Martha Washington and Memorial Day #American #holiday #MemorialDaySale #MemorialDay2021 #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

Happy Memorial Day in America! Although some people object to it being a happy occasion, given that the point of the day is to remember those military personnel who have passed away in service to this country, the day also kicks off the unofficial start of summer. Time for picnics, swimming, cookouts, and outdoor activities of all kinds. But I think that is one absolutely right way to honor our fallen veterans in addition to decorating their graves and flying the Stars and Stripes.

I believe that Martha Washington would have approved of the concept of honoring the fallen soldiers even though the first claims of an official Memorial Day didn’t occur until long after she died, actually about the time of the American Civil War. This is according to an account in America Celebrates! A Patchwork of Weird and Wonderful Holiday Lore by Hennig Cohen and Tristram Potter Coffin. Cohen and Coffin include an article by Ernest C. Klein which summarizes his research into trying to determine the origin of the holiday. He cites an astounding 25 different claims ranging from 1862 to 1868. But the concept of putting flowers on graves has been around a very long time so surely Martha wouldn’t find a reason to object.

Martha lived among the soldiers during the months that the army was in winter encampment. I say “among” as in the same camp although she obviously lived in a house with George, which also doubled as the location of his winter headquarters. With all she is reported to have done to ensure their welfare and comfort, from knitting socks to rolling bandages, surely she would have agreed to pay respect to those who died fighting for our freedoms. By the way, this fact of her involvement at winter camp was only one of the surprising things I learned about her in the course of researching her life and times to write Becoming Lady Washington: A Novel.

What is the best way to not only celebrate a holiday but also pay our respect to those who died for us? I believe that we honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives for us by living our lives freely and openly all while thanking them for their bravery and service. My husband will be sure to put out the American flag and we’ll probably grill some ribs and have some potato salad and such. You know, typical American type of meal, or at least for my family! I am well aware that food is one very diverse way in which we all celebrate differently. Traditional foods we eat in the summer include anything grilled, corn on the cob, potato salad, sliced tomatoes and onions, and watermelon. Although I’d rather have a brownie, truth be told!

This week, both in honor of Memorial Day and Martha’s 290th birthday on June 2, I’ve discounted the ebook of Becoming Lady Washington: A Novel from its regular $4.99 to $2.99 (I would have made it $2.90 if I could have!). This is a limited time sale so get your copy today!

And if you haven’t joined my Facebook fan club, Betty’s Novel Ninjas, you may want to do that today as well because on June 2 I’ll be throwing a bit of a birthday party in the group. I’m celebrating her birthday and the one-year birthday of my novel, after all. And I’ve got some giveaways, fun games, live readings, and even some recipes to share with you all. Come join the fun! You don’t have to stay all day but pop in and out as you have a few minutes to spare.

Thanks for reading! Happy Memorial Day!

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.

Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she’s hard pressed to balance her business and to care for her two young children. They need a father and protector. She needs a husband and business partner…one she can trust, especially now as tensions rise between the motherland and the American colonies. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has so much more to learn.

Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her and she’s surprised to find him so sociable and appealing. They form an instant bond and she is certain he’ll be a likeable and loving husband and father figure for her children. She envisions a quiet life at Mount Vernon, working together to provide for their extended family.

But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband…no matter what the dangerous future may hold.

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Getting to know Cheryl St. John #author #historical # contemporary #fiction #nonfiction #novels

Please help me welcome my guest today the wonderful author Chery St. John! Let’s take a glance at her bio and then get right to the fun party, shall we?

USA Today bestseller Cheryl St. John is the author of more than fifty historical and contemporary novels. Her stories have earned numerous awards and are published in over a dozen languages. One thing all reviewers and readers agree on regarding Cheryl’s work is the degree of emotion and believability. In describing her stories of second chances and redemption, readers and reviewers use words like “emotional punch, hometown feel, core values, believable characters and real-life situations.”

Amazon and Goodreads reviews show her popularity with readers. With a 4.9-star rating on Amazon, Cheryl’s bestselling non-fiction books, Writing with Emotion, Tension, & Conflict and Write Smart, Write Happy by Writers Digest Books are available in print and digital.

Author Social Links: Facebook * BookBub

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

Cheryl: The Babies and Bachelors Series for which I wrote this book required a cowboy who gets a baby to care for. I’d written a couple of post-Civil War stories in the past and wanted to do something I’d never tried before, so an ex-soldier with a baby on his hands was what I imagined. Of course, he was a Union officer, so my heroine became a Southern belle who survived the war and afterward escaped to the North.

Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?

Cheryl: Raylene came to me most developed. I immediately knew her story and that her life had been turned upside down. She’s trying to keep it together the only way she knows how. As the daughter of a rich Southern gentleman, her future was laid out for her. She can embroider, needlepoint, and play the piano. She’s cultured and educated. None of that serves her well when stability is knocked out from under her, so she has to survive and recreate herself with sheer grit.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Cheryl: I’ve written books in this time period before, so I did a quick timeline review of the war, searched for places where my characters grew up, and chose specific battles. When I write a period piece, I often make a list of movies and watch them in order to get a feel for the atmosphere and attitudes of the time. I had a huge list for this story and got through about twenty movies.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Cheryl: I’m a one draft writer, so don’t throw rocks. I know that’s unusual. When I start my day’s writing, I go back and edit what I wrote the day before. Halfway through the book, I go back to the beginning and add anything I’ve missed. At the end I spell check and edit for errors. I rarely actually need to revise.

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Cheryl: I can usually write a book this length in two or three months. For this particular story I used a sensitivity reader and a couple of beta readers, so that took a little longer.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Cheryl: I write at my desk and only at my desk. I usually have a cup of coffee or tea sitting to my right. On my left is my three-ring story binder that holds everything I need to write the book. Many writers keep their info in digital files, but I’m a tactile paper and pen person and have my character grids, hand-written ideas, names with descriptions, goal-motivation-conflict sheets, research and photographs all in this binder. It pretty much lies open on my left through the duration of the writing process.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Cheryl: For some reason, I catch those things on my own most of the time. I do editing for other writers, so I’m conscious of repetitive words. I do check for just and it before finalizing.

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Cheryl: I plot and create characters on my sofa, with a cup of coffee, my binder and worksheets and assorted colored gel pens. I write at my desk. I edit at my desk. I most often read in bed on my iPad.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Cheryl: I’m very proud of my backlist and body of work. I wrote over fifty books for Harlequin, both historical and contemporary in several lines, and I’ve written how-to books for Writers Digest. Burned out after twenty-five years under deadline, I took a hiatus a few years ago and cared for a new grandbaby. During that time, I learned I still wanted to write, but vowed I would only write books I loved from then on. I’m enjoying writing the stories I want to tell, the way I want to tell them.

Betty: What other author would you like to sit down over dinner and talk to? Why?

Cheryl: That would be Stephen King. He’s a genius. Some of his books I’ve read at least ten times. The Stand is one of my all-time favorite books. He creates such amazing characters that studios keep remaking movie adaptations of his books. And he’s no-nonsense funny. I’d love to pick his brain.

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Cheryl: While I’d love to be rich, if not famous, there’s a lot to be said for being proud of my work ethic, the people I’ve touched with my stories, and the writers I’ve worked with during my career. I’ve heard from readers who tell me my stories helped them through difficult times. One letter in particular that I cherish was from a young woman who had read Saint or Sinner. She told me her step-father had beaten her, causing permanent nerve damage in her arm. I remember sitting and crying because I sit in my comfortable air-conditioned office with my coffee and make this stuff up while others are experiencing true tragedy. But what she wrote next has stayed with me forever. She said my story gave her hope—hope that someone would love her the way Joshua loved Addie. That meant more than the awards on my walls. There’s never enough hope in this world. If I can share a little hope with readers, I consider that success. I may not be rich or famous, but I love writing the stories of my heart and sharing them with readers.

He’s focused on the future…
The past is all she knows.
Together they’re forced to face today.

His months in Salisbury prison taught Union Captain Tanner Bell to detest a southern drawl, and Widow Cranford’s exaggerated Dixie twang has him gritting his teeth. His plans for a ranch are threatened when his orphaned newborn niece is delivered to him, and he desperately needs her help.

Raylene Cranford survived a Georgia winter living on acorns and scrawny rabbits before traveling sixteen-hundred miles to carve out a life in Colorado. She lost everything—except her dignity and hope. Her feminine Southern graces are her armor, but maintaining appearances could cost her love.

Can a Southern belle and a Union soldier change deeply-ingrained misconceptions about themselves for the sake of a child?

Buy Links: Amazon

I love your definition of success so much. Thanks for stopping by, Cheryl!

Until next time, 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.

Hauntings and Haunted Houses #research #ghost #haunted #magic #FuryFallsInn #amwriting #amreading #American #histfic #historical #fantasy #fiction #books

Childhood experiences really do make a lasting impression. Some good, and some bad. One of my early experiences was visiting the neighborhood “haunted” house. I don’t know that it was actually haunted so much as abandoned. It stood on the corner near my home. It was a two-story rectangular building. My parents told me not to go in it. Which of course piqued my curiosity. Every time I walked passed it, I wondered why it was abandoned, empty, off limits. What could possibly be in there? One afternoon a friend and I decided to find out.

I was probably 11 or so years old. Definitely younger than 13 which is when we moved from my first childhood home to a new one several miles away. We gathered our courage and tiptoed through the open front door into a dark dusty place. There was furniture here and there. I distinctly remember a sofa in the living room with pillows on it. One of those pillows had a dark spot on it. Blood? I can feel the thrill of fear that swept through me with the thought that someone had been murdered right there.

We kept going from one murky room to the next, peeking into someone’s past but not knowing whose. We eased up the fragile steps to the second story, or at least we started to. I don’t remember what happened next except that we suddenly decided we really shouldn’t be in that house. I do not know if we heard something or felt something or both. What I do know is that we got out – fast!

On another occasion, my parents were offered to stay in an old house on the Eastern Shore of Maryland for a weekend. I was young enough to not be told every detail of how this was arranged or why. We, my parents, my closest in age sister, and I arrived after dark, though, to an unfamiliar and decidedly spooky Victorian style house. I’d bet my dad said something about it being haunted in some way or another. He was known for telling ghost stories from time to time.

There were no lights on, inside or out, and Dad said he’d go in and turn them on. We waited for some little time on the wraparound porch for him to open the door and let us in once he found the light switch. As we stood there, my imagination was firing on all cylinders. Every sound was scary, someone going to attack, or a ghost about to make its presence known.

Suddenly, someone appeared beside me with an eerie light illuminating his face as he snarled. I screamed and clutched my mother. Then realized it was my dad! He’d snuck up on us and shone a flashlight under his chin as he made a scary face and sound. At the time, I was not a happy daughter but I eventually found the humor in the scare. My dad was always joking and pranking, let me tell you!

I suppose those experiences explain why I enjoy telling ghost stories now. It’s fun to get a little scare or thrill from contemplating the unknown, the other, the inexplicable. I hope you enjoy the Fury Falls Inn series which features a ghost or two along with witches and witchcraft. The first book, The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn, is on sale for only $.99 at Amazon (Kindle) through the end of May.

Thanks for reading! Happy hauntings!

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.

Fury Falls Inn in 1821 Alabama. A place for ghosts, witches, and magic. A place of secrets and hidden dangers.

Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. She has a plan, too. Seduce the young man, who is acting as innkeeper while her father is away on business, into marrying her. He’s handsome and available even though he doesn’t have feelings for her. Marriage is her only escape. Despite her mother’s strenuous objections.

But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. He’s focused on securing his reputation in the hostelry business to make his father respect him. He quickly learns that running a roadside inn in northern Alabama in 1821 means dealing not only with the young woman and her hostile mother but also with horse thieves and rogues.

When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint are forced to face unforeseen challenges and dangerous decisions together in order to attempt to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who doesn’t have any plan to leave…

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Getting to known Ashley A Quinn #author #contemporary #romance #suspense #thriller #mustread #fiction #books

My guest today loves to read and write suspense stories. Please help me welcome Ashley A Quinn to the interview hot seat! Let’s take a gander at her bio and then find out more about her, shall we?

Ashley is a contemporary romantic suspense author. She currently lives in Ohio with her husband, two kids, three cats, and one hyperactive German Shepherd mix. A lifelong lover of knowledge, you can often find her with her nose buried in an academic journal or a suspense thriller. She’s also an avid baseball fan and loves SyFy disaster flicks.

Author Social Links: Facebook * FacebookReaderGroup * Instagram

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

Ashley: A photograph. I was cruising through Instagram and saw a picture author Leslie Marshman posted of the ruins of St. Dominic’s Church in D’Hanis, TX. After I got over how hauntingly beautiful the picture was, I thought how great a place it would be to hide a body. Then the first scene for A Beautiful End popped into my head and The Broken Bow series was born.

Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?

Ashley: One of my side characters who has his own book later in the series, Thomas. He leaped off the page from the very first word he spoke.

Betty: Which story element sparked the idea for this story: setting, situation, character, or something else?

Ashley: A bit of all of it, I guess. It was born from the setting, but it’s driven by the characters’ responses to the situation.

Betty: Which character(s) were the hardest to get to know? Why do you think?

Ashley: A couple of the side characters I wanted to develop later. Their backgrounds didn’t want to come to me, so I had a hard time fleshing them out at first until I spent a little more time in their heads.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Ashley: Forensics. And oddly enough, botany. Large parts of the story are driven by the criminal investigation, and I had to create a trail for law enforcement to follow. I have a thing about needing to be accurate, so I delved deep to make sure everything I wrote was plausible.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Ashley: Three. A rough draft and two rounds of edits.

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Ashley: It was around three or four months, I think, which is actually faster than I used to write, but not as fast as I do now. This story was the start of taking my writing truly seriously. When I launched this series, it was the start of a new outlook on publishing for me.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Ashley: I don’t really have any. I listen to music to drown out external noise if I need to, but mostly I just write when I have time.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Ashley: Smiled, laughed, looked, nodded. I talk about hands a lot, too. People use them to talk and it’s become part of “speech” for me when I write dialogue.

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Ashley: My mom. She works hard and can do just about anything she puts her mind to. I strive to do the same.

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Ashley: I have a desk… I usually end up on the couch, though. When I edit, I print out the manuscript and use a pen, so then I cover the entire sofa with pages. My cat enjoys messing up my piles.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Ashley: I don’t have a day job outside of writing. It is my job.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Ashley: Becoming consistent with my writing and turning it into a real career.

Betty: What other author would you like to sit down over dinner and talk to? Why?

Ashley: James Rollins. His thrillers are fascinating. The way he connects information and draws conclusions from that is amazing. I would love to discuss his thought process.

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Ashley: Being able to make a steady, livable income off my writing. I don’t need to be famous, but it would be nice to know that if something happened to my husband, my kids and I would be okay without me scrambling to find a decent job when I’ve been out of my field of study for twenty years. Writing and publishing is finally looking like it will be that for me.

London Scott’s routine, boring life gets a jolt when her niece discovers a woman’s body while out hiking with her boyfriend. It’s just her luck, though, that it’s Sebastian Archer who investigates the murder. Having known the man since childhood, she’s always been the annoying tagalong. Even though she finds him drop-dead sexy, that’s a ship that can never sail now that she’s guardian to her niece and his goddaughter.

Two years ago, Seb moved home to take the position as local sheriff, ready for a slower pace and to be closer to his family. That included his best friend’s sister, London. The beautiful innkeeper had held his heart since they were young, but the timing never felt right to start something. When a serial killer murders a woman in his jurisdiction who bears a striking resemblance to London, Seb realizes he could lose her before they ever get a chance.

Will London’s reluctance to date the handsome sheriff deliver her into the hands of a psychopath?

Buy Links: Amazon

I love how the cat “helps” Ashely with her writing, don’t you? Thanks for sharing about your writing process and role model, Ashely!

Is anyone else shocked that May is almost over already? Be sure to take some time to relax under a shady tree and read a good story before the warm weather is over and we’re talking about Halloween! 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.

Spellcraft in Fiction, Or How to Write A Spell #research #magic #magick #FuryFallsInn #amwriting #amreading #American #histfic #historical #fantasy #fiction #books

So, to continue the discussion on basic magic knowledge and skills, let’s talk about spells. (You can read about the basics of magic and Cassie’s wand if you missed those posts.) Now, I’ve written many kinds of documents and texts: poems, essays, articles, technical reports, performance appraisals, newspaper columns, and of course books. But in Desperate Reflections, I needed a spell for Abram to use with his special ring. How does one write such a bit of prose?

So once again I referred to my experts: Thea Sabin’s Wicca for Beginners and Ly de Angeles’ Witchcraft: Theory and Practice. Both have great advice on how to approach spellcraft, if you’re interested in learning more about it. Since I wasn’t looking to write an actual working spell, but one that approximated such a bit of text, I mainly looked at the way language was used and tried to incorporate bits of the meter and flow as well as reverence to the Goddess.

Sabin gave some succinct guidance on writing a spell. She says, “If you choose to write your spell, first think of your goal. Find a way to state your goal clearly in words, either with rhyme or without. Then build the ritual around this center statement of intent. Incorporate the correspondence you’ve chosen, either directly into the words or into the greater ritual.” She goes on to provide a Sample Spell and how to perform the ritual associated with it, which gave me greater insight into how I might write a spell myself.

De Angeles includes many different spells in her book, so I spent some time reviewing them. I was looking for similarities between them so that when I attempted to write a spell specific for my story it would seem authentic and possibly even effective. I borrowed a couple of modified lines from her spells but made up the first two lines in my spell for my purposes. Her spells are much longer and involve specific ritualistic steps. Let me share part of one of de Angeles’ spells, in this case for a Fetch, so you can see what I mean:

“I call upon the powers of Earth,
By Aradia, by Cernunnos!
Come to my circle to guard and to guide!
Blessed be the powers of Earth!
This Cup is the symbol of Woman and Goddess,
This Blade is the symbol of Man and God.
Cojoined, are They, in the way of Creation!
Life within Death, Death within Life.
Blessed be the fruit of the Vine! […]
By the ancient awesome law of Three;
As I do Will so mote it be!”

Here’s where Abram learns the spell from his mother Mercy:

Mercy shimmered into view a few feet from him. “Abram, before you try to shift let me tell you about how you can use the ring to help you succeed.”

He sucked in a shaky breath at her sudden appearance. “Very well.”

“Close your right hand.” She demonstrated with her ghostly hand until he did as instructed. “Then say,

‘I summon the protections of this ring
To guard me and aid me in my intent.
By Earth, By Sky, By Sea
By the ancient Law of Three,
As I Will, so mote it be.’”

“What will that do?” He needed some reassurance of the intent and outcome behind the spell before he’d follow her instructions. Even though he had become adept at adjusting to quick changes, the more he knew beforehand the smoother his adaption to the new direction.

“This spell protects your true nature so you can return to it when you’re finished.” She drifted a little to one side, pressing her lips together. “It doesn’t increase your ability but it does provide a layer of protection.”

He frowned at the idea of casting a spell. Of acknowledging his witchy inheritance. “I don’t know…”

“You do want to be able to shift back into your true self, right?” Her arched brows and slight shake of her head made him feel like a fool.

He steeled his courage. “Of course.”

“Then memorize the spell so you can invoke it when you feel threatened and uncertain.” She smiled at him and then shimmered. “I’ll see you later.”

Now, the spell I wrote is supposed to be used in conjunction with a ring, so don’t try using it, okay? <grin>

Desperate Reflections is out and available! Enjoy!

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.

Fury Falls Inn in 1821 Alabama. A place for ghosts, witches, and magic. A place of secrets and hidden dangers. Abram must protect his vulnerable sister from all of it. Before the dark side of magic ensnares her.

When Abram Fairhope grudgingly travels to the Inn, he has no idea of the dire revelations about to upend his life. His only desire is to fulfill his familial duty and then get back to his job as senator’s aide. But the shocking truth of his very nature destroys his carefully laid plans. Worse still, he must use his newly revealed ability to shield her from terrible danger. Threats exist from within and without, especially the surprisingly pretty woman his jaded heart can’t seem to ignore. Can he keep his sister safe and still protect his heart?

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Getting to know Mary Helen Sheriff #author #southern #womens #fiction #mustread #books #amreading

Have you ever wanted to take a drive with a beloved family member but life prevented it? My guest today has used her imagination to create the road trip that never was. Please help me welcome Mary Helen Sheriff to the interview hot seat! Let’s take a look at her background and then find out more about the inspiration for her writing.

Mary Helen Sheriff is the author of southern women’s fiction, Boop and Eve’s Road Trip, and a co-founder of Bookish Road Trip. After 14 years in classrooms teaching elementary school, middle school, college, and professionals, Mary has taken a break from the classroom to focus on writing. She has an MFA from Hollins University, an MA from ODU, and a BA from UVA. She lives in Henrico County with her two children, two cats, and one husband.

Website * Facebook * Instagram * BookBub

Betty: When did you become a writer?

Mary Helen: Even as a kid I played with creative writing. Serious aspirations came along 22 years ago when I was in graduate school for teaching. In my Teaching Middle School Social Studies class, the professor suggested a geography project for our students and asked us to complete the project so we’d have a sample to show our students when we assigned it. Somehow my sample became a novella. The professor loved it and suggested I get it published and a dream was born.

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

Mary Helen: I honed my writing skills for about five years before any of my work found a home. The first pieces I published were short stories and poems. It was twenty-two years before I published my debut novel. In between I earned an MFA from Hollins University and completed three other unpublished novels.

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

Mary Helen: Han Nolan pushed me not to shy away from conflict. Hillary Homzie nourished the storyteller in me. Alexandria LaFaye taught me the value of double duty details. Michael Neff forced me to leave my artistic bubble and consider the marketplace.

Betty: What type of writing did you start with?

Mary Helen: My early efforts were in writing middle grade and young adult books. In fact, I went to Hollins University and earned an MFA in Children’s Literature. Boop and Eve’s Road Trip actually started as a young adult novel, but over time Boop (the eighty-year-old grandma) evolved from a sidekick to a dual protagonist, and young adult novels don’t have half the narrative from the point of view of a grandmother. The coming-of-age elements common to young adult books are still present in the final version of Boop and Eve’s Road Trip, but once I left the young adult category I was able to incorporate more adult themes.

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

Mary Helen: My grandma Hootie passed away when I was pregnant with my first child. She lived a difficult life and made some significant mistakes, but the lady I knew was this amazing, loving grandma. I couldn’t help wishing she were still around when I was sitting in a dark place, and then I thought maybe she can be there for Eve. Enter the character of Boop.

After having babies, I struggled with postpartum depression. Part of my healing process was writing this book and attempting to capture what it feels like to sit in a dark place and to feel like you hadn’t earned the right to sit there. I think as a society we are empathetic when depression meets grief but bewildered by depression that we can’t explain. Eve was born from my journey from depression to recovery.

Like Eve and Boop in the novel, Hootie and I shared a daydream about renting an RV when I turned sixteen years old and taking a road trip together across the country. For many reasons this road trip never happened in real life—in large part because neither of us was capable of safely driving an RV across the country. Writing Boop and Eve’s Road Trip was a way for me to imagine the road trip that never was.

Eve Prince is done―with college, with her mom, with guys, and with her dream of fashion design. But when her best friend goes MIA, Eve must gather together the broken threads of her life in order to search for her.

When Eve’s grandmother, Boop, a retiree dripping with Southern charm, finds out about the trip, she―desperate to see her sister, and also hoping to alleviate Eve’s growing depression―hijacks her granddaughter’s road trip. Boop knows from experience that healing Eve will require more than flirting lessons and a Garlic Festival makeover. Nevertheless, Boop is frustrated when her feeble efforts yield the same failure that her sulfur-laced sip from the Fountain of Youth wrought on her age. She knows that sharing the secret that’s haunted her for sixty years might be the one thing that will lessen Eve’s growing depression―but she also fears that if she reveals it, she’ll lose her family and her own hard-won happiness.

Boop and Eve’s journey through the heart of Dixie is an unforgettable love story between a grandmother and her granddaughter.

Excerpt:

Justine, looking as though she’d just stepped out of a Vineyard Vines catalog, held up a neon orange flamingo birdhouse. It’d been a housewarming gift from her neighbor, Shirley, who, bless her heart, had a hole in her bag of marbles. Like Shirley herself, the birdhouse plucked Boop’s nerves. The house, nestled in the bird’s body, was perched atop one of the flamingo’s legs and toppled over every time the door opened. She’d had to glue it back on half a dozen times. Boop held onto the klutzy mis-colored flamingo though—a reminder that she’d once toppled over every time the door opened too. Wouldn’t do to forget where she came from.

“These birdhouses make you seem like a crazy old lady. Your condo’s more like a gardening store than a home.” Justine’s coiffed perfection underscored the flamingo’s ridiculousness.

“Honey, I am a crazy old lady. Don’t make no difference to me what people think.” Boop’s eyes swept her collection—all forty-three birdhouses.

Thankfully, Justine let it go at that. Maybe she chalked up Boop’s strange fetish to the three pet birds she’d lost in as many months. Only it wasn’t the birds. None of them had lasted more than ten days; hardly enough time to get attached. No, it was the emptiness that Boop sought to fill, but Justine wouldn’t know about that. No one did.

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I love to drive and have taken family on road trips before, not all of them fun and entertaining like this one sounds like! Thanks for sharing your inspiration and giving us a peek at your story, Mary!

Thanks for 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.

Which Wand for a Witch? #research #magic #magick #FuryFallsInn #amwriting #amreading #American #histfic #historical #fantasy #fiction #books

Last time I talked about how my characters in the Fury Falls Inn series have to learn the basics of magic. For Cassandra Fairhope, she also needs to learn about her wand and how to use it. Now, after doing a bit of research I can tell you that there are a wide array of opinions on what wood to use, whether to use a fallen limb or cut a fresh stick, whether to decorate it with sigils or other symbols, and more. I needed to decide what wood her wand would be made from so I consulted my two references for their views on wood choices as well as the Grove and Grotto site that provides in-depth information about a lot of wand woods.

Sabin’s advice for people who want to follow Wiccan ways is slightly different from de Angeles’ guidance for people who want to practice witchcraft. Sabin says the wand is “a fancy stick” used to focus energy. She also recommends knowing how to focus energy without using a tool such as a wand for instances where you don’t have one at hand. She says the most common woods for Wiccan wands include oak, ash, and willow. But she adds that a wand can be made of anything including copper or silver or bone among other options.

De Angeles insists that the wand must be made by hand, whether it is “simple or carved, inscribed, or painted with the sigils of magic.” She identifies two types of wands, one that is “permanent” used for your rituals and one that is “created for specific purposes” and then “buried after use.” She provides the length, too. It should be “from (approximately) the tip of your middle finger to the inside of your elbow.” She lists the traditional sacred woods as willow, hazel, oak, rowan, hawthorn, blackthorn, birch, beech, applewood, and elm.

So what kind of wand did I choose for Cassie to use in my series?

I scanned the list of woods at Grove and Grotto to get more information as to meanings and properties of various woods. I was looking for qualities and properties that meshed with what Cassie’s world view and desires are. Then I had to make sure the wood was readily available in Alabama so she would pick up a branch of the tree and use it for her wand. After all, the series is set in 1821 and while international trade was huge even then, it would be far easier to pick from available woods instead of importing a more exotic one. So I visited Flora of Alabama to find out which kinds of trees grow there.

I settled on cherry because of its availability and its specific properties. Especially, “harmonious, feminine energy, good for healing, love magick, unity, and community.” Those aspects of the wood’s properties would call to Cassie at an instinctual level.

You’ll notice I didn’t follow either Sabin’s or de Angeles’ advice as to which wood to use. That’s because I really believe in going with your instincts and I think Cassie would be drawn to something more domestic and relevant to her world. Cassie is a unique individual and so is her wand.

Here’s a short snippet from Desperate Reflections where Cassie’s aunt is giving her the first lesson in how to use a wand. In fact, it’s the first time Cassie finds out she has a wand of her own that’s been locked away in one of her mother’s trunks…


Cassie yanked the keys from her pocket before she could change her mind. Soon the lid was up and the array of jewelry boxes, old books, and keepsakes were exposed. Hope leaned over the open trunk, reaching in to lift first one then another of the heirlooms to inspect. Thankfully, replacing each as she sifted and sorted through the collection.

“Aha!” Hope rummaged deeper into the trunk, and then held up a twisted piece of reddish-brown wood. “I found it.”

“What is it?” Surely that thing wasn’t for her. Something else must have been calling to her.

“Why, your wand, of course.” Hope handed it to her, handle first, a scowl descending on her features. “My sister didn’t even let you keep the wand you made as a girl?”

“I didn’t find out I was a witch until a few weeks ago.” She tentatively accepted the tapered wand. The smooth wood warmed to her touch, humming softly, much like a kitten purring in its sleep. “I don’t recall making it.”

“I was there the day you found the fallen limb of a tree and held it up with such joy on your face.” Hope shifted to aim a bemused expression at her. “Your father shaped the handle into that slow twist and then let you sand it smooth with your little hands. I think you were two or so at the time so it’s quite understandable you don’t recall doing so.”

Gripping the handle of the wand, she gave a tentative flick of the blunt tip in the air. Nothing happened. “How does it work?”

Hope chuckled and shook her head slowly. “Not like that. You must have a purpose and intent in mind when you use it to direct your will.”


Tomorrow, May 11, Desperate Reflections will release! I hope you’ll read it and let me know what you think of the story. It’s the third story in a six-book series, so three more to go!

May a good story take you to new imaginative places! 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.

Fury Falls Inn in 1821 Alabama. A place for ghosts, witches, and magic. A place of secrets and hidden dangers. Abram must protect his vulnerable sister from all of it. Before the dark side of magic ensnares her.

When Abram Fairhope grudgingly travels to the Inn, he has no idea of the dire revelations about to upend his life. His only desire is to fulfill his familial duty and then get back to his job as senator’s aide. But the shocking truth of his very nature destroys his carefully laid plans. Worse still, he must use his newly revealed ability to shield her from terrible danger. Threats exist from within and without, especially the surprisingly pretty woman his jaded heart can’t seem to ignore. Can he keep his sister safe and still protect his heart?

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Getting to know Monique Singleton #author #psychological #suspense #fantasy #storyteller #amreading #amwriting #fiction #books

My guest today comes to us from Holland and has an intriguing background to draw on for her writing. Please help me welcome author Monique Singleton! Let’s take a look at her bio and then find out more about her and her stories, shall we?

USA Today Best-selling Author Monique Singleton writes compelling stories that mix fantasy with realistic psychological suspense and unique insights into the mind of the main characters.

As the daughter of a British soldier and his Dutch wife, Monique was born in an English military hospital in Germany. The family toured the world where she was exposed to different cultures in many countries. Finally settling down in the Netherlands she pursued a career in Art and later in ICT.

Monique started to put the scenes she had running around in her head down to paper. Scenes led to a story, the story to a book, and the first book to a series. In addition to her writing, Monique still holds down a full-time job as a business consultant. She lives in a beautiful old farmhouse in the south of Holland with her two sloppy monster dogs, some horses, and a cat.

The cat is the boss.

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Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?

Monique: None of the characters actually arrived fully developed. They evolved during the different books. I don’t outline my books. I am what they call a “Pantser.” I write by the seat of my pants. This means that subjects, plots, and characters can change during the writing process.

Betty: Which story element sparked the idea for this story: setting, situation, character, or something else?

Monique: The main protagonist was the first idea. She was not a clear and precise character, not at the beginning. She grew with the story.

Betty: Which character(s) were the hardest to get to know? Why do you think?

Monique: I think the main characters are the most difficult to get to know. In Primal Nature that’s definitely the case for the main protagonist because she herself does not understand what is happening to her.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Monique: I did a lot of research with regard to locations, cultures (Maori cultures in the other books of the series) and also research on the riders of the apocalypse. Even with Fantasy, it has to be right.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Monique: I wrote one major draft but changed it a bit on the way. After that I went back and re-edited the draft. I guess that constitutes a new draft. All in all, I think there have been 4 or 5 releases. I still change things as I learn more about writing.

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Monique: This was the first book I wrote. It took about a year to write, and another five years to pluck up the courage to publish it. Most books take me 4 months to write. Then the laborious editing process starts.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Monique: No specific rituals. I do usually read what I wrote last time and go on from there. I do not write sequentially. I write what comes to mind.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Monique: One of my overused words is “OK”, or “So.”

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Monique: Terry Pratchett. He was a fantastic author who regrettably is no longer with us. Though his genre was different from mine, he is a great role model.

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Monique: No special place or time. I do a lot of reading in the bath.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Monique: I work 4 days a week as a business consultant in IT. I very much enjoy that as well.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Monique: Deciding to self-publish and taking the first step.

Betty: What other author would you like to sit down with over dinner and talk to? Why?

Monique: Terry Pratchett, J.K. Rowling, and so many more.

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Monique: Success in writing would be if people enjoy my books and maybe some will take a step back and think of some of the social subjects I write about.

I would love to write full time. My ultimate fantasy is to see my work on film or on a streaming site.

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

Monique: The stories ran around in my head for a long time. I have always been a very creative person fascinated by Fantasy. This resulted in scenes that formed in my mind that I just had to put down to paper. The Primal Series is about a flawed heroine. Someone with good and bad points. Someone like us.

Immortality comes at a high price: her sanity.

Known simply as subject 336, she was the unwilling subject of sinister and brutal experiments designed to replicate her enormous strength, healing powers, and apparent immortality.
It didn’t work out that way. Instead, they unleashed her primal nature.

Now they’re dead, and she’s lost.

From the sweltering heat of the Mexican desert, her journey leads her to the tropical jungle of the Columbian Amazon.

Against the backdrop of the Third World War, she fights her own gruelling battle to come to terms with what she is: a killer, a monster, or maybe worse.

The world is at war, and she is caught up in the middle.

Joining the revolution, her newfound talents sway the balance of war in their favour.

But is she a blessing, or a curse?

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Thanks for letting us take a peek at your writing inspiration and process, Monique. Your story sounds intriguing and inspiring.

Thanks for 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.

Book Sale in Honor of a New Release #sale #FuryFallsInn #amwriting #amreading #American #histfic #historical #fantasy #fiction #romance #books

It’s May and that means my next release is only days away! So I’ve decided to put the first two books in the series on sale for the month of May to encourage readers to catch up on what they may have missed. Desperate Reflections (Fury Falls Inn historical fantasy series Book 3) will release on May 11, 2021, and it’s chock full of surprises, secrets, magic, ghosts, and food! If you haven’t read the first two books in the series now is your chance to grab a Kindle copy of each and save money at the same time.

Here’s what the first two are about:

Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. She has a plan, too. Seduce the young man, who is acting as innkeeper while her father is away on business, into marrying her. He’s handsome and available even though he doesn’t have feelings for her. Marriage is her only escape. Despite her mother’s strenuous objections.

But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. He’s focused on securing his reputation in the hostelry business to make his father respect him. He quickly learns that running a roadside inn in northern Alabama in 1821 means dealing not only with the young woman and her hostile mother but also with horse thieves and rogues.

When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint are forced to face unforeseen challenges and dangerous decisions together in order to attempt to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who doesn’t have any plan to leave…

Only $.99 for the Kindle copy! $3.99 elsewhere

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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…

Only $1.99 for the Kindle copy! $3.99 elsewhere

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Of course, you know there will be more: magic, ghosts, secrets, and food! Pre-order Desperate Reflections to grab your copy today! (Note that you can pre-order the ebook now but the paperback won’t be available until May 11.) Thanks!

Now back to writing book 4 in the series… Until next time, 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.

Fury Falls Inn in 1821 Alabama. A place for ghosts, witches, and magic. A place of secrets and hidden dangers. Abram must protect his vulnerable sister from all of it. Before the dark side of magic ensnares her.

When Abram Fairhope grudgingly travels to the Inn, he has no idea of the dire revelations about to upend his life. His only desire is to fulfill his familial duty and then get back to his job as senator’s aide. But the shocking truth of his very nature destroys his carefully laid plans. Worse still, he must use his newly revealed ability to shield her from terrible danger. Threats exist from within and without, especially the surprisingly pretty woman his jaded heart can’t seem to ignore. Can he keep his sister safe and still protect his heart?

Books2Read     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple