Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mary Lydon Simonsen & Cover Design

Thank you, Mary. for being my guest today and for your compliments of my work. You made my day! I am glad that you are enjoying your calendar too. You were my first order!  

I am also a great admirer of your work and talent as a writer. That is a special gift and one that I am thankful you share with us. I believe that talent extends to designing covers too. You are doing a great job with them. I love the one for this latest book. On that note, Mary is giving away an ebook of When They Fall in Love. After reading her interesting post, be sure and leave a comment for a chance to win. Now, please welcome Mary Simonsen.

Thank you, Janet, for the opportunity to visit with you on your blog. I’m a great admirer of your work and talent as an artist, and I have your calendar in my office. In fact, I’m looking at Mr. Darcy at Hunsford Parsonage (April 2013) as I write.

I greatly admire people who are artistically gifted. I can write up a storm, but I have zero talent when it comes to drawing or arts and crafts. When I first self-published my stories, my book covers were very basic, and I was not happy with them. I wanted to provide my readers with a more enticing cover, and so I bought a book cover software program. After reading the complicated instructions, I put it away for a year! Finally, after a pep talk from my husband, I decided to get after it. Slowly, but surely, I started to learn how to work the program.

When I started to look for artwork for When They Fall in Love, I wanted something to reflect the story’s setting: Florence, Italy. I spent hours at WikiCommons looking for royalty-free artwork, and I finally decided on Claude Lorrain’s Pastoral with Shepherds for the front cover and his Repudiation of Hagar for the back cover. I didn’t have to do much with the front cover, other than fluff up the big tree on the left, but for the back cover, I had to get rid of the temple and the people as the scene had obviously not taken place in Renaissance Italy. After cropping the picture and working with the transparency, voila! I had my cover. Here’s a summary of what the novel is about:
Spring of 1814 – Fitzwilliam Darcy proposes to Elizabeth Bennet at the Hunsford Parsonage, but his offer of marriage is rejected.

Spring of 1821 – A recently widowed Fitzwilliam Darcy has taken up residence with his six-year-old daughter, Alexandra, at a villa in the hills above Florence and invites Charles and Jane Bingley and their daughter to come for a visit. Included in the invitation is Elizabeth Bennet, who has taken on the responsibility of governess for her niece, Cassandra Bingley.

In the intervening years, Elizabeth’s opinion of the Master of Pemberley has altered greatly, but has Darcy’s opinion of Elizabeth changed? Will they be able to put their troubled history behind them?

When They Fall in Love is set against the background of the greatest city of the Renaissance, a perfect place to start over.

To help celebrate the launch of my latest Jane Austen re-imagining, I am giving away an e-book for either Nook or Kindle. To enter, please leave a comment (it can be about anything you want) and an e-mail address where I can contact you.

Thanks again, Janet.

You may find Mary Simonsen at the two blogs below: 

When They Fall in Love is available on:
Paperback at Amazon

Thanks again, Mary, for being my guest today and for generously offering an ebook of your new book, When They Fall in Love. This giveaway is international. To be entered please leave a comment below. Be sure to include your email address in the comment. To prevent unwanted spam, put your email address with an (at) instead of @.  Winner will be chosen in a random drawing. Giveaway ends at midnight, May 5. Good luck.

Monday, April 29, 2013

And the winner is...

Christina Taylor who left a comment on April 23, 2013

Congratulations, Christina.
Please let me know as soon as possible whether you prefer the ebook set or paperbacks. 

My Share in the Conversation...The Man Who Loved Jane Austen

This novel is a skillfully written fantasy of time travel. Through the accidental passage of a time portal, an injured Fitz Darcy of Pemberley Farms, Virginia, awakens to find himself in the care of Jane Austen, year 1810. Recovering from his injuries and confused over what has transpired Mr. Darcy struggles to adapt to a possible life threatening situation. His fascination with the author and her diligent care of the handsome young stranger create a bond of friendship and closeness that will change the lives of both forever.

Present Day:  Eliza Knight, a young artist from New York falls in love with an antique vanity and mirror. After bringing the purchase home, she works to restore its natural beauty. In doing so, a rare find sets her on a path of discovery for truth.

It has been three years since Fitz Darcy’s unexplained disappearance and return. He is obsessed with Jane Austen, her life and memorabilia. Through all his research and studies he has become somewhat of a Jane Austen scholar.  

This sets the course for the meeting of Eliza and Fitz, both in search of answers. For Fitz Darcy…was his encounter with Jane Austen real? For Eliza Knight…was Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pride and Prejudice real?  The story that unfolds answers both questions in a magical and fulfilling tale!

As the author wrote of Jane Austen’s life and dialog, it seemed so real. I felt that I knew her and understood her feelings, often experiencing them with her. A little history, tender romance and pure fantasy all combine to make this book well worth reading for any Jane Austen fan.  

The author acknowledges that this book was co-written with her husband. On the dedication page she says, “This is our dream, the ultimate valentine. As you said, it came out of the love we had for each other and will live in my heart forever…” Ms. O'Rourke, I, for one, am thankful that you decided to share your ultimate valentine.  It has touched me deeply.

5 out of 5 stars

This is my seventh selection for the P&P Bicentenary Challenge of 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

'The Kiss' ...Sally Smith O'Rourke

The story that Sally Smith O'Rourke shares with us today is both heart wrenching and touching.  The first time that I read the story, tears came to my eyes. As I read on, the sadness became interlaced with warmth and happiness, feelings generated by the actions of a single and special encounter. I was deeply moved. Thank you, for sharing your story, Ms. O'Rourke. Giveaway details at the bottom of this post!

I was incredibly lucky enough to have been given one of the first mouse pads graced by Janet Taylor’s wonderful painting of ‘the kiss’ from the BBC/A&E 1996 Pride and Prejudice mini-series. So More Agreeably Engaged seemed the perfect forum for this story.

Some of you may be aware that my late husband, Michael, and I collaborated on The Man Who Loved Jane Austen. It was a very personal project that he called the ultimate valentine because it came out of our love for each other.

We decided to bind the finished product and give it as gifts to friends and family. Originally we did a dozen copies that were hand bound with green ribbon in three volumes as Austen’s books were printed. When people started asking for additional copies we had them professionally printed and bound rather than trying to keep up with the demand with handmade editions.

It was fun that everyone seemed to enjoy the book, but the fun didn’t last long. My world crashed when I lost Michael suddenly on November 14, 2001. Everything went on the shelf, even my life.

A few months after the funeral, a close friend (the best man at our wedding) called and told me that I needed to get out so he was taking me to the screening of a movie. He was right of course; it would have been very easy for me to become a hermit. As a member of BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) he had passes to an, as yet, unreleased British film. I grudgingly agreed to go and just as I was leaving he called again and asked that I bring a copy of the book. “Why?” I asked (he had gotten one of the original hand bound editions). “I want to give it to someone.” I picked up a copy and left.

The screening was at one of the film and television studios in Hollywood. As it was only a short time after 9/11 the security was extreme. There were check points to get on to the parking lot, the walk through gate, the building entrance and the theatre itself. Very time consuming.

When we reached the stairs leading to the theatre it was clear the theatre was not yet open as a crowd was gathering in the hall. Apparently the film had arrived without numbers differentiating the reels so the projectionist had no idea in which order they were to run. Until it was cleared up they wouldn’t let anyone in the theatre (never was really sure why, overly secure I guess). A tall, handsome young man politely made his way through the crowd and straightened it all out and we were finally allowed to enter the screening room.

While Roger made his rounds to visit with friends I sat down and waited, still finding it difficult to mingle with people; particularly strangers. After a while he came over, handed me the book and looked up the aisle, “Go give it to him.” I looked over my shoulder, six feet away was the star of the movie we were there to see. The tall young man who had fixed the film roll problem. I looked back at Roger quizzically. “You dedicated the book to him, give it to him.” “Seriously?” I asked. He pulled me to my feet, “Yes.”

We had dedicated the book to him. To him, Jennifer Ehle and Jane Austen. I took a deep breath and looked back at Roger; he nodded his head and sat down. Slowly I made my way up the steps and stood next to him as he finished a conversation with someone else. He turned to me and smiled, “Hello.” I didn’t reciprocate the greeting, I just said, “I have something for you.”

His lovely smile turned to trepidation and I realized that he was afraid I was a stalker. I assured him I wasn’t, told him about the book and showed him the dedication. The smile returned and he thanked me as the house lights dimmed and we returned to our seats.

After a much anticipated Question and Answer session with the film’s director, producer and cast, Roger and I headed to the exit. As we neared the door the young man stopped me. He thanked me again, saying he was exceedingly touched and had never been given a nicer compliment. He bent down and kissed my cheek and then was pulled away by another fan.

In the tram that took us to the car a woman’s voice asked, “You’re the one who gave Colin the book aren’t you?” I turned around, the question had been asked by Minnie Driver who was sitting next to Saffron Burrows. I only had time to respond in the affirmative when we arrived at the car.

I realize now that it was an amazing evening but I wasn’t able to really appreciate and enjoy it as much as I might have. The wound incurred by the loss of Mike was still raw and I was very much in a daze most of the time. Still the gracious young man left an indelible impression and what else can you say when you’ve been kissed by Colin Firth?

Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen, also dedicated to Jane Austen, Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, is the expansion and continuation of the story in The Man Who Loved Jane Austen, our ultimate valentine. It delves into the complex nature of Fitzwilliam Darcy, the 21st century American horseman who slipped through a rip in the fabric of time and met Jane Austen.

Eliza Knight, the Manhattan artist who finds the letter proving to Darcy that he did, in fact, travel in time, has fallen in love with the enigmatic Virginian after a long weekend at his home, Pemberley Farms. His epic tale of love and romance in Regency England makes Eliza wonder if it’s possible for her to compete with the inimitable Jane Austen. And things are happening in the small hamlet of Chawton, England that could change everything. Will Jane Austen be the wedge that divides the modern couple or the tie that binds them?

Ann Channon of Jane Austen’s House Museum (Chawton Cottage) said:
I have finished Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen and really liked it. Your books are imaginative and very different. Your ideas are new and fresh and endearing. Well, done.

Jocelyn Bury of Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine said:
O’Rourke creates a world that defies cynicism and demands suspension of disbelief – even in this age of doubt and hyper-realism. Sheer escapism at its best. Clever, charming and affectionate – is the real Mr. Darcy unmasked?

Kimberley Truesdale said on IndieJane:
I didn’t know I needed Mr. Darcy with a Southern drawl until I read Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen by Sally Smith O’Rourke. Take a moment and soak that in… Mr. Darcy with a genteel drawl… yes.

Amie McCracken said:
I’m very excited that I got to review this book when I did because this year is the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice. I will be rereading Jane’s book in honor of that and I highly recommend Sally’s book as well.

Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen is available in the following:
Amazon Kindle
Amazon Trade Paperback
Barnes & Noble Nook

Personal Information for Sally Smith O'Rourke:
Austenticity  (the everything Austen site)
Twitter    (@Chawton1810)

Below is a trailer for Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen by Sally Smith O'Rourke. Enjoy.

A special 'thank you' to Sally Smith O'Rourke for her generous giveaway of the two book set, The Man Who Loved Jane Austen and Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen.  This giveaway is international for eBooks and domestic for paperbacks. To be entered please leave a comment below. Be sure to include your email address in the comment. To prevent unwanted spam, put your email address with an (at) instead of @.  Winner will be chosen in a random drawing. Giveaway ends at midnight, April 28. Good luck. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

And the winner is...

Congratulations to the winners of Volume I or Volume II of Cassandra Grafton's 
A Fair Prospect trilogy

kaewink who left a comment of April 20

Jan Hahn who left a comment on April 15

Please contact me as soon as possible with your email address and/or shipping address. I also need your choice of book and whether you want paperback or eBook format. Thank you and Congratulations again.

A special thanks to Cassandra Grafton for the giveaway.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

My Share in the Conversation...Disappointed Hopes

A Fair Prospect: Disappointed Hopes by Cassandra Grafton

Volume I of Cassandra Grafton’s, A Fair Prospect: Disappointed Hopes begins at Hunsford with Mr. Darcy’s ill-worded proposal to Elizabeth Bennet. The setting has changed from the parlor to a picturesque copse of birch trees and amidst a deluge of rain, but the fate of the proposal remains the same.  Although shocked, hurt, angry and disappointed, Mr. Darcy still behaves as the true gentleman we know him to be. Instead of leaving Elizabeth alone in the soaking rain, he insists on seeing her safely to the parsonage. Elizabeth’s stubbornness creates an unexpected intimate embrace with Mr. Darcy, an encounter neither will soon forget. It stirs feelings in Elizabeth that leave her confused and unsettled. For Mr. Darcy, it is a painful pleasure. Thus, the stage is set.---

Ms. Grafton does an amazing job with the characters created by Jane Austen. Not only does she keep them, in behavior and essence, true to the originals, she gives them added depth. When Elizabeth and Darcy misunderstand one another, we gain much discernment into their character by being privy to their innermost thoughts and feelings.  Ms. Grafton delves with finesse and keen insight into the hearts of each and makes the characters come alive on the page. I felt Darcy’s agony, hopelessness and despair and Elizabeth’s troubled mind and shame of her poor judgment.   

The relationship between Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam is much explored and is a joy to read. Colonel Fitzwilliam, one of my favorites, is determined to discover what is troubling his cousin.  His endeavors are initially met with resistance but eventually bring him the knowledge he seeks. In the meantime, we are treated to the camaraderie and brotherly affection shared by these two gentlemen.  I found myself pleasantly diverted. 

Georgiana and Darcy communicate an attachment, borne by their circumstances, that is touching and heartwarming. Through a chance meeting in town, Elizabeth gets to witness the close relationship between Mr. Darcy and his sister.  The tenderness and caring that he displays shows a new side of him and adds to the good opinion that Elizabeth is beginning to form of the man.

There are some likable new characters in this novel.  Mr. Nicholas Harington, son of a wealthy family, is the godson to Mrs. Gardiner and an old family friend to Elizabeth and Jane. He is also considered a good match for Elizabeth, much to Mr. Darcy’s dismay. Mrs. Gardiner’s half-sister, Serena, is introduced but not met by the reader in Volume I. Her connection to the Harington’s is established and her history with the Bennet family is revealed. I liked these new additions and am anxious to learn more about them.

Through witty dialog and beautiful Regency language, this book is in the style of Jane Austen herself. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It ranks among the best of the Austenesque novels that I have read. I look forward, with much anticipation, to the continuation of this story in Volume II, A Fair Prospect: Darcy’s Dilemma.

5 out of 5 stars

PG rating for no explicit sex.

I was given a book by the author for a fair and honest review.

This is my sixth selection for the P&P Bicentenary Challenge of 2013.

Other books I will be reviewing soon:

 All the Appearance of Goodness by Maria Grace
The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy by Regina Jeffers
Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Darling Child by Hazel Jones and Maggie Lane

Watch for these book reviews as well as two movie reviews, one for the 1995 BBC miniseries of P&P and one for the 2005 movie, both of which I cheerfully re-watched for this challenge!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cassandra Grafton & When Harry Met Jane...? Read on!

Or how a Connecticut seagull and a famous boy wizard contributed to the cover story of A Fair Prospect, a trilogy inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

That grabs my attention, how about you? As Mr. Bennet would say, 'read on' and you will discover the delightful and diverting story of Cassandra Grafton and the aforementioned contribution to her trilogy. Ms. Grafton is generously giving away 2 books and I will tell you more about that at the end of this post! Now without further distraction, please "Read on!"

I am so grateful to you, Janet, for hosting me on More Agreeably Engaged and guiding me through my first ever Blog post! One thing I have learned in the last few months is that there is so much more to publishing than just the creative process of writing, and when you offered me the opportunity to do a post here, I wanted to give your readers something special - the behind the scenes story of how the covers of these books came about - and here it is!


Do you believe in legend or hearsay about things that bring you luck? If you find a penny, do you pick it up? Do you salute a magpie if you see one flying by or search desperately for a four-leaf clover in a patch of grass? (I won’t get into the ‘black cat crossing your path’ one. An American friend of mine thought I was being wittily ironic in naming our black cat Lucky until I confessed that, here in the UK, black cats are considered precisely that).

Well, I have no luck when it comes to winning things. I’ve played the National Lottery, entered charity raffles and numerous competitions, and my number just never comes up.  My husband is the same; we have come to find it rather amusing and console ourselves by reminding each other that our luck comes in different ways, and the summer of 2001 was an instance of when it certainly did.  

At the time, we were living in a coastal town in Connecticut. For many local families, most weekends in summer were spent at the beach, and we were no exception. One day, I had forgotten to take a book with me, although I did have a small local newspaper to read. My husband and son were soon off enjoying the water, so I settled into my beach chair, burrowed my toes into the warm, soft sand and opened the paper, ready to indulge in some neighbourhood news – until precisely two seconds later, when a passing seagull deposited its plentiful load on said paper which I threw hastily to the ground. I knew, however, the old adage that being pooped on by a bird brings good luck, so I had to hope that something good was coming my way.

With the paper disposed of, I turned to the only other reading material we had brought along – a book that had caught my eye earlier that day in the local bookstore and had purchased for my son (then 13) to try and encourage him to read more. I picked up the copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, from where it had been happily discarded in favour of splashing around in Long Island Sound, without much expectation of being entertained by it – how wrong can one be?

Little did I know at the time, but JK Rowling had only released four of the seven Harry Potter books, all of which I had consumed by the end of the following week. I was hooked, and like many fans of the books, I was desperate for more. Failing to find anything on the shelves of the local bookstores, I turned to the Internet, where I discovered I was one of millions now longing for Book Five.

I had never heard the term ‘fan fiction’ before then, but in my searches of the Web, I soon stumbled upon websites and forums where growing communities of Harry Potter fans were all huddled together, in for the long wait and, in the meantime, indulging their fantasies as to where the story might go next by writing their own tales.  I was hooked again!

As any reader of fan fiction knows, whatever the genre, the quantity may be overwhelming but the quality can be variable. After a few months, I stumbled across a small website called The Hidden Tower. Unlike many of those I had found previously, the community was very small and the authors posting stories numbered only two, both of whom were excellent writers. With delight, I had found my new home on the Web!  I lurked for a while, then tentatively joined the small group of members, soon forming a close bond with one of them.

Before long, Adrea and I began to co-write Harry Potter-inspired short stories ourselves, and the webmistresses at The Hidden Tower very generously offered to host them. Fan fiction is, of course, the path not travelled, the story not told by the original author, so as well as writing a few stories about how Harry fell in love with Ginny Weasley (yes, that was our ship!), we also ventured into comedy, writing a short story about  the 14-year-old Harry’s mishaps with a bra he had accidentally acquired and another (after the aforementioned Book Five had been published) from the viewpoint of several owls (inspired by Chapter Two of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – A Peck of Owls).

If you have stayed with me so far, you can see how the seagull is connected to the boy wizard – but perhaps not how that leads to Jane Austen.

Well, something else that Adrea and I discovered along the way was that we shared a love of Jane Austen and, in particular, Pride & Prejudice. We became involved in a forum related to both after the 2005 film release where the talented community soon began to pour out its love for Jane Austen’s story in various art forms: paintings and drawings, sewing and craft-making, photo collages and videos and, of course, fan fiction. Inspired, we both began writing again, sometimes together, sometimes on our own, and eventually I decided to take the plunge and attempt a full-length story.

“Full length” began to take on a whole new meaning as the story came into being, as A Fair Prospect (four years in the writing and half that time again in editing) amounted to a rather onerous 300,000.

I decided that, if the story was going to be published, it needed to be divided into three volumes of more manageable size. I also wanted to find a way to include Adrea in this new adventure. She was, after all, as well as having become one of my best friends, the person who helped me to finally complete my first writing projects back in our Harry Potter days (before which I had many years’ worth of boxes full of incomplete ones) and therefore set the ball rolling for me.

Adrea and her mom, Diane, are both talented artists, producing beautiful drawings in pen and ink and watercolour (including the gorgeous The Twelve Days of Christmas, which is a lovely keepsake book if anyone is into doing their Christmas shopping particularly early this year!). It seemed the logical thing to ask them if they would be able to produce something for the covers, and I was delighted when they agreed. The added benefit was that Adrea had followed the story as it was written and, therefore, settling on a key scene between us for each cover was fairly straightforward, heavily influenced by its location.

In Disappointed Hopes, the first proposal takes place in the grounds of Rosings Park in Kent in inclement weather. You see, I had never forgotten the outdoor proposal in the 2005 film, at the end of which Darcy is seen walking away as the rain continues to pour. I just couldn’t accept that he would leave Elizabeth there, soaking wet and alone, so I began to think about “what if he came back to take her home? What might happen, and what might be the on-going effects of this?”

Having visited Groombridge Place, also in Kent, in recent years (a private manor house with traditional gardens that are open to the public), I knew exactly where I wanted that scene to be set.

Groombridge has extensive formal gardens which were planted and laid out in the form of ‘outdoor rooms’ in the 17th century by Philip Packer, who had inherited the property, and his diarist and horticulturist friend, John Evelyn. One of these ‘rooms’ is called The Secret Garden (said to be Philip Packer’s favourite of them all, where he allegedly passed away peacefully whilst reading a book – one has to wonder which book, but as his demise was said to be peaceful, one can assume it wasn’t the story or the tome itself that was the cause!)

The secluded Secret Garden is a shady hideaway, and the photo shows the sheltered path that leads to it. From that photo came the artwork for the background, and then the figures were drawn in pen and ink and added. This was passed to the talented Rebecca Young, who offers a cover design service, and resulted in the finished product.

When it came to the second volume, Darcy’s Dilemma, I recalled a colour plate that I had come across whilst doing some research. I had been writing a scene set in Vauxhall Gardens in London and found a plate that had been engraved for the New Universal Magazine in 1752, depicting a view of the Grand Walk.

Vauxhall Gardens were pleasure grounds in London where people would go to promenade, see and be seen, partake of refreshment and enjoy musical concerts and so on. They were in use for two centuries, the height of their popularity being the mid-17th century, and one of the main attractions was that it was a place where young men and women could meet freely without many of the constraints that normally attend the often delicate process of socialising in a public domain. The Grand Walk was particularly popular for strolling.

Adrea and Diane again produced a delightful interpretation of this, which Rebecca turned it into a lovely cover for the second volume.

As for Volume III, Desperate Measures – well, it’s coming soon, and here’s a sneak peak of the gorgeous artwork!

So, Mr Seagull, thank you for bringing me good fortune. Without you, I might never have found my dear friend Adrea, might never have finished a story and certainly would never have been in possession of such beautiful and original book covers!


Volume I, Disappointed Hopes, is available at Amazon, in all online bookstores in paperback, and in eBook format in the Amazon Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iTunes stores, or at Smashwords.com

Volume II, Darcy’s Dilemma, is available in the Kindle store and at Smashwords.com (all other eBook formats). It will be available in paperback and at Nook, Kobo etc during the next week.

Volume I has been available since March, and below is the description of the newly released Volume II.

Thrown together by circumstance in London, and with his friend, Bingley, in hot pursuit of the eldest Miss Bennet, Darcy finds his best endeavours to relieve Elizabeth of his unwelcome presence come to naught. As the encounters continue, they seem to be developing a better appreciation of each other, but is there any future for them in the face of their previous misunderstandings, and what of Harington, the man who is deemed a fair prospect for Elizabeth’s hand?

As further evidence arises of a bond existing between the couple, Darcy faces a dilemma: should he remain in Town, or should he make himself scarce? Which decision will lead to the least heartache: to never lay eyes upon Elizabeth again or to watch the woman he loves being courted and wed by another?

Personal links for Cassandra Grafton

Included below, at Ms. Grafton's request, is a bit more about the talented artists for her covers of A Fair Prospect, the three volumes.

Diane and Adrea are mother & daughter artists with very different styles. They have always found that blending their artistic concentrations is their best form of communications. The Twelve Days of Christmas was done as a 'conversation' in which one drawing leads to the next - one artist leading lines off the page which the other had to follow and blend with their page.

The Twelve Days of Christmas is available on Amazon

Ms. Grafton, it has been a privilege to have you as my guest today. Thank you for taking the time to share your story. I enjoyed it and I feel sure the readers have too. I loved the pictures that were the basis for each of your covers. Having your covers designed around places you have visited and loved (and by good friends) makes them all the more unique and gives them sentimental value too. I like that. 

I offer a very special 'thank you' to Cassandra Grafton for her generous giveaway of two books, winner's choice of A Fair Prospect: Disappointed Hopes, (Volume I) or A Fair Prospect: Darcy's Dilemma, (Volume II) This giveaway is international. Winners, you may choose your title and whether you want it in a paperback or an ebook.  To be entered please leave a comment below. Be sure to include your email address in the comment. To prevent unwanted spam, put your email address with an (at) instead of @.  Winner will be chosen in a random drawing. Giveaway ends at midnight, April 20. Good luck. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My Share in the Conversation...Pride Revisited

Pride Revisited by Tess Quinn

Pride Revisited is an anthology of sixteen short stories which are based on the characters of Pride and Prejudice. Quoting from the author’s introduction, “You will not find in these pages rewrites of Jane Austen’s original chapters – there is no point; no one can improve upon them. What you will find is a number of what I consider ‘interludes.’ My interludes are scenes that can be inserted into the larger plot of Pride and Prejudice at given moments without necessarily changing the original book events which preceded or follow.” Besides these interludes there are some stories that imagine life after marriage for the Darcy’s, another one that is a modern day scenario and one that is a fun fantasy. I truly enjoyed all of them but am only telling a bit about five in this review. The rest I leave to each reader’s discovery.

The first offering involves a game called Sardines, a variation of ‘hide and seek’ that was popular during Regency times. In this story it was one of the entertainments enjoyed at Netherfield when Elizabeth was caring for Jane. The object of this game ended up giving Darcy and Elizabeth a bit of cozy time. This was a fun interlude and I could easily see it taking place within the pages of the original book.

Georgiana, in trying to recover from her disastrous experience with Wickham and hoping to ease the worries of her guardians, attempts a harmless flirtation. Her role model leaves much to be desired and reflects another poor choice for dear Georgiana. In her defense, I must add that her choices were limited! The story is funny and provides a very entertaining read.

Two of the stories take place on April Fool’s Day! Colonel Fitzwilliam’s prank in the first one filled me with some trepidation as I was awaiting the outcome of his ‘folly’. It kept me on edge then left me smiling as the tables were turned on him in such a delightful way. Ah, but the second one, “April Fool’s: A Romance” made me breathless with the pure genius of it. The feelings it elicited...romance, confusion, understanding, romance again, laughter…love, utter and complete love…run the gamut, even to warm and fuzzy! (I enjoyed the little lark and Pinker immensely) I found much to my liking and hated for this ‘tale’ to come to an end.

Another one that I truly must mention is "Anniversary Song". The first anniversary for our 'darling couple' becomes a game of clues. It keeps the reader eagerly following Elizabeth to discover the next clue. When she finds the last one, it is so romantic and touching! I cannot resist...I must share a bit:
Emotion welled in Elizabeth’s eyes. She ran a finger lightly over Darcy’s signature at the bottom of the page as a single tear escaped its bounds and slowly meandered down her cheek. Through blurred vision, she sensed rather than saw his approach from the shadows at the far end of the room, which had been sheltered in darkness. Even in the throes of deep emotion, Elizabeth must smile—Darcy had been there all along – in the room, and in her heart! As he had since the moment they had met.’    
Most swoon worthy! 

There are times that I love a book of short stories if they are well written, especially if I do not have the time to start a novel. Tess Quinn’s anthology is just such a book. Some of the stories are very short and others are a good bit longer but each one left me feeling satisfied and happy at its conclusion providing great reading pleasure. 

I delighted in the beauty of Tess Quinn’s writing in Regency language. She wrote as if she had lived during that era and her words consistently flowed onto the pages. Lovely work, Ms. Quinn. I hope to see much more from you. (I recently read that you have a new novel in the works…I hope that is true!) I enjoyed your anthology immensely. I highly recommend this book to any lover of Pride and Prejudice. It is one I will revisit time and again.

5 out of 5 stars

I was given a copy of this book by the author for a fair and honest review.

This is my fifth selection for the P&P Bicentenary Challenge of 2013.

Other books I will be reviewing soon:
All the Appearance of Goodness by Maria Grace 
A Fair Prospect: Disappointed Hopes by Cassandra Grafton  
The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy by Regina Jeffers
Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Darling Child 
by Hazel Jones and    Maggie Lane

Watch for these book reviews as well as two movie reviews, one for the 1995 BBC miniseries of P&P and one for the 2005 movie, both of which I cheerfully re-watched for this challenge!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

And the winner is...

Congratulations to:
Luthien84  and Kate Warren both of whom left comments on April 1

Please email me as soon as possible 
with your choice of ebook and the email address to which you want your ebook sent.

A special 'thank you' to Tess Quinn for providing this giveaway and for being my guest!

Friday, April 5, 2013

And the winner is...

Congratulations to Cassandra Grafton, whose comment on March 26, was randomly selected the winner of  The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy, by Regina Jeffers.

 A special thanks to Ms. Jeffers for the giveaway of either an ebook or paperback.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Tess Quinn, 'Pride Revisited' and April Fool's...What Do They Have In Common?

Dear readers, you are in for a special treat this April Fool's. Emerging author, Tess Quinn, is my guest today. She tells a lively and fascinating story of her path to writing and publishing. She is the author of Pride Revisited, an anthology of short stories released on January 28, 2013!

Tess Quinn is graciously giving away two ebooks to two lucky winners so be sure and leave a comment.  Winners may choose either Pride Revisited or Caroline's ComeUppance. This giveaway is open internationally. Thank you, Ms. Quinn.

Now, please get to know Tess Quinn. You will find her quite lovely!

Thanks so much, Janet, for inviting me to guest post today.  It truly is a pleasure to introduce my stories on your lovely site with the warm welcome you extended.  I’ve been writing Austen-based fiction for eight years, but it has been low-key – posting on websites with a relatively intimate membership – and I’m ready to ‘emerge’ and reach out for wider readership.  Now that I have a few pieces released or in the works, this world of promoting via electronic media is alien to me.  Exciting!—Yes; but daunting for a dyed-in-the-wool introvert.

This post can easily grow to a long ramble; I’ve never been celebrated for brevity.  So I’m benchmarking from other author posts I’ve read with interview questions to try to rein myself in a little with structure.  I hope your followers will enjoy this introduction to me and my recent publication, Pride Revisited – a collection of original short stories based on Pride and Prejudice

So, Tess, what drew you to Jane Austen and her writing? 

Gertrude Stein once said, “America is my country but Paris is my home town.”  And—

Wait! – Gertrude Stein?  Paris?  I thought you were introducing yourself as a Jane Austen-based author!  Where does Gertrude Stein come in?

She doesn’t.  But when I first read that quotation some years ago, it resonated with me beyond its pedigree or context – positing the notion that no matter where you originated or live, there is a place or an experience that naturally speaks to your soul; that is ‘home’.  For Gertrude Stein, that was Paris.  For me, it is Britain. 

I have no British family heritage, never lived there.  Yet even as a child, I was fascinated by England, Wales and Scotland.  The first time I was fortunate to travel to London at four and twenty, it felt like returning to ‘my hometown;’ and in successive years of travel to the UK that sensation hasn’t changed.  Whether I visit town or countryside, from the moment I land to the moment I tearfully fly off again, I experience home in its most intrinsic, cherished sense.  I am mindful that I’m not native to it – one friend’s daughters remind me of this truth whenever they try to teach me to speak “proper English” – but this country resides in my soul.

Coupled with that, my mother— always encouraging reading— introduced me early to international folklore.  This led me to the Arthurian tales – and that was that; a lifelong love affair with British history and literature was launched.  King Arthur became my first “romantic” crush.  Nothing like setting the bar high at age eleven for all future comers!  From T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, I read voraciously, drawn so often to British authors.  Over the years, I came to love Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, Wilkie Collins, George Eliot, Kenneth Grahame – I could go on right up through Jerome K. Jerome and P.G. Wodehouse to J. K. Rowling.

Hold on – there’s at least one relevant name missing from that list— 

At thirteen, I had an awesome English teacher who recommended Pride and Prejudice to me (thanks, Mrs S!)  I adored it.  I didn’t have the maturity then fully to grasp all its irony and humour, or incredible psychological insights to human behaviour.  I read it as a straight story.  But I loved the flow of language.  I sensed it was brilliant. I was hooked.  Northanger Abbey followed, and I never looked back.  Fortysomething years later, I’ve reread the novels too many times to count, and seen most of the adaptations and several stage productions.  And every time I read one again, I take something new from it.  Sometimes it’s a profound revelation.  More often it’s some small titbit to savour.  For example, a few years ago this line jumped out at me, where Lizzy wants to go to Netherfield to visit Jane: “...and as she was no horse-woman, walking was her only alternative.”  I’ve pondered those seemingly insignificant lead-in words a lot given how deliberate Austen was in her writing .  Eventually, they inspired the story “Lizzy Gets a Lesson” in Pride Revisited

If this was a traditional interview, the next question likely would be – which novel is your favourite?

Each of them has been, at given points in my life. But Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion have held the honour more often than not.  If truly pressed to pick, I have to say Pride and Prejudice – (Persuasion and Captain Wentworth do make it hard to admit that) – for two reasons: it was my first, at a very impressionable age, and introduced me to Jane Austen.  And then, of course, there’s Mr Darcy.  He became my King Arthur for the Regency period – another bar set high.  But he was more than just a romantic figure to me.  Intuitively, I felt a connection with Fitzwilliam Darcy which later only intensified when I considered why.  I identified with him.  Well, except that he was a man and I was not; and he was wealthy and privileged and I was not (more’s the pity); and his taciturn behaviour was more often than not excused because of his privilege, and mine was not; and he was flawed and I was... okay, so that we had in common. 

What else did you have in common?

I had experienced accusations of being ‘stuck up’ when in truth I was highly introverted and shy; felt awkward in new situations with new people; sometimes judged people a little too readily as a defence mechanism; perhaps felt superior or condescended to others when I shouldn’t have done.  Darcy felt like a real person to me.  I loved Elizabeth Bennet, wished I could be her.  (OK, if it’s true confession time, I have to admit that in that first adolescent reading, I kind of thought Lizzy was mean in the beginning; but that wore off quickly and by the middle of the book I adored her.)  I related to Darcy - my sensibilities belonged to the gentleman right from the start, despite narrative teasers of ‘such different accounts’ designed to puzzle us exceedingly as to his character.

How did this evolve into writing Austen-based fiction

I always wanted to be a writer.  But shyness and abject fear hitherto held me back.  I thought that I wrote pretty well, and others had said as much for years in different context.  My most immediate and specific fear wasn’t so much whether I could write – but that I’d have nothing to say.  Content, not style, had been my folly.

So I quietly went about life for half a century, appreciated Jane Austen, rejoiced in the 1995 miniseries – on my own, since my family doesn’t share this peculiar passion.  I’m sure I only have to mention the words “eye rolling” and some of you can relate.  Then the 2005 film adaptation came out.  And in looking up some details about the production, I had the fortune to discover an online community devoted to the film, and the book, and the author.  I’d found utopia! and people with a common interest, some of whom over the years have become very dear friends.  At last, I’d found a place to get my Austen “fix” on a regular basis!  It wasn’t just tolerated – it was shared! Encouraged! I got fulfilment – and my family got headaches from increased eye activity. 

At that point I had not experienced fan fiction, but within this small community people started posting scenes, full-fledged stories, poetry.  Members were supportive, encouraged more, added more.  It was wonderful.  So I tried my hand at a short descriptive piece; I swallowed hard and hit the ‘post’ button the first time.  And then sat in trepidation watching the display for some indication a comment had been added, whereupon my hand hovered over the enter key until I could summon the fortitude to accept whatever verdict the comment offered.  And it was good, that first comment.  And so was the next one, and the one after that. 

I’ve realized since that commenters mostly were just caught up, as was I, in the spirit of it all.  Especially now when I look back at those earliest efforts, I know they were being kind.  I immediately recognize deficiencies from lack of sufficient research in Regency social customs and history.  I violated the “show, don’t tell” mantra of good writing practice, and probably others too.  (But then, I still do that.)  I just got so jazzed that people liked my snippets and even requested more.   I can’t imitate Jane Austen’s writing, “I have not the talent...”– but my natural writing style (refined since those early efforts) and my narrative cadence seemed a good fit with Regency fiction. 

For me, the blessing of Jane Austen fan fiction was that it gave me content, a cast of characters, a plot within which to insert my little offerings.  It resolved my “nothing to say” dilemma with a jumping off point.  It gave me so much more, too – confidence!  Not only to write longer pieces, complete short stories and even novel-length pieces – but through introducing within these some original characters, it led to several ideas for wholly original works, my own ‘content,’ which I look forward to writing as soon as the Austen projects I committed to are complete.  Yet another blessing for which I am indebted to Jane Austen! 

Is  Pride Revisited a collection of stories compiled from those early posts?

To an extent, yes.  I am writing a novel now that originally I planned to be my ‘public debut.’  But in 2010 and again in 2011 I entered the Chawton House Library Short Story Contest.  The first year, my entry survived the first screening cut – encouraging – but got no further. The next year, “Worst Impressions” (in a shorter version of the one included in Pride Revisited) progressed through several rounds to make the final list of 25 for jurying.  It didn’t pass that final hurdle of being selected in the top 20 that were subsequently published.  (I couldn’t help but wonder if an uncomplimentary reference within the story to Jane Eyre contributed to its demise, as the final judge happened to be an expert on the Brontes, worst luck.)  But still I was proud of it getting as far as it did. 

Then I was approached to include my short story, “A Good Vintage Whine,” in an anthology representing multiple contributors (edited by Marsha Altman, publisher, Ulysses Press.)  That book, The Road to Pemberley, was released in July 2011.  I was thrilled to see my first story “in print” alongside several authors already known in this genre!!! So I thought, why not dust off some early stories and put together my own collection.  I took a break from novel writing, did major edits on existing pieces and wrote a few new ones, and the result is Pride Revisited.  I intentionally released it on 28 January of this year in order to honour the 200th anniversary date of the novel that served as inspiration.  And as of this week, it is available through Amazon in ebook and now print form, too. 

Speaking of dates, is there anything significant about the fact that you’re guest posting today? 

There is, though the scheduling part was pure chance.  Pride Revisited contains sixteen stories in all and fully two of them take place at Rosings in Kent... on April First!  “April’s Fool: A Confluence of Coincidences” is humorous in intent with an interesting prank.  The other, “April Fools: A Romance,” is a what-if fantasy that re-imagines the two proposals Elizabeth receives from Darcy.  

Care to offer a teaser on the novel in the works? 

I admitted earlier that I always felt a connection with Fitzwilliam Darcy.  So from the start, I wanted to tell stories acknowledging his perspective.  Several of my short stories grew from background character exercises.  When I considered Darcy’s history and its chronology, it occurred to me that even while he was becoming bewitched by Elizabeth Bennet’s fine eyes, Darcy and his sister Georgiana would also be just forming a mature sibling relationship.  Given their significant age difference and circumstances, they would not have had opportunity to bond as adults until she was established out of school.  At the opening of Pride and Prejudice, that transition had only recently occurred. The nearly disastrous episode with Wickham in Ramsgate, especially, would have offered the impetus and opening for them to begin to relate on a different level. 

So this novel will interweave two relationship stories, one familiar and one new: that of Elizabeth and Darcy, and the other the growing understanding between brother and sister – all of it as recalled years later by Georgiana Darcy herself. 

When will it be available? 

(Laughs) Well, I’ve been writing for five years!— with a lot of interruptions during that time.  But I will complete it this year.  In the meantime, as a bonus in Pride Revisited, I added a teaser chapter that describes Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam travelling to Kent for Easter.  I have a completed novel featuring the Colonel, too, (A Fitzwilliam Legacy) that will be published in 2013 when I’ve completed edits.  And I’d previously released in hardback an early novel, Caroline’s Comeuppance, that is a fun read and has been re-released as an ebook. 

Anything else you’d care to tell us?

Ha!  I’ve already long passed where this became a ramble despite the ersatz structure!  I’ll just reiterate my gratitude for this opportunity to introduce myself.  It has been a delight, and “I will only add, God bless you.”

Visit Tess Quinn at:

Thanks again to Tess Quinn for generously offering two ebooks, winner's choice of Pride Revisited or Caroline's ComeUppance. This giveaway is open internationally. To be entered please leave a comment below. Be sure to include your email address in the comment. To prevent unwanted spam, put your email address with an (at) instead of @. Winner will be chosen in a random drawing. Giveaway ends at midnight, April 8. Good luck.