Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Release of The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy

Reviews from bloggers are starting to come in for my new novel, The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy, which has its official release on January 1, 2011. First up is Jessica Hastings at Suite 101. Here is part of her review:

The Perfect Bride for Mr. DarcyOne of the best parts of this book is how the author plays up the sub-characters. People we don’t get to see a lot of in Pride and Prejudice suddenly have much larger roles. Lady Catherine De Bourgh’s sickly daughter for one. In Pride and Prejudice we see Anne De Bourgh has a sick woman supposed to marry Darcy as per her mother’s wishes, a quiet woman who can’t even hold up a conversation. Not so in The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy.

In this remake, Anne is actually a wonderful woman who cares very much for her cousin, Darcy, but only so far as she would for a brother. Anne’s detailed character in this novel plays a major role in Darcy and Lizzy’s uniting, and though she is still a sickly woman, Anne moves about the country side with a witty and wise mind and ends up with her own happily ever after.

Another character we learn more about is Georgiana Darcy, Will Darcy’s sister. We see more of her love for her brother, but readers also learn more about Georgiana as a woman. She was not so easily conned by Wickham as any Pride and Prejudice fan may have thought and she is more than intelligent and imaginative in her own right. Georgiana also plays a role in Darcy and Lizzy’s love life, thought not so much as Anne.

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy stays true to it’s original counterpart; it relates to the society goings on of the Regency Era, is more of a deep and meaningful romance read than a fun fluffy one, relates to the world as we know it as far as pride and prejudices are concerned and is recommended for romance lovers of ever age range.

To read all of Jessica's interview, please visit her site. In fact, it's a wonderful site, and you will want to visit it for that reason. Thanks, Jessica.

Next week, I will start my blog tour that will run for the month of January. There will be giveaways of my book, so I will be posting a schedule shortly. :)

Monday, December 27, 2010

New Grandson

Last night, my husband and I became grandparents for the second time, and so I will be taking time off to enjoy my new grandson, Skyler, and to help my daughter who delivered by C-section. See you in a few days. Mary

Saturday, December 25, 2010


I would like to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas. I hope you have a joy-filled day spent with friends and family.

After you have opened all your presents, cleared away the wrappings, eaten your Christmas dinner, and indulged in all the cookies, cakes, and pies you could possibly eat, you may still have time to enjoy these two videos:

King's College Cambridge Choral Group singing The Nativity

On a lighter note, a digital Nativity story

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Regifting Christmas Music

On NPR's All Things Considered, freelance classical music critic, Tom Manoff, presents some beautiful samples of music from Medieval Hungary, pre-Revolutionary War America, and King's College Cambridge. It is four minutes of beautiful music for the eve of Christmas Eve.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Mulled cider is optional.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Analysis of Sense and Sensibility

Screenwriter Alexandra Sokoloff analyzes "Act I" of Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility. There is so much more in the first 45 minutes of the movie than meets the eye. It is a fascinating look at this wonderful film. Thanks to Susan Kaye at Austen Authors for finding this.

Friday, December 17, 2010

#1 Favorite Christmas Movie

While You Were Sleeping#1 Christmas movie favorite: While You Were Sleeping. Summary from Wikipedia: Lucy Moderatz (Bullock) is a lonely fare collector on the Chicago elevated railway who has a secret crush on a handsome commuter named Peter Callaghan (Gallagher). On Christmas day, Lucy rescues Peter from an oncoming train after two muggers push him onto the tracks. Peter falls into a coma, and Lucy accompanies him to the hospital, where a nurse overhears her fantasizing aloud, "I was going to marry him." Misinterpreting her, the nurse tells Peter's family that Lucy is his fiancée, which makes Peter's family happy. At first, Lucy is too caught up in the panic to explain the truth, and afterward she is too embarrassed and afraid to hurt their feelings. With no family and few friends, Lucy becomes so captivated with the quirky Callaghans and their unconditional love for her that she cannot bring herself to hurt them by revealing that Peter doesn't even know her.

I love this movie. I saw it three times while it was in the theater and at least twice a year since its release on DVD. Sandra Bullock, a favorite of mine, and Bill Pullman, another favorite, are perfect together as Lucy Moderatz and Jack Callaghan, both displaying a talent for romantic comedy. But even better than this charming couple is the supporting cast, most especially Michael Rispoli as Joe Fusco, Jr., the deadbeat guido who wants to date Lucy and who impresses her by showing her his butt crack. There are also Ed Boyle and Micole Mercurio as Jack'sparents, Glynis Johns as Jack's grandmother, and Jack Warden as their Jewish neighbor, all of whom give stellar performances.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

Today is Jane Austen's big day! Sourcebooks is celebrating Jane's 235th birthday by providing free downloads of the following books:

Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan
Eliza’s Daughter by Joan Aiken
The Darcys & the Bingleys by Marsha Altman
Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll
What Would Jane Austen Do? by Laurie Brown
The Pemberley Chronicles by Rebecca Collins
The Other Mr. Darcy by Monica Fairview
Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange
Lydia Bennet’s Story by Jane Odiwe
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy by Abigail Reynolds

Also for one day only, Sourcebooks is offering free illustrated ebook editions of all six of Austen’s novels. These special editions include the full novels plus the legendary color illustrations of the Brock brothers originally created to accompany the books in 1898. Wow!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Three Excellent Posts at Austen Authors

If you are a fan of the 2005 Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, you will want to read Regina Jeffers' post on the film. One of the scenes I disliked in that movie, when Lizzy and Darcy end up dancing alone at the Netherfield ball, is explained beautifully, and now I get it.

Also, Diana Birchall had the opportunity to visit the set of The Jane Austen Book Club. You will not want to miss her post.

Last, but not least, Monica Fairview has a post on The Rebirth of Christmas: A Regency Web that shows Washington Irving's influence on modern Christmas and Charles Dickens. Visit Austen Authors today.

#2 The Muppet Christmas Carol

The Muppet Christmas CarolMy #2 favorite Christmas movie is The Muppet Christmas Carol starring Michael Caine. I thought Caine made a splendid Scrooge, and the muppets provided a perfect supporting case.

Favorite scenes: Opening shots: Michael Caine walking through London past all the good people he despises. He also passes a store called Micklewhite's. He was born Maurice Micklewhite in 1933.

When the muppet bookkeepers ask for additional coal for the office, Scrooge threatens them with the unemployment line, and then they all appear in tropical attire dancing to an Island Heatwave.

The ghosts of Christmas Past and Christmas Present. The first is a beautiful little girl spirit, and the second is an absentminded giant. "Come in and know me better."

The finale with all the muppets and Scrooge dining at Bob Cratchitt's house.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Free E-books from Sourcebooks on December 16 - One Day Only

From Leah Hultenschmidt of Sourcebooks:

December 16 is Jane Austen’s birthday and as the world’s leading Jane Austen publisher, Sourcebooks, is throwing a huge one-day-only birthday book bash. We will be offering special ebook pricing on ten of the best Austen-inspired novels – and what better pricing could there be than free?

#3 Miracle on 34th Street

Miracle on 34th Street [Blu-ray]This is simply a wonderful movie about restoring the Christmas spirit within us. It was filmed a little more than one year after the end of World War II, and the public wanted to see an uplifting movie where people's faith in the basic goodness of humanity is restored.

Every Thanksgiving Day, my family would watch this movie. That was the only day you could watch it because there was no such thing as videotaping or DVDs. If you missed it, you had to wait a whole year to see it again. Although I grew up ten miles off the George Washington Bridge, I never went to the parade. My husband, who grew up on Long Island, did, and he said he nearly froze his little keister off. The same thing happened in 1946, when they were filming most of the movie in New York (at the  real 1946 Macy's Day parade) and in the Long Island suburbs. Because of the freezing weather, in Port Washington, NY, the suburb where Susan finds her dream house, a neighbor opened her home to Maureen O'Hara and the crew so they could get warm.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Feast of Santa Lucia - December 11 in most Nordic countries

In the 1980s, my husband and I hosted an exchange student from Sweden, and he shared the custom of the Feast of Santa Lucia with us. Basically, it is light chasing away the dark.

From Wikipedia: St. Lucy/Lucia is one of few saints celebrated by the overwhelmingly Lutheran Scandinavian peoples (Danes, Swedes, Finns and Norwegians). The St. Lucy's Day celebrations retain many indigenous Germanic pagan, pre-Christian midwinter elements, and the practices associated with the day, predates the adoption of Christianity in Scandinavia, and is like much of Scandinavian folklore, and even religiosity today, based on the annual struggle between light and darkness.

The Nordic observation of St. Lucy is first attested in the Middle Ages, and continued after the Protestant Reformation in the 1520s and 1530s, although the modern celebration is only about 200 years old. It is likely that tradition owes its popularity in the Nordic countries to the extreme change in daylight hours between the seasons in this region.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Handel and the History of the Messiah

Handel Commemoration in
Westminster Abbey
In today's post, Sharon Lathan of Austen Austhors has a post on how Handel's Messiah came to be associated with the Christmas season. Scheduling concerts to raise money for charity is older than you may think, and one of the reasons why The Messiah is perfectly suited to the giving of alms that we associate with this time of year.

From Wikipedia:  Handel's  festival or ‘Commemoration’ took place in Westminster Abbey in 1784, to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of George Frideric Handel in 1759 and was organized by John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. The Concert of Ancient Music took the form of a series of concerts of Handel’s music, given in the Abbey by vast numbers of singers and instrumentalists.

The commemoration established a fashion for large-scale performances of Handel’s choral works throughout the nineteenth century and much of the twentieth. E.D. Mackerness in A Social History of English Music described it as "he most important single event in the history of English music."

#4 The Bells of St. Mary's

My #4 favorite movie for the Christmas holiday season is The Bells of St. Mary’s. According to Wikipedia, this is the 50th highest grossing moving of all time, which is saying a lot, when you think of all the blockbuster movies out there (think Harry Potter, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Die Hard, Eclipse, etc.) Here is a plot summary from Wikipedia:

The Bells of St. Mary'sFather O'Malley (Bing Crosby), the unconventional priest from Going My Way, is assigned to St. Mary's, a run-down inner-city Catholic school on the verge of being condemned. O'Malley feels the school should be closed and the children sent to another school with modern facilities, but the sisters feel that God will provide and put their hopes in Horace P. Bogardus, a businessman who has built a modern building next door to the school and which they hope he will donate to them. Father O'Malley and the dedicated but stubborn Sister Mary Benedict (Ingrid Bergman) have to work together to save the school, though their different views and methods often lead to good-natured disagreements. Towards the end, however, Sister Benedict contracts tuberculosis and is transferred to Arizona without being told the reason for her transfer, which she assumes is because of her disagreements with O'Malley.

I don’t know if you have to be Catholic or to have gone to a Catholic school to appreciate The Bells of St. Mary’s. But the school reminded me of St. Anne’s in Fair Lawn, New Jersey where I went to elementary school in the 1950s and 1960s. There are some differences. The kids would have been in uniforms, and there would have been about eight priests instead of one for a parish of that size. But the atmospherics are perfect.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New Author in Town

Charlotte Collins: A Continuation of Jane Austen's Pride and PrejudiceJennifer Becton has published her first novel, Charlotte Collins, which is getting rave reviews on Amazon and from bloggers such as Austenesque Reviews. She also has her own blog and was kind enough to mention my three books on today's post. I hope you will visit and say hello.

P.S. FYI, Jennifer is an equestrian, so if you love horses as much as Jennifer and my daughter Meg do check out her blog.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Austen Authors

I have a post on Austen Authors today about my novel, Anne Elliot, A New Beginning, and an excerpt. I hope you will have a look. :) Mary

#5 Trailer for A Christmas Story

Hit  "refresh" button if the video does not appear. :) Mary

#5 Holiday Movie - A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story starring Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, and Darren McGavin: Storyline from Ralphie, a young boy growing up in the '40's, dreams of owning a Red Rider BB gun. He sets out to convince the world this is the perfect gift. But along the way, he runs into opposition from his parents, his teacher, and even good 'ol Santa Claus himself.

A Christmas Story [Blu-ray]Now that we are in the top five of my holiday list, it’s time to get serious—or not. Coming in at #5 is A Christmas Story starring Ralphie. In order to be in the top five, the movie has to be rich in great lines, and this movie serves them up in heaping servings:

“You’ll shoot your eye out?” (referring to Ralphie’s request for a Red Ryder rifle for Christmas)

“It’s a major award?” (the leg lamp)

“Nobody move. We’ve blown a fuse.” (Ralphie’s father)”

“Ohhhhhhhh fudge! But I didn’t say fudge.” (earning Ralphie a bar of soap in his mouth)

Then there are the visuals: Santa pushing Ralphie down a slide, the lamp in the window, the neighbor’s dogs eating Christmas dinner, Ralphie in a bunny suit, Flick’s tongue stuck to a light pole, and on and on.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Remember Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor Memorial
Oahu, Hawaii
 Today is the 69th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. One of the ships sunk that day was the USS Arizona with the loss of 1,177 lives. The wreck still lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor and was established as a memorial to all those who died on December 7, 1941. The anchor of the USS Arizona is on display at Wesley Bolin Plaza near the State Capitol Building in Phoenix very near to where I live.
Anchor of USS Arizona

Monday, December 6, 2010

Favorite Holiday Picture #6

The Bishop's WifeThe Bishop's Wife (1947): Starring Loretta Young, Cary Grant, and David Niven.  Storyline from An Episcopal bishop, Henry Brougham, has been working for months on the plans for an elaborate new cathedral which he hopes will be paid for primarily by a wealthy, stubborn widow. He is losing sight of his family and of why he became a churchman in the first place. Enter Dudley, an angel sent to help him, but not necessarily in the way he would have hoped. With the exception of Henry, everyone loves Dudley, but as Christmas approaches, Henry begins to believe that Dudley is there to replace him, both at work and in his family's affections

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas at New College Oxford

If you are curious about what would have been served at a Christmas dinner at Oxford College in 1773, I just so happen to have a post today on Austen Authors that will give you a pretty good idea. But here is a sampling:

We had for dinner two fine cods boiled, with fried soles round them, and oyster sauce, a fine sirloin of beef roasted, some pease soup and an orange pudding, for the first course; for the second we had a lease of wild ducks roasted, a fore-quarter of lamb, and salad, and mince pies.

Since I don't eat fish, beef, duck, or lamb, I would have pretty much have been dining on salad and dessert. I might have had a bowl of pease soup, but was it nine days old?

For this bit of history, I consulted two friends, Tony Grant and Lynn Shepherd. Thank you. Now continue on to my favorite Holiday Movies post.

Top Ten Holiday Favorite Movies - #7 and #8

To continue my list of holiday favorites, coming in at #7 and #8 are:

The HolidayThe Holiday – Synopsis from Two women troubled with guy-problems swap homes in each other's countries (US and UK), where they each meet a local guy and fall in love.

This is a new one on my list (bumping The Shop Around the Corner into #11), but I loved every actor in this movie: Kate Winslet and Jack Black and Cameron Diaz and Jude Law play the leads, with Eli Wallach, Edward Burns, Rufus Sewell, and two adorable child actors filling out the cast. The locations in LA and England are charming, especially Kate Winslet’s little cottage, that makes you want to curl up in front of your own fire. 4.5 out 5 Stars

White Christmas (Anniversary Edition)White Christmas Synopsis from After leaving the Army after WWII, Bob Wallace and Phil Davis team up to become a top song-and-dance act. Davis plays matchmaker and introduces Wallace to a pair of beautiful sisters (Betty and Judy) who also have a song-and-dance act. When Betty and Judy travel to a Vermont lodge to perform a Christmas show, Wallace and Davis follow, only to find their former commander, General Waverly, is the lodge owner. A series of romantic mix-ups ensue as the performers try to help the general save his lodge.

I confess I am not as enamored by this movie as most (including my sister Carole who decorates her tree every year while watching it). But I like the WWII backstory and Vera Ellen and her dance partner perform an incredible routine that is reason enough to watch the movie. There is also Bing Crosby’s exceptional crooning that blends nicely with the vocals of Rosemary Clooney (George’s aunt). Besides, who wouldn’t want to stay in an inn in Vermont during the Christmas season, snow or no snow? 4 out of 5 Stars

Please feel free to comment or share your favorites. :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Beautiful Covers

Pemberley RanchMr. Darcy's SecretHave you noticed how beautiful the covers for Austen re-imaginings are? I am truly grateful for all the talented people in the Art Department at Sourcebooks who came up with my covers for Searching for Pemberley and The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy, and they have done an excellent job for other Sourcebooks authors. There are so many great covers to choose from, but here are a few of my favorites.

I love the sunlight streaming in on the book that Elizabeth Bennet is reading  on the cover on Jane Odiwe's Mr. Darcy's Secret, giving you the impression that you will be let in on whatever secret the master of Pemberley has. I also like her frilly dress. Very feminine.

The cover of Jack Caldwell's Pemberley Ranch lets you know that you are in for quite a ride. Caldwell has moved the story from Regency England to post Civil War Texas, Fort Worth specifically, and the story is full of varmints and cattle drives and two people who happen to fall in love. The back of the cover is as pretty as the front. So if you pick up this novel in the book store, be sure to check out the back jacket, or if you go to Amazon, click on "back cover" in the Search Inisde the Book feature.

Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A tale of a gentleman and an officerOne of the most intriguing covers is Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A Tale of a Gentleman and An Officer by Karen Wasylowki. It is the story of two cousins who have been life-long friends. "Then life gets complicated, with unrequited love and unresolved deeds from the past raising their ugly heads, and family difficulties threatening even the most steadfast friendship. Will these two strong personalities find a way to align, or will the vicissitudes of life and love tear them in different directions and destroy the family they have always worked together to protect?" (from Amazon) Look closely at the cover. Is Darcy walking away from his cousin or going in the other direction? I thought this was an exceptional cover, and I'm looking forward to reading the story.
What are your favorites? Old? New? Original? Republished? I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Top Ten Favorite Christmas Movies

'Tis the season to be jolly and to watch Christmas movies while decorating the tree or baking cookies or sitting in front of a wood fire (except in Arizona where we sit in front of faux wood fires). Over the next week or so, I will be sharing my top ten favorites of the season. Coming in at #9 and #10 are:

New In Town (Widescreen Edition)New in Town with Renee Zellwegger and Harry Connick, Jr. Synopsis (from A high-powered consultant in love with her upscale Miami lifestyle is sent to a middle of nowhere town in Minnesota to oversee the restructuring of a blue-collar manufacturing plant. After enduring a frosty reception from the locals, icy roads and freezing weather, she warms up to the small town's charm, and eventually finds herself being accepted by the community. When she is ordered to close down the plant and put the entire community out of work, she is forced to reconsider her goals and priorities and finds a way to save the town.

The story is predictable. You know exactly what is going to happen as soon as Renee's character arrives in town: The hard-nosed city girl will be charmed by the locals, especially Harry Connick. But it doesn't matter. Connick and Zellwegger light up the screen, and the supporting cast, especially J. K. Simmons and Siobhan Fallon, are wonderful. The movie was filmed in the winter in a sub-zero Winnepeg, and because of the conditions the cast and crew had to face, the backstory is as interesting as the movie. 4 out of 5 Stars

Love Actually (Widescreen Edition)Love Actually with a cast that includes Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Liam Neeson, and Bill Nighy. Snyopsis (from The characters are falling in love, falling out of love, some are with right people, some are with the wrong people, some are looking to have an affair, some are in the period of mourning; a capsule summary of reality. Love begins and love ends. At all ages and social levels, love is the theme. Romantic love and brotherly love is the hotchpotch through out the movie. Most of the movie is filmed in London during Christmas and the characters all end up at Heathrow airport on a very uplifting note.

The quality of the stories vary greatly, and some didn't work for me at all (but I fast forward through those). However, watching Hugh Grant (as Britain's PM) dance and alcoholic Bill Nighy trying to record a Christmas song are standouts. My favorite couple: Bill Nighy and his overworked and undervalued Guy Friday, Gregor Fisher. 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Please feel free to share your own favorites. :)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The King's Speech

Colin Firth is receiving excellent reviews for his performance in The King's Speech, the story of George VI, the father of Elizabeth II, and the man who sat on the throne during World War II, and his lifelong fight to overcome a debilitating stutter. Geoffrey Rush stars as the king's speech therapist and Helena Bonham Carter as the king's wife, Queen Elizabeth. Here is a link with Colin Firth's interview with Katie Couric. Thanks to Vic at Jane Austen's World for finding this.

At the end of the 30-minute interview, Firth briefly mentions that he is currently filming Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, one of my favorite PBS series. He plays Bill Haydon, who after the lead, George Smiley, is the most intriguing character in the book by John Le Carre. I'm looking forward to seeing both.

Monday, November 29, 2010

My Editor is on Austen Authors

I hope you will stop by Austen Authors today because Sharon Lathan's guest is Deb Werksman, the acquiring editor for Sourcebooks, and the editor to half the authors on the blog. Deb is a remarkable woman, and the person who gave me a my break into the world of publishing when she bought the rights to my self-published novel, Pemberley Remembered. With her help, PR became Searching for Pemberley. I would like to say right now that I think she is absolutely terrific, and I am  not just saying that because she is the one who decides whether my books get picked up by Sourcebooks or if I have to go the self-publishing route. Come on by Austen Authors today.

How Well Read Are You?

The BBC contends that most people will have read only six books from their list of 100. Do you agree? I got the list from Irena at This Miss Loves to Read. (It is meant to be posted on Facebook.)

•Copy this list.
•Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety.
•Italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read only an excerpt.
•Tag other book nerds.
•Highlight the ones that you have but haven't read.

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen (In my top five greatest books)
The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien (I don't read fantasy.)
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee (In my top five of greatest books)
The King James Bible
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Nineteen Eighty Four (1984) – George Orwell
His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman (Never heard of it. Should I be embarrassed by that admission?)
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens (I have read every one of Dickens' completed novels.)

Friday, November 26, 2010

My Dog Feels Left Out

I have been getting nothing but grief from our dog since I posted Lucy's picture last week in connection with my post, Kitten Overboard, at Austen Authors. So in order to keep the peace around the Simonsen house, I am posting a photo of Irish in her Halloween costume. (She was a butterfly or an angel.) Irish was discovered by my daughter, Meg, at the pound, and eventually made her way to my house where she is the adored pet of my daughter, Kate. Irish is a Whippet/German Shepherd mix and is as neurotic as they come and the worst guard dog ever. But we love her. So may I present Irish.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Please visit Austen Authors to see our terrific Thanksgiving Day banner designed by Abigail Reynolds. Also, you will find a note of thanksgiving from many of the Austen authors featuring my favorite Mr. Darcy. For me personally, I want to thank all of my readers and new friends who make all the many hours I spend writing short stories and novels worth it. You are a treasure. So wherever you are, Happy Turkey Day!

Here is my contribution to Austen Authors:

Like most Americans, I am thankful for friends and family and for reaping the benefits of the fruits of my labor, among those benefits are forming new friendships with people from around the world. I now correspond with a college student in Slovenia, a professor in Australia, a retired school teacher in England, and a reviewer from South Philly. OMG, I cannot fail to mention my 16-year old friend from England who writes to me entirely in text speak.:) My peers include a talented punster from Nova Scotia and a lady from the Deep South who has published her first novel in her seventies. I could go on and on. But suffice it to say that writing Jane Austen fan fiction and publishing Austen re-imaginings has opened the world to me in ways I could never have imagined, and for that I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Americans Have Been Big Eaters at Thanksgiving for a Long Time*

Proclamation of Thanksgiving:  In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth. By the President: Abraham Lincoln

Although a proclamation of Thanksgiving was issued in 1863 by President Lincoln, it was not until December 26, 1941 that President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill into law making the fourth Thursday of November a national day of Thanksgiving. But long before those dates, Americans had set aside a day in late November to give thanks for a multitude of blessings. The turkey and all the fixings, the visiting, and church attendance that we have come to associate with a modern Thanksgiving were already well established by the time of Federal Era in America, a time that corresponds to the Regency Era in England.

In 1834, the New Hampshire Patriot made note of the approaching holiday: A moderate rise in the price of molasses and spices—the increased demand for laces, ribbons, and dancing pumps—the hurrying of tailors, milliners, and mantua makers—frequent and important consultation of young gentlemen—whispering, flushed faces, and anxious looks among young ladies—and lastly, a string of proclamations announcing the 27th of November as a day of Thanksgiving in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont.”** Farmers harvested their pumpkins, gathered their eggs, fatted their pigs, and selected the best turkeys and chickens for slaughter, all in preparation for the biggest holiday of the year.

I recently completed a story at A Happy Assembly, Mr. Darcy in Old New York, where Mr. Darcy, Georgiana, and Mr. Bingley travel to Tarrytown in the Hudson River Valley to visit Charles Bingley’s Uncle Richard, who has been living in America for twenty-five years. Of course, Darcy falls in love with American, Elizabeth Bennet, but a lot of the history of the region, including the Thanksgiving traditions, is included. Here are three excerpts:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mining P&P Nuggets

Although I love to write Jane Austen fan fiction and novels with Austen tie-ins, I do not profess to be an Austen scholar. But because so many people out there DO know a lot about Austen and her works, I am learning something all the time. At present, I am reading the annotated edition of Pride and Prejudice, edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks. In her notes, Ms. Spacks states that when Mr. Darcy tells Bingley that "I am in no humour at present to give consequece to young ladies who are slighted by other men," there is more there than I thought. When Darcy declares that he will not give consequence to Elizabeth, what he is actually saying is that because of his rank in society, by dancing with Elizabeth, he would have elevated her status. So not only did Darcy insult Elizabeth by saying she is merely tolerable, he knowingly refused to confer status on her. No wonder she disliked him!

Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated EditionThe second nugget I mined was when Mrs. Bennet was recapping the night of the assembly for her husband. "Only think of that my dear; [Mr. Bingley] actually danced with [Jane] twice, and she was the only creature in the room that he asked a second time." Again, according to Ms. Spacks, when "a man asked a lady to dance, he would be expected to remain her partner for two dances. If he invited her a second time, they would share two more dances," i.e., four dances. That's a nice chunk of time to spend with one partner. So Jane truly was honored by Mr. Bingley's attentions.

Stay tuned for more nuggets or share your own. Mary

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Kitten Overboard

I have a post on Austen Authors today about an 18th Century kitten who fell overboard from one of those great wooden sailing ships. It's an amazing story. Better yet, it's true. And this provides me with an excuse to introduce you to the newest member of the Simonsen household, our cat, Lucy, who showed up at our house every day for a month. Her persistence paid off. I relented and now she runs the house.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What to wear to the Pemberley ball?

I can whip out a blog post in a fairly short amount of time, but yesterday I spent an hour looking for a dress to wear to the Pemberley ball. Being a woman of a certain age, I wanted to wear something elegant, but nothing that would steal the limelight away from the younger girls who had just come out. I chose the dress at left. What do you think? Did I choose well?