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mr-darcys-debtI’m thrilled to welcome April Floyd to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of Mr. Darcy’s Debt and learn about her inspiration for the novel, which I will be reviewing here soon. Please give her a warm welcome, and stay tuned for a very generous giveaway at the end of this post.

I am pleased to be a guest on Anna’s blog today and share with her readers the birth of the idea for Mr. Darcy’s Debt.

It’s always hard to say where ideas begin for stories and variations, mainly it is an exercise in asking yourself what if Elizabeth or Darcy did something different at some point in the story that changes the outcome.

For this story, the idea of Elizabeth not only being an accomplished walker but an excellent horsewoman tickled my fancy. I read about women racing in Regency times and I could see an Elizabeth Bennet that loved horses being more than tempted to race.

When I sat down to write that Elizabeth, the idea of an estate near Pemberley that was in the Fitzwilliam family sprang to life. Apparently, this story wanted me to move Elizabeth and family to Derbyshire and so I had to consider how to make that happen.

Cue the scene of Lady Anne and Lady Catherine at a frozen lake on their family estate many years before we meet the Bennet family as we all know them from Jane Austen’s classic, much beloved tale.

I knew there had to be some reason that their eldest brother would consider Thomas Bennet’s future offspring and subsequently provide for them if the entailment on Longbourn came into play.

So, back to that partially frozen lake we go. Bertram Fitzwilliam was a daredevil and Thomas Bennet his partner in crime. Of course the two handsome, young men would test the waters so to speak.

But Lady Anne was never meant to come to harm, it’s just a detail that entered the scene as I wrote it. Originally, it was only Bertie who would go through the ice and Thomas Bennet would save him only to lose him months later as he would not beat the pneumonia that overtook his already weakened body.

By saving his friend, Thomas Bennet would inspire the young man to make a deathbed promise that would lead the rest of his family to honor his dying wish.

Now, with that bit of history, I could have Mr. Bennet succumb to the illness that plagued Jane at Netherfield while Mr. Collins was visiting. Marriage proposal denied, Bennet ladies out in the streets, but how to get them to Derbyshire.

Enter Lady Catherine, a very different personality in this story than the original. She comes to the reading of Mr. Bennet’s will and observes Collins as he deals with the ladies of Longbourn.

She steps in when he’s been provoked by the sisters’ camaraderie and delivers the news that shocks the ladies and sends them on their way to Somersal, that estate near Pemberley where Elizabeth and Darcy will fall in love, have their misunderstanding, and find their way back to one another.

I chose a stronger Bingley for this story and a happy ending for Lydia.

For some, the match made by Lydia seemed a stretch but it was her frivolity and lack of maturity that was needed to lift the severity of the situation instead of her sister Mary.

I considered making a match for Mary instead, but her demeanor would not have been the tonic that was desperately needed.

I hope that you come to love this story as much as I loved writing it and I’m happy to offer THREE digital copies to THREE winners.

Again, much thanks to Anna for hosting me and allowing me to share my writing process with you.

Thank YOU, April, for being my guest today. I am very much looking forward to reading the book!

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About Mr. Darcy’s Debt

Thomas Bennet has died and left his wife and five daughters during the visit of his cousin Mr. Collins who has come to offer marriage as an olive branch to soothe the way when he inherits their home, Longbourn.

A deathbed promise from the past saves the ladies and Elizabeth Bennet becomes better acquainted with the wealthy, handsome Mr. Darcy, the man who insulted  her at the assembly in Meryton.

With the Bennets living at Somersal, a country estate that belongs to the Fitzwilliam family and is only a short distance from Pemberley, the home of Mr. Darcy, their mutual love of riding fosters a love neither Darcy nor Elizabeth can deny.

After a terrible accident, Elizabeth believes she must race in the spring to secure her family’s future, much to Mr. Darcy’s dismay. His proposal, given to keep her from racing, is summarily refused as Elizabeth Bennet will not marry from necessity.

Check out Mr. Darcy’s Debt on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

April Floyd lives in Alaska with her husband and youngest son. She loves happy endings, nice people, and reading great stories. Once upon a time, she was an Army wife and a phlebotomist and recently ran a successful ebook deals site for four years. Historical fiction, Jane Austen, and fantasy/dystopia are her favorite genres.

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Giveaway

April is generously offering three ebook versions of Mr. Darcy’s Debt. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will close on Sunday, March 5, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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Maria Grace

I’m delighted to have Maria Grace as a guest on Diary of an Eccentric today to showcase her latest novel, Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon, the first in a new series. Please give Maria a warm welcome as she answers my question: Why Dragons?

I was chatting with Anna one day and she asked, “So what’s a nice regency romance writer like you doing with a book like that? Dragons? Seriously?”

Ok, that’s not really what Anna asked me. (We all know she is much too sweet and well-mannered to say anything like that.) But she did ask me to talk a little about how I ended up writing a Pride and Prejudice variation about dragons. So, same thing more or less, right?

But I digress.

I suppose I could wax philosophical and say that it began back in the dark ages of middle school when I first read Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Flight. My imagination was captured by her dragons. Seriously, in the midst of middle school angst, who wouldn’t want an enormous, fire-breathing friend who was entirely devoted to you? I certainly would have welcomed that. Middle school—shudder!

Seriously though, I’ve loved fantasy from the very beginning and only recently wandered into the realm of the regency era and Jane Austen’s world. The first stories I wrote were science fiction fan fiction and the first original novel I wrote was a fantasy. And yes, I still have it, and no, I’m not letting it out of the box where it safely resides. (I ONCE thought about resurrecting it, but yeah, it was written by a fifteen year old, and there was no getting away from that.)

Writing took a back seat to college, graduate school, adult life and kids. Somehow, when I wandered back into the authorial realm, I landed in regency era England.

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Maria Grace

My husband and boys were thrilled that I was fulfilling a long held passion and totally supportive of my efforts. But… (you knew that was coming, right?) They were also science fiction/fantasy fans. Knowing about my prior dabbling in those genres, they really, really REALLY wanted me to write something they would want to read. (Ok, to be fair, my Mr. Darcy actually does read ALL of my books, romance, history, fantasy… all of them.)

So, one day, at the local pizza buffet, I was knocking around story ideas with my boys, something we’d often done before.  We were getting a little silly and just tossing stuff out there, when an idea landed with a resounding, deafening thud. A dragon sized one.

What if there were a secret society of dragons living alongside people in Regency England.

I suddenly had their attention. Ideas were flying fast and furious: ideas for how the species would interact, what government would look like, the economics of it all—and boy could I tell they’d been paying attention in their history and government classes! In the span of way longer than we should have spent eating pizza, we had an entire dragon world built, just screaming for a story to live in it.

And really, as a mother, and an author, how could I possibly walk away from something that my kids helped me build? Seriously? I had to write something for that world. It was about that time that I encountered Pride Prejudice and Zombies—which was an interesting experience and we’ll leave it at that.

But it did get me thinking, which is a dangerous thing. As much fun as zombies might be (ok, not really, I’m not a zombie kinda gal), dragons had to be better right. So the gauntlet was thrown, and Mr. Darcy’s Dragon was born.

To be entirely honest, I have never had as much fun writing a series as I have with these dragon books. I’m currently half way through the second book and into plotting the third book. With any luck book two should be done this quarter and I’d like to have the third one done by the end of the year. I know it’s a big leap for regency romance readers, but I hope that some of you will grab the dragon by the tail and join me in a dragon world where Darcy and Elizabeth must prevent the outbreak of a new dragon war (and maybe fall in love in the process) with a little help from their dragon friends.

Thank you, Maria, for sharing your inspiration with me and my readers. I can’t wait to delve into this world of dragons!

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About Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon

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England is overrun by dragons of all shapes and sizes. Most people are blissfully unaware of them and the Pendragon Treaty that keeps the peace between human and dragon kind.  Only those born with preternatural hearing, like Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are able to hear and converse with dragonkind.

When the first firedrake egg laid in a century is stolen from Pemberley, the fragile dragon peace teeters on collapse. Darcy has no choice but to chase down the thief, a journey that leads him to quaint market town of Meryton and fellow Dragon Keeper, Elizabeth Bennet.

Elizabeth shares a unique bond with dragons, stronger than anything Darcy has ever experienced. More than that, her vast experience and knowledge of dragon lore may be the key to uncovering the lost egg. But Elizabeth can’t stand Darcy’s arrogance and doesn’t trust him to care properly for a precious baby firedrake. After all, he already lost the egg once. What’s to prevent it from happening again?

Can he win her trust and recover the stolen egg before it hatches and sends England spiraling back into the Dark Ages of Dragon War?

Check out Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon on Goodreads | Amazon (Kindle) (Paperback) | Barnes & Noble (Nook) (Paperback) | Kobo

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About the Author

Maria Grace

Maria Grace

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

She has one husband and one grandson, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, is starting her sixth year blogging on Random Bits of Fascination, has built seven websites, attended eight English country dance balls, sewn nine Regency era costumes, and shared her life with ten cats.

Connect with Maria Grace via email at author.MariaGrace@gmail.com | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest | Random Bits of Fascination | Jane Austen Variations | English Historical Fiction Authors

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Giveaway

Maria is generously offering an ebook copy of Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will close on Sunday, March 5, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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among-the-lostToday’s guest is Seth Steinzor, author of Among the Lost (In Dante’s Wake: Book 2), who is here to discuss his inspiration for the poem about giving birth and how it serves as an opening for his take on Dante’s Purgatorio. Please welcome Seth Steinzor:

Fresh in my mind when I began writing Among the Lost was something that W.S. Merwin had pointed out in the Foreword to his translation of Purgatorio. I’m sure he’s far from the first to have noticed this, but it made a forceful impression on me: of Dante’s three canticles, Purgatorio is the only one to take place on earth. Inferno trudges through an idealized subterranean environment; Paradiso flies through the heavens; Purgatorio climbs a mountain.

Another thing sets Purgatorio apart from the first and third books of Dante’s trilogy. Each of the characters in Inferno and Paradiso has reached an ultimate end point in his or her personal development, and exists in a state of stasis. Unlike them, the denizens of Mount Purgatory continue to work through the moral muddles that were produced by their manners of living. The ones who were angry in life are still plagued by anger. The ones who were apathetic still have to overcome that. And so on. Admittedly, in Dante’s view, the Mount Purgatorians possess the certainty of salvation, not only the hope, and so might be said to have reached a sort of fruition; but they haven’t actually found it yet. Their experience of their own sure perfectability is frustrated temporarily by themselves. That’s pretty much my experience of life, in a nutshell, although I tend towards a somewhat less optimistic view of the overall human condition. (There’s a buddha within, but nobody’s sure of realizing it.) So add to the idea that the book takes place on earth, the idea that it depicts a state of being unfinished, unclear.

Also in my mind was the means whereby Dante escaped to Purgatory from the underground Inferno. He clung to the back of his guide, Virgil, as Virgil climbed up Satan’s enormous body and then through a tunnel to a sunlit beach at the foot of the mountain. So…our hero enters this earth through a narrow dark tunnel, from which he emerges unfinished and unclear. What else could one think of but a birth canal?

When I put it this way, it sounds rather more consecutively thought out than it was. I was fortunate enough to have attended the births of both my children. There is no more meaningful event than that, except perhaps one’s own coming and going. I knew as soon as I began to contemplate writing Among the Lost that the book would begin in a birthing room. And yet, at the same time, the rationale for doing so, which I have outlined above, accompanied this undeliberated intention fully formed.

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About Among the Lost

Among the Lost, set in the modern American rust belt, is a meditation drawn from Dante’s Purgatorio. To Dante, Purgatory was the mountain where souls not damned went after death to cleanse themselves of sin in preparation for entering Paradise. What, Steinzor asks, are we preparing ourselves for, having lost the fear of hell and the hope of heaven, in the course of our daily urban existence? And whatever that is, how do we go about preparing for it?

Check out Among the Lost on Amazon | Goodreads

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About the Poet

Seth Steinzor protested the Vietnam War during his high school years near Buffalo, New York, and his years at Middlebury College, advocated Native American causes after law school, and has made a career as a civil rights attorney, criminal prosecutor, and welfare attorney for the State of Vermont. Throughout he has written poetry. In early 1980s Boston he edited a small literary journal. His first, highly praised book, To Join the Lost, was published in 2010.

To follow the tour for Among the Lost, click the button below:

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clipar41In Marrying Well for Fun & Profit: Persuasion’s Sir Walter Elliot Advises the Upwardly Mobile Miss, Laura Hile channels Jane Austen’s high society expert. Today, I’m delighted to welcome the man himself to Diary of an Eccentric. Please give a warm welcome to Sir Walter Elliot:

My Dear Vulgarian Reader,

After 200 years of silence, I, Sir Walter Elliot, have written a book, Marrying Well for Fun & Profit.

Its publication represents a triumph. You see, Jane Austen misquoted me frightfully in Persuasion. Now I am able to speak for myself.

Marrying Well is a treasure trove of practical tips and social sagacity. It is designed to be read for inspiration, say, alongside your morning coffee or tea. And you need advice, dear reader, because marrying above one’s station is not as easy as it appears.

Are you thinking that I, a baronet, have had to take a job? Heavens, no. Writing is not an occupation, nor is it a hobby. It’s charity work.

That is just what it is. I simply had to do something. I mean, really. People in your day are wearing pajama pants to do their shopping.

I understand being eager to purchase new clothes. But if you intend to buy ready-made garments—a thing I have never done—then you ought to use the dressing room. Instead of, say, arriving at the store half-undressed to save time.

It is the same with marrying well. You need to use your wits to ensnare the right husband, rather than your body. Keep your feminine assets attractively covered and ensnare him with attitude and charm. Allow me to show you the way. Here is the buy link for Marrying Well for Fun & Profit: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MZ9TC45. I’ve priced it so that it is affordable for anyone, even you. The right men are out there—if you know where to look and how, shall we say, to bait the hook.

Cordially yours in the upward climb,

Sir Walter Elliot

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About Marrying Well for Fun & Profit

marryingwell-smWas there ever a snob like Sir Walter?

He fairly leaps from the pages of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

With one eye on the looking glass and the other the Baronetage, Sir Walter is Regency England’s high society expert.

Who better to give advice to the modern young woman wishing to improve her worth through marriage?

Because marrying into wealth and privilege–thus improving the family gene pool–is not as easy as it appears.

And so Sir Walter Elliot has consented to share advice with the less fortunate.

That would be us.

Come and sit at the feet of the one who was Born to be Seen.

Check out Marrying Well for Fun & Profit on Goodreads | Amazon

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Giveaway

If you’re interested in Sir Walter’s helpful advice, you’re in luck! Laura Hile is generously offering 2 ebook copies of Marrying Well for Fun & Profit. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address about what interests you most about Sir Walter and his expertise in navigating modern society. The giveaway will close on Sunday, January 29, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thanks to both Sir Walter and Laura Hile for being my guests today!

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Today is the release day for Denise O’Hara’s latest novel, Legally Darcy, and I am happy to join the celebration with a special excerpt and giveaway for my readers! The novel is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and I hope you will stay tuned for my review in the new year.

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Excerpt from Legally Darcy, courtesy of Denise O’Hara

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“Charles, I am at my wit’s end with gutter-trash trying to use this company as their stepping stone into society,” Darcy said with such a sharp tone that Charles took a step back in surprise.

“Elizabeth is an exceptional candidate, Darcy.” Charles floundered, his thoughts in disarray. He could not remember Darcy mentioning other interns as of late.

“Why is her application coming in so late?” Darcy asked impatiently. “Records aren’t worth much if one does not use them promptly. I thought every candidate in the city flooded our office with requests weeks ago. I remember that nonsense well enough.”

“Would you just take a few minutes to look at her application? She’s at the top of her class. She’s had trouble securing her internship,” Charles replied reluctantly, looking worriedly at the crack in the door. “Darcy, please close the door a moment, she is just—”

“JUST a waste of time, Charles!” Darcy snapped with growing exasperation as his hand fell away from the still open door.

“Darcy! The young lady is—”

“I won’t hear it, Charles!” the man said impatiently.

Charles was alarmed at the set of the man’s jaw and the red that was blossoming in his face. He’d never seen Darcy so angry in all the years they’d known each other.

“Have you considered that there might be a reason she cannot secure an internship? She was homeschooled throughout high school. Her credentials are likely not even worth the paper they are printed on! Look Charles, I’m sorry you’ve been duped. Miss Homeschooled doesn’t have what it takes to tempt me into wasting my time.”

Darcy shook his head and made his way out into the lobby, before he said something he would regret. He needed a moment to think over the situation, to regain his composure. The intern was unfortunate, especially in the timing. However, I stand firm in my belief. The others would not pass up a promising intern. His mood did not improve as he saw a young woman rounding the corner, the door swinging shut behind her.

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The nerve of him! Elizabeth fumed with indignation and embarrassment. How dare he accuse her of faking her records, especially when he’d apparently never checked them to begin with!

She stormed down the sidewalk, eyes trained ahead as she tried to calm herself. She could feel the creases of a scowl deepening with each passing moment. Her stomach was twisted in knots as she fought the wave of frustration that threatened to burst forth. The Darcy firm was seen as the peak of professionalism and ethics. A Holy Grail every student wished to achieve, but rarely expected to attain. And when I finally get here, I find out the man is nothing but a belligerent tyrant lording over the office! To top off the disillusionment, this so-called expert made a terrible judgment on her character without ever reading her full application, never mind meeting her!

She rose her hand to hail a taxi, earning herself a barely veiled scowl from the driver as she slammed the door. Go ahead buddy; you’re not the first to think the worst of me today. She considered turning her phone off in case someone tried to call once they’d discovered her absence. In the end, she decided that it did not matter if they called or not. She would not accept an interview from Mr. Darcy if he ran the last law firm on Earth!

Thank you, Denise, for sharing this exciting excerpt from your new novel! I can’t wait to find out how Darcy digs himself out of this mess!

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About Legally Darcy

Ten year old Will Darcy leads an ideal life. But things change suddenly in the course of one day. As time goes by, circumstances require him to take on more and more responsibilities, until he’s faced with a choice of pursuing his own dreams of becoming a lawyer or acting in his beloved sister’s best interest. Years later, his life finally seems to be on track. At 28, he’s a successful attorney at one of the top law firms in the country and things couldn’t be going better, either professionally or personally. He thinks he’s got it all figured out- until someone from his past, and a new acquaintance, in the form of feisty law student Elizabeth Bennet, turn his world upside down.

Check out Legally Darcy on Amazon | Goodreads

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About the Author

Denise O'Hara

Denise O’Hara

Denise O’Hara loves everything Jane Austen. She accidentally came across her first continuing story of Pride and Prejudice many years ago while browsing her public library. She excitedly checked the sequel out to take with her to Destin, Florida, one of her favorite vacation spots of all time! After years of loving Pride and Prejudice, she was so thrilled to get more of the story!

Over the years, she read many Pride and Prejudice adaptations and sequels. She decided to jump into the Pride and Prejudice waters herself with her first three stories, A Pride and Prejudice Continuation: Life after the Wedding Series! While Darcy and Elizabeth’s story was her favorite, she always felt there was more to discover about Charles and Jane Bingley. Becoming Jane Bingley delves into the Bingley’s life after the wedding, with the Darcy’s story continuing also. In subsequent books, Caroline Bingley’s story is furthered as well. Of course, she soon found herself intrigued with putting Darcy and Elizabeth in different predicaments, and has written several books with them taking center stage. Legally Darcy is her first retelling with the couple as modern day couple. But as with all her books, the content remains a clean romance.

She lives with her own Mr. Darcy of 29 years. They enjoy simple things, like baking goodies, pies especially, having coffee or tea on the deck, and taking walks together, and sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows. They have two grown children whom they adore. Right now they are in the final weeks of getting ready for their only daughter’s wedding in February. Exciting times! She and her Mr. Darcy are grateful to have parents nearby, as they love to spend time with family. They just wish there was more time to visit! Between them, they have ten sisters! That’s right, no brothers. Sisters are the best!!!

And they are thankful for their many good friends from all over the world who are as true brothers and sisters to them!

And as anyone who knows them will tell you, they love the Bee Gees, who have given Denise and her Mr. Darcy countless hours of joy.

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Giveaway

Denise is generously offering 3 ebook copies of Legally Darcy to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address letting me know what intrigues you most about the book. This giveaway will close on Wednesday, December 28, 2016. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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a-very-darcy-chrsitmas-thumbnailI’m thrilled to welcome Victoria Kincaid back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her newest novel, A Very Darcy Christmas. I had the pleasure of editing this delightful book, and I must tell you that it is both hilarious and sweet — and a perfect book to help you relax during the holiday season. Oh, how I loved the chaos at every turn, and I even fell a little bit in love with Colonel Fitzwilliam!

Here’s the book blurb to whet your appetite:

Elizabeth and Darcy are preparing for their first Christmas at Pemberley when they are suddenly deluged by a flood of uninvited guests. Mrs. Bennet is seeking refuge from the French invasion she believes to be imminent. Lady Catherine brings two suitors for Georgiana’s hand, who cause a bit of mayhem themselves. Lydia’s presence causes bickering—and a couple of small fires—while Wickham has more nefarious plans in mind….The abundance of guests soon puts a strain on her marriage as Elizabeth tries to manage the chaos while ensuring a happy Christmas for all.

Meanwhile, Georgiana is finding her suitors—and the prospect of coming out—to be very unappealing. Colonel Fitzwilliam seems to be the only person who understands her fondness for riding astride and shooting pistols. Georgiana realizes she’s beginning to have more than cousinly feelings for him, but does he return them? And what kind of secrets is he hiding?

Romance and merriment abound as everyone gathers to celebrate a Very Darcy Christmas.

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Now, please give a warm welcome to Victoria Kincaid, who is here to talk about mistletoe and kissing in Regency England:

When writing A Very Darcy Christmas, I did quite a bit of research on Regency Christmas traditions. It was very interesting to see which of our customs they followed. They did not have Christmas trees, send Christmas cards, or give presents (except to children or charity to the poor). However, the Christmas season, which lasted from early December until January 6, was a time for visiting, parties and balls, games, and eating good food. One familiar tradition they did observe was decorating their houses with pine, holly, and other greenery—including mistletoe.

Mistletoe grows mostly in west and southwest Britain, but families in other parts of the country might have relatives send sprigs through the mail. A mistletoe berry was plucked each time a kiss was claimed and when the berries ran out, the kissing was over. Regency households also put up “kissing boughs,” hanging arrangements of evergreens, apples, oranges, ribbons, paper flowers, spices, or even dolls representing Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus.

I found the mistletoe tradition to be an intriguing contradiction with other Regency customs. After all, this was the time period where a girl’s virtue could be compromised by being alone with a man and during which any contact between unmarried people of the opposite sex was strictly chaperoned. Why would they hang greenery that not only gave license for unauthorized and potentially scandalous kisses, but actually encouraged it?

I don’t pretend to be an expert, and I’m sure there are many explanations; but one answer to question may be that the Christmas season was a time when traditional customs and mores were loosened and the intermingling of the sexes was encouraged. All of the visiting and game playing encouraged socialization among unmarried men and women—and courtships and marriages often took place during the season. There were even games that would assign a man and woman to be “partners” for the evening.

The tradition of kissing boughs seems to be of a piece with these customs. Mistletoe gave couples permission to indulge in a “forbidden” behavior or gave a man an opportunity to display affection for a woman without having to make an outright declaration. In an era where anything resembling dating was forbidden, I can imagine that that such opportunities were valuable.

In any case, I found the presence of mistletoe and kissing boughs to be a useful plot device in A Very Darcy Christmas. However, in the book Georgiana occasionally has the same thoughts that I had: “If they do not wish me to kiss anyone, why did they hang up so much mistletoe?”

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An excerpt from A Very Darcy Christmas, courtesy of Victoria Kincaid

“Mrs. Darcy, there are people downstairs in the entrance hall who say they are your parents.”

Disdain dripped off every syllable Giles uttered.  Elizabeth pretended not to notice.  Every day Pemberley’s butler demonstrated that he did not approve of the upstart country lass his master had married.  In the months since William had brought her home as his bride, Giles’s friendliest tone of voice could be described as frosty.  On the other hand, Mrs. Reynolds, the housekeeper, and the majority of the other staff had been most welcoming.

Elizabeth rushed to her feet.  Her parents should be safely ensconced at Longbourn for the Christmas season.  What could have brought them to Pemberley unannounced?

She hurried from her sitting room and followed Giles down the grand front staircase, her heart contracting with every step as she imagined what kinds of evil might have befallen her family.  Her mother and father were indeed standing in the hall.

Their rumpled, travel-worn attire contrasted noticeably with the grandeur of the room.  The inhabitants of Pemberley called it the marble hall because of the black and white marble squares covering the floor as well as the classical statues set in niches along the walls.

It was an impressive room, meant to stir amazement in Pemberley’s newly arrived visitors, and from the expressions on her parents’ faces, it was having the desired effect.  Elizabeth had been duly impressed when she had first arrived at Pemberley, but now the room reminded her of a mausoleum, grand and cold and forbidding.  She and Mrs. Reynolds had recently finished decorating the room with holly, evergreen boughs, ivy, and mistletoe for the yuletide season.  The greens softened the room’s sharp edges, but it was only slightly more welcoming.

Her father’s careworn face relaxed into a smile when he saw her as if her presence made the unfamiliar surroundings more bearable.  He does not seem overly alarmed; perhaps the situation is not dire.  However, the moment her mother noticed Elizabeth, she commenced fluttering her hands and breathing rapidly as if she had experienced a terrible shock.

In other words, everything was quite normal.

Before Elizabeth could open her mouth, her mother launched into a torrent of complaints.  “Oh, my dearest Lizzy!  You do not know how we have suffered.  The ruts in the road and the quality of the coaching inns!  And there was a most disturbing odor in Lambton when we traveled through.”

Standing by the ornately carved front door, Giles watched this performance with a pinched mouth and lifted chin that left no doubt as to his opinion of the Bennets.

The best Elizabeth could do was to treat her mother’s shrieking as if she spoke in a normal conversational tone.  She embraced both of her parents.  “This is a surprise!  I did not expect to see you so soon.  Is something wrong?”  She searched their faces for signs of agitation.  Had something happened to one of her sisters?

“Everything is well,” her father assured her.

Mrs. Bennet gaped at her husband.  “How can you say that, Mr. Bennet, when we have heard the most frightful news imaginable?”

Fear gripped Elizabeth’s chest.  “What has happened?”

Her mother drew herself up to her full height.  “Meryton is about to be invaded!”

“It is?”

Her mother’s head nodded vigorously.  “Mrs. Long was the first one to rouse my suspicions.”  Now she lowered her voice.  “There have been a great many strange men visiting Meryton—speaking in French accents!”

Mr. Bennet rolled his eyes.  “Fanny, I explained that both of the men are laborers from Ireland.  They speak with Irish accents.”

Mrs. Bennet put her hands on her hips.  “And how would you know a French accent from an Irish one?  Mrs. Long met a Frenchman when she was one and twenty.  She knows how they sound!”

“Mama—” Elizabeth began.

“But that is not all,” her mother continued.  “Colonel Forster’s regiment had been wintering over in Meryton as before, but then they decamped suddenly.  Called away, just like that!  I wager they are in Brighton at this moment, preparing to fend off a ferocious French assault.”

Elizabeth bit her lip to stifle a smile.  “I have read nothing to suggest that in the papers.”

“Of course not!”  Mrs. Bennet waved her handkerchief dramatically.  “The authorities do not wish to stir up alarm.  But why else would they have called the regiment away?”

“There was political unrest in the North,” Mr. Bennet murmured.

“Mrs. Long does not believe it,” Mrs. Bennet said with a dismissive nod.  “And what is more, Mr. Long does not believe it.  He was in the militia for a year in his youth and said such orders were highly irregular.

“Fanny—” Mr. Bennet started.

Her words continued unchecked.  “An invasion is imminent.  Nothing you may say can convince me otherwise.”  She folded her arms across her chest.

Elizabeth feared this was the truest statement her mother had uttered since arriving.

Mrs. Bennet continued without even taking a breath.  “And, of course, Meryton will be one of the French army’s first targets.”

“Before London?” Elizabeth asked.

“Well, London will be well-defended.  Meryton no longer even boasts a militia!”  Mrs. Bennet flicked open her fan and vigorously fanned her face.  “Mary and Kitty refused to leave Hertfordshire.  Even Jane would not listen.  But I told your father I was coming to Pemberley.  Since it is so much further north, we have much less of a chance of being slaughtered in our beds.”  She folded her fan again.  “How very clever of you to catch the eye of a northern man.”

Having never considered this a feature of her marriage to William, Elizabeth did not respond.

“I pray you let us stay here for a while.  What say you, Lizzy?”

Elizabeth gave her father a helpless look, not knowing where to start unraveling her mother’s convoluted reasoning.  Mr. Bennet offered her a defeated shrug.  Apparently he had given up on reasoning with his wife.

Well, she could hardly turn away her own parents.  Perhaps she could talk sense into her mother during her visit.  “Yes, of course, Mama.  I am very pleased to see you both!”  She smiled at them.  “Welcome to Pemberley.”

Her father gave her a rather sad smile, but her mother grunted in response.  “Now, if you will have them show me to my room.  I am greatly fatigued by all this travel!”  Now that their immediate fate had been settled, Mrs. Bennet eyed the hall critically.  “Oh, Lizzy!”  Her hand flew to her mouth.  “You have hung greens already!”

“They make the house more festive,” Elizabeth replied.

“But it is bad luck to hang greens before Christmas Eve!”  Her mother’s eyes were round with concern.

“Just a superstition—” her father interjected.

“No, it is not!”  Mrs. Bennet exclaimed, wringing her hands.  “Mrs. Taylor hung her greens early one year, and the very next day their chickens refused to lay a single egg!  She never made that mistake again, I will tell you.”  She pointed an accusatory finger at Elizabeth.  “You have practically begged the French to invade.”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes.  “I like the greens.”

Mrs. Bennet’s hands fluttered.  “Well, don’t blame me when the French invade.  I warned you!”

“I promise not to blame you, Mama, if the French invade.”  Elizabeth gestured to the butler.  Perhaps her mother would be more rational after she rested and freshened up.  One could only hope.  “Giles, I think we can put my parents in the red bedchamber.”

Giles’s expression could not possibly have been haughtier, but he gave a slight bow and left to summon a maid.  As the maid led Mrs. Bennet up the stairs, the older woman warned the wide-eyed girl about the imminent French invasion.  Elizabeth and her father fell behind, staying out of earshot.

“I apologize, Lizzy,” he said.  “Trying to stop her was like trying to halt a runaway carriage.  When she declared her intention to visit Pemberley with or without me, I thought my presence might mitigate the damage.”

Elizabeth took her father’s arm.  “I am very pleased to see you both, Papa.  And it will provide an opportunity to show you Pemberley.”

He smiled gently.  “I must confess, that is something I am anticipating with pleasure.  What I have seen so far is quite grand.”

***

Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering a copy of A Very Darcy Christmas 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 Thursday, December 8, 2016. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Check out A Very Darcy Christmas on Amazon | Goodreads

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sketchesI’m delighted to welcome Ron Miner to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of the Expanded Edition of Sketches of a Black Cat. I reviewed the first edition of Miner’s book in 2014. Please give Ron a warm welcome as he talks about compiling his father’s artwork and journals from World War II into this fascinating memoir.

This is the simple version of a puzzle that fell into my lap a few years ago when my father passed away at 92. I guess he was typical of most WWII veterans, choosing not to say much about his war experiences and pursue life in a different lane. Just as typically, I was one of four children who never really asked enough of the right questions, and when he passed, assumed I had squandered any chance of exploring this important part of his life with him. But there is more to the story — remember I mentioned art?

When I was a boy, Dad led me to a file cabinet in our basement one morning and pulled from it a worn manila folder. In it were wonderful images — sketches and watercolors of planes, soldiers, and jungles — exciting stuff for a kid. For years afterward I would sneak to the basement to show friends his artwork, until one day I found the cabinet locked. He was on to me, and I wouldn’t see the sketches again as a young man.

Fast forward to the fall of 2011, when after considerable difficulty in making the arrangements, my siblings and I flew across the country and gathered at a small country cemetery for a ceremony. Afterward, we began the sad task of going through his things. I was greatly relieved when my wife found his WWII artwork in an album. Then my brother discovered the first box, and we quickly found others, a nearly 70-year-old trove of war memorabilia, photos, letters sent home, notebooks, and scrapbooks. It occurred to me that my father’s entire wartime story might be hidden within these boxes — if I could just figure out how to put the all of these pieces together again.

In July of 2016, Sketches of a Black Cat was released as an expanded edition — expanded because the original version of the book that was intended for the family generated more traction than I had ever dreamed. More about that later. I mentioned flying huge planes in the dark.

Dad was one of the Navy’s Black Cats, guys who flew at night, without lights, in planes painted entirely black — the original stealth aircraft. He was a pilot aboard one of these PBY Catalinas, 100’ wingspan amphibious airplanes as well suited to the bays as they were the landing strips. The Cats searched the South Pacific, dropping everything from bombs and torpedoes to beer bottles in an attempt to harass and disable a cunning adversary. And to a downed flier, a PBY on a rescue mission was a welcome sight indeed.

His is a tale of seven buddies who flew at night, slept and got into mischief by day, then repeated it all, often cruising 12 hours or more at a time on missions in and around Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands. Dad also used this stretch between missions to sketch and write about what he was seeing. Eventually, the squadron would find nearly every island between the Solomons and the northern Philippine group, searching for Japanese shipping, discovering native cultures, and rescuing surviving airmen. It is a warm and personal story, one that can be humorous or poignant and sometimes tinged with drama and tragedy.

It is written in a memoir style, feeling much as if you or I were suddenly swept away from college life and into the chaos that was WWII. Relating the war through the eyes of an artist, at times there is a certain poetry to the telling:

miner

Courtesy of Ron Miner

Our flight took us over a towering range of mountains shrouded in a heavy blanket of clouds, creating the illusion of an endless snowfield stretching out as far as the eye could see. Occasionally, the clouds parted revealing craggy green mountaintops. As we broke through the cover, a tiny group of islands appeared in the distance. I was in the copilot seat and could soon see the atoll below, an arrowhead shaped perimeter of coral surrounded by a deep cobalt central lagoon that gradually became reddish brown where the various colored coral rose toward the surface, and jade near the edges in areas that sand had collected over it. A garland of foam surrounded the outside fringe of the island where the incoming waves were split by the jagged reefs. As we drew closer, villagers appeared on the beach, among them, groups of young women prancing about topless, somewhat of a new experience for most of us on board. To our disappointment, by the time the outriggers arrived, the ladies were discreetly re-clad in white blouses and there was nothing more to do than drop anchor and set about unloading the cargo. These were a handsome people with strong physiques, somewhat lighter skinned and with smooth complexions. It seemed the men did not readily mark their bodies or paint their hair, and women were shy and attractive with flowers adorning their long hair and sometimes their necks. Most spoke broken English. They escorted us to the beach in canoes through spectacular coral beds. I would have loved to have shared this experience with my Zoology group at Woods Hole — intriguing masses of red pipe and blue and yellow star coral, white brain coral, sea urchins, giant sea squirts, and colorful protochordates of every kind. This was truly a paradise.

Such was the contradiction of war and my father found himself at times conflicted about it all — the natural beauty of the islands and cultures, and the need to destroy an enemy that was using it all as cover.

The first book led to a fortuitous meeting with a special man, a Black Cat who had flown with my father and was living right here in Salem, Oregon. Over time, with his help, I was able to locate 7 PBY crewman from the war and gather filmed interviews to be used in a short, upcoming documentary. Gradually, I was finding answers to the questions I had never asked and gaps in the story were filled with new first hand accounts and historical insights. Characters and personalities revealed themselves more fully and I now felt a compelling story about a largely unheralded squadron was truly complete and ready to share.

The book and artwork have found their way into galleries and museums, most notably the National Museum of the Pacific War in Texas. Who knew? I continue to contact museums and search for other surviving Cats, and whenever I can, encourage families who are lucky enough to have a surviving veteran as a friend or loved one to ask the questions, gently at first. I’ve found most of them to be very forthcoming with the stories at this point in their lives. And it is so important to capture the narratives and the history of this generation while we still can. These legacies are their gifts to us and all of those who will follow.

Thanks, Ron, for sharing your father’s story and a bit about how the project came to be. Best of luck with the documentary!

***

About Sketches of a Black Cat

(Available in Color or B&W) This beautiful, new FULL COLOR second edition is now one hundred pages longer, filled with additional fresh stories, artwork, photos, and adventures. Since the release of the original, I’ve interviewed seven Black Cats and PBY crew members, discovered a host of new writing, over a hundred letters and documents, and had the pleasure of meeting and corresponding with an array of squadron family members. “Sketches of a Black Cat” will interest first time and repeat readers alike.

Howard Miner was a student at a small Midwestern college when the War broke out. His journey through training and tours of duty as a PBY pilot in the South Pacific are skillfully captured in his art and narratives, framing a wartime drama with a personal coming of age story. This memoir has been reconstructed from a small library of unpublished artwork, journal entries, and writing, providing an enjoyable behind the scenes look at the Navy Black Cats. The descriptive verse from the artist’s viewpoint gives us a creatively told and intriguing portrayal of WWII’s Pacific Theater.

Check out Sketches of a Black Cat on Amazon | Goodreads

***

About the Author

Ron Miner

Ron Miner

In the late 60’s, I attended the University of Rhode Island, playing soccer, baseball, and graduating with a B.A. in English and minor in landscape design. In 1979, I began a career as a landscape designer and contractor. The opportunity to pen my father’s memoirs, developing the story from a library of unknown resources, rekindled my passion for writing. I am currently submitting articles about the Black Cats and their saga to magazines around the country.

My wife, Heidi, and I live with our dogs in the Oregon countryside near Salem. Heidi is a retired school teacher and we are both active hikers, gardeners, and photographers.

Connect with Ron Miner: website | Facebook | Goodreads

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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