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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

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

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

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

Books2Read    Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple    Bookshop

Getting to know Linda Ballou #author #historicalfiction #histfic #adventurer #traveller #blogger

Please help me welcome a fellow historical fiction author, Linda Ballou, who had the enviable job of living in the Hawaiian Islands to conduct her research! Let’s take a peek at her bio and then find out more about her.

Adventure travel writer, Linda Ballou, is the author of three novels and numerous travel articles appearing in national publications. Wai-nani, a New Voice from old Hawai’i, is her ultimate destination piece. It takes you to the wild heart of old Hawai’i, a place you can’t get to any other way. Hang on tight for a thrilling ride from the showjumping arena to the ethereal beauty of the John Muir Wilderness in The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon. Her latest effort, Embrace of the Wild, is historical fiction inspired by the dynamic Isabella Bird, a Victorian-age woman who explored Hawai’i and the Rocky Mountains in the late 1870s.  Linda’s travel collection Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales is an armchair traveler’s delight filled with adventure to whet your wanderlust. Linda loves living on the coast of California and has created a collection of her favorite day trips for you in Lost Angel in Paradise. All of her books are available at www.LindaBallouAuthor.com and online distribution sites in print and e-book format. She spotlights her travels on www.LostAngelAdventures.com.

Author Social Links: Facebook * Twitter

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

Linda: Ka’ahumanu was a woman in history that stirred my imagination. Brave, athletic, strong, passionate, caring, and centered in herself, I saw her as a role model and forerunner to the modern woman. She became the inspiration for my character, Wai-nani. I was first introduced to this character in history in the 70s –a time when women were breaking out of accepted molds. Her literal journey follows the rise of Kamehameha the Great, but her more important mythological journey takes her to her truth and discovering the extent of her powers.

Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?

Linda: Wai-nani (Ka’ahumanu) embodies all that was good in ancient Polynesian society. Athletic, assertive, and brave she stands beside her warrior-king husband sharing in his joys and sorrows for forty years. Like all Hawaiians, she is a water baby—finding strength, solace, and wisdom in the sea. Her greatest pleasure is swimming with her wild dolphin friend, Eku. Throughout her life, she rails against the “kapu system” that calls for human sacrifices, separate eating-houses for men and women, and severe penalties for the slightest infractions of laws imposed upon the common people by ruling chiefs and priests vested with the power of gods. She triumphs and becomes the most powerful woman in old Hawaii. I tried to bring this powerful personage in history to life for modern readers.

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

Linda: When I was 28, I took one blissful year off and spent it on the north shore of the Island of Kauai. I took a job as a cub reporter on the local paper. It happened that they ran a 200th-anniversary issue spotlighting the arrival of Captain James Cook on Kauai in 1778. This is where ano ano, the seed, was planted and the story took root in my heart. Historical accounts often speak of the savage Hawaiians stabbing the great navigator in the back. This prompted me to learn more about what was happening in the Hawaiian culture at that time. What I learned disturbed me. Indeed, they did kill the good captain. It is also true that Cook’s men trespassed on sacred ground, trampled on religious beliefs and ate the natives out of house and home. Ka’ahumanu and Kamehameha were there. I determined to tell the story of Cook’s demise and what followed through her eyes.

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

Linda: Getting into the mindset of the warrior prophesied to unite the warring Hawaiian Islands required relinquishing traditionally held values and attempting to absorb the ways of the ancient Polynesian view. He was inward, meditative, and sometimes sullen, but always brave and determined to fulfill his destiny.

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

Linda: Research for this story spanning twenty years became a beautiful obsession for me. I visited all the places described in the story to absorb the ancient mana, or spiritual energy resting there for those who chose to receive it. I read all of the oldest chronicles written by natives who were taught to read and write by missionaries. I interviewed a healing kumu in Hilo and spoke with elders about Hawaiian beliefs many of which are relevant today. Martha Beckworth’s Hawaiian Mythology was my greatest resource for the facts about the ancient Hawaiian culture. The Hawaiian language is difficult for westerners, so I added a glossary of words I used in the text and changed the names of the characters to make it easier for western readers to relate and become engaged in the story.

I have a playlist on youtube that answer the most common questions I receive about the ancient Hawaiian culture

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

Linda: At least three. I conferred with my editor, a Hawaiian scholar, and got beta reader opinions before daring to publish this story which is sacred to the Hawaiian people. I was told by the Hawaiian scholar that my story was charming, but if a haole (white foreigner) published this fictionalized account of the Hawaiian story, I would receive 200 years of bad luck. This set me back on my heels for at least a year. In the end, I took Anais Nin’s words to heart and moved forward.

And then the day came

When the risk to remain

Tight in a bud was more painful

Than the risk it took to blossom. Anais Nin

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

Linda: The actual writing perhaps three years, but the depth of research was a twenty-year excuse to be in the Islands. Typically, it will take me a year, or so to write a novel.

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

Linda: I read materials relevant to the subject I am writing about the night before enlisting my subconscious to the task while I sleep. Then I write first thing in the morning before being interrupted by the demands of the day. If I get 500-1000 words out I think I’m doing great.

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

Linda: I tend to gush over the beauty of a place. I have to tone this down so that my work is not too flowery. Many readers view me as a nature writer. I take that as a compliment.

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

Linda: I wrote a piece titled Jack London and Me. It is about the many connections I have to this man and how our paths have crossed. Jack lived life with daring and bravado. He was also very generous to others. He is considered the master of adventure writing. I admire his writing as well as his zest for life. I visit his Beauty Ranch where he rests in the Valley of Moon as often as I can to pay my respects to a great man and wonderful writer.

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

Linda: I live in what I call the “Cottage of Content” in the Santa Monica Mountains. I am surrounded by trees and watch my birds flit through the canopy while I write. I am happy here away from the fray. After lunch, I take a meditative walk in the mountains. When I return, I sit on my deck, feet on the rail, reading what I wrote that morning and reflecting on how it can be better. That is a perfect writing day for me.

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

Linda: I have sold real estate all my adult life. I am listed as an independent contractor on my tax returns. This position affords me the freedom to back off, or hit it hard. It has served me well over the years. It has given me the freedom to travel and write about my adventures. I have achieved a delicate balance between selling real estate and my writing projects and feel blessed to have both worlds.

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

Linda: Publishing Wai-nani is my proudest achievement. It was by far the most difficult and complicated work that I have done. Writing it in the first person meant I couldn’t use any modern words like plastic. I had to be very careful about being accurate in my depiction, still, I knew there would be push back from some Hawaiians. I am happy to report I have good reviews from long-term Hawaiian residents, and blooded Hawaiians as well. I love this story and have no regrets.

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

Linda: I would love to join Jack and Charmian London for one of their dinners with the many fascinating friends they invited to the Beauty Ranch. To ride with them through the redwoods and swim in the lake Jack created is a fond fantasy of mine. We wouldn’t talk about writing, I would ask him about his many adventures, especially his time in the Islands. He was loved by the Hawaiians for the way he told their stories.

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

Linda: One reader told me “Your book was my salvation. It took me out of myself while I was going through a bad patch.” This kind of feedback is not uncommon. It makes me feel the time I spend writing is worthwhile. I sell houses to keep a roof over my head, I write stories to soothe my soul and to connect with other human beings.

Born into the royal class, Wai-nani rails against harsh penalties for women meted out by priests and ruling chiefs invested with the power of gods. Her rebellion takes her on a journey that puts her squarely into the eye of a political storm.

She meets Makaha, inspired by Kamehameha the Great, an inward thinking youthful warrior who is prophesied to unite the Hawaiian Islands. This is the beginning of a tumultuous forty-year love affair. Makaha accepts the challenge to end years of tribal wars and gives Hawaii a golden age. Wai-nani must decide if she will stand beside him before, during, and after his rise to power.

Like all Hawaiians, Wai-nani is a water baby finding sustenance and solace in the sea. Her best friend is a dolphin named Eku who swims with her on her mythological journey. She tells us what was happening in her beautiful world when Captain Cook arrived bringing new weapons and spreading disease in his wake. Wai-nani follows the rise of Makaha to power, but when he dies she breaks from his old ways. Beloved by the common people she defies death-dealing priests to lead them to freedom from the harsh, 2,000-year-old Polynesian “Kapu” system that called for human sacrifice to pagan gods.

Buy Links: Amazon * B&N * Bookshop * Website

Thanks for sharing the backstory of your story, Linda!

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

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

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

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

Books2Read    Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple    Bookshop

Getting to know Liz Alterman #author #editor #suspense #fiction #YA #novel

My guest author today is also a fellow freelance editor. Please help me welcome Liz Alterman to the interview hot seat! Let’s take a gander at her bio and then find out more about her writing process and inspiration.

Liz Alterman is the author of a young adult novel, He’ll Be Waiting, a memoir, Sad Sacked, and a forthcoming domestic suspense novel, The Perfect Neighborhood. Her work has appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington Post, McSweeney’s, and other outlets. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and three sons where she spends most days microwaving the same cup of coffee and looking up synonyms. When she isn’t writing, she’s reading.

Author Social Links: Twitter * Instagram

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

Liz: Decades ago, someone shared a story about helping out a friend. Though that favor seemed simple and straightforward, it took a very strange turn. I used that concept as a starting point and built the plot around the interconnectedness of our actions and how they can have a ripple effect—for better or worse.

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

Liz: The situation, that idea of simple favor going terribly wrong, definitely inspired me to write the novel. Then I had to come up with relatable but flawed characters who would make those choices to end up in those circumstances, which was both fun and daunting.

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

Liz: I wrote the first 50 pages prior to attending the wonderful Leopardi Writing Conference. While there, I had the opportunity to share those early chapters with an amazing editor as well as fellow writers, who shared their feedback and insight. On the flight home, I immediately began revising the opening and reconsidering the ending. In short, I’d say I wrote at least three drafts before I felt like the story was complete.

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

Liz: The story took about a year to write, which I’ve learned is about the typical length of time it takes me to write and edit a novel. Until recently I’d been working full-time so I had to carve out time in the early morning or evening for my personal projects. I’ve almost completed a new project and I’m excited to begin sharing it. That has taken about a year as well.

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

Liz: I like to eat something crunchy—it seems to help me think. I also like to reread the most recent section I’ve written to try to get back in the flow of the story.

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

Liz: I’m trying hard to rethink my characters’ gestures and scale back on all the head shaking, nodding, and shrugging before they all end up with neck problems :).

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

Liz: I will write anywhere—in the car on a napkin if inspiration strikes, while taking a walk by typing (sloppily) into the notes app on my phone, on the back of a CVS receipt, where you can write an entire chapter, they’re so long!

I love to read in bed before I fall asleep. That’s my favorite way to end the day. But I’m happy to read anywhere if I have the chance.

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

Liz: I’m a freelance writer and editor and I truly enjoy it because it’s brought me the opportunity to meet and interview really interesting people and learn about an array of new things.

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

Liz: My greatest achievement has been not giving up in the face of so much rejection along the way.

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

Liz: I’d love to have dinner with Judy Blume. Her MasterClass is one of my favorites and I’m in awe of her long and successful career as well as her ability to write for readers of all ages. She also comes across as a true writer’s champion so I’m sure she’d have plenty of wisdom and encouraging words to share.

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

Liz: I define success as continuing to come up with new ideas and staying motivated to keep writing even on the days when I don’t feel like doing it. I love the moments when you write a sentence or come up with a plot twist that surprises you. For me, those are magical and feel like the biggest reward.

What would you do to remember? What would you give to forget?

When Tess Porter agrees to pick up her boyfriend’s college pal at the airport on a snowy December night, she has no idea she’s about to embark on the most dangerous ride of her life. Two days later, the 17-year-old wakes up in a hospital with broken bones, unable to remember how she got there. Her parents are acting strange, and neither James, her boyfriend, nor her best friend, Izzy, has visited. As she struggles to physically recover, Tess wrestles with haunting questions: What happened? Will her memory ever return? And what if she’s better off not recalling any of it?

Buy Links: Bookshop * Amazon * B&N

Writing a chapter on the back of a CVS receipt?! I will have to try that! Thanks, Liz, for sharing a bit about your process and inspiration.

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

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

Follow Me on Amazon / Facebook / Twitter

Getting to know Sherrie Lea Morgan #author #paranormal #mystery #ghost #novels #novellas #amreading

Please help me welcome a fellow author who loves paranormal as much as I do! Sherrie Lea Morgan is such a sweet person with a lot of wonderful stories to share with you. Let’s take a look at her bio and then find out the secret to her success.

Sherrie Lea Morgan constantly searches for ghost walk tours in her home state of Georgia. There isn’t a haunted house she refuses to enter. Bouncing off story ideas with her twin sister is a pastime of hers, as her dog Bennett refuses to respond to her questions. When not working her current manuscripts, she enjoys spending time with her family. Although her children refuse to join her paranormal movie thrills, they are supportive in her obsession of all things scary. Of course, they are always willing to travel with her. She endeavors to show her readers a different view of ghosts in her paranormal books. Sherrie Lea also works to weave other paranormal gifts in her novellas.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Blog

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

Sherrie: The song “I’ll Be True to You” by the Oakridge Boys.

Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?

Sherrie: I think obviously my main character, Shannon, as she’s been there since Book 1.

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

Sherrie: A pair of pearl earrings and the need to find out who they belonged to. Plus, as Book 9 of the series, I had to come up with something.

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

Sherrie: The doctor because he was such an unlikeable character in a previous book. It was a challenge to sway my readers to sympathize with him.

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

Sherrie: Most of my research was done for the series and not one specific book. I did, however, need to verify which metaphysical term I intended to focus on and integrate it into the story. For each of the books of this series, I’ve sort of introduced a term that is reflected in Shannon’s gifts.

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

Sherrie: Really? Um…how mad would folks be if they found out I only do one really, really, really messy draft? I mean, I usually run about three rounds of edits before I send it off to the editor. So, maybe 4 before the editor and one more clean up round before being published.

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

Sherrie: It’s been a while since I wrote this one. But most of my novellas take around two weeks to write as they’re typically under 30,000 words.

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

Sherrie: I dictate using a voice to text program and while I’m doing that, I have music playing in my headset. For example, because this book’s storyline was inspired by the song I mentioned above, I listened to it on repeat several times while intermixing with what we used to call “easy listening” music. I grew up doing homework to this on the radio.

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

Sherrie: Just, nod and I think maybe 3-8 others that I can’t remember. =)

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

Sherrie: Hmm. This is hard. I have role models for life and those for writing. I admire their courage and creativity.

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

Sherrie: My desk is where I do all my writing and revisions. To do reading for enjoyment, I love Audible during long rides. Otherwise, I can read anywhere and always carry a book in my purse.

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

Sherrie: My day job is writing, and I love it.

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

Sherrie: Hearing someone say they love my characters and wanting to ask more questions about them.

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

Sherrie: The person who wrote the epic poem Beowulf because no one knows who it is.

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

Sherrie: My definition of success is knowing someone enjoyed my stories. That’s it.

A heart that waited. Another that didn’t. Can Shannon heal their past?

The number of trinkets left in Shannon’s box is dwindling, but when she takes the gloves off for a pair of pearl earrings, her vision of a pair of star-crossed lovers tugs hard at her heart. Her search takes her from virtual Internet byways to concrete highways landing in Augusta, where she hopes to pick up the psychic trail. As she stitches the pieces together, the threads of unfinished business get tangled up with her own. And lead her to a crossroads that could either heal, or cause more heartbreak.

Buy Links: Amazon

I love stories that revolve around intriguing jewelry or found boxes in the attic full of mysterious treasure. Thanks for sharing you inspiration and process, Sherrie Lea!

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

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

Follow Me on Amazon / Facebook / Twitter

Initial Thoughts on The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds by Selina Siak Chin Yoke #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

My tour of Historical Fiction Around the World continues with The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds by Selina Siak Chin Yoke. This paperback comprises 464 pages including several informational sections like a glossary and a word about the language used in the story. Not foul language as you might anticipate! Nope, it’s more how “the main characters speak a mix of the most common Chinese dialects in Malaysia (Hokkien, Hakka, and Cantonese), which they intersperse with English or Malay.” I know some German, Spanish, and French words but that’s about it. So, having this insight into this new-to-me language is fascinating. Isn’t that the reason we read historical fiction—to learn about other cultures and traditions in an entertaining setting?

This story certainly delivers on immersing me into this culture. I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading it, so I was, well, an open book when it came to absorbing what the author had to share about Malaysia. I’m delighted with the details included, especially about the unique foods and beverages they enjoy. I wish I could go sample some of them! I enjoy reading about cooking and baking and food preparation in general, looking for hints and tips and ideas I might use myself.

I’m only on page 165 so not even halfway through the story. This is a work of fiction but it reads like an autobiography or memoir. Written in the first person past tense, the immediacy and lone point of view tends to emphasize that feeling of reading someone’s telling of their life and the people in it. I feel like I really am peeking into someone else’s memories and experiences.

I’m not sure where the story is heading, but I’ll let you know next time.

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

2020 Rone Award Finalist!

An unsuspecting Southern town. Ghosts. Witchcraft. Skeletons in the closet. Discover the Secrets of Roseville in this five book series… Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Veiled Visions of Love, and Charmed Against All Odds!

Loving her brings out the magic in him…

Roxie Golden enjoys running Roseville’s bookstore and weaving helpful magical spells. Then her beloved ex-fiancé strolls back into her life with a gift that includes a mysterious treasure hunt they must work together to complete.

Leo King never planned to return to Roseville nor to Roxie but before he can escape town, he must satisfy his warlock father’s final wish: deliver the enigmatic box to Roxie’s bookstore.

When Roxie opens the box, revealing an enchanted bracelet and a quest spell, his chance to escape vanishes. Trapped in a reluctant partnership, he risks everything—including his heart—for a second chance.

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My Impressions of The First Actress by C.W. Gortner #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

My tour of Historical Fiction Around the World continues with The First Actress: A Novel of Sarah Bernhardt by C.W. Gortner. Gortner was originally born in Spain but now lives in California. This 418 page book took me a solid week to read, spending more time reading it than I had originally thought I would. Partly I wanted to finish it in one week, but also partly it’s such an interesting story!

It’s written in first person past tense, which helps give it an air of a memoir written by Sarah herself. I found myself wondering about the real person as I read this fictionalized account. The author does provide a short list of references he referred to while writing the story so I could satisfy my curiosity by reading one of the biographies if I choose to do so. It’s interesting to me that the author is a man but writes from a female’s persona, proof positive that a good writer can and does become their character to portray them authentically.

This book yielded some interesting insights into life as an actress in 19th century France. I was surprised to learn of Sarah Bernhardt’s many sexual affairs, an aspect of her life I was unfamiliar with. I don’t honestly pay much attention to any celebrity’s relationships, though, so even if I’d heard of her many exploits I wouldn’t have focused on them. I think I remembered something about her eccentricities but not the particulars, so it was entertaining to read about her menagerie of animals. She owned everything from birds, cats, and dogs to chameleons, a puma, and a cheetah!

Part of the story takes place during the Franco-Prussian War and depicts life in besieged Paris. Reading about her life within war-torn France of the 19th century brought to mind the perilous existence of the Ukrainian people in our current time. Living such a precarious life through reading is obviously a far cry from the reality. It’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to doing so, or at least I hope that’s the closest I ever come to experiencing life in a battleground.

Overall, the story is well-written and engaging. I feel like I learned more about France, Paris in particular, and about what it was like to be an actress and courtesan in order to survive. 

Next up, I’ll read The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds by Selina Siak Chin Yoke. Chin Yoke is of Malaysian-Chinese heritage and I’m looking forward to see what her story is all about!

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

2020 Rone Award Finalist!

An unsuspecting Southern town. Ghosts. Witchcraft. Skeletons in the closet. Discover the Secrets of Roseville in this five book series… Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Veiled Visions of Love, and Charmed Against All Odds!

Loving her brings out the magic in him…

Roxie Golden enjoys running Roseville’s bookstore and weaving helpful magical spells. Then her beloved ex-fiancé strolls back into her life with a gift that includes a mysterious treasure hunt they must work together to complete.

Leo King never planned to return to Roseville nor to Roxie but before he can escape town, he must satisfy his warlock father’s final wish: deliver the enigmatic box to Roxie’s bookstore.

When Roxie opens the box, revealing an enchanted bracelet and a quest spell, his chance to escape vanishes. Trapped in a reluctant partnership, he risks everything—including his heart—for a second chance.

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My Impressions of Echoes from the Oasis by A.R. Tirant #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I was very interested to see what I’d learn by reading Echoes from the Oasis by A.R. Tirant. As I mentioned in my Initial Thoughts on the book, the author has included a lot of detail about the Seychelles islands. She spends a great deal of time discussing the flora and fauna, the people and everything associated with living on the islands.

While reading about island life is interesting, I don’t believe it should have been the main focus of the story. In fact, I don’t think this book is just one person’s story so much as vignettes of people’s lives who live there. I did indeed learn a lot about how people lived in the Seychelles back in 1914. This story employs a narrator who knows every character inside and out, an omniscient narrator. Thus the story is told from various viewpoints, even the animals, and jumps from one to the other with little warning. It’s not awfully jarring, however; since the technique is used throughout it becomes the norm.

And yet with the power of an omniscient narrator’s knowledge, I still felt like I didn’t get to know the characters very well. The narrator seemed pulled back, too elevated perhaps, to care deeply about what the characters were experiencing. I’m unsure as to the intent behind using this technique. Was it to give the reader a more objective view of the people in the story? To what end? Or perhaps I’m misinterpreting her intent entirely.

I read this story looking for connections between the elements, the techniques, the devices the author used, but some eluded me. More importantly, the ending left me unsatisfied. I realize it’s the first story in a series, but the ending is somewhat tragic and depressing. I didn’t come away with a sense of hope but of despair for the main character, Anna.

So, let’s try another one, shall we? For next time, I’ll start reading The First Actress: A Novel of Sarah Bernhardt by C.W. Gortner.  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.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

2020 Rone Award Finalist!

An unsuspecting Southern town. Ghosts. Witchcraft. Skeletons in the closet. Discover the Secrets of Roseville in this five book series… Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Veiled Visions of Love, and Charmed Against All Odds!

Loving her brings out the magic in him…

Roxie Golden enjoys running Roseville’s bookstore and weaving helpful magical spells. Then her beloved ex-fiancé strolls back into her life with a gift that includes a mysterious treasure hunt they must work together to complete.

Leo King never planned to return to Roseville nor to Roxie but before he can escape town, he must satisfy his warlock father’s final wish: deliver the enigmatic box to Roxie’s bookstore.

When Roxie opens the box, revealing an enchanted bracelet and a quest spell, his chance to escape vanishes. Trapped in a reluctant partnership, he risks everything—including his heart—for a second chance.

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Initial Thoughts on Echoes from the Oasis by A.R. Tirant #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I started reading the next book on my tour of Historical Fiction Around the World. I’m on page 195 of 351 in the paperback of Echoes from the Oasis by A.R. Tirant. This book is fairly well written and edited, although like most books there are few editorial tweaks I’d make if I’d been tasked with editing the story. There is a Glossary consisting of a few pages of terms, mostly words in the language of The Seychelles, which I found useful to read before since the author sprinkles the terms throughout the book.

The story is written using multiple points of view, not just the one of the primary character, Anna. Instead, Tirant shares views of the places and happenings on the islands of The Seychelles from a variety of people tangentially related to Anna. She’s also jumping around in the timeline as she tells the story of life on the islands. Tirant is well versed and shares within the pages of this story the details of the place, politics, history, and people.

My sense of the book at this point is that Tirant loves life on those islands so much she had to write a book about it. The setting is described in lush details so much that I feel like I can see the place as if in my memories of having visited. I haven’t been there, or even to that part of the world, so her descriptions are truly powerful. There are definitely long passages of description of the area and the food, for example. For some readers, they may find it’s perhaps too much description of the place and not enough of the people, in particular of Anna and her story. I’ll know better how all of this ties together after I finish reading the book, of course, so stay tuned until next time when I can give you my more thorough impressions of the story.

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

2020 Rone Award Finalist!

An unsuspecting Southern town. Ghosts. Witchcraft. Skeletons in the closet. Discover the Secrets of Roseville in this five book series… Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Veiled Visions of Love, and Charmed Against All Odds!

Cover of Charmed Against All Odds showing a young couple in love, and a charm bracelet.

Loving her brings out the magic in him…

Roxie Golden enjoys running Roseville’s bookstore and weaving helpful magical spells. Then her beloved ex-fiancé strolls back into her life with a gift that includes a mysterious treasure hunt they must work together to complete.

Leo King never planned to return to Roseville nor to Roxie but before he can escape town, he must satisfy his warlock father’s final wish: deliver the enigmatic box to Roxie’s bookstore.

When Roxie opens the box, revealing an enchanted bracelet and a quest spell, his chance to escape vanishes. Trapped in a reluctant partnership, he risks everything—including his heart—for a second chance.

Amazon     Books2Read     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple     Google Books     Bookshop

My Impressions of The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher J. Koch #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I have finished reading The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher J. Koch, which turned out to be an interesting story. If you missed my initial thoughts, you can find them here.

Cover of The Year of Living Dangerously. At top, silhouetted puppets. At bottom, a man holding a cigarette while facing a cat.

The main characters in this story are two men, one a tall man and the other a dwarf, and a beautiful woman. As I read, I envisioned Peter Dinklage as the dwarf, mainly because he’s my favorite actor with that distinctive physique. I love his personality, his world view as expressed through his characters. Imagine my surprise when I checked out IMDB to see if he played Billy Kwan in the 1982 movie, only to find Linda Hunt played Billy Kwan. Wow. That would change the dynamics of the love triangle in the story! Now I want to watch the movie to see what the director did…

Anyway, back to the story as written by Christopher J. Koch. I admit this is not my typical reading selection. It’s a rather dark, political tale with commensurate tension, intrigue, and some violence. It bills itself as a romance: “A compelling tale of romance amid the political turmoil of twentieth-century Indonesia.” While it does indeed include romance, I’d argue it’s more of a bromance in that it delves into the changing relationship between Guy Hamilton and Billy Kwan, and how they feel about Jill Bryant. More time is spent talking about the reporters and the politically oriented characters than about any woman-man romantic tale. To me, that thread is a sidelight, not the focus of the story.

I learned a good deal about life during the 1960s in Indonesia, especially as seen through Western eyes. The language, the landscape, and how people survived some very difficult times all combined to create the somewhat “murky” atmosphere of the story. I had a sense of how I felt watching Casablanca, the somewhat fuzzy, blurred gray of the black-and-white movie. Almost as if watching through a smoke screen, making it difficult to truly understand what you’re viewing.

I’ve recommended my husband to read The Year of Living Dangerously, as it’s more his type of story than mine. However, like I said, I enjoyed the story. Koch did a fine job of writing it, of creating distinctive characters with their unique dialogue patterns. And using a narrator as active character was an effective story-telling device, one I don’t see often.

Next up is Echoes from the Oasis by A.R. Tirant. Tirant was born in the Seychelles and now lives in England. The story is also set on an island in the Seychelles, off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. I’ve dipped my toes into the story so will have more next time!

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

Cover of Emily's Vow. A man and woman facing each other with an American flag in the background.

As the American Revolution drags on, Charles Town, South Carolina, remains under siege by the British, and one woman’s father is determined to marry her off to a suspected traitor. Emily Sullivan is beset from all sides but vows to fight her own war for independence.

Frank Thomson walks a fine line between spying for the Americans and being a perceived loyalist traitor. Posing as a simple printer of broadsheets and pamphlets, he sends crucial encrypted intelligence to the general camped outside of town. But when Frank learns Emily has been imprisoned by the enemy, he risks his own life, freedom, and heart for hers.

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