Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Non-Fattening Pandemic Pastimes

In order to stay sane during this pandemic, I've started taking another look at great reviews of my books. I figure that 1) this cheers me up and, 2) it isn't fattening.

Here is one of the first blurbs I received for A Buss from Lafayette, about five years ago.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

HAMILTON CF Jensen: The Battle of Monmouth!

Ev’ryone attack!




What are you doing, Lee? Get back on your feet!

But there’s so many of them!

I’m sorry, is this not your speed?!

Ready, sir!

Have Lafayette take the lead!
—Hamilton © 2015 by Lin-Manuel Miranda 

After they occupied it the winter of 1777-8, the British departed Philadelphia, apparently en route to New York City. Washington decided to attack the rear of the British column. Lafayette was originally supposed to lead this attack. Once it was decided that a larger force would be sent after the British, however, General Lee insisted he should be in command because of his “seniority.” Lee's forces caught up with the British column at Monmouth, NJ.

After his initial attack, Lee prematurely ordered a retreat, which outraged Washington. (Witnesses said his furious oaths nearly took the leaves off the trees.)

Lafayette, on the other hand, distinguished himself at this battle. (After this, Lee was courtmartialed and never served in the Continental army again.)

Brave Lafayette stood ready to command our troops that day.
But General Lee took precedence, so led the battle fray,
Then messed it up completely when he ordered a retreat,
And all thought Lafayette should have been in the driver's seat.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

A Rosy Problem for Lafayette

In my research for A Buss from Lafayette, I learned that during his Farewell Tour of the U.S. in 1824-5, he had a constant problem: everywhere he went, people gave him flowers. At times, the carriages he rode in were filled with them. When this happened, he and his entourage would look for places where they could dump the flowers out of view of the people who had given them to him.

Here's how my main character, Clara, describes what she witnesses in A Buss from Lafayette:

I sat up in the water to peer through the woods toward the road. A six-horse stagecoach soon pulled partway into the woods and came to a stop. Perhaps the horses need a drink of water, I thought, puzzled.

But instead of someone unhitching the team so the horses could drink from the brook, someone inside started throwing things out the coach windows. Brightly colored things. Red and yellow and white and pink and . . . Why, they are roses! Hundreds of roses! I thought. Those men are throwing roses into the woods. What on earth is going on?

A Buss from Lafayette © 2016 by Dorothea Jensen

When he came to New Hampshire in late June of 2025, the roses were in full bloom in the state, so many of the flowers presented to him were roses. Below I am posing with New Hamphire roses in full bloom in my back yard during the last week of June 2020. I could have given General Lafayette quite a few roses if he came by my house today - as he actually did on June 27, 2020.

Here is how I imagined Lafayette describing what usually happened as he went through this or any other of the states he visited:

“Sir?” I called, covered in confusion as much as I was in brook water. “Why are they throwing these roses away?”

He laughed. “It is a bit of a guilty secret, mademoiselle.” His words were slow and deliberate. “You see, everywhere I go, people keep giving me roses, roses, and more roses! Whatever I ride in— be it barouche, or curricle, or coach—it is filled to overflowing with them! Because of this, every once in a while I must tell the small lie—that I must make the stop that is necessary—and that I need my privacy. Then I find a secluded nook like this and we cast out all the pretty flowers. Please do not tell anyone. I beg of you.”

A Buss from Lafayette © 2016 by Dorothea Jensen

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Come Into My Parlor

“You must tell us all about meeting Lafayette, Henrietta,” said Prissy, motioning them all to follow her into the parlor and to sit down. “How very interesting that must have been!”

Hetty looked around the room as if in search of the piece of furniture most becoming to her attire, then sank down gracefully on the blue damask sofa. She pulled out a lacy white fan and waved it in front of her face. “La, it was quite wonderful. Such a handsome gentleman! So noble. And so famous!”

                                                         - A Buss from Lafayette ©2016 by Dorothea Jensen

Below is a parlor from a house of that era in Old Sturbridge Village, a living history museum set in the 1830s. The sofa isn't blue and probably not covered in damask, but Hetty could have posed on it, don't you think??

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Meet Liberty-Loving Lafayette!

Meet my latest book!

Liberty Loving Lafayette: How "America's Favorite Fighting Frenchman" Helped Win Our Independence

(Available for pre-order now: release date July 14)

If  this video does not play properly on your device, follow the link below!

Cheering Myself Up in Pandemic Time: Woo Hoo #1

In order to cheer myself up a bit, I've started revisiting some wonderful reviews people have written over the years about my books. I then decided to start making what I call Woo Hoos of my favorite bits.

Here's the first one I did:


Yup, definitely a Woo Hoo!

Thank you, David!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Outlandish "History" in Outlander

       Ok. I admit it. I'm a huge fan of the television series based on Diana Gabaldon's Outlander novels. The acting is superb (particularly the two leads) and the story gripping.

        In the season recently aired, however, the show's producers seem to have made a major error in the way they decided to dramatize the Regulators conflict in the Carolinas. When uniformed British troops showed up on the screen, my "suspension of disbelief" crumbled. As far as I can determine, there were NO BRITISH TROOPS involved in that conflict. Not any. All of the combatants of that struggle were American colonists: militias made up of colonists versus the Regulators, who were also colonists. Not a Redcoat to be seen.

         Governor Tryon is portrayed as a powerful official sending in the Lobsterbacks. It is at least implied that the whole Regulator movement was a rebellion against this Crown-appointed governor's unjust laws and taxes.

         Now, please remember that all laws in the British colonies in America were enacted by each colony's assembly. All taxes that had to be paid were also determined by the representatives from that colony sent to this legislature body. The governor himself could not impose any taxes.  Here's something I wrote more than thirty years ago about this.

The Americans and the British government had exactly opposite ideas about the role of these colonial assemblies, however. The King and Parliament regarded these local legislatures as only a practical, unofficial solution to the problem of governing the "plantations". The colonists, however, looked at their legislatures as something more than temporary measures to offset the inconveniences of distance. Among the leaders in the colonies (and in the assemblies) were many educated men who knew all about the rights of Englishmen. (They had read as much of John Locke’s stuff as any other Englishman of the time.) These colonial legislators (and the people they represented) thought of their assemblies as provincial parliaments with the same rights and responsibilities as the one in London starting with a capital P. And, just as the capital P Parliament held the pursestrings and controlled the actions of the King, the colonial assemblies held the pursestrings and effectively controlled their colony’s royal governor. Because of this, the royal governor generally had to act in ways the members of his colony’s assembly wanted him to, or they would not give him any money. 
                                                       - The American Revolutions @ 1990 by Dorothea Jensen

It is my understanding that the Regulators conflict arose from the fact that :

1) The North Carolina Assembly was controlled by the more prosperous, longer-settled tidewater parts of the colony. They therefore passed tax laws that imposed onerous taxes on the less prosperous, newly-settled upcountry parts of the colony, and;

2)  The officials collecting these taxes were corrupt.

So, why did the Redcoats showing up make me see red? I'll tell you why.

1) There was a strong tradition in Britain that no King should have a "standing army," in other words, a permanent army (as opposed to an army raised to fight in a particular war, then disbanded in peace time). A king without a permanent army of his own, needless to say, could not seriously oppose Parliament. Likewise, a royal colonial governor without a "standing army" could not seriously oppose the colonial assembly. Or impose his will on the colonists. Not even the colonists who were the Regulators.

2) It was the British government's sending troops to Boston (and closing the port)  as a punishment for the Boston Tea Party that started major revolt among the American colonists in Massachusetts. (Of course, there were also some left in New York after the French and Indian War ended, but that wasn't done as a punitive measure. Theoretically, they were troops left in place to help protect the outlying colonial settlements from possible further attack. There was no huge outcry at this, but people were not particularly happy to have the British soldiers around.)

So if there were red-uniformed British troops stationed in the Carolinas at the time of the Regulators conflict, I'm certain this would have been a major issue in itself, and not just a routine, "Oh, yeah, here come the many British soldiers stationed here in our colony" kind of thing.

But it was most upsetting to see this, as it muddies the whole issue of "taxation without representation." For if Governor Tryon truly imposed a tax and enforced it with British troops, the Revolution might have started then and there.  It didn't.

Having said that, I guess I'm going to have to find what Gabaldon actually wrote about Alamance, and if she specifies Redcoated troops fighting against the Regulators.  I'll let you know what I find. I write historical fiction myself, so I understand that plot pressure sometimes can mess about with the historical facts. (Although I do keep the history in my books as accurate as I can.)

I suspect, however, that the television version might have departed from her description just to make possible the dramatic moment when Jamie (sigh) is forced by circumstance to don the dreaded red uniform against which he had fought in the Uprising of 1745.



P.S. I just checked out Alamance in The Fiery Cross, and so far have found a letter written by Tryon expressing gratitude to the "officers and men of the army" for their support at Alamance. So it's apparently Diana who decided to bring in the Brits! Very disappointing.

P.S. 2 Anyone who can show that I am WRONG about all of this, please do let me know at 

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Pandemic Productions: The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, Chapter 1, Part 1

The other day I forced myself to change into Real Clothes (not PJs), comb my hair, and put on lipstick so that I could continue with my Pandemic Productions: this time making an "author readaloud" of my historical novel for young readers, The Riddle of Penncroft Farm.

(Note: there is a free teaching guide available for this book. I have posted it on my website, on the "For Teachers" page. Here's the link:

Here is the first part of the first chapter: enjoy!

If this video does not play on your device,  use this Vimeo link to watch it directly:

Pandemic Productions: A Buss from Lafayette, Chapter 1

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm as trapped by this pandemic as the rest of the world. I've decided to create readaloud vids of my books for parents and or tele-teachers to use these during this extraordinarily challenging time. Or just to enjoy.

Here is the first chapter of my historical novel for middle graders, young adults, and older: A Buss from Lafayette.

(Note: this book starts with a diary entry: Tuesday, June 21, 1825, which is also posted on my websites:  and

For anyone who would like to help their students/kids understand the historical bits of this book, you might want to take a look at A Buss from Lafayette Teacher's Guide, available as both paperback and e-book. This guide contains bulletin board ideas, vocabulary exercises, varied student handouts, puzzles, games, reading comprehension quizzes, discussion questions, and both individual and class projects. Its cross-curricular activities include language arts/reading, social studies, mathematics, health/safety, art, music, dance, drama, recipes, and suggestions for real and virtual field trips. A full answer key is provided. The main topics covered are the American Revolution, Lafayette's role in our War of Independence, Lafayette's Farewell Tour of America in 1824-5, and everyday life and customs in rural America in the 1820s.

Here are a couple of buy links for the guide:  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

Anyway, enjoy the story!

If this video does not play on your device, here is the Vimeo link to watch it directly:

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Readaloud to Help Make the Quarantine Go By A Bit Faster

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators suggested that we members do readings of our works online during this difficult quarentine.

I'll start doing live readings on Facebook, when I figure out how!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Happy Stamp Act Repeal Day! Part 2

Here's a bit more from my manuscript (maybe I'll publish it someday) called The American Revolutions, By a Partial,
Prejudiced, and Ignorant Historian:

The colonial assemblies also lost no time in reflecting the angry reaction of the American people to the Stamp Act. By the end of May, the Virginia House of Burgesses (inflamed by speeches by Patrick Henry, who carefully waited to take the floor until most of the more conservative assemblymen had gone home) passed a series of “Resolves” stating their objections to the Act, even though some members thought this came very close to treason. Other assemblies soon followed suit, including Massachusetts, which took the further step of calling for an intercolonial meeting to denounce the infamous act - the Stamp Act Congress. (Congress means a “coming together”.)

It was not only the newspaper publishers and the legislators who acted upon their dislike of the Stamp Act, however. Mobs of ordinary people vented their anger upon the physical embodiment of the law - the men unfortunate enough to have accepted appointments as royal stamp agents. Instead of gaining a welcome British payment for selling stamps, many a collector had the unnerving experience of seeing a rough doll labeled with his own name being hanged and set afire. Worse yet, the real bodies of some agents were stripped naked, covered with boiling tar, rolled in feathers, and ridden on a rail. This bizarre torture was no laughing matter and before long, virtually all the stamp agents resigned their posts. 

In October of 1765, the Stamp Act Congress called for by Massachusetts convened in New York. It was the first meeting with representatives from most of the colonies. They drew up a petition to the King and Parliament stating that the Stamp Act violated their rights as Englishmen because it constituted taxation without representation, and urged its repeal. Their resentment at being treated like this was echoed in The Boston Evening Post:

We have an old Mother that peevish is grown,
She snubs us like Children that scarce walk alone;
She forgets we're grown up and have Sense of our own.

But it took more than a lack of stamp sellers and a petition or even a poem to defeat the Stamp Act - it took a widespread boycott (although that's not what it was called at the time). Beginning with New York and soon spreading to other cities, people started signing agreements that no British products would be bought until the Stamp Act was revoked. The non-importation agreements did the trick. Soon British merchants were complaining loudly to their government about their lost American profits. This British protest provided George III a way to give in without losing face . In March of 1766 the Stamp Act was repealed. 

The colonists were ecstatic at this apparent victory. The boycott was swiftly ended; toasts were drunk to the King, and city windows were “illuminated” by lit candles as a mark of celebration. Few of the rejoicing colonists noticed there was a worm in the apple. Along with the repeal of the hated Stamp Act, the British government slipped in a “Declaratory Act”. It was straightforward enough: the Act simply declared that Parliament had authority over the colonies in all cases and could impose revenue taxes any time it wanted to. It wasn't long before that's exactly what Parliament did. 

Happy Stamp Act Repeal Day! Part 1

March 18, 1766 was the day that the British Parliament repealed the very unappealing Stamp Act. (Here's a article about it.)

I thought this might be a good place to post what I wrote about this many years ago in a mansucript I called 
The American Revolutions, By a Partial, Prejudiced, and Ignorant Historian:

When it became apparent that the Sugar Act (the last bright idea that failed) was going to reap more resentment than revenue from the colonies, George III brought in a replacement for [Prime Minister] Grenville: the Marquis of Rockingham. This new minister looked at the upheaval caused by taxing imports into the colonies, and decided that there was a better way. The idea Rockingham came up with was based on a very simple idea - a stamp on paper goods. (This was embossed on the paper concerned by means of a metal stamping device, rather like a notary stamp.)

The Prime Minister, with the help of the King’s majority, ushered a new law through Parliament called the Stamp Act which required all colonial legal documents (such as wills, wedding licenses, indentures and contracts) and all commercial papers (such as almanacs, newspapers, and pamphlets), and even playing cards to be stamped in order to be legal. 

Rockingham’s requirement really rocked the boat. For the first time, the daily life of nearly every colonist was to be directly affected by an Act of Parliament. Every time anybody wanted to get married or sell a cow or lease a cottage - that person was supposed to track down the stamp agent and buy a stamp to show he had paid to make the transaction legal. Thus, it was not only the prospective cost of the stamps which irritated people, but, in modern terms, the fact that they would make many everyday activities a hassle and continually remind the colonists that they were contributing to British coffers. Unfortunately for Rockingham’s plan, some of the people most affected were those who published newspapers and pamphlets, who would have had to buy a stamp for every copy of their publications before they could be sold. These people, however, were in an excellent position to let everybody know what they thought of the Stamp Act. In print, they took careful aim at the Stamp Act and the political issues it represented. 

Friday, February 7, 2020

OK,OK: It's not every day I quote Aristotle.

I came across the following quote in Proud Destiny, by Feuchtwanger. It is a historical novel about Beaumarchais, the playwright who wrote "The Marriage of Figaro," and who engineered the early French support of the American Revolution.

The artistic representation of history is a more scientific and serious pursuit than the exact writing of history. For the art of letters goes to the heart of things, whereas the factual report merely collocates details. Aristotle

I believe that this can be read as an explanation of the value of historical fiction. 

I love it.

Some might think that writing a fictional story set in the past is easier than just plain writing about the past.


We historical novelists must actually do BOTH.

And if you think it is easy to put words into the mouths of historical figures, think again. What you write must be plausible, historically accurate, and appropriate to the person speaking.

In the following excerpt, I had to pack in indications that Lafayette was 1) charming, 2) often joked about himself, 3) spoke slowly and deliberately in English when he visited America in his late 60s, 4) really did have a problem getting rid of the hundreds and hundreds of flowers given to him on his Farewell Tour.

The following is a description of what happens when my fictional heroine, Clara, meets the non-fictional personage, General Lafayette.

* * *

Just then, I saw a gentleman climb down from the carriage and walk towards me. 

He was a tall man, broad-shouldered, with short brown hair and large, expressive eyes. He was dressed simply in tan nankeen pants and a blue broadcloth coat with gilt buttons. As he walked towards me, he leaned upon a cane. Despite his beak of a nose, his was a most pleasing face. It was a face that was strangely familiar—and a tiny bit chubby.

“Sir?” I called, covered in confusion as much as I was in brook water. “Why are they throwing these roses away?”

He laughed. “It is a bit of a guilty secret, mademoiselle.” His words were slow and deliberate. “You see, everywhere I go, people keep giving me roses, roses, and more roses! Whatever I ride in— be it barouche, or curricle, or coach—it is filled to overflowing with them! Because of this, every once in a while I must tell the small lie—that I must make the stop that is necessary—and that I need my privacy. Then I find a secluded nook like this and we cast out all the pretty flowers. Please do not tell anyone. I beg of you.” 

Keeping my eyes pinned to the gentleman’s face, I picked up my pocket and pulled out the fan. Snapping it open, I looked closely at it to compare the portrait printed there with the features I saw before me. “Why, y-y-you are . . .” I stuttered.

The gentleman glanced at the fan in my hand. “Oui, I am the one whose picture you hold in your hand. These pictures! They are everywhere I go! I see almost as many of them as I do roses. And they are always of my poor self as I look today, not the slender and graceful youth I was then.” He shrugged. “Oh, well, one must accept these things.”    

A Buss from Lafayette © 2016 Dorothea Jensen

I'm not sure if this "goes to the heart of things," but I am quite sure it will grab the interest of reluctant readers much more effectively than a "collocation of details" in a history textbook!