Yay! A “tenner” for Jane

I’m thrilled that the UK is gracing their “tenner” with a portrait of Jane Austen. [Shocking and upsetting update: the young woman who spearheaded this is being massively harassed by threats of rape on Twitter. As in 50 an hour. Sign the petition to get Twitter to make it easier to report abuse.]


I’m coming to think of this as my Jane Austen summer. In addition to a biography and books about Jane Austen, I just finished reading every word of the massively annotated Harvard edition of Pride & Prejudice.


Immediately I ordered a second, Persuasion



It’s hard to express what a delight these massive editions are. This video gives you a sense of the richness of it:


For me, as a researcher, the scholarly annotations provide a wealth of fascinating information into the daily life of the period. 

In short: heaven


Update: I’m slowing reading (and correcting) the “first pass” of THE SHADOW QUEEN: that is, the typeset script. I have to say: it’s a pleasure. I’m pleased. 

I believe I’ve showed the cover before. I love it more and more:

Shadow Queen

I’m also daily writing the YA about Hortense de Beauharnais, Josephine’s daughter. I’m at 40,000 words now, about half-way. 

In a few days I’m heading to the Napoleonic Congress in Toronto to give a talk on the documentary about Josephine. 

And then back home to sport with friends and family. Happy summer, everyone!

2013-06-30 13.35.47 copy

Want a glam writer’s life? Throw glitter on your computer.

My very dear friend and wonderful writer Merilyn Simonds sent me this today: 


Too true! 

Shadow proofs

I’ve been sticking to the 1000-words-a-day diet on my first YA, but now the “First Pass” galleys for THE SHADOW QUEEN have arrived. It will take time to read each page, checking for errors, so I’m going to cut back to 500. 

I’m also slowly assembling a treadmill. It’s a good thing I passed IKEA 101 (and rather enjoy the process). It’s right outside my office door: I see myself going from one treadmill to another. ;-) 

Putting the press to bed


My most treasured acquisition this year was a limited edition copy of THE PARADISE PROJECT by my good friend and brilliant writer Merilyn Simonds.

That my copy was #1 (!!!) makes it extra special, but this beautiful book is beyond extra special: end papers made from the flowers in Merilyn’s garden, a special plant-related cover paper, block prints by her artist son throughout, pages that need to be sliced open to read: yes, very special indeed. 

And now, a video of that final day, as Merilyn’s husband, writer Wayne Grady, reads a poem he wrote: “We’re putting the press to bed.”


Everyone knew it was a special moment … as is each moment you hold this lovely book, as is each word you read. 


And now, a brief catch-up in GullandLand: I’ve worked myself up to 1000 words a day on the first draft of the Young Adult novel about Hortense. It’s fun, and I’m enjoying it. I’m writing every day, which is key—on “free” days I commit to 100 or 500 words. No excuses! 

Any day now I’ll see a cover for THE SHADOW QUEEN. ARCs (Advance Reader Copy) are in preparation. I survived the massive Author Questionnaire. Now it’s time to start thinking about acknowledgements. (Always the last bit to be written.) 

I’m reading massively: Pride and Prejudice, Astray, The Dark, plus any number of How To books and research texts on my Kindle ap. 

It’s all about Jane …

It’s all about Jane …

As research for writing a YA about Hortense, I’m reading a lot about Jane Austen right now—or, at the least, I seem to be surrounded by books and blogs about her. Yes, I admit, I’m seeking her out.

For example, this wonderful website: What Jane Saw, an exhibit she actually went to see. Follow in her footsteps; look at the paintings she saw.

I’m reading—very, very slowly—the Harvard University Press annotated edition of Pride and Prejudice (shown above). This is a sumptuous book, a sumptuous series. (For a video on this book: click here.)

The Real

Another book I’m reading is The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things by Paula Byrne: delicious.

And another: A Dance with Jane Austen by Susannah Fullerton, which I discovered through the wonderful blog Jane Austen’s World. This is a wonderful book.


“Why Jane?” my son asks, and I have to tell him frankly that I don’t think she’d be his cup of tea. But then neither might be Dickens or Shakespeare, at least not in his fast-paced world. In a University course: certainly. And then, forced into another time and pace (the beauty of higher education), he might think, “Wow.” For she’s right up there with the greats of literature.

This in spite of the fact that she is so very subtle, so not showy. Who was it who said—I think it was Virginia Woolf—that it’s very hard to catch Jane Austen in an act of greatness.

Jane Austen page copy

She wrote during the day, and read what she’d written to her family in the evening. She did not have a desk of her own, much less a room.

It’s a mistake to think that her’s was a purer world. The worlds she created are pure, yet a man she and her sister admired, a nobleman, had a strange affection for drinking the blood of his servants. (Note that such details do not show in her novels.)

For Mother’s Day, my son suggested I pick a t-shirt from this wonderful site: Out of Print Clothing.

Which one did I pick? Well, of course: Pride and Prejudice:


I love it! (And no: this is not me.)

What’s your favourite Jane Austen? And why?