My Initial Thoughts on My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk #Turkish #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I’ve started reading Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red. I’m about a third of the way into the story, which is set in Istanbul in the 16th century. This story is the 2006 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. The paperback consists of 418 pages, with 1 map of the Ottoman and Safavid Empires, and an historical chronology of events related to the story. I perused the map before I started reading but not the chronology until a bit later. That helped me to understand fact from fiction as I continue reading, which is a good thing to have some grasp on.

One of the interesting aspects of this narrative is that it’s written in multiple points of view in first person. Each chapter is written in a different point of view, mostly of people but also of objects and drawings. I mean, it’s interesting to read about the point of view of a gold coin and its travels, or a drawing of a dog or even a tree and what the depiction is meant to represent. It’s a unique approach to telling a murder mystery, that’s for certain!

I’m learning more about Turkish literature, and about the Koran, through the eyes of the characters and objects. One of the reasons I enjoy historical fiction is the opportunity to learn about other cultures and histories. This blog series that I’m working my way through is all about Historical Fiction Around the World by authors from countries around the world. I’m not including American authors only because that’s the kind of historical fiction I’ve mostly read and I want to expand my reading.

I am enjoying the story and the writing style. It’s interesting and funny too. I mean, Chapter 3 is entitled “I Am A Dog” and includes, “I’m a dog, and because you humans are less rational beasts than I, you’re telling yourselves, ‘Dogs don’t talk.’ Nevertheless, you seem to believe a story in which corpses speak and characters use words they couldn’t possibly know. Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.” That paragraph made me laugh out loud! And wonder…

I’ll share more about the story and my impressions next time. Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)! Sales ends January 31!

An unsuspecting Southern town. Ghosts. Witchcraft. Skeletons in the closet. Discover the Secrets of Roseville in this five book series… Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Veiled Visions of Love, and Charmed Against All Odds!

She lost everything but only his love can save her…

How does one recover after tragic loss demolishes your heart and soul? Meredith Reed grapples with that question every day, especially after she inherits Twin Oaks. The historic plantation is meant for a large family but hers no longer exists. She has some ideas for its future: tear it down; bulldoze it; burn it. Regardless of her incensed family and the handsome, irate estate lawyer’s objections. And despite the influence of the Lady in Blue haunting the place…

Max Chandler anticipates buying his dream home with the raise from his expected promotion after passage of the historic property preservation legislation he championed. Twin Oaks is just the sort of place he dreams of. Big and roomy, with lingering echoes of laughter and love from past generations within its very walls. Perfect. Except, perhaps, for the Civil War era ghosts in residence. They’ll have to go.

When Twin Oaks is threatened with a bulldozer, he has to fight, ignoring his growing attraction to Meredith. Her intentions go against everything he’s worked for. He has no choice but to do all in his power to stop her.

Will Meredith’s grief destroy her heart and home or will she listen to what the Lady in Blue is trying to teach her?

 (Updated and revised edition; originally published in 2014 as Traces.)

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My Impressions of The Mathematics of Love by Emma Darwin #English #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

My sampling of Historical Fiction Around the World continues! When I first started The Mathematics of Love by Emma Darwin I was a bit confused. It’s written in first person and I didn’t know enough about the skirmish it opens with to follow what was happening. So I had to go back to the book description to find my bearings before I restarted reading it. Here’s what the book is about:

The Mathematics of Love is a poignant chronicle of two people, separated by centuries, whose lives—amazingly, impossibly—become interwoven in a brilliant tapestry of tragedy, memory, and time. Following alternate but intimately connected stories—of a curious, promiscuous teenager in her season of exile and awakening in the English countryside in 1976, and a nineteenth-century soldier damaged on the fields of Waterloo, struggling to find his way back to life with the help of a compassionate, extraordinary woman—Emma Darwin’s breathtaking narrative brilliantly evokes the horrors of war, the pain of loss, the heat of passion, and the enduring power of love.

The book starts in the point of view of Major Stephen Fairhurst during an altercation in a small town involving a young boy getting caught up in the middle of things and a woman looking out for him. The woman becomes a friend of the Major and is quite a strong-willed, forward-thinking woman indeed for that time period. Perhaps too much so at times, but I’m looking at this through a 21st-century lens so my expectations may be somewhat skewed.

The other point of view is that of a fifteen-year-old girl in 1976 England who is indeed promiscuous. She’s practically treated like an orphan, though her mother and her boyfriend/lover are supposedly going to send for her when they establish a new business in another country. Her uncle is put in charge of her in a defunct school which used to be a country estate, the estate of Major Fairhurst in the previous century.

So my first question about the author’s story is why 1819 and 1976? Why a difference of 157 years? It’s a prime number which reflects the title on one level. But how does it apply to the story, or rather two intertwined stories? I don’t have an answer, but if you do, please share!

Since I was rather confused by the opening chapter, I went in search of reviews to find out how others had handled the opening. This book has very mixed reviews, most of them not positive. Many were confused by the story, and several thought the book a waste of money. I wouldn’t go that far, because I did enjoy most of the story. I do think the author missed some amount of potential for the story by keeping the story threads unwound for so much of the book. But it did end up tied together for the most part.

There are similarities between the past and story-present time periods. The 1819 thread includes a woman who sketches the world around her, while the 1976 thread has a deep dive into photographic techniques of the time. Both look at light, shadow, capturing memories, being aware of the beauty and wonder of the world. Some play on ghostly images and echoed images can be seen between them as well. These themes are dear to my heart as my father was a photographer and we talked about these things frequently.

Another theme between the two times is that of forbidden or discouraged love of varying kinds. In the past, the strict societal constraints on women and their sexuality, their activity, their reputation is a primary topic of conversation with regard to the Major’s friend. In the present, the teenager also rebels against societal constraints but ultimately in both times they bow to the need to comply however unwillingly.

Emma Darwin’s writing style is also remarkable. She did an excellent job of distinguishing the time periods through her authorial voice modifying to suit the Major or the teen. Without the need for noting the difference in time period, I could (usually) tell when the shift occurred, whether it was indicated through typography or not. I will say some of the transitions were jolting, going from an intensely happy moment to one of battle and bloodshed, for instance. Perhaps she was aiming to emphasize the contrast of joy to horror? For me, it felt more like a non sequitur.

Overall, I enjoyed finding out more about the impact on the soldiers after the Battle at Waterloo. The 1819 thread of the story was far more interesting to me than the 1976 thread. But then, I have never enjoyed reading about wayward youths, especially when they basically get away with their bad behavior for one reason or another. As the book description mentions, there is a good deal of the “heat of passion” primarily with the teen. The 1819 story also includes passion, but with adults in a more emotionally satisfying relationship than the teen’s. I don’t want to give too much away in my impressions of the book, but the mirroring effect of having couples in both stories engaging in relationships that some would find inappropriate is another way Darwin contrasts and compares love in its many guises in both times.

This novel is far more about the lives, loves, and times of the two time periods than about the battles in the 19th century. If it weren’t for the 1819 time line this wouldn’t qualify as historical fiction, since the other is in 1976, and thus too recent. Yet it’s mainly through the teen’s interpretation and growing understanding of Stephen’s letters and life that we gain a clearer picture of his life story. The ending to the book is mostly satisfying but leaves open, at least for me, a few questions.

That’s my impression of this story. Did you read it as well? What are your thoughts and opinion of the story? I’d love to hear from you if you’ve read it.

Moving on, let’s switch countries, this time to Turkey and Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red. Turns out this story is set in 16th-century Istanbul. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve actually visited Istanbul, even bought a carpet while there. I was also astounded by the driving skills of the motor coach drivers! So glad I wasn’t driving, let me tell ya! I’m looking forward to dipping into this Turkish tale. Will you join me?

Until next time… Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

An unsuspecting Southern town. Ghosts. Witchcraft. Skeletons in the closet. Discover the Secrets of Roseville in this five book series… Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Veiled Visions of Love, and Charmed Against All Odds!

She lost everything but only his love can save her…

How does one recover after tragic loss demolishes your heart and soul? Meredith Reed grapples with that question every day, especially after she inherits Twin Oaks. The historic plantation is meant for a large family but hers no longer exists. She has some ideas for its future: tear it down; bulldoze it; burn it. Regardless of her incensed family and the handsome, irate estate lawyer’s objections. And despite the influence of the Lady in Blue haunting the place…

Max Chandler anticipates buying his dream home with the raise from his expected promotion after passage of the historic property preservation legislation he championed. Twin Oaks is just the sort of place he dreams of. Big and roomy, with lingering echoes of laughter and love from past generations within its very walls. Perfect. Except, perhaps, for the Civil War era ghosts in residence. They’ll have to go.

When Twin Oaks is threatened with a bulldozer, he has to fight, ignoring his growing attraction to Meredith. Her intentions go against everything he’s worked for. He has no choice but to do all in his power to stop her.

Will Meredith’s grief destroy her heart and home or will she listen to what the Lady in Blue is trying to teach her?

 (Updated and revised edition; originally published in 2014 as Traces.)

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Introducing Sir Edward Latham – Character Interview with author Loretta Goldberg #historical #fiction #mustread #books #amreading #amwriting

Australian-American Loretta Goldberg earned a BA in English Literature, Music and History at the University of Melbourne. She came to the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship for piano performance. After careers in music then financial services, she sold her financial services practice to focus on writing. She is on the steering committee of The Historical Novel Society, New York Chapter, where she started the chapter’s published writer public reading series at the Jefferson Market Library, New York, now migrated to Zoom. Commuting between NYC and Chester, Connecticut, she lives with her partner, enjoying extended family, friends, colleagues and animals.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook

Sir Edward Latham: Lady Elizabeth Bolte, Lady Betty? My manservant Joris told me you were sitting in my study, having the password to enter our rooms. That you wished to ask me questions. The password again if you would be so good? Joris is an incomparable servant but can reverse letters into curious muddles.

Betty Bolte: Ah, of course. ‘That long blond is Gloriana’s best man in France today.’ Sir Edward, thank you so much for agreeing to talk to me.

Sir Edward Latham (thinking): The password is right, but I don’t remember any agreement! Is this a dream? The stranger on my carved wooden guest chair displays the confidence of status through wealth or rank. My morning small beer tasted bitter. My servant girl, Marie, Joris’s wife, is an herbalist. She concocts tonics to keep my instincts sharp. She fears that my advanced age of forty-eight has dulled my sense of danger, putting my household at risk. Civil war rages in France, so anticipating who wields power is vital. My instincts haven’t dulled whatsoever—my current unraveling of a plot in Brussels proves that—but I take Marie’s potions to calm her anxiety, she a new mother and fragile. Mayhap her tonic brought me this visitation. Claviceps purpurea, a toxic fungus described by Paracelsus, produces fantastical waking dreams.

Betty Bolte: Sir Edward, don’t be afraid. I come in friendship What do you think is your greatest achievement so far? And why?

Sir Edward Latham: My greatest achievement is easy to describe, Lady Betty. But should I? 

(Thinking) She smiles encouragingly. My greatest achievement. Is Satan tempting me to the sin of pride? I must be wary. Now, the Bolte family exists. Saxon farm holders from Lancashire, they acquired land and rank. Her given name of Betty is after my Queen, the great Elizabeth, Gloriana. But I cannot place her dialect. No burr, a crisp delivery with an upward lilt at the end of her sentences.

She’s not an enemy informer, because her appearance and smell are so unfamiliar my guard is up. She’s of middle years, fleshly padding beneath her skin filling her out pleasingly. But her teeth are white and even, her gums pink like a new-blooming maiden. How can that be? No tooth soap or tooth-drawer could preserve a mouth to the years this woman seems to have attained. Her hair is a springy grey, bare of no jeweled ribbon or bonnet, against fashion. Her smell is not of lead paint, thick fabrics beaten clean, but of a mild soap I don’t know. By contrast, her perfume is less subtle. It’s a solid sweetness of orange, gardenia and peach flowers, a forwardness I associate with, well, not nobility. Rosewater, burnt orange peel and marjoram, with an earthy touch of truffle, are the spicy/sweet individually complected scents women of rank like. We men, too, have individual scents. Most odd is that I’ve seen her necklace of blue and transparent glass beads before, on a similar woman. Well, benign visitation or fungi hallucination, I sense no danger. I’ll play along. I point at my quills, inkhorn and paper. Does she want to write my answers? No. She shakes her head, touching a little glass rectangle on her lap.

Betty Bolte: Sir Edward, let’s begin. What is your greatest achievement? And why?

Sir Edward Latham: Preventing the Spanish Armada from landing on English soil last year. Lady Betty, I am Queen Elizabeth’s, Gloriana’s, best intelligencer abroad. I didn’t start that way. When she made England’s religion Protestant, which was her Divinely anointed right, I couldn’t live as a covert Catholic. Others felt different, which I respect. A life of discreet worship didn’t seem right either. By God’s grace I am gentry, with a duty to defend society against anarchy.

I worked for European Catholic rulers against Dutch and French Protestant rebels. I soon learned how cruel and stupid are these Catholic Princesses. Offensive and defensive weapons are balanced today, so there’s no winning or losing, just more broken bodies and grieving hearts. That can’t be pleasing to the Almighty who created us all. When Philip II of Spain, the mightiest Catholic king, marshaled forces to invade England I became a double agent. I use my access to both sides to importune for peace. Monarchs resent criticism, but peace is my mission.

From the Spanish admiral’s house in Lisbon I got Spain’s original plan for 500 ships to land 60,000 men in England. I got it by trickery. Even in these days of strife, Lady Betty, men’s hearts are often more mutable than the violence of their causes. Bribes, pride in being a keeper of secrets that can only be demonstrated by sharing the secrets, a dainty conscience about a master’s cruelty—we all face judgment day—non-brutish methods can unravel astonishing plots.

Elizabeth had only 120 ships to defend her coast. Fortunately, the Spanish plan shrank to the 130 ships that sailed from Lisbon last year. They were to meet an equal force in the Spanish Netherlands. If those forces could join up they’d be invincible. By God’s grace I helped to prevent their linkage. I fostered in the minds of Spanish ship captains the illusion that the English had a diabolical new weapon we don’t have. Illusion split apart thousands of tons of enemy wood, iron and munitions, not force of English arms. I saw it in Calais.”

Betty Bolte: Sir Winston Churchill said that the truth is so precious it must be protected by a bodyguard of lies.

Sir Edward Latham: I know nothing of Churchills. They’re not a notable family like the Boltes. But the words make sense. The diabolical weapons we don’t have are Hellburners. They’re big ships with thousands of pounds of explosives and every kind of stone, metal and weapon that can crush, shred or impale, trapped within a stone pyramid on deck. This pyramid is designed to explode sideways and not up. No man lights the fuse. A timed clock does the work. This is utterly new. One Hellburner wreaked havoc on Spanish forces besieging Antwerp. Over 1,000 killed in a second, rubble and body parts strewn over a mile and a half. Ever since 1585 Spaniards quake at the word Hellburner. The inventor of this terrible machine fled to England. He was seen there in Sir Francis Drake’s company by Spanish spies. The Spaniards have almost a mystical fear of ‘El Draco,’ who has raided Spanish lands with seeming impunity.

Elizabeth wouldn’t risk her limited powder on an innovation. But for the enemy to think Drake had Hellburners was the goal. I wafted the notion into receptive ears at the Madrid court, which became Royal warnings to Spanish commanders.

Lady Betty, it’s not given to many men to see the fruits of panic by illusion. Almighty God graced me with this privilege. I was on the water in a rowboat in Calais, peering up at the towering castles of Spanish warships, bristling with cannon and crammed with crews. Days of fighting in the English Channel hadn’t dented the impregnable formation of the Spanish fleet.

Around midnight, when the tide favored the waiting desperate English fleet, Drake sent six traditional fire-ships bigger than Hellburners at the anchored Spanish fleet, which had orders to stand firm. “Hellburners!” was the universal shriek as the fire-ships glided closer. It became a general signal to flee. Armed merchantmen pulled up anchors, blundered into each other, frantic yelling of “Pole apart! Axe!” The formation disintegrated, waterborne castles cutting cables, most abandoning anchors. Wobbling stern lanterns mapped their course to open sea.

It was Divine malice, Lady Betty, this mismatch between the Armada’s physical might and the illusion that ripped it up. Without anchors, the monstrous castles on water couldn’t re-group, and would be at the mercy of any wind. A king’s treasure in iron plunged to the sea bottom. The English fire-ships burned out harmlessly, doing no physical damage. As we know now, a north wind blew the Armada around Ireland, where most of the ships were wrecked. Yes, nurturing a brainsick piece of folly is how I helped to shape the great battle of last year.”

Betty Bolte: That sounds like an example of how a slender lever applied right can topple a boulder. Moving to the personal, are you close to your family? Do you wish your relationship with them was different in any way? If so, how?

Sir Edward Latham: Why would you ask about anything as small as one sinner’s heart? My kin are Catholics but accommodate to Protestant rule. I revered my father and am close to my sister, Katherine, who lives. Mother died when I was a child. How I missed her warm hugs. In the days when I had no permission to be in England, I visited Katherine secretly. If I have a wish, it is that my three brothers would accept my choice as Katherine did, and as I respected theirs. But some turbulent times do not admit of tranquility.

Betty Bolte: When did you have your first kiss and with who? How did it go?

Sir Edward Latham: An even stranger question. Evaluate a kiss? Certainly, my wet nurse and nanny gave me many kisses though I have no memory of them. As adults we kiss on the lips freely. But I think you mean the dance of the two-backed beast? Lust, my first bedfellow. Alas, I must demur. Some magnificent bedfellows have honored my bed, whose dignity I revere. You showed me a book about me: The Reversible Mask, an Elizabethan Spy Novel. Do I have a chronicler? The cover is shiny paper, not leather. How can such a flimsiness last? But its image depicts the comet of 1578 over Constantinople. I was there then, had a very great friend, an Ottoman slave serving the Sultan. If I have a chronicler, my notorious loves will be there. About such matters I am stitch-lipped, resisting even the sweetest, most probing, needing tongue.

Betty Bolte: What characteristics are you looking for in a spouse?

Sir Edward Latham: That sounds like the Protestant new-fangled notion of a companionate marriage. For us Catholics virtue and property determine unions. I left that prospect behind.I’m too much the nomad to settle. Indeed, my life is precarious. My loyal household is my beloved family. Are you remembering my words? You write nothing.

Lady Betty turns the glass rectangle around. I see my words, ‘You write nothing.’ What is this? Terror braids my gut, bile rises, I want to vomit. But the close stool is in my bedroom upstairs. I gulp the bile down. It’s a dream. I’ve seen innovations before and survived.

Betty Bolte: How would you describe your childhood?

Sir Edward Latham: You ask questions as if you are not of this earth. What is childhood? We sprawl from the womb, squalling protests amidst a spew of afterbirth. We are scrubbed, wound in swaddling cloth and handed to a wet nurse. We learn later whether the mother who gave us life died from childbed fever. Alas, too many do. As soon as we’re ripped from breast milk, we’re undersized adults, wearing itchy little ruffs, eating little portions of meat, bread, cheese, washed down by much-watered wine.

Betty Bolte: What kind of schooling did you have? Did you enjoy it?

Sir Edward Latham: Our family had a wonderful governess for letters and numbers, then a tutor in fighting arts, riding and jousting, rhetoric, Latin and Divinity. Others go to the grammar schools. Some go to Oxford or Cambridge to be lawyers, scholars or physicians, a few on scholarship. Gentry like me go to Oxford and Cambridge to be groomed as courtiers. Her Majesty visits both. She loves long Latin debates. Those who wish to serve her must pay attention, no matter how much they drank the night before, because she looks for slack mouths and will ask, ‘What did you think of the riposte before the last?’ Woe is the dreamer with no cogent reply. Her Majesty never forgets!

For me, the learning, riding, dancing and lute playing were, and will always be, a joy. But the specter of misfortune hovered equally—plague, a fall from royal favor, fire, yet another change in State religion. There were five gyrations of State religious doctrine before I was eighteen, each bringing possible death for non-conforming. You know my family are Catholics. But when my poor mother died when I was four, King Henry VIII had an anti-Papist policy. I don’t know if my mother got the sacred last rites. To ensure I have access to last rites from a priest in good order with Rome I went abroad. That aside, even in tranquil times, we youths have a sense of somber waiting, if our fathers die young, to assume responsibilities at a tender age.

Betty Bolte: What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?

Sir Edward Latham: The true worst I cannot bear to reveal. That night when the enchanting Lady Barbara, greatest singer of the century and my bedfellow, named my deepest fantasies. How? But that’s the nature of genius. I’ll give Lady Betty a more suitable one.  

Ah, a scene out of low theatre comedy, but true.Being chased and insulted bystreet urchins in Constantinople, brazen thugs hurling filth and rotten fruit at me. I was dressed for an audience with the assistant secretary to the Grand Vizier. Fortunately, I’d thought to wear an old cloak I could throw away. They were shouting ‘Dung-sucker’ and other curses because, in truth, I had a foul smell from an adventure the night before. I was going to the baths before the audience.

Have you hobbled miles inside the skin of a two-humped Bactrian camel? Yes, my manservant Joris and I pretended to be a camel. I needed to get inside a warehouse guarded by the Sultan’s ferocious deaf mutes, to see artifacts and papers I suspected were there. We borrowed the camel skin from St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Catholic church in the European quarter of Galata, where it was used in the procession of the Three Wise Men. We were pretending to make a delivery, so a heavy box swayed on top of us.

My great friend Ibrahim enlisted two boys from his household to guide us. Inside the camel was miserable. We stooped under the humps, camel skin pinned around our legs, shoulders bruised by the box. Oh, the stink! Old hair, dried tissue, dander and curing chemicals made us lightheaded and desperate to sneeze. I doused the camel with ox piss, hoping to discourage scrutiny by the guards, who were known to be fastidious. Joris and I were roped at the waist, so when our guide rapped my thigh, my step jerked Joris into motion.

The whole caper nearly ended disastrously. At a thump on the neck, I stopped suddenly. Joris kneed me. Our load wobbled. I heard heavy footsteps, hawking phlegm, spit, a high whine. We pushed our shoulders up, feeling our guide steady the box. My breath out was one of the happiest of my life. We got in and out safely. It was a neat piece of inquiry. Everything I was sent to Constantinople to discover fell into place. A secret alliance and trade treaty between the Sultan and a European monarch I had early knowledge of. But our stinks took scouring after scouring to lighten. Even now I think I can sniff the residue. Truly, Lady Betty, dross is the companion-lover of all our ambitions.

Betty Bolte: I am glad I wasn’t there. How do you like to relax?

Sir Edward Latham: Not being a Bactrian camel. How about if I show you? It’s a good day to walk. I’ll show you Boulogne. King Henry VIII attacked it in 1544, held it for five years. I dine at a harbor tavern, The Swooping Gull. There’s interesting military detritus on the way. The vegetable and fish market in the main square is still open. As we exit the archway of the old walls I can point out new stones where Henry’s cannon breached the fortifications and his engineers tunneled under the wall. On the switchback path down to the lower town, there’s a rotting hulk the French sank during their blockade, which was useless. One sunk ship doesn’t make a barrier. Plague forced Henry to terms.

The Swooping Gull is famous for waterzooi, and Friday is the best day to go The tavern has a curious ritual, rather romantic, which I sense will be to your taste, something St. Francis of Assisi would bless. Before dinner, a swarm of gulls–yellow-legged, black-backed, white-herring patterned, grey-winged—rise into the air, mingling promiscuously, circling nothing, but in military order. An old fellow emerges from the tavern, a sack tied to his chest. At the jetty he thrusts his left arm into the air, holding today’s catch between his second and third fingers. A single gull swoops to retrieve the piece, while the fellow’s right hand pulls a replacement from the bag, left hand meeting it and rising for the next gull. All moves serene and the gulls exquisitely courteous. No gull tries the ground because the fellow never drops anything. Nor do the gulls mistake finger for fish. The legend is that the longer they feed the tastier the meal will be. It’s a better brag than any placard.

I stand, arm extended. I’m still comely, with chiseled features, flaxen, grey-tipped hair and a ready smile over yellowed, but not rotted, teeth. Unusually tall, I’m neither flabby nor gouty. Today I’m clothed in the Tuscan style, wearing a white cambric shirt with blackwork at the cuffs and collar, a black velvet doublet with vertical and horizontal slashes showing russet satin, and discreet silver thread trim. My upper stocks have slashes over russet and black hose. With no shoulder puffers or padded codpiece, my figure is discernible. My boots have leather tassels as fine as fronds. I move out from my desk. Lady Betty stands too, in a fine red wool dress with grey leather patches.

I hear her great sobbing sigh, long and long, see her reaching hand.  “They don’t make clothes like that anymore. Gorgeous fabrics, so lush, so opulent and elegant it hurts!”

I reach out a hand to help her. I meet a vibrating wall of scorching air. My body trembles with sound I cannot hear but know is in me, battering. All goes black. When light returns Lady Betty is gone. I return shakily to my desk, cone out. My guest chair has no residue of her perfume. I rub my clothes. No Tuscan finery, but black wool hose, black linen breeches, loose white shirt and a black jerkin, my letter-writing clothes. But I remember where I saw that bead necklace: on a woman with the same shaped eyebrows coming out of a glover’s shop in Oxford during my student days. A hint of sweet orange wafted above the horse dung. I thought her the goodwife of a steward at a provincial estate. Wherever she’s gone she’s been here before. Did this visitation even happen?  Do I have a chronicler? Ah, asking about a chronicler is the sin of pride. I ring for Joris to send for my priest.

Intrigue, lust and war combine in this debut spy thriller, meticulously researched in events and settings. Young Catholic courtier, Sir Edward Latham, has a brilliant future in Protestant Elizabethan England. His loving family made the necessary accommodations. He cannot. Patriotism and religion wage war in his heart. He throws away title, kin and land to serve Catholic monarchs abroad in missions that propel from Paris to Constantinople and places between. But wandering doesn’t quiet his soul. When war threatens his beloved homeland patriotism prevails. He becomes a double agent for Queen Elizabeth. Life turns complicated and dangerous as he balances protecting country and Queen while entreating both sides for peace.

Buy Links: Amazon or any good bookstore.

Where did he go? He was sitting right there in the interview chair and then—poof!—he disappeared! I suppose he had to get back to work. I hope you enjoyed meeting Sir Latham!

Happy reading, all!

Betty

Best-selling Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

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My Impressions of Her Secret War by Pam Lecky #WWII #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I finished reading Her Secret War by Pam Lecky, the fourth book in my Historical Fiction Around the World series focused on authors from around the world. This story was published just a few months ago, in October 2021, so is far more contemporary to me than the first three books I read. The result is a distinctly different atmosphere to the story. The reasons for that are probably far more varied than I can put my finger on, but I’ll try.

I’ll start with my overall view of this story. It was far easier to read for one thing. No glossary or maps were required to follow the story or understand the language used. I enjoyed the sprinkling of Irish and English idioms and sayings, which were all easily understood from the context. This story also featured a female main character and her life during World War II in Dublin and then in England. As I read, the flow and cadence of the language along with the colloquialisms reminded me of my time in Ireland. I once had a critique partner who I met up with on a visit to Dublin years ago. We had a lovely time getting acquainted in person over tea. I think tea in Europe tastes better…but that may just be the setting and company!

The style of writing in Her Secret War is also more upbeat and quickly paced. Concerns of the main character Sarah Gillespie are more immediate and comprehendible to me as well. Some of that is undoubtedly because I am also a female with sisters and family, but I think the level of understanding also stems from language usage more similar to my own. The word choices also make it easier to read and follow the story as well. As a writer myself, it’s often apparent how specific words evoke specific feelings or experiences associated with the message.

I think also the plot is cleaner, clearer, despite the inevitable twists and turns that a mystery, or spy thriller, must take to keep us turning the page. The author is more focused on that thread than the overall political environment. I believe I’ve stated before that I’m not a fan of political thrillers, so this historical was easier for me to enjoy. Her focus makes it possible to enjoy the story without having a lesson in the politics of the day. Sure, she refers to them but that’s not the primary point of the story. To me, the story is far more about how Sarah comes to deal with her situation as a result of the bombing of her home in Dublin.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the writing, and the characters. I had only one tiny grumble while reading the story, but it’s not worth making a fuss about. If you like WWII historical fiction about a female protagonist, indeed a female spy, I’d suggest giving this one a try. It appears this may be the first in a series. At least, the next book, Her Last Betrayal, is due to release November 1, 2022. Will there be others? I wouldn’t be surprised if her fans would prompt the publisher to ask for more!

Next up for me is The Mathematics of Love by Emma Darwin. In case you’re wondering how I’m choosing what to read, I have a long list of titles sorted by the author’s native country then by author name. I’m working up from the end of the alphabet, beginning with the UK, choosing from authors from different countries within that group of countries. I hope you’ll read along with me and tell me your thoughts and opinions of the stories.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

An unsuspecting Southern town. Ghosts. Witchcraft. Skeletons in the closet. Discover the Secrets of Roseville in this five book series… Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Veiled Visions of Love, and Charmed Against All Odds!

She lost everything but only his love can save her…

How does one recover after tragic loss demolishes your heart and soul? Meredith Reed grapples with that question every day, especially after she inherits Twin Oaks. The historic plantation is meant for a large family but hers no longer exists. She has some ideas for its future: tear it down; bulldoze it; burn it. Regardless of her incensed family and the handsome, irate estate lawyer’s objections. And despite the influence of the Lady in Blue haunting the place…

Max Chandler anticipates buying his dream home with the raise from his expected promotion after passage of the historic property preservation legislation he championed. Twin Oaks is just the sort of place he dreams of. Big and roomy, with lingering echoes of laughter and love from past generations within its very walls. Perfect. Except, perhaps, for the Civil War era ghosts in residence. They’ll have to go.

When Twin Oaks is threatened with a bulldozer, he has to fight, ignoring his growing attraction to Meredith. Her intentions go against everything he’s worked for. He has no choice but to do all in his power to stop her.

Will Meredith’s grief destroy her heart and home or will she listen to what the Lady in Blue is trying to teach her?

 (Updated and revised edition; originally published in 2014 as Traces.)

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Let’s Meet Tawny Lindholm, character of Debbie Burke #author #crimefiction #suspense #fiction #books

My guest today is the star of the Tawny Lindholm Thriller series by author Debbie Burke. A quick peek at Debbie’s bio and then we’ll see what Tawny has to share with us.

Debbie Burke is a suspense novelist, staff writer for two senior newspapers, and blogger at The Kill Zone, a popular website covering crime fiction. Her Tawny Lindholm Thriller series plunges the widowed 50-ish heroine into fast-paced twisty plots with quirky characters and snappy dialogue. As a founding member of the Authors of the Flathead, Debbie is active in the vibrant Montana writing community and helps plan the annual Flathead River Writers Conference. She enjoys speaking at book clubs and local schools, as well as mentoring young writers.

Social Links: Website * Twitter * Blog

Betty: How would you describe your childhood?

Tawny: I grew up naïve and sheltered in a small Montana town where everyone knew everyone. I married young to a man 15 years older who protected me more than I realized. After he died, I learned the hard way that trusting the wrong person can be fatal.

Betty: What kind of schooling did you have? Did you enjoy it?

Tawny: Don’t ask! I hated school and was always this close to flunking out because I couldn’t read or spell. My alcoholic dad used to say, “It’s a good thing you’re pretty, honey, ’cause you sure are dumb.” Later I learned about dyslexia but that early stigma still dogs me.

Betty: What do you think is your greatest achievement? Why?

Tawny: Being a loyal friend whom people trust and feel safe confiding their secrets to. My lover and boss is Tillman Rosenbaum, a 6’7” bombastic attorney who even intimidates judges. Tillman doesn’t trust anyone but he trusts me. He always says my superpower is I can get clients to tell me what they’re too afraid to tell him. In my job as his investigator, that ability compensates for my bad spelling!

Betty: What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?

Tawny: Too many to count. As a fair-skinned redhead, when I blush, everybody knows it. Happens often!

Betty: If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be and why?

Tawny: I wouldn’t have gotten into a situation where I had to kill a man in self-defense.

Betty: What’s your greatest fear? Who else knows about it?

Tawny: Letting down someone I love who depends on me.

Betty: How much of your true self do you share with others?

Tawny: Way too much. Most of the time, I’m an open book. In my job, I have to work hard to keep feelings hidden, especially in the courtroom.

Betty: Are you close to your family? Do you wish your relationship with them was different in any way? If so, how?

Tawny: I still miss my late husband. My son Neal reminds me of him: hard-working, conscientious, but also mischievous. My daughter Emma…well, I feel like a failure. She’s in her 30s going on 13, as irresponsible as Neal is responsible. She flits from one man to another, one job to another, always looking for greener grass. I love her but, oh Lord, she makes me crazy. Tillman’s three children I cherish as if I’d given birth to them. He’s a good provider but a lousy father and it’s an ongoing challenge to build a bridge across their estrangement. 

Betty: What characteristics are you looking for in a potential lover/spouse?

Tawny:  I tell you one thing for sure—Tillman has none of the characteristics I would have chosen. He’s confrontational, I’m conciliatory. He loves the spotlight, I shrink from it. He’s logical and rational, I’m emotional. He’s cynical, I’m too trusting. We’re yin and yang. Sometimes we balance each other, sometimes we’re totally out of whack. But you can’t help who you fall in love with. Since the day we met, it’s never been dull.

Betty: How do you like to relax? What kind of entertainment do you enjoy?

Tawny: Physical activities like hiking in the mountains, Zumba, working in my garden. Making love with Tillman. Is that TMI?

Investigator Tawny Lindholm broke Rule #1: Don’t sleep with the guy who signs your paycheck. She loves her boss, Tillman Rosenbaum, a brilliant, high-powered attorney, but his dysfunctional family scares her. After she rescues his teenage daughter from a suicide attempt, she can’t turn away from the troubled girl. Meanwhile, a drone is watching Tillman’s every move, manipulated by powerful enemies who are determined to destroy him and everyone he loves. Can Tawny protect his children and unravel the treacherous plot against him?

Buy Links: Amazon * Books2Read

Thanks to Tawny for stopping by and chatting with us. I’m sure she has to get back to work in Debbie’s next book, but it’s been fun getting to know her.

It’s a brand new year and I hope it’s a peaceful, healthy, and prosperous one for you! Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

My Impression of A Place Called Armageddon by C.C. Humphreys #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #fiction #review

The third book in my Historical Fiction Around the World series, C.C. Humphreys’ A Place Called Armageddon: Constantinople 1453 managed to surprise me. After I gave you all my First Thoughts on the book, I became so intrigued by the characters and the situations they faced that I had a hard time putting down the book.

Anyone who knows me well, also knows that I’m not a fan of violence in entertainment. It’s easier for me to handle when its in fiction rather than a visual medium.  My son convinced me to watch the entire Game of Thrones series but I will confess to leaving the room during certain parts. I didn’t want the nightmares to follow. #JustSaying

This story is all about the fall of the greatest city up to that time, Constantinople. Humphreys does an excellent job of ensuring the reader identifies with the characters, roots for some and not for others. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever read a story that presented both the winner’s and loser’s views of the same battle. The winner viewed it as a noble, honorable achievement while the loser saw it as the fall of a great city, the failure of the military to hold their position despite the odds. And those odds were immense!

Through reading this story, I learned not only a bit more about the history of the city and its people, but also about the mentality of a warrior. How he views the scene of battle, weighs the odds and chance of success or failure, and acts to defend what he—or she—can. It’s an insight that has wider ramifications as to how I personally view the people around me. It also helps me have another tool in my writing skills toolbox as I create my own characters. See, reading for an author or anyone who wants to become a published author/writer is more than just enjoying the story. It’s keeping an eye out for devices and approaches that can be adapted to our own work. Which is why I advocate for writers to read widely. You never know when you’ll come across a technique that will add a freshness to your writing.

I also enjoyed the mystical elements woven into this story. The character of Leilah intrigued me the most. She was not only a warrior, fully capable with a crossbow and its quarrels (a word I had to look up by the way!) but also with reading the portents and palms and other such mystical arts. How she used her skills in such effective and complementary ways, too. Humphreys made her rounded and believable within her own time.

I also enjoyed how the author managed to weave a romance into this story that takes place during a protracted and horrific battle. Doing so made the main male characters even more believable. I mean, don’t we (humans) fight to protect what is important to us, and thus those we love? How we choose what is important also reflects on the individual’s character. Those choices are made apparent in the story as well, and how the people doing the choosing behave as a result. Is something important because you’re jealous of anyone else possessing it/him/her, or because you care about it/him/her?

A Place Called Armageddon lives up to its name as those fighting—to defend and to invade—face impressive foes, even more impressive odds against the staggering number of invaders vs. the defenders. It must have indeed seemed like the end of the world for those defending. But trust me that the story is not only about how the two sides fought each other, but also about how people fight to survive physically and emotionally during trying times. I’m glad I read this story, because it opened my eyes to a different point of view, a different way of seeing situations and then adjusting my reaction accordingly.

Next up on my Historical Fiction Around the World tour of authors from other countries is Her Secret War by Pam Lecky. This story is set in Dublin during WWII and is written by an Irish author. I’m looking forward to seeing the war through her eyes. Want to read along with me?

Happy reading and Happy New Year to all!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99!

An unsuspecting Southern town. Ghosts. Witchcraft. Skeletons in the closet. Discover the Secrets of Roseville in this five book series… Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Veiled Visions of Love, and Charmed Against All Odds!

She lost everything but only his love can save her…

How does one recover after tragic loss demolishes your heart and soul? Meredith Reed grapples with that question every day, especially after she inherits Twin Oaks. The historic plantation is meant for a large family but hers no longer exists. She has some ideas for its future: tear it down; bulldoze it; burn it. Regardless of her incensed family and the handsome, irate estate lawyer’s objections. And despite the influence of the Lady in Blue haunting the place…

Max Chandler anticipates buying his dream home with the raise from his expected promotion after passage of the historic property preservation legislation he championed. Twin Oaks is just the sort of place he dreams of. Big and roomy, with lingering echoes of laughter and love from past generations within its very walls. Perfect. Except, perhaps, for the Civil War era ghosts in residence. They’ll have to go.

When Twin Oaks is threatened with a bulldozer, he has to fight, ignoring his growing attraction to Meredith. Her intentions go against everything he’s worked for. He has no choice but to do all in his power to stop her.

Will Meredith’s grief destroy her heart and home or will she listen to what the Lady in Blue is trying to teach her?

 (Updated and revised edition; originally published in 2014 as Traces.)

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Getting to know Tammy Euliano #author #books #medical #thrillers #physician #teacher

My guest author today writes her stories based on personal experience and of course an active imagination! Please help me welcome Tammy Euliano. We’ll peek at her bio and then find out more about her latest book.

By day, Tammy Euliano, MD, is a Professor of Anesthesiology and Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of Florida where she cares for patients, teaches medical students and residents, performs research, and invents cool stuff. She’s been honored with numerous teaching awards, more than 100,000 views of her YouTube teaching videos, and was featured in a calendar of women inventors (copies available wherever you buy your out-of-date planners).

By night, she plays games with her family (now remotely), plays tennis (badly), cuddles her dogs, reads, and writes medical thrillers. In her writing, she is intrigued by ethically blurry topics and enjoys positioning characters on all sides of a debate, each with a well-reasoned position…or humor…or dogs.

Vacations are for exploring our amazing world. She has dragged her family of five to all the major US national parks, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Costa Rica, the Caribbean, the Galapagos, the Mediterranean, Europe, and New Zealand. Trips are spent soaking up the history and culture while also experiencing nature, often in extreme fashion.

Author Social Links: Facebook * Instagram * Goodreads

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Tammy: The idea of managing the end-of-life has fascinated me since way before any kid should think about such things. We had a debate in my 5th grade class about the fate of Karen Ann Quinlan, a young woman in a persistent vegetative state whose parents wanted her ventilator disconnected, while the State of New Jersey disagreed. I don’t recall what side my 10-year-old-self argued, but the question never left me. Medical technology and the ability to keep the body alive has far out-paced our ethical ability to deal with the implications.

In medical school and residency, the question resurfaced repeatedly, while watching families’ extended mourning in the ICU, and anesthetizing patients for innumerable procedures despite little to no hope of a meaningful recovery. Meanwhile, the absurd cost of medical care in the US frequently made the news, especially expenditures in the last few months of life and final hospitalization.

Actually getting words on the page took a bit longer. After writing an introductory anesthesia textbook with my mentor, we decided to continue our teamwork with a novel. Sadly he fell ill and passed away, but I had the bug and found the time to start Fatal Intent.

Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?

Tammy: Definitely Dr. Kate Downey, the protagonist. She’s quite a lot like me. Shocking for a debut author, I know. Though a few years my junior, ahem, we share careers as anesthesiologists who specialize in obstetric anesthesia and teach medical students and residents, sometimes using a simulated operating room environment.

Our personalities overlap a bit, or did when I was her age, but there the similarities end. Instead of my tragedy-free life to date, she suffered the loss of her parents and now the traumatic brain injury of her husband. Boy, are we authors cruel, or what? I have to keep reminding my husband that Kate is not me, and he is not her comatose husband, Greg. As for her dog, I’m afraid mine is just as energetic, spoiled, and completely untrained…times two.

Betty: Which story element sparked the idea for this story: setting, situation, character, or something else?

Tammy: The situation. Long intrigued by end-of-life issues, the seeds of a plot began germinating in my head (kind of a gross image, really). Over time, the story world and its characters began invading my real life, popping to mind at all hours, sometimes quite inconveniently.

Betty: Which character(s) were the hardest to get to know? Why do you think?

Tammy: The villain, of course. Initially I imagined him wholly evil, then realized he was sort of doing a good thing, just in a bad way, then decided he needed to be evil-er both to raise the stakes and to make it clear what should happen. It was fun trying to get into his head and understand his motivations.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Tammy: Since it’s set in my real-life world, not as much as I’ve had to for other books. I did read up on some medical details, how home deaths are managed, and end-of-life laws around the world. Google is my go-to, but I’m fortunate to have connections throughout the medical world to get answers to my questions. Also, there are Facebook groups of lawyers, doctors, and police who will answer questions with their expertise.

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Tammy: This story took at least three years to write, though that included realizing I didn’t know how to write and starting over multiple times as I learned what not to do. It’s sequel took less than a year, and I’m hoping the next will be shorter still. I’ve developed some skills, though have much more to learn!

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Tammy: I’m fortunate to have two great writing locations, one at my house, and one at a lake house we visit on weekends. At both I have a laptop stand and can write standing up outside where my dogs conveniently bring me balls to throw…well, not exactly BRING, but hide somewhere under a bush nearby to keep me awake. Another habit is using a large white board to make a mind map of my plot and finally, having characters write me a hand-written letter about their lives and motivations. It makes them more three-dimensional in my mind. As a friend reminded me, “Each character is the hero of his/her own story, even the villain.”

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Tammy: I pay attention to “just,” but use “but” way too much. And smile and nod are always a problem, as are look and gaze. I try to picture the movie version and those words just (oops) seem right. I need to continue to read great writers critically to learn how they get around such seemingly insurmountable stage direction.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Tammy: I’m a physician, an academic anesthesiologist specializing in obstetrics, to be specific. Besides caring for women in this most special moment, I also teach medical students and residents, and have worked with my husband’s engineering team to develop new medical devices. Since I began writing, I resigned my administrative positions and therefore enjoy my job infinitely more. Managing people is not my forte.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Tammy: Fatal Intent is surely it. Related are the amazing blurbs I was able to get from the likes of Lee Child, Kathy Reichs, and Tess Gerritsen, all heroes of my author journey.

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Tammy: Learning that I reached readers in an impactful way would define success for me. That I held their attention, took them away for a while, made them think, maybe taught them something, but most importantly that they enjoyed their time in the world of my imagination and it brightened their day (or night, or hopefully both). Ideally, that it also stuck with them afterward in some meaningful way.

When her elderly patients start dying at home days after minor surgery, anesthesiologist Dr. Kate Downey wants to know why. The surgeon, not so much. “Old people die, that’s what they do,” is his response. When Kate presses, surgeon Charles Ricken places the blame squarely on her shoulders. Kate is currently on probation, and the chief of staff sides with the surgeon, leaving Kate to prove her innocence and save her own career. With her husband in a prolonged coma, it’s all she has left.

Aided by her eccentric Great Aunt Irm, a precocious medical student, and the lawyer son of a victim, Kate launches her own unorthodox investigation of these unexpected deaths. As she comes closer to exposing the culprit’s identity, she faces professional intimidation, threats to her life, a home invasion, and, tragically, the suspicious death of someone close to her. The stakes escalate to the breaking point when Kate, under violent duress, is forced to choose which of her loved ones to save—and which must be sacrificed.

Buy Links: Amazon * Indiebound * Kobo * B&N * Google * Apple * Chirp

I agree wholeheartedly with your friend’s advice that the villain is the hero of his/her story, too. Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your intriguing story with us, Tammy!

Happy New Year and happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

First Thoughts on A Place Called Armageddon by C.C. Humphreys #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

The third book in my Historical Fiction Around the World series is C.C. Humphreys’ A Place Called Armageddon: Constantinople 1453. As a reminder, I am exploring historical fiction written by authors from other countries than my own USA. My aim is to share my experience of reading each of these books, chosen for their author’s native country and for my interest in the time/place/topic. So I’m not going to just give a short review of the story, but what I find interesting about the layout, the storytelling, or whatever else intrigues me about the book.

This book is a hardback edition consisting of 458 total pages, of which 442 constitute the story. It’s copyrighted in 2012. Like Colleen McCullough’s The First Man in Rome, it includes a glossary and maps to help me orient myself to the place and the language. Unlike that previous read, this book only includes 2 maps—one of the city walls and one of Constantinople in 1453—and the glossary of 3+ pages. But those proved enough to enable me to follow the movement within the story and to enjoy the narrative and dialogue.

Before I started reading the story, after learning from reading The First Man in Rome, I studied the maps, read through the glossary, and then also read the Historic Notes and the Author’s Note. Then I felt like I had a good grasp on the context of the story as well as the author’s intent behind writing the story.

Reading this story so far—I’m on page 250 as I write this—reminds me of something I noticed decades ago when working as a technical writer tasked with transcribing the conversation during a meeting. A subtle difference can be detected between how a woman speaks vs. a man. It’s hard for me to pinpoint the nuances. A different cadence, perhaps? Word choices to an extent. A different approach to storytelling or speaking in general. I could tell by reading the transcript whether the words were spoken by a man or a woman 90% of the time.

In a similar manner, I noticed a difference in the narrative/storytelling by this first male author of the series. One of his narrative choices is to string together actions using commas. Let me give you a few examples. “He sat, gulped, stared at the board before him.” “He raised [her hand] to his lips, tasted it, her.” “The big, nimble man feinted, flicked, lunged, a forearm’s length of steel thrust before him.” In each case Humphreys declined to use any conjunctions. I’m not complaining about his technique, mind. I’m pointing out a subtle writing style choice. It works to convey the flow and the fluidity of motion or thought. I may try employing something similar in my own writing if it suits the situation and story.

Another difference in this historical fiction from the other two is the level of detail associated with the fighting style and techniques of the characters. In the first two that I’ve read so far, both written by women, the fighting happened but the specific steps, sights, actions were not explicitly detailed. Humphreys goes into far more precise detail of how to arm and shoot a crossbow and a bow and arrow. Continuing from the last cited example above, here is one fight sequence to demonstrate what I mean.

“In the center, though, all was quiet enough, if not still. The big, nimble man feinted, flicked, lunged, a forearm’s length of steel thrust before him. But Gregoras had just had time to do what he probably should have done before he’d spoken—he drew his own dagger left-handed, cut down, putting blade to blade, guiding the other’s past his left side. Then he raised his boot and slammed the heel hard down onto the man’s unshod toes. As he screamed, Gregoras drove his right hand up his hip, curling his hand over, bringing the brass knuckles uppermost just when the force of the blow was at its height.” (p143)

See what I mean? I could reenact this scene based on that paragraph. If I were an actor, which I tried to be once, but that’s a tale for another day! This is not the only instance of the step-by-step actions taken by a character in combat with another. I’m surmising the author either knows how to fight hand-to-hand or took some lessons on how to for the sake of writing these scenes. I’d be more likely to do the latter, but that’s just me.

Another lesson learned from reading Dorothy Dunnett’s The Game of Kings is to be a reader first, then analyze what I’ve read so I can share it with you all. I am enjoying the story overall despite the fact that I am not one who really cares to read about battle strategies and fighting. Humphreys shares the human side of the fighters so I am happy to read about the relationships they have with their brothers and wives among other people in the story. I found out my husband has already read this book and enjoyed it; he called it a “good story” which is high praise from him.

That’s my first thoughts about this book with more to come next week when I wrap up my reading of the story. Anyone else reading it? What are your thoughts, if so?

Happy reading and Happy New Year to all!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Audrey Harper needs more than home and hearth to satisfy her self-worth despite being raised with the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Working as a music critic for the city newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, during the Second World War, she’s enjoyed both financial freedom and personal satisfaction in a job well done. When she uncovers evidence of German spies working to sabotage a secret bomber plane being manufactured in her beloved city, she must choose between her sense of duty to protect her city and the urgings of her boss, her family, and her fiancé to turn over her evidence to the authorities. But when her choices lead her and her sister into danger, she is forced to risk life and limb to save her sister and bring the spies to justice.

Set against the backdrop of the flourishing musical community during the 1940s in Baltimore, Notes of Love and War weaves together the pleasure of musical performance with the dangers of espionage and spying.

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Getting to know Roslyn Reid #author #awardwinning #paranormal #mystery #books #supernatural #suspense

Please help me welcome a fellow Authors Guild member to the interview hot seat! Roslyn Reid brings a refreshing new style of storytelling to us. Let’s take a peek at her bio and then dive right in, shall we?

Amazon best-selling and award-winning author Roslyn Reid’s first mystery, A Scandal at Crystalline, debuted to almost a dozen five-star reviews on Amazon. It reveals the sinister side of raku pottery and kicks off a series of quirky mysteries set in Maine, featuring Black private detective James Early and his teenage son Tikki. The Spiricom, the second book in The Early Mysteries series, debuted in September 2021.

Reid lives with her corgi, Great Pyrenees, and husband in Downeast Maine, where she gardens, lifts weights, and hikes. A former model, she contributed to Llewellyn’s annual almanacs for several decades and has written for a few of the local newspapers.

Social media: Facebook * Facebook2

Betty: Breaking news! Roslyn learned not too long ago (as in, around December 16, 2021) that The Spiricom won the 2021 N.N. Light Book of the Year Award in the Paranormal Mystery category! Congratulations, Roz! Now, on with the interview.

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Roslyn: It just came out of the ether when I woke up one morning. And the next morning. And the next. Finally, I decided to write it down.

Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?

Roslyn: I’d say the main character, James Early, and his son Tikki. They even arrived with names.

Betty: Which story element sparked the idea for this story: setting, situation, character, or something else?

Roslyn: It was an episode of the original Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV show, where the wife killed her husband with a leg of lamb and then cooked the murder weapon and served it to the cops who were investigating.

Betty: Which character(s) were the hardest to get to know? Why do you think?

Roslyn: Chandler Hammond, because he’s missing for the entire book.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Roslyn: Court documents and victims—I based the Ponzi scheme on a real one my BFF got involved in.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Roslyn: About 4 or 5.

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Roslyn: A couple of years. I’d say this was typical, depending on how much detail I need.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Roslyn: I write in bed. Always have.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Roslyn: According to one of my editors, it’s “so.” So try finding an alternative for that!

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Roslyn: My writing role model is Raymond Chandler. He was also a literary critic, so he knew what worked.

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Roslyn: As I said, in bed. I read on the couch, which used to be a bed. J

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Roslyn: No, I am happily retired.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Roslyn: Getting my first book published. It took 5 years.

Betty: What other author would you like to sit down over dinner and talk to? Why?

Roslyn: Tess Gerritsen, because she lives about an hour away and is practically a neighbor. In fact, she does sit-down dinners with Authors Guild members, but I didn’t have the fee for her latest one. L

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Roslyn: If something I’ve written accomplishes what I wanted it to do, that’s success. I can usually tell by the feedback.

She was killed on their wedding day…but he couldn’t let her go.

Tall and handsome Dr. Spencer Py was a well-respected environmental Scientist. But one moment can change everything. When a car crash kills his new bride Melanie and leaves him bound to a wheelchair, he’s left racked with despair over his failure to save her. Grief turns to obsession, and one fateful night he stumbles upon plans for the Spiricom on the internet, Thomas Edison’s device for communicating with the dead. Determined to be united with his beloved, he embarks on a journey to build the device, never imagining the results, and unwittingly drawing Detective James Early into the scariest case of his life.

Purchase links: Amazon

Wishing you all the success with your writing, Roz! Thanks for stopping by!

Happy Holidays and happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

My impression and lessons learned from The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I finished reading Dorothy Dunnett’s The Game of Kings which turned out to live up to expectations of being a great story. I shared last time a few stumbling blocks I encountered, but eventually overcame them. In order for me to enjoy the story, I had to make a few adjustments to my approach. I also got a little help from some new Twitter “friends” after my last post.

First, let me mention that the tweet sharing the last week’s blog topic was retweeted by the Dorothy Dunnett Society, which I was unaware even existed. How fabulous to think of the impact one author has had on so many readers! In fact, according to their site, their mission includes to “advance the education of the public concerning the history, politics, culture and religion of the 11th, 15th and 16th centuries by promoting the study of and research into such subjects generally and into such subjects particularly as they related to the works of Dorothy Dunnett.” I must thank the Society for retweeting my tweet so that other fans could share their experience and appreciation for The Game of Kings with me.

In my last post, I mentioned that the story is set in Scotland in 1546, when Mary Queen of Scots was 4 years old. And that I inferred that fact from knowing Mary is 4 years old in the story. I looked up when she was born but couldn’t pinpoint the time period more closely. Thanks to Max A. Ess, I now know:

Max.A.Ess @Nigel333

Replying to @BettyBolte @DunnettCentral

1/ The book is set from 1547-48 not 1546. The battle of Pinkie occurs close to the beginning of the book. It was on September 10th 1547. Mary was born in December so she was still four years old then. The capture of Sir Thomas Palmer near Haddington was in Summer 1548.

I really appreciate Mr. Ess weighing in on the exact time frame of the story. It may seem a trifling thing, but I do try to keep historic events in context as much as I can. Granted, I’m still learning about 16th century history and have a very long way to go. One of the reasons I’m broadening my historical fiction reading is to also broaden my knowledge of history.

Several other Dunnett fans told me about how much her stories meant to them, how they learned to skim the unfamiliar terms and perhaps take time to look them up later. But basically what I gleaned from their comments is to read first, analyze second. So I had to take off my editor and author hats and put on my reader hat. Step away from reading critically in order to read for pleasure. Only then was I able to truly enjoy the story, the storytelling, and absorb the history. This is a technique I used while working on my BA and MA in English when reading the classics. I often had to just try to read it for the story and not critically, at least the first time before I reread for critical analysis. So thanks to the folks who reminded me to read first!

Going back to the slew of foreign terms and quotations peppered throughout the story. The main culprit, if you will, of using most of them is Lymond, but others also do. I had to wonder about why they were included. Ms. Dunnett must have had a reason for going through the seemingly immense effort to locate appropriate quotes from all of the various languages. What purpose did they serve? I sincerely doubt that she was “showing off” her own intellect or accomplishments by including them. As I read, I kept wondering and pondering until I reached a place in the text where I think she revealed the true reason. The main character, Lymond, is having a conversation with Gideon (on page 340 in my copy of the book) who in exasperation exclaims, “I wish to God…that you’d talk—just once—in prose like other people.” In Lymond’s reply he says, “I echo like a mynah” bird, pulling all of these quotations from books he’s read. He’s a very well read man, that’s certain, and I think he uses language as a weapon or a tool to deflect and confuse or to create a delay while he thinks through the situation at hand. I think when Lymond says he’ll talk in prose like others, it’s a turning point in his growth arc. I won’t elaborate because I don’t want to ruin another’s enjoyment of the story.

My main takeaways from reading this book are varied. Keep an open mind about the writing style. Immerse myself in the story first. Absorb the history as well as the story by putting my inner critic in the back seat while reading. Perhaps jot down or highlight the unfamiliar terms to explore later, but even that I think would pull me from the story itself and detract from enjoying the read.

Are you reading along? What did you think of The Game of Kings, if so? I’m open to having a discussion about what you think of each of these stories, too!

Up next for me is another book off my personal bookshelf: A Place Called Armageddon: Constantinople 1453 by C.C. Humphreys. Humphreys was born in Canada and has lived in the USA and the UK. Again, I know very little about 15th century history and Constantinople. We’ll see what I learn from reading this one…

Happy reading and happy holidays to all!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she must balance her business with caring for her two young children. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has much more to learn. When Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her, she’s convinced he’ll be a loving husband and father for her children.

But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband… no matter what the dangerous future may hold.

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