Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist

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Beautiful People: Cathy’s Parents

Let’s talk about Cathy’s parents.

It’s Beautiful People time again, and this month’s theme is parents/guardians. I’m taking a break from WTCB for now, and besides, last month I talked about Mrs. Costello, the mother of the hero of WTCB, so I’m running on two parents addition, sorry.

The thing about writing [non-YA] Steampunk is that protagonists often don’t have their parents around, and so, there is little we know about them, and little we have as interaction. The protagonist of ‘H’, Cathy, is deliberately aloof at the whereabouts of her parents – though they are not dead – and the ‘voice of reason/irrationality’ is her governess, Miriam. But she is only around at the beginning of the novel. After all, Cathy considers that her parents are still part of her life – in fact, they appear in further instalments of the series – we simply aren’t introduced to them in the first novel. Hence why I thought I’d pay an interest to them here.

Onto the questions.


  1. Do they know both their biological parents? Why/why not?

Yup, she grew up with both her parents.

  1. Have they inherited any physical resemblances from their parents?

Cathy has her parents brown hair. She also has her mother’s nose and mouth as soft features. Cathy does resemble her mother quite a bit, but general society has not seen the latter for a while, so they would not be able to compare mother and daughter.

  1. What’s their parental figure(s) dress style? Add pictures if you like!

When they were younger, Cathy’s parents were rather a la mode. They travelled a lot for their work as entomologists, and, as such, were more tanned than pale-skinned Cathy. So…entomologist chic.

  1. Do they share any personality traits with their parental figures? And which do they take after most?

She probably takes after her mother most in terms of personality: both are headstrong and can be brash at times, but both also mean well, particularly when they have love in their hearts. The difference is that Cathy’s mother is concerned with keeping those she loves safe, even if that means wrapping them in cotton wool, whereas Cathy prefers to attack situations head-on for those she loves.

As dearly as Cathy cares for her mother, she gets along with her father better, as he is wittier and reminds her of her crush, Alexander. He also tended to take charge around the household, and this meant that there was less pressure on Cathy to help with housework and such.

  1. Do they get on with their parental figure(s) or do they clash? 

Although her parents are pushy, and at times, Cathy gets upset with them that they have cloistered her and kept her from exploring and stress her education, she doesn’t clash with either of them. In fact, I’d say that Cathy has had more opinion-butting moments with her governess Miriam.

  1. If they had to describe their parental figure(s) in one word, what would it be?

Disturbed. :o

  1. How has their parental figure(s) helped them most in their life?

Ironically, I suppose, Cathy’s parents entertained her interest for adventure by being absent on work. They kept her behind when they travelled to places like the Andes and the Amazon. On the other hand, when he was around, her father, before he hired a governess, helped her understand different species of bug, butterfly, and arachnid (though, Cathy always flinched at the latter). He taught her the maths he knew, and both parents taught her proper Lady’s English and geography. These sorts of things gave Cathy a headstart in her education, just as reading to one’s children aids their unconscious and conscious acquisition of knowledge.

  1. What was their biggest fight with their parental figure(s)?

About her education, definitely. Cathy wanted to travel with them once she turned sixteen to see the kinds of exploration and expeditions they were doing. However, her father and mother wanted her to stay with her governess and complete her education to be a young lady worthy of marriage, despite Cathy’s already-blooming crush on Alexander.

  1. Tracing back the family tree, what nationalities are in their ancestry?

Cathy’s father’s ancestry can be traced back to the first settlers on the place we now call England, so the Anglo-Viking heritage. Her mother, however, has mixed blood, having a grandmother who was French and ancestry further in the east, though darker colouring has all but faded.

  1. What’s their favourite memory with their parental figure(s)?

First riding cross-country to Alexander’s parents’ house. Cathy loved to learn to ride, so it was very beneficial for her to make journeys like those from as young as four or five. Her mother used to ride with her, which allowed Cathy to watch the scenery race past, but quickly let her have her own foal, Cacao, who has grown up with her.

Not quite right, but it’s a nice visual point

So, I think I’ve learnt a little more about Cathy’s society and experience of growing up via her parents. Check out the blog hop for more posts about characters’ parents.




RSW! 29-6-15

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing. This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and Katy Upperman.


  1. How I did on last week’s goals.

Finish polishing WTCB and start query batch for June. Done.

Plan what I’m doing for CampNaNo July. Done. Will be working on a short contemporary romance story about geeks, and a steampunk novella about brains and MRI machines.

Critique chapter one of Critique Partner’s new novel. Nope. Hoping to do that today.

Do some exercise. I did some walking…?

  1. My goal(s) for this week.


Critique chapter one of Critique Partner’s new novel.

Do some exercise. Dance workout? Again, I’m moving into the new house, so I don’t know if I can fit anything in.

Start writing first draft for NaNo that starts Weds.

  1. A favourite line from my story or one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

The dirigible docked on the west side of the campus, where the humdrum of the studential-life had faded to a sullen whisper now most of its occupiers had abandoned the towers where they’d lived during general term.

  1. The biggest challenge I faced this week.

I’ve not been well, so I keep starting things, then abandoning them partway through because I don’t have the energy/bother for them. Three times I tried to finish a blog post, and it just didn’t happen. Right now I’m not in a happy writing place.

  1. Something I love about my WIP.

It’s Steampunk, so it allows me to get inspiration from my surroundings when I’m at events. I had ideas yesterday for some side characters who are going to aid the heroine in defeating the monster with their circus skills.

AlexB_owlFrankie4Like so.



RSW! 22-6-15

The Ready, Set, Write! hopping occurs on Mondays, so I’ll be moving my Photo of the Week post (note to self: find subject on which to take photo tomorrow) to Tuesdays.

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing. This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and Katy Upperman.

  1. How I did on last week’s goals.

Finish polishing WTCB and start query batch for June. Almost complete. Almost finished and started, respectively. It’s all about the little details now.

Plan what I’m doing for CampNaNo July. No progress.

Do a dance workout at least three mornings this coming week. Done, done, and done. It was easier than I thought it would be.

Make a calendar chart for writing goals. With star stickers. Everybody loves star stickers. Oh! I completely forgot about this. No progress.

  1. My goal(s) for this week.

Finish polishing WTCB and start query batch for June.

Plan what I’m doing for CampNaNo July.

Critique chapter one of Critique Partner’s new novel.

Do some exercise.

– Will be staying with The Boyfriend for a few days whilst I am temporarily homeless, then moving into my new accommodation this time next week, so I can’t make more goals for myself, as I don’t know what I will be doing.

  1. A favourite line from my story or one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

So many lines [that I’ve written this week or edited/polished/come across] have caught my eye, and I think I can finally be happy about the progress this novel has made into the realms of interesting. I am creative – this I have noticed – in mostly imagery. For instance:

“I cared. I still care like a soldier is kicking in my empty gut…”

Anything to rid himself of the hatred running around his mind, throwing flames at every positive thought and sending them to smoulders.

(My hero, Phillip, is a painter and a philosopher, so he gets the best lines :D)

  1. The biggest challenge I faced this week.

Especially the last couple of days, I’ve actually been too physically tired to get on polishing, despite almost finishing. I’ve wanted to read and daydream more than write.

  1. Something I love about my WIP.

I just love how the personalities of all my characters are really coming together. I know the kinds of things they’d say, the right metaphors, the right kind of actions they’d take. It gives me more confidence.

I’m looking forward to this week, though I’ve been finding concentrating quite hard lately. Hopefully, I can catch up on sleep. What about you?


Why I Trunked My Contemporary

I don’t often decide to stop writing novels. I thought I had a strict non deletus est policy – write on til the bitter end and all that. But I recently decided to lock away a novel I’d been writing.

Last summer, I excitedly tweeted that I was working on a new project. I posted ideas and theories to improve my plot. It became my field for extracts and I poured over it in my free time: UTC, an NA contemporary uni romance, set in a fictional British town.

However, I came to realise, rather soon into September/October-time, that I was getting very little done with this plot very quickly. I pieced together ten-thousand, then fifteen-thousand words. I knew the three main axes. I knew which Supporting Characters would have a romantic, diverse subplot that would aid my heroine into making a decision over her wildly aloof hero (as they all are, am I right?).

Yet, despite this, I wasn’t writing this silly thing. I sat in my little plot bubble, planning where to take them, and verbally sketching out the occasional scene; but when it came to making those scenes into a work of contemporary, New Adult fiction, I couldn’t write them together.

Maybe it was me. But, honestly, it was more than likely the book.

No offence, book.

(High five if you also read that gif in Radcliffe’s voice!)

Without trying to over-analyse the situation, I want to think about my reasons behind a) the decline of writing this story, and b) my reasons to finally admit ‘no, this isn’t working’.

Contemporaries. *lets out long sigh of air*

They’re just not the same as SFF fiction, are they?

Okay. That’s the easy way of saying it. But of course, there’s going to be a different way of writing contemporaries as there is to writing fantasy or sci fi. For starters, character traits can’t be reliant on the alien or different as descriptors of their behaviour and liveliness. We’ve got no super-vampiric Cullens here. These guys have to be human. And I mean that in all senses of the word. Think human, talk human, trait human.

That’s a lot harder to write than one would think.

We’re surrounded by humans (probably) every day, but even for the people-watcher, the psychologist, the thinker, we cannot know what they’re thinking separate from our thoughts. Being a human is actually a very solitary job. We know what we ourselves like, our habits, our behaviours – but we have to extrapolate those things onto mannequins of other humans in order to manage realistic characters. As philosopher AJ Ayer said – we only know others exist by inference from their behaviour being similar to our behaviour.

And realistic characters have the added problem of being boring.

That’s not to say I find contemporary writing boring – and that’s not to say that I found writing my contemporary boring… I just…didn’t love the characters. Not because of their likes/dislikes or their behaviours. I cannot say why I wasn’t interested. In them I saw people I knew and would know, the same people I passed every day.

Certainly, we look for, in characters of any sort of fiction, a uniqueness and diversity [of interest], but I think to make contemporary fiction appealing to all sorts of readers, we need an added ingredient.

The thing is, even with their less-than-typical interests – caving, mixing cocktails, ancient history – my hero and heroine were too simple, two one-dimensional. Maybe this would have been fixed during rewriting, but there was something deeper that made me relinquish their scenario.

I’m not the only one to notice how contemporary is not only about plot. One might argue that the point of contemporary is to focus on the characters, as if the genre is a YA imitation of literary fiction but without the gorgeous.

Something about my characters didn’t click. In themselves, in their scenario, in their future. I think they were cute when push came to shove, but I wasn’t actively ‘shipping’ them in my head; nor did I seem to be actively shipping their stories to its page.

They were interesting, but they just weren’t my kind of interesting. Not suited to their fiction. And I think that’s one of the most difficult things about writing contemporary: getting that balance of character and place and having the two fit each other enough to convince not only the reader and the character, but the writer – as perfectionists as we are. In short, a contemporary doesn’t appeal when it slips even an inch from one of those high standards. It’s a tough act.

At least, in my subjective opinion.

So, I had to make the decision: keep going down a path that I knew, in my heart of hearts, was eventually doomed to the back of a drawer; or call it quits on this one, for now or forever.

I quit.

I have nothing against contemporary writing, of course. In fact, that and contemporary fantasy made up most of my under-10-years-old reading. My adult romance/woman’s fiction (completed two years ago, but not yet fully rewritten because I have fantasies bleeding out my ears) thrilled and still thrills me. And there we have the problem of this certain contemporary: despite living directly in their world, I couldn’t relate to my hero and heroine. Part of me wanted to sneer and ask them “what makes yourself better than these other characters?”.

Indeed, what made their world any better than any other world I’d created? Nothing, judging by how enamoured I still am with my big novel’s universe.

Nevertheless, when it comes down to the long and short of it, I am notoriously hard to please with contemporary fiction. Give it me in the here and now, but sprinkle it with murder and mayhem, rather than cliques and chattering. If I want contemporary fluff, I’ll put on Mean Girls or Clueless in the background of an editing session.

What I’m reading.

At the moment, I’m reading and enjoying novella Bride by Mistake by Nicole Helm. It’s a quick read, and the characters aren’t particularly eccentric, but at least they have colour and form in my head, unlike mine.

I’ve started YA novel Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider. It’s nice, but I’m not loving it yet, and perhaps the characters are too young for my head.

My favourite contemporaries remain those I encountered in my childhood. Jacqueline Wilson’s Love Lessons is a poignant novel and breaks my heart every time I read it. In fact, many of Wilson’s novels have and still do entertain me. Her characters don’t tend to be out-and-out eccentrics like myself, but they have heart, and that’s what matters.

Maybe my characters were simply lacking heart.

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Ready, Set. Write! 2015

As I did last year, I’m participating in the writing incentive and goal-setting blog-hop:


Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing. This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and Katy Upperman.

As I missed last week’s beginning, I did not set myself any [formal] goals for this week, so today’s post is a bit of a mingly hybrid. My goals for this summer:

1. Start drafting (properly) at least one of planned Steampunk stories: ASB303, The Mallard, or Cry to Dream Again. (Tempted to make a poll to let you guys make the decision for me.)

2. Plan at least one other novella-length fiction, be it contemporary or fantasy.

3. Read at least three books. Believe me, this is a challenge for me. I’ve almost finished Splintered, but there are also a couple I’m borrowing, so I need to get through them this summer. I also need to banish my Kindle habit of starting new books without finishing others.

4. Be more healthy. This includes eating less junk and doing more exercise.

5. Cook at least one new recipe per week. I will be fully self-sufficient in a rented-through-uni house this coming year, so I need to gain confidence in the kitchen and banish my negative thoughts. Plus, it’s good practise for me for the future where I have to be my own and others’ safety net.

One of the copious amounts of egg-based meals I make.

One of the copious amounts of egg-based meals I make.

How I did on last week’s goals:

1.  How I did on last week’s goal(s).

From going from two days of no chapters edited, I managed to edit almost three in two days, and I’m starting to notice little things coming out of the virtual woodwork, such as a side-character’s semantics becoming more pronounced.

I cooked soup today. My first time, and it involved two types of vegetable and a herb, so counts as healthy, too (let’s just not talk about the ice cream for dessert!).

2. My goal(s) for this week.

Finish polishing WTCB and start query batch for June.

Plan what I’m doing for CampNaNo July.

Do a dance workout at least three mornings this coming week.

Make a calendar chart for writing goals. With star stickers. Everybody loves star stickers.

3.  A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

Culling. For some reason, this edit round has had me being sceptical about most of the curious sentences I once wrote. I love them – for instance, talking about what love means to some characters – but I can’t see them being in a published novel, no matter how literary/philosophical.

4.  The biggest challenge I faced this week.

People procrastination. I’ve been doing things that have taken my time from me rather than my own attention. For instance, The Boyfriend stayed over the weekend and even if we encourage each other to get on with work, we still manage to distract each other. :P

5.  Something I love about my WiP.

What I love about ASB303 is the chemistry between my MC and her betrothed. I hadn’t intended to include him much, but as the plot grows, I’m starting to see that their relationship could be under fire from the mystery the MC has to discover.

What are your plans or goals for the summer? Got any good book recommendations? I have an opening for books!

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Quick Takes Friday: 7 Unexpected Character Traits

Seeing as I’m in the middle of editing, I’d thought I’d make this week’s Quick Takes super quick, and give you some facts about the characters of my novel When the Clock Broke that I never expected, even when writing it. These traits sneaked up on me, and simply existed as part of their characters.

seven quick takes friday 2


Phillip sleepwalks.


Percival Costello has a doctorate in ocular medicine.


Rion lost an arm in battle. His left…I think.


Peter has haemophobia.


Zara is left-handed.


There are six Costello brothers in Phillip’s generation. Always have been, and, hopefully, always will be.


Phillip paints and would like to play the piano, but has little natural musical skill.

Of course, all these points have grown in themselves, such as how Phillip’s mere interest in the piano eventually led to Zara’s mother marrying a man who could sing and act and Zara’s siblings being musical.

This is one of the reasons this novel has stayed with me since I wrote it: it is always surprising me. I love the interactions between all of the main socialite families and how what they have done has effected the Continental society as a whole.

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Checking in with Alex

I’m still struggling to keep a schedule at the moment – and this week will be almost as hectic for me. I just wanted to make a quick post to detail what’s going on in my writing life at the moment.


This NeoVictorian world refuses to leave me alone, and I’m actually enjoying going back through it and polishing it. There’s the odd pitching event coming up that I might enter, but it really depends on the daylight hours I have. I’m finding it hard to write or edit in the evenings, as my mind has its tendency to wander.


I’ve put OJAP on hold, as my concentration lately has been on the fantastic, not the contemporary, though a flame still lingers in my heart that wants to work with mystery. In addition to the below, I’ve also had two novella ideas in process: one a contemporary about geeks in love; the other The Mallard: Cosmic Train. It’s slowly forming. If only other ideas wouldn’t get in the way…


I’ve started writing what I’ve tentatively called THE ACADEMIC, THE SERGEANT, AND THE BRAIN IN ROOM 303 (ASB303 for short), a Steampunk novella centred around a Frankenstein-esque incident in the Royal Berkshire University, Lady Summer Chronaire’s university. It’s set in a slightly different world to WTCB, in that it is pure Steampunk – set in the 1800s, rather than modern day. I just want to successfully write a couple of pieces shorter and worth less brain-space than a full novel

Here’s an extract:

“I can see what could be done. I could ask the crew – they’ll surely have someone willing to achieve some breaking and entering.”

“Don’t phrase it like that.”

The Sergeant sighed, kissing rings of smoke into the bedroom. “How else can I phrase it, my lady? You’re asking for a somebody to infiltrate a sealed building and rifle through forbidden files. There are certain things I cannot do.”

“You would if asked.” Though, now, the ideas in Summer’s mind involved less of understanding the ghastly situation, and more of having The Sergeant just where she liked him.

Then there’s the thousands of other ideas brewing around my brain, fighting for rule of place, most of which are Steampunk.

Anyway, that’s me out for the time-being.


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