Initial Thoughts on Pachinko by Min Jin Lee #historical #fiction #books #novels #fiction #amreading

I’ve started reading Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, the next book on my Historical Fiction Around the World series. This story is much longer than the last one I read, so it will take me a little while to finish reading it, but I can give you my initial take on what I’m reading.

The hardback I’m reading has a different cover than the one I found on Bookshop. The story is 485 pages long. Lee didn’t provide any supporting information related to the story. No glossary or maps or recipes, etc. But so far I haven’t needed them, either.

While the author was born in Korea, she moved to the USA when she was 7 and was educated through university in this country. So her story is told using standard English so she didn’t need a translator or additional explanatory materials. Her Acknowledgements indicate the kind of research and interviews she conducted before writing this book, including many interviews with Korean Japanese people she met while living in Tokyo as an adult. Thus, she offers the best of both worlds to this American reader since I can learn more about Korean Japanese people but in a familiar language.

Not surprisingly, Lee’s writing voice is strong and clear as she tells the story of this family over the course of the 20th century, specifically 1910-1989. For a summary of the story line, I found this description although I haven’t read it all because I don’t want to spoil the experience of reading the book. I’m not even 100 pages into the story, so there is much to come!

I need to go read, so I’ll talk to you all soon! Happy Reading!

Betty

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

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

Audrey Harper needs more than home and hearth to satisfy her self-worth despite being raised with the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Working as a music critic for the city newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, during the Second World War, she’s enjoyed both financial freedom and personal satisfaction in a job well done. When she uncovers evidence of German spies working to sabotage a secret bomber plane being manufactured in her beloved city, she must choose between her sense of duty to protect her city and the urgings of her boss, her family, and her fiancé to turn over her evidence to the authorities. But when her choices lead her and her sister into danger, she is forced to risk life and limb to save her sister and bring the spies to justice.

Set against the backdrop of the flourishing musical community during the 1940s in Baltimore, Notes of Love and War weaves together the pleasure of musical performance with the dangers of espionage and spying.

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Getting to know Jerry Aylward #author #historical #fiction #truecrime #American #histfic #ghostmystery #thriller #suspense #books

My guest today writes during my favorite time period, the American Revolution. Please help me welcome Jerry Aylward to the interview hot seat! A quick peek at his bio and then we’ll find out more about him and his writing process.

Jerry Aylward is a retired police detective with thirty-two years of service with the Nassau County NY Police Department. He served another ten years in federal law enforcement with the United States Department of Homeland Security as a criminal investigator with OCSO (Office of the Chief Security Officer) at a high-level government research facility. Jerry has a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science from NYIT and is a New York State–licensed private investigator.

Jerry authored: Francis “Two Gun” Crowley’s Killings in New York City & Long Island, and a pictorial history of the Nassau County Police Department. Jerry’s first novel The Scarlet Oak was released on July 4th, 2022. Jerry’s genre has been mainly local history and true crime. With his novel The Scarlet Oak, he throws a twist of murder, spies, and spirits into an American Revolution mystery that takes place in Oyster Bay, on the north shore of Nassau County.

Author’s Social Links: Website | Instagram | Twitter

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

Jerry: A mixture of forgotten American history and real-life events.

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

Jerry: I learned quite few as a matter of fact, though mostly, I think it would be developing a character’s voice as the story moved through the POV [point of view].

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

Jerry: I didn’t really struggle with any part of the story, as much as I needed to polish the storyline, which is always a bit of a struggle.

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

Jerry: Finn was the easiest, we share a professional occupation.

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

Jerry: Reading a lot of local Long Island, New York American Revolution (Spy) history and visiting historical sites.

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

Jerry: I only made one draft…but tons of revisions.

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

Jerry: The idea for this story came from a series of real-life (suspicious) human events that occurred from the same household, expanding many years. I took those events and developed it into an historical storyline occurring at an historical 18th-century American Revolution home (museum) located on the north shore of Long Island in Oyster Bay. Overall, it took about three years, which is much longer than other projects I’ve published. Mainly because of the research, all but one or two of the characters in The Scarlet Oak are a fictional account based on real historical people.

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

Jerry: One of my required rituals besides lots of coffee, lol, is music. I have a constant thirst for (classical) music to stream my backdrop for all my writings.

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

Jerry: At times I must catch myself using words and phrases I find myself overusing, such as the word that, and, and phrases like he said, or she said in dialogue, rather than using an emotional or facial expression to accent a voice.

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

Jerry: I don’t have any one role model when it comes to writing if that’s what you’re asking. Though I do like the voices of a few mystery writers like William Kent Krueger, Robert Parker, Agatha Christie, and C.J. Box to name a few.

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

Jerry: I have a small, quiet office space tucked away in a corner of the basement of my house, it’s finished, carpeted, and surrounded by items that encourage my thoughts and ideas.

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

Jerry: I’m retired. Though I do have a couple of dogs that require a lot of attention.

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

Jerry: My greatest achievement in writing has been to be published and recognized with a couple small awards.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Jerry: I enjoy reading many different genres, mostly for a change of pace. Though my absolute favorite would have to be mysteries, and whodunits.

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

Jerry: I would define success in my writings by someone who truly enjoys one of my stories, a win-win for both of us.         

In September of 2018 the bodies of two high school sweethearts are discovered beneath a venerable scarlet oak tree in a vacant horse pasture on the posh north shore estate of J. Barrington Cook, a wealthy, but secretive, Oyster Bay, Long Island landowner.

     With no forensic evidence to support his suspicions of a double murder, other than a hardened cop’s intuition, Finn embarks on an unsanctioned homicide investigation that soon exposes a long but skeptic thread of unexplained deaths dating back two-hundred and thirty-eight years, mixing with an enigmatic and beguiling apparition of a young woman residing in the same Revolutionary home of all his victims.

     Finn is mysteriously transported back to colonial Oyster Bay at the height of the American Revolution to the home of one of General George Washington’s covert Culper spies. It is here he must discover the motive for all the unexplained deaths along with the mystifying reason they have remained undetected.

     Finn’s life takes an unexpected turn when he meets the beautiful but cryptic Sally Townsend, forcing him to abandon a self-imposed protective shell of indifference to solve the mystery emanating from her Revolutionary home, while at the same time saving the life of his alluring confidant, and stopping a killer.

Book buy link: Amazon

It seems very appropriate for a former police detective to write murder mysteries, either contemporary or historical. Thanks for sharing with us, Jerry!

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

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

Impressions of The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho #historical #fiction #books #novels #fiction #amreading

The latest book I’ve read for my Historical Fiction Around the World series is The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho, an author from Malaysia and England. This book is on the shorter side, under 160 pages. It’s set in a pre-industrial mythical China but otherwise the time period is undefined. In fact, the story seems largely portable as related to time and place. No explanatory information is included, such as a glossary or maps.

The author has a light touch with storytelling in a good way. The tale is easy to grasp and the characters interesting if somewhat vaguely portrayed. I don’t feel like I know very much about any of them, including the main character. That said, Cho deftly painted the layers of the characterization so that I feel like I gradually knew everything I needed to know without weighing down the pace with unnecessary details and history. That’s an art unto itself!

The author wove together the historical aspects with mystical and religious themes as well as contemporary topics we all can recognize playing out around us today. I’m a fan of the mystical and the inexplicable nature of life and belief systems. Cho embodied them in her characters.

I enjoyed this quick read even though sometimes I personally was a bit confused as to what was happening. Chalk that up to my inexperience with the place and time and belief system described. But the characters and the plot are thought providing as well as entertaining.

Next up is Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, a Korean author. However, I’m going to take a week off for a vacation with my husband, and be back with my thoughts on that story first thing in February.

Until then, Happy Reading!

Betty

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

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

Announcing the 3rd Edition of this inspiring collection of historical fiction about 19 real-life girls who made a difference in their hometowns. Winner of the 2014 Gold Medal for Young Adult Fiction awarded by Children’s Literary Classics, among other awards.

What would you do if you heard a train crash through the trestle during a violent thunderstorm? How would you suggest to a presidential candidate that he change his appearance in order to be elected? If your family was under attack and surrounded, what would you do to save them? Could you refuse to help someone hoping to better themselves or would you help them?

These are just a few of the situations these girls found themselves in and rose to the occasion, saving the day in more ways than one. Through their bravery, their daring, and their sense of adventure, each used their skills, talents, and insights to meet the need before them.

If you’re a fan of the American Girl series or merely enjoy reading about heroic girls, you’ll love reading about these historic figures in American history.

Books2Read      Barnes & Noble     Amazon     Apple     Kobo

Now available on NetGalley! Thank you for reading and reviewing Hometown Heroines!

Impressions of Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe #historical #fiction #books #novels #fiction #amreading

I’ve finished reading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. This story is fairly short, only 209 pages. A short Glossary of Ibo Words and Phrases is included at the end of the book. The paperback I read has “50th Anniversary Edition” on the cover, too. That tells me this story has been around for a long time and enjoyed/read by many people. The author has written at least 20 other works of fiction and poetry. Achebe is quite a good storyteller and appears to be quite beloved by many readers. If he’s a new author for you, you might give him a try with either this story or any of his others.

As far as Things Fall Apart goes, I found it interesting to experience the culture of the society of the story. The story seems to be about how a strong, ambitious clansman could not adapt to the societal changes wrought by newly arrived white men. Thus the title.

One thing about the story that bothers me is the essential endorsement of the brutality of the clansmen toward their dependents (women and children, in particular). The traditions included, to my 21st-century eye, appear harsh and caveman-ish. I don’t mean to be negative about the story. Moreso that I wonder what other men interpret about the culture of the story and society depicted for present-day men. What is Achebe saying with his story? What do readers glean from it?

Since the story written from a man’s perspective about a man’s experience, women and children are decoration and a backdrop for men’s needs and actions within the tale. This is not unexpected nor unwarranted by any means! I found it interesting to see the world through a man’s experiential lens. I tried to “become” the main character to some extent in order to understand his motivations and reactions to the people and events around him.

Achebe’s writing style in this story left me rather startled and confused at times as he glossed over events with a sentence or passing comment by the characters. Actions happened “off stage” of the story in places where I would have expected to be a witness to them. That’s just me, probably. Or maybe a difference in storytelling technique and expectations? Or both, of course! One of the reasons I embarked on this Historical Fiction Around the World quest is to learn about the similarities and differences in storytelling techniques used by writers from around the world.

Up next is The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho, an author from Malaysia and England.

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.

Announcing the 3rd Edition of this inspiring collection of historical fiction about 19 real-life girls who made a difference in their hometowns. Winner of the 2014 Gold Medal for Young Adult Fiction awarded by Children’s Literary Classics, among other awards.

What would you do if you heard a train crash through the trestle during a violent thunderstorm? How would you suggest to a presidential candidate that he change his appearance in order to be elected? If your family was under attack and surrounded, what would you do to save them? Could you refuse to help someone hoping to better themselves or would you help them?

These are just a few of the situations these girls found themselves in and rose to the occasion, saving the day in more ways than one. Through their bravery, their daring, and their sense of adventure, each used their skills, talents, and insights to meet the need before them.

If you’re a fan of the American Girl series or merely enjoy reading about heroic girls, you’ll love reading about these historic figures in American history.

Books2Read      Barnes & Noble     Amazon     Apple     Kobo

Now available on NetGalley! Thank you for reading and reviewing Hometown Heroines!

Impressions of The Wreath by Sigrid Undset #historical #fiction #romance #books #novels #fiction #amreading

Last week I shared my first thoughts about The Wreath by Sigrid Undset, translated into English by Tiina Nunnally. The story is about a young Norwegian girl named Kristin and how she grows into a strong-minded, assertive young woman in a time when such an attitude was not readily accepted by her family. Indeed, she was expected to do what her father dictated. The path she chooses is fraught with obstacles and challenges, too.

Now mind, the story takes place in the 14th century so there is a lot different about the society in which she is raised and which she resists from our present-day worldview here in the USA. Indeed, in many ways this story, first published in 1920, foreshadows our current existence in some ways. Kristin takes the reins of her life to steer her way through all obstacles and barriers, much like many women do today. She faced the same kinds of threats that women today do, as well: dismissal, subjugation, lewdness, overbearing men, even rape. (Why is it that men keep that weapon in their arsenal?)

One thing that reading this story brought forcibly home to me is that people do not change at their core despite new places, technologies, situations. Still, we tend to view each other as either an opportunity/known entity or a threat, and act accordingly. The characters within the covers of The Wreath seemed to reflect mostly the unsavory aspects of humanity. There were, to be fair, some religious people and kind people too, but most of the prominent figures had an ulterior motive of one kind or another at work. Even Kristin dealt underhandedly with her family all while rationalizing her choices up until the bitter end. Most likely the subterfuge people employ is still true today, as well.

I did enjoy the story overall after I’d adjusted to the different narration style and the unfamiliar names of people and places. But isn’t that part of the wonder of reading historical fiction from around the world and from different time periods? The opportunity to experience something different from my day-to-day life and activities. The concerns expressed by the people in The Wreath, while familiar and relatable, are also unique and otherworldly. This is the first story of a trilogy but I don’t think I’m interested enough to continue reading. Others probably will find it worthwhile, though!

Next up on my Historical Fiction Around the World series is Nigerian Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Off to the library I go!

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.

Announcing the 3rd Edition of this inspiring collection of historical fiction about 19 real-life girls who made a difference in their hometowns. Winner of the 2014 Gold Medal for Young Adult Fiction awarded by Children’s Literary Classics, among other awards.

What would you do if you heard a train crash through the trestle during a violent thunderstorm? How would you suggest to a presidential candidate that he change his appearance in order to be elected? If your family was under attack and surrounded, what would you do to save them? Could you refuse to help someone hoping to better themselves or would you help them?

These are just a few of the situations these girls found themselves in and rose to the occasion, saving the day in more ways than one. Through their bravery, their daring, and their sense of adventure, each used their skills, talents, and insights to meet the need before them.

If you’re a fan of the American Girl series or merely enjoy reading about heroic girls, you’ll love reading about these historic figures in American history.

Books2Read      Barnes & Noble     Amazon     Apple     Kobo

Now available on NetGalley! Thank you for reading and reviewing Hometown Heroines!

Getting to know Catherine McCullagh #author #WWII #historical #fiction #hisfic #novels #ghostwriter #editor

Let’s kick off the new year by meeting a fellow historical fiction author, Catherine McCullagh! I think you’ll find her background and inspiration for her stories very interesting, too. First a peek at her bio and then we’ll jump right in…

Catherine McCullagh grew up in Tasmania, Australia, with a love of bushwalking, reading and history. She initially trained as a history and languages teacher before embarking on a twenty-year career in the Australian Regular Army as a teacher, linguist and editor of military doctrine and military history. She then left the Army and established herself as a freelance editor, specialising in military history. Fifteen years later, inspired by the extraordinary stories that surrounded her, she embarked on a new career, this time as a writer. She has published three non-fiction works: Willingly into the Fray, a narrative history of Australian Army nursing; War Child, a poignant wartime memoir which she ghost-wrote; and Unconquered, the remarkable stories of athletes who competed in the Invictus Games in Sydney in 2018.

Catherine’s first historical novel, Dancing with Deception, was set in occupied Paris in World War II and published in 2017. Her second historical novel, Secrets and Showgirls, also set in occupied Paris, followed in 2021 and her latest novel, Love and Retribution, which unfolds in wartime Britain and Europe, was released in January 2022. Catherine’s next book, Resistance and Revenge, also set in wartime Britain, is due for release in early 2023.

Author Social Links: Instagram * Facebook

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

Catherine: I found a tiny snippet in a history book about a German sailor washed up on the English coast during World War II. Then my imagination simply took off!

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

Catherine: I think I honed my skills rather than developing any new ones. For example, I found it easier to work the setting into the story without it becoming too intrusive – and the setting is really important to this story. I also found it easier to deliver information to the reader via character exchanges, particularly conversations, rather than the classic information dumps.

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

Catherine: I changed the ending after my beta readers complained that I was being utterly unfair on two of the characters. The original ending saw Emmy’s dead husband return, but there were so many complaints that I opted to leave him heroically dead instead. That’s not to say I won’t resurrect him in a later story, but he’s gone for the moment.

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

Catherine: My main character, Emmy, and the two chief male protagonists simply walked onto the page, probably because I had been mulling the story over in my mind for a little while before committing it to paper. The other characters, Emmy’s mother and brother and Max’s brother, also followed fairly easily, possibly because I already knew their place in the story quite well by the time I came to write them.

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

Catherine: This was a very research-heavy book. I spent a great deal of time reading up on wartime England, rationing, shortages, the ‘make do and mend’ policy, the Women’s Institute and the impact of Lord Woolton, the Minister for Food, on daily life. Then I had to tackle the war in the Atlantic and U-boats. I had to study both the U-boats themselves and the base at Saint Nazaire where Max was headquartered and then, of course, he moved to Bergen in Sweden and finished up at Wilhelmshaven. Fascinating but complex. I also studied the Hamburg War Crimes Trials, the German military intelligence organisation the Abwehr, and the bombing of Hamburg. Then, of course, the characters travelled, so that opened the entire category of air and road transport during and immediately after the war. How amazing that you can find airline schedules for 1944 and railway timetables for 1945 on the net!

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

Catherine: I generally write one draft and then edit it several hundred times. Sometimes I write little excerpts when I’m trying out an idea and then, if I think it will work, I add it to the story and edit the flow from then on. It took me almost two years to reach the stage at which I thought it was ready to show my beta readers.

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

Catherine: Two years is pretty average for me, although I spent far more time researching this book than its predecessor or the one I have just finished writing. Love and Retribution was ambitious because of the scope of research required, but I loved every minute. I learnt so much (who knew that U-boats had anchors?!) and discovered more little snippets of history that might just inspire further stories (watch this space).

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

Catherine: I don’t have any rituals as such – I would love to just write all day long, but I also run a busy household, so I fit my writing in where I can. I do become obsessive when my story starts to take form and that can mean that I scribble on bits of paper, old notebooks and pads wherever I am as I try hard to chase my evolving plot. As I was starting to actually write this book, we took a trip to visit our daughter who dances on cruise ships. I found myself scribbling madly all through a long-haul flight and filling copious notebooks as we cruised the Arabian Sea. I will forever associate this book with airline flights and cruise ships!

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

Catherine: Certainly, clearly, slightly and softly are my main offenders, to the extent that I search for each of these during my proofreading phase and check how many times they appear. Large numbers often apply! I have to keep my thesaurus handy as these words are often difficult to replace. Sometimes I have to rewrite the entire sentence. Conversely, I never use the word ‘said’ as I don’t think it says anything!

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

Catherine: I absolutely love good writing and tend to muse over passages from Rebecca West, John Wyndham, J.G. Farrell, Vita Sackville-West, John Steinbeck, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and others. These are all classic authors and the only modern authors I have discovered who come close are Amor Towles in his A Gentleman in Moscow and Philip Kerr in his Bernie Gunther detective series. These are authors who know how to construct a clever sentence and also to use descriptive prose at its brilliant best.

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

Catherine: I have a study with walls of bookcases, two lovely, light windows and a tree outside where the birds love to play. It’s my sacred place.

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

Catherine: I edited for the last twenty-five years and thoroughly enjoyed it. But I gave that up to devote myself to writing and I have never regretted it. Mind you, I would give up housework any day!!

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

Catherine: Just finding a publisher is an achievement these days, but finding one who will publish all my books has been a triumph of monumental proportions!

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Catherine: Historical fiction followed by military and social history non-fiction. I suppose I’m always looking to research the next book. I should read more fiction, but I’m really fussy, probably abnormally so. I hate that feeling of being disappointed in a book and I never finish anything that I’m not enjoying. Life is too short!

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

Catherine: People actually reading my books and occasionally leaving good reviews. I don’t care about the money – it’s best not to as you never make money out of writing unless you’re Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. I also don’t care about fame – also a bonus as having someone follow you on Instagram is about as famous as most of us are likely to become. But I love seeing my books in bookshops, I would be thrilled to have a book club read and discuss one of my books and I long to stumble across a stranger in a park somewhere deeply ensconced in a book that I wrote. We all dream, don’t we?!

It’s July 1943 and the world has been at war for almost four years. One morning young war widow Emmy Penry-Jones discovers two men washed up on the beach below her house in western Cornwall. But these men are not like any of the shipwrecked sailors she has rescued before and Emmy is soon drawn into a web of intrigue that will test her ingenuity and her patriotism. Rocked by accusations of war crimes against a man she knows to be innocent, she launches a desperate bid to defend him. The trial marks a turning point and Emmy is drawn further into the deadly cycle of post-war retribution from which only one man can save her.

Love and Retribution is a story of wartime love and loss, of deceit and betrayal, of courage and heroism. From the fishing villages of Cornwall, the story transports the reader to a U-boat base at Saint Nazaire, the British War Crimes Trials in Hamburg and the chaos of life in a post-war London still gripped by rationing. The novel is dominated by the fight to survive, not just the conflict that has devastated Europe, but the destructive pursuit of revenge that poisons its aftermath.

Author note: this book is written for a British readership and all spellings are British, not American. They are not spelling mistakes or typos, they are British spellings.

Buy Links: AmazonAU * AmazonUS * Simon&Schuster * Booktopia

I love that you’re from Australia, Catherine! I’ve always wanted to visit that country and finally will get to this year. The breadth and depth of research you’ve done for your stories is inspiring as well. I wish you all the best!

Betty

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

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

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

Initial Thoughts on The Wreath by Sigrid Undset #historical #fiction #romance #books #novels #fiction #amreading

Happy New Year, everyone! Every new year brings a bit of hope to my heart that things will get better both personally and professionally. I’ll do what I can to see improvements where possible!

Let’s kick off 2023 and my continuing series of Historical Fiction Around the World with my first thoughts about The Wreath by Sigrid Undset, translated into English by Tiina Nunnally. The Wreath is the first of the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy. This story, first published in 1920 and translated into 80 languages, is set in the 14th century in Norway and is written by a Denmark-born but Norwegian-raised author. Ms. Undset received a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928.

I’m about a third of the way through the story, and am enjoying it now that I’m acclimated to the language and the narrative style. Undset weaves a compelling tale and paints a beautiful and vivid landscape for her story. My brain had to make an adjustment to both the proper names used throughout and to the rather inverted syntax the author employs. What do I mean by that?

The proper names, such as that used in the trilogy title, are of course reflective of the country’s language. “Lavransdatter” translates to daughter of Lavrans, for instance. Other Norwegian terms are explained in context if not defined outright in the dialogue. While it took a moment to adjust, I soon fell into the pattern of the naming conventions.

The “inverted syntax” I referenced also comes from the differences in language used. I enjoy “hearing” the cadence of the language from a Norwegian influence. Much like when I visit other countries with a strong lilt to their speech, it’s nice to experience the different emphasis and musicality of the language even if merely on the page. I think the way we phrase our thoughts reflects our culture in subtle ways, which can be revealing in and of itself. But I digress!

Altogether, I am fully invested in finding out what Kristin will do next, what social mores and expectations she will confront and perhaps defeat for her own best interests, and where the author is going with this tale. I imagine I shall finish reading it this week and will report my complete impressions next time.

So once again, Happy New Year! And 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.

Announcing the 3rd Edition of this inspiring collection of historical fiction about 19 real-life girls who made a difference in their hometowns. Winner of the 2014 Gold Medal for Young Adult Fiction awarded by Children’s Literary Classics, among other awards.

What would you do if you heard a train crash through the trestle during a violent thunderstorm? How would you suggest to a presidential candidate that he change his appearance in order to be elected? If your family was under attack and surrounded, what would you do to save them? Could you refuse to help someone hoping to better themselves or would you help them?

These are just a few of the situations these girls found themselves in and rose to the occasion, saving the day in more ways than one. Through their bravery, their daring, and their sense of adventure, each used their skills, talents, and insights to meet the need before them.

If you’re a fan of the American Girl series or merely enjoy reading about heroic girls, you’ll love reading about these historic figures in American history.

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Now available on NetGalley! Thank you for reading and reviewing Hometown Heroines!

Introducing Lucius Sestius from The Emperor’s Servant by Fiona Forsyth #character #author #historical #Roman #mystery

I’m so pleased to welcome our guest, Lucius Sestius, from the pages of The Emperor’s Servant! He has quite a tale to tell, too. First, let’s peek at author Fiona Forsyth’s bio to find out why she wrote this particular story, and then we’ll chat with Lucius.

From the age of six when I was introduced to the myths of Greece and Rome, I wanted to explore the differences between our world and theirs, because the people of ancient Rome are alien to us. Curiosity led me to study Classics at a time when most people told me that Latin was not useful: I then earned a living teaching it for 25 years before a family move to the Middle East gave me the opportunity to write about the people, events, themes and stories which had fascinated me for so long. A book from me will take you as close as I can – but still I don’t think it is possible to completely understand the world of Rome. And I know I split an infinitive there…

Author Social Links: Website * Twitter

Betty: How would you describe your parents?

Lucius: My father and mother are both dead. I don’t remember my mother, as far as I am concerned the woman who brought me up was my stepmother Cornelia and she died in one of the autumn plagues that Rome is always going through, about six or seven years ago. She was lovely. My father – well, he was kind and a lot more intelligent than people gave him credit for. He lived through the fall of his beloved Republic, and he bore everything as well as can be expected.

Betty: Who taught you to tie your shoes?

Lucius: My nursemaid, I think. Or it might have been Decius. Decius seems to have run our household since we got him. He is freed now, of course, but still works for the family. In fact, I cannot imagine life without him. I’m dictating this to him now.

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

Lucius: I failed to restore the Roman Republic. Not to sound dramatic, but that is why I joined Cassius and Brutus after Julius Caesar’s assassination. I got through the Battle of Philippi, unlike both Brutus and Cassius, and twenty years later here I am, obediently serving as consul under our beloved leader Augustus. I failed completely there, didn’t I?

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

Lucius: If Caesar had never been born, he would not have forced a civil war on us, become Dictator and been killed and we might still be a Republic. I don’t know. It depresses me to think about it. Can we go on to another question, please?

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

Lucius: My greatest fear? I think, having lost what I was fighting for at Philippi, I don’t really have much to lose now. Worry about the children occasionally of course, and I suppose if the family estate were taken away from me, that would be awful. It isn’t something I talk about with anyone, though I think Decius and my sisters would know, if you asked them.

Betty: Do you have a favorite sibling? Who?

Lucius: Are you kidding? Choose between my sisters? The one I put second would kill me. Let me just say that both Albinia and Tia are amazing, and I adore them. Albinia is my full sister and a distinguished poet, and Tia is my younger half-sister. I worry about them both but particularly Tia. She has never married – her fiancé was killed in a street fight in Rome. We know that the attackers were supposed to target me, but they got my friend instead. I am not sure Tia will ever get over that. I was glad my father didn’t try to pressure her into marrying again. It wouldn’t have worked anyway, both my sisters do as they like.

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

Lucius: On my family farm in Cosa, north of Rome. It is very ordinary and I love it. The vineyard I set up there is the thing I am most proud of. Oh – Decius says I ought to have said that I am most proud of my children first. He is probably right. Decius tends to be right. But my vineyard is very fine and my vines manager, Titus, while always pessimistic, manages to produce something drinkable every year. We are now exporting our wines all the way up the coast and into Gaul. There is a real market there, hardly surprising. Have you tried beer? It’s revolting.

Betty: How do you like to relax?

Lucius: I drink. Preferably wine I’ve made myself.

Betty: What kinds of friends do you have?

Lucius: Sadly, my best friends are people who have been through terrible experiences. I’m not sure that there are many people my age who haven’t. I was at Philippi with Horace, the poet. I expect you’ve heard of him. I’m quite proud of him, but don’t tell him I said that. Did you know he wrote one of his odes to me? Haven’t a clue what it’s about but everyone tells me I should be pleased. My other great friend is Marcus Tullius Cicero the younger. Yes, his father was that Cicero, killed by order of our beloved Augustus. Makes you think, eh? We have to pretend to forget all this now.

Betty: Who would you like to meet? Why?

Lucius: I never met Cleopatra. I saw her in Rome once, from a distance. Well, I saw the crowd surrounding her. I wish now I could have seen her close up, got to know why – why people raved about her. I wish she had never met Caesar and had his son. That’s the real reason we had to fight her and Antony you know. That poor kid. Killed by Augustus at the age of seventeen, because he was Caesar’s son. No other possible challenger to Augustus could be allowed to live.

Er – Augustus isn’t going to read any of this, is he?

In the depths of serious illness, the emperor Augustus is forced to rethink how he governs the city. He calls upon the most unlikely helper. Lucius Sestius has made it through conspiracy and civil war and wants nothing more than to drink himself happy in the Italian countryside. Now he, the last of the Republicans, is invited to step up to public service. To Lucius’ consternation, he is catapulted into office just in time to deal with a pestilence sweeping through Italy. Thousands of people are dying, and the river Tiber is riding dangerously high. But Lucius is not just fighting floods and an epidemic. A conspiracy centred on the disgraced general Primus is threatening the emperor, and Lucius is expected to choose a side. Lucius’ idyllic life on his family estate is overshadowed by intrigues in which he wants no part, but a naïve act of kindness brings the wrath of the Emperor down upon him.

Redemption in the eyes of Augustus comes at a heavy price.

Buy Links: AmazonUS * AmazonUK

You’ve faced quite some challenges, Lucius. I appreciate you taking time to answer my questions today. And thanks to Fiona for giving you some time away.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

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

Getting to know Katerina Dunne #author #historical #medieval #history #shortstories #amreading #HistFic

I’d love to take a road trip to visit my next guest! Please help me welcome author Katerina Dunne! She lives in a beautiful country I’d go back to in a heartbeat… Let’s take a look at her bio and then find out more about her and her writing process.

Katerina Dunne is the pen-name of Katerina Vavoulidou. Originally from Athens, Greece, Katerina has been living in Ireland since 1999. She has a degree in English Language and Literature, an MA in Film Studies and an MPhil in Medieval History. While she used to write short stories for family and friends in her teenage years, she only took up writing seriously in 2016-17, when she started work on her first novel. 

Katerina’s day job is in financial services, but in her free time she enjoys watching historically-themed movies and TV series. She is passionate about history, especially medieval history, and her main area of interest is 13th to 15th century Hungary. When it comes to historical fiction, her favourite authors include Elizabeth Chadwick, Kate Innes, Christian Cameron and Bán Mór (the Hungarian author of the Hunyadi series of books) Although the main characters of her stories are fictional, Katerina uses real events and personalities as part of her narrative in order to bring to life the fascinating history of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary, a location and time period not so well-known to English-speaking readers.

Author Social Links: Facebook * Goodreads * Amazon

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

Katerina: It all started because of my love for medieval history and my great interest in Hungary. This story was inspired by the border lords of the fifteenth-century Kingdom of Hungary. These men of middle and lower nobility were the backbone of the feudal armies of the period. Very few of them made it into the chronicles and history books. Their lives must have been hard; a constant struggle to run their own estates and protect them from the relentless Ottoman raiding as well as from attacks by other local lords while also leaving home for long periods to campaign with the king and his barons.

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

Katerina: I am completely new to writing, so I learned and developed many skills. Probably the most important ones would be understanding the POV of a scene and the elements of showing (as opposed to telling) This last technique was the most difficult because I was fresh from my academic studies, where the writing style is completely different.

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

Katerina: I think the hardest part was “embedding” my fictional main characters into the real historical events. Their interactions with real life personalities were the products of my imagination, but I had to base them on research of primary and secondary sources so that they appear realistic and appropriate.

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

Katerina: I suppose my protagonist and his wife because they play the major roles in the story. I created them with many flaws and shortcomings, and so I had to delve a little deeper into their personalities in order to bring forth their development journey.

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

Katerina: Primary sources for the actual historical events (battles, politics, etc.) and the timeline. Secondary sources which provide analysis of these events from a scholarly perspective and also an overview of the social, political, economic and cultural life of the time.

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

Katerina: Too many. I have lost count!

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

Katerina: It took me nearly six years because I am not a full-time writer. I have day job, and I also spent one year doing my MPhil in Medieval History in-between. I also worked with two editors and a number of alpha and beta readers and did so many revisions. I hope that my future novels will not take such a long time as I now have a better idea of the writing craft as well.

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

Katerina: I am not sure if that is considered a ritual or habit, but before I write a scene, I visualize it, even rehearse it in my head as if I am part of it. This helps me put myself in my characters’ minds, speak their words and feel their emotions.

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

Katerina: There are too many I think! “as if”, “suddenly”, “only”, “said”, “asked” to name a few which I later revised.

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

Katerina: I admire a number of historical fiction writers, mostly those writing medieval historical fiction. I enjoy the novels of Elizabeth Chadwick and Kate Innes, but I try to learn a little bit from every book I read.

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

Katerina: It may sound strange, but I do most of my writing and revising in bed, on my laptop. It just makes me feel very comfortable and relaxed.

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

Katerina: I work in the financial services full time. It’s a hard job requiring a lot of attention to detail. I can’t say I enjoy it, but I think it’s an OK job, and it pays the mortgage and the bills.  It also gives me the financial security to engage in my writing without having to worry about how many books I sell.

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

Katerina: Definitely the publishing of my debut novel, Lord of the Eyrie.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Katerina: Historical fiction.

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

Katerina: I think the satisfaction of completing a novel and publishing it is the most important thing. The feeling of creating a story that people can relate to, and of seeing my work out there in the outside world. The comments of the readers who appreciated the novel are great encouragement as well.

Transylvania, Kingdom of Hungary, 1440:

Finally home after five years away, warrior-nobleman Sándor Szilágyi is met by a dying father, a resentful younger brother, his child-bride all grown up and the family estate raided by the Ottomans. As he struggles to adjust to life as a landlord, Sándor’s authority is challenged by two strong-minded and fearless women: Margit, his faithful and righteous wife, determined to keep him on the straight and narrow; and Anna, his sister-in-law, a scheming temptress bent on ruining him in order to take his land.

After committing a mortal sin and desperate to win back the woman he loves, Sándor seeks absolution by accepting his overlord’s summons to fight the Ottomans. But his obsession with war will lead him down a perilous path.

Loyalties are tested, danger lurks around every corner, and Sándor’s struggle to balance his duty to protect his land and family from his relatives’ greedy hands, as well as his duty to defend his country on the battlefield, will come at a terrible cost.

Buy Links: AmazonUK * Amazon * B&N * BookDepository

You’re right that I don’t know anything about that time period, so I’ll add your story to my TBR. Thanks, Katerina, for stopping by and sharing your story with us!

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! And as always, happy reading!

Betty

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

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

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

Getting to know Alana White #author #historical #medieveal # Renaissance #history #fiction #novel #mustread #amreading #amwriting

My guest today has a passion she wants to share with us! Please help me welcome Alana White! Let’s take a look at her bio and find out more about her and her writing process.

Alana White’s passion for Renaissance Italy has taken her to Florence for research on the Vespucci and Medici families on numerous occasions. There along cobbled streets unchanged over the centuries, she traces their footsteps, listening to their imagined voices: Guid’Antonio Vespucci, Sandro Botticelli, Michelangelo, Lorenzo de’ Medici. Alana’s first short story featuring real-life fifteenth-century lawyer Guid’Antonio Vespucci and his favorite nephew, Amerigo Vespucci, was a Macavity Award finalist and led to the Guid’Antonio Vespucci Mystery Series featuring The Sign of the Weeping Virgin (Book I) and The Hearts of All on Fire (Book II).  A member of the Authors Guild, Sisters in Crime, the Women’s National Book Association, and the Historical Novel Society, Alana currently is writing Book III in the series.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Pinterest

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

Alana: One day while reading National Geographic Magazine, I happened upon an article about the assassination plot to murder Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici on a Sunday morning during Mass in Florence Cathedral in 1478. At the time, the Medici family were the leaders of the most powerful political faction in Florence. One brother was killed, one escaped in a most dramatic way. Since I’ve always loved reading historical fiction, I looked for the book with this amazing event at the heart of the story. I couldn’t find one—so, I determined to write it myself.

The more research I did into the time and these fascinating people, the more hooked I became. Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici, Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and my protagonist, Guid’Antonio Vespucci, a lawyer at the time and a bone deep Medici family supporter, were exact contemporaries. Threading together their stories has been equally challenging and enlightening.

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

Alana: Persistence and patience. Just sitting down and doing it no matter how challenging it may be. Persevering. Also, I learned to let my heart lead the way.

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

Alana: I enjoyed writing about Guid’Antonio’s pet dogs. In The Hearts of All on Fire, his little Lagotto Romagnolo, a ginger, curly-haired, truffle-hunting puppy whom he names Orsetto, or Little Bear, is dear to his heart. And to mine. Orsetto has work to do in the story, both as a character and as an important part of the plot. Thus, he earns his spot beside Guid’Antonio on the cover. In The Hearts of All on Fire, Orsetto serves to underscore Guid’Antonio as a good man—one who loves dogs and treats them well. If someone tries to harm one, fear for your life. In Hearts, his beloved Orsetto provides emotion, danger, and fulfillment, along with yet another dog, a brave little stray, who provides Guid’Antonio with the clues he needs to solve the two murderous threads of the story.

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

Alana: A lot! Since my main character was a real-life, well-known Florentine doctor of law, I had to get it “right.” Many of the luminaries of the Italian Renaissance provided me with much grist for the mill. As I say, these are actual people; a lot of research has been done about many of them. Renaissance Florence is a rich tapestry, and it is also a minefield. I can’t write about Guid’Antonio without writing about his friends; Lorenzo de’ Medici, for one strides across a huge stage. These are mysteries, so there must be a crime, one that hits Guid’Antonio close to home, so that we care about him as he untangles the who, how, and why, while protecting those he loves and moving up the ladder of power in Florence.

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

Alana: I lost count. All in all, however, from first draft to completed story required about five years. This is about how long it takes me from book to book, including Book I in the series, The Sign of the Weeping Virgin, and this one, which is Book II. Currently I am working on Book III.

Betty What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Alana: Since these are mysteries, as far as habits, or discipline, really goes, I always plot the entire story before beginning to write. My “overstory,” as I call it, usually runs about 100 pages, or more.

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

Alana: I reply on variations of “smile,” far too much, and I tend to use the word “heart.” I keep a close look out for those two, in particular.

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

Alana: I love Ellis Peter’s Brother Cadfael series set in medieval England, C. J. Sansom’s Shardlake series in Tudor England, and S. G. McLean’s Damian Seeker series set in the time of Oliver Cromwell.

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

Alana: I like a lot of light. In our home, our dining room is all windows, so I enjoy writing there. But then I have a messy dining room table!

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

Alana: When just one reader tells me how much they have enjoyed the book, I feel my work is done. That is why I write: for the enjoyment of others.

Betty What is your favorite genre to read?

Alana: Historical fiction, particularly mysteries.

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

Alana: Again, I enjoy having readers connect with my characters and with their stories. That means everything to me.

Florence, 1473. An impossible murder. A bitter rivalry. A serpent in the ranks.

Florentine investigator Guid’Antonio Vespucci returns to Florence from a government mission to find his dreams of success shattered. Life is good—but then a wealthy merchant dies from mushroom poisoning at Guid’Antonio’s Saint John’s Day table, and Guid’Antonio’s servant is charged with murder. Convinced of the youth’s innocence and fearful the killer may strike again, Guid’Antonio launches a private investigation into the merchant’s death, unaware that at the same time powerful enemies are conspiring to overthrow the Florentine Republic—and him.

A clever, richly evocative tale for lovers of medieval and renaissance mysteries everywhere, The Hearts of All on Fire is a timeless story of family relationships coupled with themes of love, loss, betrayal and, above all, hope in a challenging world.

Buy Links: Amazon

I remember being fascinated by the Medici family at one point in my life. I still want to go to Italy and that region! Thanks for sharing, Alana!

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

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