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Last month, I read and reviewed Cheryl Wilder’s new poetry collection, Anything That Happens (click the link to read my thoughts), and I’m delighted to have her as a guest today. Cheryl is here to read a poem from the collection and share her inspiration. Please give her a warm welcome!


Inspiration for “As We Believe”

I worked for North Carolina architect Ligon Flynn (1931-2010) from 2007-2009. Ligon was at the end of his career, and my job was to help him write his architectural philosophy. But, the ideas expanded, and the project became more in-depth. At the same time, I went to graduate school at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Poetry and architecture became my passion.

Ligon’s architecture firm was a large open workspace. I listened to the sounds of design: shuffling of blueprints, tapping on keyboards, squeaking of chairs—the “work” of art and engineering. My workspace was full of books. I was studying architectural space, beginning with the first Ziggurat in Mesopotamia. It got me thinking about human evolution. We became emotional animals that are vulnerable in ways other animals aren’t. That’s how the poem starts:

                                    I’m hunched over, hairless,

                                    nails short, teeth dull,

                                    a delicate creature 

                                    in work boots—

The delicate creature—the artist—needs protection. The work boots allow her to begin working. And the first thing she does is compare her body to that of a building—her self compared to her art. The poem then moves into the work of the artist and architect, excavating and exploring, making something out of nothing.

The penultimate stanza introduces “God’s Architect,” Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926). When Gaudí was alive, his contemporaries gave him that nickname. Gaudí believed he was serving God through architecture. He was deeply devoted to his last project, La Sagrada Familia.

Gaudí’s death fascinated me as much as his architecture. He was on his daily walk to the Saint Felip Neri church for prayer. A tram hit him, and he lost consciousness. The famed and beloved architect, having devoted day and night to his work, looked haggard. People who walked by him on the street thought he was a beggar and didn’t stop to help. By the time he was recognized and brought to the hospital, it was too late.

Artists are relatively unrecognizable. What the public sees and knows is the art. Most artists prefer it this way. At the same time, Gaudí’s story highlights the solitary nature of being an artist. I knew this from my own experience. I also witnessed it in Ligon’s firm—everyone working quietly on their own.

So, what do we believe in? How do we spend our time? What will we leave behind? (Gaudí believed his architecture served a greater purpose. He knew his “soft tissue” wouldn’t outlast a “load-bearing wall.”) None of the questions are new. And an artist is confronted with them at some point. Some struggle with it throughout their lives, a nagging voice in their heads, “Is all the work worth it?”


For more about the book and to follow the blog tour, visit Poetic Book Tours.

Thank you, Cheryl, for being my guest today and sharing a poem with my readers!

Hello, friends! I have the pleasure of introducing you to Hunter Quinn today, who is celebrating the release of her new Pride and Prejudice variation, The Predisposition of Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Hunter is here to talk a little about the book and share an excerpt. Please give her a warm welcome!


Thank you, Anna, for hosting me! I am so excited to be here. 🙂

I am at the halfway point of my blog tour, and I wanted to take this opportunity to give a little context to the how, why, when and what of my debut novel—The Predisposition of Miss Elizabeth Bennet.

You’ll currently find me in the same position I adopted and found to be the most favorable way to write: my ginger tomcat purring away on my feet, a pot of tea steeping beside me, and chocolate biscuits nearby.

As a teen I discovered the allure of Mr. Darcy. When all my friends were ‘crushing’ over pop stars and reading girly magazines, I was in love with Mr. Darcy and Colonel Brandon—always carrying around my worn copies of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility (my staunch favorites and faithful companions). It didn’t take long for me to read everything written by Jane Austen and then become obsessed with the Georgian & Regency eras with a view towards writing my own. I was forever jotting down ideas but never finding the time to commit to writing and exploring a narrative.

During Christmas of 2019, my family and I were sitting and watching the BBC 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (a family tradition). I had joked, “If it were me, I probably would not have read his letter!”

And right there I became inspired to finally start writing. There were so many possible consequences to Elizabeth’s not receiving Mr. Darcy’s letter that I lost hours tapping away at my keyboard. And what if Lydia should still run off with Wickham? Would she then blame Mr. Darcy for Wickham’s life and character turning out badly?

There were many, many versions, and I kept changing my mind on certain things; however, both the beginning and end of my book did not change from my first imaginings. I actually wrote the ending first and worked backwards.

I hadn’t thought I would ever be published, but I did want to share my work. At some point, I discovered fan-fiction sites and shared a few chapters, and the response I got was overwhelming, filling me with the confidence to actually give in to my ambitions and just go for it! And after a year’s supply of tea and biscuits were consumed, I finished my first novel!

Now on to the good stuff! I have another excerpt to share with you. 🙂 In this next passage, we learn of new contributing factors that have impelled Elizabeth to Darcy’s door at such an improper hour…

Thank you for stopping by and I hope you enjoy this next installment.


“Is this absolutely certain?” asked Darcy after she had finished recounting the tale.

Elizabeth nodded jerkily. “Yes, sir. It has been confirmed by Colonel Forster and his wife. With your consent, I would like to return with my uncle Gardiner to discuss this more fully and, hopefully, with your guidance—”

Darcy interrupted with a frown. “Why would you accompany your uncle?”

“I do not understand.”

“Is not Mr Bennet trying to recover Miss Lydia?”

“M-my father…” Elizabeth took a deep breath before continuing. “Only a few hours ago, my father suffered a health crisis involving his heart.”

Mr Darcy released a curse under his breath and ran his fingers roughly through his hair. I have treated her abominably, he thought as he looked at her tear-rimmed eyes.

“I am so sorry, Miss Elizabeth. What is his prognosis?” He felt genuine concern for her and her family although she likely thought him incapable of such sentiments.

“I am not sure. I…the doctor prescribed rest but said his heart is in a weakened state.”

His sincerity and kindness seemed to catch her off guard. Burying her face in her hands, Elizabeth wept quietly.

Darcy felt completely helpless. All the anger he had harboured against her disappeared in an instant, and his fury now shifted to Wickham for causing her this pain. She looked so small and fragile as she swiped at her tears. He wanted nothing more than to hold her, comfort her, and offer sympathy, for he knew first-hand the pain that came with a parent’s uncertain prognosis.

He knew then that he would help her. He would make this right. He would bring that sparkle back into her eyes—the same eyes that had captured him and haunted his dreams for so many months. He suddenly felt as if all the breath had been knocked out of him. How could it be that, after the torment he had borne for so long, he still wanted her? Lord, help me.

“I shall see your uncle later today—this afternoon if that is agreeable?” Darcy leaned towards her and moved to clasp her hands within his own, but then he thought better of it and quickly pulled back before she could perceive the awkward gesture.

She looked up with tear-stained eyes and said in disbelief, “Sir, I…I…but…truly?”

“Yes. Would it be acceptable for me to see Mr Gardiner at his home? I shall be out for most of the morning, attending to some business, but I should be able to call early in the afternoon.”

“That would be most agreeable, Mr Darcy. Thank you.” She looked up at him in astonishment and—was that hope? He could see that she was valiantly trying to compose herself. Needing to be of use, he fetched her a glass of water.

“Please…I shall do what I can to help any family that has fallen victim to Mr Wickham,” he said as she took a few sips from the glass he placed in her hands. She looked at him again and bit her lower lip. That gesture was so endearing, and at that moment he knew he was in danger of taking her into his arms and never letting her go. Before he completely lost control, he stood and rang for his butler.

“Jarvis will see you out, Miss Elizabeth. Good day,” he said with a small bow.

He needed to sober up and gain some distance from Elizabeth so he could think clearly about finding Wickham. It seemed as if this disease of a man was determined to plague him for the rest of his days!

***

It took Elizabeth a moment to register his words of dismissal. Shakily rising to her feet, she placed her glass on a side table and self-consciously smoothed her skirt before walking to the door. She felt dejected and troubled by this abrupt parting. Mr Darcy had changed so suddenly, once again becoming inscrutable and emotionless, as if this were a mere business transaction. Indeed, what else was there to say? His shifting moods unsettled her, but she had achieved her goal: he had agreed to help them.

Elizabeth, who had been awake now for almost twenty-four hours, wished she could just snap her fingers and find herself ensconced in her bed. Once she had slept, she was sure to feel much better and—

“Miss Elizabeth,” Mr Darcy said, cutting through her foggy thoughts. She turned sharply, and her nose collided directly with the solid wall of his chest.

Elizabeth let out a small cry, and at the same time, Mr Darcy’s hands grasped her shoulders so she would not fall. She looked up at first in confusion, but then she saw a look of horror spread across his features.


About The Predisposition of Miss Elizabeth Bennet

An insulting proposal without an explanatory letter…how can they possibly reconcile?

When her sister Lydia elopes without a trace, Elizabeth Bennet must put aside her predisposition against Mr. Darcy—the man whose hand she refused months earlier—and plead for his assistance in locating the wayward couple. As a result, they face daunting hurdles with help from well-loved friends and interference from old rivals. Will their struggles result in permanent estrangement or a love match?

Buy on Amazon U.S. | Amazon U.K.


About the Author

Hunter Quinn is a British writer, residing in the southwest of England. She is an avid reader, no doubt due to the influence of her mother, an English classics’ professor and lecturer. 

Having grown up a stone’s throw from Bath and always surrounded by the words of literary greats, Hunter first discovered Jane Austen at a young age. But it was the ubiquitous scene where Mr. Darcy—portrayed by Colin Firth (a moment of silence and applause)—first emerged from the lake in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice that cemented her love for Jane Austen and the regency romance genre of spirited damsels, dashing gentleman, and glittering ballrooms. Afterwards, Hunter walked through life daydreaming and writing ‘what if’ scenarios between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy but never had the courage to share them.  Once the lockdown went into effect, Hunter took the plunge and began sharing her first novel on well-known JAFF sites. The praise and interest of readers gave her the confidence to submit The Predisposition of Miss Elizabeth Bennet to Meryton Press Publishing…and the rest is history!

Connect with Hunter on Facebook


Giveaway

Meryton Press is generously offering an ebook copy of The Predisposition of Miss Elizabeth Bennet to one lucky reader, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, April 25, 2021. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!


Thank you, Hunter, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new book!

Hello, friends! I’m delighted to welcome Christine Combe to the blog for the first time today to celebrate the upcoming release of her latest novel, Choice and Consequence, a Pride and Prejudice variation. Christine is here today to share an excerpt from the novel. Please give her a warm welcome!


Greetings, fellow Austenians! I’m so excited to be visiting Diary of an Eccentric today to talk about my upcoming release Choice and Consequence, the second book in my What Might Have Been series.

The timeline of this book starts at near the same point as the original. But instead of meeting at the Meryton assembly, Elizabeth and Darcy first meet accidentally at Oakham Mount one morning and have a brief but pleasant conversation. And although each was intrigued by the other, they don’t meet again until the assembly—where Elizabeth overhears Darcy make that unkind remark about her. He means it only as a joke to stop Bingley teasing him about his interest in the second Bennet daughter, and is able to apologize the next day after rescuing Elizabeth during a thunderstorm. After a heart-to-heart about all the reasons they shouldn’t become attached, they choose to be friends…but neither discounts the possibility of something more.

Just when they are compelled to admit their feelings for one another have grown, Darcy is drawn from her side by the need for answers regarding Wickham. Elizabeth is relieved at his quick return, though when he is again called away to tend to his sister, she finds he has asked her father for permission to write to her…

On their return to Longbourn, Mr. Bennet called her into his book room. Elizabeth went in suspecting she knew already what—or rather, whom—he wished to discuss.

When her father had sat behind his desk, he looked up at her with a steady gaze. “Did you not tell me, when I asked you on Saturday evening, that you and Mr. Darcy were only friends?”

She drew a breath to steady her nerves, and forced herself to hold his gaze. “I own, Papa, that I was not entirely honest, and I ask your forgiveness. Given what had transpired, I was not of a mind to hear you caution me against him, as I feared you would do. He…he has asked if may court me.”

“And you like him? I cannot imagine it possible; we all know he is a rather proud and disagreeable fellow.”

Elizabeth shook her head. “Oh no, Papa! Mr. Darcy is merely anxious in large, unfamiliar company, and disguises his nerves with aloofness and cold civility,” she said. “For him it is easier to appear proud and above his company than to make an effort to converse with strangers in whose concerns he cannot feign knowledge or interest.”

Mr. Bennet chuckled. “Never did I imagine hearing such a man as he described so.”

She smiled. “When one is able to look past the façade of austere indifference for long enough to engage him in conversation, he can be very amiable.”

Her father nodded. “Having put forth the effort a time or two, I am well aware that the young man does know how to partake of a conversation.”

Mr. Bennet then drew a breath. “He has asked me if he may write to you while he is away.”

Elizabeth thought this an almost redundant request, given he hoped to visit her weekly. Still, she replied, “I should like to correspond with Mr. Darcy. It ought to make the time we must spend apart less difficult to bear.”

Mr. Bennet stared at her for a moment, then chuckled. “You really do like this young man,” said he. “There truly must be something worthy in him then, for I know you would not risk your heart for a man that did not deserve you.”

Elizabeth grinned. “No indeed, Papa.”

“Very well. Off you go now. I did tell your young man I would allow it if you agreed, so you may wish to send him some note and tell him so before the hour grows too late.”

When she had stood, Elizabeth came around the desk and bent to kiss her father’s cheek. “Thank you, Papa.”

Knowing that she had little time to spare before it would be too impolite an hour to send a note, she took her father’s advice and quickly penned one, then sent it off with a footman. She then sat up with her sisters talking for a short while, and had just finished readying for bed when the footman returned with a reply, brought to her by Mrs. Hill.

My dear Elizabeth,

I am so very pleased to have received your note. Knowing that I may write to you shall sustain me all the days I am forced to be away from your side. I would come see you in the morning before I take my leave of Hertfordshire yet again, but I know it would be unwise, for if I do I will surely not go at all.

Does this make me sound the fool? If it does, I care not. All I care for now is seeing my sister well again and returning to you as soon as I am able. Do take care, and may God bless you.

Yours,

Fitzwilliam Darcy

After reading through the short missive a second time, smiling all the while, Elizabeth tucked it away in the drawer of her nightstand, then slipped under the counterpane and drifted off to a blissful slumber.

Well, they may have to spend time apart, but at least they’ll be able to write—and maybe say things to one another a little too difficult to say face to face. I’d like to say thanks once again to Anna for hosting me today. Choice and Consequence is available for pre-order on Amazon and will release May 5th!


Follow Christine: Facebook | Amazon Author Page


Thank you, Christine, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new book!

Hello, friends! I’m happy to welcome Kathy Davis to the blog today to celebrate the release of her poetry collection, Passiflora. Kathy is here today to share a poem from the collection and its inspiration. Please give her a warm welcome!


Snapped

Her daughters shocked

to a splay-footed

standstill,

hair bows askew,

ears cocked as if wary

of what’s happening

behind them. 1914

and the family fruitcake

recipe says:

blanche the almonds,

shell pecans,

crystallize the cherries,

then call a man

to stir the heavy batter.

But they are too full

of four- and six-year-old

giggles and squirms

to pose pretty and smile

for their mama

who has finally snapped,

Turn around

and face the bushes!

and is taking a picture

of the backs

of their new white

summer Sunday dresses,

of the rows of tiny bone

buttons scavenged

from an old blouse,

the flounces crocheted

by kerosene light,

the cropped sleeves

trimmed with lace bartered

from the pack-peddler

for a skillet supper

and a spare bed. No

running water, electricity,

phones or paved roads; no

self-timer to unchain her

from the tripod; no

click and share,

but one snapshot

and generations of us

see: This is a woman

who could wield a needle.


“Snapped” is about a photograph I found among my mother’s things after she died. I had no idea who the two little girls were, why they were standing with their backs to the camera, or who took the picture. It was a puzzle until I came across a handwritten reminiscence about family by my great-aunt Agnes, as well as a copy of an article about I. George the pack peddler that she wrote when she was 92 for a local magazine.

Agnes is the older girl in the picture and my grandmother, Etta, is the younger one. The photograph was taken by my great-grandmother who apparently tended to dress these two alike. I loved the story of her determination to at least capture a record of her handiwork if she couldn’t, at that moment, get a good picture of two of her youngest girls. She was a schoolteacher and at 27 considered an “old maid” when she married my great-grandfather. He was a 44-year-old farmer and widower with only one arm and six children. They had five more children together. Living in rural Mississippi in the early 20th century meant the pack peddler and repurposing what was already had on hand were Great-Grandma Emma’s main sources for sewing supplies. Given all she had on her plate raising eleven children, I was so inspired when I learned she was such an accomplished seamstress and took pride in it.

The family fruitcake recipe with the direction to ask a man to stir the heavy batter also was something I found among my mother’s papers. It came from a different family member who was of the same generation as my great-grandmother and offered a good example of how women were viewed at the time, despite their daily accomplishments.

Finding out the story behind the photograph reinforced that I stand on the shoulders of a long line of determined and resourceful women. Agnes put herself through college and later farmed alongside her husband. My grandma Etta became a nurse in the 1920s over her older brothers’ objection that “only bad girls went to nursing school.” (Her father settled the matter in her favor saying he “knew as many bad girls who were teachers as nurses” and that you could be what you were regardless of what you did.) My mother and her sister also became nurses. All provide inspiration and, for me, that legacy is what “Snapped” celebrates.


About Passiflora

Advance Praise:

“In this gorgeous debut collection, Kathy Davis announces, ‘I’ve no illusions of control’—yet even as this book celebrates profusion, it manifests aesthetic control, unsentimental intelligence, and tightly leashed feeling. In fields of fleabane and wiregrass, women are taught to suppress their own wildness but burst out anyway in appetite and laughter. Cancer grows inside, jasmine tangles outside, yet this ecopoetic book cultivates restoration and consolation. Reading it is to imagine healing.” —Lesley Wheeler, author of The State She’s In

“Kathy Davis’ poems may begin in the domestic, but almost invariably end in a place that is startling, unfamiliar, and quietly estranging. And, thanks to the exactitude of her style, these transformations never seem less than inevitable. Hers is a voice of unobtrusive confidence, whether she is fashioning wry character studies or stern self-reckonings. These are haunting, bittersweet, and slyly consoling poems. Passiflora is a debut collection of the very first order.” —David Wojahn, author of for the scribe, World Tree and Interrogation Palace

“Intelligence, in its best meanings. The radiant presence of an informed and informing sensibility. An authentic voice with plenty of attitude. We hunger for these characteristics in our engagements with all the arts and hope for nothing less in what we’re willing to call poetry. In Passiflora we encounter the attentive eye of a passionate naturalist in poems that bring light and color—along with ironies and pain—into realizations of human lives reflected and rooted in the eruptions of wild life: the seeds, plants, animals, and landscapes that are the foundations of survival and the potent wellsprings of wisdom and joy. Kathy Davis weaves the most sophisticated, intimate variety of braided poem, as in the consummately crafted ‘For My Son’s Birth Mother,’ an invitation to the vivid observations of a woman walking through a San Diego art exhibit in a poem that subtly yet poignantly reveals the inescapable undercurrent in her thoughts—the intensities of caring for an adopted child. Davis brings to her revelations a kind of taste and judgment that is not about regulation or limitation, but about courage and respect. In these devotional poems, the erotics of the human body are intertwined with the perfumes of flowers and healing herbs in a collection whose every page brings an awakening, an expansion of experience, acutely satisfying a yearning of which we had been unaware.” —Gregory Donovan, author of Torn from the Sun and Founding Editor, Blackbird: an online journal of literature and the arts.

Available at Cider Press Review and Amazon


About the Author

Kathy Davis is a poet and nonfiction writer from Richmond, VA. She is also the author of the chapbook Holding for the Farrier (Finishing Line Press). Her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Barrow Street, Blackbird, The Hudson Review, Nashville Review, Oxford American, The Southern Review, storySouth and other journals. Davis holds a BA and MBA from Vanderbilt University and an MFA in creative writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and been a finalist for Best of the Net and the Conger Beasley Jr. Award for Nonfiction.


For more about the book and to follow the blog tour, visit Poetic Book Tours.

Thank you, Kathy, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new book!

Source: Review copy from author

Book Blurb:

At the age of twenty, Cheryl Wilder got behind the wheel when she was too drunk to drive. She emerged from the car physically whole. Her passenger, a close friend, woke up from a coma four months later with a life-changing brain injury. Anything That Happens follows her journey from a young adult consumed by shame and self-hatred to a woman she can live with…and even respect. Along the way, Wilder marries, has a son, divorces, and cares for her dying mother. Anything That Happens examines what it takes to reconcile a past marked by a grave mistake, a present as caregiver to many, and a future that stretches into one long second chance.

A debut poetry collection that examines how to reconcile a past grave mistake and a future that stretches into one long second chance. Cover art, “In bloom” by Coleen Tagnolli.


I am two people now —

the before and the after; one I’ve already

forgotten the other I have not met.

(from “Bailed Out”)

What is

left but a future where I am not worth saving.

(from “For What It’s Worth”)


My thoughts:

Cheryl Wilder’s poetry collection, Anything That Happens, is a poetic memoir that details a drunk driving accident that leaves a friend with brain damage and all that guilt and blame that accompanies it. The poems make you ask: How does one come to terms with a bad decision with life-changing consequences? How does one move on from that and live a full life when burdened by questions about what they deserve? And is it wrong to find love and have a child, and how does guilt affect those relationships?

Wilder also delves deep into the emotional turmoil of being abandoned by her father and the weight of caring for a dying parent. These poems are heavy, they are hard to read, but at the same time, they pull you in and make you think. There is something real in these poems, in Wilder’s search for “home,” something that is both haunting and cathartic.

Anything That Happens prompts you to remember a time in your own life when you were young and foolishly believed, like Wilder says in the title poem, that “anything wouldn’t happen to me.” Maybe that “anything” is a traumatic crash that leaves you questioning how much guilt one should shoulder for an “accident.” Maybe your “anything” is a lot less devastating, but still it is the turning point, where there is only “the before and the after.” That is what Wilder explores in these poems, bravely sharing her story and laying bare the conflicting emotions of getting a second chance.


For more about the book and to follow the blog tour, visit Poetic Book Tours.

Hello, friends! I’m thrilled to welcome Kara Pleasants to the blog today to celebrate the release of her new Pride and Prejudice variation, The Unread Letter. Kara is here to talk about the setting for the novella: Brighton. Please give her a warm welcome!


Thank you so much, Anna, for welcoming me to your blog to share more about my novella “The Unread Letter.”

The premise of the novella is that Elizabeth never reads Mr. Darcy’s letter, which leads her to make different decisions than in our beloved Pride and Prejudice. In this “what if” path, the Bennets travel together to Brighton. Elizabeth, being the lover of nature that she is, of course explores the seaside and surrounding area.

As a child, I had visited Brighton while on a family trip and held what I thought were accurate memories about the trip to that beach. I remembered a beach and the waves, tall white cliffs off in the distance, a long pier with a mini-roller coaster, and a grand and ornate building that I now know to be the Royal Pavilion.

In the first drafts of The Unread Letter, I included some of these fuzzy memories in my descriptions of the place—Brighton had a sandy beach and when Elizabeth stood on it, she could see the white cliffs. My first clue that my memories were not accurate came during a first read-through by my publisher, who noted: the beach at Brighton is rocky, not sandy.

Feeling rather dismayed that my memory had so betrayed me, that correction led to a flurry of online research. Now an adult, stuck at home in Maryland during the pandemic lockdown, I explored the city of Brighton through blogs, official websites, pictures, and Youtube videos over the course of several days (perhaps even weeks). But, I still found that this wasn’t sufficient. I texted my mother, peppering her with questions about our trip. Did we actually see the Seven Sisters? Could you see any cliffs from Brighton beach? Did I even ride a roller coaster?

My mother’s clever response was to point me in the direction of my Uncle Bob: the Brit who became a member of our family when he married my Aunt Sue. In fact, the whole reason I had visited Brighton in the first place was because we travelled there for his son Robert’s christening (my cousin, Robert). This trip was an incredible experience, where we traveled to London and Buckingham Palace, and all the way as far north as York, where we saw a beautiful cathedral. A highlight of the trip was visiting Jane Austen’s house in Chawton (an incredible thrill for a 12-year-old Austen nerd!).

Realizing that I needed information from the source, I called Uncle Bob to interview him about Brighton. I discovered that he had, in fact, lived in Brighton for several years as a young man and attended university there. Not only that, but his mother lived in Seaford (a village I had been researching for the novella), and that was where we had stayed with some of his family friends for the christening.

In just an hour, Uncle Bob was able to clarify key concepts about the English landscape for me in a way that reading and pictures and videos just couldn’t. He explained, for example, that English place names are descriptive. The ending -combe indicated that the location was at the top of a hill. This lined up exactly with a place Elizabeth visits in the novella called Saddlescombe, where they also picnic at the top of Newtimber Hill. Whereas the ending -dean indicated a dip between hills, with towns like Saltdean and Rottingdean surrounding Brighton because of the way the hills go up and down along the coast.

He clarified that the Weald means the woods, whereas the Downs mean hills. He described the way the pebbles along Brighton beach went from larger rocks to finer pebbles, an element I worked into my descriptions. He also told me an old family legend about the origins of largest dry valley in England, the Devil’s Dyke—which I received permission to use in The Unread Letter.

When I asked him about the Seven Sisters, he confirmed that we had, indeed, visited the white cliffs—just not on the same day as the time we went to Brighton beach. Still, he told me that if you walked up the beach towards the Brighton Marina, at the east end of Bright Beach there you could discern some low white cliffs. And, to my delight, he also confirmed that I hadn’t imagined the roller coaster: we really had taken a ride on the Brighton Pier!

The experience not only allowed me to connect again with my uncle, whom I have not been able to see much since the pandemic, but to reexamine my own conceptions of memory and time to discover how much of memory is constructed. I also learned, again, the value and beauty of a human conversation. I am so grateful for our conversation, and hope that it makes the book feel real and present–so that we can all travel, for a moment, to the Brighton sea.


About The Unread Letter

For every one of his smiles, she thought of his letter and blushed with shame of what she had done. Oh, that she might have just looked at it!

After rejecting Mr Darcy’s proposal at Hunsford, Elizabeth Bennet is surprised when he finds her walking the next day and hands her a letter. Without any expectation of pleasure—but with the strongest curiosity—she begins to open the letter, fully intending to read it.

It really was an accident—at first. Her shaking hands broke the seal and somehow tore the pages in two. Oh, what pleasure she then felt in tearing the pages again and again! A glorious release of anger and indignation directed towards the man who had insulted her and courted her in the same breath. She did feel remorse, but what could she do? The letter was destroyed, and Elizabeth expected that she would never see Mr Darcy again.

Home at Longbourn, she discovers that her youngest sisters are consumed by a scheme to go to Brighton—and Elizabeth finds herself drawn to the idea of a visit to the sea. But the surprises of Brighton are many, beginning with a chance meeting on the beach and ending in unexpected romance all around.

Buy on Amazon


About the Author

Kara Pleasants lives in a lovely hamlet called Darlington in Maryland, where she and her husband are restoring an 18th century farm in Susquehanna State Park. They have two beautiful and vivacious daughters, Nora and Lina. A Maryland native, Kara spent a great deal of her childhood travelling with her family, including six years living in Siberia, as well as five years in Montana, before finally making her way back home to attend the University of Maryland.

Kara is an English teacher and Department Chair at West Nottingham Academy. She has taught at the secondary and collegiate level at several different schools in Maryland. Her hobbies include: making scones for the farmer’s market, writing poetry, watching fantasy shows, making quilts, directing choir, and dreaming about writing an epic three-party fantasy series for her daughters.


Giveaway

Quills & Quartos is offering an ebook of The Unread Letter to one of my readers. To enter, simply leave a comment with your email address. Q&Q will choose the winners a week after the blog tour ends. The winners will be announced on the Q&Q Facebook and Instagram pages. Good luck!

Thank you, Kara, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new release!

Hello, friends! Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Jayne Bamber back to the blog, this time to celebrate the release of her latest Jane Austen-inspired novel, Five Daughters Out at Once. Jayne is here to talk a little about the book and share an excerpt. Jayne is also giving away 5 ebook copies as part of the blog tour, and you can enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here. Please give her a warm welcome!


Hello Dear Readers, it is a pleasure to be back at Diary of an Eccentric to share more details about my new release, Five Daughters Out At Once. This is my eighth novel, and like those that preceded it, it is a work of Austenesque fiction.

Available on Kindle April 7

This book opens with an alternative version of events to Pride & Prejudice – Mr. Bingley has not rented Netherfield, due to a pall cast on the village of Netherfield after several of its principal residents – including the Bennets and Sir William Lucas – suffer tragic ends. The Bennet sisters have been running Longbourn for two years before Mr. Collins turns up; though his own negligence has prevented him from coming sooner, he is quick to blame the Bennet girls for lingering at Longbourn, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh is just as quick to reprimand him for his villainy.

Lady Catherine will play a central role in this tale; when the Bennet sisters’ plans to open a school at Lucas Lodge are thwarted, she takes the five daughters under her care and rents Netherfield herself – much to her nephew Mr. Darcy’s dismay. From there our heroines will cross paths with gentlemen from across the realm of Austen’s works, but today’s excerpt features their first encounter with Jane Austen’s most odious marriage prospect, that living boiled potato known as Mr. Collins….


The new master of Longbourn clambered indecorously out of the carriage and clapped his hands as he stood beside Lady Catherine. “At last! Ah, what a fine prospect, is it not? Yes, very promising – my dear sister did not do it justice, I am sure she did not. It may not be as grand as Rosings Park, but I will say it does exceed my expectations. Indeed, I am sure it must be the foremost house in the neighborhood, how happily situated!” Mr. Collins proceeded to the house, his chest puffed out with self-importance; Lady Catherine followed in officious pursuit.

The young woman lingering near the front door, Miss Charlotte Lucas, seemed reluctant to lead them all inside, but soon capitulated and showed them into the study. The room was large and well lit by a pair of wide widows that looked out on a picturesque pastoral view beyond the estate’s front drive. It was also possessed of a decidedly feminine air, if a study could be feminine.  It was an overpowering testament to the domestic lives of the Bennet sisters: there were books piled haphazardly on nearly every free surface, titles ranging from gothic romance to Greek poetry to agrarian instruction. Various tea things were left about, mingling with vases of flowers obviously hand-picked from the garden, embroidered shawls draped over chairs worn from frequent use, and even a pair of delicate women’s slippers in front of the fireplace to Darcy’s far right. To the left, at the very back of the room, a wide oak desk was strewn with papers and open ledgers, and a bottle of ink very lately overturned, still seeping slowly across the disarray.

Darcy thought there was a certain charm to the chaos of the space – he was less comfortable with the human chaos currently unfolding there, for it was clear that the arrival of his companions had interrupted some family fracas. He exchanged a wary glance with Georgiana, who seemed also to feel the intrusion, but she made a subtle gesture to Lady Catherine; their aunt was already surveying the Bennet sisters with decided interest.

Miss Lucas managed to perform the introductions despite Mr. Collins talking over her throughout most of the process, addressing nobody in particular with loud and lengthy praise of the house; the young ladies looked bewildered that Mr. Collins should instantly carry on in such a way, and Darcy could scarcely bear the second-hand mortification. He turned away from the parson’s prattle and noticed that one of the sisters slowly edged away from the others – it was the most diminutive of the five, whose dark chestnut curls framed an expressive face rendered almost pretty by a pair of very fine eyes.

Though it was a warm summer day, she crouched down in the corner and began to light a fire, a task she performed with unexpected competency. As she stood and turned around, he noticed a small smudge of soot on her nose, which somehow added to the allure of her lovely, if asymmetrical countenance.

“Cousin Elizabeth, what an unseemly display, and in front of my noble friends,” Mr. Collins cried. “Surely a maid must be sent for – the estate can keep a maid for such purposes, I trust?”

Miss Elizabeth’s dark eyes flashed with annoyance. “I beg your pardon, sir. We were not prepared for such illustrious guests – usually such visitors send word of their coming in advance. As to whether the house can keep a maid, with such a master as this, I daresay –”

Miss Lucas cut her off, at once clearing her throat and seizing her friend by the wrist. “The maid left at the end of last month, along with a few other members of staff. I came today to bring Mrs. Hill some recommendations – but I suppose we must leave it to you, sir.” Miss Lucas was smiling brightly, moving incrementally closer to Mr. Collins as she spoke; Miss Elizabeth watched the exchange with stony curiosity, all the while drifting toward the desk at the back of the room.

“I should say so,” Mr. Collins said with a sneer. “I am sure I must see to it directly – though I am well pleased with the house in general, I should not despair of seeing everything cleaned and washed afresh.”

He might have said more, but Lady Catherine interjected. “And do you reside nearby, Miss Lucas?”

“Lucas Lodge is the neighboring estate – I am often looking in on my friends here.”

“And your parents? I hope they are attentive to the less fortunate in their community.”

Miss Lucas’s posture betrayed a modicum of pride in the great shock she delivered. “I live alone ma’am.”

Lady Catherine recoiled. “By yourself? Certainly not! You must have some guardian, or a companion of advanced years.”

“Not at all, your ladyship. Lucas Lodge is mine by law – there was no unfortunate entail – Heaven only knows what ghastly distant cousin might have emerged from obscurity to disoblige us all. My younger sister is married and resides in Devonshire, and my step-mother finds the coastal clime perfectly restorative to her ailing health.”

Mr. Collins, though not at all a clever man, seemed aware of the barb and began to sputter with indignation – Lady Catherine heard it with much more pleasure, for there was a distinct upturning of her lips as she proceeded to talk over Mr. Collins. “Yes, well, I daresay a little sea-bathing might set one up forever, but how could she leave you all alone? You poor child – an estate of your own! You might fall prey to any number of adventurers and fortune hunters.”

Miss Lucas smiled wryly. “At nearly eight-and-twenty I am not at all a child, ma’am, and you are quite welcome to direct any fortune hunters and adventurers of your acquaintance to my door.”

There was a snort of laughter from the back of the room. Miss Elizabeth froze, pressing her lips together. She was even lovelier than she had seemed upon first notice, wearing such a look of mirth. Her attitude signaled some little secrecy; Darcy stared at her as she began rummaging through some items on the desk, and the eldest Miss Bennet soon moved to join her. She closed the worn red cover on one of the ledgers and slid it to Miss Elizabeth, who had reached for a packet of papers from the plain, quiet sister. With a significant look and subtle gesture, this packet was handed off to Miss Bennet, who hastily tucked into her spencer. The entire tableau was enacted silently, unnoticed by Lady Catherine and Mr. Collins, for Miss Lucas was positioned in such a way as to block their view. Darcy suspected this was by design, and slowly began to edge that way.

Miss Bennet softly coughed as Darcy approached – Miss Elizabeth swiftly scooped the red ledger into her arms and turned to offer Darcy a weak smile. She had moved too hastily – her right hand brushed the spilled ink, and the smear went from the end of her little finger up to her wrist. Darcy produced a handkerchief and offered it to her, but Miss Elizabeth hesitated. Her eyes dropped down to the ledger; she shifted it to her left arm, smearing more ink across her sleeve. Darcy took her right hand in his and dabbed at the ink smear with his handkerchief. He heard her draw in a sharp breath, and a moment later she set down the ledger and took the handkerchief from him, wiping at the ink herself. “Thank you,” she murmured, flexing the fingers of her stained right hand.

Mr. Darcy nodded, fidgeting with his own bare hand now; he picked up the red ledger from the desk and opened the cover. He had but a moment to peruse the figures before Miss Elizabeth abruptly cleared her throat and thrust the handkerchief back at him, her fingers curling around the top of the ledger. Her eyes darted away from his probing gaze and she cried out, “Charlotte! Are you quite well?”

Miss Lucas had been holding her own in the face of Lady Catherine’s inquisition up until now – Darcy rather thought she was enjoying the verbal assault; only when she looked back at Miss Elizabeth did her bearing change. “Forgive me, I begin to feel quite unwell.” Miss Lucas promptly swooned.

Darcy felt the ledger slide out of his grasp as he was obliged to catch the mischievous woman, who had managed to faint in his direction. Mr. Gardiner called out for the housekeeper to fetch some smelling salts, everyone else reacted with noisy solicitude, and for a few minutes, chaos prevailed. By the time Miss Lucas had roused and Darcy had extracted himself from the cluster, a glance back over his shoulder revealed Miss Elizabeth Bennet standing by the fireplace, stoking the flames.

I hope I have piqued your interest, dear readers – stay tuned for more excerpts and more chances to enter the giveaway!

Thank you, Jayne, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new release!

Hello, friends! I’m thrilled to have Monica Fairview as a guest again today, this time to celebrate the release of her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, Dangerous Magic. Monica is here to talk a little about weaving fantasy into Pride and Prejudice and to share an excerpt from the book. Please give her a warm welcome!


I’m thrilled to be visiting Anna’s blog again, and to be able to introduce my latest novel, DANGEROUS MAGIC, a Jane Austen magical variation.

I don’t know about you, but I spent a good part of my childhood watching fantasy Disney stories with enchanted Kingdoms, witches and wizards, and fairytale princesses. In those bewitching worlds, we don’t blink an eye at magic carpets or genies that pop out of magic lamps. Pumpkins become carriages, witches put curses on newborns, and frogs become princes. As we grow up, though, most of us tend to leave those worlds behind, and only return to them when a child enters our lives – a beloved niece, our own children or grandchildren. That is when we see things through a child’s eye again and rediscover the enchanting stories that we left behind.

As a long-time reader of fantasy, I’ve never completely left those stories behind, even if the novels I read now are much more complex. You could argue that writing about the past and Regency England is already entering a reality that only exists for us in the imagination. Writing itself is an act of shaping reality, of creating something that doesn’t exist. It’s a magical process that draws the reader and writer together to create a tapestry of the mind.  

But last year, I was particularly drawn to writing fantasty fiction when world events took a sudden turn for the worse. I buried myself in my writing and took refuge in a different reality, finding some solace in imagining our dear couple Elizabeth and Darcy living in a Regency England where magic is the norm. The result was DANGEROUS MAGIC, and I’m absolutely delighted to share the result with JAFF readers out there.

I’ve picked out a short excerpt for you to give you an idea of what the story is like. In this scene, preparations for Elizabeth and Darcy’s wedding are being set up, and, since it’s a forced marriage situation, Elizabeth wishes she could get out of it. However, even in this magical world, wishing for something doesn’t make it happen.

At this moment Mr. Darcy appeared.

“Miss Bennet.” He bowed to Elizabeth then turned to her father. “Mr. Bennet, I assume?” he said.

“Yes, and this is Mr. Darcy, Papa.”

The two gentlemen eyed each other, taking each other’s measure. Elizabeth had rarely seen her father looking so antagonistic.

Mr. Gardiner cleared his throat and stepped forward, and Elizabeth introduced him and Mrs. Gardiner.

Darcy bowed brusquely. “Shall we get on with the business at hand, gentlemen?”

He gestured with his hand and set off, with Mr. Bennet and Mr. Gardiner striding after him.

Mrs. Gardiner smiled affectionately at Elizabeth.

“So that’s your Mr. Darcy, is it? You could have done a lot worse, you know. Quite a handsome young gentleman.”

“You can’t judge a book by its cover,” said Elizabeth, dryly. 

Mrs. Gardiner put her arm around Elizabeth’s shoulder. “You’ll get used to it, Lizzy, you’ll see. Most women don’t marry for love, you know.” She looked around her at the Hall. “Nice place.”

“It is nice, but I can’t take credit for it either.”

“Well, then. While the gentlemen argue over your marriage settlement, let’s make the best of our time together to talk,” she said. “Do we have anywhere more private where we can go?”

“We can go to my room,” said Elizabeth. “I share it with another mage, but Miss Bingley has some work to do outside the Hall, and I do not expect her to be back for a while.”

Elizabeth was happy to see her aunt, who had always been one of her favorite relatives.

“How do you like it here?” said Mrs. Gardiner, as they walked towards her room.

“It is too early to say. Let’s just say that I find it challenging.”

“Are they treating you well?” Her aunt peered at her closely. “I have heard that the mages can be unpleasant to someone who isn’t one of them. Though I have never heard bad things about Mr. Darcy.”

“What do you know of him?”

“You know I grew up in Lambton, in Derbyshire?”

Elizabeth nodded.

“Well, Mr. Darcy’s estate, Pemberley, is close to the village.”

“And what do they say of him?”

“Sadly, I have not been to Lambton for a good many years, so I know very little about him, but from all accounts, he is a fair landowner. But enough of that. You will find out everything about him soon enough.”

Elizabeth sighed. “I supposed there is not much I can do about it anyway.”

“That is the most sensible way to look at it.” Mrs. Gardiner clearer her throat. “Now, Lizzy, since your Mama is not here, and she cannot write to you about such a delicate matter, I wanted to talk to you about your wedding night.”

Elizabeth’s cheeks burned. She would have preferred not to think about that, but with the day of the wedding approaching fast, she needed to be armed with knowledge.

“I would prefer it if you told me how to get out of this marriage,” she said, with a little laugh.

Mrs. Gardiner shook her head. “Have you thought of using a magic spell to carry you away from here on an exotic carpet?”

Elizabeth sighed. “I have not learnt that particular spell, unfortunately.”

“Then I’m afraid there is no way you can get out of it at this point without completely ruining your reputation,” said Mrs. Gardiner.


About Dangerous Magic

A sparkling tale of Regency England, a forced marriage, and two magicians who must work together to save the Kingdom.

Elizabeth Bennet is stunned when the Royal Mages come to her peaceful country home of Longbourn to take her away. She is even more bewildered when she is commanded to marry a powerful mage by the name of Fitzwilliam Darcy. She has always dreamed of marrying for love, and an arranged marriage with an arrogant stranger was never part of her plans.

But Darcy and Elizabeth have no choice in the matter. Uniting their two forms of magic is essential if the Kingdom is to defeat Napoleon’s mages. They may dislike each other on sight, but Darcy and Elizabeth have to overcome their differences and find common ground before it is too late. Fortunately, it is not long before the sparks begin to fly between them.

Join the author of ‘Fortune and Felicity’ in this Jane Austen Fantasy Variation, an enchanting story of determination, love, and hope against all odds.

Buy on Amazon


About the Author

Monica Fairview writes Jane Austen sequels and variations as well as Regencies. Her latest novel is a Pride and Prejudice fantasy variation, Dangerous Magic. Her biggest claim to fame is living in Elizabeth Gaskell’s house in Manchester, long before the house was restored. After studying in the USA, she taught literature, then became an acupuncturist. She now lives near London.

Monica loves anything to do with the nineteenth century, and obsessively follows every period drama she can find. Some of her favorites are ‘North and South’, ‘Bright Star’ and ‘War and Peace’, and a dozen others that she couldn’t possibly list here. Of course, she has watched Pride and Prejudice (1995 and 2005) more times than she could count on her hands and toes.

Monica enjoys reading fantasy and post-apocalyptic novels but avoids zombies like the plague. She loves to laugh, drink tea, and visit National Trust historic properties [those were the days!], and she is convinced that her two cats can understand everything she says.

Connect with Monica: WEBSITE | BLOG | GOODREADS | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | PINTEREST


Giveaway

Monica is generously giving away 1 ebook copy of Dangerous Magic, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, March 28, 2021. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Monica, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new book!

Hello, friends! I’m delighted to welcome Cass Grafton and Ada Bright back today to celebrate the release of their latest novel, Mr. Darcy’s Persuasion. We had a lovely chat about the book and more, and they’re also giving away some copies. Please give them a warm welcome!


  • What inspired you to merge Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion in Mr. Darcy’s Persuasion? What was your favorite part of combining those two stories? Were there any particular challenges in doing so?

Cass: We both love these two books so much, it was almost a natural step to want to write a crossover. I’d had a thought some years ago about how some of the characters might meet (which is revealed early on, in the Prologue), and I think my favourite part was discovering how well they worked together on the page. 

I don’t recall any challenges in that respect, though we don’t use too many characters from Persuasion outside of the immediate Elliot family and Captain Wentworth. This is mainly because we’re following the timeline for Pride & Prejudice and the story is set in the winter of 1811, meaning it’s three years earlier for all the characters of Persuasion—i.e. Anne Elliot is 24, not 27, and Captain Wentworth is away at sea. It also means Lady Russell is passing the winter in Bath, as she does, Henrietta and Louisa Musgrove are away at school because they are younger in this story and Mr Elliot (the heir) is not yet widowed and is still estranged from the family.

Ada: What she said. 😉

  • Tell us something that you’re especially excited about regarding the new book. A particular scene? An original character? Having both Darcy and Wentworth in the same book?!?!?

Cass: Well, yes, having two such lovely men to work with was not exactly a hardship, and I’m sure Ada will agree. There are so many scenes I love, but there are a few secrets winging around throughout the story, so it’s hard to share specifics. I think the thing I’m most excited about is how we’ve weaved the mystery elements of the book in through the romance. I get excited to hear when readers have picked up on a clue we’ve dropped!

Ada: I was really just so excited to work with Anne. While I may not be like her in many ways, I find her very sympathetic. I hadn’t dreamed up a new future for her, so finally playing in her world was really satisfying!

  • Your co-written novels are so seamless. What process do you use for co-writing? Do you each write certain scenes/characters/POVs? How do you handle the plotting, edits/rewrites, etc.? How difficult do you find co-writing when living in different parts of the world?

Cass: This is one of Ada’s favourites, so I’ll leave her to answer the various questions more specifically. In summary, though, we both work on every aspect of our co-written novels, whether it is scenes, individual characters or POVs. Plotting is usually a brainstorm at the beginning. There are a LOT of video calls, and this year, Zoom has been our saviour!

Ada: Oo! Oo! Call on me! I am excessively long winded about this so I’ll try to be brief.

We both write everything in the book is the honest truth. Here’s how it works.

1. Cass pitches a plot (the plots I pitch usually involve car chases and Cass leaves those to my solo work).

2. We meet up somewhere on the globe and we talk about it while we walk around areas we think will be used in the book: letting ourselves meander through the story both figuratively and literally until we are ready to write our outline (here is also where we decide on actors to stand in for the image in our heads for each character).

3. We go back home, slightly worse for wear, and I start brazenly writing whatever scene I want while Cass starts exactly where one logically should: at the beginning.

4. We send each other our scenes and start editing what we’ve received from each other. This goes back and forth (each of us adding to the scenes) until one of us gets stuck and starts to doubt the validity of our plans.

5. At 10:30 pm my time and 7am Cass-time we Zoom and work out any kinks (or yell at each other—but usually we just laugh). Then I go to bed and leave Cass to fix the problems. When I wake up, I have a new set of solutions or questions in my email which I try to solve while Cass drinks some wine.

6. When all is mostly said and done we usually do a full read thru with each other out loud to check pacing etc. There’s more, but I can expect your eyes and ears are bleeding so I’ll stop.

Cass: Well it’s sort of like that! We have a 9-hour time difference, and I’m a morning person and Ada’s a night owl, so being so far apart works perfectly for us.

  • What drew you to Austen’s novels, and then to writing Austenesque novels?

Cass: Pride & Prejudice was a set book for an English Literature exam at school when I was 15, and I went on to read all the novels from there. I wrote my first Austen-inspired novel because of the proposal in the rain scene from the 2005 movie. I couldn’t believe, despite the ‘conversation’ that had taken place, that the character of Darcy, as a gentleman, would have left Elizabeth Bennet in a downpour and with no way to get back to Hunsford safely—so I sent him back to her!

Ada: I just love to dream in any of the worlds I love. Add to that how beautifully reserved Austen was with her romantic resolutions and therein lies the connection impetus to dream on paper. 

  • What’s your favorite Austen novel, hero, heroine?

Cass: Persuasion is my favourite, very closely followed by Pride & Prejudice. When I was younger it was the other way around, but I love Captain Wentworth’s letter so much, and find I identify far more with Anne Elliot than Lizzy Bennet, so it’s become my number one. I do also have a soft spot for Mr Knightley, though!

I do wonder what Jane Austen would think of Persuasion’s popularity, especially as she chose not to publish it when she finished writing the novel. Did she plan to make changes? Was it because it resonated too closely with her? I wish we knew!

Ada: Pride & Prejudice is my favorite novel, with Elinor from Sense & Sensibility being my favorite heroine and Captain Wentworth my favorite hero… purely for his letter honestly, I do not love witnessing his flirtations before he gets completely distracted by Anne! 

  • In your previous novels, you merged the past and the present. Do you enjoy writing contemporary novels or Regency-era novels more?

Cass: It wasn’t a conscious thing, but I do find it funny on reflection to have started in the past, then gone on to write time-travel, hopping between the present and the past, and then moving onto contemporary. It’s as though I needed to travel through time myself! 

The big advantage of writing historical is it’s easy to create conflict and stumbling blocks for the characters. You only need a letter to go astray (or where it shouldn’t), or for the weather to play up to impact the characters.

I think I love them equally, and it’s why I’m happy to be able to indulge in all three categories.

Ada: I have to say contemporary because what Cass finds easy (being comfortable writing in a historical setting) I find very difficult. It gives me structure I badly need, but also stifles some of my best jokes 😉 . 

  • Do you want to give us a hint about what’s next, book-wise? Do you have another co-writing project in the works? Anything you’re writing on your own that you’d like to share?

Cass: I have a few projects on the go, and we have third (and final, Ada) time-travel novel to write. We’ve plotted it out and it completes the 3-book series nicely, I think.  My next project, however, will be contemporary. I started a heart-warming romance series set in Cornwall last year and hope to work on the second and third ones this year.

Ada: I also have a few projects “on the go”. We have 3-5 more of our time travel adventures to write (trust me, Cass will cave. We have barely even begun to talk about the gravestones!), and I am writing a romantic suspense series, the first of which is done and the next I am researching—when not hanging over my 5th grader’s shoulder in distance learning. 

  • What books have you read recently that you’d like to recommend, Austenesque or otherwise?

Cass: I’ll be honest and say I read far less than I wish I did. I used to be a prolific reader, but when I’m in full writing mode, I find it hard to come out of the world I am in to read another book. I have made exceptions for my writer friends, though, and as a few of them have new releases coming this year, I’m looking forward to getting back into reading again!

Ada: I am in love with Robert Galbreath’s Coroman Strike series.

Thank you both so much for taking time to answer my questions and for being my guests today! Congratulations on your new book!


About Mr. Darcy’s Persuasion

Two of Jane Austen’s classics collide in this intriguing tale of pride, prejudice and persuasion, set in England’s beautiful West Country.

In the aftermath of the Netherfield Ball, Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are determined to find respite—Darcy from the allure of the lady and the feelings she evokes in him, and Elizabeth from the drama unfolding at Longbourn.

Fate is not done with them, however, as they both—unbeknownst to the other—take refuge on the Kellynch estate in Somersetshire, home to Sir Walter Elliot and two of his daughters.

Whilst Elizabeth takes solace from her friendship with Anne Elliot, Darcy finds little comfort in his reacquaintance with the woman fast taking hold of his heart—or, indeed, in the eldest Miss Elliot’s company, whose fluttering eyelashes make her intentions plain.

As for Anne, it is five long years since she last laid eyes upon Frederick Wentworth, and though her regret lingers, she has found some contentment in life… until distressing news of the captain arrives.

When hints of deep secrets emerge—some recently stolen, others harboured for decades—the mystery begins to wrap tendrils around Darcy as he struggles to free himself from its ever-tightening bonds.

Can Darcy discover the truth before it is too late? Will Elizabeth even care if he does? And just what has become of Captain Wentworth?


About the Authors

Both avid bookworms since childhood, Cass Grafton and Ada Bright write the sort of stories they love to read – heart-warming, character driven and strong on location. Cass loves travelling, words, cats and wine but never in the same glass. Ada loves nothing more than a good, subtle love story… well, except cake. She also really loves cake.

Cass and Ada are close friends who enjoy writing together. Their popular time-travel romance series featuring Jane Austen recently came out on audio and they have just completed a Regency inspired novel, Mr Darcy’s Persuasion, in which two of Jane Austen’s classics collide.

When they are not working together, Cass writes uplifting contemporary romance and Ada writes romantic suspense.  

Connect with Cass & Ada:

Amazon Author Pages

http://author.to/CassGrafton

http://author.to/AdaBright

Blogs

www.cassandragrafton.com

www.tabbycow.com

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/CassGraftonWriter

https://www.facebook.com/cassie.grafton/

https://www.facebook.com/missyadabright

Twitter

@CassGrafton

@missyadabright

Instagram

@cassgraftonwriter

@adacakes


Giveaway

Cass and Ada are generously offering 2 ebook copies of Mr. Darcy’s Persuasion, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, March 21, 2021. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Hello, friends! Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Drēma Drudge to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the publication of her novel, Victorine, which tells the story of artist Victorine Meurent. Drēma is here to explain her inspiration for the novel and to share an excerpt. Please give her a warm welcome!


Many thanks to Anna for allowing me to write a guest post for her awesome blog. I’m delighted to share the origins of my novel, Victorine, with you on the one-year anniversary of my book, also marked by the release of the ebook version.

The glow of the overhead projector was the only light to permeate the classroom as our professor began the slideshow. It was a class that combined art and literature, and being a fan of both, I was enthralled. Almost immediately, he stopped on an 1863 painting of a nude by Édouard Manet in Paris. That’s when my acquaintance with Olympia, or should I say, Victorine Meurent, began. I just had to know more about the saucy looking woman.

Her unabashed stare said she had more to say than the few minutes the professor had allotted the slide, the woman. While I had no way of knowing it then, it was the beginning of a journey that would take me to Paris, to standing in front of the Manet painting, weeping. It was the beginning of me writing my debut novel, Victorine.

The only problem was, for all that Victorine was telling me that she wanted me to bring her back to the world’s consciousness, there wasn’t very much known about her. Eventually, I discovered that she wasn’t just a model, but also a painter, one whose work was good enough to be exhibited at the prestigious Paris Salon, one year even when the well-known Edouard Manet, the painter she sat most for, was rejected. But history hadn’t bothered to remember that she herself had also painted.

Ah, that’s why she wanted me to tell her story.

My husband and I scoured the internet, researched in Paris, and in the process rediscovered not only the one painting that had come back to light of hers in 2004, but three others that had been lost to time. Most importantly, these encompassed her self-portrait. We could see from it how she saw herself, something very important for a woman who was painted by so many men.  

The flamboyant, spirited woman was a sexual libertine in 1860’s Paris, loving both men and women. She lived for art and eventually put herself through art school, the model becoming the artist. Along the way, she learned that she loved art more than anyone or anything else. The woman who once was made art of, in turn made art. I have sought to make art from her life, completing the chain, reminding the world of this talented artist.

I was overjoyed when the owner of her self-portrait allowed me to put it on the back cover of my book, the first time it’s ever been published. (A larger image of the painting is on the inside of the ebook, I’m happy to report.) Please join me in welcoming her back to herstory!


An excerpt from Victorine by Drēma Drudge:

I am called The Shrimp, Le Crevette because of my height and because I am as scrappy as those little question-mark-shaped delights that I used to study when my father took me to Les Halles. I would stand before the shrimp tank and watch the wee creatures paw at the water, repeatedly attempting to scale the tank, swimming, sinking, yet always rising again. I hoped eagerly for one to crest the tank, not realizing until later that the lid was there precisely to prevent their escape. 

          So why am I reminded of that tank today?

            Today, while I am giving a guitar lesson in my father’s lithography shop, the gifted yet controversial painter, Édouard Manet, enters the shop. He gives me the nod.

            I cover the strings of my guitar with my hand to silence them.

Pѐre has mentioned Manet’s recent patronage of his shop, of course, but I have never been here when the artist has come by.

            “M. Manet, this is my daughter, Victorine. I believe you’ve. . ..”

            “We’ve met,” I say. 

            “And where is it we have met, Mademoiselle?” he asks, wincing as he looks in the vicinity of my nose.

Is this a snub? I run my hand over the swollen, crooked lump of flesh on my face.

            “I must be mistaken.” I turn away, smiling bitterly at my quick temper, at my trying to turn up a nose such as this. Of course he doesn’t recognize me.

            I motion for my student to put her guitar away: “That’s enough for today, dear.” Though she looks at the clock with a puzzled brow, she does as I say.

            My father graciously allows me to give lessons in his shop, claiming he loves to hear young musicians learning to play, though I suspect it’s more because my mother hates allowing anyone into our house besides her regular millinery clients.

Manet moves toward me, puts his face close to mine; I don’t pull away, but only because that is the way painters see.  I would have punched another man for standing so close. He snaps his fingers. “Le Crevette?” he exclaims, backs away.

             I raise my chin to regard the posters on my father’s wall. The Compagnie Francaise de Chocolats et des thes declares my father’s fine sense of color, his signature mingling of coral and scarlet. The other posters reveal his repeated twinning of these colors.

            Manet grasps my hand with frank friendliness that I almost believe. Want to believe. “It is you; I’ve seen you model at Coutoure’s. But what has happened to your nose?”

            I rise on my toes, though the height it gives me is minimal. I motion for Gabrielle to gather her music, and she shuffles the sheets.

            I move closer to him while withdrawing my hand from his, take out my emerald green enamel cigarette case (a gift from a wealthy student at Coutoure’s studio) and light a cigarette. I empty my lungs straight at the yellowing ceiling, though my torso is not a foot from his.

            My father frowns and waves the smoke away; how many times must I tell him that I am eighteen and I will smoke if I please? He smokes a pipe sometimes. What’s the difference?

            “I give guitar lessons now. Obviously, I’m no longer a model.”

            Manet’s eyes graze on me. I stand straighter. When I realize it, I relax.

            “I know just how I’ll paint you. Shall we say tomorrow at one?”

            My father runs his grungy shop cloth through his hands.

            I raise my chin, art lust in my eyes.

“We shall say two.”

            He crooks his eyebrow. “Wear something else, will you? That frock does nothing for your apricot skin tone, much less your eyes. And wear your hair down….” He touches a section of my red hair that flows forward, and I jerk away. “No. Better wear it up.”

            I glance down at my mud-colored calico dress, pick up my guitar case and make to lead my young charge out the door. 

            “Meurent?” he says. I smile, erase it before turning back.

“Do you know where my studio is?”

“You may leave your card with my father.”

I am well aware of the opportunity I have been offered. If it weren’t for this trouble with Willie, I would be ecstatic. As it is, I am just a flicker beyond moved.

“My boyfriend, Alphonse, is taking me to my first fight, where I meet Willie.

“There’s an Englishman named Willie Something fighting against one of ours tonight,” Alphonse says one evening as we are eating supper.

“Boxing? Let’s go.”

“You know you can’t.” He waves his hand. I leave the room and return in a suit of his, my hair jammed into one of his hats. Though he doesn’t want to take me, he does. Of course he does.

We rush through the gray and black buildings, gleaming in the wet night,

to an old theater near Notre Dame, one slated to be torn down. Suits of all shades and qualities mingle. The room smells of liquor and sweat and the pungent scent of men packed together. A heady mix.

I thrust my hands in my pockets and stand astride, occasionally kicking a leg to feel the freedom of wearing pants.

Usually the French do savate, kickboxing, but I have heard of this boxing with the hands. That seems like a more honest, intimate way to fight to me— there is nothing distinctive about our limbs, but our faces are unique. It makes the resentment seem real.

An announcer introduces the bare-chested fighters, has them shake hands. The men wear breeches and thin-looking shoes. The Frenchman fighting tonight is short and small. The Englishman, Willie, is of medium height and red-haired, with a pale face which will be overlaid with ruddiness when he is fighting. Or, I will discover, while making love.

The bell unleashes Willie. He leaps off the double ropes tied to a wooden frame, coming at his opponent as though he holds an ancient grudge. I lean forward. My heart pounds with each shot he takes, each hooked punch he pushes from himself. Soon his knuckles drip blood, but whose is it? I look to this side, then that.

My right fist bunches and thrusts with his. Sweat dripping from his face, he grins madly and looks our way as his opponent hits the ground and “slowly rises. For a moment I fear he has discovered that I am a woman, until I realize he is an automaton who sees no one and nothing.

The two collapse onto one another in an exhausted hug of sorts until, it seems, a secret signal intrudes, and they head to their corners and come out, enemies again.

Delacroix-red blood flows from the Frenchman’s forehead, into his eyes, and he shakes his matted mane, flinging the blood. Willie stares at it as if it alone is his enemy and he pounces. One-two-one, go his fists and I rise and shoulder my way up front. Ringside, I watch Willie hit the man as if he must slay him. I cheer with my fingers in my mouth, whistling up something deep. Willie glances my way, and, with a grin, lands one last blow. The Frenchman falls.

Willie waits long enough to see his opponent groggily sit up, and then he runs from one side of the ring to the other, hands raised, before abruptly leaving the ring. The wooden floor shakes and I look down to find I am the one causing the quake; I cannot stop bouncing up and down. I follow Willie into the makeshift dressing room.

“What are you doing?” Alphonse hisses, grabbing my arm. I knock it away and walk straight up to Willie and lick the sweat from his face. He jerks away, cursing, until I take the hat from my head, my hair fireworking down my back. He laughs and pulls me onto his lap. Alphonse makes a noise, but only one.


About Victorine

Victorine Meurent is a forgotten, accomplished painter who posed nude for Edouard Manet’s most famous, controversial paintings such as Olympia and The Picnic in Paris, paintings heralded as the beginning of modern art. History has forgotten (until now) her paintings, despite the fact that she showed her work at the prestigious Paris Salon multiple times, even one year when her mentor, Manet’s, work was refused.

Her persistent desire in the novel is not to be a model anymore but to be a painter herself, despite being taken advantage of by those in the art world, something which causes her to turn, for a time, to every vice in the Paris underworld, leading her even into the catacombs.

In order to live authentically, she eventually finds the strength to flout the expectations of her parents, bourgeois society, and the dominant male artists (whom she knows personally) while never losing her capacity for affection, kindness, and loyalty. Possessing both the incisive mind of a critic and the intuitive and unconventional impulses of an artist, Victorine and her survival instincts are tested in 1870, when the Prussian army lays siege to Paris and rat becomes a culinary delicacy, and further tested when she inches towards art school while financial setbacks push her away from it. The same can be said when it comes to her and love, which becomes substituted, eventually, by art.

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About the Author

Drēma Drudge suffers from Stendhal’s Syndrome, the condition in which one becomes overwhelmed in the presence of great art. She attended Spalding University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program where she learned to transform that intensity into fiction.

She has been writing in one capacity or another since she was nine, starting with terrible poems and graduating to melodramatic stories in junior high that her classmates passed around literature class.

Along with her husband, musician and writer Barry Drudge, she lives in Indiana where the couple records their podcast, Writing All the Things. Her first novel, Victorine, was literally written in six countries while she and her husband wandered the globe. They have two grown children.

For a free short story about the tragic alleged affair between Henri Matisse and Olga Meerson, his art student as well as his model, sign up to Drēma’s newsletter at: www.dremadrudge.com.


Giveaway

Drēma is generously giving away two ebooks copies of Victorine. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway is open internationally though Sunday, March 21, 2021. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you for being my guest today, Drēma, and happy one-year book birthday!