Between the Lines: Pursuit of the Elixir of Life in Haunted Melody #PNR #romance #research

I’ve talked before about how alchemy is woven into the background in my upcoming release, Haunted Melody. You can read about that in this earlier post. What I haven’t addressed yet is what alchemy actually entails. I think others will feel as I do that there is a sense of the mysterious, the mystical or sinister, surrounding the romantic notions of alchemists and their art. Even after doing research into the topic, I still come away with a fairly romanticized view of these early scientists.

First, let’s look at how alchemy is defined. Most historians agree that alchemy created products, through the act of producing changes which yielded new items, or specifically for monetary gain by selling new products. Historians have shown that some alchemists employed religious or spiritual allegories and allusions in their writings, which reflected their spiritual beliefs as much as their desire to obscure the secret techniques they used. For more on the techniques, read my earlier post here.

Alchemy breaks down into various subgenres, what I call separate spheres of practice:

  • medical (iatrochemical) along with pharmaceuticals known collectively as chymiatri;
  • household alchemy, comprising home remedies and even cooking skills;
  • cosmetics;
  • artisanal alchemy that encompassed efforts related to paints, dyes, gilding, etc.; and
  • natural and diabolical magic.

Note that housewives could be seen as a kind of alchemist given their recipes for foods and simples (home remedies). So anyone who whips up a stew or soup is carrying on the tradition in some sense.

We must be careful about how we perceive magic as it related to alchemists. Although it’s tempting to adopt the romanticized view of alchemists brewing up trouble like the three witches of MacBeth, the reality is far different. Depending on the alchemist’s role in society, knowledge of magic could be valuable. Indeed, in America, Puritan leaders and educated people clearly differentiated between what Walter Woodward calls natural magic as the “manipulation through natural means of the occult or unseen forces at work in the world” and diabolical magic which is the “manipulation of those same forces with the aid of the devil.” Thus, while studying natural magic was encouraged, delving into diabolical magic was not.

Sometime way back in the 3rd century AD someone decided to try to make real gold and silver, an idea believed possible at that time. Given that artisans knew how to tinge silver to look like gold, why couldn’t they take it farther, perhaps “give silver not only the color of gold but all the properties of gold?” Making gold in this way is referred to as chrysopoeia, from the Greek words chryson poiein (to make gold), while making silver using a similar process is referred to as argyropoeia. The general process of transforming one metal into another is called transmutation. Once this idea emerged and became popular, alchemists had a common goal in their application of alchemical principles to the “noble art.”

Most of all, alchemy is typically associated with the pursuit of the Philosopher’s Stone, a substance that enabled transmutation, and efforts to effect chryosopoeia and argyropoeia. However, more often alchemists engaged in a variety of practical, daily uses for the chemical manipulation of natural elements that they conducted. Principe argues that “There must also exist some body of theory that provides an intellectual framework, that undergirds and explains practical work, and that guides pathways for the discovery of new knowledge.”

So Zak, as a present day chemist in Haunted Melody, works to understand the ancient alchemical recipe so he can apply it to his brother’s medical condition, to attempt to heal his brother. Only Zak doesn’t possess that foundation to help him attain the new knowledge he seeks. But he’s also aware of his weakness and strives to learn what he needs to accomplish his ultimate aim. Does he succeed, you may ask? You’ll have to wait for March 28 when the book releases, but you can pre-order it now so you have the story as soon as possible.

Source: Principe, Lawrence M. The Secrets of Alchemy.

What are your thoughts on alchemists? Were they secretive sorcerers? Or mystical medicine men? The castle cook? Something in between?

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

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

Haunted Melody is now available for pre-order and will release on March 28, 2017. Here’s more about the story…

haunted_melody_600x900Paulette O’Connell needs to build her home decorating business in order to give her unborn child a stable home. While exploring the mysterious attic of the antebellum plantation where she lives, she accidentally summons her grandfather’s ghost. But he won’t leave until she figures out why she needed him in the first place, putting her plans in serious jeopardy.

Zak Markel has been searching for the last ingredient to create the Elixir of Life he hopes will save his brother’s eyesight. But he discovers the woman of his dreams in the smart and beautiful Paulette, distracting him from his focus at the worst possible time, even though she staunchly refuses to allow him past her defenses.

Can he convince Paulette to open her mind to possibilities and follow her heart to true happiness before it’s too late?

Amazon USA: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody

Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-AU

Amazon CA: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-CA

Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-UK

B&N: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-BN

Kobo: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-K

iTunes: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-iTunes

Between the Lines: Getting to Know George Starkey, #American #Alchemist in #Haunted #Melody #paranormal #romance #history #alchemy

I do a lot of research for my stories, whether historical or contemporary, to ensure I’ve got my facts right. Much of what I find never finds its way onto the story’s pages, but it plays in my mind as background information that resonates with my characters. In Haunted Melody (Secrets of Roseville Book 2), Zak Markel is following the steps within an ancient alchemist’s journal but doesn’t understand what he should be doing. What’s not on the page is the name of the real-life alchemist that the fictional alchemist is based upon. So I’d like to introduce you to George Starkey, a 17th-century American alchemist educated at Harvard University.

George Starkey was born in Bermuda, where he exhibited strong curiosity about how nature works, in particular insects. He eventually moved to America, where he graduated from Harvard College in 1646. While at Harvard, he seriously practiced alchemy, working with John Alcock and John Winthrop, Jr., who would later become the first governor of Connecticut. Winthrop had a keen interest in alchemy and represents the elite alchemical circle within which Starkey moved. However, after struggling for several years to obtain the furnaces and the other apparatus necessary to conduct his experiments, Starkey moved to London in 1650 where he had access to better equipment.

While in London, Starkey became involved with the Hartlib group, otherwise known as the Office of Address, led by Samuel Hartlib. This group emphasized “intellectual communication” and used the practical science of Francis Bacon and the didactic agenda of the Czech reformer Jan Amos Comenius to merge “productive natural philosophy” (useful science) with “pansophia, the Comenian ideal of universal learning.” This group was central to Starkey’s reputation and influence in England.

Starkey contributed many influential medical works while in England, but more interesting is the fact that he lived two lives. Writing under the pseudonym of Eirenaeus Philalethes, “A Peaceful Lover of Truth,” Starkey took on the role of an adept, that is, one who is capable of transmuting base metals into gold or silver. As Starkey, he became the student of Philalethes and told fabulous tales of his alter ego living in New England. Starkey refused to reveal the true name of Philalethes, claiming he’d been sworn to secrecy to protect the life of his friend. So cleverly did he lead this dual life, even after he died in London from the plague in 1665, people reported seeing Philalethes in other countries. That’s some serious effort he took to make sure people did not know of his pen name!

His most popular work under his pseudonym was the Introitus apertus ad occlusum regis palatium (An open entrance to the closed palace of the king). Indeed, Starkey, as Philalethes, was “likely” the “most widely read American scientist before Benjamin Franklin.” However, the early 18th century tensions that led to a newly defined separation between “alchemy” and “chemistry” as well as between alchemists and other “scientists” put a division between Starkey and his contemporary friend and alchemy student, Robert Boyle (1627–91). Starkey/Philalethes slipped into the “shadows beyond the fringe of scientific respectability” despite being “the last great philosophical alchemist” of his time, while Boyle became the “vanguard of the ‘New Chemistry.’”

Here’s what I find most fascinating about him. He kept laboratory notebooks and wrote frequent correspondence, both often using Latin and symbols, which have been translated into English, and have proven key to decoding the allegorical and secretive language he employed across a variety of his writings. The notebooks and letters also provide “an unprecedented glimpse” into the “mind and labors” of Starkey, who was acclaimed for his alchemical efforts as well as his potentially money-making inventions. His laboratory notebooks reflect the scholastic training he received as a student at Harvard, despite his railing against wasting time learning classical argumentation skills. His notebooks also show a blending of the two distinct “intellectual traditions” of “the experimentalism of the ‘New Philosophy’ and the formal Scholasticism of ‘the Schools.’” Thus, Starkey merged two unique yet complementary aspects into one combined entity, much like he and Philalethes. Starkey, as himself and his alter ego, also routinely spoke in his correspondence and treatises in allegory and riddles, for reasons I shared in an earlier post here.

By the way, if you’re curious to know more about George Starkey, here are a few references to get you started. Also, there’s a biography of him here and an interesting analysis of his influences and interactions here.

  • Newman, William R. Gehennical Fire: The Lives of George Starkey, an American Alchemist in the Scientific Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ Press. 1994.
  • Newman, William R. and Lawrence M. Principe. Alchemy Tried in the Fire: Starkey, Boyle, and the Fate of Helmontian Chymistry. Chicago: The Univ of Chicago Press. 2002.
  • Woodward, Walter W. Prospero’s America: John Winthrop, Jr., Alchemy, and the Creation of New England Culture, 1606-1676. Chapel Hill, NC: Univ of NC Press. 2010.

For Zak, it takes quite some time for him to find a book at the Golden Owl Books and Brews store that helps him figure out how to solve the puzzle that is the alchemist’s journal. The book I’m alluding to is none other than Geheniccal Fire along with several articles by Newman. You’ll notice that none of this is spelled out in my story, for two reasons. First, I figure most readers probably won’t care about George Starkey; they’re likely more interested in Zak and Paulette. Second, I didn’t want to distract my readers from the actual story by including too much of the historical references and allusions.

I don’t know about you, but I was not aware that America had any alchemists. I had thought they were all in Europe, so that was a cool surprise to me. Thus I wanted to share with my readers but only in an entertaining way. At least, that was my intent. Did I succeed? Only you, my readers, can answer that question after you read the story! See below for how you can pre-order your copy.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

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

haunted_melody_600x900Haunted Melody is now available for pre-order and will release on March 28, 2017. Here’s more about the story…

Paulette O’Connell needs to build her home decorating business in order to give her unborn child a stable home. While exploring the mysterious attic of the antebellum plantation where she lives, she accidentally summons her grandfather’s ghost. But he won’t leave until she figures out why she needed him in the first place, putting her plans in serious jeopardy.

Zak Markel has been searching for the last ingredient to create the Elixir of Life he hopes will save his brother’s eyesight. But he discovers the woman of his dreams in the smart and beautiful Paulette, distracting him from his focus at the worst possible time, even though she staunchly refuses to allow him past her defenses.

Can he convince Paulette to open her mind to possibilities and follow her heart to true happiness before it’s too late?

(Updated and revised edition; originally published in 2014 as Remnants.)

Amazon USA: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody

Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-AU

Amazon CA: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-CA

Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-UK

B&N: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-BN

Kobo: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-K

iTunes: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-iTunes

Between the Lines: Moonshine and Moontinis in Undying Love #PNR #romance #research #moonshine #history

Max and Meredith enjoy some adult beverages while they work out their relationship challenges. For Meredith, she’s a fan of wine. But Max is a bit more hard core. His go-to drink is a Moontini, a martini made with moonshine. Straight up white lightning with a dash of dry vermouth and a large green olive as a garnish. It’s his favorite drink for a very precise reason.

Why is this important? To Max, he’s continuing a tradition although in a legal capacity (he is a lawyer, after all) rather than in bootlegger fashion. He’s not only giving a nod to the centuries-old occupation but supporting his state’s and country’s heritage. Those two ideas are very important to him. See, he is a preservation lawyer based in Roseville, Tennessee, and he’s all about carrying on the historical and heritage aspects of the area.

So when Meredith contemplates tearing down the Twin Oaks plantation buildings you can well imagine how many Moontinis Max is tempted to reach for. Thankfully, he gets a grip on himself and makes a plan.

Researching the history of making moonshine, I discovered the impact and influences this once legal, and then illegal and violent, and now legal again occupation has had on America and its citizens. NASCAR is a direct result of the need to drive fast and, well, creatively to avoid the feds trying to catch up to the tax-evading bootleggers. You can find out more about the interesting history of moonshine at Cool Material.

osm_original8Moonshine is now sold by liquor stores. We even found a distillery in Gatlinburg, TN, when we went there a year or two ago on vacation. One of my favorite cocktails is a classic gin martini, so I bought some ’shine to try Max’s fave drink. I found the original non-flavored kind from Ole Smoky  Tennessee Moonshine has more bite than regular gin but tastes pretty much the same when substituted. It’s a little higher proof, too, so I didn’t use as much quantity. Maybe Max can handle that difference, but I didn’t want to take the chance.

What is your favorite adult beverage? Are you tempted to try some white lightning? Or have you enjoyed some in the past?

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

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

undying_love_600x900When architect Meredith Reed inherits her family’s plantation after the devastating loss of her own family, she must choose how to move on with her life. Keep the plantation? Not a good idea. Sell it? Better. Turn it into a memorial park? Better yet. But can she go against her family traditions and the hunky but irate lawyer?

Max Chandler needs two things to complete his life plan: become a senior partner and find his soul mate. He’s due a promotion once his legislation to protect the county’s historic properties is approved. The wife part he finds more challenging, having never met the right woman. If only the talented, attractive, aloof Meredith didn’t want to destroy the very property he cherishes.

While Meredith struggles to reconcile her past and future, will she learn a lesson from the spectral Lady in Blue in time to save both her family and home from destruction?

Only 99 cents for Kindle and iTunes!

B&N: http://bit.ly/2fF4QTf

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Kobo: http://bit.ly/2fSnDL6

Between the Lines: Solving #Alchemy Riddles in #Haunted #Melody #paranormal #romance

 

alchemist-bega
Courtesy Alchemy Pictures

In Haunted Melody (Secrets of Roseville Book 2), Zak Markel has arrived in Roseville, TN, in search of the missing ingredient to make the Philosopher’s Stone, or Sorcerer’s Stone. According to legend, the resulting substance has the power to cure among other properties. He’s hoping, a Hail Mary attempt, that it will cure his brother’s brain tumors threatening his eye sight. Zak is following the steps within an ancient alchemist’s journal, but does not adequately understand what he should be doing.

 

There’s a very good reason why this present-day chemist is struggling. Here’s a bit about the ways alchemists obscured and hid the procedures and ingredients from the “unworthy.” I’ve pulled from a paper I wrote for grad school, but have tried to make it less academic and thus easier to read.

First, Decknamen or cover names served an important function for the alchemist. They are code words that replaced the usual name for a given substance with a word “that has some link, literal or metaphorical, with the substance intended.”(1) Such as, a symbol for silver might be the moon because of its light properties, and a symbol for gold might be the sun since the sun has golden light. This practice enabled the alchemist to protect the valuable content of his writings so that only the true alchemists could access the knowledge. The American alchemist, George Starkey, for example, protected his findings by using secretive language in his literature as well as employing his own Decknamen, writing many of his books under the name of Eirantheus Philalethes. Starkey is a very interesting person, by the way, who used all of these techniques in his own journal, much like the journal Zak is referring to in Haunted Melody. See what I did there? <grin>

The secrecy that obscures alchemical literature is well known, if not well understood. Secretive writing is often associated with activities before the advent of modern science and people often view these writings “as nonscientific or …largely or purely fictitious.” Yet for the alchemical writers, like Starkey, “secrecy…marked out the items of greatest value.”(2) The alchemists’ wanted to protect the information from those who were not worthy as well as from those who could profit from the knowledge. Not too different from today, don’t you think? Protecting our discoveries from others who could copy it and sell the resulting products or whatever?

Alchemistic language has always used words and symbols in such a way that they created a complex allegorical language. Other devices alchemists used to obscure yet reveal their meanings include riddles linked to images; riddles answered by a conundrum; and “dispersion de la science”—providing pieces of the whole solution in separate sections of one work: “At a crucial point of the discussion, the alchemist would break off or change the subject, only to resume it at some seemingly unrelated or distant locus.”(3) That left the reader to solve the riddle through careful reading of the texts, a process fraught with the specter of misinterpretation and thus failure.

Alchemical authors also used syncope and parathesis. Syncope shortened the actual process, often leaving out one or more steps or ingredients. Parathesis used the idea of multiplication of ideas, seemingly needlessly calling a specific item by a multiple of synonyms. Often these techniques are used in tandem.

  1. Principe, Lawrence M. The Secrets of Alchemy. 18.
  2. Newman, William R. and Lawrence M. Principe. Alchemy Tried in the Fire. 179.
  3. Newman, William R. Gehennical Fire. 116–17.

For Zak, it takes quite some time for him to find a book at the Golden Owl Books and Brews store that solves the riddle for him. TOnce he understands, how will he use his new-found knowledge? Will he succeed in his desperate attempt to help his brother? Find out when the book releases March 28. See below for where you can pre-order your copy so it will be in your inbox as soon as possible.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

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

Haunted Melody is now available for pre-order and will release on March 28, 2017. Here’s more about the story…

haunted_melody_600x900Paulette O’Connell needs to build her home decorating business in order to give her unborn child a stable home. While exploring the mysterious attic of the antebellum plantation where she lives, she accidentally summons her grandfather’s ghost. But he won’t leave until she figures out why she needed him in the first place, putting her plans in serious jeopardy.

Zak Markel has been searching for the last ingredient to create the Elixir of Life he hopes will save his brother’s eyesight. But he discovers the woman of his dreams in the smart and beautiful Paulette, distracting him from his focus at the worst possible time, even though she staunchly refuses to allow him past her defenses.

Can he convince Paulette to open her mind to possibilities and follow her heart to true happiness before it’s too late?

(Updated and revised edition; originally published in 2014 as Remnants.)

Amazon USA: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody

Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-AU

Amazon CA: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-CA

Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-UK

B&N: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-BN

Kobo: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-K

iTunes: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-iTunes

Getting to know V-Mail #writerslife #research #WWII #letter #writing #familymatters

img_2120I have begun transcribing my dad’s V-Mail letters, which is very interesting. I talked about the mass of correspondence I’ve begun sorting and working my way through here. I decided to start with the V-Mail because I’m curious about what my grandmother and other wrote to my dad while he was in the U.S. Army during WWII. I think there must be at least 100 of the letters that my dad punched holes in and bound together with a metal clasp. The clasp left some rust marks on them, unfortunately, but they are still legible. Even after 70+ years.

As I’ve deciphered and typed the contents, I wondered about how the Victory Mail system worked. What did the original look like? How did each letter get transformed into a picture? So to the internet I went!

The history of this efficient and inventive system proved fascinating. The U.S. Postal Service created a standardized form that served as both letter and envelope. The letter writer filled in the To and From address within designated sections on the form, and then wrote a short letter within a specific box. You can see an example of a blank form here. Then the letter writer would fold and seal the paper and write the address again on the outside of the paper, or the envelope. Then affix 3 cents postage and pop it into the mail.

V-Mail was routed to specific stations in the United States where a new machine would convert the paper letter into a microfilm image. Based on the British Airgraph system, Kodak invented the Recordak machine that would take a picture of each standardized letter and save it on a synchronized 16 mm movie film. The rolls of film were then put into a mail sack and transported by the military planes to their destinations, where they were “blown up” to their original size as pictures and sent to the recipient. You can find out more about the entire system at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum site. If you visit New Orleans, Louisiana, you can also stop in at the National WWII Museum to see an exhibit about the war and V-Mail. The Museum is a great place to learn about life at home as well as the fighting.

img_2121The contents of the letters I’ve transcribed so far, which includes only 4 of the approximately 100+ V-Mail, are filled with what my grandmother was doing, what my dad’s siblings were doing, what she got for Mother’s Day, what she made for dinner, etc. Everyday happenings that gave my dad a sense of what life at home was like while he was away. As I read up on the need and use for V-Mail, I realized my grandmother was basically following the guidance from the War Department and the Postal Service regarding keeping the soldiers’ morale up by maintaining close connections to home and family. By giving the men a nuanced reminder of what they were fighting to protect. Home and hearth and all the people in our country and allies’ countries.

Grandmother often told Dad how much she loved him (“My dearest Murray”), how she looked for letters from him and worried when she didn’t hear from him, and often closed with “Be sweet”. She also frequently told him she’d send an “air mail” soon. I found the terminology interesting as well. She didn’t say she’d send a letter, but an “air mail” which cost twice as much as the V-Mail, at 6 cents postage. So, just like we send an “email” she sent V-Mail and air mail (two words back then).

img_2119See, for me, it’s not just the words on the page that is of interest, but also the methodology of how the overall mail system worked during war time, the innovations that enabled that system, and how people used them. One interesting side note, is that enclosures were not allowed at first. But then they did permit a picture of a baby under one year old or that was born after the father had gone back to his unit. Morale was all important during those terrible, trying years.

I’m sure our men and women in uniform today are ever grateful for email and cell phones that enable them to communicate much more readily than via the mail. But I’m so grateful to have this historic record to delve into, something that future and present historians don’t have access to with email and phone calls. Trade-offs always exist as technology morphs and improves.

I’m really looking forward to discovering what new information to me all the hundreds of letters contain. I should be entertained for quite some time.

One more thing. Three of the four books in the A More Perfect Union historical romance series are discounted through the end of January at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Amy’s Choice is only 99 cents, Samantha’s Secret is $1.99, and Evelyn’s Promise is $2.99. If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, now is a good time to do so.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions! Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

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

Unveiling My Family History One Letter at a Time #writerslife #research #family #history

 

rms-letters-2016
Letters to/from my father spanning 1940-1950

How well do you know your parents’ family history? My father lived with me and my hubby and children for 17 years before he moved into assisted living. That gave me plenty of time to hear his tales of growing up, of surviving bombings during World War II, and more. I’m fortunate to have inherited my father’s correspondence after he died in 2011. This year I’ve decided to transcribe all of his letters for posterity, which means reading each and every letter and typing what they say, along with the notations on the envelopes and postmark information. As I’ve started perusing a few of them, I’m amazed at how much is written on the exterior of what I’ve read to date. I’m also anxious to get to the letters to and from my parents during their courtship. What new insights will I gain from those love letters?

 

First, there are other aspects of the correspondence to ponder. Consider the postmarks for example. They vary somewhat by city and state as to what they contain. Some have the day of the week including the date. Others do not. The earliest letters start in 1940 and the postmark doesn’t include a zip code. Curious, I had to find out when the U.S. postal service began using them. Turns out it wasn’t until after I was born! Not until 1963 did they begin to appear and even then not uniformly. Click here for more information if you’re curious like I was.

Another curiosity regarding the envelopes was the stamps. Or more specifically the missing stamps on many of the letters, though not all. I figured my dad must have cut them out, but why? I didn’t recall him collecting stamps. Maybe he tried to reuse them? Or gave them to someone else? While I was pondering this mystery, I happened to have a phone conversation with my oldest sister. I mentioned the missing stamps and she fessed up. Apparently Dad had given her permission to cut out the stamps she wanted for her collection! So that little mystery was solved quickly. The stamps themselves are also interesting, especially the price. It cost 1 cent to mail a “postal” or small postcard (left), and only 3 cents to mail a letter (right) in 1940 and 1941. And yet, the lady writing to my dad had to borrow a stamp from a friend in order to mail her letters because she didn’t have the money to buy one herself.

The stationary used is also varied and revealing at the same time. Lined note paper, folded pages written on like a booklet, letterhead from the nursing school where one of my dad’s girlfriends, or rather fiancée, attended (before he met my mother). Often the pages are numbered which was a necessity since the contents didn’t necessarily flow left to right as we’re accustomed today. The first letters are all handwritten, but some of the letters from my dad to his mother are typed on a typewriter while he was in the U.S. Army during World War II.

rms-letters-sorted-nov-2016

I’ve sorted the letters by year, except for the biggest collection which all were written the year my parents married in 1948, the two tall stacks in the back center of the above picture. Sometimes two letters a day from/to each of them! Those are sorted by month since my rubber bands had limits as to how far they’d stretch.

I wonder what I’ll learn about their courtship, about my family history, and about their plans and hopes for the future after their marriage. Obviously, this is a long-term project which will keep me occupied for months to come as I won’t be able to work on it every day. After all, I have books to write and research to do, trips to take and other family obligations. But my curiosity is truly piqued!

I may share some of my dad’s letters written during the war if they appear interesting. I imagine family doings would not be of interest, but his descriptions of where he was stationed and what happened on Guadalcanal would have more potential I think. We shall see as I go through them over the upcoming year.

Wish me luck! Tell me if you ever wonder about your parents’ courtship and how they met, etc. How much do you know about them?

I’m off to start typing!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

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

Tomorrow is the official release of Undying Love! I am happy to share Meredith and Max’s story with you. Happy reading!

undying_love_600x900When architect Meredith Reed inherits her family’s plantation after the devastating loss of her own family, she must choose how to move on with her life. Keep the plantation? Not a good idea. Sell it? Better. Turn it into a memorial park? Better yet. But can she go against her family traditions and the hunky but irate lawyer?

Max Chandler needs two things to complete his life plan: become a senior partner and find his soul mate. He’s due a promotion once his legislation to protect the county’s historic properties is approved. The wife part he finds more challenging, having never met the right woman. If only the talented, attractive, aloof Meredith didn’t want to destroy the very property he cherishes.

While Meredith struggles to reconcile her past and future, will she learn a lesson from the spectral Lady in Blue in time to save both her family and home from destruction?

B&N: http://bit.ly/2fF4QTf

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2fnRyHK

Amazon CA: http://amzn.to/2fOyEdQ

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2eYDp5w

Amazon AU: http://amzn.to/2eYzWUS

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Between the Lines: Stumbling Upon the Unexpected #research #history #amwriting #histfic

 

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Spesutie Island, Maryland Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Sometimes I stumble upon information that surprises me when I’m researching an entirely different subject or trying to track down the answer to a question related to my stories. One of the most recent examples of this kind of Easter egg in my research is “discovering” Spesutie Island in Maryland.

 

Never heard of it? Don’t feel bad. I grew up in Maryland and had never heard of it! My father-in-law had never heard of it and he had been stationed at Aberdeen Proving Grounds which now incorporates the island within its boundaries.

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Cecil Daily, courtesy of NSHSA

 

How did I stumble on this? I was trying to figure out what kind of house a ball in the 1800s would have been held in and who would have attended it. What did the island look like at that time? I wanted to be able to describe how a lady would travel to the house where the dance was held, so knowing the possible travel options was necessary. I was fortunate to find this article that included a map of the island. I was amazed to learn of the history of the island and then wondered why I had never heard of it. With its significance during the War of 1812 it should have been mentioned at least during history classes. But I do not recall ever hearing the name. I suppose, though, that much of the specifics of any location’s past are glossed over unless you do dig into them.

That’s one reason I like to visit historic sites and homes because of the details shared in those places that you do not find online or in books. Letters and journals of the people who lived in them, or visited them, include enlightening experiences and perspectives so the people who have access to the primary sources are a wealth of information.

What about you? Have you ever stumbled upon new to you places in your hometown?

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

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

Remember to grab your copy of my next release while it’s only $1.99!

undying_love_600x900When architect Meredith Reed inherits her family’s plantation after the devastating loss of her own family, she must choose how to move on with her life. Keep the plantation? Not a good idea. Sell it? Better. Turn it into a memorial park? Better yet. But can she go against her family traditions and the hunky but irate lawyer?

Max Chandler needs two things to complete his life plan: become a senior partner and find his soul mate. He’s due a promotion once his legislation to protect the county’s historic properties is approved. The wife part he finds more challenging, having never met the right woman. If only the talented, attractive, aloof Meredith didn’t want to destroy the very property he cherishes.

While Meredith struggles to reconcile her past and future, will she learn a lesson from the spectral Lady in Blue in time to save both her family and home from destruction?

B&N: http://bit.ly/2fF4QTf

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2fnRyHK

Amazon CA: http://amzn.to/2fOyEdQ

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2eYDp5w

Amazon AU: http://amzn.to/2eYzWUS

iTunes: http://apple.co/2fF4mfT

Why I Wrote Emily’s Vow (only 99 cents for a limited time) #writerslife #American #historical #romance #kindle #nook

Emily's Vow Finalist SealToday I’m going to talk about the kernel of information that sparked an entire series of books. First, you should know that Emily’s Vow is only $.99 for the Kindle and Nook books! But it’s only for a limited time, through November 18, so grab your copy now so you can sample the series for yourself. Also, I’m one of more than 100 romance authors who are throwing a Romance Writers Gone Wild Facebook party this week. Hop over there to find some new reads and new authors. There will be excerpts, snippets, and giveaways galore! Now on to today’s topic…

Story ideas come from all directions and experiences. They mix and blend into a “what if” kind of thought that then slowly builds into an interesting story to tell. That’s how the idea for the A More Perfect Union series started. Then I had to get to know the ladies and their goals and challenges they had to face and overcome.

Emily’s story is one that loosely mimics the career of an 18th century female writer Judith Sargent Murray (1751-1820). Born in Gloucester, Massachusetts, Judith was fortunate to have highly intelligent and progressive parents who allowed her to be taught alongside her brother by the local clergyman. She learned college prep topics such as Latin, Greek, and mathematics.

This background enabled Judith to argue effectively for the equal education of boys and girls and to advocate for “cultivating independent, intellectually alert women” in her essays and other works. Judith is best known for her compilation of her works, The Gleaner. It’s important to note that she used a pen name, Constantia, to write her essays, plays, and poems, until the release of this book. At the end of the book, she revealed she was a woman, saying she did so to hide her gender because “she feared that if she were known to be a woman, her writing would not be taken seriously.” (1) That last line prompted the idea of women of the late 1700s writing and beginning to turn the tide of opinion. Thus Emily Sullivan was born.

Emily starts out writing her thoughts down as essays in rebellion to the restrictions her father places on her. Her own declaration of independence, but she submits them to the newspaper secretly and using a pen name. Then as the series progresses and the situation becomes more and more unsettled, she ultimately openly submits the essays for printing though continues to use her pen name. I gave her a female pen name, by the way, on purpose so that she would in fact begin to change the way people thought about female intellect and reasoning. However, it was considered disrespectful to use a lady’s name in print, which is why in that time period you rarely see a woman’s name, and then usually only the lower classes. Which is frustrating for someone like me today who is researching for a story about a lady of that time period, but that’s another story.

I wrote Emily’s story to highlight the limitations placed upon females in the colonial and Early American Republic period of American history. The Declaration of Independence prompted everyone to rethink what it meant to be free from dictators and oppression. The American Revolution started, for many people, the push toward equality that America is still struggling with. That is why I write about that time and place, because of its catalyst to change.

What changes happened as a result of women sharing their thoughts in writing? What else needs to change?

(1) Quotes taken from The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Volume A, Literature to 1820. Sixth Edition. W.W. Norton & Co., New York. 2003. pp782-3.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

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

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

Between the Lines: America’s First Museum #research #history #amwriting

My character Nathaniel Williams earns some extra money in Evelyn’s Promise by helping to move items into the collection of America’s first museum, founded in 1773, at the Daniel Cannon house on what is now Queen Street, Charleston, SC. (I used the present day name in my book only to avoid confusing present-day readers. In fact, in the 18th century the street was known as Dock Street because of a dock at the east end, the part of the street which is now known as Vendue Street.) But how did I know where the museum collections were kept during this time period?

I asked the Charleston Museum folks, of course. Carl Borick is the Director of the museum, and he was very helpful in answering my questions about where the museum was housed in 1783 and after. In fact, he provided a wealth of information, which I used some of in Evelyn’s Promise.

According to Mr. Borick, there was no dedicated building for the museum until the 1820s. In the time period of my series, the collection was maintained by the Library Society, but the society burned down in 1778:

Among the items lost from the Museum were “a pair of elegant globes, mathematical and other instruments, and many specimens of natural history.” After the fire, the remaining collections of both the Museum and Library Society would have been moved to the Daniel Cannon house on Queen Street in Charleston. This house was probably a Charleston double house (two-story) constructed primarily of brick. Not much was done with either organization during the Revolutionary War.

250px-Charleston_County_Courthouse_2013In 1785, the museum moved to the State House, a masonry building still standing in the city and known as the Charleston County Courthouse.

The collection included some really amazing artifacts from what Mr. Borick shared. Including a case of insects from Surinam, an Indian helmet from the Sandwich Islands, part of a human thigh bone with oysters growing out of it, the head of a turtle from Calcutta that weighed 700+ pounds (whole turtle, not just the head), an Indian hatchet, and a rock crystal from Greenville, SC. Early collectors contributed things from all over the world that “reflected the cosmopolitan nature of the major port city that was Charleston.”

Knowing this, I tried to capture the essence of the city and its people in each of my four stories in the series. Besides, I really enjoyed my visits to the city to do my own research as to the feel of the place, the taste of the food, and the smells of the ocean and gardens the city is known for.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

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

Evelyn's PromiseIf you’re interested in buying your own copy of Evelyn’s Promise, you can find her story at the following links. Thanks!

B&N: http://bit.ly/1SCcwTJ

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1nW5AEd

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Between the Lines: She wrote what? #American #women #history #research

Ann Frobel CW DiaryThe inspiration for the A More Perfect Union series of historical romances came from reading early American literature. An essay by Judith Sargent Murray, specifically, in which she argued for equal education for girls, and argued against the mistaken notion that females would become sick with too much education. Looking back on how our understanding of human capabilities has morphed over time, it’s difficult to imagine anyone would believe the brain couldn’t learn without making the person—female, that is—ill.

One symptom of this idea is the denial of women to write for publication without being criticized for “manly” behavior. But by the end of the American Revolution women had started to write for publication. Even young slave Phillis Wheatley wrote poems and had them published.

One thing I’ve noticed in my research is the expansion of available written materials for women’s lives over the last 240 years of our country’s existence. What’s interesting to me is that the earliest written record is usually in the form of letters between women and their friends and family. Few colonial women had the time, the materials, or perhaps even the interest in documenting their day-to-day existence in a diary. I can think of one that is famous for the very fact that it was written by a lady in South Carolina during the Revolution. Add to the dearth of materials available the fact that these women often had a sense of privacy they held dear. Which often led women to burn their letters before they died, like Martha Washington is known to have done. (Sadly…)

Mary Chesnut CW DiaryBy the time of the Civil War, however, it’s easier to find the histories of women. For example, both Mary Chesnut, wife of a Confederate general, and Anne Frobel, a Virginia lady, kept diaries specifically to document their lives during the conflict, recognizing that others may actually want to know what they had to endure after the fact. Which they were indeed correct to presume!

I found myself pondering the expansion of women writers of all kinds over the centuries. From writing letters, to keeping diaries, to writing essays and novels and nonfiction books, to the vast array of writing we enjoy today. Even this blog is an example of a woman voicing her thoughts to others. I think all this stems from women having more education, less manual labor around the house, more “leisure” time as a result. (Note that although I’m calling it leisure time, we all know that most people fill every waking hour with something to do!) And of course, the materials are always at hand, whether it’s paper and pen or some form of keyboard. But also because women are people who have a voice and thoughts worth sharing.

So I thank those courageous women like Judith Sargent Murray who stood up to be counted and helped to open the door to the world of writing I enjoy today.

Thanks for stopping by!

Betty

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

My American Revolution series of romances begins with Emily’s Vow, which was a finalist in the 2015 International Book Awards contest. The stories each feature a strong woman who declares her own independence for a variety of reasons, but ultimately they each find and fall in love with their soul mate. You can purchase the 4-book series for Kindle, or for Nook. They are also available in paperback if you prefer. Happy reading!

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