I know for me, I think of a piece of embroidery that shows the embroider’s skills. Usually, I think of a grouping of various designs that will exhibit different skills. I tend to think of samplers as the final exam for someone learning to stitch as it is often their best work. They are not usually practice pieces which are tucked away in a box or basket, for I have seen many that have been framed and hung on walls or displayed in some other way such as being made into a decorative cushion. They are works that are meant to be “the best” — a sample, if you will, of an embroider’s accomplishments.
For this article, I looked up the definition of sampler and then took a peek at whether that definition has always been the definition.
a piece of embroidery executed as an example of the embroiderer’s skill in using a variety of stitches: often incorporating numbers, letters, and the name and age of the embroiderer in a decorative panel
source Collins English Dictionary (https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/sampler)
Apparently, the above has not always been the meaning as you can see from the quote below taken from the Victoria and Albert Museum website.
In their earliest form, samplers were put together as personal reference works for embroiderers: trials of patterns and stitches which had been copied from others, records of particular effects achieved which could be recreated again. They would have been the work, not of children, but of more experienced embroiderers, and some, from their quality, of professionals.
source: A History of Samplers, Victoria and Albert Museum (http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/h/a-history-of-samplers/)
Whether you are using the current definition or looking at what the earliest forms were, there is one thing which remains true. Embroidery samplers were and are a collection of stitches that show a variety of techniques.
Now, I did not tell you all of that as an introduction to some lesson on the history of embroidery. I told you all of that to make a connection between something familiar, which you may have seen, read about, or even stitched yourself, and a book that I have written.
Nature’s Fury and Delights: Thunder, Mist, and Frost is a collection of three novelettes that I wrote as a Christmas gift for those readers already on my mailing list and any readers who decide to join that group in the month of December.
Each story in this collection is similar in that it features an element of nature in the plot and they are all sweet Regency romances. However, they are also different as one is a Pride and Prejudice variation, one is a variation of a different Jane Austen novel, Sense and Sensibility, and one is an original story with deliberate touches of Jane Austen’s Persuasion woven into the plot. Together, these three stories are a sampler of the various sorts of stories I write.
I have written many Pride and Prejudice inspired books (28 published and one more, Delighting Mrs. Bennet, coming in January, which can still be found on my blog until Saturday).
In this Nature’s Fury and Delights collection, Thunder is the Pride and Prejudice variation. It tells a story about what might have happened if Darcy and Elizabeth had met in a different time and place. Below is a short excerpt from that story. A storm has brought both Darcy and Elizabeth to the same cottage in search of shelter. Elizabeth is intent upon leaving as soon as her bonnet is fixed while Darcy is equally as intent on keeping her from wandering out into the storm and getting lost, hurt, or worse.
She lifted her hat once again for inspection.Seeing her look of satisfaction, Darcy snatched the bonnet from her.
“My hat!” Elizabeth exclaimed as she grabbed for it.
Darcy placed it behind his back, so that she could not reach it. “The fog yesterday was light. Today, with this rain, it will be heavy. You will not be able to see more than a few feet in front of you, which will make it far too easy for you to get turned around and find yourself facing a rocky precipice instead of the path to the Foleys’ home.”
He smiled as her mouth dropped open. “You bear a resemblance to Mrs. Foley when you are displeased.”
“And have you seen my great aunt displeased very often, Mr. Darcy?” She folded her arm and glared at him.
He chuckled. Yes, he had seen that glare a few times in his life.
“More when I was younger and especially when my cousin was visiting, but it has been years. I do not feel the need to eat her apples any longer.” He crossed the room and placed Elizabeth’s bonnet near his hat on the table. “I should hate to see how angry she would be with me if she were to discover I allowed her niece to wander through a storm and fall to her death.” He shook his head. “The bonnet and you are both remaining.”
“And how angry do you think my aunt will be when she discovers I have spent an extended period of time in a cottage with a gentleman alone?”
He grabbed her wrist as she attempted to reach around him and retrieve her hat. The action drew her closer to him. Even at her full height she only came to his chin. “Do you still climb trees?”
Her look of anger faded from her eyes, and the scathing reproof he was certain she was about to unleash on him died on her lips.
“Do you,” he repeated, “still … climb trees?” Her nearness was causing his breath to quicken. He should let go of her wrist, but then she might snatch that bonnet and fly from the cottage.
In addition to my multiple Pride and Prejudice inspired stories, I also have a series of stories (3 books so far) based on a different Austen novel (and one of my favourites), Mansfield Park. I could have chosen to write a novelette for this collection based on Mansfield Park, but I wanted to tackle another of Austen’s books for this project — one that I hadn’t worked with before this. So, I chose the first Austen novel I ever read, the one that caused me to fall in love with Jane Austen’s work, Sense and Sensibility. Morning Mist answers the questions, “What if Marianne met Colonel Brandon before she met Willoughby?” and “What if that meeting presented the colonel in a fashion that would appeal to her romantic nature?” Below is an excerpt from that first meeting in a meadow while the morning mist is just lifting. Marianne has just come upon a dashing stranger who is flying his falcon. She is intrigued and attempts to watch quietly without being noticed, just as she had the previous day when this knight-like gentleman had been practising his sword work. However, she is unsuccessful in remaining unseen.
“Colonel Christopher Brandon at your service,” he said with a gallant nod of his head.Marianne was certain that if he had not been holding a bird on his arm, his bow would have been executed with perfect grace. He just seemed the sort who would be a gentleman through and through.
“And you must be one of the Miss Dashwoods about whom I have heard so much,” he continued with a smile as he prepared to send his falcon flying once again. “One more turn of the sky for my friend here, and then he must be returned to his home,” he explained.
“I am Marianne, the second eldest Dashwood,” Marianne said as she tipped her head back and watched the bird rise into the air with great powerful flaps of his wings. As she shielded the sun from her eyes, Lorcan’s wings held their position as he soared.
“He is beautiful,” Marianne murmured.
“That he is,” Colonel Brandon agreed. “There is something rather special about the mixture of power and grace.”
“Oh, indeed!” Marianne cried. She had been thinking the very same words.
“My heart leaps up when I behold a falcon in the sky,” he began.
Marianne smiled with delight. She enjoyed poetry nearly as much as she enjoyed music. “It is a rainbow, sir.”
“While a rainbow is delightful, I prefer the majesty of a falcon in flight,” he answered before continuing the poem…
The third type of story featured in this collection is a Touches of Austen story. These stories have original plots and characters, but they also include deliberate nods to one of Austen’s works. To date, I have only published one of this sort of story (although I hope to publish two more in 2019). That published book, His Beautiful Bea, has nods to Mansfield Park. (I did say Mansfield Park was a favourite of mine, right? :D) However, for this collection, I once again wished to work with an Austen novel with which I had not yet worked.
Frosted Windowpanes contains nods to Persuasion. There is a jilted gentleman, years of separation, and a need to reconcile and claim the love that has not faded during those years of separation. This story is currently posting on my blog as a Thursday’s Three Hundred story. Chapters one and two can be read there now, and chapter three will post this Thursday. I chose this story to post on my blog because the story is set in Derbyshire near Willow Hall and a few of the characters from the Willow Hall Romance Series, which started its life as Thursday’s Three Hundred stories, make an appearance or are mentioned.
sidenote: I like to have stories meet and mingle. I like to extend worlds that I have built and to expand the number of characters living in that world. I also like to tie different stories together. I haven't done a lot of this sort of thing yet, but you can expect that it will happen more in the future now that I have discovered how much fun it is to do.
Below is an excerpt from the chapter of Frosted Windowpanes which will post this Thursday on my blog. A word of caution — this excerpt will contain spoilers as it is from the second half of the novelette.
“Your mother would be disappointed,” Mrs. Thompson added from her seat near the fire.Her words turned his thoughts from sweeping Amanda into his arms and assuring her he would not leave to something more suiting to his purpose – bitterness.
“Yes, I will have to live with that knowledge,” he said, turning toward Mrs. Thompson, while still keeping a watch on her daughter, “but then I am used to living with regret. I have had four years to practice, so adding my mother’s displeasure to what I already carry should not be too difficult a thing to do. There is always the hope, I suppose, if I continue my career as an officer, that one of the skirmishes into which I am flung will rid me of the ability to feel regret. Not that I was so fortunate up to now.”
That seemed to quell some of the anger he saw in Amanda’s eyes while causing her mother to look horrified. Apparently, neither of them knew what destruction they had caused in his life.
“What do you mean you have not been fortunate?”
“I am still alive,” he replied flatly. He had never entered battle wishing to die some painful death at the end of a bayonet or from a musket’s or cannon’s ball, but there were moments when that pain had seemed more welcome than the pain he faced in remembering her.
“You wished to die?” Amanda moved toward a chair, her hand out in front of her as if she needed to feel her way to it.
“Often,” he whispered.
She sank down onto the edge of a chair. “Because of me?”
He gave a sharp nod of his head. “But I wished more to see my mother again than to die, so I did my best to not be killed. However, now…well, there is not much reason left, is there?”
He turned away from her as she dissolved into tears, crossed to the window, and stared out into the blackness.
“No wonder you hate me,” she said.
“I do not hate you,” he said without turning toward her. “I love you as much now as I did four years ago.”
And that’s all that is contained within this sampler — those three different Austen-inspired sweet Regency novelettes which represent the sorts of books I have published so far in my writing career.
As I mentioned toward the beginning of this post, Nature’s Fury and Delights: Thunder, Mist, and Frost is being given away to my mailing list — those readers already on it and those who join it before the end of December. If you would like to join my mailing list, there is a link below.
If you are not the mailing list sort of person, do not despair. You will be able to purchase this book later this week. (The plan is for it to be ready by Thursday.)
I hope to begin writing another collection of Nature’s Fury and Delights stories after the new year.
(Do you have any suggestions for an element of nature and/or an Austen novel/character for me to use?)
In adddition to writing more novelettes, I also have some other exciting things I am planning for 2019. If you would like to be kept up to date on my writing, the surest way to get that information is through following my blog or subscribing to my mailing list.