Choosing A Period-Appropriate Book for a Character to Read #research #history #FuryFallsInn #amwriting #amreading #American #histfic #historical #fiction #books

I love to include places I’ve visited as well as classic authors and their books in my fiction. So in writing Desperate Reflections (Fury Falls Inn Book 3; Coming May 2021!), I looked for a “new” book Cassandra could read in the gazebo in 1821. My first thought was of Sir Walter Scott’s book, Waverly, because I was pretty sure he was writing around the turn of the 19th century. And I own a treasured copy of it. So I went in search of my copy to confirm its publication date. Now, my copy is special to me because I bought it while on a university hosted study abroad trip. It was a summer course for essentially the entire month of July 1995 in Great Britain entitled Literary Landscapes and Journeys of the Mind. That was the first and only time I have traveled abroad without family with me. It was an amazing and eye-opening experience, too. If we ever sit down over a cup of coffee together, ask me about it. <wink>

Here’s a short snippet from my upcoming release of Desperate Reflections where Cassie is reading:

She looked down at the book in her hands. Abram had let her borrow his copy of Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Waverly. Apparently, he had easy access to many books in the cosmopolitan world he lived in. He’d recommended it to her as a distraction and a great romantic tale. She opened the cover and noted it had been out for seven years, but it was entirely new to her. The story of an idealistic young man who fought for the Jacobites in 1745 Scotland seemed like a good way to not think about what was happening around her. To not think about what might happen when her aunts arrived. To not think about what other family secrets lurked in the shadows. Turning to the first page of the story, she ignored everything else.

Or tried. The rattle of wheels and thump of hooves tempted her to see who was coming and going. The smell of cake baking in the bread oven wafted past, teasing her nose. Her stomach rumbled, making her wish it was closer to dinner time. Another tweak to her empathic senses made her glance up, seeking the cause. Inwardly she shrugged. She wouldn’t actually see what caused the sensation. She returned her wayward eyes to the page and tried to absorb its contents, the reasons for why Scott had chosen the title name for the main character. She read the passage again but finally gave up with a sigh and let her gaze wander as she closed the book. So much for losing herself in an enchanting tale.

One of the many literary linked places we visited was Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott. Now he is not my all-time favorite author but I have read, enjoyed, and studied his work, making visiting his house a treat. The castle is absolutely stunning! I fell in love with his library which was immense and beautiful.

We had a brief tour on our way to Rydall Hall. I bought my copy of Waverly from the gift shop at Scott’s impressive home. My task assigned by my professor was to write a journal about my experiences, impressions, thoughts, hopes, whatever. That was the best idea ever because I have an immense notebook of my daily take on what we did and saw and experienced. I’m surprised that I didn’t actually write anything about Abbotsford in my journal despite having taken pictures of what I saw there. But I vividly remember how stunned I was by the library!

If you’re on NetGalley, Desperate Reflections is now available for download and to review. Look for it to release on May 11, 2021!

Can you believe it’s almost April already? This year is flying by for me. I guess I better get back to work.

See you next time. Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. Her plan? Seduce the young man, who is acting as innkeeper while her father is away on business, into marrying her. But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. He quickly learns that running a roadside inn in northern Alabama in 1821 means dealing not only with the young woman and her hostile mother but also with horse thieves and rogues. When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint are forced to face unforeseen challenges and dangerous decisions together in order to attempt to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who doesn’t have any plan to leave…

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Getting to know E.V. Svetova #author #YA #fantasy #mythical #mystery

I think you all will enjoy meeting my next guest! Please help me welcome E.V. Svetova! A quick peek at her background, which is fascinating by itself, and then we’ll get to find out more about her and her writing.

I was born in Moscow when it was the capital of a now extinct empire, and I had a chance to experience both the security and the subjugation of the totalitarian state. In retrospect, it was a winning combination of a happy childhood and a subversive youth. When the country I knew disintegrated like planet Krypton in front of my eyes, the shockwave of that explosion blew me across the world. I’ve landed on the island of Manhattan and have considered myself a New Yorker ever since.

These days, I live at the edge of the last natural forest on the island with my husband, a digital animator, sharing our old apartment with an ever-expanding library and a spoiled English bulldog.

I studied psychology as an undergrad and later received a Master’s in humanities from NYU. My creative nonfiction was published in a few literary magazines; a young adult fantasy https://evsvetova.com/books/print-in-the-snow. Print In The Snow won an IPPY gold medal; the manuscript http://evsvetova.com/books/over-the-hills-of-green, Over The Hills Of Green was a finalist in the Faulkner-Wisdom Creative Writing Competition. I am a member of WFWA.

Website * Facebook * Instagram


Betty: When did you become a writer?

E.V.: I’ve been writing stories before I knew how to write. My first books were hand-drawn comics, and, for some reason, the pages turned right to left. I think I still have one of those little books.

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

I’m an eternal student. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, but only became a published author in my late forties.

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

E.V.: I grew up with classical Greek mythology; folklore and fairytales have always been my prime fare. That informed my affinity for speculative fiction in general. As a teen, I’ve been force-fed the Russian and other European classics, and as a result I am a nerd snob. I love science fiction and fantasy, and I adore magical realism. My absolute favorite writers, besides some obvious Russian classics, are Samuel Delany, Ursula Le Guin and Gene Wolfe.

Betty: What prompted you to start writing?

E.V.: Well, those voices inside my head needed to be shut up somehow.

Betty: What type of writing did you start with?

E.V.: Probably some fairytales with me as the protagonist – I was a kid, so it’s forgivable.

Betty: What do you most enjoy writing? Why?

E.V.: I am absolutely fascinated with the way language works, the way it affects the reader, transforms us and transports us. It’s the ultimate magic to me.

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

E.V.: I don’t remember ever not taking a workshop, or a class, or not reading a craft book. I think, I’m like those people addicted to therapy, except my therapy is studying the literary process. Since I’m not a native English speaker, I always had to work a little harder. I was privileged to work with a true master, Jacob Miller, whose literary workshop I attended for years. Besides being an amazing teacher, he is a student of the Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky, so there is a deep cultural connection as well.

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

E.V.: I wish I was prepared to the degree of rejection one faces when entering the publishing world. It’s truly soul-crushing.

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

E.V.: If I read a book and feel inspired to write afterwards, that means it hasn’t awed me and feel I can do better. After reading my literary idols I feel like not wanting to write at all, that’s how simultaneously sated and discouraged they make me – because how can I ever dream of approaching their level? So, no, I don’t look for inspiration in other people’s work. Nature, visual arts, even film, but not books.

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

E.V.: This novel Over The Hills Of Green came to me when I had a high fever, laid up with a flu. The whole story just played before my eyes like a movie. The characters are from a story, Print In The Snow, that I wrote in my late teens in Russian and later translated into English, and it is a natural continuation of the earlier adventure.

Otherworldly and mundane collide when a young New York psychologist takes on a charismatic patient who may be delusional or may literally come from the Otherworld of her suppressed childhood nightmares.

Driven to solve the intriguing case, Anna Reilly tries to unwind the thread of John Doe’s story, but instead becomes entangled in an uncertain relationship that challenges her sexuality, sanity, and her very sense of reality. When he inexplicably disappears, Anna’s professional and personal life comes undone, leaving her unsure whether she is expanding her mind or losing it, and whether the androgynous John is a mystical guide or a psychopathic con artist. Finding him will either provide her with the keys to the mysteries of the universe or complete her break from reality.

OVER THE HILLS OF GREEN is the second book in The Green Hills series. The first award-winning book, PRINT IN THE SNOW, sets in motion the events that change young Anna’s life forever.

Excerpt:

Anna never had any more of the vivid dream-memories Yaret’s closeness had brought. The dreams she could recall were now mundane, easily traced to the sensory impressions of the previous day. In her waking hours, though, she kept seeing things, and not just the usual monsters in the dark. Every so often, an elm leaf, mottled like an inscribed parchment, would blow in from nowhere and lie at her feet in the middle of a busy intersection; a shadow made by a torn wire fence of a construction site would create a geometric, almost runic pattern in the dust; a seagull, too far away from the shore, would leave lines of wet scribble-like tracks on the polished granite cornice of the hotel down the street. In moments like those, it seemed to Anna all she needed was to see with true sight, and she could read the messages the universe was sending her. Of course, Anna rationalized that is was no more than her human brain utilizing its natural acumen at pattern-discernment, yet, sometimes, she would take off her glasses, and the cityscape, reflected in her nearsighted eyes as a painting in broad careless strokes, was rich with meaning so profound it didn’t require interpretation.

Buy links: Books2Read

Thanks so much, E.V., for sharing that story with us. Anna’s mundane dreams sound like most of mine, although I have had a few, um, interesting ones of late.

I hope you all had a Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Thanks for reading!

Betty

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

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

Getting to know Jacie Floyd #author #contemporary #romance #womens #fiction

Jacie, thank you for being my guest. Please tell my readers about yourself, and the book you are sharing with us today.

Throughout her life, Jacie Floyd resided in the solidly Midwestern states of Indiana, Missouri, Iowa, and Ohio. Going to school, finding her ideal mate, raising two perfect children, and following her husband’s career relocations from state-to-state kept her more than busy. Despite numerous jobs and professional attempts of her own, nothing career-wise ever stuck. In her heart of hearts, she longed to follow her dream of being a full-time writer. So, in 2014, she enthusiastically ditched the unfulfilling day job and freezing mid-western winters to live and write in sunny Florida… Until the possibility of grandmother-hood became a reality, frequent air travel became impractical, and the idea of living so far from her children became unbearable. So a recent relocation to Louisville, Kentucky has absorbed much of the past six months, and winter has been a horrible reminder of why she left the area in the first place. The promise of her first grandbaby in May more than made up for what is, hopefully, her last major move. But she will continue to write her books about love, laughter, and happily-ever-after.

Website * Facebook * GoodReads * BookBub

Betty: When did you become a writer?

Jacie: Hi Betty! Thank you for this opportunity to share a little bit about my books and writing life on your blog! ‘Becoming’ a writer can be defined by many different milestones. In high school, I made my first attempts at writing poetry and short stories. I joined RWA in 1997. Finished my first full-length novel in 1999. I won my first Golden Heart (a major award for pre-published authors) in 2001. Published my first book in 2014. But, honestly, I think I was born a writer. The compulsion to write either consumes you or it doesn’t.

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

Jacie: Oh, so many. I was an avid reader from birth. Of the early romance authors, the one who most impacted me and my writing was LaVyrle Spencer, because she wrote both historical and contemporary. Even then I knew that Contemporary novels would be my lane. She wrote clear, precise, emotional stories about real people in challenging, but identifiable situations. Then came Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jennifer Cruise, Kristin Hannah, Avery Flynn, and Kristin Higgins, and so many more. The humor and fast pace of these authors’ books wins me over every time.

Betty: What type of writing did you start with?

Jacie: When I began writing with an eye to publication, it was always contemporary romance for me. Initially, they were sweeping stories with soap-opera cliff-hangers and over-the-top drama. My style has changed greatly since then.

Betty: What do you most enjoy writing? Why?

Jacie: The actual fingers-on-keyboard, butt-in-chair act of writing brings me great joy: creating characters, putting words in their mouths and emotions in their hearts. If I could sit at my desk and make up fictional characters, all-day-every-day, I’d be completely happy.

Betty: How did you learn to write?

Jacie: A mentor, classes, conferences, craft books, or something else? Allowing for the fact that ‘learning to write’ is a never-ending journey, extensive reading has always been a major influence. I’ve taken numerous creative writing classes. For many years I was part of a critique group, and now I have an editor with a keen eye for plot loopholes and overwriting. Mentoring others is invaluable at this stage in my career. But the best education is just figuring it out by sitting down and writing.

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

Jacie: Better time management. Writing and publishing are two different jobs, but I wish I had known that I’d need to learn how to do both. At the same time.

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

Jacie: ALWAYS ALLIE is the first book in a new series (The Billionaire Brides), but it’s a spin-off of The Billionaire Brotherhood. While I loved writing about the amazing men of the brotherhood, I kept having the urge to flip the trope and make some man have to deal with a powerful woman for a change. As the sister of the hero in the first Billionaire Brotherhood book (WINNING WYATT), Allie’s story always intrigued me. So THIS is the story of a female executive who’s strong, confident, sexy, and wears stilettos. 

Allison Maitland Spencer is the billionaire president and CEO of Wyatt Enterprises. Following in her legendary mother’s footsteps as a strong, independent woman, she always gets what she wants—in business. Focused on her corporate responsibilities and raising her challenging teenage son, she doesn’t have time or energy for romantic relationships.

But when Buck Cooper, her high school sweetheart, returns, she’s reminded of sweet memories and tempted by the possibility of passion-filled nights. The seductive tech developer seems determined to reclaim her heart.

Their off-the-chart chemistry is a welcome distraction, but his past baggage and current secrets fill Allie with doubts. Is his pursuit based on desire or a plot to take over her company? Buck has easy answers for all of Allie’s questions—except the one about their future.

Excerpt:

As Allie maneuvered through the well-dressed crowd, goose bumps pebbled her skin. Her nipples hardened beneath her silk dress and lace camisole. Good Lord! Where had that reaction come from? Totally inappropriate. And unexpected. How long had it been since she’d experienced such a visceral response from an unknown source? Or even a known one?

She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and turned her head to view the guests populating the surrounding area. Mingling. Laughing, Hugging. Nothing nipple hardening about any of it.

Angling her body slightly, she perused the men thronging the bar. Young men, old men. Men with new money, men with inherited money. Men with no money who hoped to be wealthy someday. Men who would hit on her because she was rich or because she was powerful. Men who’d be intimidated for the same reasons. Athletes, executives, investors, entrepreneurs, and adventurers. Typical for any elite social event.

None of them captured her attention or instigated the awareness prickling down her spine. Until the crowd cleared, and then… Yes, her brain whispered with satisfaction. Yes! her body shouted with excitement.

That one. Tall, hard, chiseled, and broad-shouldered. A body that begged to have the tuxedo ripped off it.

Buy links: Amazon

I’m sure it was a major adjustment moving from the warmer Florida climate to the much colder Kentucky one. ALWAYS ALLIE sounds like a great read. Thank you for sharing it with us today.

Until next time…

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

Getting to know Claudia Shelton #author #contemporary #romance #suspense #mystery #thriller

I’ve known my next guest, at least online, for many years now. Please help me welcome Claudia Shelton! First a peek at her bio and then we’ll move to the fun part…

Award winning author Claudia Shelton has already proven herself a contender in romantic suspense books that cross over into the mystery-suspense-thriller genre. Whether sexy protector agents or small-town family settings, her fast-paced stories keep the reader guessing all the way to the end. Now, with the release of the first book in her new Nature’s Crossing series, she’s entering the contemporary mainstream romance genre (a crossover between contemporary romance and women’s fiction). The ongoing small-town saga is nestled in south-central Missouri, somewhere between Lake of the Ozarks, Table Rock Lake, and Mark Twain National Forest.

On a personal note, Claudia considers herself a music lover and water person, plus she enjoys anything to do with nature. In fact, the Nature’ Crossing series allows her to bring all of those things closer. Her main priority, though, is spending time with family, friends and her two sweet, conniving rescue dogs, Gidget and Daisy.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * BookBub * Newsletter

Betty: When did you become a writer?

Claudia: I began writing seriously in 2006. Finished my first book in 2008.

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

Claudia: My debut novel was Risk of A Lifetime – released 2014 with Entangled Publishing. However, I had short stories published prior to that.

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

Claudia: I’ve been a reader all my life, so I feel that there isn’t just one author influence. Writing and styles and stories change with the times, so the combination of all that has come before, mixed with the stories waiting in my mind at the moment, will always influence what I write. In my humble opinion, I feel that five years from now, I could write the same premise of a story…yet the book would be different than what came out last year. Times change and so do books.

Betty: What prompted you to start writing?

Claudia: I just did! And, of course once you start, the characters, settings, and storylines begin to bombard your mind.

Betty: What type of writing did you start with?

Claudia: My first published books were Romantic Suspense. But the first book I ever wrote was A Week at Most which is a mixture of contemporary romance/women’s fiction/and just a tiny touch of suspense. The manuscript sat on my shelf for over ten years before I reworked the story and published the book in November 2020.

Betty: What do you most enjoy writing? Why?

Claudia: That’s an interesting question. One I don’t really have an answer for because there’s so much that feels good in the moment.

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

Claudia: Craft books. Critique groups. Workshops.

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

Claudia: There is no absolute right or wrong when it comes to storytelling. Just write the book!

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

Claudia: Catherine Mann, BJ Daniels, Robyn Carr, Sherryl Woods, Cherry Adair and many, many more. I thank them all.

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

Claudia: The outdoors and being close to nature have always been special to me. And I love my memories of small-town life and country living, music in the air, and swings on the front porch. The Nature’s Crossing series is a feel-good setting which called to me.

If you like the Virgin River or Sweet Magnolias series, you’ll want to read A Week At Most, first book in the new Nature’s Crossing series.

Big-city newscaster Ashley Lanovan never envisioned herself divorced, unemployed, and house sitting for friends during the holiday season. After adjusting to small-town culture shock, she realizes that her priorities have been misplaced for the past ten years and feels inspired to energize the struggling community. But a holiday getaway to Washington, D.C., gives her even more reason to call Nature’s Crossing her home.

Mark Garmund is ready for a change in careers. He’s seriously considering the National Park Services job offer in the area of Nature’s Crossing. Now, he’s got his eye on ten acres with towering pines, a park-like setting, and one sprawling house he could call home. Meeting Ashley has triggered emotions he’d rather not face, and a few he would sure like to pursue. But first he has to earn her trust.

Excerpt:

Ashley put together a platter of fruit, cheese, and salami, then tossed crackers in a bowl and finished off the tray with two glasses. The klutz in her feared she might trip on the stairs, so she lowered it through the dumb waiter, retrieving the food once she was down the steps.

As Mark opened the patio door for her, he took the tray as she stepped out into the back yard that had become a wonderland. Flowers sprouted from a watering can placed on the picnic table, lanterns cast a warm flickering glow, and soft jazz floated in the air. Two chairs bordered the wood-filled fire pit. He’d been busy.

“I don’t think you were planning on going to the dance.” Ashley marveled at the finesse he showed in lighting the wood.

He shrugged and poured them each a glass of wine. “You’ll never know, will you? You said no.”

“By the way, don’t forget to take your clean fishing vest. I can get it from my suitcase.”

“Thanks. But I’ll pick it up the next time I’m through town.”

She wouldn’t break the mood by telling him she’d be gone by this time next week.

His grin told her his question even before he asked. “Why’s it in your suitcase?”

What was she supposed to say? That she’d hoped he’d come for the vest? She wouldn’t dare tell him she tried it on twice. Already his flirty tone played with her. “After I washed it three times and got the stink bait smell out, I needed to keep it someplace.”

The cold night air overtook her. She shivered slightly. A sweater instead of the blouse would have been a smarter choice.

“Are you cold?” he asked.

“No.” She shuddered again. “Maybe a little.”

“Won’t take long for the fire to get going. You’ll warm up fast then.” He pitched more wood on the blaze.

Her teeth chattered together lightly.

Mark removed his leather jacket. Facing her, he wrapped it around her shoulders. “There, that should help.”

It had been a long time since she felt lost in a man’s coat. A long, long time. She smiled as the fresh aroma of his ocean breeze cologne, mingled with the scent of leather against her skin.

Buy links: Amazon * Kobo * Apple * B&N * Google

I love being out in nature, too! Thanks so much for sharing your inspiration for this story and your writing, Claudia!

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.

Getting to know Elizabeth Caulfield Felt #author #historical #mystery #fiction #amreading

Today’s guest author brings a lifetime love of words to her writing. Please help me welcome Elizabeth Caulfield Felt to the interview seat! Here’s a look at her credentials and then we’ll dive right in.

Elizabeth Caulfield Felt teaches composition classes and children’s literature at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point. Her novels include Charlotte, which won an award from the UWSP Graduate Council; Syncopation: a memoir of Adele Hugo, published by Cornerstone Press; and The Stolen Goldin Violin, a children’s mystery that takes place on the campus of UWSP during the American Suzuki Institute. Elizabeth is a book reviewer for the Historical Novel Society and a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Website * Facebook * Instagram * Apple

Betty: When did you become a writer?

Elizabeth: As long as I’ve been able to hold a pencil, I’ve written stories.

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

Elizabeth: Oh, my! Having announced I started writing early, the answer to this is many, many years! I was an English and French major in college, so took many literature and writing classes. I belonged to writing groups, joined writer organization and went to conferences, read books, and wrote, wrote, wrote. I was first published in 2005, decades after writing my first story.

Betty: There are as many approaches to writing as there are writers. What does your writing process look like?

Elizabeth: Writing is a struggle for me. I want to be a writer, but I never want to write. I love having written, but the work of writing is such difficult work, with so little reward. I’ve given up many times. However, even during the times I stop writing, I never stop getting ideas for stories. I spend many of my waking hours playing around with characters and plot lines in my head. After a certain point, I need to get these ideas on paper. I guess that’s my process. I think about a story for a long time before I decide to sit down at the computer, picking word after word after word. When my fingers meet keyboard, I know all the important plot points of the story and my characters are already well developed friends.

Betty: What type of writing did you start with?

Elizabeth: I don’t remember; I started writing so young. My first published work was a creative thesis, Charlotte, which is historical fiction. Next was a children’s mystery, The Stolen Goldin Violin, then another work of historical fiction, Syncopation. I’ve written a young adult fantasy trilogy that I’m querying, and my work in progress is a contemporary realistic novel about a writer in Scotland. I don’t have a favorite genre; when I have an idea I cannot ignore, I go to work.

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

Elizabeth: Hmm. This is a hard one. My mother wrote seven wonderful novels and wasn’t able to get them published. So, I knew getting published was difficult. What has surprised me is how many people think writing is easy, that getting published is easy, that if you self-publish you can get rich, that they have a book idea I’d want to hear about…. These types of conversations drive me crazy! By nature, I’m a quiet, polite person, so I usually nod and move on, but geesh! Writing is hard! Getting published is like winning the lottery! I have more book ideas than I’ll ever have time to write about!

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

Elizabeth: The idea for this novel came when a lot of pieces of my life all fell together. In high school, I took French and memorized the poem “Demain des l’Aube” by Victor Hugo. I lived and studied in France for a year and at some point watched the Francois Truffaut film Adele H. At university I wrote a research paper about Victor Hugo and decided I didn’t like him anymore. (He didn’t think much of women.)  Many years later, when I was nearly finished with my first novel, a group of friends were reciting poems they knew by heart. “Demain des L’Aube” flowed forth my memory, as if I’d read it the day before. It is a beautiful poem, and I was sad that it had been written by a man I no longer respected. Then I remembered Truffaut’s film about Victor’s daughter Adele. What if she had written that poem? My research about the Hugo family began, I located a copy of Adele’s journal, and three years later, Syncopation: A Memoire of Adele Hugo was completed. 

Adele, the scandalous daughter of Victor Hugo, describes life with the famous French author, playwright, poet and politician, a man who brought liberty and equality to “everyman” but felt no desire to do so for “every woman.” Adele, an accomplished poet, pianist, and composer, craves a freedom that the nineteenth century and her father will not allow. Her memoir blurs the fine line between truth and madness, in a narrative that is off-kilter, skewed, syncopated.

Excerpt:

To life there is a rhythm one knows from the womb. It begins as the beat of a mother’s heart–slow and steady and safe. An infant finds the pulse in its own heart and continues the rhythm in its needy sucking. The toddler pitter-pats to the rhythm, and the sound of the servants starting the day carry it through. The pulse is in the wind and the laps of the waves from the Seine; birds sing it and squirrels chitter it; the very soil under our feet moans and groans to its pounding.

Firecrackers exploded when Adèle was born. July 28, 1830 was the in middle of the three-day revolution protesting the tyrannies of King Charles X. With such a birthday, Adèle was born for glory and fame.

The Hugo house was on the newly constructed rue Jean-Goujon, the wide fields of the Champs-Elysée as their backyard. The family had everything one could desire: parkland to explore, books to read, a small black piano, and each other.

And then one day, as a unit, this perfect family gasped. Those who survived missed a half-beat from the breath of life. If it had been a whole note, they could have perhaps fallen back into the rhythm, but it was a half-beat. They syncopated. They moved out of step, off-kilter. Forever more, they would run and jump and dream and scream, but they would be unable to slip into that easy rhythm, that regular beat that keeps time for the world.

Buy links: Smashwords * B&N * Kobo * amazonUS *amazonUK

It’s always interesting to have a peek at the coming together of moments and experiences to form a new story. Thanks for sharing that with us, Elizabeth!

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.

Food fight in the Fury Falls Inn! #Alabama #research #American #history #FuryFallsInn #food #recipes #cooking #histfic #historical #fiction #books

I have two excellent cooks who are going to have a cookery competition in my next release, Desperate Reflections (Fury Falls Inn Book 3). So that means I got to choose some 19th century recipes to try out, which of course means adapting and tweaking them to something my husband and I might enjoy. Let’s start with the older cook’s menu, shall we?

Sheridan Drake plans to serve Pan Roasted Duck Breasts with Huckleberries, Polenta with cheese, Watercress salad with Molasses Vinaigrette, and creamed corn. So I decided to make most of his menu for dinner recently. All except the creamed corn which I know my husband and I do not enjoy. The results were mixed. The duck and the salad were excellent! The polenta? Fail! The recipe I used overstated the water requirement so I ended up with soup instead of polenta. Even after cooking it for 2 hours we couldn’t begin to eat it. I may try again, maybe.

Picture of plated meal: Pan Roasted Duck Breasts with Blueberry Sauce, Watercress Salad with Molasses Vinaigrette, and leftover tortellini with Alfredo sauce as a replacement for my failed attempt at polenta…

But I do want to share the duck and the salad recipes so you can try them, too. Today, duck breast is expensive to buy at the grocery. I was surprised to find that my local Publix actually carried them frozen. Back when this recipe was created, though, you simply went hunting for ducks so they were not costly at all back then. The original recipe calls for huckleberries, but since I couldn’t find those easily I substituted blueberries which are apparently similar.

I chose the watercress salad and vinaigrette from the menu of a tavern-style dinner my husband and I went to in 2019 which was a reenactment of the dinner Huntsville, Alabama, threw for President Monroe when he surprised the city with a visit in June of 1819, months before statehood. Watercress is something that Alabama is known for, so I knew it would be included in my book as well. The salad at the dinner included goat cheese and blackberries, with an elderberry and molasses vinaigrette. I was delighted to find a bag of watercress at my Publix, too. All washed and ready to use. I had bought some grated parmesan and romano cheese to use in the failed polenta, so I used that instead of goat cheese (again, it’s not our favorite), and some of the blueberries from the sauce for the duck. The nI just used some of our favorite salad toppings to finish the individual salads.

I located a recipe for molasses vinaigrette at bettycrocker.com and then followed it except I used Dijon mustard instead of coarsely ground mustard. The resulting dressing is delicious, too!

Here are the successful recipes based on what I actually did instead of the original ones. If you try them, let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you!

Pan Roasted Duck Breasts with Blueberry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 duck breasts, bone out, with skin
  • Dried thyme
  • Garlic powder
  • Black pepper, ground
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 T Olive oil
  • 2 shallots diced
  • ½ cup port wine
  • ½ cup beef stock, unsalted
  • ½ cup fresh blueberries

Instructions
Score the skin on the duck breasts. Sprinkle both sides with garlic powder, thyme, and black pepper. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

Preheat the broiler with rack in the top third of the oven. Using nonstick saute pan, melt 1 T butter and olive oil until froth subsides. Brown the duck breasts skin side down; do not turn. Reserve the saute pan and its oils. Place breasts in oven safe pan and broil 7-10 minutes, until flesh is opaque. Remove and reserve breasts in warm place.

Using the saute pan, add the shallots, port wine, and stock to deglaze the pan on high heat, until the sauce reduces and thickens. Add the blueberries and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Serve the sauce over the duck breasts.

Watercress Salad

  • Fresh watercress leaves
  • Sliced radishes
  • Pecan pieces
  • Fresh blueberries
  • Shredded cheese

Place about 1 cup of leaves in each individual bowl. Top with a few sliced radishes, pecans, blueberries, and add a sprinkle of cheese.

Molasses Vinaigrette

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • 2 T molasses
  • 1 T Dijon Mustard
  • 1 t minced garlic
  • ½ t black pepper

In a small bowl whisk together all ingredients until well blended.

Enjoy! Look for Desperate Reflections to release later this spring, too. That gives you plenty of time to read the first two books in the Fury Falls Inn series, The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn and Under Lock and Key, in the meantime… And as always, 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.

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

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

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Getting to know Renny DeGroot #author #historical #fiction #novel #nonfiction

My guest today is joining us from Canada with a riveting tale to share with you all. Please help me welcome Renny deGroot to the interview hot seat! Here’s a glance at her bio and then we’ll find out more about her story.

Renny deGroot is a first generation Canadian of Dutch parents. She was born in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Her debut novel, Family Business, was shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. Her second novel, After Paris, has been well received by fans of Historical Fiction and her latest novel Torn Asunder has garnered several readers’ awards including an IndieB.R.A.G Medallion, a Five Star Award from the Coffee Pot Book Club (U.K.), A Book of the Month Premier Award and joint runner up for Book of the Year 2020 from Chill With A Book (U.K.), a Readers Favorite Honorable Mention (Hist Fic) in the 2020 International Book Contest and a Readers’ Pick badge from the Miramichi Reader (Canada).

In 2019 Renny was commissioned to produce a coffee-table non-fiction book about the military history of her former regiment, called 32 Signal Regiment, Royal Canadian Corps of Signals: A History.

Renny spent ten years in the Canadian Forces, retiring as a Warrant Officer.

Renny has a BA in English Literature from Trent University. She lives in rural Ontario with her Great Pyrenees and Golden Retriever, and vacations at her cottage in Nova Scotia.

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Betty: When did you become a writer?

Renny: I was fortunate enough to get the ‘golden handshake’ from my full-time job in 2010 which gave me the freedom to dedicate myself to my writing. Prior to that I dabbled, but I really view my birth as an author from the moment I began full time.

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

Renny: I am a real fan of the classics and continue to go back to them when I am in need of a ‘comfort read’. I am especially inspired by Charles Dickens with his ability to tell important stories and do it in such a way that engages and entertains. Who doesn’t cry at the end of A Tale of Two Cities? He takes the notion of societal transformation and applies it at a personal level with the idea that people can change, and all people have good in them at some level. I work to apply the same method to my writing. I had a manuscript review done of Torn Asunder by the amazing Barbara Kyle during which she told me I had ‘window pane writing’. This comment delighted me because for me, telling a good story is always the first priority. It’s only by truly engaging the reader, that one can have any success in getting one’s message across.

Betty: What type of writing did you start with?

Renny: I started with angst-filled poetry as a teenager (I had a few poems published in school year books that I now flip past quite quickly when looking at the old photos!). I went on to short stories when I took some creative writing classes at Ryerson, and I still occasionally will work on that format (I came in 1st in my group in round one of the NYC Short Story Contest 2 years ago), but my real love is now the novel. I love the scope and leeway I have in evolving the characters and story.

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

Renny: I lived in Ireland for a while and fell in love with the history and drama with which the country is steeped. I thought it was a perfect setting to look at the idea of how we influence others.

Thank you so much for having me here today Betty! I’ve enjoyed thinking about these questions and the journey I’ve taken to get where I am today. The support of bloggers is so vital to indie authors, and I appreciate this opportunity.

Opening in Ireland 1916, Emmet Ryan becomes an inspiring journalist during one of the country’s most turbulent times, but he has no idea that his words have the power to destroy those he loves the most. An Irish multi-generational family drama of divided loyalties.

Excerpt:

Emmet joined his father and two brothers cycling home. They burst in on their mother with a clatter of noise.

She wiped her hands on her apron and smiled at Emmet. “You found them all, then?”

Emmet’s father put a hand on her shoulder. “Kathleen, make up some packages of sandwiches for each of us. We’ll be leaving again in a few minutes and I don’t know when we’ll be back.”

She put her hand to her mouth. “It’s not true. You’re not really going to fight?”

“We are. Is there any food ready right now that we could have a quick hot meal?”

She stood with her hand still pressed to her mouth and then glanced over to her youngest son. “Not Emmet as well?”

Emmet felt his chest swell when he heard his father. “Emmet’s old enough to make his own decision.”

She came near him and reached out her hand as though to hold him fast, but Emmet nodded. “Me too, Mam.”

She wiped her eyes with a corner of her apron and then went to the cooker. Her voice was thick with tears and defeat. “The spuds aren’t ready, but you’ll each have a cut of ham on bread with onions and gravy before you go anywhere.”

For a mixed media reading by one of Canada’s leading Irish tenors, click here: https://youtu.be/QHiA7Jtc-GA

Purchase link: http://mybook.to/TornAsunder

My all-time favorite Dickens novel is Our Mutual Friend, which was his last completed novel. It’s dark and ironic and clever all wrapped into a fascinating tale. I just received a new copy of A Tale of Two Cities to read for Christmas. It’s been a long time since I read it and I want to see if I like it and understand it better as an adult. Thanks for stopping in, Remmy!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! And as always, thanks for reading!

Betty

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

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

Getting to know Ana Brazil #author #historical #fiction #mystery #romance #books

My guest today is an award-winning novelist. Please help me welcome Ana Brazil! Let’s peek at her bio and then we’ll find out more about her.

Ana Brazil is the author of the historical mystery Fanny Newcomb and the Irish Channel Ripper, winner of the 2018 Independent Book Publishers Association Gold Medal for Historical Fiction. Ana’s current work-in-progress features a bodacious vaudeville singer beset with murder, mistaken identity, and multiple romances in 1919 San Francisco.

Ana is a long-time student of history and earned her master’s degree in American history from Florida State University. She also worked as an architectural historian in Mississippi. After many years in software development, Ana is ecstatic to write historical fiction full time. Ana is an active member of the Historical Novel Society and Sisters in Crime, is the Events Chair for Sisters in Crime Northern California, and is a founding member of the Paper Lantern Writers historical fiction collective.

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Betty: When did you become a writer?

Ana: Probably when I was twelve. That’s when my mother died and I found great solace in writing poetry. Very bad poetry, of course, but it was verse that helped me express my sorrow and loss. Getting my feelings down on the page led me to read “real” poetry, and to appreciate the rhythm and power of the written word. I also started reading a lot of historical fiction in my teen years—like Dickens, Austen, and Alcott—and I found great stories to be a great refuge.

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

Ana: My novel Fanny Newcomb and the Irish Channel Ripper was published in November 2017, although much of it was finished about ten years earlier. Every job I’ve ever had had a “writing component.” Sometimes I wrote promotional brochures; sometimes I wrote instructions on how to turn off a database. But I always worked to improve my writing and storytelling. So in actual years, I’d probably written 40 years before my first novel was published.

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

Ana: Great influences: One of my early influences was Anne Rice, especially The Mummy. Her characters, sense of drama, and pacing are really stunning. Plus, she wrote a lot about New Orleans, a city that I love.

Not-so-great-influence: I read a lot of Charles Dickens during my teens and picked up his “cataloging” technique. You know, the “glorious pile—frowning walls—tottering arches—dark nooks—crumbling staircases” type of writing. Good for Dickens; not so good for me. I continually have to remind myself that “cataloging isn’t writing.”

Betty: What prompted you to start writing?

Ana: A love of reading, of course! I enjoyed reading historical fiction so much that I kept thinking, “What would happen if this character and this character intersected with each other? What kind of conflict would they create? What kind of resolution would they get to?”

Betty: What type of writing did you start with?

Ana: I went from poetry (again, bad poetry!) to attempts to write short stories to writing a novel and—just a few years ago–to writing real short stories.

Betty: What do you most enjoy writing? Why?

Ana: I love writing short stories because they are short and contained. But I love writing novels the best because I get to take a heroine through a life-changing journey.

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

Ana: My love of reading also helped me learn how to write. From reading fiction and non-fiction, historical and contemporary, literature and genre, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. I also really benefit from being in critique groups, especially since I ask my fellow critique group members to be really, really honest.   

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

Ana: I have a small independent publisher (Sand Hill Press Review), so there was a lot of time between signing the contract and publication date. I wish that I’d had a second Gilded Age New Orleans mystery to quickly follow the first publication. Lesson Learned: keep writing, writing, writing even when you’re submitting for publication.

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

Ana: I’ve been inspired by Julia Spencer-Fleming, who writes characters who have good hearts and try to do the right thing.

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

Ana: I was in the Tulane University archives in New Orleans going through boxes of clippings and photographs from the 1880s and 90s, all research for my master’s thesis. Inside those boxes I found information about the most interesting women…all of them trying to make the city of New Orleans a better place by doing good works like starting social settlements, teaching in kindergartens, and protecting animals. I was also a big fan of detective fiction and eventually I had the revelation “if these brilliant New Orleans women could solve social problems, I bet they could probably solve a murder as well.” And so Fanny Newcomb was born. And yes, her last name is a tribute to Newcomb College in New Orleans.

A Jack the Ripper copycat is terrorizing the women of Gilded Age New Orleans.

Desperate to know if her favorite student was a Ripper copycat victim, tenacious and quick-witted Fanny Newcomb turns detective.

Fanny’s hunt launches her into New Orleans’ darkest enclaves, saloons, and houses of prostitution. She questions authority, seeks out clues, and digs into long-protected secrets. Fanny’s search alienates her friends, alarms the police, and antagonizes her would-be fiancé. Her efforts infuriate the Ripper copycat, who vows to murder another of Fanny’s students by the end of the week.

Fanny persists, and even appears to succeed in her investigation, until the night her curiosity plunges her into a desperate confrontation with the Ripper copycat.

Can amateur detective Fanny Newcomb stop the Irish Channel Ripper before he murders again?

Excerpt:

Fanny Newcomb sucked the blood from the knuckle of her right thumb. Her fingers were stiff and reddened; her nails were torn. Her cuffs were rolled up to her elbows and she’d undone the top three buttons of her bodice. She dabbed the glow from her forehead with her crumpled handkerchief and surveyed her opponent. The battle had just begun.

     The Hammond typewriting machine was not entirely uninjured. The A, P, and W keys were snarled tightly and buried deep in the carriage well. The typewriter was immobilized.

     Fanny’s pride was bruised but her spirit was unbowed. “You’re just a machine,” she sneered. “Wires and plates and copper and keys. I’m smarter than you are. It might take me a while to figure you out but I’ll do it.”

Buy links: Kindle * Amazon Paperback * Barnes and Noble

Sounds like a terrific story and I love the inspiration for it, too. Thanks so much, Ana, for sharing it with us!

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.

Getting to know Trisha Faye #author #historical #fiction #inspirational #shortstories #amwriting

Every writer has a unique path to publication, if they choose to publish what they write. My guest today has a moving tale to share about how became published. Please welcome Trisha Faye! Let’s look at her background and then move on to find out more about her and her stories.

Trisha Faye writes about people, places, and items from the past – when she can tear herself away from researching, which is her favorite activity. But, in true Gemini fashion, she also enjoys writing magazine articles, children’s stories, and inspirational pieces. When not settled in front of a computer screen, she plays with a house full of rescue cats (far too many!) or digs in the garden.

Trisha is a past-Secretary and past-President of Keller Writers’ Association. She gives presentations and holds writing workshops at local libraries and for local writing groups and conferences. She is published in Quilter’s World, Country Magazine, Good Old Days, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Women’s World and in other national and regional publications.

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Betty: When did you become a writer?

Trisha: Writing entered my life slowly. I’m not one that can share that ‘I’ve been writing stories ever since I was a young child’. In the late 1990s, I started a monthly herbal newsletter. But I didn’t feel I was writing. I mostly shared recipes and reported on how to use herbs in crafting and gardening. Looking back, I think I felt that was a ‘safer’ route.

After my Grandma Jones died, I wanted to document some of the family stories and write a book about them. I did dabble with the start of a few stories that featured Grandma and my mom as a young child. But I doubt I ever wrote more than one or two chapters, and that project died a slow death.

The year I turned 50, I moved to Texas and that’s really when my writing began. I started with some articles for our small local paper. From there I started branching and getting magazine articles accepted. Gradually, with each acceptance I felt more confident in myself and started expanding the type of writing I did.

I soon became brave enough to start working on fictional short stories, most of a historical nature, along with some books – both non-fictional and historical fiction, and some children’s stories.

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

Trisha: Counting the years when I didn’t consider myself a real writer, to publication of my first newspaper article, was probably about ten years – off and on.

Betty: What do you most enjoy writing? Why?

Trisha: I think what I most enjoy about writing is the creative process. Many of my stories begin from an item from the past – a postcard, a vintage cookbook, a photograph, an embroidered dish towel, or a tattered quilt.

Or, am I simply justifying one of my greatest pleasures – drifting about in a myriad of antique stores on the hunt for ‘treasure’? If that prized bit I discover becomes a story or a book, then it’s all good, right?

I pick up a worn dish towel with its hand embroidered design and think of the woman who stitched this piece so many years before. From the patterned pieces that came from its initial life as a feed sack, I feel that the dishcloth was crafted in the ’30s or ’40s. My mind begins creating the tale of the woman that stitched this lovely towel, thinking of what her life must have been like. What difficulties did she face? What challenges did she overcome? What delights did she find in her life?

And from there, a woman from long ago starts rising from the fragments collected in my brain and I end up creating a lady, her family, a story that surrounds her.

New projects, new characters, new tales – I feel like I’m molding these snippets of the past into new people, creating lives and memories, and honoring past lives when I’m able to.

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

Trisha: Oh dear, I remember the first writing class I took. Or should I say, the first class that I attempted? I was about twenty years old, just starting some classes at the junior college in Azusa. I was not one of the bold, young, confident ones. I was one more afraid of my own shadow. One of my classes was a creative writing class. I couldn’t tell you what my story was about. But I can report that when I read my first story aloud to the class – it was ripped to shreds! Along with my fragile ego. I never returned.

About fifteen years later, as I navigated the murky days of divorce, I began going to a counselor who helped me through the process. She is the first one that told me these words – “You are a writer.”

Of course, it still took about another fifteen years before I believed her and began crafting with words instead of fibers and glass and clay.

Alas, by this time I also saw that those cruel, scathing words from my first critique were not all that wrong. Even though the local newspaper accepted several articles for publication, encouraging me in the notion that I could be a writer, I saw that I still needed to learn a lot.

I began devouring books on writing. Fortunately, the internet had exploded by then, and a wealth of writing blogs, newsletters, podcasts, and such awaited me on these virtual airwaves coming straight to my desk.

I felt like a sponge soaking up knowledge. And I’m still learning.

I also joined two local writing groups, where their insightful critiques keep helping me polish my prose as I grow and learn more each week, each month, each year.

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

Trisha: I wish I knew then that we are never, never, never going to get it perfectly right the first time out. Our first draft, no matter how good we think we’ve done, is always going to go through several mutations before it ends up as a final product – sometimes with massive transformations.

But every word cut, every word changed, every modification only creates a better product. And the words of critique that help us along – sometimes kind and considerate, sometimes not so much – only help us strengthen our craft.

I wish that I could have had a thicker skin in those days. Because I didn’t, and I didn’t keep going, I wasted thirty years. I think that’s why I like to share my story of that time so long ago when some harsh words halted me on my path and diverted me for far too many years. I want to encourage others who may be feeling discouraged to keep going. Keep muddling through and keep putting the words on the paper.

No, we may not be Stephen King or JK Rowling. We may never even make it close to their level of expertise. But we do get better. Every day we write. Every thousand words we add to a manuscript. Every time we make another editing pass through a story. Keep on writing and we will keep getting better.

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

Trisha: Dr. Barbara Sinor, who is no longer the counselor who aided me as I traversed some dark, difficult days, is now my friend and mentor. She has been a huge inspiration to me, both with her encouragement, and the inspiration of her beautiful, lyrical writing.

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

Trisha: I know it seems strange to be sharing a book of Christmas stories with you the last week in January. But this is my latest book released last November, 100 Years of Christmas, and it’s perhaps one I’m most proud of. Most of the stories in this book had their beginnings from an object found at an antique store, or in the case of the 1934 quilt squares (Stitching Christmas Memories), a set of 30 quilt squares purchased at a yard sale in California.

Since most of the quilt squares had names on them, I eventually was able to track them to a small, now-non-existent town of Athelstan, Iowa. The squares were stitched by women and young girls in 1934. In 2014, I traveled to southern Iowa and donated the quilt squares to The Taylor County Historical Museum, where I met many descendants of these women and created friendships that continue to this day.

The stories in the book are themed around Christmas. Some of them I started two to three years ago. But they’re not really Christmas stories. They’re stories of seven different women through the years 1849-1948, who struggled to remain strong, to protect their families, to thrive and grow despite the circumstances surrounding them.

A few true facts, along with a few pieces from the past, are woven together with a large dollop of fiction, creating women and honoring those from the past. It’s one of the things I most like to do.

Thank you, Betty, for giving me this chance to come aboard and share some of my thoughts with your readers. I genuinely appreciate it and wish you all a day filled with blessings – and good stories.

Come join us as we travel through the years, peeking in on seven different women as they navigate the Christmas holiday and come to terms with their own inner life struggles. Hannah Tate’s story starts off in the Texas frontier in 1849. We travel through the years and end with Flora Luper in northwest Arkansas in 1948.

Excerpt:

Hannah threw another log in the fireplace, plopped down in a chair, and drew her knitting basket onto her lap. Picking up her needles, she continued with her current project, one she only worked on when her husband, Benjamin, was away from the house. Her shoulders sagged with fatigue. How she longed to join the younger girls on the bed. But as every other pioneer woman, she plodded along from sunup to sundown. She was pleased to be able to rest, while plying her needles, and still be productive.

She didn’t like the frosty bite of winter, especially when the howling wind and frigid cold found its way through tiny, unchinked spots. She was delighted the fall harvest was over. That season, with its harvesting and preserving, kept her busy.

Thinking of all the goods put up to last the family through this coldest of the seasons, she sent a silent prayer of thanks up toward the heavens. The tornado that ripped through north Texas earlier in the spring destroyed much of their earthly possessions. She was thankful it came in April, before the crops were sown and the vines and stalks were heavy with bounty.

Knit, purl, knit, purl—the stitches went on, one after the other, the repetitive motion lulling Hannah to a drowsy mood. Shaking her head, she fidgeted in the chair and tugged at the apron stretched taunt across her bulging belly. I’d better finish these up. There’s more I’ll need to be knitting.

Buy links: Amazon

What a fascinating idea for seeking inspiration for a story, Trisha. I’ll never be able to walk through an antique store again without thinking of you.

Happy reading, folks!

Betty

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

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Getting to know Eileen Joyce Donovan #author #military #WWII #historical #fiction #histfic #books #novels

Today’s guest author is a fellow historical fiction author who has been writing all her life in one form or another. Please help me welcome Eileen Joyce Donovan to the interview hot seat! Here’s a quick peek at her bio and then we’ll learn more about her and her writing.

Although born in New York City, where she spent most of her life, Donovan has lived in six states and visited most of the others. She earned her MA in English at Northern Arizona University. In one way or another, she’s been writing her entire life, whether it was imaginative stories for friends, or advertising copy for industrial clients.

But she never felt her stories were “good enough” to be published. At the persistent urging of her late husband, she finally agreed to seriously edit and revise one of them and take the plunge. Although accepted for publication, the book never made it all the way to print. However, this gave her the courage to pursue her dream of becoming a published author.

Years later, her persistence paid off and her debut historical fiction, Promises, was released in 2019 from Waldorf Publishing and won the 2019 Marie M Irvine Award for Literary Excellence. She is also a contributing essayist to various themed anthologies.

She lives in Manhattan, New York and is a member of Authors Guild, SCBWI, Women’s National Book Association, and The Historical Novel Society.

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Betty: When did you become a writer?

Eileen: I’ve always enjoyed telling stories. I guess that’s part of my Irish storyteller heritage. In the past, I enjoyed making up stories I told to little children I babysat about stray stuffed animals or dolls, or the adventures of runaway fire engines and trains. Of course, as I got older, I started writing some of the stories down, but never considered them good enough to be considered for publication. After college, I worked for an advertising agency and started writing many of my clients’ ad copy. Since my clients were business-to-business ones, the copy was technical and very different from my adolescent fantasies. But it showed me that I could write something that was publishable, which eventually led me to revert to making up stories again and pursuing publication for them.

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

Eileen: As an English major in both undergraduate and graduate school, I guess I’ve always worked on my writing skills. And, of course, when you’re teaching writing at the college level, you’d better be sure your skills are first-class. But as far as writing fiction for publication, I guess I really hunkered down on those skills when I began to seriously consider writing for publication. I started attending writing conferences, read tons of writing craft books and blogs, and joined local critique groups so I could have objective eyes evaluate my work. I’d guess, although strict attention to dates and lengths of time are not my forte, I did that for about four years before my debut novel. But I still do all those things. I don’t think you can ever stop learning about your craft and improving your skills.

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

Eileen: That’s a tough one. I really don’t know who I would put in that category. I guess I’d have to credit Sara Donati and Kate Morton as two strong influencers. It was reading their books that made me realize I wanted to write historical fiction. Before that, I was floundering through different genres, none of which felt right. But now I feel that I’ve found my niche and intend to stay there.

Betty: What prompted you to start writing?

Eileen: Amazingly enough, something that has absolutely nothing to do with historical fiction. It started when I was reading a book of Victorian fairy tales, Beyond the Looking Glass. I’ve always been a lover of fairy tales and had an extensive collection of them. However, this book had tales I had never read or even heard about. I couldn’t believe they had just disappeared when they were so wonderful. So, I decided to rewrite them for a 21st-century audience. Three of the books were accepted for publication; however, due to “circumstances beyond my control” they never made it to print. But that encouraged me enough to continue writing.

Betty: What type of writing did you start with?

Eileen: Children’s stories, fairy tales mainly. I guess I thought they would be easier to write than adult fiction. Boy, was I wrong. But the research I did for those stories led me to my true love of historical fiction.

Betty: What do you most enjoy writing? Why?

Eileen: I enjoy bringing characters to life and trying to see what their lives will be like and how they will cope with the conflicts they encounter. Since I’m a “pantser” I’m never completely sure what my characters are going to do, so I’m solving their problems right along with them. And sometimes, they seem to run away from me, and where I thought they were going turns out to be somewhere else entirely.

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

Eileen: All of the above. And my critique groups. I can’t say enough about how helpful they have been in honing my skills and supporting me in my efforts.

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

Eileen: I wish I fully understood how difficult it can be to get published and how much time it takes to go from contract to actual printed book-in-hand. I expected it to be a difficult process, but not as lengthy as it is. I guess I also wish I had realized how many rejections I would have to endure before someone said, “This is the one.” But, all that said, I wouldn’t stop writing for the world. In fact, I’m still going through the same agent querying process (and rejection emails) for my present manuscript. I sold Promises directly to a traditional publisher without an agent. I’m not sure I would do it that way again, but with all the acquisitions and mergers, I may.

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

Eileen: Oh, there are so many.  I’ve been in love with books since I was three years old and I think everything I’ve read has inspired me to create my own stories. I just needed someone to push me into believing in myself enough to sit down and write them. My late husband did just that, and I thank him for his faith in me every day.

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

Eileen: I watched a documentary on PBS, “Lost Children of the Empire” about British children who were exported from Great Britain to the British colonies in Canada, Australia, South Africa. In the beginning, this was done by private, mostly religious, groups and most of the children were orphans and homeless. living on the streets. However, that morphed into taking children away from prostitute mothers, destitute families, criminal parents, etc. Although the people in charge of these programs felt they were doing a service to the children by sending them to a better place and a better life, this was often not the case. The children were frequently abused and some died while in the care of their new “parents.” This emigration program spanned the years from the late 1800’s to 1968. After seeing this program, it stayed on my mind for about three years. No one I talked to had ever heard about it so I decided I should write about it and bring it to light, focusing on when the government took over during World War II and formed the Children’s Overseas Reception Board. The focus was to keep the children safe, but the abuses were the same. Of course, Lizzie and Colin are from my imagination, but their ordeal is based on facts gleaned from extensive research into this program.

In Promises, 13-year-old Lizzie and her 9-year-old brother Colin are on their way from England to Canada in 1940. Nightly German bombings convinced their mum to enroll them in a government evacuation program. They’re told this short holiday will be filled with trips to the Rocky Mountains, the chance to meet cowboys and Indians, and promises are made to return them to England when the war is over.

When one of Colin’s friends is swept overboard, Lizzy’s doubts about this adventure begin. Arriving in Nova Scotia, they are placed with Mr. and Mrs. Harris, who work them like slaves – Colin as a hand on his lobster boat, and Lizzie as a servant victimized by Mrs. Harris’s abuses. Can she rescue Colin and herself from the Harrises? Will she keep her promise to her mum to protect him?

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

“Farming or fishing?” The matron’s hand waited to grab the right stamp. “Come on, come on! We don’t have all day for you to decide.” Her bulldog face glared out at Colin and me from behind the heavy metal desk.

            She terrifies me so much I can’t even answer her. This is not anything like the grand adventure I thought it would be.

            “Well?” she barked.

            “I like fishing, Lizzie,” Colin’s tiny voice whispered. He squeezed my hand so tightly it hurt. I looked down into my little brother’s eyes and saw fear and confusion. I wanted to grab him and run back home to Mum.

            “Fishing it is,” the matron said, and stamped our papers with a force that shook the desk and made us jump. “Next!”

            Another matron attached a baggage tag to our collars: “Children’s Overseas Reception Board (CORB)” with our names, a number (mine was #158, Colin’s was #159), and our destination – Halifax, Nova Scotia. A different matron herded us to long wooden benches in the corner of the cavernous room. The ceiling must have been three stories high and the walls were dirty gray concrete. One wall was missing. The open space led directly to the docks and the sea. Workers and seamen roared out orders to get the ships loaded while the squawking gulls circled above looking for scraps of food.

            “Girls to the left, boys to the right.”

            “No!” Colin screeched. “Don’t leave me, Lizzie. I’m scared.”

Buy links: Amazon     

What a powerful story to tell, Eileen. Thanks for bringing that story to life and to light. And congratulations on the award, too!

Thanks as always for reading!

Betty

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

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