Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist

Tut tut, Lady Chronaire. Call that holding a flask?


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Steampunk and Science

You may have noticed a certain absence of mine over the last few days. I have been in Leeds, taking a small holiday from my academic work, and working (less than steadily, however) on the work I have here on the blog, for irony notwithstanding. Yet, I had the pleasure of tailing my dear steamsona, Lady Summer Chronaire, as she occupied her time in her Sergeant’s airship and at the market in town that appears quarterly.

We also had the great fun of meeting eminent musician Professor Elemental. You may have heard of him. ;)

For me, the Prof’s setlist seemed to go far too quickly. He zoomed through abridged versions of his hits and performed a couple of new songs, but I would have loved to have heard more from the great man. Nevertheless, he’s one of those performers who is so genuine, even on album recordings. The sound quality of his live performances was on par with his albums, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

From The Sergeant’s camera. The lovely Isabella Bunny Bennett of Steam Powered Giraffe (my favourite band) liked this photo when it found its way onto Professor Elemental’s personal Facebook. Now I have a better claim to fame than having been on the same set as Benedict Cumberbatch ;)

 

The support act, Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers, was also amusing. Apart from the cheese song (I make a point of not liking cheese!), their music was entertaining and I think it appealed to most of the steampunks in the room.

Anyway, musical interludes aside, being immersed in the culture steampunk is so helpful for writing the genre and that of fantasy (which is why I make a note of it in my author’s bio when I query). I think merely seeing how people compose themselves in their costumes and how they are able to wander around in bustles and mechanicals is so useful for the physical, or actualised, movements of fictional book characters. One tends to act differently when in Victoriana, even when one is not constrained by the outfits we wear.

lab gear: Lab gear from Steampunks in Space at Leicester Space Centre, November ’14

lab gear: Lab gear from Steampunks in Space at Leicester Space Centre, November ’14

I was also given the opportunity to test out Lady C’s science value. I don’t know if there’s such a value as ‘science value’, but I mean by it the way Lady C is interpreted by those who first see her. Certainly, Lady C can be better recognised as a [mad or not is to be decided] scientist* if she is in her lab gear – and even in lecture uniform with her lab coat over the top.

Lady C at the Surrey Steampunk Convivial, February ’15, in lecture-wear as she analyses a leisurely game of jenga, photo by Jean Riddler

However, whilst some scientists are obvious in their outfits, I have no choice but to be less so, due to my inability to craft myself something special or primarily unique that screams scientist. When Lady Summer donned a more casual outfit of a blue corset and a green skirt for the Saturday, she had some people mistake her for some Ariel of the Steampunk world. Just imagine! It goes without saying that I was more than a little miffed, but I had someone to hold my hand when I needed it. ;)

However, Sunday’s outfit – although, ironically, it was her first dress and I consider it a more formal one, complete with petticoat and cairngorm – caught attention for the right reasons.

My collection of potions and fruits (necklaces in true form, but used as decorations for this instance) may have helped. I even bought myself another little potion, a make-shift DIY version however, of grey sulci in fluid**. To change this outfit from the regal, straight Victoriana one I wore for Lincoln’s activities, I added Lady C’s belt from her lab outfit, attached the trusty leather phone case, and tucked one of Doctor Geoff’s brains +4 badges above the collection of vials.

Tut tut, Lady Chronaire. Call that holding a flask?

Tut tut, Lady Chronaire. Call that holding a flask?

Next: a squidgy brain toy to carry around. Actually, can I just have one for my birthday? It would help with my revision, I swear! ;)

I had planned to wear my quill and science notebook on the Sunday, but I couldn’t find the quill in the mist of my bag and I doubted the notebook would have fitted in the weave of my belt. If I had the money (which I rarely do, poor starving artist), I might commission a leather holster for my notebook, as the Sergeant has for his tea instruments and the occasional *cough* nerf *cough* gun.

We mustn’t forget my trusty familiar, Gormley. He finally found his balance on my shoulder – sloe gin notwithstanding, though it’s been a couple of months since either of us have touched the good stuff – whispering threats of using my money on pointless objects, such as yet another collectable bookmark, or badges pledging allegiance to our Feline Overlords.***

Speaking of purchases, I finally found a suitable photo-frame. I’ve been searching for one for a while, but have found nothing nice and simple and the right size for your typical printed photo. I only wanted a simple silver one, since the photo in question in rather bright itself. However, I did stumble across one with some background cog decorations and this motif:

There is so much meaningful about that statement that I was pulled towards the frame regardless of my prior interests. When, the Saturday, it was sold, I felt those pangs of regret – and even still when my eyes grazed a very similar copy on the Sunday. I knew I had to buy it. For love.

So, that was my weekend, my market at Armley Mills experience. My attempt at giving Lady Chronaire more of her personality, as I would do one of my fictional characters. After all, being a steampunk is living fiction.

Oh, and The Sergeant and I sneaked into a photo in Sunday’s Yorkshire Evening Post.

Science, my dear gentleman.

Interested in the Steampunk culture or Steampunk/alternative-history fiction? You might like the other posts under the Gears and Cogs Alive! category of this blog. In addition, I frequently blog about my personal experiences of the British Steampunk society, so stick around the site and feel free to message me with questions about the genre.

*To be more specific: a psychobiologist-in-training, a student researcher at the Royal Berkshire University

**That’s brain-matter in blood to those of you not accustomed to psychology terminology

***This is a real thing


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All about 2014

I suppose 2014 was one of the strangest years I’ve had for a long while. After all, I entered it as a bushy-eyed eighteen-year-old starting the second term of my Psychology and Philosophy degree. And I seem to have finished it high in optimism and wisdom, but not so greatly in success. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve given up on writing by living in the moment.

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It’s true – this shelf of the bookcase probably hasn’t changed since I was younger, but I know the other bookcases have evolved.

 

So the reading… Thinking about it, I read more books than it seems to me at first glance, particularly in the summer. I was sent swooning with Leah Raeder’s Unteachable. I got my friend Yawatta Hosby’s One By One free and speedily read the horror/thriller. I found a new favourite mystery author in the late Kyril Bonfiglioli. I finished the last Skulduggery Pleasant book a week before Christmas and still find myself nodding at the conclusion to the bestselling series. Vicious by VE Schwab chilled and thrilled me and set me eagerly anticipated A Darker Shade of Magic, Schwab’s next book for adults. I cracked through two-and-half steampunk books: Soulless, The Iron Wyrm Affair, and I’m currently reading the wonderful Cindy Spencer Pape’s Steam and Sorcery. I hurtled my way through Aiyana Jackson‘s novella Encante.

I was also lucky enough to interview Cindy, which started off my Steampunk Spotlight for steampunk and alt-history fantasy authors on the blog. Apart from a couple of ‘paint jobs’, this was the only major addition to the blog – well, that and my WIP page, which keeps track of the novels I’m writing. Like, the big ones I know I’m going to finish, even if I never edit the blasted things.

I was one of the many Steampunks – or Victoriana-dressed people from around the world, to attend the Lincoln Asylum VI, the largest solely Steampunk convivial in Europe, run by UK’s own Victorian Steampunk Society.

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The area between the Cathedral and the Castle in Lincoln City

 

Compared to some years, I have not written as much, in terms of quantity. Last year, I was rattling off all the novels and short stories, but this year has been one with more dips and curves than I expected. I started the year thinking about what might have happened after my short story in the Fauxpocalypse anthology, which came out in print mid-January.

In February through June, I wrote very little but focused on my editing, of mostly WTCB, but also OJAP, the YA murder mystery I first wrote when I was a youth.

I completed NaNo in July, and came out with my most impressive NaNo yet, at 73K. I’m currently adding bits to the Steampunk novel, Horology, before I send it to my Alpha reader and it’s definitely going to hit its 80K target.

In August, I made the mistake of swapping back to contemporary after a long stint of SFF writing, and started writing an NA contemporary romance set in a fictional uni. My writings from then on to the rest of year – before my academia took me away from being able to actually scribe things down at all – were thus centred, though I did have another attempt (in vain) of rewriting a short psychological horror about a lady who encounters some graffiti that may or may not be destined to cause her death.

I also started querying WTCB properly this year. How’s it going? I honestly couldn’t tell you. However, I did get into the agent round of Pitch Slam, and, boosted by that, I posted the premise of WTCB in gifs. It was fun. It has Sherlock, The Doctor, and Jack Sparrow.

When the clock broke…

 

Emotionally, I had a lot of big events this year, too. In February, for instance, I dyed my hair red to raise money (£120 to be exact of the final total) for the British Heart Foundation. I had red hair for a good three months before it completely washed out. Oh, how I missed my golden curls in the end.

Whilst finishing my first year at university was stressful enough, one of my good friends moved away. I lost my position as Social Secretary on the Quidditch team, but gained the role of Treasurer for the Swing Dance Society – and, for a while was even playing Secretary and President when my friends and colleagues where away. Around the same time, I got confirmed into the Catholic Church, and finally managed to put my trust in God.

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I started to illustrate quotes from my books with photos I’d taken.

 

Oh, and this happened:

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I hope you had a good 2014 and a Merry Christmas. Happy New Year for tomorrow and may your 2015 be full of wonders, too.


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7 Quick Takes about Pushing through Exams, Carol Massing, and Twitter Pitching

Term is over! Let’s take a moment to flail about like 150-year-old musical automatons, then we can get back to the post.

7 Quick Takes Friday is now hosted by This Ain’t the Lyceum.

~1~

Wondering why I’m doing so much flailing for simply finishing my academic work? Well, today I had an exam (which I found out is worth 35% of the module), yesterday I had an exam, Monday I had an exam. Oh, and I had two essays due in for Thursday. I have been off-my-feet-in-work busy this week, and it is such a relief to be able to get back to writing work again. Hence, why I don’t intend to go back to my pre-uni accommodation for another week or so. I need to catch up with my own life first.

~2~

Conversely, this week has been such a boost for my singing. Not to mention that The Tea Sergeant and I work wonders on each other’s self-confidence. Without saying too much for his sake, I’ll simply add that there are bizarrely striking similarities between Chris and I and the characters Lucas and Andrea from my romance novel Triangle.

Will Lucas and Andrea end up together?

~3~

I also believe this week has been warming for my faith. I sang the psalm for the Carol Mass on Sunday, and, despite the tremolo that snuck into my voice, I got a few compliments, particularly for my use of intensity/volume, afterwards. I may forget to pray or read the Catechism every day, but I know God has already forgiven my falling short. More so, I’m more readily trusting what He is doing for me. As part of a Bible studies/ecumenical faith group I attend, I wrote down at the beginning of term what I was really pining for, and, out of the unlikeliness, He offered me the positive escape from the pain I have been feeling from the last couple of years.

~4~

Remember I mentioned last week that the Chamber Choir were singing carols for the campus winter wonderland? Reading Uni TV (RUON) uploaded their video summary of it. I am in one frame in my lovely purple coat. :P (At 1.40 if you’re interested.)

~5~

Other than that, I haven’t had the time for much else. We had our Swing Dance Christmas social on Wednesday – a social which, despite the name, involved no dancing. It was fun to get to know a little more about the other members of the society. And I was flattered by suggestions of my age as old as 25! xD

~6~

No weekly writing update, due to the aforementioned stuff, but I have been working on my Twitter pitches. WTCB is kind of making me proud.

~7~

Christmas is shockingly soon. It crept up on me. Do you know what your writer wants? Young writer Lucy Saxon offers some ideas.

Ooh, weird and shiny things. :)

Until next time, friends. Have a lovely weekend.


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Why Don’t We Talk About Intangible ‘Firsts’?

The whole world seems to put a great deal of significance on ‘life events’ and romance checkpoints – first kiss, first time…first marriage (in some cases) – which leaves out a great deal of people, not least asexuals or aromantics.

However, society appears to be missing a certain chunk of what it is to be human – that other side of ‘firsts’ that can’t so easily be tallied down by the amount of winks one gets. The un-countable aspects of kindness, morality, and social equality that occur between more than simply the lovers.

Why don’t we talk about those intangible firsts in life? The ones that matter to people who don’t or can’t experience the same levels of emotional or romantic ‘achievements’ as those who have been on a thousand dates. As a society, we spend far too much time on the physical, but abandon what is more important to the health of our people: the life spirituality (whatever that may mean to you – gods or aether or self-concepts).

These can be anything, from the smallest things to the biggest things. Things that made you feel respected and your unique true self.

The first time someone treated me like an adult individual.

The first time someone validated my opinion, or disagreed with it in a scientific and organised manner.

The first time someone called me beautiful. And meant it.

The first time someone truly grinned at one of my super-eccentric moments.

The first time someone listened to one of my wine-fuelled rants, and didn’t end up with a condescending expression.

We are acting as if these moments mean nothing, when actually they mean a great deal. Who cares about who kissed whom where and with what? The bad and the good of real, everyday life should be considered when we talk about first times – for the sake that they are more inclusive, and for the sake that they mean a deal more.


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Quick Takes Friday About A Week of Thankfulness

Didn’t post last week after having to rush about, but now I find myself with so much to say. One of the things I’ve always found difficult about being a Christian is including God in my everyday life, in everything I do.

And then there are weeks, like this gone week, where I wake up and remember how blessed He has made me in life, even if have to put my all into trusting Him.

A lovely way to start quick takes Friday, eh? Even if the dusk has turned almost to night outside my bedroom window.

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~1~

What’s new this week? Well, what isn’t new! I have been so thankful to God this week for the ‘break’ I’ve had to do some much needed catching up. Reading Uni had its ‘enhancement’ week this week, and whilst the Philosophy department took a break from lectures, seminars and tutes, the school of Psychology had planned a Big Science project for us, compulsory. So much for a break, eh? *grin*

~2~

The Lord blessed my good friend, Lillian Woodall and I with similar friendships this week, and a further amusing mirroring in our daily lives. I rather miss her company and her critical eye (and encouragement!) on my work, but our internet conversations keep us merry.

~3~

I wrote two essays in less than four days from pretty much nothing and I read a great load of extra reading in my spare time. I thank God for the mornings, Starbucks winter lattes and that he gives me the inspiration to a) know what I’m going to say, and b) enjoy arguing my points.

~4~

I seem to have made myself a position in the university mass service choir, aptly in the church in which I was confirmed: lead soprano (because I have the loudest female voice and can sight-read to fairly able pitch!). I rather like being on the other side of the table (or, church, as it were in their cross-shaped), though it cuts into my usual dinner time. Oh well. Give and take.

~5~

Nevertheless, most of my bouncy bouncy optimism has returned. I thank God for the music that peps me up, the sport I play and the health I feel.

~6~

The weather has been turbulent in a cold way. My room being behind a tree, my light goes on a half 3 nowadays, but I’ve also been forced *gasp* to wrap up, coat, scarp, jumpers.

No wonder I prefer summer, xD.

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~7~

On the other hand, I had to sacrifice writing and editing. My count for thus week is near nothing:

Maybe it was time to give up on ever sharing his life, or that his warm fingers would envelope her cold ones, or a soothing hand would find her knee in an absent-minded caress. She’d never relied on romance films for her heart, but now the concept alone of Laurie-and-Jess (and thank goodness their names failed the shipping tests of ‘CAnais’) kept her wanting and kept her wishing. But it was one element of her life, and if Laurie was happy to shift her into that ‘friendzone’ the internet blathered about, Jess would live with that.

Right?

I wonder if Jess has the same genetic peculiarity that I have of constantly cold extremities. Typing this, I’m currently wearing fingerless-gloves indoors because my hands are uncomfortably chilly.


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The Crucifixion

Alexandrina Brant:

Thoughts on The Crucifixion sorrowful mystery of the Rosary in this October month of the Rosary.

Originally posted on Deep in the well:

The final sorrowful mystery is difficult for some to truly grasp the whole idea of it. Ultimately it is an act of love but all to often we tend to focus on the sadness of the event. Jesus suffers and dies for all of us no matter who we are we have been saved through Jesus. Love is the base of our life and faith, without it there is nothing. This recent synod of Bishops they have been talking about “non traditional” couples and divorce. The media has gone mad over this changing view of homosexuality in the church, I however do not see this changing view, I know of many homosexuals who are active in the church and all that jazz. Even Pope Francis said before “Who am I to judge.” If Jesus were alive today he would most likely be with the homosexuals and other fringe group in…

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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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