Discovering the woman who was my mother #familyfirst #Baltimore #historical #fiction #books #inspiration #amwriting #amreading

I have many stories about my mother from my own life. I mean, who doesn’t when you’ve lived with your family for 18 years or more. Things like Mom sitting under a shady tree reading the newspaper while Dad took me and my sisters to the beach to splash around. Helping Mom in the kitchen to make the holiday turkey and mashed potatoes. Oh, her mashed potatoes! Christmas shopping all day on Black Friday, laughing and having a grand time. Mom sipping on a beer in a glass, munching on Utz potato chips. We talked sometimes, though rarely, about her life as a teen and young woman. I wish I’d asked more questions, though.

When I first started reading through my father’s correspondence, 6 years after he passed in 2011, I was a bit nervous about what I might find out about him. I was surprised at how much I learned about my mother as a young, flirty, fun woman.

I mentioned before that she signed many of her letters as Mary Lou, but that nobody in her family ever called her that. I’m wondering if Dad started calling her that since he was from the Deep South. I have no way of knowing for certain. I was also surprised to see line drawings and jokes included in the letters. The interactions I had with my mother didn’t hint at that side of her. For example, she mentions in a March 1948 letter the following riddle:

Friday evening we went over to a very lovely restaurant in Silver Springs, Md. A large fireplace plus crackling logs were in each room. Above the one fireplace was this riddle. Can you make it out?
            If the B m t put :
            If the B ◊ putting :

Now, I pondered that for some time without figuring out its solution. It wasn’t until she wrote to him later and shared the meaning that I had any idea. One hint as you read the solution: the “:” punctuation symbol reads as “coal on”. So here’s what Mom wrote in her letter:

The answer to the riddle is
If the grate be empty put coal on
            (If the B m t put : )
If the grate be full, stop putting coal on.
            (If the B ◊ putting : )

My mother’s handwritten letter including the riddle.

In my novel, Notes of Love and War, I reverse this trait to have Charlie sending the jokes and riddles to Audrey. She professes to not be very good at solving them, too. I used different riddles and jokes, too, which were fun to research and debate which ones I thought worth including.

So tell me how much you remember about your mother. Did you talk to her about her younger years? If your mom is still alive, what questions do you have for her?

Thanks for stopping by. 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.

Now available for preorder! Notes of Love and War will release on July 28, 2020, in honor of my dad’s 100th birthday!

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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Puppy Love – Mom’s real-life dog Frisk #dogsarefamily #collie #Baltimore #historical #fiction #books #inspiration #amwriting #amreading

I’ve been talking about the letters my parents shared and how they inspired my upcoming release, Notes of Love and War. But the story is not just based on the letters. I also include some references from my parents’ real life story that reflect life in the 1940s in Maryland.

Having spent so much time with my mother while she was dying from metastatic breast cancer, I was able to talk to her about her life. We didn’t always see eye-to-eye but we did spend quite a bit of time shopping and hanging out at home over my childhood to young adult years. And then I spent even longer with my father as he lived with me, my husband, and children for 17 years after Mom passed before moving into assisted living until he died 4 years later. We still talked frequently as long as he was able to, though, so I’ve been very fortunate in that regard. Lots of family stories and memories as a result.

One of Mom’s fondest memories was about a dog. Mom’s favorite pet growing up was Frisk, a blue merle collie. She talked about how smart and loyal he was. I have lots of pictures in the family albums of the two of them, or just of Frisk, scattered throughout the many other pictures of vacations and family gatherings.

Mom and her collie Frisk sitting on the grass together.

This picture is one that shows the coloring of a blue merle since all my photos are in black and white and I really wanted you to have an idea of how beautiful they are.

A blue merle collie with its distinctive white chest and legs, with a mix of tan, sable, and gray on its face, back and haunches.

So while writing my story, I decided to pay homage to Mom’s love of Frisk by including him in a fictional manner. As far as I know, Frisk didn’t live with Mom but lived on her grandfather’s farm. I’m the youngest of 5 children and all of my grandparents except my maternal grandmother had died before I was born. Mom was 42 years old when I was born; 60 when I graduated high school. So by the time I first remember my grandmother when I was a child she didn’t have any pets around the house. Probably because she was probably in her 60s by then. I don’t know if that was always the case, but in my lifetime I never saw any there. So I’m going to stick with my memory of what my mom said about Frisk being out on the farm.

However, in Notes of Love and War, Frisk is right at Audrey’s side whenever possible. Here’s a short excerpt to show you what I mean.


Audrey trotted the last few strides home to the front gate of the fenced yard. The hinges on the gate reluctantly let her through, their protest both loud and strong as she shut it behind her. Then she strode up the sidewalk leading to the steps to the front porch. Frisk galloped around the corner and came to let her love on him. He danced beside her on the sidewalk, joy plain on his face. She was glad she’d come home, too.

She’d toyed with how to approach her big assignment all afternoon, and it was only as she stepped off the streetcar and started the last leg of her trip to the sanctuary of home that she’d sorted the best way to proceed. She wanted to jot down her plan as soon as possible. Scurrying up the few steps to the shadowy porch, she was startled when Rae pushed open the door for her, waiting impatiently until Audrey slipped inside. Frisk yipped once as the door closed, shutting him outside.

“Audrey…”

“Wait.” Audrey opened the door again, cold air flowing past and chilling her bare legs. “Come on, boy.”

Frisk trotted inside and went to settle on his bed by the snapping fireplace. He seemed content to be inside in the warmth. Audrey turned away from the dog and regarded her sister.

“You’ve got a letter.” Rae’s eyes gleamed with intrigue and curiosity. “From him.”

“Who?”

“That soldier fella, Charlie.” Rae waved the letter at her, the airmail postage evident by the red and blue stripes along all four edges of the envelope. She slid a polished nail under the edge of the flap. “You’re lucky you got home when you did.”

Audrey quirked a brow at her sister. “You wouldn’t dare.”

A shrug and grin suggested Rae’s nefarious intent as she handed it to Audrey. “Open it before I do.”


Notes of Love and War will release in July 2020 but it’s available for preorder now. I’m super excited to share this story with you all, too! It combines some family memories with espionage and music. I hope you’ll enjoy the snippets I share occasionally between now and then to whet your appetite to read Audrey and Charlie’s story.

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.

Now available for preorder! Notes of Love and War will release on July 28, 2020, in honor of my dad’s 100th birthday!

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.

Amazon     Books2Read     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple

Novel letters that reflect reality #Baltimore #historical #fiction #books #inspiration #amwriting #amreading @Baltimore_City

To continue with the connection between the real letters my parents wrote to the fictional ones in Notes of Love and War, let’s take a glance at how I wove some of those hints I spoke of into the story letters.

Here’s the letter from last week from my mother to my father. Note the bolded part where she practically shouts how she feels about the weather where he lived.

Original letter from my mother to my father.

“My Dear Friend,

Today had been so warm! Right now no one, I don’t believe, could talk me into visiting Florida. Hot weather and I are better enemies!

Murray, how’s the work coming along? Keep learning, Friend, and building on that solid foundation you’ve laid! I know that whatever you do, will be done to the best of your ability! Keep it up and I’ll be pulling for you!

And about that receptionist you’re looking for – there’s a friend of mine who has always wanted to be a receptionist. She would be just the one for the job except she doesn’t like Florida’s warm weather! Goodness here I am complaining about the weather again –

The funny part about it, I have been thinking, just a little, about looking for a job as receptionist. I’m getting tired of sitting at a desk punching keys. Nine years is enough of that. Oh and another thing, what would the starting salary be? After all that is an important thing to consider.

I sure was sorry to hear about your tennis rackets being stolen. Why don’t you ask Santa and maybe next Xmas you’ll find one in your stocking. It worked this Xmas for me. Try it!!

Murray, there’s an old saying ‘Action speaks louder than words.’ If I’m to be your girl, seems to me the best thing for you to do is to prove it. – How about coming up the last week of April? Could you manage to be here on Thursday April 27?

This warm weather has really brought the frogs out! I love to hear them at night time. Seems to put me in a dreamy mood!

Friend, don’t let your dreaming run away with you – concerning us. Just remember that I have made no promises of any kind!

But I do think you should come up so we can see each other and know how we stand – that is, whether we want to continue along the “boy and girl” lines or – just pals!

Your Friend

Mary Lou”

And like I pointed out, my mother made no bones about the fact she doesn’t like hot weather. So I have Audrey adopt this same viewpoint, since she’s used to much more variable weather in Maryland than the hotter, more tropical climate of southern Florida.

[Here’s a quirky aside: I’ve never heard anyone call my mother “Mary Lou” yet she signed her letters to Dad that way. I even asked Mom’s sister about the nickname and my aunt said she was only ever called Mary. Well, apparently not!]

The following letter is taken from the pages of Notes of Love and War and is from Audrey to Charlie… She’s planning to move to Florida after they marry and trying to keep a brave front. I’ll bold her comment about the hot weather to make it easier to find…

Saturday afternoon
July 22, 1944

Dearest Charlie,

My love for you is beyond measure. I know we’ll be happy together as soon as we’re married and start our life as husband and wife. I’ve started working on my trousseau. Mama and I went shopping for pretty fabrics and patterns, and the dining room has become my sewing parlor. The table is always smothered with bolts of cloth, ribbons and trim, and other sewing paraphernalia. Rae helps me with fittings and hemming.

As for our honeymoon, as long as we’re together it will be perfect. If I must choose, though, someplace warm since we’re going in December. The Keys sound nice and we could visit Hemingway’s home in Key West where he wrote To Have and Have Not. That would be fun. I do enjoy his books! Have you read his novels? But honestly, my darling, anywhere we can spend time alone together will make me happy.

I’m not going to tell you what you should do with your photography and studio. You must choose what makes you happy and provides the level of financial security that works for you. We shall be fine. We can budget our money and still have a wonderful life together. Go and be the photographer you choose to be! That’s the important thing to me.

I’m nearly finished with the interviews of the musicians in the women’s symphony. Just a couple more who have been difficult to coordinate calendars with, but I expect to catch up to them eventually. My boss has been complimentary about my articles, so that’s something that gives me hope for that promotion I told you about.

You’ll be relieved to know that Rae has taken it upon herself to give me cooking lessons. She said she didn’t want you to starve! I know you wouldn’t. I can make a mean peanut butter and honey sandwich! Kidding! Well, maybe not. But we won’t starve, either way. Tonight she’s going to teach me how to make fried chicken. Or try. The last time I attempted it, the outside was perfectly golden brown and delicious looking, but the inside was raw. Cross your fingers for me!

Frisk is eager to go for a walk since the day is waning and the temps starting to cool off. It’s been very hot here, and you know I’m not fond of the heat and humidity of summer. I much prefer spring and fall, to be honest. But of course I have to take all four seasons, not just two of them. Mother Nature insists!

Charlie, I love you and am honored to be planning our wedding. I’ve arranged for the church, my family’s parish, for the ceremony. The minister said around Christmas the sanctuary is already decorated. That will save us some money that we’d normally spend on flowers and ribbons that we could use for our honeymoon, right? Do you care when around the 25th of December that we wed? Let me know your thoughts.

I must end, though I’m sure I could think of more to tell you about the symphony, the newspaper office, and other family doings. But then you’d be bored with my little observations and musings, so I’ll refrain. I want you to always be happy and content.

All my love,
Audrey

As I read over the letter from Audrey, I can see other echoes from my mother’s many letters. The fact that she’s trying to learn to cook, and planning the wedding date for when they don’t have to spend money on decorations, and even the discussion about what Charlie should do about his career path. They’re not the same exact issues, but they are similar and thus reflects the inspiration I pulled from the letters between my parents.

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.

Now available for preorder! Notes of Love and War will release on July 28, 2020, in honor of my dad’s 100th birthday!

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.

Amazon     Books2Read     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple

Why I wrote Notes of Love and War #WWII #Baltimore #historical #fiction #books #inspiration #amwriting #amreading @Baltimore_City

“Where did you get the idea to write…?” This is a common question I receive from my readers. So I thought I’d share the genesis of a book I wrote that is very near and dear to my heart. Notes of Love and War was inspired by, though most definitely is not the story of, my parents’ courtship correspondence before, during, and after World War Two. Let me explain.

After my father died in December 2011, my grief and sorrow lingered for years. He was one of my champions and best friend all of my life. Six years passed before I could bring myself to go through his accumulated letters and papers. Part of my reluctance stemmed from knowing that those letters included dozens if not hundreds that were exchanged between my mother and father before they married. My oldest sister had forewarned me they were somewhat “racy” but what exactly did that mean? Just how personal were the contents?

Stacks of my dad’s letters… and this doesn’t include all the Victory mail during the war!

I sorted them out by year, then by month and day. And there are a lot of letters! Then I read them. One by one, with growing interest as the insights into my parents when they were young (early to mid-twenties) played out in my hands. The jokes, the concerns, the sharing about their daily struggles with finances and family matters. The songs and books they enjoyed. Hints of intrigue and private moments shared and cherished. The resulting overarching concept of how they grew to love each other through their letters became an idea I wanted to explore in a fictional setting. I wanted to replicate the intimacy evoked through their words but also through the handling of a piece of paper that could physically, tangibly transmit those thoughts into the hands of another. The sense of intimacy coming from holding the same piece of paper as your lover which leant a shared moment of contact over long distances.

Letters sorted by year, not including those between my parents nor V-mail.

My mother’s letters proved far more enlightening to me than my father’s. Why? You’d think I’d have been more keenly aware of my mother’s attitudes and desires, one woman to another. To an extent I had spoken with my mother about her life as a young woman, just not nearly as much as I wish had in my later years. I knew, for example, that she’d been engaged to another man during the war but that they’d ended their engagement and he went on to New York to become a lawyer. But…what I didn’t know, what Mom had never told me, was that the man’s mother had something to do with them breaking up. Mom hinted about it in one of her letters to Dad, but never disclosed what exactly. Talk about getting my imagination spinning! What would a mother have to do to break up an engagement? Perhaps I don’t really want to know.

Dad, likewise, had frequently and at some length talked to me about his life and the decisions he made, including those related to moving from Miami, Florida, to Baltimore, Maryland, in order to marry my mother. His comment to me, which is echoed and substantiated within the letters, was that his job in Miami fell through and he knew that Mom wouldn’t be happy in the hotter climate and so far from her family. (An aside: my mother’s side of the family has lived in Maryland for many generations. I was also born and raised in that beautiful state.) So he decided to move north to make her happy. This self-sacrifice for the woman he loved with all his heart resonated with me, as both his daughter and an author of romantic fiction.

So the initial kernel of interest in writing what has evolved into Notes of Love and War came from wanting to recreate that intimacy developing through letters. Of getting to know one another through what they shared about themselves on paper. Of course, that’s not enough of a premise to build a novel-length story, but it’s a strong foundation.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll share other elements that I’ve woven together to create the framework for the story. Elements such as spies and journalism and music, each based in the actual history of Baltimore and Maryland during the 1940s. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about my journey through my hometown history as imagined in my novel.

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.

Now available for preorder! Notes of Love and War will release on July 28, 2020, in honor of my dad’s 100th birthday!

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.

Amazon     Books2Read     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple