Posts Tagged ‘Alternate history’

My novel meets the hated elevator pitch

The dread question comes at the oddest moments: You’re going about your business, about to sip your cappuccino, or riding in an elevator, believing you are relatively safe, and then, wham: What’s your novel about?

Authors hate this. You have to give a glimpse of your book in a sentence or two. Agony. Don’t make me do this right this second. Let me warm up a bit.

Pitch #1

A Thousand Perfect Things, just out, is a historical fantasy set in an alternate 19th century England and India. It’s an Iravathaadventure story that takes place in 1857 against a background of a colonial uprising in India. My major character, Tori Harding, is a young woman who, because of her gender, is denied entrance into the rarified circles of science–though she learned her beloved botany at the knee of her famous grandfather, Sir Charles Littlewood. When Sir Charles dies in disgrace, Tori picks up his secret hope to find a legendary magical golden lotus. She pursues this quest on a great journey to an alternate India, where she enters the exotic heart of a mystical continent. There she must fend off a ruthless colonial Raj, palace intrigues, shape changing magics, ancient ghosts . . . and revolution.

But way too long. Let’s boil it down. Read More…

Character sketch: Elizabeth Platt

Platt, E large

Mrs. Lily Langtree, a painting by George Frederic Watts. This is a younger version of Elizabeth Platt, as I imagine her.

The teacher.

41 years old, Elizabeth Platt is a veteran of Anglic public schools and a fierce partisan of universal education. She joins the caravan crossing the Great Bridge to the mystical continent of Bharata, fearlessly protecting her beloved wagon of books and taking the side of Tori Harding as she attempts to break with convention and pursue her magical quest. She swears she will never marry but is happy to take lovers, a shocking concept to Tori as is her habit of using a “tincture” of zinc sulfate. “One rinse and there will be no conception!”

On her sojourn Elizabeth will face off with kraken, monster birds and a bloody insurgency–but nothing can compare to the horror of her own actions in one unalterable moment. Read More…

Character sketch: Mahindra

elephant close upIn Bharata, an altered India, Mahindra is a practitioner of magic, a patriot and advisor to the Rana of Nanpura.

In his youth he studied Anglic in the colonial schools, but became disillusioned. Years ago he fought in a failed insurgency against Anglica, paying a terrible price. But now the time to reclaim Bharata may be at hand.  With the recent completion of the Great Bridge over the Ancific Ocean, Mahindra foresees Bharata’s total cultural and economic ruin. Though he has lived the life of a renunciate, he now considers leaving his contemplative life to take an active role in a new movement of Bharata unity. As a shape-shifter, he is uniquely suited to terrorize and inspire.

With the rumored sighting of a legendary flower, the golden lotus, he believes a sign has come that Bharata and its princely states should unite under one banner. Mahindra has great powers at his disposal. He has sent a warning in the shape of a giant cobra to Londinium, where it creates havoc on the Thames. In retaliation, Anglica sends a military force across the Bridge.

The clash of cultures and arms that ensues is complicated by Mahindra’s meeting Tori Harding, a young Victorian woman on her own mission of independence. They will both be forever altered by their meeting.


My latest novel, A Thousand Perfect Things, comes out August 27 in print and e-book.  This is the third in a series of  posts on character sketches from my notebook. No matter how dramatic the plot, stories are always about people first, and their relationships to each other. #SFWAauthors

Character sketch: Captain Muir-Smith

Edmond Muir-Smith

Other characters: Tori Harding (major character), Jessa Harding, her sister, Sir Charles Littlewood, her grandfather, Col. Terrence Harding, her father.

british armyCaptain Edmond Muir-Smith has served in the army with Tori Harding’s father, and is recently back from a campaign in Bharata–that mystical continent of magical powers. His visit to the Harding household is greeted as a courtship opportunity for Jessa Harding, the youngest daughter. But Edmond takes an interest in Tori instead, finding that they share a fascination with natural science, the theories of Darwin and the scientific approach. Tori is thrown into confusion by his attentions. She has learned to suppress her longings for a love relationship; hers is a future in science (if the strictures of Victorian society will permit it.) Read More…

Character sketch: Tori Harding

My latest novel, A Thousand Perfect Things, comes out August 27 in print and e-book.  In the next few posts I’ll run character sketches from my notebook. No matter how dramatic the plot, stories are always about people first, and their relationships to each other.


TORI – Main character

In 1857 Tori Harding is eighteen years old. She lives in world where magic has lately invaded her country, escaping from a mystical continent called Bharata.

Tori is a devoted student of her grandfather, Sir Charles Mahal corner2Littlewood/ She has a passionate love of science and especially botany, a discipline learned from Sir Charles. She suffers from a club foot, and this infirmity has oddly made it acceptable for her to train in science, since she has little hope of marriage.

Far too used to expressing her opinions, Tori can be brash in social settings, something she tries (a little) to control for the sake of her sister (Jessa’s) need for a suitable match and in light of her mother’s relentless social agenda to brighten Jessa’s hopes. Read More…