Sending Letters in a Time of War #Baltimore #WWII #research #history #ReadIndie #NotesofLoveandWar

Letters during WWII kept soldiers fighting oversees aware of what was happening at home. How their families and loved ones were faring. Letters remained a vital part of communication even after the fighting ended. But the interesting thing to me is the many forms of communication that I found in my dad’s collection of correspondence.

Not only penned letters on stationary, but also telegrams, post cards, greeting cards, and the most intriguing Victory Mail (V-Mail). There is a complete history and explanation at that link about the format and uses of V-Mail. Including a tutorial of sorts on how letters should be written to be upbeat and positive to bolster the reasons for why the men were fighting. It’s an interesting online exhibit to poke around in.

I’ve been slowly working my way through transcribing my dad’s correspondence so I thought I’d share a few examples of the kinds of ways he sent and received letters. Note that I started with the year they married, 1948, as that has the bulk of the exchange since they were getting reacquainted after not contacting each other in years. As you can see in this photo of all his letters, sorted by year, month, and day, there are a lot of letters to get through.

Hundreds of letters! Not even counting the V-Mail…

My mother’s stationery varied over time but here’s an example from July 1948:

Upon occasion, Dad started typing his letters on the letterhead for the photography company he worked for:

Dad sent a postcard to my mother in September 1948, but included within the folded letter in an envelope:

Mom sent Dad a telegram to confirm when she’d arrive in Miami in June 1948 for a visit with him, bringing her sister along for the vacation:

But seriously look at the number of V-Mail letters my dad received! They are each a little bigger than a playing card, or maybe about the size of a tarot card.

V-Mail letters to my dad. The first one is from his mother.

The V-Mail letters are from his friends, fellow soldiers, brothers and sisters, and mother. I didn’t find any letters between father and son, though. Which isn’t surprising because they really didn’t see eye-to-eye. Dad harbored some hard feelings toward his father to the last of his days.

In Notes of Love and War, you’ll find letters, telegrams, and V-Mail being exchanged between Audrey and her brother, father, and Charlie. The formats within the book are designed to reflect, though not exactly replicate, each form of communication. It’s more apparent in the paperback than ebook, of course, since the medium allows for anchoring the text to the page in ways that a digital book cannot. My aim was to provide a feeling for the varying kinds of communication and thus lend a sense of the times to modern day readers.

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

Audrey Harper needs more than home and hearth to satisfy her self-worth despite being raised with the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Working as a music critic for the city newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, during the Second World War, she’s enjoyed both financial freedom and personal satisfaction in a job well done. When she uncovers evidence of German spies working to sabotage a secret bomber plane being manufactured in her beloved city, she must choose between her sense of duty to protect her city and the urgings of her boss, her family, and her fiancé to turn over her evidence to the authorities. But when her choices lead her and her sister into danger, she is forced to risk life and limb to save her sister and bring the spies to justice.

Set against the backdrop of the flourishing musical community during the 1940s in Baltimore, Notes of Love and War weaves together the pleasure of musical performance with the dangers of espionage and spying.

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Getting to know Regina Kammer #author #historical #contemporary #erotica #romance #librarian #historian

Today I’m welcoming a fellow Common Elements Romance Project author, Regina Kammer. I’ll let Regina explain more but let’s look at her bio before we get to the meat of the interview.

Regina Kammer is a librarian, an art historian, and an award-winning, best-selling, multi-published writer of provocative historical romance and contemporary romance with a touch of history. Her short stories and novels make history sexier, whether the era is Roman, Byzantine, Viking, American Revolution, or Victorian. She’s even sexed up contemporary settings, Steampunk, and Greco-Roman mythology. She began writing historical fiction with romantic elements during National Novel Writing Month 2006, switching to erotica when all her characters suddenly demanded to have sex.

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Betty: When did you become a writer?

Regina: Like many bookish young adults, I wrote stories, plays, and epic poetry in my teens. I put all that aside in college and graduate school, probably because I was writing so many research papers. I got the bug again decades later, in 2006, when I read about National Novel Writing Month in my college alumni magazine.

Betty: What prompted you to start writing?

Regina: In 2005, I had a super long commute to my job via transit, so I was reading tons of books. I had just finished reading a book I thought was absolutely terrible – the history was wrong, the romance was flat – and I audaciously thought “I could totally write a better novel!”

So, after reading about National Novel Writing Month, I started to do a bunch of historical research in preparation for November 2006, with the idea in mind that I would write that historical novel.

Betty: What type of writing did you start with?

Regina: Teenage me started writing historical fiction inspired by the books I had read. Somewhere in my files I have notebooks with stories based on Caddie Woodlawn and 1940s-set Ellery Queen mysteries.

Jump ahead to 2006, and adult me did a very similar thing. I had read all of Jane Austen’s works, in order, and was greatly intrigued by the concept of entailed property in Pride and Prejudice. I started researching British property law and decided I would write historical fiction with romantic elements set during the passage of the Married Women’s Property Act of 1882.

Well, I was greatly surprised when my characters took over and my story transformed into historical erotic romance!

Betty: What do you most enjoy writing? Why?

Regina: I prefer to write historical romance, although I have also written contemporary romance. As a historian myself, I enjoy research, and I love how what we think we know about history is being challenged. I also like the speculative nature of historical writing, using history as the spark to set a plot in motion.

Many of my contemporary romances include history, usually because a character is a historian. So I even have to do historical research for my contemporary romance stories.

Betty: What do you wish you knew before you started writing/publishing?

Regina: I come from an academic background of writing art historical research papers and theses. That sort of writing is very different from fiction, and usually includes a lot of background information. So, of course, my early fiction efforts (unpublished) were heavy with backstory!

Other technical aspects of fiction writing I did not know about were point-of-view, especially deep third POV. So, again, early works were filled with head-hopping and filter words.

Betty: What inspired you to write the book you’re sharing with us today?

Regina: I am passionate about historical and environmental preservation, and we’re living in a time when so much of our natural landscape is threatened. I set Resistance: A Common Elements Romance in a fictional national historic park where both the park’s history and its resources are threatened.

I had been working on a story for a boxed set with the requirements that it be a contemporary romance involving a military or ex-military hero. When the boxed set project was put on hold, I still had a half-finished book. I was thinking about pitching it to publishers when I heard about the Common Elements Romance Project. I joined the Project and edited my story to include the five common elements.

Resistance has a very, very contemporary story line. I wrote it almost in real time in 2018. Every day brought changes to the political landscape and my story reflects much of that.

Even though Resistance is a contemporary romance, the story incorporates a lot of history. The hero, Kace Jaager, was an archaeological field commander in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm tasked with preserving cuneiform tablets. The fictional national park, Fort America, has a unique and very American history – I won’t give that away.

Resistance is my final contemporary romance. I have too many historical romances waiting to be finished!

Passions flare when duty confronts ambition…

Kace Jaager, former Army archaeologist, now Superintendent of Fort America National Park, has a duty to preserve and protect the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the United States.

Madison Danes, ambitious CEO of Danergy Mining & Hydraulics, has a government contract to conduct fracking at Fort America National Park.

Sparks ignite as ideologies collide. Yet uncontrollable attraction compels a truce in bed. Opposites may attract, but can they put politics aside to form a more perfect union?

Resistance is an enemies-to-lovers contemporary seasoned romance with a 53-year-old silver fox hero and a 42-year-old heroine in her prime. The short novel is part of the Common Elements Romance Project, where over seventy romance authors have come together to write stories with five things in common. Stories are not connected in any way, except for having five elements: a lightning storm, lost keys, a haunted house, a stack of thick books, and a person named Max.

Excerpt:

He studied the framed photo in his hand, a gift from a reporter friend. A casual action shot of him in Iraq dressed in camouflage—shirt unbuttoned, sleeves rolled up—examining an artifact, his hair—back when it was brown—windswept, desert sandstone hills and army jeeps in the background. He looked a bit like a romantic archaeological adventurer in an action flick.

The kind of guy chicks would swoon over.

He placed the photo prominently on his desk. All was fair in love and war, and this was going to be an all-out war. If he had to use a sexual stratagem, so be it. At the very least, an image of him in his army days might soften the heart of a conservative businesswoman.

A quick rap on the door precipitated Becky’s entering. “Kace—”

Ms. Danes pushed passed, her exotic perfume flaring his nostrils. He swept his reading glasses into the top drawer of his desk.

“I’m here on official business. Mr. Jaager is expecting me.”

Kace waved at Becky. “It’s all right.” He nodded when Becky motioned as to whether to close the door.

Ms. Danes plopped her purse on an empty sliver of desk and rummaged in its depths. She produced a thumb drive. “Everything’s here. Just plug and play.”

He grabbed it, his fingers sliding along her slick lacquered nails, a frisson of interest nagging his crotch.

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Sounds like quite a conflict to overcome, and one that is very timely, so that should be a great story! Thanks for sharing it today, Regina.

As a reminder, my contribution to the Common Elements Romance Project is Charmed Against All Odds (Secrets of Roseville Book 5), which is a contender for a Rone award this fall. Visit https://www.bettybolte.com/paranormal-romance to find out about all the books in that series.

But don’t overlook Regina’s story either! There are many romance novels across all genres to try associated with the Common Elements Romance Project. Several of my guest authors also participated.

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

The Infamous Owl Bar at the Belvedere #Baltimore #research #history #Speakeasy #ReadIndie

Remember how much I love to go to historic sites to do research? It’s even better when I can do so with great friends and food and drink is involved!

While researching for Notes of Love and War, I wanted to visit the Baltimore Streetcar Museum to actually ride on a 1940s era streetcar (which I did but that’s a story for another time). I invited my dear friends to meet me and my husband for lunch and then go to the museum. She asked around for recommendations since she lives in Maryland and we found ourselves going to the famous (or infamous) Owl Bar at the Belvedere Hotel in downtown Baltimore.

I didn’t know anything about the Owl Bar but I had heard of the Belvedere. It’s an elegant and distinguished building catering to the elite of society. If you’re interested in its history, you can read more and see some photos of it here. In fact, many celebrities have stayed at the hotel and probably dined at the Owl Bar while there.

Before going into the bar for lunch, we paused to look at the Celebrity Wall. The wall features photos of the many celebrities who had visited. Now, the fact that celebrities were so prone to frequent the site made me wonder whether my father might have also gone to the Owl Bar when he was in town visiting my mother before they married, or perhaps upon occasion after they married and settled down in the area. See, my dad has met a host of celebrities in his life. Bob Hope, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jack Benny, and even Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh who starred in Gone with the Wind to name a few. In his 1999 memoir, Through the Lens, he even included a section where he listed the ones he remembered meeting.

So I can only wonder if he might have gone to the famous Owl Bar to check out who he might see. I wish I could ask him about it, but he passed in 2011. So many questions I would love to have answers to after delving into his personal correspondence a couple of years ago! But just pondering the possibility while looking at the pictures started me realizing that I may indeed be walking where he might have been. A chill swept through me at the thought, one that would be repeated several times that day.

I can imagine the Owl Bar would have drawn him in with its intrigue. See, it was a speakeasy during Prohibition. Apparently, they kept two owl figures on the bar. If they were lit, then alcohol was available. A silent yet effective way of letting the patrons know whether it was safe to order a beer or whiskey. We enjoyed our meal and the experience of the bar. I’m glad we went and I’d go back (but they’re currently closed until further notice). It was rather fun to try to imagine the place filled with people (at lunch time there weren’t that many people in the bar) all having a good time with music perhaps playing. It was the kind of place I could see my dad clearly feeling at home.

While the Owl Bar and the Belvedere are not included in Notes of Love and War, it did provide me with a feel of the city and its surroundings. I hope my sense of the environment and imaginings about what it might have been like in the 1940s during WWII is conveyed throughout my story. Let me know after you read it, won’t you?

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

Audrey Harper needs more than home and hearth to satisfy her self-worth despite being raised with the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Working as a music critic for the city newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, during the Second World War, she’s enjoyed both financial freedom and personal satisfaction in a job well done. When she uncovers evidence of German spies working to sabotage a secret bomber plane being manufactured in her beloved city, she must choose between her sense of duty to protect her city and the urgings of her boss, her family, and her fiancé to turn over her evidence to the authorities. But when her choices lead her and her sister into danger, she is forced to risk life and limb to save her sister and bring the spies to justice.

Set against the backdrop of the flourishing musical community during the 1940s in Baltimore, Notes of Love and War weaves together the pleasure of musical performance with the dangers of espionage and spying.

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Getting to know Janet Wertman #author #historicalfiction #renaissance #Tudors #mustread #histfic #fiction #bookstoread #fiction #nonfiction

My guest today is a fellow lover and author of historical fiction. Please help me welcome Janet Wertman, author of several interesting books I’m sure you’re going to want to check out! Let’s look at her bio and then dive into the interview.

By day, Janet Wertman is a freelance grantwriter for impactful nonprofits. By night, she indulges a passion for the Tudor era she has harbored since she was *cough* eight years old and her parents let her stay up late to watch The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Elizabeth R.  Janet’s Seymour Saga trilogy – featuring Jane the Quene, The Path to Somerset, and The Boy King – has been critically acclaimed as masterful and engaging, her dialogue as exceptional.

Janet is deep into writing the first book of her next trilogy, which takes up where the Seymours left off to chronicle the life of Elizabeth I. Janet also runs a blog where she posts interesting takes on the Tudors, and she’s part of a group of HNS novelists from Southern California who formed a Librarian Speakers Bureau to offer interesting panels and discussions.

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Betty: When did you become a writer?

Janet: I tried to write my first book at around twelve, but never made it past the first chapter. It was when I was about 25 that I started to write the book that would end up morphing from the story of Anne Boleyn to the story of Jane Seymour. Of course, it wasn’t until I was 36 that I had a burst of energy and got 150 pages written … only to find that someone else had just published my exact book (The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn, using a dual timeline – what are the odds?). After that setback, it wasn’t until 51 that I finally got serious.

Betty: How long did you work on your writing skills before you became published?

Janet: I already had decades of reading books about the craft of writing, but when I began in earnest I embarked on three years of intensive skill-building to get to the publishing stage. It started when I sent my manuscript off to a developmental editor, secretly hoping that she would say “This is perfect just as it is.” Instead, she gave me my “Harper Lee moment” (so named after the episode where Harper Lee’s agent told her she was telling the wrong story…). The editor explained that I was prioritizing the objective story over the characters’ stories, and that I would never have a character arc until I slashed the number of point-of-view characters (I had read that scenes should be written from the POV of the character with the most at stake and I took that to heart and gave voices to twelve people). These were concepts I had read about but never saw how they applied to my writing. I completely restructured the book, joined a critique group, and read as many books on writing as I could find. 

Betty: What authors or stories do you feel influenced your writing style?

Janet: I consider James Clavell’s Shogun the finest book ever written. Multiple points of view, mind you (which is what gave me the idea) – but he gave every one of them an arc (which is why the book is more than a thousand pages long). Perfect structure, with every action leading into the next. Compelling descriptions that use every sense and tell you things on several levels (in one scene, Blackthorne is describing his English wife, and he points to one of the room’s wood posts to show the color of her hair and they all suck in their lower lips at such an amazing thing).

I have also been heavily influenced by the French classics; this gives my prose a bit of an old-fashioned tone that works well to tell Tudor stories.

Betty: What prompted you to start writing?

Janet: I knew for years that I had that first book inside me, and had played around with varying degrees of seriousness, but nothing ever really gelled. And then I realized that there was more to the story – that to really tell it required a trilogy. That’s when it all came together. It made perfect sense to me, based on an analogous lesson I learned from karate: when you’re trying to break a board, aiming *at* it will dissipate your energy too early. If you want to break a board, you have to aim beyond it. If I wanted to write a book, I had to plan for a trilogy (and by the way, I have a couple more trilogies planned for the future to keep me going!).

Betty: What type of writing did you start with?

Janet: The stark nonfiction of legal contracts! I was a corporate lawyer for fifteen years, one of the few forums (technically “fora”…) that appreciated skill at crafting really long sentences. Then I moved to grantwriting, which was still nonfiction but has its own arc (beginning with the need, moving on to describe the programs and how the organization responds to that need, then culminating with the crescendo of results). Then I added a blog, which also was still nonfiction, but nonfiction in full service to story. Finally, I made it to fiction!

Betty: What do you most enjoy writing? Why?

Janet: Fiction, even though I insist on keeping my fiction as accurate as possible. I don’t know that I have it in me to fully create a story from scratch: I feel so much better figuring out what the story has to be given actual events. Years ago, I heard the phrase, “Limitations are an asset” – that when architects are given specific constraints, they create a Fallingwater, but when they are given a flat, giant plot and unlimited money, they produce little more than a large box. For my writing, I feel like the limitations of the actual events give me a chance to craft the perfect story.

Betty: How did you learn to write? A mentor, classes, conferences, craft books, or something else?

Janet: Craft books are important, but you need more in order to really apply their principles. I see critique groups as the most valuable path to progress: there is no easier way to notice writing mistakes than when someone else is making them. Too, there is tremendous value in having multiple people react to your writing: when five people all agree that something does or does not work, you really need to listen – even when they disagree, there is a common thread that gets you to the answer. Plus, nothing that will keep you on track like the accountability of having to submit a new scene each week!

Betty: What do you wish you knew before you started writing/publishing?

Janet: I wish I had known how much authors enjoy having their readers get in touch with them. It is a true joy to have people tell me they enjoyed my books, it is a real pleasure to get questions about the topic. I feel like if I had known that, I might have reached out more to my own favorite authors.

Betty: What other authors inspired you (either directly or through their writing) to try your hand at writing?

Janet: We’re back to James Clavell! Though he also made me nervous that I would never measure up…

Betty: What inspired you to write the book you’re sharing with us today?

Janet: It was tough to pick this with The Boy King launching soon and taking up all the oxygen in the room! But Jane fits best with this blog since it skews romantic and is the first in the series. Even though the books are more than capable of standing alone, there is actually an overarching story spanning the three works. The trilogy is bookended by Mary, who is important in the prologue to Book One and central to the epilogue to Book Three. And there are references in each book to scenes from the previous ones – and while I was careful to make sure you had all the information you needed, there is something fun to knowing all the details (there is a decades-old line from a movie or a book or an advertisement and I wish I could give the credit but all I can remember is the line itself, “Makes you feel inside”). Besides, The Boy King is still a month away from its publication date. Readers can start Jane now, and get all the way through the series without having to wait too long!

The Tragic Romance of Jane Seymour

England, 1535. At 27, Jane Seymour is increasingly desperate to marry and secure her place in the world. When the Court visits Wolf Hall, her family’s ancestral manor, Jane has the perfect opportunity to shine: her diligence, efficiency, and newfound poise are sure to attract a suitor.

Meanwhile, King Henry VIII is increasingly desperate for an heir. He changed his country’s religion to leave his first wife, a princess of Spain, for Anne Boleyn — but she too has failed to provide a son. As Henry begins to fear he is cursed, Jane Seymour’s honesty and innocence conjure in him the hope of redemption.

When Thomas Cromwell, an ambitious clerk whose political prowess keeps the king’s changing desires satisfied, sees in Jane Seymour the perfect answer to the unrest threatening England, he engineers a plot that ends with Jane becoming the King’s third wife. For Jane, who believes herself virtuous and her actions justified, miscarriages early in her marriage to the king shake her confidence. How can a woman who has committed no wrong bear the guilt of unseating her predecessor?

Excerpt:

November 1, 1536 … 11 a.m.

Jane had dismissed her ladies until supper. She didn’t want to hear their chatter. Truth be told, she didn’t want to hear Anne’s or Edward’s prattle either, but she had no choice. To dismiss them too would signal that something was wrong, inviting more of the gossip that constantly surrounded her. Especially this week, after her public shaming.

“It is stunning.” Anne Seymour Beauchamp looked down at the blood-red ruby ring the King had just given Jane to celebrate the news of the rebels’ capitulation and to reiterate his deep and everlasting love. Anne’s eyes glittered. “Just stunning.”

“Take it, it’s yours,” Jane declared, trying to pry the band off her finger without success.

Despite the excitement behind his wife’s eyes, Edward put a cautionary hand over Jane’s. “No, no, Jane. It is yours. It is a magnificent gift from your loving husband. You must wear it proudly to show his forgiveness.”

His forgiveness. She was the one who needed to forgive. Her deep regret over her action had quickly ceded to hurt over her husband’s outburst – an emotion she couldn’t show to him, as it would only inflame him and drive them further apart. Penitence was the only acceptable reaction in this situation.

“I prefer my betrothal ring, a more honest ruby,” she said. “This one once belonged to the woman I wronged. It makes my skin crawl.”

“The Boleyn never wore such a ring,” Anne said, then quickly rushed to add, “And you never wronged her.”

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Thanks for sharing your experience and inspiration, Janet! I’m sure your stories benefit from your approach to storytelling and your enthusiasm for the time period.

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

Writing Lessons Learned while Revising a Series #amrevising #amwriting #amediting #ReadIndie #writingcommunity

Let’s talk about how a writer learns and grows over time, shall we? I recently decided to have my American Revolution historical romance series, A More Perfect Union, narrated as audiobooks (more to come on that endeavor very soon). Which provided the perfect opportunity to look at revising the stories to make them better. Boy, was that an eye-opening experience!

Before I get into the details of that, I’d like to announce that the second book in the Fury Falls Inn series, Under Lock and Key, will release in October and is currently up for preorders. You can find the description and links below. Isn’t the cover cool? I hope you’ll enjoy the story!

Now on to today’s topic. I know that my writing skills have improved with time, but sitting down to read the first ever historical romance was humbling to say the least. Emily’s Vow was written in 2012-2013 and published in the fall of 2014. So figure 8 years ago I wrote that book, again the first historical romance I wrote and published. I followed that one with Amy’s Choice which released the same month, October 2014. So I was not surprised to find those two needed the most work to bring them up to snuff.

Before I did any revisions, I made a point of reading the reviews to see what readers had grumbled about with the stories. Then I made sure I addressed those issues as I went through making sometimes wholesale changes to scenes and characterization. In fact, I added two new scenes in Emily’s Vow to address some gaps in the story logic.

The next two, Samantha’s Secret and Evelyn’s Promise, were released more recently so didn’t need nearly as much revision, but still there were changes and deletions made, additions inserted, some sentences rearranged. I didn’t see a need for new scenes in any of the stories other than Emily’s story.

One writing crutch I cringed over was my overuse, or over-dependence, on smiles, nods, shrugs, glances. I found myself chastising my earlier self with “stop nodding and smiling.” Of course, people do nod and smile and other facial and shoulders/arms/hands gestures, but more variety was desperately needed!

Another crutch that I reduced was the number of internal “spoken” dialogue (typically appearing in italics). I really leaned heavily on that in Samantha’s Secret, but it’s been weeded out as much as possible.

Overall, the stories remained the same but only told with more skill (I hope, anyway!). I’ll be sharing more about each of them as they’re available, so stay tuned!

I hope you’ll also check out Under Lock and Key and preorder your copy today! Thanks in advance for your interest and support!

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

Giles Fairhope reluctantly journeys to the Fury Falls Inn for one reason: his beloved sister Cassie needs him after their mother was murdered. His father and three brothers are far away, so she’s alone, without any family, in the wilderness of 1821 northern Alabama. He plans to find his mother’s killers, ensure Cassie’s safety, and then go home. Cassie begs him to stay until their father returns, but Giles has absolutely no desire to see him. When Cassie tells him their mother’s ghost haunts the inn, he suddenly faces his dead mother amidst shocking memories from his past and unexpected changes in himself.

His mother’s ghost insists he find not only the killers but a stolen set of keys. Keys which unlock more than an attic door but also surprising and dangerous family secrets. The revelations change everything he thought he knew about his family and threaten his sister’s safety and perhaps even her life…

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The Arabbers’ Role in Baltimore’s History #inspiration #arabbers #NotesofLove&War #Baltimore #WWII #historical #fiction @Baltimore_City #ReadIndie

I’ve shared previously about the excellent history book I used as research for writing Notes of Love and War. Within the pages of Home Front Baltimore was mention of the arabbers (pronounced ay-rabbers) in Baltimore. These merchants were new to me, but apparently not to my brother who still lives in Maryland. So I did some more research to learn more about them, and let me tell there is much of interest surrounding these unique men.

All they need to bring merchandise, produce, meat/fish, home furnishings, or any other portable item to the people of the city was a horse, a colorfully decorated wagon, and sturdy shoes. From what I read, arabbers were in many major cities along the eastern seaboard of America beginning in the 1800s. They were very important for residents who couldn’t travel to a store or who may have been ill. After all, the store came to them, along with a cheery conversation with the men and perhaps a friendly pat for the horse. The horses are usually bedecked in plumes or feathers, with jangling harness. The men developed their own individual “look” for their wagons and created a catchy attention-grabbing jingle that would help the customers know who was approaching their front door. The residents know and trust these salesmen, too.

Here’s a short snippet where the arabbers are mentioned in Notes of Love and War:

“Audrey half-jogged down the crowded sidewalk, weaving past people bustling along wrapped head to toe, scarves and gloves barriers against the cold. The melodic chant of an arabber drifted over the murmur of conversation around her. A patient horse in jingling harness pulled the man’s colorful wagon, piled with heads of broccoli and cauliflower as well as lemons and grapefruit. She smiled at the black man leading the horse by its bridle, a jaunty plume between the animal’s ears. Rae, in her silver muskrat fur coat and black beret, waited at the corner for Audrey, tapping one pump-clad foot.”

There are still arabbers in Baltimore today. Not nearly as many as leading up to World War II and throughout the middle of the 1900s. A quick search as I was preparing to write this blog also revealed how important a role they are playing during this pandemic. They are distributing not only food to those who can’t go to the store for one reason or another, but also information on how to prevent transmission of the virus.

There was a photographic exhibit last year, too, that attracted many visitors. And you can view a photo gallery at the Facebook page for the Arabber Preservation Society. These men and their horses have provided a vital service to many for generations, and I’m glad I included them in the city description within my novel to help preserve their history and bring awareness of their service to my readers.

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

Audrey Harper needs more than home and hearth to satisfy her self-worth despite being raised with the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Working as a music critic for the city newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, during the Second World War, she’s enjoyed both financial freedom and personal satisfaction in a job well done. When she uncovers evidence of German spies working to sabotage a secret bomber plane being manufactured in her beloved city, she must choose between her sense of duty to protect her city and the urgings of her boss, her family, and her fiancé to turn over her evidence to the authorities. But when her choices lead her and her sister into danger, she is forced to risk life and limb to save her sister and bring the spies to justice.

Set against the backdrop of the flourishing musical community during the 1940s in Baltimore, Notes of Love and War weaves together the pleasure of musical performance with the dangers of espionage and spying.

Check out the free sample (3 chapters) at https://claims.prolificworks.com/free/2A18n3Gj  

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Getting to know Sheila Myers #author #professor #American #historical #fiction #histfic #books

My guest today brings her professional skills to her historical fiction. Please help me welcome Sheila Myers to the interview seat! Let’s take a look at her bio and then we’ll get to know her better.

Sheila Myers is a Professor at Cayuga Community College in Upstate NY where she teaches aquatic science, ecology and coordinates the Honors Study program.

Myers began writing a trilogy on the family of the robber baron, Dr. Thomas C. Durant, after spending time at one of the Adirondack Great Camps built by his son William, on Raquette Lake, NY. She has published a trilogy: Imaginary Brightness (2015); Castles in the Air (2016); and The Night is Done (2017). The Night is Done won the Adirondack Center for Writing Best Book of Fiction (2017) and a starred Kirkus Review (2020). Using her skills as a scientist, Myers’ curiosity has taken her to numerous libraries and museums in the United States and England, tracking down new information about the infamous Gilded Age family. Her research journey is chronicled on the website http://wwdurantstory.com

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Betty: When did you become a writer?

Sheila: Several years ago

Betty: How long did you work on your writing skills before you became published?

Sheila: I have been working on my writing skills as I go. You never stop learning, right? I did not get a degree in writing but instead have honed my craft through practice. I’ve written over seven novels. A few are out on submission and a few still sit on my computer laptop. In addition, I have attended several workshops on craft and the industry.

Betty: What authors or stories do you feel influenced your writing style?

Shelia: Ernest Hemingway at first but then I realized how stilted his language is if you don’t have the finesse. I really enjoy anything by Ann Patchett.

Betty: What prompted you to start writing?

Sheila: I have been writing in journals for years and always wanted to write a novel. One day at my book club meeting a friend said, why don’t you just start writing then? So I did. I spent one summer writing every day until I had a 65k word novel – it was my first novel titled Ephemeral Summer, a contemporary coming of age story with ecological themes. I didn’t tell anyone I wrote it and I self-published it in 2014.

Betty: What do you most enjoy writing? Why?

Shelia: I enjoy the flow. When I sit down to write and the world melts around me and I lose track of time I have had a good day.

Betty: How did you learn to write? A mentor, classes, conferences, craft books, or something else?

Shelia: I have attended a lot of craft workshops both online and in person (pre-Covid days). Writer’s Digest Conferences, Historical Novel Society Conference, Iowa Writers Workshops (online), Mystery Writers Association Conference, and Women Fiction Writers Association webinars.

Betty: What do you wish you knew before you started writing/publishing?

Shelia: Not to listen to everyone’s advice to the point of confusion because many times you find contradictory advice about writing. You need to find your own voice.

Betty: What other authors inspired you (either directly or through their writing) to try your hand at writing?

Shelia: Ann Patchett, Geraldine Brooks.

Betty: What inspired you to write the book you’re sharing with us today?

Shelia: The Durant Family Saga is about a famous New York family that pioneered the Adirondack Wilderness. While I was writing the first book in the trilogy I discovered that the patriarch “Doc Durant” was a main character in the TV series Hell on Wheels. I hadn’t realized until I started researching his life how instrumental he was in developing the Transcontinental Railroad. The Durant family saga is comparable to a soap opera. I could not make up their life stories if I tried. There is bankruptcy, divorce, affairs, lawsuits over inheritance, jealousy, greed, and tyranny. It is a Gilded Age TV series like the modern day TV show Dallas. I’m pitching the story to agents now for a TV series calling it Downton Abbey meets Hell on Wheels for a possible sequel to Hell on Wheels.

It’s 1931, William West Durant and his sister Ella, heirs to a bygone fortune, are in the last decade of their lives and contemplating their legacy. William returns to visit the estate he once possessed in the Adirondacks to speak with the current owner, copper magnate Harold Hochschild, who is writing a history of the region and wants to include a biography of William. Simultaneously, Ella is visiting with an old family friend and former lover, Poultney Bigelow, journalist with Harper’s Magazine, who talks her into telling her own story.

William recounts the height of his glory, after his father’s death in 1885 when he takes control of the Adirondack railroad assets, travels the world in his yacht and dines with future kings. However, his fortune takes a turn during the Financial Panic of 1893 amid accusations of adultery and cruelty.

Ella’s tale begins when she returned from living abroad to launch a lawsuit against her brother for her fair share of the Durant inheritance. The court provides a stage for the siblings to tear each other’s reputation apart: William for his devious business practices and failure to steward the Durant land holdings, and Ella for her unconventional lifestyle. Based on actual events, and historic figures, The Night is Done is a Gilded Age tale about the life altering power of revenge, greed, and passion.

Excerpt:

Chapter One
Eagle’s Nest, Adirondacks 1931
Harold Hochschild

I came upon him, standing in my garden overlooking the lake. His silhouette reminded me of a young tree without its leaves, tall and lean, bowed in places from the wind. He was staring into the distance at the frothy white caps, or perhaps the two loons bobbing up and down on top of them.

I thought he might be lost, or maybe a father of one of the workmen or servants. I called to him, he turned toward me and I walked closer to ask what or who he was looking for. As I approached he swept his arms to encompass the acres of woods and cabins of Eagle’s Nest and said, “I used to own all this.”

It was William West Durant.

Stunned, I lost my sense of propriety and forgot to reach for his hand in greeting. He extended his and I took it in mine. Finally I said, “Forgive me, I was expecting you tomorrow.”

He eyed me quizzically and a frightened look came over him. “I hired a cab at the station. I may have gotten my dates mixed up. That happens sometimes. Your caretaker said he would tell you I arrived.”

“And that he did,” I said, although I never was told; I’d been taking my morning walk and hadn’t spoken to any of my staff. “It’s quite likely I got the date down wrong myself,” I said to allay his embarrassment.

I led William to the porch of the building he had constructed long ago, the one my father acquired in 1904 along with the land and passed on to me and my siblings. We each sat down on the porch, quietly contemplating what to say next. Finally, he turned to me.

“I understand you want to learn more about me and the homes I built here in the Adirondacks.”

I nodded. “I’m writing a history of the region and speaking with you was at the top of my list.”

“Yes. Indeed.” Pleased to hear this, he crossed one long leg over the other and settled back in his chair. It came to me that this was a man entirely comfortable with his surroundings. There was no awkwardness or doubt over his position with me. Although, he had no airs about him.

He coughed and his shoulders shook.

“Are you cold?” I asked.

“Slightly,” he admitted.

“Well let’s go inside then. I have coffee waiting. Will you join me?”

He smiled appreciatively and followed me into the great house.

We went into my library and I observed him out of the corner of my eye as he sipped his coffee, restraining myself from peppering him with the many questions I had. He was wearing a beige suit made of fine linen from another era, the lapel of his jacket too large to be modern. I noticed the frayed cuffs on his well-tailored pants. Even so, he had once had impeccable taste in clothing.

I was reminded of a recent visit to a camp nearby that was on the auction block. The owners had passed away and their descendants wanted nothing to do with it. Knowing the previous owners’ propensity to hire local carpenters to build hand-crafted furniture, I thought I might be able to pick up a few pieces for the guest rooms at Eagle’s Nest. When we entered the camp, probably built in the 1890s, furniture was strewn about the main parlor for viewers, dust clinging to everything like old memories. My eye was drawn to an armoire in the corner. It was a handsome piece made of maple, and stately in an unadorned fashion; a piece that would serve its purpose with pride no matter what situation or arrangement it found itself flung into. The façade was unscathed by time. Even with the slight dings and scratches to its exterior, it remained dignified.

I cleared my throat. “Would you mind if I retrieve my notes? There are many things I want to ask you but my memory will work much better if I can read my notes.”

His shoulders relaxed. “Of course,” he said. He knew what I wanted from him because he had been asked so many times before: A personal account of how he went from one of the wealthiest land owners in the region to a clerk in a hotel.

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Thanks for stopping in today, Sheila! Your book sounds like a fascinating read and I hope many will read it. Any takers?

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

Let’s Go on a 1940s Summer Picnic #inspiration #NotesofLove&War #Baltimore #WWII #historical #fiction @Baltimore_City #ReadIndie

In my latest release, Notes of Love and War, there is a picnic scene. There’s a really good reason for why, too! I honestly love to go on picnics, a love fostered by my parents when I was a child. Since this story was originally inspired by my parents’ correspondence, it seemed fitting to include a picnic scene. As my husband and I raised our children, we would occasionally take them to a park and have a picnic. Sometimes we’d take the hibachi grill and grill burgers and hot dogs, or bratwurst, or even chicken at times.

Now that the kids are grown and on their own, we’ve been known to do more impromptu picnic fare. For example, we packed a lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, cookies, and drinks during this pandemic and drove down to a picnic table by a lake to eat. We didn’t stop anywhere on the way; didn’t interact with anyone closer to us than about 50 feet (other than a precocious goose); and then drove straight back home. But it was great to get out of the house and behind the steering wheel again!

In order to depict the accoutrements of the fictional picnic, I needed some visual aids. I found a 1940s picnic basket with plates, cups, utensils along with what the picnic menus might include. Some of those menus were quite fancy, in my opinion. I was rather surprised to find that they would have had a vacuum box to keep items hot or cold, the precursor to a cooler like we use today.

So what’s for lunch at Notes of Love and War’s picnic? Here’s a snippet:


Audrey picked her way across the uneven ground. Frisk seemed chastened by her firm grip on the leash and walked sedately at her side. Victor’s rigid back hinted at his opinion of Audrey and her dog. Retrieving the basket, she lugged it to the shaded table. She tied Frisk’s leash to the table leg, then started putting their lunch out on the covered table.

“Is Frisk okay?” Rae handed Audrey a plastic plate from the woven picnic basket opened on the table.

“He’s fine.” She lifted the lid on the other vacuum box. “What’s he grilling?”

Rae leaned closer to inspect the contents of the cold container. “Looks like chicken legs.”

“We’ve got baked beans, too. Along with the fruit and cookies, we’ve quite a spread.” Audrey reached down to pet Frisk where he sat observing the proceedings. “I’m impressed.”

Rae put out a plate on the table for Victor, arranging utensils on either side. She glanced at the man in question with a grin. “He’s amazing.”

“Hmm.” Audrey kept her mouth closed and her hands busy. Better to keep a wait-and-see attitude until she knew him better.

Victor carried the covered plate of chicken to the grill, fragrant smoke drifting on the light breeze. He situated the meat on the rack over the flickering flames and then brought the plate back to the table. His movements were precise and efficient, no wasted effort. He paused to wipe his hands on a towel as he watched the girls putting the finishing touches on the table.

Audrey placed her palms on her hips and surveyed the layout. “Are we missing anything?”

Rae scanned the table and then nodded, satisfied. “I think we’re ready when you are, Vic.”


Audrey really would rather be anywhere but chaperoning her younger sister, but she also will do anything she must to protect Rae. She’s a protective older sister.

Do you enjoy going on picnics? What kinds of foods do you take to enjoy?

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

Audrey Harper needs more than home and hearth to satisfy her self-worth despite being raised with the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Working as a music critic for the city newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, during the Second World War, she’s enjoyed both financial freedom and personal satisfaction in a job well done. When she uncovers evidence of German spies working to sabotage a secret bomber plane being manufactured in her beloved city, she must choose between her sense of duty to protect her city and the urgings of her boss, her family, and her fiancé to turn over her evidence to the authorities. But when her choices lead her and her sister into danger, she is forced to risk life and limb to save her sister and bring the spies to justice.

Set against the backdrop of the flourishing musical community during the 1940s in Baltimore, Notes of Love and War weaves together the pleasure of musical performance with the dangers of espionage and spying.

Check out the free sample (3 chapters) at https://claims.prolificworks.com/free/2A18n3Gj  

Amazon     Books2Read     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple