Discovering the woman who was my mother #familyfirst #Baltimore #historical #fiction #books #inspiration #amwriting #amreading

I have many stories about my mother from my own life. I mean, who doesn’t when you’ve lived with your family for 18 years or more. Things like Mom sitting under a shady tree reading the newspaper while Dad took me and my sisters to the beach to splash around. Helping Mom in the kitchen to make the holiday turkey and mashed potatoes. Oh, her mashed potatoes! Christmas shopping all day on Black Friday, laughing and having a grand time. Mom sipping on a beer in a glass, munching on Utz potato chips. We talked sometimes, though rarely, about her life as a teen and young woman. I wish I’d asked more questions, though.

When I first started reading through my father’s correspondence, 6 years after he passed in 2011, I was a bit nervous about what I might find out about him. I was surprised at how much I learned about my mother as a young, flirty, fun woman.

I mentioned before that she signed many of her letters as Mary Lou, but that nobody in her family ever called her that. I’m wondering if Dad started calling her that since he was from the Deep South. I have no way of knowing for certain. I was also surprised to see line drawings and jokes included in the letters. The interactions I had with my mother didn’t hint at that side of her. For example, she mentions in a March 1948 letter the following riddle:

Friday evening we went over to a very lovely restaurant in Silver Springs, Md. A large fireplace plus crackling logs were in each room. Above the one fireplace was this riddle. Can you make it out?
            If the B m t put :
            If the B ◊ putting :

Now, I pondered that for some time without figuring out its solution. It wasn’t until she wrote to him later and shared the meaning that I had any idea. One hint as you read the solution: the “:” punctuation symbol reads as “coal on”. So here’s what Mom wrote in her letter:

The answer to the riddle is
If the grate be empty put coal on
            (If the B m t put : )
If the grate be full, stop putting coal on.
            (If the B ◊ putting : )

My mother’s handwritten letter including the riddle.

In my novel, Notes of Love and War, I reverse this trait to have Charlie sending the jokes and riddles to Audrey. She professes to not be very good at solving them, too. I used different riddles and jokes, too, which were fun to research and debate which ones I thought worth including.

So tell me how much you remember about your mother. Did you talk to her about her younger years? If your mom is still alive, what questions do you have for her?

Thanks for stopping by. 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.

Now available for preorder! Notes of Love and War will release on July 28, 2020, in honor of my dad’s 100th birthday!

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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Puppy Love – Mom’s real-life dog Frisk #dogsarefamily #collie #Baltimore #historical #fiction #books #inspiration #amwriting #amreading

I’ve been talking about the letters my parents shared and how they inspired my upcoming release, Notes of Love and War. But the story is not just based on the letters. I also include some references from my parents’ real life story that reflect life in the 1940s in Maryland.

Having spent so much time with my mother while she was dying from metastatic breast cancer, I was able to talk to her about her life. We didn’t always see eye-to-eye but we did spend quite a bit of time shopping and hanging out at home over my childhood to young adult years. And then I spent even longer with my father as he lived with me, my husband, and children for 17 years after Mom passed before moving into assisted living until he died 4 years later. We still talked frequently as long as he was able to, though, so I’ve been very fortunate in that regard. Lots of family stories and memories as a result.

One of Mom’s fondest memories was about a dog. Mom’s favorite pet growing up was Frisk, a blue merle collie. She talked about how smart and loyal he was. I have lots of pictures in the family albums of the two of them, or just of Frisk, scattered throughout the many other pictures of vacations and family gatherings.

Mom and her collie Frisk sitting on the grass together.

This picture is one that shows the coloring of a blue merle since all my photos are in black and white and I really wanted you to have an idea of how beautiful they are.

A blue merle collie with its distinctive white chest and legs, with a mix of tan, sable, and gray on its face, back and haunches.

So while writing my story, I decided to pay homage to Mom’s love of Frisk by including him in a fictional manner. As far as I know, Frisk didn’t live with Mom but lived on her grandfather’s farm. I’m the youngest of 5 children and all of my grandparents except my maternal grandmother had died before I was born. Mom was 42 years old when I was born; 60 when I graduated high school. So by the time I first remember my grandmother when I was a child she didn’t have any pets around the house. Probably because she was probably in her 60s by then. I don’t know if that was always the case, but in my lifetime I never saw any there. So I’m going to stick with my memory of what my mom said about Frisk being out on the farm.

However, in Notes of Love and War, Frisk is right at Audrey’s side whenever possible. Here’s a short excerpt to show you what I mean.


Audrey trotted the last few strides home to the front gate of the fenced yard. The hinges on the gate reluctantly let her through, their protest both loud and strong as she shut it behind her. Then she strode up the sidewalk leading to the steps to the front porch. Frisk galloped around the corner and came to let her love on him. He danced beside her on the sidewalk, joy plain on his face. She was glad she’d come home, too.

She’d toyed with how to approach her big assignment all afternoon, and it was only as she stepped off the streetcar and started the last leg of her trip to the sanctuary of home that she’d sorted the best way to proceed. She wanted to jot down her plan as soon as possible. Scurrying up the few steps to the shadowy porch, she was startled when Rae pushed open the door for her, waiting impatiently until Audrey slipped inside. Frisk yipped once as the door closed, shutting him outside.

“Audrey…”

“Wait.” Audrey opened the door again, cold air flowing past and chilling her bare legs. “Come on, boy.”

Frisk trotted inside and went to settle on his bed by the snapping fireplace. He seemed content to be inside in the warmth. Audrey turned away from the dog and regarded her sister.

“You’ve got a letter.” Rae’s eyes gleamed with intrigue and curiosity. “From him.”

“Who?”

“That soldier fella, Charlie.” Rae waved the letter at her, the airmail postage evident by the red and blue stripes along all four edges of the envelope. She slid a polished nail under the edge of the flap. “You’re lucky you got home when you did.”

Audrey quirked a brow at her sister. “You wouldn’t dare.”

A shrug and grin suggested Rae’s nefarious intent as she handed it to Audrey. “Open it before I do.”


Notes of Love and War will release in July 2020 but it’s available for preorder now. I’m super excited to share this story with you all, too! It combines some family memories with espionage and music. I hope you’ll enjoy the snippets I share occasionally between now and then to whet your appetite to read Audrey and Charlie’s story.

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.

Now available for preorder! Notes of Love and War will release on July 28, 2020, in honor of my dad’s 100th birthday!

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.

Amazon     Books2Read     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple

Novel letters that reflect reality #Baltimore #historical #fiction #books #inspiration #amwriting #amreading @Baltimore_City

To continue with the connection between the real letters my parents wrote to the fictional ones in Notes of Love and War, let’s take a glance at how I wove some of those hints I spoke of into the story letters.

Here’s the letter from last week from my mother to my father. Note the bolded part where she practically shouts how she feels about the weather where he lived.

Original letter from my mother to my father.

“My Dear Friend,

Today had been so warm! Right now no one, I don’t believe, could talk me into visiting Florida. Hot weather and I are better enemies!

Murray, how’s the work coming along? Keep learning, Friend, and building on that solid foundation you’ve laid! I know that whatever you do, will be done to the best of your ability! Keep it up and I’ll be pulling for you!

And about that receptionist you’re looking for – there’s a friend of mine who has always wanted to be a receptionist. She would be just the one for the job except she doesn’t like Florida’s warm weather! Goodness here I am complaining about the weather again –

The funny part about it, I have been thinking, just a little, about looking for a job as receptionist. I’m getting tired of sitting at a desk punching keys. Nine years is enough of that. Oh and another thing, what would the starting salary be? After all that is an important thing to consider.

I sure was sorry to hear about your tennis rackets being stolen. Why don’t you ask Santa and maybe next Xmas you’ll find one in your stocking. It worked this Xmas for me. Try it!!

Murray, there’s an old saying ‘Action speaks louder than words.’ If I’m to be your girl, seems to me the best thing for you to do is to prove it. – How about coming up the last week of April? Could you manage to be here on Thursday April 27?

This warm weather has really brought the frogs out! I love to hear them at night time. Seems to put me in a dreamy mood!

Friend, don’t let your dreaming run away with you – concerning us. Just remember that I have made no promises of any kind!

But I do think you should come up so we can see each other and know how we stand – that is, whether we want to continue along the “boy and girl” lines or – just pals!

Your Friend

Mary Lou”

And like I pointed out, my mother made no bones about the fact she doesn’t like hot weather. So I have Audrey adopt this same viewpoint, since she’s used to much more variable weather in Maryland than the hotter, more tropical climate of southern Florida.

[Here’s a quirky aside: I’ve never heard anyone call my mother “Mary Lou” yet she signed her letters to Dad that way. I even asked Mom’s sister about the nickname and my aunt said she was only ever called Mary. Well, apparently not!]

The following letter is taken from the pages of Notes of Love and War and is from Audrey to Charlie… She’s planning to move to Florida after they marry and trying to keep a brave front. I’ll bold her comment about the hot weather to make it easier to find…

Saturday afternoon
July 22, 1944

Dearest Charlie,

My love for you is beyond measure. I know we’ll be happy together as soon as we’re married and start our life as husband and wife. I’ve started working on my trousseau. Mama and I went shopping for pretty fabrics and patterns, and the dining room has become my sewing parlor. The table is always smothered with bolts of cloth, ribbons and trim, and other sewing paraphernalia. Rae helps me with fittings and hemming.

As for our honeymoon, as long as we’re together it will be perfect. If I must choose, though, someplace warm since we’re going in December. The Keys sound nice and we could visit Hemingway’s home in Key West where he wrote To Have and Have Not. That would be fun. I do enjoy his books! Have you read his novels? But honestly, my darling, anywhere we can spend time alone together will make me happy.

I’m not going to tell you what you should do with your photography and studio. You must choose what makes you happy and provides the level of financial security that works for you. We shall be fine. We can budget our money and still have a wonderful life together. Go and be the photographer you choose to be! That’s the important thing to me.

I’m nearly finished with the interviews of the musicians in the women’s symphony. Just a couple more who have been difficult to coordinate calendars with, but I expect to catch up to them eventually. My boss has been complimentary about my articles, so that’s something that gives me hope for that promotion I told you about.

You’ll be relieved to know that Rae has taken it upon herself to give me cooking lessons. She said she didn’t want you to starve! I know you wouldn’t. I can make a mean peanut butter and honey sandwich! Kidding! Well, maybe not. But we won’t starve, either way. Tonight she’s going to teach me how to make fried chicken. Or try. The last time I attempted it, the outside was perfectly golden brown and delicious looking, but the inside was raw. Cross your fingers for me!

Frisk is eager to go for a walk since the day is waning and the temps starting to cool off. It’s been very hot here, and you know I’m not fond of the heat and humidity of summer. I much prefer spring and fall, to be honest. But of course I have to take all four seasons, not just two of them. Mother Nature insists!

Charlie, I love you and am honored to be planning our wedding. I’ve arranged for the church, my family’s parish, for the ceremony. The minister said around Christmas the sanctuary is already decorated. That will save us some money that we’d normally spend on flowers and ribbons that we could use for our honeymoon, right? Do you care when around the 25th of December that we wed? Let me know your thoughts.

I must end, though I’m sure I could think of more to tell you about the symphony, the newspaper office, and other family doings. But then you’d be bored with my little observations and musings, so I’ll refrain. I want you to always be happy and content.

All my love,
Audrey

As I read over the letter from Audrey, I can see other echoes from my mother’s many letters. The fact that she’s trying to learn to cook, and planning the wedding date for when they don’t have to spend money on decorations, and even the discussion about what Charlie should do about his career path. They’re not the same exact issues, but they are similar and thus reflects the inspiration I pulled from the letters between my parents.

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.

Now available for preorder! Notes of Love and War will release on July 28, 2020, in honor of my dad’s 100th birthday!

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.

Amazon     Books2Read     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple

Dear Charlie… or courtship through letters #WWII #Baltimore #historical #fiction #books #inspiration #amwriting #amreading @Baltimore_City

I mentioned last week that one of the reasons I wrote Notes of Love and War, set in Baltimore during WWII, was to try to capture what it might have been like to fall in love through letters written during a war. The only way I know what it was like is by reading my parents letters to each other during and after the war and trying to read between the lines. My mother was very forthright but also I could sense a hesitancy to speak her mind. But I did see hints of it.

Those hints helped me to imagine Audrey Harper’s personality and how she’d approach difficult conversations while trying to get to know Charlie Powers better through their correspondence. Let me show you a couple examples of my mother’s letters to give you a clearer image of what I mean.

Letter from my mother to my father in 1948.

The following transcription of the letter in the picture comes from a friendly letter dated March 23, 1948. Note this is after the war, but they’d been writing as pen pals for years before. However, in one of my mother’s letters she confesses that after my father became engaged to another woman, she threw away his letters! He apparently must have done the same thing, because the first extant letter I have is dated November 1945 from my mother to my father. This is after my dad had been discharged from the army and the war was over for all intents and purposes. So let’s pick up with this:


“My Dear Friend,

Today had been so warm! Right now no one, I don’t believe, could talk me into visiting Florida. Hot weather and I are better enemies!

Murray, how’s the work coming along? Keep learning, Friend, and building on that solid foundation you’ve laid! I know that whatever you do, will be done to the best of your ability! Keep it up and I’ll be pulling for you!

And about that receptionist you’re looking for – there’s a friend of mine who has always wanted to be a receptionist. She would be just the one for the job except she doesn’t like Florida’s warm weather! Goodness here I am complaining about the weather again –

The funny part about it, I have been thinking, just a little, about looking for a job as receptionist. I’m getting tired of sitting at a desk punching keys. Nine years is enough of that. Oh and another thing, what would the starting salary be? After all that is an important thing to consider.

I sure was sorry to hear about your tennis rackets being stolen. Why don’t you ask Santa and maybe next Xmas you’ll find one in your stocking. It worked this Xmas for me. Try it!!

Murray, there’s an old saying ‘Action speaks louder than words.’ If I’m to be your girl, seems to me the best thing for you to do is to prove it. – How about coming up the last week of April? Could you manage to be here on Thursday April 27?

This warm weather has really brought the frogs out! I love to hear them at night time. Seems to put me in a dreamy mood!

Friend, don’t let your dreaming run away with you – concerning us. Just remember that I have made no promises of any kind!

But I do think you should come up so we can see each other and know how we stand – that is, whether we want to continue along the “boy and girl” lines or – just pals!

Your Friend

Mary Lou”


Knowing what I do about their future, let me point out some hints. The first big one is her commenting twice about the weather, and emphasizing the heat and how she doesn’t like it. This becomes one of the key reasons why my dad moved to Maryland instead of insisting on her moving to Miami after they married: he knew she didn’t like hot weather.

The second hint is her asking about changing jobs to do something different than what she’s been doing for nine years. Dad’s letters talk about how she won’t need to work after they’re married, but she’s laying it out for him in this letter that she intends to do so.

Both of these points I’ve incorporated in my story but with a bit of a difference in how they are addressed by each of my characters. Please keep in mind that while I’ve pulled insights and concerns from my parents’ letters, Notes of Love and War is definitely not their story! For one thing, as a fellow author pointed out to me, I really didn’t want to try to imagine my parents’ intimate moments. Better to leave that to fictional characters!

Another interesting tidbit popped up in a letter Mom wrote after she’d become engaged and was planning their wedding. Dad was still living and working in Miami when she wrote this letter on September 8, 1948. I’ll only include the most relevant snippet this time and leave out the mushy-ness. <grin> She wrote in part:


“Honey what songs do we want sung at our wedding? There’s one I would like sung after we are pronounced Man Husband and Wife –– ‘Bless be the tie that binds

            Our hearts in Christian love

            The fellowship of kindred minds

            Is like to that above.’

Do you approve of this being sung?”


This blew me away to read! I mean, to me my mother was always very circumspect, feminine, and traditional. This seems far more feminist and progressive to me for her in 1948! To equate the married pair as “husband” and “wife” instead of he being “man” and she his possession. Instead they belong to each other. And yet she’s still seeking his agreement if not permission to have one of her favorite hymns sung at their wedding. What conflicting views, to my mind. Or perhaps she’s showing a willingness to work with him, to compromise, in order to have a partnership—look at that ‘fellowship of kindred minds’ line—in their marriage.

I’ve read through all the letters in my possession, absorbing as much of their mindset, their concerns, references to music and plays, and to family doings, in order to create an echo of that culture and situation in Notes of Love and War. Please let me know if you think I hit the mark!

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.

Now available for preorder! Notes of Love and War will release on July 28, 2020, in honor of my dad’s 100th birthday!

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.

Amazon     Books2Read     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple

Why I wrote Notes of Love and War #WWII #Baltimore #historical #fiction #books #inspiration #amwriting #amreading @Baltimore_City

“Where did you get the idea to write…?” This is a common question I receive from my readers. So I thought I’d share the genesis of a book I wrote that is very near and dear to my heart. Notes of Love and War was inspired by, though most definitely is not the story of, my parents’ courtship correspondence before, during, and after World War Two. Let me explain.

After my father died in December 2011, my grief and sorrow lingered for years. He was one of my champions and best friend all of my life. Six years passed before I could bring myself to go through his accumulated letters and papers. Part of my reluctance stemmed from knowing that those letters included dozens if not hundreds that were exchanged between my mother and father before they married. My oldest sister had forewarned me they were somewhat “racy” but what exactly did that mean? Just how personal were the contents?

Stacks of my dad’s letters… and this doesn’t include all the Victory mail during the war!

I sorted them out by year, then by month and day. And there are a lot of letters! Then I read them. One by one, with growing interest as the insights into my parents when they were young (early to mid-twenties) played out in my hands. The jokes, the concerns, the sharing about their daily struggles with finances and family matters. The songs and books they enjoyed. Hints of intrigue and private moments shared and cherished. The resulting overarching concept of how they grew to love each other through their letters became an idea I wanted to explore in a fictional setting. I wanted to replicate the intimacy evoked through their words but also through the handling of a piece of paper that could physically, tangibly transmit those thoughts into the hands of another. The sense of intimacy coming from holding the same piece of paper as your lover which leant a shared moment of contact over long distances.

Letters sorted by year, not including those between my parents nor V-mail.

My mother’s letters proved far more enlightening to me than my father’s. Why? You’d think I’d have been more keenly aware of my mother’s attitudes and desires, one woman to another. To an extent I had spoken with my mother about her life as a young woman, just not nearly as much as I wish had in my later years. I knew, for example, that she’d been engaged to another man during the war but that they’d ended their engagement and he went on to New York to become a lawyer. But…what I didn’t know, what Mom had never told me, was that the man’s mother had something to do with them breaking up. Mom hinted about it in one of her letters to Dad, but never disclosed what exactly. Talk about getting my imagination spinning! What would a mother have to do to break up an engagement? Perhaps I don’t really want to know.

Dad, likewise, had frequently and at some length talked to me about his life and the decisions he made, including those related to moving from Miami, Florida, to Baltimore, Maryland, in order to marry my mother. His comment to me, which is echoed and substantiated within the letters, was that his job in Miami fell through and he knew that Mom wouldn’t be happy in the hotter climate and so far from her family. (An aside: my mother’s side of the family has lived in Maryland for many generations. I was also born and raised in that beautiful state.) So he decided to move north to make her happy. This self-sacrifice for the woman he loved with all his heart resonated with me, as both his daughter and an author of romantic fiction.

So the initial kernel of interest in writing what has evolved into Notes of Love and War came from wanting to recreate that intimacy developing through letters. Of getting to know one another through what they shared about themselves on paper. Of course, that’s not enough of a premise to build a novel-length story, but it’s a strong foundation.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll share other elements that I’ve woven together to create the framework for the story. Elements such as spies and journalism and music, each based in the actual history of Baltimore and Maryland during the 1940s. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about my journey through my hometown history as imagined in my novel.

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.

Now available for preorder! Notes of Love and War will release on July 28, 2020, in honor of my dad’s 100th birthday!

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.

Amazon     Books2Read     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple

Breakfast Martha Washington Style #colonial #foods #recipes #research #historical #fiction

Years ago I began researching colonial life with a particular fondness for recipes from the 1700s. At the time I was writing my historical romance series, A More Perfect Union, set in Charleston during the American Revolution and so I wanted to have an all-encompassing view of the life and times. Food is a very natural and important part of survival. You may recall I’ve spent a good deal of time sampling and converting colonial recipes to ones we can enjoy today. In fact, the stewed pears have become one of my hubby’s favorites!

The covers for the 5 books in the A More Perfect Union series.

As part of learning about Martha Washington before writing Becoming Martha Washington: A Novel which is planned for release this summer, I tried making sausage and flapjacks that George would enjoy. In fact, Martha included the sausage recipe in her own cookbook.

Before I started, I checked with my hubby to see if he felt brave and daring. After all, while in general we both enjoy the same things, sometimes the recipes don’t turn out as expected. I chose Oxford Kate’s Sausage (1749) and Slapjacks for Ichabod Crane (1796) out of my favorite historical recipe book Our Founding Foods by Jane Tennant. While I realize that 1796 for the slapjakcs is rather late compared to the earlier date for the sausage, I’m guessing that the recipe didn’t change significantly from 1749, just that it wasn’t deemed necessary to write it down before the end of the century because it is such a simple one. But not one I’d have thought of, let me tell you!

I wonder how frequently the Washingtons dined on these sausages. I also wonder if they enjoyed them or adapted the recipe in some way to suit their palates, like I’ve done. For one thing, beef suet is not readily available in the United States today, so I had to find a substitute. I imagine they harvested their own fats/greases when they slaughtered animals on the plantation, so they didn’t face the dilemma of finding an appropriate ingredient.

Let’s start with the sausages. The Tennant recipe called for a food processor, which I do not own, and I’m pretty sure the cooks in Martha’s kitchen didn’t either. A quick online search revealed several other ways to make sausage: 18th Century Recipes: Sausages the 18th Century Way  which shares how the British made them, and Smokehouses which included the fact that pigs were only butchered in cold winter months and then their meat smoked. So why does the recipe call for fresh pork? Makes me wonder again about what might have been included in the actual recipe. But my concerns about seasonal availability aside, let’s see how breakfast turned out.

Ingredients and finished sausages and slapjacks. Yum!

For the sausages I had to make several changes to the original recipe, including shredded butter in lieu of the beef suet, and garlic powder instead of mace. (Mace is a strong spice which neither of us enjoy.) The original recipe called for 2 Tablespoons each of salt and pepper, which I thought was too much, so I cut those back to 2 teaspoons pepper and 1 Tablespoon salt. I bought ground pork and ground beef, both lean, to use; though I could have used venison instead of the beef. The result was very good, and made much more than the recipe said it would. My hubby and I will have many more breakfasts with Kate’s Sausage since the recipe said it yielded 12 and I actually made 26! I could eat only one for breakfast, it was so filling!

After seeing how much sausage I had, I decided to cut the slapjack recipe in two, since the cakes are the size of a medium frying pan. Again, I couldn’t eat a whole one, but I ended up having the second half and another sausage for breakfast the next day. The slapjacks were also good, but I messed up on the eggs when I was halving the recipe and put in 2 instead of 1, which made the batter thicker than optimal. We enjoyed our slapjacks with butter and maple syrup, although George preferred his with honey.

I hope you enjoy the following recipes, and maybe make some adaptations of your own. After all, recipes for me are starting points, something I modify to suit our tastes and preferences.

Betty’s version of “Oxford Kate’s Sausage”

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 lb. lean ground pork
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, frozen and shredded
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon ground sage
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten

Instructions

  1. Blend seasonings together in a small bowl.
  2. Crumble meats together into a large bowl.
  3. Sprinkle seasonings over meat.
  4. Add eggs and shredded butter.
  5. With your hands, mix together until all ingredients are well blended. Roll sausage out into logs the size of the length and bigness of a finger. Grease a deep frying pan and heat to medium. Add butter to cook the sausage in, be sure the butter is “boiling” before you add the sausage. Cook until brown.

Yield: 26 sausages

Slapjacks (Full recipe)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups ground corn meal
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Butter to fry
  • Maple syrup

Instructions

  1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add milk, butter, honey and eggs. Mix until well blended.
  2. Heat frying pan to medium, add butter to fry cakes. Pour about ½ cup of batter into the center of the pan to spread evenly across the heated surface.
  3. Cook until bubbly, then turn over with a large spatula and cook a minute or two on the other side. Remove from pan and keep warm while frying the rest of the slapjacks using this method.

Yield: 6 slapjacks

What do you think? Want to try these? I love the fact that there is no artificial anything in these recipes, which is one of the reasons I wanted to look into adapting colonial recipes to begin with. To find some new-to-me recipes to add a bit of variety to my diet.

And heads up, folks! Stay tuned for more information about two new historicals I’ll be releasing in June and July. I am really happy to be able to bring these stories to my readers for many reasons which I will share over the next few months. 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, including the A More Perfect Union historical romances.

Don’t forget about my latest historical! The first in my new Fury Falls Inn series! Book 2 is planned for release in October 2020…

Cover of The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn

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 know Densie Webb #author of #nonfiction #fiction #WF #PNR #romance #books

I’m pleased to introduce my guest today, author Densie Webb. We share a love of coffee and of taking walks, but let’s let her tell us about her writing process and her latest release. First, a glance at her official bio and then we’ll dive in.

Densie Webb has spent a long career as a freelance nonfiction writer and editor, specializing in health and nutrition, and has published several books on the topic. She grew up in Louisiana, spent 13 years in New York City, and settled in Austin, TX, where it’s summer nine months out of the year. She is an avid walker (not of the dead variety, though she adores zombies, vampires and apocalyptic stories), drinks too much coffee, and has a small “devil dog” that keeps her on her toes. In addition to her novels, her essay: “Boob Job Regrets: In Appreciation of Your Previously Small Chest,” was included in an anthology compiled by Randy Susan Meyers, titled Women Under Scrutiny: An Anthology of Truths, Essays, Poems, Stories & Art. All proceeds from the anthology go to Rosie’s Place in Boston, a sanctuary for poor and homeless women. And her flash fiction piece, The Prank, was in the top ten finalists for Women on Writing’s Summer 2019 Flash Fiction contest.

You can find out more about Densie at www.densiewebb.com or by following her on Facebook (Densie L. Webb), Twitter (@dlwebb), or Instagram (densiewebbbooks).

Betty: How many books have you written and published?

Densie: 2—You’ll Be Thinking of Me, which is romantic suspense and Le Remede” a paranormal romance. I’m under contract for a third, tentatively titled The Opposite of Amnesia, which is women’s fiction.

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

Densie: My first novel was romantic suspense. My second was paranormal romance, and my third is women’s fiction. I guess I haven’t quite settled on a single genre. I gravitate toward stories that deal with relationships, not just romantic. It can be with parents, friends, or even your relationship with yourself.

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

Densie: So far, all of my stories deal with serendipity, random encounters that change the course of the characters’ lives, as well as everyone in their orbit. And secrets. My characters always have secrets.

Andie Rogé craves control like some people crave chocolate. But she can’t control her feelings when she encounters Vincent Dubois at Lizzie Borden’s Bar.

Tortured by blood lust that has ruled him for almost two hundred years, Vincent is unprepared for the pull he feels toward Andie. He can only surrender to what he knows is fate.

Offered a cure from a rare black orchid, he faces an agonizing choice—take the only dose and join Andie in the human life he so deeply desires or give the cure to his Kindred brother to stop his bloody rampage. Fate brought them together but will it destroy their chance at a future?

Amazon

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

Densie: I do most of writing/revising at coffee shops. I have a favorite that is decidedly uncool, but it offers wide booths with tabletops that allow me to spread out and nobody gives the stink eye when I’ve been there for hours. I occasionally write/edit at home, but I do my day job at home and I find getting out helps to spur my fictional thought processes.

Betty: Do you have any writing rituals while you write? Did you have a special drink, or music, or time of day that you gravitated toward?

Densie: I always listen to music while I write. Spotify is my go-to music source. I often get ideas for scenes from song lyrics or I can simply set the mood with music. And coffee. Always coffee.

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

Densie: I spent a few years going to Writers Meetup groups in Austin and getting feedback from a wide variety of writers before taking it to the next step, which for me was hiring a professional editor and then submitting to agents and publishers. I also belong to Women’s Fiction Writers Association, which is full of very supportive and helpful writers and authors. Also, Writer Unboxed has a website with daily posts from writers and authors, which are incredibly motivational and informative. They also hold a Writers Unboxed Unconference that happens every two years. I’ve been to all three and hoping to go for a fourth.

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

Densie: I’ve been told that I have a knack for dialogue, which is ironic since I clearly remember voicing my doubts when I first started about being able to write realistic dialogue. Also, I’m a huge fan of similes, metaphors and analogies that can really bring home a thought or an emotion without stating it outright. I really work at trying to come up with the perfect ones.

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

Densie: I always like to know how it’s going to start and how it’s going to end. Those two things will get me from point A to point B. They often change during the writing and editing, but it’s enough to get me going.

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

Densie: I definitely do not have a writing schedule. I know all the writing tips says you should write every day and have a dedicated time for writing, but so far that hasn’t worked for me. But that’s probably why I’m such a slow writer—3 books in 6 years.

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

Densie: Right now, I’m trying to come up with a new story idea that I think will work. So far, I’ve come up with a couple of intriguing beginnings, but no endings. I like twists at the end of a story, which for me anyway, takes a lot of thought. I want it to be surprising, yet in retrospect seem inevitable.

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

Densie: I definitely do not. As I mentioned, I’m a slow writer. I edit and edit and edit as I go and it’s unfathomable to me to write 50,000 words in a month, especially a month with a holiday. Nope. I have absolutely no desire to torture myself like that.

Betty: What are you reading right now?

Densie: Just finished Regretting You by Colleen Hoover. Lots of relationships, both romantic and familial. Just finished Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodessor-Akner. Also about relationships, dysfunctional as they were. And I just started Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Densie: Ooooh. That’s a hard one. I love thrillers, women’s fiction, some literary and occasionally historical. It’s easier to say what I don’t read and that includes science fiction, cozy mystery, experimental, faith-based, or traditional romance with Hallmark-like happily ever after endings (unless there’s a lot of gut-wrenching emotional turmoil to get there.)

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

Densie: I’m not a big re-reader. A novel that I have read more than once is Dry by Augusten Burroughs. Another book that I loved and intend to re-read is Post Birthday World by Lionel Shriver.

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

Densie: I do like to read while I’m writing, but I don’t stick to the genre that I’m writing. In fact, I rarely read paranormal romance, but I just wanted to write the story.

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

Densie: I’m a freelance nonfiction writer/editor by day. My degrees are in nutrition, so I write about health and nutrition for magazines, newsletters, websites, and industry. I would love to be able to write fiction full time.

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

Densie: How slow the wheels turn, how difficult it is to get published and how little money the vast majority of authors make. It burns me up when, in movies or shows, a writer has an easy meeting with an agent, throws out an idea, and the book is on the shelves in a couple of months with a book tour and tons of publicity and they’re suddenly rolling in dough. It’s more like a couple of years, if you have an agent and are published by one of the “big 5” publishers. I have gone with smaller publishers that don’t require manuscripts to be submitted by agents, so my timeline has been more like one year. And only a lucky few get book tours and publicity from the publisher. These days most of that stuff is generated and paid for by the author.

Betty: What advice do you have for new writers?

Densie: Try, try, try not to get discouraged and be open to any and all feedback. Much of it can be dismissed because it doesn’t help, it’s hypercritical, or the person providing the feedback is trying to turn your story into theirs. But, I also find that in almost all feedback, there is a least one little nugget of insight that can help make you a better writer and improve your story.

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

Densie: As I mentioned, I’m still trying to come up with a solid story idea, but it will most likely involve heartbreak and a (hopefully) satisfying resolution. My first novel involved a celebrity. I’m thinking about dragging a (fictitious) celebrity into this one as well. I’m always intrigued by celebrities lives—not the glamour and the fandom, but the lack of control and the sometimes messy stuff that inevitably happens when you’re in the bright spotlight.

Betty: What kind of writing would you like to experiment with? Or what’s a different genre you’ve considered writing but haven’t yet?

Densie: I’ve always wanted to write a thriller. I love to read them, but I’m not sure I could pull it off. The closest I’ve come was with my debut novel, You’ll Be Thinking of Me, which dealt with a celebrity stalker and the havoc it wreaked on several lives.

Thanks, Densie, for stopping by and sharing about your stories and writing process. Your advice for new writers is also spot on! Thanks for that.

Happy reading, folks!

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.