Meet Victoria Woodhull’s Friends and Enemies

Last week I gave you a peek inside Victoria’s family. This week, let’s delve into her friends and enemies. That way when I refer to people in subsequent weeks you’ll know who I’m talking about.


Cornelius Vanderbilt

Cornelius Vanderbilt – He was one of the country’s first tycoons and the richest man in America in the mid-to-late 1800s. (If you want a good bio, check out The First Tycoon: the Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T. J. Stiles, though the author is not at all favorable in his portrayal of Victoria and Tennie, nor does he believe they had much of a relationship.) Made his money in shipping, railroads and the stock market. Vanderbilt is said to have been quarrelsome and tyrannical, bullied his sons, and had guilt over a wife he abused and betrayed. Sources say he also believed heartily in the spirits and would support any hack, medium or fortune teller to come his way and had an insatiable sexual appetite, hence his interest in Victoria and Tennie, respectively. Some sources say he was not accepted in society because he acted low class, spitting tobacco onto the carpet and was nearly illiterate, while others claim the exact opposite. It’s possible that he was introduced to the sisters by their father.

Vanderbilt liked Victoria and Tennie’s boldness and intelligence. Victoria transmitted messages to him from his mother, Phoebe Hand Van der Bilt, who died 15 year earlier. Tennie’s magnetic healing, upbeat attitude and sexual prowess attracted him and she liked that he swore and played whist, drank gin and smoked cigars. He was smitten with Tennie, whom he called his “little sparrow.”  She called him “old boy” and “old goat.” After only a few months, he asked her to marry him. Her reasons for declining are debated, as is if he was serious. Some say she couldn’t have married him either way because she never divorced her first husband, gambler John Bartels, whom she married in 1865. It’s possible she and Vanderbilt had an affair after he remarried, but that is the subject of debate.

He is described as having a Roman nose, blue or black eyes, and white hair. He always wore black with a while cravat tied at the throat. He swore a lot, couldn’t spell, had bad grammar and used spittoons, but he was an honest man, though not above occasional exploits.


Stephen Pearl Andrews

Stephen Pearl Andrews – He was a friend of Victoria’s whom she met through Horace Greeley at one of the parties she and Tennie hosted at Vanderbilt’s hotel suite. He was twice her age, but Victoria was dazzled by his intellect. He taught social theory and reform, reading, writing and individual rights, Free Love, and equitable commerce. He was a big proponent of the idea of utopian society, and by the time he met her, had already established and disbanded two utopian colonies. Victoria backed him financially and allowed her rooms to be used my his utopian group, Pantarchy. He was the Pantarch. She became good friends with his second wife, Ester Andrews, a herbalist and magnetic healer. Ester participated in séances with the two.

Stephen also helped Victoria be precise in her calls for prison reform, relief for the poor and improvement of management of foreign policy. He may have been the one to poison her against Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, as the two men had a personal feud. He also was a member of the International Workingman’s Association, Section 12, and a contributor to her paper.

He is described as 6’2”, with bright blue eyes, disorderly hair and a full beard he wore in two points.

Theodore Tilton

Theodore Tilton

Theodore Tilton – He was a well known reformer, friends with President Lincoln – whom Tilton didn’t think was progressive enough on slavery – well known for his support of abolition and led the impeachment of President Andrew Jackson. He was also friends with Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Fredrick Douglass. In his off time, he wrote poetry and lectured. He was a big proponent of the women’s suffrage movement.

His wife, Elizabeth (Lib) Tilton, had an affair with well-known preacher Henry Ward Beecher. Tilton was said to not be kind to her, asking her to stay away from him at suffrage conventions.

He may have met Victoria at one of the suffrage conventions, but it is certain they met after she ran an article in her newspaper speaking of Beecher’s affair with Lib in veiled terms. Of all her possible lovers, he is the most likely. He wrote her biography, which even contemporaries said was grossly exaggerated, and was panned by critics in all circles except for Spiritualists, at which it was aimed.

He stood by Victoria for a long time, even introducing her infamous Free Love speech, but eventually he turned against her in favor of Horace Greeley, whom he campaigned for in the election of 1872, hoping to replace him as editor of the New York Tribune, when Greeley became President.

Theodore Tilton went on to sue Henry Ward Beecher for willful alienation of his wife’s affections on January 11, 1875. That trial, which was the O.J. Simpson case of its time, lasted six months, riveting the nation with its tale of sex and scandal. The trial ended in a hung jury and Beecher was never convicted.

Tilton is described as a handsome blond who shaved, which was unusual for the time and usually associated with the Free Love set. He was tall, at 6′ 3″, and known for his good looks, sparkling conversation and many extramarital affairs.

Henry Ward Beecher. Does anyone else see a resemblance between him and Jon Stewart?

Henry Ward Beecher. Does anyone else see a resemblance between him and Jon Stewart?

Henry Ward Beecher – Rev. Beecher was one of the most famous and highly regarded preachers of the late 19th century in America. Despite this, he was widely rumored to “preach to as many as 20 of his mistresses on any given Sunday.” Though he never spoke publicly about Victoria’s accusation of his affair with Lib Tilton, he never sued her for libel, either. As mentioned above, Beecher was never convicted in Titon’s trial against him. In fact, he came out of the matter more popular and richer than ever, with his church members paying for the cost of the trial.

His sister, Isabella, was a great friend of Victoria’s, but his other sisters, Catharine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe (yes, of Uncle Tom’s Cabin) hated Victoria and did everything they could to discredit her.

He is described as melodramatic and is known to have cried a lot. He was around 60 when he met Victoria. He had stringy, graying hair, pensive eyes and flaccid jowls. He weighed over 200 pounds. He loved precious stones, especially opals, which he carried in his pocket and jingled in his hand like most men did with change.

Benjamin Butler -I think he looks like Dennis Franz.

Benjamin Butler -I think he looks like Dennis Franz.

Representative Benjamin Butler – The most powerful man in the House of Representatives – he even had the ear of President Grant – this Republican from Massachusetts was a dear friend of Victoria’s and the reason she was able to become the first woman to testify before Congress about suffrage. He was a strong proponent of the women’s suffrage movement and encouraged the idea that the Constitution already provided women the right to vote, and idea begun by Virginia Minor and carried on by Victoria.

He was a strong advocate of Victoria’s from the beginning. Due to the long hours the two spent together, rumor circulated that the two were having an affair. Supposedly he offered to help her get in front of Congress in exchange “for the opportunity to feast his eyes on her naked person.” When rumors to this effect were brought to his attention, he responded with the enigmatic, “Half truths kill.”

I personally don’t think they had an affair. Benjamin Butler is described as toad-like, short and plump with an overly large head and sunken eyes engulfed in flesh. One of his eyelids drooped and he wattled when he walked. Yet, his vitality and power is said to have attracted many women.

Josie Mansfield

Josie Mansfield

Josie Mansfield – Josie is an interesting person. She and Victoria met when they were both actresses in San Francisco. Later, they reunited in New York, when Josie was a prostitute at a brothel at which Victoria worked as a healer. The story goes that Josie married an actor and moved East. They divorced and she tried to make it in the theatre, but failed, turning to prostitution.

That was how she met Vanderbilt’s business rival, Jim Frisk. Josie began to entertain him in November 1867, withholding her affections for three months. He paid her overdue rent at a room on Lexington and installed her at the American Club hotel in a suite. He bought her a room full of dresses, gave her $50,000 in cash and five times that in emeralds. A year later her bought her a house in her own name at 359 West 23rd and supplied her with servants. Despite this apparent infatuation, he once said she was more temperamental than an opera diva.

He sent messengers to Josie several times a day outlining his plans, so she knew all his business ventures. Eventually, she became Victoria’s informant, giving Victoria the stock tips she got from “the spirits” and fed to Vanderbilt. This continued until early 1872, when Jim Fisk was murdered and Josie fled to Paris under a cloud of suspicion.

Josie is described as buxom and photographs show a woman who would be considered curvy by today’s standards, with long, curly dark hair.

This is by no means a complete list. Victoria was also friends/enemies with suffragists Susan B. Anthony, Isabella Beecher Hooker, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Paulina Wright Davis and Laura Cuppy Smith. Other supporters included Jesse Grant and his son, President Ulysses S. Grant, and Frederick Douglass.

Among her enemies: Catharine Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Horace Greeley and Anthony Comstock (of the Comstock anti-obscenity laws).

What do you think about Victoria’s friends and enemies? Did you know about any of them before? What else do you want to know?


Brody, Miriam. Victoria Woodhull, Free Spirit for Women’s Rights.
Fox, Richard Wightman. Trials of Intimacy: Love and Loss in the Beecher-Tilton Scandal .
Frisken, Amanda. Victoria Woodhull’s Sexual Revolution.
Gabriel, Mary. Notorious Victoria.
Goldsmith, Barbara. Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull.
“Hand and Vanderbilt: A Sketch of Grandmother Vanderbilt’s Early Life”
Havelin, Kate. Victoria Woodhull.
Krull, Kathleen. A Woman for President – The Story of Victoria Woodhull.
MacPherson, Myra. The Scarlet Sisters.
Stiles, T.J. The First Tycoon : the Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt
Tilton, Theodore. The Golden Age Tract No. 3 “Victoria C. Woodhull, a Biographical Sketch.”
Victoria Woodhull®, the Spirit to Run the White House.
Underhill, Lois Beachey. The Woman Who Ran for President.

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not Finals Again!

More good news! He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not is a finalist in the main stream with romantic elements category of the Cleveland Rocks contest. The contest is sponsored by the Northeast Ohio chapter of RWA. Final placement will be announced in June.

My Huffington Post Article on Victoria Woodhull and the Modern Woman

I have an article in the Huffington Post today: Seven Things America’s First Female Presidential Candidate Can Teach You. It’s all about what modern women (and frankly, men too) can learn from Victoria Woodhull. Please, check it out, share and comment. Thanks!



Meet Victoria Woodhull’s Family

As I mentioned last week, I couldn’t make up the story of Victoria Woodhull. She’s one of those people whose life was so storied you would think it outlandish if I did. And part of the reason was the crazy (sometimes literally) cast of characters in her life. So, before I delve into her life in future weeks, I thought I’d introduce you to them so you know who I’m referring to. This is a long list, so I’m going to run it in two installments. Today’s is Victoria and her family.

Victoria Woodhull

Victoria Woodhull

Victoria Woodhull – From an early age she showed gifts of magnetic healing and being a spiritual medium. She worked for her father that capacity until she was 15, when she married her first husband, Canning Woodhull. She had two children with him, a son, Bryon, who was born brain damaged, and a daughter Zula (or Zulu). When they moved to San Francisco, she worked as an actress and possibly as a prostitute. She left her husband and moved to St. Louis, where she met her second husband, Colonel James Blood. In 1868, her spirit guide, Demosthenes, instructed her to go to New York. She and Tennie went and it wasn’t long before they met Cornelius Vanderbilt, who needed their services as healers and mediums. Eventually, they became involved in the stock market, opening the first brokerage run my women on Wall Street and becoming self-made millionaires. Victoria then set her sights on the White House and the suffrage movement, becoming the first woman to speak before Congress. She and Tennie began their own newspaper, Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly, to get their suffrage and worker’s rights messages out. Her fortunes waxed and waned during the campaign and she ended up in jail for Election Day. Years of trials on trumped up charges followed, of which she and Tennie were found not guilty on all counts. By this time they were tired and nearly bankrupt, so they accepted William Vanderbilt’s (son of Cornelius) offer of money in exchange for moving to England. There, Victoria reinvented herself, distancing herself from earlier radical beliefs. She married a wealthy banker and ran for President of the United States two more times. She lived to see women get the vote in 1920, passing away in her sleep in 1927.

Victoria is described as having light brown hair, which she cut short, gray-blue eyes and high cheekbones. She was of medium stature and build, thin and had ramrod straight posture.

Tennessee Claflin

Tennessee Claflin

Tennesse (Tennie C.) Claflin – Victoria’s younger sister. She spent many years working for her father as a healer, medium, and likely prostitute. She was rescued from that life in the late 1860s by Victoria and Colonel James Blood. Once in New York, she became Cornelius Vanderbilt’s lover. She was Victoria’s partner in the stock brokerage and did the majority of the work there while Victoria focused on her campaign. She also wrote for their paper. Jealous of her sister’s political success, Tennie ran for Congress in 1872, supported by a contingent of German New Yorkers, but had less success than her sister. She also made waves by being named the commander of the Spencer Grays, a unit of black military men in New York.

When the sisters moved to England, Tennie blossomed, becoming an advocate for women’s rights both there and in the US. She did far more than her sister to advance the movement during this time. She eventually married Viscount Francis Cook, becoming a viscountess. She died in 1923.

Tennie was an incorrigible flirt who was linked not only to Vanderbilt, but Tribune editor Whitelaw Reid and journalist Johnny Greene. She was described as plump with a large bosom, full mouth and golden brown or reddish curls, blue eyes and a cleft chin.

Buck Claflin

Buck Claflin

Buck Claflin – Reuben Buckman (Buck) Claflin was Victoria’s father. He may have been affluent early on (some say he worked in law or finance, others that he worked in towns and transported lumber), but he lost their land when Victoria was three, leaving the family with only a dilapidated house and a grist mill. Buck, ever enterprising, turned to crime. He stole horses and ran scams, including insurance theft when the mill mysteriously burned down in 1853. And he beat his children, one of whom ran away and was never heard from again. He put Victoria and Tennie to work as healers and mediums from a young age. He had plenty of nefarious ways of getting information about local families to feed to his daughters if the spirits weren’t particularly talkative. He also claimed to have an elixir that could cure cancer, which he administered at so-called “clinics” throughout the Midwest. Between law suits from disgruntled or injured patients and charges of running houses of prostitution, he was always on the run from the law. He and the family followed Victoria and Tennie to New York, where he may have introduced them to Cornelius Vanderbilt. When the firm was opened, he was given a token job, but never really contributed anything to the firm. He was said to steal checks from them and make a general nuisance of himself.

Anne Claflin

Anne Claflin

Anne Claflin – Anna Roxanna (Anne/Annie) Hummel Claflin was Victoria’s mother and an insane Spiritualist. She sometimes assisted with her husband’s beatings of their children, yelling, laughing hysterically and clapping as they cried. Other times she would weep with joy over them. Anne claimed to see visions and speak in the tongue of angels, both of which appeared like fits where she babbled and foamed at the mouth. Anne was a confirmed blackmailer, which is how she made money, even going after Victoria’s friends and supporters during her Presidential campaign. She hated Colonel Blood, whom she blamed for taking Tennie and Victoria away from her. She accused him of being a thief and even brought legal charges against him in 1871. This ended up being a sensational trial that brought many of Victoria’s well-guarded secrets to light and seriously harmed her campaign.

Utica Claflin Booker – Sister of Victoria and one of Anne’s favorites. She was addicted to alcohol and morphine and frequently disrupted Victoria’s public speeches. The most famous incident was during Victoria’s highly controversial speech on Free Love. Utica, who was sitting on the audience, stood up and challenged Victoria in front of the whole crowd. She was also friends with Canning Woodhull (they shared vices) and after his death, she went to the coroner and said he died under suspicious circumstances, blaming the doctor. This was later proved false.

Canning Woodhull and family; wife Victoria, daughter Zula and son Byron (Portrait, probably 1856)

Canning Woodhull and family; wife Victoria, daughter Zula and son Byron (Portrait, probably 1856)

Canning Woodhull – Canning was Victoria’s first husband. They met when he was 28 and she was 14. He was Victoria’s doctor during a period she was so ill she nearly died. The two fell in love quickly, and her mom and dad were all for the match, believing (thanks to Canning’s lies) that he his father was a well respected judge and his uncle was major of New York. As it turned out, Canning wasn’t much better than Victoria’s father. He was an alcoholic and a womanizer, who was found in a brothel only three days after their wedding. Victoria blamed him and his abuse for their son, Byron, being born brain damaged. When she had their daughter, Zula, the baby nearly bled to death because her drunk father either cut the cord too short or failed to tie it off properly, leaving her and her mother, who was passed out with exhaustion, in favor of the local pub. Victoria finally left him in 1863, divorcing him three years later after meeting Colonel James Harvey Blood.

One would think that was the end of him, but it wasn’t. About a year and a half after Victoria married James, Canning was delirious with illness and called for her. She and James brought him back and took care of him for six weeks. He paid them and they said he was welcome any time. From that day on, when he needed her, he came. After a while, he ended up living with James and Victoria, as he was too ill with drink and morphine to do otherwise. Victoria considered it her Christian duty to take care of him, even though their living arrangements scandalized others when they came out in the trial of 1871. Canning died on April 7, 1872. Though Utica claimed it was a suspicious death, it was later proven to be a lung ailment, likely pneumonia.

Colonel James Harvey Blood

Colonel James Harvey Blood

Colonel James Harvey Blood – Victoria’s second husband. He was a Civil War veteran (shot six times, and once removed the bullets himself), commander of the 6th Missouri Regiment and City Auditor of St. Louis. He met Victoria when he came to visit her as a spiritual physician for his wife for female complaints. According to Victoria, when he walked into the room, she went into a trance, announcing “I see our futures linked. Our destinies are bound together,” whereupon they were betrothed “by the powers of the air.” Soon he frequented her office and the two engaged in a torrid affair. To help pay off his debts in St. Louis so he could divorce his wife and abandon their two daughters, they traveled throughout the Midwest as healers in a brightly colored fringed surrey under the names Dr. J. H. Harvey and “Madame Harvey.” They were married on July 12, 1866 in Dayton, Ohio, but the marriage application was incomplete and never filed by the minister, so there was some lingering question as to whether or not they were legally married.

James was the silent partner in the brokerage firm, using his skills as an accountant and knowledge of the law to keep the business going. He also served as Victoria’s secretary, as her handwriting was said to be terrible. He was also a contributor to Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly and helped Victoria write her speeches. James was very supportive of Victoria’s suffrage and political interests; if fact, he may have introduced her to the ideas of women’s rights and Free Love. (He is said to possibly had a few affairs during their marriage.) He supported Victoria to the bitter end, when she divorced him in 1876.

He was described as having dark eyes, a trim beard and a soldier’s stance. He was spiritual and reflective, a self-chosen recluse, who was very liberal in his views.

These are only a few of Victoria’s family members. She was the seventh of ten children. In order of oldest to youngest, the Claflin children were Margaret Ann, Mary (or Polly), Maldon, Hebern (or Hebren), Victoria California, Utica Vantitia, Tennessee Celeste (or Tennie C.), and Odessa Maldiva who died as a baby. It’s unknown in what order daughters Delia and Hester Ann were born as they, like Odessa, died young.

Next week I’ll profile several of Victoria’s closest friends.

What do you think of her family? Can you see where they would make a good story? Thoughts/questions about them?


Brody, Miriam. Victoria Woodhull, Free Spirit for Women’s Rights.
Frisken, Amanda. Victoria Woodhull’s Sexual Revolution.
Gabriel, Mary. Notorious Victoria.
Goldsmith, Barbara. Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull.
Havelin, Kate. Victoria Woodhull.
Krull, Kathleen. A Woman for President – The Story of Victoria Woodhull.
MacPherson, Myra. The Scarlet Sisters.
Victoria Woodhull®, the Spirit to Run the White House.
Underhill, Lois Beachey. The Woman Who Ran for President.


DIY MFA copyAs anyone who knows me will attest, I am a lifelong learner. If I had known when I was in school that being a scholar was a valid career choice, I totally would have done it (history or religion). But as things are, I have two jobs, a day job for which I’ve gotten a master’s and professional accreditation (that’s as far as I can go as a PhD would make me overqualified) and my job as an author. I really, really want to advance my knowledge in the craft of writing, but I really have no desire (nor the time or money) to get a traditional MFA.

So, to that end, I’ve created my own course curriculum, based on books and DVD and online courses I want to take in my areas of focus (general craft, historical fiction and romance). I have no idea how long this will take me to complete, but I will do regular updates here to share what I’ve learned, give you an update on my progress and give myself a method of accountability. I plan to use what I learn as I write my next several books (I have a few contemporary love stories in mind and at least two historicals. I’ll be using my alpha/beta readers, critique partners and future agent as the criticism part of an MFA.)

I know I won’t end up with a piece of paper at the end of this, nor will I will able to add to the letters behind my name, but I should emerge from all this learning as a stronger writer, and that’s the whole point.

If you want to come along this journey with me, all of these sources are available to anyone, either from Amazon, or in the case of the Great Courses or Lawson Writer’s Academy, on their respective web sites. I have no idea what order I’m going to do things in, but you are welcome to journey along with me. In fact, I’d love to be able to discuss these books along with you.

Here’s my course of study:

* = a book or course I’ve already completed.

General Craft:

  • Building Great Sentences (The Great Courses)
  • Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques (The Great Courses)
  • *Nail Your Novel (Book by Roz Morris)
  • Writing Characters Who’ll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel (Volume 2) (Book by Roz Morris)
  • Writing plots with drama, depth and heart: Nail Your Novel (Book by Roz Morris)
  • The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction (Book by CS Lakin)
  • The Short Fuse Guide to Plotting Your Novel (Book by Connor Goldsmith)
  • Plot & Structure​e: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish (Book by James Scott Bell)


  • Writing With Emotion, Tension, and Conflict: Techniques for Crafting an Expressive and Compelling Novel (Book by Cheryl St. John)
  • Elements of Fiction Writing – Conflict and Suspense (Book by James Scott Bell)
  • How to Capture Your Reader in the First 15 Pages (Lecture – Michael Hauge)
  • *Diving Deep into Deep Point of View (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Course instructor: Rhay Christou)
  • *Digging Deep into the EDITS System (highly recommended for a unique perspective on editing) (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Handouts Available for Purchase)
  • *Advanced Deep Editing: A Master Course (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Handouts Available for Purchase)
  • *Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Handouts Available for Purchase)
  • *Empowering Characters’ Emotions (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Handouts Available for Purchase)

Romance Specific:

  • On Writing Romance (Book by Leigh Michaels)
  • Writing Romantic Comedies (Lecture – Michael Hauge)
  • Writing Romantic Comedies (Book by Billy Mernit)


  • The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World (The Great Courses)
  • Daily Life in the Ancient World (The Great Courses)
  • The Story of Medieval England (The Great Courses)
  • The Information-Literate Historian (Book by Jenny L. Presnell)
  • From Reliable Sources: An Introduction to Historical Methods (Book by Martha C. Howell)
  • The Craft of Research (Book by Wayne C. Booth)
  • Historical Fiction Writing: A Practical Guide (Book by Myfanwy Cook)


  • *The Non-fiction Proposal Demystified  (Book by Nina Amir)
  • *The Short Fuse Guide to Book Proposals (Book by Gordon Warnock)

The Business of Writing

  • Authorpreneur: How to Build a Business Around Your Book (Book by Nina Amir)
  • The Author’s Guide to Marketing (Book by Beth Jusino)


  • I’m also learning French using the Babble app

What do you think about my DIY MFA program? Is there anything you would recommend adding? Have you read any of these books/taken any of these courses? Will you be joining me for all or part of this journey? If so, which part(s)? 

Hillary Isn’t the 1st: Meet Victoria Woodhull, America’s 1st Female Presidential Candidate

Victoria C. Woodhull, first American to run for President. Ran against Grant and Greeley, 1872.

Victoria C. Woodhull, first American woman to run for President. Ran against Grant and Greeley, 1872.

After keeping this under my hat for almost a year, I’m very excited to announce the main character of my next historical fiction novel is none other than Victoria C. Woodhull, the first woman to run for president, in 1872. I chose today to finally reveal who I was writing about since Hillary Clinton made her candidacy announcement yesterday and my book is out in the world (not published, but it’s circulating, trying to get published).

Over the next several weeks, I’ll share information with you on this fascinating woman, who was born the dirt-poor daughter of a con-man and an insane Spiritualist, but by the age of 33, was a self-made millionaire and had racked up an impressive list of “firsts:”

  • First woman to run a stock brokerage on Wall Street
  • First woman to testify before Congress
  • One of the first women to run a weekly newspaper
  • First female presidential candidate

She is quite a character, and so is her family. Seriously, they could have been on Jerry Springer. Maybe next week I’ll introduce you to the whole cast of characters in  Victoria’s life – they made for interesting writing. She is one of those cases that proves you couldn’t make up a story as juicy as the truth history gives you. Like Hillary, she had her fair share of detractors, and also her fair share of qualities we wouldn’t think would make the ideal Presidential candidate. But on the balance, I think she was a good person who really did want to change the country for the better.

Why haven’t you heard of her? Good question. I hadn’t either until one day my friend Liv Raincourt pinned a picture of her on Pinterest. The caption, “Known by her detractors as ‘Mrs. Satan,’ Victoria Claflin Woodhull, born in 1838, married at age fifteen to an alcoholic and womanizer. She became the first woman to establish a brokerage firm on Wall Street and played an active role in the woman’s suffrage movement. She became the first woman to run for President of the United States in 1872. Her name is largely lost in history. Few recognize her name and accomplishments.” captured my imagination, and as I began to research this fascinating woman, I knew I had the subject of my next book.

No one knows for certain why she has been lost to the pages of history. But two things are likely to blame: 1) the first “biography” published about her shortly after her death in 1927 painted her as a brazen, manipulative whore, so no one wanted her held up as an example of feminine capabilities and 2) she really pissed off Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the ladies who literally wrote the 900+ page book on the history of the suffrage movement. In revenge, they relegated her to a literal footnote. What did she do to make them so angry? The short answer is what didn’t she do, but that’s the subject of another week’s post…

Are you interested in learning more about her? Have you heard of Victoria Woodhull before now? If so, how/where? If not, what do you want to know about her? Let me know and I’ll make sure to answer you over the next few weeks as we dive deeper into this fascinating woman’s story.

Plot Bunny-itis and a Tired Brain

This is how my brain feels.

This is how my brain feels.

So, my brain is supposed to be on a break – well other than finishing up edits to the book I’m about to query.

You see, I’ve been going non-stop for three years, writing one book after another in an effort to get these stories out of my head and establish my career. Plus, I seriously don’t know how to stop writing. (This on top of a full-time day job.)

The result is that my brain is tired. It needs to take a break but doesn’t really want to stop. It’s flitting from one new plot idea to another like a butterfly or pixie in a garden of flowers. In the last two weeks I have been assailed by the following ideas:

  1. A desire to finally write one of the contemporary stories that’s in my head. It’s a little darker and slightly paranormal. But the plot is tangled right now and I don’t have the brain power to untangle it.
  2. A semi-historical/semi-fictional take on Phantom of the Opera. Not sure if I can make that one work, and even if I can, if I’m twisting history too much with what I want to do with it.
  3. A desire to resurrect my Robin Hood/Maid Marian story because there are two Robin Hood films in the works, which hopefully will spur interest in that story again.
  4. A vague idea for a paranormal contemporary book. It’s really just an idea and a name for the MC. It may or may not ever happen.
  5. A non-specific inkling that will eventually lead to filling in a plot hole in the third Guinevere novel. I know what I need to do with a character motivation-wise, now I just have to come up with the how and the specifics.
  6. Ideas for two Arthurian novellas. I really like these and I think they will work well as bridges between my Guinevere books, once those sell. There are two King Arthur/Lancelot movies in the works, so hopefully that will draw publishers’ interest to Arthurian legend.
  7. The knowledge that I really should write the two historicals (one is 19th century, the other WWII) that I have started researching.
  8. The desire to write another series. No idea what. I just want to write a series.
  9. A niggling feeling that I really should write a traditional romance because that’s my secondary genre.

This list doesn’t include the majority of the other books floating around in my head. Having so many ideas isn’t a bad thing, other than my brain won’t commit to anything. That probably is just because it needs to take a break. But like I said, I don’t know how. I’m afraid of wasting time. Other authors, social media and the industry send the message of constantly go, go, go – produce more now, especially when you’re trying to break in like I am. But what do you do when part of your brain says it’s exhausted, even as it tries to keep going?

Not really sure why I’m sharing this other than I feel the need to tell someone, or in this case, several thousand someones. I know I could distract myself with something else. I have a few things I need to do around my house, but writing and reading really are my main non-day job activities. I want to do a DIY MFA (more info on that soon – you get to learn right along with me!) but that involves brain power I really shouldn’t be using right now. And I’m trying to learn French. But none of those is enough to stop the creative brain from assailing me when it should be at much-needed rest.

Do you have any ideas how to get a constantly buzzing writer’s brain to simmer down for a bit? If so, I’d love to hear them.