Photo of the Week: River Sightings

This Sunday, I took a trip to the ‘enemy camps’, so to speak. Having many friends and an ex in the league of Oxonions (ie. those who are or have study/ied at The University of Oxford), I am strongly on that side of any – fictional or otherwise – rivalry between the two best-on-league-tables UK universities, and as such have never even considered visiting Cambridge as a city.

But I’m part of the UCL Jazz society and their Christmas annual trip is to go to Cambridge, and, wow, it’s a lot softer and smaller than Oxford, a lot more landscape-y, if one could think it! We had such a lovely time on the punts, entertaining others with our musical persuasions whilst entertaining ourselves with prosecco and mince pies!

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I was positively enamoured with the scenery, particularly of the colleges that are bordering the main river down which we punted. I can’t recall which college exactly was this one, but I love the angles it cuts in this photograph. And that strip of clear blue as a sky to the strip of murky blue below. Ah, I ❤ classical architecture.

 

7 Quick Takes about Scotland, Mostly

Friday 7 Quick Takes is hosted by ThisAintTheLyceum. Check out this weekly bloghop there. I’m a little late with this post – and have tried to clear up possible confusion – as I had a migraine yesterday, which prevented me finishing and posting this.

seven quick takes friday 2

~1~

I’ve been rather tired today (Friday), thanks to such a long day yesterday of travelling, and not getting to eat dinner until about 10.30. At the moment, my eating habits haven’t been the best, and it’s something I’m struggling to resume at the moment. Unfortunately, that sort of thing is a downward spiral.

~2~

In any freetime I can salvage from my holiday in Scotland, I’ve been editing/tweaking/polishing WTCB. I’m at that sad stage that I simultaneously love and hate what I’ve written. It just feels like I’m hitting wall after wall, and, in my current health (or lack of), it’s difficult to manage all these aims.

~3~

However, today (Saturday), I’ve had a mostly pleasant day, apart from the aforementioned eating anxiety, and we travelled to Ayr to look around the town, then to nearby Troon, to see the craft fayre, then an art exhibition. I forgot how much I enjoy looking at and discussing art…it’s a Steampunk activity, I guess.

~4~

On the other hand, we’re surrounded by such beautiful scenery (when it’s not raining, but God bless nature!) of a forest of trees behind us climbing the slope, and the sea and beach in front of us. The rock-island Ailsa Craig we can see when there is little mist, and the world stretches out along the horizon. We’ve even spotted two seals so far – that’s two more than live seals I’ve ever seen!

~5~

Coming up soon is our second boat trip – this one around said Ailsa Craig. The weather is said to be sunny, so one can only pray it will stay that way for Monday. Overall, the days are very full, and I don’t get home until about six or to eat until half eight-ish – on a good day. So, blogging and editing are still difficult to juggle.

~6~

Yesterday, we travelled to the isle of Arran, a beautiful and almost mystical Scottish island, on which is situated the castle Lochranza and its gardens.  I was enthralled by this sundial, and just had to take a bunch. Plus, symmetry. 🙂

~7~

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The Dust of Venice | Fauxpocalypse

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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.

Photo of the Week: Whitby

This is a slightly lightened version of the original photo, but whilst the dark-light contrast was aesthetically pleasing, I do like a little edge of colour and brightness in my photos. So: edit.

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Another token of my travels once again. This is of the Whitby coastline, early evening. I was waiting, and the sunset in dip caught my eye. The sky was lovely. Not the loveliest of skies I’ve seen, but still lovely. Worth whipping my camera out. 😉 Enjoy.

Beautiful Books: Let’s Talk Editing H

Beautiful Books this month is looking at the third segment of writing – that is, editing the prose and first drafts we’ve written.

So, let’s talk editing. I’m editing right this minute, actually. (Well, not right this minute; right now, I’m writing this sentence and about to head into the kitchen to make lunch, but I digress.) But it’s not UTC, the book I’ve talked about in my other Beautiful Books posts. Frankly, I’ve not had the time or the energy to craft this contemporary, and it stays at less than 20K at the moment. I still want to write it, certainly, but it will be a slower process than the way I go about writing Fantasy or Sci-Fi. Instead, let me quickly introduce you to my first straight Steampunk novel, Horology. It aptly fits with the prompts as it started life as a NaNo achievement – July’s CampNaNo in fact. I had Cathy as one of my Beautiful People posts earlier in the year and shortly before that, I posted a title reveal post. ‘Cause I’m awesome like that. 😉

Okay, I’ll stop with the linking back. Now onto Cait and Sky‘s questions.

The mini-synopsis:

In 1880’s New York, The Passing is a daily occurrence, revered by all – except Cathy, who’s deathly afraid of the phantasms. In her beloved England, the only ‘cold spot’ is in London, and that might do to explain her betrothed’s strict tolerance to the creatures. When he fails to turn up as per their arrangement, Cathy suspects the worst. With the help of his best friend, Cathy discovers that he was working on decoding the probability of cold spots. And now he’s gone and lost himself on the continent. But braving her fears and scurrying after him might just cost Cathy her own life. Somebody doesn’t want her to discover the truth.

  1. On a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best) how well do you think this book turned out?

8 out of 10. I’m not sure I’m convinced about the overall plot arc or the villain’s greater-world motivations, but I love the style of the writing and tone, as florid as probably is. I’ve come across a few sentences where I’ve had to take it word for word, to know what Past!Alex meant, but most sentences I know what I meant. There are still a few bits – new ideas – that I want to include, but I will have to work around my academic timetable to add these after I’ve send the 1.5th draft to my Alpha reader(s).

  1. Have you ever rewritten or editing one of your books before? If so, what do you do to prepare yourself? If not, what’s your plan?

Yup, my main novel has been edited and edited and edited. To prepare myself, I first read through the novel and tweak sentences that don’t work. I also have a very rigid colour scheme when I do simple and big edits: red for ‘could delete’, blue for ‘should edit wording but content needs to remain’, yellow for the overlap between the two, and purple for new inserts.

  1. What’s your final wordcount? Do you plan to lengthen or trim your book?

It’s now 75643 words. I was hoping to write 80K, so I will be lengthening it a little, but not by scenes or characters.

  1. What’s are you most proud of? Plot, characters, or pacing?

Characters. I love the world I’ve created, but it’s made all the more real by the way these characters interact with each other. Cathy is feeble at times, but she also has a petulant side; Charles is merry most of the time, but he can get angry when questioned and also when trying to protect his charge; Jonathon falls into exaggeration, but he has a kindly, serious side.

  1. What’s a favourite bit of prose or line from this novel?

(From what I’ve edited/read through of the first chapters.) From chapter eight, Cathy meets the crew of The Cloud-Chaser:

Cathy scratched her ear. Most of her didn’t mind this. She watched the brief procession of three civil servants. A middle-aged gentleman with a quiff and the spare screwdriver lodged behind his ear was introduced as engineer Whyte. A lean man with a merry gaze and henna-stained designs up his arms was said to be the helmsman, Eddard. Next filed forward the elegant light-haired woman—

Woman? A lady crewman?

“This is Amelia West. She is our cartographer, trained at the royal institute of science, no less.”

“Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss West,” Jonathon said with his best alluring smile.

Cathy rolled her eyes, refused the sickening sense growing in her throat – though she was sure it was simply disgust at the man’s antics – and curtsied as best as possible.

“A lady cartographer,” she said. “Rare.”

Miss West laughed, her voice a merry mimicry of the higher registers of a harpsichord. “That is a comment levelled at me many a time.”

She was not an unhandsome fellow, with intelligent brown eyes and green tinted goggles nestled in the midst of her loose hair. Cathy didn’t know whether to be impressed that the lady knew how to pull off loose hair and leather slacks or concerned that she was betraying her sex in more than simply fashion.

    6. What aspect of your book needs the most work?

Character motivations. I’ve noticed, as I’ve been editing the first ten chapters so far, that my characters seem to spontaneously decide to go off on their adventure without much thought. I might also change the first chapter. I literally dreamt it – and I’d say it’s a good introduction to the characters, the alt-history fantasy elements and the love interest in peril – but it might condone insta-love, despite the fact that the characters have known each other since childhood – it might provoke the same ambivalence of readers to books which start with a familial death; we never have the chance to emphasise with the character before change hits them.

  1. What aspect of your book is your favourite?

Probably the travel and the settings. I do exploit some elements of the classic/cliché Steampunk London, but I get to use the little I know of New York (!) and exploit that into some wonderful ideas. I have dirigibles landing on Macy’s Department Store and dirigibles taking off from Ellis Island.

Plus Vesuvius. I’ve been up Vesuvius, yay.

  1. How are your characters? Well-rounded, or do they still need to be fleshed-out?

Hmm, as I mentioned above, I think most have at least one positive and negative mood aspect, but since they’re still paper men to me, they will still need to be fleshed out further. One of the minor characters, for instance, the inventor who lives with Charles, is pretty happy-go-lucky and I couldn’t tell you what irks him, despite how I could tell you what he drinks and eats for breakfast. It’s odd things like that.

  1. If you had to do it over again, what would you change about the whole process?

I would perhaps ramble less in the hope that I get to the point of the scenes quicker, which would in turn give me less to worry about in my editing.

10. Did anything happen in your book that completely surprised you? Have any scenes or characters turned out differently to what you planned? Good or bad?

For the most part, those things I didn’t expect turned out to be good. The ending battle was a lot more complex than I thought it would be – Cathy gets captured, escapes, gets captured again into a different place, and then gets set free by the villain with a riddle to solve before I even got to the fun bit of writing the fight scene. In the same way, there was change even in little things like the scene where Cathy’s former governess forbids her from leaving: it occurred in a different place and the outcome was a lot more mature, with an additional character to those I expected.

Suffice to say, I learnt a lot more about my characters through writing than I thought I would. Nothing completely took me off guard, but many scenes unfolded in a different way to what I thought they would.

  1. What was the theme and message? Do you think it came across? If not, is there anything you could do to bring it out more? 

I’m not entirely sure. We all like a good-defeats-evil message or one that promotes the idea that nobody is black or white, but I’m not here to serve that message again. Nor are there as strictly direct themes of the class system in this novel as there have been in others. I think perhaps I have written another with the theme that things are never what they seem. After all, I have red herrings woven throughout, things which might seem important to Cathy, but which are actually not so important to the plot.

  1. Do you like writing with a deadline (like NaNoWriMo) or do you prefer to write-as-it-comes?

Both. It depends on the book. I’m perfectly happy to write to a deadline if I know what I need to write and can get it down. Not with some genres, though, where I have to write-as-it-comes.

  1. Comparative title time! What published books, movies, or TV shows are like your book? (Ex: Inkheart meets X-Men, etc.)

😀 Yay, comparison time! I’d say it will appeal to fans of Steampunk like the Bannon and Clare series by Lilith Saintcrow. You’ve got their elements of disappearing people and mystery, but there’s also a large dose of middle-class life, evening phantasms, and Italians. Prepare your dirigibles – you’re in for a lot of travel.

  1. How do you celebrate a finished novel?

Uh, I relax. Maybe do some planning for other stuff by try not to actually write for a few days. I’m not sure. I don’t have a specific finished-first-draft party.

  1. When people are done reading your book, what feeling do you want them to come away with?

Triumphant, I guess. Happy, resolved. Pleasant and pleased with the actions of the characters.

Horology_coverfun

Cool, no? Well, I’m really into this project at the moment. I love reading it through as I edit. I love experiencing the characters as new and seeing their ups and downs. I’ve still got a bit to do – as I said, I’m only on chapter 11, so far – but I’m looking forward to reading on and seeing what my Alpha reader will think.

How are your projects going?

In Which I Wear a Black Wig and Film on the Coast

So… *twiddles thumbs* it’s been a while since I’ve vlogged, not for want of doing so, but because I lack time in masses. I suppose it’s appropriate that almost a month has past since my trip up to the coast. But I took time to edit and think, and this was the result.

Anyway, I took the scant videos I made of my trip to the Whitby coast for the Goth Weekend (with steampunks :P) and tried cobbling them together into some sort of travel diary…ish. It doesn’t help that I forgot day 1. I hope you enjoy the vlog as much as I enjoyed doing it and making it…even if the beginning is full of cheese. I should stop using my webcam to record vlogs…

The memories! xD

You must also love my terrible camera handling! 😛 I apologise for that. If I get any footage from Saturdays Steampunks in Space, I’ll try and be more level-camera-ed. I hope to get one about my Zara costume up soon, but that’s not looking likely with my assignment deadlines looming.

Alex out 🙂 x