Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist


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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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Ready. Set. Write! Update 21/7

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.

I was holding out on typing this post until I finished chapter 17, hence how late in the day this comes.

How I did on last week’s goals:

See last week’s post for why I didn’t set myself any rigid goals for this week. Some progress in the general scheme of things:

1. CampWriMo – nearing my end, both for time and for wordcount.

2. Finish at least one of the books I started reading this year. I’m about two-thirds through reading The Iron Wyrm Affair. On the other hand, I finished reading novella Encante. I need to think about not starting anything new until I’ve finished the books I’ve picked up so far.

3. WTCB… Completely reshaped the query and with a better focus on the romance goal for both Aidelle and Phillip and how much they ought to be together. Dropped the New Adult category, but I might still press it with industry professionals in the telos, who know their stuff better than I. I can argue both ways anyway.

4. As much as I’d love to start it, I’m going to drop Under The Carrington from my summer write list. I will pop in when I get the need to write once ‘H’ is done, but, at the moment, my head is too far into the fantasy bubble to attempt a contemporary.

(Those are probably the most prominent progresses I’ve made to any of my overarching goals.)

My goals for this week:

1. Reach at least the 50K mark for CampNaNoWriMo. I’m currently aiming to finish today with at least 42, so I only need (preferably 10-thousand words).

2. More July WTCB work.

A favourite line from my project:

As Cathy tries to return to England, she meets many people who have reasons for staying exactly where they are, including a former maid and this character:

“Certainly,” her voice churned the Italian lace into English stiffness, “I miss my daughters, but my husband… Let us leave at the thought that he was cruel. Controlling. Here, I am something more. I can hunt with the men, where I better belong. My body is not needed for child-bearing, and I have no obligation to sew, when my fingers are no match for the needle.”

Cathy tilted her head and gazed at the woman. She had kept her hair pinned out of her face, but strands of it tufted above her ears and towards a bald patch behind her right temple. Her leather-weaved trousers complimented the band in her hair and that stung well against the shards of heavy white metal she used as hairpins.

Mudhuts feature in my story, but a little more retrofuturistic than this.

The biggest challenge I faced this week:

Starting. It’s more general hesitance than procrastination, but I’m having trouble focusing my mind on writing chronologically, and instead keep jumping about from beginning of chapter to end and back.

Something I love about my WiP:

I can feel my character evolving, as she gains strengths from being thrown into bizarre and oft-uncomfortable situations. Once again, the theme of class has not escaped one of my novels, and I have a couple of characters leaning towards equality. Which is weird. I don’t want any lectures, characters. Plot’s getting into focus, too. I hope.


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Beautiful People: Cathy

Sticking with the theme (check out yesterday’s post about the Steampunk world I’m creating!), the character whom I’m interviewing for this month’s Beautiful People link up – hosted by Cait @ Notebook Sisters and Sky @ Further Up and Further In – is Miss Cathleen ‘Cathy’ , MC of my CampWriMo novel, Horology. Cathy is a very respectable young lady in both senses of the word, but her parents happened to be untitled scientists more interested in entomology in the rainforests than watching their little girl grow up, and therefore she has never known the fancier life. On the other hand, rarely seeing her parents made Cathy into a modest woman – if one who might rely on a man’s help a little too much.

“Haven’t you ever thought of how succinct some of The Passings are, but how some are more…fragile? I suppose that would be the word.”

1. What’s their favourite food? (Bonus: favourite flavour of chocolate!)

Cathy definitely has a sweet tooth. She adds honey to her porridge and rarely takes black (bitter) tea. As to her favourite food, I say it would be sweet, yet delicate pastries. She has a weakness for late breakfast croissants.

2. What do they absolutely hate?

So as to not clash with #5, I’m not going to answer this in my first interpretation, which was hate as in fear. Instead, what Cathy despises the most is the way Lords and Ladys use their money to manipulate society and the outcome of wills. One character with whom Cathy has a terse breakfast is more than willing to let his younger brother disappear because it means not having to share the house with him.

3. What do they enjoy learning about?

Neither music nor science become Cathy, and she was never taught to draw or to count. However, when asked whether she wanted to pursue a profession, sixteen-year-old Cathy jumped at the chance to learn the languages. Her strongest are French and Latin, but she has conversational German, too. Whilst Cathy never went to an institute of education to learn, her governess, Miriam, taught her all she knew, and when that supply was exhausted, Cathy’s parents employed an external tutor.

4. Who is the most influential person in their life?

Being smitten with a scientist has its upsides. It’s clear that a lot of what Cathy does and where she goes has been in habit of putting herself in Alexander’s path. As the story progresses, too, we see that she is desperate to understand what his theories have got him into – and to relate to the Theoretical Maths he’s created.

5. What is their childhood fear?

Ghosts. Cathy is unusual that, where most of the population accept and revere The Passing of ghosts every dusk in the world’s cold spots, Cathy has a deep-seated fear of their presence, which would, in modern psychiatry, be called a phobia. The other characters are, of course, utterly puzzled by this—and Cathy will have to face her face if she wants to save Alexander.

(I say ‘will’. I haven’t written those chapters yet.)

6. What is something they have always secretly dreamed of doing, but thought impossible?

In true Victorian fashion, Cathy’s desire for a relationship with Alexander has relied less on passion and more on logical assessment. Call me cliché, but she’d love to get married and raise a household like her mother failed to do. However, her analysis of Alexander – his blank stares and aloof mannerisms – led her to believe he had no interest in her beyond their friendship. How wrong she was. I guess that’s what my characters get for dating men ten years older.

7. Are they a night owl or morning person?

A morning person, by far. If she’s in London or New York, Cathy already gets jittery by evening by the mere thought of The Passing.

8. Do they say everything that pops into their head, or leave a lot unsaid?

Cathy can have a temper when she wants, but she generally curbs her tongue, out of polite habit more than anything. In a recent chapter, Cathy goes so far as to slap another woman, but, by this point, one can tell that she is really upset enough to do so.

9. What are their nervous habits?

Cathy sometimes pulls on strands of her hair when she is nervous.

Artist credit: Alex Hooper


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Into the World of ‘H’

As you know, I’m currently ploughing through CampNaNoWriMo – all your wordcounts belong to me! – and, unlike last year…or, actually, unlike any of the other times I’ve tried writing challenges…I am writing straight onto my laptop instead of having to write on a physical notebook first (FYI, I still haven’t completely typed up DMWT from last year’s CampWriMo/trip to Uganda). In a way, this both heightens and releases the pressure.

I’ve currently written 35K, and am on chapter 16, but, due to the mishap with my laptop, I had to write on my phone for four days, so, whilst it felt like I skipped through the 20s merrily, I believe I am behind on the 2K-a-day trial. To add to that, I’m holidaying with a friend in Suffolk – we arrived yesterday – so I have no set writing times as I would when at home.

As with a lot of my writing at the moment, I’m going for a facetious tone, but trying to keep the heroine from being outspoken, as that would not suit her. I’m going to share a couple of extracts, to give you a glimpse into this fantasy/alternate history world, featuring an infected leech bite, a storm, and a dormant volcano. And that’s just in chapters 12 to 16.

NOW I get why Atlantis has always been my favourite Disney film

Who among you negotiates?

The language of the novel is vital. Well, not only is it something I love, but it shows their Steampunk world in more detail – how each character ought to interact, particularly that of the MC, since her actual words are often filled with more eloquence than her internal monologue.

Deal or no, if they arranged no posited lodgings with the lady, the sky would be pocked by nightfall and all hopes of survival in the alien wasteland would be dashed.

At least Cathy was not alone in her sympathies. In their quick exchanges, Amelia and Jonathon were demanding of the captain some little element. Cathy heard very little of the hisses – but the words lodgings, night, and help, even if they were imagined, warmed her chest.

“Lady,” the captain called, “I simply mean to ask if you would give us lodging for the night until we can fetch supplies for the journey to Rome.”

Silence. Even through the distance, no one would mistake that close-lipped smile marring the woman’s features.

Eventually – a mere minute dragged in desperation – Petite Victoria drew her fingers away and unstuck her dark lips. “Pray, who among you negotiates the treaties of sleep with strangers?”

Before he might speak and throw the entire operation, Cathy jolted a hand onto the captain’s arm, despite lunging across Amelia and Jonathon.

“Please,” she hissed to him. “Let me talk with her. I know their native language, after all.”

Ignoring the petulant half-snort that came from Jonathon, Captain Moorcombe nodded, and said to Petite Victoria, “You may have your time with the lady Cathleen.”

~

A device for seeing and finding…

Of course, every stereotype of Steampunk is metal cogs and airships, and, whilst that’s not something I completely abhor, I’d rather step away from the typical before it becomes another overdone trope. However, one can’t help admit that those items affect the aesthetic, and, done well, are one of the integral legs of identifying a Steam piece.

The woman gave Cathy a dry smile. This close, the eyepiece – or, rather, the lady’s eye – was inescapable. The metal was too light, too polished to be copper or brass, but, at the same time, it looked as if it had been crafted from the alloys of old, and that was an accomplishment, considering how the metal writhed and squirmed around the organic flesh.

Cathy blinked. Staring at the rooted disk made her own pupils ache by association. Still, that didn’t stop her stretching her fingertips to it. Quite what she was doing, she had no idea.

Petite Victoria halted, but she threw up her head, and connected eyepiece with Cathy’s fingers without a word. She needed none – her chin declared her pride at bearing the mechanical incision.

To the touch, the disk stank of alloy. Under that, the layer of charcoaled cogs rotated anticlockwise – clicking in the wind’s breath, they operated a chain of smaller and smaller winding cogs, down to the pupil itself, which had belonged to her in a previous life.

Now, however, the bottle-green of her right eye had been carved away and polished into a gemstone lock.

Victoria’s eye was no eye. It was a device for seeing and finding, for spotting and destroying.

~

Even that simple move had escaped her.

I can’t call it adventure for nothing. Yes, it involves a lot of travel and a handful of contagonists, acting for their own, not-mentioned purposes, who happen to cross the path of my MC. The stakes are high for the MC, who just wants to find where her fiancé has disappeared to, but the world into which she finds herself plunged is one of revolt and secrets.

Cathy struggled against the netting fabric, which cut unflattering lines into her face. She turned, but that did nothing to alleviate the awkward position into which she’d managed to fall. Although her petticoats were doing their best to cover her modesty, her ankles stuck into the top of the netting like two pillars in the skyline.

She fought to drag her feet down from their height, but even that simple move had escaped her. Whilst she moved her wrists and fingers like any other day, they’d barely dragged down her legs, one by one. She splayed them again – but she’d manicured her nails into square, polite shapes, and they’d lost any of their ability to cut. Not that Miriam would’ve been pleased by the idea of her former student, a young lady, slashing with her own humane fingernails.

Forget her. Miriam wasn’t here; she wasn’t the one finding a way from the tight spaces of the net. Cathy took a deep breath, surprised when her chest howled in pain from the corset jamming her ribs and breasts in all the wrong ways.

Smart footsteps – no urchin or shop owner afforded to pay for the types of metallic steel that lined this man’s boots enough to click as he rounded the corner cobbles – neared, and Cathy found herself holding her breath. She didn’t even know from where the anxiety rose. The thought of The Passing, perhaps? From this direction, the sun shone obvious and semi-circular over the Thames eastbank. It hadn’t even set fully, and she was already pulling worries from the frantic edges of her mind.

That’s it for now! I hope you enjoyed peeking into the scenery of my NaNo adventure.


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Diversity is Difficult (For Me)

With all the talk of diversity from last month’s Pride month, I’ve got stuck thinking about the topic of all sorts of diversity.

Miriam Joy and I were discussing our Work-in-Progresses recently. Her YA contemporary about modern-day knights is packed with queer characters (to quote Miriam “I’m bad at writing straight people.”) whilst in my steampunk/alternate history, I’m finding it difficult to identify any sort of diversity.

My reaction when people talk about diversity in WIP novels

Any pre-millennium author would argue this is because of the setting and a world where not only was homosexuality considered a mental illness, many queer people refused to admit the truth to themselves—but I refuse to take that as an excuse for my own writing. The idea of diversity has to, fundamentally, exist throughout the centuries, worlds and genres. One can’t swipe it away by the idea that some genres or places are ‘immune’ to diversity. That would be ludicrous.

This is, sadly, a trend in my writing. One of my characters was obviously gay to me; and Agnetha is bi, even if she is more heterosexual-homoromantic than anything else; if any of my characters are asexual, that would be Andrew Costello, but even his disinterest is classed as being a confirmed bachelor in the NeoVictorian world*.

As I write, I don’t see my characters as being diverse, and I’m hardly one to shoe-horn in the queerness and the colour; as I’ve briefly mentioned before, I’d be happy to have some of my characters whom I envision as white in my head played by actors of colour, but I am – one might sigh and say sadly – one of those little middle-class white girls with a tendency to write about white girls. And, of course, they’re middle-class, because the upper and lower classes are too often written about.

On the other hand, it’s more difficult simply to make assumptions about characters—

Though I can’t help but want to let my readers decide about the sexuality of my Supporting Characters. With MCs, I tend to be more specific, since I can’t escape writing in romance. For instance, in Horology, Cathy gets engaged to Alexander, though I do accept that the certain fact does not negate queerness of either partner. But they’re straight. Believe me. SCs, however, don’t have to be specific. Of course, I’ll know what I feel they are meant to be, but characters have their own decisions ex libris and I cannot stop them feeling what they might.

Be that as it may, my authorial side has her own opinions/interpretations/assumptions – and it’s here that I find, once I’ve created the cast of a WIP, that barely any characters strike me as queer.

And one has to be aware of stereotypes. I know certain images appear at the thought of, say, the word lesbian, because of the way popular culture has shaped our views, and I have no wish to further the stereotype—yet, characters automatically conform to certain patterns of stereotypical appearance. For instance, I can see how a couple of my SCs in Horology could be queer, but they’re already non-conformist in their jobs and opinions, so – to me, personally, by the way; I fully understand the subjectiveness of the matter – it seems a cop out to have them be queer. That’s almost what the reader expects.

So, what about subtle queerness? But with characters who don’t need to be romantically involved, or are chased by an unwitting ‘straight’ (used in the very general sense) character, how does one show their sexuality without making a point of it? Or without doing a JK. Is it bad if I’m not being explicit? *overthinking*

You know, I’d like to see more diversity in interests, too. Whilst a lot of writers include ‘fun’ interests, like sciencey-things and music and stuff (specific, I know), I’ve not met many, especially non-contemporary, characters who are furries or lovers of inanimate objects or animals (and, no, I’m not talking about bestiality. Bestioromance. You know, in a nice way). Lifestyles that are a little deviant of ‘the line’. I think I’m allowed to raise that point, even though I’m only 50% Live-Action Role Playing.

I guess it’s too early in the Steampunk fashion boom to expect contemporaries with characters who Steam dress and have Steam personae, but I find this sort of ‘cultural’ cross-dressing is absent everywhere, despite knowing two people who, rather than cosplay, do daily dress in their creations.

In summary, I suppose what I’m raising is that I myself should be writing more characters in non-contemporaries who put on the gear of cults/societies/non-conformist fashion without fear of exposure/mockery/plot-device.

And, you know, more obviously queer characters.

I feel I ought to mention the series of Pride posts Nevillegirl did, since those also in part inspired this post and got me thinking about more diversity in my own works.

*Perhaps I’ll further explore the use of ambiguity in prose – both the oh-that’s-a-remark-about-sh*gging-guys and the author-isn’t-meant-to-know kind – when regarding sexuality in another post, since it’s a little off-topic here. In particular, the lives of a lot of the characters in The Continent world (When the Clock Broke) are private even to my eyes. There are some things to which I don’t want to know the answer.


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Ready. Set. Write! 16/7

During the weekend, I broke my laptop, so I was left stranded and rather confused. It’s fixed now, so I apologise for the radio silence, and for a rocky week of posts on which I have to work on. Why do I happen upon ideas when I have no medium in which to write them‽

As such, I’m going to do things a little differently today…probably for the better.

What I achieved this week-and-a-half:

I would say it was a good week for my CampNaNo… Well, it was a good week for writing until my laptop decided to give up its charge and I had to go hunting for a new charger. I managed to get to chapter fifteen, but I have no idea how long those chapters themselves have been (I’m personally not a fan of reading or writing chapters under 2K), since I still have to email them from my the notepad on my phone to my Word document. As you can probably guess, too, I don’t write as lovingly quickly on my phone as I do on a proper keys-and-clicks keyboard. Just as I much prefer print books to ebooks, I much prefer physical keyboards than touch screens.

I did, however, definitely complete one goal from last week: write about 10 – 20K, so I reach the 25K mark, past the quarter mark. Even with only up to near the end of chapter 12 fixed onto the Word doc., I have reached 27K, so hopefully I am on target.

This week, I’ve been introduced to a whole host of new characters and lost a few, too: the crew of a particular skyship, who come in handy at the heroine’s need, and, very recently, a group of anarchists living in the grounds of Vesuvius. But – shh! – the heroine doesn’t know as much yet!

A favourite paragraph from my project:

So far… I intend to post a more up-to-date paragraph once I’ve successfully moved chapters 13 to 15. This extract comes from the beginning of chapter 12, as Cathleen acquaints herself with searching for her fiancé.

Jonathon moved from the dockhand – who took that moment to run – a small click signifying that he’d tucked away the miniature knife, and slid backwards a metre or two. He pushed off from the ground and ran at the vessel, leaping the gap between the platform and the starboard side. Hands latched at his shirt and pulled him over the rail, but Jonathon had landed on the skyship with his jump before Cathy might blink and wish him helped.

“Mind the gap,” she muttered to herself.

Ah, so they’d returned for him or some other overt expedition that would unlikely take passengers. More than a simple smile would press the creases from her borrowed dress and allow her access onto the limited adventure-stat—

“Miss Cathleen!”

A hand. A wave. A flash of cowslip blonde under flying goggles. Today, Amelia had donned a pair of ivy green lenses adorned with two small glass disks, monocular and staggered. Her map-reading goggles perchance.

An impression of the Ellis Island docks and The Cloud-Chaser aerostat. Picture from Flickr and boat built by Kandace Commons in Second Life.

The biggest challenge I faced this week:

I guess knowing that a lot of what I’ve written will be cut in subsequent drafts in the name of pacing. Even in my more substantive drafts of other works, I prefer characters to sit and reflect rather than act straight away.

Something I love about my WIP:

Everything! In particular, the unlicensed skyship The Cloud-Chaser. It’s a lot more what you’d expect from Steampunk than the previous liner The Pearl: archetypal roles; less fancy, more steam-flight. The cartographer, Amelia, has a pet carrier owl called Albert, and strikes me as a tad philosophic in her spare time.

Plus she’s the perfect eye-candy for Secondary Character Jonathon. I was, from planning stages, determined that there’d be no romance between him and the MC (he’s not her type and she gets engaged in chapter one anyway), but this doesn’t stop him from being attracted to The Cloud-Chaser’s cartographer. I really like Jonathon, actually, even though, as a human being, I always planned not to like him: He’s one of those SCs that say the truth the MC doesn’t wanna hear.

Gosh! I was looking for a picture of Amelia, but I stumbled upon this almost perfect image of Cathy on The Cloud-Chaser, dress, goggles, everything. The only thing out of place is the mechanic pump in her hand – even the mechanic’s pouch could be Cathy’s satchel. Artist credit: Alex Hooper and LARP association Steampunk Things


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Ready. Set. Write! Update 7/7

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 hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin Funk, and Katy Upperman.

This week’s been interesting and I’m not sure if I’m actually making progress.

Goals from this week:

1. Stop watching so many Steam Powered Giraffe live videos. Working on it. ;)

2. CAMPNANOWRIMO. Yes, it deserved capslock. I’m going to be moving back home this week, so I don’t expect as much to be written, but I am hoping to do at least 1K a day. This week I wrote about nine thousand words, and got to chapter five…but there’s a long way to go.

3. July WTCB query batch. Waiting on a CP, then I’ll deal with this.

sshot1

My current page…

My goals for this week:

1. CampNaNo – write about 10 – 20K, so I reach the 25K mark, past the quarter mark.

3. Do small character bios? I’d like to know what interesting or unusual hobbies my characters have, but it doesn’t matter if this is never done.

4. July query batch.

A favourite line paragraph [because I can] from my project.

She spun, shielding the oriental vase from her bustle with the sweep of her hand.

Jules offered her the day’s paper. In her fury, she’d failed to pick one up. “You might try flying with an independent captain. They may be unlicensed and of not the freer airways, but the cost will allow a greater distance of travel. In case my brother has arbitrarily sent himself across the unknown precincts of the Americas. That is all I can give you.”

Jules kind of has a Lord Gillingham (from Downton Abbey) appearance to him

The biggest challenge I faced this week.

I’m worried I’m not including enough setting description. I’m just getting stumped on imaginative description at the moment.

Something I love about my WiP. 

I’m amused at how much I’ve managed to make the dirigible flights like modern-day air-travel. In chapter three, the MC’s governess/companion asks whether she should check to see if the dirigible has arrived – reminding me of an arrivals board!

I also found out that my MC is an ornithophile (bird-lover), which makes sense since she also enjoys flying. I love the interaction between her and the carrier pigeons.


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Ready. Set. Write! Update

This is update #2 for me, because this time last week I was working on the 24-hour musical, but I believe most people are on update #3, so take your pick (I’m not sure which to use :P).

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 hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin Funk, and Katy Upperman.

 

How I did on last week’s goal(s). (not as well as hoped)

1. Draft new query. Mostly done. Uh, I think. I’m tweaking here and there.

2. Send out one or two of June query batch. Going to have to give this one a temporal miss. I’m allowing myself leniency on missing June because I had exams at its beginning, but still…

3. Send chapter one of When the Clock Broke to Beta4. Write this scene from WTCB3 that is nagging me. Done and [mostly] done. I have yet to look over the notes from said Beta, though.

4. Plan integral plot of Steampunk ‘H’, ready for next month. Done! With a couple of days to spare. I’m excited about this, as it features (sword) fight scenes, Latinate Italy, and a people called NovoSapiens.

5. Survive these next couple of weeks: University of Reading Open Days and the unfortunately-timed Wantage Hall ball (I will have 4/5 hours max sleep between the ball and getting up at 7 to be in the Psych department for 8.30, five hours of showing around visitors, then changing and running to a swing demonstration)… Then, the following day I have a choir performance, and the day(s) after that musical things… I’m alive! I have been so busy…

(Also: Fix the alt gr key on my laptop. Any ideas?) Minimal progress because I’m no mechanic. Sometimes, it works; sometimes it doesn’t.

My goal(s) for this week.

1. Stop watching so many Steam Powered Giraffe live videos. I’m serious – this fangirling is the core of my procrastination, and it’s getting out of hand!

But aren’t they great?! *runs around bedroom*

2. CAMPNANOWRIMO. Yes, it deserved capslock. I’m going to be moving back home this week, so I don’t expect as much to be written, but I am hoping to do at least 1K a day. That’s reasonable.

3. July WTCB query batch. Please.

That’s it for now. I’m letting NaNo take centre stage for now.

A favourite line from my project OR a word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

Simplicity. I’m currently ducking in and out of Victoria Grefer’s guide Writing For You, and one chapter has struck me, about how the most grammatical of writing is not always the best/most interesting. I really wish someone had alerted me to this earlier, as I’ve read so much online picking at bad grammar, that I failed to pick up that convoluted sentences just to escape using a certain ill-style are as bad. So, as part of my summer goal of trying to make WTCB more hooking, I’ve been revising for those florid phrases of mine that make little sense.

The biggest challenge I faced this week.

Effort. I struggle at editing simply because I don’t find it entertaining. It’s not the cutting, nor the tweaking, but the actual act of reading something not for pleasure but for accuracy and with negatives in mind all the time. I love WTCB, I really do, but I’ve reached that point where I need someone with stricter goals for the novel to guide my editing.

Something I love about my WiP. 

I’m billing When the Clock Broke as ‘light Steampunk’ because of its technical NeoVictorian/2010 setting (see my rant from last update about what is and isn’t Steampunk to me), and this is helping me deepen the setting in the first chapters. I’ve always known there were gaslamps on the streets, but having a character explicitly look at one paints the scene better, I believe.


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TCWT: WTCB has a Script and Other Ex-Libris Problems

I guess I started my original writing career as a script-writer. In one of those “where do you think you’re going to be in ten years? Dream job, something you’d like to do, and the probable alternative” (one wonders if this is a healthy thing to ask eleven-year-olds), I listed ‘playwrite’ as one job in the middle category. Yes, I’d always loved making up characters (only child syndrome) and detailing their bizarre adventures on paper (my mind is bizarre), but I’d just finished writing a play about first love and bullying, and it was the first piece of writing I ‘got’, emotionally. Fanfiction about Hopper from Bug’s Life was all well and good (!) and a chapter book about being turned into a doll was fun, but I’d not put as much effort, in terms of feelings (you know), into them until I’d written my script.

WTCB_drafts

It’s the Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain for June! This month’s prompt is

 “What are your thoughts on book-to-movie adaptations? Would you one day want your book made into a movie, or probably not?”

As you might have guessed from my introduction, I’ll be focusing on the latter question of what I’d want When the Clock Broke or Of Jackets and Phones to be like as a movie, and why I am always going to be disappointed. (Spoilers: because I’m a perfectionist!)

Whilst I don’t see anything wrong with screen adaptations in general – after all, I wouldn’t have started reading Harry Potter had 5-year-old me not loved the first film – producers, directors and even set/costume designers have to be careful where they tread. (I’ll take this moment to point out that my knowledge of the industry is skewed to stage, though I have worked on film sets, too – just not as much.)

As others in the chain have rightly pointed out, film is a completely different medium to books, and I’m lucky I have interests in both – especially since my imagination and memory are very photographic, so my stories are effectively movies in my mind before they become paper prose.

Whilst this can prove discordant for some people, I rather like adaptations that have their own spin on a book. Stardust is my all-time favourite film, but whilst the book is nothing when lined up with the cinematography and plot twists of the film, it’s not a bad book. The prose is sparkly, but not in an Edward Cullen kind of way! Neil Gaiman himself said:

“It’s a parallel Earth version of Stardust, which has Robert De Niro and stuff. And I get people who come to the book from having loved the movie who are really disappointed at some of the stuff that isn’t there that Matthew [Vaughn, director/producer] brought.” (Empire Online via Wikipedia)

One only has to look at how popular the BBC Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch is to see what a great adaptation can do. As a Brit, that makes me immensely proud, especially this most recent season with CAM (no spoilers here!). They adapted my favourite Brett Holmes episode, but whilst they left some of the characters and details in for us Holmesian snobs, they put their own twist on it to give us entertainment and that surprise/shock value that is so prized in modern fiction.

And that works.

We’ve had some duds, yes. I liked the Series of Unfortunate Events movie – great casting, gorgeous sets (it was on TV over Easter, and, in retrospect, I think one could call the setting Steampunk :D), good script – but it didn’t win hearts because the series is so grandiose, so post-modern and extended, that, in the back of our minds, we readers knew a film was never going to do it justice.

Movies that have been optioned and I’d love to see: YA Irish urban fantasy series Skulduggery Pleasant; NA/Upper YA alternate London/Oxford fantasy The Bone Season; adult fantasy Vicious.

Noticing a trend? I do like to read contemporaries, and I’m currently planning one or two in my head, but they’re not the sort of thing I’m very interested in watching. What I really love to see adapted for viewing is fantasy or off-world stories. I think this may be due to academic interest; from my work experience aged 16 at a local theatre and my subsequent year of Theatre Studies, I developed an interest in not only the acting side of performances, but also the producing side of theatre. Only yesterday did I post about my uni drama society’s 24-hour Musical in which everyone had to lend a hand in creating.

In this way, I love fantasy adaptation for sheer curiosity – how will they make this world? Will they stay true to the book’s costume descriptions or will creative/availability licence be added?

One way I gauge if I’m excited for a film adaptation by whether I react less by fangirling and more by treating the coming film as a professional opportunity – ie. whether I’d jump at the chance to be cast, even as an extra, in the film. I’m very hands on when it comes to projects I love, and this is reflected thus in one of my personae.

This brings me to the clincher of the post: When the Clock Broke’s (WTCB) hypothetical adaptation.

I guess – like most authors – I have given thought towards what I’d like for a movie of mine. No, scrap that uncertain tone. We’re writers here – no room for ‘seems’ or ‘appears’ or guesses. I have given thought to having my stories performed, no question about it. I think it would be a dream to see my work performed – be it on stage or screen. Now the former has its impracticalities, as I found out when, during the aforementioned theatre work experience, I tried turning the first few chapters of WTCB into a stageplay, editing as I did so. Whilst, as I say above about fantasy place-setting, one can use one’s imagination for sets, what if those sets have to be extensive and changing? For a Steampunk and NeoVictorian writer, in particular, one can either go minimalist or all-out Stanislavski-style naturalist. I found that, as I started planning the script from a we-have-to-recreate-this-novel-on-stage point of view, I hit the problem of the first three chapters being in two different locations (now three, if one is counting the taxicab station as an actual place, rather than simply a passing-through area, as I imagined it when that scene was not yet written).

The upside of staging a novel: a balcony. Whenever I write for stage, I imagine a balcony – simply because of how awesome a place that is in terms of transition and road scenes. In the London theatre permanent host to the musical Wicked, the balcony directly above the stage has its own personality and [musical] number.

So: give me a balcony, where I can throw a narrator or drag around characters or use physical levels as symbolism for socioeconomic levels. Yeah, I do that.

That would be cool, but the verdict is that a WTCB adaptation would be royally in the film camp. Of course, I’d want to be on board as much as possible. I know writers get barely any further than a creative consultant, but it would be good to give my suggestions in terms of character as well as costume and décor. In fact, I’d rather that. Although there are those stupid moments where important visual elements are missed, and the fans are allowed to get angry about that, having an actor/actress portray a character doing something said character would never do is the real insult, to both the character and to the reader. And, I guess, to the author, whose spent so long crafting consistency.

I know there are reasons for the inconsistency, but I couldn’t resist this meme.

I guess that’s perhaps why I’d love to act in my own adaptations. I knew, being the wrong age and all (were we to start filming now; considering that it takes years from unagented MS to film, I’d be the right age for Aidelle at that later year), I’d make a terrible Aidelle, but I have found a place for myself as one of the maids…though maybe not the vindictive one who comes back in the third book. ;) Maybe.

To conclude this bit of my rambling (!), I’d love to help write the script – the words, not the screenplay – and provide my, ahem, wisdom with the NeoVictorian design, and add thoughts for the characterisation as it unfolds.

AgnethaLaments_ABCDS

Of Jackets and Phones, however, is a different kettle of fish (what a bizarre idiom, by the way!). When entertaining thoughts of making my other favourite novel(s) into something-to-be-acted, I can imagine that Agnetha’s mysteries could go any way, as long as the main storyline remains intact. Whilst it probably would be too extensive in content to condense the entire trilogy into one film, I did originally conceive of Agnetha journeying from Oxford to Moscow directly, then through to London for her final third. It helped that I was, at that stage, working with half of the sequel (now 70K ish) and the first book as novella-length.

I may be offending strict-rule bibliophiles here, but OJAP could be cut in so many different ways that I don’t suppose I would much mind if the film lacked certain content. The point is that genre plays a heavy part of my personal decision as to whether I’m likely to enjoy an adaptation of a book (be it mine or another author’s).

Besides, I’m unhelpfully biased when it comes to OJAP: I still think I’d make the best Agnetha – take a couple of years, hence why compounding the trilogy into a film with the heroine as her final age of eighteen. (Though we won’t think about the ages of the actresses playing the reboot St. Trinian’s girls, for who knows how old Annabelle is supposed to be?)

In the end, I admit that I’ll never be entirely satisfied with the result of an adaptation of any of my novels, but I’d still love to be there for the final unveiling of the in-my-head-stuff into the on-the-screen-stuff.

And, if you’re wondering what answer I put when my teacher asked me what I was probably going to be doing aged 21: I put ‘unemployed’. And I hadn’t even factored in university back then!

The rest of this month’s chain. Yeah, I’m last because, you know, life. However, this gives you no excuse not to (have) read the other posts.

5th – http://nasrielsfanfics.wordpress.com/

6th – http://theloonyteenwriter.wordpress.com/

7th – http://sammitalk.wordpress.com/

8th – http://thelittleenginethatcouldnt.wordpress.com/

9th – http://insideliamsbrain.wordpress.com/

10th – http://maralaurey.wordpress.com/

11th – http://charleyrobson.blogspot.com/

12th – http://taratherese.wordpress.com/

13th – http://theweirdystation.blogspot.com/

14th – http://fairyskeletons.blogspot.com/

15th – http://musingsfromnevillesnavel.wordpress.com/

16th – http://novelexemplar.wordpress.com/

17th – http://magicandwriting.wordpress.com/

18th – http://mirrormadeofwords.com/

19th – http://www.brookeharrison.com/

20th – http://miriamjoywrites.com/

21st – http://eighthundredninety.blogspot.com/

22nd – http://unikkelyfe.wordpress.com/

23rd - http://aaronandtamarabooks.blogspot.com/

24th – http://www.butterfliesoftheimagination.weebly.com/

25th – http://erinkenobi2893.wordpress.com/

26th – http://turtlesinmysoup.blogspot.com/

27th - http://missalexandrinabrant.wordpress.com/ <you are here>

28th – https://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ – The topic for July’s blog chain will be announced.


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An Unfolding Universe

As mentioned last week by a blog commenter, I have very many ideas. A couple of nights ago, I was thinking of editing When the Clock Broke, but then I became distracted by the thought of the ruffled society beyond the events of the trilogy, and the novella of a relation who ultimately saves the universe. In a non-superpowery way. He saves the universe in the sense that nuclear war is crushed before it germinates, and a greater understanding, if not harmony, bonds two landmasses of primarily war, and the three distinct classes.

‘Steampunk Family Portrait’ – photograph by Puspa Lohmeyer

It’s not very many years, but it is the third generation down from Phillip and the other cast of When the Clock Broke (it focuses on the grown-up life of Phillip’s nephew’s son, see), and the marvellously inspirational Dolls of New Albion opera shows exactly how a world can change across even a single generation. I am envious of Paul Shapera’s story-telling and the way he perfectly shows how the actions of a particular character can shape the world.

In my world, the characters don’t so much provide as large a push to society, but they do their little elements. Phillip and Aidelle’s courtship redefines arranged marriage; their daughter’s keeping of her maiden-name/morganatic marriage (of which, ironically, her grandfather mockingly says Phillip will encourage in chapter eight of WTCB) comes from her involvement in growing feminism – and the track in Dolls of which this reminds me, is ‘The Movement 1’, of rallies and romance.

Further, like a chain of events, Zoey’s parents meet at the same feminist rally at which Zara’s parents meet; had the characters’ personalities been different – had Tim not done the honest thing by Delsie and proposed before their relationship got too serious, had Billy not been a simply butcher’s assistant and had the guts to stay by Jae when she fell pregnant – the two women may never have developed a deadly rivalry when they meet and destroy each other in WTCB2.

I could say the same of Lucy’s childless compassion to bully her in-laws into adopting one of her late servants’ twins as their new maid, that Tia would never have fallen for Peter, had her heart broken, been raped, and married Rion out of vengeance for the family that threw her across the timestreams.

I should say: spoilers.

familytree2

And then there comes the matter of the classist sterilisation. Who started that? Beyond the Costellos, one might say Max, Ezekial Maverique (it’s been so long that I’ve written about The Continent’s 80s era, that I had to search my MS for that name) and his scientific experiments. There is still controversy over whether the same band of experimenters, testing their formula once they rebuilt and restructured Max’s machine, started the virus/influenza of 2001 that led to said complex above paragraph about Tia.

If Freidrich had never had an interest in genetics (and nor had Gabiee, with her surprising morality); if Cassandra had never agreed to marry the Colonel, or if her brother or cousin had not been able to make the wedding… I wonder what would have happened if Zara had managed to steal Freidrich’s papers and burnt them in the time-manipulator, rather than disappearing. Would she have had to access Gabiee’s latent/recessive psychic ability, leaving the woman to take better care of her unborn first son from his father’s wrath and eventually steal her husband’s papers?

These are ifs, but they do centre around the Costello family and their friends/companions. I’m not sure whether enough for a consequential upheaval of the climate and universe, but that’s a start.

But if Iuan Costello had never been conceived…maybe the class and geographical tensions would have remained. My long walk for a short drink of water: I want to write the adventure romance of this character who finds more than he bargains for when he travels across The forbidden Big Sea. Maybe he’s an explorer. Maybe he’s a warrior. There may no longer be an active war, but the Warfare Education remains for interest.

In any case, The Continent is going to change because of the actions of one man descended from lesser heroes, and, socially, greater people.

And, maybe, just maybe, I’ll sneak in some Dieselpunk.

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