Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Halloween Cards and Jane Bingley: Twisted Austen 2013

I seem to begin a lot of posts with the word "so."

So here are the Austen Halloween cards that I've made for what I am struggling to brand Twisted Austen. I intend an annual event, barring the unexpected, in honor of Halloween. 

Here's the problem: Jane Austen isn't exactly Edgar Allen Poe. Her work really isn't very Halloweeny. With Christmas she has some affinity, if in the form of Caroline Bingley's snarky greetings, but with Halloween? There's a stretch. It's just like these cards (for more on process, proceed here), which feature quotes from  Northanger Abbey, but even Austen's spookiest novel afford's little fodder. I think my favorite is "Our foggy climate wants help," courtesy of Mr. Thorpe.

I believe I described Emma and Elton: Something Truly Horrid as an Austenesque nightmare when trying to promote it last year: no ghouls or mayhem, but still terribly wrong. This year I'm presenting Jane and Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling. I hope the title, like it's predecessors, conveys enough warning to those whom it might offend to keep them from ever reading it all. I offer these stories to those who find the nightmares of others compelling, and duly urge all others to keep their distance. These are not happy stories. 

I also referred to Emma and Elton as an entirely opposite endeavor to Tales of Less Pride and Prejudice, a story so happy as to invoke the ire of some readers. Things went very poorly for Miss Woodhouse last year. This year's story doesn't actually alter Austen's plot line in the least (hence slightly unsettling instead of truly horrid). Jane and Bingley is a retelling of the first volume of Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of a very different Jane Bennet, not a reimagination of the story. Here's a small taste, still subject to further editing:

"It is to be uncommonly dreadful. I  expect murder
and everything of the kind"

Elizabeth smiled brightly in greeting. “You look well rested! No adverse effects from last evening’s frivolity?”

Jane returned the expression. “No. My daring journey to the drawing room has not set back my recovery. I feel much improved.”

“Good! I was hoping you would, and not only for my own selfish reasons. Nothing matters more to me than your well-being, my dearest sister, but I am anxious to return home. Let us write to Longbourn and request the carriage.”

Jane saw Elizabeth’s eagerness, but she could not share it. She was not prepared to leave Netherfield just yet, nor did she think her sister should. She would have preferred it had Mr. Darcy expressed such an interest in herself, for to be Mrs. Darcy would be something, indeed, but Elizabeth was the next best person he could possibly have alighted upon. Mr. Darcy was too precious an opportunity - wealthy, handsome, and respectable - to quibble over which sister should have him.

"And are you prepared to encounter all the horrors
that a building such as 'what one reads about' may produce?
She considered her options, quickly concluding that her mother would see the situation in much the same light as herself, even without knowing Mr. Darcy to be a prospect. I do wish Mama had not insulted him! Safe in the knowledge that Mrs. Bennet would never concede to the request, Jane aceeded to Elizabeth’s wishes, and a letter to Mrs. Bennet was promptly dispatched. When the expected refusal arrived, she participated in Elizabeth’s chagrin while inwardly rejoicing. There was a great deal of satisfaction to be derived in rightfully predicting the actions of others. Furthermore, the color had begun to return to her checks, which must be of assistance in subduing Mr. Bingley’s heart, and she had at least a few more days to enjoy the luxuries of Netherfield while accomplishing that task.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth was not to be so easily satisfied. Soon she was at Jane’s side, continuing to insist on their departure. “You might request the carriage of Mr. Bingley,” she argued, adding, “ I fear we might become an imposition, were we to linger any longer.”

Jane scurried to defend her position  “Might it not be too forward a request? I would hate to be a further inconvience, after having already caused so much.”

“Nonsense, Jane! Only you would imagine such a commonplace courtesy too much to ask.”

Darkness impenetrable and immovable filled the room.
A violent gust of wind, rising with sudden fury,
added fresh horror to the moment.

She tried again. “I would rather not display our lack of access to the carriage.”

“Says the lady who arrived upon a dripping wet horse!” Elizabeth laughed. “It will not do, my dear! Besides, do you truly imagine that every person Netherfield did not know precisely how many horses my father keeps and what kind of equipage before they had been a full week in residence?”

Jane could think of no further excuse. She would have to ask Mr. Bingley to return them to Longbourn. Now she lamented her rosy checks. If she could only contrive to look wain and subdued, her hosts might forbid her departure.

Fortunate for Jane, the energy required to join the others downstairs restored her sickly pallor. With breathy weariness did she make her request, sitting in languor beside the fire, and the response received was everything she could have wished.

“My dear Jane!” Miss Bingley cried. “But you do not appear at all recovered. I’m surprised you chose to leave your room.” She looked at Elizabeth accusingly. “I’m sure you are not yet ready to travel.”

"Our foggy climate wants help."

“But Caroline, I have already caused you such a great deal of trouble ...”

“Nonsense! You must remain with us at least until tomorrow. If you continue to improve, you may return to Longbourn after the morning service. I insist!”

“Very well,” Jane conceded with a look towards Elizabeth that she hoped appeared apologetic. “We shall leave tomorrow, as you insist.”

“Thank you for your continued hospitality,” Elizabeth chimed in, “and for the accommodation of your coach.”

“Not at all,” Miss Bingley replied, with an expression that suggested she might regret her own generosity. She is jealous of Lizzy, as she well should be! Jane reflected happily. 

Would the veil which Mrs. Tilney had last walked,
or the volume in which she had last read, remain to tell what
nothing else was allowed to whisper?

Jane studied Mr. Darcy closely that evening, but with no satisfaction for her efforts. He paid not the slightest bit of undue attention to her sister or to any of the other ladies. If anything, he seemed to be assiduously avoiding Elizabeth’s company. He fears he might raise expectations, Jane thought with mingled respect and regret. He is the perfect gentleman. She sympathized with his reluctance to associate himself with the Bennet family. So long as he doesn’t apply the same scruples to his friend. She understood he was dominate over Bingley in their friendship - in every way the bigger man - and feared his influence. Turning her brightest smile upon Mr. Bingley, she responded to his urgent insistence that she remain for yet another day with a regretful but firm refusal. It would not do to rouse Mr. Darcy’s suspicions regarding her affection for his friend, but neither could she allow her behavior to betray anything but perfect decorum. Suddenly, all attempts to remain longer seemed uncouth and mercenary. 

Twisted Austen will commence October 24th and end on Halloween, with one section of the story posting each day. The entire story will then be available for free download both here and on Goodreads. Jane & Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling will also be available for Kindle and Nook, at the cheapest price they will permit me to sell it. Along with the cards, other goodies will be up for grabs, including copies of my books. Stay tuned for more!

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