Maria Grace and the Tale of a Recalcitrant Muse

Coffee with ColetteGood morning, dear readers! 

I always love having this fellow Austen Variations Author  join me for Coffee because I have the chance to get to know her better. My guest today is the beautiful Maria Grace, who stopped by for a Coffee visit in April to talk about her novels, her blackbelt (!), and hummingbirds. Chatting together, we find that we have more in common than we knew.  She and I are both Southern girls, and we had similar upbringings over which we can empathize!  Also, as followers of my Facebook page know, I have been suffering with a bout of writer's block, and like Maria, I have tried returning to pen and paper to get the creative juices flowing. I am inspired by her ability to break through the block - I only hope I don't have to run 50 miles to do it! (That's not happening!)
Of course, we also share a love of all things Darcy!  Maria is back today to tell us where that hummingbird has led her next, and I know you will want to follow along (and you won't have to run 50 miles!).

Tale of a Recalcitrant Muse

A muse is a fickle creature, very very fickle creature. On good days, mine looks like a lovely, colorful humming bird, flitting from one sweet flower to the next, leading me along my storyline. Then there are other days, the days when it looks more like this:

Osiol001xx There is a reason donkeys are known for their stubbornness. One of my horse-owning friends told me about transporting her horse in the same trailer as a donkey. When it was time for the animals to leave the trailer, the donkey got stubborn and refused to leave. They finally had to hook up a winch to the determined creature to get him to move.

My muse morphed into a donkey for the longest time with my most recent book and I nearly needed a winch to get it moving again. Since I edited the basic plot line from the third book in my series, I already had a good sense of what was going to happen. It was just a matter of deciding exactly how it would take place.

The Christmas holidays seemed like a natural timeframe for the story line. That decision made, I was ready to go. This shouldn’t be too difficult, do a bit of period research and we’re ready to go. Right?

If only it were that easy.

A little research wound up as over twenty pages of dense typewritten notes. That was just to start with. Another twenty or more pages of notes got added in a long the way. Once I had the research done, more or less, I had a wonderful idea. Set the story line up by the Regency holiday calendar. That will give me a good solid structure to work from. Right? Certainly it would.

Yeah—not so much.

I started writing the story form the eyes of the characters at Pemberley. That attempt died in the water after 10 pages. All right muse, I can be flexible. I started over, in a new point of view, from the eyes of the Longbourn characters. That was good for maybe another ten pages, then nothing. I just stared at blank pages. A lot.

Maybe if I returned to pen and paper—skip the computer for a bit? I hoped the muse could be bribed with a comfy chair, a warm blanket and a cuddly cat or three. That effort only merited a handful of pages.

DunkyBribing with chocolate did not work, either—it was lovely fun though. But it gave me an idea. How about ditching the calendar idea and make it about a journey to visit Pemberley. That had potential!

Back to research—maps, period documents on the towns and sites along the way, all about carriages and posting inns. Things were looking good. Storyline would conform to the travel from point A to point B and fall in love along the way.

Ready, set, write…or not.

Argh! I’m not sure I even got five pages out of that idea before it was dead in the water.

I was ready to give up and would have, except for one teensy-tiny little problem. I’d already posted the intro as a guest post on a large book blog and promised a Christmas book to go with it back in May. I was stuck. I had to make peace with this foolish, mulish muse somehow.

Colibrí Cola de Oro (Golden-tailed Sapphire Hummingbird) Bigger FileA peace offering? It required a peace offering and I knew exactly what it would be. My outlines! The research I could keep, but the muse demanded the outlines. So page by page I fed those dreaded outlines to my donkey-stubborn muse. Wonder of Wonders—it morphed back into a humming bird!

I strapped on my running shoes and followed it—literally. I ran probably 50 miles in the course of sorting out the story. I wrote, I rant and I wrote some more, and the story took shape. Plot points fell into place exactly there they should, a theme appeared and a character arc developed, and best of all—a twist ending I didn’t see coming until I actually wrote it. I love my humming bird!

That is not to say it didn’t require a month of editing and polishing when it was finished, it did. But at last I finally had a story!

And I think I’ve learned my lesson. I would much rather have this face:

Thalurania glaucopis, São Paulo, Brazil - 20060514

to write by than this one:

Donkeys (2)

Here’s a little excerpts of where my humming bird led me....

Twelfth Night at Longbourn

Twelfth Night at LongbournThe journey to Bond Street was a quick one—so easy a distance Kitty would have never thought to ask for the carriage. Perhaps one did not walk easy distances in London. She opened her mouth, the question poised on her lips. Miss Darcy raised an eyebrow, and she clamped her jaws shut.
The carriage slowed in a sea of city life. Odors from the busy street wafted in: horses and their waste; smoke—coal, wood and tobacco; cooking food of too many types to identify. More traffic than she had ever encountered jostled for space between the carriages and wagons. How did one breathe in such chaos?
Kitty clutched her skirts, crushing the muslin under her hands. So very many people: beggars in rags, little boys sporting skeleton suits; a dandy, dressed after the manner of Beau Brummel, stood on the corner. The lady on his arm might well have been a fashion plate from La Belle Assemble. They both dodged a
clumsy shopkeeper in a ragged, dusty coat, arms piled high with boxes.
The carriage finally moved again, only to stop a moment later. The driver handed them out. Kitty gawked at a pair of young dandies who walked with an odd gait. What was wrong with them?
Oh! She must not stare at them, so she turned to the nearest shop window. Fine gloves, stoles and collars lined the display, all vying for her attention.
“Come!” Miss Darcy led the way next door.
Kitty barely tore her eyes away. Lydia, too, would drag her away from windows she longed to savor. Would it do much harm to spend a moment looking? Perhaps it was not elegant to gawp at shop windows, and Catherine needed to learn a new habit. She hurried after Miss Darcy.
A sign on the door read Fine Millinery in swooping gold letters. Kitty gulped and minced her way inside.
Heady French perfume mixed with the distinct aromas of wool, straw and feathers assailed her. Hat forms lined one wall. The adjacent one held racks of ribbon and lace, flowers, fruit and feathers. Fabrics, plain and exotic were tucked into shelves in the far corner. Those she understood. If only she could make her way to them—
“Miss Darcy!” A large-bosomed woman with a heavy accent, as much a part of her costume as her measuring tape and scissors dangling around her neck, rushed toward them. “How might I assist you?”
“Good morning, Madame Henri. I am in search of a hat—”
“I know just the thing. I received it from Paris only this week.”
“Not for me, for my sister, Miss Catherine Bennet.”
Mdm. Henri turned to the previously invisible Kitty. Her face fell slightly. “I would be most pleased to assist you, Miss Bennet.” She curtsied, her knee almost touching the floor.
The back of Kitty’s neck prickled. What was she to do with so many options! No doubt she would demonstrate herself an unpolished goose cap the moment she tried to select something.
“She is the new Mrs. Darcy’s sister.” Mrs. Hartwell murmured.
“Ahh! Of course! I see the resemblance.” The milliner smiled a shop keep’s smile, the one crafted to make a shopper feel revered and in the mood to spend. Kitty had seen it enough in Meryton. Apparently, shopkeepers were no different here.
How quickly the milliner’s attitude had changed though. Such was the power of the Darcy name.
“Mrs. Darcy is a very beautiful woman, and her taste, exquisite! Are your preferences similar to hers?”
How kind of Lizzy to rescue her, even now. “Yes, they are…I am not entirely certain what I want…perhaps you might suggest something she would like—”
The large woman glanced at Mrs. Hartwell who nodded. “Have you a particular dress you seek to complement?”
Miss Darcy shouldered past Kitty and launched into a detailed description of the gown. Kitty tried to break in twice, but Miss Darcy had commissioned the gown and was much better able to describe it. Kitty stepped back and inched toward the wall of lace.
Oh, the Bucks point was exquisite! The Mechlin and Chantilly, so much finer that the ones in Meryton. And Honiton lace! No merchant in Meryton carried that. If only—
Miss Darcy dropped something on her head. “Do you like this? I think it will be lovely on you.”
Kitty reached up and gingerly patted the…oh…a stovepipe bonnet. She grimaced.
“Miss Darcy, come. I found the new Indian shawls.” Mrs. Hartwell beckoned her from the farthest corner of the shop.
“I love shawls!” Miss Darcy scampered away.
The milliner held up a mirror. “You do not like the shape?”
“Ah, well…”
Mdm. Henri removed it. “Your sister does not prefer that form either, though Miss Darcy tried to persuade her toward it as well.”
Kitty released a deep breath.
“It is much too heavy for so light a figure as yours.” She stared, turning her head this way and that. “I am thinking something much more delicate, a turban of sorts, with feathers, not too many—you are not a bird after all.”
Kitty giggled.
“And…” she marched to the wall of trim. “Some of this.”
A strip of the most beautiful Honiton lace! “Oh yes, please.”
“Come let us see what can be done with these.” The milliner picked up a handful of feathers in her free hand and led Kitty to a long table. In a few minutes, she had crafted them into a rough turban.
Kitty chewed her lip and reached for a scrap of braid and a strand of beads. She tucked them in and around the bits held in the milliner’s strong fingers.
“The mademoiselle’s taste is as fine as her sister’s. Shall I fashion it up for you?”
“Yes, please do. I will need it for a Christmas dinner. Can that be done?”
“For one of the Darcys, absolutely.” She tucked the model under the counter and wrote quick, cryptic notes in a nearby book.
“Are you finished so soon?” Miss Darcy peered over her shoulder.
Kitty jumped and gasped. What had she done wrong now?
“Tell me what you ordered.”
No! Miss Darcy would surely criticize and force her to change her design. But perhaps Miss Darcy knew better—
“How much more fun to keep it a secret, and be surprised when she shows it to you together with the dress?” Mrs. Hartwell said over Miss Darcy’s shoulder
“You are just like your sister.” Miss Darcy huffed and folded her arms. “Must you spoil my fun?”
Kitty grabbed the edge of the counter, lightheaded. She was behaving as Lizzy? Then, she was doing well indeed. “I am not spoiling it. The fun is in the anticipation. It is the way of sisters to do these things, you know.”
“I am not sure I like it very well.”
“Perhaps now would be a good time to stop for a cup of chocolate?” Mrs. Hartwell stepped between them.
“Do you like chocolate, Catherine? Or will you keep me in suspense over that as well?” Miss Darcy’s lower lip extended slightly, though not enough to draw Mrs. Hartwell’s ire.
Kitty looped her arm in Miss Darcy’s. “I do like chocolate and am most anxious to taste whatever you recommend.”
“My favorite chocolate house is nearby. They serve the best by far.” Miss Darcy led them out.

Thanks so much for inviting me for coffee, Colette, and accommodating my little menagerie as well.

Come by and visit the Pinterest board for Twelfth Night at Longbourn to see the hats, dresses and other Regency items that inspired the book.

You can find the book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

You can find more from Maria Grace online at:

me (2)Facebook :
Her website: Random Bits of Fascination: (
On Twitter: @WriteMariaGrace
On Pinterest:
English Historical Fiction Authors: (


The Novels of Colette L. Saucier

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