5 Senses

Taking inspiration from NevilleGirl’s post, of the 5 different senses in writing. Whereas she listed examples of senses to use in writing, I thought I’d challenge myself further by writing a little piece of description for each that could be relevant in my novel.


In amongst the soft chugging of steam from the device’s motor, the smell clouded the air. Faint at first, but only more pungent the more she angled her head upward, the steam clouded the air with a metallic stink. She stifled a cough (as much as she was able in the headrest), and concentrated on the basement’s usual odour of rotted wood and fresh copper wire. It was not much better, but it was better at least.


She sunk her front teeth into the wad of fabric, and very nearly heaved. She would’ve spat it out if she’d been able. It tasted like damp straw and the back of a fireplace.


Against her bare skin, the crushed velvet soothed like a bandage with extra padding—another gash zigzagged from her right elbow to an inch from her wrist-bone—and that was not the only surprising element to the rented outfit.


In the air, everything was muted, or muffled as if the world above the clouds blanketed the world below. Or both silenced the other. Amelia’s boots scuffed along the deck as she moved back and forth, map tight in her fist; a whoosh of air skimmed the bow from front to back as if trying to shush Cathy’s thoughts; and even the wheel squeaked little as The Cloud-Chaser’s faithful captain ploughed her through the dense atmosphere.


Cathy gazed over the plateau, shivering a little, despite the midday heat that curled off the building structures below her. In this hamlet, where the tribespeople worked like ruthless cattle and their ‘Queen’ was no better, a figure was conspicuously absent, no matter how far Cathy strolled.

A certain man with pince nez halfway down his nose and a stack of papers tucked in his arms.

Alexander had not crashed in Italia.


And, on that note, thanks for reading! Feel free to continue the 5 Sense tag in whatever way you think will help your fab writing!

Cover Reveal for RULES FOR THIEVES by Alexandra Ott

I am excited to share the cover reveal for RULES FOR THIEVES, the debut Middle Grade novel by Alexandra Ott. I interviewed her on this blog a little bit back. Did I mention that I am incredibly hyped for this novel, and you should be too? Not that I’m biased by her being my Critique Partner or anything.


Here is the shiny shiny cover in all its bazaar (no pun intended!😉 ) beauty. I love how it doesn’t give anything away, and yet emphasises the scenery and the fantasy of the novel. And of course, that pendant. So focal. If I’m honest, (being a non-MG writer) I’m rather jealous of MG cover designs at the moment. MG covers are rocking the market!

Interested? It’s a great book. See the rest of the cover reveal over at Middle Grade Minded.

Beautiful People: H’s Cathy

*gasp* What is this, an actual Beautiful People post on my blog in 2016? I know, I’ve been as lax in keeping up with the writing tag as a printer sans ink, partly because I’ve not tackled any new big novels for a while and instead have been trying to focus on the importance of editing. But since I’m working on it at the moment, about two years from its conclusion, I thought we’d revisit my Steampunk novel H, a tale of ghosts, Italian tribes, and dirigibles.

what is beautiful peple about

Beautiful People is a monthly segment focusing on the fictional people of our novels with the intent of uncovering their little tidbits that although may not come into fruition or play in the novel, round the character into more than a paper cutout. It is hosted by Cait at Paper Fury and Sky from Further Up and Further In.

So, let me once again, introduce you to the lovely, yet audacious, Miss Cathleen Cattoway, betrothed to Squire Alexander Sterling. Or so she hopes…


  1. How did you come up with this character?

Horology - CathleenLike most of my character creation, I don’t recall coming up with Cathleen Cattoway specifically. I know I wanted a female main character to look through, someone with brown hair and eyes as a template for her appearance. Confident and not docile to the sexism of the day, but not someone who liked mechanics. Her name was something of a pick-out-the-hat, as I tend to do. It stuck, thank goodness.

  1. Have they ever been starving? Why? And what did they eat to break the fast?

Totally boring here, but no. She’s had to be self-sufficient, and she has been hungry, sure, but never starving.

  1. Do they have a talent or skill that they’re proud of?

Linguistics. That is, the study of language structure. Cathy’s particular speciality comes from translating Latin and Greek, and so she is fascinated by how different languages use different syntax to create different meaning. This also helps her pick out when people are not being so truthful—as she is more likely to hear the false way they are using language.

4. List 3 things that would make them lose their temper.

People thinking she has to need help.

People stopping her from reaching her potential or helping others.

Liars, because she can read them more easily than most.

5. What is their favourite type of weather? Least favourite?

Does nighttime count as a weather? I guess that’s cheating.😛 Cathy’s favourite time of weather would be blue skies, though not too hot. Her least favourite? Thunderstorm rain.

  1. What is their Hogwarts house and/or MBTI personality?

I went with Hogwarts house because, although I’ve done numerous Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator tests and read loads on my own type (INFJ here😀 ), I’ve not had the time to read that much into other types. Since INFJ’s are the rarest, even if my characters do share my attributes and interests, I don’t think if they were to do the test, they would come out so.

I’d say Cathy’s a Ravenclaw. She’s not brave enough for a Gryffindor, is too frank to be a Hufflepuff, and honestly, I see very few traits of hers as Slytherin-y. She aspires to not aspire.

  1. Are they more likely to worry about present problems, or freak out about the unknown future?

Well, Cathy would consider the two irreparably linked – her present problems are the small cogs in the machine of the unknown future; if there are present issues, that means that the future is not going to be set out the way she would like it to be.

  1. What is their favourite drink?

Your average Google stock photo

Tea. Definitely. Just your average India Leaf tea, though she was recently introduced to lemon Green tea, and she rather liked it.

  1. What is their favourite colour? Least favourite?

Her favourite colour is a rich maroon or burgundy. She likes the rich reds that can be transformed to taffeta fabrics. Her least favourite colour…I’d say that would be black, simply because it lacks texture and the potential to see other colours through it.

  1. What is a book that changed their life?

Wow. Now that’s a loaded question. I mean, I don’t have a favourite book, and – as Cait herself would say – I am a feelingless Vulcan, whose life has very rarely been changed by a single book, so I don’t know where to start with Cathy. What springs to mind would be the first book she translated: a series of poems in elegiac couplets by Catullus, one of a group of Roman writers known as the ‘new poets’. She would’ve been inspired by the way the poetry is clever and full of imagery – yet, also is poetic in the sense that it does not stick to the poetic boundaries English is forced to.

What about you? Are you in the deep depths of editing at the moment, or have you just started making a new book baby? Let’s chat😀

7 Quick Takes: A Recap of the Vanished

I know I’ve been absent from 7 Quick Takes Friday for a while now. Some of it has been out of my control – moving and all that jazz – but some of it, I must admit, has been laziness on my part. So, of all the things, this is a Friday catch-up, I suppose.

Seven Quick Takes


Oh, September, how you are a tricksy month, particularly for someone like me who took a rather distended break from blogging and writing et al, and whose mind now is struggling to settle back into routine.


I think I will relish returning to the normal routine of student work getting in the way of writing work, though. Giving myself a reason to get out of bed will surely aid my brain into inspiration during the day.


Speaking of which, that’s coming up soon. I get enrolled soon, and then lectures after that, though it still feels like a lifetime away. I know it will pass so quickly; and part of me wishes so, whilst the other is perfectly happy to freeze time in the here and now.



What am I reading? Oh, wow, what a question, since, if one goes by my Kindle app, I am reading quite a number of things at once. For my own amusement, I recently stumbled back into reading THE SECRETS OF GHOSTS by Sarah Painter and published by Carina, a small press that has impressed (!) me with its selections of titles and way with voices.


Image result for heart of brassThere are a few books I’m reading for writing style inspiration:


A theme, right? Well, I have to read up in my fields.🙂


On the writing front, I’m slowly rewriting my novel H, a historical fantasy that floats about from New York to Italy. Here, our plucky young heroine, Cathleen ‘Cathy’ Cattoway, returns to New York in the dead of night to question the man who last saw her betrothed.


When they docked unceremoniously in New York—Cathy’s boots slid her across the moisture-sleeked deck like untethered weights—the morning hung dark and heavy over Ellis Island, mist-less yet crammed with whispers of forbidden conversations out of their reach. Even the residue of last night’s Passing made Cathy’s hair stand on end. Out here the air was a mixture of gaslight fumes, the smell of bitterly cold air, and fouler scents, too…



For seeker Raine Benares, a demon infestation on the Isle of Mid couldn’t come at a worse time. Already fighting the influence of the Saghred, a soul-stealing stone, Raine discovers she is also magically bonded to a dark mage and a white knight, two dangerous and powerful men on opposing sides.

Turns out, the demons want the key to unlock the Saghred. As a seeker, Raine should be able to find it first. As the axis of light and dark powers, she’s a magical cataclysm waiting to happen.

Well, there was certainly demon troubles.

Unfortunately, I just didn’t love THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS as I did the Raine Benares books #1 and #2. I can’t really pinpoint why. Well, okay, I can think of a couple of reasons.

But first – the good:


I enjoyed the introduction of new types of demons in this novel, and I was intrigued by the way Raine and the Saghred handled them. The threat-level has definitely increased, both internally and externally, and it’s great to read how Raine, despite her new power, struggles with it.

Getting to See More of the Baddies

Because it’s been a while since I’ve been in Raine’s world, I was always going to feel disorientated at characters saying “oh, it’s so-and-so here to do threat to us. Sigh”. However, I didn’t feel like I needed to well know the characters. Sure, it would be a bit awkward to start reading at book #3, but the plot stands-alone in its arc and even the main characters are pretty summarised by Raine when she interacts with them. “Until a week ago, so-and-so did not know…”

So, being faced with some baddies that I’d forgotten about from the first two books, I wasn’t scratching my head and wondering how they fitted in, which is always something I like to read. I wasn’t confused.

First-Person Raine

You really get inside Raine’s head with the narrative. I guess whilst I didn’t like how plain the language and description was (see below) it well suits Raine’s style of speaking and, well, living. She rough and doesn’t take anything from any of the baddies or the I-know-what’s-best-for-you heroes.

Me – crying over not enjoying a novel I ought to.

And now – what I didn’t enjoy:

The Pacing

Demon-fighting, talking, demon-fighting, talking. My biggest problem with Demons was that I got bored. It felt a samey progression like a) the previous books and b) every other paranormal fantasy. I wanted more from the writing, which felt plain, and more from the plot. The characters did the same thing at each location.

Love Triangle

Granted, it’s also a magically enhanced love triangle, as mentioned in the blurb, but character-shipper in me just finds one of the guys irritating whilst the other is the sexy, white-magic guardian every girl wants. #teamMychael

And whilst I loved the flirting (at least, where I felt it between Raine and Mychael), I didn’t feel there was enough of it/in the right place to satisfy. Then after all’s said and done, Raine is contemplating her love life and it just…seemed too arbitrary at the end.

In Conclusion

I find more positive points than negatives, but unfortunately, the negatives were what would’ve sold the book for me. It is, unfortunately, about personal taste, and I just didn’t feel that THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS was my book.

TableClock_AlexB2 - Copy.jpgRegrettably, 3/5 steamy cogs. I will be reading on…when I can get my hands on the next novels. I am invested in Raine’s story, and hope I get to see more variety to the description and action in book #4.

House Moving and Procrastination

Sorry I have been shamefully quiet this last week. It looks like I was more able to post when I was out of the country (in Poland for the World Youth Day) than when I have been here in England with my laptop and time to my disposal.

There have been a few factors orchestrating this virtual absence – and the least of them, for once, is not having the time or knowing what to write. I could have posted about anything, and I should have, but my own self got in the way.

Firstly, though, there have been some developments in my non-writing work. That is, I moved to London to get settled into my student lodgings for the time I need to be in London for my Masters in Linguistics. I’m in the capital! It’s kind of scary…

Not much has happened so far, apart from unpacking, shopping, and cracking the wifi code. Cough… I’ve also been planning my next Steampunk outfit for the Lincoln Asylum in a couple of weeks. I’d like to say that I’m going to write a post about my experiences at the biggest Steampunk festival, but signs point to that being unlikely…


Oh, and making friends with the resident cats. Boop.

Then I journeyed up to Leeds for some personal matters and exploring the surrounding areas. I didn’t know how long I was going to stay up there, but two days turned into three easily. The problem is: when I stay with my partner, I find his dad’s place a difficult place to concentrate on work. Sure, I did some research (not writing-or uni-related) I was hoping to do and got a couple of chapters of Metropolitan Magic written. But none of the writing is serious.


My partner making an idiot of himself, as usual.

Which brings me to my other point for why my progress with writing has been slow… I haven’t felt emotionally up to editing. I want to edit Horology, as it’s with Betas at the moment, but I keep putting other things first. I keep saying I’ll do it later when I know full well that I may not have a later. I am filling up my schedule so I don’t have to think about what is probably not so much a mammoth task as it feels to me.

I can’t shake it, though. I love writing, and it’s a great stress reliever, yet I don’t want to face the constant barrage of rewriting and knowing that my work may never be good enough to see in print. I think non-writers, those who ask that poison-to-writers question are you going to get published? don’t understand how much time, effort, and energy we put into our work. It’s not just writing, rewriting, and editing; it’s that over and over and over again. We have characters in our heads, ever-roaming, and we want their stories to be perfect – but the stories never will be. And everything we do is fruitless to change that.

It’s one thing to have a tough skin at the comments of others, and quite another to be sensitive enough to rip one’s own work apart.

I don’t know how I’ll proceed. Need to take some big breaths and take things slowly. Again. Until next time: pax.

Ten Questions With…Alexandra Ott

Today, I welcome a special guest to my blog: author, Alexandra Ott, who is a member of the Swanky Seventeens group of authors whose debut books are releasing in 2017. Not only that, but Alex is one of my closest Critique Partners, so I am delighted to be chatting to her about her MG Fantasy, RULES FOR THIEVES, a book I had not only the pleasure of reading, but also helping to name!

Rules for Thieves temp cover

Coming Summer 2017 from Aladdin (Simon & Schuster)

Twelve-year-old orphan Alli tries to join a legendary band of thieves in order to get the cure for the curse that’s killing her.

  1. Tell us a little about your journey to your publishing deal.

I first wrote Rules for Thieves in the summer of 2012. Revising it took a while because I was in school at the time, but I finally started querying in late 2013. I spent 2014 revising and querying some more. In early 2015, I signed with my agent and went out on submission. We received an offer from Aladdin in the summer of 2015, about three years after I wrote the first draft!

  1. What was the on-submission time like for you?

It actually went by much faster than I thought it would! I knew that the submission process could take a year or more, so I wasn’t expecting to receive an offer so quickly. When my agent first told me there was an offer, I almost didn’t believe it.

  1. What inspired or led you to start writing the plot of RULES FOR THIEVES?

I was inspired by the kinds of stories I loved as a kid. I always really liked heist novels and fantasy books, and I also loved to invent adventure stories and games that I played with my sister. All of those things came together to become Rules for Thieves, which is really an attempt at writing a book I would have loved to read when I was younger.

  1. Has the novel changed much between your first draft and this current draft?

Yes, quite a bit. The first draft was much shorter, and several crucial elements of the book didn’t exist yet. Much of my revision process has been developing and deepening that initial story. I’ve added more than 15,000 words between the first draft and the current one.

  1. What has been the toughest part of writing RULES FOR THIEVES?

The revision process has been a long one, and there were definitely times when I was so tired of reading it again and again that I just wanted to stop working on it. But there was something about this story and these characters that compelled me to keep working—that, and the encouragement of my awesome critique partners.😉

  1. What is your favourite part of main character, Alli’s personality? Do you think she is like you?

I love how smart and funny Alli is. On the surface, she isn’t much like me at all. She’s snarky, outspoken, impulsive, and daring—all of which I love about her, but none of which is very much like me. But we do have a few things in common, namely impatience and stubbornness!

  1. Why did you decide on a duology, rather than the more common trilogy and stand alones?

I knew early on that it was going to be a series, but I didn’t know how long it was going to be. Eventually, I realized that two books would be the best fit for the story arcs that I have in mind—three books would be stretching the story too thin, and one wasn’t enough to give Alli the resolution that I wanted for her.

  1. Tell us one thing we can look forward to in the sequel.

There’s not much I can share without spoilers, but let’s just say there will be sinister plots and spies and characters who are more than they appear…

  1. Are you more drawn to writing YA or MG and why? RULES FOR THIEVES is MG, but I know you are also working on YA fiction.

I think I’m drawn to both categories equally. I love the sense of adventure and wonder that comes with MG, but I also love going a little older with YA. It’s nice to be able to take a break from one story and work on something that’s completely different. And I love writing both preteen and teenage protagonists—both ages are endlessly fascinating to me and have so much potential for storytelling.

  1. Is this your first novel, or are there some in drawers that you never want to see again?

I have two novel-length manuscripts in drawers, plus some shorter fiction. They were really important manuscripts that taught me how to write, but they’re not ever going to see the light of day!

Hehe, I know the feeling! Thanks for joining me, Alex, and I can’t wait to get my paws on a copy of the finished product!

Interested in learning more about RULES FOR THIEVES or Alex? Check out her updates on social media:

About the Author

Alexandra Ott writes middle grade and young adult fiction. Her debut middle grade fantasy novel Rules for Thieves will be published by Aladdin/S&S in summer 2017.

Alex graduated from the University of Tulsa, where she studied English. She is currently an editorial intern at Entangled Publishing. In her spare time, she plays the flute, eats a lot of chocolate, and reads just about everything. She lives in Oklahoma with her tiny canine overlord. She is repped by Victoria Doherty Munro of Writers House.




The Swanky Seventeens