Which Wand for a Witch? #research #magic #magick #FuryFallsInn #amwriting #amreading #American #histfic #historical #fantasy #fiction #books

Last time I talked about how my characters in the Fury Falls Inn series have to learn the basics of magic. For Cassandra Fairhope, she also needs to learn about her wand and how to use it. Now, after doing a bit of research I can tell you that there are a wide array of opinions on what wood to use, whether to use a fallen limb or cut a fresh stick, whether to decorate it with sigils or other symbols, and more. I needed to decide what wood her wand would be made from so I consulted my two references for their views on wood choices as well as the Grove and Grotto site that provides in-depth information about a lot of wand woods.

Sabin’s advice for people who want to follow Wiccan ways is slightly different from de Angeles’ guidance for people who want to practice witchcraft. Sabin says the wand is “a fancy stick” used to focus energy. She also recommends knowing how to focus energy without using a tool such as a wand for instances where you don’t have one at hand. She says the most common woods for Wiccan wands include oak, ash, and willow. But she adds that a wand can be made of anything including copper or silver or bone among other options.

De Angeles insists that the wand must be made by hand, whether it is “simple or carved, inscribed, or painted with the sigils of magic.” She identifies two types of wands, one that is “permanent” used for your rituals and one that is “created for specific purposes” and then “buried after use.” She provides the length, too. It should be “from (approximately) the tip of your middle finger to the inside of your elbow.” She lists the traditional sacred woods as willow, hazel, oak, rowan, hawthorn, blackthorn, birch, beech, applewood, and elm.

So what kind of wand did I choose for Cassie to use in my series?

I scanned the list of woods at Grove and Grotto to get more information as to meanings and properties of various woods. I was looking for qualities and properties that meshed with what Cassie’s world view and desires are. Then I had to make sure the wood was readily available in Alabama so she would pick up a branch of the tree and use it for her wand. After all, the series is set in 1821 and while international trade was huge even then, it would be far easier to pick from available woods instead of importing a more exotic one. So I visited Flora of Alabama to find out which kinds of trees grow there.

I settled on cherry because of its availability and its specific properties. Especially, “harmonious, feminine energy, good for healing, love magick, unity, and community.” Those aspects of the wood’s properties would call to Cassie at an instinctual level.

You’ll notice I didn’t follow either Sabin’s or de Angeles’ advice as to which wood to use. That’s because I really believe in going with your instincts and I think Cassie would be drawn to something more domestic and relevant to her world. Cassie is a unique individual and so is her wand.

Here’s a short snippet from Desperate Reflections where Cassie’s aunt is giving her the first lesson in how to use a wand. In fact, it’s the first time Cassie finds out she has a wand of her own that’s been locked away in one of her mother’s trunks…


Cassie yanked the keys from her pocket before she could change her mind. Soon the lid was up and the array of jewelry boxes, old books, and keepsakes were exposed. Hope leaned over the open trunk, reaching in to lift first one then another of the heirlooms to inspect. Thankfully, replacing each as she sifted and sorted through the collection.

“Aha!” Hope rummaged deeper into the trunk, and then held up a twisted piece of reddish-brown wood. “I found it.”

“What is it?” Surely that thing wasn’t for her. Something else must have been calling to her.

“Why, your wand, of course.” Hope handed it to her, handle first, a scowl descending on her features. “My sister didn’t even let you keep the wand you made as a girl?”

“I didn’t find out I was a witch until a few weeks ago.” She tentatively accepted the tapered wand. The smooth wood warmed to her touch, humming softly, much like a kitten purring in its sleep. “I don’t recall making it.”

“I was there the day you found the fallen limb of a tree and held it up with such joy on your face.” Hope shifted to aim a bemused expression at her. “Your father shaped the handle into that slow twist and then let you sand it smooth with your little hands. I think you were two or so at the time so it’s quite understandable you don’t recall doing so.”

Gripping the handle of the wand, she gave a tentative flick of the blunt tip in the air. Nothing happened. “How does it work?”

Hope chuckled and shook her head slowly. “Not like that. You must have a purpose and intent in mind when you use it to direct your will.”


Tomorrow, May 11, Desperate Reflections will release! I hope you’ll read it and let me know what you think of the story. It’s the third story in a six-book series, so three more to go!

May a good story take you to new imaginative places! 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.

Fury Falls Inn in 1821 Alabama. A place for ghosts, witches, and magic. A place of secrets and hidden dangers. Abram must protect his vulnerable sister from all of it. Before the dark side of magic ensnares her.

When Abram Fairhope grudgingly travels to the Inn, he has no idea of the dire revelations about to upend his life. His only desire is to fulfill his familial duty and then get back to his job as senator’s aide. But the shocking truth of his very nature destroys his carefully laid plans. Worse still, he must use his newly revealed ability to shield her from terrible danger. Threats exist from within and without, especially the surprisingly pretty woman his jaded heart can’t seem to ignore. Can he keep his sister safe and still protect his heart?

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Some Basics of Magic and Witchcraft #research #magic #FuryFallsInn #amwriting #amreading #American #histfic #historical #fantasy #fiction #books

I was talking with a friend and fellow author the other day about the process of writing a series. Obviously the biggest difference between writing a single book and a series of connected stories is that there needs to be an overarching story for the entire series. In the case of the Fury Falls Inn historical fantasy series that means 6 stories with an ever-growing cast of characters. The core story in the series is about the Fairhope family coming back together to defend against a common threat. But each story has its own internal story arc as well. Writing this series has been a challenge for me in several ways.

I’ve talked before about the inspiration for the series which you can read about here. When I wrote that post I had just released the second book in the series, Under Lock and Key, and by then had a better feel for where the series story was heading. Then I wrote the third book, Desperate Reflections, which is up for pre-order now (see below) and will release on May 11, 2021. When I finished writing that story I realized I needed to have a high-level outline of the remaining three books in the series in order to ensure that I wrap up all the of the threads running through these stories. So I took some time to brainstorm all of the events and revelations I could identify that needed to be included in upcoming stories. I feel far more confident that I’ll address the currently open questions as a result! But let me tell you it really stretches my imagination in ways I’ve never done before.

My witchcraft reference books

Another challenge with this series is writing about magic and witches and warlocks. See, I am not a witch nor do I practice magic. Which means I had to do some research to have a deeper understanding and appreciation for those people who do practice some form of magic or have special abilities. So naturally I turned to books written by practicing witches to find out more about what life is like for them. Specifically, Thea Sabin’s Wicca for Beginners: Fundamentals of Philosophy & Practice and Ly de Angeles’ Witchcraft: Theory and Practice. Although they each approach their practice from slightly different perspectives, they agreed on a good bit. These two books also provided the theories and philosophies behind the practical aspects of witchcraft. That is something I intend to weave into my characters’ knowledge as well.

In this series, my main heroine Cassandra Fairhope discovers she comes from a family of witches. She’s surprised by the news but takes to the idea of practicing magic even though she doesn’t know anything about it. Well, neither did I! So I tapped my research books for guidance on the basics she and later her brothers would need to know.

From my reading, the most basic step before performing a spell or ritual is to ground and center in order to protect yourself as you work with the energy around you. According to Sabin, grounding and shielding are both important visualizations to know how to do. Sabin says, “These techniques will allow you to have more control in your energy work by giving you ways to get rid of excess energy and protect yourself from unwanted energy.” I paraphrased her description of the technique she teaches her students to use as a meditation in Desperate Reflections when Abram is reluctantly learning how to ground and center:


“Now, ground and center.”

“How do you expect me to do both?” Abram sat cross-legged on the carpeted floor that evening, hands resting on his knees as he tried to follow his sister’s instructions. He gazed at her, wondering if she believed the mystical nonsense she’d spouted over the last several minutes. “And what do you mean by center?”

“Relax and breathe. Picture a glowing golden taproot connecting your spine to the earth beneath you.” Cassie perched on the edge of a chair in front of the fireplace in the parlor, her expression serene and gentle. “Close your eyes and concentrate.” She paused for several seconds as he let his lids drop. “Can you see it?”

He inhaled slowly, struggling with the conflicting desires to dismiss her guidance as utter rubbish or to follow her instructions and see what might happen. Despite his reservations, the image of a thick, strong taproot like that of an ancient pine tree formed in his mind’s eye. “Now what?”

“Feel the earth’s energy flowing gently and warmly to the base of your spine.”

A slight tingling warmed his hips as he sat with his eyes closed, seeing the energy like a glowing golden stream flowing up along the taproot and into his body. Squeezing his eyes tight to ensure he didn’t open them and lose the image, he waited for her next directions.

“Now feel the energy flow through your legs down all the way to your feet. Then let it flow up your spine and through your arms and hands.”

“It’s so warm. I didn’t expect to feel that.” He flexed his fingers then relaxed them on his knees. The gentle warmth surged through his entire body, filling him with a sense of peace and security but mostly a surprisingly deep connection to the earth.

“That’s perfect. Now, push the excess energy back down the taproot but keep your own energy alive inside.” Her soft voice drifted to his ears and assisted him in easing the unnecessary energy back into the earth through the golden taproot. “When you’re done, open your eyes.”

He pictured the last of the excess energy evaporating into the ground even as a sense of completion and readiness filled him. He opened his eyes and grinned at her. “That was amazing.”


Interpreting the experience from the guidance of a practicing witch helps me imagine how my characters might also have the experience and their reactions. Hopefully with some sense of authenticity despite my own lack of personal experience. I can’t include every aspect of the philosophies and techniques used but I will try to set the stage and the context for my characters and thus for my readers to also have a better appreciation and understanding.

There’s more magic to come, too. Check out Desperate Reflections below and be sure to grab your copy today! (Note that you can pre-order the ebook now but the paperback won’t be available until May 11.) Thanks!

Until next time, happy reading!

Betty

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

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

Fury Falls Inn in 1821 Alabama. A place for ghosts, witches, and magic. A place of secrets and hidden dangers. Abram must protect his vulnerable sister from all of it. Before the dark side of magic ensnares her.

When Abram Fairhope grudgingly travels to the Inn, he has no idea of the dire revelations about to upend his life. His only desire is to fulfill his familial duty and then get back to his job as senator’s aide. But the shocking truth of his very nature destroys his carefully laid plans. Worse still, he must use his newly revealed ability to shield her from terrible danger. Threats exist from within and without, especially the surprisingly pretty woman his jaded heart can’t seem to ignore. Can he keep his sister safe and still protect his heart?

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Food fight in the Fury Falls Inn! #Alabama #research #American #history #FuryFallsInn #food #recipes #cooking #histfic #historical #fiction #books

I have two excellent cooks who are going to have a cookery competition in my next release, Desperate Reflections (Fury Falls Inn Book 3). So that means I got to choose some 19th century recipes to try out, which of course means adapting and tweaking them to something my husband and I might enjoy. Let’s start with the older cook’s menu, shall we?

Sheridan Drake plans to serve Pan Roasted Duck Breasts with Huckleberries, Polenta with cheese, Watercress salad with Molasses Vinaigrette, and creamed corn. So I decided to make most of his menu for dinner recently. All except the creamed corn which I know my husband and I do not enjoy. The results were mixed. The duck and the salad were excellent! The polenta? Fail! The recipe I used overstated the water requirement so I ended up with soup instead of polenta. Even after cooking it for 2 hours we couldn’t begin to eat it. I may try again, maybe.

Picture of plated meal: Pan Roasted Duck Breasts with Blueberry Sauce, Watercress Salad with Molasses Vinaigrette, and leftover tortellini with Alfredo sauce as a replacement for my failed attempt at polenta…

But I do want to share the duck and the salad recipes so you can try them, too. Today, duck breast is expensive to buy at the grocery. I was surprised to find that my local Publix actually carried them frozen. Back when this recipe was created, though, you simply went hunting for ducks so they were not costly at all back then. The original recipe calls for huckleberries, but since I couldn’t find those easily I substituted blueberries which are apparently similar.

I chose the watercress salad and vinaigrette from the menu of a tavern-style dinner my husband and I went to in 2019 which was a reenactment of the dinner Huntsville, Alabama, threw for President Monroe when he surprised the city with a visit in June of 1819, months before statehood. Watercress is something that Alabama is known for, so I knew it would be included in my book as well. The salad at the dinner included goat cheese and blackberries, with an elderberry and molasses vinaigrette. I was delighted to find a bag of watercress at my Publix, too. All washed and ready to use. I had bought some grated parmesan and romano cheese to use in the failed polenta, so I used that instead of goat cheese (again, it’s not our favorite), and some of the blueberries from the sauce for the duck. The nI just used some of our favorite salad toppings to finish the individual salads.

I located a recipe for molasses vinaigrette at bettycrocker.com and then followed it except I used Dijon mustard instead of coarsely ground mustard. The resulting dressing is delicious, too!

Here are the successful recipes based on what I actually did instead of the original ones. If you try them, let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you!

Pan Roasted Duck Breasts with Blueberry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 duck breasts, bone out, with skin
  • Dried thyme
  • Garlic powder
  • Black pepper, ground
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 T Olive oil
  • 2 shallots diced
  • ½ cup port wine
  • ½ cup beef stock, unsalted
  • ½ cup fresh blueberries

Instructions
Score the skin on the duck breasts. Sprinkle both sides with garlic powder, thyme, and black pepper. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

Preheat the broiler with rack in the top third of the oven. Using nonstick saute pan, melt 1 T butter and olive oil until froth subsides. Brown the duck breasts skin side down; do not turn. Reserve the saute pan and its oils. Place breasts in oven safe pan and broil 7-10 minutes, until flesh is opaque. Remove and reserve breasts in warm place.

Using the saute pan, add the shallots, port wine, and stock to deglaze the pan on high heat, until the sauce reduces and thickens. Add the blueberries and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Serve the sauce over the duck breasts.

Watercress Salad

  • Fresh watercress leaves
  • Sliced radishes
  • Pecan pieces
  • Fresh blueberries
  • Shredded cheese

Place about 1 cup of leaves in each individual bowl. Top with a few sliced radishes, pecans, blueberries, and add a sprinkle of cheese.

Molasses Vinaigrette

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • 2 T molasses
  • 1 T Dijon Mustard
  • 1 t minced garlic
  • ½ t black pepper

In a small bowl whisk together all ingredients until well blended.

Enjoy! Look for Desperate Reflections to release later this spring, too. That gives you plenty of time to read the first two books in the Fury Falls Inn series, The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn and Under Lock and Key, in the meantime… And as always, 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.

Giles Fairhope reluctantly journeys to the Fury Falls Inn for one reason: his beloved sister Cassie needs him after their mother was murdered. His father and three brothers are far away, so she’s alone, without any family, in the wilderness of 1821 northern Alabama. He plans to find his mother’s killers, ensure Cassie’s safety, and then go home. Cassie begs him to stay until their father returns, but Giles has absolutely no desire to see him. When Cassie tells him their mother’s ghost haunts the inn, he suddenly faces his dead mother amidst shocking memories from his past and unexpected changes in himself.

His mother’s ghost insists he find not only the killers but a stolen set of keys. Keys which unlock more than an attic door but also surprising and dangerous family secrets. The revelations change everything he thought he knew about his family and threaten his sister’s safety and perhaps even her life…

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Fury Falls Inn vs. the Willard Hotel Which is finer? #Alabama #research #American #history #FuryFallsInn #histfic #historical #fiction #books

While writing the third book in the Fury Falls Inn series, Desperate Reflections, which is coming out later this spring, I needed a fine, high class hotel in the Washington, D.C. area for my main character to compare to the haunted inn in my series. (Note: the inn does not fare well in this comparison.) As usual, I searched my memories for any possibilities and came up with the Willard Hotel.

The Willard Hotel in 1902. Photo: Library of Congress

Why the Willard? Well, I know it’s old because my parents honeymooned there after their wedding in 1948. It’s still in operation today. In fact, my brother-in-law met his wife while working there as an accountant a couple of decades ago. So there are two links to this hotel in my mind. Not only did family stay and work there, but it’s also now one of the finest hotels and is even listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. But how old is it?

Great! A research question! Turns out there has been a hotel of one kind or another at 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW since 1816. A Colonel John Tayloe III built six buildings which he then leased out to Joshua Tennison, who called his new lodgings the Tennison’s Hotel. After several name changes and operators over the next few decades, it was finally purchased by Henry Willard and named the Willard Hotel in 1847.

Given that this series is set in 1821 north Alabama, I used the reference to Tennison’s Hotel in what they called the Territory of Columbia (until 1847) as the finer hotel than the inn could ever become. Especially from Abram Fairhope’s elevated and elitist sensibilities.

If you get a chance, you might want to swing by the Willard someday just to see how beautiful a building it is. And as always, 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.

Giles Fairhope reluctantly journeys to the Fury Falls Inn for one reason: his beloved sister Cassie needs him after their mother was murdered. His father and three brothers are far away, so she’s alone, without any family, in the wilderness of 1821 northern Alabama. He plans to find his mother’s killers, ensure Cassie’s safety, and then go home. Cassie begs him to stay until their father returns, but Giles has absolutely no desire to see him. When Cassie tells him their mother’s ghost haunts the inn, he suddenly faces his dead mother amidst shocking memories from his past and unexpected changes in himself.

His mother’s ghost insists he find not only the killers but a stolen set of keys. Keys which unlock more than an attic door but also surprising and dangerous family secrets. The revelations change everything he thought he knew about his family and threaten his sister’s safety and perhaps even her life…

Books2Read     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple