Sunday, October 23, 2016

Amazon as Muse!

This is the final installment of my "salute" to Amazon during the time Amazon is saluting Indy authors.

I've already posted about how finding out about Createspace and KDP liberated my creative inclinations so I could write and publish all the Izzy Elves stories as paperbacks, downloadable audio books, audio book CDs, and (soon) Illustrated Audio Books via Amazon Video Direct.

Today I'd like to add a different kind of salute, to Amazon as "muse." (I keep trying to make a pun-type thingy of A-muse-zon but that doesn't work too well so I won't.)  If I did, I would use this horrible pun to refer to the fact that even when I don't actually publish something myself using the Amazon platforms, just knowing that they are available in case I need them has served as a powerful inspiration to me as a writer.

Case in point: A Buss from Lafayette.

This is a story for which I conceived the main idea almost twenty years ago. I did a lot of reading about Lafayette during those years, but I couldn't make myself actually finish writing this book. As there was no guarantee that I could find a publisher for it, it just seemed rather pointless to complete this project.

Then I heard about Createspace and KDP.  Once I knew that I could publish A Buss from Lafayette myself if I had to, my whole mindset changed and I started working on it in earnest. It took about three years to do the necessary research and create the fictional bits.

In the end, I did find a publisher (thank you, BQB Publishing) which did a beautiful job of helping me polish Buss up for publication.

It was knowing that I had Amazon as a Back Up Plan, however, that made it possible for me to write this story with confidence it would be published, no matter what.

The result? A Buss from Lafayette has received numerous wonderful reviews from Amazon readers as well as from "editorial" sources. Take a look at what's on its Amazon listing page :

 Finally, A Buss from Lafayette was just named a quarter finalist in the Booklife Prize in Fiction!

None of this would have happened without "A-muse-zon"!

Dorothea Jensen

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Holding General Washington's Hand. Etc.

Here I am in Yorktown, Virginia recently, visiting the statues of Washington and de Grasse, commander of the French fleet that bottled up the Brits at Yorktown. (I was there for the celebration of the Brisith surrender on October 19, 1781.)

I am standing in the exact spot where the new statue of Lafayette will be placed, exactly one year from now. (His pose will be a little different, as I doubt he'll be holding Washington's hand, etc.)

Here is more information about Lafayette's statue and how you can help make this a reality!

* * *
In historic Yorktown, Virginia, site of the final major battle of the Revolution, there is a duet of statues honoring General George Washington, commander of the combined American and French forces, and French Admiral Fran├žois De Grasse, commander of the French fleet that "bottled up" the British troops under General Cornwallis at Yorktown. These life-sized figures were created by Virginia sculptor Cyd Player.

Installed in 2005 and enjoyed by tens of thousands of visitors annually, the statues commemorate two important meetings that took place on board De Grasse’s flagship the Ville de Paris to plan the 1781 Yorktown campaign and to explore plans for further operations.

The problem? It was supposed to be a quartet of sculptures. There are two important figures missing! Also present for at least one of these meetings were General Rochambeau, who led the French troops, and General Lafayette, who had kept Cornwallis trapped at Yorktown until the combined American and French troops had arrived. (He also served as an interpreter at the meeting with Washington, Rochambeau, and De Grasse.)

The reason that Lafayette and Rochambeau are not represented here? There was not enough funding to create all four statues at the same time.

Now the national organization dedicated to honoring the young Frenchman who did so much to help us gain our independence, the American Friends of Lafayette, is teaming up with the Celebrate Yorktown Committee of the Yorktown Foundation, and other interested organizations and people, in order to commission a statue of Lafayette. The new statue will accurately portray this important historical event and provide an opportunity for visitors of all ages to discover and recognize the role Lafayette played in shaping America’s history.

The goal is to get the statue finished in time to be dedicated on in October,  2017, at the annual celebration of the American victory at Yorktown.

Please consider contributing to this exciting endeavor and helping to construct history!

To help make the Lafayette Statue a reality, click here to donate via PayPal or mail a check (made out to American Friends of Lafayette) to:

American Friends of Lafayette
c/o Chuck Schwam
302 Hart Road
Gaithersburg, MD 20878

The AFL is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and contributions are eligible to be tax-deductible.

P.S.  Finally, you might want to become a member of the American Friends of Lafayette.
The cost to join is minimal, and it is great fun to get together every year to learn more about General Lafayette and other figures and events of the American Revolution. There is also a great publication, "The AFL Gazette", with information about Lafayette sent out to all members several times a year. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Bigger Draw than the BEATLES!!!

When I was writing the Afterword for A Buss from Lafayette, I compared the huge crowds that greeted Lafayette everywhere he went on his 1824-5 Farewell Tour to the welcome the Beatles received when they toured America in the 1960s. To my astonishment, the editor took this comparison out, saying that young readers today wouldn't know anything about the Beatles or their U.S. tours.

However, Ron Howard might have fixed this situation, through his new movie, "The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years” (2016). Funnily enough, we went to see it on the recommendation of our friend, Alan Hoffman, President of the American Friends of Lafayette.

We loved it.

As I watched, however, I kept being struck by the parallels between how the Beatles and Lafayette were received.

First of all, I learned something new about the Beatles: they refused to play at the Gator Bowl if the audience was segregated. They carried the day, and apparently their performance was the first event attended by an integrated crowd there.

In a similar way, Lafayette, who was an abolitionist, made a point of greeting African-Americans during his Farewell Tour.

Secondly, I was struck by the size of the crowd at the Beatles’ Shea Stadium concert, on August 15,1965, which can clearly be seen in this short video:  (The editors of this video muted most of the screaming, by the way. It was MUCH louder than what can be heard on this.)
A Screen Shot from the Video: this only shows part of the crowd.
There were 55,600 people in the stadium that day.  Of course, there were other acts on that concert, but it appears that the Beatles were the main draw.

Now try to picture a crowd nearly twice as large: 100,000. That’s how many were in attendance when Lafayette dedicated the cornerstone of the monument at Bunker Hill on June 17, 1825.

Yes, there was another act that day – the famous orator Daniel Webster. But he was a “local boy”. The people there would have had many other opportunities to hear him speak. No, the big attraction that day was General Lafayette

Keep in mind that there was no P.A. system. Only a very few people there would have been able to hear Lafayette’s voice. The crowd was gathered there simply for the chance to catch a glimpse of the hero of the American Revolution who was a living link to our history. 

At least he didn't have to try to be heard over the screams of teenaged girls. (As far as I know, anyway.)

Woo hoo! Great Review!

A Buss From Lafayette is a historical fiction novel that takes the reader through a week in the life of 14-year old Clara. The year is 1825 and Clara lives in the small town of Hopkinton, New Hampshire with her father, stepmother, and brother. The story centers on the town’s excitement surrounding the upcoming visit from General Lafayette, a hero and famous French aristocrat from the Revolutionary War.
The book is written from quick-witted Clara’s perspective, and each new day’s adventures are prefaced by an entry from her diary, which provides a clever preview of the events to come. Clara feels life is unfair because of her family life, her lack of traditional schooling, and her red hair, which she is plotting to try to change to “a beautiful shade of black.” Weaved through her story are the events leading up to General Lafayette’s visit, who is known for delivering to his many admirers a “buss”, which, at the time, was the word used for a playful kiss on the cheek.
The vivid descriptions of clothing, family relationships, period-specific customs, and daily routines create a charming picture of life in 1825, and these elements inform the senses while reminding readers that the scene is from a different era.
“How I loved the smells: cloves and nutmeg from the Spice Islands, cinnamon from Ceylon, ginger and pepper from South America, and coffee from the West Indies. It seemed to me that the general store smelt strongly of worldly adventure.”
As a historical piece, the book dives into rich detail on Revolutionary War tales. The characters retell stories of General Lafayette, General Washington, and others, providing readers with a thorough backdrop of history to accompany the book’s main storyline about Clara. Ms. Jensen also weaves throughout the story many words and objects that are common to the era, but are likely unfamiliar to the modern reader. A glossary included in the book provides a useful way for the reader to look up historical words, thus not having to rely upon context alone to interpret.
Recommended for teen readers that have an interest in history, this book is an enjoyable introduction to the post-Revolutionary War period in America, and provides a lovely story about family, determination, and how perspective can change everything." -The Children's Book Review

Monday, October 10, 2016

Documentation: Simeon's Lead Comb

As those of you who have read A Buss from Lafayette know, a Simeon's Lead Comb plays an important role in the story.  I originally learned about it in an old Sturbridge Village publication about 19th century general stores, but recently I came across the original source of that information. Here it is:

Comb making was introduced in town about 1780, by Simeon Carpenter, and continued by him until 1815. . . These combs were made from horn, bone, ivory, tin and lead. 

Deacon Leland remarks, "Mr. Carpenter says that there was a belief that red hair combed daily with a lead comb would become black; and many people, male and female, have directed him to make them for the purpose of getting rid of a carrotty top."

-History of the Town of Sutton, Massachusetts, from 1704 to 1876


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

French and Indian War

 The French and Indian War also known as the Seven Years’ War, lasted from 1756-1763. It was another conflict between the ages-old rivals of Britain and France and mostly took place in the New World. At the end of the War, Britain received Canada and all the land between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River from France, and the Florida territory from Spain, greatly expanding its hold of the North American continent. When England forbade settlement west of the Appalachians, it tried to tax Americans to pay for the England army sent to “protect” the settlers from Native Americans. This angered the colonists who wanted to move west of the Appalachians or who wanted to make money from selling land they claimed there.

The peace agreement let the French in possession of their Caribbean islands, however, which also led to trouble. The British islands in the Caribbean did not need to buy as much of the lumber, etc. which the colonists had to sell, nor did the people there have enough molasses to meet the needs of the rum industry in New England.

England started passing laws to "control" this trade between the American colonies and the French (and Dutch) islands, which resulted in wholesale smuggling in defiance of the laws.

These two provisions of the treaty that ended the French and Indian War helped start the ball rolling towards Revolution!