For those of you just starting to read Henrietta's Journal, here's a tour of some of the scenes in the book. The pictures are fairly modern, I'm afraid--there were no cameras in 1832--but then, Oxford doesn't change all that much from one century to the next,
Henrietta and Julien met in Duke Humfrey's Reading Room, a section of the Bodleian Library dedicated to the preservation of rare medieval manuscripts. The manuscript Julien wanted to see--Digby 209--is real and as fascinating as he made it out to be. I used to have some snapshots of the cartoon sketches in its margins, but they have escaped me, so you'll have to settle for this view of the shelves and reading alcoves.
Henrietta and Julien shared their first lunch at the White Horse Pub and their second at the Turl. The Turl has now closed, I'm sad to report, but the White Horse is still the best place to hare a Ploughman's Lunch.
Here's a plate of sausage rolls.
On the second weekend Sir Ephraim invited Julien to attend church with the family at St. Michael's at the Gate on Cornmarket Street. This church with its Norman tower was built some time between 1000 and 1050, according to local records.
Other locations the young couple explored were Godestow Abbey, where Eleanor of Aquitaine was rumored to have locked up the Fair Rosamund to keep her out of the clutches of the lecherous King Henry II. (The story is entirely apocryphal.) The ruins, however, do lie close to the wonderful Trout Inn, which you might recognize if you were a fan of the "Inspector Morse" series on PBS.
Henrietta also took Julien to see the Botanic Gardens and watch the young chaps punting on the Cherwell River.
With every new book I publish, I make the same plea: If you are planning to purchase the Kindle version of my new book, please do so by pre-ordering it or at least placing your order on the FIRST day the book is available. What difference does it make to you whether you get your copy of Henrietta's Journal on Tuesday morning or by Friday of next week? Well, there is the small matter of pricing. The pre-order costs $2.99; after Launch Day, the price will jump to $4.99. Think of that price reduction as a bribe if you must. I prefer to see it as a way of saying "Thank You" for supporting my writing addiction.
Why do I care? Because when you buy your copy may determine the ultimate fate of the book. I'm not going to try to explain Amazon's algorithm for determining a book's sales ranking. Even if I fully understood it today, they might well tweek it a bit tomorrow. The general pattern, however is clear:
WHEN you buy a book matters more than the simple act of buying it.
* If nobody buys my new book on the day it comes out, its ranking will be something like #487,352 — and from there it’s a long, hard climb to the best-seller list.
* If ten fans choose to buy a copy of the book on random days during the first two weeks, the rating may move to five figures instead of six, but not many readers will take a chance on a book that’s only #7,294.
* But if those same ten fans pre-order Henrietta's Journal, it has a great chance of being a “best-seller” from its first day of publication. And those at the top of their category tend to stay there because the ranking inspires others to purchase the book.
That’s why pre-orders are so important to authors. They are one of the kindest gifts you can give your favorite author. So here's the bottom line. If at all possible, please place your pre-order right now--or tonight, or tomorrow. If you can't do it then, try to order your regular copy early on Tuesday, September 19th. Click HERE to do it right now.
I value all sales, of course. Just yesterday, someone purchased a copy of my first Civil War book, A Scratch with the Rebels, which I published ten years ago. I'm delighted and grateful. All sales are important. But for this one upcoming date, your actions can make an enormous difference in the fate of Henrietta's Journal.
Thanks for being a loyal reader.
Yesterday, I tried to give you an idea of what “Henrietta’s
Journal” is all about. Today, here are the answers to a couple of questions
that keep popping up.
Q. Are these all new characters, or is there a connection to
your other books?
A. For the most part, the Beauchenes are an entirely new
family. However, it helps me to visualize the story if I can relate it to
others I’ve written, so there’s at least one connection. Sharp eyes will
recognize Elizabeth Dubois, whom you have met before in “Damned Yankee” and “Yankee
Reconstructed.” In those books she was an old lady, the widowed mother of Susan
Grenville, and grandmother to the Grenville children. In this story she is
still a young woman in her thirties, and her daughter Susan appears briefly at
age seven. Elizabeth befriends Henrietta early in the new book, helps her
adjust to life in Charleston, and serves as godmother to Henrietta’s children.
Q. I want to know more about Henrietta’s later life as the
Civil War draws nearer. Will there be a second book?
A. At the moment I am planning a second volume. Of course, I
can’t promise anything, for, as Henrietta would be the first to tell you, life
changes very rapidly. However, as my mother would have said, “I’ll do it, God
willin’ an’ the creek don’t rise!” But here’s what I think will be coming a
couple of years down the road.
The idea for “Henrietta’s Journal” came out of a rough sketch
for a much larger book dealing with the beginning of the Civil War, its effect
on the cotton trade, and some interesting but little-known facts about southern
blockade runners, spies, and smugglers during the war. The diary Henrietta kept was
originally going to hold some clues to a couple of mysterious happenings in the
larger book. Then the diary took on something of a life of its own and became a
stand-alone novel. The next book will take place some twenty-five years later.
The main characters will be Henrietta’s children (now all grown up). They will
solve some of their 1860s dilemmas by re-discovering the diary their mother
wrote and uncovering the clues she left in the journal.
Eventually the two books will have close ties. I’m even
considering an electronic edition for the two stories that would let the reader
click back and forth between Civil War crises and the unsolved issues in the 1830’s journal. I’m
as curious to know what will happen as you are!
What’s more fun than peeking into someone’s diary and
learning all their secrets? Well, how about an entire novel, written as diary
entries that chronicle the story of a marriage?
Henrietta’s Journal is a historical romance. Henrietta is a
20-year-old English girl, raised among the sheltering walls and dreaming spires
of Oxford. In 1832, her diary begins with the first day she meets Julien, a
handsome and wealthy cotton broker from Charleston, South Carolina. The two
could not be more unsuited to one another, but their attraction is immediate
and unbreakable. A whirlwind courtship, a hasty marriage, and a stormy journey
across the Atlantic-–and Henrietta finds herself in a strange new world. Charleston in the 1830s is an insular society
controlled by a small group of families who consider themselves a new
aristocracy of culture, wealth, and refinement. Their public buildings are
modeled on Greek and Roman styles. Their children receive classical educations.
They spend their days recreating the past, while relying on black slaves to do
the hard labor that makes such leisurely white lives possible. As a ruling
social class, they do not welcome outsiders.
Henrietta declares she will never be a slave-owner. Julien
replies by agreeing, because in South Carolina, a married woman is not allowed
to own property of any kind. Henrietta tries to hold onto her independence;
Julien and his father will not even allow her to choose the name of her
first-born child. Henrietta’s every word and action are noted down for
criticism and correction. Julien’s younger brother, a lecherous and vicious
drunk, is forgiven for any misdeeds because he is still young. She soon gets
the message. Men may do as they like. Women must do as they are told.
The book is a love story, but it also provides a revealing
look into the contradictions and injustices of the South in the years leading
up to the Civil War. The bonds between husband and wife are frequently tested
by their differing value systems. Henrietta soon finds that she has compromised her own beliefs in order to keep the peace
within her disapproving family. Then the principle of compromise takes on a
life of its own, leading her further and further into a world where
prostitution, rape, murder, opium addiction, and kidnapping are all excused as
The Amazon print version should be functional by the
I just realized how long it's been since i dropped in here to chat about life and stuff. My only excuse and explanation is that I've had a series of decisions to handle lately. I've come to realize that one of the things I hate most about living alone is the sheer responsibility of it. There's no one to discuss a problem with-- no one to offer a solution I haven't thought of -- no one to force me to make up my mind -- and no one to blame if it all goes wrong.
What all's been going on? Well, I guess it all started with an unexplained leak -- just a wet bathroom floor. Our housing complex has a history of problems with underground pipes leaking and seeping upward, so that was one possibility. But we had also had previous problems with the roof over the bathroom, so . . . Finally narrowed it down to a leaking toilet, but couldn't find the real source because I'm no longer agile enough to squeeze into a small space and stand on my head to look at the underside of things. And then, there was the decision of who to call. All was resolved eventually and handled by my homeowner's insurance, but not before my schedule faced major disruptions.
Then came an aging cat whose problems I could no longer ignore. Nutmeg was going on 16, so it was not really a surprise, but you never expect wonderful creatures to fall ill. Suddenly she was not eating, losing huge amounts of weight, and looking odd. She was still lively and interested in what was going on -- the other cats could lure her into play and chase time --and she could still jump from the floor to table and countertop. But she grew weaker and unsteadier. Eventually she started to tell me that it was "time" in a soft and plaintive voice, but I didn't want to hear it until a Sunday morning when she tried to come to greet me and fell over, unable to walk any further. With a breaking heart, I had to be the one to decide to take her to the emergency animal clinic where they do compassionate euthenasia. Talk about a hard decision!
Then there are the books! Through some idiocy on my part, I ended up with two different books in the final stages of preparation--one fiction, one non-fiction. And both had set dates for pre-orders and launch activities. I had also decided to publish both of them using new editing and formatting software, and now had no time to change those plans. So I've been juggling files for day.s Just yesterday morning, I thought I had finished the final submission for my first Kindle pre-order, scheduled to ship on September 19th. Then an e-mail from the Kindle folks informed me that they had discovered three spelling errors (two of which were French terms they didn't recognize.). The only correction required was the insertion of a single space between two words. But was there an easy way to do that? Nope! I had to remove the file, create an entirely new one with the new software program, and then go through the whole submission process again. Sigh.
And now the latest. I've been planning a trip to a writers' conference in San Antonio for months -- have all my flight and hotel reservations, and a couple of jobs to do once I get there. But my perfect flight schedule took me through a landing at Houston's Hobby Airport. With just 10 days to go before my departure, i had to read the future and try to decide if that currently-closed -and-flooded airport could possibly be high and dry in time for my flight to go as scheduled. Maybe! But what if it's not! The consequences of the wrong decision multiplied every day I delayed. So yesterday, I had to bite another bullet and make the decision. I'm now scheduled to fly through Dallas (Love Field), which will certainly be drier. It's a tighter connection, however, so the outcome of that decision is still to be determined.
As for today's decisions -- I could either do a grammar edit on another chapter or write a blog post. Here it is!