Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist


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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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Ready. Set. Write! {Goals}

I’m jumping in to the Ready. Set. Write! writing intensive that starts this week*, hosted by Katy Upperman, Alison MillerJaime Morrow, and Erin Funk. Whilst I’ll be dropping in and out due to commitments and NaNo, RSW allows me to quickly create and update goals for my writing this summer.

*You may have noticed that the updates are on Mondays, so Tuesday will become my new Photo of the Week day until RSW is completed.

 

My Overarching Goals

1. Complete and submit my short story/novella <Unnamed Steampunk>. Also, come up with a neat name for it.

2. Finish reading over the summer at least three of the books I’ve started reading this year.

3. Complete another round of tightening of NA Fantasy Romance When the Clock Broke and try to make the first three chapters more appealing. Post to Absolute Write for critiquers of world building and the like.

4. Make progress rewriting YA contemporary mystery, Of Jackets and Phones, to make it Beta/CP-ready.

5. Complete July’s CampNaNo with the first draft of ‘H’ and at least start NA contemporary uni romance, Under the Carrington. These two are itching to be written right now.

 

I am way too ambitious, judging by the overarching goals, but I’m hoping that the weekly goals will help me cut my ideas and into sizeable chunks. And that I can still maintain regular blog posts (and a hint of a social life…) in the meanwhile.

My main goal for this week is to finish the first draft of <Unnamed Steampunk> and begin editing.

 

If you want to join me, just pop over to one of the host blogs, grab a button, and leave your link and you’re go to go! The headers for the goals next week are:

1. How I did on last week’s goal(s).
2. My goal(s) for this week.
3.  A favourite line from my project OR a word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.
4. The biggest challenge I faced this week.
5. Something I love about my WIP. 


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New Adult: Weak Women are Awesome, I Trust Plebeian Wisdom, and Lizzy Bennett Matches My MC

In between my panicking that my MS isn’t actually the genre I say it is, and vlogging about such things too, I stumbled upon the Wikipedia page for New Adult fiction (turns out that Wikipedia lists it as ‘New-Adult’ with the hyphen), which I had been looking for at the beginning of my foray into understanding the genre.

Now, I don’t trust Wikipedia, but, for the same reason that it takes the knowledge of everyone across the world, I appreciate its simple opinion influenced by the readers more than the writers. Plebeian wisdom, one might remark.

One paragraph under the ‘themes and issues’ section of the page remarks that, whilst there is an overlap with YA themes such as bullying in NA (I’m looking at you, page one of manuscript), there are NA themes that are entirely separate from YA:

“Some common examples of issues include: first jobs, starting college, wedding engagements and marriage, starting new families, friendships post-high school, military enlistment, financial independence, living away from home for the first time, empowerment, loss of innocence, fear of failure.”

Wedding engagement and starting new families is at the core and stakes of my novel. I asked one Beta what she thought one of the themes was, and, instead of ‘love’ as I myself expected, she said ‘family and loyalty,’ which is, in fact, totally true of the book. Financial independence and living away from home for the first time – check, on both Aidelle and Phillip’s sides, but especially Phillip’s, since he protests that he doesn’t want to rely on his inheritance, but yet struggles to get away from it when Rion uses it as blackmail. I’m not going to tell you whether or not Phillip decides on financial independence at the end.

I’m also going to argue for ‘empowerment’ and ‘fear of failure’ as being checked off, too, this time from Aidelle’s perspective.

I don’t write powerful women. I believe that they have become an expected and overdone trope in writing, making them unrealistic of real life. I’m not a strong woman, nor, I bet, would many of my female friends say they were if I asked them. A lot of women are going to break down when they hear their pacifist fiancé is going to war instead of marrying (‘military enlistment’ – check). I can’t find the blog at the moment, but I recall to mind a blogger who argued that Bella’s depression when Edward leaves her is totally justified. I say that maybe it’s not compatible with how she’s acted before (or maybe it is. I hated Twilight from the start.), but it makes sense. Emotionally.

Some NA women are weak. Some can’t control their temper and do burst into tears at love’s loss (yes, I fall into this category). However, this doesn’t make them bad characters unless they’re badly written. For instance, over at the Notebook sisters blog, Mime talks about how Disney women are not the pink-dress-wearing damsels about which many complain. She points out that, although, in the first movies, the princesses needed men to rescue them, this didn’t make them weak. They had other qualities, as shared by most women, be they modern-day, Victorian, or a combination of the two in my alternate universe.

Yes, Aidelle is the younger of the MCs at 20, but, because of the nature of the class system in The Continent, she’s been sheltered by her middle-class parents, who want only for her to enter into a good marriage. She’s stubborn, but not strong. She agrees to meet the man who has chosen her for marriage – and little do either realise that their temperaments are a perfect match, even if Aidelle was Phillip’s ‘worst’ wife-card out of his second Selection.

Aidelle says she’d rather not marry – and, yet, as soon as she falls for Phillip, she wants to be his bride. So much so, that one might call her a flighty fawner when we meet her in chapter one.

“Oh, to be wed at the age of twenty!”

At that point in time, failure for Aidelle is the failure to achieve her biggest dream of being Mrs. Costello. I don’t think Aidelle was ever afraid of being a failure to conform to her family’s ideals, even if she did agree to them. Sometimes, one has to say yes to the demands and protestations of family.

One of the arcs I hope is clear in the novel is that Aidelle has got to learn to separate her desires from her fear of failure, to learn empowerment as her own, unique person, rather than being a) the daughter of an Oil Physicist or b) Phillip’s wife. Pretty much her only options in 2010. Through meeting and experiencing the future in the character of Zara (who, whilst not entirely at the dreadful level of real-life feminism, lives in a more balanced society), Aidelle must realise that she has more to herself than what she looks like or who she aspires to be in mente.

Her current self, regardless of weaknesses, should be a state of empowerment. Full stop.

download (2)Moving topic, I was day-dreaming about Pride and Prejudice’s take on the way the absence of love can physically affect the body (as a Philosophical Psychologist would, right? :P) and it occurred to me that Lizzy is, after all, 23 at the beginning of the novel Just looked this up, and she’s actually 20. My MC is the same age as Lizzy Bennett and she shares her regency attitude and overbearing girls-must-marry mother (and her loss of love…), though maybe not so much her wit or patience!

*cough* Anyway, I was about to remark that, along with many classical books, one could consider Pride and Prejudice as being New Adult because of the age-range of the sisters, the ideas of friendship within society and that of independence versus the requirement of a husband for success.

Lastly, I do not believe NA is a marketing scheme. Many of us had been writing NA for years before it became a ‘thing’. I was 5 years younger than Aidelle and Lizzy when I started writing, but it’s taken me a good three years to understand that their story/ies are not YA, even if the themes of moving out and moving on may be like those ideas of YA. When I queried when my MS wasn’t ready, I didn’t know about NA so I queried as YA – though, in my heart, I knew it didn’t fit.

Whilst some NA has been recognised by the industry now, I still argue that it needs more attention and importance as a category. Its themes are difficult to really encapsulate in YA and some degrees of adult fiction. The biggest problem, however, is the subjectivity, and I suspect it will be this way for a while.


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Steampunky Love

It seems that I will have one of those months where I write consecutive posts one week, but fail to get anything in the next. I’m very sporadic and crazy at the moment. As I did say, I am trying to revise for my exams, so I have been putting my entire collection of ideas on the back burner.

Anyway, I promised a snapshot of my crazy, steampunk ghosts dream. Whilst I have a proper chapter of the new novel idea, it tracks into the 3.5K words; therefore, I’ve just delivered a snapshot of what I wrote. Enjoy!

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The click of Alexander’s heels together raised her face from her hands. He slid from the sitting chair to the wooden floor. His fingers worked at a hidden bolt, a hidden trapdoor of which only Charles’ best occupants knew. Alexander wandered down the steps onto the Evening Platform, a platform-balcony of wooden boards and struts spanning the length of the conservatory – and, rightly, on which it balanced – and Cathy, determined not to creep with her tail between her legs, followed.

“Where are you going, Alexander?”

He’d strode to the square opening in the middle of the platform, from which dropped a stiff, vertical ladder of raw iron rungs. Alexander descended. Smugly.

“You cannot stay another night in New York without your four bags. Yes, I counted.”

Cathy huffed. She didn’t care that she travelled heavy. “I’ll get them after The Passing.”

“No, you shan’t. No woman should walk at night…lest words be spoken.”

Alexander was halfway across Charles’ outer court before Cathy had pushed herself onto the well-traversed steel ladder. She clamped a boot on the rung above hers where it clanged as it landed. “I’ll be comfortable without my bags.”

“I do not mind. My pleasure.”

This time, Cathy bit her lip so the taste of blood fuelled her. Far from his stubborn dismissal of her all afternoon, she fumed at his audacity to risk his life against the post-dusk for the retrieval of her bags.

No. She unwound the heel of her boot from the iron rung and jumped to the ground. Flakes of mud rose to her gown hem.

“Alexander, you shan’t.”

He spun, and Cathy almost crumbled under his fierce glare. “I shall do what I please, thank you, Miss.”

She took one step back, as if the force of his words had smacked her across the face. Certainly, her weak-womaned form made her a lesser creature (in his eyes…in the world’s eyes), but Cathy still curled together her hands. She didn’t understand his need to fetch her items for her.

With one last look of disdain, Alexander spun. He fixed his thumbs into his pocket-edges and stormed through the wooden sidegate.

Fine. She didn’t need him. Not like that. Cathy shifted her hands onto her hips and sashayed back to the scaffolding structure under the conservatory. Well, almost. She’d just checked her gloves (had Charles even seen the mess the iron rungs shed onto ladies’ white fingers?) when her breath caught in her throat, crystallised, and spewed out of her mouth in a broken rush.

Coldness. More than coldness: water-bare, lifeless coldness from her toes to the strand of hair falling across her forehead. Cathleen Worth-Hamilton raised her eyes to the entrance of Charles’ complex.

Heads and hands materialised at the far gate. First, blue lips puckered through the atmosphere, then a nose more beak than skin, and eyes as pinpricks. Cathy wilted. They’d come. The first phantasma drifted in the shape of an elderly women, her white hair stained by the darkness. It had taken no more than a metre’s way before another pulled through the air, this an apparition of maybe eleven with her grey hair loose around her shoulders. A male phantasm followed them, a young man of Alexander’s age, perhaps.

Alexander. With The Passing hitting every New York abode, he’d be caught in the way. If he didn’t move fast enough to a platform with distance between it and the floor, the ghosts would Pass through his soul.

“Cathy!” Charles called. When had he climbed out onto the balcony? “You must move. Now!”

She shook her head. Unnatural fear smudged through her body, rooting her to her place.

Charles’ gloved fingertips weren’t even close to her shoulder. “Take my hand.”

“Alexander’s out there.”

~


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Photo of the WeeK: Shimmer

(Moved back from yesterday because of the obligatory blog hop post)

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I’d like to welcome a very late Christmas present to the blog: my electric guitar, Shimmer, which didn’t arrive until this week. A basic Affinity series Fender Stratocaster, but my family can’t afford anything fancier and because I still have my electric-acoustic, Ruby, I wouldn’t ask for anything more.

I hope you like the shot – I wanted to get all of the lake placid blue colour in, whilst also being artistic. What’s photography without artistry, eh?

Because I have a bit of a fretboard fetish (!), here’s some gratuitous shots of the new one, smooth rosewood fingerboard and harmonious strings.

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I also got a birthday present early – a new phone, so, although I’m not upgrading ’til June, I’ve got a shiny new camera feature to my rather-outdated pixalations here. It’s been great working with my hTc Wildfire, and you’ll find it – and, more importantly, its photographs – scattered across my posts since the genesis of this blog, but it’s time for me to change (aside from the fact that I couldn’t make calls anymore…).


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Picture Post: The Path to the Storytellers

As promised, some photos from a walk I took this week, inspecting the Equinox’s wildlife. It’s a shame I didn’t get any clear photos of squirrels, but there were a good number springing about, too. As usual, I’ve been thinking about writing and planning writing, and this walk gave me the perfect inspiration for a segment where the MC wanders into the house of two peculiar characters…

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~

Four different genus of daffodil dotted the stony path. Em knelt and put her nose to one with an orange centre in a white crest, like a reverse lion-head. Ahead, the path curved down to the further end of the tributary, where a wooden bridge had been reinforced by spokes protruding from the water. Em winced – if fish had swum here once, they’d been scattered by the abrasive shadows.

IMAG7672She glanced at the rockery bridge blocking the end of the tributary; the creak of the board swinging there almost drew her muddy path. Creak, wobble, smack: ‘to the house of the storytellers’.

“As if I would obey a written injunction,” she told her left shoulder.

Yet, the daffodils swirled around her feet – Em shrugged and she’d landed at the sign, the mottled door peeking through the stone when she looked hard enough. A door. And her mind urged her through it.

~

More photos… :D

 

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Review of Vicious (by VE Schwab)

Okay, everything about this review is unusual. The review is long (sorry! I had a lot to discuss, on both sides of the spoiler warning). The novel is an adult novel, though a lot of the flashback is set in a uni with the characters aged only two or three years older than me. And I read the book in three days.

Yup, you read that correctly. This was one of those books.

Let me say firstly that, right from the beginning, this was one of those books I knew I needed to have. To hold. And now I have a print copy, I don’t regret the extra money or shipping time at all.

vicious-book-cover-v-e-schwabVicious by VE Schwab came out in the US in September 2013, and the UK paperback came out in January. (Another unusual move by me, since I usually wait a year before reading ‘new’ books.)

What started as a senior thesis on the possible existence of ExtraOrdinaries – people with, to dress it up, superpowers – turned into an experiment testing the boundaries of human adrenalin. Ten years later, Victor’s broken out of jail to find his college roommate, Eli. The reason? Their experiment succeeded, but now Eli’s bent on destroying every other ExtraOrdinary – including Victor and a young girl with deathly cold skin and a habit for trouble.

(Summary by me. It’s good practise.)

Note: this review doesn’t really have spoilers until the capital spoilers bit.

Things I loved:

Victor, protagonist. I don’t read a lot of books with anti-heros, so I can’t compare, but Schwab does a brilliant job of removing the cliché super-powered bad guy, removing most of the cliché villain reasons and giving us a truly human character. A lot of Victor’s motives are powered by, firstly, jealousy and a desire for rightful recognition, and, later, intense revenge for betrayal, but this is what makes him the ideal anti-hero. He knows ‘right’ and ‘wrong’; he just twists them so he can create. He’s almost a modern Frankenstein. Calculatingly brilliant.

Victor wondered about lots of things. He wondered about himself (whether he was broken, or special, or better, or worse) and about other people (whether they were all really as stupid as they seemed).

In that way, I relate a lot to Victor. Feeling, not feeling; understanding; being locked within the prison of my own mind. Broken or special… Who knows?

The setting. Firstly – the name of the university and town, Lockland and Merit, respectively. I’ve been trying to think of a name for the fictional university in which an NA romance I’m planning will be set, but it escapes me. The lunch area shortened to ‘LIDS’ reminds me of my friend’s college, where their eatery is called The Loaf; the shortening is so typical of new adults.

In addition, whilst there’s not much explicitly said about the visuals of the university, one gets a feel for it through the guys’ eyes. Also, the alternate universe, the like-ours-but-not is handled so well. Believe me, I know how hard it is to create a like-but-not world.

The black humour. And, boy, there’s a lot of it. Victor’s voice – his coldness, his cynicism – is gripping and appropriate for the overall feel of the novel. Something about the tone is morbidly fascinating.

The pacing. It wasn’t too fast and it wasn’t too slow. I wanted more and I snapped it up easily. Hence the short reading time. ;)

Schwab handles her prose in a tight, elegant manner, so that styles I normally despise read naturally. The prose skips back and forth between the present day actions and the past, background of the two ex-friends ‘ten years ago at Lockland University’. The writing is deliberately set up so that certain plot twists are revealed through the characters’ present-day contemplation, yet leave enough space for the reader to wonder. For instance, we know right from the beginning that both boys gained ExtraOrdinary gifts, but not how or why, and the pieces are revealed through tense back-and-forth. It’s almost a whole other story. And that’s a good thing.

Of course, as with every countdown, the tension is ramped up by the time ticking on. The days – and the chapter labels saying their times – move forward, but the prose does feel as if it is building back to the showdown…

I had no favourite characters because each have their own unique compositions. From the special to the unusual, I could praise any of the MCs and SCs in terms of both development and stability.

There is also a small romance triangle at one point. I refrain from calling it a love triangle because it’s more of the guy-in-love-with-his-friend’s-girl trope. And it’s introduced with the brilliant apophasis ‘He was not in love with Angie Knight. She did not belong to him.’ The thing about Angie is that she never really felt anything more than friendship for Victor whilst he evidently cared for her, though I cannot say how much she felt for Eli amongst the smooching. In actuality, I think Victor’s passion added to the story – villains can be loveless (like my Rion), but they can also get lonely. Back then, Victor was bound to feel something like this.

Her face was red from track, and his was red from her…

Although it may be considered a triangle or a trope, I felt that there was so much realism in the way Victor told the parts of the story involving Angie and Eli. Jealousy, yes, but it was real jealousy. The kind of anger, envy, confusion he felt rings so true.  Gah, so real!

Things I wasn’t so keen on:

At times, especially the beginning, I felt the writing lapsed into headhopping, so, instead of reading in the eyes of one character, we were hearing the thoughts of others. I preferred the Lockland story for the reason that I knew I was seeing the scene through Victor’s eyes definitely. In a similar way, I guess I’d have preferred not to have chopping and changing POVs during the last few chapters. Yes, they added to the shock and other dramatic emotions of all the characters, but we didn’t really need to witness each character’s reaction directly. Thinking about it, the POVs of over five characters featured in the entire novel. Conversely, I found very few moments where the POV changed mid-chapter and left me ignorant to whom the camera was pointed.

A lot of the pacing relied on the mystery of EOs – who, how and why. Once the big Sydney reveal passed and the present became more the focus, the pacing dragged. Luckily, after the middle, it built up again.

The interesting bits. SPOILERS:

Angie’s death! Noo! I was shocked when she died. From the blurb, I had thought that she’d be assisting Eli in his assassinations of the other EOs (excuse me for being presumptive. In hindsight, Angie wouldn’t be the type. But, you never know; she could have been flipped evil). To be fair, I wasn’t invested in her as much as I probably should have been meant to, but I appreciated her as a woman [and] scientist, as a curly redhead with a sharp wit and mind. I didn’t cry for her, but I did feel sad that she had to go for the sake of plot.

Surprisingly, I didn’t feel uncomfortable when Eli and Victor committed suicide to give them their powers. For the idea of science, it worked. Too, it was written so well – not focusing on the suicide, but on the boys’ determination to pass through suicide to life again.

I didn’t get it straight away that Eli was The Boyfriend with the gun, yet I had a feeling about five chapters before it was mentioned that Eli had shot Sydney. Funny how the same threads don’t knot together, eh?

Some reviewers have said that Eli’s change into mad EO-slayer was too sudden, but I don’t think he’s that sort of ‘villain’ (I’m not sure how loosely I’m using this term here) in the book – it’s not the type of story with villains or saints. Put yourself in his position – he lost the woman he loves to his best friend’s mad experiment; and, as Eli said, dying changed him. Maybe it took away his fear to remove the world’s unnatural talents. But he’d, as he said, always had that bent inside him – that something missing. True to life, we all have a different, unsettling side, and for some it doesn’t take much pressure to come out. Maybe hesitance was his…his saving Grace?

Why didn’t the police catch Eli before Serena careened onto the scene? He was careful – and a genius – but one would’ve thought that the police would’ve been onto him after Professor Lyle’s death. “Are you coming or going?” Ha – wouldn’t that have been obvious? Detective Snell is a character who annoys me. He should have seen beyond Eli’s acting. Yet…no one ever did… That’s part of Eli’s natural, pre-death ability to charm and wow the crowds with a smile alone. Thinking about it, Eli would never have been a killer had he not already had the skill of being unsettled/unsettling that comes with the killer actions.

Mitch. A fascinating case study of human psychology. Exposed to so many moments of wrong-place-wrong-time, Mitchell Turner has given up because of the blame heaped on him and the ‘curse’ following him by the time he meets Victor. If Mitch has any position in the literary meaning of Vicious, he shows us that one doesn’t have to be an EO to have some sort of ‘aura’ or power – we are all capable of being powerful. Or – one could take Mitch to be the evidence of some natural strain of ExtraOrdinary power in this world, a fully human, not twisted or ‘missing’ genetic evolution. Certainly, he explicitly symbolises that ‘normal’ humans can escape death by normal means (running, trickery, a bullet-proof vest…) – therefore, having powers is not only not preferable, but also not necessary.

Either way, he’s an interesting character to observe. I definitely got to liking him – I gasped aloud both times he ‘died’, and, yeah, I kind of felt cheated when he didn’t, but it was a satisfied feeling of being cheated, if you can comprehend that.

The ending: both predictable and a surprise. Of course, with Sydney on his side, Victor’s death, however deflating for me as a reader and supporter of this MC, was always going to be temporary. On the other hand, it didn’t occur to me that, with Serena’s death, the mind control was gone. And I didn’t feel many anti-climax feelings, though the final chapters poured from one to another too quickly and without that much happening, in terms of temporal progress. Also – however random it was – I didn’t expect the wire cord with which Eli kills Victor. Weird move. :P

END SPOILERS

My one sad is that I didn’t get the hardback. It has a glorious cover (see above!), almost a scene from the book, an echo, whereas the paperback (the top cover) seems too cliché and straight to mimic the nature of the prose. In a way, it detracted from the smooth comicbook style one expects.

Anyway, I loved the book, yay! I don’t usually like to give five stars, but I couldn’t really find a decent reason to rate this down (is the writing too good?? xD).

The moments that define lives aren’t always obvious. They don’t scream LEDGE, and nine times out of ten, there’s no rope to duck under, no line to cross, no blood pact, no official letter on fancy paper. They aren’t always protracted, heavy with meaning. 


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You Can Buy Fauxpocalypse in Print!

The not-end of the world is now available to read as a hard copy (and, yes, I’ll be posting when I get a copy myself! Keep an eye out on my blog and the main Fauxpocalypse blog as well as the other contributors’ for other promotional ideas we’ve in the works). My very own story, REVELATION, is the third in the collection.

What does one do when the world has, effectively, given up on itself? The supplies are less than low, the religious fanatics are praising, and of the population…some survived – some are still on their way to surviving. Now they must press through the failed end of society to whatever lies at the other side of the Fauxpocalypse.

This collection of twelve short stories by eleven authors tells of fire, revenge, family, change and, ultimately, hope.

 

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Amazon Kindle copy (this link should take you to the correct .com or .co.uk site relevant to you)

Amazon Paperback! 

Smashwords for Kindle

Our Fauxpocalypse ‘Webstore’


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Unwrapping Fauxpocalypse

Alexandrina Brant:

Dave unwraps the print proofs of Fauxpocalypse, heralding the print not-end of the world. It is nigh, bloggers! Keep an ear to the blog-ground! :)

Originally posted on The Fauxpocalypse Project:

Despite the twin obstacles of many public holidays and flooded airports, the proofs for the paperback edition finally arrived from CreateSpace.

And I made a video of myself opening them. So you get a sneak peek at what Fauxpocalypse looks like as a physical book:

And, as several people have already kindly pointed out, at what my hair does when I am not watching it closely.

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Extract: Max’s First Day

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Obligatory pretty-scene photo (this one’s of a Belgium canal)

Not quite a Work-in-Progress Wednesday (though I’ll try and keep to that if I have time), but here’s a new bit of WTCB2, part of a secondary storyline that leads into the plot of the third book. Before Max was a “live-in mechanic” (his words, not mine), he was just your average student, albeit one with a rabid interest in genetics.

It’s a first draft, so, of course, I’ll probably remove or rewrite a great proportion of this exposition, but it’s also reflection of his past.

~

Maximillian Folster had always enjoyed science. His father had been a tutor, and it was only logical that Max would follow the upper-class academia.

His first choice had been from his pet project aged sixteen. He had escaped the pandemic of ’01, but something had not been right about the origins of that flu. The best of his research – short of breaking and entering top laboratories – had only highlighted that the ‘bad’ blood, the ‘lower’ plebeian population, was more susceptible to viral invasion. Nothing more.

Max hadn’t been convinced. Joining the Genetics College of The Continent (to use its full title) would have completed the missing information on his page, but his parents had been eager for the Physics route. His father had taken a professorship in Land Sciences, after all.

But he might try a combination of the two. They couldn’t stop him doing that.

Max stretched his eyes over the broad entrance of the Physics College halls, sweeping letters curling over a worn stone arch. He pulled his suitcase to his side; West, Max’s valet, had already sneaked away, though the servants’ garbs revealed the status of each First Year. Max didn’t care – men knew the Folsters from the father’s work.

He nudged forward, into the throng. Smart-faced and suited men filled the outer court with their unfamiliar ages. Max knew he was one of the youngest at eighteen years old; yes, some wonder-children from the richest families broke through aged sixteen, but most parents held their heirs in lociis parentum and what equated to home-schooling. They wouldn’t let each child of theirs face an unprotected world of unsegregated people.

Although he kept the fact to himself, Max’s mother had worked in the public education before she had favourably married Artur Folster. Public education gave a varied syllabus beyond the opinions and skills artis parentum, leading its students in all scattered directions. He was used to it.

Still, society and its pages scowled at courting with commoners. That was a Folster mistake. However, Max mused as he strolled along the tiled pathway to the student halls and the sign ahead asking all first years to proceed to the Hawkins quad, he was here now, even if it wasn’t genetics.

And what quaint names science bore!

Max strolled into the H quad. When his suitcase caught against a second marble row, he lifted it was a meagre smile. Those smartly-dressed men milled: those people of his age. His smile morphed – and Max shuffled into a group of boys wearing decidedly-middle-class beige slacks.

~

Speaking of which, I’ve not been typing up my CampNaNo effort – I’ve had no time – but it nevertheless remains, waiting to be tuned up. However, with this new laptop (new for this novel), I can tell you that I definitely wrote over 36-thousand words that July – with a good deal of chapters still to be typed.

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