Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist


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Beautiful Books: Writing UTC

It’s time for me to report how writing is going via the Beautiful Books link-up, hosted by Cait and Sky. Remember, I’m not doing NaNoWriMo, so this is totally from the perspective of writing a novel as a slow, steady (and edited! :P) process – and also because of my studies, I have barely time to write 1K a week. You can see my thoughts on plotting Under the Carrington in last month’s Beautiful Books.

Be honest: how is your writing going?

Not well. I’ve been so bogged down with academic work that I barely have time to think about my writing, let alone access the ports that allow freely done prose. Easy to see why I never do November WriMo.

What’s your first sentence/paragraph?

The world hazed, hummed and wobbled, and Jess let out a giggle.

“What is this? I love it. More!”

“What? No. God, you’re hardly good taste.”

A shape swerved into the girl behind the bar. She had blue hair and, as Jess had come to learn during the night, a dry wit.

The girl rolled her eyes. “It’s a Snakebite. Blackcurrant syrup, cider, beer.”

“Simple,” Jess found herself chirruping. Her hand had gestured into the air before she’d really thought about doing so.

Something endearing came from being a stranger amongst the many faces of people who’d been here for years; Jess wore the term ‘Fresher’ like she wore the Wellington Freshers royal blue t-shirt.

Do you have a book cover, and/or pictures that reflect your book?

I have a concept for a book cover, which is based on one of my favourite/pivotal scenes in the book – plus, it’s got that cutesy stereotype of the couple almost kissing on the front cover. Yeah, that cutesy appeal. Here are some other pictures that provide visual inspiration:

Carrington building hypothetically

Carrington building hypothetically

Lincoln College [Oxford] could look like Wellington College

What is it with yellow umbrellas? I ought change mine…

 

Do you have pictures of each of your characters? If not, describe them for us! (Be as descriptive as you can.)

Thinking about it, Laurie kind of looks like Darren Criss. Yeahhh, Blaine Potter ;)

I’m not sure what Jess looks like. I don’t really like writing brown-haired people because I have trouble varying my descriptions. Aidelle had the archetypal chocolate or mud brown, which is a lot richer than any of the other brown-haired people I’ve written. I may sound silly that I don’t have much more than brown-hair-blue-grey-eyes, but I don’t think I need to. Jess isn’t exceptionally pretty, nor is she exceptionally not-pretty. This is one Google-image that could represent her.

And, before you crow, whilst the Main Characters are white, there are a few People of Colour amongst their friends. For starters, I have a girl of Indian descent who is a lesbian. That counts for two, right? (I’m kidding!)

What scene are you most excited to write?

You know what? I really just can’t wait ’til the Christmas holidays when I can just write without worrying that I’m causing myself to fail by doing my craft. I’m staying with my corridor for an extra week after lectures finish (for starters – I’m paying for that bedroom; I might as well make use of the space), so I’ll hopefully be able to crank out some serious K. I’ve got the bare bones of a few crucial scenes down, so I’m excited to be filling them out, particularly ones like Laurie being all corridor-rep and arrogant and Jess sneaking out to meet one of her art society friends.

Share a snippet or a scene that you really enjoyed writing.

I do this weekly in my weekly summary with other Catholics, so I don’t want to repeat myself, but I’ll add a bit more of the caving scene, where Jess and Laurie discuss alternate history as they scale into a cave somewhere in Cheddar (probably. Details to come when I can be bothered to research. And not cheese, you non-UK people, Cheddar, the town in Somerset, England.) This is also one of the pivotal scenes in the non-romance side of the plot, as Laurie is about to make a suggestion that his mother help Jess’ father with his failing business.

Below, Jess fumbled about, her coat ruffling in the cavern’s stillness. The cold stench of green mould and saturated porous faces wafted over him, dousing what remained of his initial fear. 

“Do you think we would still exist, if the world had ended up different, like a parallel-universe thing?” she asked.

Her torch clicked and its beam illustrated their dangle to the cavern floor. One clue-pack was concealed in the midst of a clump of rocks, visible only from the top.

Laurie concentrated on the solid ground, and began threading his ropes through thumb-and-finger grip.

“Yeah,” he said. “I believe we will always have come into being because of fate and social history. The actions change, but the figures remain the same.”

Her boots clinked onto the rocky ground.

“How philosophical. What about genealogy?”

Of course. He was assuming the worldview of the successful. But Jess’ father might be out of business – further – in an ulterior universe with no history.

Now that you’re writing, have any of the plot details, or the process itself, turned out different from what you planned or imagined?

The process is a lot slower than I thought it would be, but then I’m not one of those who plans step-by-step. I have an outline and I know where I’m going, but restrictions mean that I can’t write as fluidly as I’d like. Most of the plot is as much as I intend, though I’m still fumbling through who emotes what and when, and where they kiss.

Is there a character or aspect of your plot that’s difficult to write?

Yes. Similar to what I said above. My massive issue (apart from not having the time to write) is getting things to fall in the right place. Because the story is set over the course of an academic year, eight months or so, I have to make sure the chemistry has the right patterns at the right places to make the story realistic and not rushed.

What’s your favourite aspect of this novel so far? Favourite character?

I’m probably gonna hate this later, but one of my favourite aspects of the novel so far is its contemporariness – how usual it feels, and the fact I don’t have to ponder whether a certain act would be something the character would do in reflection of their society. Much.

Have you drawn off of any life experiences or people you know to create your novel and your characters?

Yes, definitely. For starters, seeing as I came up with the concept at the end of my first year of uni, which Jess is starting. I just wanted a New Adult piece that reflects life and the more humble versions of what being in uni is like, rather than the glamorised, sex-booze-money appearance a lot of NA emits. Of course, I couldn’t help a lot of the side-characters having traits like those of people I know, but I’m waiting for the second draft to weed those out. I just want to get this first draft done.

Other life experiences referenced include being an active member of several odd societies, both creative and sporty; trekking to campus and back every day; and stumbling, exhausted, back to my room after a ridiculous night out. Sadly, I never had a roommate like Jess and Meg.

Do you have a playlist or certain song for your novel and/or characters?

I don’t really write to music, especially modern music, so no. Playlists tend to spawn during editing or when I finished the book, because then I start seeing the themes and the patterns.

Let’s have some fun for a moment: imagine you are somehow transported into your book’s world. Which character are you most likely to be found hanging out with?

Despite how uptight Laurie is, he’s actually a pretty relaxed guy when he wants to be – and he has the right amount of sensibility and sprightliness for me to get on with. (It’s always the guys, isn’t it? IRL, I think I prefer the company of men. Oh, shush, you know I didn’t mean that like that.)

I think Ceri and Meg would drive me mad with their constant extroverted energy, and I’d be massively intimidated by Nicola and Russell, who are both at-least-semi-successful graduates. I think I’d probably get along with Jess, to be honest, but we have one of those slow-to-generate friendships because we both wouldn’t have the courage to talk to one another for ages.

How do you keep yourself motivated to finish your daily wordcount? (Pinterest? Internet breaks? Chocolate?)

Bribery with steampunk music. (Well, that’s what I’ve been doing with my essays.) Aside from the fact that I don’t have a daily wordcount, self-worth and self-yay keep me going.

What is your favourite writing quote or piece of writing advice?

A lot of people say that going through the first draft and not editing at all is the best way to progress through, but I can’t do that. I do automatically edit as I type – I leave things in colour as I move on, even when I’m zooming through a first draft.

My favourite piece of writing advice? Relax. Take writing as it comes and not force it. It’s important for writers to work at their own pace sometimes, but it’s also important for books to be written at their own paces.

How does this book make you feel so far? Are you laughing? Crying? Frustrated?

At the moment, I guess frustrated is the word. I just end up starting a piece but not having the time to add more to it. I keep getting pulled off track, and despite having a few chapters that are actually chapters, I’ve not been sticking to the chronology. In terms of the plot, that is pretty frustrating, too. Whilst Laurie’s strict adherence to his self-professed rules and regulations irritates me as a reader, I also have moments where I glare at Jess for being too ostensive and eccentric. She has moments of calm, but she also has frustrating moments where she feels entitled to a world she hasn’t yet worked for.

AlexB_Quove

Sad to think I took this photo almost a year ago.

 

That’s it for now. :) Hope you enjoyed this month’s detailing of what I’ve been working on. Do check out the rest of the link-up. I, sadly, have very little time to, but I know it’s been packed with NaNo-ers and their projects.


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Cover Reveal – Fight for Me by KA Last

Yesterday was the official cover reveal for the book FIGHT FOR ME by KA Last, one of the Aussie Owned and Read ladies. I’m happy to share her lovely new cover on my blog today. :)

FightForMe_Cover_Final_LR

Tadaa!

Fight For Me by K.A. Last
(The Tate Chronicles #2)
Publication date: January 17th 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Synopsis:
“How can I fight for you when I don’t know what I’m fighting for?”

When Grace Tate became one of the fallen to protect a vampire, it got her into more trouble than she’d bargained for. She’s angry at Charlotte for hiding the truth, and with Josh living in the city and Seth missing, life is harder than ever.

It’s about to get a lot harder…

Grace doesn’t want to leave Hopetown Valley, but when Josh ignores her calls she decides to go and search for him. She doesn’t expect to run into Seth as well.

When she reaches the city, Grace learns that Charlotte is the most hunted vampire in Wide Island. The city vamps want her blood, and the angels are after her soul. Grace gets caught in the crossfire of a battle she never wanted, but to win one war, she has to fight another.

Torn between the one she gave up everything for, and the one who sacrificed everything for her, Grace has to face Charlotte, and the past, if she wants to fight for her future. But how can she fight for someone who doesn’t want to fight for her?

Every choice Grace makes becomes a battle, and in every battle someone has to die. 

FightFM_Grace_Teaser1_LR
AUTHOR BIO:
KALAstK. A. Last was born in Subiaco, Western Australia, and moved to Sydney with her parents and older brother when she was eight. Artistic and creative by nature, she studied Graphic Design and graduated with an Advanced Diploma. After marrying her high school sweetheart, she concentrated on her career before settling into family life. Blessed with a vivid imagination, she began writing to let off creative steam, and fell in love with it. K. A. Last is currently studying her Bachelor of Arts at Charles Sturt University, with a major in English, and minors in Children’s Literature, Art History, and Visual Culture. She resides in a peaceful, leafy suburb north of Sydney with her husband, their two children, a rabbit named Twitch, and a guinea pig called Squeak.


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Fall 1st Page Critique Blog Hop

(Or ‘autumn’, if we’re going by UK English ;))

The wonderful Michelle Hauck has kindly organised a 1st page critique blog hop, where we get to critique the five blog entries below and ours in the linky on her page. It’s open to all fiction writers, regardless of genre or age category.

Here’s mine, taken from Of Jackets and Phones. Because, why not? Paying forward critiques are awesome. Of course, if you want to critique and you’re not part of the hop, do so anyway. ;) Updated, as of 12/11/14

YA Murder Mystery

A police car blocked the main road into my school’s burnt umber brick and whitewashed doors. I raised an eyebrow at it, nibbled a nail, and tripped out of the school minibus.

For April, the spring air rose way too crisply and held grass thick with swords of dew, and I struggled with the starched collar of my uniform as moisture crept up my arms and into that annoying air pocket between jumper and shirt. I loosened my tie and shook the wrinkles from my skirt.

“Agnetha! Come on.”

I jolted. Whilst I preferred Vera not laughing at me, I winced at her whining tone. Like I cared if we were late. First lesson on Fridays was Spanish, and I was already failing.

I walked to where she stood and rested a hand on one of her wrists with a nod towards the main entrance.

“Look.”

As she froze to follow my now-absent gaze, I wandered ahead and kicked at the flowerbed along the front lawn path. I’d have dived into the mushrooms and roses there instead of bumbling my way to class. I snapped off one pink-faced fool and tossed it into the mud, and then lifted a mushroom, shifting earth and shoe-dirt and wilderness as I tucked the fungus behind my ear.

A hand on my shoulder, and Vera had caught up. She skipped past me, bubbling with incessant words. “What’s up with the police car?”

“You think I know?” I eyed the blue, yellow and white chequers. Police cars had a weird kind of beauty.

An idea of St. Christopher's school exterior; St. Edmund's School, Summertown


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Characters and Their Surprising Attributes

Sometimes characters traits appear random, especially from a retrospective point of view. Rion has one arm. Agnetha is claustrophobic. Charles is not as much a bachelor as the term suggests…

I swear I didn’t plan those things. Right now, as I edit, they are known and integral attributes of the characters, but I suspect that to begin with I had a conscious point in giving my character them. Though Rion’s arm is mentioned, and Agnetha’s claustrophobia makes her logical mind a mess of emotion, neither of these things are vital to the plot. They just happen to be those decorations and side-effects that come with having a three-dimensional character (I hope *crosses fingers*).

The thing is, I never intended for my characters to turn out that way.

I mean, sometimes those points arrive more due to closing one’s eyes to the characters beforehand. In my recent (ie. this year) rewrite of OJAP, I realised that both the DCI and Agnetha’s school-friend Vera are people of colour. In fact, Vera is gorgeous:

On the other hand, the point I’m raising today is when one knows there might have been a reason at the very beginning of a story conception for certain characters with certain features, but it’s been lost to the canon and myth. Isn’t that a fun phrase to think of? “lost to canon” *dreams*

Looking around the internet, you’ll find various posts and articles about character traits – some focusing on big commercial and popular fiction, eg. Disney and green-eyed villains; others with a view to the more subtle references that less-well-known authors make.  Sometimes we writers do that, slipping in references, ‘Easter eggs’ for readers to squee at. I’m not going to elaborate on that, since many others already have.

As a writer, though, I do wonder where some of those “lost to canon” ideas stem from. If they’re not vital to a plot, what is the point in having them in the first place? To develop a character. In the same way that we ask ourselves the silly questions: “what would your character have for breakfast?” In the same way that I know Agnetha “hates cheese and likes puzzles”, a facetious homage to me, though one that started as a joke and stuck. In the same way, Cait at NotebookSisters runs the monthly Beautiful People link-up to let us delve beyond what is needed for the people in our fiction.

Just as with worldbuilding, characters are icebergs. Luckily, they’re not going to hit you in the face with their surprises–uhh, don’t hold me to that. Mostly not. Often sometimes. Yes. Let’s just say that if a character reveals something to you whilst you are writing:

a) you’re not paying enough attention to them in the first place (see my point above about missing the fact my characters were better as POCs).

b) your writing’s going to be better off for it.

and c) you’re probably going to realise that the character was meant to be that way in the first place. Hence my first protestation that the character-icebergs you hit are very less likely to dent your story than fantasy-world-icebergs.

One’d think that once one comes up with these specific traits, assigns them and folds them into a character’s life, that’s the end of it. Well, maybe so – but I was hit by the thought that I have traits that I love the characters for, but never consciously assigned to them.

How does that crazy thing happen? I guess characters pick up these things and hit the ground running with them.

So, maybe, despite what I’ve said, it’s a combination of the writer understanding that something extra should be added to the character and the character bringing surprise to the world themselves.

Nevertheless, even if you never include more than a glimmering shadow of these traits, every writer should attack their first drafts with a green pen for character enhancement. Give them something quirky, regardless of the setting. Jess and Laurie are in the uni caving society. Aidelle makes tomato soup with sharp herbs and spices. Christophe reads poetry in his spare time. And maybe one day, you’ll look back at your work and forget, in but a blink, that these characters never had those traits, and they’ll become part of their original shapes.

Okay?

I have had that meme in my head these last few days.

What about you? Have you ever written character traits and then come back to them with no idea of their origins?


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Space Trains and Novella Ideas

(I was going to post this tomorrow, but I have work to do, it’s 11.30pm and I haven’t even written half of today’s planned post. So, you’re getting something I’ve already written today…)

Hello, everyone, readers and world.

I’ve been working on a draft blurb of a novella I’d love to write. Some of you Whovians might recognise the setting a little, but after Mummy let me down, I did say I wanted to expand on a similar setting with a proper steampunk edge. Plus the Mallard is less well known, but still an iconic London and North Eastern train.

Other than that, there have been lots of requests for steampunk not from the upper-class perspective, so I thought I’d try a view from someone whose position in the story is helped by her being of lower class, a la Alexandra in A Game of Murder.

Plus, Nell’s position was inspired by a new blouse I found. I love it.

WP_20141011_002

When Nell was accepted to serve onboard the English Mallard train, she didn’t anticipate Queen Victoria’s secret assignment – to travel into space.

It’s not the Mallard’s first journey, but it’s certainly leaning on being the train’s last. Forget projecting thirty passengers into the stratosphere with metric tonnes of steam – that’s the easy part – but something’s amiss amongst Nell’s customers. A princess of the Indes bought her way through the barriers, but she won’t share the dining car with the young orphan who won his way onboard, not to mention his benefactor who won’t leave their sleeping car and a New Order alchemist who only hears in colours. Nell’s role jumps from serving tea to impromptu nurse when one passenger wakes with scratches across their arms and legs.

Neither does that explain the locked cabin #34 or the miniature model of the train, pieces slowly disappearing.

Plus there’s a cute barman in an oxygen bar and I’m excited to write about the colour-blind synethesiac character. What do you think? Yeah, it’s all a bit here and there, but the concept is one I’m really interested in. I could do a lot with the concept of steam past the stratosphere and how steampunk characters would get around that. I suspect automatons may feature in some aspect, too. *grins*


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7 Quick Takes about Grabbing Some New [Text]Books, Overflowing the Scores, and Doubling the Extract!

Please join us for this week’s 7 Quick Takes, hosted by ConversionDiary.

7 quick takes sm1  7 Quick Takes about podcasts, getting back into a routine, and asking your radio guests to fold your laundry

~1~

I almost skipped today’s Quick Takes because I’ve been so busy with academic stuff that I’ve barely had time for momentous things that are worth talking about. So excuse any possible dry writing on this post.

~2~

Swing social tonight! Very exciting.

~3~

I was on a book-buying spree this week, but sadly none of the fictional variety. I got my uni-sponsored book-token to work this week, so I nabbed a couple of course books. Ones I’d actually (that aren’t, you know, so textbook-y) recommend: Ayer’s Language, Truth and Logic if you can stomach some of the philosophy terminology, and Lyas’ book detailing the thoughts of proponents of philosophy’s aesthetics theory. Aesthetics itself is a fascinating topic for someone like me.

~4~

I have so much music to learn that my chamber choir folder is overflowing with scores, everything from random Christmas carols that we don’t know what we’re doing with yet to the Elgar and a full score of the aforementioned Duke Ellington jazz numbers. The remnants of my cold, however, have settled on my larynx, and yesterday’s rehearsal was marred by the fact that my notes are, at the moment, predominantly breathy, something away from which I spent years training myself.

~5~

I did very little editing, and of OJAP, this week, because I prioritised getting my critique of my friend Jo Wu’s first chapters to her, and, apart from that, I have actually had to do uni stuff. :P

~6~

Writing. You get two sneak previews today, you lucky things! This morning I was going to give you my week’s measly work, but then I got inspired in my Cognition lecture this afternoon. I didn’t have to include both, but I wrote the beginning of The Rain Scene, one of the scenes near the end of the novel and a major turning point for Laurie and Jess’ relationship. It had be included as a weekly extract of Under the Carrington, and you may see why. Totally unintentional.

Modern recreation of the Stoa of Attalos. Photo by Emma

Modern recreation of the Stoa of Attalos. Photo by Emma

 

 

The way his smile had a stupid effect on hers, making it melt right out of her face. She was pretty sure her brain had followed suit – the world was the drug-fuelled level of sensible hazy, and she hadn’t had a drop to drink for almost a week.

~7~

She ducked out of the person’s range, but, after hovering to a stop, the umbrella remained. It tilted, Jess blinked the water from her eyes, and Laurie’s grin emerged from the rain, the Cheshire Cat in the tree.

“Laurie!” Jess sighed with relief. Her heart continued its rumba beat, but now she didn’t mind. It staved off the rain’s chill.

“I startled you?” Laurie asked. “I’m sorry.”

He huddled closer under The Carrington’s awnings, and Jess curled her fingers into her palm. What was that about not going after the reps? Despite the moments she stopped herself from looping her arm into his, she wouldn’t stop the sincere warmth that made itself known in her chest. The day’s emptiness carried a bare blip when he stood grandly beside her.

“Were you walking back to Wellington?”

“Yes.”

“Allow me.”

It took Jess a whole moment to comprehend, but Laurie extended his bright yellow umbrella between the two of them.


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The Collective Series Blitz

Banner_Collective

Today I’m part of the blog blitz for The Collective series by Stacey Nash, one of the amazing ladies over at the Aussie Owned and Read blog. The Collective series, published by the HarperCollins imprint Impulse, is a YA Science Fiction series about advanced technology, hidden organisations, and a fierce teen heroine. Stick around for the giveaway at the bottom! Without further ado:

eCOV_ForgetMeNot (2)Forget Me Not

Collective #1

Anamae is drawn into a world which shatters everything she knew to be true.

Since her mother vanished nine years ago, Anamae and her father have shared a quiet life. But when Anamae discovers a brooch identical to her mother’s favorite pendant, she unknowingly invites a slew of trouble into their world. They’re not just jewellery, they’re part of a highly developed technology capable of cloaking the human form. Triggering the jewellery’s power attracts the attention of a secret society determined to confiscate the device – and silence everyone who is aware of its existence. Anamae knows too much, and now she’s Enemy Number One.

She’s forced to leave her father behind when she’s taken in by a group determined to keep her safe. Here Anamae searches for answers about this hidden world. With her father kidnapped and her own life on the line, Anamae must decide if saving her dad is worth risking her new friends’ lives. No matter what she does, somebody is going to get hurt.

GOODREADS

AMAZON US

AMAZON UK

AMAZON AU

B&N

KOBO

iTUNES

GOOGLE PLAY

eCOV_RememberMe (2)Remember Me

Collective #2

When all is lost, she must remember…

Anamae Gilbert managed to thwart The Collective and rescue her father, even though his mind is now a shell. Determined to stop Councilor Manvyke hurting her family again, she’s training to become an active resistance member and falling hard for resistance fighter Jax Belfry. But things never sail along smoothly – Manvyke wants retribution and Anamae’s name is high on his list.

After a blow to the head, she awakes in an unfamiliar location unable to remember the last few weeks. She can’t believe the fascinating new technology she’s seeing. She’s the new kid at school, and although weapons training comes with ease, something feels off. Why does the other new kid’s smile make her heart ache?

And why does her gut tell her to run?

GOODREADS

AMAZON US

AMAZON UK

AMAZON AU

B&N

KOBO

iTUNES

GOOGLE PLAY

AUTHOR BIO

DSC07453 (4)Stacey Nash writes adventure filled stories for Young Adults in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. She loves to read and write books that have a lot of adventure, a good dose of danger, a smattering of romance, and KISSING! Hailing from the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, she loves nothing more than immersing herself in the beauty and culture of the local area.

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GIVEAWAY

There is a giveaway for a $10 Amazon gift card & swag pack. I haven’t worked out how to embed giveaways into WordPress, so here’s the link instead:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ba3ffd55156

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