Will the 1821 Sheriff of Madison County, AL, please stand up? #amwriting #dilemma #histfic #research #Alabama200 #history

I have a dilemma related to one of the characters in my new series, the Fury Falls Inn. While reading about Alabama’s early history, one of the notes I took was that of the very first sheriff of Madison County, Alabama. One of the reasons it intrigued me is that his years of service coincides with the time period of my series set in 1821. Could I use him in my story?

I considered using this man’s name in my story to give it historical accuracy. Not as a main character but a tertiary one. But before I portrayed him in any way, it seemed prudent to investigate as to what kind of a man he was and how effective he was at his job. After all, I don’t want to paint him with the wrong brush, so to speak. You know, if he was a really great sheriff, then I wouldn’t want to make him seem inept, and vice versa. So I started looking…

I came across this article by Ruby W. Lawler, Chairwoman of the Program Committee of the Gurley (AL) Historical Society, that included the following comment about the sheriff:

“The first sheriff of Madison County was Stephen Neal who held office from 1809 to 1822. Crime in those days was usually confined to stealing a horse or a display of public drunkenness. In many cases, the locals would extract [sic] their own swift punishment without the need of the local sheriff.”

Sounds to me like he might not have been very busy, but I don’t know that. I haven’t researched crime reports from that era, and wouldn’t know where to find them. It’s also not relevant to my dilemma. The statement above includes nothing about him as a person, just one passing comment about the kinds of crime he might have dealt with. What this quote confirmed for me was that stealing horses was an historical issue, one that I had included in The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn (Book 1), so that’s cool to know.

Still, the question of whether to use Neal’s name and thus his persona, or make up someone else, niggled in my brain. I’d prefer to be historically correct—rather than creating a fictional sheriff—but I don’t want to misrepresent a real person. I kept looking and found this article by Donna R. Causey for Alabama Pioneers that had this to say:

“Stephen Neal, one of the earliest settlers and sheriff of the county from 1809 to 1822, purchased the lot embracing the east end of Commercial Row [in Huntsville] and sold it to different parties, who built store-houses there.”

I interpret this statement to imply he was rather wealthy, both because he bought a large lot and he would have made money when he sold smaller lots to others. The accompanying photo of the house Neal purchased is quite impressive, too.

Then I found this brief history from the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, which sheds a bit of light on Neal:

“Sheriff Neal served in his appointed capacity until Alabama became a state in 1819 and held it’s [sic] first ‘Constitutional Convention’ at what is now known as Constitution Hall Park in downtown Huntsville.

“Following the adoption of the Alabama Constitution, Sheriff Neal became Madison County’s first elected Sheriff by defeating eighteen opponents, the most candidates to ever run for the office of Sheriff in a local election.” [emphasis added]

When I first read this, I thought, Aha! If Neal was respected enough to defeat 18 other candidates, he must have been doing a pretty good job, right? So it should be safe for me to use his name and portray him as being a competent sheriff.

But then I remembered that it was a common practice in that day and age for candidates to throw rallies where they not only stood up on a tree stump and extolled on what they’d do if elected, but they also doled out whiskey to the men who attended, essentially partying with them to show what a great candidate they were. Buying their loyalty and their vote, in a manner of speaking. So did he get elected because more people knew his name and/or liked his partying style? (Hm, is that where the term “party” came to be associated with political entities? Another research question…)

It’s fairly common for people to vote for candidates they’ve heard of. Since Neal had been sheriff for ten years, he’d been a known entity. Good or bad. I don’t want to jump to any conclusions about who he was and how he behaved. I’m not trying to imply that I think one way or the other. I’m just “thinking out loud” here as I ponder whether to use the name of the real sheriff or not.

I wish I could find out more about his personality, his job performance, but when I think about it, I don’t need to delve too deeply into his character for the purposes of my stories since he’s a minor/tertiary character. As I’m beginning final revisions to the first story, I think the best path forward is to fictionalize the sheriff. I focus more on a fictional deputy anyway, so ultimately what name I give the sheriff isn’t going to change much with regard to plot and action. But I believe it’s better to not portray a real historical figure incorrectly.

Do you agree with me, that it’s important to know the historical figure as much as possible before employing their personage in fiction? Even for “walk on” characters? Or am I overthinking this?

I’d love to hear your opinion… Thanks!

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.

Meet Sadira Stone #author #cozymystery #erotica #contemporary #romance #books #fiction

I’d like to introduce you to another author you may enjoy reading. Sadira Stone writes both cozy mysteries and contemporary romance/erotica. But she’s more than just an author. Read on…

Ever since her first kiss, Sadira’s been spinning steamy tales in her head. After leaving her teaching career in Germany, she finally tried her hand at writing one. Now she’s a happy citizen of Romancelandia, penning contemporary romance and cozy mysteries from her home in Washington State. When not writing, which is seldom, she explores the Pacific Northwest with her charming husband, enjoys the local music scene, belly dances, plays guitar badly, and gobbles all the books.

Visit her website www.sadirastone.com to learn more about her, or connect on Facebook, Twitter, or her author page on Goodreads.

Betty: How many books have you written and published?

Sadira: Through the Red Door is my first published book, though I’d previously completed two cozy mysteries and a women’s fiction novel. The second book in the Book Nirvana series, Runaway Love Story, is coming soon from The Wild Rose Press, and I’m currently writing the third book in that series.

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

Sadira: I started off in cozy mystery, a genre I love to read. My first mystery was inspired by an awful boss. Killing him off on paper was great fun. While I’ve had some preliminary success with mystery fiction—I was a finalist for last year’s Daphne Award in the unpublished division—I swerved toward romance after reading about how lucrative writing erotica can be. Always a fan of steamy love stories, I thought, what the heck? Let’s try.

I have never had so much fun with a writing project! Through the Red Door nearly wrote itself, though it damned sure didn’t edit itself. I’ve totally immersed myself in the world of romance, gobbling books like popcorn, filling my ears with romance podcasts, and joining the Romance Writers of America. I find this genre excellent psychic self-defense against the current political poop-storm. At least in these stories someone will have a happy ending.

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

Sadira: The need for balance is a theme that pops up again and again in my stories. Clara, my protagonist, struggles to balance her loyalty and love for her late husband with her growing desire for a new man. That tug of war between a self-directed life and the needs/expectations/demands of family features in all my stories. It’s a struggle everyone faces, and each woman must find her perfect balance point—pursuing her own dreams while caring for loved ones.

Letting him inside could be her salvation…or her undoing.

Clara Martelli clings to Book Nirvana, the Oregon bookshop she and her late husband Jared built together. When rising rents and corporate competition threaten its survival, her best hope is their extensive erotica collection, locked behind a red door. In dreams and signs, her dead husband tells her it’s time to open that door and move on. When a dark and handsome stranger’s powerful magnetism jolts her back to life and he wants a look at the treasures of that secret room, she can’t help but want to show him more.

Professor Nick Papadopoulos is looking for historical erotica. Book Nirvana’s collection surpasses his wildest dreams, and so does its lovely owner. A widower, he understands Clara’s battle with guilt, but their searing chemistry is too strong to resist. Besides, he will only be in town for two weeks, not long enough for her to see beyond the scandal that haunts his past.

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Google Play     Kobo     Apple     Overdrive

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

Sadira: I’m blessed with a sweet little office, painted celery green, with a sit-stand adjustable desk and a cushy floor mat, plus almost-adequate bookshelves and a comfy reading chair. The view’s not great, just the side of the neighbors’ house, but it gives me the cozy solitude I need to write.

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?

Sadira: I usually write all morning, in my PJs or gym clothes, stopping only to eat or refill my coffee. When my concentration flags, I’ll walk around the block or clean house for a few minutes. I can’t write to music with lyrics—interferes with the voices in my head. But I enjoy YouTube’s selection of study music and quiet jazz. Instrumental bossa nova or smoky sax is great for writing love scenes.

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

Sadira: In 2017, I entered Pitch Wars, a Twitter pitch event. A small publisher asked for my manuscript, then offered me a contract. After discussing her offer with my RWA group, I submitted to The Wild Rose Press, where I’m now happily published. That hit of external validation did wonders for my determination. I may go indie someday, but for now I’m glad to have an experienced publishing team holding my hand.

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

Sadira: I have a knack for realistic dialogue, and I loooove writing steamy love scenes.

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

Sadira: Situation, then characters, then setting.

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?

Sadira: My writing day is pretty structured, but I do have to work around errands, appointments, and visitors. My daughter’s grown and living out of state, and Hubs is quite understanding about my need for chunks of time. He says I’m the only wife he knows who urges her husband to go play golf.

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

Sadira: Most of my reviews have made me smile, but there’s always a reader who didn’t like the book. I grit my teeth and read the negative comments, because I need that painful feedback to improve the next book.

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

Sadira: I did, twice. NANO established my daily writing habit, but I no longer need that external push to get me to write.

Betty: What are you reading right now?

Sadira: On my Kindle: Tessa Dare’s A Week to Be Wicked. I don’t write historical romance (yet), but I love reading them. I’m a latecomer to audiobooks, but I’m interested in recording my own. Overdrive is the best! Right now, I’m listening to Rachel Hauck’s Once Upon a Prince.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Sadira: Besides romance and mystery (not too gory, please), I enjoy women’s fiction, historical fiction, memoir, and lots of miscellaneous nonfiction. Also, whatever my critique partners are working on.

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

Sadira: These fall into two categories: craft books and examples of really well-written romance at my heat level. I try to read a craft book a month, and I’ve just re-read Jennifer Probst’s Write Naked. Romances I’ve kept to dissect include works by Damon Suede, Tessa Dare, Lauren Dane, Robyn Schone, Alyssa Cole, and more.

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

Sadira: I read mostly romance. Some writers worry about unconscious plagiarism, but I have a memory like a sieve—so no worries there.

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

Sadira: After a short stint in the army, I worked for twenty-seven years as a high school teacher (English, German, French, drama), but took early retirement in 2014. Now I write full time.

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

Sadira: How long it takes to create a polished manuscript, and then to get it published. It takes me a good year to write and polish a 90K novel. One whole year of blood, sweat, tears, headaches, backaches, haunted dreams, and frustrating arguments with imaginary friends.

Betty: What advice do you have for new writers?

Sadira: Get help! You absolutely need critique partners, and you’ll find so much support in the writer community. I’m not talking about hired help, though you’ll need a professional editor at some point. Just jump into communities of writers on social media. Use venues like Meetup.com to find an in-person writing group. You’ll feel so much better about your journey when it’s shared with others on the same path.

Take critique, and give it. You’ll learn lots from both sides of the process.

Read widely in your genre. Know what readers expect. Join an organization for writers in that genre.

There’s so much free information available on the publishing industry: websites, blogs, podcasts, craft books from your library. Study the business!

Finally, write the story you want to read.

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

Sadira: After the Book Nirvana series, I’ll keep my hand in the erotic romance field with some shorter tales. I’d like to start a series set in a bar in Tacoma, Washington, my hometown.

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?

Sadira: I’ve published one short horror story, and have several others lurking in drawers. Horror’s a fun respite from all the smooching. Perhaps I’ll polish them up and self-pub a collection.

You’re braver than me, Sadira! I get too nervous and upset when I read or watch horror. It’s been fun getting to know more about you and your books. Thanks for stopping by!

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.

Remembering the Fort Mims Massacre #amwriting #histfic #research #Alabama200 #history

One of the more horrific historical events I encountered in my research of Alabama history is that of the Massacre at Fort Mims. This event shapes how one of my characters reacts in my story, which I’ll explain in a minute. Keep in mind that when I began to read about the early history of the state, it was with fresh eyes as I was not raised in Alabama but Maryland, so never learned anything about this state’s history. I located the History of Alabama and Incidentally Georgia and Mississippi from the Earliest Period by Albert James Pickett (Volume II, Charleston: Walker and James, 1851) where I read with interest the somewhat florid descriptions of the early history of the state.

This image appears in History of Alabama and Incidentally of Georgia and Mississippi from the Earliest Period

When I came to the account of the battle and killing at Fort Mims, I really was horrified to think that people could hate so much as to murder by terrible means, scalp, and burn out men, women, and children. According to the History of Alabama, at the time of the attack, “The whole population of Fort Mims, consisting of whites, Indians, soldiers, officers, and negroes now amounted to five hundred and fifty-three souls” inside the fort, and of those about 533 died. However, the Encyclopedia of Alabama site states that “some 400 American settlers, U.S.-allied Creeks, and enslaved African Americans had taken refuge inside” and they don’t cite how many people died. But why is there such a huge discrepancy in the number of people in the fort?

I did a bit more digging and found an article entitled “Original letter describing the tragic events at Fort Mims with [films & pics]” by Donna R. Causey. Her picture of the historical marker for Fort Mims reveals a number closer to Pickett’s, thus corroborating his reporting: “Indians took fort with heavy loss, then killed all but about 36 of some 550 in the fort. Creeks had been armed by British at Pensacola in this phase of War of 1812.”

There’s a footnote on page 267 in the History of Alabama that supports that last sentence. He noted that “The Spaniards and the British agents charged McQueen’s party to ‘fight the Americans’ and if “the Americans should prove too hard for both of us, there are vessels enough to take us all off together.’”

From what I’ve read, it seems the underlying reason for the tensions between Americans and the Creeks apparently stemmed from the influx of white settlers into the area, claiming the hunting lands the natives had used for generations and converting it into cotton plantations. They did this with the approval of the U.S. government to some extent, but it’s also true that individuals, like Andrew Jackson, overstepped the letter of the law for their own benefit. The creation of the Federal Road into the region had increased the arrival of so many people seeking to find their wealth on the fertile soil.

I can only try to imagine how outraged the people who had lived and hunted on that land must have felt about those lands being taken away by force. Then to have the British incite the natives further, by arming them and encouraging violence against the Americans, lit the powder keg.

I know that people have fought and died defending their beliefs, property, and loved ones for centuries. But reading the detailed account in the History of Alabama proved eye-opening and shocking by turns. Lines such as these:

“The eastern part of the picketing was soon full of Indians, headed by five prophets, whom the Americans immediately shot down, while engaged in dancing and incantations. This greatly abated the ardor of the enemy, many of whom retreated through the gate, for the moment. They had been assured that American bullets would split upon the sacred persons of the prophets, and pass off harmless.”

“The assailants, from the old line of picketing, in the additional part of the fort, and from the outside stockading, commenced a general fire upon the Americans. Soldiers, negroes, women and children, fell.”

“His repeated discharges made lanes through the savage ranks. Fresh numbers renewed their efforts against him, and often an Indian and an American would plant their guns across the same port-hole, to shoot at each other.”

“The superior force of the assailants enabled them to constantly to bring fresh warriors into the action. They now set fire to the main building, and many of the out-houses. The shrieks of the women and children went up to high heaven.”

“The weak, wounded and feeble, were pressed to death and trodden underfoot. The spot presented the appearance of one immense mass of human beings, herded together too close to defend themselves, and, like beeves [cattle] in the slaughter-pen of the butcher, a prey to those who fired upon them.”

I won’t go into any more detail as to the various ways the women and children were killed. Suffice it to say, it’s appalling.

This event colors the reaction that Flint Hamilton, a character in The Haunting of Fury Falls (coming October 2019), has when he encounters two “Indians” sneaking around the stable one evening. He knows he’s not the best with a gun and he remembers hearing about the savage massacre in the southern part of the state. He surely doesn’t want to have a repeat occurrence at the Fury Falls Inn on his watch! So he proceeds with a fair amount of caution…

Sometimes history is difficult to digest and even more so when I try to put myself in the scene, trying to relive the experience. I had a similar experience when I wrote about how the plantation house in Undying Love (Secrets of Roseville Book 1) became haunted—imagining being the woman as she died, especially where she died makes me slightly queasy to this day.

Had you heard of the massacre at Fort Mims? Have you been to the historic site? Are you like me, interested in visiting places of historic importance?

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.

Meet Leslie Hachtel #author of #historical #paranormal #romance #suspense #mustread #fiction

Today I’d like to introduce you to a fellow RWA author of three of my favorite genres. But I’ll let Leslie Hachtel tell you about herself and her books.

Leslie Hachtel was born in Ohio, raised in New York and has been a gypsy most of her adult life.  Her various jobs, including licensed veterinary technician, caterer, horseback riding instructor for the disabled and advertising media buyer have given her a wealth of experiences.

However, it has been writing that has consistently been her passion. She sold an episode of a TV show, had a screenplay optioned and has so far produced eleven novels, including eight historicals and three romantic suspense.  Leslie lives in Florida with a fabulously supportive engineer husband and her writing buddy, Jakita, a terrier.

Visit her at www.lesliehachtel.com or connect with her via Facebook, on Twitter at

@lesliehachtel, or at her Leslie Hachtel, Writer blog.

Betty: How many books have you written and published?

Leslie: I have written 12 plus contributed to an anthology. Eleven of those are published, as is the anthology.

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

Leslie: I write historical, historical paranormal, and romantic suspense. Why? Because I love them all.

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

Leslie: Texas Summer is hot. Everything about it breathes heat. So the setting had to be in the desert.

What if your car broke down on a deserted highway in the middle of Texas?  Would you think it was fate and that it would change your life?

When Wylie Nichols walked toward the nearest town, his future was forever altered. The problem when you’re a stranger in a small town is you never know what you might discover. In this particular place, there is murder, greed, lust.

But waiting is earthy, sexy, enigmatic Kennedy. With her convoluted family history and the power to make his dreams come true. 

Amazon     Kobo     Barnes & Noble     Smashwords     Apple

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

Leslie: I have an office upstairs in my house and my husband knows not to interrupt unless it’s the zombie apocalypse.

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?

Leslie: I just like quiet so I can “get into the zone.”

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

Leslie: Persistence! And RWA advice.

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

Leslie: I think of myself as a storyteller and I believe my stories are my strength.

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

Leslie: A situation. Like: What if I was kidnapped and taken to a harem in the 1700s? Or what if my car broke down in the middle of nowhere?

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?

Leslie: I generally write between 6 and 11 am. Sometimes in the afternoons, but mornings are better for me.

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

Leslie: Sometimes I get to the middle of a novel and wonder what comes next. So, I have to step away and figure it out.

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

Leslie: No. I don’t do well when I have to produce words that way. Sometimes I write 50 words a day, sometimes 5000, but I never know when the words will flow, so I just have faith they will.

Betty: What are you reading right now?

Leslie: I just finished Blood Orange. Great read!

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Leslie: Books. I mean that. I love all genres. I love books.

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

Leslie: Anything by Kathleen Woodiwiss, the “key” series by Nora Roberts and Twilight. I read them once a year or so.

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

Leslie: Generally something else. I don’t want to worry about being influenced by someone else’s work because I just read it.

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

Leslie: I now am able to write full time.

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

Leslie: It’s hard and you need a thick skin and a lot of patience!

Betty: What advice do you have for new writers?

Leslie: The best advice I ever received was: “Don’t give up.” If you have a story to tell, tell it and then be patient since publishing is a marathon, not a sprint.

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

Leslie: Book Three of the Morocco series is coming up, as is a story about women in the Civil War.

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?

Leslie: I would love to do historical women’s fiction.

We have much in common, Leslie! Thanks so much for coming by and sharing with us about your writing process and books.

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.

Woof! Dog Breeds from the 1800s #amwriting #histfic #dogs #research #Alabama200 #history

Last week I talked about the Florida Cracker Horse, a horse breed that I’d never heard of before and chose to include in my new supernatural historical fiction series, Fury Falls Inn. There are also some paint horses and Morgans, too. But there also had to be dogs.

I’m a dog lover, there’s no doubt about that. My family has had dogs all my life. I’ve been in the 4-H dog training project as a teen, winning ribbons for dog obedience and grooming way back in the 1970s. We have two dogs now, both Chow mixes, Zola (the golden one) and Sierra (the sable one). So I simply had to have dogs in my series! These dogs are all sensitive to ghostly presence, too. They confirm for Flint that he’s not imagining the ghosts when they appear to him.

Sierra and Zola after their bath and clip!

No self-respecting (I imagine, anyway) farm would be without either hunting dogs or herding/watch dogs to protect the livestock. But then the question arises as to which breed(s) were most likely to be found in 1821 Alabama?

A bit of online search yielded the Dogluvers site with Dogs Breads By Year of Origin, which answered my question nicely.

Given that the inn is out in the wilderness and foothills, it seemed logical they’d have hunting dogs around, so I perused the list until I found the ones I thought most useful for my story. Which did I settle upon?

I have four dogs, and three breeds in my series, all of which originated in the 1800s, though I don’t the precise date. Still, it’s better than having a breed that didn’t originate until a later century. Anyway, I chose to have a male Golden retriever named Red; a male chocolate Labrador retriever named Beau; a female black Lab named Pickles; and a female tawny and white Cocker Spaniel named Cocoa.

The Golden retriever is a large, active dog but “extremely sociable” and a “friendly watch dog,” as well as “good natured.” Those characteristics made it a good fit for a place catering to guests and people coming and going. It’s also easy to train. I think they’re beautiful, too, so wanted to include this breed in my story.

The Labs are also “friendly” and “responsive” as well as easy to train. They are very similar to the Golden retriever in temperament and they come in three colors: yellow, liver/chocolate, and black. So I could distinguish the two Labs by having one chocolate and one black. I like a variety…

Qualities of the Cocker Spaniel breed which made it a good pick for living at the Fury Falls Inn included that they are sociable and a moderately good watch dog. I also thought that since they are considered to be “affectionate” and “responsive” any younger guests at the inn wouldn’t be scared of her. On top of that, I have fond memories of Polly, our Cocker Spaniel when I was a little girl. Even when she piddled across the driveway when she was nervous or excited. She was very loving and friendly, though.

Writing any story, I’ve found, requires sleuthing out some answers to particular questions. Naturally, historical settings require more research than contemporary stories. Some of the questions I had to find answers for may surprise you… Until next time!

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.

Getting to know Susan Carlisle #contemporary #medical #romance #author #mustread #fiction

I have a real sweet treat for you all today! I’d like to introduce you to a lovely lady who is also fantastic author, Susan Carlisle. I’ve been a fan of hers for years now, in real life not just her books. So let’s learn more about who she is and what she writes.

Susan Carlisle’s love affair with books began when she made a bad grade in math in the sixth grade. Not allowed to watch TV until she brought the grade up, Susan filled her time with books. She turned her love of reading into a love of writing romance. Susan has currently authored more than twenty-five books for the HarperCollins Harlequin medical imprint. Her heroes are strong, vibrant men and the women that challenge them.

In her past life Susan has been a full time mother to four children, a high school substitute teacher, and now when she isn’t writing she is busy being a fun grandmother. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband of over thirty-five years. Susan loves castles, traveling, sewing, and reads voraciously. Visit her at www.SusanCarlisle.com or connect with her at Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

Betty: How many books have you written and published?

Susan: I am currently working on my 28th. I have written a few more and the plan is to publish them this year.      

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

Susan: I write mostly contemporary romance for the Harlequin Medical line. Currently 24 of them. I have also written 2 nonfiction books. One about my son who had a transplant 28 years ago. It is call Nick’s New Heart. He will soon be 30. My other one is about a flight surgeon during WWII called A WWII Flight Surgeon’s Story.

I love writing romance because that is what I love to read. The nonfictions I wrote in the hopes that people would learn something.

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

Susan: Trust seemed to always come through in my romances. I don’t always start them out that way but it just bubbles up. In The Sheikh Doc’s Marriage Bargain it is more about coming out of your shell and experiencing life. Yet, that requires trusting yourself and the person you love, doesn’t it? 

From shy Cinderella…

To convenient princess!

For sensible Dr. Laurel Martin, heading up a new lab for royal doc Sheikh Tariq Al Marktum is the chance to conduct the study of a lifetime. But to protect Laurel from the scandal her presence in his palace will cause, Tariq has his own condition—a paper marriage! Swept into his desert kingdom, passion overtakes the convenient couple, but can Laurel find her place in Tariq’s world—and his heart?

Amazon

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

Susan: I kind of move around. When the weather is pretty I go out on my deck to write. I also get a lot done at my mother’s place on the lake. Sometimes I just have to make wherever I am work because the book is due.

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?

Susan: Not really. I will have a glass of sweet iced tea nearby but then I always do.

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

Susan: A mentor, a critique group, and joining Romance Writers of America. And a lot of hard work.

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

Susan: I love romance. I love reading it. I love writing it. I love watching it. If you love your subject it never gets old.

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

Susan: Setting. I travel places and think “What could happen here?” Next thing I know I have a story.

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?

Susan: Fluid/flexible that moves into panic with butt in the chair all the time closer to my deadline.

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

Susan: Time. I have a bunch of very small grandkids and they will only be small for a short time and I refuse to miss out on that, so I keep them as often as possible. That makes me have to work extra hard when I don’t have any extra sweet bodies in my house.  

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

Susan: No, I don’t participate. It’s the wrong time of the year for me. I’m in holiday mode by then. I live by deadlines as it is, so I don’t like the idea of being given another.

Betty: What are you reading right now?

Susan: Elizabeth Holt’s The Raven Duke

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Susan: Romance. All romance, all the time! I especially enjoy contemporaries and historicals.

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

Susan: I really like Kathleen Woodiwiss. Caro Carson, Roni Loran, and Penny Reid. These are also people who I would love to emulate, I hope when I’m in the nursing home that someone will come re-read these ladies’ works to me! 

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

Susan: I don’t read medicals when I’m writing, but I do read romance, especially historicals.

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

Susan: I write fulltime, or at least when I’m not seeing my grandkids.

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

Susan: That it requires work, hard work and to have a book that is publishable you have to pay your dues, and learn your craft.

Betty: What advice do you have for new writers?

Susan: They need to join a writers group and find a critique group. Listen to what people tell you. Understand that you will not be there with the reader to explain your work.

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

Susan: I will be doing a duet with the fabulous Amy Rutten. It is about firefighters and EMTs. The book takes place in Austin, Texas. I can hardly wait to write this 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?

Susan: I have always loved history so I think there will be a historical in my future. LOL I would be interested in doing one during the WWII period between a soldier and an Army nurse. There could be a lot of conflict during that time on more level than one.

Thanks so much, Susan, for stopping in and letting us get to know you better!

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.

About the Florida Cracker Horse Breed #Alabama200 #amwriting #supernatural #histfic #horse #history #historical #fiction

I want to share what I learned about a new-to-me breed of horse: the Florida Cracker Horse. I love horses, have ridden and competed, and helped my daughter do the same until she became an adult. I had never heard of this breed, but when I was researching breeds of the 1800s, I came across this one.

Image courtesy Wikipedia.com

Horses were the main mode of daily transportation for many during the time of my story, 1821. Many were gaited breeds, and this one is no exception. The Florida Cracker Horse went by many different names: Chickasaw Pony, Prairie Pony, and Grass Gut to name a few. The “Cracker” nickname came from the sound of the whips the cowboys used to drive the cattle while they rode along.

This breed of horse was used mainly as a stock horse and ranged in height from 13.2 to 15 hands, so they are similar in height to a large pony. That height would have made it fairly easy to mount, too. You’d find a wide range of colors to choose from: bay, black, gray, dun, chestnut, roan, and pinto.

Naturally, there are horses in my series, Fury Falls Inn, and so I wanted to include breeds most likely to be found in northern Alabama during the time of my story. This one fits the bill, in my opinion, since they originated in Florida which is a neighboring state. I think they’d have been popular since they were known for speed and agility as well as being surefooted with a comfortable “coon rack” ambling gait. Perfect for a saddle horse.

Have you heard of this breed before? I wonder if there are any still in the state? If anyone knows, I’d love to hear from you.

Cheers!

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.

Meet S.L. Hollister #contemporary #romance #author #readers #checkitout #familyfirst

I’m happy to introduce you to my next guest author interview with S.L. Hollister. I think you’re going to like what she writes and has to say about her writing process. First, let me share a bit about her background and then we’ll get into the meat of the interview.

About S.L. Hollister:

I wrote my first romance at the age of ten and dreamed of becoming a romance writer. My other childhood dream was to have my own Brady Bunch, I’m an only child. We’re not exactly the Brady Bunch, but I am the mother/stepmother to six sons. After only two years of marriage, my husband and I, gained custody of his three sons and discovered I was expecting number six. We went from two children in the home to six in a matter of a few months. (And people wonder why I’m so crazy.)

With my large family, I’m never at a loss for plot ideas, interesting characters or cheerleaders.

As a shy, insecure child, I struggled to find my voice. In writing fiction, I have found the courage to speak the truth. My characters are often flawed but it’s through their weaknesses they find their strength.

You can connect with her at any of the follow places:

S L Hollister – Home | Facebook

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sherrilhollister/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B079FGXGBH

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jeanelia1964

Betty: How many books have you written and published?

S.L.: I have two books out at the moment. They are part of a series, The Leeward Files, Chrome Pink and White Gold. I’m planning to launch the third book, Titanium Blue in May.

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

S.L.: Contemporary romantic suspense with strong female characters. My first love is historical romance but after losing my home and all of my books in a house fire, I started writing contemporary romance. My mind was in a different place and I’d developed a love of suspense and thrillers. Chrome Pink, the first in my series evolved from a couple of online workshops, events happening in my neighborhood and tragedies I’d heard and read about in the news.

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

S.L.: White Gold, the sequel to Chrome Pink, has a beauty pageant fundraiser, a small town and a sex trafficking ring. Using pictures of my home town on some of the promos shows the inspiration for the setting, the fictional town of Leeward, North Carolina. For my Mother’s Day promo, I’ll be giving away a tiara. White Gold has only been out a few months, with Titanium Blue due out in May.

The sequel to Chrome Pink, White Gold tells Dana’s story as she struggles to keep from losing her dating club, Cupid’s Zone.

SBI Agent Jake Monroe’s career is hanging over a ledge, he doesn’t have time for romance. After discovering Dana’s dating program has been hacked and her clients threatened, he is determined to protect her.

As a cold case heats up, so does their passions. Dana and Jake must untangle the truth before they are ensnared in a web of lies. One wrong choice could cost them their lives.

The Leeward Files series is a small-town romantic suspense with edge of your seat excitement and drama.

Chrome Pink: https://books2read.com/u/4jaeBk

White Gold: https://books2read.com/u/brYpjA

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

S.L.: I work full-time at an alcohol beverage store. While on break and lunch I write and revise in the backroom. I also have an office at home. In truth, as long as I don’t get nosy, I can write in the middle of a party. With six boys, writing was my escape and for a few minutes I could ignore the shouting and screaming as long as no one was bleeding and write.

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?

S.L.: Not really, I do like to have something handy to drink, coffee or water usually. If I’m trying to get into my characters’ head, I might drink something they would like. The same with music, if I’m channeling my characters, I might listen to some music that fits their personality. I do have my “sexy man” candle my husband gave me for Christmas. If I’m writing a very romantic scene, I might burn the candle or just have it open so I can smell of it. (It’s Seaside Mist by Bath and Body Works.)

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

S.L.: I’ve been a member of RWA, and my local group, Heart of Carolina for several years. I’ve also been a member of the North Carolina Writers’ Read and the Pamlico Writers’ Group (now chairperson).

The leader of the Writers’ Read, Marni Graff, is my mentor. After my agent dropped me, she insisted the book was ready and I should Indie Publish. It was the scariest and most exciting thing I’ve ever done.

I am blessed to have several writer friends and reader friends, who have pushed and encouraged me to take the plunge into Indie Publishing. Three have been the most instrumental: my husband for his encouragement and push to be brave and fulfill my dream, my best friend for taking me to my first and second, Romantic Times Writers and Readers Conventions, and my mentor, award winning cozy mystery writer, Marni Graff.

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

S.L.: I’m told I write good dialogue, but I think being able to see the story unfold like in a movie has helped me make my stories more realistic. Determination and dedication, I wanted to be a published author and even though I may not be as talented as someone else, I work hard. Having a good work ethic is key to any success.

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

S.L.: I think for me it’s characters. I get a vague idea for a character and then a vague idea for a story. Then I ask a lot of questions. Why does my character have tattoos and piercings and a bad attitude (Chrome Pink)? What happened to her? What does she need to do to regain her power?

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?

S.L.: I have some structured time but I’m the mother of six, grandmother of 19, I work full-time and I’m the chairperson for the Pamlico Writers’ Group. At the moment, I’m neck-deep in conference planning. Our conference is April 5th and 6th.

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

S.L.: Time is my biggest obstacle, there’s never enough of it. I’ve got too many projects. I recently joined eight other women from around the globe to put out a spring anthology, Love in Bloom. All the proceeds will go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. I have promos for it on top of my other obligations. It seems everything comes off at the same time.

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

S.L.: I have participated one time, I loved it and I finished a novel. I haven’t been able to do it again because of the timing. November is the worst month for me to write fifty thousand words. With my job and my large family, I’m already busy. Plus, November is when we kick off our conference planning. We try to have everything done before the holidays so we can start promoting after the first of the year. It’s a lot of work.

Betty: What are you reading right now?

S.L.: I’m reading Love in Bloom, the international anthology I’m a part of and I’m listening to Deanna Raybourn’s A Dangerous Collaboration.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

S.L.: Historical romance or historical suspense are my favorites.

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

S.L.: I love Sabrina Jeffries, Amanda Quick, Deanna Raybourn and Will Thomas, just to name a few.

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

S.L.: I read something else. I don’t want to be influenced by something similar to what I’m writing. But I also found as a novice writer learning from those writers I adored, helped me discover my own voice.

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

S.L.: That it is serious, hard work with little pay. It takes time to craft a well-written book. Some can write faster but it still work.

Betty: What advice do you have for new writers?

S.L.: Make time to write, take classes and learn the craft and business of writing, and above all else, READ!

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

S.L.: I have at least one more book in the series I’m writing. He is the assistant fire chief for the local volunteer fire department.

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?

S.L.: I have a historical I’ve been toying with for several years I want to write. I’ve also written several short stories in which I experiment with language and style. I write really bad poetry but I have found that poetry can help you develop language and rhythm. I believe writing is like life, you have to do what scares you in order to grow.

Betty: Thanks so much for sharing about your books and your process, S.L.!

I hope you all enjoyed meeting S.L. Hollister and will join me next Friday for another guest author interview.

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.

Roads in Early Northern #Alabama #Huntsville #Alabama200 #amwriting #supernatural #histfic #history #historical #fiction

One thing I’ve gleaned from writing The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn and other historical fiction: We take getting around by car for granted. The smooth (mostly – if you ignore potholes and such) surfaces we drive on enable us to drive from one city to another close by in minutes or hours. We don’t often think of it taking days or even weeks to reach the next city or the next state, for that matter. I’m reminded of driving from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Mount Vernon, Virginia in a matter of two-three hours, while contemplating how envious George and Martha Washington would have been of such a speedy trip. For them, in the late 1700s, it could take weeks to make such a journey!

Back when the State of Alabama was the new kid on the block, the roads (dirt for the most part) were often treacherous on a good day and impassable due to heavy rain turning them into a quagmire on a bad one. In fact, most transportation occurred on rivers because it was far more comfortable and less laborious to float down the river than to travel by horseback or stagecoach.

There were roads across Alabama as depicted in the picture of an 1822 map of the state. I’ve included a close-up of the Madison County area which is where my series is set. But most people held the belief that rivers and streams which could be navigated and which were located close to a town, gave that town an advantage over other towns without a river nearby. Thus Huntsville held high hopes of becoming a major city because of the Big Spring near downtown.

1822 Geographical, Statistical, and Historical Map of Alabama
Closeup of the Madison County area of the 1822 map pictured above. Note that the Winchester Road arcs to the northeast from Huntsville and is not shown here crossing into Tennessee, but the road did and does today.

Still, the roads need a lot of work! In Alabama: The History of a Deep South State by William Warren Rogers, Robert David Ward, et al. (July 3, 2018, p55) the roads of north Alabama are described as “crude” and that people “literally bushwhacked their way across the mountains, often hopelessly lost and searching for creeks and streams to follow toward rivers and known points.” Further, the area was “the most broken mountainous country” with “the largest rattlesnakes.” In 1818 northern Alabama was a “roadless wilderness.” But that soon changed.

In Madison County, the effort to develop a better network of roads really took off after the second land sales in 1818. By 1828, roads connected all sides of the county with the rest of the state and the neighboring state of Tennessee. Many of the roads were either toll or turnpikes constructed by stock companies that were chartered by the Legislature.

The Federal Post Office Department at that time also would designate certain roads as post roads or mail routes, which then increased that route’s status as a main route between the larger cities. The earliest designation of a post road in Madison County, Alabama, was on July 16, 1822, when R.J. Meigs, Jr., the Postmaster General, ordered the creation of several routes with Huntsville at the center.

Most travel along the roads was accomplished by horseback or stage. The hotels and inns each maintained stage coaches or hacks for the use of their guests and the public. For instance, from the Early History of Huntsville, Ala.: 1804-1870 by Edward Chambers Betts (Brown Printing Co., 1916, p65), the following ad is cited, which apparently typically included a sketch of a stage coach drawn by four moving horses:

“A Four Horse Hack.”

“On reasonable charges rented for any length of time or for any distance. Apply Huntsville Inn.   I. Jones.”

Having discovered these types of facts, I’ve included the concept of the Fury Falls Inn having its own coaches and horses as well as mention the difficulty of travel in 1821, the time period of my series. Of course, when those horses are stolen, Flint Hamilton, the fill-in innkeeper, has his hands full trying to satisfy his distrustful employer and the guests! Imagining the hardships of traveling from one town to another across such terrain is difficult for me to fully comprehend. Especially when I think about having to bushwhack a path while fearing becoming disoriented and lost in the wilderness. Nope, traveling back then was not for the weak or faint-hearted!

As a person who loves to drive, I have a feeling I wouldn’t have been traveling very much under such conditions. Which means I’d have been more a homebody than I am now. But at least I have plenty of books to read…and write! Until next time, I hope you’ll find some new books to read and enjoy!

Cheers!

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.