Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist

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Beta/CP Match-Up

To cap off the summer long Ready. Set. Write! initiative, hosted by Alison MillerKaty UppermanJaime Morrow, and Erin Funk, a mixer for potential critique partners and beta readers is being held. Today we’ve been invited to talk about our WIP and MSs, so without further ado…



Genre: YA Mystery (contemporary)

Approx. wordcount: 55,000 words

Standalone or series? First of a trilogy. Second book – first draft written; third book – planned, a few chapters written, on hold.

Ready for CPs? On fifth draft editing. Most chapters ready now, but might rewrite a couple of the chapters, so sometimes chapters might not be insta-available.

Small house like Agnetha's

Betas or CPs? Primarily beta(s), as I won’t be able to critique once the academic term starts (Oct), but I’m happy to have a CP or two if they don’t mind intermittent critiques/don’t need

Warnings? Mentions of drug use, but no explicit use in scenes. Murder, obviously, but again no explicit description or gruesome blood and guts stuff.

Elevator pitch: 14-year-old Agnetha fights the police to bring her favourite teacher’s murderer to justice – for better or worse, even when she and the greatest link to the truth are the next targets on the shadowy killer’s list.

body outline


“I do remember talking. But that feeling!”

I glanced at Ms. Peterson. She blinked, wincing as she rubbed a raw temple. It must’ve collided with the corner of the table, and a trail of blood began snaking its way down the side of her thin face. Her speech settled to a rough breath, exhaled in a frustrated puff.

“It’s no use,” she remarked. “I can’t remember a word after that. Fuzziness.”

I nodded to her with a sigh. In a half-twist, I circled around, surveying the room: the glass and the ceramic blown apart, scattering their guts against the opposite wall, and the floor was a bed of plaster. Dishwasher-style disturbed. Dishevelled. Disgusting.

At least three walls and a door hung on their hinges. I shoved the remains of the table against the innermost wall, and, ignoring a bright bruise on my arm, pushed through the stray books.

skull bookcase

I hope this has at least piqued your interest. I am totally up to trading first chapters only to get a feel for each other’s style and voice. (I can’t think of anything else relevant right now…)

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Nanoshrinking, Star Trek, and A Good Dalek

I don’t really review TV programs and the such, but sometimes I like to discuss these things. I’m going to be briefly looking at last Saturday’s episode of Doctor Who, Into the Dalek, which does include some plot and arc spoilers, so come back once you’ve watched the episode.

Partly inspired by the Twitter conversations I’ve been having with my friend Emma at time of watching. I’ve included Into the Dalek‘s one as point of reference. I’d also like to give NevilleGirl credit for being a lot more prompt at devising these kinds of things. She rocks!

The concept -

In Dalek, The Doctor and Clara, along with three humanoid soldiers in the midst of a battle against a fleet of Daleks, are shrunk to the size of thumbs so they can investigate what has caused an injured Dalek – whom The Doctor instantly takes to calling Rusty – to claim to want the Daleks stopped.

Firstly, it was nice to have an episode with a Dalek in that we get to see the other side – literally! – of these metallic-cased beings. In some of the final scenes, thumb!Doctor got to be face-to-eye with Rusty’s carbon self, which I also liked. For the casual observer/watcher, it is easy to forget that Daleks are not simply robots. They are conscious and have a flesh-formed brain.

However, as is clear to me a few days after watching the episode is that, as great as the actress was, her character, Journey, was no more memorable than her name. Those soldier characters were purely for the sake of set-up, though it was nice to have a bit of sacrifice from… Uh… That one who ended up in the heaven-garden with Missy.

Speaking of which–


Not that I have a problem with the idea of a Steampunk Heaven… ;)

The science -

After all, this is sci-fi.


Don’t be lasagne, guys. It’ll be my new phrase when you’re resisting scientific change.

Nanoshrinking. I love it for fiction premise, as you probably could tell from the section above, Theoretically, this is viable science. Nanotechnology is already helping out in medical science, just think of Nanocameras and the generation (I refuse to use either creation or growth) of cells and organs at a nano level, as well as the beginnings of Nanobots to operate minuscule repairs inside the human body. Think The Doctor Dances, but without the mutating mishaps. Now that was an awesome episode(s).

By the way, since when do the Daleks yell “resistance is futile”?

As soon as I heard that, I thought this :

Let’s also touch on that bit where The Doctor tries to convince Rusty to think of that certain memory of the star being born that first made him question his programming. It was a pretty nifty trick– Actually, it was one of The Doctor’s Pretty Nifty Tricks, but I’ll let that slide for the moment. It was more the dialogue between the two of them that did well to trigger my memory centre. The Doctor was inviting the Dalek to share his mind, after all…

Uh, hello?

Mind meldddd… That’s two Star Trek references in one episode. Dude, you can’t get past Trekkies in Doctor Who. We’re practically the same fandom!

Clara -

I’m – gasp – warming to her. Well, and some might hate me for this, I think she has more chemistry with Twelve than Eleven. I don’t know… *exasperated sigh* Eleven was just too puppy-like, but Twelve has more mystery and magnetism.

In this episode, Clara was a lot more like the typical companion: standing up for morality and the lives of the beings, rather than limply providing a pretty face.


For the time-being (or rather: for the sake of a mini review), I’m going to ignore the present-day Earth scenes and the presence of Danny Pink. I will say that he is an interesting character, but I haven’t seen enough of him to have a consistent opinion of him yet.

Plot -

Well, Emma and I were not so impressed. I’ll make allowances, in that it is a sci-fi program and predictability is one inescapable trait of the genre.


I’ll agree – it was pretty obvious that Rusty was going to turn bad once fixed. I’m not sure I entirely followed The Doctor’s plan for – to use Emma’s words – breaking Rusty again, but the plot made for some good sets and cinematography. I can imagine, green-screen or not, it was great fun to film. I also liked the inclusion of Dalek antibodies, that they had the flexible quality of human/carbon antibodies, but also had the metal, laser version of the Dalek’s outer weaponry. It was like being vaporised from the inside! Urg.

Plus, this added the all-important time constraint that authors and readers so value in fiction, particular of non-contemporary stuff. One thing – how exactly did The Doctor and co get out of Rusty? Just a minor, pedantic point – did they call the external team to beam them up, or did they auto-grow back after a certain time? That would’ve added to the time problems too. No pun intended.

And, whilst the ending wasn’t particularly spectacular, it hit a few visual and moral notes, didn’t it?


Indeed! This is a lovely bit of subtle character development towards Twelve. And I’ll add it, along with the “programmed to function” bit from Deep Breath, to my list of morally ambiguous actions for the new Doctor. (And use of linguistic ambiguity in ‘good’.) It also mirrors the treatment of Rusty Dalek – he is considered an enemy when he is ‘correct'; but when he is ‘good’, The Doctor argues that he is malfunctioning. As a Psychology and Philosophy student, of course I am fascinated by the implied subjectivity behind this episode. For action and plot, the episode was weak, but for questioning the norm, the episode is one of the better of late:

In the end, does The Doctor free Rusty into clarity of understanding that he is beyond the usual conditioning programmed into him at Dalek-birth? Or does Rusty simply act the way he has done because Clara has sent him malfunctioning again? After all, he has to exterminate something in the end. Technically, she rewires him, even though she helps him access the more human[oid] elements of his consciousness.


A strange bit of classic sci-fi Doctor Who Dalek fest. No-nonsense and no fuss.

I liked it, but it was a bit shooty-shooty for my liking. If it had been a book, I wouldn’t have made it past the Amazon sample pages. 3/5

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Photo of the Week: More Cat


This is Smokey J. He is a friend of the family’s and so we’re looking after him and his house-mate for a short while. Lots of photo opportunities then, hey?

I love taking photos of cats (hence the title) – they are so easy to I mean, no they’re not – like squirrels, they know exactly when one points a lens (however well disguised) at them. But when the cat is in slumber, the cat slumbers and one is well equipped to snap a cheeky photo.

And, yes, I did Instagram this. I had to do something quickly. Uh…I’m not well prepared for the Monday photos any more :P


Photo of the WeeK: Reflections

(Don’t say a word. My schedule has been upside-down and uncertain of late.)

AlexB_ReflectionsReflections. Literal patterns of light bouncing off their object and into our retina. On a technicality, our entire world when seen is a reflection of what it actually is.

Be that as it may, in a full room of people it’s difficult to take a straight photo of a wine glass or three. The wall lamps are refracted into the red wine, and those foggy reflections bottom left could be anything from me to another set of lamps in the background. And hence the black-and-white filter to act as a distraction-dampener. The colour one was all right, but I needed something further for clarity.



7 Quick Takes about Interviews, Anniversaries, and Arranging Swing

Time for trading the seven things of the week with the bloggers over at ConversionDiary. Join us. :)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes about back to school, veggie choppers, a great DC event, and recording radio spots under dicey circumstances


It’s weird to read all those posts about people going back to school these past couple of weeks. I know so many US bloggers that it’s easy to forget that British students don’t get back to school until September, and I for one, don’t go back to academic work in Reading until almost October.


I’ve been moving between houses this week, and my schedule has been a little off kilter, but not so worse for wear. It’s only been a change of walking around and observing the scenery.


Last Sunday, I went to one of my greatest friend’s parents’ anniversary. It was a nice evening, and good to see my friend again.


And her boyfriend mucking about…


As you’ll see by yesterday’s post, Ready. Set. Write! is now over *weeps at sudden lack of schedule* I’m deep in looking for CP and betas from this and the other conventions that have been around…virtually, but I’m aware that my time-freedom is running out*.


I also had the chance this week to start my Steampunk Spotlight segment about alt-history fantasy authors by interviewing Cindy Spencer Pape. Authors, flock to me! I am very interested in this topic, and I find the best way to learn is through studying others (says the Psychology student). Sadly, I’m still waiting for Cindy’s book to come through the post, but I’m sure it’s awesome. In fact, I’m still waiting for a good few things through the post, so yeah… T_T


A lot of what I’m doing at the moment is actually behind the scenes work – writing, as you know, is generally an input-output imbalance type of work, as is being a musician and creating costumes, but in addition to that, I’ve been helping out the Reading Uni Swing Dance society, and we’re currently trying to sort the meal for our first big social of the academic year.


Still editing. I guess I’m making slow progress, but I hit the 55K mark (with the prologue and epilogue letters), so I’m somewhat on track. This week I’ll be polishing chapters 10 and 11 for my primary CP and pushing on through the last five chapters, which, in terms of prose, are a bit messy, despite being more polished, in terms of how much they’ve changed, than the others.


*Random psych point: did you know that women are more aware of their bodyclock when exposed to audible ticking? I can’t find the link to the news article at the moment, so you’ll have to find the evidence yerselves ;)


TCWT: Who am I? AKA Companions, Robots, and…Hats

It’s Teen’s Can Write, Too! blog chain for this month, and the prompt was

“What characters are you most like?”

Once again, you have a lot of freedom with this topic. While the character(s) you choose should hopefully come from a published work, it can be from pretty much any type; book, movie, musical, short story, poem, etc. characters are all fair game.

I seem to have gained an automatic sign-up for every other month because no character instantly springs to mind at the question. And, yes, I’m meant to be tomorrow, but I’m part of the beta/CP seek run by the ladies of Ready. Set. Write! so I’ve got tomorrow’s slot filled already.

What characters am I most like? Arguably, one way of interpreting the question is to go via what characters I’d like to spent time with and be my inner circle (my blogging friend Jae addressed this issue a while ago) – after all, there are certain sayings that address that people surround themselves with who they want to be.

The problem is that I can’t think of a certain character who’d represent me. None I guess stand out so much more than their attributes.

But, rather, it’s a question of who am I? Or, at least, what qualities do I have that can be linked to characters. One might interpret the question by asking what sorts of characters.

Uhh… I doesn’t count if I argue I’m modest, ‘cause that defeats paradoxes the modesty, yes? So, I can’t use that excuse. Well, if we accord with my degree, I’m creative but analytic, like a piece of music, rigid yet open to interpretation.

I guess I’m more likely to stand and calculate what exactly a monster is, rather than running from it. Running is effort, you know? If I had to pick a Companion most like me, I’d say probably Martha. Quietly clever interesting and willing to go on an adventure as long as there’s not too much harm, yet willing to vouch for self-sacrifice if the world is a better place.

I’m definitely on the side of thinking rather than doing, and that’s not a bad thing, but it means that there aren’t many characters from books I’ve read that react rather than act. Give me the nerdy one who hovers (metaphorically or literally!) in the background any day. Conversely, the great thing about steampunk (oh, here she goes again!) is that these characters with their interests in science and sitting working at mechanisms, like Wellington from Phoenix Rising or Simeon from Encante.

On the other hand, I remember feeling quite a deep connection to Paige Mahoney from Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season, and when I say that I liked the book, I always add that the MC annoyed me – because she did. But perhaps that was because she reminded me of me.

This is the official trailer that was out with TBS last year. Paige has my hair…and a hat. The hat is vital. We’ll come onto that later.

In the same vein, I get along better with male characters. Female characters witter too much. They complain and have their moments of girliness. I mean, girliness is cool in a character (in fact, I have protested that women should be weak), but it’s hard to relate to a character who goes shopping, does her hair or struggles to find matching clothes.

Okay, maybe not the last one. Putting on clothes is difficult anyway.

So, to conclude: the character I’m like changes depending on my mood or the books I’ve recently read. Some stay with me, but mostly it’s the attributes that I take and combust into something of mine. And today’s winner?


The Spine.

Sensible, suited, stoic, and a little bit philosophical. When the world is crumbling around you, sometimes the best thing to do is pull a funny face and say “Is that right?” and take things at face-value.


Plus, I admire someone who can look good in a hat. Most women can’t look good in hats. That’s not the women’s fault; it’s the hat’s fault. (Ivy Hisselpenny of Soulless, I’m looking at you and yours.)

And ten points for playing the guitar. *The similarities are striking* xD

And sometimes people say things or do things that do not compute. I’m all:



I’m sorry, that was a bit of an underhand pass to squeeze in some SPG references.

…I’ll stop now.


Don’t forget – this is a blog chain. Check out the wise and educated answers of the other TCWT bloggers:

5th – http:// semilegacy.blogspot.com/
6th – http://thelittleenginethatcouldnt.wordpress.com/
7th – http://nasrielsfanfics.wordpress.com/
8th – http://sammitalk.wordpress.com/
9th – http://musingsfromnevillesnavel.wordpress.com/
10th – http://irisbloomsblog.wordpress.com/
11th – http://www.brookeharrison.com/
12th – http://miriamjoywrites.com/
13th – http://uniquelyanonymous.wordpress.com/
14th – http://erinkenobi2893.wordpress.com/
15th – http://novelexemplar.wordpress.com/
16th – http://nutfreenerd.wordpress.com/
17th – http://unikkelyfe.wordpress.com/
18th – http://writers-place-for-you.blogspot.de/
19th – http://roomble.wordpress.com/
20th – https://taratherese.wordpress.com/
21st – http://thependanttrilogy.wordpress.com/
22nd – http://freeasagirlwithwings.wordpress.com/
23rd – http://butterfliesoftheimagination.wordpress.com/
24th – http://theweirdystation.wordpress.com/
25th – http://teenageink.wordpress.com/
26th – http://www.adventuringthroughpages.wordpress.com/
27th – http://randommorbidinsanity.blogspot.com/
28th – http://missalexandrinabrant.wordpress.com/ <Take a left at tomorrow and you will be here>
29th – http://dynamicramblings.wordpress.com/
and http://thelonglifeofalifelongfangirl.wordpress.com/
30th – http://fantasiesofapockethuman.blogspot.com/
and http://www.turtlesinmysoup.blogspot.com/
31st – http://theedfiles.blogspot.com/
and http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain)

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Ready. Set. Write! Final Update

I can’t believe it’s the last of these already. It’s been two and a half months, but the time has whizzed by – ten/eleven weeks and all. I may not have managed to leave an update every week, but I’m going to miss talking about my writing on Mondays!

Last week’s goals

Edit OJAP. Editing in progress.

Write more of fantasy-horror short story. Working on it. I’ve so far 1800 of about 7000, but I’m not finding much energy to actually write, preferring to edit and all it entails. I’m really into OJAP and getting a more final edit in place.

A word/phrase that sums up what I revised:

Insertion. A lot of this week’s editing has been either directly chapter-based for my CP, or taking new paragraphs of important/interesting information and finding where they ought to fit in amongst the old prose.

Challenges I’ve faced this week:

In parts of my mind, I can hear the voice of doubt arguing that pieces I’m editing will be removed, chopped and wiped out later anyway. The problem with following a Christie-esque reveal of clues (a piece by piece) is that my characters have a lot of exposition through dialogue and I’m so worried that the pacing is off.

Something I love about my WIP:

The converse of the challenges: I love some of the new dialogue I’ve slipped in because it works. I need to organise the Pinterest board because I could grab some cool scenes to display there.

An idea of St. Christopher's school exterior; St. Edmund's School, Summertown

Overall goals:

Complete my short story/novella <Unnamed Steampunk>. Also, come up with a neat name for it. I finished The Incidents at Cavendish Mechanics at 13138 words, but may be turning it into a full novella (30-40K) when I have the chance, since the short story category frustrates me with what I feel is a lack of a full plot and character arc.

Finish reading over the summer at least three of the books I’ve started reading this year. I finished Skulduggery Pleasant: Last Stand of Dead Men, Soulless, Stardust, The Iron Wyrm Affair, and novella Encante, as well as starting tons more. So, yeah, I count that as complete.

Complete another round of tightening of Fantasy Romance WTCB. Yeah? I did a round of revisions and I’m putting it in cold storage for now. I just…bleh.

Make progress rewriting YA contemporary mystery, Of Jackets and Phones, to make it Beta/CP-ready. Yes. In progress, but making greater leeway than in term-time and weekly sending chapters to one CP. Soon, I intend to have another.

Complete July’s CampNaNo with the first draft of ‘H’ and at least start NA contemporary uni romance, Under the Carrington. Horology’s finished at 73K; UTC has about 5K at the moment, but that’s good after saying I wasn’t going to be writing more of it, and still I do.

So, pretty successful all in all, but with still more to be done. How has your writing summer?


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