Thursday, October 27, 2011

Free Friday: Action!Henry

What would Henry Tilney do if his lady was in danger?  Become Action!Henry of course!

Unfortunately, the reading time for Action!Henry has passed, but if you liked it: get thee to and purchase a copy of Nachtsturm Castle!

And check out: The House of Strangeways, the latest Free Friday offering.

This week, in honour of everything Gothic, I'm sharing with you an deleted/expanded part of Chapter IV of Nachtsturm Castle.

If you haven't yet read the book, never fear!  All you need to know is that Catherine and Henry Tilney from Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey are finally on their honeymoon, travelling abroad.  Henry, of course, is determined to give his bride a "perfectly horrid" honeymoon, and Catherine - now very grown up and sensible - is trying to remain grown-up and sensible!

For more, please do check out Indie Jane's review of the book!  For those of you wondering how much of the Florentine adventure is really happened to this authoress - I'll tell you probably about 65%.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Something Gothic This Way Comes!

It's Halloween - and that means a celebration of all things creepy, ridiculous, and Gothic - and in particular, a celebration of Nachtsturm Castle.

To help you sort out all the blogs, sales, and give-aways, I'll list them here - editing as events are added.

Book Review
  • You can read Indie Jane's review of Nachtsturm Castle, wherein we wonder Just How Much Henry Tilney Actually Planned.
  • You can also join in the conversation on Twitter wondering the same!
Talking Austen
  • Was Austen romantic or practical?  Who's her hottest hero?  And why have monsters of every sort been creeping into her paraliterature?  I'm Talking Austen at the Jane Austen Book Club!
Guest Blog
  • Do you dream of brooding heroes and flimsy negligees?  Do you like a little danger with your romance?  Are you gearing up for NaNo with no plot in sight?  Never fear!  How to Write Your Own Gothic Novel is here at Indie Jane!
  • has put the e-copy version of Nachtsturm Castle on-sale for only .99!  The sale closes at midnight on Halloween - so hurry over to pick up your copy today!
  • However, if you've find that your evil uncle has forced you to wander the countryside penniless - and worse! - without your library, you can enter to win a free e-copy of Nachtsturm Castle on Indie Jane or My Jane Austen Bookclub just by leaving a comment!
Perfectly Horrid Stories on Free Friday
  • Check back here, to O Beauty Unattempted! for Free Fridays and this week's Gothic offering.  (You can read last week's gentle poke at the Zombification of Pride and Prejudice, "Disarming Mr Darcy" here!)  
  • This week, in honour of Nachtsturm Castle, I'll be releasing an expanded version of Chapter IV, "Which brings us, by means of the Mediterranean, to the Alps; In the manner of a Travel Journal" wherein our heroes journey briefly to Florence, and which sheds some lights on the mystery of How Much Henry Planned!  (Perfectly readable and largely spoiler-free, whether one's read the novel or not!)
A Very Gothic Travelogue!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Teatime Ten: Shannon Winslow

Shannon Winslow is very excited about the debut of her first novel, The Darcys of Pemberley.  She's been busily blog-touring, and today she stopped by the Teatime Ten!

Hiya Shannon!  It's great to have you here on the Teatime Ten.  Congrats on your Darcys of Pemberley!  Tell us a little about what it's been like since the book's release?  What reviews/response has surprised you?  What has inspired you?
Thanks for inviting me, Emily! It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since The Darcys of Pemberley debuted. Being my first time out, I had no idea what to expect. But it’s going well so far. People have been so supportive, and I’ve been kept busy getting the word out through live and on-line appearances. As for reviews, what has surprised (and inspired!) me most is how passionately people have responded to my mild-mannered little book (most for it, a few against), but then we are zealous for our Jane Austen, aren’t we?

You've mentioned that one of the inspirations for writing this novel was the age-old story of reading one sequel and saying, "That's not quite how I envisioned it!"  (A worthy reason to write a novel, if there ever was one!)  Tell us a little bit about how you framed your Darcy, Elizabeth, and company.

Yes, as I was just saying, we are zealous – and protective – of our Jane Austen! What I saw as departures from her original characters, sensibilities, and style: these were the “wrongs” I set out to right. That crusader’s fire helped carry me through the writing process, producing what has been described as a “purist’s” sequel to Pride and Prejudice.  But I’ve since learned to appreciate other people’s interpretations as well; there’s room for everybody. 

What part of writing The Darcys of Pemberley proved to be the most challenging?  How did you deal with that as an author?

I wanted to stay in the romance genre, but my hero and heroine were already married (happily ever after, we all hope). The trick was to stir up enough conflict between them and around them to sustain a good story, and then resolve it in a satisfying, Jane-Austen-style ending. The book became a tale of two romances, then – the courtship of Miss Georgiana in addition to the more mature love evolving between Darcy and Elizabeth. You see, I do believe romance is possible after marriage as well as before! 

Readers of the Teatime Ten will know that I'm interested in how each Austenesque author approaches Austen's work.  What -isms of hers did you purposely keep?  What did you avoid?  How did you find your own voice while keeping true to her style?

When I started out, I meant to keep true to everything Jane Austen. I loved the way she wrote, so why change anything, right? I soon discovered that wasn’t possible, though, or even desirable. For instance, although I have a flare for Austenesque language, there was no point in carrying it to an extreme, making my book unnecessarily difficult for the modern reader. I also needed to venture into territory she hadn’t explored. As a single lady, famous for never writing scenes about which she could have no personal knowledge, she wouldn’t have ever attempted to write what goes on behind closed doors between husband and wife. But I didn’t stress out about creating a distinctive voice for myself. If you hear the echo of Jane Austen in my writing, I couldn’t be more delighted!

I understand that "The Darcys of Pemberley" is just the first in a planned series.  What other corners of Austen's world will you explore?  How much of the series do you have planned out, and how much are you leaving to chance?

I’m not a plotter; I have only the vaguest outline in my mind before I begin writing. For me, that’s how the magic happens – allowing the story and the characters to take me in unexpected directions. That being said, the next book in the series (working title: Return to Longbourn) picks up about five years later and will center on Mary, Kitty, and the heir to the Bennet estate. I’ve started work on in, with three chapters down already. After that, we’ll probably jump ahead in time again and see what the next generation is up to.

When writing, are there any particular rituals you go through?  (Certain time of day, space, ways of dealing with the internal editor, word count goals, etc.)  What words of wisdom would you give to other writers?

Time management is more complicated now with a published book to promote, but my practice in the past has simply been to hide away in my studio and write at every possible opportunity. I’m rather obsessive about it, so I haven’t needed schedules or word count goals to motivate me. I don’t know how to turn off my internal editor. Consequently, I’m always rewriting what I’ve just written before I can move on. That’s just me, though. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to others. I think each writer has to work within the constraints dictated by their own personality. 

What about Jane Austen's work and worldview do you think is particularly appealing to our world at present?  What makes so many readers turn to her today?

I believe it’s really a combination of things.  First, good writing stands the test of time, and Jane Austen was a gifted story-teller. Plus, the themes she wrote about – finding love, balancing ideals against economic and social pressures, the triumph of the human spirit over circumstances – these subjects are timeless.  I think the other ingredient is the fairy-tale quality of her stories. They take us away from the crudeness and complexity of modern life, back to what seems like a simpler, more gracious time.  I say “seems like” because, with Jane Austen, we don’t see the grittier side of the picture – the poverty of peasants, or the lack of indoor plumbing, decent hygiene, and medical care. That’s okay with me. When I’m reading (or writing) for my own enjoyment, I’m not interested in focusing on the dark side of life.  Hence, my favorite Jane Austen quote (from Mansfield Park) is, “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.  I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody, not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.”

In addition to writing, you are also an independent publisher!  Can you give us six tips about either getting the book itself together (artwork, editing, etc.) and/or publicizing your book that you would share with other authors who are considering Indie Press?

I’ll give it a shot. 

1) Hone your craft. Take classes. Attend writer’s conferences. No amount of self-promotion will make up for a product of poor quality. 

2) Don’t rush to publish. A first draft is just that. Allow time for your masterpiece to mature through feedback and considered rewrites. 

3) Find and join a good critique group. They will see the plot holes and writing flaws that you can’t. 

4) Know your limitations. Taking a book from inception to publication requires a variety of separate skills (writing, story and line editing, formatting, graphic arts, marketing, etc.), and no one is an expert at everything. So -

5) be willing to ask for (and pay for) assistance as needed. 

6) Network with other writers through writer’s associations and social media. You’ll probably find, as I have, that they’re incredibly helpful and supportive. 

Quick!  You've been pulled into a scene from one of you forthcoming books!  Who are you and what's going on?

I’m Mary Bennet, on a Sunday visit home from my situation as governess at Netherfield, and I’m about to meet the new heir to the Longbourn estate – the surprisingly tall and attractive Mr. Tristan Collins. Oh, my!

What's next for Shannon Winslow?

Along with writing Return to Longbourn, I have two more completed novels that I’m polishing up for publication – an independent Austenesque story titled For Myself Alone, and a contemporary “what-if” about, of all things, a minor-league baseball player who gets a second chance at his dream (I managed to work a Jane Austen reference even into that book, however!). I also have an idea for a Persuasion tie-in novel. But the next out will be short stories – two parodies in Bad Austen this November, and, hopefully, Mr. Collins’s Last Supper, a tongue-in-cheek tale about the pompous clergyman’s premature demise, which serves as a prequel to The Darcys of Pemberley. I only wish there were more hours in the day!

Thanks so much for joining our Teatime Ten!

Shannon Winslow is the author of The Darcys of Pemberley.  She hails from the   You can learn more on her official website.

You can follow Shannon Twitter.

You can also buy her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Nachtsturm Castle: Monsters are Real

Hooray!  Hooray!  Nancy Kelley reviewed Nachtsturm Castle today! 

EDITED TO ADD: is putting Nachtsturm Castle on-sale this week only for .99 for an e-book copy.  The sale lasts until Halloween at midnight.  Get your copy today!

A snippet of the review here:
Nachtstürm Castle was a delight to read. Snyder dances a fine line, weaving a tale of truly Gothic proportions while still maintaining something like the tongue in cheek humor Jane Austen used in mocking those same novels.

In Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen, by presenting us with an heroine who sees murder around every corner, shows us how very ridiculous those gothic notions are. In Nachtstürm Castle, Emily C.A. Snyder, by presenting us with an heroine determined to be perfectly sensible, shows us how terrifyingly real monsters are.
 You can read the whole post here!  And you can see the wonderfully ironic picture she took below.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Very Gothic Travelogue: Eat, Pray, and avoid Gypsies

Which Deals with Gypsies and Genesius

I promised in Part I of a Very Gothic Travelogue that we would come to Paris (by way of Italy)...and, indeed, to Gypsies!  If you've read Nachtsturm Castle, you know that gypsies figure largely into the mythology, the Parisian adventure, and indeed the very means Henry employs to convince Catherine to travel abroad.  However what, if any, of those sections were drawn from life?  I'll tell you my stories, and you can scan the novel for correlations yourself!

Notre Dame

In the novel, Henry and Catherine travel to Paris where they visit, among other landmarks, Notre Dame de Paris.  I myself travelled there (more on the whole dangerous adventure later) and in the middle of perhaps one of the most harrowing adventures of my entire life, I was approached by a gypsy while attempting to take one of those awkward "Here I Am Standing In Front of the Thing to Prove that I Really Went There, Mom" photos (see right).

Now, European cities, at least in the fall of 1997, were full of gypsies.  This one (you can see her in red with the yellow kerchief) was a very bad gypsy.  That is to say, her plan seemed to be to bore me into giving her money.  The conversation went something like this (translated from the French):

Gypsy: Give me money.

Emily: What?

Gypsy: Money.

Emily: Go away.

Gypsy: Give me money.  I'm hungry.  You're American.  Give me money.  Why won't you give me money?  Give me money.  Give me money.  Just one franc.  Give me a franc.  Why won't you give me a franc.  One franc.  Two.  Two francs.  Give me money.  Two francs.  Three.  Why won't you give me money?

Emily: (thinking) Shut up. Shut up.  Shut up.  Shut upSHUT UP.  Take the photo...take the God, he's going to run off with my camera and this woman's going to take my money...TAKE THE FREAKING PHOTO!  (outloud) I don't have any money.

Gypsy: Give me money.

Man Behind the Camera: Another, sweetheart?

Emily: Nooooooooooooooo!

I was, at the time, far more concerned with the villainous man who was holding my camera.  (Again, more about him later.  He gets a whole post to himself.)


However, in Rome, I did encounter two gypsies who directly inspired the moment in the novel outside of Notre Dame.

  Neither my friend nor I know that five minutes after this photo, we would be accosted by gypsies!

There are many things I learnt from my (limited) dealings with gypsies in the Eternal City.

Gypsy Tip #1: They're not shy!

No sooner had we descended from the bus outside the above Triumphal Arch, but my roommate (not pictured) was set upon by gypsy children.  They thronged around her, opened up her purse casually, grabbed its contents, and then sauntered away.  The fanny pack is not your friend.  The money hidden in your bra is.

Gypsy Tip #2: Gotta catch 'em all!
About five minutes after that, we turned the corner only to be greeted by the sight of an American business man holding two gypsy children, each by the collar.  He was shaking them vigorously and shouting: "Where is my wallet?!?!?" over and over again, while the children laughed.  After a bit, the police wandered by and took the children into custody.

At first I was disposed to applaud the gentleman, but our RA - who was very cool and spoke German fluently and had a ponytail and a beard and dressed like he was in the Australian Outback - leaned over to me and murmured that the wallet had been passed off among the other gypsy children almost immediately, and that these two miscreants would be kept overnight, given good food and a dry place to sleep, and be released the next day.  Hence they were laughing.

Gypsy Tip #3: Acting, thank you!
For those of you who may not know who St. Genesius is, he's the patron saint of actors and all things theatrical.  So I imagine he would have been dreadfully amused by the little bit of street theatre I happened upon on our second or third day in Rome.

I had joined up with some fellow students who wanted to visit Scala Sancta, St. John Lateran's Basilica, and Santa Croce.  We managed Scala Sancta...which brought us smack dab up against siesta time.  If you haven't travelled abroad yet, what this means is that between the hours of 12-2 in most countries, and 12-3 in Italy, everything shuts down.  It's a wonderful idea, and great for the digestion because you have the time to really eat (not just scarf something down), and also time to rest (not rush back after your ten minute break), and also time to go to Mass or go to sleep or actually, y'know, converse with someone.  
Only mad dogs and Englishmen stay out in the noon day sun....

Or, in my case, only gypsy families and American girls stay outside St. John Lateran's!

My friends went off to Santa Croce, determined to find the doors open.  I, tired of walking all morning, decided to stay and try my luck with St. John's.  However, as I turned from Scala Sancta to St. John's courtyard, I caught sight of a gypsy woman dragging her little boy along.  Given my encounters with gypsies thus far, I would have high-tailed it out of there, but since my money was 1) nearly gone, and what remained was 2) safely tucked inside my delicates, I watched the scene unfold instead

The woman was dressed as though the nearest Salvation Army was staffed by folks from Brigadoon: bangles, shawls, grungy long skirt, some sort of blouse.  The only things missing were bells on her ankles, a kerchief in her hair, and a crystal ball.  Her child, a tousel-headed boy who was very much made up of snips and snails and puppy dog tails, was screaming and digging his feet into the cobblestones.  She, conversely, was dragging him along by his arm and screaming right back at him.

I don't speak Italian, but I speak Mom.  You can guess what she probably meant.

Without meaning to, I snickered.

And suddenly, her eyes shifted to mine, and the raging harpy before me softened, began crooning, approaching me with her hand outstretched, as if she were reenacting Michaelangelo's Creation of Adam all on her onesies.  I believe her exact text went something like:
Gypsy: Bella, bella  senorita.  Prego, scusi, denari, moola, cashito, lire lire lire.  Cinquite lire.  Americano, lire.  Bambini, aie!  Bambini mange!  Bella senorita.  Pieta, senorita.  Lire, senorita.  Jesu, Maria!  Lotsa lire!  Stat!
For my part, I might have actually given them something, but I don't support bad art.  I went in search of gelato instead.  Which, because it was siesta, turned out to be the only store open!  
And which I heartily recommend whether one has been accosted by gypsies or not.
Because, really, the most important thing I'd like you to pull away from this, dear reader, is:
Eat, Pray...and avoid Gypsies!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dozens of Doodles: Sonnet 116

I just painted the bookshelf in my bathroom (the mark of a true bibliophile) which is where I store all my journals.  As a consequence, I've had the occasion to look in those journals - including notebooks from high school and college - and rediscover many of my old doodles.  Some of them I quite like, such as the one for Sonnet 116 by Shakespeare.

If you'd like to see more, follow this link.  All images (c) Emily C. A. Snyder

Friday, October 21, 2011

Free Friday: Disarming Mr Darcy

Welcome, mes dames et monsieurs to the first Free Friday here at O Beauty Unattempted!  This week, in honour of Halloween, I thought I'd share with you a spoof of Pride and Prejudice (and Zombies) and mash-ups in general.  EDIT: Alas, Disarming Mr Darcy is now no longer available.  BUT...

If you liked it, get thee to and purchase a copy of Letters of Love & Deception, which is full of Austenesque short stories, including all the Villains in a game of Clue ("It was a Dark and Stormy Night") and the another parody of monster mash-ups ("Pride and Paraliterature")!

And make sure to check out all the Free Fridays!

 Note: This story was inspired by something Nancy Kelley wrote, dedicated to Erica McFarland who laughed at bad puns, and the ridiculously quick doodle is for the pleasure of Jennifer Becton.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Very Gothic Travelogue: Sinister Baths

Authors are often admonished, "Write what you know."  Which, most fantasy writers then point out, doesn't work so well for them!  Interestingly, the question authors get asked a lot is: "How much of what you wrote is true?"  Which again, leaves most fantasy authors banging their heads against their dragons.

That said, while I was talking Austen with Maria Grazia, it struck me that there's actually an awful lot in Nachtsturm Castle which I did draw from direct experience.  And that it came with embarrassing photos.  (Seriously.  Embarrassing.)  So, I humbly present to you:

A Very Gothic Travelogue
(Cue Thunder)


While it's true that Nachtsturm Castle doesn't begin in Bath, Northanger Abbey does.  (As does the forthcoming Presumption!)  I was fortunate enough to travel to Bath in August of 2000, one of the Jane Austen's Meccas, and got to visit:

  • The Jane Austen Centre: Which is full of excellent ways to take embarrassing pictures that are totally worth it.  They have a great gift shop, walking tours, etc.  And, even if you don't have the time or money to travel there right away, you can still visit virtually, by participating in their forum!
 (Excuse the eyebrows and dopey grin.  Or paste your own face over mine!)
  • The Crescent & The Circus: I'm an architecture fiend (it's a familial thing), so seeing those beautiful Georgian columns, that symmetry, that imposition of order still in harmony with nature, made me terribly giddy.  I probably would have stayed there for a good long time, staring at the buildings, except that we still had yet to see:

    • The Pump Room & The Roman Baths: We got here a little late in the day, but that was all right since if you go later in the day...they light the torches!  You've got to think that Catherine would be terribly excited by the view of ancient architecture, more cave than created, with the murky waters, the sulfuric stench, the ghosts of nekkid men and women getting their gym on (oh, those wacky Romans!)...and next door a highly polite, modern, fully clothed (and enormously millinered) room to genteely purchase a glass of the stinking water and then pay even more money for a bit of pate.  It's a wonderfully amusing dichotomy - you can see the Baths through the Pump Room, brooding in its seeming-barbarism, while you hide behind glass and pink pastries.  Right next door is...
    • The Assembly Rooms: I've mentioned my love for architecture, yes?  And when I see a room with a wicked high ceiling, it's very painful to me if I can't let out some long high notes (the last verse of Puccini's Quando m'en vo for preference...just to burst out some high B-flats).  Kewelly, the Assembly Rooms currently houses the Fashion Museum (which housed the history of the female silhouette when I was there, that was wonderfully fascinating both as a theatrical person, and as a woman who has very definite opinions about what she wants tight, loose, or broken).
    Which tells of Blunders and Birkenstocks
    What interested me most about Bath was how much of a "postage stamp" it was - that is, it didn't feel like a sprawling city, it felt about the size of a postage stamp.  And just as pretty.  I hadn't realized how hilly it is, or how the river cuts through its heart, or how the Roman stamp has remained indelibly upon its very fabric through all these centuries.  It's a city very full of ghosts - some who wear togas, and some who drink tea.

    My favorite story while there, and this fits into Nachtsturm Castle, as well as many of my other stories, is that how you are perceived and who you are may be two very separate things.  We were in Milsom Street and my two companions decided that they wanted to go into the shops a little more.  I wanted to stare at the architecture - which was also the only thing that fit into my budget at that point.  I was wearing my hair in this complicated double braid (my hair was down to my rear at that point), and a flowy blue skirt, flowy white blouse, and a sheer blue shawl that I'd bought in Stratford-upon-Avon.  I was also wearing "Jesus sandals" (aka knock-off Birkenstocks).

    In my mind, I was attempting to be vaguely romantic looking in Jane Austen's city.  But to some fellow who was beating the drum for some sort of uber-eco-friendly charity, I looked like One Of Us.  He approached me - himself garbed in a loose shirt, cut-offs, and more battered Birkenstocks than my own - possibly some beads or other accoutrement were in attendance - and held out his clipboard confidently.  "Donate to the over-eco-friendly charity?" he said.

    I, roused out of my reverie that was trying to picture the last scene of Persuasion and had been very happily contemplating Captain Wentworth, shook my head, looked at the eco-happy man and said, "Pardon?"

    He looked at me with surprise.  "The eco-friendly charity?"  He repeated, like one half of a spy's password.

    "Eco-friendly charity?  No, no thank you."

    He furrowed his brow and looked down at my Birkenstocks.  He thought, "But...!" and then said, leaning in, "Are you sure?"

    It was at this point that I looked at my own Birkenstocks.  He looked at my flowy shawl, as though it were a yellow carnation that We All Were Wearing.  "Yeah," I said after a moment.  "I'm not interested."

    The eco-comrade nearly stumbled back.  "BUT - " he managed to say out loud this time, and looked really intently at me, as though he could tell that my braided-up hair had not been cut in three years.  Much like his own.

    I finally realized what I looked like.  To my credit, I did not laugh.  "No.  No, thank you," I reiterated as my friends arrived and swooped me off.

    And that, my friend, is a little bit about how Catherine came to have a doppelganger who is nothing like herself!

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    Tempest: Pictures of Power

    One of the things we're exploring in Tempest is the question of power: what is it, who has it, how do you get it, what it does to you, and how do you give it up.  These are two new sketches of images our actors make during the show.  Enjoy!

    All images (c) Emily C. A. Snyder 2011

    Gothic Novels and Pumpkin Scones

    We're nearing Halloween, folks, which means that it's time to break out the pumpkin scones, spice up your apple cider, model your Oh So Fahbulous costume, and settle down with a Gothic novel.

    Fortunately, there's two Gothic novels available for you from There Must Be Murder by Margaret C. Sullivan (who kicked off our Teatime Ten which will be returning next Tuesday to bring you interviews from your favorite authors)...and Nachtsturm Castle: A Gothic Austen Novel from yours truly.  Even better?  There's two chances to win a copy of both books! has a book giveaway of both novels (two copies of There Must Be Murder and one of Nachtsturm Castle), and a super-secret site will have another copy of Nachtsturm Castle available later on.

    Also! To satisfy your love of all things Austen and alarming, we have some exciting news!

    • Keep an eye out on for a review of Nachtsturm Castle (by, I believe, the very funny Nancy Kelley herself - see picture above), as well as a guest blog from yours truly on "How To Write Your Own Gothic Novel."  
    • Right now, you can join in the on-line book club read of Northanger Abbey on Indie Jane's discussion boards.
    •  Upcoming at the Jane Austen Book Club, I'll be talking Jane Austen and all things Gothic and Northanger-y with Maria Grazia (whom you'll get to hear from in an upcoming Teatime Ten!)
    •  If that isn't enough, I'd love to introduce the limited-time run of Free Fridays.  Every Friday, I'll post a free short story, scriptlet, chapter or excerpt, to help you get through those last weekday hours.  However, each post will only be available for 30 days - so make sure you stop back every Friday for some fun!
    Hope to see you there!  And I'll see you back here Tuesdays and Fridays and all!

    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    Tempest: Playlist

    So, I put together an inspirational Tempest playlist tonight!  And I thought I'd share it with you good people.  (As well as the finalized t-shirt design, below.)

    In no particular order:

    "Viva la Vida" by Coldplay
    "Little Lion Man" by Mumford and Sons
    "Snow White Queen" by Evanescence
    "Knights of Cyclonia," "Uprising," and "Take a Bow" by Muse
    "The Lonely," "Tragedy," and "Arms" by Christina Perri
    "I've Got This Friend," "Poison & Wine," and "Falling" by The Civil Wars
    "Loser" by the Glee Cast
    "Turn to Stone" by Ingrid Michaelson
    "Such Great Heights" by Iron & Wine
    "One Last Song" by Josiah Leming
    "Charmed Life" by Joy Williams
    "Behind Blue Eyes" by Limp Bizkit
    "Welcome to the Black Parade" and "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" by My Chemical Romance
    "Being Alive" by Raul Esparza
    "Après Moi," and "Blue Lips" by Regina Spektor
    "Bittersweet Symphony," "Resistance," and "Sing for Absolution." by the Vitamin String Quartet
    "Main Title" from The Tudors by Trevor Morris 
    "Main Title" from A Game of Thrones by Ramin Djawadi (see the awesome covers below!)

    Strings Cover

    Heavy Metal Cover

    Strings & Metal Mash-Up!

    And this fantastic music, created by our composer, freshman Taylor Benson.  (To download a free sample of the Miranda Theme, click on the link!)

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    Teatime Ten: Regina Jeffers

    Regina Jeffers, the versatile and prolific author, is our guest this week for the Teatime Ten!  Along with writing such notable Austenesque works as Captain Wentworth's Persuasion, The Phantom of Pemberley, and the forthcoming Christmas at Pemberley, she is also the author of the Realm novels - original Regency intrigues!  Readers may also know Regina from her blog, which is host to fascinating glimpses into Regency and Austen history, as well as fun fandom for those who love all sorts of historical literature and cinema!

    We were able to snag Regina, a few weeks before her Christmas at Pemberley arrives!

    Thank you for joining us for the Teatime Ten!  I'm especially glad to be interviewing a fellow teacher!  It's a job that comes home with you.  How do you balance your time between writing literature and teaching it?  (And how have your students received it?)

    I jokingly say that “I do education” very well. Holding multiple degrees and spending 40 years in the public classrooms of three different states, teaching has provided me the skills to handle just about any situation. I know the drama associated with putting 1700 hormonal loaded individuals into a confined space for eight hours without any chance of escape other than when a bell sounds, and they are free to respond as completely as Pavlov’s dogs. Such forced interactions bring a new understanding of the human condition, and that is what makes for a great story.

    When I was still in the classroom, I would sit at my desk each evening until seven. I would grade papers, curse my decision to teach English composition rather than physical education, handle the logistics of managing three of the largest organizations on campus (each with over 100 members), complete lesson plans, address departmental issues, etc. Then I would make my way home where I would write my novels for three to four hours before falling in bed to start all over again the next day. Six of my novels came from such discipline, but I admit to having no life. That was also before social media consumed three to four hours of my day in networking and self-promotion, both a major component of the current publishing business. I am not certain I could manage it all if I had not recently retired.

    As for my students, it was their impetus that began this madness. They challenged me to write my first book, helped to edit the chapters, and have been some of my biggest supporters. Look at my Facebook page, and you will find numerous students listed among my “friends.” There are even some one hundred plus from my earliest years as a teacher in Kenova, West Virginia. To them, I am still “Miss Jeffers.”

    Well, you can take the teacher out of the classroom, but...!  One of the things I love best about your work is how versed you are not only in the novels from that time period, but also in the norms.  What subjects, themes and dilemmas of the Regency period do you return to time and again?  What subjects have you introduced?

    The true Regency Period lasted only nine years, from 1811 to 1820. Most writers of the period place their stories somewhere between 1800 and 1820; however, a few feature everything from the French Revolution to the Reform. When I am creating a Jane Austen adaptation, my setting is defined by Austen’s original story line. In my Regency offerings, I tend to place my characters in situations that occur between 1810 and n1815. It is the time period of which I am most familiar.

    The Regency is characterized by both elegance and vulgarity. Social norms and interactions were carefully scripted. Society’s tone was set by the ever-decadent Prince Regent. George IV was a man of intelligence and impeccable manners, when the situation so suited him, but he was also notorious for his appalling extravagances. Society in early the early nineteenth century had become more egalitarian, and the nouveaux riche had loosened the standards of acceptance. It was a time of great transition. Yet, it was still a time when a pauper with a title had more influence than the richest tradesman. Women’s lack of choices remains a consistent theme.

    I like to discover unusual facts and incorporate them into my story lines. The events of Peterloo appear in “His Irish Eve”; the efforts of Lord Cochrane to bring “chemical warfare” to the Napoleonic Wars can be found in Captain Wentworth’sPersuasion; the legend of the Shadow Man is a central part of The Phantom of Pemberley; well dressing ceremonies play out in Darcy’s Temptation; and the “rebirth” of St. Cuthbert is in VampireDarcy’s Desire. I also like to add what we think of as “modern” issues to the past: dissociative identity disorder; sexual abuse; OCD; and the infamous generation gap.

    I love that.  Too often information (and monsterization) is used just as a prop; it's great that you incorporate the ideas thematically.  And your fans also will be glad to know that this month you're releasing Christmas at Pemberley.  What can you tell us about it?

    I set the story two years into the Darcys’ marriage. Elizabeth has been plagued by several miscarriages, and she is haunted with the idea that the “shades of Pemberley had been thus polluted” by her inability to give Darcy an heir. She is struggling with whether she is worthy of his devotion. Encouraged by her physician to bring some joy into his wife’s life, Darcy has invited the Bennets and the Bingleys to spend Christmastide at Pemberley. To that effect, to allow time for his guests’ arrival, Darcy has taken Elizabeth with him on a business trip Upon their return to Pemberley, the Darcys are, unfortunately, unable to outmaneuver a blizzard, and Darcy and Elizabeth are stranded at a small inn, along with a young couple, whose name ironically is Joseph and whose first child is likely to be born during the night.

    Meanwhile, Georgiana tries desperately to manage the chaos surrounding her brother’s six invited guests (Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Kitty, Mary, Jane, and Bingley) and the eleven unscheduled arrivals, including Mary Bennet’s betrothed Mr. Grange (who Mrs. Bennet invited without asking the Darcys), Lady Catherine (who has not been at Pemberley since that infamous argument with Elizabeth and whose sudden presence will only confirm Elizabeth’s feeling of inadequacy), Anne De Bourgh (who can no longer be her mother’s pawn), Mrs. Jenkinson (who staunchly guards against Anne’s heart being broken), Mr. and Mrs. Collins (who Lady Catherine invited without anyone’s knowledge), Caroline Bingley (who decided to spend the holidays with the Bingleys rather than the Hursts), Mr. Winkler (the local minister who, during the storm, escorts the Collinses to Pemberley, but who is really there to woo Kitty Bennet), Colonel Fitzwilliam (who has returned from the American front), his aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Southland (whose cousin once held the living at Rosings Park and who is “fascinated” with the De Bourgh family), and an American, Beaufort Manneville (who the colonel has been ordered to escort to London, but of whom he is suspicious).

    With a mix of eclectic characters all residing under one roof, it is not surprising that bitter feuds, old jealousies, and intimate secrets quickly rise to the surface. Has Lady Catherine returned to Pemberley for forgiveness or revenge? Will the manipulative Caroline Bingley find a soul mate? Shall Kitty Bennet and Georgiana Darcy know happiness? And what does all the disorder have to do with the Prince Regent? Yes, I even work our favorite indulgent monarch into the story line. Despite the bedlam, for all involved, a reminder of the love, the family spirit, and the generosity, which remain at the heart of Christmas, prevails.

    You've dabbled in quite a few subgenres of Regency writing - including paranormal, supernatural, and in The Realm series, political.  What do you find the most fun aspect of writing each of these different variations?  What do you find the most challenging?

    I suppose the most difficult of the books to write was the vampiric version of Pride and Prejudice. It was my publisher’s idea, and I admit to, at first, not liking the idea. I could not see Darcy as a predatory vampire. (Spoiler: In Vampire Darcy’s Desire, he is a dhampir; Wickham is the vampire.) Yet, once I had reconciled myself to the concept, I treated the project as I always do. I began with lots of research. As Dracula did not appear until the late 1890s, I needed to fall back on the traditional vampire legends – those steeped in Slavic folklore. Pride and Prejudice is set in 1811-1812. Therefore, the characters would still hold limited knowledge of vampires and how they operate.

    First, I incorporated the legend of Cernunnos into the story line. Many experts believe Cernunnos’ image is the one upon which the Devil is derived. Cernunnos is known as “the horned one.” I added to that the mythical powers of the “Holy Island” (Lindisfarne), as well as the Baobhan Síth, and mixed in a traditional Scottish ballad, “Lord Thomas and Fair Ellinor.” The combination has been well received. Traditional vampiric tales do not cast the vampire as a deliciously handsome “bad boy.” The vampire is truly evil, and I tried to keep that in mind as I wrote the piece. For a woman who had read few vampire tales since she devoured Anne Rice’s stories of Lestat de Lioncourt, this was a real challenge. For many of my fans, VDD remains their favorite book.

    Hey, I'm of the Lestat era myself.  (None of this Twilight stuff for me!)  However, I'm very interested in your Realm series!  What do you get to explore in those books that you may not in your Austenesque literature?  And what's next in the series?

    With Austenesque literature, the characters are prescribed by what Austen gave us. If a writer does something out of the ordinary with a character, Heaven help him/her. Austen’s fans will light up the internet with their censure. If Darcy has too much angst, is not self-assured enough, is too “dark” in his treatment of Elizabeth, etc., then the author will know immediately that it is not always a good idea “to think outside the box.” He must treat the characters with a certain reverence. With the Realm, the seven members are my creation. They live in my head. They act as I prescribe them.

    Ulysses Press has passed on the sequels to The Scandal of Lady Eleanor, but another publisher has offered for A Touch of Velvet. As soon as I secure the rights of last refusal (common in publishing contracts), I hope to have it released. For the time being, I have self-published A Touch of Velvet (book 2 – Brantley Fowler and Velvet Aldridge’s story) and A Touch of Cashémere (book 3 – Marcus Wellston and Cashémere Aldridge’s story). A Touch of Grace (book 4 – Gabriel Crowden and Grace Nelson’s story) is planned, but not written. A Touch of Mercy (the one for Aidan Kimbolt) will follow that one.

    Can you tell us a little bit about the jump from indie publishing to working with Ulysses Press?  What have you found beneficial or surprising?

    Ulysses has treated me quite well, and I would never criticize them. They have offered me a professional relationship, and they have provided me the opportunity to develop my writing. My only regret is that Ulysses is not a romance publisher, which means that I must develop new ties for my Regency romance line.

    When I originally self-published, I enjoyed the experience. Now, not so much. I despise the constant phone calls to sell me some ridiculously expensive marketing plan. The last couple of books that I self-published, I did so because my fans requested copies of ATOV and ATOC. Otherwise, I would not have considered it. Those who choose print-on-demand options must know beforehand that for every service the publisher provides, the author will pay a hefty premium (not always with the result the author hopes to achieve). Luckily, I can do most of my own editing, etc. Therefore, my expenses are less than some other writers might encounter. With Ulysses, I work with the same copyeditor, and they handle the cover images, etc. Also, they provide a certain amount of publicity. In the indie realm, this is very much an author’s responsibility.

    What do you read in your spare time?  Are there any books or authors, which have particularly inspired you (outside of Austen)?  (Dear look these up!)

    I devour books. I am generally reading 2-3 novels at the same time. I regularly revisit the classics, as well as old favorites. For leisure reading (right before I drift off to sleep or sitting under the weeping willow in my backyard with a relaxing cup of tea), I fear I am a hopeless romantic. Give me a Regency romance, and I am happy.

    I would not say there are certain authors or books, which have inspired me (other than the Bible), but there are certain stories that I would stop everything I am doing to reread them. I love Ambrose Bierce’s short story “A Horseman in the Sky,” as well as the poems “The Highwayman” (Alfred Noyes) and “Pershing at the Front” (Arthur Guiterman). I reread parts of Ellen Emerson White’s Echo Company series about the Vietnam War over the weekend. Ronald Joseph has one of those family saga trilogies (The Kingdom, The Power, and The Glory) that is imbued with fond memories of sharing the books with my mother. Sharyn McCrumb writes haunting tales of Appalachia. Her “Ballad” series is a personal favorite. Betty Mahmoody’s story of her life in Iran (Not Without My Daughter) brings chills. I like Mario Puzo and Joseph Wambaugh. As far as the classics go, besides Shakespeare, I prefer Ernest Hemingway and Agatha Christie. As one can see, my tastes are quite eclectic.

    Of all the Austenesque characters you've written, who speaks the "loudest" to you, and whom do you dread to write for?  Why do you think that is?

    Although I appreciate Austen’s sardonic wit, I struggle when it comes to writing lines for her more comical characters, especially Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennet. I am essentially not a funny person. I have not the talent to tell a joke properly. (Truthfully, I rehearse the ones I want to repeat to my friends.) I am much better with the “double entendre” found between Darcy and Elizabeth. I love paronomasia, witticisms, and bon mots.

    A wormhole opens before you, pulling you into one of your books.  Which book do you enter, and what adventure do you have?

    I am certain most people assume I would choose to replace Elizabeth Bennet and meet Mr. Darcy. However, I prefer him in all his mythical perfection. I would not mind meeting my own “Mr. Darcy” in real life, but despite thoroughly enjoying Lost in Austen, I cannot imagine him with anyone but Elizabeth.
    For two very different reasons, I would probably enter The Phantom of Pemberley. First, I would enjoy matching wits with the characters in the book to solve the mysteries plaguing Pemberley, and, secondly, it is the first time Adam Lawrence has a major role in one of my story lines. Lawrence has appeared in several of my books as a “walk through.” He is a rake and a womanizer and absolutely “sexy.” He is also honest and honorable. I liked him from the first time he entered one of my stories. In fact, I have written a novella, “His Irish Eve,” to share with my readers, who also love him, what happens to Adam six years after Phantom.

    What's next for Regina Jeffers?

    At the moment, I am finishing the last chapters of The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, which is scheduled for release in February 2012. Based around two Scottish legends, it is another cozy mystery, very much in the style of The Phantom of Pemberley. I have taken the characters from Christmas at Pemberley and thrust them into a situation none of them would expect – a bizarre environment that leaves the reader speechless.

    In my personal life, my son Joshua and his wife Stephanie are welcoming their first child in early November. They are having a boy, whom they will name “James.” From October through mid December, I shall be out promoting the Christmas book.

    Congratulations!  And thank you for joining our Teatime Ten!

    Regina Jeffers is the author of many Austenesque novels and the original Realm series.  She hails from outside Charlotte, NC.  You can learn more about her work at her official website.

    You can follow Regina on her blogs: Regina Jeffers, Austen Authors, and English History Authors.  You can also find her on Facebook, and Twitter.

    You can also buy her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, and Xlibris.