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!

Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction Challenge: Creating Jane Eyre

This post was written in response to Charli Mills Weekly Flash Fiction Challenge, at Carrot Ranch.

January 26, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the theme, “women create.” It can be art, sewing, ideas, babies. What is at the heart of women as creators? Go where the prompt takes you.

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Creating Jane Eyre

“Who’s the author of this abhorrent attempt at a novel?” asked Lady Eastlake.

“Currer Bell,” replied Mrs. Mozley.

“Who on earth is he?” asked Mrs. Rigby.

“Some say he’s a woman,” said Mrs. Mozley

“Women don’t describe such coarse and shameful relationships between men and women,” snapped Lady Eastlake.

“Unless it is such a woman who has long forfeited the society of her own sex,” said Mrs. Rigby.

“It’s unchristian. We should make sure it’s banned,” suggested Mrs. Mozley. “Just in case it’s a woman’s creation. Imagine how degrading it would be for the rest of us.”

They nodded.

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When Jane Eyre (1847) was first published by Charlotte Bronte under the masculine pseudonym Currer Bell, it was received with mixed reviews. Some were highly praising and others harshly critical.

Some of her staunchest critics were female and criticized Jane Eyre for being vulgar, improper, anti-christian, as well as politically incorrect. Her three main female critics were Lady Eastlake, Elizabeth Rigby and Ann Mozley, the three women I’ve brought together in today’s flash.

Among the most outspoken critics was the conservative Lady Eastlake, who accused Charlotte Bronte of lack of femininity, and of agreeing with the working class uprisings of the Chartists, who were demanding votes for the working classes.

In addition to Lady Eastlake, Elizabeth Rigby, an author and art critic, and the first woman to write for the Quarterly review, stated that if the book was by a woman, “she had long forfeited the society of her own sex.” Rigby also considered Jane Eyre  showed “coarseness of language and laxity of tone.” Rigby was especially irate about her unflattering depictions of the aristocracy, accusing Charlotte Bronte of a “total ignorance of the habits of society.”

Ann Mozley, writing for the Christian Remembrancer in 1848, writes “Never was there a better hater. Every page burns with moral Jacobinism.” The Jacobins were French revolutionaries who aimed to abolish the monarchy and do away with class distinctions, as well as instituting a universal vote, an idea abhorrent to upper class, Anglican Britons.

According to these and other critics, Jane Eyre challenged traditional views about how women should act and behave, and therefore threatening the established social order.

Jane is indeed rebellious and demands respect and equality, although she knows her place, she also believes that her fate isn’t written in stone. Here are her unforgettable words to overbearing Mr. Rochester:

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Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since the 19th century. Censorship, accepting injustice and exploitation, and gender, racial or religious discrimination is something we aim to overcome.

Well done Jane Eyre for shocking them all out of their complacency!

You’d be happy to know that my sequel takes up her fiercely independent, outspoken and resilient, free spirit.

In Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, Charles Dickens visits Jane Eyre (at that time, Mrs. Mason) at Eyre Hall for a few days over Christmas. Dickens confesses that he has left his wife and has a young mistress, although it is a well kept secret, because he is not prepared to affront the establishment. When Jane tells him she is having an affair with Lieutenant Kirkpatrick, her former valet, and she is no longer hiding her feelings, he replies:

“How invigorating! Are you going to shock us all and defy the laws of propriety? How brave of you!”    

That’s my Jane!

3 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall. My Writing Process: Intertextuality

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

There are three 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 three is all about Intertextuality.

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Intertextuality is a literary device which creates interrelationship between two or more texts.

The term was coined by Julia Kristeva in the 1960s and has been widely used by poststructuralist and postmodern literary scholars.

The most frequent form is when one book refers to another book’s characters, plot, or scenes.

This reference can be simple or complex. The simple form may reference the title, or a famous character. The complex form may adapt a complete storyline or various characters from another book.

It can be an accidental, subconscious, casual, or deliberate endeavour. It can also be explicit or obvious or implicit, so the reader or scholar will need to delve into the text.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy employs simple and complex forms of intertextuality deliberately and explicitly.

The simple form of intertextuality is employed by most writers. Charlotte Bronte mentions Gulliver’s Travels, The Bible, among other texts in Jane Eyre, for example.

I mention Victorian writers, their works and their characters throughout my trilogy. Some examples are, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, Dr. Watson from Sherlock Holmes by Conan Doyle, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Emily Bronte, among others.

The complex form of intertextuality in The Eyre Hall Trilogy includes the use of many characters and back story from both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea.

jane_eyre_an_autobiography_by_charlotte_bronte_2370006095781   Product Details

On the other hand the plots and most of the characters in the three novels which make up the trilogy are my own.

Intertextuality can be carried out using any or several of the following literary devices: allusion, quotation, parody, paraphrase, mimesis, expansion, transfer, among others.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy makes use of all of them, there are direct allusions to other works, including quotations. Some of the original characters are parodied. Events which took place in Jane Eyre are paraphrased as back story for the reader. I have also attempted to emulate the literary style, although I have adapted it for a modern audience. The original work is expanded and many events and characters have been transferred.

Many writers borrow ideas from the works they have read. Scholars call this literary sources, and all authors from Shakespeare to Joyce have done so in their works. It’s nothing new, and nothing to be ashamed of.

I wrote another post on sequels, prequels, reinterpretations, rewritings and writing back which explains my intentions in writing a sequel to Jane Eyre.

I also wrote a post on why Jane Eyre needs a sequel on author Shani Struther’s blog earlier this year.

There are plenty of examples of writers using this literary. James Joyce retold The Odyssey in Ulysses. Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead, is based on two characters from Hamlet. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys is based on Bertha Mason’s story from Jane Eyre.

The purpose is to modify the readers’ understanding of the primary text by adding another perspective or layer of meaning to the original text leading to a reinterpretation of both texts.

My main aim in writing The Eyre Hall Trilogy was to invite the readers to rethink their opinions of Mr, Rochester, and expose Rochester as the tyrant he was and reinstate his victim, Bertha Mason.

Another aim was to honour the Victorian writers whom I consider my literary Masters, by referencing their works for contemporary readers.

Stevenson, Carroll, Dickens, Wilde, Kipling.

Few readers have never read Jane Eyre or seen a film or television series based on this novel. Most of those who have never done so directly, have heard the story of the poor governess who falls in love with the owner of the house and discovers that his mad wife is locked in his attic.

For those few who have absolutely no idea of who Jane Eyre was, there’s plenty of back story in book 1, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, to help fill in the blanks.

I hope my readers will enjoy a fascinating journey into Victorian England when they read The Eyre Hall Trilogy 

 

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?

 

10 Differences Between #JaneEyre and Charlotte Bronte #AtoZChallenge #Bronte200

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 Eyre is going to point out the Ten differences between herself and Charlotte Bronte.

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I’m very grateful to Charlotte Bronte for making me such a famous person, as Mr. Rochester might say, ‘You—poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are, have become the most famous female literary character in English Literature.’ 

Some readers mistake me, Jane Eyre, the author of my autobiography, for my pen name, Charlotte Bronte. That’s understandable, but there are plenty of differences between us.

If you check out Charlotte Bronte’s biography here and my biography here, you’ll see for yourselves how different our lives were.

But just to clarify matters, there follow Ten Differences between me, Jane Eyre, and Charlotte Bronte, my alter ego:

  1. I was an orphan and Charlotte wasn’t.
  2. I was educated at a boarding school, while Charlotte was educated at home by her father and her aunt.
  3. I had no brothers or sisters and Charlotte had one brother and four sisters (although two died in infancy).
  4. I never left England, and Charlotte travelled to Belgium.
  5. I married at an early age 19-20, and Charlotte married later in life, at 38.
  6. Charlotte wrote fantasy stories from an early age, while I preferred drawing as my creative expression, until after my marriage.
  7. I wrote my autobiography, while Charlotte wrote poems and fictional novels.
  8. I was fiercely independent, yet Charlotte always lived with and obeyed her father.
  9. I was described as beautiful by some and plain by others, read this post, while Charlotte was reportedly very ugly, no question about it. According to her biographer, Mrs. Gaskell, Charlotte had, “a reddish face, large mouth and many teeth gone; altogether plain”.
  10. I inherited a fortune from my uncle and married a rich man, while Charlotte was not rich and married a humble parson.

In spite of all these differences, there are also Ten Similarities  in our lives:

  1. We were both very short and thin.
  2. We were both born and bred in Yorkshire.
  3. We both lived in the 19th century.
  4. We both fell in love with married men.
  5. We both worked as teachers and governesses.
  6. We both spoke French fluently.
  7. We were both masterful writers.
  8. We both wrote with pen names, she used Currer Bell, and I wrote my autobiography as Charlotte Bronte.
  9. We were both concerned with women’s unjust place in the world and fought for gender equality. I must add that I did so more actively than she did.
  10. We were both religious, but not hypocrites. We truly believed in our faith and the teachings of the Bible.

I’d say, my life may have been a little harder than Charlotte’s for the first ten years, but after that, I was much more fortunate than poor Charlotte was, thanks to my stronger character and single-mindedness. It could also have been because I was an orphan and had no oppressive family to tie me down or repress me, and because the man I fell in love with became a widower, so unlike Charlotte I was able to marry him and be happy, at least for a time.

I hope I’ve made my point. Jane is not Charlotte.

We did not have the same childhood or upbringing, nor the exact same physical appearance, nor did we lead the same kind of life, or marry the same type of man.

I’m resilient, strong-willed and wealthy. I’m in charge of my life.

I am independent, I married the man I loved and had a son.

Charlotte hasn’t been completely forgotten, of course, yet. However, people are still writing about me, talking about me, and making films about me. Me.

I’m also an enigma. Nobody really knows what happened to me after I wrote my autobiography, ten years after I married (I may have exaggerated a little there, it may have been less than ten).

Someone imagined I built a house called Eyre Hall with the money my uncle left me, on the grounds where Thornfield Hall once stood, and wrote a sequel called The Eyre Hall Trilogy. It sounds like a good idea to me. What do you think?

#AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre’s Resilience and Romance #Bronte200

Today’s a special day. It’s Charlotte Bronte’s 200 birthday, so I’ve decided to post letter ‘R’ with some more words to describe Jane Eyre. Playing around with words beginning with ‘R’ related to Jane Eyre, I came up with this fun summary of the most important aspects of the novel.

R

Jane’s a survivor. She has no use for regret, because she’s resilient and makes use of her resolve to overcome her problems. She takes refuge in another town and starts a new life with a new identity, because she refuses to be ruined by circumstances. Jane is a rationalist and a reasonable young girl, she never lets her feelings take over completely. She’s always in charge of her life.

I’d consider Mr. Rochester a bit of a rake, a rascal, and a rogue, by leading Jane into believing he was a bachelor. He also did a lot of roleplaying, including playing a fortune-teller to laugh at his friends and inventing a rival for Jane in Blanche Ingram, although he had no intention of marrying her. I mean, what would have happened when her influential family found out about his wife?

There is never any rancor on Jane’s part. She forgives everyone including her aunt and cousins. She doesn’t seek revenge, which she knows is the Lord’s. She is not vengeful and does not recriminate Mr. Rochester after the marriage farce, she simply moves on with her life.

Rapport and rapture is what Jane and Rochester felt when they met. Jane Eyre is overall a romance. It is one of the most romantic novels ever written. There’s a beautiful quote from Mr. Rochester regarding Jane and Rochester’s ribs.

Mr. Rochester loves rattling Jane. Their conversations are full of verbal duels, and Jane is as good at arguing and provoking her as she is at provoking him.

There is a raving lunatic in the attic called Mrs Rochester. The question is when did she start raving and why?

Jane constantly speaks to her Dear Reader and she loves reading, and obviously writing as she wrote her autobiography at such a young age. Jane’s world is portrayed realistically and honestly. She makes sure her Dear Reader knows exactly how she feels. The autobiography is written from the mature Jane’s perspective according to her recollection, ten years after she married. It’s a retrospective story.

Jane and Edward

Jane was a bit of a rebel as a child, and even as an adult, she’s not prepared to live according to other people’s conventions. Jane was concerned with moral or religious respectability. She wanted to follow God’s law, not man’s version of it, based on hypocrisy.

Thornfield Hall, one of Jane’s residences, will definitely need rebuilding if they are going to stay on the Rochester Estate, which presumably they will be doing. In my sequel, I took care of that by building Eyre Hall.

Charlotte Bronte was considered a bit of a recluse. She reportedly didn’t like London or leaving the parsonage, especially after her sisters died.

Jane is recompensed for all her suffering. Her struggles are rewarded, and she is finally reconciled to Mr. Rochester, whom we are told recovered the sight of one of his eyes, and most of his mobility after the fire. Jane Eyre is about the renaissance, of a poor orphan girl and how her struggle for survival is finally rewarded, therefore all the wrongs she endured are repaired.

Finally, I have boldly decided to recreate Jane’s world, by retelling and rewriting part of her story; the part she wasn’t completely honest about, due to her naivety. My aim has been to reinvent Jane’s future twenty-two years after Jane Eyre married Mr. Rochester.

Would you like to join me in this new and exciting journey to Eyre Hall?

Banner and Lucy

 

 

 

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/

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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 🙂