Initial Thoughts about The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I’ve started reading the next book on my Historical Fiction (Authors) Around the World tour which is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The story is set in Barcelona, Spain, and Zafon included a map of the area where the story takes place. That helped me have a better sense of relationships and distances, too. That’s the only extra material included in the book but it’s useful. He uses some Spanish terms as well, which aren’t defined anywhere so I’m just skimming over them most of the time. Sometimes I can sort of tell what they mean, but not always.

This story is 487 pages long in the paperback edition I’m reading. I’m only on page 98, so I’ll just say that I’m intrigued by the story. It’s written with a gothic flare that I really appreciate and enjoy. Lots of large, shadowy spaces and mysterious people coming and going, threatening and sometimes harming. Including a special library that is called The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. It doesn’t hurt that Barcelona is a “foreign” place to me which adds to the sense of mystique of the setting.

Zafon apparently wrote the story in Spanish and then Lucia Graves translated it into English. The language of the story is very elegant and flows along like a calm river. I cannot do the phrasing justice in this short post, but if you pick up a copy for yourself you will soon see what I mean. I can give you a snippet, though. “Six years later my mother’s absence remained in the air around us, a deafening silence that I had not yet learned to stifle with words.” So much is contained in that description of how the youth felt about the loss of his mother that it’s difficult to fully explain. Indeed, I almost feel like if I were to try it would spoil the effect, the atmosphere of the narrative.

The story is told from the first person perspective of a boy grieving for his dead mother. I am not a huge fan of first person stories, but Zafon and Graves have done an excellent job of making the story enjoyable (to me) despite that. I have the impression that the story is being told in retrospect despite being in first person, much like how I told the story of Martha Washington. Becoming Lady Washington is the only story I’ve ever published written in first person past tense. I have the same sense in Zafon’s story of retelling a personal history.

I’ll see if I can finish the book over the next week so I can tell you more about what impresses me about the story and the writing. I’m sure there is more to come on that score!

Be sure to take advantage of the sale on Becoming Lady Washington below, in honor of her June 2 birthday.

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.

On sale for only $1.99 for a limited time!

Patsy Custis manages a large 18th-century plantation in Virginia but as a widow she struggles to balance her business with caring for two young children. When Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her, her life veers in an unexpected direction. But when trouble in the form of British oppression leads to revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, she must decide whether to stay home or follow her heart into a dangerous future.

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Getting to know Charlie Cochrane #author #mystery #historical #romance #series #books #fiction #amreading #amwriting

My guest author today is coming to us from “across the pond” so I hope you’ll help me give her a warm welcome! Let’s get to know more about author Charlie Cochrane and her writing, first with a peek at her bio and then on to the questions.

Because Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes both romances and mysteries, including the Edwardian-era Cambridge Fellows series, and the contemporary Lindenshaw Mysteries. Multi-published, she has titles with Carina, Riptide, Lume and Bold Strokes, among others.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, Charlie regularly appears at book festivals and at reader and author conferences.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook * Twitter

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

Charlie: Lock, Stock and Peril is the latest book in the Lindenshaw Mysteries series and is inspired by life during lockdown: the extra stresses, the different kind of existence and how that might ultimately turn murderous. The whole series, however, was originally inspired by the TV series Midsomer Murders. I kept thinking how cool it might be to have a similar series set in leafy England but with a gay detective. such thing existed, so I wrote it, making sure the detective fell in love with one of the key witnesses. One who owned a big, adorable, Newfoundland dog.

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

Charlie: Nothing new in particular, this time, although I firmly believe that with every new book you produce, you hone your skills and become a better writer. I can confess to one new bad habit I acquired, though: my editor always spots words I overuse and having managed to cut down on the usual ones, I’d only gone and picked up some new ones without realising. 😊

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

Charlie: Bizarrely, it was remembering exactly which lockdown rules applied when. There’s quite a gap for an author between first draft and final set of edits so I had to rely heavily on a) notes b) memory and when all else failed c) scrolling back through the government website. Isn’t it odd how something that seemed so constricting at the time passed so quickly out of our brains?

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

Charlie: PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act) became my new best friend at one time, when I wanted to make sure I’d got the police rules right at a couple of key places in the story. I also tried to incorporate what I’d learned at the 2020 Portsmouth Mysteryfest where our keynote speaker took us through the latest advice for conducting police interviews. She made a point of saying how unrealistic TV police dramas are so I wanted to get closer to depicting the real thing.

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

Charlie: My usual two. I always produce a pretty good first draft and then bash it about until it’s polished enough to submit to the publisher. Which is where my editor comes along with her virtual red pen and, after much toing and froing, we’re several versions later and have something fit to see the light of day among readers.

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

Charlie: Very few, apart from going off and doing something mindless – like cleaning the kitchen floor – when I need to get a plot point clear in my mind. It always works, probably because it taps into the subconscious, which is very powerful and underused. I remember reading a book about inventors (and similar) which said many of them got their lightbulb moment while doing a repetitive physical task. It probably frees the rest of the mind.

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

Charlie: In my first draft, no matter how hard I try, the usual suspects creep in too often. Just. Look. More. Even. I hang my head in shame at how many of these little so-and-so’s manage to make it into the second draft. The newest addition to that list was simply, which kept appearing in the first draft of Lock, Stock and Peril – possibly as a replacement for just. (That sound is my eyes rolling at myself.)

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

Charlie: How much time have we got? Mary Renault, because of her beautiful economy of words – she could say more in a sentence than some folk do in an entire page. Agatha Christie, because of her plots and the wonderful way she re-used the same idea (and made fun of herself for doing that in depicting her alter ego, Ariadne Oliver.) Michael Gilbert, for producing the amateur detective Henry Bohun and Shakespeare…for being Shakespeare.

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

Charlie: I can write just about anywhere so long as I’m comfy. I usually work on a PC or laptop but if inspiration strikes then jotting notes on paper/phone/anything to hand has to be done, even if that’s while I’m sitting in the dentist’s waiting room. In terms of reading, I prefer to do that in bed or in the bath and I need quiet both for maximum enjoyment and for maximum concentration, as I read a lot of mysteries and don’t want to miss an important clue. 

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

Charlie: I’m retired from everything but writing. Well, in a paid capacity, anyway, because I chair the board of a small charity. I used to do freelance training of school governors, helping them with things like recruiting new headteachers, and many of the experiences I had doing that have sneaked their way into the Lindenshaw and other books.

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

Charlie: I think if I was a normal author, I’d say having a book reach number one in its genre on Amazon. But as I’m me, I feel prouder of two things: having an author I greatly respect telling me they like my characters and using the loo at the house of a multi-million selling novelist (long story, involving somehow getting invited to a meeting of crime writers during which I sat thinking, “How the heck have I ended up here?”)

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Charlie: Cosy mysteries, especially those written at the end of the nineteenth century and in the first half of the twentieth. They used to be quite hard to get hold of unless you scoured second-hand bookshops but there’s been a spate of republishing old novels and short stories, for example in the British Library collection. An absolute Godsend for readers like 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?

Charlie: Wow, there’s a question. I think, for me, success is defined primarily by people’s reaction to my stories. When you have readers emailing you to say your novels have helped them through bereavement, or to cope with another equally hard aspect of their lives, then what more fulfilment can you want?

They may be locked down but this case isn’t.

Lockdown is stressful enough for Chief Inspector Robin Bright. Then a murder makes this strange time even stranger. In one of Kinechester’s most upmarket areas, the body of Ellen, a brilliant but enigmatic recluse, has lain undiscovered for days. Pinning down the time—and date—of death will be difficult, but finding a killer during unprecedented times could prove impossible.

Adam Matthew’s focus on his pupils is shaken when a teaching assistant reveals his godmother has been murdered. Keen to avoid involvement, Adam does his best to maintain a distance from his husband, Robin’s, case, but when it keeps creeping up, Adam lends his incisive mind to the clues again.

Between Robin trying to understand the complex victim and picking his way through a mess of facts, half truths, and downright lies from witnesses desperate to cover up their own rule-breaking, he realises this could be the cold case that stains his career and forever haunts a community. And when it looks like the virus has struck Adam, Robin’s torn between duty and love.

Buy Links: RiptidePublishing

I wondered how long it would take for authors to write about life during the pandemic. There’s my answer! Thanks for sharing your story with us, Charlie!

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 Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

If you enjoy mysteries set in the art and chess worlds, you’ll enjoy The Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. If you haven’t read my Initial Thoughts on this book, please take a moment to do so before continuing with this post.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this author’s elegant writing. His descriptions are so poetic and vivid. Dialog flows and reveals much about each uniquely crafted character. Yet he has woven a mystery into this sometimes shocking (to me, at least) depiction of life in Madrid in 1990 (I think that may be the timeframe of this story after reading the entire book). I have never been to Spain, so don’t really have a frame of reference for the locations mentioned in the story.

The mystery stemming from a hidden inscription on a painting called The Chess Game involves reverse playing the game depicted on the chess board. Now, I have played chess in the past but I am not a very strong player. One surprise in this ebook (borrowed via Hoopla from my local library) was the number of illustrations, specifically of the chess board and the location of the pieces being mentioned in the story. That helped me to understand the moves and decisions the players were having to make. (It also made me realize I can add some more illustrations into my own books, but that’s another story entirely!)

Each of the individual characters were distinct and memorable. Some I loved to hate, some were edgy, some were funny, and the main character, Julia, seemed like she’d make a very good friend. She’s smart, loyal, trusting until that trust is broken. Some of the characters I’d avoid in real life because you simply cannot trust them. Which ones are which, you’ll have decide for yourself.

Another interesting aspect of this author’s story is that the ending is rather open-ended. The reader is left to decide how they envision what the characters will do next. The author does provide the options they are faced with but not their final decisions. It’s left me debating, knowing the characteristics of the individuals involved, what path they’d choose. It gives the reader the power to choose the ending they’d prefer. Curious, isn’t it? Authors don’t typically hand over that power to the reader, most preferring to definitively end the story. I don’t know if this is a common technique from authors in Spain or that general region, or particular to this author. I’m also unsure whether I could pull off the same sort of ending as effectively as Pérez-Reverte has done.

One other thing I’ll mention about reading this book. I borrowed it from the library as a digital book available via Hoopla. I read it on the app on my iPad. I must confess I’d much prefer to read the actual paperback. I couldn’t resize the tiny text to something just a little bit larger so it was harder to read than an actual paperback I could hold in my hands. The iPad is also slimmer, so for me it was tiring to hold. I ended up propping the device on a small pillow to “hold” it so I didn’t have to.

So next up on my Historical Fiction (Authors) Around the World tour is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Zafon is another author from Spain, so maybe I’ll find answers to my questions above. And it’s an actual paperback, too!

Check out the sale on Becoming Lady Washington below, in honor of her June 2 birthday.

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.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

Patsy Custis manages a large 18th-century plantation in Virginia but as a widow she struggles to balance her business with caring for two young children. When Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her, her life veers in an unexpected direction. But when trouble in the form of British oppression leads to revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, she must decide whether to stay home or follow her heart into a dangerous future.

Books2Read     Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple     Google Books     Bookshop

Initial Thoughts on The Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I’ve begun reading the next book in my Historical Fiction Around the World tour of historical fiction authors, which is The Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. This book is translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa, an award-winning translator. The setting is Madrid, Spain and the original book was published in 1990; the edition I’m reading was published in 2004. I’m about 40% through the digital book via Hoopla. I haven’t had as much time to read over the last week because of some travel to two cities over the last week. But I’m back home and will get back to my normal rhythm and routine for the next month at least.

In trying to determine whether this story is actually historical fiction, I considered the premise of the fact that it involves a “five-hundred-year-old murder,” one which is alluded to in a 1471 painting, The Chess Game, created a few years after the actual killing. So, 500 years after 1471 would be 1971, and the book was first published in 1990. The “definition” of historical settings is anything at least 50 years before the time of writing and/or publication. So while the story is all about solving an historical murder mystery, I’m hesitant to call the story itself historical fiction.

The main female character, Julia, is apparently living in contemporary times and is an art restorer working on restoring The Chess Game. Even if we assume she is living in 1971, the book was published in 1990 which is 19 years after the time in which the character is living. It’s also only 32 years earlier than our present time. See, I just can’t make the historical fiction claim work. That said, it’s a fascinating story and a murder mystery too boot!

I’m thoroughly enjoying the vividly unique characters as well as the sleuthing into the mystery encapsulated in the painting. I feel like I’m being educated on art analysis at the same time as learning how to determine previous chess moves based on the current placement of the pieces. I didn’t even know that was possible, so it’s intriguing to me. I’ve played chess in the past but I would not call myself a chess player. I prefer checkers…

The tone of the story enhances the rather dark atmosphere of the art world, too. I think Pérez-Reverte has a great story going and I’m anxious to find out more about what’s going to happen and to whom.

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.

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?

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Meet Captain James Hook, notorious pirate of the Neverland #fairytale #fiction #PeterPan #CaptainHook #amreading #mustread #novels

Buckle your britches, here comes Captain Hook! He’s here to tell us more about author Andrea Jones’ story about his life and times. First, let’s get to know more about Andrea, and then Captain Hook will take it away…

Andrea Jones, author of the Hook & Jill Saga – Novels of Neverland, for grown-ups.

Author Andrea Jones questions the fairy-tale premise of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan story: is it truly desirable to remain a child, or is it a greater adventure, after all, to grow up? Jones enthralls us with her award-winning literary series, the Hook & Jill Saga. As a “pirate author,” Jones breaks the rules, and her stories leave readers rethinking convention.

The first three books of the Hook & Jill Saga ─ Hook & Jill, Other Oceans, and Other Islands ─ won numerous literary awards and the hearts of their many readers. Within these novels, Jones deepens and explores Barrie’s famous and infamous characters, and re-imagines the Neverland for grown-up readers who long to return there. Jones is currently composing book four, The Wider World. Five books are charted for this series.

Jones graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she studied Oral Interpretation of Literature, with a Literature minor. In her earlier career in television production, she worked in PBS, CBS, and corporate studios. Jones is known around the world as “Capitana Red-Hand” of Under the Black Flag, a web-based pirate brotherhood.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook

Betty: How would you describe your parents?

Captain James Hook: My murderous father, and my cheat of a mother? He was handsome and aristocratic. She was vibrant, and corrupt in a very charming manner, and I adored her. Until their fatal day, they were discreet in front of the servants. But I assure you, there was nothing I didn’t hear.

Betty: Who taught you to tie your shoes?

Captain James Hook: A nursemaid, naturally. Since my unfortunate injury, however, Mr. Smee performs these little tasks for me. He is, quite literally, my right-hand man.

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

Captain James Hook: One doesn’t bother with such a trifle until one adopts a life upon the sea, although many a sailor fails to learn, and many a sailor drowns. Of course, once Pan’s damage was done, leaving me maimed and single-handed, I had to relearn everything. I endured terrible pain, for a very long time. Before the insolent boy’s interference, I was a master swordsman. Do you think it was easy to regain my skill? I couldn’t wield a spoon, let alone a cutlass! By the time I was able to scrawl my signature, even my name had changed. To remain afloat upon a sea of turmoil, aye, this is a skill I was forced to refine, or die.

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

Captain James Hook: For too long, I failed to grasp that my existence is dictated by my Storyteller. I strove in vain to win on my own terms, while all along it was she – “the Wendy” – who narrated my failures and my successes. Once I understood her power, I moved to take her under my control. Alas for all the time spent fighting the boy, when I should have pursued the girl. And yet, those years of struggle make the taste of my victory all the sweeter to the tongue.

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

Captain James Hook: I shan’t give the ending away, but I can attest that to possess a woman whose soul encompasses my own is the most exhilarating discovery a man of spirit can experience.

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

Captain James Hook: Not one thing. I have arrived, after years of striving, at a place of perfection. It will not last. In the world of piracy I inhabit, it cannot last. Yet my legend will abide, and I shall die with the satisfaction of having truly lived.

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

Captain James Hook:  I flinch at nothing but the sight of my own blood. For this reason, the threat of the Crocodile looms ever at my back. Since that fateful day that Pan fed my right hand to the monster, the beast sniffs about the island of Neverland, seeking to devour the rest of me. The men of my crew are aware of my dilemma, as is the Wendy, who, attempting to inflict a weakness upon the “villain” of her tale, dictated this hitch’s existence along with my story. I contrived to make the Croc swallow a clock, which instrument ticks warning of its coming. When the beast and its ticking approach, I seize the nearest weapon, and launch my attack.

Betty: How do you like to relax?

Captain James Hook: Piracy is not a vocation that lends itself to relaxation. In my private moments, when they occur, I devise my schemes for revenge and enrichment; I read philosophy and the classics, play the harpsichord with one hand and one hook, and, in more stimulating moments with the fairer sex, share warm sips of rum to set the mood for seduction.

Betty: Who would you like to meet? Why?

Captain James Hook: I have already met her. I await her awakening. Why? Really – I am a man, and she is a female. I’ll not be so crude as to elucidate the nature of my desires. And one other walks this world with whom I should like to share my appreciation for her interest. My author, Andrea Jones. She “pirated” the brilliant Mr. Barrie’s Neverland, yet she remains true to his vision. I find her ideas as to my character and circumstances enthralling. As I judge it, her mind is full of wit, intelligence – and intriguing twists. She expresses me beautifully. If you doubt me, do pick up the Hook & Jill Saga. We’ll both come to life there.

Wendy Darling learns. What appears to be good may prove otherwise, and what seems to be evil…is irresistible.

In this startling new vision of a cultural classic, Wendy intends to live happily-ever-after with Peter Pan. But Time, like this tale, behaves in an unsettling way.

As Wendy mothers the Lost Boys, they thrive on adventure. Struggling to keep them safe from the Island’s many hazards, she finds a more subtle threat encroaching from an unexpected quarter: the children are growing up, and only Peter knows the punishment.

Yet in the inky edges of the Island, the tales Wendy tells the Lost Boys come true. Captain Hook is real, and even the Wonderful Boy can’t defend his Wendy against this menace. Hook is a master manipulator, devising vengeance for his maiming. Insidious and seductive, Hook has his reasons for tempting Wendy to grow up.

Revenge is only the first.

Deepening the characters sketched by J.M. Barrie, Hook & Jill reveals the dark side of innocence within Peter Pan. It awakens a daring Wendy who asks questions and seeks truth; it delves into Hook, the iconic villain. Striding from fairy tale and thrusting into reality, Captain Hook becomes a frightening force indeed.

Buy links: Website * Amazon * BookDepository * B&N

Thank you, sir, for taking time to come by and tell us more about your life.

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

I have finished reading Nguyễn Phan Qué Mai’s The Mountains Sing. This story is set in Việt Nam and really paints a clear picture of the difficult life and times of the people who lived there in the 1930-1980 timeframe of the story. You can read my Initial Thoughts on the story from last week here. I’ve come away from this story with a deep appreciation for the culture and the people that I did not have prior to delving into these pages.

As the book description states, the story is “an intimate, enveloping story of four generations of the Tran family, as seen through the eyes of the matriarch, Tran Dieu Lan, and her granddaughter, Huong.” (I must apologize for not including all of the diacritic marks. I simply don’t seem to have them in my word processor.) So the overall structure of the story is Huong telling the story of her grandmother telling her about life when Huong’s aunts and uncles were children. The family faced many hardships and tragedies, including being separated for several months when they were forced to flee for their lives.

One thing I really appreciated was seeing the impact and impressions of the Việt Nam war on the people of that country. My brother fought over there—he was a Ranger in the Army—during that conflict and came home very different. In fact, he’s estranged himself from the family for the past 30+ years. Reading about the conflict from the other side of it gives me a much clearer idea of what he might have seen or done that he never would tell me about. I was a child at that time and not aware of what was happening. I have since watched a documentary on the war and now this story provides another view of what transpired.

The hardships and sacrifices throughout this book are incredible to me. I realize how very fortunate my life has been that I’ve never faced such challenges. Some seemed insurmountable I’m sure. Survival is one very strong thread running through the lives of these characters. Family and cooperation also underlie everything. Working together to keep the family together no matter what they faced. It’s a powerful story. I’m very glad I read it.

So next up for my Historical Fiction Around the World tour of historical fiction authors is The Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. This author is from Spain. This will be the first book I read from the Hoopla app on my iPad/iPhone. So a new experience in checking out books from the library for me!

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.

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

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?

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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