RT Booklovers Convention! What to Wear

002First off, I posted this to the website, and waxed breathless about it on Twitter and so forth, but I got all wrapped up in posting the NestPitch stuff and never mentioned it on ye old blogge here. My upcoming release, The Mark of the Tala, first in my Twelve Kingdoms trilogy, got the best possible review from RT Book Reviews! You can’t read it online for another two months, unless you’re a subscriber, but this is what it says:

“This magnificent fairy tale will captivate you from the beginning to end with a richly detailed fantasy world full of shapeshifters, magic and an exciting romance! Andi isn’t your ordinary must-have-a-prince-to-save-me type of princess. She begins as the invisible middle sister, not a great beauty like Amelia, nor a warrior like Ursula – instead Andi is content to remain a wallflower, until she meets Rayfe and her entire world is turned upside down. She makes wise choices, all to save her people from the harsh realities of battle, and even when faced with horrible options, her course is one of truth, loyalty and love. Rayfe is dark and intense, keeping his feelings close to the chest, but trusts Andi to make the right decisions. They are a remarkable pair, one who celebrate individuality with a partnership that will last for a lifetime.”

– RT Book Reviews, 4.5 Stars TOP PICK!

4.5 Stars is their top rating, so I’m over the moon. The story threads this reviewer picked out are exactly what I wanted this book to show. The book comes out May 27 (so soon!), but I’ll have copies to sell and give away at the RT Booklovers Convention, which starts May 14. It takes place in fabulous New Orleans this year, so this gathering which is already essentially one big week-long pary will be extra festive. I’m particularly thrilled to be sharing a house in the French Quarter with some writer and book blogger friends.

On one of my author loops last night, someone asked about dress code and how to know what to wear. Seeing as how this is my 5th RT Convention, I offered some advice. Then I thought, I should just post it here, too. Because there is kind of a trick to it, which isn’t always clear to the uninitiated.

Each evening there’s a big party that you can find on the agenda. If you click on the links on the website, you get more details. For example, Thursday night is the Samhain Saints and Sinners party and it says:

Calling all angels and devils! Samhain Publishing invites you to join us Thursday evening for a wicked good time. Sweet and sinful eats. Delightfully dangerous beats. Amazing author treats! Come dance the night away with our Samhain Authors — whether you wear halos or horns, you’ll be sure to find some kindred spirits! 

The translation here is that people will come in costume as angels or devils. You don’t HAVE to – and lots won’t – but that’s your cue. Heather Graham’s party used to be called the Vampire Ball or the Fairy Ball (they’ve kind of morphed over the years) and still says “Calling all vampires, vixens, queens and kings … royal courts of light . . . and darkness!” So that gives you a costume cue, should you choose to accept it. Vampires AND fairies is how I read that one.

For the Harlequin Dance Party, they say “a spectacular dance party and an evening of glamour” which means dress up and be sparkly.

For the rest of the time, it’s generally business casual. A lot of people dress up – it can be a big fashion show – and a lot of people don’t. Many authors dress in ways that reflect their book themes. I tend to stick with my own personal style. I often see the advice to wear comfortable shoes, and for walking around the French Quarter and the Riverwalk, I’d definitely agree. However, this is a great opportunity to show off your fabulous heels too! You know I’ll be wearing mine. 🙂

Like High School, Only Steve Madden

Nothing particularly special about this photo, except that I’m home now and this is how it looks this morning. Giving up lots of gratitude today.

I liked being in Philadelphia and Baltimore, though, seeing what people on the other side of the country are up to. If you follow me on Twitter at all, you would have seen me going on about the resurgence in 80s fashion. I know, I know – this is old news, I’m sure. I work from home in the New Mexico countryside without cable or satellite TV. I’m not exactly cutting-edge anything.

So the resurgence of the slouchy boot took me by surprise.

You know what I mean – the ankle- to calf-high soft leather or suede boot, lots of folds and wrinkles. The young women are wearing them with tight jeans and drapey shirts with *gasp* SHOULDER PADS, people! I don’t miss much of 80s fashion, but by golly, I miss my slouchy boots.

There might be one particular pair of purple suede slouchy boots from college I will always remember fondly.

At any rate, I announced my intentions on Twitter to acquire me some boots, possibly just like those ones I used to have. And one of my old high school friends, the AntiM, replied that she’d already bought some last year. (She is all kinds of cutting edge, even if she’s letting her blog starve  death.) I, of course, asked what hers look like. She said, just like the ones SHE had in high school, only these are Steve Madden.

It is ever thus. We are nostalgic for our young selves, but no reason not to kick in a bit of an upgrade.

Designer Shoe Warehouse, here I come!

Village Fashion Assistance

Why, yes, that is Katy Perry dressed in Gautier from the June 2011 issue of Vanity Fair. And there’s a very good reason she’s there for you to admire.

Let me tell you the story.

See, I’m going to the RWA National Conference the last week of June. This will be my fourth time. This year I knew I’d be invited to the Carina party, as one of their authors. Author cocktail party? Pretty much a slam dunk in fashion-planning department.

Now I had a bit of an additional complication, in that I discovered the Carina cocktail party would be right before the FFP Gathering. Not a big deal, right? One party to the next, stick to the same drink, all is fine, tra-la tra-lay.

Only there’s one little hitch: the FFP party is a Superhero theme and I have my heart set on being Cat Woman. I don’t think I’m ruining any surprises here by leaking that, especially since I fully expect to be far from the only Cat Woman at a Superhero party attended primarily by women. In fact, I figured I’d just go to the Carina party in my Cat Woman outfit. It’s pretty demure, since I’ll be more of a Michelle Pfeiffer version than the Halle Berry iteration since, hello, I do not have Halle Berry’s vicious body. Dress myself only in black leather straps? I don’t think so. My costume looks like this (sorry it’s so small) and I figured I could be brassy and just wear it to the cocktail party, too.

But, and this is a big “but,” then I was happily invited to the Harlequin party, too. I wasn’t expecting to, but since Carina is a Harlequin imprint, they included us questionable digital types. It’s after the FFP party, so that’s fine. And, hey, everyone says it’s THE party to go to, so woo hoo! Except, I get the invite and it’s a rooftop Black and White ball, formal dress.

I’ve got nothing.

Clearly I’m not wearing the Cat Woman outfit there. Even if it wasn’t an outfit that can’t be worn outside of air conditioning (lemme tell you, that thing does NOT breathe), it just ain’t formal, by any stretch. I look in my closet – nothing. You know what that means, right?


I’m going in a couple of weeks, have practically no time to shop, and no inspiration.

So, I’m getting my hair done – my carefully planned pre-conference beautifying appointment – flipping through Vanity Fair and whining about my fashion emergency to a sympathetic Larry. I get to the above Katy Perry pic and say, this! This is what I should wear. Larry peers over my shoulder. “That’s perfect,” he says, “that’s exactly what you should wear.”

I say, “Um, Larry, that outfit is Gautier and out of my league on so many levels it’s not funny.”

“Oh no,” he waves the scissors in the air, “you could totally fake this outfit.”

He outlines how I’ll do it. Do I have a black skirt I could slit up the front? As a matter of fact, I do. I have a black pleather pleated Jones New York skirt that would work. Put a white lace slip or skirt under it, black heels, black leggings – I love how he never once considers putting white stretch lace on my thighs – with a big white blouse on top, belted with a fabulous Santa Fe belt.

I’m sold.

Of course, this is not so easy as it sounds. (Did it even sound easy?)

Once I left the salon, clutching my pic of Katy Perry in *my* outfit, which Larry thoughtfully tore out of the magazine for me, I began to lose heart.

“Just find a little black dress,” my mother counsels. “You don’t have time for this.”

I went shopping Saturday morning and nothing, just nothing lit me up. I began to despair. Sunday I hit the consignment stores and Goodwill thinking I could cannibalize a wedding dress for the white lace underskirt. Big goose egg.

Then, in Dillards, of all places, I found a big white jacket – spunky, sheer and shimmery. It’s the last one, and I make the sales gal take it off the mannequin for me. It’s a large, turns out, but that works perfectly. I find some black leggings with black lace edging at Kohls. Already bought funky black heels for the Cat Woman look. I’m rolling now.

Back at home, I start Googling for wedding slips. KAK is helping me via IM. But even her Google-Fu, which is very strong, fails. She does, however, find me this fab black corset to wear under the white jacket.

Now we just need the lace skirt, which totally should not be this hard. But it is.

She’s combing eBay. Laura Bickle comes on IM and I catch her up on the Story So Far. Almost immediately, Laura finds this skirt on eBay. It’s perfect. It’s in Hong Kong.

BUT, they have express shipping and it’s not that much overall.


So, all the parts are acquired or on order. Yeah, we’ll see how it all works out.

I think it will be fabulous. I’ll try to post pics of the final product.

Could never have done this without my pals.

Paint by Numbers

Someone called me a fashion plate last week.

Of course, I’ve also been called a trophy wife, which is even farther from the truth.

An actual “fashion plate” was the illustration placed in catalogs, newspapers or magazines, from the days when pictures were carved into metal plates and the image transferred with ink to paper. These then were the ads for clothing — the example of how something could look.

It’s easiest, when you first start trying to dress nicely, or more stylishly, to simply copy the images. Look at how the pros assemble an outfit and show your sincere admiration by imitating away. This can be daunting, however, unless you have an unlimited budget. That’s when you have to get creative. Not necessarily Molly Ringwald, I-can-sew-a-gorgeous-prom-dress-out-of-this-cheap-nasty-one-and-that-vintage-one creative, but being willing to play with clothes.

It’s really about being willing to try stuff out, being willing to take a risk. Combine separates and accessories in way that comes from your own head and not from a picture. And the thing about taking risks is that sometimes other people won’t approve. Much like being perceived as a trophy wife.

It was an older woman who called me that — in her late 50s/early 60s and frumpy with it. I mentioned that David is older than I am (by seven years) and that my stepchildren are now grown and I skipped the having babies part (but I helped raise them since they were five and seven years old). She looked at me — and I was dressed up for the conference, with my eye-catching dress and black wide-brimmed hat — and declared: “You are a trophy wife!”

Arm candy. Oh yeah.

The thing is, people are going to apply their labels regardless. For all that, maybe “fashion plate” is a decent one to get.

The Job You Want to Have

If you’re an artistic type, you probably got the link to author Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk on Ted.com about creativity and genius.

It’s an interesting talk, one worth listening to. That’s not what I’m hear to talk about. Today is cross-post day with the Fashionista blog.

So, we’re talking about Elizabeth’s outfit.

I know, I know. She’s a creative genius and doesn’t have extra brain matter to devote to fashion. Like it’s hard or something. One writer friend of mine — who put in hard time in the VERY fashion-conscious world of NYC’s big publishing houses — sent me this link and said “I’m concerned about her outfit.”

This is a big talk after all. In front of a large audience. Filmed, even. Take home story: if you’re going to appear on a ginormous screen, give some thought to the turtleneck/scraggy hair thing.

What’s that? Her appearance doesn’t matter because what’s important is what she thinks, says and writes? Oh but see, she is making a deliberate choice here. She’s going for the scruffy/academic/I-can’t-be-bothered-to-brush-my-hair look.

Everyone makes these choices and buys clothes accordingly. How you dress is a deliberate communication to other people of what you think is important about you.


Stephenie “I don’t care about the millions, I’m still just a Mormon housewife” Meyer.

Laurell K. “I think I’m a vampire” Hamilton

Stephen “I don’t care about the millions, I’m just a guy from New England” King

Jonathan “I’m just a scruffy academic, too. And kind of British with it, really” Franzen

Okay, okay, it’s a little snarky. And one day, when I’m a bestselling author and they snap a photo of me at the grocery store in 80’s leggings, a nasty t-shirt and my hair pushed back by what passes for a headband, you can reference this blog post and give me all the grief you want to.

But I can tell you this — if there’s a huge video screen involved, I’m going for professional make-up.

That’s MY genius.

Putting Your Money Where Your Wardrobe Is

I’ve created a clothing budget again.

This is noteworthy because I haven’t been “organized” about wardrobe acquisition in quite some time.

The first real budget I ever had though, was for clothes, bless my mother. When I was in high school, she converted to giving me a monthly allowance that I had to use to pay for all personal expenses — including all back to school shopping. This was intended to teach me fiduciary responsibility before I was off the leash in college and it worked to greater or lesser degrees. Yeah, I had a few tussles with the credit cards, damn their seductive shininess.

So, later, after I dug myself out of my grad school debt, I went on a strict budget. Which included $50/month to buy clothes. For those aghast that I would spend so little — this was nearly 20 years ago, so $50 went quite a bit further. Also, what I didn’t spend each month would roll over into the next month. Since I lived in the Land of No Malls, I sometimes would have as much as $300 by the time I got a chance to go shopping. Mad Money, indeed!

Now, for those who think that clothing should not be a budgetary line item, and I know who some of you are: the other reason I did this was to make sure that I was buying good quality clothing on a regular basis. I was starting to work in the professional world and my mother taught me to dress for the job I wanted to have. And I had high aspirations.

Still do, as a matter of fact.

Over time, as the cash flow improved, I abandoned the budget. And waxed and waned on how important I thought good clothes were. I have a tendency to keep stuff — yes, I still have clothes from high school, so what? — and so my wardrobe got huge and unweildy.

I also got somewhat huge and unweildy, myself.

Fat, that is. Alas.

Letting yourself blimp out is hell on the wardrobe, because you cease to care about what you put on your body, just so long as you can pretend you’re not really as fat as you’ve become. Denial can be an ugly thing. Soon you find your wardrobe consists of large drapey things and those cute clothes from your twenties? Stuffed in the back of the closet, staring at you in grave reproach.

Two things happened then. First, I saw The Devil Wears Prada. I know, I know — it sounds dumb. But I actually had to own the experience, which I seldom do. Sometimes I put in the DVD just to watch the fasion montage scenes. Call me shallow, but I was inspired.

I started to get rid of all the nasty, outdated and unflattering clothes. I gave David and my best friend carte blanche to tell me when something didn’t look good and then promptly got rid of it. And I went shopping. I read What Not to Wear and bought nice clothes that flattered my body as it was.

Then I got serious about losing weight.

This can also wreak hell on the wardrobe, because you don’t want to buy anything for fat you, and you’re not entirely sure where the new thinner you will come out, as far as size, or when that will be. Because real fat loss takes a freaking long time. Nearly two years for me now.

But I’m happy with my new size and shape. And I’ve decided it’s time to buy clothes again. So I have money set aside. $200/month now. It’s lovely to go shopping with a little money in your pocket — but only enough to encourage yourself to buy just a few key items.

Dressing for the me I want to be.

Steal It Back!

Today is Tuesday — you know what that means? We’re gonna have a special guest!!

Okay, not really. Though I will have a special guest later this month: author Candace Havens is doing a blog tour to promote her new release Dragons Prefer Blondes. I’ve told her she has to adhere to the themes of love, power, fairytale endings and being generally careful of what you wish for, since I, myself, am so scrupulous about it.

Actually, today is the 9th of the month, which means I cross-post with Sole Struck Fashions. Yes, that’s right: they have NO criteria for deciding fashionista eligibility.

In keeping with my new Sole Struck role — last month I extolled the many virtues of second-hand and vintage clothes — I have a new shopping tip today.

Check out a Police Auction!

No, it’s not just for stolen bicycles anymore.

Have you ever wondered, say, what became of Imelda Marcos’ 1,220 pairs of shoes? (Well, actually they made a museum of them — no, really. Though maybe it’s gone now, because the link they give for the museum itself doesn’t work. However, you can salve your shoe-museum craving here and here.) But what about all those other ill-gotten gains? Naturally there’s a website to auction them off, once they’ve served their time as evidence.

So, okay, these are cops, so the descriptions tend to say stuff like “Womens Shoes, 2 shoes.” It’s always a great find, when you can get two shoes at once. But they have pics, which you can enlarge to play detective like the little “Steal It Back!” guy — which you have to admit adds a bit to the thrill — and see that, yes! these are Ann Marinos.

The inventory changes rapidly, of course, with auctions finishing all the time.

But that Dolce & Gabbana leopard print jacket you just had to have and couldn’t afford? Yes, still available! Only just under eight hours left on this baby, at the time of posting. High bid is $82. A small price to pay to channel Marisa Tomei in Cousin Vinny.

For the entrepeneurs: no visit to the Property Room is complete without a thorough perusal of the bulk lots. These are the “fell off the back of the truck” stories. Current bid on 20 pairs of Aeropostale jeans valued at $960? $99! 50+ pieces of womens underwear going right now for $180! More Aeropostale jeans! And Aeropostale shirts! Actually a LOT of Aeropostale stuff. One begins to imagine the late-night highjacking of the Aeropostale tractor-trailer. A driving rain, a dark night… Is that a car broken down in the middle of the road? Oh no, it’s a trap! Take everything, just don’t kill us! But wait… the cops are here! Bright lights flashing. Except they take everything, too. Evidence, doncha know.

Actually, this is the site disclaimer, provided by the Office of Inappropriate Capitalizations:

Our company receives hundreds of packages from many sources every day. These Packages arrive From: Store Closures, Insurance Claims, Misguided & Unclaimed Freight, Post Office Undeliverable Packages, and Unclaimed Merchandise. In Many Cases we do not know the Origin of these goods. Where we do Know the Origin of the product we will Describe it in the Auction. All products are Vintage, Pre-owned or Antique.

Okay, “antique” may be stretching it, but the savvy shopper can find many great deals here. And make up the stories to go along with them.

Look, you can even get the pants to match!

Everything Old Is New Again

I started my affair with second-hand clothing when I was in high school.

My mother put me on an increased monthly allowance when I was sixteen. From that money I had to take care of my car, cover all expenses and buy all my clothes. This was intended to teach me financial responsibility. I also worked during the summers, but I was enough of a princess that my parents thought I should focus on studies during the school year and so I received a family scholarship.

My mother also taught me her shopping technique, which I use to this day: First go to the nicest stores, the boutiques, the designer shops, the Needless Mark-ups. Window shop to your heart’s content. Try everything on, even if it costs thousands of dollars. Find out what you really want. Then go to the discount stores and see if you can find something like it. Amazingly, I almost always could. Then, if there was something fancy and pricey you just HAD to HAVE — like Michelle’s much-dreamed-of Manolo Blahnik shoes — then you can splurge. One expensive accessory can make a whole outfit shine.

I went one step better and discovered the Goodwill stores. The Salvation Army stores. The vintage clothing stores. All of these bear fruit for the diligent shopper. The key again is to look for the basics, for the timeless pieces that form the foundation of your wardrobe. Then if you have to have, say the purple poet’s shirt with the 70s collar, pleated sleeves and over-sized cuffs (yes, I really had one!), then that can be a funky addition. While the Goodwill’s and Salvation Army’s require fortitude to find the jewel in the pile of kitty litter, the vintage stores require bravery and imagination.

Then I discovered consignment.

Sure, we all have been in consignment stores, where people either sell their clothing to the shop or have the shop sell it for them, less a percentage for the store. Some are better than others. I’m sharing my secret tips here:

1) Fnd the consignment stores the rich women patronize. The best consignment store I’ve ever been to was in West Palm Beach. They had GORGEOUS designer shoes with unscuffed labels on the soles. There was a Vera Wang gown that had been worn once. Many of the Glitterati Fashionistas wear something once and never again — who in that crowd wants to be seen in the same outfit twice? Whenever you’re on vacation, go to the ritzy part of town. You might not be able to afford to stay there, but you can sure as heck wander the streets. Find the consignment store. Plan to spend a few hours.

2) Know your seasons. In Colorado, the best strategy is to hit the ski town consignment stores at the end of the ski season. All those rich women with winter ski homes ditch clothes when they close up the vacation homes for the summer. After all, those are last season’s clothes now.

3) Visit the consignment stores near college campuses right after graduation. The college girls move out of the dorms and sorority houses; they have way more stuff than when they moved in: something has to go. Often it’s the fun and flirty stuff that mom won’t approve of — and will wonder how they could afford it. These are great places to find the trendy stuf. And for less than $10, you won’t care if it’s out of style in a few months.

4) Give back. Take your stuff to the local store and build up an account. Build up a friendship. My local gals know me and call me up when something from one of my favorite designers comes in. Nothing like having a mole where it counts!

5) Be proud of your second-hand clothes. This last week I had two readings and signings for an anthology I’m in: Going GreenTrue Tales from Gleaners, Scavengers, and Dumpster Divers. (Shameless Self-Promotion Alert!) In honor of our theme of unusual ways to recycle I wore all second-hand clothing to both events. People were frankly shocked that my very nice outfits were new only to me. It’s a good lesson. There are many ways to reuse. You can both save money and feel good about your contribution to the environment.

And look really cute, too. What more can you ask?

Chartreuse, anyone?

I posted on Facebook yesterday that I intended to go out and buy a new vacuum cleaner.

Yeah, in the grand scheme, it’s not interesting. But that’s what Facebook is for: daily inanity. The surprise was, as one friend commented, it became the most interesting thread on Facebook for the day. Lots of people chimed in with their favorite brands and what one really needed in a vacuum cleaner.

I bought my new labor-saving device, brought it home and completed the housework abruptly interrupted mid-carpet by the final, gasping death of the vacuum cleaner I’d been nursing along for years using, yes, duct tape. (Though I thought of it as “new,” my mother bought it for me when I started grad school, which I can’t avoid knowing was 20 years ago.) I posted a new note to Facebook that I was loving the new machine and was considering donning a frilly white apron and high heels. And I called it “lime green,” which I knew was wrong.

What I wanted to convey was the excessive fashionability of my new vacuum cleaner. In a very trendy color of green that I knew I knew the name of. My boss wears it all the time. I even Googled it, looking for synonyms for green, but couldn’t spot it. And after all, it’s only a Facebook post — who really cares if I say “lime green” or… well, I knew “chartreuse” was wrong. Ann Taylor! I thought. She’s all about this shade of green. I went to her site, entered “green” anything for a keyword to see what they called it:

Pesto. Seaweed. Pistachio.

No, really.

Is anyone else noticing a food theme here?

So, to hell with it, I posted my message about my “lime green” vacuum cleaner, not pesto, seaweed or pistachio. Then we discussed whether pearls go with sweats and no one mentioned whether my vacuum cleaner was a fashionable color or not.

Of course, I remembered it later that evening: celadon!

Which is, apparently, passe. I’m such a lousy fashionista. Celadon was probably in five years ago. But you’re talking to a woman here who thinks a 20-year-old vacuum cleaner is new. If I could wear the color celadon, I’d still have a bunch of it in my closet. I certainly wouldn’t swap it out for the more au courant seaweed, pistachio and pesto. Though, I must confess, I’d probably sneak in a few pieces of the new colors, to smarten things up.

Probably by the time this vacuum cleaner dies, 20 years from now, celadon will be in again. Or just coming into style.

I try to stay ahead of the trends.