Renata’s Musings on Writing

Unexpected

I like to consider all possibilities when thinking about a plot for a Pride and Prejudice variation. Here is one I considered, but will not use, because I can’t figure out where it goes from here.

Unexpected

Darcy and his cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, entered Rosings Park for their usual Easter visit. Darcy expected his only pleasure would be in the time he spent with Richard and the use of the beautiful grounds of Rosings. His and Richard’s mutual aunt was not a pleasant companion, but family duties took precedence over pleasure.

Aside from his aunt’s desire to dominate conversation, one anticipated ordeal was Mr. Collins, who was his aunt’s rector. Darcy had met Mr. Collins in Hertfordshire and did not think he would enjoy his sermons, nor would he enjoy any interaction with Mr. Collins. But duty was duty and even long Easter services could be tolerated.

As they walked up the steps, Higgens, Lady Catherine’s butler, told them, “I was ordered to have you come to the principle drawing room immediately upon your arrival.”

“Surely, we need time to freshen up after our journey,” Richard asserted.

“My orders were ‘immediately.’”

Darcy and Richard exchanged a glance. Richard shrugged and they headed for the principle drawing room. “Bad news?” Darcy anticipated.

“Lady Catherine stubbed her toe,” Richard replied, deliberately using their aunt’s title.

Lady Catherine was not in her usual chair. Instead, Mr. Collins was. She was next to him. Darcy and Richard both looked from one to the other. Mr. Collins announced, “Welcome to Rosings. My wife and I are happy to see you.”

Lady Catherine did not look happy.

Announcing Besieged Heiresses by Renata McMann

Besieged Heiresses

Elizabeth didn’t expect to be wealthy, and certainly didn’t expect the problems it would create. However, she rapidly discovered that she wasn’t the only one with both the wealth and the problems.

Darcy was given an irresistible incentive to handle her financial affairs. Because of their financial relationship, he would be taking advantage of her if he courted her. But she not only needed his help with her money, but she also needed his protection.

Besieged Heiresses is available as an eBook alone or as a paperback book which also includes Why Wed? and Is Esteem Enough? The three books will soon be available as an eBook at a slight savings over buying them all separately.

This Pride and Prejudice variation novella is about 34,000 words long.

Using A.I. in Books

A.I. can create beautiful images.

Except the woman’s hand does not look quite right.

For my book, Becoming the Enemy, I thought it would be fun to illustrate it with A.I. images. (Becoming the Enemy is science fiction and not a romance.) I found it very frustrating because it took many trials for me to find what I could use. I decided to create some examples to show some of the problems.

For the fun of it, I tried the prompt, “Darcy and Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth is shorter than Jane and Lydia. Darcy is tall. Are Jane and Lydia as tall as Darcy? Is Elizabeth standing on a stool?

Here are two pictures, out of four, I got using the prompt, “A regency era woman wearing a gown with a high waist standing in front of a table.” (Yes, I know “Regency” should be capitalized, but I don’t think the computer cares.)

She isn’t standing and her dress is not high waisted.

She is standing, but not in front of the table. Her gown is not high waisted.

None of the gowns were high waisted. Perhaps A.I. doesn’t understand “high waisted.” So I googled “empire waist” and got, “An empire waist is a style of clothing where the bodice is fitted and ends just below the bust.”

I used the prompt, “A regency era woman wearing a gown with an empire waist walking briskly with a dashing gentleman in a garden.”

This does not look like a couple walking briskly. Also, I don’t think Regency women would wear their hair down like this.

I was never able to get a high waisted gown.

Here is an image I used in Becoming the Enemy despite the rather weird left hand the woman has. Daisy is a minor character, but I think I would have mentioned it if she had such an unusual hand.

I was hoping no one would notice the hand.

My prompt was, “Two men and two women playing cards in the Regency era with a militia lieutenant observing.”

Where are the observer and the second woman?

In the following image, I think the man’s right hand appears twice and I’m not certain what is going on with the woman’s left hand.

I’ve been asking for four images and only using one. For my last example, I’m giving all four. My prompt was, “A carriage with matched bay horses is driving through Regency London.”

This doesn’t look like it will work.

I’m not certain what is attached to what.

It is customary with one horse to put it in the center. Also, having one horse simplifies the problem of finding those that match.

Is there a carriage? What is the horse on the left attached to?

Perhaps A.I. will take over many jobs, but it still needs some work.

I hope you will try reading Becoming the Enemy where I was able to get pictures I could use.

Becoming the Enemy – Prologue

Becoming the Enemy will be published sometime in February. There is no romance in the book. None. It is a post-apocalyptic, science fiction story.

A devastating war killed most of Earth’s population. A few of the survivors resolved that they would repopulate the world but do so in a way that would ensure that such a war would never happen again. How could they avoid future violence when they couldn’t eliminate it in the present?

Sandra would have liked to step aside and let others make decisions. The others were senior citizens and probably would be wiser than she was. However, her pregnancy gave her a greater stake in the future.

This short novel (about 46,000 words) describes the aftermath of the deaths of most of humanity. Although it was inspired by Renata McMann’s and Summer Hanford’s Pride & Prejudice and Planets, it contradicts that book in many ways.

There are A.I. illustrations in the book.

Prologue
When his connection died, Ben closed his laptop and put it in his backpack. He headed out with his backpack and suitcase, wondering if they had waited for him. They had. Alice’s SUV was at the door. Ben’s, James’, and Daisy’s cars were still in the parking lot. Ben had never seen the parking lot so empty.

The back of the SUV opened invitingly, and Ben stowed his luggage. As he was doing so, he asked,“No one else?”

“They didn’t believe me,” Alice said. “They think I’m a crazy old lady with delusions.”

Ben didn’t think it would be wise to comment that believing her was the only strategy that had a chance that he would be alive in a week. He did voice one practical thought. “Shouldn’t we bring another car in case of problems?”

“It’s too easy to get separated. The roads will be crazy.”

Everything was crazy. Why should the roads be an exception?

As Ben was getting in the SUV, James said, “Dying for a cause can be praiseworthy. Dying for a lost cause is stupid. No one will care that you stayed at your post until you lost connectivity.”

“Ben cares,” Daisy said.

Yes, Ben did care. He still expected to die along with the rest of mankind. Alice’s safe place was so unlikely that he could easily consider it to be a delusion, no matter how reasonable she had been in the past. But the man, who is dying of thirst in a desert, still crawls toward what he perceives as water, even if his rational mind knows it’s an illusion.

A slight hope is better than no hope.

Pride & Prejudice and Planets Images

Long before eBooks, I read a library book with no dust jacket. I had a vague image of the heroine in mind. Later, I saw the cover illustration and my reaction was that the picture on the cover wasn’t the heroine. Using an AI program, Summer Hanford has been trying to create images of the characters in our forthcoming book, Pride & Prejudice and Planets. Although the images are nice and don’t contradict the book we have written, they aren’t my characters.

Wait a minute. If the images aren’t the images of the author of a book, aren’t they wrong? Not really. There are two of us and I could happily live with the images being Summer’s images. But the AI program Summer is using doesn’t read minds. The words used don’t perfectly translate into pictures. I doubt that the program could find the perfect Darcy or the perfect Elizabeth.

Jane Austen never described Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. We know she was more beautiful than any of her sisters, but we don’t know the shape of her face or the color of her hair or eyes. We know she was shorter than Lydia and heavier than Elizabeth, but that isn’t helpful in knowing what she looked like. Jane Austen left that to our imagination.

Perhaps we should have left character images to readers’ imaginations, but the AI images are fun, and we decided to share the fun with our readers. Feel free to say to yourself, “That is NOT Darcy!!!” You will be right. Summer did not get the AI to do exactly what she wanted and agrees with that sentiment.

As a teaser, a picture of Georgiana is included since I doubt that anyone will be too offended if their imagined version of Georgiana isn’t the same as the illustration.

A portraite of a young woman with dusty blonde hair. Her face is narrow and she has a smattering of light freckles. We can see the collar of her white button down shirt. She's in a rectangular frame with imaginary planets at each corner.

Statement From Renata

Summer Hanford, my co-author, has just published Once Upon a Time in Pemberley, a Pride and Prejudice variation she wrote without me. She apparently wanted the fun of making up the plot.  I offered to read it pre-publication, but she reasonably said that she would be too inclined to feel she had to follow any suggestions I made. 

Large Print Books

Summer Hanford and I have made To Fall for Mr. Darcy and After Anne available in large print.

I live in a large independent living community. The residents vary from those who are still employed to those who need help from aides or spouses. There is more than a forty year age gap from the youngest to the oldest resident. Not surprisingly, many people here are not computer literate, especially those over ninety.

But computer literacy does not mean people necessarily prefer eBooks. Many love the feel of a book in their hands. I understand that. I have spent too many pleasant hours with books not to love the physical book. But when traveling meant not being able to pack enough paperbacks, I saw to it that my kindle was well supplied. As my eyesight deteriorated, I embraced larger fonts, so I wouldn’t need reading glasses. And as someone who loves words, I liked being able to put my finger on a word and get a definition. I no longer keep a dictionary nearby when I read.

An additional problem is that I am a person who rereads. Sometimes I will open a book to reread a certain scene. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice completely through at least eight times, and I read many scenes much more often. Thus, I want to own books I’ve loved. But downsizing meant limited shelf space, so I had to make choices. A college roommate, majoring in library science, told me that shelf space is more expensive than books. I don’t think that has changed in the intervening years.

Summer Hanford and I don’t expect many sales of the few books we’ve put in large print, but we hope to expand the availability of some of our books to a few more readers. Thus, for those who have followed a different path than I have, we are offering two more large print books.

To Fall for Mr. Darcy Cover Reveal

I write the first draft of the books Summer and I publish together. I don’t plan a theme for the books, but sometimes one occurs. This happened in To Fall for Mr. Darcy. Five characters: Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy, Lydia Bennet, Georgiana Darcy, and Anne de Bourgh all made choices that had repercussions. All faced the consequences of their choices. Elizabeth’s actions caused her to marry Mr. Darcy, a man she knew nothing about. I don’t think it will surprise anyone that both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy learned to be very happy about those choices.

Cover Reveal

Darcy’s Other Letter

Darcy’s Other Letter

Darcy’s explained his actions to Elizabeth in a letter. The letter mentions another letter Darcy wrote, one he wrote to Wickham. In Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth, he wrote about Georgiana planning to elope with Wickham. Darcy then wrote:

I joined them [Georgiana and Mrs. Younge] unexpectedly a day or two before the intended elopement, and then Georgiana, unable to support the idea of grieving and offending a brother whom she almost looked up to as a father, acknowledged the whole to me. You may imagine what I felt and how I acted. Regard for my sister’s credit and feelings prevented any public exposure; but I wrote to Mr. Wickham, (emphasis mine) who left the place immediately, and Mrs. Younge was of course removed from her charge.

What did Darcy say in that letter to Wickham?

Darcy probably didn’t offer Wickham money, because he would end up paying again and again. Also, the offer of money would involve making an offer, negotiation, and agreement. It is not suggested that any of these things happened. There was a single letter mentioned, and it is unlikely Wickham left a forwarding address. What Darcy certainly didn’t write was that Georgiana had told him about the planned elopement. That would have been stupid, since Wickham could sell the letter back to Darcy for a large sum.

Darcy could not depend on Wickham keeping silent for Georgiana’s sake. This is confirmed to the reader by Wickham telling Elizabeth, “I wish I could call her [Georgiana] amiable. It gives me pain to speak ill of a Darcy. But she is too much like her brother–very, very proud.” Wickham only valued himself, not others

One possibility for the other letter is, “I’m here. Go away.” Aside from the likelihood that Darcy could never write a letter that short, what would he accomplish by it? Even if Darcy arrived late in the evening with tired horses and thus no ability to leave immediately, he would have at least two servants, possibly more. His servants could be instructed to turn Wickham away, and Darcy could leave with Georgiana in the morning.

It would be more satisfactory to pack up Georgiana and take her with him. If he ensured Mrs. Younge and the servants left too, it would give Darcy some satisfaction imagining Wickham arriving to an empty house. The household almost certainly had a carriage and Mrs. Younge and at least some of the other servants could leave in it. Even if he felt the need to stay a while, why inform Wickham? What Darcy wanted to accomplish was to physically separate Georgiana from Mr. Wickham and ensure that the intended elopement was kept secret.

Wickham hated Darcy. One thing he could easily do to hurt Darcy was publicize the truth: Georgiana had agreed to elope with him. The downside of this is that it would put Wickham in a somewhat bad light. But Georgiana (and thus Darcy) would be hurt more. The only credible reason I can come up with for Darcy’s confidence that Wickham would keep silent was that Darcy knew that Wickham valued his image so much that he would give up the opportunity to hurt Darcy a lot if he hurt himself a little.

When writing More Than He Seems, where we made Wickham a hero, I consciously changed this. Instead of a letter in More Than He Seems, in the aftermath of the non-elopement, Darcy and Wickham had a conversation. It was partially done for the dramatic impact, but also done because I had no idea what Darcy said in the letter. Summer probably kept it in because of the dramatic impact. In More Than He Seems, Wickham was not planning to elope with Georgiana, but Georgiana, Wickham, and Mrs. Younge all lied to Darcy for their own reasons.

Despite having solved the problem of Darcy’s other letter for our book, I still wonder what Jane Austen thought was in that letter.

Why Wed?

Announcing Why Wed? a Pride and Prejudice Variation

by

Renata McMann

Elizabeth has an older half-brother Thomas, who is estranged from his family because he refused to break the entail. Despite her mother’s objections, Elizabeth goes to keep house for him at the Hunsford Parsonage near Rosings, where she meets Mr. Darcy again.

Mr. Darcy decides to marry his cousin Anne de Bourgh, but that doesn’t work out as planned.

Many characters from Pride and Prejudice marry for a variety of reasons, including health, wealth, and of course, love.

This sweet Pride and Prejudice novella has about 28,000 words. Note: is also available on Kindle Vella.

You can find Why Wed? on kindle here: http://getbook.at/WhyWed

Chapter 1 Longbourn, Elizabeth

Elizabeth Bennet had already made a formal condolence call on her recently widowed friend, Charlotte Collins, but she felt a second, more private call was appropriate. Charlotte’s parents, Sir William and Lady Lucas, had taken their daughter in after her very short marriage had ended with the death of her husband from smallpox. Charlotte was arrayed in widow’s black but was not weeping in her room. Instead, she returned to her former occupation of helping run her parents’ household with no sign of recently tears shed.

“I wonder how they managed in your absence,” Elizabeth said. She had joined Charlotte in the kitchen and the two of them were preparing potatoes for stew. This wasn’t something Elizabeth did at home, but it allowed her time with her friend.

Charlotte grimaced. She then took a potato and chopped it to tiny pieces.

“What are you doing?” Elizabeth asked.

“We are out of flour,” Charlotte said. “I’ve been told that potato can thicken stew. I’ve never tried it, but if I cut the potatoes in small enough pieces, it should help.” Charlotte kept chopping.

“Out of flour?”

“Yes. I shouldn’t criticize my sister. She tried but—” Charlotte broke off.

“She hasn’t yet learned to take over all the jobs you did,” Elizabeth supplied.

“She’s young to run a household, but our cook quit and neither Maria nor my mother had spent enough time in the kitchen. In fairness, Maria did very well with the chickens and the mending.”

“At least you are appreciated.”

“Exactly. From my point of view, my absence was the perfect length. My family is glad to have me back because Maria hasn’t yet learned to replace me.”

“If it had been longer, Maria would have learned your job. If it had been shorter, there wouldn’t have been time for things to have gone wrong.”

“So, I am appreciated here. I’m a respectable widow, rather than a pitied spinster. Lady Catherine has arranged a pension for me of twenty pounds a year, which is generous considering how short a time I was married. And I inherited Mr. Collins money, which gives me another £150 a year. I’m not wealthy, but I’m not poor. I received a bit of additional money from Lady Catherine for the contents of the parsonage.”

“You sold the furniture?”

“Furniture, linens, cooking utensils, everything. My father didn’t want to take anything home because some people here aren’t immune to smallpox.” Elizabeth had no idea if Sir William’s caution was warranted, but she certainly understood the fear.

Elizabeth looked at the faint smallpox scars on her friend’s face. They weren’t related to her husband’s recent demise, but from twelve years earlier. It changed Charlotte from an ordinary fifteen-year-old girl to someone who was plain. It had inspired Elizabeth’s mother to see her daughters and herself were vaccinated, although it took her several years to find how to get it done. “That was generous of her.”

“It was. I’ve been lucky.” After a long pause, Charlotte added, “Not in that my husband contracted smallpox three days after the wedding, but that I came out of the marriage better off than I went in.”

She was better off both financially and by having attained the status of a widow.

Elizabeth had a brief, odd feeling of envy for Charlotte. Mr. Collins was a distant cousin of Elizabeth, who had visited the Bennets to find a wife. Elizabeth had refused his offer of marriage which infuriated her mother, since her mother’s goal in life was to marry her daughters off. Mr. Collins had turned to Charlotte who was more interested in the status and financial security a husband offered than in his character. Elizabeth could be in the position of relative financial independence if she had accepted Mr. Collins’ offer. The fleeting feeling disappeared very rapidly when the image of Mr. Collins came into her mind. Amusement hit her. Wasn’t there some quote? “Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it.” The only reason she thought of the marriage to Mr. Collins as being desirable, was that he died.

Elizabeth had another motive for visiting Charlotte. Life at home was becoming increasingly unpleasant. She knew her mother would be angry with her for at least a day, since her fortnightly letter from Thomas would come. Although she looked forward to her brother’s letters, she did not look forward to her mother’s rant. At least her mentioning Elizabeth’s refusal to marry Mr. Collins was no longer brought up as often.

But when she arrived home, she found she was saved from the rant. “There’s no letter,” her mother crowed. “Maybe he’s dead.” When no one responded, she said, “With Mr. Collins dead, if Thomas dies, the entail is broken. Wouldn’t that be wonderful.”

“I do not consider the death of my son as wonderful,” Mr. Bennet said.

“But it would be. Then you can will the property as you wish, and we won’t have to worry when you die.”

“Mrs. Bennet,” Elizabeth’s father said, “It is highly inappropriate for you to wish for the death of my son.”

“But he wouldn’t break the entail,” Mrs. Bennet countered.

“Even if I am angry about that, it doesn’t mean I want him dead.”

“He has no family feelings,” Mrs. Bennet said. “Last time he visited here he stayed less than two days and was very picky about his food. I provide a good table and he hardly ate anything. He even accused me of trying to poison him.”

“He said what you served him made him sick,” Elizabeth said, unable to keep silent on the issue.

“It didn’t make anyone else sick,” Mrs. Bennet said triumphantly.

It hadn’t, but with her long correspondence with her half-brother, Elizabeth was aware of the lengths he went to avoid eating wheat. Elizabeth remembered her grandfather didn’t eat bread, saying that it gave him indigestion. Surely, Mrs. Bennet remembered her own father had a mild problem like the one Thomas had. Jane once brought it up, but Mrs. Bennet dismissed its relevance by saying old people often had imaginary digestive problems.

As the days went by without a letter. Elizabeth assumed it had gone astray and didn’t worry much, but each day Mrs. Bennet was happier and happier, and even talked about inquiring if Thomas Bennet had died, but his letter arrived five days late.

“I don’t suppose he’s changed his mind about the entail,” Mrs. Bennet asked, as she always did.

“No.” Since her mother always asked that question, Elizabeth didn’t need to answer in any detail.

“He’s content to let his family live in poverty when Mr. Bennet dies,” Mrs. Bennet complained as usual. “He never does anything to help any of us.”

“He did offer,” Elizabeth’s sister Mary said.

“Inadequate and ridiculous,” Mrs. Bennet said. “Imagine a son telling his mother what she can say.”

“Now he’s your son?” Mr. Bennet asked.

“He would be my son, if he had been dutiful.”

Elizabeth decided to discuss the contents of Thomas’ letter privately with their father. She was tired of the anger her mother continually expressed toward Thomas, who was a product of an earlier marriage. When Mr. Bennet was widowed with a two-year-old son, his deceased wife’s mother took Thomas in and raised him until he was old enough to go to Eton, even though Mr. Bennet remarried when his son was five. Thomas spent the time he wasn’t in school with his grandmother, only visiting his father’s family twice a year.

But when Thomas was eighteen, Mrs. Bennet presented him with an agreement to break the entail when he reached twenty-one. He refused to sign, which led to a rift between him and the Bennets. His grandmother paid for Cambridge and Thomas was ordained at twenty-three. He became a curate in a largely rural parish and lived in a room in a farmhouse near the church.

When his grandmother died three years later, Thomas inherited two thousand pounds. He then wrote his father and made an offer. He would sign a document saying that after Mr. Bennet died, he would give each of his five sisters fifty pounds a year until they married. In return, he would live with the Bennets, receive an allowance of £200 a year, he would be fed a diet that did not include wheat, and Mrs. Bennet would never complain about the entail to anyone.

It lasted less than a week. The only condition that was met was Thomas receiving £50 as his first quarter’s payment. He repaid his father and left, after becoming sick from what he was served. In addition, Mrs. Bennet could not hold her tongue. She considered the conditions unreasonable. She was to receive nothing from Thomas, and her daughters could hardly live on fifty pounds a year. She complained to anyone who would listen. She did not mention that since she had the five thousand pounds that was settled on her, she would have an income of £250 pounds a year. Thomas visited again but left when little attention was paid to his dietary requests.

Elizabeth waited until it was unlikely her mother would connect Thomas’ letter to her slipping into the library. Perhaps her mother was fooled, but her father wasn’t. “What did Thomas have to say?” he asked.

“He wants me to visit. No, it’s more than a visit. He has a living, and he wants me to help with his household for a while until he gets settled.”

They discussed the details for a while and then announced it to Mrs. Bennet. For once, Mrs. Bennet was uncertain as to what to say. She was angry with Elizabeth both for refusing a marriage proposal from Mr. Collins and corresponding with Thomas, but she was genuinely glad to get rid of her least favorite daughter for months. When Mr. Bennet announced he was going to escort Elizabeth to Kent, where the Thomas held a living, Mrs. Bennet had a legitimate source of complaint. He was taking the carriage.

“Aside from not approving of Elizabeth traveling alone, I would like to see my son,” Mr. Bennet explained.

“He’s an undutiful son,” Mrs. Bennet said. “You should not see him.”

“Enough. Would you have married me if I had signed away my rights under the entail and my father willed his property to someone else?”

“You owned the property when we married,” Mrs. Bennet said. Elizabeth wasn’t quite sure if that qualified as a non sequitur.

Mr. Bennet’s comment changed the subject. “By the way, the living Thomas has is the same one Mr. Collins had.”

“But that was eight or nine hundred pounds a year! How could he afford that?” Mrs. Bennet protested, clearly unhappy that Mr. Bennet’s son had so high an income.

Thank you for reading.

You can find Why Wed? on kindle here: http://getbook.at/WhyWed