The ARCs are in and in less than a week, my newest Austen-inspired cozy mystery will hit the shelves. THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF MR. DARCY is a thrilling story of murder and betrayal filled with the scandal, wit, and intrigue characteristic of Austen’s classic novels.
Ulysses Press and I had originally thought to release a “summer read” set in one of the Regency’s “seaside resorts.” However, if you know nothing else about me, you should know I never go for the predictable. Instead of Brighton and Bath, I chose to set this novel in Mudeford, one of George III’s favorite watering holes, but one that never achieved the popularity of the others frequented by the Royal Family. Once the place was chosen, my next task was discover other “tidbits” I could incorporate in the story line. As the manuscript was to be a Darcy and Elizabeth mystery, looking for the unusual was tantamount. Any writer of historical fiction can speak to the need to uncover accurate historical facts, a task which the Internet has made both easier, as well as more challenging. We all recognize how easily it is to manipulate a fact and see it spread across the Internet as the truth.
In the back of my books, I regularly incorporate Author Notes, which speak to the research used to create the story line. One of those Author Notes for The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy includes The Monoliths in Dorset.
Some 30 meters south of the River Stour in Bear Mead and two kilometers west of Wimborne in Dorset, a monolithic stone can be seen. Located at SY 986–993, the stone, of fine limestone, has a density of 2,650 kilograms per cubic meter, suggesting an approximate weight for the monolith of 1,076 kilograms. The stone is affectionately called the “Bearstone.” A similar toppled monolith can be found some 600 meters to the NNE, on the other side of the River Stour in Cowgrove. Of similar quality to Bearstone, “Moonstone” is approximately 1.2 meters high x .75 meters wide x 0.2 meters wide, with a weight of 477 kilograms. Continue reading →
Walk in Jane Austen’s Footsteps! A Jane Austen Tour of England: Seascapes and Landscapes – Sept. 7 -16, 2013 (and Giveaway!)
Have you ever wished you could walk in Jane Austen’s footsteps? Have you ever dreamt of visiting Chawton Cottage in Hampshire, where Jane Austen lived and wrote her mature masterpieces… and Godmersham Park, the grand estate in Kent owned by Jane’s wealthy brother Edward? Have you ever longed to tour the many other places Jane Austen lived and visited? Here is your chance to realize those dreams, and all in the company of “clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation”!
I am thrilled to announce that I will be one of two featured authors on a very special Jane Austen Tour of England this September 7-16, 2013 sponsored by Ingenious Travel, and you’re invited to join us!
This trip came about because the genius behind Ingenious Travel, Maria Stefanopoulos, asked if I’d be interested in going on an “author cruise” centered around me and my new novel The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen. I wasn’t interested in a cruise, but when Maria came up with the idea of a land tour to England that would focus on the haunts of Jane Austen, how could I possibly resist? I’m even more delighted that my dear friend Laurel Ann Nattress, editor of Austenprose.com and the anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, is also now on board, making it a two-author-tour!
Maria graciously allowed Laurel Ann and I to dream up the itinerary, and we couldn’t be more excited. We will step back in time as we visit the homes and estates of Jane Austen and her family, explore towns and villages that she visited or made famous in her novels, and participate in the world famous Jane Austen Festival at Bath!
The trip begins in London with a visit to the British Library and a walk through the Covent Garden area to see places where Jane Austen stayed. A private tour bus will then whisk us away across the English countryside on a fabulous journey that includes visits to: Continue reading →
My latest novel, Searching for Captain Wentworth, is set in Bath and Lyme. I’m very lucky to spend a lot of time in Bath and it is one of my favourite places to be. So much of the novel was inspired by Bath – places like the Assembly Rooms, the Pump Rooms and the Holburne Museum, to name but a few, are all mentioned. Perhaps less well known as some of these famous landmarks is Beechen Cliff. Jane mentions Beechen Cliff in Northanger Abbey when she takes Catherine Morland up there for a walk with Henry Tilney and his sister. We know how much Jane Austen enjoyed walking and I’m sure she knew this area well so I wanted to take Jane, her sister Cassandra, their brother Charles and my heroine Sophie up to Beechen Cliff for a picnic in my own novel. It’s still possible to walk to Beechen Cliff today, but be warned – it’s quite an energetic climb and is steep in places, though the views are well worth the effort when you reach the top! Here’s an excerpt from the book where Sophie has travelled back through time. She’s living the life of her ancestor Sophia and finds herself irresistibly drawn to Jane Austen’s brother, Charles:
I saw Charles before he saw me. Dressed in a dark green coat and buff breeches he towered over Cassandra. I felt so pleased to see him and experienced a sense of excitement that I hardly dared acknowledge. Beechen Cliff above us rose steeply ahead. I was soon out of breath, but Jane and Cassy seemed to find it no effort at all striking out at a march, their parasols shading them from the warm sun. Charles, ever the gentleman, sauntered along beside me. Continue reading →
I’ve never been a person for dwelling on the negatives but this year has been a difficult one for me. When I left Austen Authors I knew I wasn’t feeling quite right though at the time I didn’t really know why I wasn’t functioning properly. Added to that came the awful shock that my beloved sister had breast cancer and my world stopped. Far from being able to nurse her as I’d hoped, I then managed to trip up on Pulteney Bridge and break my hip. Shortly after this I became ill with Pancreatitis caused by gallstones and in the end my sister spent more time looking after me!
I’ve spent most of the year not blogging very much or even doing too much writing but it meant I have spent a lot of time with my sister which has been fantastic despite the trauma of everything she’s been through. She is now doing really well – her treatment of chemotherapy and radiotherapy is over and it’s wonderful to see her looking to the future again!
In Bath for the Jane Austen Festival, it was wonderful to meet up with Abigail Reynolds again and when she suggested coming back to Austen Authors I knew it was the right time! She was with her lovely friend who has been through a similar experience to my sister. It gave me such hope that everything was going to turn out well. Continue reading →
I’m just back from the overwhelming, stupendous, kaleidoscopic Annual General Meeting of JASNA, the Jane Austen Society of North America, held this year in lively Brooklyn. More excitement was packed into that single week than in an ordinary six months at home, but it would be impossible to cover or convey everything in a single blog post. So I’ll limit myself to a description of “The Austen Assizes,” the play co-written and produced by fellow Austen Author Syrie James and myself, which had a thoroughly smashing performance in the Grand Ballroom!
“We have been all alive with acting”
Partial cast picture: Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Marcee Chipman), Willoughby (Jonathan Ross), Court Clerk (Beatrice Nearey), Mrs. Bennet (Miriam Fuller), Fanny Dashwood (Diana Birchall), Robert Ferrars (Juliet Mc Master), Lucy Steele (Syrie James), and Col. Brandon (Bill James). Continue reading →
Incorporating Research into a Story Line:
With Halloween and such going on this month, I thought I would spend some time on how I have taken my research into Dorset’s superstitions and legends and have incorporated some of the items I have discovered into my next novel. Enjoy the short history lesson below and then an excerpt from Chapter 8 of The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy.
In writing my next novel, The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy, I have been exploring many of the superstitions and beliefs of the 18th and 19th Centuries in England In doing so, I have looked at fairies, the Cerne Giant, and witchcraft. One of the plot devices I have incorporated into the story line is that of a “Witch Bottle.” What is a Witch Bottle, you may ask? How could it be a weapon in a mystery book? The purpose of a witch bottle is to trap the evil spirits operating in a household. A traditional witch bottle was made of blue or green glass and was about 3-4 inches high.
Bellarmine jugs, named after Robert Bellarmine, an ardent Catholic Inquisitor, who earned his reputation in the prosecution of Protestants and the burning of Giordano Bruno at the stake. Bruno was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer. For claiming that the Sun was one of many stars and there was likely other inhabitable worlds containing intelligent beings, Bruno was burned alive for the crime of heresy in 1600. Bellarmine jugs, some 9 inches in height, were made of brown or gray stoneware. They were embossed with faces of bearded men to scare off the evil spirits.
The victim’s urine, hair, nail clippings, or red thread (sprite traps) were included in the bottle. Sometimes iron nails or pins were included. The bottle was traditionally buried beneath the house’s hearth or at the farthest corner of the property. Some say that the witch bottle wards off the spirit, keeping the witch from entering the house. Others believe the bottle captures evil and impales the dark spirit on the pins and nails before being drowned by the liquid (urine, holy water, wine, sea water, etc.). Continue reading →
A couple of months ago, my friend Susan Mason-Milks did a lovely ambassador-for-the-Pacific-Northwest post here about Seattle, her home town and mine… sort of. I actually live in the countryside considerably south of the city, in the next county in fact. And whereas King County boasts Seattle and the Space Needle, Pierce County has an even bigger claim to fame, all 14,410 feet of it: Mt. Rainier, and I’m staking bragging rights to it.
Family responsibilities kept me and my husband pretty close to home this summer, but fortunately we have a little slice of heaven – an amazing national park – practically in our backyard. So, two weeks ago, we finally managed to sneak off for a few days to our favorite destination. We hooked up the camp trailer and headed for “the mountain,” as everyone around here simply calls it. No phones. No internet. No job to go to. I took my laptop along so I could do some writing (current work-in-progress: Return to Longbourn), but the main point of the expedition was to get away from it all and enjoy the great outdoors – a mental health holiday.
“I shall soon be rested,” said Fanny; “to sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment.” Mansfield Park
As many times as I’ve been to Mt.Rainier, it still possesses the power to awe me. It’s big, really big, and breathtakingly beautiful in every season. Continue reading →
Yes, he does frown upon you and your silly summer diversions. He does not approve of your pool-hopping, beach-floating, outdoor concert-going, movie-watching, bike-riding, picnic-eating, boating, iTunes-listening, firework-seeing shenanigans.
At least, he doesn’t approve of mine. I have this image printed out and hanging above my writing desk, because Mr. Darcy is as wonderful a taskmaster–ahem, I mean muse–as he is main character and hero. (Really, though, I love this meme from the Jane Austen Centre of Bath’s facebook page, don’t you?)
Talk about motivation. If only Mr. Darcy were my personal trainer. *Sigh* But I digress…
Might he approve, though, of an Austen-inspired author taking not a vacation, nor even a holiday, but work-related research trip to England? Said author would need to, of course, sample the local bitters and cheese as well as partake in all things Austen. Certainly, other Austen Authors before her have done the same and gotten away with it?
In my next few posts I will talk about my excursions to Bath, London and Chawton…starting with Bath. Continue reading →
My husband works for Boeing and he occasionally travels with his job, jetting off to exotic vacation destinations like Glasgow Montana, Roswell New Mexico, and Fairbanks Alaska in the dead of winter. Needless to say, I’ve never felt the desire to accompany him on these business trips. But a few years ago, he casually dropped the news that he was being sent to Venice, Italy, for a couple of weeks, and asked if I wanted to go.
When I finally finished squealing with delight and jumping up and down, I ran to find my passport, arranged for a sub at work, and began making reservations. Boeing had taken care of my husband’s travel arrangements, but I was on my own. The first thing I discovered was that there are no direct flights from Seattle to Venice. I would have to stop over, or at least change planes somewhere – Rome, Amsterdam, Berlin, or London.
London? Hmm. That’s when the wheels started turning.
Seattle – the home of Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon…and me! Seattle has been my home now for a little more than 24 years, and I love it, but it has a few quirks I think you should know about.
It’s a standing joke around here, especially this time of year, that summer doesn’t really begin in Seattle until after the Fourth of July. That’s when temps climb out of the 60s on a regular basis, and we get to see Seattle’s amazing blue skies. The average high temperature in July and August is 76 degrees (although the mean temp during those months is just 66 and 67 respectively).
Yes, it rains a lot here, but not as much as advertised. It’s more about frequency than quantity. Seattle has 227 cloudy days per year, although we get only 39 inches of rain annually, which is less than other major US cities such as NYC, Chicago, and Houston.
People in Seattle buy more sunglasses per capita than in any other US city. I maintain it’s because we don’t need them very often, so we lose them when it’s cloudy for long periods and have to buy another pair when the sun comes out again!
You can see Mount Rainier from Seattle – in fact, you can’t miss it. However, the mountain is shy and doesn’t always appear through the clouds. Visitors who miss seeing the mountain think we made it up to tease the tourists. People who are fortunate enough to see it never forget it! Continue reading →