Monday, December 26, 2016

Friday, December 23, 2016

An overwhelming assembly

Was Mr. Darcy a highly sensitive introvert? I'm sharing my own experience as one and examining that question in my latest post for Austen Authors.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Monday, November 14, 2016

A few Pride and Prejudice chapters, a little talk about sex

I'm over at Just Jane 1813 today as part of the "We Still Need Her" event, talking about chapters 47 and 48 of Pride and Prejudice, and sex in the Georgian era.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A little anecdote about house visiting

Hi dear readers, sorry I've been scarce around here lately. I promise I am still hard at work editing and writing!

But I thought I would just drop by and share a little anecdote that I've been meaning to share for some time. This comes from a previous trip to England, when I was able to visit St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall. It's a former monastery perched on the hilltop of an island that is linked to the mainland by a causeway (it's walkable at low tide; boats run when the tide is high). It became a family home and was in the St Aubyn family for many years (it's now in the hands of the National Trust and the family leases it).




 As you can see, much of the interior is quite genteel for such an imposing exterior.

Back to the anecdote. House visiting had already become quite a thing during the Georgian and Victorian eras. You can see this in Pride and Prejudice, of course, when it's not thought to be a big deal to go to Pemberley and have a look around. Some houses even had formally scheduled days for visiting, and had handouts printed for visitors. And housekeepers often made quite a lot of money in tips from the visitors they showed around.

I'd sometimes wondered just who was doing this visiting. How high up the social scale did it go?

The answer is, all the way to the tippity top. Because while the owners of this house were out, Victoria and Albert popped by for a visit! This was not a formally arranged royal visit -- they showed up in much the same way Elizabeth and the Gardiners did at Pemberley. (Although the royal couple had quite a lot more stairs to climb to get to the house.)

This anecdote has always amused me, because I can just imagine how it went when the family finally returned. Can you imagine being the housekeeper and having to tell them that while they were out, the queen stopped by for a visit?

Friday, October 28, 2016

Imagining Longbourn


What was Longbourn really like? A newer Georgian house, or an older Jacobean one?

That's the subject of my latest post over at Austen Authors.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Getting around Britain without driving

A train in the fog at Canterbury

 I am left-handed. As a result, I grew up watching righties doing things and being a little garbled in my orientation because of it: to this day, I sometimes have to make the "L" with my hand to remember what is left and what is right.

The relevance of this to today's post is that I have very little confidence in my ability to drive on the opposite side of the road. Even as a pedestrian in Britain I usually look all of the ways before I attempt to cross a street. Although I've been there many times, I've never driven there and have no intention of doing so. That leaves public transportation as my primary method of getting around, and it's actually one I've come to prefer.

You do lose some freedom in taking public transit. You're no longer in control of where and when you stop, and there are no opportunities to drive off down a side road just because it looks interesting. However, there are also some things you gain: complete freedom to view the beautiful countryside, and often a certain camaraderie with your fellow travelers. I still have fond memories of journeys like the one I took back from Fountains Abbey to York on the bus, where there were approximately 50 people and two dogs, and an older English fellow and I got into possibly the most polite standoff ever: he wanted me to take the last seat because I was a woman, and I wanted him to take it because he was elderly.  

Since I've won quite a bit of knowledge in how to traverse the system, I thought I'd share some tips for how to do so. I realize this post won't be of much use except to those who are looking to plan a trip to Britain at some point, but if you do choose to read on, hopefully it will show that public transit is a great option for travel there.

 

The Tube


London's Underground (note to fellow Americans: a subway in Europe is a pedestrian underpass) is pretty user-friendly, and they usually have people there to help at the major stations in case you need it.

London Underground

Most underground/subway systems in the world handle payment in one of two ways -- it's either a flat fee (like New York) or it is zone-based, which means the more zones you cross, the more it will cost. The best way to not have to think much about this as you're riding is to get a visitor Oyster card and load it with ~20 pounds (more if you intend to ride the Piccadilly line in from Heathrow). You tap the card on the payment stile and you're automatically charged the correct amount for your journey. One thing that's great about Oyster cards is that if you end up taking the Tube a lot in one day, it will automatically cap your payment at the price of a one-day pass.

The system itself is very easy to navigate. You'll be able to figure out what direction you need to go faster if you know what cardinal direction (east, west, north, south) you need to go, but at every decision point as you're walking through the system, they also have signs showing all of the stops for each direction. I use Google maps on my phone (with the public transit layer turned on) to figure out what stop I need based on what I want to see, figure out what lines I should take from Google maps and the Tube map, and go from there. Transfers are generally very fast (unlike my local system, DC Metro), so don't be afraid of making a transfer.

One final thing to keep in mind regarding the underground is that for at least another year, they are still doing work on Crossrail, which will create the new Elizabeth line right up the gut of the city. This is going to be great when it's completed but it does mean that some stations and portions of stations have been closed. It's good to check in advance, particularly for whatever station is nearest where you're staying, to make sure you're not going to be shut down by a station shut down.

 

Trains


I'm fortunate to live in Amtrak's northeast corridor, so I have much better access to train travel in the USA than most people. But trains in Britain are more frequent (every half hour or hour for many major stations) and you do not have to choose your train time in advance.

Regardless of how much you intend to travel via train, it's good to understand how the tickets work. You can buy either a single (which you might do if making some sort of loop in your itinerary) or a return (which is the best choice for day trips, as you save a lot vs. buying two singles). There are also "peak" and "off-peak" times. You'll want to view the details for any off-peak tickets you buy, but generally it means after a certain time in the morning.

You can buy tickets at the train stations -- the machines are easy to use but major stations also have a ticket counter. If there is no ticket counter (and some stations don't even have machines) you can purchase a ticket from the conductor on board the train. If your itinerary is set, you can also purchase tickets in advance by looking up your route on the National Rail site and then choosing from one of the operators to buy your tickets. They'll either be mailed to you in advance or you'll pick them up at the station. If you know your plans in advance I recommend looking up the times and prices on the National Rail site. This will help you decide whether it's actually worth it to get a Britrail pass or not. More often than not, it has not been cost-effective for me to get one, but I have done it a few times. Have your ticket or Britrail pass handy when you get off the train as many stations now have stiles that will take your ticket as you exit (if you have a Britrail pass or intend to break your journey you'll have to show it to an attendant, who will let you out).

Last topic regarding ticketing: If you buy tickets in advance, you will have the option to make a seat reservation if you book for a specific train time. I usually don't know exactly what time I'm going to choose, so it's rare that I do this. But do be aware that you can get on a train and find many of the seats reserved. Some trains operators, like Virgin, have specific cars with non-reserved seats. In others you should still be able to either find a seat that is not reserved or one that was reserved, but the reservee has not shown up. For example, on a London - York train, I got on to find it filled with reserved seats (the reserved seats thing is most often an issue going out of or into London on longer-haul routes). But as soon as the train set off I could see that there were many London-York reserved seats that had not been filled, so I just sat in one of them and was fine.

If you're just thinking of doing a few little day trips by train from London, this is very easily done. Some of my recommendations would be Bath (for obvious reasons), Portsmouth (home of HMS Victory and a nice town in and of itself), Canterbury (cathedral and lovely historic town), York (minster, historic houses and town), and Alton (more on that much later). If you choose Canterbury, it's worth a stop in Chilham, the stop before it (many tickets allow a "break of journey", which means you can do this on a London-Canterbury ticket), which was Highbury in the BBC's Emma. Hatfield House and Hampton Court Palace are also quick rail rides out of London.  

If you're planning a serious itinerary by train, I recommend downloading a National Rail network map and using it in conjunction with the National Rail site to do the planning. Sometimes places that seem very close to each other can involve multiple transfers by rail (this is where buses can come in, but more on that later), but on the flip side, sometimes it's very quick to get to somewhere that seems like it should be far away. This will also help you understand "via" tickets -- sometimes it's cheaper to go via one city rather than another. For example, when I was going from Portsmouth to Bath once, I accidentally bought a via London ticket rather than via Salisbury. Basically this meant I'd overpaid about 20 pounds for the ticket.

One other thing to keep in mind, either for a big itinerary or for a sort-of day trip, is that there are two sleeper trains running in the UK, one that goes to Penzance in Cornwall and one to Edinburgh in Scotland. These can be a great option for a leg of your itinerary because it means you get your travel time in at night. I've even done Edinburgh as that modified day trip -- I stored my main bag at the station (you can do this at all major stations in London -- follow signs for left luggage) and set off with just some essentials on the sleeper, did Edinburgh for the day and then took the train back in the evening.

When I first started riding the rails in the UK, I was afraid of transfers, and really shouldn't have been. They're quite easy, as long as you get the National Rail app for your phone or plan in advance using the site to know your transfer point. Get off at the designated transfer point, view the electronic screens to find the train bound for your final destination (or next transfer point), and go to the platform number indicated. The app will also show the platform number.

One final thing to be aware of is that trains do sometimes split in the course of the journey, where half of the train will go to one final destination, and the other half will go somewhere else. This means, of course, that you need to be in the right half of the train. They will announce approximately 552 times that the train is splitting and what the final destination of the car you're on is, so just move if it isn't the right one.

At any point, if you're confused or have any doubts, just speak with the conductor. They have almost universally been super-helpful for me whenever I've needed it. (In the via London example I mentioned earlier, the nice fellow went and got me the paperwork I needed to get a refund of the 20 pounds I'd overpaid)

I also haven't mentioned the Eurostar yet, but it's worth keeping in mind that even Paris could theoretically be done as a day trip from London. However, the Eurostar has stricter security and you go through immigration before getting on the train, so it's important to arrive much earlier (I'd recommend an hour) before your train time than you need to for any other train. 

 

Buses


In London, buses work like they do in, I think, most major cities. They have a number and a certain destination they're going to, with stops along the way, and you can pay with an Oyster card in the same way you would on the underground.

Buses outside of London are generally the same, with the exception of payment. There, you get on the bus and tell the driver your destination, and they'll issue you a ticket. It's good to have small bills and change for this, as a 20 pound note makes things very difficult for them (usually bus fares can be anywhere from 2 pounds to 7 pounds, depending on how far you're going). Buses can issue return tickets as well, saving a lot of money. Depending on how much you're riding the bus in a day, you may also be able to get a day pass that will be cheaper than individual tickets. Ask the driver -- they're also super-helpful.

Bus 442 from Buxton. See what I mean about the scenery?

 I think buses are scarier for those who don't frequently ride public transit, because they don't have fixed places that they stop, like trains do. But the bus system in the UK is pretty easy to ride, too, and there are quite a lot of places that trains don't go to, so they become a necessity if you want to visit places like the Cotswolds or the Peak District without driving.

So how do you know when you are getting close to the place where you need to press the button to tell the driver to stop? I use Google maps, again, on my phone. If you're doing a lot of public transit in the UK I definitely recommend getting at least a minimal international data plan to use the National Rail app and be able to check any bus schedules you haven't downloaded/printed on the fly. But it IS possible to download offline Google maps and follow your location on GPS with data turned off. Regardless of which you choose, you can follow the blue dot on Google maps to see when you're approaching your destination, and press the button to tell the driver to stop as you approach. Google maps now shows exact bus stops in most locations in the UK, so you'll be able to avoid getting off a stop early. There is another alternative, particularly if you're a newbie and not feeling confident of the GPS tracking, and that's just to ask the driver if they can tell you when you're getting close to the stop. Back to that friendliness -- many drivers have just volunteered to do this for me.

How do you even know what bus you need to take in the first place, though? Unfortunately there's no centralized site for buses like there is for the rail network, so this takes a bit more research. If you're visiting a National Trust or English Heritage site, they'll usually list what buses serve that site. If not, usually googling "bus from _______ to ________" will come up with results if there is a bus that services the route you're looking for. Guidebooks will often list the key routes for a location as well.

Your Google results should give you a timetable for the particular bus route, telling you where the bus picks up from a city and giving times for a few major stops along the way. Note: these are not usually all of the stops that it services. Charmingly, the stops are often listed as a pub or a hotel. You should be able to see these on a Google map, and when you actually get to the location of the stop there'll be some sort of sign up indicating that it's a stop and what bus numbers it services.

Buses run shockingly on time in the UK. It's not a bad idea to be 10 minutes early, but they will almost invariably arrive within plus or minus five minutes of their scheduled time. Now, I did once ride that York-Fountains Abbey route, where there was only one bus in and one bus out the entire day. You can bet I showed up much earlier for that one, just to be safe!

 

Other options


Occasionally, I have had a leg of an itinerary that could not be traversed by train or bus, and then I've turned to taxis. Usually, googling "[town name] taxi" will bring back some results of local companies -- there are local taxis pretty much everywhere. You can often book a ride in advance by calling them, or just call them when you're at your destination.

In London, the iconic black cabs are everywhere, and they're my choice if I do need to take a taxi. There, you can just hail (they are seriously everywhere in central London), rather than having to call to get a cab. In every other city, my preference is Uber, but the one time I attempted it in London, I got a nervous-seeming guy who was bent over his phone trying to figure out where he was navigating to. This was a sharp contrast to the black cab drivers, who train for years, learning the city streets so they can take a test called "The Knowledge." Get in the cab and name anywhere in London, and they will know how to get you there.


Watercress Line


There are also a few other rail options that are not part of the transport network, but are worth mentioning. Britain's rail network actually used to be even bigger than it is today, and there were a number of lines that have been shut down. Many of these were actually re-opened by enthusiasts, and they run with heritage stock and either vintage diesel or, my favorite, steam locomotives. Sometimes these do actually connect two portions of the national rail network or go to a particular destination in a much more efficient way than you could get by transferring within the network, so I have on occasion used them as legitimate legs of transportation. Many others are just out-and-back, but they can be worthwhile if you wish to see some beautiful scenery. A particular one to note is the Watercress Line, which can be reached from the mainline Alton stop (transfer at Guildford from London). If Alton sounds familiar, it's because it's about 2 miles from Chawton, home of Jane Austen's house. If you don't want to walk that distance, on the first Sunday of the month, the line runs a vintage bus directly there. Visiting Jane Austen's house and riding around in steam-pulled vintage railcars is my idea of a pretty fantastic day out!

There is also something called "mainline steam." What this means is that the British have old (and at least one new-built) steam locomotives that are rated to run on the regular rail network. Like quite a few things the British do, I find this adorably ridiculous. I haven't done it myself (I intend to at some point) but they actually have day excursions from London and other stations to places like Weymouth. Actually, come to think of it, I believe it's time to start planning this for next year....

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Country House Libraries


In my latest post for Austen Authors, I'm taking a closer look at one room, the library, and what it might have been like at some of the houses in Pride and Prejudice.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Traveling solo

The beauty of solo travel: moving at your own pace...or sometimes lack thereof.

 I know there are many reasons why people aren't able to travel where they want to travel -- not all of us have or can take as much time off of work as we would like, or may not have the health or finances to do so. I have been admittedly pretty fortunate in all of these areas -- even in my younger days I was able to set up a separate bank account for travel and save a little every month into that account, and although I've been plagued before with a bad foot and still have the occasional hip problem, I've mostly been able to work around them.

The reason I want to talk about today is not having anyone who wants to go where you're going. Many years ago, I adopted the philosophy that I would never prevent this from letting me see the places I wanted to see, and I've held to it. I've gone on wonderful trips with family and friends, and I've gone on wonderful trips by myself -- they're very different, but I've enjoyed each in their own ways.

Admittedly, the place that I travel to most now is Great Britain, and I feel very comfortable traveling solo there. There are places in the world that I've been to where I wouldn't have felt comfortable by myself, and probably would have sought to go as part of an organized tour if I hadn't already been going there with others.

Traveling solo gives you complete control over your itinerary. Feel like spending the whole day tramping through an old estate house and grounds? Do it. Feel like going to a quirky little museum? Do it. Feel like sitting by the water with a cup of tea or a pint of ale and reading a book? Do it. I've found it's my chance to completely indulge my own interests, better disconnect from the internet, and be more mindful of myself.

Traveling solo is also empowering. I will admit that I eased my way into it. After two trips to England with friends, I did my first solo trip here in the United States, taking the train up through New England with various stops. It went well, and after that I felt I was ready to make the jump and travel internationally by myself, which also went well. That's not to say that things haven't gone wrong periodically along the way -- they do -- but I've always been able to handle them, and when I've done that, I've felt empowered, and accomplished.

Traveling solo does not have to be lonely. I'm an introvert, so I enjoy the opportunity to disconnect from people and recharge a little bit, but even I like to make connections when I travel, and this is very easy in Britain because of the pub culture (and no, you do not have to drink to enjoy yourself at a pub -- ordering a soft drink is perfectly accepted there). There's a pretty simple etiquette that applies most of the time: if you sit at the bar, you want to chat, and if you sit at a table, you don't. A few times when I've found myself at "the local," I've had people strike up conversations with me at the table -- these are places where everybody knows everybody and conversation just sort of flows across the whole pub. But even that has been fun.

There are portions of traveling solo that worried me before I did it, and they may be some of the things concerning you now, if you're reading and thinking, "maybe I should do it...but..."

One of the biggest ones for me was meals. I like to enjoy a good meal, and the idea of going to a restaurant and requesting a table for one was intimidating. There are some simple solutions to that -- you can dine at the bar (and as noted, at many English pubs this will also guarantee you some conversation), or just get some takeaway food and dine in your hotel or al fresco. But the best solution I've found is a combination of several things: 1. dine at less busy times; 2. stay occupied; and 3. OWN IT.

If I eat a full English breakfast, I'm generally good until needing a snack sometime mid-afternoon (my favorite snack being a cream tea), and then ready for dinner at five or six (except in London, where the office crowd means aiming for even earlier). This is way earlier than I usually eat dinner, but it is before the crowds hit, so I don't feel like I'm taking up a table that two people would otherwise have used. Staying occupied just means bringing something to do to make up for having no conversation partner. I always keep a travel journal, so I use mealtime gaps as a chance to get caught up; if I am caught up, I'll read a book.

OWN IT, meanwhile, is as simple as it sounds. "Table for one?" I say "yes," and I say it confidently -- I'm traveling by myself and enjoying the heck out of it, and yes I am going to get a table for one at your restaurant and enjoy a delicious meal. OWN IT also applies to tours and anywhere else where I've felt a little weird being by myself. I like to remind myself that I'll likely never see any of these people again, so if they are judging me for being solo, who cares? The other thing I remind myself of is that it's way better to do something I've always wanted to do solo than to never do it at all. Let's face it, I know few, if any, people that I could drag through the quantity of historic homes I want to see myself.

The other doubt that may raise its head is in your ability to navigate a whole country (or countries) by yourself. I do recommend starting with a short trip somewhere relatively close to home, then for Americans like me who want to branch out internationally, I think there's no choice better than Britain (and I'm presuming many of my readers have a desire to travel there, anyway). It's easy to get around there -- I'm going to do another post in the future on navigating transportation there. And they speak English, albeit with some differences -- I am forever reminding myself to ask for the W.C. or the toilets, rather than the restroom! There are so many things to see there that it's easy to stay as occupied (or unoccupied) as you wish during the day, and the pub culture makes it easy to be social.

Things will go wrong. They do on every trip, whether you're solo or with others. But when you're solo, you'll be the sole person responsible for fixing them. I do recommend getting a data plan for your phone if you're doing this internationally. Figuring out how to deal with a roadblock is WAY easier if you have access to the internet. And I've generally found people to be very helpful if I ask (most of my problems have been transit-related, and transit employees in Britain are super-helpful).

There are also some things you can do to avoid issues. I wear a money belt, and keep cash, backup credit/debit cards, and my passport in it at all times. If anything else got lost or stolen, that would suck, but at least I would have the resources to deal with it. Now that I'm so reliant on my phone, I also bring a spare global phone, so if something does happen to my main phone, I can get back up and running faster. I also really recommend traveling with a carry-on size bag and a purse or daybag only. Navigating the world is a lot easier when you're not worrying whether you've left a steamer trunk behind somewhere. Last recommendation: don't max out your travel budget before you even leave. Keep some money in reserve to deal with issues as they arise. That way if you need to spend some money to get yourself out of a jam, you can get right back to enjoying the trip, rather than being out of the jam but now worried about finances.

There are loads of resources out there for solo travelers, so I won't rehash all of the tips. These are just the things that I have worked best for me, and I hope if anyone out there is considering solo travel, that they've helped. And perhaps if you weren't considering it...maybe you are now!

What say you, dear readers? Have I convinced you?


Are you considering traveling solo?

Done it, loved it!
Done it, not my cuppa
I'm considering it, but hesitant
I totally want to do it
I just booked my flight!
Poll Maker

Friday, September 2, 2016

My Pemberley

My latest post is up at Austen Authors, where I talk about finding my Pemberley in Derbyshire, but not where I was expecting it.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Travel time!

Hi dear readers! I'll be scarce on the blog again for awhile as it's time for my trip to England! I'll be posting pictures as I can on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Support for Nook

When I decided to make my books available in Nook format, I had high hopes for it. Unfortunately those hopes just haven't panned out. I'm not likely to sell more than 100 copies of both books in the Constant Love series in that format over the course of the year.

Now, it's not all about sales for me. What's most important to me is expanding my readership, and Nook hasn't proven to be the platform for that when it's compared against what I think Kindle Unlimited can do.For those not familiar with KU, it allows readers to pay a monthly fee to check out an unlimited number of books, storing up to 10 at a time on their Kindles. Authors get paid based on how much the readers read. I've already experimented with KU with Less Proud and More Persuasive, and I've been really impressed with the results.

The restriction with Kindle Unlimited is that content can't be available in any other digital format. In preparation for putting A Constant Love on KU, some readers may have seen that I've removed the original versions from the online sites where they've been posted. Now it's time to take the last step and take it down from Nook.

A Constant Love will be removed on or around September 1 from the Nook store.

A Change of Legacies will be removed on or around November 1 from the Nook store.

I will still offer A Season Lost for a limited time after its release (sometime next year) in the format before it goes into KU and will be removed. At that time I may temporarily open up the other two titles for Nook again, depending on how things are going.

A “British” trip in the eastern United States


I'm at Austen Authors with my latest post, a taste of England in the USA.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A National Trust day out

Sorry I've been so scarce in the blog lately. I've been working away on edits to Temporary Mistress and writing A Season Lost, and getting ready for my upcoming trip to England. But before I left I did want to get this post in, so it doesn't get lost in the shuffle when I return.

If you'll recall, I bookended two England layovers around a business trip, and this post is all about the second bookend. By the time I got back to England, I had spent two weeks with much of my schedule all arranged for me, taking corporate vans everywhere we needed to go. I was ready for some freedom, and also not ready for some freedom.

Let me make sense of that! I had been wanting to go to the Bermondsey Square antiques market, so on my only full day in London, I got up in the morning and took the tube over, and ended up making a few little purchases. I had decided to leave the rest of the day open for whatever I was in the mood for, and what I quickly realized was...I had no idea what I was in the mood for. This normally isn't me -- one of the reasons why I love solo travel is that if I decide I want to do something, I just go off and do it, and normally I'm quite decisive.

Turns out I was not yet ready to go back to being my decisive self. I sat down for about 15 minutes by the side of the road in complete waffling indecision, swiping around my Google Map. Finally, I lighted upon the idea that I wanted to go back to the Tower of London. I haven't been there since my very first trip to London ten years ago, so it seemed like it would be fun to go back. I ended up walking over there, took one look at the giant crowds, and decided that jostling with all of those people was not, in fact, what I was feeling like doing (travel tip: I recalled that when I had gone before, we went there first thing in the morning, to get ahead of the crowds).

Suddenly, the second runner-up, going to Osterley Park, was sounding much better, as I was not feeling crowds or being in the city. What sounded really good was what I always think of as a "National Trust day out:" touring an old estate house, having a wander among the grounds and gardens, poking into the gift shop, and having some food at one of their quite good cafes.

I chose Osterley Park because it was open on a Friday, and because I geek out over Robert Adam, but it was not necessarily the most efficient place to get to from the Tower, as it's on the Piccadilly line out near Heathrow. Still, though, I think I got there in less than an hour.

Osterley Park

Ahh, what a difference that made. This is one of the really cool things about London: if you are not in the mood for the city, you can easily get out of the city. A relatively short walk from the tube and I was suddenly in pastoral England, right down to the cows and horses on the side of the path.



Osterley Park isn't particularly large for a great house. The grounds aren't the largest or most impressive I've seen. It does have an interesting history with connections to the Child family of Child's Bank and the Earl of Jersey, plus a scandalous elopement (there was a chase, to Gretna Green!); some extremely intriguing Robert Adam rooms; and a cafe set within the old Tudor-era stables. What Osterley Park mostly had going for it, though -- because I fully enjoyed my day there -- was that it was a complete "National Trust day out," just outside of London. Once I decided it was what I needed, it was exactly what I needed.

Some more pictures from my visit below:

 Entrance hall
 
 Long gallery

 Tapestry room

 Library

Staircase

Etruscan room

The grounds are still lovely, even if they're not the best ever!

Some of the garden and Orangery

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Temporary Mistress update

For those of you who don't already follow me on FF.net or Archive of Our Own, I'm currently posting Temporary Mistress for what's basically a mass online beta, so feel free to join in the fun!

I'm looking for feedback to make the story better, so please tell me your thoughts if you do go over to read. You're welcome to sign up for accounts there and post comments/reviews, or email me directly at sophieturner1805 [at] gmail [dot] com.

Do be aware that this story decidedly contains portions only for mature audiences. I know in my other work I have "faded to black" pretty early on. That is not at all the case here. It's explicit. As we get closer to my actually publishing it, I'll explain a bit more why I wanted to write a story like that. But for now, here are the links:

Archive of Our Own
Fanfiction.net

Happy reading!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Meet the newest Austen Author: me!

I hinted at an announcement two posts ago, and here it is: I am joining Austen Authors!

This means I'll be blogging a bit less here, and more there (my debut post is this Friday, July 8), but I will cross-link any posts here and in my other social media spots, as I do for my guest posts on other blogs currently.


Saturday, July 2, 2016

HMS Victory videos

Hello again! It feels like it's been forever even since my brief last post, and as that post indicated, I've been traveling, which has taken quite awhile to recover from (I can't say I'm even still completely recovered). Most of the trip was for work, but I did have opportunity to do long layovers in England on the way out and the way back (!), and so you can expect at least a few posts from that.

First up, since I'd already shown photos of HMS Victory, I thought I would post some updated video. Generally when I'm in Great Britain, I've been trying to go to new places, because there is still so much I want to see. I viewed this trip as a bonus, though, so I decided to spend my first night in England in Portsmouth, because I haven't been back in a few years, and really missed it. This gave me a chance to see the updates that have been made as part of the ship's renovation. Most notable is the more authentic decor in the captain's and admiral's cabins, and the much more Georgian color scheme.







Thursday, June 9, 2016

Traveling

I had meant to post something before I left, but wanted to let everyone know that my current and future radio silence is because I've been traveling for work and have been very busy during my time away. I'll be back soon enough with new posts and some exciting news!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Writing JAFF as a feminist, and a Temporary Mistress excerpt

I've been wanting to expand on something I wrote about a bit in the author's notes of A Change of Legacies, around how Regency women became the property of their husbands, after marrying. This was a sinister theme, in Georgiana's dreams in Legacies, because once she spoke those words at Gretna Green, she became the property of George Wickham, something she was too young to really understand the consequences of until it was too late.

Really, all of the restrictions preventing hasty marriages in England (and therefore requiring couples who wished to elope to hie off to Scotland) were designed to protect men's property: their daughters, who came with dowries and were of best benefit to men if they could be married to make connections with other important families. Darcy is able to seek an annulment for Georgiana's marriage (albeit with complications) because he and Colonel Fitzwilliam had not given their consent to the marriage, and so Wickham has, in essence, stolen their property.

Let's just take a step back and think about that for a moment. Elizabeth is Mr. Darcy's property. Georgiana is Captain Stanton's property.

I hope it never feels that way in my stories, because I have very much endeavored for that to not be the tone of any of my married couples' relationships. But it was the reality, and part of the reason I wished to include Georgiana's dream storyline was to show that reality. When a woman accepted a marriage proposal, she was in essence giving herself over to a man for life, and if she chose badly, she would ruin her life.

As much as I love the Regency era, I am also a pretty staunch feminist, and it's sometimes difficult to square that with writing about women who are in this situation. All I can really do is write them in marriages where their husbands respect them, listen to their opinions, and do not treat them like property.

Elizabeth and Darcy are the best example of this -- they get up to arguments and misunderstandings with relative frequency, and Elizabeth is always allowed to spar her corner. Never, ever, will Darcy simply overrule her and determine she doesn't have a say, because he is the man. He fell in love with this woman's lively mind, and while she may occasionally frustrate him, he always respects that mind. Even that he puts up with her calling him "Darcy," after his initial protest in the Constant Love series, indicates a certain respect towards her: he allows her to call him what his male friends do, putting her on equal footing with them.

These themes have come through, I think, even more strongly in Temporary Mistress, my little (okay, possibly not so little anymore -- it's reached novel-length) side project. I shared the prologue of the working draft back when it first ate my brain, and thought I would share an excerpt very relevant to this particular topic. If it's been awhile since you read the prologue excerpt, recall that Elizabeth is now widowed and the heiress of Longbourn, following an unhappy marriage of necessity to Mr. Collins:


Although Mrs. Bingley had provided an excellent meal, Darcy could hardly eat, in his present state of excitement. Elizabeth – glorious Elizabeth! – was just up the table from where he sat, amongst the unmarried ladies and gentlemen. She was there and looked as lovely as ever, in the palest lavender dress, laughing and conversing with those beside her. He had wondered, upon learning she was once again a possibility due to Mr. Collins’s untimely demise, if he had spent the past few years making her more wonderful in his mind than she truly was, maintaining a love for an imagined Elizabeth rather than the real one. But she was every bit as he had remembered her, and he believed he loved the real Elizabeth even more, for there were details and nuances to her that he had forgotten.

Oh, those torturous early days, after reading of Mr. Collins’s decease. How he had longed to go to her, to declare himself. It had been Georgiana who had counseled patience, after he had opened up his heart to her. Georgiana, who had regained her confidence and her happiness, who was mature enough to be giving him advice, now. Nothing should be done while Mrs. Collins was in mourning, except to send a letter of condolence. He had hoped, perhaps, that his letter might become the beginning of a correspondence between them, but her response, while polite, had left him no opening; there was nothing within that could be responded to.

So he had waited, and tried to determine some natural way in which he could be returned to her acquaintance. In that, his encountering Charles at White’s, and making his apology and the first overtures of renewing their friendship, had been the deepest blessing. Their friendship was not what it once had been; it had been renewed with caution, and still felt a delicate, awkward thing. Yet it had been renewed, and Darcy was grateful for it, even beyond its providing the opportunity for him to be here. How impatient he had been in Gibraltar, upon receiving Charles’s invitation to the house party at Netherfield. Of all things, to be kept from his second chance by war!

But he was there, now, and he would seize his second chance, although he would keep Georgiana’s counsel and go about things patiently. In his last visit to Netherfield, he had not done anything to indicate his affections; he would do so now, gradually, and seek to understand her own. She was a widow, and he could not yet know what the state of her heart was; perhaps she had come to love Mr. Collins. Elizabeth glanced down the table at him, and he smiled. She returned the smile, and even this simple thing gave him hope.

Darcy made an attempt to apply himself to the food, so as not to be caught looking at her too often. When next he did look in her direction, he found her frowning, and wondered at what could have caused this. She did not look at him, this time, and eventually he returned his attention to his neighbors at the table, and to his food.

Too soon, the ladies made their exit for the drawing-room, although at least this gave him a better look at her figure as she left, and he found it every bit as pleasing as it ever was. He was not the only man there who found Mrs. Collins pleasing, however; he soon learned. Mr. Althorpe was most vocal in his praise of the young widow’s looks, but he received much agreement from the other single gentlemen, and for the first time Darcy realised that he might well have competition for her hand, a thought that filled him momentarily with paralysing fear.

“She ought to marry soon,” Mr. Althorpe was saying. “A woman, trying to manage that estate on her own – she’ll run it down in no time. It wants a man’s management.”

“She seems to have done well enough with it in the last year,” Darcy said, with his heart pounding, for he detested confrontation, particularly with new acquaintances.

“I am sure that is only because she kept with whatever procedures her husband implemented. It will be once she starts getting womanish ideas in her head, and acting upon them. That will be when she destroys her own income. Unless, of course, she marries me.”

This prompted laughter from all the men around him, save Darcy, and he wished Charles was seated closer to him, for certainly Bingley would have assisted in the defense of his sister, if he had overheard Althorpe.

“And where is your estate, Mr. Althorpe?” Darcy asked, knowing it was not likely Mr. Althorpe, the younger son of a viscount, would have one, and it was very possible he never would.

“Haven’t inherited it yet,” Mr. Althorpe said, pouring himself more brandy. “Fine little property, from my mother’s side of the family, but it would be preferable to have Longbourn while I wait, particularly when it comes with such a fine-looking wife to warm my bed.”

“Might it not be said, then, that Mrs. Collins has more experience in running an estate than you?”

The men laughed again at this, one of them saying that Darcy had Althorpe there, and thankfully the subject moved away from Mrs. Collins following this. From the occasional glares Darcy received from Mr. Althorpe, however, he felt quite certain he had just made himself an enemy. Yet he was glad he had done it, even if he had been discomfited by it; he did not like the thought of Elizabeth being spoken of in such a manner.

It was a relief, when the butler came to tell them that tea was ready in the drawing-room, but Mr. Althorpe, being nearer the door than Darcy, made his way thither more quickly, and Mrs. Collins was his object. Darcy watched, fuming, at the man’s making every effort to render himself agreeable to the woman he had demeaned earlier. To his surprise, however, Darcy was rewarded not five minutes later, when he watched Elizabeth disengage herself from the conversation, and make her way over to where he stood.

“If you are at leisure, Mr. Darcy, I wonder if I might hear from you about Gibraltar now,” she said, quietly.

“Of course,” he said, trying to quell his feelings of delight and triumph so that they would not reach his countenance. He led her over to an open sofa, and then proceeded to provide her with any details of the town he could remember, and stories of the voyages there and back. His delight continued as she showed herself fully engaged in all he spoke of, nodding at his descriptions and asking questions to glean further details.

“Oh, I have entirely monopolised your time!” she exclaimed, when it became clear that some of those who were not staying at the house were calling for their carriages.

You may monopolise my time forever, Elizabeth! he wanted to say, but did not.

“Not at all, Mrs. Collins. In fact, I thought to offer more of my time, if you wish it, to come and look at Longbourn’s books – to offer my advice on the estate.” He did not know if she would take this offer, or even if she thought of herself as needing advice, but he did wish to offer his assistance, and this was the thing he was best suited to assisting her in.

“Oh, yes, because a woman cannot run an estate! Surely I must require your advice,” she said, furiously.

A sharp, stabbing pain in his chest. Were his chances already ruined?

“Of course not. Someone so clever as you should have no difficulty in running an estate,” he said, softly. “I – I know what it is to be given such a responsibility at a young age, and at least in my own case, I did not have anyone to turn to, that I could ask for advice. I had always relied on my father for guidance, and when he was gone, I found I suddenly had his responsibilities, and no longer the benefit of his counsel. I only meant that if you desired my advice, or simply wished for someone to talk over matters with, I would be pleased to give any assistance that I may. I apologise – I never meant to demean you.”

“It is I who should apologise,” said she. “Your offer was very kindly meant, and I am sorry that I spoke so sharply to you. Mr. Althorpe said something to me during dinner, and I suppose I am still a little sensitive over it.”

He found himself relieved, both that they were returned to understanding each other, and that Mr. Althorpe had already revealed his true self to her.

“Pray do not worry yourself over it, Mrs. Collins. It cannot be easy, to be in your position.”

She nodded. “I would like your advice, Mr. Darcy, if you are still willing to give it.”



Derbyshire spar and the economics of Pride and Prejudice

It's a day for double posts, before I head off to England for a few weeks! To follow along with me, check out my Facebook and Twitter f...