Thursday, October 1, 2015

That's All Folks - Blog-wise

Fifteen months ago, my main computer was attacked by malware. One of the results was that I was denied access to my blog. No matter what I did, Blogger would not recognize me as the owner of the blog on that computer. I spent hours in computer chat rooms trying to figure this out, with no luck. (Blogger was of absolutely no help, and there is no one to talk to.) The only computer it did recognize was a laptop that may have been the first laptop ever manufactured by Dell. It is sooooo slow. It takes about three minutes to load a picture, and it's as easy to maneuver as an aircraft carrier.

Things were not going well when, several months ago, Amazon notified its authors, for the benefit of said authors, that it was severing old links to book titles of a certain age (like me). Despite Amazon's assurance that their directions were easy to follow, I couldn't figure it out. To prove that I couldn't figure it out, you can look at my sidebar and see blank spaces where books should be.

I saw these two events as signs that it was time to sign off, at least as a blogger. If you are reading this post, bless you, because you are one of only a handful of people who have stuck with it despite months-long interruptions--without explanation I might add because I could not get on the blog.

I do have a Facebook page for Mary Lydon Simonsen; Mary Lydon Simonsen, Author; and for Patrick Shea Mysteries. I also have a website for my mysteries: Those pages are where I will post any information on new releases, blog posts for Austen Variations, etc.

I am closing out this blog with the notice that I will be releasing a prequel to Mr. Darcy's Bite on October 15 on Austen Variations. Parts of this novella previously appeared on Austen Variations. At the request of readers, I was asked to expand the story and turn it into an e-book, and I have done that. (While I was waiting for this picture to load, I made lunch. That will give you an idea of just how slow this computer is.) I truly appreciate all those who have followed this blog. Signing off, with gratitude, Mary

Mr. Darcy - Bitten is available on Kindle and Nook.

All my books can be found on Amazon's Author's page at this link.

Answered Prayers - The Third Short Story in the Pemberley Series by Mary Simonsen

Darcy and Elizabeth – Answered Prayers – Although four months have passed since Elizabeth Bennet’s rejection of his marriage proposal, Fitzwilliam Darcy has yet to come to grips with the idea of a future devoid of Elizabeth’s love and companionship. Riding through the rain to reach Pemberley, Darcy arrives at his home with his mood as gloomy as the weather. When he discovers that Elizabeth and her aunt and uncle are touring the gardens, Darcy decides to use the approaching storm as a way to keep Elizabeth at Pemberley. It is his last chance to convince Elizabeth that he is a man worthy of her affection. Will he succeed?
Answered Prayers is the third and final short story in what I am calling the “Pemberley series” because all three stories take place at Pemberley. You may ask, why Pemberley? The answer is simple: I just love how Jane Austen brings it all together in the gardens at Mr. Darcy’s Derbyshire estate.
By the time Darcy and Elizabeth arrive at Pemberley, they have had sufficient time to take a hard look at their own prejudices. In doing so, they realize that they have both fallen short. Elizabeth recognizes that she was too eager to think well of George Wickham and too quick to think ill of Mr. Darcy. But it is Darcy’s epiphany that allows the story to blossom. A self-centered, class-conscious man from England’s elite has fallen in love with the daughter of a gentleman farmer. What will the neighbors think! The wonder of it all is that Darcy doesn’t care! It is at Pemberley where our charming pair take their first steps toward reconciliation. By the time Elizabeth leaves the manor house, there is nothing but blue skies and smooth sailing ahead.
D&E Gardens
Yes, I know that Lydia and Wickham happen, but we don’t believe for one minute that those two self-absorbed people will destroy the happiness of our beloved couple. The story of an immature teenager and a scoundrel almost gets in the way of the happy ending that we know is coming.
I write about Pemberley because it is so hopeful. Although Austen never intended to write a romance, once an author releases her work to the world, it becomes the property of the reader. To millions of Jane Austen’s readers, Pride and Prejudice is a romance—and a satisfying one at that. I hope you will enjoy my short story. Now, here is an excerpt fromAnswered Prayers:
The setting: The study at Pemberley with Darcy enjoying the port, i.e., he is a bit tipsy.
With the firelight flickering across Darcy’s face, Lizzy saw a deep and abiding hurt and knew that she was the one responsible for it.
“If I caused you any pain—”
“Yes, I know. It was unconsciously done, and you hoped that it would be of short duration. Unfortunately for me, you were wrong.”
“Mr. Darcy, I—”
“I was never so surprised in my life. Whenever I saw you at Rosings, I felt ridiculous because my feelings for you were so obvious: my visits to the Parsonage, our encounters in the park, how I could not take my eyes off of you during church services, supper, while you played, and on and on.” Shaking his head, he added, “A moonstruck calf had more dignity than I did.”
“I honestly did not know of your—”
“Of my what? Interest, regard, affection, love. That was the progression. When you came to Netherfield, you piqued my interest. During all those interminable card parties, you merited my regard. At the Netherfield ball, you earned my affection, and by the time I saw you in Kent, I was in love. Well done, Elizabeth,” Darcy said, raising his glass, “and you did not even notice.”
Darcy and Elizabeth – Answered Prayers is available on Kindle and Nook for .99.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Release of New Short Story - Behind Pemberley's Walls

I am pleased to announce the release of a Pride and Prejudice short story: Darcy and Elizabeth – Behind Pemberley’s WallsAs with Lost in Love, this story takes place at Pemberley where a dejected Darcy has gone to try to get over Elizabeth’s rejection of his offer of marriage. Here is the blurb:

Four months after Elizabeth Bennet’s rejection of his offer of marriage, Fitzwilliam Darcy is still trying to puzzle through the reasons for her refusal. When he arrives at Pemberley, a place of reflection, he finds that Elizabeth and her aunt and uncle are touring the gardens. Is it possible that Fate has presented him with an opportunity to make amends for his awful proposal in Kent? Before doing so, he devises a plan to find out if Elizabeth is having second thoughts about rejecting him. The question is: Will he succeed? - Length: 10,000+ words

If it appears that I have been missing from the World of Austen, it is because I also write a police procedural series called The Patrick Shea Mysteries. Another, bigger reason, is that for the past eleven years, I have been researching a horrific train wreck that happened in 1888 at the Mud Run Train Station in Carbon County, Pennsylvania in which a distant cousin of my father’s was killed along with 63 others. A story this sad required pacing, but, eventually, I had to gather up all my research and write the story. The book, The Mud Run Train WreckA Disaster in the Irish-American Community, is now available in paperback on Amazon and in an e-book format on Kindle and Nook. If you (or anyone you know) is interested, please click on the links below.
As always, my sincere thanks for your support of my writing efforts.

P.S. The artist for the cover of Behind Pemberley’s Wall is Alexander Francis Lydon. As my maiden name is Lydon, I am sure we are related, and I had to support a relation. ;)

Behind Pemberley's WallsKindleNook

The Mud Run Train WreckPaperback on AmazonKindleNook

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dickens' London and Mr. Darcy's, Too

“Hell is a city much like London — A Populous and smoky city” Percy Bysshe Shelley*

The excerpt below is taken from the opening paragraphs of Chapter I of Charles Dickens’s Bleak House. It is a brilliant description of what London was like in 1852-53 when Bleak House was serialized. However, it is not that far off from a description of London in the time of Fitzwilliam Darcy. By 1812, there were a million souls living in London, and most of them heated their homes and cooked their meals with coal. When combined with soot pouring out of industrial chimneys and the mists and fogs of the Thames Valley, the result was London's famous pea-soup fog, a thick and often yellowish, greenish, or blackish smog caused by air pollution containing soot particulates and the poisonous gas sulfur dioxide. With the arrival of the railroads in the Victorian Era, an already serious problem got considerably worse.

Nelson's Column - Trafalgar Square
London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln's Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes—gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another's umbrellas in a general infection of ill temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls deified among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little 'prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon and hanging in the misty clouds…
Double-decker Bus

The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation, Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln's Inn Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery.

Never can there come fog too thick, never can there come mud and mire too deep, to assort with the groping and floundering condition which this High Court of Chancery, most pestilent of hoary sinners, holds this day in the sight of heaven and earth.

It would be 100 years later, after the Great Smog of 1953, when an estimated 4,000 people died prematurely, and 100,000 more were made ill because of the smog's effects on the human respiratory tract, that laws were passed to clean up England’s polluted cities.

*The asthmatic William III bought Kensington Palace, the former Nottingham House, outside of London, in 1689 in order to get away from "sooty London." 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

An Interview with Fitzwilliam Darcy by Mary Simonsen

Today, I am visiting with Jakki at Leatherbound Reviews where I interview Mr. Darcy about time travel in connection with my new release, Another Place in Time. Previously, I interviewed modern-day time traveler, Christine O'Malley, regarding her first impressions after her initial meeting with Fitzwilliam Darcy. You can read that post here.

Christine O'Malley also visited with Maria Grace on her blog Random Bits of Fascination where she wrote about what it would be like to visit Regency-Era London. I am reposting her blog post here. 

An excerpt from Another Place in Time: Soon after the carriage exited Manchester Square, they plunged into the chaos that was London, the capital of the commercial world. The cacophony was extraordinary. Hackney drivers shouted, sellers advertised their wares, pamphleteers screamed scandalous headlines, and horses neighed. It was like New York City at rush hour, except with horses, dogs, cats, and the occasional pig thrown in for interest.

By Christine O'Malley, Time Traveler

Prior to journeying to London in 1812 with Fitzwilliam Darcy, I had visited modern London three times. I consider it to be the most vibrant city in the world—then and now. In 1812, London was the undisputed capital of the commercial world. Its main highway, the River Thames, was chock-a-block full of ships of every shape and size, and those ships carried every imaginable commodity. For the well-heeled of London, the world came to their doors with coffee, tea, spices, muslin, and so much more.

But London paid a price for its success. The only way to get around Town was by horse. As a result, its streets were clogged with even worse traffic than there is today, and you crossed the street at your peril. The most efficient way was to travel by river, but if you chose that route, you had best bring a bouquet of posies or a handkerchief dipped in vinegar as the Thames served as London’s sewer, serving more than one million people. Because the city was powered by coal, the beautiful dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral that Londoners see today was covered with soot as was Westminster Abbey and every other building (thus the reason for black umbrellas).
London Street Scene

My first stop on my tour of London with Fitzwilliam and Georgiana Darcy was Lackington’s, also known as the Temple of the Muses, a bookstore that would be the envy of any modern urban store. After returning to the carriage, Mr. Darcy ordered the driver to take us down the Strand where we were able to catch glimpses of the river traffic, St. Mary le Strand, Somerset House, and Northumberland House (now gone). Nearby Fleet Street served as headquarters to a vibrant press, and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a pub still in existence, was serving pub grub and ale. 

Northumberland House
Another day, while Mr. Darcy rode with Mr. Bingley in Rotten Row, Georgiana and I paid a visit to Westminster Abbey, but the familiar narthex (vestibule) was not built until the mid 20th Century. We visited the south transept and the grave of Chaucer. Because later poets requested that they be buried near the first poet to write in the vernacular, the transept would come to be known as Poet’s Corner.

Georgiana and I also visited Carlton House. Fitzwilliam had been invited to join us, but because he disapproved of the Prince Regent’s lifestyle, he declined, preferring to spend his afternoon at Brooks’s, one of London’s many men’s clubs.

The White Tower (aka Tower of London) stood high above the city, but public executions at Tyburn (now the site of the Marble Arch) had ceased to provide entertainment for the public. Although Trafalgar Square had yet to be developed, Charles I was already sitting on his horse in front of what would become, two decades later, the National Gallery. After bumping along in a carriage, dodging hundreds of other conveyances, and stepping gingerly whenever we exited the carriage, we returned to the Darcy home on Manchester Square.

While Georgiana enjoyed London during the Season and visiting the shops, Darcy loved London for its history, architecture, and energy. During his time in Baltimore, when he saw photographs of modern London, he nodded his head in approval. Although the man’s sensibilities were firmly rooted in the early 19th Century, he admired the engineering required to build the Gherkin, the efficiency of the Underground, and the crowds walking the streets listening to iTunes and talking on their smart phones because Mr. Darcy loves gadgets! Unfortunately for Mr. Darcy, cell phone reception in 1812 is terrible!

Another Place in Time is available at Barnes and Noble in e-book and on Amazon in e-book and in paperback.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Guest Post by J. Marie Croft and Giveaway of Love at First Slight

Here’s to romance, laughter, and happily ever after!

By J. Marie Croft

It was once suggested in a letter to Jane Austen that she write an historical romance illustrative of the august House of Cobourg.
Austen’s response included:I could no more write a romance than an epic poem. I could not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life; and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself or at other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first chapter.” 
I get a bit hung up telling people that I write what’s considered romance, because it’s inevitably presumed I mean bodice-rippers. Eesh! I could no more sit seriously down to write a steamy novel than an epic poem. I regard Love at First Slight as a Regency romantic comedy.
Snippet from favourable review: “While Love at First Slight is mostly a comedy, one mustn't forget the romance, which was just beautifully done from start to finish.”  Another critic said, “If there is a romance, I did not find it.” Readers obviously have decidedly different opinions on what constitutes romance. 
According to Wikipedia:
Romances are relationship stories that emphasize emotion over libido. 
Regency romances feature intelligent, fast-paced dialogue between the protagonists and very little explicit sex or discussion of it. 
Romantic comedies focus on sentimental ideals in humorous plots.  In a typical ‘rom-com’ the young, likable lovers are meant for each other but kept apart by complicating circumstances (class differences, family interference, etc.) until finally – surmounting all obstacles – they get together with a fairytale-style ending.
Love at First Slight is a Regency romantic comedy. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Here is the blurb from Amazon for Love at First Slight:

It may not be universally acknowledged, but the unvarnished truth is that a young widow in possession of a good fortune is not necessarily in want of another husband. 

In this humorous, topsy-turvy Pride & Prejudice variation, all major gender roles are reversed. It is Mr. Bennet’s greatest wish to see his five sons advantageously married. When the haughty Miss Elizabeth Darcy comes to Netherfield with the Widow Devonport (nee Bingley), speculation — and prejudice — runs rampant. 

William Bennet, a reluctant and irreverent reverend, catches Miss Darcy’s eye, even though he is beneath her station. His opinion of her is fixed when she slights him at the Meryton assembly. As her ardour grows, so does his disdain. When she fully expects to receive an offer of marriage, he gives her something else entirely...

And now enjoy an excerpt.
In honour of Valentine’s Day, the book’s protagonists are expected here to express their sentiments on romance. Ah! That must be the Reverend Mr. William Bennet and Miss Elizabeth Darcy now.  Whoa! Flora ... Felicity ... Casper! Why are you here?  Where are William and Lizzie?
Mrs. Bennet pats my hand.  “Due to your book’s prudery, my son and his bride arrived at the altar without anticipating their vows. ‘Tis Valentine’s Day, and they are, after all, just recently married.”  She gives me a nudge-nudge-wink-wink. “The newlyweds were otherwise occupied, so we offered to come in their stead.”
But, you three don’t seriously consider yourselves experts on romance, do you?  Never mind. Beggars can’t be choosers. However, dear readers, I’m not responsible for anything my characters might henceforth impart on the subject.  Miss Wickham, would you like to start?
Felicity twirls a flaxen lock, refers to a scrap of paper, and recites Shakespeare.  “Who ever lov'd that lov'd not at first sight?” She flutters her eyelashes at Casper Bingley. “Do you believe in love at first sight, sir?”
The dandy buffs his fingernails and flicks a shock of raven hair away from an eye.  “Certainly not, and I strongly recommend sparing yourself the indignity of asking me whether you should walk by again.”
“Humph!” The coquette pouts.  “You feign indifference, but in Meryton I had at least twenty militia soldiers violently in love with me.”
Casper sneers, “I doubt it was platoonic. Love can be a such a touchy subject.”
Flora Bennet abandons the ribald novel she’s been surreptitiously devouring in the corner.  “Obviously, you two know nothing about romance. And you,” she points in my direction, “know nothing about writing it.”  She clasps the book to her bosom and sighs. “The lovers in here just had an amorous, unexpected, secret meeting.  You should try creating a passionate plot tryst like that, dear.  Practice makes perfect; and, if you apply yourself, you might come up with a passably torrid scene sooner or later. Old romance novelists never die, you know; they just run out of – ”
Steam.  Yes, I know. Now, before steam starts coming out of anyone’s ears, could we at least have a timely, refined comment about Valentine’s Day or Cupid’s arrow … anyone?
Casper looks down his straight, narrow nose. “I do not understand why Cupid was chosen to represent St. Valentine’s Day.  When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind is a short, naked, chubby, winged tot coming at me with a deadly, barbed weapon. Ugh!”
You three characters may leave now. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.  Mary, I apologize to you and your readers.  That wasn’t at all what I had in mind.  I’m honoured to be here today and wanted this post to be special – romantic, mushy, crème de la crème, not ... cheesy. To make amends for that deficiency, here’s something meaningful – a quote from Joanne Woodward. “Sexiness wears thin after a while and beauty fades; but to be married to a man who makes you laugh every day, ah, now that’s a real treat.”  
If you’d like a real treat – a novel with love, laughter, and happily ever after – I recommend Another Place in Time … or anything by Mary Simonsen.  She knows how to write romance. And so did Jane Austen.

Happy Valentine’s Day!
Note from Mary: Marie happens to be the punniest and funniest person out there in Jane Austen World. Her words leap off the page and form bubbles over her characters' heads, and you smile. The whole time you are reading Marie's stories, you smile.
Now for the specifics of the giveaway: Meryton Press has been good enough to provide our readers with a paperback and an e-book of Love at First Slight that is open internationally!!! Please leave a comment about Valentine's Day or anything that strikes your fancy. You must comment by February 17th. Winners will be announced on February 19th. Here's the really important part. You MUST leave your e-mail address as I have no way to capture e-mail addresses. No e-mail address, no can win!
Love at First Slight is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Interview with Time Traveler from Another Place in Time

In my new time-travel romance, Another Place in Time, Mr. Darcy travels through time to meet with Chris O’Malley, an expert on the Regency Era and the novels of Jane Austen. I recently interviewed Chris to find out more of her thoughts on Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Mary: Easy question. What was your first impression of Mr. Darcy when he showed up at the Baltimore Jane Austen conference in 2012?

Chris: Thanks, Mary, for having me on your blog. I feel like I already know you. To answer your question, please keep in mind that I saw the conference as an opportunity to increase my exposure in the Austen community, so when this “imposter” showed up and basically took over the session, I was not amused. What I remember thinking is that this guy is one hot dude—better than Colin—better than Matthew. But after I stopped admiring his assets, I was pretty steamed. When I spoke to him in the lobby, I thought this “actor” had Mr. Darcy’s arrogance down pat. It was all about him.

Mary: At first, you refused to help Mr. Darcy. What changed your mind?

Chris: I realized that this guy, whoever he was, was deeply in love with his Elizabeth Bennet. Because he was willing to ask for help in repairing the damage he had done when he had proposed marriage, I thought I might give him some advice. By showing some humility, he had already taken the first step.

Mary: When was your first inkling that this Mr. Darcy might be the genuine article?

Chris: Today, you practically get a smart phone at your kindergarten graduation, so when I watched Mr. Darcy using his iPhone, he reminded me of a kid in a candy store. He kept showing me all the things he could find by “Googling,” a word that delighted him. Another clue was that whenever a plane flew over, he would stop and look up in the sky until it was out of sight. Who does that now?

Mary: I think I would be nervous getting into a time capsule.

Chris: That’s because you’re smarter than I am. (Chris laughs.) The main reason I went back to 1812 was because the Regency Era is my area of expertise. I couldn't pass up a chance to see what London looked like during the Regency. Also, I was at a rather low point in my personal life. I think that was why I was willing to take the risk.

Mary: I understand that you will be talking about Regency London on Maria Grace’s blog. Is that correct?

Chris: Yes, I will. When I was in London, my guides through Town were Georgiana Darcy and Fitzwilliam Darcy. I look forward to sharing the experience with you.

Chris will be doing an interview on Random Bits of Fascination on February 12th. We hope to see you there.

Another Place in Time is available on Nook and Kindle. The paperback will be available in about two weeks.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Boar's Head Carol

Queen's College, Oxford, celebrates the tradition of the Boar's Head Feast whereby three chefs bring a boar's head into hall, with a procession of a solo singer who sings the first verse, accompanied by torch bearers and followed by a choir. The procession stops during verses and walks during the chorus. The head is placed on the high table, and the Provost distributes the herbs to the choir and the orange from the Boar's mouth to the solo singer.
William Henry Husk, Librarian to the Sacred Harmonic Society, wrote about the tradition in 1868 in his Songs of the Nativity Being Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern:
Where an amusing tradition formerly current in Oxford concerning the boar's head custom, which represented that usage as a commemoration of an act of valour performed by a student of the college, who, while walking in the neighbouring forest of Shotover and reading Aristotle, was suddenly attacked by a wild boar. The furious beast came open-mouthed upon the youth, who, however, very courageously, and with a happy presence of mind, thrust the volume he was reading down the boar's throat, crying, "Græcum est," and fairly choked the savage with the sage. (Wikipedia)
You can listen to the carol at this link

Friday, December 13, 2013

Darcy on the Hudson - Background and Research #6 - Background and Research

In Darcy on the Hudson, Mr. Darcy travels by sloop from Tarrytown to West Point. During his time on the river, one of the houses he would have passed would have been Clermont, home to the Livingston family, one of the oldest families in the Hudson River Valley.

Life had been good to the Livingstons of Dutchess County (including Philip, a signer of the Declaration). From their manor house, the Robert Livingstons could view some of their half million acres of land acquired through patent and marriage. Robert R. Livingston (1718 – 1775, aka “The Judge”) added hundreds of thousands of acres to the family’s landholdings when he had married Margaret Beekman,* a formidable woman from one of the most prominent old Dutch families in the Hudson River Valley.

When Robert the Judge died in 1775, he left Margaret and their children to face the trials of the Revolution. Most dramatic was the burning of Clermont and its outbuildings on October 19, 1777 by British troops under the command of General John Vaughan, who was throwing a hissy fit because of the surrender of the British Armies by General Burgoyne at nearby Saratoga. Once Margaret was informed that General Vaughan had burnt Kingston across the Hudson, she hid the silver and other valuables in her garden fountain. Other possessions were loaded aboard carts, and Mrs. Livingston, her daughters, servants, and slaves fled. Robert was not at Clermont during this time, but he would return to his childhood home to find only the foundation and exterior walls remained.

"Nevertheless, his mother (Margaret Beekman) energetically went about the task of rebuilding Clermont upon its original foundation and on the same Georgian plan. In order to get workmen, she wrote to Governor George Clinton requesting that he exempt skilled tenants, masons, carpenters, plasterers, etc. from military service, and he agreed. By 1782 she was able to entertain General and Martha Washington in her new home, the British forever gone from the Hudson River Valley." (Taken from the official Clermont site)

The Livingstons are excellent examples of the conundrum one faces when writing about the heroes of the Revolution. Yes, they "pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honors," but many had set off on that path because they were protecting their fabulous wealth. (Remember: “No taxation without representation.”) The Livingstons wanted to be free of British tyranny, but kept slaves. And they kept their heels on the necks of their tenants and were disinclined to sell their property to anyone, causing anyone seeking a better life to move westward. During wartime, Margaret Beekman had asked and had received the release of able-bodied men from military service to rebuild her house. But the bottom line is that if the Americans had not succeeded in their quest for independence, their leaders, including the Livingstons and Beekmans, would have had their estates confiscated, and Robert would very likely have hanged. As Abraham Clark of New Jersey, a signer of the Declaration, put it, they would have “freedom or a halter.”

An aside: In the 1920's, the Commonwealth of Virginia wanted to present a statue of George Washington to the British people. There was one problem. After the War of Independence, George Washington had expressly stated that he wished never to stand on English soil. The good people of Virginia were in a quandary. Fortunately, someone came up with the idea of shipping a truckload of soil to England. Outside the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, a hole was dug and filled with good Virginia dirt, and a statue of George Washington placed on top of it. With the possible exception of Washington, everyone was happy.

*The Beekmans appear in Darcy on the Hudson

In Darcy on the Hudson, the United States is on the verge of going to war with Britain--again. For a quick recap of what The War of 1812 was all about, you might enjoy this video.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Darcy on the Hudson - Background and Research #5 - West Point

In Darcy on the Hudson, West Point cadet, Joshua Lucas (Charlotte’s brother) invites Georgiana Darcy to a formal ball at the academy. Of course, she must be accompanied by her brother. Originally, Jane and Elizabeth Bennet, as well as Charles Bingley, were to have made the journey thirty-five miles up the river from Tarryton. Instead, Darcy finds himself in the company of Caroline Bingley:

Darcy stood on the deck as the sloop John Jay made its way through the Tappan Zee, the widest part of the Hudson, where wise sailors shorten sail. Small fishing boats shared the inland sea with schooners and barges carrying poultry, grain, and vegetables for the markets in New York while, nearby, dozens of sloops, with their single masts and retractable keels, negotiated around the shoals in the river.

As the hours passed, the sloop approached the Hudson Highlands, passing Anthony’s Nose and Breakneck Ridge. Farther up the Hudson, vast woodlands appeared with their leaves showing hints of the fall colors that would soon burst into a cornucopia of reds, yellows, and oranges that would ignite the hills from the Hudson to Appalachia in a blaze of color.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Darcy on the Hudson - Background and Research #4 - Hindeloopen Folk Art

When traveling the Hudson River Valley, the Dutch influence can be seen in brick buildings with gambrel and stepped roofs, in the decorative arts in fireplaces and kitchens lined with Delft tiles, and heard in the words the Dutch left behind: crollers, cookies, gherkins, and cole slaw. But the Dutch also brought with them a distinctive style of folk art called Hindeloopen.

Charles Bisschop*
According to Dutch Proverbs by Holly Flame Heusinkveld and Jean Carris-Osland, "Hindeloopen was a thriving seaport on the Zuider Zee in northwest Netherlands. During the Baroque and Rococo periods, guild and self-taught painters lavished their decoration skills on painted wood surfaces, such as furniture and walls, in an attempt to brighten home interiors and add inspiration to their surroundings. Hindeloopen villagers developed a distinct style of painting. Drawing from the scrolls of the Baroque period, the exotic birds of East Indian art, and the stylization of flower forms, the Hindeloopen painters came up with unique folk art forms. The objective was to fill a space, be it a table leg, door panel or storage chest, with flowers and berries or birds, in a stylized fashion."

In an early draft of Darcy on the Hudson, Jane Bennet had painted a firescreen decorated in the Dutch folk art tradition that was greatly admired by Charles Bingley. It ended up being deleted, but I thought I would share the research.

*Christoffel Bisschop, Wiki Loves Art / NL project, organized by Wikimedia Nederland and Creative Commons Nederland.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Darcy on the Hudson - Research and Background #3 - Thanksgiving

During the Federal Era in America, a time corresponding to the Regency Era in England, the biggest holiday of the year was Thanksgiving. At that time, more Americans lived on farms than in cities, and with the grain harvested, the fruit preserved, and the pig butchered, it was time to join with family and friends to celebrate with prayer, song, and dancing the gifts of the harvest.

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.”*

Preparations for the feast
In my novel, Darcy on the Hudson, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Georgiana, and Charles Bingley travel to Tarrytown in the Hudson River Valley to visit Bingley’s Uncle Richard, who has been living in America for twenty-five years. In addition to the love story of Darcy and Elizabeth, the novel mentions the Thanksgiving traditions of the New York/New England area. Here are three excerpts:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Darcy on the Hudson - Research and Background #2 - Boscobel Manor House

The Bennet family home was modeled on Boscobel (pretty woodlands) now located in Garrison, New York overlooking the Hudson River. It was built in the early 19th century by States Dyckman and is an outstanding example of the Federal style of American architecture. Boscobel's distinguishing feature is the unusual delicacy conveyed by the front facade and its ornamentation.

From Wikipedia: “Dyckman, a descendant of early Dutch settlers of Manhattan, had managed to retain his family fortune despite being an active Loyalist... In 1794, he married Elizabeth Corne, daughter of another Loyalist family, who was twenty-one years his junior. After three years in London, Dyckman returned to the United States in 1803 and set about building the house he had long planned. Dyckman died in 1806 before it was finished. His widow completed it, and she and their surviving son moved into it in 1808. It would stay in the family until 1920.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Darcy on the Hudson - Research and Background - Dutch Colonial Architecture

When it gets to be this time of year, I think about the visit my husband and I made to the Hudson River Valley in the spring of 2010. The purpose of the trip was to conduct research for my book, Darcy on the Hudson, which is set in the months leading up to the War of 1812. Although I had read tons of books on the American Revolution and the Federal period that followed, there is nothing like being on-site. I thought I would share some of my findings with you. 

When Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley, and Georgiana Darcy arrive in New York in 1812, they stay with Mr. Bingley’s Uncle Richard who was leasing a Dutch colonial house from his neighbor, Mr. Bennet, in Tarrytown. (Think Sleepy Hollow.) From Darcy on the Hudson:

Richard Bingley’s house was typical of colonial Dutch architecture in that there were no hallways, and a person must pass through one room to gain entry to another. A narrow staircase led to three rooms above, and for purposes of privacy, Georgiana was given the smallest room farthest from the stairs. Darcy and Mercer would be in the room next to Georgiana, and Charles would occupy the largest room, but also the noisiest, because of its location next to the stairs. But Georgiana would soon discover that there was an exterior staircase leading to a porch that wrapped around three sides of the house, a novelty the seventeen-year-old found delightful.

What did a house in the Dutch colonial style look like? According to the website, Life 123, most included the following features:

The door is almost always centered on the house - Cut horizontally, the bisected door allowed the top and bottom half to open separately if required. This enabled the flow of fresh air into the house while keeping domestic animals outside. It also allowed the owners of the house to keep the riff raff out. The missus could talk with visitors without the necessity of inviting them into the house.
Van Cordlandt Manor

Gambrel roofs are common - Long, sloping roofs overhang the doorway giving the appearance of a one-story home. Why? Gambrel roofs were said to have saved the Dutch from heavy taxes imposed on two-story homeowners. The Dutch were known for their thrift.

Two chimneys - Unlike classic Colonial homes with the fireplace in the center of the house, Dutch colonial homes had a chimney on each end of the house to radiate warmth.

Stone or brick exteriors - The Dutch were know for their stone and brickwork and brought their talents to the New World.

Porches – They provided shade.

Double-hung sash windows with wooden casements – They provided increased air circulation and allowed hot air to escape in the summer.

Pieter Bronck House
In Darcy on the Hudson, the Bingley house was modeled on Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. Research on the traditions of Colonial Dutch New York was conducted at the Pieter Bronck House in Coxsachie, New York.

Next post: Boscobel, the home of the Bennets.

I am scheduled for a blog post on Austen Authors on November 21st, at which time, I will be giving away a copy of Darcy on the Hudson. More about that in later posts.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Labor Day - Thank a Worker

Labor Day Parade NYC 1882
As a coal miner’s great granddaughter, and one who has researched just how bad (and dangerous) it was earning a living “down in the hole,” a mile below the surface, I consider Labor Day to be more than a reason to have picnics or for politicians to glad hand their constituents.* However, in appreciation of all those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold,”** I am prepared to enjoy a cold Guinness and to eat Polish sausage, macaroni salad, cole slaw, baked beans, etc.

A little history on the holiday from The Dept. of Labor website: "The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The CLU urged similar organizations in other cities across the country to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. With the growth of labor organizations, the idea spread, and in 1885, Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.
Coal Miners in the cage (elevator)
By 1894, 23 states had adopted the holiday, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

So have an enjoyable weekend. Be careful driving, use sun screen, and watch the kiddies around the water.

*Two of my great grandfathers were killed in roof falls in the mines. A third died of pneumonia in his thirties, and the fourth broke is leg in a roof fall and developed emphysema. My grandfathers were both picking slate in the mines before they were twelve and were mule drivers in their teens. Fortunately, as adults, they found jobs above ground.

**That is a quote from Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor and one of two candidates for the founding of Labor Day. The other possibility is Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, New Jersey. In 1882, he made his proposal while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. Since I grew up in East Paterson, New Jersey, I’m voting for Matthew Maguire.