Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist


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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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Nomad – The Album

Just wanted to celebrate the post-apocalyptic steampunk band Abney Park (though they are American, they got their name from the real Abney Park, located in *ahem* England), whose newest album Nomad comes out today. You’ll like Abney Park if you like slightly heavier steampunk music, as well as less traditional instruments (on Tribal Nomad, we hear/see Captain Robert’s first bouzouki solo) and an overarching storyline behind great music. In Nomad, Captain Robert and his crew of the Airship Ophelia are well and truly grounded in the apocalypse, and must find a way through the dark and this deadly new world.

What I also love about Abney Park is how varied their music style is. You may remember that a previous Friday I linked another song from Nomad, Two Elixirs, inspired by the tale of Jekyll and Hyde, which is more electro swing than anything (as is The Casbah from the little I’ve heard of the song). Tribal Nomad is a lot more traditional apocalypsica, but songs like The Anthropophagists’ Club (from their previous album) showcase their musicality. And witty lyrics! If you don’t know what an anthropophagist’s favourite meal is…

Anyway, the official video for the song Tribal Nomad:

It’s pretty nifty a video as well as an awesome song :)

You can buy Nomad on Abney Park’s website, or just go to support the band and enjoy their music.


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Beautiful Books: Plotting UTC

Instead of the usual Beautiful People meme, this month Cait and Sky decided that, because next month is NaNo, they’d focus on Beautiful Books – and the three key elements of plotting (this month), writing, and *shudder* editing. Whilst I’m not doing NaNo, this is still a little of an opportunity for me to talk about my WIP.

What came first: characters or plot idea? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Plantser, for sure ;) For me, it’s always plot ideas that come first. I have so many blurb/query ideas that never make the face of day because I don’t have the time to fish out characters and flesh the plot-bones.

Do you have a title and/or a “back-cover-blurb”?

Yes, the story is Under the Carrington. I started shaping its conflicts from a query I came up with for it, which has some of the elements of what one might call a back-cover blurb – the characters, the conflict, the plotsters…

What wordcount are you aiming for when your novel is finished?

I was originally going for 55 – 60K, but it depends what the overall stretch of the book looks like in the end, and what I feel like doing with it once it’s in proper shape.

Sum up your novel in 3 sentences.

(Here’s one I made earlier!)

18-year-old Jess would find it much easier to stay away from her cute uni corridor rep Laurie if her father’s antiques shop didn’t rely on Laurie’s parents’ money for its much-needed boost. At first he’s as cold as the ancient stone walls of Wellington College, but the colder the weather gets, the warmer Laurie’s affection for the eccentric young archaeologist becomes. Their attraction comes with a price, though: Laurie’s occupation as a Wellington committee member.

Sum up your characters in one word each.

Jess: self-doubting

Laurie: reserved

Ceriwyn: fun-loving

Meg: energetic

Anais: unassuming

Gus: logical

Nicola: old-soul

Russell: dreamer

And many more… (I hope you liked my crazy formatting to change things up a bit!) I love how my two main, point-of-view characters are pretty serious – I mean, Jess has a sense of humour and she has a bold external personality, but a lot of her scenes/conflicts end with her being very contemplative – but their respective Supporting Characters, Meg and Ceriwyn, are typically extroverted and not afraid to say what they mean straight off. It’s a fun mix of a cast.

Which character are you most excited to write? Tell us about them!

I didn’t originally intend to write in dual POV, but then one chapter started unfolding from Laurie’s point-of-view, and I find I can write him better. I just get his mindset better than I get Jess’ and the way some of his syntax is naturally upper-class, due to his nurture.

Laurie’s the son of a successful CEO and an actuary. To say his home is a mansion would be an exaggeration – since it’s barely a manor. It’s big enough, though, considering that Jess lives above a shop in the city. His family – or, rather, his mother – has enough money for Laurie to have become entwined in that money-is-priority-dependent mindset, despite trying to start earning his own. However, money comes with a price, and Laurie’s trust levels are lower than socially acceptable, one would say. Oh, and he’s a 21-year-old second-year Historian. I should say that, considering that the plot surrounds a uni!

What about your villain? Who is s/he/y, and what is their goal?

I have no strict antagonist (and shame on you for assuming that every genre relies on a physical villain for conflict). Of all the characters, who are all malicious at certain points of the story anyway, Laurie is probably the most antagonistic, but not in a verbal way, just in a conflict and varying-opinions way. Russell also gets in the way of Jess’ main goal, though that’s more her own fault, and neither of them intentionally have cruel acts. They’re all being contagonistic.

What is your protagonist’s goal? And what stands in the way?

Jess’ goal is, publically, to get through her first year of uni and learn enough to help her father run his antiques shop. Her private goal is to gain the friendship and admiration of Laurie, as well as those of the other people she has met and will meet. But don’t we all? It’s not a goal that stands out, but that’s what makes it so effective – Jess just wants to get along.

Life. That stands in her way. People’s stubbornness or the simple fact of their disagreeing opinions. And, you know, the fact that Laurie’s not willing to give up his job just for love of her. That sucks b***s, as Jess would say.

What inciting incident begins your protagonist’s journey?

Starting uni. It’s pretty simple.

Where is your novel set?

Present day: some university… I have no idea what or how I want to name the campus, so I’ve left it as question marks in my draft so far. It being a collegiate-campus hybrid uni (yes, these do exist!), a lot of Jess’ ‘downtime’ and personal interaction happens at her college, Wellington. Some jazz-club scenes take place in the main city, within walking distance of the campus; one scene (so far) is set in a cavern. Haven’t decided if this is going to be a real traversable UK cavern or not yet.

What are three big scenes in your novel that change the game completely?

The Costume Scene, where the tension between them erupts into a kiss that neither will later acknowledge.

The Rain Scene when Jess realises she can be friends with Laurie without being romantic, and Laurie realises that he might not be able to be friends with Jess without being romantic. It’s past the 75% mark and they’ve known each other for a good five months or so, but there’s that singular moment of clarity that throws a spanner in everyone’s works.

The Yelling Scene, where Jess does all of the hating on Laurie for being so uncompassionate in the midst of his parents’ divorce and of their own, personal situation. After that, she thinks she cannot stay around Laurie or in their college (and possibly the university) without things becoming painfully awkward. It’s a case of:

(I love that gif so so much)

What is the most dynamic relationship your character has? Who else do they come in contact with or become close to during the story?

Uh, Laurie. #romancestory xD

Apart from him, Jess really connects with a fellow Art Society member, asexual Nicola, who (hopefully) will provide a sense of balance between all of the pressures of the romances in the novel (yes, plural). They don’t become particularly close in the story, but Jess still values her help and opinions.

The dual POV means that I also have a set of friends whom Laurie knows, but we currently see a lot less of them.

How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

Hopefully…she’ll have a better worldview by the end of it; she’ll understand that friendship is better than love being the be-and-and-end-all. Laurie has the most character development as he goes through his own emotional rollercoaster, topped off with the yoyo ride that is his repressed feelings towards his absentee mother (the poor boy had a nanny, for goodness’ sake!). By the end of the novel, he’ll be looking at his childhood and world-relationships with a greater eye.

Do you have an ending in mind, or do you plan to see what happens?

Oh, I have an ending in mind. I can see it fairly clearly, movie scene.

What are your hopes and dreams for your book? What impressions are you hoping this novel will leave on your readers and yourself?

I don’t know what my dreams are for this book. For it to be light, but also not superficial. Ultimately, it would be nice to publish it, but this one’s not one I have with big publishers in mind. In a way, the plot doesn’t matter enough for me yet, but I might get as attached to my characters as with OJAP, WTCB and Horology. I’d love to have a trilogy set in the same uni – for the sake that I have other ideas to be written.

I’m hoping my readers will be able to relate to my characters, even if not Jess or Laurie. Because it’s set in uni, this gave me the chance to write more underrepresented people, so I hope that there’s a greater scope for NA connection. Uni isn’t like starting school, but it has some of those familiar ‘feels’. Obviously, I want my readers to end up rooting for the characters, even if they don’t root for themselves all the time.

Thanks for reading! What are you currently plotting or writing? And, arguably the more important question, does writing a contemporary warrant the inconsistent theme in my use of gifs?? xD


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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

~1~

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.

~2~

Swing social tonight! Very exciting.

~3~

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.

~4~

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.

~5~

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. :P

~6~

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.

~7~

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?”

“Yes.”

“Allow me.”

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


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Photo of the Week: Webs

–Creepy crawly warning–

I tell you, readers, aversion therapy and systematic desensitisation (effectively soft, tiered aversion) work. No, I’m not saying that as a Psych Major student – I’m saying it as a Psychology student using her knowledge in the real world.

Even five months ago you would not have seen me post a photograph of a spider on the blog. Let alone take the photograph myself. On seeing them settled on webs in passing bushes, I would have zipped up my jumper and shrugged up my collars instead of stopping and admiring the patterning on their abdomen, let alone stretching my arms, and, more importantly, camera, towards them.

I still have a trepidation of spiders. I still flinch when I see them and would rather not have them in the room. I am not, however, as (literally!) petrified of them as I have been my entire life.

Webs_AlexB

And for those who don’t mind studying the photo: there is something about the way s/he is balanced so delicately, one can really start to notice the intricacy and elegance of these, uh, critters. They make a fine web, even when not on coke. (Fun internet fact: the first Google suggestion for ‘spider webs’ is ‘spider webs on drugs’. Seems most people have heard of the experiments by now.) I am no biologist/entomologist, so I know nothing about the way a spider goes about its activities, but it is interesting to see the way this one sits of the web, all hairy legs splayed. Makes one wonder how many flies have been caught or will be.

All this points to the fact that the natural world is beautiful, even if it can be creepy. I think one day I might be able to properly handle medium and big sized spiders, but, for now, I will have to work on dismissing the fear.

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