New Release and a Book Sale

A week ago, the culmination of almost two years’ efforts gained fruition. But let’s backtrack. I finished writing my latest novel a year ago, including extensive self-editing, as you would expect from me. After beta edits were completed (thanks to Nina, Leslie, and Anji!) and a title was agreed upon with my beta team, acceptance of The Mist of Her Memory by Meryton Press took place merely a week after submission. I knew the romantic suspense/mystery novel was a compelling story from that response.

Twice weekly posting at A Happy Assembly last autumn and the timing of commencement of editing with Sarah Pesce and Ellen Pickels and cover design by Janet Taylor meant an early 2019 release date. In fact, The Mist of her Memory was released a week ago–five days ahead of the planned date! Yes, darling Amazon decided I didn’t need a promotional lead-up to release, thumbing its nose at my scheduled cover reveal at Diary of an Eccentric and the pre-release marketing and sales plan by Janet Taylor of Meryton Press.

While it meant me finally twiddling my thumbs after months of preparation, the early release got the book into the hands of readers sooner. Reviews started to come in within two days of the e-book’s appearance on Amazon. I hadn’t realized it was such a fast read–it must be enthralling for such quick responses.

Of course, I’d been through all this before three times, but with fewer glitches by the monopolistic distribution channel. Thank goodness for Ellen Pickels at Meryton Press, who ironed out the list of problems on the book’s page for me!

To celebrate the release of The Mist of Her Memory, Meryton Press is holding a sale on my back-list: that’s the three books of mine they’ve published in the past. Alias Thomas Bennet, my debut novel that’s a mature Regency romance with a mystery twist, is on sale now. Bestseller Letter from Ramsgate will follow tomorrow with a three-day sale. Finally, triple top-ten of 2017 listed mini-novel A Most Handsome Gentleman will also be on sale for three days. All are already well-priced given the quality of Meryton Press‘s books, but they’ll be 99 and £99 in an Amazon Countdown Deal for US and UK customers. I hope appreciative customers will feed the author’s ego with some kind commentaries in the form of new reviews after they snag these great deals!

Watch for more of Janet B. Taylor’s teasers and the blog tour announcements on my Facebook page!

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What happened that fateful morning in Lambton?

What brutal attacker caused grievous, near-fatal injuries?

Does she remain in danger? Elizabeth cannot remember!

Sequestered in her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner’s London home, Elizabeth Bennet tries to recover from a devastating incident that stole her memories during their Derbyshire tour. She continues to suffer from strange, angry voices in her head and to recall events that people tell her never happened. Even those who love her refuse to believe her. Elizabeth can barely endure the confusion!

Fitzwilliam Darcy is desperate for any hint of his beloved’s well-being, yet he lacks the information he seeks as her family forbids him contact with Elizabeth. His frustration mounts when he learns that her mental impairment incited taunting and torment in her home village of Meryton.

Which of Elizabeth’s recollections bear the closest resemblance to the truth? And what is the result of her sister Lydia’s elopement with Mr. Wickham? How is Mr. Darcy to rekindle his romance with Elizabeth when her aunt and uncle strictly shield her from him?

Prepare to grip the edge of your seat during this original romantic tale of suspense and mystery, another Pride and Prejudice variation by bestselling author Suzan Lauder.

“Suzan Lauder skillfully weaves a story that submerges you into the plot and doesn’t let go. The Mist of Her Memory’s twists and turns hold a well-guarded secret that keeps you guessing until the very end.” — author L. L. Diamond

“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.

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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.

Review: Persuasion by the Chicago Chamber Opera Tour Company

I was fortunate to attend a performance of the musical adaptation of “Jane Austen’s Persuasion: A Musical Drama” by Barbara Landis on July 6, 2018 as part of the Port Alberni Jane Austen Festival. It was a brilliant performance highlighted by 49 musical pieces from music of Jane Austen’s time to Irish folk tunes to classic opera, much of which is enhanced by lyrics and arrangements by Landis, who also took the lead roles in the play. Landis is certainly a flexible force behind this production, taking on the role of playwright in this variation of Jane Austen’s shortest novel as a tribute to the 200th anniversary of its publication. In discussion with some of the cast later on, I found out that she also takes a lead financial role and is a sort of mother to the very large cast and team involved in the performance, which has toured the world since 2013. To top off her ties to this situation is the fact that she’s a distant relative of Jane Austen. I’m sure that was as much of an impetus to do this show as any other reason.

Persuasion is clearly a strong romance, with the obligatory angst keeping the protagonists apart until the key moment when they both understand that the other’s love has withstood all the trials it has been forced to bear. Finally, the couple comes together, eliciting tears from the romantics in the audience.

A notable performance of the evening came from the perfectly austere, then flirtatious, then romantic–with perfect timing on those characteristics–Jeff Diebold as Captain Wentworth, who was wonderfully tall and handsome in his captain’s uniform. Comedic turns by several of the cast members were additional highlights, most notably by John B. Boss as a flamboyant Sir Walter Elliott, and Gretchen Mink Hansen, who could have walked off a Rowlandson cartoon, thanks to the costuming and her body language! I was especially impressed by the acting and singing of the dual roles of Anne Elliott and Jane Austen by Barbara Landis. Though Landis is significantly older than Anne is in Austen’s canon, the gifted and well-experienced soprano pulls off the multi-faceted role and character changes well. Her “bloom” comes back when she is in love, and she is the glue that holds the production together.

Nearly all the cast members were strong in voice and excellent actors. The odd time there was a mismatch with a stronger and weaker voice, however, at other times the duet was magical. With so many tunes to choose from, it’s impossible to pick out highlights. Landis did a marvelous job of timing and matching the music to create a seamless production with so many actors and songs.

Many in the audience were particularly enthralled by the two professional Irish dancers, but for me, the cameos that were most enjoyable were the choral music and classical opera, but that’s purely because I love those types of music. This brings up an interesting point about the production: it’s got something for everyone, yet no one style was so overdone that those who weren’t big fans could be tired of it.

Costuming was a delight to the eyes despite some Victorian-looking hair styles, black neck ties instead of white Regency cravats, and a dearth of top hats. The lovely gowns and handsome tail coats were evident again the following day when the cast joined the festival-goers to try to break the Guinness World Record for people in Regency costume in one location–and came up only 60 short. I loved some of the details of the ladies’ gowns and how the dresses changed for each scene and the level of circumstance of each character. Similar details were given to the men, from the naval uniforms to the elaborate lace cuffs of Sir Walter.

Chamber Opera Tours can be proud of this long-standing production, which heads off to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath in the autumn. Barbara Landis’s adaptation of Persuasion was perfect Austen, wonderful Regency, and a melange of music proven to please all preferences. Brava!

Disclaimer: I’m no theatre critic, I’m just a person who loves opera, Regency costuming, and Jane Austen who happened to enjoy this show a great deal, as Austen would say.

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For those of you who have followed the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment, I made a gown from a Value Village bed sheet at $7.99 and a ton of chenille and lace from Parasina in Mexico at about $5 and tried to match it to a Regency fashion plate for the Port Alberni Jane Austen Festival this year. What do you think? I wore Joe Fresh earrings at $3 and a Jane Austen topaz necklace that was a gift. I also had some ballet flats from Coppel in Mexico on sale at $49–yeah, expensive for me, but super comfortable for a whole day of activities, including the signing and selling of my Jane Austen Fan Fiction novels! As expected, A Most Handsome Gentleman was the most popular, given that many festival-goers had already bought and read the back-list. I got lots of encouraging comments from those fans!

I hope organizer Trisha Knight and the Centennial Belles will continue this festival for a fourth year next year so we can beat our record of 349 people in Regency costume in one place. It sure was fun! Think about adding this wonderful destination to you holiday plans for next year. I can loan a few costumes! Perhaps Chamber Opera Tours will be back with another fantastic production!

 

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!

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.

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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?

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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.

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