Guest Post, Excerpt, & Giveaway: A Season of Magic by Sarah Courtney

Today’s guest Sarah Courtney is here to share with us her new book, A Season of Magic, which is a Pride & Prejudice variation. Before get to her guest post and excerpt, let’s learn a little bit about the book.

Book Synopsis:

When the girls are forced to reveal their elemental magic, it does not matter to the Mage Council that they did so only to save lives. Their parents were traitors and the entire magical community is simply waiting for them to descend into evil themselves.

The Council reluctantly admits Elizabeth to the magical university (and unofficial marriage market) called The Season, where she will learn how to control her powers. If she can keep her head down and avoid drawing any untoward notice, she might be able to graduate and finally be accepted as a fire mage.

But fading into the background will be difficult. Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, nephew to Lord Matlock of the Mage Council and a student himself, is assigned to observe her and report any misstep. One mistake could send her back to her foster parents, the Bennets—or worse, to prison. Yet when that mistake inevitably comes, he stands up on her behalf. Could he be an ally instead of an enemy?

Please welcome, Sarah:

Thank you so much, Serena, for having me on Savvy Verse and Wit! I’m so excited about the release of my newest book, A Season of Magic, a fantasy Pride and Prejudice variation.

I’ve been working on this story for a couple of years and actually wrote several other books in between. Since I read a ton of fantasy, I thought writing a fantasy Pride and Prejudice variation would be easy! But it took me a while to really discover the story I wanted to tell beyond the initial hook that was my inspiration.

You would think that a Jane Austen story that takes place in a fantasy version of the Regency would not require a lot of research because, hey, it’s fantasy! But I did find a surprising number of topics that I had to put lots of research time into—and they weren’t all about Regency manners or what words existed during that era.

Elizabeth Bennet is a fire mage in Season, which means some of my research went into fire and flammable materials. I was looking over a scene I had written in which Elizabeth needs to identify what is being burned on a fire without seeing it. She identifies it as some kind of wood, and then narrows it down to paper.

Some of you may have already noticed the problem here, but I didn’t catch it myself until a reread. Of course, paper was not made from wood during the Regency era! Until at least around the 1840s, it was still being made of linen and rags.

Describing Elizabeth’s fire abilities and knowing the flammability of different materials could be a little tricky, since her fire is magical and does not absolute require fuel or oxygen to burn—although it burns more readily when they are available, of course. But fire was so prominent in the story that I did still have a great deal to learn. In fact, at one point I needed to know about potential arson materials during the era, and my husband put me in contact with a firefighter so that we could discuss wax and turpentine!

Did all of these pages of research go into the story? Of course not. I end up using maybe a line here and a line there. Such is the life of a writer. At least half of your research, if not most of it, never ends up in the book. But those lines that stay ought to be good!

With Elizabeth and Darcy at a magical university, I couldn’t resist putting them through what most students dread: a group project. To make it worse, they end up on the group project together with Mr. Wickham and several other characters you’ll meet in A Season of Magic. Wouldn’t you just love your grade to depend on Mr. Wickham doing his share?

Their group project and other classes led to all sorts of interesting research, from aphids to Oliver Cromwell and from herbs to William the Conqueror. I had a lot of fun imagining how the history of England might have been affected by mages, or how an insect might have been altered as part of a magical experiment. A lot of this research went into the little glimpses we get into Elizabeth’s magical education.

One real historical event that has a prominent mention in A Season of Magic is 1816, sometimes known as The Year Without a Summer. This was the year after a violent eruption of a volcano caused an ash cloud that affected temperatures and weather systems worldwide. Crop shortages caused significant starvation and illnesses from North American to Europe to Asia. This was a life-altering event that would have been felt by Jane Austen herself in the year before her death.

While this event would happen several years after Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy completed their time at the Season, it was an ideal way to show what their magical education was for, as well as how the mages could work together to help in desperate times. Most of my research into this time period was focused on history and how the situation was different in North America versus Europe versus elsewhere in the world, but it did lead to some interesting searches like, “Can animals graze in the rain?”

Now that I’ve shared a glimpse into some of the process of writing a fantasy Pride and Prejudice variation, here’s a little tidbit from the story itself:


There was no air. Elizabeth’s desperate gasps were worse than holding her breath, and yet she could not stop from trying to suck in air.

Her head was pounding, eyes stinging. Although the smoke had long been too thick to see through, she could still tell that the edges of her vision were going black. She was not going to make it. Was she even still crawling towards Maria? Even if she reached the girls, how would she turn around and make it back towards the door when she could see nothing and could not breathe?

Jane’s hand clenched on hers. Jane. Her beloved Jane.

Jane. She could barely form the silent call.

I am here, Jane’s mental voice said, sounding very faint. Weak. Jane, too, was barely holding onto consciousness.

When she was very young, Elizabeth had thought of doing something heroic, something amazing, something that would clear her family’s name and restore their reputation. If she had succeeded in saving the girls and Sir William, perhaps she would have.

Instead, she and Jane would die together.

Just as that maudlin thought crossed her mind, the surrounding air cleared. Elizabeth greedily sucked in the fresher air, but that only brought on a fit of coughing.

She could see now. Her vision was improving, although her eyes still stung. Maria and Pen were still alive! They were both lying on the floor, clinging to each other in the same way Elizabeth and Jane were. Sir William was just next to them, lying on his stomach. Elizabeth could not see his face.

Elizabeth looked up with blurry eyes to see a strange and amazing sight. The smoke was not blowing out a window. It was just . . . evaporating. Even as she watched, the remaining grey smoke in the room disappeared as if . . . by magic.

She coughed at a sudden odd sensation, as if the smoke in her lungs, too, had suddenly become pure fresh air. She coughed again, but now her lungs did not feel as if they were about to burst.

Jane let go of Elizabeth’s hand to wipe tears from her eyes. Whether she was crying with relief or whether it was from the pain of the smoke, Elizabeth did not know. She felt on the verge of tears herself.

Sir William sat up, looking bewildered. Maria and Pen were looking towards the door of the room, and Elizabeth turned, pulling Jane with her.

A man stood silhouetted in the doorway, the lit torches of the villagers who had come to the rescue behind him.

Sir William scrambled heavily to his feet, reaching towards the burnt table for support before thinking better of it and getting up without it.

“Sir,” he choked out, “my deepest thanks.”

“Well,” the stranger said with a wry grin, surveying the room, “I had not expected such an exciting welcome to Meryton. Still, it is a pleasure to meet you all.” His eyes caught on Jane’s, and his smile turned brilliant. His next words seemed to be for her alone. “My name is Charles Bingley.”

Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your exploits in writing this variation and for sharing an excerpt with us.

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway below.

About the Author:

Sarah Courtney loves to read fantasy, fairy tales, and Pride and Prejudice variations, so what could be more fun than combining them? She currently lives in Europe where she homeschools her six children and still manages to write books, which has to be proof that magic exists! Visit her blog and on Facebook.


Sarah is giving away 1 eBook per blog stop.

If the winner has already preordered the book, he/she may choose another one of Sarah’s books for their prize.

Leave a comment below with an email.

Deadline to enter is Aug. 8, 2022, at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Guest Post: And Silent Left the Place: Tall Texas Tale or Moral Exploration? by Elizabeth Bruce

I’d like to welcome Elizabeth Bruce to the blog today to talk about And Silent Left the Place, which was published and re-released in 2021 by the Washington Writers’ Publishing House (purchase the book, here).

Before we get to the guest post, let’s learn more about this book.

About the Book:

A silent old man climbs into his secret hole, burdened by his Great War bargain–his voice for life with his beloved. On this night in April 1963, the burden of silence passes from old to young. The debut novel of Texas native Elizabeth Bruce is a lyric tale of violence, redemption, and love reclaimed through the cruel dry land of Texas.

Please welcome, Elizabeth Bruce:

In my debut novel, And Silent Left the Place (published by Washington Writers’ Publishing House), I crafted, at one level, a mythic, metaphorical, folkloric tall Texas tale. There are wildly theatrical, at times profane, almost circus-like Texas spectacles. There’s a bulldozer ballet, a desert dancehall, and V-Day autoworkers painting all the cars red, white, and blue in jubilee. There are loose horses, rattlesnakes, jack rabbits, coyotes, and a blind dog named Lorraine. There’s Old Man Hopper, the Body Hunter, and his searchlight cracking open the Texas night. There’s a circle of fire, an underground bunker, a New Orleans’ Madam, and the grass Jesus walked on. And there’s Patsy Cline Walkin’ After Midnight and Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys wailing about Right or Wrong.

At the same time, in the novel I dove deeply into grievous moral wrong—”sin” in a religious context—and what to do about it. Set in South Texas in April of 1963, Silent revolves around Thomas Riley, an 81-year-old World War One vet who came back from the Great War middle-aged and silent. He can speak, but he doesn’t speak, and Riley’s burden of silence is the mystery of the novel. Over the book’s 24-hour period, a young couple passing through trespasses on a wealthy rancher’s land and sets into motion a cascade of bizarre events that eventually reveals Riley’s secret.

With Washington Writers’ Publishing House’s 2021 release of a new edition of Silent, I’ve revisited the novel’s moral journey, and realized how it was shaped by our friend and fellow artist, the late Mphela Makgoba. For eight years in the 1980s and 90s, my husband, Robert Michael Oliver, and subsequently our two children, shared our home with Makgoba, a fierce South African dissident poet, actor, and freedom fighter who spent 31 years in exile in the USA. He was a ferocious critic of apartheid, of course, but also of the geopolitical forces and nation states that enabled such injustices, the U.S. and the West, most especially. Makgoba and I spent all of those eight years in deep, daily dialogue about these forces and what to do about them. He was the most uncompromised, uncompromising person I have ever met, and he profoundly shaped my understanding of myself, American society, and the broader world.

And all the while I was in dialogue with Makgoba, my writer’s imagination was incubating what ultimately became And Silent Left the Place. Makgoba went home to South Africa in 1995 and he never read my novel, but in many ways its moral investigations are dedicated to him: how to respond to grievous moral wrong?

As the world watched, post-apartheid South Africa, under the extraordinary leadership of the late Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, sought to respond to the atrocities of apartheid. It rejected both the retaliatory “tribunal” response of the Nuremberg Trials and the “national amnesia” response of granting blanket amnesty to all the wrongdoers. Instead, the country pursued a third path: the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

What is this path of reconciliation? What is the journey of truth?

While I absolutely—emphatically do not—liken the moral explorations in my short novel in any way to the South African experience, I am reminded of how shaped my moral Geiger counter was by those many years of discourse with Makgoba, as I sought to fathom the radioactivity of human wrongs.

And Silent Left the Place sets forth a backstory of grievous wrong, moral wrong, of “sin” if you will; it offers silence as atonement; it speaks of truth-telling and imagines forgiveness. It even envisions divine retribution—a deux ex machina of sorts—all played out in the cruel, dry land of Texas and the squalid trenches of the Great War. It is often a bleak picture. As I said in my interview with Tom Glenn in the Washington Independent Review of Books, there is “an absence of modern interventions in the narrative arcs of Riley and others. There is no therapy, no drug regimen, no support groups for the traumatized old soldier Tom Riley. No one intervenes to reunite this lonely old man with his beloved wife, Dolores, wherever she is. There are no trials bringing justice to the aggrieved.”

What I aspired to offer in the novel, however, is a vision of possibility, of reconciliation through truth, of forgiveness through atonement, of the reclamation of joy through endurance, and that makes And Silent Left the Place, in my view, a deeply hopeful—if wildly theatrical—book.

Washington Writers Publishing House, in its remarkable generosity to longtime members of the press, has embarked on a journey of issuing new editions of several books published in the press’ 47-year legacy.

In addition to And Silent Left the Place, in 2021 WWPH also issued a new edition of poet Sid Gold’s Working Vocabulary, and in 2022 the press released new editions of poetry books by WWPH Co-Founder Grace Cavalieri—Why I Cannot Take a Lover—and former press President Myra Sklarew—Altamira.

Founded in 1975, WWPH has published over 100 poets and writers, many during their early years of literary work. Published authors become members of the press and volunteer for at least two years supporting its operations. As a nonprofit, cooperative press long dedicated to publishing poetry and literary fiction by writers living within 75 miles of Washington, DC (including Baltimore), WWPH has just expanded its scope to include writers from all of Maryland and Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia.

For the first time, in 2023, WWPH will also include Creative Nonfiction in its annual literary competitions. In 2021, the press published its second anthology in 47 years, This Is What America Looks Like, edited by current Co-Presidents Caroline Bock and Jona Colson, which includes poetry and fiction by 100 writers from D.C., Maryland, or Virginia. Bock and Colson have also launched WWPH Writes, a bi-weekly online journal showcasing the work of many area poets and writers.

Happily, the press’ 2022 publications will soon be released: The Witch Bottle, a new collection by short story writer and speculative novelist Suzanne Feldman, and You Cannot Save Here, a debut collection by Baltimorean queer poet Anthony Moll.

For more information about Elizabeth Bruce or And Silent Left the Place, please visit Elizabeth’s website at https://www.elizabethbrucedc.com.

For more information about Washington Writers’ Publishing House, its catalogue of books, or publication opportunities, go to www.washingtonwriters.org.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing your experiences with us.

Photo credit: K. Whipple Photography

About the Author:

Washington, D.C.-based Texas writer Elizabeth Bruce’s debut novel, And Silent Left the Place (new edition– 2021), won Washington Writers’ Publishing House’s Fiction Award and ForeWord Magazine and Texas Institute of Letters’ distinctions. Her collection, Universally Adored and Other One Dollar Stories, is forthcoming in 2024 from Vine Leaves Press. She’s published in the USA, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, Malawi, Yemen, and The Philippines and studied with Richard Bausch, the late Lee K. Abbott, Janet Peery, John McNally, and Liam Callanan. A former character actor, Bruce has received DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities and McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation Fellowships.

Finding Inspiration in Unlikely Places by Eric D. Goodman, author of Wrecks and Ruins

Today, I’d like to welcome back Eric D. Goodman to the blog. He’s written so many unique books from stories linked together in Tracks to his latest novel, Wrecks and Ruins. Before we get to his generous guest post, let’s check out his newest title.

About the book:

Stuart believes romantic love is like the cycle of a cicada: a few months of excited buzz-romance, lust, excitement-followed by a monotonous silence that can’t live up to the promise at the start.
He strings together more than broken relationships, seeking art in the defective. After finding love, sabotaging it, and rekindling the fire again, Stu comes to understand that his drive to end relationships prematurely and his attraction to damaged goods are connected to his fear of being broken himself. Part romantic comedy, part buddy novel, Wrecks and Ruins finds beauty in the most unusual places.
Please give Eric a warm welcome as we explore beauty in unusual places:

Some would say that it is one of the jobs of a writer or a poet: to find inspiration in unlikely places. In some ways, that’s what I tried to do with my most recent novel, Wrecks and Ruins, which compares romance with an annoying horde of insects.

More specifically, the book compares stages of romantic love to the cycle of 17-year cicadas: short moments that buzz with excitement followed by years of routine monotony.

The main character who struggles with this perspective also has a knack for finding beauty in the most unusual of places. He is fascinated with the remains of automobile accidents and abandoned or destroyed buildings. He visits such sites to take photographs, sometimes even pocketing pieces of the wrecks and ruins—a twisted hood ornament or charred scrap of burnt metal from an exploded furnace—to add to his own little collection of damaged goods. He sees the stories and the histories contained within these remains, and he clings to them.

Of course, the main character soon comes to see the correlation between his collection of broken things and his collection of broken relationships. He finds value and beauty in each. And, as good characters should do, he learns, grows, makes mistakes, and learns some more.

The imperfect characters that populate this short novel are people I’ve met before, so to speak. This book is an unexpected follow up to a short story I wrote shortly after the cicadas emerged in 2004. New to the Baltimore-DC area at the time, it was my first experience with such a phenomenon, and I just had to feature the cicada experience in my fiction. The fact that a couple of friends had recently married gave me this inspiration to write “Cicadas,” which was published in Old Lines from the New Line State: An Anthology of Maryland Writers, and featured in abridged form on Baltimore’s NPR station, WYPR.

Fast forward to 2017: I wanted to write a story that was sort of an anti-love story that corrected itself. I was thinking of it as sort of a literary rom-com about an older couple who still loved each other but were not in love, and who giddily planned a divorce the same way younger couples in love may plan a wedding.

I thought back to some characters I’ve used before to see if any would fit as side characters to make an appearance. I realized that Stuart, from “Cicadas,” would fit perfectly as the main character of this new book.

Beyond that, I came to realize that not only would Stuart and his friends be the right age for these characters at this time—but the cicada horde was about to emerge again in 2021. It all came together.

It can be strange and unexpected, where inspiration comes from, whether writing a
novel, a story, a poem, or a song. Sometimes writers find inspiration in the most unlikely

of places. Like a character finding beauty in a twisted hood ornament, or a writer finding inspiration in a seething swarm of insects. The most unlikely of inspirations can bring forth things of beauty.

Have you found inspiration in unusual, unexpected, or unlikely places?

Thanks, Eric, for sharing your journey into unusual places to find the beauty and the story.

About the Author:

Eric D. Goodman is the author of six books, his latest being Wrecks and Ruins (Loyola University’s Apprentice House Press, 2021), set in Baltimore. Eric lives and writes in Maryland, where he lives with his wife of 28 years and two taller-than-him children. Learn more about Eric and his writing at www.EricDGoodman.com

Guest Post: Clarity in Poetry by Shoushan Balian, author of Through the Soul Into Life

Today’s guest post is from poet Shoushan Balian, author of Through the Soul Into Life.

Check out the collection:

“This abrupt jolt
That rattled
The realms of my faith
Bent me, knocked me down
To the ineffability of my resilience”

A woman’s enigma and quest in search of herself and her power. Redefining her relationship with the world and the Divine with an earnest urge to pinpoint the cause of human suffering with an intent of alleviating it.

In Through The Soul Into Life by Shoushan B, we experience the complexities and the challenges of our inner world in relation to social norms, religion, politics, anguish, love, human rights and the hurdles that we have to face to recover our authenticity, spirituality and empathy.

Without further ado, please welcome Shoushan:

A time comes in our lives when we can no longer live life at face value, always distracted by everyday demands. Out of anxiety, frustration, and tiredness—and if we are curious enough—we stop… and start asking questions about our reality and the purpose of life. Questions without apparent answers, questions that keep us in limbo, or even questions that we avoid asking.

This journey started for me about twenty-five years ago. The more I examined my life, the more I realized the presence of pain, dissatisfaction, agony, disappointment, and so on… with a void almost impossible to fill. The more I scrutinized life in general, the more I perceived the wreckage caused by the human ego.

Eventually I began journaling my everyday inquiries and emotions. As I went along with my puzzling query, I came upon insights, as if some wiser part of me knew these all along. As I searched deeper and deeper, my understanding and explanations took a flight in such extensions, all the way to the distant beginning of our universe… tracing and understanding our journey, now as human beings, originating from the birth of our universe. A journey we are still continuing to unseen horizons. A journey worth living as long as our hearts are open to the presence of love. A journey to be ready to lose ourselves totally to redefine ourselves and to be ready to lose totally our misconception of life to reinvent ourselves from a place of self-acceptance, self-understanding, and respect for others and life.

This journey and introspection eventually, about seven years ago, led me to share my insights on my Facebook writer’s page, Shoushan B. This is how the process of writing poetry developed for me, combining my raw emotions and insights, distilling and condensing them in a distinctive style, in rhythmical lines and in rhyming words.

I owe my decision to publish my poetry collection, Through The Soul Into Life, to a very dear friend of mine, Hripsime. After reading my poems on my Facebook page, for four years she persistently pushed me to publish a book. Encouraged by her enthusiasm, I decided to polish some of my poems, write new ones, present them in a poetry collection, and actively search for a publisher until I found Atmosphere Press last February, who accepted for publication my first collection.

Life is a journey with its highlights and challenges, and it’s up to us how we navigate through it to grow and to discover our inborn gifts in order to share our experiences with others.

And I’m thankful for it!

About the Poet:

Shoushan Balian is of Armenian origin, born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, later living in Paris, and now a resident of California. She is a writer, a poet, a visual artist and a visionary. She has published some of her poems on her Facebook and on Shoushan B writer’s page, and has read at poetry reading circles in the Bay Area. Through the Soul Into Life is Shoushan B’s first published poetry book.

Challenges While Photographing for Poetry: Himalayas by Jon Meyer, author of Clouds: love poems from above the fray

Today’s guest post is from Jon Meyer, author of Clouds: love poems from above the fray, which is a available digitally or as a coffee table book.

Here’s a little more about the book:

Clouds: love poems from above the fray features beautiful black and white photographs from around the world, paired with Jon’s reflective and inspirational poetry and stories behind the photographs. One such story explains the unforgettable experience behind Jon’s photo of a small plane surrounded by the snow-capped Himalayas in Nepal:

After sitting in the tiny airport in Pokara, Nepal for 5 hours, I started to get restless. We still had not taken off to fly up into the Himalayas.  So, I asked a man wearing a pilot’s uniform when we would board and take off. “When I can see blue sky,” he replied, “because in Nepal, the clouds have rocks in them.” (Jon Meyer, 2022) (#21)

Please give Jon Meyer a warm welcome:

Photography for use with poetry requires patience, sometimes requiring hours of waiting for the right light or having a cloud in the right place, or even the position of a cold midnight reflection.

Traveling to take a photograph can be a macro or micro adventure. The micro may be just walking around the corner or into a nearby forest. A macro adventure sometimes requires visiting a new country, learning about new (to me) cultures, or finding places that illustrate previous writing. Capturing the right image may require climbing mountains, flying to remote destinations, trudging through mud or snow, riding in a car on a steep mountain road without guard- rails and having the brakes fail, or even barely avoiding an avalanche.

The latter experience occurred when trekking in the high Himalaya and taking photos of their magnificent snow- covered peaks. The tiny villages along the Annapurna Circuit trek in Nepal are basic. The most prosperous of the small dwellings are made of carefully placed stone, and some are covered with whitewash. At the time that I was there, my guide and I stayed overnight in hut/ homes with minimal heating that consisted of a cooking fire inside, and most villages at altitude did not have electricity nor running water. The villagers were always welcoming and gracious with Namaste greetings to all strangers. We were happy to take shelter from the night’s wind and cold. The views of the ice- covered Himalayan peaks remain unsurpassed. Homes are now starting to acquire solar for lighting and essentials.

We passed by the prayer flags in the cover photo for Clouds on our trek up toward Thorong La, the world’s highest pass at 18,000 feet (over 5,400 meters). That morning, we had a good start before dawn, and by 10 AM we were well above the tree line at 16000 feet in a steep valley. Above us to the left was a peak with a sheer, high degree inclination, and on that smooth stone face was a thick ice field extending down from 26,000 feet to just above the rock- strewn trail we were scrambling on. The continuous ice was more than a mile wide.

By this time of morning, the strong sun was out with scattered clouds, similar to those in the photo. As we passed below the ice field, my guide and I both noticed the increase of water pouring down the smooth black mountain from below the ice field. It was really a rushing river. A shiver shook my body at the thought that in a moment the whole ice field could collapse, avalanche down, and cover the narrow valley we were in.

We looked for large boulders to crouch behind if the ice let go, but there were few with no guarantee that the ice wouldn’t roll them over us if we took cover there or back down the trail. So, we increased our pace but the altitude’s reduced oxygen made progress slower than necessary. With help from adrenaline, we pushed on and up. It was like a dream of running as fast as possible but still very slowly. When I was in High School, I ran sprints while on sports teams. The longest I could go was less than 30 seconds all out. This time, after 45 minutes of a maximum effort slow sprint and my repeating Love’s name with great intensity, we reached a point on the trail out of peril.

Just then I heard a loud crack, like a rifle shot too close to my ear. The ice field had let go, and cascaded down over the trail where we had just been. Since we were now ‘above the fray’ my stress and determination changed to gratitude. The Ancient One, Lord of the Mountains sent a lesson and a message, “Now that’s the way to remember Me always.”

Clouds: love poems from above the fray has been a project spanning more than four decades containing poems influenced by visiting many places, giving lectures, and witnessing beautiful vistas, in towns, cities, and above all, in nature. Over my career, I have been invited to speak at universities and cultural centers across the US and in a number of other countries, and I took photographs while in those places. Thousands of those photos are now in my archive. Hundreds of five- line quintain poems were written down, from which 64 were chosen for Clouds. These were then matched with photos in my archive.

Thank you, Jon, for sharing your poetry, photos, and stories.

About the Poet:

Jon Meyer has written for The Village voice, ARTnews, ARTS, New Art Examiner, Visions Quarterly, CRITS, Q, Dialog, Art New England, Fictional Café, and many more publications. As Department Chair, Meyer led a small team producing a film about one of his students, Dan Keplinger. This film, King Gimp, won the Oscar for best short documentary at the 2000 Academy Awards. Meyer’s work has been in 60 solo and group exhibitions (18 museum exhibitions) and 20 museum/public collections globally. He has received 12 grants, including a National Endowment for the Arts grant.

Guest Post: Publishing Poetry by Kurtis Ebeling, author of Beneath Stretching Pines

Today’s guest post is from Kurtis Ebeling, author of Beneath Stretching Pines.

Here’s a little bit about the poetry collection:

Please give Kurtis a warm welcome:

Publishing a collection of poetry, even one as modest as Beneath Stretching Pines, was a rather extensive, drawn-out endeavor. Some of the 30 poems were composed and then published in journals nearly 3 years before I decided to compile and organize them, and a few others were composed within a couple weeks of the book’s publication. It is also important to note that these poems are, in many respects, an extension of my graduate studies at EWU—my studies of the modernist poets in particular. Thus, for better or worse, I have both teachers and academia to thank and/or blame for the inadvertent inspiration for these poems.

While Beneath Stretching Pines takes simple, modest subjects as its focus (trees, dead leaves, streetlamps, bedside windows, etc.), it is also at play with a somewhat complicated philosophical subtext. Namely, the poems in this collection are inspired by the epistemological, or meaning-
producing, relationship created between the self and the world as we experience it. I like to think that my poems use language in a way that collapses (and questions) the distinction between abstraction and the perceived world (selfhood and worldhood), and that, in doing so, they articulate self-expression in relation to self-effacement. They suggest that thought and the experienced world are, moment to moment, co-emergent and intertwined. To use a favorite metaphor of both W.B. Yeats and William Carlos Williams, these poems suggest that the material world and perceiving mind come together to perform a kind of dance, which, in this case, symbolizes sensory experience and abstract meaning making observation and thought active rather than passive. That said, I hope that my readers will interpret my work in other, perhaps more interesting, ways unique to their own thinking. My ideas about poetry can be—to my chagrin—deceptively romantic.

It is also very likely that I was slightly overeager to publish Beneath Stretching Pines when I did. While I am incredibly happy with the way this collection turned out, I do remember feeling like I needed to be free of these poems to continue writing new ones. Ultimately, the only difference additional time would have likely made is that this collection would have probably ended up longer. Nevertheless, there is a certain charm to its brevity. Beneath Stretching Pines is also my debut collection, so I wasn’t entirely conscious of the effort I’d have to put into marketing, post-publication, if I wanted to reach an audience outside of my friends and family. As time passes though, I am becoming more and more comfortable with its small, intimate audience. Art doesn’t have to find a home within the larger culture to be worthwhile—its creation is an accomplishment either way. Of course, a large part of me would like to find a larger audience, which is why I continue searching for places like Savvy Verse & Wit to promote my work.

Opportunities like these are always exciting.

Thank you, Serena, for extending this opportunity, and thank you readers for spending time with the words I’ve strung together!

Thank you, Kurtis!

Please take a moment to read a sample poem from his collection:

A Willow

A willow—limbs cracking under
grayish white bark and hunching
under gravity (somewhere between
consciousness and sleep)—shrugs

in early spring: where breath flows
in woody veins. Behind the guise
of death—undressed by winter,
touching spears of grass—there is

a small kind of hidden horizon:
a small kind of scene.

Curling from some central stem,
an entangled mess of branches
sway with the subtle breeze; sunlight
colors in yellow and clarifies 
what little we get to know
before dying: what little we get
to see without undressing.

This poem speaks the beauty of nature and the many unknowns we face in the shadow of death.

Guest Post: Poetry Writing Tips from a Published Poet by D.L. Heather

Today’s guest post is from D.L. Heather, author of Life Interrupted. Here’s a little about the book:

Life Interrupted is a powerful and intensely moving poetry book of one woman’s journey into a life of chronic pain-and the unyielding resilience of the human spirit. D.L. Heather’s collection of poems takes you on a journey through living with chronic pain, healing, self-discovery, inner strength, and personal transformation. A journey through powerful feelings that grow from seeds and change into blooming flowers.

Please give D.L. Heather a warm welcome:

Ever wondered how to write a poem? For writers who want to dig deep, composing verse lets you sift the sand of your experiences for flickers of light and insight.

If you’re tempted to try your hand at a few verses but you’re not sure where to start, keep reading this blog by haikuist author & poet D.L. Heather.

Start with an idea

Don’t force yourself to write your poem linearly, from the first line to the last. Instead, start with an idea your brain can latch onto as it learns to think in verse.

Your starting point can be a word, a line, or a phrase you want to work into your poem. It might be a vivid picture floating around in your mind. It can be a complex feeling you want to execute with precision, or a memory that you can’t seem to let go of. I think the most powerful poems give voice to something true about the human experience and help us look at everyday experiences in new and exciting ways.

Think of your starting point as the why in your poem, what’s your motivation for writing it?

Mind Mapping

Now that you’ve got a starting point, it’s time to put fingertips to the keyboard or, if you’re old school like me, pen to paper. Before you write out verses, take some time to look deep into the feelings, imagery, or theme at the centre of your poem.

Take as much time as you need and write anything that comes to mind when you think of your initial idea. You can draw your mind map by hand, add bullet points, jot down words, form brief paragraphs. The purpose of this mind map isn’t to produce an outline, rather to gather raw material to draw upon as you draft your poem.

My advice, don’t censor yourself. Overthinking or mentally grumbling will drive you crazy! “This line will never make it into the final draft”? Tell that inner critic to be quiet for now and just keep writing. You just might refine it down into a witty, poignant line.

Choosing your style

Once you’re happy with your mind map, look at what you came up with. Chances are, you’ve got one beautiful mess: sentences that trail off or change structure midway. That’s okay! Don’t beat yourself up! I promise you, there’s a poem in there somewhere.

You’re going to take your creation and sculpt the hell out of it. You will figure out what kind of shape you can make out of it — whether it’s naturalistic, free flowing or restrained.

Will you write free verse, or do you prefer following more traditional “rules,” like rhyming poetry or the syllabic constraints of tanka or haiku? Even if your words beg for a poem without restrictions, like free verse, you still have to know the tone and texture of the language of your poem.

Read… Read and Read Some More

A poem isn’t like reading a novel: you don’t have to spend hours upon hours researching to write a wonderful poem. Although, reading poetry of any style can keep you inspired throughout the writing process, especially if you’re feeling stuck.

Say you’re writing a sensory rich poem about a toxic relationship between a married couple. In that scenario, I would recommend reading some key imagist poems, alongside some poems that sketch out complicated visions of relationships.

Choose a poem that speaks to you and:

  • Find examples of simile and metaphors
  • Look for other senses than sight
  • Come up with questions and try to answer them
  • Try to analyse what emotions it stirs in you

Write for yourself

With an idea, a mind map and some inspiration under your belt, it’s time to draft your poem!

After all the exploratory thinking, you’re ready to write. But the pressure of actually producing verse can still cause self-doubt and anxiety. I suggest writing for yourself, at first, to take some of that pressure off of you.

I wholeheartedly believe that as writers, songwriters, poets, novelists that we can determine the validity of our success if we start by writing for ourselves. Personally, my life has certainly changed through the years. By certain lines, I’ve had the bravery to think of and then write — and those moments are when I’ve most felt like I’ve made it. Most of those lines in those first drafts were for my eyes only, and they were the most poignant.

As the first draft comes together, treat it like it’s meant for your eyes only.

Read your poem out loud

A memorable poem doesn’t have to be beautiful on paper: maybe a flowing, melodic prose isn’t your aim. Though it should come alive on the page regardless of your style. To achieve that, always read your poem out loud — at first, word by word, line by line, and then all together.

Trying out every line against your ear can help you weigh out a choice between synonyms. Reading out loud can also help you hear line breaks that just don’t fit. Is the line too long? Does it force you to speed through it? Do you want to give your readers some time to take it all in and give them room to breathe?

Take a Breather

By now, you’ve successfully written your first draft. It may not be perfect, but you should be proud of yourself – you’ve written a poem! Congratulations!

Now it’s time to step away and take a breather. If you’re like me, you’ve probably read out loud every single line so many times that all meaning has leached out of the syllables. So take some time off, go for a walk, catch up on some reading, or start your next writing project. Then come back with a fresh set of eyes because trust me, you’re not finished, not just yet — you still have to do revisions.

Revision Time

Revising poetry is a process that requires word play and loads of patience. Don’t beat yourself up if it’s not coming together how you imagined it. Take your time. Have fun with it! Your poems will grow and evolve. For me, my revision process is much like my brainstorming and writing process. I find a quiet place where I can be alone with myself and really listen to how I’m feeling at the moment.

About the Poet:

D.L. Heather is the pen name for poet, writer, and former music journalist Debra Heather. She has a B.A. in English and is the author of the inspirational poetry collections; Life Interrupted and Metamorphosis. Debra was born on 04 December 1978 in Penticton, British Columbia, Canada, and now resides in Detroit.

Writing came into her life in her teens by way of therapy and the exploration of healing through journaling. Her writing is motivated by her experiences with childhood trauma, love, loss, healing, heartbreak, and self-discovery.

A private person by nature, she prefers to let her work speak for itself, in the way poetry allows her to. She hopes to inspire others and reinforce the fact that you are not alone.

When she isn’t writing in her studio, she enjoys traveling, reading, movies and gardening. Her current book, Metamorphosis: Extended Edition, will be available December 21, 2021. Connect with her on Instagram @dlheatherpoetry

Character Interview & Giveaway: The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy by Don Jacobson

Don Jacobson has been a featured author on the blog before for the Bennet Wardrobe series, and today, we have the final installment in the series: The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy

Read more about this book:

“You must throw away notions of what you want. Only then will you be free to accept what you need.” —The Brown Guide to Fitzwilliam Darcy, 1840

Long has the amazing Bennet Wardrobe involved itself in the affairs of Longbourn. Where before its actions have been cloaked in mystery, its purpose now becomes clear. The fey cabinet has molded the universes to strike a balance that can be achieved only by saving the greatest love story ever told.

Follow the paths taken by Pemberley’s master and mistress after their children are grown. See Elizabeth Darcy struggle to rekindle the love glow that has dimmed after a quarter century.

Grasp the unaccountable pain her departure levels upon the entire Derbyshire family. Watch Fitzwilliam Darcy learn that which he must in order to become the best version of himself: worthy of his Elizabeth.

The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy closes out the Bennet Wardrobe series. The disparate threads spun by the remarkable women born to a Hertfordshire couple of insignificant fortune are woven together. These lives have become the tapestry that records the destiny of Jane Austen’s lovers, immortal in any here/now or where/when.

Without further ado, please welcome Don Jacobson with today’s character interview:

An Interview with Rachael Weisz, Elizabeth Darcy in The Grail:

A Cambridge graduate, Rachael Weisz quickly stepped from university to television and onto the stage. Cinematic roles followed where her dark eyes, arresting style, and deep authenticity led to a plethora of awards. Her role in “The Constant Gardener” brought her an Academy Award. Her portrayal of Sarah Churchill in “The Favourite” led to a Best Actress BAFTA. On stage, her immersion in the character of Blanche DuBois in Williams’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” led to her carrying home the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress from The Society of London Theater.

Weisz took time from her busy schedule at the Cannes Film Festival to discuss with the View From Here her most recent outing — The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy.

The View From Here: Thank you, Ms Weisz, for joining us to speak about your role as Elizabeth Darcy in the biopic The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy. While her earlier life has been the subject of multiple productions since 1940, this is the first which focuses on a mature Elizabeth Bennet Darcy. I imagine that the obvious question is what attracted you to the character?

Weisz: And there is an equally obvious answer. Elizabeth Bennet Darcy is one half of history’s greatest love story. The world, though, has been captivated by the early months of her relationship with Darcy. That would sideline every single actor over the age of twenty-five. When the chance came along to play Mrs. Darcy as a woman in her forties, I jumped at it. Of course, Daniel, my own Mr. Darcy, was jealous that he could not play opposite me.

TVFH: You are referring to Daniel Craig, of course. I wonder if Pride and Prejudice aficionados would be willing to include Mr. Bond in their Firth/MacFayden debate.

W: Yes, there was some good-naturing twigging going on in our household about just that. But Daniel was occupied with shooting No Time To Die and, even though he was age perfect for this Darcy, he could not contemplate the part. He did strut around the house grimly glowering while muttering ‘My good opinion once lost…’

TVFH: But his lack of availability led to the casting of Ewan McGregor.

W: Ah, dearest Ewan: I so enjoyed being opposite him once again (2005 Red and Black). Of course, he was the right Darcy for me. His eyes smolder and he gets the Darcy growl and grumble just right: probably the Scot in him.

TVFH: The producers sent me some of the rushes. I was astonished at the new depth you found in Elizabeth Darcy. Did you study Ehle and Knightley?

W: We all go to school on our fellow actors. I looked for a through line between their portrayals of an unmarried twenty-year-old woman to my character in her mid-forties. After more than a few cups of coffee and walks in the park, I realized that I could only use their Elizabeths as a starting point. Their films cut off just as the Darcys’ married life was beginning. As a result, the events that would have informed my backstory were not there.

However, I was fortunate in that the Bennet Family Trust had begun opening their archives by the time I was studying for the part. I was able to spend time in a reading room below Lincoln’s Inn reading Jane Bennet Bingley’s journals. Her memories of Elizabeth Bennet and the wedded Mrs. Darcy — both before and after her time in the Wardrobe — laid bare the complexities of this accomplished woman.

Between Mrs. Bingley’s diaries and Lydia Fitzwilliam’s papers, I learned that Elizabeth, like so many of us who have married well, still had to navigate the rocks and shoals of aging. For her it was living with a man who thought too much, worried too deeply, and too often tried to control every event to protect those he loved. If he would have remembered that one part of his life was built on bedrock, he might have been spared eighteen years in the wilderness. His wife was one of our species who loved but once in her life, and it was a fierce kind of love. Although Elizabeth was quick to judge, she was equally quick to forgive if not to forget.

The classic example was the famous insult casually tossed at her by Darcy the night they met. Jane found decades of amusement when her Lizzy would unsheathe that weapon at precisely the correct moment to puncture Darcy’s pretensions.

TVFH: What was the most difficult part of Elizabeth Darcy to capture? After all, she died nearly forty years ago. There are few alive who could reminisce about her.

W: That is not true. One contemporary remained. Although the information is not widely known, one of Mrs. Darcy’s sisters lived until 2019. This film has been in development since before Mrs. Benton’s death. She was gracious enough to sit with me on more than one occasion.

TVFH: And?

W: I will never forget our last meeting. Mary Benton clearly was feeling the effects of age. At that time, she was an objective seventy-three years old. But she had spent the bulk of her life in a pre-antibiotic, heavily-polluted era. She was paying the price the Industrial Revolution exacted, although as Britain’s Conscience would have noted, the toll was heavier on the poor who could not escape the cities. There was a spark, a fire, that burned brightly even in a weary body. Her mind was sharp, and her memories of her times at Kympton Parsonage were crystalline. All of those added texture to my understanding of Elizabeth Darcy and her relationship with her husband, a man who began nine years older than her and ended up almost thirty years her senior.

As I was leaving her rooms, Mrs. Benton grabbed my arm and speared me with those incredible caramel eyes. She distilled Elizabeth Darcy for me. “Lizzy was the best of us because she embodied each of us: Jane’s belief that each person owned inner goodness that could be revealed: my iron jawed determination—some would say outright stubbornness: Lydia’s ability to survey the field as if she were a general: and Kitty’s willingness to sacrifice herself for the good of all. Oh, she also captured our parents, too: Papa’s studied impertinence and Mama’s ability to well love her family.

“The Old One picked the right woman—and the right man—as the epitome of his grand design.”

TVFH: The Old One . . .?

W: Oh dear, look at the time! I fear I must leave you with that.

Weisz hurried off reminding this reporter of his earlier conversation with Charlotte Rampling, who played the older Kitty Bennet in “The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn.”

About the Author:

Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years, from news and features to advertising, television, and radio. His work has been nominated for Emmys and other awards. He has previously published five books, all nonfiction. In 2016, he published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series, The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey.

Since then, Meryton Press has re-edited and republished Keeper and the subsequent six volumes in the series. The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy is the eighth and concluding volume. Other Meryton Press books by Jacobson include Lessers and Betters, In Plain Sight, and The Longbourn Quarantine. All his works are also available as audiobooks (Audible).

Jacobson holds an advanced degree in history with a specialty in American foreign relations. As a college instructor, he taught United States history, world history, the history of western civilization, and research writing. He is currently in his third career as an author and is a member of JASNA and the Regency Fiction Writers.

Besides thoroughly immersing himself in the Austenesque world, Jacobson also enjoys cooking, dining out, fine wine, and well-aged scotch whiskey. His other passion is cycling. Most days will find him “putting in the miles.” He has ridden several “centuries” (hundred-mile days). He is especially proud of having completed the AIDS Ride–Midwest (five hundred miles from Minneapolis to Chicago) and the Make-a-Wish Miracle Ride (three hundred miles from Traverse City to Brooklyn, both in Michigan). When not traveling, Jacobson lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, with his wife and co-author, Pam—a woman Miss Austen would have been hard-pressed to categorize. Follow him on Amazon, GoodReads, and Twitter. Subscribe to the Newsletter.


Meryton Press is giving away 6 eBooks of The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy.

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Excerpt & Giveaway: Kidnapped and Compromised: A Steamy Pride & Prejudice Variation by Demi Monde

Today’s guest post and excerpt is from Demi Monde. I hope you’ll check out this steamy romance and enter the giveaway. Please welcome Demi Monde.

Hello Dear Readers, it is a pleasure to be here to share more details about my new release, Kidnapped and Compromised. This is a steamy novella and a work of Austenesque fiction.

Available on Kindle December 26th

Abducted and facing ruin, can Elizabeth’s wits save her from a dastardly plot? And will Mr. Darcy find her in time?

When a false friend tricks Elizabeth, she is abducted by carriage from Meryton and carried hours away to a bawdy house. If Mr. Darcy does not rescue and pay her ransom, she will be sold to the highest bidder.

Elizabeth must depend on her wits to survive. But the clock is ticking. Will Mr. Darcy choose to risk his life for the woman he secretly loves but who despises him? And if so, can he rescue her before it’s too late?

This 40,000 word steamy Pride and Prejudice variation features kidnapping, compromise, forced marriage, rescue by Mr. Darcy, double wedding, Christmas holiday ball and a happily ever after.

Enter to win a copy of Kidnapped and Compromised! Five winners will be drawn on December 27th.


This book opens near the beginning of Pride and Prejudice, with the militia present in Meryton and Elizabeth Bennet’s opinion of Mr. Darcy set, no matter his opinion of her fine eyes.


Chapter 1
Mr. Darcy pulled the reins, bringing his horse to a standstill from cantering, and looked around the Hertfordshire countryside. He thought he had heard yelling. But all he saw was an open field, crops in rows, with no one in sight. Fox pranced forward skittishly, no doubt unnerved by his rider’s stillness.

“Miss Elizabeth?”

“Miss Elizabeth Bennet?”

He had definitely heard it this time, over the sound of the horse’s hooves churning the damp earth underfoot. He had not imagined the voices calling for the desirable yet impertinent Elizabeth Bennet. Though she had believed Wickham’s stories about him, and questioned him at the Netherfield ball, he still admired her intelligence and beauty. But he could not have what he wanted. Her social connections and her family’s impropriety would never allow him to be with her in society or even to call on her in Hertfordshire.

He fingered the smooth leather reins as he decided whether to give in to his desire to find the cause of the servants yelling for the Bennet girl or to avoid temptation. The more he was close to her, the harder it was to not speak to her, to make her notice him, to have her admire him.

“Miss Elizabeth Bennet?”

Mr. Darcy nudged his chestnut stallion Fox with his heels and headed towards the figures near the forest. Any gentleman would offer assistance in this situation. And Miss Bingley was not here to tease him for paying too much attention to Elizabeth’s fine eyes.

“You there!” He spied a servant walking at the edge of the woodland.

“What is the matter?”

The man pulled at his forelock. “Miss Elizabeth Bennet has not returned from her walk.”

Mr. Darcy had heard of her odd habit of lengthy, daily walks and had seen it for himself when she had hiked three miles to Netherfield to care for her sister. “Surely she cannot be lost? Has she not walked all over this countryside?”

The older man nodded. “Yes sir, but she—”

“How long has she been missing? What is being done to find her?” Mr. Darcy’s horse shook his head and pawed at the ground, eager to return to cantering.

“Miss Elizabeth has been gone since right after the noon meal, sir. Mr. Bennet has all the servants out looking for her.”

Mr. Darcy frowned. That was nearly five hours ago. Even a country girl with a fondness for countryside rambles would have returned by now. His chest clenched at the thought of her injured on the ground, somewhere at the mercy of the local wildlife.

“How many are searching for Miss Bennet? Is anyone on horseback? What is her usual walking path?”

The servant looked back towards Longbourn, the home of the Bennet family. “I do not know, sir. Mr. Bennet is at Longbourn and would answer your questions.”

Mr. Darcy spun his horse and kicked him into a canter. He searched the ground for a beautiful young woman lying injured as he rode. She must have twisted her ankle and was too far away to be heard yelling for help.

It was unconscionable that the Bennet girl was allowed to walk without a maid. Never would he have permitted his sister Georgiana to do the same. Perhaps Mr. Bennet would be more circumspect after this. However, Mr. Darcy doubted it. Control over his family was not one of Mr. Bennet’s strong suits, not with the way his younger daughters behaved at the assemblies or in town, flirting with the officers.

Mr. Darcy guided his horse down the short driveway of Longbourn.

Mr. Bennet looked up at the sound of Fox’s hooves clattering on the gravel path. The family’s patriarch stood in front of the house, directing searchers in his greatcoat and hat. Mr. Bennet turned in Mr. Darcy’s direction.

“Mr. Bennet, I came across one of your servants looking for Miss Elizabeth. May I offer my assistance?”

Mr. Bennet grimaced. “It would be much appreciated Mr. Darcy. However, I am sure my dear Lizzy has just lost track of the time. I have tried to curtail her long walks, but she will not listen to me.”

He chuckled, most likely expecting Mr. Darcy to join in. But Mr. Darcy’s thoughts were far from amused as his opinion of the Bennet patriarch dropped lower. “Men on horseback could cover a greater distance. I am certain Mr. Bingley would provide his servants to help with the search.”

Mr. Bennet widened his stance as he looked up at the younger man who outranked him in every manner. “I thank you for your offer; nonetheless I am sure we will find her quite soon. There is no need to cause alarm among our friends and neighbors.”

Mr. Darcy gathered the reins, biting back the desire to tell Mr. Bennet that a proper search had not been done. He turned, giving his horse the signal to move away from the man and his doddering ways. The eldest two Bennet girls deserved all the credit for their characters. It was a shame they came from such a family.

A young maid darted out from behind the hedgerows lining the lane. Fox reared back in surprise, but Mr. Darcy quickly brought him under control. He turned to the girl, ready to lecture her on not startling horses.

“Oh, Mr. Darcy! I have a note for you. I was going to give it to Mr. Bennet, but since you are here…” She held the stationary up to him.

He plucked it out of her hand with a scowl. It could not be a message from Netherfield. Mr. Bingley would not have sent a young maid alone to find him. “Who is this from?”

“A man in Meryton asked me to give this to you.” The girl gripped her waist, breathing heavily.

He unfolded and read the note, his heart stopping. Mr. Darcy pinned the servant girl with his stare. “How long ago did you receive this? Did you recognize the man that gave it to you?”

“No, sir, but he had a red coat on. He must be one of the militia.”

Mr. Darcy turned his head away to think. The maid curtsied and started towards the house.


She stopped and looked back, clutching her apron.

“Do not tell anyone. Miss Elizabeth’s reputation is at stake.”

The servant assured him of her silence and continued down the driveway to Longbourn. Mr. Darcy lifted the reins, intending to race to Netherfield and round up his friend Mr. Bingley and servants, but stopped. It was his fault entirely that the honor of Elizabeth Bennet was at risk. The fewer people that knew of this situation, the better.

He needed to move quickly. Mr. Wickham had abducted Elizabeth Bennet.

I hope I have piqued your interest, The book is available for pre-order. Enter the giveaway here.

Excerpt & Giveaway: Mages and Mysteries by Victoria Kincaid

Today’s guest is Victoria Kincaid with her latest release, Mages and Mysteries: A Fantasy Pride and Prejudice Variation.

We’d love for you to check out the fantasy book and the excerpt below. Of course, there’s a giveaway of 1 ebook, so don’t forget to enter.

Book Synopsis:

In Regency England, women are expected to confine their magical acts to mending dresses or enhancing their beauty, but Elizabeth Bennet insists on crafting her own spells to fight goblins and protect the people of Meryton. She even caused a scandal by applying for admission to the magical Academy. When Hertfordshire is beset with a series of unexplained goblin attacks, Elizabeth is quite ready to protect her family and friends. If only she didn’t have to deal with the attitude of the arrogant mage, Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Mr. Darcy doesn’t need to be associated with a scandalous woman like Elizabeth Bennet—no matter how attractive she is. But as the goblin attacks accelerate and grow more dangerous, Darcy realizes that he could use her help in identifying the cause—and is forced to recognize her magical ability. Unfortunately, continued proximity to Elizabeth only heightens his attraction to her—which is particularly inconvenient in light of his engagement to Caroline Bingley.

Can Elizabeth and Darcy unravel the mystery of the goblin attacks before more people are hurt? And how can they manage their growing mutual attraction? It’s sure to be interesting…because when Darcy and Elizabeth come together, magic happens.

Please give Victoria a warm welcome:

Thank you for welcoming me back to your blog! I am pleased to introduce my newest book, Mages and Mysteries, a fantasy Pride and Prejudice variation. It’s been a while since I released a book. It turns out that pandemic conditions aren’t conducive to productive writing. But I am very pleased with how the book — my first fantasy variation — turned out.

The scene below takes place after a goblin attack that interrupted the Meryton assembly. Darcy and Bingley are paladins, a kind of fighting mage, so they raced outside to confront the goblin that was trying to enter the assembly hall. Darcy dispatched the goblin (with Elizabeth’s help). But after her departure, he and Bingley are approached by Hurst and Miss Bingley, who stayed safe within the hall during the attack.

I hope you enjoy it!

Hurst sauntered out of the assembly hall, having taken the time to don his greatcoat. Typical of him to emerge well after any danger was past. He was issuing orders to the footman at his elbow — also typical. As his father had served as the archmage before Darcy’s uncle had taken the position, Hurst keenly felt the importance of his family name in Convocation history.

He still believed that he should have been elected archmage after his father’s death — even though his powers were meager, and the Earl of Matlock was far better qualified. The footman scurried back into the hall to do Hurst’s bidding, but the man himself approached Bingley and Darcy. His languid gaze made Darcy even more self-conscious of the mud coating his breeches. “I heard the attack was by a hobgoblin, but that is impossible of course….”

“It was a hobgoblin,” Bingley said.

“Impossible,” Hurst said in a disdainful voice. “Who in Hertfordshire would possess the power to summon—?”

Darcy interrupted. “It was unmistakably a hobgoblin. Six arms, dense blue fur, and quite powerful. It was the largest hobgoblin I have ever encountered.”

“But why would someone send a hobgoblin to attack a ball? It makes no sense. Perhaps you mistook a hogboon for a—”

“I assure you, I did not,” Darcy said in icy tones. “And it is a mystery as to why any goblin would attack a ball.” He gave Hurst his haughtiest stare until the man averted his eyes. He tried to tolerate the other man since he was married to Bingley’s sister Louisa and Darcy’s fiancée did seem to like him. But there were times when Hurst’s arrogance was simply too much to bear. “If you had been out here, you would have observed—”

“I remained in the ballroom so I could protect the others,” Hurst said in portentous tones. “I cast a shielding spell.”

Darcy would have been more impressed if Hurst’s shielding spells were worth anything.

“Charles, what are you—? Your suit! It is ruined!” The shrill, slightly nasal voice emanated from behind Darcy, but he did not need to turn around to identify its owner.

Caroline approached the three men with rapid strides, a pinched, disapproving expression on her face. “And Fitzwilliam!” she exclaimed as she drew closer. “You are quite disheveled!”

Her disdainful gaze raked over both of them. She pulled her shawl around her shoulders. “And goodness knows why we must all stand about in the frigid air!”

Bingley heaved a sigh. “We were fighting a hobgoblin, Caroline.”

“That is no excuse!” she snapped. “You can fight a goblin and still take care with your appearance! You are a gentleman, after all.”

“Caroline—” Bingley started, but he was no match for his sister.

“I was in the ladies’ retiring room. When I emerged everything was in an uproar and you two had disappeared, leaving me alone in the ballroom!”

“We are paladins,” Darcy said sharply. “Our first duty is to protect the people of England.”

Caroline sniffed. “Of course. I am only your fiancée.”

“Hurst was there,” Bingley pointed out reasonably.

Darcy was exhausted and his forbearance was wearing thin. If he remained with Caroline, he would say something he regretted. “Bingley needs to visit the healer,” he said hastily before she could raise another objection. “I must take him there at once.” Pulling his friend’s elbow, he drew them both back toward the hall.

Thank you, Victoria, for a fun post. I can see the tension here already.


Leave a comment below with an email so we can contact you if you win the 1 ebook up for grabs. Deadline to enter is Dec. 17, 2021.

Follow the rest of the Blog Tour:

December 6: Babblings of a Bookworm
December 7: So Little time
December 8: Savvy Verse and Wit
December 9: My Jane Austen Book Club
December 10: Probably at the Library
December 13: My Vices and Weaknesses
December 16: From Pemberley to Milton
December 28: My Love for Jane Austen
January 10: Austenesque Reviews

Guest Post/Excerpt: What Was it Like to Be a Governess? by Regina Jeffers, author of Pemberley’s Christmas Governness (giveaway)

Today’s guest — just in time for holiday shopping — is Regina Jeffers with her latest book, Pemberley’s Christmas Governess. You’ll get to learn about the role of a governess and read an excerpt from the book.

There’s also a giveaway, so be sure to enter.

Book Synopsis:

Following his wife’s death in childbirth, Fitzwilliam Darcy hopes to ease his way back into society by hosting a house party during Christmastide. He is thrilled when his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam sends a message saying not only will the colonel attend, but he is bringing a young woman with him of whom he hopes both Darcy and the colonel’s mother, Lady Matlock, will approve. Unfortunately, for Darcy, upon first sight, he falls for the woman: He suspects beneath Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s conservative veneer lies a soul which will match his in every way; yet, she is soon to be the colonel’s wife.

Elizabeth Bennet lost her position as a governess when Lady Newland accused Elizabeth of leading her son on. It is Christmastide, and she has no place to go and little money to hold her over until after Twelfth Night; therefore, when Lieutenant Newland’s commanding officer offers her a place at his cousin’s household for the holy days, she accepts in hopes someone at the house party can provide her a lead on a new position. Having endured personal challenges which could easily have embittered a lesser woman, Elizabeth proves herself brave, intelligent, educated in the fine arts of society, and deeply honorable. Unfortunately, she is also vulnerable to the Master of Pemberley, who kindness renews her spirits and whose young daughter steals her heart. The problem is she must leave Pemberley after the holidays, and she does not know if a “memory” of Fitzwilliam Darcy will be enough to sustain her.

Without further ado, please welcome Regina Jeffers:

The life of a governess in the Regency period was certainly not a glamorous one. These young women were most likely from a gentile family. They would possess a thorough education. For a variety of reason, they became governesses, hired by an aristocratic family or even a well-to-do middle class family, who wished to provide their daughters a “leg up,” so to speak, in society.

Most of these young women were brought up with a certain degree of indulgence and refinement. They moved in the better circles of society until a sudden loss of fortune, a failed business, or a death reversed the “possibilities” of a fulfilling future.

A governess would possess no expectation of an offer or marriage. She was at the mercy of her employer, receiving room and board and, perhaps, a small salary (allowance). Generally, a governess was neither part of the upper echelon of household servants (meaning the housekeeper and butler) nor part of the lowest positions (meaning maids, etc.). Often, a governess’s life was lonely and isolated.

Mary Atkinson Maurice tells us in Mothers and Governesses [London: John W. Parker, Publisher; Harrison and Co., Printers, M.DCCC.XLVII], a governess is “not a member of the family; but she occupies a sort of dubious position. She is neither the companion of the parents, nor the friend of the children, and she is above the domestics; she stands therefore alone. She has too often to guard against the exactions of her employers—the impertinence, or coldness of her charge, and the neglect and rudeness of the servants, she must be forever on the defensive.”

Enjoy the excerpt from Chapter One when Elizabeth Bennet, working as a governess, is accosted by her employer’s son. Then comment to be in the drawing for one of two eBook copies of Pemberley’s Christmas Governess.

Thanks, Regina, for sharing this information about the role of the governess. Readers, please enjoy an Excerpt from Chapter One and then enter the giveaway below:

Mid-December 1818 – Gloucestershire

“I said to unhand me, sir,” Elizabeth Bennet ordered, as she shoved young Mr. Newland’s hands from her person. Ever since the man had returned home, he had dogged her every step. She had been serving as the governess for his two younger sisters for six months now, but this was the first time the lieutenant had been home since her arrival at his parents’ home.

“I just be luckin’ for a bit of fun,” Mr. Newland slurred as he attempted to kiss her ear, but all she received was a wet lash of his tongue across her cheek. He reeked of alcohol.

Elizabeth wished she had been more careful when she left her room a few minutes earlier, but she had briefly forgotten how the lieutenant seemed always to be around when she least expected it. She had thought him below stairs with his friends, both of whom had been excessively respectful to her. She shoved hard against his chest sending him tumbling backward to land soundly upon his backside. “If it is fun you require,” she hissed, “join your friends in the billiard room!” Elizabeth side-stepped the man as he reached for her.

Lieutenant Newland attempted to turn over so he might stand, but he was too inebriated to put his hands flat for balance and to rotate his hips. “I don’t be requirin’ their kind of fun,” he grumbled.

Elizabeth edged closer to the steps. She hoped to escape before Lady Newland discovered her with a torn sleeve and the woman’s rascal son doing a poor version of standing on his own. “You must find your ‘fun’ elsewhere, sir. I am not that type of woman.”

She had been a governess for nearly five years—five years since her dearest “Papa” had died suddenly from heart failure—five years since her mother, Kitty, and Lydia had taken refuge with Aunt Phillips in Meryton, and Jane and Mary had moved in with Uncle Gardiner. Elizabeth, too, had been sent to London with Jane and Mary, but it had been so crowded at her uncle’s town house, she immediately took a position as the governess to Mr. and Mrs. Gregory Sample’s daughters, Livia and Sylvia. She had remained with the Samples, who were a wealthy middle-class gentry family and friends of her Uncle Gardiner, for a little over two years before the Samples brought the girls out into society and married them off.

In Elizabeth’s estimation, Livia, barely sixteen, was too young for marriage, but the girl appeared happy with her choice of a husband. Sylvia, at seventeen, had been more reluctant to wed, but the girl had followed her parents’ wishes. Few women had the freedom to choose their husbands, even in the lower classes, and certainly not in the gentry.

Elizabeth had spent an additional two years with another wealthy, but untitled, family, preparing their daughter for an elite school for young women on the Continent. In mid-May, she had answered an advert with an agency to join the Newland household. Although she had often thought Lady Newland was too pretentious, Elizabeth had enjoyed the enthusiasm of her young charges: She had considered them to be very much of the nature of her sisters Mary and Lydia. Pamela wished desperately to please her parents, but to no avail, while Julia was as boisterous and as adventurous as had been Lydia.

Elizabeth sadly missed her family, but, essentially, she knew their current situation was her fault. Such was the reason she had sacrificed herself by going out on her own—removing the responsibility for her care from her family’s hands—one less mouth to feed and to clothe.

Jarred from her musings by Lieutenant Newland’s lunge for her legs, Elizabeth squealed and scampered down the steps before the man could catch her. However, the lieutenant’s momentum sent him tumbling after her and marked with a yelp of surprise—heels over head—to land spread-eagle on the floor, except one of his legs had been turned at an odd angle. A loud moan of pain escaped to echo through the hall.

The sound of running feet filled the open hallway. Instinctively, Elizabeth dropped to her knees to examine the lieutenant’s leg. “Permit me a look at your leg, sir,” she told the man as she swatted away his hands, still attempting to grope her. “Lay back!” she instructed.

Immediately one of the lieutenant’s fellow officers was beside her. “Lay back, Lieutenant,” he ordered in a strong voice of authority. “Permit the lady to examine your leg.” The colonel looked to her, and Elizabeth mouthed, “Bad break.”

After that, the colonel took charge. “Mr. Scott, send someone for a surgeon.” The butler rushed away. “You two, find some sturdy blankets and a board—a door, perhaps, so we might move Lieutenant Newland to his room.”

“Yes, sir,” the footmen scrambled to do the colonel’s bidding.

Before Elizabeth could extricate herself from the scene, she looked up to view Lady Newland’s worried countenance. It was all Elizabeth could do not to groan aloud. There was no hope her ladyship would take Elizabeth’s side in the matter. “Nigel! Nigel, darling!” Lady Newland screeched as she knelt beside her son. “What has happened?” She shoved Elizabeth from the way.

Colonel Fitzwilliam explained, “I have sent for a surgeon and a means to move Lieutenant Newland to his quarters.”

Lady Newland nodded her understanding as she caught her son’s hand to offer comfort. Unfortunately, for Elizabeth, the lieutenant rolled his eyes up to meet hers. “I’m thorry, Miss Bennet.”

Lady Newland cast a gimlet eye on Elizabeth. “Sorry for what, Miss Bennet?” she asked in accusing tones.

Even though she knew such would cost her the position she held in the household, Elizabeth refused to tell a lie. “For the lieutenant’s attempt to take liberties where they were not welcomed, your ladyship.”

Lady Newland stood to confront Elizabeth. “I see how it is. Evidently, you thought one day to take my place as viscountess.”

The colonel stood also. “I believe you are mistaken, ma’am. Both Captain Stewart and I have warned the lieutenant how it is inappropriate for a gentleman to take favors with the hired help. Your son’s ‘infatuation’ has been quite evident to all who chose not to turn a blind eye to his thoughts of privilege.”

Lady Newland pulled herself up royally. “I shall not listen to anyone defame Nigel’s character. I realize you are my son’s commanding officer, but I am the mistress of this house, and I say who is and is not welcome under my roof. I would appreciate it if you removed yourself from my home by tomorrow.”

Captain Stewart joined them then. “Your ladyship, surely you realize the colonel is the son of the Earl of Matlock,” he cautioned.

For the briefest of seconds, Lady Newland’s resolve faltered, but she looked again upon Elizabeth’s torn sleeve and stiffened in outrage. “You may stay, Colonel, if you wish to condemn the real culprit in this matter.”

The colonel’s features hardened. “Although it provides me no pleasure to say so, for the British Army holds a standard for its officers, even those of a junior rank, but I have named the culprit, ma’am.” He bowed stiffly. “I thank you for your prior hospitality. I, for one, will depart in the morning after I learn something of your son’s prospects for recovery so I might properly report the surgeon’s prognosis to my superiors. Captain Stewart may choose to stay or depart on his own.” With that, he extended an arm to Elizabeth. “Permit me to escort you to your quarters, Miss Bennet.”

Though in the eyes of Lady Newland, Elizabeth’s doing so was likely another mark against her character, she gladly accepted the gentleman’s arm, for she did not think her legs would support her without his assistance. She was without a position and had no place to go.

Wasn’t that thrilling and shocking?


If you’d like to be entered to win 1 of 2 ebook copies, please leave a comment below by Dec. 10, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Guest Post: Book Club Talk by Ann Marie Stewart, author of Out of the Water

Today’s guest is Ann Marie Stewart, author Out of the Water, and she’s here to give us a Book Club Talk.

This is another occasion in which I wish I had more time to read because I love generational stories, especially with family secrets and Irish immigrants.

Check out the book and the guest post, and consider buying this one for a loved one or yourself.

Book Synopsis:

Irish immigrant Siobhan Kildea’s impetuous flight from a Boston lover in 1919 leads her to a new family in an unfamiliar Montana prison town. After a horrific tragedy impacts her children, her land, and her livelihood, Siobhan makes a heart wrenching decision – with consequences that ripple for decades to come.

Mysteriously linked to Siobhan is Genevieve Marchard, a battlefront nurse in France who returns stateside to find the absence of a certain soldier is her greatest loss; Anna Hanson, a music teacher who tucks herself away in a small Washington town, assuming her secrets are safe; and Erin Ellis, who thinks she and her husband won the lottery when they adopted their daughter, Claire.

These interconnected stories, spanning three continents and five generations, begin to unravel in 1981 when Claire Ellis sets out to find her biological mother.

Doesn’t this sound good? Without further ado, please welcome Ann Marie Stewart:

Whether searching for your book club’s next read or writing the next NYT bestseller you hope book clubs love, it helps to know what makes a good book club selection. Not only does a successful choice encourage great discussion, but for the author it guarantees the book is purchased in multiples.

In September 17, 1996, Oprah launched her online book club, with The Deep End of the Ocean, a novel about what happens to an American family when the youngest boy disappears. Jacquelyn Mitchard was a first-time author whose book went on to best-selling fame in what is now termed, “The Oprah Effect.”

A shout out from Oprah would be all any author needs, but even my friend Jacquelyn remarked that a great book club book should have multiple countries. She also added, “It most definitely should include people and situations that readers can DISAGREE about … if everyone likes everything or hates everything, it’s not much fun!”

But what else should spark interest? Ironically, I discovered the greatest draw to my author website was a review for Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale which also included discussion questions, menus, and recipes. You can check it out here.

I grew to appreciate a comprehensive celebration of discussion over food during my years in That Leesburg Book Club later renamed The Pink Brains (long story and deserving of a separate column). The memoir The Devil in the White City covered a serial killer and the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair which introduced Aunt Jemima pancake mix, brownies, Cracker Jack, chili, hot dogs, Wrigleys Chewing gum, Pabst Blue ribbon beer, and Shredded Wheat. And so, these were included in our evening treats! When we read Water for Elephants, which detailed a traveling circus, someone brought in a cotton candy and popcorn machine. The memoir In the Presence of My Enemies took place in the Philippines so we dined on a catered Filipino dinner of pancit and spring rolls. Another novel told the story of a wedding and so each book club guest wore an old bridesmaid dress from her closet. (Can you tell the Pink Brains had fun?)

But one of our best discussions resulted from a book we actually did not like. Its problems prompted us to Monday morning quarterback as we came up with more realistic solutions for a better ending. That book was great fodder for discussion.

I asked my readers some of their thoughts about what makes a book club selection great, and we came up with these qualities:

Fodder for Discussion
Massive Twists in Plot
Literary Allusions
Setting in Historical Event
Controversial Characters
Characters to Care About
Characters Making Difficult Choices
Author’s Choices prompt discussion
Intriguing Locations
Multiple Countries
Thought Provoking
Meaningful Theme
Central Moral Dilemma

Those qualities feature in the following successful book club reads. In case you’re looking for classic choices, here is a short list. How many have you read? Educated, Where the Crawdads Sing, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, All the Light we Cannot See, The Help, The Glass Castle, The Book Thief, Little Fires Everywhere, A Man Called Ove, Unbroken, The Nightingale, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Before We Were Yours, The Light Between Oceans, Orphan Train, The Fault in our Stars, The Girl on the Train, A Gentleman in Moscow, Water for Elephants, Cutting for Stone, When Breath Becomes Air, Being Mortal, The Art of Racing in the Rain, The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Sarah’s Key, The Language of Flowers, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, The Devil in the White City, The Great Alone, The Secret Life of Bees, The Alice Network, Small Great Things, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Brain on Fire, Middlesex, The Poisonwood Bible, Lilac Girls.

These stories have complex relationships, a deep moral question, a setting that introduces you to a new world, characters you care about, or a fascinating event in history. Of course, after finishing the read, the reader is propelled into discussion.

My latest novel OUT OF THE WATER is set in Ireland, Italy, France, and both US coasts (I’m covered on all locations). Because two estranged characters remain connected over decades through sharing books, there are over sixty literary references. Set primarily in Boston and the quirky prison town of Deer Lodge, Montana 1919 to 1931, the novel covers the 1918 Pandemic as well as the Great Depression. Five mothers make difficult choices worthy of scrutiny by any book club. When one young woman seeks out her biological mother, it threatens to unravel generations of secrets. The novel asks, is it better to know the truth?

I considered the needs of book clubs when I created my online Book Club Kit featuring potential recipes, menus, invites, and templates for a variety of parties. In addition, I’ve included maps, discussion questions, a music playlist, information about the time periods: 1919, 1931, and 1981, and party ideas.

With that kind of information added to my website, I hope that my website will have as many hits for recipes from MY book, as it did for another author’s and that Out of the Water can be added to the list of classic book club reads.

I’m curious, what are some of YOUR favorite book club reads and what made them great? With the temperatures dropping, we’re curling up by the fire and looking for our next good read! Of course, followed by great discussion with a book club!

Thank you, Ann Marie, for sharing this look at book clubs.

About the Author:

Ann Marie Stewart grew up in Seattle, Washington and am a die-hard UW Husky (and Wolverine) after earning a Masters in Film/Television from University of Michigan. I originated AMG’s Preparing My Heart series, write the column “Ann’s Lovin’ Ewe” for The Country Register. With two recent UVA grads, I’m now a huge HOO basketball fan. When I’m not writing, I’m teaching voice or taking care of the many sheep of Skyemoor Farm.