Oh, What a Difference a Decade Makes

As some of you know, I have been charged with the monumental task of going through my parents’ house and all their stuff. They have both moved on now (one to heaven and the other to assisted living), leaving all their worldly goods behind. As I sort, I’ve been setting aside things of sentimental value – family photos, for example, and also the Christmas letters my mom wrote every December since 1963. Lots of them are missing, unfortunately, but the ones I do have comprise a pretty good slice of my family’s history.

I’m also coming across some Christmas letters I wrote myself in more recent years – saved by my mom along with lots of other stuff.

“Was his letter a long one? Does he give you much account of what he is doing? Is it Christmas gaieties that he is staying for?”  (Mansfield Park, chapter 29)

I’ve been following that tradition for quite awhile now, composing a newsy letter to send out to family and friends at the holidays. More recently, I’ve started making the letter into a card by printing a piece of my own artwork on the front. (See examples here, and read related post: Christmas Cards)

20141130_144442Anyway, when I found my letter from 2004 a couple months ago, I had to take a few minutes for a stroll down memory lane. I enjoyed re-reading what I’d written about my oldest son’s graduation that year, my younger son’s various activities, and what totally un-exotic places my husband had been sent for work. As usual, I had saved my entry for the last paragraph. This is, in part, what I had to say on that subject:

… And, with more time to myself now, I’ve been able to do more reading again. I have been enjoying the challenge of straining my brain and expanding my vocabulary by reading some of the “classics.” I just finished all of Jane Austen’s novels. So, in that vein, let me close by saying that I have not the smallest scruple in wishing you joy this Christmas, the barest minimum of vexations, and considerable felicity in the year five-and-two-thousand.

20141130_144530I was sort of amazed when I read this, thinking to myself, “Wow, what a difference a decade makes!”

Ten years ago, I had only just recently discovered Jane Austen. I still had no idea that, inspired by her, I was about to embark on a second career as a novelist (It was only a month or so later that I sat down at my computer one day and started to write The Darcys of Pemberley). In fact, the bit above is my very first recorded attempt to translate my thoughts into “Jane Austen speak.”

So, I guess I’ve come a long way since then. Just goes to show you that life is full of surprises, and you never know what’s around the next corner. I feel I’ve been very blessed to have been given something new and interesting to do at this stage of my life, and to have experienced more success in it than I could have imagined.

Where were you and what were you doing 10 years ago? How has your life changed in unexpected ways since then? Are you flourishing in some new role you hadn’t foreseen?

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Updates: For those of you who read the previous post What Should I Write Next?, I wanted to let you know that I’m actively pursuing both option #4 and #5 at this time! Also, I’m planning on doing a promotion for The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen in December with sale prices and prizes. Stay tuned for details!

 

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What Should I Write Next?

PMJA-virtual-book-tour-banner-02Well, my blog tour for The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen is officially over. After “traveling” to at least eleven locations and writing just as many new posts for other people’s sites (while neglecting my own), this first big promotional push is done. The early reviews (from readers and professionals) have been fabulous – pretty much 5 stars across the board and some pretty flattering comments! So hopefully word-of-mouth will do most of the job from here. If each satisfied reader tells two friends about the book, and they each tell two friends, and so on, and so on…  That’s the best advertising of all.

Although I will continue getting the word out to readers about TPMJA wherever I can, my mind has already turned to what I’m going to write next.

Other people have been asking that question too, and some have shared their suggestions with me. Several people want to know when I’m going to write a sequel to For Myself Alone or another independent Regency story like it. Am I going to do something with one of Jane Austen’s other books? Or am I going to return to the land of Pride and Prejudice? And at least one reader/friend wants me to try my hand at writing a contemporary novel.

So, what will it be? The short answer is that I haven’t decided yet. It has to be something I’m excited about writing, but also something people are interested in reading! That’s the only viable combination.

The first part is easy. I could get enthusiastic over any one of a half dozen projects I have in mind. The second necessary piece of the puzzle is more difficult to decipher. How can I be sure what readers want? Well, I decided I might as well simply ask! So here’s your chance to register your opinion in a completely non-scientific poll. If it was up to you, would you direct me to write:

  1. a sequel to For Myself Alone
  2. another independent Regency story
  3. a Northanger Abbey tie-in
  4. a Pride and Prejudice short story anthology
  5. a companion novel to The Darcys of Pemberley, featuring Georgiana Darcy
  6. a contemporary crossover novel with a Pride and Prejudice connection and a time-travel element (yes, really!)

If you have an opinion, I’d love to hear it. Leave your comment below, and thank you!

“When you give me your opinion, I always know what is right. Your judgement is my rule of right.” (Mansfield Park, chapter 43)

 

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Travelling while Staying Home

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00034]The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen has been out almost a month now, and what a busy month it has been! Since the official launch, I have traveled (virtually) back and forth across the country and across the globe on my book tour, writing more for other people’s blogs than for my own. I hope you’ve been following along. If you missed it, the schedule is listed on the previous post.

Each tour post has something to do with the new book, but they’re all different. On August 18th, I wrote a post titled “What did Austen do in August?” where I reported an eerie coincidence I discovered between the writing of my book and Persuasion itself, the original it parallels. On the 25th, I posted about the letters Jane Austen included in her books and how the famous one in Persuasion from Captain Wentworth translated into the story I wrote for Jane. Read my version of that letter here. Then, on September 2nd, the subject was my “Top Ten Favorite Quotes” from The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen. Some of the words are hers, some mine, and some a collaboration between the two of us.

Elizabeth KlettAlso during this month, I’ve been working with an extremely talented narrator – the incomparable Elizabeth Klett – on the audio version of the new book. The production is finished now and I’m delighted with the result! It should be available soon, in case that’s the format you prefer. [Update: now available here]

AustenproseThe biggest thrill of the last few weeks, though, had to be reading the first professional review of TPMJA at Austenprose on September 1st. Five stars! And I’m still basking in the afterglow of all the complimentary things the reviewer had to say. A few highlights: “Definitely Winslow’s best work to date.” “Winslow is one of the few authors who can channel Austen’s style of prose so well that I could not tell the two apart if I tried.” “The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen is one of the most moving, soul-filling, and beautiful stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.”

[Update 9/12/14: Second review is in from Austenesque Reviews – also 5 stars, also filled with lovely superlatives describing the book. “Utterly brilliant – this story is utterly brilliant!”]

*blushing but smiling ear-to-hear*

Three more blog tour stops to go, and another review is due out on the 12th! Oh, and I’m also presenting a class at a small writer’s conference this weekend. Keeping busy, travelling and staying home.

Colonel Fitzwilliam… now seated himself by her, and talked so agreeably of Kent and Hertfordshire, of travelling and staying at home, of new books and music, that Elizabeth had never been half so well entertained in that room before. (Pride and Prejudice)

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We Have Achieved Liftoff!

The-Persuasion-of-Miss-Jane-Austen_FULL_WRAP

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!

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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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