“Missing Scene” from Persuasion: the Croft’s Anniversary

I have a warm spot in my heart for Admiral and Mrs. Croft, especially after developing their relationship through their counterparts in The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen. (According to my premise in that book, Jane Austen modeled the fictitious Admiral and Mrs. Croft after a real-life couple by the name of Crowe, of whom she thought very highly.)

This is a “missing scene” about the Crofts that I wrote some time ago but decided to share with you today! It takes place the day the party from Uppercross walked to Winthrop (which also happens to be their anniversary). If you remember, the Crofts, at Cpt. Wentworth’s insistence, gave a weary Anne a ride home in their gig. The following scene is what happened next.

Anne was still in the lane; and though instinctively beginning to decline, she was not allowed to proceed. The admiral’s kind urgency came in support of his wife’s; they would not be refused; they compressed themselves into the smallest possible space to leave her a corner, and Captain Wentworth, without saying a word, turned to her, and quietly obliged her to be assisted into the carriage. (Persuasion, chapter 10)

After depositing Anne at Uppercross cottage, Admiral and Mrs. Croft continued on toward Kellynch at a gentle pace, the admiral returning to a former topic by and by.

“As I was saying to Miss Elliot before, my dear, sailors cannot afford to go in for long courtships during war, and who knows how long this current peace will hold? Your brother must not tarry about the business of choosing one Miss Musgrove or the other if they are to preserve time to enjoy themselves before he returns to sea.”

“I should very much like to see Frederick well married,” returned Mrs. Croft. “I only hope he will not be in too much of a rush to the altar. I like the Miss Musgroves well enough, but, upon further reflection, I am convinced it will take more than an a little beauty and a few smiles to win my brother’s heart. He deserves a wife with a strong mind and sweetness of temper as well. This is how he has described to me the woman he wants.”

“So, you see he has been thinking on the subject seriously.”

“Yes, and I trust it will serve as some protection against an overly impulsive choice.”

“Ah, that is where you are mistaken, Sophie. Like all men, he thinks he will judge soundly, but it is more probable he will lose his head and end by making a very stupid match.”

“For shame, Caspian! How can you say such a thing? This is no very fine compliment to me, I fear, or to yourself either. And on our anniversary too!”

“Patience, my dear, he said, patting her hand affectionately. “Patience. I only meant to say that I deserve none of the credit. I lost my head like every other young fool in love. But I had the great good fortune to lose both head and heart to a woman of superior worth. We must hope your brother has the same good luck. Which Miss Musgrove it is to be, I cannot say, for I can never learn to know one from the other. When Frederick introduces the young lady to us as our future sister, that will be time enough to remember her name.”

Mrs. Croft shook her head in wonder, thinking to herself that she was the one who had been gifted with unexpected good fortune in this man. Had not that storm years ago forced the admiral – a captain then – into the port town where she lived, seeking emergency repairs to his ship, they would never have met. What might have become of her then? Perhaps she’d have married somebody else eventually, but she could hardly imagine that she would have been as happy.

Between herself and her husband, there was more depth of affection and mutual respect than she would have dared to hope for. No love sonnets were required to prove it; it was understood between them, conveyed in the most seemingly insignificant gestures – the smallest look, word, or touch. The light burned so steadily bright between them that it could not be denied.

Sometimes she wondered if their uncommonly strong bond was the natural outgrowth of their compatible dispositions or if it could only have been forged by their weathering trials and dangers together over the course of the years. She thought once again of their private sorrow of having no children. No, they had not enjoyed that blessing, but there were other compensations…

The admiral interrupted his wife’s reverie. “What shall we do when we reach home… to further celebrate our anniversary, I mean?” he asked.

“We need not make a fuss. Remember, we agreed to keep it to ourselves. Frederick, from all appearances, did not connect any special significance to the date, and there is no reason anybody else should know. We have had our drive in the country, as I wished for, and I have ordered a fine dinner. I need nothing more to make me happy.”


“Nothing I can think of.”

“Well, Mrs. Croft, it is lucky you have me here. I have one or two more ideas for making you happy before we blow the candles out tonight, things you may have forgotten or are too proper to propose in the light of day.”

Mrs. Croft considered that she could pretend to be shocked by her husband’s suggestive words or deny that she understood his meaning altogether. They knew each other far too well for that, however. Instead, she simply smiled to herself for the thought of what lay ahead. It was a time-honored anniversary tradition, after all, and tradition must be observed. Who was she to dispute that fact?

I hope you enjoyed this “missing scene” starring the Crofts from Persuasion, and I hope you’ll also read about the Crowes in The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen. What do you like about the Crofts? It just occurred to me that they might deserve to have their own book. What do you think?

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Going to Town for the Season

Readers of Regency romances can tell you that to “go to town for the season” means that the person in question will be spending the official social season in London. For as anybody who is anybody knows, London is the only town worth mentioning, and the social season is the only season that matters. It was the playground of the ton – high society, the rich and wellborn – where they gathered to party and parade themselves in all their finery, and to find eligible marriage partners.

The Cyprian’s Ball by R Cruikshank in The English Spy by Blackmantle (1825)

You would be hard pressed to learn any of this from Jane Austen, though. Jane Austen is known for never writing the sort of scenes about which she could have had no personal knowledge (interactions between men when no ladies are present, most notably), so this must be at least part of the explanation for why none of her heroines gets a London season; Jane Austen never had one herself. The Austens simply would not have had the money and connections to make such an endeavor viable.

The closest thing I could find in Austen canon is in Northanger Abbey, where “the season” is mentioned more than once, but “the town” is Bath.

Mrs. Allen was so long in dressing that they did not enter the ballroom till late. The season was full, the room crowded, and the two ladies squeezed in as well as they could. (chapter 2)

As soon as divine service was over, the Thorpes and Allens eagerly joined each other; and after staying long enough in the pump-room to discover that the crowd was insupportable, and that there was not a genteel face to be seen, which everybody discovers every Sunday throughout the season, they hastened away to the Crescent… (chapter 5)

The same elements are involved – showing off your fine wardrobe, balls and other social events every night, hoping to see and be seen to advantage, the chance of meeting a mate – only on a less grand scale. The other difference is that the Bath season was something Jane Austen had experienced to some extent, having lived there for a time.

So when, for my current work-in-progress, I decided to send Mr. Knightley to London for “a season,” I had to look beyond my usual primary source: Jane Austen canon. I was especially concerned that I get the timing right, that I didn’t make the unforgivable blunder of sending him the wrong month of year. So when exactly was the London social season?

I remembered running into the same question when writing an earlier book and never feeling very confident, since different sources told me different things. Here’s part of the answer:

The London season developed to coincide with the sitting of parliament. During the months when parliament was in session, members of both Houses needed to be in attendance in London and came to the capital bringing their families with them. The London season grew up in response to this influx of upper class people who needed to be entertained.

Rachel Knowles, Regency History
The House of Commons from The Microcosm of London (1808-10)

So, yes, the season happened when Parliament was in session. That much I knew, but exactly when was Parliament in session!?! That was the real question and the one for which I had received conflicting answers in the past.

The reason I kept getting mixed messages is that, as explained in this same article, the dates were different in different years. While in the 18th century, Parliament ran from November through May, the beginning of the session was gradually postponed. By the Regency period – the period in which Jane Austen lived and set her novels – Parliament (and hence the season itself) ran more like February through July. Aha! at last the answer I needed.

So I’m sending a 24-year-old Mr. Knightley to London just after Easter to partake of a portion of the season. He’s not happy about it, by the way. Here’s what he has to say after agreeing to go (from Mr. Knightley in His Own Words):

Afterward, I puzzled over exactly how it had happened. I reviewed the conversation again and again to see where it had all gone wrong. In the end, I was left with the distinct impression that I had been somehow outmaneuvered, that Mrs. Woodhouse had cleverly tricked me into agreeing to her outrageous plan.

So you see, I am not to blame; it was all Mrs. Woodhouse’s idea! (Mrs. Woodhouse is a delightful creature, btw, and I’m having so much fun writing her part! I hate to think that she won’t be will us much longer, but alas, that’s the way it has to be.)

So how do you think Mr. Knightley will fare in London? Will he fit in with the privileged class enjoying their privileges? Will he find young love and romance? Will he get over his disinclination for dancing (or is this when it developed in the first place)? I’d love to know what you think!

Progress Report on Mr. Knightley in His Own Words: 37,000 words, 126 page, 18 chapters. To read excerpts, go to previous posts (here and here) and this post at Austen Variations.

Posted in English Regency culture, excerpts, Jane Austen, Jane Austen Quotes, learning, my books, Shannon Winslow's writing, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

This, That, and the Other

Because of the date, I will begin with THIS: by wishing you all a very MERRY CHRISTMAS! We’ve already had snow a couple of times here to get us in the mood, and it got down to 16F last night, but it looks, from the forecast, like we can expect a very wet December 25th, not a white one. Since we’re not having company here this year, I confess we’ve been pretty lazy about decorating. But at least my front door looks festive!

Next, something else THAT I hope will interest you. If you follow me on Facebook, you may have picked up on the YouTube video interview I did with British author Andrew Knowles for Regency History. The theme for his series of author interviews is the question of research, and as I say in the piece, I was amazed he wanted to include me in the series, since I make no secret of the fact that research is NOT my strong suit.

Anyway, he didn’t seem to hold that against me (phew!), and we had an enjoyable half-hour conversation about Jane Austen, writing Regency, and more. I was enjoying myself so much, in fact, that I almost forgot there was a camera and microphone in front of me… almost.

After getting me all relaxed and comfortable, Andrew threw some rather probing questions at me, ones I wasn’t expecting and that required me to think on my feet, so to speak. (He actually had the nerve to ask me to confess whatever mistakes I had made in my books. As if!)

Anyway, if you want to get to know me, my writing philosophy, and my writing process better (or if you just want to count how many times I manage to lick my lips and make other nervous ticks), I would encourage you to take a look. I think you’ll find it not only informative but entertaining. Here’s the link:

Finally, for the OTHER thing, I wanted to give you an update on how the new book is progressing. (See my previous post for info and to read the prologue.) I’m happy to report that I’ve continued to make steady headway on Mr. Knightley in His Own Words! I now have 10 chapters / 85 pages / 25,000 words so far, which equals 1/4 to 1/3 of an average novel. Long way to go, I know, but I’m excited about how it’s coming along!

You’ve seen the Prologue, and I have a post coming up at Austen Variations on December 29th (link now updated to go directly to it), which will contain the first half of chapter 1. But just for my readers here, I wanted to share a little something extra. So here’s a brief excerpt (which will follow after the other in Chapter 1), and includes a little surprise about Mr. Knightley’s family, told in His Own Words:

I suppose I should start this narration at the beginning; that would make the most sense. I must go back to the events that established the rule for all the rest: why it is that I owe Mr. Woodhouse my total loyalty, and why our families are forever bound together – not only now by John and Isabella’s marriage, but many years prior to that. I must start in 1791, the year before Emma was born.

Until that time, nothing extraordinary had occurred to me. Life was quiet, pleasant, and good. Both my parents lived, and my brothers and I went on well together, making all Highbury, including Hartfield, and Donwell Abbey in particular, our personal grounds for play and exploration. I say “my brothers,” because there were three of us then, you see. I was in the middle at fifteen, with John four and a half years my junior and poor Miles less than two years my senior.

But then my uncle Spencer Knightley came to stay.

Are you surprised to learn that George Knightley had two brothers? You’re the first to know!

Thank you for your patience and hanging with me during the long stretches between book publications! What can I say? When it comes to writing (and most other things, I suspect), I’m more of a tortoise than a hare.

“John enters like a brother into my happiness,” continued Mr. Knightley, “but he is no complimenter; and though I well know him to have, likewise, a most brotherly affection for you, he is so far from making flourishes, that any other young woman might think him rather cool in her praise. But I am not afraid of your seeing what he writes.” (Emma, chapter 17)

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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!

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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.


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)
Posted in book launch, excerpts, Jane Austen, Jane Austen Quotes, Shannon Winslow, Shannon Winslow's writing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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!

Posted in Austen Variations, book launch, cover design, fun & games, Jane Austen, Jane Austen Quotes, my books, Shannon Winslow, Shannon Winslow's writing, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments