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Hello, friends! My guest today is Ren Powell, who is here to share a poem from her new collection, Impermanence, and a little about how it came to be. Please give her a warm welcome!


This/that now has already
flowed like a river around your waist
and into your hands
– you caught what you could and braided it

like water flowing into the patterns
     of fish bones
like mycelium routing nitrogen
     favoring a sapling

you created one identifiable
                    X
from the infinite possibilities

But it spilled from of your tongue
slipped through your fingers

the X you wove into the world
warping and shapeshifting
so inevitably, incrementally
that you look up day after day
surprised by the foreign landscapes
of your own making

The poems from Impermanence aren’t easy to tease apart. They speak to one another. All of them grew out a year of daily meditations on the theme of inevitable change, and how we suffer when we resist it.

This was one of the first poems I wrote for the collection. The morning I began the draft, I’d run along the trail by the lake and I stopped to watch a small creek flowing into it. I noticed how the water mimicked a fish’s soft skeleton in the shape it formed. I loved the parallel realities – it was more than a metaphor. The idea that this is like this in fact, not in concept.

The water-skeleton disappears instantly if I step in the stream. The fish bones will decay over time. I think it’s an illusion that one is more real than the other. We give time too much importance when we make our value judgements. Especially when we consider that every moment is already over by the time we’ve acknowledged its existence. We work so hard to make sense of things that we want them to stay as we’ve determined they “are”.

The trail around the lake also has groves of trees. The trees with the saucer-like mushrooms wedged in the bark are dying. I can’t see it, but I know the network of mycelium under the ground is already moving the nutrients from the dying trees to the new trees. The fungi don’t recognize ownership over the requirements of life. The shape of the forest shifts so slowly that we think we see trees dying instead of a forest growing.

We impose our will on the world every moment. We tell ourselves a story about every passing instance: an X of meaning.

I think of the pride of a small child finally getting the family dog to “stay”, and then the frustration and anger they experience when the dog runs off.

I think we contribute to the world, but we don’t shape it as we think we do. We might set something in motion, but the river of time – like the dog – doesn’t “stay”. 


About Impermanence

The poetry collection is actually a conceptual poetry book. The artwork in the hand-bound and paperback versions aren’t illustrations. They are integral to the book. The bust in the photographs is covered with lines of poems found as text in the book. The handwriting on the photographs present erasures of the same poems.

The bust was filmed disintegrating under a waterfall once the book was finished. It was a practice in the kind of attitude I was exploring in the book: letting go is a healthy thing.

The book (both hand-bound and paperback versions) can be purchased at renpowell.com.


About the Author

Ren Powell is a writer and teaching artist. She is a native Californian – now a Norwegian citizen settled on the west coast of Norway. Ren has been a member of The Norwegian Author’s Union since 2005 and has published six full-length collections of poetry and more than two dozen books of translations with traditional publishing houses. Her poetry collections have been purchased by the Norwegian Arts Council for national library distribution, and her poems have been translated and published in eight languages. Ren is currently focusing on handbound poetry collections and mixed media experimentation as Mad Orphan Lit. Learn more about Ren Powell. Follow her on Facebook.


For more about Impermanence and to follow the blog tour, click the image above.

Thank you, Ren, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your latest book!

Hello, friends! I’m delighted to welcome Mary Anne Mushatt to the blog today to celebrate the release of her new Pride and Prejudice variation, For the Deepest Love. Mary Anne is here to share an excerpt from the novel, so please give her a warm welcome!


Hi Anna,

Thank you so much for hosting me to day and allowing me to share a little bit of For The Deepest Love.

In this excerpt we get a glimpse of how Darcy feels—about women, society, and himself, as Elizabeth defies his prejudices and offers him a glimpse of human decency and kindness. It makes me wonder what his world is truly like, if even such a momentary exposure to a person being kind can kick start a revolution in his heart. 

It was with no little curiosity that Fitzwilliam Darcy would attend the Sackville dinner. The Gardiners and their much talked-of niece were expected, and he wished to gain an introduction to, if not share a conversation with, the lady who had caused such a stir amongst those of the highest circles. It is amazing how this country lass has, within a season, established herself in the most fashionable circles and beyond. She was beguiling at the Phelps’ salon, and I have even heard of her at the chess club. Beauty, intelligence, wit—and those eyes! He prepared to exit his coach. Passion, surely, buried perhaps, but the fire in her eyes promises great things.

Giving his coat to the footman, Darcy overheard two other guests gossiping. “Rumour has it that Blainard will offer for the bewitching Miss Bennet.”  

His ears pricked up at that, but he continued towards his hosts. Was he too late already? I must find a way to meet her, he thought whilebowing to Lord Sackville. Extending his hand to take Lady Sackville’s, he saw her. She was sitting along the wall with two other ladies. She wore a sage green gown, delicate beadwork glinting on the silk bodice. Jade pieces encircled her neck, with a triangular pendant resting on her bosom. Their eyes met as she looked up and smiled at him. Heart pounding like a schoolboy’s, he nodded in return, until Lady Sackville reclaimed his attention with a knowing smirk.

They were seated at opposite ends of the table, much to his disappointment. This is torture. She is beyond my reach, and while she entices with bon mots of wit and intelligence, I must endure the tittering drivel of Miss Bradshaw.

When the men re-joined the ladies after dinner, he headed in her direction. Damn a proper introduction! Yet as he approached, Miss Bennet’s companion snapped her fan and leaned in to speak.

“I cannot believe he came.”

He diverted his steps, making it seem he had been walking towards the window nearest them.

“I beg your pardon?” Miss Bennet replied, even as her eyes darted towards him.

“Have you not heard of the infamous Darcys? It is delicious. His young sister nearly eloped—with the son of their steward.” 

Taking a deep breath, Miss Bennet asked, “How old was she?”

“Oh, she was but fifteen, I believe.” The young lady sounded as though she had been unprepared for the question.

Miss Bennet sighed before replying. “That is my sister Lydia’s age. A difficult time in any young lady’s life.”

Darcy’s eyes widened at the sincerity in her voice. It has been a long time—a very long time—since any kindness was attached to my name or Georgiana’s.

“But that is not the most scandalous part, Elizabeth. It was his response that was most shocking.”

Ah, here it comes, thought Darcy. My character flayed at the stake of propriety.

“Mr Darcy allowed the poor girl’s infamy to be broadcast throughout society! He let it be known how that rake, Mr Wickham, attempted to elope with her.”

Darcy bit his cheek, waiting for Miss Bennet’s reaction.

“I believe,” she began, “it took a great deal of courage for Mr and Miss Darcy to allow this to be known by all.”

“Elizabeth!”—Darcy cringed at the scold in the young woman’s voice—“Courage indeed!  She is ruined amongst society, by his hand.”

Miss Bennet laughed. “I should hope people will soon forgive the indiscretion of a fifteen-year-old child. However, many unsuspecting families are now forewarned of this Mr Wickham’s character, and for that, I am grateful. If more people spoke honestly, then women would be better protected. Do you not agree?”

Darcy recoiled at her companion’s dubious response.

“Put that way, there is sense in what you say. Oh look, there is Mr Ambrose. Come, let us make haste.”

The women moved away, leaving Darcy stunned. Never has there been such an unqualified defence or understanding of my actions. A wave of sorrow shook him, and he reached out to steady himself against the nearby pillar. Nor of what this has cost my sister. Not only does she feel betrayed by that bounder, but Lady Catherine continues to harangue her at every opportunity.

His gaze sought Miss Bennet. And yet, she understands, can see the sacrifice and courage of my little sister. Thank you, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, for replenishing my faith in the decency of the human heart.


About For the Deepest Love

“After thinking long and hard, I have come to the conclusion that—although it may not be the kind of love my sister and I once had in mind—marrying Mr Darcy would be marrying for a love of the deepest kind.”

Recovering from their parents’ deaths, Elizabeth and Jane Bennet have held their family together, leaning on the support of their uncle, Edward Gardiner, to help them survive.  Thus, when Mr Gardiner is threatened with scandal and ruin, Elizabeth vows to help him.  Hearing of her distress, the scandalous Fitzwilliam Darcy enters her life—offering his aid in exchange for her hand.  Accepting his proposal upends her life in unimaginable ways as she learns of the treachery of the peer courting her, the betrayal and violence committed by her childhood friend, and the threat to her country as it faces another war. 

As Elizabeth and Darcy face the turmoil and trials swirling around them, they risk opening their hearts to unexpected passion.  In order to survive challenges from without and fears within, they must summon unknown strengths and forge new bonds to solidify a love of the deepest kind.

Buy on Amazon


About the Author

A lifelong writer, Mary Anne Mushatt relocated to New Orleans last century, where she earned an MFA and created a documentary of oral histories in the African-American and Native American communities along Louisiana’s River Road.  When the levees failed, exiling her family from their home, she discovered the community of Jane Austen acolytes and began writing novels placing the beloved characters of Pride & Prejudice in innovative situations. Taken is her second published novel.  As a result of one of her earlier novels, she works with a multi-disciplinary team aiding victims of human trafficking become survivors.

Mary Anne lives in New Orleans with her husband, two sons, and two dogs.


Giveaway

Quills & Quartos is generously offering an ebook of For the Deepest Love as part of the blog tour. To enter, please leave a comment on this post. The blog tour wraps up on June 8, 2021, and the winners will be chosen on June 11, 2021. The winners’ names will be posted on the Quills & Quartos Facebook and Instagram pages. Good luck!


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

Hello, friends! Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Sherry Quan Lee to the blog to celebrate the release of her new poetry collection, Septuagenarian. Sherry is here today to share a poem and its inspiration. Enjoy!


The World Is Heavy

One doesn’t have to imagine good and evil amidst

all this terror.

Sadness, the bones and the blood surrender

but, we can make a difference we are all somebody

we are not on the backs on the backs on the backs

of sorrow

that preceded

head separated from body

body separated from country

family separated

love guarantees memory    

guns in white rooms the ghost

of a man an unholy ghost trying to rewrite the story

what if what if what if asking the questions is [not] enough?

sometimes madness

I feel like a boxer punching  the world

is heavy that’s when the silence is broken

not with words but with images  children

didn’t know what to make of the bickering

children got lost in the silence suffering;

the father the mother the siblings gone

a newspaper headline.

To the wicked and the wise there is a difference

between opinion and truth, a space where

freedom is clearly not where in the world  we are

divisive and our lives are at risk.

Tolerate is a difficult word. Racism, white men

with assault rifles. Death

is temporary.

History implodes on a regular irregular heartbeat

like a sorcerer reads palms this is love choking on air

ready to survive   pedestals 

collapse amidst a pandemic       

as I sip my morning coffee the heart/broken

is what saves us. The charade is over

this year. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!


How “The World is Heavy” Came to Be” and a Challenge to the Reader

January 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol, death—lies. A culmination of four frightful years. How, as a poet, can we respond? We could use the fast and flowing media coverage to write a found poem rearranging and reformatting what has already been written by journalists, by reporters, by politicians. Or, we can turn to our own writing.

Using only text from Septuagenarian: love is what happens when I die, I randomly chose words and phrases and strung them together. What might be hidden if we break apart the whole? Have I, unknowingly, moved beyond the personal—have I entered the world?

I discovered within my memoir of verse that I was saying more than I had said, that for me the personal continues to be political, and all things are temporary. The memory of what has preceded me implodes and love is my act of survival.

Use words and phrases from what you have previously written and find a poem. Perhaps you will discover what you didn’t know you knew. It may not, at first, make sense, yet it will.


About Septuagenarian

Septuagenarian: love is what happens when I die is a memoir in poetic form. It is the author’s journey from being a mixed-race girl who passed for white to being a woman in her seventies who understands and accepts her complex intersectional identity; and no longer has to imagine love. It is a follow-up to the author’s previous memoir (prose), Love Imagined: a mixed-race memoir, A Minnesota Book Award finalist.

Buy on Amazon


About the Author

Sherry Quan Lee, MFA, University of Minnesota; and Distinguished Alumna, North Hennepin Community College, is the editor of How Dare We! Write: a multicultural creative writing discourse. Her most recent book, Love Imagined: a mixed race memoir, was a 2015 Minnesota Book Award Finalist. Previous books include: Chinese Blackbird, a memoir in verseHow to Write a Suicide Note: serial essays that saved a woman’s life; and a chapbook, A Little Mixed Up.

Quan Lee was a selected participant for the Loft Literary Center Asian Inroads Program, and later was the Loft mentor for the same program. Previously, she was the Writer-to-Writer mentor for SASE: The Write Place, at Intermedia Arts. Also, she was the 2015-2016 Loft Literary Center’s Mentor Series poetry mentor. Visit her blog.


To learn more about Septuagenarian or to follow the tour, please click the button above.

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

Hello, dear friends! I’m delighted that Maria Grace is back again today, this time to celebrate the seventh installment of the Jane Austen’s Dragons series, Dragons Beyond the Pale. Maria is here to share a little about her research into dragons in Jane Austen’s world. Please give her a warm welcome!


Hi Anna! I’m thrilled to join you today and share a little of the research that’s led me to the conclusion that Of Course There Were Dragons in Jane Austen’s World.

The Dragons of Brighton’s Royal Pavilion

Brighton’s iconic Royal Pavilion features unique, stunning architecture and décor, fit for a royal prince. But when one looks closely at the décor, a surprising feature jumps out—dragons!

History of Brighton Pavilion

After visiting Brighton in 1783 with his uncle, Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland, The Prince of Wales (later George IV) found an escape from the constraints of court life with his father. He was advised that the seawater and fresh air would benefit his gout, but the more diverting attractions of Brighton, lively company in his uncle’s circle, gambling, horse racing, music, theater and dining—and of course women—were probably the Prince’s primary draws to create his escapist playground there.

In 1786, the Prince rented a farmhouse in Brighton. By 1787, he commissioned the designer of Carlton house, Henry Holland, to begin what would become the Marine Pavilion Later, the Prince purchased surrounding lands to build a riding school and stables in 1803-1808.

Josh Nash, architect

After the Prince’s transition from Prince of Wales to Prince Regent in 1811, the Pavilion and its ground began a transformation to reflect its owner’s change in status. Designer Josh Nash redesigned the Pavilion with an Indo-Islamic exterior unique in the region, in a project that would extend from 1815-1822. The interior design, primarily by Frederick Crace and Robert Jones, reflected both Chinese and Indian fashion, something of a revival of the chinoiserie style of the 1740’s. The decorative choices were an example of exoticism in sharp contrast to the more classic mainstream taste of the era.

The Dragons of Brighton Pavilion

The interiors of Brighton Pavilion were distinctive for many reasons, including architecture, technological advances, and design. I’d like to focus on just one of those aspects here, the dragons. Literally hundreds of dragons grace the walls, textiles and fixtures of Brighton Pavilion. Not exactly what one might expect from the Regency era which is generally associated with neo-classical design. But the fantasy-escape offered by the Pavilion took guest out of the mundane at the first steps within.

Entrance Hall

The entrance hall offered visitors immediate hints as to what might lay within. The walls bear relatively subtle images of dragons.

Long Gallery

The Long Gallery, sometimes also he Chinese Gallery, provided a place for guests to promenade and admire the décor. Carved and painted dragons can be seen in a close examination Nash’s illustration.

Banqueting Room

The lavish banqueting room offers equally lavish dragon decoration, perhaps most notable is the carved and silvered dragon from which the crystal chandelier is suspended. (Click this link to see a photograph of the actual silver dragon http://www.victoriana.com/Travel/images/royalpavilion-7.jpg) Six smaller dragons wind around the lotus shaped glass shades. More dragons decorate lamps, walls and furnishings.

Music Room

The substantial music room is perhaps the pinnacle of the Pavilion’s chinoiserie theme. Landscape murals feature gigantic serpents and winged dragons. Dragons and serpents support the curtains for the enormous windows and decorate the gasoliers. At least 180 dragon and serpent grace this chamber.

Dragon décor can be seen in other rooms throughout the pavilion.  

Don’t forget the Tunnels

One final dragon friendly feature of the Royal Pavilion were the secret corridors used by the servants, and the tunnel that ran from the north end of the Pavilion to the stables and riding house. The tunnel was lit by shafts in the tunnel’s roof that held sizeable glass lanterns tucked into the flowerbeds above the tunnel.

Of course there are rumor and myths of a more substantial network of tunnels, connecting a variety of locations to the Pavilion, but those appear to by the substance of myth. 

Or maybe not. If I’m right, and dragons did inhabit Jane Austen’s England, then perhaps, just perhaps the additional tunnels were not so mythical, and the carved and painted dragons are not the only one to inhabit the Royal Pavilion.

A virtual tour of the Royal Pavilion

You can see several of these rooms for yourself! A virtual tour of a number of the rooms mentioned here can be found at: https://brightonmuseums.org.uk/royalpavilion/visiting/virtual-tour/

References

Brighton Pavilion. Open Learn. September 8, 2012, https://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/history-art/brighton-pavilion/content-section-0 accessed April 20, 2021

Discover the Royal Pavilion. Victoriana Magazine http://www.victoriana.com/Travel/royalpavilion.htm Accessed April 20, 2021

Moss , Richard. Forgotten Rooms And Underground Tunnels – Secrets Of Brighton Pavilion. May 24, 2004.  https://www.culture24.org.uk/history-and-heritage/royal-history/tra2200   Accessed April 20, 2021

John Nash’s Views of the Royal Pavilion (1826) (All images from this source)


About Dragons Beyond the Pale

Smugglers. A kidnapping. A fire-breathing fairy dragon? The Blue Order is falling apart at the seams. 

After months in Bath mentoring Dragon Keepers and Friends, Dragon Sage Elizabeth Darcy actually anticipates traveling to London for the Keeper’s Cotillion. Which says a great deal considering the she-dragons who make up the Cotillion board would very much like to show the Sage her proper place.

The she-dragons, though, are no match for what Sir Fitzwilliam Darcy finds waiting for him in London. Threats to the Order on every side, and Lord Matlock demands he keep them secret from Elizabeth. No one keeps secrets from Elizabeth.

In the meantime, Anne and Frederick Wentworth arrive in London with hopes of finally being accepted in good Blue Order society, unaware of the burgeoning maelstrom about to engulf them.

Darcy manages to keep matters under control until a fairy-dragon’s prank unleashes sinister forces who perpetrate an unthinkable crime that could spell the end of the Pendragon Accords and usher in a new age of dragon war.

Can Elizabeth and Darcy, with the Wentworths’ help, restore balance to the Blue Order before the dragons decide to take matters into their own talons and right the wrongs themselves?

Buy on Amazon


Check out the rest of the series on Amazon, and visit the Jane Austen Dragon’s series website!


About the Author

Six-time BRAG Medallion Honoree, Maria Grace has her PhD in Educational Psychology and is a 16-year veteran of the university classroom where she taught courses in human growth and development, learning, test development and counseling. None of which have anything to do with her undergraduate studies in economics/sociology/managerial studies/behavior sciences. She pretends to be a mild-mannered writer/cat-lady, but most of her vacations require helmets and waivers or historical costumes, usually not at the same time.

She writes gas lamp fantasy, historical romance and non-fiction to help justify her research addiction.

She can be contacted at: author.MariaGrace@gmail.com | Facebook | Twitter | Random Bits of Fascination |Pinterest


Giveaway

Maria is generously offering a winner’s choice ebook giveaway! One lucky winner can choose between the newest ebook in the series, Dragons Beyond the Pale, or if they haven’t yet started the series, the first ebook, Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, May 23, 2021. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

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!