Sunday, February 27, 2011

Voting ends tomorrow in the Jane Austen Short Story Contest at

You have until tomorrow at midnight Eastern time to vote for your favorite Jane Austen-related short stories at

There are almost ninety!  I'm still reading them all!!

My story is #70, The Lost Portrait of Jane Austen.

The top ten winners of the popular vote will be announced Tuesday.

Oh, and who are you rooting for tonight?!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What I Wish I Could Say to the GH Entrants I Judged

I've been judging contests for a couple of years, but this is the first time I volunteered to judge the Golden Heart, RWA's prestigious contest for new writers.  There are over 1000 entrants or more per year, in ten categories, and the first-round judging is done by members all over the country. 
No feedback is given in this contest--you simply get a list of six numerical scores, 1-9. 

I long to give feedback to everyone, to tell them what exactly it was that made me score them as I did.  I believe the purpose of contests is to mentor and teach--not to knock people down.  But this contest does not give you the opportunity to do that.  So...

Here's what I wish I could say to the entrants I had the honor of judging: 

--Conflict drives a story and if you have no external conflict, but focus only on the internal, the reader soon becomes bored.  BUT YOU CAN FIX THIS!
--Don't replace your external conflict with strange, unlikely events that happen suddenly that would never happen in real life (unless you are writing paranormal).  This is an attempt at trying to make the story exciting but it falls flat because it is forced.  BUT YOU CAN FIX THIS!
--Pacing has to be fast to keep your readers' attention.  I think writers often lose track of pacing because we are so submerged into the story and want to be careful to explain many different things so as to not lose our readers.  BUT YOU CAN FIX THIS!
--Inserting emotions that are way over the top doesn't add excitement to the story.  If the heroine squeaks, bursts, or prances, the reader can only wonder if she is human.  AN EASY FIX!
--Does your heroine make bad decisions based on low self esteem that are hard to understand or are not explained well?  The reader has to have immediate sympathy with your heroine and if she/he doesn't, it may be because the decisions she makes are not explained well.  BUT YOU CAN FIX THIS, TOO!
--If you are making jokes in your writing, they may fall flat.  Humor is hard to write.
--One story had an incredible amount of heart but the writing had many flaws (and I don't mean grammar, etc.  I mean story structure problems.)   But the heart of the story was so good, I wished I could score it higher.
--What's the cure for all these things?  Critique partners and Readers.  Readers that read a lot of the genre you write in and feel free to tell you honestly, hey! this just did not sit well with me.   Especially in the entry with a lot of heart, this writer will never know by numerical score how much possibility her entry has.  That she can easily improve her story, polish it up and get it out there again. 
--I am always amazed at how blind to my own story problems I become.  The total immersion it takes to build a story world becomes blinding after a while.  I had to force myself to let other people read my work, but you know what?  It gets easier all the time.  Because the only way to get better and better is to put yourself out there.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hope Ramsay's Debut Novel Out Today--Welcome to Last Chance

Take a look at this gorgeous cover!!  Hope Ramsay, one of the Golden Heart winners from 2009, has her first book out TODAY!  The cover says it all--this is a small-town romance between two unlikely people, and they're from the town of  Last Chance, South Carolina.  Read all about it on Hope's website here.

 Hope is blogging today at the The Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood.  Check out her post here--and don't forget to pick up a copy of her book!!

Hope is a frequent blogger on the Sisterhood.  Check out her craft advice blogs in their archives.  They are outstanding.

I had the privilege of meeting Hope at the RWA national Conference in Orlando last summer.  She calmed me down when I was shaking, index card in hand, for my agent appointment.  (Thanks, Hope!)

Congratulations, Hope, on your four-book series!!! 

float; right

Friday, February 18, 2011

Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest--Vote till Feb. 28

Do you love Jane Austenesque fiction?  There are 87 short stories now posted by talented unpublished authors at  The stories are "inspired by, or based upon, Jane Austen, her novels, characters, letters, philosophies of life and/or love."   They are all wonderfully creative and all of them could not be more different! 

Please stop by and vote for my story, The Lost Portrait of Jane Austen.  It is about a woman who suffers from Darcy-Wickham confusion because of a previously broken heart and how she ultimately finds her real Darcy. 

I loved writing this story.  It was a stretch for me in many ways.  Because my beginning line is a play on the first line of Pride and Prejudice, I was committed to the first person, which I have never written in before.  (Very scary!)  Also, the story is contemporary--I usually write Regency historical romance.  And lastly, the story is short--I write 90,000-word novels.  How do you tell a whole story in 24 pages what usually takes you 350?  Answer:  you write short and you write tight.  (Easier said than done!)

My blog is brand new and is not even showing up in the Google search engine yet (unless you plug in the .com name exactly).  So if you read my story or any others, please don't hesitate to leave a comment about the ones you've liked.  It is difficult to read all 87 by Feb. 28!

And please stop by and vote (for me)!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Two Darcys, Two Proposals

I have a line in my short story for the Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest that harkens back to Darcy's second proposal in Pride and Prejudice.  My line, spoken by a very contemporary British man, the hero (so to speak) of my story, is:  "I can't stop thinking about you.  But one word from you and I'll be silent--forever."

I thought it would be fun to compare the original text of Pride and Prejudice to what is spoken in the 2005 movie version, when Matthew MacFayden as Darcy proposes to Keira Knightley's Elizabeth.

(People tend to be very passionate about what movie version of Pride and Prejudice they like best.  So if you are not a fan of this version, please bear with me.)

Here are Darcy's words, spoken by Matthew MacFayden, as he proposes the first time, in the temple of Apollo at Stourhead estate in Wiltshire (it's gorgeous--see pic at right):

"Miss Elizabeth, I have struggled in vain and I can bear it no longer.  These last months have been a torment.  I came to Rosings for the single object of seeing you.  I had to see you.  I fought against my better judgment, my family's expectation, the inferiority of your birth, my rank and circumstance, all these things, and I am willing to put them all aside and ask you to end my agony.
I love you--most ardently.  Please do me the honor of accepting my hand."

And here are Darcy's words, from the book:

"In vain have I struggled.  It will not do.  My feelings will not be repressed.  You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you."

The other sentiments expressed, about the inferiority of her birth, etc., as well as the actual proposal, are not given in dialogue.

Now, let's look at the second proposal.  Here are Matthew MacFayden's words from the movie:

"My affections and wishes have not changed, but one word from you will silence me forever.
If, however, your feelings have changed, I would have to tell you, you have bewitched me body and soul and I love--I love--I love you, and never wish to be parted from you from this day on."

And Darcy's actual words from the book:

"You are too generous to trifle with me.  If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once.  My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject forever."

These comparisons bring up all kinds of thoughts--from how novels were written 200 years ago to dramatic license of screenwriters to the immediacy of dialogue, to showing vs. telling. 

Which version gives you chills?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Voting Opens Today for the Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest

Welcome to my blog!  I am a historical romance writer journeying on the pathway to publication.  Today, the Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest opens for voting.  It is sponsored by The Republic of Pemberley, a large site with a wealth of Austen information (which also includes full texts of all her novels), and editor Laurel Ann Nattress of   There are 84 total entries!  The popular vote to pick the top ten begins today.  Then, an editorial board will choose the winner, which will be published in a Jane Austen short story anthology to be published by Ballantine Books this fall.  So head over and check out all the stories--mine is #70, The Lost Portrait of Jane Austen.

Portraits of Jane Austen

In my short story, The Lost Portrait of Jane Austen, I imagined that an artist painted her a proper portrait.  But in real life, Jane Austen never sat for a formal portrait.   (In her family of 5 brothers and 1sister, all her brothers except her handicapped brother George had formal portraits.  Cassandra had a silhouette done.  This definitely reflects the place of women in those times, doesn't it?)

Jane's sister Cassandra did the famous pencil and watercolor sketch of her, below, around 1810 (Jane would have been 34 or 35).  It now resides in the National Portrait Gallery in London.   According to Jane biographer Claire Tomalin, this sketch was regarded as "inadequate and unflattering" by those who knew her.  But it is the only image we have of her that has been drawn from life.  People who knew Jane described Jane as having hazel eyes, round cheeks with high color, and curly hair. 

This unfinished sketch spawned every other portrait that has ever been painted of Jane.

A more flattering portrait based off of this sketch was commissioned by her family by a Mr. Andrews of Maidenhead, 1869, that is still owned by her family. (For reference, Jane died in 1817, so this was commissioned many years after her death.):

andrewswc.jpg (11693 bytes)

And here is a 1869 engraving, based off Mr. Andrews watercolor, used on the 1870 A Memoir of Jane Austen by her nephew Edward Austen-Leigh:

File:Jane Austen 1870.jpg

Here's one, based off the above engraving, which appeared on her biography by GE Mitton, 1905:

And then there's this one, called a "more sentimentalized Victorian version" of the above portrait:

This silhouette is owned by the National Portrait Gallery and was found in an old edition of Mansfield Park and inscribed with the words "L'aimable Jane.'"

Jane Austen, by Unknown artist, circa 1810-1815 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

This pencil and watercolor sketch was found in the Prince Regent's librarian,  Rev. James Stanier Clarke's so called "Friendship Book," a personal album he kept of over a hundred drawings, verses, and autographs.  It is speculated to possibly be of Jane from the time she was invited to view the Prince Regent's library in 1815.  The book itself was sold at an estate sale to a used book dealer, and discovered in his shop in 1955.  You can read a scholarly article about it here.

And there you have it.  Makes you appreciate digital photography, doesn't it!!!

If you're interested, see more information at The Jane Austen Society of Australia,, and the National Portrait Gallery.