Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist


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Quick Takes Friday About Ends of Holidays and Beginnings, and CampNaNo

Join me and the other Catholic bloggers through ConversionDiary discussing our week. :)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes about Edel 2015, the impending doom of me traveling with a baby, and why theres a man in a banana suit on the IP website

~1~

I had to pop home from Suffolk on Tuesday, and whilst I was understandably sad to leave a friend I hadn’t seen since her birthday last November, it’s always nice to be back at home and into the old routine. However, we did a few things before I left.

~2~

For instance, we took a circular journey around the rivers from Orford on the Lady Florence, a wonderful dinner-boat. It was smaller than I expected, but the food was exquisite and altogether an interesting new experience.

~3~

I also met a bunch of horses. Aww.

~4~

As is with the problem with holidays, I found myself spending a little more than a probably should have (and let’s not mention the train fare home, okay!). Apart from souvenirs, I got myself two more pairs of earrings: a string of yellow pearls and two jingle bells. Of course, we also got to swim in the sea. Typical British fun. ;)

~5~

I hit 68K for CampNaNo and I feel the ending! I’ve written one of the final scenes, and am in the middle of the big fight scene. Here’s a snippet. I’ve just got to make sure I know which robots and minions have fallen.

Cathy squeaked, held her breath and squeaked again. Vocalisations appeared to be her only weapon for the moments in which she was helpless in the machinations of battle. She ducked as the automaton whirled, its winding wheel ruffling the top of her head.

“Aha!” she cried, struck by an idea. “If we cannot deactivate them from their insides, can we use the turning wheels on their backs to cease the motions?”

“Unfortunately not, darling,” Alexander replied. His gun bellowed and the automaton staggered backwards, whisk-ends scratching at the lead embellished in its face.

Alexander fired again, and the short-range blast shot the automaton off its feet and into a tool trolley.

“Well, then?” she yelled over the din.

Charles joined them, sword swiping his opponent of flesh and blood, the engineer, to the floor. An inky pool spread from under the man’s shirt, and Cathy looked away. Even the stench of dying hunks of flesh began to offend her olfactory system.

~6~

I baked some cakes for a BBQ this evening, but I was left with only brown cane sugar in the house, and the results in the smaller pastry cases…. Well, suffice to say I won’t be using that combination of small cups and brown sugar again. I’m just not used baking it.  No pictures here. Luckily, the muffin-case cakes came out all right.

~7~

Following that, I’m properly saying goodbye to England in the early hours of tomorrow morning, and jetting off to Dubai. Yay!

 

 


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Music in YA

Alexandrina Brant:

Tooting her euphonium for the brass section, my good friend and CP/writing partner, Lillian M Woodall, talks about the types of music present and absent from YA fiction. You’ll see I happened to inspire the post – and maybe I’ll write my own when I have more time.
Personally, I’d like to see serious characters (like Lillie herself) with instruments that are less than typical. One gets comedic characters playing brass (“it’s a bloody euphonium!”), but very few serious characters where playing an instrument is part of their limbs – like being as described by Heidegger (Philosophy tangent ;) ).
It’s that age-old problem of how to include part of a character’s personality without having that take over the story. Opinions?

Originally posted on LILLIAN M. WOODALL:

Perhaps my last post till August. Four trips are lined up for July, and the ten days I’m at home are all schooldays. Fortunately I’m feeling fairly organised about it all (except the financial side!).

So, without further ado, Alex once again gave me a great post topic. Here’s her tweet:

 musicstoriestweet

Anyone keeping up with the big YA Contemps of recent years might guess, like me, that this trend is at least in part caused by Gayle Forman’s fabulous If I Stay, due for cinema release this summer. As a sidenote, I don’t follow the American bestseller lists, but somehow I snagged a copy of this great book early after its release before many people in the UK had heard of it, so in a way I feel connected to its fate.

ifistay

Anyhow, as a musician myself I watch this trend with equal pleasure and trepidation. Music is…

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The Ideas That Never Make The Page

Since reading Cait’s post about the massing story ideas of hers, I’ve been thinking about those I’ve ‘lost’ over the years. I write a lot, but I think so so much more, but, of course, this means that I can’t include all of them in my repertoire until I’ve edited and/or published what I already have.

Ahemem. *gets out tiny notebook* Let me see…

Credit to Cait, of course

Sometimes my ideas are deliciously complex.

I’ve wanted to write a romantic thriller with a retrograde amnesiac/stalker romance for a while, or one involving dual identities. Notice the want, rather than the have. It’s something that springs repeatedly into my mind as I walk the half hour across campus to lectures. I jump back and force between which has the amnesia, but Dangerous Games is one blurb I actually wrote down:

After Daniel Saunders loses his position at a prestigious academy, and nearly his entire career, at the hands of his stalker, he can’t afford another stuff up. Caroline Bennet wakes the morning after her Mini ploughs into a truck, amnesiac except for two pieces of knowledge: 1) she’s the girl no one wants, and 2) she’s in love with a mysterious man called Daniel Saunders.

When he escaped from the middle of London to a sleepy Suffolk village, Daniel never planned to meet Caroline again, but when it’s clear that she has no idea how she herself ended up in the village – and this time she’s not lying – Daniel can’t help but be attracted to the mystery.

Using Daniel as her crutch to reality – any excuse to exacerbate the simmering chemistry between them – Caroline hunts the village for clues and someone hunts her. She wasn’t meant to survive the crash, and a killer wants her head on a silver platter before she matches the half-familiar face in her dreams to one of the ‘locals’.

With her façade of poison pen-letters and begging gazes dropped, Daniel finds himself heating up to this side of Caroline. As he tries to help the woman he once ran from, he unveils elements of himself he was all for locking away in London…like the fact he might have had a more close-to-heart reason than his ego for stringing her along.

NA novel, since Caroline is nineteen or twenty. I like that it’s set in Suffolk. I write too much of my fiction in London or Oxford. Besides that, I imagine a Midsomer Murders-esque landscape. I’m not keen on ‘Caroline’, though; I already have a SC in a major trilogy with that name, despite its subconscious popularity with me. I might try a foreign name, like Edyta or Agatha, something to mix her heritage up.

I—I mean, I would, were I actually writing this. As other variations, I once thought of one of those triangles where MC should choose the good guy but she’s obsessed with the guy who doesn’t want her (this is actually a set-back from our evolutionary system) – I want to use the title What Was Never Mine sometime.

Wantage_AlexB

Often they reflect life…

I found this blurb in a document cryptically entitled ‘story idea’:

Crushed by her overbearing mother, Gina’s never had a resolute opinion in her life. But she enters uni and – poof! – the world is full of them! Round up and thrown into one corridor with an arrogant Communist (what is Communism anyway?), an encyclopaedic cosplayer, a verbose champion guitarist and a computer scientist whose interests lie more in Gina’s field, Gina has to lift her head up and assert her place in a world unfolded every week.

Even if her place is as an introvert obsessed with genealogy…

As you can tell, it’s NA contemp. I love the premise and the gang (anything to write about modern-day British cosplay!) but I doubt, with the lack of time I have for the stories I’m writing and editing anyway, that I’m ever going to write it [alone. Having started on a writing site, I’m well used to collaborative projects]. Oh, man – I literally just thought of the best name for it: Gina-ology. Now I want to write it! :(

There’s also YA light sci-fi The Third Way, which came out of the simple ‘what if?’ question What would be the major problems of dating a robot? I actually did a bullet-pointed outline of this. It’s set in the near future, about a nerdy girl who can’t get a boyfriend so she enlists her best friend’s father – mad scientist a la Doc Brown – to lend her one of his robots…

So, the tough, the fun, and the poignant/dramatic/downright bizarre. Now, the others.

Those other times, they are simple, random ideas that I’d read books for:

YA mystery/romance, My Grandparents and Yours came about as speculation over my inability to write series of more than three books. It also plays on an alternate ending to a book I haven’t even yet planned – A London Scoundrel, the ‘end’ of the Alé and Chris mysteries, in the course of which Alé is tempted to cheat on her husband with said eponymous scoundrel whom she sends to jail ten years previously in A Game of Murder (see WIP page), but who escapes and seduces her in, you guessed it, London. It’s also meant to have a mystery to fit the trilogy, but seeing as the ten-years-earlier prequel to A Game isn’t yet finished, I ought to stick to one or another.

Anyway, My Grandparents and Yours plays on the idea (the alternate ending) that Alé and Chris’ second child was fathered by said scoundrel, and, two generations down the line, a teen couple find a box of letters in the attic which reveal that they are actually related. Another cool concept that I’m saddened by shelving, if only for losing that name.

Greatness Thrust. Because YA contemp Shakespeare retelling from Malvolio’s point of view. You can’t have this idea. I wants it muchly. Someday.

Fuel For Empaths. Because YA contemp mystery with that element of magical realism, or as I like to call it: the is-this-magic-or-just-life? factor. To understand what I mean, I advise reading THE SPELLBOOK OF LISTEN TAYLOR by Jaclyn Moriarty. I still wonder about that to this day.

On Very Thin Ice. With my love of ice-skating as well as my love of mysteries, a combination of the two had to hit my neuronal relays at some point! I even penned a character list with all the tropes – teen girl sleuth, policeman dad (yay, parents in YA fiction!), corrupting success, and secret homosexual romances.

I’m not kidding. It has been remarked that Marple is full of lesbians.

And one day I might write a YA fantasy retelling of Ovid’s poem about Phaethon. Yay, A Level Latin literature! (That may sound sarcastic, but I seriously miss reading Ovid. He had that level of facetiousness and retrospective narrative that only historical writers seemed to have.)

Following that parathesised remark, I’d like to experiment with an unreliable or active third-person narrator. For some of this, go to the Dieselpunk Opera and check out songs like ‘Going’ and ‘Finale’, where Lloyd is all but transcendent.

There we go. Whilst I have active WIPs and shelved and forgotten pieces of prose, we writers also have ideas that are cast aside before they’ve even been formulated. I think the major problem with shiny new ideas for prolific and varied-genre writers (of which I am), is that we end up planning them or writing such blurbs for them before we can stop ourselves. And then we either continue or we have to sadly pass over them in, ahem, ‘favour’ for editing or fast writing.

On that note, NaNo is almost over and, unlike I did last year, I promise to give you a proper breakdown. And, having written an entire novel-sized piece (and not finished), I almost ready to officially reveal its name. ;)


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Photo of the Week: Violet

Of all the photos I took yesterday of a flower garden, I have to say, these are my favourite, the purple clematis. So stunning in shades of  purple and green. No filter here, either. I had fun with filters, but this is the original photograph, unedited, from my phone.

AlexB_Violet


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Ready. Set. Write Update 28/7

It’s Monday again, and like the exact opposite of Garfield, I love Mondays, yay! It’s Ready. Set. Write! update day, and I’ve made quite some good progress this week, I believe, including a lot towards my total summer goal of ‘having a social life’, ie. going out and doing things, as opposed to sitting in front of my laptop every day.

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, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin Funk, and Katy Upperman.

RSWcloud

How I did on last week’s goals:

1. Reach at least the 50K mark for CampNaNoWriMo. Reached 56K so have officially managed to write over 50K in a month! The story is far from over, though. I have yet to write the main fight scene and a miniature one that occurs shortly after the extract.

2. More July WTCB work. A little bit. I’ve done more research, and have a list, but I need to wait. I know ‘H’ is taking priority at the moment, especially since I still do CampWriMo for the last days.

My goals for this week:

1. I’d like to write another 10K for ‘H’, even though CampWriMo finishes this week.

2. Dubai holiday, so no other goal for the time-being. I guess get my head back together would be one.

I went on a boat-trip today, and so snapped this map-table since it reminds me of Amelia's cartography table on the aerostat Cloud-Chaser.

I went on a boat-trip today, and so snapped this map-table since it reminds me of Amelia’s cartography table on the aerostat Cloud-Chaser.

A favourite recent paragraph from my project:

An extract from chapter 24, as Cathy and Jonathon prepare to rescue Alexander, despite the disagreement of Charles:

The parallel street stank of body fluids, but Cathy gathered her sleeve to her nose and paced onwards. She emerged and caught the edge of the factory wall, and, as expected, the mouth of a pipe extended.

She’d not expected the guard.

Cathy turned faint. The man, stripped into dark battle wear, but matched into the factory background, was slashing shapes through the air with his squat machete. In some moment of merciful bliss, this left no space on his rope-sling belt for another weapon…but the machete would carve Cathy’s belly open in one precise slash.

The biggest challenge I faced this week:

The most recent chapters are pretty static. I wouldn’t personally call them info-dump via dialogue, since the MC has to interact with a couple of people who take her change of manners two opposing ways. Yet, I’m having trouble with the action around the dialogue. Who’s showing apprehension, who’s being bolshie and whatnot.

Something I love about my WIP:

I’ve started daydreaming about my characters, which, whilst predictable in certain mood, is always a good sign. It’s always the Steampunky ones I daydream about, too. #unconscioustrends

Next week, I’ll be in Dubai and so no update then, but I hope to continue after that. I also hope to get some progress in my reading goals this coming week.

Ropes from the Lady Florence--I mean, The Cloud-Chaser. Sure. ;)

Ropes from the Lady Florence–I mean, The Cloud-Chaser. Sure. ;)

 


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‘The Relationship’

I wrote this poem on Wednesday when this photo I took the same day inspired me.

InstagramCapture_4b24eb0f-a932-4d39-8568-75e2610d8765_jpg

Your sweat and the last refrain of melody and the closing thorn,
It pierced my heart before I’d even known
How to spell out your amour.
In these moments where I curse and scrawl your words over and again,
True realisation is my enemy and enmity
Swells within me, a bitter
Leftover of our poison,
A poison for shelling our mind, enriching our souls.
We know better -
Well, you have your moments of standing by the window – and
Trilling the forlorn tune
(I remember you passed it to me,
Via piano keys
The day you realised
I only play strings)
I’ve kept my mind from the countermelody:
I hum that tune to myself sometimes.
We plucked youth from out of each others hands;
Quite why I didn’t expect the thorns
Ploughed from regret
Nobody factored but you, with your silent
Hands. Bled, I did, and cried as we signed ourselves
Away. Into a word neither
Admitted was our harmony bed.
Your sweat and the last refrain,
And I cut my thorn-decked flesh,
Eyeing your hesitance, knife-point.
No wonder salt lies on the scared.


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7 Quick Takes About Chatting With the Goats, Riding the Camels and Eating the Lobster. For Real.

It’s Friday, which means it’s time to unite the Catholic bloggers of le world! I’ve been in a very strange mood today, which ranged from excitable before I left the house, lethargic and dreamy mid-afternoon when I was walking through heathland, and super productive this pr/evening. This week’s host is Carolyn, so pop on over there to see what everybody else has been up to :)

7 QT logo

~1~

I’ve been on holiday! Rather last minute, an old friend of mine invited me on holiday to Suffolk with her family. It’s been an incredibly filled week, with the four of us going out every day, and me using the spare moments before and after to write my CampWriMo novel. In case you didn’t notice, I’ve also been blogging every day of this week to make up for the skewed schedule when my laptop charger failed on me.

~2~

We’ve been to a lot of animal sanctuaries, including one where the goats there didn’t know the meaning of enclosure. The adults simply jumped over the fence as if they were show horses, whilst the kids…oh, the kids were adorable. They wriggled under the fencing to meet us and ended up walking all over us for cuddles.

Aren’t they the cutest?

~3~

I tried lobster for the first time! (And learnt how to properly eat an artichoke.) In spite of my not being a fan of shellfish, I actually really like the taste. What can I say? I’ve always had expensive, quality taste… Lobster, caviar, champagne… *noms* Seaside fun, eh?

~4~

The fact that my friend is almost encyclopaediac in her knowledge of animals and insects meant that our activities focused a lot on farms and bug-seeking activities. At the camel farm, we were able to ride a pair of dromedary. This makes my second time. :)

~5~

However, there was always time for my activities, including seeing a couple of monastic ruins – as well as a living, breathing cathedral, which had, the day we came, been setting up for the town’s flower festival the following day. So God blessed us with seeing the flower festival for free! And there were some ingenious and gorgeous displays.

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~6~

Oddly, it’s always the summer in which I feel the loneliest. Although I promised I wouldn’t watch so many Steam Powered Giraffe videos whilst writing, their beautiful ballad Honeybee exemplifies how melancholy I can get. Watch, if you like, and pray for me.

You didn’t have to look my way; your eyes still haunt me to this day. You didn’t have to say my name, ignite my circuits, start a flame.

~7~

My novel is coming along nicely. I…reached 50-thousand… Okay, I say it hesitantly, because I’d already written a chapter and a bit (~5K) before I started, and the plan is at the bottom of the Word doc., too. So not completed NaNo yet. But feel free to celebrate prematurely. I know I will, with my 2K-a-day plan.

An extract from the end of chapter 21, where Cathy is sick of her New York guardian’s resistance to go in all guns-blaring to rescue her fiancé, from whose kidnapper she’s just escaped:

“Well.” Charles emerged, in his hands a jade number in a thin velvet with a high neck and gold brocade across the sleeves. “Here.”

Cathy sucked on her lips, and reached one hand to her hair. A hairpin had slipped loose even as they’d wandered the way from Westchester. No wonder her hair lapped at half of her face, whilst the other half still climbed up the top of her skull. Even the ringlets had let themselves down and faded. Whilst she had certain ability to place her own hair, she would need a maid for this complete mess.

She unplucked the last three or four pins and the wave of chestnut filled her entire sight, until she tossed the two woven sides behind her ears, pushing them from her skin. Her hair draped down her back. The feeling was unusual, but not foreign. To sleep with one’s hair up would be too irritating.

“Thank you. I can find my own lodgings from now on.”

“Cathleen.” A warning tone that would take no rebuttal as its answer.


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Notable Quotables for your Monday CreativeMotivity

Alexandrina Brant:

It’s no longer Monday, but have a lazy Thursday reblog of this CS Lewis quote. Good man. So true.

Originally posted on Blue Harvest Creative:

Words—they inspire. Help us believe. Resonate. And touch our soul. Join us for a daily dose of Notable Quotables, and start your day off with quotes for your creative motivation—or as we like to call it—CreativeMotivity.

BHC Notable Quotables

BHC Notable Quotables

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Review of Encante By Aiyana Jackson

 

Hello! Today I’m reviewing a novella I finished recently: Encante by author Aiyana Jackson, published by Aädenian Ink. As you can probably tell from the cover, it’s a high fantasy with humans and the eponymous mermaid-like creatures and is set almost entirely on a submersible – that’s submarine to those of you not so acquainted with the lingo.

Blurb:

Deep under the ocean, Simeon Escher, protégé to the leader of the order of Loth Lörion, finds himself an unexpected guest aboard the submersible, Narwhal. Home to a crew of humans, and strange mer-folk few people are aware exist, Simeon is swept up in their quest to find a world within a world, a possible safe haven from the insidious reach of the Kabbalah. Yet how can he think about his mission when the captain’s niece fills his every thought, distracting him from all that’s important to him, including his own fiancée.

My thoughts:

Encante

Whilst this novella started off slow, with large, dialogue-less paragraphs, it picked up by chapter three, and I enjoyed it once Simeon was on-board the submersible and we’d been introduced to the batch of characters. It’s one of those stories where one must go with the flow, or otherwise be left when the tide turns; I felt like I was being thrown into the deep end of a world – which was both good, in that Ms. Jackson doesn’t patronise the reader by trying to explain, and bad in that I took a while to resurface and understand where we were.

…I’ll stop with the water imagery now.

The use of voice and language really brought the novella to life. I did like the plot, but I suspect I would have skimmed had the voice had been so…facetious, I suppose. I could relate to Simeon’s tight, mannered personality (he rather reminds me of my MC Cathy, in that punk of steampunk).

There were bits that I found annoying, though. For instance, at the beginning, Simeon kept going back to thinking of the love interest as soon as she appeared. Not going three pages without his thoughts straying to Drusilla. To me, it was mildly annoying. I’m also not sure what I think about Drusilla’s gift to read minds. It took a little fun out of the romance, since she was forever interrupting and second-guessing. And, yeah, it took me a little bit of time to adjust to that. On the other hand, I guess that’s how Simeon was feeling. Good use of relatability.

However, by the end, I believed in their romance. I’m not sure if some would critique it for being ‘instalove’, but I didn’t find that the case. Yes,  the days flit by and there is very little time for pleasantry, acquaintances and getting-to-know, but The Narwhal submersible is a cramp place and proximity is going to affect the speed of attraction. Besides, Drusilla and Simeon evidently have that spark and connection and shared goals of travelling. Blows to Cecelie! Who wants a human when they can have a half-Encante?

Sorry, going off point– I will say for that, however, I was surprised how readily Simeon actually abandoned thoughts of his fiancé. Sure, he didn’t love her, but one would think for decency… Uh. I cannot say what I would do were I in his situation.

Certainly, it was a gripping tale that kept me turning pages for more. The beautiful, almost magical, world of The Narwhal and the ocean, filled with description such as

Several scarves in a rainbow of autumnal hues tumbled from a solid looking chest, and I was only marginally surprised to catch a glimpse of a skull nestled within them.

is a stark contrast to the foul, derogatory actions within the ship’s crew itself. I liked this Victorian feel to the class-system between the Encante and the humans, and it’s definitely something that, once I realised how strong the themes are of class in the novella, I wanted to read more of.

Overall: 3 1/2 stars. In terms of originality, I loved the novella. The Encante themselves sound like gorgeous creatures, though I was a little sad that the scene on the cover comes from the penultimate chapter. At times, I felt the story dipped into telling, and, whilst the voice was distinct of Simeon and enjoyable, I would have preferred a good deal less of the ‘seemed’ and ‘appeared’ in the prose. The antagonists were strong and believable, but I wouldn’t give full stars because of simply my subjective reaction to how high fantasy it was. However, it worked well on its own, and I would happily have read the novella without references to the conflict ex mare.

If you like the deep-sea side of the Steampunk aesthetic, like high fantasy in new worlds with new species, and enjoy a sustainable romance thread that doesn’t claim the story, then Encante is a quick read with believable characters and engaging stakes.

My gif verdict, a la the Notebook Sisters:

Well, in terms of aesthetic. Some Steampunk can feel cramp and all blimps-and-ether-guns, but being in the submersible added another dimension I hadn’t thought of.


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Photo of the Week: Hey!

Welcome to my new blog theme! I’ve been meaning to change it for a while now, but nothing particularly caught my eye until I had the time to go through it. Nothing much has changed in terms of the sidebar. Yeah, it’s changed sides and rearranged, but the sidebar notes are the same. One day, I’ll find a double-sidebarred theme. :)

A friend recently introduced me to Instagram. As you can probably guess, this is never a good idea, and the app is an addictive one if one likes photography and social sites. The like/favourite button on the pictures is simply a double-tap, which can be annoying when one simply wants to get to the photo page, but that’s a minor annoyance for me. It’s a pretty simple app to use when you’ve set it up anyway.

As such, though, I’ve been customising my pictures with the filters (I love me some filters) ;)

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So, yeah, have a cool image of an alpaca that I met/fed at a zoo in Suffolk today. He knows where you live… *cough* Nah, he’s just a friendly dude who knows where your food bag is!

For more pictures of similar quality and colours, pop over to http://instagram.com/caelestia_flora

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