Where to Hold a Ball in Colonial Williamsburg? #ballroom #dancing #formal #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #ReadIndie #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

One question I have to ask when visiting an historic site today is, what did it look like during the time period of my story. I’ve mentioned that in my book, Becoming Lady Washington, I chose to have Daniel Custis ask to begin courting Martha “Patsy” Dandridge during her presentation to society. (This was my editorial decision since it’s not known when and how they began courting.) Martha was 15 at the time of her presentation in 1746, rather young to my way of thinking.

If you visit Colonial Williamsburg today you will find that the Governor’s Palace has an elegant ballroom within its walls. It would be easy to assume that is where she had her presentation. As I said before, my husband and I took dancing lessons while on a research visit to Williamsburg. Before our lesson we visited the Governor’s Palace, where I learned that the ballroom wasn’t built when Martha had her debut. It wasn’t added until Lt. Governor Robert Dinwiddie renovated the palace during his tenure 1751-52. The disparity in those dates begged the question…

Where was the ball held?

Several possibilities came to mind but I needed to find out for certain which place. So after the lesson, I asked the instructor if she knew where the balls and formal gatherings would have been held in the 1740s. Thankfully, she did!

Turns out the Capitol building has an upstairs room large enough to have a ball. They would remove tables and chairs and set up refreshments in the outer hall. While not as elegant as the palace ballroom, it still had respect and dignity to lend to whatever gathering was held there.

Here’s how young Patsy views the scene in Becoming Lady Washington:


The first strains of the musicians tuning drew my attention away from the array of colorful and bedecked ball gowns of the older women to the festively decorated dance floor. The large table and chairs used by the lower and upper houses of the government to discuss the colony’s legal business had been removed from the upstairs of the Capitol. Not that I knew from my personal experience. No, my father had to tell me since women were not normally permitted in the upstairs meeting room. I didn’t understand the reasoning behind such a silly restriction, but defying it was not worth the effort. I had little to no interest in politics. I’d rather select fabrics and ribbons for a gown than worry about ordinances and laws. …

I made my way through the throng of guests to stand by the open window. A cool breeze bathed my cheeks, bringing the scent of dried leaves and the smoke of many fires to tickle my nose. Moonlight splayed across the formal garden and the buildings of the town in the distance. Naked trees stood starkly against the deep black of the starry heavens in the soft light. In a few months snow would blanket the land, but for now the ground remained hard and dry, making road travel possible if not pleasant. Aunt Unity had graciously invited us to ride to Williamsburg with her in a fine coach pulled by four matched black horses. Arriving in such a high fashion leant a different level of elegance to the ensuing events I hadn’t dreamed of. Maybe one day I’d have my own coach-and-four to take me places.

Turning my back to the window, I observed the crowd. Through the arched door to one side, I spotted tables surrounded by seated card-playing guests. The music changed to a lively tune, announcing the beginning of the less formal English country dances. My parents eased through the crowd, stopping often to chat. They knew most everyone in the room as a result of their involvement in the colony’s church and government.

I surveyed the other guests, feeling part of the society in an entirely new way. Not as a child looking through the window, but as an active member with my own role. Then my heart leapt into my throat when Daniel Custis separated from a circle of men, probably assemblymen of one rank or another, and strolled in my direction. What did he want? What would I say to him? Oh, how I wished my mother were at my side. I wasn’t as ready as I’d thought.


It’s fun to try to imagine what her life would have been like while I walk the same floors and see out the same windows. Try to imagine what she might have been thinking about, who she spent her time with, what her concerns might have been.

Before I go, I’d like to share that Charmed Against All Odds has been nominated for the Rone Award at InD’Tale magazine in the Fantasy category. This first round is a reader’s choice voting. To vote, you will need to be registered at www.indtale.com. Then you can see all the books entered in that category and vote by going to https://indtale.com/polls/fantasy-6-finalists. Voting is open from May 4 through May 10 at midnight. Thanks in advance!

That’s all for now. Until next time, thanks for reading! And for voting!

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.

Available for preorders now! Releases June 2, 2020…

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

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

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

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Shall We Dance? Dancing lessons 18th century style #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

Last week I described how Martha Washington, or rather young Patsy Dandridge, may have been courted by Daniel Custis. I also shared how I chose to set the scene in Becoming Lady Washington by introducing Daniel at the ball where Patsy was presented to society. Today I want to talk about dancing in the 18th century.

Dancing was vital to the middle and upper classes of Virginia society. Dance instructors traveled from one plantation to another to instruct the young people on the traditional and popular dance steps and also of the proper form and frame. Not only was dancing an excellent type of exercise, it also provided a means for socializing in acceptable ways. Families would gather at the plantation where the itinerant dance instructor would visit for several days at a time. I can imagine the youth flirting while they learned the steps, and in between!

George Washington loved to dance! It’s unclear to me whether Martha did as well, but she must have known how in order to meet the societal expectations of the time. You can watch a video produced for Mount Vernon showing the dancing and the music they danced to. That site contains a lot more about dancing in the 18th century, so if you’re curious, hop on over there to learn even more.

On my research trip to Williamsburg in 2015, one of the activities my husband and I enjoyed was taking a group dancing lesson. We learned to do circle dances, how to greet your partner, and how to move in unison around the circle. The music was provided by a flute player in period costume. Our instructor was a woman, also in period costume.

A flute player at Colonial Williamsburg

It was during the lesson that the instructor talked about why a man would greet his partner by extending one leg forward and bowing over it. In Becoming Lady Washington, I portrayed this small factoid from Martha’s point of view after Daniel has asked her to dance at the ball:


“I’d enjoy dancing with you.”

He held out a gloved hand with a smile on his lips. “Miss Dandridge.”

I accepted his arm and followed him onto the floor as the musicians started a new tune. I intended to thoroughly enjoy myself. The weight of the elder Custis’ glare threatened to make me stumble, but I ignored him, keeping my attention instead on his charming son. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my parents exchange a look before turning to witness the dance. Daniel extended one leg to bow—a movement designed to demonstrate the strength of his legs—as I curtsied and lowered my eyes. Daniel’s leg proved nice, indeed. Returning to a standing position, we regarded each other for a beat as the music wrapped around us. The dance soon drew my entire attention and had my feet flying. My heart raced with the touch of his hand guiding me to perform a turn in first one direction and then the other before parting for several steps.


See how I wove in my own experience learning how to dance into Martha’s point of view? It’s those kinds of details that I believe enliven the history. By experiencing the movement and sound, I was able to hopefully bring the history to life in my story.

Until next time, thanks for reading!

Betty

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

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

Available for preorders now! Releases June 2, 2020…

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

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

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

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Martha Washington’s First Courtship #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

While I love to research for my stories, I do not claim to be a professional historian and I don’t write nonfiction histories. But I do read them, and try to vet my sources as best as I can. Even the professional historians run into blanks in the historical record. For a novelist, those blanks become opportunities. Let’s look at a couple of those that I exploited in Becoming Lady Washington.

First let me say that I relied heavily on Patricia Brady’s excellent biography Martha Washington: An American Life. Brady is a professional historian and has written several other biographies. I used this one as a kind of “roadmap” for laying out my story. If you want to read a factual account of Martha’s life, I highly recommend Brady’s book. Now, to the historical gaps…

Daniel Custis by Gabriel da Vinci

Martha’s first husband was Daniel Custis. We know that he lived in the same area as Martha, near Chestnut Grove, Martha Washington’s childhood home. According to Brady, “During the eleven years that [Daniel] had lived in New Kent County, running one of his father’s plantations just a few miles down the Pamunkey from Chestnut Grove, Patsy had come to know him well. His life had crossed her family’s at countless points—court days, militia musters, social events, church (he served on St. Peter’s vestry with her father), the Public Times at Williamsburg—and he had obviously noticed the little girl growing into a lovely young woman. At thirty-seven, he was only a year younger than her mother, but the age difference between him and Patsy was not an impediment; young girls often married older men.” (p28)

The gap here is just how and when he decided to court the pretty young woman. I found no mention of the where or in what manner they began to court. So I had to invent the beginning of their relationship based on what I did know. Picking and choosing from the proposed locations where they would have crossed paths, I decided to use the Public Times and Martha’s coming out to society ball as the best option for my fictional account. Here is a deleted scene from an early draft where I had fun imaging how she’d prepare for her presentation to society:


Over the next several weeks, we explored the nuances and construction of the perfect gown, along with other articles of clothing to make the desired impression of me and my eligibility. I never realized just how many decisions had to be made. Silk? Muslin? Satin ribbons? Bows? High waist or dropped? Off the shoulder or low neckline with a fichu? Then the shoes… Definitely I wanted heels to make my petite frame stand a bit taller, and thus easier to dance with. But what color? Style? New buckles? Then there was the very serious question of the perfect hat.

Christmas and then Twelfth Night arrived and passed in a whirl of fancy dinners with a continual stream of family and friends visiting. The giddy chatter and plans continued with Aunt Unity, as well as my mother, until the festivities ended. Then I sat down with Mother to make the decision and send to London for the gown of my dreams, and of course a new gown for my mother. After the order had been sent, I faced months and months of worry and anticipation. Would the London agents be able to locate the yellow silk taffeta brocaded with flowers in the latest fashion with fine gold satin ribbons? Who would make the dress? What about the sequin studded yellow satin shoes with Louis heels? Would it all fit, if the items even survived the hazardous ocean voyage? And then the most fearful question of all: what would I do if the order didn’t arrive?

My contingency plan centered on the remake of my mother’s best dress gown. Mother had ordered the gown from London. I fancied the flowered pattern in the English silk damask, the rich burgundy pattern against the cream background emphasizing the fact that I was entering society in high fashion. Since Mother is a little bit bigger than me, there was enough fabric to work with. We’d taken in the waist and shortened the flounced skirts by drawing them up with ribbons. Aunt Unity gifted me a delicate kerchief to soften the neckline. The result? The perfect dress for dinner with the governor and his wife. Or if need be, for my debut at the royal ball.


This scene didn’t make the final cut because I decided to skip the preparations for the ball and just show her attending. That is where Daniel makes his move, by the way. The entire account is based on the research I did into what clothing meant, what it said about the wearer, in the 18th century, and having visited the museum in Williamsburg where they have gowns from that era on exhibit.

You’re probably wondering what the other gaps are…the second one is there is little in the biography regarding what their courtship might have looked like. What did they do? How frequently would he wait upon her? Chaperone or not? (Probably!) What is known is that Daniel’s father, John Custis, did not approve (to put it very mildly) to the courtship, or engagement, let alone marriage. Brady tells us, “John Custis flew into a blind rage and demanded that his son forget Patsy Dandridge.” (p29) This went on for a long time, by the way. So that’s a huge gap to fill in a story. How did Patsy (Martha’s pet name) react? I tried to put myself into her shoes, and knowing how she behaved later in life, thought about how she’d have either already been or how she adapted to the situation. Either would serve as a lesson on how to negotiate and manage in the future. So, knowing what I do about courtship during the 18th century, I made up what they did and what they talked about to give the reader a sense of who she was and how she handled herself during emotionally stressful times.

There’s one more gap I want to talk about. That is, since we know Patsy and Daniel did marry, how did John change his mind? Brady tells us, “Never one to wait around helplessly, Patsy somehow contrived to talk with the crusty old tyrant herself. Just how she managed it, we don’t know. Like many bullies, Custis was impressed by strength of character: he actually found the spunky little lady engaging.” She also tells about a lawyer friend of Daniel, James Power, visiting John and learning that he now approved of the union. Power wrote in the letter that John was “as much enamored with her character as you are with her person, and this is owing chiefly to a prudent speech of her own.” (p32) Okay, so how did she in that day and age manage to speak to the old man who lived in Williamsburg? Again, we don’t know but this is a very revealing moment as to the kind of person Martha was. So I had to imagine how she might have gone about making the meeting happen. Is it factually accurate? No. Do we know what the “prudent speech” was? Again, no. So I stepped into her little shoes and tried to imagine what I would have done in her situation. Would you like a little excerpt to see what I decided to do?


“Are you certain this is a good idea?” My brother Jacky’s deep voice carried to my ears over the steady beat of the Pamunkey against the skiff’s quivering hull and the twitter of song birds in the trees and bushes. I clutched the wooden seat beneath me as I bit my lip to keep my unease inside.

As he went through puberty, his tenor had lowered in steps, creating an often fickle pitch to his voice until it reached its current manly tone. I would never tell him, but sometimes I had mentally played with the sound like a musical piece. I heard music in everything, the shouts of the overseers, the birds flitting by, the soughing of the wind, even the river after a heavy rain. I breathed in the warm spring air. The scent of wildflowers blooming along the banks mingled with the pleasing aroma of the river. I’d finally settled on my favorite dark green dress for our secret mission. Its classic lines and somber colors, along with the cute hat with its half veil and plume, made me feel confident and mature. Well, except for the fact that I really did not like being in a boat. Of any size.

I glanced at my brother’s worried expression and chuckled, though I quaked inside at my own audacity. I had thought about what I’d do if Daniel’s efforts failed. After two long years had passed, my patience ended. Two years of growing more and more fond of Daniel, and longing to become united to him as his wife and start a family. I’d had to summon all my nerve, determination, and anger to devise the plan my brother and I now engaged in. Taking the boat meant a quicker journey, but oh I wish we could have ridden. But then my father would have known what we were up to. “It’s the only way I can conjure which has any hope of success to secure a future with Daniel.”

“You should have told Father of your plan. He’ll be upset.”

“He won’t even notice we’re gone, what with his concern regarding Mother’s well-being.” Our mother was due to have another baby within the next couple of months, child number seven. Would it be a brother or sister? Either way, I’d love the little one as much as I loved all of them. I had been born first, followed by Jacky a year later, then William two years later, Bartholomew three years after that, Nancy two after Bat, followed by Frances five years after my favorite sister was born, and now this new addition, whoever it might be.

After I married Daniel, we could start our own family. I envisioned having quite a full house, perhaps seven or eight children. The joys and laughter we’d share would rock the house. I could picture it in my mind as if it were a fond memory. For now, I enjoyed the company of all of my kinsfolk. Jacky, in particular, had become my favorite brother because of his eagerness to engage in our secret missions.

I winked at him with a toss of my head. “Besides, I have you as my escort, my protector. What is there for him to worry over?”

Jacky huffed. “The fact that we’re going into Williamsburg without his knowledge or permission?”


What I love about writing fiction is looking for those kinds of opportunities where I can illuminate my subject and their situation using my knowledge and imagination combined. I try to make the scene authentic to the times to the best of my ability and education on the times in which they’re living. Ultimately, my aim is to tell a good story that’s entertaining, emotional, and enlightening. You’ll have to let me know if I’ve succeeded…

We are living through some historic times ourselves, folks. I imagine previous generations that suffered and struggled through a pandemic felt much like we do today. The catch phrase here in north Alabama is “stay safe; stay separate; and sanitize.” My heart goes out to everyone as we find our way through this pandemic crisis. Please listen to and follow the guidelines from the health experts so we can shorten the duration as much as possible. Take care of you and yours and I’ll do the same.

Thanks!

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.

Available for preorders now! Releases June 2, 2020…

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

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

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

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Martha Washington’s Birthplace #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

With each book I write I do research. The extent and kind will vary depending on what I need to know to write the story accurately and authentically to the best of my ability. The longest book I’ve ever written, and the one that I had to do a ton of research to write, is my June 2 release, Becoming Lady Washington. Why June 2? Because that is Martha’s birthday. So today I’m going to talk about where Martha Dandridge was born.

Her parents, John and Frances Dandridge, welcomed her to their home called Chestnut Grove sometime between midnight and 1:00 a.m. on June 2, 1731. Chestnut Grove was located alongside the Pamunkey River in Kent County, Virginia. It was a two-story frame house with three rooms on each floor. Not a big house for a plantation in those days. You can see a sketch of what the house looked like here.

Historic marker about Chestnut Grove

My hubby and I visited the area back in 2015 when I first started researching to write Martha’s life story. Well, at least from her teenage years! I wanted to see the lay of the land and at least try to imagine what it would have looked like when she was a girl. It was disappointing to find we couldn’t even get close to the site as it’s private property. So online research and pictures had to suffice to inspire my imagination. Here’s a short excerpt from my book where she sees the house:

“As we neared Chestnut Grove, I studied the main house as the boat angled toward the dock. The central sturdy door had been made from poplar, like the window casings. At either end of the good-sized clapboard house rose two brick chimneys poking through the white oak shingled roof. A variety of flowering bushes and plants softened the appearance of the brick-and-board structure. Around it, smaller buildings stood: the kitchen, laundry, smokehouse, privy. Chestnut Grove was the only home I’d ever known. If I’d succeeded in my mission, the two-story frame house would become my childhood home. I’d move away, to a new home, a new husband, a new life.”

But just like Martha’s life, that was only one the beginning. Knowing where she was born and grew up was one piece of the history I needed to learn more about, then understand, and then put myself in her shoes. I really wish the home hadn’t burned down in the early 1900s so I could have seen it for myself. It’s far easier to feel like I’ve walked in my character’s place when I can roam around the same spaces she did. See what the view from the windows would have been. Hear the sounds of movement by others.

I’ve worked hard to write her story in order for others to find out what a remarkable woman she was in her own right. Not just as the wife of a great man. In fact, after all I’ve learned about Martha I don’t believe George would have reached the heights of greatness he did without her support and love.

Becoming Lady Washington is available in hardback, paperback, and digital formats for preorder now. Like I said, it will publish on June 2 in honor of Martha’s 289th birthday.

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.

Available for preorders now! Releases June 2, 2020…

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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What color stone for a special ring? #amwriting #reading #PNR #CommonElementsRomanceProject #fiction #books #paranormal #wicca #jewelry #magick #magic #witchcraft #research

Last week I talked about which finger to wear a special ring on for members of the Order of Witchery Lore in Charmed Against All Odds (Book 5 of Secrets of Roseville. As before, I poked around at Wicca Spirituality and relied upon the information they shared about The Magick of Wiccan Jewelry.

So the next question I had was what should the ring look like? Should it be a simple oval or facet cut of some kind? Something rather innocuous which didn’t call attention to itself? Or no. It should clearly establish their membership in a special community. Quickly identify their belonging. So I went with the shape which was obvious to me. An owl. A great horned owl, to be specific. Just like the one used by the Golden Owl Books and Brews bookstore sign and logo. You can see it displayed on the cover of each of the books in the Secrets of Roseville series in the upper left-hand corner. (Note: The full meaning of the symbolism of the owl with the crossed sticks is explained in Book 2, Haunted Melody.)

But what color stone? Diamond? Ruby? Onyx? Thanks to Wicca Spirituality I was able to find exactly the right color whose meaning underscores the mission of the Order.

Some colors I could dismiss without a lot of thought because of the ambiance I hoped to create. So pink, orange, and yellow were swept aside. I wanted something darker, stronger, with an underlying support to the overall theme of my story. Nothing happens in fiction without a purpose, right? So I looked more closely at red, green, blue, indigo, purple, and black. To my mind, these colors are more powerful and significant. Keeping in mind the purpose of OWL as archiving the vast knowledge of witchcraft, I examined the qualities each color emphasizes.

According to Wicca Spirituality they have the following qualities.

  • Red: Excitement, passion, vigor, strength.
  • Green: Stability, vitality, prosperity, generosity.
  • Blue: Tranquility, sincerity, patience.
  • Indigo: Wisdom, insight, spirituality.
  • Purple: Self-esteem, spirituality, transformation, nobility, enlightenment.
  • Black: Mysterious, containing potentials, restful or fearful.

Now, I’m a huge fan of red and blue, but neither of those colors seemed to bolster the idea behind the OWL archives, that of storing knowledge for the use and betterment of others. Green doesn’t either, sadly. Purple was a close second with its spirituality and enlightenment. Black didn’t make the cut though because the archives shouldn’t be mysterious, restful or fearful.

Indigo, though, suits the bill quite nicely. It’s the ultimate winner since it combines wisdom with insight, something very useful for archivists and blends it with spirituality. There’s also something about the name of this color that is intriguing. So indigo fits the intent of the Order and makes a ring which will stand out.

Here’s a snippet from Charmed Against All Odds where Roxie first spots an OWL member following her:

She searched their surroundings with a quick skim of her gaze, until she noticed a figure standing on the porch of the visitor center. In the exact spot they’d recently stood. No other car but Leo’s occupied the parking lot. She squinted at the shadowy being. Nothing odd about jeans and tee shirt, low-heeled boots, floppy hat, and wooden hiking staff in hand. She’d guess it was a man but why was he keeping to the darkness of the porch? Something mystical pervaded her mind the longer she stared at him. Then he pressed his right hand to the center of his chest and she saw the glint of gold. She summoned her telescopic ability and zoomed in more closely on his right hand as he lifted it to press to the center of his chest. He wore only a gold pinky ring, luminous despite the shadows of the deep porch. She squinted to bring the center stone into clear focus. An indigo owl. She’d seen the symbol before. Not associated with the park, she was certain. Where then? The shadowy figure pointed toward the path beside her with a soft gleam of a smile. The niggling concern in her mind bloomed into shock.

Next week, remind me to talk about why I chose gold for the metal of the ring. It was a debate, let me tell you!

Speaking of reminders… Remember that Charmed Against All Odds is part of the Common Elements Romance Project, a group of books being released between October 2019 and January 2020. All the authors have agreed to include the same 5 elements in each romance, encompassing all subgenres of romance, too! The 5 elements are: a tall stack of books; a man named Max; a haunted or reported to be haunted house; a lightning storm; and a lost set of keys.

The Common Elements Romance Project will kick off with a week-long Facebook launch party this week, all week long! I will be giving away a special charm bracelet during my genre day—Thursday, 9/26—that has the first two charms Roxie and Leo find. The adjustable gold bracelet has the open book and Friends charms, so whoever wins it will always have a “book friends” charm bracelet from me. Good luck!

This “Book Friends” charm bracelet will be given away as part of the Common Elements Romance Project Facebook Launch Party on 9/26/2019!

And as a bonus gift, for everyone who pre-orders Charmed Against All Odds, I’ll give a free ebook copy of Book 1, Undying Love! Simply share a picture or screenshot of your order and I’ll send you a link where you can download your gift as a thank you for ordering Roxie and Leo’s story! (If you’ve already read Undying Love, let me know and we’ll work out a different story as a thank you gift!)

I’m so excited to have two releases coming soon! October 1 The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn will kick off my new supernatural historical fiction series Fury Falls Inn. Then Charmed Against All Odds will release on Veterans Day, November 11, 2019. I’ll have book signings in both October and November, so check out my Appearances page on my website for details. At my November signing, I will have paperback copies of Charmed Against All Odds before you can buy them in the store, too! I hope to see you at one of my signings to support the independent book stores as a thank you for hosting my book birthday celebrations!

Thanks for reading!

Betty

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

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

Charmed Against All Odds releases November 11 and is available for pre-order now!

Loving her brings out the magic in him…

Wedding bells are ringing, but not for Roxie Golden. If she can survive another round of wedding plans, then her life can return to normal. She’s perfectly happy running the bookstore and weaving helpful magical spells. Then one stormy day, her ex-fiancé strolls back into her life with a gift neither of them wants.

Leo King wants to flee the small town for the big city. Forget about the shame he brought upon himself when he abused his magical powers. First, to satisfy his warlock father’s final wish, he must deliver the mysterious box to Roxie’s bookstore.

But when Roxie opens the box, revealing an enchanted bracelet and a quest spell, their plans and their lives are changed forever. Trapped in a reluctant partnership with the woman he once loved, he risks everything—including his heart—for a second chance.

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