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Guest Post: Blue People or Hoax by Isla Morely, author of The Last Blue

Today’s guest is Isla Morely, the author of The Last Blue, who found a family portrait on the internet that she thought had to be a hoax. The picture was of a family, five of whom were blue. Has to be a hoax, right?

She’s going to talk about her researching journey and her book. I hope you enjoy this tale.

Book Synopsis:

A luminous narrative inspired by the fascinating real case of “the Blue People of Kentucky” that probes questions of identity, love, and family.

In 1937, there are recesses in Appalachia no outsiders have ever explored. Two government-sponsored documentarians from Cincinnati, Ohio—a writer and photographer—are dispatched to penetrate this wilderness and record what they find for President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. For photographer Clay Havens, the assignment is his last chance to reboot his flagging career. So when he and his journalist partner are warned away from the remote Spooklight Holler outside of town, they set off eagerly in search of a headline story.

What they see will haunt Clay into his old age: Jubilee Buford, a woman whose skin is a shocking and unmistakable shade of blue. From this happenstance meeting between a woman isolated from society and persecuted her whole life, and a man accustomed to keeping himself at lens distance from others, comes a mesmerizing story in which the dark shades of betrayal, prejudice, fear, and guilt, are refracted along with the incandescent hues of passion and courage.

Panning across the rich rural aesthetic of eastern Kentucky, The Last Blue is a captivating love story and an intimate portrait of what it is like to be truly one of a kind.

Please give Isla Morely a warm welcome.

“Hoax!” I thought. On my screen was a grainy, old-fashioned portrait of a family of nine people, five of whom were blue. Who believes anything on the internet these days? Had I not been so intent on avoiding the edits I was supposed to have completed on my current novel, I might have closed my laptop and returned to my manuscript, but instead, I took the bait. Click.

No, not hoax at all. The article featured a family who lived more 100 years ago in the wilderness of eastern Kentucky, not too far from Hardburly, who came to be known as “the blue people of Troublesome Creek” and who inspired my latest novel, The Last Blue. Yes, they were unmistakably and shockingly blue. The color of a bruised plum, according to some eye-witness accounts. I expected many to have written about it, but as I started to research, I found very little except a four-page article written by Cathy Trost, published in a now-defunct Science journal in 1982. Few knew about the blue people, arguably one of the most fascinating medical cases of all time.

The real-life account begins with Martin Fugate, a French orphan who immigrated to the United States and settled in Kentucky in 1820. He married and started a family, and soon starting having children who were born blue. Large families were typical in those days, and the Fugates, along with three or four other families, clustered in isolation from the rest of the world until those who were blue were not too uncommon.

From Cathy Trost’s account, blue people kept to themselves. Read between the lines and you get a sense of the stigmatizing, prejudice and social avoidance these families must have faced. Trost describes how a renowned hematologist from Lexington came to the area to investigate rumors of blue people, giving chase after spotting a blue person only to get to the top of the hill and discover they’d disappeared. Having given up, the doctor was preparing to return to the city when two blue people snuck into the local clinic. Keeping to the shadows of the hallway, the couple wanted his help. “You could tell how much it bothered them to be blue,” the doctor said, reporting the emotional pain he saw in their faces.

What especially caught my attention was a brief description near the end of the article about a man purportedly married to “the bluest woman who ever lived.” Though she had died many years prior, he refused to live anywhere but the log cabin he had built for her with his own hands, a stone’s throw from her grave. When asked about his wife’s peculiar coloring, he refused to acknowledge she’d been blue. If love is colorblind, surely this was a fine example. Instantly, I knew I would write a love story that explored the meaning of identity, belonging and what it is to be truly one of a kind, an undertaking that took me five years.

Besides investigating the medical condition and whether or not there were cures and treatments, I had to do a lot of research into the Great Depression. The deepest hollers of eastern Kentucky were also largely unexplored until roads were built in the hills, and though the region had been made famous by Daniel Boone and the Hatfields and McCoys, it had been plagued by stereotypes of mountain men, snake handlers and hillbillies. To this day, many stereotypes persist. The last thing I wanted to do was perpetuate those falsehoods.

Thanks to the contributions made by hundreds of writers and photographers employed by Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration in the Thirties, there is a trove of photographs, field notes, and audio recordings that bring to life a bygone era. But photographs tell only so much of the story, and often they too serve an agenda. What was left then for me to do but to dip the bucket of individual experience and corporate wisdom into the deep well of imagination? The Last Blue, entirely fiction, is the result I hope rings utterly true.

Can you believe it? Very fascinating, and I bet the novel is too.

You can view the book trailer below:

About the Author:

Isla Morley grew up in South Africa during apartheid, the child of a British father and fourth-generation South African mother. During the country’s State of Emergency, she graduated from Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth with a degree in English Literature.

By 1994 she was one of the youngest magazine editors in South Africa, but left career, country and kin when she married an American and moved to California. For more than a decade she pursued a career in non-profit work, focusing on the needs of women and children.

Her debut novel, Come Sunday, won the Janet Heidinger Prize for fiction and was a finalist for the Commonwealth Prize. It has been translated into seven languages. Her novel, Above was an IndieNext Pick, a Best Buzz Book and a Publishers Weekly Best New Book. The Last Blue is her third novel.

She has lived in some of the most culturally diverse places of the world, including Johannesburg, London and Honolulu. Now in Los Angeles, she shares a home with her husband, daughter, three cats and five tortoises. Follow her on Facebook.

Excerpt & Giveaway: Outmatched by Jayne Bamber

Today’s guest is Jayne Bamber and her new book, Outmatched, which is a mash up of Mansfield Park and Sense & Sensibility. New alliances are formed in this novel, and there are elements of self-discovery, redemption, and conspiracy.

Before we get to today’s post, check out the book synopsis below:

When Sir Thomas Bertram returns home to Mansfield after his year in Antigua, he expects respite from his many troubles, in the bosom of his family. Instead he is met with blackmail, collusion, and the ominous threat of scandal.

When Mrs. Margaret Dashwood takes her daughters from Norland to Barton Park, she carries with her a secret hope that they might someday return, though she is not yet ready to pay the price for it.

A mutual connection bent on manipulation and revenge sets the stage for heartbreak, intrigue, and plenty of surprises as the worlds of Sense & Sensibility and Mansfield Park collide. Alliances shift along the way as familiar characters, bound by family ties, descend on Norland Park. There everyone has their own agenda, and constant peril looms as a large party of relations all scheme to outwit, out-maneuver, and outmatch their opponents.

Please welcome, Jayne Bamber:

Hello, readers! It is a pleasure to be welcomed here at Savvy Verse & Wit. It is Release Day for my fifth novel, Outmatched, a fusion of Mansfield Park and Sense & Sensibility, and I am particularly excited about the excerpt I am sharing today!

I have never wanted to admit how very much I like Mary Crawford, but I am sure readers will detect it over the course of the story. She has all the wit and sparkle of Elizabeth Bennet, though with sharper edges to be sure, but I cannot think her indefensible. She cares for her roguish brother, perhaps to a fault, but I am willing to argue her loyalty does her some credit. I cannot completely fault her in her dealings with Edmund Bertram, either – she knows what she wants, and bristles at the prospect of having to compromise. In truth, I think it brave of her, and quite right – she knows she does not wish to be a parson’s wife, and no community would be served by the parson’s wife not fulfilling the obligations of her position begrudgingly. Even at the end, when Tom is very ill, perhaps she ought not to speak as she does, but come on, we were all thinking it!

If my attempt at vindication has not entirely put you off, I do hope you will enjoy this little glimpse at my rendition of Mary Crawford. This scene takes place a few days after the large cast of characters converges at Norland, with one fairly logical friendship for Mary, and another that, though far from obvious, hold some promise….

***

Edmund was not amongst them in the drawing room, but Mary was determined neither to notice nor mind his absence; she played her harp for herself, and for her new friend Marianne. After a few minutes it was not such an effort. She had always loved playing, loved the feelings of peaceful pride that came with willing the strings to do her bidding. She played a piece she knew by heart and closed her eyes, shutting out her audience to lose herself in the music.

The effect might have been too engrossing, for when she opened her eyes at the end of her song, she was almost startled at the applause from more than a dozen people.

Marianne, who had been most insistent on the use of Christian names, rushed toward Mary at once. “Come, you must play a duet with me at the pianoforte,” she cried. She caught Mary by the hand and led her to the instrument, where she assaulted Mary with a tremendous quantity of sheet music to look over. The conversation in the room started up as Mary looked over the music; with so many people, it was all just a strange, euphoric buzzing in her ears.

All this had transpired within but a moment of Mary’s song, and she was still nearly in a trance from the emotion of her performance. This tranquility was now abruptly cut through by the voice of Mrs. Jennings, an old widow who had shown a peculiar obsession with the Dashwood sisters, and a delightful degree of conversational indiscretion.

“Colonel Brandon,” she cried, and every head in the room turned toward the doorway.

Mary felt the sheet music she was holding fall through her fingers, and looked down, watching the handful of papers slowly float toward the carpet until they were strewn at her feet, and then her head snapped back up. Had she conjured this man into existence with her silliness before?

Beside Mary, Marianne let out a low squeak, and behind the cover of the pianoforte Mr. Willoughby, looking rather startled himself, placed his hand atop Marianne’s.

Mary could not take her eyes off the handsome newcomer, and felt instinctively that he had been watching her for some time. John Dashwood was beside him, and now led the colonel into the room. “Yes, well, sisters, here is your friend from Devonshire come to call. What a fine thing for you girls! I have invited him to stay and dine with us.”

Mary glanced over at Marianne with some astonishment. How could the girl have an acquaintance such as this and not spoken of it during their fanciful conversation before? She looked back at Colonel Brandon, savoring the expression upon his countenance, pensive and enigmatic, sorrowful and yet hopeful – and such intelligence about the eyes. What a man! He made his introductions to those of their party he did not know, and spoke to the other Dashwoods – but now he was coming toward them.

Marianne moved away from Mr. Willoughby and linked her arm through Mary’s, as Mary continued to wonder why her friend could look so unhappy to see such a man as this seeking them out. He was on the wrong

side of five-and-thirty, perhaps an ill thing for a girl so young, and yet he wore his silvery hair so well. His stride was graceful, the curl of his lips almost outrageously sensual, his attire very fine but not ostentatious, and his voice, when he spoke, was deep and sonorous. 

“Miss Marianne, I hope you are well.”

“I am.” Marianne forced a smile. “I have just been getting better acquainted with my new friend, Miss Mary Crawford. She and her brother accompanied my Bertram cousins to Norland.”

“And what a lovely destination,” said the colonel. He bowed to Mary, and she dropped into a curtsey, keeping her head low enough to conceal her blush. She suddenly recollected the sheet music scattered about her, and dropped to the floor to gather it back up. Colonel Brandon must have seen her acting quite the fool, and she was heartily embarrassed for it. 

The colonel instantly mirrored her gesture, and began to assist her, but this only heightened Mary’s mortification. She focused on not letting her hands tremble, and wondered what had come over her to be so affected by this great pillar of masculinity. “I am afraid I took you all by surprise,” he said softly.

“Indeed, I had grown rather lost in the music, and was not thinking at all – what a silly mess I have made.” Mary gathered the last of the sheet music and stood. She handed the pages off to Marianne as the colonel did the same; Marianne received the rumpled sheets with a nervous laugh. 

“Yes, I saw,” Colonel Brandon replied. “That is, I came in at the end of your performance – I did not wish to interrupt what was so delightful to so many, including myself. I hope to hear you play with Miss Marianne, if that is your intention.”

Seeming to recall Marianne, the colonel returned his attention to her with an odd look about him. “I happened to be in the area – I have been in Sussex since leaving you all last week. When I realized Norland was so near, I thought it right to pay my respects, and I have heard such praise from all your family of the place.”

“Pray, what brings you to the area?” Mr. Willoughby smiled at the colonel, but Mary sensed something hollow in it – something strange indeed. 

They were to receive no answer, for Mrs. Jennings was bustling over to them. “Well, Colonel Brandon, what a to-do! Are we not a large and cozy party here? But what a perfect addition you make! I hope you mean to stay amongst us!”

The colonel looked uneasy, though Mary supposed such a reaction must be perfectly rational. “Mr. Dashwood has invited me to stay the night and dine with you all.”

“Very good, very good,” Mrs. Jennings cried, even as Marianne and Mr. Willoughby exchanged a look betraying the opposite sentiment entirely. “It is the finest house I have ever seen, I am sure – but you must stay more than a night! We are all snug and easy here, and you will not want to be going away so soon.”

The colonel smiled wistfully, and Mary was intrigued by what dolorous sentiments might engender such an expression. “I have no doubt you get on very well. The house is most impressive – Mr. Dashwood was so kind as to show me about the public rooms. You were all out of the house when I arrived, and I had no wish to interrupt your excursion. But one night must be enough, for urgent business calls me away again tomorrow.”

“Impossible,” Mrs. Jennings cried. “Surely not the same great matter that drew you from Delaford the day of our poor picnic!”

The colonel’s lips tightened. “It is a matter that requires my immediate attention,” he said firmly. “Indeed, Mr. Willoughby, as it involves a mutual acquaintance of ours, perhaps I might speak privately with you. At once.”

Mr. Willoughby grew very pale indeed, but had not time to reply before Mrs. Jennings cut him off. “What mutual acquaintance? Oh, dear me – not Lady Allen! La, but she is so very old – I do hope she is quite well!”

He bowed again. “Mrs. Jennings, Miss Crawford. Miss Marianne. I hope we shall speak later.” Mary was inclined to agree as she watched him lead Mr. Willoughby from the room, but had little time to ruminate on the matter before Marianne latched onto her.

“Forgive me, Mrs. Jennings, but I think my cousin Maria is calling for a game of whist. I do not mean to play myself, though I know you favor the game. Mary, might we take a turn about the room?”

Mrs. Jennings laughed and fixed them with a knowing look. “Well, keep your secrets – I am sure I know them all already, or very soon shall!” At that she turned her attention to the card party that was forming, and Marianne hastened to draw Mary in the opposite direction.

“Oh, Mary,” Marianne whispered as soon as they had walked some distance. “I am sure I should have fainted dead away!” Mary arched an eyebrow and smiled – no little resemblance to her own feelings indeed! And yet she was, more than anything else, recovered enough from the oddly flustering encounter as to be intensely curious.

“Why should you do such a thing? Surely you prefer your Mr. Willoughby to the colonel, even if he is so very handsome.”

“Colonel Brandon, handsome?” Marianne laughed. “Surely you mean to tease me worse than Mrs. Jennings.”

“Certainly not! If I ever did such a thing as that you should be obliged to lock me up.”

Thank you, Jayne, for sharing this excerpt with us.  We hope you’ll all check out your own copy and enter the giveaway.

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!

 

Guest Post: Writing Space of Mari Coates, author of The Pelton Papers

Everyone who has read this blog for long enough knows that I love peeking inside writer’s domains. I want to see where their creativity flows and learn about their tips and tricks, as well as what items they cherish. Today, Mari Coates will share with us her writing space and how she got it all arranged, as we celebrate the publication of her novel, The Pelton Papers by She Writes Press.

But first, here’s a little bit about this historical fiction:

A richly imagined novel based on the life of artist Agnes Pelton, whose life tracks the early days of modernism in America. Born into a family ruined by scandal, Agnes becomes part of the lively New York art scene, finding early success in the famous Armory Show of 1913. Fame seems inevitable, but Agnes is burdened by shyness and instead retreats to a contemplative life, first to a Long Island windmill, and then to the California desert. Undefeated by her history—family ruination in the Beecher-Tilton scandal, a shrouded Brooklyn childhood, and a passionate attachment to another woman—she follows her muse to create more than a hundred luminous and deeply spiritual abstract paintings.

Please give Mari Coates a warm welcome and take a peek inside her writing space:

Greetings to all, from my space to yours. These are strange and difficult times, to be sure, but a space of one’s own helps to settle us as writers. We can come home to our writing life in the space we create for it.

Mine? Well, it’s lovely. A room of my very own, as ordered by Virginia. It was about 25 years ago when my wife Gloria and I moved into the house in San Francisco that we rent from her Aunt Rose, our Godmother. Because we needed space for guests and she didn’t mind, Gloria’s room-of-her-own occasionally doubles as the guest room. And because I am a restless writer—much given to getting up and walking around, making tea, etc.—I preferred the first-floor room in the front.

Next step was to borrow a truck and drive to Home Depot, where I bought a piece of plywood—white birch, I think, beautiful! It was four feet wide and eight feet long. I kept the length but had them cut the width to 30 inches. Back home, I sanded it and rubbed it with tung oil. Beautiful! The way the wood came alive! Oh my.

I placed it on an old computer desk from another life and a small file cabinet, and voilà! Next I traded my old, traditional desk to a friend for a set of Ikea desktop drawers. And then I built up the personal. I need a lot of comfort and reassurance when I sit down to write, so I started with a set of New York Library lions, bookends given to me by a wonderful elderly friend of my mother’s, who was widowed by the time I moved to my own NYC apartment, and who enjoyed taking me to programs and events all around the city. Really what I loved was her company—her buoyant spirit, her generosity, her sense of adventure.

The wall I face while writing took a while to arrange, but now I have it as I want it: a paper calendar near the windows (I love the pictures and like being able to see the month laid out) and a pencil drawing of an antique iron my mother used as a doorstop. The drawing was done by my actuary father after my mother’s death and his retirement. To my sister’s and my great surprise, he signed up for art classes at his local community college. I love the detail of this picture, the care, the concern so typical of my dad. Next to it is an ink drawing by a friend from church, Florence Hauser, a now elderly lady who had been an amazing artist in her youth. We had told Florence about my book and that it was about an artist nobody had heard of, and she invited us to her house, which is filled with her own beautiful artwork. What a thrill to see that! And then she allowed us each to choose a drawing. Right below Florence’s piece are a photo of a dear departed friend and a framed Christmas card of Central Park West in snow, shot by my old friend Chuck. Next to that, and placed so I look at it all the time is a gorgeous watercolor by another friend, the artist John Zurier, whose career is flourishing. It was painted in Iceland on one of his first trips there. If you don’t know John’s work, do look him up!

Next to John’s watercolor is an archival photo by Nathan Lerner. He made a light box with two holes at either end and, I believe, another hole for the camera lens. Inside the box are simple wooden dowels, and the movement of light across them thrilled me the first time I saw it and still thrills me today. That elusive mystery of light is one of the links between me and Agnes Pelton, and shows me the moment of creation of a work of art. Our rescue kitty Tomaso loves nothing better than to jump up to the top of this bookcase and watch me work.

On the opposite wall is one of my proudest possessions, the walking stick given to all graduates of the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers. It’s handmade in Asheville, NC from native rhododendron to always keep us connected to the mountains. Warren Wilson is the reason I have a novel to share with the world, and the community of writers it has created keeps me going year after year.

So there you have it. Now, ready, set, WRITE!

Thanks, Mari, for sharing your lovely workspace with us.

We hope that more novels are forthcoming and that Tomaso doesn’t interrupt you too much.

About the Author:

MARI COATES lives in San Francisco, where, before joining University of California Press as a senior editor, she was an arts writer and theater critic. Her stories have been published in the literary journals HLLQ and Eclipse, and she is grateful for residencies at I-Park, Ragdale, and Hypatia-in-the-Woods, which allowed her to develop and complete The Pelton Papers. She holds degrees from Connecticut College and the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.

Excerpt from Mr. Darcy’s Clan by Lari Ann O’Dell & Giveaway

I just love the supernatural and well-written vampire novels, so when I heard about this P&P variation, I couldn’t resist hosting. Today’s guest Lari Ann O’Dell is going to share with us a scene from her new book, Mr. Darcy’s Clan for today’s blog tour stop. Please check it out and enter the giveaway.

About the Book:

The upper echelon of English society—comprised of vampires, or Firstborn Sons—is a world Elizabeth Bennet has no desire to join. She has little exposure to Firstborn Sons until Mr. Bingley arrives in the neighborhood and falls in love with her sister Jane. His mysterious friend, Mr. Darcy, attracts Elizabeth’s attention but she is convinced he is hiding a dark secret. In spite of this, powerful feelings draw her to him. She learns a shocking truth when Mr. Wickham appears and disaster strikes at Netherfield. Forced into Mr. Darcy’s supernatural realm, a confusing new world of danger threatens their deepening love. How can they find eternal happiness when members of his illustrious clan are plotting her demise? Can Mr. Darcy rise beyond his past to save her or will he lose her for all eternity?

Please welcome, Lari Ann O’Dell:

Hello dear readers and followers of Savvy Verse & Wit. I am grateful to be here today to share an excerpt from my newest release, Mr. Darcy’s Clan.

The scene I am sharing today is one of the first scenes of my book to exist and immediately became my budding inspiration for this untraditional rendition. When I was watching the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time, the line “Your hands are cold,” jumped out at me. Recently, I had just finished rewatching all the episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so naturally, I thought, what if Mr. Darcy was a vampire? The idea continued to intrigue the muse.

In this excerpt, we find Darcy and Elizabeth alone in the Netherfield gardens. It is early on in their acquaintance, and instinctively, Elizabeth becomes suspicious when she sees him out in the middle of the night. She is currently unaware of his true identity as a vampire, and her suspicions that he is hiding something are only further aroused when she discovers that his hands are cold.

Elizabeth could not sleep. Jane was slumbering in the room next to hers, and the book Elizabeth had chosen was not diverting. She changed from her nightgown into a dress, and put on her pelisse. The Netherfield gardens were beautiful, and she had not seen them in many years. Perhaps some fresh air and a bit of exercise would help her sleep.

A full moon hung in the velvet sky. A slight breeze rustled the trees and the two fountains in the garden gurgled softly. Elizabeth walked beneath a rose-covered arbor and down an immaculate promenade. The gardeners at Netherfield were certainly talented.

She was startled by a noise behind her and turned to discover she was not alone. Mr. Darcy stood several feet away, fully dressed but rather disheveled. A trail of blood ran down his chin and dripped onto his starched cravat.

Elizabeth longed to escape. Civility did not allow that yet propriety demanded it. She could not be discovered alone, in the middle of the night, with Mr. Darcy. Even so, she stood rooted to the ground as he approached.

He wiped away the blood before speaking. “Miss Elizabeth, forgive me for startling you. I did not expect anyone to be in the garden at this hour.”

“Nor did I,” Elizabeth said, eyeing him suspiciously.

Darcy seemed to sense where she was looking. “I fell on my way back to the stables.”

“Perhaps you should not be riding in the middle of the night then, sir. If you will excuse me …” Elizabeth was intent on brushing past him and running back to her room before her reputation could be tarnished … but she stumbled on a stone.

Darcy grabbed her hands and caught her, helping her to right herself.

Elizabeth was startled, for neither of them wore gloves. His hands were like ice. It was an unseasonably warm night, so the weather did not account for it.

“Your hands are cold,” she said.

Darcy seemed to remember himself and quickly released her hands. “I apologize. Is your sister showing any signs of improvement?” he said, looking rather abashed.

“She is asleep; and we should be as well. Good night, Mr. Darcy.” With that, she hurried back into the house.

Darcy’s blood pounded in his veins, urging him to follow her. He had not been sure until he had taken her hands, but it was undeniable now—his blood cried out for her, and he longed for her in a visceral manner. Elizabeth Bennet was meant to be his Eternal Partner. Darcy was mortified. What chance did they have? She was undoubtedly beneath him. Pride, honor, and duty revolted against such a match.

He should not have come into Hertfordshire.

Oooh, what a titillating moment for this duo. I cannot wait to find out what happens next. Enter the giveaway below.

About the Author:

Lari Ann O’Dell first discovered her love of Pride & Prejudice when she was eighteen. After reading a Pride & Prejudice variation she found in a closing sale at a bookstore, she said, “This is what I want to do.” She published her first novel, Mr. Darcy’s Kiss, two years later. Born and raised in Colorado, she attended the University of Colorado in Boulder and earned a bachelor’s degree in History and Creative Writing. After graduating college, she wrote and published her second novel, Mr. Darcy’s Ship. Her third novel, Mr. Darcy’s Clan, is her first supernatural variation, and she is working on two more fantasy variations. She is now back at school and pursuing a degree in Nursing. She adores her two beautiful nephews, Hudson and Dean. She currently works at a middle school and writes whenever she can. Visit her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon.

GIVEAWAY:

Lari Ann O’Dell is giving away 8 eBooks of Mr. Darcy’s Clan. The giveaway is international.

ENTER HERE.

Deleted Scene from When Duty Calls by Belén Paccagnella & Giveaway

Writers can write entire scenes or even more than one scene that they have fun writing, but soon discover it has no place in the novel they are writing. When this happens, authors are left with delightful deleted scenes. Thankfully, Belén Paccagnella is one of those writers who saves her deleted scenes.  She’s going to share with us one such scene from her new book, When Duty Calls for today’s blog tour stop. Please check it out and enter the giveaway.

About the Book:

The Netherfield ball brings about many changes for the population of Meryton, and more so for the female residents of Longbourn. Mr. Bingley’s departure leaves the eldest, Jane Bennet, heartbroken whilst Mr. Collins’s proposal induces Miss Elizabeth to make a hasty escape. During her flight, she happens upon Mr. Darcy, a gentleman she despises. A moment of solitude in the woods leads to rather improper behavior, and the couple departs with the promise they will tell no one about their minor indiscretion. When their secret is finally uncovered, marriage becomes the only solution to saving Elizabeth from social disgrace. Her other grudges against Mr. Darcy are amplified by resentment and the prospect of spending her life with a man she can never respect. Nonetheless, the marriage takes place, forcing the young couple to deal with their pride and prejudices as husband and wife.

Please welcome, Belén Paccagnella:

Thank you, Serena, for having me at Savvy Verse and Wit. It’s always a pleasure for me to share new material with the readers. For today’s post, I selected a scene that I had a lot of fun writing but that I finally decided to cut. I think it’s perfect for this stop of the blog tour.

With all matters concerning Miss Lydia’s elopement settled, and the special license obtained, Miss Lydia’s wedding to Lt. George Wickham finally took place. The couple was married on a rainy Friday morning of April in a discreet and simple ceremony with only the Gardiners and Mr. Darcy in attendance. Mrs. Wickham’s displeasure for not having the entire regiment present at her wedding was great, but of short duration. Her spirits were restored when she was informed that she would spend her first night as a married woman in a fancy hotel in London, courtesy of her wealthy brother-in-law.

“You have been too generous with them, Mr. Darcy.” Mr. Gardiner commented that night during dinner. “After all you did for the Wickhams, sending them to a hotel is a much better wedding present than they deserve.”

“I fear I was not being generous to them, but to you and to your family. You have endured Miss Lydia’s presence in your home for an entire week, and I thought best to spare you from the displeasure of receiving her husband here as well, even if for only one night. Of all the expenditures I made on Mrs. Wickham’s behalf, this is by far the most pleasurable one.”

“Still, I do believe it is unfair that you should carry the entire financial burden of this wretched business upon your shoulders.” Proceeded Mr. Gardiner. “Mr. Bennet ought to know, as well as Lizzy, that it was you who found Lydia and the one who granted her a better future. I cannot agree with your decision to withhold this information from them.”

“Please, grant me this favour, if you may. I feel highly responsible for Mrs. Wickham’s fate. Had I exposed Wickham’s true character before, none of this would have happened. By helping the Wickhams and securing them a better future, I am also preserving the harmony of my own home. Elizabeth had suffered enough because of this and knowing the extent of my dealings might only add to her distress.” Darcy was determined. “The Bennets must not know, nor should Elizabeth. I trust that you will never tell her.”

“You have my word, sir.” Mr. Gardiner sighed, clearly disapproving of Darcy’s decision.

“I do not think Lydia has come to realize the trouble she had brought upon herself —to all her family!” Mrs. Gardiner interjected, addressing Darcy. “Such an unfortunate match!”

“It was prone to happen sooner or later. She should be happy and grateful that she has a generous brother-in-law to come to her rescue,” said Mr. Gardiner while cutting his meat. “I have always found reproachable the liberality and general permissiveness my brother and sister bestowed upon their children. Lydia has always been a reckless child, spoiled by her mother and ignored by her father. She would have benefited from more restraint and discipline in her upbringing.”

“Your children are still small, my friend. You will soon learn the difficulties of educating an adolescent lady. Sometimes all the discipline in the world cannot preserve a girl from making the wrong decision.” Darcy offered smilingly. After what happened to Georgiana,
who almost suffered Lydia’s fate, he was not in the place to judge his father-in-law for his want of severity and parental guidance.

“Your hand looks much improved now,” Mrs. Gardiner changed the subject, much to the younger man’s relief. “The swelling is almost gone. Does it hurt?”

“Not at all,” Darcy replied. “I can move my fingers quite well.”

Mr. Gardiner chuckled. “You did what many other men would have liked to do: punch George Wickham in the face! Pity it cost you a broken hand.”

“Watching that scoundrel bite the dust was worth the inconvenience. He certainly got some of what he deserved,” Darcy laughed along.

“It was such a charming wedding,” Mrs. Gardiner observed while passing the bread to her husband. “And Lydia looked so pretty! Even though we had little time to find her something suitable for the occasion, I think she was a lovely bride. Do you not think so?” The question was meant for Mr. Gardiner, who was sitting across from her at the table.

“Yes, I do.” It was Darcy who was the one who replied, much to the Gardiners’ amusement. “I must say that I was impressed with her gown. The colour of choice was very convenient. It matched perfectly with the purple on Wickham’s eye.”

Wasn’t that delightful?! I hope you enjoyed the deleted scene. Please leave a comment below and enter the giveaway for When Duty Calls.

About the Author:

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Belén Paccagnella discovered the world of Jane Austen fan fiction after watching the 1995 BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice. In her teens, she lived in Brazil when her family moved to the city of Curitiba due to her father’s work. She moved back to Buenos Aires a few years later, where she studied agronomy but finally pursued a different career and started working in the development and administration of shopping centers.

In 2001, she began writing both Regency and modern stories, adapting the Pride and Prejudice storyline to different backdrops, merging drama, humor, and adventure while creating characters with unique traits. Almost two decades later, she published Obstacles, a modern variation released in 2018 by Meryton Press.

Belén still lives in the suburbs of Buenos Aires where she shares her home with her pets while spending her time working, reading, and writing. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

GIVEAWAY:

Meryton Press is giving away 8 eBooks of When Duty Calls.

ENTER HERE.

 

Guest Post, Excerpt & Giveaway: Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match by Kelly Miller

Today’s guest is Kelly Miller who is here to talk about her latest release, Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match.

Before we get to her guest post about the ghosts in the Tower of London, let’s learn a little bit about the book.

About the Book:

When secrets are revealed and a family agenda works against him, can Fitzwilliam Darcy recover his damaged spirits and find happiness?

Following his disastrous proposal to Elizabeth Bennet, Fitzwilliam Darcy returns to London from Kent broken-hearted and dejected. One bright spot penetrates his sea of despair: his sister, Georgiana, has finally recovered her spirits from the grievous events at Ramsgate the previous summer. She has forged a new friendship with Miss Hester Drake, a lady who appears to be an ideal friend. In fact, Lady Matlock believes Miss Drake is Darcy’s perfect match.

Upon Elizabeth Bennet’s arrival at the Gardiners’ home from Kent, she finds that her sister Jane remains despondent over her abandonment by Mr. Bingley. But Elizabeth has information that might bring them together. She convinces her Uncle Gardiner to write a letter to Mr. Bingley providing key facts supplied to her by Mr. Darcy.

When Mr. Bingley discovers that his friend and sisters colluded to keep Jane’s presence in London from him, how will he respond? Given the chance, will Darcy and Elizabeth overcome their past misunderstandings? What will Darcy do when his beloved sister becomes a hindrance towards winning the lady he loves?

Without further ado, please give Kelly a warm welcome.

In Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match, the primary characters visit The Tower of London, a location with a grisly and controversial history. A number of ghosts have been associated with this famous tourist attraction. Luckily, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth do not encounter them in my story, yet I thought it would be interesting to examine the ghostly reports that have been made over the years.

The White Tower, from which the Tower of London got its name, was built in 1078 on orders of William the Conqueror. A total of 133 confirmed executions were performed at the Tower of London. The first of these executions was of Sir Simon Burley on May 5, 1388, for the crime of “Supporting the King’s struggle for absolute power.”

One victim of the most common method of execution employed at the tower, beheading, was a Darcy: Lord Thomas Darcy of Templehurst, who met his end on June 30, 1537. His alleged crime was noted as “Treasonable Correspondence with Robert Aske re Pilgrimage of Grace (a widespread uprising against Henry VIII).”

The last confirmed execution was of Josef Jacobs on August 15, 1941, by firing squad for the crime of “Spying.”

A number of former inhabitants of the tower have reportedly been seen over the years in ghostly form. King Henry VI, who had been imprisoned in 1465 by his cousin Edward IV, is believed by historians to have been killed at Edward’s command. Henry VI lost his life on the evening of May 21, 1471. It is said that Henry VI’s ghost appears each year at the anniversary of his death in the Wakefield Tower where he met his end.

The two princes, Edward V and his brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, were imprisoned in the tower by their uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester in 1483. The so-called Lord Protector had declared his nephews to be illegitimate, and ascended to the throne as Richard III. The two princes were never seen again after the summer of 1483 and were presumed murdered by Richard III. Richard III had already ordered the deaths of the boys’ uncle, Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl of Rivers, and half-brother, Sir Richard Grey. Ghostly sightings of the two princes have been reported since the 15th century. Many have seen the ghosts clinging to one another and sobbing, but a more recent sighting in 1990 described the ghostly princes to be giggling.

Queen Anne Boleyn was charged by her husband King Henry VIII of treason, adultery, and incest (with her brother, George Boleyn, Lord Rochford), and imprisoned in the tower. She was found guilty on May 15, 1536. George Boleyn and other men accused of being the queen’s lovers were also found guilty and executed. Queen Anne Boleyn met her end on May 19, 1536, a beheading accomplished with the single stroke of an expert swordsman. The following poem is thought to have been written either by Queen Anne Boleyn or her brother George Boleyn as they awaited their fate:

“O Death Rock Me Asleep”

O death! rock me asleep,
Bring me on quiet rest;
Yet pass my guiltless ghost
Out of my careful breast:
Toll on the passing bell,
Ring out the doleful knell,
Let the sound of my death tell,
For I must die,
There is no remedy,
For now I die
My pains who can express?
Alas! they are so strong,
My dolor will not suffer strength
My life for to prolong:
Toll on the passing bell, etc.
Alone, in prison strong,
I wail my destiny,
Wo worth this cruel hap that I
Should taste this misery:
Toll on the passing bell, etc.
Farewell my pleasures past,
Welcome my present pain;
I feel my torments so increase
That life cannot remain.
Cease now the passing bell,
Rung is my doleful knell,
For the sound my death doth tell,
Death doth draw nigh,
Sound my end dolefully,
For now I die.

Although the ghost of Anne Boleyn has been sighted many times in or around the church near the tower, at times carrying her head under her arm, a famous sighting occurred in 1864 by General Dundas. The general reported seeing a ghostly white figure floating towards a guard in the courtyard of the tower. The guard charged her with bayonet raised and moved right through her. At the realization that he had seen a ghost, the guard fainted.

Margaret Pole, the former Countess of Salisbury, was imprisoned in the tower for being a part of the Pilgrimage of Grace two and a half years before her execution on May 27, 1541. Warring testimony accounts for the brutal manner of her death. One witness stated that an inexperienced axeman took eleven blows to affect her death; another claimed that the extra blows were due to Lady Salisbury’s attempt to run away from her fate.

The following poem had been carved upon the wall of the countess’s cell:

For traitors on the block should die;
I am no traitor, no, not I!
My faithfulness stands fast and so,
Towards the block I shall not go!
Nor make one step, as you shall see;
Christ in Thy Mercy, save Thou me!

Over the years, Lady Salisbury’s screams have been heard and her ghostly form seen on the tower green; others have reported seeing the giant shadow of an axe coming down at the site of the countess’s execution.

Some visitors to the White Tower have reported a most disturbing crushing sensation while in the room where Henry VIII’s armor is displayed. Fortunately, this frightening sensation disappears once they leave the room.

Lady Jane Grey and her husband Lord Guilford Dudley were sentenced to death by Mary I and were killed on February 12, 1554. Lord Dudley is said to haunt Beauchamp Tower by weeping in his cell late into the night, and is thought to be responsible for the word “Jane” etched upon the wall. Lady Jane’s ghost has been seen wandering the battlements alone.

Lady Arabella Stuart was imprisoned in the tower and died in 1615. She may have been murdered but others say she succumbed from her own refusal to eat. She is said to haunt the Queen’s house and has often been seen weeping.

Even the animals from the Royal Menagerie have reportedly haunted their former living space. Visitors have reported hearing the cries of animals long dead. In 1815, a sentry was outside the jewel house when he was approached by the ghost of a bear. The incident was supposed to have so traumatized the man that he passed away weeks later.

I love a good ghost story! 🙂 I would love to visit the Towers of London to see some. 😉

And now, for that moment you’ve been waiting for — an excerpt from Miller’s latest book, Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match.

In this excerpt, Darcy meets Georgiana’s new friend Miss Hester Drake for the first time at
the Darcy town home in London.

At the faint knock upon the door of his study, Darcy called out, “Enter.” He stood and the line of his mouth softened into a smile as his sister slipped into the room and stood before his desk. “Yes, Georgie?”

She skimmed the papers on his desk before facing him. “I wanted to remind you that my friend Miss Drake is due to arrive in thirty minutes. You did say you wished to meet her today.”

A depth of compassion swelled within him at the sight of his sister’s slumped posture and hesitant tone. His introduction to her friend meant a great deal to her. Darcy had been trying, for her sake, to act as though all was well. Had he been successful? With luck, his sister’s new friend would distract her from noticing anything amiss. “I have not forgotten. I shall join you after she arrives.”

Georgiana responded with a brilliant smile. Her words rushed out. “Thank you, Fitzwilliam. I need to go now and prepare.” His sister dashed from the room.

***

Darcy timed his appearance in the east sitting room for ten minutes into the call. The ladies and their companions rose at his entrance.

With a grin, Georgiana came forward to stand beside him. “Miss Drake and Miss Green, please allow me to present my brother, Fitzwilliam Darcy. Brother, this is my friend Miss Drake and her companion, Miss Green.”

After he bowed to their curtsies, Darcy surveyed the young lady and her companion.

Both displayed smiles and were well dressed with Miss Drake in the more expensive, stylish cut of gown as appropriate for her station. “Miss Drake, Miss Green, it is a pleasure to meet you both.” Both ladies replied in the usual way and took their seats at his urging.

Darcy forced himself to smile. Miss Drake was a pretty, poised young lady with reddish-brown hair, flawless, ivory skin, and an oval face. Her piercing green eyes—not as fine as Miss Elizabeth’s brown, expressive eyes but still quite attractive—seemed to indicate a keen mind. The lady had an admirable, full figure though not as light and pleasing as Miss Elizabeth’s form. What was he doing? Blast! He had to cease referring to Miss Elizabeth! He turned away, ran a hand through his hair, and took a seat across from Miss Drake. A moment later, his smile was back in place. “I hope your family is well. I attended university with your brother James, though we have not spoken in a long while.”

Miss Drake’s dulcet voice was infused with esprit. “Yes, Mr. Darcy. My family is exceedingly well. My brother James and his wife recently returned from an extended stay in Margate.”

He nodded and broadened his smile; it was the expected response. “I have been to Margate several times. It is a lovely town. When you see him, please pass on my best wishes.”

The young lady’s eyes held a vivid sheen. “I thank you. I shall do so.”

Darcy continued to chat with Miss Drake, but he also directed a couple of polite questions to Miss Green. At his first query, the companion sputtered in her response and her eyes widened; she had not expected to be addressed by him. And why would she? He would not have done so in the past—not before Miss Elizabeth’s chastisement. Blast and damn—he was not to think of her! Yet it was due to her alone that he strove to make improvements in his conduct. It was a shame she would never know of it.

After a few more minutes of conversation, Darcy rose. “I shall leave you ladies to yourselves. It was very nice to have met you, Miss Drake, Miss Green.” With a bow, he retreated from the room and made his way back to his study.

About the Author:

Kelly Miller is a native Californian and Anglophile, who made her first visit to England in 2019. When not pondering a plot point or a turn of phrase, she can be found playing the piano (although like Elizabeth Bennet, she is errant when it comes to practicing), singing, and walking her dogs. Kelly Miller resides in Silicon Valley with her husband, daughter, and their many pets.

Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match is her second novel published by Meryton Press. Her first was the Regency novel Death Takes a Holiday at Pemberley, a Pride and Prejudice romantic sequel with a touch of fantasy. Her third novel, Accusing Mr. Darcy, will be released later in 2020. Visit Kelly’s blog page, her on Twitter, and on Facebook.

GIVEAWAY: 8 ebooks; Enter HERE:

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Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match Blog Schedule

January 27 Austenesque Reviews

January 28 My Jane Austen Book Club

January 29 Austenprose

January 30 So Little Time…

January 31 Babblings of a Bookworm

February 3 More Agreeably Engaged

February 4 Savvy Verse & Wit

February 6 Donadee’s Corner

February 7 Diary of an Eccentric

February 10 From Pemberley to Milton

February 11 My Vices and Weaknesses

Guest Post & Giveaway: Thaw by Anniina Sjöblom

I have relatives in Finland, and I often find Finish perspectives in fiction fascinating. This is probably the main reason I wanted to host Ms. Sjöblom and her book for this blog tour. It’s rare that I find a variation that’s written by someone outside the United States and Britain. I cannot wait to read this book myself, but today, I have a Character Interview to share from the author.

Stay tuned to enter the giveaway as well.

About the book:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that one false step can involve a lady in endless ruin. On a rainy November day in 1811, Miss Elizabeth Bennet finds herself wondering why no one ever bothered to tell her about this.

A few blithe steps on a morning walk, taken after a succession of rain, lead to unexpected events that irrevocably change the course of Elizabeth’s life, placing her fate in the hands of the haughty and conceited Mr. Darcy – the last  man in the world she had ever thought to marry.

As long winter days slowly pass, she writes letters to her loved ones, trying to come to terms with her new role as a wife and the Mistress of Pemberley. But can she ever learn to love her husband? Will he overcome his arrogant notions of rank and circumstance?

And most importantly – will the shades of Pemberley ever recover from being thus polluted?

Without further ado, please welcome Anniina Sjöblom:

Hello everyone—I’m glad you’ve found your way to Savvy Verse & Wit today! And thank you to Serena for inviting me to stop by here as a part of the blog tour for my new novella, Thaw!

Thaw is very much Elizabeth’s story, so to balance things out, today’s post is an interview with Mr. Darcy. When I first posted Thaw online, I wrote some spoofy diary markings by Mr. Darcy in the comment thread of the story to accompany each post. As the online versions of Thaw have since been removed, the diary markings are also a thing of the past. For today’s post, I’ve resurrected a few of them from my archives.

They’re (very) silly, rather modern and quite full of expletives—and in no way reflect the tone of the actual story. Consider yourselves warned!

****

Dear readers, with us today is Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, of Pemberley, Derbyshire. In the wake of the recent release of a collection of private letters by his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy, Mr. Darcy has agreed to give us an exclusive interview and share a few markings from his personal diary to shed light on his perspective to the events that have unfolded.

Welcome, Mr. Darcy, and thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to talk to us today. You are known to be a very private man. Do we have your wife to thank for the privilege of taking a peek at your private diary markings?

Well, yes. She thought it might lighten my public image. It seems she has had a bit of a difficult time convincing her friends and family that I am, in fact, someone worth her good opinion. I have not the least idea why.

Well, we thank you heartily. It seems you and your wife had some trouble communicating in the early days of your marriage? In her letters, she describes numerous occasions when you were alone in a room together but barely said a word to each other. Could you tell us of your thoughts at the time?

It is true that our marriage did not have the most auspicious of starts. At first, it seemed like even the most mundane of topics could lead to an argument. Less than two months into our marriage, I admit we were barely talking—though by that time, I found myself very much hoping that we would. But after weeks of silence, how is one to start? Here is one of my diary markings from that time:

January 25th, 1812. Made a bloody fool of myself. Again. Just stop stalking about like a useless dimwit and say it, you big idiot! How hard can it be? It is not as if things could get any worse, is it? Dear wife, have had the hots for you since I first saw you at that godforsaken assembly, and would very much like to throw you over my shoulder and carry you to bed. Plus, am reformed and love you. Most ardently. There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

At the time, your sister Georgiana and your cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, were with you in Pemberley. Is it really true that you accused your wife of flirting with the colonel?

It is. Not my finest hour, to be sure. I have since come to know the error of my ways. An utterly absurd notion on my part, really. But at the time, I must admit I was quite tired and rather blinded by jealousy. I am not proud of the diary markings I made at the time:

January 27th, 1812. Burned my fingers because my damnable flirt of a cousin dared me into playing bloody snap-dragon. Wanted to throw the damn raisins at his face, but tried to act cool because the wife was present—she already smiles too much at him and not enough at me. Note to self: next time Richard comes to visit, hide the brandy. And the raisins. And the wife.

Your false assumptions led to a rather substantial disagreement between you and Mrs. Darcy, did they not?

To put it mildly. In retrospect, I have come to understand that I should have stayed at Pemberley after our fight, but I confess it was all rather too much for me. I wrote my wife a letter and fled to Chesterfield, on what I let her understand was a trip of business—but perhaps it is now time to confess that, in truth, I sat alone in an inn for a week and moped like a world champion.

January 30th 1812. Urgent business in Chesterfield, must leave immediately. Wrote the wife a letter to explain myself. Perhaps I should wait by the front door until she reads it? Maybe she will come running after me, begging me not to go? ‘Where will I go, what will I do?’ she will say. And I will coolly reply: ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a crap.’ Not likely.

Well, I must say we are glad that you did not stay in Chesterfield for long. As I am sure is your wife. After your return, it seems things started to look up?

Indeed, they did. As my diary markings of the time will testify, it was not long after my return that I started to appreciate the power of a simple, honest conversation:

February 11th, 1812. Finally talked with the wife. Thank goodness. Nearly dropped off my chair when she smiled at me. At me! In your face, Richard! How could I ever think that having the wife as the mistress of Pemberley would be a bloody degradation? Badly done, Darcy. Badly done. Without her, this place would be just a pretentious, lonely pile of bricks.

Your solicitor has advised that you do not wish to talk about the ordeal between Mr. Wickham and his wife. Your wife, too, is rather vague on the subject. But could you perhaps tell us, even just briefly, what it took to solve the unfortunate situation?

I am afraid not. My wife has addressed the topic in her letters and we have agreed that it is all we wish to say on the topic. Suffice it to say that I can be quite persuasive when I want to:

March 17th 1812. Bending it like Beckham on Gracechurch Street—kicked That Bastard so hard in the butt that he flew all the way to Grosvenor Square and back. Hurt my foot in the process, but maybe that’s a good thing? If the wife sees me coming home, limping like a war hero returning from battle, maybe she’ll forget all about how much my damned pride has cost her and come running to me?

Very well, we understand. One last question, Mr. Darcy: do you still keep a diary?

Ahem. I do not. I was quite an avid writer during the early days of our marriage—and perhaps sometimes rather too outspoken and a tad too colourful—but I have since given it up. There was a bit of an incident, you see, after a particularly spirited entry on a rather private topic, that made me reconsider the wisdom of keeping a diary. I do not quite know how to explain it, but perhaps the very last marking in my diary will offer some indication of the nature of the incident:

April 1st, 1813. Dear Husband. Found your diary. I think we must talk.

Sincerely,
The Wife

P.S. If your gig really is so much better hung than the colonel's, why is it that we always use the barouche?

Thank you, everyone, for stopping by today to take part of the blog tour! If you have any wise words to Darcy, do leave them in the comments—the poor guy’s diary leaves me suspecting he might be in need of a few. Also feel free to ask me any questions—and if you want, you can look me up on Facebook.

Thank you so much, Anniina Sjöblom, for joining us today on the blog. Doesn’t this sound delightful?! Don’t forget to enter the giveaway.

About the Author:

Anniina Sjöblom lives in the beautiful but cold Finland and works in university administration. She has an MA in History and enjoys a long-standing love affair with the works of Jane Austen.

Her previous works include titles such as Thirteen Days, Fix You and When He Comes Back, published in various online Austenesque forums under the pen name boogima. The new novella Thaw, expanded from the original version of the story first published online in 2011, is her first commercially published work.

When not writing, Anniina spends her time hanging out with friends, binge-watching TV dramas and re-reading her favourite books while the stack of new ones still waiting to be read piles higher on her nightstand. She can ride a unicycle, and once, after losing an unfortunate bet, ate a bowl of ice cream with green dish soap as dressing. She does not recommend attempting it to anyone.

GIVEAWAY:

Quills & Quartos Publishing is giving away one ebook of THAW per blog tour stop.

All you need to do to enter the giveaway is comment on this blog post, and Quills & Quartos will randomly choose winners for the entire blog tour on January 22. So, make sure you join in the conversation!

Guest Post & Giveaway: The Making of a Memoir-in-Conversation by Robert Jacoby and John Robinette

We have some local authors today on the blog who will talk about the memoir, Never Stop Dancing.

For those in the Washington, D.C., area, our memoirists will be at the 11th Annual Takoma Park Book Fair on Dec. 14, 2019. I encourage you to go.

If you can’t make it to the festival, you will have an opportunity to win a copy of the memoir if you live in the United States. But you’ll have to read this guest post and leave a comment by Dec. 19, 2019.

About the book:

Born of a year’s worth of candid interviews, Never Stop Dancing avoids clichéd takeaways about grief and healing to chart a deeper, thornier examination of loss and regret. Robert and John are transformed through their shared experience, too, emerging strengthened and with an abiding male friendship that cuts against the grain of pop-culture trends of quick fixes and easy answers. This memoir-in-conversation provides hard-won reassurances that one can and does go on after loss.

Without further ado, please welcome John and Robert:

Never Stop Dancing: A Memoir is an unusual book, not only in its subject matter but also in how it came to be. The book results from a collection of interviews captured after John’s wife, Amy, was killed in a pedestrian traffic accident April 29, 2010, on a street in Washington, D.C.

By 2010, we had been friends for about eight years and enjoyed deep and wide-ranging conversations over every imaginable subject. And so it was, in July, about two months after Amy’s death, Robert asked John to sit together and talk about, and record, John’s experiences as they unfolded. For John, as he describes it, sitting in conversation seemed a natural part of the grieving process.

We met on eight different occasions over the first year after Amy was killed. As the interviewer, Robert helped steer the conversations, which usually started and grew organically. He would ask John how he was doing or what was on his mind. Other times John wanted to talk about something specific.

Sometimes during the sessions, talking became too difficult, for John, for both of us, and we had to stop. The recorder was turned off, and we would take a break.

Sometimes we cried, other times we laughed. Can you believe that? Yes, sometimes we did laugh together. And that’s okay. We were two close friends talking, and even in something heavy like death and grief, we knew that it was okay to find things to laugh about.

Robert started work on the raw transcripts immediately, in the fall of 2010.

May 2011 is the earliest occurrence of Never Stop Dancing as a possible title in our email exchanges.

In August 2011, Robert sent John the first draft of the book, and its working title was After Amy. In October John wanted to write an Afterword, and he completed that a few days after New Year’s Day, 2012.

Throughout 2012 we revised the book and started sending it out to book agents. Robert had a very short introduction, and the book included some blog posts John had written interspersed; we included some back-and-forth of our conversations from our interview sessions to give it that “interview” feel, too.

During 2013 and 2014, we experienced more changes. John re-married (teaser: the origin story of this marriage is in the book), and the manuscript seemed to be idling. In May 2014, Robert reached out to his book editor, Robyn Russell, for help. It was her suggestion to us to choose to keep Robert entirely out of the book, or entirely in the book. Her vote was definitely in. We talked and decided quickly: Robert needed to be in the book. Robyn also suggested the seasonal divisions. Up to then we had chapter divisions that were a bit unwieldy. We also finally settled on the book title as Never Stop Dancing.

In February 2015, our second book editor took over for Robyn. This was her colleague, Jason Bucholz, who also happens to be a novelist. We worked with him until early 2017.

John and I both worked off of Robyn’s and then Jason’s suggested revisions. John trimmed about 20,000 words from the manuscript, and Robert had to add an entirely new Introduction, all of his introductory pieces for each season, and then more text pieces for our “breaks” during the interview sessions. It was challenging for Robert to go back in time to place himself in those interview sessions and re-live those moments. Every new read became a new trauma. As we worked through the revisions, John expressed similar feelings to the point where he now never again wants to read the first 50 pages.

In 2018, we started querying our lists of agents and publishers. We had some interest, but no takers.

In early 2019, we decided to do it ourselves. Proofreading the text with a professional editor, working with the book designer.

John and I started this project to document his journey through his grief experience and out into new life. At the beginning, we couldn’t know what that life would be. And here we are, these many years later, sharing our story with our readers: John’s story of his grief journey through that first year after losing Amy; Robert’s story of being John’s friend through that time; and the story of us together, two male friends, in deep conversation.

Thank you, John and Robert for sharing your story. I can’t imaging how hard it must have been to write about this experience and relive it with each edit.

Please see their appearance on the show Good Morning Washington.

GIVEAWAY:

To win a signed copy of the memoir, Never Stop Dancing, please leave a comment and email by Dec. 19, 2019.

You must be 18 years of age and have a U.S. address.

Guest Post: 4 Notable Books of 2019 Every Student Should Consider Reading

There are too many shows, too many videos on YouTube, and pages on Instagram to explore chasing you every other minute. Do not forget the assignments piling up and apps constantly notifying you about the deadlines. Are you craving a break?

We have the best thing you can do to let go off your digital distractions and spur your creative mind. It’s quite simple. Read a book.

You may be thinking that you have already read too much for college. But a good book that is not a part of your academics might do wonders for the mood. Of course, there is no need to convince any bibliophiles to pick up another book.

In case you are not one and stumbled upon this page hoping to try out a book, you are just at the right place at the right time.

We present you here with the best books of 2019 (so far), that will certainly please you. Thrillers, fantasy, adventure, romance – we have all got it here.

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

Mrs. Everything has all the elements of a story that is overfamiliar, yet it is not. Weiner documents the lives of two Jewish sisters who grew up in Detroit. The chapters are engaging, once you struggle through the few dozen pages in the beginning switching between the sisters’ perspectives.

The multigenerational story dwells into all the underlying and disturbing issues like drugs, rape, abortion, and the ties of family.

Weiner has not tried to cover the pretensions with symbolism definition literature or satire. You will find ghosts of the struggles that women had to overcome and relate it even now in the cynical “Me too” era.

Mrs. Everything is fabled as one of the best works of Weiner and will certainly leave you perplexed, wanting more of the turned pages.

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger

The recent revelations of the American high society buying their way into college set up the perfect framework for Bruce Holsinger’s The Gifted School. The reader can draw parallels of the fictional and upscale city of Crystal, Colorado, and the four mothers portrayed in the novel.

With applicants from four counties feud for their places in the new school, the plot takes a turn.

Followed with interludes of entitlement, privileges, cheating, and desperation, Holsinger describes the blurring good intentions fortified by parental love escalating into fraud.

There are also some sympathetic characters who are only collateral damage in the eyes of the elite. The questions Holsinger raises are valid in the current context of social standards, concerning and regrettably real.

The Gifted School is a satire with more than a hint of truth, and much appealing to the student crowd.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

After the applauded debut novel Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney’s Normal People has certainly elevated her standing. The story takes place in Dublin, and it has the same sense of humor in narration.

Revolving around the two protagonists, Connell and Marianne, the author takes a reader through an intense and yearning love story.

They are introduced as teenagers and with traces of the cliché love stories with a popular soccer player and a lonely and introverted girl. Their inexplicable connection finds a way to express during their second encounter in college.

What might appear as a young adult love story at a glance, has layers of social classifications, family complexities, emotions, and agitations. Rooney yet again proves her acuity in noting how we comprehend people and depend on them.

An enjoyable and deep read for students who seek polarizing moments of passion.

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

Taking a respite from the landscape of unsettling realities, Gingerbread is a kind of reading that will soon take you to fairylands. Beware, you do not want to skimp through even one sentence, as the chances are high for missing a crucial detail. It is weird, confusing, and an enthralling piece, a realm of a story within a story and winding through imaginary places.

Here, Oyeyemi takes you to her variant of Hansel and Gretel’s story, a classic German fairy tale. The whimsical and ominous air is still there, yet you will find the protagonists unrecognizable. The book is unconventional, unpredictable in how the author brilliantly builds the suspense.

An ideal choice for a tiring day when you come home only to curl up with a good book of a joyful read.

Wrapping Up

In the end, reading is all about changing reality for a fascinating world where you are among the glorious characters, whom you adore or fervently loath.

Try these options, and we bet you’ll have some real quality time!

Guest Post & Giveaway: Jessie Lewis, Author of Speechless, Talks About Historical Buildings and Inspiration

Today’s guest is someone new to the blog — Jessie Lewis — and she will share with us some of the inspirational historical buildings she’s used to write her novels. First, please read what her new novel, Speechless, is about:

Could anything be worse than to be trapped in a confined space with the woman you love? Fitzwilliam Darcy knows his duty, and it does not involve succumbing to his fascination for a dark-eyed beauty from an unheard of family in Hertfordshire. He has run away from her once already. Yet fate has a wicked sense of humour and deals him a blow that not only throws him back into her path but quite literally puts him at Elizabeth Bennet’s mercy. Stranded with her at a remote inn and seriously hampered by injury, Darcy very quickly loses the battle to conquer his feelings, but can he win the war to make himself better understood without the ability to speak?

Thus begins an intense journey to love and understanding that is at times harrowing, sometimes hilarious and at all times heartwarming.

Being trapped in a confined space with Mr. Darcy, who wouldn’t love that? This sounds delightful, doesn’t it? If you agree, stay tuned for the giveaway. Please welcome Jessie Lewis.

Thank you, Serena, for hosting me on your blog today to talk about my new novel, Speechless. I love the Regency era and am lucky enough to be surrounded by historical buildings and places here in England, many of which have been inspirational to my writing. I thought it would be fun to share a few pictures of those that inspired the setting for this particular story.

In Speechless, Darcy and Elizabeth are stranded together at an inn called The Dancing Bear, owned by the kindly Mr Timmins. The inn boasts a large stuffed bear at the foot of the stairs, which Elizabeth nicknames Mr Collins. You would be forgiven for thinking this is a little odd, since bears are not native to the UK—or if they ever were, it was a really long time ago. In fact, I based The Dancing Bear on a real pub called The Bear of Rodborough, situated in the Cotswolds. It’s so called because it famously has a large stuffed bear in its foyer. (The bear was presumably hunted and imported at some point in the past, the ethics of which I shall not venture to discuss here!) A big scary bear just seemed to suit the location of Mr Timmins’ inn—on the outskirts of a village, surrounded by woods—as well as the events that take place there, which are, at least at the beginning, pretty frightening for our dear couple. Thus, The Dancing Bear was conceived.

The room in which Darcy and Elizabeth spend most of their time in the story belongs to Mr Timmins’ sister, who acts as a housekeeper-come-cook. Her role is pertinent because it demanded certain features be in the room that were essential to the story. I took the inspiration for this room from the housekeeper’s apartments at the beautifully restored Regency Townhouse in Brighton (a visit to which I heartily recommend to anyone interested in Regency life). The room at the townhouse (pictured) differs from the one in Speechless in that it is bright and airy as opposed to dark, dingy and cluttered—but it was the design of the space that really interested me.

Purpose-built for a housekeeper by the C19th architect, it has a large walk-in cupboard where she would have kept all the most expensive domestic items carefully locked away. You’ll have to read the story to find out why this was such an important feature to have in the room, though…

The taproom at The Dancing Bear is themed around the interior of a wonderful old hotel in my own hometown of Hertford. The Salisbury Arms (originally The Bell) is a coaching inn dating back to the fifteenth century. It has two front parlours, a taproom and a restaurant; three more rooms than I gave The Dancing Bear, which only has one taproom. The gorgeous old room in this picture shows the mixture of bricks, plaster and timber frame that I imagine made up the walls of Mr Timmins’ humble inn.

In complete contrast to all of this is Darcy’s townhouse. I admit, I have never visited the place in this picture. I’m not even sure where it was taken—it’s an image I stumbled across on the internet a long time ago—but I used it to help me envisage one of the most pivotal scenes in the story. Not, as you might think, for the splendour, though it is beautiful. In fact, it was, again, the layout that inspired me. The logistics of where things are in whatever imaginary world I’m writing about can prove problematic if I don’t have a clear idea of that space. Characters can end up whispering to someone too far away to hear, walking through a door that wasn’t there moments before, sitting down in a chair where another character is already perched … the potential for pitfalls is endless. I find that having in mind a particular room I’ve visited or seen in a photo, or even sketched out on paper, helps me better inhabit the space I’m describing, thereby ensuring that what I write makes sense. The way the furniture is arranged in a circle around this particular room, with one chair closest to the door, from which a person might hold a quiet conversation with someone half-in and half-out of the room whilst everyone else talks amongst themselves, proved remarkably useful to a certain gentleman protagonist in Speechless.

Of course, I also like to think of Darcy’s houses as tastefully and gorgeously decorated, so this photo was no hardship to work with.

So, there is a small glimpse of the world I lived in while I was writing Speechless. I hope your readers have just as much fun imagining their own setting for Darcy and Elizabeth if they have the chance to read the story themselves.

Thanks, Jessie, for sharing all of these glorious, inspirational buildings with us.

GIVEAWAY:

Quills & Quartos Publishing is giving away one ebook of Speechless per blog tour stop. All you need to do to enter the giveaway is comment on this blog post, and Quills & Quartos will randomly choose winners for the entire blog tour on December 19. So, make sure you join in the conversation!

About the Author:

Jessie Lewis, author of Mistaken and The Edification of Lady Susan, enjoys words far too much for her own good and was forced to take up writing them down in order to save her family and friends from having to listen to her saying so many of them. She dabbled in poetry during her teenage years, though it was her studies in Literature and Philosophy at university that firmly established her admiration for the potency of the English language. She has always been particularly in awe of Jane Austen’s literary cunning and has delighted in exploring Austen’s
regency world in her own historical fiction writing. It is of no relevance whatsoever to her ability to string words together coherently that she lives in Hertfordshire with two tame cats, two feral children and a pet husband. She is also quite tall, in case you were wondering.

You can check out her musings on the absurdities of language and life on her blog, LifeinWords.blog, or see what she’s reading over at Goodreads. Or you can drop her a line on Twitter, @JessieWriter or on her Facebook page, JessieLewisAuthor.

Guest Post & Giveaway: When Charlotte Became Romantic by Victoria Kincaid

I love reading Austen-inspired novels about secondary characters, and Victoria Kincaid offers readers a new take on Charlotte Lucas. Check out the book synopsis and an excerpt below before entering the international giveaway:

Desperate to escape her parents’ constant criticism, Charlotte has accepted a proposal from Mr. Collins despite recognizing his stupid and selfish nature. But when a mysterious man from her past visits Meryton for the Christmas season, he arouses long-buried feelings and causes her to doubt her decision.

James Sinclair’s mistakes cost him a chance with Charlotte three years ago, and he is devastated to find her engaged to another man. Honor demands that he step aside, but his heart will not allow him to leave Meryton. Their mutual attraction deepens; however, breaking an engagement is not a simple matter and scandal looms. If they are to be happy, they must face her parents’ opposition, Lady Catherine’s disapproval, dangerous figures from James’s past…and Charlotte’s nagging feeling that maybe she should just marry Mr. Collins. Charlotte had forsworn romance years ago; is it possible for her to become romantic again?

Please give Victoria a warm welcome:

Hello Serena and thank you for welcoming me back to your blog! I always thought that Charlotte Lucas got a raw deal, marrying a man who was so unpleasant and less intelligent than she was. I had long wanted to write a story where Charlotte got a happier ending. Imagine my surprise when that story, When Charlotte Became Romantic, turned out to contain spies, vengeance, a mysterious man from the past, and a broken engagement. I knew my vision of Charlotte would be more romantic, but I hadn’t realized how much more romantic her story would be! Below is an excerpt from near the beginning of the book. I hope you enjoy it!

After a moment, James roused himself. “My congratulations,” he said stiffly. His expression was unreadable, although his countenance was quite pale. “I wish you both happy.” He nodded briskly. “Now, if you will excuse us, my aunt is quite parched, and I promised to obtain some punch for her.” He barely gave his aunt enough time to clutch his arm before he whisked them both into the crowd.

Elizabeth and Charlotte stared after them. “My goodness,” Elizabeth said. “What did you do in Bath to offend them? Did you insult Mr. Sinclair’s favorite waistcoat or put too much sugar in his tea?” She gave Charlotte an impish grin.

If you only knew.

What could Charlotte say without revealing too much? “We did not part on the best of terms.” That much was true. Elizabeth regarded her with a raised eyebrow. “He departed from Bath under something of a cloud.” Also true, although certainly not the whole story.

Now both of Elizabeth’s brows were raised. “Indeed? How intriguing.” She paused, but Charlotte divulged no further information. She avoided gossip as a general rule, and this was one story she was especially loath to share. “That does not account for why he would be so disturbed at the particular news of your engagement.”

Charlotte silently cursed her friend’s powers of observation. Why could James not have encountered her in the hall with Jane Bennet or Maria? They would have remained oblivious to the undercurrents in the conversation.

“I do not take your meaning,” Charlotte responded.

A smile played around her friend’s lips. “If you say so.” She gave Charlotte a sly look. “I will only observe that he has obviously been thinking of you over the past three years. The question is…have you been thinking of him?”

“No, never,” she replied instantly. Fortunately, Charlotte had great practice in presenting an impassive face. “It was all so long ago.”

This was mostly the truth. Charlotte had a policy: she only allowed herself to think of James in her bedchamber during the last few minutes before she fell asleep. There she could indulge fantasies about what might have been without anyone being the wiser. Throughout the rest of the day, she worked ceaselessly to catch any stray thoughts about him and lock them carefully inside a box within her mind. Only at night—alone in bed—did she unlock that box and allow herself to examine those thoughts.

Glancing down, Charlotte found that her hands were still shaking. But how could she shut away her thoughts of James when he was here in Meryton? The Christmas season was full of dinner parties and balls of all sorts; no doubt they would be thrown together again and again. How could she police her thoughts of him while he was standing a few feet from her in the same room? She had no strategy for such a situation. She had never expected—allowed herself to fear or hope—that such a thing might come to pass.

She took a deep, soothing breath, reminding herself that the thoughts themselves were not the danger; it was the accompanying emotions. The perturbation of spirits, the endless regrets, and the forbidden longing. She might think about James without allowing herself to be dragged back into that emotional tumult. She had the armor of a betrothal now, relying on thoughts of Mr. Collins when thoughts of James threatened her equanimity.

Or … perhaps thoughts of the life she might have with Mr. Collins…the children …

I am in trouble.

She had only one recourse tonight, and she would discover other methods of coping tomorrow. Charlotte took her friend’s hand. “My head aches abominably. I must…retire to my bedchamber.” With her eyes, she implored Elizabeth not to ask too many questions.

Her expression instantly turned sympathetic. “Of course. Would you like me to accompany you?”

Bless Elizabeth for her tact and understanding; however, one person could slip away unnoticed far more easily. “No. I thank you. I pray you, remain and enjoy the party.” With a quick squeeze of Elizabeth’s fingers, Charlotte slipped out of the room and up the stairs.

Enter the Giveaway: (international)

1 ebook is up for grabs.

Leave a comment below with an email to enter.

Deadline Nov. 15, 2019 EST

Excerpt & Giveaway: The Perfect Gentleman by Julie Cooper

I love modern Pride & Prejudice spinoffs and continuations, but I also love Regency stories in which our romantic partners are forced to trust one another with secrets and it blossoms into something more.

Julie Cooper’s book, The Perfect Gentleman, fits the bill. Check out the book below and stay for the guest post and giveaway, too.

About the Book:

’Tis no secret that Lizzy Bennet has dreams. The uniquely talented daughter of a woman with a dubious reputation, Lizzy knows she must make her own way in a world that shuns her. Fitzwilliam Darcy carries the stains of his family’s disgrace upon his soul and only by holding himself to the strictest standards has he reclaimed his place in society.

Now Georgiana Darcy has gone missing. If his fifteen-year-old sister cannot be found quickly, the scandal could destroy Darcy’s years of perfect behaviour. Lizzy Bennet know just what to do to find Georgiana. She is willing to join the pursuit to get what she wants but will Darcy be willing to trust her with his secrets? And what will they do when the search for Georgiana reveals what neither expected to find?

The Perfect Gentleman is a romantic adventure so big it needs two volumes in one book. Follow the adventure in A Not-So-Merry Chase and discover the surprises and temptations that await at Pemberley in Love Wisely But Well.

Doesn’t this sound exciting? I love when Darcy and Elizabeth have adventures together. What better way is there to build trust when you have to trust the person you’re with on an adventure?

Check out how Cooper balanced this great societal gap and more below and please enter the giveaway.

In The Perfect Gentleman, our heroine begins life as the daughter of Fanny Bennet, a demimondaine supported by wealthy lovers. My original idea for this story was actually a challenge—to make the social gap between Lizzy and Darcy as wide as possible while not hopelessly stretching the bounds of believability. In order to do this, I had to create circumstances in Darcy’s past giving some leeway to support a gap the size of the Grand Canyon.

Of course, there are contributing factors to Mrs Bennet’s membership in The Real Regency Housewives of Ramsgate. Like canon, she is not clever—and an early, brief affair with a baron leaves her with a child, Jane, before she ever meets Mr Bennet. It is a fact of Regency life that a man might have mistresses, and any number of affairs, while a woman could be ostracized for a broken engagement. Fanny’s lies, and the baron’s unwillingness to stay out of Jane’s life, essentially doom Our Dear Girl Lizzy to social poverty and a fatherless existence. Nevertheless, she goes on to develop her talents with the goal of never being forced to repeat her mother’s choices. Through hard work, resourcefulness and determination, she is a fair way down the path of artistic competency before ever meeting Mr Darcy.

Early on in our novel, Lizzy is given a chance to write a letter to the father who abandoned her, and she experiments with different wording. However, due to space limitations, these letters were cut from the final version of The Perfect Gentleman. I believe that reading them, however, will give insight into her wit, the force of her personality, and her devotion to her dreams.

Excerpts from The Perfect Gentleman:

Dearest Papa,
It was kind of you to remember the bothersome fact of my existence. I hear it took a deathbed prompt, but I suppose fear of meeting your Maker with a possible daughter—for whom you never troubled to take any notice or make any provision—weighs on your conscience. By the by, if you supposed your baby’s mother to be a vile sinner, why would you leave an innocent child in her care?
Doubtfully,
Lizzy.

“Hmm. Too hostile?” she mused aloud. “I am not bitter. He is nothing to me.” Mentally she revised it.

Dear Sir,
It was kind of you to send an emissary. I hear you have been ill, and I hope you are on the mend. Unless, of course, I would now be an heiress if you had gone to meet your reward.

Possibly not that either. But why should she pretend an interest in the father who rejected her? She had shocked Mr Darcy, but truthfully, her only aim was to avoid her mother’s fate and lead a life she could control. Safety and peace. For that end, money was a requirement. A man such as he, spoilt with excess, could never understand. Even if he was unreasonably handsome.

Now, where had that thought come from?

Just a simple observation, she assured herself. One would have to be blind not to notice. I may be wicked enough to wonder what he looks like without his cravat, artistically speaking, but that does not mean I am dashing down the Path of Repeating Fanny’s Choices!

End excerpt.

As you can probably tell, Lizzy understands that small decisions can
have big consequences, and she stays true to her dreams and sense of
self throughout. It was probably my favourite part of writing The Perfect Gentleman—penning a heroine who truly believes in herself.

No matter the expectations of a rigid, unforgiving society, there is a
stubbornness about Lizzy Bennet that never can bear to be frightened at
the will of others. At its heart, The Perfect Gentleman is a story of her courage.

About the Author:

Julie Cooper, a California native, lives with her Mr Darcy (without the arrogance or the Pemberley) of nearly forty years, two dogs (one intelligent, one goofball), and Kevin the Cat (smarter than all of them.) They have four children and three grandchildren, all of whom are brilliant and adorable, with the pictures to prove it. She works as an executive at a gift basket company and her tombstone will read, “Have your Christmas gifts delivered at least four days before the 25th.” Her hobbies are reading, giving other people good advice, and wondering why no one follows it.

Giveaway:

You can win a $50 Amazon gift card from Quills & Quartos Publishing! The contest ends on November 13.

To be eligible, just comment on any of the blog tour stops and Quills & Quartos will select a random winner from the comments. You need not visit all the stops (one point per stop and comment), however, it does increase your chances of winning by earning more entries.

Please check the Quills & Quartos Facebook to find out about winners.