Tuesday, August 26, 2014

That Rings a Bell...Donna Fletcher Crow

Several months ago, (April) author Donna Fletcher Crow was my guest and talked to us about her latest mystery, A Jane Austen Encounter. It is a fabulous read and I highly recommend it to any Jane Austen fan. Today Donna is back for a visit and shares some fascinating information about bells. As Donna states, the bells are something of a theme in her latest Monastery Murder, A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary. It has my interest already.

Please join me in welcoming Donna Fletcher Crow back to More Agreeably Engaged. I am so happy you decided to stop by again.

That Rings a Bell

I’ve always been fascinated by church bells. I love the angelic sound turning one’s thoughts to heaven or calling one to worship. I especially love the unique English method of change-ringing, done by pattern rather than melody— like a silver waterfall of sound cascading down from on high.

But that’s not all church bells are used for. Bells can give an alarm, warn of danger in case of fire or war. Bells can tell of sorrow and death when they are tolled, often half-muffled, at a funeral or the commemoration of a death.

And the somber warning is exactly what the bells token for Felicity, heroine of A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary, when she returns to Oxford for the first time since her undergraduate days. The Quarter Boys on Cornmarket began striking the hour when suddenly:

. . . the sound of bells drowned out everything else as all across Oxford, from seemingly every tower, a glorious cacophony called everyone to stop and look upward.

Felicity  stood stock still in the middle of the pavement and raised her face to the blue sky above the tower. The bells had been one of the things she had missed most about Oxford. At the monastery they had a single bell, rung to call worshipers to prayer, but nothing like the glorious change-ringing from Oxford’s numerous towers that sang out over the city for every Sunday, holiday and civic occasion.

Somehow, though, this sounded different from the glorious change-ringing peals that Felicity remembered. This was no sprightly silver shower that lifted the spirits, but a measured tone sounding like an ominous warning with only half of each stroke ringing brightly, the backstroke a muffled echo.

Then began a stately, single toll of the deep-toned tenor bell. Almost subconsciously Felicity counted as the tolls came with perhaps ten seconds between each ring: two slow tolls, then a longer pause, the pattern repeated three times. When the final echo of the last muted knell faded Felicity again turned her steps along the High Street, but this time without the joyous spring that had carried her forward before.

How odd that her return to Oxford should be met with a muffled toll.


Bells, especially half-muffled bells symbolizing death, are something of a theme in my latest Monastery Murder, so much so that my working title for the book was “A Muffled Tolling.” But in order to write about bell ringing, as with everything else I write about, I had to experience it first. So high on the agenda of my research trip, was a session with the Oxford Society of Change Ringers.

The Rev. Peter Groves, Rector of St. Mary Magdalen’s in Oxford, had kindly helped me with research for earlier projects and at my request he put me in touch with the society that regularly rings at St. Mary Mag’s. Simon Bond, their leader, gathered ringers Kirsty, Helen, Mark, Stephan, and Rozy and brought a selection of muffles to demonstrate for me high in the ringing chamber of the tower.

Having read Dorothy L Sayers’ classic The Nine Tailors, I was familiar with the concept of bells changing places in the ring according to a numerical pattern, but seeing the intricacies performed in front of me was dizzying. My non-mathematical brain could never follow that, no matter how much it delighted my ears. With Simon’s careful tutelage, however, I soon got the feel of the downward pull, then letting the rope slip back through my hands on the upward swing, while holding to the sally (fuzzy grip at the end of the rope). And I was able to pick out the variance in sound on the bells Simon had half-muffled— just as Felicity, standing on an Oxford street corner was able to do.

I loved my bell ringing lesson, but unfortunately, I had another appointment that prevented my joining them in the pub after practice— another cherished bell ringers' tradition.

 A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary  is book 4 in The Monastery Murders:

In spite of Antony’s warning her not to get into trouble when she sets off to do a spot of translating in an Oxford convent, Felicity just can’t seem to avoid danger. But it’s hardly Felicity’s fault that severed body parts start showing up in ancient holy reliquaries. Or that Felicity and one of the nuns is assaulted. Could the Medieval Latin document Felicity is translating for the sisters have anything to do with the repeated attacks?

Martyr's Monument

When Antony arrives in Oxford with a group of students he is cool to the news that Felicity has forged an uneasy friendship with his sister Gwen, whom he hasn’t seen for years. And any family reconciliation is further complicated by Antony’s obligation to rush to the bedside of his dying uncle in Blackpool.

The exultation of All Saints’ Day plunges to the anguish of grief on All Souls’ when Felicity encounters yet another body. Who will be the next victim of the murderer stalking the shadows of Oxford’s hallowed shrines?


Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 43 books, mostly novels of British history.  The award-winning Glastonbury, A Novel of the Holy Grail, an epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work.  She is also the author of the clerical mysteries The Monastery Murders: A Very Private Grave, A Darkly Hidden Truth and An Unholy Communion as well as the Lord Danvers series of Victorian true-crime novels and the literary suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho.  They have 4 adult children and 13 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener.

To read more about all of Donna’s books and see pictures from her garden and research trips go to: http://www.donnafletchercrow.com/ 
You can follow her on Facebook at: http://ning.it/OHi0MY

Donna, you gave me just enough information to make me want a lot more! Getting a lesson on bell ringing must have been quite a treat. I hope you will tell us more about the bells another time. I have always loved murder mysteries and this one sounds excellent. Best wishes with its release. 

Donna Fletcher Crow has kindly offered an eBook of A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary, (mobi or pdf) as a giveaway and the giveaway is international. Thank you, Donna. We want to hear your share in the conversation so leave a comment to be entered in the giveawayBe sure to include your email address in the comment. To prevent unwanted spam, put your email address with an (at) instead of @. Winners will be chosen in a random drawing. Giveaway ends at midnight on September 1, 2014. Good luck to all.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Linda Beutler, Longbourn to London Blog Tour

Linda Beutler stops by today on her blog tour for her second release, Longbourn to London. I am so pleased to be a part of this tour and to welcome Linda back to More Agreeably Engaged. Thank you, Linda, for sharing a tempting excerpt from your book.  There is a giveaway too so be sure to leave a comment. The Blog Tour runs through August 30 so watch for Linda Beutler in other blog stops. Following is an excerpt from Chapter 7.
Longbourn to London by Linda Beutler
Excerpt from Chapter 7, Aunt Gardiner Saves the Day
WHEN THE BENNET CARRIAGE ARRIVED at Netherfield that evening, Mr. Darcy was awaiting it. With a great show of magnanimity, Mr. Bennet stepped aside so Darcy could hand Elizabeth down from the carriage and walk her into the house. They had seen each other only in company during the three days since Elizabeth’s revelations and the letters sent to Mrs. Gardiner. Elizabeth found she had to force herself to be easy with him in public. Not usually missish, she nevertheless had surrendered to her trepidation and changed the timing of her walks to start at midday, and she followed paths known only to the local populace. She had seen Darcy riding the day before—perhaps looking for her?—but she did not draw his attention. Now, having received her aunt’s missive, she began to feel her confidence returning.
Once they were a safe distance from her family, Elizabeth whispered, “I have had a letter from my aunt, Mr. Darcy. She says she will gladly meet, and that she has the deepest regard for you and high expectations of your behaviour.” She sent him an impertinent sidelong glance, “So you have deceived her, at least . . . ”
Darcy chuckled, pleased to have a few private words with her, and that she was teasing. “No, I do not suppose I have. Your Aunt Gardiner strikes me as a woman few can hoodwink.” Darcy held out his arm, and Elizabeth tucked her hand in his elbow.
“Jane and I had an odd conversation with my mother yesterday afternoon before dinner.”
Darcy composed a tart comment but thought better of speaking it, asking instead, “Did you? And the topic?”

“The day I told you of my dream, Mama and Papa had a fearful row. Jane and I could not hear all of it, but the subject was what Jane and I have been told to expect of...” She paused and sighed. “...Of our wedding nights. Papa demanded she recant most of what she told us, else he would lock her in her bedroom until after the wedding! It seems she wished to prepare us for the worst. I am wondering how my father learnt of the nature of Mama’s advice to us, or perhaps he merely surmised?” Another sidelong glance was delivered.
They had entered Netherfield’s front hall, and servants advanced to take the Bennets’ outerwear. Elizabeth held back so her pelisse and bonnet would be taken last, and Darcy stayed behind with her. He was embarrassed to reveal his communication with Elizabeth’s father, but he would hide nothing from her as now several days had passed from that strange and sensational morning.
“It must be admitted, Elizabeth—I shall confess—Bingley and I were alarmed to learn of your ordeal at the hands of the local married ladies. We wrote to your father, asking him to do what he could to spare you too much time with your Aunt Phillips. And your mother.”
Elizabeth had taken his arm again and now they were nearly to the drawing room doors. She stopped their progress and looked at him with a knowing smile and a slight shake of her head. “I thought as much. I own I do not know whether to be grateful to you for the results or very cross for the interference. Mama is treating Papa with unprecedented deference, but she is annoyed with me although she tries to hide it. She blames me for expressing my concerns.”
“I hardly know how to respond, Elizabeth! I would not have you in your mother’s bad books.”
“It is hardly an unusual occurrence, sir.” She chuckled.
“Before we enter the drawing room, Elizabeth, there is something else you should know.”
 “On the same morning of which we are speaking, the Bingleys also had a family set-to. I only heard part of it. Hurst and Bingley attempted to give Caroline some correction in her behaviour towards myself and to you. So far, I see no change, or if anything, she is worse, and I want you to be on your guard. Netherfield has taken on a surprisingly uneasy atmosphere unless Jane is visiting. She always lightens the mood.”
That is what Bingley and I have been trying to persuade you: Jane is uniformly angelic! You should have wooed her when you had the chance, and you would have had a much more amiable wife than you deserve or are likely to get.”
Darcy chuckled. “I am getting exactly the wife I want and deserve. Of that I remain firmly convinced.” They smiled openly into each other’s eyes for the first time in days. Both breathed a sigh of relief.
When Darcy and Elizabeth entered the drawing room, Caroline swept to Darcy’s other side and offered to bring him some refreshment in an unnecessarily obsequious manner while ignoring Elizabeth. Darcy gave a curt bow and a brusque, “No, thank you, Miss Bingley,” before turning his back and seating Elizabeth upon the only settee in the room where there was space for her, which was next to Hurst. That gentleman made his allegiance clear by springing up in a rapid manner rarely seen and insisting Darcy take his place.
“I shall have the singular opportunity, Darcy, of taking the chair nearest my wife.” With a bow, Hurst strove to make amends for his sister-in-law’s rudeness. “May I bring you something to drink, Miss Eliza?”
“You are very kind, sir; yes, I would take some wine punch if that is what I see in the bowl.” Elizabeth turned her eyes to Darcy with a little surprise. His response was a raised eyebrow. “You see how matters lie?” he whispered. She nodded in reply then looked up to Hurst with thanks as he returned.
“Miss Eliza,” Louisa Hurst called as her husband settled himself with a generous goblet of wine in the chair next to hers. “Have you begun the selection of your wedding clothes?”
Elizabeth leaned forward to answer and did not notice, as Darcy did, the glaring look sent Louisa by Caroline. “Indeed, we have just had word from my aunt in London, who is bringing a fabric she has admired and thinks would suit me. She arrives the day after tomorrow. My Aunt Gardiner knows my taste well, and I am most pleased to have her exert herself on my behalf.”
Caroline moved in hopes of catching her sister’s eye to pull a face of scorn, but Louisa would not look in her direction. She asked instead, “This is the aunt we had the pleasure of meeting at Pemberley?”
“Yes, the same.” Elizabeth nodded. She was wary, but to all appearances, Louisa was distancing herself from the unbridled disdain that marked her sister’s discourse.
“She seems to be a lady of fashion. Her travelling pelisse was beautifully tailored. I am sure you could not be in better hands.” Louisa seemed sincere.
Elizabeth decided to try her further. “Yes, she has a modiste on Bond Street to whom she has extended her custom for many years: a Miss Camille. Have you heard of her?”
Louisa could not hide her surprise. The Gardiners must have a vast deal of wealth for Miss Camille to condescend to create gowns for the wife of a tradesman. Elizabeth chose not to reveal that her uncle’s company had made a fine carriage for Miss Camille’s use as she made calls for in-home fittings to London’s best addresses, and that a bargain by way of barter had been struck to keep Mrs. Gardiner in the latest fashions. Let them assume what they like, Elizabeth thought, and wondered whether, in her own way, she was not displaying a certain smugness she would have discouraged in her betrothed.
Louisa’s eyes flickered to those of her sister, who appeared thoroughly astonished and then looked away.
Dinner was announced. Darcy was further vexed when, after extending his right arm to Elizabeth, Caroline Bingley took his left, steering them both to where she wanted Elizabeth to sit, between Mr. Bennet and Mr. Hurst.
Again Louisa intervened. “Pray, excuse me, dear sister, but I thought I had informed you of my seating plan. Mr. Darcy, you are on Miss Bennet’s right, and Miss Eliza, you are to his right.”
Caroline blushed angrily. “How silly of me, Louisa. My apologies. I had thought you would sit as hostess tonight, rather than I.”
“Yes, dear,” Louisa responded, “and you will sit on my right, since we have too many ladies.”
Caroline was quietly livid; she was the extra lady!
Book Blurb:

A courtship is a journey of discovery, but what do we know of the official betrothal of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet? We may assume there were awkward social events to navigate, tedious wedding arrangements to negotiate, and Bingley’s toplofty sisters to accommodate. How did Darcy and Elizabeth manage these travails, and each other?
     Longbourn to London is not a Pride and Prejudice “what if,” nor is it a sequel. Rather, it is an expansion of the betrothal of Jane Austen’s favorite couple. We follow Lizzy’s journey from spirited maiden scampering about the fields of Hertfordshire to nervous, blushing bride in Mayfair, where she learns the unexpected joys of marriage to a man as willing to be teased as she is to tease him.
Join us as IPPY award-winning author Linda Beutler (2013 Silver Medal, Independent Publishers Awards, for The Red Chrysanthemum) imagines the betrothal and early honeymoon of Jane Austen’s greatest couple.
Includes mature content.

Author Bio: 

Linda Beutler is an Oregon native who began writing professionally in 1996 (meaning that is when they started paying her...), in the field of garden writing. First published in magazines, Linda graduated to book authorship in 2004 with the publication of Gardening With Clematis (2004, Timber Press). In 2007 Timber Press presented her second title, Garden to Vase, a partnership with garden photographer Allan Mandell. Now in 2013 Linda is working with Meryton Press.

Linda lives the gardening life: she is a part-time instructor in the horticulture department at Clackamas Community College; writes and lectures about gardening topics throughout the USA; and is traveling the world through her active participation in the International Clematis Society, of which she is the current president. Then there's that dream job--which she is sure everyone else must covet but which she alone has-- curator of the Rogerson Clematis Collection, which is located at Luscher Farm, a farm/park maintained by the city of Lake Oswego. They say to keep resumes brief, but Linda considers Garden With Clematis her 72,000 word resume. She signed on as curator to North America's most comprehensive and publicly accessible collection of the genus clematis in July 2007, and they will no doubt not get shut of her until she can be carried out in a pine box.

And now for something completely different: in September 2011, Linda checked out a book of Jane Austen fan fiction from her local library, and was, to put it in the modern British vernacular, gob smacked. After devouring every title she could get her hands on, she quite arrogantly decided that, in some cases, she could do better, and began writing her own expansions and variations of Pride and Prejudice. The will to publish became too tempting, and after viewing the welcoming Meryton Press website, she sent her child before the firing squad. Luckily, the discerning editors at Meryton Press saved the child from slaughter, and Linda's first work of Jane Austen-esque fiction, The Red Chrysanthemum, was published.

Linda shares a small garden in Southeast Portland with her husband, and pets that function as surrogate children. Her personal collection of clematis numbers something around 230 taxa. These are also surrogate children, and just as badly behaved.

Buy links:

I hope you all enjoyed the excerpt to Linda Beutler's new book. Longbourn to London. I can just hear Mrs. Bennet and Mrs. Phillips and only imagine what they must have told the dear girls. I guess we will have to read the book to find out for ourselves! Thank you for stopping by today, Linda. I hope you have a fun time on your blog tour and have much success with your new release. 

Meryton Press is offering one eBook for giveaway and the giveaway is international. Thank you, Michele Reed and Meryton Press. We want to hear your share in the conversation so leave a comment to be entered in the giveawayBe sure to include your email address in the comment. To prevent unwanted spam, put your email address with an (at) instead of @. Winners will be chosen in a random drawing. Giveaway ends at midnight on August 25, 2014. Good luck to all. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

And the winners are...

I am posting the winners for two different giveaways today! Thank you to all of you readers for taking the time to visit my blog and leave your comments.

The first giveaway is for Maria Grace's book, Remembering the Past.

Congratulations to:
Sophia Rose who won the eBook.

The second giveaway is for the Gentleman's Impertinent Daughter by Rose Fairbanks and there are two winners!

Congratulations to:
Paperback winner: RS (Regina Silvia)
eBook winner:  Ceri T

I have sent emails to all winners and I await your replies! Thanks again for your support and I hope you all enjoy your books.

A special 'thank you' to Maria Grace and Rose Fairbanks for being my guests and for your giveaways. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Jane Austen and the Theatre with Syrie James

My guest today is author Syrie James. I must confess, Dear Readers, I felt I hit the 'big time' having Syrie James at More Agreeably Engaged! She is stopping by as part of her virtual book tour for her latest release, Jane Austen's First Love. I have started reading this book and am enjoying it immensely. It has made me want to do some digging myself. I am quite fascinated with all the research that you did, Syrie, and the excitement you must have felt on several of your discoveries. Thank you so much for visiting and for telling us a little about Jane Austen and the Theatre.
Jane Austen loved the theater, an interest which began at an early age, when she and her sister and brothers put on performances in the barn at Steventon Rectory. I was so intrigued by this notion, that when I wrote my novel Jane Austen’s First Love, I included a home theatrical as a major plot point in the story.
Jane and her siblings used to act for a small circle of friends, complete with scenery and memorized lines. The “Steventon Theatricals” began when Jane was seven years old and continued until she was fourteen, at one point (in 1788) presenting plays every few months. The young Austens put on comedies, burlesques, and knockabout farces dealing with scheming daughters, flirting rogues, quarreling servants, disguised ladies, and jealous gallants. James Austen, the eldest son, served as actor-manager, and wrote and spoke his own prologues and epilogues. The Austens’ beguiling cousin Eliza de Feuillide, who was fourteen years Jane’s senior, usually joined in these performances, playing the leading female roles. All the children took part. Jane, who is said to have had a sunny disposition and a gift for reading aloud with great expression, was no doubt a talented young actress.
Engraved print of The Beggar's Opera, London, England circa 1729

            The Steventon Theatricals greatly influenced Jane’s early writing, which includes brief plays and numerous short stories, all comedies, farces, or burlesques. Years later, Jane recalls the dramatic exploits of her youth in her novel Mansfield Park, when the young people put on the somewhat risqué play “Lovers’ Vows.” The theatrical chapters in Mansfield Park are filled with vivid details of the play in progress, designed to showcase the beliefs and emotions of the characters involved. Jane Austen’s nostalgia for her own similar, youthful experiences is nowhere more evident than in this excerpt, when Mr. Yates, a friend of Tom Bertram’s, bemoans his recent, aborted attempt to stage Lovers’ Vows:
“Happily for him, a love of the theatre is so general, an itch for acting so strong among young people, that he could hardly out-talk the interest of his hearers. From the first casting of the parts, to the epilogue, it was all bewitching, and there were few who did not wish to have been a party concerned.” (Mansfield Park, Chapter 13)
Not everyone in Mansfield Park, however, shares this enthusiasm. Edmund Bertrum argues emphatically against the idea of putting on a play, and only accepts a part to afford him the opportunity to rehearse with Mary Crawford, the woman he fancies. Fanny Price, the moral compass of the novel, is uncomfortable about the proceedings on the grounds that the absent patriarch, Sir Thomas, would find it objectionable, and later because the rehearsals have thrown together certain people in an intimate manner which would otherwise never be sanctioned, and is painful for her to watch. Indeed, at the end of the novel, Tom Bertram deems his play “a dangerous intimacy” and “unjustifiable theatre.”
Drury Lane Theater about 1800

If Austen loved acting and the theatre as we believe she did, then why did she present the enterprise in Mansfield Park as irresponsible? Was she simply looking for a way to introduce conflict into the story? Or is there more to it? It is well known that the Austens’ charming (and married) cousin Eliza flirted overtly with her cousins Henry and James whenever she came to visit, and that both were very attracted to her. (Henry eventually married Eliza after she was widowed.) Could it be that Eliza and one or both of the young Austen men, under the guise of the bawdy Steventon Theatricals, behaved somewhat inappropriately with each other—an act the young Jane observed and felt created “a dangerous intimacy”? I think it highly likely that she did.  
It was this idea that inspired the theatrical scenes in my novel Jane Austen’s First Love.
Fifteen-year-old Jane Austen is visiting the ancestral estate of the Bridges family, Goodnestone Park in Kent, when a rainstorm threatens to ruin all the family’s plans. Jane suggests that they put on a play—an endeavor which has disastrous, yet ultimately illuminating results. I had the time of my life researching and writing Jane Austen’s First Love, and hope that readers enjoy it!

Jane Austen's First Love is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Thank you for stopping by on your busy virtual book tour. Your post was illuminating and insightful. I'm glad you shared this aspect of Jane's life with us. 

It was an honor to take part in your virtual tour and I wish you much success with the new book. I can hardly wait to finish reading it!

And the winners are...The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen

Congratulations to the three lucky winners of Shannon Winslow's latest release,
The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen.

Thanks to all of you who stopped by and left a comment. It was so nice to have the preview! As you are probably aware, the book launch was yesterday, August 11th, so it is now available. For those of you that did not win, please keep an eye out as there will be more chances at other sites to win. Check Shannon's blog for dates and postings.

Now to name the winners...
drum roll, please!

Paperback - Kerri (JASNA-NY)
eBook - Anonymous (Julie R)
eBook - Vesper Meikle

Again, congratulations to each of you. Please send me your info as soon as possible. I have already sent each of you an email.

A special thanks to you, Shannon Winslow, for the giveaway and especially for being my guest! It was great to have you visit again.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Rose Fairbanks...the Gentleman's Impertinent Daughter

We have a special treat in store for us as new author, Rose Fairbanks, joins us to talk about her first published work, a novella titled the Gentleman's Impertinent Daughter. Rose is enjoying a blog tour and I am pleased More Agreeably Engaged is a part of it. 

I enjoyed all the things you shared in your answers to my interview questions, Rose. They were all such a delight to read. I  loved your last answer, especially! It was obvious you had given it some thought and you brought out some very interesting points...ones that I agree with completely. 

Thank you for being with us today and for having a giveaway too.

How and when did your interest in Jane Austen and Pride & Prejudice take root?

I first read Pride and Prejudice in 2003 for my AP English class. I was a big fan of Little Women, even as a teenager, and would sometimes check out the sequels (as I owned multiple copies of the first book) from the high school library. The school librarian suggested multiple times I try Pride and Prejudice but I never did. Once I read it though, I fell fast in love. I watched the BBC’s 1995 series adaptations a few times as well before buying it and nearly memorizing it. In college I had less time for leisure reading but I did read other JA works and developed a little circuit of works I would reread at least once a year for the next ten years. I favored P&P above the others. J I didn’t get interested in Jane Austen Fan Fiction until about a year and half ago due to pregnancy-induced insomnia.

What drove you to start writing your own books? Did you write other things before writing PnP variations?

A wrote a fair bit of poetry and song lyrics in high school and then since college I’ve started and scrapped several original works. Writing JAFF relieves a lot of the issues I faced with writing an original story. There’s a set idea of character and plot development. Even if I leave both I know where I left so I think I have a better idea of where the “too far” line is. I mentioned above I had terrible insomnia while pregnant and then with a new baby I was up a lot at night as well. I quickly ran through everything I could find on Nook and Kindle and would just sit and wait for someone to publish something new. Sometime in July of 2013 I started dabbling in the idea of writing my own stories because I had to know what happened to Darcy and Lizzy next! Fortunately, I found free online forums shortly thereafter because those early attempts of mine are rather bad!

Do you have a muse that causes your story to lead you at times or do you use an outline and follow it religiously? What is your writing routine?

My first few stories, that appear to be rather abandoned and dying on my hard drive, were muse-only inspired stories. I was later inspired by a writing prompt on a JAFF forum and wrote two very short stories from it. My longer stories require an outline, but it tends to be a moving target. My muse typically gives me scene ideas, not particular lines. So I can typically hold onto the idea until I get a quiet moment. But heavy duty writing or editing has to happen on my husband’s days off, which is where an outline is helpful. I think there are a lot of jokes about writers and procrastination and I’ve found they’re pretty true. I see the time start to slip by and after I’ve goofed off too much then I sit and hunker down.

Is there any setting that is more inspirational to you when writing?

Quiet, but not too quiet. I can write in a public place if need be but I prefer my home.

What about the Regency era is appealing to you?

I have a degree in history and loved reading historical fiction as a teenager. For the narrow time span that is specifically Regency, I like the juxtaposition of the old and new. As a historian I can see how much the world was really changing during that era but I wonder if it felt that way to the people living in it. How does a gentry class start to transition to a world with a larger and emerging true merchant/middle class? How do women reconcile their burgeoning values of self-worth and notions of romance with reality? How do everyday people start to shape history?

Tell us something about your newest book that you love most. (if you can without giving anything away)

The next book to be published is called No Cause to Repine and is a forced marriage scenario. During Darcy’s first visit to the Hunsford Parsonage alone an innocent accident is misconstrued and an engagement is necessary. Elizabeth has not talked to Colonel Fitzwilliam about Darcy’s friendship with Bingley yet, but all her other prejudices are intact. She is certainly not in love, but once she gets there it is so beautiful and sweet. I think my favorite part is either Darcy’s second proposal or an even later scene when they offer each other true partnership in their marriage.

What have you learned from writing that has helped you in your daily life?

I’ve learned a lot more patience and to review things. My first few stories were like shooting straight from the hip and I posted without looking at them very closely. Anything worth doing in life is worth doing well, and that takes time and practice. I’ve also learned to be happy with where I am at present. I can see improvements from where I was as a writer and while I’m not where I want to be, I am improving. It can be tempting to just give up since I feel inadequate compared to the brilliant writers I enjoy reading, but I can be happy with who I am without settling there.

Is there anything special about yourself or your writing that you would be willing to share with us?

As much as I love the what-if scenarios I do always want to know what happens after the wedding or when our dear couple fall in love (if that comes later). I suppose it’s because I’ve been married nearly ten years and have two kids and see the ups and downs. I don’t necessarily need a whole sequel but I love an epilogue that gives me a little taste of an older and settled within marriage Darcy and Lizzy.

Do you have a modern day author that has inspired you? If yes, what was it about their writing that was an inspiration?

Hm…I’m not really a fan of the modern genre! But I do love a few modern writers that write of the past! Trying to think of a non-JAFF writer (because I would hate to leave someone out), I think the biggest influence on me was the American Girl Series when I was a young girl and Ann Rinaldi, who writes young adult historical fiction with a dash of romance, when I was a teenager. A noteworthy mention goes to Helen Wells and Julie Campbell Tatham of the Cherry Ames series. One of my aunts gave me all her old Cherry Ames books when I was 14. Cherry starts as a nursing student during World War II and the series continues until the 1960s. She has a lot of confidence, independence, generosity, resourcefulness and spunk! In an era that had few career women and still lots of pressures to marry, Cherry never did. Nor did she have a steady beau. You can probably find traces of those qualities in most of my Lizzys!

Now for a very important question, we all have our special reasons for loving Mr. Darcy, what are your reasons?

This is long but I think I need to just quote one of my own blog posts!

What is so lovable about Darcy is that he loves Elizabeth entirely for who she is, flaws and all.  Time and again he cannot stay mad at her.  She turns him down for a dance which is borderline rude and his admiration overflows so much that he even tells Miss Bingley, which he had to know was a stupid move.  They argue at Netherfield, she calls him proud and resentful, she supports Bingley just for the heck of it, she mocks Darcy and insults him and even offends him and he's left realizing that he likes her too much.  During their dance at the Netherfield ball, Elizabeth mocks him more, she accuses him of wrong doing and prejudice towards Wickham.  At Rosings she reprimands him for what is essentially shyness, at Hunsford- well, we all know about that- at Pemberley she is certain he will not want to speak with her or her relations, she doubts he can overcome his pride to offer for her again between Lydia's disgrace and becoming brother to Wickham, she believes he continues to be too officious with Bingley and even teases that he might be a bit of a coward since she had to open the conversation that led to his second proposal, and he put off writing Lady Catherine.  And yet, he loves her still.

Elizabeth quite explains it, "To be sure, you knew no actual good of me- but nobody thinks of that when they fall in love."

Ahh, but he did!  He was first caught by her playful manners, he was enchanted by her lively mind, her wit and intellect, he was endeared at her affection for her sister, he credited her with understanding and intelligence as they debated at Netherfield, with wisdom at Rosings, with just reproofs at Hunsford and with restrained modesty at Longbourn.  And it's not just that he was so blinded by love that he turned all of her flaws into attributes.  It's that he loves her despite her flaws.  Even while recognizing that her reproofs were somewhat just, he allowed that the letter was necessary.  He had to defend himself and she had to see that she was wrong.  He never entirely excused away her flaws, he was never in a position to be abused by her.

But he did think rationally before acting on his admiration and love.  To act too quickly before he was certain of his constancy would be too much like Bingley.  To overtly show his admiration and raise her expectations when he did not feel like he could offer for her would be wrong and dishonorable.  He was not blind to the disparity of their positions.  If he did not look at that objectively and proposed and was accepted, then what would happen if London society reacted badly?  How would he react if his noble relatives did?  To not think prudently would make him no better than Lydia or Georgiana with Wickham.  And he was even sensible enough to not force his attentions on her without encouragement the second time.

So, Darcy is lovable because he unconditionally loves Elizabeth, albeit perhaps not quite selflessly at first, and is constant in his feelings, in addition to sensible.  We never have to worry about him being so violently in love with her and then later violently in love with another.  We never have to worry about him coming to regret the union because he acted too hastily or to be blinded by lust and desire.

Book Summary

When Fitzwilliam Darcy visits Hyde Park with his sister, he expects nothing more than a quiet walk on a fine day.  Instead, he meets a young woman who challenges his ideas and pulls his sister out of her melancholy.  He soon realizes Elizabeth Bennet is the only woman in the world with whom he could spend the rest of his life.

Elizabeth, clever and self-assured, refuses to change for the sake of gaining a husband, a prospect she finds impossible regardless. With wit and independence rather than fortune, she is entirely convinced no sensible man would have her, and she cannot respect a fool. Can Darcy prove to be this impossible man? Or is a figure from his past an insurmountable obstacle to a future with The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter?

About the Author

Rose Fairbanks fell in love with Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy 11 years ago.  Coincidentally, or perhaps not, she also met her real life Mr. Darcy 11 years ago.  They had their series of missteps, just like Elizabeth and Darcy, but are now teaching the admiring multitude what happiness in marriage really looks like and have been blessed with two children, a 3 year old son and a one year old daughter. 
Previously rereading her favorite Austen novels several times a year, Rose discovered Jane Austen Fan Fiction due to pregnancy-induced insomnia. Several months later she began writing. The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter is her first published work.

Rose has a degree in history and hopes to one day finish her PhD in Modern Europe and will focus on the Regency Era in Great Britain.  For now, she gets to satiate her love of research, Pride and Prejudice, reading and writing....and the only thing she has to sacrifice is sleep! She proudly admits to her Darcy obsession, addictions to reading, chocolate and sweet tea, is always in the mood for a good debate and dearly loves to laugh.
You can connect with Rose on Facebook, Twitter, and her blog: darcyobsession.blogspot.com

the Gentleman's Impertinent Daughter may be purchased at:

It was such a joy to have you visit today, Rose. I am excited to read your novella and look forward to the next one, No Cause to Repine. It sounds wonderful too. I am happy to have been included in your blog tour and wish you much success. The book has such an interesting and appealing cover. I do like it very much!

Rose Fairbanks is generously offering two books for a giveaway, one trade paperback, US only, and one eBook for your eReader, international. Thank you, Rose!  We want to hear your share in the conversation so leave a comment to be entered in the giveawayBe sure to include your email address in the comment. To prevent unwanted spam, put your email address with an (at) instead of @. Winners will be chosen in a random drawing. Giveaway ends at midnight on August 11, 2014. Good luck to all. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Remember the Past with Maria Grace

Maria Grace's new bookRemember the Past,was recently released and today she is going to tell us a little about the book and some enlightening info regarding the navy in Regency times. There is a tantalizing excerpt too and I know it is one you will all enjoy. Thank you, Maria, and I hope you have much success with this latest book. Readers, be sure to notice the giveaway opportunity at the end of the post! :)

Thanks so much for having me Janet. I’m very excited to share a little bit about my new book, Remember the Past.  When I write, I like to explore how things might have been for our favorite Jane Austen characters had their circumstances been a bit different—or a lot different. While I try to keep the characters the ones Jane Austen wrote at their core, changes in circumstances do change people. Some more than others. Some for the better, some, not so much. I love exploring those changes and possibilities.

One of the changes in this book was that Mr. Bennet was not the heir to Longbourn, but a second son who went into the navy. His naval experiences changed him from a lackadaisical man to a very active, powerful one, who would become Admiral Thomas Bennet, Rear Admiral of the White.

Why would a young Thomas Bennet have joined the navy? The navy offered greater potential for social mobility than most institutions in Regency era society. Generally only the sons of gentlemen or perhaps wealthy middle-class parents could enter the path to becoming an officer, but the way was not entirely closed to others. Once a lieutenant, a man could rise through his own merit to a high position, even above those with higher origins. Unlike army officers, naval officers did not purchase their commissions, they earned them.

Naval service was dangerous, though, with nearly 100,000 casualties between 1793 and 1815. Battle at sea accounted for less than 10% of naval casualties. Accidents and disease accounted for 80%.

Naval wages, even for Captains were notoriously low. Prize money was the only way to wealth and came in various forms. If an enemy ship was sunk, 'Head and Gun' money (calculated by the numbers of men or guns on the enemy vessel) was awarded. Until1808, a 3/8 share went to the captain and the remainder was divided on a diminishing scale, according to rank, among the other officers, commissioned and non-commissioned, and the ordinary members of the crew. After 1808, a slight change was made to the allocation of these shares.

If they captured an enemy ship, the Admiralty was often prepared to buy it from them and resulted in higher rewards. The best payouts came if the captured ship was carrying a valuable cargo. This kind of prize money was divided up so officers received more than the ordinary crewmen. It was possible for officers to earn substantial wealth in prize money.

In this tale, that is exactly what happens for Thomas Bennet, enabling him to retire to rank, connections and wealth. When he retires, though, things do not go exactly according to plan. Their long-awaited first season in London proves a disaster, and the resulting scandal sends the Bennets fleeing to the wilds of Derbyshire.

Widower Fitzwilliam Darcy, the master of Pemberley, wants for nothing, most especially not a wife. From the moment the Bennets arrive in Derbyshire, Darcy’s neatly ordered life turns upside down. His sons beg to keep company with their new playmates, the young Bennet twins. His mother-in-law sets her cap for Admiral Bennet. Worst of all, Darcy cannot get his mind off a certain bewitching Miss Elizabeth Bennet, but she has sworn never to let another gentleman near her heart. 

Darcy’s best efforts to befriend and assist the Bennet family go horribly awry, alienating first Miss Elizabeth, then her father, and finally endangering what both men hold most dear. Can the two men Elizabeth loves most set aside their pride to prevent catastrophe for their families and win the love they seek?

Here’s a brief excerpt of the book:

“Are we almost there?” Francis Bennet clambered over his father’s lap and smashed his nose against the side glass. “You said we would arrive before supper. I’m hungry.”
Elizabeth stretched across the coach to grab his arm, but he squirmed out of her reach. It was high time Francis learned not to speak every thought that crossed his mind.
“No ‘Lisbet! I want to see!” He bounced on his father’s knee.
Admiral Thomas Bennet grimaced and seized him around the ribs, lifting him off his lap.
“Come here.” Jane caught his elbow and pulled him toward her. “You know Papa’s leg pains him.”
He bowed his head and scraped his feet. “I am sorry, Papa.”
Papa lost his officer’s glare and ruffled the boy’s hair.
Francis lurched toward Jane, stumbled and fell into his identical twin’s shoulder. “Oh, oh! I see it, I see it!”
“Look, Papa.” Philip tapped the glass. “See the gables and look—look, there’s the turret, just as you described. Might that room be ours, Papa?”
“We shall see.” He kneaded his thigh.
Philip flattened himself against his father’s side, making room for Francis near the side glass. “It is just as grand as Papa said. Isn’t it, Jane?”
“Why not sit beside Jane so you can get a better view?” Papa gave Philip a gentle push toward the opposite seat.
Jane settled him beside her and draped her arm around him.
“I think it horrid.” Francis tossed his curls and stamped. “Why did we have to leave Longbourn? I liked it there. You said we would not have to move again.” He stuck out his bottom lip.
“That is enough!” Elizabeth hissed.
Papa’s brows knotted, and he ground his teeth.
One day Francis would learn the meaning of that expression and be far more careful about provoking it.
“We left because my nip farthing, ninnyhammer brother, Collins, insisted on installing his worthless son and his French wife-in-water-colors there.”
“He wanted to bring a painting to Longbourn?” Philip huddled close to Jane. Papa’s ire always upset him, poor boy. “Mightn’t we have stayed and let him hang the painting?”
“It is a little more complicated than that, dear,” Jane said.
“Bloody, rank, white livered …”
Elizabeth caught his eye. Philip would soon ask what all those words meant and she was not about to explain mistresses and other manly things to him. Papa could have that conversation all to himself.
Papa wrinkled his nose. “An honorable man would have given us more than a month to vacate.”
Elizabeth laid her hand on his arm. “Let it go. You always say a man should be captain of his own ship. Now that Alston Hall is yours, you are master. You were never happy at Longbourn with the specter of our uncle looming over you.”
“My voice of reason.” He patted her hand, scowl softening. “Using my own words against me, no less, clever lass.”
“I still think—”
“Francis!” Jane and Elizabeth cried.
The coach slowed as it trundled up the gravel lane. The looming, dark windows in the pale stone elevation dared them to approach.
“Let us see if she floats.” Admiral Bennet pushed the door open before the coach came to a complete stop.
He jumped down, grimaced and clutched his knee. The boys bounded after him. Jane and Elizabeth waited for the coach to come to a proper halt. By that time though, Papa was long gone. After so protracted a journey, one could by no means expect patience from him.
Papa’s man, Piper, shambled over from the other coach and  handed them out. Frightening scars puckered the old sailor-come-valet’s face and his eye patch lent him a menacing air, one he cultivated at every opportunity. All the Bennets knew better, though. He had been with Admiral Bennet for as long as the girls could remember. The two men had saved each other’s lives so many times neither kept count.
Mrs. Hill, their longtime housekeeper, and Miss Iola Wexley, the boys’ long-suffering governess, joined them at the front door.
“Permission to come aboard, Cap’n?” Piper saluted and squeezed his good eye shut, drawing his cheek and lip into something resembling a snarl.
The boys saluted. “Permission, Papa?”
“Permission granted.” Papa twisted the key in the lock and wrenched the doorknob. The hinges squealed their protests and the door inched open. He took his sons’ hands and stepped over the threshold. The rest followed.
Elizabeth sniffed the stale air, musty and dusty as a well-traveled sea chest. Jane sneezed. Twice.
“At least they kept the furniture properly covered,” Mrs. Hill muttered. “I best go find the kitchen.” She trundled off.
Elizabeth bit back a giggle. Only Mrs. Hill dared wander away without awaiting the Admiral’s orders. He gave her a wider berth than even Piper. Not even he had cheek enough to raise the sturdy woman’s ire.
“Miss Wexley, survey the servants’ rooms.” He turned to Piper. “Take the boys and reconnoiter the east wing. Perhaps you can find a school room and nursery.”
The twins moaned and sputtered incomplete protests that they dare not give full voice lest Papa find it necessary to correct their attitudes.
“Yes, sir.” Piper saluted.
Francis and Philip mimicked him and followed him upstairs.
Elizabeth cleared her throat.
“Ah, Lizzy, do not say it. Go look through the house first. You and Jane take the west wing whilst I survey downstairs. I am certain you will yet find the manor meets your standards.”
“Yes, Papa.” Elizabeth trudged toward the stairs, Jane at her side.
“It is a lovely house, is it not?” Jane whispered.
“The architecture is beautiful, I fully grant you.” Elizabeth clutched the banister in one hand and her skirts in the other. “Mahogany and paper hangings are lovely, dust and disrepair are not.”
“The roof and the windows appear sound,” Jane offered in her plucky, trying-to-make-the-best-of-it-voice.
“A fine beginning, indeed.” Elizabeth landed her foot on the final step a little harder than strictly necessary. “If you are correct, I am grateful. Still, I hope for more than just roof and windows.”
The hall stretched on and on and disappeared into the horizon. A chill wind whistled and moaned past them.
“My goodness.” Jane rubbed her arms. “This is a grand place, indeed.”
Elizabeth shrugged and yanked the first door. “These look like family quarters.” She pulled the dusty sheets off the press and jerked open a drawer. A moth flew out as she tugged out a crumpled sheet. “Badly folded and musty.” Her nose wrinkled and she fought not to sneeze. “Everything must be washed before it can be used. Much will need mending too.”
Jane jerked back the bed’s dust covers to reveal an elegantly carved frame. “How lovely.” She sat down.
The mattress caved in and swallowed her.
Elizabeth wrestled her away from the hungry featherbed. “That needs work, too.”
“Perhaps we should rig some hammocks from the bed posts.” Jane held the musty sheet between the bedposts.
“No doubt Piper still sleeps in one.” Elizabeth beckoned Jane to the next room.
Half an hour later they met Papa in the foyer.
“I found neither coal nor firewood,” Mrs. Hill screwed her lips into her smile-so-she-did-not-frown expression that Elizabeth assiduously avoided, “and if you be askin’ me, it be far too early in the spring to be without the option of a good fire. Not to mention, I expect you will be demanding proper meals from time to time, and fire be required for that effort, too.”
“No bedroom is fit to sleep in right now.” Elizabeth crossed her arms and leveled a stern gaze at Papa. “We must take Mr. Darcy up on his offer—”
“No, I will arrange rooms at the Bull in Lambton where I stayed when I came to see the place in—”
“What of the fire? Mr. Darcy said repairs to the inn were not complete.” Jane tapped her foot softly on the dusty marble floor.
“I do not like it.”
“You do not have to.” Elizabeth set her jaw.
He harrumphed. “I suppose we have little choice but to impose on our neighbor’s hospitality. I will send Piper to warn them.”
“It is good of you to do so, but I have no doubt we are already expected,” Elizabeth murmured.
Happily, Papa did not appear to have heard.
A quarter hour later, two carriages trundled toward Pemberley.

Buy links for the book:

Paperback will be available soon

Author Bio:

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

She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, sown six Regency era costumes, written seven Regency-era fiction projects, and designed eight websites. To round out the list, she cooks for nine in order to accommodate the growing boys and usually makes ten meals at a time so she only cooks twice a month.
Maria can be contacted at:
On Amazon.com:
Random Bits of Fascination (http://RandomBitsofFascination.com)
Austen Variations (http://AustenVariations.com)
English Historical Fiction Authors
White Soup Press (http://whitesouppress.com/)
On Twitter @WriteMariaGrace

Thank you for visiting again, Maria. Last time you were my guest we played the 10 Things Game. It was such fun too. For those of you that may not have seen the post, click on the link above left to read it. It shares 10 things that you may not know about your favorite literary characters. Fitzwilliam Darcy was the first one!  Okay, now back to this post...I found the information you revealed about the navy to be very informative and interesting. The excerpt was great and I cannot wait to have a little time to read the book! 

Giveaway time!!! Maria Grace is giving away one eBook to a lucky winner and the giveaway is international! YAY! Thank you Maria. We want to hear your share in the conversation so leave a comment to be entered in the giveawayBe sure to include your email address in the comment. To prevent unwanted spam, put your email address with an (at) instead of @. Winners will be chosen in a random drawing. Giveaway ends at midnight on August 7, 2014. Good luck to all.