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Honor and Integrity:
A Collection of
Pride and Prejudice-Inspired
Short Stories
by Enid Wilson, Aimée Avery,
June Williams
Available at Amazon

We at Magic Dog Press have many wonderful qualities, but writing romance is not one of them. Our books frequently speak of love, but seldom is there anything romantic or elevated about it. Luckily, other authors aren’t similarly challenged.

Today the Magic Dog meets June Williams, a first-time indie writer who met her co-authors through an online Jane Austen community, where they all wrote fanfiction. In Honor and Integrity, they’ve included seven short stories based on Austen’s characters and two non-Austen stories.

Bodie: Hi, June, thanks for meeting us. Mr. Darcy is your romantic ideal, I take it.

June: Darcy has his flaws like any other person, but yes, he has a lot of traits most women find desireable. It’s curious that he’s considered a romantic hero when he failed at his one romantic gesture. In Pride and Prejudice, his proposal had some very sweet words:

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

Bodie: Famous words indeed, and many women would swoon over them. Personally, I might feel a little silly having someone say that to me, but still, it’s a lovely sentiment.

June: But Lizzy Bennet slammed him down hard.

“If I could feel gratitude, I would now thank you. But I cannot.”

His second proposal – well, he didn’t make a second proposal. All he said was:

“If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged.”

Nothing overtly romantic.

Bodie: So what makes him a romantic hero?

June: It wasn’t his words; it was his actions. Writing love scenes is more than sweet words and romantic gestures. If a man gave me flowers and chocolates, I’d thank him but the gesture would mean little to me. Lizzy Bennet grew in love with Darcy when she saw his actions – he saved her family’s reputation by getting Wickham to marry Lydia, and he did it quietly so Lizzy wouldn’t find out about it.

Bodie: There was also the Wickham angle. Darcy became brother-in-law to the man who almost ruined Georgiana Darcy.

June: Exactly.

Bodie: So how do we authors (particularly those of us who tend to throw popcorn at the TV and invent our own dialog when Romance threatens) write love scenes?

June: First off, know your characters. If your heroine hates flowers and chocolates, then don’t have your hero give them to her, unless you’re writing an argument. Figure out what your character values and use that as the basis for a love scene. If she is a DIY person, maybe he should give her a table saw and offer to help her make something. If he wants to climb Mount Everest, maybe she should help him train. If there’s a kidnapping or murder, they should help and support each other. No trite stuff. If you want trite words, buy a greeting card.

Bodie: (laughs) What else?

June: Get inside your characters’ heads. You’ve heard of the term “IKEA fic” – sex scenes that describe how Tab A enters Slot B; very mechanical, no feelings. In a movie, you would see the characters’ feelings in their facial expressions and body language; in writing, we have to describe everything. How does she feel when he kisses her, and does she tell him why? True love doesn’t come from romantic gestures; true love comes after a lot of relationship build-up. Put your characters through the proverbial wringer!

Bodie: There are some folks who do like the typical flowers and chocolates route, even greeting cards.

June: Of course. But that’s not what makes me fall in love with a character. In one of my modern stories in Honor and Integrity, Lizzy rescues Darcy from a kidnapper and supports him through the PTSD counseling process. The romantic gestures – like flowers and gifts – can follow, but they don’t lead.

Thank you, dear readers, for joining us in our chat. Please leave a comment below, telling us what makes you love a person or character. June and her co-author are giving out one ebook copy of Honor and Integrity to a lucky commenter. Entry is open to worldwide readers and closes on 30 July 2012.

 

About Honor and Integrity
What if Mr. Darcy’s mother was still alive? What if the Bennet sisters had suitors who were unacceptable? What if Elizabeth didn’t realize Darcy’s identity? And what if three authors of Jane Austen-inspired stories put their heads together and challenged each other with creating stories which contain the words ‘honor’ or ‘integrity’?

This collection of nine short stories contains sweet, romantic and intriguing stories across Regency, fantasy and modern genres.

You can find steampunk, deception, manipulation, theft, murder, love, marriage, coffee and many more themes in this volume.


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I write books. I write a lot of books, and I write them at the same time. I do this because I’m a storyteller, and because I use writing as a way of escaping to another place, time, and life. And all that’s great–but it really doesn’t result in good books.

This is because while I am a storyteller, I tend to get lost in minutia. My readers might enjoy my storytelling, but they tend to have a hard time following the big story–the overarching narrative that ties all the little stories together, and makes them more together than they are apart.

A few days ago I posted a request for people to weigh in on which of my current writing projects they’d like me to focus on next. The answers were pretty much divided, but then fate took a hand. A book I’m typesetting about helping loved ones who are facing death included a passage on the importance of “both/and” thinking, rather than “either/or” thinking.

The writer explained that it was particularly important in circumstances where “ambiguous death” was involved–missing persons, Alzheimer’s patients, and as in my case, where my father’s terminal illness brought up a whole scorpions’ nest of emotions, memories, and history. His death was incredibly complex, and I found myself wishing for the false simplicity of an either/or answer to the questions he left behind.

It should come as no surprise that I’ve been weighing those days, and I’ve come to see that the question of whether we would be either/or people or both/and people really was the defining question we faced. How we answered that question is what determined how those terrible days played out.

Recognizing this has given me something I never have had before–a clear theme for a book, one that governs every aspect of how I will put this book together. I have the stories–lots of them–but I’ll be retelling them, editing, shaping, and pruning to explore that central, vital question the manner of Dad’s death posed for us–would we be either/or people, or both/and people?

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"In the Garden" from Secret History: A Painted Journal

I’m on a list serv, and one of the things we’ve been talking about recently is why we write what we write. To be precise, why is it that some of the very nice ladies on the list (and we are very nice ladies) wind up writing about some very dark things. It’s a question somewhat similar to the one that Dame Agatha Christie has nice lady extraordinaire Miss Jane Marple address at one point–Miss Marple comments that her nephew says she “has a mind like a sink.”

The comment has stuck with me, largely because I think it says something important about us nice ladies. Being nice does not mean being naive. Like Jane Marple, we have “minds like sinks”–we might be nice, but we understand that much of the world is not. Moreover, being nice ladies does not always mean we have led nice lives. Many of us have the battle scars to prove it.

"Wonderful Words of Life," from Secret History: A Painted Journal

 

What does this mean for us as writers? I can’t speak for everyone, but here’s what it means for me. First, it means that my writers’ palette holds some very dark colors as well as some very bright ones, and that on some days I just plain feel like writing in dark hues. Second, it means that to some degree I have lost my writer’s “virginity,” if you will–I no longer blush and stammer at mentioning bodily functions. I understand that these happen to all of us, and are nothing about which to be embarrassed. Some consider this coarsening, just as some consider women who understand and accept the needs of the body less refined than women who like to pretend they neither shit nor fart. Did you wince a bit?

"The Lost Sheep," from Secret History: A Painted Journal

That brings up my third point–having gone to the dark places in life means that I am a bold, fearless writer in many regards. I say things on paper that some find offensive. I understand that. But I write as I am, and I understand that there are those who prefer to maintain their illusions.

The last thing I want to say is that women with minds like sinks sometimes have had rotten stuff shoved down their throats to the point where they must simply spew. In my case, this writing doesn’t go beyond my journals. But such writing is absolutely necessary sometimes if one is to “clear the drains,” so to speak, and allow other writing to happen. Those of us who write the dark understand that there is sometimes a vast chasm between writing a scene and approving a character’s action. It is not the writer’s job to approve or disapprove of a character. It is the author’s job to create the character so convincingly that every reader can draw his or her own conclusions. The writer says, “Once upon a time this happened. What do you think about that?”

"Streets of Gold," from Secret History: A Painted Journal

 

We nice ladies with minds like sinks sometimes write the dark not because we are secretly warped, evil caricatures, but because, for various reasons, we understand that the world holds dark as well as light, and we have chosen to write truly, and in doing so to shine some of the light into places too long kept in shadow.

__________

About the art: The paintings in this post come from one of the darkest things I’ve done–a series of paintings documenting my personal journey through a very private hell. I started them as a therapeutic exercise, and then put them aside because it simply hurt too much to work on them. Years later I happened upon my sketches and discovered that while they still spoke to me, their message was quite different. I started the paintings as a way of lancing an emotional boil. I finished them because I had come to understand that even pain can be used to create something beautiful. The paintings have been published as Secret History: A Painted Journal, and the book is available on Amazon, and the art is available as posters at CafePress.

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When I was a sweet young thing I worked in a design studio with three nice men. As the New Kid, I inherited the job of picking up second lines when first lines were engaged, and functioning as Person B on big projects. One day I was working on a couple of my own projects and serving as Person B to just about everybody else. Those were the days of slow processors, and we had an extra workstation, so I had opened up projects on two computers. I’d give a command on one, and then go give a command on the other while I waited for the first computer to finish processing. In between I was returning phone calls, sending faxes, printing proofs, and building a “comp” over on the drafting table.

I didn’t think anything about it until one of my office mates started to laugh. “I can’t even answer the phone when I’m working on something,” he said. “And you’ve got every machine and the drafting table going down there.” A discussion ensued among the three men about a PBS show someone had watched about how women are better at multi-tasking than men are, but I don’t remember details; I went back to circulating through the computer, computer, phone, fax, drafting table, computer, computer.

I’m not sure that the ability to multi-task is gender-linked. I know it’s something I do well, and I know that when I’m doing it I tend to focus more intently on the jobs in sequence than I do on a single job, done separately. There’s something about bouncing between different types of tasks that seems to keep my gain more closely engaged for longer periods of time.

Now that it’s just me in the doghouse, I find myself using multi-tasking not only as a tool to get client work done, but to advance my own writing and design projects. I can only edit effectively for a couple hours at a time. Then I stop editing and go draw something. When I get a few sketches polished I put them aside and paint, or do creative writing. Each task seems to take a different sort of energy–and in some cases doing a different kind of task not only allows my batteries to recharge, but actually seems to help the process along.

For instance, in the time I devote to my own work each day I’m working on three books right now. I’m proofing Benchmarks, the memoir about single mothering that I’ve talked about here before. I’m also editing and typesetting a collection of short stories that grew out of some past-life regression exercises I did. And I’m writing on a YA book about a girl who discovers that her alter ego is all too real.

The mixture of projects not only helps me keep each of them moving ahead, but also energizes me for my “real” work–the design and illustration work I do to pay our bills. So here’s the thing: instead of waiting for time to work on the projects you love, try getting them out and working on them a few lines, a few stitches, a few paint strokes, at a time, as you’re passing by doing other things. It’s a great way to ensure that your personal goals, the ones that feed your soul, keep on track right along with the goals you meet on behalf of others.

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