Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist


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Steampunkish Fashions

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Following from Monday’s steampunk post, I’m going to dive into real life for a moment and talk about Steampunk fashion as I might wear. Fair warning, this is quite a picture-heavy post. :D

The Typical Steampunk

Of course, we’ve got the goggles and cogs stereotype, but I’m going to focus on the dress sense of the fantasy genre. Yup, you know the kind – short dresses, leather and pistols in belts, and the sort that make me pull a face in that traditional aspect. And, uh, external corsets. Yeah, it’s quite a clever way of linking the Victorian aspects to the modern movability and the punk of women being able to breathe and move more easily, but it’s not the kind of style I’d personally associate with Steampunk. Why do we have to show everyone that we’re wearing a corset? (It’d be pretty obvious from our shape anyway). That’s like the Victorian version of wearing our underwear outside of our clothing! xD I’m no Superman, thank you!

But I’m not to judge on the typical Steampunk. It does suit those who wear it, especially when surrounded by others at conventions.

But I can’t afford conventions, and there aren’t so many in England that I’d go to, either.

The Neo-Victorian Way

As you may know, I love myself some NeoVictorian living. But I cannot, in a practical manner, wear my long black dress every day. And I only have one dress for the time-being. Yus, sirree, I’m waiting on another dress. A la When the Clock Broke’s Aidelle and Zara, I dress my modern outfits into Victorian themes, or I loosen the Victorian outfits into something less conspicuous on a daily basis.

Here’s one I ‘made earlier’ on a whim: simple black trousers (which I tend to wear anyway), with a blue, sequined/embossed short-sleeve shirt under a puffed white overshirt, sharing the Victorian’s love of layers. Do you think those colours match? I do. :D And don’t forget the tulip earrings. I bought those from Steampunk Etsy shop, London Particulars.

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In Aidelle’s time in The Continent, woman are still in the floor-dress phase, forbidden from wearing trousers, but the hems have started to rise, as at the beginning of Earth’s 1910s, and, as such, Aidelle finds herself more comfortable in her first outfit, a bolero, a blouse and a knee-length pencil(-ish) skirt.

That’s elegant, but still a bit atypical.

Zara’s time, on the other hand, is fully into the stage of women’s rights and trouser-wearing. When she first appears, she’s dressed in long black trousers, something which, as a Physics’ student, she prefers for ease of work. I, too, share Zara’s wearing of trousers. It’s always good to have a flexible staple piece of clothing, and black is a colour that harks back to the mechanical elements.

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Bonus points for the electric guitar!

With Steampunk, You Can Have Your Own Themes

P1010717With me, I always make sure that Lady Chronaire, my steamsona, is wearing metal flower earrings. This metallic theme extends beyond my accessories – have you looked at my belt(s)? The black base one exemplifies the hook-and-eye style Steampunk values – one might want to drizzle some metallic colours and button-rivets to hint of the age of steam and industry.

However, in my ‘casual steampunk’, I also delve to the poorer/simpler aspects of the genre. This picture shows an outfit I whipped up, inspired by the styles featured in the TV show Lark Rise to Candleford. This involves a high-waisted skirt over another short-sleeved blouse and, if possible, tights or bare legs. I used silk for the shirt to add an element of glimmer, a NeoVictorian version of steampunk iron. Of course, in history, the purple and green dyes would have been bought by only the higher classes, but these go well together for a more modern look. I’d play about with colours and see what you get.

Always Accessorize!

YP1010712ou’ll notice I have my hair up in these pictures, too.

Here’s a ‘selfie’ shot of the hair just after I did it.

Whilst my hair is naturally that curly, and I’ve simply tied it into a ponytail and then clipped it with a large butterfly clip, you with straight hair might want to add a few curls, especially around the fringe, since that’s what a lot of Victorian styles feature as base.

Glasses are optional. Personally, I feel more NeoVictorian with the confidence of contact lenses. Don’t forget you can also jazz the modern world up with a hat or two or bows! I love hats. Gloves, too, are optional, but sometimes necessary. Sadly, they are quite difficult to dance in, so one ought to rustle up more practice in that department.

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As you can see here, in my casual NeoVictorian gear, I’m not against adding elements from other decades. For instance, in this picture, I took inspiration from the 80s with this vintage denim jacket (it belonged to my mother’s friend); the blue goes well with my blue blouse underneath and the tight shape gives the illusion of a corseted shape, and the silver buttons stand out if one hunts for the theme of metallic highlights.

I take so many brief webcam pictures of my outfits and accessories that I might parade them all across the blog. Haha, maybe not for your own sanity!

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Hope you enjoyed that little peek into my everyday and steamy attire! I’m still in Dubai and, hopefully, enjoying myself whilst dressed in normal and smart attire.


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A Lot of NA Novels Are Letting the Category Down

I’ll start this with a quote from Confessions of a Opinionated Book Geek:

What is the formula for new adult fiction? I am glad you asked! I have the ingredients below:

1. College kid in living situation they shouldn’t realistically be able to afford with their background and economic status?

2. Messed up parents?

3. Abuse, most likely sexual, in their past?

4. They are not looking for romance, more they don’t want it, but a guy falls from the sky?

Yup. As you may know, I am an advocate for NA fiction for its moving away from home and learning state – not for its sexytimes. The only reason I removed the New Adult tag from my main novel was a marketing choice. After all, quite a few adult SFF novels have child protagonists or characters of all ages, and I even had one agent say that NA SFF could never exist because it made no sense. That’s a fair point. After all, if one suggests NA is the romance/sex/erotica part, then SFF might have that anyway; if one says it for its crossover appeal and many-aged protagonists…well many SFF books have that anyway.

The review from which the above quote comes concludes by saying that the certain NA big-5-published novel involving a virgin features way too much sex, whether actual or implied, to warrant stressing the virginity of one character.

NA is about age – or is it, really?

Some novels are first pitched as NA and set in uni, but docked down to YA, albeit Upper YA, when they are published. I can see why people would be interested in the age-group of about 18 – about 30, but NA is either too focused on age at times, or not specific enough.

My biggest criticism of NA as it stands at the moment is that it gives a bad example of relationships to those real new adult and YA readers.

Sure, everyone has their faults when it comes to relationships, but so many fictional heroes and heroines of NA fiction are, as the formula above suggests, damaged or damaging, or both, as the way might go.

Sometimes, I’ll admit, this is a useful plot device of romance, but to an extent. These sorts of mental and/or behavioural ‘quirks’ shouldn’t be portrayed or suggested as positive behaviour, not ways to handle a partner. I know we live in a modern world, but I’d like to hope that manners and the traditional values of marriage still exist.

Random titles on Google images

Not only that, but it’s becoming a trope and cliché of NA contemporary. Bad girl, good boy, or vice versa. Never any other combination. But I know good girls in relationships with good boys who still go through the character growth and change that might be novel-like. We all face uncertainty and mismatch and disagreement in relationships without having a melodramatic or [physical or/and emotionally] abused childhood.

I’d like to see a New Adult story that deals with a couple moving in together or something that has no mention of university or abuse. Plus, it would be cool to have a fantasy or sci-fi bent on this idea. An alien moving away from his/her parents/mothership and datarate and starting a life on Earth with their partner.

Oh, and another thing…authors seem to think sexual exploration and that first time are an important part of NA and so they need to advertise if one half of the couple is a) promiscuous or b)a virgin. I’m not interested. Maybe if that story involves the tribulations and steps of marriage…

Just as it’s possible to write NA without sex, it’s possible to write a virgin without carving a flashing sign above them that screams LOOK HERE, I’VE NEVER HAD SEX. Also, the equivocation that being a virgin means innocence? Fallacy. Triangle is primarily a romance story, and, although I know Lucas and Lea have never had sex because of the morals of their religion, something which is a major theme in the novel, I’ve never considered Andrea. I don’t want to know, frankly. The fact changes very little about her relationships.

Being a virgin is not something which alters someone’s behaviour or integral personality.

Another question: can contemporary NA be more than romance? Please? It annoys me that ‘contemporary New Adult’ is automatically associated with sexy times romance or university, rather than using its themes – about exploration of the self as an individual when one is not under the rule of the parent.

As a new adult myself in the true sense of the word (19 and soon going into my 2nd year of uni), I am concerned about the way this category (not genre) is going. Recently, I’ve even reverted and worried about the validity of NA. It’s more than age, yes, but age is a big factor, and, with some of my protagonists being in their early twenties, it’s hard for me to wipe away the thought that I am writing NA, regardless of the genre or romance content.

On the other hand, every story should be about a character’s exploration of theirself, about coping through change, whether as a single unit or as a herd/group.

Opinions?

Heya, this is the first of series of scheduled posts for this week whilst I’m away in Dubai. I promise I’ll take loads of pictures and tell you about it later!


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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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A Thought for Today: Bunny Bennett’s It Gets Better Video

I may be a cis-gender heterosexual and mostly-heteroromantic woman – and Pride month isn’t particularly a well-announced thing here in England, so I didn’t really know about it – but I wanted to share with you this video by steampunk performer Bunny Bennett.

Yes, it’s an old video, but the band Steam Powered Giraffe has really inspired me these last couple of months, in imagination – and self-confidence.

“Maybe you’re just tired of all the hate in the world.”

One thing I’ve learnt in my year at uni, something much more valuable than Heidegger’s continental approach to considering the world’s existence or how the brain acts on sensation signals, is that the world and its opinions are not narrow. They are not the product of a Catholic girls school (take from that what you will; I’ll only say that the opinions of your school-friends will always be unrealistically petty). Life is not the sole opinion of your parents; you can have your own views, beliefs, loves and that’s more than simply acceptable.

Laws are there for a reason – to keep us safe – and, although political correctness has veered off the helpful track, opinions are not the same as laws. You can feel one thing and act another, and, yes, that doesn’t have to necessarily be a bad thing. Hate and love are not spectra, and, yes, it is possible to feel hate but to show love and turn the other cheek.

The Steampunk community rules!

As Bunny says in the video’s description: “This video isn’t just for the LGBT community. It’s for everyone and anyone that needs it. We all go through tough times. We all have seemingly impossible odds against us.”

I have a friend who lives down the corridor from me, a beautiful, charismatic girl who happens to dress like a 40s pin-up because that’s the kind of fashion she loves. She gets flack, but we all get flack. Everyday. It’s the life we live. Yet, that’s no reason for my friend to stop being pretty with her looks or for me to deny that I do enjoy NeoVictorian and modern NeoVictorian (wearing non-Victorian shirts and trousers but jazzing them up with steam accessories like belts and bows and frills. I love frills.).

And your start is to start loving yourself, and forgiving yourself. We all do silly things and feel arguably silly feels, but beating yourself up for how you feel does no one any good.

I know – this post is comprised of nothing novel. I just wanted to share this beautiful video from a beautiful amazing woman.

Well, life’s too short, so share the love. You know it is. You know it is. Don’t do things that you shouldn’t do, because that’s bad. ;)

 


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Experiences With a New Phone

Hello. Your Wednesday post comes via YouTube in the form of my latest vlog, where I spend seven minutes talking about the ups and downs of my new phone, the HTC Windows phone 8S. Don’t ask me about specific classifications; I don’t know. I’m not here to be a modern technologist, but to provide some insight into the life of a working writer and fan of the archaic rather than the modern. I didn’t mention the phone’s size in the vlog, but mobiles are so massive now that they worry me. We don’t need to widen our screens and still not fit all the ‘app’s on. We simply need to remember a mobile is a phone, pure and simple.

Plus, you get to hear what a paragraph of my new short Cavendish Mechanics sounds like when it’s narrated by the robot of a notepad app. For this, I suspect this has been my favourite vlog so far to record/edit. The amount of voices I put on is something of encouragement for future projects.


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Lifey-Wimey Things

I apologise for a blatant lack of consistency in my posting. At the moment, I’m in an intermittent stage between levels of everything, an ‘in-between life’. Like Hazel. You know, that character in some film of a depression book by John Green that’s out in Australia and the US, but not the UK yet…

Like John Green says (but of which there is no gif!): Hazel is called Hazel because it’s an in-between colour: “in-between health and sickness, in-between adolescence and adulthood,” etc.

I pity all the Hazels in fiction that they will be forever compared to the Fault in Our Stars girl.

What about nullities, huh? Are some nullities bigger than other nullities?

(Answers in the comments)

Anyway! That said, I am on the other side of having written of the Steampunk short and only goodness knows if it is interesting. June barrels on with its everything (for instance, I have Open Day training tomorrow for work on Friday and Saturday. Brits, come to the University of Reading! It’s awesome!) and in the back of my mind lingers ideas of the planning I’m meant to be doing for July’s CampNaNoWriMo. Yes, I take on too many projects, but that’s the way I like it, for the empty mind is one with vicious claws.

Also, the alt grave key on my laptop broke. So, yeah, that was a success on the existing part!

That’s my life for now, I guess: in-between work and leisure; in-between past and future and all those words entail. In between total and acceptable insanity.

I’m off to play Quidditch and croquet. But not simultaneously. I hope.

One day I will be able to use an SPG gif in a relevant manner.

Oh, hey, this one’s relevant if you imagine me shutting down instead of The Spine!

Is it gif or “jiff”? Is there a culture/US-UK difference?

Also, stop me before I watch too many Green brother vlogs! I have to organise my YouTube ‘watch later’ section.


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What’s Inspiring ME This Week

| Three exams down, five to go. Next tomorrow, then Friday.|

Another short-on-words post, since I am, of course, still revising, but I thought I might flick through my Google searches this week and present you with some of the images I have come across. After all, as things go, work makes me crave editing and writing. And reading. I thank goodness for all of the steampunk I can get my chai-tea-stained hands on!

For starters, this stained glass evergreen helped me with a bit of description/symbolism in WTCB.

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A flintlock pistol. Enough said. Okay, maybe one piece of dialogue might pique your interest: “Surely you are not under the impression that my Papa failed to teach me how to handle a gun?”

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Different types of aerostats… :D

Beautiful blue dress from the Victorian fashion wiki. My MC of my short story WIP, Louisanna, wears a dress very similar to this in one of my favourite scenes. Plus, I have a love for this icy blue hue on my own steam pieces (see below).

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As such...

As such…

These wonderful automaton blokes (which is no reference to gender, but a quote from the first song I heard):

Steam Powered Giraffe. Perfect visual inspiration for steampunk robots. And, you know, gorgeous people music. *ahem* If I were only a robot made a hundred years earlier… *Victorian-style swoon* (And, whilst David Bennett is a genius, he is, naturally, less handsome and mannered than The Spine, just as Lady Chronaire is made of a great deal more wit and confidence than I am.)

Another video set: this time of the theatrical type and more relevant to my research for the novel ‘H’ than for my short story world: League of S.T.E.A.M. Steampunk ghostbusters, pretty much ;) Again, this combination of aesthetic and humour and wit is perfect research and glamour for my novel.

The entirety of the Steampunk opera The Dolls of New Albion is worth a listen to if you have the time. I’d love to act the Narrator. Although she’s not technically involved in the story, she sounds a very dynamic character.

There’s an interesting Steampunk name generator from Brass Goggles.com, too. Much fun.

Also, many many more bands I wish I could list and many Etsy shops and other fun online knick-knacks that have been serving the imagination. A lot of my research has, naturally, come from the various authors dabbling in various Steam genres, including Kady Cross (notice: book cover with a blue dress ^.^), and of course Gail Carriger.

Finally, I’m sad to add that the UK bookshops (at least those I’ve reached) are terribly absent of steampunk novels…though I did find this beauty.

THE IRON WYRM AFFAIR. Sorry for the reverse webcam-shot.

THE IRON WYRM AFFAIR by Lilith Saintcrow. Sorry for the reverse webcam-shot.

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