Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist


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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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Steampunk Spotlight: Cindy Spencer Pape

I’m here with author of steampunk, paranormal, historical and romance, Cindy Spencer Pape. I put to her some questions about her steampunk series The Gaslight Chronicles, the first of which is Steam & Sorcery, and about her writing processes. Enjoy!

What inspired you to start writing Steampunk novels and novellas?

Quite simply, I just loved the concept. I’ve always been something of a historical junkie as well as loving paranormal romance. Steampunk gives me the chance to mash it all together into one story that has limitless possibilities.

Does your writing process differ between writing Steampunk romance and contemporary romance?

Well, there’s often a little more research involved. My contemporary stuff is often based on things I already know. I don’t have to stop writing and figure out WHERE in India the magical artifact would be hidden, then what the climate, terrain, and political situations were there on a given date. My process, though is pretty much the same. Start with the characters and a light outline, then just let it go.

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 novel?

I’m totally flexible about the notion—that freedom is one of the things that appeals to me, so if you think it’s steampunk, go ahead and call it that. Basically, though the important part is that the setting have steam-powered technology that wasn’t available in the real Victorian era. It also helps if the society has a tight, Victorian social code, and the punk part comes in when your characters are bucking against that code. In my books, although they’re very light steampunk, there are still threads of egalitarianism, feminism, and gay rights. So there’s a little bit of punk there.

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

I started with the notions that Charles Babbage invented the computer in the 1840s and that magic(k) has always existed. Those are the two stepping-off points for my historical timeline that make it alternate. I wanted a group that protects England from magickal beings like vampyres and rogue werewolves. I also knew right off that my upper-crust vampyre hunter was going to get tangled up with a group of street kids, some of whom had powers of their own. They’d need a governess, one who wasn’t a wimp, so there was my love interest. I was calling the story “Van Helsing meets Mary Poppins” until I got going.

It was my husband who came up with the idea that the group of enforcers were actually the descendants of the Knights of the Round Table. It fit perfectly, and the rest of the first story flowed from there. I do try to make sure that every story has elements of both paranormal and advanced technology, although some lean more toward one than the other.

Do you participate in other parts of the Steampunk genre/lifestyle or only the writing side of Steampunk?

As to the lifestyle, I didn’t even know it existed until well after I started writing steampunk. Now, though, I love playing dress up and going to local steampunk conventions and other events. Apparently I was always a little steampunk, because now I finally have a use for all the vintage jewelry, lace hankies and other tidbits I’d been collecting my whole life!

Any advice to readers and/or writers just getting into the Steampunk genre?

Steampunk literature isn’t selling nearly as well as we’d hoped, so it can be tough to find a publisher. In fact, I’ll probably be switching to straight historical or modern urban fantasy for my next series. As for readers, there’s some great stuff out there. Look for MelJean Brooks, Gail Carriger, Cherie Priest, Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris, and so many more.

Tell us a little about your journey to getting an agent.

Finding an agent can be one of the hardest things an author ever has to do. In my case, I did the submission/rejection thing dozens of times, with a couple of different manuscripts over several years. No takers whatsoever. Then one of my critique partners told me her former editor had just switched over to being an agent and was looking to build her stable. I submitted and became the second client she signed, thanks in no small amount to the recommendation of my friend. HOWEVER the story doesn’t end there. My agent became ill, and her clients ended up in sort of a pool at the agency, without any connection to a specific agent. Several were actually let go. I was lucky and was kept by Evan Gregory, who was just making the switch from assistant to agent. But it was definitely a rocky road. And even having an agent doesn’t guarantee sales. Evan is still working hard to get me to the next level of publishing.

Steam & Sorcery is now out in print, woop! Tell us something interesting about the novel.

I am so utterly thrilled to have it in print now, especially for conventions and signings. The SF&F world, isn’t nearly as welcoming to the idea of e-books as the romance community is, so at a lot of events I’ve been given a bit of a cold shoulder for not having my steampunk in print. As for trivia about the book, aside from the Van Helsing/Mary Poppins thing, there’s something about the names. Both my husband and I have some very British ancestry, so most of the names in the book are from one or the other of our families, except for Merrick, which I just pulled out of the blue and wouldn’t budge on. Even the nickname Wink for Winifred was from one of my husband’s great-aunts.

Great! Thanks for answering my questions, Cindy!

About the author:

Cindy Spencer Pape firmly believes in happily-ever-after and brings that to her writing.  Award-winning author of the best-selling Gaslight Chronicles, she has released 16 novels and more than 30 shorter works. Cindy lives in southeast Michigan with her husband, two sons and a houseful of pets. When not hard at work writing she can be found dressing up for steampunk parties and Renaissance fairs, or with her nose buried in a book.

Cindy is represented by Evan Gregory of the Ethan Ellenberg Agency.

 

~

I’d love to make this a segment. Any other Steampunk/alt-history authors who’d like to be interviewed, please comment or message me.


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Blood Chimera by Jenn Lyons

As part of the Blood Chimera blog hop, I’m playing host today to an extract as a spotlight of the book. Blood Chimera by Jenn Lyons released from World Weaver Press on the 12th August.

Picture

Some ransoms aren’t meant to be paid. Kidnap and Ransom negotiation used to be straightforward. The bad guys kidnap someone, and K&R expert Jackson Pastor negotiates their release, skillfully traversing a maze of bloodthirsty monsters: criminals, terrorists, police, and especially the FBI. But that was before he met real bloodthirsty monsters.

When Jackson Pastor arrives in Los Angeles to help a new client recover his kidnapped wife, he finds himself dropped in the middle of a 500-year-old war between rival European and Mexican vampire clans, a conflict that threatens to escalate into a full-on public gang war. Worse, Jackson hasn’t been brought to Los Angeles to be a negotiator. His new boss wants to turn him into an assassin. With Jackson about to be caught in the middle of a clan war, his only hope of escape may lie with a secret FBI monster-hunting task-force led by a very dangerous, eccentric wizard. Which could be a problem, since Jackson’s a monster himself.

Blood Chimera is a gritty, noir-style mystery of paranormal proportions where nothing is as it seems, not even the term vampire.

Yah, it’s a vampire book, but it’s a little different than the usual vampiric novels, so take a chance on it. Now for the extract:

~

“How are you feeling, Mr. Pastor?”

I looked down at myself. I seemed to be hale and hearty enough, with all the right number of limbs in all the right places. My ribs didn’t ache when I breathed and my arm wasn’t swollen. I felt great, but I looked ready to play one of the walking dead. “Like I need a bath,” I told him. “And clothes would be nice.” There’s nothing quite like being naked and filthy in front of a lot of people who aren’t, to make you all self-conscious about it.

He nodded. “You’ve looked better.”

“Why do you have me in a cage?” I shook my head. “What happened?”

“I would think the reasons for the cage would be obvious. You don’t remember?”

“No, of course I don’t remember. I was Tez’s prisoner and then–” I looked over at the carcass in the corner. I swallowed. “Who did that?”

“You did.” Darius said as he took a swig of his beer. “You also wrecked one of my vans.” He pointed to an unmarked black van over in the garage area. The back doors were hanging awkwardly and the metal was twisted. Great gouges had been raked into the door and sides as if something had tried to smash its way out with some kind of very sharp ram.

I blinked at that. “That–that couldn’t have been me. I didn’t–”

“Oh, you very much did. We had a hell of a time getting you back here. We were lucky you were stunned by the explosions, and even luckier that we had tranq darts. That–” he pointed to the rotting, fly-infested pile of flesh using the long black feather. “–used to be a pair of goats. Juan thought you might revert if we fed you something. As it happens, he was right.”

I felt sick to my stomach, and, although I certainly wasn’t going to mention it to Darius, a bit peckish.

Goat wasn’t as filling as human.

~

You can now buy Blood Chimera directly from the World Weaver Press website in ebook or trade paperback, or from any of these retailers:
Amazon (Kindle)
Amazon (paperback)
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
Omnilit

About the author

PictureJenn Lyons lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, three cats and a lot of opinions on anything from Sumerian creation myths to the correct way to make a martini. At various points in her life, she has wanted to be an archaeologist, anthropologist, architect, diamond cutter, fashion illustrator, graphic designer, or Batman. Turning from such obvious trades, she is now a video game producer by day, and spends her evenings writing science fiction and fantasy. When not writing, she can be found debating the Oxford comma and Joss Whedon’s oeuvre at various local coffee shops.

Website: JennLyons.com


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Beautiful People: Agnetha

I’m editing her first adventure at the moment, so I think it’s appropriate that I tell you a little about my favourite – and first – protagonist via the Notebook Sisters and Further Up and Further In monthly meme.

I turned my attention to the question of names – and my realisation was bitter. Inwardly, I cursed at the simple word Leonard. And how joyful I was when toothbrush-moustache came through the double doors, clutching his informative clipboard of the random facts nobody wanted to know.

Oh, hai, Agnetha King.

She could totally be Stitch.

1) What does your character regret the most in their life?

I suppose Agnetha’s greatest regret would be that she never got to know Josh Craig as much as she thought she did. You know? That realisation that you’re never going to see someone again and suddenly every little thing of theirs becomes the most important thing in the universe. She finds it difficult to conventionally make friends, and so losing one best friend is a blow to the soul, definitely (soul being my word, not Agnetha’s). Students her own age are moronic and self-centred, but maybe later she’ll regret never making those close friends when she had the chance.

2) What is your character’s happiest memory? Most sorrowful memory?

I guess Agnetha’s happiest memory (or one of; it’s very difficult to pin-point one exactly, and thus I’m going for the most obvious in answer to this) is one she reflects on in Of Jackets and Phones: when she first meets Josh Craig in the corridor of her school. It’s that kind of electricity that warms one’s soul (“cue the pyrotechnics, Steve!”) and that connection of knowledge and self.

Her most sorrowful memory? When she loses him. That exact moment DI Leonard says those words died in suspicious circumstances. It influences a lot of her future actions, though I’m not sure that’s a good thing when it interacts with the facets of her already-personality, such as the petty kleptomania*. However, as we’ll later see (when I get around to writing it), she plays with the ring she steals from his house before making any massive decisions, as if she wants to channel Josh and his good heart.

3) What majorly gets on your character’s nerves?

Her mother and brother. They don’t quite get her love of unwinding mysteries and trying to crack puzzles. Although (by the third book) she no longer talks to her father, she might get her logical mind from him, whereas her mother and brother are more…simple and down to Earth. They take things at face-value.

4) Do they act differently when they’re around people as opposed to being alone? If so, how?

Agnetha, especially as she gets older, has to subdue herself around others. Her personality does almost a complete flip. In OJAP, she’s definitely a ponderer on the inside and bolshie on the outside, a rebellious little fourteen-year-old; by OOLE, the third book in the trilogy, she’s a lot more of a thinker on the outside, and has to hold in her own opinions when in the working world. Agnetha’s finally learnt that authority is (not so much) out to get her. At least she’s not pulling punches and pulling pistols on people by the time she’s eighteen!

5) What are their beliefs and superstitions?

In Of Jackets and Phones, Agnetha has yet to have a religion, but she is fourteen and teetering on the brink of depression, so that’s acceptable. However, she believes in fatalism and this influences her pessimistic view of life.

6) What are their catchphrases, or things they say frequently?

Whilst Agnetha doesn’t have a definite catchphrase more than fidgeting habits, she does tend to make the most facetious of remarks. A couple of times in OJAP, she makes references to mystery writers (as per a little satire I’ve attempted to weave), including one of my favourites, Colin Dexter, whose Inspector Morse books are (coincidently, I promise!) set in and around Oxford.

She’s also kind of a compulsive sorter, since physical ordering things allows her to mentally reorganise without using up conscious energy.

7) Would they be more prone to facing fears or running from them?

Running from them, most likely. Whilst physical fears – such as her claustrophobia and facing off against villains – and, actually, one of my favourite scenes from the middle book, Of Moscow Mysteries, is the final fight scene between Agnetha and the antagonist – she seems to face, her inner fears and her emotions she runs from. And those inner demons quake her very shoes.

OMM concept drawing of the fight

OMM concept drawing of the fight

8) Do they have a good self image?

Far from it. I’m not sure if I’ve kept the phrase, but in the first draft, Agnetha studies herself in her bedroom mirror and complains about her blemishes as “a battleground, marks against the perfect snow-white blanket of youth. I’d always been a pale child – a tan never stayed on my skin more than ten minutes.”

9) Do they turn to people when they’re upset, or do they isolate themselves?

Similar, in fact, to #4 and #7, she isolates herself because she’s an introvert and goes so far as to even mock those who are dramatic or possibly overdone in their emotions. She’d never turn to people because she can’t rely on people, though she does occasionally turn to her rabbit, Cinnabun, when she wants to be listened to without interruptions.

10) If they were standing next to you would it make you laugh or cry?

Am I allowed to offer ‘cringe’? Agnetha is likely to make me laugh and cry simultaneously. I can imagine her tossing out her blonde hair and making up some hodge-podge remark as she studies her nails.

*I am well aware that this is probably a linguistic oxymoron.

AgnethaIllustrated_AlexB


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Photo of the Week: Wooden Waves

Not much on the actual photography front this week, sadly: the entirety of the, what?, three photos I took this week were purely touristy and not artistic, though I did take a nice picture of two in-costume Victorian flowergirls and a train-shell in historical Windsor, which I might share later if the wifi between my phone and my laptop would please work. *annoyed look*

On the other hand, I’ve been playing my electric a lot to pass the time and dissolve into music. I think I mentioned Shimmer when I first acquired him? *obligatory guitar fretboard shot*

Shimmer_AlexB

Anyway, back to the photo. This is another from my trip to Dubai, our hotel room. I couldn’t help being a bit macro/’arsty’ (if one might call it that) when I saw the way the chest of drawers was shaped – to fit with the rest of the water-and-wave theme in the room, I suppose. All the drawers themselves were the same size, but I had fun working this out by opening and closing them to different levels! #childsplay

AlexB_CupboardLines


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Ready. Set. Write! Update 18/8

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at in our writing—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing. This year, RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin Funk, and Katy Upperman.

 

How I did on my goals last week:

1. Edit Of Jackets and Phones, in particular chapters thirteen and fourteen. Almost done. :)

2. Polish and send chapter seven of OJAP to CP. Done and chapter eight.

3. Start writing out my fantasy-horror crow short story. Plan accompanying scarecrow short. In progress.

4. Write more of NA uni romance? Nope, but that doesn’t matter so much.

5. Send out another query for WTCB? Well, one.

My goals for this week:

1. Edit OJAP. Chapter fourteen and tiding up

2. Write more of fantasy-horror short story. I might abandon the accompanying story because I simply have no time for that.

Favourite recent paragraph from my WIP:

Another thought shuttled into my mind, pushing aside the others unceremoniously. “I know Josh was a cufflink short of quiet, but did Andr— Mr. Smythe ever have his moments of staring into space and thinking about…nothing?”

Josh had only ever risked his sanity for entertainment because pondering the future reminded him of his sister in the past.

Just for the cufflink short of quiet. ;)

Dramatic, no? Anyhoo, Charles Xavier or an approximation of Josh Craig from OJAP

The biggest challenge I faced this week:

Concentration. Sometimes I can’t work in silence when editing, despite how much I’ll try. Another challenge is getting the first couple of pages to be snappier and more YA starting. I need to grab another Beta for this manuscript, since the Beta I currently have has read a previous version of chapter one.

Something I love about my WIP:

I love Agnetha’s sense of humour. I think it’s as mature as it can be for a fourteen-year-old – but there’s also her quirkiness of phrases that I think adds something more to OJAP, and how easy it to write her…well, better drafts excluded.


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7 Quick Takes – Buckingham Palace, Bowling and (not) Bothering

Join us at ConversionDiary for the highlights of our weeks.

7_quick_takes_sm1

~1~

So. It’s been a week since I returned from Dubai, and, uh, I’ve still not written anything about it, have I? Sorry about that. I’ve not even sorted my photo album yet. I actually planned to write something about my scant activities, but I’ve had posts backed up. Not that I matter that.

~2~

What have I been doing? Not much, actually, but that’s the way I like it. A friend shared with me this list of introverts’ qualities and it does highlight some of the reasons I prefer my laptop to the great outdoors (when I’m indoors. Sorry. It’s complicated.).

~3~

Actually, I went to the ‘tour’ around the State Rooms of Buckingham Palace on the 12th. These open for about two to three months every summer. We weren’t allowed to take photos, obviously, but I did Instagram this snap, though, once we were in the garden and on our way out.

Buckinhamgram_AlexB

I liked going ‘round the State Rooms for their inspiration for setting and the look into the timeline of the English royals. In fact, I’d go to any stately house for its relevance to novel research. Later, the bus took us to Windsor, which surprised me by being a much smaller town than I expected, but, whilst the castle was closed, it was nice to see the exterior of the place.

~4~

To occupy my time but not my brain, I’ve been watching daytime television, things like Countdown and Come Dine With Me. Sounds strange, but actually, I like watching cooking shows. Some are inspiring, but mostly it’s convincing me that it’s easy to do these things. I’ve become one of those people who procrastinate due to fear.

~5~

We also went bowling at the weekend, which was a nice distraction, but it’s certainly not something at which I have skill or revel. I guess one can count bowling as a sport, and I’ve never been a sports person. I’d use the excuse of hurting my wrist on one of my first goes, but… My bowl was just too curved, and I didn’t care enough to compensate.

~6~

On the other hand, it’s going to be a busy week for me coming up. I’m going back to Reading tomorrow for a friend’s birthday, so writing will be quiet at the weekend, and I’m still trying to sort out the rest of the week. We’ll see how things go.

~7~

Have I been writing this week? A little. Not much. I’m not too concerned with the first draft of my contemporary novel. It needs some lightning inspiration, the kind I had with my steampunk novel, and, at the moment, I don’t have the emotional energy to deal with anything in a contemporary feel.

I’ve been editing, though, and that’s…going well? Slowly, but then I’m not a quick editor.

OJAP13_AlexB

Chapter 13, and I’m missing a paragraph or two.

 

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