Between the Lines: The Secret of the Corinthian Column #research #fiction #romance

Rattle and Snap PlantationTo create a fictional place that won’t be mistaken for an existing one, I like to combine various aspects of two or more places into one with some imagination magic dust thrown in for luck. So after visiting Greer House (see last week’s blog if you missed that discussion), I organized a ladies’ day out trip to visit the Rattle and Snap Plantation near Columbia, Tennessee. This adventure happened in August 2013 while working on my first published romance, a paranormal, Traces.

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We were all very excited about visiting the historic site and wondered what we’d find. We were not disappointed. The owners gave us a personal tour of the grounds, the first floor, and even (surprisingly!) some of the upstairs rooms which were not open (and now are complete and ready for visitors). Since I was there for research, they made an exception for which I’m so very grateful!

They’ve worked hard to restore the plantation to look its best after many years of neglect. Walking through the historic home, hearing the sound of footsteps on the floorboards, noting the details in the woodwork and the fireplace mantels, and even the old door knobs and keyholes were fascinating. But I had one burning question I still needed to answer.

Where could I hide a body, so that the plantation would indeed be haunted? Think Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-tale Heart or The Cask of Amontillado.

Now, if you don’t know me personally you may not realize this. I am not a person who seeks out conflict or likes to inflict pain. So writing enough conflict into my stories has been one of my challenges. But I needed a ghost. Which meant somebody had to die – and not pleasantly.

When we heard the story of the hidden silver tea set, my friend Jan looked at me and we both raised our brows and smiled. According to the story, during the Civil War the family who owned the house tied a rope around their youngest, thinnest child and handed him the silver. They then climbed to the top of one of the columns, which was open at the top and which are very wide, and slowly lowered him and the precious tea set to the bottom where he left the silver and they pulled him back out. Only after the war ended did they cut a rectangular hole in the side of the column to retrieve – and sell – the silver so they had some money to live on after losing everything during the fighting.

Ladies Day at RnSWhat if… a person was lowered down presumably to safeguard the silver, but then wasn’t brought back out? Gives me chills to contemplate that scenario, let me tell ya! Stuck in a dark place 26 feet tall with no way out and nobody around to help? But…

The column was the site I needed! In the photo at the left, you can see just how wide those columns actually are. Now to explain how a woman’s body would end up there, which you can discover in the story, and more of a technical question: what would the family be allowed to do with her remains when found. But that’s for another day’s post. I love figuring these details to make the story as authentic and plausible as possible.

Thanks for stopping by!

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!

LSB Cover Art Template for PhotoShopIf you’d like to find out more about the Lady in Blue, you can get your copy of Traces at any of these places. Note that it’s available in paperback also at Amazon and B&N. Happy reading!

LSBooks: http://bit.ly/1fp2brP

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1ivVTpS

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Between the Lines: This Old Plantation House #research #fiction #romance

Greer 3If you know me, you also know how much I love to visit historic places. Doubly so for researching my stories. This applies for both my historicals and my paranormals. Where would I go to research a contemporary ghost story, you might ask? For my two paranormal romances, Traces and Remnants,  I needed to find a plantation to haunt.

One of them was an old plantation that happened to be for sale. Greer House is outside of Petersburg, Tennessee, and has seen better days. The real estate agent met me and a friend at the house (no way was I going out to a site alone to meet a man I didn’t know). Thankfully, the person we met turned out to be the wife of the agent, which was fine with us. Jan and I roamed through the house, pointing out various details and aspects of the layout.

I was searching for a good place to hide a body, a body which would then become the ghost haunting the house in my story. There were several possibilities – the closet under the stairs; the basement; a secret panel in the bedroom (in my imagination, not in the house we toured!).

IMG_0397Mostly though I was saddened by how deteriorated the building was. Despite upgrades over the years – bathrooms with indoor plumbing, a new state-of-the-art kitchen – there were also holes in the walls, stains on the wallpaper, missing boards, and the overall sickly sweet smell of mildew.

I came away with ideas on how Twin Oaks, the plantation featured in my two ghost stories, might have decayed with lack of attention. But I tempered the images from Greer House by visiting another plantation that was restored to its former beauty by caring owners. I’ll talk more about that one in a separate post.

No matter what time period or setting of a story, some kind of research is typically need to get the facts right. It’s a good thing I love to research! To dig into the details and find the surprises to share in my stories. Like where to hid that body I was talking about, which came from visiting the second plantation.

Thanks for stopping by!

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!

LSB Cover Art Template for PhotoShopIf you’d like to find out where I hid the body, you can get your copy of Traces at any of these places. Note that it’s available in paperback also at Amazon and B&N. Happy reading!

LSBooks: http://bit.ly/1fp2brP

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1ivVTpS

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/1j7WOwq

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1tUDIic

iBookstore: http://bit.ly/1FCoy5L

Between the Lines: Learning the Moves #dance #research #history

One thing I love to do is to dance. So for a story I’m working on, I needed to understand about balls and the dances people enjoyed in the 18th century. So when hubby and I went to Williamsburg last year, one of the opportunities that excited me was a ballroom dancing lesson.

IMG_0140Not only would we experience the sound of the music performed by a flutist, but we were also taught the positions and steps of several different dances. I learned that when a man bows to his female partner, he extends his leg in front to demonstrate his strength. That’s also why men of that period wore breeches and knickers, so the calf muscle was evident and proved their strength. Thus, their worthiness as a partner, for dancing or perhaps marriage.

IMG_0198We joined in the circles of dancers, learned to turn to greet our partner and then turn to greet the person on our opposite side. The instructor showed us how to clap and spin, step in one direction and then other, all while not touching each other, except maybe to pat hands with another dancer. It was all very prim and proper and took more effort than it appears!

We had a fun hour or so, dancing and laughing at our ineptness. Afterward, I questioned the lady instructor as to particulars I was curious about, and then we went out to a tavern to find something cold to drink! Whew! We had such a great afternoon there. I hope to return sometime in the near future.

Have you been to Colonial Williamsburg? What’s your favorite memory?

Thanks for stopping by! Until next time, happy reading!

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!

Emily's Vow Finalist SealWant to read more about 18th century America? Check out my A More Perfect Union series, which starts with Emily’s Vow (a finalist in 2015 International Book Awards).

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Between the Lines: The Girl Who Changed the Face of Lincoln #women #history #research

GraceBedellOne of my favorite stories from Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure, is that of eleven-year-old Grace Bedell. Her story remained a secret for many years, but once it came to light her fame has spread. What did she do?

She wrote a letter in 1860 to Abraham Lincoln when he was a presidential candidate. In part, she said:

“I have got 4 brothers and part of them will vote for you any way and if you will let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.”

Not only do we know that Lincoln indeed grew a beard, he also responded to her letter. In part, he said:

“As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affect[at]ion if I were to begin it now?”

Today, two statues commemorate her actions. One is a granite monument bearing copper reproductions of both letters which stands in the Delphos, Kansas, town square. The other is the statue pictured here that I took while visiting in Westfield, New York, where the two correspondents met when Lincoln traveled by train through the town in February 1861.

Can you imagine? This little girl had the gumption to pen a suggestion to Abraham Lincoln, a man she did not know and who had no real reason to respond. Yet he did both respond and agree with her suggestion. Then he made a point of meeting her when he went through her town. No wonder so many people find the story compelling! The rest, as they say, is history.

If you’d like to see more pictures related to Hometown Heroines, you can find them on my Pinterest board.

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!

Literary Classics International Book Awards - Youth Award Winning Book
Literary Classics International Book Awards – Youth Award Winning Book

Interested in your own copy of Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure? You can find it in ebook and/or paperback at the following sites:

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