Which Book is this New Book?

With my frequent posts about typing “The End,” readers can be forgiven for wondering which book is coming out first. Because the novellas for my Regency romance series are around 40k words each, I’ve finished writing three books over the last year. The one that’s slated to be available for pre-order from Meryton Press on May 2 is the Austenesque The Barrister’s Bride.

The Barrister’s Bride was written when I was having trouble writing the middle book of the Regency romance series (the trilogy might have four books, so I’ve started to call it a series). I often find that if my muse doesn’t work, writing something else, even if it’s a short story, will help get me started again. The jump-start on the muse worked. I finished the middle novella and wrote the third within the last year, after writing the much longer The Barrister’s Bride.

I suppose you’re curious about all these books. Since The Barrister’s Bride is the book coming out first, it’s the one featured in today’s post.

The barrister in question is Fitzwilliam Darcy, a second son. His older brother, George, is a bad boy. In fact, the two Georges—Darcy and Wickham—are fast friends who are up to no good in this 120k word novel. We wish they would keep to the sidelines, but like a pair of bad pennies, they keep turning up. In the meantime, Fitz, as he is called, has met and become friends with Elizabeth Bennet, whose father passed away six months ago. Fitz and Elizabeth have something in common: they both have had marriages arranged for them, sight unseen, that will take place upon the lady’s majority. Although Fitz has known this for some time and has become accustomed to his fate, Elizabeth only recently discovered about her situation and is not certain what to make of her father’s decision to take away her chance at marrying for love. Of course, that’s the basis of the conflict within the story, and much more happens to liven up the book and make it a real page-turner.

Meryton Press marketer, Janet Taylor; my editor, Leigh Stewart; my British beta, Anji; and Mr. Suze all agree: The Barrister’s Bride is my best book yet. I’m quite honoured by their view since readers seem to think others of my back list are pretty darn good reading, given the positive comments I’m honoured to receive all the time. I do hope you get your copy soon and enjoy devouring the fresh new story on release day, May 9.

If you’d like your paperback of The Barrister’s Bride personally signed, there are two great ways to do so: win the one that I’ll be offering, along with some unique items, as part of the author’s prize (international) for the blog tour (May 9-16), or come to the JASNA AGM in beautiful Victoria, BC September 30-October 2, 2022 to get one signed. The theme for the AGM is Sense and Sensibility in the City of Gardens, and you can meet me there while I’m selling and signing all my books. Either choice sounds like tons of fun!

Here is a short excerpt from The Barrister’s Bride:

“Fitz!”

He jolted at his name spoken in a loud tone near his shoulder and turned to a laughing Bingley.

“Forgive me, but I have said your name three times without a response.” Bingley tilted his head in the direction of his fascination. “Are you acquainted with the lady?”

He nodded and cleared his throat so he could speak without mortification. “Yes, she is Miss Elizabeth Bennet. We collided with one another whilst she searched for her sister in Hatchards, and her uncle, a Mr. Gardiner, introduced us. Gardiner is a congenial fellow who has no estate but supports himself in textiles if memory serves me correctly.” He had been impressed with all of them, but especially Miss Elizabeth. She was now his goddess.

“The ladies’ father died last Easter. His estate, Longbourn, near Meryton, was entailed to a distant cousin. A pity, and my heart broke for the ladies.” Bingley nodded, his mouth more severe than usual. Both men had lost their parents. They knew well the enormous grief associated with the death of a close family member. “At the time we met, I had no idea your leased estate was so close to this small market town, else I may have made mention of that point during the polite discussion that followed our introduction.” That information would not usually have been missed by a man such as Fitz (as his friends called him). He possessed a mind that captured details and never forgot them—not a one.

The intelligent glow within Miss Elizabeth’s eyes when she gazed into his was one of those fine points. She was blessed with a strong will and astute mind behind that uncommon yet pretty face. As soon as he became aware that Bingley’s estate was near Meryton, Fitz’s thoughts were consumed with whether he would have the opportunity to meet her again—and tonight was his chance. Now, how was he to go about approaching her? A reserved sort, he had never been as socially oriented as his older brother, George. Some might have even called him shy. His diffident nature never mattered to him in the past. He had always been sought out for friendship for no other reason than he was a Darcy, a name that was important amongst polite society. He was fortunate to have come to his age of seven and twenty years without becoming too prideful. Vanity had not escaped George’s personality. Fitz scoffed in his head. His brother was an example of most of the older brothers in England—filled with a sense of importance they justified by their position of power and wealth. George would use that confidence to march right over to Miss Elizabeth and request a set. He would not stare at her from across the ballroom, debating his next step; but like a dunderhead, Fitz continued to do just that as he mulled over stupid thoughts of his scoundrel older brother. Why was bravado not a quality he possessed? His lack of assertiveness compared to others seemed unfair. He would not need much. A drop would do.

The corners of Miss Elizabeth’s full lips rose as he bowed his head to her across the haze-filled room, and she returned a nod of her own. She moved across the assembly rooms as if intending to cross to greet him, yet at the last moment, she spun on her heel and took a different direction towards a group of ladies. An ache emerged inside him as if a favourite toy had been denied.

~~~

Watch for the cover reveal later this week on Meryton Press! In the meantime, the featured image is one that was not used for the cover. The Barrister’s Bride will initially be available in ebook, KU, and paperback. Audiobook will be coming soon after the release.

New Release and Audiobook Fun

I didn’t expect to be releasing a book so soon, but Janet Taylor, the marketing director at Meryton Press, had an idea. “Let’s create an anthology of longer short stories,” she said one day last winter. She had already approached a couple of other authors who were keen, and we were to share our stories of under 30,000 words.

At the time, I was just finishing book one of my Regency romance trilogy Cecilia’s Mismatches. Since I wanted the three to be released close together, it would be a good year until I had a new book release. The short story would be a good way to keep my name in readers’ minds. But I had nothing good to share in my old stories, so would have to write something new. What to write about? I considered several ideas until I latched onto one about Darcy being melancholy after the Hunsford proposal and his family staging an intervention.

A few months later, while I was still writing my story, Janet came back and said, “Michele and I learned that anthologies are passé, and we really should do a series of short novels.” Michele is the managing editor at Meryton Press. Janet asked more authors if they had a novella up their sleeve, and there was a lot of excitement about the series called Skirmish and Scandal. I figured my bit of light romance could just fit sideways into that theme. Completing a novella would be easy because my short story was coming in at just over 30k words. Since I had time before the series was scheduled to be released, my trusty betas ldb531 and Anji went over the book and reminded me that I’m human: lots of red pencil, so to speak!

I was fortunate to have the inimitable Ellen Pickels as overall editor and formatter since I had worked with her as a copy editor, proofreader, and formatter for four novels already and knew her style. We got through the book quickly, and she helped me find a better name than the original The Fitzwilliams Intervene. The title became Schemes of Felicity, much better in many ways. Janet Taylor gave me a fantastic cover with artwork by Frédéric Soulacroix and a Skirmish and Scandal theme. With some bumps in the road–two novels expected to come out before our series were delayed (COVID 19 was a real issue for several lead players at MP)–Skirmish and Scandal was finally unveiled, and I was the lucky author whose book came out first!

Shortly after Schemes of Felicity came out, the audiobook for A Most Handsome Gentleman was released. The narrator, Ofelia Oliver, sounds like my perfect Elizabeth Bennet. Since this story is in first person (I blogged about this in an earlier post), her suitability is more important than in most audiobooks. I do hope you get a chance to listen to this excellent recording. In addition, you can check for The Mist of her Memory with Neil Roy McFarlane, whose voice is swoon-worthy.

And in the future, while I’m busy writing book two of Cecilia’s Mismatches, you can watch for more audiobooks from me, beginning with Schemes of Felicity and followed by Letter from Ramsgate and Alias Thomas Bennet. So, if you’re a person who prefers to listen to books, your chance to enjoy all five of my books will be coming soon.

Here’s what they’re saying about Schemes of Felicity:

Fun with 5 stars: “This book is a delight!” “Thumbs up.” “I could not put it down.” “a very pleasant reading experience.” “Authentic and clever writing style.” “I enjoyed the story immensely.” “well-written and proofread” “This story was so good.” “I loved it.” “I recommend this to all Jane Austen fans!”

More fun with 4 stars: “I do love the way Ms. Lauder writes!” “I highly recommend this story.” “cute and adorable.” “beautifully penned” “The ending was so swoon-worthy.” “an enjoyable storyline.”

I’m certain you hope you can read it soon!

White Author, Black Character

I’m in a pickle as to where to go with my writing. I have a novel just started (book two of the Cecilia’s Mismatches non-JAFF Regency romance trilogy, called The Chaperon) and I haven’t yet got a solid plot carved in stone, just a general outline in my head. It’s an opportunity to incorporate some of the learning I’ve just picked up and try to be a bigger person with a world human rights view. But how to start?

Let me backtrack.

I finished writing the first book in the trilogy, An Accomplished Lady in June, and I’m quite pleased with how the novel turned out. Audra is a mashup of Catherine Bennet and Catherine Morland, though her love interest is a sturdier sort than Tilney. Cecilia is written after Caroline Bingley.

This week, Ellen Pickels and I finished editing my Austen-Inspired variation called Schemes of Felicity (formerly The Fitzwilliams Intervene). Listen for more about this light romance and other novellas from Meryton Press coming soon.

I’m in the midst of prepping an audiobook of A Most Handsome Gentleman with excellent narrator Ofelia Oliver, which should release next month. “Hot Collins” is such a funny mini-novel, and Ofelia gives all the inflection and emotion needed to make it great in an audiobook!

Those are water under the bridge—the same sort of work I’ve done for a while now.

But lately, with multiple calls to action on making Regency books more realistic as to the underrepresented groups of the people of the era (Lopt and Cropt Editing, Bella Breen, Katherine Grant, my two courses), I’m thinking a lot about how I can incorporate marginalized characters without making them too stereotypical or minor. When I say marginalized, I mean people of colour, LGBTQ++, disabled, or similar under-represented characters within JAFF or Regency romances. Because they were there in the Regency, and we’ve chosen to ignore them. So far.

I don’t come to this without some degree of education. I attended two Beau Monde courses (Louisa Cornell’s Gay in Regency England and LaQuette’s Critical Lens) and the Beau Monde two-day annual conference and gained a ton of information on how to improve my writing.

In the past, I’ve written the “discovered an intelligent slave, purchased freedom for him and his wife, employed and educated them, brought them back to England for the top servant roles at Longbourn” with the Akuetes in Alias Thomas Bennet. The Akuetes even had an important role to play in alerting Mr. Bennet to a potential spy in Maria Lucas. But they were servants and in minor roles. I also did the raped, PTSD character for Fanny Bennet in the same book. I had a depressed, head injured lead character for Elizabeth in The Mist of Her Memory, when so many mentally ill characters are portrayed as villains in fiction.

The question is, how can a white, straight, cis, mentally disabled woman do better to write marginalized characters? Well, after a lot of fear and then subsequent soul-searching, I’m going to try in the best way I can. I’m going out on a limb to write Regency POC and gay characters as if they were regular characters except that sometimes, other characters treat them poorly because they appear different. It’s their response, or the response of those they call friends, that has potential to bring on or settle tension in the story—if I allow it to become an issue. Is that lame? Potentially. But Regency authors are obligated to try to show examples of how the Regency really looked, and free Black people were a common and visible part of Regency England. Gay people were there, though less visible.

Within The Chaperon, I want to at incorporate a person of colour in a highlighted role, and show that Black people were not so uncommon in the Regency as our whitewashed Regency romances seem to demonstrate these days. But I don’t want to go overboard and point out every black person in every role in town. That’s a side plot that will distract from my romance. “and by the way, the farrier is black…” Clearly, I’m in the middle of a balancing act. Now, who would be a good character who’s not a servant for my first try? Someone similar to a Mr. Denny or a Sir William Lucas?

The earl as a marginalized person will come in book three: Secret Affairs to Discuss. I have three characters who will suit, so I can incorporate multiple underrepresented people. This is the “Darcy and Elizabeth” book, though all three books are non-JAFF Regency romances.

This is a lot for me! I’m outside of my range of comfort, the excitement of writing is balanced by the nerves of the new material. I look forward to the challenge of doing something that’s so right.

How about you? Are you ready to take up the challenge? L.L.Diamond has a major character who is gay in Undoing. Abigail Reynolds is in the midst of writing a book with an abolition subplot. You can check Maggie Mooha’s Elizabeth in the New World as well. I’d love to read your #Black Lives Matter or other marginalized groups sensitive portrayal JAFF, and hear about your ideas in comments!

Busy People

If there’s one thing that’s a constant in this world, it’s that you can expect that busy people are eventually productive people.

So what can I hold as evidence? I managed a lot of completions since my last blog post, including:

  • A three week trip to England during which I sought out many Jane Austen locations (lifetime and film) among other tourist destinations, plus met JAFFers Mίra Magdó and Lizzie Sargent, and saw Pride and Prejudice with author Leslie L. Diamond at the only operating Regency theatre left in England (the Royal Theatre in Bury St. Edmunds)—that should have been a blog post in itself;
  • Writing a JAFF novella (working title The Fitzwilliam Intervention);
  • New writing on Book One: An Accomplished Woman of my non-JAFF Regency trilogy (the Lady Hoxley, Matchmaker Trilogy);
  • Collaborating with narrator Neil MacFarlane on the recently released audiobook for my novel The Mist of Her Memory.

During the start of the current pandemic, I was still in my home in Mexico, which at the time seemed to be the safer place to be. In the midst of the expat travel panic in late March, I contracted viral pneumonia, which was also a COVID-19 scare. This meant I was in isolation in a nice private hospital in Mexico at the cost of an excellent insurance company then rushed home on a private jet since the commercial companies wouldn’t take someone with my cough. For the record, I was tested as COVID-19 negative, as well as negative for Influenza A and B and Dengue.

I’m now recovering, though my lung capacity won’t let me exercise like I used to, but that will be overcome in time. Being a COVID-19 vulnerable person, I must be more careful than most, so I remain isolated in my home, with only walks in a mask to get out of the condo. I don’t mind, as it’s a lovely loft apartment with huge windows and views to make you jealous, and includes two cats who like to cuddle up to me while I’m on the laptop on the sofa. I can read and write and edit like before, and I’m enjoying it as well. I’m busy enough that I have to say “no” to special projects, and all that’s on top of a happy and balanced real life!

I’ll let the pictures show the excitement from my trip! Click on the thumbnails for a larger picture.

Hubby goes on a bike tour and I sew a new Regency gown

Anyone who has read the dedication to The Mist of Her Memory will figure out that when my house is quiet, I get a lot of writing done. The event that often causes the house to be quiet is the absence of Mr. Suze. He’s a busy, chatty, music-listening kinda guy who loves his bicycle. While we’re in Mexico in the winter, he disappears for long rides on his mountain bike for a couple of half-days a week. When we’re in Victoria in the summer, he road bikes along an extensive network of paved trails for a similar amount of time. Usually, this is when I write. I turn off the radio, occasionally play some tunes that have been selected specifically to stir my writing for the style of story I’m working on, but I’m focused. There’s no one poking his head in my space to enquire whether I’d like to go for coffee with Brad and Janet this afternoon; or asking did I know where he left his phone; or building or repairing something; or to deciding to vacuum. Yes, he’s a great husband. Great husbands can be noisy.

Last month, he took a week and a half for an epic trip to explore the Okanogan and Columbia River systems in eastern Washington as well as visit friends in Smalltown, WA. He camped along the way and rode on his own for 84 km (52 miles) a day on average. He had hoped to travel home from the friend’s home in one day using truck, train, bus, car ferry, and bike. Well, the bus was a no-show, so he missed the car ferry and had to take the more expensive passenger-only ferry from Seattle. The picture shows the load he had on his bike for this camping and cycling trip—a total of 38kg (85lb). He rode 600km (370 miles) and had about 6000m (20,000 ft.) of climbs, in weather that was mostly mid 30’s in oC (90’s in oF), but there was wet snow in the mountains. The scenery was magnificent.

In the meantime, I did a little writing on my Regency romance trilogy, edited my existing writing, started taking an online course on Music in the Regency through the RWA Beau Monde, and finished sewing a Regency gown made from some thrift store sari fabric seconds I’d had on hand for a couple of years.

I’d cut the dress out last fall, intending to sew it in Mexico last winter once I procured a sewing machine. Mr. Suze and I practised my virtually non-existent Spanish to struggle through the interesting procedures around buying my machine from a rent-to-own store. Did you know a customer must stand in two different lines, one to pay and one to collect their merchandise, once they’ve decided to buy? The sewing machine is a newer version of the ancient one I have back in Canada, bought when I was just 19 years old, so I didn’t mind that the manual is in Spanish. But once I’d progressed so far on sewing my gown, I needed Millie, my dressmaker’s model, to ensure that it fit since it was impossible to do so on myself. So a partially sewn gown came home with me and sat around until Mr. Suze made this trip.

Isn’t it lovely? Note the Regency shape of the back bodice and sleeve—I made my own pattern. I also love the train.

However, I’m not sure where I’ll wear this gown. Perhaps to the next local JASNA meeting, even if the meeting is in the afternoon and this fabric and the style makes this dress clearly an evening gown. I can’t perform Jane Austen dancing—I have a bad shoulder—so events such as the Port Alberni Jane Austen Ball (a three hour drive away) or other Regency country dances are not going to entice me to spin it around a few times. But it’s a pretty dress, and my friends are sure to compliment it, poor seamstress skills aside.

I also started another gown. This one’s a morning dress, made from some lovely lightweight floral bedsheet fabric that looks just like fabric from Jane Austen’s time, though it’s probably a touch heavier than muslin. It’s also about half-made, and when I finish it, I’ll show it here. Mr. Suze is talking about another, shorter trip; however, writing calls me too. Decisions, decisions.

New Release and a Book Sale

A week ago, the culmination of almost two years’ efforts gained fruition. But let’s backtrack. I finished writing my latest novel a year ago, including extensive self-editing, as you would expect from me. After beta edits were completed (thanks to Nina, Leslie, and Anji!) and a title was agreed upon with my beta team, acceptance of The Mist of Her Memory by Meryton Press took place merely a week after submission. I knew the romantic suspense/mystery novel was a compelling story from that response.

Twice weekly posting at A Happy Assembly last autumn and the timing of commencement of editing with Sarah Pesce and Ellen Pickels and cover design by Janet Taylor meant an early 2019 release date. In fact, The Mist of her Memory was released a week ago–five days ahead of the planned date! Yes, darling Amazon decided I didn’t need a promotional lead-up to release, thumbing its nose at my scheduled cover reveal at Diary of an Eccentric and the pre-release marketing and sales plan by Janet Taylor of Meryton Press.

While it meant me finally twiddling my thumbs after months of preparation, the early release got the book into the hands of readers sooner. Reviews started to come in within two days of the e-book’s appearance on Amazon. I hadn’t realized it was such a fast read–it must be enthralling for such quick responses.

Of course, I’d been through all this before three times, but with fewer glitches by the monopolistic distribution channel. Thank goodness for Ellen Pickels at Meryton Press, who ironed out the list of problems on the book’s page for me!

To celebrate the release of The Mist of Her Memory, Meryton Press is holding a sale on my back-list: that’s the three books of mine they’ve published in the past. Alias Thomas Bennet, my debut novel that’s a mature Regency romance with a mystery twist, is on sale now. Bestseller Letter from Ramsgate will follow tomorrow with a three-day sale. Finally, triple top-ten of 2017 listed mini-novel A Most Handsome Gentleman will also be on sale for three days. All are already well-priced given the quality of Meryton Press‘s books, but they’ll be 99 and £99 in an Amazon Countdown Deal for US and UK customers. I hope appreciative customers will feed the author’s ego with some kind commentaries in the form of new reviews after they snag these great deals!

Watch for more of Janet B. Taylor’s teasers and the blog tour announcements on my Facebook page!

~~~

What happened that fateful morning in Lambton?

What brutal attacker caused grievous, near-fatal injuries?

Does she remain in danger? Elizabeth cannot remember!

Sequestered in her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner’s London home, Elizabeth Bennet tries to recover from a devastating incident that stole her memories during their Derbyshire tour. She continues to suffer from strange, angry voices in her head and to recall events that people tell her never happened. Even those who love her refuse to believe her. Elizabeth can barely endure the confusion!

Fitzwilliam Darcy is desperate for any hint of his beloved’s well-being, yet he lacks the information he seeks as her family forbids him contact with Elizabeth. His frustration mounts when he learns that her mental impairment incited taunting and torment in her home village of Meryton.

Which of Elizabeth’s recollections bear the closest resemblance to the truth? And what is the result of her sister Lydia’s elopement with Mr. Wickham? How is Mr. Darcy to rekindle his romance with Elizabeth when her aunt and uncle strictly shield her from him?

Prepare to grip the edge of your seat during this original romantic tale of suspense and mystery, another Pride and Prejudice variation by bestselling author Suzan Lauder.

“Suzan Lauder skillfully weaves a story that submerges you into the plot and doesn’t let go. The Mist of Her Memory’s twists and turns hold a well-guarded secret that keeps you guessing until the very end.” — author L. L. Diamond