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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Quick Takes About An Away Game of Quidditch, Taize Prayer, and Collating Data

Sometimes, nothing much needs to be said about one’s week, and that’s why conversiondiary’s Quick Takes is so useful.

7_quick_takes_sm1

~1~

Did I mention the Reading Rocs team went to a Quidditch tournament? Oh, I didn’t? Here, have a picture of me Chasing at the Southern Cup (photo by the Southampton team photographer).

~2~

This week has been an unusual one, where anticipation for its end has left me asking why the time is moving so slowly, as opposed to so quickly as per my usual stance. Tonight is the launch party of the university magazine The New Frontier, for whom I do the occasional writing about [creative] writing.

The New Frontier

~3~

What have I even being doing this week, though? Less busy than last week, by dint of not having [immediate] deadlines, and I had the chance to briefly write (see point 7, as per the organised norm), but I’ve also been working (and have finished doing so, thanks to creating an excel sheet. *wipes brow*) on collating the data for my Autumn term mini project, on temporal discounting. I’ve still got a long way to go, though, as I start my report.

~4~

On Wednesday evening, we had a Taize evening of prayer, a very interesting experience, despite that I prefer traditionalism in hymns and praise. Taize prayer involves ecumenical meditative chant versions of hymns, silence, and experiencing God and the Spirit through being contemplative with others. It was very metaphysically cleansing.

A photo I took in the summer of a Mother and Child tapestry in a church

A photo I took in the summer of a Mother and Child tapestry in a church

~5~

Speaking of singing, my two choirs continue. The Duke Ellington jazz never fails to amuse me, but I’ve also had to concentrate on Christmas carols with the Chamber Choir; we’re singing in a lunchtime concert for the students in a couple of weeks, so that’s become my practising priority. I still feel rather out-of-joint for singing carols before December!

~6~

Editing and writing. I’ve done a bit this week. Editing has been somewhat productive; I received mostly positive comments from my CP, which is, in a way, worries me (doesn’t everything! ^_^). For if one cannot improve… Conversely, the main issues I have to deal with are the chronology and direct laying out of Phillip’s active time-stream and Aidelle’s temporally-frozen wasteland, and making the taxicab shelter scene beginning a firmer setting.

I may have to enlist the steampunks with this one.

~7~

Your weekly extract. I wanted to work on scenes I already had the groundwork for. So…I had them talking in the caves, but I had to get them to the caves first. Fun. And I’ve learnt that Laurie suffers from pseudovertigo when faced with heights.

These extracts seem to be getting longer, don’t they? Sorry – I wanted to include a little of Jess and Laurie’s mid-climb conversation, where they discuss, effectively, steampunk, that is, the world if history had been different. As a student myself, I can confirm that our conversations do tend to float from the mundane to the academic regardless of what we are doing.

He said, “One wrong move from a visionary and we’re living in broken world of steam engines and AIs and golems.”

“Anachronisms,” she added.

Laurie shrugged. She had a point. “Maybe not.”

“Pass the rope.”

He did so, and the rope burned through his hands, like a passive fire. She looped it around the rock, tugged it tight, and zoomed down.

He peered over the cliff-face. She was a metre down, dangling, with a wonderful grin over her face.

His mouth twitched and the canvas of flesh ached open in a mimic of her smile.

“Comfortable?”

She shifted in the harness, one hand massaging her back. Quite a funny sight, indeed. “Not quite.”

The cavern yawed out below. He swallowed and blinked away the dizziness, and launched himself off the ledge.

For a second – blackness. Then Laurie prised opened his eyes. The cavern below did not hang in total darkness, but light rolled down the stalactites from the cracks in their path and amber veins in the surrounding columns. Behind him, a vista of afternoon light warmed the edges of his coat.

Beautiful.

 


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Beautiful People: Agnetha

I’m editing her first adventure at the moment, so I think it’s appropriate that I tell you a little about my favourite – and first – protagonist via the Notebook Sisters and Further Up and Further In monthly meme.

I turned my attention to the question of names – and my realisation was bitter. Inwardly, I cursed at the simple word Leonard. And how joyful I was when toothbrush-moustache came through the double doors, clutching his informative clipboard of the random facts nobody wanted to know.

Oh, hai, Agnetha King.

She could totally be Stitch.

1) What does your character regret the most in their life?

I suppose Agnetha’s greatest regret would be that she never got to know Josh Craig as much as she thought she did. You know? That realisation that you’re never going to see someone again and suddenly every little thing of theirs becomes the most important thing in the universe. She finds it difficult to conventionally make friends, and so losing one best friend is a blow to the soul, definitely (soul being my word, not Agnetha’s). Students her own age are moronic and self-centred, but maybe later she’ll regret never making those close friends when she had the chance.

2) What is your character’s happiest memory? Most sorrowful memory?

I guess Agnetha’s happiest memory (or one of; it’s very difficult to pin-point one exactly, and thus I’m going for the most obvious in answer to this) is one she reflects on in Of Jackets and Phones: when she first meets Josh Craig in the corridor of her school. It’s that kind of electricity that warms one’s soul (“cue the pyrotechnics, Steve!”) and that connection of knowledge and self.

Her most sorrowful memory? When she loses him. That exact moment DI Leonard says those words died in suspicious circumstances. It influences a lot of her future actions, though I’m not sure that’s a good thing when it interacts with the facets of her already-personality, such as the petty kleptomania*. However, as we’ll later see (when I get around to writing it), she plays with the ring she steals from his house before making any massive decisions, as if she wants to channel Josh and his good heart.

3) What majorly gets on your character’s nerves?

Her mother and brother. They don’t quite get her love of unwinding mysteries and trying to crack puzzles. Although (by the third book) she no longer talks to her father, she might get her logical mind from him, whereas her mother and brother are more…simple and down to Earth. They take things at face-value.

4) Do they act differently when they’re around people as opposed to being alone? If so, how?

Agnetha, especially as she gets older, has to subdue herself around others. Her personality does almost a complete flip. In OJAP, she’s definitely a ponderer on the inside and bolshie on the outside, a rebellious little fourteen-year-old; by OOLE, the third book in the trilogy, she’s a lot more of a thinker on the outside, and has to hold in her own opinions when in the working world. Agnetha’s finally learnt that authority is (not so much) out to get her. At least she’s not pulling punches and pulling pistols on people by the time she’s eighteen!

5) What are their beliefs and superstitions?

In Of Jackets and Phones, Agnetha has yet to have a religion, but she is fourteen and teetering on the brink of depression, so that’s acceptable. However, she believes in fatalism and this influences her pessimistic view of life.

6) What are their catchphrases, or things they say frequently?

Whilst Agnetha doesn’t have a definite catchphrase more than fidgeting habits, she does tend to make the most facetious of remarks. A couple of times in OJAP, she makes references to mystery writers (as per a little satire I’ve attempted to weave), including one of my favourites, Colin Dexter, whose Inspector Morse books are (coincidently, I promise!) set in and around Oxford.

She’s also kind of a compulsive sorter, since physical ordering things allows her to mentally reorganise without using up conscious energy.

7) Would they be more prone to facing fears or running from them?

Running from them, most likely. Whilst physical fears – such as her claustrophobia and facing off against villains – and, actually, one of my favourite scenes from the middle book, Of Moscow Mysteries, is the final fight scene between Agnetha and the antagonist – she seems to face, her inner fears and her emotions she runs from. And those inner demons quake her very shoes.

OMM concept drawing of the fight

OMM concept drawing of the fight

8) Do they have a good self image?

Far from it. I’m not sure if I’ve kept the phrase, but in the first draft, Agnetha studies herself in her bedroom mirror and complains about her blemishes as “a battleground, marks against the perfect snow-white blanket of youth. I’d always been a pale child – a tan never stayed on my skin more than ten minutes.”

9) Do they turn to people when they’re upset, or do they isolate themselves?

Similar, in fact, to #4 and #7, she isolates herself because she’s an introvert and goes so far as to even mock those who are dramatic or possibly overdone in their emotions. She’d never turn to people because she can’t rely on people, though she does occasionally turn to her rabbit, Cinnabun, when she wants to be listened to without interruptions.

10) If they were standing next to you would it make you laugh or cry?

Am I allowed to offer ‘cringe’? Agnetha is likely to make me laugh and cry simultaneously. I can imagine her tossing out her blonde hair and making up some hodge-podge remark as she studies her nails.

*I am well aware that this is probably a linguistic oxymoron.

AgnethaIllustrated_AlexB


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Swirls of Words

Did you know that there’s a place on the web where you can visualise any document or element of text? Wordle. So, being me, I was messing around on it, seeing what I could come up with if I copy-and-pasted the entirety of WTCB into it.

Anndd, tilt head…now. No, I won’t laugh at you for doing that. I’m doing it, too.

WTCBwordle2

WTCBwordle4

The romantic, arty version

Let’s look at this for a second. (Click to zoom if you like) I think it’s a pretty awesome representation of the novel. As expected, our protagonists Aidelle and Phillip – the lovers – feature the most. In the same vein, the supporting relations emerge here: Peter, Phillip’s brother, from whose eyes some of the novel is seen; Zara, Aidelle’s Supporting Character; Rion, the antagonist; even Dr. Costello – misled father role, if he had to be shoved into one – has been recorded by the Wordle, through both direct and indirect ‘father’ references.

In fact, if one looks closely enough, one sees that, whilst not all of the Costello family are mentioned, Andrew makes his appearance, and even servants Tia and Richards are there!

Interestingly, you’ll see words like ‘head’, ‘face’ ‘eyes’, ‘lips’, ‘voice’, ‘hand/s’, ‘fingers’ and ‘arms’ in varying levels of Wordle prominence. I can guarantee that novels without strong romantic hooks will have these words contribute much less. However, due to my romantic plot, these characters understand each other through the way they touch, through their attraction and appreciation of each other: that’s what holds together the novel. In the same way, you’ll notice the prominence of words of unity and measure – ‘one’, ‘together’ (juxtaposed with ‘without’ in the second Wordle), ‘heart’ and ‘love’. Aww.

On the other hand, one mustn’t forget the setting-y, sci-fi-y words with a leaning towards Aidelle’s entrapment: ‘clock’ – naturally! – ‘time’,’stopped’, ‘house’, ‘door’, ‘kitchen’, ‘room’, ‘war’, ‘world’…

I’ve got the philosophy elements via ‘know’ and ‘thoughts/think’, ‘believe’ and ‘mind’.

Is that even ‘words’ in there? The Wordle knows me well!

Of course, I could analyse every word mentioned for its literary relevance to my works. Instead, though, I’ll leave that to your wandering eyes. There is some great Wordle word placement. Some words there aren’t surprising – those words of place and sentence; others, I guess, are novel-specific.

~~~

Image

As a last thing, I’d like to thank Charley R for promoting Fauxpocalypse on her blog (though she does spell my surname wrong, but she has fully admitted to that fact to me). Check it out.


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Notebook Sisters Blog Hop – For The Writers

*I know this looks like a long post, but stay with me. I really enjoyed writing about my writing and there’s some exclusive stuff from first drafts and new projects, so [well of course I think so] it’s worth a read. I’ll put the questions in blue, so you can skip around, if you like. And pictures – I’ll keep you entertained with pictures ;)* 

Over at the Notebook Sisters blog, they’re holding a linkup and giveaway, so check it out :) In the meanwhile, I felt it a great way to summarise my reading and writing over the course of this year – and you know I love to talk about what I’ve been up to ;) Without further ado:

Wow, looking back, I have to see it has actually been a long year. Short in how it has passed, and how much I have moved, but long in what I have done. Seriously, I started university and that’s fantastic/scary. However, this is about my writing (the reading bloghop is here).  Surprisingly – if you consider that I’ve been editing the most/more than ever this year – I have much to say.

How many books/stories did you write this year? (Estimate your overall wordcount for us!)

TRIANGLE, finished March ’13. Contemporary romance standalone, first draft, at 105,000 – wrote the last 45,000 of it this year. *That’s almost an entire novel :O*

DON’T MESS WITH TIME (DMWT), July ’13. NA sequel fantasy/sci-fi/genre unclassified, first/second draft. Still typing it up, but current wordcount is about 40-thousand, so I believe I completed NaNo, woop! Judging by my estimates, I may still have another 20,000 to type up!

REVELATION, July/August ’13. NA dystopian short, about 5,000. Published Dec ‘13/Jan ‘14.

LYSANDER YAKINOS, Sept ’13, first draft, currently at 15,000. M/M mature Romance novella.

ESSAYS, TURQUOISE WINGS AND ME, Oct/Nov ’13. NA urban fantasy short. 7,500. Edited, currently out with beta.

Across the year, I also started The Continental Almanac supplemental; and various commentaries and essays like the ‘literary cross-examinations of the Costello brothers’. Varying amounts, non-fiction/fiction supplemental, second draft and in-progress addition as the novels progress.

Overall wordcount about 133,000 (rounding up).

Which was your favourite to write?

The chapters, first draft, on a writing site

The later chapters, first draft, on a writing site

TRIANGLE always has a place in my heart, being the longest of my books and my only successful co-authored book (I say that, but those last words logged were all me when my co-author had to pull out). I think it’s mostly because of the contemporary romance between the characters. It’s so hard to explain, but I love their love. It’s also a book that touches on family and religion, so, whilst it’s going to be a pain to eventually edit, I like to think that the final product will be more than simply a romance in three parts from three pairs of eyes.

Which was the hardest to write?

ESSAYS, TURQUOISE WINGS AND ME was a challenge – even beyond choosing its title! This was probably because of its rather abstract genre – I guess ‘NA urban fantasy’ – with a university student finding out that fairies exist, just not in the way we expect of them. I was working to a contest prompt, so my wordcount was perhaps stifled, though I found it just right for the idea. I found it difficult to fully encompass all the ideas in the general short story, though I suppose this is part of the writing discipline to hold back some ideas.

DON’T MESS WITH TIME, in a way, troubled me, as it is completely different (apart from characters and ideas) than its predecessor, and I have to find a way to edit in all the clever themes and metaphors that make WHEN THE CLOCK BROKE my favourite piece of writing.

Tell us about your favourite Male Character you wrote this year!

Lucas Gorge from Triangle. I have so many interpretations of him on my computer. I made this my background one day, and must have deleted the source photo, for I have no idea where I found it now. He is my character crush. *drools* In addition, I love his quirks, which are also his faults. I can’t say much without including spoilers, but he is, at first, very cold and slowly comes to appreciate the help that Andrea gives him.

sa17

And how about your favourite Female Character?

lucy_hale_wallpaper_6Reading back through DMWT for quotes, I realise how much I love MC Zara still. In the first book, she was a SC and younger; here, she even recognises that she was weaker as a person, more “I hate the world” teenagery. She’s about twenty in DMWT, so she’s changed a lot. What I love about how I have written her is her kick-a$$ attitude that doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. She knows she’s wrong at times, but still goes with her guns. She could be called ‘selfish’ and I think she’d take that.

(I’ve just realised – the first draft of Lysander has practically or literally no female characters!)

Can you introduce us to some awesome sidekick(s)?

Léa Gorge, whilst not being a sidekick in the sense of superhero-y type attack the word conjures in me, is a companion and non-POV character I’ve come to enjoy seeing alive. Her sense of breezy humour, reminding me of her sundresses, means she lights up a scene. She obviously adores and wants to protect her ‘baby’ brother, but sometimes she has to turn to her own needs. Behind her jovial exterior, it’s clear that she herself wants romance to succeed.

In addition, I learnt a lot about her in her short screen time. I love that, being fluent in French, her job is as a translator of books. Although she’s freelance, I can see her working as the international rep. of a literary agency. Also, she makes coffee weirdly. ^.^

Any romances in your writing? Which couple didn’t go together as expected?

My writing always has at least some romance in it. I can’t help it! I’ve always been enamoured by Lucas and Andrea from TRIANGLE, so that one goes without saying. My betas gave me a lot of support for that plot. Team Landrea all the way!

I set out at the beginning of DMWT with the aim of making a strong romantic subplot between MC Zara and SC Max (considering that its predecessor I still categorise as Fantasy Romance). However things didn’t quite go to plan, because 1) Max didn’t turn out to mesh at first meeting with Zara as I expected he would. He laughs at her ideas, and even in the last book treats her as an inferior.

2) Max had a crush on the antagonist, Zoey

3) Zara found herself more attracted to another, even though we all knew it would end badly. So, the romance is there, even if not the ‘right’ one – I’m still aiming for the couple to find their way to each other in the final finale.

I also keep coming back to that M/M romance of a couple of characters from the Time, Stopped trilogy (the story, minus its above title, of which I’m keeping under lock-and-key for now ;) ), so I guess I’m not done writing their past vignettes and tales. I don’t know what it is, but I find gay snogging so easy to write. Seriously.

What’s your favourite Pinterest Board for one of your books? Can we see some pics for the book they inspire?

I don’t have Pinterest (can’t afford to lose myself in another online site) so I’m not sure how to answer this. However, that’s not to say that I don’t have a few folders on my laptop. Although, WTCB doesn’t count as it’s in editing not writing, I even have an entire family tree for the main characters and have been finding faces for them. Looking through, I probably should have a general bookish Pinterest, even for just posting romance pics like Anna and Bates as Ale and Chris (A Game of Murder).

AnnaandBatesGoogle

For this year, my big project was the first draft of DMWT, so I was kept an eye out for neovictorian and steampunk-style machines (I had to devise a bunch of new machinery, so I needed all the inspiration I could get) and décor. For instance, this record player one of the guys down my corridor has, and this first model T Ford car.

RecordPlayer_AlexB

FordT_AlexB

What challenges did you compete in this year? (NaNos? Personal goals? Challenges run by other blogs?) And how did you go?

CampNaNoWriMo! I was in Uganda for July, so I took that opportunity of no internet, phone or anything else access to speed handwrite my ideas. I took my notepad everywhere, and, as a result, a full of the pages are almost orange with the dust. I’ve not yet typed up the entire thing, so I don’t know if I passed the challenge, but it felt as if I completed it. I did, after all, fulfil my personal challenge of finishing the first draft of DMWT in a month.

In addition, I did set myself the challenge of finishing TRIANGLE before I turned eighteen, just so I could say I’d written an adult romance without being an adult myself. Foolishly – at least, I’ll lament when I have to edit! – I also set and completed the challenge of getting the wordcount over 100K. At 105,000, I succeeded.

Show us the full cast in pictures from one of your books.

I do this a lot already. Only in November did I talk about my ideas for the main cast of DMWT – the entire cast is too diverse to include, and even the speaking cast is extensive. The three shorter stories are hardly worth listing the characters of. REVELATION has one MC and the people she meets before and after she thinks she’ll die; and Turquoise Wings has four characters in its entirety. TRIANGLE, however, has enough to make a proper list. I’ve not, however, cast those characters who appear in less than three scenes or who don’t have substantial speaking parts (for instance, the vicar with whom Andrea has a conversation in the first chapter never turns up again, though he has history with her family).

I’m going to use the Sims2 versions of Lucas and Andrea because I love how they look so much. :P

Lucas Gorge and Andrea Ford

LucasAndreahappy

Although he wouldn’t call himself a player, Lucas moves through relationships quickly. No woman has been right for him. He can only guess that it’s due to his religiosity or his perpetual neatness. Andrea gave up on men when she gave up on her art degree. That was no Artemis pact; she simply failed to find the men in her life attractive. But her thirtieth birthday creeps ever along with the thought she’s wasting her life alone. It’s worth newspaper dating, yes? What Andrea didn’t bargain for, though, was the guy who blanked her call turning up as the new Head of Religious Studies at her alma mater.

*I have so many different hooks for this story; that one entertained me a lot as I wrote it.*

Keith Malone

Yes, I realise it’s Mika…but I’m having trouble really envisioning the best person who looks like Keith

Working as a bank teller with his best friend Harry wasn’t exactly where Keith has envisioned his life, especially after the love of his life threw her ring in the rubbish. However, a chance encounter leads his vulnerable heart back to life. He may not be able to forgive Andrea yet, but Keith ought to open his eyes – his perfect match might be where he least expects her.

Léa Gorge

IMAG6238

Léa journeyed to Lansdale at her brother’s request, and, somehow, never left. The power of being freelance! When Lucas stranded her – it’s a three-hour drive back to their family home, after all – Léa took up residence in Keith’s recently-vacated spare room. The one problem? His grudge against Lucas is a grudge against her, too.

Christine Taunton

Keith is dull, and, whilst Christine isn’t exactly on a mission to let the whole of Lansdale know that, she’s determined to stop her mother’s Alzheimer’s nurse, Andrea, making the same mistake as she did, when they could both have fur coats and three-diamond rings.

Alexia Acker

Hard-working Alexia is a divorcee, who likes to pretend to be the queen of casual relationships, when, actually, she has a massive crush on her boss. It’s only when Andrea’s relationships fall to pieces that her distant-minded colleague reveals the soft side of her meant for love. And she’s got the best advice: fight for your goals.

Mark Morrison

Mark wasn’t impressed when Andrea applied for a post at Swinford Clinic. Sure, she had the 2:1 to prove her intelligence, but her heart wasn’t in the hospital life. When one of Andrea’s lovers goes to Mark for help, will he reconsider his offer?

Ryan Garner

Arguably Lucas’ best friend – though it’s clear that four months has not been enough for the absent-minded HOD – Ryan teaches chemistry and is the first to see that Lucas goes weak at the knees at Andrea’s entrance. *somehow, I managed to marry Ryan twice in the novel. I mean: to the same woman*

Harry Brook

Always inviting Keith to the pub, Harry talks about his ex-wife a lot when warning Keith off being in a serious relationship. It’s clear he’s not confronted his divorce properly, and he is given the chance to do this, once and for all.

Epic quote(s) you wrote?

All of the quotes! *I wish* I’ve put the titles of the projects by the last quote of their section.

“We are not heroes, only pawns in a game, losers, like the rest. To hold and conquer time is to make us the lords of this new society.”

Quaint emotions bloomed from the teenager and into the adult, an attraction curling the eyelashes and stilling the mind.

Weaving against each other, they kissed for the sake of kissing. DMWT

Solace, it seemed, emerged from distraction and power. They had a war to compile.

The last thought still hummed in his brain when he jumped up and shut the window: had losing this fight been worth seeing his portrait in the hall alongside his father’s?

“A letter,” Lysander said. He thrust the letterhead into the air. Not as if it was going to stay there. Lysander didn’t care. The envelope poured to the floor, along with the last button of his shirt; hands were needed for a better activity.

Lysander raised his eyebrows slowly. He said nothing – he had no need to. Blue eyes, coloured like rain, howled into his own. The searing image of his own sight scraped him. Raw, clean.

“I am a violent person. Where are the virtues Aristotle decreed? Where have I left them? In what dungeon did I throw offending justice?” Lysander Yakinos

A society of sceptics eyeing the external world together made for an apt post-non-apocalyptic society. Revelation

Show us your favourite funny scene!

Humour is not a strong suit of mine, especially in this year’s pieces (my other trilogy is more devoted to the black humour tone), but here’s a cringe-worthy scene I was particularly proud of writing:

Placing her teeth into her bottom lip, she turned on the shower once more until she heard not even her thoughts, only the melodic patter of the water as it hit the porcelain tray below. Washing the grapefruit-gel through her dark locks, she hummed again. The day was all right, even counting the lack of sleep. Maybe she would ask Linacre to cover for her once her family had infiltrated The Institute, and she would go and nap and dream about being her past self with nothing to care about but getting into the Physics—

“Zara?” called a voice – about two metres from her.

Zara jumped. She shrieked. She cut the water off with one hand, and threw the other over her naked body. A man stood a little out of sight when she looked over her left shoulder. The steam drifted off her body and evaporated and condensed on its surroundings. In her clearer sight, Zara stared at the man in her bathroom. Maximillian Folster.

“Max!” she screeched. “Get out. Get out!”

“Oh, my!” he exclaimed, face burning from beige to a deep red. Yet, despite her protests, Max made no move. Idiot.

“Max!” Zara didn’t have enough hands when his gaze grew octopus tentacles, pulling her apart. She lunged for the towel on the rack a metre away, and untidily draped herself in it.

“What do you damn well want?” she asked. Her face burnt, but she stepped once to the side and tilted her body upwards to be about level with Max’s own. “What do you mean by coming in here?”

“I— also I—” Not only had his cheeks boiled into rosy lumps, embarrassment had painted his entire face a healthy glow. “You see, I—” Max didn’t know what to say when he had no idea where to look. From studying the ground, he flexed his own fingers, pushing them to breaking point. This must have caused frustration for him, as he looked up immediately after doing so.

And then, as if he had forgotten how her naked flesh rippled under the prison of the towel, he blushed dark again, and the whole circle of awkwardness repeated.

Zara grew sick of the game – and she was getting cold. “I need to get dressed. Whatever you have to say to me, say it now or say it later, I don’t care. Shoo, Max, shoo.”

Show us a snippet of dialogue you’re proud of.

I love dialogue. DMWT had a particular good selection, because of the dynamics between the four central characters. This piece is between the protagonist and antagonist.

“Please, you don’t see how much my family matters to me. If I’m stuck here, who can tell them not to make the same mistakes as I have done?”

Zoey’s smile snapped wide, eagerly mocking. “Poor, little Zara, who suffers from the Cassandra complex. Don’t mess with time.”

Cinema Sins - "Hey, that's the title!"

Cinema Sins – “Hey, that’s the title!”

“Look,” Zara said. She spread her hands wide. “If I could have helped Tia back then, I would have. If I had known she was here… Anybody else and I would have done the same. Don’t you see that?”

Zoey snorted. “I see only you, Costello.”

Zara retracted her hands – the fierce heat radiating from Zoey already burnt her face, and she wouldn’t risk her hands getting the same treatment.

“We’re all going to vanish like her anyway.” Zoey shrugged one hand onto her hip, whilst the other swiped her hair from roots to tips. “The paths of time converge – they’ve seen that we don’t belong and they’re trying to eradicate us, one body at a time. People die everyday and we can’t stop that happening. Costello – you’ve been the war with your well-blooded family; they lost so arbitrarily. Well, I tell you this: time’s gonna suck away some people. If they escape into this hell, time’s gonna find them eventually.”

I also enjoyed looking back on this snippet between Max and Zara:

Finally, his seriousness was too much for Zara. “Max, be quiet! I know you can sound like me so stop pretending that you’re from another century.”

“But I am from another century,” he murmured, cooling the tips of his words, but keeping a pronounced difference from her. “I saw the way you reacted when you found out that Linacre came here from 1991. I may have not travelled as far as him – if we think of this place as a definite spot, not some slipped-between-the-crack hostel, as now it really is – but I was still born in the a different century from your hear— from you.”

Zara shook her head. She lounged against the scannerboard until Max’s raised eyebrow pulled her away. “But you’re not Linacre. Not in skin, no, not in personality or smile. Forget your crusty upbringing and embrace this improbable present day. You’re my friend, so be my friend, not this transformed stranger.”

Tell us about some funny typos or writer-bloopers you’ve had this year!

Sadly, I’ve not had many funny too-fast-writing mistakes. I get perfect-imperfect tense shifts, possessives coming out of nowhere or failing to make it to work on time, and characters trailing off literally mid-sentence (where, I suppose, I told myself I’d add later).

‘Zara scuffed your feet’ somehow ended up in my recent editing of a third-person novel.

What has writing taught you about yourself this year?

I can pitch better than I thought I could. Also, though it’s more about my manuscript than me, that my first pages/chapter drags way too much. I’ve rewritten it three times this year.

To sum up this year, my pitches can intrigue, but my first pages let me down. Oh, and I can speed-write and speed-edit if I set my goals correctly.

Best piece of writing advice you learnt this year?

Don’t submit to agents and small press editors simultaneously.

Last word from your manuscript(s)! Go!

*These are so odd out of content*

DON’T MESS WITH TIME: Institute

TRIANGLE: loveheart

REVELATION: forever

LYSANDER YAKINOS: year

ESSAYS, TURQUOISE WINGS AND ME: cheeks

First sentences from your manuscript(s)!

DMWT: Physics was confusing enough without adding a fifth dimension that Zara didn’t even believe in.

TRIANGLE: Swinford was more of a hospital than a clinic, and that fact alone annoyed Andrea.

REVELATION: I’d not thought about believing in God before the apocalypse.

LYSANDER YAKINOS: He was an odd man, was Lysander Yakinos Archer. *straight to the point, wahey!*

TURQUOISE WINGS: Autumn leaves hugged the road in a blanket of amber.

DMWT first draft

DMWT first draft

Anything big on the horizons for next year? Plans to query? Publish? Edit?

Oohoo, you tease me.

REVELATION has literally just been published in the Fauxpocalypse anthology; expect print book release time early-mid January.

The editing for WHEN THE CLOCK BROKE goes on. I’m hoping to do most of my rewriting (to make it more interesting) of chapter one over the Christmas holiday. Actually, chapter one has killed me. I am secretly a ghost, given up on writing. On a more serious note, yes, this rewriting is for querying. I said I’d do so by the end of this year, but university altered my plans.

Tell us a bit about a book you’re super excited to write in 2014!

I’ll be typing up the remainder of DON’T MESS WITH TIME, but I’m more excited about getting started on one of the new projects swarming my mind. I’m ready to get writing again! I doubt I’ll start the NA uni romance I’m planning (leave that for CampNaNo!), and whilst I’d like to begin on the final of the Time, Stopped trilogy – I started one-step planning it on urge this afternoon – I’m hoping to get more of OF ONE LONDON EYE written properly, instead of in starts and spurts as I am currently. It’s about time I completed Aggie’s YA mystery trilogy.

Basically: Agnetha’s thrilled to start her paid training at Oxford Met policestation, but paperwork and lost boys wasn’t exactly what she signed her murder-solving mind up for. Luckily, a familiar toothbrush-moustached detective trusts her enough to let her shadow a team to London. When the mystery of a missing child reveals a crime aimed at Agnetha herself, she is running for her life in a strange city. It’s time for the eighteen-year-old to doubt what she’s always trusted – her wits – and, as the trilogy comes to a close, she may well lose more than her job…

Here’s a snippet from one of the first chapters:

“Yes, Agnetha,” Wallis said, “criminology is dull. We don’t live in a TV land. We aim to reduce the risk of the propensity of crime, not slip on sunglasses whenever we find a mystery.”

I raised a slender eyebrow at her.

“Be happy you’re not a forensic. Police-people get the better job.”

“Oh, yes,” I remarked absently. “I have a B in A Level Psychology, remember.”

PC Wallis’ lips twitched. Wordless, she slid off the desk and, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, stalked over to her wedged computer.


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WIPpet Wednesday 4th

Rather depressingly, I have to report that my memory stick has snapped. Since my Windows 8 laptop is super efficient, I’ve not been needing the device to write with, and I didn’t lose much. Some of my edits of Of Jackets and Phones *smacks pillow* and my smoothed-out end of one of the chapters of DMWT. I was able to grab back the beginning of the following chapter, from this post, and I intend to not look at that messy ending of the previous chapter. I’ll block it from my mind as much as possible… I think there’s still a chance for me to recover the memory stick files (-or-am-I-just-being-naive-?).

Work-in-Progress Wednesday

Wantage_Hawkins

Let’s see. It’s the 4th of the 12th, ’13. How about lines 13 lines? Oh, look, that’s exactly what I wanted to post, xD. I don’t really do selective paragraphs well.  To recap: we’re looking back at Secondary Character Max’s life as he starts college, pressured into Physics by his parents when Genetics is what his mind has been on. I’ve skipped the Head of College speech for you, since it’s meant to be dry and explanatory. Again, first/second draft weaknesses. But I like it at the moment. Instead, I’ve jumped past the page-break to Max’s meeting with one of the other first years on his floor.

A dreamy smile flit onto his lips. He didn’t think of the chance to meet new people or the drinks, but of the chance of discovering what had hidden in his mind not blood. Success through brains, not Name. His excitement came from the idea of practical work; reading about building machines no longer sated the chattering white-noise in his mind.

A knock on the door roused him from his reverie. Science held time more than fame. Max skipped to the door, and, with one flick of his hand, unlocked it.

“Enter.”

The man Max had shared words with earlier commandeered the door. He rested his hands upon his hips, whilst his eyes soared over the cubicle.

“My brother said the Folster heir had breached the premises. Maximillian, am I correct?”

“Broth—?”

Max saw it then: the lack of crinkles around the edges of the man’s eyes, the thinner slant of his neck and shoulders. Not the person with whom he had spoken, but his younger brother. This must be the one studying Physics.

“Apt room, Folster.”

Max strode away, lowering himself onto his bed when he was sure the man had no more remarks. “It suffices. Pray, tell me your name. I think we skipped that vital introduction.”

The boy pulled the same amused face as his brother. “Ezekial Maverique.” He shifted his hands to one lock of that same corn-coloured hair, tossing it away with arrogant pride.

“Nice to truly meet you,” Max said. He extended a hand, but Ezekial simply gazed at it. Before Max thought he would not shake it, his lips twitched into an upwards smile and he grasped Max’s hand up and down twice. His tight hands were warm.

“Well, it seems we shall sit Physics 101 and the basic structural assembly classes together, Folster.”

“We will.” Max smiled. No matter how he tried, the uncomfortable knot did not abolish from the pit of his stomach. How did the man know his favourite module choice? Ezekial’s higher status – and the fact he blatantly knew it – unnerved him, but something more made Max’s hair stand on end.

What do you think? Should Max trust Ezekial or his stomach, or is there more under the mop of corn-coloured hair than just a snappy mouth? Any ideas about what happens next? xD It would be many years before Max would meet the MC, Zara, but that’s the bit of the chapter I’m not willing to re-copy out yet.


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WTCB September: Lake Placid Phillip

Nobody is entirely pacifist. Even the most trained of religious cannot help intruding anger; even those people who bear calm exteriors have emotions snapping at their heels.

But still we hope for a way to avoid war-like tussles. I myself have seen too many people hurt verbally to let my mouth run riot. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for all my characters. *cough* Agnetha *cough*.

Phillip, on the other hand, is calm. Of the various metaphors Aidelle uses, two stand out in my mind from recent editing: the warm sunset and the placid lake, waves of love flowing over its smooth surface. When Phillip is with Aidelle, he is at his finest as a pacifist. Sure, he argues with her, but – annoyingly, according to Aidelle – he never raises his voice to contest her.*

But, as his granddaughter will find out in the third book, Phillip was not always like that. The Continental Almanac records that, in his childhood, he was actually quite a violent person, but that his painting might well have saved his soul. My words, not The Almanac’s*.

“It was wrong. This fancy Costello artifice surely had no place in actual living. Phillip had never understood the arranged marriage system as it was, but now more inconsistencies of the upper-class bled from the perfect wallpaper. As he galloped up the many stairs, forever becoming a certain doom, Phillip scowled at his surroundings, from over-polished rails to the portraits staring at him from every corner. The next year he would let riches tumble from his fingers, for they had given him nothing before. Only one result stood from the wreckage of his upbringing.

Phillip was becoming a pacifist.”

(Lysander Yakinos, short story WIP, prequel to When the Clock Broke)

In this case, Phillip is the epitome of natural pacifism, not trained, monistic pacifism. He is like me – exposed to anger and (verbal) violence at an early age, so looking for a better outcome in the world, through non-violent acts (though, this may or may not extend to his motives. I’m not entirely sure what his innermost thoughts are at times).

One might argue that his pacifism is a theme of the novel, the sole creator of trouble: because Phillip firstly refuses to go to war, he is blackmailed by his brother, cannot afford to lose his money to support Aidelle, and so leaves her for the war, and enrages her, which leads to the breaking of time…etc.

A Beta reader actually said to me that she likes the role-reversal here. I never intended for Aidelle and Phillip to be the opposite of the stereotypes of their gender – men have more testosterone and women are dainty.

Testosterone is nothing to do with Phillip’s will. Mind over body and all that. Aidelle is quick to anger just because she is, as are a lot of my female leads. Call it force of habit, I guess. Phillip, on the other hand, has acquired a skill she has yet to learn: controlling one’s anger. He’s no softy. He can go to a five-year war and not come back with obvious PSTD, unlike his skittish brother.

But war is harsh. Phillip avoided it for a reason: his own good. And, as I said at the beginning of this post, nobody is entirely pacifist. Adopting a scientific eye, perhaps Phillip is filled with the regular amount, or more, of male testosterone*, but he has been suppressing it since he found out how cruel that part of his prenatal personality can make him. Worn down by war, he reverts to his frustrated self at home, being the proverbial vinegar-bicarb-volcano exploding.

Yes, Phillip shouts, he yells, he storms out of a dinner meal after treating his family horribly. He stresses, and, for two scenes, he is angrier than I have ever seen him since.

I’m not trying to prove a point here. Yes, pacifism is a state of inaction, rather than a complete state of mind, but I say this because Phillip defines himself by his pacifism, but he is wrong; nobody can be entirely pacifist, and he is more than simply a man who refuses to fight. Maybe Aidelle is right – by being calm, he is causing more pain to everyone else in the long-run.

Who knows?

UgandaLake_AlexB

Too, despite his now-gentle nature, Phillip bears prejudiced thoughts. He is not the most symbolic of this type of person in the novel – that is Dr. Costello, his father, whose strength is, in fact, weak-mindedness that he believes tradition and his son’s singular words than having the eye to observe change fairly* – but he is ready to lift up an invisible barrier of prejudice when he is anxious.

As his author, I’m incredibly proud: most of this has been his emotional growth, rather than my character development. I’ve talked a couple of times about how I decided to make him indifferent/unshowing of his adoration around Aidelle, but the prejudice and the anger came of my character’s own accord.

I love being a writer.

In a non-related tangent, ‘Lake Placid Blue’ is the colour of a Strat I desperately want. Look how pretty he is!

*The thought occurs to me here: of Dumbledore and Harry.

*One could argue that The Almanac’s words are my words, but, for this post, I’m referring to it as an outside guide to a real world, not a fictional accompaniment to a fictional trilogy.

*Because it’s a fiction that women have no testosterone; the majority of us just have substantially less.

*A little like Carson from Downton Abbey, perhaps?

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