Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction Challenge: Victorian Orphans Cracking Rocks

This post was written in response to Charli Mills’ weekly fiction challenge at Carrot Ranch.

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This week’s prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rock in the road. It can be physical, adding to a plot twist, or it can be metaphorical for a barrier or hardship. Go where you find the rock.  All writers are welcome!

As usual, the prompt has taken me back in time, to Victorian England, once again.

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Cracking rocks and other chores

‘You’ll get up at 5, carry hot water and light the hearths in all the bedrooms.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘After breakfast, you’ll empty the latrines and make the beds.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Then you’ll prepare lunch and do the laundry.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Such a pretty girl, but so frail.’ He smiled maliciously. ‘The master may use you for other chores.’ 

Let him try, I thought.

He wasn’t to know I had worked cracking rocks with a heavy hammer all day, until I splintered the forman’s skull when he put his hand down my breeches and discovered I wasn’t frail at all.

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Children from the age of eight were exploited sexually and in the workplace in Victorian England. It wasn’t unusual for young girls to disguise themselves as men in order to do male chores, or escape male attention. On other occasions, it was the men who were disguised as women to do women’s chores. In any case, children, often abandoned orphans, trying to survive in large cities, had to learn to fend for themselves from an early age, or perish. This is another post, including flash fiction, I wrote about Oliver Twist and the subject of child labour and orphaned children in Victorian England.

In this flash, the narrator is a girl, who had been disguised as a boy while she had worked cracking rocks. She reverted to her female role and clothes to escape being caught as a murderer. Her new master would do well not to believe she’s unable to defend herself!

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In The Eyre Hall Trilogy, my sequel to Jane Eyre, Susan and Michael Kirkpatrick were orphans, who Jane Eyre employed at Eyre Hall, when they were 14 and 16, respectively. They had been living in a workhouse in London, as many orphaned children at the time. The following paragraphs are taken from All Hallows at Eyre Hall. Michael narrates this passage some years later, as an adult, recalling how Jane, like many other wealthy people living in rural areas, was unaware of life in a London workhouse.

It’s a moving and important extract, because Michael also describes the moment he fell in love with Jane, when he was a young boy. Although Michael had been obsessed with Jane from the first time he saw her at the age of fourteen, Jane didn’t fall in love with Michael until he was an adult and her husband lay on his death bed. Their love affair brings great heartache and trauma to both of them, but they manage to overcome all the emotional and physical demons they face.

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“Have you ever worked?” she asked us, and Susan told her we had done the workhouse chores, such as oakam breaking, which made our fingers bleed. She had not heard of it before, so Susan told her how we had to tease out fibres from old ropes to produce lots of thin loose fibres. “Whatever for?” she asked, quite aghast, and Susan told her the strings were later sold to shipbuilders, where they were mixed with tar and used to seal the lining of wooden vessels.

Susan told her I was a strong boy and used to hard work, because I often cracked granite rocks with a heavy hammer ten hours a day. Again she asked, horror-struck, for the reasons, Susan told her the chippings were carted away by older men, who were not strong enough to crack them, and were then probably used in construction works. Susan proudly explained that with the pennies earned, usually not a shilling a day between us, we were able to buy food, some clothes, and borrow books and magazines to read by candlelight.

When she asked how long we had been there, Mrs. Rochester was again appalled to hear we had been there for two years, since our mother had died. She asked her about our life prior to our mother’s death, and Susan explained we had lived in a rented room in Morton.

She looked at me sadly and asked if I did not speak, and I could only gaze at her face and think how very kind and beautiful she was. Susan told her I was shy, but that I spoke, read, and wrote very well, because our mother had taught both of us to do so. My mistress put her hand up to my face, lightly touching my cheek, and sighed, looking straight into my eyes, as if she were searching for something. It was the moment I fell under her spell. No one had ever touched me like that before, with such concern and affection, not even my mother, who had been too sad and overworked to bestow such warmth. Then Mrs. Rochester spoke to Susan and said someone would teach us our new jobs at her house.

Today is Charles Dickens birthday (February 7th, 1812). I’m not going to praise him yet again, because you all know how important his work is for World Literature and my own literary mind. He also makes a personal appearance in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, and is a vital part of Jane’s recovery in Midsummer at Eyre Hall, although he is no longer physically present.

Here I am beside Charles Dickens’ portrait at the National Portrait Gallery in London, a few months ago.

with-charles-dickens

There are so many things I could say and so many words I could quote to honour Charles Dickens’ memory today,  but I’ve decided to include the following quote, which is not my favourite, but it’s appropriate for a happy day like today!

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Hope you’re all having a wonderful 7th of February!

My Favourite Novel: Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall on #kindle Countdown Deal

Today is a very special day for my novel Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, because Twelfth Night is the night before the twelfth and final day of the Christmas season, which started on Christmas Day, and that day, the 5th of January, is today. Although it’s no longer celebrated in the UK, it used to be a merry festivity in Victorian England.

Twelfth Night Billboard

 

Asking a writer to choose a favourite novel is like asking a parent to choose their favourite child. I’m going to own up to the truth here, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall is my favourite novel. It’s a quick and easy answer, because I enjoyed writing it so much more than the others.

 

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Let me explain, book one, All Hallows was hard to write because it was the first and I had to prove to myself, and my readers that I could do it. I could write a novel. It was a cathartic experience and although I’m thrilled with the result, it was also stressful process.

Second came Twelfth Night, and I felt liberated and capable, so I let my imagination run wild and wrote the most exciting, adventurous and optimistic novel in the trilogy. Twelfth Night has everything that can entertain a reader: wonderful and varied characters, servants, villains, murderers, heroes, supernatural beings, pirates, children as well as adults. There’s romance, a murder investigation, child theft, blackmail, unveiling of family secrets, and a sea voyage. The settings are varied, we move away from Eyre Hall and travel to Dickens’ Victorian London, there’s also a sea voyage across to colonial Jamaica.

Although it’s part of a trilogy, it can be read as a standalone. There is no cliff-hanger ending, the ending is satisfactory, although not happy ever after. I hope readers will read the final instalment, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, but Twelfth Night is a self-contained novel.

The titles of the three books represent the day one of the major event in the novel takes place. In the case of twelfth Night, a significant event takes place. It’s the death, or rather the murder of one of the characters. I can’t say any more without including a spoiler, but I can read the first two paragraphs of the chapter, which is narrated by Jane.

Chapter XVI

Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall

The morning after Twelfth Night, Eyre Hall woke up to an alarming blizzard. I had risen and was looking out to the vast whiteness where no shape, human, animal or natural, could be discerned due to the snowy curtain pouring down. I pitied anyone who would have to leave the house in such weather.

I turned my thoughts to Michael, in London. No doubt, the weather as always, was kinder there. I wondered if he had found Helen, and how soon he would return. He had said by Twelfth Night, so I was looking forward to his arrival shortly. The snow might slow down his journey, but it was a small impediment for such a tenacious person. I wondered wistfully as Nell helped me dress, if we could ever be together as any couple who are in love, but we were not any couple. There were so many obstacles in our way, although now, more than ever, I was sure our future was entwined, and we would find a way to overcome all the complications.

I was shaken by cries coming from Mr. Mason’s room…

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So, if you’d like to read a Victorian Gothic romance, including some of the characters in Jane Eyre and many other engaging characters, in a novel which is full of mystery, suspense, romance and adventure, now is the time to give Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall a try because it’s on Kindle Countdown Deal at less than a dollar or a pound until the 11th of January.

Amazon USA

Amazon UK 

And when you read it, don’t forget to write a review, just a line or two is enough, and let me know what you think.

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Happy Reading and Happy New Year 2017!

 

#Book #Launch! Midsummer at Eyre Hall

Launch Day has arrived at last!

Those of you who have pre-ordered will receive a copy on your kindles, and those of you who haven’t bought it yet, can do so and download it and start reading at once!

Midsummer Billboard

It’s on special offer at 0.99 as a kindle ebook. The paperback version will be coming out later this month.

The three novels can be read as standalones, except perhaps book one All Hallows at Eyre Hall because it ends on a mini-cliffhanger, so if you read book one you will need to read books two and three!

Book two, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall can be read as a standalone, but again, you’ll want to read book three, although it does not end in a cliffhanger.

In order to get the best reading experience it would be best to read the trilogy in order, but feel free to skip around. There are no rules for readers!

 

Banner and Lucy

I’m very excited about completing the trilogy, and although I’ve written ‘The End’, I’m already thinking about novellas and short stories related to the characters and events which appear throughout the trilogy. I’ve actually started a sequel to my sequel, which may be a novella or it may become a full-length novel. Time will tell.

Pick up your copy, or even the three copies!

They’re all on offer at 0.99 each for the Launch!

You’ll have plenty of time to read this summer.

I promise you will be enthralled in this gripping trilogy:)

Midsummer museum

Rediscover the mystery and magic of a Victorian, Gothic Romance in this breathtaking sequel to Jane Eyre.

Readers will be transported from the breathtakingly beautiful Yorkshire coutryside, to Victorian London, across the Atlantic Ocean and the Sargasso sea to Colonial Jamaica, and finally to magical Cornwall.

Adventure, suspense, mystery and passion unfold as the original characters come to life once again, interacting with a host of new ones to ceate an intertextual narrative, which will chronicle the lives of the inhabitants of Eyre Hall from the beginning to the height of the Victorian era.

International Buy Link: http://authl.it/B01EEN6RK0

4 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall. Writing Stage Three: Plotting

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are four days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.

Day four is all about plotting all the scenes into a three part structure.

3 BOOKS ALL HALLOWS

Plotting From Aristotle to Vonnegut.

Most novels combine engaging characters and a compelling plot to varying degrees, however some novels are more concerned with how and external conflict is solved. A prime example is a detective novel concerned with a criminal case and its solution. Other novels focus on personal conflict and the relationships between the characters. In this case, the outcome is often a change of attitude, or a new situation in the characters’ lives, not the solution of a specific incident.

I’m more of a character-driven writer than a plotter, because I’m more concerned with how my characters feel about their problems, and the processes they undergo to overcome them.

Nevertheless, I do plot and my plot is also important, it’s just not more important than my characters personal journey of self-discovery.

In this post I’m going to tell you about my plot structure for The Eyre Hall Trilogy.

According to Aristotle’s Poetics, all drama has three basic acts corresponding to the beginning, the middle, and the end of a story.

Three thousand years later, Kurt Vonnegut told us that a good story has a hero who gets into trouble and then out of trouble, everyone loves that story.

 

Screen writer David Trottier put it like this, ‘Put your hero in a tree, throw rocks at him, and get him out.’

There are few surprises to this basic structure, which has been used over and over again, of course, the fun is in the way it’s presented.

Basically, the first part presents the conflict, the middle complicates it even more, and the end resolves it.

I use this basic 3-part structure in my novels, too.

My three novels have three parts with ten chapters per part.

Each chapter has one scene and some have two related scenes.

Part I includes the setting, main characters and first crisis. I start throwing the rocks as soon as possible. In fact the first crisis happens in chapter I in the three books. I thrust both readers and characters into the situation without warning. This event changes the main character’s life drastically and unexpectedly, to such an extent that Jane literally loses control of her life.

This first crisis is sometimes referred to as enticing incident. It’s what sets the ball rolling.

The rest of the novel is spent dealing with and sorting out this situation, which is partially resolved in books 1 and 2 and finally tied up in part 3.

Part II, also called the midpoint, the central character takes stronger actions, the conflict intensifies, or more conflict appears, and the pace quickens. The main character is at a point of no return. Jane must go forward even if she’s walking straight into another crisis at midpoint, and she knows it. When all seems lost, things take a turn for the better, leading up to part three on an optimistic note.

Part III starts well, but there is another major turning point, which is usually referred to as the crisis or dilemma, occurring towards the end of the novel. It usually involves making a decision aimed at solving the initial problem. It’s often a low point where all seems lost. It is followed by the climax, which is the result of the choices made and leads to the final outcome.

If the novel is part of a trilogy, as my case, there can be no satisfactory solution to the crisis in book I, or there would be no reason for a further book, so it ends on an unsatisfactory ending, sometimes called a cliffhanger if it’s more dramatic, so the reader will want to know what happens in book II.

Book two starts with the same structure all over again, leading to book three, which has a more satisfactory ending. I say satisfactory, because the ends are partially tied up, not because it is totally happy. But more about happy-endings tomorrow.

Scenes

Each of the thirty chapters include scenes.

These scenes include crisis, turning points, surprises, complications, revelations plot twists and turns, and a climax, and a resolution along the way, otherwise it would be a very boring ride!

Scenes are vital, because they drive the story forward. Each scene must have a purpose within the novel, which will move the plot forward or give us some vital information about the characters or back-story.

I give each of the three parts a name, and each chapter a number and a name, too. It helps me in the planning stage, and it signposts the action for the reader (by the way, these names undergo multiple changes throughout the writing process).

This is the Index of Midsummer at Eyre Hall

Part One: Season of Darkness

Chapter I – Abodes of Horror

Chapter II – The Best of Times           

Chapter III – Betrayal

Chapter IV – Winter of Despair         

Chapter V – The Worst of Times       

Chapter VI – Fugitives

Chapter VII – Nothing Before Us       

Chapter VIII – Hell is Empty   

Chapter IX – The Age of Foolishness 

Chapter X – Wrath     

Part Two: Spring of Hope       

Chapter XI – Locked out of Heaven   

Chapter XII– Everything before Us    

Chapter XIII – Epoch of Incredulity

Chapter XIV – Stairway to Heaven    

Chapter XV Pride, Greed, and Lust.   

Chapter XVI – The Agony and the Ecstasy

Chapter XVII Manderley        

Chapter XVIII – In Search of Helen    

Chapter XIX The Road to Hell

Chapter XX –  First Love         

Part Three: Season of Light   

Chapter XXI – Persuasion       

Chapter XXII – Seashells and Puppies

Chapter XXIII – Present Blessings      

Chapter XXIV – Mr. de Winter’s Request      

Chapter XXV – Thunder Moon at Eyre Hall   

Chapter XXVI – Susan’s Inferno         

Chapter XXVII – James Eyre Kirkpatrick        

Chapter XXVIII – Max and Helen       

Chapter XXIX – The Light and the Darkness  

Chapter XXX – Return to Eyre Hall    

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I didn’t plan it all before I started. I started book one with some characters and a situation and let them speak and act. A third of the way through, I planed it all, loosely. I didn’t consciously use Aristotle’s proposal, although it may have been ingrained in my subconscious due to my literary background as a graduate in literature.

This plotting structure has worked for me with the Eyre Hall Trilogy. It helped me to organize my erratic thoughts into coherent scenes, but I honestly have no idea whether it would work with any other novels I’ll be writing. There are lots more methods for plotting a novel.

How do you plot your novels?

 

 

 

6 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall. Writing Stage One: Visualisation

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are six days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.

3 COVERS

I’m a visual learner, thinker and writer.

This means I need visual input to learn, understand and interact meaningfully with my environment.

As a learner, it means I need to see and/or make charts, images, diagrams, mind maps, videos, etc. to fully understand what I’m learning.

Visual 2

As a reader, it means that if the writer doesn’t show me where I am and what and who I’m seeing, I can’t relate to the novel, which is probably why I love the detail and atmosphere conveyed in Victorian novels. However, this doesn’t have to be wordy. Think of poetry; just a few words can express complex feelings and situations.

As a writer it means I need to see images in my mind of who and what I’m writing about, before I write, and it’s why I want my reader to be there with me, inside the characters’ shoes and looking around through their eyes.

These mental images can be based on memories, or something I can see, either physically or virtually, but I need that trigger.

Visual 1

For example, I need to see Eyre Hall before I can imagine anything happening there. I also need to see my characters: their clothes, hairstyles, accessories, mannerisms, etc. before I can hear them speak or watch them interact.

This visualisation stage happens in my mind’s eye, sometimes consciously as I take a walk, sit and think, or unconsciously when I dream.

It is the starting point of all my scenes. I’ve seen it all before I write it down.

I call this the summoning or activating stage, where I’m thinking scenes through, like a chess game. I purposefully think about my characters and location. I see what the characters are doing, where they are and what they are saying like film shots. I rewind, repeat, change, until I’m comfortable with the scene.

I can’t start writing until I’m satisfied with the scene I’ve seem.

Sometimes my imagination isn’t enough to visualise what I want to see, and I need to see photographs and paintings, of people, places and objects related to my scene, because if I don’t ‘see’ it, I can’t conjure it, and I can’t write my scene.

For example, I was having trouble writing about the sea scenes in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall. I saw plenty of pictures about naval battles and storms, but I needed to get inside the ship, before I could hear Michael and Captain Carrington speaking in the Captain’s cabin, and I couldn’t see the room at all.

Sea 1

Quite by chance, I went to Madrid for a weekend in March 2015, and decided to look into war museums, and I discovered that there was a fabulous Naval Museum, which is very close to the Prado Museum, where I spent an unforgettable afternoon. I was lucky enough to take part in an enlightening guided tour of naval history from Columbus to the present, using the museum exhibits.

Captain's cabin.1

There was one exhibit which mesmerised me and enabled me to write the scene I mentioned; an exact replica of a captain’s cabin in a 19th century frigate. It struck me powerfully how grand it was. The polished wooden walls and furniture, rich carpets, drinks cabinets, paintings, upholstered chairs, which were in stark contrast to the rest of the rooms on board.

That visit was like magic. On the two-hour train ride back home, I jotted down all my ideas for the scene, and when I returned, I sat on my computer and it happened. But more about how the actual writing process tomorrow.

Are you a visual thinker?

Here’s an excerpt of one of the scenes on the ship in the first part of Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall.

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Captain Carrington looked up from his desk and waved a hand towards the chair facing him, and then busied himself with some papers, seeming to ignore my presence.

It was rumoured that he had spent so long waiting for a captain’s commission, that his hair had turned white and his skin grey. His face was dented with deep ridges that cut his hollow cheeks, and his head and stomach were unusually large compared to his scrawny limbs. I wondered how he had become so overweight with the meagre portions we ate while at sea.

He folded a document, which looked like a letter, and then stared at me before speaking at last. “Why are you here, Midshipman Kirkpatrick?”

“I wanted to be in the navy, like my father, sir.” I had said the words so often I had convinced myself they were true.

“Who are you running away from?” 

I took a few seconds to reply to his unexpected question. “I have never run away from any man, sir.”

“I can believe that.”

His eyes dug into mine, once again. “Cold blood. Determination. I’ve seen you kill without a second thought, when you needed to.”

The crew were mostly decent, self–respecting men, who worked hard and obeyed the regulations. However, there had been a few blackguards of the worst sort, tough, merciless men who stole rum and provisions, slept on guard, and increased the workload of the rest of the crew. Many of them had served their time in prison, where they should have remained. A group of such criminals had provoked a mutiny threatening the captain’s life shortly before our arrival in Jamaica. In spite of being flogged for not joining their criminal uprising, I managed to escape with the help of a few brave and loyal sailors and suppressed the rebellion by slaying the scoundrels.

“I’m prepared to do what is necessary for my ship and the crew, sir.” I was relieved that the conversation had returned to professional matters.

“Then it’s a woman you are running away from.” He smiled wryly, and I knew there was no point in denying it. I could not imagine how he knew, because we had never spoken about personal matters. “Not a woman, sir. A very special lady.”

“They are all special to someone, my boy. Beyond your station, perhaps? Her family didn’t think you were good enough, did they?”

“Something like that, sir.”

“So you came here to fix that, did you? To prove that you’re worthy of the damsel?”

“I came to forget.” I had not spoken to anyone about Jane since I left Eyre Hall and it was more painful than I had imagined.

“Of course, to forget.” He nodded mockingly, pressed his fingers on the mahogany desk and raised himself up painfully, swearing as he limped around the cabin. He stopped behind me, breathing down my neck. “But you can’t, can you? She is in your thoughts, under your skin, inside your blood, and you cannot pull her out. You smell her before you fall asleep and touch her in your dreams, don’t you?”

I was relieved that he stood behind me. I needed time to compose myself. How could he know how I felt if I did not understand my feelings myself?  

“And when you wake up, your whole body misses her, and your heart aches to hear her voice, you long to look into her eyes, preferably looking up to you from beneath.” I felt his hand on my shoulder. “Am I right, Kirkpatrick?”

I was silent, containing my breathing. How could he know?

“So, what are you going to do about it, man?”

“Nothing, sir. It’s impossible.”

He returned to his seat, staring at me again. “And if you were to return as a commissioned officer, as a lieutenant. Would that make it easier to convince her father?”

“No, sir. It would not.”

“Interesting, no father.” He shuffled the papers on his desk then looked up. “Is that why you’ve been trying to get yourself killed almost every day since we set sail six months ago, Lieutenant?”

“I’m not a lieutenant, sir.”

“You’re a dangerous and valuable man who can kill with one hand and plan the mathematical coordinates of the ship with the other. Your father would have been proud of you, and, one day, so will your beloved’s family.”

“Thank you, sir, for your concern, but I’m afraid not, sir. The lady is out of the question.”

“Then you’ll have to replace her.”

“Never.”

“Admirable self–control and loyalty. I presume she must be married?”

“She is beyond my reach, sir.”

“You were a valet at a country estate before enlisting, am I right?”

I nodded.

“I don’t think a young maid would have made you flee, or rejected you, and seeing the ambition and astuteness in your eyes, I added two and two, and realised it must have been the mistress of the house, or her daughter. Which was it?”

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Did I manage to bring you into the captain’s cabin? Did you see the characters? Are you intrigued?

 

 

 

 

 

7 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall: On planning and pantsing

Many things have been happening during these bloggingly silent months, and I have an important announcement to make.

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are seven days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day to celebrate my achievement.

 

3 COVERS

 

The idea of writing a sequel to Jane Eyre in order to revindicate Bertha Mason and uncover Rochester’s real nature, opening many eyes, including Jane Eyre’s, had been taking shape in my imagination for a few years before I put pen to paper.

On a warm, sunny day, towards the end of June 2013, I sat in my garden with my brand new PC, and started pantsing my novel.

I had a location: Thornfield Hall had been burnt down and Jane had inherited a great deal of money from her uncle, so she had built another more modern country house on the same spot: Eyre Hall. It had neither an attic nor a rookery.

I had a setting: Twenty-two years after Jane and Rochester’s marriage, while Rochester is on his death-bed.

I had an antagonist: My first scene was crystal clear; Richard Mason would arrive at Eyre Hall, causing havoc in Jane’s life once again. He was Bertha’s brother, the man who had interrupted Rochester’s first bigamous marriage attempt in Jane Eyre.

I had the catalyst: This time he had a more shocking revelation. Bertha had given birth to a baby girl in the attic, whom Richard had removed to Jamaica under Rochester’s orders. Annette Mason was twenty-two years old and ready to claim her birthright. Annette is the most vital character in the novel. Without Annette there would be no Eyre Hall Trilogy.

I had the anti-hero: Rochester was responsible for Jane’s ‘unhappy marriage’, and the tragic events which will ensue, due to his crimes and misconduct.

And of course  I had my dear protagonist: Jane Eyre. She is the link to all the other characters and events. The trilogy is concerned with the way in which she will react to the events and other characters, and how her fate will develop as a result.

My characters were strong and well-defined in my mind, so I just made them interact and talk to each other and the story gradually grew.

My first surprise was that more characters appeared of their own accord, right from chapter one. The most significant was an unplanned and unexpected hero, who emerged, and practically took over my novel and Jane’s life, on page two; Michael.

More characters appeared, interacted and events started to get out of hand. I soon realised two things I hadn’t counted on:

1) I needed a plan, and  2) one novel wasn’t going to be enough.

So about a third of the way into book one, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, I planed the rest of the first novel and outlined the next two, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall and Midsummer at Eyre Hall. Needless to say, my early plans have changed drastically along the way, but even though plans change, you need a plan as well as an open mind.

It’s been a fascinating adventure. Months of research, reading, rereading, writing, rewriting, editing, discussing, fretting, and 280,000 words later, I have finished my journey, or not?

 

Letter R & S #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre Rebirth and Sequel

This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. I’m going to discuss Jane Eyre’s Rebirth and Sequel in the Eyre Hall Trilogy.

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The Eyre Hall Trilogy is a three-part sequel to Jane Eyre.

My aim was to pay tribute to Charlotte Bronte and so many other Victorian authors, whom I consider my literary Masters.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy owes its existence to the following 19th century literary geniuses in no particular order:

The Brontes, Dickens, Wilkie Collins, R.L. Stevenson, Conan Doyle, Elizabeth and Robert Browning, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, George Elliott, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Lord Tennyson, Hardy, Wilde, de Quincy, and Jane Austen.

I have aimed to write an enjoyable Gothic Romance, which makes suspenseful and exciting reading for contemporary audiences.

Readers will encounter many of the original characters in Jane Eyre once again, but this series will also bring to life many new and intriguing ones, spinning a unique and absorbing narrative.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy is now complete:

Banner and Lucy

Book 1, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, takes place twenty-two years after Jane’s marriage to Edward Rochester. Jane is coping with the imminent death of her bedridden husband, and Richard Mason has returned from Jamaica to disclose more secrets and ruin her happiness once again, instigating a sequence of events which will expose Rochester’s disloyalty to Jane, his murderous plots, and innumerable other sins. Mason’s revelations, and the arrival Bertha’s daughter, Miss Annette Mason, will turn Jane’s world turned upside down.

Reading All Hallows

Book 2, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, moves the action on after Edward Rochester’s death. Jane Eyre, who has been blackmailed into marrying a man she despises, will have to cope with the return of the man she loved and lost. The secrets she has tried so hard to conceal must be disclosed, giving rise to unexpected events and more shocking revelations. This time, the  action will move from the Yorkshire countryside, to Victorian London, and across the Atlantic Ocean to Colonial Jamaica.

Telfth Night Bilboard Night

Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, which is available for pre-order and will be launched on 21st June, Midsummer’s Day, is the final part of the trilogy.

The first part of Midsummer at Eyre Hall is very dramatic and action-packed. Jane will find herself in completely unexpected and dreadful circumstances, which neither she, nor the reader would ever imagine, so I can’t say much more!

The second part begins to show some improvement in her situation and contains more surprises, including two new characters, who will drastically change Jane’s life forever.

In this final installment, Jane will undertake perilous physical and emotional journeys across England, from Yorkshire, to magical Cornwall, and Victorian London. She will discover who her friends and enemies are, and she will have to make challenging and drastic decisions, which will affect everyone on the Rochester Estate.

I hope the reader will find the end is satisfactory, although the final outcome is happier for some characters than for others…

Magazine Midsummer at Eyre Hall

Check out the Eyre Hall Trilogy on Amazon US and Amazon UK

For those living in Spain you can also purchase paperback versions at http://www.libroseningles.com/

*****

For those of you who have read books 1 and 2, would like an ARC of Midsummer at Eyre Hall, it will be available at the beginning of June.

Please let me know if you’d like to be the first to read it 🙂

Letter M #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre and The Mason Family

This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. Today Jane is going to tell you all about the Mason family, her husband’s troublesome in-laws.

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I met two members of the Mason family personally; Mr. Richard Mason and his sister, Bertha Mason, who was Mr. Rochester’s first wife.

Richard Mason was Edward’s brother-in-Law, when I first met him, Richard took the liberty of installing himself as a guest at Thornfield. When Edward discovered that he was at Thornfield he was distressed and asked me to spy on him, worried that he might be talking about grave and mysterious things, but I told him he seemed engaged in a merry conversation with the other guests. Then he asked to speak with him privately in his study. I was worried about Mr. Mason’s intentions. They talked for an hour and seemed to part on friendly terms.

Later that night there was a great commotion at Thornfield Hall. Everyone was woken up by cries of help coming from the third storey. Edward told them it was a servant who had had a nightmare, but later, when everyone had gone back to bed, he called me to nurse Mr. Mason, who had been attacked, but I knew not by what kind of creature. I should have realized they were keeping a dark secret, but I had no idea what had happened and dared not even ask.

I met, no it could not be called a meeting, I mean I came face to face with Bertha Mason the night before my first ill-fated wedding day. She stood before my eyes in my room in the dead of night. ‘She was tall and large, with thick and dark hair hanging long down her back. I know not what dress she had on: it was white and straight; but whether gown, sheet, or shroud, I could not tell.  Her face was a fearful, ghastly, discoloured and savage face with red eyes. She reminded me of a Vampire. She tore my veil and approached me with a candle and I fainted.

Edward tried to convince me it had been a nightmare until I saw the torn veil on the floor. I would find out who she was on my wedding day, after the wedding was interrupted and we were taken upstairs to see her in her windowless room on the third floor.

Richard interrupted our marriage because he was defending his sister from her husband. Rochester was given a high dowry of 30,000 pounds for marrying her, by Mason’s father.

It seemed strange to me that he was not concerned about her physical welfare. He seemed to agree that she should stay in the attic. I suspected that Mason was a villain who had tried to blackmail Edward.

Many years later, one of my Dear Readers, who knew Mr. Mason was a villain, imagined he would return to haunt me twenty-two years later, while my husband lay on his death bed, in her novel, All Hallows at Eyre Hall. She has written another post about Richard’s role as villain.

Richard Maso Villain

Kevin Spacey would be a great Richard Mason, 22 years later.

There were other members of the Mason family, whom I never met. Edward also told me that Richard and Bertha’s father, had been an acquaintance of Edward’s father, and they had planned Edward and Bertha’s marriage as a business arrangement. Edward’s father negotiated a 30,000 pound dowry and conditions, such as his removal to Jamaica to marry and live there with Bertha.

Much later, when Bertha’s presence became known to me, Edward also told me he found out Bertha’s mother was a lunatic, who lived in an asylum, and that she had another brother, who was a ‘dumb idiot’.

Finally, Bertha burnt down Thornfield Hall and committed suicide, at least that what I was told…

It does indeed seem that the Mason family were the most unpleasant in-laws.

Another Dear Reader called Jean Rhys, wrote a whole book about the Mason family called Wide Sargasso Sea. It’s a prequel to Jane Eyre. More about that in letter ‘P’ for Prequel, on Tuesday.

 

 

 

Help me Choose my Cover for Midsummer at Eyre Hall, Please!

Hi all!

I’ve been neglecting my blog and my flash fiction challenges lately, because I’ve been finishing my third novel, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, which is also the final instalment of The Eyre Hall Trilogy, which is due to be published on 21st June, Midsummer’s Day!

I’ve asked the person who designed the first two novels to design the third, and I’m afraid I’m confused. I don’t know which one I like. I don’t even know if I like any of them, and I was wondering if you could help me choose or change.

Just to let you know, the title refers to the final chapter where there is a reunion in summer at Eyre Hall. The novel has many dramatic moments, although the ending is mostly optimistic, but not for all the characters. I wanted to transmit tranquility and closure on a bright summer’s day.

Check out the covers for my first two novels on the right to compare.

I asked for a similar style using the same/similar model.

It’s the designer’s first suggestion, so there will be more based on my feedback.

Here are the initial covers:

Midsummer at Eyre Hall 1 Midsummer at Eyre Hall 2 Midsummer at Eyre Hall 3

What do you think?

Thank you for your help!

Hope you have a great Easter break 🙂

My beautiful #JaneEyre

Was Jane Eyre Plain or Pretty?

Some readers of The Eyre Hall Trilogy have considered that my Jane Eyre is too beautiful, arguing that Charlotte Bronte drew an ugly, or at least plain young girl.

When I read (and reread) Jane Eyre, Jane is/was never ugly in my mind, and I have proof that she was never ugly in Charlotte Bronte’s mind either.

Jane Eyre had quite a few antagonists in her autobiography, some of which were also her direct enemies, and therefore described her negatively.

For instance, her Aunt Reed called her ‘deceitful’ and said she had a bad character, and the servants at her aunt’s house said she behaved like a ‘mad cat’.

Her cousins, Georgina and John, called her ‘impudent’, ‘rat’, and ‘thief’.

While Jane was at Lowood Institution, Mr. Brockelhurst called her a ‘liar’ and ‘evil’, however that doesn’t mean any of these descriptions were true. In fact we know there were plenty of liars in Jane Eyre, who seemed to revel in demeaning her, leading to her obvious lack of self-esteem throughout most of Jane Eyre.

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We know Jane was honest, sensible, generous and intelligent.

When she arrived at Thornfield Hall, Mr. Rochester refered to her as ‘plain’ on more than once occasion.

Part of the misinterpretation comes from the use of the word ‘plain’ in the novel.The word ‘plain’ has led some readers to interpret that Jane was ugly, yet ‘plain’ does not mean ‘ugly’.

What does ‘plain’ mean in Jane Eyre?

Let’s look at a few examples:

  • Plain as poor.

Mr. Brocklehurst’s daughter, Augusta, says of the girls at Lowood,

‘Oh, dear papa, how quiet and plain all the girls at Lowood look, with their hair combed behind their ears, and their long pinafores, and those little holland pockets outside their frocks—they are almost like poor people’s children!

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Here plain clearly means that their clothes and hairstyle is simple and poor. Brocklehurst’s daughters were wearing curled hair with ribbons, and dresses with lace and trimmings. The girls at Lowood were ugly because they were plainly dressed.

In the following extract, Jane herself says she dresses plainly because she is poor,

I rose; I dressed myself with care: obliged to be plain— for I had no article of attire that was not made with extreme simplicity.

  • Plain as honest and truthful.

Plain is also used in the novel to mean ‘unvarnished truth’ Mrs. Fairfax is described as addressing Jane with ‘plain friendliness’

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When Jane Eyre arrived at Thornfield Hall, she was a poor, naïve, unworldly young girl, who had lived within the walls of Lowood institution for eight years. Jane was indeed poor and plain because she had no money and very little self-confidence or knowledge of the world.

When Mr. Rochester said she was plain, he meant it as ‘no frills’, simple, poor, and honest. He didn’t mean she was ugly.

Plain is used to describe her clothes, hair, etc. as simple, with no adornments.

Yet, when she first arrives at Eyre Hall, Rochester calls her a ‘nonnette’ which is a small gingerbread cake made of honey and usually orange marmalade. That’s hardly an ugly thing. It suggests reddish tinges to her hair, small, and sweet.

When Rochester says, in his famous marriage proposal,

‘You—poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are—I entreat to accept me as a husband…’

He is echoing her words, meaning he loves her just as she is. She’s not wealthy, or from a noble family, or stunningly dressed, as Blanche Ingram (in the picture below) was, but she is honest and unspoilt. He loves her the way she sees herself, not only as he sees her.

Blanche

In fact, once Rochester has proposed, her self-worth has changed drastically. Jane calls herself beautiful. The following morning she says,

While arranging my hair, I looked at my face in the glass, and felt it was no longer plain: there was hope in its aspect and life in its colour; and my eyes seemed as if they had beheld the fount of fruition, and borrowed beams from the lustrous ripple.

Later, when she goes downstairs to speak to Mr. Rochester he says,

‘Jane, you look blooming, and smiling, and pretty,’ said he: ‘truly pretty this morning. Is this my pale, little elf? Is this my mustard-seed? This little sunny-faced girl with the dimpled cheek and rosy lips; the satin-smooth hazel hair, and the radiant hazel eyes?’ (I had green eyes, reader; but you must excuse the mistake: for him they were new- dyed, I suppose.)

Wedding

Later, when Jane has fled from Thornfield Hall on discovering that Mr. Rochester is married, and that his wife is lodged in the attic above her room, she meets her cousins in Morton.  While Jane is staying at Moore House with her cousins Mary, Diana, and St. John, she tells Diana,

‘And I am so plain, you see, Diana. We should never suit.’

Jane has once more lost her self-esteem. She is telling Diana that she is not worldly or sophisticated enough to be her cousin’s wife, but Diana replies,

‘Plain! You? Not at all. You are much too pretty, as well as too good, to be grilled alive in Calcutta.’

There is no doubt that Jane was a short and thin young girl, probably due to lack of nourishing food, in an Institution where many girls dies of sickness and malnutrition, but I also have no doubt that she would have grown into the beautiful, healthy, intelligent and confident woman, who appears in my novels.

Jane 2

In The Eyre Hall Trilogy, Jane has grown into a wealthy and self-assured woman, so she has the clothes, jewels, security, and intelligence to be beautiful. I have maintained her physical characteristics, she is short and slim, her eyes are still green, as she says they are in Jane Eyre, and her hair is auburn, as Rochester described it, too.

Jane is as beautiful in The Eyre Hall Trilogy as she was in Jane Eyre, if some readers didn’t capture her beauty that, it’s their problem, not mine or Charlotte Bronte’s!

Michael says of Jane while he is her valet at Eyre Hall in All Hallows at Eyre Hall:

I am in love with a lady who has lively green eyes, pale cream skin, rosy round cheeks, smooth wavy auburn hair and soft coral lips.

One of my favouriter actresses to play the part of my mature Mrs. Rochester, is Rachel Weisz.

Rachel+Weisz+78th+Annual+Academy+Awards+sRe4GhQudfgl

My favourite description of my Jane Eyre, is found in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, when Charles Dickens visits Eyre Hall and gifts us with this eloquent description of the mature Jane Eyre, the woman I’m sure she would have become,

We sat drinking brandy after dinner by the fire. It was a restful moment after such an intense conversation. I examined my host. Jane’s pale complexion and delicate frame stood in stark contrast to her confident movements and assertive manner, which denoted a remarkable strength and serenity of character. Her flawless features fit perfectly in her heart–shaped face. Her dainty fingers and soft hands caressed her dress distractedly as she watched the fire. Her russet hair was tamed with several pretty hair clips, and her inquisitive green eyes held a gentle gleam when they rested on mine. She was one of those fortunate women who grow more beautiful as they age. Her voice was soft and melodious and her manner charming. It was a pleasure to be in her company.

So, Dear Reader, do you still think Jane Eyre was ugly?