Introducing Liz Barrett Foster #author #editor #EatLikeaWriter #nonfiction #pizza #books #fiction #ChildrensBooks

Recently I answered an interesting weekly question over at Eat Like A Writer regarding how the pandemic has impacted my writing. (You can read all the responses here.) Little did I realize I might meet a kindred spirit! Please let me introduce you to a fellow author who also loves all things cooking! Let’s take a quick peek at her bio and then I’ve asked her to answer some questions based on her own website, Eat Like A Writer. Ready?

Liz Barrett Foster is the editor of Eat Like a Writer (eatlikeawriter.com). She’s an award-winning journalist, editor and author. Hailing from Michigan, she lived in Los Angeles for 19 years before landing in the south. A journalism graduate from Cal State Northridge, she’s written for an array of food and beauty magazines, authored a nonfiction pizza book about pizza and self-published a children’s mystery book about peanut butter.

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

Liz: English was always my favorite subject in school. I was on the staff of my high school newspaper, took creative writing classes, and even earned my bachelor’s degree in journalism. However, I don’t feel like I learned to write in school. I was taught the fundamentals of grammar, sentence structure, and the rules of good journalism in school, but it wasn’t until I was working my first magazine job that I finally started getting a real writing education.

I was working at a beauty publication called Dayspa in Los Angeles. My managing editor, Linda Kossoff, would go through my stories with a red pen, marking what needed to be moved and changed. We would then sit down together, before I made the edits, and she would explain why she made the changes to my work. It was in that job that I learned how to make stories tighter and words flow better. I still believe it’s important for editors to show writers what they change, and why, so writers can learn from their mistakes.

Betty: That’s a very good point. A good editor will explain the reasons behind the edits so that the writer can learn from them. It’s a conversation, in essence. So, what type of writing did you start with?

Liz: As a teenager, I used to write a lot of poetry, mostly about boys. You can imagine. Every time I fell in love (which seemed like every other day back then) I wrote a new poem. More poems surfaced with every new heartbreak. I saved most of the poems in a binder, and I pull them out every few years to remind myself of those early days of writing.

Betty: I think I have a folder around somewhere that has some early writings in it but I haven’t had the nerve to pull it out in years. So, good for you! Looking back can be a scary business. What do you wish you knew before you started writing/publishing?

Liz: That’s a good question. So much has changed over the years with social media entering the picture, etc. But, I think if I would have understood the benefit of creating a brand around my writing from the beginning, it could have opened a few more doors for me along the way.

Betty: Having a brand is supposed to help readers find you. So is having an established genre or field you write in so that readers know what to expect. What prompted you to switch from writing about the beauty industry to writing about food?

Liz: I wrote about beauty and food simultaneously for several years after I moved from Los Angeles to Mississippi. But, I started to feel pulled in too many directions. I enjoy both industries, but they are very different when working with public relations professionals, operators, magazines, etc. I realized that to focus my time and energy, I would need to choose one. Since I was the editor of a pizza magazine at the time and had established a lot of connections in the food and restaurant industry, I chose food.

Betty: I think I would have done the same, honestly. I love cooking and baking and tinkering with recipes. I’m curious. You’ve written two books to date, one nonfiction and one a children’s picture book. How is writing nonfiction different from writing a picture book? Do you prefer one over the other?

Liz: These two books were completely different in every possible way. I worked with a traditional publisher on the nonfiction book and self-published the children’s book. The nonfiction book went through many, many, many changes, edits, revisions, etc. There were also rounds of photo and recipe gathering, nondisclosure/permission contracts to sign from everyone included in the book, and generally a lot of fact checking throughout. With the children’s picture book, once I had the story written, it was mainly a back and forth with my sister about the illustrations, which she drew by hand. I enjoyed the feeling of control I had with the children’s book, since I was self-publishing, but it was also a lot of pressure to get everything right, all on my own.

Betty: What inspired you to write Pizza: A Slice of American History?

Liz: I used to be the editor-in-chief of PMQ Pizza Magazine, the nation’s No. 1 pizza trade publication (yes, there’s a magazine all about pizza). Working in the industry for several years, you get to know a lot about pizza, and you meet a lot of pizzeria operators. The pizza book kind of fell in my lap, as luck would have it. A pizzeria operator I knew had been approached by a publisher about writing a pizza book. He, in turn, suggested that they contact me. I had not considered writing a book, but was flattered, and, of course, did not turn down the opportunity.

Betty: When opportunity knocks, it’s best to answer! I’ve written nonfiction work-for-hire books years ago, some of my first nonfiction. But I always wanted to write adult fiction. You chose a children’s picture book as your next project. What inspired you to write The Peanut Butter Bandit?

Liz: The Peanut Butter Bandit was a story I had in my head for several years. My husband Benjy loves peanut butter. I was always finding spoons and forks in the sink with peanut butter on them. When I’d open the peanut butter, sometimes I’d find marks from a fork scraping the inside. I started calling Benjy the peanut butter bandit. Finally, I decided it would make a cute children’s book, with the kids wondering where the strange marks were coming from in the peanut butter. I teamed up with my sister Shannah Barrett for the illustrations and we released the book just before Christmas 2018. (Buy your copy here: https://amzn.to/3dhZtoy)

Betty: The Eat Like a Writer site combines food and writing topics. What is your goal for the site?

Liz: You always hear how you should write about what you love, right? So, I sat down and really thought about what I enjoy. I looked through my social media photos to see what I post about, looked through my book collection, etc. I started to see a theme. I enjoy food, writing, and how other people start/grow their careers. All I needed to do was blend those ideas together. I realized that writers don’t really get a chance to connect with readers (or other writers) in a personal way very often. Why not connect them through the universal language of food? Eat Like a Writer was born. My goal is to continue to showcase the world’s writers, giving them an outlet to connect with readers in a more personal way with travel stories, recipes, and exclusive recommendations.

Betty: What are you currently working on with your writing?

Liz: My mom calls me Bizzy Lizzy because I always seem to be working on something new. That’s the nature of this business. When the Coronavirus came to town, many journalists had to shift their focus. I lost a couple of my biggest clients. For a short while, I wrote about the pandemic and how restaurant operators were navigating the situation. Now, in addition to Eat Like a Writer, I’m contributing regularly to the National Culinary Review and two websites: the food-focused Mashed.com, and Stacker.com, which breaks down expert analysis.

Betty: What advice do you have for others who are debating whether to write a book?

Liz: I think that if you have a story in you that needs to be told, you should absolutely write a book. If, however, you are thinking of writing a book to make money or become famous, sleep on it. No matter how many gurus try to tell you otherwise, writing a book is not easy. I spent almost the same amount of time on my children’s book as I did my nonfiction book, neither of which made me rich or famous. They did, however, give me a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day. I was able to send the ideas and stories that were swirling around in my mind for months or years out into the world. Ask yourself why you want to write a book. Be honest with the answer. Think about why you enjoy reading, and what you expect to feel when you finish reading a book. The answers to those questions will set you on the right path.

Good advice indeed! Thanks so much, Liz, for swinging by to tell my readers more about your fun and interesting Eat Like a Writer site! I hope everyone will visit and see if it’s a site of interest to them as well.

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.

How does your garden (fence) grow? #Alabama #research #American #history #ReadIndie #FuryFallsInn

When I started researching to write the Fury Falls Inn series, my husband and I visited Burritt on the Mountain in Huntsville, Alabama. This historic site reconstructs what houses and farms looked like in the 1800s, including from the beginnings of the state in the 1820s. That is the time period of my series, so I paid particular attention to the buildings and structures.

Fence enclosing what could be a corral or garden

I was impressed by the height and sturdiness of the fences around different areas. They looked strong enough to climb over without any fear of them collapsing. I decided to use a similar fence in my series to surround Cassie’s garden. Here’s a snippet that describes her garden and the fence protecting it in The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn (Book 1):


The rows of vegetables and flowers provided one kind of escape. She could lose herself while working with the soil, encouraging life from the rich dirt. Tending to the flowers. Raking the ground into mounds to plant seeds and bulbs. Pouring water on the new plants poking their green leaves up toward the sun and sky. Dragging the weeds out, roots and all. Cleaning up the debris and minding the tall, wooden-slatted deer fence and gate to keep them strong. With the large herds roaming the mountains and valleys, she’d had to resort to drastic measures to prevent them from eating her harvest.

The tall rail fence surrounding the sixty-foot square of ground had proved itself in keeping the deer on the right side of the fence. She’d had one of the stable hands fit rails tight together at the bottom to deter smaller critters like rabbits and possums from eating on her young plants. Not that they frequently ventured so close to the busy inn with its passel of dogs, but it would only take once to destroy all her hard work and make Sheridan’s job much more difficult. The other reason she enjoyed working in the garden stemmed from the fact her ma didn’t much cotton to working in the dirt, so Cassie could escape her criticism for a time.


You’ll notice that I modified what the fictional structure looks like as opposed to what is in the pictures because I think that’s what I would have done were it my garden. (Not that I’m a gardener, but I have worked with plants.)

Cassie’s garden is very important to her sense of well-being, so it appears in every book in this series.

Book 2 is Under Lock and Key and releases tomorrow, October 6, 2020. Early reader reviews have been very positive, one fan stating “I couldn’t put it down.”

If you haven’t read The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn, grab your copy now while it’s on sale for $1.99 at Amazon. And please get your copy of Under Lock and Key while you’re there. There’s more info about Book 2 below, too.

Thanks in advance for your support and interest in my books. 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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Mapping Charleston for Fictional Characters #Charleston #research #American #history #ReadIndie #AMorePerfectUnion

I’ve been talking about the historic sites I’ve toured as research for the A More Perfect Union series. You can read about the Heyward-Washington House and the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon if you missed those posts. Today I’m going to talk about the map I used to layout where my characters live in Charleston.

My son actually helped me enlarge the map of the historic district from a reference book. I taped it to a piece of poster board. Then I copied photos from the Historic Walking Tour guide book and taped those in the approximate location I wanted the various characters to live. I also included the inspiration photos of what the characters look like. So then I had the ability to know what streets they’d be walking or driving on and approximately how long it would take to go from one place to another.

My map of where my characters live and work and worship

You’ll also notice that I added the location of the beef market, newsletter office, St. Michael’s church, and the location of Captain Sullivan’s shop for my reference. All of this visual aid is for the express purpose of being able to accurately reflect the travel of my characters. This is the first of several maps/layouts I’ve made when writing a story/series. I’ve done floor plans, for instance, for the Fury Falls Inn so I have a good idea of where the rooms are and what they’re used for.

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.

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

CAUGHT BETWEEN DUTY AND LOVE

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

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

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

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Touring the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon #Charleston #research #American #history #ReadIndie #AMorePerfectUnion

Last week I talked about the Heyward-Washington House which I toured on my first visit to Charleston. Today I’d like to talk about the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon which I specifically returned to Charleston to tour because I had questions I couldn’t answer with online resources. It was a very good thing I insisted on going back, too!

Image of the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon (Library of Congress)

In Emily’s Vow, the first novel in the A More Perfect Union historical romance series, I drafted a scene where she is taken prisoner by a loyalist major and kept in the Provost Dungeon. I’d looked at the virtual tour provided by the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon site, but I couldn’t determine how the prisoners were held in the dungeon. How did you get into the dungeon? What did the inside of the dungeon look like in the late 18th century? Were the prisoners shackled? Chained to the wall? Were there cells? How many prisoners would have been kept there? So many questions without answers!

Hubby and I made a quick overnight stop in Charleston on our way to Myrtle Beach so I could hopefully find answers to several questions related to Emily’s story. Our tour was led by a former history teacher and he really knew a lot about the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon. Thankfully, he knew about how the building had evolved over the couple of centuries of its existence, which answered all my questions, too.

You may be wondering what those questions may have been, so I’ll share three of them with you to give you an idea of what I learned and how it changed the story—from setting to action.

In the original draft (pre-publication), I had written, “Biting her tongue to keep from saying something she would regret, Emily endured the pushing and pulling into the Old Exchange, through the outer office, and down the dark stairs to the basement jail.” However, what I learned is that there wasn’t an outer office. You entered the dungeon through doors facing the street which were several steps down from the street. That’s not the case today because of the buildup of the road surface. So when you visit today, you actually go up the steps to the Exchange and then down some stairs at the back of the building that have been added for that purpose.

When you get downstairs into the dungeon, it’s pretty dark and cool. I had written in my scene that “She stumbled on the uneven wooden floor and the ropes around her wrists bit deeper. At least she had not fallen onto the hard surface.” First, the floor is actually brick and even, not uneven wood. The tour guide told me that only three women prisoners were ever held in the dungeon and then only for a couple of hours to “terrorize” them into revealing where there patriot husband/father/etc. was so they could imprison them instead. So I had to only keep Emily in the dungeon for a short period and then have her moved to a different place and detained in order to stick to the historical facts.

Finally, I had imagined there were cells, so had written, “Silently the man left, glancing over his shoulder before the heavy door closed behind him.” But the basement wasn’t divided at all. Instead it was one large room with posted guards. The prisoners were given straw to lay on and of course since it’s located near the harbor there were rats and mice and who knows what else sharing the dungeon with them.

Because of this learning experience, I try to visit the historical sites and tour them whenever possible. Especially when the site is a setting in one of my stories. Online resources can be limited in providing the evolution of the property so that I can depict it accurately and authentically to the best of my ability. See what you think in this short excerpt from Emily’s Vow:


Biting her tongue to refrain from speaking her mind, Emily endured the pushing and pulling down the steps into the Provost. Once used as the Harbor Master’s office and for storing the goods being shipped in and out of town, now only pirates and those who defied the king resided within the odoriferous walls. At one time the building had enjoyed the respect of the town. Now it reeked of the pungent odors of urine, spoilage, and decay. She gagged at the overpowering smells assailing her senses.

“Welcome to your home away from home.” John paused in the large communal prison.

Dim light leaked through the small windows situated near the ceiling. Several other prisoners stared at them from where they sat on the cold red brick floor or lay on beds made from piles of straw, but kept their distance. The scrabble of claws in the deeper regions of the space skittered chills down her back. John peered at her for a moment, a slow smile creasing his face. His leer frightened her and she shivered.

She stumbled when the soldier pushed her forward, the ropes biting deeper. He tugged at the knot and the rope slipped off her wrists. She rubbed the red skin on each wrist to ease the pain.

“You are dismissed,” John said to the soldier, keeping his gaze on Emily. Green eyes cold as a dead fish appraised her while he waited for the other man to heed his order.

Silently the man left, glancing over his shoulder before walking away.

Emily swallowed but maintained eye contact with John. He had a heart once, a deep compassion for animals and people. But, he had hurt her in the market, likely because of the sudden embarrassment when Tommy pulled his wig askew. She raised her chin, portraying a confidence she barely felt.

“First, I must search you for any contraband you might be hiding.” His eyes glittered in the dim light. He pushed his sleeves up as he walked toward her. “This won’t hurt. You may even enjoy it. Like old times.”


And in fact, in the new edition of Emily’s Vow that will publish next month, I’ve added a couple of new scenes at the second “prison” where she’s held against her will. I’ll talk more about Emily’s Vow next week. In the meantime, if you haven’t read Elizabeth’s Hope, now is your chance to begin the series. More about Elizabeth’s Hope is below.

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.

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

CAUGHT BETWEEN DUTY AND LOVE

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

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

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

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Visiting an Historical Georgian House #Charleston #research #American #history #ReadIndie #AMorePerfectUnion

Researching for the A More Perfect Union series of historical romances was a delight! My husband and I made two separate trips to Charleston, South Carolina in order for me to experience the historic settings and do some fact finding. I fell in love with the city and would go back again in a heartbeat!

Betty and hubby in Charleston, SC

On our first trip we stayed in a bed and breakfast in an historic home, The Rutledge House. Then we did the walking tour of the American Revolution era buildings and homes. The day was chilly but sunny so we ventured up and down one street after another, reading the guide book descriptions and the signs on the buildings. I made a point of touring the Heyward-Washington House in order to get an actual sense of the sounds and smells of an 18th century built house. More pictures of the inside of the house are available at the above link; I wasn’t permitted to take pictures inside the main house.

The rear view of the Heyward-Washington House with the kitchen on the left

The experience of walking the floors and climbing the steps, visiting the rear separate kitchen, all inspired the Sullivan family home in the series. Their home is not a replica of the Heyward-Washington House but certain aspects are similar. The front pair of windows in the parlor, for example. The wood floors that resound with the beat of shoes on their polish surface.

The kitchen out back is very similar to the one in my series as well. I try to imagine using the various tools hanging or resting around the fireplace. The danger of fire was very real which is why the kitchen was separated from the dwelling. Women in long skirts near a cooking fire surely was a recipe for disaster.

I’m re-issuing Elizabeth’s Hope, after revising it and sprucing up the story using my shiny new writing tools. I hope you’ll give it a read and let me know what you think. I’ll be republishing each of the remaining books one per month, each all freshly revised with a few new scenes as well. Stay tuned for more as each book is ready to share.

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.

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

CAUGHT BETWEEN DUTY AND LOVE

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

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

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

Books2Read      Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple  

Saying goodbye to McCrady’s Tavern #research #American #history #ReadIndie #AMorePerfectUnion

Earlier this year I shared my research trip to Elsing Green Plantation which closed to the public last year. I was sad to read about the death of one of the owners and even sadder that the beautiful historic property was no longer open. Today I’m going to share the sad news about a tavern that had been in operation since George Washington was president. When I visited their site to write this post I found this message:

A favorite restaurant closed!

This is very sad to me. McCrady’s Tavern is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places as it had been in operation since 1778. When I was doing the research for my American Revolution historical romances, the A More Perfect Union series, my husband and I spent a weekend in Charleston. I was ecstatic to find out about this historic tavern. What a cool and interesting place to go!

The four novels in the A More Perfect Union historical romance series

We went there and had a fine meal and I just enjoyed being within its walls, knowing George Washington had also been entertained there on his southern tour of the states in 1791. I would have been even happier had Martha joined him on the tour but she had declined as the travel was too difficult and tiring to her by that time in her life. As a result, I included McCrady’s in my A More Perfect Union stories as a frequent meeting place for my characters.

Me standing outside of McCrady’s Tavern

I hope that someone will reopen the famous and historic tavern. It is, to me, a national treasure not to be shut down and forgotten.

Over the next five months I’ll be reissuing and republishing the five stories in the A More Perfect Union historical romance series. I’ve revised all five of the stories to improve them using my more mature writing skills learned since 2014 when the first and second books, Emily’s Vow and Amy’s Choice were published. Those were followed by Samantha’s Secret and Evelyn’s Promise. Then I decided to write a prequel novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, that shares Elizabeth and Jedediah’s hopeful yet doomed romance. One reader called it a lovely story but suggested that it would be better to read Elizabeth’s Hope last, as a result. Other readers were fine with reading them in chronological order and enjoyed each of the stories.

The prequel novella for the A More Perfect Union series

Next week I’ll talk a bit more about Elizabeth’s Hope. Until then, happy reading!

Betty

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

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

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

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

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Sending Letters in a Time of War #Baltimore #WWII #research #history #ReadIndie #NotesofLoveandWar

Letters during WWII kept soldiers fighting oversees aware of what was happening at home. How their families and loved ones were faring. Letters remained a vital part of communication even after the fighting ended. But the interesting thing to me is the many forms of communication that I found in my dad’s collection of correspondence.

Not only penned letters on stationary, but also telegrams, post cards, greeting cards, and the most intriguing Victory Mail (V-Mail). There is a complete history and explanation at that link about the format and uses of V-Mail. Including a tutorial of sorts on how letters should be written to be upbeat and positive to bolster the reasons for why the men were fighting. It’s an interesting online exhibit to poke around in.

I’ve been slowly working my way through transcribing my dad’s correspondence so I thought I’d share a few examples of the kinds of ways he sent and received letters. Note that I started with the year they married, 1948, as that has the bulk of the exchange since they were getting reacquainted after not contacting each other in years. As you can see in this photo of all his letters, sorted by year, month, and day, there are a lot of letters to get through.

Hundreds of letters! Not even counting the V-Mail…

My mother’s stationery varied over time but here’s an example from July 1948:

Upon occasion, Dad started typing his letters on the letterhead for the photography company he worked for:

Dad sent a postcard to my mother in September 1948, but included within the folded letter in an envelope:

Mom sent Dad a telegram to confirm when she’d arrive in Miami in June 1948 for a visit with him, bringing her sister along for the vacation:

But seriously look at the number of V-Mail letters my dad received! They are each a little bigger than a playing card, or maybe about the size of a tarot card.

V-Mail letters to my dad. The first one is from his mother.

The V-Mail letters are from his friends, fellow soldiers, brothers and sisters, and mother. I didn’t find any letters between father and son, though. Which isn’t surprising because they really didn’t see eye-to-eye. Dad harbored some hard feelings toward his father to the last of his days.

In Notes of Love and War, you’ll find letters, telegrams, and V-Mail being exchanged between Audrey and her brother, father, and Charlie. The formats within the book are designed to reflect, though not exactly replicate, each form of communication. It’s more apparent in the paperback than ebook, of course, since the medium allows for anchoring the text to the page in ways that a digital book cannot. My aim was to provide a feeling for the varying kinds of communication and thus lend a sense of the times to modern day readers.

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

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

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

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The Infamous Owl Bar at the Belvedere #Baltimore #research #history #Speakeasy #ReadIndie

Remember how much I love to go to historic sites to do research? It’s even better when I can do so with great friends and food and drink is involved!

While researching for Notes of Love and War, I wanted to visit the Baltimore Streetcar Museum to actually ride on a 1940s era streetcar (which I did but that’s a story for another time). I invited my dear friends to meet me and my husband for lunch and then go to the museum. She asked around for recommendations since she lives in Maryland and we found ourselves going to the famous (or infamous) Owl Bar at the Belvedere Hotel in downtown Baltimore.

I didn’t know anything about the Owl Bar but I had heard of the Belvedere. It’s an elegant and distinguished building catering to the elite of society. If you’re interested in its history, you can read more and see some photos of it here. In fact, many celebrities have stayed at the hotel and probably dined at the Owl Bar while there.

Before going into the bar for lunch, we paused to look at the Celebrity Wall. The wall features photos of the many celebrities who had visited. Now, the fact that celebrities were so prone to frequent the site made me wonder whether my father might have also gone to the Owl Bar when he was in town visiting my mother before they married, or perhaps upon occasion after they married and settled down in the area. See, my dad has met a host of celebrities in his life. Bob Hope, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jack Benny, and even Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh who starred in Gone with the Wind to name a few. In his 1999 memoir, Through the Lens, he even included a section where he listed the ones he remembered meeting.

So I can only wonder if he might have gone to the famous Owl Bar to check out who he might see. I wish I could ask him about it, but he passed in 2011. So many questions I would love to have answers to after delving into his personal correspondence a couple of years ago! But just pondering the possibility while looking at the pictures started me realizing that I may indeed be walking where he might have been. A chill swept through me at the thought, one that would be repeated several times that day.

I can imagine the Owl Bar would have drawn him in with its intrigue. See, it was a speakeasy during Prohibition. Apparently, they kept two owl figures on the bar. If they were lit, then alcohol was available. A silent yet effective way of letting the patrons know whether it was safe to order a beer or whiskey. We enjoyed our meal and the experience of the bar. I’m glad we went and I’d go back (but they’re currently closed until further notice). It was rather fun to try to imagine the place filled with people (at lunch time there weren’t that many people in the bar) all having a good time with music perhaps playing. It was the kind of place I could see my dad clearly feeling at home.

While the Owl Bar and the Belvedere are not included in Notes of Love and War, it did provide me with a feel of the city and its surroundings. I hope my sense of the environment and imaginings about what it might have been like in the 1940s during WWII is conveyed throughout my story. Let me know after you read it, won’t you?

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

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

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

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Writing Lessons Learned while Revising a Series #amrevising #amwriting #amediting #ReadIndie #writingcommunity

Let’s talk about how a writer learns and grows over time, shall we? I recently decided to have my American Revolution historical romance series, A More Perfect Union, narrated as audiobooks (more to come on that endeavor very soon). Which provided the perfect opportunity to look at revising the stories to make them better. Boy, was that an eye-opening experience!

Before I get into the details of that, I’d like to announce that the second book in the Fury Falls Inn series, Under Lock and Key, will release in October and is currently up for preorders. You can find the description and links below. Isn’t the cover cool? I hope you’ll enjoy the story!

Now on to today’s topic. I know that my writing skills have improved with time, but sitting down to read the first ever historical romance was humbling to say the least. Emily’s Vow was written in 2012-2013 and published in the fall of 2014. So figure 8 years ago I wrote that book, again the first historical romance I wrote and published. I followed that one with Amy’s Choice which released the same month, October 2014. So I was not surprised to find those two needed the most work to bring them up to snuff.

Before I did any revisions, I made a point of reading the reviews to see what readers had grumbled about with the stories. Then I made sure I addressed those issues as I went through making sometimes wholesale changes to scenes and characterization. In fact, I added two new scenes in Emily’s Vow to address some gaps in the story logic.

The next two, Samantha’s Secret and Evelyn’s Promise, were released more recently so didn’t need nearly as much revision, but still there were changes and deletions made, additions inserted, some sentences rearranged. I didn’t see a need for new scenes in any of the stories other than Emily’s story.

One writing crutch I cringed over was my overuse, or over-dependence, on smiles, nods, shrugs, glances. I found myself chastising my earlier self with “stop nodding and smiling.” Of course, people do nod and smile and other facial and shoulders/arms/hands gestures, but more variety was desperately needed!

Another crutch that I reduced was the number of internal “spoken” dialogue (typically appearing in italics). I really leaned heavily on that in Samantha’s Secret, but it’s been weeded out as much as possible.

Overall, the stories remained the same but only told with more skill (I hope, anyway!). I’ll be sharing more about each of them as they’re available, so stay tuned!

I hope you’ll also check out Under Lock and Key and preorder your copy today! Thanks in advance for your interest and support!

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

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

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

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

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


My Dear Nancy

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


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

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

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

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

I wish you all health and happiness! Thanks for reading!

Betty

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

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

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

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

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

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