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  • Writer's pictureSharon Michalove

My Reading Journey to Writing

⭐️Do you like Agatha Christie?

⭐️Jane Austen?

⭐️J.R.R. Tolkien?

⭐️Do you prefer books or TV or movie versions?

⭐️What authors have influenced you in your reading and/or writing?

⭐️Do you reread favorite books or authors?

Reading has been my road to writing and books I read when I was young have made me the writing I've become.

I am one of thirty-five authors who are contributing to a charity anthology that will be published next year. Now that it's up for preorder, I decided to write a bit about how my reading led me to writing both that story, and modern short story that I hope will also be published next year, and the first in a cozy mystery series with similar themes.

The anthology is Jane Austen Tea Party and my contribution is entitled "Colonel Fitzwilliam Meets His Match." Here is the link to the preorder.

The other story, "Aegean Persuasion," is a modern retelling of Jane Austen's Do you like D, with a second-chance romance on an Aegean cruise where the lovers, both in their early seventies, have been apart for forty-seven years.

I'm also about a third of the way through writing the first draft of Murder at the Great Jane Austen Cook Off, which I hope to pitch to an agent sometime next year. If it does well, I'm planning on a series of six cozy mysteries set in that world.

Here's a little teaser to introduce you to Bennet Longbourne, a forty-eight-year-old former TV presenter trying to recreate himself.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a disgraced TV baker will try for a comeback.

No irony intended, the twist on the opening to Pride and Prejudice wormed its way into my mind as I propped my borrowed bike outside the fifteenth-century village hall. The medieval market town looked like a cross between Miss Marple’s St. Mary Mead and something out of a Jane Austen novel.The latter was not surprising since Chesney Hardcastle was slap bang on the Austen trail between Winchester and Southampton. A perfect location for my comeback business venture.

Up with the lark as bakers like to chirp, I took a long ride around the area, noting paths leading to the nearby villages then rode around the perimeter of Castlebrooke Park, the local manor, noting the easy six-mile ride to Winchester. On the hunt for staff, I planned to pedal to Southampton, which was about the same distance, where I had an appointment at the local jobs center. I’d done the market research and procured the property but now I needed at least one qualified baker and several waitstaff.

After a quick dekko, I slung my helmet over the handlebars and removed my bicycle clips. The day was surprisingly warm for mid-March and I unzipped the cagoule that covered my woolen cycling jersey. I pulled out the cotton bakerboy cap stowed in my pannier to hide my sweat-slicked hair. Fingers crossed that the camouflage would work. Even a year and a half after leaving Cake Clash, my celebrity status pursued me. Being a judge on one of the most popular television cooking programs in the UK had made me both famous and notorious. Especially when the photo went viral.

I had just pulled my bumbag out of the panniers when a loud, pontificating voice assaulted my ears. I peeked at the bike’s rear-view mirror and clocked a couple, identifiable as tourists from the guidebook, daypacks, and anoraks in evidence, just leaving the church across the way. I froze. Maybe they would ignore me. The man waved the guide as he lectured on the Norman architecture of the church porch, pointing at various features. The woman snapped photos on a mobile. They crossed over and moved toward me. My heart jumped to my throat. I turned my back, hoping they hadn’t recognized me. When they quickly passed by after a cursory comment about the purity of Romanesque architecture compared to the ridiculously flamboyant façade of the fifteenth-century village hall, my breathing slowed. Dodged a bullet there.

Several meters on, they stopped and conferred. Second thoughts? Maybe they realized that dismissing such a striking building out of hand was foolish. No such luck. They turned and stared, not at the building, but at me. The woman whispered and pointed. Heat rose into my face and I thought of making a run for the heavy oak door, tantalizingly close but pointless. I could imagine them calling out, bringing even more attention. Instead, I stood my ground as they moved in like sheep dogs rounding up a stray lamb.

“Aren’t you…?” The woman’s breathy voice, eyes nearly popping out of her head, told the tale. Her partner, husband, brother, something, grabbed her arm. “Come on. Lots more to see.”

She pulled away and sidled up, phone in hand, and shoved it into my face. The damning evidence of my supposed transgression danced before my eyes. “You are Bennet Longbourne?” Her voice was a mixture of excitement and disapproval.

“Yes.” I tried not to choke as I forced out the confirming syllable.

“I knew it. You’re the bad boy of TV baking.”

In celebration of all these publishing projects, this week I wrote about my connection to Agatha Christie and Jane Austen for the Blackbird Writers blog. You can read about it here.

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