Bell Tavern of Huntsville #amwriting #histfic #historical #fiction #history #Alabama200 #research

The idea for a haunted roadside inn in my Fury Falls Inn series developed over several months of pondering. If you’re a fan of my books, one fact I hope you’ve discovered is that for my historicals—actually, for all of my writing—I strive to make sure the story’s details are authentic and at least plausible if not exactly found in the history books. With that in mind, I had to know whether an inn could have existed where I wanted in northeast Alabama in 1821, the time period of the series.

The first consideration I’ve already discussed: whether enough people were traveling into the area who would need accommodations or lodgings for a brief period of time. I had to know where the roads were in Madison County before I could choose the right location. Then I was curious about what types of hostelries existed in the Huntsville area. Which leads me to today’s topic: the Bell Tavern.

While I haven’t been able to find out much about the original tavern as far as its appearance, I do know it was owned by Walter Otey who arrived in Huntsville in the early 1800s. His wife, Mary Walton Otey, must have helped in the Bell Tavern when she wasn’t busy raising their nine children. Most likely even the children helped out with the daily chores associated with keeping the place clean, preparing and serving meals, keeping fires burning for warmth, etc.

Mention is made regarding the many people who traveled to Huntsville who would stay at the Bell Tavern. Since it was located on the northwest corner of the courthouse square, I imagine during the formative years of the state that delegates and lawyers among others must have enjoyed the hospitality offered at the tavern. Although the deliberations were held in the Constitution Hall, those who had traveled into town might have stayed at the Tavern.

Walter Otey died in 1823, which left the tavern to his wife to manage. I imagine, though the record I’ve uncovered doesn’t provide details, she would likely have been glad to find a buyer for the business. There is reference to the property having “endured many changes in ownership” before Alexander Johnson took possession of it in 1855. Mr. Johnson suffered from some very bad luck because a “major fire” reduced the Tavern to having only “a few rooms for guests” for some period of time before being torn down and replaced with a “modern hotel” on the site. Thus The Huntsville Hotel was built, which will be the topic of next week’s article.

So, look for potential visits by my characters in the series to the Bell Tavern since it was still in existence at the time of my stories. I’m still in the planning stages of some of those and don’t know yet whether they’ll stop in for a pint or not. Or perhaps copy some of the hospitality for use at the Fury Falls Inn. Anything is possible at this point…

Thanks for reading both my blog and my 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 www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

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

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

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

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Getting to know Claudia Shelton #author of #romance #suspense #thriller #fiction #books

Today I’d like to introduce you to a plunge-write-in (get it?) type of author. Claudia Shelton writes romantic suspense among other genres for a very specific reason she’ll tell you shortly. First, her official bio and then we’ll get to the interview itself.

Award-winning author Claudia Shelton could write her name before the first day of school, but now she writes romantic suspense, thrillers and contemporary romance. In addition, she presents workshops for readers and authors. Her debut novel, Risk of a Lifetime, released to 5-star reviews, reached Amazon’s Best Sellers Romance Series Top 100 and was named one of eBooks Galore top reads for 2014. She is also a two-time nominated Daphne Du Maurier (Unpublished) finalist for excellence in mystery. Claudia is the author of the Shades of Leverage action-adventure romantic suspense series.

On a personal note, Claudia considers herself a traveler, music lover and water person. A cool drink while listening to the splash of waves is always nice—so is a mug of hot chocolate in the falling snow. Her main priority is spending time with family, friends and her two sweet, conniving rescue dogs.

You can find out more about her and her books at her website http://claudiasheltonauthor.com/ or by following her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Betty: How many books have you written and published?

I have completed six manuscripts and have published three of them with Entangled Publishing.

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

Claudia: I write romantic suspense because I love a fast-paced action adventure with lots of plot twists, yet also want the happily ever after of a romance. Gradually, I’ve learned there can be a happily ever after, or happy for now, within a suspense or thriller; so with that in mind, I’m planning a series that is even more suspense/thriller based. But, don’t worry I’ll always have a romantic suspense work in progress or ready for release.

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

Claudia: I’ve always thought of myself as a water person, and Dangerous Lies is definitely set around water.

To ex-Navy SEAL Mitch Granger, responsibility isn’t just a word. It’s his Code of Honor. But when assigned to protect Coercion Ten’s latest target, she challenges his authority, defies his rules, and wreaks havoc on his personal willpower. Fighting for her isn’t a problem. Giving his life for her isn’t a problem. Forgetting their world-stopping kiss? Definite problem. And if he can’t concentrate solely on keeping her safe, it may cost them both their lives.

Journalist Liz Walkert’s missing father sent her a cryptic message that she was in danger. What he didn’t tell her was why. Unbeknownst to Liz, her family has been in Witness Protection all her life. Mitch may be her bodyguard, but his protection comes close to being control, the one thing she has none of in his presence. After a kidnap attempt and a narrow escape from attacking CT forces, they both realize they’re going to need to focus on the mission and fight their attraction if they have any hope of surviving.

Each book in the Shades of Leverage series is STANDALONE:
* Slater’s Revenge
* Dangerous Lies

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

Claudia: I’m lucky enough to have an office which I’ve decorated in a beach theme.

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?

Claudia: No rituals, however music sometimes helps me in planning out my book. I’m not a plotter till half way through the manuscript, but I do write scenes in my head and certain songs can help that process. But every manuscript has a different song that helps (sometimes two).

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

Claudia: Never give up!

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

Claudia: My alpha heroes, plot twists, and exciting action-packed endings.

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

Claudia: At least one character! Sometimes the other character arrives close behind, but occasionally I have to search for the other one. After the first character, there’s usually the location, then the premise of the story—no plotting, just the premise.

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?

Claudia: I’m involved in my writing daily, with a few days off here and there. But when I’m on deadline I calculate the amount of words left in the story, divide by days left before deadline and make sure I get the allotted amount of words in weekly.

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

Claudia: Time crunch. Writing, marketing, social media and everything else that publishing entails, doesn’t just happen in one neat ten-minute slot.

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

Claudia: No…that’s not how I write.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Claudia: Depends on my mood. I usually have more than one book being read at a time.

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

Claudia: I have certain books I keep, but I seldom go back and reread them.

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

Claudia: Most times not the same genre. However, if it is the same genre, I make sure it is in no way close to the story I’m writing.

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

Claudia: Full-time writer.

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

Claudia: I write my stories because the characters speak to me. I write my stories because they need to be told. And, I write my stories for you—the reader. In turn, I need you to leave a review or tell the world how much you enjoyed the book, the characters, the setting, my writing. Otherwise, the publishers can’t know how the readers feel about my book and my stories may never see the light of day.

Betty: What advice do you have for new writers?

Claudia: Write! Attend workshops and conferences. Write! Find yourself a critique group or start one yourself. Write! Read books on writing a book, and also ones on writing your specific genre. Write, write, write— And never give up!

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

Claudia: My publisher has me writing the third book in the Shades of Leverage series, which will be set in the northwest. Think mountains and river rapids, horses and a secluded cabin, and lots of action-packed romantic suspense!

And later this year, I will self-pub a couple of books—one of which will be a Christmas book.

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?

Claudia: Instead of Romantic Suspense, I’m planning a future series that centers on the Suspense/Thriller genre. And I’m always playing with the idea of a cozy mystery.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Claudia!

I think her stories and her writing process are both equally fascinating. If you enjoy romantic suspense, I hope you’ll give Claudia’s books a try.

Betty

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

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

General Andrew Jackson in Huntsville #amwriting #histfic #historical #fiction #history #Alabama200 #research

Researching historic events and people can be quite revealing at times. One person who created tension and discord based on his actions was Andrew Jackson. I’ve written a bit about him before but would like to elaborate a little more about his ties to Huntsville.

Image courtesy Library of Congress

The first mention I found in my sources of the early history of Alabama refers to when he was General Jackson. According to the Early History of Huntsville Alabama 1804 to 1870 by Edward Chambers Betts (1909; revised 1916) and History of Alabama and Incidentally of Georgia, Mississippi from the earliest period by Albert James Pickett of Montgomery (1851), one of Jackson’s first visits to the city was in 1813 on his way south from Nashville, TN, toward Horse Shoe Bend.

The reason for his involvement was because of some “distressing” news… A massacre at Fort Mims. You can read more about the Fort Mims massacre here.

“The arrival of an express, at Nashville, with letters from Mr. George S. Gaines to General Jackson and the governor, conveying the distressing intelligence of the massacre at Fort Mims, and imploring their assistance, created great excitement, and the Tennesseans volunteered their services to avenge the outrage.” [Pickett, p293]

“On October 13, 1813, General Andrew Jackson, and his command, after marching from Fayetteville to Huntsville in five hours, halted at what is now the intersection of East Holmes and North Lincoln streets, for rest over night, having learned on arriving here that the report of the ‘rapid approach of the Indians was exaggerated.’ General Jackson and his command the next day continued their march through the country of hostile Indian tribes to Horse Shoe Bend, where that sanguinary battle was fought with the Creek Indians. Nor was their departure unattended, for the county had contributed liberally of its men; four companies from Huntsville, one the “Mounted Rangers,” under the command of Capt. Eli Hammond and a fifth company from Hazel Green, with Captain Jack Mosley as its commander, had joined General Jackson’s forces here.” [Betts, p30]

“General Jackson, at the head of a large force, passed through Huntsville, crossed the Tennessee at Ditto’s Landing, and joined Colonel Coffee, who had been despatched in advance, and who had encamped opposite the upper end of an island on the south side of the river, three miles above the landing. Remaining here a short time, the army advanced higher up, to Thompson’s Creek, to meet supplies, which had been ordered down from East Tennessee. In the meantime, Colonel Coffee marched, with six hundred horse, to Black Warrior’s town, upon the river of that name, a hundred miles distant, which he destroyed by fire, having found it abandoned. Collecting about three hundred bushels of corn, he rejoined the main army at Thompson’s Creek, without having seen an Indian. Establishing a defensive depot at this place, called Fort Deposite, Jackson, with great difficulty, cut his way over the mountains to Wills’ Creek, where, being out of bread, he encamped several days, to allow his foraging parties to collect provisions. The contractors had entirely failed to meet their engagements, and his army had, for some days, been in a perishing condition.” [Pickett, p293]

The army marched on south to fight the Creeks in southern Alabama. Andrew Jackson had become quite popular during the War of 1812 and his role in and around New Orleans. By the time the first Alabama legislature met in Huntsville in the fall of 1819, he’d distinguished himself, but not everyone applauded his actions. But he did have his fans in Huntsville.

“And it is not inappropriate to record here that the Huntsville Masonic Lodge was the first chartered in the State; having operated continuously under a dispensation from the Grand Lodge of Kentucky, granted it in 1811. A legend of the times proclaims that General Andrew Jackson, while on his frequent visits to Huntsville, often attended the meetings of the lodge, held in its present temple, situated on Lincoln street at the corner of Williams street.” [Betts, p40]

“During the session of the legislature, General Jackson visited Huntsville, with his horses, and was enthusiastically engaged in the sports of the turf, then an amusement indulged in by the highest classes.” [Pickett, p436]

There was even at some point a “celebrated contest between the horses of Andrew Jackson, of Tennessee, and James Jackson, of North Alabama, at Huntsville.” [Pickett, p427] James Jackson (1782-1840) was born in Ireland, came to America in 1799, and is “well-known as one of the founders of Florence [AL] and surrounding Lauderdale County.” By the way, James is also claimed to be, at the Encyclopedia of Alabama link above, “the first breeder and importer of race horses in the United States.” That claim can’t be true since one of my American Revolution sources cited—and I have confirmed in person at the South Carolina Historical Society—the South Carolina Weekly Gazette issues of October 31 and November 21, 1783 where two “thorough bred” stallions and two blood mares arrived on a ship from England in Charleston Harbor. Since James didn’t arrive in America until 1799, he couldn’t have been the first importer let alone breeder of race horses.

While General and later President Andrew Jackson may be a controversial figure in American history, one thing can be said about his visit among others. Huntsville can boast about the many high-ranking and important people who have stayed within the city limits throughout its history.

I have learned a lot about the history of Alabama while researching for and writing my next release, The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn, along with the ongoing research for the remaining five books in the Fury Falls Inn series.

Thanks for reading both my blog and my books! I appreciate your time and interest.

Betty

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

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

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

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

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

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Meet Kathleen Buckley #historical #romance #author #Georgian #histfic #mustread #fiction

Today I’m happy to welcome a fellow historical author, Kathleen Buckley. I think you might find something of interest in her books, but I’ll let her tell you all about what she writes, her process for doing so, and maybe a hint at her next book. First, here is her official bio.

After a varied career which included being a paralegal and a security officer, Kathleen Buckley began to write historical romances. She is now the author of three Georgian romances: An Unsuitable Duchess, Most Secret, and Captain Easterday’s Bargain, with a fourth, A Masked Earl, currently in the editing process. They are perhaps best described as “powder & patch & peril”: romance with adventure (and occasional humor) rather than drawing room romance. Among her hobbies is the recreation of 18th-century baked goods because they are reliably good, whereas boiled tongue and udder with root vegetables fails to appeal. She sometimes finds it odd that she writes novels set in 1740s England although she lives in 21st-century New Mexico. Connect with her on her blog at https://writing-on-el-camino-real.blogspot.com/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/anunsuitableduchess/.

Betty: How many books have you written and published?

Kathleen: I’ve written three which have been published in the last two years, and a fourth which is currently in production. I self-published another.

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

Kathleen: My three recent novels are Georgian period historical romances set in the 1740s. I love Georgette Heyer’s novels, and wanted to see if I could write one similar. I set them in the 1740s because I became fascinated with that decade as a result of a paper I wrote in college about the publication of Samuel Richardson’s novel, Pamela

I’ve also written three crime fiction short stories, two of them published in anthologies edited by the late Robert Bloch (before he was “…the late…”), one in an online magazine. Why crime fiction? I’ve always enjoyed mysteries, and I took a couple of classes in murder/criminal investigation.

A few years I self-published a coming of age novel about a dumpster-diving adolescent loner. The story just came to me and I wasn’t writing anything else, so…

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

Kathleen: Captain Easterday’s Bargain is the story of a woman’s struggle to succeed in a male-dominated business (the shipping trade in the 18th century Pool of London). More than two centuries later, women still face challenges in their work. The “bad boy” is a minor motif.  It’s a common theme in romantic fiction, and I thought it was time to re-evaluate it.

London’s cutthroat shipping trade is no place for a lady, although Olivia Cantarell has secretly acted as her father’s assistant for years. Now she has inherited his company, she has no mind to give up control over it—and herself—by marrying, however flattering it is to be sought after for the first time in her life. In spite of threats and intimidation, she will fight to keep her business. 

Careful, responsible, and twice jilted, Captain Marcus Easterday has no heart to attempt marriage a third time. But he cannot stand by and see a woman cheated of her livelihood by Ambrose Hawkins, rumored to be a former pirate, a man whose name is known and feared in ports from the West Indies to China. 

Courted by the ruthless Hawkins while relying on the scrupulous Easterday’s help, Olivia must conceal the identity of one of her clerks and protect her company and employees. Who can she trust?

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

Kathleen: I have a home office/sewing/hobby room—where else to stash the computer, printer, sewing machines, reference books, all their related bits, and the shelves and multiple file cabinets to store them? I’m a desktop writer, not a laptop writer, and can’t imagine being able to concentrate on writing if I were sitting in a coffee house or under a tree. 

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?

Kathleen: For my invariable early morning writing session, I drink coffee. Nothing fancy: the inexpensive kind from Costco or the supermarket, made in a Mr. Coffee. Half-and-half, no sugar—though I do like a strong coffee, not “light” or “medium”.

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

Kathleen: My dumpster-diving adolescent loner non-romance for which I had high hopes was either rejected or ignored by about thirty agents, and I’d given up on it. Because I can’t not write, I wrote a historical romance for my own amusement, attempting to mimic Georgette Heyer’s style. When I finished, I thought I’d see what publishers were accepting historical romance novels.  A Google search revealed there were romance publishers who didn’t require submission through an agent. I narrowed the list to two, and queried one based on Internet research about them. The Wild Rose Press has been a great choice. It took only 43 days from initial query to contract, and they’ve now published three of my romances, with a fourth currently in production.  

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

Kathleen: I sit at my computer and do it. A bumper sticker I once saw says it all: “80% of success is showing up”.

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

Kathleen: Oh, the germ of the situation, definitely. My second book, Most Secret, started with the thought, “What if someone imported French army surplus muskets for the Jacobite rebels in 1745?” That took care of both the situation and the setting, and the characters I needed fell into place.

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?

Kathleen: I get up early, sometimes as early as four a.m., and start by making a pot of coffee and feeding the cats. Then I write while drinking the coffee, for anything between an hour and a half and four hours. I rarely deviate from this, although once in a while I put in some additional time later in the day if I’m really percolating with ideas.

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

Kathleen: My current project bubbled along nicely until about the 63,000 word mark. Then, as almost always happens, I wondered where the last 25,000 to 30,000 words were going to come from. And as always happens, after re-reading some parts and thinking for a while, I have a good idea where I need to go and what I need to deal with.    

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

Kathleen: I don’t, and for exactly the same reason I don’t “make a quilt in a weekend!” as quilting magazines are always encouraging one to do. It doesn’t sound like fun. With both novels and patchwork quilts, I enjoy the process as much as the end result. I make quilts from scraps, putting the different colors and prints together in a way I think is pleasing, and stitch by hand.  This technique does not work well with the two or three color, rotary-cut method of speedy quilt construction. And I write the same way, letting the characters and story grow organically from the situation. 

Betty: What are you reading right now?

Kathleen: As I write this, I’m re-reading Mary Jo Putney’s Lost Lords series. Next in line is Donna Andrews’s cyber-sleuth mystery, You’ve Got Murder, followed by the third and fourth books in the series, Access Denied and Delete All Suspects. I came upon the second book, Click Here for Murder, and immediately went looking for the others.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Kathleen: I can’t decide between historical romance and historical mysteries.   

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

Kathleen: Oh, dear. The mysteries of Louise Penny, Charles Todd, Anne Perry, Thomas Perry, Dick Francis/Felix Francis, Tony Hillerman, and Dorothy Sayers. The historical novels of Diana Norman/Ariana Franklin. The late Sarah Caudwell’s funny English legal novels. Science fiction/fantasy: the Harry Potter books, Lois McMaster Bujold, Mercedes Lackey, and Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series. Georgian and Regency novels: Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Eileen Dreyer, Lucinda Brant, Mary Balogh, Jo Beverley, Mary Jo Putney, Grace Burrowes, Jane Aiken Hodge, and Sheri Cobb South. And those are just the major ones.

How often I reread them depends on whether I need something soothing, want polished prose and keen wit, an intricate plot, or a fun read. I might read the same book or series twice in a year, or once in five years. Over time, my list has changed, with some books dropped and others added. Good thing I have a lot of bookshelves.

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

Kathleen: I read historical romance pretty steadily, whether I’m writing or not, but I also read mysteries, historical fiction, fantasy/science fiction, and occasionally mainstream novels.

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

Kathleen: I’m retired, with a little flexible part-time job doing legal billing and Quickbooks for a former employer/friend, and write up to several hours per day.  

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

Kathleen: People, whether readers or aspiring writers, often think writing a book is an easy way to make money and earn fame. I don’t think they ever think about the publishing industry as separate from the business (or hobby) of writing. Shoot, I don’t know what I think about the publishing industry, beyond the fact that the big brick-and-mortar publishers only accept submissions through agents. And with self-publishing and e-books, it’s a totally different game than it was twenty years ago.

Betty: What advice do you have for new writers?

Kathleen: The first thing is, sit down and write. No class or book will really teach you to write. In fact, I don’t believe they’ll do you any good until you’ve spent some time writing on your own. Then what they teach will start to make sense. Keep writing. Realize that a justified criticism of your story is not a personal attack on you, and that as an aspiring writer, many criticisms will be justified. You can’t improve unless someone points out the problems. And grammar and spelling count, as do errors of fact.

Please, if you self-publish, proofread at least twice, separated by at least a couple of weeks, and then have someone else whose spelling and grammar are above average proofread it as well.

Betty: Any hints of what your next writing project might be?

Kathleen: The one I’m currently writing includes an arranged marriage and Ambrose Hawkins, a secondary character in Captain Easterday’s Bargain, being charged with murder.

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?

Kathleen: I’d like to try writing a non-romance historical mystery. But I’ll have to wait for the right idea to come along. 

Thanks for swinging by, Kathleen, and sharing your advice and insights! Best of luck with your next release, too.

Betty

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

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

Surprise Visit by James Monroe in Huntsville 1819 #amwriting #histfic #historical #fiction #history #Alabama200 #research

Don’t you love serendipity? A couple of months ago, my hubby pointed out an article in the Huntsville Times about the June 1 celebration at the Alabama Constitution Hall Historic Park in honor of its grand reopening after a renovation. What made it so fortuitous was the relevance to the book I was writing at the time. I hadn’t heard anything about it until he showed me the article and I looked up more details online.

Included in the day of festivities was the reenactment of the surprise visit President James Monroe paid to Huntsville, a reenactment based on details found in the Alabama Republican article reporting on the festivities surrounding his visit. The present day evening event featured a reception, reenactment of the arrival, and tavern style dinner. Since I was in the throes of writing The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn (available for preorder now before it releases October 1, 2019), set in northern Alabama in 1821, this 1819 reenactment and meal would hopefully provide useful insights and experiences. So despite the significant (to me) expense of $100/plate, my hubby and I decided to attend.

The timing of the celebration was to coincide with the date that President Monroe actually arrived in town. On June 1, 1819, he and two companions, “Mr. Governeur his private secretary and Lieut. Monroe of the Army,” arrived and registered at the Huntsville Inn. Shocked town leaders quickly “appointed a committee” to greet the president and to arrange for an appropriate dinner in his honor for the following day. I can only imagine how a-flutter the town leaders and their wives must have been! To suddenly be faced with entertaining the president. From all accounts, they did the town proud. I’d like to share my observations of the reenactment and dinner with you all.

First off, when hubby and I arrived to enter the grounds for the outdoor reception, the man greeting us was obviously someone of importance. I didn’t know him, of course, since this is not the sort of crowd I usually hobnob with. I noted with a touch of humor how everyone seemed to know him, and he seemed to greet everyone by name. (I even jokingly told hubby we were “the riffraff” since we didn’t know anyone there.) When we finally stood in front of him and he quickly adjusted his welcome. But not before I noted the hesitation as to how to address us, unknowns as we were. (And still are, for that matter!) He recovered quickly and we went inside to mingle. Or rather to wander about, drinks in hand, observing the other well-dressed and/or costumed people. We chatted with a few folks and essentially waited for what I anticipated would be the highlight of the reception: the moment when President Monroe arrived.

The time came and the crowd was summoned to stand by the side entrance driveway. Excitement rippled across the faces of the people, gathering and craning to see the procession. I expected an entourage of some sort. Imagined the President of the United States would have a contingent with him. Possibly security riders, secretaries, scouts. I imagined twenty to thirty men. Horses, bedecked coaches, maybe wagons of supplies? Boy, was I wrong!

In my weak defense, I had not taken any time whatsoever to delve into the history of the moment. Not even a quick internet search. I’d been busy with researching for and writing my book, which occurs after 1819, and not focused on the earlier history to the details of that day. But what I surprise his surprise visit caused for me!

President Monroe only had two outriders with him. A party of three. That was the extent of his entourage. The three men rode about the countryside assessing the “state of society, and of improvement in agriculture, manufactures & c and also to enquire into the conditions of the Indian tribes.” I guess you don’t need a whole lot of folks to do so.

The arrival of President James Monroe in Huntsville.

The three reenactors were in approximations of the period attire and horse tack, but of course I’m not the authority so don’t know for certain. Hubby asked one of the riders who said his tack was similar but not authentic. This was somewhat disappointing to me for a moment until I realized most of the folks in attendance wouldn’t necessarily care one way or the other. (I was harkening back to the obvious amount of time and attention the military men and women reenactors, both active duty and civilian, for the U.S. Cavalry Association’s annual competition put in to recreate the most authentic uniforms and harness/tack for their mounts spanning 100+ years of service. But of course, they’re striving to preserve the Cavalry history on an on-going basis, not for a single event, and competing for most accurate turnout, so it’s worth their attention to the details.)

Soon after the arrival of the president, we mosied across the street for dinner inside a large banquet hall in the Early Works Children’s Museum. The tables were elegantly dressed and ready for the large crowd. They even recreated the mismatched dishes and glass ware like the original diners had to use. I did find it humorous that the rest of the “riffraff”—about ten people who didn’t buy entire tables of ten places but only in couples—were all gathered at one long table separated by a “passage” from the rest of the tables.

Dinner guests at the banquet in honor of President Monroe.

The menu included some new temptations. Starting with the salad: watercress is not something I’ve eaten very often since moving to this area. Though Alabama is known for its watercress. Each course featured something unique to the area, or at least unique in my experience of offerings from northern Alabama. I was most surprised by the dessert, as I thought the menu listed three options. In fact, all the ingredients comprised one tasty cake!

Open wine bottles on the table enabled everyone to choose to their taste, and then to have something in hand for the series of 24 toasts following the meal. That was yet another interesting note: the toasts came after the meal. In my experience in the 20th and 21st centuries, the toast(s) always come before. If you read the Alabama Republican article, it mentions that “after the cloth was removed” the toasts were made, indicating that the dinner dishes had all been cleared away. All the toasts are listed in the referenced article if you’re curious.

Individuals in the audience had been selected to read a toast and then everyone else would “hear, hear!” I’m not certain if they wouldn’t have said “huzzah” back in 1819 or not. I know in the 1770s the cheer was “huzzah.” After the War of 1812, though? I guess it could easily be perceived that the people desired to separate themselves from anything that smacked of British tendencies.

All in all, we had an enjoyable evening out with a room full of a couple of hundred strangers. Experiencing the food, the music, the attire as well as the language of the speeches and toasts gave me a pretty good feel for what living in those times must have been like. Especially after having tramped all over the reconstructed historic buildings earlier in the day. A kind of immersive experience, I might say.

I’ve noted before, I really enjoy going to historic sites, trying to put myself into the shoes and mindset of people from earlier periods in American history. Heck, in history itself. I also enjoyed seeing the castles in Scotland and the Parthenon in Greece. Trying to understand the cultures and intent of other peoples is something I do. I hope my understanding of past times and events reflects in my characters and the stories I tell, too.

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

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

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

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

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AL Constitution Hall vs Philly’s Independence Hall #amwriting #histfic #historical #fiction #history #Alabama200 #research

Before I get to my topic for today, I’m thrilled to share that The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn is now available for preorder with a release date of October 1! Check out the book description at the end of my post for more info and links to reserve your copy! Now on to the business at hand…

In researching for my historical stories, I am always happy to have the chance to visit historical sites. I grew up in Maryland, so school field trips often took us to Annapolis, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and other local historically significant places. As an adult historical fiction author, I soak up the atmosphere in such places, seeking out the details to make my stories and the characters in them come to life for the reader. A recent visit to the Alabama Constitution Hall Historic Park gave me the opportunity to see and experience the actual Constitution Hall for myself. (Here is a good article on the structures comprising Constitution Village, if you’re interested in learning more about the historic nature of the site. It’s worth a visit, in my opinion.) I came away impressed with much of its history and construction but also found myself comparing the same to Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

Let’s start with Independence Hall, only because it’s the older of the two buildings and thus has a longer history.

The brick steeple of Independence Hall with its bell at the top. Quite an elegant and imposing structure in the City of Brotherly Love.

Originally known as the Pennsylvania State House, construction was begun in 1732 and completed in 1753 (21 years is a long time to build one building, don’t you think? I know other buildings have taken longer, but it’s still quite an endeavor.) and proved to be a beautiful building that became “a symbol of the nation to come.” Keep in mind, of course, that it was begun under British rule and thus was not to represent American ideals entirely—though the colonists had already begun to act differently than those living in the Mother Country—at its beginning. Although it has apparently “undergone many restorations” the current appearance is that of 1776 after a restoration by the National Park Service in 1950. So this building has been around for 287 years, or nearly three centuries, as of this writing.

When I visited it in 2014 with a fellow author and dear friend, and then again with my husband in 2017, I literally felt the presence of the esteemed men who have conducted business within the walls of this majestic building. Partly because of the staging of miscellany left on the desks and tables, but also from my own sensitivity to the atmosphere of places which I can’t entirely explain. I had goosebumps as the park ranger talked about the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Without those historic events, I wouldn’t be here writing about American history…or at least not the same history. How would our lives be different if we, or rather our brave Founding Fathers who risked their lives and livelihoods, hadn’t declared our right to self-rule? An unanswerable question, perhaps.

Inside Independence Hall where the Declaration was signed. Note the opulence and craftsmanship of the woodwork and decorations.

I thought about the many common and elite men and women who entered the doors of this building to conduct whatever legal business they had to transact. Buying or selling land, probate a will, adopt a child, complain about a negligent or thieving neighbor, start a new venture which may have needed government sanction? Whatever it might have been, how imposing the façade must have looked to them. Perhaps even daunting as they approached and entered. When the State House first opened its doors, of course, the Pennsylvania Colony was under English law so the expectations of the citizens had a different basis than after the Declaration and the formation of a new nation. I’m not a lawyer nor have I studied the evolution of laws from those days to immediately after the American Revolution ended. All I do know about the years between independence and nationhood is that it was rather chaotic as different groups had different opinions of what laws were enforceable and what new laws were needed.

In contrast to this esteemed and now revered building, my visit to the Alabama Constitution Hall was a much different experience. Not better or worse, mind you! I was in a different place and time, on what was the frontier or edge of the “wilderness” in 1819 when the state constitution was debated and ultimately signed within the walls of what is now known as the Constitution Hall in downtown Huntsville. The situation was also entirely different.

Constitution Hall, or the cabinet maker’s shop, in downtown Huntsville, Alabama. The upstairs is known for being the first theater in town, too.

Consider that Huntsville didn’t even exist as an idea until 1805 when John Hunt built a cabin at the Big Spring in what is now downtown. At that time, the land was part of the vast Mississippi Territory. Twelve years later, in 1817, Congress created the Alabama Territory, established courts and a sheriff, and began land sales which attracted white settlers from Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas to its fertile soil to raise the highly lucrative cash crop of cotton. Then only 2 years later the leaders of the town felt the population growth warranted petitioning the U.S. Congress to make the Alabama Territory a state. So only 14 years had transpired from the beginning of a town as a cabin by a spring to a thriving, bustling city witnessing the proclamation of statehood.

Huntsville was chosen as the place to draft, debate, and sign the new constitution because it was the largest town in the territory. In 1819 there were many kinds of businesses, including beer brewing, 5+ cotton gins, boot/shoe manufacturing, leather tanning, hat manufacturing, copper still makers, candle manufacturers, and water pump manufacturers. The 44 delegates traveled from across the territory to attend. But where would they meet?

The largest building in town at that time was the cabinet maker’s building so it was chosen as their assembly room. This building was not specially designed or built for the purpose. But adapted to suit. Yet the men gathered within its walls in the hot summer months, windows closed to keep prying ears from hearing the sometimes heated debates. I stood in the large room where they met, imagining them waving a piece of paper as a fan or with their coats hung over chairs due to the heat. But intent on hammering out a workable and acceptable framework for the new state government.

Sometime after the signing of the constitution, the cabinet maker’s building was either (sadly) burned or demolished to build something new. It was only as the state’s 150th anniversary approached that interest was sparked in 1968 to begin the hunt for the location of the original Constitution Convention. The ultimate result of that effort is the present Constitution Hall Park. The current building is a wonderful reconstruction of the building as it stood in 1819, including the cabinet maker’s workshop inside.

Both of these buildings represent the beginnings of a new government, one of a nation and one of a state. Looking back to where we began, and how far we’ve come, gives us guidance as to how much further we may have to go to achieve the ever evolving vision of our government. Without knowing where we came from, though, it’s difficult indeed to measure progress toward our future.

Have you visited either site? Do you try to put yourself in the place of the men who came together to work out a compromise acceptable to all? Can you imagine the daunting challenge they faced with so many disparate views and goals?

Betty

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon      Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple     Books2Read

Meet Ramcy Diek #debut #fiction #author #contemporary #romance #amreading #amwriting

My guest today is a debut author with quite an interesting story to tell! Please help me welcome Ramcy Diek, author of romantic novels with an eye to branching out to young adult and memoir. Here’s her official bio and then we’ll begin the interview…

Thirty years ago, Ramcy Diek fell in love with the United States while traveling around in an Oldsmobile station-wagon with her husband. They are both born and raised in the Netherlands. Together, they visited all the amazing northern states and landed in California.

Eventually, they found their way to the Pacific Northwest, built up a business, and raised their two boys into amazing young adults with their own careers. During this time, she also made a slow transition from reader to writer of contemporary, enjoyable, laid back, and romantic stories.

You can find out more about her at www.ramcydiek.com or by following her on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

Betty: How many books have you written and published?

Ramcy: I wrote seven manuscripts so far, but only published one.

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

Ramcy: I enjoy reading stories that grip me, and are different; therefore I want to write stories like that too. Although so far, I mainly wrote romantic novels, I’m starting to lean to Young Adult stories and writing my memoir. At 57, I’m still trying to find my voice.

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

Ramcy: My debut novel, Storm at Keizer Manor, is a time travel romance. It is very well received and readers ask for more. Of all the books I wrote (unpublished) this is the only one about time travel. I hope I won’t disappoint with my second book.

Storm at Keizer Manor received awards in three national book contests and it will be translated in Italian this coming summer. I’m so excited. If anything, this is the encouragement that will keep me writing.

While college graduate Forrest tries to find a job, quick witted Annet works at the Keizer Manor, the museum where the oils from 19th-century master painter Alexander Keizer are exhibited.

After a fight, the couple strolls through the dunes to talk. When dark clouds roll in, the beautiful sunny weather turns into a thunderstorm so violent that they get separated.

The next morning, Forrest finds himself alone. So does Annet.

Regaining consciousness in a monastery, Annet is convinced the nuns are playing a prank on her. It can’t be the 1800s! She’s a pregnant Twenty-first Century woman and doesn’t belong there. But how will she get back to her own time?

Amazon

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

Ramcy: I only write at home, behind my desktop. It’s the only place that works for me.

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

Ramcy: I poured so much love in Storm at Keizer Manor that I decided to hire a professional editor. While editing, my editor Shelly fell in love with it and encouraged me to publish it through Acorn Publishing LLC. Without Shelly, Storm at Keizer Manor would probably still just be a manuscript on my computer.

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

Ramcy: I wish I could answer this. J As many other authors, I’m very insecure about my writing.

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

Ramcy: The situation, for sure.

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

Ramcy: I can write days on end, and then don’t write at all for weeks. My life is not very structured.

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

Ramcy: Time. It goes too fast.

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

Ramcy: No, I didn’t. I don’t like the pressure.

Betty: What are you reading right now?

Ramcy: I’m reading a Path of Progress: One Man’s Fight for Women’s Rights by Flora Beach Burlingame. Flora is in her eighties.  

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Ramcy: Suspense and crime novels.

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

Ramcy: I don’t like to keep books, but of course there are some that I loved so much, that I will always carry them with me. Sidney Sheldon was the first author I really enjoyed, and I have a box full of his books.

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

Ramcy: There are some genres I just won’t read, but other than that, I pick up anything.

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

Ramcy: For me, writing is a hobby, and it always will be. I write when I feel like it.

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

Ramcy: It’s very easy to self-publish, and although this brings forth amazing works from authors who would never be published otherwise, it also means there are a lot of self-published books out there not worth your time.

Betty: What advice do you have for new writers?

Ramcy: Making it big is only for very few of us. Just write for yourself, because you love it. And then, who knows…..

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

Ramcy: I’m working on my second novel, Eagle in Flight, that I hope to publish next year, and on the translation of Storm at Keizer Manor in Dutch, my native language.

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?

Ramcy: Thirty years ago, my husband and I experienced five disastrous years. I just found all the letters I mailed to my parents during that time and would love to use them to write a memoir. I can’t wait to start.

It sounds like you’re off to a great start, Ramcy! Not everyone completes a book or then follows through to publish it. Wishing you all the best as you move forward!

Betty

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

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