Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Busy at BPAA

Friday, September 16, 2016 was the Book Publishers Association of Alberta Awards Gala at the Hotel Arts in Calgary. 

These awards have been in existence since 1989, with slight fluctuations in the number and focus of categories over the years. They used to be presented along with the Writers Guild of Alberta awards each spring, but now are attached to the book publishers' fall conference.

Although the gala is mainly for publishers, Tyche Books invited me along as my Steampunk Adventure, Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond, was a finalist for the Children's/YA Award. 

Tyche had another finalist in the same category: Simon Rose's Flashback.

Will Ferguson, the keynote speaker, was entertaining as always. I first ran across him many years ago at the Saskatchewan Festival of Words in Moose Jaw, and hearing him talk about his in-spa interview with Sheila Rogers was enough to make me choke on my raspberry sorbet.

But of course everyone was there for the awards.  Publishers submit works which the juries have about two months to evaluate, coming up with shortlists and winners. Here, books are judged on more than the writing within. You'll see categories below including book design and cover design, as well as illustration, and categories are broken out by kind of publisher as well as genre of book.

Here, in pictures, is the rundown of finalists with the winners checked off.

 Of special note is the number of votes for the Alberta Readers' Choice Award, up 30% over last year.

Congratulations to all the winners and finalists!

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tiara Tuesday: Pretty in Pink at a Russian Imperial Wedding

The diamond, that is. This 10-carat pink, the chief stone in the Russian Nuptial Tiara, is likely of Brazilian or Indian origin. It came into the Russian Crown Jewels under Tsar Paul 1, only son of the short-reigning Peter III and the very long-reigning Catherine the Great (or her son by her lover). The tiara was made for Paul's incoming daughter-in-law around 1800, not long before Paul was assassinated (yes, the Imperial Family had rather a violent soap opera going on around that time). 

The diamond's worth today would be in the tens of millions, quite apart from all the other diamonds surrounding it.  A recent auction of a pink diamond of similar size revealed a 400% increase in price over only 9 years, and that's without any illustrious history.  

The pink is not the only fabulous gem among the Russian Crown Jewels collection. The Treasury also boasts the Seven Great Stones:
  • Orlov diamond – 189.62 carats. It dates back to the late 16th or early 17th century and comes from India. Huge as it is, it is probably only part of a larger, 400-carat crystal. It was given to Catherine the Great by her former lover Count Orlov. 
  • Shah diamond 88.7 carats. This stone’s light yellowish-brown tint comes from microscopic cracks filled with brownish iron oxide. Its bears the names of three former rulers of India and Persia, in Arabic, first inscribed on the diamond in 1591. The Shah of Persia gave it to the Romanovs in 1829. 
  • Portrait diamond bracelet, 25 carats. This is the largest known table-cut diamond in the world and bears a portrait of Tsar Alexander I painted on ivory in the latter part of the 19th century.
  • Catherine the Great’s red spinel, attached to the Imperial Crown of Russia, 398.72 carats. This comes from China in 1676. Like some other famous spinels, it was originally thought to be a ruby.
  • Ceylon Blue Sapphire, 260.37 carats. This beautiful stone is set in gold filigree and mounted with diamonds.
  • Colombian emerald, 136.25 carats (27.250 g) 
  • Olive-green chrysolite, 192.6 carats. This came from the island of Zaberget in the Red Sea.
For a fuller discussion of Russian Imperial Regalia, go here

For the rest of the wedding day finery of a Russian Imperial bride, there's an excellent essay (with photos) at The  Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor   Pity the poor young women weighted down by so much history, tradition, and jewellery. 

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

World Parasol Dueling Championships

The Third Annual World Championships were held Saturday, September 10, 2016 at Lougheed House in Calgary, AB.
Photo credit to Lougheed House

A few preliminary dueling photos below, thanks primarily to Peter Justine and Barb Sand. As for how it's done, think of Rock-Paper-Scissors with beautiful gowns, pretty parasols, and plenty of attitude.

 Judges: Baroness Fawkes and Madame Saffron Hemlock
Photo by Peter Justine

Photo by Peter Justine
 Dueling: it's a family affair! Past World Flirtation Champion with her daughter (now World Junior Champion) and sons, one of whom is an official apprentice to the Doctors (referees).
The Apprentice receiving his badge of office. Photo by Peter Justine

Out-Snubbed by a past World-Champion. Photo credit by Barb Sand
Dodging a Snub. Photo credit by Barb Sand
Madame Creller is an intent spectator. Behind her Captain Cynthia prepares mentally for her next bout.Photo credit by Barb Sand

Photo credit by Barb Sand
World's most intent competitor stands ready to slay an opponent

Dueling Daughter and Mother (2015 Flirtation Champion) Photo credit by Barb Sand

Sarafina, the 2015 World and Dueling Champion, faces down a foe. Photo credit by Barb Sand

Snubs cancel each other out. Photo by Peter Justine
Photo credit to Lougheed House
A lovely tea was served to us in the gardens by 
The Victorian Society of Alberta.

L-R: 2015 World Champion Sarafina Kain, Street Dueling pioneer Monica Willard, 2015 Compulsory Figures Champion Cindy Bedford, Regional Bronze Raven Hawthorne, Past World Champion Karen Siemens, 2015 Flirtation Champion Josanna Justine, Regional Junior Briona Justine, Cali Brewer.Photo by Peter Justine

From left: Monica, Creator of Street Dueling; Cali, newly-sashed 2016 Dueling Champion; Raven (seated), newly-sashed Flirtation Champion; Karen, newly-sashed World Champion; Josanna (seated), newly-sashed Compulsory Figures Champion; Cindy, newly-sashed (and first Official) Street Dueling Champion.

A delightful day with cooperative weather, minimal equipment malfunctions, and prize bags contributed to by the following artisans and businesses: Audra Balion Art & Design, Attic Raiders, Zoltangal Emporium, Ricardo dos Reis of Old West Leather, Jayne Barnard, Kevin Jepson, Cindy Bedford.

Our thanks go to Lougheed House for welcoming us to their lovely gardens for this event.

A video montage of the day's most beautiful moments
For more complete coverage see Madame Saffron Hemlock's Parasol Dueling Academy for Steampunk Ladies or search 


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Saturday, September 3, 2016

2016 World Parasol Dueling Championships - next weekend!

In addition to the standard set of competitions - Compulsory Figures, Flirtation Trials, and Dueling Eliminations - there will be a tea table hosted by the Victorian Society of Alberta. Spectator activities before and after the combats include croquet, lawn bowling, and table games.

To see who may be competing and get a better sense of what the Gracious Combat is all about, check out Madame Saffron Hemlock's Parasol Dueling League for Steampunk Ladies

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?