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!

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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

“Dancing with Jane Austen” by Suzan Lauder

When a course comes up at your local university promising to teach about dancing in Jane Austen’s novels as well as practice a bit of actual Regency period dancing, what does a Janeite do but jump at the chance? And that’s exactly how I spent my Saturday mornings for four weeks this autumn!

“Dancing with Jane Austen” was offered by the Continuing Education Division of the University of Victoria, fondly known locally as UVic. The teachers were JASNA life member Charlotte Hale and JASNA member and local dance teacher and caller Rosemary Lach, who called the balls at the Port Alberni Jane Austen Festivals I attended in the past. The dozen participants were all Jane Austen lovers and very motivated to learn more.

Someone forgot his gloves!

To start the program, Charlotte Hale provided an entertaining presentation on one or more of the novels each class, as well as touching on topics such as history, etiquette, apparel, conversation, and conventions of the Regency, and especially, the dance scenes in Austen’s six novels. For example, we learned to bow and curtsey, learned that a deep bow was only for Mr. Collins and his ilk. We discovered that one of the pet peeves of the presenters was the lack of gloves on the actors in the TV and movie adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels. It was improper for either of “the sexes” to be without gloves at a ball. As a Regency no-no on an adaptation ball, in my opinion the lack of gloves is now second only to a confused costuming nightmare in a more recent movie.

One of the highlights of the presentations was the synopsis of the book. Charlotte cleverly wrote her own summary that shortened each novel to a few minutes, then created a story using stick people with hairdos to differentiate them. Each character got a one-word characterization plopped on the top of their head on the screen, and occasional captions enhanced the entertainment. An example from Persuasion can be seen below. Participants all agreed that this was a favourite part of the presentation, which also included numerous period art pieces and photos of the actors from the various adaptations to help spell out the dance scenes and their influence on plot and characterization, as well as some video clips of the dance scenes and the men (and sometimes women) with no gloves. Can you tell I like that part of the etiquette?After Charlotte completed our PowerPoint presentation, dance instructor Rosemary Lach led the experiential part of the class. This was where, sadly, I did not shine. I’m quite uncoordinated as well as easily distracted, in addition to having a problematic shoulder. During one class I was suffering from a balance problem that day so I had to sit out the Cotillion (Allemande) with the ladies who had physical issues that prevented them from dancing. But it was fun to watch and make notes to use in future story writing!Because Rosemary called out the moves for our Regency era English country dances, it was fairly easy for most participants to learn them. We learned to smile at our partner instead of watching the floor since, in the Regency, a ball was an opportunity to check out possible marriage matches. There was skipping, slipping, three-steps, circles, squares, lines, and chains. We learned that a waltz in the Regency was a country dance to a ¾ beat, and we practised the “Duke of Kent” waltz.

Back row left: Charlotte Hale. Front row, second from left: Rosemary Lach. Front row, right: Suzan Lauder.

During the last class, we were encouraged to dress in Regency costume, and oh, how pretty and handsome my classmates and I were. I chose my lilac ball gown with my best “Grown-Up Lady” lace cap (some chose morning gowns since the session was from 10am to 1pm) and many rented their outfits from a local theatre. I brought spare gloves for others who may have forgotten, and one of my wallflower friends borrowed a pair to go with her fabulous vintage shawl. Once we finished the presentation portion of the class, we were treated to Rosemary and Charlotte showing us the fancy footwork and forms for the minuet prior to our guests arriving for the ball and tea, and a group of eight practised the Cotillion to show our guests.

At noon, we were joined by some costumed family members of the class as well as some people who seemed to know the dances already, so the dance line was quite long. We were also treated to live musicians for the dances! I sat out all but the first (La Boulanger, in which my partner was a lady handsomely dressed as a gentleman!) because of all my afflictions and so I could take the photos you see in this blog post. I’m a cross between Mr. Collins (when I dance) and Mrs. Bates (when I sit out). The tea and treats afterwards were my kind of party.

I do hope the presenters offer this again to a new group of Janeites. All the participants had a fine time and enhanced their own knowledge admirably.

~~~

In other news: Those readers who enjoyed The Mist of Her Memory as it posted at JAFF super-website A Happy Assembly will be excited to learn that it will be published in early 2019 by Meryton Press! For those less familiar, it’s a Romantic Suspense novel with a strong mystery element, based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The novel will be suitable for all who have read Pride and Prejudice.

Suzan Lauder’s “Learning from My Mistakes” Lessons for Writers

This is the final post of a blog series designed to help other authors by sharing the mistakes I’ve made in the process of having several published books so others can learn before making the same errors in their writing, editing, and other similar endeavors. This post is a summary of the lessons listed in the other eighteen posts and works as well for traditionally published writers as it does for independent author-publishers or any mixture of the two styles.

Lesson #1: As an author, your goal is to provide a reading experience with the greatest level of satisfaction that is within your control.

Lesson #2: Several full author edits are the preferred norm for ensuring quality writing.

Lesson #3: Keep a checklist of your most common errors and use a “Find” function to clean them up during your later editing process.

Lesson #4: When you’re stuck, break the task down into chunks. Write each chunk down on paper and schedule them.

Lesson #5: If in doubt on punctuation spelling, grammar, word usage, etymology, etc., look it up!

Lesson #6: Beta readers can help an author at all points in the writing process.

Lesson #7: Every author listens to and incorporates the advice of one or more professional editors who know the conventions specific to their style, content, sub-genre, etc.

Lesson #8: Avoid telling too much of your story through the voice of a minor character, particularly in the early chapters. Let your lead characters’ voices shine through.

Lesson #9: Show, don’t tell: Describe the feelings and senses to show your readers what is happening rather than stating them in plain language.

Head-hopping can add confusion as to whose point of view is being represented.

Lesson #10: Avoid head-hopping like the plague!

Lesson #11: To avoid a choppy or head-hopping effect within a chapter, use an extra line break or a scene separator when changing point of view.

Lesson #12: Change filter words of thought, feeling, and senses to make the POV deeper and enhance the reader experience.

Lesson #13: Be consistent with your POV selection.

Lesson #14: When writing in a specific period in history, use good judgement to choose language and scene setting used that suits that period and doesn’t include obvious anachronisms or incongruities with the period.

Lesson #15: Get inspiration from others for those difficult-to-write scenes.

Lesson #16: Let your romantic encounters build. Pick and choose aspects of love making to prepare the reader for the culmination.

Sixteen lessons for eighteen posts that took place over nearly two years! Some posts relied on the same “rules” as earlier topics and some posts had topics that introduced more than one lesson.

Note that these lessons don’t deal with how the author publishes their work. That’s because I firmly believe that there is no wrong way to go about publishing, whether self-publishing, hybrid publishing, or traditional publishing. What fits the author’s needs and abilities is the best direction, as long as the author also pays attention to the lessons learned above and is satisfied that they’ve met Lesson #1 in the process.

Another detail to note is that this series focused on fine-tuning of the written word with a little information on the presentation of the book, items which can make or break reader satisfaction. However, it’s unlikely that readers will tell you that those items bother them. Marketing research tells us that only about 3% of customers will tell you when they are dissatisfied, but those who are unhappy will tell 19 friends.

Technical issues are important, but most reviewer ratings relate to enjoyment of the book itself: story quality, readability, and match to expectations. This is your wonderful brilliant story and their subjective reaction to it. Be warned that reviewers may be a fickle lot, and not “get” you. The best reaction to that situation is a final lesson in wisdom that I learned from the managing editor at Meryton Press, paraphrased to the best of my recollection.

Michele Reed’s Wisdom: In the case of a poor review, try to discover what you can learn from it. If what the reader says is reasonable, make those changes as well as you can and move ahead. If you still disagree with the criticism, let it go.

With that final bit of advice, I end this series. You can find the 18 other posts by clicking on the “Suzan Lauder’s Learning from My Mistakes” link on the topic cloud on the side panel or the tags at the bottom of this post, or follow them starting with this first post of the “Learning from My Mistakes” series. A reminder that comments get entries into the draw for a book and other little goodies as mentioned throughout the series. Eligibility closes in one week.

Adieu!

Disclaimer: I’m not a writing expert. I’m just a writer who learned some stuff other writers might like to know instead of learning the hard way. My approach is pragmatic and my posts are not professionally edited!

Review: Persuasion by the Chicago Chamber Opera Tour Company

I was fortunate to attend a performance of the musical adaptation of “Jane Austen’s Persuasion: A Musical Drama” by Barbara Landis on July 6, 2018 as part of the Port Alberni Jane Austen Festival. It was a brilliant performance highlighted by 49 musical pieces from music of Jane Austen’s time to Irish folk tunes to classic opera, much of which is enhanced by lyrics and arrangements by Landis, who also took the lead roles in the play. Landis is certainly a flexible force behind this production, taking on the role of playwright in this variation of Jane Austen’s shortest novel as a tribute to the 200th anniversary of its publication. In discussion with some of the cast later on, I found out that she also takes a lead financial role and is a sort of mother to the very large cast and team involved in the performance, which has toured the world since 2013. To top off her ties to this situation is the fact that she’s a distant relative of Jane Austen. I’m sure that was as much of an impetus to do this show as any other reason.

Persuasion is clearly a strong romance, with the obligatory angst keeping the protagonists apart until the key moment when they both understand that the other’s love has withstood all the trials it has been forced to bear. Finally, the couple comes together, eliciting tears from the romantics in the audience.

A notable performance of the evening came from the perfectly austere, then flirtatious, then romantic–with perfect timing on those characteristics–Jeff Diebold as Captain Wentworth, who was wonderfully tall and handsome in his captain’s uniform. Comedic turns by several of the cast members were additional highlights, most notably by John B. Boss as a flamboyant Sir Walter Elliott, and Gretchen Mink Hansen, who could have walked off a Rowlandson cartoon, thanks to the costuming and her body language! I was especially impressed by the acting and singing of the dual roles of Anne Elliott and Jane Austen by Barbara Landis. Though Landis is significantly older than Anne is in Austen’s canon, the gifted and well-experienced soprano pulls off the multi-faceted role and character changes well. Her “bloom” comes back when she is in love, and she is the glue that holds the production together.

Nearly all the cast members were strong in voice and excellent actors. The odd time there was a mismatch with a stronger and weaker voice, however, at other times the duet was magical. With so many tunes to choose from, it’s impossible to pick out highlights. Landis did a marvelous job of timing and matching the music to create a seamless production with so many actors and songs.

Many in the audience were particularly enthralled by the two professional Irish dancers, but for me, the cameos that were most enjoyable were the choral music and classical opera, but that’s purely because I love those types of music. This brings up an interesting point about the production: it’s got something for everyone, yet no one style was so overdone that those who weren’t big fans could be tired of it.

Costuming was a delight to the eyes despite some Victorian-looking hair styles, black neck ties instead of white Regency cravats, and a dearth of top hats. The lovely gowns and handsome tail coats were evident again the following day when the cast joined the festival-goers to try to break the Guinness World Record for people in Regency costume in one location–and came up only 60 short. I loved some of the details of the ladies’ gowns and how the dresses changed for each scene and the level of circumstance of each character. Similar details were given to the men, from the naval uniforms to the elaborate lace cuffs of Sir Walter.

Chamber Opera Tours can be proud of this long-standing production, which heads off to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath in the autumn. Barbara Landis’s adaptation of Persuasion was perfect Austen, wonderful Regency, and a melange of music proven to please all preferences. Brava!

Disclaimer: I’m no theatre critic, I’m just a person who loves opera, Regency costuming, and Jane Austen who happened to enjoy this show a great deal, as Austen would say.

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For those of you who have followed the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment, I made a gown from a Value Village bed sheet at $7.99 and a ton of chenille and lace from Parasina in Mexico at about $5 and tried to match it to a Regency fashion plate for the Port Alberni Jane Austen Festival this year. What do you think? I wore Joe Fresh earrings at $3 and a Jane Austen topaz necklace that was a gift. I also had some ballet flats from Coppel in Mexico on sale at $49–yeah, expensive for me, but super comfortable for a whole day of activities, including the signing and selling of my Jane Austen Fan Fiction novels! As expected, A Most Handsome Gentleman was the most popular, given that many festival-goers had already bought and read the back-list. I got lots of encouraging comments from those fans!

I hope organizer Trisha Knight and the Centennial Belles will continue this festival for a fourth year next year so we can beat our record of 349 people in Regency costume in one place. It sure was fun! Think about adding this wonderful destination to you holiday plans for next year. I can loan a few costumes! Perhaps Chamber Opera Tours will be back with another fantastic production!

 

Coming JAFF Attraction: The Mist of her Memory by Suzan Lauder

Members of the online Austenesque reading site A Happy Assembly will enjoy a sneak peek at my latest story, The Mist of her Memory, a Regency romantic suspense/mystery. If you’re not already a member, you should seriously consider joining this excellent Jane Austen Fan Fiction site with over 2000 stories, some of which are better than most published works. It’s the largest JAFF only site on the Internet with nearly 10,000 members. Registration is easy and intended to keep the site membership to the 18+ age group since a few of the stories are mature rated (they are marked MA for those who wish to avoid them). The personal information requirement is minimal and kept personal, there are no ads, and best of all, it’s free. The site isn’t limited to stories–there are also excellent Regency resources and discussion groups included.

The Mist of her Memory is a Regency romantic suspense with a strong mystery element. It will appeal to all JAFF lovers as well as mystery/suspense lovers who’ve read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Update July 24, 2018: Now Posting Sundays and Fridays at this link!