book in a Month ‘system’ that I mentioned the other day in my post about books on writing.

I’m planning to finish the first draft in the course of the next 30-40 days (I’m being realistic – it’s the beginning of the new academic year!), so I calculate that should be 70,000 words in total (I already have 50,000+).

So, if you want to comment on here or you know me on Twitter (@ClareTeaches) or Facebook, please badger me – ideally, I’m aiming for 2,300 words per day, which would be 70,000 over the month.  However, I haven’t written in over a year, so let’s see how my stamina goes!  I’m happy to build up my daily word count over the first week or so and take a little longer to get to the end.

I’ll be posting daily word counts on Twitter and perhaps weekly ones on here, so here goes!

Writing Humour – Publishing in GIF form

So somehow I missed this hilarious post showing the publishing process in GIF form (by the very publishing-savvy Nathan Bransford) until it was almost a week old, and I’m all