Friday, March 25, 2016

Woo Hoo! Book Launch Party!

How's Trade?

Kimball Store (Dry Goods and Groceries) probably in the 19th century, located in the same place in Hopkinton Village as Towne's Store was in 1825. (This is where Clara was trying to buy the Simeon's Lead Comb in A Buss from Lafayette. ) Today it is still a general store: The Cracker Barrel. Note the wagon drawn by oxen! (Humpty and Dumpty, perchance?) The building next door to the store was the Stanley Tavern. (Photo courtesy of the Hopkinton Historical Society)

 As I have mentioned before, in the early 19th century, store customers often paid for goods with produce or home-made items. They literally "traded" for what they bought. Sometimes such transactions involved transferring credit to third parties to pay for services rendered, and it was up to the storekeeper to keep track of many complicated debit and credit transactions. I remember seeing such an account book at a store at Old Sturbridge Village and being amazed at the complexity of the entries.

 Here is what I found on the subject of "trading" on an Old Sturbridge Village document online:

Trading was an important aspect of the American scene, from which rural communities were by no means insulated. Indeed, as one of Knight's own books states, "commerce is as important a profession for a young man as the ministry, medicine or the law." At least twice a year, Asa Knight travelled the more than one hundred miles to Boston to exchange the agricultural and handmade goods from his Dummerston customers for imported and manufactured items." - Caroline Stoat, "An Introduction to the Asa Knight Store at Old Sturbridge Village"

And here's what I wrote about this in A Buss from Lafayette:

       "Now, then, Miss Clara Hargraves. What can I do for you today?" he said in a cheerful tone.
        I gave him the order and explained that we would be paying with strawberry jam in the near future.  Mr. Towne nodded and wrote down all the items in his huge ledger book. Its pages were covered with complicated patterns of words and numbers in red and black ink. 

                                                         - A Buss from Lafayette, Copyright 2016 by Dorothea Jensen

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Celebrating a BIG Birthday with Lafayette et al!

So I recently celebrated a BIG birthday in New York City with two of my sisters, our husbands, and Lafayette.

Yup. Lafayette. Or at least an exhibit about him. It was at a very historical place in Manhattan that seemed like the perfect place for me to have a landmark-type birthday.

So, here I am with two of my sisters: one a college professor, actress, theater director, and co-founder of three theater companies, and the other a fantastic professional oboist who does NOT sound like a duck.

I'm the oldest and the shortest.

(My third sister is also in the arts: a national prize-winning song-writer and musician in Australia. She's the youngest and the tallest.)

Anyway, I made a little video about my wonderful birthday, which ended up with more in it from my books than Lafayette! 



Wednesday, March 23, 2016

S-L-O-W Worker!

It is hard to believe, but it is now only 30 days until A Buss from Lafayette  will be released!

Please keep in mind that I first got the idea for this story in June, 1997, almost 20 years ago.

Hmmm. It took me almost 10 years to create my first historical novel for kids, The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, and to see it published by Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich.

I hope that doesn't mean it will take me 30 years to finish writing A Scalp on the Moon, which I am trying to work on now.

Oh, well, I suppose that would be a great way to celebrate turning  100.  :  )



A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE Just Received its Very First 5 Star Review!

Here's what a librarian recently wrote about A Buss from Lafayette:

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Full Text: Clara Hargraves is the heroine of [A Buss from Lafayette]. She is a young teenager living in New England, and the book is related from her point of view. She is dealing with a new step-mother (her deceased mother's older sister) a spiteful cousin, a clueless brother, and all the intensity of being required to act more like a young lady than like a child. Add to that the visit of a nationally adored hero, the Marquis de Lafayette, and the result is a sometimes overly sweet narrative.

Clara is quite charming, and this is overall a lovely book. As a longtime fangirl of the Marquis de Lafayette, I really appreciate the loving and respectful way that he and his legacy are portrayed. A very worthwhile read.  
                                                       - Critter Bee via NetGalley

Thanks to Critter Bee for reading, liking, and writing about my new story - even before it has been released!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

"Stages" of Accuracy in Historical Fiction Writing!

Writing historical fiction is tricky stuff. First you have to learn all about the era and historical events and people. Then you have to fit a fictional story inside that world so that the "seams" between history and fiction don't show TOO much. Finally, you have to make sure that all the historical references are as accurate as possible. Sometimes this can be painful for the author. Or at least for me.

Now I believe I was able to do the accuracy part pretty well in my first historical novel for kids, The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, because I received this review on Amazon:

As an author of 6 books on the Rev War, including 2 for young adults, I was very pleased to find that this book by Dorothea Jensen did not have any historical inaccuracies. So many best selling YA authors' novels are full of inaccuracies. Her descriptions of scenes/action/feelings in 1777, as related in conversation between the ghost Geordie and the main character Lars, were detailed, vivid and entertaining. I highly recommend this book for middle school students. The glossary at the back was helpful, and again, accurate.

Very satisfying!!

In writing my new historical novel for middle graders, A Buss from Lafayette, I again have tried to keep the historical parts accurate. Sometimes I have taken this to extremes.

In the following passage, for example I described the arrival of the daily stagecoach in the village of Hopkinton, New Hamphire, in June, 1825.

* * *

    "The egg-shaped stagecoach came into view at the other end of the village, and the driver soon pulled his four horses to a stop in front of the store. The leather curtains on the sides of the coach were all rolled up, so we could see that the inside seats were jammed with passengers.
      The old veteran bowed to me. On a sudden impulse, I said: “I shall give you a buss, sir, to honor your service to our country, but I fear I have no posy to give you.”
      He chuckled and bent over.
     After I gave him a smacking kiss on the cheek, he climbed up to the box on the coach and sat next to the driver." 
         - A Buss from Lafayette, Copyright 2016 by Dorothea Jensen

* * *

I had Mixed Feelings when I wrote this. Only about seven miles from where I am typing this post stood the Abbot Downing "waggon" factory, which manufactured the Concord Coach. This sturdy vehicle came to be used in the Wild West (they are the stagecoaches seen in films like, obviously, the John Wayne movie, Stagecoach.). As a long time New Hampshire woman, I r-e-a-l-l-y wanted to describe a Concord Coach coming into the village.

But BUSS is set in 1825 and, guess what? Abbot Downing did not start making Concord Coaches until 1828! Therefore, in the interests of accuracy the coach coming into Hopkinton Village had to be one of the old-fashioned egg-shaped ones.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Militia/National Guard

I tried to imagine my brother or Dickon Weeks “fighting like demons” and “searching for danger.” After all, they were very close to the age Lafayette had been when he did those things. Although both Dickon and Joss were, of course, obliged by law to train as members of our town militia, I could not picture them in a real war. Indeed, I did not even want to think about such a thing. - A Buss from Lafayette, Copyright 2016 by Dorothea Jensen

Clara's brother and his best friend are in the militia, civilians training periodically as soldiers. Actually, the law passed in 1792 read: "That each and every able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia,...every citizen, so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock."

I learned from Alan Hoffman, President of the American Friends of Lafayette, that because the united French militias Lafayette commanded during the French Revolution were known as the "National Guard", some American militias were re-named "National Guard" in honor of Lafayette when he came to America in 1824-5.

Here's some Wikipedia info about this: "Local militias were formed from the earliest English colonization of the Americas in 1607. The various colonial militias became state militias when the United States became independent. The title "National Guard" was used from 1824 by some New York State militia units, named after the French National Guard in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette. "National Guard" became a standard nationwide militia title in 1903." -Wikipedia

Friday, March 11, 2016

Treasure Hunting at the HHS

We met yesterday with Heather and Nancy Jo of the Hopkinton Historical Society. The purpose of this visit was to search for pictures of the real people and places that show up in my new historical novel for kids, A Buss from Lafayette.

With Heather and Nancy Jo's help, we found lots of wonderful pictures and documents that they have given me permission to post online.  I will be putting these here on my blog, on Pinterest, on my websites, and maybe even on Twitter in the weeks to come.

One portrait they came up with was that of Jacob Weeks, one of the sons of Major William Weeks,  a former aide-de-camp of Washington and a prominent resident of our town. A fictional Weeks son, Richard - called Dickon - is a major character in my story.

We looked at the picture of this handsome young man and decided that the fictional Dickon would have looked like his handsome brother.  Only handsomer. With a slightly smaller nose.

 (I'd post this picture right here today, but I want to tell you more about Dickon before showing his "brother's" picture to you. Besides, Jacob has some rather peculiar sideburns and I don't want to put you off Dickon because of that.)

Laughing with Lafayette

The following true incident was another of those glimpses of Lafayette's self-deprecating sense of humor that I simply had to include in this story. Despite having been welcomed like a rock star for nearly a year all over America, this famous man could till laugh at himself in a most charming fashion! 

It turned out that after Mr. Parker had introduced the “false” Lafayette to the real one, he had recounted how he had made speeches all the way from Boston explaining that his passenger was not Lafayette. The Nation’s Guest had roared with laughter, then said that perhaps Mr. Parker could alternate with him in speech- making the remainder of the route to Concord. “This was said in such a comical way that we all guffawed, for we all knew that no one could be a substitute for the famous man himself.”
                               - A Buss from Lafayette, copyright 2016 by Dorothea Jensen

A Great Way to Wake Up

I have no idea why this e-mail arrived in my mailbox this morning from Amazon, but I'm not looking gift horses - well, you know.

Hmm  I thought Riddle was an older novel by an award-winning author. (That would be me.)  Oh, well.

The weird thing is that it doesn't mention what the new novel is, so I will have do that myself, and what's more, I just might happen to mention exactly where it is "available now!"

(But thanks for the strange e-mail anyway, Amazon. It was a great way to wake up!)

Paperback from BQB Publishing

Paperback and Kindle book from Amazon

Paperback and Nook book from Barnes and Noble

Kobo e-book from (naturally) Kobo



Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Might as Well Bring in the Izzy Elves, too!

So I decided to talk the Izzy Elves into letting me post stuff about A Buss from Lafayette on their blog. They weren't happy about it, but grudgingly agreed when I reminded them how generously I allowed them to post on this blog for most of December.

Frizzy took a look at Buss, as you can see from the picture at the left.  I couldn't tell what she really thought of it, as her expression doesn't change all that much. (Happy? Sad? Impressed? Thrilled?)

Anyway if you want to see what the elves have to say about Buss, here's the link.

(Just ignore their complaining.  I always do.)

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Come Join the Party!

I've been writing "author insights"/background info "Bubbles" about some of my books for awhile on a website called, and having great fun doing it!

This is how many times people have read 'em:

To join the party, click here!

Some Pix of General Stores. . .

A store at Colonial Williamsburg. Notices pinned outside are like those Clara reads in this excerpt of A Buss from Lafayette.

I carefully tied Feather to the fence in front of the store. The notices tacked up outside caught my eye: a wrestling match at “the usual place,” a shooting contest at the Muster Field, and a horse auction at the Wiggins Tavern. - A Buss from Lafayette, Copyright 2016 by Dorothea Jensen

And here's the interior of a general store at Colonial Williamsburg.

The following excerpt describes what Clara sees in Towne's store in 1825. I'm sure there was a much wider variety of products for sale there than in colonial era stores, but otherwise the stores were very similar.

He [Storekeeper Towne] leaned over his counter, which was laden as always with large glass jars of pickles, candy, and other delicacies. Behind him, shelves reached to the ceiling, stuffed with items fascinating to the eye. On one wall, the lower spaces held large wooden barrels of brandy, rum, gin, wine, and molasses, with boxes of oranges, lemons, figs, spices, and sugar loaves on the shelves above. My eye was drawn to the other wall, however, where a rainbow of lace, silk, cotton, wool, linen, gingham, and calico occupied most of the shelves. On the very top level were more personal items: hairbrushes, mirrors, pomatums, patent medicines, and combs. My miracle- working lead comb was up there waiting for me. - A Buss from Lafayette, Copyright 2016 by Dorothea Jensen

Latchstring In Action

In The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, Lars's mother tells him he used to "bamboozle" Aunt Cass by pulling in the latchstring to lock her outside when she was hanging up the wash.

I happened to see a door opened (and lockable) by a latchstring at the Elvehoj Museum of History and Art in Solvang, California, recently.  Of course, the hardware looks a bit different from that of 18th century English colonists in America, but the operating principle is the same.

The string would be pulled inside at night so that the door could not be opened. (Watching on a mobile device so the video doesn't appear?  Watch it here!)