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!”

~

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!

New Excerpt from “A Most Handsome Gentleman” #HOTCollins

I promised three items from my Meryton Press published mini-novel A Most Handsome Gentleman some weeks ago. Here’s the second of the three: an excerpt from the Netherfield ball. Prior to the excerpt, Charlotte has been introduced to Mr. Collins, who likes both her and Jane, and Elizabeth has agreed to dance with Mr. Darcy. The narrator is Elizabeth Bennet.

~~~

Charlotte stretched her neck to see something beyond our nearest neighbours. “I wonder what he said to Mr. Bingley to get his colour up. Mr. Bingley’s easy-going nature does not usually allow him to become so inflamed.”

I rose on tiptoe to see for myself. “Oh, no! He is attempting to lure Jane to the supper dance, yet she has promised that set to Mr. Bingley. They are fighting over her again. Pardon me.”

Chayseland Taylor as Mr. Darcy.

As I made my way to the argument, I was thwarted by Mr. Darcy collecting me for his dance. He appeared seemingly out of nowhere and made a formal bow before me. I craned my neck around him to catch a glimpse of the commotion. With a drawn brow of confusion, he followed my gaze. His lips were a thin line of disapproval when his attention was once again fixed upon me.

“What are we to do?” I asked. “I do not want to draw attention to them, yet I hope to stop this foolishness at once.”

“What do you think they argue over?”

I gaped at him. “My sister! Jane! They both wish to court her. Mr. Bingley is clearly her preference, yet my cousin stubbornly refuses to give way.”

Robert Waller esq. as Mr. Bingley.

“She prefers Bingley?”

“Anyone with eyes can see that she does.”

Mr. Darcy looked intently at them. “I can see no greater admiration towards any person. She smiles no matter with whom she converses.”

“She is shy and does not want to expose her feelings for fear of being hurt. But observe her eyes—how they shine when she looks at Mr. Bingley. That tells the tale.”

It was not the best time to say such a thing. Jane’s eyes were not shining at the moment. Instead, she was glaring at my cousin as if she wished him to burn up and disappear like a guttering candle.

“Please excuse me.” I did not look at Mr. Darcy while I quickly curtseyed and dashed off in the direction of the altercation. I was not certain how he would take my abandonment of him for the promised dance. Goodness knows, I had seen the expression of disapproval on his face often enough, and to make matters worse, I could not expect to dance with him later in lieu of the delay. Mr. Darcy had indicated a propensity for implacable resentment, and this was one of the times I deserved it.

My goal when I reached the disagreement was clear: find a way to separate my cousin from Jane and Mr. Bingley. Was this going to be an easy task? His handsome face was twisted into something unpleasant, and even so, he was still the most comely man in the room. Who could chastise a fellow so fine looking as to be admired by every lady present?

~~~

Do you not just love the handsome gentlemen in this blog post? But what about Mr. Collins vying for Jane, and Mr. Darcy’s knowledge that Jane prefers Mr. Bingley?

Remember, I have a prize package to be drawn in April and you must comment or follow my blog to enter. It consists of a signed copy of A Most Handsome Gentleman, a choice of a Suzan Lauder TSRCE hand made pineapple reticule or grown-up lady’s lace cap, and some other trinkets.

You can look forward to another A Most Handsome Gentleman post in the next weeks, but this time, it’s not only related to my book, but also to my blog series on writing tips, Learning from my Mistakes.

~~~

Happy Birthday to Meryton Press author Amy George, who is celebrating by continuing her blog tour for The Sweetest Ruin.

New Year’s Day Bonus: Book Sale and Excerpt from #HOTCollins

On New Year’s Day 2018, the price of A Most Handsome Gentleman will be reduced for 24 hours to $2.99, an excellent price for a Meryton Press book. To help celebrate my book’s sale, I’m sharing an excerpt that was planned for the blog tour, but fewer excerpts were requested by bloggers than I had prepared. Of course, the number of excerpts was balanced by more of the other kinds of guest spots as detailed (with links) in my last blog post.

(Aside—the 24 hour sale is available only in the US and UK because this option is not offered to publishers by Amazon in other countries. Sale hours are PST in the US, GMT in the UK).

Today’s excerpt is a behind-the-scenes moment from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and details the excitement when the Bingleys have dropped by to invite the Bennets to the Netherfield Ball—and handsome Mr. Collins is invited as well. It’s from the point of view of Miss Elizabeth Bennet.

~~~

Mr. Bingley and Elizabeth Bennet by Charles Brock courtesy Wikimedia

“A ball!” was repeated over and over as if my sisters required assurance that it actually had been said, and Lydia and Kitty first clasped each other’s hands and bobbed up and down, then continued the same activity with everyone else in the room. Mr. Bingley chuckled, not at all displeased with my sisters’ enthusiasm. Even Miss Bingley, elegantly attired in the most fashionable gown with an elaborate chemisette, found their raptures amusing as her mouth tilted sideways in a half smirk, though whether in disdain, self-importance that her invitation was the cause of this delight, or pure enjoyment of the scene was not clear to me.

Mr. Collins slid into the room, no doubt curious regarding all the noise, and my two youngest sisters rushed to greet him and share the good news. He held his hands in the air, palms forward, and tried to frighten them with his glare, but they both just giggled before resuming their seats and chattering, heads close together, peeping at Mr. Collins with alarmingly lascivious expressions.

Dear Jane spoke for us all and graciously accepted on behalf of our family. My cousin spun to face her with a queer expression. One brow was tucked down in the middle of his face, and his lip and nostril on the same side were raised, as if he were questioning something unpleasant—or possibly even unseemly—at least, to him it was.

Rather than continue my attempt to decipher his strange expression, my recent discussions with Mr. Collins made me bold enough to question him. “Sir, do you not intend to accept the invitation? Perhaps you do not believe it a proper amusement for young people, yet I am certain Mr. Bingley hopes you will join us, even if you may object to dancing yourself.”

“On the contrary, Cousin Elizabeth. Both the Archbishop and Lady Catherine admire my ability to discern the difference between wholesome entertainment and activities unbecoming to a cleric. A private ball given by a sensible gentleman and attended by respectable gentlemen such as myself has no tendency for evil. You know my generous disposition well enough by now—I could not deprive the neighbourhood ladies my hand in the dance. I also must take this opportunity to assure my three fair cousins that they will be among the first to stand up with me.” Lydia and Kitty faced each other with smirks and burst into giggles before they resumed their admiration of Mr. Collins. They must have become accustomed to him ignoring their existence.

Mr. Bingley took his point. “Indeed, Mr. Collins! We will be delighted to see you take your position in the line.” He addressed Jane. “Following your cousin’s good example, I request the first two dances of you, Miss Bennet.”

Jane’s cheeks are always a little pink, but at that moment, the colour flowed beyond its borders and across her entire face and onto her neck and upper chest left uncovered by her fichu. “I thank you, sir, I accept.”

Mr. Bingley’s face lit up. “Capital!” He glanced towards his sister. Miss Bingley tilted her head and offered a forced and weary smile. Her brother returned his beaming face to Jane, who could have been fevered again, she was so flushed. My poor shy older sister could not reflect his grand grin to share his elation, though she kept trying, peeking up through her lashes while her lips were curved up in the sweetest fashion imaginable, even for Jane. This was obviously encouragement, as he added, “And the supper dance?”

Everyone was diverted when Mr. Collins cleared his throat loudly. When he spoke, his voice was firm and chastising. “Mr. Bingley! Your assumption is not at all gentleman-like.” His tone was that of a parent scolding a child.

Mr. Bingley’s eyes went wide. “Excuse me, sir? I do not comprehend your meaning.”

“I am quite sure you do, sir. You are well aware that Miss Bennet is my cousin.”

Mr. Bingley hesitated, his expression further confused, if possible. “Y-yes?”

“I have priority.”

“Priority?”

I had to agree with the incredulity in Mr. Bingley’s voice. What sort of priority? What could Mr. Collins mean? I searched my cousin’s face, and his lips were pursed and his brow folded, yet he was still terrifically good looking. How could he manage such a feat?

~~~

Of course, it’s because he’s the hottest man to ever enter Hertfordshire! Or so it seems…

You’ll love the campy humour of this Pride and Prejudice variation. It’s not too long (I jokingly call it my mini-novel) therefore providing a quick and fun read.

I meant to post this excerpt early last month, but I didn’t want to draw attention away from the blog tour for Audrey Ryan’s debut novel All the Things I Know (the book is reduced to $2.99 tomorrow Jan. 2 only!). Then Christmas came, followed by a week-long bout of extreme vertigo, which is being minimized by exercises and should be over soon. The sale day for A Most Handsome Gentleman aka #HOTCollins seemed to be the best time to share a new excerpt, so here we are today. I’ll have the promised second excerpt and the article for Learning from My Mistakes in the next weeks.

Book Birthday and Fun Announcements!

For a detailed image, click on thumbnail.

A year ago today, Letter from Ramsgate was released to quickly become an Amazon bestseller, thanks to the readers. I got a giggle when I saw an old post that wondered what its cover would look like (speculating on who would be Mr. Darcy), as it’s an awesome cover with a terrifically handsome Mr. Darcy on the back.

Today, in anticipation of the release of A Most Handsome Gentleman, Meryton Press announced a book sale for Letter from Ramsgate and my first published novel, Alias Thomas Bennet.For those who are new to these two books, both are variations of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and have happy endings. Letter from Ramsgate has a great deal of angst, and is suited to all readers mature enough to read and appreciate Pride and Prejudice. Alias Thomas Bennet has a mystery component and is suited to mature readers who are not sensitive to trigger scenes. Both are highly rated by readers, earning Amazon reviews averaging greater than four stars out of five. I myself enjoy re-reading them from time to time!

If that was not enough fun for you, Meryton Press has posted a Q&A session with me along with the book sale announcement. Find out a little more than you can usually read in the author bio!

I’m also pleased to note that I’ll be stopping at 15 blogs during the A Most Handsome Gentleman Blog Tour starting on October 20. Six of the stops will include book reviews to help readers get excited about purchasing this latest book of mine, which is a comedy suitable to all readers mature enough to read and appreciate Pride and Prejudice. Excerpts, vignettes (new scenes written expressly for the blog tour), author guest posts (stories about the book and similar bonus material), character interviews, and an author interview fill out the rest of the schedule. A giveaway of eight A Most Handsome Gentleman e-books will be part of most stops on the tour, and fans can enter once each day: that’s 15 potential entries plus bonuses!

Speaking of giveaways, for fans who have been following my blog series on writing tips, Learning from my Mistakes, there will be a few more posts after the blog tour is over, then a giveaway! The gift package consists of a signed paperback copy of A Most Handsome Gentleman, a Suzan Lauder designed Regency pineapple reticule, and some really nice small gift items I have on hand. Followers of road trips with the redhead and commenters on LfmM are eligible. I’ll post a photo of them once I have the paperback to complete the set.

And speaking of that paperback: Look for its release in e-book and paperback sometime this week, and enjoy a hilarious twist on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I jokingly refer to A Most Handsome Gentleman as a mini-novel, and the book is priced to suit its shorter length. If you rush to Amazon to purchase it as soon as it’s released, your reading pleasure will enhance the fun of #HOTCollins in the AMHG Blog Tour and other events, including discovering what’s with the back cover! Besides that, you’ll have a chance to laugh and laugh and laugh!

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Keep JAFF readers interested with originality: LfMM by Suzan Lauder

JAFF novels are like batches of cookies. A few years ago, someone took a beloved old recipe and created a tasty new version with their own slightly different spice mix. Others did something similar, and readers like me enjoyed the burst of unique flavour that came through each time a writer added their own spice, even if they sometimes weren’t top quality literature.

But when the cookies became popular, opportunists’ taste buds couldn’t discern the subtle aspects that came from rare ingredients and a complicated method. Instead, they came up with their own simplistic recipe using only the most basic ingredients.

These cookies have been rolled and flattened by different hands, yet they use the same bland formula. There are bite size and colossal versions, some with so many layers you can’t eat them in one bite. A few have substituted efficiency tools for old-fashioned mixing to the right texture. Too many have put a ton of sprinkles on, thinking sugar is surely as good as spice. But this alternative cookbook has one thing in common: after we’ve tasted these cookies, we find ourselves wanting something interesting for dessert.

I bow to authors who constantly try new recipes, and readers who enjoy the taste rather than scarfing them down just because someone put a plateful in front of them.

In my opinion, this proliferation has caused a weakening of the sub-genre of Regency romance that we call Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF). Of course, in order to avoid problems, it’s best to know how to recognize them. The following are over-used scenes or tropes that I’ve seen in many other novels, both older and newer and admit to either using or using something very similar. Now, many of these come from canon, but they can be overdone, and I am among those who has been caught.

Over-used situations I’ve used at one point or another:

  • Darcy at the mantle.
  • Darcy pacing the perimeter of the room.
  • Darcy fiddling with his signet ring.
  • Too much of Elizabeth as a “good walker.”

Similar weak points I’ve seen as a reader:

  • Elizabeth’s lip chewing.
  • Darcy looking out the window.

Over-used tropes I’ve used:

  • Elizabeth or Mr. Bennet teases Darcy for the insult and/or Darcy says he didn’t think she heard or knew she heard and says he changed his mind and apologizes, saying she’s the most handsome woman of his acquaintance.
  • Accidental meetings in a book store or the opera.

Over-used tropes can offer a bit of warmth and commonality to Jane Austen Fan Fiction, but some that are not consistent with Austen are used so often, readers confuse them with Austen’s work. Some items that are not in Austen’s work are:

  • Older sons and younger daughters for Mrs. Gardiner (in canon, it’s two girls aged 6 and 8 and two younger boys).
  • 50- to 60-something ages for the Bennet parents and the Gardiners (these would be Elizabeth’s grandparents’ ages).
  • Darcy walking down the gallery with a candelabra.
  • The Lake Scene.
  • The Look (one I like to refer to!)
  • Some of the above mentioned like window-gazing and ring-twiddling.
  • A consistently sparkling, perky, and positive Elizabeth (she sulks, runs away, avoids, doubts in canon).
  • A consistently reticent, scowling, and proud Darcy (he smiles 8 times and engages in light banter at Netherfield) or one who is overly gallant (he admits his awkwardness at Rosings).
  • Character names like Richard (Colonel Fitzwilliam), Fanny (Mrs. Bennet), Madeline (Mrs. Gardiner), Lord Matlock for Colonel Fitzwilliam’s father, or any given names for Mr. Bennet: all of this list are NOT canon. Mr. Gardiner is Edward in canon.

Henri-François Riesener (1767-1828) – Alix de Montmorency, Duchesse de Talleyrand

What can we do about this? As authors, when we use tropes, we must be aware of them and consciously make the decision rather than automatically follow fashion. Better yet, try something original rather than leaning on what other authors have done to death. As readers, be aware of what is canon and what is not and not chastise authors who, for example, choose a name other than Richard for Colonel Fitzwilliam or Fanny for Mrs. Bennet.

Story lines that have been done over and over CAN suffer, even though the new author’s intention is to make it fresh. You’re asking for comparisons to past versions, and additions to the premise may well have been better done in another story as well. In addition, readers may just get tired of the same premise over and over!

It’s always better to try a new premise than to rehash an old one. Two examples in my reading experience where there have been flops in newer versions are the forced marriage scenario and “compromise” scenario. Curious that in the Regency, the word compromise did not mean what authors think it does, and many authors apply Victorian standards to set up their Regency ruin of a single lady.

What examples have you read that have been over-done and suffered in the latest copies, even by very popular authors?

Another pet peeve is the conflict-free story. I don’t mind a sweet romance if it has a soupcon of dramatic tension to keep the reader’s interest, but I don’t see the point in a straightforward, no strings attached, problem-free romance that’s basically taken away all the barriers to the protagonists’ getting together and adds nothing more of interest than a happily-ever-after, leaving the reader unfulfilled. Some authors think by writing sex-free, they must write sexual tension-free and drama-free. It’s not the same thing. Austen’s books all had numerous subtle flavours to them, some dangerously salacious, and all had dramatic tension! Your readers can take it, and there’s a whole lot more readers out there who will latch onto your stories when they realize they will keep the reader on his or her toes—or those toes curled in excitement! Remember Lesson #1: As an author, your goal is to provide a reading experience with the greatest level of satisfaction that is within your control.

An interesting story Miss Ray By William Wood, 1806 Met Museum

Where to get fresh ideas? Lesson #15 was not just for the sex scene! Get inspiration from others for those difficult-to-write scenes, i.e., read. Re-read Pride and Prejudice, of course! Read the other Austen novels, the Juvenilia, and Austen’s letters. Read nonfiction in your era, such as Regency history, fact books, and history blogs for ideas that come out of real life characters, laws, or events. Read other romance and JAFF novels, including unpublished works, and look for the plot holes and what-ifs within them. (I know some authors avoid reading JAFF to avoid any influence in their writing, however, knowing the genre is critical to finding a niche and finding new ideas, e.g., discovering you did not invent that particular scenario!)

NEVER copy ideas. It may not be true plagiarism, but it’s equally as nasty to do so! Instead, get inspiration from comparable era books like Regency romance. Read novels in other genres. Look at what you like to read that’s popular in fiction outside of Regency romance and consider how it could apply—other readers like dragon stories, too. (Sorry, that one’s been done, more than once, too!)

Talk to your friends in JAFF and brainstorm—the craziest suggestion can spark the idea for your next novel and its very fresh, spicy, unique premise! Bon Appétit!

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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