Queen of Swords

Keel boats & Jemima

I had a letter from Janet with a couple questions about the Wilderness novels:

I have really enjoyed all your books, However, there are a few points here and there that have puzzled me. First, in Endless Forest, I don\’t understand why Callie and Ethan think Jemima could possibly have a legal claim on the orchard. Didn’t she steal the deed and sell it off to that preacher? Callie bought it back and presumably has the documents to prove it, so she didn\’t inherit it from Nicholas. I would think that would put and end to all claims from Jemima. Any inheritance claims by her son would be on the money Jemima realized from the sale (presumably spent).

One more thing– in Queen of Swords, how could Nathaniel and Bears possibly get to New Orleans by river in only two months It would take them at least two weeks to get to Pittsburgh and about 12 weeks to get down the Ohio (contemporary accounts give that as the time by steamboat, much less keelboat). Add another few weeks to get down the Mississippi and that puts the journey at a minimum of four months.

It’s always interesting to get questions like this because my first reaction is to panic, and then, almost always, I figure it out and can stop panicking. 

First, regarding Jemima. She did indeed sell the orchard to the preacher. Then his nephew tried to assault Lily, and to keep the kid out of jail, he sold it back for a pittance. The town made a collection to make sure Callie would get it back.  

Maybe Jemima wouldn’t have succeeding in taking the orchard away from her daughter, but she could have made life miserable while she tried, and dragged it out as long as possible.  

Drawing by John Russell

The more interesting question is the travel time from Paradise to New Orleans. Generally how I research things like this is to consult travel diaries of the period as well as timetables — sometimes they are still available — from commercial transport companies.  I vaguely remember looking through material on traveling south on the Mississippi, but the details are hazy.  I’ll have to dig back through my notes to figure it out again.  I do remember some interesting trivia: a keelboat that traveled down the Mississippi to New Orleans was usually broken up for firewood, because there was no good way to get it back where it came from.

Here’s one short article on transport before steam.

Here’s a really interesting article about the Army’s reconstruction of Lewis and Clark’s travel by keelboat by John Russell

So again, I’m happy to answer questions. Sometime I’ll have to go through and tag the posts with questions that people ask about most. Ethan and Callie’s relationship is one of them. And then there was the unforgettable letter from Miss Middleton.

Of course, sometimes I do get things wrong. I’m only human. 


In which the Mathematician gives himself away

It takes the Mathematician a long time to get through my books, because he listens to the unabridged audio — and only when he’s in the car. For the past couple months he’s been steadily working his way through Queen of Swords. Every once in a while he asks me questions. Today the truth came out.

M: Do you think they really made the slaves work the Jamaica train for eighteen hours at a time?

R: I based all that on diaries and early documents.  It was really insane, what went on during the sugar harvest.

M: Yeah, I know. I looked it up.


M: What?

R: You were fact checking me?

M: No!


M: What? It was interesting, so I looked it up.


M: That’s a compliment, you know. That it was so interesting.

R: How long has this been going on? Since the first book?


R: I am officially affronted.

Pajamarama Photographers, your prizes (Jacqui & Elias are up):

(post moved up top by r — AND I need addresses from y’all. I know, you’ve probably given your address to me before, but I need them anyway. Pronto.)

The stuff to pick from:

  1. signed copy of Pajama Girls Patty & Heather
  2. signed copy of Pajama Girls Wilma
  3. signed hardcover copy of Homestead Malbrec82
  4. signed softcovers of Fire Along the Sky AND Queen of Swords Beth
  5. signed softcovers of Fire Along the Sky AND Queen of Swords Soup
  6. signed hardcover of Queen of Swords
  7. signed hardcover of Queen of Swords
  8. signed hardcover of Tied to the Tracks Judy
  9. signed hardcover of Tied to the Tracks
  10. grabbag pile o’ really good romances Wolfy
  11. grabbag pile o’ really good novels, some romances Jennifer M.
  12. LibraryThing lifetime membership

prequels, postquels, quelquels

Nancy asks:

Have you thought about doing a “prequel” to Into the Wilderness (with the focus on Daniel and Cora–Nathaniel’s parents)?  

I’ve had quite a few readers suggest this idea. I appreciate and understand the interest, but the realities of publishing that I’ve talked about before apply here as well. The bottom line: I’m not sure I could write a prequel, but even if I desperately wanted to, Bantam might not be interested. The only way that another book could ever be written in the series would be if Book Six takes off like a rocket.

Bantam has put a lot of energy and support into this series, but unless sales pick up significantly, they will step away. They almost did step away after Queen of Swords. Book Six is actually a bit of a miracle. So there it is: you, the book buying public, are the ones who make such things possible.

Assuming for a moment that there is no more interest from Bantam in the series, this does not mean I’ll stop writing historicals. I am working on a proposal for a three-volume series set in the early 1700s in New England, with the hope that the proposal will be picked up early in the new year. When I finish with Book Six, I would start on the new series (which you can think of as 1723, as a temporary reference) immediately.

I also have an abbreviated outline for another contemporary, but again, whether or not that ever sees the light of day depends on how Pajama Girls takes off. 

Publishers live and die by the numbers. They also have pretty much abandoned any serious marketing for mid-list novels, which is why many authors (and I’m in this boat myself) have to spend time, energy and money on getting their work into the public eye.

Thus the Lambert Square and the Pajama Girls websites, the giveaways, upcoming pajama-related contests, and other marketing bits and pieces that I’ve invested in. 

Let me repeat: I am very fortunate in my readers, and I appreciate every one of you. When you write and tell me what you’d like to see next, I am pleased to know that you want more. But  what comes next is not up to me.