7 Quick Takes – Back to Uni, Dancing Around, and Events Galore!

Phew, I forgot how busy being at uni was. It’s been a long first week, but my laundry is on and my room has been tidied, so I can finally sit down, have some ‘me’ time and blog. You can catch up with the other 7 Quick Take Friday bloggers over at This Ain’t The Lyceum.

seven quick takes friday 2

Of course, with everything about uni going on, I’ve also landed myself many Freshers outtings and social things to do, amongst societies and friend-groups. That’s the good thing about being a third year. This also means that I’ll be a final year, with all my big exams coming up this year. Argh!


I went to see a couple of my close friends at one of their gigs last night. If your into Folk music/traditional ballads, you should check Loreley out. They’re young students, but they put so much work into their duo and the results are clear. Plus, their second album will be coming out soon.


Swing Dance has been my week mostly. We had a demo from 12 until 2 on Wednesday – and we had international teacher Bobby White over from the States to teach our evening class—which went on until 10.30! Three hours of dancing in various shapes and forms! Safe to say that when I got home, I flumped right down on my bed. Still a little aching today, to be honest.

Freshers' Fayre Social Dance was a hit!

A post shared by RUSDS (@ru_swing_dance_society) on

Lovely ladies. This is from the RUSDS Instagram

You can check out the Reading University Swing Dance Society website, even if you don’t live anywhere near. The concept of Swing Dance and Lindy Hop are similar wherever one lives.


I also had a Quidditch taster that afternoon to encourage the Freshers, and not just those with an interest in the Harry Potter. That’s right! For those of you who are new to my blog, I am a Quidditch player for the University of Reading (England). I usually play Chaser, but I have been known to Keep and Beat when required. We have quite a few Beaters in Reading, so the need rarely arises. Check out Quidditch UK for more info on the type of Quidditch I play.


Also went to a friend’s surprise welcome home party this prevening, which was a lot of fun. Our mutual friend organised it through the Chaplaincy; and it’s one of those moments where the genuine spark of life is reignited. God is Good. More than ever that He gives us these friends and chances.

 I am so enthusiastic! 😛


As you might have guessed, I haven’t had much time to write. Or edit. Or even read. The days have flashed past with me running to catch them. So, instead, here’s a recent extract from the geeky love piece I’ve been working on, which I’m excited to say has a title. Even more excitedly, the initials are SoS, so that suits my tastes exactly.


I flailed. Again and again, until the pain had slunk back to its hovel in my subconscious mind. The air was soft—until it wasn’t, my fist smacking down against one of the framed photos with which I’d lined my desk with their distant smiles and past glories.

7 Quick Takes about Singing, Writing Essays on Development, and Winding Down

Compared to last week, this week was particularly uneventful…or the thoughts have mostly left my head. I haven’t been out and there haven’t been events, and the week has sped past, definitely. Join us in our quick takes at ConversionDiary, or this week at This Ain’t the Lyceum.



The chill weather is getting to me a bit, as are those dark mornings. Thank goodness for Toffee Nut Lattes! It’s some relief that I’ve only got a few weeks of work left, but, simultaneously, I can foresee everything I will have to do.


Did you know that children when learning vocabulary have a noun bias? Makes sense, really, since they tend to associate actions with verbs, but also must first have the knowledge of the nouns associated with the actions. They also may learn through dumb associational mechanisms or through social-pragmatic cues. The jury is still out on whether language learning is domain-specific or domain-general – or whether one then the other as a child ages.

And that was my Psych essay for this term summed up.


I managed to stay on campus a complete day (10 – 4.30) on Tuesday, something which I rarely do because I enjoy the secure base of my room, which puts my day on reset.


My musical confidence is growing, step by step. We’ve been told that we might be signing carols as part of the background to a Winter Wonderland that is being set up on the first few days of December in the main campus. It’s a little strange experience for me to be offered so many opportunities to sing/perform, even as part of a choir, but I’m going to take it in my stride. Plus – skating rink. 🙂


I managed to get some editing of chapter one of WTCB done, and I’ve been trying to fix the weird dip in tension on the first page of OJAP.


Writing has been…somewhat productive, as I dodge the essays and reports. A thousand words for a work-in-progress is quite nifty – and this one looks at the change in the literal way Laurie is beginning to see Jess after The Rain Scene. Hopefully, I will get this month’s Beautiful Books post up soon.


“Don’t worry about me.” She shot him a toothy smile.

Jess. Oh, he did, but not in that dread-rolling way he had before. As he walked, and the light bounced off the shades and splashes and varied pigments of her hair, he watched the way she moved so effortlessly through the campus. He wanted to fetch her a drink, to curl up on his bed with her, to ask about her day. And listen and actually give a care.


7 Quick Takes about Grabbing Some New [Text]Books, Overflowing the Scores, and Doubling the Extract!

Please join us for this week’s 7 Quick Takes, hosted by ConversionDiary.

7 quick takes sm1  7 Quick Takes about podcasts, getting back into a routine, and asking your radio guests to fold your laundry


I almost skipped today’s Quick Takes because I’ve been so busy with academic stuff that I’ve barely had time for momentous things that are worth talking about. So excuse any possible dry writing on this post.


Swing social tonight! Very exciting.


I was on a book-buying spree this week, but sadly none of the fictional variety. I got my uni-sponsored book-token to work this week, so I nabbed a couple of course books. Ones I’d actually (that aren’t, you know, so textbook-y) recommend: Ayer’s Language, Truth and Logic if you can stomach some of the philosophy terminology, and Lyas’ book detailing the thoughts of proponents of philosophy’s aesthetics theory. Aesthetics itself is a fascinating topic for someone like me.


I have so much music to learn that my chamber choir folder is overflowing with scores, everything from random Christmas carols that we don’t know what we’re doing with yet to the Elgar and a full score of the aforementioned Duke Ellington jazz numbers. The remnants of my cold, however, have settled on my larynx, and yesterday’s rehearsal was marred by the fact that my notes are, at the moment, predominantly breathy, something away from which I spent years training myself.


I did very little editing, and of OJAP, this week, because I prioritised getting my critique of my friend Jo Wu’s first chapters to her, and, apart from that, I have actually had to do uni stuff. 😛


Writing. You get two sneak previews today, you lucky things! This morning I was going to give you my week’s measly work, but then I got inspired in my Cognition lecture this afternoon. I didn’t have to include both, but I wrote the beginning of The Rain Scene, one of the scenes near the end of the novel and a major turning point for Laurie and Jess’ relationship. It had be included as a weekly extract of Under the Carrington, and you may see why. Totally unintentional.

Modern recreation of the Stoa of Attalos. Photo by Emma

Modern recreation of the Stoa of Attalos. Photo by Emma



The way his smile had a stupid effect on hers, making it melt right out of her face. She was pretty sure her brain had followed suit – the world was the drug-fuelled level of sensible hazy, and she hadn’t had a drop to drink for almost a week.


She ducked out of the person’s range, but, after hovering to a stop, the umbrella remained. It tilted, Jess blinked the water from her eyes, and Laurie’s grin emerged from the rain, the Cheshire Cat in the tree.

“Laurie!” Jess sighed with relief. Her heart continued its rumba beat, but now she didn’t mind. It staved off the rain’s chill.

“I startled you?” Laurie asked. “I’m sorry.”

He huddled closer under The Carrington’s awnings, and Jess curled her fingers into her palm. What was that about not going after the reps? Despite the moments she stopped herself from looping her arm into his, she wouldn’t stop the sincere warmth that made itself known in her chest. The day’s emptiness carried a bare blip when he stood grandly beside her.

“Were you walking back to Wellington?”


“Allow me.”

It took Jess a whole moment to comprehend, but Laurie extended his bright yellow umbrella between the two of them.

Alexandra and Christophe Short

Just the start of a piece, which I wrote during creative writing society when we looked at script-writing. As I tend to do, I used the prompt of taking characters I already have and working on extrapolations of their life. The only constraints we had were two characters alone and to have ‘actors’ be able to act it, rather than a narrator reading the [stage] directions. It was meant to be a screen-script, but I think my play-script background crept in and it turned into more of something that would actually stand alongside the play of A Game.

As it’s unlikely you know much about the novel, this is set five years after the events of A Game of Murder. If you’re following Downton Abbey, feel free to imagine a young, French Bates and Anna, though I created these characters before those two existed on TV. That’s all I’m saying because the piece is meant to stand on its own, even when it provides new information for me, such as the name of where Alexandra works and the aftermath of the final chapters of A Game.


1935. A small dining room with red fleur de lis walls. Alexandra strolls around the central oak table. She carries a fine silver tray from which she is placing down a knife and fork at each table-setting. Occasionally, she slips a timepiece-and-chain from the front pocket of her grey smock.

The door at the other end of the room opens. Christophe walks in, eyes scanning a thoroughly-creased piece of paper.


Is she here yet?


Mrs. Winters is keeping an eye out by the gate.

Alexandra sighs and pauses deliberately to throw down a fork. She’s reached the final place-setting at the head of the table, and that closest to Christophe and the door.


Darling, you shouldn’t have to do that.


And who-else will in my absence? After the last kitchen maid left, none have even considered Coventry Hall. “A cursed house,” I hear them say at the market.

Christophe seizes her hands, and the silver tray bangs to the floor.


Well, I’m still here.

Alexandra reclaims her hands, but holds her gaze for a second longer, before kneeling and retrieving the tray with a flourish.

On the white-stone mantelpiece to their left, a square clock chimes midday.


I’m running late. I should return this to the pantry.

She makes her way to the door, but Christophe extends a hand. He catches the small of her back, and she flinches.


What have you to be afraid of?


I’m not afraid.

Still, she doesn’t face him. Christophe watches her.


I see.




You’re thinking “how can a mother do that to her own child?”.

Alexandra’s shoulders drop. She rotates slowly, as if on wheels, and lifts Christophe’s hand from her.


I don’t condone what the young mistress did – how she acted – but for Mrs. Winters to turn her own daughter to jail… I couldn’t.

They stare at each other for a long, pregnant moment. Alexandra breaks the hold, and keeps her eyes from his, whilst her cheeks flare.


Right. Pantry. I should go.


7 Quick Takes About The Usual, The Unusual and The Moving Back

Join us over at ConversionDiary as we recap our weeks.

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes about cool vintage books, a radio studio in my home, and the only five things that really matter when you host a party


Hullo. I travel back to uni tomorrow *sad face* So I expect the posting to become more sporadic again as I try and find my feet and help out with the freshers. On the other hand, that means I’ll have more to talk about every week! 😛


On the blog this week, I mainly talked about my trip to Lincoln and the annual Steampunk convivial held there. And it was amazing! Although I didn’t make as many of the panels, talks and workshops as I would’ve liked, and I didn’t buy any of the things I set out to, it was great to experience the British side of Steampunk lifestyle, which is, sadly, not talked about or videoed as much as US meets. We have more conventions in the UK than first appears, so it seems.


I finished a mystery book I’ve been reading – will get at least a mini review to the blog soon. I’m also munching my way through the biographical book about Agatha Christie, which is quite easy reading, but still detailed. I’m currently on the section about Poirot.

Poirot x2

Poirot x2


Music-wise, I’ve been learning to play some jazz pieces (as well as upping the tempo of I’ll Rust With You, which I am enjoying so much that I’m no longer following the twins strumming patterns and melody line, respectively) for the big Swing event we’ve got on the second week of October. Peggy Lee’s Fever is fun to play because of the jazz strumming patterns:


I’m CP for four-ish writers at the moment. Unusually, I managed to get some non-YA CPs, so, though all of stories I’m reading at the moment are fantasy, they are a variety of sub-genres, from steampunk NA retelling to time-travel to epic fantasies. Cool stuff.

On the other hand, with everything going on, I’ve not had so much time for editing. I tried to finish the rewrites of the first Craig house scenes, and I think I am almost satisfied with the details I’ve removed from that scene. As those things are important (to me), I hope to get the information squeezed into later chapters. I’ve also been thinking more about the use of cipher across the trilogy, and its fingertips in OJAP.



I’ve been thinking about the companion story to Horology, and whilst I want it to exist, I have my reservations. There is, for starters, the fact that having it set in Egypt isn’t anything new, and this could be/is problematic in terms of plot. Sure, Amelia and Cathy’s world has The Passing of spectres, but what else can I add that’s not your stereotypical “let’s dig up this pyramid/dune; oh, look, weird artefact; oh, look, dead body…”?

The simple answer is “don’t write an excavation book”, but if I ever write a solo Amelia book, I intend to have her in old Dubai, which, according to the history I read when I was there, used to be all sand. She may be a cartographer, but Amelia learnt a lot living in Italy.

At the Lincoln writing workshop, the general reaction I got when I read it out was that the setting was very clear, the MC was more upper-class (good, I think), and it reminded people of the 30s. I guess that’s good. However – I hadn’t planned to write dieselpunk…even though the airship is powered by paraffin. I wanted an almost smoggy chemical to be polluting the air from the ‘ship, but I hardly had access to the internet to Google an elaborate-named simple compound.

Also: Mummy on the Orient Express. I think we’re going to see Egypt and archaeological stories come back into fashion soon.

Hence, I’ve planned it as a novella. I’ll aim for 40,000, but I believe that’s the upper boundary, and I’d be happy with 25 or 30,000.


This is the beginning as it stands so far. Actually, for me, I’m pretty proud of this beginning. It has setting, genre and conflict, and the writing is pretty spiffing in any case.

Amelia stared at the academic as he scrubbed sand from his duffel coat. The skyship had barely left a trail of ash and paraffin across the sky, and he was already complaining.

“Damn scarab bites. Almost as bad as horse-flies.”

Amelia straightened her under-corset and cleared her throat. She was already getting the feeling that Dr. Rathburne would be the one man here to rattle her nerves.

“Welcome to Egypt, Dr. Colonel Reynold and my team are arranging the newest artefacts in tent F.”

Your team?”

Ah. Only a matter of time.

Amelia caught the end of her blonde plait as it swung towards her face, and retied it with a tough tug.

“Reynold didn’t tell you? I’m the one leading the expedition. After Italy, that’s the least I can do, don’t you suppose?”

The doctor of Archaeology – the Institute of London’s finest, apparently, and she should know – grunted. He shuffled his satchel over one shoulder, avoiding her eyes with flail, and set off across that ‘damn sand’.

Personally, Amelia liked it.

Thoughts on the beginning? I’m still not sure what I think of the changes, especially in Amelia’s line. It’s less telling, but… Also, I have a friend whose allergic to horse-fly bites. They are cruel.

Ready. Set. Write! Update 11/8

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 in our writing—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing. This year, RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin Funk, and Katy Upperman.

I’m back on track after my holiday, and have lots to natter about, yay!

How I did on my goals last [two] week:

1. I’d like to write another 10K for ‘H’, even though CampWriMo finishes this week. Finished Horology at 73K. I’d aimed for 80K, but I suspect I’m missing some necessary description and I’ll have to deal with the pacing, perhaps. I might add a bit about the antagonist creating a code for Cathy to crack before she finds her kidnapped fiancé. At the moment, it seems a bit “oh, it’s probably there”.

2. Dubai holiday. Catch up on reading. Yes! Finished Stardust by Neil Gaiman. Ha, bet you didn’t know I was reading that. Actually, nor did I – I started when I first bought the book about a year ago, but abandoned it for books of which I didn’t already know the plot. But I was moving stuff about as I readied to go on holiday, and I realised I had the urge to read on.

Also finished reading The Iron Wyrm Affair, and that’s some fine storytelling and voice. I’d use a similar voice for my third person works if I didn’t know a début author would struggle to get an agent with such untight prose*.

On Saturday, I finished Soulless by Gail Carriger. In fact, I read about 20% of it (according to Kindle) in 2-and-a-bit hours. Though now I feel kind of copy-cat with the fact that Horology has its final show-down in a laboratory, with, you know, operating tables, instruments and everything else. I didn’t copy, promise!

Look – I even have Tweet proof of my first thought after finishing. xD


So true. I have a bit of a [surprising] weakness for innuendos and *ahem* naughty scenes. 😉

My goals for this week:

1. Edit Of Jackets and Phones, in particular chapters thirteen and fourteen because they’re a little messy. *hmmph*

2. Polish and send chapter seven of OJAP to CP.

3. Start writing out my fantasy-horror crow short story. Plan accompanying scarecrow short?

4. Write more of NA uni romance (that I said I wasn’t going to write in the summer anyway :P)?

5. Send out another query for WTCB? I’ve sent four already for August, along with the three I sent in the middle of July, but I don’t know how many more to do without feedback. I jump between believing in my first three chapters and then going “why is this not awesome!” 😦

Favourite recent paragraph from my WIP:

This is from what will be the first or second scene in my NA uni romance. Inspired by the atmosphere of my first year at university, it looks at Jess’ experiences with being away from home, as well as dealing with a difficult affection**. But I don’t want to start with the MC drinking, because that’s kind of cliché, so this might be the first scene instead.

“Why did you let me drink so much?”

Swiping them in an arc from her bed, her knuckles brushed a foreign shape on the bedside table. Plastic. Bumped. Heavy enough that it was full… Feel by feel, Jess’s mind came online. A bottle of water. Good. She snapped it up.

“You’re telling me.”

Megan sounded as if she’d swallowed a glass rather than drunk from one.

The biggest challenge I faced this week:

Writing this is a slow start at the moment because I’m having trouble adjusting back to contemporary after spending just over a month on alt-history fantasy. It doesn’t help that I keep calling Jess ‘Cathy’, Horology’s MC. I mean, I want to write it, I’m still excited about the concept – and indeed, I did a good 1000 words yesterday, in the midst of bowling! – but I start actually writing and go mehhh. I don’t know, sometimes I just can’t be bothered, both in writing and life in general.

Something I love about my WIP:

On the other hand, I’m editing OJAP and it’s going well. I was trying to raise the wordcount by about 2K and my additions are well on the way there, despite how much telling I’m deleting. The great thing about a murder mystery is that adding the wordcount is easy – from tying every line of thought together to slipping in distractions and subtle clues.

I’m also reading a biographical book about Agatha Christie, so that’s helping me build a better sense of mystery and red herrings, despite the fact that book1 of the trilogy is not the archetypal Christie whodunnit (that’s book2. Book3 is more of a thriller).

Found this on Pinterest. I love it :D

Found this on Pinterest. I love it 😀


*My own aside: This highlights the main issue I have with writing Steampunk: the problem of voice versus tight writing, because, as you might know, a lot of 19th Century voices use adjectives and elaborate, unnecessary sentences and syntax. In Horology’s first draft, I have 37 instances of ‘quite’, though a fair number of those are in dialogue as my MC expressing restrained agreement:

…she’d quite forgotten she had an access through the night-twisted asterism…

Her scream fell a second after her, quite the Penny Dreadful comic sound.

**I never use the word ‘crush’. I find it demeaning of emotions.

Into the World of ‘H’

As you know, I’m currently ploughing through CampNaNoWriMo – all your wordcounts belong to me! – and, unlike last year…or, actually, unlike any of the other times I’ve tried writing challenges…I am writing straight onto my laptop instead of having to write on a physical notebook first (FYI, I still haven’t completely typed up DMWT from last year’s CampWriMo/trip to Uganda). In a way, this both heightens and releases the pressure.

I’ve currently written 35K, and am on chapter 16, but, due to the mishap with my laptop, I had to write on my phone for four days, so, whilst it felt like I skipped through the 20s merrily, I believe I am behind on the 2K-a-day trial. To add to that, I’m holidaying with a friend in Suffolk – we arrived yesterday – so I have no set writing times as I would when at home.

As with a lot of my writing at the moment, I’m going for a facetious tone, but trying to keep the heroine from being outspoken, as that would not suit her. I’m going to share a couple of extracts, to give you a glimpse into this fantasy/alternate history world, featuring an infected leech bite, a storm, and a dormant volcano. And that’s just in chapters 12 to 16.

NOW I get why Atlantis has always been my favourite Disney film

Who among you negotiates?

The language of the novel is vital. Well, not only is it something I love, but it shows their Steampunk world in more detail – how each character ought to interact, particularly that of the MC, since her actual words are often filled with more eloquence than her internal monologue.

Deal or no, if they arranged no posited lodgings with the lady, the sky would be pocked by nightfall and all hopes of survival in the alien wasteland would be dashed.

At least Cathy was not alone in her sympathies. In their quick exchanges, Amelia and Jonathon were demanding of the captain some little element. Cathy heard very little of the hisses – but the words lodgings, night, and help, even if they were imagined, warmed her chest.

“Lady,” the captain called, “I simply mean to ask if you would give us lodging for the night until we can fetch supplies for the journey to Rome.”

Silence. Even through the distance, no one would mistake that close-lipped smile marring the woman’s features.

Eventually – a mere minute dragged in desperation – Petite Victoria drew her fingers away and unstuck her dark lips. “Pray, who among you negotiates the treaties of sleep with strangers?”

Before he might speak and throw the entire operation, Cathy jolted a hand onto the captain’s arm, despite lunging across Amelia and Jonathon.

“Please,” she hissed to him. “Let me talk with her. I know their native language, after all.”

Ignoring the petulant half-snort that came from Jonathon, Captain Moorcombe nodded, and said to Petite Victoria, “You may have your time with the lady Cathleen.”


A device for seeing and finding…

Of course, every stereotype of Steampunk is metal cogs and airships, and, whilst that’s not something I completely abhor, I’d rather step away from the typical before it becomes another overdone trope. However, one can’t help admit that those items affect the aesthetic, and, done well, are one of the integral legs of identifying a Steam piece.

The woman gave Cathy a dry smile. This close, the eyepiece – or, rather, the lady’s eye – was inescapable. The metal was too light, too polished to be copper or brass, but, at the same time, it looked as if it had been crafted from the alloys of old, and that was an accomplishment, considering how the metal writhed and squirmed around the organic flesh.

Cathy blinked. Staring at the rooted disk made her own pupils ache by association. Still, that didn’t stop her stretching her fingertips to it. Quite what she was doing, she had no idea.

Petite Victoria halted, but she threw up her head, and connected eyepiece with Cathy’s fingers without a word. She needed none – her chin declared her pride at bearing the mechanical incision.

To the touch, the disk stank of alloy. Under that, the layer of charcoaled cogs rotated anticlockwise – clicking in the wind’s breath, they operated a chain of smaller and smaller winding cogs, down to the pupil itself, which had belonged to her in a previous life.

Now, however, the bottle-green of her right eye had been carved away and polished into a gemstone lock.

Victoria’s eye was no eye. It was a device for seeing and finding, for spotting and destroying.


Even that simple move had escaped her.

I can’t call it adventure for nothing. Yes, it involves a lot of travel and a handful of contagonists, acting for their own, not-mentioned purposes, who happen to cross the path of my MC. The stakes are high for the MC, who just wants to find where her fiancé has disappeared to, but the world into which she finds herself plunged is one of revolt and secrets.

Cathy struggled against the netting fabric, which cut unflattering lines into her face. She turned, but that did nothing to alleviate the awkward position into which she’d managed to fall. Although her petticoats were doing their best to cover her modesty, her ankles stuck into the top of the netting like two pillars in the skyline.

She fought to drag her feet down from their height, but even that simple move had escaped her. Whilst she moved her wrists and fingers like any other day, they’d barely dragged down her legs, one by one. She splayed them again – but she’d manicured her nails into square, polite shapes, and they’d lost any of their ability to cut. Not that Miriam would’ve been pleased by the idea of her former student, a young lady, slashing with her own humane fingernails.

Forget her. Miriam wasn’t here; she wasn’t the one finding a way from the tight spaces of the net. Cathy took a deep breath, surprised when her chest howled in pain from the corset jamming her ribs and breasts in all the wrong ways.

Smart footsteps – no urchin or shop owner afforded to pay for the types of metallic steel that lined this man’s boots enough to click as he rounded the corner cobbles – neared, and Cathy found herself holding her breath. She didn’t even know from where the anxiety rose. The thought of The Passing, perhaps? From this direction, the sun shone obvious and semi-circular over the Thames eastbank. It hadn’t even set fully, and she was already pulling worries from the frantic edges of her mind.

That’s it for now! I hope you enjoyed peeking into the scenery of my NaNo adventure.