Work in Progress!

At last I have made a genuine start on what will become my 12th novel: Mr. Knightley in His Own Words! So today I want to share the Prologue with you, to give you a taste of where I’m heading and get your reactions. It may not be quite what you expected, but hopefully you’ll be intrigued.

The thing is, this won’t be simply a retelling of Emma from Mr. Knightley’s point of view (although that’s part of it). As with my other two hero’s stories (Fitzwilliam Darcy in His Own Words and Colonel Brandon in His Own Words), it’s going to include a lot of new information – prequel story, major events from Mr. Knightley’s early years that shaped who he is and why he thinks/behaves the way he does. So without further ado, here is the Prologue as it now stands:



Mr. Woodhouse is my hero and always shall be. This profession will no doubt come as a great surprise to some, especially to his more recent acquaintances, for he may not appear heroic in any way.

Mr. Woodhouse is now a somewhat elderly man with what I will call habits of gentle selfishness. He is not autocratic or demanding. On the contrary, he is mild mannered and the soul of charity itself. It is simply that he wishes to keep those he cares about near to him and cannot reconcile himself to change of any kind. These predilections seem so obvious and natural to him that he can never suppose there to be any good reason for other people to feel differently. Why should anybody wish to marry? It is so disrupting to the family circle. Why should anybody choose to leave Highbury, when it is not to be supposed that there is a more comfortable place in the world? I have heard him say as much.

His scope of interest has contracted over the last fifteen years to where his view now rarely reaches beyond his own village and the nearest concerns of himself, his two daughters, and a few intimate friends. Moreover, his valetudinarian propensities have in this same period taken a firmer grasp on him. Mr. Woodhouse is afraid of, if not of his own shadow, then certainly the threat of an unwholesome piece of cake and a chill draft.

But it was not always so. No, I have known him all my life, and I remember him as the man he once was, the mentor and champion of my youth. Do not mistake me; he was never by nature brave-hearted or bold. There was at least one time, however, when he faced up to a formidable foe to see that right was done. This is true heroism, not that one has no fear but that one is willing to go into battle anyway. Mr. Woodhouse did that, and he did it for me. I can never forget the priceless service he rendered those many years ago. It is for that I honor him still.

I owe him everything, perhaps even my life. So as long as I have breath, I will be his grateful servant and faithful friend. I will do my best to see no harm comes to him or to anybody he cares for. I will put his needs and wishes above my own in every case – even when it is most painful, as it is now. For the sake of that longstanding debt I can never repay, and respecting certain promises made, I will deny myself as long as… Well, as long as it is necessary.

It would be tempting to say, “Oh, but things are different now. Circumstances have changed. One must not feel bound to promises made twenty years ago.”

Yes, many things have changed in that time – it would be easier if they had not – but Mr. Woodhouse’s wishes remain the same. Therefore it is my clear duty to keep my promise to him, even now. If there is one thing a man can and always must do, it is his duty.



So what do you think? Are you surprised to discover that Mr. Woodhouse will play such a critical role in Mr. Knightley’s story? Are you curious about Mr. K’s early life and interested to read more? Or do you think I’m headed in the wrong direction? Give me benefit of your opinion!

“Poor Miss Taylor! I wish she were here again. What a pity it is that Mr. Weston ever thought of her! …A house of her own! But where is the advantage of a house of her own? This is three times as large. And you have never any odd humours, my dear… Randalls is such a distance.” (Emma, chapter 1)

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Victorian Adventures!

For those of you who might have missed my post on Austen Variations, I wanted to share a slightly augmented version of my AGM report here, with some added news too! After all, I did promise you that I would be announcing my next writing project this month, didn’t I?

I’ve been to Victoria and back, and so now here is your promised report on the JASNA AGM! (Jane Austen Society of North America, Annual General Meeting = JA convention). I’m going to start  with some pictures and highlights, followed by a fun anecdote about a bonnet. As you will see, it was truly like something straight out of a Jane Austen novel!

“Look here, I have bought this bonnet. I do not think it is very pretty; but I thought I might as well buy it as not. I shall pull it to pieces as soon as I get home, and see if I can make it up any better.” (Lydia, Pride and Prejudice, chapter 39)

As I anticipated (see previous post), the Victoria AGM was great! A different experience from my first and only other AGM (Minneapolis, 2013), which I’ve heard is to be expected. Frequent attendees say that every AGM has its own personality and flavor, and there will be something uniquely special about each one.

Victoria itself is so beautiful, it’s worth a trip there even without the added inducement of an JASNA AGM. Although I’ve been there 4 or 5 times before but wouldn’t mind going again sometime, just for sightseeing. And for the first time, we (my husband and I) stayed at the lovely Empress Hotel!

This year’s AGM theme book was Sense and Sensibility, and all (or virtually all) the presentations tied to that novel in some way. Definitely true of the three plenary speakers – Dr. Emma J. Clery, Dr. Robert Morrison, and Susannah Fullerton – who delved deep  into the novel with scholarly insight and humor, discovering things about it that I’m not sure even Jane Austen herself intended! If that wasn’t enough to entertain and challenge your Jane-loving heart and mind, there were a total of thirty-two  breakout sessions (yes, 32!) to choose from, on topics from Col. Brandon in Colonial India to  “Female Physiognomy and its Revolutionary Potential.” (Honestly, I have no idea what that means.) Unfortunately, with only five time slots available, I couldn’t see/hear everything.

That’s not even mentioning the other special offerings: dance classes, a fan-painting class, a bookbinding workshop, and tours to local landmarks (The Empress Hotel, Butchart Gardens, Craigdarroch Castle), wine tasting, and a “Chocolate and Churches Walk,” among other things. Oh! and let’s not forget my favorite part: the formal banquet and ball!

Are you overwhelmed yet? It can easily happen. So much to do and experience that you can’t possibly take it all in. So here’s some unsolicited advice for when you go to an AGM (which I hope every one of you will someday!):

  1. First and foremost, HAVE FUN!  Dress up. Proudly parade your finery and your love for Jane Austen. You’re among likeminded friends who won’t think it’s silly to do so. In fact, they will probably join you!
  2. Read as much about it as possible in advance, and then thoroughly study your program when you arrive. I neglected to do the second part and missed a thing or two because I didn’t know where to go or when.
  3. Take another JA-enthusiast buddy/roommate with you if possible – to double your fun and have somebody to hang out with. This time my roommate was my husband, which was great in some ways, but he didn’t attend the sessions with me.
  4. Make rendezvous appointments with people you specifically want to meet. Don’t depend on running into them by accident. With 600+ people there, you won’t “just happen” to see everybody! For example, Suzanne, I didn’t realize until after the fact that we never met.  😦

But among many others, I DID see friend and fellow Austen Variations author Diana Birchall again (below). I finally met long-time online friend and fellow author Brenda Cox, showing off her brand new book (for which I did the cover art). And here’s me with my DH, who joined me for the formal banquet Saturday night.

I absolutely LOVED dressing up and dancing! As with the other AGM I attended, that was my favorite part. I’m proud to say that I stayed to the very end of the ball and danced every dance, though my feet were killing me afterwards. (I guess that would be another piece of good advice: wear comfortable shoes!) I only wish one thing… Well two, actually – 1) that I could find a local Regency dance club so I could do more of it, and 2) that my hubby was as enthusiastic.

Forming up 3 long sets for the beginning of the ball at the Crystal Garden. Photo courtesy of Erna Arnesen.

Now for my very Austenesque bonnet-related anecdote. You see, in the two weeks prior to the AGM, I was so consumed with getting my ballgown finished that I never stopped to think that I really should contrive something to wear on my head! So there I was in Victoria, without a suitable headdress and completely at a loss for what to do about it. I hoped I might find something last minute at the Emporium or the Soho Bazaar, but no luck.  So with only an hour to dress before the banquet, I went back to my room, excited about the evening events but sad that I wouldn’t be looking my best.

There I spied the bonnet I had brought – acceptable for a daytime but not at all for an evening banquet and ball. The feathers, though… I thought they had possibilities. If only I could borrow them and somehow affix them in my hair. But I didn’t even have a hairclip! Still, I had to try. So I started teasing the part with the feathers and tassels away from the bonnet itself. Well, since it had all been stuck together with glue-gun glue, the hatband came off with it! Soon I had the whole thing free, and naturally the band fit my head perfectly, feathers and all.

I couldn’t help thinking it was a very Austenesque solution to my problem. Not only did I have the precedence established by that Lydia quote at the top of the page, about pulling a bonnet apart to make something better.  I also claim this one:

…next week shall begin my operations on my hat, on which you know my principal hopes of happiness depend. (from one of Jane Austen’s preserved letters, 1798)

Happiness, yes! I felt quite happy with my headdress, which hung together through the whole night. And I suspect no one (except those I shared this story with) guessed it was originally part of something else. So now you know why my head isn’t embarrassingly bare in the pictures above! And I will never forget the serendipitous solution, courtesy of Jane Austen and the magic of a glue gun. But then I think surprising and interesting things always happen at JASNA AGMS.


Finally, here’s the announcement of my next writing project. Drum roll please. I’ve decided to go ahead with my official Emma novel, to complete my goal of writing at least one book based on each of Jane Austen’s six. (Can you name the others?) So it will be Mr. Knightley in His Own Words! I’ve been minutely rereading the original, gleaning all the information that’s there as well as identifying intriguing blanks that I can fill in. Like I did with Fitzwilliam Darcy… and Colonel Brandon…, I will be not only retelling the story from the hero’s point of view, I will be adding tons of new scenes and backstory to flesh out Mr. Knightley’s life and character. I look forward to the challenge and to sharing the results with you!

Posted in Jane Austen, Jane Austen Quotes, learning, Shannon Winslow's writing, travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Meet Me in Victoria!

In just a couple of weeks (Sept. 29th), people from far and wide will begin gathering in Victoria, British Columbia, for the 2022 Jane Austen Society of North America Annual General Meeting (JASNA AGM). In other words, it’s a Jane Austen convention! 

What could be better? Around 700 fully-vaccinated Austen addicts congregating to learn more about our favorite authoress, her literary works, and Regency culture. We’ll be taking time out of our busy lives to collectively celebrate our common passion for all things Jane!

How do I know it will be awesome enough to justify all the exclamation points I’m using? I’ve been to one before; that’s how!!!

In 2013, the AGM was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and I was there! It was my first, so I didn’t really know what to expect. But good stuff started happening immediately upon my arrival – while I was still in the airport, in fact. To see what I mean, and for a more complete account, I encourage you to read this post that I wrote about the experience: Having a Ball at the JASNA AGM.

The short version goes like this.  We spent two and a half days learning more about Jane Austen and her writings,  and participating in fun activities like bonnet making and dance classes. Then Saturday night, we all dressed up in Regency attire, unashamedly paraded around the streets (sidewalks, really) of Minneapolis together, came back to enjoy a wonderful banquet, and then topped it off with a Regency-style ball! Doesn’t that sound like a dream come true? It really was. I even got to participate in the Author Signing, meeting one of my favorite authors (Julie Klassen) and some of my own early fans!

I know I could have stayed at home – that time and this – and learned nearly as much from other sources. Virtual attendance is offered now too. But those options would never replace the primary advantage of being there: meeting fellow Janeites in person – many that I knew before but only from internet contact, and many new friends as well. That’s what it was really about for me: the people… that and the dancing!

There I go with the exclamation points again, but I can’t seem to help it. Reviewing that earlier experience has been getting me more and more excited about the one coming up! Each AGM features one of Jane Austen’s books or other works. This year, it’s Sense and Sensibility. And who happens to have a new S&S novel out? I do, I do! See Colonel Brandon in His Own Words.

So, will I see you in Victoria? If you’re going  to the AGM this year, I’d love to meet you! Contact me (comment here, FB message, or email: shannon at shannonwinslow dot com), and we’ll set up a rendezvous. I won’t be participating in the Author Signing this time, but I’d be glad to sign one of my promotional postcards for you or a book you bring with you. Some of my books will be available at the on-site bookstore also.

If you can’t make it this time, I hope you will think about attending an AGM in the future. It’s not just for writers and scholars, you know. Anybody who loves Jane Austen can attend. Next year’s is in Denver. Here’s a link to the JASNA AGM page to get you thinking about that exciting possibility.

“My idea of good company, Mr. Elliot, is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation: that is what I call good company.” “You are mistaken,” said he gently, “that is not good company; that is the best…” (Persuasion, chapter 16)

Have you attended an AGM before? Which one, and what was your experience like? Would you like to attend one in the future? Do you have any questions for me? I’d love to hear your comments below. (PS – Next time, I’ll post something about my experience at the AGM and also news about my new writing project!)

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Another Summer Passed

“Where did the summer go!?!” Isn’t that what we always say when Labor Day approaches and kids prepare to go back to school? As we get older, those three short months fly by ever faster! (For a bit of philosophical silliness on this topic and more pretty pictures, see this post: It’s All Washed Away Except the Mouse Fur)

“I know the summer will pass happily away. I mean never to be later in rising than six, and from that time till dinner I shall divide every moment between music and reading. (Sense and Sensibility, chapter 46)

I did read quite a bit this summer, as Marianne vowed to do, although I rarely rose as early as six! Otherwise, my only major accomplishment was to launch a new book (Colonel Brandon in His Own Words) and take it on tour, virtually. That project occupied the largest part of June and July, which only left some free time in August. A trip to the family cabin on a lake near Kalispell, Montana, was the highlight of this month.

I had hoped to have my next novel started by now, or at least planned out, but I confess I do not. I’m still not sure what kind of book I want to write next (which means I’m still open to suggestions, btw!). About the only writing I’ve been doing this summer is a column for the local paper: an “Inspirational Message” that publishes every other Sunday, which I’ve been providing for the past year. If you follow me on Facebook, you may have read some of them already, since I’ve been posting them there (and on a couple of FB groups) since May, as The Wednesday Word.

But today, I decided to give you an advance look at the one that will roll off the presses in 2 weeks, on September 11th, actually. And as you will see, the publication date provided the inspiration for this piece:


Do You Remember?

Where were you when you heard about the terrorist attacks September 11th, 2001? Twenty-one years later, those of us who were adults at the time all remember. Without knowing what was going on, I went for a dental appointment that morning. When I got there, I was told I would have to reschedule, but nobody explained why. So still in the dark, I stopped by Fred Meyer, where a total stranger, with tears in her eyes, gave me the unthinkable news. I was home, glued to the TV by the time the second tower fell. What’s your story?

We were all deeply shaken that day that such a terrible thing could happen on US soil, that nearly 3000 lives could be snuffed out in a single act of hatred. We suddenly felt much more vulnerable, knowing that this country’s great wealth, military might, and sophisticated intelligence community had not been able to protect us.

There were some positive side effects, though. A wave of patriotism swept the country. Flags flew everywhere. We were united by a common heartbreak and a common cause. Also, with fresh evidence that the future was uncertain and we were not in control, people in record numbers turned to God for help. They hit their knees in prayer, churches were filled, and “God Bless America” was sung at every ball game.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chron. 7:14)

Unfortunately, our memories are short. The threat doesn’t seem so near anymore, does it? And a new generation has since grown up having never experienced the horror of that day. We’ve resumed ‘business as usual.’ We’ve grown divided over a multitude of issues, and we’ve forgotten our need for God. I certainly don’t wish for another 9/11 style tragedy. What I do wish is that this anniversary would remind us of lessons learned the hard way that day, so that we will not be required to repeat them. I pray we would recapture the positive side effects rather than inviting a new disaster.

This country, though never perfect, was founded on godly principles and called by His name: …one nation under God. May we be humble enough to accept that we are not in charge; He is. Let us, as individuals and as a nation, turn from our errant ways and seek His face – His will, not anybody’s political agenda. Only then can we hope that God will heal the divisions in our land, making America healthy, whole, and strong.


So, what’s your September 11th story? Did the experience change you? Do you think that humanity learned anything from what happened that day?

If you want to read more of my “Inspirational Messages,” watch for them every Wednesday on my Facebook page. Scroll back to find any you’ve missed – ones I’ve already shared there since May (look for this graphic). I also wrote a Jane Austen Devotional that might interest you.

Any further thoughts on what you’d like to see me write next? See previous post, What’s For the Encore?, for my ideas. Or just suggest one of your own. I love hearing from readers. Really!

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What’s for the Encore?

Phew! It’s been a fun but busy month, launching Colonel Brandon in His Own Words and then taking him on a whirlwind book tour – originally planned as eight stops in three weeks, but it turned into ten. The only event that remains on the calendar is the day the audiobook goes live (which should be within a week, I hope). In case you missed out on any of the festivities along the way, though, here is the full list of tour stops with links below:

  1. July 1- Austenesque Reviews (excerpt: Colonel Brandon first meets Marianne)
  2. July 5 – Darcyholic Diversions (Mr. Collins interviews Shannon Winslow)
  3. July 8 – Babblings of a Bookworm (Theme: history repeats itself)
  4. July 11 – The Literary Assistant (Q&A with Shannon Winslow)
  5. July 13 – So Little Time (excerpt: young Colonel Brandon and Eliza)
  6. July 15 – My Jane Austen Book Club (What kind of hero is CB? Includes excerpt)
  7. July 17 – Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen (role of faith in this book, plus review)
  8. July 19 – The Calico Critic (review of Colonel Brandon in His Own Words)
  9. July 21 – From Pemberley to Milton (guest post: inspiration and future plans)
  10. July 23 – BONUS stop at Jane Austen’s World (review, plus post on my writing philosophy)

Before moving on, I want to thank an army of friends who helped me along the way – friends too numerous to name, (but you know who you are). I couldn’t have done it without you! I’m talking about trusty beta readers, proof readers, ARC recipients, blog tour hosts, and everyone who took the time to share my news or post an early review. Wow! That’s a lot of people, not to mention the scores of others who have shown their support by purchasing the book. THANK YOU ALL! I really do appreciate your extraordinary kindness.

Elizabeth was glad to be taken to her immediately; and Jane…was delighted at her entrance. She was not equal, however, to much conversation, and… could attempt little besides expressions of gratitude for the extraordinary kindness she was treated with.

Pride and Prejudice, chapter 7

But now that Colonel Brandon is successfully launched and the party’s wrapping up, it’s time to look ahead. What do I do for an encore? What’s the next book going to be (because, of course, there will be a next book!)? I’ve got a few ideas rolling around in my head, but I haven’t decided yet which to work on first.

Idea #1: I plan to write an Emma book at some point; that’s the only one of Jane Austen’s six novels I’ve haven’t done anything with yet. Mr. Knightley in His Own Words? -or- The Gentlemen of Highbury perhaps, after the fashion of The Ladies of Rosings Park. What do you think?

Idea #2: But I may do another P&P book first. I’ve had a prequel, featuring the courtship of Mr. & Mrs. Gardiner alongside the courtship of Mr. & Mrs. Bennet, in mind for a long time. I even dashed off a potential prologue a few years ago. (I love prologues, btw). Here it is for your amusement:

Kneeling before a woman, even a decidedly pretty one, is a damned uncomfortable position to find oneself in. That was the undeniable fact of the matter. Not that Thomas Montgomery Bennet had any doubt of his reception being favorable. One’s proposal of marriage was generally accepted, he understood, and, judging from the eager look in Miss Fanny Gardiner’s eye, this would be no exceptional case. Still, someone might have warned him.

This was only one of the myriad of thoughts coursing through young Mr. Bennet’s brain at that critical moment, for his mind was quick enough to encompass a good deal at once, when he took the trouble of exerting himself. And what occasion could possibly justify – no, demand – his absolute attention more than this one, on which so much depended?

So now, when he perhaps ought to have been, to the exclusion of all else, anticipating his joy at soon being accepted, he was also anticipating his simultaneous relief at being allowed to return to a more upright, dignified posture. When he ought to have been fully engaged in celebrating Miss Gardiner’s considerable beauty and charming amiability – soon to be his and his alone in marriage – different, rather distracting ideas intruded.

“She has no money to speak of,” his friend Edward, the fair Miss Gardiner’s elder brother, had told him plainly enough. And his own father’s advice on the subject had carried an even stronger word of caution. “God willing, you will be married a very long time. Therefore, take care you do not choose your partner in life unwisely.”

Is that what he had done? Well, if so, it was clearly too late to reconsider; the question had been asked and now answered. Fanny had wasted no time in saying yes and then launching into long, rather noisy effusions of delight.

For better or for worse, young Mr. Bennet’s fate was sealed. Meanwhile, Edward Gardiner’s future remained uncertain, his lady love’s heart as yet unplighted. Who was to say which one would be happier in the end?

Poor Mr. Bennet. We know that his friend (and new brother-in-law) has chosen better. And yet we must be glad for the Bennets’ marriage, for without it there would be no Elizabeth Bennet to fall in love with Mr. Darcy. Right?

Idea #3. I think a P&P / Romeo and Juliet mashup would be a lot of fun. Tell me what YOU think I should write next – one of these or something else altogether?

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“Colonel Brandon in His Own Words” is here!

It’s launch day, and I’m so excited to introduce you to my brand new book! Colonel Brandon has arrived and is now ready to tell his story in His Own Words.

“I was just going to tell you of our agreeable surprize in seeing him arrive…” (Jane Austen, Emma)

What kind of book is it? I’d say it’s a retelling of Sense and Sensibility from Colonel Brandon’s point of view, except it’s so much more! The story agrees with but is not at all limited to the scope of the original novel. It fills in blanks and adds on all over the place – before, during, and after. Everything you’ve always wanted to know and Jane Austen didn’t tell us.

Want to see how the duel between Willoughby and Colonel Brandon went down? Check. How about his failed elopement with Eliza? What went wrong there? Covered. A taste of his experiences in India? Yes! Do you craving details of how Colonel Brandon proposed to Marianne and what their newlywed relationship is like. You got it!

Colonel Brandon in His Own Words is available in paperback and Kindle, with audio coming soon). So here’s the book blurb followed by the Prologue:

Colonel Brandon is the consummate gentleman: honorable, kind almost to a fault, ever loyal and chivalrous. He’s also silent and grave, though. So, what events in his troubled past left him downcast, and how does he finally find the path to a brighter future? In Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen gives us glimpses, but not the complete picture.

Now Colonel Brandon tells us his full story in His Own Words. He relates the truth about his early family life and his dear Eliza – his devotion to her and the devastating way she was lost to him forever. He shares with us a poignant tale from his military days in India – about a woman named Rashmi and how she likewise left a permanent mark on his soul. And of course Marianne. What did Brandon think and feel when he first saw her? How did his hopes for her subsequently rise, plummet, and then eventually climb upwards again. After Willoughby’s desertion, what finally caused Marianne to see Colonel Brandon in a different light?

This is not a variation but a supplement to the original story, chronicled in Brandon’s point of view. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the things Jane Austen didn’t tell us about a true hero – the very best of men.



Prologue

It is happening again, and I suddenly feel very old. Although I survived it once before – just – I have the gravest doubts that I can do so again. Some days, I do not even wish to.

The current circumstances are quite different, it is true. But the pain is the same – the sudden wrenching in my gut each time I think of it, which I do nearly every minute of every day; the repeated jolt of panic in my brain, which tells me that I must do something to stop it; the hollow ache in my heart and the certain knowledge of my own pathetic powerlessness. It is all too familiar, for once again the hand of the woman I love more than life itself is being given irrevocably to another, and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.

It is no doubt weak and self-indulgent, as I have repeatedly told myself, but my mind will persist in entertaining questions of morbid curiosity. I cannot seem to help asking if, overall, it is better or worse this time. Is my disappointment more or less profound, the circumstances more or less regrettable? Will the resulting pain last as long as before and leave scars as deep?  

Perhaps it is only the proximity, but the current event appears worse – at least for myself personally – for I shall not only have the pain that she is lost to me forever, but the additional mortification of knowing she does not care for me. In truth, she thinks nothing of me at all. So, God willing, I shall be the only one to suffer, which was not the case before.

Poor Eliza.

I would not wish her fate on Marianne Dashwood, not for the world. In fact, that must be my chief consolation: knowing that Marianne is happy, even if it must be in the arms of another man. I would willingly sacrifice my own happiness and more if it would secure a lasting one for her. And yet who can say that her present bliss will endure, dependent as it is upon a man of whom I have every reason to think ill? And so my mind can by no means be easy.

I have been to her sister in Berkeley Street to have my worst fears confirmed, and now I know I should put Marianne from my mind and retire to Delaford to lick my wounds. And so I have made ready to do more than once. Still, as long as she is in London, I feel compelled to stand by – for what purpose, I cannot even conceive – at least until she is well and truly married. After that, it will be nobody’s right except her husband’s to be concerned for her welfare.

Until then, however, I will wait. Perhaps there may yet be some small service I can render. If I am needed, I swear I will not fail her. Whatever the cost, I must do better by Marianne than I did by Eliza… or by Rashmi.

Meanwhile, I have nothing to do but think of the past. Although there have been enough joys and compensations over the years, the regrets and failures continue to haunt me. I am in a dangerous state of mind.



Can’t wait to read more? Get Colonel Brandon in His Own Words now in paperback and Kindle (audio coming soon). And please follow the blog tour for more excerpts, interviews, topical posts, and other good stuff! Check back here for live links as the tour goes along.

I hope you agree with me that Colonel Brandon is a very worthy hero, and it’s about time he had his day in the sun! If you’re not already a fan, I trust you will be after reading Colonel Brandon in His Own Words.

  1. July 1- Austenesque Reviews (excerpt: Colonel Brandon first meets Marianne)
  2. July 5 – Darcyholic Diversions (Mr. Collins interviews Shannon Winslow)
  3. July 8 – Babblings of a Bookworm (Theme: history repeats itself)
  4. July 11 – The Literary Assistant (Q&A with Shannon Winslow)
  5. July 13 – So Little Time (excerpt: young Colonel Brandon and Eliza)
  6. July 15 – My Jane Austen Book Club (What kind of hero is CB? Includes excerpt)
  7. July 17 – Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen (role of faith in this book, plus review)
  8. July 19 – The Calico Critic (review of Colonel Brandon in His Own Words)
  9. July 21 – From Pemberley to Milton (guest post: inspiration and future plans)
  10. July 23 – BONUS stop at Jane Austen’s World (review and guest post)
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Cover Strip Tease

I now have a publication date for Colonel Brandon in His Own Words. It’s June 28th! But next to the debut of the book itself, the cover reveal is the most exciting. Don’t you agree? That’s scheduled for June 1st at Austen Variations. For my own subscribers, however, I have a teaser today. Strip by strip, I’ll be peeling away layers of the onion, exposing Colonel Brandon, the man, along with his cover!

Colonel Brandon is such an intriguing character. Rather mysterious, in part because there’s a lot Jane Austen doesn’t tell us about him. I’m glad, though, because that left so much scope for my imagination as I wrote this book! I wanted to get to know him better and flesh out his story, to fill in all the blanks in his character, his past, and his courtship of Marianne. Still, especially since I wasn’t planning on changing any of the given facts of the original story, I started by gleaning every morsel of information I could about the colonel from Sense and Sensibility.

Colonel Brandon… was silent and grave. His appearance however was not unpleasing, in spite of his being in the opinion of Marianne and Margaret an absolute old bachelor, for he was on the wrong side of five and thirty; but though his face was not handsome his countenance was sensible, and his address was particularly gentlemanlike.  – Sense and Sensibility

This is most of what Jane Austen tells us when we first meet Colonel Brandon. And we know by how he behaves that he’s an honorable man. He appreciates music, too, and he has a sad history. We eventually find out that he loved a girl named Eliza once – a distant cousin and his father’s ward. However, she was forced to marry his brother instead and she later died. And we know that Colonel Brandon has now finally found another young lady that interests him – Marianne Dashwood – but the outlook there isn’t good either, because she prefers the younger livelier Mr. Willoughby.

The missing information? Well, for one thing, nowhere in the entire book is his first name ever mentioned! He’s just “Colonel Brandon,” “the colonel,” or occasionally “Brandon.” That worked fine in S&S, but it wouldn’t do for an entire book where he’s telling his own life’s story. So as I now reveal this first part of the cover – the main title – I will also reveal how I addressed that issue. Removing strip number one!

In the very popular 1995 film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, he’s called “Christopher” Brandon. Since that given name is not from the book, I could have rejected it, called him something else, and not been technically wrong. But it would have sounded wrong anyway, because so many have grown accustomed to thinking of him as Christopher. So why fight it? Christopher it is!

Next, if clothes make the man, what does Christopher Brandon’s wardrobe say about him? Let’s take a look. Removing strip number two!

Although we see him here in a casual moment, with coat off, these are definitely the clothes of a gentleman. Colonel Brandon was born into a family of landed gentry – a younger son. He had an older brother, and, as I have it, two older sisters. He’s the baby of the family, in other words, with no expectation of inheriting Delaford, the Brandon family estate.

So, after losing Eliza, he took a commission in the army to establish a life for himself. But was it really his choice or was he somehow forced? And why the military rather than the other standard option for a second son: the church? And why India? What he did and saw and experience during those five years away from England, profoundly changed him. But how? Removing strip number three!

Never fear! Colonel Brandon will answer all our questions in his own words, as the rest of the title reveals. Here the official book blurb:

Colonel Brandon is the consummate gentleman: honorable, kind almost to a fault, ever loyal and chivalrous. He’s also silent and grave, though. So what events in his troubled past left him downcast, and how does he finally find the path to a brighter future? In Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen gives us glimpses, but not the complete picture.

Now Colonel Brandon tells us his full story in His Own Words. He relates the truth about his early family life and his dear Eliza – his devotion to her and the devastating way she was lost to him forever. He shares with us a poignant tale from his military days in India – about a woman named Rashmi and how she likewise left a permanent mark on his soul. And of course Marianne. What did Brandon think and feel when he first saw her? How did his hopes for her subsequently rise, plummet, and then eventually climb upwards again? After Willoughby’s desertion, what finally caused Marianne to see Colonel Brandon in a different light?

This is not a variation but a supplement to the original story, chronicled in Brandon’s point of view. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the things Jane Austen didn’t tell us about a true hero – the very best of men.

Now I suppose you’d like to see the last two strips removed and the full cover exposed. I did tell you, though, that this post was a teaser, didn’t I? A lot has been revealed (about the book as well as the cover), but a little something has to be left to the imagination. You will have to wait a few more days to see the rest. Visit Austen Variations June 1st, or return here that same day, when I will replace this big, fat question mark with the final cover – stripped bare, no more teasing! And here it is:

UPDATE: Colonel Brandon in His Own Words is now available for pre-order here!

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Spring Surprises

No dramatic developments on the writing front this month. Colonel Brandon in His Own Words continues to steadily progress through the post-production phase, with a summer launch date in view. So basically this post is my excuse to share some pretty pictures and a tidbit of personal news with you.

Spring is my favorite season. Yesterday was sunny and 70, and I think the threat of snow is finally past. I know snow is beautiful, and I love taking pictures of snow-covered scenery. But it’s also cold and really inconvenient, especially when it shows up unexpectedly. So by the end of March, I’d definitely had enough and was ready for it to be over.

Winter didn’t give up without a fight this year, however. I thought we were in the clear a couple of weeks ago. After all, the calendar said “April,” the days had grown dramatically longer, and it was almost Easter! Out in the garden, some of my early-bloomers were already in full flower. Even my magnolia was budded and ready to open.

Then on April 13th, “Surprise!” The temperature dropped and so did a layer of gravelly snow, which the weather folks on TV informed us was called “graupel.” Who knew?

The wintery conditions didn’t stick around long, just long enough to blight most of the magnolia buds with a brown tinge. Most, but fortunately not all. And there are lots more spring flowers coming!

Oh, I do have one more recent little “surprise” to report – the bit of “personal” news I mentioned. Something I wasn’t expecting at all!

After being SO careful for SO long… After my husband and I had taken all the proper preventive measures for months and now years, apparently we slipped up somewhere. You know, had a little “accident.” I had my suspicions that something was up, and so I took a test.

Then came the hard part; I had to break the news to my husband. I was afraid he wouldn’t take it very well, but he had a right to know. After all, we were in this together.

“I don’t know how to tell you this, Honey,” I began, showing him the plastic stick, “but the test is positive. Surprise.”

He looked mystified. “What does that mean?”

“Well, either we’re pregnant or I have Covid.”

But, there really was no suspense or question about it. Since he knew that one of the options was an impossibility at this point in our lives, it had to be the other. Yes, I had Covid, which meant he probably did too. Surprise.

Although this true story (only slightly embellished) is told with a little humor to soften the blow, everybody knows Covid-19 is no laughing matter. I’m just very grateful we didn’t catch it at the beginning, when it was a lot more dangerous.

So after we thought the threat had pretty much passed. Surprise. We’re back in isolation. Not the end of the world, just very unpleasant and very inconvenient – you know, kind of like one of those unexpected late snowfalls. Well, maybe more like a blizzard. I think we’ve rounded the corner, though (yes, I did say “we” because my DH has it too). We’re over the worst of it and on the mend. The upside? I guess we don’t have to worry about catching Covid anymore, at least not until the next variant comes along.

I hope you are staying well and enjoying all the beauties of spring… with only AGREEABLE surprises!

Yesterday I had the agreeable surprise of finding several scarlet strawberries quite ripe… There are more gooseberries and fewer currants than I thought at first. We must buy currants for our wine.

Jane Austen – a letter to Cassandra, June 6, 1811
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Cover Design Prototypes – Taking a Poll

I’m at that awkward, in-between point. Colonel Brandon in His Own Words is basically finished, and it’s out to a few trusted beta readers. Until I have their feedback, I can’t do much more with the manuscript itself. So I’ve been thinking ahead to the cover and even the audiobook.

As many of you know, I have a strong interest in art as well as writing. And so I particularly enjoy the cover design process, which combines the two. I always take a very active role, but I have to leave the technical stuff to my graphic designer. I simply don’t have that kind of expertise.

That’s still true, at least as to the final product. But I did discover a free online design program that has allowed me to play around, indulging my imagination and creating some possible prototypes. It’s pretty addictive, in fact. Once I got started, I was having so much fun I couldn’t stop!

Before I knew it, I had a dozen designs, made, as you will recognize, using images borrowed from the 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. These are just for inspiration, you understand. I don’t have permission to use the movie stills in the final product.

However an “artist’s rendition” might achieve something with a very similar look and feel (as I did with Fitzwilliam Darcy in His Own Words). So I thought it would be fun to show some to you and take a poll – to see which design you prefer, and if you have any further suggestions! Here are 4 contenders for your consideration.

ONE
TWO
THREE
FOUR

What do you think? Do you have a favorite? What would you do to improve on it? Which elements do you think are most effective? A new combination to propose? Or is it back to the drawing board?

The Colonel, though disclaiming all pretensions of connoisseurship, warmly admired the screens, as he would have done anything painted by Miss Dashwood… and after they had received gratifying testimony of Lady Middletons’s approbation, Fanny presented them to her mother… “Hum” said Mrs. Ferrars, “very pretty,” without regarding them at all.  (Sense and Sensibility, chapter 34)

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Creating Your Own Amusement

My big news is that the first draft of Colonel Brandon in His Own Words is finished! I don’t say “rough draft” because it’s already pretty refined, at least I think so. Soon, I will send it out to a few beta readers for their feedback, and then we shall see.

As you know from previous posts (here and here), this will be Colonel Brandon telling his own story, including, but not limited to, his perspective on the territory covered in the original novel. And as with my other books so far, it will supplement what Jane Austen has already told us, not change it. The rest comes from my imagination. Well, except that I admit that certain parts of this book may be inspired by glimpses we get from the movie adaptations.

A case in point: the picture above. Nowhere in the book does it say that Colonel Brandon reads to Marianne during her recovery. And yet it’s not incompatible with the facts we are given either. So, since I particularly like this image from the ’95 movie, I ended up incorporating the idea into my novel – not Brandon reading to her, but instead telling her, by installments, a story from his military years in India. It becomes part of their slow, tender courtship.

As I have been making another pass through the book, I came across the section below and decided to share it with you – partly for what it shows of their courtship, but also for what it says about the author/reader partnership in creating the enjoyment received from reading a good novel. We both have important roles to play!

About four days after Edward’s arrival, Colonel Brandon appeared, to complete Mrs. Dashwood’s satisfaction, and to give her the dignity of having for the first time since her living at Barton, more company with her than the house would hold. (Sense and Sensibility, chapter 49)

In this excerpt, Colonel Brandon is enjoying his first visit to Barton Cottage since Mrs. Dashwood, Elinor, and Marianne returned from Cleveland, where Marianne suffered her life-threatening illness. Here’s Colonel Brandon, telling this bit of the story in His Own Words… (PS – do imagine hearing it in Alan Rickman’s voice!)


I was in no hurry to go, having now the fresh reminder of the difference between my cold, solitary existence at Delaford and a home with the benevolent warmth of human companionship.

God had said it in the beginning, right there in Genesis. It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him an help meet for him.

After Eliza, I had all but given up the idea that God had made another helper suitable for me. Now, however, gazing across the room at Marianne as the others chattered on excitedly about [Edward and Elinor’s] wedding plans, my heart dared to hope again. I prayed once more, perhaps for the thousandth time, that I and the vibrant, responsive beauty sitting by the window would someday be joined.

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh…

Marianne’s eyes darted my way, as if she had sensed I was looking at her. I was caught, but at least she could not read what my thoughts had been at that moment. In any case, I hoped not.

She smiled, though, and moved to sit nearer to me. “Thank you for your letter, Colonel,” she said. “Mama shared it with me and then asked me to read out to her what you had written of India.”

“I hope it did not bore you, Miss Marianne. Some people find such descriptions tedious.”

“Not at all! To be transported to a place I have never been and never will be… What could be more glorious than that?”

“My words had that effect?” I questioned, never having considered they could do so much.

“Oh, yes, at least for me. Mama said it must be partly my imagination too, for she could not so easily picture the scenes you described, and feel what it must have been like to be there.”

I pondered this a moment. “Yes, I think your mother is correct in saying so. That is the way with all kinds of storytelling, I believe. The teller can only do so much; part of the responsibility for success rests with the listener. Your cooperation in being a willing participant was vital to your own enjoyment of what I wrote, Miss Marianne. In a way, you created your own amusement.”

“I never thought of it in exactly those term, Colonel. Do you mean to say that even Shakespeare would not be brilliant without my help?”

Seeing mischief in her eye, I half smiled. “Perhaps that is taking it too far. I only meant that what I wrote was certainly not a work of genius; it was your interpretation that may have made it seem so.”

“Teamwork, then. That is the key – teamwork between reader and writer, listener and storyteller.”

“Precisely.”

“Then when shall we team up again? When shall I have the next installment of your story, Colonel Brandon?”

“Of Colonel Dunston’s story.”

“Yes, of course. That is what I meant, and yet you are doing your part.”

“We shall make time for it whilst I am here, I trust, for there is still much more to tell.”


What do you think? Do you like this interchange between them? Does it seem like something that could have occurred during the year before they finally married? Is Colonel Brandon just flattering Marianne, or is there something to his philosophy that teamwork between storyteller and listener is required? Is the relationship 50/50 or something else? What are your thoughts? As a reader, how much does your active participation count towards creating your own amusement?

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