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Guest Post & Giveaway: Jenetta James on the Process of Title Choice for Lover’s Knot

I want to give Jenetta James a warm welcome today as she walks us through the title selection process for her novels, including her latest Lover’s Knot.

Of course, there will be a giveaway and you’ll learn about the book below. Enjoy!

About the Book:

A great love. A perplexing murder. Netherfield Park — a house of secrets.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is in a tangle. Captivated by Miss Elizabeth Bennet, a girl of no fortune and few connections. Embroiled in an infamous murder in the home of his friend, Charles Bingley. He is being tested in every way. Fearing for Elizabeth’s safety, Darcy moves to protect her in the only way he knows but is thwarted. Thus, he is forced to turn detective. Can he overcome his pride for the sake of Elizabeth? Can he, with a broken heart, fathom the villainy that has invaded their lives? Is there even a chance for love born of such strife?

Lover’s Knot is a romantic Pride & Prejudice variation, with a bit of mystery thrown in.

Take it away, Jenetta:

What’s in a name? Finding a title for “Lover’s Knot”

Firstly – a big thank you to Serena for having me to visit Savvy Verse & Wit as part of the “Lover’s Knot” blog tour. It is a pleasure and an honour to be here.

The first time I mentioned the title of my latest JAFF story to my family, there were looks of bemusement all around. “That doesn’t sound like a Pride & Prejudice variation” was the universal response.

The truth is that I enjoy the challenge of thinking up titles, but that doesn’t mean it comes easily to me. In the case of my first published story – “Suddenly Mrs. Darcy” – the title, which reflects a rapid forced marriage scenario, did just come to me one day. It turned up like a fortuitous taxi and I immediately knew that it was right, so it stayed, and that was that. For “The Elizabeth Papers”, I had more of a struggle. I wanted to elude to the mystery in the book, but also place the Darcys centre stage (as they are in the story). I had a number of possible titles and a piece of paper with dozens of words scrawled all over them. Hours would go by with me swapping them about and reading them out loud. Just when I began to think it was a hopeless task, “The Elizabeth Papers” revealed itself to me.

Now it is fair to say (I think) that the majority Pride & Prejudice variation stories have titles that in some way reflect the original. Alliterative plays on Jane Austen’s title and titles including the names of the major characters and of the major houses in the story, are rightly popular.

Lover’s Knot does not fit in with that – so where does it come from?

As many of you will know, a lover’s knot it is a well recognised type of knot – featuring more than one – usually two – knots threaded together. In addition to fastening things, it is a popular motif in jewellery – made most famous by the Cambridge Lover’s Knot tiara worn by Queen Mary, Diana,
Princess of Wales and now the Duchess of Cambridge.

Why did I chose it for my title?

The novel itself features a leather lover’s knot and it was only after I had written it that I quite realised the usefulness of the knot as a way of thinking about the story. It comes just before the end of part 1 that the reader is shown an item – a clue – which is fastened by lover’s knots. It isn’t particularly valuable – but it is difficult to explain and it seems important. When Mr. Darcy begins to investigate the crimes that have taken place, part of what he is seeking to explain is the item with the knot. It is a sort of symbol of the “whodunnit”. If he can sort out the clue – he might be able to fathom the mystery.

On top of that, the lover’s knot is a symbol of other things. It has a character which is both useful and decorative which is also apposite to the story.

This strong fastening is, and has been since antiquity, a symbol of love and friendship. Now that is useful in itself because love – and specifically the love between Mr Darcy and Elizabeth is the heart of this story and most other variations. However, there is more to it than that. Being a knot – it also represents a tangle – a thing to be unfastened if the occasion demands it. In “Lover’s Knot” – as in Pride & Prejudice – both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy get themselves in something of a muddle. By reason of pride, prejudice and social mores, they each find themselves locked into unhappy situations. This is exacerbated in Lover’s Knot by the fact of the crimes that have taken place. For the story to resolve to provide for their happiness (which of course, it must do!), that knot has to be undone.

So, that is my explanation. What do you think? What are your favourite JAFF titles and why?

About the Author:

Jenetta James is a mother, writer, lawyer and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society. After graduating, she took to the law and now practices full-time as a barrister. Over the years, she has lived in France, Hungary, and Trinidad as well as her native England.

Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing, and playing with Lego. She has written, Suddenly Mrs. Darcy and The Elizabeth Papers as well as contributed short stories to both The Darcy Monologues and Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes and Gentlemen Rogues. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

GIVEAWAY:

Jenetta has selected a lovely giveaway package where one lucky winner will
receive a Pride & Prejudice scarf, a Kindle cover and paperback copies of all five of her JAFF books.

To enter, answer Janetta’s question about your favorite P&P titles.

Terms and conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once each day and by commenting
daily on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached to this tour.
Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented.
Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is
international. Each entrant is eligible to win one eBook.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Guest Post & Giveaway: Riana Everly, Author of The Assistant: Before Pride and Prejudice, Speaks about University of King’s College

I want to welcome Riana Everly back to Savvy Verse & Wit today with her new book, The Assistant.

About the Book:

A tale of love, secrets, and adventure across the ocean.

When textile merchant Edward Gardiner rescues an injured youth, he has no notion that this simple act of kindness will change his life. The boy is bright and has a gift for numbers that soon makes him a valued assistant and part of the Gardiners’ business, but he also has secrets and a set of unusual acquaintances. When he introduces Edward to his sparkling and unconventional friend, Miss Grant, Edward finds himself falling in love.

But who is this enigmatic woman who so quickly finds her way to Edward’s heart?

Do the deep secrets she refuses to reveal have anything to do with the appearance of a sinister stranger, or with the rumours of a missing heir to a northern estate? As danger mounts, Edward must find the answers in order to save the woman who has bewitched him . . . but the answers themselves may destroy all his hopes.

Set against the background of Jane Austen’s London, this Pride and Prejudice prequel casts us into the world of Elizabeth Bennet’s beloved Aunt and Uncle Gardiner. Their unlikely tale takes the reader from the woods of Derbyshire, to the ballrooms of London, to the shores of Nova Scotia. With so much at stake, can they find their Happily Ever After?

Please give Riana a warm welcome.

In The Assistant, Edward Gardiner has recently returned to England after completing his degree at King’s College in Nova Scotia. Having grown up in Canada, I had known about The University of King’s College for many, many years, but the university reasserted itself in my consciousness about five years ago when my son was starting to explore options for his own degree. He ultimately decided to go elsewhere, but he was very much taken with both King’s and Halifax, where the university is now located. When a friend’s son did choose to attend King’s, I was all the more impressed with the institution and what it has to offer, because it has been a terrific experience for this young man.

But what makes King’s so special? Every place has its first-rate institutions of higher learning. One of the many things that fascinated me about King’s was its history, reaching back to the 1700s, not a mean feat for such a young country as Canada.

The University of King’s College was founded in Windsor, Nova Scotia, in 1789. It was the first university to be established in what is now English-speaking Canada, and is the oldest English-language university in the Commonwealth outside the United Kingdom.

King’s actually began its existence in New York City, where it was founded by King George II on October 31, 1754. However, in 1776 the college was forced to halt operations for eight years due to ongoing revolution, warfare and social strife. During that time the library was looted and the university’s building was commandeered by both the British and American forces for use as a military hospital. When the school was taken over by revolutionary forces, the Loyalists, led by Bishop Charles Inglis, fled to Windsor, Nova Scotia. There, they founded the King’s Collegiate School in 1788, and the following year, the University of King’s College was established as a permanent institution. It was there that Edward Gardiner received his education just five years later.

And the old King’s in New York? After the revolution it was revived and renamed and is now located at Broadway and 116 th Street, New York City. These days, it is known as Columbia University.

There are a few more interesting points about King’s. It was modeled on the English universities, which were residential, based on a tutorial system, and were closely linked to the Church of England. In fact, until the end of the nineteenth century, all students had to be Anglican and take oaths affirming their assent to the 39 articles of the church. This is unlike Scottish universities of the time, where there was no religious test for students.

Of more interest to many sports fans, it is possible that the first game of hockey was played by King’s students in Winsdor, around the year 1800, when they decided to strap on skates and play a version of the field game of Hurley on the frozen pond. I am no tremendous sports fan, but there is something fun about imagining a very young Edward Gardiner being one of the first people to venture onto the ice and engage in an exciting game of Ice Hurley… or Ice Hockey!

These days, King’s is located in the city of Halifax, where it is affiliated with Dalhousie University. It remains, however, an independent institution, and one of the finest in Canada, with a world-wide reputation.

~*~ (Excerpt from Chapter One)

It was Edward’s own mother, Mary, who had convinced James Gardiner that young Edward needed an Education. Not of the social class to consider Oxford or Cambridge for their son, the Gardiners embarked upon a quest, and eventually determined upon the colonies. An old friend of Gardiner senior made the suggestion of King’s College in Nova Scotia, along with the offer of an apprenticeship in his export business there, which sent timber and furs across the ocean. The double allure of a classical education and personal experience in another part of his own family’s trade was too great to refuse, and upon completing his primary education in the local parish, Edward was sent to the small town of Windsor, Nova Scotia, some fifty miles from Halifax, the capital of that colony.

His three years abroad were initially lonely ones for the shy young man, but along with an excellent education, he also acquired the social skills required of a successful businessman. He learned to meet people and engage with them on their own terms; he learned that a pleasant smile and a friendly demeanour would better recommend him to others than mere social éclat; he learned the importance of business in keeping the blood of the Empire flowing; and most importantly, he learned that, in this less stratified world of the Atlantic colonies, tradesmen and sons of local magistrates were social equals, who could converse intelligently on matters of consequence. Edward returned home educated and mature, with a knowledge of his place in the world, but with the skills to move beyond his circles. He could discuss business affairs with his fellow merchants, fashion with the Ladies who sought unique decorations at his establishments, literature and sport with the gentlemen who accompanied them, and was a competent and sought-after chess partner.

In short, Edward Gardiner had every prospect of outshining his father.

Thank you, Riana, for sharing the history of King’s College and early hockey.

About the Author:

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

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

GIVEAWAY:

ENTER HERE.

Guest Post & Giveaway: Fun Facts of A Short Period of Exquisite Felicity by Amy D’Orzaio

Today’s guest post is from Amy D’Orzaio, author of Jane Austen fiction A Short Period of Exquisite Felicity.

First, here’s a little about the book:

Is not the very meaning of love that it surpasses every objection against it?

Jilted. Never did Mr. Darcy imagine it could happen to him.

But it has, and by Elizabeth Bennet, the woman who first hated and rejected him but then came to love him—he believed—and agree to be his wife. Alas, it is a short-lived, ill-fated romance that ends nearly as soon as it has begun. No reason is given.

More than a year since he last saw her—a year of anger, confusion, and despair—he receives an invitation from the Bingleys to a house party at Netherfield. Darcy is first tempted to refuse, but with the understanding that Elizabeth will not attend, he decides to accept.

When a letter arrives, confirming Elizabeth’s intention to join them, Darcy resolves to meet her with indifference. He is determined that he will not demand answers to the questions that plague him. Elizabeth is also resolved to remain silent and hold fast to the secret behind her refusal. Once they are together, however, it proves difficult to deny the intense passion that still exists. Fury, grief, and profound love prove to be a combustible mixture. But will the secrets between them be their undoing?

Please give A. D’Orzaio a warm welcome:

Thank you, Serena, for hosting me here at your wonderful blog for the launch of my new release, A Short Period of Exquisite Felicity. Today, I am sharing a post about the time period in which this story is set. Most of us who regularly read Austenesque stories are pretty well versed on the
years in which canon takes place, 1811-1812.

A Short Period of Exquisite Felicity, however, is set a little bit later, from autumn 1813 into spring 1814 and because I am a research-loving writer, I naturally set about to learn all I could about that time. I thought it might be fun to talk about some of the things which were happening in England at this time, to give everyone a little flavor of the world of my D&E. This list isn’t comprehensive by any means — but it is a list of things which have relevance to my story!

1. 1814 was one of the coldest years ever

From the end of December 1813 into January 1814, temperatures averaged -0.4◦C (24◦F) making it one of the five coldest winters in recorded history (up to that time — England has suffered worse since) Temperatures fell as low as -13◦C (8◦F), and the Thames froze solid enough to host a fair and provide support for an elephant to traverse it. It was also the most snow that England had for three centuries prior and for some time, drifts of snow 6 feet high blocked roads and halted the mail service.

There was an unexpected warming trend at the end of March and April proved uncommonly warm, almost summery (personally I am hoping for the same this winter!)

2. Lord Byron published his wildly successful book The Corsair

Le Corsair sold 10,000 copies in its first day of release (Dang!) In comparison, Pride and Prejudice, which was released only the year before, sold 1000-1200 copies in its first year and was also considered an enormous success.

3. Aladdin was onstage at Covent Garden Theatre.

While previously it had been performed as a juvenile pantomime, a new version of Aladdin debuted in 1813. It was touted as “a grand romantic spectacle” to differentiate itself from the prior, failed performances.

4. That red cloak!

Okay so this one doesn’t just pertain to 1814 but it’s on the cover of my book, so I thought it was worth a mention.

I will be honest and say I had previously thought red cloaks were the style of younger, more brazen type of women, an opinion which probably formed when I saw Kitty and Lydia Bennet sporting them in the 1995 miniseries of Pride and Prejudice.

A little research proved me entirely wrong! The red cloak was a staple of any fashionable English lady’s wardrobe for many decades, beginning in the latter part of the 18th century. Made of double-milled wool (to improve weather resistance) and lined for functional use and warmth. Some women had them for evening wear as well, made of light, unlined silks or velvet.

Why red? It was likely that the ladies were, in some sense, adapting the style of the military, as is often seen in war times, regardless of what century you live in. Red was considered a symbol of power and wealth, as well as patriotism — it was the red of the cross of St George, and the red
which dominated the crest of the House of Hanover, King George’s ancestry.

The extended reign of the red cloak lasted well into the 19th century, finally considered outmoded somewhere around 1830.

5. The Flu

Most of us who think of Regency England think of the Napoleonic Wars, but there were over 60,000 British soldiers (regulars and militia) who were in North America fighting the War of 1812.

The young men who traveled to North America from their homes in England faced danger not only on the battlefield but also from disease. North America and its people (including Native Americans) had particular strains of illnesses like the flu and pneumonia to which the young men from England had no immunity. Most historians believe it was disease, more so than battle, that killed the men who died in the War of 1812.

Those who did not succumb to the disease themselves were often sent home where they exposed people in England to these diseases. As a result, there was a near-epidemic of pneumonia and fever in London and in the towns and villages which hosted military units.

Thanks, Amy, for these interesting facts. I cannot wait to read this one.

About the Author:

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.

Visit her on Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads, and Meryton Press.

International Giveaway:

8 eBooks of A Short Period of Exquisite Felicity are being given away by Meryton Press and the giveaway is open to international readers. This giveaway is open to entries from midnight ET on Feb. 21 – until midnight ET on March 8, 2018. ENTER HERE.

Terms and conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once each day and by commenting daily on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached to this tour.

Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented.

Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international. Each entrant is eligible to win one eBook.

Guest Post: 3 Tips for Launching a Successful e-Commerce Store

Owning an eCommerce store can be one of the most fulfilling ventures into entrepreneurship there is. Not only is this a chance to own a business, but be a part of a community or industry that you’ve always wanted to contribute to. However, with how competitive eCommerce can be, it can be tough to know how to get started, which is why I’m giving you a few helpful tips on how to get started. Check them out below:

Figure Out Your Structure

Perhaps one of the first steps to launching an eCommerce store is defining your structure. Not only will this determine the inventory you receive, but how you’ll deliver that to your customers. And whether that be through epacket tracking or dropshipping, these steps are going to be crucial in figuring out your ROI; because as noted by Business Insider, 82 percent of businesses fail because of cash flow problems. Which, the best way to avoid that is by having a stable revenue structure in place.

To begin, look at what inventory you’re going to have, as well as where you plan to source from. For example, if you’re selling your own line of t-shirts, then your primary driver will be the quality and price point of your supplier. However, if you were to say be a shop for athletic apparel, then pulling in from multiple sources in a timely fashion would have higher precedence. All-in- all, your structure should be focused on producing the best quality product and experience at the best price for both you and the consumer, so take your time in getting this right.

Come Up With A Solid Brand

Once you’ve learned what you’re going to sell, it’s time to think about the identity of your company, as well as how that’s going to connect with its audience. And with competitive the world of eCommerce can actually be, coming up with a solid brand is a must. Not only is it going to give you a sense of the type of products that you sell, but will additionally give your company a personality and voice that can resonate with your customers. However, being successful with branding is going to take a fair amount of self-reflection beyond just how you’re going to attract customers, but build a community.

In analyzing what brand you’re going to have, you first need to decide on where this will fit, as well as what purpose it’s going to serve. Remember, your brand should be the identity that sets you apart from the crowd, showcasing the kind of problem you’re looking to solve with your eCommerce shop, as well as why you exist. This will go into having an overarching aesthetic, as well as what builds up to that.

An excellent example of this is how color and typefaces come into play. For example, as noted by Lucidpress, color increases brand recognition by 80 percent, which you can see in numerous brands. The vape company Juul, for example, uses tropical colors combined with thin typefaces to display their flavorful line of flavors. All-in- all, your branding assets should be something you invest a lot of time it at first, as this will be something that could potentially last you a lifetime.

Have A Consistent Plan For Marketing

If there’s one thing step that’s constantly going to be important for your success, it’s coming up with a plan that allows you to be consistent with your marketing efforts. As a lot of what you’re going to be pushing is online, there’s no excuse for why you can’t keep up with at least social media, email, and SEO on a regular, if not daily basis. The trick here, however, is to hedge your bets based on your skill level and capacity.

Let’s say for example that you enjoy working with social the most, but don’t always know how to keep producing posts every day. As noted by Shopify, this can be a great strategy to earn more, with Facebook alone producing a conversion rate of 1.85 percent. However, by studying what the strategy of others are doing, this process can be much simpler.

Start looking at case studies of other examples on how some campaigns do their social, highlighting the benefit of their call-to- action. For example, if you have a lookbook video that you want to showcase, then looking at something like how the trailer for the independent film People You May Know was able to capitalize on their social strategy might be helpful. Overall, marketing is about frequency as much as it is quality of posts, so make an effort to find your balance and stick with it.

What are some things you’re looking forward to with launching an eCommerce store? Comment with your answers below!

Guest Post & Giveaway: Writing with Blinders by Audrey Ryan

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

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

About the Book:

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

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

Please welcome, Audrey.

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

Writing with Blinders

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

Chunking

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

The Ideal Environment

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

The Soundtrack

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

Physical Place as Inspiration

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

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

About the Author:

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

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

Follow her online:

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

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

Terms and Conditions:

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

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

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

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

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

About the book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giveaway Info: (open internationally)

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

Giveaway & Excerpt: A Very Austen Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How nice for your governess,” said Elizabeth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter the Giveaway:

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

Good luck!

Guest Post: The Top Five Winter-Reads

The Top Five Winter-Reads

As we head into the cold days and nights of winter it’s only natural to have that urge to hunker down indoors, staying warm and cozy. What this means is that it’s the perfect time to catch up on your reading and get through all those books you’ve been too busy to pick up. Just think of it, you can curl up on the couch with a warm fuzzy blanket, have book scented candles going to help set the tone, and of course a warm and tasty beverage to sip on. Sounds pretty relaxing right?

So what looks good in terms of winter reading? We’ve got your top five reads right here, both old and new.

Emma by Jane Austen

Why not kick off the winter reading season with a true classic. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the newest releases that we forget to delve into the classics and show them the appreciation they deserve. Emma is one of those books that shows up on top reading lists over and over again, so you really can’t go wrong with it. This book has it all – bad behavior, intrigue, havoc, and more.

Origin by Dan Brown

For all the Robert Langdon series fans Origin is a book you won’t want to miss. This is a new release from Brown which takes Langdon on yet another incredible and eye-opening journey. It’s got all those ingredients that audiences loved in the previous books – Angels & Demons, The Da Vince Code, The Lost Symbol, and Inferno, so you can expect for this to be a real page-turner and nail-biter.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #1) by C.S. Lewis

While you may pass this one off as a children's book, nothing could be further from the truth. And because this is only book one in the series you know you’ve got plenty of reading ahead of you. With this book you will head out on an epic adventure in the land of Narnia along with the book’s main characters Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter.

The Game of Thrones Series by George R.R. Martin

If you’re still in denial that the Game of Thrones is on a break now possibly until 2018, then why not re-live all the drama, heart-break, backstabbing, torrid love affairs, and more by working your way through the entire Game of Thrones series. The books do differ from the television series and it will act as a refresher so you’ll be ready when it’s back on air.

The Wisdom of Sundays: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations by Oprah Winfrey

Maybe you want to use the cold weather to feed your soul with inspiration, motivation, and some eye-opening revelations. That’s exactly what you’ll get with this brand new release from famed television personality Oprah Winfrey. This book is a collection of stories she has gathered from her television show The Wisdom of Sundays and is sure to leave an impact on you.

Pick Up a Book and Get Reading

Now that you’ve got a list in front of you, all that’s left to do is pick up your first book and get reading.

Guest Post: Jane Austen and the Oliphant in the Room by Alice Chandler, author of Aunt Jane and the Missing Cherry Pie

Sometimes life takes a good turn, and that turn came in an email from The Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England. We’ve entered into a monthly exchange of blog posts, in which they share one of my older posts on their blog and I do the same.

My first post from them is from Alice Chandler, originally posted here, about Margaret Olifant, who was critical of Jane Austen’s work. However, compared to some of Austen’s other critics, Olifant had a seemingly more balanced view.

I look forward to sharing more of these posts in the future.  I hope you’ll enjoy this exchange.

Jane Austen and the Oliphant in the Room by Alice Chandler, author of Aunt Jane and the Missing Cherry Pie

I do apologize for the pun in my title.

The Olifant I refer to is Margaret Olifant (1828-1894), a prolific and popular nineteenth-century writer and said to be Queen Victoria’s favorite novelist. The reason that I figuratively place Olifant in the same room as Jane Austen is that she was such a trenchant and perceptive critic of Austen’s work.

Austen was not always fortunate in her woman critics during the century after her death. While famous male authors lauded her and often compared her work to Shakespeare’s, some notable women writers were very critical of her writing.  Her contemporary Mary Mitford, whose mother actually knew Jane Austen, was well-known in her time for her charming short novel, Our Village. Mitford disliked Elizabeth Bennett as a character and criticized “the entire want of taste that could produce so pert, so worldly a heroine as the beloved of such a man as Darcy.”

Charlotte Bronte was particularly negative about Austen. She compared her writing to a “daguerrotyped portrait of a commonplace face” and complained that her work “lacked poetry.” She thought that Austen’s novels delineated “the surface… lives of genteel English people.”  But they ignored “what throbs fast and full… what the blood rushes through… the unseen seat of life.” Or to put it more simply, her books had no heart. Elizabeth Barrett Browning was similarly, though less violently, critical of Austen’s passionlessness. She found her novels perfect but shallow.

Which was the more accurate view of Jane Austen? Was she worldly, tasteless, and pert? Or shallow, bloodless and commonplace? Or as other critics put it, was she perhaps too refined and genteel? Of all the nineteenth-century women critics, Margaret Oliphant seems to me to hit it just right—to see and admire Austen’s delicacy, but to see her pointedness as well. Mrs. Olifant’s Jane Austen is far from having no heart. But her Jane Austen also has a mind—a mind that can bridge the seeming distinction between being feminine and being a truth-teller. As Olifant so accurately puts it, “Nothing but a mind of this subtle, delicate, speculative temper could have set before us pictures which are at once so trenchant… so softly feminine and polite, and so remorselessly true.” Oliphant’s description of the hypocritical Mr. Collins—the one who wants to marry Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice—is almost as good as Austen’s own. As Oliphant describes him (in capital letters), he was a figure of “UNDISTURBED COMPLACENCY… TALL… GRAVE AND POMPOUS, WRAPT IN A CLOUD OF SOLEMN VANITY, SERVILITY, STUPIDITY, AND SPITEFULNESS.”

Olifant’s reflections on Jane Austen go deeper, however, than purely literary criticism. Her further comments on the novels reflect the same insight about women’s lives that Anne Elliott expresses at the end of Persuasion, when she compares men’s opportunities for bold and outward action with women’s patient (and passive) capacity only “for loving longest…when hope is gone.” Olifant understands Anne Elliott’s patience–perhaps the novel should have been called Patience instead of Persuasion—but relates it far more clearly to the continuing powerlessness of women in both Austen’s era and in her own. Her Jane Austen has a:

fine vein of feminine cynicism…altogether different from the rude and brutal male [version]… It is the soft and silent disbelief of a spectator who has to look at a great many things without showing any outward discomposure, and who has learned to give up on any moral classification of social systems… She is not surprised or offended…. when people make evident how selfish and self-absorbed they are or when they inflict social cruelties without realizing it.

She is essentially feminine in a world where women can only look on and do nothing…[except to say] a softening word now and then, and to make the best of things, and wonder why human creatures should be such fools… Such are the foundations on which Jane Austen’s cynicism is built.

How Olifant herself coped with the limitations on women’s sphere of action is a sad and interesting story in itself. Born to a middle-class Scottish family in 1828, she started writing at 16, published her first novel at 21, married her cousin at 24, and was widowed at 31. Three of her six children died in infancy, and she sadly outlived the other three children as well. Unlike Jane Austen who signed her works only as “by a lady,” Olifant put her name to her works and, indeed, could not have survived financially without them. She published more than two dozen novels, almost 70 short stories, and scores of articles, biographies, and historical and critical works. Her views of women’s role in society evolved sharply over her lifetime and were presumably influenced by her having to earn her own living as a writer. She began, as she wrote in an 1850s article, by believing that “God has ordained…one sphere and one kind of work for a man, and another for women.” But in her later works unmarried women characters, such as Miss Marjoribanks in the novel of that name, do take on a man’s responsibilities and become the dominant figures in local society. Her views on the indissolubility of marriage also may have altered over time. Although Olifant is adamantly opposed to divorce in her writings of the 1850s, her 1883 novel The Lady Lindores ends with the heroine justifiably rejoicing that her evil and abusive husband is dead.

How Jane Austen’s views might have changed over time is, of course, an unanswerable question. Persuasion shows her more explicitly addressing the issues of social class and women’s sphere of activity than her earlier novels do.

But that is another question, which even Margaret Olifant could not answer.

About the Author:

Alice Chandler is the author of Aunt Jane and the Missing Cherry Pie: A Jane Austen Mystery for Children, available here.

If you’re ever in England, you should visit The Jane Austen Centre, located at 40 Gay Street in Bath. It is a permanent exhibition. “Situated in an original Georgian townhouse, it tells the story of Jane’s time in Bath, including the effect that living here had on her and her writing.”

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

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

About the book:

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

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

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

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

Please give Ms. Everly a warm welcome:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*~*~*~*~

My Writing Space

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

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

About the Author:

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

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

ENTER the Giveaway!

Guest Post: Fanny vs. Mary, an Austenesque Showdown

Welcome to Day #3 of the great Fanny and Mary Debate!

If you missed Day 1, visit JustJane 1813, and Day #2 at Diary of an Eccentric.

Hello, I’m Lona Manning, author of A Contrary Wind, a variation on Mansfield Park, and author of true crime articles.

And I’m Kyra Kramer, author of Mansfield Parsonage and the nonfictional historical books, Blood Will Tell, The Jezebel Effect, Henry VIII’s Health in a Nutshell, and Edward VI in a Nutshell.

Lona: Please join us for the knock-down drag-out (maybe) Fanny versus Mary debate of the decade/epoch/millennium. We will take turns posing each other questions. Please feel free to join in the comments!

Kyra: Everyone who comments will be entered in a draw to win a gift pack of Austen goodies from Bath, England.

Today, the authors will discuss: What was Mary Crawford’s “real” character?

Lona: I feel upon reading (and re-reading) your book that you have been very respectful of Austen’s conception of Mary Crawford. She is still essentially who she is in Mansfield Park. She is witty and charming – no, more than that, she is one of those lucky creatures blessed with true charisma. No plain or dull woman can get away with an impish laugh and a line like: “[Y]ou must forgive me. Selfishness must always be forgiven, you know, because there is no hope of a cure.”  While “your” Mary is loyal and affectionate with her sister Mrs. Grant and her brother Henry, she’s still self-centred and occasionally thoughtless and she gets very irritated with people who don’t agree with her.

Kyra: *blushes* Thank you. I tried my absolute best to stay true to Mary – warts and all, so to speak. Even in the original Austen novel, where Mary Crawford is the antagonist, she has an excellent heart, a quick wit, and a joie de vivre that is worth much more to me than all of Fanny Price’s soggy moralizing. In fact, the character that Mary reminds me of the most is Elizabeth Bennet – her personality is a similar mixture of sweetness and archness that is very captivating indeed! In Mansfield Parsonage, I try to keep Mary Crawford within the lines of the “really good feelings” she was almost entirely motivated by, with the understanding that she is essentially misanthropic as a result of living among the Ton.

Lona: Austen acknowledges Mary was almost [my emphasis] purely governed by good feelings, in that one particular instance, when she comforted Fanny after she was insulted by Mrs. Norris. She is intelligent and charming, but benevolence is definitely not a quality I associate with her.

Kyra: Hmmm … I don’t think Mary was trying to impress Edmund. She was very out of charity with him just then for his refusal to be in the play (regardless of its effect on Mary’s comfort), and she was still determined to never marry a second son even if she had been less angry with him at the time. Mary’s sole motivation was to comfort Fanny, who had been cruelly humiliated by Mrs Norris.

Lona: [Cough] Much as it pains me to contradict you, dear Kyra, here is the quote, directly after Mary intervenes: “By a look at her brother she prevented any farther entreaty from the theatrical board, and the really good feelings by which she was almost [my emphasis] purely governed were rapidly restoring her to all the little she had lost in Edmund’s favour.”

Kyra: [Cough, Cough] I must regretfully disagree with you, dearest Lona. The narrator/Austen is telling us that Mary was recovering in Edmund’s esteem. Mary, herself, neither knew she had fallen out of his esteem — nor cared about what Edmund thought of her at that moment. She was irked at him. She had been sharply rebuffed when she tried to coax Edmund to be Anhalt, and just a few paragraphs before “with some feelings of resentment and mortification, moved her chair considerably nearer the tea–table, and gave all her attention to Mrs. Norris, who was presiding there.” She only moved her seat only to give comfort Fanny, and did not address Edmund again at all.

Lona: You still haven’t explained the “almost.”

Kyra: True, so I’ll point out that while Mary DID sometimes do thoughtless things that hurt people, there are many instances of her efforts to be helpful or kind. Again, at the December ball she spent the first half of it trying to make everyone happy (albeit erring greatly with Fanny). You can say that was just selfishly attempting to be popular, but she could have been witty without endeavoring to bring personal pleasure to the listener. She also warned her sister to keep her friends Maria and Julia Bertram at a distance from Henry Crawford for their heart’s sake. Additionally, she told Mr Rushworth Maria was being “maternal” when she acting with Henry in Lover’s Vows. Yes, it spared Henry embarrassment — but it spared Maria much more than mere embarrassment and it spared the dim-witted Rushworth immediate pain. Was Mary perfect? Nope. But she did TRY to be kind most of the time.

Lona: Everybody says that Jane Austen introduces very little of the wider world (politics and war) to her novels, but in your variation, Mansfield Parsonage, we get a lot of discussion of politics, literature, fashion and society gossip. We sense that Austen’s Mary Crawford is well-read and well-informed about her world, both social and political, and your Mary is almost a bluestocking: she can quote poetry and literature extensively and she avidly follows politics. Your Mary Crawford is a Whig (that is, she is a reformer, a progressive, in her views); she’s an Abolitionist who sympathizes with the downtrodden working poor of her day. But while she loves humanity in the abstract, she wants nothing to do with poverty or squalor in person and she shrinks from making charitable visits in the village, as Fanny does. In short, you’ve designed her to be a flawed heroine. In what ways do you feel you’ve made Mary more sympathetic? Because I couldn’t help thinking that you have described a Regency “limousine liberal.”

Kyra: I actually set out to make Mary a textbook “limousine liberal”. I wanted Mary to be a political foil for Austen herself, who (though an abolitionist) was a “country Tory” who disliked change and sociocultural liberalism. The French Revolution had created a backlash against progressive mores among the English upper and middle class, and in Austen’s original novel Mary Crawford had all the light disdain for the church and authority expected of a rebel-sympathising Whig. Mary and Henry Crawford represented the moral hazards of the Enlightenment to propriety and hierarchical values. Therefore, what could possibly be more appropriate for an antagonist than for her to be a “limousine liberal”; an essentially good elitist progressive whom Austen would have nonetheless disdained?

Lona: Yes, I’m very interested in talking about Mansfield Park in the context of the times in which it was written. But we’ll save that for another day. I think that we would be in total agreement, and this is supposed to be a debate.

Kyra: Good point. I’ll simply say that I believe Mary’s once-removed charity work is representative of Austen’s original characterization, but is also part of my argument that she was worthy of being a heroine in her own right. While throwing money at a problem is not as good as a Mother Teresa-like devotion to helping the needy (ala Flawless Fanny), I would argue that to be a limousine liberal is better than ignoring poverty or assuming it derives from the moral/intellectual failings of those who suffer from it.

Lona: I think the readers should weigh in. Was Mary, as Kyra insists, almost wholly good, or did she have a more chequered personality than Kyra would like to admit?

We’d love to hear what you think in the comments.

About the Authors:

Lona Manning is the author of A Contrary Wind, a variation on Mansfield Park. She has also written numerous true crime articles, which are available at www.crimemagazine.com. She has worked as a non-profit administrator, a vocational instructor, a market researcher, and a speechwriter for politicians.

She currently teaches English as a Second Language. She and her husband now divide their time between mainland China and Canada. Her second novel, A Marriage of Attachment, a sequel to A Contrary Wind, is planned for release in early 2018. You can visit her website where she blogs about China and Jane Austen.

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 Mansfield Parsonage is her first foray into fictional writing. You can visit her website to learn more about her life and work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And editing. And editing.

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

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

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

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

I should have.

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

Perfect, just perfect.

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

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

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

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

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

Something I didn’t have a list for.

But yes, I will be compiling one soon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The colonel?”

Small Tom pointed down the hall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mary?” Why did Michaels look so surprised?

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

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

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

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

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

Colonel Fitzwilliam’s jaw dropped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 ebook of A Less Agreeable Man by Maria Grace

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About the Author:

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

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