We Have Achieved Liftoff!

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The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen is officially launched out into the world, and I’m hoping the world will receive “my darling child” well. Things are looking promising, according to the reviews of few early birds who managed to read it already. Yay! Meanwhile, I’m going on tour – my virtual book tour for the new book. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be visiting various blogs of a literary nature, doing guest posts and interviews, each one different and many with giveaways attached.

PMJA-virtual-book-tour-banner-02After a couple of preview posts, Austenprose hosted me today for the official kick-off of the tour. And so on from there. Here’s the complete list of scheduled tour stops, past and still to come:

There will also be a few sites featuring reviews of the new book along the way. I’ll keep you informed! Wish me luck!

“What say you to accompanying these Ladies? I shall be miserable without you – t’will be a most pleasant tour to you – I hope you’ll go.” (Jane Austen, from Jack and Alice, a juvenile work)

 

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My Own Darling Child

PMJA proof arrivesThe paperback proof of my new book arrived yesterday! It doesn’t matter that it’s my fourth time around, it’s still a huge thrill to hold that first physical copy after months of preparation. A novel is the product of countless hours of work and an enormous investment of creative energy. Seeing all that effort finally coming to fruition is not unlike the delight of holding your infant son or daughter for the first time.

Jane Austen herself made this analogy, as expressed in a letter she wrote to her sister Cassandra (dated January 29 of 1813) on the occasion of receiving her first copy of Pride and Prejudice from the publisher:

I want to tell you that I have got my own darling child from London. On Wednesday I received one copy sent down by Falkener…

Knowing she felt this way, I worked the idea into The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen. Jane writes in her journal:

Whether my life would have been happier with Captain Devereaux than it has been without him, this is impossible to say. All that can be known for certain is that it has been a different life – not empty, not devoid of joy and purpose, simply different. I have not been given the gift of marriage and the gratification of bringing up my own physical children. Instead, I have been gifted with time to nurture a communion of a different sort – one of the mind – and with the raising up of my small clutch of literary offspring, who, I dare to hope, will long outlive me. I could not have done both.

Carrying the analogy one step further, launch day (mine will be here soon – August 11th!) becomes the first day of kindergarten. Putting your little darling onto the big yellow school bus, watching her venture out on her own, major emotions kick in for any parent. You’re tremendously proud and excited, of course, but also a little nervous for how she will do out there in the rough-and-tumble world. Will she be successful, achieving everything you’ve dreamed of for her? Will others treat her kindly and see her for the excellent creature she truly is?

P&P first editionJane Austen didn’t have to wait long to get her first idea of how her newly minted “child” would be received by the public. Her letter continues…

…Miss B dined with us on the very day of the book’s coming, and in the evening we fairly set at it and read half the first volume to her, prefacing that, having intelligence from Henry that such a work would soon appear, we had desired him to send it whenever it came out, and I believe it passed with her unsuspected. 

JA smilesJane Austen published anonymously, and this “Miss B” was apparently not in on the secret. So, when the Austens couldn’t resist “setting at it” right away, their guest became the first non-professional reviewer. Can’t you imagine Jane, with a Mona Lisa smile and a spark in her eye, reading her own work out as if it were the product of someone else’s mind, perhaps even praising it herself and waiting to see what reaction she would get from this unsuspecting acquaintance?

She was amused, poor soul! That she could not help, you know, with two such people to lead the way, but she really does seem to admire Elizabeth. I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know.

Fortunately for Miss B, she proved her good taste by admiring Pride and Prejudice. I hate to think what would have happened otherwise. It sounds as if Jane might have scratched the woman’s eyes out had she dared to speak one word against her darling literary child, and the character of Elizabeth Bennet in particular!

My overprotective maternal instincts are as well developed as the next woman’s, whether you’re talking about my two sons or my literary offspring, but I promise I will try to resist resorting to physical violence if you should verbally abuse one of my books in my hearing. I will try very hard… honestly I will.

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PS – My blog tour for the release of The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen is already underway! Visit Austenprose to read the scene where Jane meets her Captain Devereaux. And for another preview excerpt and a chance to win a free copy, go to More Agreeably Engaged

 

 

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Previews of the Coming Attraction

This has been a busy week for me and my upcoming release, The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen. Yesterday, the cover reveal post , which I’ve reproduced for you below, went live over at Austen Variations. Isn’t the cover lovely? One reader commented, “This is one book that I shall want in print rather than ebook. The cover has that aged look of all my old friends that need held and petted. Just gorgeous.” Many thanks to my designer Micah Hansen!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00034]

And today Austenprose is featuring a preview and brand new excerpt from the book – the scene where Jane first meets the intriguing Captain Devereaux. Sparks fly! Drop on over there and take a look. Laurel Ann Nattress, the lovely proprietress at Austenprose, has also offered to host the official launch party for The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen on August 11th, with prizes and books being given away!

…and every one concerned was looking forward with eagerness. There seemed a general diffusion of cheerfulness on the occasion… (Mansfield Park, chapter 18)

So the countdown has officially begun. For me, that means a lot of fun… and a lot of work to be done between now and then (final edits, formatting, promoting). For readers, it hopefully means some building anticipation. You’ve seen the cover. Now, here’s the blurb that goes with it:

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For every fan who has wished Jane Austen herself might have enjoyed the romance and happy ending she so carefully crafted for all of her heroines…

The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen

by Shannon Winslow

What if the tale Jane Austen told in her last, most poignant novel was actually inspired by momentous events in her own life? Did she in fact intend Persuasion to stand forever in homage to her one true love?

While creating Persuasion, Jane Austen also kept a private journal in which she recorded the story behind the story – her real-life romance with a navy captain of her own. The parallel could only go so far, however. As author of her characters’ lives, but not her own, Jane Austen made sure to fashion a second chance and happy ending for Anne and Captain Wentworth. Then, with her novel complete and her health failing, Jane prepared her simple will and resigned herself to never seeing the love of her life again. Yet fate, it seems, wasn’t quite finished with her. Nor was Captain Devereaux.

The official record says that Jane Austen died at 41, having never been married. But what if that’s only what she wanted people to believe? It’s time she, through her own private journal, revealed the rest of her story.

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So there you have it – the cover and the official blurb about my upcoming release! I’m so excited about this new book. It has been a labor of love, spanning the last three years of my life, to prepare this story about our favorite author for you. It’s dedicated to every Jane Austen fan who has ever wished her a better fate, because that truly was my motivation for writing it. I hope you will enjoy discovering this alternate interpretation of the facts!

Remember, The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen officially launches August 11th! Stay tuned for further details. In the meantime, I invite you to brush up on Persuasion itself, read my first chapter  (in an earlier post here at Austen Variations), and peruse the never-before-seen excerpt (Jane meets Captain Devereaux) at Austenprose. Thanks for your continued interest and your patience!

 

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Popular Highlights: Words of Wisdom?

persuasion - kissAs I promised last time, I’m back with part two on the subject of the “popular highlights” feature on your Kindle. But first an update on the progress of my upcoming novel, The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen. I’m in the middle of some final rewrites based on feedback from my beta readers. When I’m finished, the manuscript will go to the proof reader for a final line edit. Meanwhile, my graphic designer is hard at work trying to translate my vision for the cover into reality. It’s almost there – just a bit more tweaking – so hopefully my next post will be the exciting cover reveal!

Okay. As I mentioned before, the passages most frequently highlighted in my books tend to fall either into the category of romance or what I’m calling “wisdom.” Last time I covered the romantic; this time it’s wisdom.

To start, let me say that I don’t set out to teach or influence readers by what I write. Some authors do, of course. They may have an agenda – hidden or otherwise. And it was not uncommon longer ago for tales designed to teach valuable life lessons to literally end with the words, “And the moral of the story is…”

My goal is purely entertainment. Still, it’s possible that I might happen to say something sage occasionally, purely by accident. Which reminds me of our Jane Austen quote for the day. It’s not exactly the same situation, but you’ll get the idea. Lizzy Bennet, when she’s acquired a little more wisdom of her own, says about Mr. Darcy:

“I meant to be uncommonly clever in taking so decided a dislike to him, without any reason. It is such a spur to one’s genius, such an opening for wit, to have a dislike of that kind. One may be continually abusive without saying anything just; but one cannot always be laughing at a man without now and then stumbling on something witty.” (Pride and Prejudice, chapter 40)

20140525_213841To carry it one step further, one cannot write 100,000 words to create a novel without accidentally stumbling on something wise or witty. So, according to my readers’ highlights, here are my best:

…despite apparent indifference toward their own infants, men seem to have no lack of interest in the activity that leads to their existence.

“It seems the law has only a nodding acquaintance with justice and an even more tenuous association with common sense.”

“Even as young as you are, you have learnt that life is full of trials. Yet I pray you never allow bitterness to take root in your soul. It is a deadly poison, Jo, and life is too fleeting to waste a moment on resentment or recriminations.”

“I should be sorry to discover that I must surrender my reason in proof of my affection.”

When unscrupulous men behave dishonestly, it surprises no one. But when an honorable man acts against his known principles, it threatens to turn to quicksand the ground on which we all stand.

“In my experience, venturing to ascribe motives to another person’s behavior is a singularly perilous undertaking.”

“…for rarely is one person solely to blame in a dispute and the other completely innocent.”

“Nothing will destroy your love more quickly than discovering that you cannot truly esteem your husband.”

Rereading this list, I do see a couple that are pretty close to my own thoughts (and, no, it’s not the last one!), grown out of some experience in my life. But ideally, rather than me, they should sound more like the characters to whom the words/thoughts are ascribed. That’s one of the incredible things about writing fiction. Your characters take on lives and personalities of their own, and sometimes even the author is impressed by the wise or witty things they come up with!

What do you think? Do you have a favorite from this list? Or better still, give us your favorite Jane Austen words of wisdom.

 

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Popular Highlights: Romance

20140525_213841Kindle has this wonderful, but slightly scary, feature called “popular highlights.” As you’re reading your book, you have the opportunity to add virtual bookmarks or notes and to highlight passages you especially like – things you may want to come back to for another read. Convenient, right? Right.

The slightly scary part? The folks at Kindle somehow know (because of the wireless connection, I’m sure) what you’ve highlighted in your books. Well, maybe not you specifically, but you collectively, the reading public. They keep track of which lines are highlighted and how many times. Anyone can see these “popular highlights” by selecting that item from the menu.

This feature is also pretty wonderful for me, though. It’s very cool, as an author, to be able to see which thoughts from my books stand out to those reading them, which lines were “profound” enough to be worth remembering. Not many people bother to highlight, so I can’t help but feel a little thrill discovering that something I’ve written was exceptional enough to warrant that bit of extra effort!

Most of the highlighted passages in my books seem to fall into one of two categories: love or wisdom. I thought I’d share the top romantic passages with you this time and save the “sage advice” for next time. So here goes. The first example is from For Myself Alone. The other three are from The Darcys of Pemberley.

 There is an intenseness of feeling in our embrace that is new to me – a unity of spirit, and a powerful longing for a deeper oneness in every other sense.

As their eyes met, a familiar, knowing look passed between them, causing her to take a sharp breath and feel a quickening of her heart. With private delight, she noted that nearly a year of marriage had, if anything, increased rather than diminished his power to affect her in this way. Elizabeth had no means of perceiving it, but at that moment Mr. Darcy entertained similarly pleasant thoughts about her.

“Here, with you, I shall always be, so far as it is withing my control. We must trust to God for the rest.”

Yet his conscience would not allow him to rest without giving his wife some token of his steadfast affection. Before extinguishing the candle, he turned to her and softly kissed the back of her head, lingering long enough to take in the sweet scent of her hair and whisper the words “I love you” as a blessing over her. A tear ran down Elizabeth’s cheek and soaked into her pillow.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite – one of these or an alternative? For some reason, readers of Return to Longbourn have been remarkably stingy with their highlighters. I know I wrote some romantic Wentworth's letter_Sodabuglines in that book too. Didn’t I? Somebody find and mark them, please! As for a favorite romantic line from Jane Austen, there are many to choose from. Hard to beat Captain Wentworth’s letter from Persuasion, however, which I enjoyed adapting for my upcoming release: The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen.

“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been but never inconstant.”

What’s your favorite romantic Jane Austen quote? Do you ever highlight in your Kindle? Why or why not?

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Is it Spelled or Spelt?

readersWhile my upcoming novel (The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen) is out to a few trusted beta readers for some feedback, and my graphic designer is working on the cover, I’ve assigned myself a project or two toward readying the book for publication. Probably the most daunting of these is the task of trying to discover all the words where my American spellings differ from the British English spellings, and converting them. I’ve never worried about this before. I’m American and a majority of my readers are American too. It would seem unnecessary, even false, to pretend otherwise, I reasoned.

This book is different, however. What is written in it represents Jane Austen’s own thoughts, expressed in her own words. So in this case, it seems just as anachronistic to have her using American spellings as it would be to have her making a telephone call or driving a car.

I knew, of course, that differences existed -colour/color, behaviour/behavior, theatre/theater, cosy/cozy, learnt/learned, for a few common examples – but little did I know HOW MANY! This “comprehensive” list, which I discovered today, states there are around 1800 roots and derivatives that vary from one dialect to the other. I was floored. How did this happen? Don’t we all speak the same language? Apparently not.

dictionary pageIt seems that in the 18th century, before “the colonies” parted ways with Mother England, spellings had not been standardized. Thus, writers of the most popular dictionaries were free to subsequently decide spellings for themselves… and for all of us as well. Whereas the British mostly followed Samuel Johnson, Noah Webster (a proponent of spelling simplification and reform) was taken as the authority in America. Thus, the great divide developed.

Some of the new reform rules? If extra vowels don’t influence the sound of a word, don’t put them in (colour becomes color, foetal becomes fetal, catalogue becomes catalog). If it sounds like a “z”, make it a “z” (cosy becomes cozy, finalise becomes finalize). Drop unnecessary doubling of final consonants before adding suffix (levelled becomes leveled, etc). Great! I’m all for it.

Two problems, though. There are, naturally, many exceptions to these rules, and I don’t think Webster went far enough! While he was at it, I wish he had taken care of a multitude of other spelling inconsistencies. Examples abound, even within this very paragraph. I give you the perplexing case of the “gh.” Notice first of all that it sounds nothing like either of the letters of which it is comprised, and secondly that the sound the two letters makes together is not even uniform. Now throw in the “ph” in words such as paragraph and phone, and we’re hopelessly confused. And there are dozens more.

spelling is hardIn an ideal world, every word would be spelled (or should we go with the British spelt?) exactly like it sounds, and every letter should make one and only one sound. I realize (or realise) this would require a drastic rewrite of the English language and the addition of several more letters, mostly vowels. But I think it would be worth it in the long run, especially for people like me. Spelling has never been my strong suit.

But back to the task at hand – the process of converting my novel to British English. I bet there’s a computer program out there somewhere that can handle the job. If I don’t find it, however, I hope Jane Austen and my readers in the UK will forgive any errors I make.

Do you think the fine points of spelling really count, as long as the meaning is clear (see my popular related post on the intriguing Cambridge study)? With all our electronic devices, spelling may soon be a lost art anyway, like calculating by hand and cursive writing. What do you think?

“You may think me foolish to call instruction a torment, but if you had been as much used as myself to hear poor little children first learning their letters and then learning to spell, if you had ever seen how stupid they can be for a whole morning together… you would allow that ‘to torment’ and ‘to instruct’ might sometimes be used as synonymous words.” (Northanger Abbey, chapter 14)

writing superherosPS – In case you missed it, I gave an interview this past week for Maria Grace’s blog, Random Bits of Fascination. Among other things, I answer the question, “What superhero powers lurk beneath that mild mannered exterior?” Read the interview here.

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The Persuasion200 Project

finalcobblogo (2)If you’ve followed me for a while or if you used to read the now-defunct Austen Authors blog,  you will remember our popular P&P200 series, which was later compiled into Pride and thPrejudice: The Scenes Jane Austen Never Wrote (with proceeds going to a JA charity). Well, now we’re doing the same thing with Persuasion at Austen Variations. It’s the 200th anniversary of the year the story took place, and we’ll be tracking right along in “real time,” supplementing the original novel with scenes Jane Austen alluded to but didn’t write herself.

I’m very excited about this project, both because I had a blast writing for P&P200 and because I love Persuasion so much. A story about youthful error, mature love, and second chances, it runs P&P a close second in my affections. Now I’ll have reason to spend more time with this wonderful book.

I’ve been inhabiting Anne and Captain Wentworth’s world for a year now anyway, as I worked on my new novel (see Work-in-Progress), a Persuasion tie-in with Jane Austen herself as the heroine. In it I’ve drawn a parallel between a previously unknown romance in her own life and the one she was writing about in her novel. [Update: The book, titled The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, is finished except for final rewrites and it should be out sometime this summer!]

We’ve just gotten underway with Persuasion200 at Austen Variations, featuring some prequel scenes (things that take place prior to the live action of the novel). In fact, I had the privilege of writing the very first scene called Beginning with an Ending. It shows Anne Elliot as a 14-year-old girl about to lose her mother and receiving some final words of affection and advice from her.

The end approached. As Lady Elizabeth Elliot lay there, gravely ill and helpless, on what she expected would prove to be her deathbed, she could no longer flatter herself that it might be otherwise. Although she had no particular fear for what was to come, she did have enough duty and pleasure in this life as to make her very sorry indeed to be quitting it so soon – especially to be leaving behind her children in want of love and proper guidance. In vexation of spirit, she wondered who was to provide them these and other necessities when she was gone. Certainly not her husband, Sir Walter.

Looking back over a life too brief, Lady Elliot regretted nothing so much as that she had been far too careless in the choosing of her children’s father… (continue reading here at Austen Variations)

Lady Elliot’s death is really the first pivotal event in Anne’s life, and it effects everything that follows, including why she decides she must give up her engagement to Captain Wentworth later, when she is 19.

She was persuaded to believe the engagement a wrong thing – indiscreet, improper, hardly capable of success, and not deserving it. But it was not a merely selfish caution under which she acted in putting an end to it. Had she not imagined herself consulting his good, even more than her own, she could hardly have given him up. The belief of being prudent and self-denying principally for his advantage, was her chief consolation under the misery of a parting – a final parting… (Persuasion, chapter 4)

I’m scheduled to write the engagement scene (look for it at Austen Variations on May 13) and the break-up scene too (May 23)! Which do you think was the most fun for me to write? Actually, I had a little head start with both, since I was able to draw on what I’d already written about the comparable events in my novel.

So, I hope you’ll come along on the journey. Get acquainted (or reacquainted) with the heart-warming story of Persuasion, now with the addition of these new scenes. And at the same time whet your appetite for my new book, coming soon!

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