TSRCE Update: Jane Austen Festival 2017

As time goes by, so changes our needs. I needed a new gown for the Jane Austen Festival at Port Alberni, BC, Canada in July 2017. The reason: an extra 2” in size due to a medication change about a year ago. In addition, Mr. Suze’s trousers had suffered an impossible-to-mend knee blowout at the Louisville JASNA AGM and, rather than have him wear basted Dockers, I planned to make him new ones. Add to the mix that my sister Lynn from Calgary, Alberta decided to join us, and I had offered to make her a bonnet, and I was one busy seamstress this summer.

Yes, I sewed. I had a 4m length of violet Swiss dotted cotton with embroidery down one side that was perfect for mourning Jane Austen 200 years after her death. It had cost me $7.99 at Value Village. First, I made what’s called a muslin: a gown from a $7.99 bedsheet to test my pattern. I made the bodice pattern myself from modifying a blouse pattern I got for 99 at Value Village, and the skirt was a straightforward set of rectangles and truncated triangles per numerous online Regency gown patterns. The muslin is for sale, but too small in the bust for me. I also made removable long sleeves so the gown would do for a day dress and ball gown.

My cottage bonnet was made from $3 picture brim straw hat with just the right shape. I got it in Walmart in Mexico and trimmed it up with flower hair accessories from Ardene and a huge purple feather from Dressew. I wore my new $65 off-white bustier, some Ardene clip-on roses trimmed some purple ballet flats, and my accessories were in my collection already.

I had a wardrobe problem, though: I had forgotten my slip at home, which comprises a scoop-neck, cap-sleeved blouse and empire-waisted petticoats with lace trim at the bottom. Because I was reading from a work-in-progress at the afternoon readings and play, I would be in bright stage lights with a lightweight gown with a sheer bustier underneath! Thankfully, the three of us rushed to Walmart where I purchased a white camisole for $3 and some simple white capris (pantalettes) for $14.99.

For Mr. Suze, I modified a pair of pleated Dockers that were too big for him that were in his closet in order to provide some pretty snazzy breeches. Here you can see some of the steps I took to make the pleats look like falls. I made a wide waistband from the part I cut off. He has 5 buttons on each leg, and added to those on top, I self-covered and sewed on 16 buttons for those breeches! The rest of his costume was outlined in former TSRCE posts, and cost about $180 in total.

Back view

Lynn was lucky: with almost no effort, she found a gown on Craigslist. For $20 she got a sleeveless, pale green, empire waisted gown with a sheer sash. I was able to make her short puffed sleeves using some off-white satin fabric with dots one shade darker than her gown. She also found a perfect little red parasol in the coat room where she worked. It was broken but Mr. Suze repaired it so it would properly open and close. I modified a spencer I already had for her and loaned her pink ballet flats, reticule, fan, and hair accessories. She has long hair so we had fun with the up-do for the ball. I made a nice capote bonnet for her using silk from a throw cushion cover, a $2.99 visor from Value Village, and ribbons and flowers I had on hand from various sources. I hand-sewed it, shirring a lining for the inside brim, and I’m very proud of the end product. Lynn and I also wore new lace caps under our bonnets.

Alas, although we broke the record from the previous year, we didn’t surpass the official Guinness record of 409 set in 2009 in Bath, England. However, it was fantastic to see so many people in Regency costume all at once! I met JAFF and Chick Lit author Shannon Winslow who was at the book signings at all three main events on Saturday with Regency romance author Helena Korin and me. I bought a signed copy of Shannon’s latest, Leap of Hope, and got it signed!

Helena Korin, Shannon Winslow, Suzan Lauder

Unfortunately, we forgot to take pictures at the Masqerade Ball that evening. Lynn and I had Venetian masks to match our costumes and Mr. Suze had a little “Zorro” mask that fit under his glasses.

So readers know how I looked that evening, I got dressed up in my ballroom costume this week. My feature purchase was discounted, yet it still cost more than everything else in my costume combined: my $199 armpit length, off-white, kid opera gloves. I also have a new fan from Mazatlán at $3. I’m not wearing the bustier in this pose, but instead, a balconette bra to show you how it looks (see the post on Regency unmentionables). You can also see my Joe Fresh jewellery bought on sale for $6 for the earrings and $8 for the necklace. On the dresser is Lynn’s bonnet remade with the purple trim from my Port Alberni hat. My $20 Venetian mask has a stick so I could hold it up in front of my glasses. Lynn’s mask was similar, but it had ribbon ties and different embellishments and cost $15.

We had a great time in Port Alberni once again, and our masks are nice souvenirs of the 2017 Jane Austen Festival/sister bonding event!

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Wondering about A Most Handsome Gentleman, or #HOTCollins? Watch for blog posts on Meryton Press over the next couple of weeks prior to its release on Amazon!

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Get the Cover You Deserve: LfmM by Suzan Lauder

Like many readers, I have multiple reasons why I might choose to buy a book: I love the author’s other work and/or someone I trust has given it a smashing review, and the price is right. But just as important is the way it looks: a stunning cover makes a big difference. I rarely bother with covers that are just “meh” or worse, even if the book is cheap or free! I already have over 100 books in my “unread” file on my Kindle and as many in mind to buy when those are read. No need to muddy that up with iffy ones.

It’s not easy for authors to decide on a cover, but most authors give at least a little thought to it. Let me make a suggestion: give it more than a little thought. The cover has strong potential as a make-it-or-break-it selling point for any book. It should be a teaser for what’s inside, a hint of the drama on offer, and a taste of the reading pleasure that’s possible with the purchase of this new book. It should be unique enough that readers don’t confuse it with another book, comment on Amazon that you took another author’s idea, or get a laugh at your expense.

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

I love this portrait of Léon Riesener painted by Eugène Delacroix in 1835. I think he’s the perfect Mr. Darcy at the point when he realizes Elizabeth Bennet isn’t going to accept his marriage proposal at Hunsford, and I would dearly love to use him in that capacity on a book cover. There are two problems: I don’t have a book that suits him as cover art, and he’s been “taken” in the world of Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF) covers, which is my sub-genre of Regency romance. Dear Léon was made into a phenomenal back cover Colonel Fitzwilliam by cover artist Janet Taylor for author Nicole Clarkston’s latest novel, These Dreams. By the way, I’ve bought several of Janet Taylor cover designed books for the covers alone. I’m lucky Nicole is also such a good author!

Letter from Ramsgate by Suzan Lauder, award-winning cover design by Zorylee Diaz-Lupitou. Click on the thumbnail to enlarge the image.

Meryton Press cover artist and administrator Zorylee Diaz-Lupitou has created quite a number of stunning covers for Jane Austen Fan Fiction novels, and she has a unique way of understanding how readers react to book covers: she and her husband go into book stores and look for covers that catch their eye. They make a bit of a game of it: point the book out to each other, then justify their choice. They then work together to critique it in comparison with other similar covers and figure out why it caught their eye. That way, details are analysed so Zorylee comes back with an arsenal of concepts to use in searching for the right images and fonts for each novel.

Author L.L. Diamond has a degree in studio art, which means she’s a trained graphic artist as well as a gifted watercolour painter. Her art history expertise means she can find cover art that’s not exactly from the era she writes in, but leans so much towards it that the reader is none the wiser. They also evoke the story within very well, and draw the reader towards purchase just for the pretty cover. This is an example where an author-designed cover is a good thing—when the author is well-qualified.

“Regency Woman 2” photo used in various formats on 23 Regency romance and JAFF covers.

These are merely three examples of good cover artists, and there are many more out there. Yet too many authors use cover artists that re-use materials from other authors’ covers, making the author lose the “unique” they thought they were paying for! The girl on the left is on no fewer than 23 covers, disguised a bit on some, but easy to pick out. However, if someone uses the same cover art as you did, the best you can do is say to yourself, “imitation is the best form of flattery.” Acknowledge it if mentioned, but take the high road.

Some cover artists have no background historical costuming or scenes. It’s too bad that they take money for their weak efforts. Giving short shrift to historical accuracy on a cover grates on the reader just like anachronistic scenes or non-period language inside can: how many times has it bugged you to see that same old spray-tanned, blow-dried 1990’s hair, modern tuxedo-wearing gentleman on multiple authors’ Regency romance covers? (There’s a dark haired and a blond version!) It drives me up the wall, and is a strong deterrent to purchase, even if I really like the author. How about Victorian-ish gowns or a man with long, flowing hair on a Regency romance? Blech. Yet some top authors use them all the time. I suppose they’ve justified themselves that their books still sell well. But how much better would they sell with a historically accurate cover?

Even worse, in my opinion, than the ill-qualified cover artist is the author who does it on their own using a photo that simply says nothing about the book—it could be on any novel, it’s so generic. Authors pay attention to adverbs and character studies, dropped caps and epilogues, yet those aspects don’t get new readers in a buying mood. Authors, you can only go so far in counting on people wanting to read the first book based on price and forgiving you enough to buy the next one if your cover is a dead bore. A matching dead bore is no compensation.

And layout is hard, even for a seasoned cover artist. Where should the title and author name go, how large for each image and font, which fonts to use, how to enhance them, etc., etc., are all difficult questions the cover artist must deal with. If that is the author who is an amateur, you can get by with rules of thumb only so far, then little layout glitches come out to bite you.

I even get sad when I see the covers where the scale doesn’t work on Amazon—clearly, the amateur cover designer had no clue. This even more important for fonts, though it’s common with tiny images, too. You have to be able to see and read the cover when it’s at a small scale.

Care must be taken using images. Make certain you know the source and pay for the rights when necessary with photos and even antique portraiture. Personally, I frown on a heavy reliance on computer graphic images in most genres unless well rendered and realistic in appearance. The cover shouldn’t imply that the story is a video game—unless it is. If you’re creating your own cover, you’d better be pretty good at Photoshop. Too often, it looks like there’s a cut-out doll pasted with mucilage onto the background scene, or the scene is out-of-scale or out-of-context. And don’t get me going on pasted-on fake hair!

Try to be well aware of most of the covers in the book’s sub-genre so you don’t make the mistake of copying them, however inadvertently. For example, too many Jane Austen Fan Fiction covers look like the original cover of Austenland when it should have been the only one, and we already discussed that girl on 20 covers. It may be a nice image, but if it’s someone else’s, move on.

There is such a thing as too much, and covers with a dozen images from various parts of the book run the risk of being disjointed and busy. Keep it to a few key messages for each of the front and back cover and then make them look the most unique as the author can afford.

What about the back cover? That’s a personal decision. Some are simple, just a text panel showcasing the blurb and some complementary graphics. Others are just as well-designed and detailed as the front cover. If the author will be doing signings, the back cover will help sell as well, so take care there.

A good cover artist will read your book first. If that’s not possible, the author should give them a detailed synopsis to work from. Authors can help their cover artist out by sending ideas in the form of descriptions, clip art, or a Pinterest page for their novel. Don’t expect the good cover artist to use exactly what you sent. Do give the cover artist detailed feedback and stand up for any changes you think need to be made, but expect that there are limitations to what the cover artist can do given certain media. For example, it’s hard to modify original art. Even with graphic design, there’s only so much that can be done. Work with the cover artist to get the best out of what limitations exist.

The lesson goes back to the original post in this series: authors should do their best to give the reader an experience with the greatest level of satisfaction within the author’s control. Covers add to that reading experience, so pay attention to cover design! Here are some ways to achieve your goals:

  • Look at other authors’ covers in your sub-genre to see which are the most striking.
  • Read reviews and blogs in your sub-genre to know which covers get the most positive comments.
  • Learn what it means to be historically accurate for your book.
  • Think about the content of your novel: does your cover tell enough of the story to intrigue a potential reader?
  • Ask friends who read in the genre to point out their favourite covers and analyze why they work.
  • Make sure your graphics and fonts are polished looking and visible at small scale.
  • Work with your cover artist asking questions and making suggestions for improvement until you’re satisfied it’s the best you can get for what you’re paying.

Don’t allow the cover to take a back seat to the quality of the novel. All that hard work deserves to be displayed in the best way on the Amazon seller’s page. Make your book memorable both inside and out, and it should pay off.

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!

Second Disclaimer: If I’ve missed a few contractions, it’s not because I’m overly formal, it’s because I’ve been writing Regency romance lately and that sub-genre uses no contractions!

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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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Sofa Sophia and the Farmer’s Market: A chat with Suzan Lauder!

13418187I “met” author/blogger/reviewer/Goodreads host Sophia Rose in the virtual world of Jane Austen Fan Fiction before we were both honoured with short stories in the Meryton Press holiday anthology Then Comes Winter, but that’s where I came to know her better and discover her light-hearted wit and joy of reading, which shows in her volunteer capacity on Goodreads.

(A side bit of promo: You should check out Then Comes Winter–it’s a pleasing compilation of romance short stories for the Austen lover, edited by Christina Boyd. Eleven authors have adapted five of Austen’s novels into both Regency and modern situations, with a winter holiday theme. Now that the cooler days of autumn have arrived, it’s a perfect read!)

Since then, I’ve been part of some excellent Goodreads activities Sophia hosts: the 2015 and 2016 Austenesque Lovers TBR Pile Reading Challenges and “Someone Else Pick it for Me” fun reads.

I enjoyed more of Sophia’s engaging personality during our virtual visit to a Michigan farmer’s market as a guest on of her Sophia’s Sofa Chat series on her Goodreads blog.

sophias-sofa-chats_zpsbolbpuhjShe’s truly a fun person!

I hope you hop over to read A Visit with Suzan and leave a comment for either of us!

 

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Learning from my Mistakes: What’s Chunking?

Writer’s block.

Editing block.

What do do?

block-ok-comm-smallerSome recommend handwriting out your scene to get it out of your head. Blocking out the future sections with ideas on post-it notes can help if your problem is flow or outline. Printing out what you have, cutting it up, and moving it around can help as well. Bullet point notes on the scene help if you can’t even get to writing whole sentences or you’re dealing with broader issues than basic prose.

I’ve written shorter works by the seat of my pants (with no outline) but for a novel, I’m a big fan of the flexible outline: one or two paragraphs a chapter through the conflict and climax at the very least. It’s okay to change an outline as you get closer to the next set of outline chapters. The author can still move scenes or sets of chapters around in a novel to make it flow better or repair continuity problems along the way.

Most authors write in a linear fashion, and others write major scenes (conflict or turning points) and fill in (write bridging scenes). I’ve had success with both. If you’re blocked, sometimes you can go ahead a few scenes and then return to the problem area. Sometimes you have to “Kill your darlings” as Stephen King says. Keep cut scenes in a word processing file for later use.

Many authors know their ending at the beginning of writing, or at least part way through, but I tend to write the end after the story arc is complete. None of this is wrong, and there are other methods that work, too.

Chunking the big fears

Sometimes all the best plans, outlines, and techniques don’t save an author from being blocked.

I procrastinated several times while writing my novels, particularly when continuity issues muddled me. Procrastination continued during editing, as things wouldn’t work out in the linear fashion I wanted, and I had to think them out. At times, I had too much on my plate in real life or wasn’t well enough to write. These are reasonable times to procrastinate.

But there are blocked times that aren’t typical procrastination. I know I’m not the only author who has the story in their head but can’t get started because it’s almost like a fear of opening a file and typing. Artists have the same problem, and it’s known as “Blank Canvas Syndrome.” I learned a technique for this problem that works in some situations (but not all).

parasol resized for bullet pointsSuzan Lauder’s “Learning from My Mistakes” Lesson #4: When you’re stuck, break the task down into chunks. Write each chunk down on paper and schedule them.

oreo-pop3-okay-comm-smaller

 

First chunk: read the current text. That way, you haven’t said you’re going to get “Wow” written today, just a manageable chunk.

Next chunk: Write down what chunks you’d like to use. Don’t make them too big. Refer to the techniques at the beginning of this post.

Continue in small, achievable chunks, one day at a time, or one sitting at a time.

When the writing chunk comes, aim for a fixed number of words per day—no more than 500 to start. It may be hard to start, but push for that 500, even if you have to start writing in outline form. It may become more!

That’s today’s chunk.

 

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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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!

cs_7y7swiaa1icc-jpg-large

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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