Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Matchmaking Traditions

Happy Halloween!

Many ancient Halloween traditions focused on the future instead of the past and the living instead of the dead. In particular, many had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday–with luck, by next Halloween!–be married.

In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it. In Scotland, fortune-tellers recommended that an eligible young woman name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes rather than popping or exploding, the story went, represented the girl’s future husband. (In some versions of this legend, confusingly, the opposite was true: The nut that burned away symbolized a love that would not last.)

Another tale had it that if a young woman ate a sugary concoction made out of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg before bed on Halloween night, she would dream about her future husband. Young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands’ initials; tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water; and stood in front of mirrors in darkened rooms, holding candles and looking over their shoulders for their husbands’ faces.

Other rituals were more competitive. At some Halloween parties, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut-hunt would be the first to marry; at others, the first successful apple-bobber would be the first down the aisle.

To find out of your lover is true, select one of the letters which you have received from your sweetheart, especially one which contains a particularly passionate and important declaration; lay it wide open upon a table and then fold it nine times. Pin the folds together, place the letter in your left-hand glove, and slip it under your pillow. If on that night you dream of silver, gems, glass, castles or clear water, your lover is true and his declarations are genuine; if you dream of linen, storms, fire, wood, flowers, or he is saluting you, he is false and has been deceiving you.

Courtesy of
Wednesday, October 29, 2014

WIP Wednesday

My writerly challenge for November is to write every single day, no excuses. I want need to finish my revisions on Wild Highland Bride by mid-December. I want need this story to be done! I know I can do it.


The one exception is Thanksgiving weekend, since I'll be out of town visiting family. I wish I could bring my laptop along and sequester myself in my nephew's bedroom, where I'd find some much-needed peace and quiet. However, that's not possible. For one thing, it's anti-social. Plus, I want to hang with my big sis and her family. I miss them. 

So, except for those few days, I'll be writing, writing, writing until my fingers just can't type. #challengeaccepted
Wednesday, October 22, 2014

WIP Wednesday

NaNoWriMo officially beings on November 1st? Are you writing a novel in a month? I'm not.

I never do. Why? Well, 50k words in a month is a big commitment. Do I want to put myself under that kind of pressure during a busy holiday month?

It's not that I don't like goals or daily word counts. I'm just not the type of writer who wants to rush wildly through my first draft under a time crunch like NaNo. It's a great tool, though. If it's right for you then...

Next month I will be focused on editing my current WIP.
Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fun Fact Saturday: Five Things You Probably Didn't Know About Swear Words

Four-letter words have been around since the days of our forebears—and their forebears, too.

In Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing (Oxford University Press, 2013), medieval literature expert Melissa Mohr traces humans’ use of naughty language back to Roman times. Here are five talking points from her opus for your next (presumably, pretty edgy) cocktail hour.  

Some of today’s most popular swear words have been around for more than a thousand years.
“S— is an extremely old word that’s found in Anglo-Saxon texts,” Mohr says. What English-speakers now call asses and farts can also be traced back to the Anglo-Saxons, she adds, though in those times the terms wouldn’t have been considered as impolite as they are today.

The ancient Romans laid the groundwork for modern day f-bombs.
There are two main kinds of swear words, says Mohr: oaths—like taking the Lord’s name in vain—and obscene words, like sexual and racial slurs. The Romans gave us a model for the obscene words, she says, because their swearing was similarly based on sexual taboos, though with a different spin.

“The Romans didn’t divide people up [by being heterosexual and homosexual],” she says. “They divided people into active and passive. So what was important was to be the active partner.” Hence, sexual slurs were more along the lines words like pathicus, a rather graphic term which basically means receiver.

In the Medieval era, oaths were believed to physically injure Jesus Christ.
In the Middle Ages, Mohr says, certain vain oaths were believed to actually tear apart the ascended body of Christ, as he sat next to his Father in heaven. Phrases that incorporated body parts, like swearing “by God’s bones” or “by God’s nails,” were looked upon as a kind of opposite to the Catholic eucharist—the ceremony in which a priest is said to conjure Christ’s physical body in a wafer and his blood in wine.

 However, obscene words were no big deal.
“The sexual and excremental words were not charged, basically because people in the Middle Ages had much less privacy than we do,” Mohr explains, “so they had a much less advanced sense of shame.” Multiple people slept in the same beds or used privies at the same time, so people observed each other in the throes of their, er, natural functions much more frequently—which made the mention of them less scandalous.

People in the “rising middle class” use less profanity.
“Bourgeois people” typically swear the least, Mohr says. “This goes back to the Victorian era idea that you get control over your language and your deportment, which indicates that you are a proper, good person and this is a sign of your morality and awareness of social rules,” she explains.

The upper classes, she says, have been shown to swear more, however: while “social strivers” mind their tongues, aristocrats have a secure position in society, so they can say whatever they want — and may even make a show of doing so.

Courtesy of
Friday, October 17, 2014

My Friday Love

Things I loved this past week...

The Walking Dead
. After months and months of waiting, The Walking Dead finally premiered on Sunday night, and it was fantastic!!! There were so many nail-biting moments!

First the trough and then the explosion, followed by a badass rescue, Walkers galore, and the most amazing reunion ever. I screamed. I cheered. I cried.

And then the episode ended with a surprising sneak peek. Bye, bye Terminus. Hello God-only-knows what. Gah! I can't wait until next week's episode!!

The Talking Dead. Sunday nights wouldn't be the same without The Talking Dead, the live talk show in which awesome host Chris Hardwick discusses the newest Walking Dead episode. 
Could they have Conan O'Brien on every week, pleeease? He was hilarious.

The Lone Warrior
. I picked up my latest library hold last week. I couldn't wait to crack open The Lone Warrior, the third book in the Once Upon a Time in the West series by Lori Austin.

I've been wanting to read this book all year. I don't know what took me so long to pick it up. I thoroughly enjoyed the other books in the series. Just like them, The Lone Warrior is terrific. I can't put it down. It's such a strong story with the right mix of western grit, history, adventure, and romance.

Mulled Cider Candles. I love the scent of hot mulled cider. It smells just like the holidays.

I found the perfect mulled cider scented candles at my town's local hardware store. Yep, hardware store. They recently remodeled the store and added a lovely gift section. I can't remember the brand of candles, but they're my favorite. They make my house smell wonderful.

What are you loving this week? Do share!
Wednesday, October 15, 2014

WIP Wednesday

I've been such a blog slacker lately. I completely missed doing my Month End Wrap Up post for September. 

Sorry. October snuck up on me. Can you believe it's already half over? Me either.

Anyway, opening my WIP became a big challenge for me the first week of October. And I was like...

The answer: My hubby was out of town, enjoying sunny California and visiting family without me--on our anniversary of all days! *sobs*

Obligations at home kept me from joining my hubby on his trip, and that made me feel awfully blue. I wanted to meet our niece and nephews. I wanted to be with my hubby on our special day. I wanted to cheer him on when he crossed the finish line at Levi's Gran Fondo bike event.

I intended to write day and night while my hubby was away, but the minute he hit the road my Muse rebelled. She's such a fickle one, that bitch. Instead of revising The Chapter From Hell II like I planned, I popped some corn, got cozy with the Doxies, and watched sugary sweet chick flicks on the Hallmark channel. 

Hey, don't judge me. The "oh woe is me" attitude didn't last long.

Soon I was back to work. I reorganized some scenes. I tweaked, deleted, and copy and pasted a heap of words until I felt hopelessly and utterly overwhelmed.

That's what happens when you cut dialogue and narrative from one scene and try to use it in another chapter. But I refused to give up. Finally I made progress. First, I figured out exactly how many scenes each remaining chapter needed. Second, I reworked the opening of The Chapter From Hell II. Surprisingly, all the dialogue and narrative I added (or plan to add) back in fits nicely in this chapter and a few others.

Although I liked my changes, the revisions were going waaaay too slooooowly. No need to panic.

My CP came to the rescue after I was all...

Lucky for me, Natalie is a good listener as well as an awesome CP/BFF. She was so...

Her pep talk was all the encouragement I need to keep going. I feel focused again and ready to meet my deadline.

Wish me luck.
Saturday, October 4, 2014

Fun Fact Saturday: Ten Royal Mistresses Who Had Their Men by the Crown Jewels

Behind every man there's a good woman, or so the saying goes. In the case of royalty, however, there were often a few bad girls as well.

Royals were expected to marry other royals, and marriages were usually pre-arranged, often when the bride and groom were still children. It's not surprising that some kings sought their pleasure elsewhere, and they had no shortage of beautiful (and mostly willing) partners.

In many cases, royal mistresses were the women kings would have married had they been given the choice; in others, they were greedy, scheming Jezebels, interested in little more than power and wealth.

Who was which? You decide.

Odette de Champdiver

At 17, Odette de Champdivers became mistress to the mad French king, Charles VI. Charles suffered from paranoid delusions, even believing at one point that he was made of glass.

During his episodes of what is now believed to be schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, he would become violent toward his queen, Isabella of Bavaria. Since medieval doctors believed that “releasing one’s seed” was necessary for good health, Isabella acquiesced to Odette, for her own protection.

Odette grew so close to the king that she earned the nickname “Little Queen” and they conceived a daughter together. Charles provided for his mistress and daughter in his will, but after his death, France was wracked by civil war. Odette was forced to earn money by becoming a spy for Charles’ son, the future Charles VII.

Agnès Sorel

Agnès Sorel was a golden-haired, blue-eyed beauty in her early 20s when she met the 40-year-old Charles VII of France. She immediately set tongues at court wagging with her revealing dress, which one account claimed even showed her nipples.

But it wasn’t just Agnès’ clothing that upset the French nobility. Her alleged interference in political affairs (though untrue) angered them so much that when Agnés suddenly became ill and died after delivering her fourth child by the king, some believed she had been poisoned. Suspicion fell on Charles’ legitimate son, the future King Louis XI, who had been in open revolt against his father and reportedly loathed Agnès.

This theory may not be as far-fetched as once believed. A recent examination of Agnès skeleton shows that mercury poisoning may have caused her death. Mercury was a common medicine in the middle ages, so it could have been accidental.

Whatever the cause, Charles VII was distraught when Agnès’ died—but didn’t let it stop him from immediately replacing her with her 14-year old cousin, Antoinette Maignelais. Agnès is best remembered as the subject of a famous painting of the virgin and child by Charles’s court painter, Jean Fouquet, which portrays Agnès as a beautiful and fashionable Mary with one breast exposed.

Gabrielle d’Estrées

Of Henry IV of France’s 56 documented mistresses, the only one to whom he remained faithful was Gabrielle d’Estrées. Like Agnès Sorel, Gabrielle is best remembered for a famous painting, which now hangs in the Louvre, depicting Gabrielle nude in a bath with her sister.

Gabrielle is one of the rare mistresses that history records as having a positive impact on the king. She is often credited with persuading the protestant Henry to return to the Catholic Church and to issue the Edict of Nantes, which guaranteed religious freedoms to French Protestants. Gabrielle bore Henry three children, all of whom he legitimized. He even asked the Pope to annul his marriage to his estranged wife, Marguerite of Valois, so that he could marry Gabrielle.

But while Henry adored his mistress, the French nobility did not. When Gabrielle suffered an agonizing death shortly after giving birth to a stillborn son, there were many who believed she’d been poisoned. Though he never got to make his beloved Gabrielle his queen, a heartbroken Henry gave her a funeral as if she had been one.

Alice Perrers

Alice Perrers was a 15-year-old lady-in-waiting to Queen Philippa when she caught the eye of Edward III, then in his 50s. When Philippa died six years later, Edward began heaping favors upon Alice and giving her gifts, which included his dead wife’s clothes and jewels.

As Edward aged, Alice’s influence grew. She sat next to him at council meetings and ensconced herself on the bench at Westminster, where she told the royal judges how they should rule. Such interference did not sit well with Parliament, who banished her from court, but Alice returned after a subsequent parliament ruled the banishment unconstitutional.

Edward died in 1377, following a stroke. Alice, it was said, waited at the king’s beside until everyone else had departed, then stole the rings from his fingers and the massive gold chain from around his neck. If true, she was never caught. She spent the remainder of her life on her estates in Essex, where she died sometime in the winter of 1400 or 1401.

Barbara Villiers

Of the 13 known mistresses of Charles II of England, Barbara Villiers is said to have been his favorite. The controversial and married Barbara—who had survived a bout of smallpox with her legendary beauty intact—was openly referred to in her day as a slut and a whore. Charles himself is said to have claimed that “she hath all the tricks of Ariten [a 17th century sex manual] that are to be practiced to give pleasure.”

Charles forced his queen, Catherine of Braganza, to accept Barbara as a lady of her bedchamber, even though Catherine did not want her. Barbara bore six children, five of whom Charles acknowledged, but he eventually moved on to other favorites. Undaunted, Barbara continued to have affairs, enduring a bigamy scandal when it was discovered that her second husband was already married.

Barbara remained on friendly terms with Charles for the rest of his life. On his deathbed, Charles reportedly asked his brother,the future James II, to be kind Barbara when he was gone. Barbara died at age 68, her once-famous beauty destroyed by dropsy.

Nell Gwynn

The fatherless daughter of an alcoholic brothel-keeper, “pretty witty Nelly” may have been a child prostitute. She was “discovered” at age 15, selling oranges at the Drury Lane Theater, by the actor Charles Hart, who become her lover and trained her for the stage. Soon, Nell was London’s leading comedic actress.

Though Nell was illiterate and not a great beauty, her good temper and lack of pretension appealed to Londoners, who were in the mood for merriment after years of Puritan restrictions under Oliver Cromwell’s rule. More importantly to Charles, Nell had no interest in politics. Unlike his other mistresses, the down-to-earth Nell made him laugh and rarely asked for favors.

Nell bore the king two sons, one of whom died while a boy. Charles—who seems to have though a great deal about his mistresses as he lay dying—is famously said to have told his brother, “let not poor Nelly starve,” a request James II faithfully honored. Nell survived Charles by only two years, however, dying in her thirties after an illness which left one side of her body paralyzed.

Diane de Poitiers

Diane de Poitiers was the ultimate Renaissance cougar. When she was 32, the French king hired her as a tutor for his 12-year-old son, the future Henry II. By the time Henry and Diane’s relationship became sexual six years later, Henry was married to the unattractive Cathérine de’ Medici, in whom he had little interest. In fact, it was only at Diane’s insistence that Henry even visited his wife’s bed to father royal children.

Diane reigned as queen in all but name, even writing official letters on Henry’s behalf, which she signed “HenriDiane.” Despite her intense jealousy, Catherine could do nothing until Henry died jousting in a tournament in 1559. She banished Diane from court, first appropriating the magnificent chateau of Chenonceau, which Henry had given Diane as a gift.

During the French Revolution, Diane’s tomb was opened and her remains thrown into a mass grave, where they remained for over 400 years. In 2008, French forensic experts found and examined Diane’s bones and discovered the secret of Diane’s beauty. Her remains revealed thinning hair and fragile bones, common symptoms of chronic gold intoxication. Renaissance elixirs of gold were compounded with mercury, which can cause anemia when ingested, a possible cause of Diane’s flawless, white skin. Diane, it seems, had literally been killing herself to retain the affections of a younger man.

Maria, the Countess Walewska

Maria was born in 1786 to an aristocratic family who had lost most of their wealth during the first partition of Poland. When she was 16, she reluctantly agreed to marry Count Walewska—a wealthy man in his 70s—to improve her family’s position.

At an 1806 New Year’s Eve party, Maria met Napoleon. The obsessive emperor wooed Maria with impassioned letters and jewels, which Maria returned, saying “he treats me like a prostitute.” Only after Napoleon suggested he might look more favorably on Poland’s plight if Maria was his lover did she submit to his advances.

When Maria became pregnant with his child, Napoleon was reportedly ecstatic. His wife, Josephine, had never borne him children, and Maria’s pregnancy proved it was not because Napoleon was incapable. He divorced the post-menopausal Josephine to wed Marie Louise, the daughter of the Austrian emperor. Shortly afterward, the newly monogamous Napoleon ended his affair with Maria.

Maria must have developed some affection for Napoleon in the end, because she offered to join him after he was exiled to St. Helena. Alas, Napoleon turned her down. Maria divorced Count Walewska and married one of Napoleon’s generals, but she died of kidney disease shortly after bearing him a son. She was just 31. Her body was returned to Poland, but her heart is interred in the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

Madame de Pompadour

Madame de Pompadour was born Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson in 1721. When she was nine, her mother took her to a fortune teller, who told them that one day Jeanne-Antoinette would reign over a king’s heart. Convinced her daughter was destined for greatness, Jeanne-Antoinette’s mother saw that she received the best education, including voice lessons from the star of the Paris opera.

At a masked ball, the recently widowed king Louis XV became smitten with Jeanne-Antoinette. He installed her in an apartment above his own at Versailles, where a secret stairway allowed him to visit her without being seen. There, she amassed a huge library of books, becoming a friend and patron of artists and writers, including Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Diderot.

Although Jeanne-Antoinette ceased to be Louis’s mistress after only five years, she remained at court as his friend and pimp-in-residence, interviewing young girls and introducing to him those who passed muster. She became heavily involved in politics and was blamed for France’s disastrous involvement in the Seven Years’ War. Still, the king remained loyal to her until she died of pulmonary failure at age 46. Madame de Pompadour is best remembered as the inspiration for the eponymous upswept hairstyle popular with ‘50s rockers and her portrayal in a 2006 episode of Doctor Who, “The Girl in the Fireplace.”

Lillie Langtry

Lillie Langtry was as a 19th century actress whose endorsement on beauty products such as Pear’s soap guaranteed surefire sales. A muse to artists such as John Everett Millais, she became the lover of millionaires and royalty, including the very married Prince of Wales, i.e. the future Edward VII. “Bertie” was so besotted with Lillie that he even introduced her to his mother, Queen Victoria, but he ended the affair after Lillie put ice down his back at a party and refused to apologize.

When Lillie became pregnant with a child rumored to be that of Bertie’s cousin, Prince Louis of Battenberg, high society rejected her. Oscar Wilde–who write Lady Windermere’s Fan as an ode to Lillie—suggested that she turn to acting. She became an overnight success, achieving fame both at home and in America, where “Judge” Roy Bean changed the name of his Texas town to Langtry after merely seeing a picture of her.

After a string of millionaire boyfriends, Lillie married a man 19 years her junior and “retired” to Monaco, where she wrote a best-selling autobiography and became the first woman to break the bank at Monte Carlo. She died at age 76, shortly after a bout of bronchitis, and is buried in the churchyard of St. Saviour’s on the isle of Jersey.

Text and images via
Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October Releases

My favorite month of the year is here! Hooray for October! I love this month. Here's why...

1) Pumpkin-palooza. Pumpkin pie. Pumpkin muffins. Pumpkin scented candles.
 2) Honeycrisp Apples. One word: delicious.
3) Cozy Clothes. Fuzzy socks. Soft sweaters. Fingerless gloves.
4) Vibrant Colors. Red. Orange. Yellow. Brown. The fall foliage takes my breath away.
5) Halloween. The decor. The costumes. The movies. The candy. Need I say more?
6) My Wedding Anniversary. Once upon a time, on October 5th, my hubby and I were married at Disneyland.

7) Fall TV Shows. The Walking Dead. The Originals. Grimm. Just to name a few.
8) New Book Releases. Here is the new release -- yes, just one book-- I want to read this month:


White Rabbit Chronicles, Book Three
By Gena Showalter
October 1, 2014

I have a plan.
We'll either destroy them for good, or they'll destroy us.

Either way, only one of us is walking away.

In the stunning conclusion to the wildly popular White Rabbit Chronicles, Alice 'Ali' Bell thinks the worst is behind her. She's ready to take the next step with boyfriend Cole Holland, the leader of the zombie slayers; until Anima Industries, the agency controlling the zombies, launches a sneak attack, killing four of her friends. It's then she realizes that humans can be more dangerous than monsters; and the worst has only begun.

As the surviving slayers prepare for war, Ali discovers she, too, can control the zombies and she isn't the girl she thought she was. She's connected to the woman responsible for killing--and turning--Cole's mother. How can their relationship endure? As secrets come to light, and more slayers are taken or killed, Ali will fight harder than ever to bring down Anima...even sacrificing her own life for those she loves.

I liked the first book in this series--and not just for the gorgeous cover. The story was interesting, even though it wasn't what I expected for an Alice in Wonderland tie-in. The second novel was "meh". I didn't care for all the teen drama. Still, I want to read this final book based on all the good reviews I've seen on Goodreads.

What's on your must-read list this month? Do share!

Book blurbs from authors' websites.