Halloween Flash Fiction: Haunting Beauty #amwriting #amreading #Halloween #Halloween2022 #shortstory #flashfiction #fiction #haunting #ghosts

October has finally come around bringing fall’s cooler temps and Halloween! In honor of which, Poised Pen Productions is hosting a flash fiction giveaway with a prize filled with books, gift cards, and swag. More on that in a moment, but first I’d like to tell you about my flash fiction written specifically for the occasion.

Last year I challenged myself—okay, my local writers’ group challenged each of us—to write a short story. That story, “The Perfect Birthday Gift,” appears only in the What A Day! Short Stories by Southern Authors anthology which released in April. It’s also linked to the Fury Falls Inn historical fantasy series, so you may want to get your own copy to read that exclusive story. (Hurry! The anthology will only be available through October 5! You can buy your copy here)

This year I was asked to write a flash fiction story for Halloween. Something under 1000 words. Now keep in mind I typically write novels, ranging in word count from 70,000-120,000. So, what the heck? The short story in the anthology was just under 5,000. Could I write a spooky story under 1,000? After some pondering, I drew from two events in my childhood—exploring a haunted building (or so I believed at the time) and having my dad scare us at a Victorian-style rental one fall—to write a 650-word romantic spooky story.

Writing short is much harder than writing long when you’re used to space to delve and explore actions, reactions, and motivations behind the characters. But writing short also hones the ability to cut to the essence of the narrative, sharpening the focus on what is important to the tale being told.

You can enter the giveaway simply by signing up with your email, and you’ll be given options for earning additional entries. Good luck!

My contribution follows:

Haunting Beauty

© 2022 Betty Bolte

A thump sounded overhead, then another. Footsteps? I shuddered. “We should…go.”

The ancient house moaned, wind whispering past like voices of ghosts in the dark.

“Not yet. I want to see where it happened.”  Cam grabbed my hand, and I squeaked in alarm. “Come on, Georgie.”

I planted my feet, but he tugged harder and drew me close. My heart raced so in my chest I could only hear its thundering in my ears. I stumbled along beside my fiancé toward a back room, stepping over a dropped pillow with what looked suspiciously like dried blood on its embroidered front. No, maybe catsup. I swallowed back the fear rising in my throat. Probably blood.

“They say she died in bed. That’s probably the bedroom, don’t you think?” Cam eased us closer to the scarred door, mostly closed as if trying to keep secrets from escaping but failing miserably.

“I…” I swallowed again instead of revealing the depth of my fear. He’d talked about invading the abandoned house for months to satisfy his morbid curiosity about the decades-old mystery surrounding the remotely situated farmhouse like fog. We do everything together, which I’m usually happy about. Even proud. This Halloween night? Not so much.

A thud behind me had me twisting around to stare into the dusky light of the hallway. Cam squeezed my hand and then let go as he strode briskly down the hall and with a flick of his hand told me to stay put. Alone. “Cam?”



He disappeared around the corner. I sucked in a shaky breath and tried to keep my knees from knocking together. I folded my arms across my chest as I stared down the empty hall. Suddenly, a light flared at the far end, illuminating a monstrous face floating in the darkness. Floating toward me slowly, inching closer with its open maw and glowing eyes. I screamed and the face vanished.

Cam guffawed. He clicked on his flashlight and swept the light over my face. “Gotcha.”

He sauntered up and I punched him on the shoulder. “Not funny.”

He pulled me into his warm, comforting embrace and held me tight for several moments. Kissing me lightly, he gazed into my eyes. “I’m sorry. I won’t do that ever again.”

I nodded and snuggled into his chest. “Thank you.”

He’s such a good man. Smart. Loving. Playful. His entire family loved to prank each other. If I weren’t so nervous about being in this reportedly haunted house, I would have laughed at myself. But something about the chilly and foreboding atmosphere of the place had every nerve on edge.

“Let’s just take a peek and then we’ll go have pizza. Okay?”

I nodded and squared my shoulders. “With extra cheese and jalapenos.”

“Jalapenos?” He noted the stubborn lift of my chin. “Fine. You win. Come on.”

Gripping his hand, I followed him through the squealing door as he pushed it open. He stopped just as the door bumped into something, sweeping his flashlight over the area. The bed occupied the center of the far wall, its mattress bare and…stained. The broken-out window let the sighing wind breathe through the bedraggled lace curtains.

“Looks like she really did die in bed.” Cam strode closer to the marred mattress, dragging me reluctantly along. He pointed to the largest dark red blotch. “I bet that’s where she bled out, too. It’s terrible to think about it.”

“See enough?” I hoped he had. I was more than ready to leave.

“Yeah.” He swept his light around the room one last time and then froze. “Uh…”

I looked where he aimed the light, shining on a young woman’s otherworldly figure in a white nightgown, blazing gold orbs for eyes, dangling dark tresses shifting in the eerie wind. She summoned us with a mesmerizing sweep of her ghostly fingers.

I screamed then turned and ran without looking back. Cam’s footsteps followed me down the hall and out the door. We tumbled into his Jeep and sped down the driveway, never to forget the haunting beauty.

This was fun to write, but did you enjoy it? What challenges have you made for yourself?

Happy fall! Happy Halloween! Thanks for reading!


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

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

Did you know… You can order signed paperbacks of any of my books at The Snail on the Wall   book store!

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

Amazon Fury Falls Inn Series Page

The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn (#1)

Under Lock and Key (#2)

Desperate Reflections (#3)

Fractured Crystals (#4)

Legends of Wrath (#5)

Homecoming (#6)

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

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

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

My witchcraft reference books

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

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

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

“Now, ground and center.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, happy reading!


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

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

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

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

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What’s in a Name (or Title)? #historical #HistFic #paranormal #romance #PNR #fiction #amreading #amwriting #books

Choosing the title for a book is a challenge for many authors. I know I wrestle with many options before finally deciding one suits the story. I have come to the point in my career where I choose the name of a book based on my objectives for it as well as the content of the story. The titles for the American Revolution historical romance series I wrote are one case in point.

I tried on three or four different sets of titles for those books before landing on the final ones. They parallel in structure and in content, too. The A More Perfect Union series includes Elizabeth’s Hope (novella), Book 1 Emily’s Vow, #2 Amy’s Choice, #3 Samantha’s Secret, and #4 Evelyn’s Promise. From the titles you know who the main heroine is and the theme of the story. These stories are closely coupled, though you can read them individually and still enjoy the story. In fact the first three novels span October to December 1782. Evelyn’s Promise picks up in January 1783 and continues through the spring. Since the stories are so connected, it makes sense to have the titles also be linked. (In case you’re curious, another set of titles I liked but didn’t choose for the first three novels was for Book 1 Sunlight and Sacrifice, #2 Moonlight and Muskets, and #3 Starlight and Stitches. They include one set of themes and some nice alliteration but they didn’t feel right to me.)

For my paranormal romance series, Secrets of Roseville, I purposely did not make the titles parallel in any way. When I started the series I didn’t know exactly how many stories it would embrace. But I want readers to get the sense that they are individual stories just from their titles. From their titles, I want the reader to have an inkling as to the paranormal aspect of the story and the main theme as well. Most of the titles in this series came easily. Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, and the last one Charmed Against All Odds. But the fourth book’s title was a tussle. Veiled Visions of Love went through many iterations and word swapping before I settled on it.

Let’s look a bit closer at each title in that series so you can see my thought process at work.

Undying Love is about a haunted plantation, Twin Oaks, and Meredith’s personal haunting by the memory of her dead husband and child and how she comes to terms with her grief. Her never-ending love for them both but also the Lady in Blue’s love for her family.

Haunted Melody is also set in Twin Oaks, with a different ghost this time, and Paulette’s rediscovery of her love of singing. There are many songs referenced in the story, too.

The Touchstone of Raven Hollow was a bit trickier. It’s about a geologist (the stone part) and a witch who can heal through her hands (the touch part) and is a nod to “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. The concept of the enchanted hollow or valley comes from an old Irish myth I read years ago, too. Essentially, a beautiful woman is enchanted to look like a hag until she learns humility. When a traveler offers her something to make her feel better, only then is she released from the spell. The geologist and healer are trapped in Raven Hollow until they can break the spell holding them there.

Veiled Visions of Love is about a psychic woman who can read others emotions and feelings except for the man she falls in love with. Thus her sight of him is “veiled” or obscured. But I had played with so many other words for “hidden” or “obscured” that just didn’t sound right. I love the alliteration in the final title but it took some time to finally get there.

Charmed Against All Odds came to me while driving home from a writers’ retreat in the northern mountains of Alabama. The song Against All Odds was playing on the radio, and the lyrics described the situation in my story almost perfectly. The lover who returns but is afraid of being rejected only to be welcomed by his ex-lover. The “charmed” part comes from the theme of an enchanted charm bracelet and the charms that the couple must locate to assemble the set and learn their true destiny.

I have two standalone titles as well. Both are historical fiction but in very different time periods. The first is Becoming Lady Washington: A Novel, set in the 18th century in Virginia and other states. This story is told from Martha Washington’s point of view, the only novel I’ve ever written in first person. It tells about how she learned what she needed to know in order to become the woman who would support George Washington’s roles as general and then first president.

The second historical fiction title is Notes of Love and War, set during World War Two in Baltimore, Maryland. This is an epistolary style novel, including letters and telegrams, but the term “notes” also refers to the fact that the main character is a musician and music critic. She is only given that role after the male music critic was drafted to fight in the war.

I think from this discussion you can get a good idea of my process for choosing the titles for my stories. Hopefully, as you read my books you’ll be able to discern the basis for the titles, too.

Thanks for reading!


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

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

An unsuspecting Southern town. Ghosts. Witchcraft. Skeletons in the closet. Discover the Secrets of Roseville in this five book series… Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Veiled Visions of Love, and Charmed Against All Odds!

His desire for a home led him straight to her heart…

She craves more. More adventure. More drama. More excitement. Beth Golden knows without a doubt that she’ll die of boredom working in the family bookstore in small town Roseville. She’s resigned to her fate. Until a handsome biker rolls into town with an air of confidence and mystery. When he introduces her to a whole new world of daring and romance, she’s captivated by a lifestyle filled with unexpected and dangerous surprises.

Mitch Sawyer has one more job to complete before he can finally settle down. He has lived all over the world and wants nothing more than to have his own home with a wife and family. A dream he’ll be able to afford after this final airplane repo job when he can resign his Air Force commission. He reluctantly allows Beth, the sexy and entrancing book lover, to help him by becoming an undercover biker chick. Only Beth’s hunger for excitement endangers both herself and an innocent bystander.

Can he protect the woman and young boy—and his heart—before it’s too late?

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A Look Back and Ahead #histfic #historical #paranormal #romance #supernatural #fiction #books #mustread #amwriting #amreading

I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad lately. My mother, too. Mainly because I finally got around to sorting out what my dad kept in two footlockers. I found a lot of interesting papers and photos that I’ll need to deal with one way or another. I’m looking forward to what family history I’ll glean from several new sets of letters, for instance. But overall, the experience has me thinking about my own history and future.

To date, I have written and published 28 print books, and have 5 audiobooks in the works. One of those, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel novella to the A More Perfect Union historical romance series, is already available for your listening pleasure. I’m working on the third book in the Fury Falls Inn historical fiction series, Desperate Reflections, which I plan to release later this spring. Bringing my total published fiction to 29. I don’t count my audiobooks as separate titles, but additional formats for those titles.

That count does not include my and my husband’s joint contribution of chapters in Macmillan’s series on how to use dBase V back in 1995. We had chapters in four different books. That was my only computer software book related writing/editing I’ve done, though I have worked as a technical writer/editor documenting how to use software for various companies as a freelancer. I also worked as a freelance technical writer/editor and then as a full-time employee of SAIC supporting the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for several years.

My dad was very proud of me when I achieved my goal of being a published book author with the release of the first edition of Hometown Heroines in 2001. He couldn’t even read the book, though, for the tears of joy he shed when he held the book in his hands. I had been published prior to that momentous event in newspapers, newsletters, and magazines multiple times. I even had my own column, The Sandwich Generation, where I shared stories about life with two kids and my elderly father living with me and my husband.

While I am not a blockbuster author, I am pleased with my backlist of stories to share with readers. The A More Perfect Union series was my first, and it’s set in one of my favorite places, Charleston, South Carolina, during the American Revolution and the occupation of the city by the British. The Secrets of Roseville paranormal romance series is set in a fictional town that is based on the small town I lived near while I wrote it: Fayetteville, Tennessee. This series is my first series that includes witches and ghosts, and I had such fun writing it! There are two standalone historical fiction novels as well, Becoming Lady Washington and Notes of Love and War. Both of those released during the pandemic in 2020 (June and July, respectively) to great reviews. And now I’m working my way through the Fury Falls Inn historical fiction series which is set near where I live now, Huntsville, Alabama, featuring a haunted roadside inn and its resident ghost and witches and magic. Getting to know the history of the state of Alabama has been a bonus as I’ve researched life here in 1821. You can read excerpts of each of my books at www.bettybolte.com/books.

What’s next? The first thing I’m going to do is finish the Fury Falls Inn series, which entails writing three more stories to finish the family’s tale. I’ve been pondering putting my colonial adapted recipes into a cookbook. I’ve considered writing a book on writing based on all that I’ve learned over the years. I want to finish writing Dolley Madison’s story, too. A Civil War Christmas story is on the back burner but may be moved up later this year. Then there’s an American Revolution trilogy I’ve been thinking of spinning off from the AMPU series. What do you think I should do after I finish the FFI series next year? Suggestions? Requests?

But one thing I do know for certain. I need to finish going through and cataloguing my dad’s papers and photos and deciding which are of historical value and worthy of donation to a museum. Which should be preserved in albums for future generations of my family. What family history needs to be saved into the family tree I started decades ago and need to update. I have far more projects than time!

My priority, though, is writing the best story I can for my readers. I thank you for reading! Now I need to get to work…


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

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

In 1782, the fight for independence becomes personal…

Emily Sullivan’s greatest fear is dying in childbirth, as did her twin sister and their mother. Then she’s thrown in a loyalist prison for her privateering father’s raids on the British, and her accuser–a former beau–promises to recant if she will marry him.

Frank Thomson always loved Emily despite her refusal to return his affections. A patriot spy posing as a loyalist officer, when Frank learns of Emily’s plight, he challenges her accuser to a duel.

Freed from prison, Emily ponders returning the affections of her rescuer–the only man she’s ever loved and who married her twin to save the Sullivan family’s reputation. But Frank cannot afford to be discovered. For the sake of young America, he must deliver his secrets.

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