Initial Thoughts on With Fire and Sword by Henryk Sienkiewicz #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I must admit that this next book on my Historical Fiction Around the World series, With Fire and Sword by Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz, is a difficult read for me. The writing can be difficult to process due to long, convoluted sentences. Add in many Polish and Russian names and words and it’s been a challenge. I meant to spend most of Thanksgiving reading it, to be honest, but didn’t feel up to that challenge despite holding my iPad with the Hoopla app on it! I will read more though and hope it snares my attention more as I delve farther into this history.

Speaking of the digital reading experience, I’m a bit frustrated with the ebook on my Hoopla app. When I stop reading and exit the app, the book gets closed. Upon reopening the app and then the book, it displays the page number where I stopped reading but defaults to the first page of the Introduction instead of to the page where I left off. Now, there are 1770+ digital pages in the ebook; I am up to page 300 or so right now. So I have to scroll through to find the page where I stopped again. Additionally, this ebook format’s header always displays “Introduction” instead of any specific chapter, which the ebook doesn’t have broken out anyway. The Table of Contents only lists four sections, to be exact, with one of those the entire story. Navigating through the ebook just adds to the challenge of reading this story. I’d really rather have a print edition…

I’m sure part of the adjustment I need to make is to the different style of language insofar as the story was written in 1884 and the author was a Polish journalist. Believe me, writing nonfiction is very different from writing fiction and can be a difficult transition. The author wrote for The Word as well as wrote short stories and other novels. He was well known and appreciated in his lifetime, the Polish people even gave him the “small estate of Oblegorek, near Kielce in south-central Poland” according to Britannica.com. Reading his work is definitely worth my time and attention given the acclaim he’s received although the novels are “criticized for their theatricality and lack of historical accuracy, they display great narrative power and contain vivid characterizations.” I’ve noticed the staging aspects of the story, almost as if he were writing a play in places. So I’ll continue reading and let you know more about the story itself next time.

Until then, 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 Theresa Shea #author #literaryfiction #womensfiction #activist #HistFic #historical #fiction #novel #amreading

My guest author today has an important story to share with us. Please help me welcome Theresa Shea to the interview hot seat! Let’s glance at her bio and then find out more about her and the story she has to tell.

Theresa Shea is the author of two novels. The Shade Tree, winner of the 2020 Guernica Prize for best unpublished literary fiction, and winner of the 2022 Georges Bugnet Award for fiction. Her debut novel, The Unfinished Child, was a finalist for the Georges Bugnet Award and the Alberta Readers’ Choice Award. 

Shea was born in the US and moved to Canada in 1977. A graduate of McGill University, Queen’s University, and the University of Alberta, Shea is currently working on Dog Days of Planet Earth, a novel that examines animal rights and the climate crisis through the historical lens of the nuclear experiments conducted by the United States Government between 1945 and 1992.

Author Social Links: Website * Instagram * Twitter

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

Theresa: In August of 1963, when I was three months old, my mother took me to the March on Washington and held me in her arms as Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his now famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The civil rights movement was in full swing. Change was wanted and needed. It was an exhilarating time. Yet over fifty years later, racial inequality still thrives.

To understand the present, we need to understand the past. In The Shade Tree, I wanted to explore some of the damaging narratives that white people have inherited. The first narrative we are introduced to in life is the family narrative. How are we shaped by it? How does it define us? Why do some people blindly accept that inheritance while others question it?

Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?

Theresa: I developed two key skills while working on this book: 1) patience to do multiple revisions, and 2) perseverance to bounce back from repeated rejections. Both will continue to be valuable during my writing life.

Winning the Guernica Prize was amazing. In addition to a cash prize, I also received a publishing contract. The novel came out the following year. One acceptance wipes out a lot of rejections. That the book went on to win best novel of the year in my Canadian province was equally wonderful and gratifying.

Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?

Theresa: Yes, while I wanted to highlight the damage of white supremacy, I struggled to know how much abuse against Black people to show. I didn’t want the violence to be gratuitous. For instance, there is a lynching scene in the novel that was difficult to write and is difficult to read. It is a pivotal scene that juxtaposes a horrifically violent moment with a community picnic involving so-called upstanding citizens. White readers, in particular, should be horrified by the contrast.

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

Theresa: One reviewer said my character Ellie Turner is “the most villainous female character” she has ever come across in literature. While she found her to be “beyond redemption,” she also understood, through my character development, “how her evil came to be.” I found that gratifying. An “evil” character must be believable. Sick people are produced by sick societies.

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

Theresa: I wrote The Shade Tree over a nine-year period and dipped in and out of research throughout that time. The internet is a fabulous resource. I watched footage of civil unrest, revisited the March on Washington, and more. I also read extensively and paid close attention to the Southern American writer and social critic Lillian Smith, who lobbied against Jim Crow laws, segregation, and wrote about the taboos surrounding interracial relationships and the failure of so-called Christians to be charitable and good.

I also read a significant amount of history about, and novels set in, the period covered in my book.

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

Theresa: Oh my. That’s a difficult question, and I’m not certain I know, but I’m going to say approximately eight to ten.

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?

Theresa: I started The Shade Tree in 2011, and it was published in 2021. That’s a faster timeline than my first, The Unfinished Child, that took thirteen years. However, my life circumstances had changed too. I started my first book when my second child was six months old. I moved twice and had another child during that period, so I was primarily focusing more on child-rearing, out of necessity. To be honest, it took longer to get my second novel published than I expected. In the end, however, I’m grateful because it’s a better book having undergone so many revisions.

I’m hoping that my next novel, Dog Days of Planet Earth, will move along at a faster pace. I started it in April of 2019. My children are young adults now, and I have more time to devote to writing. Even so, my novels take time to fully reveal themselves. Having more time hasn’t translated to writing faster. If I can finish a novel in five years, I would think that’s a good pace. One of the benefits of aging is I have more patience for the process.

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

Theresa: I do my best writing first thing in the day. My morning routine is to get up, make coffee, toast a bagel, and read some spiritual writing that sets me on the path to being a good human for the day. Then I go to my studio out in my backyard and give myself a pep talk. If I have a gift for writing, I ask to be deserving of that gift. I ask for the critical and doubting voice inside to be silenced. Once I am far enough into a work, I get excited to visit my fictional world and to spend time with my characters. So, there are stages of writing that are definitely more enjoyable (because they are easier) than others.

Finally, I think often of Ann Patchett’s simple equation: “Time applied equals work completed.” It’s shocking to think it can be that simple.

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

Theresa: Good question. I have no idea! Maybe my readers could let me know.

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

Theresa: My role models are people who have strong moral compasses and are true to their convictions, no matter the repercussions. Social justice people, certain spiritual leaders, activists that challenge the status quo, to name a few.

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

Theresa: Since November of 2018, I am fortunate to have a backyard shed, insulated and heated, in which to write. It was a decrepit shed filled with old paint cans and lawn mowers and insulation rolls left by previous tenants. One day I looked at it and thought, “it has potential!” A friend did the renovation work, and it has been life changing. Also, my timing was great. I used to work in coffee shops and libraries. When Covid hit in 2020, those spaces were no longer available. That my studio was already complete was lifesaving.

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

Theresa: I left my full-time job working at the city in late 2019 because I wanted time to finish some writing projects. Then Covid hit. I have been precariously self-employed since then.

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

Theresa: I feel my greatest achievement as an author is writing books that move people.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Theresa: Literary fiction.

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?

Theresa: Great question. When I was younger, I thought success came from being “known” or signing for a large advance. It was much more about external validation. Now, success is being able to write what I want and taking the time to let the work develop. Success for me is having more patience to let the work breathe and grow and expand.

The Shade Tree is a searing exploration of racial injustice set against the backdrop of some of America’s most turbulent historical events. The lives of two white sisters and a Black midwife are inextricably linked through a series of haunting tragedies, and the characters must make life-changing decisions about where their loyalties lie: with their biological families or with a greater moral cause. From a Florida orange grove to the seat of power in Washington, DC, during the height of the civil rights movement, The Shade Tree tells a sweeping yet intimate story of racial discrimination and the human hunger for justice.

An Editors’ Choice book with The Historical Novel Society, a reviewer said of The Shade Tree: “Mesmerizing, engrossing, and brilliantly plotted, this is an achievement that will echo long after the last page is turned.”

Buy Links: Amazon, * Barnes & Noble & any local independent bookstore

Thank you so much for sharing The Shade Tree with us today, Theresa! It sounds like a wonderful and provocative read.

Happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

My Impressions of The Henna Artist by Akla Joshi #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I’ve finished reading The Henna Artist by Akla Joshi. Last week, I shared my initial thoughts so feel free to pop over and read it if you missed it. Now that I’ve read the entire story along with the supporting materials and an excerpt for the second story in the series, I feel more confident in my opinion of the story. Which is to say, that I highly recommend reading this story. It’s worth your time. Why do I say that, you ask? I will be happy to tell you…

Before I talk specifically about The Henna Artist, I want to talk about the experience of reading. Reading a borrowed book on the Hoopla app on my iPad annoys me. I find it difficult to hold the device for long periods of time. I did poke around at trying to enlarge the font but it didn’t hold at the bigger font. So I had to continue to hold it landscape. I know that’s picky of me. I much prefer holding an actual book in my hands. I have reading apps on both my phone and my tablet, but a paperback or hardback is far more comfortable for my hands. Each options for reading has its purpose, though. I am reading an anthology of historical romances for pleasure on the Nook app on my phone so I have something to read whenever I am waiting for a doctor, etc. I read the library borrows on my tablet since I’m usually home when I read the historical fiction for this blog series. But I also have a library in my guest room with tons of printed books that I can choose from. When I travel, I’ll likely take at least a couple paperbacks with me to read (they don’t require batteries or interfere with other electronics) but I’ll still have my phone and those stories at hand as well.

Now back to Akla Joshi’s story. The depth and breadth of details about living in India in the 1950 as well as the traditions and culture of the country gave me a much better appreciation of the people and the lives they lived. I’ve never traveled to India so everything I know about the region is from books and movies. Ms. Joshi helped me to “live” the life of her characters and the limitations they faced and overcome.

Discussions throughout of the uses of various plants, herbs, and spices intrigued me. Learning that the author did extensive research into that aspect of her story gives a lot of credence to how her characters use them. I’ve been fascinated with herbals and combining various herbs and spices into liquid suspension or creams/lotions for a long time. I am not an expert in any of it, just admire those who are!

Lakshmi is the epitome of an emotionally strong woman. She’s faced time and again with having to navigate through hopes and dreams on one hand and the societal expectations and limitations on the other. I really enjoyed seeing how she worked through the decision making process before her and how she handled any fall out from the choices she makes. I’m not saying she was perfect, but she took responsibility for her decisions and actions and then worked to correct any wrongs she may have made. What more can you ask of anyone?

The next book on my Historical Fiction Around the World series is With Fire and Sword by Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz. This is another story recommended by my friends at the Historical Novel Society Facebook group. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, you might check out that group.

And one last time this year, now that Thanksgiving in America is close to hand, I’ll share my Thanksgiving romance with you all. See below for more on Tara and Grant’s unique trek into an enchanted valley…

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.

Love is never lost; it haunts the heart…   An unsuspecting Southern town. Ghosts. Witchcraft. Skeletons in the closet. Discover the Secrets of Roseville in this five book series… Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Veiled Visions of Love, and Charmed Against All Odds!

He dug for the truth and found her magic…

It’s safer to stay hidden. Or so Tara Golden believes. She has hidden her healing powers ever since shunned as a child for using them. But occasionally, she helps people passing through town. Then a tall, sexy geologist demands answers to questions she doesn’t want to face. The hunky guy is in for a huge disappointment since she would never expose her abilities and her gifted sisters even to silence the handsome man.

Grant Markel’s eyesight is restored, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. He followed his brother to Roseville on the fool’s errand of creating an alchemical elixir. Only to have his condition disappear without any treatment. But the idea that Tara is a sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest makes him face hard truths despite their mutual attraction.

When they are trapped in an enchanted valley, Tara must choose between her magical reality or his scientific beliefs. Can she step from the shadows to claim her true powers before it’s too late?

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Initial Thoughts about The Henna Artist by Akla Joshi #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I’ve started reading the next book on my Historical Fiction Around the World tour of books written by non-American authors entitled The Henna Artist by Akla Joshi. It’s important to note that this is the first book in The Jaipur Trilogy. This first story is set in Jaipur, State of Rajasthan, India in the 1950s. The paperback is 400 pages, but I’m reading it on my iPad via a library borrow through Hoopla. I mentioned this only to add that while it’s nice to be able to read it on my iPad, Hoopla won’t let me resize the text easily like I can in other reading apps. Perhaps I need to poke around more and see if there is a way to change that, but for now I’ve been turning the device to landscape mode to make the text large enough to read.

The author has provided some collateral materials to help readers understand the context of the story. These include a glossary, the Story of Henna, information on the Caste System, as well as several recipes for items/foods mentioned in the story. She also includes a list of the characters who appear in the story to introduce them before you begin reading, a fact I’ll circle back around to in a minute.

The story is divided into four parts and I have finished reading through Part One. The main character, Lakshmi, is very likeable and despite the different culture and society she lives in, I feel like I understand her situation and her choices. The author has deftly written about the nuances of life in India, the protocols and expectations, as well as the subtle politics of the society. It’s really a fascinating introduction to India for me.

The Prologue helps to set the stage for what comes later, but I must admit to being confused as to whose story I was reading since the author begins with a character who is not Lakshmi, but her sister, Rhada. So when chapter one begins, I thought we were still in Rhada’s POV, not Lakshmi. After a few paragraphs, I caught on but there was a bit of confusion for me. I suppose if I’d read the list of characters more closely, I might have followed it better. So consider that my advice to any who wants to read this interesting and compelling story: read through the Characters Who Appear section carefully.

Akla Joshi has a beautiful writing style that readily depicts the life and times of the characters in this delightful story. Let me share the opening paragraph of Chapter One, which does a fine job of setting the stage of Jaipur:

Independence changed everything. Independence changed nothing. Eight years after the British left, we now had free government schools, running water and paved roads. But Jaipur still felt the same to me as it had ten years ago, the first time I stepped foot on its dusty soil. On the way to our first appointment of the morning, Malik and I nearly collided with a man carrying cement bags on his head when a bicycle cut between us. The cyclist, hugging a six-foot ladder under his arm, caused a horse carriage to sideswipe a pig, who ran squealing into a narrow alley. At one point, we stepped aside and waited for a raucous band of hijras to pass. The sari-clad, lipstick-wearing men were singing and dancing in front of a house to bless the birth of a baby boy. So accustomed were we to the odors of the city—cow dung, cooking fires, coconut hair oil, sandalwood incense and urine—that we barely noticed them.

I’m looking forward to finding out what will happen next in this story. I’ll try to finish it before next week’s blog.

Now that Thanksgiving in America is close to hand, I’d thought I’d share my Thanksgiving romance with you all. See below for more on Tara and Grant’s unique trek into an enchanted valley…

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.

Love is never lost; it haunts the heart…   An unsuspecting Southern town. Ghosts. Witchcraft. Skeletons in the closet. Discover the Secrets of Roseville in this five book series… Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Veiled Visions of Love, and Charmed Against All Odds!

He dug for the truth and found her magic…

It’s safer to stay hidden. Or so Tara Golden believes. She has hidden her healing powers ever since shunned as a child for using them. But occasionally, she helps people passing through town. Then a tall, sexy geologist demands answers to questions she doesn’t want to face. The hunky guy is in for a huge disappointment since she would never expose her abilities and her gifted sisters even to silence the handsome man.

Grant Markel’s eyesight is restored, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. He followed his brother to Roseville on the fool’s errand of creating an alchemical elixir. Only to have his condition disappear without any treatment. But the idea that Tara is a sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest makes him face hard truths despite their mutual attraction.

When they are trapped in an enchanted valley, Tara must choose between her magical reality or his scientific beliefs. Can she step from the shadows to claim her true powers before it’s too late?

Amazon     Barnes and Noble      Kobo     Apple     Books2Read     Google Books     Bookshop

Getting to know Lawrie Johnston #author #hisfic #WWI #history #historical #fiction #books #amreading #amwriting

My next guest hails from the beautiful country of Scotland. Please help me welcome Lawrie Johnston! Let’s find out a bit more about her background before we learn about her inspiration and writing process.

I am a retired teacher of history. For most of my life I have read studied and taught history in various parts of Scotland. I have a BA in History from the University of Stirling where I majored in African history.  In contrast I contributed to nonfiction local history books when I lived in the southwest of Scotland. Now that I am retired, I have had the time to research aspects of the First World War and this has resulted in my first historical fiction novel “Who Served Well”, which I hope will be the first of many. I have started to write my second novel which is set in medieval Scotland at the time of The Wars of Independence.

Author Social Links: Facebook * Instagram * Twitter * Apple

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

Lawrie: As an historian and history teacher I have always been fascinated by the events of the First World War. It was such a pivotal moment in world history and its consequences far reaching. In its aftermath it inspired a plethora of novels, poems, plays, and films. I devoured these with pleasure. More recently and just shortly after I retired, I was given the opportunity to research a small local war memorial in a little parish called Bargrennan in the southwest of Scotland. There were around nine names on the memorial which would be a significant proportion of the young men in such a small sparsely populated area. I noticed two of the young men had died on the same day at the same battle. One had emigrated and served in a Canadian regiment. The other served in a local Scottish regiment. I wondered if they had met again during the war and that was the start of the story.

Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story

Lawrie: I was so used to writing nonfiction I really enjoyed developing fictional characters, fleshing them out, giving them emotions and situations. Thinking about how they would respond. So I think I have developed my imaginative writing skills.

Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story?

Lawrie: Generally, I find writing dialogue quite difficult. I think you must read it aloud to judge if it sounds natural and plausible. You have also to carefully consider if it is time appropriate. I know soldiers swore a lot so that wasn’t a problem.

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

Lawrie: That would be Tam, one of the central characters in the story. Like anyone he has his good points and flaws. Essentially, he is caught up in events which he does not fully understand but remains positive and optimistic.

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

Lawrie: A great deal. From researching war memorials to nonfiction books about the First World War for information about battles, troops movements, and field hospitals to name a few. I visited several museums and libraries, too.

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

Lawrie: For the book as a whole three drafts. There were some chapters or bits of chapters which were revised further.

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 no

Lawrie: As this was my first novel, I did not plan the timing as well as I could have. There were several gaps in my writing, so overall about three years. I am working on my second novel now and have estimated a two-year turnaround from start to publication

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

Lawrie: Always a strong cup of coffee before I start.

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

Lawrie: I used the phrase “the following morning” too often. I am very aware of that now.

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

Lawrie: Not really as I try to be myself. I do admire Hilary Mantel a great deal. I think she is in a class of her own when it comes to historical fiction. Her advice to other authors was excellent.

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

Lawrie: Mainly at the dining room table.

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

Lawrie: I am a retired history teacher and loved my job. There are elements which I still miss.

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

Lawrie: To date it would be the publication of my first novel. Opening the first box of books was exciting. Seeing my book on retailers’ websites and reading good reviews was also very rewarding.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Lawrie: For relaxing then crime fiction, Ian Rankin and Val McDermid are go-to writers for me.

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

Lawrie: I have no illusions that I will make a fortune from my work. That people have enjoyed and taken something from my book is reward enough for me.

Who Served Well is an exploration of the devastating effects of the First World War through the eyes of three young friends from Galloway, southwest Scotland. The idea for the book comes from research I did around local war memorials. The stories of the individuals on the memorials inspired me to create the fictional characters in the book. I hope the reader will become immersed in those events and battles of the war where local men and women made a significant contribution. The essence of the book is deeply rooted in the people and places of Galloway. Andrew McDowall, Tam Murdoch, and Kathleen Marr make their own way through the war but are linked by their past and also by their present.

Buy Links: Troubadour Book Publishing * AmazonUS * AmazonUK

Knowing that the story stems from historical memorials may just mean your readers will want to travel to those sites, too. I’d go back to Scotland in a heartbeat! Thanks, Lawrie, for stopping by and sharing your debut novel with us!

Happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

My thoughts on Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon #histfic #historical #fiction #AmericanRevolution #Scottish #timetravel #fantasy #amreading #amwriting

Now that my newest releases are available, and the short flash fiction for Halloween have been shared, it’s time for me to turn my attention back to my Historical Fiction Around the World series. If you recall, this is where I read historical fiction by non-American authors. It’s my way of expanding my own reading horizons and appreciating the breadth and depth of storytelling. I’ve selected a story from India entitled The Henna Artist by Akla Joshi as the next book in the series. It sounds interesting…

While I dip my toes into this intriguing tale, I thought I’d share my thoughts on Diana Gabaldon’s recent Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, which I finally read. The book released in 2021 but not in paperback, so I waited nearly a year until the paperback became available. My thinking was that I have the first 8 books in paperback, and I wanted the 9th in paperback as well. Then I share the books with my daughter to read. So after reading the 888 pages of the story, I can say it was worth the wait. I enjoy Ms. Gabaldon’s stories. They are entertaining and informative even if at times I wish she’d had a better editor to help her with the writing. But, then again, once an author has reached the kind of status she has, editors tend to be far more permissive and forgiving. I guess they figure she’s built an audience writing in such a style…

Betty with Diana Gabaldon in 2013 at the Historical Novel Society Conference.

Anyway, that’s my own personal preferences showing. Ms. Gabaldon’s writing is solid and she weaves an interesting story. While many things happen in this continuing saga of a time-traveling family, in this particular book not much at all happens from a big picture view. People fight, travel, defend themselves, build new homes, find new family, and navigate troubling war times during the American Revolution in the states. I found the day-to-day living aspects of the story fascinating if somewhat slow at times. Some scenes didn’t have any obvious significant purpose for this reader. But I always marvel at the depth of research she must have done to write these stories so specifically detailed. (I’d love to have a conversation with her about her research!)

Ultimately, I think of this book as a bridge to the next one, which Ms. Gabaldon teases “might be” the penultimate book in the series. It ends on a definite cliffhanger, which adds to my impression of its role in the series. Neither of those impressions are a denunciation of the story, though. I thoroughly enjoyed the evolving story of Claire and Jamie.

One interesting aspect of the points of view (POVs) used in this book is that all of the characters except Claire’s are written in third person close POV. Claire is heard in first person, bringing her inner thoughts onto the page in a more direct and personal way. This technique ensures the reader will know when we’re in Claire’s head without having to figure out who is talking/thinking. Given there are at least three other POVs employed in telling this tale, sometimes I had to pause to figure out in whose POV the scene was written.

Another thing I noticed is a reflection of Ms. Gabaldon’s scientific background. Her website bio states, “Dr. Diana J. Gabaldon holds three degrees in science: Zoology, Marine Biology, and a Ph.D. in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology.” Her writerly voice reflects this training in the use of passive language (not necessarily passive voice). She frequently begins her sentences with “There were/are/was” openings, for example. Using such constructs distance the reader from the character’s POV in one sense but also creates a “cushion” between the action of the story and the telling of it. Let me try to give an example. I just opened the novel to page 96 and found this sentence at the bottom of the page: “There was a long moment of silence.” As a comparison, what if she’d written: “A long moment of silence followed.” Or even, “A moment of silence stretched into an uncomfortable minute.” I read my examples as more active and energetic than the original. What do you think?

Yes, I do realize that most readers won’t even notice these kinds of aspects of the book. Readers, as opposed to writers reading, don’t look beyond the story. I, personally, having been trained as an editor and having studied as an English major emphasizing literature, am striving to not only tell an entertaining, informative story but to do so to the best of my ability. You’ll have to tell me how well I’ve succeeded, though, since a writer can’t really tell if they’re hitting the mark with their own writing.

If you haven’t read the series to date, you’re missing out on a lot of great historical fiction and I urge you to give it a try. If the size of the books proves too daunting—each is in the 800+ page range—then check out the Starz miniseries of Outlander. Ms. Gabaldon is the co-producer and advisor of the series and it stays true to the stories she wrote so you won’t miss out on the key elements of the series. Find out more here. Of course, if you’re like me and devour the tiniest details of life during a different time period, then you’d be better off reading the books.

Either way, I hope you’ll enjoy the Outlander series as much as I have!

And if you enjoy historical fiction set during the American Revolution, I hope you’ll take a peek at Emily’s Vow, the first book in my American Revolution series A More Perfect Union, set in Charleston, South Carolina during the British occupation of that beautiful city.

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.

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How could she love a man suspected of being a turncoat?

As the American Revolution drags on, Charles Town, South Carolina, remains under siege by the British, and Emily’s father is determined to marry her off to a suspected traitor. Frank Thomson walks a fine line between spying for the Americans and being a perceived loyalist traitor. But when Frank learns Emily has been imprisoned by the enemy, he risks his own life, freedom, and heart for hers.

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Introducing Miss Kitty Underhay, the delightful amateur sleuth from Helena Dixon’s cozy mystery series. #author #character #femalesleuth #bookseries #amreading #fiction #novels

Sometimes it’s the little things that matter most in life. Today let’s chat with an interesting character from Helena Dixon’s cozy mysteries, Miss Kitty Underhay. Welcome, Kitty! After we find out a little bit about Helena, I’m looking forward to finding out more about you.

Helena Dixon splits her time between the Black Country and Devon. Married to the same man for over thirty-five years she has three daughters, a cactus called Spike, and a crazy cockapoo. She is allergic to adhesives, apples, tinsel and housework.  She was winner of The Romance Prize in 2007 and Love Story of the Year 2010 as Nell Dixon. She now writes the Miss Underhay historical 1930’s cozy crime series.

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Betty: How would you describe your parents?

Kitty: My mother vanished when I was six and my father went to America. I have only recently become reacquainted with my father who is something of a rogue. I was brought up by my grandmother at the Dolphin Hotel.

Betty: Who taught you to tie your shoes?

Kitty: Mickey, the maintenance man in the hotel that I co own with my grandmother.

Betty: Do you know how to swim? How did you learn, if so?

Kitty: I live in Dartmouth, a small riverside town in Devon. When you live by water you need to know how to swim.

Betty: What do you think is your greatest failure? Why?

Kitty: I can be quite impetuous and sometimes this has placed me in considerable danger.

Betty: What is the most wonderful thing that has happened to you?

Kitty:  I met my fiancé, Captain Matthew Bryant who is a private investigator. We are due to get married on Christmas Eve

Betty: If you could change the past, what would you change?

Kitty:  I wish my mother was still alive. I spent years trying to find out what happened to her.

Betty: What’s your greatest fear? Who else knows about it?

Kitty: I really don’t like rats. I think everyone knows!

Betty: What’s your favorite game to play?

Kitty: I like to play billiards although I’m told this is not very lady-like.

Betty: Do you have a favorite sibling? Who?

Kitty: I’m an only child.

Betty: If you could live anywhere, where would you live?

Kitty:  I love living in Dartmouth. Being by the sea has to be the best place to live in the world. The countryside here is beautiful and we have the best seafood and clotted cream.

Betty: How do you like to relax?

Kitty: I like to read, especially whodunnits. I also go to the cinema with my friend, Alice. She is a huge fan of the talkies as my grandmother still calls them.

Betty: What genre of books do you most enjoy reading?

Kitty: Mysteries. I love Mrs. Sayers.

Betty: How do you like to start your day?

Kitty: I wake up early and my best days start when Alice my friend sneaks into my room to share a cup of tea with me. She’s a chambermaid at the Dolphin and has to avoid Mrs. Homer, our housekeeper. We have a good old chat and its such fun. I shall miss that when I marry Matt.

Betty: What kinds of friends do you have?

Kitty: All kinds. Alice and her sister Dolly are my closest friends but there is also Father Lamb who is a priest at Exeter. He’s very kind and generous. Dr. Carter, who I always seem to meet whenever there is a murder. Since I met Matt I always seem to end up embroiled in murders.

Betty: Who would you like to meet? Why?

Kitty: I would like to meet Queen Mary, she always seems so very gracious. Plus, Mrs. Craven has met her and won’t stop bragging about it.

Kitty Underhay is drowning… in murder.

Kitty Underhay hopes for plain sailing as she caters a 21st birthday party for the Chief Constable’s daughter aboard a luxury paddle steamer. So her heart sinks when she learns that the man her fiancé Matthew has been tailing on orders from Whitehall, Gunther Freiburg, is aboard. And she’s even more horrified when she steps below deck to discover Gunther dead in the engine room. One of the Chief Constable’s party must be responsible for his demise, but who, and why?

And the evening is on course for further disaster. As the lights go out around the candlelit cake, a terrible scream rings out over the merry hubbub. A priceless diamond necklace has been snatched from around the birthday girl’s neck… Something fishy is going on, but is this the work of the same sailing assassin, or is it a red herring?

With the local inspector in deep water having to investigate his own boss, Kitty and Matt dive in to help. But when Kitty’s eavesdropping puts her in mortal danger, will everything turn out shipshape, or will it be her turn to go swimming with the fishes…?

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The lessons we learn from the various people in our lives can yield some interesting developments. Thanks, Kitty, for stopping by for a chat!

Happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

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