Monday, 13 December 2021

Murder & Miss Austen's Ball by Ridgway Kennedy - Guest Post and Excerpt

Murder & Miss Austen's Ball by Ridgway Kennedy
Today we are welcoming a new author to Babblings of a Bookworm. Ridgway Kennedy has joined us with a post about his upcoming book Murder & Miss Austen’s Ball, which releases on the anniversary of Jane Austen's birth, on the 16th of Decmeber. plus an excerpt. Let’s look at the blurb, and then I will hand over to Ridge.

Book Description

With her 40th birthday approaching and with three well-received novels in hand, Miss Jane Austen determines that she will host a ball. She has her reasons – quite sensible reasons. With the end of the war, the nation is in economic turmoil and, close to home, her brother’s bank is in distress. She has gained confidence and sees a way to gain her own means and independence.

A dancing master is sent for; a dancing master arrives. There is confusion, music, a literary rescue mission, a murder, a mystery and a puzzle that must be solved; even if the quest flies in the face of propriety. A mousetrap is set; it captures the wrong prey. Honor must be served, even if it involves headlong flight. And a mystery must be unraveled, even if it involves dark secrets.

Music & Dance

One unusual aspect of the story is the degree to which music and dance pervade its telling. The act of playing music together brings people into a special kind of intimate relationship. The story weaves in scenes of dance preparations, making music, teaching dancing and provides an inside look at a ball from the musicians’ and dance leader’s perspective. One scene follows a couple down the set through a longways dance.

A line on the cover promises “a novel with musical accompaniment” as we plan to provide readers with “audio illustrations” – online access to custom tracks that will be recorded to go along with the book. Some e-readers may even be able to click and hear the music. Most of the melodies will be tunes Miss Austen might have heard, danced to and even played. But there is one newly composed melody—The Dancing Master’s New Tune we’ll call it for now—that takes a prominent place in the tale.

Guest Post from Ridge Kennedy - Jane Austen Blazed a Trail for today’s Independent Publishers 

Author Ridge Kennedy
As I developed the story for Murder & Miss Austen’s Ball, I was stuck by the parallels between the challenges Miss Austen faced and the craft of independent publishing today. As an author, she was very much on her own. She had no editor to guide her or share ideas about the work; no line editors to parse the text and perfect it, no proofreaders to review the text with the proverbial fine-tooth comb. Jane had to do it all herself.

A short excerpt from my story puts this in perspective. While speaking to some new friends around a teapot, They ask her how much her publisher assists her in her endeavors. She says:

“It depends,” Jane said. “It is a complicated business. At the moment, I think of myself very much as a peddler who must construct her wares before selling them. I write the books. I proofread and correct the text. I pay to get the books printed. The publisher may provide some assistance in advertising and distributing them—he does earn a commission on sales. But he is under no obligation to the author. If a book is to be truly successful, I must work to get it sold. It is a part of my daily labor.”

In reading about the results of her publishing endeavors, it’s clear that she was walking a tightrope. The decision to publish a book was more than an artistic decision. It was, as another character says, “a wager.”

How many books do you print? What is the price These were critical decisions that she had to make with very little data. Furthermore, the decisions were undoubtedly influenced by her brother and his bank’s position; the cusp of bankruptcy.

The challenges Jane faced will resonate with authors today, and readers as well, I hope. Yet there are great difference when you compare publishing in 1815 England with independent publishing today. First and foremost, copyright laws.

From an author’s perspective, copyright law has evolved ways that work to the advantage of the independent author. Selling a copyright is no longer a “standard operating procedures.” Large corporation, intent on improving their bottom line, lobbied for changes to copyright law and they are the biggest beneficiaries. But the changes help all authors; possibly just a little bit, but every little bit matters.

Miss Austen faced a stark choice. Sell your copyright or pay up to publish and take your chances. Money drove the decision. An independent author today has many advantages Miss Austen lacked. And developments in the recent decades have made it plausible for the independent publisher to earn a living wage.

E-books in all there forms opened an important new avenue for book sales and distribution. For the sale of physical books on paper, electronic, print on demand publishing, has been a huge step forward. There’s no need to have a warehouse full of books. Your friends at Ingram/Spark and Amazon will print you books one at a time, and just in time for delivery.

E-mail and social media marketing can create ongoing sales channels. Build a great mailing list. Create, maintain and grow your social media presence. Use all the high-tech, automation tools available to you and you’ve got a shot at maybe—just maybe—breaking even.

Austen readers are familiar with the way that money—being in possession of an income—can shape and change relationships among her characters. I believe that is a reflection of her own economic concerns; and I’ve tried to reflect that in this story.

IN the following scene, Jane and Mr Worth, the dancing master she has retained to help her stage a ball for her birthday, discuss larger financial concerns and then get into the details they will have to consider. They have an appointment to tour the Alton Assembly Rooms. Miss Austen and Mr Worth meet on the High Street in Alton, in front of Jane’s brother, Henry Austen’s bank.

“Good morning, Miss Austen,” Worth said.

She nodded politely.

“’Tis a good day for the banking business,” he said. “But then, a bank canna be doin’ a great deal of business when the front door is locked.”

Jane’s face reflected the shock she felt.

“There are people within,” Worth said. “You can sometimes see two or three of ’em working on papers and moving things about, but…”

He tried the door briefly, looked at Jane, and shook his head.

“Henry will be seeing to it,” Jane said. “I heard something about Mr Gray, one of the partners, and a shortage. I’m sure Henry will set everything right.”


“It will be settled.”

Worth nodded.

“The money for my ball is secure in Henry’s London bank. And as we are on the topic, let us talk about the expenses. I am prepared to pay as much as fifteen pounds for the ball,” Jane said. “Will that be sufficient?”

“Possibly,” Worth shrugged. “A great deal depends on the cost of the rooms. Will you want a full suite? Ballroom, tearoom, and card room?”

“We must have a suite.”

“And the date is a Saturday, the most expensive night. Are you fixed on it?”

“It is my birthday,” Jane said. “That cannot be changed.”

“There will be costs for service, tea, cakes, and so forth. There will be an expense for musicians.”

“Of course.”

“I will have to write it up, but it seems possible. The cost of the rooms still bein’ a question—but fifteen pounds will likely be sufficient.”

“You are omitting one additional charge, Mr Worth. What will you be paid?”

Worth paused before replying. “Silver and tin. The usual. Coin of the realm.” He looked away from her.

“That is the most difficult part, is it not?” Jane asked. “It is for me. ‘Here is my book. Now, how much will you pay me for it?’ The publisher must answer. It is impossible for me to ask.”

“It surprises me to hear you say that, the way the characters in your books go on about incomes and interests. For me, I have no trouble negotiating the fees to pay musicians,” Worth said. “I know them, and I value their work, and I have high expectations for their pay. But when it comes to negotiating for m’self, I am terrible.”

“It is the bane of artists, this issue of money. Yet, it is essential.”

“Essential? To you? A fine lady?”

“Yes. For me. In these times? Essential.” She took the slightest involuntary glance at the closed bank office. “With all of the uncertainty surrounding us, the opportunity for a lady to convert her mere scribblings into an income is a great temptation.”

“Why then…? A ball…?”

“You take your cues from my sister,” Jane said, smiling. “Cassandra worries profusely, and unlike her mythic namesake, she has the ear of all around her. I appreciate her concern. I have given this matter great consideration. As you are to be the master of these revels, I shall share the whole of my purpose with you. I am gaining some experience in this writing business now—” Then she caught sight of someone across the street and changed course. “Aha! Now, a personage of interest arrives.”

* * *

About the Author: Ridge Kennedy’s day jobs have included set designer, university professor, newspaper reporter, tech writer, publisher, advertising/PR guy, IT specialist and more. His involvement in folk music began during the Great Folk Scare of the 1960s as a song leader. “I always wanted to grow up to be Pete Seeger,” he says. After discovering the world of traditional American and English Country Dance, he became a dance caller and has been the “dancing master” at hundreds of contra, square, English and other dances around the US. For more information visit . Murder & Miss Austen’s Ball is his first novel.

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Book cover: Murder & Miss Austen's Ball by Ridgway Kennedy
Buy Links 

Murder & Miss Austen’s Ball is available to pre-order for Kindle, for delivery on 16 December. A paperback version should be available soon.

Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon CA • 


  1. A new author for me. Thanks for sharing here. I see you wear many hats. I also like mysteries.

    1. Me too, although I am not always successful at working them out!

  2. Neat to get a mystery set later in Jane Austen's life and interesting discussion comparing writing, editing and publishing between Austen and Indies today.

    Enjoyed the post!

    1. I am glad you enjoyed Ridge's post, Sophia, I thought it was an interesting look at publishing too!

  3. Thank all of you for your interest. I'm a big fan of cozy mysteries --hard boiled, not so much. I hope the story struck the right balance. And the mystery is tempered by the very casual commitment to what we think of as justice today. Based on my research, law enforcement was arbitrary and capricious in Miss Austen's day.

    FWIW, there's also a pretty strong helping of action and adventure; yet framed in a way that we can believe woman could have undertaken the feats. I hope you have a chance to give it a read.

    1. Thanks so much for visiting, Ridge. I really enjoyed your post and wish you all the best with this book!

  4. In those days it must have been very time consuming to proof read and edit

    1. Yes, we are so lucky in that respect today with computers. I even just think back to being in school and I'd have to order my thoughts much better for an essay. These days I can just start writing something in the middle and tweak as I go along!

      I understand that Austen used to edit by pinning bits of paper to her manuscript and then would have to rewrite to include her changes.

  5. Had enjoyed some regency mystery/detective variations. Thus looking forward to reading this one. Thank you for sharing an excerpt.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the excerpt and I hope you enjoy the book when you read it :)


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