Wednesday, May 25, 2011

JASNA Annual General Meeting in Fort Worth

I will be attending the Jane Austen Society of North America Annual General Meeting in Fort Worth from October 14-16. This is my first AGM, so I'm really excited. Here are the plenary speakers:

Joan Ray - Author of Jane Austen for Dummies
“Sense and Sensibility as Austen’s Problem Novel”
Friday October 14

Andrew Davies - Screenwriter of many Austen film adaptations
“Mr. Darcy’s Wet Shirt and Other Embarrassments: Some Pleasure and Pitfalls in Austen Adaptations”
Saturday October 15

Deirdre Le Faye - Author of Jane Austen, The World of Her Novels
David Selwyn - Austen scholar and Chairman of the Jane Austen Society
“Dynamic Duos: David and Deirdre & Sense and Sensibility”
Sunday October 16

In addition, I will be signing books on Sunday morning along with Austen Authors, Abigail Reynolds, Diana Birchall, and C. Allyn Pierson. Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose will be signing copies of her new book, Jane Austen Made Me Do It, a short-story collection, along with Carrie Bebris at a nearby Barnes and Noble.

Registration is now open, and since enrollment has been set at 600, if you are attending, you might want to get a move on it as 305 people have already signed up.

I hope that lots of my readers, friends, fans, etc. will be going. Let's do lunch. :) Mary

JASNA AGM Link for registration and more information

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

On This Day in History

Some pretty interesting stuff happened on May 24th:

Minuit and the Lenapes
1626 - Peter Minuit purchases Manhattan from a Lenape tribe.  Not a good deal for the Native Americans.

1798 - The Irish Rebellion of 1798 begins. Not a good thing for the Irish. The rebels were hunted down and hung and their dreams of independence dashed when the Act of Union was passed in 1803 incorporating Ireland into the United Kingdom. Not what they had in mind at all.

Morse sending his last telegram
1830 - The first revenue trains in the United States begin service on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad between Baltimore, Maryland and Ellicott's Mills, Maryland. I lived in Ellicott City for six years which is why this is so important.

Queen Victoria as a child
Yes, she was actually once a child.

1844 - Samuel Morse sends the message "What hath God wrought" (Numbers 23:23) from the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the United States Capitol to his assistant, Alfred Vail, in Baltimore to inaugurate the first telegraph line. If this subject is of interest to you, there is an excellent article on the last telegram Morse sent here.

1856 - Anti-slavery nutcase, John Brown, and his men murdered five slavery supporters at Pottawatomie Creek, Kansas.
1883 - The Brooklyn Bridge, an engineering masterpiece, opened to traffic after 14 years of construction.
If those events weren't enough, today is the birthday of Queen Victoria. The longest reigning monarch in British History was born in 1819. She ascended the throne in 1937 upon the death of her uncle, William IV. She would reign for 64 years. However, the current monarch, Elizabeth II, is closing in on her with 59 years. Upon Victoria's ascension, the Regency Era came to an end. Crinolines and hoops for the ladies would appear mid reign, and men's fashion called for facial hair (lots of facial hair). The clean, lean lines of the Regency Era were a thing of the past.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rare Jane Austen manuscript to go on sale

The Watsons
This really is a must read article from the Manchester Guardian's on-line site. It not only talks about the sale of a partial manuscript of Austen's work, The Watsons, but the road it traveled to get there.

An incredibly rare handwritten manuscript of an unfinished novel by Jane Austen – the only one that is still in private hands – is to appear at auction in London... The Watsons manuscript shows how Austen's other manuscripts must have looked. It also shines an interesting light on how she worked. Austen took a piece of paper, cut it in two and then folded over each half to make eight-page booklets. Then she would write, small neat handwriting leaving little room for corrections – of which there are many. "You can really see the mind at work with all the corrections and revisions," said Heaton.

The Watsons is a fragment, and it became even more fragmented upon leaving the author's hands. It is a glimpse into what can happen to even a highly-valued manuscript by those who know how to care for such things. I shall say no more. Very, very interesting.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Treaty of Amiens - Yes, you do care.

The first kiss in ten years - between
Britain and France
 On May 18, 1803, the United Kingdom revoked the Treaty of Amiens that had temporarily ended hostilities between the French Republic and the United Kingdom during the French Revolutionary Wars. Who cares, you ask? If you are a reader of Jane Austen Fan Fiction, then you care, and I shall explain.

The treaty was signed in the city of Amiens on 25 March 1802 by Joseph Bonaparte and the Marquis Cornwallis as a Definitive Treaty of Peace. Unfortunately, the “definitive treaty of peace” lasted a little more than a year. Those fourteen months provided the only period of peace between the two nations between 1793 and 1815, and that is what makes this treaty so important.

With all that fighting going on in Europe, our favorite Austen characters are all cooped up in Britain with few places to go, except Ireland (too poor) and Scandinavia (too cold.). But with the Treaty of Amiens, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Tilney have an opportunity to visit the Continent without fear of harm or internment. Using this window of opportunity, in my novels, I have been able to provide Darcy with the Grand Tour experience, albeit an abbreviated one, that would have been an important coming-of-age event for someone of Darcy’s rank.
Grand Tour - Late 18th Century

Once the treaty was revoked, Darcy would have had to scoot back to England rather quickly or risk internment in France as an enemy alien. This happened to several prominent Britons, including Fanny Burney’s husband, General Alexandre D'Arblay, an artillery officer who had been adjutant-general to Marquis de Lafayette, who should have known better, and Lord Elgin (he of the Elgin Marbles), who should have guessed.

So to answer your question: Why should we care about the Treaty of Amiens? Without this break in the action, Darcy would never have gone to Paris or traveled across France on his way to the Italian Peninsula, and “a man of sense and education, who has lived in the world” should not be denied those experiences.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mr. Darcy's Angel of Mercy in Paperback

Mr. Darcy's Angel of Mercy: A Romance of The Great War
Mr. Darcy's Angel of Mercy is now available in paperback on It is also available on Kindle and Nook,, but, finally, I have something for my readers who don't have an e-reader. Hurrah!

Here is a review of this novella by Gioia Recs:

Mary Simonsen’s story is a marvelous depiction of that era and how the war impacted everyone it touched. From the PTSD suffered by all involved, to the lack of marriageable men in England after the war, to society’s general behavior and often contradictory set of morals and expectations, the author manages to capture it all. Darcy and Elizabeth are both among the walking wounded in this story, just trying to keep breathing, while privately holding on to a brief moment of peace they each found during one of the blackest days of the war. I love the way they interact here. So much of canon is present in this story’s plot and characterizations, but there’s more to it than that. It’s a beautifully healing tale and it moved me to tears, even while leaving me grinning.

Please visit Gioia's blog for the complete review.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Slimming Down - From Epic to Novella

This post appeared on Austen Authors on Saturday.

As someone who has fought the battle of the bulge since I was about 30, a half of a lifetime ago, I was always thrilled when I got on the scale and the number was lower than it was the day before. Apparently, this is something that has been going on in my writing as well.
My first novel, Searching for Pemberley, published in December 2009, weighed in at 129,000 words. My second novel, The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy, was a much slimmer 95,000. A Wife for Mr. Darcy (to be released in July, 2011) came in at 90,000 while Mr. Darcy’s Bite (to be released in October, 2011) at 88,000. Anne Elliot, A New Beginning, is a very slim 72,000 words.  Like most weight loss programs, I shed the most words early on—between my first and second books, and then the words came off more slowly. For a novel-length story, I have reached a plateau of about 90,000, and I am perfectly fine with that weight, I mean that many words.

But as I continue to write, I find that my favorite length/weight is the novella, that is, a story between 20,000 to 50,000 words. (That’s my definition of a novella.) My two latest contributions to the realm of fiction are For All the Wrong Reasons and Mr. Darcy’s Angel of Mercy. Both weighing in at about 28,000 words. I happen to love this length. Because I’m not one for overly descriptive passages, preferring to leave details of room d├ęcor and clothing, even physical attributes, to the imagination of my readers, I can write a fully realized story in the novella format.

Does this mean I will no longer be writing full-length novels? No. In fact, I’ve already finished two novels, and they are in queue to be self-published later this year, and I am working on a third. But I must admit that I like my new slender novella look. I find it very flattering.
Do you have a favorite length story? Are you someone who wants a big fat book that will last you for days (that was Lonesome Dove for me) or are you a quick reader who prefers to finish a story in one or two sittings (that's how I like my mysteries)? I would love to hear from you.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

My Very Own Limerick

Thanks to Tony Grant, I have my own limerick:

There was a great writer called Mary
Who's stories are sometimes most scary
She likes Mr Darcy
All stuck up and arsy
That Austenesque scriber called Mary

I must publish my friend Mary's response to Tony's efforts:

"I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of limericks in driving away friendship" Lizzy said.

"I have been used to consider limericks as the FOOD of friendship," said Darcy.

"Of a fine, stout, healthy friendship it may. Everything nourishes what is strong already. But if it be only a slight, thin sort of inclination, I am convinced that one good limerick will starve it entirely away."

Fortunately, Tony and I have a fine, stout friendship. :)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Happy Birthday, Edward Lear!

Edward Lear's birthday was yesterday, but Blogger ate my post. Seriously! Blogger had digestive problems all day yesterday, causing much heartburn in the blogosphere. I am reposting because (1) I took the time to write it and (2) I don't have anything for today. :)

Happy Birthday to Edward Lear

Edward Lear (1812 - 1888) was an English artist, illustrator, author, and poet. He was famous for his nonsensical poems, especially limericks. If, as a child, you read a book of children’s poems, I can almost guarantee you that Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat was included.

They dined on mince and slices of quince.
Which they ate with a runcible* spoon.
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon, the moon.
They danced by the light of the moon.

A Limerick
There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said ‘It is just as I feared! -
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!’

How Pleasant To Know Mr. Lear

He reads but he cannot speak Spanish.
He cannot abide ginger-beer.
Ere the days of his pilgrimage vanish.
How pleasant to know Mr. Lear!

Yes, how pleasant to know Mr. Lear. Happy 199th birthday!

*Runcible – a word coined by Mr. Lear. It means a spoon with three short tines, aka, a spork.

A note about Blogger: Posting on Blogger can be a challenge, especially if you have lots of pictures. It puts extra spaces between paragraphs--or deletes them. It takes a picture that you want at the top of your post, and puts it at the bottom. This bothers me, but I shall tell you from personal experience that Blogger wins more times than it loses.

Monday, May 9, 2011

My Cover for A Wife for Mr. Darcy

This is my cover for A Wife for Mr. Darcy which has a release date of July 1, 2011. I hope you like it, and if you do please let me know. If you don't, remember silence is golden.

Of all my books, this is my favorite cover. Although I'm not sure what it has to do with Elizabeth Bennet or Regency England, I don't care. I like it.

P.S. It's available for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

To all those who nurture children, I wish you a Happy Mother's Day. There is a wonderful tribute to moms or mums on Austen Authors today. I hope you will visit.

The picture is of my mom, Hannah Mahady Lydon, taken in Washington, D. C. in 1942.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

South Riding - Episode One - A Review

South Riding
Substituting for Mary Simonsen is Miss Crankypants

I watched the first episode of South Riding last night. There is much to admire, especially the acting of Anna Maxwell Martin (also of North and South) and the Yorkshire scenery, but in my opinion, it really falls short. In the first place, it is highly predictable. I am not opposed to highly predictable dramas: boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back, but it doesn't work here because every scene is telegraphed. There are no surprises.

I also had a hard time with David Morrissey's character. He was angry right out of the gate, but way too angry. We soon learn the reasons, but he's so nasty that you are less sympathetic to his difficulties. And Anna's speech at her job interview regarding The Great War is ridiculous. She would never have gotten the job.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mr. Darcy's Angel of Mercy

I have a new novella available on Amazon Kindle, Mr. Darcy's Angel of Mercy. I am particularly fond of this story because I have a keen interest in the two world wars. It was this interest, along with learning more about my Irish ancestors, that got me started in penning novels in the first place.

Here is a description of Mr. Darcy's Angel of Mercy:

Two years after the conclusion of The Great War, those affected by the conflagration are still trying to put their lives back together, including Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. While Darcy continues to grapple with horrific memories, Elizabeth, who served as a Voluntary Aid Detachment, suppresses all recollections of her service in France. But Darcy suspects that there is one memory that the two share: a beautiful night spent in a hospital ward in France when Darcy was visited by an angel of mercy, an angel who might just possibly be Elizabeth Bennet.

I am working on getting the book up on Barnes and Noble as well as in a paperback version on Amazon, but this is a much longer process. I hope you will have a look. Thanks.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Celebrate Mother's Day - Buy a Book

In honor of Mother's Day, I have reduced the price of my self-published novels, Anne Elliot, A New Beginning, and The Second Date, Love Italian-American Style, as well as my novellas, For All the Wrong Reasons, and Mr. Darcy's Angel of Mercy to $2.99 for the remainder of the month of May on Amazon. I have also reduced the price on my short story, Elinor and Edward's Plans for Lucy Steele, to .99. Hope you all have a wonderful Mother's Day.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May Day Past and Present - A Repeat Performance

This post previously appeared on this blog.

Traditional English May Day rites and celebrations include Morris dancing, crowning a May Queen, and celebrations involving a Maypole (see picture at left). 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 picture 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 all work and no play Puritan government of Oliver Cromwell suppressed Whitsun Ales or anything else that would cause people to smile. With the restoration of Charles II, a man who knew the value of keeping his people happy since unhappy people had cut off his father's head, 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.