Don’t Say That! Light and #Lighting in #historical #fiction #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

How many times have you seen or read about the man with a long taper lighting the street lamps in some work of fiction? In my humble experience, it’s an uncountable number. The image is just part of the stage setting to suggest times gone by. So I was rather surprised to find that “streetlamp” was anachronistic to my 1780s series.

The usage of street lamp is documented in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) in 1799, so it’s not too much later. Specifically it’s found in C.B. Brown’s Arthur Mervyn in a line which includes “by gleams from a street lamp.”

I could use street light, but not street lamp. Note that the OED defines a street-light as a window onto a street, but also as a street lamp.

What about inside? I wanted a candle to serve as a “night-light” but found I couldn’t do that either. The term existed, mind you, but it referred to ambient light at nighttime. But not when used in conjunction with a candle as “a light which burns or shines during the night” (1839) or as “a small thick candle, or other contrivance, constructed to burn dimly for a long period, and used by night, especially in sick-rooms” (1851).

So I thought I’d change the wording and just refer to the candleholder with its candle burning through the night. But hold up a minute. While the term again existed, the OED says it refers to “One who holds a candle” not an object. The candelabrum or “ornamental branched candlestick holding a number of candles; a chandelier” didn’t appear until 1815. However, “candlestick” is far older, dating from the 1st century, so that was a viable option for my stories.

I stumbled upon this word in relation to another usage. I had a character who did something “out of reflex” but found out that I couldn’t use that word in that way in the 18th century. It was common for this word to mean reflect and reflection but not an instinctual or physical reaction to a stimuli. Or as the OED defines it:

Phys. a. reflex action, involuntary action of a muscle, gland, or other organ, caused by the excitation of a sensory nerve being transmitted to a nerve-centre, and then ‘reflected’ along an efferent nerve to the organ in question”

1833 Proc. Royal Soc. III. 210 He [Dr. M. Hall] distinguishes muscular actions into three kinds: thirdly, those resulting from the reflex action above described…

So of course I had to revise my sentence to use a different word for my purpose. But I also learned something about why a reflex is called one: because it reflects the action similar to light on a mirror. Interesting little factoid, eh?

Finally, I found semidarkness, meaning partial darkness, to be a surprise. The OED doesn’t include it but at they cite it as first being recorded in 1840-50. I suppose they simply said partial darkness prior to the mid-19th century? Or “as darkness approached” or some such phrasing?

Isn’t it intriguing and amazing to think about how words and phrases have come to pass? How they’ve changed and adapted to suit our needs as those needs also evolve?

Next time I’ll talk about what I think of as “military” words. Happy reading!


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Emily's Vow Finalist SealEmily Sullivan’s greatest fear is dying in childbirth, as did her twin sister and their mother. Despite her half-hearted protests, her father insists Frank Thomson is the perfect man for both her protection from the vengeful British and as a husband. Frank always loved Emily despite her refusal to return his affections. A patriot spy posing as a loyalist officer, when Frank learns Emily’s been imprisoned for her father’s privateering, he risks his own neck to free his love.

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Don’t Say That! Evolution of Spelling in #historical #fiction #wordplay #vocabularly #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

Did you know that usage of words evolves over time? Not necessarily the letters used but how they are joined together? Compound words today are often evolved from two separate words, then maybe joined by a hyphen, before becoming one continuous string of letters. Let’s take a look at a few to give you an example.

Before I do that, though, let me just say that while the precise spelling of a word—or rather whether a word includes a hyphen or a space—may vary, the meaning is still clear to a modern reader. I know that without any doubt. The only reason I prefer to explore the “current usage” at the time of my stories is to add another layer of realism to the fiction. Since I write in close third person point of view, I try very hard to think like my character. Wouldn’t he or she then envision the spelling of the word using a hyphen, or making it two separate words entirely? Again, while a modern reader wouldn’t notice, I’m striving to create a semblance of the past within a story written today.

So, one of my favorite discoveries was that the word Thoroughbred did not exist in the 1780s, the time of my A More Perfect Union historical romance series. But one of my sources declared that two thoroughbred horses arrived by ship in December 1782 in Charleston. Since I knew the word hadn’t come to be yet, I needed to see for myself how the secondary source knew they were Thoroughbreds. Thankfully, the secondary source cited the primary source newspaper article. So when I made a second research trip to Charleston (love that city!), I went to the Historical Society and asked to see the newspaper article. I cannot tell you just how anxious I was to see that few inches of newspaper column, either! It took what seemed ages before the librarian came back with the paper and I quickly skimmed the text until I came upon the fact that “two thorough bred horses” had indeed arrived in South Carolina.

A closer look at the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) shows that “thorough-bred” meaning “thoroughly educated or accomplished” has been around at least since 1701. The OED also says that “of a horse” to mean “a race-horse whose pedigree for a given number of generations is recorded in the studbook” didn’t begin until 1796, and then hyphenated as “Thorough-bred.” As I said, I’ve seen the term used with regard to horses as two separate words, lower cased. So there is some doubt as to the exact lineage of the word, including whether to hyphenate it or not. Indeed, the OED definition shows the term hyphenated until the 1880s. Thus it becomes more of a stylistic choice than a matter of correct or incorrect usage. (Something I’ve found to be true of commas quite often, but that’s a debate for another day!)

English Water Spaniel-1
English Water Spaniel

Okay, so I wanted to have a dog in one story. I love dogs, so why shouldn’t my characters, right? Besides, Samantha needed a friend… So I thought about a rather generic description of a terrier dog as a “black-and-tan” but found out in short order that the adjectival phrase didn’t come into use until 1850. There are other definitions in the OED (an alcoholic drink and an armed forces unit), but all dated later, some with hyphens and some as individual words. Why couldn’t I use the colors as I wanted to? I suppose I could have, but then wondered whether it would be outside of the realm of possibilities for my characters. Now, I could have gone round and round debating whether or not I should use it despite what the OED implied, and finally decided to come up with a different dog! It was easier. So I did some research and discovered the English Water Spaniel, a breed now extinct or at least assimilated into other spaniel breeds. From my perspective, it’s a double win. I found a historically accurate pup for Samantha and I learned something about how dog breeds have changed over the centuries.

“Good night” is another interesting term, since the OED cites Chaucer in 1374 as having used it in his Troylus. Note he used it as two separate words, but the OED cites many examples of hyphenated usage. From what I can glean, two words is generally used when wishing someone to have a “good night” but people will say their “good-nights” before going to taking their leave of others. A little mixed usage never confused anyone, right? Looks like another stylistic choice to be made.

I can think of more recent examples of how people change the spelling of words over time. Electronic mail used to be “Email” or “E-mail.” Now I see it frequently as “email.” Same sort of thing happened to being “on-line” or “online.” Can you think of any other recent examples of word evolution?

I’ll let you all ponder word evolution until next week!


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Elizabeth's HopeThe fight for independence has become personal… Elizabeth Sullivan feared for her brothers, fighting for American freedom; for her father, pretending to be a loyalist; for family and friends, caught between beliefs; but mostly for Jedediah Thomson, the man she loves, who was doing his duty. They’d only begun their courtship when the occupation of Charles Town, South Carolina, trapped her in the city and sent him to fight. She cherished every moment they had together, knowing how swiftly it could be taken away. And that made her willing to risk everything to claim a piece of him forever….


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Don’t Say That! “Highlighting” Word Choices in #historical #fiction #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

Let’s talk about words like “accentuate” or “underscore” that evolved from typesetting, or at least that’s my shorthand way of grouping these words together for my purposes.

I enjoy the sound of “accentuate” – meaning emphasize – and really wanted to use it in my 18th-century historicals, but alas it was not to be. Sure, it existed as a word but not to mean what I meant. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) told me I had to wait until the mid-19th century to use it that way:

1. To pronounce, or distinguish with an accent.

1731 Bailey, Accentuate: to pronounce in reading or speaking according to the accent.    1827 Hare Guesses at Truth II. 212 They [the French] never accentuate their words or their feelings: all is in the same key; a cap is charmant, so is Raphael’s Transfiguration.    1880 Paper & Printing Trades Journ. xxx. 7 You will find that he accentuates his words‥quite naturally.

  1. To mark with the written accent.

1846 T. Wright Ess. on Mid. Ages I. i. 9 The [Anglo-Saxon] scribes not only omitted accents, but they often accentuated words wrongly.

  1. fig. To mark strongly, emphasize.

1865 Lecky Rationalism I. 371 To accentuate strongly the antagonism by which human nature is convulsed.    1875 Hamerton Intellect. Life vii. v. 254 His marriage would strongly accentuate the amateur character of his position.

Okay, fine. How about “stressed”? You know, “she stressed how important his next words would be…” Well, no. That’s even later in the 19th century!

1. Distressed, afflicted. Also absol. Obs.

1559 J. Aylmer Harborowe B 3 b, With a certain choise and judgement to giue passage and safetie to the stressed.    1590 Spenser F.Q. ii. x. 37 Stird with pitty of the stressed plight Of this sad realme.    c 1590 J. Stewart Poems (S.T.S.) II. 88 The stressit knycht all stupefact did stand.    1632 Lithgow Trav. vii. 328 Stress’d Saylers.

2. Marked with a stress, emphasized.

1885 Meredith Diana i, The stressed repetition of calculated brevity while a fiery scandal was abroad concerning the lady.    1913 A. C. Clark Prose Rhythm in English 18 Rhythm in poetry depends upon the recurrence of longs and shorts, or stressed and unstressed syllables, in a regular order.

So, then what if I used “underscore”? Would that work? Hardly… The figurative sense of “emphasize” is even later than “stressed” in entry to English written language. And if you look closely at the figurative 1891 usage its really reflecting the act of putting a line under the words moreso than the true figurative sense of emphasize, which isn’t reflected in the OED until 1939. So to be safe, I chose to not use it in my 18th-century historicals.

Verb. a. trans. To draw a score or line beneath; to underline.

1771 Luckombe Hist. Print. 249 [They] either underscore the word, or make some other token, which may inform the Compositor of the Author’s intention.    1838 Lytton Alice xi. v, The notice to Howard, with the name of Vargrave underscored, was still on the panels.    1874 Blackie Self-Cult. 35 Underscore these distinctly with pen or pencil.

b. fig. To point up, to emphasize, to reinforce; = underline v.2 1 b.

1891 W. S. Gilbert Rosencrantz & G. iii, He who doth so mark, label, and underscore his antic speeches.  1939 Sun (Baltimore) 17 Apr. 8/2 A look at the gold statistics underscores the fears which are so often expressed on this score.

A couple of other words surprised me that I had wanted to use but found couldn’t without being anachronistic. Typeset and typesetter, for example. These show up in the OED but without a date of origin, so I bounced over to and looked them up. “Typesetter” didn’t become a thing until 1825-1835, and “typesetting” was first recorded in 1855. Mind blown that it took that long for those seemingly basic words to enter English.

One last one that surprised me. “Showcase.” I admit I do not remember specifically how I wanted to use this word, whether as an actual case for displaying stuff or the figurative sense, but it didn’t much matter once I checked it in the OED. No form or usage of it entered English until 1835. This is a good example of one of the kinds of words I’ll talk more about next time, since it’s original usage included a hyphen, as in “show-case” or even “show~case”.

Until next week when I’ll talk more about how two words slowly evolve into one! Happy reading!


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Evelyn's PromiseDetermined to fend for herself in an independent America, widow Evelyn Hamilton faces soaring post-Revolutionary-war inflation as she struggles to provide for herself and her infant son. Militiaman Nathaniel Williams finds his heart ensnared by the smart, beautiful widow, forcing him to make the hardest decision of his life.




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Don’t Say That! Make-Believe and other theatrics in #historical #fiction #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

Let’s play some make-believe, shall we? Oh, but wait! I really wanted to have one of my characters in my A More Perfect Union pretend or make-believe something was true when it was not. But the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)  told me I couldn’t. Really?

  1. Pretence

1811 L. M. Hawkins C’tess & Gertr. (1812) IV. 62, I was drest like Minerva,‥and then the little ones came and worshipped me: ’twas all make-believe, you see.    1811 Morn. Chron. 9 Apr., Her mourning is all make-believe, She’s gay as any linnet.    1818 Lamb Three Friends, Not that she did really grieve It was only make-believe.

So if I couldn’t even have my character make-believe, what other theatrical limitations did I stumble upon? You may be surprised by some of them! I’ll start with one that really gave me pause: backdrop. This to be used as in the sky provided a stunning backdrop to the view of the lake, so something like that. This term comes directly from the theatre as a synonym of backcloth. But note the date associated with it in the OED:

2. Theatr. The painted cloth hung across the back of the stage as the principal part of the scenery. Also transf. and fig.

1886 Cornh. Mag. Oct. 435 They gazed awestruck at the backcloth and the flies.    1926 Spectator 10 July 44/2 Thirty acres or so for a stage and the whole firmament of heaven for a back-cloth. …

Note also that it wasn’t used figuratively until 1926 to mean something behind not an actual cloth used for setting.  So I thought about using “background” instead. On first glance, the OED tells me that it was used in the theatre in 1672 as stage direction and as a part of the stage, essentially. But…when I looked more closely, it wasn’t used in the figurative sense until 1799 or 1824, depending on whether Elvira is being given stage direction or not.

1.a. The ground or surface lying at the back of or behind the chief objects of contemplation, which occupy the foreground. (Formerly, the part of the stage in a theatre remote from the audience.)

1672 Wycherley Love in Wood iii. ii, Ranger retires to the background.    1799 Sheridan Pizarro i. i. (1883) 182 Elvira walks about pensively in the background.    1824 Miss Mitford Village Ser. i. (1863) 109 The low cottage in the back-ground.

Another phrase I enjoy saying is “disappearing act” but unfortunately that didn’t hit the books until 1913 and “façade” in the figurative sense of pretending to be something you’re not, having a false face/front, didn’t until 1845. Again I was left to use a broader set of descriptors or change what I said about the character and his motives or actions.

Which all combines to make writing historical fiction both a challenge and a wordsmithing exercise. I love word games, so I’m up for the challenge!

Next week I’ll look into the “typesetting” related words I had to avoid. Think about what those might be in the meantime!


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SamanthsSecretCOVERMidwife and healer, Samantha McAlester returns from the front lines to find Charles Town under British siege and the town’s new doctor at war with its citizens.

Dr. Trent Cunningham intends to build a hospital staffed solely with educated doctors. What he doesn’t need is a raven-haired charlatan spooning out herbs and false promises to his patients, while tempting him at every turn.

Then a mutual friend develops a mysterious infection. Trenton is stumped. Samantha suspects the cure but knows treatment will expose her long-guarded secret, risking all she holds dear… including Trenton.




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Don’t Say That! Hike Her Skirt and other activities in #historical #fiction #wordplay #amwriting #amediting #mustread #histfic

Some concepts you’d think had been around forever. But I was surprised when I learned that a woman didn’t “hike” her skirt in the 18th century. I mean, it’s in so much fiction that I made the assumption it was authentic to the time. Only I was dead wrong. I don’t like being wrong, but in this word sleuthing I came upon that reality more than once, let me tell you!

Let’s start with the fact that the earliest recorded use of the word “hike” in my OED to mean “walk or march vigorously or laboriously” or “to walk for pleasure” is in 1809. So my A More Perfect Union historical romances set in the 1780s couldn’t use that word to even mean to go out into nature and take a long walk. The part about pulling up clothing? Not so fast! Here’s what the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)  has to say:

b. intr. To work upwards out of place. Const. up.

c 1873 Schele de Vere MS. Notes 488 (D.A.E.), What makes y[ou]r dress hike up so?    1890 Amer. Dialect Notes I. 61 The curtain hikes or hikes up.    1902 G. H. Lorimer Lett. Merchant ix. 119 We boys who couldn’t walk across the floor without feeling that our pants had hiked up till they showed our feet to the knee,‥didn’t like him.    1948 Sat. Even. Post 4 Dec. 127/2 When I sit down, it hikes up.

1873! That’s nearly a century after my stories. Hearty sigh. So instead of the one word, I had to use something like “she grabbed her skirt to lift it up out of her way as she climbed the stairs.” I guess there’s a reason we get around to using “hike” as shorthand! Like when you raise a price, it gets hiked up, so do the pant legs and skirts. But not until late 19th century. So.

Other words related to activities and games I had to find replacements for include acrobatic (b1861), catapulted (as a verb, b1848), cartwheeled (as a verb, b1864), cavort (b1794), and swat (b1796). A couple others I want to talk more about, but you can see here why checking most every word I write (at least until I became more familiar with which ones I needed to avoid!) became important. Unless we’re talking the articles (i.e., the, a, an). Those didn’t change from the earliest times as far as I can tell.

Let’s look a bit more closely at two other words that we use today without a blink of an eye but weren’t used in the same way in the 1700s.

First up, “scan.” As a verb meaning to look over quickly, like scanning the crowd or the sky. A synonym is “skim” which became my replacement word after I dug into scan a bit more to find out when in time I could use it as a verb. The OED:

6. a. To look at searchingly, examine with the eyes.

1798 S. Lee Canterb. T., Young Lady’s T. ii. 251 His wild‥eyes now scanned heaven impatiently.    1810 Scott Lady of L. ii. xxi, While Roderick scann’d, For her dear form, his mother’s band.    1840 Dickens Barn. Rudge ii, ‘Humph’, he said, when he had scanned his features, ‘I don’t know you’. …

b. To search (literature, a text, a list, etc.) quickly or systematically for particular information or features.

1926 Rec. Geol. Surv. India LIX. 202 On scanning this table it will be observed that the pyrope molecule is present in quantity‥only in one garnet.    1950 Amer. Documentation I. 81 The rapid selector employs an optical-electronic system for scanning a reel of motion picture film on which are entered both abstracts and corresponding index entries. …

So at the earliest, the story had to take place in 1798 for scan to not be anachronistic for my characters. So instead, I used “perused” or “skimmed” or “let his gaze drift over the crowd” or some such descriptive passage.

The other word I want to point out is “handshake.” As a noun, it first appeared in 1873:

a. A shake of the hand: cf. hand-shaking.

1873 Tristram Moab xviii. 344, I gave him a hearty hand⁓shake.    1878 Browning Poets Croisic 130 Let me return your handshake!

But then as a verb, it’s even later:

[Back-formation from hand-shaking.]

intr. To shake hands. So ˈhandˌshaker.

1898 H. James Two Magics 8 We handshook and ‘candlestuck’, as somebody said, and went to bed.    1905 Westm. Gaz. 2 Nov. 12/1 As the line moves forward each hand-shaker is steadily pushed along.    1928 Daily Express 28 Aug. 8/3 Hearty handshakers. …

So my character couldn’t accept another’s handshake until almost the 20th century. They could, of course, shake hands, clasp hands, etc. Sigh. Are you seeing a trend? I do! People came up with ways to shorten the phrasing to save time and space. Think how we use acronyms/initialisms and emojis today. All to say more in less space. We’re continuing an historical language evolution, my friends.

I was surprised also by the number of words I think of as “theatrical” that were anachronistic for the 1700s. I’ll talk more about those next week. Until then!


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Amy's ChoiceWhen Amy Abernathy’s childhood sweetheart, Benjamin Hanson, leaves to fight in the American War for Independence without a word of goodbye, Amy picks up the pieces of her heart and chooses independence. When Benjamin returns unexpectedly, Amy flees to the country to help her pregnant sister and protect her heart.

Benjamin Hanson knows he hurt Amy, but he also knows he can make it up to her after he completes his mission. Then he learns that Amy has been captured by renegade soldiers. Now Benjamin faces his own choice: free the sassy yet obstinate woman he’s never stopped loving or protect Charles Town from the vengeful British occupation.

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Don’t Say That – Intro to a Romp about Word Choices in Historical Fiction #histfic #amwriting #amreading #amediting

Words have power. No matter where or how they are used, the images and meanings combine to tell a story, real life or imagined. As a 21st-century storyteller, I choose my words with care. Depending on whether I’m writing a story set in the present or the past, those choices will affect how my readers interpret my tale. Words create the setting, the emotion, the motivation, and most of all the overall atmosphere of the story.

Years ago, I attended a workshop on writing historical fiction at the Historical Novel Society conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. A discussion arose about using words that didn’t exist in the time period of the story. Since stories today are told most often in either close third person point of view (e.g., “His pulse throbbed in his ears, making it difficult to hear) or in first person (e.g., My pulse throbbed in my ears so I could barely hear above the noise”), this is a real concern in order to create authentic characters and settings. In particular, writers of historical fiction shouldn’t use words invented after the time period because they are essentially anachronisms for the character. I agreed and vowed to ensure that I didn’t use any words that hadn’t come about until after the era of my stories. At the time, I was working on my A More Perfect Union historical romance series set in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1782-83, the ending years of the American Revolution.

AMPU Covers-4Let me say now, I had no idea what a challenge I had presented to myself. Despite my best efforts, I probably missed one or two here and there. What I want to share with you all, as readers and perhaps as fellow historical writers, are my thoughts on the words and their usage. Also about historical storytelling for a modern day audience. I have created a list of words to search on for each story – it’s 7 pages long, single spaced. I share it with my editor both for her use and to help me locate and replace “offending” terms.

I mentioned this list to another group of contemporary fiction authors and they seemed enthralled (read, horrified) that it was even something historical fiction authors had to think about. After all, we’re telling stories to modern readers, right? Why did it matter? After I explained the reasoning they wanted to know more. So that was the inspiration for this series of posts.

Over the next few months, I plan to share what I think of as “conceptual” words that I discovered I couldn’t include in my 18th-century stories. These are words that are based on technologies and concepts that had yet to be invented or become common in written language. They also represent an evolution in the language (spellings and such) over the centuries. Some of these words will likely surprise a modern reader. They surprised me! For example, I had no idea I couldn’t use “highlight” or “background,” for reasons I’ll explain later. I’ll rely on the history of the word usage from the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)  to explain why I chose a different word and what the alternatives were. All with a certain self-deprecating humor, I hope! It’s rather eye-opening and humbling to realize how lazy I had become in choosing words. It’s easier to reuse the same words rather than select the exact word but one of the times. The hunt for the perfect word to convey both the idea and also the 18th-century atmosphere without losing my sweet little mind, in other words. (Pun intended!)

For those of you who don’t know my background, here’s my bio and then I’ll elaborate a little on my education and experience.

BettyBolteAward-winning author Betty Bolté writes both historical and contemporary stories featuring strong, loving women and brave, compassionate men. No matter whether the stories are set in the past or the present, she loves to include a touch of the paranormal. In addition to her romantic fiction, she’s the author of several nonfiction books and earned a Master’s in English in 2008. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Historical Novel Society, the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and the Authors Guild.

I’ve been writing and editing professionally since the 1990s, including essays, newspaper articles and a column for a small town paper in Indiana, and articles for national magazines. My day job was working as a technical writer and editor for corporations and for NASA, as well as editing nonfiction books on a freelance basis. All along I’ve written fiction, mainly romances, and I’ve always enjoyed reading historical fiction. Some of my favorite authors are Elswyth Thane, LaVyrle Spencer, James Michener, and Anna Sewell. That is not an exhaustive list by any means! I know something about writing to an audience and delivering the message in a way the reader/receiver can understand it most readily. To add a layer of complexity with needing to stay true to words and concepts relevant to the characters in a story set in the distant past was a new challenge, but one I picked up with a sense of purpose. Until I realized just how big a challenge it would prove to be! Then it became a juggle to find a happy medium between historic authenticity and good storytelling for a modern day reader. Let’s see how well I did, shall we?

I hope you’ll enjoy this little foray into the history of words and how I worked through the challenge of sticking with historically accurate language to tell a 21st-century reader an authentic 18th-century tale to the best of my abilities.

Off we go… Next week I’ll begin with the ever-popular “mesmerize”… See you then!


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Tasty Tuesday: Angel Food Waldorf #Cake #dessert #recipe #paranormal #romance #PNR #mustread #fiction

Today’s cake recipe is more an assembly project than a straight up recipe. It’s called an Angel Food Waldorf cake and it really is divine! I recently made it for myself and hubby. I’ll tell you a little secret about that at the end, so bear with me!

I discovered this recipe when I was a teenager and really big into cake decorating. You know, the buttercream icing and pastry bags, designs and letters in various colors on the smoothly frosted cake surface. I even competed at the county 4-H fair, though I don’t recall any awards… But that’s another matter, right?

My family loves this cake. When I told my daughter I was going to make it, she was miffed because she lives in another state and so couldn’t pop in for a slice. It’s good, but worth crossing an entire state for? Probably not.

Because it’s one of my favorites, I decided to include it for the big Thanksgiving dinner in my latest paranormal romance, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow. Tara has a hard time in the kitchen for reasons she is slow to discover for herself. But by the time the family feast comes around she’s sorted things out well enough to pull this delight together. Here’s a snippet from the story to set the mood:

Tara wiped her hands on a towel and grinned at him. “That finishes the pies, and the cake is baked and ready for the final construction.”

“Are we building something?” Grant loved her quirky little smile at his question.

“You could say that. We need to slice off the top of the cake, then cut out a tunnel in the bottom and pull out the center part of the cake.” She motioned with her hands to show him what she meant. “Then we fill the tunnel with whipped cream, sliced strawberries, and slivered almonds.”

“Yum.” She was so cute when she wrinkled her brow in thought. “Then what?”

“Put the top on and smother the whole thing in more whipped cream.” She pointed to a second box of strawberries. “Some of those get spaced on top as decoration.”

“Double yum.” He gazed at his woman, drinking in her features and enjoying her animated motions with her hands. “What happens to the cake you pull out?”

She wiggled her brows with a grin aimed his direction. “That’s the best part. You get to eat it.”

“I’m in.”


With no further ado, here’s a little more detail on how to build this confection.


Betty’s Angel Food Waldorf


Angel Food Cake, prepared as directed

1 large container Cool Whip

1 cup cut up strawberries

½ cup slivered almonds

½ cup miniature marshmallows

8 medium strawberries, approximately the same size and capped


Bake an angel food cake per box instructions (or buy one, if you prefer); cool completely

Place cake upside down on a plate. Slice off entire top of cake about 1 inch down; set aside.

Make cuts down into the cake 1 inch from the outer edge and 1 inch from the edge of the hole in the center, leaving substantial walls on each side. Remove cake within the cuts, leaving a 1 inch thick base.

IMG_0565In a medium chilled bowl, mix 5 cups Cool Whip with the strawberries, marshmallows, and nuts until well blended. Press the mixture firmly into the cavity to avoid holes in cut slices. Replace top of cake and press down gently.

Use remaining Cool Whip to frost the cake. Place 8 remaining strawberries point side up at regular intervals on top of the cake. If desired, sprinkle more slivered almonds around the top.

Chill at least 4 hours before serving.

Makes 12-16 servings.


Ready for the little secret about the last one I made? Shhh! We’ve never done this before, but hubby and I ate the whole thing in 3 days! My intention had been to have him take whatever we didn’t eat to work with him on Monday, but it didn’t last that long. Talk about yummy! But not something I expect to repeat, either. (Soon, at least.)

What do you think? Are you up for putting together this light and delicious treat for your family and friends? What other berries do you think would taste good instead of, or perhaps in addition to, the strawberries?


P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

The_Touchstone_of_Raven_Hollow_600x900Tara Golden has hidden her healing power all her life. But occasionally, she uses her abilities on people passing through town, sure they’d never figure out what saved them. Now a tall, sexy geologist is asking questions she doesn’t want to face, and he isn’t going to take no for an answer. There’s no way she would reveal her abilities and her gifted sisters for a fling.

The latest medical tests divulge geologist Grant Markel’s fatal condition is cured, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. When he meets the sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest, he’s determined to prove she’s full of smoke and mirrors despite their mutual attraction.

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




Amazon AU:

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Tasty Tuesday A Handful of Heart Healthy #recipes from #author Virginia McCullough #dessert #breakfast #delicious #mustread #fiction

Today’s Tasty Tuesday offering includes several tempting recipes for you try. Women’s fiction and romance author Virginia McCullough is here to tell you about one of her favorite stories and several related dishes to enjoy. What do you have for us, Virginia?

Welcome to the Both Sides Now Café with Virginia McCullough

The Jacks of Her Heart takes place in a small Wisconsin town named Capehart Bay and features Jack Young’s ’60s and ’70s nostalgia café, Both Sides Now, where every item on the menu is named after a ’60s or ’70s song. No wonder it’s a favorite eatery in Capehart Bay. Lorna Lindstrom, a professional organizer and lifestyle coach, loves the café and when she and her friend June meet there for lunch, they usually order their favorite “California Dreamin’” salad, with either chicken or chilled shrimp—it’s full of avocado slices and tomatoes and, of course, sprouts—alfalfa, broccoli, radish, and sunflower.

Lorna and June never pass up a chance for a “Brown Eyed Girl” bran muffin. There’s no trick to make those at home. Use your favorite bran muffin recipe and add chopped walnuts and raisins, and you instantly have your brown eyed girl.

Jack, recently divorced, and Lorna, a widow, are passing acquaintances, but they both end up in a local group that takes off on a Caribbean cruise. Everyone has a fabulous time. But wow, Lorna and Jack get so caught up in the moonlight and dancing they impulsively duck inside a tiny chapel in the Dominican Republic and walk out married!

A light-side romance, The Jacks of Her Heart sees Jack and Lorna wondering if their opposites-attract-marriage can last once they’re back home in the midst of a chilly Wisconsin spring. Jack and Lorna have a “morning after” moment and agree that a quick divorce is probably the best solution to their impulsive wedding. Their grown children sure think this marriage is a serious mistake and aren’t shy to say as much at a dinner that brings the two families together. But do these kids—in their twenties and living their own lives—have to be so bossy about it? Leading the charge is Vicky, Lorna’s newly married daughter.

Don’t get me wrong, the adult kids try to be understanding of their parents’ need for “companionship in their older years.” What? In their early fifties, Jack and Lorna stifle their laughter and, using the need to bring out dessert, the two head to the kitchen to talk things over:

“Who are these kids to tell us how to spend our older years? Vicky’s been overbearing and bossy ever since her father died, but this is ridiculous. All three of them seem poised on a cliff, ready to pounce and run our lives.”


Lorna broke away from Jack and opened the bakery box. “What do you want to do?” she asked, transferring the raspberry tart to a platter.


“Since you asked, I’d like to shoo the kids out the door.” He came up behind her and squeezed her shoulders. “Maybe we could have a little companionship.”


She glanced behind her and grinned. “Right. I’ll drag out the rocking chairs and we can watch the Weather Channel.” She shook her head. “Honestly, I never heard anything so ridiculous in my life.”


“I know one thing,” Jack said with an edge in his voice. “I don’t feel like pretending to feel bad about our so-called mistake.”


Lorna pivoted to face him. “It didn’t feel like a mistake when we said those words—our vows, I mean.” 


“Spoken in front of a tall, skinny guy in a lime green suit—it matched your dress as I recall.”


“Ah, yes, that green is one of my best colors,” she said with a giggle, “but not necessarily one of his.”


“You looked beautiful, like you do now.” Jack rested his chin on the top of her head. “I don’t know about you, but I’m stubborn enough to…”


The sound of the door opening interrupted him. “Do you need more help?” Vicky asked, her face pinched in disapproval.


“We’re fine, but why don’t you put out the dessert plates from the breakfront in the dining room?”


When Vicky was out of sight, Lorna turned to Jack. “My stubborn streak is wide awake and standing at attention.”


He cupped her cheeks in his palms. “We’ve been quick to label it a mistake. But I didn’t want to take my hands off your soft skin this afternoon. Then I couldn’t wait to get back over here, even knowing our kids would treat us like criminals.” He kissed her forehead. “What do you think? Whaddya say we give this marriage a go?”


“Sometimes impulsive decisions turn out okay.” She heard the uncertainty in her voice and closed her eyes, enjoying his touch as he cradled her face. Caught in a frenzied game of tug of war, her head yelled no, no, no, but her heart begged her to say yes. Back and forth, her reason locked in a battle with her feelings.

Jack is a follow-his-gut kind of guy, while Lorna leans toward logic and reasoned decisions. They’re both stubborn, though. And maybe the kids pushed too hard for a fast breakup.

Within days of their cruise-ship wedding, Jack and Lorna find themselves involved in each other’s families in ways they never imagined. Jack is almost certain Vicky’s brand new husband is cheating, and Jack’s elderly dad needs some help—now. Turns out Jack comes with a dog, and he rescues a few more. For reasons of her own, Lorna doesn’t welcome pets, especially dogs. Uh oh. So, can this starry-eyed couple find some common ground?

I had a lot of fun with the ’60s and ’70s theme, and the book features a vintage clothing sale and Jack’s summer-long music festival, opening with a Beatles tribute band. But the most fun was naming Jack’s menu items—and you can have fun, too:

  • A couple of readers have commented that they started thinking of their regular brownies as not just typical luscious dessert fare, but special “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” brownies.
  • Grill flank steak for two and call it “Going to the Chapel.”
  • Any smoothie made with a banana can become an instant “Mellow-Yellow Banana Smoothie.”
  • Make an orange flavored muffin and call it “Here Comes the Sun.”

A couple of relatives of mine got a kick out of the “Whiter Shade of Pale” vegetable and egg white omelet and now call The Jacks of Her Heart a heart-healthy book. If you’re not familiar with egg white omelets, here’s an easy-does-it “Whiter Shade of Pale” recipe Jack’s cooks use:

Beat 4 egg whites until blended and set aside. (Use one whole egg if that “shade of pale” from all egg whites is a bit much for you.)

Assemble vegetables—up to ½ cup each of any combination of greens such as spinach and kale. Add about ¼ cup of any or all of these: diced mushrooms, onions, green peppers, black olives, cauliflower, or broccoli. Add salt and/or other seasonings to the vegetable mix—chives are always good. Some add the raw chopped vegetables into the omelet, but I like to lightly sauté and soften them before folding them in.

Melt butter (or a vegetable oil if you prefer) in your omelet pan and continue as you would with any omelet. Add the vegetable mix when the eggs are almost done and fold the omelet. Top with crumbled feta cheese or any other grated cheese if desired.

Want to listen to Joe Cocker sing “Whiter Shade of Pale” while you enjoy your omelet? Click here for a 1978 performance.

Ice Cream SundaeLorna’s mom Aggie has a favorite Both Sides Now dessert, the “Nights in White Satin Sundae.” Who can resist the easiest dessert ever—chocolate ice cream and marshmallow topping, and a dollop of whipped cream? Enjoy it with a side of the Moody Blues singing that hit live in 1968.

Hands down, the favorite lunch and dinner item on Jack’s menu is the “Forever Young Salmon Salad.” It’s fit for company, extraordinarily versatile, and takes very little time to fix. Here’s how to make this salad for two:

Two salmon fillets, 4-6 ounces each, placed skin side down in a lightly oiled baking dish.

Brush the fillets with a generous amount of sesame-ginger salad dressing—any brand. (A light teriyaki sauce is good too.) Bake the fillets at 375 for 20-30 minutes. Some people bake them at 400 for 15-20 minutes.

Fill two dinner plates with greens and cut vegetables, any amount and kind you want. (Packaged greens and precut salad vegetables are fine.)

Put the fillets, hot or chilled, on the bed of greens. Add (optional) walnuts, berries, sunflower or sesame seeds, dried cranberries or raisins, and croutons. Dress with any kind of salad dressing, including a sesame-ginger.

If you don’t care for sesame-ginger flavor, try seasoning the salmon with spicy mustard, lemon and dill, or a citrus blend. Use honey-mustard dressing or raspberry vinaigrette.

“Forever Young” is one of the most enduring songs of the ’60s and ’70s era. Here’s one of my favorite covers, Joan Baez singing the Dylan classic.

The Jacks of Her Heart was great fun to write and if I had a Both Sides Now Café near me, I’d be a regular. I hope you’ll take a trip to Capehart Bay and enjoy Jack and Lorna’s story.

About Virginia McCullough

Born and raised in Chicago, Virginia has lived in many places, from the Maine coast to the mountains of North Carolina and now Green Bay, Wisconsin. As a ghostwriter/editor/coauthor, Virginia has written over 100 nonfiction books for physicians, lawyers, business owners, professional speakers and many other individuals with information to share or a story to tell.

Virginia’s women’s fiction titles include Amber Light, Island Healing, and Greta’s Grace. She also writes for Harlequin’s Heartwarming line. Girl In The Spotlight (June 2017) and Something To Treasure (January 2018) are the first two books in her Two Moon Bay Heartwarming series, with Book 3, Love, Unexpected due for release in May 2018.

Whether romance or women’s fiction, Virginia’s novels feature characters who could be your neighbors and friends. They come in all ages and struggle with everyday life issues





Amazon Author Page:




Jacks 150Where to Find The Jacks of Her Heart






Thanks so much, Virginia! What great recipes!

So we learned about several new dishes to try, along with what sounds like an awesome story about an intriguing couple and town. I hope you enjoy!


P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

Tasty Tuesday: Fry Bread and Race Cars from #contemporary #romance #author Leslie Scott #NativeAmerican #bread #recipe #racecar #fiction

I need some speed today for Tasty Tuesday, along with a delicious way to fix some hot bread for dinner. Contemporary romance author Leslie Scott has a little of both for us! Fasten your seatbelts!

Thank you for having me on Tasty Tuesday, Betty!

My name is Leslie Scott and I write New Adult Contemporary romances about a town full of street racers. The debut novel of my Arkadia Fast series released last month. The follow-up should be out sometime this spring.

The hero of The Finish Line is Cherokee from Texas, and in this modern setting he’s also the reigning King of the Streets. When Betty talked to me about writing this post, I started thinking about a dish that would be important to my heroine. The entire time, though, Jordan was in my ear reminding me that he has the most important dish. That it was something his grandfather made for him when he came to live with him.

Though, fry bread is not a traditional Cherokee recipe, in the Midwest it has become very popular among the Native American population in the past fifty or so years. The puffy, fried dough is something his grandfather served with chili beans or taco fixings. Something hardy and filling for an older man raising a large, hungry teenage boy all on his own.

You see, Jordan was born to an addict mother who eventually left him with her father. The relationship between grandfather and grandson formed Jordan to be the man he is, the hero he is, for Raelynn in The Finish Line.

The first time I ever tried Fry Bread was at the Red Earth Festival in Oklahoma City. If you’ve never been, you should really make that trip. The cultural experience is amazing, as is the artwork and obviously, the food.

I serve mine with taco fixings, though I’ve had it assorted sweet toppings (like with funnel cake) as well.

Here ya go:

Fry Bread


2 Cups Flour

½ Teaspoon Salt

½ Cup Water

½ Teaspoon Baking Powder

½ Cup Powdered Milk

About 2 Cups Oil or Shortening


frybread1Mix the flour, salt, baking powder, powdered milk, and water until you form a dough ball. Don’t kneed or over work the dough, you don’t want it tough.

Heat oil until bubbles form around the handle of a wooden spoon (or however you check to make sure it’s hot).

Flour your hands. Pinch off chunks of dough (mine are usually the size of a clementine), roll them into a ball, then flatten them with your hands.

Here’s a hint, don’t put more than two (or three if you have a large pan) pieces in the pan. Don’t let them touch and don’t let the oil get too hot. Flip them once when the edges start to burn. I use tongs, it’s easier.

When your pieces of fry bread are a nice, golden brown, take them out and let them drain.

frybread2Like I said, there are a variety of ways to serve fry bread both sweet and savory. I say, try them all! And honestly, being the southern girl I am… we’ve had it with white gravy and chocolate gravy. Because, why not?

I hope you enjoy!

TheFinishLine_w11775_750 - CopyAnother night at the races is more than burnt rubber with a hit of nitrous. For one young woman, it’s navigating trauma, love, and loss in the stifling Texas heat under the watchful gaze of her brother’s best friend and reigning King of the Streets, Jordan Slater. Home in Arkadia again, Raelynn Casey starts to heal from a terrible incident at college. She finds love in Jordan, a member of her brother’s circle of racing buddies. When another in the racing circle, the guy who took her to her high school prom, exposes his feelings for Raelynn, tragedy erupts like a tank of race fuel. Guilt, remorse, and pain must be overcome before Raelynn and Jordan can race to The Finish Line.

The Finish Line, Paperback

The Finish Line, Nook

The Finish Line, Kindle

About Leslie:

Leslie Scott thrives in the middle of chaos. Not because she homeschools her son and rides herd over the family’s zoo of indoor pets or listens to her soul mate wax poetically about all things car and related. Oh, no. That’s nothing. The real chaos is the characters in her mind, elbowing and tripping each other to get to the front of the line so they can be the next romantic couple in one of her stories. Her family is her passion. Writing romance is her dream.

Readers can find me on my website:, on Twitter @leslieSwrites, and on Facebook I’m really active on twitter/facebook and would love to hear from readers!

Thanks, Leslie, for sharing that recipe! I’m excited for your budding career and wish you all the best as you go forward!

I’ve enjoyed fry bread when I’ve visited my sister and her family in Oklahoma. What a delightful treat, too! I think it was around a time when the local tribe (am I using that term correctly? Please let me know!) held a powwow with dancing and food and storytelling, I think. It’s been a long time ago now, so the memory is a bit fuzzy. I do recommend trying this bread for its light and delicious texture and taste.


P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

Tasty Tuesday: Pound Cake #colonial #dessert #cooking #cake

One of the biggest challenges for me and my Tasty Tuesday recipes is adapting the cake recipes. Why? Well, let me explain.

Take a look at Hannah Glasse’s receipt for Pound Cake and then I’ll share my reaction to it.

Art of CookeryTo make a Pound Cake.

Take a pound of butter, beat it in an earthen pan with your hand one way, till it is like a fine thick cream; then have ready twelve eggs, but half the whites; beat them well, and beat them up with the butter, a pound of flour beat in it, a pound of sugar, and a few caraways. Beat it all well together for an hour with your hand, or a great wooden spoon, butter a pan and put it in, and then bake it an hour in a quick oven.

So, 12 eggs? A pound each of sugar and flour and butter? How big of a cake will this make? I truly believe I don’t own a pan large enough to bake this cake. But then the show-stopper for me was beating it by hand, literally, or I could use a big wooden spoon, for an hour. An hour? Well, that couldn’t happen since I’m not strong enough to last for an hour. I’d have to use my mixer.

I believe I’ve mentioned before that the eggs then were smaller than today’s. What I don’t know is the equivalence. Not knowing how big a cake this recipe would make, I wasn’t certain how to cut it down. So I went looking in my other colonial and early America cookbooks to see if there was another pound cake recipe I could use. And yes, I found one in Revolutionary Cooking by Virginia T. Elverson and Mary Ann McLanahan.

Let’s take a look at both the original receipt and the adapted recipe, which I followed with one small change.

Revolutionary CookingOriginal receipt by Mrs. Mary Randolph, 1824, in The Virginia Housewife; or, Methodical Cook (p146)

Pound Cake

Wash the salt from a pound of butter, and rub it till it is soft as cream—have ready a pound of flour sifted, one of powdered sugar, and twelve eggs beaten; put alternately into the butter, sugar, flour, and the froth from the eggs—continuing to beat them together till all the ingredients are in, and the cake quite light: add some grated lemon peel, a nutmeg, and a gill of brandy; butter the pans, and bake them. This cake makes an excellent pudding [aka dessert], if baked in a large mould, and eaten with sugar and wine. It is also excellent when boiled, and served up with melted butter, sugar and wine.

Here is their take on how to make a modern sized cake:

Pound Cake

2 cups sugar

Eggs and Butter2 cups flour

½ pound butter

5 eggs

1 teaspoon each of lemon, rum, and vanilla extract


Have all ingredients at room temperature. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a 9-inch tube or bundt pan generously. Mix all ingredients at one time in a mixer and beat for about 10 minutes, or until smooth. Turn into greased pan. Bake at 325°F for about 1 hour, until cake tests done.

Note: As in the original, there is no liquid or baking powder or baking soda.

Pound CakeThe only change I made is that instead of the three extracts I used 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. It still turned out really tasty!

Even though I used my electric mixer, my right arm let me know it wasn’t okay to do so. I’m still not quite back to pre-surgery strength but almost.

What I love about this recipe is that there are only five ingredients (the way I made it) and all wholesome foods. I wondered about reducing the sugar but I’d need to do some kitchen science research to understand how that might impact the results. Would less sugar make a smaller cake, for instance, since there is less mass introduced to the batter? I don’t know the answer but suspect it would be denser. Anyway, it’s a yummy recipe and I hope you’ll try it!

Next week’s blog will be a summary of the lessons I’ve learned, the recipes that I will earmark to use again, and those that I won’t. Until then, happy reading!

Remember that my A More Perfect Union series (ebooks) are on sale for the holidays! And the prequel novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, is also only 99 cents for the ebook at Amazon.

AMPU Covers-4


P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

My latest romantic witch story is The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, and it takes places in an enchanted valley during Thanksgiving. What a perfect time to give it a try! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing Tara and Grant’s love story!

The_Touchstone_of_Raven_Hollow_600x900He dug for the truth and found her magic.

Tara Golden has hidden her healing power all her life. But occasionally, she uses her abilities on people passing through town, sure they’d never figure out what saved them. Now a tall, sexy geologist is asking questions she doesn’t want to face, and he isn’t going to take no for an answer. There’s no way she would reveal her abilities and her gifted sisters for a fling.

The latest tests divulge geologist’s Grant Markel’s fatal condition is cured, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. When he meets the sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest, he’s determined to prove she’s full of smoke and mirrors despite their mutual attraction.

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




Amazon AU:

Amazon CA:

Amazon UK: