Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tiara Tuesday: Queen Victoria's Wedding Coronet

Is it a cultural treasure belonging to the British people, and if so, can they raise the money to keep it? Or does the owner have the right to sell it even if that means it leaves the country?

That's THE HOT TIARA TOPIC IN BRITAIN this week, as an export permit for the piece has been temporarily frozen.

The tiara was given by the King and Queen to Princess Mary in 1922, on her marriage to Viscount Lascelles. Technically, it left the Crown Jewels at that point. Eventually her descendants sold it, and it's the purchaser who wants to sell it abroad. 

Where is the line between a private individual's right to dispose of their property, and the right and obligation of the nation to protect its cultural heritage?

For comparison purposes, here's the tiara Queen Elizabeth II wore at her wedding to Prince Phillip of Greece and Denmark. It can also be worn as a necklace.


Here's a bit of the convoluted history of this stunning tiara 

What else Queen Elizabeth II wore at her wedding

Gambling was intense on which of the royal tiaras would be gracing Katherine Middleton's hair on the day she married Prince William. How many of the tiaras she will be allowed to wear before she becomes queen herself.... well, that's an ongoing story. Happy Royal-Watching!

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

When Words Collide: a run-down of my weekend

What a busy and wonderful weekend! So many friends came to Calgary for When Words Collide (August 12-14, 2016) that it was a constant social whirl. Many thanks go to the ever-inventive Convention Committee, who make presenters' tasks simpler and keep the program moving through three challenging days. They won another Aurora for their efforts, and well deserved it is, too.

My scheduled duties began with another presentation of that popular 50-minute workshop I do with EC Bell on how to give great public readings. As usual, no photos survive, which is probably a good thing as I spend a significant part of that time waving my arms and contorting my face to demonstrate ways to warm up the chest, neck, face, and voice. EC Bell (Eileen) has the more dignified role, imparting information on bookstore etiquette and other essential matters of organization.

My second job was a panel, "Around the World in 80 Murders." Our crime writers' tribute to the Steampunk theme of ‪#‎WWC2016‬, featured Mystery Guest of Honour Ian Hamilton along with Calgary writers Sharon Wildwind, Gary Renfrew, and me. We didn't quite make it to 80 places in the world where we've committed (fictional) crimes, but came close. Thanks to Constantine K for the pinning and Susan Lawson for the photo.
Kevin collected my first-time-nominee pin for me at this charming Aurora ceremony in the Atrium (I was in the 80 Murders panel), and re-pinned me later that evening in the Tyche/SASS party surrounded by my friends.  Here he is receiving the pin from the delightful Julie Czerneda (who also MC'd the Prix Aurora Awards the following evening). 

 What an exciting honour for my first SFF book!

Congratulations to all the other first-time nominees, whose names are immortalized on the Prix Aurora site, and thanks to Ron Friedman for the photo of Kevin with Julie.

 After meals with friends, and several parties, and some sleep, I attended the launch social for Enigma Front: Burnt

My post-climate apocalypse story, "When the Tide Burns," is in excellent company with the varied SF and fantasy tales by a troop of talented authors from the Imaginative Fiction Writers Association.

Fifty Shades of Murder:

Between Dwayne Clayden, Mahrie Glab, Axel Howerton, and me, we spanned all four quadrants of crime fiction, from the cosiest character-driven tea party to the most blood-and-brains-splattered plot-driven grit. This was another audience-participation panel, with some debate about which quadrant which author's works landed.  (photo credit to AJ Proc)

Saturday evening saw the Steampunks descend on the Delta Calgary South for the Prix Aurora banquet. Almost every table in the hall featured guests in hats, spats, goggles, and other fantastical apparel. Seated next to me is fellow author Laini Giles (photo credit to Constantine K). 

A fun demonstration of Parasol Dueling accompanied the dessert. Two duelists and two Doctors (referees) from Madame Saffron Hemlock's Parasol Dueling Academy showed the ropes and elucidated the variants of this gracious Steampunk sport. The World Championships will be held in Calgary on September 10th, 2016.

Speaking of dessert, kudos to the kitchen staff of the hotel for their lovely array of gluten-free desserts. I gleefully indulged and can testify to their wonderful flavours and textures. This is Margaret's (my editor) much more restrained plate, to give you an idea what all was on offer.

And then the Auroras were presented, to much cheering. You all know how award ceremonies go, and the winners have already been announced (but if you missed it go here ) so I won't report in detail on that. Cliff Samuels kept the show moving with his usual exemplary efficiency, and the presenters illuminated many tidbits of SFF history.

After the mass autograph signing that followed the awards, there was more social whirl, more catching up with friends. Eventually, more sleep. 

Which brings us to Sunday.

Add caption
 My first afternoon panel was "Gaslight, Clockworks, & Steam" featuring editors Jeff R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec along with authors H. Leighton Dickson, Marty Chan (not shown) and me. Someone in the audience had just asked us a question none of us had anticipated, and the astute photographer (related to Charles) caught our unfiltered reactions. 

Apart from this moment, it was a lively discussion that covered everything from dinosaurs to colonialism, mentioned the movies and television shows all the panelists had watched faithfully during our formative years, and touched on the classic literature of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle and others, that is at the root of modern works of gaslight, clockwork, and steampunk literature.
My final panel at When Words Collide was a fascinating discussion on finding your way past (and through) disability to creativity. I learned a lot from the audience and from my fellow panelists: Valerie King (moderator), Aviva Bel'Harold, Catherine Saykaly-Stevens, and Adam Dreece. (photo credit to AJ Proc)

A great many panels, presentations, and workshops went on before, during and after my three days, given by experts in many fields and genres:  music and poetry through mystery, fantasy, and romance; making audiobooks; writing better hooks, and the mechanics of self-publishing. It's truly a one-stop shop for both writers and readers.

That was the end of my wonderful weekend, although many convention members hung on well into the evening. I'm already looking forward to next year. 

 The convention was sold out well in advance, and doubtless will be again in 2017. Don't wait to get your pass. See When Words Collide for prices and purchasing options.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Keeping Creativity Fresh

My friend and fellow YA Aurora nominee, Sherry Peters, has an excellent column this month in Coach's Corner at SPECULATIVE CHIC.

In "Dream by Day" she's advocating to allow ourselves off the purpose-driven leash once in a while. We can keep our creative selves fresh by letting go of the need to be productive with every activity, every hour, and just have fun with some of them. 

One of her examples was sewing purely for fun. It's clear from the description that she and I share an equivalent absence of skill in this arena.
True Confession #1:  I have to ask other people to thread my needle for hand sewing.
After turning in the manuscript for Maddie Hatter and the Gilded Gauge a couple of weeks ago, I filled in the brain-drained days before When Words Collide by attempting to sew one of those pretty, drape-y vests all the chic older women seem to be wearing these days. 

My pattern-reading comprehension is on a par with my needle-threading, but I managed, with help from my trusty assistant and my long-suffering partner, to cut something approximating the pieces required. Google provided a few tips I'd never learned, even back in my younger days of Theatrical Costuming classes. 

The fabric's colour and flow was a joy to play with. The result... well, as long as nobody looks too close and I never show the inner side of those little pleated panels to anybody, I can have a lot of fun wearing it.

True Confession #2: This is the inner side of those panels. Very messy.

This is the outside of that panel. My faux-pas in pinning the pleats was revealed AFTER I'd blithely sewed in two pleats too close together, thus leaving a highly visible gap. 

Thanks to my pack-rat tendencies, there were scraps of purple ribbon around to fudge a fix, because this lovely georgette is VERY unforgiving about having errant stitches picked out.

True Confession #3: While trying to tidy up the inner side of those pleats, I snipped a hole right through to the front.

More ribbon (and some clear nail polish) to the rescue!

Here's the finished product, which I wore, and felt great in, at When Words Collide last weekend. Someone, somewhere, may have a photo of me standing up, so you can see how long and float-y the sides are.

Thanks, Sherry, for validating my decision to keep poking away at this sewing project even though it often felt like 'wasting time' during the run-up to When Words Collide.

I wonder what form my creative play-time will take before When Words Collide 2017?

Saturday, August 6, 2016

My Schedule for When Words Collide

Next weekend will be very busy for writers in Calgary, and writers visiting Calgary.

When Words Collide, running August 12-14 (with specialist workshops before and after) is an award-winning, genre-crossing lit-fest for readers and writers, with Author Guests of Honour in SFF, Romance, & Mystery and programming streams for all those as well poetry/songwriting, editing/publishing, and more. Although attendance was raised to 700 this year, it's been sold out for more than a month. A few events are open to the public, including a special Guest-of-Honour reading session in collaboration with Calgary Public Library. Check out the festival website at http://www.whenwordscollide.org/index.php to find out when and where.

Where you can find me:
Friday, August 12:

4 p.m. Giving a Great Reading - 50 interactive minutes with me and EC Bell  on what makes a great reading, with exercises to improve delivery as well as tips and tricks from the trenches, er, bookstores. Bring a page of your writing to practice with. Kananaskis Room 1

6 p.m.  Around the World in 80 Murders - panel discussion on the excitement and obstacles to setting crimes in far-off places; Mystery GoH Ian Hamilton (author of the Ava Lee series), me, G.W Renshaw and Sharon Wildwind. Parkland-Bonavista-Willow Park Rooms.

8 p.m onward - Tyche Books/ Steampunk Arts & Sciences Society whisky and absinthe tastings; other gatherings. Suite 318

Saturday, August 13:

 2 p.m. - Enigma Front: Burnt - anthology launch and celebration,
with readings, autographs, and door prizes. Acadia Room.

3 p.m. - 50 Shades of Mystery - Troll the mean streets and smoky bars in Noir and Police Procedurals. Taste the poisoned teacups and toy with tainted hearts in Traditional Mystery and Romantic Suspense. Panel discussion between me, Dwayne Clayden, Axel Howerton and Mahrie G. Reid. Bonavista Room.

5:30 - 6:30 p.m. - Steampunk Banquet - Parkland, Bonavista, Willow Park Rooms.

6:30 - 7:30 p.m. - Aurora Awards

Parkland, Bonavista, Willow Park Rooms.

8 - 9 p.m. - Mass autograph session. Parkland, Bonavista, Willow Park Rooms. 

9 p.m onward - Noir at the Bar YYC (Boomtown Pub); other social gatherings

Sunday, August 14th:

2 p.m. - Gaslights, Clockworks and Steam - panel discussion with Marty Chan, me, H. Leighton Dickson, Charles Prepolec, & Jeff Campbell. Authors examine the persistent allure of Victorian historical and fantastical tales, from Sherlock Holmes and HG Wells through modern Steampunk, and argue the balance between historical purity, paranormal, and techno-fantasy. Bonavista Room.

4 p.m. - Finding Creativity in Diversity and Learning Disabilities. panel discussion with Catherine Saykaly-Stevens, me, Adam Dreece, Aviva Bel'Harold, Val King. Writers discuss how disabilities (including physical and mental illnesses as well as learning disabilities) that once challenged us now allow us a unique perspective and distinctive creativity. Kananaskis 2.