Musings on Generations Equating to Time Span #amwriting #amreading #HistFic #languagefan #fiction #books #novel #genealogy

Before too long, maybe even next week, I’m going to write a 15K story that is linked to Cassie and Flint Hamilton of my Fury Falls Inn series, which you may know is set in 1821 north Alabama. This currently untitled story will be included in a Rescued Hearts anthology along with 10-11 others that will release next fall, to benefit Hidden Acres Animal Sanctuary in Georgia. I’ve been doing the research, reading and interviewing falconers in Alabama, about Harris Hawks which are the featured rescued animal in my story. I’ve chosen a raptor because of Cassie’s familiar, Allegro, being a Merlin falcon. It seems fitting that her descendants would carry on her love of raptors.

The story will be set in the present day but featuring descendants of Cassie and Flint. Which got me pondering how many generations would there be between 1821 and today.

Now I love doing genealogy research and building my family tree on Ancestry.com as well as making timelines in a document so I have ready access to the information without having to seek it out again. So when I wanted to determine the number of generations, I went to my tree and counted back in my own ancestry. For my family, it would be something like 5 generations, which told me the relationship of the present-day character, too. Flint Hamilton would be this character’s great-great-grandfather. But wait! There’s more!

A spin off to my musings along this line is the advertising statement I’ve heard all of my life. Something like “Such-and-such company has served the community for generations.” It got me wondering about how you equate a span of years to a group of people. Mainly because in my family, among my siblings, there are 12 years between when my oldest brother was born and when I was born. So even our single generation of siblings spans 12 years. Not every family has 5 children, of course, so how does one compute the number of years associated with one generation?

According to my handy OED (Oxford English Dictionary), “In reckoning historically by ‘generations’, the word is taken to mean the interval of time between the birth of the parents and that of their children, usually computed at thirty years, or three generations to a century.” So it’s averaged at 30 years per generation, which in my particular case works out exactly 30 years between when my parents were born and my oldest brother’s birth, which is ironic to me. But what the OED definition/explanation tells me is that I need to have 6 generations back, not 5, to be the typical span of time. So, Flint is now this character’s great-great-great-grandfather. I always knew Flint was a great man, but that’s a lot of greats!

The next step I need to do is identify the intervening generations of parents/grandparents in case I should ever want to write another story spinoff from that series. Hmm… Maybe I should make a family tree for Flint and Cassie’s descendants for fun and future reference. Probably just on paper though. I wouldn’t want anyone else using Ancestry.com to think they’re related to my fictional characters! Now where can I find a sheet of paper large enough to draw a family tree?

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!

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Fury Falls Inn in 1821 Alabama. A place for ghosts, witches, and magic. A place of secrets and hidden dangers.

Amazon Fury Falls Inn Series Page

The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn (#1)

Under Lock and Key (#2)

Desperate Reflections (#3)

Fractured Crystals (#4)

Legends of Wrath (#5)

Homecoming (#6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, happy reading!

Betty

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

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

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

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

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

The next book on my Historical Fiction Around the World tour Nguyễn Phan Qué Mai’s The Mountains Sing. I’ve dipped my reading toes into the story to test the waters. I’m enjoying the writing and the author’s voice that is telling the story. Good signs!

I’m intrigued by the organization of the novel. It comprises 16 chapters, each a different place and range of time in Viet Nam. The opening chapter is set in 2012 with the final chapter in 2017. In between are flashbacks to different periods of the 20th century: 1930-1980.

I recently heard another author talking about the cultural differences between storytelling/fiction in Western versus Eastern cultures. That reminded me to dig deeper into those distinctions to further my appreciation of the novel I’m reading. I wasn’t really surprised to see how much analysis and discussion there is regarding this topic. If you haven’t poked a nose into the discussion, you might start with this blog. You’ll at least come away with an understanding of the effects of culture on storytelling. I’ll continue reading with those concepts in mind to make sure I see them, too.

The use of extensive flashbacks isn’t new to me. It can be an effective way to tell the story of a person, since the character/person must have lived for some stretch of their life before you can tell their story. Understanding stems from distance from the events of our life, in many ways. At the moment, we don’t always appreciate the underlying significance of our choices and decisions or serendipity. That’s my feeling, anyway.

Okay, I need to get back to reading so I can let you know what I think of the story itself next time.

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

Amy Abernathy is a woman renowned for her storytelling prowess but even she cannot invent a sound reason for her suitor’s inexplicable actions. She picks up the shreds of her heart and endeavors to forget him, until he suddenly appears without any fanfare or explanation.

Benjamin Hanson returns to make amends with his captivating Amy. While he knows she’s upset with him, he also knows she’ll eventually forgive him and agree to marry him. But marriage has to wait until after he’s finished spying for the Americans against the British during the war.

When he discovers her and a friend—along with a precious gem—missing from her sister’s home, he finds them in the hands of desperate renegade soldiers. Can he protect the women, the gem, and his heart before it’s too late?

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My Impressions of The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher J. Koch #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I have finished reading The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher J. Koch, which turned out to be an interesting story. If you missed my initial thoughts, you can find them here.

Cover of The Year of Living Dangerously. At top, silhouetted puppets. At bottom, a man holding a cigarette while facing a cat.

The main characters in this story are two men, one a tall man and the other a dwarf, and a beautiful woman. As I read, I envisioned Peter Dinklage as the dwarf, mainly because he’s my favorite actor with that distinctive physique. I love his personality, his world view as expressed through his characters. Imagine my surprise when I checked out IMDB to see if he played Billy Kwan in the 1982 movie, only to find Linda Hunt played Billy Kwan. Wow. That would change the dynamics of the love triangle in the story! Now I want to watch the movie to see what the director did…

Anyway, back to the story as written by Christopher J. Koch. I admit this is not my typical reading selection. It’s a rather dark, political tale with commensurate tension, intrigue, and some violence. It bills itself as a romance: “A compelling tale of romance amid the political turmoil of twentieth-century Indonesia.” While it does indeed include romance, I’d argue it’s more of a bromance in that it delves into the changing relationship between Guy Hamilton and Billy Kwan, and how they feel about Jill Bryant. More time is spent talking about the reporters and the politically oriented characters than about any woman-man romantic tale. To me, that thread is a sidelight, not the focus of the story.

I learned a good deal about life during the 1960s in Indonesia, especially as seen through Western eyes. The language, the landscape, and how people survived some very difficult times all combined to create the somewhat “murky” atmosphere of the story. I had a sense of how I felt watching Casablanca, the somewhat fuzzy, blurred gray of the black-and-white movie. Almost as if watching through a smoke screen, making it difficult to truly understand what you’re viewing.

I’ve recommended my husband to read The Year of Living Dangerously, as it’s more his type of story than mine. However, like I said, I enjoyed the story. Koch did a fine job of writing it, of creating distinctive characters with their unique dialogue patterns. And using a narrator as active character was an effective story-telling device, one I don’t see often.

Next up is Echoes from the Oasis by A.R. Tirant. Tirant was born in the Seychelles and now lives in England. The story is also set on an island in the Seychelles, off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. I’ve dipped my toes into the story so will have more next time!

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

Cover of Emily's Vow. A man and woman facing each other with an American flag in the background.

As the American Revolution drags on, Charles Town, South Carolina, remains under siege by the British, and one woman’s father is determined to marry her off to a suspected traitor. Emily Sullivan is beset from all sides but vows to fight her own war for independence.

Frank Thomson walks a fine line between spying for the Americans and being a perceived loyalist traitor. Posing as a simple printer of broadsheets and pamphlets, he sends crucial encrypted intelligence to the general camped outside of town. But when Frank learns Emily has been imprisoned by the enemy, he risks his own life, freedom, and heart for hers.

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My Impression of Cut from the Earth by Stephanie Renee dos Santos #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I have finished reading Cut from the Earth by Stephanie Renee Dos Santos (The Tile Maker series Book 1). Last week I mentioned that Ms. Dos Santos is from South America but it turns out I am wrong on that score. She’s a “native of the United States” but has lived in other countries, gaining first-hand experience with various cultures. That makes two authors I have mistaken as from other countries than mine. But the stories have been good, so I’ll share this one with you as well.

The story is written from multiple points of view (POVs), giving both male and female perspectives on events in the 1750s in Lisbon. In particular, the story focuses on the aftermath of a massive earthquake in November 1755. So much so that I found myself thinking of the story as a disaster movie/book. The author spent many chapters on how the characters dealt with struggling back to some kind of normalcy after devastating loss and destruction.

While the main thread of the story is about how a tile making shop owners use their income to free slaves by purchasing them from their masters, I found myself more intrigued by a separate, more subtle theme.

Throughout the story, the main characters—there are three of them: Padre Peros; Rafa; and Phaulina—all reflect on the source of their inspiration to create designs for the tiles. Through their eyes, I could see how they used their unique view of the world around them, the details others may not notice, to combine into a design, a picture, a texture. I found myself recalling the number of times I’ve been asked as a writer of fiction where I get my ideas. My best answer is from the world around me. Newspaper articles, news articles on the TV, history books, even other books and the movies I enjoy. All provide tidbits of ideas that I then piece together, like using bits of glass to create a mosaic, fashioning a new story to share with my readers. In Cut from the Earth, Dos Santos has done the same thing through her characters. Illuminated the process of inspiration and how it leads to creation.

The story was well written, and definitely researched into the finer details of tile making in the 18th century. I could quibble with some of the typos and editorial errors I spotted here and there, but the story taught me a lot about Lisbon in the 1750s. (Seeing surface errors like that is an editor’s skill and bane all at once! Skill when editing someone else’s work; bane when simply trying to read for enjoyment.) I don’t believe I’ve read any other stories set in Portugal, come to think of it.

When I embarked on my literary journey around the world, at least as far as location if not author origin, I hadn’t anticipated how much I’d learn. I’ll have to compile a list of everything I’ve learned through this endeavor as a wrap up post when I finish my tour. That and a list of all of the blog posts in order in case you missed any of them.

So, what’s up next you may be asking… I’ve selected a title I’ve heard about but haven’t read yet. And I’ve verified that the author is not from the USA, too. <grin> I’m going to start The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher J. Koch, who was born in Hobart, Australia. It’s an award-winning book, so I’m curious to find out what I learn from reading it…

Be sure to check out the first book in my American Revolution historical romance series, which is discounted this month. I did a lot of research before writing that series, including a couple of trips to Charleston, South Carolina, to do some in-person exploring. More info is below.

Happy reading!

Betty

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

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

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

As the American Revolution drags on, Charles Town, South Carolina, remains under siege by the British, and one woman’s father is determined to marry her off to a suspected traitor. Emily Sullivan is beset from all sides but vows to fight her own war for independence.

Frank Thomson walks a fine line between spying for the Americans and being a perceived loyalist traitor. Posing as a simple printer of broadsheets and pamphlets, he sends crucial encrypted intelligence to the general camped outside of town. But when Frank learns Emily has been imprisoned by the enemy, he risks his own life, freedom, and heart for hers.

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First Thoughts on A Place Called Armageddon by C.C. Humphreys #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

The third book in my Historical Fiction Around the World series is C.C. Humphreys’ A Place Called Armageddon: Constantinople 1453. As a reminder, I am exploring historical fiction written by authors from other countries than my own USA. My aim is to share my experience of reading each of these books, chosen for their author’s native country and for my interest in the time/place/topic. So I’m not going to just give a short review of the story, but what I find interesting about the layout, the storytelling, or whatever else intrigues me about the book.

This book is a hardback edition consisting of 458 total pages, of which 442 constitute the story. It’s copyrighted in 2012. Like Colleen McCullough’s The First Man in Rome, it includes a glossary and maps to help me orient myself to the place and the language. Unlike that previous read, this book only includes 2 maps—one of the city walls and one of Constantinople in 1453—and the glossary of 3+ pages. But those proved enough to enable me to follow the movement within the story and to enjoy the narrative and dialogue.

Before I started reading the story, after learning from reading The First Man in Rome, I studied the maps, read through the glossary, and then also read the Historic Notes and the Author’s Note. Then I felt like I had a good grasp on the context of the story as well as the author’s intent behind writing the story.

Reading this story so far—I’m on page 250 as I write this—reminds me of something I noticed decades ago when working as a technical writer tasked with transcribing the conversation during a meeting. A subtle difference can be detected between how a woman speaks vs. a man. It’s hard for me to pinpoint the nuances. A different cadence, perhaps? Word choices to an extent. A different approach to storytelling or speaking in general. I could tell by reading the transcript whether the words were spoken by a man or a woman 90% of the time.

In a similar manner, I noticed a difference in the narrative/storytelling by this first male author of the series. One of his narrative choices is to string together actions using commas. Let me give you a few examples. “He sat, gulped, stared at the board before him.” “He raised [her hand] to his lips, tasted it, her.” “The big, nimble man feinted, flicked, lunged, a forearm’s length of steel thrust before him.” In each case Humphreys declined to use any conjunctions. I’m not complaining about his technique, mind. I’m pointing out a subtle writing style choice. It works to convey the flow and the fluidity of motion or thought. I may try employing something similar in my own writing if it suits the situation and story.

Another difference in this historical fiction from the other two is the level of detail associated with the fighting style and techniques of the characters. In the first two that I’ve read so far, both written by women, the fighting happened but the specific steps, sights, actions were not explicitly detailed. Humphreys goes into far more precise detail of how to arm and shoot a crossbow and a bow and arrow. Continuing from the last cited example above, here is one fight sequence to demonstrate what I mean.

“In the center, though, all was quiet enough, if not still. The big, nimble man feinted, flicked, lunged, a forearm’s length of steel thrust before him. But Gregoras had just had time to do what he probably should have done before he’d spoken—he drew his own dagger left-handed, cut down, putting blade to blade, guiding the other’s past his left side. Then he raised his boot and slammed the heel hard down onto the man’s unshod toes. As he screamed, Gregoras drove his right hand up his hip, curling his hand over, bringing the brass knuckles uppermost just when the force of the blow was at its height.” (p143)

See what I mean? I could reenact this scene based on that paragraph. If I were an actor, which I tried to be once, but that’s a tale for another day! This is not the only instance of the step-by-step actions taken by a character in combat with another. I’m surmising the author either knows how to fight hand-to-hand or took some lessons on how to for the sake of writing these scenes. I’d be more likely to do the latter, but that’s just me.

Another lesson learned from reading Dorothy Dunnett’s The Game of Kings is to be a reader first, then analyze what I’ve read so I can share it with you all. I am enjoying the story overall despite the fact that I am not one who really cares to read about battle strategies and fighting. Humphreys shares the human side of the fighters so I am happy to read about the relationships they have with their brothers and wives among other people in the story. I found out my husband has already read this book and enjoyed it; he called it a “good story” which is high praise from him.

That’s my first thoughts about this book with more to come next week when I wrap up my reading of the story. Anyone else reading it? What are your thoughts, if so?

Happy reading and Happy New Year to all!

Betty

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

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

Audrey Harper needs more than home and hearth to satisfy her self-worth despite being raised with the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Working as a music critic for the city newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, during the Second World War, she’s enjoyed both financial freedom and personal satisfaction in a job well done. When she uncovers evidence of German spies working to sabotage a secret bomber plane being manufactured in her beloved city, she must choose between her sense of duty to protect her city and the urgings of her boss, her family, and her fiancé to turn over her evidence to the authorities. But when her choices lead her and her sister into danger, she is forced to risk life and limb to save her sister and bring the spies to justice.

Set against the backdrop of the flourishing musical community during the 1940s in Baltimore, Notes of Love and War weaves together the pleasure of musical performance with the dangers of espionage and spying.

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My impression and lessons learned from The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I finished reading Dorothy Dunnett’s The Game of Kings which turned out to live up to expectations of being a great story. I shared last time a few stumbling blocks I encountered, but eventually overcame them. In order for me to enjoy the story, I had to make a few adjustments to my approach. I also got a little help from some new Twitter “friends” after my last post.

First, let me mention that the tweet sharing the last week’s blog topic was retweeted by the Dorothy Dunnett Society, which I was unaware even existed. How fabulous to think of the impact one author has had on so many readers! In fact, according to their site, their mission includes to “advance the education of the public concerning the history, politics, culture and religion of the 11th, 15th and 16th centuries by promoting the study of and research into such subjects generally and into such subjects particularly as they related to the works of Dorothy Dunnett.” I must thank the Society for retweeting my tweet so that other fans could share their experience and appreciation for The Game of Kings with me.

In my last post, I mentioned that the story is set in Scotland in 1546, when Mary Queen of Scots was 4 years old. And that I inferred that fact from knowing Mary is 4 years old in the story. I looked up when she was born but couldn’t pinpoint the time period more closely. Thanks to Max A. Ess, I now know:

Max.A.Ess @Nigel333

Replying to @BettyBolte @DunnettCentral

1/ The book is set from 1547-48 not 1546. The battle of Pinkie occurs close to the beginning of the book. It was on September 10th 1547. Mary was born in December so she was still four years old then. The capture of Sir Thomas Palmer near Haddington was in Summer 1548.

I really appreciate Mr. Ess weighing in on the exact time frame of the story. It may seem a trifling thing, but I do try to keep historic events in context as much as I can. Granted, I’m still learning about 16th century history and have a very long way to go. One of the reasons I’m broadening my historical fiction reading is to also broaden my knowledge of history.

Several other Dunnett fans told me about how much her stories meant to them, how they learned to skim the unfamiliar terms and perhaps take time to look them up later. But basically what I gleaned from their comments is to read first, analyze second. So I had to take off my editor and author hats and put on my reader hat. Step away from reading critically in order to read for pleasure. Only then was I able to truly enjoy the story, the storytelling, and absorb the history. This is a technique I used while working on my BA and MA in English when reading the classics. I often had to just try to read it for the story and not critically, at least the first time before I reread for critical analysis. So thanks to the folks who reminded me to read first!

Going back to the slew of foreign terms and quotations peppered throughout the story. The main culprit, if you will, of using most of them is Lymond, but others also do. I had to wonder about why they were included. Ms. Dunnett must have had a reason for going through the seemingly immense effort to locate appropriate quotes from all of the various languages. What purpose did they serve? I sincerely doubt that she was “showing off” her own intellect or accomplishments by including them. As I read, I kept wondering and pondering until I reached a place in the text where I think she revealed the true reason. The main character, Lymond, is having a conversation with Gideon (on page 340 in my copy of the book) who in exasperation exclaims, “I wish to God…that you’d talk—just once—in prose like other people.” In Lymond’s reply he says, “I echo like a mynah” bird, pulling all of these quotations from books he’s read. He’s a very well read man, that’s certain, and I think he uses language as a weapon or a tool to deflect and confuse or to create a delay while he thinks through the situation at hand. I think when Lymond says he’ll talk in prose like others, it’s a turning point in his growth arc. I won’t elaborate because I don’t want to ruin another’s enjoyment of the story.

My main takeaways from reading this book are varied. Keep an open mind about the writing style. Immerse myself in the story first. Absorb the history as well as the story by putting my inner critic in the back seat while reading. Perhaps jot down or highlight the unfamiliar terms to explore later, but even that I think would pull me from the story itself and detract from enjoying the read.

Are you reading along? What did you think of The Game of Kings, if so? I’m open to having a discussion about what you think of each of these stories, too!

Up next for me is another book off my personal bookshelf: A Place Called Armageddon: Constantinople 1453 by C.C. Humphreys. Humphreys was born in Canada and has lived in the USA and the UK. Again, I know very little about 15th century history and Constantinople. We’ll see what I learn from reading this one…

Happy reading and happy holidays to all!

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 must balance her business with caring for her two young children. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has much more to learn. When Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her, she’s convinced he’ll be a loving husband and father for her children.

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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Wrapping Up The First Man In Rome #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I have finished reading Colleen McCullough’s The First Man in Rome and it only took me 24 days! As you may recall, the entire book spans 1076 pages with the story proper comprising 931 of those. I chuckled at the Los Angeles Times quote in the front of the book: “An awesome and epic new work…This is an absolutely absorbing story—not simply of the military and political intrigues that went into the final days of the Republic but also of what it was like to live, love and survive at this pivotal point in our civilization…A master storyteller…A 900-plus-page novel that is every bit as hard to put down as it is to pick up.” [emphasis mine] Yes, it is a rather hefty lift!

If you’re just joining my tour of historical fiction written by authors from around the world, you might want to start here by reading why I chose The First Man in Rome. Note that I’m broadening my reading by sampling historical fiction written by authors in countries other than my own USA. I want to see what different nationalities have to say about their point of view of history. I started by sharing my first thoughts about the novel, then my impressions of life in ancient Rome and some overall observations of the story and writing. Today I’m going to talk about the story and my take-aways.

I will admit to being happily surprised to enjoy the story. It’s filled with political intrigue, infighting, actual fighting for ascendancy in the government, and revenge. All of which is not something I typically enjoy reading. I can’t put my finger on what the author did to weave that magical spell over me, but she did! In doing so, I feel like I glimpsed life in ancient Rome. She made that life style along with its trials and tribulations and achievements come to life for me.

More than once I wondered about the kind of research she must have delved into in order to provide the specific details. Did she find source material as to the layout of the ancient buildings and spaces she includes in the story? Did she walk down the roads, the steps, through the green spaces and cluttered parts of the city? How did she know the fighting techniques, the technological advancements, the strategies employed by the generals of the various armies, and, well, everything? The various maps she includes are rather difficult to read but they do help me visualize the areas she writes about. McCullough’s details create a vibrant, breathing society on the page. Makes me want to go do some research of my own.

I’ve read The Thornbirds by McCullough way back when I was a teen. Her style drew me in then just as strongly as she did with this one. That style also seems similar to other historical authors even though she has a unique narrative voice throughout her works. What I mean is that I didn’t notice anything about her author voice that stood out as different than a good storyteller’s technique. As I read from authors around the world, I wonder if I will come across any who write with a different rhythm or meter. We’ll see, I guess…

So, what’s next you may be asking? Dorothy Dunnett’s The Game of Kings. It’s half the size of The First Man in Rome so theoretically it should take me half the time to read it, right?

Happy reading and happy holidays to all!

Betty

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

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

On sale for $1.99 (ebook) through 12/14/21!

Audrey Harper needs more than home and hearth to satisfy her self-worth despite being raised with the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Working as a music critic for the city newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, during the Second World War, she’s enjoyed both financial freedom and personal satisfaction in a job well done. When she uncovers evidence of German spies working to sabotage a secret bomber plane being manufactured in her beloved city, she must choose between her sense of duty to protect her city and the urgings of her boss, her family, and her fiancé to turn over her evidence to the authorities. But when her choices lead her and her sister into danger, she is forced to risk life and limb to save her sister and bring the spies to justice.

Set against the backdrop of the flourishing musical community during the 1940s in Baltimore, Notes of Love and War weaves together the pleasure of musical performance with the dangers of espionage and spying.

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First Thoughts on First Man In Rome #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I’ve begun my around the world historical fiction tour with Colleen McCullough’s The First Man in Rome. This is a long, epic work which will probably take me some time to read all the way through. The 1990 paperback I’m reading consists of 1,076 pages, including a Glossary (116 pages) and two Pronunciation Guides (Masculine Last Names and Other Names and Terms; 21 pages). Several maps are also included at the beginning to help orient readers to the territory she writes about. These all have proved very useful, too!

This is not the first McCullough work I’ve read. Back in the dark ages when I was a teenager, I read The Thorn Birds, which I devoured in one night. So when members of the Historical Novel Society Facebook group recommended this one, I figured it’s a good place to start my journey since I already know I like her writing. Although I haven’t read far into her story, I do have several things I’d like to share about the initial experience of reading this book.

I think it’s important to note that I don’t know much about ancient Rome. When I dove in and  started reading the story, I quickly realized I needed to take a different tack. There were far too many unfamiliar terms and historic references to pick up quickly out of context. So I backtracked and read the Glossary and Pronunciation Guides instead. Now, it’s somewhat of a misnomer to call the Glossary by that name since it’s more than just word definitions.

The Glossary actually contains lots of historical context surrounding the people and places and objects in the story. Everything from the biography of famous Romans and others, to how they made wine, to the origin of idiomatic phrases of the time as well as insults. Terms for common units of measurement or money are also explained. Under the entry for toga, for example, I found out about who wore which kind of toga and even a sketch of a pattern to cut out a proper toga that will drape correctly. She also indicates where she has exercised “novelist’s license” (instead of “poetic license” which made me grin) with her character names and other historical references without solid sources where she had to make an inference or best guess. It’s quite apparent she knows her history and has done extensive research into all aspects of ancient Roman life and culture. She also explains her thought process when she needed the “joke name of the kind people in all places at all times have used when they wanted to refer to a faceless yet representative person.” In this story, that name is Lucius Tiddlypuss. I’ll let you look it up for the lengthy explanation, but it was good to know that particular character was not a real person like some others in the story. All in all, reading the Glossary educated me to the place, the people, the government, the society, and more.

Then I read the pronunciation guides to make sure that as I read the often Latin words and the Roman names that I was hearing them in my head correctly. See, I’m a word lover at heart and I understand how the sound (the pronunciation) reflects the society on an internal level. If that makes sense… Language evolves over time with usage and changes in our society, so one thing I’ll be looking at is McCullough’s word choices. She explained some of her reasoning for those in her Glossary, by the way, which is super helpful to me.

Thanksgiving is nearly here in the U.S., so I wish all of my fellow Americans a Happy Thanksgiving! And of course, happy reading! That’s what I’m going to do since I have 931 pages to go… Let the Holiday Season begin!

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.

Discover the Secrets of Roseville series!

Love is never lost; it haunts the heart…   An unsuspecting Southern town. Ghosts. Witchcraft. Skeletons in the closet. Discover the Secrets of Roseville in this five book series… Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Veiled Visions of Love, and Charmed Against All Odds!

Cover of The Touchstone of Raven Hollow showing a sitting couple embracing before a pile of colorful leaves at the top half, and a raven perched on a pole in front of a stone cabin on the bottom half.

A romantic Thanksgiving story: The Touchstone of Raven Hollow

He dug for the truth and found her magic…

It’s safer to stay hidden. Or so Tara Golden believes. To not draw attention to her healing powers. She has hidden her powers ever since shunned as a child for using them. But occasionally, she helps people passing through town, sure they’d never figure out what saved them. But a tall, sexy geologist is demanding answers to questions she doesn’t want to face at the same time she’s forced to use her nonexistent baking skills to make desserts for an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner. The hunky guy is in for a huge disappointment since she would never expose her abilities and her gifted sisters even to silence the handsome and intriguing man. 

Grant Markel’s condition is cured, his eyesight restored, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. Miracles don’t explain how he overcame a fatal disease. He followed his brother to Roseville on the fool’s errand of creating an alchemical Elixir of Life. Only to have his condition mysteriously disappear without any Elixir or other treatment. When he learns Tara is 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 on the eve of Thanksgiving, Tara must choose between her magical truth or his scientific beliefs in order to escape. Can she step from the shadows to claim her true powers before it’s too late?

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Evolution of a College Name #FracturedCrystals #FuryFallsInn #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

I know I’ve mentioned many times just how much I enjoy doing research. Especially if I can actually go to an historic site. But that’s not always necessary. Today I want to talk about the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. I chose this college as Daniel Fairhope’s place of employment in 1821.

In Fractured Crystals, Daniel works at the East Tennessee College in Knoxville. However, according to the history on Wikipedia, the original name was Blount College when it was charted in 1794. Then it was recharted in 1807 as the East Tennessee College. In 1809, the first president and only faculty member, Samuel Carrick, died and the school closed. It wasn’t until 1820 the college reopened and needed to find a larger location to handle the growing number of students. In 1828, the college relocated to Barbara Hill, today known as The Hill.

I share that history to say that technically my character was employed by the school in 1821, when it was known as East Tennessee College as I say in the story. But he couldn’t have actually worked there for very long since it didn’t reopen until 1820. Now, the article doesn’t say exactly when in 1820 the school reopened, so there is that wiggle room, right? And the fact that there were growing pains would mean they’d need more teachers, so they’d likely hire Daniel despite his young age at the time.

I always find it fascinating to learn about the evolution of a place and its name. The reasons for the changing name of the college seem straightforward to me. The UT historic timeline states the college was originally named for the territorial Governor William Blount. Blount College also has the claim to fame of being the “first public university chartered west of the Appalachian Divide, one of the first coeducational colleges in America when five women were admitted in1804, and may have been the first school in the country open to students of all religions when most colleges were affiliated with Christian denominations.”

Sounds like quite a solid start to a fine institution, doesn’t it? I’m glad I chose this school for my story, too.

Have you preordered Fractured Crystals yet? I hope you enjoy the story. I had fun writing it!

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.

FRACTURED CRYSTALS IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER!

RELEASES OCTOBER 12, 2021!

Fury Falls Inn in 1821 Alabama. A place for ghosts, witches, and magic. A place of secrets and hidden dangers. A place where Daniel Fairhope’s family kept life-changing secrets from him.

His sister’s magic is coveted by two powerful, angry witches intent on her willing compliance with their demands. Worse, a witch hunter is on the loose, determined to rid the area of all witches. Struggling to cope with those threats, Daniel discovers his own unique and powerful ability as well as those of his estranged brothers. Abilities they’ll need to unite to protect their sister and the family secrets. But these challenges all pale in comparison to convincing the captivating woman he meets at the inn to trust him before she breaks his heart.

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