Halloween Flash Fiction: Haunting Beauty #amwriting #amreading #Halloween #Halloween2022 #shortstory #flashfiction #fiction #haunting #ghosts

October has finally come around bringing fall’s cooler temps and Halloween! In honor of which, Poised Pen Productions is hosting a flash fiction giveaway with a prize filled with books, gift cards, and swag. More on that in a moment, but first I’d like to tell you about my flash fiction written specifically for the occasion.

Last year I challenged myself—okay, my local writers’ group challenged each of us—to write a short story. That story, “The Perfect Birthday Gift,” appears only in the What A Day! Short Stories by Southern Authors anthology which released in April. It’s also linked to the Fury Falls Inn historical fantasy series, so you may want to get your own copy to read that exclusive story. (Hurry! The anthology will only be available through October 5! You can buy your copy here)

This year I was asked to write a flash fiction story for Halloween. Something under 1000 words. Now keep in mind I typically write novels, ranging in word count from 70,000-120,000. So, what the heck? The short story in the anthology was just under 5,000. Could I write a spooky story under 1,000? After some pondering, I drew from two events in my childhood—exploring a haunted building (or so I believed at the time) and having my dad scare us at a Victorian-style rental one fall—to write a 650-word romantic spooky story.

Writing short is much harder than writing long when you’re used to space to delve and explore actions, reactions, and motivations behind the characters. But writing short also hones the ability to cut to the essence of the narrative, sharpening the focus on what is important to the tale being told.

You can enter the giveaway simply by signing up with your email, and you’ll be given options for earning additional entries. Good luck!

My contribution follows:


Haunting Beauty

© 2022 Betty Bolte

A thump sounded overhead, then another. Footsteps? I shuddered. “We should…go.”

The ancient house moaned, wind whispering past like voices of ghosts in the dark.

“Not yet. I want to see where it happened.”  Cam grabbed my hand, and I squeaked in alarm. “Come on, Georgie.”

I planted my feet, but he tugged harder and drew me close. My heart raced so in my chest I could only hear its thundering in my ears. I stumbled along beside my fiancé toward a back room, stepping over a dropped pillow with what looked suspiciously like dried blood on its embroidered front. No, maybe catsup. I swallowed back the fear rising in my throat. Probably blood.

“They say she died in bed. That’s probably the bedroom, don’t you think?” Cam eased us closer to the scarred door, mostly closed as if trying to keep secrets from escaping but failing miserably.

“I…” I swallowed again instead of revealing the depth of my fear. He’d talked about invading the abandoned house for months to satisfy his morbid curiosity about the decades-old mystery surrounding the remotely situated farmhouse like fog. We do everything together, which I’m usually happy about. Even proud. This Halloween night? Not so much.

A thud behind me had me twisting around to stare into the dusky light of the hallway. Cam squeezed my hand and then let go as he strode briskly down the hall and with a flick of his hand told me to stay put. Alone. “Cam?”

“Shh.”

“Cam!”

He disappeared around the corner. I sucked in a shaky breath and tried to keep my knees from knocking together. I folded my arms across my chest as I stared down the empty hall. Suddenly, a light flared at the far end, illuminating a monstrous face floating in the darkness. Floating toward me slowly, inching closer with its open maw and glowing eyes. I screamed and the face vanished.

Cam guffawed. He clicked on his flashlight and swept the light over my face. “Gotcha.”

He sauntered up and I punched him on the shoulder. “Not funny.”

He pulled me into his warm, comforting embrace and held me tight for several moments. Kissing me lightly, he gazed into my eyes. “I’m sorry. I won’t do that ever again.”

I nodded and snuggled into his chest. “Thank you.”

He’s such a good man. Smart. Loving. Playful. His entire family loved to prank each other. If I weren’t so nervous about being in this reportedly haunted house, I would have laughed at myself. But something about the chilly and foreboding atmosphere of the place had every nerve on edge.

“Let’s just take a peek and then we’ll go have pizza. Okay?”

I nodded and squared my shoulders. “With extra cheese and jalapenos.”

“Jalapenos?” He noted the stubborn lift of my chin. “Fine. You win. Come on.”

Gripping his hand, I followed him through the squealing door as he pushed it open. He stopped just as the door bumped into something, sweeping his flashlight over the area. The bed occupied the center of the far wall, its mattress bare and…stained. The broken-out window let the sighing wind breathe through the bedraggled lace curtains.

“Looks like she really did die in bed.” Cam strode closer to the marred mattress, dragging me reluctantly along. He pointed to the largest dark red blotch. “I bet that’s where she bled out, too. It’s terrible to think about it.”

“See enough?” I hoped he had. I was more than ready to leave.

“Yeah.” He swept his light around the room one last time and then froze. “Uh…”

I looked where he aimed the light, shining on a young woman’s otherworldly figure in a white nightgown, blazing gold orbs for eyes, dangling dark tresses shifting in the eerie wind. She summoned us with a mesmerizing sweep of her ghostly fingers.

I screamed then turned and ran without looking back. Cam’s footsteps followed me down the hall and out the door. We tumbled into his Jeep and sped down the driveway, never to forget the haunting beauty.


This was fun to write, but did you enjoy it? What challenges have you made for yourself?

Happy fall! Happy Halloween! 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.

Did you know… You can order signed paperbacks of any of my books at The Snail on the Wall   book store!

Fury Falls Inn in 1821 Alabama. A place for ghosts, witches, and magic. A place of secrets and hidden dangers.

Amazon Fury Falls Inn Series Page

The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn (#1)

Under Lock and Key (#2)

Desperate Reflections (#3)

Fractured Crystals (#4)

Legends of Wrath (#5)

Homecoming (#6)

Meet Silas Fairhope – Character Interview #FuryFallsInn #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread

I’d like to do something a little different this week and that is to introduce you all to the lead character in Legends of Wrath, Silas Fairhope. Silas is the youngest of the four brothers in the family. Like me, he’s a writer and knows how to address a topic to a given audience. So, let’s put a few questions to him and see what he has to say, shall we?

Betty: How would you describe your parents?

Silas: For years I’ve thought of them as mean spirited and unloving. Until I came to the Fury Falls Inn at my sister’s request. That’s when I discovered the truth behind their seemingly uncaring actions that sent me away from home to fend for myself for years. Now I understand how much they cared and loved all of their children, even if it appeared on the surface that they didn’t.

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

Silas: My oldest brother, Giles, taught me how to swim when we were younger and still living at home. Me and my brothers would go to the lake down the road from our house and spend all afternoon splashing around and jumping in off the rope swing. What a fine memory. Up until the day my cousin drowned and everything changed.

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

Silas: I think not seeing what was happening to my family, or at least not fathoming the causes. I was still young, just entering my teen years when the tensions began and the relationship began to fray.

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

Silas: That’s easy. Being reconnected with my sister, Cassandra, and my brothers. I’ve been on my own, feeling a bit lost and floundering about in search of something I couldn’t define. Turns out, that something is my family. It’s good to find a home again.

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

Silas: I wouldn’t change the past because the situations we confront and the choices we make all define who we are. Changing the past would undo the lessons learned from them. Still, I do sometimes wish my cousin hadn’t died. I miss him and his easy grin when he was about to do something stupidly daring.

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

Silas: I didn’t realize it until I came to the inn at Cassie’s request. My greatest fear has to be living alone for the rest of my life. I thought I handled the isolation from my family but I was fooling myself. I can see clearly now how I hid that truth from myself for years. Acting as if traveling around the country could fill the void left by my sister and brothers.

Betty: What’s your favorite game to play?

Silas: I enjoy a game of cards now and then but who has time to play when you’re on the move every day of one’s life? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy seeing the sights of America and meeting fascinating people to write about for the newspapers. I just don’t have a lot of time to play games.

Betty: Do you have a favorite sibling? Who?

Silas: Shh, don’t tell anyone, but I adore my sister. I’ve missed her beautiful smile and her sense of humor. I was so glad to hear from her even if her news was so sad, that our mother had died. She didn’t tell me until I arrived just how our mother had been murdered, so that was a surprise. But I’ve always felt close to her on a different level. Now I understand the connection is more than simple affection but has magical undertones to it.

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

Silas: Of all the places I’ve visited, I’ve enjoyed the mountains most. If I could have a cozy mountain cottage on a pretty piece of land, I’d live right happily I think.

Betty: How do you like to relax?

Silas: With a good novel, of course. I like for a story to transport me to places I can’t travel to on my own. I can pretend for a short period to visit other countries, for example.

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

Silas: A good adventure tale is always enjoyable to read. I thoroughly enjoyed Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was excellent. Anything along those lines will entertain me for hours.

Betty: How do you like to start your day?

Silas: I put down a few lines each morning in my journal to help me focus on priorities for the day.

Betty: What kinds of friends do you have?

Silas: I don’t really have any since I’m on the move so much. Perhaps now that I have what I’d like to think of as a home base here at the inn I can also begin to make a few friends. We’ll see.

Thanks, Silas, for taking time away from your writing and travels to talk with me for a few minutes. Your story, Legends of Wrath, really answers many questions posed during the earlier stories in the Fury Falls Inn series.

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.

On sale during July 2022!

The first 4 books in the Fury Falls Inn historical fantasy series set in 1821 Alabama in a haunted roadside inn are reduced! The final 2 books, Legends of Wrath and Homecoming will release on August 9 and are up for preorder now!

Fury Falls Inn in 1821 Alabama. A place for ghosts, witches, and magic. A place of secrets and hidden dangers.

Amazon Fury Falls Inn Series Page

The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn – $.99

Under Lock and Key  – $1.99

Desperate Reflections – $1.99

Fractured Crystals – $2.99

Legends of Wrath: Books2Read     Barnes & Noble     Amazon     Apple     Kobo  

Homecoming: Books2Read     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple

Menu Planning for Historic Gathering #FuryFallsInn #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

One of the most fun things I do when writing my stories is coming up with historic menus or individual foods to include. In Homecoming, the 6th and final book in my Fury Falls Inn series, there is both a wedding supper and an Allhallows Eve party in need of delicious entrees and desserts. So I pulled out my colonial recipe books—I have 3 of them not including Martha Washington’s recipe book—and perused the offerings within their covers.

Some of the items I’ve prepared in my own kitchen over the years. You can find a couple of them on my Book Club page at my website. Some of the items on the menu were typically served even if I wouldn’t serve them to my husband today. Curious as to what I envisioned for the two important menus?

Apple-stuffed acorn squash

Wedding Supper

Roast turkey with cranberry relish

Asparagus dinner rolls

Apple-stuffed acorn squash (this is one I’ve made and will make again. See the recipe for Legends of Wrath)

Martha Washington’s White Cake

Allhallows Eve Feast

Gazpacho

Stuffed roast hare

Scotched and colloped venison steaks

Turnip greens with bacon/vinegar

Stuffed eggplant

Sweet potato pudding

Beets in orange sauce

Relish, pickles, olives, etc.

Pumpkin bread

Molasses gingerbread

Burnt custard (known today as crème brulee)

Brescia cheesecake

Pound cake (made this 1824 recipe and it’s so yummy! See the recipe for Homecoming)

So what do you think? Sound like a tempting array of goodies?

Now I’m hungry! Until next time, happy reading!

Betty

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

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

On sale during July 2022!

The first 4 books in the Fury Falls Inn historical fantasy series set in 1821 Alabama in a haunted roadside inn are reduced! The final 2 books, Legends of Wrath and Homecoming will release on August 9 and are up for preorder now!

Fury Falls Inn in 1821 Alabama. A place for ghosts, witches, and magic. A place of secrets and hidden dangers.

Amazon Fury Falls Inn Series Page

The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn – $.99

Under Lock and Key  – $1.99

Desperate Reflections – $1.99

Fractured Crystals – $2.99

Legends of Wrath: Books2Read     Barnes & Noble     Amazon     Apple     Kobo  

Homecoming: Books2Read     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple

Celebrating Independence Day with a Free Book to Read — Emily’s Vow #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

Happy Independence Day! For a limited time only, Emily’s Vow (A More Perfect Union Book 1) is free to read! This series is set during the American Revolution in besieged Charleston, South Carolina. Get your free ebook in any format at https://claims.prolificworks.com/free/xM9vNXhB.

About Emily’s Vow:

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

As the American Revolution drags on, Charles Town, South Carolina, remains under siege by the British, and one woman’s father is determined to marry her off to a suspected traitor. Emily Sullivan is beset from all sides but vows to fight her own war for independence. Using the best tool she has—her pseudonymous essays—she embarks on a path toward her freedom, risking the town’s condemnation as a female writer. A path putting her at ever greater odds with her father and the man she’s supposed to marry.

Frank Thomson walks a fine line between spying for the Americans and being a perceived loyalist traitor. He desires to end the blasted war and return to his private life. Unfortunately, the enemy conscripted his home. He accepts lodging from Captain Sullivan, happy to be under the same roof as his beloved Emily until his house is returned. Posing as a simple printer of broadsheets and pamphlets, he sends crucial encrypted intelligence to the general camped outside of town. But when Frank learns Emily has been imprisoned by the enemy, he risks his own life, freedom, and heart for hers.

Books2Read     Barnes and Noble      Amazon      Apple     Kobo     Google Books     Bookshop

For signed paperback, contact The Snail on the Wall Book Store

If you enjoy Emily’s Vow, I hope you’ll continue with the other books in the series: Amy’s Choice, Samantha’s Secret, Evelyn’s Promise, and Elizabeth’s Hope.

Until next time, happy reading!

Betty

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

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

On sale during July 2022!

The first 4 books in the Fury Falls Inn historical fantasy series set in 1821 Alabama in a haunted roadside inn are reduced! The final 2 books, Legends of Wrath and Homecoming will release on August 9 and are up for preorder now!

Fury Falls Inn in 1821 Alabama. A place for ghosts, witches, and magic. A place of secrets and hidden dangers.

Amazon Fury Falls Inn Series Page

The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn – $.99

Under Lock and Key  – $1.99

Desperate Reflections – $1.99

Fractured Crystals – $2.99

Legends of Wrath: Books2Read     Barnes & Noble     Amazon     Apple     Kobo  

Homecoming: Books2Read     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple

Impressions of The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I’ve finished reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. If you missed my initial thoughts, you may want to hop over there to read that post first. Let me just say how much I enjoyed reading this story. It’s a kind of gothic mystery, murder mystery, historical, blended with a coming of age romance of sorts. There’s a lot going on, with lots of red herrings and mysterious doings sprinkled throughout.

The use of the key elements of gothic tales really creates the atmosphere of this story. Not only the large, shadowy spaces featured throughout. There are fallen angels pointing accusingly toward one of those immense buildings, angels made of concrete who outlive the symbol of power and money as it is abandoned by the rich family and falls into ruin. You’ll find disfigured people, too. Strangers who become friends who find out they don’t really know each other as well as they’d thought, or hoped. Families that break apart, and some that come back together. Freaky weather—unusual rain, flooding, and snow, for example—lends an unsettled air to the tale.

One strong thread throughout this entertaining and intriguing story is that of the power of friendship and family. True, not every friendship and family survives the throes of this tale of the 20th century. The ones that do are forged in fire to withstand anything going forward, though. I particularly enjoyed and appreciated the friendship between Fermin and Daniel, Fermin acting as a kind of unreliable mentor at times but with a heart of gold. Daniel grows throughout the story both in size and maturity.

Zafon’s story is memorable and engaging, one I think is worth reading. Some of the descriptions (metaphors, similes, etc.) were a bit flowery for my taste. Not to say any of the writing was bad! Not at all. I wonder though if the somewhat exaggerated (?) terms is because of the translation from Spanish (a romantic language) into English (more a Germanic based language). Someone else will have to determine the answer to my question, since I don’t know Spanish and of course don’t have the Spanish edition to compare to even if I did.

Zafon also created unique and individualistic characters to have to work together, or against each other, in order to help solve or confuse the puzzle Daniel and Fermin are trying to solve. Corrupt police. Killers. Librarians. Booksellers. Housewives. Mothers. Girlfriends. Guy friends. Shady people working in cahoots with the corrupt police. It’s quite a fun mix.

I hope you’ll give this book a chance. I think it was definitely worth reading, which explains the well-worn covers and pages!

I’m going to take a little break from this tour of historical fiction because I’ll be having surgery and treatments for breast cancer over the next few weeks. I don’t expect to have a post next week because the surgery is this Friday. I’ll get back into the swing of it in a week or two, and will most likely start telling you more about my upcoming releases in July and August. But I will swing back to this series because you all seem to be enjoying it as much as me! And I’m learning more and more about nuances to writing from different countries.

Have you ready Becoming Lady Washington yet? If not, in honor of her June 2 birthday, it’s on sale through the end of June 2022. Think of it as a fictionalized autobiography of her life, from when presented to society until she died. I hope you enjoy it!

Until next time, happy reading!

Betty

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

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

On sale for only $1.99 for a limited time!

Patsy Custis manages a large 18th-century plantation in Virginia but as a widow she struggles to balance her business with caring for two young children. When Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her, her life veers in an unexpected direction. But when trouble in the form of British oppression leads to revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, she must decide whether to stay home or follow her heart into a dangerous future.

Books2Read     Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple     Google Books     Bookshop

My Impressions of The Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

If you enjoy mysteries set in the art and chess worlds, you’ll enjoy The Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. If you haven’t read my Initial Thoughts on this book, please take a moment to do so before continuing with this post.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this author’s elegant writing. His descriptions are so poetic and vivid. Dialog flows and reveals much about each uniquely crafted character. Yet he has woven a mystery into this sometimes shocking (to me, at least) depiction of life in Madrid in 1990 (I think that may be the timeframe of this story after reading the entire book). I have never been to Spain, so don’t really have a frame of reference for the locations mentioned in the story.

The mystery stemming from a hidden inscription on a painting called The Chess Game involves reverse playing the game depicted on the chess board. Now, I have played chess in the past but I am not a very strong player. One surprise in this ebook (borrowed via Hoopla from my local library) was the number of illustrations, specifically of the chess board and the location of the pieces being mentioned in the story. That helped me to understand the moves and decisions the players were having to make. (It also made me realize I can add some more illustrations into my own books, but that’s another story entirely!)

Each of the individual characters were distinct and memorable. Some I loved to hate, some were edgy, some were funny, and the main character, Julia, seemed like she’d make a very good friend. She’s smart, loyal, trusting until that trust is broken. Some of the characters I’d avoid in real life because you simply cannot trust them. Which ones are which, you’ll have decide for yourself.

Another interesting aspect of this author’s story is that the ending is rather open-ended. The reader is left to decide how they envision what the characters will do next. The author does provide the options they are faced with but not their final decisions. It’s left me debating, knowing the characteristics of the individuals involved, what path they’d choose. It gives the reader the power to choose the ending they’d prefer. Curious, isn’t it? Authors don’t typically hand over that power to the reader, most preferring to definitively end the story. I don’t know if this is a common technique from authors in Spain or that general region, or particular to this author. I’m also unsure whether I could pull off the same sort of ending as effectively as Pérez-Reverte has done.

One other thing I’ll mention about reading this book. I borrowed it from the library as a digital book available via Hoopla. I read it on the app on my iPad. I must confess I’d much prefer to read the actual paperback. I couldn’t resize the tiny text to something just a little bit larger so it was harder to read than an actual paperback I could hold in my hands. The iPad is also slimmer, so for me it was tiring to hold. I ended up propping the device on a small pillow to “hold” it so I didn’t have to.

So next up on my Historical Fiction (Authors) Around the World tour is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Zafon is another author from Spain, so maybe I’ll find answers to my questions above. And it’s an actual paperback, too!

Check out the sale on Becoming Lady Washington below, in honor of her June 2 birthday.

Until next time, happy reading!

Betty

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

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

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

Patsy Custis manages a large 18th-century plantation in Virginia but as a widow she struggles to balance her business with caring for two young children. When Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her, her life veers in an unexpected direction. But when trouble in the form of British oppression leads to revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, she must decide whether to stay home or follow her heart into a dangerous future.

Books2Read     Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple     Google Books     Bookshop

Initial Thoughts on The Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I’ve begun reading the next book in my Historical Fiction Around the World tour of historical fiction authors, which is The Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. This book is translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa, an award-winning translator. The setting is Madrid, Spain and the original book was published in 1990; the edition I’m reading was published in 2004. I’m about 40% through the digital book via Hoopla. I haven’t had as much time to read over the last week because of some travel to two cities over the last week. But I’m back home and will get back to my normal rhythm and routine for the next month at least.

In trying to determine whether this story is actually historical fiction, I considered the premise of the fact that it involves a “five-hundred-year-old murder,” one which is alluded to in a 1471 painting, The Chess Game, created a few years after the actual killing. So, 500 years after 1471 would be 1971, and the book was first published in 1990. The “definition” of historical settings is anything at least 50 years before the time of writing and/or publication. So while the story is all about solving an historical murder mystery, I’m hesitant to call the story itself historical fiction.

The main female character, Julia, is apparently living in contemporary times and is an art restorer working on restoring The Chess Game. Even if we assume she is living in 1971, the book was published in 1990 which is 19 years after the time in which the character is living. It’s also only 32 years earlier than our present time. See, I just can’t make the historical fiction claim work. That said, it’s a fascinating story and a murder mystery too boot!

I’m thoroughly enjoying the vividly unique characters as well as the sleuthing into the mystery encapsulated in the painting. I feel like I’m being educated on art analysis at the same time as learning how to determine previous chess moves based on the current placement of the pieces. I didn’t even know that was possible, so it’s intriguing to me. I’ve played chess in the past but I would not call myself a chess player. I prefer checkers…

The tone of the story enhances the rather dark atmosphere of the art world, too. I think Pérez-Reverte has a great story going and I’m anxious to find out more about what’s going to happen and to whom.

Until next time, happy reading!

Betty

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

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

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

Amy Abernathy is a woman renowned for her storytelling prowess but even she cannot invent a sound reason for her suitor’s inexplicable actions. She picks up the shreds of her heart and endeavors to forget him, until he suddenly appears without any fanfare or explanation.

Benjamin Hanson returns to make amends with his captivating Amy. While he knows she’s upset with him, he also knows she’ll eventually forgive him and agree to marry him. But marriage has to wait until after he’s finished spying for the Americans against the British during the war.

When he discovers her and a friend—along with a precious gem—missing from her sister’s home, he finds them in the hands of desperate renegade soldiers. Can he protect the women, the gem, and his heart before it’s too late?

Books2Read    Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple    Bookshop

My Impressions of The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I have finished reading Nguyễn Phan Qué Mai’s The Mountains Sing. This story is set in Việt Nam and really paints a clear picture of the difficult life and times of the people who lived there in the 1930-1980 timeframe of the story. You can read my Initial Thoughts on the story from last week here. I’ve come away from this story with a deep appreciation for the culture and the people that I did not have prior to delving into these pages.

As the book description states, the story is “an intimate, enveloping story of four generations of the Tran family, as seen through the eyes of the matriarch, Tran Dieu Lan, and her granddaughter, Huong.” (I must apologize for not including all of the diacritic marks. I simply don’t seem to have them in my word processor.) So the overall structure of the story is Huong telling the story of her grandmother telling her about life when Huong’s aunts and uncles were children. The family faced many hardships and tragedies, including being separated for several months when they were forced to flee for their lives.

One thing I really appreciated was seeing the impact and impressions of the Việt Nam war on the people of that country. My brother fought over there—he was a Ranger in the Army—during that conflict and came home very different. In fact, he’s estranged himself from the family for the past 30+ years. Reading about the conflict from the other side of it gives me a much clearer idea of what he might have seen or done that he never would tell me about. I was a child at that time and not aware of what was happening. I have since watched a documentary on the war and now this story provides another view of what transpired.

The hardships and sacrifices throughout this book are incredible to me. I realize how very fortunate my life has been that I’ve never faced such challenges. Some seemed insurmountable I’m sure. Survival is one very strong thread running through the lives of these characters. Family and cooperation also underlie everything. Working together to keep the family together no matter what they faced. It’s a powerful story. I’m very glad I read it.

So next up for my Historical Fiction Around the World tour of historical fiction authors is The Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. This author is from Spain. This will be the first book I read from the Hoopla app on my iPad/iPhone. So a new experience in checking out books from the library for me!

Until next time, happy reading!

Betty

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

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

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

Amy Abernathy is a woman renowned for her storytelling prowess but even she cannot invent a sound reason for her suitor’s inexplicable actions. She picks up the shreds of her heart and endeavors to forget him, until he suddenly appears without any fanfare or explanation.

Benjamin Hanson returns to make amends with his captivating Amy. While he knows she’s upset with him, he also knows she’ll eventually forgive him and agree to marry him. But marriage has to wait until after he’s finished spying for the Americans against the British during the war.

When he discovers her and a friend—along with a precious gem—missing from her sister’s home, he finds them in the hands of desperate renegade soldiers. Can he protect the women, the gem, and his heart before it’s too late?

Books2Read    Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple    Bookshop

Initial Thoughts on The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

The next book on my Historical Fiction Around the World tour Nguyễn Phan Qué Mai’s The Mountains Sing. I’ve dipped my reading toes into the story to test the waters. I’m enjoying the writing and the author’s voice that is telling the story. Good signs!

I’m intrigued by the organization of the novel. It comprises 16 chapters, each a different place and range of time in Viet Nam. The opening chapter is set in 2012 with the final chapter in 2017. In between are flashbacks to different periods of the 20th century: 1930-1980.

I recently heard another author talking about the cultural differences between storytelling/fiction in Western versus Eastern cultures. That reminded me to dig deeper into those distinctions to further my appreciation of the novel I’m reading. I wasn’t really surprised to see how much analysis and discussion there is regarding this topic. If you haven’t poked a nose into the discussion, you might start with this blog. You’ll at least come away with an understanding of the effects of culture on storytelling. I’ll continue reading with those concepts in mind to make sure I see them, too.

The use of extensive flashbacks isn’t new to me. It can be an effective way to tell the story of a person, since the character/person must have lived for some stretch of their life before you can tell their story. Understanding stems from distance from the events of our life, in many ways. At the moment, we don’t always appreciate the underlying significance of our choices and decisions or serendipity. That’s my feeling, anyway.

Okay, I need to get back to reading so I can let you know what I think of the story itself next time.

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

Amy Abernathy is a woman renowned for her storytelling prowess but even she cannot invent a sound reason for her suitor’s inexplicable actions. She picks up the shreds of her heart and endeavors to forget him, until he suddenly appears without any fanfare or explanation.

Benjamin Hanson returns to make amends with his captivating Amy. While he knows she’s upset with him, he also knows she’ll eventually forgive him and agree to marry him. But marriage has to wait until after he’s finished spying for the Americans against the British during the war.

When he discovers her and a friend—along with a precious gem—missing from her sister’s home, he finds them in the hands of desperate renegade soldiers. Can he protect the women, the gem, and his heart before it’s too late?

Books2Read    Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple    Bookshop

My Impressions of The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds by Selina Siak Chin Yoke #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I’ve finished reading The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds by Selina Siak Chin Yoke. As I’ve said previously here, this paperback comprises 464 pages including several informational sections like a glossary and a word about the language used in the story. It’s consists of 5 parts plus a prologue and epilogue, more on that in a minute. The story is written in first person past tense, which is suitable for someone writing a memoir-esque work of fiction. In fact, the author uses a distinctly nonfiction technique throughout her story.

If you’re looking to virtually experience Asian culture, in this case Malay and Chinese, I’d highly recommend this story. Not only the language used, the expressions used, but also the décor, the clothing, the food, the religious rituals and rites. All is woven into a beautiful tapestry of life and people in Malay.

But more than just a fictionalized cultural study, the story explores the tensions between tradition and modernizing. Of following the dictates and norms of how one is raised to act and behave, as opposed to what the next generation adapts to. Especially, in this case, the Western influences on the traditions and expectations of the Asian cultures. I was reminded of the tension between my mother and myself “merely” because of the age difference, not a cultural difference. Mom was 42 when I was born, 60 when I graduated high school. Expectations had most definitely shifted by then!

So let’s take a quick look at the structure of the novel. Like I said before, the story proper is divided into a prologue, 5 parts, and an epilogue. Each section is set in a different span of time, too. I think it’s interesting to see what is emphasized within those sections of the story. If we look at page count by section we’ll find the following:

Prologue 1938 – pages 1-4 = 4 pages
Part I: My Early Years 1878-1898 – pages 5-61 = 57 pages
Part II: The Hand of Fate 1899-1910 – pages 63-146 = 84 pages
Part III: Struggle 1910 – August 1921 – pages 147-281 = 135 pages
Part IV: Uncharted Territory September 1921-1930 – pages 283-360 = 78 pages
Part V: The Twilight Years 1931 – 8 December 1941 – pages 361-452 = 92 pages
Epilogue [December 1941] – pages 453-455 = 3 pages

So my first glance at these divisions makes me wonder about the relative importance of each of them. Obviously, we can discount the short prologue and epilogues, not solely because they are short. But, having read the book, I can tell you the prologue introduces what the main parts are going to discuss and why, while the epilogue wraps up what happens after the main story ends. Both have their functions, and provide needed information for the reader to fully enjoy the story. They don’t need to be long to accomplish their mission.

Despite the fact Part I: The Early Years is setting up the foundation which the main character, Chye Hoon, must grow from but never quite outgrows throughout her life, is the shortest of the parts. I suppose I understand that, because just like in life, our childhood is the shortest phase of our existence and yet it continues to impact the rest of our long lives. It took me many decades to overcome my mother telling me to sit on a chair and not move! I think I took her far too literally…

By contrast, the longest section is Part III: Struggle. It’s also the central section of the novel and I think is the heart of the story. This part shows the kind of mettle Chye Hoon possesses through some very difficult times in her life. Her efforts on behalf of her family bring to mind the kinds of sacrifices my own father endured as a child but then also turned around and had to rely upon as an adult. Not the same exact difficulties, but I can see the same determination to do whatever necessary to support the family in both of their actions.

Another aspect of the structure I found interesting is the use of flashbacks as integral to the telling of the story. In this book, the author frequently begins a scene with Chye Hoon stating a major or surprising happening followed by how it came about. Essentially, the character tells a story within the story up to and beyond the initial event that begun the scene. This structure emphasizes the sense of memoir or autobiography in the book. A rather interesting crossover of technique from a nonfiction genre to a fiction one.

I wonder if that technique is unique to this author or is it one employed by Asian storytellers in general. I am not a storyteller (oral) but from the little experience I’ve had around them they well might use this technique more than I’d realized. Either way, it’s one to stick in my toolbox!

So, next up on my Historical Fiction Around the World tour is one recommended to me just last week while I was at the IBPA PubU Conference in Orlando. I’m going to read Nguyễn Phan Qué Mai’s The Mountains Sing. This author is a Vietnamese poet and this is her first novel though she has written several other books. I hear it’s excellent so stay tuned!

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.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

Amy Abernathy is a woman renowned for her storytelling prowess but even she cannot invent a sound reason for her suitor’s inexplicable actions. She picks up the shreds of her heart and endeavors to forget him, until he suddenly appears without any fanfare or explanation.

Benjamin Hanson returns to make amends with his captivating Amy. While he knows she’s upset with him, he also knows she’ll eventually forgive him and agree to marry him. But marriage has to wait until after he’s finished spying for the Americans against the British during the war.

When he discovers her and a friend—along with a precious gem—missing from her sister’s home, he finds them in the hands of desperate renegade soldiers. Can he protect the women, the gem, and his heart before it’s too late?

Books2Read    Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple    Bookshop