Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist


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The Dust of Venice | Fauxpocalypse

fauxpocalypse-front-cover-72dpi

Ruin.

It had, for the moment, subsided, passed away, moved on if you will. When one had spent a year trekking until one’s feet bled, one learnt to distinguish between what was simply the aftermath of the shock of a no-event and what was actual ruin, in the form of cities and states and provinces failing to bring themselves into normality again when they’d all but destroyed themselves.

And I’d learnt not to refer to myself in a general sense.

I pushed the passport under the official’s nose and waved it back and forth a few times.

“Look. Here,” I croaked in the poor Italian I’d picked up tentatively hitchhiking through Milan. “Me. Pass I go?”

He narrowed his eyes at me, but nevertheless shucked a gloved thumb behind himself. I nodded a votive of thanks, and shuffled past the camouflaged militant, keeping my head down and out of sight, and my eyes on the half-cement, half-cobbled streets ahead.

I had to keep moving.

Sometimes I hadn’t been blessed with as much fortune. My hair had grown a deal since that passport photo, already a couple of years old, had been taken, and, with the extended checks they did at the continental borders nowadays, sometimes my fate was jail for a few days whilst the militia found an English-speaking official who’d assess me in my own language.

I expected no less, so I pressed on, casting no glance behind me, and none away from confidence. You had to look confident—then people tended to trust that your actions matched your spluttered words.

Yet, the streets of Venice echoed with each of my footsteps. Judging by the sun, I’d crossed the border between the hours of two and four, and the day didn’t particularly come with heat. People should’ve been not swarming, but at least going about their daily businesses with some pace.

Unless this place, too, was haunted by fear.

Some were—but most had found their feet, their bearings, their foundations, and had started putting brick after brick together.

I passed the front of what must once have been an Italian gelateria, where now its canvas covering had been torn by rioting and its large windows shattered as thieves strove to stock up on the icy goodness. Ridiculous in this weather, but the faux-pocalypse had driven people to do strange things.

It had changed my life, and I hadn’t minded that.

Making sure I darted around shards of glass, I petered up a path of stone steps, and ascended further into the city. Around me, the city bore a similar state of disrepair to the gelateria—houses had barely been rebuilt, by the looks of it, and I resisted laying my hand on the bridge-wall. More than moss had marred it. A thin coating of dust discoloured the wall, as if an unlikely sandstorm had hit before I’d turned up.

Sigh. I’d given up pulling faces at the murk after the first couple of months. When you faced over and over the filth that came from rubble and unkindness…

Nevertheless, civilisation tickled my shoulders as I walked. It crept about behind the facades of buildings in taped glass and tidied doorways. The door-paint had faded, but the door-knobs were worn by more than time. One punt – no, gondola – bobbed gently by a bridge. Its tether held strong.

I’d wandered to the end of the pavement before the sense of being watched overwhelmed me. I spun. A flash of darkness scampered from behind me to an alleyway. I knew better than to follow directly.

Now that feeling hit me from above.

I whipped my head up. A face disappeared from an upper-storey window.

I was being watched.

“Hello?” I called to nobody.

The water lapped in response.

“English?”

No.

This time I tried in my little Italian. “English? Supplies. Medicine. Help.”

Sometimes, those were the only words people cared to hear before they made a decision on your life. In Antwerp, I’d stuttered through French with a knife propped into my ribs. In Geneva, the continental militia had drawn hands to their guns at my midlands English, but had shown me their palms when I’d protested innocence in broken German.

My focused wandering had certainly given my tongue a workout.

A figure stepped from a doorway ten metres in front of me. Female in body, though lithe with hunger and not feminine. She had no weapons in her hands or across her back, but that only meant she’d learnt to conceal them. I fingered the shard of glass in my waistband.

As she – for the moment, I presumed she used those pronouns – glided towards me, I took in her appearance.

Her hair, tangled brown, from what I could see of it, had been gathered with twine or elastic into a ponytail. Complemented by a smear of dust across one cheek, her face was as natural as the day she’d been born. Her eyes were small and blue, her lips round and dark.

Those lips opened and she gabbled a bunch of noises my way. I caught the occasional word or article and the syntax of Italian clung to me, but I was no linguist.

I frowned. She changed tact.

“So, English. You speak English I guess.”

Someone in every country knew at least enough English to barter. We and Americans had been the great traders of the world before we’d set fire to our assets and drank them away in what we’d thought were the end days.

“Oh, thank God,” I said, tossing invisible salt over my left shoulder. I’d not been superstitious until the comet had not-hit the Earth, but I owed a lot to that day and I’d do anything to keep my good fortune – or as much good fortune as I’d had travelling so far – on the up.

“Yes. Sorry for watching from afar. Most strangers come to steal or fight rather than offer.”

I nodded. I had sympathy. “It’s the same in many places.”

She set off at a steady pace, strolling further up the canal-path I’d been following, before hitting the corner of a bank of houses and turning sharply. A tight staircase built out of the rock rose above us, but subtly enough that it wouldn’t be noticed unless someone knew of its existence.

As she led me further and further into this city, in tighter and tighter circles, so it felt, we encountered more and more Venetians. Some greeted her with a smile or a nod or others hurried past down the path with a distracted look, but nobody exchanged words in this lost place.

None greeted me.

Some people were tucked into alcove-like spaces or perched on doorsteps. Where they found room, people curled. Most men wore their beards and hair long; a number of women had chopped theirs off. Everyone donned robes, grey, black, brown, colours unwashed, that swished the ground as they walked or kneeled or sat with a notebook and pencil. Everywhere I turned, someone was writing, always writing, and a steady brush of graphite against papyrus soothed me.

“You have quite the revival here,” I said.

She nodded and took a moment to retie her hair. She was rough with it, yanking the thick strands through an elastic band that was due to break soon.

“We’ve had long enough to try. Long enough to find our own little city again.”

“Yup.”

Not so little.

“Do you mind me asking how much further? I’d been walking…” For hours. “…Before I came here, and I could do with setting my pack down, Miss uh…”

I realised we’d not been introduced. Pleasantries hardly made the top of my list.

“Sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”

The woman halted and turned to face me. Her lips twitched, but if she was smiling, it was with her eyes alone.

“We don’t use names here any more,” she said. “They call me Raft-Bringer. I was the one who got the gondolas running again.”

“They call me… No, I don’t use my given name any more, either.”

She clasped my fingers within hers, and a small look of surprise crossed her face.

“Welcome to our fold…Worn-Hands.”

~

We were walking through a quadrant of cobbles and grass that was beginning to look like a flower garden again when Raft-Bringer asked me.

“Where do you come from?” she questioned.

I glanced at her, took a minute. Not to hide my answer, no, but to find it in amongst the hand of foreign faces and documentations I’d been given.

I could’ve returned to that orphanage. Once the madness of the apocalypse had taken over, I would’ve had ample time and opportunity to break in and liberate my birth files to where they rightly belonged.

But I hadn’t.

And, surprisingly, I didn’t regret leaving my past well alone.

“From Oxford, England,” I told her.

“Is it like this there?”

I wasn’t sure what she meant. Disused? Destroyed…?

Repairing?

“I don’t know. I’ve not been back for months.”

She nodded, as if she knew exactly my journeying. She’d said she’d arrived, too—perhaps, we were of the same mission.

We’d been walking the incline for fifteen minutes or so when the path flattened out—or the steps did, and I tilted forward to counteract the way I walked. I’d lost track of time, and was running on estimates, but Raft-Bringer walked with a kind of bizarre confidence up these slopes, as if she’d taking this path since the morning after the non-apocalypse. She’d probably once resided in the ‘heights’ of Venice.

We rounded a corner onto a small square when I noticed the darker sides of the fact people lived here. Where in the lower segments and canal-sides of Venice, the way had been decked with houses, now longer stretches of wall and grass sprouted from the townside. Lines of graffiti decked the walls. Painted dripped in numerous colours, in numerous languages.

I stopped next to a particularly dense piece of graffiti. I found myself hunting for the English, despite the part of me that had no desire to know.

The words bled from the wall: Down with the ‘Merican slags. Stop them destroying Gaia’s newfound paradise. And another: The world was built for Italy. GTFO aliens.

“Disgusting, isn’t it?” There was an edge to Raft-Bringer’s soft voice.

“Mm.”

She was looking at me – I heard it more than I saw it – and I rooted my eyes to the libels until she had to lay her hand upon my arm to pull me away.

“I have more to show you. This way.”

So we walked on, slower this time, more reverently, Raft-Bringer holding her ropes a little off the ground here. These upper points had been swept better than where I had entered the city, and, although each corner brought a toast to the water below, the steps and doorways were absent of water-made muck. Even the shop-front I passed had an air of use to it. Its canvas had been sewn, its glass replaced by oversized wooden shutters. Here, the scent of sandalwood and fruit perforated the air.

We wandered through an archway into a square plaza-like area of tessellating pavestones culminating in a church. The centre of the city, but neither of those features made me gawk. My expression was due to the number of figures in dark robes. They lined the plaza, on their knees or bottoms, none on their feet. Some were sobbing, but most bore silence and glass-eyes. I swallowed. I’d only once before seen a gathering of this measure – when we’d thought the world was about to implode in fire and rock.

This was no chapel setting, but it reminded me of that very hour of not-reckoning.

“What are they doing?” I whispered.

Raft-Bringer stared at me as if I’d just announced that the Orient Express was ready for boarding at Milan.

“Don’t you know?”

“I’m sorry.” I shrugged.

“The date. Today is the anniversary. They’re saying a moment of silence for the lives lost to humanity’s violence on the 15th July 2015.”

Hell. Was it really the 15th today? I’d lost all track of days and dates, certainly—but I would’ve thought I’d have known. You know? A sort of shiver through my bones as a clock struck midnight in the middle of the city. A lump in my throat and a wash of memories as sudden as that ghost-on-grave sensation. A something, an understanding maybe, that made me feel.

I should’ve known.

Pushing Raft-Bringer’s hand from my shoulder, I turned and stormed away.

~

How I found myself beside the graffiti, I had no idea. I hardly knew the way back. I’d walked, and now—here I stood.

This sort of explicit black-talk didn’t happen everywhere, but pockets of the land I’d walked, ridden, and even run through had all displayed traces of hate-crime. Because everybody wanted to horde their resources.

For a moment, I wondered if Oxford were the same, or if it had started to offer a hand to the less prepared of British cities. Maybe the government was beginning to come together again, and had a hand over the comings and goings of their citizens.

Maybe I’d go back and be welcomed—

No, I wouldn’t give in to cowardice. I’d worked so hard to get here—

A scuffle of footsteps drew my thoughts back to the present with a bump. I swiped the trails of tears off my cheeks. The rustle of robes joined the sounds of low-soled shoes, and Raft-Bringer wandered her way towards me. The bits of robe over her knees had gained circles of dust. Her face was frustratingly neutral. So much for reading if she judged the way I’d reacted.

“Interesting I found you here.”

“How so?”

She tipped her head to one side, almost thoughtfully. “Your reaction, I suppose. Curious.”

I didn’t repeat my question, but that was no way to answer.

“Mm.”

We stood in silence – I’d lost any thought-track I’d had, and evidently Raft-Bringer had nothing more to say to me – until the setting of the sun doused the scene with yellow-orange and reflected off the water below with numinous fingers of amber. My stomach rumbled anarchistically.

“Are you hungry?” She didn’t ask if I’d travelled far.

“Please.”

“This way,” she said, and trailed through the city. Although Venice had its maze of canals and unified box-houses and every corner I saw had sixteen steps in blocks of four (I wasn’t counting – this was simply what I’d noticed, whether true or indeed false), I began to recognise areas that I’d been led through before.

We returned to the first street on which I’d encountered Raft-Bringer, and the house she used sat central, twenty metres from the lone gondola, waiting, ever waiting, for one of the community to ride it out of here.

But they were never going to.

“You are welcome to the room upstairs for as long as you stay. I’m afraid it has only a mattress and a dresser, but I’m sure—”

“I’ve had worse. Yes.”

I slept soundlessly that night, filled with dreams of robed individuals with flames instead of hands and dials instead of eyes – and a comet that danced, a way out of view.

~

I woke a little after sunrise in the tradition I had built from travelling so much. In England, that would’ve meant I’d be meeting four or five o clock, but in Venice, I had no clue as to the time.

I cleared my face of sleep and relieved myself in the small lavatory opposite my top-storey room, before wandering down the stairs with my pack on my shoulder. Despite having faced days with little but bread –food was but a luxury when one travelled as I did – I found myself wondering what sort of food, apart from the dinner of rice and veg, they ate here.

The door banged shut to the left of me. On instinct, I whirled around, but my heart slipped from throat to chest when Raft-Bringer stepped in.

I had no idea she’d been gone.

She gave me a weak smile.

“Ah. I didn’t expect you’d be awake so soon. Let’s walk.”

She gestured. A dash of yellow paint decorated her wrist. I frowned. When she saw the direction of my gaze, she pulled down her sleeve with more brio than necessary.

“I think I’d rather stay here for a while, thank you. You’ve not shown me around your house.”

I started heading inwards, but she was by my side in a flash. Okay. If she was trying to alleviate my suspicions, she’d done the opposite. I moved towards the doorway to my right, further into the house, and the opposite room to that in which we’d eaten the previous evening. Indistinguishable noises tripped behind the door.

Raft-Bringer blocked my way. First with her hands, then with her entire body.

“Please, no, Worn-Hands, not this way.”

“Why not?”

“There are things…you don’t need to see.”

I dodged to the side, but Raft-Bringer was quicker, and she blocked me again. Her robes rippled about our feet, threatening to trip me up.

“What are you hiding? Woman, let me through!”

I grabbed clumps of her robes in my hands and shoved her out of the way. As a cry escaped her, I stormed into the next room. I was too angry to apologise, too confused to admit…anything. I had a right to see whatever had happened. Didn’t I? I was a guest, someone who’d come to help, and weren’t guests supposed to be treated in the highest respect?

A fire light the room from its centre. Smoke clotted the air, so unhealthy for a living space, but the room looked more like a boardroom for meetings. Four mattresses, stripped of any bedclothes, bordered a square around that unkept flame. It resided in something akin to an empty oil can, sawn to make an opening. A robed man stood as I entered, and his eyes flamed with anger. He went to tuck an object into his pocket, but I leapt forward.

“Give me that,” I snapped, snatching it from him.

An effigy-in-miniature. A doll of straw with fabric trousers and a little fabric shirt. Looking into the fire showed more similar figures, some dressed in camouflage, others in plain-clothes, some with shapes in their arms that looked enough like weaponry to make that assumption. The one in my hand had a rucksack.

I’d say it was almost a piece of voodoo, if a voodoopunk culture was still practised in the continent.

Raft-Bringer entered, one wrist in her other hand I thrust the doll into her face. Hell, I knew exactly what it meant, what with everybody else dressed in robes.

“You knew about this.” Perhaps, she’d even been part of it. Welcoming me in, but calling me names and fuming about my presence in their town.

She said nothing, and I threw the shape into the fire myself. It burnt, and so I did.

“Didn’t take you long to make this one,” I said aloud. I wasn’t sure if I addressed the two in the room, or the city at large. Venice had once been such a beautiful landmark.

The comet had destroyed many landmarks by never even touching them.

For the second time in so few hours, I rushed into the street.

Where was it?

There. The gondola I’d seen, still tethered, still waiting. Waiting for me, I now realised. I fiddled with the rope keeping it to the bridge. A small lip between the base of the bridge and the canal-side held the gondola back. I tugged at it.

“Come on.” But my anger was retreating now, and a plan formed in shards.

I breathed out, more than a sigh. I had to leave. Again. And I’d so been looking forward to Venice. When I breathed in, my outburst had subsided, replaced instead by guilt at such a reaction. I hadn’t needed to fume at their wariness.

For that was all it had ever been.

“Worn-Hands,” a voice called.

I refused to turn—but my head turned automatically. She was swishing towards me again.

“Raft-Bringer.” Even her title sounded less ridiculous to my ears. “I can’t stay.”

Sadness darted through her eyes and onto her soft features. An apology. “I know.”

“Part of me wishes I could. I was too harsh. But when I see objects like those…”

“You would be a strong healer in our community,” she added. Quickly, but not without genuineness.

“But I’m not welcome.”

“No.”

GTFO aliens. We both knew that meant me, a foreigner sprinting across the lands to share what little knowledge they had of medicine to peoples who had less. Venice had rebuilt its populace, albeit in an unconventional community, and, as per my self-assumed arrangement, I had to move on.

“Just answer me one thing—”

“I was genuine,” she replied in that instantaneous twang again. “I meant it welcoming you. I even wanted you to stay. But I talked to the council this morning—”

“You have a council?”

“And they decided you cannot stay. You didn’t even observe. The Silence.”

That damn 15th July silence! So, she’d taken me to the central plaza for that reason, as a test. And here I’d thought she was keen on welcome sight-seeing.

Despite myself, I cried, “I didn’t know!”

How was I to know? She hadn’t even considered the tears I’d hidden…

I’d faced guns and knives and unwelcoming abuse, but never this…prejudice for wanting to help!

“You’ll only change us,” she said.

Right. I shook my head, but said nothing to her. The gondola was untethered now, and I leapt from the canal-side onto it, a movement which send ripples down the canal, and almost upended the gondola.

My gasp spilled from my lips, but I sprang to my hands and knees, eventually with some sense of balance.

Raft-Bringer’s eyes on me made heat spring to my cheeks. I lifted my head, squared my eyes with hers until the blush left my cheeks.

“So long.”

“And fare well,” she murmured.

“Oh, I always try.”

If I had my geography on tap, I’d soon meet St. Mark’s Square and the wall where once the French Ambassador had been received with all the pomp and circumstance my visit had lacked. Beyond that…the open sea, bright and dark.

I’d faced worse.

Without any further words to the woman who’d offered me lodgings and satiation for a day, I pushed off the canal-side, and the water picked me up in its flow.

I wondered if Croatia had yet escaped their ruin.

~

Want to know what happened before our protagonist found themselves trekking the world? This story is a continuation from my short story Revelation, published in the anthology Fauxpocalypse, a collection of tales about what happens when the world doesn’t end even if we’re convinced think it will.

~

Alexandrina BrantAlexandrina Brant just finished her second year at university and turned twenty. In her ‘free’ summer – not spent researching for her final project – she’s been a vocal part of a piece of contemporary art at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, and is currently striding through one of two July NaNoWriMo projects: a novella about a steampunk MRI machine and the brain someone reanimates to destroy the campus of New Berkshire and the reputation of the Psychobiology department.


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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:

RSW9

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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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.

#WTCB

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.

#amEditing

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…

#amWriting

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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Quick Takes about Guided Prayer, Farmyard Frolics, and a Rule of Life for Next Year

Oh, hi, Friday, come here often? Haha, the week has passed so quickly with the everything and nothing I’ve been doing.

seven quick takes friday 2

~1~

Guess what I’ve been doing this evening?

AlexB_brainy1

My Neuroscience revision is coming together for my exam next week, and that occasionally involves painting a silver squishy/stress ball brain with various colours to represent neurology pathways, such as the somatosensory cortex, the Fusiform Face Area (not shown), and the superior temporal sulcus.

~2~

Reading Uni has been running a Week of Guided Prayer this week, which has been a nice change. It involved half an hour of prayer a day I experienced a relaxing, calming pace of prayer and talked about women in the Gospels with my guide, where we both discovered more about the passages and people that we hadn’t realised through solo reading of the gospels. God also opened my eyes to the interplay between prayer and work; I can take half an hour out of my revision and my day, and yet I am still able to focus on my revision – more so at times!

~3~

It was the General Election in Britain this week. I did contemplate writing a post about it (in fact, how badly some of my friends had reacted to the news on social media rather upset and/or aroused my opinion), but, in the end, there is no point in complaining about people who are complaining, as that would make me as bad as them.

But we could have done worse than another Conservative government, and the result is no one’s fault (especially not the general public’s!), but a reflection of a plutocratic norm that has existed for centuries. I think that the only way to avoid a situation like this would be to convert back to a society of skill-and-gain exchange.

~4~

But back to happier things. This afternoon, as part of the Union’s relaxation/distressing regime to ease us from our exams, they brought in a selection of farmyard animals and cute pets for us to handle. I got to hold a bunny, guinea pig, and stroke various other cutesies. A lovely distraction from work and way to release those natural endorphins.

A 13 week old lamb, aww.

A 13 week old lamb, aww.

More photos on Monday – unless I find something better over the weekend for my photo of the week.

~5~

 As well as the evening talks/workshops for the Week of Guided prayer, Wednesday evening saw a meeting of my house group for next academic year. We signed the official contract last week, and we moved in in July, so that is all very exciting. There are four of us, and we plan to make our house a Christian community, a Chapter House for those wanting to pray together, eat together, and discuss scripture together. We started this this year, but it has been non-residential, out of the kitchen of the Chaplaincy assistant, so the residence-ness is a big step, and we were meeting to discuss our Rule of Life: our way of living as a community, including how much time we were giving to community work, social work, and Chapter House feedback.

It was an enlightening experience – we spent an hour in full discussion, and I didn’t realise there was so much to be considered – but a rewarding meeting. Just that meeting, imagine! I can’t wait to start living out our plans for faith living.

~6~

Again, nothing to report on the writing or editing side of life. I had a cracking vivid dream yesterday about the eldest of a collection of siblings – most of whom are twins, but he isn’t – who has to solve a life-size, Indiana-Jones-like-exploration puzzle (starting as a Where’s Wally/Waldo game) to reveal family secrets. I hold off from writing or planning it, because I know I will become immersed if I do. Story of my life.

I almost did this evening, but then my revision took my mind and left me a shell, waiting for the time for inspiration. It’s now 11.30 and later, so I have run out time.

~7~

I leave you with a quote from Hosea, the fancy image found on He is Our Strong Tower:

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How apt for the start of my exams. Pray for me, that God gives me the wisdom, insight, and determination I need to power on through my revision, my birthday (yeah, that’s totally a thing I keep forgetting), and the rest of May.

God bless. Have a lovely weekend and a good following week.


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Beautiful People: Greetings to Patience

I’m still editing – and trying to balance the two academic and creative meanings of ‘revision’ – so I have no fully-formed character to present for you. Instead, I’m going to have a new-new character for this month’s great questions of the Beautiful People tag (hosted by Cait and Sky). Patience (surname-not-yet-created) is the MC and a maid in one of the steampunk stories I want to write and of which I have a couple of scenes.

  1. What is their secret desire?

Although she outwardly strives for adventure and wouldn’t say no to the job of travelling into the atmosphere, Patience is actually quite shy and very afeared towards the monster aboard The Mallard cosmic train. Her secret desire is probably a simple one: to have a family and not be a servant her entire life, even if the alternative is ‘serving’ as a mother (!). Thus, it’s natural that she forms a bond with similar-minded family-orientated Milo so quickly. It’s not insta-love (in which I don’t believe), but I have seen this sort of bond form in real life, so I know it is possible to transfer to characters.

  1. What is the best and brightest moment they experience during the story?

Probably kissing Milo. I mean, getting to travel to space is awesome and all, but to meet a fellow mind and to go through mystery with him is something that Patience will never experience in her life again. Hair flowing against the backdrop of stars…

File:Messier 5 Hubble WikiSky.jpg

Messier 5 stars, as seen through the Hubble telescope. Wikipedia commons

 

  1. What are the emotional places your characters are afraid to go to?

As an orphaned only-child, Patience can be quite shielded at times. Not one of those dramatic leading ladies who struggles to bond because her parents were unfair or abusive or, conversely, over-soft, but nevertheless someone who doesn’t share her mind so much when it comes to serious matters. Her parents were not overly-strict or overly-caring, so she appears to not miss them so much. I think she could open her heart to her childhood, though – not be afraid to admit that she wasn’t a working girl her entire life.

  1. Is there a place/city/room where they will never go?

Patience will probably never get to travel. At least: to the other side of Earth. Even when her contract with The Mallard ends, she will probably go back into service (unless Queen Victoria enlists another such contraption) and thus will be confined to England. Patience is not a lady’s maid – hence why she was dispensable yet reliable – so she doesn’t get to travel to other Earth countries with her mistress. I suppose that answers the question, even though I haven’t really thought out much of Patience’s ‘backstory’ yet.

  1. If they were permanently leaving town, what would they easily throw out? What would they refuse to part with?

She easily throws out her outfits and miscellaneous bits and bobs that she held on to when she worked in her household. These little items – like an acorn seed her first sweetheart gave her – keep her sane on nights when her family are demanding, but when Patience realises that she has a chance to move into a new field of work as a server on The Mallard she doesn’t see the need for trinkets of nature and fabric. Will she reject this move? That’s a question I’ll be asking myself.

Patience has a necklace that belonged to her mother, a small silver cross. She never takes it off, even though it gets broken over the course of the novella. She’d definitely refuse to part with it, due to sentimental value, and her parents’ once-religiosity. It has past and a kind of fortune.

Sweet Dreams

  1. What do they want (consciously and tangibly)?

Patience would rather like to spend some time at the seaside, perhaps trying fish delicacies and lending her hand at gutting the fish. She doesn’t want a fisherwoman’s life over being a maid to a small household, but she’d like to try something different for a while, as she’s getting a little bored of routine and safety. Figures.

  1. On the other hand: what do they need (on the emotional, subconscious level)?

Patience could probably do with some modest restraint. She’s not one of the sharper-tongued MCs I’ve written, but she still has an outspoken streak, even going so far as to question why her mistress sold a ring to pay for Patience to be one of the servers travelling to space.

  1. If they could change one thing about themselves, what would it be?

She doesn’t have the best self-confidence. I know Patience would like her mystery-solving skills to be better based on logic, when she doesn’t realise that she’s actually good at inference mystery and, well, snooping and silent wandering.

Nor, for that matter, does she have the best sense of humour. She’s a serious young woman– though, luckily, not to the point of being the straight man whom I wouldn’t be able to write.

  1. What is the most humiliating event of their life?

Being a servant, she has experience many humiliating moments. Her employers – well, her mistress – are rather demeaning, as was the way for servants. There were many life lessons she learnt about working in a busy household as she grew up, many slip-ups, literal and figurative.

  1. What things do they turn to when they need a bit of hope?

Back on Earth, Patience was friends with a younger maid, Marie, who, although lovely, was the lowest in the social hierarchy, and, as such, a bit of a drip. In orbit, however, Patience cannot turn to her absent friend, and she trusts no one but Milo onboard the lethal vessel. On the other hand, she is known to the driver for her love of almond cake and gingerbread pudding from the dining car.

Look, Cait, food for you! Hope you all enjoyed my Beautiful People post for March. I certainly learnt a lot about the backstory and past of my newest MC. Readers, don’t forget to check out the other writers who have participated in this month’s Beautiful People posting.


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Writing Is Really Rather Odd Sometimes

I’ve been going through a writing dry spell at the moment. I find I can’t devote my mind to writing even a page when I have to turn off all those instincts to concentrate on my lecture and seminar content. It’s not the course-work: that’s the easy bit when I have my own space and own time to create, where I can also slip in some creative writing. It’s the time I devote to thinking about my topics, and that is a little bit of a shame.

However, after and during dancing yesterday, I had a bit of an idea about developing a rewrite of WTCB, to make the fight occur earlier in the novel. I have no idea if this is the way to go, or if I’m simply pulling the action far closer than it needs to be, with less build-up. There is even a part of me rebelling, because three chapters was a good, even number, and left a nice gap after the fight. But do so I must for the sake of the novel. Besides, the war still occurs between chapters three and four, so, chronologically, we are rolling in the same direction.

It’s so easy to write this new scene. To have the characters act the way they should. But it makes me wonder: why does going back to WTCB (lovingly titled ‘The Novel’ amongst my friends) feel much like slipping on an old shoe, whilst trying to craft something new, even steampunk of a similar world to The Continent feel like I am forever sticking my fingers into nowhere-glue?

I have an idea: characters and their depth. After all, it might be said that plot evolves out of characters; we cannot force our characters into situations that are nothing to do with them. I know nothing of the new characters I encounter – the contemporary, familiar setting of Jess and Laurie’s university oddly does not ring true; and even Amelia’s alt-history adventures in Egypt have yet to fit entirely into place. Yet, I can fold back into the tragedy of Aidelle and Phillip so easily.

My writing inspiration has returned in the form of my characters themselves. I see Phillip and Rion, walking away from Aidelle and towards the war, pressing through their familiar landscape. I haven’t entirely got the chapter planned out to each and every movement, but there is currently something of a progression, some action, some conflict, and some dialogue, and I’m still deciding how much symbolism and foreshadowing to include, but, for the moment, I’m looking forward to just…writing, something I’ve not been able to do so streamlined for a while.

Writing is really rather odd sometimes.


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Losing It Cover Reveal!

Losing It is a new collection of stories and extracts by multiple YA and NA authors coming out (no pun intended!) Feb 11th. Although I only know a couple of the authors, I am thrilled to be part of today’s cover reveal. This anthology is a great idea – giving YA fans that little bit more to their favourite characters who otherwise had the door closed on their spiced scenes.

LosingIt_Cover_Final_R

Very nice. The blurb:

Losing It: A Collection of VCards coming Feb 11, 2015!

22 Bestselling YA authors reveal what went on behind the curtain in your favorite YA novels! From paranormal to contemporary, this collection features over 200 pages of ALL NEW CONTENT full of deleted scenes, extended endings, and more from the young adult series’ you love. 

In this YA/NA crossover collection all of your favorite heroines are cashing in their VCards! YA just got steamy, sexy, and not afraid to go all the way!

Due to the graphic nature of some content, this collection is recommended strictly for mature readers. 

Stories include excerpts and extended material–ALL NEW CONTENT featuring the following YA novels & authors:

The Grimoire Saga by SM Boyce

The Death Series by Tamara Rose Blodgett

Penny Black Trilogy by Stacey Wallace Benefiel

Dirty Blood series by Heather Hildenbrand

The Mythology Series by Helen Boswell

Stories About Melissa Series by Bethany Lopez

Keegan’s Chronicles by Julia Crane

The Tate Chronicles by K.A. Last

Fragile Creatures by Kristina Circelli

The Spellbound Trilogy by Nikki Jefford

Judgement of the Six Series by Melissa Haag

A Dark Faerie Tale Series by Alexia Purdy

The Double Threat Series by Julie Prestsater

The Elsker Saga by S.T. Bende

Ovialell Series by Tish Thawer

The Runes Series by Ednah Walters

The Cornerstone Series by Misty Provencher

The Waiting Series by Ginger Scott

Forged Series by A.O. Peart

The Arotas Series by Amy Miles

Funeral Crashing Mysteries by Milda Harris

The Wolf Trilogy by M.R. Polish

The Good Girls Have Gone Wild!!

Don’t want to wait? Want a sneak peek NOW behind the curtain with these authors? Request access to the Champagne Room on FB, a private, VIP group where you’ll get excerpts, giveaways, and the dirty details about the VCards we’ve cashed in…in our stories, of course!

Request exclusive access here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/332424686965271/

*Must be 18 or over to enter

champagneimage

 

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