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Guest Post & Giveaway: Writing with Blinders by Audrey Ryan

I want to welcome Audrey Ryan to the blog today. She will share with us a bit about her writing process.

Before we get to that and the international giveaway, please read about her modern Pride & Prejudice, All the Things I Know.

About the Book:

Lizzie Venetidis is confident in her decisions. Moving to Seattle with her sister Jane after she graduated from Stanford, for instance, was a no-brainer. Adult life, however, turns out to be more difficult to navigate than she expected.

What career should she pursue with a bachelor’s degree in art history and no marketable experience amongst a tech-heavy job market? How responsible is it to drink that fourth cocktail while out with friends? And what should she do about Darcy—the aloof yet captivating guy she
met her first night in town? All the Things I Know is a one-mistake- at-a- time retelling of Pride & Prejudice, set against the backdrop of modern-day techie Seattle. Full of wry observations, heartache, and life lessons, All the Things I Know shares the original’s lessons of correcting ill-conceived first impressions and learning who you really are.

Please welcome, Audrey.

Thank you for welcoming me for during the second week of my blog tour! I thought for this guest post, I would delve into some of writing techniques and inspirations. I hope they are not only interesting, but also inspire many “to be” writers! I have five topics I thought to share.

Writing with Blinders

The greatest fault I have as a writer is “looking back” and rewriting. Let me explain. Revising and improving are a wonderful practice as a writer, but if you’re like me, this has to come when the story is complete. Why? Otherwise it will never be completed! I remember the first novel I started in college. This novel was a YA Urban fantasy that I had fully plotted, but never reached past ten chapters. These ten chapters I continued to rewrite for about four years straight. I wanted them to be perfect and I constantly doubted them. I made the mistake of dwelling on them too much and did not let myself keep going. Part of the problem for me in those early days is that I wrote in one huge word doc, so I would feel compelled to read from the beginning when I started writing instead of picking up where I left off. When I started writing All the Things I Know, I made a conscious decision to employ “chunking” and to also not look at what I had written when I had finished it. I had to keep moving forward. Perhaps when I would “stitch” my chapters together, I would make edits here and there, but I wouldn’t question the words I put to page. That was to come in the editing process.

Chunking

Chunking is typically a method used to make reading more digestible and speedy. You often see it employed as top ten lists, for instance. I use it a bit differently when writing fiction. Instead of reading in digestible chunks, I write in them. I set a word count goal for a chapter and then a small outline that includes every point I want to address in that chapter. Then, with each theme/scene/goal in mind, I write in small chunks. This particularly helps me keep my momentum going when I’m not feeling particularly inspired. True, there are times when the inspiration fairy glitters all over me and I can write to my muse’s content, but that’s not the reality in most cases. More than half the time, I’m sitting at the computer wondering what I’m trying to say and how I want to say it. By boiling down the main points into small scenes with easy to attain word counts, I take the stress out of my progress. I don’t look back at what I’ve written until it’s time to stitch the scenes together. Sometimes I over-write and sometimes I under-write when I come to that phase, but I find it easier to edit and “massage” a chapter when I already have a jumping off point.

The Ideal Environment

Due to the fact I have a full-time job and an hour commute on public transportation, my ideal writing environment is not always available. I am most prolific when sitting at a coffee shop, not connected to the Wi-Fi, and listing to my inspiration playlist. Why does this work for me? Well, to put it bluntly, I am a procrastinator. If I’m grabbing an hour to write at home, I’m spending thirty minutes of that distracted by Facebook. Add to that that once I’m home for the day, all I want to do is snuggle with my cat and talk to my husband. Once the “at home” outfit is on, I am reading a book with no thoughts to productivity. Take me out of that environment and it’s a different story. If I’m in a busy coffee shop, I feed off the energy of those around me. True, I am wearing headphone (I call them “my office”) to help with concentration (otherwise I would be eavesdropping like a creeper). My husband is also a writer and we will have writing dates at one of our favorite coffee shops. Those are the best for me. I set myself a writing goal and just go. Plus, it’s very rewarding to tell him how many words I completed in our few hours together.

The Soundtrack

I have a few soundtracks I depend on when writing. My go to general writing soundtrack is to go for word-less piano music. Philip Glass and Dustin O’Halloran are among my top artists. However, one of my favorite things to do is create a soundtrack to the story I’m writing. Generally, I tinker with this playlist a lot until it feels like just the right mix. When I’m knee deep in a story, I will listen to this soundtrack ad nauseam; whether I’m writing, commuting, cooking, or at my day job. For All the Things I Know, I created a playlist early on Spotify. It’s a mix of New Wave, New Wave covers, and Indie Pop songs that remind me of Lizzie, Darcy and points in the story. In fact, I often would sit and listen to this soundtrack and play a mindless game on my tablet in order to find inspiration. It’s like staring at the wall 2.0. And if you’re curious, yes I did make this playlist public. You can listen to it yourself here.

Physical Place as Inspiration

As you may have gathered by reading other posts along the blog tour, the sense of place was very important in the creation of All the Things I Know. In some sense, it was easy to write about because I know Seattle so well. In other cases, I used my real setting to inspire my fiction. Taking the tool of my soundtrack, finding alone time in many of the settings that inspired me helped me get ideas. For instance, there is a tea shop in Ballard called Miro Tea and a coffee shop a few blocks away called Caffe Fiore. In my mind’s eye, Cafe Longue was a mixture of the two. Taking myself to the physical places and writing observations helped me to create the atmosphere of these scenes. Sort of like sketching from a real-life model of still life. A flat picture as reference is nice, but the real place is better.

Thank you again for hosting me on the blog tour! Good luck to all the readers on the giveaway!

About the Author:

Audrey Ryan is the nom de plume of Andrea Pangilinan: daydreamer, wife and step-mother, and obsessive story consumer. She studied writing in college, dreamt about becoming a novelist and slowly forgot about it when real life took over. With a particular affection for contemporary retellings, adapting Pride & Prejudice to modern day has always been a dream.

When she’s not reading and writing, Andrea is a marketing slave to the internet industry. She enjoys talking crazy to her weirdo cat, consuming copious amount of wine and coffee with her girlfriends, and record shopping with her husband. Oh yeah, and there’s that small Jane Austen
obsession. That doesn’t take up any time at all.

Follow her online:

http://audreyryan.merytonpress.com
https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAudreyR/
https://twitter.com/AuthorAudreyR

Enter the Giveaway for 8 e-books of All the Things I Know by Audrey Ryan

Terms and Conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented.

Remember: Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries.

Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.

Guest Post & Giveaway: Dubious History of Austen’s Romances Opens Door to Story of Love by Collins Hemingway

Collins Hemingway has visited us before with Vol. II of The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen. And I’m happy to announce that he’s back with Vol. III, which will be published on Nov. 30.

About the book:

In the moving conclusion to The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen, Jane and her husband struggle with the serious illness of their son, confront a bitter relationship with the aristocratic family who were once their friends, and face the horrific prospect of war when the British Army falters on the continent. The momentous events of the Napoleonic wars and the agonizing trials of their personal lives take Jane and Ashton to a decision that will decide their fate—and her future—once and for all.

Stay tuned for the giveaway details below.  Let’s give Collins a warm welcome:

Dubious History of Austen’s Romances Opens Door to Story of Love

Jane Austen’s life is relatively well documented, as a dozen biographies attest. We know she was born and raised at Steventon, Hampshire, moved to Bath (unhappily, it seems) when her father retired in 1801, and moved in 1809 to the now famous cottage in Chawton where she dedicated the rest of her short life to fiction.

But what of the years between her middle twenties until she went to Chawton? Unlike the rest of her life, this seven-year period between 1802 and 1809 goes puzzlingly blank. She remained in Bath until after her father died in 1805 and then, along with her mother, sister Cassandra, and family friend Martha, shuttled around southern England looking for cheap places to live. That effort ended at Chawton when their brother Edward, adopted heir of the Knight family, gave them a permanent home.

Two things are interesting about the seven-year period. First, this spans the years of which her beloved sister Cass destroyed virtually all her correspondence, along with any journals she may have kept. Second, it’s when Jane had one or more serious romantic relationships. One can calculate that there must be a connection.

From the time Jane’s extant letters begin in 1796 until they end with her death in 1817, the surviving correspondence is relatively steady at ten or so letters a year. Yet in her mid-twenties, this dramatically changes.

In this time, we have a three-and- a-half- year gap in Jane’s letters, 1801-1804; a year-long gap, mid-1805 to mid-1806; and a 16-month gap, February 1807-June 1808. We have only 13 letters—not quite 2 a year—from 1801 to late 1808, when they begin again with some regularity. Besides the occasional passing reference to her in other people’s letters and diaries, we know nothing of Jane’s whereabouts or doings for this time.

The romances are of this time, too. According to the family, in 1828 Cassandra saw a man who reminded her of a one-time suitor of Jane, and she told her nieces Caroline and Louisa that they had met the beau on the Devonshire coast in 1801, he and Jane had fallen in love, and they were to meet again, when a proposal was expected. Instead Jane learned that he had died. Cass says he was “pleasing and very good looking,” but never provides the man’s name.

Manydown Park, where Jane Austen attended many balls and, according to one niece, accepted and rejected a marriage proposal.

What’s odd is that Cass does not mention this story until 1828— more than a quarter-century after it is supposed to have happened! The nieces cannot even agree about where on the Devonshire coast this romance occurs. Cassandra spreads more confusion than information about that circumstance.

Even speaking about this expected proposal, she apparently fails to mention to her nieces a proposal that Jane supposedly did receive in December 1802. Biographers dutifully recount the engagement to Harris Bigg-Wither, when (the story is) she accepted a proposal from the wealthy but boorish young man, recanted it overnight, and, humiliated, fled back to her parents in Bath.

Harris Bigg-Wither was supposed to have proposed to Jane Austen, but the provenance of the story is confusingly suspicious.

What is strange, however, is that this purported engagement and refusal, which would have created a scandal, does not appear to show up in any surviving contemporaneous letters or journals by anyone who knew Jane. The event is not recorded until nearly 70 years later by one of same nieces, Caroline, who was not even alive when it supposedly occurred in 1802!

Caroline sourced the story to her mother, Mary, who died in 1843—26 years after Jane died, 41 years after the event, and 27 years before Caroline’s telling. How would Mary have recalled the exact dates, December 2-3, 1802, of a proposal involving a sister-in- law she was not close to?

The proposal is recounted in the first memoir of Jane, put together by James Edward, Caroline’s older brother, with Caroline’s help. James Edward was 19 when Jane died—he attended her funeral on behalf of his father—yet he sources his younger sister for the tale of the botched proposal. Wouldn’t he have heard the story around the dining room table from his parents himself?

How is it this story is handed down by a niece too young to have known about it directly but not by the many other nieces and nephews who were alive?

Both of these “romances” come across as a bit unreal. There are too many specifics in one major encounter (Bigg-Wither) and far too few in another (the mysterious suitor on the beach). Were there separate romantic encounters, each one ending disastrously, or perhaps one relationship that these inconsistent stories point to—or are designed to point away from?

When Austen began to be famous and her family took notice, society was now in the middle of the repressed Victorian era. As the memoir makes clear, her nieces and nephews were happy to bury any suggestion that Austen would have ever done anything untoward such as write to make
a living or—fall in love. (The author Virginia Woolf, in contrast, says that “Persuasion” proves that Austen had loved intensely and by 1817 no longer cared who knew.)

One does not have to be a conspiracy theorist to envision the possibility that there may have been a very serious relationship overlooked or even hidden by her prim and proper descendants. What if Jane Austen had married? What if she had met someone very much her equal but also the sort of man a Victorian might want to lose in the mists of time?

What kind of man might that be? How would their relationship have begun? (Might bits and pieces of the history be true?) How would it have developed? How would it have ended? This possibility led me on a lengthy research and writing project culminating in the release this week
of the third and last volume of “The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen.”

The trilogy spans these seven years of 1802-1809: Volume I, a love story; Volume II, a deep psychological portrait of a woman’s first year of marriage; Volume III, which tests Austen’s courage and moral convictions as she must face the most difficult choices of life.

My goal was to tell a tale of a meaningful relationship built upon the “understanding” Austen often writes about. I wanted to see how, as a married woman, she might have fit into the large and turbulent world of the Regency. Perhaps most important, I wanted to see how the archetypal
woman of the period would have handled all that marriage meant for a woman of that day.

Giveaway Info: (open internationally)

Enter by Dec. 5, 2017, to win one e-book volume of your choice from Collins Hemingway or a print copy if you live within the United States.

Giveaway & Excerpt: A Very Austen Christmas

With the holidays approaching, I thought it would be appropriate to host an international giveaway for an e-book of A Very Austen Christmas by Laura Hile, Wendy Sotis, Barbara Cornthwaite, and Robin Helm.

Before we get to the giveaway, Laura Hile, author of Darcy By Any Other Name, wanted to share an excerpt from her story, The Matchmaker’s Christmas:

The library door banged closed, and Darcy found himself alone with Emma Woodhouse and Elizabeth Bennet. Miss Woodhouse was busy examining the bookshelves. “Mr. Darcy,” she said, “do you know whether Mr. Bingley has a copy of Debrett’s?”

She looked over her shoulder at Elizabeth “It is a guidebook for the peerage. Surely Miss Bingley has one,” she said, before Darcy could answer. “Depend upon it, she means to marry well. Aha! Here we are.”

Emma removed the book from its shelf and brought it to a table.

“Something Mr. Hurst said interests me.” She smiled at Elizabeth. “He is a funny one, is he not? The sort of person my brother-in-law would call a rum’un.”

“A what?” The words were out before Darcy could stop them. Hurst certainly was, but—Elizabeth’s eyes met his; she gave a gurgle of laughter.

Emma was untroubled. “He seems to be a most peculiar person. My brother-in- law will talk like that, because he is fond of jests and wordplay. I daresay it is also because he is a barrister. Mind, he is quite well-to- do, being a Knightley of Donwell Abbey. But such is the lot of a gentleman’s younger son. He must have a profession.”

“My Uncle Gardiner,” said Elizabeth, “is in the same situation. He is in trade.” She said this with a lift of her chin and a glance in Darcy’s direction, as if it were a challenge. What did she mean by it?

Emma continued to turn pages. “But who is Sir Thomas Bertram? That is the question. Because young Tom is not a younger son. And so his presence becomes, shall we say, interesting?”

Darcy did not care for her implication. “In what way?” he said.

Emma gave him an ingenious smile. “I specialize in matchmaking.”

She specialized in what? Somehow Darcy managed to keep his countenance.

“It is a most amusing occupation,” continued Emma. “My first was ever so successful—my former governess and old Mr. Weston. They are happily settled at Randalls now.”

“How nice for your governess,” said Elizabeth.

“She is the dearest creature and quite the gentlewoman—as the best governesses always are. I have another match in progress, between my friend Harriet and our vicar. I do worry, however, because I am away. Matches, you see, need helping along.”

“So I am given to understand,” said Darcy dryly. A matchmaker in their midst. What next?

Then again, why should he object? Because dinner—without Caroline’s repressive formality—was refreshingly agreeable. Charles sat in his place, and the others chose seats as they wished. Jane shyly slipped into the chair at Bingley’s right, with Mr. Bertram beside her.
Elizabeth sat at Bingley’s left. Darcy could not help himself; he claimed the chair next to Elizabeth’s. This meant that he had Miss Bates on his other side, but she was content to talk across the table to Mr. Bertram and Emma.

Darcy hid a smile. Miss Bates could carry a conversation on her own, without stopping to draw breath.

And the wind and rain continued to beat against the house.

This meant that the bridge was still out. Darcy, imprisoned at Netherfield against his will, was forced to endure lovely, intelligent Elizabeth Bennet as his dinner partner. It was all he could do to keep a
foolish smile from his lips.

This time—this time!—he would speak without stiffness or pretension. If Emma Woodhouse meant to match Elizabeth with Tom Bertram, she would have a fight on her hands!

Enter the Giveaway:

Comment about whether you’ve been a matchmaker or have made a match for someone else. Leave the comment by Dec. 5, 2017, 11:59 PM EST. The giveaway is open internationally for those who want 1 ebook.

Good luck!

Guest Post & Giveaway: Writing Process of Riana Everly, Author of Teaching Eliza

I’ve always loved My Fair Lady — the movie — and George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion is on that list of classics I hope to finish reading some day. Riana Everly has taken this classic and mashed it up with Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.  How could I resist? I couldn’t obviously, so today’s the day she stops by to talk about her writing process and my review will appear later in the month.  Enjoy!

About the book:

A tale of love, manners, and the quest for perfect vowels. From a new voice in historical romance comes this sparkling tale, wherein the elegance of Pride and Prejudice and the wit of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion collide. The results are clever, funny, and often quite unexpected….

Professor Fitzwilliam Darcy, expert in phonetics and linguistics, wishes for nothing more than to spend some time in peace at his friend’s country estate, far from the parade of young ladies wishing for his hand, and further still from his aunt’s schemes to have him marry his cousin. How annoying it is when a young lady from the neighbourhood, with her atrocious Hertfordshire accent and country manners, comes seeking his help to learn how to behave and speak as do the finest ladies of high society.

Elizabeth Bennet has disliked the professor since overhearing his flippant comments about her provincial accent, but recognizes in him her one opportunity to survive a prospective season in London. Despite her ill feelings for the man, she asks him to take her on as a student, but is unprepared for the price he demands in exchange.

“With her clever mash-up of two classics, Riana Everly has fashioned a fresh, creative storyline with an inventive take on our favorite characters, delightful dialogue and laugh out loud humor. Teaching Eliza is certain to become a reader favorite. It’s a must read!” – Sophia Meredith (author of the acclaimed On Oakham Mount and Miss Darcy’s Companion)

Please give Ms. Everly a warm welcome:

Some authors are incredibly disciplined. They are able to stick to a routine, and have their plots mapped out chapter by chapter, character by character, with the precision and detail of Sherlock Holmes considering his latest case.

I am not like that! In high school I never missed a deadline, but I was the kid who was up until midnight finishing my papers. In university, I clearly remember one term paper that was due in the professor’s office at 5:00pm. I frantically finished typing up at 3:57, and then flew into a panic because I had no white paper on which to print it, and no time to run out and buy some. But I did have bright green paper! Into the dot-matrix printer it went (yes, I’m THAT old), and with my precious package in hand, I dashed across the city in desperate hopes of making it on time. 4:55! I just made it. I also scribbled a note apologizing for the green paper. I did alright in that course, so I guess the green paper didn’t damage my research paper too badly.

I’ve learned to manage my time a bit better since then, but I still write the seat of my pants. I approach a new story with a general plot outline in mind, but with almost nothing written down. In the case of Teaching Eliza, the story had to conform to both Pride and Prejudice and Pygmalion, but all the details were very, very vague at first. In fact, I tend to let my characters tell me what they want to do, where they want to go. Sometimes I’ll approach a scene with a polite conversation in mind, only to be horrified when an argument breaks out. Other times, I’ll plan for a heart-rending confession, but my characters will end up discussing the weather instead. Occasionally I whip them back into my plot, but more often I give them free rein and see where they take me. (Spoiler alert: I had no notion of anything developing between Richard and Charlotte when I began writing Teaching Eliza, but they fell in love. What was I to do? Break them up? That would have been cruel!)

My next planned story will be a bit of a challenge for me. For this year’s NaNoWriMo, when much of my writing gets done, I have a mystery in mind. I have always thought that there is no much more to Mary Bennet than we see in Pride and Prejudice, and wanted to explore that a bit. She’s quiet and bookish, but I think she’d make a great investigator because she sees so much and thinks about what she’s seen. However, I need to plan this out a lot more carefully than my usual stories. We need a cogent plot, a series of clues, an overarching narrative involving existing and new characters, and a resolution that makes sense but (hopefully) isn’t obvious, and all of that can’t happen by the seat of my pants. I’ll be as interested as anyone to see whether Mary will follow along with the story line I’m planning for her.

In general, I write quickly. As I mentioned, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is my best friend because it gives me a deadline and a word goal, and I need those. My family hardly sees me in November, but I can usually write about 100,000 words in those 30 days. Most of them are garbage, but it’s a necessary place to start.

Then the real work begins. I tend to let my first draft sit a very long time before I pick it up to edit. Often I’ll write another story in the interim, before going back to reread my draft with fresh eyes. I find this gives me the distance I need to see the flaws and problems and to begin the whole process of editing and rewriting. The scene that I thought was so brilliant at first might now be dull, and I might decide to complete rewrite or even cut it. And characters who I threw in for plot purposes might suddenly take on new life and become much more important to the story as a whole.

After this second go-through I send the story to my amazing beta readers. Usually they have the best ideas, and contribute so much to the stories that I feel I ought to list them as co-authors. There aren’t enough words to express my appreciation. Donna and Sophia – you ladies ROCK!

*~*~*~*~

My Writing Space

I have included a few photographs of my writing space. My desk is usually quite messy, and even cleaned up, it’s messy! You’ll see I have a magnet board for my notes. Despite being quite comfortable with matters digital, I find that I prefer to jot down my notes on paper. Sometimes I use diagrams which don’t work so well on a computer, and sometimes I like to have things sitting there in front of me without having to find the right screen or program for my notes.

I have a few writing buddies who live on my desk as well. I love to crochet, and sometimes interesting creatures emerge from my craft bag. Book Cat was just fun to make, and who could resist Poe and his raven? And when I found this pattern for Jane Austen herself, well, it was fated! Reading Fairy was a gift from Sophia Meredith, a very fine author, a dear friend, and my inspiration to get my stories off the computer and out into the world.

About the Author:

Riana Everly was born in South Africa, but has called Canada home since she was eight years old. She has a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies and is trained as a classical musician, specialising in Baroque and early Classical music. She first encountered Jane Austen when her father handed her a copy of Emma at age 11, and has never looked back.

Riana now lives in Toronto with her family. When she is not writing, she can often be found playing string quartets with friends, biking around the beautiful province of Ontario with her husband, trying to improve her photography, thinking about what to make for dinner, and, of course, reading! Visit her website and on Facebook.

ENTER the Giveaway!

The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman (giveaway)

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 352 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman offers a platter of new characters set in Detroit, which is beginning its renaissance. Cousins Addie and Samantha risk everything to buy a nearly hollowed out diner and a crumbling home that they divide into two livable spaces. They hope that through the meals they serve, using organic ingredients, they can make a successful eatery. However, they fail to take into account how their new venture will be received by the community.  As pressures mount, their relationship begins to fray and readers will see just how the past and present influence their future.

Through alternating points of view between Samantha and Addie, readers are able to see the quirky characters that make up their diner family. But through the atmosphere built by Lampman, it is clear something ominous is on the horizon, especially after an unexpected letter arrives. The author has drawn not only the main characters well, but also the secondary characters, creating a well rounded meal on which to chew. Some of the best parts of this book involve food and those recipes are in the back of the book, and I loved the material about WWII polish immigrants like Addie’s grandparents.

The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman is a succulent dish served in the evening with wine and a good dose of humor.  Readers will have watering mouths as they work their way through this renaissance for Detroit, Addie, and Samantha.

RATING: Quatrain

GIVEAWAY:  U.S. residents age 18+ Enter by leaving a comment about this review and book by Oct. 31. Good Luck.

About the Author:

Peggy Lampman was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. After earning a bachelor’s degree in communications—summa cum laude—from the University of Michigan, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a copywriter and photographer for a public-relations firm. When she returned to Ann Arbor, her college town, she opened a specialty foods store, the Back Alley Gourmet. Years later, she sold the store and started writing a weekly food column for the Ann Arbor News and MLive. Lampman’s first novel, The Promise Kitchen, published in 2016, garnered several awards and accolades. She is married and has two children. She also writes the popular blog www.dinnerfeed.com.

It’s Just Nerves: Notes on a Disability by Kelly Davio

Source: purchased
Paperback; 144 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

It’s Just Nerves: Notes on a Disability by Kelly Davio, on tour with Poetic Book Tours, is a candid collection of essays and vignettes that illustrate how having an autoimmune disease not only affects how you live, but also sharpens your perspective on pop culture, healthcare systems, advertising, trite statements from well-meaning people, and much more.  Her writing is precise and sharp, forcing readers to reassess their views on disability and how to engage with those whose bodies are not “healthy.”  Even the term “healthy” takes on new meaning in these essays.

Davio is serious and funny, and what she has to say is something that we all need to listen to.  All people deserve respect and compassion, and no one should be made to feel like they are worthless or not who they once were should disease strike.  Compassion is a tough business, but we have a duty to defend it and to engage with it head on.  Stories like hers will make you yelp in shock, and make you angry that others treated her as they did.  But what’s even more telling is how Davio views herself.  Has society played a role in how we view ourselves and aren’t those lenses just a little bit too cloudy with other people’s judgments?  I think so.

It’s time to be real with one another and with ourselves.  Davio does nothing less in this essay collection. A stunning read and one you won’t want to put down once you get started. I know I didn’t. I read it in one sitting. It’s Just Nerves: Notes on a Disability by Kelly Davio is a memoir and essay collection in one.

Don’t forget to enter to win:

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY (3 copies up for grabs for U.S. residents, age 18+; ends Oct. 31, 2017)

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Kelly Davio is the author of Burn This House (Red Hen Press, 2013) and the forthcoming The Book of the Unreal Woman. She is the founding editor of Tahoma Literary Review and the former Managing Editor of The Los Angeles Review. While in England, she served as the Senior Editor of Eyewear Publishing. Her work has appeared in Best New Poets, Verse Daily, The Rumpus, and others. She earned her MFA in poetry from Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. Today, she works as a medical editor in New Jersey.

Spotlight & Giveaway: These Dreams by Nicole Clarkston

I want to welcome Nicole Clarkston back to Savvy Verse & Wit.  If you’ll recall, I loved her book, The Courtship of Edward GardnerShe has a new book out, These Dreams, and I cannot wait to read it when life starts to slow down a bit.

About the Book:

An abandoned bride
A missing man
And a dream that refuses to die…

Pride and patriotism lend fervor to greed and cruelty, and Fitzwilliam Darcy is caught at the centre of a decades-old international feud. Taken far from England, presumed dead by his family, and lost to all he holds dear, only one name remains as his beacon in the darkness: Elizabeth.

Georgiana Darcy is now the reluctant, heartbroken heiress to Pemberley, and Colonel Fitwilliam her bewildered guardian. Vulnerable and unprepared, Georgiana desperately longs for a friend, while Fitzwilliam seeks to protect her from his own family. As the conspiracy around Darcy’s death widens and questions mount, Colonel Fitzwilliam must confront his own past. An impossible dream, long ago sacrificed for duty, may become his only hope.

Newly married Lydia Wickham returns to Longbourn- alone and under mysterious circumstances. Elizabeth Bennet watches one sister suffer and another find joy, while she lives her own days in empty regrets over what might have been. Believing Darcy lost forever, she closes her heart against both pain
and happiness, but finds no escape from her dreams of him.

About the Author:

Nicole Clarkston is a book lover and a happily married mom of three. Originally from Idaho, she now lives in Oregon with her own romantic hero, several horses, and one very fat dog. She has loved crafting alternate stories and sequels since she was a child watching Disney’s Robin Hood, and she is never found sitting quietly without a book of some sort.

Nicole discovered Jane Austen rather by guilt in her early thirties―how does any bookworm really live that long without a little P&P? She has never looked back. A year or so later, during a major house renovation project, she discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and fell completely in love. Her need for more time with these characters led her to simultaneously write Rumours & Recklessness, a P&P inspired novel, and No Such Thing as Luck, a N&S inspired novel. Both immediately became best selling books. The success she had with her first attempt at writing led her to write three other novels that are her pitiful homage to two authors who have so deeply inspired her.

Nicole was recently invited to join Austenvariations.com, a group of talented authors in the Jane
Austen Fiction genre. In addition to her work with the Austen Variations blog, Nicole can be
reached through Facebook at http://fb.me/NicoleClarkstonAuthor, Twitter @N_Clarkston, her
blog at Goodreads.com, or her personal blog and website, NicoleClarkson.com.

International Giveaway: 1 e-book of These Dreams by Nicole Clarkston. 

Enter in the comments by Oct. 8 11:59 p.m. EST. 

Leave a comment about what you’re looking forward to most about her book and an email for me to contact you.

Guest Post & Giveaway: The Importance of Being Earnest…No I Meant Organized by Maria Grace

Maria Grace’s books have appeared on the blog before — Mistaking Her Character and The Trouble to Check Her — and she’s been a guest here before.  Today, Maria will share a little bit about her writing process.

Before we get to that, read a little bit about the third book in The Queen of Rosings Park series, A Less Agreeable Man:

Dull, plain and practical, Mary Bennet was the girl men always overlooked. Nobody thought she’d garner a second glance, much less a husband. But she did, and now she’s grateful to be engaged to Mr. Michaels, the steady, even tempered steward of Rosings Park.

By all appearances, they are made for each other,serious, hard-working, and boring.  Michaels finds managing Rosings Park relatively straight forward, but he desperately needs a helpmeet like Mary, able to manage his employers: the once proud Lady Catherine de Bourgh who is descending into madness and her currently proud nephew and heir, Colonel Fitzwilliam, whose extravagant lifestyle has left him ill-equipped for economy and privation.

Colonel Fitzwilliam had faced cannon fire and sabers, taken a musket ball to the shoulder and another to the thigh, stood against Napoleon and lived to tell of it, but barking out orders and the point of his sword aren’t helping him save Rosings Park from financial ruin. Something must change quickly if he wants to salvage any of his inheritance. He needs help, but Michaels is tedious and Michaels’ fiancée, the opinionated Mary Bennet, is stubborn and not to be borne.

Apparently, quiet was not the same thing as meek, and reserved did not mean mild. The audacity of the
woman, lecturing him on how he should manage his barmy aunt. The fact that she is usually right doesn’t help. Miss Bennet gets under his skin, growing worse by the day until he finds it very difficult to
remember that she’s engaged to another man.

Can order be restored to Rosings Park or will Lady Catherine’s madness ruin them all?

I love when stories speak to the character of Mary Bennet — she’s the sister in the background, the wallflower. I cannot wait to pick up a copy of this book, especially since I’ve read the other two. Without further ado, I’ll turn things over to Maria Grace:

When Serena and I chatted about me coming by for a visit, she suggested I write something
about my writing process. Since all I’ve been writing recently have been history articles, writing about something else sounded utterly delightful. No squinting my way through period references with weird spellings and long letter ‘s’s, no dealing with fiddly bibliography styles and block quotation formats—a little heavenly really.

So, I started thinking about what in my writing process could possibly be interesting enough or unique enough to write about. Yeah, well, got nothing there. That thought promptly got driven out of my mind while binge-watching the weather channel as an unexpected, uninvited and most unwelcome guest Harvey came barreling through the Gulf of Mexico.

As a storm unlike any other was bearing down on us, I had an imminent book launch and about three weeks’ worth of work to complete while (given past hurricane experience) I expected to lose power as soon as the storm made landfall and for it to remain out of about two weeks. Nothing like that sort of excitement to get the adrenaline flowing—and bring one’s process out into the forefront.

It’s been a little tough to actually sit down and write about it though. Between recovery efforts, trying to get my boys off to start their university schedules, managing the rest of the book launch, and just coping with the stress left over from the storm, putting letters together, much less actual words just hasn’t been happening. I mean seriously, I could have put my cat, Minion, (a polydactyl with thumbs) on the keyboard and come out with something far more
comprehensible that I would have written. Things are better now (ie: I’ve had sufficient quantities of chocolate) and as close to normal as they are going to get in my community for quite some time. So it’s finally time to sit down and try to take a look at what got me through the writing side of this mess.

Really, it all comes done to being organized, on the border of compulsively so. I know it’s not
for everyone and a lot of very normal people go happily and effectively through life never having made a list. But I am most definitely not one of those.

I’m generally a very organized and prepared person, to the point that my kids tease me mercilessly over the little things I do to make my life easier, like the way I unload the groceries onto the conveyor at the store. I put them on a specific way so they can get bagged with like things together making them easier to put away when I get home. Makes sense right? Even the boys know this because they tease me, BUT they appreciate it when it comes time to put the groceries away.

That being said, I have a particular workflow (List #1) that I lean on when I write. Starting out, as I write, I have cold readers who give me feedback and initial proofreading for the first draft allowing me to edit as I go. Once that is done, I compile everything and start editing.

And editing. And editing.

Eventually, I get the final draft done. At that point I pull out my handy-dandy Book Tour list (List #2) and start to contact bloggers to set up a book tour. While that is in the works, I do the final-final edits and send off the proofs to my diligent and ever patient proofreaders. (They really are saints…)

While waiting on the proofs, I finish setting up the tour, plan the posts I need to write and gather the research and notes for all of the articles, and make my tour spreadsheet. Yes, I said that, a spreadsheet. (List #3)

Then it’s back to compiling the proofs and creating the publication draft of the book. At that point, I create an electronic Advanced Reader edition for bloggers and reviewers to have a looky-see at the book before the tour. And guess what– List #4 is there to remind me of all the details of how to do that just in case I get fuzzy along the way.

From that file, I setup the pre-order for the book in advance of the book tour. It’s at this point that everything went utterly sideways. Totally and completely upside down and sideways. Late on August 23, I set up the pre-order which then locked me into a timetable determined by Amazon, one that I could not break out of without serious consequences. Lucky me. Never once did I think, “Gee, this would be a good time to turn on the news and check the weather forecast.”

I should have.

The next morning I woke up to news that Tropical Storm Harvey was now Hurricane Harvey and would hit somewhere between Corpus Christi and Galveston on the 25th, probably as a category 1 storm, possibly a 2. (Back in 2008, Hurricane Ike’s eye wall passed directly over our home. It was ‘just’ a category 2 storm. We were left without power for nearly two weeks after that. Two weeks. And I had a book launch setup for seven days hence.)

Perfect, just perfect.

So, going off past experience, I figured we’d get out power knocked out as soon as the storm made landfall on Friday morning, just like happened with Ike. I needed to get our final hurricane preparations in place AND accomplish at least two weeks of book launch work in forty-eight hours.

(Luckily nearly everything was checked off the Hurricane List at the beginning of the season, so, after a quick grocery trip, I could focus on the book stuff.)

So I went back to the Workflow List (#1) and tried to figure out what was next. Oh joy, next up: format final e-book. Exactly the sort of detailed fiddly thing I love to do when I don’t have two brain cells to rub together. So what’s a gal to do? There’s a list for that! With the help of my e-formatting check list (#5), I was able to get through formatting and upload all the e-formats by midnight—bleary-eyed to be sure, it was done!

Got up early the next morning and put the Tour Spreadsheet (List #3) and List #6-the Blog Tour Material List—up on the computer. No time to think, just jumped on the first line of the spread sheet and started writing. Write, proof, correct, compile materials, send, repeat and repeat again.

Granted, I may not have been at my usual peak of warm wittiness (I can hear you snickering, don’t think I can’t…) but a lot got done as I watched the news of the storm hitting Rockport—leveling Rockport to be more accurate—as it came ashore at a Cat 4, not a Cat 1 storm. I got three quarters of the way down the Tour Spread Sheet before I had to stop, not because of the power outages that I expected but never came, but because we lost internet and the water started rising in places it had never risen before resulting in an evacuation by boat.

Something I didn’t have a list for.

But yes, I will be compiling one soon!

Thanks so much for having me, Serena. Here’s an excerpt from the book at the heart of all this
excitement, A Less Agreeable Man.

First, let me interrupt! I cannot imagine having to launch a book when a hurricane is upon me and water is rising in my house and we must be evacuated.

New Scene (1.2k) Introducing conflict between Mary and Fitzwilliam:

Mary stormed back to Rosings manor from the remains of the newly planted section of
the kitchen garden. Her half-boots crunched along on the gravel while her skirts swished in an irate whisper. A trickle of sweat fell on her lips; she licked away the salt. Yes, she would arrive in an absolute state of inelegance, but few women could affect angry sophistication under the best of circumstances.

Not long ago, she had sat with Mr. Michaels and Colonel Fitzwilliam offering insight on
how to manage Lady Catherine and even how to bring up the subject of hiring a curate for the
parsonage. It seemed like he had listened to her, taken note of what she had said. But now it was a se’nnight later, and he had apparently ignored it all.

First he chided Lady Catherine for wearing a dinner dress whilst receiving Mary for a
morning call. It took mere moments for the scene to devolve into shouting and stomping and
shrieking and required the whole afternoon to restore Lady Catherine’s equanimity. Now today he permitted her to walk the gardens alone. Why could he not understand that she must never be allowed outside without a companion?

Lady Catherine had become confused and wandered into the kitchen garden instead of
her flower garden. The confusion turned to fear and then anger against the plants themselves, tearing out most of the seedlings and hothouse transplants. It was only by Providence alone that Mary had been walking one of the footpaths near enough to hear the commotion and intervene.

It took an hour complete, but she was finally able to calm Lady Catherine and place her
back in Mrs. Jenkinson’s care, with firm orders that she not be left alone again. The damage to the garden, though, was extensive, a loss Rosings could not afford.

It could all have been avoided had Colonel Fitzwilliam merely heeded her advice. Mary
clenched her fists until they ached. If he was too stubborn to listen, then he deserved whatever happened.

But the rest of them did not—not the staff, not Rosings’ tenants, not the inhabitants of the
parsonage. For their sakes she would get involved.

Barkley—whom the colonel called Small Tom now—opened the great carved mahogany
door and dodged out of her way. Wise servant that he was, he seemed to realize she was not to be gainsaid and did not even make a show of attempting it.

She paused on the marble tile of the front hall, allowing the cool air to soothe the edges
of her temper. Her eyes slowly adjusted to the dimmer inside light and she made out Small Tom as he watched from a safe distance, impeccable in his dark suit and white gloves.

“The colonel?”

Small Tom pointed down the hall.

She gathered her skirts in one hand and stalked toward the study.

She flung open the imposing paneled wood door and marched inside into nearly blinding
sunlight pouring in through the tall windows.

When the room had been used by Lady Catherine, it had been immaculate—granted that
almost certainly meant that no real work was ever accomplished within its walls, but at least it was respectable. Now it looked—and smelt—like a public house near closing hour. The scents of alcohol, stale food and sweaty men hung like cobwebs in every corner. Books, dirty dishes, even furniture were strewn about as though the room were inhabited by Eton students with no housekeeper.

Mr. Michaels and Colonel Fitzwilliam sat on opposite sides of the desk, hunching over
several ledgers. They sprang to their feet, jaws dropping as the door slammed against the wall
behind her.

“What did you think you were doing?” She stormed toward them, stopping at short edge
of the desk.

“Excuse me?” Colonel Fitzwilliam scowled—probably an expression that cowed lesser
officers.

“You sought my advice yet you have summarily ignored it. Now see what your wisdom
has wrought. The kitchen garden has been ruined.” She slapped a small space on the desktop not occupied with masculine detritus.

“Mary?” Why did Michaels look so surprised?

“How dare you march in here—” Colonel Fitzwilliam slowly leaned forward on the desk,
most likely hoping to tower over her and intimidate.

She matched his posture. “And how dare you go on expecting that I will placate Lady

Catherine when you will not do me the courtesy of doing as I have suggested.”

“You have no place to be instructing me as to what I should be doing.”

“Perhaps not. Since you are an all-wise and knowing officer of His Majesty’s service, you are free to apply your understanding to the management of your relations. I shall be very happy to keep away from Rosings, and mind my own business. It is not as though I need your assistance to keep myself occupied.”

Colonel Fitzwilliam’s jaw dropped.

Michaels flinched. He had not seen her fury before. Doubtless best that he know now,
before their wedding.

“Good Lord, talk some sense into your woman, Michaels!”

“I am hardly without sense—or have you forgotten you sought my advice? I might
remind you, I have no duty to look after Lady Catherine, particularly after all the harm she has wrought on my family.”

“Mary, please!” Michaels’ face turned puce. “What has come over you?”

She whirled on him, shaking. “I am not a servant of Rosings! I will be treated with the
respect due a gentlewoman! If you will not heed my counsel, then do not expect me to deal with the aftermath. ”

“I will not be spoken to in this manner.” Fitzwilliam clasped his hands behind his back
and pulled his shoulders erect.

“And I will not, either. Good day.” She spun on her heel and stormed out.

Small Tom was waiting in the hall to escort her out. Was that the hint of a smile playing
about his eyes?

She half-ran all the way to the outskirts of the parsonage’s fields. No rush to get back to
the Collins’ house. As fast as word traveled at Rosings, Collins would already know about her
outburst by the time she arrived. There would be a price to be paid for that, a dear one no doubt.

Usually she controlled her temper so well no one knew it was even there. Charlotte had
seen hints of it—living with Mr. Collins’ ridiculousness had pushed Mary to her limits. Lizzy
had observed it once or twice, but no one else. It had been her secret.

Would Mr. Michaels despise her for it now and jilt her like the matrons believed he
would?

No, he was a patient man, a practical man. A broken engagement would be far too much
trouble for a mere outburst of temper. But in all likelihood she had lost some of his esteem.
There would be a touch of disappointment in his eyes next time they met.

She gulped back the lump in her throat. It was not as though she had never seen that
expression before. She would survive. It would motivate her to try harder and be successful at
reining in her temper and her tongue once again. Perhaps this was a good reminder of what
would be required of her as a married woman.

Thank you, Maria Grace, for sharing with us your story and good luck with the new novel, which I know will be delightful.

INTERNATIONAL GIVEAWAY: OPEN Until Sept. 28 11:59 p.m. EST

1 ebook of A Less Agreeable Man by Maria Grace

  • Leave a comment about your experiences with Austen-related fiction, your favorite book, or even your experiences writing your own fiction.
  • Leave a way for me to contact you should you be the winner.

About the Author:

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

She has one husband and one grandson, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, is starting her sixth year blogging on Random Bits of Fascination, has built seven websites, attended eight English country dance balls, sewn nine Regency era costumes, and shared her life with ten cats.  Visit her at Austen Variations, Facebook, and on Twitter.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Annotated by Sophie Turner (Giveaway)

This is not precisely a review of Pride and Prejudice: A Novel. In Three Volumes. (Annotated and Restored to 1813 Egerton First Edition) by Jane Austen and Sophie Turner, as much as it is a look at why this revised edition was created. I’ve read this novel more times than any other, and because I do love it so much, I wanted to take a look at what Sophie Turner found in her endeavor to return the novel as close to Jane Austen’s original as possible. As grammar rules as we know them today were not as established when Austen wrote, there is a sort of free flow with her use of grammar and words.

This is particularly of interest, as the examples cited by Turner indicate how well placed Austen’s commas are in an effort to create a distinct voice for her characters. I also loved that the exclamation points we often think of as part of Mrs. Bennet’s character are not as plentiful as one would assume. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through this novel again, as well as Turner’s annotations. As an editor, I’m obviously fascinated with the choices that novelists make in word choice and punctuation.

Check out Pride and Prejudice: A Novel. In Three Volumes. (Annotated and Restored to 1813 Egerton First Edition) by Jane Austen and Sophie Turner to find Austen’s more authentic voice.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Book:

The novel needs no introduction. But readers may not have realised that we have been losing “Pride and Prejudice” over the years, particularly digitally. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation have eroded significantly from the 1813 Egerton first edition, and many digital copies suffer from poor formatting.

In 2017, the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, her “darling Child” has been painstakingly restored to the three-volume 1813 first edition. Adjustments have only been made where there were errors in the 1813 text, and are noted in detailed annotations at the end of the novel.

Please enjoy this beloved story, restored to Jane Austen’s original voice.

About the Sophie Turner:

Sophie Turner worked as an online editor before delving even more fully into the tech world. Writing, researching the Regency era, and occasionally dreaming about living in Britain are her escapes from her day job.

She was afraid of long series until she ventured upon Patrick O’Brian’s 20-book Aubrey-Maturin masterpiece, something she might have repeated five times through.

Alas, her Constant Love series is only planned to be seven books right now, and consists of A Constant Love, A Change of Legacies, and the in-progress A Season Lost.

She blogs about her writing endeavours at sophie-turner-acl.blogspot.com, where readers can find direction for the various social drawing-rooms across the Internet where she may be called upon. Visit her: Facebook, Twitter, Sophie Turner’s Blog, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Amazon.

International Giveaway:

To enter, leave a comment about why you’d like to read this new ebook edition of Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, annotated by Sophie Turner.  Enter by Sept. 15, 2017, 8 p.m. EST.

Good Luck, everyone.

Celebrating 1 Year: Giveaway of Saris and a Single Malt by Sweta Vikram

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One year ago, Sweta Srivastava Vikram’s most emotional poetry collection Saris and a Single Malt was on tour with Poetic Book Tours.

Chick with Books said of the collection, “Heartfelt, raw, honest and thought-provoking.”

Jorie Loves A Story said, “Vikram bleeds her emotions through words.”

Diary of an Eccentric said, “Saris and a Single Malt is a touching tribute to Vikram’s mother, a love song from a grieving daughter.”

This is a poetry collection that is raw and beautiful. And as part of the celebration, Vikram is offering 4 copies of the book to some lucky U.S./Canada residents.

SARIS AND A SINGLE MALTAbout the book:

Saris and a Single Malt is a moving collection of poems written by a daughter for and about her mother. The book spans the time from when the poet receives a phone call in New York City that her mother is in a hospital in New Delhi, to the time she carries out her mother’s last rites. The poems chronicle the author’s physical and emotional journey as she flies to India, tries to fight the inevitable, and succumbs to the grief of living in a motherless world. Divided into three sections, (Flight, Fire, and Grief), this collection will move you, astound you, and make you hug your loved ones.

IMG_2240About the Poet:

Sweta Srivastava Vikram, featured by Asian Fusion as “one of the most influential Asians of our time,” is an award-winning author of 11 books, five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, mindfulness writing coach, and wellness columnist. Sweta’s work has appeared in The New York Times and other publications across nine countries on three continents. Louisiana Catch (Modern History Press, 2018) is her debut U.S. novel.

Born in India, Sweta spent her formative years between the Indian Himalayas, North Africa, and the United States collecting and sharing stories. A graduate of Columbia University, she also teaches the power of yoga, Ayurveda, and mindful living to female trauma survivors, writers and artists, creative types, busy women, entrepreneurs, and business professionals in her avatar as the CEO-Founder of NimmiLife. You can find her on: Twitter (@swetavikram), Instagram (@SwetaVikram), and Facebook.

Enter below to win 1 signed copy and a $15 Amazon gift card or 1 of 3 other signed copies of Saris and a Single Malt.

Entrants must be U.S./Canada residents. Giveaway ends on Aug. 28, 2017, at 5 p.m. EST

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sweta Vikram and her father

Meet Meg Kerr, Author of Devotion, and Giveaway


Please welcome Meg Kerr to the blog today and stay tuned for the giveaway.

About the book:

Georgiana Darcy at the age of fifteen had no equal for beauty, elegance and accomplishments, practised her music very constantly, and created beautiful little designs for tables. She also made secret plans to elope with the handsome, charming and immoral George Wickham. Will the real Georgiana Darcy please stand up? In Devotion, Georgiana, now twenty years of age and completely lovely, does just that. Taking centre stage in this sequel to Experience that sweeps the reader back into the world of Pride and Prejudice, she is prepared to shape her own destiny in a manner that perplexes and horrifies not only the Darcy-de Bourgh connexion but the whole of fashionable London. The arrival of a long-delayed letter, and a clandestine journey, bring Georgiana and her fortune into the arms of an utterly wicked young man whose attentions promise her ruin. At the same time, events in Meryton are creating much-needed occupation for Mrs. Bennet and an amorous quandary for Lydia Bennet’s girlhood companion Pen Harrington; and the former Caroline Bingley is given—perhaps—an opportunity to re-make some of her disastrous romantic choices. Meg Kerr writing effortlessly and wittily in the style of Jane Austen gives Pride and Prejudice fans the opportunity to visit the year 1816 to re-unite with favourite characters, and meet some intriguing new ones.

Please give Meg a warm welcome:

Hello readers of Savvy Verse & Wit! My name is Meg Kerr, and I’m thrilled to be here with you. First, I’d like to thank Serena for allowing me to contribute this guest post on my writing process, writing quirks, and my life-long love for Jane Austen. My new book, Devotion, explores events after Pride and Prejudice ends through fan-favourite characters including Georgiana Darcy and Mrs. Bennet, and I think you’ll find it an interesting read as I’ve added several twists.

Also, in celebration of Jane Austen’s 200th anniversary, I’m offering Devotion for FREE on July 18th. To get your free copy of Devotion, click here to visit the giveaway page!

Can you describe your writing process? Is it difficult to write in the style of Jane Austen?

Jane Austen said in a letter to her nephew J. Edward Austen, “What should I do with your strong, manly, spirited sketches, full of variety and glow? How could I possibly join them on to the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour?”

Writing in the style of Jane Austen is indeed “much labour”! There is nothing slap dash or stream-of- consciousness (or manly and spirited) about it. The overall plot and chapters’ place within it and the characters themselves have to be meticulously considered and planned out before any actual “writing” takes place. Each chapter, each paragraph, each sentence have to be constructed with care. And the result has to look as though no effort was required!

Do you have any writing quirks?

I would love to say that when I work I retire to my drawing room and sit at a mahogany writing desk, with fine linen paper, a quill pen, blotting paper, a pen knife and a pot of India ink. It sounds so elegant! However, I write at my computer, which has a dual screen. I could use three or four screens to keep all the information I need right under my eye! But the room I write in has French doors looking out onto a beautiful garden, so I glance outside every now and then to refresh my soul.

What is it about Jane Austen and her writing that most interests you? Are there any themes you’ve found influence your own writing?

I think the great underlying theme that draws me to Austen is one of “quiet desperation” (to quote Thoreau rather than Austen). Many of Austen’s characters are in genuine danger of penury and/or social degradation (that would be all of the Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice; Jane Fairfax and her family in Emma; the Dashwoods in Sense and Sensibility, as well as Colonel Brandon’s ill-fated first love and her ruined daughter; Maria Rushworth (née Bertram)—and Fanny Price’s mother who married “to disoblige her family”—in Mansfield Park; the Watson sisters in The Watsons. (Just a partial list!).

The apparent calm and graciousness of Regency life can be a thin cover atop a terrifying reality for Austen’s women, and even some of her men (such as Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility, who is disowned by his wealthy mother). Austen and Mrs. Bennet’s family in Pride and Prejudice hold Mrs. Bennet in contempt, but really, she is the only person who appears to appreciate the peril she and her daughters are in.

On a livelier note, I am fascinated by Jane Austen’s bad boys. Clearly, she was too. Wickham (Pride and Prejudice), John Willoughby (Sense and Sensibility), Henry Crawford (Mansfield Park) are chief among them—young men with serious problems with their moral compasses … but in the latter two cases, with some hope of redemption. Austen couldn’t quite bring Willoughby or Crawford into the light although she came close.

I decided to try my hand at it: Devotion is the story of a bad boy (John Amaury) who seizes on the idea of marriage to wealthy, lovely Georgiana Darcy to extricate himself from a life of poverty and petty crime. Will he destroy Georgiana or will he be redeemed? As you can imagine, with Austen as my guide, it’s up in the air right until the end of the story.

If you’re so inclined, Devotion will be available as a FREE digital download on July 18th as my way to commemorate the life and literary contributions of Jane Austen. You’ll find the link to get your copy near the top of this post. I’d love to hear your feedback on the book!

Thanks, Meg, for sharing your writing practices with us and for the wonderful giveaway.

About Meg Kerr:

What do you do when you live in the twenty-first century but a piece of your heart lies in the nineteenth? If you are author Meg Kerr you let your head and hand follow your heart. With her love of country life—dogs and horses, long walks in the woods and fields, dining with family and neighbours and dancing with friends, reading and writing and the best conversation—and her familiarity with eighteenth and nineteenth century history and literature, Meg has a natural gift to inhabit, explore and reimagine the world that Jane Austen both dwelt in and created, and to draw readers there with her.

Summer…..Reads, a Giveaway, and More

It may be summer, but the weather does not really feel as sweltering as normal.  We have cool mornings and breezes, instead of stagnant, bogged down, humid air.  That will come as summer moves in more, but I’m enjoying these days with the windows open at night, less air conditioning, and my hot coffee at the desk.

As many of you probably know already, my daughter is on a summer swim team.  She’s having a blast, though yesterday’s meet was the first time I saw her cry over her race in kickboarding.  She complained to me that she was not fast anymore.  I told her that everyone has a bad day, but she really didn’t cheer up until her best friend came to see her second event, the freestyle.  She was much happier after that.

I’ve finished quite a few WWII books lately, and my best of list is expected to keep growing for 2017 since I’ve read so many gems.  It’s amazing how many great books are out there.  Currently, I’m reading through a collection of Pride & Prejudice short stories in The Darcy Monologues.  I’m really enjoying them so far, and I love that they are all from Mr. Darcy’s point of view.

I’m working on a list of books I want to read this summer, too.  I’m a bit behind in my planning.  Shhh.

June 12 was my 10-year blogiversary.  It’s hard to believe that this blog started that long ago.  I feel like I’m still discovering new books and new readers online.  It’s not as close-knit as it once was, but this club has expanded beyond my imagination, and I hope it continues to do so.

In honor of this blogiversary, I’d love to hear from readers about when you started reading, why, and what book you’d pick from my reviews, if you could win one.  

Open internationally.  Just one book per person.  Browse the reviews.

I’ll pick a couple winners at the end of July.