Dressing the part of Murder

One of my favorite times on the recent tour for Murder of Mary Russell was the launch, when friends near and far gathered to celebrate the publication–and to admire the amazing donning of Victorian garb by Caroline Bellios, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Fashion and assistant director of the Fashion Resource Center at SAIC.

I got in touch with Professor Bellios when I was looking for a fun way to launch the book, and a search for Victorian cosplay enthusiasts that began with The Victorian Society of Chicago ended up with a whole lot more.

Professor Bellios started off dressed in her combinations, stockings, and shoes (once you put on a corset, you don’t want to be bending to fasten your shoes…)CB combinations

She laced on her corset with the assistance of her sister, Joanna Bellios Wozniak, playing the role of lady’s maid. First Caroline worked the front hooks of the busk, then let out her breath while the laces in back were drawn tight, after which she could tie the long strings. She noted that those corsets we see in museums, which give rise to the belief that all Victorian women had 20″ waists, would in fact not have been laced all the way together, but instead would be separated by a few inches. (Which may be something of a relief, although that doesn’t account for those tiny shoes one also sees…)

CB corset front fastening

CB corset lacing





CB lacing corset

Then came the petticoat–which in 1879, the year Clara Hudson meets Sherlock Holmes, would have been relatively straight, since the fashion was for the long line rather than the exaggerated hips of the crinoline era.

CB petticoat goind on

CB petticoat

It was followed by the underskirt and the skirt itself, with ruffles (removable for cleaning–the streets were filthy!)

CB overskirt

CB overskirt going on

After the skirts came a many-buttoned bodice

CB fastening bodice

then the jacket with its long, snug sleeves.CB putting on jacket

In 1879, hoops were long gone and even bustles were (temporarily) in abeyance, replaced by ruffles that emphasized the smooth front and dramatic back line of the skirt:CB showing back of skirt

We now added a hat:

..and with a small reticule fastened to her wrist, had the very model of the Victorian lady, out to conquer the world:

CB fully dressed

Professor Bellios even brought a few actual vintage garments, including gorgeously delicate silk 1920s undergarments, and a Victorian corset and pair of bustles, one with wires, the other composed of tightly-stuffed linen rolls (horsehair, probably).bustles

This really was a thrill, and I owe a Victorian boat-load of thanks to Caroline and her sister, to Anderson’s at Naperville, and to long-time friend of Russell and photographic genius John Bychowski, who took all these photos except the last.  (John is also a moderator in the Book Club.)

Finally, if you’d like to add a couple of pages to your meditative coloring book, a page illustrating a lady’s Victorian garments is here, with its 1925 counterpart here.

Happy Birthday, Bill!

Today (or yes, maybe Tuesday…) is the birthday for the man who changed the English language, William Shakespeare.  There’s a fascinating article over on the New York Post about the near-disappearance of all that genius (thanks to The Passive Guy for the link), where only the determination (and financial commitment) of two friends led to the publication of the Folios.

By the 1620s, his plays were no longer being performed in theaters. On the day he died, no one — not even Shakespeare himself — believed that his works would last, that he was a genius or that future generations would hail his writings.

He hadn’t even published his plays — during his lifetime they were considered ephemeral amusements, not serious literature. Half of them had never been published in any form and the rest had appeared only in unauthorized, pirated versions that corrupted his original language.

Sobering, especially for those of us publishing in the digital era, electronics being the very definition of ephemera…

And speaking of The Bard of Avon, many of us in Santa Cruz were saddened when our longtime annual event, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, lost its support and its home at UCSC. And perhaps even more of us were heartened when news came that a new venue had been found, with a new name: Santa Cruz Shakespeare.Build-the-Grove-Header-Image-Hastag

They’re building a new home, deep inside De La Veaga Park, which is only a couple of miles from my front door!  Suitably enough, the first season will be blessed with Midsummer Night’s Dream (always best in an out-of-doors venue) as well as Hamlet and Virginia Woolf’s gender-bending Orlando.

My friend Lisa Jensen (author of the fantastic Alias Hook) has a fuller blog post about the building process, here.  And Santa Cruz Shakespeare will keep us up on their progress here.  Send them a donation, if you’re interested in keeping The Bard in Surf City.

See you in the forest of Athens, with Puck and the wedding-goers…

Against violence

I’m involved with a fundraiser and program to help stop violence against women.

First, there’s a Russell Basket.uguxltcadxbmpwejuzxe

This includes a signed hardback of The Murder of Mary Russell, a copy of Dreaming Spies, and one of the gorgeous big Dreaming Haiku posters, all in a handsome Random House book bag.  They’re requesting a $75 donation, and it’s not a raffle or drawing, it’s first come first gone, and there are only ten: for details, go here.

Second, I’ll be doing a Google Hangout on Sunday night.event_theme

That’s right, you can watch and chat while I visit you in the comfort of your own home (no, you don’t need to tidy up first, or even get out of your pyjamas.)  There’s various instructions, but if I can handle it, I’m sure you can.  That’s Sunday night, 8:30 Eastern Time, and we can all sit around with our Easter baskets and compare who got the best chocolate eggs.  For details, click here.

Beekeeper scarf

Back before Christmas, I mentioned here that the Goodreads community were feeling out interest in a Beekeeper’s Apprentice “infinity scarf“.  Well, it’s taken a while, but the good lady who makes the things has put up a sales link, for a limited edition, limited-time sale of the scarf.  It is printed with the beginning of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, and although I haven’t seen one left, I have to say it looks really lovely.10248_10153572954260838_3378102928816085422_n

The sales link is here. I’d recommend you not wait too long….

On the map

I got a fab present in the mail the other day: I’m on the map!


The artist said it was hard to choose one of the Russell stories, but in the end he was so taken by the secret exit from Mycroft’s flat, that he worked The Language of Bees into it–see it just above “The Greek Interpreter”?London map:LOB

The map comes from the Literary Gift Company, here. It also has these great mugs–literally-grammar-grumble-mug-no.-5-choose-material-bone-48816-p[ekm]150x150[ekm] less-or-fewer-grammar-grumble-mug-no.1-choose-bone-48982-p[ekm]150x150[ekm]






But honestly? I wish I had a newborn in the family so I’d have an excuse to get this onesie:a-modest-proposal-babygro-3378-p[ekm]250x250[ekm]



Space travel is cool

These NASA/JPL posters are just the coolest thing ever.  They make me want to make over my guest room into a space center. Or maybe my own bedroom. earth-small



Ah, the romance of space travel. I’ll bet the artists read Have Space Suit, Will Travel when they were kids.

They’re free for the printing and using, here.

(And thanks, Boing Boing!)


A puzzling magazine

Mystery Scene is a favorite of the crime community, edited by longtime friend Kate Stine.142cover465

They often run crossword puzzles, and this month’s, by Verna Suit, is “Sherlock Holmes: A Case of Identity” so I thought, hey, let’s see how many holes I have in my knowledge. Can you see which one I got wrong?


5 Down–”The Reigate __” by 49D [Arthur Conan Doyle]–has the same number of spaces as the other possible answer, “SQUIRE” but in fact it’s the story’s alternative title, “PUZZLE.” I had to look up “Alaska’s first governor” (10 Across) and guessed at another couple, and I admit that 32 Across baffled me until I thought about it long and hard. (“Prefer and differ endings” means…ENCES. Can one groan pun-like for crossword clues?)

But number 63 Across? That one I got right away.clues

Russell infinity scarf

The Book Club folk have asked me to post here on Mutterings to see if anyone else might be interested in joining their order for a Mary Russell Infinity Scarf, from an Etsy seller.  Here’s the Sherlock Holmes one, with a page of Hound of the Baskervilles running along it:


This wouldn’t be until after the first of the year, though presumably while it’s still chilly here in the northern hemisphere. If you’re interested, either pop over to Goodreads and join the discussion, or post a comment here and I’ll be in touch when the order has been placed. They’ll be around $42, I’d guess shipping added. (Oh, and it’ll probably be the opening of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.)


Fun Times with Laurie!

Every so often we add Fun Stuff to the web site. Such as a one-page Russell & Holmes colo(u)ring book (click to link) with scenes from the Memoirs:R&H colouring book

Or panels for the ongoing Russellscape:

by Sabrina Flynn

by Sabrina Flynn


by Sara McLelland

by Sara McLelland


by Laurie King (really? yeah–it's a collage.Thus proving anyone can do one of these Russellscape panels.)

by Laurie King (really? yeah–it’s a collage.Thus proving anyone can do one of these Russellscape panels.)

Well, here’s a new project to madden you:DS balloon

The Dreaming Spies origami balloon. To go along with the book discussion guide and the Pinterest page and the book trailer and…well, those are all here.

We had fun with it at the Friends of Russell dinner in Raleigh last week, and now it’s yours, too.

If you succeed, send me a photo!