Literary Links

March/April 1999


Good News and Announcements

Chicago-North RWA--Fire & Ice Contest--There's still time to enter the Chicago-North RWA Fire & Ice contest. Send your first chapter where the hero and heroine meet. Enter one of four categories--Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal or Inspirational. There's a $50 prize for each category, and editors will judge the final round. Check out the contest rules at the chapter web site: http// The winners will be announced at the RWA National Conference in Chicago this year.

1999 RWA National Conference--The annual Romance Writers of America conference will take place Wednesday, July 28, 1999 to Saturday July 31, 1999 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. For more information and registration forms, see the RWA National web site at


New On Literary Liaisons

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


Don't Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson, PhD.
Dynamic Characters: How to Create Personalities That Keep Readers Captivated by Nancy Kress
Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus by John Gray
The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Monarchy by Ralph Alan Griffiths and John Ashton Cannon
That's Not What I Meant by Deborah Tannen
You Just Don't Understand: Men and Women in Conversation by Deborah Tannen

Various titles by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, Victorian Novelist 

RWA Chapters On-line

Gold Coast Fiction Writers
Indiana Romance Writers of America
Marshlands Romance Writers
Northeast Ohio Valley RWA (NEORWA)
RWA East Texas Chapter
Sacramento Valley Rose
San Francisco Area RWA

Researching the Romance

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson, PhD.
Dynamic Characters: How to Create Personalities That Keep Readers Captivated by Nancy Kress
Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus by John Gray
The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Monarchy by Ralph Alan Griffiths and John Ashton Cannon
That's Not What I Meant by Deborah Tannen
You Just Don't Understand: Men and Women in Conversation by Deborah Tannen

Writers' Resources

Affaire de Coeur--On-line version of the review magazine
Awesome Library--Contains 14,000 reviewed resources for teachers, students and parents
Bantam/Doubleday/Dell--Brief description of each division
British Titles of Nobility--Definitions of titles and terms
Castles of Britain--Dedicated to the study and promotion of British Castles
The Quill--Articles, tips and a free monthly newsletter for writers
Victorian Times Magazine--On-line version of the magazine


Feature Article 

By Michelle J. Hoppe

Spring arrives in England, and with it, customs and ceremonies that have perhaps survived centuries. Each village/town had its own special ceremonies, of course, but rather than focus on one region or county, below are the customs common throughout all of England in the Spring.

Lady Day (25 March)
Lady Day is one of what are known as "Quarter Days" in England. Quarter days, called such because they fall at three-month intervals throughout the year, are the four days in the year that quarterly payments and rents are due the landowner, and agricultural tenancies are begun or ended. Village Fairs were often held in conjunction with Quarter Days. Fairs were times of entertainment and trade, and this may also have been where the landowner hired his servants. Maids, farmhands, grooms and more would line the streets while prospective employers looked them over and interviewed them regarding qualifications. The servants would then move on to their next job, sometimes taking with them the new bride they met at the fair.

Lent and Easter holidays (dates vary from year to year)
Shrove Tuesday--This day falls on the eve of the Lenten season. In early times, Christians made their pre-Lent confessions or shrifts on this day, hence the name 'Shrove' Tuesday. This was also the last opportunity to eat the foods prohibited during Lent.
Lent--Lent is the forty-day period of fast and meditation before Easter. Meat, butter and eggs were stricken from the diet, a carryover from medieval times. Before improved food storage, a pantry's stores were often lean after a long winter. Thus, what had been a necessary fast of sorts, became church law. With Lent being a time of fast, other things were forbidden also. Sexual relations and wedding ceremonies were taboo before the Reformation, thus resulting in a superstition that carried well into the 19th century that it was bad luck to marry during Lent.
Easter--The greatest of all Christian festivals, Easter celebrates the Resurrection of Christ from the dead. Easter falls on the first Sunday after the full moon which happens on or next following the Spring Equinox (21 March). This is a holy day of obligation and Roman Catholics and Anglican Christians should attend church and receive communion. Bells are rung and churches are decorated with lilies. For good luck, one should wear some bright new piece of clothing like a bonnet or gown. This follows the practice of wearing new garments at baptism, Easter being the traditional time for baptisms and renewed life. The classic Easter food is the egg, a symbol of spring re-awakening and of fertility. People dyed the eggs and exchanged them with family and friends for good luck.

April Fools' Day (1 April)
Practiced throughout the country, this is the day for making fools of others, rather than oneself. The origin of this custom is unknown, but two rules have always governed this holiday. First, no one is exempt until noon. And second, after twelve noon, the joking must cease, or the hoax rebounds on the hoax-giver.

May Day (1 May)
One of the most important festivals of the year was May Day. It signified the arrival of warm weather after a dreary winter. Merrymaking lasted throughout the day, including dancing around the Maypole, attendance on the queen and her court, games and sports. Mayday actually lost popularity in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, having been banned during the Commonwealth. But many of the customs and rites were absorbed by Oak Apple Day (29 May) when King Charles II made his triumphal return to England.

Other customs associated with Spring involved rituals, not dates.

A superstition connected with flowers relied upon finding the first bloom of the season. If one found the first flower of Spring on a Monday, it was good fortune. If found on a Tuesday, one's greatest attempts would be successful. On Wednesday, it denoted marriage, Thursday, a warning of small profits, Friday, wealth, Saturday misfortune and Sunday indicated luck for many weeks to come. The type of flower figured into the superstition also. Once one determined the species of flower--daisy, buttercup, lily, etc.--one used the initial of that flower to see who would be interested in them in the coming year. Thus, if a young lady found a Buttercup, someone whose name started with a 'B' would soon begin to court her.

Spring Cleaning--
Another ritual associated with Spring was cleaning. After months of sooty fireplaces warming the manor home, carpets, furniture and draperies had to be cleaned and aired. As soon as the family moved to Town for the Season, the staff stayed behind to attack this chore. Public rooms would be dismantled and scrubbed. Walnut covers were placed on glass tabletops, white cloths covered the chairs, and blinds hung over the windows, only to be removed when the family returned. Heavy drapes were sometimes stored for the summer, replaced with lighter window trimmings that would allow the summer breezes to cool the house.
There are many more celebrations associated with Spring in England, some involving anniversaries of important dates in history, others surviving the centuries as carry-overs of pagan rituals. And while they may vary from village to village, they are still celebrated with the same childish enthusiasm as when they first appeared.

For more on customs, I suggest the following references:

The Customs and Ceremonies of Britain: An Encylopaedia of Living Traditions by Charles Kightly, 1986, Thames & Hudson

Also see the Researching the Romance page of Literary Liaisons for more suggestions.

(Michelle J. Hoppe, 1997 Golden Heart Finalist, is webmaster for Chicago-North RWA and President of Literary Liaisons, Ltd.)


Editor's Note

Since characters are the basis of any memorable fiction, I have listed several references to help you on your way to creating characters that your readers will love, or love to hate. Included are writing references on characters, and relationship books that outline the differences between men and women in conversation and relationships. Your characters have to be believable in order for your reader to sympathize with them. These books will help you on your way. And while you're wallowing knee-deep in character sketches, try out Don't Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson, PhD.  It will help keep life in perspective for you.


FAQ Column

Q: Just in case you can point me in the right direction--I am looking for information on the American Expeditionary Forces in Paris France during 1916 to 1918. Unfortunately most of the military records for that period were burned in a fire in 1973. Thank you for the helpful resources and tips.

A: Here are a few places on the Internet where you might begin your search.
World War I--A site by an historian who has extensive knowledge of American Expeditionary Forces in France. You can e-mail him with questions.
1919 American Expeditionary Forces--
List of publications available on the subject--
From the Hoover Institute, publications available for purchase--
Holdings of the Library of Congress with regards to Military History--
An interesting tidbit about women telephone operators--
The U.S. Army in the First World War--


Historical Calendar of Events


Arthur James Balfour, British statesman
Ellen Terry, English actress
Paul Gauguin, French painter
Sir Hubert Parry, English composer
Belle Starr, American outlaw

King Christian VIII of Denmark
Frederick Marryat, English novelist
March 28--John Jacob Astor at age 84, leaving a fortune of $20 million acquired in the fur trade and New York real estate.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ends the Mexican-American War in February. It is ratified in October--the U.S. gets Texas, New Mexico, California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and Parts of Colorado and Wyoming from Mexico.
February--Louis Philippe abdicates the French throne after a revolt and a new republic is formed. Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte is elected President of the French republic December 10.
Prince Matternich resigns in Austria after the revolution. After a second uprising, Ferdinand I flees to Innsbruck on May 17. Following a third uprising, the emperor abdicates on December 2 in favor of his nephew who becomes Emperor Franz Josef I.
March 17--Milan has a revolution as the Milanese hear of the revolution at Vienna 4 days earlier and rise against their Austrian overlords.
After a revolt in Rome, Count Rossi, the papal premier, is assassinated. Pius IX flees to Gaeta.
The Second Sikh War begins.
Sardinia declares war on Austria.
Switzerland, by its new constitution, becomes a federal union.
Prague has a revolution which is suppressed by Austrian troops.
Wisconsin becomes the 30th state of the U.S.
The first U.S. women's rights convention meets in Seneca Falls, New York under the leadership of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Coffin Mott.
"Communist Manifesto" is issued by Marx and Engels.
J.S. Mill publishes his "Principles of Political Economy."
Costa Rica establishes herself as a republic. 

The Arts
Alexandre Dumas, the younger, publishes La Dame aux Camelias.
J.R. Lowell publishes The Bigelow Papers.
John Everett Millais paints "Ophelia."
Millet paints "The Winnower."
Holman Hunt, Millais and D.G. Rossetti found the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
William Makepeace Thackeray, English novelist, publishes Vanity Fair.
Elizabeth Cleghorn Stevenson Gaskell, English novelist, publishes Mary Barton , a realistic portrayal of Manchester factory life.
Anne Brontë, 28, youngest of the three Brontë sisters, publishes Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
"Oh! Susanna!" by Pittsburgh songwriter Stephen Collins Foster, 21, is sung February 25 by G. N. Christy of the Christy Minstrels. Foster's song will be in the repertoire of every minstrel show and gold-seekers will sing it en route to California.

Daily Life
April 3--The Chicago Board of Trade has its beginnings in a commodity exchange opened at 101 South Water Street by 82 local businessmen.
Serfdom is abolished in Austria.
Pennsylvania enacts a child labor law March 28 to restrict the age of workers.
The first Public Health Act is issued in Britain.
The first settlers arrive in New Zealand.
The New York News Agency is founded by Hale and Burnett. From 1851 on, it is known as the Associated Press.
"Bartlett" pears are distributed by Dorchester, Mass., merchant Enoch Bartlett, 69. He buys them from Roxbury farmer-sea captain Thomas Brewer who some years ago introduced to America the pear known in France and England as the bon chrétien.
Famine strikes Europe. Denmark permits grain imports free of duty to relieve the hunger.
A solid gutta-percha golf ball replaces the leather-covered feather-stuffed ball used in Britain for centuries. The new ball travels 25 yards farther than any feather ball. Professional golfer Tom Morris will begin using gutta-percha balls in 1852.
London's Waterloo Station opens.
The University of Mississippi is founded at Oxford.
The University of Wisconsin opens at Madison.

The first safety matches are made.
The first appendectomy is performed by Hancock.
January 24-- Gold is discovered in California January 24 by New Jersey prospector James Marshall, 38, while working to free the wheel in the millrace for a sawmill he is building on the American River for John Sutter. Sutter tries to keep Marshall's discovery a secret in order to avoid disruption of his farm, but the news appears August 19 in James Gordon Bennett's New York Herald, and by year's end some 6,000 men are working in the goldfields.
San Francisco loses three-fourths of its population in 4 months as men hurry to strike it rich in the goldfields.
A telegraph line opens between New York and Chicago.
Hungarian obstetrician Ignaz Philips Semmelweis, 30, shows that childbed fever (puerperal fever) is contagious. He reduces its incidence at a Vienna hospital by requiring that attending physicians wash their hands in chlorinated water.

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