Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist


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Steampunk Spotlight: Folly Blaine

Steampunk Spotlight is back, woop! *begins waltzing* Today, I’m interviewing Ms. Folly Blaine, a cheerful writer of Lovecraftian short fiction, fantasy and horror. To view her entire bibliography, see her website – her latest short story is a steampunk piece about steampunk shape-shifters in the Gears and Growls Anthology.

Welcome to the blog, Folly. :) What inspired you to start writing Steampunk-esque short stories?

I love the whole Steampunk aesthetic–the costumes, the Victorian setting, the whole alternate history aspect. And I love that Steampunk encourages its fans to interact in the real world and create amazing costumes and contraptions.  Specifically for my short story though, “The Man at the End of the Chain” that just came out in the anthology, Beast Within 4: Gears and Growls, I was also inspired by the anthology’s theme: shapeshifters with Steampunk technology incorporated into their bodies. That was a fun challenge, and it let me go a little dark with the subject matter, which I like.

You have written a lot of horror fiction. Does your writing process differ between writing Steampunk and the horror genre?

Mostly I just try to tell an interesting story. But in terms of process, horror is about the mood of the piece, the sense of dread I want the reader to experience. Steampunk focuses on the setting and historical perspective. So the main difference for me between writing Steampunk and horror, is that writing horror is about pacing and mood, while Steampunk requires more research, more historical context. I particularly recommend Henry Mayhew’s excellent book, London Labour and the London Poor, as a primary source of information.

Alt-history fantasy has expanded into a whole umbrella of genres, including Dieselpunk and Atompunk. What, in your opinion, is a vital attribute of a Steampunk setting or story?

All of these genres are about asking what if—what if this event or events had gone just a little differently–and it’s so satisfying to ask that question. For me, Steampunk is specifically about expanding the genre of Victorian-era science-fiction, and exploring a vision of what the world could have been technology-wise, if say, Charles Babbage’s steam-powered computer (Analytical Engine) had been built 170 years ago. Also, I think it’s important not to limit the “what if’s” to a Victorian England perspective, but taking the whole globe into consideration. 

How did you go about building your Steampunk world? Were any aspects stronger/more well formed than others when you started writing?

For “The Man at the End of the Chain,” I began with the single image of an organ grinder and built the story from there. My story is about a were-capuchin, basically a woman that can shift into a monkey and is forced to work for an organ grinder in her capuchin form, and based on that initial image, I did a lot of research about organ grinders during the time period, as well as therianthropy – shapeshifting ability. I was interested in playing with the idea of a seventh daughter of a seventh daughter and using that to explain the main character’s shapeshifting ability, and I was also interested in cemeteries. So based on all of those images, I did some research, connected the dots, and out came this story.

A capuchin monkey. Cute, eh?

 

That’s amazing! I love how much thought you’ve put into even a short story. Do you participate in other parts of the Steampunk genre/lifestyle or only the writing side of Steampunk? 

I’ve attended an annual Steampunk convention called SteamCon in Bellevue, WA, which I enjoyed a lot. Mostly though I’ve focused on the writing side. I’ve never been great at assembling the amazing costumes others put together, but I’m happy to admire their creativity from afar.

Hehe, me neither. Any advice to readers and/or writers just getting into the Steampunk genre?

For writers, it’s a good idea to read inside and outside of the genre. Check out the Mayhew book I mentioned earlier for historical context. Look for critique groups or beta readers who can give you honest feedback. For readers, my introduction to the genre was The Steampunk Bible by Jeff VanderMeer and S.J. Chambers, and that was helpful for giving me a high-level understanding of the genre. Most recently I’ve enjoyed reading the Steampunk webcomic, Girl Genius, by Phil and Kaja Foglio.

Readers, I’d recommend the comic, too. Folly, what’s the future for your writing? What are your current goals?

I attended the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle, WA, over the summer and came out of that experience with six new short stories. I need to finish revising them and send those out. Lately, I’ve been narrating and mastering audiobooks for other people, which has been pretty rewarding.  And I just had another short story come out, “Arkquarium,” in a Lovecraft-inspired anthology called That Ain’t Right: Historical Accounts of the Miskatonic Valley. That story takes places in modern times and is about a strange creature that wreaks havoc at the Arkham Arquarium.

Tell us something interesting about your current Steampunk-y WIP. 

I’m working on a short story about a female mad scientist exiled to Prague in the late 1800s. Well, she doesn’t think of herself as mad, but there’s definitely something wrong with her. 

Ooh, thanks for joining me, Folly. These are great answers :)

Find Folly Blaine on Twitter. You can learn more about her on her blog about page, Maybe it was the Moonshine.


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Photo of the Week: Framed

“I’m totally going to keep up with my blog,” she said on Friday. Hahaha, don’t make me laugh, last week!Alex. I’m still catching up with my life. At least I can cross off ‘type up: fiction’, ‘pitchMAS’ and ‘sort room’. Uhh, maybe not that last one.

Today’s photo I took on my walk around campus today. It’s of one of the bridges, and I tried experimenting with the framing effect of the bridge ‘walls’. (The end photo is looking through the walls onto the lake, where I also played about with seeing as how the black-and-white filter synogised with the framing effect.) I was pretty proud with the selection of photos I ended up taking…plus a bunch of squirrel-blurs as the fluffy dears ran from me.

AlexB_WhiteknightsBridge

As such, though, I don’t know my plan for this week. You might get a whole bunch of posts; you might get none. Some of my goals for the holidays:

> Clean room

> Type up

> Continue editing WTCB

> Edit/second draft of Horology

> Write something new?

AlexB_bwbridge


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The Ultimate Book Tag

Because procrastinating is fun, I present an ultimate book tag I found on Musings From Neville’s Navel, woop.

  1. Do you get sick while reading in the car?

I do. I also get sick when playing handheld games. Weirdly, though, I don’t get sick when writing on journeys, be that on my phone or on paper.

  1. Which author’s writing style is completely unique to you and why?

Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler’s. I am amazed at how post-modern his writing is and how he encompasses the entire lore of the Snicket world. But, at the same time, it’s great reading, and a story that deals with the morality line in good versus evil, family, and tragic loss. I can imagine that the sort of post-modernism would be rejected by so many agents; it’s such a hard genre to pull off, but somehow, Handler perfects it and creates a genuinely great set of series for YA.

  1. The Harry Potter series or the Twilight Saga? Give three points to defend your answer.

If I had to pick, it would be Harry Potter series. Aside from not liking paranormal romance, so Twilight loses anyway, the bildungsroman nature of seeing Harry mature is effective and worth emphasising with. What I mean is that it’s easy to relate to, and, regardless of JK’s style (which I don’t particularly like nowadays), the books inspired an entire society of people striving to be more like Harry/Ron/Hermione/Lupin/Snape/etc.

  1. Do you carry a book bag? If so, what’s in it? (Besides books!)

Not anymore. I did my entire primary/elementary school life – in it was also my recorder and my music book for recorder.

  1. Do you smell your books?

Yes. New book smell is transmuted from Heaven. :)

  1. Books with or without little illustrations?

I tend to go with books without, but I really depends on whether these are mid-page, beginning or end of chapter, or whatever. Of course, the quality of the writing matters more.

  1. What book did you love while reading but discovered later that it wasn’t quality writing?

I’m going to lift Nevillegirl’s answer and also say: Dare I say Harry Potter? |It’s great when one is, like, seven, but I prefer the first film (for nostalgia) to the first book nowadays. Also the chapter books Rainbow Magic. They were so addictive and quick to read that I ate them up, but they were are mass-produced at a ridiculous rate and, frankly, I was too old for them anyway.

  1. Do you have any funny stories involving books from your childhood? Please share!

    Uhh, no I don’t think I do, and even if I did, I wouldn’t want to share. My childhood featured a lot of cringy books. Let me refer you to the above answer.

  2. What is the thinnest book on your shelves?

I’m gonna go by my uni shelf/mantelpiece, since I can’t look to my Oxford bookcase(s). The thinnest fiction book is The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie.

  1. What is the thickest book on your shelves?

The complete Lewis Carroll collection. And a Roget’s Thesaurus. ;)

  1. Do you write as well as read? Do you see yourself as an author in the future?

That’s the point of the blog. ;)

  1. When did you get into reading?

Uhh, I don’t know. Since I learnt to read? I still remember sounding out the word ‘the’. :P

  1. What is your favorite classic book?
    Far From the Madding Crowd is always very sweet to read and Thomas Hardy’s writing is very elegant.
  2. In school, was your best subject English?

Nope. My best subject was Religious Studies, closely followed by Latin. So, I guess we’ve got some language and humanities in there. When I was in lower years, my best subject was actually Science. I was top of my class.

  1. If you were given a book as a present that you had read before and hated…what would you do?

    Of course, I’d never outwardly tell the giver I despised the book. Instead, I’d do the smiling and nodding thing, before shelving the book (or my equivalent, which might be putting it into a literal tbr pile). One day, I might give it another chance.

  2. What is a lesser-known series that you know of that is similar to Harry Potter or The Hunger Games?

    [elboz1.jpg]Well, it won’t be a dystopian, that’s for sure, since I don’t like those. So…magical YA. Actually, I’m not sure how many people know of the A Handful of Magic series by Stephen Elboz. I haven’t read this trilogy since I first read them as a child, but I remember them being sparkly. For a more mature audience who don’t mind their heroines pointy-eared, Lisa Shearin’s Raine Benares series is great fantasy that has a facetious side.

 

  1. Besides rambling, what is a bad habit you always have while blogging?

Rushing, probably. Sometimes I just don’t feel like putting my effort/heart into writing blog posts when I’d rather be editing or researching.

  1. What is your favorite word?
    Supercalifragulicisticexpeali– Just kidding. My favourite word changes, often on a weekly basis. This week, it’s been ‘conniving’. As in ‘his conniving brother, Rion’.
  2. Are you a nerd, dork, or dweeb? Or all of the above?

A nerd, I think. I’m one of the ones that knows everything about nothing, makes up random theories, and always jams my glasses further up my nose!

  1. Vampires or fairies? Why?

Fairies! I don’t like vampires and I’ve read a tonne of fairy fiction in my life to warrant that I like them better. To mind come: The 13 Treasures (Michelle Harrison), The Faerie Wars Chronicles (Herbie Brennan) and I grew up with The Flower Fairies books by Cicely Mary Barker, which were more artwork and profiles than fiction.

  1. Shapeshifters or angels? Why?

Mmmm. Shapeshifters, I guess. They interest me more than angels because angels I feel don’t have much to work with in term of supernatural/paranormal quality, whereas ‘shapeshifter’ implies any kind of polymorph ability, and so one could extrapolate the ideas and run with a lot there.

  1. Spirits or werewolves? Why?

I don’t really like werewolves, but then I’ve never been into that side of the vampires-v-werewolves debate either. Actually, I rather like ghost/spirit stories, especially those that aren’t [straight up] horror, or where the ghost is something other than the spirit of a deceased human. Doctor Who anyone?

  1. Zombies or vampires?

Uh. Uhh. Uhh… I can’t choose. I’m not a fan of either. Can’t people just die and stay dead, please?

  1. Love triangle or forbidden love?

Forbidden love. But not in a corny or clichéd way. I have been known to write love triangles, but I’d prefer to read something that moved away from the norm. I have written some occasions of forbidden love, too, though. In WTCB, for instance, there is master-servant forbidden love, and in A Game of Murder, Alé and Chris keep their love a secret from their mistress because servants cannoodling just wasn’t the done thing!

  1. Full on romance books or action-packed with a few love scenes mixed in?

Can’t I have both? *opens Kindle app* Too Close to Resist (Nicole Helm) is contemp romance; Unteachable (Leah Raeder) is YA romance; I know I have a couple of YA romance books back in Oxford as well as a hang-over from my childhood. Most of the books on my Kindle app are my SFF books, as they’re my style, setting and plot research reading. Also because they’re cheaper as Kindle books. :P But some, like the Parasol Protectorate Series (Gail Carriger) and Moro’s Price (MC Hana) are more than just a little romancy. ;)

If you want to do this tag, feel free to pass it on! :)


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7 Quick Takes about Pushing through Exams, Carol Massing, and Twitter Pitching

Term is over! Let’s take a moment to flail about like 150-year-old musical automatons, then we can get back to the post.

7 Quick Takes Friday is now hosted by This Ain’t the Lyceum.

~1~

Wondering why I’m doing so much flailing for simply finishing my academic work? Well, today I had an exam (which I found out is worth 35% of the module), yesterday I had an exam, Monday I had an exam. Oh, and I had two essays due in for Thursday. I have been off-my-feet-in-work busy this week, and it is such a relief to be able to get back to writing work again. Hence, why I don’t intend to go back to my pre-uni accommodation for another week or so. I need to catch up with my own life first.

~2~

Conversely, this week has been such a boost for my singing. Not to mention that The Tea Sergeant and I work wonders on each other’s self-confidence. Without saying too much for his sake, I’ll simply add that there are bizarrely striking similarities between Chris and I and the characters Lucas and Andrea from my romance novel Triangle.

Will Lucas and Andrea end up together?

~3~

I also believe this week has been warming for my faith. I sang the psalm for the Carol Mass on Sunday, and, despite the tremolo that snuck into my voice, I got a few compliments, particularly for my use of intensity/volume, afterwards. I may forget to pray or read the Catechism every day, but I know God has already forgiven my falling short. More so, I’m more readily trusting what He is doing for me. As part of a Bible studies/ecumenical faith group I attend, I wrote down at the beginning of term what I was really pining for, and, out of the unlikeliness, He offered me the positive escape from the pain I have been feeling from the last couple of years.

~4~

Remember I mentioned last week that the Chamber Choir were singing carols for the campus winter wonderland? Reading Uni TV (RUON) uploaded their video summary of it. I am in one frame in my lovely purple coat. :P (At 1.40 if you’re interested.)

~5~

Other than that, I haven’t had the time for much else. We had our Swing Dance Christmas social on Wednesday – a social which, despite the name, involved no dancing. It was fun to get to know a little more about the other members of the society. And I was flattered by suggestions of my age as old as 25! xD

~6~

No weekly writing update, due to the aforementioned stuff, but I have been working on my Twitter pitches. WTCB is kind of making me proud.

~7~

Christmas is shockingly soon. It crept up on me. Do you know what your writer wants? Young writer Lucy Saxon offers some ideas.

Ooh, weird and shiny things. :)

Until next time, friends. Have a lovely weekend.


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Six ways to have a greener Christmas

Alexandrina Brant:

Six great tips from the CAFOD agency blog about how to waste less at Christmas – useful regardless of faith. To make the planet a more efficient and healthy home, we must do as much as we can to look after it, especially at Christmas, when it seems that excessiveness is praised, sometimes even explicitly. Besides, being resourceful and creative can also be great fun!

Originally posted on CAFOD blog:

Our Web Editor, Ffion Dean, has been thinking of ways to have a more eco friendly Christmas.

Ffion celebrating Christmas 2012

Ffion celebrating Christmas 2012

Christmas time is full of great joy and happiness, a time to relax and to spend time with our loved ones. But it’s also a time when we create a huge amount of waste – an estimated  736,571 tonnes each year in Britain alone! This year, CAFOD’s Advent calendar follows the story of Sinteyo, a woman living with the effects of a changing climate in rural Kenya, and offers some ideas about how we can all make changes in our lives to help our planet.

But what can we do to try and have a greener Christmas?

1. Wrapping paper

One year I challenged my family to cover their presents without using any newly purchased paper.

My mum bought a roll of fabric, cut it into different sizes and…

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Paper Fury’s Party Blogger Tag

To celebrate Cait G Drews’ new blog – from NotebookSisters to PaperFury, she’s hosting a party. Yay, party! Cait created this ‘BOUT THIS BLOGGER (yes, the caps are very necessary!) tag for everyone to participate in. Yay, again!

  1. Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging because of That Fantasy Blog. Back in 2011, bloggers Alex and Jamie made a call for writers for a charity ebook, Scream For Charity. Since they were looking for dark, horror or thriller stories, I decided to rewrite the nighttime scene from my YA murder mystery novel, Of Jackets and Phones. My 7-thousand-word short about a girl called Athena who may or may not have killed the man she was obsessed with – A Rosary, a Fume Cabinet and a Music Book – was accepted and praised. During the editing process, we got to know each other, and the topic came to blogs. Whilst, I argued, I had no idea what to blog about, the guys eventually convinced me to start one.

And, as they say, the rest is history.

2. What’s the story behind your blog’s name?

Simple, really: it’s my name. I didn’t know what to call the blog, so it made sense to go with something that I knew was me – my name. As you may see, the URL is still missalexandrinabrant, because I didn’t associate myself with the moniker Miss Alexandrina until over half a year after beginning when people started calling me it. Quite in a happy coincidence, when I started getting into traditionalism, formality, and steampunk, having the Miss before my name suited me well. (Just don’t call me Missy!)

3. How many designs have you been through since you started blogging? (Pictures! We demand pictures!)

Three…? I think. Let’s get this out here now: I am not an artist. Nor am I a programmer or anyone with the time/interest in programming. I’ve been using WordPress’ themes and swapping between them when one gets stale. If I can, I go for readability. I started with quite a dark background and a simple theme to get the hang of it, but later, sticking with the greeny colour-schemes I moved to my previous one – the one with an apple on the top. After a while, though, I realised the narrow central column was making posts look a lot longer than they were and making font smaller. We hence got the theme you see now, all wide and white and green (colour choices mine to match the photograph from my meadow portfolio). The one thing I don’t like about this theme is that the automatic font colour is this odd off-grey…

I had no pictures, though I’m pretty sure daffodils were a colour feature at some point…

IMAG7661

Actually, for Miss Alexandrina’s third birthday, I’ve got some exciting redesign ideas in progress.

4. Have you ever switched blog platforms? What made you move? If you haven’t ever changed…why?

Nope. Reason: I like the smoothness and accessibility between blogs of WordPress.

5. How long does it take you to write a post? What’s your postly process like?

It depends what the content is and how alert I am. Right now, I’m speed-writing this because I have Quidditch training in less than an hour and things on the rest of the evening and night. Other posts, though, can take up to two hours to purely write and edit, especially if there’s research or referencing involved. I always write first, then proofread, then insert it into the WP post creator, then add the pictures where my <> marks are, then preview/proofread again, and finally post.

Normally, though, it’s finding the pictures or gifs that takes up the most time. Sometimes, I have to take the photo; other times, I have to find a photo in my files; yet other times, it’s scouring Google for gifs I don’t even know I want.

6. Have you ever been super nervous about a post? Why? What was it?

I’m always nervous about every post I make. Anxiety doesn’t help, but I often feels there is this air of judgement hanging around every word I type, and I am hesitant to give my full view on things for this reason. I don’t want to cause a stink, and if that means I hold a part of myself back, so be it.

7. Do you have a blogging schedule?

Yes! Often!

Mondays is my Photograph of the Week day. This is to keep up my amateur photography practise and to keep an eye on my world. Plus, they tend to get quite good attendance.

Tuesdays is a day off. Sometimes – if I find I have all the other slots of the week or coming weeks booked up – Tuesday is my ‘short post’ day for things like poems or extracts which don’t need much editing. As a hang-over from last year’s timetable, Tuesday was a busy day in which I had no time to post, so, though it has swapped with Wednesday on my timetable, Tuesday is still free day and Wednesday is post day.

Wednesday is (still) ‘big post’ day. It’s for posts like these, as part of tags or blog hops, which take time to write, but less time to think about. This means, I can spend the little time I have typing away, rather than umming and erring about what I want to say.

Thursday is officially reblog day. I have no time on Thursdays, either, but I found myself reblogging so often on Thursdays that I tried to make it a thing, to look at other blogs and post here what I’m glad to see on the ‘net, often about blogging itself or faith or lifestyle. Rarely about writing.

On Fridays, I link up with the other Catholic bloggers over at This Ain’t the Lyceum and we summarise how our weeks have been in 7 Quick Takes.

Saturday is my second ‘big post’ day for more creative things, such as tips on writing, lists, reviews, ideas.

Sunday is the Lord’s day, so is another day off. If I come back from Mass inspired, though, I do like to post a short thought on Sundays.

8. Do you tell people In-Real-Life about your blog? Their reactions?

No. Very few people call me Alexandrina in real life anyway, so this is one compartmentalisation I need to do to separate my scholarly side from the side in real life who knows people. Besides, it would seem an imposition to have them infesting her, and I don’t suppose the things she goes on about would interest them anyway.

9. Top ten blogs you read/comment on the most! Go! Go!

Ah, oh no, don’t put me on the spot! That wouldn’t be fair. Uh, Musings From Neville’s Navel, MiriamJoyWrites, Lit and Scribbles with Jae, Aussie Owned and Read.

And, of course, Paper Fury.

That’s five.

10. If you could change/improve things about your blog, what would they be?

To read and comment on other people’s blogs more often than I do. In my hectic life, I forfeit spending more time on other blogger’s stuff, and that’s not conducive to being nice.

Thanks for sticking through the journey, guys. I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for almost 3 years. How time flies, eh? *grin* And don’t forget to head over to Paper Fury and look around. It’s a nice, shiny place. :D


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Photo of the Week: Wonderland

I don’t normally do ‘street’ shots because of how crowded they can be, but when I with the chamber choir did some singing in the Winter Wonderland on campus, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to take some photos of the attractions in the night.

AlexB_wonderland

Cute, huh? It was nice to do something casual, out-and-about in this atmosphere. Sadly, I didn’t have time to go on the temporary ice-rink, though. Maybe next year…

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