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Hello friends!  Tuesday I had the great pleasure of attending a joint signing of Mary Robinette Kowal and Marie Brennan in Houston.  Marie was fascinating, Mary delightful.  My plan was to not only get some new books, but to also report back to you with many pictures and witty observations.  Unfortunately, my inner fan had other ideas, but I think you will still enjoy the results.

First off, I arrived at the signing way too early.  The event was held at Murder By the Book in the museum/university district of Houston.  This part of H-town is lovely if you have time to drive around and can find a bathroom that you don't have to pay some sort of admission or parking pass to use, and I ended up having some time to explore.  Initially, I had figured that both these authors had won awards for their work, there would be a huge crowd of fans for me to compete with, so I should get there two and a half hours early, just in case.  Nope.  I was the store's only patron at the time.  But, I was allowed to go ahead and purchase the books I wanted signed, and I came back a half hour before the signing.  Then there was a full parking lot, and I felt somewhat better.

Both Mary and Marie wore period costumes for the signing!  This was really neat, and Mary had even hand sewn her dress herself!  More on that later.  I just wanted to set the stage a little in your minds.

Marie began by asking whether or not we would be bothered by her reading a piece that was a little gory.  She said she had been reading the same piece at each stop on their tour and was getting tired of it.  We didn't object, so she read us a piece from her not yet released (yay!) The Voyage of the Basilisk, which was not terribly gory in my opinion, although it did have the actual word "gore" in the selection.  Marie said that if we found that the title reminded us of The Voyage of the Beagle, we would not be far from the truth.  This third book in the Lady Trent series continues to catalog her studies, but here she is aboard a ship, travelling the globe, much as Darwin was in his account.  Marie used voices when she read!  This is really awesome.  There are lots of great authors out there, not all of them are great at reading aloud.  Marie did an awesome job switching between three or four different accents.  (The audio version of the Lady Trent series, btw, is read by Kate Reading.)

Marie brought us some hands-on as well.  She had a number of "dragon bones" that she passed around, giving a little explanation about each one just as Lady Trent might do if she were giving a lecture tour.  She had about a half dozen pieces, but I took a picture of the most striking, a "skull" with a hinged jaw from, if I remember correctly, a juvenile Akhian desert drake, "preserved" of course, because without proper preservation, dragon bones degrade rapidly when exposed to air.  (Read the series to find out more!)

It was Mary's turn to read next, and she also had a selection from her not yet released book (yay!) Of Noble Family, which is the fifth in the Glamourist Histories.  Last November, Mary had pieces posted on her website so fans could read it as she wrote through NaNoWriMo.  Mary also read with voices, but I expected that, because Mary has a separate career narrating audiobooks, including her own works.  She certainly did not disappoint.

Mary also brought a little show and tell in the form of two glass orbs, which were "Sphere Obscurcie", these particular ones orbs of glass with glamour threads recorded inside them.  Mary explained to us that since the use of glamour is the manipulation of the naturally occurring electromagnetic fields, the near ubiquity of electricity today renders them useless.  However, they were still pretty to look at.  I tried to get a picture of one, but they were orbs and didn't want to sit still on the cover of the book like the skull obligingly did.  Also, I was a little pressed for time because Mary had a shadow puppet show for us and the flash would have messed up her lighting.  I could have recorded the show, but I was trying to get in the picture of the Sphere and wasn't ready in time (grr).  It is a very short play, called The Broken Bridge, which was a real play in history but is also featured in the Glamourist Histories.  Reportedly, it is Vincent's favorite play.  (Read the series to find out all about glamour and Vincent!)

Mary mentioned that Whovians will notice a certain gentleman in all of the Glamourist Histories if they are looking for him, and that some of his dialogue is even written by one of the writers for the show (the name of the writer has escaped me, apologies).  Marie announced that she is holding a contest for readers to design their own dragon to be featured in one of her upcoming Lady Trent novels.  Exciting on both fronts!

Ok, on to Q&A.  I will try to recall everything that was asked, but I can almost guarantee that I will forget something.  By the way, all of this is paraphrased unless put in quotes.
1.  Is there time dilation in the world of the Glamourist Histories?
Mary:  Probably, because it takes me so long to write them and then only takes you a few days to read them.
2.  (Mine!)  Both of you ladies write period fantasy, what sorts of original sources are the most helpful to you?
Mary and Marie (almost in unison):  The ones with PhD after their name, reference librarians, those sorts.
Mary:  Newspaper articles, magazine articles, the things that describe the minutia of every-day life that I would want to mention.
Marie:  I mostly write about things that I know, but when I have to do research, I go from broad to narrow, so I have a religion that is pretty much Judaism, so I bought "Judaism for Dummies" and read it, then when I needed to know something specific I would have a reference point from which to do more research after that.  I also find myself on 2am Wikipedia dives searching for info.  I read a reference once and tracked down the author of a citation, who was a professor, and he said that really the only good work on the subject was his dissertation.  I actually got him to mail me his dissertation, because, he wrote it back in the day before electronic media, and named a character after him for his help.
3. Is the Onyx Court something from traditional Faerie lore? (This is another series by Marie.)
Marie:  I wrote the Onyx Court books based on an RPG that I had going, and when that company re-did their cards and layout I think they included the Onyx Court as kind of a reference to that. (Apologies, I don't remember which game she said it was.)
4.  How do you balance your writing and research?
Mary:  I have to only research things that keep the writing going, I can't get caught up in "vacuuming the cat".  I write at nearly 2K words a day, which is about NaNo pace.  In fact, almost all of my novels I start on November 1st.
5.  Can you tell us about your dresses?
Marie:  Yes!  This has been nearly the first question we have gotten at every stop this tour, so thank you for asking.  Mine was made by a woman who designs costumes for the San Fransisco Opera (I believe that was what she said, if not it was an organization very similar).  I didn't have time to make my own and can sew but, *blinks* I wouldn't know how to do the boning and the stays, so... Anyway, I just kind of threw fabric and money at her and said "Go!"  We talked about what style I wanted and she made this for me *turns in a circle*
*audience claps*
Mary:  I made my dress.  It is actually completely hand stitched.  Costume junkies, I will be proud to show you my seams on the sleeves.  Mine is an Edwardian day dress.
Marie:  Mine is a little less specific of a reference, but that's in keeping with the books that aren't any specific year but more a time period.  And hers packs much smaller, too.
6.  (To Mary) Is your dress a (some kind of ) Muslin?
Mary:  (Proud of the person for knowing to ask)  Yes!  Well, no.  This is much heavier than what the ladies in that day would have worn.  This is actually made from a table cloth.  Their fabric was actually very thin.
Marie:  That's where "dampening your dress" comes in.
Mary:  Yes, although very few girls actually did this.  Only the French girls.  Some would dampen their dresses to make them... less opaque.  But, there was a certain... attitude towards you if you were going to do this.  English girls, of course wouldn't do this.  The French... well.

Then we could get in line to have our books signed.  Mary, as an incentive to get attendees to buy books from the store to help support the store and thank them for arranging the signing, had lovely sandalwood fans for anyone who bought something from the store, whether it was one of their books or not.  When I got up to their table, I thanked both Marie and Mary for coming, then apologized for not picking up their works sooner, since I had known about them for a while before I picked one up.  They were gracious, as to be expected.  I asked if I could get a picture of them signing my books.
"Oh, well, would you like us to stand, so you can see the dresses?" Marie asked.
This was a problem for my brain, somehow.  Marie was actually halfway out of her chair at this point.  Inside my head, I was thinking,  How are you going to sign my books on the table if you are standing up?  But it would probably be a great idea to have them stand so I can get a better picture of them and their lovely dresses.  Or, maybe I could get a picture of me and both of them, standing?  So, I was just standing there with my camera, blinking dumbly.  While I was thinking about all that, Mary and Marie just kind of looked at each other, shrugged, and then signed the books, seated.  So I got my blasted picture, but felt like an idiot.

My inner fan was a bit of a problem.  I felt like I did great in the Q&A section, but then went slack-jawed when I got up to the authors in person.  At least there is room for improvement the next time I go to a signing. :)


  1. I have the first pictures of you with authors...Tommie de Paola and Elizabeth PROUD of you for continuing writing!!


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