Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book One: Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor

"It is rare to find a woman who places her personal happiness above her fears for the future.  You refused Mr. Bigg-Wither, refused his offer of a home, a family, and the comfortable means they assured, to retain your independence, despite the counsel of all who wished you well and threw their weight behind the match.  What strength!"
     "Did you know Mr. Bigg-Wither, you would think me less noble," I said.  "There cannot be two men so likely to meet with refusal in the entire country."
When I wrote that snippet of dialogue in the opening pages of Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor, I unconsciously betrayed the inspiration for the entire series.  What was a young woman of six-and-twenty to do in the year 1802, knowing that she had no fortune and no immediate prospect of passionate romance, as the Years of Danger (as Jane once phrased them) approached?  Did she grasp at the only acceptable offer of marriage that came her way--with no more than tolerable liking for her life partner--or did she embark on the far lonelier proposition of spinsterhood, with all the privations and burdens that entailed?

Jane did both, within a twenty-four hour period; and the consequences determined the course of her life.

When I decided to write a mystery series featuring Jane Austen as an amateur detective, I knew only a few things: I wanted to write about Jane herself, rather than attempting a continuation of one of her novels.  I wanted to use the richness of her distinctive language--the intimate and acerbic tone of her private letters as well as her narrative voice.  I wanted to set Jane within the frame of her time: the late Georgian and Regency periods, when constant warfare on land and sea deprived the ballrooms of eligible gentlemen, and a lady was actually accorded a good deal more freedom than the subsequent Victorian era would allow.   And I wanted to give her a mystery to solve. 

Why a mystery?  Because Jane understood nothing so well as human motivation--the crux of every conflict and murderous impulse.  Hearts and minds were her preferred playgrounds.  Several of her books--Emma and Northanger Abbey come to mind--can be read as early novels of detection.  She loved to offer her readers false suspects and hidden clues.  In an era when all law enforcement was informal--when England had no police force, and justice was administered by the wellborn as one of the privileges of birth--an amateur detective was the norm.  That Jane was a woman seemed no bar to the adventures I'd planned for her.  She had access to every level of the English power structure through her brothers--a wealthy landowner, a banker, a clergyman, and two captains in the Royal Navy. 

I had studied Napoleonic France as an undergraduate, so I was familiar with the period.  I had been reading Austen's novels for decades, and had an echo of her voice in my head.  But I realized I knew more about Eliza Bennet or Anne Elliott than I did about Jane herself.  Once I had a bevy of biographies under my belt, I knew I had to write about Jane before she was Austen: the successful writer.  It was the uncertain young woman who interested me--the woman confronting age, potential poverty, and the terrifying challenge of independence.  This was a Jane who was often rootless, who moved from hired lodging to hired lodging before landing, finally, in her thirties, in the sanctuary of Chawton; who suffered grief at the loss of people she loved and the evanescence of certain dreams.  It was clear I had to start Scargrave Manor at a pivotal moment in Jane's life--when she accepted Harris Bigg-Wither's offer of marriage, only to jilt him the following morning.  It was perhaps the most courageous and reckless act of her nearly twenty-seven years; and those of us who cherish her prose owe her a debt of gratitude for turning her back on a loveless marriage. 

Had she consented to become Mrs. Harris Bigg-Wither, we would probably never have known her name.

Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor drops our unsuspecting heroine into the sort of life she might have chosen: a marriage of convenience, with disastrous consequences.  Jane's friend Isobel Payne rescues her from the mortification of her broken engagement with an invitation to Christmas at Scargrave Manor, where Jane meets a cast of characters reminiscent of some of her own.  George Hearst, the clergyman; his brother, the dissolute Lieutenant Tom Hearst; Fitzroy Payne, an inscrutable, proud, and handsome young heir to an earldom; Fanny Delahoussaye, whose behaviour would make Lydia Bennet's look tame.  When one of the company is poisoned, all are suspect--and Jane is compelled to learn the truth.

Along the way she encounters a man she rightly believes capable of every intrigue and violence, a man she describes as malevolent--and yet, by the end of the novel, chooses to call her Dark Angel: Lord Harold Trowbridge.

When I introduced Lord Harold in Scargrave Manor, I never imagined he'd become an obsession for so many readers.  But the Gentleman Rogue, as Jane and her world know him, has a subtle charm that makes him hard to ignore.  He cropped up in book after book, almost without my intending it. The silver-haired second son of a duke, Lord Harold is the constant subject of idle gossip, rampant envy, and malicious intrigue. Negligently at home in the breathless halls of the ton--London's Great--he chooses to devote his time and energy to the foiling of Napoleon Bonaparte's plans.  From the moment he meets Jane, he compels her with his intelligence; and his appreciation of her own is something Jane cherishes.  They make a fitful, star-crossed and unwittingly romantic pair.  But in Scargrave Manor, this is all in the future; I knew nothing of it myself, when I wrote the book back in 1994.

I have to confess that I'm ambivalent about Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor.  When I look through it now, the language feels correct but stiff, the footnotes overly-pedantic.  I'm struck by how much more familiar Jane has become over the past sixteen years.  We scraped an acquaintance at Scargrave; it was only later that she unbent, and shared her vicious sense of humor, her uncanny wisdom, her love of absurdity and some of her pain.  Those are the best Austen gifts--the kind that return us again and again to her remarkable novels, the kind we carry with us always.

Reading Group Questions for Scargrave Manor

1. Jane Austen is nearly twenty-seven when this novel begins, and is considered long since "on the shelf," as her contemporaries would put it--meaning well past the marriageable age for a woman, which in her time was roughly between fifteen and twenty-two.  Lacking any dowry or personal fortune, she had only her looks to recommend her, as she would later write of the Bennet girls in Pride and Prejudice.  Well-born women of her day were prohibited from pursuing any sort of income-producing profession, and unless they married, were regarded as a financial burden on the male members of their families.  Given these considerations, does Jane show great courage--or great selfishness--in refusing an excellent offer of marriage?  Discuss.

2. A woman's life was often short in the late Georgian and Regency period.  Three of Jane's sisters-in-law would die by the age of thirty-five, all three as a result of childbirth, and Jane herself lived only to forty-one.  Did the shortness of one's span make individual life choices more or less important?  Did a woman of Austen's time have the luxury of pursuing personal ambitions and dreams, or was her focus primarily on her family or community?  Do these considerations make Jane's particular choices more or less remarkable? 

3. In a society that placed inordinate importance on both beauty and wealth, was Jane's intellect a gift or a handicap?
4. Justice in Austen's day was largely administered by the wellborn and well-connected.  There was no police force, no presumption of innocence, no conception of evidence collection and few rights accorded to defendants during trials.  Has the justice system benefited or suffered with the passage of time? 
5. Fans of Austen's work frequently cite the civility of society in her day, as evidenced in the ritualized behavior of men and women in both public and private venues, and contrast it negatively with our own.  Is this an idealized version of Austen's time, or an accurate one?  How does Isobel Payne's experience inform your thinking on this question?  Is she protected by the implicit civility of her society--or a victim of her limited capacity to defend herself? 


The Being a Jane Austen Mystery Challenge

The Austen faeries at Austenprose have sprinkled their stardust over my very own Jane, with interesting results for the coming New Year:  Laurel Ann Nattress, Austen Maven Extraordinaire, has issued the following challenge--read several (or all eleven, yes eleven) of the Jane Austen Mysteries, which she'll review in order each month throughout 2011, and you may be eligible for a few prizes!

As part of the Challenge, I'll be blogging here each month about my particular Jane: the inspiration for each novel, the sources I found most intriguing and useful, the period in Jane's personal history each story amplifies, and the rich veins of late Georgian and Regency life I mined for background to the stories.  I'll also be offering a brief Reader's Guide specific to each mystery. 

It's an indulgence and a gift to revisit so many books I wrote over the past sixteen years--but my chief hope is to spur conversation.  Check back after you've read some of the Austen Mysteries, toss me your questions or thoughts, and with luck we'll all learn something.

For details of the Challenge, do read Laurel Ann's invitation below--or go to .


Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011

We are very pleased to announce the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011. If you have not discovered one of her wonderful mysteries, this is a great opportunity to join the challenge along with other Janeites, historical fiction and mystery lovers.

Novels in the Series

Challenge Details

Time-line: The Being a Jane Austen Mystery Challenge runs January 1, through December 31, 2011.
Levels of participation: Neophyte: 1 – 4 novels, Disciple 5 – 8 novels, Aficionada 9 – 11 novels.
Enrollment: Sign up’s are open until July 01, 2011. First, select your level of participation.  Second, copy the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge graphic and include it in your blog post detailing the mysteries that you will read in 2011. Third, leave a comment linking back to your blog post in the comments of this announcement post. If you do not have a blog you can still participate. Just leave your commitment to the challenge in the comments below.
Check Back Monthly: The Being a Jane Austen Mystery Challenge 2011 officially begins on Wednesday, January 12, 2010 with my review of the first mystery in the series, Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor. Check back on the 2nd Wednesday of each month for my next review in the challenge.
Your Participation: Once the challenge starts you will see a tab included at the top of Austenprose called Reading Challenges. Click on the tab and select Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011. Leave a comment including the mystery that you finished and a link to your blog review. If you do not have a blog, just leave a comment about which book you finished with a brief reaction or remark. It’s that easy.

The Prizes

Oh, of course there are prizes! Author Stephanie Barron has very generously offered one signed hardcover or paperback copy of each of the novels that we will be reviewing each month here on Austenprose to be drawn from comments left with each post, and one signed paperback copy of each of the eleven novels in the series to one lucky Grand Prize Winner to be drawn from comments left at any and all of the reviews left on this blog or yours. Yes, that means that your readers who comment on your challenge reviews have a chance to win too. Winners will be announced monthly two weeks after the blog post, and Grand Prize winner will be announced on January 01, 2012. Shipment to US or Canadian address only.
Bonus Stuff: Yes, of course there is more to get happy about. Availability of each of the novels in the series is great. The books can be purchased or eBooks download at most online etailers and brick and mortar stores. Since the series is so popular, your local library should be a great resource too.
One of the delights of the series is the incredible historical detail that parallel Jane Austen’s life. To expand upon our reading journey in 2011, author Stephanie Barron will be blogging about researching and writing each of the novels as we progress through the series at her Stephanie Barron blog. What an incredible resource and motivation for your reading challenge!
So, make haste and join the challenge today. I am so looking forward to revisiting all the novels in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery series in 2011 and hope you can join in too.

Laurel Ann

  1. Laurel Ann – Austenprose
  2. Theresa – The Treehouse
  3. Ruth – Book Talk and More
  4. Ruchama
  5. Karen Field
  6. Joanne – Slice of Life
  7. Kimberly – Reflections of a Book Addict
  8. Bella
  9. Kristin
  10. Dana – Much Madness is Divinest Sense
  11. Stephanie
  12. Staci – Life in the Thumb Reading Challenges
© 2007 – 2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose
Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge Graphic by Katherine Cox of November’s Autumn

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Austen Short Story Contest!!!!

Laurel Ann Nattress, blogger extraordinaire of Austenprose, is the happy editor of a new Jane Austen fan fiction anthology entitled Jane Austen Made Me Do It, to be published by Ballantine Books in October, 2011.  (Now THERE'S a reason to ring in the New Year.)  She already has twenty-two submissions from known Austenesque writers--I've contributed a story featuring the late, lamented Lord Harold Trowbridge entitled "Jane and the Gentleman Rogue," for instance--but she's Looking For Just One More. 

It could be yours.

The short story contest winner will be published in the anthology.  Entries will be posted at the Republic of Pemberley, where readers can vote for their favorites!   FOR COMPLETE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES, CONTEST DATES, AND RULES, FOLLOW THE LINK to Austenprose.

And good luck, Janeites!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Yes, Virginia, There is a Jane Austen

I'm not the sort of writer whose books are found stuffed into the seat pocket of every airplane.  My sales are modest and my fame is derived more from the exploits of my sons than from any work I turn in during a given year.  So it was a bit of a shock when a friend emailed the other day to tell me my name had come up.  Her daughter likes those desktop calendars that offered a teaser-a-day: jokes about lawyers, inspirational quotations, gardening tips, yadda yadda.  This one happened to be a Jeopardy! calendar.  Question:  "This author had the sense and sensibility to turn Jane Austen into a sleuth in a mystery series."  I was the answer.

Is that weird, or what?

When I started writing about Jane, I thought I was talking to a certain audience: people (OK, mostly women) who cherished her novels and wanted to know a bit more about her.  I've loved the Regency and Napoleonic France for a long time.  I yearned to use a semblance of Austen language, and luxuriate in Jane's particular settings and obessions: Lyme Regis, Bath, all things Royal Navy and the occasional bout of London shopping.  What I NEVER anticipated was that I'd writing, in large part, for readers who did not know her name.

This was a shock delivered repeatedly in unexpected ways.  Somebody at a signing asked if Jane Austen had founded Hull House in Chicago.  (Wrong era, wrong woman, wrong continent.)  My son's preschool teacher (yes, teacher) asked if she'd written Jane Eyre.   An acquaintance gave me a COPY of Jane Eyre, because she knew how much I loved to write about her....And then there was my bank teller, pausing in the act of processing my transaction, who said, "This Jane Austen you write about.  She...lived?"

I've tried different aids to enlightenment.  I mention Colin Firth as Darcy.  Emma Thompson and her academy award for Sense and Sensibility.  I've even invoked Keira Knightley for the benefit of a younger generation, although I loathe that version of P&P.  And whenever a faintly snobbish sort of Janeite asks me pointedly why, with so much knowledge of Austen and the period under my belt, I haven't written a real book about Jane--meaning a nonfiction one--I patiently explain the lesson I've learned.  My series of ten detective novels may have introduced more people to Austen's work than any historic monograph I could  have written.  I get no greater pleasure than hearing this oft-repeated phrase:  "I actually went and read one of Austen's books after reading Jane and the..." whatever it might be. 

Yes, Virginia, there IS a Jane Austen--and some of us wander through the world pretending there always will be.

I've asked my friend to save her daughter's calendar sheet for me.  I think I might frame it.  Or at least stick it on my refrigerator. 

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Janeites in Portland

It's Monday morning and I'm back in the saddle after a delicious few days in Portland, at the Jane Austen Society of North America's Annual General Meeting.  The focus this year was Northanger Abbey--and murder, muslin and mayhem--but the proceedings were given a fillip of added interest by their coincidence with Halloween, and Saturday night's Masked Ball.  Most provocative costume: the Empire-waisted Regency gown made entirely of black patent leather, worn by a mashed-up Austenesque vampire.  Greatest laugh moment: Team Tilney's spoof of the Old Spice Man commercial, with Henry Tilney compelling every woman in the room to "Look up!  Look down!   Where are you?  You're with that man who's reading that book you love..."  I just hope somebody filmed it, and that it goes viral.  Thanks to Maggie Sullivan of AustenBlog and friends who put That Man in a Corinthian's costume.

I was fortunate enough to present my PowerPoint on aspects of mystery writing in Northanger before something like six hundred avid Jane fans, and have a "comfortable coze" about all things Austen in the Q&A that followed; enjoy breakout sessions and Juliet McMaster's excellent assessment of Catherine Morland as heroine; sign books until my hand fell off at the cocktail party; browse the Milsom Street emporium; meet JASNA president Marcia Huff, and congratulate the conference organizers on a phenomenal job.  I raised a late-night Austentini with fellow writers and Laurel Ann Nattress, AustenProse blogger and editor of the forthcoming short story anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, which will include "Jane and the Gentleman Rogue" when it appears in October 2011.  I got to stroll through the Saturday morning Farmer's Market in downtown Portland in the rain, with my husband--which was unabashedly romantic.  Writers spend far too much of our time alone in semi-darkened rooms, staring at glowing screens; the chance to mingle with like-minded souls for a few days was a boon.  Thanks, Jane!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Jane the Illiterate

Okay, I've been trying to ignore Kathryn Sutherland's bizarre publicity stunt this week, in which she's telling anyone who will listen that Jane was nothing without her alleged editor.  But hearing her interviewed on NPR this morning made my blood boil--and I feel compelled to put down my views.  None of Jane's "fair copy" manuscripts for her published novels has survived.  Therefore, Sutherland has been studying the rough drafts of unpublished work--and nobody who lived before the age of the word processor or standardized spellings should be judged by such manuscripts.  This is why we call them ROUGH drafts.  She also said today in her interview that most of Jane's letters were destroyed--when one hundred and sixty-one exist, and can be seen in manuscript at various libraries in the US and England.  They reveal that Jane rarely placed i before e--but also are remarkable for their fluency, wit, and mastery of the English language. 

I've written twenty-one novels to date, and benefited from the technology of my time.  I value and honor my editor, Kate Miciak--and invariably wait for her response to my prose.  I carefully review the comments of copyeditors on the edited manuscript--because I rely on their gentle corrections of infelicitous grammar or errors of fact.  But do I regard my publishers as having written my novels?  No.  Did Jane's publishers write Pride and Prejudice?  Not even remotely.  Enough with the sensationalism, Kathryn Sutherland.  Jane deserves better.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ratafia Cakes. Yes, Ratafia Cakes.

Who knew that Whole Foods could be a Janeite's best friend?

I'm headed down to The Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale on Saturday, October 23rd, for one of Barbara Peter's fab signings--it wouldn't be a Jane Launch without a visit to the Pen--and in a moment of idiocy this past summer I suggested brightly:  "Let's do a tea!  And I'll bring Ratafia Cakes!"

Devoted readers of Regency-era novels know that such things are frequently referenced in most scenes of routs, balls, masques and impetuous late-night calls, rashly paid by feckless heroines to the bachelor digs of their dangerous suitors.  But what's ratafia?  And how did it get into a cake?

Jane Austen, although she never mentions them to my knowledge in any of her novels--(Sudden Rush of Janeites Everywhere to Prove Me Wrong)--was intimately familiar with the little oohjahs.  A recipe for them shows up in The Jane Austen Cookbook, by Maggie Lane and Deirdre Le Faye.  Most of the recipes are culled from the cherished collection of Martha Lloyd, Jane's longtime friend, housemate, and second wife of brother Frank.  I forget whether the Ratafia Cakes recipe was Martha's or someone else's.  But whatever.  There it is, on the VERY LAST PAGE of the book.  And it turns out to be something like a macaroon.  The kind you buy at Laduree's.  Nothing much more than ground almonds, powdered sugar, egg whites, and...wait for it...rose water.

Hoping to avoid the whole hunt-for-the-archaic-nineteenth-century-ingredient-thing, I decided on a strategic retreat to the front section of  the cookbook, where Naples Biscuits are prominently featured.  Now, in every Georgette Heyer novel involving passage by sea (or is it the Patrick O'Brian books?), the characters are forced to exist on a monotonous diet of Naples Biscuit.  One gets the impression of something like Melba Toast, stored in barrels in the holds of ships.  But apparently they had other uses--Amabel Fancot brings a vast store of them to her country seat from London, for entertaining, in Heyer's False Colours.  And in reading over the handy recipe, I discovered they seem a lot like our present-day biscotti, or even madeleines.  I quite like madeleines.  I dip them in tea and imagine I'm in Paris.  But alas, alack--Naples Biscuits turn out to require orange flower water

I ask you.

Which brings me back to Whole Foods. 
They stock orange flower water.  From Paris.  The label's quaint, and vaguely suggestive of the Moulin Rouge, or a flirtation with absinthe.  I can get into having that in my pantry.  They even stock rose water--although it's in the cosmetics section, which seems a little sketchy.  I bought it anyway.  Best of all, they have pre-ground almonds in their massive section of Bulk Food Items!!!  Who knew?  I got lots of that, too.
So I'll be arriving at The Poisoned Pen with the requisite Austen tea things.  If airport security doesn't rip them off first.

And as for that ratafia?
Turns out it was a kind of liqueur made from apricot pits.  Or cherry stones.  Or bitter almonds.
All of which contain cyanide.
A drink only a detective novelist could love.  :)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Body in the Library

          When I was twenty-four years old and pathetically academic, Stanford University gave me half a year to master the canon of literature in my doctoral field.  I loathed my subject and couldn’t explain for the life of me why I’d bothered to study it; but here was a gift!  Six months with nothing to do but sit in a comfortable armchair in the university library, and read!
          Problem was, I kept falling asleep. 
          They were such lovely, drowsy, golden afternoons in that library—all the glory of California slanting through the modernist stacks, eucalyptus leaves rustling beyond the plate glass windows.  The cushions were deep and the prose was turgid.  From sheer mental torpor I turned to the one thing I knew would save me: I put down the canon and picked up the Dorothy Sayers.   
     Murder Must Advertise, to be exact.
     People fall on their swords every day in defense of their favorite Sayers novel.  Passionate, sensitive and articulate people argue themselves hoarse over the dueling sonnets in Gaudy Night, or the creeping horror of The Nine Tailors’ bludgeoning bells.  But the book I return to, again and again, is Murder Must Advertise.  I love the cleverness of the dope smugglers, the wit of the copywriters, the intricacy of the murder on the iron staircase, the revelations of the final cricket match and Lord Peter Wimsey in a harlequin’s tights.  I love Dian de Momerie, louche and doomed, with her cant dialogue in words of one syllable.  But most, I appreciate Wimsey’s envoie to the unfortunate murderer: Go home now.  Go on foot, and not too fast.  And don’t look behind you.
     When my days are too full and my time is too short, and reading about neuroscience or the Taliban is what Dian de Momerie would call “too terribly yawn-making, darling,” I look to the classics of the Golden Age.  Margery Allingham’s The Tiger in the Smoke is one of these: a white-knuckle novel of suspense, an elegant study in the redemption of the human soul.  Michael Innes’s Lament for a Maker, in which the story of snowbound Scottish death unfolds through the serial pens of five distinct narrators, is another.  I get a kick out of the cartoonish drama of E.C. Bentley’s Trent’s Last Case, as well as its fiendishly clever plot; but when I think about why I re-read these books, I always come back to character.  It’s character, not plot, that abides in the dark watches of the night.
     Which brings me to two modern classics, sure to endure: Laurie King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, which offers one of the most sensitive portraits ever drawn of an intelligent young girl’s coming of age; and Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, in which hellion Flavia de Luce—who could be Dorothy Sayers at age twelve—saves everybody worth saving through the force of her own wit.
     I squeaked through my Orals, but never wrote my dissertation.  Twenty-odd novels later, I’m grateful to Stanford for the armchair in the library—and the epiphany it brought: fiction will always be more compelling, to me, than fact; and half a year with nothing to do but read, is still the best gift of all.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

At long last—Jane!

          I suppose it’s fitting that the tenth book in the Jane Austen Mystery Series should appear in the Year Ten, as one Austen hero might put it.  When I started writing these books—ahem, when I began editing Austen’s long-lost journals of her detective adventures—I was thirty-one years old and pregnant with my son Sam.  He’s now nearly sixteen and thinking about college, his little brother is twelve, and I’m forty-seven.  (I think often about the fact that Jane died at forty-one.)  During the intervening years, Colin Firth laid down a Darcy for the ages, and Zombies somehow ate their way through Regency England.  Austenmania is a full-blown publishing, blogging, cinematic and tweeting phenomenon.  The obsession with Jane’s intelligent women and satiric men has found its way to Bollywood and back.  I wonder, often, what that mordantly funny woman in Hampshire would have thought of it all.
In my parallel universe, it’s now 1813 and Jane has only four years to live.  She doesn’t know that, of course—she’s too busy publishing Pride and Prejudice and writing Mansfield Park to be aware of the insidious disease creeping through her body.  This is the year Jane seized at life: though still an anonymous author, she was beginning to be a successful one.  Her acute and independent voice empowered her, in a world that gave little room to women.  Jane’s determination to speak and be heard continues to inspire me.  
And so I’ve decided to start writing this blog.  It won’t be a daily posting, and it won’t deal solely with things Austen.  I like to think of it as a voice in the dark—a place where I can whisper my thoughts about life and writing, debate my direction, and perhaps enjoy a conversation or two.  Feel free to comment or question; feel free to lurk unawares.  I’ll do my best to answer.

Stephanie Barron