I've been pleasantly surprised this past week to discover how many people really do care about history. For five days my books were featured on a website called "Chicks of Characterization," and the notes left by readers were uniformly complimentary. Most of the comments came from writers of fantasy and romance. They seemed to be saying that while they didn't write historical fiction, they love to read it.
I've also been encouraged by an exchange taking place on a blog appropriately called "Writing Historical Fiction". There the discussion has been about writing a "blockbuster." Again, I'm pleased to see the reactions coming out in favor of writing what you care about, not just what popular wisdom says will sell the most books.
My online sales took what was for me a huge leap forward last week -- including an order from someone using Beyond All Price in a college class, a bookstore order for multiple copies, some Kindle sales, and enough website responses to send me off to the post office with a shipment tomorrow.
To top off the week, I heard from two other genealogists who have been working on projects that touch on my own attempts to fill in the McCaskey family tree. Their findings introduced me to several distant cousins I did not know. And finally, I heard from another person with an ancestor who fought in the Roundhead Regiment during the Civil War. Just a little bit of research revealed that in the early 19th century, her ancestors lived next door to mine.
So . . . in the firm belief that history does matter, I've been preparing two e-books to be published as Kindle "Shorts". Nellie's Rx: Medical Treatments from 1862 and Nellie's Kitchen: Recipes from the Civil War are both companion pieces for Beyond All Price. Nellie's Rx is written in notebook format and offers a peak at the kinds of remedies commonly used during the war. Some of the cures might even have worked, although most sound dreadful, and a few are definitely lethal. Nellie's Kitchen is a recipe book, compiled from cookbooks of the time. Most of the recipes are still viable, although the reader has to be prepared for such instructions as "skim off the weavils" and "first, kill a chicken." As of today, both short pieces are now available from the regular Kindle website.
With all that encouragement, I'm feeling refreshed and ready to get back to work. My next book will be based on the life of Laura M. Towne, the woman who founded the Penn Center in South Carolina to provide quality education for newly-freed slaves. While I'm doing that reading, I hope to bring you another series of blog posts on the challenges of historical research. Stay tuned for "Genealogy Wars."