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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.

Follow the rest of the tour for more chances to win:

Whose team are you on?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And editing. And editing.

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

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

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

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

I should have.

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

Perfect, just perfect.

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

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

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

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

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

Something I didn’t have a list for.

But yes, I will be compiling one soon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The colonel?”

Small Tom pointed down the hall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mary?” Why did Michaels look so surprised?

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

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

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

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

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

Colonel Fitzwilliam’s jaw dropped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 ebook of A Less Agreeable Man by Maria Grace

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

About the Author:

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

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

Guest Post: Wonderland’s Poetry by Alexa Adams

Today’s guest, Alexa Adams, and I’m particularly happy to say I got to stretch my poetry skills and help her modify some of the poems in her latest Pride & Prejudice inspired novel, Darcy in Wonderland.

Please give Alexa a warm welcome.

Thank you so much, Serena, for inviting me here to discuss the poetry in my new book, Darcy in Wonderland (with which I was so fortunate as to benefit from your expert advice).

Alice in Wonderland is chock full of poetry. Lewis Carroll began his publishing career as a poet, only writing his famous children’s stories after a whimsical request from a young friend. It is, therefore, unsurprising that he would choose to include his preferred literary medium in his novels. However, most of the poems in the book are not original compositions, but playful parodies of famous verses of the time that most contemporary readers would immediately recognize. His ready borrowing from others I took as license to subject his lines to the same treatment, turning his parodies into my own and inserting a heavy dose of Jane Austen into them. I thought I’d take this opportunity afforded by Serena to look at two in context, charting their mutation from proper poems, to Carroll’s whimsical renditions, into my Austenesque odes.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748), known as “The Father of English Hymnody” (despite his nonconformist faith), was a prolific writer and English minister. Many of his hymns remain in use today, and he is credited with ushering in a new era of English hymnody, one based on original poetry instead of biblical psalms (though his most famous, Joy to the World, is based on Psalm 98). His poem “Against Idleness and Mischief” from Divine Songs for Children was particularly famous in its day. It is not just referenced by Carroll, but also makes an appearance in Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield.

How doth the little busy Bee
Improve each shining Hour,
And gather Honey all the day
From every opening Flower!

How skilfully she builds her Cell!
How neat she spreads the Wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet Food she makes.

In Works of Labour or of Skill
I would be busy too:
For Satan finds some Mischief still
For idle Hands to do.

In Books, or Work, or healthful Play
Let my first Years be past,
That I may give for every Day
Some good Account at last.

It is a poem that children would have learned in the schoolroom at quite a young age, both for its moral value and to practice their recitation skills, highly valued at the time. Alice attempts to recite it in the second chapter of the novel, as a test of her memory. As she says, “It comes out all wrong.” This is Carroll’s version:

How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!

How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in,
With gently smiling jaws!

Carroll is quite clever in turning a poem about industry and the dangers of idleness into an exotic tale of a languid creature, intuitively going about its business of feeding on its prey. His mockery of Watts’s didactic purpose beautifully suits the overall absurdity of Wonderland, where all morality and natural law is entirely turned on its head. Following in his path, I chose to make my parody a tribute to Lady Bertram of Mansfield Park, or more particularly her pet pug. Both are models of sloth. It felt quite fitting to me.

How doth the little lazy pug
Improve his fine physique,
While snoring all the day away
And nipping at my feet?

This is not the only incidence when Carroll makes Watts the subject for his wit. He parodies another one of Watts’s instructional verses for children later in the book: “The Sluggard” from Divine Songs for Children. Again, it occurs when Alice is attempting to recite a familiar verse to test her memory, this time at the behest of the Gryphon. Here is Watts’s original:

‘Tis the voice of the sluggard; I heard him complain,
“You have wak’d me too soon, I must slumber again.”
As the door on its hinges, so he on his bed,
Turns his sides and his shoulders and his heavy head.

“A little more sleep, and a little more slumber;”
Thus he wastes half his days, and his hours without number,
And when he gets up, he sits folding his hands,
Or walks about sauntering, or trifling he stands.

I pass’d by his garden, and saw the wild brier,
The thorn and the thistle grown broader and higher;
The clothes that hang on him are turning to rags;
And his money still wastes till be starves or he begs.

I made him a visit, still hoping to find
That he took better care for improving his mind:
He told me his dream, talked of eating and drinking;
But he scarce reads his Bible, and never loves thinking.

Said I then to my heart, “Here’s a lesson for me,
This man’s a picture of what I might be:
But thanks to my friends for their care in my breeding,
Who taught me betimes to love working and reading!”

And here is Carroll’s version:

‘Tis the voice of the Lobster: I heard him declare
“You have baked me too brown, I must sugar my hair.”
As a duck with its eyelids, so he with his nose
Trims his belt and buttons, and turns out his toes.
When the sands are all dry, he is gay as a lark
And will talk in contemptuous tones of the Shark:
But, when the tide rises and sharks are around,
His voice has a timid and tremulous sound.

I passed by his garden, and marked with one eye,
How the Owl and Panther were sharing a pie:
The Panther took pie-crust, and gravy and meat,
While the Owl had the dish as its share of the treat.
When the pie was all finished, the Owl as a boon,
Was kindly permitted to pocket the spoon:
While the Panther received knife and fork with a growl,
And concluded the banquet by —

It’s generally assumed that the last line finishes “by eating the owl,” only Alice is interrupted by the Mock Turtle. In my parody, which is based upon the conversation that tales place between Catherine Morland, Mr. Tilney, and Miss Tilney during their walk to Beechen Cliff in Northanger Abbey, I allow her to finish her recitation.

‘Tis the voice of the Lobster: In tones not muted,
“Take no pleasure in novels? Intolerably stupid!”
Like a lady when shopping for muslins and lace,
Our minds shout agreement, even as our hearts race.
“Little boys and girls should be tormented,” he said,
But only so long as it is good for their heads:
“To torment or instruct: words found synonymous.”
All precision of language has now simply gone amiss.

I passed by his garden, and to my surprise,
Something shocking indeed was happening inside.
“Indeed! Of what nature!” The questions were fret.
“More horrible than anything we’ve met with yet.”
“Good heaven! A riot? Give me peace of mind!”
“I expect murder and everything of that kind.”
Laughing, “The riot is only in your own brain!
The confusion there might drive anyone insane.”

I felt this scene from Northanger particularly suited to a parody of “The Sluggard” because it is about novels, and novel reading was traditionally derided as a waste of time and bad for the brain. I also found Mr. Tilney’s highly playful teasing quite at home in Wonderland. Austen’s earlier works, like Northanger, are far more absurd than her latter writings. Her youthful mind is much more in harmony with the atmosphere Carroll creates than her later, more mature novels.

For more derivations of Carroll’s verses, I heartily recommend you visit alice-in- wonderland.net, an excellent resource on the origins of his work, and where there is a page dedicated to the poetry included in his novels.

Thanks again, Serena! I hope your readers found this conversation both enlightening and
entertaining.

Keep in touch with Alexa via her blog, Austen Authors, Alexa Adams Author Page, Facebook, and Twitter

Thank you, Alexa, for joining us today.

Guest Post: Books That Are Great for Writing Inspiration

Writer’s block is more common than you think. Most writers experience writing block at least a few times in their writing careers. When you feel like you cannot come up with good, creative ideas or you cannot produce exciting chapters for the book you are working on, there are a few things you can do. The most recommended thing is to keep writing and to not give up even though you struggle. Another great recommendation is to read as much as you can. You might wonder which books are the best for a writer who suffers from writer’s block so here are my suggestions:

1. Writing Exercises Books

The first thing that comes to writers’ minds when they are no longer able to write is that they need to read books about writing techniques. While this trick may work for some writers, the best writing books focus on more than writing techniques. They also include writing exercises that can be practiced on a regular basis to rewire the creative part of the brain that is responsible for writing. The Daily Writer is just an example of a book that offers information about writing techniques combined with writing exercises and it is definitely a must for all writers who lost their inspiration.

2. Spiritual books

Reading spiritual books when dealing with writer’s block may seem strange but the main purpose of spiritual books is to make people improve their lives by making them aware of their spiritual sides and hidden desires. This recommendation works best for writers who are open minded enough to try a totally new approach or for those who are in touch with their spiritual side. However, every writer should give this a try and if you are willing to do this there are plenty of spiritual books you can read.

3. Children’s Books

Another surprising recommendation maybe, but before dismissing it, think about it for a minute. What all children books have in common? A lot of creativity, a simple writing style and inspirational stories. Sometimes writer’s block happens when a writer is too stressed. This can be due to a deadline, due to self-doubt or many other problems that affect creative minds. The best way to disconnect and to find motivation again is to read an easy book that can reopen the creativity drawer in your brain. Also, in order to test your creativity you can find new ways to interpret the classic stories or to find new meanings for certain situations. Houghton Mifflin Books For Children is a publisher that offers a variety of children’s books with old and new characters that can help you find your muses again.

Besides these book recommendations, I have to say that a writer has to keep his mind and heart open in order to be able to try new things all the time. New experiences can mean new sources of inspiration so instead of locking yourself in the house, go outside, observe people and have the courage to do something that you did not do before.

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

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

About The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque:

Longbourn, December 1811.

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

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

Her heart’s desire?

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

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

London, May 1886.

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

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

About the series:

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

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

Please give Don Jacobson a warm welcome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Yes … same physical manifestation for the portal

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

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

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

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

A Monograph/Imaginary Journey Exploring the Wardrobe’s Power

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter the Giveaway:

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

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

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

Please give her a warm welcome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about you? What is essential to your imagination?

***

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

Imagination Itself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Poet:

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

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

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

About the Book:

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

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

Please check out her post on Dark Poetry and Othello:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~~~

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

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

About the Author:

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

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

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

Giveaway:

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Guest Post: Flanders Field of Grey by Ginger Monette

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

We hope you enjoy it.

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

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

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

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

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

His legs failed him.

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

~~*~~

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

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

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

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

A sudden boom sent him reeling backwards.

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

~~*~~

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

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

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

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

Her head flew back with an anguished wail.

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

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

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

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

And they wouldn’t have it any other way.

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

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

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

But first, read more about the book below.

Book Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

Please give Sue a warm welcome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you hear it?

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

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

About the Author:

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

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

Enter the Giveaway:

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

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