Initial Thoughts on With Fire and Sword by Henryk Sienkiewicz #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I must admit that this next book on my Historical Fiction Around the World series, With Fire and Sword by Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz, is a difficult read for me. The writing can be difficult to process due to long, convoluted sentences. Add in many Polish and Russian names and words and it’s been a challenge. I meant to spend most of Thanksgiving reading it, to be honest, but didn’t feel up to that challenge despite holding my iPad with the Hoopla app on it! I will read more though and hope it snares my attention more as I delve farther into this history.

Speaking of the digital reading experience, I’m a bit frustrated with the ebook on my Hoopla app. When I stop reading and exit the app, the book gets closed. Upon reopening the app and then the book, it displays the page number where I stopped reading but defaults to the first page of the Introduction instead of to the page where I left off. Now, there are 1770+ digital pages in the ebook; I am up to page 300 or so right now. So I have to scroll through to find the page where I stopped again. Additionally, this ebook format’s header always displays “Introduction” instead of any specific chapter, which the ebook doesn’t have broken out anyway. The Table of Contents only lists four sections, to be exact, with one of those the entire story. Navigating through the ebook just adds to the challenge of reading this story. I’d really rather have a print edition…

I’m sure part of the adjustment I need to make is to the different style of language insofar as the story was written in 1884 and the author was a Polish journalist. Believe me, writing nonfiction is very different from writing fiction and can be a difficult transition. The author wrote for The Word as well as wrote short stories and other novels. He was well known and appreciated in his lifetime, the Polish people even gave him the “small estate of Oblegorek, near Kielce in south-central Poland” according to Britannica.com. Reading his work is definitely worth my time and attention given the acclaim he’s received although the novels are “criticized for their theatricality and lack of historical accuracy, they display great narrative power and contain vivid characterizations.” I’ve noticed the staging aspects of the story, almost as if he were writing a play in places. So I’ll continue reading and let you know more about the story itself next time.

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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Getting to know Theresa Shea #author #literaryfiction #womensfiction #activist #HistFic #historical #fiction #novel #amreading

My guest author today has an important story to share with us. Please help me welcome Theresa Shea to the interview hot seat! Let’s glance at her bio and then find out more about her and the story she has to tell.

Theresa Shea is the author of two novels. The Shade Tree, winner of the 2020 Guernica Prize for best unpublished literary fiction, and winner of the 2022 Georges Bugnet Award for fiction. Her debut novel, The Unfinished Child, was a finalist for the Georges Bugnet Award and the Alberta Readers’ Choice Award. 

Shea was born in the US and moved to Canada in 1977. A graduate of McGill University, Queen’s University, and the University of Alberta, Shea is currently working on Dog Days of Planet Earth, a novel that examines animal rights and the climate crisis through the historical lens of the nuclear experiments conducted by the United States Government between 1945 and 1992.

Author Social Links: Website * Instagram * Twitter

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

Theresa: In August of 1963, when I was three months old, my mother took me to the March on Washington and held me in her arms as Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his now famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The civil rights movement was in full swing. Change was wanted and needed. It was an exhilarating time. Yet over fifty years later, racial inequality still thrives.

To understand the present, we need to understand the past. In The Shade Tree, I wanted to explore some of the damaging narratives that white people have inherited. The first narrative we are introduced to in life is the family narrative. How are we shaped by it? How does it define us? Why do some people blindly accept that inheritance while others question it?

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

Theresa: I developed two key skills while working on this book: 1) patience to do multiple revisions, and 2) perseverance to bounce back from repeated rejections. Both will continue to be valuable during my writing life.

Winning the Guernica Prize was amazing. In addition to a cash prize, I also received a publishing contract. The novel came out the following year. One acceptance wipes out a lot of rejections. That the book went on to win best novel of the year in my Canadian province was equally wonderful and gratifying.

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

Theresa: Yes, while I wanted to highlight the damage of white supremacy, I struggled to know how much abuse against Black people to show. I didn’t want the violence to be gratuitous. For instance, there is a lynching scene in the novel that was difficult to write and is difficult to read. It is a pivotal scene that juxtaposes a horrifically violent moment with a community picnic involving so-called upstanding citizens. White readers, in particular, should be horrified by the contrast.

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

Theresa: One reviewer said my character Ellie Turner is “the most villainous female character” she has ever come across in literature. While she found her to be “beyond redemption,” she also understood, through my character development, “how her evil came to be.” I found that gratifying. An “evil” character must be believable. Sick people are produced by sick societies.

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

Theresa: I wrote The Shade Tree over a nine-year period and dipped in and out of research throughout that time. The internet is a fabulous resource. I watched footage of civil unrest, revisited the March on Washington, and more. I also read extensively and paid close attention to the Southern American writer and social critic Lillian Smith, who lobbied against Jim Crow laws, segregation, and wrote about the taboos surrounding interracial relationships and the failure of so-called Christians to be charitable and good.

I also read a significant amount of history about, and novels set in, the period covered in my book.

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

Theresa: Oh my. That’s a difficult question, and I’m not certain I know, but I’m going to say approximately eight to ten.

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?

Theresa: I started The Shade Tree in 2011, and it was published in 2021. That’s a faster timeline than my first, The Unfinished Child, that took thirteen years. However, my life circumstances had changed too. I started my first book when my second child was six months old. I moved twice and had another child during that period, so I was primarily focusing more on child-rearing, out of necessity. To be honest, it took longer to get my second novel published than I expected. In the end, however, I’m grateful because it’s a better book having undergone so many revisions.

I’m hoping that my next novel, Dog Days of Planet Earth, will move along at a faster pace. I started it in April of 2019. My children are young adults now, and I have more time to devote to writing. Even so, my novels take time to fully reveal themselves. Having more time hasn’t translated to writing faster. If I can finish a novel in five years, I would think that’s a good pace. One of the benefits of aging is I have more patience for the process.

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

Theresa: I do my best writing first thing in the day. My morning routine is to get up, make coffee, toast a bagel, and read some spiritual writing that sets me on the path to being a good human for the day. Then I go to my studio out in my backyard and give myself a pep talk. If I have a gift for writing, I ask to be deserving of that gift. I ask for the critical and doubting voice inside to be silenced. Once I am far enough into a work, I get excited to visit my fictional world and to spend time with my characters. So, there are stages of writing that are definitely more enjoyable (because they are easier) than others.

Finally, I think often of Ann Patchett’s simple equation: “Time applied equals work completed.” It’s shocking to think it can be that simple.

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

Theresa: Good question. I have no idea! Maybe my readers could let me know.

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

Theresa: My role models are people who have strong moral compasses and are true to their convictions, no matter the repercussions. Social justice people, certain spiritual leaders, activists that challenge the status quo, to name a few.

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

Theresa: Since November of 2018, I am fortunate to have a backyard shed, insulated and heated, in which to write. It was a decrepit shed filled with old paint cans and lawn mowers and insulation rolls left by previous tenants. One day I looked at it and thought, “it has potential!” A friend did the renovation work, and it has been life changing. Also, my timing was great. I used to work in coffee shops and libraries. When Covid hit in 2020, those spaces were no longer available. That my studio was already complete was lifesaving.

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

Theresa: I left my full-time job working at the city in late 2019 because I wanted time to finish some writing projects. Then Covid hit. I have been precariously self-employed since then.

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

Theresa: I feel my greatest achievement as an author is writing books that move people.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Theresa: Literary fiction.

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?

Theresa: Great question. When I was younger, I thought success came from being “known” or signing for a large advance. It was much more about external validation. Now, success is being able to write what I want and taking the time to let the work develop. Success for me is having more patience to let the work breathe and grow and expand.

The Shade Tree is a searing exploration of racial injustice set against the backdrop of some of America’s most turbulent historical events. The lives of two white sisters and a Black midwife are inextricably linked through a series of haunting tragedies, and the characters must make life-changing decisions about where their loyalties lie: with their biological families or with a greater moral cause. From a Florida orange grove to the seat of power in Washington, DC, during the height of the civil rights movement, The Shade Tree tells a sweeping yet intimate story of racial discrimination and the human hunger for justice.

An Editors’ Choice book with The Historical Novel Society, a reviewer said of The Shade Tree: “Mesmerizing, engrossing, and brilliantly plotted, this is an achievement that will echo long after the last page is turned.”

Buy Links: Amazon, * Barnes & Noble & any local independent bookstore

Thank you so much for sharing The Shade Tree with us today, Theresa! It sounds like a wonderful and provocative read.

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!

My Impressions of The Henna Artist by Akla Joshi #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I’ve finished reading The Henna Artist by Akla Joshi. Last week, I shared my initial thoughts so feel free to pop over and read it if you missed it. Now that I’ve read the entire story along with the supporting materials and an excerpt for the second story in the series, I feel more confident in my opinion of the story. Which is to say, that I highly recommend reading this story. It’s worth your time. Why do I say that, you ask? I will be happy to tell you…

Before I talk specifically about The Henna Artist, I want to talk about the experience of reading. Reading a borrowed book on the Hoopla app on my iPad annoys me. I find it difficult to hold the device for long periods of time. I did poke around at trying to enlarge the font but it didn’t hold at the bigger font. So I had to continue to hold it landscape. I know that’s picky of me. I much prefer holding an actual book in my hands. I have reading apps on both my phone and my tablet, but a paperback or hardback is far more comfortable for my hands. Each options for reading has its purpose, though. I am reading an anthology of historical romances for pleasure on the Nook app on my phone so I have something to read whenever I am waiting for a doctor, etc. I read the library borrows on my tablet since I’m usually home when I read the historical fiction for this blog series. But I also have a library in my guest room with tons of printed books that I can choose from. When I travel, I’ll likely take at least a couple paperbacks with me to read (they don’t require batteries or interfere with other electronics) but I’ll still have my phone and those stories at hand as well.

Now back to Akla Joshi’s story. The depth and breadth of details about living in India in the 1950 as well as the traditions and culture of the country gave me a much better appreciation of the people and the lives they lived. I’ve never traveled to India so everything I know about the region is from books and movies. Ms. Joshi helped me to “live” the life of her characters and the limitations they faced and overcome.

Discussions throughout of the uses of various plants, herbs, and spices intrigued me. Learning that the author did extensive research into that aspect of her story gives a lot of credence to how her characters use them. I’ve been fascinated with herbals and combining various herbs and spices into liquid suspension or creams/lotions for a long time. I am not an expert in any of it, just admire those who are!

Lakshmi is the epitome of an emotionally strong woman. She’s faced time and again with having to navigate through hopes and dreams on one hand and the societal expectations and limitations on the other. I really enjoyed seeing how she worked through the decision making process before her and how she handled any fall out from the choices she makes. I’m not saying she was perfect, but she took responsibility for her decisions and actions and then worked to correct any wrongs she may have made. What more can you ask of anyone?

The next book on my Historical Fiction Around the World series is With Fire and Sword by Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz. This is another story recommended by my friends at the Historical Novel Society Facebook group. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, you might check out that group.

And one last time this year, now that Thanksgiving in America is close to hand, I’ll share my Thanksgiving romance with you all. See below for more on Tara and Grant’s unique trek into an enchanted valley…

Until next time, happy reading!

Betty

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

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

Love is never lost; it haunts the heart…   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!

He dug for the truth and found her magic…

It’s safer to stay hidden. Or so Tara Golden believes. She has hidden her healing powers ever since shunned as a child for using them. But occasionally, she helps people passing through town. Then a tall, sexy geologist demands answers to questions she doesn’t want to face. The hunky guy is in for a huge disappointment since she would never expose her abilities and her gifted sisters even to silence the handsome man.

Grant Markel’s eyesight is restored, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. He followed his brother to Roseville on the fool’s errand of creating an alchemical elixir. Only to have his condition disappear without any treatment. But the idea that Tara is a sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest makes him face hard truths despite their mutual attraction.

When they are trapped in an enchanted valley, Tara must choose between her magical reality or his scientific beliefs. Can she step from the shadows to claim her true powers before it’s too late?

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Initial Thoughts about The Henna Artist by Akla Joshi #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I’ve started reading the next book on my Historical Fiction Around the World tour of books written by non-American authors entitled The Henna Artist by Akla Joshi. It’s important to note that this is the first book in The Jaipur Trilogy. This first story is set in Jaipur, State of Rajasthan, India in the 1950s. The paperback is 400 pages, but I’m reading it on my iPad via a library borrow through Hoopla. I mentioned this only to add that while it’s nice to be able to read it on my iPad, Hoopla won’t let me resize the text easily like I can in other reading apps. Perhaps I need to poke around more and see if there is a way to change that, but for now I’ve been turning the device to landscape mode to make the text large enough to read.

The author has provided some collateral materials to help readers understand the context of the story. These include a glossary, the Story of Henna, information on the Caste System, as well as several recipes for items/foods mentioned in the story. She also includes a list of the characters who appear in the story to introduce them before you begin reading, a fact I’ll circle back around to in a minute.

The story is divided into four parts and I have finished reading through Part One. The main character, Lakshmi, is very likeable and despite the different culture and society she lives in, I feel like I understand her situation and her choices. The author has deftly written about the nuances of life in India, the protocols and expectations, as well as the subtle politics of the society. It’s really a fascinating introduction to India for me.

The Prologue helps to set the stage for what comes later, but I must admit to being confused as to whose story I was reading since the author begins with a character who is not Lakshmi, but her sister, Rhada. So when chapter one begins, I thought we were still in Rhada’s POV, not Lakshmi. After a few paragraphs, I caught on but there was a bit of confusion for me. I suppose if I’d read the list of characters more closely, I might have followed it better. So consider that my advice to any who wants to read this interesting and compelling story: read through the Characters Who Appear section carefully.

Akla Joshi has a beautiful writing style that readily depicts the life and times of the characters in this delightful story. Let me share the opening paragraph of Chapter One, which does a fine job of setting the stage of Jaipur:

Independence changed everything. Independence changed nothing. Eight years after the British left, we now had free government schools, running water and paved roads. But Jaipur still felt the same to me as it had ten years ago, the first time I stepped foot on its dusty soil. On the way to our first appointment of the morning, Malik and I nearly collided with a man carrying cement bags on his head when a bicycle cut between us. The cyclist, hugging a six-foot ladder under his arm, caused a horse carriage to sideswipe a pig, who ran squealing into a narrow alley. At one point, we stepped aside and waited for a raucous band of hijras to pass. The sari-clad, lipstick-wearing men were singing and dancing in front of a house to bless the birth of a baby boy. So accustomed were we to the odors of the city—cow dung, cooking fires, coconut hair oil, sandalwood incense and urine—that we barely noticed them.

I’m looking forward to finding out what will happen next in this story. I’ll try to finish it before next week’s blog.

Now that Thanksgiving in America is close to hand, I’d thought I’d share my Thanksgiving romance with you all. See below for more on Tara and Grant’s unique trek into an enchanted valley…

Until next time, happy reading!

Betty

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

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

Love is never lost; it haunts the heart…   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!

He dug for the truth and found her magic…

It’s safer to stay hidden. Or so Tara Golden believes. She has hidden her healing powers ever since shunned as a child for using them. But occasionally, she helps people passing through town. Then a tall, sexy geologist demands answers to questions she doesn’t want to face. The hunky guy is in for a huge disappointment since she would never expose her abilities and her gifted sisters even to silence the handsome man.

Grant Markel’s eyesight is restored, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. He followed his brother to Roseville on the fool’s errand of creating an alchemical elixir. Only to have his condition disappear without any treatment. But the idea that Tara is a sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest makes him face hard truths despite their mutual attraction.

When they are trapped in an enchanted valley, Tara must choose between her magical reality or his scientific beliefs. Can she step from the shadows to claim her true powers before it’s too late?

Amazon     Barnes and Noble      Kobo     Apple     Books2Read     Google Books     Bookshop

Getting to know Lawrie Johnston #author #hisfic #WWI #history #historical #fiction #books #amreading #amwriting

My next guest hails from the beautiful country of Scotland. Please help me welcome Lawrie Johnston! Let’s find out a bit more about her background before we learn about her inspiration and writing process.

I am a retired teacher of history. For most of my life I have read studied and taught history in various parts of Scotland. I have a BA in History from the University of Stirling where I majored in African history.  In contrast I contributed to nonfiction local history books when I lived in the southwest of Scotland. Now that I am retired, I have had the time to research aspects of the First World War and this has resulted in my first historical fiction novel “Who Served Well”, which I hope will be the first of many. I have started to write my second novel which is set in medieval Scotland at the time of The Wars of Independence.

Author Social Links: Facebook * Instagram * Twitter * Apple

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

Lawrie: As an historian and history teacher I have always been fascinated by the events of the First World War. It was such a pivotal moment in world history and its consequences far reaching. In its aftermath it inspired a plethora of novels, poems, plays, and films. I devoured these with pleasure. More recently and just shortly after I retired, I was given the opportunity to research a small local war memorial in a little parish called Bargrennan in the southwest of Scotland. There were around nine names on the memorial which would be a significant proportion of the young men in such a small sparsely populated area. I noticed two of the young men had died on the same day at the same battle. One had emigrated and served in a Canadian regiment. The other served in a local Scottish regiment. I wondered if they had met again during the war and that was the start of the story.

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

Lawrie: I was so used to writing nonfiction I really enjoyed developing fictional characters, fleshing them out, giving them emotions and situations. Thinking about how they would respond. So I think I have developed my imaginative writing skills.

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

Lawrie: Generally, I find writing dialogue quite difficult. I think you must read it aloud to judge if it sounds natural and plausible. You have also to carefully consider if it is time appropriate. I know soldiers swore a lot so that wasn’t a problem.

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

Lawrie: That would be Tam, one of the central characters in the story. Like anyone he has his good points and flaws. Essentially, he is caught up in events which he does not fully understand but remains positive and optimistic.

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

Lawrie: A great deal. From researching war memorials to nonfiction books about the First World War for information about battles, troops movements, and field hospitals to name a few. I visited several museums and libraries, too.

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

Lawrie: For the book as a whole three drafts. There were some chapters or bits of chapters which were revised further.

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 no

Lawrie: As this was my first novel, I did not plan the timing as well as I could have. There were several gaps in my writing, so overall about three years. I am working on my second novel now and have estimated a two-year turnaround from start to publication

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

Lawrie: Always a strong cup of coffee before I start.

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

Lawrie: I used the phrase “the following morning” too often. I am very aware of that now.

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

Lawrie: Not really as I try to be myself. I do admire Hilary Mantel a great deal. I think she is in a class of her own when it comes to historical fiction. Her advice to other authors was excellent.

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

Lawrie: Mainly at the dining room table.

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

Lawrie: I am a retired history teacher and loved my job. There are elements which I still miss.

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

Lawrie: To date it would be the publication of my first novel. Opening the first box of books was exciting. Seeing my book on retailers’ websites and reading good reviews was also very rewarding.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Lawrie: For relaxing then crime fiction, Ian Rankin and Val McDermid are go-to writers for me.

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

Lawrie: I have no illusions that I will make a fortune from my work. That people have enjoyed and taken something from my book is reward enough for me.

Who Served Well is an exploration of the devastating effects of the First World War through the eyes of three young friends from Galloway, southwest Scotland. The idea for the book comes from research I did around local war memorials. The stories of the individuals on the memorials inspired me to create the fictional characters in the book. I hope the reader will become immersed in those events and battles of the war where local men and women made a significant contribution. The essence of the book is deeply rooted in the people and places of Galloway. Andrew McDowall, Tam Murdoch, and Kathleen Marr make their own way through the war but are linked by their past and also by their present.

Buy Links: Troubadour Book Publishing * AmazonUS * AmazonUK

Knowing that the story stems from historical memorials may just mean your readers will want to travel to those sites, too. I’d go back to Scotland in a heartbeat! Thanks, Lawrie, for stopping by and sharing your debut novel with us!

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

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

My thoughts on Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon #histfic #historical #fiction #AmericanRevolution #Scottish #timetravel #fantasy #amreading #amwriting

Now that my newest releases are available, and the short flash fiction for Halloween have been shared, it’s time for me to turn my attention back to my Historical Fiction Around the World series. If you recall, this is where I read historical fiction by non-American authors. It’s my way of expanding my own reading horizons and appreciating the breadth and depth of storytelling. I’ve selected a story from India entitled The Henna Artist by Akla Joshi as the next book in the series. It sounds interesting…

While I dip my toes into this intriguing tale, I thought I’d share my thoughts on Diana Gabaldon’s recent Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, which I finally read. The book released in 2021 but not in paperback, so I waited nearly a year until the paperback became available. My thinking was that I have the first 8 books in paperback, and I wanted the 9th in paperback as well. Then I share the books with my daughter to read. So after reading the 888 pages of the story, I can say it was worth the wait. I enjoy Ms. Gabaldon’s stories. They are entertaining and informative even if at times I wish she’d had a better editor to help her with the writing. But, then again, once an author has reached the kind of status she has, editors tend to be far more permissive and forgiving. I guess they figure she’s built an audience writing in such a style…

Betty with Diana Gabaldon in 2013 at the Historical Novel Society Conference.

Anyway, that’s my own personal preferences showing. Ms. Gabaldon’s writing is solid and she weaves an interesting story. While many things happen in this continuing saga of a time-traveling family, in this particular book not much at all happens from a big picture view. People fight, travel, defend themselves, build new homes, find new family, and navigate troubling war times during the American Revolution in the states. I found the day-to-day living aspects of the story fascinating if somewhat slow at times. Some scenes didn’t have any obvious significant purpose for this reader. But I always marvel at the depth of research she must have done to write these stories so specifically detailed. (I’d love to have a conversation with her about her research!)

Ultimately, I think of this book as a bridge to the next one, which Ms. Gabaldon teases “might be” the penultimate book in the series. It ends on a definite cliffhanger, which adds to my impression of its role in the series. Neither of those impressions are a denunciation of the story, though. I thoroughly enjoyed the evolving story of Claire and Jamie.

One interesting aspect of the points of view (POVs) used in this book is that all of the characters except Claire’s are written in third person close POV. Claire is heard in first person, bringing her inner thoughts onto the page in a more direct and personal way. This technique ensures the reader will know when we’re in Claire’s head without having to figure out who is talking/thinking. Given there are at least three other POVs employed in telling this tale, sometimes I had to pause to figure out in whose POV the scene was written.

Another thing I noticed is a reflection of Ms. Gabaldon’s scientific background. Her website bio states, “Dr. Diana J. Gabaldon holds three degrees in science: Zoology, Marine Biology, and a Ph.D. in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology.” Her writerly voice reflects this training in the use of passive language (not necessarily passive voice). She frequently begins her sentences with “There were/are/was” openings, for example. Using such constructs distance the reader from the character’s POV in one sense but also creates a “cushion” between the action of the story and the telling of it. Let me try to give an example. I just opened the novel to page 96 and found this sentence at the bottom of the page: “There was a long moment of silence.” As a comparison, what if she’d written: “A long moment of silence followed.” Or even, “A moment of silence stretched into an uncomfortable minute.” I read my examples as more active and energetic than the original. What do you think?

Yes, I do realize that most readers won’t even notice these kinds of aspects of the book. Readers, as opposed to writers reading, don’t look beyond the story. I, personally, having been trained as an editor and having studied as an English major emphasizing literature, am striving to not only tell an entertaining, informative story but to do so to the best of my ability. You’ll have to tell me how well I’ve succeeded, though, since a writer can’t really tell if they’re hitting the mark with their own writing.

If you haven’t read the series to date, you’re missing out on a lot of great historical fiction and I urge you to give it a try. If the size of the books proves too daunting—each is in the 800+ page range—then check out the Starz miniseries of Outlander. Ms. Gabaldon is the co-producer and advisor of the series and it stays true to the stories she wrote so you won’t miss out on the key elements of the series. Find out more here. Of course, if you’re like me and devour the tiniest details of life during a different time period, then you’d be better off reading the books.

Either way, I hope you’ll enjoy the Outlander series as much as I have!

And if you enjoy historical fiction set during the American Revolution, I hope you’ll take a peek at Emily’s Vow, the first book in my American Revolution series A More Perfect Union, set in Charleston, South Carolina during the British occupation of that beautiful city.

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.

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

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

As the American Revolution drags on, Charles Town, South Carolina, remains under siege by the British, and Emily’s father is determined to marry her off to a suspected traitor. Frank Thomson walks a fine line between spying for the Americans and being a perceived loyalist traitor. 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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Introducing Miss Kitty Underhay, the delightful amateur sleuth from Helena Dixon’s cozy mystery series. #author #character #femalesleuth #bookseries #amreading #fiction #novels

Sometimes it’s the little things that matter most in life. Today let’s chat with an interesting character from Helena Dixon’s cozy mysteries, Miss Kitty Underhay. Welcome, Kitty! After we find out a little bit about Helena, I’m looking forward to finding out more about you.

Helena Dixon splits her time between the Black Country and Devon. Married to the same man for over thirty-five years she has three daughters, a cactus called Spike, and a crazy cockapoo. She is allergic to adhesives, apples, tinsel and housework.  She was winner of The Romance Prize in 2007 and Love Story of the Year 2010 as Nell Dixon. She now writes the Miss Underhay historical 1930’s cozy crime series.

Author Social Links: Twitter * Instagram

Betty: How would you describe your parents?

Kitty: My mother vanished when I was six and my father went to America. I have only recently become reacquainted with my father who is something of a rogue. I was brought up by my grandmother at the Dolphin Hotel.

Betty: Who taught you to tie your shoes?

Kitty: Mickey, the maintenance man in the hotel that I co own with my grandmother.

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

Kitty: I live in Dartmouth, a small riverside town in Devon. When you live by water you need to know how to swim.

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

Kitty: I can be quite impetuous and sometimes this has placed me in considerable danger.

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

Kitty:  I met my fiancé, Captain Matthew Bryant who is a private investigator. We are due to get married on Christmas Eve

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

Kitty:  I wish my mother was still alive. I spent years trying to find out what happened to her.

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

Kitty: I really don’t like rats. I think everyone knows!

Betty: What’s your favorite game to play?

Kitty: I like to play billiards although I’m told this is not very lady-like.

Betty: Do you have a favorite sibling? Who?

Kitty: I’m an only child.

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

Kitty:  I love living in Dartmouth. Being by the sea has to be the best place to live in the world. The countryside here is beautiful and we have the best seafood and clotted cream.

Betty: How do you like to relax?

Kitty: I like to read, especially whodunnits. I also go to the cinema with my friend, Alice. She is a huge fan of the talkies as my grandmother still calls them.

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

Kitty: Mysteries. I love Mrs. Sayers.

Betty: How do you like to start your day?

Kitty: I wake up early and my best days start when Alice my friend sneaks into my room to share a cup of tea with me. She’s a chambermaid at the Dolphin and has to avoid Mrs. Homer, our housekeeper. We have a good old chat and its such fun. I shall miss that when I marry Matt.

Betty: What kinds of friends do you have?

Kitty: All kinds. Alice and her sister Dolly are my closest friends but there is also Father Lamb who is a priest at Exeter. He’s very kind and generous. Dr. Carter, who I always seem to meet whenever there is a murder. Since I met Matt I always seem to end up embroiled in murders.

Betty: Who would you like to meet? Why?

Kitty: I would like to meet Queen Mary, she always seems so very gracious. Plus, Mrs. Craven has met her and won’t stop bragging about it.

Kitty Underhay is drowning… in murder.

Kitty Underhay hopes for plain sailing as she caters a 21st birthday party for the Chief Constable’s daughter aboard a luxury paddle steamer. So her heart sinks when she learns that the man her fiancé Matthew has been tailing on orders from Whitehall, Gunther Freiburg, is aboard. And she’s even more horrified when she steps below deck to discover Gunther dead in the engine room. One of the Chief Constable’s party must be responsible for his demise, but who, and why?

And the evening is on course for further disaster. As the lights go out around the candlelit cake, a terrible scream rings out over the merry hubbub. A priceless diamond necklace has been snatched from around the birthday girl’s neck… Something fishy is going on, but is this the work of the same sailing assassin, or is it a red herring?

With the local inspector in deep water having to investigate his own boss, Kitty and Matt dive in to help. But when Kitty’s eavesdropping puts her in mortal danger, will everything turn out shipshape, or will it be her turn to go swimming with the fishes…?

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The lessons we learn from the various people in our lives can yield some interesting developments. Thanks, Kitty, for stopping by for a chat!

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

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Halloween Flash Fiction: The Bush Indian #amwriting #amreading #Halloween2022 #shortstory #flashfiction #fiction #witches #ghosts #monsters

One more Halloween flash fiction for you all! In honor of Halloween, Poised Pen Productions is hosting a flash fiction giveaway with a prize filled with books, gift cards, and swag. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway simply by signing up with your email, and you’ll be given options for earning additional entries. Good luck!

If you missed it, I already shared my short story, Haunting Beauty. If you missed the others, check out The Hunt and A Simple Mistake, Ghostly Contact and The Witch’s Wand, and Samhain Surprise and Tall, Dark, and Handsome.  And now for the last but definitely not least of the Halloween flash fiction stories!


The Bush Indian

Copyright (c) Cherime MacFarlane

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCherimeMacFarlane

Author’s Note: There is a tale in that country of a “Bush Indian.” What little I’ve heard of it, people don’t say much, I’ve taken license with. But people do disappear in Alaska and are never seen or heard of again. A few thousand so far. Don’t go out in the bush alone.

Dedicated to: The elders I once knew.

Gunrik sat in one of the old office chairs. The two old men sat in their favorites, each one much the worse for wear. The wood stove warmed the interior of the building the men, hunting partners for years, called their shop. Built into the hillside of the property they had called home for over eighty years, it had one door and one window. He hoped the two Athabaskan elders would flesh out the information on a tale he’d run across while gathering stories for his employer, the Native Corporation.

He’d asked politely if the old men would tell him about the Bush Indian after church several months ago. They had exchanged glances. Some communication had passed between them.

Erik looked past Gunrik’s shoulder, staring at the mountains on the far side of the lake. David sighed. “Maybe. Him and me.” He waved a hand between them. “We’ll talk, send word if it feels right.”

Eventually, he’d had a call from Lila Jones, the great-grands granddaughter. The old men had decided it would be alright to discuss the legend. But they must do it on a Sunday afternoon, after church and when the moon was full.

Erik struck a match and lit a decrepit old pipe. The smoke didn’t smell like tobacco. Gunrik waited.

“Chelth-en-ee.” The word came out of the blue cloud around Erik. “Spell it how ya please. Him and me ain’t gonna say it again. Naw…”

“Once is enough.” David finished Erik’s thought. Gunrik had seen the two old hunters do that often enough. “Ya see spirit’s smoke coming from Wrangell? Tha kay-you-nee-thled-eh? That’s what we was waitin for. We’re thinking maybe we can get clear o trouble now. But we ain’t gonna speak o this again. Get it all now cause it’s askin for trouble to be too loud about that.”

“Yes, sir. Can I record you both?”

“Naw. Ya write this down.” Erik said.

David nodded. “Ya record it an that wrong spirit could hear it. They come after us. Can’t have that trash after DeDe, Alva Mae and the young ones.”

“Trash?”

“Yep.” David spat on the ground while Erik took another puff and blue smoke filled the air. “Evil as evil can be. They stole children. Took ‘em right out of their beds.” David said.

“Ya. Hunters go looking and find bones. Chewed.” Erik shook his white head. “Lost a few to that goo.”

He knew ‘goo’ meant monster. “They ate the children?” Gunrik leaned forward. He understood why no one wanted to talk about the thing he’d been trying to clarify.

Neither old man spoke, but they did nod in agreement. Erik blew another puff of smoke into the air. They exchanged another glance.

“They ain’t above taking a lone hunter, neither.” David said.

“Yup. Never go without ah huntin partner.” Erik took another draw on the pipe.

“Uh huh. They hung out in caves in the cliffs above tha river.” David leaned forward. “Ya know there’s still hunters, hikers go missin and nothing’s found.”

Gunrik nodded. He knew that. “Like that show about the Alaska Triangle.”

Both old men laughed. “They don’t know much. And ain’t no one going to tell them more. Tha only reason you’re hearing about it from us is we know we can trust ya. You’ve seen things here. Stuff ya can’t talk about cause ain’t any of em gonna believe ya.” David grinned at him.

“Ya. His great-great grandpa and his huntin partner followed em and traced tha evil back to their hole.” Erik gestured with the stem of the pipe.

“Uh huh and ran back and got every man, woman, and child in tha camp.” David grinned at him. “Since it was summer, they built fires on the land above the entrance, rolled bundles of brush down to keep tha lot trapped.”

“Collapsed the stuff above. Sealed tha goo in.” Erik said.

“Ya. That time they got most o them.” David looked at his hunting partner. “But we must have missed a few.”

Gunrik understood the ‘we’ to be the village collectively. “You think there are some still out there?”

“We do. Don’t ya be traipsing out there alone. Take our advice and always take a huntin partner. Keep each other safe.” Erik put the pipe stem to his lips.

“Now, we’s done talking. Said enough.” David touched Erik’s shoulder. “Look. Ya see that?”

“Yup.” David pointed out the window. “Wrangell is smoking up a storm. Tha wind’s rising. Storm comin up from tha gulf. Get on home, Gunrik. Stick close ta home for tha next few days.”

The entire drive down the Edgerton Highway to the cabin he shared with his wife, he felt off somehow. But he would call Jay Leighton as soon as he got home. The moose hunt he’d thought to do alone would be put off until he could get a hunting partner. He hoped Jay would go with him.

The old men were right. He’d seen too much in this country to not pay attention. And the hair on the back of his neck rose every time he looked at the big volcano with the plume of smoke above it. Cannibals had once terrorized the people here. As the old men said, evil had once roamed this vast valley and might still be waiting to snatch a lone hunter.


What a great story to wrap up the Halloween flash fiction series! Never go out hunting alone, my friends, whether for moose or candy!

Happy Halloween!

Betty

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

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

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

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!

Haunted Melody is discounted for the month of October!

Her love puts a song in his heart…

Paulette O’Connell is determined to provide for her unborn child. She has few skills and nowhere to call home except Twin Oaks plantation. Paulette accidentally summons her grandfather’s annoying ghost but he won’t leave until she figures out why she needs him.

Zak Markel is desperate to create an alchemical elixir to save his brother’s eyesight. Only, captivating Paulette distracts him at the worst possible time. While Zak longs for Paulette to give him a chance, she is determined to stand on her own, even before her child’s father returns. Can Zak convince Paulette to follow her heart before it’s too late?

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Halloween Flash Fiction: Samhain Surprise and Tall, Dark, and Handsome #amwriting #amreading #Halloween2022 #shortstory #flashfiction #fiction #witches #ghosts

I’m continuing sharing more flash fiction with you all! In honor of Halloween, Poised Pen Productions is hosting a flash fiction giveaway with a prize filled with books, gift cards, and swag. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway simply by signing up with your email, and you’ll be given options for earning additional entries. Good luck!

If you missed it, I already shared my short story, Haunting Beauty. If you missed the others, check out The Hunt and A Simple Mistake and Ghostly Contact and The Witch’s Wand.  Two more today, and then one last one next week!


Samhain Surprise

© Teresa Keefer

https://www.teresakeeferromance.com/

The black crow started tapping on her window at the butt crack of dawn, just like it had every day since Mabon drew to an end. Right before she pulled the colorful hand stitched quilt back over her head, Fiona McCann grumbled at the feathered annoyance. “Go away, Demetrius. I’m not ready to get up.”

The bird just cackled at her and continued to tap on the window with his beak. Just like every morning before this one. Fiona didn’t even know why she bothered to try to go back to sleep once his incessant noise making started. And it didn’t matter that she filled his feeder at night because it wasn’t food he was after. And most of the time his food got eaten by Bandit, the fat ass raccoon who lives in the oak tree out back.

“Fine. Fine. I’m getting up, you black feathered jerk.” She looked out the window and watched as he jumped up and down on the branch outside her window. “But I’m not going to do any magick today, either. Or any other day. My magick is broken and my spells do more harm than good.”

That was the truth. The first night of Mabon a storm had come through when she was offering the contents of her simmer pot to the oak tree in the backyard. A shard of lightning struck the ground where she had just emptied the pot of fruit and spices. Smoke spiraled up and she watched in awe as the fruit followed the smoke, turned black, and fell back to the ground. And the stench of rotten egg permeated the air around her. Since then, every spell she attempted ended up having catastrophic results.

First, there was the flat tire on her car she tried to fix. She ended up with the other three tires flat and the one fixed. So, she had to ride her bicycle to work at her mother’s bakery. There, she tried to put away stock in her usual manner of standing back and letting her fingers do the walking. A fifty pound bag of sugar fell out of its midair journey to the shelf and burst all over the floor. After she accidentally burned an entire oven full of scones, both her mother and her aunt shooed her out with their besoms and told her she should use hers to sweep out whatever shadows had infiltrated her magick field.

Well, here she was, a month later with Samhain two days away and she couldn’t even light a candle with her powers. Well, that wasn’t true either. She turned candles into blow torches and couldn’t get the fireplace to do anything but smolder. Fiona groaned and trudged toward the kitchen in the same flannel pajama pants she had been wearing for three days. Maybe four.

After she had a cup of her favorite tea and ate a stale scone, she looked around her quaint little house and shook her head. Not the first pumpkin carved or the first decoration put up. The only food in the house was what her mother or Aunt Agatha brought over in between their own tasks. And they were super busy baking up confectioneries for the various Halloween parties, not to mention preparing for their own family Samhain observance. Which Fiona was going to have to skip this year.

Her cell phone beeped at her. Her mother. Fiona hit the speaker button. “Hey Ma.”

“Fiona, my love, are you still plodding around in those old pajamas with your hair tangled up so bad mice could make a nice home in it?”

As she tried to run her fingers through her hair, Fiona had to admit Margret McCann pretty much hit the nail on the head. “I’m going to take a shower and comb my hair today. I promise.”

“Did you put your crystals out to charge last night?”

“The full moon is tonight. I’ll get them out.”

There was a long pause, then Margret sighed. “I’ve searched high and low for answers to your little difficulty. I keep coming up empty handed. Perhaps if we all joined together this evening our combined powers could bring up a vision in your sphere that could give us a clue how to fix this. We need you back in time for Samhain.”

“I’ve tried the gazing ball and all I see is a fog. And right now, it doesn’t look like I need to be around for Samhain. I think I’ll stay home and hand out candy to the children.” She rolled her eyes when she saw Demetrius prancing in front of the patio door. At least he wasn’t pecking on it. “Which means I definitely have to get around and go buy Halloween candy for the trick or treaters. I’ll talk to you later, Ma.”

Samhain blew in on a west wind that knocked over trash cans and sent a kaleidoscope of color through the air. By the time the sun fell and the moon rose, Fiona was perched on her front steps in a colorful set of skirts, long sleeved black blouse, and a conical hat adorned with flowers and feathers. Her handmade besom was leaned against the porch post and an arrangement of carved jack-o-lanterns were arranged on her steps with battery operated candles in each.

It was a different sort of night not spending it with her mother and aunt making offerings to the goddess and dancing in the shadows of the sky high pines in her aunt’s woods. They invited her but with the way everything she touched went to shit, Fiona felt it best to not spoil their evening with certain mishap.

She wasn’t sure how much longer she could take not having her magick. For as long as she could remember, it had been part of her and she was lost without it. Of course, over the years she wondered what it would be to not have the responsibility which accompanied her powers. To be normal. Normal wasn’t much fun at all.

As the groups of children grew smaller and farther between and her bowl of candy got lighter. The wind died down a little bit and the moon gave an otherworld glow to her front lawn. She couldn’t help but laugh at the children as they played in the leaves. Goblins, spacemen, cowboys and witches throwing the leaves at each other and falling down into the piles like they were jumping into a sea of water. Not a care in the world. And watching them frolic took her mind off her own predicament.

It was getting late and Fiona watched as porch lights started going off. The signal that another year of trick-or-treating was coming to an end. She sat there for a few minutes, looking up at the glorious moon and felt the emptiness of not being with her mother and aunt celebrating Samhain the way they normally did. The street had grown quiet when Demetrius flew down from a tree and started prancing and squawking in front of her.

“There’s nothing stopping you from flying out to enjoy the Samhain festivities in the woods. Go right ahead.”

He strutted for a few more minutes and flew away. Apparently, her company was not what her familiar wanted tonight. All the more power to him. She stood and picked up the almost empty basket of candy and turned toward the door when the crow returned. Only this time, he had a companion. Another crow, but it was wearing a purple bow around its neck.

“Good grief, where did you find this one?” Fiona sighed. “Have you gone and stolen someone’s pet away for your own entertainment?”

A dark shadow fell across the moonlight and closed in on her. A deep chuckle followed. Then the man appeared. Tall, dark, and with the brightest purple eyes she had ever seen. He smiled and held out his arm. “Come along, Drucilla. You’ve done well tonight.”

“Who are you?” Fiona knew only those like herself would have a crow they referred to by name.

“Let me introduce myself.” He made an exaggerated bow and the crow with the purple bow flew up to settle on his shoulder. “I am Derick Sobeinne. I believe you have something of mine.”

“And what would that be?”

“The tip of my wand. A piece of amethyst given to me by my grandfather when I was but a child learning how to turn my cousins into frogs.” He glanced over at Demetrius who had tucked his beak under his wing and was pretending to sleep. “I believe your rascal here swiped it.”

Fiona had to admit, there were times Demetrius came home with various baubles and pranced around to show them to her. But she hadn’t seen an amethyst just laying around the house or yard. “Why do you think that?”

“Let me ask you this…around the time of Mabon, did anything unusual happen around here?”

Fiona snorted. “Other than my powers going haywire?”

Derick lifted a dark eyebrow sardonically. “Around Mabon? Because that’s when this rascal was poking around my window trying to get the attention of Drucilla. Tell me what happened on Mabon.”

“I was out in the yard offering the contents of my simmer pot to the oak tree out back when a storm came up out of nowhere. Then a flash of lightning hit the ground and sent sparks flying. And there was this ghastly odor. The following day, when I tried to use my magick, it didn’t work right. I’ve done nothing but create havoc.”

Derick reached for her hand. “Come. Show me where this happened.”

Fiona led him around the house to the back gate and opened it. The oak tree was the center point of the yard. He tugged at her hand. “See that black charred area right there to the right of the tree?”

“Yes, that’s where the lightning hit.”

Releasing her hand, he knelt down in the damp grass and dug his fingers around in the charred soil. “Ah, here it is.” He held up a glowing piece of amethyst and smiled. Then he snapped his fingers and a shiny black wand with a silver crow on the handle appeared. “Come on over here. I’ll fix your magick.”

“I’m not going to…” Before the sentence was completely out of her mouth, she was standing near the warlock with the purple eyes. He touched the wand to the top of her head and she felt a rush of power go through her entire body. Then he stepped away from her. “Give it a try. You should be good as new. Maybe even better with a little of my own magick in you now.”

Not convinced, she did as he requested anyway and turned toward the fire pit in the patio area. Pointing her hands at the fresh logs, she closed her eyes and imagined the fire roaring to life. When she opened them, the wood was crackling as a normal fire would do.

Derick smiled and touched her shoulder. “No sense in letting a good fire go to waste. I just happen to have a nice bottle of French wine right here.” He held out the bottle.

Fiona grinned and clapped her hands. Two wine glasses appeared on the patio by the fire. “And I just happen to have a pair of crystal glasses to put the said wine in.”

Together, they walked toward the fire and the two crows flew up to the lowest branch on the oak tree. Out of the sight of the two witches, they gave each other the crow version of a high five, Their work was done.


Tall, Dark, and Handsome

© Tina Susedik

https://www.tina-susedik.com/

“Your future looks bright.” Fortune teller, Madam Silver, ran her hand over Kate Sullivan’s palm then eyed the Oracle deck Kate had shuffled and drawn three cards from. “You’ll meet and fall in love with a tall, dark, and handsome man.”

Yeah, right. How many times had the old woman uttered those words? Kate held back a sigh. Why had she listened to her best friend, Bernie? Why had she wasted her time and money?

“How exciting. When and where will I meet this man?”

Dressed in typical gypsy garb with dozens of jangling bracelets, a colorful bandana covering her hair, wide loop earrings, and long, flowing dress, the old crone turned over the third card. “At a hall.”

Well, that was stupid. “Could you be a bit more specific?”

“That’s not how readings work.”

Of course not. Kate bit her bottom lip to keep from calling the woman a charlatan. Instead, she gathered her purse and rose.

“Wait!” Madam Silver called out. “Beware of ladders and black paint.”

Ladders? Black paint? “Yeah. Sure thing. Whatever you say.”

Kate left the quiet interior of the tent to the raucous noise of carnival rides, game hawkers, screaming kids, yelling parents, and the ghoulish screams of costume wearers. Apple Springs’ annual Halloween festival was in full swing. Last night had been the children’s costume party. Tonight, the community center had to be transformed for tomorrow night’s adult Halloween, masked ball. She checked her watch. Only a few minutes before she and Bernie needed to show up for their assigned duties—whatever they would be.

Bernie grabbed Kate’s arm. “So. What did she say? Anything exciting?”

“The usual.” Kate gave her friend the rundown. “Blah, blah, blah.”

“What if she’s right?”

“Huh.” With Bernie at her side, Kate wove her way through the throng of people. “I bet she said the same thing to you. Didn’t she?”

“Well . . .” Bernie blushed. “Not exactly. My man is tall, blond, and handsome.”

Kate laughed. “See? Totally bogus. C’mon. We need to hurry, or we’ll be late.”

***

As much as she didn’t care for the hoopla of Halloween, she had to admit the mural of witches, ghosts, goblins, pumpkins, headstones, and zombies was rather well done. Whoever had drawn it on the community hall’s wall was quite talented. Although it seemed a waste of time and money to paint something for just one holiday. Would it be redone for Christmas?

At the top rung of the ladder, she dipped her paintbrush into the gallon of black paint and reached to the tip of the witch’s hat. The ladder wobbled. Kate grabbed the sides, smearing black paint on a pumpkin and letting out a relieved breath when the ladder stilled.

“Remember, tall, dark, and handsome,” a voice whispered in her ear. “Your future awaits you.”

“What the hell?” She glanced around. Of course, at twenty feet above the ground, there was no one here but her.

“Tall, dark, and handsome,” the crackling voice, sounding a bit like Madam Silver, hissed again as the ladder trembled.

Okay. Maybe the paint fumes were getting to her. Plus, it was getting late, and she was hungry.

“How’s it going up there?”

A man stood below her, shading his eyes with his hand as if the sun were glaring in his eyes. From her height, she couldn’t tell how tall he was, and he wore a baseball hat hiding the color of his eyes and hair. Was he handsome? She shook her head. The old crone’s words were getting to her.

“Fine.”

“He’s the one.”

“What did you say?”

The man removed his hat revealing a shock of red hair and frowned. Tall, dark, and handsome indeed.

“I didn’t say anything.”

“Yes, you did.”

“Look, lady, I didn’t utter one word except to ask how it was going up there.”

Kate dipped her brush in the paint. “Whatever.”

The ladder jiggled.

“You’d better stay still.” The man’s deep voice sent shivers down her spine.

“I’m not moving.”

“Well, your ladder is.”

The ladder wiggled harder. “No kidding. Are we having an earthquake or something?” The ladder shook. “Hey, stop it. It’s going to tip over.”

“Lady, I’m not touching it.”

The right legs lifted, tipping the ladder to the left. Kate dropped the paintbrush and grabbed the bucket of paint to keep it from sliding off with one hand and the side of the ladder with the other.

“You need to get down from there. I can’t hold this thing in place.”

Was this a joke Bernie was playing on her? Were there hidden wires making the ladder move like a puppet on a string? “I’m coming down.” Before she put one foot on the next rung, the ladder lifted to the right. Who was doing this?”

“I am,” the voice laughed in her ear. “Enjoy the ride.”

The swaying grew stronger. Side to side, each time tipping a little further.

“Let go!” the stranger yelled. “I’ll catch you.”

Was he kidding? No way was she letting go. The ladder tipped backward. Her hands, now covered in black paint, slipped from the ladder. She closed her eyes, screamed, and fell backward.

“I’ve got you.”

What seemed like an eternity was only a matter of seconds before she landed in the redhead’s strong arms.

“Umph. I said I’d catch you.”

“Thank you. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t been here.” Not anxious to leave the safety of his hold, she wrapped her arms around his neck and glanced up at the ladder. “It was as if the darn thing was possessed.”

“I know. I’ve never seen anything like it. And I swear, I wasn’t touching the ladder.”

“I believe you.” She stared at his freckled face. While not conventionally handsome, he was certainly good looking. His eyes were green. Her heart skipped a beat. The voice had to be wrong. This man was certainly not dark.

A shuffling sound above them drew their attention upward. The bucket slid first to one side of the ladder, then the other, each time coming closer to the edge. Before they realized what was happening, the bucket tipped over, raining black paint over them.

The man set her on the floor and wiped his face with his T-shirt. “What the hell?”

Kate swiped her blonde/now black hair from her eyes. At least he was tall. Well over six feet. And dark. She giggled. Well, covered in black paint, he certainly now was dark. Very funny, Madam Silver. Very funny.

“I told you so. Tall, dark, and handsome. I just didn’t say how he’d be dark.” The voice laughed. “Enjoy.”


That’s your two for this week, Samhain Surprise, and Tall, Dark, and Handsome. The final story comes next week, on Halloween itself!

Happy Halloween!

Betty

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

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

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

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!

Haunted Melody is discounted for the month of October!

Her love puts a song in his heart…

Paulette O’Connell is determined to provide for her unborn child. She has few skills and nowhere to call home except Twin Oaks plantation. Paulette accidentally summons her grandfather’s annoying ghost but he won’t leave until she figures out why she needs him.

Zak Markel is desperate to create an alchemical elixir to save his brother’s eyesight. Only, captivating Paulette distracts him at the worst possible time. While Zak longs for Paulette to give him a chance, she is determined to stand on her own, even before her child’s father returns. Can Zak convince Paulette to follow her heart before it’s too late?

Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Amazon     Apple     Books2Read     Google Books     Bookshop

Halloween Flash Fiction: Ghostly Contact, and The Witch’s Wand #amwriting #amreading #Halloween #Halloween2022 #shortstory #flashfiction #fiction #witches #ghosts

I’m continuing sharing more flash fiction with you all! In honor of Halloween, Poised Pen Productions is hosting a flash fiction giveaway with a prize filled with books, gift cards, and swag. If you missed it, I already shared my short story, Haunting Beauty. Last week, I shared both The Hunt and A Simple Mistake. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share a few more stories, all less than 700 words, with you for your Halloween enjoyment! Look for two each week with the final story posting on Halloween itself.

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


Ghostly Contact

© CJ Bennet

https://www.facebook.com/AuthCJB

Years ago, I had a best friend who kept telling me that he had a ghost in his carriage house efficiency apartment. The apartment was connected to a screened-in porch that was as big as the apartment itself.

Even though I had experience with that, I chose to tease him about it because I knew he had a great sense of humor. My friend told me that he believed the ghost was a former slave named Fred. He told me he had seen the ghost while shaving. “I almost cut my own throat when I saw him behind me in the mirror.” He had talked to the ghost when he woke up one night to find it standing on his chest. He told the ghost he couldn’t breathe, so would the ghost please get off his chest. He felt the boots when the ghost moved to step off the bed. He said he could actually see the boots and saw the mattress move as it stepped off his chest and got down on the floor. I still told him I didn’t believe him. That was until I had my own experience with the ghost.

My friend was going to a three-week conference in California, and had asked me to get his mail and water his plants while he was gone. I was happy to help, until the second week in. I’d gotten the mail, and went inside to water his plants. I’d left his mahogany front door open and turned on his radio while I was working. Suddenly… The radio cut off, which was not unusual in the seventies. I turned around in time to see the 200-pound door close all by itself. That was when I realized what was happening. I was terrified, but I knew it was my friend’s ghost, and I needed to talk with it.

I said, “Okay. I know you’re here. I am very sorry that I told Ted I didn’t believe you were here. Ted believes you were a slave. If so, I am very sorry you had such a hard life. I swear that from now on I will never say you don’t exist, if you let me out of here.”

The radio came back on, and the door opened back up. I grabbed my purse, the mail and my keys, then left that place like a bat out of hell.

When I picked up my friend at the airport 10 days later, he asked me how things had gone. I told him I had all of his mail, but his plants might be dead. When he asked me why, I told him what happened. He laughed for the next fifteen minutes.

After that, we had quite a few things happen when I was there, but we knew who it was, and it never bothered us. The ghost would frequently knock on the windows, or pound on the front door, which wasn’t possible because the carriage house was on the second floor above the garage, and the screen door to the porch was always locked, so no one could have come up the stairs, and through the screen door without us hearing them

I learned to never question the presence of a ghost or entity. If you feel or see something out of the ordinary, take it seriously. That belief has served me well over the years.


The Witch’s Wand

© Tessa Russ

https://www.poisedpenpro.com/blog-1

While Jess was shopping at her favorite thrift store, she noticed the old witch statue in the corner. It sat by itself, surrounded by dust and cobwebs. The witch’s eyes were closed, and her mouth hinged open in an anguished expression. Jess thought maybe it could be just a prop for a Halloween display, but there was something about it that felt off. It looked real—like it had been made from flesh-like material and exquisitely painted. But despite the creepiness of it, she was somehow drawn to the thing. She bought it and brought it home to add to her Halloween decorations.

A few days later, as she decorated for her favorite season, words broke the silence. “He’s coming for you.”

Startled, she jumped back and screamed. “What? Who said that? Who is he?” Jess had no man in her life.

The statue she had named Helga answered: “Beware, my darling, you rescued me, now I’m going to save you.”

Surely Jess must be hallucinating. Maybe she needed to quit watching all those creepy movies before bedtime. A statue couldn’t speak, could it? But then again, some pretty strange things had happened to her lately…

***

Jess woke up in a cold sweat. He had invaded her dreams.

Was it really a dream?

“My darling, I am coming for you soon.” Who was this man? She shuddered, she had been seeing him almost nightly in her dreams since she brought Helga home. He seemed so real to her. In her far too realistic dreams, he stood outside her door in a raging thunderstorm with the rain pelting down and illuminated by the lightning piercing the turbulent sky. Even though he appeared as a shadow in the fog, she could see his handsome chiseled features clearly. She had no clue how that was possible. Could this be the man Helga tried to warn her about?

With a shake of her head, Jess laughed at herself. What a crazy thought. She shook the remaining sleep-induced fog from her head and stumbled out of bed to get her morning coffee started. Hopefully, a shot of caffeine would help erase the tumultuous nightmare from her mind.

After finishing up her freelance marketing projects for the day, Jess took a quick trip to the store and ran a few other errands. When she arrived back home later that evening, all was still silent from Helga. Thank goodness. Time to cozy up with a cup of tea and the new mystery novel she had been wanting to read before calling it a night. After all, tomorrow was her favorite day of the year and she wanted to be ready.

***

Jess woke with an uneasiness that she couldn’t explain. She should feel great. After all, this was her favorite time of the year. Her decorations were up and ready to enchant the little trick or treaters that always lined up outside her door. She loved seeing their costumes and remarked on every one of them which put a smile on their faces before they trotted off down the street to the next house.

Somehow, she had a feeling this night would be different. Was it Helga’s warnings that caused her feelings of anxiety? No, it couldn’t be. She didn’t really believe any of it could possibly be true. And who would believe in a talking witch statue. Maybe she was just losing her mind. Maybe that had been a dream too.

Jess sat down at her desk to begin her workday. She took a glance over at Helga, who had been quiet for a few days. Almost like she could read Jess’s thoughts, Helga spoke; “Tonight’s the night, my dear. Please don’t be afraid. I will protect you from his evil magic.”

“Please tell me what’s going to happen,” Jess pleaded, feeling a little desperate.

“You will know what to do when the time is at hand,” Helga responded, then fell silent just as abruptly.

Okay, now that was no dream.

At this point, Jess began doubting her sanity. She tried to put her thoughts back into her work, but it was no use. She couldn’t concentrate. Instead, she paced for a while. Studied Helga. Walked around her, hoping the witch might speak again but she didn’t. Probably because you are losing your mind.

Enough. She had to focus on something else. She decided to check out her Halloween decorations one last time. Before long it would be dark and the little ghosts and ghouls would be out and about. She had a display in her office as well as one outside on the front porch. Her office display held Helga, pumpkins, ghosts, goblins, and other things she had picked up over the years.

Her gaze snapped back to Helga. There was something different at her feet. It looked like a wand of some sort, kinda Harry Potter-ish. Where the heck did that come from? She didn’t recall purchasing it. As she stepped closer to pick it up, she felt an electricity in the air. Sparks started radiating from it. Jess jumped away.

Helga’s red eyes opened again. “Not now, my dear. You will know when the time is right.” Then her eyes closed, and she appeared lifeless once more.

Jess decided maybe work was safer for the moment. She really, really had to figure out if she was losing it or…what? She just didn’t know.

As the day wound down, Jess looked forward to the activities ahead. She dressed in her Halloween costume to await the arrival of the trick or treaters. She studied her reflection in the mirror. What a coincidence that she chose to be a good witch this year.

But it was not to be. As the sun waned on the western horizon and night approached, the sky opened up. It was a storm she had never seen the likes of before.

She had been avoiding Helga in fear of more spooky predictions. But now it was time for answers. Bummed that her well planned Halloween wouldn’t happen, she made her way down the stairs to her office.

“Helga, talk to me. No more of your vague, dire predictions. I want to know what’s happening.”

Helga sprang to life and answered, “Tonight is the night I’ve been warning you about. Listen to me closely.”

Helga spoke with Jess for quite a while, telling her all about how she had been cursed by an evil sorcerer because he was afraid of her powers. The witch had been stuck inside this statue ever since, unable to move or talk until someone found her who had the power to help break the curse. She also told Jess about how her lover, HE remained stuck just on the other side of the veil until the curse lifted. Jess was at a loss. Why would Helga think she could help break the ancient curse? What part did she play in all of this? She had no magical powers.

 ***

The witch and the sorcerer stood face to face; their eyes locked. Thunder rolled in the distance as lightning lashed down from the sky. The witch took a deep breath, her body shaking with anticipation. She could feel her magic coursing through her veins like a raging river. She was ready for this fight—and knew she would be victorious! She had to be.

Jess watched in silent horror as the fight raged on for what seemed like hours, the old witch became weak. She must continue the fight, mustn’t allow him to win this time. With the vestiges of her strength, she attempted one final time to banish the sorcerer back to dust. If she could just hold out for a minute longer, but no, she couldn’t muster the strength needed…. “It is time, my dear.” With that, the wand flew from Helga’s hand into Jess’s. She didn’t know why or how, but she was ready for battle. She took the wand and wielded it high. One push, two… she felt the sorcerer grow weaker. An otherworldly power coursed through her veins, and with a final push of the wand, the sorcerer disappeared into a cloud of dust.

Lying on the rain-soaked ground, a weakened Helga looked to Jess and pointed into the mist. “We must get him; we must get HE while the veil is still thin enough to reach him.”

Looking in that direction, Jess could see him standing in front of her. It was like looking through a fog. Helga reached and stretched, but she didn’t have the strength to pull him through. Without a thought as to what she was doing, Jess grabbed Helga’s hand in one of hers and with the other, using the last of the power remaining in the wand, she tapped the veil, cracking it. Still grasping Helga’s hand, Jess dropped the wand and reached through the broken veil. Grabbing HE’s hand, she somehow pulled him through to their side.

Terrified and exhausted, Jess kept trying to wake up from this hellish nightmare she was caught in. But no, there was no waking up. It was real. As she tried to put everything together in her mind, she glanced at Helga. Right before Jess’s eyes, Helga transformed. Instead of the old broken witch standing there a moment ago, a beautiful goddess stood strong and tall. Her long red hair streamed down her shoulders and the tired red eyes had turned a vibrant shade of green. As HE walked toward Helga, he took her hands and kissed her softly on the lips.

Then HE slowly turned toward Jess. “We know you have questions and some of them we can answer. The rest will come to you in time.”

Helga smiled and said, “You won’t remember this now, but you are one of us. When the time is right, all that you need to know will be revealed. Until then, keep living your life. The time will soon come that you must make a decision that will change your life forever.”

***

With a final goodbye Helga and HE faded away into the mist. In the night’s stillness, Jess could hear them faintly whisper; “We will see you again soon, my dear.”


That’s your two for this week, Ghostly Contact and The Witch’s Wand. Two more coming next week, before the final installment on Halloween itself!

Happy Halloween!

Betty

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

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

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

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!

Haunted Melody is discounted for the month of October!

Her love puts a song in his heart…

Paulette O’Connell is determined to provide for her unborn child. She has few skills and nowhere to call home except Twin Oaks plantation. Paulette accidentally summons her grandfather’s annoying ghost but he won’t leave until she figures out why she needs him.

Zak Markel is desperate to create an alchemical elixir to save his brother’s eyesight. Only, captivating Paulette distracts him at the worst possible time. While Zak longs for Paulette to give him a chance, she is determined to stand on her own, even before her child’s father returns. Can Zak convince Paulette to follow her heart before it’s too late?

Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Amazon     Apple     Books2Read     Google Books     Bookshop