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Today, I’m pleased to welcome Engin Inel Holmstrom to Diary of an Eccentric for the first time to spotlight her latest novel, House of Daughters, which is set during the 1920s in Ottoman Turkey and inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. As soon as I heard about this book, I was intrigued, and I was thrilled that Engin was willing to tell me and my readers what inspired her to put Austen’s characters into a setting I’d never considered before.

Please give Engin a warm welcome:

So glad to hear that you are interested in my new novel, House of Daughters, inspired by Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice. Let me explain how it came about.

I still remember the day I bought my copy of the book. I was a sophomore at the American College for Girls in Istanbul—a private school where most classes were taught in English. My roommate and I had gone to Pera, Istanbul’s main shopping and entertainment venue then, to watch a movie and visit my favorite shop, the Hachette Bookstore. The minute I saw the book, I fell in love with it. It was a palm-sized leather-bound version in navy blue…very elegant and practical. After all these years and multiple readings, the book is still intact. Every time I open it, it tickles me to see my handwritten definitions of the words ‘pride’ and ‘prejudice’.  My English was that bad then and, as a result, most of Austen’s gentle barbs at the frailties of human behavior went over my head. But, I got the delicious basic story of a spunky girl putting a proud man in his place and taming him! For a while, Elizabeth became our role model, but unfortunately, not a single Darcy was around!

Many years later, when I was waiting for an inspiration for my second novel, I picked up the book and started reading it again, as I usually do once a year. Lo and behold, right in front of my eyes, Austen’s first sentence morphed into something else:

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a father in possession of five daughters must be in want of peace of mind that only suitable sons-in-law can provide.

Pride and Prejudice, Turkish style! Why not? So many retellings or sequels to the novel have been written but no one has transported the popular story to another country, least of all to Turkey. The more I thought about it, the more excited I became.

I started imagining scene after scene of a Turkish family saddled with the problem of five unwed daughters. I gave the name Perihan to the second oldest, my doe-eyed Turkish version of Elizabeth. I imagined my Turkish Darcy, named Murat, to be a dashing wounded officer, in a hospital, taken care by Nurse Perihan. But where and when in Turkey? Istanbul, of course. That’s where I was born and raised. Then I knew it had to be the 1920s for two reasons. First, I didn’t want the story to take place in modern times. Nowadays most Turkish girls find their own husbands without the help of their family or matchmakers. The dynamics of a certain class of Turkish family in the 1920s Istanbul were somewhat similar to those of English families of Austen’s time. Second, the decade of the 1920s, following WWI, provided me with an exciting background for my story. Istanbul was occupied by the British. The Ottoman Empire was dying. The nationalists were fighting for independence in Anatolia, and Mustafa Kemal Pasha, later renamed Ataturk by a grateful nation, was busy with plans to found a new Turkish republic and transform what was left of the Ottoman Empire into a modern democratic state.

I had learned from my first novel, Loveswept, a romance involving a Turkish girl and an English merchant marine officer, that it’s easier to start with something from one’s own life history. So in the first chapters of House of Daughters, I described my own family house in Goztepe, on the Asian side of Istanbul. And once you start, the rest follows, right?

My female characters, although traditionally subdued at the beginning, become more outspoken and independent women as the country undergoes dramatic social and cultural changes. Murat and his friends are not the dandies of Austen’s time but officers involved in a clandestine plot to outsmart the British.  And who helps them achieve their goal? My Perihan! So, the book has a lot to offer not only to Austen fans but also to those who like novels about strong female characters.

Here’s a teaser from House of Daughters. After their break-up, Murat and Perihan meet again:

…Perihan has never seen him standing up. Nor dressed. He seemed taller, more powerful, and more masculine. Wavy brown hair made him look younger and more handsome. Much more. She could still feel his cool taut skin under her hands and the ripple of his muscles…

…Murat was staring at Perihan now, so different from the one in the ill-fitting nursing uniform he had known. Dressed in a full-skirt and a tight-fitting white blouse, this one had a tiny waist that he was certain his hands could encircle easily. A slender neck rose from the open collar she was nervously trying to button. He smiled. That simple act attracted more attention than if she had left it alone.

If you read and like House of Daughters, try my first novel, Loveswept, too.

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About House of Daughters

Engin Inel Holmstrom’s second novel, House of Daughters, is a delightful adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to 1920s Turkey. The Ottoman Empire is dying. Istanbul is occupied by the British. But all Emin Efendi can think of is marrying off his five daughters to secure their places and fortunes.

While working as a nurse, Emin Efendi’s favorite daughter Perihan meets a dashing, wounded Turkish officer, Major Murat. They’re attracted to each other, but Murat’s pride in his family’s social status prejudices their blossoming love.

In this retelling, Jane Austen’s beloved characters are taken out of the drawing room and their tale is told within the historical context of the Turkish fight for independence, birth of its new nation, and greater opportunities for women. House of Daughters should appeal to Austen’s readers as well as all those who enjoy reading novels with strong female characters.

Check out House of Daughters on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Engin Inel Holmstrom

Engin Inel Holmstrom was born and raised in Turkey. She came to the U.S. as a Fulbright Exchange Student to go to graduate school for her Ph.D. and later married her classmate. They both taught at her alma mater in Istanbul for three years before returning to the United States and settling in the Washington, D.C. area. House of Daughters is Holmstrom’s second novel. In her spare time, Holmstrom enjoys writing, painting, and ballroom dancing. She currently lives in Leesburg, with her husband of 53 years and her two cats.

Connect with Engin on Facebook | Twitter | Website

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Giveaway

I have 3 ebook copies of House of Daughters to offer to my readers, courtesy of the publicist at Lavidge. This giveaway is open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and tell me what most intrigues you about the book. This giveaway will close on Sunday, April 30, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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Longtime readers of my blog know that I am a huge fan of the Austen-inspired fiction published by Meryton Press, so I was thrilled to be asked to participate in the Dear Friend Event:

“Mrs. Collins welcomed her friend with the liveliest pleasure, and Elizabeth was more and more satisfied with coming, when she found herself so affectionately received.” – Jane Austen

Jane Austen describes a fine friendship between Elizabeth Bennet and Charlotte Collins. One friend welcomes another with “the liveliest pleasure,” and the other is pleased to share in that. We at Meryton Press know from your words that you, our fans, receive our books with pleasure and affection. It makes our authors warm inside to know that.

In the month of April, we want to show our appreciation to you, our most steadfast supporters, our dear friends. Good friends give each other gifts. You have given us the gift of your affectionate reception, and we want to reciprocate by giving some of you gifts in return.

As much as we’d like to, we can’t give everyone a gift, but at each hosted blog post during this event on the schedule listed below, an opportunity will be given to enter to win a surprise gift. Each person who comments can enter a Rafflecopter drawing to win. Although a person can enter multiple times (once on each blog post and tweet daily on each blog post), they can win only once. One winner will be chosen at each blog. Five gifts total will be awarded.

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What a very generous giveaway! I’ve read and enjoyed many books from Meryton Press, so the winner is in for a real treat! If you are interested in learning about some of the books published by Meryton Press, check out my reviews of these stellar books:

2017

The Best Part of Love by A. D’Orazio

2016

Letter from Ramsgate by Suzan Lauder
Second Impressions by Amy George
The Elizabeth Paper by Jenetta James
Side by Side, Apart by Ann Galvia
A Searing Acquaintance by J.L. Ashton
Undeceived by Karen M Cox

2015

Then Comes Winter edited by Christina Boyd
Longbourn’s Songbird by Beau North
A Will of Iron by Linda Beutler
Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer edited by Christina Boyd
Suddenly Mrs. Darcy by Jenetta James
A Peculiar Connection by Jan Hahn
Aerendgast by Rachel Berman
Pride, Prejudice & Secrets by C.P. Odom

2014

The Muse by Jessica Evans
Haunting Mr. Darcy by KaraLynne Mackrory
Consequences by C.P. Odom
Alias Thomas Bennet by Suzan Lauder

2013

The Red Chrysanthemum by Linda Beutler

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The Dear Friend Event is not just about Meryton Press showing appreciation to their readers; it’s also a celebration of books and why avid readers love to read.

I’ve always loved to read. I don’t remember when I started; it’s just something I’ve always done for as far back as I can remember. Books have always been an escape for me. They’ve helped me through some difficult times over the years, giving me an opportunity to put aside my troubles for a little while and slip away to another world. They help relax my mind after a long day at work and send me off to sleep every night.

One of the reasons Meryton Press grabbed my attention so many years ago was its focus on Jane Austen, and Pride and Prejudice in particular. Pride and Prejudice is one of the first classics I ever read and fell in love with. I never read Austen in school; only on my own. So after the stresses of college were over and the stresses of marriage and motherhood began, I was overjoyed to stumble upon dozens and dozens of Austen variations and realize that I never had to let go of my favorite characters.

Moreover, I love to read World War II novels; the history of that period just fascinates me. However, they aren’t the easiest books to get through, especially the ones focused on the horrors of the war. So to finish one of those and then pick up an Austen variation and be 99 percent sure that Darcy and Elizabeth will find their way to each other and live happily ever after is refreshing.

But most of all, my love of books and Jane Austen has brought me in touch with so many like-minded people, and I treasure these friendships here on the blog, on Goodreads, and on Facebook. 🙂

Now, as a special treat, I am delighted to welcome Meryton Press author Karen M Cox to Diary of an Eccentric to talk about her love of reading…and Jane Austen, of course! Please give her a warm welcome:

I don’t remember learning to read.

I asked my mother to teach me when I was three, according to the family lore. All I know is, by the time I was about five, I could pretty much read whatever my child’s mind wanted. My mother and father are both readers, so becoming one myself was as natural as breathing. There were always books in my parents’ house. In my childhood, I devoured children’s novels:  A Wrinkle in Time, Little House of the Prairie, Caddie Woodlawn, The Witch of Blackbird Pond were among my favorites. Alas, as I grew, life sometimes got in the way of reading for fun: music and plays in high school, boys (!), college and graduate school, and then marriage and little children of my own. I couldn’t always drown myself in that netherworld of a great novel when I wanted, but that only made the experience more precious when I had it.

I love taking in the stories of people’s lives, whether in history (Mary Chesnut and Thomas Meagher come to mind) or in novels (The Time Traveler’s Wife, Dragonwyck, the In Death series by JD Robb). When I found Jane Austen though (as an adult—late, compared to some) something was different. She was unique: witty, satirical, funny. And yet, (like a certain gentleman’s version of an accomplished woman) to all this, she added something more. She saw her characters: their truth, their flaws, their foibles, their sweetness, their infamy, and their integrity. And she told their stories in a way that made them leap off the page for me, and become real enough to stick around as I went through my days. When I found others who felt the same way I did about Austen, it was kismet. And when I discovered along the way that I too, had things I wanted to say—about families, about love, about life—Jane was the one who pointed the way for me to do that.

Joseph Campbell’s books on the role of myth in culture and society have always intrigued me. In The Hero’s Journey, he states: “When you find a writer who really is saying something to you, read everything that writer has written and you will get more education and depth of understanding out of that than reading a scrap here and a scrap there and elsewhere. Then go to people who influenced that writer, or those who were related to him, and your world builds together in an organic way that is really marvelous.”

This is sort of inadvertently how I’ve built my reading house. It’s a chaotic, disordered house at times, littered with history, sociology, education, psychology, literature, trashy novels, serious works, and wonderful fluffy stories that make me smile. Campbell might find a few too many “scraps” here, there and elsewhere in my reading world. But what I’ve discovered is that in the midst of this chaos, my series of author obsessions, and reading what influenced them and who they, in turn, influenced, is a meandering path that leads me to places I never imagined. It makes for a rich, colorful journey around the sun. Reading opens the world to all of us. I don’t know how an activity that seems so solitary can connect us, but it does. Reading is a powerful thing, a magic—ever-changing, ever fresh and new—that any of us can obtain, simply by picking up a book and entering within.

And if, by some quirk of fate, I can write something that takes a reader to a place where she can smile, think, or remember, I’m humbled by that—and eternally grateful.

Happy Reading!

Thank you so much, Karen, for sharing your story! You describe my thoughts on Austen perfectly. And my dear readers, I hope YOU will share your stories about learning to read and falling in love with books in the comments!

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Giveaway

Giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.  Eligible entries will comment on Dear Friend Event blog posts, tweet about the event and use the rafflecopter to enter. Winners will provide a valid U.S. shipping address for gift delivery upon request. Further details for entering to win a gift are posted here.

General: 

  • All Winners will be contacted via social media or email and announced on the Meryton Press website, Facebook, and/or Twitter.
  • In the event that a winner or winners do not respond within 5 days, a new winner will be drawn.
  • Winners may not be Meryton Press employees, contractors or authors.
  • An entrant can enter once per Dear Friend Event blog post and multiple times on Social Media, but can win only once.
  • This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook or Twitter.

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Dear Friend Blog Schedule:

More Agreeably Engaged–April 1; ends at 11:59 PM April 6th; winner announced April 7th

Austenesque Reviews–April 8; ends at 11:59 PM April 13th; winner announced April 14th

So little time…–April 15; ends at 11:59 PM April 20th; winner announced April 21st

Diary of an Eccentric–April 22; ends at 11:59 PM April 27th; winner announced April 28th

Just Jane 1813–April 29; ends at 11:59 PM May 4th; winner announced my May 5th

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It’s always a treat to have Victoria Kincaid as a guest on Diary of an Eccentric, and today I welcome her here to spotlight her newest Pride and Prejudice variation, Darcy’s Honor. I had the pleasure of editing this delightful novel, which has the perfect balance of drama, humor, and romance. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did!

First, here’s the book blurb to grab your attention:

Elizabeth Bennet is relieved when the difficult Mr. Darcy leaves the area after the Netherfield Ball. But she soon runs afoul of Lord Henry, a Viscount who thinks to force her into marrying him by slandering her name and ruining her reputation. An outcast in Meryton, and even within her own family, Elizabeth has nobody to turn to and nowhere to go.

Darcy successfully resisted Elizabeth’s charms during his visit to Hertfordshire, but when he learns of her imminent ruin, he decides he must propose to save her from disaster. However, Elizabeth is reluctant to tarnish Darcy’s name by association…and the viscount still wants her…

Can Darcy save his honor while also marrying the woman he loves?

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Now, please give a warm welcome to Victoria Kincaid, who is here to discuss the importance of reputation in Jane Austen’s time:

The issue of reputation drives much of the plot of Pride and Prejudice (and many other Austen novels).  Darcy’s need to protect Georgiana’s reputation compels him to keep the incident at Ramsgate (and Wickham’s perfidy) quiet. Elizabeth’s aspersions on Darcy’s character cause him to write her a letter, but then his concern about her reputation (because it would be improper for her to receive a message from an unmarried man) prompts him to give it to her in person rather than sending it with a servant.  And, of course, Lydia’s careless behavior with Wickham affects not only her reputation, but her whole family’s.

Austen was well aware that the burden of maintaining a pristine reputation fell more on the shoulders of women than men.  In P&P, Mary observes: “Unhappy as the event must be for Lydia, we may draw from it this useful lesson; that loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable—that one false step involves her in endless ruin—that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful.”  While Mary may be annoyingly pedantic, she is not wrong.  Wickham can get away with all manner of dastardly behavior that is covered up or shrugged off.  But Lydia’s one misstep is treated like a capital crime.  Collins even says she’d have been better off dead.

This inequity strikes me every time I read an Austen novel, and it occurred to me to make it part of a plot for a P&P variation.  What if Elizabeth lost her reputation—through no fault of her own?  Not that she actually did anything wrong, but that everyone assumed that she had.  How would Darcy react?  How would Elizabeth behave?  I was unsure of the answer to all of these questions as I set out to write Darcy’s Honor, so writing it was a process of discovery for me.  Some of the results surprised me.  And I hope that readers will find the book surprising and entertaining as well.

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An excerpt from Darcy’s Honor, courtesy of Victoria Kincaid:

Miss Bingley was still speaking with a rhythm that was almost hypnotic. Darcy’s attention began to wander as his head dipped lower and lower until it nearly rested on his chest.

“…Meryton…” Darcy was pulled out of somnolence with an abrupt jerk. Was Miss Bingley discussing Hertfordshire? “….A letter from Anna Hopkins,” Miss Bingley said to her sister. “You remember her?”

Mrs. Hurst tittered. “Does she still maintain a correspondence with you? Apparently she remains under the delusion that she will obtain an invitation to Bingley House.”

Miss Bingley flicked open her fan with a snap, only to employ the object rather lazily. “Heaven knows. I certainly do nothing to encourage the acquaintance,” she sneered. “However, the missive did include one item of note.” Her glance flickered toward Darcy as if to ensure he was paying proper attention. “About the Bennets. You remember them, Louisa?”

Such a disingenuous act! Darcy ground his teeth together. No one from the Netherfield party was likely to forget the family that Bingley had nearly married himself into. Even Georgiana watched with wide eyes, having heard stories about the Bennets of Hertfordshire.

“What about them?” Bingley asked, hastily setting down his teacup.

His sister took a languid sip of tea, making a great show of indifference. “Charles, you will be very pleased we are gone from that neighborhood and have no more acquaintance with that family. It is an absolute disgrace!”

A chill raced down Darcy’s spine. What had happened to the Bennets?

“What is?” Bingley asked impatiently.

“Miss Elizabeth Bennet.” Miss Bingley avoided glancing at Darcy as she spoke, yet he had no doubt her words were intended to wound him. He clenched his fists to forestall any impulse to cry out at her.

Instead, he waited while Bingley demanded, “What about Miss Elizabeth?”

His sister shook her head sadly. “Such a disgrace. I do not know how the family will ever recover.”

Darcy could hold out no longer. “What has happened?” he finally growled.

The triumphant smile on Miss Bingley’s face hardly registered. “Eliza Bennet was caught with that oily viscount—”

“Henry Carson, Viscount Billington,” Darcy supplied automatically.

“Yes, that was the name. They were found in a”—she coughed delicately —“compromising position during a ball at Lucas Lodge.”

A tight hand seemed to squeeze Darcy’s heart.

“Oh dear!” Miss James’s exclamation was half distressed and half amused.

Mrs. Hurst tsked. “I confess I cannot be surprised. The whole family had no sense of decorum. The way her younger sisters carried on with the officers! And her mother’s behavior. Quite shocking.”

“Indeed.” Miss Bingley nodded her agreement. “I would not be surprised if her mother arranged the situation to entrap the viscount.”

The fist around Darcy’s heart closed even more tightly and painfully.

“Naturally,” Miss Bingley continued, “Lord Henry did the proper thing and made her an offer.”

No, Darcy wanted to cry out, but he had no breath. Mrs. Bennet might be capable of such a maneuver, but Elizabeth would never consent to be part of such a plot.

Mrs. Hurst pursed her lips disapprovingly. “So they are now betrothed?”

Oh, my! I bet you can’t wait to find out what happens next!

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Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering a copy of Darcy’s Honor in a reader’s choice (print or ebook) giveaway, open internationally! To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will close on Sunday, April 23, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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I’m delighted to welcome Laura Foley to Diary of an Eccentric today to share the inspiration behind “Prayer, 1943,” a poem in her new collection, WTF.

Prayer, 1943

Dad and his fellow prisoners
crouched under a shed,
its roof a sieve
of shrapnel holes
allowing rain
they didn’t notice
any more than hunger,
in their concentration
on pawns, queens, bishops,
rooks they carved
from discarded
toothbrush handles-
from their mouths,
to God’s ears.

Please give a warm welcome to Laura Foley:

My dad described in his recollections the event that I have put into this poem. The date comes from his time as Prisoner of War under the Japanese, in occupied China and Japan. I have tried to imagine what it was like for him.

I was touched by the detail he gives of the chess pieces carved from toothbrush handles, the sense of deprivation and boredom this conveys, as well as the camaraderie with the other men. Also the constant danger from American bombings as the Americans came closer to winning the war, how the American and other European prisoners were afraid of being mistakenly bombed as well as being cheered by the sight.

I have read many books about the war and the Japanese prisons, most notably Unbroken, which depicts a sadistic Japanese guard eerily similar to the one who tortured my father. Throughout my childhood, his imprisonment was a source of conversation, even though I was born more than a decade after his release. I wrote a poem about him being in prison camp when I was in Kindergarten.

Prayer 1943 comes from my collection WTF which is a tribute to my father, whose initials were WTF, as well as a working-through of my relationship to him, decades past his death.

Thank you so much, Laura, for sharing a little of your father’s story and the inspiration for the poem with me and my readers!

About WTF

Laura Foley’s “WTF” refers to her father’s initials and, slyly, to the abbreviated colloquial exclamation, in a pun that laughs and cuts, in this reckoning with a fraught father-daughter relationship. These spare poems communicate more like snapshots than narrative lyrics, beginning with sympathy and gratitude, moving through disappointment, anger and resentment, without ever losing compassion, as Foley examines her father’s formative WWII experiences and, consequently, how he shaped her experience and character, ending with a positive recognition of her father in herself.

Read sample poems here: https://www.readcwbooks.com/foley_poems.html

Check out WTF on Goodreads | Amazon

About the Author

Laura Foley

Laura Foley is an internationally published, award-winning poet, author of six collections. She won the Common Goods Poetry Contest, judged by Garrison Keillor; and the National Outermost Poetry Prize, judged by Marge Piercy. Her poetry collections include: WTFNight Ringing, The Glass Tree, and Joy StreetThe Glass Tree won a Foreword Book of the Year Award; Joy Street won the Bisexual-Writer’s Award. Her poems have appeared on The Writer’s Almanac, in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, Lavender Review, The Mom Egg Review, in the British Aesthetica Creative Writing Anthology, and many other journals.

A certified Yoga Instructor and creative arts facilitator in hospitals, she is the mother of three grown children, grandmother to two granddaughters. She and her partner Clara Gimenez live among the hills of Vermont with their three big dogs.

Follow her on Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

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I’m pleased to welcome Ellen Meeropol to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her latest novel, Kinship of Clover. As a writer myself, I’m always curious about the writing process and where authors pen their books, so I was thrilled when Ellen agreed to share her writing space with me and my readers. Please give a warm welcome to Ellen Meeropol:

img_1321My writing desk is in a book-stuffed room where a small electric heater hums at my feet. Looking to my left is a stand of sumac trees out the window; to my right is a large bulletin board. It holds bits of literary inspiration for when I flounder, a few favorite family photos, chocolate bar covers matching my three novels (a wonderful marketing gimmick my publisher creates to delight readers), and folded origami cranes that figure in my work in progress.

fullsizeoutput_826fThe most important item on the board is a long piece of newsprint with a six-generation family tree. Members of the oldest generation escaped the pogroms of Eastern Europe in the early years of the twentieth century and came to New England to make new lives. They built a cluster of homes on a rocky island in the middle of Penobscot Bay and their descendants multiplied over the next century. Some offspring left to find work and adventure elsewhere, but the islands are still populated by these folks and their made-up history.

fullsizeoutput_826dYes, made-up. These people live only in my imagination. My own immigrant grandparents settled far from Maine in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and the wilds of Brooklyn. I have never lived in Maine but I feel very connected to the rocky island and its inhabitants who, over two decades, have populated a dozen short stories, three published novels and one still in progress.

Staring at that family tree recently, I realized that this imaginary world-making was similar to a favorite childhood game my sister and I called Neighborhood. In our grade school years, we arranged blank sheets of 8 ½ by 11 paper along imaginary streets on our bedroom floor, then filled the houses with families cut out of the old Montgomery Ward and Sears mail-order catalogs our mother gave us each year when the new one arrived.

fullsizeoutput_8265We played with these cutout people for hours. We didn’t care that the scale of family members was often mismatched, so the baby might be bigger than the grandma. It didn’t matter that the father’s legs might end at the knees if he had been modeling a flannel shirt, or that his right arm had been amputated by the edge of the page. We had those store-bought paper dolls with their irritating tabbed outfits, but preferred to sit cross-legged on the floor among households of homemade families, making up stories of school and sleepovers, of friendship and disappointments and dramatic calamities, for our imperfect and mismatched characters.

fullsizeoutput_8264These days I use words instead of scissors, and my made-up families migrate from pencil on the bulletin board into my manuscripts. I still value the imperfect characters; one is missing a sense of humor, another’s compassion is atrophied, and a third has never forgiven her cousin for something he said at Aunt Sophie’s Seder in 1956. I work at writing characters who don’t look or live like me or the folks on Saperstein Neck. There’s something compelling about creating neighborhoods of characters who are luminous in their variety, their imperfection and their essential connections to each other.

Writing is often lonely work, but it opens the world. My job is to sit in this chilly book-stuffed room, spin stories made from generations of characters who are as abundant as the oceans, as real as kin. I believe that in terrifying times, in our separate rooms of writing and reading, characters can connect us to each other by propinquity and geography, by empathy and kindness, by imagination and utter necessity.

Ellen Meeropol
February 20, 2017

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Thank you, Ellen, for such a fascinating and thoughtful post. And congratulations on your new release!

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About Kinship of Clover

kinshipclover

He was nine when the vines first wrapped themselves around him and burrowed into his skin. Now a college botany major, Jeremy is desperately looking for a way to listen to the plants and stave off their extinction. But when the grip of the vines becomes too intense and Health Services starts asking questions, he flees to Brooklyn, where fate puts him face to face with a group of climate-justice activists who assure him they have a plan to save the planet, and his plants.

As the group readies itself to make a big Earth Day splash, Jeremy soon realizes these eco-terrorists devotion to activism might have him and those closest to him tangled up in more trouble than he was prepared to face. With the help of a determined, differently abled flame from his childhood, Zoe; her deteriorating, once rabble-rousing grandmother; and some shocking and illuminating revelations from the past, Jeremy must weigh completing his mission to save the plants against protecting the ones he loves, and confront the most critical question of all: how do you stay true to the people you care about while trying to change the world?

Check out Kinship of Clover on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Ellen Meeropol is fascinated by characters on the fault lines of political upheaval. Previous work includes a dramatic script telling the story of the Rosenberg Fund for Children which has been produced in four U.S cities, most recently in Boston. Elli is the wife of Robert Meeropol, youngest son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. Elli is a former nurse and independent bookstore event coordinator and the author of two previous novels, House Arrest and On Hurricane Island. She is a founding member of Straw Dog Writers Guild. Short fiction and essays have appeared in Bridges, DoveTales, Pedestal, Rumpus, Portland Magazine, and the Writer’s Chronicle.

Connect with Ellen on Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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I’m delighted to welcome Maria Murnane to Diary of an Eccentric for the first time today to celebrate her latest novel, Bridges, which will be released tomorrow. She is here to talk about the power of female friendship, and she wants to hear from my readers as well. Please give a warm welcome to Maria Murnane:

The power of female friendship…on and off the pages of my books!

If you’re a loyal reader of my novels, you probably noticed a larger-than-usual gap between my last release, Wait for the Rain, and this one. I didn’t plan for that to happen, in fact I hate that it did, but the unfortunate truth is that I spent more than a year working­­ on–forcing, actually–a lackluster story that was going nowhere. In the process I not only lost my joy for writing, but my confidence. When I finally decided to pull the plug on the book, I honestly didn’t know if I had it in me to write another one.

Fast-forward a few months, and during a visit to see my parents back to California I met up with my dear friend Annie Flaig, who may be the most kind-hearted person I have ever met. A devoted fan of my books—as well as the inspiration for the globe-trotting, ultra successful saleswoman Skylar character in both Wait for the Rain and Bridges–Annie convinced me to get back on the horse, and over dinner we put our heads together and came up with an idea for a story about friendship. It was a bare bones outline, but it got me excited to try again. As soon I got back to my place in Brooklyn, I sat down and started writing.

Maria and Annie at Katwalk launch party

For months I wrote and wrote, and when I finished the first draft of Bridges I emailed it to Annie to see what she thought.

The very next day I got this email from her:

OMG!!!  Maria…it is 554am here in the Canary Islands and I stayed up all night reading your book!!!  I was going to just start it by reading a couple of chapters and fall asleep (on my iPhone…not even my iPad) and ended up reading the entire thing on my phone!  I was pretty much crying or had tears in my eyes the whole book (in a good way!) so I had to expand the text on my phone a bunch of times to read through the water works!

I absolutely LOVE it!  You are an amazing writer (as I already knew) but I agree with you that this one is very special.  You really got to the bottom of these characters and I am with you…I want to be friends with them too!

My book made her cry, and her reaction to it made me cry. There’s beautiful poetry in that.  I never would have been able to write Bridges without Annie’s help and support, and I can only hope those who read it enjoy it a fraction as much as she did. Here’s to the power of female friendship!

Thank you, Maria, for sharing this beautiful story with us! Now I am even more eager to read Bridges! I’m sure a lot of us can relate to your story; I know that the novel I’m working on right now, though in the early stages, would be nothing but a forgotten idea if not for my mother and Serena. 🙂

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About Bridges: A Daphne White Novel

It’s the one piece of news Daphne White never expected to hear: Her globe-trotting friend Skylar, who vowed never to get married, is engaged! First on the bride-to-be’s agenda is a celebratory weekend in Manhattan with her two best girlfriends—her treat, of course. After two decades scaling the corporate ladder with ease, Skylar can more than afford it.

While Daphne is happy for Skylar, the timing of the trip couldn’t be worse. Her own relationship is sputtering, and the debut novel she’s finally finished—which she’d hoped would land her on the bestseller lists­­­­—appears to be going nowhere but the trash bin of every publishing house around. She doesn’t want to spoil the weekend with bad news, so she arrives in New York determined to keep her disappointment under wraps. When she sees Skylar’s spectacular Tribeca apartment, however, that becomes a little trickier. She and Skylar were academic peers in college. Could Daphne’s life have been like this if she’d chosen a different path?

Daphne struggles to hide her feelings of inadequacy, but what she doesn’t know is she’s not the only one with a secret. Skylar and KC are also holding something back, but what? As the weekend unfolds, the truth about each woman emerges, along with tears.

And laughter. And love.

The fun-loving trio readers fell for in Wait for the Rain is together once more. Never underestimate the power of female friendship!

Check out Bridges on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Maria Murnane (Photo credit: Chris Conroy Photography)

Maria Murnane spent several years working in high-tech PR before deciding she needed a change. She quit her job and went to Argentina by herself for what was supposed to be a two-week trip before figuring out what to do next. Instead, she ended up staying for a year to play semi-professional soccer, and while down there she also decided to write a humorous novel called Perfect on Paper based on her experiences as a single woman in San Francisco. Fast forward a few years, and she’s now the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series (Perfect on Paper, It’s a Waverly Life, Honey on Your Mind, Chocolate for Two), as well as Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, Wait for the Rain, and Bridges.

Connect with Maria Murnane via website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway

Maria is generously offering a copy of Bridges to one of my readers. This giveaway is open to those in the United States. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and share a memory about the power of female friendship to bridge various differences. This giveaway will close on Sunday, April 9, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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I am beyond excited to be part of the cover reveal event and blog tour for a book I am absolutely dying to read: The Darcy Monologues, a short story anthology edited by Christina Boyd, slated for release on May 22.

I don’t want to keep you waiting any longer, so here is the fantastic cover, designed by Shari Ryan of MatHat Books:

Here’s what the editor, Christina Boyd, has to say about the cover:

The amazing cover art is the genius of Shari Ryan of MadHat Books. She took the cover concept and created exactly as I envisioned. Shari professionally, quickly, and concisely handled my countless questions, suggestions, and “just one more tweak” in the challenging format of the print interior—even had a special script code written to make it happen. And then when the original concept had to be scrapped because of the print-on-demand company’s limitations that were beyond our control (long, convoluted story only to be shared over strong cocktails), Shari AGAIN created the present cover and interior for both print and e-book. I could not recommend her expertise more!

Furthermore, you might have seen graphics on social media advertising the individual short stories. These were created by one of the anthology’s authors, the very talented Beau North! And it’s a snippet from her story that I am delighted to share with you today:

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About The Darcy Monologues

“You must allow me to tell you…”

For over two hundred years, Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy has captivated readers’ imaginations as the ultimate catch. Rich. Powerful. Noble. Handsome. And yet, as Miss Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” is established through Elizabeth Bennet’s fine eyes, how are we to know what his tortured soul is indeed thinking? How does Darcy progress from “She is tolerable: but not handsome enough to tempt me” to “I thought only of you”?

In this romance anthology, fifteen Austen-inspired authors assemble to sketch Darcy’s character through a series of re-imaginings, set in the Regency through contemporary times—from faithful narratives to the fanciful. Herein “The Darcy Monologues,” the man himself reveals his intimate thoughts, his passionate dreams, and his journey to love—all told with a previously concealed wit and enduring charm.

Stories by: Susan Adriani * Sara Angelini * J. Marie Croft * Karen M Cox * Jan Hahn * Jenetta James * Lory Lilian * KaraLynne Mackrory * Beau North * Ruth Phillips Oakland * Natalie Richards * Sophia Rose * Joana Starnes * Melanie Stanford * Caitlin Williams

Pre-order The Darcy Monologues on Amazon

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About the Authors

Formally trained as a fine artist and illustrator, Susan Adriani discovered her passion for storytelling over a decade after she graduated from a local art college near her childhood home in New England. Susan is the author of The Truth about Mr. Darcy and Darkness Falls upon Pemberley.

Sara Angelini is a lawyer living in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband, three kids, two dogs, a frog, some fish, and a few hundred stick bugs. She never went to veterinary school but if she had, she would have been a true proficient. She enjoys writing from Darcy’s point of view in a way that shows his humor and vulnerability. Her first book, The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy, was published in 2008. She is the co-founder of www.austenunderground.com, where her other Pride and Prejudice-inspired works can be read.

Karen M Cox is an award-winning author of four novels accented with romance and history: 1932, Find Wonder in All Things, At the Edge of the Sea, and Undeceived. She also wrote “Northanger Revisited 2015”, which appeared in the anthology Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer. Originally from Everett, Washington, Karen now lives in Central Kentucky with her husband, works as a pediatric speech pathologist, encourages her children, and spoils her granddaughter. Like Austen’s Emma, Karen has many hobbies and projects she doesn’t quite finish, but like Elizabeth Bennet, she aspires to be a great reader and an excellent walker.

Marie Croft is a self-proclaimed word nerd and adherent of Jane Austen’s quote “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.’ Bearing witness to her fondness for Pride and Prejudice, wordplay, and laughter are Joanne’s light-hearted novel, Love at First Slight, a Babblings of a Bookworm Favourite Read of 2014, her humorous short story, “Spyglasses and Sunburns,” in the Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer anthology, and a playful novella, A Little Whimsical in His Civilities, Just Jane 1813’s Favorite JAFF Novella of 2016.

Award-winning writer Jan Hahn is the author of four Austen-inspired novels. She studied music at the University of Texas but discovered her true love was a combination of journalism and literature. Her first book, An Arranged Marriage, was published in 2011, followed by The Journey, The Secret Betrothal, and A Peculiar Connection. She agrees with Mr. Darcy’s words in Pride and Prejudice: “A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.” She is a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, lives in Texas, has five children and a gaggle of gorgeous grandchildren.

Jenetta James is a mother, lawyer, writer, and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society. After graduating, she took to the law and now practices full time as a barrister. Over the years, she has lived in France, Hungary and Trinidad as well as her native England. Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing and playing with Lego. She is the author of Suddenly Mrs. Darcy and The Elizabeth Papers.

Lory Lilian fell in love with Pride and Prejudice thirty-three years ago and discovered the charm of Jane Austen fanfiction exactly twenty years later. She lives in Bucharest, Romania, is a proud mother of an amazing daughter, and addicted to anything Austen. After a career in business, she dedicates her time to reading and writing. Lory is the author of six bestselling books: Rainy Days, Remembrances of the Past, His Uncle’s Favorite, The Perfect Match, Sketching Mr. Darcy, The Rainbow Promise, and A Man with Faults. JAFF readers call her the “Queen of Hot Mush” and she loves it.

KaraLynne Mackrory is no newbie to the writing world. She made her debut as an author at the tender age of 13 when she wrote her first set of bad poetry. As a young adult, she steered clear of bad prose and achieved a degree in social work. Years later, she has published four Austen inspired novels so full of romantic sensibilities as to give you a swoon and hopefully a few laughs. Her books turned out better than her poetry and are: Falling for Mr. Darcy, Bluebells in the Mourning, the IPPY award-winning Haunting Mr. Darcy, and Yours Forevermore, Darcy.

Beau North is the author of Longbourn’s Songbird, The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy, and a contributor to the anthology Then Comes Winter. Beau is a native southerner who now calls Portland, Oregon home with her husband and two cats. She attended the University of South Carolina where she began a lifelong obsession with literature. In her spare time, Beau is the co-host of the podcast Excessively Diverted: Modern Austen Onscreen.

Mild-mannered business woman by day, hopeless romantic by night, Ruth Phillips Oakland was always a fan of the fictional gentleman from Derbyshire, but it was her discovery of Jane Austen fanfiction in 2006 that inspired Ruth to become a writer. Ruth has written dozens of short stories posted online and the published novel entitled, My BFF. Ruth lives in New England with her favorite husband of over thirty years and is thrilled to be included in this anthology with so many of her favorite authors and friends.

Natalie Richards is a writer, blogger, and singer. She started her book review blog, Songs & Stories, in late 2010 after falling in love with Jane Austen fanfiction. Her writing can also be found on Figment, the Darcy & Lizzy Forum, TeenInk Magazine, and in the Austenesque anthologies Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer and Then Comes Winter. She resides with her family in the Oregon countryside and currently works as a waitress and babysitter.

Sophia Rose is a native Californian currently residing in Michigan. A long-time Jane Austen fan, she is a contributing author to Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer and Then Comes Winter anthologies. Sophia’s love for writing began as a teen writing humorous stories submitted for creative writing class and high school writing club. Writing was set aside while Sophia pursued degrees and certificates in education, special education, family history, and social work leading to a rewarding career. Health issues led to reduced work hours and an opportunity to read, beta, and review books, and return to writing stories that lean toward the humorous side and always end with a happily ever after.

Melanie Stanford reads too much, plays music too loud, is sometimes dancing, and always daydreaming. She would also like her very own TARDIS, but only to travel to the past. She lives in Canada with her husband and four kids. She is the author of SWAY, a retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, and the short story “Becoming Fanny” featured in the anthology Then Comes Winter. Her second novel, Collide, inspired by Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, is coming soon. You can find her at melaniestanfordbooks.com, on Twitter @MelMStanford, and on Facebook @ MelanieStanfordauthor.

Joana Starnes lives in the south of England with her family. Over the years, she has swapped several hats—physician, lecturer, clinical data analyst—but feels most comfortable in a bonnet. She has been living in Georgian England for decades in her imagination and plans to continue in that vein till she lays hands on a time machine. She is the author of seven Austen-inspired novels: From This Day Forward ~ The Darcys of Pemberley, The Subsequent Proposal, The Second Chance, The Falmouth Connection, The Unthinkable Triangle, Miss Darcy’s Companion, and Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter. You can connect with Joana through her website http://www.joanastarnes.co.uk/ and on Facebook via All Roads Lead to Pemberley.

Caitlin Williams is an award-winning author of two novels, Ardently and the best-selling The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet, both of which spin the plot of Pride and Prejudice around but keep the characters just the same. Originally from South London, Caitlin spent thirteen years as a detective in the Metropolitan Police but is currently on a break from Scotland Yard so she can spend more time at home with her two children and write. She now lives in Kent, where she spends a lot of time daydreaming about Mr. Darcy, playing with dinosaurs, and trying not to look at the laundry pile.

Christina Boyd wears many hats as she is an editor under her own banner The Quill Ink, a contributor to Austenprose, and a ceramicist and proprietor of Stir Crazy Mama’s Artworks. A life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, Christina lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two busy teenagers, and a retriever named BiBi. Visiting Jane Austen’s England was made possible by her book boyfriend and star crush Henry Cavill when she won a trip to meet him on the London Eye in the spring of 2017.

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Giveaways

There are two giveaways, both open internationally, for two separate winners.

For the first giveaway, one winner will be selected to win a Kindle Fire with Alexa, and a 7” display.

This giveaway will take place from March 27 – April 21, 2017. The winner will be announced on April 22, 2017. To enter this Rafflecopter giveaway, click here.

For the second giveaway, one winner will be selected to win a $25.00 Etsy gift card.

To enter this giveaway, readers will create a Pinterest Board named The Darcy Monologues and post all fifteen story images from the cover reveals, one per each author included in the anthology, and Tweet the board on Twitter. The Tweet must include the hashtag, #TheDarcyMonologues.

This giveaway will take place from March 27 – April 21, 2017. The winner will be announced on April 22, 2017.

Good luck!

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Cover Reveal Participants

My Love for Jane Austen
Margie’s Must Reads
My Jane Austen Book Club
Austenesque Reviews
Of Pens and Pages
More Agreeably Engaged
So Little Time
Diary of an Eccentric
Book Lover in Florida
My Vices and Weaknesses
Savvy Verse & Wit
Every Savage Can Dance
Obsessed with Mr Darcy
Polished and Bubbly
The Reading Frenzy
Just Jane 1813
From Pemberley to Milton

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April 3/My Jane Austen Book Club / Launch Post & Giveaway
April 10/Babblings of a Bookworm/ Book Review & Giveaway
April 17/The Reading Frenzy / Guest Post & Giveaway
April 20/My Love for Jane Austen / Guest Post & Giveaway
April 24/Margie’s Must Reads / Book Review & Giveaway
May 1/From Pemberley to Milton / Book Review & Giveaway
May 8/Just Jane 1813 / Excerpt Post & Giveaway
May 15/Austenesque Reviews / Book Review & Giveaway
May 22/Austenesque Reviews / Guest Post & Giveaway
May 25/Of Pens and Pages / Book Review & Giveaway
May 29/More Agreeably Engaged / Book Review & Giveaway
June 5/So Little Time / Book Excerpt & Giveaway
June 12/Diary of an Eccentric/ Book Review & Giveaway
June 19/Book Lover in Florida / Book Excerpt & Giveaway
June 26/My Vices and Weaknesses / Book Review & Giveaway
July 3/Savvy Verse & Wit / Book Review & Giveaway

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