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Meet My Main Character
What All Is Happening on May Day?
A Blog About A Blog
Progress Report: Coming May 1, 2014
Looking Backward


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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

Meet My Main Character

I somehow agreed to become a part of a blog chain based on meeting an author’s main character.  The idea originated on England, I believe.  I began reading with M.M. Bennetts’ post about a character who grew out of her book, Of Honest Fame, and demanded a book of his own.  Author Helen Hollick  then picked up the thread to re-introduce her main character Jesamiah Acorne, a sexy fellow with an uncanny ability to get himself into – and out of – all sorts of pirate adventures. Now Helen has passed the baton on to me in this series of posts by historical fiction authors in which we introduce the main character of our work in progress or soon to be published novel.

We all start with the same set of seven questions, so think of this as something of an interview.
1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person? 
Jonathan Edwards Grenville is the main character in my first real historical novel.  My previous books have built creative biographical studies of real people. Jonathan has the distinction of being a purely fictional character, although many of his experiences are based on those of historical figures during the Civil War.
2) When and where is the story set?
The story takes place in and around Charleston, South Carolina  It opens shortly before the start of American’s Civil War and continues for a few years after the war has worn itself out.
3) What should we know about him?  

Jonathan was raised in Massachusetts and educated at Harvard. His upbringing made him passionately proud of his country and its  founding fathers who preached the virtues of liberty and equality.  If he did not openly profess abolitionist views, he still felt strongly that the institution of slavery was wrong. 

He sought a career in teaching and came to South Carolina around 1840 to teach American history in the country’s first free public institution of higher education provided especially for young men of the working and artisan classes.  Within a year or two he fell in love – first with a charming young Southern Belle who stood in line to inherit her family’s extensive cotton and rice plantations – and then with the whole aura of Southern charm and culture that surrounded her.

They married, raised a delightful family of seven children, and seemed to spend their charmed days in a world full of music, art, stimulating intellectual conversations, and gracious living.

This isn't a picture of Jonathan Grenville. I don't know who it is.  But it was taken in 1860, and it seems to me to look like my imaginary Jonathan.  He has the same sort of stunned, haunted look -- as if his world is collapsing around him.
4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?
And then came 1861! And for the first time in twenty years, Jonathan was forced to face the contradictions of his own life.  He spent his days in the classroom lecturing about the American ideal of freedom.  And then he went home to a house full of slaves and a lifestyle funded by the income from plantations worked by hundreds of slaves. He was a Yankee in a hotbed of Secession.  He was North; his wife was South. And he could not escape the war that raged around him. He lost his teaching job because he was a “Damned Yankee.” The family lost one plantation to the invading Union forces that attacked Port Royal Sound. They lost another to the Confederate Army that confiscated their land to protect a vital railroad line. The Great Charleston Fire of 1861 burned their house to the ground. And through it all, Jonathan blamed himself for his failure to live up to the virtues he preached.
5) What is the personal goal of the character?
Above all else, Jonathan remained determined to hold his family together – to protect them from the ravages of the war and to find a way to reconcile the political and ideological differences that threatened to tear them apart.
6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
There was only one possible title for this story: Damned Yankee. And its sub-title is The Story of a Marriage.  For background, the reader may want to turn to my previous South Carolina books.  A Scratch with the Rebels told the story of the invasion that robbed the Grenvilles of their cotton plantation in the Low Country. Beyond All Price was set in the same location and painted a clearer picture of what life was like in the early years of the war.  And The Road to Frogmore focused attention on the whole issue of slavery.  When I wrote those books – all of them based on Northern characters -- I did not know that they would lead me into a novel about a Confederate family. But I can see now that they provided exactly the background I needed for this story.
7) When can we expect the book to be published?

Publication is so close that I can taste it.  Damned Yankee is currently available for pre-orders – both in paper and in electronic formats.  Click here to go to my website for details.  The final printed proof copy sits on my desk at this moment. The formal launch date is set for May 1, 2014, which is just about ten days from now – unless, of course, some of the calamities that surround Jonathan Grenville attack us here at Katzenhaus Books.

Thanks for visiting ... here is the next author to follow me; she will post about her main character on Tuesday, 29th April (next week).

What All Is Happening on May Day?

Thanks to Glogirly.com, my desktop now looks like this:

If you haven' met Glogirly and her cats Katie and Waffles, you need to drop by and see what they are up to.  Katie looks amazingly like my Panda, and Waffles could be a double for Dundee, right down to the trouble he gets himself into.  But they've outdone themselves today.  Glogirly has a big announcement coming on May 1st, and so do I, but she's doing a better job of keeping it a secret than I am.  Waffles doesn't know and Katie's not telling. Here at Katzenhaus, Panda and Dundee are making plans in anticipation of an exciting book launch.

I've made no secret that my new book, Damned Yankee, will be released on that day.  What does Glogirly have planned? I have no idea,
but we will be waiting with twitching whiskers to find out.  In the meantime, Katzenhaus Books is delighted to know that May 1st will be a big day in several places around the internet.  Anyone else have plans?

A Blog About A Blog

Who is this man? The answer is only eight days away.

Over the weekend, I was invited by a British friend to join a Blog Chain for writers of historical fiction.  Each Tuesday, several bloggers answer the same set of questions about the main character of the book they are currently working on.  Then those authors tap several friends to carry on the process the following week.  My husband tells me this is a form of a Ponzi scheme, but it seems like a good way to introduce our characters to new readers who love historical fiction.

I've agreed to follow my friend Helen Hollick, who writes both Anglo-Saxon historical novels and great pirate adventures.   I'm not sure which one she will be talking about tomorrow, but her characters are always fascinating, and more than a little sexy, especially the pirates.This blog will point you to her own contribution tomorrow, and then on the 22nd, I'll jump in with the story of my own Jonathan Grenville. Now I'm looking for about four more people to follow after me on April 29th.

Are you interested in following on in a Meet My Main Character blog chain? All you have to do is answer these questions:
1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?
2) When and where is the story set?
3) What should we know about him?
4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?
5) What is the personal goal of the character?
6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
7) When can we expect the book to be published?
Let me know via email  if you are interested.

Progress Report: Coming May 1, 2014

The new book is coming along swimmingly! When I signed up with CreateSpace to have them print and issue the paper edition of Damned Yankee, I complained to my assigned design team manager about the length of time it had taken for them to get my last book published.  We futzed around with it for nearly three and a half months, which I thought was ridiculous.  (OK, I know.  Out there reading this are a bunch of writers who use traditional publishers, and they are shaking their heads at my innocence.  "Only three and a half months? Why, my last book took three and a half years to get through an agent and actually appear!") But one of the reasons I run my own small publishing business is that I don't want to spend that kind of time waiting around.

In the case of Damned Yankee, I've been thinking about the story since 2010, and it has taken me two years to write it and get it edited. Its time has come, and I want it out there for people to read.  Ergo -- the push to move quickly.  I submitted the raw manuscript to CreateSpace on March 12th of this year.  Today, 27 days later, I hit the final "Accept" button to start the presses.  Immediately, the company returned with another question: "Do you have a cover ready, or do you need help in creating one.?"  The answer was  "Yes, I have the cover completed, thanks to the talented Cathy Helms at Avalon Graphics," and I hit another "Submit" button.

Here's the completed cover layout. They have only to attach the cover to the completed interiors, and we will be in business.  Even with Easter and a Lions Convention getting in the way, we're going to hit the May 1st launch date, so mark your calendars.

Looking Backward

I'm experiencing a bit of a lull this week.  The new book -- Damned Yankee -- is getting a final few corrections made, and the printer now says the final proof copy will be ready by April 15 -- a week from tomorrow.  Then I'll be back into it again as we kick off a launch, order books for a small book tour in South Carolina, and start marketing full time.

But what to do in the meantime?  I already have plans for a new book, based on my mother's family of eight sisters.  I've always been fascinated by their lives, but have been hesitant to write something that would offend family members.  Now I've decided that a fictionalized version will work -- with enough details changed (and the names, of course ) so that folks won't be finding grandma's dirty laundry being hung about.

And with that thought in mind, I've been exploring old family photos and scanning them into my computer for guidance and inspiration.  Some were taken in my own lifetime, but most go back well over 100 years.  I'm amazed at how clear they still are. Here's one example:

It shows my grandmother on the left, with her sister, her second oldest daughter, and her first grandchild.  It was taken about 1898. And what a different world it reveals.

Then I can jump ahead to 1915 and see the whole lineup of grandmother and her eight daughters. They're still very old-fashioned, aren't they?

And for another change, I found this portrait of my mother  (the youngest of the girls) in 1935 -- looking quite modern. 

I'm going to enjoy exploring that time at the beginning of the 20th-century and its enormous changes.

It's now Tuesday morning, and I'm still wallowing in old family memories, some of which  only originated in listening to my mother tell stories of her girlhood.  She looks lovely here, but she wasn't always so happy.
I can' resist including this picture of her one-room schoolhouse.  Obviously she was not pleased with having a class picture taken! That's her in the middle of the front row, arms folded and a ferocious scowl on her face. The picture is even scratched, lokking as if she tried to cross herself out.

Oh, and by the way, I'm scowling, too.  The blog trolls have been at it again, leaving their ads in the comments section. I tried leaving comments open but requiring my approval before they appear.  However, there are so many of the annoying ones that I've closed comments.  You can always e-mail me, instead, if you want to comment.