A Look Back and Ahead #histfic #historical #paranormal #romance #supernatural #fiction #books #mustread #amwriting #amreading

I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad lately. My mother, too. Mainly because I finally got around to sorting out what my dad kept in two footlockers. I found a lot of interesting papers and photos that I’ll need to deal with one way or another. I’m looking forward to what family history I’ll glean from several new sets of letters, for instance. But overall, the experience has me thinking about my own history and future.

To date, I have written and published 28 print books, and have 5 audiobooks in the works. One of those, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel novella to the A More Perfect Union historical romance series, is already available for your listening pleasure. I’m working on the third book in the Fury Falls Inn historical fiction series, Desperate Reflections, which I plan to release later this spring. Bringing my total published fiction to 29. I don’t count my audiobooks as separate titles, but additional formats for those titles.

That count does not include my and my husband’s joint contribution of chapters in Macmillan’s series on how to use dBase V back in 1995. We had chapters in four different books. That was my only computer software book related writing/editing I’ve done, though I have worked as a technical writer/editor documenting how to use software for various companies as a freelancer. I also worked as a freelance technical writer/editor and then as a full-time employee of SAIC supporting the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for several years.

My dad was very proud of me when I achieved my goal of being a published book author with the release of the first edition of Hometown Heroines in 2001. He couldn’t even read the book, though, for the tears of joy he shed when he held the book in his hands. I had been published prior to that momentous event in newspapers, newsletters, and magazines multiple times. I even had my own column, The Sandwich Generation, where I shared stories about life with two kids and my elderly father living with me and my husband.

While I am not a blockbuster author, I am pleased with my backlist of stories to share with readers. The A More Perfect Union series was my first, and it’s set in one of my favorite places, Charleston, South Carolina, during the American Revolution and the occupation of the city by the British. The Secrets of Roseville paranormal romance series is set in a fictional town that is based on the small town I lived near while I wrote it: Fayetteville, Tennessee. This series is my first series that includes witches and ghosts, and I had such fun writing it! There are two standalone historical fiction novels as well, Becoming Lady Washington and Notes of Love and War. Both of those released during the pandemic in 2020 (June and July, respectively) to great reviews. And now I’m working my way through the Fury Falls Inn historical fiction series which is set near where I live now, Huntsville, Alabama, featuring a haunted roadside inn and its resident ghost and witches and magic. Getting to know the history of the state of Alabama has been a bonus as I’ve researched life here in 1821. You can read excerpts of each of my books at www.bettybolte.com/books.

What’s next? The first thing I’m going to do is finish the Fury Falls Inn series, which entails writing three more stories to finish the family’s tale. I’ve been pondering putting my colonial adapted recipes into a cookbook. I’ve considered writing a book on writing based on all that I’ve learned over the years. I want to finish writing Dolley Madison’s story, too. A Civil War Christmas story is on the back burner but may be moved up later this year. Then there’s an American Revolution trilogy I’ve been thinking of spinning off from the AMPU series. What do you think I should do after I finish the FFI series next year? Suggestions? Requests?

But one thing I do know for certain. I need to finish going through and cataloguing my dad’s papers and photos and deciding which are of historical value and worthy of donation to a museum. Which should be preserved in albums for future generations of my family. What family history needs to be saved into the family tree I started decades ago and need to update. I have far more projects than time!

My priority, though, is writing the best story I can for my readers. I thank you for reading! Now I need to get to work…

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.

In 1782, the fight for independence becomes personal…

Emily Sullivan’s greatest fear is dying in childbirth, as did her twin sister and their mother. Then she’s thrown in a loyalist prison for her privateering father’s raids on the British, and her accuser–a former beau–promises to recant if she will marry him.

Frank Thomson always loved Emily despite her refusal to return his affections. A patriot spy posing as a loyalist officer, when Frank learns of Emily’s plight, he challenges her accuser to a duel.

Freed from prison, Emily ponders returning the affections of her rescuer–the only man she’s ever loved and who married her twin to save the Sullivan family’s reputation. But Frank cannot afford to be discovered. For the sake of young America, he must deliver his secrets.

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Martha Washington’s Feelings about George’s 2nd Inauguration #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

I found myself pondering the upcoming inauguration which sent me back to when I was researching and writing Becoming Lady Washington and how Martha felt about her husband being president. I realize the times then and now are very different, but there were people then who didn’t want George to be president while many more did. But how did his wife feel about it?

She was proud of the fact that he’d been chosen, don’t misunderstand that point. And she was very aware he felt it his duty to accept for the sake of unifying the country. But as I wrote in Becoming Lady Washington, she watched her husband ride north to New York to assume his new role and:


I was only a little ashamed to admit that everybody could tell I reluctantly had agreed to the idea of my aging husband taking on such a major role. Despite my efforts to keep my worries to myself. His eyesight was failing, his teeth needed to be replaced again, he fatigued easily which left him prone to illness. Yet he prepared to abandon the luxury of home for the good of his country. Doing his duty as I performed mine by beginning the tasks necessary to go with him, back to a situation I supposed would be much like winter camp.


Only she discovered very quickly she hadn’t walked into an army camp situation at all:


Before long I became abruptly aware that being the president’s wife was far different from being the general’s. My hope for a camp-like situation crashed against the reality of the limits proscribed by my husband and his blasted advisors. That coupled with the endless stream of callers made this experience much different from the encampments. I’ve always ensured my attire and hair suited the occasion. Yet I found myself reluctantly submitting to having my hair set and dressed by a hairdresser who came to the house each day for the specific purpose. Apparently Sally’s attentions no longer met the demand.

George informed me upon my arrival that my first reception would be in two days, on Friday beginning at eight o’clock in the evening. Men and women dressed formally would be permitted to attend in the upstairs drawing room. I chose to sit on the sofa, while Tobias or David escorted the guests to me. Around me blazed dozens of candles in the chandelier, while spermaceti-oil lamps rested on tables scattered about the room. George greeted each person after they’d curtsied to me. Light refreshments waited on the tables as the guests mingled and enjoyed chatting with each other. Bob escorted the guests to their carriages when it was time for them to leave. The stiffly formal affair each week lasted too long for my taste, but I had no choice. The president’s wife, unlike the general’s, was a public figure like no other.

I’d also be hosting formal dinner parties on Thursdays at four. I balked at the formality, preferring a more relaxed and inviting attitude. However, I soon learned how little my opinion mattered. Guests were invited by hand-printed invitation and expected to arrive punctually as George signaled the start of dinner on time each week. Government officials, members of Congress, and foreign dignitaries attended. Most didn’t know each other and many had no desire to. I understood, believe me.


She balked at the restrictions and the requirements, but she did carve out the role of First Lady (though she wasn’t called that) and did so with grace and aplomb. However, when he was re-elected she made bones about how she felt in her letters. As I describe in the book, this is how she felt on his second inauguration day:


My prison sentence began again in the Senate Chamber of Congress Hall on March 4, 1793. Four more years loomed before me as I watched George, in his black velvet suit with diamond knee buckles and dress sword with its ornamented hilt, be sworn in by the Honorable William Cushing. I wore a simple yet elegant gown and tried to think positive thoughts, to keep my countenance pleasant. If it weren’t for love of my old man and desire to do my duty to honor our love, I’d have insisted on staying at Mount Vernon among my family. Knowing I couldn’t change the situation, I reminded myself of the positive aspects of our public life.


Despite her dismay, she put on a smile and continued to be the gracious wife of the President of the United States for four more years. She supported him every way she could because she loved and honored him.

Thanks for reading!

Betty

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

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

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

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

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

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On Knowing Martha Washington #research #AmericanRevolution #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

Last week I mentioned that I would be interviewed by Cynthia Brian on the Be The Star You Are! radio broadcast. If you missed the live show, you can still hear the replay at https://www.voiceamerica.com/episode/126745/soil-and-leaves-becoming-lady-washington-cyberbulling-rising. It was a quick and interesting 30-minute conversation and I hope you’ll listen to it, too.

One of the questions Cynthia asked me was about how I could know so much about Martha if she burned her personal correspondence with George. She also said that Becoming Lady Washington read like an autobiography, a huge compliment to my mind.

Answering her question thoroughly would take a little while, so I gave a shorthand answer during the show. But I wanted to share here with you all a little more about how I went about really getting to know about her life and times, her attitude and concerns, and everything going on in her world.

The first thing I did in order to begin finding out more about this truly remarkable woman was to buy two biographies about Martha to read. They both provided good information, but I relied on Martha Washington: An American Life by Patricia Brady far more because it was so well researched and documented.

Two important references for getting to know Martha Washington: “Worthy Partner”: The Papers of Martha Washington and Martha Washington: An American Life

Then I created a timeline table where I listed key events by date. These events came from Martha’s life but also George Washington’s. I even included events I discovered by researching Dolley Madison’s life because Martha and Dolley’s lives intersected several times. Every source I used informed this timeline, too. My list of references is 7 pages long in 10-point font, by the way. It includes book titles (physical ones on my shelves and online archives), articles found online, information from National Park websites and other sites for historic places, and government sites with related information. Every time I found an event that impacted her life I added it to the timeline along with the source.

One of the most important books for really knowing how she thought, felt, reacted, acted, etc., was “Worthy Partner”: The Papers of Martha Washington edited by Joseph E. Fields. Although only 5 letters between Martha and George survive today, the collection of correspondence in this volume includes letters between Martha and many other friends and relatives and business contacts. This is where I could really get inside her head, so to speak, to hear her voice in the cadence of the words she used and to glimpse the concerns and desires she held dear.

I hope you’ll listen to the interview linked above and also read Becoming Lady Washington to also get to know and understand our first First Lady.

Thanks for 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.

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

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

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

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Inoculation and Disease in the 18th Century #research #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

Before I get to today’s topic, I’d like to share that I’ll be interviewed on StarStyle Radio about Becoming Lady Washington. I understand the interviewer, Cynthia Brian, does an excellent job with interesting questions, too. Am I nervous? A bit, since this airs on the Voice of America with over a million listeners… Here’s what you need to know if you’d like to listen:

Tune into the radio program StarStyle®-Be the Star You Are! with host Cynthia Brian on Wednesday, November 18, 2020 from 4-5pm PST (6-7 CST). You can listen from your computer by going to http://www.voiceamerica.com/show/2206/be-the-star-you-are

If you miss the live show, you can find it archived at that site with photos and descriptions at www.StarStyleRadio.com.

It’s only a few days from now and I’m excited to find out what she’ll ask. I hope you’ll tune in and let me know what you think. Now, on to today’s topic.

During this difficult time in world health, I have found myself frequently comparing our situation to that of people in the 18th century when so many devastating and deadly diseases abounded. Back then we didn’t know or understand how bacteria or viruses spread. We knew that when people who were sick spent time around others, the others were likely to be infected as well. But how exactly?

I’ve read about people setting up smudge pots in the streets to try to ward off yellow fever in Philadelphia. Shooting rifles in the air, too. Or wearing a pouch filled with herbs and mustard and other things. Anything to try to protect themselves. Given the number of people who died during the outbreak there in 1793, they were not successful. But they seriously didn’t know how to fight it. Here’s a short snippet from Becoming Lady Washington where Martha Washington is pondering the dire epidemic in the city:


By August, the city officials changed their story, admitting an epidemic ravaged the populace. Apparently, the refugees from the slave uprising in the West Indies brought more than rum and sugar on the ships sailing up the Delaware. They’d brought yellow fever, too. More than ever, I worried about George. He’d been under such strain during the last several months, would he be able to fight off the disease should he contract it?

The fever and its horrid effects—vomiting blood, bleeding from ears, nose and eyes, as well as delirium and jaundice—spread to our part of town. The number of deaths each day multiplied. The stench of tar burning in barrels placed around the city choked me, but they were necessary to ward off the disease. Likewise, men shot guns into the air to scare off the spread of the sickness. Lists of possible ways to ward off the fever were printed in the paper. I loathed hearing the rumble of a wagon, accompanied by the gravedigger calling “bring out your dead” in a booming, sorrowful tone. More than ever, I wanted to go home, away from the crowded living conditions that surely contributed to the raging epidemic.


Inoculation became available earlier in the 18th century for some diseases. Smallpox, for example. This process requires a person to be injected with a small amount of the live disease in order to stimulate the body’s immune system to fight it, thus providing a defense against it. Martha Washington’s brother Jacky died from smallpox when he was a teenager because Virginia didn’t allow people to receive the treatment. Here’s a short excerpt showing her brother’s losing battle:


Summer heat surrounded me as I hovered over my brother. The pungent odor of the medicine fought the smell of disease, combining to make me cough and my stomach to churn. Tucking the quilt into place over Jacky, I prayed for a miracle. I’d never seen any one so sick before, so weakened by a virulent attack of the dreaded smallpox.

“Don’t go…” Jacky’s scratchy voice emerged from dry lips.

His bloodshot eyes implored me to stay, but Mother had insisted I let him rest. Besides, I hated seeing his body covered in the raised flat blisters of pus. Hated seeing him feverish and aching. The pain he must be in, to writhe and moan for days. He’d complained of his back hurting, his head aching, of bone-deep fatigue. Mother had some experience with treating the often deadly disease, so I would follow her lead. And pray.

“I’ll be back soon.” I gathered the soiled linens off the chair where I’d placed them earlier. “You rest, like Mother advised, and you’ll pull through.”

He closed his eyes and rolled his head side to side. “I pray you’re right, but at the moment I have serious doubts.”

I clutched the bedclothes to my chest. Memories of riding together and playing pranks on our kinsfolk floated through my mind. If only the new smallpox inoculation didn’t kill as often as it saved, mayhap my brother wouldn’t be so sick. The Virginia assembly had banned the use of the inoculation, believing it spread the disease. Something certainly spread it, because it seemed to be everywhere. Fortunately, not every person who contracted smallpox died. If a person only had a mild case they’d be immune to it from then on, though they were marked for life by pox scars.

“You mustn’t think that way. You’ll be up and about before you know it.”

“You’re right.” He opened his eyes and stared at me for several moments. “I’m so very tired. I think I will take a nap.” He struggled onto his side and closed his eyes again.

I fought the panic rising in my chest, pushing into my throat. My young, strong, full of life brother couldn’t die. Even in repose, Jacky’s face held lines of tension, pain, and fatigue. I couldn’t do anything more at the moment. Helpless but not hopeless, all I could do was try to ease his pain, lower his fever, and help him sip water from a cup. I had no magic or miracle to heal him. Tears sprang to my eyes as I slipped out the door and pulled it closed.


Today we have vaccines to inoculate people against a variety of diseases. A vaccine uses an innocuous form of the disease, either a dead or weakened form of the disease targeted, rather than the full strength. A vaccinated person still gets the benefit of the immune system activating to build a defense to the disease but without the risk of having the live disease threatening their system.

I realize there are people who do not believe in vaccines. I know that Martha Washington longed for a way to prevent her loved ones from contracting any of the dreaded diseases prevalent during her lifetime: malaria, yellow fever, smallpox, etc. Indeed, when her son, also named Jacky in honor of her deceased brother, desired to go to Baltimore, Maryland to have the smallpox inoculation, she wanted him to be protected but didn’t want him to risk his life. Here’s a snippet from the book:


I skimmed the careful script on the linen pages trembling in my fingers. Jacky desired to travel to Baltimore in order to subject himself to the smallpox inoculation. The procedure was legal there, unlike in Virginia. If only he could have it done closer to home, then I wouldn’t mind to quite the same extent.

I thought of my brother, Jacky, and the horrible death he’d suffered because he didn’t have the opportunity to be administered the inoculation. But what if my son received the inoculation and died? The procedure involved inserting a pustule of the disease from an infected person into a cut in the arm. He dared risk his life to avoid contracting the dreadful disease. How could I agree when he may well be the only heir if Patsy succumbed to the epilepsy? Could a mother survive her son’s death, when the mother had given her permission for the potentially lethal procedure? Then again, how could I deny my son’s request when the results could prove beneficial to people in general? His act served an altruistic purpose, a desirable trait in a young man.

I sighed and picked up a pen. A few minutes later I sprinkled sand over the newly inked words granting permission to fix them in place on the page. As well as in my heart. I couldn’t deny my son anything.

Then later when she faced the choice of being inoculated herself, she had to consider the options available:

George nodded and the corners of his mouth twitched before resuming a solemn expression. “I must beg you to favor a request.”

I raised a brow and sipped my drink, intrigued. “I will certainly consider doing everything possible to please you. Pray continue.”

“The incidence of smallpox within the ranks of the army greatly concerns me. With you in camp and going out among the troops you may contract the disease. I want you here with me, as I know is also your desire. So it is a dilemma. Thus I ask you to consider going to Philadelphia to be inoculated.” He lifted his glass and held it aloft, torn between sipping and waiting for my response.

My brother’s death from the terrible sickness lingered in my memory. Would Jacky have lived if he’d received the medicine? My son had the inoculation and he had survived the introduction of what was a small amount of the virus. Apparently with no ill effects. Would I, though?

George sipped, ever patient as I pondered my answer. I should say something to let him know I was thinking about his surprising request. “Do you believe it is safe?”

He nodded again. “The doctors assure me they are refining the methods for achieving success to make the inoculants immune to the disease. After I had smallpox in Barbados when I was there with Augustine, I’ve not contracted it though I’ve been around people who have had it. With good fortune the resulting pustules will be few and your illness mild, leaving you immune to the affliction.”

“Surely I was exposed to it when my brother had it.” So maybe I was already somewhat immune to it. Having another small dose would ensure my health against the disease and I’d be permitted to stay with George. A compelling reason for agreeing. “Very well, my love. For you I will comply with your request.”


Now, I do realize this is my interpretation of how she felt about things in her life, based on her letters to family and friends and to my understanding of her relationships. Martha witnessed many family members suffer and die from diseases during her life. I can only imagine how thankful she’d be to have a way to prevent her loved ones from dying.

My husband and I volunteered for the Pfizer vaccine trial that is currently underway in hopes we can help bring about a vaccine for everyone as soon as possible. The more people who do get vaccinated once it’s available, the sooner we can end the pandemic and move on with our lives.

Wishing you all health and happiness as we enter the holiday season. Please stay safe and take care of yourself and your loved ones. Martha would want you to.

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.

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

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

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

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple     Books2Read