Stepping Back: Practice Does Not Make Perfect.

by Barbara Monajem

Mr. Darcy is a great comfort to me. Let me explain:

It’s hard to believe, but lately I’ve been watching Pride and Prejudice (the one with Colin Firth as Darcy) for the first time. (It came out 20 years ago. How can I have just gotten to it now??) Needless to say, I’m enjoying it very much, and I’m awed by Firth’s portrayal of Darcy as a man of great natural reserve. Darcy is not really a sociable sort, although he can be with those he knows well. (It’s eons since I read Pride and Prejudice, but I assume this is pretty close to Darcy’s character in the book as well.)

There’s a scene in the third episode where Lizzie accuses Darcy of rudeness at an earlier ball where he only danced four times, thus depriving ladies of a partner. He excuses himself on the grounds that he doesn’t converse easily with strangers; she replies that she isn’t as proficient at playing piano as she might like to be, but that it’s her own fault for not practicing. In other words, he has no excuse for his behavior. (And one of the awesome things about Darcy is that her reprimand doesn’t upset him! In fact, it makes him love her even more! Can’t help but adore such an upright, thoroughly besotted man.)

Valid excuse or not, I can’t help but sympathize with Mr. Darcy. Like many writers, I’m an introvert. I completely relate to being uneasy with strangers. I was very nervous going to my first Sisters in Crime meeting years and years ago. I didn’t know anyone. I had never, ever introduced myself to strangers in such a situation. I’m the sort of person who never even asks for help or directions unless I have no choice. But because writing matters so much to me, I went to the meeting, and everyone was kind and welcoming. I was slightly less uneasy at my first romance writers’ conference and then my first Georgia Romance Writers meeting. Over the years I have learned to introduce myself to strangers and carry on conversations even though I’m sure I have nothing to say. I’ve even taken the astonishing step (for me) of co-presenting a workshop, something I had never, ever imagined doing. In other words, I practiced a lot.

But none of this social stuff has become easy for me, and I assume it never will be. In other words, practice does not make perfect. I’m a better writer because of practicing. (A better cook, too.) Less uneasy in social situations, yes. But have I become an extrovert? No, and I never will be. Nor, I suspect, will Darcy. He makes a point of being cordial to Lizzie’s aunt and uncle because her approval matters so much to him, but will he ever become an extrovert like his friend Bingley? Frankly, I can’t imagine it, and anyway, I prefer him as he is.

So I’ve decided to stop practicing. I’m competent enough in social situations. I don’t have to get any better. (I’m good enough at cooking, too.) But I can’t take this attitude toward writing. I must never stop practicing, even though I will never attain perfection. There will always be room—and hopefully the capacity—for improvement, and this is a great source of inspiration and comfort to me.


To Kiss a Rake (coming July 29)To Kiss a Rake 600x900

WHEN A LADY IS ABDUCTED BY MISTAKE . . .

Melinda Starling doesn’t let ladylike behavior get in the way of true love. She’s secretly assisting in an elopement . . . until she’s tossed into the waiting coach and driven away by a notorious rake.

REVENGE REALLY DOESN’T PAY.

Miles Warren, Lord Garrison, comes from a family of libertines, and he’s the worst of them all—or so society believes. When Miles helps a friend to run away with an heiress, it’s an entertaining way to revenge himself on one of the gossips who slandered him.

Except that he drives off with the wrong woman . . . and as if that wasn’t scandalous enough, he can’t resist stealing a kiss.

Buy at: Amazon  |  Amazon UK  |  Amazon Canada  |  Amazon Australia


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Winner of the Holt Medallion, Maggie, Daphne du Maurier, Reviewer’s Choice and Epic 81O8T58bcmL._SX80_awards, Barbara Monajem wrote her first story at eight years old about apple tree gnomes. She published a middle-grade fantasy when her children were young. When they grew up, she turned to writing for grownups, first the Bayou Gavotte paranormal mysteries and then Regency romances with intrepid heroines and long-suffering heroes (or vice versa). Some of her Regencies have magic in them and some don’t (except for the magic of love, which is in every story she writes).

Barbara loves to cook, especially soups, and is an avid reader. There are only two items on her bucket list: to make asparagus pudding and succeed at knitting socks. She’ll manage the first but doubts she’ll ever accomplish the second. This is not a bid for immortality but merely the dismal truth. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.

You can find Barbara online at:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

 

Stepping Back: Extinction of a Domesticated Dog

by Betty Bolte

In my most recent release, Samantha’s Secret, I chose to have a very special dog adopt Samantha, a healer/midwife. This story takes place in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1782, right as the American Revolution is winding down. While she and Trent, the young doctor, are walking home, discussing their patient, a friendly dog takes a liking to her:

“Say, looks like we have company.” Trent stopped, bending down to greet a medium-sized white dog with caramel colored splotches that had trotted up and halted before them.

“I wonder where it came from. Oh, it looks like it’s a bit bloated, too. Maybe it has worms?” Samantha paused beside the pair, smiling at how friendly the young dog appeared. She offered it her hand to sniff and then patted its head. The soft fur slid easily through her fingers, and she rubbed its chin. “Whose is it? Do you know this dog?”

Trent shook his head, scouring the passersby for any one who may have missed the animal. “Appears to be a stray, so it could be worms inside.”

“Let us continue. Surely someone will come looking for him.” Samantha started down the street, aware of the late hour and afraid she’d miss bidding her parents farewell. For the last time. She choked on tears and swallowed them. She’d not cry in front of Trent.

Trent caught her up in two long strides. “Her, if I’m not mistaken.”

“Her who?”

He indicated the dog walking beside them. “I believe she is a female Water Spaniel, a good hunting dog by all accounts.”

“Shoo, now.” Samantha waved a hand at the dog, but it smiled up at her, tongue lolling out one side of its mouth. “I don’t need a dog.”

Never heard of this breed? It’s not surprising, as it went extinct by the early 20th century. But it’s believed to be the foundation of our present day spaniels and retrievers. In fact, it’s been compared to a heavy golden retriever or a Welsh springer spaniel by at least one blogger.[1] It may also be part of the heritage stock of the American Water Spaniel. [2] This is an ancient breed, one that even Shakespeare included in at least one play, and yet today is unknown except in histories on dog breeding.

English Water SpanielThis painting is titled, “Quaille, An English Water Spaniel” and is what I referred to when writing the scene above. Isn’t this dog a beauty? Only old paintings exist that show what the English Water Spaniel looked like. But there are several descriptions, which I used to provide the details of the silky hair and the reputation as a good hunting dog.

This breed is said to have hair that is “long and naturally curled” with “legs feathered but not curled.” Of a medium size, often the dog is depicted with liver and white coloring though other colors like black have been mentioned. The water spaniel is said to be “that kind of dog whose service is required in fowling upon the water, partly through a natural towardness, and partly through a diligent teaching.”[3]

What I find intriguing is the fact that dog breeders let the water spaniel disappear. What was it about the breed they didn’t want to continue? Maybe the longer hair proved an issue in the winter, freezing after they came out of the water with the fowl? Or maybe there was something in their personality, like whining or barking, they wished to avoid. Nonetheless, apparently traces of the breed’s nature and characteristics do continue to reveal themselves in present day spaniels.[4]

Most of the time, we decry the event of an animal going extinct. This is why we have endangered species lists and the like. Yet in this case, it appears this breed was intentionally bred out of existence. What do you think? Should dog breeders, or any animal breeders, have that right?

SOURCES:
[1] Retrieverman, Canis Lupus Hominis: The Retriever, Dog, & Wildlife Blog. http://retrieverman.net/tag/english-water-spaniel/ Accessed 6/2/2015.

[2] “American Water Spaniel.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Water_Spaniel Accessed 6/2/2015.

[3] Dalziel, Hugh. British Dogs: Their Varieties, History, Characteristics, Breeding, Management, and Exhibition. Chapter XXX: The English Water Spaniel. http://chestofbooks.com/animals/dogs/British-Dogs/Chapter-XXX-The-English-Water-Spaniel.html#.VW3ZCs9Vikp Accessed 6/2/2015.

[4] Henriques, Harry. “History of Spaniels-Norfolk and English Water.” Spaniels in the Field and Flushing Retrievers Foundation. http://www.spanielsinthefield.com/index.php/sitffr-library/91-history-of-spaniels-norfolk-and-english-water.html Accessed 6/2/2015.


Samantha’s Secret (A More Perfect Union, Book 3)SamanthsSecretCOVER

In 1782, the fight for independence becomes personal in the port city Charles Town, South Carolina.

Midwife and healer, Samantha McAlester returns from the front lines to find Charles Town under British siege and the town’s new doctor at war with its citizens.

Dr. Trent Cunningham intends to build a hospital staffed solely with educated doctors. What he doesn’t need is a raven-haired charlatan spooning out herbs and false promises to his patients, while tempting him at every turn.

Then a mutual friend develops a mysterious infection. Trenton is stumped. Samantha suspects the cure but knows treatment will expose her long-guarded secret, risking all she holds dear… including Trenton.

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Betty Bolte-July 2013ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Award-winning author Betty Bolté writes both historical and contemporary stories featuring strong, loving women and brave, compassionate men. In addition to her romantic fiction, she’s the author of several nonfiction books and earned a Master’s in English in 2008. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Historical Novel Society, the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and the Authors Guild. Get to know her at www.bettybolte.com.

You can also find Betty online at:
Blog  |  Amazon Author Page  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Pinterest  |  Tsu  |  Street Team  |  eBook Discovery  |  Author’s DenNewsletter

Stepping Back: Chemical Warfare in the Napoleonic Wars

by Regina Jeffers

In 1812, Prince George received a plan outlining the use of “unusual” methods to defeat Napoleon Bonaparte. The plan came to the future George IV from Captain Sir Thomas, Lord Cochrane. At the time, Wellesley’s successes in Spain were sporadic, and the Royal Navy struggled with the blockades of French ports. Cochrane’s plan offered hopes of a quick victory over the French.

Captain Sir Thomas, Lord Cochrane

Image of Captain Sir Thomas, Lord Cochrane Admiral Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald. Photograph Source: Public Domain

Cochrane quickly rose through the naval ranks from midshipman to lieutenancy (earned in three short years) and later received command of his own ship, the HMS Speedy. Although the Speedy was but a 14 cannon sloop, Cochrane managed to capture the Spanish frigate Gamo, for which he earned praise. Cochrane possessed strategic cunning, which should have served him well in his position, but he also possessed the uncanny ability to “insult” his superiors by pointing out their shortcomings.

Fortunately for Cochrane, Henry Dundas, first Viscount Melville, arrived in London in 1804 as First Lord of the Admiralty. Melville presented Cochrane with the command of the frigate Pallas and permission to patrol the North Atlantic waters. Within two months, Cochrane earned 75,000 pounds sterling in prize money. Napoleon marked Cochrane with the name “The Sea Wolf.” [le loupe des mers]

Needless to say a person with such charisma cannot sustain the favor of the Crown for long. Part of Cochrane’s woes came via the court martial trial of Admiral James Gambier after the action at Aix Roads in 1809. Cochrane managed to drive all but two of the French ships ashore during the battle. The battle lasted for three days, but it failed to destroy the French fleet. Cochrane blamed Gambier’s inaction for the English failure. Cochrane proved a poor public speaker during the trial, and public humiliation followed with Gambier’s exoneration. He also earned numerous political foes in Parliament for his reform tendencies. It was during his time as a MP for Honiton that Cochrane proposed his plan to Prince George.

The first weapon Cochrane suggested was the “sulphur ship” or “stink vessel.” Cochrane used a similar device at Aix Roads and knew some success. Cochrane sent three ships loaded with 1500 barrels of gunpowder and shell into the 11 ships of the line of the French fleet. These floating “explosion ships” were set off by fuses.

Cochrane suggested a hulk rigged with explosives. The English would remove the decks and reinforced the hull with timbers. A layer of clay would be spread and topped with scraps of metal. A thick layer of gunpowder would follow. At length, rows of shells and of carcasses of dead animals would top the gunpowder.

The explosion ship would be towed into place and anchored. The explosion would send the animal carcasses and metal scraps arcing in a shower upon the enemy.

Cochrane proposed a follow-up attack upon land fortifications. Abandoned hulls would again be used. Clay would cover the hull, but layers of charcoal and sulphur would be spread upon the upper decks. The hull would be situated close to land so the stick would carry inward once the British lit the charcoal. Cochrane thought the fumes would send the enemy running away, permitting the British to land and push the enemy back.

The Prince Regent sought the advice of Sir William Congreve, Frederick Augustus (the Duke of York), George, Lord Keith, and Lord Exmouth. Although the prince’s advisors saw the potential for a quick victory by using these devices, they also feared like reprisals upon England from the French. Prinny rejected Cochrane’s proposal. Cochrane refused to share the plans again with others. Cochrane was charged with illegal financial manipulations in 1814 during the London Stock Exchange scandal. He was imprisoned, dismissed from the Royal Navy, and forfeited his knighthood.

SOURCES:
Royal Museum Greenwich
http://www.rmg.co.uk/explore/sea-and-ships/facts/explorers-and-leaders/thomas-cochrane

History Net
http://www.historynet.com/sir-thomas-cochrane-the-british-naval-officer-who-proposed-saturation-bombing-chemical-warfare-during-the-napoleonic-wars.htm

Westminster Abbey
http://www.westminster-abbey.org/our-history/people/thomas-cochrane

Military History
http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/naval/p/Napoleonic-Wars-Admiral-Lord-Thomas-Cochrane.htm


The scheme described in this blog post is a plot point in my retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, as    Captain Frederick Wentworth becomes involved with the subterfuge of those who plan to break Cochrane from jail.

The love affair behind Jane Austen’s classic, Persuasion, rests at the heart of this retelling from Captain Frederick Wentworth’s point of view.

Captain Frederick Wentworth’s PersuasionCFWP Crop1

He loved her from the moment their eyes met some eight years prior, but Frederick Wentworth is determined to prove to Anne Elliot that she made a mistake by refusing him. Persuaded by her family and friends of his lack of fortune, Anne sent him away, but now he is back with a fortune earned in the war, and it is Anne, whose circumstance have brought her low. Wentworth means to name another to replace her, but whenever he looks upon Anne’s perfect countenance, his resolve wavers, and he finds himself lost once again to his desire for her. Return to the Regency and Austen’s most compelling and mature love story.

Buy at: Amazon  |  Kindle  |  Nook  |  Kobo


And to keep things interesting in the Austenesque world, the former Colonel Fitzwilliam (from Pride and Prejudice) joins Wentworth in the pursuit of smugglers and insurgents in my upcoming cozy mystery,

The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin
(arriving June 16)PoMDC Cover-2-2
Fitzwilliam Darcy is enjoying his marital bliss. His wife, the former Elizabeth Bennet, presented him two sons and a world of contentment. All is well until “aggravation” rears its head when Darcy receives a note of urgency from his sister Georgiana. In truth, Darcy never fully approved of Georgiana’s joining with their cousin, Major General Edward Fitzwilliam, for Darcy assumed the major general held Georgiana at arm’s length, dooming Darcy’s sister to a life of unhappiness.

Dutifully, Darcy and Elizabeth rush to Georgiana’s side when the major general leaves his wife and daughter behind, with no word of his whereabouts and no hopes of Edward’s return. Forced to seek his cousin in the slews of London’s underbelly, at length, Darcy discovers the major general and returns Fitzwilliam to his family.

Even so, the Darcys’ troubles are far from over. During the major general’s absence from home, witnesses note Fitzwilliam’s presence in the area of two horrific murders. When Edward Fitzwilliam is arrested for the crimes, Darcy must discover the real culprit before his cousin is hanged for the crimes and the Fitzwilliam name marked with shame.

Buy for Kindle


Regina-270x300ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Regina is passionate about so many things: her son, children in need, truth, responsibility, the value of a good education, words, music, dance, the theatre, pro football, classic movies, the BBC, track and field, books, books, and more books. Holding multiple degrees, Jeffers often serves as a Language Arts or Media Literacy consultant to surrounding school districts and has served on several state and national educational commissions.

Find Regina Online at:
Website  |  Blog  |  Amazon Author Page  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Google+ Pinterest