Literary Links

January/February 2003


Good News and Announcements

Debut Romance Novel--Literary Liaisons, Ltd., is pleased to announce the release of Laurie Brown's first romance novel!  The Truth About Cassandra is a January 2003 release from Zebra Ballads.  A little white lie is one thing, The Truth About Cassandra is quite another..... Read more by and about Laurie below.  

Contest for Historical Writers--The Hearts Through History chapter of RWA is once again holding its contest--Romance Through The Ages.  Exclusively for historical writers, this contest has categories divided by eras.  The top prize in each category will receive a critique.  The Legend is a special award that will be given for the most memorable hero.  For more information, see the Hearts Through History web site.

Chicago-North Fire & Ice Contest--Chicago-North RWA is sponsoring their 5th annual Fire & Ice Contest.  Enter your first chapter in one of three categories--Single Title Contemporary, Series Contemporary, or Historical.  Top prize in each category is $50.  Acquiring editors will read finalist entries.  For more information, visit the Chicago-North web site.

The Golden Network Golden Pen Contest--The Golden Network Chapter of RWA is sponsoring its 6th annual Contest--The Golden Pen.  Enter the first 25 pages of your manuscript.  Winners in each category will receive a gold pen engraved with their manuscript title, and a $25 cash prize.  Acquiring editors will judge the finalists. For more information, Contact Contest Coordinator, Pam Baker, by e-mail at: 

Online Workshop--RWA's Hearts Through History Romance Writers is holding the following workshops online: 

Feb 1-Feb 28, 2003 Patti Rowell What's Different in Writing Historicals
March 1 - March 28, 2003 Wendy J. Dunn Living in Tudor Times

For more information, see the Hearts Through History web site.


New On Literary Liaisons

There are many new additions to Literary Liaisons. After reading about them below, check them out on the web site.

Author Links


Laurie Brown




The Truth About Cassandra by Laurie Brown




The Dictionary of Concise Writing by Robert Hartwell Fiske

Manual for Writers & Editors by Merriam-Webster, Inc.

Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern

The Procrastinator's Handbook: Mastering the Art of Doing it Now by Rita Emmett

Writer's Market FAQs by Peter Rubie

Featured Title

Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern

The Video Library

How to Dance Through Time--Volume 6: The Charm of the 19th Century ball


Researching the Romance


The Dictionary of Concise Writing by Robert Hartwell Fiske

Manual for Writers & Editors by Merriam-Webster, Inc.

Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern

The Procrastinator's Handbook: Mastering the Art of Doing it Now by Rita Emmett

Writer's Market FAQs by Peter Rubie



Writers' Resources Online

The Germ: The Romantics, the Pre-Raphaelites and the Bloomsbury Movements

Millais: "Ophelia" and "The Hugenot" 

Victorian Art in Britain--Sir John Everett Millais

The Victorian Turkish Bath


Feature Article 

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Research

by Laurie Brown

While researching my historical novels, I’ve encountered a few dangerous pitfalls; dangerous in that they stymied my writing productivity.  And over the years I’ve learned several ways to avoid those pitfalls.

Pitfall #1:  More is Better

I love reading about history so doing research is not a chore for me.  And that’s the problem.  I can easily forget the purpose is to gather information for the real goal of writing.  For the first book I wrote, I read  one hundred forty-nine books on the period of the American Revolution. (Yes, really.)  That research is on index cards sorted by category.  Dated and annotated.  Five long boxes of  3x5 cards.  I even have the sources and where I got them in case I should need them again.  I loved doing it. (Obviously.)  But what did I write during this period?  You guessed it: not much.

When I started writing on deadline, I no longer had the luxury of immersing myself in the research.  My methods had to change.

Solution #1:  Now, I read four to six general information books to get the flavor of the period.  Even if I’m already familiar with that particular time, this reading helps me get in the right mindset.  As I write and find I need a specific piece of data, I put a couple of asterisks and a number in the manuscript, write the question on a notepad, and keep writing.  For example:  **3  Who was the Prime Minister in 1854?  Or **11 How much does Big Ben weigh?

When I have a list of questions, I go online and find those specific answers.  The numbering system makes it easy to find that particular spot in the manuscript by using the search function and I can then plug in the information needed.

Pitfall #2:  More is Better, The Sequel

Because I had put a lot of time and effort into my research, there was a tendency to want to include all of it into the book I was writing.  And since I write romances and not textbooks, the dumps of historical data that slowed the pace to a crawl was not a good thing.

Solution #2:  One of the things I like about reading historical romances is the little tidbits of information I learn about another time period.  And that is the very solution.  Give the historical data to the reader in little tidbits that are worked into the story line.  Then method outlined above actually helps me do that.

Pitfall #3:  Getting Sidetracked

The term sidetracked comes the early days of the railroad when a less important or slower train was shuttled of to a short piece of track that went nowhere to allow the faster train to pass it by.  An interesting fact, but is it relevant to what I’m writing?

The precise piece of data you need will generally be surrounded by lots and lots of other interesting details.  When you go online, you can find hundreds of articles/references even if you ask a very specific question.  You can spend hours and hours of enjoyable reading.  Hours and hours that you aren’t writing.  I only wish I had that kind of time.

Solution #3:  Give your list to someone else to go online for you.  Spouse, friend, anyone else.  This is a great chore for older kids.  I pay my teenage son two dollars per answer he finds.  He prints out the pages and I can go directly back to that source if I need to.  Since he has no personal interest in the subjects, he’s really fast.  And if he happens to learn a little bit about history or researching methods in the process, well that’s a side benefit.

Solution #3a:  Cultivate friends and relatives with a particular knowledge base.  My bother-in-law is an absolute font of information about the Civil War and he’s just a phone call away.  Recently I needed a battle in the spring of 1862 that the Confederacy lost, and he knew the answer right off.  In addition, he gave me a number of other tidbits that I used.  I saved hours and hours of research.  Hours that I used writing.

Other writers are also good sources.  I find answers for a friend when she’s on deadline and she returns the favor when I’m under the gun.  So far we haven’t both needed help at the same time.  Here again specific questions are necessary.

Pitfall #4:  You may be right, but...

Some time ago I had a manuscript that mentioned a wife who packed up her two young children and followed her husband when he went to fight.  I entered that work in a contest, and every single judge replied that no ‘respectable’ woman would do such a thing.  Well, I had done my research and they were wrong and I was right.  (I told you, I researched everything about the American Revolution.)  Since then I’ve met a number of other historical writers with similar experiences.  It’s sad to say but the general public has little knowledge of the facts of history.  And if a reader or heaven forbid an editor thinks your facts are incorrect, you as the writer lose credibility.  You can also lose contests and sales.  But if you’ve done your research and you’re right, what can you do?

Solution #4:  If several readers question something, you have two options.  You can provide enough detailed information that even a skeptic will buy it as the truth.  For example: General Washington encouraged families to follow their soldier husband/father for several reasons.  Not only did it drastically cut down on the major problem of desertion, but the wives provided valuable services such as cooking, laundry, nursing, and packing and unpacking.  The children gathered wood, fetched water, tended campfires, cleaned lamps, emptied slop jars, helped with the horses, and ran non-military messages.  This freed the soldiers to concentrate on guard duty, scouting, drilling, caring for their weapons, and fighting.  Congress even issued military rations to family members, half rations for wives and quarter rations for children.  When battle was engaged, families and supply wagons were sent to the rear.  There were prostitutes in the camps but if they were found out they were run off, usually by the respectable campfollowers acting under general orders.  Many women who could not survive on a small farm without a man’s help had no choice but to ‘follow the drum.’  The more affluent soldiers brought servants with them to look after their needs and the high ranking officers had soldiers assigned to attend them, and their horses.  The wives who had the means to do so came to the camp during quiet periods and then went home when fighting was expected or long hard marches were ordered.  Martha Washington joined her husband often, as did other officers’ wives.  (Note: many of these practices changed drastically by the time of the Civil War, which more readers are familiar with.)

The drawback of providing adequate documentation is that you can wind up with an information dump (example above) in the middle of your otherwise exciting scene.  You’ll have to work the information in bit by bit without making it read like one character is lecturing another.  Sometimes this is difficult.  On the other hand, if you just inserted the interesting fact because it was part of your mountain of research that you didn’t want to go to waste, and it won’t affect your story if you leave it out, then cut it altogether.  Yes, I know it hurts but if your credibility survives so will you.

Pitfall #5:  Everybody knows that

When you’re writing, you skip an explanation because the facts are so well-known.  Or you give a major detail, like the end of the Crimean War, and assume the reader will then know that the year of your setting is 1855.  Or since you know it took three months to cross the Atlantic from England to America and only six to eight weeks to go back due to prevailing winds and tides, you assume that everyone else also knows this.  If the reader doesn’t know these things, they become confused rather than intrigued.  Yet at the same time, you don’t want to over-explain something to an reader who has read fifty Civil War novels and doesn’t need an explanation.

Solution #5:  The easiest way to establish your date and setting is to use a log line.  Those few words at the beginning of a book, chapter or scene can resolve many issues without convoluted machinations.  You won’t be forced to have your characters recite information to each other that would have been generally known at the time and thereby making them sound like idiots.  For example: “Really, Father, it’s 1885 and modern women no longer need a chaperone to go shopping.” Or “As you well know, the Crimean War ended six weeks ago and therefore we can expect Robert, our dear brother, home from the front in Russia any time within the next two weeks.”  Okay, maybe that’s a little over the top, but you get the idea.

Ask a person who does not generally read historical books (preferably one who owes you a big favor) to read your manuscript and mark all the terms and references they didn’t understand.  Offer to baby-sit, wash their car, weed their garden, buy them chocolate.  When you get the manuscript back you must decide whether to:

a) leave it (a reference to the ton which my reader thought was a misspelling of town)

b) change the context to make the reference clear (‘she said she wanted to attend the auction at Tattersalls and he replied he didn’t know she was interested in a new mount’ edited to ‘she professed an interest in seeing the horses offered for sale at Tattersalls’)

or c)  take the reference out altogether (see Solution #4 above).

Then ask a person who reads your historical period to go through your manuscript and mark all the places where you explain too much.  If either of these readers are fellow writers, offer to return the favor.  And buy them chocolate.

Remember your ultimate goal, and make the time you spend researching not only enjoyable but productive.  These are the five pitfalls I have encountered so far.  If there are more, I’m sure I’ll find them sooner or later.  Until then, I continue to read historical books when I’m not writing.  I read for new plot ideas but I don’t take notes.  And I read them for pleasure.  Especially for pleasure.

Laurie Brown writes because it keeps her sane and because it gets her out of housework.  Twice a Golden Heart finalist, her debut novel THE TRUTH ABOUT CASSANDRA (Jan., Zebra) received a four star rating from RT Bookclub.  THE NIGHT WE KISSED, the second in the continuing character series, is scheduled for an October release.  Her website is

For more of Laurie's titles, visit our Fiction Bookstore.

Copyright 2003, Laurie Brown

Editor's Note

As I sit and write this, it is a new year, a new life and new beginnings.  A marriage has ended, a new life begun, and I suddenly find myself facing situations I never thought I'd be in at this stage of my life.  So as I start my new life in the new year, I am looking toward ways to simplify tasks and prioritize my days.  Thus, the web site and books on organization skills.  I thought I was organized--until I moved over the holiday season!  I'm still missing things I'd placed in priority-marked boxes.  But I have faith everything will turn up in time.  Smaller spaces require better organization.  I'm learning quickly.  Through it all, I've had some very good friends (Pat and Wendy) to help me through the process.  And one very special man--my personal hero, Steve.  He is everything you read about in romance novels.  I have to keep reminding myself that he's really here, and really by my side.  Which brings me to the reason for the many references to Sir John Everett Millais in this newsletter.  As an aside one day, I'd mentioned that "The Hugenot" by Millais is my favorite painting, but I've never been able to find a framed print.  I resorted to making a copy out of a book and hanging it on my bulletin board.  Well, Steve remembered my tale, and did better than a framed print.  He commissioned an artist in Bulgaria to produce an exact replica (including size) of the oil painting and presented it to me on Christmas.  Needless to say, I have never received such a special gift--a gift from the heart.  A new life and new beginnings.  I can't wait!

--Michelle Hoppe

President, Literary Liaisons, Ltd.

Q&A Column

Q:  "My heroine, living in New York in 1876, is in mourning for her mother, who very much admired Queen Victoria. I'd like my heroine to have some part of her mourning 'just like the Queen's.' Is there some item of her mourning attire or ritual that is so characteristic that my heroine might use it?"

--Wendy G.

A:   How about a handkerchief? These were white with black borders, the size of the border narrowing in the final stages of mourning--just like stationery (envelopes, calling cards, paper). Queen Victoria's hankies were made from white lawn, which was an expensive fabric, embroidered with black and white tears, and the initials V.R. for Victoria Regina. 
Jet jewelery was also popular--made so by Queen Victoria. She wore it until her own death. It's dull in its natural state, but could be polished to a sheen. For those who couldn't afford jet, by the second half of the century, there were ebonite, bulcanite, glass and 'plastic' forms of mourning jewelery.

Michelle Hoppe
President, Literary Liaisons

Historical Calendar of Events


Rasputin, Russian monk

Friedrich Ebert, German Social Democratic leader

Stephen Crane, American author

Theodore Dreiser, American novelist

Heinrich Mann, German novelist

Marcel Proust, French novelist

Georges Rouault, French painter

Ernest Rutherford, English scientist and Nobel Prize winner



Willibald Alexis, German novelist




A British Act of Parliament legalized labor unions.

British Columbia joined the Dominion of Canada.

Basutoland became part of Cape Colony.  Britain annexed the diamond fields of Kimberley.

Parliament abolished purchase of British Army commissions.

Napoleon III formally deposed March 1 by the French Assembly.

Fire consumed the Tuileries Palace at Paris during the “Bloody Week” in May and much of the Louvre Palace was gutted.

L.A Thiers elected French President.

A race riot at Los Angeles left more than a dozen Chinese dead and many injured.

Gen. George Crook assumed command of the Army in Arizona Territory, tracking down the Chiricahua Apache chief Cochise, and forcing him to surrender.

President Grant signed a congressional resolution “for the protection and preservation of the food fishes of the coasts of the United States”.  He named Spencer F. Baird to head a new U.S. Fish Commission.

State supervision of grain warehouses began in Illinois.

Japan abolished feudal fiefs by imperial decree August 29, substituting prefectures. 

Abortion became punishable by up to 5 years in prison under the criminal code of the new German Empire.

The Italian Law of Guarantees allowed the pope possession of the Vatican.


The Arts

"The Dream of Dante" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

"Max Schmitt in a Single Scull" by Thomas Eakins

"Woodland Scene" by George Innes

"The Parthenon" by Frederic E. Church


"Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex" by Charles Darwin


Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Middlemarch by George Eliot

Les Rougon-Macquart by Emile Zola (the first in a series of novels through 1893)

The Possessed by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Little Men by Louisa May Alcott

Tattered Tom by Horatio Alger


"The Forest" by Aleksander Ostrovsky November 1 in St. Petersburg

"Thespsis" by Gilbert & Sullivan in London December 26



"Chopsticks" by Arthur de Lullli


"Aida" by Giuseppi Verdi premiered in Cairo December 24

"Indigo and the Forty Thieves" by Johann Strauss at Vienna's Theatre-an-derWien February 10

Popular songs:

"Onward Christian Soldiers" by Arthur S. Sullivan and Sabine Baring-Gould


Daily Life

Population figures in millions: Germany 41; United States 39; France 36; Japan 33; Italy 26.8; Great Britain 26; Ireland 5.4.

The Dominion of Canada took its first census, finding 1,082,940 French, 846,000 Irish, 706,000 English, 549,946 Scots, and 202,000 Germans

The Royal Albert Hall opened in London.

Bank Holidays were introduced in England and Wales.

Poker was introduced to Queen Victoria at a royal party in Somerset by U.S. ambassador to Great Britain Robert Cumming Schenck.  He showed the queen how to play and at her request wrote down the rules, the first written codification of the game.

P.T. Barnum opened his circus, "The Greatest Show on Earth" in Brooklyn, New York.

Jehovah's Witnesses was founded.

The Great Fire of Chicago raged from October 8 to 9.  It destroyed 3.5 square miles of the city, killing perhaps 250. The fire was allegedly started by a cow kicking over a kerosene lantern in Dekoven Street.

Sparks from the Chicago Fire started forest fires that would continue from October 8 to October 14.  The fire would destroy more than a million acres of Michigan and Wisconsin timberland. More than 1,000 die in the logging town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin, and in 16 surrounding communities in the worst fire tragedy in the recorded history of North America.

G. Huntington Hartford of the A&P sent emergency rail shipments of tea and coffee to Chicago, most of whose grocery stores burned in the October fire.

Passenger pigeons nesting in Wisconsin occupied 750 square miles and would continue such mass nestings until 1878 despite the October fire.

The National Association of Professional Baseball Players was founded in New York. It would dissolve in 1876.

The first regular Japanese government postal service began between Tokyo and Osaka.

Japan established a new yen-based currency system June 29. Equitable taxation laws were instituted October 8.

Germany went on the gold standard December 4.

A study undertaken to refute charges that British land ownership was excessively concentrated reveals that 710 landlords owned one quarter of all the land in England and Wales and fewer than 5,000 people owned three quarters of the land in the British Isles. 

The banking house of Drexel, Morgan & Co. was organized by New York banker John Pierpont Morgan and Philadelphia’s Drexel family, with offices in Philadelphia and on New York’s Wall Street.

Smith College for women was established at Northampton, Massachusetts. 

The University of Arkansas was founded at Fayetteville.

Japan reorganized her ministry of education to promote universal, compulsory, fee-paid education.

Keio University, Japan’s first private college, opened at Shiba Mita.

Dodge City, Kansas had its beginnings in a sod house built on the Santa Fe Trail five miles west of Fort Dodge to serve buffalo hunters. 

Mormon leader Brigham Young was arrested at Salt Lake City in Utah Territory on charges of polygamy (he has 27 wives). The polygamy issue would delay Utah statehood until 1896.

Texans drove 700,000 longhorns 700 miles from San Antonio north to the Abilene stockyards, moving at 12 miles per day through open, unsettled country that provided abundant grass and water for the livestock on the “Long Drive” up the Chisholm Trail.

The first full shipload of bananas landed at Boston July 28 aboard Dow Baker’s 85-ton schooner Telegraph 14 days out of Kingston, Jamaica.  

England’s Livonia lost 4 to 1 in its bid to regain the America’s Cup in ocean racing. The U.S. defenders Columbia and Sappho won two races each.

The National Rifle Association was founded by some Union Army officers to encourage marksmanship and gun safety.



Simon Ingersall invented the pneumatic rock drill.

The Mount Cenis Tunnel opened.

G.A. Hansen discovered the leprosy bacillus.

Stanley met up with Livingstone in Ujiji.

The White Star Line launched the S.S. "Oceanic"--the world's first of the large modern luxury liners.

U.S. wheat and flour exports totaled 50 million bushels, while corn exports totaled 8 million.

Land planted to grain in Britain would decline by more than 25 percent in the next three decades as the railroads open up the western United States, making it unprofitable for British farmers to compete.

Metal type and printing presses were introduced into Japan and the first Japanese daily newspaper began publication.

The first commercial Russian oil wells were sunk in Balakany on the Apsheron Peninsula of the Caspian Sea.

Brooklyn, N.Y. oilman Henry Huttleston Rogers patented machinery for separating naphtha from crude petroleum.

Burmah Oil Co. had its beginnings in the Rangoon Oil Co. started by British colonial interests in Burma. 

C. A. Pillsbury & Co. was founded by Minneapolis miller Charles Alfred Pillsbury with his brother Fred, his father George, and his uncle John Sargent Pillsbury.

Margarine production began in the Netherlands as butter merchants Jan and Anton Jurgens opened the world’s first fully operative margarine factory at Oss.

British inventor Richard Leach Maddox made an emulsion of silver bromide using gelatin in place of collodion.

Archaeological excavations began October 11 on the hill of Hissarlik, site of ancient Troy.  

A prehistoric pterodactyl skeleton was identified for the first time by Yale paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh, the first U.S. paleontologist.

The 1836 Colt revolver was redesigned to extend its effective range.

The “Mauser Model 1871” breech-loading rifle was adapted by the Prussian Army.

The Pennsylvania Railroad established a connection to New York two years after gaining entry to Chicago and St. Louis.

The Texas Pacific Railroad that will end the Chisholm Trail cattle drives was chartered by Congress and given a land grant, but it would never reach the Pacific.

South American railroad builder Henry Meiggs won a contract from Costa Rican president Tomas Guardia to construct a national railway from Port Limòn on the Caribbean 149 miles up to the capital of San José in the mountains. 

The New York ferryboat S.S. Westfield exploded July 11 blowing 104 people to pieces. Her boiler was so corroded that “a knife blade could cut through the metal” but steamboat inspection remained lax, without rigorous design or maintenance codes.


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