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Sunday, September 3, 2017

A Cheerful Chat with Catherine Lodge

A ReVisit with Catherine Lodge
Catherine Lodge's book is now available on Amazon!  Great news.  So she is dropping back by with that news and another chance to read her interview here at Darcyholic Diversions.

Catherine Lodge:  It all started on my birthday in 2015 and, however much one claims that one doesn't care about birthdays, there is still a lingering feeling that nasty surprises shouldn't happen on that day of all days.

We are having cake, Happy Birthday had been sung and the children had gone off to run round the garden and I got the ping of email arrived.  I thought it was someone wishing me Many Happy  Returns - it wasn't.
"Hi," it said.   "Thanks for publishing your story." The only trouble was, I hadn't.
With only a smart phone and a small tablet, I scoured Amazon and there it was, or rather there they were.  Two of my stories, packed into an "anthology" with an ugly cover and an illiterate title:  but worst of all under the pen name I had used while posting on the forums at meryton.com.  Someone from what I had assumed was a safe space, someone I might even have interacted and corresponded with, had stolen my stories to make money from them.  They hadn't even bothered to correct my mistakes - I don't tend to use a beta or editor when posting on-line so there were more than a few misspelt words and odd grammatical constructions.
After a couple of days frantic emailing, I managed to get first Amazon and then Google books and the Nook people to take the nasty thing down.  I didn't see a sniff of the money people had spent on it, but I thought it likely that the plagiarist hadn't either and that Amazon had just kept it.
Then I forgot about it. 
Flash forward a couple of years,  I was encouraged to submit "Fair Stands the Wind" to The Meryton Press and they accepted it.  It was edited to within an inch of its life and the published.  The paperback was there for all to see, with a gorgeous cover by the way, but there was no sign of the ebook.  Enquiries by the Press revealed that they thought that Amazon thought this submission was another attempt to plagiarise.  Amazon refused to sort it out with Meryton Press because the published wasn't one of the parties to the original dispute.
So I started emailing Amazon.  I emailed the department I'd dealt with over the plagiarism. 
Nothing for four days then a reference to another department.  So I wrote again.
Nothing for four days then a request for the information I'd already sent them.  So I sent it again.
Meanwhile, the blog tour had been and gone and the people asking when they could buy it had been told "We don't know."
Once again, nothing for four days then, stuck at a bus stop, I thought I'd check Amazon and there, at last,  was the Kindle edition of my book. In all its glory, complete with the gorgeous cover,  I never did hear from Amazon again
I've been spamming the hosts of the blog tour in the hope that people who were interested in  buying have been contacted.  I hope I haven't annoyed anyone.
And I've been left with an odd feeling.  Quite apart from the disappointment and worry, how could he or she do it?  What do you get from passing someone else's work of as your own?  Other than a very few dollars and the knowledge that you are a thief, that is.

 A Cheerful Chat with Catherine Lodge
Interviewed by Barbara Tiller Cole

BTCole:  UPDATE---September 20, 2017--Amazon NOW has Catherine's book AND the drawings have already been held, but if you missed the interview before, please take the time to read now...

I have had a few technical issues with Darcyholic Diversions but am very grateful that I managed to save my blog with the help from a few friends.  

Today I am interviewing Catherine Lodge as she celebrates her new book, Fair Stands the Wind.  Please be sure to read to the end to learn about the give-aways available.  Catherine is having her own technical issues as the soft cover of her new book is available at Amazon but not the Kindle version.  Keep an eye out for it though as many 'elves' are working behind the scene to be sure that you get to read her novel soon!  And without further delay, I present Catherine Lodge...

BTCole:  Catherine, I am so glad to have you here with us at Darcyholic Diversions!  Welcome!  So tell us, who is Catherine Lodge?
CLodge:  Thanks for having me, Barbara!  Catherine Lodge is a pseudonym as I am incredibly shy about people I know, knowing what I write.  I've always been worried that my writing reveals more about me that I am comfortable with my family and friends knowing about - I suspect this is mere vanity since probably no one would care to do the dissection, but there it is
BTCole:  I do understand that Catherine as I initially developed my penname to be sure that people in my real life would never know that I had written a sex scene lol.  In fact more Austen writers know my real name than the other way around.    Where are you from Catherine?
CLodge:   I live in Yorkshire in the UK, an impossibly beautiful part of the world - in fact I live quite near to the Pemberley of my imagination, Fountains Hall near Ripon - only my imaginary one is a bit bigger :D
Inline image 1
BTCole:  Do you have a picture of your Pemberley that you would like to share with us?  Would love to know more about your about your Pemberley inspiration?
CLodge:  There that should give you an idea. My Pemberley would look that that but a little larger.  You can't tell from the photo but behind the house there is a very steep hillside so the house is only a couple of rooms wide, mine is a little wider, perhaps a square with a central courtyard.
BTCole:  I understand that your profession was as an attorney.  Tell us a little bit about that. 
CLodge:   I am a more or less retired now.  I trained and worked as a lawyer, prosecuting corporate crime mostly until my health forced me to look for something a bit less stressful and I took to lecturing, mainly for a training company specializing in Environmental Law for Business and Industry.  Since a lot of my work arose about the time that the Water Industry was privatised in the UK, I have an encyclopedic knowledge of the development of Britain's sewerage system.  You must let me tell you about The Great Stink sometime, when the Thames was so smelly they nearly moved Parliament to Oxford.  Or the day the River Fleet exploded.
BTCole:  Well now you have gotten my attention!  You have to tell us about The Great Stink!  What a name!
CLodge:  Well, in the mid-19thC London grew at a phenomenal rate and the fact that there was no sewerage system soon became apparently to every nose for miles around.  So, in an effort to deal with it, the Government decreed that all houses should be plumbed into the existing surface water drains, the ones that were supposed to just deal with rainwater by funnelling into the Thames and then out to sea.  In the Summer of 1858, two hot months and some high tides on the Thames had the effect of keeping the er..... contents in the river, right in the bit where a lot of people lived and the Houses of Parliament were sitting.  It was so ghastly that they considered moving Parliament to Oxford until the Summer Recess happened and the reliable old English Rain arrived to flush everything out.  This led to the construction of Bazelgette's great interceptor sewer, which goes all the way down the North Bank, picking up the sewers, drains and rivers that used to go into the Thames - frequently within feet of where drinking water was extracted - and funnelling them all so far downstream that the tide had to take them out. It's why The Thames has a road beside the river called "The Embankment" - underneath is still Bazelgette's great sewer.
BTCole:  This reminds me that I have been checking in with my Austen inspired friends that live in Texas. Grateful that Maria Grace, Jan Hahn and Janet Taylor are all well and dry.  All had a little damage to deal with in their yards but their houses were spared from the flood and winds.    Well, now you need to tell us about the day that River Fleet exploded?
CLodge:  By the mid-19thC the River Fleet which used to run above ground into the Thames, was almost entirely build over and enclosed.  It was also full of er..... waste.  One dry month in the 1830s the contents fermented, exploded and the explosion was channelled down the river into the Thames where it flattened two houses and swamped a boat.  I tried to find newspaper reports but it's too early to find anything easily and I've never been able to visit the National Newspaper Archive at Collingdale.
BTCole:  What else would you like to share with the readers here so that they get to know a little bit more about you.
CLodge:  Um what else.  Never married, never met the right man. Oh, once won a five figure sum on a TV quiz show in the middle of the night, which is why my house is now paid off.  Winnings aren't taxed in the UK so that was nice.
BTCole:  Winning the lottery!  Now I envy you there!    What do you do with your time other than write now?
CLodge:   I like the Opera and taking the children in my family - I have 9 niblings and two great-nieces - out and about.  I volunteer at the local library giving computer classes to people who are stuck.  I specialise in the even-older-than-me category.  My record is a 93 year old nun I taught to use the Internet so she could learn Spanish on-line.  
BTCole:  How did you discover Jane Austen's works?  Was it love at first site?  Or did you give it a studied air, like Mr. Collins did his delicate compliments?
CLodge:  I was always a voracious reader, in the 60s and 70s it was either reading or the TV and I didn't enjoy much of that.  There were 5 secondhand bookshops where I lived, so for a pound or so you could pick up all sorts.  I read a huge amount of 19thC literature, starting with Dickens and the Brontes (they were local lasses, you see) and then Jane Austen.  Starting with Pride and Prejudice and then  Sense and Sensibility and then on and on.  The only one I can't say I really like is Northanger Abbey, which I put down to being made to read it in High School but an unsympathetic teacher.  Every time I think, "I really must give it another go," the voice of Mr Sessions starts droning on and on and I lose the will to live. 

Now I come to think about it, he had some really odd ideas about what to give to 14 year olds - what the heck were we supposed to make of Sons and Lovers?
Full Book Cover for Catherine's New Book
BTCole:  No Wonder you wanted a penname!  I read in one of your other posts about your writing style and how 'Guerilla Writing' has helped you.  Can  you tell us a little bit about that? 
CLodge:  I am a perfectionist, if I let myself be.  So much so, that I end up paralysed by the fear of failure.  I wrote some stories in various fandoms which were well received: I then became morbidly convinced that I would never write anything as good ever again.  So I stopped.

After a bit, I told myself not to be so damn silly.  All my life, I've been afraid of other people's reactions.  Why?  So I made myself write, check it through the same day, and then post it to discussion boards.  I didn't fret about where the plot was going, I just had a vague idea where I wanted to end up.  A very vague idea.  And you know what?  Ideas rushed in to fit the space available.  I'd write myself into a corner, go for a walk and have an idea of how to get out of it.
BTCole:  How did the inspiration for this book come to you?  And was Persuasion a part of your inspiration at all? 
CLodge:  Not at all.  Nope, there's a shout out to Persuasion in a latish chapter, but that was the earliest it even crossed my mind.  I was posting in parts, so people mentioned it in comments but I did not have it in mind at all.  What sort of Janeite am I?

As I mentioned somewhere else, I was packing my books away before the builders came to replace my kitchen roof, and when I got to the shelf of CS Forresters, Patrick O'Briens and Alexander Kents, thought I to myself, thought I, "Hmmmm Captain Darcy, now *there's* an idea.
It's taken me years to pluck up the courage to send my baby-book out into the world, where I can't wait to see how it makes it's way.
BTCole:  There are not many Austen inspired stories with Darcy as a second son, so that in itself made this book unique.  Anything else you would like to tell us about your story?
CLodge:  Um - go and buy it?  At least as soon as Amazon drags its head out of its fundament and lets me publish it.  I was plagiarised a couple of years ago and wrote to Amazon to assert my copyright.  They now seem to think I'm plagiarising myself and are sitting on my book.  Anyone who has a voodoo doll of Mr Bezos is cordially invited to stick pins in it.
BTCole: Are you writing anything now?  Want to give your readers any hints?
CLodge:  Weeellll, I have an idea for a book called "The Wicked Mr Darcy" which I ought to write before someone gets there first, at least with the title, but it will have to wait until this one is out.  After that I'd like to get A New Beginning out.  Elizabeth and Darcy meet in circumstances where they each come to a proper realisation of each other's sterling qualities.  So everything turns out fine....... or does it? 
BTCole:  Thanks for being spending some time with me today, Catherine!  Hope you will come visit with us again.  

 Enter to Win

For Give Aways, comment on the interveiw here and register on the Rafflecopter link below:


Book Blurb:

We all know that in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mr Darcy is proud and prejudiced because he is a wealthy landowner who believes himself above his company; and that Elizabeth Bennet can afford to be proud and prejudiced because she believes she has the freedom to make choices for herself.

But what if Mr Darcy is the second son, sent to sea at a young age? What if Elizabeth is trapped by circumstances, with an ill father on one side and an understandably desperate mother on the other?

Meet Captain Darcy of the Royal Navy, a successful frigate captain, with ample prize-money and a sister he needs to provide for while he is at sea. Meet Elizabeth Bennet, who needs a husband and is trying to resign herself to Mr Collins, the worst “least worst alternative” in the history of literature.

Author Bio:

Catherine Lodge is a semi-retired lawyer and lecturer, living in Yorkshire–a part of the UK even more beautiful than Derbyshire. One of five daughters, although by birth order regrettably the Jane, she found 19th Century literature early in her teens and never looked back–even if that meant her school essays kept coming back with “archaic!” written in the margin next to some of her favourite words. She still thinks that “bruited” is a much nicer word than “rumoured.”

After years of drafting leases and pleadings, she finally started to write for fun in her forties and has never stopped since. Much of this will never see the light of day, having been fed to the digital equivalent of a roaring bonfire, but “Fair Stands the Wind” is the first book she thinks worthy of public attention.
She spends her day fixing computer problems for friends and family, singing in her local choir, and avoiding the ironing

Contact Info for Catherine Lodge:

Buy Links Not Yet Active:

Fair Stands the Wind   (Amazon UK)

Blog Tour Schedule:

08/30   Babblings of a Bookworm;  Guest Post or Vignette, GA
08/31   My Vices and Weaknesses; Character Interview, GA
09/01   Austenesque Reviews; Vignette, Excerpt, GA
09/02   Interests of a Jane Austen Girl; Review, Excerpt, Giveaway
09/03   DarcyholicDiversions; Author Interview, GA
09/04   Half Agony, Half Hope; Review, Vignette
09/05   Of Pens and Pages; Review, Excerpt, GA
09/06   Diary of an Eccentric; Guest Post, Vignette, Giveaway
09/07   From Pemberley to Milton; Guest Post or Vignette, Excerpt, GA
09/08   So little time…; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway
09/09   My Love for Jane Austen; Vignette, GA
09/10   Margie’s Must Reads; Review, Excerpt, GA
09/11   My Jane Austen Book Club; Guest Post, Excerpt, GA
09/12   Just Jane 1813; Review, GA


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Just A Jabber With Jan

Just A Jabber With Jan
A Interview with BTCole 
I am very happy to welcome Jan aka J. L. Ashton to Darcyholic Diversions today.  The title above is in honor of the title of her latest Book and a nod to one of the answers she gave in the interview.  She is a fascinating person as well as a fun comedic author and I have enjoyed getting a chance to get to know her and a chance to read her latest novel, Mendacity and Mourning.  Be sure to read till the end for details about the give aways on her blog tour!

And now for the interview......

I am very happy to have you visiting with us here at Darcyholic Diversions today.

Jan, tell us a little bit about how and when you first discovered any of Jane Austen's works.
I was a voracious reader from the age of four, but didn’t encounter Jane Austen until ninth grade. My English teacher did a unit on unrequited love in literature, and used Persuasion as an example. (Carson McCullers’ Ballad of the Sad Café, Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, and Charlie Brown and the little red-haired girl in Peanuts were among her other examples).

Was it Austen love at first sight?  Or a school assignment?
I wasn’t captivated by Anne and Captain Wentworth; her passivity and his behavior when they met again frustrated me. My senior year in high school, during a semester where we were not to read anything by American or British authors, I committed a small act of rebellion and fell under the spell of Pride & Prejudice and Emma. The wit, the observations on society and human behavior, the puzzling out of interior thoughts and motivations—especially of the male characters--it all pulled me in.

How did that your Austen love affair grow?
May I admit that it was a couple of brilliant JAFFs that really finalized JA’s hold on me? I’d read four of Jane’s novels when I stumbled across Linda Berdoll’s and Pamela Aiden’s variations in bookstores. Online, it was Devon’s modern I Thank You, No that flipped a switch in me and made me start wondering about all the unwritten possibilities in P&P.

I see that you were a Journalism major.  Prior to writing Austen-inspired novels, did you work as a reporter?
I have degrees in journalism and history, and was set to do graduate work on Russian diplomatic history when serendipity struck and an internship in London pushed me to change course and work in publishing. I’d written, edited, and ghostwritten for magazine and book publishers for three decades before trying my hand at Austen-inspired novels. Other than the stories I wrote for my kids, my Austen stories were the first fiction I’d written since college.

Can you tell us about your favorite reporting assignment of all time?
Most of my work has been in business reporting, and focused on the global restaurant and hospitality sectors. I took a hiatus while my kids were little, but it’s been nice to be able to travel again. Recent high points would definitely include a week in Paris talking to hoteliers and checking out innovative brasseries, and a trip to Shanghai to see how American restaurant chains are competing with local Chinese chains. I’d say the most satisfying assignment was early in my career, reporting on a leopard kept in a small enclosure in a Chicago pet store; the story helped secure the cat’s release to a wild animal sanctuary.

Other than writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Between working, writing (and reading) Austen-inspired novels, and working with other writers on their own stories, my spare time is scarce. I am easily amused with a book or a good movie, a trip to a museum or the ballpark. Fortunately, I planted a lot of perennials years ago so I can neglect my mostly mature gardens and sit outside and enjoy nature with my family and friends and pets. We live by Lake Michigan, and no matter the season, I like to hang out by the water.

From your last novel, I can tell that you love comedy. Who is your favorite Austen character?  And do you have a favorite Austen character you like to torture?
I adore getting inside Darcy’s head, trying to fill in his shadings and the little mannerisms and personality quirks which canon Elizabeth was clearly noticing and usually misinterpreting. He prefers a certain type of person around him—the cheerful Bingley and sturdy, jesting Colonel—and I like to peel away and imagine what they like about him. I dislike writing Wickham and prefer to allude to and make fun of him through others. When my daughter was young and played with Barbies, she always hung her Ken doll from her bedpost to punish him for stealing hairbrushes and for generally being a stupid boy. I tend to do the same to poor Mr. Collins. He can be made even more ridiculous than Jane Austen herself intended. I’ve tortured Collins in a lot of stories, but am trying to reform myself. Pinky swear.

How did your love for comedic writing begin?  
Roald Dahl and my older sister’s MAD magazines probably started things when I was eight or nine, and provided me with a somewhat dark, absurd, and quirky sense of humor. I don’t read comedic novels, but satiric writing in magazines like The New Yorker or the late, great Spy! has always grabbed me, as do Hollywood’s smartly written screwball comedies.

Mendacity....  Bingley might tease you for using a 4-syllable word in your title and think you resembled Mr. Darcy.  However, the use of this word took me back to Tennessee Williams and the character of Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  What was your inspiration for your book's title?  Did Tennessee Williams have anything to do with it?
Ha. No, though “mendacity” is indeed a great word for writers in the Southern gothic genre and Lord Matlock is a good (and nicer) stand-in for Big Daddy. I love alliteration, and the original title was The Grieving Groom & the Gleeful Gossip, but that became the subtitle pretty quickly when I decided to play off P&P with M&M.

What was your inspiration for this novel?
Though clearly there’s a nod or three to Monty Python, the story actually grew out of a multi-part short story I wrote years ago with a friend about Darcy seen through Bingley’s eyes: The Most Interesting Man in the World. I have a more modern voice than used in most Regencies (though my amazing editor Gail Warner ensured that all words are Regency-era, she did allow me use of “rumpity-pumpity”) and I like to tweak certain characters (especially Anne and Kitty) and see how that affects D&E. I just took it further here.

Do you have a favorite character in M&M?
Kitty and Anne are probably my favorites. They both “find” themselves, so to speak, and are self-aware of their changes and perceptive about other people. And, they are happy with their ultimate choices. But I love the Colonel too, even with the impressive mustache.

Are you currently writing anything new you wish to tell us about?
In the Austen universe, I’m finishing up a new modern set in the Midwest, and have about five chapters finished on a more somber Regency. Of course, it will end up with some funny lines; I love to write banter and if it’s a P&P variation, there must be some slyly clever banter between D&E. But it isn’t a comedy, at least so far.

Anything else you would like to share with the readers here at Darcyholic Diversions?

Thank you all for reading Jane Austen, and supporting Jane Austen variations, historical and fanfic websites, and blogs such as this one. And a huge thank you to Barbara, for hosting me here and taking the time to craft such interesting questions! She really made me think!

Mendacity & Mourning
By J. L. Ashton
Book Blurb:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a gossip in possession of misheard tales and desirous of both a good wife and an eager audience need only descend upon the sitting rooms of a small country town in order to find satisfaction. And with a push from Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins sets alight a series of misunderstandings, rumours, and lies that create obstacles to a romance between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.

This slightly unhinged romantic comedy follows Darcy as he sets off to find himself a wife and instead finds himself pulled into the mire of his aunt’s machinations and his own fascination with Elizabeth, whom he believes betrothed to another. As Meryton judges him the grieving groom of Anne de Bourgh and a caddish dallier with the hearts of others, Darcy must ferret out the truth behind his cousin’s disappearance, protect his sister from the fretful fate of all Fitzwilliam females, and, most importantly, win Elizabeth’s heart.

Author Bio:

Jan Ashton didn’t meet Jane Austen until she was in her late teens, but in a happy coincidence, she shares a similarity of name with the author and celebrates her birthday on the same day Pride & Prejudice was first published. Sadly, she’s yet to find any Darcy and Elizabeth candles on her cake, but she does own the action figures.

Like so many Austen fans, Jan was an early and avid reader with a vivid imagination and a well-used library card. Her family’s frequent moves around the U.S and abroad encouraged her to think of books and their authors as reliable friends. It took a history degree and another decade or two for her to start imagining variations on Pride & Prejudice, and another decade—filled with career, marriage, kids, and a menagerie of pets—to start writing them. Today, in between writing Austen variations, Jan lives in the Chicago area, eats out far too often with her own Mr. Darcy, and enjoys membership in the local and national chapters of the Jane Austen Society of North America. 

Mendacity & Mourning is her second book with Meryton Press. She published A Searing Acquaintance in 2016.

Contact Info: (Link is embedded in the name)

Buy Links:

In Case You Have Missed Previous Posts Along Jan’s Blog Tour Here is the
Blog Tour Schedule:

06/19   Babblings of a Bookworm; Vignette, GA
06/20   My Jane Austen Book Club; Author/Character Interview, GA
06/21   Half Agony, Half Hope; Review, Excerpt
06/22   From Pemberley to Milton; Guest Post, Excerpt, GA
06/23   More Agreeably Engaged; Vignette, GA
06/24   Just Jane 1813; Review, GA
06/25   Margie’s Must Reads; Guest Post, GA
06/26   Of Pens and Pages; Review, Excerpt, GA
06/27   Tomorrow is Another Day; Review, GA
06/28   Austenesque Reviews; Vignette, GA
06/29   My Vices and Weaknesses; Character Interview, GA
07/01   Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, GA
07/02   Laughing With Lizzie; Vignette, Excerpt, GA
07/03   Diary of an Eccentric; Review

Terms and Conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented (which will be verified). If an entrant does not do so, that entry will be disqualified. Remember: Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries.
A winner may win ONLY 1 (ONE) eBook of Mendacity & Mourning by J. L. Ashton. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Take a Dash of Pride & Prejudice, Sprinkle with Dr. Who & Fold in a Touch of C. S. Lewis

Take a Dash of Pride & Prejudice, Sprinkle with Dr. Who & Fold in a Touch of C. S. Lewis 

An Interview with Don Jacobson

by Barbara Tiller Cole
BTCole: I am very happy to have Don Jacobsen visiting us today at Darcyholic Diversions.  I have really enjoyed getting a chance to meet Don, and have a chance to read the first two in his series highly creative Austenesque series!  I look forward to reading more down the road!  I don't know if I would have read them if I hadn't been asked to be a part of this blog tour and what a waste that would have been!  His love of history and reading shines through in this very creative Jane Austen inspired series!  Be sure to read to the end to find out about give aways!  
And with that I would like to turn to Don and get this interview started...
BTCole:  Don, tell us a little bit about how and when you first discovered any of Jane Austen's works.

Don:  Can I plead that the mists of time obscure my hindsight? Actually, I have followed Austen since at least the early 90s and am a huge fan of the video adaptations!  I think it was ‘The Jane Austen Book Club’ that really caught my attention. It was at this pint that I realized that the books had layers of meaning. Then I went out and purchased a copy of ‘Mansfield Park.’ It was and still remains my favorite…particularly because of the social commentary that floats just beneath the surface.

BTCole:  I am always so excited when I discover another male writer of Jane Austen inspired literature.  Was it Austen love at first site?  Or did you read one of the novels and come back to it at some point?

Don:  This is sort of an interesting question. It does seem that male writers of JAFF are a rare breed…just as there are not female writers of Napoleonic sea sagas.

I do not think I had ever read romance novels. I may have picked up on of my mom’s Jacqueline Susan paperbacks when I had nothing else to read (one of her favorite stories was about the time she discovered an eight-year-old me reading the dictionary because ‘I read all the books I brought home from the library.’).

However, as I have been teaching history and research writing for over 15 years, I came across one of the most important pieces of writing of the 20th Century (after watching ‘The Hours”). That was Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs. Dalloway’…probably the best novel of the 20th Century. That led me to a work I now assign to both my writing classes as well as my Western Civ II classes—‘A Room of One’s Own’—likewise by Woolf.

I step past the discussion of women writing fiction. I focus on another point of hers—Colridge’s ‘androgynous mind’—which she uses to explore how writing man-womanly or woman-manly allows the author to express human emotion in a non-gendered manner. A brilliant and powerful assertion.

Consider my opening point in this response…why should there not be a hundred women writing Napoleonic sea sagas…or spy novels? Why should there not be a hundred men writing Jane Austen Fan Fiction? Oddly enough, while novels were seen as not ‘serious’ writing in the Regency, we need to recall that one of Ms Austen’s biggest fans was the most important man in the kingdom!

If the writing is honest and does not reflect either the male ego or the female ego in its structure, can it not transcend biases and reach an even broader audience? I found Austen’s original stories to resonate as truthful examinations of human behavior. It was her truthfulness that spurred me forward to try to offer my own variations on her efforts.

BTCole: Was it one of Jane Austen's novels or one of the Austen movie adaptations that really began your love affair?  (If your answer is just for instance 'Pride and Prejudice' you can skip this question.  This question is primarily for those authors who have an interesting story about how they found this genre.)

Don: It was my daughter gifting me a Kindle in 2010 that got me going. I have always been a bookhound. Learning that Kindle Unlimited (the modern model of the Regency subscription library) could keep me reading for $10 a month, I was lost! I had always been a classic science fiction reader, but the modern writers offered little fulfillment. But, Kindle offered me the entire Canon for 99 cents. I figured…why not?

And that led me to ‘The Watsons.’ Somehow I found Ann Mychal’s ‘Emma and Elizabeth,’ and the rest is history. Suddenly my popular search term was “pride and prejudice variations.” I had honestly never realized that anyone would write a story about another author’s characters. 

BTCole:  I can tell by reading your latest novel that you are a lover of history. How did your love for history begin?

Don: I had fallen into science fiction in about fifth grade. There I was exposed to two large arc authors/collections…Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy which told a future/past history analog to the Roman Empire…but with the inclusion of psychohistory…and Robert A. Heinlein’s stories which examined a 6,000 year arc of history centered around the Wilson family (folks who were genetically predisposed to very long life).

The fact that there was an entire mythology and backstory running in the background of these stories hooked me. Then, of course, my next stop was J.R.R. Tolkein, an inventive writer who was a full-blown academic and turned that ability into the creation of an utterly logical world (Middle Earth) with a complete history (Silmarillion).

I found that human history was really nothing more than (or less than) the record of the greatest saga. So, I went to university and earned a degree in History…and followed it up with a Master’s in Modern European history. Using the tools I learned in the discipline have, I believe, made me a stronger writer.

BTCole:  I was intrigued by the influence of C. S. Lewis and Dr. Who on your writing.  Can you tell us about their influence in your life?

Don:  A lot of folks have keyed upon the Bennet Wardrobe and have said “Ah-hah. He is using a Wardrobe…” True. And it is true that C.S. Lewis used a Wardrobe. However, these two pieces of furniture differ utterly in function.

Lewis’ Wardrobe sent the children to another world…with no reference to time. It is clear that the deep need for these youngsters to escape from the horrors of their time, to find a solution to relieve their powerlessness in the face of the Blitz, led them to Narnia. The Narnia Wardrobe seems to have little power beyond its role as a portal between worlds.

The Bennet Wardrobe, built by the natural philosopher and renowned Restoration cabinet-maker Grinling Gibbons, is a very active force in the transport of those of the Bennet bloodline. The Wardrobe is deeply connected with the currents of the universe reaching beyond the traditional three dimensions and delving into not only the realms of time, but also of Original Intent. The Bennet Wardrobe sends Bennets to the where/when that will offer them the best opportunity to learn that which they need to realize their destinies.

Same holds for the TARDIS. Dr. Who (in whichever incarnation you prefer) controls exactly where and when the trip goes—past, present or future.

The Bennet Wardrobe can only transport those of the Bennet genome to a future iteration of the Wardrobe. No travel to the past—except for that Bennet to return to the immediate present.

BTCole: How did the inspiration come to you to do this mash-up all three?

Don:  Not necessarily a mash-up…but, I did seek to place the Bennet Wardrobe within the context of many forms of British magical transport. And, I decided to treat them as real.

You see, I subscribe to the idea that the act of imagining characters  brings them into reality. I follow Robert A. Heinlein who believed in…”World as Myth" — the idea that universes are created by the act of imagining them, so that all fictional worlds are in fact real and all real worlds are figments of fictional figures' fancy…”[i] For instance, in Chapter XXIII of ‘The Exile,’ Holmes (himself being treated as real within the Bennet Wardrobe universe) refers to Pride & Prejudice as if it is a nonfiction book.

Thus, The Bennet Wardrobe, the Narnia wardrobe, The King’s Roads, the TARDIS, and the flue network do exist because their universes have been created through their authors’ imaginations.

BTCole:  Is there a particular reason that you chose to send Kitty to the particular time frame that you use in this particular story?

Don:  I imagined Kitty being told by Mr. Bennet that her future life was going to revolve around a particularly austere seminary in Cornwall. Then, she would react as a teenager might…by throwing a tantrum. In the process, she was thinking/feeling ‘Anywhere but Cornwall. Anywhere but here. I wish that everybody plaguing me would just leave me alone!’ A fist slam against the front of the Wardrobe and “a thousand bees buzzed...and the pressure built.”

Now, the question you did not ask was ‘why Kitty?’ The answer rests in my attraction to the side characters.  The Bennet Wardrobe Series is an alternative history in the Pride & Prejudice Universe. While the lead characters are familiar to all but only as secondary personalities, I have endeavored to provide each of them (Mary, Kitty, Lydia, and Thomas) with an opportunity to grow into three-dimensional persons, although not necessarily in the Regency.  If they were shaped or stifled by the conventions of the period, the time-traveling powers of The Wardrobe helped solve their problems, make penance, and learn lessons by giving them a chance to escape that time frame, if only for a brief, life-changing interlude.

BTCole:  I know that this is your second in a series of 'time traveling tales'.  How many do you plan for your series?  What is the next one going to be?

Don:  Here is the entire series along with potential publication dates:

The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey (2016)

The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque (2017)

The Exile (pt. 2): The Countess Visits Longbourn (2017 proj.)

The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and A Father’s Lament (2018)

The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and A Soldier’s Portion (2018-19)

The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy (2019)

BTCole: Are you currently writing anything new you wish to tell us about?

Don: I have been busy finalizing publication on ‘The Exile’ and working on the blog tour.  However, by the end of June, I plan to go back into writing a novella that is within the Bennet Wardrobe universe which will offer a couple of twists: “The Darcys Meet Frankenstein.” Then there is a Christmas story which fits between the end of a work I am considering (“The Education of Caroline Bingley”) and Book Five in The Keeper. I hope to have “A Thornhill Christmas” released by the holidays. And, then I will also be writing Part 2 of ‘The Exile.’

BTCole:Anything else you would like to share with the readers here at Darcyholic Diversions?  
Don:  Yes, I thought I might share an exerpt of the book with your readers...

Chapter VII

Darcy House, August 21, 1886

The idea that she was to greet guests by Maddie’s side unnerved Kitty. Who was she—silly Kitty Bennet of Longbourn—to stand next to the grande dame of the Bennet/Darcy clan? She craved the support and cover of her missing sisters now more than at any other time in the past four months.

Tears welled up in her large eyes as she stared at Lizzy’s doppelganger. While she had wept over Mama and Papa’s grave, she had never really felt the dams holding back lifelong fears and sadness crack in the slightest. Now, however, this loving silver-haired woman with deep chocolate brown eyes had put paid to years of invisibility and criticism as well as her reserve with a simple statement of regard; for was not the request to stand to the left of the hostess at a society ball nothing less than a supreme recognition of worthiness? The frightened little girl inside the teenaged Catherine Marie Bennet…the wee child who had cowered behind nervous coughing and slavish following of Lydia…now clawed her way to the surface. Her need to be loved had been unleashed by a simple act of caring.

Her head drooped. Great shuddering sobs shook her shoulders. Fat tears dripped from her eyes.  Her wails, moans really, started low in her belly and were only broken in their ascent to her throat by powerful gasps as her lungs fought for the air she needed to avoid falling to the floor in a dead faint.

The sudden transition from seeming calm to quivering distraction momentarily stunned Madelyn, freezing her in her seat. Then, in an instant, she flew across the narrow gap separating them, nearly upsetting the table in between. Kneeling next to the girl and ignoring the seven decades in her joints, Maddie pulled Kitty’s head to her breast and began stroking her corn silk hair.

“There…there, my darling girl,” crooned the matriarch, recalling when she soothed her own daughters suffering from what at the time seemed to be terminal heartbreak, “All will be well. You are not alone. I am here. We are all here.”

Kitty calmed somewhat, but continued to weep. Then there was a minutes-long silence throughout which her body periodically shook with paroxysms of emotion bolstered by renewed sobs.  After a while, even these subsided.  

Maddie sensed that she could release the girl and did so, allowing Kitty to compose herself on her own terms. After pressing her handkerchief on Kitty, she pushed herself from her knees and stepped back to her seat.

Her nose and eyes reddened from her crying fit, Kitty sat slightly slumped in her own chair. She stared at her niece over the cloth square she held tightly in her fist that was planted firmly against clamped lips. She audibly inhaled and then sighed out her exhaled breaths as she sought to further calm herself. Another minute passed during which Maddie, brows knit together, calmly regarded her. Then Kitty took one last deep breath, straightened in her seat and began to exorcise her demons.

Meeting Maddie’s gaze, she began in a little voice, “I do not know if I am sad because of what I have left behind or worried about what is in store for me.

“Oh, Aunt Maddie, if I could be certain that I would have a future in that world, I would leap into the Wardrobe and fly back there right now. But nothing would change. I still would be ignored by Papa for my silliness, hectored by Mama for coughing, and reminded of Lydia’s darling Wickham.

“So, that there/then offers nothing better than this here/now…and it may be worse.”

She paused and began nervously to twist the handkerchief in her hands.

She ventured forward, “I do not know what Lizzy may have told you of our family’s history…of how Mama became more and more upset and worried after each girl child she bore.

“Lizzy always had Jane and Papa to protect her from the worst of Mama’s fits of nerves.  Sad Mary sought comfort in the musty leaves of Fordyce or in pounding the pianoforte so poorly that nobody would come near her. Papa disappeared into the bookroom at Longbourn or went shooting or visited tenants: anything to avoid Mama’s exclamations.

“Lydia was always Mama’s favorite. She could do no wrong bad enough to earn Mama’s disapprobation.

“I can hear Mama even now. ‘Kitty, do let Lydia have that ribbon. How is she to attract an officer without looking her best?’ or ‘Now Kitty, you know that Lydia is far prettier than you. She must have the new gown…or bonnet…or gloves.’ Oh, if I could erase that voice!”

Anger made Kitty’s china blue eyes darken and flash. Her voice became stronger.

“Lydia always came first. One pout or whine and she got whatever she wanted.

 “Then there was Jane. She sat in the middle of the storm…calm and serene. And why not? There was never, never, a harsh word directed at her. She could sit there and be the perfect lady: placid with never an eyelash out of place. Jane never had to put herself forward because she so clearly stood out from the rest of the babbling, bickering Bennets.

“Mary…poor Mary…Mama could not keep from picking at her about her looks…her voice…her hair…her choice of reading material…her lack of accomplishments. Is it any wonder that she excluded herself from our family in so many ways?

“As for me, being much closer in age to Lydia than Jane, I was more often exiled in the nursery with Lydia while the older girls got to play with the Lucases. But outside of being tasked by Mama to watch Lydie, I was usually ignored.

“Lizzy, at least, was noticed enough to be frequently scolded. I am convinced she took perverse pleasure in acting hoydenish just to aggravate Mama, although I doubt if she refused Mr…well, you know who…just to upset Mama’s applecart. Lizzy always said she would marry only for love, but I am sure that she would have had to drink much of Mama’s special restorative to accept that odious man.”

Kitty threw a watery smile Maddie’s way.

“Of course, she had to refuse Hunsford or she would never have been in a position to accept Pemberley.”

Madelyn chuckled as Kitty’s black mood seemed to lift a bit.

“I can assure you that my children and grandchildren are thankful for my Mama’s high standards.

“I cannot imagine your life inside that tempest that was the Longbourn sitting room. What I can tell you is that every one of your sisters became remarkable women as they grew up.

“Mary and Lydia probably became the most famous of the Bennet sisters.

“You cannot look out your window today without seeing the impact Aunt Mary and her husband Edward Benton had on Great Britain.  Abolition, the Factory Acts, the Reform Acts and countless other causes are the handiwork of that incredible duo.

“And, if you chose to go University, you will now be able to attend Somerville Hall at Oxford.[ii] That was a project close to Aunt Mary’s heart, but it was Lydia’s dear friend, Lady Martha Campbell, a teacher herself, who was the true driving force behind advanced education for women.

“Of course Aunt Lydia, as the Countess of Matlock, stood astride Victorian society. However, she is also beloved by all the unfortunate women who gave their husbands to the expansion of Empire.  Her unflagging advocacy for war widows and their children began shortly after Waterloo and continued to her dying day.

“Aunt Jane was happiest when she was in the precincts of Thornhill with her husband, Mr. Bingley, and their children. She was supremely content to be known as mother and wife. Note that I did not say ‘only a mother and wife.’

“My Aunt Jane was the one every Bennet, Darcy, Fitzwilliam and Benton child would run to for solace. In fact, my Mama and Aunt Lydia would chide Aunt Jane that she would have been happier to claim as her those extra ten children who chased after her seven throughout Thornhill’s halls during the summer months,” Madelyn said before a somber look crossed her face and she fell silent.

Only one generation separated Kitty from Maddie.  Unlike with Lady Elaine Fitzwilliam, Henry’s mother, she could speak of things Bennet with this elderly lady, her niece.

“I noticed how your story did not reach Lizzy and Mr. Darcy before you became sad.

“The last time I saw Lizzy was just after her wedding breakfast. All I know of her life after marrying Mr. Darcy is what I have seen in the family history at the Trust and a letter from my sisters dated in 1836,” Kitty commented.

Madelyn started. Her eyes took on a faraway look as she replied, “Yes, 1836. That was the year Mama left us. Papa was never the same man after that.”

Now it was Kitty’s turn to be the healer. She reached across the table and grasped the wrinkled hand that rested upon Mrs. Johnson’s knee.

She prompted Maddie saying, “Tell me about Lizzy and Mr. Darcy. What were they like?”

Madelyn looked away from those intense blue eyes as they bored deeply into her soul.

What of Papa and Mama’s love? It was the stuff of legend, so strong that after Mama was gone, Papa never really smiled again.

Oh, he could be happy as when his grandchildren would circle his long legs begging to be lifted ever so high. But he was neither deeply joyful nor contented. He came the closest when he would sit with Aunt Jane and Uncle Charles. Then Mama was only a shade away. Of all of those of his generation, maybe Mrs. Johnson offered him the greatest comfort because she gave nothing but quiet companionship having lost such as he had.

“What I can say,” she replied sadly, “is that theirs was the truest love…the Greeks call it agape. A stone of the highest clarity could not have been more beautiful as when Mama and Papa shared a quiet moment watching the sun set over the Peaks. They found their pleasure in stolen moments.

“They were two halves of the same whole, thoroughly attuned to one another’s thoughts. Such a universal love could not be extinguished.

“Many were amazed that my father survived for nearly twenty years without her—just five fewer than their marriage—before he, too, left us.”

With that she rose from her seat and smoothed her gown with both hands.  Shaking herself as if to dust off the memories, she closed with a pronouncement that left Kitty puzzled.

“My faith tells me I will see my Thomas again. But I will have no certainty of that until the last moment when I let go and pass through the final veil. As for my parents, I have no doubt that they will be together again in this world and the next.”

[ii] In 1879, Somerville Hall was the first women’s college founded at Oxford University. The school was named after Scottish mathematician Mary Somerville.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somerville_College,_Oxford accessed 2/22/17.


Beware of What You Wish For

The Bennet Wardrobe may grant it!

Longbourn, December 1811. The day after Jane and Lizzy marry dawns especially cold for young Kitty Bennet. Called to Papa’s bookroom, she is faced with a resolute Mr. Bennet who intends to punish her complicity in her sister’s elopement. She will be sent packing to a seminary in far-off Cornwall.

She reacts like any teenager chafing under the “burden” of parental rules—she throws a tantrum. In her fury, she slams her hands against the doors of The Bennet Wardrobe.

Her heart’s desire?

I wish they were dead! Anywhere but Cornwall!  Anywhere but here!

As Lydia later said, “The Wardrobe has a unique sense of humor.”

London, May 1886.  Seventeen-year-old Catherine Marie Bennet tumbles out of The Wardrobe at Matlock House to come face-to-face with the austere Viscount Henry Fitzwilliam, a scion of the Five Families and one of the wealthiest men in the world. However, while their paths may have crossed that May morning, Henry still fights his feelings for another woman, lost to him nearly thirty years in his future.  And Miss Bennet must decide between exile to the remote wastelands of Cornwall or making a new life for herself in Victorian Britain and Belle Époque France.
ArkansasAustenFan reviews “The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey”:

What an amazing historical novel that has a paranormal Wardrobe, which transports members of the Bennet-blood-family into the future and back… Don Jacobson is a master storyteller weaving English history into the lives of the P&P characters in a unique way. This book is not light, fluffy reading. It is an intriguing novel that would make a wonderful mini series on BBC much like Downton Abby.
Author Bio:

Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years.  His output has ranged from news and features to advertising, television and radio.  His work has been nominated for Emmys and other awards.  He has previously published five books, all non-fiction.  In 2016, he published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe SeriesThe Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey, novel that grew from two earlier novellas. The Exile is the second volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series.  Other JAFF P&P Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” and “The Maid and The Footman.”

 Jacobson holds an advanced degree in History with a specialty in American Foreign Relations.  As a college instructor, Don teaches United States History, World History, the History of Western Civilization and Research Writing.

He is a member of JASNA-Puget Sound.  Likewise, Don is a member of the Austen Authors collective (see the internet, Facebook and Twitter).
            He lives in the Seattle, WA area with his wife and co-author, Pam, a woman Ms. Austen would have been hard-pressed to categorize, and their rather assertive four-and-twenty pound cat, Bear.  Besides thoroughly immersing himself in the JAFF world, Don also enjoys cooking; dining out, fine wine and well-aged scotch whiskey.  
His other passion is cycling.  Most days from April through October will find him “putting in the miles” around the Seattle area (yes there are hills).  He has ridden several “centuries” (100 mile days).  Don is especially proud that he successfully completed the AIDS Ride—Midwest (500 miles from Minneapolis to Chicago) and the Make-A-Wish Miracle Ride (300 miles from Traverse City, MI to Brooklyn, MI).
Contact Info: (Link is embedded in the name)


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Blog Tour Schedule:
06/15   From Pemberley to Milton; Guest Post, GA
06/16   My Jane Austen Book Club; Guest Post, Excerpt, GA
06/17   Just Jane 1813; Review, Excerpt, GA
06/18   Free Date
06/19   Diary of an Eccentric; Excerpt, GA
06/20   Savvy Verse and Wit; Guest Post, GA
06/21   Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, GA
06/22   My Vices and Weaknesses; Review, Excerpt, GA
06/23   Babblings of a Bookworm; Character Interview, GA
06/25   Free Date
06/26   Interests of a Jane Austen Girl; Review, Excerpt, GA
06/27   So little time…; Guest Post, GA
06/28   Laughing With Lizzie; Guest Post or Vignette, Excerpt, GA

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