Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist


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 ;)

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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…)


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?


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.



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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Three-Word Pitches

You know those loglines one gets where all the action seems to be crammed into a simple trio of words? Well, how effective are they for highlighting the main points of a piece of prose and attacking as a hook? If we all addressed our audiences in three or so words, we might never get anything said so particularly. Indeed, my blog post would end up being three word pitches?.

I’m being facetious, but you see my point that this technique cannot work for a variety of writing, for its fundamental simplicity.

Let’s look at the converse, though. The tool of the writer is to describe one’s work in as few words as possible – concision at its most trimmed. Obviously, this never occurs in the midst of a first draft.

Tongue-in-cheek steampunk performer Professor Elemental argues that it’s a British thing—

“Probably the case with everything in honesty. I use ten words when two would do, honestly.” (from the song I’m British)

—But I reckon that, in today’s societal climate, most English-first-language-speakers grow up with a conglomerate of excess syntax. As such, it is difficult for us to start trimming down how to pitch, and three words alone…

I’ve never found the need to contain myself to three words. Sometimes they’re fun to throw about – in the Next Big Thing meme, the question asked what might pique a reader’s interest and I replied with the three words: Explosions! Megaphones! Cucumber!

I gave Horology the same treatment over on the WIP page when describing the world Cathy enters: guild-members, iron socialites, apparitions.

Other than that, though, books are a lot less narrow than their components. I’ve read blurbs which only have touched on the first few chapters of books and sent me down a road which I’d not intended to read. Often this is good, yes, but it’s not the reason I would’ve picked up the book in the first place, and one wonders how much of that is deliberate misdirection and how much is simply not knowing where to start in one’s pitch.

I would be naive to say that pitching is straight-forward. You’ve got the simple contemporaries – “girl meets boy but she can’t date him because ” (general example; it’s not my intention to hetronormalise here) – which need something more to jazz them up and get readers/publishers/agents excited about them. I’ve not researched much pitching for literary novels, but I believe a similar problem crops up there.

Then you’ve got the high-concept, commercial fiction, which almost suffers the opposite problem when pitching: too much context/exciting stuff. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve added and removed Zara and the plot points surrounding her from my query and Twitter pitch for WTCB! I think with WTCB, the issue is not, as I previously assumed, trying to explain the NeoVictorian, alternate universe, it’s-2010-but-there-is-no-electricity setting in my query, but the issue is the temporal physics. A couple of critiquers on the AbsoluteWrite forums suggested I remove the definition of temporal fissure – “another reality growing in her sitting room, of all things!” – to leave the word for itself, but I do worry that it makes little sense standing without a definition.

The question is how does one know what to keep and what to throw out when it comes to pitching in such a short space. Three words? More like three arbiters of one’s doom. (As with any pitch, I suppose) choose wrong and you sell your story as something completely off what it ought to be. And some elements have to be considered ‘lesser’ to those other elements.

In fairness, I think the idea of a short pitch, though maybe not one so slim as three words, has merit in that it encourages the mind to stick to concision and  to pull out the main points and possible hooks of a manuscript, and, to an extent, the theory works, but how is one able to prove the originality of one’s pitch in these nouns? Perhaps in three phrases: chemical explosions, megaphone weapons, and possibly-poisonous cucumber yoghurt. Nevertheless, they can never fully accomplish what a longer pitch can do, but, on the contrary, they might accomplish a better hooking than a whole paragraph of pitch.

What about you? Do you think these sorts of three-word pitches are a valuable tool or more of a marketing spunk? If you had three words, how would you describe your story?

PS. Is there a new WordPress post maker?? I had trouble posting this for a while, but then I managed to get the normal post-maker.


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