Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist


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Photo of the Week: More Cat

SmokeyCat_AlexB

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


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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.

 


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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

~1~

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.

~2~

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.

~3~

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.

AlexB_Arron1

And her boyfriend mucking about…

~4~

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*.

~5~

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

~6~

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.

~7~

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 ;)


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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…

63719f2e7744f0bcab97ea9b625106ee

OF JACKETS AND PHONES

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

Excerpt

“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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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.

image

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:

spg

xD

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

…I’ll stop now.

Picture

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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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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