The engagement scene in Suzan Lauder’s bestselling Letter from Ramsgate

dsc_0134-2The inspiration for using the Royal Menagerie at Exeter Exchange for the final chapter in Letter from Ramsgate came from my dear friend Maria (defiantfalcon at the Meryton Literary Society’s A Happy Assembly), the plot beta for the story and a zoo fanatic. In fact, Maria’s best meditative, self-indulgent, de-stressing moments come from hauling out a humongous zoom lens at her local zoo. She’s an avid supporter of the Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance (ALTA), and her photos of the extremely rare Amur leopards at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, LA have been used in their promotional material. Though there were no Amur Leopards in the Menagerie at the Exeter Exchange, they had a pair of adult leopards. Based on the artwork by Jacques-Laurent Agasse, they were most likely from Africa or Indonesia. I love this painting, and a scene is based on it!

Click on thumbnail for larger view.

Click on thumbnail for larger view.

The inspiration for other details within the chapter came from reading about the animals of the menagerie, finding the handbills that advertised them, and particularly, from two blog posts.

Click on thumbnail to enlarge photo.

Click on thumbnail to enlarge photo.

Also known as Polito’s Menagerie after its original owner, the Menagerie at Exeter ‘Change was situated in the upper levels of the Exeter Exchange building on the Strand from 1773 to 1829, and housed a “grand assembly of living curiosities” literally from every corner of the globe. Handbills and artwork from the Regency era indicate “majestic” and “noble” lions, “elegant” leopards, a rhinoceros, and “hundreds of other rare and interesting quadrupeds, and birds of the most exquisite plumage, all in fine health and condition, and so perfectly clean and secured, that the most timorous and delicate may approach them without fear or being annoyed.”

rachel-knowles-a-perfect-match-coverRachel Knowles’ article in Regency History: Researching Regency and Late­ Georgian History helped me to imagine the scene better. The author, costumer, and blogger’s Georgian novel, A Perfect Match, was a lovely read. If you like sweet historical romance novels with a subtle Christian back story, you should try this one. She has an upcoming non-fiction release called What Regency Women Did For Us due to be published by Pen & Sword in April 2017 that should prove a valuable resource for historical fiction authors like me.

Click on thumbnail to enlarge.

Click on thumbnail to enlarge.

The second article was about a particularly important resident of the menagerie at the time Elizabeth and Darcy would have visited. Chunee, a “Fine, Large Male Elephant” from India, was the star attraction of the menagerie, as well as a performer at the Covent Garden, and was often paraded in the street outside the menagerie. The coin trick in the engagement scene was described by Lord Byron in 1813: “The elephant took and gave me my money again – took off my hat – opened a door – trunked a whip – and behaved so well, that I wish he was my butler.”

Chunee had a history of violent “paroxysms” likely brought on by inhumane treatment. While in pain with an infected tusk, Chunee became extremely violent, and the methods used in an attempt to calm him were bizarre. A decision was made to put him down, and the difficulties encountered in the attempt to end his life have become one of the most horrifying stories in the history of zoos.

marie-antoinettes-confidante-by-geri-walton-coverThe above and the ability to feel so much for this elephant that I wanted him in my story is thanks to author, blogger, and historian Geri Walton, who blogs about fascinating tidbits of the 18th and 19th century. She’s released a non-fiction book in the UK about the Princesse de Lamballe, the confidante of Marie Antoinette. It will be available in the US in January 2018. Watch for it, because if it’s anything like Geri’s blog, it will be a fun and fascinating approach to history!

The non-historical part of the story is that of the three-toed sloth, Noëlle. Her scene was based on a real life incident witnessed by my beta friend. Because of her helpful photo logs of the animals, defiantfalcon gets behind-the-scenes visits at the Audubon Zoo once in a while, and she got to hold and pet a three toed sloth. She said the fur is the softest she’s ever felt. I’m so jealous!

Thanks to these three women for their generosity in sharing their passion in their own unique ways. Their stories became the basis for one of my favourite scenes in all of my writing.

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vertical-blog-tour-bannerThanks to everyone who followed me around on the blog tour. Thanks so much to each blogger who hosted and each reader who commented. I had a great deal of fun thanks to their willingness to try something a little different, and readers say this has been one of the most fun blog tours they’ve ever seen. Thanks to Rita, Loren, Tina, and Anna for your generous reviews, and thanks to the Meryton Press team for helping me share links. The most special thanks go out to Janet B. Taylor for organizing everything as the blog tour host.

While we were gallivanting around the blogging world with our parasols, readers were voting with their “buy now with one click” fingers, and Letter from Ramsgate enjoyed a short period as a #1 Bestselling Novel in two Amazon categories: Historical Classics and Romance Classics. It also climbed to #8 in Regency Romance. The latter is the big coup, as the competition is fierce from famous authors with dozens of great reviews!

The blog tour may be over, but the giveaway is not. Because we had a problem with Rafflecopter at first, the Letter from Ramsgate blog tour giveaway has been extended to November 3, 2016. If you commented on a post but didn’t get to include it to get your extra entries, now you can enter the name of the blog you commented on. One comment counts per blog site, and only one comment entry per day!

Rafflecopter Link

I’d love comments from readers here on my blog. They won’t count as a blog tour stop, though. Use the other sites for that purpose, and to show those bloggers how helpful they were to my Letter from Ramsgate blog tour.

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Another road trip! A Letter from Ramsgate Blog Tour, to be exact!

mary_poppins13-free-to-use-or-share-even-commercially-from-wikiThat’s me, on my way around the world with my parasol, now that Letter from Ramsgate is live on Amazon! Yes! It’s on its way up the rankings, and you can buy it now!

Don’t let the serviceable bag fool you. The boots are thigh-high, and the ribbons and feathers for the hat are inside that bag, ready for any occasion!

Come on! Grab your parasols and let’s get this show on the road! Elizabeth and Georgiana are waiting for us!
lfrhorizontalbannerLetter from Ramsgate Blog Tour Schedule:

2016 October 17   The Spotlight is on new character Lady Edwina: a guest post, excerpt, and the first chance at the giveaway with Maria Grazia at My Jane Austen Book Club.
2016 October 18   Guess who’s coming to tea? George Wickham never misses an opportunity when he sees one, and I share the excerpt with Margie at Margie’s Must Reads!  A giveaway opportunity is included in this stop too! Does Wickham enter?
2016 October 19   Parasol on a honeymoon–an LfR cutting room floor vignette and giveaway stop with huge JAFF author supporter Claudine at Just Jane 1813.
2016 October 20   Rita reviews Letter from Ramsgate! Yes, my first blog tour review is from the lady who’s been asking for this book ever since the first excerpt from the AHA version showed on my blog. From Pemberley to Milton is the place to hear how she liked my second published novel.
2016 October 21   Another road trip vignette featuring Elizabeth Bennet is featured at Babblings of a Bookworm with host, Ceri, and another chance at that fantastic giveaway!
2016 October 22   Liz hosts an excerpt and giveaway: three ladies Hunsfordize an un-gentleman-like gentleman, and none is Elizabeth Bennet! Liz’s Reading Life.
2016 October 23   Rita gets her just desserts, or, “what did she like best about Letter from Ramsgate, and how did Suzan translate than into a perfect guest post/vignette?” She interviews new character, Mrs. Younge! Stay for the giveaway at From Pemberley to Milton.
2016 October 24   Another book review of Letter from Ramsgate by Loren at Tomorrow is Another Day. I hope she likes it like Baci.
2016 October 25   There’s a new lady in the LfR mix, and she’s not Candy. Blogger interview, excerpt, and chance at the giveaway at So little time…so much to read!
2016 October 26   Nasty Lady Cecilia got cut from LfR, but Meredith at Austenesque Reviews is hosting her, Lady Saye, and a few others, along with our Meryton Press giveaway.
2016 October 27   Not only does Tina review Letter from Ramsgate, she hosts a setdown (excerpt) at Half Agony, Half Hope.
2016 October 28   Anna loved my breakout novel, Alias Thomas Bennet. What will she say about Letter from Ramsgate? She shares her review on Diary of an Eccentric.
2016 October 29   Bum Scratching in the Regency was the topic of my last guest post at A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life. What hijinks could she have in mind for this visit?
2016 October 30   As a former flight attendant, blog tour hostess Janet once made a career of caring for travelers, and she’s certain to comfort this tired author/blogger on her way home with a final stop at More Agreeably Engaged for a surprise and another chance at that great giveaway of Letter from Ramsgate.

2016 October 31   A lagniappe right here!

The Letter from Ramsgate Blog Tour proves to be one of the most exciting of the road trips with the redhead yet!

Don’t forget to comment on the blog tour posts and enter the giveaway for a copy of Letter from Ramsgate. There are 4 paperbacks available for US entrants and 4 e-copies for international entrants. Be sure to click on the little arrows to get to your choice.

Rafflecopter Link

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Bonus: During the blog tour, I’m a Featured Beau Monde Author!

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Port Alberni goes for the #Regency #Costuming World Record!

Whenever I hear the name of the city of Port Alberni, I think of three things: the 1964 tsunami that tore through hundreds of homes in the community, huge water bombers for fighting forest fires, and the initials P.A., which make me think of Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria. You have to be familiar with cities in Saskatchewan to make that last giant leap.port-alberni-background

Rupert Friend as Prince Albert, from "The Young Victoria"

Rupert Friend as Prince Albert, from “The Young Victoria”

A further leap: the actor who portrayed Mr. Wickham in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice adaptation, Rupert Friend, also played Prince Albert in The Young Victoria.

But back to Port Alberni: I now add a fourth–or first–thought of the city when I hear the city’s name: the Jane Austen Festival.

Port Alberni sits in the middle of Vancouver Island, which is just off the southwest coast of British Columbia, Canada. The island is about the size of Maryland or 1/4 the area of England.

The Jane Austen Festival of Port Alberni started in 2015, with one day of events, including a tea. In 2016, it will be a much larger, two day celebration. On Friday, July 8, a Regency style brunch will be held in the morning, a Regency style tea takes place that afternoon, and on Friday evening, participants get to meet me at the “Readings of Jane Austen’s Work” event!

As a guest speaker, I’ll describe The World of Austen-inspired Fiction. This will include a reading from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that inspired my latest novel, as well as a short scene from Letter from Ramsgate, which will be released by Meryton Press in October, 2016.

You’ll also find me with other authors at the signing tables, where readers can either bring their own copy of my first novel, Alias Thomas Bennet, or the Meryton Press holiday romance anthology, Then Comes Winter, or purchase a copy from me for signing. Either way, participants for the signing will get an Alias Thomas Bennet bookmark and a chance to enter a draw for a set of three gender-appropriate Regency costuming accessories courtesy of the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment.

The Centennial Belles in Regency Costume

The Centennial Belles in Regency Costume

The main event is Saturday morning: the attempt to break the Guinness world record for “Largest Gathering of People dressed in Regency Costumes!” The original record of 409 people set in Bath, England in 2009 is the most recent listing on the Guinness World Records web site. Since then, Bath and Louisville, KY, USA have been battling for the title, and each time, one outdoes the other! Louisville didn’t challenge the record in 2015 because they hosted the Jane Austen Society of North American Annual General Meeting instead. However, the 2015 Bath Festival had 550 participants including a number of Jane Austen Fan Fiction authors and bloggers.

Registrations for the World Record Challenge event will be accepted until 10am on Saturday, July 9, 2016, and all participants must be in attendance by then. Participants must be dressed according to the Guinness guidelines. Of course, help to throw a quick costume together is in my blog posts for the lady’s Regency costume and the gentleman’s Regency costume.

The Port Alberni organizers are the Centennial Belles Fashion Group, costumers who support local fundraisers with costuming from many eras. They’ve been hosting workshops and information sessions for nearly a year in preparation for this festival. They believe the majority of their participants will be from the local area.  It will be interesting to find out how far people come to participate in the event.

Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park, BC, Canada (Click on thumbnail to view full size)

Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park, BC, Canada (Click on thumbnail to view full size)

For me and Mr. Suze, it’s a two hour drive. On the way, there are some magnificent sights: Goldstream Provincial Park, where in the springtime, you can watch flocks of American eagles fishing for salmon as the fish make their way upstream to spawn; the magnificent views along the Malahat pass; the town of totems: Duncan, BC; the bustling city of Nanaimo where we’ll lunch with friends; the beaches of Parksville; Coombs and its funky reconstructed historical village of arts and crafts shops where the general store (gourmet store, really) has goats on the roof; and perhaps best of all, Cathedral Grove, an old growth cedar forest that will remind many of The Avenue of the Giants redwood forest in northern California. Slightly off the direct path are numerous wineries and farms in the Cowichan Valley; the little town of Cowichan Bay, its bay as pretty as a picture, and a bakery that features Bernard Callebaut chocolate chunk dinner rolls; Chemainus, known for its many large murals and summer theatre; Ladysmith, with eclectic shopping on its historic main street and some of the best cinnamon buns anywhere; and Qualicum Beach, with excellent restaurants and the original Quality Foods gourmet grocery. In addition, there are many types of outdoor adventures near Port Alberni.

mr suze and suzan lauder at louisville jasna 2015 ball blurredOn Saturday evening at the Jane Austen Festival, there will be a Regency dinner and ball, and the tickets are a steal for this type of event! Tickets are selling fast for the brunch, tea, dinner and ball. The Readings of Jane Austen’s Work event entry is by donation.

I procured a lovely purple pagoda umbrella, and I plan to add some tassels and lace to transform it into a Regency Parasol to flounce around with during the count for the record, as Vancouver Island tends to have dry, sunny summer days!

Come, join me and Mr. Suze in Port Alberni, or at the very least, put this event on your calendar for next July!

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Other blog notes:

US_Flag_Backlit wiki commons smallHappy Fourth to my American friends, or as we like to call it in Canada, the last day in the Canada Day extended holiday weekend!

The promised posts on my learning experiences as a writer, with links to help those who want to become better self-editors, are delayed due to the pressures of editing my new novel. Sorry! Subscribe to my blog to get notifications so you know when they’re up!

Author Catherine Curzon, otherwise known as Madame Gilflurt, who hosted a guest post by me in January, has a book out in the UK! Life in the Georgian Court will be an excellent resource for historical fiction authors, as well as a fun romp through history. It will be released in the US in September, 2016. She’ll be a guest on my blog around that time! Yes, our eyebrows are all raised at what kind of fun she’d going to bring!

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Two Road Trips for Then Comes Winter (and one for the redhead)

Blog tours are de rigeur for book releases these days. “Flat Stanley” circular tours in three countries–not so common! But Then Comes Winter, the newest offering from Meryton Press, is an unusual book with an unusual team!

Holiday romance anthologies and Austen-inspired anthologies come and go, but this compilation isn’t your standard bundle of specific-era themed short stories or Pride and Prejudice variations. The variety is evident when the only Austen novel missing is Emma, and of the P&P stories, half are loose P&P-esque modern romances with original plot lines. Reviews are coming in with good things to say about every story in the book.

The launch events for this book have been fantastic. A week of quizzes and dozens of prizes just wrapped up, and now a particularly special event has begun for this book.

Author and blogger Natalie Richards suggested we mail a copy of the anthology around and have each author sign her story so in the end, we have a copy of the book signed by all authors and the anthology editor for a give-away. We each have an opportunity to put in a little extra gift for the prize winner before we pass it on.

The "Flat Stanley" book tour route for "Then Comes Winter," the Meryton Press holiday anthology for 2015.

The “Flat Stanley” book tour route for “Then Comes Winter,” the Meryton Press holiday anthology for 2015.

The book’s adventures start and end with our editor, Christina Boyd. The anthology will travel across Canada and into New England, with a virtual trip to Romania before it returns to the US South. It goes cross-country again to work its way up the Pacific coast. The idea was nicknamed “Flat Stanley” after the elementary school activity where children mail a paper doll that travels to family and friends, who photograph themselves with it. Meryton Press will share the progress of the book on A Then Comes Winter Road Trip.

Our “Flat Stanley” left NW Washington on November 25, 2015 and arrived in Victoria, BC, Canada on November 26.

A Victoria, BC postcard, a bookmark for "Alias Thomas Bennet" by Suzan Lauder, and an embroidered handkerchief in honour of the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment are tucked into "Then Comes Winter" at Suzan Lauder's "Delivery Boy" for the Flat Stanley Book Tour.

A Victoria, BC postcard, a bookmark for “Alias Thomas Bennet” by Suzan Lauder, and an embroidered handkerchief in honour of the “Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment” are tucked into “Then Comes Winter” at Suzan Lauder’s “Delivery Boy” for the “Flat Stanley” Book Tour.

"Then Comes Winter" stops at Mile Zero of the Trans-Canada Highway on November 28, 2015 as part of the "Flat Stanley" book tour. Author Suzan Lauder, with the strait of Georgia in the background.

“Then Comes Winter” stops at Mile Zero of the Trans-Canada Highway on November 28, 2015 as part of the “Flat Stanley” book tour. Author Suzan Lauder, with the Strait of Georgia in the background.

Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, Canada, and is in a micro-climate at the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island, which means its weather is significantly milder than the rest of Canada and much dryer than the nearby cities of Vancouver, BC, Seattle, WA, or Portland, OR. The island is about the size of the US state of Maryland or 1/4 the size of England. Most of the population is in the southeastern quarter; the Capital Regional District is home to 360,000 people. About three million passengers per year travel to or from the island by ferry or air, including a float plane landing strip in the downtown inner harbour.

Author Suzan Lauder and "Then Comes Winter" anthology at the Terry Fox memorial statue in Victoria, BC, Canada on November 28, 2015 for the "Flat Stanley" book tour.

Author Suzan Lauder and “Then Comes Winter” anthology at the Terry Fox memorial statue in Victoria, BC, Canada on November 28, 2015 for the “Flat Stanley” book tour.

At Mile Zero of the Trans-Canada Highway, we posed with the statue of Terry Fox, a Canadian hero who attempted to run across Canada in 1980 to raise awareness for cancer–and he had one leg. In those days, prosthetics were nowhere as advanced as they are today, so he had a painful, limping sort of gait. He ran into atrocious weather, drivers who ran his group off the road, blisters, shin splints, and language difficulties, but awareness for his Marathon of Hope ramped up as he continued to run. Unfortunately, he was hospitalized with a return of his cancer at about midway across the country and was unable to finish. He passed away just short of his 23rd birthday, after raising an unprecedented $1 for every Canadian, a total of $24M, and facilitating a huge increase in awareness of the need for funding cancer research. The annual Terry Fox Run is now the world’s largest single-day cancer fundraising event.

After its stop with Terry Fox, the book was mailed to Alberta, Canada and author Melanie Stanford of Becoming Fanny, one of the nods to Mansfield Park in the anthology. Watch our A Then Comes Winter Road Trip page and social media for her photos!

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While “Flat Stanley” is in the land of grain fields, dinosaurs, and oil wells, the authors are having yet another party–uh, road trip. Excellent daily activities are planned for the “Then Comes Winter” blog tour. Yeah, we don’t quit having fun for this book!

tcwhorizontalbannerFor my part, I’ve arranged to have a little fictional vignette on Janet Taylor’s More Agreeably Engaged: an interview with the “Delivery Boy,” Billy, from my short story in the anthology.

MAE blog graphic no words n darcy3You may recall that my first guest blog was an author interview with Janet just over two years ago, and she’s the artist who turned her modern, bearded son and toddler granddaughter into the Regency cover of Alias Thomas Bennet! (About half way down.) This visit to her blog on December 2, 2015 will also feature a draw for a copy of the anthology for those who comment on the interview.

Nineteen stops are featured on this blog tour, enough for an editor and 12 authors, plus a few reviews thrown in just for fun, and quite a few chances for give-aways!

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Speaking of prizes, we had a great time during my turn as quizmaster for the Then Comes Winter Launch party, and Lisa Angel won the prize I donated, consisting of nice, warm, Canadian flag mittens, a signed copy of Alias Thomas Bennet, and a signed Regency Reticule from the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment.

Then Comes Winter Launch Party giveaway Suzan Lauder1Kirk Companion won the choice of any Meryton Press book in a random draw for participants in my quiz. Congrats, all those who won prizes, and thanks to all those who participated in the activities all week. I sure had fun!

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I’m going on a little road trip of my own soon: another vacation to Mexico! I’ll still be posting Letter from Ramgate at AHA while I’m away, and I hope to join a local writer’s group, and maybe even make some progress on that new Regency comedy I have in my head!

Wish me “bon voyage!”

Better yet, enter the draw for the “Flat Stanley” book signed by all 13 of us, join in the comments on the blog tour, and comment below on this post! Thanks!

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January 11, 2016 Update: Keep following the progress of the Then Comes Winter Road Trip on the Meryton Press Blog! It’s has made its way to Bucharest, Romania and MP author Lory Lilian as of this date! Enter the draw for the whole package: the traveling book signed by editor Christina Boyd and all 12 authors plus all the cool gifts Christina and each author have added along the way. The draw is open until Valentine’s Day!

 

New Story Fun: A #Regency beach story excerpt and a book launch party!

Everyone loves to go to the beach for a few weeks in summer. Of course, they like it in winter, too, dependent upon where the beach is–somewhere warm, perhaps?

Modern Ramsgate beach.

Modern Ramsgate beach.

Those who are interested in Regency history and Jane Austen’s novels would believe it would be fun to spend time at Ramsgate.

What if Elizabeth Bennet had an opportunity to to just that? If she and her Aunt Gardiner are invited to join Mrs. Gardiner’s childhood friend at her home in Ramsgate for a few weeks in the midsummer of 1811?

Ramsgate harbour, early 19th century. Image courtesy Michael's Bookshop.

Ramsgate harbour, early 19th century. Image courtesy Michael’s Bookshop.

You may recognize the time as just prior to the start of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and note that a significant event took place at Ramsgate at that time: the near-elopement of Georgiana Darcy and George Wickham, with the assistance of Georgiana’s companion, Mrs. Younge. It would be interesting if the two young women were introduced by Mrs. Gardiner’s friend Lady Edwina Baverstock, and they became fast friends. But what of Mr. Wickham and Mrs. Younge?

My interpretation of the summer romance that Austen never completely explained, and how Elizabeth Bennet’s presence at Ramsgate influences the events we know about in Pride and Prejudice, is available for your reading pleasure! Today, I’m sharing the opening scenes of Letter from Ramsgate!

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Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632 - 1675 ), A Lady Writing, c. 1665, oil on canvas, Gift of Harry Waldron Havemeyer and Horace Havemeyer, Jr., in memory of their father, Horace Havemeyer

Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632 – 1675 ), A Lady Writing, c. 1665, oil on canvas, Gift of Harry Waldron Havemeyer and Horace Havemeyer, Jr., in memory of their father, Horace Havemeyer

Excerpt from
LETTER FROM RAMSGATE
by redhead (Suzan Lauder) © 2013

April 1812
Hunsford, Kent

Elizabeth stared as Mr. Darcy stalked towards the door, his broad shoulders stiff and tense. Each step created a measured, hollow tattoo in contrast to the staccato beat of her heart, accentuating their disparate states and a divergence impossible to resolve.

He paused as his hand touched the doorknob, and then he turned back so slowly it might have been a dream. As his eyes set upon her, a host of emotions played across his face. Were disappointment and regret mingling with the resentment he expressed so eloquently moments before? Could she hope his feelings would budge, just a bit?

Her fingers clutched her gown in mimicry of the grip around her heart, clenched so tight in her chest it might never return to its natural state, and although it fought hard, the struggle for its sense of equilibrium was out of reach.

He gave her one more contemptuous glance before he quit the room, closing the door so decidedly behind him, the sound made her shudder. The tumult of her mind was now painfully great. She knew not how to support herself, and from actual weakness sat down and cried for half an hour. Her astonishment, as she reflected on what had passed, was increased by every review of it.

That Mr. Darcy thought her such a dishonourable person was beyond anything she ever imagined. The anger in his voice, the almost menacing countenance as he rounded on her and accused her of such actions—these were indelibly imprinted in her mind. How, after their mutual exclamations of love, had he contrived to misunderstand the situation so egregiously?

Her mind searched past memories. It was near unfathomable how many unfortunate obstacles had served to pave the way to this final quarrel! Regret was her companion now, but she must own those uncomfortable feelings—it had been her choice to express herself with such malice when she could easily have disclosed the confidences that would have vindicated her. But she would stand by her promise.

So this was her fate. To have Fitzwilliam Darcy somewhere in the world thinking ill of her was almost too much for her to bear, yet it was so.

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One Year Earlier
April 1811
Longbourn, Hertfordshire

“Your uncle has been prevented by business from accompanying me, and given that you and I enjoy one another’s company so well, he obliged me and suggested you would be as good a replacement for him as any body.” Mrs. Gardiner’s eyes sparkled as she said it.

If she and her parents agreed, Elizabeth would spend a significant part of the summer at the home of her aunt’s good friend in Ramsgate, and she had never been to the seaside. Her aunt became more and more animated as the details of the plan were described, and tickly sensations of excitement traversed her spine.

She accepted swiftly and with great appreciation. “The intimacy we share as niece and aunt, along with likeness of mind and spirit, will prove to make for great felicity!”

By this time, her aunt had a firm grasp upon her hands. “We shall have a fine time of it, Lizzy.”

Elizabeth shared her aunt’s pleasure. “We shall not be like other travellers and merely take in the promenades and sea air; no, we shall seek adventure, and our minds shall be so full upon our return that we will have plenty to relate without relying on our imaginations.”

Her aunt offered no objection to such a scheme, and a date was fixed for Elizabeth to journey to London and join her for the trip. There were three months in which to plan, and three months to suffer her mother’s ideas of preparations.

Finally, she waved away her family and set out for her adventure.

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I hope this snippet made you curious enough to join us to read about Elizabeth’s adventure! Letter from Ramsgate is currently posting in serial format at A Happy Assembly. Readers interact with the author by commenting on each chapter as it’s posted weekly on Wednesday afternoons. Currently, chapter 1-4 are up, so it’s easy to catch up with the others. Membership to AHA is required, but there are no ads at this free Jane Austen literary club web site. Your private information remains as private as you choose.

If now isn’t the best time for you to read, I plan to publish Letter from Ramsgate in 2016.

A_calm_by_James_Gillray smaller_______________

GREAT NEWS!:

French actor Gaspard Ulliel.

French actor Gaspard Ulliel.

A short, modern romance I wrote last summer will be featured in Meryton Press’s soon-to-be-released holiday anthology, Then Comes Winter, edited by Christina Boyd. W00t! Christina also edited the successful Meryton Press summer anthology, Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer, which is available at booksellers’ now.

My short story in the winter anthology is called Delivery Boy; it’s about mistaken first impressions, admiration from afar, and a rather heavy mustache!

Join us for the Merry, Merry Book Launch party on November 16-20 on Facebook, with fun games and give-aways! We’ll follow that with a blog tour; dates and times will be announced at Meryton Press!

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A Lady in Summer Dress with sea bathing in backgroundThe prizewinners from the online portion of the Louisville JASNA give-aways for Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment are jenred and daria! Congratulations, and thanks for commenting on the blog! Each will get a copy of the upcoming youth-and-up-rated Then Comes Winter, with my signature on my short modern romance, Delivery Boy, and one of my original design cushion cover reticules (I plan to line the two unlined ones I made before sending them off to these two). Each reticule contains an embroidered handkerchief and paper cocktail parasol, and is signed by me!

The Party Ends with a Splash! #ItsJaneYall

The road trip is over and my “day job” as adorer of two kitties has resumed. I am reminded in bossy purring meows that both deserve extra attention, and I’m rewarded with relentless purring that will extend until the wee hours tonight and over the next several days at least.

Regency Lady has a Chili Dog: Author Suzan Lauder in Louisville, KY.

Regency Lady has a Chili Dog: Author Suzan Lauder in Louisville, KY.

A final late night involved packing all the gear we brought to the 2015 JASNSA AGM in Louisville, KY. In spite of delays resulting in my husband and I scurrying through to beat the clock at every connection, a re-routed itinerary, and a novice security person confiscating Mr. Suze’s Regency walking stick, we got home after 15 hours of travel in a good mood.

This AGM has been an important goal for almost two years. The event differed from my expectations, and I’m glad I attended, but in some ways, it was an anticlimax. My mixed emotions are yet to become clear, but some conclusions can be shared with the readers of this blog, including my feelings at this point: Relief, regret, and pride.

Relief

Sunday will be the last of two months of a marathon of preparation with many 2am bedtimes, including hand sewing every night of the conference! I won’t miss the stress, exhaustion, and missing out on other things that characterized my life at the end of the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment!

My most substantial relief was measured by repeated expressions of admiration from other JASNA delegates on Friday and Saturday, followed by multiple entreaties to stop every 20 feet so a dozen flashes could go off while people photographed Mr. Suze and I as part of the Grand Promenade. It said the blog goal was successful.

I’m also relieved that people who were less welcoming kept their views to themselves when off Facebook! I’ve avoided mentioning this on the blog to keep things light, but nay-sayers created a huge area of trepidation for me coming up to, and during the conference. It’s difficult enough for anyone to try something new in a public forum, but my fear of failure worsened when I discovered my blog had been an open topic of ridicule in some costuming circles. The funny thing is, these people state hopes to encourage others starting out in costuming, yet their welcome is wanting. No, scratch that. I’m still awaiting the welcome.

old louisville kyRegret

It’s too bad I didn’t have more time to explore more of Louisville, a nice-sized, safe, comfortable, lively town full of welcoming, friendly people. Everywhere we turned, we met and spoke with helpful, smiling locals. Because Mr. Suze explored while I was in seminars all day, he vocalized this opinion strongly.

I looked at lace and ribbons in the shops of the Regency Emporium, as well as actual fashion plates from the Regency (including examples I’ve used here!) for a minimum of 6 separate visits—and I bought only four unrelated books!

I’m sure the shop staff recognized me. I was intimidated and flummoxed because, similar to my experience shopping at home, I could see how lovely these items would be on a costume, but waffled on which to buy and quantities. Did I want to use expensive silk net for sleeves on a polyester gown?

I hope I won’t be too disappointed to have wasted an opportunity to purchase embellishments better than any I’ve ever seen elsewhere!

Contrary to my expectations, I don’t mind too much that I couldn’t bring the planned jonquil gown, as my last-minute compromise with the translucent fuchsia overdress worked well.

I left the AGM uncertain about whether the blog had readers outside of my circle of friends. I’d hoped to have more Janeites approach me for the give-aways, but prizes I’d planned to hand out came home with me.

However, when authors Maria Grace and Linda Beutler both commented, “Is that the spencer from the blog? I love it!” and admired all the details, especially the little skirt detail in back, I was proud, even if the sewing quality is atrocious!

I wish I’d had more time to get to know more people. I did enjoy the company of fellow Meryton Press author Linda Beutler for some events and tourism, and it was sad to split up to go home again. Luckily, there’s AHA Chat and Facebook to remain close to those I met whom I already liked!

Pride

mr suze and suzan lauder at louisville jasna 2015 ball blurredMr. Suze’s costume was right up there with some of the best of the menswear. The cut of the tailcoat and shirt neckline set his apart from amateurish-looking versions, even if we were no more expert than the others! I’d found some brass buttons with a crown-type coat-of-arms on them at 3 packs of 3-4 buttons for 99 cents each at Fabricland that really set off the tailcoat. Louisville has a fantastic gag shop (Caulfield’s Novelty Inc.), where he spent too much on a set of grey sideburns to add a final flourish that got quite a few laughs.

Many ladies’ costumes had breathtaking details in fine silk and fancy lace, with pleated, ruffled, or impossibly swirled trim, soutache and buttons and tassels in just the right places, enormous hats with giant feathers and unique bands, and gowns with professional-looking cut and quality of construction. Though my costumes were simple in comparison, they did the trick well.

saturday day gown frontsaturday day gown backsaturday stockingsSaturday’s gown from morning through the author signings was the Swiss dotted dress, remade with a Regency-cut skirt, the lace shared over three rows, shorter puffed sleeves, and a real diamond back bodice, as I developed a Regency pattern fitted specifically for myself. The Pomona green spencer was worn all morning, since many others were doing the same, perhaps in response to light-hearted in-character comments by a couple of presenters as they joked about disapproval of married women who wore plain white! I would have added more ribbon to give this lovely gown colour, but time ran out!

My ball costume was “thrown together” in a few days. Little flourishes, like the painted designs on my opera-length gloves, the way my turban tied in a unique and cheeky way in one go and sported a bejeweled elephant pin and curled ostrich feather on top, and two new rows of lace on the bottom of my improvised gown helped my simple effort look like it belonged there.

I think our smiles made me and the Mr. appear better than many at the ball, as we had a great time among the multitude of amazing costumes.

The visible minority!

turban revisedAbout 20% of the people at the AGM sported Regency costumes the first few days, but I’d guess the proportion was at least 40% at the banquet and ball on Saturday night. Author and organizer Sharon Lathan looked so perfectly ordinary when I first met her that I didn’t realize the pretty blonde woman in glasses and jeans was her! She glowed in her silk ball gown, though!

I wore Regency for two of the four days I was present for activities around the AGM proper, which was 2.5 days long. Others who, like me, were at their first AGM and all smiles in their bold effort at a costume that fit in at the ball, included JAFF authors Linda Thompson and Melanie Schertz, whose service dog, Mr. Darcy, had all the ladies swooning in his cravat!

linda beutler and suzan lauderAmong those who wore something awesome that wasn’t Regency was author Linda Beutler. She shared a table with me for the author signings and banquet wearing a vintage 1920’s beaded gown with exquisite details and accessories. With a break from her normal life of gardens for living, her nails matched her deep maroon gown.

Some participants, like author Syrie James, changed for the ball by simply removing a shawl or fichu from the dress they wore that day. Author Maria Grace sat next to Linda and me for the signing event, and she and her Mr. changed from regular clothes into attractive and well-executed Regency costumes for the evening, then cut up the dance floor like pros!

Sue Forgue of the Regency Encyclopedia turns out to be a bit of a fashion plate. She donned a different gown during the day and evening on Saturday, the former with an amazing floral pattern straight out of the Regency that made me match my spencer in jealousy. Interestingly, the latter was a Pomona green silk! Sue enhanced both gowns with gorgeous matching jewels and reticules! I wish I’d thought of photos, and if I get one, I’ll add it to this post.

The Splash

Not a literal splash, but trip on the Ohio River on a 1914-built steam-engine paddlewheel boat, the Queen of Louisville, was a ticketed event last night to culminate our visit for the AGM.

I doubt that more than 5% were dressed in Regency costume! I think many are more comfortable without a corset, no matter how well it improves one’s posture! I wore a nice modern skirt and blouse for the boat trip. In the daytime, it had been a Jane Austen t-shirt from my local library’s fundraiser paired with Michael Kors skinny denim capris!

The weather was fine, as it had been for the whole trip—in the high 80s, when seasonal normal daytime temperatures are in the low 70s.

The Future for my Regency Costuming

One of Meryton Press’s editors and our unofficial social media marketing coach, Christina Boyd, suggested early on in the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment that the series would make a good book. She’s repeated the sentiment, and it’s tempting, though I’d have a great more due diligence on ensuring permissions for images, making it a big project when I’d like to get back to fiction.

“Encyclopedia Sue,” who adores JASNA as a learning experience, staunchly supports the positive examples that instigated the interest in the Regency and Austen for many (including the BBC/A&E miniseries) and spends a huge amount of time sharing resources to help writers and researchers improve their craft, suggested the blog as a seminar for a future JASNA AGM. Though I admit I had some interesting ideas for topics I’d enjoy presenting for this AGM (and didn’t explore them due to lack of time!), without Sue putting the seed in my mind, I’d have never thought of the TSRCE in a seminar format. I’m tempted!

back view mr suze and suzan lauder louisville jasna ball 2015 others blurredThough I know I’ll continue to make gowns and hats based on the wonderful examples I saw this year, for personal reasons, it’s unlikely I’ll have time to attend next year’s AGM in Washington, DC, but I hope to repeat this, with gowns made well ahead of time, for the Huntington Beach, CA AGM in 2017.

Locally, I’ll wear my costumes to JASNA events along with a dozen or so others who enjoy that aspect of study of Austen and Regency.

On July 8 and 9, 2016, the town of Port Alberni, BC, Canada (about 3 hours from me, on Vancouver Island) is hosting its first Jane Austen Festival, and claims an intention to break the world record for Regency costuming. I’ll be there, and I hope I can throw some of my extra gowns on some friends, including enticing a few from around the world to come visit me while they help Port Alberni with its goal. With vintage dresses and fabric, I have the basics for at least a dozen gowns, never mind that I yearn to tackle fabric and look a little like Sue did on Saturday!

~

Future posts:

  • Side issues and tips related to attending an AGM.
  • Reprint of a Regency-related article I wrote for another web site.
  • A blurb and teaser for my latest novel-length story, Letter from Ramsgate, rated Teen, which will be posted in full at A Happy Assembly. Join us in the group read and story comments! AHA is a members-only web site dedicated to Austen-inspired fiction, research of Austen and Regency topics, and the resulting social interactions. It has over 9000 members worldwide, and 500 completed Austen-inspired stories. Membership is simply to ensure readers are over 18, and your personal information remains as personal as you choose.
  • I have other writing projects underway, and blurbs or excerpts will be shared here in the future!