A Place of Comfort and Rest

I consider myself a pretty lucky person. I have a wonderful family, great friends, enough home improvements projects on my list of things to do to keep me out of trouble, and a job I love.

Still, there are times when life gets a little crazy; and sometimes it seems like there’s a lot of commotion and noise in the world that’s unsettling and troublesome.

Every once in a while I have to tune out all that noise and find my own way to bring balance back into my life.

Portrait of a Lady at a Pianoforte Holding a Manuscript, by Adele Romany.

For Mary Bennet, in my novel Mary and the Captain, her way of coping when things looked dark was to play the pianoforte. Playing music was the one satisfying outlet she had for expressing her emotions when things went wrong.

Were Mary alone she would have given vent to her feelings with crashing chords in a storm of correct and incorrect notes; but despite her heightened emotions, she had enough mastery of herself to know that she could not play the beautiful pianoforte at Netherfield as she was used to playing her old spinet at Longbourn. She was compelled to play with restraint, yet she still found solace in her music. Soon she began to feel better and her music softened in turn.

My method for drowning out the noise and bad news in the world is much different from Mary Bennet’s.

I take a break. I unplug for a day or two—no television, no social media, and, most importantly, no political ads!

That’s what I did last week; and I have to say, it’s surprising how much less stress I feel by simply “getting away from it all” and spending some quiet time with family, friends, and a couple of books.

What about you? Is there a place you escape to in order to shut out the world’s noise? A place of quiet and peace where you can hear yourself think? Or is there an activity—like Mary’s piano playing—that calms you and helps you feel centered?

I hope you’ll leave a comment and let me know how you cope when technology, world events, and life in general get to be a little too much.

And if you’re interested in learning more about my Jane Austen inspired novel Mary and the Captain, just click on the book cover.

Let’s Meet at the Meet

My current work-in-progress has a minor sub-plot involving a race meet in a county town.

Scenes on the Road, or A Trip to Epsom and Back, showing Kennington Turnpike-gate, by James Pollard

Since I’m a visual person, I went searching for images of race meets held during the Regency era. Specifically, I wanted to see if I could get a sense of the logistics of the meet. Did they use a starting line or an actual starting gate? How did they mark the course? Did spectators line the course or did they watch from a safe distance?

The Meet with Lord Derby’s Stag Hounds

I thought I’d share with you a few of the images I collected, so you can see for yourself what inspired me to write my own descriptions of a race meet.

The Betting Post at Epsom Races, by James Pollard

When you look at the style of clothing depicted in these images, you can tell they were painted in the 1830s, well after the end of the Regency era. Despite that, I think they’re relevant for my purpose.

Epsom Races: Preparing to Start, by James Pollard

Another question I hoped to answer through these art pieces: Did ladies attend race meets? In the first image above there is a woman in the foreground of the picture, but I think she’s merely watching the men, on horseback and in carriages, as they pass through the gate on their way to the meet.

However, I do see some feminine-looking figures seated in the viewing tower on the far left in the image below. That’s a good thing; if social conventions of the time didn’t prohibit women from attending race meets, I have more flexibility in writing my story and keeping my female characters where the action is.

Epsom Races: The Race Over, by James Pollard

Even if women were allowed to watch races, I know they would have been banned from setting foot on the premises of Tattersall’s. Tattersall’s was a famous bastion of masculinity where horses were bought and sold. I’ve searched the image below several times, and can confirm there isn’t even a hint of a bonnet or skirt. (Apparently, cats were allowed at Tattersall’s, but women weren’t.)

Epsom Races: Settling Day at Tattersalls, by James Pollard

These images did help me visualize what county race meets must have been like. Judging from these images, meets were popular events that caused large crowds of men to descend upon a town—and if that isn’t an inspiring premise for a fiction writer, I don’t know what is!

I hope you enjoyed viewing these images. You can click on each one to open a larger version.

 

Reader Reviews and Bits of Fluff

My novel Mary and the Captain was published last year. The story is a continuation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. In the book publishing world, Mary and the Captain fits very neatly into the Regency Romance sub-genre of Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF).

Like many people who read, enjoy, and admire Jane Austen’s greatest work, I always wanted to know what happened to her characters after the close of her original novel. So I knew, when I took up my figurative pen to write my continuation of the classic story, my book had to be as perfect as possible.

I don’t mean perfect in its physical form relating to layout and formatting and proofreading (although those elements are certainly important).

By “perfect” I mean that my book had to hit the right tone in its characters and plot so the overall story was true to Austen’s original.

Why was that so important? Because JAFF readers know their stuff. They can spot an Austen error from a mile away.

Dedicated Readers

JAFF readers are dedicated to the genre. They typically read at least one JAFF novel a month.

It’s a tribute to Jane Austen that 200 years after her death, her novels—particularly Pride and Prejudice—are more popular and more loved than ever before. Readers identify with her characters and want to continue to read about them long after Austen’s original story comes to an end.

That’s why the number of JAFF writers and readers grows daily.

Want proof? Austenesque Reviews recently published a list of Jane Austen inspired novels and stories released in May 2018. Click here to see their list of 48 new titles for the month of May alone.

And for every new JAFF book, there’s a new JAFF reader who can’t get enough of Darcy and Lizzy, Anne and Wentworth, or Emma and Knightley.

Dedicated Reviewers

JAFF readers know what they like when it comes to variations of Jane Austen works, and they show their appreciation for a good story (or criticism of a poorly written story) by leaving reviews of JAFF books on book retailer websites.

Their reviews are thoughtful and well-crafted. It’s rare to see a JAFF reader leave a review that simply says, “Loved it!” or “Hated it!”

Bits of Fluff

I’ve been fortunate to have received several reviews for Mary and the Captain, and I’ve read every one—the good reviews, the bad reviews, and those in between. When readers take the time to tell me the particular reasons they liked or disliked my story, I pay attention.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

On Amazon.UK a reader named Chriss wrote a very thoughtful and complimentary review of Mary and the Captain. She ended by saying:

Overall this rates as probably the most entertaining Pride and Prejudice continuation story I’ve read and I’d highly recommend it to others.

By this time, I’m beaming; and I’m grateful that Chriss in the UK enjoyed my book so much. Chriss goes on to say:

I believe the author is American; however the sense of England and use of English terms is almost flawless, with the notable exception of the word ‘lint’ – if English characters must pick bits off of each other, let it be ‘fluff’ or ‘dust’ – but otherwise very well done indeed!

Chriss found me out. I am, indeed, American; and as an American, I know I have to say lift instead of elevator, trousers instead of pants, jumper instead of sweater, and queue instead of line.

I also should be spelling certain words that contain the letter “o” with “ou” or substitute the letter “z” with “s” and “e” with “ae” if I want my British settings and characters to be believable.

But the truth is, the word “fluff” never crossed my mind; but now, thanks to Chriss, I will never forget the lesson.

And while I’m at it, this video reminds me there are a few more English words I should keep in mind if I want the books I write to correctly reflect the English Regency period:

When Delicious Isn’t

Cathy G on Amazon.com also had nice things to say about Mary and the Captain. She began with:

This is hands down my favorite P&P sequel focused on Mary.

Of course, Cathy G gained my complete and worshipful attention with an opening line like that. She goes on to compliment the story, and then writes:

The only things [sic] I was a teensy-weensy disappointed in is the fact that, on occasion, Ms. Lawrence uses language that is a little out of Austen’s writing style (specifically the use of “delicious” in contexts unrelated to food/eating)

As soon as I read her comment, I could feel the heat in my face. I was embarrassed. I didn’t specifically recall using the word “delicious” in the book, but in my personal life, I do have a habit of saying things like:

Lady Susan is so deliciously evil.

or

His manners were so deliciously charming, I couldn’t help but say yes to whatever he suggested.

(Disclaimer: Those are just examples; I don’t really agree with a guy on everything just because he’s charming . . . although I’m clearly tempted to. I’ll work on that.)

When I reviewed my manuscript, I realized I had used the word “delicious” only twice (as in “the delicious feeling of his hand in hers” and “a long, delicious kiss”).

Still, it was two times too many if it meant Cathy G or any other reader was jarred out of the context of my story by the use of a word that was out of place in the Regency era. And if Cathy G noticed my misuse of the word, how many other readers noticed it, too?

Based on Chriss’ and Cathy G’s comments, I clearly have some things to work on as I write my next Jane Austen inspired book.

Therefore, I resolve that I:

  • Will not use the word “delicious” unless I use it in the context of food. (Easy. I can do this.)
  • Will not use Americanisms when I’m writing a story about an English family in the early nineteenth century. (This one is harder, so I went searching for some help.)

For assistance, I now keep a copy of Understanding British English on my desk top beside my dictionary and thesaurus.

And I subscribed to Tom’s YouTube Channel, “Eat Sleep Dream English.” Tom’s videos don’t specifically address how to write or speak the language of Regency England, but they’re pretty entertaining and they keep me mindful of how very different American English can be from British English. Here’s an example:

I’m grateful to Chriss and Cathy G and all the other readers who took the time to leave a review of my book. Their thoughtful and generous comments are very encouraging to me, and they give me plenty of inspiration as I write my next book.

They also taught me a lesson that I’m keeping in the forefront of my mind as I work to make my next JAFF novel better than ever and devoid of all traces of delicious lint.

A Regency-era Shooting Party

In my book Mary and the Captain, Charles Bingley’s younger brother Robert rescued a young boy named Daniel from a difficult situation. Robert took Daniel to Netherfield, and had to find a way to keep young Daniel busy during the day. Robert and Daniel spent as much time as possible out of doors, where Daniel could run and play to his heart’s content. Charles and Robert even took Daniel shooting with them in the high meadow at Netherfield.

The illustrations below helped me envision those Regency-era shooting parties.

In the story, I tried to convey the fact that shooting was a usual past-time for the men at Netherfield.

At one point in the story, beautiful Helena Paget complains that while she finds nothing to do in the country, the men get to enjoy shooting.

And Mr. Penrose, the vicar of Meryton, admits to Caroline Bingley that he has a been a guest of her brother Charles on one or two afternoons of shooting in the meadow.

I added these shooting-party illustrations to my Pinterest board; it contains many of the images that inspired me and sparked my imagination as I wrote Mary and the Captain. You can see all the photos and illustrations by clicking here to visit my Pinterest board.

A Brand New Month and Kitty Bennet

It’s February. I know, I can’t believe it either.

But even though time seems to be flying by, I’m really looking forward to a new month, since everything I hoped to accomplish in January didn’t quite happen as planned.

On January 4th I came down with the flu, and it really took me out of commission for about two solid weeks. I needed a third week of home confinement just to ensure I looked presentable before going out in public again.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get much writing done during the month.

But some good things happened, too . . .

First, I began plotting a new Jane Austen inspired story that centers on Kitty Bennet.

Lydia (Julia Sawalha) and Kitty Bennet (Polly Maberly) in BBC’s 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice.

In Austen’s Pride and Prejudice Kitty is a minor character, who never really gets a chance to show readers who she is. In fact, Kitty is really little more than a follower; her personality is constantly overshadowed by that of her younger sister Lydia. I’ve always been intrigued by Kitty (just as I was by her sister Mary, who also got short-shrift in P&P). I’m hoping this new story will give Kitty a chance to shine and find a Happily Ever After of her own. I’ll keep you posted in my progress.

The other great thing that happened in January: I scored tickets to Hamilton! Here’s my happy dance:

I absolutely love going to the theater and seeing live performances; it’s even better when I can make an evening of it by having dinner at my favorite restaurant before the show.

But before I put on my best clothes and head downtown for a night out in Denver, I have some serious writing to catch up on. I have publishing goals to meet this year and I’m already behind on my daily word counts.

So today I’m going back to work with a vengeance and, if everything goes right, I’ll soon be able to report to you on my progress. In the meantime . . .

Happy February! I hope it proves to be a great month for you!

A Delightful Way to Begin the New Year!

2018 has started off in the best way possible. My novel Mary and the Captain was named one of Austenesque Reviews’ Favorite Reads of 2017!

If you love to read Jane Austen inspired fiction, you may already be a reader of Austenesque Reviews. I’ve subscribed to the blog for years, so I was thrilled when the blog gave Mary and the Captain a five-star review in May last year.

But having my book included in the blog’s best books of 2017 list has sent me over the moon! I’m so proud, and so very thankful.

If you’re not familiar with the Austenesque Reviews blog, please check it out to see what other titles made the list. Just click on the banner to visit the blog.

And if you haven’t yet read Mary and the Captain, I hope you’ll give it a try. You’ll find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, and everywhere print and e-books are sold.

 

 

Ending 2017 with One Thought: Thank You!

To everyone who read one of my stories or novels this year . . . Thank you! I’m grateful you chose to join me in my Regency-inspired world.

I appreciate every review you left; your comments and feedback about Mary and the Captain mean more to me than I can say.

Let’s make a date to meet again in the pages of a book in 2018!

Until then, I wish you a happy and healthy New Year!

Win a Netherfield Library Prize Package!

Last week I had the good fortune to visit Meredith Esparza’s blog, Austenesque Reviews, where Meredith and I talked about my new book, Mary and the Captain.

This was my first appearance at Austenesque Reviews, and I was so excited to be there! I decided to commemorate my visit by offering a giveaway to Austenesque readers!

The best part is, there’s still time for you to enter to win the prize package, inspired by items Mary and Captain Bingley found in the library at Netherfield Park.

The prize package includes:

Netherfield Library Prize Package

• A wax seal set you can use to seal your own letters and cards, just as Mary and Robert set their seal to the letters they wrote together in the library.

• A pair of desk scissors inspired by the very scissors Kitty lent Robert to open an important letter he received.

• A modern-day ballpoint pen bearing Jane Austen’s autograph, perfect for writing your own clever correspondence.

• A red-and-white ribbon bookmark, so you’ll never have to worry about losing your place in the story.

• A signed copy of my book, Mary and the Captain.

• A lovely Pride and Prejudice inspired bag to carry your copy of Mary and the Captain wherever you go!

The best part is, there’s still time to enter the drawing! Just click here to leave a comment on my post at Austenesque Reviews, and you’ll have a chance to win the prize package.

Hurry! The last day to enter is August 30!