Saturday, June 23, 2018

Letters from Jane

Please check out my latest post on Austen Authors!
https://authorsinterviews.wordpress.com/2018/06/23/here-is-my-interview-with-georgina-young-ellis/

Friday, February 16, 2018

Giveaway!

Comment below to be entered in the giveaway, Just say "Hi" and your name in the comments if you want, but PLEASE! include your name so I can find you on Facebook.
The first name chosen at random from the comments below will win an e-book copy of the first book in my time travel series, The Time Baroness, a romantic, time travel adventure set in Jane Austen's England AND an audiobook version of Darcy's Awakening, a Pride and Prejudice variation in which Mr. Darcy is already engaged to someone else when he meets Elizabeth Bennet, PLUS a Time Traveler pin and an Austen Rocks pin.

The second two names chosen at random will win the audiobookversion of Darcy's Awakening, plus the pins.

And the fourth name will win the two pins.

The Time Baroness will be sent as an e-gift from Amazon, and Darcy's Awakening will be sent as a promo code from Audible so an email address will need to be provided by private message. The pins will be sent by mail so a physical address will need to be provided also by private message.

I will notify the winner through FB, so it might be helpful to friend me if you haven't already.

Good luck, everyone!

Friday, November 3, 2017

A Tempting Christmas Nibble: Chapter One of Pemberley Park - The Twelve Days of Christmas

Here's a brief summary: Lizzy and Darcy have been happily married for a year, and family and friends are gathering at Pemberley for the Twelve Days of Christmas, including the notorious brother and sister from Austen's Mansfield Park, Henry and Mary Crawford. Every day of the twelve brings new surprises, some shocking, some wonderful. Romantic liaisons and family drama make for a roller coaster of a holiday season in this Regency Jane Austen variation.
The First Day of Christmas - December 25th
Lizzy and her husband, Fitzwilliam Darcy, walked together upon the lane which led from the parish chapel to Pemberley. They held hands, but had not said more than a few words since leaving the church. The sky was too dizzyingly blue, the light too dazzling on this Christmas morning to leave one with anything of particular relevance to remark upon. All Lizzy could do was to soak in the chilly, bright day, and admire the twisted bare tops of the trees, interspersed with the deep green of the firs that dotted the landscape, the rolling, tawny hills, the distant forests, and the shimmering lake situated in a small valley before the house. The view of Pemberley, one of the grandest mansions in England, did not detract from the nature which surrounded it, but only managed to enhance it. She sighed with delight, and Fitzwilliam brought her gloved hand to his lips and kissed it, smiling as he looked into her eyes. Those eyes of his! The darkness of them sometimes seemed fathomless. She could live forever in his gaze. 
They were walking several steps in front of Mr. Bennet, Lizzy’s father, her little sister, Kitty, and Mr. Darcy’s sister, Georgiana, who all seemed to be as awed and silenced by the beauty of the day as Lizzy, as did the handful of servants from the household who had gone too, and followed along behind.
The quiet and the beauty of the day led Lizzy to reflect. It had been the best year of her life. No, to say it was the best year was understating it considerably. This first year as Mrs. Darcy, living at Pemberley with her dearest love and his darling sister had been the kind of existence Lizzy did even know could be had in this world. To be loved, completely and utterly, one might even say worshipped, by a man who was good and handsome, kind and passionate, to lie in his arms at night, and to see him smiling at her across the breakfast table in the morning was like a wonderful dream from which, sometimes, Lizzy feared she might awaken.
Just after their wedding last Christmas-tide, they had gone on a honeymoon to Tuscany, Rome, and Venice, which had occupied the first two months of their married life, and a glorious two months it had been. After they had settled in at Pemberley, another several weeks had been taken up with her and her husband going through the mansion room by room to decide what, if any, changes the new mistress might have in mind for furnishings, upholstery, and the like. Lizzy had been abashed at the thought of changing anything in the noble manse, for Mr. Darcy had kept it up to date, while maintaining the essence of what the ancestors who had gone before him had contributed. It was more Lizzy humoring him than the other way around, opting for a new sofa here, a different painting hung there, just so he would feel like she was putting her touch on her new home. But really, why interfere with perfection?
During this time, she had exchanged letters with her father, more than once inviting him, Kitty, and Mrs. Bennet to come, but he had always declined, much to her secret relief. He had said that the newlyweds needed time to themselves before being intruded upon by family. She had appreciated his sensitivity immensely, and told him she would comply with his wishes.
At the end of the first four months of Lizzy and Fitzwilliam’s marriage, Jane, her eldest sister, and her husband Charles Bingley, who had married at the same time, in a double ceremony in fact, had settled in Derbyshire themselves, some thirty miles away Once their presence was established, there was then a month of the Darcy family visiting the Bingleys at their lovely manor house, and after that, another month of Jane and Charles visiting Pemberley. Jane was already quite pregnant at that point, and three months ago, the darling child had been born. The Darcys had gone to see the baby then, and now anticipated Jane, Charles, and little Jonathan arriving within the week well ahead of the Twelfth Night festivities.
Yes, in celebration of their first year together, Mr. Darcy and Lizzy had decided to throw a party for Twelfth Night, come the eve of Epiphany, January fifth. They had invited their extended family and closest friends to join them. The only damper on the enjoyment of having Lizzy’s family there was her mother, who always seemed to have some criticism of the servants, or some unwanted advice. This morning, Mrs. Bennet had feigned a headache to avoid going to church, but once Lizzy and the rest arrived back at Pemberley, they found Mrs. Bennet in the breakfast room, sipping her coffee and partaking of the delights the cook had provided.
“Good morning, Mama,” Lizzy said to her as she entered the room with the rest of the party, having divested themselves of their outwear in the vestibule. “Is your headache better?”
“Oh, much,” Mrs. Bennet replied. “Though it was quite horrid earlier. How was church?”
Everyone seated themselves at the table and began to select from among the tempting dishes that awaited them to fortify themselves until the big Christmas dinner later in the day.
“Very nice. I am sorry you missed it,” Lizzy replied.
 “Your cheeks are flushed, Lizzy. Are you feeling well? Maybe you have caught my ailment.”
“No, Mother, they are simply flushed from my walking in the cool air,” Lizzy replied. “You know me; when have I ever been ill?”
“It’s true, Mr. Darcy,” Mrs. Bennet said, leaning over confidentially toward her son-in-law as he took his seat. “She is as healthy as a horse; always has been.”
Lizzy did not much appreciate the comparison. Fitzwilliam winked at her as a servant poured his tea.
“Hmm,” Mrs. Bennet went on. “Maybe you’re expecting, Lizzy? Could it be? Many ladies in that condition are often flushed.”
Now Lizzy’s face flamed in earnest. “Mother,” she whispered. “That is not a topic for breakfast conversation, please.”
Darcy looked at her and lifted his eyebrows. Lizzy knew he had been hoping for such an eventuality. Lizzy gently shook her head at him and smiled. He smiled back, perhaps a bit forlornly, and applied himself to his tea.
“Well, my goodness,” Mrs. Bennet continued, “your sister Jane already has one, and Mary is expecting in a month. She is your younger sister and already ahead of you! Charlotte Lucas, excuse me, Charlotte Collins,” she said with a certain amount of disgust, “has already been once blessed, something I never hear the end of from Lady Lucas. ‘Tis just you and poor Lydia that are still without issue.”
Lizzy glanced across the table at her husband, whose brows knit together at the mention of Lydia’s name. It was a subject that was never broached in their household.
“Mrs. Bennet, that is quite enough,” said Mr. Bennet with finality. Lizzy gazed at her father thankfully. 
“But,” the woman began again.
He held his hand up, then turned to Mr. Darcy, “Fitzwilliam…”
Lizzy knew that her father took pleasure in calling his son-in-law by his first name. Mr. Darcy had insisted upon it. In the two weeks her father had been at Pemberley, the two of them had become fast friends, and spent much time out riding about the grounds, hunting wild fowl.
Mr. Darcy looked at him with interest, pleased, Lizzy was sure, to be spared any further comments from her mother.
“Do we hunt today?” Mr. Bennet inquired of his host.
“If you desire it, sir,” Mr. Darcy replied. “My gamekeeper spotted a brace of partridges in the eastern forest.”
“Hah! Maybe we’ll find one in a pear tree! It is the first day of Christmas after all.” He laughed heartily at his joke.
Lizzy smiled at him. To her husband, she said, “My love, do not forget that after breakfast, we are to finish delivering the gifts to the tenants that we did not get to yesterday.”
“Of course,” Mr. Darcy replied to her. He then turned to her father. “Mr. Bennet, I am not sure we will have time for both, as it gets dark so early. Will you forgive me? Perhaps you would like to go on our rounds with us instead.”
“Yes! Yes!” he cried. “That would be great fun.”
“Oh, may I go?!” Kitty inquired.
She and Georgiana had not accompanied Lizzy and Darcy the day before because it had been too cold, but today was milder.
“Certainly,” said Mr. Darcy, laughing. “We are already dressed for the cool weather.”
Georgiana and Kitty smiled at each other. They had grown quite friendly in the time that Kitty had been there.
“Well, I hope you will all have a lovely time,” said Mrs. Bennet, sounding like she didn’t mean it at all. “I will just stay here and make the best of it.”
Lizzy sighed. Would she have to stay home and keep her mother company? She so longed to go out again into the wintry world.
Just then Mrs. Reynolds, the housekeeper, entered the breakfast room. “Excuse me sir,” she said quietly to Mr. Darcy, “I find myself needing advice as to how best to fit up the rooms for Colonel and Mrs. Fitzwilliam arriving tomorrow. She being so greatly with child, I want to make sure she has every comfort at hand. I am sorry to interrupt you at your meal, but I thought I would get it done this morning, now that we are back from church. While you are all out, I will have some time to attend to it.” Was that a wink she sent Lizzy’s way?
“Oh, I will be happy to advise you!” Mrs. Bennet cried out. “Mary is my child and I am sure I know best what she will like and what she will need.”
Lizzy flinched at her mother’s rudeness.
“Of course,” Mrs. Reynolds cried. “I would not have it otherwise.”
“Well, then,” Lizzy said. “It is all settled. Mama, you will advise Mrs. Reynolds as to the setting up of Mary’s rooms while we are out. I so much appreciate your helping her.”
Mr. Darcy and Lizzy smiled at each other. Mrs. Reynolds not only knew everything that was happening in the house at all times, but also how to attend to every guest’s needs, and anticipated those of her master and mistress before they even knew themselves what they were.
“Well, what is a mother-in-law for if not to help keep her daughter’s household straight?” Mrs. Bennet said with importance, and Lizzy inwardly laughed at the thought that Mrs. Bennet could make even the tiniest improvement in the perfection with which Mrs. Reynolds ran Pemberley, and had for years, dating back to the time that Mr. Darcy’s parents had raised their family there.
The rest of the group still at the table soon dispersed to ready themselves for another outing. As Lizzy made her way through Pemberley and up to her rooms, she inhaled the sweet and spicy scent of the pine boughs with which the servants had decorated banisters and doorways. She wished Pemberley could always be adorned so. Bringing the out-of-doors inside made the already gorgeous mansion even more special.
 Soon the group gathered in front of the house and arranged themselves in the wagon. Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bennet helped Kitty and Georgiana onto the bench seat in the back, which was covered with cushions for their comfort, and tucked the many warm blankets that had been provided around them. Then Mr. Darcy helped his wife to get settled on the front seat, with Mr. Bennet next to her on one side, after which he climbed into the driver’s seat, and took up the reins. The back of the wagon had already been packed with hams, turkeys, Christmas puddings, fruitcakes, bushels of wheat flour, trinkets for the children, bottles of spiced wine, barrels of ale, and bags of imported oranges, all to be dispersed among the tenant farmers who resided upon Mr. Darcy’s land. It was a special treat to ride in the rustic wagon, as opposed to a carriage, with two strong farm horses pulling the load. The outing had an air of adventure about it. The cook had supplied the party with a flagon of hot cider to help keep them warm, and soon they were off, riding along the lane through the crisp winter air. The sky was still blue and clear, the mild winter sun adding to their cheer. They sang Christmas songs as they went, led by Georgiana, whose main focus in life was music. Lizzy admired the strong baritone voice of her husband, and the warm tenor of her father, to which she added her clear alto. Georgiana and Kitty both sang in high sweet soprano tones, and together, their ensemble was complete.
One by one they stopped at the charming farmhouses, smoke from yule logs rising high out of the chimneys. At each house, the gifts were heartily received, and Lizzy could see how gratified the people were that the master of the estate was delivering them himself. As Mr. Darcy stopped in front each house, the farmer came running out, his wife and children watching and grinning from the door, and Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bennet hopped down from their seats, handing the farmer the huge parcels of food and treats. The farmer, in turn, passed them to the older children who would run them into the house. Lizzy laughed with delight to see everyone so happy and excited.
When they finally arrived home, it was after three o’clock and the party was famished. Today they were to partake of an afternoon feast, as was the tradition on Christmas. Mrs. Reynolds met them at the door to tell them it was ready, and they were to proceed to the dining hall, a twinkle of mischief in her eyes. They all bustled through the house together, but stopped short when they spotted a handsome young gentleman standing in the door of the dining room awaiting them, just under a sprig of mistletoe.
“Frederick!” Georgiana cried out, running to meet her fiancĂ©.
He held out his hands to her, and she placed hers in them modestly.
“I think I am owed more than a squeeze of the hands,” Frederick said glancing up at the mistletoe.
Georgiana blushed and looked back at her brother, who nodded, smiling. Georgiana placed a chaste kiss on her fiancĂ©’s cheek, while everyone laughed.
“Nice to see you, my boy,” said Mr. Darcy, going forward to shake his hand. “I see you managed to get away from your family festivities.”
“Not much in the way of festivities,” Frederick, whose family lived in a very fine manor house ten miles from Pemberley, replied. “Mother and Father were snoozing by the fire, and my brothers and sisters were playing childish games.” He shook his head with good humor.
He was the eldest of a fairly large family of children, and would soon come into a great deal of money, inheriting a no less modest home of his own when he turned twenty-one, the only thing he and Georgiana were waiting for in order to be wed.
“I told them,” Frederick went on, “I had been invited to Pemberley for the twelve days of Christmas, and they did not object.”
“Good,” Lizzy declared. “We are so happy you could accept our invitation. We could not celebrate without you.”
Georgiana smiled at Lizzy and her brother, then went on to introduce Kitty. The group took their seats at the table, joined by Mrs. Bennet. Mrs. Reynolds had decorated the table festively, and all the traditional dishes of the season were there: meat pies, roast venison and a roasted goose, buttery mashed squash, roasted turnips and Brussel sprouts, breads and buns, and so much more; and, awaiting their delight on the sideboard, the Christmas pudding.
Lizzy, as usual, marveled at the skill of the cook, and Mrs. Reynolds’ ability to make a feast like this come together with the utmost elegance. And while all the usual servants stood in attendance at the table, Lizzy knew their own feast would come after, downstairs in the kitchen, when they would be excused from their duties for the rest of the day.
“What a delightful table!” Mrs. Bennet cried. “I daresay it is even better than my own.”
Lizzy knew it was far superior to her mother’s modest attempts at refinement. After all, there was hardly a table in the realm, short of that of the nobility, that could hold a candle to Pemberley’s.
“Although,” Mrs. Bennet went on, “I would have prepared an orange sauce for the goose, instead of the fig, and I would have made sure there was a fish pie along with the pork, pheasant, and mutton pies. There is nothing I adore like a fish pie.”
“We will make sure to supply you with one in the coming days,” Mr. Darcy replied calmly, though her mother’s behavior fairly boiled Lizzy’s blood. Was there no end to her rudeness?
“Mother,” Lizzy said to change the subject. “Did you hear from your brother, Mr. Gardiner? Will he and my aunt be able to come as we had hoped?”
“Oh dear,” said Mrs. Bennet. “I am afraid not. The children all have their traditional Christmas grippe. Oh, if only my brother’s wife were a more attentive mother!”
There was no finer mother that existed, in Lizzy’s opinion, than her Aunt Gardiner, and she only hoped that if, nay, when, she had her own children, she would be half as effective. Aunt Gardiner’s four children were well-loved, well-behaved, and already, at their young ages, well educated.
“Now, if only you would produce a grandchild for me, Lizzy…”
But Mr. Bennet cut her off. “Well, what a pity the Gardiners won’t be here for they are certainly great favorites of mine. Who else is to join our delightful party during the coming days, Lizzy?”
Lizzy took a deep breath. “Well, of course Jane, Charles, and baby Jonathan; Mary and Richard, and Mr. and Mrs. Collins, that is all.”
“Ugh, that horrible Mr. Collins!” Mrs. Bennet began, but Kitty cut her off.
“And do not forget the Crawfords!” Kitty exclaimed. “You did send a note to Aunt Gardiner telling her to pass the invitation on like I asked you to, did you not, Lizzy? Oh, please tell me you did not forget?”
“No, no, I did not forget,” Lizzy said, though, in reality, she had forgotten that she had invited them through her Aunt Gardiner, and now realized she had forgotten to tell her husband about it too.
“Oh, good,” Kitty sighed. “You will love them, I know it!”
“Who is this, Lizzy?” Mr. Darcy asked brows raised.
 “Their names are Henry and Mary Crawford,” Kitty interjected. “They are brother and sister. They are so elegant and so very diverting. I met them in London when I was there visiting Aunt and Uncle Gardiner this fall. When I mentioned that my sister was the mistress of Pemberley, they said they had heard of it and had been dying to see it. I said I was sure you wouldn’t mind if they joined us for our yuletide celebrations. When we arrived two weeks ago, I asked Lizzy if she might invite them.”
Lizzy looked at her husband, alarmed. He did not like to entertain people he did not know. However, he merely replied, “Any friends of yours, Kitty, are friends of ours. You say they are good people?”
“The finest. And they come from a very good family. Oh, there is no one more stylish and clever than Miss Crawford; and Mr. Crawford, well, Mr. Crawford is…charming,” she finished with another sigh.
Lizzy and Mr. Darcy looked at each other, eyebrows raised. So Kitty had finally met a young man she might consider a beau. At the age of nearly nineteen, it was time for her to be around some good society outside of her immediate family.
“We shall welcome them then,” said Mr. Darcy. “When are they to arrive?”
“Do you know, Lizzy?” Kitty asked.
“I recall that I told Aunt Gardiner to tell them they should arrive between the twenty-sixth and the first, so we should expect them any day,” said Lizzy. “I will be sure to have their rooms readied,” she added.
“They sound wonderful!” cried Mrs. Bennet. “Kitty, what a delightful addition they will be to our party!”
Lizzy saw her father roll his eyes. She only hoped this brother and sister were as amiable as Kitty said they were. And yet, if they were friends of her Aunt and Uncle Gardiners, they must be suitable.
Suddenly, Markles, the butler, entered the room. “Colonel and Mrs. Fitzwilliam have arrived,” he announced, and behind them came Mary, proceeded by the fullness of her state, and supported under one arm by her husband. Everyone jumped up to greet them as extra places were arranged at the table by the scurrying servants, and the Christmas dinner descended into a cacophony of exclamations, queries, and laughter. 

On Amazon

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Bracelet I Wore

This Memorial Day has a particular poignancy for me. I have not, personally, lost someone in battle who was serving in the armed forces, but my best friend has - her brother - in the first Gulf War. He was as dear to her as my brother is to me, so I felt her loss of him very keenly. Every Memorial Day, I remember him. I also remember someone else, though there is another date on which I honor him too: May 18th. That is the day Lt. Cdr. Vincent D. Monroe was lost in Vietnam, and remained Missing in Action until 1978. I wore his POW bracelet, as many others did, from about 1972 until that day in 1978 that I read in the paper that his remains were identified and sent home to be buried at Arlington. I sent my bracelet to his family, but don't remember getting a response from them, which is fine.

Yesterday, the day before Memorial Day, I was watching CBS Sunday Morning and there was a segment on about a troop of soldiers called The Lost Platoon. On May 18th, 1967, they were ambushed, and most of them were massacred. Some saved their own lives by playing dead for 15 hours, many gravely wounded. When I saw this segment, I burst into tears. I figured Vincent D. Monroe had to be among those who died that day, given the date, but I had gotten the year wrong. Googling his name, I was reminded that he actually went missing on May 18, 1968 - exactly a year later. His plane was shot down and he and his co-pilot parachuted to the ground. That was the last that was seen of them. It was assumed that they were taken prisoner, and that Vincent died sometime after.

Knowing these details about him made me feel closer to him. I always did feel close - when I first visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C., I sought out his name there, and of course, there was the remembrance of him every May 18th and Memorial Day. Today, though, I'm shedding fresh tears for him.

I found a sight where you could post memorials to lost soldiers, and I posted one on his page, along with several others, this one from his grandson:

Dear Grandfather,
I wish there would have been a chance to have met you. I've always seen photos, medals, awards, visited the wall, and visited your have in Arlington Cemetery. 
Grandmother, Suzanne B. Monroe always told me about you and always mentioned how good of a man you we're!
Uncle, James Monroe,
Mom, Anne (Monroe)King,
Aunt, Claire (Monroe)Baratelli,
They all told me about when they were kids how you were all ways there for them and loved them.
One day I will be able to ascend to heaven and finally meet you my Grandfather! CDR. Vincent D. Monroe 
I'm honored to be able to have Your Name VINCENT a part of my name! I even gave my son your name VINCENT as well.
Thank you for your bravery and courage,
Love your First born Grandson!

I am glad he is so honored. Rest in peace, Vincent. I will never forget you.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Sometimes, the Muse Has to Wait.


Writing has its ups and downs. One month your book sales are soaring, the next they're crashing; sometimes people are clamoring for your writing, the next day you're sifting through rejection letters, and it's difficult to always know why. Lately, I've been on a hot streak (knock on wood!). My new Pride and Prejudice variation, Darcy's Awakening, is flying off the virtual shelves, and I've just been hired as a freelance feature writer for the Oregonian newspaper, the number one newspaper in Oregon.

A year ago, I couldn't sell a book to save my life. Rather, I should say, I seemed to have exhausted the audience, or at least my ability to reach it, for my time travel novels, which had sold well at the time of the release of each of the (so far) four books in the series. And though I had just been taken on to write a monthly column for a small local rag, it didn't pay. A writer friend of mine was having a lot of success with the Austen variation genre, basically a very popular form of fanfiction, and she suggested I try my hand at it. We agreed that it would be a natural fit for me, especially if my stories were set in the Regency era (the time in which Austen wrote her books) because I have always been a real Austen buff, and my first time travel novel, The Time Baroness, was set in that time, so I already had a ton of research under my belt. Well, it definitely turned out to be the right move for me, because my first series of variations, Elizabeth, Darcy, and Me, A Battle of Wills, and A Maiden's Honor, sold remarkably well.
I was on a roll. Then I published Darcy's Awakening, and the roll turned into a landslide. In the meantime, the sales of my time travel books picked up a bit because fans found them through links in my Austen variation books - a win-win all around.  Another positive occurrence was that the county library system here in Portland accepted The Time Baroness into their e-book collection, and for the first time, one of my books could be borrowed from the library!

However, sometimes I struggle with the realities of being a writer, as opposed to the "dream." We all wish we could write the thing we're most passionate about, in my case, time travel, have our books become best sellers and live off the royalties for the rest of our lives. But what more often occurs, even among very famous writers, is that we find a genre that sells, learn to be passionate about it, and hopefully have some success there. Rare is the writer who puts their heart and soul into writing The Great American Novel, has it scooped up by a huge publisher, and finds it sitting at the top of the New York Times Best Seller list for 20 weeks. Because, when you think about the writers that sell like crazy, J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Stephen King, P.D. James, Dan Brown...etc., etc., you can see they have one thing in common: super popular genres.

So what is the solution for we not so famous (yet) writers? I think it's clear. Find a genre that sells, which you also enjoy writing, and write to that market. Then, when you feel you have the financial freedom to write your passion, do it. As one writer friend expressed, "You have to earn the right to feed your muse." I think it's a good philosophy - kind of like paying your dues. I think about John Grisham who churned out one legal thriller after another, and then gave us the gorgeous, out-of-genre masterpiece, A Painted House. I'm not saying he didn't love writing his thrillers, but you could tell his heart was in A Painted House in a very special way - he was feeding his muse.

In the end, even though writing to a market may feel like selling out, really, it's building a fan base, and paying the bills while doing what you love.  No one can argue with that.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Love. Fight. Stand Up.

I don't use this blog as a political platform. I don't use Facebook for that reason either, though I do sometimes post about causes I support, such as solidarity with Standing Rock. However, since November 8th, 2016, I have become aware, not only of the hateful acts of racism and xenophobia that are being talked about on the news and social media, but of attacks against people near and dear to me. As a result, I decided I have to use this platform to talk about it.

The first incident occurred just about a week after the election. An old friend of mine, a gentleman of about 70 years of age who used to be the priest at an Episcopal church I attended in NY, a gentleman originally from El Salvador who is small and dark-skinned, and who speaks with a heavy accent, but who has lived as a citizen of the US for about 30 years, has a PhD, and a better English vocabulary than I do, posted this on Facebook: "I was verbally assaulted by a white man who thought I was Mexican. He said, 'F****ing Mexican, trump is going to send you all back!' I said to him, "I am not Mexican, I am American,' and asked him, 'Are you American?' He stammered and went away."

Then today I saw on Facebook that another friend of mine, a lady who is American of Mexican descent, had racial slurs hurled at her at a bar that she regularly frequents with friends. Both incidents made me feel physically ill, and had me in tears. I thought, if this can happen to American citizens, both born and naturalized, how vulnerable are all people of color, and "foreign" origins in our country today?

I know that many of us have vowed to stand up for and protect anyone who is harassed in such a way, and that many US cities, including Portland, where I live, and NYC and Santa Fe, New Mexico, places where I lived for a long time, have declared themselves to be sanctuary cities, and this is good, no mistaking. But it's not enough. I am speaking from an unintentional space of white privilege, but I know that offering to protect others isn't enough. We need to put our bodies on the line to fight for the beautiful, diverse, accepting society that we wish our country to be. Get out there. Protest when you see injustice. Join an activist group. Speak out, and not just on social media. So many people in our country are going to be victimized in a way that they never would have been before because others now feel empowered to do so. We have to send a message, loud and clear, that we will not stand for it. Are you with me?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Chapter One of A Battle of Wills: Elizabeth, Darcy, and Me - Book 2

Here's a sample from A Battle of Wills. Hope you enjoy!


Chapter One

Lizzy

I suppose it is because baby Will has passed one year of age now that Lady Catherine (or That Woman as I call her) has finally decided to acknowledge my existence. You would have thought his birth itself would have been occasion for that, but perhaps she was waiting to see if he were indeed a hale and hearty child and would survive his first year—a valid concern given that her own daughter, Anne, was so sickly that every birthday until her present age was to be greatly celebrated. Oh dear, that was very ungenerous of me. Let me get to the point: Mr. Darcy and I have received notice from Lady Catherine that she wishes to throw a ball at Rosings in order to “Introduce me into polite society,” as she puts it. What a miracle! I am officially a Darcy in her eyes. The truth is, we haven’t heard a peep from her since Fitzwilliam and I married almost three years ago! Oh, we occasionally receive a petulant letter from her lapdog, Mr. Collins, keeping us up-to-date with the latest goings on at Rosings: who has visited; of whom Lady Catherine has approved and whom she hasn’t;  how Miss de Bourgh came close to executing a beautiful painting or piece of needlework, but was too “indisposed” to actually finish it; who has put himself forward as her suitor and been systematically rejected by the mother; and how many times Mr. Collins and Charlotte have been invited to dine since he last wrote. Fortunately, Charlotte’s affectionate letters tell me all I really want to know about their two sweet children, how the chickens are doing, the difficulties in raising prize hogs, and the yield of their garden.
The letter I received from her just today was of a different bent, however, because she hinted to me that Lady Catherine had already spoken to them of the impending ball, assuming, I suppose, that Fitzwilliam and I will attend without objection. The letter from Lady Catherine to Fitzwilliam (of course it wasn’t addressed to me), demanding our attendance at this prodigious event, arrived in the same post as Charlotte’s, but as Fitzwilliam saw it before I did, he came to tell me of it with Charlotte’s letter in his hand. Thus, I knew of That Woman’s plan before I had to undergo the surprise of hearing it from Charlotte.
Fitzwilliam was sweet enough to ask me if would consider attending, given how his aunt had offended me those three years ago. I know he has not been happy about this estrangement from Lady Catherine, and I could see by the look in his eye that he hoped I would assent. I did. He then handed me the letter so I could glance over the lengthy guest list that she included, and merely glance I did as it was so long, and I know very few of the people on it. I did note that Jane and Charles were there, as were, surprisingly, Mother and Father, and Georgiana of course. Colonel Fitzwilliam was included, but named as The Earl of Rochester, his new title. His elder brother passed away around a year ago without leaving an heir, so Colonel Fitzwilliam is now Lord Edward Fitzwilliam, or, of course, Lord Rochester. It was difficult for me to call him anything other than Colonel Fitzwilliam for the longest time, but now he is, affectionately, merely Edward.
At any rate, in the midst of looking the list over, I was called away by Nanny as little Will had awoken from his morning nap, and I wanted to oversee his mealtime. How I adore feeding him with the tiny silver spoon, and watching as his little hands grasp his cup of milk. Fitzwilliam is shocked that I take this task upon myself rather than leaving it to Nanny, but I don’t care. I can’t get enough of my sweet boy, my miniature Fitzwilliam, who is so very like his father.
We went for a walk with the pram around the grounds, after his lunch, just the two of us, no nanny in tow. I lifted him out and let him crawl upon the green—he is very close to walking. He is such a clever boy. He already knows the words, tree, bug, horse, mama, papa, and nana. I don’t like the idea of leaving him for the few days that we will be expected to be at Rosings, but That Woman would never tolerate the noise and mess of a baby, and, besides that, I don’t want to take him away from home at such a young age and expose him to the jostling of road, the terribly long ride, and the contagion we might meet with along the way, so he will stay at Pemberley with Nanny while we are gone. I will miss horribly his little fair head, his big brown eyes, and the tiny lips that I love to kiss. I will suggest to Jane that she bring Eliza to stay at Pemberley with Will while we are all gone so the cousins can keep each other company. Jane is longing for another child but has not yet been blessed. I am content for now with my little man, but if God sees fit to bless us with another, whenever that might occur, I shall welcome it. I hope it is a little girl whom I will name Maryjane. 
Returning to my parlour after relinquishing Will to Nanny, I sat down to peruse the guest list from Lady Catherine with more scrutiny. It was no surprise that Lydia and Wickham were not on it. Kitty was included with Mother and Father, and Aunt and Uncle Gardiner, which was very nice, but then I realized I did not see Mary and her husband Christopher upon the list. Surely this must be an oversight. If Lady Catherine saw fit to include the rest of my family, why not Mary and Christopher? Maybe she does not know of their existence. After all, she has never met them. Yet surely Charlotte and Mr. Collins helped her assemble the list. All of Charlotte’s immediate relations were there.
I summoned Fitzwilliam, who appeared in just a few minutes, to get his opinion.
He came to my side, where I sat before my desk, and bent to kiss me on the lips. “Yes, my darling,” he said to me, with a wry grin. “Do not trouble yourself that I was in the middle of important business correspondences. I am your humble servant.”
“This is important business, too, my love,” I responded with mock strictness. “Your aunt has neglected to invite Mary and Christopher to her ball.”
His aspect clouded. “I wonder if ‘neglect’ is an apt word.”
“Are you saying she might have left them out on purpose? Why would she do such a thing? She must have simply overlooked them.”
“My aunt does nothing by accident. She is most meticulous as you know. I fear she might have thought Christopher’s position too low to mix with her high society friends.”
I bristled at the thought. “Mary is my sister! I will not go where she and her husband are not wanted.”
“Now, now, my dear, do not upset yourself.” He took my hand and kissed it. “I will write to my aunt presently and mention it. I will tell her it is important to you to have your sister and her husband included in the invitation. After all, the ball is in your honor.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Let us not deceive ourselves, darling. It is in your honor. She wants you back in the bosom of her regard. You were always her favorite nephew.”
Still holding my hand, he pulled me to my feet and embraced me. I still feel the same weakness in my knees when Fitzwilliam holds me close as I did the very first time he took me in his arms and kissed me: the day he expressed to me that he had reason to hope I would accept his proposal—the very thing that started this row with his aunt in the first place. I have never been happier to stand up to anyone in my life than the day I told Lady Catherine I would not agree not to marry her nephew.
He pressed his soft lips to mine. On that wonderful day of our engagement those three years ago, with that first kiss, I somehow sensed he was holding back his passion, keeping it in abeyance so as to not overwhelm us both with desire before we could appropriately give into it as man and wife. But today, there was no reason for him to keep his passion in check and did not. We drank each other in fully, our mouths joined hungrily, our bodies pressed together urgently. I ran my hands up his muscular arms and across his broad back.
He broke away for a moment. “Has Nanny taken Will for his afternoon nap?” He whispered into my ear.
“Yes,” I replied breathlessly.
“Then will you accompany me to my bed?”
I gazed into his deep, brown eyes. He is even more handsome to me now than he was the day we married because now I know him fully, and know he is as beautiful a man on the inside as out. I couldn’t possibly be more in love with him.
“Yes,” I repeated in a whisper. I took his offered hand and followed him through the house, and up the stairs. I went into my chamber, and he into his, so we wouldn’t scandalize the servants. Our rooms adjoin by an inner door and so, after removing my gown, I slipped into his chamber in only my chemise, anticipating the delights that awaited me.

Mary

When my dearest Christopher is away, doing his duties as Doctor of the Veterinary Arts, I miss him terribly. At the moment, he has been called to Jane and Charles’s home, Waterston, which is twenty miles north of us. A journey of that distance would require him to stay overnight even if it were a simple case he has gone to see about, but this time it is not, and he may be needed for several days. Charles’s beloved mare, Camilla, is about to foal and Christopher has gone in anticipation of the event because he would not want her to begin her labor without his supervision. She is a most valuable animal, and Charles has bred her with a stallion of equally high pedigree, and so the foal that is to come will be as precious as the both the mother and father. Therefore, I must do without him until Camilla is safely through her ordeal and the foal is deemed to be doing well. It could be just a few days, or a fortnight.
I think about how natural it is for animals to reproduce. I am sure no mare, or cow, or sow ever worry about conceiving, yet it is at the forefront of my concerns. Christopher and I have been married more than a year and I am still not with child. I know that it takes some women time, yet all three of my married sisters have been blessed with little ones—why Lydia already has two! True, they have been married longer than I, but having spent as much time with Jane’s and Lizzy’s babies as I have, I want nothing more than to have my own child, and love and nurture it with all my heart. I know Christopher feels the same way though he tells me to be patient and let nature take its course. What choice do I have?
As I sit writing at my desk, I look up at the small, framed portrait of Christopher that he gave me for our first Christmas together. The artist captured his likeness so well, even the hint of mischievousness in his dark eyes. The curve of his lips, the arch of his brow, the strong bones of his face are all there. Even the way his hair tends to hang slightly over one eye. The only thing missing from the picture is the expression of love with which he regards me. I will always be amazed at how I was so lucky as to find the adoration of such a sweet and clever man.
Very well, enough of my musings. I will now spend an hour working on my latest story, and then an hour practicing upon the lovely pianoforte that was a wedding gift from Jane and Charles. After that, a half an hour studying French, a half an hour with German, and then it will be time to feed the chickens, and check on the cows in their stall, once our young cowherd has brought them in for the evening. I love the warmth of the barn, the smell of the hay, and the gentle, kind presence of the cattle. I can feel that they expect me every evening to give them an extra caress, and an assurance of my affection.
After supper, I will read a little for education, and more for pleasure, before I retire to my bed which will be cold without the body of my love, my life. I do not complain though. He told me to be strong while he is gone, and so I will. Yet nothing can stop me from smelling his pillow as I drift off into sleep.

Lizzy

Fitzwilliam has received a response from That Woman about Mary and Christopher. He came to share it with me this morning as soon as the post had arrived, finding me still lingering with my coffee at the breakfast table.
“My beautiful Lizzy!” he cried when he came into the room. He often tells me I’m beautiful, but something about his tone told me he was trying to soften his news.
“My love?” I replied.
“I have got a letter from Aunt Catherine.”
“And…”
He sat down. “Her neglect of including your sister and her husband in the invitation for the ball was not an oversight. She did it,” he hesitated, “purposefully.”
I could feel my blood start to heat, but I forced myself to stay calm. “Go on.” I pressed my lips together. “What was her reason?”
“She said that when Mr. Collins gave her the list of your family members, it only included Jane, Charles, your parents, and Kitty. She said she remembered you telling her you had three younger sisters. She asked him why only Jane and Kitty were on the list, knowing of course, that Lydia would never be mentioned. He explained Mary and Christopher’s circumstances to her, I suppose never having spoken of them to her before, and she agreed they could not be included among the guests. She said she could not very well introduce an animal doctor and his wife among society.”
Now my blood was boiling. Still, I remained outwardly calm. “Then I shall not attend either.” I rose to go, afraid of really losing my temper.
He took my hand. “Lizzy, don’t be unreasonable. I am sure Mary and Christopher will understand. You know yourself that Mary doesn’t really like balls, nor dancing.”
“That is not the point. The point is, your aunt still does not accept my family for who they are. And as result, she does not accept me.”
“My darling. Aunt Catherine has been this way her entire life. There is nothing we can do to change her.”
“I am not suggesting trying to change her. I simply will not go to the ball. You certainly may if you like.”
He stood now too. “Elizabeth.”
He only calls me that when he’s being very serious.
He continued, “Please, listen to reason. You know that I was very angry with my aunt for coming to you as she did and trying to wrench from you a promise that you would not marry me.” He smiled in spite of himself. “You also know that when I heard from her about your refusal to make that promise, I finally had real reason to hope you would accept me.”
I smiled too. “I have to admit I relish that particular part of our history.”
His face grew serious again. “I was offended by Lady Catherine’s actions too then, and I am still irked that she was so meddlesome and rude. However, I do feel that now she is trying to make amends for her behavior then, and attempting to mend this rift in our family. I feel we should seriously consider taking her offered olive branch.”
“She may be offering an olive branch, but it is rife with thorns. She is doing it with conditions. Conditions she knows would offend me. I do not consider this a genuine attempt to make amends.”
He took a deep breath. “She is my mother’s only sister, Lizzy. She is difficult, yes, but she is among the little that is left of my family. I have her and my cousin Anne, my cousin Edward, and Georgiana. You have a wonderful abundance of sisters, as well as aunts and uncles, little cousins, and, God be praised, both of your parents still alive. I need you to understand that it is important to me that I reestablish this family connection. We have an heir now. It means much to her to be able to bring us back into the fold and honor you as the mother of that heir.”
“Is that all I am to her? William’s mother? A dam to carry on the family bloodline?”
“I feel you are being unreasonable, Lizzy.” His voice had grown stern.
It was my turn to inhale deeply. “Perhaps if it were possible for Mary and Christopher to not be made aware of the ball, so we could attend and not tell them, I would consider that option. I’d feel terrible about it, but I would consider it. But with my mother being invited, and Kitty, it will be impossible to keep it quiet. I feel there is no situation here that does not involve Mary and Christopher being hurt. I beg you to write back and explain that to her.”
“She has made up her mind, Lizzy.” He threw up his hands in frustration. “I cannot change it.”
“Then perhaps I can.” I turned to go to my writing desk in my parlour.
“Lizzy, this is not a good idea,” he said softly to my back. “I beg you not to.”
I felt my resolve begin to wane, and turned to face him once again, but then the thought of That Woman’s superciliousness rekindled my ire. “I will be gentle in my wording.” I moved back to stand directly in front of him and put my hand on his arm. “I will explain to her kindly, and with great respect why I cannot allow my sister to be slighted in this way. I will tell her that I cannot accept her invitation under these conditions. Surely she will understand,” though, in truth, I had little faith she would.
“Very well, Lizzy,” he sighed resignedly. “I will not tell you how to act. Perhaps you can convince her to rethink her position. If anyone can do it, you can. But please tell me that, even if she says no, you will still consider going. It is important to me.” He smiled hopefully.
“Let us cross that bridge when we come to it,” I said. Before he could respond, I kissed him on the cheek and rushed out of the room.


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