Monday, May 31, 2010

Taking a Break

My latest novel, A Wife for Mr. Darcy, will be released on July 1, 2010, if not sooner. I will be on a blog tour for the month of July and will be doing a lot of writing, and so I have decided to take a short break from my blog. When I return, I'll have some giveaways, so please do check back or follow me on Twitter and/or Facebook. Until next time...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Memorial Day - A Time to Remember

That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Delivered by President Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Picture is of the Vietnam Memorial on the Mall in the District of Columbia.

I hope everyone has an enjoyable Memorial Day holiday. I will not be posting until June 1st or 2nd, but when I do, I will be having a giveaway of something. Until then, stay safe.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Review of We Hear the Dead

I met author, Dianne Salerni, through an on-line independent authors group website and bought her self-published book, High Spirits. I was happy to learn that the publishing rights to High Spirits were purchased by the newly-formed Young Adult Division of Sourcebooks, one of only six authors to make the cut. This is an excellent novel, and if you like American history, it is a must read. Here is my review as posted on Amazon.

We Hear the Dead is the story of Maggie and Kate Fox from Hydesville, New York, early members of the Spiritualist movement. Their first foray into the realm of Spiritualism was accidental--a prank played upon an annoying relation. However, the contrivance was so successful "that they extended the prank to include parents and their neighbors until deception became their way of life." The two young sisters, barely in their teens and guided by their business savvy older sister, succeeded in convincing people that they were able to communicate with spirits who had passed to the other side by rapping noises created by the cracking sounds of their knees, ankles, and toes.

The Spiritualist movement grew in the fertile ground of Upstate New York which was known as the "burned-over district" because so many revivals had been held there in the 1820s. The girls, especially Kate, came to see their séances as a way of providing comfort to grieving relatives by reassuring them that their loved ones were at peace in the afterlife.

The story focuses on the middle sister, Maggie, who falls in love with the explorer, Elisha Kent Kane, and who is aware that the Fox sisters' claim to communicate with the dead is a hoax. Before leaving on a rescue mission to the Arctic, Kane extracts a pledge from Maggie that she must give up her rapping, dangling the promise of a wedding before her. She agrees and keeps her eyes on the horizon waiting for her explorer to return.

Dianne Salerni is masterful in recreating the environment that allowed Spiritualism to flourish. Her detailed portraits of the Fox sisters allow modern readers to understand how these young women were able to pull the wool over the eyes of so many, including author James Fenimore Cooper, editor Horace Greeley, and the tragic wife of President Franklin Pierce. Her understanding of the time in which the Fox sisters lived as well as in-depth knowledge of this slice of American history enables her to write this engrossing and compelling story. It is beautifully written, with each chapter pulling you in to the lives of the Fox sisters. We Hear the Dead has been categorized as Young Adult, but it is a story that any member of the family who is interested in American history can read and enjoy.

Visit Dianne's blog.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Results of Poll: Why we love Pride & Prejudice

There are still a few hours left in the poll, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that most people love P&P because of Austen's wit. No surprise there. How many of us who are writers would like to have the first line of our novel quoted by millions of people?

It's nearly a tie for second and third place. We love Lizzy and her spunk. I know that as a shy teenager, I always wanted to be like Lizzy, and say all of those clever things. As for Lizzy and Darcy being perfect for each other, it's true, isn't it? At least it's true by the end of the novel. Fourth place went to P&P being a classy novel, followed by the setting of the Regency era. Because of film and TV adaptations of Austen's works, I think the Regency Era plays a huge part in why Austen remains so popular. Many of us only know Austen through these modern incarnations, and who cannot love the dresses and hairstyles, to say nothing of how good Mr. Darcy (pick your Darcy) looks in tight breeches and Hessian boots?

To me, the only surprise is that Mr. Darcy being our dream guy scored so low. My conclusion is that without Lizzy, Mr. Darcy is just a handsome man of wealth, rank, and prestige. It is Lizzy who brings the gentleman to life. Any thoughts?

By the way, doesn't the Marvel comic cover look like Jennifer Ehle and Matthew Macfayden? I suppose that was intentional.

P.S. I received a comment that someone couldn't read the results on the graph at left, so here they are:

Austen's wit. 19 (73%)
It's about Lizzy. I admire her spunk. 11 (42%)
Darcy and Elizabeth are pefect for each other. 11 (42%)
It's a classy novel. 7 (26%)
It's the whole Regency scene: clothes, carriages, etc. 5 (19%)
It's about Darcy. He's my dream guy. 4 (15%)
It's about the uniqueness of the Bennet family. 1 (3%)
Caroline and Wickham are deliciously evil. 1 (3%)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Brooklyn Bridge Opens on May 24, 1883

After 14 years and 27 deaths, the Brooklyn Bridge, spanning the East River, was opened. It connected the cities of New York and Brooklyn for the first time in history. Thousands of residents of Brooklyn and Manhattan turned out to witness the dedication ceremony, which was presided over by President Chester A. Arthur and New York Governor, Grover Cleveland. Designed by the late John A. Roebling, the Brooklyn Bridge was the largest suspension bridge ever built to that date.

John Roebling, born in Germany in 1806, was a great pioneer in the design of steel suspension bridges. Roebling is credited with a major breakthrough in suspension-bridge technology: a web truss added to either side of the bridge roadway that greatly stabilized the structure. Using this model, Roebling successfully bridged the Niagara Gorge at Niagara Falls, New York, and the Ohio River at Cincinnati. On the basis of these achievements, New York State accepted Roebling's design for a bridge connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan--with a span of 1,595 feet--and appointed him chief engineer. It was to be the world's first steel suspension bridge.

Just before construction began in 1869, Roebling was fatally injured while taking a few final compass readings across the East River. A boat smashed the toes on one of his feet, and three weeks later he died of tetanus. He was the first of more than two dozen people who would die building his bridge. His 32-year-old son, Washington A. Roebling, took over as chief engineer. Roebling had worked with his father on several bridges and had helped design the Brooklyn Bridge.

The two granite foundations of the Brooklyn Bridge were built in timber caissons, or watertight chambers, sunk to depths of 44 feet on the Brooklyn side and 78 feet on the New York side. Compressed air pressurized the caissons, allowing underwater construction. At that time, little was known of the risks of working under such conditions, and more than a hundred workers suffered from cases of compression sickness, or the "bends," is caused by the appearance of nitrogen bubbles in the bloodstream that result from rapid decompression. Several died, and Washington Roebling himself became bedridden from the condition in 1872. Other workers died from collapses and a fire.

Roebling continued to direct construction operations from his home, and his wife, Emily, carried his instructions to the workers. In 1877, Washington and Emily moved into a home with a view of the bridge. Roebling's health gradually improved, but he remained partially paralyzed for the rest of his life. On May 24, 1883, Emily Roebling was given the first ride over the completed bridge, with a rooster, a symbol of victory, in her lap. Within 24 hours, an estimated 250,000 people walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, using a broad promenade above the roadway that John Roebling designed solely for the enjoyment of pedestrians.

The Brooklyn Bridge, with its unprecedented length and two stately towers, was dubbed the "eighth wonder of the world." The connection it provided between the massive population centers of Brooklyn and Manhattan changed the course of New York City forever. In 1898, the city of Brooklyn formally merged with New York City, Staten Island, and a few farm towns, forming Greater New York. (Information was taken from several on-line sources. The pictures are from Wikipedia.)

Two movies that feature the Brooklyn Bridge: the awesome Moonstruck with Cher and Nicholas Cage and the cute Kate and Leopold with Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman.

Also, on May 24, 1941, the German battleship, Bismarck, was sunk in the Atlantic, which provided a much needed victory to the British and raised British morale.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

This Day in History

From a tragic Jeanne d'Arc to a trend-setting British comedy, and it all happened on May 23rd.

1430 Joan of Arc is captured at Compiegne and sold to the British
1660 King Charles II returns from exile; sails from Scheveningen to England
1785 Benjamin Franklin announces his invention of bifocals
1865 Flag flown at full staff over White House, 1st time since Lincoln shot
1873 Canada's North West Mounted Police Force (RCMPF) forms
1908 Dirigible explodes over San Francisco Bay; 16 passengers fall, none die
1922 "Abie's Irish Rose" 1st of over 2,500 performances
1945 Winston Churchill resigns as British Prime Minister
1966 Beatles release "Paperback Writer"
1969 BBC orders 13 episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A New Poll about Pride and Prejudice

Most Austen fans became hooked on her writing because of Pride and Prejudice (or because of the various film and TV adaptations of it). But what do we find so attractive about a 200-year old novel? I hope you will enter my poll (at left). You may choose up to three answers. Leave any additional comments here.

Results from Giveaway Poll for Searching for Pemberley

Here are the results of my unscientific survey for best loved of Austen novels:
1st Place - Pride and Prejudice
2nd Place - Persuasion
3rd Place - Emma
4th Place - Sense and Sensibility
5th Place - Northanger Abbey
6th Place - Mansfield Park

Pride and Prejudice was the clear winner. Of 21 votes, only three people didn’t make P&P their #1 choice. Persuasion was a solid second-place finisher. Emma and Sense and Sensibility were pretty close for third and fourth places, but Emma won by a head. Northanger Abbey was not too far behind Emma and S&S, but Mansfield Park was dead last (like my Diamondbacks). Of the 14 people who had read Mansfield Park, eight voted it in last place.

Thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway. I’ll have another in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I am just back from a week's vacation in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, so I have a lot of catching up to do, but here's a good start:

Check out Laurel Ann's Austenprose Hey Bonham’s! That Bentley Edition of Jane Austen’s Novels you’re Auctioning is Worth More Than you Thought!

Austenesque Reviews has a review of Alexa Adams' debut novel, First Impressions, and a poll on your favorite Northanger Abbey characters.

Tony (aka Southerner) has an excellent post on London Calling on the Cobb at Lyme, which played an important role in Jane Austen's Persuasion. There are several pictures, including the one at left.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Austen Quip - Part 5

Emma: Frank Churchill has been living beyond his means, and the pianoforte he gave Jane Fairfax must be sold. Mr. Dixon buys it.

S&S: Lucy Steele celebrates the 4th anniversary of her secret engagement to Edward Ferrars without him. Her favorite song: “Alone Again--Naturally.”

NA: A gullible Amanda Thorpe gives out her personal info to a third party so that she might claim a £100 gift card from Wall's Mart. We all know what happened next.

NA: Amanda Thorpe, desperate to come up with a dowry, responds to a request from a Nigerian banker and gives him all her personal information. We all know what happened next.

Monday, May 10, 2010

70th Anniversary of German Invasion of France and the Low Countries

Today is the 70th anniversary of the German invasion of The Netherlands, Belgium, and France. In recognition of that anniversary, I have created a list of some of my favorite WWII novels. Most of these are pretty old, but they hold up well. For a comprehensive list, Serena of Savvy Verse and Wit and Anna of Diary of an Eccentric have done an excellent job of compiling book lists categorized by all major conflicts.

Eye of the Needle – Ken Follett (best WWII thriller IMHO)
The Eagle Has Landed – Jack Higgins
The Young Lions – Irwin Shaw
From Here to Eternity – James Jones
The Secret of Santo Vittorio – Robert Crichton
A Bell for Adano – John Hershey
Battle Cry – Leon Uris
Enigma – Robert Harris
Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison – Charles Shaw
A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute (I actually liked the TV mini-series better.)
Von Ryan’s Express – Mark Robson
Number the Stars (YA) - Lois Lowry
POWs at Chigger Lake (2010) - Jack Shakely

If you have any to add, please let me know. On a happier note, May 8th was the 65th anniversary of the Victory in Europe, and Tony of London Calling has terrific pictures. You really should check it out. I've seen thousands of WWII pictures, and several were new to me.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

And the Winner Is.......Ta Da

The winner of Searching for Pemberley is Suzan S, and here is the list of  her favorite Austen novels:

1) Pride and Prejudice; 2) Persuasion; 3) Northanger Abbey; 4) Sense and Sensibility; 5) Mansfield Park and Emma are tied for last of completed novels. And of course The Watsons; Sandition and Lady Susan I'm unsure if I really liked them. I love Anne Eliot however and feel she's a great heroine as well as Fanny Price.

Congratulations to Suzan and thanks to everyone who entered.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Things My Mother Taught Me

Pat M. from A Happy Assembly posted these on that site, and I just loved them.

My mother taught me TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE.
"If you're going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning."

2. My mother taught me RELIGION.
"You better pray that will come out of the carpet."

3. My mother taught me about TIME TRAVEL.
"If you don't straighten up, I'm going to knock you into the middle of next week!"

Friday, May 7, 2010

Jane Austen's World - 1806-1818

This started out as a series of posts of events that happened in the years ending in '10. If you want to read all the posts in one spot, click on "Jane Austen's World" in the sidebar.

Jane’s contemporaries in the arts between 1806 - 1818: Goethe, Byron, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Scott, Mary Shelley, The Grimm Brothers; Beethoven, Rossini, Haydn, Mozart; Canova (Magdalen at left owned by the Hermitage in St. Petersburgh), Goya, Turner, Constable, John Singleton Copley.

Military: Napoleon enters Berlin; Joseph Bonaparte is name King of Naples; Louis Bonaparte is named King of Holland; Napoleon annexes the Papal States. It sounds as if everything is going Napoleon’s way. However, in 1809, Arthur Wellesley defeats the French at Oporto and Talavera and is created the Duke of Wellington. The final showdown will be at Waterloo in six years. Inspires ABBA song.

Important industrial and scientific advances: British cotton industry employs 90,000 factory workers and 184,000 handloom weavers; Humphry Davy invents the miner’s safety lamp; British road surveyor John Macadam constructs roads of crushed stone; The Comet, Henry Bell’s steamship, operates on the Clyde River in Scotland; Beaufort wind scale is designed; Apothecaries Act forbids unqualified doctors to practice in Britain (but where do all the unqualified doctors go).

In 1807, the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade is passed in Parliament. It will be another 30 years before slavery itself is outlawed.

But while all this is going on, what has our dear Jane been doing.

1775 – Jane Austen is born at Steventon on December 16, the seventh child of Rev. George Austen and Cassandra Leigh.
1795 – Eleanor and Marianne is written in epistolary form.
1796 – First Impressions (later Pride and Prejudice) is finished.
1798 – Northanger Abbey is written.
1801 – The Austens move to Bath.
1805 – Austen writes The Watsons and Lady Susan.
1809 – The Austens move to Chawton.
1811 – Mansfield Park is begun. Sense and Sensibility published at Austen’s expense.
1813 – Pride and Prejudice is published.
1814 – Mansfield Park is published.
1815 – Emma is published with a dedication to the Prince of Wales.
1815-17 – Persuasion is written.
1816-17 – Jane works on Lady Susan and Sanditon.
1817 – Jane dies at Winchester and is buried in Winchester Cathedral.
1818 – Persuasion and Northanger Abbey are published posthumously with a biography written by her brother, Henry.
1869 - A Memoir of Jane Austen is published by her nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh, and reintroduces Jane to the literary world. A second edition was published in 1871 which includes previously unpublished Jane Austen writings.
1969 - One hundred years after the publication of A Memoir of Jane Austen,  Mary Lydon (aka, me) reads Pride and Prejudice in her senior high school English class. Forty years later, her first novel, Searching for Pemberley, is published by Sourcebooks.

Picture is of a first edition of Pride and Prejudice as displayed at Chatsworth House and owned by the Cavendish family, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mother's Day Giveaway of Searching for Pemberley

Searching for Pemberley
In honor of Mother's Day, I am giving away one copy of Searching for Pemberley. If you are a follower of my blog, your name will be entered twice. All you have to do is (1) list in order of preference your favorite Jane Austen books, (2) include an e-mail address, or (3) check back on Sunday, May 9, to see who won. You can reach me at or feel free to leave your comment below. Your entry must be dated before midnight on May 8. This is open to everyone in the whole wide world.

Here is my list of Austen's novels: P&P, Persuasion, Sense & Sensibility, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Mansfield Park.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Summer Reading - Two Austen Books

There are always new Austen books out, but these two caught my eye. Writing Jane Austen is reviewed at Austenprose and Captain Wentworth's Persuasion is reviewed at Austenesque Reviews. You may want to have a look.

May Day - Past and Present

Traditional English May Day rites and celebrations include Morris dancing, crowning a May Queen, and celebrations involving a Maypole (see picture at right). Much of this tradition derives from the pagan Anglo-Saxon customs held in May, then known as the Month of Three Milkings. Before the English Civil War, the working peasantry took part in morris dances (see pictures below), especially at Whitsun (aka, Pentecost). In 1600, the Shakespearean actor William Kempe, morris danced from London to Norwich, an event chronicled in his Nine Days Wonder. The Puritan government of Oliver Cromwell, a notorious party suppressed Whitsun Ales and other such festivities (like all of them). When the crown was restored by Charles II, a real party animal, the springtime festivals were restored. In particular, Whitsun Ales came to be celebrated on Whitsunday, as the date coincided with the birthday of Charles II.

In Oxford, it is traditional for May Morning revelers to gather below the Great Tower of Magdalen College at 6.00am to listen to the college choir sing traditional madrigals as a conclusion to the previous night’s celebrations. It is then thought to be traditional for some people to jump off Magdalen Bridge into the River Cherwell. In Durham, students of the University of Durham gather on Prebend’s Bridge to see the sunrise and enjoy festivities, folk music, dancing, madrigal singing and a barbecue breakfast.