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Guest Post & Giveaway: Helen Williams, author of In Essentials

Welcome to today’s guest Helen Williams, author of In Essentials: A Pride & Prejudice Variation. She’s going to share some of her favorite fall recipes with us, but let’s check out the book.

Synopsis:

Five months after Darcy’s disastrous proposal to Elizabeth Bennet, he discovers that the woman he ardently loves is suffering from a grave illness. Despite an affliction that has left her altered, Elizabeth Bennet is still the same person in essentials: witty, sanguine, and obstinate. However, her future is uncertain, and she struggles to maintain her equanimity—especially when Fitzwilliam Darcy returns to Netherfield and seems determined to improve her opinion of him. Now she must decide whether she is brave enough to trust him and embrace happiness, however fleeting it might prove to be.

Please welcome, Helen:

Thank you for hosting me at Savvy Verse and Wit, Serena. I’ve really enjoyed my blog book tour for In Essentials, but particularly writing this post, as books and food (and rugby!) are my great loves in life.

Anyone who has read any of my previous stories will know that I have Welsh roots. My Dad’s family are from Wales – a little village outside Cardiff called Tongwynlais – and I always include some sort of Welsh reference in my stories. In Essentials was no different. Dydd gwyl dewi hapus (Happy St David’s Day) was the first thing I learnt to say in Welsh, so it seemed fitting that Darcy would do the same. I can also sing the National Anthem quite well, but couldn’t think of a plausible excuse for Darcy to learn it…

Anyway, I digress. Serena asked for me to write a post including my favourite fall recipes that also tied in, if possible, with the era and story. Immediately I knew what I had to write about – Bara Brith!

Google tells me that the origins of Bara Brith may trace all the way back to the 600s but that “modern” Bara Brith comes from the 1800s. Bara Brith means “speckled bread” as it is spotted with fruit, and it is a true Welsh classic. Made with dried fruit, sugar, spices and tea, it is utterly delicious and a real, warming treat on a cold day. I love it with melted butter but my Dad likes his plain and dunked in a mug of tea!

The recipe below is my grandmother’s and has been passed down our family tree for generations; I’m very happy to share this slice of Welshness with you.

Ingredients

  • 300ml hot tea (make it strong, probably at least three teabags)
  • 400g mixed fruit (e.g. sultanas, raisins, currants)
  • 250g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 100g dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 1 egg

Method

1. Mix the tea and fruit together and soak overnight, or at least six hours.
2. Mix in the sugar until dissolved, then the egg, spices and the flour (you’ll probably want to sift in
the flour). The mix will resemble a thick cake batter.
3. Pour into a prepared standard loaf tin and cook for an hour and fifteen minutes at 150C.
4. Enjoy!

If Bara Brith isn’t quite your thing, I’m sure everyone loves a bit of cheese on toast and Welsh Rarebit is the undisputed king of cheeses on toasts.

According to legend, the name is a sort of pun – everyday Welsh folk could not afford rabbit, and so used cheese as a substitute. No-one knows exactly when Welsh Rabbit became Welsh Rarebit, but the name has stuck. Rarebit has been around since the 1500s and if you’re from the United Kingdom or have visited, you may have seen Rarebit on the menu of a couple of traditional pubs. It’s comfort food at its best and perfect on a cold day.

Ingredients

  • 250g cheddar cheese – you want it strong enough to stand up to the beer and mustard
  • 70ml ale or beer
  • 1.5tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 20g unsalted butter melted
  • 1tbsp English mustard (or Dijon or wholegrain – up to you!)
  • 4 thick slices of bread, toasted

Method

1. Mix together the grated cheese, beer or ale, butter, Worcestershire sauce and mustard.
2. Spread over each slice of toast, ensuring it covers the crusts too.
3. Transfer each slice onto a baking tray and place directly underneath the grill for five minutes or so, until golden brown and bubbling.
4. Carefully remove from the oven, cut each slice in half and serve hot.

So there you have it, Bara Brith and Welsh Rarebit – two Welsh classics that were both around at the time of Jane Austen and are still loved today. Can you imagine Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy tucking into a slice of Bara Brith and practising their Welsh pronunciation? I can!

Thank you, Helen, for sharing these recipes with us, and what a treat to know a bit of the history. My husband loves cheese on toast, so we’ll be trying Welsh Rarebit!

About the Author:

Helen lives in Cambridge, United Kingdom, where she works for the University of Cambridge. She has been writing as a hobby for around 15 years and has written several novel length stories based on the work of Jane Austen. Helen has Welsh roots so her stories will often include a couple of references to the land of her fathers, in addition to her two other loves – dogs and rugby. In addition to writing, Helen’s hobbies include cooking, hiking, cycling and campaigning for green initiatives. Having been diagnosed with pituitary growths in 2015 and 2020, Helen is also an active member of the Pituitary Foundation and her experiences with chronic illness inspired her latest story. Visit her Facebook page.

GIVEAWAY:

Meryton Press is giving away 6 eBooks of In Essentials.

Enter through Rafflecopter.

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Excerpt & Giveaway: Blinded by Prejudice by KaraLynne Mackrory

Book Synopsis:

Into what kind of hell had I emerged from under those ruins?

Elizabeth Bennet anticipated nothing more than a pleasant day among friends and relations when the pleasure trip to the ruins of Bodden chapel commenced. But what began as mere diversion turns frightening when the walls of the ancient church tumble down around them, endangering lives, demolishing pride and propriety, and bringing a hero into focus.

As the earth begins to tremble, Fitzwilliam Darcy sees Elizabeth Bennet is in mortal danger and acts on instinct to save her. But when the dust settles, there are unforeseen consequences to his actions, including a serious injury to his eyesight.

I could not be married to a man who could need me the rest of his life, but never love me. Bound together under the most strained circumstances, Darcy and Elizabeth embark on a future neither one of them saw coming. Time can heal all wounds but will time allow them to see through hearts made clear and eyes no longer blinded by prejudice?

Oh, fate has played a major role here, and what will bring these two together in our Happily Ever After?

Please give KaraLynne a warm welcome and stay to the end to enter the giveaway:

Thank you, Serena, for hosting me today at Savvy Verse & Wit. Bloggers provide an essential element to a book’s successful launch, and I am thankful to SVAW for participating in the release of Blinded By Prejudice. Written in the first-person point of view from Elizabeth, this excerpt is from early on when Elizabeth first realizes she is trapped under the rubble of Bodden Chapel with the last man in the world she would have wanted: Mr Darcy. Any one of us might have rejoiced, but Elizabeth has nurtured her dislike and prejudice against him for some time. Read along as we see her struggle with the fact that he saved her life, and with a budding attraction she does not wish to acknowledge either.

Excerpt from chapter 2:

“Help.”

The word was barely a prayer on my lips. I repeated it, trying to draw breath to give it some power. Still, it was but a whisper, and not entirely due to Mr Darcy’s body upon my chest. My panic prevented me from uttering with more conviction. I began a fevered repetition of the word, still a nearly silent plea on my lips, over and over again. “Help, help, help!”

I pushed against Mr Darcy’s shoulder—all solid muscle and inert mass—and to my relief, he shifted the slightest bit. This small movement caused soil and debris to fall upon me, choking any satisfaction I might have gained by being able to draw in deeper and just a fraction easier. A large stone rolled off the back of the gentleman’s neck onto my hand and then landed with a dull thud upon the ground beside me. I wondered briefly whether this was the stone that dealt the killing blow. Shivers ran through me.

With hope surging through me from my nominal success, I mustered all my strength and pressed again on Mr Darcy’s shoulder while I tried to extract myself from under his body. My entire frame screamed with the effort, bruised muscles protesting the exertion. The space was too limited for me to take much triumph from my efforts, but eventually, I was able to push Mr Darcy onto his side; my battered lungs cried at the release of the weight upon them. My eyes filled with tears as a roaring agony gripped my chest. The restriction of the gentleman’s weight being removed was no blessing at first. I still felt as though I could not truly breathe, for every movement wracked my body with shards of pain. I nearly lost consciousness from it all despite the freedom from Mr Darcy’s weight.

For several minutes, I lay there trying to regulate my heart and slow my breathing, for while I could now breathe deeply, the irony was that it hurt too much to do so. In the quiet, I heard a sound I had not expected that both terrified and thrilled me. A low moan escaped Mr Darcy’s lips, and I froze, wondering whether it had been imagined.

Oh mercy!

Could he be alive?

“Mr Darcy, sir?” My voice cracked due to my parched throat; it was barely audible even to my own ears.

Tentatively, I reached out a hand to that same shoulder. I could not see it, yet I knew about where it ought to be. There was only so much space, and I was still virtually pressed against his side. Trembles danced down my body, for despite the circumstances, I was not accustomed to touching a gentleman outside the social graces in dances.

I made contact with Mr Darcy, but it was his chest I encountered. I drew my hand back immediately—the feel of it put me to blush—and raised it sufficiently to reach his shoulders. With effort, I gently shook his shoulder while calling his name again. Mr Darcy groaned in response, and I was relieved as I felt him begin to shift on his own. His efforts were clumsy, and each movement caused him to brush against me, for we were in almost a coffin of sorts. There was no space for one comfortably, let alone two. His accidental contact was too much for me, and I knew I must still his movements.

“Mr Darcy, sir, please…,” I began to plead, trying to put some distance between us.

I could hear him collapse into stillness once again, but this time I could tell he was drifting into unconsciousness. I knew I must say something, but before I could compose the words, I heard his hoarse voice.

“Miss Elizabeth…are you…have you…hurt?”

Mr Darcy, speaking into the abyss, wrapped around me like a too-warm blanket, and I could tell my cheeks heated. It was startling how intimate it felt to see nothing but hear his voice near my ear. His mumbling indicated he was not entirely lucid.

He would have taken the brunt of the collapse.

“I am well, sir. And you? Are you very injured?’

Mr Darcy once again moved such that I felt his arm brush past mine as he inspected his person. The protest clawed up my throat and died there; our position robbed me of coherent thought and permeated me with maidenly awareness.

“My head. I believe I have sustained…a blow.”

“Is it bleeding, sir?”

No enticing voice returned my query, though my companion groaned in the affirmative, the vibrations penetrating my bones. Mr Darcy was battling the same seductive call for sleep that I had earlier.

I retrieved my handkerchief from my pocket. I knew from experience that head wounds could bleed dreadfully. I had had my share of falls from trees when I was younger. Tentatively, my hand ventured between us, “Here, sir. You must press this against the wound to stop the bleeding.”

I felt his hand clumsily connect with mine to receive the cloth, but then our hands were pressed into the ground between us, his a dead weight upon mine as Mr Darcy lost his fight with consciousness. I pulled my hand out from under his and quaveringly tried to wake him once again.

Oh, for goodness’ sake! Feeling ill-humoured yet unequal to the impropriety of the situation, I knew I must endeavour to discover Mr Darcy’s wound myself and press on it. With careful movements, I tried to sit up and was pleased to find that I could just barely fit in the space if I tightly tucked my knees against my chest, my head against them.

Still, the top of our tomb was low and the space notably tight. My faltering hands reached towards where Mr Darcy was, and I cursed the blackness that prevented my movements from being sure and precise. I wished to touch very little of him, but I knew that without being able to see him, I would have to fumble until I could discern where on his person I was touching.

“I apologise, sir, for I must touch you,” I whispered aloud even though I knew he could not hear me. “I am going to try to…I do not mean to…”

My throat closed on me as my hands encountered the warmth of his neck. They stilled upon the skin there, shocked at the feeling. My mind was blanketed with sensation. I could think only about the fact that I had never once touched a gentleman’s neck and the skin there felt impossibly soft. My hands lingered there long enough that it was the detection of his slow pulse that woke me to my task, and with careful movement, my hands journeyed blindly up Mr Darcy’s head.

Rough stubble tickled my fingertips, then the rigid strength of his jaw. I withdrew slightly, swallowing thickly. The dryness in my throat felt unbearable. I was forced to lean closer to reach his injury, but before I did, I tried to draw breath again. Feathery hair caressed my fingers, thick and curling around them. It was velvety despite the grit I felt on his scalp from the soil that had fallen on us both. Tentatively, I allowed my hands to explore upward, the hair parting for my fingers as they brushed through it.

Mr Darcy moaned faintly and my hands retracted sharply.

My heart bolted in my chest, and I felt all the shame of a naughty child caught by nanny. I shook my head slightly, dispelling the silliness of the notion with vigour when I heard no more from Mr Darcy. He was injured, and I was merely attempting to help. Nothing of which to be ashamed. Anticipation coiled in a spring under my breast. It demanded my breath to still. I was further disgruntled to find that contact with the luxurious curls brought a pleasure I did not want to acknowledge.

Phew, that was awkward and steamy! Who’s ready to read this one?

GIVEAWAY:

Commenters at each blog stop will be eligible for an ebook copy of Blinded by Prejudice. International. Winners will be announced at the Quills and Quartos Facebook and Instagram pages a week after the blog tour is over.

About the Author:

KaraLynne began writing horrible poetry as an angst filled youth. It was a means to express the exhilaration and devastation she felt every time her adolescent heart was newly in love with “the one” and then broken every other week. As her frontal lobe developed, she grew more discerning of both men and writing. She has been married to her own dreamboat of a best friend, Andrew, almost 20 years. Together they have the migraine inducing responsibility of raising five children to not be dirt bags (fingers crossed), pick of up their socks (still a work in progress), not fight with each other (impossible task) and become generally good people (there’s hope). She loves escaping into a book, her feather babies (the regal hens of Cluckingham Palace), and laughter.

She has written five books, a novella and participated in many anthologies. Her works include: Falling For Mr. Darcy; Bluebells in the Mourning; Haunting Mr. Darcy: A Spirited Courtship; Yours Forevermore, Darcy; BeSwitched; The Darcy Monologues; Rational Creatures; & Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer.

Interview with Stephen Ord, author of Pemberley by Moonlight

What makes the Jane Austen-inspired fiction world so delicious? The imagination of its authors to take beloved characters like Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy and place them in unusual situations.

Pemberley by Moonlight by Stephen Ord pushes that envelope further. I can’t wait for you to read my interview with him, but first check out the book:

WHAT HAS HAPPENED to Fitzwilliam Darcy?

IT HAS BEEN NEARLY A YEAR since the master of Pemberley disappeared, leaving behind his distraught young sister and a family in turmoil. But clues to his whereabouts are scarce and it soon seems there will be nothing to do but see Georgiana married and have him declared legally dead.

ELIZABETH BENNET, ON HOLIDAY with her aunt and uncle, visits Pemberley and soon finds herself drawn into the mystery of the missing gentleman. But what secrets are hidden within the gardens of Pemberley? And what is the strange attraction she feels towards the statue of the man she has never met?

Powerful forces want to keep them apart, but true love will overcome even the most fearsome evil.

Aren’t you just eager to read this one? I am. But let’s check out the interview with Stephen, but don’t forget to enter the giveaway.

Welcome, Stephen!

Hi Serena. Thank you for opening up your blog to me today.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer and who inspired you to take the plunge?

I think most people have a story within them, the issue often is that it becomes so known to them that they forget how special their voice is. I’m certain we can’t all be Jane Austen or Charles Dickens, but I love to read Pride and Prejudice and JAFF variations where people have put their own spin on them. Often the influences, life experiences, and even sources of fascination and inspiration come across in what the JAFF writers produce. It was from reading these stories during the first COVID-19 lockdown that I became inspired enough to contribute some of my own work.

Tell us a little bit about your novel, Pemberley by Moonlight?

Pemberley by Moonlight combines my fascination with Ancient Cultures with my love of JAFF. In common with many of my favorite books it has a feeling of wonder within it, as it’s not just based on a straightforward interaction between Elizabeth and Darcy.

In fact, it avoids much of the ‘old ground’ that we all know and love, but can quote by heart already, in favor of a new tale for our beloved couple.

What is your favorite Jane Austen novel and why?

Pride and Prejudice, it has such strong voices within it and tells a tale of coming of age that many of us can identify with. Elizabeth suddenly has her horizons expanded and moves beyond her initial book-smart, but naïve, to something more aware and worldly. Many of us go through this exact journey as we ‘leave the nest’ and find the massive diversity of people in the wider world (and sadly learn not to take them all at face value at times).

The themes within the novel are still relevant today, which is simply amazing.

If you were to live in Jane Austen’s novels, which character would you be and why?

Knowing my personality, I would be someone’s (perhaps Darcy’s) estate manager —hardworking, organized and making a positive difference, but without taking center stage or craving undue attention, as my family comes first. I know that it would be fine form to admit that my disposition holds more common ground with Darcy than Collins, Bingley, Wickham, or Colonel Fitzwilliam, but I’m certain that I would be happier holding the pen, than fascinating the audience.

Offer one piece of writing advice that you wish someone had told you and one piece of writing advice you did receive that you found helpful.

My favorite advice received on writing (as part of the brilliant support I’ve had from Quills & Quartos) was to always do the research, because readers (especially JAFF readers) are clever and know the subject that they’re interested in very well.

If I could go back in time and offer one piece of advice to myself, it would be to write down every scene that comes to mind and make notes of all ideas, regardless of if the story is ready for them. It’s amazing how often those notes and scenes become something more.

Photographer Stephen Ord

When not writing Jane-Austen-inspired novels, what do you love to do? Any unique hobbies?

Living in Scotland I have on my bucket list to climb every Munro. A Munro is any of the 277 mountains in Scotland that are at least 3,000 feet high (approximately 914 meters). To those who do it, it is known as ‘Munro Bagging’ and climbing with my dogs and my camera has led to many excellent views and experiences.

When and where do you most often write? Do you have special totems on your desk? Music playing in the background? Paint a picture of your writing space and day or include a couple of photos.

From my attempts to walk around Scotland whenever possible, I am often surrounded by photos I have taken. This helps me with my day job, when stuck at my desk, and when writing too as they inspire me.

Photographer Stephen Ord

What’s your next project? Any hints?

After such a long time stuck at home, I think many people need the escapism of books and stories. I would love to offer a unique Darcy to the world, still strong and moral, but with a greater dash of wonder. Perhaps I could bring him to Scotland and have Elizabeth emerge from our legends and folk tales to beguile him once more.

Thank you for your time, Stephen, and sharing those beautiful photos.

On my bucket list is visiting Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales. These photos will have to tide me over until I get there.

Enter the Giveaway:

Commenters are eligible to win an ebook of Pemberley by Moonlight.

Leave a comment speculating on what forces are keeping our lovers apart!

One winner per blog stop. Winners will be selected one week after the blog tour ends. Open internationally.

About the Author:

Stephen Ord discovered Jane Austen during his teens, and then found the treasure trove of works inspired by her as he reached forty. Becoming part of the JAFF community inspired him to contribute his own stories, and now he doesn’t believe he can stop writing (and indeed, does not want to).

Stephen reads a lot of everything and has done so from early childhood. When he was around eight years old, he bought a book on unsolved mysteries. One of the mysteries was around the life and times of Lord Byron, and several of the others were around Ancient Egypt. This was the seed that grew into an ongoing fascination with Regency times, ancient cultures and mythology.

Stephen has read a lot on the cultures and histories of Britain, Rome, Ancient Greece
and Ancient Egypt (amongst others). These histories have joined works from Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, and books of just about every other
genre, inside his rather active imagination. He knows it is time to write more when his
ears begin to whistle.

Stephen lives and works in Bonny Scotland, where his lovely wife and two kids keep his feet on the ground, while supporting him to have his head in the clouds on occasion too.

Escape Velocity by Kristin Kowalski Ferragut and Giveaway

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 90 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

***full disclosure: Kristin is a member of my poetry writing workshop group***

Escape Velocity by Kristin Kowalski Ferragut forces you into motion with each poem, starting with “You Say We’re Like Magnets.” She illuminates the tension — the push and pull of magnetism — between lovers even if the relationship is not quite in sync. There’s a joy in the tension, the figuring out how pieces fit, how they push each other to grow, and so much more. Ferragut’s poems have a ton of depth, but they are equally smart, beautiful, and witty (with a bit of dark humor).

from "Intermittentamorous" (pg. 20)
...
Identifying as intermittentamorous is exhausting
The on and off, yin/yang, dream
of love versus hope of freedom.

Feels like a long practice to learn to be done,
a sigh and unplugging. Skin intact, space for sleep
and a nod to the vast possibilities in silence.

The first section focuses on reactions and the movement that results from those reactions. Ferragut’s poems are intimate and relatable, whimsical, and a spiraling kaleidoscope of science, love, frustration, and moving forward in life. “A Twenty-Four-Year-Old Getting Two Dozen Roses at Forty-Nine: A Dialogue with Myself,” is a delightful examination of aging and changing perspectives.

from "Drowning" (pg. 39)

What was the cause of death?
What is the difference? When
life is terminal and living on
                  so 
                          long.

Ferragut doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff of life; she meets it head on. “Escape and Loss” explores the sadness and regret that comes with the passing of family and friends. “Guilt hides beneath fingernails;/sorrow clings to laughs’ underbellies,/they will escape despite you./But you might leave regret…” (pg. 41) Her poems will turn the world upside down for you, force you to look through a new lens to find the beauty even in darkness. There is an undercurrent of joy and hope in her poems, and perhaps this is what gives her collection the velocity it needs to let readers escape into the real world and see it through Ferragut’s eyes.

Escape Velocity by Kristin Kowalski Ferragut is a journey through life but it’s a window into the darkness to find hope and a way forward when things don’t quite go according to plan. There’s magic in these pages, and I beg you to discover the worlds created in these poems.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Kristin Kowalski Ferragut teaches, plays guitar, hikes, supports her children in becoming who they are meant to be, and enjoys the vibrant writing community in the DMV. She is author of the full-length poetry collection Escape Velocity (Kelsay Books, 2021) and the children’s book Becoming the Enchantress: A Magical Transgender Tale (Loving Healing Press, 2021). Her poetry has appeared in Beltway Quarterly, Nightingale and Sparrow, Bourgeon, Mojave He[Art] Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, Fledgling Rag, and Little Patuxent Review, among others. Visit her website.

To Enter the Giveaway:

Leave a comment on this post with an email so I can contact you if you win a copy of Escape Velocity. Deadline to enter is Sept. 10.

Excerpt & Giveaway: A Learned Romance by Elizabeth Rasche

Welcome to another great Jane-Austen inspired novel guest post, excerpt, and giveaway.

Elizabeth Rasche’s latest novel, A Learned Romance, focuses on Mary Bennet, the most practical and religious sister. Read about the book:

“She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older: the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning”–Jane Austen, Persuasion, chapter 4

MARY BENNET HAD NEVER WISHED for anything more than to be known as the meek and pious Bennet sister, the one who sweetly brought peace to her family.

BEING THE LAST UNMARRIED BENNET SISTER, the pressure to partake of a London Season with the nouveau riche Wickhams was considerable, no matter how little she desired it; but, her young sister Lydia would not hear a refusal. Mary hoped she could pass her days as quietly as a mouse and maybe encourage her still-wild sister to become a more demure wife and stop quarrelling so much with her husband.

BUT WHEN LYDIA’S FLIRTATION with scientist begins stirring gossip, Mary discovers it is not enough to stay meek and quiet. She must protect Lydia’s reputation by drawing the man’s attentions her way, and convincing the world it is Mary, not Lydia, who attracts Mr Cole. If she fails, Lydia’s disgrace will taint every family member connected with her—Bennet, Bingley, and Darcy alike—and Mary will have no hope for her own future. But alluring a gentleman is hardly the sort of practice Mary has a knack for. Though it goes against every fibre of her being, Mary must turn aside from the peace she craves and uncover the belle within—all while finding her heart awakening in the illusion of romance she has created.

Don’t you just want to know what happens? I love to see wallflowers come into their own.

Now, for today’s excerpt! Enjoy and give Elizabeth a warm welcome:

Hi Serena!

I am so honored to be share this excerpt of A Learned Romance with you and your readers and to connect with readers who also love Jane Austen’s characters. I hope you’ll enjoy A Learned Romance, especially if you’ve been speculating what Mary Bennet’s life might have been like once Jane, Lizzy, and Lydia were married.

Mary accepted her sister’s invitation, sensing Lizzy wanted more than a discussion of what books to purchase. Sure enough, as the Darcy carriage launched into the flood of coaches and carts swelling the road, Lizzy’s brow furrowed with worry.

“I want to talk with you about Lydia. She is as heedless as usual with this Mr Cole. If she goes any further, her respectability as a married woman will be at serious risk.”

Mary twisted the strings of her reticule on her lap. It was nice to feel her sister deemed her worthy as an ally, and Mary felt a small satisfaction that her predictions of grave results might yet prove true, but in her heart of hearts she dreaded interfering. She liked the idea of being the patient consoler in the aftermath of a great scandal, but she had no desire to be an active participant, not even in preventing it. “I fear the same, although I do not see what I can do about it. Lydia does not listen to me.”

Lizzy’s tone was sympathetic, but firm. “You are living in their household. Should Lydia be deemed less than respectable, you will share in that judgment more than the rest of us. That is a great disadvantage—but being in their household also means that you are uniquely placed to help avert a catastrophe.”

Mary slouched a little in her seat. “I cannot do anything. Lydia always goes her own way. She will not do anything just because I tell her.”

Lizzy took her hand. “I have thought of that. You cannot disassemble this flirtation of Lydia’s from her side. Anything we do to try to persuade her will only spur her on more recklessly.”

“Then what?”

“You must work on Mr Cole instead.”

Mary blinked in surprise. “But I do not know him. Why would he listen to me?”

Lizzy leaned back a little. Her increased ease made Mary wary; it meant Lizzy thought she could bring Mary round to her way of thinking. And Lizzy is usually right. Mary squared her shoulders and tried to look imperturbable as Lizzy said, “He may be a sensible man; perhaps all you will need to do is drop him a hint, or tell him outright it would be better for him to stop flirting with Lydia.”

“And if he is not so sensible?” Experience had taught Mary that Lydia’s friends usually were not sensible people.

“Then you must draw his attention away—split it between you and Lydia. There will still be gossip, but it will mean less if the world is not sure who Mr Cole favours. Indeed, if they think she was only paying him attention for your sake, it will be very respectable indeed.”

Mary’s dry laugh hurt her chest, as though it scraped against an old wound. “Attract a gentleman myself? And worse, one who likes Lydia first? Lizzy, this is a poor joke.”

“You can do it. We are a handsome family, every one of us. You think you are not pretty because you wear old clothes and compare yourself to Jane. None of us are anything compared to Jane.” Lizzy’s eyes crinkled in a rueful expression, showing she had had similar feelings.

“You think that because you have made a brilliant match, we are all capable of it. I assure you, I am not.”

“You are pretty and intelligent, and you have a good heart. You can turn this Mr Cole about your finger if you so choose,” Lizzy insisted.

“Nonsense! I could not, and I would not if I could.” Mary’s chin jerked down. “It is wrong to engage in idle flirtation.”

“Is it idle when it saves Lydia’s reputation?”

“The ends do not justify the means.” Mary knew she sounded sententious, but she clung to her idea of virtue to avoid being swept away by Lizzy’s intensity—and a secret gleam of interest of her own. Was it true? Could Mary be the sort of person Lizzy imagined, a wily, charming belle who snatched men from the grasp of her sister? It seemed a ridiculous dream, but one with a glamour that intrigued her despite herself.

“Are there not examples in the Bible of women laying out to attract men for the greater good?” Lizzy said.

Mary could not resist the opportunity to display her scriptural knowledge. “I am no Esther, nor am I Ruth.”

“I am only saying that your morals need not cavil at such a project.” When Mary hesitated, Lizzy made the most of it, bearing down with an entreaty Mary found hard to resist. “Please, Mary. It is for the good of the whole family, and Lydia’s as well. Surely you do not wish to see her scorned and shunned?”

A sliver of guilt slid into Mary’s gut. She had entertained thoughts of some disaster befalling the Wickhams, and readied herself to deal with it—was that not wishing ill on them? Of course I do not really wish to see Lydia hurt. But the thought meant little when she compared it to her self-righteous imaginings of the last few weeks, and she felt she had no real evidence of sisterly kindness to prove her heart pure. Doing what Lizzy asked of her would be proof, though.

“I will speak to Mr Cole, then. I cannot promise more.”

“Thank you, Mary. You have relieved Mr Darcy and me of a weighty burden of worry.”

Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing this excerpt.

About the Author:

After acquiring a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Arkansas, Elizabeth taught philosophy in the U.S. and co-taught English in Japan. Now she and her husband live in northwest Arkansas, which is over 4,000 miles from Derbyshire. (Doesn’t everyone measure distance from the center of the world, Pemberley?)

She dreams of visiting Surrey (if only to look for Mrs. Elton’s Maple Grove), London, Bath, and of course, Derbyshire. When she has a Jane Austen novel in one hand, a cup of tea in the other, and a cat on her lap, her day is pretty much perfect.

Elizabeth Rasche is the author of Flirtation and Folly, as well as The Birthday Parties of Dragons. Her poetry has appeared in Scifaikuest.

GIVEAWAY:

The giveaway is international and for an ebook copy of A Learned Romance. One winner per blog stop, and winners will be announced a week after the blog tour ends on the Quills & Quartos Facebook page. Good Luck!

Frank: Sonnets by Diane Seuss (giveaway)

Source: Graywolf Press
Paperback, 152 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Frank: Sonnets by Diane Seuss is a collection that, at times, tried my patience with its contradictions. But isn’t that what life is — a bucket of contradictions? She says in one of her opening sonnets: “The problem with sweetness is death. The problem/with everything is death. There really is no other problem/” Death is a final stop, and it toys with many of us, taking our friends or family too soon, putting us in situations where death could take us but doesn’t, and it looms in the close distance for us to get there.

Seuss pulls no punches in this collection and remains forthright in her depictions of giving birth, aging, abortion, abandonment by a drug-addicted son, and so much more. Aging is a central theme, even when she speaks of her childhood self. Poetic subjects waste away with AIDS, fade into the distance of space or recollection, or remain behind the larger death that pierces the happiness or contentment she seeks. She explores the falseness of faith in Catholicism, the nationalistic scourge that America finds itself consumed by, and the undercurrent of poverty and it’s traumatic scars. She sees the “undershirt” of it all.

“We all have our trauma nadir,” is the sonnet that guts us. We are her and she us. We all have trauma; we are told to lock it away (get over it); but what place is big enough to hold all of that trauma away so that it will no longer affect us? She adds in a later sonnet, “I can’t live up to normal.” Isn’t normal a fallacy? What exactly is normal and how can you be expected to achieve it when no one knows what it is? Despite these dark topics, it is clear that to live is to live with “sharp things.” Without these traumas and disappointments, where would we be?

Frank: Sonnets by Diane Seuss is a winding trail of darkness that teaches readers about the beauty in that darkness. It is an exercise in owning our own disappointments and traumas and learning how to let them go and move forward with our lives. It is a tough medicine to take, but Seuss is confident that we can take it or nearly die trying.

RATING: Quatrain

To Enter the giveaway: Leave a comment with your email address by June 30. Must be age 18+ and have a U.S. postal address.

Becoming the Enchantress by Kristin Kowalski Ferragut, illustrated by Coley Dolmance Ferragut & Giveaway

Source: Author/Publisher
Paperback, 34 pgs.
I am Amazon Affiliate

(full disclosure: Kristin Ferragut is part of my poetry workshop and I was part of a workshop that helped her hone this story)

Becoming the Enchantress by Kristin Kowalski Ferragut, illustrated by Coley Dolmance Ferragut, uses fairy tale-like elements to explain transgender to younger children. It’s an introductory story to help start conversations with kids about large themes, but at it’s core, this is a story about feeling comfortable in your own skin, loving yourself, and finding acceptance and love in your own family and friends.

The Wizard and their children, the Knight and the Dragon, are getting ready to trick-or-treat. When kids and their parents meet the Wizard and their family, they see a loving family eager to celebrate Halloween together. But kids will hear that the Wizard has an unspoken desire. With a quick costume change, the Wizard and their children are out the door. They are laughing and playing and magical things happen.

The streets may be crowded, but they are having a great time together, especially the Wizard. They receive compliments from strangers about their well behaved children, but many of them mistake the Wizard for a mom. Ferragut has created a magical way in which a transgender person finds not only their identity but peace in their own skin.

The illustrations by Ferragut’s daughter are colorful and expressive. The smile on the Wizard will make children smile. It just exudes such happiness. The final scene in the book is beautifully rendered. I look forward to more of her work.

Becoming the Enchantress by Kristin Kowalski Ferragut, illustrated by Coley Dolmance Ferragut, establishes a starting point for conversations about transgender and finding the home in your own skin and family. It will enable parents to talk to their children openly about their own identities.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Kristin Kowalski Ferragut is the author of the poetry collection Escape Velocity (Kelsay Books, 2021). She teaches, writes songs, poetry and prose, hikes, and participates in readings and workshops in Maryland, where she lives with her two creative, lively, and supportive children. Her work has appeared in Beltway Quarterly, Fledgling Rag, Bourgeon, Mojave He[Art] Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Little Patuxent Review, among others. For more information, visit her website: www.kristinskiferragut.com

About the Illustrator:

Coley Dolmance Ferragut is an animator, digital artist, and actor who investigates themes of class and social justice in her work. A high school senior, this is Coley’s first published book.

GIVEAWAY:

1 copy of Becoming the Enchantress to 1 U.S. reader.

Deadline to enter is June 15, 2021.

Leave a comment with your email so I can contact you if you’re the winner.

Interview with Mary Anne Mushatt, author of For the Deepest Love

We have a great interview today from Mary Anne Mushatt. But before we get to that Pride & Prejudice lovers, check out this blurb of her new book, For the Deepest Love:

“After thinking long and hard, I have come to the conclusion that—although it may not be the kind of love my sister and I once had in mind—marrying Mr Darcy would be marrying for a love of the deepest kind.”

Recovering from their parents’ deaths, Elizabeth and Jane Bennet have held their family together, leaning on the support of their uncle, Edward Gardiner, to help them survive. Thus, when Mr Gardiner is threatened with scandal and ruin, Elizabeth vows to help him. Hearing of her distress, the scandalous Fitzwilliam Darcy enters her life—offering his aid in exchange for her hand.

Accepting his proposal upends her life in unimaginable ways as she learns of the treachery of the peer courting her, the betrayal and violence committed by her childhood friend, and the threat to her country as it faces another war.

As Elizabeth and Darcy face the turmoil and trials swirling around them, they risk opening their hearts to unexpected passion. In order to survive challenges from without and fears within, they must summon unknown strengths and forge new bonds to solidify a love of the deepest kind.

Please welcome, Mary, to the blog:

Hi Serena,

Thank you so much for having me here today, and thank you for supporting For The Deepest Love.

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer and who inspired you to take the plunge?

I believe I began writing when my father got sick with colon cancer in my junior year in high school, then died in my freshman year of college. It was a dark period in my life, where a lot of men in my family passed, and I was rather lost. After college, I moved to New York City, studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute to learn what actors needed in a script. At that time, I was writing plays while working at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. When they departed for Duluth, Minnesota, I worked odd jobs in NYC, living a bohemian life in the East Village.

Real life caught up with me and, after a decade, I moved to New Orleans, but all the while keeping journals to record my flights of fancy. I started ‘seriously’ writing in 2006, when exiled from my home. I would drop off my two sons and niece at their schools, head to a coffee shop and write for hours. This was an enchanting time for me, because I felt I could leave the outer reality and enter the world living on the pages of my notebook. When I found Austen fanfiction, I was hooked, somehow feeling these characters, in this particular time period, were my writing home.

2. Tell us a little bit about your first novel, Darcy and the Duchess?

Once I discovered Pride and Prejudice, admittedly very late in my life, I was spellbound by it and the abundant stories accessible through the internet. One genre that particularly held me enthralled was where Elizabeth had a previous marriage that elevated her status. Perhaps I wanted to give her equal footing to Darcy, or independence from her parents. I wanted her to have a loving relationship, but as her husband is ill when they meet, there is no potential for them to have the intimate bond that I believe links Darcy and Elizabeth.

To be completely honest, I believe what I truly love about this plot line is that Elizabeth has the status to back up her sass. As a duchess her intelligence and impertinence are accepted and, in many ways, she is freed from the constraints placed upon Elizabeth of Longbourn. Of course, there are other constraints imposed by her status, but she comes to Darcy with a breadth of experience of her own.

3. How has writing your subsequent books, Taken and For the Deepest Love, differed from your experience in writing the first one?

Taken is one of my favorite stories, if a writer allowed to have one. I remember writing it incessantly. There are parts that made me cry when I began editing it for publication. I wrote it nearly a decade ago, but revisiting it was a joy. In terms of writing, let me backtrack. All three of these books were written a number of years ago, and each taught me how to expand characters, scenes and write dialogue that felt like real people might speak—not that I claim to know how 19th century Regency folks really spoke. What has markedly improved is what my editors have taught me.

How to tighten scenes without losing the essence of what propels the story forward. How to highlight details to create atmosphere rather than elaborate and down the scene with them.

From then to now, I feel I am a better writer. I’ve learned how to trust the first draft, to write and write and not care if I say something three times in a scene, knowing I will winnow it back to the best version. I’ve learned when to listen to my cold readers, betas, and editors and when to stand up for my choices and intent. And maybe what is most important, at least to me, is to allow myself to follow plot lines that appeal to me, and not worry they may not please anyone else. Because, even if they don’t, they have something to teach me.

4. What is your favorite Jane Austen novel and why?

Pride and Prejudice, hands down. I was flying from New Orleans to Boston and had laid hands on a copy for my vacation read. I read it through to the last page Then turned back to the beginning and read it again, and again, and again. I read it in the car from Boston to Cape Cod even though I get carsick when I read. I read it over and over again throughout my vacation and even when I got home.

Now, as to why, that may be harder to pinpoint. Miss Austen has a fine ear for the nuances of dialogue, gestures, and the intimate—and often delicate—nature of relationships between young women, their families, and the world. Take the Bennets. We are given their characters, their strengths, and their foibles as warp strands that Miss Austen then weaves into remarkable tapestries by the experiences and adventures, actions and reactions of their day-to-day lives.

And then, of course, there is Mr. Darcy. Need I say more? What I adore about him is, that despite the hubris inculcated in him by his social position, he is a decent, responsible man, who has the inner strength to change to become a better man. What’s not to love? Oh, and did I mention he’s tall, dark, and handsome?

5. If you were to live in Jane Austen’s novels, which character would you be and why?

Elizabeth Bennet. Of course. For me, she has the most freedom. While Jane Bennet is admired for her beauty, it is a burden as well. Her mother imposes the salvation of their family on Jane’s shoulders. She is to marry a wealthy man and establish her sisters, and of course keep Mrs. B from the hedgerows.

Elizabeth, however, has the education to see and think beyond her little hamlet. While her time and social station limit her, she is the free-est from the inner limits the condescension of rank may impose on others. She evaluates—dare I say judges? —people by their characters and how they treat others, and this is a quality to emulate.

6. Offer one piece of writing advice that you wish someone had told you and one piece of writing advice you did receive that you found helpful.

The piece of advice I received that has helped me the most is to just write. Don’t judge or edit the first version, just start writing and get the ideas on paper. You will go back and revise later. For me, it is crucial to just start and get the words rolling.

What I wish someone had told me is to let my imagination run uncensored. It builds on what I just said, but that was for the actual writing process. What I’m talking about is to let the plot flow where it wants to go. To trust it to create its own links so it ties together, however loosely, at the end. While it’s great to have an outline—and I have worked with them—there comes a point where is ok to break free and let a subplot grow.

A second piece of advice—I wish I had learned earlier is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. I try and make a scene, a chapter, and a story as honest, interesting, and polished as I can, but I’m still learning, and next time I’ll do better.

7. When not writing Jane-Austen-inspired novels, what do you love to do? Any unique hobbies?

I love being in my garden. I often find story lines or characters develop while tending my flowers. Living in New Orleans, we have a collection of Mardi Gras beads, and I’ve taken to hot gluing them on wooden eggs to create Easter eggs, or cones to make Christmas trees. I use the translucent beads of the traditional green,
gold/yellow or purple, but the krews now throw pinks, blues and orange beads so my ‘palette.’ I’m going to try gluing them on to glass vases, hoping to create a stained-glass effect.

In one of my subsequent stories, one of the subplots involves human trafficking. While working on it, I realized that if my fictional Elizabeth could do something about trafficking, so could I. Fortunately, New Orleans has an active anti-trafficking network, and now I help bring awareness that trafficking is happening right under our noses to the general public.

8. When and where do you most often write? Do you have special totems on your desk? Music playing in the background? Paint a picture of your writing space and day, or include a couple of photos.

When my kids were in school, I would write at our dining table. During the pandemic when both my ‘boys’—one now, as of May 20 th a college graduate, and the other a freshman at university—were home, I took a small table, plucked it down in front of one of our French-door windows in the front room, out of the way, and wrote for a couple of hours in the morning. The window looks out to our garden, and tall stalks of ginger grew in front of the window. They blocked the strong Southern sun, and when I was stuck, there was always a little lizard or butterfly to distract me.

While writing spaces are important, mainly in terms of letting my family members not to disturb me, it is more my supplies. In the last 5 to 7 years or so, I have discovered a fascination for fountain pens, and now, that is what I prefer to write with. That and notebooks. There is something about the shape of the pen nib scratching across the paper that is soothing to me, maybe because my stories are set in Regency England, but I feel it makes something undefinable, accessible to me. Whatever it is, it helps me shut out the present, turning inward where my stories find me.

9. What’s your next project? Any hints?

While I’ve started another Regency story, I’m working up to starting a story set in
the 1930’s.

Thank you, Mary. We can’t wait to read For the Deepest Love.

About the Author:

A lifelong writer, Mary Anne Mushatt relocated to New Orleans last century, where she earned an MFA and created a documentary of oral histories in the African-American and Native American communities along Louisiana’s River Road. When the levees failed, exiling her family from their home, she discovered the community of Jane Austen acolytes and began writing novels placing the beloved characters of Pride & Prejudice in innovative situations. Taken is her second published novel. As a result of one of her earlier novels, she works with a multi-disciplinary team aiding victims of human trafficking become survivors.

Mary Anne lives in New Orleans with her husband, two sons, and two dogs.

Follow the blog tour and leave comments and be entered into the giveaway:

The blog tour wraps up on June 8. Winners will be chosen on June 8, 2021. The winners will be posted on the Quills and Quartos Facebook and Instagram pages.

Guest Post & Giveaway: Kara Pleasants’ The Unread Letter

Welcome to another Jane Austen World Excerpt and guest post for a newly published book, The Unread Letter by Kara Pleasants.

Please check out the synopsis:

After rejecting Mr Darcy’s proposal at Hunsford, Elizabeth Bennet is surprised when he finds her walking the next day and hands her a letter. Without any expectation of pleasure—but with the strongest curiosity—she begins to open the letter, fully intending to read it.

It really was an accident—at first. Her shaking hands broke the seal and somehow tore the pages in two. Oh, what pleasure she then felt in tearing the pages again and again! A glorious release of anger and indignation directed towards the man who had insulted her and courted her in the same breath. She did feel remorse, but what could she do? The letter was destroyed, and Elizabeth expected that she would never see Mr Darcy again.

Home at Longbourn, she discovers that her youngest sisters are consumed by a scheme to go to Brighton—and Elizabeth finds herself drawn to the idea of a visit to the sea. But the surprises of Brighton are many, beginning with a chance meeting on the beach and ending in unexpected romance all around.

Doesn’t this synopsis just say there will be some very, very awkward moments? I can’t wait to read it.

Please give Kara a warm welcome:

Thank you, Serena!

Thank you so much for having me share a bit of my novella The Unread Letter with you! This excerpt takes place when the Bennet family has just arrived in Brighton. The premise of the story explores the question of what might happen if Elizabeth had never read Darcy’s letter—and didn’t know that she shouldn’t go anywhere close to Wickham!

So, the Bennets have all gone to Brighton together, but of course they could not afford to stay at an inn or rent a house for an extended holiday. Instead, they planned their trip by agreeing to help care for an aged and distant relative—the widow Mrs. Bartell. I conceived of Mrs. Bartell as a woman who speaks her mind because she can—she is now independent of a husband, has a place of her own, and only herself to please.

I hope you will enjoy meeting her in this excerpt:

With exceedingly great raptures the Gardiners’ note was received accepting the change in plan from the Lake tour to the Brighton seaside. The Gardiners were delighted by the idea of a visit that included the entire family and noted that Brighton was close to the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs, which they longed to see. The only difficulty was that they must postpone their journey by two weeks because of Mr Gardiner’s business. This threw Kitty and Lydia into a flutter of nerves over the thought of even the briefest separation from the officers, until it was decided that the Bennets would travel ahead to Brighton and, within a short amount of time, be joined by the rest of their party.

Elizabeth briefly doubted her impulse to travel with her family during the chaos of packing trunks and gowns and hats and trims with two younger sisters who fought over every item of clothing. At last, once the coach was loaded, the journey was spent in the highest of spirits and Elizabeth felt her doubts give way to eager anticipation. Even Mary, who never before expressed approval of the scheme and mostly observed her youngest sisters’ antics with a frown, now turned to her oldest sisters with a smile. “I have been reading about the benefits of sea bathing,” she pronounced, “and the sea itself seems to be a great testament to the power of a great God. I do not care for the parties or the dresses, but I do look forward to seeing this wonder.”

“So you are to go sea bathing?” Mr Bennet asked with a wry grin. “Do wonders never cease? I surmise that these new environs will provide opportunities for laughter at other people’s expense in every corner.”

After a stop in London, where the Bennets spent a merry evening with the Gardiners in high anticipation of them all being together again as soon as Mr Gardiner’s business was concluded, the second leg of their journey was more subdued, with nearly all of the party sleeping along the road.

It was evening when the Bennets arrived at the home of their relation. The young ladies were all abuzz when the coach stopped on St James’s Street, and Mr Bennet led them through a narrow alley and back to a quiet lane, known as St James’s Place, where a row of town houses and gardens stood. The four-story red brick town house where they would spend their holiday had a small garden full of roses enclosed by an iron railing.

“How charming! And you cannot hear the noise of the street!” Elizabeth said.

“But my dear you did not tell me that Mrs Bartell lived so close to the shops! So close to everything! Why, what a thing for our girls! I am sure they shall always be thrown in the path of many eligible men. I can hardly speak for happiness.” Mrs Bennet’s mouth was agape at the sight of the stately home.

“You need not speak at all,” Mr Bennet replied. “I would not put much hope in Mrs Bartell’s potential as a matchmaker.”

“Why ever not?” Mrs Bennet said, but Mr Bennet had already opened the gate and walked up the steps to rap on the door. Behind him, the coachmen were huffing as they carried the many trunks.

The door was opened by a woman much advanced in years who led them through a narrow hall into a sitting room where another woman even more advanced in years sat dozing in a blue velvet chair.

The attendant, a Mrs Smith, shook the shoulder of her employer with some vigour. She managed to knock the lady’s cap askew but did not wake her.

With all of them crowding the hall, and the trunks piling up along the wall, there was a moment of tension as they were not entirely sure what to do next. It was relieved by Mrs Bennet, who marched up to their relation and shouted into her ear, “It is so very kind of you to allow us to stay!”

Mrs Bartell opened one eye and shifted slightly. “You are looking old, Mrs B,” she croaked.

Mrs Bennet was so offended that she moved off immediately, whispering to Elizabeth, “She is farther gone than I imagined. Pay no mind to her ramblings. Indeed, I have half a mind not to speak with her much at all—I daresay she cannot understand a word.”

Elizabeth did not rebuke her mother, but moved over to Mrs Bartell. “And you, madam,” she laughed, “do not look a day over twenty!”

Mrs Bartell deigned to open both eyes. “Tom Bennet, this one will do nicely,” she declared, reaching to take Elizabeth’s hand. “You will have to oblige me. My granddaughter has left this morning for the North, and I need looking after. It is part of the arrangement.”

“Lizzy is always very obliging.” Mrs Bennet felt that she must speak again. “We are so very grateful for the most warm welcome into your home.”

“And will you oblige me now by removing all of your relations from my sitting room.”

Mrs Bartell addressed Elizabeth, “Your rooms are on the third floor.” Kitty and Lydia scampered from the room and up the stairs, with the older sisters following closely.

While the others settled their trunks into their rooms, Elizabeth moved through the entire house, curious to see each room and the views they afforded. Upon returning to the blue room that she and Jane had settled on with Mary, Elizabeth flung open the tall windows to breathe in the salty air of the sea. The lights of the city twinkled before her, but in spite of the pleadings of Lydia, who wanted to go and tour the public gardens (where she was certain the officers were waiting), it was decided that the party would go to bed and explore in the morning.

Thank you, Kara, for sharing this excerpt with us. I can’t wait to read the book.

About the Author:

Kara Pleasants lives in a lovely hamlet called Darlington in Maryland, where she and her husband are restoring an 18 th century farm in Susquehanna State Park. They have two beautiful and vivacious daughters, Nora and Lina. A Maryland native, Kara spent a great deal of her childhood travelling with her family, including six years living in Siberia, as well as five years in Montana, before finally making her way back home to attend the University of Maryland.

Kara is an English teacher and Department Chair at West Nottingham Academy. She has taught at the secondary and collegiate level at several different schools in Maryland. Her hobbies include: making scones for the farmer’s market, writing poetry, watching fantasy shows, making quilts, directing choir, and dreaming about writing an epic three-party fantasy series for her daughters.

GIVEAWAY:

Follow the blog tour and leave a comment to be entered in the tour-wide giveaway for an ebook of The Unread Letter.

Guest Post & Giveaway: Interrupted Plans: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Brigid Huey

Today Brigid Huey is here to talk about her writing process as it relates to her new book, Interrupted Plans.

Before we hear about her process, check out the book:

Suppose Elizabeth Bennet never visited Pemberley…

It is October of 1812. Elizabeth Bennet and her family have seen dramatic changes in the past few months—none of them welcome. Her sister Jane needs a fresh start, and Elizabeth is no less eager to leave behind the pain and confusion of not accepting Mr. Darcy’s proposal.

Fitzwilliam Darcy has not seen Elizabeth since he offered for her—and she adamantly refused him. When she appears in London, he is determined to gain her friendship and make amends. When a carriage mishap throws them together, Darcy does all he can to demonstrate his changed behavior.

Though their renewed acquaintance seems to be growing into a genuine friendship, a family secret constrains Elizabeth. As she falls deeper in love with the man she rejected, does she dare tell him the truth?

Doesn’t this sound intriguing? I just love the “what if” stories that spur novels in the Jane Austen universe. Please welcome, Brigid:

Thank you so much for hosting me today! I am so pleased to be here at Savvy Verse and Wit.

As a writer, I am always fascinated to hear about other authors’ writing processes and what influences their work. I thought I might share a little bit about my own process today.

The idea for Interrupted Plans came to me in pieces. There were certain elements I knew I wanted to include. I could see Darcy and Elizabeth in a ballroom, and there was definitely an emotional exchange in the snow. As is often the way with me, these scenes came to me on their own and the rest of the story grew up around them.

I write at a local coffee shop every Thursday. It’s my “day off” from my regular life of homeschooling two kids. When working on a story, I usually write out scenes that are playing out in my head. Then I spend several weeks dreaming about the storyline and writing notes as I go so I can remember good ideas!

Once I have a rough outline of the story, I get back to the serious business of writing. I often have to tweak the timeline or add new characters. It’s a very organic process!

The last, and hardest, part of the writing process for me is deciding on a title. I have never been apt at choosing titles, but for whatever reason Interrupted Plans came rather quickly to me. I wish it was always that way!

Thank you for listening to my rambles! I hope you enjoy Interrupted Plans!

Thank you, Brigid, for sharing your process with us. Now for the giveaway

Meryton Press is giving away 8 eBooks of Brigid Huey’s Interrupted Plans, and the giveaway is international.

ENTER HERE.

About the Author:

Brigid Huey has been in love with Jane Austen since first seeing the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice as a young girl. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two kids and spends her free time reading and writing. She also has an assortment of birds, including five chickens and too many parakeets. She dreams of living on a farm where she can raise as many chickens, ducks, and goats as she likes and write romance novels in an airy study overlooking the wildflowers. Check out her website; her Facebook Author Page, and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Excerpt, Interview, Giveaway: Came a Flight Gently by Leigh Dreyer, part of the Pride in Flight Series

Leigh Dreyer has published the third book in her Pride in Flight series, inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Came a Flight Gently.

I’ve waited for her to complete this series because I want to read my series back-to-back and not have to wait. I usually wait for at least three books to be published before I start a new series. That’s my quirk.

I’ve been eager to read these because I love war fiction and non-fiction, even if War Through the Generations has gone dormant. Unlike other readers, I do like technical details, etc., but I’m also up for a mostly romance novel with military themes.

I had the pleasure of meeting Leigh in person at the JAFF Writer-Reader Get Together in 2019. Today, I’m happy to welcome her and her three books to the blog today, with an excerpt from Came a Flight Gently. In the new book, Leigh’s father, Paul Trockner, becomes a first time author himself. I was able to ask them what it was like to work on a book together.

About The Best Laid Plans:

In this modern Pride and Prejudice variation, Captain William “Fitz” Darcy has just received a new assignment as an instructor pilot at Meryton Air Force Base. Soon he meets the intrepid 2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth Bennet, a new student at the base that he cannot keep out of his head. Elizabeth, on the other hand, finds Captain Darcy to be arrogant and prideful and attempts to avoid him at every turn. Despite Darcy’s insulting manners, Elizabeth soars her way through pilot training, but can she soar her way into love as well?

About The Flight Path Less Traveled (a title that reminds me of Robert Frost):

In this modern Pride and Prejudice continuation and sequel to The Best Laid Flight Plans, 2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth Bennet and Captain William Darcy are facing trials after the events of Elizabeth’s last flight.

Darcy’s proposal lingers between them as Elizabeth becomes almost single sighted to her rehabilitation and her return to pilot training. A secret is revealed to Elizabeth about Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s past that throws all she has known to be true into a tail spin. The romance between our hero and heroine begins to blossom through military separations, sisterly pranks, and miscommunications. Can Darcy and Elizabeth come together or will flying in the Air Force keep them apart?

About Came a Flight Gently:

In the exciting conclusion of the Pride in Flight Series (The Best Laid Flight Plans and The Flight Path Less Traveled), our dear couple Elizabeth and Darcy have moved to Pemberley to begin their lives together.

An outsider to New York society and the affluent world of Darcy, our heroine uses her characteristic drive and wit to begin her marriage and all that comes with him. Helped along by Mrs. Reynolds and a curmudgeonly airplane mechanic, Elizabeth discovers a new path to the civilian flight world. Darcy, ever the hero, supports her and learns to trust her instincts. Fast-paced and dramatic, Came a Flight Gently soars through love, adventure, and intrigue as it races through Reno to the finish.

Please welcome Leigh Dreyer and Paul Trockner:

How was working together on Came a Flight Gently?

Paul: Working to together for this book started when we went to Reno for research. Leigh had the first two written. At Reno, I helped break the ice with the race pilots, explain what was going on and translated between pilot speak and author speak. So, working came naturally as I enjoy introducing people to flying and talking with other pilots. Working together was not as father/daughter. It was really semi-experienced author, Leigh, teaching or showing me what to do. It was fun collaborating. Just like any joint venture we agreed, disagreed and worked things out. This is Leigh’s story so she got the last word. As a parent it is wonderful to relate to your kids as adults not just the 18 year old that moved out of your house.

Leigh: I really enjoyed working together. Paul had helped me make sure the first two books had realistic flight scenes, radio calls, and helped me connect with some Air Force specific resources. With this book, his 40+ years of flight experience was valuable while looking at types of planes, how planes are modified, and generally helping explain what is going on in various races. I follow pretty well, but he could really get into the nitty gritty and make sure I didn’t make any boneheaded mistakes. Story-wise, it was so nice
to be able to talk to someone about the plot, characters, etc. with someone just as invested as I was.

Why co-author?

Leigh: Well, when I started writing The Best Laid Flight Plans, I had a toddler and a newborn. Then during The Flight Path Less Traveled, I still had the two kids, but I was working from home (I’m a speech pathologist) and during breaks, I took advantage of my daycare situation and got it finished. Then, I had a baby with a really difficult pregnancy, then I moved, then COVID-19 hit so all of my writing time was sacrificed to more important things. I was really working to get Came a Flight Gently out when dad offered to write a scene because he had a good idea. The scene turned out great and we started collaborating more and more. Eventually, I told him I felt like he needed to either have a big acknowledgement or a co-authorship and our writing relationship became more official. It’s been great, honestly.

Paul: For the first two books Leigh wrote I just cleaned up the flying scenes and radio calls. I didn’t have nor wanted story input it was her thing. I was just technical assistant. Along the way at Reno we started talking about where she wanted this story to go. The first book follows Pride and Prejudice, the second resolves Elizabeth’s situation, this book finishes the story and is a completely original story with the characters. It also added characters that I thought I could relate to. So I pitched a couple ideas. Well Leigh, in the mean time, had to move, wrangle two kids while waiting for a third. So I asked if I could write a scene? Leigh said sure, so I did. She liked it so I wrote more. Well as we got going I’d helped with approaching half the book and had input on her scenes as she did mine as well as the direction of the book. As we wrapped up, Leigh asked if I wanted to be coauthor. So after discussion and some soul searching. After all it’s her brain child, I said okay. And that’s how I helped and became a co-author.

About the Authors of Came a Flight Gently:

Leigh Dreyer is a huge fan of Jane Austen variations and the JAFF community. She is blessed to have multi-generational military connections through herself and her husband, who she met in pilot training. She often describes her formative years in this way: “You know the ‘Great Balls of Fire’ scene in Top Gun (Goose, you big stud!) when Goose and Meg Ryan have their kid on the piano? I was that kid.” Leigh lives with her pilot husband, a plane-obsessed son, a daughter who was a pink pilot for Halloween, and a one-year-old son who is so used to F-16 noise, he does not even startle to sonic booms.

Paul Trockner was an Air Force fighter pilot for twenty-eight years. He flew the F-111, T-37, A-10, and T-
38. He currently teaches fighter pilots using simulator instruction. He has been happily married for thirty-six years to his lovely wife Elizabeth. Leigh is the oldest of his five children.

GIVEAWAY:

Leave a comment about why you want to read Leigh Dreyer’s modernized Pride & Prejudice novels by March 9.

Also leave an email where I can reach you, if you win the trio!

Review & Giveaway: The Lamps of History by Michael Sandler

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 98 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Lamps of History by Michael Sandler explores the human condition and our struggle to grapple with our own mortality. Sandler begins the collection with just that concept in “Gauze” where the narrator has surgery and as he goes under from anesthesia “Now breathe deeply, and I vanish,/a plastic wristband flashing Vacancy/” (pg. 9) There is that fear, especially as we age, that our lives will vanish and our bodies will be cast aside as empty shells.

It is easy for us to foster a myopic point of view — “Isolation arrests a point of view” (“Lighthousing”, pg. 19) But on occasion, changes in our view can help us see the best, like in the title poem, “Lamp,” where amber light can dull the anguish of the past. From bullying to loss, Sandler tackles many of the trials of the human condition, rooting his poems in recipes, family tradition, and advice from his father. While not all of these moments prevented sadness, anger, or loss, the narrator looks back on how each represented the care and love of family — a foundation that strengthened over time even as those family members passed.

from "Garlic Press" (pg. 44-45)

until desire flashes again.
What keeps drawing me to those blades?
When the ensuing sight of blood
subverts a show of nonchalance.
I try to take a firmer grip,
one more inexorable squeeze.

Sandler explores desire and how it draws us to things that may not be good for us. In the same collection, “Cenobite” explores shyness and antisocial behavior as the narrator walks in a dog park and finds that he’s unlike the social dogs, standing apart he fails at small talk and interacting. He needs to force himself to try to move beyond his neutral ground apart. There is a peace in aloofness and a camaraderie that can be found with animals alone.

The Lamps of History by Michael Sandler is about the human condition in all of its stripes of good and bad, memory and action. Sandler’s use of science, science fiction, and photographs helps to illustration of struggle, perseverance, and peace with what has come before and what awaits the future.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Michael Sandler is the author of The Lamps of History, a poetry collection that explores connections between personal and historical experience while wrestling with the ambiguities (and choices) between connection/estrangement and faith/doubt. For much of his adulthood, Michael wrote poems for the desk drawer, while working as a lawyer and later as an arbitrator. He began to publish in 2009. Since then, his poems have appeared in scores of literary journals including Arts & Letters, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Zone 3. He lives in the Seattle area. To learn more about Michael and his work, please go to sandlerpoetry.com.

GIVEAWAY: 1 copy of The Lamps of History

Leave a comment on this post about why you want to read the collection and an email where I can reach you by March. 8.