History of Mail Delivery #amwriting #histfic #supernatural #historical #fiction #research #Alabama200 #history

Sending and receiving letters and packages… A concept that has sometimes mystified me as I write historical fiction. I mean, it’s not like in 1782 you could walk into a post office and weigh the package on a kiosk scale, slide your credit card into the slot to pay for the postage labels to affix to the letter or box, and drop it in the bin.

The U.S. Postal Service has changed a lot over the centuries it’s been in service. As I’m sure all mail services have! Over the years that I’ve been researching and writing historical romance/fiction, this question has pestered me because the nuances are hard to pin down. Several methods existed in the 18th and then again the 19th centuries for sending and receiving a letter—personal contact traveling, currier, postal service between taverns along mail routes, boat carriers. There may be others, but you get the idea. Just how did one receive a letter?

When I started writing The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn I wanted to include letters sent and received between the folks at the inn and the absentee innkeeper. But how exactly would they have exchanged letters in 1821 in northern Alabama?

I know from my research that federal mail routes were in place by that time period. I also know that some mail was transported by boat down river, by horseback or wagon up river. Hand-carried letters by acquaintances also continued throughout the 19th century. (Note: The Pony Express was not an option in Alabama as it didn’t exist until 1860-61 from Missouri to California. I know, it would have been cool if it would have worked!) But the U.S. Postal Service started before the Revolution so how did it function in 1821 in the new state of Alabama?

I know postmarks went through evolutions in the 19th century. I even know the dates for when each post office in Alabama was started. Huntsville, for example, had a post office as early as 1811 according to Postal History. But it wasn’t until I went to the Alabama Constitution Hall Historic Park that I found out the details I needed to know about sending and receiving mail.

According to our tour guide Claire, the post office in 1819 was located in a first-floor front room of Judge Clement Comer Clay’s home and office. She talked about how the small room would have been crammed with bags and bags of mail for the post master to sort and list by recipient’s name. That list would have been posted on the outside of the post office so passerby could check to see if they had any mail. If so, they’d step inside and pay the postage in order to take possession of the letter or package.

The CC Clay house with a surveyor ready to demonstrate his job.

Since the sender could send without cost, whoever the letter was picked up by would pay for the privilege of having the mail carried from one place to another. We all know people try to avoid paying for anything they don’t have to, right? Well, Claire shared that people back then would sometimes devise a scheme so that nobody paid for the postage!

Seems when a family member or friend was about to take a trip or a long journey, they’d come up with a fake name—say Cleopatra or Antony—and then when they arrived at their far off destination would send a letter from the false name back to the anxiously waiting family member or friend. When the person waiting to hear of the other’s safe arrival saw they had a letter from Antony, they knew all was well and ignored the letter in the post office. Clever but it makes me wonder whatever happened to those bogus letters? Did the post master open them? Throw them out after a time? Send them back?

I took pictures of the cubby holes with individual names on them, and then turned around to take a picture of Claire. Note how small this post office actually is! The door to the hallway is off to the left of the cubbies by a few feet.

Claire also confirmed that people would have to go to the post office to pick up their mail. No delivery service by the post office during those years. So I have Flint Hamilton in The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn make periodic trips to town for the mail, and even have a passing tradesman bring him some urgent letters as a favor. There’s probably much more to learn about how the system functioned, but for my purposes I believe I know enough to lend an authentic feel to the story without it become a history lesson.

Writing this new series is also helping me gain a renewed appreciation for the evolution of the postal service in America. During my lifetime I’ve seen some pretty cool advances in the services offered. Like not having to lick stamps anymore! (The taste of the glue used to be awful.) More reliable, even though not perfect. Delivery at home for most everyone, even rural residents. Forever stamps so you don’t have to buy penny and five cent stamps to make up the difference in price of each stamp.

What about you? What do you think is the most interesting or important change the postal system has undergone?

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.

Innkeeper’s daughter Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. But in northern Alabama in 1821 marriage is her only escape. Even so, she has a plan: Seduce the young man acting as innkeeper while her father is away and marry him. He’s handsome and available. Even though he has no feelings for her, it is still a better option than enduring her mother.

But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. Securing his reputation in the hostelry business and earning his father’s respect are far more important. He did not count on having to deal with horse thieves and rogues in addition to his guests.

When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint must do whatever it takes to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who has no intention of leaving…

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Meet Gina Danna #historical #fiction #romance #author #Regency #CivilWar #histfic #amreading #amwriting

I’d like to introduce you all to a fellow historical fiction/romance author, Gina Danna. Like me, she writes in different time periods and locations. I’ll give you her professional bio and then hop right into the interview. Enjoy!

A USAToday Bestselling author, Gina Danna was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and has spent the better part of her life reading. History has always been her love and she spent numerous hours devouring historical romance stories, always dreaming of writing one of her own. After years of writing historical academic papers to achieve her undergraduate and graduate degrees in History, and then for museum programs and exhibits, she found the time to write her own historical romantic fiction novels.

Now, under the supervision of her dogs, she writes amid a library of research books, with her only true break away is to spend time with her other life long dream – her Arabian horse – with him, her muse can play.

You can learn more about her and her books at www.ginadanna.com, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Betty: What genre(s) do you write in and why?

Gina: I write historical fiction and historical romance – most of the time combined in a historical fiction with romantic overtones and some straight historical romance. For my Ancient Rome and Civil War, they have to correct, especially the Civil War, which means having the history and historical persons in it. My Regency tend to be more romance, though with historical background. If that makes any sense.

Gerard Jennings had done his duty for God and Country and returned to England to assume a title he had never wanted nor deserved. Sweat and blood were not all he left behind in war-torn France, he’d also left his heart with the woman he’d loved and lost. Forced into a society that no longer fits the man he’s become, the new Marquis of Linnwood drifts through a sea of debutantes to fulfill the family obligation of finding a wife. None attract his attention until he meets the one who tugs at his reluctant heart – Lady Charlotte.

A runaway pup, a damsel in distress, Lady Charlotte is rescued by Lord Linnwood only to have her reputation ripped to shreds by petty gossip. Her fiance withdraws his proposal, leaving Charlotte forever ruined. The dashing Marquis again comes to her aid by making her his wife. 
Though deeply in love with her husband, Charlotte can’t bridge the distance between them and spends night after night alone. His haunted past shadows their lives and she must find a way to not only dispel his ghosts but ease his grieving heart. Will it be enough to also save his tortured soul?

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Betty: Do you have a specific place that you write? Revise?

Gina: No, not really. I work a full time job so my co-workers see me lugging my laptop with me and I get as much as I can get done at work as well as home.

Betty: Do you have any writing rituals while you write? Did you have a special drink, or music, or time of day that you gravitated toward?

Gina: I need quiet – which can be amazingly hard to get when you have a job like I do and live in an apartment!

Betty: What helped you move from unpublished to published? A mentor or organization or something else?

Gina: I think what drove me was the first RWA group I joined – Missouri Romance Writers (MORWA). Very encouraging group. Great support!

Betty: What comes first when you’re brainstorming a new story: setting, situation, characters?

Gina: Timeframe – of course, but after that, it’s the characters. My main people are very loud, so they’re the driving force by all means.

Betty: What is one recent struggle you’ve experienced in your writing?

Gina: A recent struggle was working to finish a novella for a summer anthology, putting the 4th book in my Civil War series aside so I could finish, only to have the group literally fall apart. So I had this book just waiting. It’s being released on June 17th. J

Betty: Do you participate in NaNoWriMo? Why or why not?

Gina: I did so for a couple of years and succeeded – Go Me! But my current job now steals a ton of my time. It’s a busy season for us, so I haven’t been able to even think about it…

Betty: When you’re writing, do you read in the same genre as your work in progress or something else?

Gina: No, I try NOT to read the same genre/time period as my current works in progress. Fear it will mess my muse so I avoid it till after I’m finished.

Betty: Do you have a “day job” or do you write full time?

Gina: Yes, I have a day job – I work for Southwest Airlines

Betty: What advice do you have for new writers?

Gina: Keep writing! Listen to your muse! Not the market. If you try to write just for the market, that’s a tricky thing. It changes rapidly in comparison to writing so don’t do it.

Betty: Any hints of what you’re next writing project might be?

Gina: Well, I have a Christmas Regency novella for this winter (total romance) and finish the 4th book in my Civil War series, hopefully start on book 5.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing about your interesting background and your writing process. Best of luck with your future writing career, too!

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.

Insights on Sheriff Neal from The Black Book #amwriting #histfic #supernatural #historical #fiction #research #Alabama200 #history

Last week, I talked here about discovering more about Sheriff Stephen Neal when my husband and I went to the Alabama Constitution Hall Historic Park recently. I promised to share what I learned about him from information in The Black Book, so now I’m making good on that promise. He turns out to be a fascinating man, too!

The contents of the Book are a compilation of various bits and pieces of historical information from a variety of sources, including census records, histories of the county and city, newspaper articles, church and cemetery records, land deeds, court records, and more. The document doesn’t indicate who pulled this information together.

The highlights from my point of view are the following tidbits I gleaned from reading through this closely.

Neal was born in 1773, but the location is not given. He apparently migrated from Virginia, or possibly East Tennessee, in the early 1800s. One source says he arrived with his wife, Frances Gran, and four slaves, from Richmond, Virginia. However, the Madison County Marriage Book citation says Neal married Frances Gran on December 10, 1818, so that can’t be true.

Another source says he came with John Hunt from East Tennessee with two other men. (However, this article disputes that claim.) Together these men squatted on the land that became the town center of Huntsville. This source claims Neal as a son-in-law of Hunt. Another source cites Sarah as the name of Neal’s wife in the body of a deed but Frances in the heading. This made me wonder if John Hunt had a daughter named Sarah and came with him. But the genealogy profile I found doesn’t include a daughter by that name. So who was Sarah? Or was that an error in the deed?

Neal is known to have had two children. A son, George Washington Neal, who was born March 10, 1815 in Huntsville, and a daughter, Caroline Elizabeth Neal, who appears to have been born in 1818 or 1819. Given that Stephen and Frances married in December 1818, I’d imagine it was more likely in 1819. However, Neal’s son was born 3 years before they married, so perhaps by a different wife? Or was George Frances’ son from a different marriage who Stephen adopted when he married? The record is unclear. What is clear is that Stephen Neal raised George as his own son. A generous and loving thing to do.

When Neal was appointed as sheriff on December 19, 1808, he was also appointed as Justice of the Peace. I wonder how many marriages his performed if any? He was considered to be “an active intelligent officer” which reassures me that my portrayal of him in my story is accurate. It’s also noteworthy that he’s the “only sheriff to serve Madison County while it was part of the Mississippi Territory and the Alabama Territory” before statehood. It’s interesting to me that Neal was also appointed as Major of the First Battalion of the 7th Regiment of Volunteer Militia in 1809, and then Quartermaster for the Regiment in 1813. He seems to have been a trustworthy and reliable man.

Stephen Neal died at his home in Huntsville on May 18, 1839, at 66 years of age. Interestingly, the person who compiled this Book notes there was no record found of any mention in the local newspaper of his passing. However, don’t take that to mean the local community disrespected him.

Another of my sources, Early History of Huntsville Alabama 1804 to 1870 by Edward Chambers Betts (1909; revised 1916; p69), reveals that the local papers for the period of 1837-1844 are missing. He implied that it may be related to a debate about canal building versus railroad building in the state. But it’s all conjecture. He goes on to say, “It is a perplexing inquiry, just why these contemporaneous sources of information should be missing; for it is said the same hiatus exists in a measure throughout Alabama.” A mystery without an answer I’m aware of.

One other tidbit of interest. The original Neal home stood where the reconstructed one stands today. But the original house was moved a half block west in 1926 to allow for construction of a filling station before it was demolished. But thanks to the wonders of photographs, the reconstructed house and outbuilding are “as true to the originals as possible.” So if you go visit, you can step back in time to 1819 and experience life as our friend Stephen Neal had known it.

Such great information and insights into this man’s life and times. I’m sure some of what I’ve learned will weave its way into my Fury Falls Inn series. Not every little detail, of course! I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know the sheriff as much as I have.

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.

Innkeeper’s daughter Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. But in northern Alabama in 1821 marriage is her only escape. Even so, she has a plan: Seduce the young man acting as innkeeper while her father is away and marry him. He’s handsome and available. Even though he has no feelings for her, it is still a better option than enduring her mother.

But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. Securing his reputation in the hostelry business and earning his father’s respect are far more important. He did not count on having to deal with horse thieves and rogues in addition to his guests.

When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint must do whatever it takes to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who has no intention of leaving…

Meet Allie McCormack #author of #paranormal #multicultural #romance #Arabic #Magic #fantasy #mustread #fiction

Today I’d like for you all to help me welcome romance author Allie McCormack. She’s written some fascinating and entertaining stories I think you might love. But let’s find out more about her and then about her writing process and the stories she loves to share with readers. Let’s start with her bio and brief statement about herself:

Allie McCormack is a disabled U.S. military veteran, now pursuing her lifelong dream of being a writer. A long-time member of Romance Writers of America, she has lived all around the U.S., as well as a year in Cairo, Egypt as an exchange student and a year working in a hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. After a somewhat nomadic life, she settled in Tucson, Arizona with her two rescue cats. You can visit Allie’s website at http://www.AllieMcCormack.com.

Allie says: “A writer is who and what I am…a romance writer. I write what I know, and what I know is romance. Dozens of story lines and literally hundreds of characters live and breathe within the not-so-narrow confines of my imagination, and it is my joy and privilege to bring them to life, to share them with others by writing their stories.”

Find out more at her website http://alliemccormack.com/j, and follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

Douglas needed a miracle. What he got was a genie…

Veterinarian Douglas McCandliss considered himself an ordinary kinda guy with an ordinary kinda life. He had no idea why he’d bought the old silver teapot, and when a young woman appeared before him claiming to be a genie, he almost wished he hadn’t. If only she wasn’t so damned cute.

Ebullient and cheerful, Jacinth loved granting wishes and helping people. So she was thrilled when her teapot’s new owner, a single father with custody of two young children, asked her to stay until he could find a nanny. The problem was, the longer she stayed, the more she was attracted to Douglas, and she was certainly not willing to turn over care of Ben and little Molly to just anybody. But she was a 900-year-old genie, and had no intention of falling in love with a mortal. None whatsoever.

This is the second book in my Wishes & Dreams paranormal romance series.

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Betty: How many books have you written and published?

Allie: 6 written, 4 published (so far!)

Betty: What genre(s) do you write in and why?

Allie: I write in romance genre only, mostly because I’m a die-hard romantic, and the stories that come to me are *always* romance! I can’t imagine writing anything else. I write both multicultural and paranormal romance.

Betty: What themes or motifs did you use in your recent release and why were they important to your story?

Allie: I have the recurring Djinn (genie) theme with some Arabic overtones, since Djinn originated in pre-Islamic folklore, and I used both Islamic and pre-Islamic accounts of Djinn, as well as the Arabian Nights tales, as the basis for my world-building. Also, I lived in the Middle East and had some experience with the culture and I enjoy recounting that; I feel like it adds touches of exotic flare and interest to the stories.

Betty: Do you have a specific place that you write? Revise?

Allie: Absolutely! My L-shaped desk sits in the center of a bay window looking out over the Sonora Desert and the Catalina Mountains. It’s a spectacular view, and 3 days a month, the full moon rises straight up the middle of the center bay window, directly above my monitor. I’m a career typist, so after more years than I want to admit to, sitting at a computer desk (with good posture) typing is far more natural to me than anything else, and I do my best work here. I do have a laptop that I take out to restaurants for a prolonged writing session over a meal, which is fun too!

Betty: Do you have any writing rituals while you write? Did you have a special drink, or music, or time of day that you gravitated toward?

Allie: Absolutely. I have to have a full glass of iced tea at my side when I get started. I have a writing playlist…I need music to write, I can’t have silence, but also it has to be mostly instrumental only, because vocals tend to pull my out of my head. I also have specific snacks just for writing; high-energy/protein, low on carbs and sugar and anything that’s going to make me sleepy.

Betty: What helped you move from unpublished to published? A mentor or organization or something else?

Allie: I’ve been writing and writing and writing, and had all these manuscripts in more or less finished state. I was still querying agents and publishers like mad, when one day I realized that my judgement was clouded; I was still in the mindset of 2000, when I first started writing for publication. Indie publishing wasn’t even really much of a thing back then, small presses and ebooks on CD (as pdf’s) were just beginning to proliferate, and Kindle wasn’t invented yet. Being traditionally published was THE way to go, if you wanted any respect for being an author. But here we are, with…well, everything!…available to authors who want to self-publish. This enlightenment kind of rocked me off balance, and I came to the conclusion that there wasn’t all that much incentive for me to continue to hold out for traditional publishing; I could do everything myself! Now… this isn’t to say that I wouldn’t LOVE to be discovered by Berkley (who, by the way, has never heard of me), but at this point, a publisher would have to offer some pretty good inducement (Marketing!!! Promotion!) to change my mind. One last thing that really tipped the scales is that, if I self-published, I wouldn’t be required to write explicit sex scenes if I didn’t want to, which, mostly, I don’t. So I found a terrific professional cover artist, someone to do professional formatting, and I never looked back!

Betty: What do you think is your greatest strength in your writing?

Allie: My ability to get lost in the story I’m telling. I immerse myself in the story/world, and bring it to life.

Betty: What comes first when you’re brainstorming a new story: setting, situation, characters?

Allie: Characters, absolutely.  They show up in my head and make their story known, and I delve deeper to find out the setting, the situation. I’m not so much creating as I am uncovering!

Betty: Do you have a structured time to write or is it more fluid/flexible? Do you have to write between family obligations or do you set aside a block of time?

Allie: Definitely fluid. I don’t have any obligations (except to feed the cats 3 times a day!), so I can write whenever. The only set block of time is Saturdays from 1-5 pm, when I co-hostess a write-in. All that aside… my best writing time is after 10 pm. I have no idea why, but that’s when the ideas come, the words flow, when my focus/concentration is best.

Betty: What is one recent struggle you’ve experienced in your writing?

Allie: Ugh. My back went out in early January, and I’m still having problems with it now (end of March at the time of this writing). It’s limiting the amount of time I can spend at my desk writing. While I can take the laptop to the recliner, writing like that doesn’t feel natural, it’s awkward and odd, and that stifles the creative flow. If I have to do that, I usually focus more on editing. It’s slowed me way down; I’m still on the final read-through/polish of A Gift of Jacinth, although I’ll be done with that by the time this interview goes live! J

Betty: Do you participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)? Why or why not?

Allie: Absolutely!!! This will be my 12th year, and I’ve “won” 4 of those. I actually plan my entire year (and publishing schedule) around NaNoWriMo. I make it a HUGE event in my life, where I work on something new and really let the ideas come flying. It’s not for everyone, because everyone writes differently, but for me it’s a huge motivation, and I look forward to it with excitement and anticipation. It’d be fair to say that NaNo is the highlight of my entire year!

Betty: What are you reading right now?

Allie: I’ve been re-reading old favorites lately: Georgette Heyer, Nora Roberts, Christine Feehan, Dick Francis.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Allie: Romance!!!

Betty: What are your keeper books? How often might you reread them?

Allie: WAY too many to list here…I can re-read my really old favorites (Georgette Heyer & Nora Roberts) as often as 2-3 times a year, others such as Christine Feehan, Anne McCaffrey, Lord of the Rings, about once a year.

Betty: When you’re writing, do you read in the same genre as your work in progress or something else?

Allie: Definitely something else. If I stay in the same genre, my mind is busy making comparisons. Or at least subgenre; for instance, I can read Georgette Heyer any time since those are Regency romances. I can read Christine Feehan while I’m writing my multicultural romances, but not while I’m working on the paranormal romances.

Betty: Do you have a “day job” or do you write full time?

Allie: I’m disabled, so I don’t have a day job; however, I deal a lot with chronic pain (and the associated depression), and I find ways to work around those issues. Which is the main reason I don’t have a writing schedule or a specific time of day that I write; I write when I am able!

Betty: What do you wish readers knew about the publishing industry?

Allie: That reviews COUNT! That writing is not easy… it’s hard work, emotionally draining as we pour out our hearts and soul into the written word. Then editing, editing, editing, editing, editing to polish it into perfection. There’s the nightmare that is marketing and promotion, even for traditionally published authors. And finally, releasing your book out to the reading public. If you read and like a book, please, please, please! Write a review and let us know!

Betty: What advice do you have for new writers?

Allie: Just keep writing! That’s how you improve your craft and skills, how you develop your “voice” and it’s how you gain confidence.

Also, ignore anyone who says you “have to…” do this, that or the other. No, you don’t. Writing is an individual experience. Some very famous authors are “pantsers” (write “by the seat of their pants” with no plotting ahead of time), and it’s just as legitimate as plotting/outlining. Writing by pen and paper is just as valid as typing on the computer or dictating into your phone’s recorder app. Love adverbs? Go for it (within reason, but ignore those who claim adverbs are bad). There’s a lot of BAD advice floating around out there, claiming to be the One and Only True Way to (insert activity of choice). RUN from these people!

Learn to be able to judge critique impartially as you can; if a comment isn’t positive, is there still merit to it? Are you hearing the same comment from several readers? You have to learn when to shrug it off, and when there might be something in there you can use. And never take it personally!

You’re going to run into a lot of people who belittle your dream of being a writer, and from some of the most surprising sources: family, close friends, people you otherwise count on for support. It’s going to happen. Accept that, and start trying to figure out how you’re going to deal with it. Believe me, when someone close to you makes fun of you or tells you you’re wasting your time or asks when you’re going to write a “real” book…it hurts!

Betty: Any hints of what you’re next writing project might be?

Allie: Absolutely! I have a 16th-century paranormal (vampire) romance in an Arabian-Nights type setting; it’s a trilogy, with one primary story arc (the romance) spread across three books. I’m totally, totally excited about it! In fact, I’m so excited about it that I’m not allowing myself to work on it until after my last book being released this year has been sent for formatting, because I know that once I get into that world, it’ll be hard to pull myself out, and I don’t want to have to be having the tug-of-war of *having* to be doing something else when I want to be writing on my trilogy.

Betty: What kind of writing would you like to experiment with? Or what’s a different genre you’ve considered writing but haven’t yet?

Allie: Honestly, none. This is where I belong, where I’m happy, and I have no desire to expand into other areas.

Thank you for your service, Allie! And wow, what great advice and cool stories you have to tell! Thanks for sharing with us about your writing process and upcoming stories. Working and writing through pain and discomfort I know can be a huge challenge, but I’m glad you’re finding a way to tell your stories. Wishing you all the best with your career!

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.

Breaking news: Meet The Real Sheriff Neal #amwriting #histfic #supernatural #historical #fiction #research #Alabama200 #history

I have some rather exciting news! I’ve learned more about the real Sheriff Stephen Neal. A couple of months ago I shared a post about my debate over whether to use the real name of the sheriff in 1821 or not since I didn’t know much about him as a person or even as a sheriff. My main debate was how to portray him: as a competent sheriff or not.

I stumbled upon a few hints at the actual answer to my question when my hubby and I went to the Alabama Constitution Hall Historic Park recently. I say “stumbled upon” because I did not realize when I decided I needed to go for research purposes that Stephen Neal’s house is part of the reconstructed buildings in the park. Woot! I felt like I’d struck gold.

The park had just reopened after extensive renovations to convert the once walled off village into an open green space. Now people can stroll through, relax on a bench or in the shade of the gazebo, or let the kids play on the grass. In celebration of the reopening, all tours were free that day so we decided to go check it out.

One of the volunteers offered to show us around since it was our first time. She led us into a white clapboard type of structure she called the “Neal House Kitchen.” This one-story structure is set at a right angle to the main house, a two-story home. After I told our friendly guide I was there to do research for my series, Fury Falls Inn, she escorted us to the Gift Shop to find out when the next official tour would start as the tour guide would have more information than she could provide. So with half an hour to spare, hubby and I grabbed a chicken salad sandwich and drinks from Betty Jo’s food truck and then sat in the lovely shade of the gazebo to eat. (I’ve wanted to try her food forever, and finally had the opportunity! Well worth the wait, too.)

I’ll share about the other buildings we went through over the next few weeks, but the last building and the one I was most anticipating exploring was the Neal House. Finding a portrait of the man hanging on the parlor wall made my day! I had no idea what he looked like, so had hesitated to describe him in any detail. Unfortunately, by the time we reached his house on this nearly 2-hour tour my sore feet didn’t let me climb the stairs to the second floor. But there will be a next time!

Portrait of Sheriff Stephen Neal in the Neal House at Alabama Constitution Hall Park

Our tour guide, Claire, said he and his wife and two children lived in the house in 1819, the frozen time period of the entire park. She mentioned that the son seemed to be from a different relationship as his age predated the date of the couple’s marriage. Intrigued, I’m going to try to learn more about the family if I can. After all, the boy might be from a previous marriage of Stephen’s, or of his wife. Or he could be a nephew or friend’s child he adopted out of kindness and generosity. In any case, they were a family of four. I don’t even know their names, so I’d like to rectify that lack of knowledge.

Claire also told me that while they don’t know very much about him, she’s never come across any hint of scandal and he seemed to be a much-liked man. She believes his election to the office of sheriff stemmed from the high regard of the community. Most of the votes he received were apparently from Huntsville citizens as opposed to the larger county population. Makes sense since he lived in Huntsville right off the square.

I also met the executive director of the park who is as excited about my series as I am and offered to send me what he has on Neal’s career. The Black Book that talks about his actions at court, and I don’t know what else. I can’t wait to read through it and see what hints I can glean from the context and the phrasing. I’m also thinking another trip to the Heritage Room at the main public library is in order to see what more I might be able to unearth. My curiosity about the man is very high for some inexplicable reason. Probably because so little is known about him and yet his name is known far and wide.

The net result of this chance discovery is that I have more fodder for my stories, more details about who this man was so I can depict him more accurately throughout the rest of the books. Because there’s going to be trouble at the Fury Falls Inn and the sheriff will have to get involved…

I love that I found out more about him! What more will I find? Stay tuned and I’ll share what I discover in The Black Book.

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.

Innkeeper’s daughter Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. But in northern Alabama in 1821 marriage is her only escape. Even so, she has a plan: Seduce the young man acting as innkeeper while her father is away and marry him. He’s handsome and available. Even though he has no feelings for her, it is still a better option than enduring her mother.

But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. Securing his reputation in the hostelry business and earning his father’s respect are far more important. He did not count on having to deal with horse thieves and rogues in addition to his guests.

When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint must do whatever it takes to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who has no intention of leaving…

Introducing E.M. Bannock #author #erotic #romance #audiobooks #amreading #fiction

My next guest author is the talented E.M. Bannock! She writes steamy romance, or as she calls it “adult romance.” But she cann explain far more clearly than I can, so let’s get to know her and her stories, shall we?

About E.M.:

I grew up in the Detroit suburbs. I’m the second child of seven and eldest daughter of a working class family. My father was a great storyteller and sparked my love for telling stories and writing.

After high school I lived in Los Angeles for a while. LA was an exciting place to be in the early 70’s and I experienced all that it had to offer.

In the last 40+ years, my husband and I have lived in California, Oregon, Alaska, Florida, and Wyoming, where we now live with a spoiled dog and cat, two horses, also spoiled, and a flock of chickens that live like queens in the chicken-coupe-de-ville.

I’ve made my living as an office manager, computer programmer/analysts, project manager, clothing sales person, substitute teacher, and buffalo meat packer.

Now that I am semi-retired, I can find more time to write and promote my books.

Find out more about her at www.embannock.com and connect with her on social media:

Web site: www.embannock.com

Twitter: @EMBannock

Instagram: e_m_bannock

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EMBannock/

Betty: How many books have you written and published?

E.M.: I have published one book, Totally Devoted. It was published in 2018 by 5 Prince Publishing. The audio version will be released in late April or early May and will be available exclusively through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

My second book, Zoey’s Place, is in the publishing process right now and should be available for a hot 2019 summer read.

Betty: What genre(s) do you write in and why?

E.M.: I write adult romance, sometimes called erotic romance. I chose this genre because it is one of my favorite genres to read. It’s basically modern realistic fiction with some spicy descriptive sex thrown in at just the right time. My target audience is women who believe in romance and like it hot and steamy.

Betty: What themes or motifs did you use in your recent release and why were they important to your story?

E.M.: A common theme in all of my books is a strong-willed female lead character. They all take place in the US. I feel this reflects my own personality and I can write from this POV rather easily. I like to write about life before we got so social media connected, around 2000 – 2010. I might write about life in the past but don’t think I’ll ever venture into futuristic space.

By some strange coincidence both of my published books have lead female characters dealing with the death of their husbands and lost love. Didn’t plan it that way, just happened. Don’t have that in the plan for the next two books though.

Marie Trousdale, a modern professional from California, has been mourning her husband’s death for the past ten years. She decides to move to rural Oregon to get a new lease on life. With that comes a new profession and a new love. But will her love for rugged Oregon contractor, Wil Townsend, survive their differences? He’s been hurt by love, too. Can their attraction for each other be enough to let them trust their feelings and love again, no matter what happens?

Zoey’s Place is available exclusively on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

Available now: Amazon (Paperback)    Available 7/15/19: Amazon (Kindle)

Paperback and ebook version of Totally Devoted, published by 5 Prince Publishing, is available at:

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Apple     Smashwords

There are links to buy all of E.M.’s books in all formats available on her web site: www.embannock.com

Betty: Do you have a specific place that you write? Revise?

E.M.: I do everything at my desk in my office on my desktop computer. I need a full size keyboard and a big desk. I live in a very rural area and I have a million dollar mountain view from my window.

Betty: Do you have any writing rituals while you write? Did you have a special drink, or music, or time of day that you gravitated toward?

E.M.: I get most of my ideas in the shower. Then they roll around in my head for a while before I put them down on paper. I enjoy writing in the evening when I don’t have to think about anything else going on in my life. My writing process is not a romantic one; no special music or drink although I’ve been known to listen to music and drink while I write. I like to listen to sexy music when writing love scenes.

Betty: What helped you move from unpublished to published? A mentor or organization or something else?

E.M.: To be honest it was money. When my father passed away, I was given a small inheritance. My first book had already been written. With my dad’s financial assistance, I was able to afford the publishing costs.

Betty: What do you think is your greatest strength in your writing?

E.M.: I have a very vivid imagination. I try to write stories about everyday people in very unusual circumstances that bring out the best of the character. Somehow, I have no trouble thinking of strange and exciting adventures for my characters.

Betty: What comes first when you’re brainstorming a new story: setting, situation, characters?

E.M.: I think the situation because that’s the meat of your story. The characters and setting fit around the situation.

Betty: Do you have a structured time to write or is more fluid/flexible? Do you have to write between family obligations or do you set aside a block of time?

E.M.: My family always comes first. I like to write at night when everyone has quieted down for the evening and I’m ‘off-duty’. That way I can devote my full attention to my story.

Betty: What is one recent struggle you’ve experienced in your writing?

E.M.: Marketing. I’m no good at it. I don’t like it. It is a necessary evil of writing.

Betty: Do you participate in NaNoWriMo? Why or why not?

E.M.: To be honest, I didn’t know what that was so I looked it up on Bing. I don’t think I could write a novel in a month. It takes me about a year to write a book. I don’t think I could even get a rough draft done in a month.

Betty: What are you reading right now?

E.M.: A Trail of Fire by Diana Gabaldon

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

E.M.: I like all types. The story line is what’s important to me. Two of my favorite authors are Diana Gabaldon and Zane Grey. Their style and genre couldn’t be farther apart. With the exception of the time travel in Diana’s books, both are historical fiction. I prefer that but I’m up for a little science fiction as well.

Betty: What are your keeper books? How often might you reread them?

E.M.: My always keepers are the Outlander and the Lord John Grey series by Diana Gabaldon, The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and my spiritual books by various authors. If I had more time, I’d reread them over and over but I don’t so I carry them like treasured memories. There are so many new authors and books that I want to explore.

Betty: When you’re writing, do you read in the same genre as your work in progress or something else?

E.M.: When I’m writing, I rarely read other books. If I do, it’s not genre specific.

Betty: Do you have a “day job” or do you write full time?

E.M.: One day I hope to be able to be a full time writer. Right now, to pay the bills, I run the office end of a home construction company and substitute teach at the local elementary school. I do a lot of volunteer community work and am committed to fitness. I’m a vegetarian and do either Zumba, treadmill, or yoga six days a week.

Betty: What do you wish readers knew about the publishing industry?

E.M.: Most authors don’t make a living wage from writing. It’s a very competitive, but friendly, business. Writers and marketers look at reviews. I can’t stress how important reviews are. When you read a book, please review, whether it be on Amazon, Goodreads, Bookhub, Smashwords, whatever, just review it. It is so appreciated.

Betty: What advice do you have for new writers?

E.M.: Learn about marketing because it is just as important as writing a good book. Be prepared to spend about $3,000 on getting your book published right. Don’t skimp on the editing and proofreading.

Betty: Any hints of what you’re next writing project might be?

E.M.: A lot of my friends want me to write a story based in the little community I live in but with a population of less than 500, we pretty much all know, or know of, each other and I’m afraid if I made it too realistic I would either hurt someone’s feelings or get myself in trouble. I might write it in the old western time period. I’m still kicking that around.

I also have a book I started a few years back. It’s about half done. There is a lot of Native American characters and culture in that one.

Betty: What kind of writing would you like to experiment with? Or what’s a different genre you’ve considered writing but haven’t yet?

E.M.: I wouldn’t feel comfortable writing anything but romance fiction. However, both my mother and father are Maltese, from the island country of Malta in the Mediterranean. Malta has a very rich culture and history. A friend suggested that my next book be realistic historical fiction from a woman’s point of view living in Malta around the 8th century after the Aghlabids took control of Malta from the Byzantines. Or maybe after it was conquered by the French at the end of the 18th century. Either way it would be something new and exciting for me, and a little bit scary.

We have at least one thing in common, E.M. I was able to quit working full-time after my father died in 2011, so that I could concentrate on writing full-time instead. Not that I received an inheritance, but I no longer had to work to pay his expenses in assisted living. I think writing about Malta could be fascinating and hope you are able to do so.

I also agree that most writers (including me) don’t earn a living wage from selling their books. Other sources of income are necessary for the vast majority of authors in all genres and both fiction and nonfiction.

Thanks for stopping in to share about your stories and your writing process!

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 my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

What shape piano? Grand? Upright? Square? #amwriting #histfic #supernatural #historical #fiction #research #American #piano #music #history

I grew up with an upright piano in my family home. I never took lessons but I did learn to play it. I taught myself after learning to play a viola at school for the ensemble and orchestra. I played viola from third grade all the way through school. Even auditioned for and was selected to play in all-county and all-state orchestras while in high school.

But piano was something I “fiddled” with on my own. I could pick out a tune to sing along with, similar to how I could play along on a guitar which I also essentially taught myself to play. Not that anyone would want me to play either of those this minute since I haven’t played in a while now. I’ve been focusing on my writing and research but I do have both a guitar and an electric keyboard in the house tempting me most every day.

When I decided that Cassandra Fairhope would play the piano in my Fury Falls Inn series, I did some research to determine the kind of pianos available in the early 1800s in America.

Standard shapes and sizes of pianos include grand, baby grand, and uprights of various dimensions. As I poked around at the Antique Piano Shop I came across one shape that was new and intriguing to me. Especially since the Shop claims it’s “one of the earliest pianos every manufactured in America!”

Image shared from the Antique Piano Shop site

This is a square piano made by Chickering and Stewart, which is undergoing restoration at the Antique Piano Shop. Jonas Chickering was the first official piano manufacturer in America, and James Stewart was his partner during the first four years of his business. After a few changes in partnership, Jonas included his sons in the business in 1853, which then became known as Chickering & Sons. The company was based in Boston, Massachusetts and is “known for their award-winning pianos and music instruments of topnotch quality.” Chickering and Sons is now a piano brand of the American Piano Company (Ampico), according to Total Piano Care’s history of the company.

This piano was built in 1823 (according to the Antique Piano Shop) and is made of Honduran Flame Mahogany Wood in the Early American style. I think it’s a beautiful piece of furniture and wonder what it sounds like. I’d love to “fiddle” with the keys on this pretty baby!

On a side note of research: It’s interesting to me that Total Piano Care lists the serial numbers and dates of manufacture for “all” of the Chickering & Sons pianos, starting with 1824 as the earliest date. Not the 1823 claimed by the Antique Piano Shop. Perhaps the first pianos Chickering and Stewart produced didn’t bear serial numbers so that’s why this piano is dated 1823?

I am claiming a bit of poetic license by including this style of piano in my 1821 series, but how could I resist? Not only is it pretty and unique, but it also restores a piece of American history through the sharing of its existence in my stories. So please forgive me for not being entirely accurate this one time.

Do you play piano? Have you heard of a square piano? Have you played one? From the description of Chickering’s quality and numerous awards for his pianos, I imagine it would have a lovely sound. Makes my fingers itch to play again! How about you?

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.

Innkeeper’s daughter Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. But in northern Alabama in 1821 marriage is her only escape. Even so, she has a plan: Seduce the young man acting as innkeeper while her father is away and marry him. He’s handsome and available. Even though he has no feelings for her, it is still a better option than enduring her mother.

But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. Securing his reputation in the hostelry business and earning his father’s respect are far more important. He did not count on having to deal with horse thieves and rogues in addition to his guests.

When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint must do whatever it takes to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who has no intention of leaving…