Who gets to talk first? #LearningfromMyMistakes by Suzan Lauder

Today, you’ll hear all about how I had to do a complete re-write of four chapters and learned from it.

When my latest novel, Letter from Ramsgate, was accepted for publication, but before I submitted the manuscript, I was asked by my editor, Gail Warner, to make some changes. No big deal. The same thing happened with Alias Thomas Bennet. In that case, I cut the verbatim letter from Mr. Collins, a rehash of the Lucas Lodge party, and minor redundancies with Austen that added no value to the novel.

This time, Gail asked me to shuffle and reword the first few chapters of the book to try to get more face time for Darcy and Elizabeth, the protagonists.

In Letter from Ramsgate, our dear couple don’t meet for several chapters in the novel, so their early scenes are separate. Gail explained that this could be the reason I found my AHA readership slow to grow when I was posting a year ago: not enough D&E at the start of the story.

“Eureka!” moment! Readers want D&E and are dead bored without them. No author wants dead boring in their first chapters! Yeah, I know readers want more D&E than any book can handle! So we’ll give them D&E!

Portrait of Léon Riesener as Mr. Darcy in LfR. Artist: Eugène Delacroix.

I thought about it for a while, and decided to write a short new scene. The basics of the scene had been originally told from a minor character’s point of view (POV): one Mrs. Isabel Younge. Mr. Darcy got to tell the story instead, and the novel now opens with that scene. (Click on the thumbnails to see a better view of the artwork for the “casting” of the main POV characters in Letter from Ramsgate.) We carried on in a linear time line—more about that in a minute—and I rewrote the bulk of the first three chapters into Elizabeth’s POV, with minor scenes going to Georgiana starting in Chapter 2.

 

Suzan Lauder’s “Learning from My Mistakes” 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.

Now, exceptions to Lesson #8 will take place when a skilled author attempts a complex approach to POV by showing the protagonist through the eyes of a lesser character as a narrator who will never be important. In that case, the narrator is often omniscient and carries their POV through the entire novel. I’m going to talk about POV choices and my own learning curve with POV in a later post.

Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples, 1812 as Elizabeth Bennet in LfR. Artist: François Pascal Simon, baron Gérard.

Amélie du Bois, wife of Lt.-Gen. Emile Joseph Frison, aide to King Leopold II, as Georgiana in LfR. Artist: Alexandre-Jean Dubois-Drahonet

As for Letter from Ramsgate, once I’d established with my readers that Elizabeth was the protagonist, then and only then did we have Georgiana’s minor scenes. The flashback from Isabel’s POV was all in one chapter later on rather than in the beginning of the novel.

Marie-Denise Smits née Gandolphe for LfR Isabel Younge. (Courtesy Christie’s)

With Alias Thomas Bennet, there were a half dozen flashbacks within the main story, and a few reviewers gave feedback that they didn’t care for flashbacks. To find that others find something I enjoy reading as a confusing style was a surprise, but rather than question their position, I decided to learn from the knowledge of their preferences. So Letter from Ramsgate has a very linear time progression in comparison.

Suzan Lauder’s “Learning from My Mistakes” Lesson #9: Take care with the use of flashbacks or “in media res” as some readers are confused by details that are “out of order” of a linear time line.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t lament the style for ATB. I recently read it for pleasure for the first time (after a couple of dozen times reading it as a writer and self-editor!) and I like the way it turned out, how the flashbacks doled out the hints for the mystery at a slow but steady pace. It wouldn’t have been the same without them, and the mystery is a gem of that novel.

I’m going to talk about how to choose point of view in a later post!

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!

Smart Authors Self-Edit Spelling

chalkboard-459256_1280You wondered about the title, right? “But the spell checker does that! Not always? What makes for a smart author, and how does this apply to me?” We know from previous posts that smart authors self-edit their weakest areas to the best of their abilities and, after they’re comfortable they’ve done their best, hand it over to others for additional help.

Welcome to Learning from My Mistakes, a blog series on what I learned when writing and editing my latest novel, Letter from Ramsgate. This is the fourth installment of the series, and the others were in September/October 2016 on self-editing and writer’s block. There was a gap in this series because I was busy marketing Letter from Ramsgate’s October 2016 release as well as an anniversary giveaway for Then Comes Winter, the perfect read or gift at this time of year.

lfr-top-ranking-october-23-2016Hold on. I have to toot my own horn. Not only did Letter from Ramsgate break the top 1000 for all books in the Kindle store, topping out at #809, but it was #8 in the difficult category of Regency Romance (I was amazed at some long-time popular authors with hundreds of reviews with me in the top ten!), and TA-DAAA: a #1 bestseller in Literature and Fiction categories of Romance Classics and Historical Classics! Meryton Press doesn’t move books around to capitalize on categories that have few new books to ensure they get top billing, so those bestseller rankings are a bona fide point of pride for me! Thanks, readers!

Now, back to the program:

Any author can learn many of the rules of spelling and punctuation themselves. I’m not saying you have to become perfect—look at my commas and you’ll see that although I aim for normal standards, I have some glitches to overcome. Sometimes I know the rule yet didn’t notice that the situation met the rule. Commas are one of the hardest areas, and at some point in this series, I may even try to share the conventions I’m confident about to help those to become closer to norm—learning from my mistakes! This post will be about common spelling mistakes I see as a reader, and later posts will cover punctuation and other areas.

Most spelling mistakes are homophones (two words that sound exactly the same but have very different spellings and meanings), homonyms (two words that sound similar but have very different spellings and meanings), or anachronisms (words spelled differently in the time period of the book, a separate post topic).

When aware of a homophone or homonym that you have difficulty with, try to think of a trick to remember the difference. Here are two examples:

  1. A bear might eat a pear. To bear something, whether in a literal or figurative sense, is pretty weighty stuff. That big old bear eating a pear is a heavyweight! So they are spelled in a similar way. “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother,” says the bear. The load can be emotional, like the bear will tell Elizabeth Bennet to “Grin and bear it,” when she can’t bear to know Mr. Darcy is somewhere in the world thinking ill of her. Bare means exposed, like bare your soul, bare your teeth. In the expression “bare naked,” both words have “a” and “e” as vowels. Naked is pretty exposed! Voila: you won’t mix up bear and bare again!
  2. Insure is kind of like insurance, which is money you pay to become covered for something. Ensure is to take action to make sure a thing happens, like solving a problem, to enable. The word was not used a lot until the 1950’s, and assure was sometimes used in its place, but today is treated differently. Assure is to make a person confident. I like to think it’s to comfort them in knowing something will go well—think reassure.

The author must look up the definitions to create word reminder tricks. If you just assume you know—well, you’ve heard the quip about what happens when you assume. (ASS U ME= You make an ASS of U and ME!)

parasol resized for bullet pointsSuzan Lauder’s “Learning from My Mistakes” Lesson #5: If in doubt on spelling, grammar, word usage, etymology, etc., look it up!

Homophone.com has definitions when you hover over the words. Capital Community College has some helpful sentences for word pairs that are often confused.

In a novel I read earlier this year, I was baffled at the author’s approach: made-up spelling isn’t a reasonable alternative to looking up the word! As a reader, figuring out what the word was meant to be was a strange experience. The same problem happens if a word is used but the meaning doesn’t suit.

google-spelling-definitionThe trouble is, every time a reader has to stop and figure out what the author means, they become disengaged from the story. As an author, that’s the last thing you want, because too many disengagements equal either frustration or boredom. Remember, that frustration and boredom carries into your Amazon reviews!google-spelling-use-over-time

Google has an automatic dictionary. Use it. If it shows a big arrow for more information, click it to find out what years the word was in common use. To better ensure your language isn’t anachronistic, there are The Online Etymology Dictionary  and Write like Austen (formerly the Austen Thesaurus).online-etymology-dictionarywrite-like-austen-the-austen-thesaurusPlural possessives can be tricky, and I’ve seen reviewers “correct” authors with the wrong punctuation! You should look it up, especially for words ending in “s.” But learn the difference in where the apostrophe goes for singular and basic plural possessive as a basis, and please, no apostrophe for a regular plural! One example of a place to learn is the previously mentioned Capital Community College. The site has many good tutorials, including Possessive Forms.

Future posts will have more self-editing help, such as my problem areas with punctuation, lazy words, my personal common errors list, continuity, the HUGE topic of Point of View, and more.

Subscribe to my blog to make sure you don’t miss updates on any of these topics, and be sure to comment with your own tricks for difficult word pairs. Someday I’m going to I come up with a prize for past commenters on this series, and you want in, I’m sure of it!

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!

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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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Update: Who or what is on the LfR cover?

Remember Imagining Mr. Darcy: The Faceless Man and the Book Cover from May 2016? Suffice it to say that Mr. Darcy is never a “given” on a book cover, and many surprises are in store for a writer who has no idea what their book cover will look like.

Zorylee Diaz-Lupitou was the cover designer for Letter from Ramsgate, and she does a strategic-type analysis with an author to discover the true themes of the novel in order to know where to start looking for cover ideas. Friendship, trust, and romance figured high for my latest novel, and I was stunned with happiness when I saw her cover design for my book!

On Wednesday, you’ll get to see why! The cover reveal for Letter from Ramsgate will be on Austenesque Reviews on September 28, 2016!

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American artist George Catlin (1796-1872) Self-portrait, 1824.

American artist George Catlin (1796-1872) Self-portrait, 1824.

 

 

Sadly, our handsome Mr. George Catlin from the May post is not on the LfR cover. Don’t be dismayed! We can still admire him as we sit by the fire! Click on the thumbnail for the larger version!

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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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Imagining #MrDarcy: The Faceless Man and the Book Cover

When other authors mention the name of someone they had in mind as Mr. Darcy while writing their Austen-inspired fiction, once in a while, I’m able to visualize their version of the hero while reading. It’s not easy. Otherwise, the closest Mr. Darcy image that comes to my mind for Mr. Darcy is that of a Disney hero.

Disney Princes (from The Disney Wiki http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Disney_Prince)

Disney Princes (from The Disney Wiki http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Disney_Prince)

The odd time, glimpses of a faceless man similar to the rear view of Colin Firth in the 1995 A&E/BBC adaptation occur. Of course, there have been other actors in other adaptations, and I like some better than others.

From the BBC/A&E 1995 mini-series Pride and Prejudice. Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy walks along the gallery at Pemberley.

From the BBC/A&E 1995 mini-series Pride and Prejudice. Colin Firth, as Mr. Darcy, walks along the gallery at Pemberley.

Austen herself is no help. She just said he was tall and handsome, with a noble mien and fine figure. He could be bald! Of course, the costume people would put a dark, curly wig on him. Is it a wonder dreamy-eyed JAFF authors persist in mentioning those slightly unruly curls?

David Rintoul as Mr. Darcy in BBC's 1980 mini-series "Pride and Prejudice." Mr. Rintoul wore a hairpiece for the role.

David Rintoul as Mr. Darcy in BBC’s 1980 mini-series “Pride and Prejudice.” Mr. Rintoul wore a hairpiece for the role.

I try very hard to imagine Mr. Darcy as eye-candy actor Henry Cavill (before the Superman bulk), even if he’s almost too pretty. A story I posted on Jane Austen fan fiction mega-site A Happy Assembly (Studio 54) “cast” the inimitable Christopher Reeve as Darcy, since he was the right age for the story’s era. I like the late Gregory Peck in mid-20th century stories. But none of their faces come to mind when I’m writing.

As part of my addiction to Pinterest since the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment, I’ve pinned some portraits of terribly handsome real Regency gentlemen, and maybe… but try as I might, no Darcy. I look at book covers that supposedly have Mr. Darcy on them, and to me, none of those gentlemen are quite right.

This is a problem when you want Mr. Darcy on your own book cover.

New Letter from Ramsgate character, Lady Edwina Moore, is easy to imagine. Georgiana Darcy can be a young Caroline Murat. And there’s sneaky Mr. Wickham bothering her, and Elizabeth Bennet in the background with her dizzy parasol. But where’s my Mr. Darcy for Letter from Ramsgate‘s cover?

Lady Edwina Moore from Suzan Lauder's "Letter from Ramsgate" (artwork: Henri-Pierre Danloux, Portrait of a Young Lady in a White Dress, from Sotheby's)

Lady Edwina Moore from Suzan Lauder’s “Letter from Ramsgate” (artwork: Henri-Pierre Danloux, Portrait of a Young Lady in a White Dress, from Sotheby’s)

Miss Georgiana Darcy from Suzan Lauder's "Letter from Ramsgate" (Artwork: François-Pascal-Simon Gérard's painting "Caroline Murat walking in the gardens of Château de Neuilly," 1807, from Versailles)

Miss Georgiana Darcy from Suzan Lauder’s “Letter from Ramsgate” (Artwork: François-Pascal-Simon, Baron Gérard’s painting “Caroline Murat walking in the gardens of Château de Neuilly,” 1807, from Versailles)

Mr. Wickham from Suzan Lauder's "Letter from Ramsgate" attempts to woo Miss Georgiana Darcy, while Miss Elizabeth Bennet wanders around in the distance, spinning her parasol. (Artwork: Debucourt, Modes et Manières du Jour no. 34)

Mr. Wickham from Suzan Lauder’s “Letter from Ramsgate” attempts to woo Miss Georgiana Darcy while Miss Elizabeth Bennet wanders around in the distance, spinning her parasol. (Artwork: Debucourt, Modes et Manières du Jour no. 34)

I suppose one could have a worse dilemma than having to peruse artwork in search of Mr. Darcy! In any case, the wonderful Zorylee Diaz-Lupitou is the cover designer for Letter from Ramsgate, and whether or not Mr. Darcy’s face appears, I love her covers, so I know it will be fantastic.

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Suzan Lauder’s latest novel, Letter from Ramsgate, will be published by Meryton Press in the autumn of 2016.

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2016 May 17 Edited to add a note: For some reason, readers have flocked to my blog for this post, yet none have left comments on my blog, road trips with the redhead! I wonder if you all saw the hot Regency guy and clicked to discover who the heck he is! If someone asked, I’d tell, but I’m not sure that’s the reason this post is so extremely popular! Can anyone give me a hint?

Thanks! Suzan