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

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

Planning for Success in 2017 #WritersLife #amwriting #amreading #romance #history #fiction

Happy New Year! I know you’ve heard that a lot over the last few days, but I truly hope 2014-11-12-13-41-282017 proves to be both happy and prosperous for each of you. Of course, how you define happiness and prosperity will vary based on your goals and desires.

As I look forward to the upcoming year, I am planning for success on several fronts. First, I’ll release 4 books this year. That’s one kind of success as an author. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that Undying Love releases in just a few days on January 10. I plan to release two more books in the Secrets of Roseville series, Haunted Melody in March, and The Touchstone of Raven Hollow in June. Then in December I’ll release the prequel novella for my A More Perfect Union historical romance series, Elizabeth’s Hope. I’m taking a page out of Charles Dickens’ publishing plan by serializing the novella to my newsletter subscribers throughout 2017, one chapter each month, leading up to the release of the entire book for sale in December.

Second, I’ve planned to attend several book signings where I hope to meet my readers in person. June will find me in Huntsville, Alabama, and Portland, Oregon. July I’ll travel to Orlando, Florida, and then in October I’ll head to Portland, Maine. Details of where and when can be found on my website. See, I write stories to share them with others and enjoy chatting with those of you who enjoy reading them. So if you can make it to any of the signings or luncheons that would be such fun!

successThird, I posted last year about my business plan and I intend to work to the plan as closely as possible in order to achieve my intended goals for the upcoming years. Doing so is another kind of success to my mind. However, I also realize that plans must shift at times, so I’ve built into my plan optional routes to reach the desired destination. I’ve learned to be flexible in my planning to avoid unnecessary stress and to stay on track to my ultimate goal.

Fourth, I’ll continue to read across several genres and nonfiction books in order to keep the writing well fresh and deep. Books will include research for my historicals as well as reading for fun. I intend to average one book a week this year, depending on the length of the books I choose. I know I want to finish reading the Outlander series, for example, and those books are on the longer side.

Finally, this year my loving hubby and I will begin the downsizing process by putting our 22-acre farm up for sale and looking for a house in a neighborhood closer to where he works and to where his father lives. I’ll miss our sanctuary in the country but am looking forward to a new home with more conveniences. The unknowns associated with moving always provide new opportunities as well as new challenges, so this year should be interesting if nothing else. Success on this front will be defined by finding a house with a view and an office for me. Right now I write in my family room which has worked but I’m craving some desk space to spread out on and walls to hang a write-on calendar and a bulletin board for plotting books. Or at least to hang inspiring pictures and any awards I might win over the years. I’m thinking positive!

What are you looking forward to this year? Do you have any big plans or changes ahead?

Wishing you all the best in the New Year!

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.

News! Books 2-4 of the A More Perfect Union historical romance series set in Charleston, South Carolina, during the American Revolution are on sale through the end of January. Now is a great time to catch up on the fight for independence in Amy’s Choice, Samantha’s Secret, and Evelyn’s Promise.

Amazon   Barnes and Noble

Amy's ChoiceAmy’s Choice

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

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

SamanthsSecretCOVERSamantha’s Secret

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

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

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

Evelyn's PromiseEvelyn’s Promise

Determined to make her own way in the newly independent America and live free of the dictates and demands of another husband, widow Evelyn Hamilton faces soaring post-war inflation as she struggles to provide for herself and her infant son.

Militiaman Nathaniel Williams visits Charlestown, where his heart is ensnared by a smart, beautiful widow, forcing Nathaniel to make the hardest decision of his life.

Crafting Christmas Letters #writerslife #holidaycheer #amwriting

 

2012-xmas-tree
Our tree in 2012. We used to cut our own when the kids lived at home.

It’s only a few days until Christmas and I’m so excited! After all the years I’ve celebrated, the anticipation of watching my family and friends receive their gifts still brings joy to my heart. One of the many annual tasks to prepare for the holidays is writing the letter to accompany our Christmas cards. It’s mainly been my task, since I’m the writer in the house, for the nearly thirty years I’ve been married to my loving hubby. He does the lights, after all, so I can handle perusing our year’s highlights and challenges and choosing which to share and which to skip or summarize. Then he’ll add his two cents and off it goes!

 

Some years are easier than others to write. My goal is to make it informative without being depressing (everybody has issues we must work through, right?) and yet not overly Pollyanna either. In fact, one friend wrote to us that after reading our letters over the years, when he’s faced with a challenge of his own he wonders to himself “what would Chris do?” to resolve the issue. Yep, we’ve most definitely faced our fair share of troubles and problems, but I always look for the positive outcome. Thus my desire to not sugarcoat the letter.

Not everyone receives the letter, either. I have to go through the list and decide who would want to know about our year, both accomplishments and adventures. I can only hope that I make the choice correctly since I don’t want to bother friends with our family and personal insights.

I thought I’d share a few lines from past years to see what you all think of them. To show the kinds of details I include in order to reach out and connect with family and certain close friends.

From 2012:

After a 4-day writers’ conference in Atlanta that Betty attended in early October, we left to journey back to Massanutten on October 12, taking a roundabout way through Athens, GA, to visit [our daughter], then across South Carolina, stopping at The Cowpens Battlefield and Brattonsville, both American Revolution historic sites for Betty’s research. We were excited to welcome Betty’s lifetime best friend and her husband to visit with us at Massanutten for a night there.

The day after we came home, the second edition of Hometown Heroines, with a new cover and subtitle (True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure), was released as an ebook. As we write this, the paperback version is days away from being available as well.

From 2013:

Meanwhile, September brought more doctor appointments and diagnostic tests for [my father-in-law] as he continued to feel worse over the summer. Finally it was decided he should have heart valve repair surgery, which they did robotically in Birmingham the end of October after we got home from Massanutten. We stayed at the hospital’s guest suites while he had surgery and during his longer than expected recovery: two weeks instead of the expected one week. He is recovering, after a couple setbacks and adjustments.

While we were “on the road” for three weeks, [our son] stayed at the house and took care of the animals and plants, brought in the mail and the newspaper, and ate our food <grin>. We had to make a couple of trips home to get clean clothes and more books to read, but we felt it necessary to remain with Phil and advocate for his welfare as long as he was admitted.

From 2014:

Holiday greetings to you and yours! As the year winds down, we hope you’ll take some time to reflect on the joys and positive moments you’ve enjoyed since last Christmas. Our year has been filled with beginnings and setbacks, but through it all we’ve been healthy & safe.

Our first setback occurred just before last Christmas when Chris’s dad had a stroke. He was in the hospital for 9 days before being released to skilled care. Chris has been very busy this year, juggling his job, a myriad of chores and tasks around the house, and caring for [hid dad]. Some of the burden around the house stemmed from a water pipe bursting in the pool house in January that we didn’t notice for 2 days, which meant totally redoing the interior of the building. New wallboard, molding, flooring, and heating system had to be put in, but Chris had to oversee what the contractors were doing. Thankfully, the home owners insurance covered most of the cost.

From 2015:

Betty continues to research and write historical fiction stories, both women’s fiction and romances. She signed with a literary agent in January, which will hopefully facilitate the sale and publication of many books to come. The 3rd book in the A More Perfect Union series and her 5th novel, Samantha’s Secret, released in April. The 4th and last book in the series, Evelyn’s Promise, will release in February 2016. The children’s Literary Classics organization presented Betty with a gold medal for best gender specific young adult book for Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure in Las Vegas in October in conjunction with the Vegas Valley Book Festival. What a great and humbling experience, too.

Just a few snippets to share as this year winds down. I hope you have a very happy holiday season and enjoy time with family and friends, or doing what brings joy into your heart. Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

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! Only a few more weeks until it releases on January 10 and then the price will go up to $3.99.

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

Tasty Tuesday: Herbed Leg of #Lamb #dinner #recipe

img_2072I was a good girl, most of the time, and played by the rules and obeyed my parents. So when my dad told me that I had to use mint jelly on my lamb I refused to eat it. Why? Because while I like mint in tiny doses, I do not like it in jelly form. So it wasn’t until I met my future mother-in-law that I discovered that I really, truly love lamb.

The difference was that she didn’t even put mint jelly on the table. Instead, she made gravy from the juices, and such a lovely, rich gravy lamb makes, too.

Which all started me thinking about how my story characters might react to varying a favorite or a detested recipe. Switching things up on them might make some interesting dialogue and provide new insights into their personality.

So for today, I’m sharing my herbed leg of lamb which is very simple to prepare and delicious – or at least I and my family think it is. Note that I do not cook with salt, so if you really need it, you can add a pinch but I’d recommend trying it without first. We just enjoyed this the other night for dinner, along with roasted potatoes and a green bean/carrot mix of veggies. Followed by fresh baked brownies and vanilla ice cream. Everyone walked away happy according to the smiles and thanks. Enjoy!

Herbed Leg of Lamb

img_2069~1 Tablespoon minced garlic

~1/2 Tablespoon crushed rosemary leaves

~1/2 Tablespoon oregano leaves

~1 teaspoon Thyme leaves

~1/2 teaspoon ground sage

1 Tablespoon peanut oil

½ Tablespoon olive oil

Sesame oil (a few drops)

3-5 lb boneless leg of lamb

Mix all of the above ingredients except lamb to combine. (Note: Feel free to use other herbs you’d prefer if you don’t like any of those listed. I’d be sure to use the garlic, though.) Adjust the quantities to suit your taste as to which flavor(s) are strongest.

img_2070Rub seasonings onto surface of the lamb in a roasting pan or game dish. I don’t use a rack but you can if you’d prefer.

Place in a 325 deg F oven and roast until internal temperature reaches at least 160 deg F (medium/medium rare). For planning purposes, figure 30 min to the pound but check. I pull it out at that point and my hubby takes over to make gravy (I am not as proficient at that as he is!). Leftover lamb, if there is any, can then be reheated with the gravy and served over rice, or diced into curry or other dishes if not cooked to well done at this stage.

In theory, based on my attempts/observations, to make the gravy pour the essence from the roasting pan into a skillet and heat to a boil. Sprinkle with flour to thicken to a paste. Thin slowly with hot water until desired consistency, stirring frequently to eliminate lumps.

Slice the lamb and serve with gravy (or mint jelly…) and enjoy.

My mother-in-law taught me so much about cooking and entertaining which has served me well all my adult life. (My own mother passed away in 1989.) I miss her so much! That’s one reason I enjoy cooking, because it brings up memories of doing so with other family members, including my mothers, my father, and my children.

Are you like me and enjoy lamb? Or is there another food you didn’t like until you discovered a different way to prepare it?

Next week, I’ll feature another author and her recipe for a good story! See you then!

Don’t forget to order your copy of my next release, Undying Love. Thanks in advance for your support and reading my blog and my books!

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!

www.bettybolte.com

undying_love_600x900Undying Love is available for pre-order now!

When 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

Metamorphosis of Undying Love #writerslife #amwriting #fiction #books

undying_love_600x900Undying Love has been a real work in progress for me for several years. The story underwent several iterations before the one that will release in January. Curious as to how it morphed into a great paranormal romance? Here’s the skinny.

Back in 2007, I was taking a tech writing class as part of the requirements for earning a Master of Arts in English from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. I was bored, having been a tech editor/writer for at least fifteen years. When the professor said we had to research and write a paper on a technical topic I groaned inwardly. The only thing I wanted to research and write was a story I had in my head. A ghost story with a romance. So after class, I went to my advisor and talked to him about writing a thesis instead of taking the tech writing course. He helped me find a thesis advisor.

My thesis advisor, it turned out, was willing to consider a unique approach. Specifically, we discussed the novel idea (pun intended) of me researching the tropes and devices employed by two supernatural authors, Edgar Allan Poe and Henry James, and then incorporate them into the first few chapters of the story to demonstrate how to allude to them. Talk about excited! The university had never had a thesis based on fictional techniques before. I set to work, reading all of Poe and James in the process. Noting their devices and determining which of them to incorporate into my story, which I decided to call Traces. By the way, a “trace” is another name for a ghost, but it also referred to memorabilia and photographs as traces of a person’s history.

Now, the thesis version of Traces was the story of an army wife with her two children living in Huntsville, Alabama, while her husband is deployed. They’re living in an old house which proves to be haunted. I created a list of the elements I used and where they came from, for my memory’s sake and for the thesis reader’s information:

Allusion Concordance

Character or Element Title of Work / Author
Camille, character Poe
James, character Named after Henry James
Black kitten “The Black Cat” – Poe
A word signifies the entity but is not the entity itself Poe’s philosophy as stated in Uncanny American Fiction
Name of kitten, Jupiter “The Gold-Bug” – Poe
Mahogany doors and silver-plated doorknobs “The Jolly Corner” – James
“Hants” The Face in the Window and Other Alabama Ghostlore
Sherry (Amontillado) “The Cask of Amontillado” – Poe

 

The thesis ended up being half analysis of James and Poe and half the first three chapters of my story. My advisor’s comment, however, gave me pause when he said I was “brave to start with such a quiet opening.” Can you hear the death knell ringing?

So, I went back to the story and looked at it again, looking for ways to not have a quiet beginning. I pondered and rejected and reconsidered for weeks. Then I saw on the news the horrific shooting in a Colorado movie theater when the movie Dark Knight released. One of the survivor’s stories inspired a major change to my story. A young woman had been saved by her fiancé blocking the shooter from shooting her, but her future husband died in the act of shielding her. I wondered about how would you get through such a tragedy, the weight of survivor guilt? The loss of your future life with a man you loved?

LSB Cover Art Template for PhotoShopThe second edition of Traces took place in a fictional haunted Tennessee plantation and features an architect, widowed and childless, who wants to bury her grief and anger by destroying the manor she inherited from her grandmother. That version was bought by Liquid Silver Books in 2014, my debut novel. I was finally, after 20+ years, published in novel-length fiction.

As the last couple of years have passed, sales of the story didn’t live up to my hopes. I came to realize that the title was the problem since everyone who read the story loved it and told me about it. With the advent of indie publishing, the power to do something about getting the story out to readers rested in my hands. When I received the rights back from the publisher, I decided to revise the story, change the title and cover, and release it again. This time, the architect, still a widow and childless, isn’t determined to destroy the manor at the outset, but is pushed into the idea by a handsome lawyer despite his aversion to the idea.

Undying Love is the last edition of this story (I’m not going to revise it again but move forward to other tales to tell), but the first in a new series, Secrets of Roseville. This paranormal romance series will include haunting, bewitching love stories with ghosts and witches and other supernatural beings. I am intrigued by the idea of ghosts and spells, of hauntings and unexplained happenings. I’ve had some of my own during my life which may or may not find their way into the upcoming series. Only time and characters whispering in my ear will tell…

Undying Love releases January 10, 2017, but is available now for pre-order. I hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes peek at how it came to be, and also enjoy reading the story when it releases. That’s always my goal, to write the best tale I can to share with others for their enjoyment.

For my American readers, Happy Thanksgiving! I’m thankful to all of you who read my stories and I really enjoy hearing from you. And as always, thanks for 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 before it releases in December 2017. 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?

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.

Tasty Tuesday: Herbed Green Beans #vegetables #sidedish #recipe from #romance #author Lynn Crandall

Time for another Tasty Tuesday featuring a wonderful and healthy side dish recipe by author Lynn Crandall. I think you’ll really enjoy her alternative to the traditional green bean casserole. I’ll give it a try! Okay, Lynn, you’ve got the floor.

herbed-green-beans


It’s early November, but can you feel it? The winter holidays are coming and what they mean to us individually is beginning to sift through the daily routine of your lives. There may be a tinge of heaviness and dread tinting our emotions about gathering with family. But if you’re lucky, there’s primarily anticipation, joy, and feelings of good will.

For Fierce Hearts series character were-lynx Kennedy Mitchell, the holidays have never meant anything special. Her adoptive parents gave her no sense of a family. Instead, they trained her to follow in their criminal footsteps, robbing her of healthy emotions and trust.

But a year ago, life changed for her when she was rescued by a colony of were-lynxes who now are her made family, who love her and support her for who she is. In Snowbound, a story in the Captured by Christmas anthology, for the present holiday season, Kennedy and fellow were-cat and lover Asher Monroe are planning the holiday of her dreams. In a beautiful cabin in the woods, Kennedy, Asher, and the other colony members are preparing a Christmas with glistening snow, twinkly lights, and delicious Christmas foods prepared together.

In my family, the holiday table is filled with traditional dishes and plenty of sweet treats. But the were-lynxes live very consciously, treating all life with respect. They eat healthy foods and occasionally enjoy the good stuff, such as Christmas cookies with colorful icing, chocolate peanut butter balls, and pumpkin pie. For Kennedy, this Christmas meal is another important aspect of her dream holiday. She and the other were-cats have traditional dishes planned, but some with twists. For instance, the fruit salad will feature persimmons, apples, and pomegranate seeds, sans whip cream and sugar. And instead of the traditional green bean casserole, they’ll eat Green Beans with Herb Dressing. This tasty and healthful version of bean casserole may appeal to your family’s wild side and set a new tradition.

Green Bean with Herb Dressing

Ingredients:

6 green onions, chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/3 cup of olive oil

3 tablespoons of lemon juice

1 teaspoon dry mustard

¼ teaspoon dried basil

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon dried marjoram

2 pounds of fresh green beans, trimmed and snapped

Directions:

  1. In medium  bowl, mix green onions, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, basil, oregano, marjoram, and pepper.

  2. Place green beans in a steaming basket. Steam in a medium saucepan over boiling water for 5 minutes, or to desired tenderness.

  3. Place green beans in a medium serving dish. Pour dressing mixture over the beans and mix.

You’ll taste the healthy and it will be scrumptious!

captured-by-christmas-cover-ebookAbout Captured by Christmas, a Christmas Anthology

It’s Christmas, and the season of holly, Christmas trees, and goodwill is drifting on the air in merry holiday wishes. Romantic suspense and paranormal author Lynn Crandall and contemporary author Lainee Cole present in their own way two stories of love in Captured by Christmas. However it finds you—under a Christmas tree or drifted in snow in a backwoods cabin—the spirit of the season will wrap you in love.

In Snowbound, Lynn Crandall lets readers check in on favorite Fierce Hearts series were-lynx characters Kennedy Mitchell and Asher Monroe as they uncover the identity of the creature scaring the humans in Octavia, a small rural community in northern Michigan. Plans for an intimate getaway and family-style holiday are crumbling as the snow piles higher and Kennedy and Asher find themselves snowbound with a killer outside their door.

In The Mistletoe Effect, Christmas is second-grade teacher Tess McCall’s least favorite holiday, but she’s doing her best not to let it show. Learning he’s a father to seven-year-old Holly makes Alex Randle anxious about the upcoming holidays. When Tess’s class starts reading to shelter dogs, Holly and the antics of shelter dog Mistletoe lead them all to rediscover the magic of Christmas.

lynn-crandall-picLynn Crandall lives in the Midwest and writes in the company of her cat. She has been a reader and a writer all her life. Her background is in journalism, but whether writing a magazine or newspaper story or creating a romance, she loves the power stories hold to transport, inspire, and uplift. In her romances, she focuses on vulnerable, embraceable characters who don’t back down.

Visit http://lynn-crandall.com/ to get to know Lynn and find out more about her books.

 


The green beans sound really yummy and the stories just as delicious! Thanks, Lynn, for swinging by and jumpstarting the holiday menu planning, around my house at least. What do you all think? Worth a try? Will your family enjoy the switch up for the holiday dinner?

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.

Rediscovering a piece of my own past #writerslife #amwriting #fiction

The mystery of my cedar chest has been solved. I’ve been pondering for months what exactly was in the chest sitting at the foot of my bed. See, I tend to put things in there that I don’t use very often with the intent that the cedar wood will help preserve the items, especially from moths and bugs. So last weekend I lifted the lid.

 

betty-w-teddy-bear
Me and my teddy in the 1960s

I found a lot of what I expected to find. Several crocheted afghans, including the infamous baby blanket that I worked and reworked and reworked when I was expecting our first child. For some reason, I kept dropping stitches so that it narrowed the longer I worked on it. Sigh. So I’d rip it out to the point of less width and try again.

 

There were also some throw pillows and a huge silver platter that won’t fit in any of my cabinets. Some special cloths for wrapping silver plate to prevent corrosion/oxidation, but they had actually blackened with mold. So they got pitched and I cleaned up the bottom of the chest.

But most importantly I rediscovered my “teddy bear.”

I carried this stuffed animal everywhere with me. At least around the house. Probably in the car whenever we left home for other places. I just remember it was always with me. I loved my stuffed bear!

 

bettys-teddy-bear-2016
Still hug worthy today!

Overtime, naturally, it suffered from my little girl hands. Bits and pieces of its expression fell off or wore away. The little peas or beads in the ears to weight them down fell out because I rubbed them around until the fabric wore thin and tore. The many washes faded and softened the fur.

 

Then one day I realized as I grew older that it wasn’t a bear at all. My teddy is actually a long-eared dog! Who knew? <grin>

I laid my teddy bear back inside the cedar chest on top of all the afghans, so he has a nice soft bed to rest on. There is no way that I will ever give him up. He meant safety, security, comfort, and home.

What about you guys? Do you have a treasured childhood stuffed animal or other memory-laden item you hang onto for sentimental reasons?

Thanks for 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. Thanks and happy reading!

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

Where do story ideas come from? #writerslife #amwriting #fiction

ideas-2One question I get asked frequently is where my ideas come from. I’m not alone in being asked this question, either. So, let’s chat today about inspiration for stories in general.

Ideas spring up all around me, every day. But not every idea is created equal. In fact, a lot of individual ideas are too weak to sustain a novel-length story. Sometimes they need to be combined with others in unique ways to make a strong enough hook to hang a book upon.

For example, perhaps a news story about a devastating house fire caused by a gas explosion prompts thoughts of what the family would do to recover and start over. Then I’d play with the “what if” scenarios. What if there was something in the house vital to one of the son’s career? Or future in general? What might it be? While I pondered that, I’d start looking for what that “something” could be that would resonate with the characters and with readers. A family heirloom? Or the design for a new medical breakthrough that the son tinkered with in his spare time and finally gotten a patent for?

Ideas can also be sparked by people I meet, or even just see in a crowd or along the road for that matter. Case in point was the man I saw while I was driving through a Virginia neighborhood recently. He was medium height, sporting a full, white beard, and wearing a tan floppy hat and coveralls as he walked down the sidewalk to get his mail from the rural mailbox. He struck me as a model for a secondary character in a story I’m mulling around.

Another idea generator is reading history books. Really! I read about situations and solutions from the past and imagine how it came about. What were the people involved thinking, feeling, hoping? How can I bring their story to life for a modern day reader, to make it meaningful and interesting? Not every intriguing “scene” from the past will pass the test of being of interest or relevance to today’s readers, but some most definitely do.

I’ll talk later about the specific inspiration for some of my books because they stem from different kinds of sources you all may find interesting.

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.