Ready for fun with JASNA in the City of Gardens!

With a new morning gown, glasses, fichu, and corset, plus almost a dozen items that I’m considering donating to the Soho Bazaar, you could say I’m on the final countdown for preparation for the Jane Austen Society of America Annual General Meeting (JASNA AGM) being held in my city of Victoria, BC, Canada this year. As a member of the organizing committee, I’m pleased to host people from all around the world.

With a theme of Sense and Sensibility in the City of Gardens, we are certain to please the over 700 attendees for this year’s festivities, which take place on September 26-October 4 2022, with the actual AGM on the weekend. The conference features tours, workshops, international speakers, education sessions, meetings, exhibits of really old stuff, shopping, an author signing, and really, something for everyone. Those attending can buy from a selection of my books at Jane Austen Books and seek me out for a signature!

To see enlarged image, click on thumbnail.

To see enlarged image, click on thumbnail.

I’ll be dressing up for the Saturday and Sunday of the AGM. The gown I recently sewed is from a pattern from 1808, and it took me nearly three years to complete it, doing some of the work in Mexico where I winter. That’s because I had to remake the bodice when it wasn’t quite right from the pattern, and I spent a lot of time thinking out the connections in a pattern that came with minimal instructions where I had to size it up for my bust especially, and interpret some of the instructions and their intention. But it goes on so easily, needing no real help from another person except perhaps to tie the back cords in a bow. The fabric choice looks truly Regency, but came from a bed sheet. Per my budget Regency bent, the whole thing cost under $25. The sheer fabric was free! I made a fichu from some of that sheer fabric as well.

My costume will be completed with Mary Bennet glasses, which you’ll see in the next post, which will show me at the AGM. I also bought a fabulous 1810 custom made corset from Redthreaded, shown here. She even fitted it at no extra charge (except shipping) at the last minute, knowing I had this conference to attend. What a great corset-maker!

The Soho Bazaar is sort of a jumble or rummage sale of goodies that are useful to the Regency lady, such as reticules, fichus, bonnets, and gloves. If you donate an item, you get a ticket for a free item up to three tickets. Items are sold for a looney or a tooney (that’s a dollar or two in Canadian money). It takes place before the fancy dinner at the AGM. When I went through my stuff, I had ten possible items, plus when I made my new fichu I miscalculated and made it too big, so when I remade it, there were two. Therefore, I have eleven possible items to give away that perhaps some Regency lady might like, and that’s not counting the possibility of throwing in some shoe roses. I’ll get my three tickets and try to fight off competition for a reticule that complements my purple gown. Or some really big feathers.

Next post will have my thoughts on the excellent speakers that I’ve signed up to see as well as the excellent costuming that I’m sure to find at the AGM. I’ve been told that nearly half the attendees dress up these days, at the very least for the formal dinner and ball.

Anyone who’s registered to attend the JASNA AGM in Victoria this year, please do approach me if you see me. I’ll have a special Suzan Lauder badge on in addition to my conference badge. If you ask me about prizes, I’ll either give you one on the spot or enter you for a draw for later. It should be fun as always, when I’m around!

PS Don’t forget to read my books! (This is a prize hint!)

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!

“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.

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!

Why first person? Suzan Lauder’s #LfmM

Why did I write A Most Handsome Gentleman in first person point of view?

The answer: because it came out of me that way. End of post.

Just kidding. I can elaborate a little more than the actual answer above.

In the past, I had written in first person point of view in a novelette length story, but it was in the modern part of the time-travel story (Performing to Strangers; posted at A Happy Assembly in 2010). I had channeled a friend as a parallel character to Elizabeth Bennet, so it was easier.

Elizabeth Bennet with a parasol, Brock drawing from Wikimedia Commons

I know that some readers don’t much care for first person, and for that reason, I would normally have avoided it. But when I finally started typing my “Hot Collins” story idea, the words that came out of me were Elizabeth Bennet’s, and the way they were phrased used “I” instead of the third person deep point of view that I had honed my craft on in Letter from Ramsgate, which is the most common style for Regency romances these days. No one was more surprised than me.

My Meryton Press editor Gail Warner was just as surprised and told me she’d never edited a first person novel before. It sounded like a warning about her abilities, but I think this novel was easier to edit than the other ones—at least, Gail made it look easy!

First person is commonly used in Young Adult and New Adult novels, however, A Most Handsome Gentleman, as a Regency comedy-romance, doesn’t fit either of those genres no matter how much it might get a laugh from the readers.

But I think first person works far better than any other point of view device would for this story. In fact, the only other POV I would consider writing this in would be from Mr. Collins’s view, and I think it could be first person there as well. However, we would lose the nuances of Elizabeth’s thoughts about Mr. Darcy even if Collins would watch their relationship blossom and grow. It’s much better told by Elizabeth, first as her unconscious attraction and later, similar to Pride and Prejudice, where she laments that he is the right man for her even though she can’t expect Darcy to be interested in her.

And that’s the reason we read Jane Austen Fan Fiction—for that Elizabeth and Darcy happily ever after!

A Most Handsome Gentleman was successful in earning the praise of all its blog tour reviews with consistent four and five star reviews. It was also selected as a top book for 2017 by three book bloggers (Diary of an Eccentric, Margie’s Must Reads, and More Agreeably Engaged). So authors, don’t be scared to try something like first person point of view if it fits your story. It’s not a mistake if you’re successful, it becomes part of your style and voice. But mind not to take that to an extreme and become an editor-resistant diva—“voice” does not mean mistakes that a good editor would check!  A truly successful book is a well-edited one, by both the author and a professional, no matter what special techniques are used.

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Learning from my Mistakes will probably have one more “Official” post: a summary of all the lessons learned, with links back to the articles. This does not mean I won’t occasionally identify a problem area that’s worth sharing to help other authors avoid it. In fact, in my reading, I still encounter books that are brilliant with the exception of the editing. A recent example would earn a two star rating, it was so full of homophones, misspelled words, sentence fragments, and redundancies though the plot and writing ability in general deserved four stars. The moral of the entire blog series is still “Get an Editor!”

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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!