Martha Washington Slept Here: Ford’s Mansion in Morristown #history #NewJersey #AmericanRevolution #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

I’m continuing my series of locations where Martha traveled to be with George during the American Revolution. On a side note, some of you may remember that there used to be signs posted declaring “George Washington Slept Here” at various hotels and houses and such, which is why I decided to also share where Martha slept as well. At least during the war years. So this week we travel back to Morristown where she stayed at Ford’s Mansion on this trip.

In case you’ve missed the earlier posts, so far I’ve covered these camps:

The first winter headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1775.

The second winter headquarters in Morristown, NJ, in 1776.

Then Valley Forge in 1777-78.

Next at Middlebrook from 1778-79.

During November 1779, Martha began gathering items and preparing to leave to join George at his winter headquarters. Sometime around the end of November, he sent for her and she headed to Morristown, New Jersey. This time the widow Theodosia Ford invited George to stay at her house. Her husband, Jacob Ford, Jr., had died a few years earlier. Theodosia and her children occupied two rooms in the house while George, Martha, his aides, and their servants occupied the remainder. You can find out more about Ford’s Mansion here.

Note: The above images are all taken from the archives of the Library of Congress. They were taken by the Detroit Publishing Company in 1901.

In my notes, I estimate she left around December 1 and arrived around the 28th. Apparently it was one of the coldest winters ever, too, which could have only made traveling even more stressful and exhausting. All the layers of clothing to help keep warm would have weighed a good bit. Shivering would also wear on a person. I imagine they used hot bricks or stones to help keep the coach warm inside, perhaps placing them under the ladies’ skirts?

While Martha was in Morristown, several remarkable events happened. Nathaniel Greene’s wife, Kitty, gave birth to a son in January. In April, foreign emissaries from France and Spain visited, calling for a review of the troops and a ball. Apparently, Don Juan de Mirailles of Cuba fell ill that month and Martha helped to nurse him but by the end of the month the man had died. George had to break the news to the governor of Cuba. In May, the Marquis de Lafayette arrived with the news that his son was named George Washington Lafayette and that a fleet of six thousand men were on their way. This was a good thing as two of George’s regiments were near to mutinying due to the lack of supplies. Also in May, George was informed that Lord General Cornwallis had seized Charleston, South Carolina.

Martha finally headed for Mount Vernon in June 1780. After she arrived home, she wrote to her brother-in-law Burwell Bassett on July 18, 1780. In her words:

Dear Sir

            When yours and my dear Fannys letters came to my hands – I was in expectation of leving Camp every week – I left the General about the Middle of June – the last I heard from him he was going up the North river – I got home on Fryday and find myself so much fatigue with my ride that I shall not be able to come down to see you this summer and must request you to bring Fanny up – as soon as you can – I suffered so much last winter by going late that I have determined to go early in the fall before the Frost set in – if Fanny does not come soon she will have but a short time to stay with me – we were sorry that we did not see you at the Camp – there was not much pleasure thar the distress of the army and other difficultys th’o I did not know the cause, the pore General was so unhappy that it distressed me exceedingly

            I shall hope to see you soon after the assembly rises, with Fanny – please to give my love to her and the Boys who I should be very glad to see with you… I am dr Sir your affectionate friend & hmble sert

                                                                        Martha Washington

The Fanny she refers to is the daughter of Burwell and Anna Marie “Nancy” Bassett. Nancy was Martha’s sister who had died on December 17, 1777. Burwell was a lawyer and member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. Martha is asking him to visit after the current session ends.

I do not know specifically what was distressing George, but if his troops were threatening to mutiny because they didn’t have the supplies they needed, that would be a huge concern. I do know he wrote to Congress frequently requesting and demanding food, uniforms, ammunition and guns, etc. The other possibility is that he’d become aware of Benedict Arnold’s dissatisfaction with how he was being treated, leading up to his defection to the British in November of 1780. That would have worried him as well in the first half of the year. In fact, he tried to placate him by acknowledging Arnold’s contribution to the American cause, but it ended up not being enough for Arnold’s ego.

This stay in Morristown is the last time Martha goes to that lovely city. Next week, I’ll share some pictures I took when I got to visit New Windsor, New York where the headquarters and the cantonment were located in 1780.

Until then, I hope you find a good story to read by the pool or lake! 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.

Cover image of Becoming Lady Washington depicting the marriage of George and Martha Washington.

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 Slept Here: Middlebrook #history #NewJersey #AmericanRevolution #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

In honor of America’s Independence Day, Samantha’s Secret (A More Perfect Union historical romance series Book 3) is on sale for only $.99 through July 8. This series is set in Charleston, SC, mainly during the occupation by the British in 1782.

Healer Samantha McAlester faces the occupation of Charles Town by the British and the town’s new sexy doctor, Dr. Trenton Cunningham, who wants a hospital staffed with educated doctors. When a friend develops an infection, Trent is stumped. The only treatment will expose Samantha’s secret, risking all she’s come to hold dear… including Trent.

Amazon

I hope you give that series a try. It was one of my first set of linked stories, originally a planned trilogy of Emily’s Vow, Amy’s Choice, and Samantha’s Secret. Later I added Evelyn’s Promise at my publisher’s request. Elizabeth’s Hope was the last installment, a prequel novella. I hope you enjoy their stories!

Every fall, Martha waited for George to summon her to the winter encampment of the Continental Army. Again, I was surprised to learn that she ultimately went to him every winter. But once I understood her better I was no longer surprised. It was who she was.

So far I’ve covered three camps:

The first winter headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1775.

The second winter headquarters in Morristown, NJ, in 1776.

The third at Valley Forge in 1777-78.

Today let’s explore Middlebrook, NJ, during the winter of 1778-79. This camp was located at what is now the north edge of Bound Brook on Mountain Avenue in Somerset County. According to Revolutionary NJ the army “encamped from the vicinities of Bound Brook and Somerville northward to Pluckemin.” You can learn more about the importance of the location at that previous site as well.

On November 2, 1778, Martha wrote to her brother Bartholomew Dandridge about her concerns. In her words:

“I received your kind favor by Mr. Posey and should have wrote to you long before this but have everyday expected everyday Jack would be ready to set out, I am very sorry to hear that my mamma has been so unwell and thank god that she has recovered again – I wish I was near enough to come to see you and her. I am very uneasy at this time – I have some reason to expect that I shall take another trip to the northward. The pore General is not likely to come to see us from what I can hear – I expect to hear seertainly by the next post – if I doe I shall write to you to inform you and my friends.”

Martha was leery of the trip north due to memories of the bad roads and bad weather she’d encountered before. It didn’t help that her mother had been ill and she was worried about her health. But of course she did go, meeting George in Philadelphia the middle of December 1778. They stayed in that city until February 2 to go to Middlebrook, arriving on the 5th.

I’m sure she fell right back into the routines of camp life, forming the sewing circle with the other wives and socializing in the evenings. She even reportedly had her own regiment, Lady Washington’s Dragoons, to accompany her and keep her safe. But this time was different because she didn’t receive letters from her family as often as she might like. Indeed, she wrote to her son Jack and his wife Eleanor on March 9, 1779:

“My Dear Children,
            Not having received any letter from you, the two last posts – I have only to tell you, that the general & my self are well, all is quiet in this quarters; It is from the south ward that we expect to hear news. – we are very anxious to know how our affairs are going in that quarters Colo [Robert Hanson] Harrison is not yet arrived at camp we have heard that he is in Philad several days ago –
            I hear so very seldom from you, that I don’t know where you are or weather you intend to come to Alexandria to live this spring or when – The last letter from Nelly she now says Boath the children have been very ill, there were she hoped getting better – if you doe not write to me – I will not write to you again or till I get letters from you – Let me know how all friends below are they have for got to write me I believe.”

Martha was concerned about Eleanor because she was with child. In fact, Jack and Eleanor had a daughter on March 21, Eleanor “Nelly” Parke Custis. Her concerns proved well founded, because when she left Middlebrook and went to see Eleanor at her home Abingdon in Virginia the mother was ill and unable to feed the baby. Martha took Nelly to Mount Vernon to care for her while Eleanor recovered. But that reunion didn’t occur until around September.

In 1779-80, the camp returned to Morristown, but this time they set of HQ in a different place. 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.

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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Inspiration for Writing a Series #amwriting #Alabama #American #history #ReadIndie #FuryFallsInn

For many people, especially non-writers, trying to understand where the inspiration for a story comes from can be a puzzle. But trying to grasp how to imagine an entire series of stories can be even harder. So I thought I’d share today how I maneuvered my thoughts to create the Fury Falls Inn historical fiction series.

The first piece of this puzzle came in the form of a historical marker I pass when I’m heading to one of my RWA chapter meetings. It’s beside a two-lane by-way in a small, historic town in north Alabama. The marker reads:

Valhermoso Springs

“Vale of Beauty”

The restorative qualities of the mineral springs here attracted settlement in the early 1800s. Variously known as Chunn Springs (after Lancelot Chunn) and Manning Springs (after Robert Manning), the spot was named for early developers of the resort where a hotel and surrounding cabins were erected between 1815 and 1823. By 1834, when the first post office was established, it was called White Sulphur Springs.

Jean Joseph Glers acquired the hotel and surrounding property in 1856, renaming it “Valhermoso Springs.” Into the 20th century, travelers from all over the world came to the hotel and springs seeking relief from rheumatism, insomnia, consumption, and ailments of the skin, kidneys, stomach, and liver. The hotel closed in the 1920s and was destroyed by tornado in 1950.

Historical marker for Valhermoso Springs, Alabama

Now, this sparked an idea for having a story set in a resort in the 1800s. I specifically chose 1821 because of two reasons. First, the timing worked to include the ancestral characters from my American Revolution historical romance series, A More Perfect Union, thus tying the two series together in a subtle way. (Did you catch that hint?) Second, I discovered that Alabama became a state in 1819 so my stories could include the early history of my adopted state. I imagined at first having the individual stories focus on different sets of romantic couples and how they came to the hotel, what conflicts they may have to overcome, etc. Something along the lines of the 1983-1888 TV series, Hotel, starring James Brolin and Connie Seleca. (Man, did I love that series!)

The more I thought about the idea, though, the more I wanted to combine my three favorite genres of fiction: historical, supernatural, and romance. I enjoy delving into the history of a place or people and then recreating the past within a story to help readers experience what that time or those people were like, what they had to face, the limitations on their options, etc. The supernatural elements—ghosts and magic—intrigue me since I’ve had experiences that cannot be logically or perhaps even scientifically explained. I’ve also been told about inexplicable happenings and sightings by others, friends and strangers alike. And finally, I believe in love and romance and hope everyone finds their version of happily ever after.

So, all these musings finally led me to wanting to write stories that take place in a haunted roadside inn, which became the Fury Falls Inn. (Note that a “fury” is another name for a “harsh, domineering woman” which fits Mercy Fairhope’s character perfectly.) I decided not to use an existing historical place because it can be limiting. For example, since I don’t know much about the real hotel in Valhermoso Springs, making it a haunted inn might cause some concern or offense to those people who live there. So instead I chose to invent an inn along Winchester Highway north of Huntsville, rather than southwest of that city. The falls and springs the inn features are purely fictional as well. But I liked the alliteration of Fury Falls and the subtle double entendre of the name.

The first book in the series, The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn, is the story of how the inn became haunted and sets up the remaining stories’ conflicts and mysteries. The next several stories will feature Cassandra Fairhope’s brothers returning at her request and the surprise revelations they must face and adapt to. Book 2, Under Lock and Key, is now available and I’m writing book 3 to release in the spring of 2021.

Imagining the overarching story line for 6 books was a challenge, let me tell you! I’ve never planned out a 6-book series before. Now I have the fun of really getting to know each of the brothers and developing the story to weave their desires and needs toward a satisfying and unexpected conclusion in the last book. I’m not going to rush it, but I do hope to release books 3 and 4 next year, and 5 and 6 in 2022. Wish me luck!

Happy reading and Happy Halloween!

Betty

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

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

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

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

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Separation Anxiety Then and Now #BecomingLadyWashington #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amreading #books #ReadIndie

Let’s talk about separation anxiety. I’ll start with my recent experience and then go back in time to Martha Washington’s own separation anxiety.

Last week I had a colonoscopy done at a local medical center. Everything went well, I’m glad to say. But I had a really hard time going into the hospital alone, my husband forced to wait in the car in the parking lot. Waiting for a phone call from the nurse to come pick me up outside.

Now, I don’t cry easily. Nor do I panic easily. But I lay there on the gurney/table, counting the ceiling tiles in order to try to not cry. (The prep room was about 11×13 square feet, by the way.) I struggled to not worry about going through the prep and procedure without my husband of 30+ years there for the very first time to anchor me emotionally. To trust the medical professionals would take care of me, which they did with care and compassion. Try as I might, though, it didn’t work. I still cried. For one thing, I thought of the stories of couples and families right now during this pandemic who can’t be together. Who haven’t seen each other in person for weeks or even months. Of the loved ones who died while in the hospital, separated from their spouses, children, siblings, friends. I cried harder, knowing how difficult such a separation must be. Heck, I’m crying now while I remember those emotions rattling my composure and cutting a swath of hurt through my heart.

I thought of Martha Washington then, and how she faced long spans of separation from her family and husband. One case in point is the following excerpt from a letter (included here with her original spellings) she wrote to her sister in August 1762:


My Dear Nancy

I had the pleasure to receive your kind letter of the 26 of July just as I was setting out on a visit to Mrs Washingtons [George Washington’s mother] in Westmoreland where I spent a weak agreeably I carred my little patt with me and left Jackey at home for a trial to see how well I could stay without him though we ware gon but wone fortnight I was quite impatiant to get home if I at any time heard the dogs barke or a noise out I thought thair was a person sent for me I often fansied he was sick or some accident had happened to him so that I think it is impossable for me to leave him as long as Mr Washington must stay when he comes down – if nothing happens I promise myself the pleasure of comeing down in the spring as it will be healthy time of the year


In order to understand her deep fears of her son falling ill or having an accident, we must remember that she had already buried a young son and daughter, as well as her first husband, by this time. Daughter Patty currently suffered from epilepsy, too, which is why she was not left home when Martha traveled. Indeed, many times they would take her to Williamsburg for treatments, ones that never worked, but they were trying everything under the sun even rumored to be beneficial. Jacky was the next heir to the Custis fortunes, as well. Much rested on his young shoulders.

Martha lost many a family member when she wasn’t able to be with them. Her brother Jacky died from yellow fever while she was out of the house. Her father had traveled to Fredericksburg, Virginia, for the horse races and died of an apoplexy (heart attack) in the heat. He’s buried there, not at the home plantation because the heat meant they couldn’t transport the body all the way back to Chestnut Grove. And her sister, Nancy, died at her home, Eltham, far away in New Kent County, Virginia. Martha was unable to even make the trip while her sister was ill because of her daughter-in-law’s advanced stage of pregnancy.

Of course, she also worried about George when he was off fighting the War for Independence or out and about as President of the United States of America. She didn’t like being separated from any of her family, truth be told. Of course, she couldn’t be with all of them all of the time. That was physically impossible with everyone scattered over several states. But her letters are filled with tender requests to be remembered to her friends and family, and hoping to hear all were well, or sad to hear they weren’t.

I consoled myself while in the hospital that my separation should only be for a few hours, not for even half a day. In fact, I arrived at 6:30 and left at 9:00 a.m. As planned, no doubt. My brief experience emphasized in my mind the reality so many others have faced, or are facing, or perhaps sadly will face. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in those situations. I have an inkling of what you’re going through.

I wish you all health and happiness! 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.

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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Lunch by any other name is…what, exactly? #amwriting #histfic #supernatural #historical #fiction #research #words #etymology

In writing historical fiction, one of the rather confusing issues I struggle with is what to call the midday and evening meals.

As a frame of reference, my family members have always had four kinds of meals: breakfast (in the morning); lunch (around noon); dinner or supper interchangeably (6:00 or 7:00 p.m.); and snacks (midmorning or midafternoon).

A delicious Sara’s Dagger sandwich from Attman’s Deli, Baltimore, MD

But I know these terms are not the same for everyone today, let along throughout history.

The definition of breakfast in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is straightforward and not disputed (that I’m aware of):

1.1 That with which a person breaks his fast in the morning; the first meal of the day.

The confusion stems from terms for dinner and supper. According to the OED, dinner is defined as:

1. a.1.a The chief meal of the day, eaten originally, and still by the majority of people, about the middle of the day (cf. Ger. Mittagsessen), but now, by the professional and fashionable classes, usually in the evening; particularly, a formally arranged meal of various courses; a repast given publicly in honour of some one, or to celebrate some event.

For example, my research shows that George and Martha Washington ate dinner at or about 3 p.m. with supper in the evening, around 7:00 p.m.

So, the afternoon meal in my 1821 Fury Falls Inn series of stories should be called dinner.

Then what is supper? Given that my family has used both dinner and supper to refer to our evening meal? Back to the OED I went. Supper is defined in the OED as:

1. a.1.a The last meal of the day; (contextually) the hour at which this is taken, supper-time; also, such a meal made the occasion of a social or festive gathering. Often without article, demonstrative, possessive, or the like, esp. when governed by a prep. (to have supper; at supper, to supper, for supper, after supper).

   Formerly, the last of the three meals of the day (breakfast, dinner, and supper); now applied to the last substantial meal of the day when dinner is taken in the middle of the day, or to a late meal following an early evening dinner. Supper is usually a less formal meal than late dinner.

That clarifies these terms, but what about the midday meal of lunch? When did that become the accepted term instead of dinner?

The OED says:

[Perh. evolved from lump n.1, on the analogy of the apparent relation between hump and hunch, bump and bunch. Cf. ‘Lounge, a large lump, as of bread or cheese’ (Brockett N. Country Words, ed. 2, 1829).

   It is curious that the word first appears as a rendering of the (at that time) like-sounding Sp. lonja slice of ham. luncheon, commonly believed to be a derivative of lunch, occurs in our quots. 11 years earlier, with its present spelling. In sense 2 lunch was an abbreviation of luncheon, first appearing about 1829, when it was regarded either as a vulgarism or as a fashionable affectation.]

†1.1 A piece, a thick piece; a hunch or hunk. Obs.

2. a.2.a A synonym of luncheon n. 2. (Now the usual word exc. in specially formal use, though formerly objected to as vulgar.) Also, a light meal at any time of the day.

The term lunch didn’t become accepted until after 1829, 8 years after the time period of my series. Therefore, I shouldn’t refer to the midday meal using that term. So when you read my series, keep these facts in mind. There are three meals served at the Fury Falls Inn: breakfast, dinner, and supper.

One other note. Snacks have been around a long time. The OED cites it used in 1685 to mean “A mere taste, a small quantity, of liquor” but in 1757 it’s used in the sense of “A mere bite or morsel of food, as contrasted with a regular meal; a light or incidental repast.” So if you find Cassie or Flint snacking from time to time, it’s fine. I checked.

Speaking of lunch, it’s about that time as I finish writing this post. Before you go, though, check out the cover (below) of the first book in the six-book Fury Falls Inn series, The Haunting of the Fury Falls Inn, coming October 2019. I love this cover so much; almost as much as the story!

Thanks for stopping by! Cheers!

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.

Innkeeper’s daughter Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. But in northern Alabama in 1821 marriage is her only escape. Even so, she has a plan: Seduce the young man acting as innkeeper while her father is away and marry him. He’s handsome and available. Even though he has no feelings for her, it is still a better option than enduring her mother. But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. Securing his reputation in the hostelry business and earning his father’s respect are far more important. He did not count on having to deal with horse thieves and rogues in addition to his guests. When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint must do whatever it takes to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who has no intention of leaving…

Don’t Say That! Colorful terms in #historical #fiction #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

Color me a tad sad as today I’m wrapping up my Don’t Say That! series with one final post about words related to color: ecru, hue, luminescent, multicolor, and vibrant. Do any of those words surprise you as not entering English until after the 18th century?

I’ll start with one of my favorite words for a soft off-white color, ecru. I imagined Emily wearing an ecru colored night shift. Only, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the word didn’t enter English until 1869. Can you picture the color? The definition is “the name of a color; the color of unbleached linen.” Something lighter than eggshell but not white. It’s of French origin, so it does surprise me that it didn’t get picked up by Americans earlier than the middle of the 19th century.

The next one is a tricky one. The word “hue” has been around almost forever. It’s from Old English and meaning “form, shape, figure; appearance, aspect; species” first cited in 900 A.D. However, meaning “color” it had a bit of an interruption in use. The OED says, “Down to the 16th c. app. exactly synonymous with ‘colour’; but it appears to have become archaic in prose use about 1600.” The citation dates reflect the interruption: 971, 1050, 1225, 1375, 1450, 1576, 1616, 1694, 1791, 1808, etc. Archaic doesn’t mean it was never used, but given my A More Perfect Union series takes place in America in 1782-83, I had to consider whether my characters were likely to have picked up on it. I wrestled with this decision…but finally chose to use a different word. I’m certain beyond a doubt that most readers wouldn’t know the difference, but I would and that was enough of a reason for me to steer clear of “hue.”

But what about “luminescent”? Couldn’t the candlelight be such? Actually, no. Mainly because the OED defines it as “a. Emitting light, or having the property of emitting light, otherwise than as a result of incandescence. b. Pertaining to luminescence.” The citation is dated in 1889, a full century after my stories. And since it’s definition relies up production of light “otherwise than as a result of incandescence”—which by the way didn’t enter our language until 1794—I chose to describe the light in other terms. Keep in mind that my stories took place when light was produced by candles, oil, tallow, etc. No lightbulbs yet!

So what about a “multicolored” quilt? I’ve seen them in historic homes and displays of traditional quilt making. They exist. However, the word did not. The OED doesn’t include this word for some unknown reason, but my Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary does. According to Webster, the word “multicolor” became a word in 1840-50 as a back formation from “multicolored” which entered English in 1835-45. So again, I had to describe the quilt as having many colors, perhaps I even stated what they were.

Couldn’t my characters have a vibrant personality? Or wear vibrant clothing? Not by a long shot! The word has existed since the 16th century but meaning “Agitated with anger or emotion” or even “Brandishing, flourishing.” But as applied to colors that usage of “vivid, exotic. Also applied to other visual attributes, and to objects with an appearance suggestive in some way of vitality or the exotic” not until 1971. After I was born for goodness sake! So again, no to using that word in my historicals.

What all of this word sleuthing has taught me is first and foremost how to better describe what is happening, where it’s happening, and how it’s happening so I don’t rely on a single term to encompass the action or visual. My intent is to write a story that employs all of the senses so the reader can virtually experience the story playing in my imagination.

I’ve come to the end of my Don’t Say That! series, so next week I’ll start another round of Between the Lines posts where I share some interesting tidbits I’ve picked up while researching my stories, whether historical or contemporary. In fact, I’ll start with the research I did for my next paranormal/supernatural romance, Veiled Visions of Love, which will be available next month. More about that book next week. Until then!

Betty

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Emily's Vow Finalist SealEmily Sullivan’s greatest fear is dying in childbirth, as did her twin sister and their mother. Despite her half-hearted protests, her father insists Frank Thomson is the perfect man for both her protection from the vengeful British and as a husband. Frank always loved Emily despite her refusal to return his affections. A patriot spy posing as a loyalist officer, when Frank learns Emily’s been imprisoned for her father’s privateering, he risks his own neck to free his love.

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Don’t Say That! Weather terms in #historical #fiction #wordplay #weather #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

Ready for a few weather related words that folks in the 18th century didn’t use? Let’s look at four: downpour, seasonal, weather tight, and thunderhead. All four would seem to be natural to use, right? I thought so at least! Until I did a bit of checking. So let’s look at these terms and see when they came to be.

Who hasn’t seen and experienced a “downpour” of rain? Well, back in the 1700s, they didn’t call it that. Meaning “a pouring down; esp. a heavy, continuous fall (of rain, etc.)” didn’t enter English, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), until 1811. I believe I used something along the lines of “drenching rain” instead. I’m sure readers have no problem with the meaning of either, but again, I simply want to create as authentic an experience of the 18th century as I can and still be understood by present-day readers.

What about a “seasonal” display of flowers? I’m thinking of vases containing flowers from specific times of the year appropriate to the season. So, meaning “pertaining to or characteristic of the seasons of the year, or some one of them,” the word didn’t exist until 1838. Five decades after my A More Perfect Union historical romance series of stories. So nope. But of course I could simply say “the flowers in the vases had been picked that morning, new buds of yellow daffodils and pink roses” in order to both describe the colors as well as the time of year. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Not relying upon the single word helps me to paint a clearer picture for my readers. I’ll take it!

AMPU Covers-4So in Amy’s Choice, I wanted the boat to be “weather tight.” After all, Frank and Benjamin were facing a bad storm in a skiff-like boat on their way to visit the ship’s captain. Only, the OED tells me to hold up… The first citation for “weather-tight” didn’t pop up until 1832. So much for using that phrase. I likely said something along the lines of “the boat had been prepared to face all kinds of weather.” Creating the same impression but with different verbiage.

One last term to contemplate. Surely the storm clouds built into “thunderheads,” right? Well, let’s take a closer look. The OED lists it under “thunder” as the main entry. As a combining form, it means “(a) a rounded mass of cumulus cloud seen near the horizon projecting above the general body of cloud, and portending a thunder-storm; hence thunder-headed a., having, or of the nature of, a thunder-head; (b) nonce-use, a large head, as a whale’s head.” The first citation for the term is from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, which is dated 1851, and is actually referring to the whale heads on the ship. As in, “Throw all these thunder-heads overboard, and then you will float light and right.” In 1861, L.L. Noble used the term in Icebergs: “An iceberg rises…after the figure of a thunderhead.” So am I to assume the term came from the shape of a whale head applied to the clouds? Maybe… Nonetheless, I couldn’t use it in my series, and that was the main concern at the time.

So next week I’ll look at my last class of words, color words such as ecru and multicolor. I hope you’re keeping cool and enjoying a great story! See you next week!

Betty

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Introducing the lives, loves, and dangerous times of the men and women in the A More Perfect Union historical romance series! This prequel novella takes place when Charles Town, South Carolina, is about to face the British enemy during the American Revolution.

Elizabeth's HopeCAUGHT BETWEEN DUTY AND LOVE

Joining the revolutionary army was the honorable thing to do—but Jedediah Thomson hadn’t realized how long he’d be away from the lovely, spirited Miss Elizabeth Sullivan. They’d only begun their courtship when the occupation of Charles Town, South Carolina, trapped her in the city, making it dangerous to get to her.

Elizabeth Sullivan feared for her brothers, fighting for American freedom; for her father, pretending to be a loyalist; for family and friends, caught between beliefs; and most of all for Jedediah, the man she loves, who was doing his duty. She cherished every moment they had together, knowing how swiftly it could be taken away.

And that made her willing to risk everything to claim a piece of him forever….

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Don’t Say That! Family Ties in #historical #fiction #relations #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

I’ve been at the RWA national conference this week networking and learning more about all things related to being an author. But I didn’t want to leave you waiting for another quick round of Don’t Say That! In Evelyn’s Promise, family comes first for Evelyn. So today let’s talk about words linked to relationships: fiancé/fiancée, missis/missus, teen/teenager, and sibling.

Today we become engaged and then we introduce our “betrothed person” (the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) definition) as our “fiancé” or “fiancée,” depending on whether the other person is male or female, respectively. However, neither word entered English until 1853, so my characters all become the other person’s betrothed, which has been around since 1540.

Once a woman was married, then the husband might call her “missis” or “missus” as a dialect form of “wife.” But he wouldn’t have done that until 1833. However, if “used by servants…in speaking of their mistresses; spec. used by N. American Negroes and in India and S. Africa of a white employer, and loosely of any (esp. a white) woman,” then it’s possible but still rather unlikely until 1790. My historical romance series, A More Perfect Union, is set in Charleston in 1782-83, so close but not quite…

Once the newly married couple starts their family, the children will grow up to be in their teenage years. But my characters would not call those children between thirteen and nineteen their “teen” until 1818. Interestingly, the OED cites “teen” as short for “teenager” but then states that the first recorded date for the full form isn’t until 1941. Slightly confused, I went to Dictionary.com where they say its first recording was in 1935-40, so they basically agree for teenager, but Dictionary.com also says “teen” is first recorded in 1940-45 by shortening. That makes more sense, doesn’t it? Either way, my parents wouldn’t be using the term.

Our fictional children today would call each other “siblings” or “one who is of kin to another” but more like “each of two or more children of a common parent.” The first definition originated in 1000, but fell out of usage until revived in 1903 by K. Pearson in Biometrika using the second definition above. So while technically the word existed at the time of my stories in the 18th century, the folks living then didn’t use it. So of course neither could I, thus forced to stick with sister or brother instead.

Next time I’ll talk about weather words like downpour and weather tight. I hope you’re enjoying your week! I know I will be very tired by the time I finally get home again from conference, but I’ll also be highly motivated. Until next time!

Betty

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Evelyn's PromiseDetermined to make her own way in the newly independent America and live free of the dictates and demands of another husband, widow Evelyn Hamilton faces soaring post-war inflation as she struggles to provide for herself and her infant son.

Militiaman Nathaniel Williams visits Charlestown, where his heart is ensnared by a smart, beautiful widow, forcing Nathaniel to make the hardest decision of his life.

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Don’t Say That! Playing Doctor in #historical #fiction #medical #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

Sometimes people become ill or have a baby in my stories so there are doctors and midwives involved. The best example is in Samantha’s Secret, where Trent is a new doctor in town and Samantha is a healer and midwife. But some of the conditions and expressions we use today wouldn’t apply to the 18th century. Take, for instance, life force, morning sickness, spasm, stressed, and peaked (as in looked peaked.

Let’s start with the essential element of humankind, the life force that sustains our being. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) lists it as a “special combination” under the noun Life, meaning “vital energy” which is the definition I had in mind when writing my stories. But the OED doesn’t give an origin date, so I popped over to Dictionary.com and discovered it was first recorded in 1895-1900. That’s a century after my stories take place, so nope to using that one!

In a couple of my stories a woman is having a baby. I would have thought the terms used would be fairly standard, but yet again I was surprised. I think most folks know that “morning sickness” is the “nausea occurring in the morning, one of the earlier symptoms of pregnancy.” However, did you know we didn’t start using that term until 1875, according to Dictionary.com? Nearly a century after my stories time period. Sigh.

Okay, fine. Then when the woman went into labor her insides would surely spasm, right? Well, yes and no. It depends on whether it’s used as a noun, as in “A spasm tightened her stomach” which is fine as early as 1400. But if used as a verb, as in “Her stomach spasmed,” then no. Not until 1900, at least.

So then if this is making you feel a bit “stressed” you may be happy to know that while my characters could be “distressed, afflicted” as early as 1559, they couldn’t be “experiencing physiological, emotional, or psychological stress” until 1973. Whew. What a relief for them! But then how do I explain how they were feeling? Instead of saying they felt stressed, I showed the physiological signs of that stress. A little more difficult but makes for a better story experience.

One of those signs, however, couldn’t have been that they looked “peaked,” or “sharp-featured, thin, pinched, as from illness or want; sickly-looking.” The particular colloquialism wasn’t recorded until 1835. But honestly, the image of the person evoked in that definition is far clearer than if I had merely used the word. So my readers win out in the end and that’s what is most important, right?

Next time I’ll talk about relationship words like fiancé and sibling. I hope you find a shady or air-conditioned spot to stay cool while reading a great book!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out monthly. You’ll find out about new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

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SamanthsSecretCOVERIn 1782, the fight for independence becomes personal in the port city Charles Town, South Carolina.

Midwife and healer, Samantha McAlester returns from the front lines to find Charles Town under British siege and the town’s new doctor at war with its citizens.

Dr. Trent Cunningham intends to build a hospital staffed solely with educated doctors. What he doesn’t need is a raven-haired charlatan spooning out herbs and false promises to his patients, while tempting him at every turn.

Then a mutual friend develops a mysterious infection. Trenton is stumped. Samantha suspects the cure but knows treatment will expose her long-guarded secret, risking all she holds dear… including Trenton.

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Don’t Say That! Them’s Fighting Words in #historical #fiction #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

Let’s talk about fight scenes in fiction and the words used to write them, shall we? I don’t have many scenes where people actually fight one another, it’s not my bailiwick. That said, some of the words used to describe fighting can be employed figuratively in some situations. However, I discovered that the figurative sense usually evolves sometime after the word is used literally. Let’s look at six of them: backhand, jab, sic, slug, swat, and tackle.

I wanted to say that someone hit the other with the back of their hand, i.e., backhanded the other person. The word existed as a noun and adjective as early as the 1650s, but as a verb meaning “to take a backhander” not until 1857, while the meaning I had in mind of “to hit or stroke with the back of one’s hand” not until 1935. Now, I probably simply stated the character hit the other character with the back of their hand instead of using the one word. One other definition of “backhand” is “handwriting with the letters sloped backwards.” Which has nothing to do with the meaning I needed, but I learned something new in reading the definition, so thought I’d share.

So what about a jab? A move used in boxing. Could my character take a jab at something, or someone? Literally or figuratively? Sadly, no. The verb meaning “to thrust with the end or point of something; to poke roughly; to stab” entered English in 1825-27. By the way, there are several related definitions in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), but I won’t belabor the point. For my 1782-83 stories, the word didn’t exist.

In Amy’s Choice, I hoped to have Amy sic the dogs on a threatening person, but the OED definition has more to do with the Scottish word meaning “such” than sending an attack dog after anybody. So I went over to Dictionary.com  and found the verb meaning “to attack (used especially in commanding a dog): Sic ‘em!” which is recorded as originating in 1835-45. Sigh. So much for using that word, then.

Could Frank “slug” somebody to defend Emily? He most definitely was prepared and willing to do so. In fact, he even fights a duel for her honor! I didn’t know there are four definitions of “slug” in verb form. The one I meant, “to strike (also, to drive, throw, etc.) heavily or violently; to slog” is the third definition. Unfortunately, it originated in 1862. So I guess he just punched him instead, which entered the English language in 1530. Whew.

Maybe they could be swatting a fly or swatting away somebody’s unwanted hand on their arm. Surely, they could kill a fly by swatting it. Almost but not quite. In 1615 the verb meant “to sit down, squat” but that’s not I was looking for. The “right” one, meaning “to hit with a smart slap or a violent blow; also, to dash. Now esp., to crush (a fly, etc.) with a blow” came about in 1796, 13 or so years after the stories in my A More Perfect Union series. Close but no cigar, as the saying goes.

Then let me “tackle” one last word I had originally written into one of the stories but found out upon revisions and editing I couldn’t leave in place. This verb existed since 1400 when used to mean “to furnish (a ship) with tackle; to equip with the necessary furnishings,” which is cool to know but not helpful for my story. I could have used it if they wanted “to harness (a horse) for riding or draught.” However, meaning “to grip, lay hold of, take in hand, deal with; to fasten upon, attack, encounter (a person or animal) physically” didn’t come about until 1828. The more figurative sense of “to ‘come to grips with’, to enter into a discussion or argument with; to attack; to approach or question on some subject” not until 1840. So, out of luck on that one, also.

Next time I’ll talk about medical words like spasm and stressed. Happy reading!

Betty

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Amy's ChoiceWhen Amy Abernathy’s childhood sweetheart, Benjamin Hanson, leaves to fight in the American War for Independence without a word of goodbye, Amy picks up the pieces of her heart and chooses independence. When Benjamin returns unexpectedly, Amy flees to the country to help her pregnant sister and protect her heart.

Benjamin Hanson knows he hurt Amy, but he also knows he can make it up to her after he completes his mission. Then he learns that Amy has been captured by renegade soldiers. Now Benjamin faces his own choice: free the sassy yet obstinate woman he’s never stopped loving or protect Charles Town from the vengeful British occupation.

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