My How Things Change, by Jann Rowland

My How Things Change, by Jann Rowland

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
-George Bernard Shaw

I am often drawn to thoughts of progress, where I am going and where I have come from. From a writing perspective, it came from an idea for a fantasy book, through many stops and starts, and ultimately led to Jane Austen based fiction, and back to my fantasy roots. How much progress I have made continues to amaze me. At the same time, I am continually humbled by how much I can still improve.

I have referenced various vehicles by which I have gained perspective, that have at times spurred me on to changes that I believe have made my work better. Sometimes it is a simple comment in a review about how I have overused or misused a word and other times it is a friendly word of encouragement or advice. All earnest comments are welcome, for as I have said many times, I am not perfect, I do not write perfectly, and I can always improve.

“Strive for progress, not perfection.”

That truly is the rub, is it not? No one in this life can achieve perfection, for we are all flawed beings. On the other hand, if we show steady improvement, I think we are accomplishing something worthwhile. That is what I look for on a day-to-day basis.

It is also amusing to me how I have changed over the years, not only improving my craft overall, but how my progression has changed my work. Perceptions also change, such that opinions I espoused a few short years ago have been turned on their heads completely.

Case in point, I once thought I was a novel writer, that I would never write anything shorter. Novellas? Not for me. Some have called me long-winded, and while I have worked to use less words when the occasion demands, there is still something of truth in that charge.

Three years ago, however, a friend challenged me to write a novella. “What do you have to lose?” he said. At least I would know how well I write them, and I would understand how they fit into the puzzle that is my craft. Taking that challenge, I wrote out a short outline, which eventually became Mr. Bennet Takes Charge. One of my most successful endeavors to date. Thus, the concept was proven, and the novella has become an important part of my arsenal.

As I have referenced before (and you may be tired of it) I am now submitting novels to the audiobook company for consideration, and if they are accepted, I will be doing coordinated releases with them. I have one going to them this week. If they reject them, I will publish it as usual. Thus, if my next several get accepted, it could be the summer before you see any new full length works from me. But that is where novellas come to the rescue! I have one scheduled for release on the 17th.

Another thing I have noticed a change in lately is outlines. I used to moan and complain about outlines, as I often struggled to get through them. “Coming up with ideas is hard!” I complained. It is much easier to take a completed outline, put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), and write the story. My how things change.

I cannot put a date or event down to this change, as I have noticed a gradual improvement over the years. But the first time I really noticed how much easier it was for me to produce an outline was, I think, about this time last year when I was in limbo for about two weeks after an eye procedure. Not being able to write, I set to recording my thoughts, and found new life outlining. I have a list of about two dozen story ideas that are in the “idea” stage, or in other words, I have a basic concept, but no outline. As outlining has become easier (though it’s still a bit of a mixed bag as to when it is flowing), I have begun to accumulate a stable of stories that are ready and waiting to be written. At last count, I have 8(!) stories outlined and sitting in their folders, patiently waiting for my attention.

At the same time, writing has become more of a chore at times. I do not know why, as I still seem to get the words out when I buckle down and do it. But for some reason, that buckling down has gotten harder. Maybe I have just become lazier.

The point to all this is that things change. Maybe a time will come when things reverse themselves. I do not know. But regardless, I always feel blessed to be doing what I enjoy, not working at a soulless corporation for garnish wages. Life is good!

As a celebration of change, I am going to tease you with a short excerpt of the long story currently front and center on my computer screen. I will not give you any background, as I do not want to ruin the surprise. I will be submitting this story to the publisher; I hope the manuscript will be complete by Friday. Thus, if they accept, you can expect it in the summer. If not, I will follow my usual publishing pattern, which means it could be ready as early as March, though April is more likely.

This has not been edited—it is exactly the way I first wrote it. I hope you enjoy it regardless. I have been on a kick for killing off characters lately. The first few words will inform you of who has been axed from this story. But who has taken that character’s place? You will need to read it and find out!

*     *     *

When a man finds himself an unexpected widower, it must surely be desirable that he find another wife. This is doubly so when the man in question has five daughters—all of tender years—to raise without the help of his companion in life. This was a truism felt by all the Bennets of Longbourn in Hertfordshire after the death of Mrs. Bennet not long after her eldest daughter’s fifteenth birthday.

The demands of mourning, however, rendered the necessity one to consider in the future, which Bennet determined to do when the opportunity presented itself. In the months after the sad event, he was more concerned with the futures of his daughters. It could not be supposed that such a traumatic event would not change a man’s perspective, and this was perhaps more apropos for Bennet than for most others of his station.

The estate, Longbourn, was a good property, and if it was not one of the great estates, it provided a life far beyond what most folk could expect. It was also, however, entailed away from the female line to a distant cousin, a man of whom Bennet had no great opinion, and as his wife had not possessed a head for economy and had not been blessed with great wealth herself, there was little to leave to his daughters. This had not concerned Bennet for the years of his marriage, for the sole reason he had thought to father a son who would help him in ending the entail and providing for any unmarried daughters after he was gone. Now that his wife had unexpectedly perished, Bennet was awakened to the reality of life’s fragility. To continue on this path was to invite calamity, for the interest on his wife’s dowry, which, due to her death was now to be apportioned to her daughters, would be entirely insufficient to provide for their support.

Thus, Bennet found himself in the position of having little to leave to those daughters, without a wife, and anxious for their futures. There was little a man in his position could do but to institute a stricter policy of adhering to their budget and putting as much money away as he could. In this, he was assisted by the late Mrs. Bennet’s brother, a man of business, who was knowledgeable and eager to ensure his nieces had some means of supporting themselves should the worst happen.

With this, Bennet was content. The fortune he would pass to his daughters would grow slowly, but they would have dowries should they find men to marry. Further, Bennet found himself invigorated when he began to take some thought for the estate. While he had never neglected it completely, Bennet was a man much more comfortable with the company of his beloved books, and it was easier to surrender to that lure than to bother with the property that provided his family’s security. The years after the event provided a change in perspective, for while he still enjoyed his books, he also found attending to the concerns of the estate brought its own rewards.

For four years after his wife’s passing, Bennet engaged himself in his concerns, added to the fortunes he laid aside, and contented himself with the company of his daughters. And such it might have continued if not for a chance visit of a lady to the neighborhood. Bennet had known of her coming, for even without his wife in residence, a lady always at the forefront of the neighborhood’s gossip, they were kept faithfully informed by his wife’s sister and the other denizens of the neighborhood. Bennet might have thought nothing of the lady’s coming had his second daughter not taken a fancy to the pretty widow and her only child, a daughter six years her junior.

It ever after remained a mystery how he had gone from a widower, content with his daughters to a man meeting a woman in Longbourn church only a year later, ready to pledge himself to another woman after thinking he would not marry again. That he had some affection for the woman that had not been based on primitive lust—Bennet was forced to confess if only to himself that he had met the first Mrs. Bennet in the church for little more reason than that—was a blessing. His second daughter watched eagerly with her sisters, pleased to have a mother in her life again. And Bennet, though the courtship had been a whirlwind affair once he had decided he wished to have her in his life forever, realized he was anticipating the benefits of again having a wife, though he hoped it would turn out better than his first marriage had.

The identity of the lady, however, might come as a surprise to the unwary reader, for in this story, she is a woman of better temperament, one who could command the respect of the girls she would take on as daughters. And thus, our story begins in a familiar place, but with a major role filled by a different character.

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February 6, 2022 2:53 PM

Hmmm! Well I do have an idea but the possibility definitely surprises me! I do wonder if she has any other children? I’m certainly looking forward to finding out!

Jean Stillman
Jean Stillman
February 6, 2022 9:10 AM

What a little cliffhanger moment! You would do J.R. proud! (From the old nighttime soap opera known as “Dallas”.) I have a guess of a very particular Lady, but won’t post it and spoil things for anyone! I look forward to summer!

February 4, 2022 7:16 PM

Definitely piqued my interest. Thanks for sharing.

Charmaine M
Charmaine M
February 2, 2022 6:20 PM

OHHHHH Jann!!!!! hmmm, she has a daughter 6 yrs younger than Lizzy, so a yr younger than Lydia…and Lizzy likes her? Well, I have few ideas. Please hurry! As you know we have been in the absolute freeze zone in Alberta and your books go well with any beverage and a warm blanket, Can’t wait! ???

Last edited 5 months ago by Charmaine M
cindie snyder
cindie snyder
February 2, 2022 3:16 PM

Ooh! Wonder who the new wife is? I am very intrigued!

Robin G.
Robin G.
February 2, 2022 1:25 PM

I also have a guess as to the identity of the new Mrs. Bennet. I am looking forward to reading more. Thank you for sharing with us!

Linda A.
Linda A.
February 2, 2022 11:34 AM

Ah! Like Riana, I have my suspicions too. I’m looking forward to see how this plays out. Thanks for sharing!

J. W. Garrett
J. W. Garrett
February 2, 2022 11:20 AM

Oh-My-Gosh! What have you done? [chortle-chortle] I can’t imagine who you have chosen for our Mr. Bennet. I’m looking forward to seeing how this pans out. I hope the silly girls [Lydia and Kitty] were young enough that Mr. Bennet was able to rein in their behavior. So, this new lady had a daughter of her own to add to the mix. Man, six girls in the same house. Whew! Yeah, Bennet would need to make sure Longbourn could support them all. Blessings on the launch and success of all your hard work.

Riana Everly
February 2, 2022 9:08 AM

Doesn’t that sound interesting! I have my suspicions, but I’m intrigued.

Gianna Thomas
February 2, 2022 7:56 AM

Interesting excerpt, Jann. Look forward to seeing who Bennet’s second wife will turn out to be. Hopefully, she will be a bit more genteel than the first Mrs. Bennet. 🙂

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