Vicarious Competence, or Things I Can’t Do

posted by Nancy
Today Barbara Monajem joins us to celebrate the release of her second book, Tastes of Love and Evil.

One of the cool things about writing books is making your characters do things you can’t. In my first paranormal romance, Sunrise in a Garden of Love & Evil, the heroine is a landscaper. The only things I can grow successfully are grass (by not mowing it) and wisteria (which is actually a demon in disguise and needs no help at all). It was fun writing about someone who could not only garden, but conquer. 🙂
For my new release, Tastes of Love & Evil, I chose another skill I don’t have: costume and fabric design and construction. Oh, I can sew reasonably well – I made clothing for my daughters when they were young, and some of the dresses were pretty cute – but as for coming out with anything elaborate or original… in my dreams. Or stories! Rose Fairburn, the vampire heroine, designs and constructs all kinds of cool costumes, and in Tastes, she’s in the process of finishing and delivering an Elizabethan gown to her customer. The costume is based on the one Elizabeth I wears in this picture.

Isn’t it scrumptious? I can’t imagine even beginning to construct something like this! Fortunately, Rose can, and does. She also designs and makes her own gorgeous, artsy fabric. My inspiration for Rose’s fabric was the work of Australian artist Dale Rollerson. I first saw Ms. Rollerson’s work in an issue of Quilting Arts magazine. These photos show the fabric I found so inspiring. You can see more examples of her fabulous artwork in her gallery at The Thread Studio.

I couldn’t resist trying something of the sort myself. (One would think, by now, that I would know better, but… sigh.) Just so you know how far I got with trying to make fabric myself (you can start laughing now), the article in Quilting Arts mentions using water-soluble stabilizer while constructing your fabric. Afterward, it washes right out.

I went to a Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store and bought myself a yard of it. I couldn’t find the stiff kind Ms. Rollerson recommended, so I got whatever they had, which had a consistency somewhat like interfacing and would (I guess) need a hoop. (I have hoops from back in the days when I did a lot of cross-stitch.)

Anyway, I held it in my hot little hands while looking at yarn. By the time I got to the register, the part touching my hand already had a hole in it. I now had proof positive of how well this stuff disintegrates. I brought it home and put it away someplace. I have a feeling if I look for it now, I won’t find it. My house is so humid it has probably evaporated long since. Rose, of course, knows how to buy, hold, store, and use it perfectly.

Here’s an excerpt from Tastes of Love and Evil. Jack, the hero (a sort of human chameleon, by the way – no, he doesn’t look like a lizard; actually, he’s cute in an unobtrusive sort of way, and he can literally fade into the background), has just been shot by some bad guys, and although Rose doesn’t know him (she thinks of him as some random man), she’s given him her hotel room key so he can take refuge. But the bad guys are posing as feds, and they’re searching the hotel.

The room was empty.

No, it just appeared to be. “I told you there was no one here.” Her nostrils quivering, every sense alert, Rose scanned the bed, the curtains, the embroidered mantle draped on a chair, the Elizabethan gown on the luggage cart. “Now get out of my room!”

The gunman ignored her, ducking in and out of the bathroom, glancing into the closet, going efficiently through every hiding place. Warmer, cried Rose’s senses, warmer, warmer, damn, oh God please no, as he shoved past the luggage cart to the window, and then as he returned, colder, warmer, colder, where the hell is the man? One-handed, the fake fed lifted the mattress and box spring, but no one was concealed underneath.

Sirens cried in the distance, and a second later the gunman’s phone squawked a warning. He left without looking back.

Rose retrieved her breakfast, double-locked the door, and scanned the room. Aha. She’d seen this phenomenon once before. She knew Random Man was in the room, somewhere near the window. “They’ve gone,” she said softly. “You can come out now. You need to have that wound tended.”

Nothing. Where was he?

“I brought coffee and doughnuts.” She put the food on the table. “I’d be happy to share, once we’ve patched you up.” Pause. “I know you’re here. I can hear you breathing.”


“I can smell you,” Rose said, her voice rising, tendrils of allure escaping. You and your blood. “I’m here to help, you fool!”

Still nothing. Or maybe…a faint shimmer, like heat rising in summer air, over on the luggage cart, right by the Elizabethan gown. Damn it, thought Rose. If he stains that costume… Anger coupled with the aroma of blood overwhelmed her senses, and her fangs slotted down. Purposely this time, she directed her allure toward the luggage cart. Another shimmer, instantly controlled, and then absolute stillness.

No more pussyfooting around. She smiled and sent a wave of allure crashing across the room. Random Man resolved into view, gold and tan and brown blending with the dress, then gradually reacquiring his own muted shape and colors, blue denims and Saints jacket, nondescript but definitely all there.

“God help me,” Random Man said. “Not another vamp.”

For more about Barbara and her books, check out her website.

Which skill or talent do you wish you had? What have you tried and failed at? (Or succeeded at, of course.:))

One lucky commenter will receive a signed copy of Sunrise in a Garden of Love & Evil.

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