Getting to know Susan Beckham Zurenda #author #historical #southern #literary #fiction #amreading #literaryfiction

My guest today explores the ramifications of an accident on a family, an accident that could have been avoided. Please help me welcome author Susan Beckham Zurenda! Let’s peek at her background and then learn more about her writing process and inspiration.

Susan Zurenda taught English for 33 years on the college level and at the high school level to AP students. Her debut novel, Bells for Eli (Mercer University Press, March 2020; paperback edition March 2021), has been selected the Gold Medal (first place) winner for Best First Book—Fiction in the 2021 IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Awards), a Foreword Indie Book Award finalist, a Winter 2020 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, a 2020 Notable Indie on Shelf Unbound, a 2020 finalist for American Book Fest Best Book Awards, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for 2021. She has won numerous regional awards for her short fiction. She lives in Spartanburg, SC.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook * Instagram

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

Susan: Bells for Eli is inspired by a real-life first cousin’s tragic childhood accident in the late 1950s when he swallowed Red Devil Lye just before his second birthday. His father was blowing up balloons for his son’s party with the lye and left it in a Coca-Cola bottle. Danny picked up the bottle and drank. Inspired by Danny’s accident, the novel explores how one misstep changes the trajectory of a young boy’s life and creates immense conflict in the lives of those around him in a time and place of supposed innocence, the small-town South of the 1960s and ’70s.  

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

Susan: The genesis for Bells for Eli was a short story that won the South Carolina Fiction Prize many years ago. In that story, I chose a third person limited female narrator, but in the novel, I wanted a more intimate voice to connect with the reader. What I learned in creating Delia’s voice was not to force it. Almost from the beginning it didn’t feel like I was creating the voice so much as it felt like Delia speaking to me. It was much like listening to a girlfriend or one of my daughters talking, but instead of her talking to me, it was through me. I wrote Delia’s dialogue the way I heard her speak inside my head.

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

Susan: Eli’s father, Gene Winfield, was one of the most difficult characters for me to write because I didn’t like him. He is the person responsible, at least indirectly, for Eli’s accident. He’s also alcoholic and volatile. Yet, in his own dysfunctional way he loves his son, and some of his difficulties are rooted in guilt. It wasn’t until I wrote a scene in which Gene intercedes in an attempt to protect his son from bullying by other boys in the schoolyard on a Halloween afternoon that I began to feel sympathy for him. And I was so glad because Gene is human, neither all bad nor all good.

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

Susan: Delia, my protagonist, is the easiest to get to know because she’s the first person narrator and she expresses her feelings openly.

I liked creating all the characters. I missed them a great deal when I finished writing the book. I particularly liked watching Mary Lily, Eli’s mother, come to life because I’ve never known anyone quite like her. But I guess if I’m pressed, I feel closest to my main characters, Delia and Eli, because I experienced everything with them.

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

Susan: Because I came of age in the 1960s-70s, I thought I would remember everything. I was wrong. I researched language, music, cultural icons, among other things. It was so much fun to go back to this time.

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

Susan: I wrote the initial manuscript of Bells for Eli in about a year. After my agent accepted the novel in its initial form, I wrote a subplot (the story of Francie) and wove it into the novel. It was the exact right thing to do.

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

Susan: Most authors write in the mornings, but I typically write in the evenings. I am too distracted and self-critical during the day, but once night approaches, my inner critic goes to sleep, and I can relax and write for hours.

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

Susan: In the drafting stage, I tend to have my characters “glare” too much and put their hands on their foreheads too often. Thank goodness for editing.

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

Susan: I love so many authors, especially Southern authors. There are certain books like The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers that I consider near perfect pieces of writing.

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

Susan: I love to write outside when the weather permits. Mostly, though, I write on an aged desktop computer in my crowded office. My favorite place to read is the bathtub.

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

Susan: I taught English for 33 years and loved my career. During this time, I published a lot of short fiction, but I didn’t start my debut novel until I retired from teaching and began working part time as a book publicist.

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

Susan: Bells for Eli has been well received and has won several awards. I am grateful. But when a reader tells me he/she has read the novel more than once or is still thinking about the characters and the story, that’s the highest honor I could ever hope for. In a letter to his friend ErnestHemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “The purpose of a work of fiction is to appeal to the lingering after-effects in the reader’s mind.” This is my purpose in Bells for Eli: for my characters’ lives to resonate with readers after the novel ends.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Susan: Literary fiction.

In the 1960-s and ’70s fictitious small-town of Green Branch, SC, two first cousins, Eli and Delia, grow up across the street from each other in a relationship illustrating the extraordinary depths of tenderness and friendship in Susan Beckham Zurenda’s debut novel, Bells for Eli. After a life-altering childhood accident compromises Eli physically and makes him the target of bullying, Delia becomes his great defender. Later, in adolescence, the outer appearance of Eli’s accident gone, the cousins’ relationship grows into one with deeper, more complicated feelings. Though Eli dates every girl in town and eventually falls in love, Delia is never far away. At every turn he assumes the role of her protector. His wounds of the heart from childhood never leave, however, and are the catalyst for decisions that bring this novel to a staggering conclusion, and Delia discovers a shocking family secret that reveals truths about Eli she has never known.

Buy Links: Amazon * B&N * Bookshop

This sounds like a very powerful story, Susan. Thank you for sharing it with us!

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 Lynda Rees #author #romanticsuspense #storyteller #fiction #nonfiction #childrensbooks

Today’s guest has a unique view of the world, one I think you’ll enjoy. Please help me welcome Lynda Rees to the interview hot seat! First a glance at her background before we move on to find out more about her writing process and inspiration.

Lynda is an award-winning storyteller living on a Kentucky horse farm. Born in the Appalachian Mountains the daughter of a coal miner and part-Cherokee Indian, Lynda grew up in northern Kentucky when Newport prospered as a gambling, prostitution, and sin mecca under the Cleveland Mob. Her fascination with history’s effect on today’s lives works its way into her written pages.

Having traveled the world working with heads of industry, foreign governments, and business managers during a corporate career in marketing and global transportation, this free-spirited adventurer with workaholic tendencies followed her passion for writing.

Both debut novels are award winners. Gold Lust Conspiracy is her award-winning historical debut novel. RITA finalist and debut romantic suspense Parsley, Sage, Rose, Mary & Wine, Book 1 of The Bloodline Series, is set in Kentucky horse country, followed by books 2-10. Operation Second Chance, also set in Kentucky, was an Imaginarium finalist.

Lynda’s middle-grade children’s books, Freckle Face & Blondie and The Thinking Tree, are co-authored with her granddaughter Harley Nelson. Lynda has also published several non-fiction books and a children’s picture book NO FEAR.

She hopes you enjoy her stories and you become life-long friends.

Lynda Rees, The Murder Guru

Love is a dangerous mystery. Enjoy the ride!©

Author Social Links:  Twitter * Facebook * YouTube

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

Lynda: Fans of The Bloodline Series asked for a favorite character, FBI Agent Reggie Casse, to have her own love interest and series. So, I wrote Hart’s Girls, Reggie Chronicle 1; and U.S. Marshal Shae Montgomery entered the sleepy, rural, horse country town of Sweetwater, Kentucky, and the Reggie Chronicles was born. Hart’s Girls was such a success, I followed it with Heart of the Matter, Reggie Chronicle 2 launched 6/1/22 and Magnolia Blossoms, Reggie Chronicle 3 launched 7/1/22.

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

Lynda: I studied abduction and human trafficking with an FBI Agent and learned a lot about the industry as well as what organizations like the FBI and U.S. Marshal’s office are doing to combat the despicable crimes. It’s fascinating and has many legs. Through romance and suspenseful entertainment, these books are my way of helping the public learn about what’s going on in their neighborhoods, regardless of where you live; and how they can recognize the signs, prevent it from happening to loved ones, and help victims of such crimes recover.

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

Lynda: Yes. Reggie is a wacky, irreverent character who loves to flirt and prank. She’s also hell-bent on saving women and children from criminal activities. As such a strong character, finding a man who would appreciate her personality and career was difficult. Shea Montgomery is just the opposite of what she thought she needed, but he’s perfect for her. They both have issues to get through and over, but in the end, they are meant for each other.

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

Lynda: I adore strong women and portray them that way in all my books. Strong women need strong men. It takes a man with lots of confidence to appreciate my gals. They’re all so fun to create, and I have enjoyed learning them down to their very core.

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

Lynda: As I said earlier, I worked with an FBI agent in order to understand the criminal organizations—not just what they do but how and why. I delved into the psychology of the criminal mindset, and discovered why they are so successful, who their prime targets are and why they’re so vulnerable. I learned what punishments are levied for the varying types of activities, how the FBI and other organizations I mention in my books combat these crimes, and what is done to help victims. Recovery is a long, difficult battle, but it’s achievable for victims to ultimately have happy, productive lives.

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

Lynda: About seven. I write the story in my head. Then I outline the chapters and sequence of events. I write the chapters. I read and rewrite them. I share with my critique groups and incorporate revision. I share with beta readers, then incorporate revision. I do a final edit then send to an editor. I revise with editor revisions. Then I do another final edit.

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?

Lynda: Yes, it’s a typical length of time for me. Putting the first draft on paper took about a month. I let it sit for almost a year while completing another project, then pulled it out again. It took about three more months to complete and submit it for publication.

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

Lynda: Nothing special. I normally listen to audiobooks while marketing, doing social media and answering emails. When I write, however, I need quiet. I have a glass of ice water, a cocktail or glass of wine. Then I sit alone in my office and put hands on the keyboard.

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

Lynda: My pet peeve is overuse of words. I am extremely conscious of it, something I’ve learned over the years. Those that irritate me most are: then, the, very, just, about, down, up, almost. I have a complete list of what I call “edit-out words” available for download at my website under the For Authors tab. It’s at:  http://www.lyndareesauthor.com

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

Lynda: My father was the most courageous man I knew. He always told me I could do anything I set my mind to. I owe my achievement to him. His parents, my grandparents, showed me what love and marriage should be like. My grandfather taught me to read at the age of four with the Bible, while sitting at his side on the porch. We read together every day, and his patience at my continual questions never wavered. From him I learned a passion for reading, learning and for stories.

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

Lynda: I write in my office unless I’m traveling. Then, anywhere comfortable works. I listen to audiobooks in my office while doing work other than writing. I read in my comfy chair in the living room or on the swing out back under the pines.

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

Lynda: I’m a retired Marketing Operations Manager and Global Transportation Manager from Procter & Gamble, having spent thirty-six years traveling the globe for them. I did enjoy it. It was fabulous meeting and working with other cultures, governments, and heads of industry. Now, I enjoy writing full time, my family, many critters and farm life.

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

Lynda: Finishing and getting published my first two novels. Both won accolades from contests. Gold Lust Conspiracy is an historical romance set in 1890’s Alaska. It took over two years of research to write. My first romantic mystery, Parsley, Sage, Rose, Mary & Wine, Bk. 1 of the Bloodline Series, also won awards, and launched the same time as Gold Lust Conspiracy.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Lynda: I love romantic suspense, rom-coms, cozy romance, and hardcore suspense and mysteries; and I occasionally read time travel.

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?

Lynda: I have achieved a comfortable financial status in my life, due to my corporate career and from writing. It’s great to have that stability. As far as defining success, getting good reviews or letters from fans is the most satisfying part.

Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me. I greatly appreciate you and what you do. I can’t wait to meet your readers and fans.

A corpse with a strange tattoo and a kidnapping at their wedding lead FBI Agent Reggie Casse and U.S. Marshal Shea Montgomery to an international ring selling items money shouldn’t be able to buy.

Stephanie Plum meets Alex Cross in rural Kentucky racehorse country. Janet Evanovich and James Patterson are my favorite two authors.

Buy Links: Amazon * B&N * KOBO * Apple

I love stories set in the horse world in one way or another. Thanks for sharing with us, Lynda!

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 Mary J. Wilson #author #sweet #contemporary #romance #YA

Okay, folks, I’m going to make a small confession: my next guest author is in Skye, Scotland and I wish I could be there, too! What a beautiful place and so inspiring! Let’s meet Mary Karlik who writes as Mary J. Wilson and find out more about her inspiration and her writing process.

Mary Karlik combines her Texas roots with her Scottish heritage to write happily-ever-after from Texas to Scotland.

Honoring her Scottish roots, Mary is writing her new series under her mother’s maiden name, Wilson. This Sweet Contemporary Romance series is set in the Celtic music world of Scotland.

You can find her Texas roots in her indie published, Contemporary Young Adult romance Hickville series. She brings her two worlds closer together than ever in her latest novel—Hickville Crossroads—when a young, up-and-coming Scottish teen heartthrob goes undercover in a Texas high school to research his latest role.

She is traditionally published in Young Adult Fantasy with her Fairy Trafficking series set in the magical world of Scotland. The audio version of Magic Heist, the second in the series, was nominated in 2019 for the One Voice Award for “Best Fiction Novel UK Voices Only.”

Mary is currently studying Scottish Gaelic at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye, Scotland. She also earned her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, has a B.S. degree from Texas A&M University, is a certified, professional ski instructor, and a Registered Nurse. 
Mary is an active member of Contemporary Romance Writers, Romance Writers of America, Young Adult Romance Writers of America and Dallas Area Romance Authors.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook * Instagram

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

Mary: Jenny got a raw deal in the last book and I wanted to give her a happy ending. I’m moving into the adult world of Romance and since my new contemporary series is set in Scotland, I thought it was the perfect way to wrap the Hickville High series as I segue into the new world of contemporary Scotland.

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

Mary: I am always working to improve my writing. But the skill I worked on the most was making sure my Scottish characters sounded Scottish. I don’t use “dinna” and “canna” that many authors use. I spend a lot of time in Scotland, I’m working on a degree in Scottish Gaelic at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye, and while I do hear those words, it’s not the standard. To make my characters sound authentic, I tried to capture the cadence of the speech. I also used common phrases that are different from the US. For example, Scotts will say half six rather than six thirty, or at the weekend rather than this weekend.

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

Mary: Yes! The ending is always my biggest struggle. I wanted to have a big black moment resolution, but it was kind of over the top. I added the epilogue to tone it down a bit. I’m still not sure I got the resolution quite right.

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

Mary: I knew Jenny from the previous book, so she was the easiest. But I also found Frasier easy. I knew I liked him the minute he appeared on the page. It was almost like he was there in my imagination waiting for his chance to appear.

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

Mary: I am very lucky because one of my closest friends husband is a movie producer. They were great at answering questions about behind the scenes movie stuff as well as legal issues with child actors.  It was really her husband who gave me the idea. He mentioned that when they were shooting Spiderman, they put Tom Holland in an American high school. As far as the Scottish location goes, one of my closest friends is from Alford near Aberdeen. It was only natural that I use that small village as Frasier’s home town.

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

Mary: Is one million a valid answer? I am a hard core pantser which really means I write a really bad first draft and then revise, revise, revise, and then revise. I have no idea how many times because I’m not that organized.

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?

Mary: HAHA! I have no idea. Maybe 4 months. I should know these things. I write fast first drafts and then everything slows. I think 4-6 months is usually the time it takes me. Again, I should know this.

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

Mary: I have a play list. I always write with music. I am very distractable and the playlist helps me focus. I also write the same time every day and I keep track of how many words I’ve written. I set goals for myself based on the previous day’s word count. I usually try to beat the day before, even if it’s by one word. Sometimes, I really have trouble focusing so I have to set a timer for like 10 minutes. If I can write for 10 minutes without getting out of my chair to see if my sock drawer needs straightening, I can take a 5 minute break. Usually, I end up getting into the groove before the 10 minutes are up. If I’m really struggling, I will ask a friend to sprint with me. I’m really competitive so always manage to write during a sprint. The most important ritual I have is “BUT IN THE CHAIR. FINGERS ON THE KEYBOARD.” I write Monday–Friday and sometimes on the weekend. It’s my job and I treat it like one.

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

Mary: Atmosphere, stomach clinches, and loads of others.

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

Mary: My close writing friends like Pricilla Oliveras and Madeline Martin. It’s been fun to watch their journey. Not only do they work hard to write great books, but they are generous, joyful people. That’s what I want to emulate. And then there are role models I don’t know but love their work like Emily Henry and Jenny Colgan. I am currently obsessed with Emily Henry. Her descriptions are so unique and fun it’s hard to describe. Jenny Colgan is a fun read. I enjoy her Little Book Shop Series, but I love the Muir series. She is a master at creating a world you want to visit.

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

Mary: I write and revise in my office at my desk. I’ve tried writing outside but it’s too distracting for me. My eyes are so tired after 8–10 hours in front of a screen, I listen to audibles more than I read. I listen while I’m doing chores or driving anywhere. I also listen while I’m running or walking unless I’m having trouble with a plot, then I listen to my playlist.

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

Mary: I am very, very fortunate that I do not have a day job. I did for many years. I worked as both a nursing instructor and as a hospital administrator. Those jobs were great, but my passion has always been writing.

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

Mary: Writing the book that is currently with my agent. It is the first book in my new series and I love it more than any book I’ve written. I think it’s the best I’ve ever written. But the best before that is Hickville Crossroads.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Mary: Romance! Romance! Romance! I love a happy ending.

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?

Mary: Hmm. To be honest it’s writing the best I can. But not because I’m all woo woo it’s about being the artist. It’s because if I write the very, very best I can, I have a better chance of people reading my books. At the end of the day, I want to write books that take people on a journey, books that make them feel excitement, sorrow (sorry but I have to have a black moment), relief, joy, and happiness. If I can make someone smile at the end of the book and at the same time anxious to read the next one, that is success. Should I mention my secret, bigger-than-life dream? I want people to feel the joy and passion I have for the music and traditions in the Scottish Gaelic culture. Eeek Spoiler.

Frasier Anderson is one of the hottest teenage actors in the UK, but he’s virtually unknown in the US. Now he’s landed the leading role in a big-budget Hollywood film that could make him an international star.

So how do you prepare a Scot for a role as a Texas high school student? Embed him in a Texas high school. He only has to follow three rules:

No drama. No girls. And no telling who he really is.

Jenna Wiley is smart, funny, and has a few no-drama, no-dating rules of her own. Her friendship with new kid Ethan Smith is perfect and might even lead to something more. Except for a few things that don’t add up. Like his mom being afraid to have company. Or their house, which looks more staged than lived in. Or his sister, whom nobody talks about.

It all comes to a boil when Frasier’s biggest secrets hit the tabloids and the paparazzi swarm Hillside with Jenna in their sights.

Buy Links: Amazon * Nook * KOBO * Apple

Thanks for stopping by, Mary! I think your new book sound intriguing, mainly because I’m into Scotland and music, too.

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!

Meet Delfina, the clairvoyant undercover operative from DESTINY by Laurel Richards

#author #scifi #paranormal #romance #mystery #books #amreading

I have a special guest with me today, a character straight from the covers of Laurel Richards’ Destiny. Please help me welcome Delfina! First a quick peek at Laurel’s bio and then we’ll find out more about our guest.

Laurel Richards is a fiction author with a passion for shifters, space travelers, and other memorable characters. She has gathered inspiration from lots of different sources throughout her life and is here today to share her imagination through storytelling. Laurel writes sci-fi/fantasy, paranormal, and funny mysteries, with various degrees of romance mixed in.

Author Social Links: Website * Twitter * Goodreads

Betty: How would you describe your childhood?

Delfina: I’m lucky. I enjoyed a good childhood with a loving family. I wasn’t an easy kid, especially once my foresight kicked in, but my parents were great. My mother is highly intuitive, though not enough to stand out as being psychic, and my father has an eidetic memory. I couldn’t get away with too much troublemaking with the two of them.

Betty When did you have your first kiss and with who? How did it go?

Delfina: A better question is when I first kissed the man who told me he was my destined soulmate. I was on board a private shuttle, on the run from covert agents who wanted to use me for my power of foresight. I wasn’t sure whether Rave was the good guy or the bad guy at first, since he had so many aliases and secrets. Rave set out to seduce me, and he succeeded. He teased me with a soft brush of his lips before he took charge and kissed me until I couldn’t think straight. I had never experienced such a powerful reaction to a man.

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

Delfina: I’m not sure if I feel more embarrassed about this or simply guilty. I accidentally dropped my emotional support animal, Bulu, in the toilet. In all fairness, she jumped off my shoulder and slipped off the toilet seat. I didn’t mean for it to happen.

Betty If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be and why?

Delfina: When I was young and foolish, I used my power of foresight to win the lottery…twice. The second time was definitely a mistake. I drew too much attention to myself and set some bad people on my trail. Because of my error in judgment, I’ve had to move from place to place, always on the lookout. I have to be careful when I call home to communicate with my parents, and I can’t visit them the way I’d like.

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

Delfina: I’m not going to admit I’m afraid of flying, but I am stressed out by it. That’s why I have Bulu as my emotional support animal. She helps my anxiety when I travel and looks out for me if I space out during one of my visions. Rave knows about my issues with flying, and he comes up with some interesting ways to distract me.

Betty How much of your true self do you share with others?

Delfina: Very little. I have to hide my talent for seeing the future, and it’s hard to get close to someone when you can already foresee how you’ll probably part ways. Relationships are tricky. The Sentinel Agency is made up of people with unique talents, though. I don’t have to hide anything from them.

Betty Are you close to your family? Do you wish your relationship with them was different in any way? If so, how?

Delfina: I love and miss my parents. I have a great relationship with them and, like I said, enjoyed my childhood. I just wish I hadn’t brought them under such scrutiny and surveillance. Because of the risk, I can’t see them and have to be careful about communications.

Betty What characteristics are you looking for in a potential lover/spouse?

Delfina: A good future. Dependability, self-control, intelligence, caring—there’s a whole list of characteristics that feed into this, but I’m a long-view kind of person.

Betty How do you like to relax? What kind of entertainment do you enjoy?

Delfina: There’s nothing more relaxing than brushing my furry friend, Bulu, at the end of the day. Her ears pinken, her head fluffs up, and she makes the cutest humming sound. I love playing with her too. We sometimes go window shopping together. Bulu is quite the fashionista.

Betty What items do you carry in your pockets or handbag?

Delfina: I carry quite a bit, since I’m always ready to make a run for it. For me, I have my hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, ID, registration documents for my emotional support animal, and a water bottle. For Bulu, I have a small container of food, her water bottle—it has a floral print on it—her grooming brush, a tiny toothbrush, and fruity toothpaste from the pet store. Oh yes, and a telescoping curtain rod. You’ll have to read about Bulu’s and my travels to understand that last one.

Undercover operatives have discovered Delfina has the power of foresight, and they want to capture and use her. Accompanied by her emotional support animal, Delfina uses her ability to stay ahead of her pursuers. The one thing she doesn’t foresee is Rave. The Imperian male claims she’s his genetic match, but he has so many aliases that she’s not sure if he’s the good guy or the bad. Attraction ignites as they are thrown together by mysterious government agents, a wildlife trafficking syndicate, and a covert agency that recruits people with unique talents. Secrets, passion, and intrigue collide in this sci-fi romance.

Content: m/f romance, love scenes, fight scenes

Buy Links: Books2Read * Amazon * B&N * Kobo * Apple

Sometimes I wish I had foresight like you, Delfina, but not always. Especially if it makes you a target. I wish you success and happiness! Thanks for stopping by, and thanks to Laurel for giving you the time away to be with us.

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.

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Getting to know MaryEllen Beveridge #author #amwriting #literature #fiction #shortstories #familylife #amreading

I’ve recently dipped my toe into writing short stories, so I am happy to introduce my next guest author to you all! Please help me welcome MaryEllen Beveridge! Let’s take a look at her bio and then find out more about her writing and inspiration.

MaryEllen Beveridge received an MFA with honors from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her short stories have appeared in literary magazines including Pembroke Magazine, The Carolina Quarterly, Other Voices, Notre Dame Review, Cottonwood, Crab Orchard Review, Louisiana Literature, and War, Literature & the Arts. She is a two-time nominee for a Pushcart Prize. A previous short story collection was a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and another was a semi-finalist for the Iowa Short Fiction Award. MaryEllen is a former member of the faculty at Emerson College, where she taught fiction writing and literature. Her first story collection, titled After the Hunger, was published in 2020.

Author Social Links: Instagram

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

MaryEllen: I’m sharing the first story in the collection, titled “Needle at Sea Bottom.” In it, the protagonist, Edna, attempts to redefine herself following her husband’s stroke. I knew a woman in a similar situation—her husband had suffered a devastating stroke—and I wanted to explore how a character would attempt to restructure, and possibly rebuild, her life following this unimaginable event. In this story her husband has become in effect a stranger, and her idea of marriage and home, and the trajectory of her life, have changed radically.

Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?

MaryEllen: The protagonist, Edna, though I felt as if in writing about her I was following her journey, her quest, as it unfolded over time. That is, her situation, her circumstances were known; what evolved for me was how she confronted them and was changed by them.

Betty: Which story element sparked the idea for this story: setting, situation, character, or something else?

MaryEllen: The situation, definitely; the idea of a sudden devastating illness changing a marriage, changing each spouse’s life.

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

MaryEllen: Frank, Edna’s husband because of course his engagement with her has become so limited. Also, Roger Llewellyn, the tai chi instructor, because he wanted to remain unknowable to his class, to remain a mystery.

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

MaryEllen: I researched stroke and its effects. I took a tai chi class and fortunately was given a number of hand-outs that were helpful in writing the story, especially the names and positions of the tai chi moves. I also try to be conscious of naming things, of making each object vivid. So I have collected a number of books I use for research.

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

MaryEllen: This story was first published in Notre Dame Review in 2017, so my memory is a bit hazy. But I always write numerous drafts. I work hard to get language right, one of my preoccupations as a writer.

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

MaryEllen: This is a longer story, 22 manuscript pages, a little over 7,000 words. As a few years have gone by since I first wrote it, I can’t remember exactly how long it took. But I’m a slow writer; I have to really think about my characters.

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

MaryEllen: I write in my small office. No radio programs or music. No coffee or other liquids I could spill. Phone off. I try to be, as they say, dressed and ready. My bookcase contains books I can use for research if needed, and books by authors I admire—it helps keep the environment conducive to work. I also have a dictionary and thesaurus nearby. I usually have a sheet of paper and a pencil for any notes I need to take–ideas I don’t want to lose as I’m working on the story.

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

MaryEllen: “Just” is the big one. Also, “very.” Thank goodness for word search, you can go right to the overused words and change or eliminate them.

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

MaryEllen: Ernest Shackleton. He was a visionary, and courageous, and his remarkable achievement in saving all of his men after their ship was lost in Antarctica, the daring and brutal adventure of it, seems to me to have been an interior achievement too. What makes the man. Who is the man. Also, Virginia Woolf, because she encourages women to abandon conventionality, to take risks. In her essay “Professions for Women” she writes that she had to kill a phantom, the Angel of the House, “in self-defence,” in order to become a writer—the Angel being the voice that tells us we must “never have a mind of [our] own, but…to sympathize always with the minds and wishes of others.” “The struggle was severe,” she tells us. But she won.

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

MaryEllen: I write and revise at my desk; I read in a big chair.

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

MaryEllen: I am a former faculty member at Emerson College. I enjoyed it enormously—the students, fellow faculty members, and the opportunity to read and discuss books on that level.

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

MaryEllen: Perhaps the greatest gift—being able to enter into the environment of books, of literature, as a reader, teacher, and writer.

Betty: What other author would you like to sit down over dinner and talk to? Why?

MaryEllen: Virginia Woolf because I so admire her mind. I especially admire To the Lighthouse—its structure, its concerns about women’s lives.

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?

MaryEllen: I’m grateful to have published books. Before then I had published short stories in literary magazines. Having a book brings one to another level of confidence.

In these 13 stories, the protagonists find themselves living outside cultural mores and expectations as they confront the central questions of their lives. If they see themselves on some level as living in a post-modern world, their actions are driven by the need to recognize and accept its actuality and at the same time to seek order and meaning within its challenges and limitations. Their evolving states of consciousness are explored in their relationship to the physical world, particularly the natural world and the domestic setting. The search for a home often preoccupies them, whether this home is a true place or a place within. The stories offer a window into the inner lives of girls and women that reveals both their richness and invisibility.

Buy Links: Amazon * B&N

Thanks for swinging in for a chat, MaryEllen!

I mentioned that I’ve recently written a short story, but what I didn’t say is that it’s included in the What A Day! Short Stories by Southern Writers anthology that just released on April 5! I took the time in my story, “The Perfect Birthday Gift,” to get to know two of my Fury Falls Inn historical fantasy series characters, sisters Meg and Myrtle. You can learn more about all 11 stories in the book at www.heartofdixiefictionwriters.com/what-a-day/ and buy your copy at https://books2read.com/whataday!

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!

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Getting to know Tempe from Remembered by Yvonne Battle-Felton #author #ghosts #historical #fiction #histfic #nonfiction #shortstories #childrensbooks #podcaster

Let’s welcome Tempe to the interview hotseat! She’s coming straight from author Yvonne Battle-Felton’s novel Remembered. We’ll look at Yvonne’s bio and then meet Tempe. Ready?

Author of Remembered, I am a writer, academic, host, creative producer, and podcaster. Remembered was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction (2019) and shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize (2020). Winner of a Northern Writers Award in fiction (2017), I was commended for children’s writing in the Faber Andlyn BAME (FAB) Prize (2017) and have six titles in Penguin Random House’s The Ladybird Tales of Superheroes and The Ladybird Tales of Crowns and Thrones. I teach creative writing at Sheffield Hallam University where I am a Principal Lecturer and Humanities Business and Enterprise Lead.

Writer of nonfiction and fiction, short stories, novels, children’s adventures, and children’s nonfiction, I love stories in all its forms and aim to create spaces for diverse characters on and off the page, screen, and stage. Host of Write Your Novel with Yvonne Battle-Felton, a write-along podcast series developed with New Writing North, I create and host literary and storytelling events and opportunities.

Author Social Links:  Twitter * Instagram

Betty: How would you describe your childhood?

Tempe: I was a special child. I know other people like to believe that about themselves but for me, it’s the truth. They named a day after me and everything. It’s the De-haunting. It marks my being born and breaking the curse. For years, me and Sister helped Mama around the cabins and helped the other slaves with jobs here and there. As kids, we had the run of the place as long as we stayed away from the House. Seems like anything bad that happened, happened after I stepped foot on that front porch.

Betty: What kind of schooling did you have? Did you enjoy it?

Tempe: You know, sometimes I wish I could have gone to school. But, I was a slave and Walker wouldn’t allow none of his slaves to learn to read or write unless it did him any good. What learning I got was passed on from other people handing it down to me. Kept some of the best stories we ever heard in that book Sister totes around with her. They’re all pressed up together. Some written in words, others wrapped up in memories. It’s the only book I ever had. Only one I ever needed too.

Betty: When did you have your first kiss and with who? How did it go?

Tempe: My first kiss was with Edward. We were sitting near the river, feet dangling over the edge of the bank, toes skimming the water, sinking wishing stones to see which wish sunk first. It had started to rain. Not one of those can’t-make-your-mind-up plop, plop rains that don’t last hardly long enough to make it worth it to run inside but the washtub spilling over, gushing all over the floor type of rain that most people know better than to get stuck in. We were both wet, clothes sticking to our skin but didn’t neither one of us want to be anywhere but right there. It was cold and I was shivering. We huddled close to warm up but wet skin don’t really dry wet skin. So, we shivered together for a while. I’m not going to tell you what I told Mama: that we kissed just to stay warm. So, between you and me, we kissed and it felt so good that we did it quite a few times before we ever got caught.

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

Tempe: Making sure my baby would never set foot on Walker soil a day in his life. My son was born just after the slaves were set free but Walker didn’t tell us nothing about it. As far as Walker was concerned, my baby would be a slave all his life just like me, my Mama and my Mama’s mama. That’s not what I wanted for my boy. I’d die before I let that happen.

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

Tempe: That has to be the time Edward came to the house looking for extra work and Mama sent him away because we didn’t have anything to pay him with. Sister and me had been sick all day. But, when Mama came in to tell us, I just couldn’t believe it. There she was standing smack in front of the only chance I had to have Edward to myself—this is before the kiss, mind. I hopped up, didn’t even roll my pallet up or anything though according to Mama it didn’t seem like I was as sick as she had thought. I couldn’t help myself, I recited everything that someone as strong, capable and handsome as Edward could fix around the house and wouldn’t you know it, she hadn’t sent Edward home at all. He was out back and heard everything I said!

Betty: If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be and why?

Tempe: That’s a tough question. I don’t regret the way I died but I do wish I could have lived long enough to watch my boy grow up. So, I guess if I could change one thing, we would have run away much sooner. Maybe even before Mama left.

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

Tempe: My greatest fear is that my son won’t know his way back Home. Not home like the streets he lives on but home, where you go back to when you’re dead. See, if my boy doesn’t know where he came from, he won’t know where he’s going. His soul’s liable to end up wandering and lost, aimless and rootless all because he wouldn’t know his past if it walked up to him. So, my greatest fear isn’t just him not knowing who I am. It’s him not knowing who he is. I don’t suspect anyone other than Sister knows it.

Betty: How much of your true self do you share with others?

Tempe: Less than a thimble full. I tell Mama a pinch, Sister a pinch, and Edward a pinch. The rest, I keep for myself. You know why? I learned even without being told (that didn’t stop Mama from telling me) that if someone asks how I feel about being a slave, so and so getting sold away, belonging to Walker, that the truth, my true self, ain’t hardly what they want to hear. They want to hear that they in the right and you—even though it ain’t true—are in the wrong. Mama says that sometimes my feelings sort of flicker across my face and when that happens it makes her scared that Walker will see it and send me away or—and I can’t tell which is worse—keep me for himself. So, even after all this time, I keep my true self—the one who wants to be free, happy, safe, in love—mostly to myself. That’s the only way I can see to keep it safe.

Betty: Are you close to your family? Do you wish your relationship with them was different in any way? If so, how?

Tempe: You know, I didn’t really get to know most of my family until after I died. That’s how I got to really know Mama and even my Father. I had never met him when I was alive. Growing up, Sister and Mama and me have always been close. I know it looks like I give her a hard time, but she’s my little sister and I love her almost more than anything. That’s why I still visit—even if it is only to bring bad news.

Betty: If you could change yourself in some way, what change would you make? Why?

Tempe: It sure would be nice to be alive. Not to be young again but to grow old. I’d love to grow old with Sister—she calls herself Spring now. So, I’d love to grow old with Spring and to live long enough to die of old age.

It is 1910 and Philadelphia is burning.

The last place Spring wants to be is in the run-down, segregated hospital surrounded by the groans of sick people and the ghost of her dead sister. But as her son Edward lays dying, she has no other choice.

There are whispers that Edward drove a streetcar into a shop window. Some people think it was an accident, others claim that it was his fault, the police are certain that he was part of a darker agenda. Is he guilty? Can they find the truth?

All Spring knows is that time is running out. She has to tell him the story of how he came to be. With the help of her dead sister, newspaper clippings, and reconstructed memories, she must find a way to get through to him. To shatter the silences that governed her life, she must remember a painful past to lead Edward home.

Buy Links: BlackstonePublishing

Sounds like a haunting tale to be sure. Thanks, Tempe, for stopping in and sharing with us.

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!

Follow Me on Amazon / Facebook / Twitter

Introducing Sir Edward Latham – Character Interview with author Loretta Goldberg #historical #fiction #mustread #books #amreading #amwriting

Australian-American Loretta Goldberg earned a BA in English Literature, Music and History at the University of Melbourne. She came to the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship for piano performance. After careers in music then financial services, she sold her financial services practice to focus on writing. She is on the steering committee of The Historical Novel Society, New York Chapter, where she started the chapter’s published writer public reading series at the Jefferson Market Library, New York, now migrated to Zoom. Commuting between NYC and Chester, Connecticut, she lives with her partner, enjoying extended family, friends, colleagues and animals.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook

Sir Edward Latham: Lady Elizabeth Bolte, Lady Betty? My manservant Joris told me you were sitting in my study, having the password to enter our rooms. That you wished to ask me questions. The password again if you would be so good? Joris is an incomparable servant but can reverse letters into curious muddles.

Betty Bolte: Ah, of course. ‘That long blond is Gloriana’s best man in France today.’ Sir Edward, thank you so much for agreeing to talk to me.

Sir Edward Latham (thinking): The password is right, but I don’t remember any agreement! Is this a dream? The stranger on my carved wooden guest chair displays the confidence of status through wealth or rank. My morning small beer tasted bitter. My servant girl, Marie, Joris’s wife, is an herbalist. She concocts tonics to keep my instincts sharp. She fears that my advanced age of forty-eight has dulled my sense of danger, putting my household at risk. Civil war rages in France, so anticipating who wields power is vital. My instincts haven’t dulled whatsoever—my current unraveling of a plot in Brussels proves that—but I take Marie’s potions to calm her anxiety, she a new mother and fragile. Mayhap her tonic brought me this visitation. Claviceps purpurea, a toxic fungus described by Paracelsus, produces fantastical waking dreams.

Betty Bolte: Sir Edward, don’t be afraid. I come in friendship What do you think is your greatest achievement so far? And why?

Sir Edward Latham: My greatest achievement is easy to describe, Lady Betty. But should I? 

(Thinking) She smiles encouragingly. My greatest achievement. Is Satan tempting me to the sin of pride? I must be wary. Now, the Bolte family exists. Saxon farm holders from Lancashire, they acquired land and rank. Her given name of Betty is after my Queen, the great Elizabeth, Gloriana. But I cannot place her dialect. No burr, a crisp delivery with an upward lilt at the end of her sentences.

She’s not an enemy informer, because her appearance and smell are so unfamiliar my guard is up. She’s of middle years, fleshly padding beneath her skin filling her out pleasingly. But her teeth are white and even, her gums pink like a new-blooming maiden. How can that be? No tooth soap or tooth-drawer could preserve a mouth to the years this woman seems to have attained. Her hair is a springy grey, bare of no jeweled ribbon or bonnet, against fashion. Her smell is not of lead paint, thick fabrics beaten clean, but of a mild soap I don’t know. By contrast, her perfume is less subtle. It’s a solid sweetness of orange, gardenia and peach flowers, a forwardness I associate with, well, not nobility. Rosewater, burnt orange peel and marjoram, with an earthy touch of truffle, are the spicy/sweet individually complected scents women of rank like. We men, too, have individual scents. Most odd is that I’ve seen her necklace of blue and transparent glass beads before, on a similar woman. Well, benign visitation or fungi hallucination, I sense no danger. I’ll play along. I point at my quills, inkhorn and paper. Does she want to write my answers? No. She shakes her head, touching a little glass rectangle on her lap.

Betty Bolte: Sir Edward, let’s begin. What is your greatest achievement? And why?

Sir Edward Latham: Preventing the Spanish Armada from landing on English soil last year. Lady Betty, I am Queen Elizabeth’s, Gloriana’s, best intelligencer abroad. I didn’t start that way. When she made England’s religion Protestant, which was her Divinely anointed right, I couldn’t live as a covert Catholic. Others felt different, which I respect. A life of discreet worship didn’t seem right either. By God’s grace I am gentry, with a duty to defend society against anarchy.

I worked for European Catholic rulers against Dutch and French Protestant rebels. I soon learned how cruel and stupid are these Catholic Princesses. Offensive and defensive weapons are balanced today, so there’s no winning or losing, just more broken bodies and grieving hearts. That can’t be pleasing to the Almighty who created us all. When Philip II of Spain, the mightiest Catholic king, marshaled forces to invade England I became a double agent. I use my access to both sides to importune for peace. Monarchs resent criticism, but peace is my mission.

From the Spanish admiral’s house in Lisbon I got Spain’s original plan for 500 ships to land 60,000 men in England. I got it by trickery. Even in these days of strife, Lady Betty, men’s hearts are often more mutable than the violence of their causes. Bribes, pride in being a keeper of secrets that can only be demonstrated by sharing the secrets, a dainty conscience about a master’s cruelty—we all face judgment day—non-brutish methods can unravel astonishing plots.

Elizabeth had only 120 ships to defend her coast. Fortunately, the Spanish plan shrank to the 130 ships that sailed from Lisbon last year. They were to meet an equal force in the Spanish Netherlands. If those forces could join up they’d be invincible. By God’s grace I helped to prevent their linkage. I fostered in the minds of Spanish ship captains the illusion that the English had a diabolical new weapon we don’t have. Illusion split apart thousands of tons of enemy wood, iron and munitions, not force of English arms. I saw it in Calais.”

Betty Bolte: Sir Winston Churchill said that the truth is so precious it must be protected by a bodyguard of lies.

Sir Edward Latham: I know nothing of Churchills. They’re not a notable family like the Boltes. But the words make sense. The diabolical weapons we don’t have are Hellburners. They’re big ships with thousands of pounds of explosives and every kind of stone, metal and weapon that can crush, shred or impale, trapped within a stone pyramid on deck. This pyramid is designed to explode sideways and not up. No man lights the fuse. A timed clock does the work. This is utterly new. One Hellburner wreaked havoc on Spanish forces besieging Antwerp. Over 1,000 killed in a second, rubble and body parts strewn over a mile and a half. Ever since 1585 Spaniards quake at the word Hellburner. The inventor of this terrible machine fled to England. He was seen there in Sir Francis Drake’s company by Spanish spies. The Spaniards have almost a mystical fear of ‘El Draco,’ who has raided Spanish lands with seeming impunity.

Elizabeth wouldn’t risk her limited powder on an innovation. But for the enemy to think Drake had Hellburners was the goal. I wafted the notion into receptive ears at the Madrid court, which became Royal warnings to Spanish commanders.

Lady Betty, it’s not given to many men to see the fruits of panic by illusion. Almighty God graced me with this privilege. I was on the water in a rowboat in Calais, peering up at the towering castles of Spanish warships, bristling with cannon and crammed with crews. Days of fighting in the English Channel hadn’t dented the impregnable formation of the Spanish fleet.

Around midnight, when the tide favored the waiting desperate English fleet, Drake sent six traditional fire-ships bigger than Hellburners at the anchored Spanish fleet, which had orders to stand firm. “Hellburners!” was the universal shriek as the fire-ships glided closer. It became a general signal to flee. Armed merchantmen pulled up anchors, blundered into each other, frantic yelling of “Pole apart! Axe!” The formation disintegrated, waterborne castles cutting cables, most abandoning anchors. Wobbling stern lanterns mapped their course to open sea.

It was Divine malice, Lady Betty, this mismatch between the Armada’s physical might and the illusion that ripped it up. Without anchors, the monstrous castles on water couldn’t re-group, and would be at the mercy of any wind. A king’s treasure in iron plunged to the sea bottom. The English fire-ships burned out harmlessly, doing no physical damage. As we know now, a north wind blew the Armada around Ireland, where most of the ships were wrecked. Yes, nurturing a brainsick piece of folly is how I helped to shape the great battle of last year.”

Betty Bolte: That sounds like an example of how a slender lever applied right can topple a boulder. Moving to the personal, are you close to your family? Do you wish your relationship with them was different in any way? If so, how?

Sir Edward Latham: Why would you ask about anything as small as one sinner’s heart? My kin are Catholics but accommodate to Protestant rule. I revered my father and am close to my sister, Katherine, who lives. Mother died when I was a child. How I missed her warm hugs. In the days when I had no permission to be in England, I visited Katherine secretly. If I have a wish, it is that my three brothers would accept my choice as Katherine did, and as I respected theirs. But some turbulent times do not admit of tranquility.

Betty Bolte: When did you have your first kiss and with who? How did it go?

Sir Edward Latham: An even stranger question. Evaluate a kiss? Certainly, my wet nurse and nanny gave me many kisses though I have no memory of them. As adults we kiss on the lips freely. But I think you mean the dance of the two-backed beast? Lust, my first bedfellow. Alas, I must demur. Some magnificent bedfellows have honored my bed, whose dignity I revere. You showed me a book about me: The Reversible Mask, an Elizabethan Spy Novel. Do I have a chronicler? The cover is shiny paper, not leather. How can such a flimsiness last? But its image depicts the comet of 1578 over Constantinople. I was there then, had a very great friend, an Ottoman slave serving the Sultan. If I have a chronicler, my notorious loves will be there. About such matters I am stitch-lipped, resisting even the sweetest, most probing, needing tongue.

Betty Bolte: What characteristics are you looking for in a spouse?

Sir Edward Latham: That sounds like the Protestant new-fangled notion of a companionate marriage. For us Catholics virtue and property determine unions. I left that prospect behind.I’m too much the nomad to settle. Indeed, my life is precarious. My loyal household is my beloved family. Are you remembering my words? You write nothing.

Lady Betty turns the glass rectangle around. I see my words, ‘You write nothing.’ What is this? Terror braids my gut, bile rises, I want to vomit. But the close stool is in my bedroom upstairs. I gulp the bile down. It’s a dream. I’ve seen innovations before and survived.

Betty Bolte: How would you describe your childhood?

Sir Edward Latham: You ask questions as if you are not of this earth. What is childhood? We sprawl from the womb, squalling protests amidst a spew of afterbirth. We are scrubbed, wound in swaddling cloth and handed to a wet nurse. We learn later whether the mother who gave us life died from childbed fever. Alas, too many do. As soon as we’re ripped from breast milk, we’re undersized adults, wearing itchy little ruffs, eating little portions of meat, bread, cheese, washed down by much-watered wine.

Betty Bolte: What kind of schooling did you have? Did you enjoy it?

Sir Edward Latham: Our family had a wonderful governess for letters and numbers, then a tutor in fighting arts, riding and jousting, rhetoric, Latin and Divinity. Others go to the grammar schools. Some go to Oxford or Cambridge to be lawyers, scholars or physicians, a few on scholarship. Gentry like me go to Oxford and Cambridge to be groomed as courtiers. Her Majesty visits both. She loves long Latin debates. Those who wish to serve her must pay attention, no matter how much they drank the night before, because she looks for slack mouths and will ask, ‘What did you think of the riposte before the last?’ Woe is the dreamer with no cogent reply. Her Majesty never forgets!

For me, the learning, riding, dancing and lute playing were, and will always be, a joy. But the specter of misfortune hovered equally—plague, a fall from royal favor, fire, yet another change in State religion. There were five gyrations of State religious doctrine before I was eighteen, each bringing possible death for non-conforming. You know my family are Catholics. But when my poor mother died when I was four, King Henry VIII had an anti-Papist policy. I don’t know if my mother got the sacred last rites. To ensure I have access to last rites from a priest in good order with Rome I went abroad. That aside, even in tranquil times, we youths have a sense of somber waiting, if our fathers die young, to assume responsibilities at a tender age.

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

Sir Edward Latham: The true worst I cannot bear to reveal. That night when the enchanting Lady Barbara, greatest singer of the century and my bedfellow, named my deepest fantasies. How? But that’s the nature of genius. I’ll give Lady Betty a more suitable one.  

Ah, a scene out of low theatre comedy, but true.Being chased and insulted bystreet urchins in Constantinople, brazen thugs hurling filth and rotten fruit at me. I was dressed for an audience with the assistant secretary to the Grand Vizier. Fortunately, I’d thought to wear an old cloak I could throw away. They were shouting ‘Dung-sucker’ and other curses because, in truth, I had a foul smell from an adventure the night before. I was going to the baths before the audience.

Have you hobbled miles inside the skin of a two-humped Bactrian camel? Yes, my manservant Joris and I pretended to be a camel. I needed to get inside a warehouse guarded by the Sultan’s ferocious deaf mutes, to see artifacts and papers I suspected were there. We borrowed the camel skin from St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Catholic church in the European quarter of Galata, where it was used in the procession of the Three Wise Men. We were pretending to make a delivery, so a heavy box swayed on top of us.

My great friend Ibrahim enlisted two boys from his household to guide us. Inside the camel was miserable. We stooped under the humps, camel skin pinned around our legs, shoulders bruised by the box. Oh, the stink! Old hair, dried tissue, dander and curing chemicals made us lightheaded and desperate to sneeze. I doused the camel with ox piss, hoping to discourage scrutiny by the guards, who were known to be fastidious. Joris and I were roped at the waist, so when our guide rapped my thigh, my step jerked Joris into motion.

The whole caper nearly ended disastrously. At a thump on the neck, I stopped suddenly. Joris kneed me. Our load wobbled. I heard heavy footsteps, hawking phlegm, spit, a high whine. We pushed our shoulders up, feeling our guide steady the box. My breath out was one of the happiest of my life. We got in and out safely. It was a neat piece of inquiry. Everything I was sent to Constantinople to discover fell into place. A secret alliance and trade treaty between the Sultan and a European monarch I had early knowledge of. But our stinks took scouring after scouring to lighten. Even now I think I can sniff the residue. Truly, Lady Betty, dross is the companion-lover of all our ambitions.

Betty Bolte: I am glad I wasn’t there. How do you like to relax?

Sir Edward Latham: Not being a Bactrian camel. How about if I show you? It’s a good day to walk. I’ll show you Boulogne. King Henry VIII attacked it in 1544, held it for five years. I dine at a harbor tavern, The Swooping Gull. There’s interesting military detritus on the way. The vegetable and fish market in the main square is still open. As we exit the archway of the old walls I can point out new stones where Henry’s cannon breached the fortifications and his engineers tunneled under the wall. On the switchback path down to the lower town, there’s a rotting hulk the French sank during their blockade, which was useless. One sunk ship doesn’t make a barrier. Plague forced Henry to terms.

The Swooping Gull is famous for waterzooi, and Friday is the best day to go The tavern has a curious ritual, rather romantic, which I sense will be to your taste, something St. Francis of Assisi would bless. Before dinner, a swarm of gulls–yellow-legged, black-backed, white-herring patterned, grey-winged—rise into the air, mingling promiscuously, circling nothing, but in military order. An old fellow emerges from the tavern, a sack tied to his chest. At the jetty he thrusts his left arm into the air, holding today’s catch between his second and third fingers. A single gull swoops to retrieve the piece, while the fellow’s right hand pulls a replacement from the bag, left hand meeting it and rising for the next gull. All moves serene and the gulls exquisitely courteous. No gull tries the ground because the fellow never drops anything. Nor do the gulls mistake finger for fish. The legend is that the longer they feed the tastier the meal will be. It’s a better brag than any placard.

I stand, arm extended. I’m still comely, with chiseled features, flaxen, grey-tipped hair and a ready smile over yellowed, but not rotted, teeth. Unusually tall, I’m neither flabby nor gouty. Today I’m clothed in the Tuscan style, wearing a white cambric shirt with blackwork at the cuffs and collar, a black velvet doublet with vertical and horizontal slashes showing russet satin, and discreet silver thread trim. My upper stocks have slashes over russet and black hose. With no shoulder puffers or padded codpiece, my figure is discernible. My boots have leather tassels as fine as fronds. I move out from my desk. Lady Betty stands too, in a fine red wool dress with grey leather patches.

I hear her great sobbing sigh, long and long, see her reaching hand.  “They don’t make clothes like that anymore. Gorgeous fabrics, so lush, so opulent and elegant it hurts!”

I reach out a hand to help her. I meet a vibrating wall of scorching air. My body trembles with sound I cannot hear but know is in me, battering. All goes black. When light returns Lady Betty is gone. I return shakily to my desk, cone out. My guest chair has no residue of her perfume. I rub my clothes. No Tuscan finery, but black wool hose, black linen breeches, loose white shirt and a black jerkin, my letter-writing clothes. But I remember where I saw that bead necklace: on a woman with the same shaped eyebrows coming out of a glover’s shop in Oxford during my student days. A hint of sweet orange wafted above the horse dung. I thought her the goodwife of a steward at a provincial estate. Wherever she’s gone she’s been here before. Did this visitation even happen?  Do I have a chronicler? Ah, asking about a chronicler is the sin of pride. I ring for Joris to send for my priest.

Intrigue, lust and war combine in this debut spy thriller, meticulously researched in events and settings. Young Catholic courtier, Sir Edward Latham, has a brilliant future in Protestant Elizabethan England. His loving family made the necessary accommodations. He cannot. Patriotism and religion wage war in his heart. He throws away title, kin and land to serve Catholic monarchs abroad in missions that propel from Paris to Constantinople and places between. But wandering doesn’t quiet his soul. When war threatens his beloved homeland patriotism prevails. He becomes a double agent for Queen Elizabeth. Life turns complicated and dangerous as he balances protecting country and Queen while entreating both sides for peace.

Buy Links: Amazon or any good bookstore.

Where did he go? He was sitting right there in the interview chair and then—poof!—he disappeared! I suppose he had to get back to work. I hope you enjoyed meeting Sir Latham!

Happy reading, all!

Betty

Best-selling Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

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

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Getting to know Tammy Euliano #author #books #medical #thrillers #physician #teacher

My guest author today writes her stories based on personal experience and of course an active imagination! Please help me welcome Tammy Euliano. We’ll peek at her bio and then find out more about her latest book.

By day, Tammy Euliano, MD, is a Professor of Anesthesiology and Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of Florida where she cares for patients, teaches medical students and residents, performs research, and invents cool stuff. She’s been honored with numerous teaching awards, more than 100,000 views of her YouTube teaching videos, and was featured in a calendar of women inventors (copies available wherever you buy your out-of-date planners).

By night, she plays games with her family (now remotely), plays tennis (badly), cuddles her dogs, reads, and writes medical thrillers. In her writing, she is intrigued by ethically blurry topics and enjoys positioning characters on all sides of a debate, each with a well-reasoned position…or humor…or dogs.

Vacations are for exploring our amazing world. She has dragged her family of five to all the major US national parks, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Costa Rica, the Caribbean, the Galapagos, the Mediterranean, Europe, and New Zealand. Trips are spent soaking up the history and culture while also experiencing nature, often in extreme fashion.

Author Social Links: Facebook * Instagram * Goodreads

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

Tammy: The idea of managing the end-of-life has fascinated me since way before any kid should think about such things. We had a debate in my 5th grade class about the fate of Karen Ann Quinlan, a young woman in a persistent vegetative state whose parents wanted her ventilator disconnected, while the State of New Jersey disagreed. I don’t recall what side my 10-year-old-self argued, but the question never left me. Medical technology and the ability to keep the body alive has far out-paced our ethical ability to deal with the implications.

In medical school and residency, the question resurfaced repeatedly, while watching families’ extended mourning in the ICU, and anesthetizing patients for innumerable procedures despite little to no hope of a meaningful recovery. Meanwhile, the absurd cost of medical care in the US frequently made the news, especially expenditures in the last few months of life and final hospitalization.

Actually getting words on the page took a bit longer. After writing an introductory anesthesia textbook with my mentor, we decided to continue our teamwork with a novel. Sadly he fell ill and passed away, but I had the bug and found the time to start Fatal Intent.

Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?

Tammy: Definitely Dr. Kate Downey, the protagonist. She’s quite a lot like me. Shocking for a debut author, I know. Though a few years my junior, ahem, we share careers as anesthesiologists who specialize in obstetric anesthesia and teach medical students and residents, sometimes using a simulated operating room environment.

Our personalities overlap a bit, or did when I was her age, but there the similarities end. Instead of my tragedy-free life to date, she suffered the loss of her parents and now the traumatic brain injury of her husband. Boy, are we authors cruel, or what? I have to keep reminding my husband that Kate is not me, and he is not her comatose husband, Greg. As for her dog, I’m afraid mine is just as energetic, spoiled, and completely untrained…times two.

Betty: Which story element sparked the idea for this story: setting, situation, character, or something else?

Tammy: The situation. Long intrigued by end-of-life issues, the seeds of a plot began germinating in my head (kind of a gross image, really). Over time, the story world and its characters began invading my real life, popping to mind at all hours, sometimes quite inconveniently.

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

Tammy: The villain, of course. Initially I imagined him wholly evil, then realized he was sort of doing a good thing, just in a bad way, then decided he needed to be evil-er both to raise the stakes and to make it clear what should happen. It was fun trying to get into his head and understand his motivations.

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

Tammy: Since it’s set in my real-life world, not as much as I’ve had to for other books. I did read up on some medical details, how home deaths are managed, and end-of-life laws around the world. Google is my go-to, but I’m fortunate to have connections throughout the medical world to get answers to my questions. Also, there are Facebook groups of lawyers, doctors, and police who will answer questions with their expertise.

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?

Tammy: This story took at least three years to write, though that included realizing I didn’t know how to write and starting over multiple times as I learned what not to do. It’s sequel took less than a year, and I’m hoping the next will be shorter still. I’ve developed some skills, though have much more to learn!

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

Tammy: I’m fortunate to have two great writing locations, one at my house, and one at a lake house we visit on weekends. At both I have a laptop stand and can write standing up outside where my dogs conveniently bring me balls to throw…well, not exactly BRING, but hide somewhere under a bush nearby to keep me awake. Another habit is using a large white board to make a mind map of my plot and finally, having characters write me a hand-written letter about their lives and motivations. It makes them more three-dimensional in my mind. As a friend reminded me, “Each character is the hero of his/her own story, even the villain.”

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

Tammy: I pay attention to “just,” but use “but” way too much. And smile and nod are always a problem, as are look and gaze. I try to picture the movie version and those words just (oops) seem right. I need to continue to read great writers critically to learn how they get around such seemingly insurmountable stage direction.

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

Tammy: I’m a physician, an academic anesthesiologist specializing in obstetrics, to be specific. Besides caring for women in this most special moment, I also teach medical students and residents, and have worked with my husband’s engineering team to develop new medical devices. Since I began writing, I resigned my administrative positions and therefore enjoy my job infinitely more. Managing people is not my forte.

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

Tammy: Fatal Intent is surely it. Related are the amazing blurbs I was able to get from the likes of Lee Child, Kathy Reichs, and Tess Gerritsen, all heroes of my author journey.

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?

Tammy: Learning that I reached readers in an impactful way would define success for me. That I held their attention, took them away for a while, made them think, maybe taught them something, but most importantly that they enjoyed their time in the world of my imagination and it brightened their day (or night, or hopefully both). Ideally, that it also stuck with them afterward in some meaningful way.

When her elderly patients start dying at home days after minor surgery, anesthesiologist Dr. Kate Downey wants to know why. The surgeon, not so much. “Old people die, that’s what they do,” is his response. When Kate presses, surgeon Charles Ricken places the blame squarely on her shoulders. Kate is currently on probation, and the chief of staff sides with the surgeon, leaving Kate to prove her innocence and save her own career. With her husband in a prolonged coma, it’s all she has left.

Aided by her eccentric Great Aunt Irm, a precocious medical student, and the lawyer son of a victim, Kate launches her own unorthodox investigation of these unexpected deaths. As she comes closer to exposing the culprit’s identity, she faces professional intimidation, threats to her life, a home invasion, and, tragically, the suspicious death of someone close to her. The stakes escalate to the breaking point when Kate, under violent duress, is forced to choose which of her loved ones to save—and which must be sacrificed.

Buy Links: Amazon * Indiebound * Kobo * B&N * Google * Apple * Chirp

I agree wholeheartedly with your friend’s advice that the villain is the hero of his/her story, too. Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your intriguing story with us, Tammy!

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!

Getting to know Anise Eden #author #suspense #romance #paranormal #bookchat #books #fiction

Please help me welcome fellow author Anise Eden! Let’s find out a little bit about her and then move right in to the Q&A.

ANISE EDEN is a psychotherapist-turned-writer of award-winning suspense novels with romantic elements and paranormal twists. Originally from the U.S., Anise now lives in Ireland with her husband and their small, benevolent canine dictator. You can learn more about Anise and her books at AniseEden.com. Member of RNA, Sisters in Crime, and the Irish Writers Centre.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Pinterest

Betty: When did you become a writer?

Anise: I started writing in high school, thanks to a wonderful English and creative writing teacher. My mom says I’ve been writing stories and putting together little books since I learned to read, but I admit I have no memory of those early self-published works!

Betty: How long did you work on your writing skills before you became published?

Anise: I wrote my first novel in 2012, then worked on it obsessively until my agent sold it to a publisher in 2015. It was published in 2016, so while I had written poetry previously, I worked on my novel-writing skills for four years prior to publication.

Betty: What authors or stories do you feel influenced your writing style?

Anise: I believe my writing style has been influenced by everything I’ve ever read, to be honest. Some authors who gave me the courage to write in a way that felt natural and organic to me were Barbara Kingsolver, Audre Lorde, and Wally Lamb.

Betty: What prompted you to start writing?

Anise: I began work on my first novel several months into my first experience of forced unemployment. A breakdown in my health led me to leave my social work job, and I began writing as a way of trying to understand what had led to that breakdown. Then the story took on a life of its own.

Betty: What type of writing did you start with?

Anise: In high school, I fell in love with poetry. I worked seriously on that craft for about fifteen years, and had some poems published in small journals. I still love reading poetry, but these days I only write two or three poems a year. My focus has shifted to novel writing, and now it feels constricting to me to write anything under 70k words!

Betty: What do you most enjoy writing? Why?

Anise: I love writing stories that, while firmly grounded in the real world, explore parts of the human experience that remain mysteries. I am a huge science geek, but like so many of us, I’ve also had experiences that defy explanation. I enjoy weaving those elements into uplifting love stories with suspenseful plotlines that keep the pages turning.

Betty: How did you learn to write? A mentor, classes, conferences, craft books, or something else?

Anise: In terms of novel writing, I learned by doing, then revising endlessly based on feedback from (very generous) friends and family members. My intensive writing education began while working with my agent, and later with editors in preparation for publication. Collaborating with editors is so exciting for me, and one of my favorite parts of the writing process.

Betty: What do you wish you knew before you started writing/publishing?

Anise: I wish I had understood how drastically the publishing landscape has changed since about 2014-15. That was the year I sold my book, so my expectations were somewhat outdated, based as they were on the experiences of writers who had published prior to this new era in the industry.

Betty: What other authors inspired you (either directly or through their writing) to try your hand at writing?

Anise: Before I started writing my debut novel, I read the first two books in the Spiritwalker Trilogy by Kate Elliott. Her soaring, lyrical prose and the sheer ambition and originality of her stories were an inspiration, and I was on the edge of my seat, waiting for the third book to come out (it was worth the wait!). Reading her books and being encouraged by her intrepid heroine gave me courage to try something new.

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

Anise: After health issues forced me to leave behind my career in psychotherapy, I began writing to try to make sense of what happened. At the same time, I was watching the TV show “Medium,” which prompted me to wonder about the evolutionary origins of paranormal gifts; as a creative exercise, I constructed a Bronze Age origin myth. Those two elements combined as I wrote my first chapter. Then, the story of The Healing Edge Series and its characters landed in my head all at once, banging on my consciousness and demanding to be put on the page. That initial first chapter ended up in the scrap heap, but from there, the trilogy was born.

All of Cate’s problems are in her head. That may be her greatest strength.

Cate Duncan is a promising young therapist, dedicated to her work. But after her mother’s suicide, she is seized by a paralyzing depression. To save her job, Cate agrees to enter a treatment program run by the mysterious Ben MacGregor and his mother.

Housed in a repurposed church, the MacGregor Group is a collection of alternative healers whose unconventional approaches include crystals, aura readings, and psychics, but they need Cate’s unique powers. As her emotional struggles bring her ever closer to her own abyss, Ben will do everything in his power to protect Cate from those who wish her harm—including herself.

A powerful novel of suspense and a wildly inventive start to this paranormal romance series, All the Broken Places engages readers with its striking blend of the supernatural and the psychological.

Excerpt:

In my dream, there was no thought of suicide. We were simply potting begonias on the back porch, getting our hands dirty and inhaling the dueling scents of spicy flowers and sweet earth.

My mother tried—and failed—to sound light and casual. “So, Catie, have you met anyone interesting lately?”

A man, she meant. Without looking up to meet her probing gaze, I said, “Come on, you already know the answer to that question.”

“Okay, okay. I can’t help it, though. I have to keep asking.” She smiled as though she knew something I didn’t. “Maybe soon.”

In one of my typical clumsy moves, I dropped a large clump of potting soil on the floor.

“You don’t have to get it absolutely everywhere, you know,” she teased.

I slid my hand down her forearm, leaving behind a dark streak. “Like that, you mean?”

“No, like this,” she replied, dabbing a glob of wet dirt onto my nose. At once, the dirt-smearing competition was on.

In the midst of our squeals and contortions, I noticed a black pen mark peeking out from beneath the neck of her t-shirt. “What’s that?”

“What’s what?”

“That mark.” I pointed.

She looked down, puzzled, and stretched her collar out until we could both read the words that had been written across her collarbones: “Do Not Resuscitate.”

My dirt-streaked palms flew up to cover my mouth. Mom gazed at me, her eyes heavy with unshed tears. “You’d better go now.”

Buy links: Amazon * B&N * iBooks * GooglePlay * Kobo

Sounds like a powerful story, indeed! Thanks for coming by today, Anise.

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.

Martha Washington and her daughter’s epilepsy #history #medicines #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

During this past week’s celebration of the one-year anniversary of the release of Becoming Lady Washington, I read an excerpt from the book dealing with the many treatments they tried and which failed to help Martha’s daughter with epilepsy fits. It brought to mind just how far the world of medicine has come over the last 250+ years.

I am not a medicine historian by any means but I have read a good bit about how people tried to fight off diseases in the 18th century. Here’s the excerpt I read on Wednesday, with the various kinds of treatment mentioned in bold italics:


Mount Vernon – 1768

One afternoon in September, George searched me out, finding me in the hall where I sewed in the brighter light the area afforded to my work. I set aside the stitching to attend to what he was about to convey. I braced myself when I noted his serious expression. “What is it?”

“I need to speak with you.” George placed a chair nearby and sank onto its wood seat. “I’ll be leaving in the morning to attend the assembly, but I shouldn’t be gone but a month or two. Did you wish to accompany me?”

Oh, how I’d adore to travel with him to Williamsburg, as it would give me the opportunity to visit with my mother and kinfolk. But not with Patsy ill so frequently. My heart simply was not interested in the gaiety of the balls and dinners and the whirl of society in the colony’s capitol.

Dr. Rumney was a necessary but not entirely wanted guest. Each time I sent for him, desperate to find a solution to my daughter’s increasing fits, I prayed for strength and peace. Allowing myself to lose my composure would not help any one. Better to keep calm and seek out ways to comfort and encourage my daughter.

I smiled at George, a small rueful grin as I shook my head. “I desire nothing more than to be at your side, but I cannot leave. I do not trust any one else to attend our daughter. She’s not up to traveling, either. The journey and upset might undo any strides Dr. Rumney has made.” George’s eyes held a wealth of compassion and concern, but I wouldn’t stand between him and his obligations. I could handle the household in his absence. More importantly, I trusted he’d come home if I needed him. “Go and do what you have to. Only do not stay away a moment longer than your business requires. I will be anxious for your return.”

George enclosed my hand in his. “I give you my promise to return as soon as possible.”

Two months passed while I did my utmost to remain positive. But Patsy continued to need the doctor’s ministrations. I kept one eye on her and one on the door, waiting for George’s return. He wrote to me weekly, sharing the gossip and that he’d been asked to lead the Virginia Militia. My pride for his stellar reputation and the resulting trust placed in his hands bolstered my flagging energy. I’d do nothing to give him cause to be less proud of me than I was of him. When George trotted his stallion up the lane in November, Billy at his side like an appendage, I met him at the door to guide him to where Dr. Rumney yet again administered nervous drops and musk to Patsy.

I caught a sharp appraising glance from George, but didn’t give him chance to comment on my admittedly haggard appearance. I’d attempted to correct the ravages of months of worry, but apparently had not succeeded. A fact unsurprising when I considered the keen judgment he possessed. Whether appraising the conformation of a horse or determining the trustworthiness of a servant, he missed nothing. Hurrying him to Patsy’s room, I trusted speed would blur the edges enough to avoid further commentary. No matter what else, at least George returned home to help me shoulder the burden of worry.

“How long has the doctor been here?” George asked quietly, his voice rumbling in the passage.

“This time? An hour or so.” I kept my voice low as we turned the corner.

“I know you’re worried, as am I. We will do all we can, Patsy.” George pulled me to a halt outside the closed chamber door and embraced me, a lazy bear hug that stole my breath for a few moments. Blissful moments snug within the protection of his arms. He eased me away from him and pecked a kiss to my lips. “How frequently has Dr. Rumney been summoned?”

“Weekly.” I clung to his hands, needing their strength and stability, and craned my neck back so I could search his expression. “He continues to use purges and bleedings. Ointments and drugs of various kinds. But it’s all guessing. He told me they do not know what causes these terrifying visitations on a person’s body.” A sigh clawed its way from me. “It’s a terrible thing, to watch your child suffer and be unable to alleviate or remove the cause.”

The last fit had been the worst I’d ever seen, and the absolute hardest event to witness. She’d started to shake uncontrollably, biting her tongue until it bled, and then dropped unconscious. I had eased her to the floor with a bump. She’d slept in my arms for nearly ten minutes before she roused. Ten long, agonizing minutes of staring at her closed eyes and willing for her to be well. I’d sent for the doctor posthaste. I shuddered at the memory. We must find an answer.

“Let’s see what he has to say today.” George opened the door and ushered me inside the sunny room.

Patsy sat in a chair by the window, dark eyes in a pale face, lips brushed with pink, brunette curls hidden under a kerchief, a colorful lap blanket warming her legs. Dr. Rumney turned from where he’d been stirring yet another dosage of nervous drops into warmed sherry. Not that it had worked previously. Surely something would cure her ailment. The tension coiled inside of me would take a miracle to release. A miracle for Patsy.

“Welcome home, Colonel.” Dr. Rumney tapped the spoon on the edge of the glass and laid it on the table. “I do believe we may be making a bit of progress in managing your daughter’s symptoms.”

George strode forward and shook the doctor’s hand. “That’s good to hear, doctor. We’re naturally very concerned about the increased frequency of the attacks.”

“It’s not my fault, Father.” Patsy frowned slightly. “I try to stop them but I cannot.”

“We know it’s outside of your control, dear.” George glanced from Patsy to me and then the doctor. “We’ll keep looking for a way, anything with any hope of success will be tried. Understood, Dr. Rumney?”

“Of course.” Dr. Rumney hurried across the room and handed Patsy the glass. “Drink this and let’s hope it will help abate the events, or at least lengthen the time between them so you can play the spinet again.”

I clasped my cold hands in front of me. After the years of increasing frequency and violence in her spasms, of doctor visits, and a slew of treatments, what more could we try? “Perhaps if we took her to take of the waters at Warm Springs?”

Dr. Rumney put various tools and bottles back into his bag and snapped it closed before addressing me. “I’ve never heard of any one recovering from the falling sickness by doing so, but if it comes down to it, we might try that as a last resort. In the meanspace, continue giving our lovely patient sips of the musk twice a day as prescribed. If you have any further concerns, send for me.”

“Thank you, doctor. I’ll walk you out.” George ushered the doctor from the room, casting a last glance back at me with an encouraging smile.

“Mama, please don’t be sad.” Patsy reached out a hand, wiggling her fingers until I wrapped them with my own. “Would you like for me to play your favorite song?”

I lifted her hand to press a kiss to the fingers. The same fingers that had reluctantly pressed the ivory keys for years. “Yes, I would like that very much.”


The treatments included in this passage were not the only ones they tried. In fact in Patricia Brady’s excellent biography Martha Washington: An American Life, she states:

“Epilepsy was untreatable by any medical knowledge of the day. The Washingtons spent much time and money consulting a variety of doctors (at least eight of them over the years), trying changes in lifestyle, mountains of medicines, and treatment with ‘simples,’ that is, herbal remedies. Dr. William Rumney, an Englishman in practice in Alexandria, treated Patsy regularly for five years, coming down to Mount Vernon every few weeks to examine his patient and bring capsules, powders, pills, and decoctions. Throughout her ordeal, antispasmodics such as valerian and musk were the primary medicines prescribed—to no avail. At one point, poisonous but often used mercury and severe purging were ordered, Martha nursing and watching her daughter throughout. Another time, a blacksmith came and put an iron ring on Patsy’s finger, based on an English folk belief that such rings prevented seizures. Later, they spent a month at Warm Springs, hoping the waters might be beneficial.”

During the yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia later in the century, 1793, they resorted to firing guns in the air and lighting fires in the streets along with wearing amulets around their necks to ward off the evil disease. Lots of folk medicine ideas were based on fear and hope not science.

One last reminder. Just for a few more days, both in honor of Memorial Day and Martha’s 290th birthday on June 2, I’ve discounted the ebook of Becoming Lady Washington: A Novel from its regular $4.99 to $2.99 (I would have made it $2.90 if I could have!). This is a limited time sale so get your copy today!

Thanks for reading! I hope you have a wonderful summer of reading and relaxing ahead.

Betty

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

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

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

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

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

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