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It’s a pleasure to welcome Don Jacobson back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of his latest audio books, Henry Fitzwilliam’s War and The Maid and the Footman. Please give him a warm welcome!

Which came first: The Written or the Spoken Word?

One of my favorite mantras to students…be they history or writing…is that “if it sounds weird, it probably is weird.” Oh, I know, this is odd to be coming from the podium at an august institution of higher education, but it is spoken with the best of intents. T’is my fun way to encourage the l’il darlin’s to proofread aloud. That way they will hear the sound of their words…and understand that if they are spewing a mouthful of gibberish, they likely have written something semantically incomprehensible.

This exercise is rooted in my belief that every single syllable, pause—partial or full—sentence, and paragraph have grown from Humanity’s effort to preserve that which came first; the spoken word.

Recall that t’was the Greeks who invented vowels (after they pinched the Phoenician alphabet in the mid-700s BCE to replace Linear B from the pre-Greek Dark Ages days: nobody could read it!) so that they could preserve the Homeric Epics after Homer died.

I mean, how would The Illiad read if there was an eternal confusion over (OK, this is English, but imagine an Athenian bard trying to sing for his supper) whether the word “dg” was “dog,” “dig,” “dug,” or “dag?” The cardinal vowels (a, e, i, o, u…forget about the cross-dressing “y” and “w”) were created to allow the Greeks to record their favorite after dinner entertainment. OK, Plato surely recorded many down-and-out drinking brawls where Alcibiaedes and Socrates would try to drink each other under the klismos, but that was after a local minstrel had recited a few dozen stanzas of something designed to show the cultural chops of the party’s host.

Yet, given that the Greek’s captured the eloquence of Homer’s words…and later those of Sappho, Aeschylus, and, later by Romans living on another peninsula, Ovid…these written works were still designed to allow an oral performance before an audience.

This is, I admit, a long way around the block to get me to the point of saying that all writing is rooted in the oral tradition. If that is the case, should not all writing when heard sound as good as (if not better than) when it  read silently?

In the #InspiredByAusten world, #Austenesque authors over the past few years have been moving through the processes of bringing their works to a broad public using a range of electronic publishing options. Many are now adept at designing their stories to fit both digital and print venues.  We have, it seems, been following the traditional path extant since our good friend Gutenberg invented the movable type printing press in the 1450s.

Naturally, this great leap in the manner in which the written word could be distributed forced a putting of the cart before the horse, essentially given primacy of written over spoken. And so it has remained until the last 20 or 30 years.

However, new technologies (I am ignoring phonographs upon which you could have enjoyed Gielgud performing King Lear…not particularly portable.) led to a reappraisal of the spoken word as a literary device. Three words…books on tape.

Of course, these were usually the author or celebrity author reading their word into a microphone. The utility was that one could listen to a book…and hear the author’s voice…without having to cease other tasks in order to flip pages. But, t’was “just” a reading, not a performance. And, so it remained for a few decades.

With the advances in Internet technology and ever-expanding server farms, more opportunities to move books to recorded arenas are now available. And, in the process, voice artists are bringing their talents to performing and interpreting the books.

I have been in the midst of a four-month process of moving all of my books (Bennet Wardrobe and Lessers and Betters) to #Audible.

The reason is simple: I want my readers to also be able to engage my books in a different manner. The performers with whom I work offer just that. Barbara Rich (The Lessers and Betters stories) and Amanda Berry (The books of the Bennet Wardrobe) bring their training and experience to play to present listeners with a uniquely different experience.

They interpret the pacing of the writing. They assume the nature of the characters. They bring emotion to the passages and, hopefully inspire reactions not experienced by readers of the printed books. They draw you in…much as the ancient Greek and Roman rhapsōidos did 2,500 years ago. And, in the process, make the words I have laid down sound much as they did when I imagined them.

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Please read the following excerpt from Chapter VIII in Henry Fitzwilliam’s War while listening to the audio sample as performed by Amanda Berry found here.

The House thus settled itself for another night much as it had for almost a century, its long porches reaching out to embrace the turbulent weather that had disturbed its owners’ homeland just a few hours before. Idiosyncratic creaks and pops echoed through the structure as ancient nails and beams gave up the heat collected from the watery October sun. Yet, while the building and its servants may have surrendered themselves to sleep, the two principals found such relief impossible to attain.

She could not imagine that he could be pulled away from her again, even though she knew that it was impossible for him to remain in this time.  His absence would disrupt every thread, every mote that swirled in the complicated universe governed by the Wardrobe. Only the fact that her husband was in Washington permitted the soldier’s presence next door.

As she lay there, counting the hours to dawn, she gazed around her son’s room, the furnishings so distinctly male, yet still revealing his sensitive nature.  On the one hand, his polo mallets were resting in hooks on the wall facing the window; two cricket bats were also propped in the corner.  On the other, one of her favorite canvases, his oil of Roses on Fieldstone, Deauville looked down at the foot of the bed.  How she prayed for his safety. What would he have made of the young man resting in his parent’s bed?

That young man tossed one way and then the other.  Each crash of thunder returned him to that night, back to Loos, to the moment when he could still count sight as one of his senses. But, artillery was only thunderous at the moment of impact.  The low grumble beyond the horizon, sometimes punctuated by flashes of grim lightening, first led to a whistle that increased in pitch and volume if the shell had your number.  If not, the sound deepened and the moaning faded as the charge found another target.

Then there was the wind; its gusts shook the House like a terrier would a captured rat. Again he was thrown back to the Front where the ground quivered pudding-like under the pounding of Hun cannons. Sudden drafts chilled his cheeks and chin as the pervasive blasts overwhelmed well-mitered windows.

How foolish we were, to allow phony “national pride,” the ultimate manifestation of masculinity, to destroy the system that had kept the peace for a hundred years.  Now the blood price that will have to be paid to erase this, man’s original sin—pride, will be steep indeed.

He knew that the coming parting was utterly necessary. He had to return to his own time lest he become another Kitty Bennet, now lost in the Wardrobe for 70 years. He could see Gran’s sadness when she spoke of her next eldest sister.  He could not subject his family to that sort of grief.

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There was a point around midnight when she found herself sitting on the edge of her bed.  Had she dozed?  Then, responding to a dream, had she risen in pursuit of…she knew not what? The pulling she had felt for twenty-plus years was roiling her insides. The demand was too intense.

Her bare feet touched down on the bedside throw rug. Gathering a blanket around her shoulders, she glided across the mahogany stained floorboards to open her door. Just four steps down the hallway to his. She rested her forehead against the panel, trying to control her breathing—but with little success.

Stop…do not proceed.  You will break your heart…and his!

In his darkness, he first perceived her scent, roses rushing over the grass to his nose.  He must have lost the sound of the door opening beneath one of the crashes of the storm.  Somewhere, feet or inches away, She stood, silently.  The weight of her eyes in the nighttime darkness bore on him.  Her gaze played up and down his body and pushed his aura like a hand gently stroking a cat’s silky coat.  He could hear her shallow quick breaths signaling intense conflict. But, she did not move to close the gap.

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Giveaway

Don is generously offering a two-pack of Audible codes for Henry Fitzwilliam’s War and The Maid and the Footman. There will be two winners selected. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, August 5, 2018. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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About the Author

Don Jacobson

Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years.  His output has ranged from news and features to advertising, television and radio.  His work has been nominated for Emmys and other awards.  He has previously published five books, all non-fiction.  In 2016, he published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe SeriesThe Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey, novel that grew from two earlier novellas. The Exile is the second volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series.  Other JAFF P&P Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” and “The Maid and The Footman.”

 Jacobson holds an advanced degree in History with a specialty in American Foreign Relations.  As a college instructor, Don teaches United States History, World History, the History of Western Civilization and Research Writing.

He is a member of JASNA-Puget Sound.  Likewise, Don is a member of the Austen Authors collective (see the internet, Facebook and Twitter).

He lives in the Seattle, WA area with his wife and co-author, Pam, a woman Ms. Austen would have been hard-pressed to categorize, and their rather assertive four-and-twenty pound cat, Bear.  Besides thoroughly immersing himself in the JAFF world, Don also enjoys cooking; dining out, fine wine and well-aged scotch whiskey.

His other passion is cycling.  Most days from April through October will find him “putting in the miles” around the Seattle area (yes there are hills).  He has ridden several “centuries” (100 mile days).  Don is especially proud that he successfully completed the AIDS Ride—Midwest (500 miles from Minneapolis to Chicago) and the Make-A-Wish Miracle Ride (300 miles from Traverse City, MI to Brooklyn, MI).

Connect with Don: WebsiteAmazon Author Page | Goodreads Author Page | Twitter

Thank you, Don! It’s always a pleasure having you as my guest! Congratulations on your latest audio book releases!

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