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Guest Post & Giveaway: Narnia and Bennet Wardrobes: The Same Thing Only Different by Don Jacobson

Don Jacobson is visiting the blog today to talk about his series of books, The Bennet Wardrobe series. Of course, there are 8 ebooks up for grabs as well.  Stay tuned for the giveaway!

About The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque:

Longbourn, December 1811.

The day after Jane and Lizzy marry dawns especially cold for young Kitty Bennet. Called to Papa’s bookroom, she is faced with a resolute Mr. Bennet who intends to punish her complicity in her sister’s elopement. She will be sent packing to a seminary in far-off Cornwall.

She reacts like any teenager chafing under the “burden” of parental rules—she throws a tantrum. In her fury, she slams her hands against the doors of The Bennet Wardrobe.

Her heart’s desire?

“I wish they were dead! Anywhere but Cornwall! Anywhere but here!”

As Lydia later said, “The Wardrobe has a unique sense of humor.”

London, May 1886.

Seventeen-year-old Catherine Marie Bennet tumbles out of The Wardrobe at Matlock House to come face-to-face with the austere Viscount Henry Fitzwilliam, a scion of the Five Families and one of the wealthiest men in the world. However, while their paths may have crossed that May morning, Henry still fights his feelings for another woman, lost to him nearly thirty years in his future. And Miss Bennet must now decide between exile to the remote wastelands of Cornwall or making a new life for herself in Victorian Britain and Belle Époque France.

The Exile follows the story of Kitty Bennet as she grows from the coughing follower of her younger sister, Lydia, into a bright and engaging young woman living in the exciting world of the late 19th Century. However, she must pass through many trials before she can fully understand why the Wardrobe sent her 75 years into the future—and for her to become one of the most important fixtures in the Bennet Wardrobe Universe.

About the series:

The Bennet Wardrobe Stories have grown out of Don’s interest in the side characters found the in majestic “Pride and Prejudice.” He feels that the three younger sisters have been left to languish these past two centuries as readers…and writers…have focused on the eternal love story of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Recognizing that, perhaps, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia as well as their father, Thomas, need to resolve their inner personality issues, much as both Lizzy and Darcy did in the original, to become characters in full.

And, that is where the Bennet Wardrobe comes in. Perhaps remaining on the original P&P timeline (which ends in 1811-12) would not be sufficient for the three young ladies to realize their mature futures…or for Thomas to finally take a stand on his daughters’ behalves (note…archaic use). Hence the Bennet Wardrobe…a remarkable device created by the great cabinetmaker, natural scientist, and contemporary of Isaac Newton…which can transport those of the Bennet genome into futures which will meet their needs (not desires). Of course, as with any good time machine/magical transport, as Lydia Bennet Wickham Fitzwilliam put it, “The Wardrobe has an unusual sense of humor.”

Please give Don Jacobson a warm welcome.

The Bennet Wardrobe Series is an alternative history in the Pride & Prejudice Universe. While the lead characters are familiar to all but only as secondary personalities, I have endeavored to provide each of them (Mary, Kitty, Lydia, and Thomas) with an opportunity to grow into three-dimensional persons, although not necessarily in the Regency. If they were shaped or stifled by the conventions of the period, the time-traveling powers of The Wardrobe helped solve their problems, make penance, and learn lessons by giving them a chance to escape that time frame, if only for a brief, life-changing interlude.

The Wardrobe underlines my conviction that each of these characters could enjoy fulfilling lives once they had overcome the inner demons holding them back.

Would it have been possible for them to do so staying on the Regency timeline?

Perhaps. However, something tickled my brain—maybe it was the intersection between my youthful fascination with speculative fiction and my mature appreciation of Austen—that suggested that it would be fun to try something different. How about time travel? Not unknown in JAFF … but usually played for farce rather than something more profound. With careful treatment, though, protagonists could be immersed in different futures to learn that which they need in order to overcome the limitations preventing them from realizing their potential as people. In the process, they carry the eternal story of love and life forward even to the 21 st Century.

The saga of The Bennet Wardrobe begins with The Keeper: The Extraordinary Journey of Mary Bennet. The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque is Volume 2, Part 1. Four more novels will complete the story of the Wardrobe’s agenda. Three novellas have previously been published. More will be written to enable me to understand the manner in which the Wardrobe and the Bennet family interact. These will give readers insight into my process.

Astute bookworms, upon encountering The Bennet Wardrobe will immediately leap up and cry, “Ah-hah. I’ve got this. Jacobson has taken Narnia and tossed it back into the Regency.” Yes and No.

1. Yes … same physical manifestation for the portal

2. No … travel to the future in current world not to another reality

Obviously there is a relationship between Lewis’ Wardrobe and The Bennet Wardrobe in that they are both portals to other places or times. But, that is where I believe it ends—these devices are both Wardrobes, but have different properties.

I subscribe to the idea that the act of imagining characters (and the Wardrobes certainly are characters) brings them into reality. I follow Robert A. Heinlein who believed in … “World as Myth” — the idea that universes are created by the act of imagining them, so that all fictional worlds are in fact real and all real worlds are figments of fictional figures’ fancy …1 For instance, in Chapter XXIII of The Exile, Holmes refers to Pride & Prejudice as if it is a nonfiction book.

Thus, The Bennet Wardrobe, the Narnia wardrobe, The King’s Roads, the TARDIS, and the flue network do exist because their universes have been created through their authors’ imaginations. But, I needed to place The Bennet Wardrobe within the context of a rather fertile field of British Magical Transport. As I have written novellas to understand characters, so, too, did I compose a mock academic article (which appears in The Keeper) exploring the place of The Bennet Wardrobe within the spectrum of British magical transportation.

A Monograph/Imaginary Journey Exploring the Wardrobe’s Power

Humans have traditionally found security in dim and enclosed spaces, from the caverns of 150 generations ago to more modern architectural innovations like the closet. These have one common thread…they are sealed off and dark, safe; wrapping a person seeking sanctuary in a womblike cocoon and capable of transporting one to other worlds—real or imaginary.

So, it came as little surprise when I discovered that the closet’s predecessor, the wardrobe, offered similar characteristics. Just as a child may inherit a mother’s nose or a father’s eyes, the closet may yet carry some special properties held by what had once been a fixture throughout the homes of the well-heeled classes of post-Restoration Britain and ancien regime France. With the Industrial Revolution, wardrobes eventually became quaint relics. But, they did not lose their capacity to transport users across time or space.

Professor C.S. Lewis incisively revealed the power of the wardrobe with his groundbreaking Chronicles of Narnia. The knowledge of this capability stunned post-World War II audiences. Further research discovered other avenues over and through which properly attuned mortals and immortals could pass.

Ms. Rowling highlighted the unique nature of the flue network used by witches and warlocks. Another excellent study of Britain’s magical transportation network can be found in Susanna Clarke’s stunning work, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Her discussion of the King’s Roads that were hidden behind Britain’s mirrors revealed the extreme age of Britain’s magical transport. Another important mode was the wonderful looking glass described by Mr. L. Carroll.

The British King’s Roads were rooted in pre-Roman and medieval powers obscured after the 15th Century. The rising powers of late 18th Century wardrobes may have been a response to a need caused by the disuse of the King’s Roads. Both the Narnia Wardrobe and The Bennet Wardrobe are considered prime examples of classic Wardrobes. Researchers have cursed the Luftwaffe for destroying the Narnia Wardrobe in the Blitz.

While Wardrobes were not a perfectly safe mode of travel, they, none-the-less, seemed tamer. Potter’s more modern and dependable flue network (splitching aside) may have been implemented by Britain’s magical beings as, with the introduction of the closet, the wardrobe passed from common use and availability.

Even so, each network had its own properties and rules that governed its use. Lewis, for instance, explored the “need based” nature of the wardrobe. For the children of wartime Britain, they had to escape from the horrors of the events that swept over them. Hence, the doorway to Narnia led to another world where these youngsters had complete agency over themselves as the heroes in the epochal battle between good and evil.

The Bennet Wardrobe has been discovered to be equally potent, but in a different manner. Rather than transporting users to another world, this remarkable cabinet discerns the true needs of the Bennet user and ascertains what is required to meet that need. Then the Wardrobe transports the Bennet to a future time where that requirement can be fulfilled, but only to a frame of reference upon wardrobe’s timeline—a point in time and space where the wardrobe itself exists.

Because of its unique construction, the Wardrobe is attuned to the peculiar vibrations of those born of the lineage of Mr. Christopher Bennet, the first Bennet Master of Longbourn Estate. No non-Bennet has ever directly taken advantage of the properties of the Wardrobe. Mrs. Fanny Bennet could only use the Wardrobe to hang a pelisse or store a hat—if Mr. Bennet would let her in the library!

Thank you, Don Jacobson, for sharing your inspiration for the Bennet Wardrobe.

Enter the Giveaway:

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Guest Post: ‘Nature Is Imagination Itself’ by Hilde Weisert

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of a man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.”  ―William Blake, in a letter.

William Blake is one of the first poets I loved to read.  Perhaps it was his darker poetry or maybe it was his drawings in the collection I had. The quote above is just a glimpse at his poetic thought.  Today, Poet Hilde Weisert offers her thoughts on nature and inspiration.

Please give her a warm welcome.

That quote from a letter of William Blake’s is especially apropos right now, with yesterday Earth Day and a day of Marches for Science around the world, and Poetry Month the month we are in. What Blake saw is what we need to see now, that there is no separation between the natural world and our complementary ways of seeing and understanding it, through science and through the imagination.

I stumbled on the quote late one night many years ago when I was desperately paging through books looking for inspiration for a poem I was expected, as poet in residence at a large school system, to write, and then to read to the entire faculty on the opening day of school – the next day! It was to be an original poem on the theme for the year: Science, and specifically what the rainforest can teach us about diversity.

That is clearly a brilliant concept (the woman who conceived the program was and is a brilliant woman) and a great way to introduce poetry outside the usual “poetry unit.” I had educated myself enough about the rainforest to know, conceptually, that it indeed has volumes to teach us about diversity – millions of different life forms all existing in harmony, interdependence, and beauty. But write a poem about that? By 11 PM on the eve of my reading, the floor around my desk was littered with crumpled sheets from my yellow legal pad, each with some variation of why the rainforest is good, and why we should preserve it, and how our lives depend on it, and if its diversity matters, children, so does yours.

Like political or preaching “poems” so often are, all just words. Words coming from my head, and even my heart – because I did truly care about the rainforest and certainly about diversity – but there was some other essential part of poetry-making that was not engaged.

And then I found the excerpt from a letter of Blake’s. Nature is imagination itself.

That’s what’s at stake. If we lose our ability to see the natural world, we lose something essential inside ourselves, what W.S. Merwin said, in his Inaugural Address as Poet Laureate in 2010, may be what makes us uniquely human. And allows us to see the many ways in which we are, gloriously, different from and yet connected to all the beings in the natural world, as well as each other. To celebrate, with a kind of tingle in our imagination-nerve, when science discovers that the octopus, far from being mentally slow and lumbering, is remarkably intelligent and constantly learning. That trees, according to David Haskell in The Songs of Trees, are “nature’s great connectors,” part of vast networks. That crows know the faces of people who have harmed them.

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, National Poetry Month coincides with spring; in the southern hemisphere, with fall. Both are seasons that offer daily opportunities to see all around us the marvels that (I will change Blake’s line a little) a person of imagination can see. Which, I believe, can give us poetry, and give us ourselves.

What about you? What is essential to your imagination?

***

Here’s the poem I wrote, with Blake’s help.

Imagination Itself

To the eyes of the man of imagination,
Nature is imagination itself.
— William Blake

Who needs half a million unpronounceable forms of life
Half a world away? Ah, you do, they say,
And enumerate the ways:

          Glues, dyes, inks,
          Peanuts, melons, tea,
          Golf balls, paint, and gum,
          Mung beans, lemons, rice,
          And a fourth of all the medicines you take,
          And a fifth of all the oxygen you breathe,
          And countless life-prolonging secrets their wild cousins know
          to tell the Iowa corn and the garden tomato.
          And if that's not enough, think of rubber-
          and where we'd all be, rattling down the Interstate
          on wooden wheels.

And that's only the stuff we know how to use,
And that's only the half-million species we know how to name.

And in the time it took to tell you this
Five thousand acres more are gone.
And by the time that this year's kindergarten class
is thirty-five, most of what is now alive —

But wait. What if — What if this deluge of mind-boggling
statistical connectedness were, true as it is,
only the least of it? What if the real necessity
were of another kind, the connection
not with what you consume, or do, but who you are?

With your own imagination, the necessity there
of places that have not been cleared to till,
of the luxury of all that buzzing in the deep,
of a glimpse of feather or translucent insect wing
a color that's so new it tells you light and sound
are, indeed, just matters of degree, and makes your vision hum

And makes you think the universe could hum
in something like the wild, teeming equilibrium
of the rain forest.

From The Scheme of Things, David Robert Books, 2015, and published originally in The Sun.

About the Poet:

Hilde Weisert‘s collection The Scheme of Things was published in 2015 by David Robert Books. Her poem, “The Pity of It,” was winner of the 2016 Tiferet Poetry Award, and she’s had poems in such magazines as Ms, Prairie Schooner, The Cortland Review, Calyx, and several anthologies. She lives in Chapel Hill, N.C., and Sandisfield, Mass.

Guest Post & Giveaway: My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley by Linda Beutler

Today, I’d like to welcome Linda Beutler to the blog to talk about her latest Pride & Prejudice variation and the poetry. But first, read a little about her book below:

About the Book:

One never quite knows where the inspiration will strike. For award-winning author Linda Beutler and My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley, the moment of genesis arrived in a particularly contentious thread at the online forum A Happy Assembly. What is the nature of personal responsibility? Where do we draw the line between Mr. Bingley being too subject to Mr. Darcy’s “persuasion” and Mr. Darcy playing too heavily on Mr. Bingley’s “sensibility”? This is a conundrum guaranteed to raise even more questions.

What happens to the plot and character dynamics of Pride & Prejudice if Mr. Bingley is given just a dash more spine? Or if Jane Bennet decides enough embarrassment is too much? How does Mr. Darcy manage the crucial apology a more stalwart Mr. Bingley necessitates he make? What if Mr. Darcy meets relations of Elizabeth Bennet’s for whom she need not blush on their home turf rather than his? Suffice it to say, this is a story of rebuked pride, missing mail, a man with “vision”, a frisky cat, and an evening gown that seems to have its own agenda.

Please check out her post on Dark Poetry and Othello:

Thanks, Serena, for hosting a stop on the My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley blog tour here at Savvy Verses and Wit. The focus of your interest in verse and poetry has afforded me the opportunity to revisit my favorite chapter of the book through a new filter, even though I had no thoughts of writing verses when I wrote it! Poetry isn’t always light and happy and flowers that bloom in the spring, tra-la. By setting the chapter in question during a performance of Othello, the narrative could go to a much unhappier place, inhabited by a scorned lover and a lady consumed by regret, following the lead of that most masterful poet, Shakespeare. Let me explain…

One could go on at great length to describe the poetry in prose, and I shall try to avoid excess! During my years as an English major, my tastes evolved away from poetry as such, perhaps due to becoming exhausted with fretting over the components of it to the detriment of simple emotional enjoyment (scansion and meter and rhymes—oh my!). However, in one particular chapter in My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley, I did get a chance to delve back into my poetic roots, in the darkest portion of my story and its link to Othello.

In chapter 15, Of All the Theatres in London, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet take in an evening at the theatre, watching Othello in adjoining boxes not even two weeks after their disastrous conversation at Hunsford. There are several reasons I chose Othello, the most important of which are that it gives a real-life London actress, Mrs. Siddons, a chance to portray a character much younger than herself at the time of the story (which Mrs. Siddons typically did, vain creature!); that Othello is arguably the bleakest of Shakespeare’s plays (we can see the ending coming ten miles off and are powerless to stop it or look away, and such a wicked villain); Othello was the first Shakespeare I saw staged by a professional company (the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon) and the performance thoroughly opened my eyes to the poetry that is Shakespeare.

Although at various points the chapter unfolds through different perspectives, we end with Elizabeth’s point of view before the omniscient narrator ties everything up with a neat if dismal black ribbon. Even in a darkened theatre, it is a highly visual scene, the sort that might have easily been added to Othello. Elizabeth is fearful of Darcy’s mood. Darcy already feels himself to be a damned soul—with nothing to lose. Their relatives are there to see the full display of their mutual discomfort. Elizabeth is in a stunning gown, yet she (unlike Darcy) is the one spending more time staring. And yet, neither Darcy nor Elizabeth witness their own actions with anything approaching accuracy. It is their families who truly come to understand something has happened.

If we look at Darcy and Elizabeth in this scene as Othello and Desdemona, there is one key difference. In Shakespeare’s play, Desdemona is an unwitting innocent. Her trust in her husband (and indeed everyone, more like a Jane Bennet) has been played against her. Desdemona meets her death scene unwittingly. But Elizabeth Bennet knows she has acted wrongly. She has maligned Darcy unjustly and vociferously. She knows she has hurt him, and this unexpected meeting reveals just how much.

And of course Darcy does not wish to murder Elizabeth, but he does wish himself anywhere else but in this particular theatre. If he could snuff out his attachment to her, he would. And yet, at the key moment of the play, when Mrs. Siddons chews up the scenery whilst being strangled, Elizabeth drops her shawl and Darcy does the gentlemanly thing, bending into the adjoining box to fetch it up. Elizabeth thinks she successfully fights the urge to touch his hair with compassion (his head is briefly near her knees). Everyone except Darcy sees the attenuated spasm of her fingers.

Mrs. Siddons dies with a flamboyant gasp as Elizabeth’s love for Darcy sparks to life. Shouts of “Brava!” do not penetrate Elizabeth’s deepening internal shame. Darcy and Elizabeth leave the theatre with superficial anger, but much deeper sadness. Yes, if I do say so myself, with the example of the poetry of Othello before me, it might be the closest I’ve ever come to writing a prose poem. It has what I see as the typical elements of dark epic poetry: strong visual imagery, a clear plot, determined manipulation of the emotions of both the characters and the readers, not a happy ending in sight.

It has long been debated whether poetry has the more adept and profound ability to elicit emotion than does prose. I would rather say it is when prose nears the poetic that it has any emotional power at all. It is when they join, when an author can provide the imagery and action regardless of the niceties of rhythm and rhyme, that sensation is evoked in the reader. With the emotional veracity and imagery of Othello before me, both as vivid memory and the open pages of the text, I hope readers will connect with a distraught Elizabeth and Darcy, comprehending them as I do, and as they cannot comprehend themselves.

~~~~~

I must say this in defense of lighter verse: In my next story, a mash-up of Jane Austen and P. G. Wodehouse, one character is given to limericks of adoration! And if you really want a brilliantly bawdy ballad, I urge your readers to keep an eye out for a forthcoming Meryton Press title, Mistaken, by Jessie Lewis, due out later this year. Thanks again, Serena, for your support of My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley, and the kind attention of your readers!

Thank you Linda for sharing your thoughts on poetry, Shakespeare, and your novel for National Poetry Month.

About the Author:

Linda Beutler’s professional life is spent in a garden, an organic garden housing America’s foremost public collection of clematis vines and a host of fabulous companion plants. Her home life reveals a more personal garden, still full of clematis, but also antique roses and vintage perennials planted around and over a 1907 cottage. But one can never have enough of gardening, so in 2011 she began cultivating a weedy patch of Jane Austen Fan Fiction ideas. The first of these to ripen was The Red Chrysanthemum (Meryton Press, 2013), which won a silver IPPY for romance writing in 2014. You might put this down as beginner’s luck—Linda certainly does.  The next harvest brought Longbourn to London (Meryton Press, 2014), known widely as “the [too] sexy one”. In 2015 Meryton Press published the bestseller A Will of Iron, a macabre rom-com based on the surprising journals of Anne de Bourgh.

Now, after a year-long break in JAFF writing to produce Plant Lovers Guide to Clematis (Timber Press, 2016)—the third in a bouquet of books on gardening—we have My Mr. Darcy and Your Mr. Bingley bursting into bloom.  The eBook is available on Amazon; paperbacks coming soon.

Visit her on Twitter, Facebook, and on her website.

Giveaway:

Enter the giveaway for one of 8 eBooks; It’s open internationally.

Terms and Conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post that has a giveaway attached for the tour. (1 comment/blog post) Entrants should provide the name of the blog where they commented (which will be verified). You may enter once by following the author on twitter and once by following the author on Facebook.

Remember, tweet daily and comment once per post with a giveaway to earn extra entries. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter.

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Guest Post: Flanders Field of Grey by Ginger Monette

In 2015, Ginger Monette, author of the Darcy’s Hope series, entered a flash fiction contest, Picture This! Writing Contest, in which she wrote a short story based on a photograph. So was born, “A Flanders Field of Grey,” which she shares with us today in honor of National Poetry Month.

We hope you enjoy it.

Roger stepped away from his companions and swallowed hard as his gaze swept over the Flanders field on the dreary November day. The musty smell of damp earth and the grey sky instantly transported him back to that fateful day fifteen years before.

November 6, 1917. The moment was nearly upon them. He returned his sister’s picture to his pocket and glanced down the trench into the sea of soldiers. Who would death call today? Artillery shells screeched and boomed over No-Man’s land rocketing fountains of sludge into the air. He raked trembling fingers through his red hair and secured his tin helmet. The roiling grey clouds overhead mirrored the churning in his stomach.

The shrill of the signalling whistle pierced the air. The trench erupted in a primal war cry. He added his voice and vigour to the wave of khaki scaling the ladders and pouring over the earthen wall. The staccato of machine-gun fire joined the percussion of artillery and roar of men’s voices. Defying every instinct, he lowered his head and plunged into the firestorm.

As far as he could see, his comrades slogged across the pocked wasteland of Passchendaele. Green-scummed water filled hellholes deep enough to swallow a dozen men. He gagged on a whiff of wet soil mingled with the stench of decaying bodies. Shells bursting on his left and right catapulted men and mud into the air.

Gunfire mowed down the men in front of him. Shuddering with fear, he stepped over two groaning bodies and pressed on. He ignored the grey hand reaching from a murky pool like a tentacle of death lapping at his heels. Flying lead swept over them again.

His legs failed him.

Little did he know that day
His life would be forever changed
On a Flanders field of grey.

~~*~~

Tom thrust his hands into his coat pockets as his gaze swept over the Flanders field on the dreary November day. A barking dog and the grey sky instantly transported him back to that fateful day fifteen years before.

November 6, 1917. A choir of moaning men mingled with the orchestra of artillery. He quickened his pace, splinting, sewing, sawing. An explosion rocked the underground lair, rattling his surgical instruments and raining dirt from the low earthen ceiling.

The company sheepdog sauntered over and nuzzled his leg. “Not now, girl, I’ve got boys to mend.”

Soldier and after soldier came and went from his makeshift theatre. Late in the afternoon he heaved a sigh of relief as he emerged above ground. He squinted upwards; the grey clouds overhead mirrored the tenor of the day. He could only recall laughing once—with a private who’d caught a round in the leg. In spite of his pain, they’d laughed and joked as he prepped the boy for the hospital train.

A sudden boom sent him reeling backwards.

Little did he know that day
His life would be forever changed
On a Flanders field of grey.

~~*~~

Sarah brushed aside a tear as her gaze swept over the Flanders field on the dreary November day. The mud caked on her shoes and the grey sky instantly transported her back to that fateful day fifteen years before.

November 6, 1917. Open and shut; open and shut. The door of the Nissen hut swung back and forth admitting stretcher after stretcher of broken, bloodied soldiers plastered in mud.

What had she been thinking when she volunteered? That it would be amusing to camp in a six-foot bell tent and nurse men gasping for breath with gas poisoning or writhing in pain with a limb blown off?

She hastened across the duckboards under an ominous grey sky that mirrored the fear every woman carried. Fear that a beau or brother would appear. And then it happened to her. A boy moaning on a stretcher stopped her—dead. Her brother.

Her head flew back with an anguished wail.

Little did she know that day
Her life would be forever changed
On a Flanders field of grey.

But the sun broke through the clouds on the November day over the Flanders field of grey. The light glistened off the red hair of her brother Roger walking with his cane beside the doctor. She smiled as the best friends joked about their long-ago ride on the hospital train.

Sarah quickened her pace to join the two and slipped her arm around the wounded surgeon she’d nursed so many years ago. She couldn’t ask for a more wonderful husband.

Indeed all their lives had been changed that day on a Flanders field of grey.

And they wouldn’t have it any other way.

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments about the piece and what inspires you to read about WWI or poetry.

Guest Post & Giveaway: Caroline: The Music Behind the Woman by Sue Barr

Many Pride & Prejudice variations are focused on Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, but what attracts me to Sue Barr’s variation is that it focuses on Miss Bennet’s nemesis, Caroline Bingley.  (OK, maybe nemesis is a strong word)  Caroline has focused on Mr. Darcy for so long, what happens to her after Darcy marries Elizabeth? How does she cope with that loss and what does she focus on now that he’s out of the picture?  Today, Sue Barr will share with us the musical influences of Jane Austen and how it plays in Caroline’s life.

But first, read more about the book below.

Book Synopsis:

Whatever happened to Caroline Bingley after her brother and unrequited love interest married a Bennet sister? Join me in this story of redemptive love and the healing of broken dreams.

Caroline Bingley, beyond frustrated with her brother, Charles and Mr. Darcy both proposing to the Bennet sisters, dreads their upcoming nuptials. For three years, her sole focus has been on attaining a marriage proposal from one Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley, only to be foiled by a country miss with ‘fine eyes’. Adrift and not sure of her place in life, she meets the mysterious and devastatingly handsome Lord Nathan, who equally vexes and intrigues her.

Lord Nathan Kerr, third in line to a Dukedom, had a well-earned reputation as a Rake. He cast all that and his noble title aside to become Mr. Darcy’s vicar in Kympton, finding contentment in leading his small flock and doing the Lord’s work. His plan for a quiet, country life is thrown into upheaval when he meets the fiery Miss Bingley. Can he reconcile his rising desire for the spoiled miss with how a vicar’s wife ‘should’ behave?

Purchase Links: Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon CA, Amazon AU

Please give Sue a warm welcome.

Thank you, Serena, for inviting me to your lovely blog today to discuss my latest book, Caroline. Today, I look forward to sharing this post with your readers that discusses the musical influences in Jane Austen’s own life, as well as in Caroline Bingley’s story too.

When it comes to musical talents, I have learned that Jane Austen really was somewhat of a proficient and a rather accomplished lady in her musical achievements. From the age of 12 years old, Jane practiced the piano nearly each and every morning. In the evenings, she could often be found performing at the piano for her family and friends.

Even at the age of 20, she was still taking weekly lessons and learning new techniques, which happened to be unusual, even for the accomplished women of her class. Even though her family existed on a limited budget, Jane was always able to have access to a good quality piano. Due to the costs of printed music, Jane belonged to an “informal, women-driven network” of music copyists and borrowers.

In my story, Caroline, I was able to connect Austen’s love for music as we discover that Caroline also has a passion for music which soothes her soul. Whenever troubled, she gravitates to the pianoforte and plays. Personally, I love Mozart and was so glad that he lived prior to the time frame of my story.

One of my favorite movies is Amadeus, not for the characterization of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his protagonist, Antonio Salieri but for the music. There is one song, when the last of the high notes hang in the air before crashing to the end, which gives me goose flesh. The genius of Mozart’s compositions is beyond compare. His piano concerto No. 26 has so many layers in nuance and timing, also any of his Clarinet Concertos, … and who doesn’t love Eine Klein Nachtmusic? Most people listen to the piece with only stringed instruments, but the piano solo, accompanied by woodwinds and stringed instruments is achingly beautiful. I have a CD of his music and love it.

I also wanted Caroline to have layers with her love of music and there were many great Masters to choose from, but I looked for something different. I Googled popular composers in the time of 1812 and Ignaz Pleyel popped up. You Tube is a wonderful place to lose yourself and I listened to many tracks until I found his sonata in F Major. I thought I’d share a link to the scene from Amadeus where Solieri, played by F. Murray Abraham, is describing the music of Mozart to a young priest. I think he won the Oscar from this scene alone.

I challenge you to listen to some classical music, if you don’t already love it. Really, really hear what these Masters composed. Imagine flutes, oboes and clarinets, joined by an bassoon providing the much needed lower layer and then along comes the violin, piercing the air with each rising crescendo in harmony alongside the cello and in the background, bass drums, like a heartbeat.

Can you hear it?

Reference: JOHNSON, CLAUDIA L. and CLARA TUITE (eds). A Companion to Jane Austen. Blackwell Publishing, 2009. Blackwell Reference Online. 25 February 2017

Thanks, Sue, for sharing this with us. I can hear the music now. I’m sure my readers can, too, and I bet they’re excited to enter to win!

About the Author:

Sue Barr resides in beautiful Southwestern Ontario with her retired Air Force hubby, two sons and their families. She’s also an indentured servant to three cats and has been known to rescue a kitten or two, or three … in an attempt to keep her ‘cat-lady- in-training’ status current. Although, she has deviated from appointed path and rescued a few dogs as well.

Sue is a member of Romance Writers of America and their affiliate chapter, Love, Hope and Faith as well as American Christian Fiction Writers. For more information about her other books, visit her website, her blog, and on Pinterest, Facebook, GoodReads, and Twitter.

Enter the Giveaway:

Three winners will receive a paperback copy of Caroline and a Jane Austen Journal and three separate winners will receive an ebook copy of this book. (All giveaways are open to international winners.)

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Guest Post: The Autobiography of a Book Tour by Brett Busang

Today, I’d like to welcome Brett Busang to the blog to talk about his experiences with publishing a book and marketing it.

But first read a bit about the book.

Book Synopsis:

Set in London, beginning in the early sixties and spanning five decades, I Shot Bruce follows Vijay Asunder, a rock-and-roll wannabe who, many decades after he is spurned by the manager of a singing group that eventually becomes world-famous, finally decides that he must kill the one person that symbolizes the success that has eluded him, his replacement. During a fifty-year span of time, Asunder follows the fortunes of the band and its various members as he pursues the alternate and ever-so-quiet, but not-very-satisfying life he’s made for himself as an antique dealer. Yet with each passing year, and with each reminder of “what might have been”, his obsession for revenge grows, until finally he must act.

Conceived loosely on the untimely dismissal and subsequent life of Pete Best, the so-called ‘fifth Beatle’, Asunder’s perspective and his ultimate commitment to retribution differs markedly from Ringo Starr’s predecessor. Intelligent and intense, I Shot Bruce chronicles and dramatizes obsession to the point of self-destruction.

Please give Brett a warm welcome.

When I Shot Bruce, my “angry, British” novel, was accepted by Open Books/Escape Media, I was under the impression that publishers sold your books, scheduled appearances, and sent you a check, on a quarterly basis, every year it remained in print, and, possibly beyond it.  What I confronted was a completely different playing-field, if you will, and have been trying to adjust to its peculiarly fuzzy boundaries ever since.  That would explain why it’s taken so long for me to conceive of, and participate in, forms of promotional activism I had once thought happened by themselves, or by means of an organic chemistry whereby mushrooms spring fully-formed (and fascinatingly dangerous) overnight. (I hope I can become a smart mushroom-grower.)  Until recently, however, I’d been hoping that bookstores would yield to ISB’s charms (I was wrong), The Washington Post (et al) would usher me into a world of perks and comforts I have not heretofore experienced (ha!), and that all of my appearances in bookstores and area stages would be – to channel another delusional thinker – packed.

At this point, appearances at bookstores (et al) have been so scant, that, like the Broadway production that closes out of town, each glittering moment is etched so indelibly that only a bump on the head – or one of those old-age afflictions that start with forgotten surnames – could expunge them. I could say that, having weathered a full year on a battlefront with few visible landmines, I’m in a shell-shocked condition that dare not speak its name. What would you call time spent restlessly, but without a master plan or marching orders? If good causes come out of a few random words, I’ve wasted thousands. What could I have been thinking about a project that shot from the hip and seemed to spin around, as if it lacked motor coordination, completely on its own? If effective human beings are said to have “agency”, I am an exemplar of whatever agency is not. Yet I have soldiered on and have had some interesting moments.

In Richmond, I read to an audience of three people – all good friends – who seemed to think that there was nothing unusual in having been skunked by everybody else. The most stalwart of these thought that having a warmly discriminating audience was a victory unto itself. Could quality be measured by numbers? (Sometimes.) Did it matter that I would sell books only to friends? (Without a living mother, these would have to suffice.) And who’s to judge whether James Patterson, with his gravity-defying success, is, in terms of what he has produced, superior to me? (*It would be delusional to think otherwise.)

Having gotten so many things wrong, I have begun to assume that I was never right about much of anything else and. . .I was right.  And I am starting over with a head that is no longer reeling and expectations that comport with where I am in the world.

I’ve signed a contract for another book, which will come out in June.  With all of this hard and hapless experience under my belt, I feel that, if I can implement alternative strategies such as The Unconventional Venue Phenomenon, I can snatch an honorable victory from defeatist jaws that have, thus far, eaten me alive. I believe that, with the perspective I have, by means of hustle and headache, acquired, I am likely to prevail as respectably as the model under which I operate – for which nothing less than full participation is acceptable – will allow.

If I don’t, I’ll have an existentially amusing outcome to jog my waning faculties. I Shot Bruce’s narrator is so compulsively wrong-headed that his life might be seen as a model of anti-perfection. If, in promoting him, I fail as abysmally as he did in my book, perhaps the poetic justice for which we yearn in fiction a little more than we do in real life, will be served. I would rather have him celebrated by a readership that may not hope for a sequel, but, if he is to be scorned in life as much as he was left to rot on the page, I think I can fall in with that. In a world of unsatisfactory outcomes, there is a double indemnity here. The book will sleep, as its narrator has, in infamy. And when, in the year 2054, it is rediscovered by a pimply-faced young man who surfs the internet – as people will do at that time – by Long-Distance Imaging, I Shot Bruce may finally have its day. Life is short, art long, and it’s best to hope as selectively as you can.

*One could say that books come alive as they are written. I would suggest that, in publishing, a second life is not only desirable, it’s absolutely necessary. If you publish, you’ve got to publicize. And Patterson has done it – or has had it done for him – quite resoundingly.

Thanks, Brett, for sharing this story with us.

About the Author/Artist:

Brett Busang is a prominent and respected American realist. He has exhibited at such institutions as the Museum of the City of New York City; the Everson Museum, in Syracuse, NY; the Greenville Museum of Art, in Greenville, NC. His paintings have been avidly collected by corporations (Capital One, Krispy Kreme, Media General, Wheat First Union, among others) as well as private individuals around the country. An heir to such uncompromising voices as Edward Hopper and Charles Burchfield, Mr. Busang interprets “his own backyard” with a combination of personal lyricism and rigorous objectivity. His writing has appeared in American Artist, The Artist’s Magazine, American Art Review, the New York Press and New York Newsday. He also contributes regularly to a blog at www.webartsites.com. To view his art, visit his website.

Brett Busang describes himself as a prolific essayist, a moderately interesting playwright, a lapsed painter, an ambivalent anglophile and a failed ballplayer.  Brett Busang was born in Memphis, Tennessee and now lives in Washington, DC. His latest book, Laughter and Early Sorrow (and Other Stories), is forthcoming from Open Books/Escape Media.

Why Mansfield Park? by Kyra Kramer

Mansfield Parsonage by Kyra Kramer is a behind the scenes tale of Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.  It tells another story; the story of Mary Crawford.

When her widowed uncle made her home untenable, Mary made the best of things by going to live with her elder sister, Mrs Grant, in a parson’s house the country. Mansfield Parsonage was more than Mary had expected and better than she could have hoped.  Gregarious and personable, Mary also embraced the inhabitants of the nearby Mansfield Park, watching the ladies set their caps for her dashing brother, Henry Crawford, and developing an attachment to Edmund Bertram and a profound affection for his cousin, Fanny Price.

Mansfield Parsonage retells the story of Mansfield Park from the perspective of Mary Crawford’s hopes and aspirations and shows how Fanny Price’s happily-ever- after came at Mary’s expense.

Please welcome Kyra Kramer today, as she speaks about why she decided to write a book based on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, rather than a different one of her novels.

Why did I want to tell the story of Mansfield Park, one of Austen’s least-loved novels, from the point of view of the anti-heroine, Mary Crawford? To be blunt, it was because her treatment at the hands of the protagonists, Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram, appalled me. She was nothing but kind to both of them and they threw away her friendship like garbage when she turned out to be less rigidly moralistic and judgemental than they were. From the first time I read Mansfield Park, I wanted to call Fanny and Edmund onto the carpet over their shoddy behaviour toward Mary and to vehemently defend Mary’s ‘evil’ indelicacy. Mary’s great sin was that she wanted to save Edmund’s sister, Maria Bertram Rushworth, from disgrace after Maria left her husband to run off with Mary’s brother, Henry Crawford.

Golly, how horrible to want to keep Maria for being cast out of good society forever! And make no mistake – it was Maria she was trying to save, perhaps at the expense of her own brother’s happiness. After all, as a man, Henry Crawford was going to get off relatively scot free after running off with another man’s wife, but Maria was going to become a total pariah unless Henry married her. So, even though Henry didn’t love Maria, his sister Mary was going to try to get him to wed her in the hopes of preventing her social death.

How did Edmund and Fanny respond to Mary’s attempts to save Maria? By throwing her goodwill back in her face and telling her she was disgusting for even thinking of it! In the original novel, Edmund describes his reaction to Mary’s offer:

As soon as I could speak, I replied that I had not supposed it possible, coming in such a state of mind into that house as I had done, that anything could occur to make me suffer more, but that she had been inflicting deeper wounds in almost every sentence. That though I had, in the course of our acquaintance, been often sensible of some difference in our opinions, on points, too, of some moment, it had not entered my imagination to conceive the difference could be such as she had now proved it. That the manner in which she treated the dreadful crime committed by her brother and my sister (with whom lay the greater seduction I pretended not to say), but the manner in which she spoke of the crime itself, giving it every reproach but the right; considering its ill consequences only as they were to be braved or overborne by a defiance of decency and impudence in wrong; and last of all, and above all, recommending to us a compliance, a compromise, an acquiescence in the continuance of the sin, on the chance of a marriage which, thinking as I now thought of her brother, should rather be prevented than sought; all this together most grievously convinced me that I had never understood her before, and that, as far as related to mind, it had been the creature of my own imagination, not Miss Crawford, that I had been too apt to dwell on for many months past. That, perhaps, it was best for me; I had less to regret in sacrificing a friendship, feelings, hopes which must, at any rate, have been torn from me now. And yet, that I must and would confess that, could I have restored her to what she had appeared to me before, I would infinitely prefer any increase of the pain of parting, for the sake of carrying with me the right of tenderness and esteem. This is what I said, the purport of it; but, as you may imagine, not spoken so collectedly or methodically as I have repeated it to you. She was astonished, exceedingly astonished—more than astonished. I saw her change countenance. She turned extremely red. I imagined I saw a mixture of many feelings: a great, though short struggle; half a wish of yielding to truths, half a sense of shame, but habit, habit carried it. She would have laughed if she could. It was a sort of laugh, as she answered, ‘A pretty good lecture, upon my word. Was it part of your last sermon? At this rate you will soon reform everybody at Mansfield and Thornton Lacey; and when I hear of you next, it may be as a celebrated preacher in some great society of Methodists, or as a missionary into foreign parts.’  She tried to speak carelessly, but she was not so careless as she wanted to appear. I only said in reply, that from my heart I wished her well, and earnestly hoped that she might soon learn to think more justly, and not owe the most valuable knowledge we could any of us acquire, the knowledge of ourselves and of our duty, to the lessons of affliction, and immediately left the room.

There it is. Edmund’s response to Mary’s kindness – to tell her he was shocked she turned out to be such a horrible skank and he hoped she became less skanky over time. Worse, he also whinged to Fanny about Mary’s “total ignorance” of proper moral rectitude and her “perversion of mind which made it natural to her to treat the subject as she did”. He practically wept about her “faults of principle” and her “blunted delicacy and a corrupted, vitiated mind”. Strong words about a woman whose only crime was trying to save Edmund’s sister from permanent alienation!

Moreover, Mary was the most amusing, most vital, and most complex character in the book; the opposite of the stodgy Edmund Bertram and milquetoast Fanny Price. As I explain in my preface:

The delight of most Austen’s characters, for good or for ill, is in their flaws. Whether they are comic relief or fodder for scathing social commentary or beloved protagonists, they were imperfect. Austen’s strong-willed heroines are particularly relatable for the reader because they are not pure paragons. Elizabeth had her prejudice, Anne was too persuadable, Marianne was too romantic, Elinor was too pragmatic, Catherine was naïve and overly imaginative, and Emma was subject to vanity. They are loved because they are inherently decent people, and lovable because they aren’t revoltingly perfect models of submissive 18 th century feminine ideals. Fanny Price, the heroine of Mansfield Park, stands alone as the main protagonist who was unable to make a mistake. Fanny Price is an apotheosis of delicacy, modesty, and tenderness. She is so meek, mild, and righteous that it is almost impossible not to hate her. Mary Crawford is the sharp one in the book. Mary Crawford is the one with uncongenial character traits to be overcome. Mary Crawford is interesting.

In summary, I wanted to tell Mary’s story because she was treated unfairly and was the most charismatic person in Mansfield Park. Although I stuck to the narrative plot of Mansfield Park like glue, I did everything I could to secure the reader’s sympathy in the place I believed it should naturally lie … in Mary Crawford’s perspective. I present Mary Crawford as Austen did; as a good-natured and realistic woman of the world and her time. Unlike Austen, however, I did not condemn Mary as “ruined” by her tolerance of the social shenanigans which surrounded her and her clear-eyed view of English religious hypocrisy. Considering that Austen’s other novels also evince a knowledge of how ridiculousness clergymen could be and how the detection of sin, rather than sin itself, was treated as the true evil, I can only wonder if Austen was trying to “punish” herself for her overly-sardonic worldview by making Mary Crawford the antagonist. If so, she failed, because Austen’s caustic take on the Regency’s sociocultural norms, which are nevertheless threaded with real hope for domestic happiness, remain as charming as Mary Crawford. We, like Mr. Darcy, are still enthralled by the mixture of sweetness and archness in Austen’s tales and have fallen in love with them. Mary Crawford, with her good nature and searing wit, belongs in the ranks of Austen’s heroines more than the tepid and creepmouse Fanny Price ever will.

About the Author:

Kyra Kramer is a medical anthropologist, historian, and devoted bibliophile who lives just outside Cardiff, Wales with her handsome husband and three wonderful young daughters.

She has a deep – nearly obsessive – love for Regency Period romances in general and Jane Austen’s work in particular. Ms. Kramer has authored several history books and academic essays, but this is her first foray into fictional writing.  Visit her website, Twitter, and on Facebook.

Giveaway — win an e-copy of Kramer’s Mansfield Parsonage; Comment by March 6, 2017 at 11:59 PM EST.

Guest Post & Giveaway: The Power of Song by Anngela Schroeder

A Lie Universally Hidden by Anngela Schroeder envisions an Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy on parallel courses to marry out of duty and for money. Readers will wonder how these characters could ever come together for their happily ever after as Jane Austen prepared for them. I’m really looking forward to reading this one, and I wanted to share with you a little about the book and a guest post from Anngela Schroeder. And, there’s a giveaway!

Book Synopsis:

Fitzwilliam Darcy was raised to never stray from the path set before him: ensure the continued prosperity of his estate, Pemberley, protect and educate his sister to become an accomplished woman, and marry the woman his mother chose for him—his cousin Anne de Bourgh. With a letter bearing his late mother’s signature, Darcy presumes his fate is sealed and prepares to wed one he does not love. However, his destiny begins to unravel when he glimpses a pair of fine eyes on a quiet, country road.

Elizabeth Bennet is the second daughter of a respectable though insignificant gentleman. She is flattered to have captured the attention of a local squire, a childhood friend, and everyone believes her path is secure—until a handsome, rich gentleman arrives at a neighboring estate. Happenstance begets the unlikely pair together, bridging a forbidden love long past a mere friendship.

In A Lie Universally Hidden, two of literature’s most beloved romance characters are destined to marry for fortune and obligation rather than love. How will Darcy and Elizabeth fulfill their true destiny under such circumstances? Shall honor, decorum, prudence—nay, a signed letter from the grave—forbid it?

Please welcome Anngela Schroeder — who was recently interviewed on Good Day Sacramento — as she talks about the power of song in her new novel, A Lie Universally Hidden.

Serena, I’m so excited to join you and your readers today at Savvy Verse & Wit. My little book has been on a whirlwind journey these last two weeks, and I am grateful for such a hospitable stop to be its last.

I thought long and hard about what to pen for today, and decided I was going to focus on one aspect of my story which to some may be insignificant, yet it is actually a thread tying two characters together. These characters will never meet, but the song, “The Rose of Tralee,” sung by their lips, has a similar effect on Darcy.

We first hear the song in Chapter 1, when Lady Anne Darcy, on her deathbed, is singing it to her beloved son, Fitzwilliam. The words seem innocuous enough when we hear the lyrics from the first verse: “The pale moon was rising above the green mountain, the sun was declining beneath the blue sea, when I strayed with my love to the pure crystal fountain, that stands in the beautiful Vale of Tralee…” The song continues on about two young lovers who are destined to be apart and how the young man longs for Mary, his Rose of Tralee.

I took liberties by using this song in the novel, the main one that it was not written until roughly 1843, thirty years after my story takes place. However, once you hear the history of the piece, you’ll understand my need to incorporate it in my book.

Written by Irishman William Mulchinock, ‘The Rose of Tralee’ is an elegy of the life he briefly had, but then it was snatched away from him. Having been born into wealth, he was visiting his family’s estate, when he went up to the nursery to see his nieces, and he met the new nursemaid, Mary O’Keefe. He fell in love immediately with her. Unfortunately, his family objected to his feelings, and things became even more complicated when circumstances came about in his life and he was accused of murder. (I really couldn’t make this story up!) He was sent to India to avoid prosecution, and stayed there for six years. Upon his return to Ireland, he discovered that his love had died only days before his return. He then married and moved to America, before abandoning his wife and two children to return to his homeland and die alone.

In my novel, Lady Anne sung it as an old Irish folk melody, and that is how William had always recognized it. But, when he heard Elizabeth sing it in the emptiness of Ashby Park, the meaning became clear to him. It was not longer the sweet ballad of his youth. It now had even more significant meaning to him. Here she was before him; his own Rose of Tralee, Elizabeth Bennet: she who he loved, but could never have. They were destined to be apart because of their own social standings, as well as preexisting circumstances beyond, what they believed to be, their control.

The song itself also speaks of the depths of Darcy’s love: that it was not a superficial kind of feeling. “Yet 'twas not her beauty alone that won me; oh no, 'twas the truth in her eyes ever dawning, that made me love Mary the Rose of Tralee.” A pair of fine eyes, perhaps? Darcy’s love also was not based solely on Elizabeth’s physical appearance. We know that she had more accomplishments to recommend herself, yet painting tables and netting purses were things that were of little consequence to him. Darcy wanted a woman of substance, and that is what he found in Elizabeth Bennet, the one woman who he felt spoke to him like no one else, save his mother, the first love of all little boys.

I sprinkled this song throughout the story, always trying to connect Elizabeth and Darcy with Lady Anne, in an attempt to wreak havoc on Darcy’s understanding of himself and his mother. Whenever he thought things were under control, ­ BAM! There was the song, throwing off his equilibrium.

I do hope you have enjoyed this look into this meaningful aspect of my story, and I hope it helps you understand Darcy’s struggles a wee bit more.

About the Author:

She has a degree in English with a concentration in British Literature and a Masters in Education. She loves to travel, bake, and watch college football with her husband of 16 years and 3 rambunctious sons. She lives in California where Anngela dreams of Disney adventures and trips across the pond. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, and on Amazon.

Giveaway:

Anngela is giving away two autographed hard copies (US mailing addresses only), 2 kindle versions (Open to international winners), an autographed copy of Then Comes Winter (US mailing address only) and an autographed 5×7 of the A Lie Universally Hidden book cover.

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Guest Post & Giveaway: The Best Part of Love by A. D’Orazio

Welcome to our tour stop for The Best Part of Love by A. D’Orazio

We want to welcome you to a cut scene from the novel in which Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Wickham are in coversation, but first check out the book’s blurb below:

Book Blurb:

Avoiding the truth does not change the truth

When Fitzwilliam Darcy meets Miss Elizabeth Bennet he has no idea that she — that indeed, the entire town of Meryton — harbors a secret. Miss Elizabeth, a simply country girl from a humble estate, manages to capture first his fascination and then his heart without him ever knowing the truth of her past.

When she meets Darcy, Elizabeth had spent the two years prior hiding from the men who killed her beloved first husband. Feeling herself destroyed by love, Elizabeth has no intention of loving again, certainly not with the haughty man who could do nothing but offend her in Hertfordshire.

In London, Elizabeth surprises herself by finding in Darcy a friend; even greater is her surprise to find herself gradually coming to love him and even accepting an offer of marriage from him.  Newly married, they are just beginning to settle into their happily ever after when a condemned man on his way to the gallows divulges a shattering truth, a secret that contradicts everything.  Elizabeth thought she knew about the tragic circumstances of her first marriage. Against the advice of everyone who loves her, including Darcy, Elizabeth begins to ask questions. But will what they learn destroy them both?

And now for the conversation:

……………………

For those of you who have a copy of the book already, this interview might have come somewhere in the middle of chapter 20.

……………………

By silent agreement, it was Colonel Fitzwilliam who conducted the interview. Darcy knew that his anger, a deep anger fed by his growing fears, prohibited him from being a disinterested inquisitor and as such, he ceded the office to his cousin.

Wickham had acted stupidly brave for a time, but when at last it appeared the other two men would leave him to his fate, he relented. At length, he realised candour was in his best interests, as well as Darcy’s, and he promised to tell them the truth as he best remembered it.

“Very well,” said Colonel Fitzwilliam. “Perhaps it might do to begin with how came your involvement in this dreadful business.”

Wickham sighed heavily. “Does that honestly matter?”

“Oblige me.”

After a moment’s pause, Wickham spat out, “I was cheated but then again, when is it that life does not present to me its very hindquarters? All is well and good for those of you who sit, high and mighty, who know not the deprivations of—”

Darcy waved his hand tiredly. “Yes, yes, we know your song, you have sung it many times over to any who will hear you. Do go on with something we do not know.”

“It was a design from the beginning, to see me a part of it. I hardly remember the night, ’twas such a bosky sort of evening but the long and short of it was that I ended with empty pockets and then some.”

Fitzwilliam snorted. “This is hardly anything we did not know or at least might have imagined. Who did you owe?”

“I knew them not but could easily discern they were high, very high. They were not the sorts to be easily put off. They wanted their due, immediately.” Wickham swallowed hard.

“But you did not have it.”

Wickham shook his head. “It was an amount not easily laid by for such a man as myself. Ah but if only I could have had the living your father promised, Darcy. Then I think I should have been—” Darcy stopped him with a glare and a word. “Enough.”

“I was given a day to come up with it.”

“Knowing you as I do, I would suppose you used that reprieve to try to escape,” said Darcy.

“I did,” Wickham admitted. “But they anticipated me. I was moments away from boarding a coach when one of the men appeared, and looking none too pleased to see me. A veritable brute he was, and quite undignified in the manner that he took me to see his friend.”

“His friend?”

Wickham nodded. “A friend called only Smith. He sat with another man in a brothel where we met several times. He was there with another man. He did not speak — Smith spoke for him but I had no doubt it was he who called the tune.”

“And what did Smith talk to you about?” Fitzwilliam asked.

“He spoke to me about helping them out a bit. Said my expenses — including my debt from the table — would be taken care of and I would receive payment besides.”

“Naturally the money spoke to you, and never mind what you had to do to earn it.” Darcy shook his head.

“Your father was a good man, I cannot bear to think of his feelings if he knew what you were.”

“I had no choice,” Wickham replied defensively. “Make no mistake of it, the payment was for my silence. If I had refused my task, I should not have left the room under my own power — of this I can assure you.”

“So you took the money, that much we know.” Fitzwilliam leant forward, fixing Wickham in a steely blue gaze. “But my question is: did you do what they asked?”

Author Bio:

Amy D’Orazio is a former breast cancer researcher and current stay at home mom who is addicted to Austen and Starbucks in about equal measures. While she adores Mr. Darcy, she is married to Mr. Bingley and their Pemberley is in Pittsburgh, Pa.

She has two daughters who are devoted to sports which require long practices and began writing her own stories as a way to pass the time she spent sitting in the lobbies of various gyms and studios. She is a firm believer that all stories should have long looks, stolen kisses and happily ever afters. Like her favorite heroine, she dearly loves a laugh and considers herself an excellent walker.  Join her on GoodReads, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook.

Giveaway:

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Guest Review: Black Hills by Dan Simmons

The week takes us to South Dakota with Black Hills by Dan Simmons (audio book narrated by Erik Davies and Michael McConnohie)

Entertainment Weekly says – “Black Hills breathes life into the tale of a Sioux warrior believed General Custer’s ghost entered him at Little Big Horn.”

Review by Laura of 125Pages

three-half-stars  3.5 Stars

Black Hills was a very interesting listen. It follows Paha Sapa a 10 year-old Sioux boy as he rides through the aftermath of the battle of Little Big Horn, to his time working on the construction of Mt. Rushmore, to his last days. Now interesting doesn’t necessarily mean good or bad, it was different. The first thing to note is the time line of the story. It begins when he is 10 then the next chapter he is in his late 60’s, then he is a man in his 20’s. It took a few chapters to figure out the time line and honestly it would have made an easier time of it if the tale had not jumped back and forth as it did. The second thing to note is that Paha Sapa believes that the ghost of General Custer enters him at the battle and he spends his life listening to the voice in his head. Okay…. that happened. It actually detracted from the main story and the letters from Custer to his wife were pretty graphic and not in a good way. I’m not sure if they were included to add some spice to the tale, but I don’t need to hear about Custer’s sex life and manhood *shudder*. Item three, was the immense length. The audio book was well over 20 hours and at times I grew frustrated with the needless antidotes and facts ( the Chicago’s World Fair had lots of stuff and you will hear about it all). Now on to the good things, the world building was superb and the images the story created were vivid. Paha Sapa is a character that felt deeply and I loved the emotion in him.

Black Hills is a book to read if you have a lot of time and are okay with being bogged down by details. The lush scenery it evoked was superb and I truly felt a part of Paha Sapa’s life. At the end I really did enjoy it, but a good 1/3 of the book was unnecessary to get the heart of the story across.

Favorite lines – Then the young men, streaming blood on their painted chests and backs, would stand and begin their dancing and chanting, leaning back from or toward the sacred tree so that their bodies were often suspended totally by the rawhide and horn under their muscles. And always they stared at the sun as they danced and chanted.

Guest Review: Jim the Boy by Tony Earley

This week takes us to North Carolina. Entertainment Weekly says – “A boy named Jim come of age during the depression in a secluded North Carolina hamlet where the state’s history looms large and maps of the Confederacy still hang in his classroom.”

Review by Laura of 125Pages

Jim the Boy by Tony Earley is a sweet tale of a young man that begins on his 10th birthday and ends on his 11th. Jim Glass has a mother and three uncles that raise him in tiny Aliceville, North Carolina. Jim is an ordinary boy, obsessed with baseball, fascinated with the train that comes through the town, and palling around with his friend Penn. His father died just before he was born and he relies on his uncles for his manly needs and his mother for love and comfort.

It was very interesting to me how the location played almost a separate character. Earley ensured that the landscape was detailed and well described.

The closer they drew to the mountain, the more uneven the land became. White outcroppings of quartz began to spill from the red banks along the side of the road. The road pitched up and down over short, steep hills, on the sides of which clung upland farms. Corn and sweet potatoes and small, cash patches of tobacco and cotton grew in terraced fields that carefully followed the contours of the hills.

Jim is a character that is simple and sweet. He feels deeply and is not afraid to show his emotions. I particularly enjoyed the internal dialogue he had while trying to figure out what to say to a boy stricken with polio. The vivid descriptions and picture of a small, mostly idyllic, town made me enjoy the book more than I thought I would. This was a quick read and while I enjoyed it, I will not read the second in the series as it did not suck me in enough.

Favorite lines – Once Amos died, Jim’s father would become as ancient and faceless as a man in the Bible, a man walking away until he is finally impossible to see. Once Amos was gone, Jim would be alone in the world in a way he had never been alone before.

Guest Post & Giveaway: Dear Almost by Matthew Thorburn

Matthew Thorburn’s poetry has been reviewed on the blog before, and I’m happy to welcome him (whom I interviewed for 32 Poems) today as he discusses how he became a writer.

His latest collection, Dear Almost, recently toured with Poetic Book Tours this fall.  This collection is an emotional poem that reflects on miscarriage and its impact on those left behind and the small person who never fully developed to experience all that life has to offer.

About the book:

Dear Almost is a book-length poem addressed to an unborn child lost in miscarriage. Beginning with the hope and promise of springtime, the poet traces the course of a year with sections set in each of the four seasons. Part book of days, part meditative prayer, part travelogue, the poem details a would-be father’s wanderings through the figurative landscapes of memory and imagination as well as the literal landscapes of the Bronx, Shanghai, suburban New Jersey, and the Japanese island of Miyajima.

As the speaker navigates his days, he attempts to show his unborn daughter “what life is like / here where you ought to be / with us, but aren’t.” His experiences recall other deaths and uncover the different ways we remember and forget. Grief forces him to consider a question he never imagined asking: how do you mourn for someone you loved but never truly knew, never met or saw? In candid, meditative verse, Dear Almost seeks to resolve this painful question, honoring the memory of a child who both was and wasn’t there.

Please give Matthew Thorburn a warm welcome:

Thanks so much for inviting me to share a guest post for Dear Almost, my new book of poetry. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about my reading/writing life and what led me to become a writer.

It’s hard to remember a defining moment—as if I have just always wanted to be a writer, which seems pretty much true. Books have been important to me for as long as I can remember. Many of my fondest childhood memories involve them: listening to my dad and mom read stories to me, listening to stories on records and cassettes (remember those?), working my way through The Wind in the Willows and The Mouse and the Motorcycle and, eventually, just about all of the Hardy Boys books as a school kid. (What a thrilling discovery it was to read my first Hardy Boys mystery, love it, and then see there were thirty more on the classroom bookshelf.)

I sometimes think growing up as an only child made me more likely to enjoy the worlds of imagination that books offer—and more likely to want to create my own as a writer—though of course plenty of wonderful writers have siblings. However, I can pinpoint two experiences that got me started on the path to writing poems.

First, I fell in love as a reader. I remember one day in eleventh grade literature class we were reading Antigone aloud. Since I hadn’t been assigned a part, and didn’t really like the play (Sorry, Ms. Sullivan!), I was flipping through our textbook when I happened upon Allen Ginsberg’s poem “First Party at Ken Kesey’s with Hell’s Angels” and, on the next page, Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Fortune has its cookies to give out.” I had enjoyed reading Frost, Dickinson, W.C. Williams, and other poets in American Lit class the year before, but these poems were something different.

I was blown away by the sense of immediacy and the impressionistic details in Ginsberg’s poem, the way he telegraphs the scene to us in images—and I loved Ferlinghetti’s sense of nostalgia and romance, and the quiet, tender humor in his poem. Both poets made a place and time I’d never experienced feel familiar and immediate. It wasn’t long before I got my mom to drive me to Jocundry’s Books, out by the Michigan State University campus, where I picked up the pocket-size City Lights editions of Ginsberg’s Howl and Ferlinghetti’s Pictures of the Gone World. These books still mean a great deal to me as a writer.

Second, I found a supportive, encouraging community in which to write. In my senior year, our AP English class took part in the International Poetry Guild (IPG), an initiative run by the Interactive Communications & Simulations (ICS) group at the University of Michigan’s School of Education.

IPG brings together students at schools in the United States and around the world to write poems, share and discuss their work online, and give each other constructive feedback and encouragement. Students at the university also serve as mentors, critiquing the poets’ work and fostering an ongoing discussion of the creative process. Each school also edits, designs, and publishes a journal of student poems at the end of the year.

Keep in mind, though, that I went to high school in the late 1980s/early 1990s. IPG truly was an innovative idea in those days of dial-up modems and bulletin board systems. Today, IPG operates via the web. But amazing as it seems now, back then I’d never seen a website or sent an email. The whole enterprise had an air of mysteriousness and wonder. My friend Laura, our communications editor, would download and print out a new batch of poems and responses for us each day, then upload our latest poems so the other schools could read them.

Participating in IPG gave me my first real sense that there were others like me, at my school and around the world, who liked to write poems and were interested in reading each other’s work. It was also my first taste of how technology can bring writers and readers together—through a blog like this one, for instance. IPG provided an irresistible mix of opportunity and encouragement, a place and time dedicated to poetry.

I wrote so many poems that year. They were the poems of a seventeen-year- old, and I probably wouldn’t want to re-read them now (or have you read them). But IPG marked the beginning of my poetic apprenticeship, laying the groundwork for the nearly 25 years of poem-writing that have followed (and the many more years of writing I hope are still to come). I’ll always be grateful to my AP English teacher Jan Kesel, who got our school involved in IPG and encouraged us to make the most of it, and Jeff Stanzler, who directs ICS and was the guiding spirit behind IPG. They are two of the shining stars in my sky.

About the Poet:

Matthew Thorburn is the author of six collections of poetry, including the book-length poem Dear Almost (Louisiana State University Press, 2016) and the chapbook A Green River in Spring (Autumn House Press, 2015), winner of the Coal Hill Review chapbook competition. His previous collections include This Time Tomorrow (Waywiser Press, 2013), Every Possible Blue (CW Books, 2012), Subject to Change, and an earlier chapbook, the long poem Disappears in the Rain (Parlor City Press, 2009). His work has been recognized with a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, as well as fellowships from the Bronx Council on the Arts and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. His interviews with writers appear on the Ploughshares blog as a monthly feature. He lives in New York City, where he works in corporate communications.

GIVEAWAY: U.S./Canada residents only. Deadline Dec. 7, 2016

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