Don’t Say That! Light and #Lighting in #historical #fiction #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

How many times have you seen or read about the man with a long taper lighting the street lamps in some work of fiction? In my humble experience, it’s an uncountable number. The image is just part of the stage setting to suggest times gone by. So I was rather surprised to find that “streetlamp” was anachronistic to my 1780s series.

The usage of street lamp is documented in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) in 1799, so it’s not too much later. Specifically it’s found in C.B. Brown’s Arthur Mervyn in a line which includes “by gleams from a street lamp.”

I could use street light, but not street lamp. Note that the OED defines a street-light as a window onto a street, but also as a street lamp.

What about inside? I wanted a candle to serve as a “night-light” but found I couldn’t do that either. The term existed, mind you, but it referred to ambient light at nighttime. But not when used in conjunction with a candle as “a light which burns or shines during the night” (1839) or as “a small thick candle, or other contrivance, constructed to burn dimly for a long period, and used by night, especially in sick-rooms” (1851).

So I thought I’d change the wording and just refer to the candleholder with its candle burning through the night. But hold up a minute. While the term again existed, the OED says it refers to “One who holds a candle” not an object. The candelabrum or “ornamental branched candlestick holding a number of candles; a chandelier” didn’t appear until 1815. However, “candlestick” is far older, dating from the 1st century, so that was a viable option for my stories.

I stumbled upon this word in relation to another usage. I had a character who did something “out of reflex” but found out that I couldn’t use that word in that way in the 18th century. It was common for this word to mean reflect and reflection but not an instinctual or physical reaction to a stimuli. Or as the OED defines it:

Phys. a. reflex action, involuntary action of a muscle, gland, or other organ, caused by the excitation of a sensory nerve being transmitted to a nerve-centre, and then ‘reflected’ along an efferent nerve to the organ in question”

1833 Proc. Royal Soc. III. 210 He [Dr. M. Hall] distinguishes muscular actions into three kinds: thirdly, those resulting from the reflex action above described…

So of course I had to revise my sentence to use a different word for my purpose. But I also learned something about why a reflex is called one: because it reflects the action similar to light on a mirror. Interesting little factoid, eh?

Finally, I found semidarkness, meaning partial darkness, to be a surprise. The OED doesn’t include it but at Dictionary.com they cite it as first being recorded in 1840-50. I suppose they simply said partial darkness prior to the mid-19th century? Or “as darkness approached” or some such phrasing?

Isn’t it intriguing and amazing to think about how words and phrases have come to pass? How they’ve changed and adapted to suit our needs as those needs also evolve?

Next time I’ll talk about what I think of as “military” words. Happy reading!

Betty

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Emily's Vow Finalist SealEmily Sullivan’s greatest fear is dying in childbirth, as did her twin sister and their mother. Despite her half-hearted protests, her father insists Frank Thomson is the perfect man for both her protection from the vengeful British and as a husband. Frank always loved Emily despite her refusal to return his affections. A patriot spy posing as a loyalist officer, when Frank learns Emily’s been imprisoned for her father’s privateering, he risks his own neck to free his love.

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Don’t Say That! Evolution of Spelling in #historical #fiction #wordplay #vocabularly #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

Did you know that usage of words evolves over time? Not necessarily the letters used but how they are joined together? Compound words today are often evolved from two separate words, then maybe joined by a hyphen, before becoming one continuous string of letters. Let’s take a look at a few to give you an example.

Before I do that, though, let me just say that while the precise spelling of a word—or rather whether a word includes a hyphen or a space—may vary, the meaning is still clear to a modern reader. I know that without any doubt. The only reason I prefer to explore the “current usage” at the time of my stories is to add another layer of realism to the fiction. Since I write in close third person point of view, I try very hard to think like my character. Wouldn’t he or she then envision the spelling of the word using a hyphen, or making it two separate words entirely? Again, while a modern reader wouldn’t notice, I’m striving to create a semblance of the past within a story written today.

So, one of my favorite discoveries was that the word Thoroughbred did not exist in the 1780s, the time of my A More Perfect Union historical romance series. But one of my sources declared that two thoroughbred horses arrived by ship in December 1782 in Charleston. Since I knew the word hadn’t come to be yet, I needed to see for myself how the secondary source knew they were Thoroughbreds. Thankfully, the secondary source cited the primary source newspaper article. So when I made a second research trip to Charleston (love that city!), I went to the Historical Society and asked to see the newspaper article. I cannot tell you just how anxious I was to see that few inches of newspaper column, either! It took what seemed ages before the librarian came back with the paper and I quickly skimmed the text until I came upon the fact that “two thorough bred horses” had indeed arrived in South Carolina.

A closer look at the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) shows that “thorough-bred” meaning “thoroughly educated or accomplished” has been around at least since 1701. The OED also says that “of a horse” to mean “a race-horse whose pedigree for a given number of generations is recorded in the studbook” didn’t begin until 1796, and then hyphenated as “Thorough-bred.” As I said, I’ve seen the term used with regard to horses as two separate words, lower cased. So there is some doubt as to the exact lineage of the word, including whether to hyphenate it or not. Indeed, the OED definition shows the term hyphenated until the 1880s. Thus it becomes more of a stylistic choice than a matter of correct or incorrect usage. (Something I’ve found to be true of commas quite often, but that’s a debate for another day!)

English Water Spaniel-1
English Water Spaniel

Okay, so I wanted to have a dog in one story. I love dogs, so why shouldn’t my characters, right? Besides, Samantha needed a friend… So I thought about a rather generic description of a terrier dog as a “black-and-tan” but found out in short order that the adjectival phrase didn’t come into use until 1850. There are other definitions in the OED (an alcoholic drink and an armed forces unit), but all dated later, some with hyphens and some as individual words. Why couldn’t I use the colors as I wanted to? I suppose I could have, but then wondered whether it would be outside of the realm of possibilities for my characters. Now, I could have gone round and round debating whether or not I should use it despite what the OED implied, and finally decided to come up with a different dog! It was easier. So I did some research and discovered the English Water Spaniel, a breed now extinct or at least assimilated into other spaniel breeds. From my perspective, it’s a double win. I found a historically accurate pup for Samantha and I learned something about how dog breeds have changed over the centuries.

“Good night” is another interesting term, since the OED cites Chaucer in 1374 as having used it in his Troylus. Note he used it as two separate words, but the OED cites many examples of hyphenated usage. From what I can glean, two words is generally used when wishing someone to have a “good night” but people will say their “good-nights” before going to taking their leave of others. A little mixed usage never confused anyone, right? Looks like another stylistic choice to be made.

I can think of more recent examples of how people change the spelling of words over time. Electronic mail used to be “Email” or “E-mail.” Now I see it frequently as “email.” Same sort of thing happened to being “on-line” or “online.” Can you think of any other recent examples of word evolution?

I’ll let you all ponder word evolution until next week!

Betty

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Elizabeth's HopeThe fight for independence has become personal… Elizabeth Sullivan feared for her brothers, fighting for American freedom; for her father, pretending to be a loyalist; for family and friends, caught between beliefs; but mostly for Jedediah Thomson, the man she loves, who was doing his duty. They’d only begun their courtship when the occupation of Charles Town, South Carolina, trapped her in the city and sent him to fight. She cherished every moment they had together, knowing how swiftly it could be taken away. And that made her willing to risk everything to claim a piece of him forever….

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Don’t Say That! “Highlighting” Word Choices in #historical #fiction #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

Let’s talk about words like “accentuate” or “underscore” that evolved from typesetting, or at least that’s my shorthand way of grouping these words together for my purposes.

I enjoy the sound of “accentuate” – meaning emphasize – and really wanted to use it in my 18th-century historicals, but alas it was not to be. Sure, it existed as a word but not to mean what I meant. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) told me I had to wait until the mid-19th century to use it that way:

1. To pronounce, or distinguish with an accent.

1731 Bailey, Accentuate: to pronounce in reading or speaking according to the accent.    1827 Hare Guesses at Truth II. 212 They [the French] never accentuate their words or their feelings: all is in the same key; a cap is charmant, so is Raphael’s Transfiguration.    1880 Paper & Printing Trades Journ. xxx. 7 You will find that he accentuates his words‥quite naturally.

  1. To mark with the written accent.

1846 T. Wright Ess. on Mid. Ages I. i. 9 The [Anglo-Saxon] scribes not only omitted accents, but they often accentuated words wrongly.

  1. fig. To mark strongly, emphasize.

1865 Lecky Rationalism I. 371 To accentuate strongly the antagonism by which human nature is convulsed.    1875 Hamerton Intellect. Life vii. v. 254 His marriage would strongly accentuate the amateur character of his position.

Okay, fine. How about “stressed”? You know, “she stressed how important his next words would be…” Well, no. That’s even later in the 19th century!

1. Distressed, afflicted. Also absol. Obs.

1559 J. Aylmer Harborowe B 3 b, With a certain choise and judgement to giue passage and safetie to the stressed.    1590 Spenser F.Q. ii. x. 37 Stird with pitty of the stressed plight Of this sad realme.    c 1590 J. Stewart Poems (S.T.S.) II. 88 The stressit knycht all stupefact did stand.    1632 Lithgow Trav. vii. 328 Stress’d Saylers.

2. Marked with a stress, emphasized.

1885 Meredith Diana i, The stressed repetition of calculated brevity while a fiery scandal was abroad concerning the lady.    1913 A. C. Clark Prose Rhythm in English 18 Rhythm in poetry depends upon the recurrence of longs and shorts, or stressed and unstressed syllables, in a regular order.

So, then what if I used “underscore”? Would that work? Hardly… The figurative sense of “emphasize” is even later than “stressed” in entry to English written language. And if you look closely at the figurative 1891 usage its really reflecting the act of putting a line under the words moreso than the true figurative sense of emphasize, which isn’t reflected in the OED until 1939. So to be safe, I chose to not use it in my 18th-century historicals.

Verb. a. trans. To draw a score or line beneath; to underline.

1771 Luckombe Hist. Print. 249 [They] either underscore the word, or make some other token, which may inform the Compositor of the Author’s intention.    1838 Lytton Alice xi. v, The notice to Howard, with the name of Vargrave underscored, was still on the panels.    1874 Blackie Self-Cult. 35 Underscore these distinctly with pen or pencil.

b. fig. To point up, to emphasize, to reinforce; = underline v.2 1 b.

1891 W. S. Gilbert Rosencrantz & G. iii, He who doth so mark, label, and underscore his antic speeches.  1939 Sun (Baltimore) 17 Apr. 8/2 A look at the gold statistics underscores the fears which are so often expressed on this score.

A couple of other words surprised me that I had wanted to use but found couldn’t without being anachronistic. Typeset and typesetter, for example. These show up in the OED but without a date of origin, so I bounced over to Dictionary.com and looked them up. “Typesetter” didn’t become a thing until 1825-1835, and “typesetting” was first recorded in 1855. Mind blown that it took that long for those seemingly basic words to enter English.

One last one that surprised me. “Showcase.” I admit I do not remember specifically how I wanted to use this word, whether as an actual case for displaying stuff or the figurative sense, but it didn’t much matter once I checked it in the OED. No form or usage of it entered English until 1835. This is a good example of one of the kinds of words I’ll talk more about next time, since it’s original usage included a hyphen, as in “show-case” or even “show~case”.

Until next week when I’ll talk more about how two words slowly evolve into one! Happy reading!

Betty

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Evelyn's PromiseDetermined to fend for herself in an independent America, widow Evelyn Hamilton faces soaring post-Revolutionary-war inflation as she struggles to provide for herself and her infant son. Militiaman Nathaniel Williams finds his heart ensnared by the smart, beautiful widow, forcing him to make the hardest decision of his life.

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Don’t Say That! Make-Believe and other theatrics in #historical #fiction #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

Let’s play some make-believe, shall we? Oh, but wait! I really wanted to have one of my characters in my A More Perfect Union pretend or make-believe something was true when it was not. But the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)  told me I couldn’t. Really?

  1. Pretence

1811 L. M. Hawkins C’tess & Gertr. (1812) IV. 62, I was drest like Minerva,‥and then the little ones came and worshipped me: ’twas all make-believe, you see.    1811 Morn. Chron. 9 Apr., Her mourning is all make-believe, She’s gay as any linnet.    1818 Lamb Three Friends, Not that she did really grieve It was only make-believe.

So if I couldn’t even have my character make-believe, what other theatrical limitations did I stumble upon? You may be surprised by some of them! I’ll start with one that really gave me pause: backdrop. This to be used as in the sky provided a stunning backdrop to the view of the lake, so something like that. This term comes directly from the theatre as a synonym of backcloth. But note the date associated with it in the OED:

2. Theatr. The painted cloth hung across the back of the stage as the principal part of the scenery. Also transf. and fig.

1886 Cornh. Mag. Oct. 435 They gazed awestruck at the backcloth and the flies.    1926 Spectator 10 July 44/2 Thirty acres or so for a stage and the whole firmament of heaven for a back-cloth. …

Note also that it wasn’t used figuratively until 1926 to mean something behind not an actual cloth used for setting.  So I thought about using “background” instead. On first glance, the OED tells me that it was used in the theatre in 1672 as stage direction and as a part of the stage, essentially. But…when I looked more closely, it wasn’t used in the figurative sense until 1799 or 1824, depending on whether Elvira is being given stage direction or not.

1.a. The ground or surface lying at the back of or behind the chief objects of contemplation, which occupy the foreground. (Formerly, the part of the stage in a theatre remote from the audience.)

1672 Wycherley Love in Wood iii. ii, Ranger retires to the background.    1799 Sheridan Pizarro i. i. (1883) 182 Elvira walks about pensively in the background.    1824 Miss Mitford Village Ser. i. (1863) 109 The low cottage in the back-ground.

Another phrase I enjoy saying is “disappearing act” but unfortunately that didn’t hit the books until 1913 and “façade” in the figurative sense of pretending to be something you’re not, having a false face/front, didn’t until 1845. Again I was left to use a broader set of descriptors or change what I said about the character and his motives or actions.

Which all combines to make writing historical fiction both a challenge and a wordsmithing exercise. I love word games, so I’m up for the challenge!

Next week I’ll look into the “typesetting” related words I had to avoid. Think about what those might be in the meantime!

Betty

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SamanthsSecretCOVERMidwife and healer, Samantha McAlester returns from the front lines to find Charles Town under British siege and the town’s new doctor at war with its citizens.

Dr. Trent Cunningham intends to build a hospital staffed solely with educated doctors. What he doesn’t need is a raven-haired charlatan spooning out herbs and false promises to his patients, while tempting him at every turn.

Then a mutual friend develops a mysterious infection. Trenton is stumped. Samantha suspects the cure but knows treatment will expose her long-guarded secret, risking all she holds dear… including Trenton.

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Don’t Say That! Hike Her Skirt and other activities in #historical #fiction #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

Some concepts you’d think had been around forever. But I was surprised when I learned that a woman didn’t “hike” her skirt in the 18th century. I mean, it’s in so much fiction that I made the assumption it was authentic to the time. Only I was dead wrong. I don’t like being wrong, but in this word sleuthing I came upon that reality more than once, let me tell you!

Let’s start with the fact that the earliest recorded use of the word “hike” in my OED to mean “walk or march vigorously or laboriously” or “to walk for pleasure” is in 1809. So my A More Perfect Union historical romances set in the 1780s couldn’t use that word to even mean to go out into nature and take a long walk. The part about pulling up clothing? Not so fast! Here’s what the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)  has to say:

b. intr. To work upwards out of place. Const. up.

c 1873 Schele de Vere MS. Notes 488 (D.A.E.), What makes y[ou]r dress hike up so?    1890 Amer. Dialect Notes I. 61 The curtain hikes or hikes up.    1902 G. H. Lorimer Lett. Merchant ix. 119 We boys who couldn’t walk across the floor without feeling that our pants had hiked up till they showed our feet to the knee,‥didn’t like him.    1948 Sat. Even. Post 4 Dec. 127/2 When I sit down, it hikes up.

1873! That’s nearly a century after my stories. Hearty sigh. So instead of the one word, I had to use something like “she grabbed her skirt to lift it up out of her way as she climbed the stairs.” I guess there’s a reason we get around to using “hike” as shorthand! Like when you raise a price, it gets hiked up, so do the pant legs and skirts. But not until late 19th century. So.

Other words related to activities and games I had to find replacements for include acrobatic (b1861), catapulted (as a verb, b1848), cartwheeled (as a verb, b1864), cavort (b1794), and swat (b1796). A couple others I want to talk more about, but you can see here why checking most every word I write (at least until I became more familiar with which ones I needed to avoid!) became important. Unless we’re talking the articles (i.e., the, a, an). Those didn’t change from the earliest times as far as I can tell.

Let’s look a bit more closely at two other words that we use today without a blink of an eye but weren’t used in the same way in the 1700s.

First up, “scan.” As a verb meaning to look over quickly, like scanning the crowd or the sky. A synonym is “skim” which became my replacement word after I dug into scan a bit more to find out when in time I could use it as a verb. The OED:

6. a. To look at searchingly, examine with the eyes.

1798 S. Lee Canterb. T., Young Lady’s T. ii. 251 His wild‥eyes now scanned heaven impatiently.    1810 Scott Lady of L. ii. xxi, While Roderick scann’d, For her dear form, his mother’s band.    1840 Dickens Barn. Rudge ii, ‘Humph’, he said, when he had scanned his features, ‘I don’t know you’. …

b. To search (literature, a text, a list, etc.) quickly or systematically for particular information or features.

1926 Rec. Geol. Surv. India LIX. 202 On scanning this table it will be observed that the pyrope molecule is present in quantity‥only in one garnet.    1950 Amer. Documentation I. 81 The rapid selector employs an optical-electronic system for scanning a reel of motion picture film on which are entered both abstracts and corresponding index entries. …

So at the earliest, the story had to take place in 1798 for scan to not be anachronistic for my characters. So instead, I used “perused” or “skimmed” or “let his gaze drift over the crowd” or some such descriptive passage.

The other word I want to point out is “handshake.” As a noun, it first appeared in 1873:

a. A shake of the hand: cf. hand-shaking.

1873 Tristram Moab xviii. 344, I gave him a hearty hand⁓shake.    1878 Browning Poets Croisic 130 Let me return your handshake!

But then as a verb, it’s even later:

[Back-formation from hand-shaking.]

intr. To shake hands. So ˈhandˌshaker.

1898 H. James Two Magics 8 We handshook and ‘candlestuck’, as somebody said, and went to bed.    1905 Westm. Gaz. 2 Nov. 12/1 As the line moves forward each hand-shaker is steadily pushed along.    1928 Daily Express 28 Aug. 8/3 Hearty handshakers. …

So my character couldn’t accept another’s handshake until almost the 20th century. They could, of course, shake hands, clasp hands, etc. Sigh. Are you seeing a trend? I do! People came up with ways to shorten the phrasing to save time and space. Think how we use acronyms/initialisms and emojis today. All to say more in less space. We’re continuing an historical language evolution, my friends.

I was surprised also by the number of words I think of as “theatrical” that were anachronistic for the 1700s. I’ll talk more about those next week. Until then!

Betty

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Amy's ChoiceWhen Amy Abernathy’s childhood sweetheart, Benjamin Hanson, leaves to fight in the American War for Independence without a word of goodbye, Amy picks up the pieces of her heart and chooses independence. When Benjamin returns unexpectedly, Amy flees to the country to help her pregnant sister and protect her heart.

Benjamin Hanson knows he hurt Amy, but he also knows he can make it up to her after he completes his mission. Then he learns that Amy has been captured by renegade soldiers. Now Benjamin faces his own choice: free the sassy yet obstinate woman he’s never stopped loving or protect Charles Town from the vengeful British occupation.

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Don’t Say That! Clip-Clop and Horses in #historical #fiction #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

I love horses, and one of the reasons I enjoy writing historical fiction is because of the horses used for transportation and friendship. I started riding horses as a kid myself, my oldest brother taking me on my first trail ride when in middle school. I’ve read just about every horse book I could get my hands on, Misty of Chincoteague and Black Beauty my two all-time favorites! When I think of horseback riding, I think of brushing down the horse, then putting the appropriate tack on, and mounting up. All typical terminology for the sport.

So imagine my surprise when I was checking words for Emily’s Vow and realized I couldn’t even use “clip-clop” in my story. Then I found out I couldn’t use Thoroughbred, either. Plus a couple more. So I had to improvise. I had to rise to meet the word choice challenge!

First, let’s talk about the breed Thoroughbred. I mean, I know the line reached back to three stallions from the 17th-18th centuries, and thus the breed name must reach back just as far. Not so. Here’s what the OED has to say:

2. Of a horse: Of pure breed or stock; spec. applied to a race-horse whose pedigree for a given number of generations is recorded in the studbook. Also of a dog, bull, etc.

1796 J. Lawrence Treat. Horses iv. 166 Thorough-bred hacks are the most docile and quiet, and the least liable to shy.    1825 N. H. Smith Breeding for Turf 5 The pedigree of Eclipse affords a singular illustration of the descent of our thorough-bred horses from pure Eastern blood.    1840–70 D. P. Blaine Encycl. Rur. Sports §930 The term thorough-bred, as relating to a horse‥is neither critically nor conventionally definite.    1856 Farmer’s Mag. Jan. 29 There are some men who prefer the cross-bred animal—the best I believe to be between the Hampshire Down and Cotswold; but‥I must give a decided preference to the thorough-bred.    1887 Sir R. H. Roberts In the Shires i. 18 Mounted upon a thoroughbred‥bay mare.

Remember that my A More Perfect Union historical romance series is set in Charleston, South Carolina, during the American Revolution, so late 1770s to 1783. So the line of horses that would ultimately become known as Thoroughbreds were not called that during the time period of my story. So what were they called? A good question without a simple answer. Trust me, I wish it had been a simple answer!

One of my historical references mentioned that a pair of “thoroughbreds” was on a ship from England that landed at Charleston immediately after the fighting ended there in 1782. But the use of the word in that context was by a modern-day historian so didn’t answer my question. On one of my research trips to that wonderful city (if you ever have chance to go, I highly recommend it!) I went to the Historical Society and looked up the specific newspaper reference mentioned in my secondary source. There I found that while they didn’t use “Thoroughbred,” they did use “thorough bred” horses at the time of my stories. That was close enough to present-day lingo that my readers would know exactly what kind of horses I meant, and yet stay true to the time period.

As for clip-clop, let’s take a minute to think about this rather onomatopoeic word. Clip, clop, clip, clop. Isn’t that the sound of a horse walking on a hard surface? We all can hear that, right? Or is it just me? But apparently that’s a relatively recent addition to the OED:

Clip-a-clap, clip-clop

Imitations of sounds of alternating rhythm.

1863 M. Howitt F. Bremer’s Greece II. xvii. 169 Thy slippers make a clip-a-clap.    1884 Anstey Giant’s Robe xxxix, From the streets below came up the constant roll of wheels and clip-clop of hoofs from passing broughams.

Hence {clip-clop} v. intr., (esp. of hoofs) to make such a sound; occas. trans.

1927 H. V. Morton In Search of England iii. 57 The fishermen clip-clopped over the stones in thigh boots.    Ibid. v. 93 The donkeys‥clip-clop up the cobbles.    1947 K. Cameron Sound & Documentary Film i. 10 The characteristic sound of hooves of dray horses clip-clopping along the cobbled street.    1948 D. Welch Voice through Cloud (1950) xxii. 179 [Matron] clip-clopped away, complaining to herself.    1963 R. H. Morrieson Scarecrow (1964) i. 2 In our little town a horse would clip-clop along‥the main street at noonday.    1978 N.Y. Times 30 Mar. c16/2 Slamming a‥door, clipclopping coconut shells and shuffling shoes.

So there I was stuck for several minutes trying to think how to describe the sound of the hooves on the cobblestones in Charleston. The ring of hooves on stone? Or a thudding sound? Both possible. Ultimately, I decided my readers were savvy people who could imagine for themselves the sound of a horse’s hooves walking on a hard surface and left out mentioning it specifically. (You are all that smart, right? Of course you are!)

Other words I wanted to use but the OED dissuaded me from include “tack” to mean the apparatus used to ride a horse (saddle, bridle, etc.); “hoofbeat” which the OED doesn’t list separately but that the online dictionary says was first recorded in 1840-50. And finally in Samantha’s Secret, I wanted to describe the horses as being “ribby” from lack of feed and fodder, but nope. The OED squashed any hope of using that word in any sense in my 18th-century story:

1. Full of ribs; having prominent ribs. Also fig., suggestive of or resembling ribs.

1849 Florist 50 Yellow [dahlia], tipped with white; constant, but ribby.    1851 H. Melville Moby Dick II. xv. 129 In bony, ribby regions of the earth.    1924 C. E. Montague Right Place ix. 122 All sorts of ribby ridges and intercostal hollows dropping down from that spine to the water-line on each side.    1934 T. Wood Cobbers viii. 101 The homesteads, iron roofed and set about with ribby water-butts.    1970 Daily Tel. 7 May 17/1 The fortunes of Courtaulds were founded in Victorian times on black crêpe,‥a ribby material widows and mourners wore.    1977 ‘H. Osborne’ White Poppy xv. 118 The horses‥were miserable creatures, ribby and pathetic.

2. slang. Dirty, shabby; seedy, run-down; unpleasant, nasty.

1936 J. Curtis Gilt Kid 33 Nearby was a little café.‥ Ribby kind of a gaff, but I might as well go in.    1976 P. Alexander Death of Thin-Skinned Animal xx. 207 She lived at the ribby end of Maida Vale.    1977 M. Russell Dial Death i. iv. 28 ‘How are—things?’ ‘Ribby’.

So, I just had to state outright that the ribs showed on the horses, rather than using it as an adjective. Some would argue that avoiding adjectives and adverbs is a good thing, but it also adds more words to the sentence. Sometimes it’s cleaner to employ a helpful descriptor.

All in all, with each rabbit hole of word sleuthing I’ve gone down, I’ve learned a little more about how technology and perception have changed over time. We’ve just dipped our toes, so to speak, into this topic with more fun to come.

Next time I’ll look at a few playground types of activities we take for granted today that couldn’t happen several centuries ago.

Betty

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Emily's Vow Finalist SealEmily Sullivan’s greatest fear is dying in childbirth, as did her twin sister and their mother. Despite her half-hearted protests, her father insists Frank Thomson is the perfect man for both her protection from the vengeful British and as a husband. Frank always loved Emily despite her refusal to return his affections. A patriot spy posing as a loyalist officer, when Frank learns Emily’s been imprisoned for her father’s privateering, he risks his own neck to free his love.

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Don’t Say That! Mesmerize in #historical #fiction #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

Have you ever felt mesmerized by something or someone? Isn’t it an intriguing word to say, one that rolls right off the tongue? I know that was my go-to word when I drafted Emily’s Vow years ago. And yet, it’s not one that should be used in any historical fiction set in a time period prior to the early 1800s. I so wanted to use it but I also want to use words and concepts that my characters would use. Bear with me while I work through this little word choice puzzle. The result not only is enlightening but also makes my stories richer with a variety of vocabulary. Ready? Let’s dive in…

First you need to realize that “mesmerism” is, according to the OED:

The doctrine or system, popularized by Mesmer, according to which a hypnotic state, usually accompanied by insensibility to pain and muscular rigidity, can be induced by an influence (at first known as ‘animal magnetism’) exercised by an operator over the will and nervous system of the patient. b. The process or practice of inducing such hypnotic state; the state so induced. c. The influence supposed to operate. Cf. animal magnetism

Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer was an Austrian physician, born in 1734 and died in 1815. He lived in Vienna, Austria, in the mid-18th century. His belief in Animal Magnetism, otherwise known as Mesmerism, became the basis for the eventual development of what we call Hypnosis.

Here’s the tricky part about whether the concept behind a word can be used in my story or not. While Dr. Mesmer lived in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the verb “mesmerize” did not enter the written English language until 1829, again according to the OED:

trans. a. To subject (a person) to the influence of mesmerism. Also transf. and fig., to fascinate, spellbind.

1829 R. Chenevix in Lond. Med. & Phys. Jrnl. VI. 222, I mesmerised the patient through the door.    1863 A. E. Challice Heroes, etc. Time Louis XVI, II. 77 Dr. Mesmer found it impossible to mesmerize Dr. Franklin.

transf.    1862 H. Aïdé Carr of Carrl. I. 137 Carr would almost have forgotten her existence, had it not been for those eyes which mesmerised him every now and then, in spite of himself.

Since my usage of “mesmerize” would be the figurative sense of fascinate, not the literal,  I couldn’t have my 1780s character be saying or even thinking in such a mindset. Dang it! So I had to come up with alternatives. The OED suggests “fascinate” or “spellbind.” Fascinate entered the English language in the 16th century, so that one is fine. However, spellbind didn’t arrive until 1808, so I couldn’t use that one. “Enthrall” is another possibility, since it also shows in the historical record in the 17th century, 1656 to be exact.

See what I mean about having a variety of words to choose from? Depending on the underlying motifs and themes, enthrall (with its root “thrall” meaning “slave” or “slavery”) may be more appropriate than to spellbind or fascinate (given their relation to witchcraft and magic).

So with just a little word sleuthing, I can hint at other aspects of the plot and character development by literally putting the best word on the page. My go-to word, the one that first popped into my mind when I was drafting the story, didn’t exactly convey the meaning behind the concept I had in mind. Digging a bit deeper gave me better ideas for writing the best story in my power.

Next week I’m going to talk about my surprise when it came to describing horses in the 18th century. Who knew it could be so tricky?

Betty

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Elizabeth's HopeThe fight for independence has become personal… Elizabeth Sullivan feared for her brothers, fighting for American freedom; for her father, pretending to be a loyalist; for family and friends, caught between beliefs; but mostly for Jedediah Thomson, the man she loves, who was doing his duty. They’d only begun their courtship when the occupation of Charles Town, South Carolina, trapped her in the city and sent him to fight. She cherished every moment they had together, knowing how swiftly it could be taken away. And that made her willing to risk everything to claim a piece of him forever….

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Tasty Tuesday: Chicken Divan from #contemporary #romance #author Meg Benjamin #dinner #recipe #fiction #books

Gather round for a Tasty Tuesday sure to tempt your senses! Meg Benjamin serves up a brewery based romance, Love on Tap, along with a delicious recipe for Chicken Divan. Sure looks easy to make and you can read while it bakes. Okay, Meg, the stage—or blog—is yours!


I love writing about food because I love to cook. Most of my books have a scene in which the hero or heroine does some cooking, and I’ve done several books (Fearless Love, Hungry Heart, Love in the Morning) in which either the hero or the heroine is a chef—sometimes both! My Brewing Love trilogy for Entangled Publishing (Love On Tap, Saison For Love, Wild Love coming in June), however, centers on brewing beer rather than cooking. At the heart of the trilogy is a struggling craft brewery—Antero Brewing. But as a Colorado resident (the state has over 300 craft breweries), I can guarantee that beer goes well with food, and cooking is definitely part of the Antero, Colorado, scene.

In the first book in the trilogy, Love On Tap, the hero, Wyatt Montgomery, needs to convince the heroine, Bec Dempsey, that he’s a good cook. It’s all part of Wyatt’s plan to purchase Bec’s last barrel of imperial stout for his Denver gastropub. To convince her of his cooking chops, Wyatt promises to cook her a great dinner based only on the ingredients she currently has in her refrigerator. To make things even more interesting, Bec herself is only a rudimentary cook and she’s living in a makeshift apartment above the brewery.

Bec hadn’t been kidding about the inadequacy of her kitchen. Wyatt managed not to grimace as he checked out the equipment. He had indeed worked with worse—he hadn’t been lying. On the other hand, he hadn’t done a great job with worse, and he sure as hell hadn’t been happy doing it. Still, right now he needed to impress her with his skills, and he couldn’t do that by whining.

 

He opened the smallish refrigerator, checking the meat drawer and the hydrator. Chicken breasts, lettuce, a few stalks of broccoli.

 

“Where do you keep the rest of the food?” He gave her an encouraging smile. Not a criticism, so help me.

 

She gestured toward the wall cabinets. “First one on the right is sort of the pantry. I’ve got dishes and pans in the others.”

 

He nodded, pulling open the pantry door. Sandwich bread, peanut butter, a half-empty jar of blackberry jam. And—oh, thank you, kitchen gods—a bag of noodles. “Okay, one chicken divan coming up.”

Wyatt manages to find all the ingredients he needs in Bec’s kitchen except for sherry—Bec’s a brewmaster, not a wine drinker. But necessity being the mother of invention, he improvises, using a bottle of wheat beer she happens to have on hand. He cooks dinner on Bec’s two-burner hotplate, then watches her reaction as she takes her first bite. If she doesn’t like his cooking, he won’t get her imperial stout, and if he doesn’t get that stout, his gastropub may go under. Which is to say, there’s a lot riding on that first bite:

He carried the plates to the table, sliding into the chair opposite her. “Okay, I’ve never made this with beer before, so I can’t absolutely guarantee it. But it should be edible.”

 

She gave him a quick smile. “It smells a lot better than that.”

 

Actually, it was a lot better than that. The beer didn’t have the nutty flavor of the sherry, but it gave the chicken a slightly toasted taste and worked with the cheese sauce. Not bad. Not bad at all.

 

“This is terrific,” Bec murmured after a couple of bites. “I’m sorry I ever doubted you. You definitely know what you’re doing. You can make dinner for me anytime.”

Wyatt does cook for Bec again, and they have a few more bumps, some of them major, before they seal the deal. But it’s the chicken divan that gets things going. Here’s a modified version, made with sherry since I’m assuming, unlike Wyatt, you’ve got access to a few more ingredients.

CHICKEN DIVAN

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 bunch broccoli, chopped

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 T extra virgin olive oil

3 T butter

3 T flour

3⁄4 c chicken broth

1⁄2 c milk

1⁄3 c sherry

1 c shredded cheese (cheddar or Swiss)

Salt and pepper

Nutmeg

Noodles or rice for serving

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°F.

 

Steam broccoli for 5 minutes until crisp-tender. Drain in colander.

 

In a medium frying pan, sauté chicken breasts in olive oil until lightly browned. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels.

 

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Then gradually whisk in chicken broth, sherry, and milk until incorporated. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened. Add dash of nutmeg. Add 3/4 of the cheese and whisk until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

In a 9×13 dish arrange chicken breasts (either whole or sliced) and broccoli. Pour sauce over top and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover with aluminum foil with slits to allow steam to escape.

 

Bake for 30-45 minutes, taking off the aluminum foil for the last 10.

 

Serve over egg noodles or rice

MegBenjaminMeg Benjamin is an award-winning author of contemporary romance. Her newest series, Brewing Love, is set in the Colorado craft brewing scene. Meg’s Konigsburg series is set in the Texas Hill Country and her Salt Box trilogy is set in her new home, the Colorado Rockies (both are available from Entangled Publishing). Along with contemporary romance, Meg also writes paranormal romance, including the Ramos Family trilogy from Berkley InterMix and the Folk series to be published by Soul Mate Publishing in 2018. Meg’s books have won numerous awards, including an EPIC Award, a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Holt Medallion from Virginia Romance Writers, the Beanpot Award from the New England Romance Writers, and the Award of Excellence from Colorado Romance Writers. Meg’s Web site is http://www.MegBenjamin.com. You can follow her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/meg.benjamin1), Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/megbenjamin/), and Twitter (http://twitter.com/megbenj1). Meg loves to hear from readers—contact her at meg@megbenjamin.com.

LoveOnTapFinal CoverWyatt Montgomery knows a barrel of legendary Zoria imperial stout will help his Denver gastropub stay on top. The only problem is the brewery that made it is no longer in business. When Wyatt hears the brewmaster has only one barrel left, he won’t stop until it’s his. He doesn’t consider what this mythical barrel might cost him. And he certainly doesn’t anticipate his reaction to the heart-stoppingly beautiful brewmaster he needs to convince to sell him the beer.

When Wyatt rushes into Bec Dempsey’s small-town cooperative offering to buy the last barrel of her precious Zoria, she’s thrown for a loop. She’s been burned by city-slickers before, and she’ll be damned if she’ll let it happen again. But when things start heating up between them, Bec decides to make Wyatt a counteroffer. One she hopes he won’t refuse.

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Thanks so much, Meg! That sounds like my kind of recipe, and the story sounds tempting, too! I’ve used wine in cooking, and even some gin or beer, but never sherry. Hmm. I guess I’ve been missing out on using the warmth and robust flavor of the sherry in my recipes. I will have to try it!

That wraps up this round of Tasty Tuesday posts, but please enjoy the new series of Don’t Say That! posts on Mondays about words I had to avoid in my A More Perfect Union historical romance series and other historical stories set in the 18th and 19th centuries. I’ll be looking at how language has changed along with the technological advances and the words that would be anachronistic (futuristic, in a sense) for my characters if I used them. It’s intended to be a fun and light-hearted exploration into the evolution of words and language. Enjoy!

Betty

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Don’t Say That – Intro to a Romp about Word Choices in Historical Fiction #histfic #amwriting #amreading #amediting

Words have power. No matter where or how they are used, the images and meanings combine to tell a story, real life or imagined. As a 21st-century storyteller, I choose my words with care. Depending on whether I’m writing a story set in the present or the past, those choices will affect how my readers interpret my tale. Words create the setting, the emotion, the motivation, and most of all the overall atmosphere of the story.

Years ago, I attended a workshop on writing historical fiction at the Historical Novel Society conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. A discussion arose about using words that didn’t exist in the time period of the story. Since stories today are told most often in either close third person point of view (e.g., “His pulse throbbed in his ears, making it difficult to hear) or in first person (e.g., My pulse throbbed in my ears so I could barely hear above the noise”), this is a real concern in order to create authentic characters and settings. In particular, writers of historical fiction shouldn’t use words invented after the time period because they are essentially anachronisms for the character. I agreed and vowed to ensure that I didn’t use any words that hadn’t come about until after the era of my stories. At the time, I was working on my A More Perfect Union historical romance series set in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1782-83, the ending years of the American Revolution.

AMPU Covers-4Let me say now, I had no idea what a challenge I had presented to myself. Despite my best efforts, I probably missed one or two here and there. What I want to share with you all, as readers and perhaps as fellow historical writers, are my thoughts on the words and their usage. Also about historical storytelling for a modern day audience. I have created a list of words to search on for each story – it’s 7 pages long, single spaced. I share it with my editor both for her use and to help me locate and replace “offending” terms.

I mentioned this list to another group of contemporary fiction authors and they seemed enthralled (read, horrified) that it was even something historical fiction authors had to think about. After all, we’re telling stories to modern readers, right? Why did it matter? After I explained the reasoning they wanted to know more. So that was the inspiration for this series of posts.

Over the next few months, I plan to share what I think of as “conceptual” words that I discovered I couldn’t include in my 18th-century stories. These are words that are based on technologies and concepts that had yet to be invented or become common in written language. They also represent an evolution in the language (spellings and such) over the centuries. Some of these words will likely surprise a modern reader. They surprised me! For example, I had no idea I couldn’t use “highlight” or “background,” for reasons I’ll explain later. I’ll rely on the history of the word usage from the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)  to explain why I chose a different word and what the alternatives were. All with a certain self-deprecating humor, I hope! It’s rather eye-opening and humbling to realize how lazy I had become in choosing words. It’s easier to reuse the same words rather than select the exact word but one of the times. The hunt for the perfect word to convey both the idea and also the 18th-century atmosphere without losing my sweet little mind, in other words. (Pun intended!)

For those of you who don’t know my background, here’s my bio and then I’ll elaborate a little on my education and experience.

BettyBolteAward-winning author Betty Bolté writes both historical and contemporary stories featuring strong, loving women and brave, compassionate men. No matter whether the stories are set in the past or the present, she loves to include a touch of the paranormal. In addition to her romantic fiction, she’s the author of several nonfiction books and earned a Master’s in English in 2008. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Historical Novel Society, the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and the Authors Guild.

I’ve been writing and editing professionally since the 1990s, including essays, newspaper articles and a column for a small town paper in Indiana, and articles for national magazines. My day job was working as a technical writer and editor for corporations and for NASA, as well as editing nonfiction books on a freelance basis. All along I’ve written fiction, mainly romances, and I’ve always enjoyed reading historical fiction. Some of my favorite authors are Elswyth Thane, LaVyrle Spencer, James Michener, and Anna Sewell. That is not an exhaustive list by any means! I know something about writing to an audience and delivering the message in a way the reader/receiver can understand it most readily. To add a layer of complexity with needing to stay true to words and concepts relevant to the characters in a story set in the distant past was a new challenge, but one I picked up with a sense of purpose. Until I realized just how big a challenge it would prove to be! Then it became a juggle to find a happy medium between historic authenticity and good storytelling for a modern day reader. Let’s see how well I did, shall we?

I hope you’ll enjoy this little foray into the history of words and how I worked through the challenge of sticking with historically accurate language to tell a 21st-century reader an authentic 18th-century tale to the best of my abilities.

Off we go… Next week I’ll begin with the ever-popular “mesmerize”… See you then!

Betty

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Tasty Tuesday: Zesty Pizza Dip from #romance #author Augustina Van Hoven #funfood #recipe #mustread #fiction

This week’s Tasty Tuesday brings a tempting pizza dip recipe straight out of the pages of Augustina Van Hoven’s latest book, The Last Christmas on Earth. Enjoy!


Food is an essential part of my new frontier series.  Five thousand colonists and crew members are boarding the Starship Halcyon to take a nine-month voyage to colonize a new planet.  They have to bring enough food stores with them to sustain the group during the trip and for several months after they first land until they can harvest their own crops.

In the series prequel, The Last Christmas on Earth, we are introduced to Engineering Specialist, Duncan McGregor.  He’s not much of a cook but when he’s invited to a private poker game, he relies on an old recipe to use as his food contribution.

He’d called in a favor from one of the cooks in the galley and was allowed to make his grandmother’s recipe for pizza dip.  It was made with pizza sauce, several kinds of cheese, red and green peppers chopped up, and bits of hamburger, pepperoni, ham and bacon mixed through it.  He wasn’t much of a cook but this was something from his childhood that he’d made often.  Growing up with his grandparents there were times when money was tight.  They couldn’t afford to order out for pizza so his grandmother would make this dip with whatever ingredients she had.  She baked her own bread so there was always plenty of that.  It made for a tasty treat on the evenings they played cards or made puzzles.

Pizza Dip

Ingredients

8 oz cream cheese

½ cup pizza sauce

½ cup mozzarella cheese

2 Tablespoons parmesan cheese

2 Tablespoons Red pepper (chopped)

2 Tablespoons Green pepper (chopped)

1 tsp of Italian seasonings

Optional:

Crumbled bacon, cooked ground beef, cooked diced ham, and chopped pepperoni

Instructions

Layer in order given.

Microwave 2 mins.

Serve with crackers or cut up toasted French bread.

AugustinaVanHoven_TheLastChristmasOnEarth_HRWhat if you had to make a choice, your lifelong dream or your soul mate?
Scott Southerland has his dream job and his dream woman. What could go wrong? With his mother around, plenty. Scott’s on his guard, and his soon-to-be fiancé, Harper Castille, is, too. Scott has no interest in the other women his mother dangles in front of him, but can his relationship with Harper survive the destruction of his dream?

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Tina small - CopyAugustina Van Hoven was born in The Netherlands and currently resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, two dogs and three cats.   She is an avid reader of romance, science fiction and fantasy.  When she’s not writing she likes to work in her garden or in the winter months crochet and knit on her knitting machines.

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Thanks, Augustina! You’ve given me some great ideas for the next time I do pizza fondue for my hubby and me. I do something similar in my fondue pot: marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, mini pepperoni slices, and use French bread to dip into the sauce. But adding in some bacon bits or maybe even some sliced black olives sounds mighty tempting, too.

Have you made a sauce or fondue like this? What other ingredients do you recommend?

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

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