Introducing Lucius Sestius from The Emperor’s Servant by Fiona Forsyth #character #author #historical #Roman #mystery

I’m so pleased to welcome our guest, Lucius Sestius, from the pages of The Emperor’s Servant! He has quite a tale to tell, too. First, let’s peek at author Fiona Forsyth’s bio to find out why she wrote this particular story, and then we’ll chat with Lucius.

From the age of six when I was introduced to the myths of Greece and Rome, I wanted to explore the differences between our world and theirs, because the people of ancient Rome are alien to us. Curiosity led me to study Classics at a time when most people told me that Latin was not useful: I then earned a living teaching it for 25 years before a family move to the Middle East gave me the opportunity to write about the people, events, themes and stories which had fascinated me for so long. A book from me will take you as close as I can – but still I don’t think it is possible to completely understand the world of Rome. And I know I split an infinitive there…

Author Social Links: Website * Twitter

Betty: How would you describe your parents?

Lucius: My father and mother are both dead. I don’t remember my mother, as far as I am concerned the woman who brought me up was my stepmother Cornelia and she died in one of the autumn plagues that Rome is always going through, about six or seven years ago. She was lovely. My father – well, he was kind and a lot more intelligent than people gave him credit for. He lived through the fall of his beloved Republic, and he bore everything as well as can be expected.

Betty: Who taught you to tie your shoes?

Lucius: My nursemaid, I think. Or it might have been Decius. Decius seems to have run our household since we got him. He is freed now, of course, but still works for the family. In fact, I cannot imagine life without him. I’m dictating this to him now.

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

Lucius: I failed to restore the Roman Republic. Not to sound dramatic, but that is why I joined Cassius and Brutus after Julius Caesar’s assassination. I got through the Battle of Philippi, unlike both Brutus and Cassius, and twenty years later here I am, obediently serving as consul under our beloved leader Augustus. I failed completely there, didn’t I?

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

Lucius: If Caesar had never been born, he would not have forced a civil war on us, become Dictator and been killed and we might still be a Republic. I don’t know. It depresses me to think about it. Can we go on to another question, please?

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

Lucius: My greatest fear? I think, having lost what I was fighting for at Philippi, I don’t really have much to lose now. Worry about the children occasionally of course, and I suppose if the family estate were taken away from me, that would be awful. It isn’t something I talk about with anyone, though I think Decius and my sisters would know, if you asked them.

Betty: Do you have a favorite sibling? Who?

Lucius: Are you kidding? Choose between my sisters? The one I put second would kill me. Let me just say that both Albinia and Tia are amazing, and I adore them. Albinia is my full sister and a distinguished poet, and Tia is my younger half-sister. I worry about them both but particularly Tia. She has never married – her fiancé was killed in a street fight in Rome. We know that the attackers were supposed to target me, but they got my friend instead. I am not sure Tia will ever get over that. I was glad my father didn’t try to pressure her into marrying again. It wouldn’t have worked anyway, both my sisters do as they like.

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

Lucius: On my family farm in Cosa, north of Rome. It is very ordinary and I love it. The vineyard I set up there is the thing I am most proud of. Oh – Decius says I ought to have said that I am most proud of my children first. He is probably right. Decius tends to be right. But my vineyard is very fine and my vines manager, Titus, while always pessimistic, manages to produce something drinkable every year. We are now exporting our wines all the way up the coast and into Gaul. There is a real market there, hardly surprising. Have you tried beer? It’s revolting.

Betty: How do you like to relax?

Lucius: I drink. Preferably wine I’ve made myself.

Betty: What kinds of friends do you have?

Lucius: Sadly, my best friends are people who have been through terrible experiences. I’m not sure that there are many people my age who haven’t. I was at Philippi with Horace, the poet. I expect you’ve heard of him. I’m quite proud of him, but don’t tell him I said that. Did you know he wrote one of his odes to me? Haven’t a clue what it’s about but everyone tells me I should be pleased. My other great friend is Marcus Tullius Cicero the younger. Yes, his father was that Cicero, killed by order of our beloved Augustus. Makes you think, eh? We have to pretend to forget all this now.

Betty: Who would you like to meet? Why?

Lucius: I never met Cleopatra. I saw her in Rome once, from a distance. Well, I saw the crowd surrounding her. I wish now I could have seen her close up, got to know why – why people raved about her. I wish she had never met Caesar and had his son. That’s the real reason we had to fight her and Antony you know. That poor kid. Killed by Augustus at the age of seventeen, because he was Caesar’s son. No other possible challenger to Augustus could be allowed to live.

Er – Augustus isn’t going to read any of this, is he?

In the depths of serious illness, the emperor Augustus is forced to rethink how he governs the city. He calls upon the most unlikely helper. Lucius Sestius has made it through conspiracy and civil war and wants nothing more than to drink himself happy in the Italian countryside. Now he, the last of the Republicans, is invited to step up to public service. To Lucius’ consternation, he is catapulted into office just in time to deal with a pestilence sweeping through Italy. Thousands of people are dying, and the river Tiber is riding dangerously high. But Lucius is not just fighting floods and an epidemic. A conspiracy centred on the disgraced general Primus is threatening the emperor, and Lucius is expected to choose a side. Lucius’ idyllic life on his family estate is overshadowed by intrigues in which he wants no part, but a naïve act of kindness brings the wrath of the Emperor down upon him.

Redemption in the eyes of Augustus comes at a heavy price.

Buy Links: AmazonUS * AmazonUK

You’ve faced quite some challenges, Lucius. I appreciate you taking time to answer my questions today. And thanks to Fiona for giving you some time away.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! 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!

Getting to know Katerina Dunne #author #historical #medieval #history #shortstories #amreading #HistFic

I’d love to take a road trip to visit my next guest! Please help me welcome author Katerina Dunne! She lives in a beautiful country I’d go back to in a heartbeat… Let’s take a look at her bio and then find out more about her and her writing process.

Katerina Dunne is the pen-name of Katerina Vavoulidou. Originally from Athens, Greece, Katerina has been living in Ireland since 1999. She has a degree in English Language and Literature, an MA in Film Studies and an MPhil in Medieval History. While she used to write short stories for family and friends in her teenage years, she only took up writing seriously in 2016-17, when she started work on her first novel. 

Katerina’s day job is in financial services, but in her free time she enjoys watching historically-themed movies and TV series. She is passionate about history, especially medieval history, and her main area of interest is 13th to 15th century Hungary. When it comes to historical fiction, her favourite authors include Elizabeth Chadwick, Kate Innes, Christian Cameron and Bán Mór (the Hungarian author of the Hunyadi series of books) Although the main characters of her stories are fictional, Katerina uses real events and personalities as part of her narrative in order to bring to life the fascinating history of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary, a location and time period not so well-known to English-speaking readers.

Author Social Links: Facebook * Goodreads * Amazon

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

Katerina: It all started because of my love for medieval history and my great interest in Hungary. This story was inspired by the border lords of the fifteenth-century Kingdom of Hungary. These men of middle and lower nobility were the backbone of the feudal armies of the period. Very few of them made it into the chronicles and history books. Their lives must have been hard; a constant struggle to run their own estates and protect them from the relentless Ottoman raiding as well as from attacks by other local lords while also leaving home for long periods to campaign with the king and his barons.

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

Katerina: I am completely new to writing, so I learned and developed many skills. Probably the most important ones would be understanding the POV of a scene and the elements of showing (as opposed to telling) This last technique was the most difficult because I was fresh from my academic studies, where the writing style is completely different.

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

Katerina: I think the hardest part was “embedding” my fictional main characters into the real historical events. Their interactions with real life personalities were the products of my imagination, but I had to base them on research of primary and secondary sources so that they appear realistic and appropriate.

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

Katerina: I suppose my protagonist and his wife because they play the major roles in the story. I created them with many flaws and shortcomings, and so I had to delve a little deeper into their personalities in order to bring forth their development journey.

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

Katerina: Primary sources for the actual historical events (battles, politics, etc.) and the timeline. Secondary sources which provide analysis of these events from a scholarly perspective and also an overview of the social, political, economic and cultural life of the time.

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

Katerina: Too many. I have lost count!

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?

Katerina: It took me nearly six years because I am not a full-time writer. I have day job, and I also spent one year doing my MPhil in Medieval History in-between. I also worked with two editors and a number of alpha and beta readers and did so many revisions. I hope that my future novels will not take such a long time as I now have a better idea of the writing craft as well.

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

Katerina: I am not sure if that is considered a ritual or habit, but before I write a scene, I visualize it, even rehearse it in my head as if I am part of it. This helps me put myself in my characters’ minds, speak their words and feel their emotions.

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

Katerina: There are too many I think! “as if”, “suddenly”, “only”, “said”, “asked” to name a few which I later revised.

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

Katerina: I admire a number of historical fiction writers, mostly those writing medieval historical fiction. I enjoy the novels of Elizabeth Chadwick and Kate Innes, but I try to learn a little bit from every book I read.

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

Katerina: It may sound strange, but I do most of my writing and revising in bed, on my laptop. It just makes me feel very comfortable and relaxed.

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

Katerina: I work in the financial services full time. It’s a hard job requiring a lot of attention to detail. I can’t say I enjoy it, but I think it’s an OK job, and it pays the mortgage and the bills.  It also gives me the financial security to engage in my writing without having to worry about how many books I sell.

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

Katerina: Definitely the publishing of my debut novel, Lord of the Eyrie.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Katerina: Historical 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?

Katerina: I think the satisfaction of completing a novel and publishing it is the most important thing. The feeling of creating a story that people can relate to, and of seeing my work out there in the outside world. The comments of the readers who appreciated the novel are great encouragement as well.

Transylvania, Kingdom of Hungary, 1440:

Finally home after five years away, warrior-nobleman Sándor Szilágyi is met by a dying father, a resentful younger brother, his child-bride all grown up and the family estate raided by the Ottomans. As he struggles to adjust to life as a landlord, Sándor’s authority is challenged by two strong-minded and fearless women: Margit, his faithful and righteous wife, determined to keep him on the straight and narrow; and Anna, his sister-in-law, a scheming temptress bent on ruining him in order to take his land.

After committing a mortal sin and desperate to win back the woman he loves, Sándor seeks absolution by accepting his overlord’s summons to fight the Ottomans. But his obsession with war will lead him down a perilous path.

Loyalties are tested, danger lurks around every corner, and Sándor’s struggle to balance his duty to protect his land and family from his relatives’ greedy hands, as well as his duty to defend his country on the battlefield, will come at a terrible cost.

Buy Links: AmazonUK * Amazon * B&N * BookDepository

You’re right that I don’t know anything about that time period, so I’ll add your story to my TBR. Thanks, Katerina, for stopping by and sharing your story with us!

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! And as always, 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!

Wrapping up 2022 with a Bow and a Sale #historical #fiction #contemporary #fantasy #romance #books #novels #fiction #amwriting #amreading

Before I get to my topic for today, I’m excited to announce that my ebooks are available as part of the Smashwords 2022 End of Year Sale! This is a chance for you to get my ebooks, along with ebooks from many other great authors, at a promotional discount. All, yes all, of my titles are free only at the Smashwords Store through the end of 2022!

If you wouldn’t mind lending a hand to me and the other indie authors taking part in this sale, please share this promo with your friends and family. Just let others know about it, anyone who would love a chance to find their next favorite book! I’d also ask that if you like what you read of my stories that you share with others what you enjoyed about them by recommending them to a friend, leaving a brief review, and/or asking your library to include my books in their collection.

Another place you might find your next great read is at the Shepherd site where you can “Discover the Best Books.” They invited me to create a recommendation list, which I did in order to share books I’ve enjoyed with others. Mine is “The Best Historical Fiction about Emotionally Strong Women,” which includes 5 titles I’ve previously talked about here on my blog. Might be worth browsing other authors’ recommendations, too.

Now let’s get back to my regularly scheduled topic! I’ve been working on my author business plan for 2023 with an eye to what I want to write, where I want to go, and more. It’s gotten me thinking about my life plans in addition to my business ones. Striving to find a balance between work and play, so to speak. I found myself pondering how fast this year flew by.

Do you remember when the weeks leading up to Christmas, or whatever holiday you celebrate, seemed to drag by? I vividly remember staring at the tree wishing and wondering what Santa would bring. I’d count down the days, some years with an Advent calendar with its cubbyholes filled with chocolate or small gifts. But count them down I did. I knew my family didn’t have a lot of extra money laying around so would put all my hopes on my being a good girl so Santa Claus would deem me worthy of the many gifts I longed for. Not that I was a saint by any means but I tried to do as my parents wanted and expected. I still got my share of spankings, though!

With each passing year I find time is going by more quickly. I mean, didn’t 2022 just begin a few weeks ago? I had lots of things I planned to do this year but didn’t manage to pull off. Partly due to the fatigue associated with the cancer surgery and radiation treatments, I realize. Still, time just flew by and suddenly it was December. I’m left wondering at the cause of why time seems to speed past now. Perhaps I’m trying to do too much so don’t have “enough time” to get it all done. It’s not like one person is allotted more time than another, it’s about how we use the time, right? My goals typically center around my writing: researching a topic, drafting a novel, marketing existing works, etc. But of course there are all the usual activities I need to accomplish as well: reading, cooking, shopping, household management, family time and obligations, etc.

Or maybe time passes more quickly because it takes me longer to do things. I take a bit more time to think things through before I act. But heck, just getting up from my chair after sitting for a lengthy span can take a bit of time, too! Maybe a few seconds here, a minute there, adds up to swallow time I used to be able to make productive and now is just transitionary between tasks.

Or maybe the biggest difference is that I don’t live in the moment like I did as a child. A day then was a long time, during which I’d play, read, eat, laugh, love, and be a kid. For example, I remember feeling like it would be forever until Mom came home from work so I could ask her a burning question.  

Now my head is filled with plans for tomorrow and the week/month/year after. I’m not living for today but for the future which then arrives before I’m prepared for it. I think in 2023 I’m going to try to live for the day more often by taking time for my other interests besides my stories. I don’t want to neglect my writing but allocate some fun time in my days alongside time to create stories.

I’ve drafted a 2023 business plan which includes researching two new novels and perhaps a nonfiction title as well. Writing the historical romance will come first as I don’t think it will take as long to research for it. The historical fiction title will take much longer to prepare to write and may lead to a spinoff nonfiction book. I think those projects will give me enough to focus on with new writing for the next year, possibly two or three. Then add in marketing my existing 19 titles available for your reading pleasure and I think I have enough business to keep me busy.

This is my last blog post for 2022, but I’ll be back in 2023 with more historical fiction impressions, guest author interviews, and miscellany topics of interest to me and, I hope, to you.

Thanks for following and for reading! I appreciate my readers whether of my blog posts, my short stories, my newsletters, and of course my books!

Merry Christmas! Happy Hannukah! Happy Holidays! And of course, 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.

Announcing the 3rd Edition of this inspiring collection of historical fiction about 19 real-life girls who made a difference in their hometowns. Winner of the 2014 Gold Medal for Young Adult Fiction awarded by Children’s Literary Classics, among other awards.

What would you do if you heard a train crash through the trestle during a violent thunderstorm? How would you suggest to a presidential candidate that he change his appearance in order to be elected? If your family was under attack and surrounded, what would you do to save them? Could you refuse to help someone hoping to better themselves or would you help them?

These are just a few of the situations these girls found themselves in and rose to the occasion, saving the day in more ways than one. Through their bravery, their daring, and their sense of adventure, each used their skills, talents, and insights to meet the need before them.

If you’re a fan of the American Girl series or merely enjoy reading about heroic girls, you’ll love reading about these historic figures in American history.

Books2Read      Barnes & Noble     Amazon     Apple     Kobo

Getting to know Alana White #author #historical #medieveal # Renaissance #history #fiction #novel #mustread #amreading #amwriting

My guest today has a passion she wants to share with us! Please help me welcome Alana White! Let’s take a look at her bio and find out more about her and her writing process.

Alana White’s passion for Renaissance Italy has taken her to Florence for research on the Vespucci and Medici families on numerous occasions. There along cobbled streets unchanged over the centuries, she traces their footsteps, listening to their imagined voices: Guid’Antonio Vespucci, Sandro Botticelli, Michelangelo, Lorenzo de’ Medici. Alana’s first short story featuring real-life fifteenth-century lawyer Guid’Antonio Vespucci and his favorite nephew, Amerigo Vespucci, was a Macavity Award finalist and led to the Guid’Antonio Vespucci Mystery Series featuring The Sign of the Weeping Virgin (Book I) and The Hearts of All on Fire (Book II).  A member of the Authors Guild, Sisters in Crime, the Women’s National Book Association, and the Historical Novel Society, Alana currently is writing Book III in the series.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Pinterest

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

Alana: One day while reading National Geographic Magazine, I happened upon an article about the assassination plot to murder Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici on a Sunday morning during Mass in Florence Cathedral in 1478. At the time, the Medici family were the leaders of the most powerful political faction in Florence. One brother was killed, one escaped in a most dramatic way. Since I’ve always loved reading historical fiction, I looked for the book with this amazing event at the heart of the story. I couldn’t find one—so, I determined to write it myself.

The more research I did into the time and these fascinating people, the more hooked I became. Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici, Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and my protagonist, Guid’Antonio Vespucci, a lawyer at the time and a bone deep Medici family supporter, were exact contemporaries. Threading together their stories has been equally challenging and enlightening.

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

Alana: Persistence and patience. Just sitting down and doing it no matter how challenging it may be. Persevering. Also, I learned to let my heart lead the way.

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

Alana: I enjoyed writing about Guid’Antonio’s pet dogs. In The Hearts of All on Fire, his little Lagotto Romagnolo, a ginger, curly-haired, truffle-hunting puppy whom he names Orsetto, or Little Bear, is dear to his heart. And to mine. Orsetto has work to do in the story, both as a character and as an important part of the plot. Thus, he earns his spot beside Guid’Antonio on the cover. In The Hearts of All on Fire, Orsetto serves to underscore Guid’Antonio as a good man—one who loves dogs and treats them well. If someone tries to harm one, fear for your life. In Hearts, his beloved Orsetto provides emotion, danger, and fulfillment, along with yet another dog, a brave little stray, who provides Guid’Antonio with the clues he needs to solve the two murderous threads of the story.

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

Alana: A lot! Since my main character was a real-life, well-known Florentine doctor of law, I had to get it “right.” Many of the luminaries of the Italian Renaissance provided me with much grist for the mill. As I say, these are actual people; a lot of research has been done about many of them. Renaissance Florence is a rich tapestry, and it is also a minefield. I can’t write about Guid’Antonio without writing about his friends; Lorenzo de’ Medici, for one strides across a huge stage. These are mysteries, so there must be a crime, one that hits Guid’Antonio close to home, so that we care about him as he untangles the who, how, and why, while protecting those he loves and moving up the ladder of power in Florence.

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

Alana: I lost count. All in all, however, from first draft to completed story required about five years. This is about how long it takes me from book to book, including Book I in the series, The Sign of the Weeping Virgin, and this one, which is Book II. Currently I am working on Book III.

Betty What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Alana: Since these are mysteries, as far as habits, or discipline, really goes, I always plot the entire story before beginning to write. My “overstory,” as I call it, usually runs about 100 pages, or more.

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

Alana: I reply on variations of “smile,” far too much, and I tend to use the word “heart.” I keep a close look out for those two, in particular.

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

Alana: I love Ellis Peter’s Brother Cadfael series set in medieval England, C. J. Sansom’s Shardlake series in Tudor England, and S. G. McLean’s Damian Seeker series set in the time of Oliver Cromwell.

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

Alana: I like a lot of light. In our home, our dining room is all windows, so I enjoy writing there. But then I have a messy dining room table!

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

Alana: When just one reader tells me how much they have enjoyed the book, I feel my work is done. That is why I write: for the enjoyment of others.

Betty What is your favorite genre to read?

Alana: Historical fiction, particularly mysteries.

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?

Alana: Again, I enjoy having readers connect with my characters and with their stories. That means everything to me.

Florence, 1473. An impossible murder. A bitter rivalry. A serpent in the ranks.

Florentine investigator Guid’Antonio Vespucci returns to Florence from a government mission to find his dreams of success shattered. Life is good—but then a wealthy merchant dies from mushroom poisoning at Guid’Antonio’s Saint John’s Day table, and Guid’Antonio’s servant is charged with murder. Convinced of the youth’s innocence and fearful the killer may strike again, Guid’Antonio launches a private investigation into the merchant’s death, unaware that at the same time powerful enemies are conspiring to overthrow the Florentine Republic—and him.

A clever, richly evocative tale for lovers of medieval and renaissance mysteries everywhere, The Hearts of All on Fire is a timeless story of family relationships coupled with themes of love, loss, betrayal and, above all, hope in a challenging world.

Buy Links: Amazon

I remember being fascinated by the Medici family at one point in my life. I still want to go to Italy and that region! Thanks for sharing, Alana!

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! 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 Impression of With Fire and Sword by Henryk Sienkiewicz #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I’m happy to report that I have finished reading With Fire and Sword by Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz, and ultimately it was a good read. If you missed them, you can read both my first impressions as well as more insights I shared last time. This very long story is not for the faint of heart or the squeamish, let’s be clear. Why, you may ask?

With Fire and Sword accurately depicts how the battles depicted in the book are fought. Sienkiewicz does not shy from vivid details of the horrors of war and the gore and violence that accompany hand-to-hand combat. I can’t tell if this is a cautionary tale about those horrors, or an honorific to the men who fought for what they believed in versus those who only fought to gain or hold onto power. One parallel I kept seeing is the disregard for human life during these battles and those in Ukraine today. It also should be noted that much of the fighting in this story takes place in Ukraine in the 1600s. I found myself wondering at the similarity in both the logic and the nerve the soldiers in the tale demonstrated which seems to reflect today’s events. Another example of how although times and technologies may change, humanity really doesn’t all that much?

Another aspect of this story I found intriguing is the sense of an extended quest narrative woven throughout the battles and bloodshed. Two of them, actually. The first more gruesome one is the vow one noble makes to sever three heads in one blow to honor his ancestors. The second one is the pursuit of a singularly beautiful princess who is ultimately moved hither and yon much like a pawn in a chess match. Throughout the story, several different men secrete her away or chase after her, longing to marry her. Her beauty strikes men dumb until they adjust to being in her presence. But she only has eyes for one noble, despite being kidnapped and hidden from him.

Sienkiewicz knew he was writing a bloody account of warfare so he included some comic relief in the person of one of the nobles. Zagloba exaggerates his deeds, trash talks those around him including his friends, and speaks his mind even at the most inappropriate moments (according to his friends and fellow soldiers). He’s opinionated about everything but most especially food and mead. But he does provide a chuckle here and there to offset the cruelty and mayhem.

I’ll say it again: this is a very long story! I appreciate the research and the time it took the author to put onto paper the life of the soldiers and nobles during this awful time in history. He’s done a good job of describing the setting so I could picture (most of the time) the battle scene or the conversation or whatever with ease. He delves into the heart of the characters to bring forth their deepest fears and desires for me to witness.

I’m glad I read it but at the same time I don’t think the vivid awful imagery will leave me alone for quite some time. This is not my typical historical novel that I enjoy reading due to the focus on the battles and bloodshed. But it also provides a look at the life of the soldiers during the war, which is what I care about more than the strategies and officers and such. “Seeing” how they lived during the war is interesting, in other words.

I’m going to take a couple weeks away from this Historical Fiction Around the World series to do some research for the next novel I want to write. Look for the next installment in the new year.

Until then, happy reading! Happy holidays!

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.

Announcing the 3rd Edition of this inspiring collection of historical fiction about 19 real-life girls who made a difference in their hometowns. Winner of the 2014 Gold Medal for Young Adult Fiction awarded by Children’s Literary Classics, among other awards.

What would you do if you heard a train crash through the trestle during a violent thunderstorm? How would you suggest to a presidential candidate that he change his appearance in order to be elected? If your family was under attack and surrounded, what would you do to save them? Could you refuse to help someone hoping to better themselves or would you help them?

These are just a few of the situations these girls found themselves in and rose to the occasion, saving the day in more ways than one. Through their bravery, their daring, and their sense of adventure, each used their skills, talents, and insights to meet the need before them.

If you’re a fan of the American Girl series or merely enjoy reading about heroic girls, you’ll love reading about these historic figures in American history.

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Introducing Gwyn, the heroine from A Gift By The Sea by Nancy Lee Badger #author #historical #holiday #romance #Scottish #Christmas #fiction #novels #amreading

Settle in with a cuppa and let’s meet a cute character, Gwyn, taking a break from her story to chat with us. First we’ll look at author Nancy Lee Badger’s bio and then we’ll find out more about our young guest, Gwyn.

Nancy Lee Badger grew up in Huntington on New York’s Long Island. After attending Plymouth State, in New Hampshire, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree and met and married her college sweetheart. They raised two handsome sons in Rumney, New Hampshire while she dreamed of being a writer. When the children had left the nest, and shoveling snow became a chore, she retired from her satisfying job as a 911 Emergency Medical Dispatcher and moved to North Carolina, where she writes full-time.

Nancy is a member of Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Fantasy-Futuristic & Paranormal Romance Writers, and the Triangle Association of Freelancers. She finds story ideas in the most unusual places, especially at Scottish Highland Games.

Author Social Links: Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads

Betty: How would you describe your parents?

Gwyn: My name is Gwyn. Mom died giving birth to my younger brother, York. Da’ is a great man, but we are curious why he made us move from the south shore of Loch Ness to the cliffs along the North Sea.

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

Gwyn: Growing up on Loch Ness meant ye learned to swim early. Da’ taught us all to fish, but our tiny boat leaked.

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

Gwyn: I do not believe I am a failure. Rather, I have had little opportunity to show my true strengths. That all changes when I discover a not-so-dead naked sailor on our beach.

Betty: Do you have a favorite sibling? Who?

Gwyn: Sorry, but I canno’ choose between Tor and York. They have their faults. We three are rather young, but what happens when we meet Monroe makes all of us mature quickly.

Betty: What kinds of friends do you have?

Gwyn: (Gwyn blushes) I recently met a hurt sailor named Monroe. I saved his life on that beach then saved him again when he was kidnapped, and when I meet his da’. Monroe is A GIFT FROM THE SEA and we have become…close.

Grab some hot cocoa and snuggle under the covers this season with four all-new medieval romances by best-selling and award-winning authors Allison Butler, Aurrora St. James, Ria Cantrell, and Nancy Lee Badger. From friends to lovers to a marriage of convenience, hidden identities and his best friend’s sister, you’ll be swept away to the magic of Christmas in Scotland where braw heroes will do anything for the women they’ve come to love.

Buy Links:  NancyLeeBadgerBlogspot

Thanks, Gwyn, for telling us more about you and your family, and of course Monroe!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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!

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

Before I dive into my ongoing thoughts about this story, I’d like to share that the 3rd Edition of my award-winning historical short story collection, Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure, releases tomorrow, December 6. I’ve added back in the photos from the 1st Edition that were dropped by the 2nd Edition publisher. You’ll find a new Foreword by an Army Historian, too. I did a bit more digging into some of the more esoteric questions in the girls’ biographical information and added some new insights into their lives. I’ll give more details about the book below this post for those of you who want to know more. Now onto today’s post…

Last time I gave you my first impressions of With Fire and Sword by Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz, which is turning out to be easier to read than I first thought. I have found this adjustment period to be true whenever I read classical literature or any writing from previous centuries (except the 20th, of course!). Inherently, the language—word choice, cadence, nuance—has changed since then. Reading this novel set in the 7th century Ukraine and written in the 19th century would undoubtedly require a bit of a mental adjustment as to the expectations with regard to the vocabulary and phrasing.

Oh, I should share that Hoopla updated their app and now when I return to the story the app takes me back to where I left off in this lengthy tome. Makes it much nicer to pick it back up!

Comparing the bloody, devastating war of the 7th century to the present war in Ukraine is also rather depressing. I have a sense of “some things never change” for the Ukrainian people. I want them to change! I wish for peace and security for every single person impacted by the awful war. The destruction in the past came about from direct hand-to-hand fighting, fires (intentionally set), and disease/injury. Destroying everything in their path, the fighting armies inflicted physical and emotional ruin. I’m doing some research into the Reconstruction Era in Alabama, and the scenes Sienkiewicz describes in this novel are reminiscent of the destruction at the end of the Civil War in Alabama. The things people do to one another… It’s shocking and yet repeated throughout history. Why do we do this to each other?

The more I read, the more I enjoy the story and want to return to find out what happens next. The novel is very long and has a lot of characters, some with similar long names. I sometimes mix up who is who, but the actions and thoughts of each soon sort that knot out. Writing about historical events can be hard to do clearly since so much was happening at any one moment. All the players, as it were, each doing their own thing but those actions combining to yield a certain result. I don’t know how many of the characters are real personages from the past and how many are invented characters. Maybe I’ll see if I can find out more about the actual history between now and next time.

I think I’m about one third through the story. I will do my best to finish it before the next blog so I can wrap up my impressions of this interesting war tale.

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.

Announcing the 3rd Edition of this inspiring collection of historical fiction about 19 real-life girls who made a difference in their hometowns. Winner of the 2014 Gold Medal for Young Adult Fiction awarded by Children’s Literary Classics, among other awards.

What would you do if you heard a train crash through the trestle during a violent thunderstorm? How would you suggest to a presidential candidate that he change his appearance in order to be elected? If your family was under attack and surrounded, what would you do to save them? Could you refuse to help someone hoping to better themselves or would you help them?

These are just a few of the situations these girls found themselves in and rose to the occasion, saving the day in more ways than one. Through their bravery, their daring, and their sense of adventure, each used their skills, talents, and insights to meet the need before them.

If you’re a fan of the American Girl series or merely enjoy reading about heroic girls, you’ll love reading about these historic figures in American history.

Books2Read      Barnes & Noble     Amazon     Apple     Kobo

Getting to know Al Hague #author #historical #fiction #hisfic #Marine #Veteran #advocate #military #amreading

Please help me welcome my next distinguished author guest, Al Hague, to the interview hot seat. His story may speak to many veterans. Let’s look at his bio and then we’ll find out more about him and his debut novel, A Marine’s Daughter.

I am a US Marine having served in Viet Nam in 1965/1966. I have been a photojournalist for the past 12 years and A Marine’s Daughter is my first novel. I live in Phoenix AZ with my wife Diane. I was born and raised in Massachusetts and have lived in various parts of the USA. It is my hope this story will ring true for Viet Nam Vets and their families and will provide some insight into what we all went through and continue to go through. A portion of the royalties is being donated to the Viet Nam Foundation for the homeless. I hope you enjoy the story and will also look for the sequel I am writing this day.

I am told the story is compelling and difficult to put down. You can see reviews on Amazon at the book location. I will be traveling the country in the coming months for book signings and speaking engagements. I look forward to meeting my readers wherever I travel.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook

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

Al: My belief that vets like myself may still be or recently began anew dealing with the past. I wanted to send a message to the families and friends of Vets who late in life may have changed because of past experiences now central in their mind as they may no longer be busy and have more time to remember and seek answers.

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

Al: I had done a lot of writing for magazines but more in a reporter’s function. Writing this novel was the first time I needed to create characters

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

Al: Telling the moments of terror authentically without turning off the reader.

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

Al: The main character Jon Milo as he is pretty much me in the important ways. It is difficult for me to share my reality.

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

Al: Very little except dates and times of specific situations.

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

Al: 2

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?

Al: First novel so I really don’t know it’s typical. It took about four months to complete

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

Al: I develop the story in my mind and settle on the plot before I begin to write it. Usually late at night while trying to sleep which doesn’t come easy.

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

Al: Not really sure…Not many I would guess..

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

Al: My dad was a WWII Marine and he helped me tremendously to get my life moving forward upon my return.

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

Al: My desk in my office for writing.

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

Al: I am retired finally.

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

Al: Developing characters that interested my readers

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Al: I have a difficult time reading anything except news as I am unable to sit still long enough. I used to enjoy crime dramas and relationship 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? 

Al: Having readers tell me my message has helped them or someone they know.

A Marine’s Daughter is a novel depicting the struggles of a Marine in his later years trying to deal with the issues from the past. The character Jon Milo lost his wife very early in his life and focused on raising their daughter Sara. Jon has several unanswered questions about his time in Viet Nam and his daughter now a successful attorney has been recruited by some of her Dad’s fellow Marines to seek recognition for the old Sergeant they believe he deserves. The story is about the relationship between father and daughter and how they work together to find the answers they both seek not only about the past but about the future as well. The story reveals the value of the father-daughter relationship and that the strength of that relationship can be healing as well as fulfilling.

Buy Links: Amazon

Thanks for stopping by, Al! I hope your story may help other veterans in processing their experiences.

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!

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!