Never Say Never…

Nicole Evelina:

My December post over at Spellbound Scribes.

Originally posted on Spellbound Scribes:

NEVER SAY NEVERYou know the old phrase “Never say never?” Yeah, I used to ignore it, thinking I knew my heart and wouldn’t change my mind. Now, not so much. As I’m getting older (all of 35) I’m coming to realize that most of the things I said I’d never do are exactly what I end up doing. There are more examples, but here are a few that come to mind:

Exhibits A and B(they are related)
I was born three months premature. I mention that only because I had a lot of health problems when I was young (but thankfully nothing nearly as serious as it could have been) that required me to be in and out of the hospital. Hence, I developed a hatred/phobia of hospitals that lingers to this day. So, naturally, when I was old enough to start thinking about my career path, I swore I’d never…

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How Many Words Does it Take to Wear Out a Writer?

Hi. This is me right now.


Why?I just wrote 7,876 words – in 12 hours. Because I’m crazy like that. And because Summer Heacock was hosting a writing marathon on Twitter. (She wrote 20,000 words in two days and finished her MS! Go congratulate her.)

So, no formal blog post this week. Actually, I may not be posting anymore this year because I’m really pushing hard to get my current MS done. So if you don’t hear from me for a bit, that’s why. I’m holed up in the writing cave creating some historical juiciness for you. But on the other hand, if something strikes me and I feel like blogging about it, I will.

Oh, I’m up over at Spellbound Scribes tomorrow, too, (luckily that post is already done) so I’ll reblog that.

In January, I’ll be participating in the annual No Kiss Blogfest. That means in the new year, you’ll get a preview of a sexy scene I’ve written that does not involve kissing (hence the name). I’ll have to change the name of my MC so you don’t guess who the book is about, but I think you’ll like what I’ve written.

In case I don’t blog before, Happy Holidays (whatever you may celebrate) and Happy New Year!

The First Black Friday, 1869 – Stocks, Not Shopping


Photograph of the black board in the New York Gold Room, September 24, 1869, showing the collapse of the price of gold. Handwritten caption by James A. Garfield indicates it was used as evidence before the Committee of Banking & Currency during hearings in 1870. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Today we think of Black Friday as all about the shopping, but it hasn’t been that way for long. There are rumors that the origin of the term had to do with slave trading but that has been disproven. What we know of as Black Friday didn’t originate until 1961 when a Philadelphia PR firm attached it to the Christmas shopping season, which begins on the day after Thanksgiving. Or possibly, the same year Philadelphia police began using it as a derisive term because of the extra patrolling they had to do that day because of the shoppers. Take your pick.

However, the historical origin of the term dates from September 24, 1869, one of the greatest stock market crashes in American history. The whole situation began with greed, as such things often do. In the months leading up to September, two Wall Street speculators, Jim Fisk and Jay Gould, use their connections to the Grant White House (Gould was close friends with President Grant’s brother-in-law) to try to corner the gold market. They spread malicious rumors that the government refused to sell its gold, which lead to great demand, driving up the price. (At the time, gold was the currency standard in America. “Greenbacks,” the bills we know as money today, had been issued during the Civil War, but they were not backed dollar for dollar by gold, and thus, were less valuable.)

Scene in the New York Gold Room During the Great Excitement of September 24.

Scene in the New York Gold Room During the Great Excitement of September 24.

On September 23, 1869, Fisk and Gould met and decided to drive up the cost of gold to $150 an ounce ($130 was normal) and then sell their shares while others were still eager to buy. By the time trading opened the next day at 10 a.m., gold was already at $150 and growing steadily higher. Crowds were gathering outside the gold room at the New York Stock exchange and the National Guard had to be called in to keep order. As the price entered the $160s, inside brokers were running around like madmen, purchasing gold on credit. Rumor had it things were so crazy inside that men were dunking their heads in the water of the golden fountain in the center of the room just to say cool.

By 1 p.m., gold was at $164. The President finally agreed to prevent national collapse by selling gold (which his advisers had been telling him to do for four days). When Treasury Secretary George Boutwell announced the government would sell gold the following day, prices plummeted to $132 causing mass bankruptcy (due in part to the buying on credit). The stock market crashed as people sold stock like mad. With 30 minutes, gold was back down to the $130 it traded at before Fisk and Gould began monkeying with it months before. Hundreds of brokerages on Wall Street and around the country were ruined. By midnight 25 stock brokers committed suicide. The newspapers were quick to dub the day Black Friday.

fisk_gouldYou’ll see this take place in my next book. And despite the devastation, many people came out on top. Cornelius Vanderbilt, who had been warned of the scheme by my book’s main character, made $1.3 million. My main character made $100,000 (which is about $1 million today). And Gould? He made $11 million.

My source for the first paragraph is The others come from three biographies of the main character of my next novel. As I’m not yet ready to reveal who that is, I am refraining from listing the titles. But please know the information in this post was well researched. I will list the sources when I reveal who my book is about.

Did you know about the origins of Black Friday? What rumors have you heard about Black Friday?

This Writer’s Life

I don't have a source for this image. If anyone knows it, please contact me or put it in the comments so I can attribute it.

I don’t have a source for this image. If anyone knows it, please contact me or put it in the comments so I can attribute it.

I received an interview request from Webucator: Expert Instructors Blogging last week to help celebrate National Novel Writing Month. They are going to share my answers with their students and I hope you can benefit from them as well.

What were your goals when you started writing?

Writing is an innate thing for me. I started writing when I was a little girl, simply because I wanted to tell stories. I can still remember typing out my very first story (one whole page!) on a typewriter, years before computers became the norm. Throughout my school years, I wrote several stinkers and one that was actually pretty good, never having a clue that I was honing skills for a future career. That was the last thing on my mind. Even up until a few years ago, my goal was just to tell the stories that were in my head.

What are your goals now?

My current goal is to get my first book published. (I’ve completed several, both in historical fiction and women’s fiction/smart, sweet romance.) After that it will be to continue to be able to share my novels with the world. But that’s just the distribution, behind it all the goal remains the same: tell the stories that are desperate to get out of my brain. If I didn’t have writing, I’m sure I’d go insane (although the current state of sanity is questionable at best).

What pays the bills now?

I work in the marketing department of a health care system, handling internal communications. I’m a certified business communicator, and one of two writers in our department. That means when I’m not novel writing at night, on weekends and vacation days, I’m doing business writing. It’s not a bad thing to have your entire life be writing, but it can be exhausting!

Assuming writing doesn’t pay the bills, what motivates you to keep writing?

The voices in my head! Seriously. I’m one of those crazy writers who hears her characters and when their story is ready, darn it, they want out and they let me know it! Beyond that, it’s a passion for writing and a certainty that this is what I was born to do. The world may not know it yet, but I do, and I’m going to keep telling stories until one finally catches on. I have no doubt that it will happen. It may just take time.

What advice would you give young authors hoping to make a career out of writing?

Write every single story that comes into your head. The more you write, the better you get. And write the stories that appeal to you, not what seems to be popular at the time. If you’re going to see a book to publication, you will read it dozens of times, so it needs to be something you really care about, otherwise you’ll get sick of it and that will show to the readers. Plus, it takes so long to write and traditionally publish a book, that if you chase a trend, chances are good that it will be over by the time you try to sell your story.

Read as much as you can, both within you genre(s) and outside of them. Note what works and what doesn’t. Over time, you’ll find yourself “reading like a writer,” which means you can’t just enjoy a book like you used to; whether you realize it or not, you’ll be mentally dissecting both the good and the bad to try to figure out why you did or didn’t like something. And that’s how you learn. Don’t discount the bad books; oftentimes, they teach you just as much as the amazing ones.

Once you’ve finished a draft of your novel, celebrate – this is something few people accomplish – but also realize you are far from finished. You’ll go through several rounds of edits before your book is ready for an agent or editor to see it. Take advantage of beta readers and consider hiring a professional editor. Their critiques may hurt your ego (some have made me cry), but after some time, you’ll realize your writing (and your skill) benefits from honest feedback.

Finally, don’t give up. Writing professionally is a tough business, full of rejection from agents, editors, critics and readers. There are days where it seems like everyone but you is announcing successes. But the only way your turn will never come is if you quit. Just keep writing. If one book doesn’t make it, write another, and another if you have to. On the tough days, it can help to remember why you started writing in the first place. Chances are good it wasn’t for money (the blockbusters really are rare). Remember your story and your characters. You have a duty to them to tell their story, to keep going. And once that story is done, there will be another to which you are bound. Writing isn’t so much a choice, as it is a responsibility – to your stories and to yourself. Treat it with the same respect you would any other job or commitment. That’s what separates the pros from the hobbyists.

Do you have any other questions for me? Thoughts about what I’ve written? Please share them in the comments below.

Book Review: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

Mortal HeartThere aren’t enough stars in the sky to show much I loved this book (no way is five enough)! I haven’t had a book touch me so personally since reading The Mists of Avalon back in 1998.

But before I get into why this book affected me the way it did, a little explanation of the story. Mortal Heart is the third and final book in the His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin Lafevers. The trilogy centers on a convent of nuns in medieval France who are devoted to one of the nine old gods of Brittany, Mortain, the god of death. As Death’s handmaidens they are trained to be assassins to carry out His will. This fictional setup is blended seamlessly with actual historical events of the time, namely a 13-year-old duchess’ fight to keep Brittany independent from the French.

Each book is told from a different character’s point of view, but is part of a continuing story. The first book, Grave Mercy, is told from Ismae’s point of view and is very much about politics and court intrigue. The second, Dark Triumph, is Sybella’s story, one of adventure and heart-pounding action. In Mortal Heart, Annith finally gets to tell her story, one of romance, love and faith. (If you haven’t read the rest of the series, start with Grave Mercy. You’ll be lost if you pick up with Mortal Heart.)

Throughout all of the other books, Annith has patiently waited in the convent where she was raised for her turn to be sent out to do Mortain’s work, which is her life-long dream. She’s watched Ismae and Sybella be sent out before her, even though she is the most skilled. When she finds out that the abbess has other plans for her, ones that involve her never leaving the convent, she must make a decision whether to obey the rules as she has always done, or seek Mortain’s will on her own. Her choice leads her on a journey not even the convent seeresss could have predicted, revealing long-held secrets that threaten to unravel everything she’s ever believed about herself and the convent and send her straight into the arms of Death himself.

Being a fan of love stories and fantasy, as well as someone who is fascinated by religion, it probably shouldn’t be surprising that this my favorite book of the series. It delves much more deeply into the religion and mythology of the series, placing a truly devoted nun, Annith, at the fore. As someone who used to want to be a nun (although, not the assassin kind), I deeply related to Annith. I understand what it’s like to “be in love with” your God, to want to do his will more than anything else in the world, as well as the frustration of not understanding how you’re supposed to bring this cherished dream to fruition. Add to this that the old gods are based on the Celtic pantheon (which is near and dear to my heart), and that this book deals with the intersection of the old religion and Christianity, and how the gods and mortals interact, and you have what is personally for me, a life-changing book.

But I also realize that most people won’t have this personal connection to the book. Even if you don’t relate to it on the level I do, I believe you will be moved by the themes of love, trust, faith and hope – things we all struggle with, no matter what our personal beliefs are. Mortal Heart is also very much about the lengths to which we are willing to go for those we love, and the impact of the secrets that each and every one of us carry around with us. There is something for everyone in this richly layered tale of devotion, love and adventure.

Maybe it’s because this is the final book in the trilogy, but I felt like I was much more a part of the world of this book than in the previous books. It was a joy to see Ismae, Sybella and Annith together again and learn the final resolution of the political situation I’ve been invested in since the first book. I also loved getting to see the inner workings of some of the other orders devoted to the old gods.

There is so much more I want to say about this book, but I can’t because it involves spoilers for key plot points. Please trust me on how wonderful this book is and give it, and the series, a chance. Even though it’s marketed as YA, it certainly doesn’t read like a YA book. To me it’s a wonderful historical fantasy perfect for those who love their fantasy with strong female characters, unlikely love, a bit of mystery, and a dash of danger.

Have you read any of the books in this series? Did you like them? Why or why not? Are you planning to read Mortal Heart? Does anything I’ve said about this series intrigue you? Why?

Language in 19th Century America

Merrymaking Wayside Inn by Pavel Petrovich Svinin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Merrymaking Wayside Inn by Pavel Petrovich Svinin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the interesting things I’m discovering as I write my next book (which takes place from 1868 to 1873) is that by the mid-late 19th century, American speech was both oddly similar to our modern language and yet completely different. Allow me to explain.

The need to be accurate about language choice is one of the things that makes historical fiction different from other genres. Sometimes a word or phrase seems like it would fit perfectly, but upon deeper consideration, you realize it hadn’t come into common use yet. For example, I wanted one character to use the phrase “right off the bat” in 1868, but I found out it wasn’t commonly used until 1888 (and may have derived from either baseball or cricket. No one knows for certain.) When that happens, you have no choice but to find something similar that was in use at the time.

Here are some examples of words and phrases you may think are more modern (warning: some are curse words), but aren’t, plus some that are so foreign to our understanding as to be from another language.

Seem Modern, But Aren’t

  1. Bad egg – a bad person; a good-for-nothing person. (opposite of a “good egg.”)
  2. Buddy – as in a friend or pal. Came into use in 1840-1850. Is an Amercianism that’s thought to be a reduced form of the word brother.
  3. Conniption – a fit of hysteria.
  4. Fixings – trimmings, accessories, etc.
  5. Greased lightning - anything very fast. Appears to date from around 1833. (Heck, I thought it came from the play/movie, Grease.)
  6. Horny - sexually aroused. Used throughout the century.
  7. Knocked up: Pregnant. Used as early as 1813.
  8. Let her rip: let it go. Dates from around 1853.
  9. Person of color – someone of African ancestry. Dates to 1801. (I really thought this was a modern, politically correct phrase.)
  10. Curse words such as bastard, bull, cocksucker, cunt, damn, dang, fuck, piss, pussy, screw, shit, and son of a bitch.

Not in Use Anymore

  1. Absquatulate - to take leave, to disappear.
  2. Adventuress – euphemism for a prostitute or wild woman.
  3. Big bugs – bigwigs; important people,
  4. Catch a weasel asleep – something impossible or unlikely.
  5. Cutting a shine – pulling a prank or fast one; joking,
  6. Didoes – to cut up didoes was to get into mischief.
  7. Huckleberry above a persimmon -  a cut above.
  8. Humbug – to swindle or con; an impostor.
  9. Shut pan – shut up; shut your mouth.
  10. Smile – a drink; to take a drink.

Interestingly, many 19th century phrases survive in both southern dialect and in movies/TV.  (I don’t know about you, but I always associate the word tarnation with Yosemite Sam!) Some, such as bloody and balls, began as British English slang and have since come back into fashion in American English. Others have changed meaning completely, such as dude (used to refer to a dandy, now just refers to men or people in general), hoe-down (used to mean a Negro dance, now tends to be associated with a square dance or country party), hooter (used to mean a tiny amount, now refers to breasts, and usually large ones) and shucks (use to mean worthless people or things, now used as an expression of embarrassment or humility).

Which words surprise you the most? What 19th century words or phases do you know? Which do you still use?


A Nineteenth Century Slang Dictionary

Etymology Online
Everyday Life in the 1800s by Mark McCutcheon 

A Few Quick Updates

A few quick updates for all of you this morning:

  1. My Historical Novel Society article about the roles available to women in Tudor England is up: City of Ladies by Sarah Kennedy Prompts Look at Women’s Roles in Tudor England. The story behind this article is that I was asked to read Sarah Kennedy’s City of Ladies (which I loved; waiting for Historical Honey to post my review and then will link to it) and then I was to write an article based on a theme in the book.
  2. I’ll be attending the Historical Novel Society conference in Denver June 26-28, 2015. Be sure to say hi if you’re there.
  3. I’m 15,000 words into the new book.

That’s all for now. Real blog post tomorrow.