Keeping a Character in Stitches

I make a lot of my own clothes and some of my husband’s. Why? Oh, lots of reasons. There’s the social justice thing – not supporting the sweat shop culture perpetrated by cheaply made clothes. Also, I like doing it. It’s creative and can be very interesting.

Now, don’t get too excited. I did not say I’m that good at it. I know too many people whose skills outstrip my own several times over. It’s just something I do. Okay?

It’s not that I’m disparaging myself, mind you. I’m happy to accept praise for my cooking, and my writing. It’s just kind of embarrassing when people gush about something that I’m not that good at. Trust me. I have never sewn a straight seam in my life. My topstitching is chronically crooked, and you do not want to know how many outfits I’ve had to give away because they didn’t fit, or because, like the last shirt I made for my husband, I put the sleeves on backwards.

What is interesting, in regards to the purpose of this forum, is how my interest in fabrics and needle crafts creeps into most of my writing. For example, in the 1920s, Freddie and Kathy series, when I had to figure out what industry had made Freddie Little’s family so extremely wealthy, I chose the textile industry. Aside from the fact that it is one of the oldest industries in the U.S., and Freddie is from Old Money, it’s something I like.

For the Old Los Angeles series, yes, Maddie Wilcox is a winemaker because my husband makes wine and I wanted a character that did, too. But Maddie is also a clothes horse – she will describe everyone’s outfits before she’ll describe anything else. I love historical clothing.

Then there’s the character who actually sews: Lisa Wycherly. Lisa and Sid Hackbirn have been a part of my life since 1982, when I first started writing That Old Cloak and Dagger Routine. It’s kind of a cozy spy novel, extended romance, occasional murder mystery series. I’m working on re-writing it now. The first four books are available now, and I’m getting book five, Sad Lisa, ready to appear on my personal blog for my Friday fiction serial. In fact, it will debut on December 6.

The thing is, as Lisa came to life, I wanted her to have a family and interests of her own. Sid doesn’t have any family and his hobby is sleeping around. Lisa, who is still a virgin and likely to stay that way for her own reasons, needed a life apart from being a member of a top-secret organization within the FBI. So, Lisa is religious, like me, and she sews and knits, although at the time I wrote her, I was not nearly as advanced a knitter as she is. Nor was I that advanced at sewing, either.

Which is kind of creating a problem now that I’m re-writing the series. You see, I’ve left it set in the original time that I wrote it. Why not? I’ve got all the dialogue and slang. A lot of the daily life details are all in the text, so I don’t have to hunt them down as much. Only there are some details that aren’t in the original text that I want to add. I’m trying to remember when I got my overlock machine, for example. Also known as a serger, they were around during the early to mid-80s, but mostly in industrial settings. My only problem is that if I didn’t get mine until the early 90s, having Lisa use one when it’s only 1984 would be bad.

Will I do another character who sews? I don’t know. I might. It would work well in the cozy world, in general. On the other hand, I do have one additional character in the queue who makes wine. I want to get that series started first. And, in the meantime, I am continuing to develop my sewing skills. Like remembering to put the sleeves on the shirt in the right direction. Sigh.

Anne Louise Bannon Would Like to Introduce Herself, But…

Photo of Anne Louise Bannon's desktop to illustrate why she's writing such a quick introduction.Is it the Third Thursday already? Shavings! (Note to self, check to see why reminders didn’t pop up). (Note to self, stop ignoring your reminders).

Hi, I’m Anne Louise Bannon. I’m supposed to be introducing myself, and my intent was to offer you a breezy little look at who I am, introduce you to the household critters, that sort of thing.

Only I’d really rather be working on my novel right now. It’s at that place where things are falling together, even though I’m really annoyed about having to off an otherwise inoffensive, nice guy of a character because it’s better for the plot.

And it’s not like I don’t have other distractions. We all do. I have a house that I need to help keep liveable, and while the dust generally waits around here, my feet sticking to the floor must be dealt with. And my husband needs clean shirts – only fair since he does the dishes. Plus the dog wants out again. The cats, as usual, can’t make up their minds, and the more I want them to, the longer they take to do it. Plus there’s the money gig which needs attention – I’ve gotten rather fond of eating, you know.

So, this is going to be quick. I’m Anne. I write the Freddie and Kathy series, set in the 1920s, the Old Los Angeles series, set in 1870 (the novel I want to get back to is the third in this one). I have a lovely husband, one adult daughter, and the critters, who I name because they don’t have the same privacy issues the kid and the spouse do. TobyWan is our basset/beagle mix. There’s the older cat Sadie, who should be Medusa, and the two young cats, Xanax and Benzedrine. There is a story behind the names, but that will have to wait until next month or some other time.

I need to get back to Death of the Chinese Field Hands. Maddie is in full interrogation mode and I need to write that.