Thursday, 17 July 2014

costumes for rent for the ball

These are some of the gowns I have made for other Regency events, mostly the Jane Austen Festival in Bath. I am renting them out to help people who have nothing to wear for the ball and don't want to commit to having a whole costume custom-made (which is an option; please contact me for details). I am charging $25 per gown. They come with accessories. Not all of them are shown here, but this gives you some idea of what I have available.
I have some petticoats and stays as well for some of them, and some capes. I may charge extra for those. Please contact me or comment below if you are interested in renting one. I have ones that will fit sizes 2-14. I also have the grey gown seen in this trailer, which is not in any of the pictures:

Others, including those below, can also be seen in this trailer:

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Why you need to get your ball tickets in the next 12 days

The Kickstarter campaign goes until July 28. I can't really think I can risk the expense of putting on this ball out of my own pocket, so I need to raise at least most of the cost of it in advance through ticket sales. July 28 gives me 2 months to secure the venue, plan the menu (period recipes, etc) organize and hold the dance lessons, make videos on how to put together your costume, prepare some period games, find volunteers, allow the musicians to rehearse and prepare and continue to sell tickets so we can make it even more awesome. I don't think I could do all that in less than 2 months. I would have started the campaign earlier, but I didn't have a dance caller, and I could not host a ball without one! That would be negligence to a shocking degree. 

If we don't raise the funds for the ball through the Kickstarter campaign, we will not proceed with the ball for now. We may try again next year. If you pledge, or in other words buy your ticket, on the Kickstarter website, and the ball does not proceed, you will not be charged anything. So there is no risk in getting your ticket that you will pay for it and it won't happen... just in case anyone was worried about that. 

So please, spread the word, and get your tickets. Let's make this happen. If you want to buy a ticket but don't like Kickstarter, just message me. I will sort it out for you so that you can still support the project and make it happen without having to make a Kickstarter account.

For now, here is the link for you to

Monday, 14 July 2014

Regency Ball September 28, 2014

If you have been following me at all lately, you will know that I am planning a Regency ball at Edmonton's historic Hotel Macdonald.

Wedgwood Room
I have launched a Kickstarter campaign as a way to raise the funds for it, and that only goes until July 28. We have to sell enough tickets through that campaign in order for the event to happen. If we sell 50 tickets, the event will proceed.

If we sell 150 tickets, we can afford to hold the ball in the Wedgwood room, which is a beautiful, authentic blue and white circular room that would REALLY feel like a proper Jane Austen ball, with a separate room for cards, etc.

To get excited about this, watch this video:

Here is how it works. Visit the page for the Kickstarter campaign. Pledge for your tickets. You will not pay unless the campaign is successful. If it is, you get to come to the ball. If not, you don't pay anything. This is a safe way to support this project without worrying that you will buy a ticket for something that doesn't happen.

If you don't know how to dance like Darcy and Lizzy, have no fear. There will be 3 dance lessons in September, so you can learn how to do the dances at the ball, and we won't all be stepping on each other's toes. You can sign up for the lessons through the Kickstarter campaign.

Mary Bennett
You don't have to dance. You can just come and enjoy the costumes and the setting and the live, beautiful music, and the lovely refreshments, and pretend to be Mary Bennet.

Although dancing is not mandatory, costumes are. You can order a costume (contact me for details) or you can put one together yourself. I will be posting video tutorials on how to make your own costume once the Kickstarter campaign is over, and we are sure the ball is happening. As part of the Kickstarter campaign, you an also purchase 3 costume-making sessions, at which I will personally assist you to make your own costume from scratch. I will tell you exactly what to bring. And don't worry. We will not be picky about the authenticity or perfection of costumes. Any earnest approximation of period dress will be permitted.

There is one door prize, which has been lovingly donated by Fashions Under Seige. It includes a shawl, reticule and hand-painted fan.

Email me if you have any questions, or comment below.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

How not to write like Austen: enduring what is hard

Telling people how to write like Jane Austen is like telling people how to sing like Joni Mitchell, or paint like Rembrandt. Genius cannot be taught. However, we can learn a few things about how words and phrases were used in her time, or applied in her writing, so that we can be sure we use them in their historical sense, and avoid accidental modernisms in our lovely Regency recreations.

One word that Jane Austen and her contemporaries use in a sense that has sort of become lost, or at least less common, is the word "hard." In Jane Austen's time, this word was often used in the sense of "difficult to bear," as in "it is very hard to think that she might have been Mr. Collins's wife by this time." "Hard" was not used as much in Jane Austen's time in the strict sense of "difficult" as in "it was really hard to do that." If a task is hard, it does not mean it is difficult; it means it is unpleasant. 

It is not entirely anachronistic to say "it is hard to say" or "hard to decide" and in fact Jane Austen does occasionally use the word in this way, but it will give your writing a more authentic sound if you mostly use "difficult" where appropriate and keep your usage of "hard" for the "unpleasant" meaning. 

"Hard" can also mean "severe" or "unjust" as in "you are very hard upon your sex." Jane Austen doesn't seem to really use it to mean physically hard, like a hard rock, though she does use it as an adjective in the phrase "hard-hearted."   

You can also use the phrase "hard upon" someone, or "he took it very hard." Of course, you can also say someone works hardm or raps hard upon the door, or fell hard. Only use the latter of those in the literal sense though, not the figurative. I don't think anyone "fell" for anyone in the 19th century.

In French, the word "dur" has the same sort of meaning, both physically hard in the Brunelian sense, and in the sense of working hard and of difficult to suffer through. From this French word, we get the related English word "endure" which, as you know, means to live through something that is hard. 

Melanie Kerr is the author of Follies Past: a Prequel to Pride and Prejudice

Read Chapter 1      Watch the Trailers      Buy the Book

Friday, 4 July 2014

Bribery is best done with cheesecake

Last week I attended my first book fair to promote Follies Past to booksellers and librarians in the Calgary area. I shared the table with my sister who was promoting her beautiful illustrated book, Grandmother's Cabin
Cover of Grandmother's Cabin - Moonbeam Award Gold Medal Winner
Me and Angela getting ready for the book fair
Packing our books
   We had ordered a sign for each of our books, and they looked great, if a little large for the space.

Our giant signage
I was encouraged by many to wear my costume to the fair, and I was going to, but in the end, I just hung one gown on a dummy by the table and lay the other across the table. There was, however, a social evening after the first day, and I was spurred on to don one of the gowns, so I did.

The gown I wore to the social, made from a secondhand punjabi my husband picked up.
Our table
On the second day of the fair, we were given the chance to present to librarians from the Marigold Library System. Thy had tables in the middle of the room, and all the book reps got to present their catalog to them. We thought they might be getting tired after 2 long days of presentations, so we decided to bribe them with a little treat. After some reflection, we settled on individual cheesecakes in mason jars. My sister put them together and they looked adorables!

Homemade cheesecakes in mason jars - I want to eat this every day!
We also gave them greeting cards with paintings from my sister's book on them. They seemed delighted with our bribes, and clearly it worked because we just got our first orders from the book fair, which came from the librarians! 

So, it never hurts to have stuff to give away when you want people to take an interest in your book. You can order all kinds of promotional materials on line, but the nice thing about the cheesecake I think was that it wasn't promotional. It was made at home, and was just delicious. 

Other tips I would share about attending a book fair is to have specially labeled copies of your book, marked as Advance Reading Copies, or Uncorrected Proofs and not for sale. Include all you and your book's contact information on the cover of these copies, including social media links, maybe a QR code. Give these copies to people, if only to browse while at their table. It is a good way to get the word out about your book, and all the reps and publishers do it as standard practice so it makes you look professional. And definitely go and talk to people, other reps as well as booksellers. It is amazing how nice people are. We learned so much just from sitting down and chatting for a bit. And of course, get as much swag as you can. Book reps bring samples of books for booksellers to look through and take to review before they decide whether to purchase them for their bookstore. If they don't give them all away, they sometimes leave some, if not all, behind. You can pick up a lot great reads, which is a nice bonus.

Melanie Kerr is the author of Follies Past: a Prequel to Pride and Prejudice

Read Chapter 1      Watch the Trailers    Order Paperback      Download eBook

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Austenesque Reviews - Review of Follies Past

In this charming and praiseworthy debut novel, author Melanie Kerr pens a prequel to Pride and Prejudice that surprisingly is not centered on Mr. Darcy or Elizabeth Bennet! Instead she chooses to flesh-out and fill in the histories of Caroline Bingley, George Wickham, and Georgiana Darcy. (Not one Bennet will you find here!) And while we do see our reserved and illustrious Mr. Darcy on the page quite a bit, this prequel focuses on other characters, especially three women: Caroline Bingley, Georgiana Darcy, and Clare Langford, Georgiana’s dearest friend from school.
Since I felt three distinct story-lines with three different heroines in this novel, I thought I’d break down my review in a similar fashion.
Caroline Bingley: In this prequel we witness Caroline’s first visit to Pemberley and introduction to Georgiana Darcy. As expected, Caroline’s ambitions and pursuit of Mr. Darcy are in full force. But when her heart is touched by another – a man with no title, wealth, or estate – Caroline’s interest in Mr. Darcy begins to waver. And while this unsuitable yet extremely charming man is a Class A Fortune Hunter, he finds himself quite liking the idea of marriage with Caroline… While there wasn’t anything unique about Caroline’s ambitions and interactions with Mr. Darcy, I greatly enjoyed the twist of her falling in love with an unsuitable man! I enjoyed seeing a softer portrayal of Caroline Bingley and witnessing her become “crossed in love.”
Georgiana Darcy: Here we see Georgiana become reacquainted and enamored with George Wickham. We see how the perfidious Mrs. Younge is the prime instigator and promoter of this match and how Georgiana, with her eagerness to grow up, experience love, and be Wickham’s savior, was so easily worked on. (Boy, Mrs. Younge is a nasty piece of work!) I enjoyed how Ms. Kerr portrayed Wickham, I liked that he was a reluctant participant to this scheme.
Clare Langford: By far, this is my favorite story-line in the novel!!! Clare, a daughter of an admiral with limited prospects and no property, comes to live with Georgiana in London and serve as a companion. Clare greatly enjoys her time with Georgiana and her family, but she starts to feel uneasy around Georgiana’s cousin, Lord Ashwell (Colonel Fitzwilliam’s older brother) because of all the scandalous rumors she hears about him. In addition, Clare does not approve of Georgiana’s growing friendship with George Wickham, and when she expresses caution it drives a wedge between her and Georgiana…
Clare is definitely the true heroine of this piece, she wins us over with her substance, moral center, and true friendship. She felt reminiscent of Georgette Heyer heroines to me – artless, perceptive, and not easily thwarted; and I completely admired and adored her! In addition, I loved Lord Ashwell, the black sheep in the Fitzwilliam family. I was dying to learn what he did in his past and why there were so many rumors circulating about him! And I thought it was brilliant how the author kept in suspense so long! The scenes with Lord Ashwell were splendid, what an intriguing character, I was deeply invested and moved by hime and his story-line.
I loved how well this thoughtful and illuminating prequel tied into Pride and Prejudice, the new character additions and fleshed-out histories were both creative and believable. I greatly enjoyed learning things like: why Colonel Fitzwilliam is appointed to be Georgiana’s guardian instead of his older brother and how Darcy came arrive in Ramsgate earlier than expected. The answers were equally satisfying and fitting. I also loved seeing some life put into to Anne de Bourgh and hearing about her not-so-dull existence.
I sincerely hope we will see more from Melanie Kerr soon, I absolutely loved her heartwarming tale and endearing characters! I’d definitely recommend this prequel if you are looking for a enthralling story aboutPride and Prejudice’s lesser known characters!!
Austenesque Reviews

Melanie Kerr is the author of Follies Past: a Prequel to Pride and Prejudice

Read Chapter 1      Watch the Trailers      Download eBook      Order Paperback