Literary Links

July/August 1998


Good News and Announcements

Welcome to our newest family member, Martha Powers. Martha's upcoming release, Sunflower, is her first suspense thriller. Romance readers may recognize Martha's name from reading her Regencies, one of which was a Golden Heart winner in 1985. Read more about Martha and her upcoming release by clicking here!

July 30 to August 2--Plan to attend the Romance Writers of America 18th Annual National Conference. This year's conference will be held from July 30 to August 2, 1998 at the Anaheim Hilton & Towers in Anaheim, California. Contact RWA National for more information. I will be attending the conference as both writer, and president of Literary Liaisons. I hope to see you there!

October 2 to October 4--Love Designers Writer's Club, publisher of Rendezvous review magazine, is hosting their annual conference, Autumn Authors' Affair XV in Schaumburg, IL, near Chicago. For more information, e-mail me 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.

Authors' Listings

Martha Powers



Blum, Stella. Ackermann's Costume Plates: Women's Fashions in England, 1818-1828. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 1979. ISBN#0486236900
Brohaugh, William. English Through the Ages. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, 1998. ISBN#0898796555
Phillips, Vicky and Cindy Yager. Writer's Guide to Internet Resources. New York: Macmillan General Reference, 1998. ISBN#0028618823
Picard, Liza. Restoration London. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998. ISBN#0312186592
Trinkle, Dennis A. The History Highway: A Guide to Internet Resources. M.E. Sharpe, 1997. ISBN#0765600110


Sunflower by Martha Powers 

RWA Chapters On-line

Central Florida Romance Writers
Central Pennsylvania Romance Writers
Inland Valley RWA
Land of Enchantment Romance Authors (LERA)
Los Angeles Romance Authors
Maryland Romance Writers
New Jersey Romance Writers
Southern Tier Authors of Romance (STAR)
Windy City RWA

Researching the Romance

Blum, Stella. Ackermann's Costume Plates: Women's Fashions in England, 1818-1828. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 1979. ISBN#0486236900
Brohaugh, William. English Through the Ages. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, 1998. ISBN#0898796555
Phillips, Vicky and Cindy Yager. Writer's Guide to Internet Resources. New York: Macmillan General Reference, 1998. ISBN#0028618823
Picard, Liza. Restoration London. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998. ISBN#0312186592
Trinkle, Dennis A. The History Highway: A Guide to Internet Resources. M.E. Sharpe, 1997. ISBN#0765600110

Writers' Resources

Criscadian's Active Voice--Writer's Desk--A useful guide for any writer
The History Net--List of history-related links
HyperHistory On-Line--Timelines of concurring historical events from ancient to present
Odin's Castle--Archive of history and historical resources
Romance Writer's Network--Maintained by Teri Moore, here you can showcase your work, find links to writing-related sites and read how-to articles
Useful Links for Romance Writers and Readers--Links to publishers, writing-related sites and more


Feature Article 

Only Hammocks Should Sag--Part I
By Martha Powers

Sure, you've got a boffo opening and a final chapter that would knock the socks off even the most jaded Pulitzer Prize judge. But what are you going to do in between?

How are you going to make the reader believe the ending? How are you going to create a thoroughly satisfying read? The middle of your story is the toughest and most crucial section of your book. It is here that your characters come to life and your plot develops. A book with no middle is as disappointing as a chocolate eclair without the custard.

The middle of the book contains scenes that develop the action of the plot or give depth and growth to your characters. You might have scenes just to add local color or history to your story, but plot and character are your primary focus. The best vehicle for bringing your characters to life and advancing your plot is dialogue.

For my money, dialogue is what makes the difference between a great writer and an amateur. More than anything, dialogue is going to bridge the gap within each scene and eventually lead the reader to your dynamite ending. The reader will believe your ending because your characters will have revealed their motivations through the use of dialogue.

All dialogue is action and reaction. Dialogue stems from your characters and will never work well unless you know your characters. If you do not know the background of each of your characters, how will you know what to write when your heroine is asked, "Do you want a drink?" You must know her well enough to know whether she drinks, spits or chews.

Beginning writers get a plot idea, create some characters and then start to write. It's fun to write. There's a glory and a joy in writing. As page after page stacks up, you can feel a real pride in accomplishment. You're really getting your story written. When you come to the end, mail it off, and an editor sends a polite rejection, the letdown is terrific. Sure, I know about the writer whose first book was snatched up for a half million advance. Trust me, you've got as much chance of winning the lottery. The pay is better.

Do a little preparation work before you start to write. If you were going to wallpaper your bedroom, you would first move the furniture, take down the pictures and do a little re-plastering. Without that preparation work, the wallpaper would show up every flaw in your walls.

Without prep work on your book, your writing will show up all your flaws. You should make out a background sketch of each of your characters. Some people do this in their head, but it's a lot easier on paper, and you can pin each sketch above your desk for quick reference. This way you won't start with a blond hero and end up with a black-haired one. The sketch should contain physical descriptions, family background, and psychological motivations. The better you know each character, the easier your writing will be.

Once you know your characters, you should have no trouble keeping the middle of your book fascinating. Each scene will come to life because your characters will have something to say to each other. Like a play, the story will unfold. Good dialogue will ease you smoothly from beginning to end of your story.

Alexandre Dumas said that dialogue is "the backbone of drama." As a writer you must understand that dramatic dialogue differs from real dialogue. When you listen to an actual conversation, it tends to be boring, disjointed, rambling and uninformative. Good dramatic dialogue is concise and motivated. You as the writer must plan your dialogue and craft it to work for you. Don't waste time and space on useless dialogue.

Dialogue should be used to create atmosphere, give information, reveal character and advance the plot.

A. Creating atmosphere and giving information

This one's easy, and we all know how to do it. You should be careful so that it doesn't sound contrived. Sometimes you can use it to tell about a scene that would not have been interesting in itself.

"How did your meeting go with the Colonel, dear?"

"He just wanted to let me know we would be leaving for Istanbul on Friday."

"But what about the uprising there?"

"The situation's pretty much in control even though most of the city is still in flames."

This is somewhat heavy-handed, but you can see that with a few lines you can get a fair amount of info across. Note that the scene with the Colonel would have required narrative to describe a new place, a character sketch of the Colonel, and action within the scene that in the long run might have been boring. You've directed the dialogue to serve the same purpose.

B. Revealing Character

A character's dialogue must reveal his own make-up. If you don't know you characters, they will sound exactly like you do and come off plastic and one-dimensional.

The speech patterns of a character are made up of vocabulary, rhythm and dialect, but they are also affected by the circumstances of their lives. When you write up your character sketches, be sure to include some idea of how they speak. Each person in your story should have his own voice, his own method of speech.

Notice the different voices in the following examples:

1. Lady Wallace accepted the plate of cucumber sandwiches from Lady Dentwater. "Oh, you sweet child, what cunning little sandwiches. Why my cook can't seem to understand what I mean when I ask for cucumber."

2. Lady Wallace accepted the plate of cucumber sandwiches from Lady Dentwater. "Really, Edna, that cook of yours can't seem to get anything right. Why in my day we'd have given her the sack."

3. Lady Wallace accepted the plate of cucumber sandwiches from Lady Dentwater. "Thanks ever so, milady, but me mum would hit me upside the head if I took another one."

In the first example, you can see the fluttery old lady in the too-young dress. In the second, you see the overpowering harridan. In the third, you see a young, undereducated girl who may have a title but little gentility. The choice of words and the cadence of speech make a big difference in the effect of your dialogue.

Dialogue also reveals what relationship the character has with others. Note how each line below gives you a different feeling about the relationship between the character speaking and Harry.

"Harry, darling! I've been waiting all evening for you."

"Harry, old boy. Good to see you again."

"Harry? Is that you, lad?"

C. Advancing the Plot

Dialogue helps make the story more readable and gives dimension to your story. You have to use every line of it. Plan your scenes so that the dialogue actually moves the plot along. You can use it effectively to prepare your reader for a new character or a new situation. If the dialogue is meaningful, it will advance the plot just by showing us the character's strengths and weaknesses, the conflicts between characters and give us a hint of where the story is going.

Handling dialogue for more than two characters

When you have more than two characters in a scene, you have to be careful that you don't leave anyone out for longer than three or four lines. Think of the scene as you would real life. You would not talk exclusively to Jill if Gwen were sitting beside her. It's rude, and eventually the reader is going to say, what about Gwen?

You might be wanting to prove that Gwen is of no account and therefore the point of your conversation is to exclude her. If that's the case, you have to let the reader know what you're doing. (She continued her conversation with Jill, delighted that she could ignore the upstart Gwen.)

Some scenes require one or more additional people around at the beginning. However if you want to have any personal conversation between two of your characters, you're going to have to get the others to leave or move your people away from the group.

In my book Grey Fox Wagers, Jena is accompanied by Nanny to find toe drunken peg-legged Martine. I needed Nanny for convention's sake and wanted her to do some things in the room before Jena's talk with Martine. It's a shouting scene which would be awkward with a third person having to be catered to. Jena offers Nanny a cup of tea. Nanny: "Perhaps later, child. For now I'm more interested in a nap." Off she toddles to the corner of the room and is soon snoring. Now Jena can have her heart-to-heart with Martine.

Controlling a conversation with more than three people is tough. You have to keep everyone in the conversation and at the same time not confuse the reader with who is talking. Keep in mind the group does not speak in consecutive order. Think of the scene in your mind and work it through. Act it out, it it will help. In general, in group conversation there is usually a pivotal figure, probably the hero or heroine. Most of the conversation circles around him/her.

For Part II of this article, click here! 

Martha is the author of several Regency romances, including FALSE PRETENSES and her 1985 Golden Heart winner PROXY BRIDE.

Her upcoming release is a mystery thriller suspense entitled SUNFLOWER from Random House, due out mid-August.

You can visit her website at

To order Martha's books from, visit our Bookstore.

Editor 's Note

I thought that since you are probably tired of hearing me talk all the time, you might want to hear what others are saying about Literary Liaisons. (Not to mention the fact that I am in the middle of a move, will be off-line for a few days and just again decided to attend National Conference in Anaheim this year, I am out of creative juices as they say.)

From Martha: What a find! Your web site is comprehensive and a must see for authors and readers alike. Congratulations!


From Julene: I love your website..Lots of helpful information

Thanks everyone! And remember, if there's anything you want added to the site, please pass your ideas along. I'm out there to accommodate you. 

FAQ Column

Q: Someone recently e-mailed me with this: I would like to know if there is a web site that lists the up-coming writing contests for the RWA chapters listed.

A: There are several ways to find this information. The first would be to visit the RWA National web site at If you go to RWA local chapters, you can visit each one individually to see if they have upcoming contests. That would be rather time-consuming. Literary Liaisons has a current listing of RWA chapters on-line, also. But again, you would have to visit each chapter's page separately. There is hope, however! Some romance friendly sites on the web list the upcoming chapter contests for you. (We don't here because it's a time-consuming process.) One of these is Heart Realm. You can visit them at Then from the index page, click on Non-Heart Realm Contests. The contests are listing chronologically by entry deadline date. Happy hunting and good luck!

Historical Calendar of Events


Sanford B. Dole, American pioneer in Hawaii
Sarah Bernhardt, French actress
Robert Bridges, English poet laureate
Anatole France (pseudonym for Jacques Anatole Thibault), French novelist
Andrew Lang, Scottish writer
Paul Verlaine, French lyric poet
Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher
Sir Luke Fildes, English portrait painter
Henri Rousseau, French painter
Karl Hagenbeck, German founder of the Hamburg Zoo

Sir Hudson Lowe (Napoleon's jailer at St. Helena)
J. B. Drouet d'Erlon (French marshal and hero of the war in Algiers)
Karl IV, King of Sweden and Norway since 1818, dies on March 8 at age 81.
Jacques Laffitte (French financier and statesman)
Joseph Bonaparte (Brother of Napoleon)
Edmund Rice (Irish founder of the Christian Brothers)
Charles Bulfinch (U.S. architect)
Francis Baily (English astronomer)
John Dalton (English chemist and physicist)

Oscar I succeeds to throne of Sweden and Norway upon his father's death.
The Treaty of Tangier ends the French war in Morocco.
James Knox Polk is elected 11th President of the United States.
China and the United States sign first treaty of peace, amity and commerce.
The plan to annex Texas is rejected by the U.S. Senate.
Daniel O'Connell is found guilty of conspiracy against British rule in Ireland.
An attempt is made on the life of Frederick William IV, King of Prussia.
The great auk Pinguinus impennis, a flightless bird resembling the penguin, becomes extinct as the last one is killed by collectors on Eldey Island, 10 miles west of Iceland.
Spain creates a Guardia Civil to police rural areas.
Santo Domingo gains her independence from Haiti and establishes the Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola.

The Arts
Le Comte de Monte Cristo becomes a bestseller for Alexandre Dumas.
Alexandre Dumas, 42, publishes The Three Musketeers, featuring Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D'Artagnan who cry, "All for one, one for all" .
Elizabeth Barrett Browning publishes Poems.
Charles Dickens publishes "The Chimes."
William Makepeace Thackeray publishes Barry Lyndon.
In the United States, the most popular song is "Buffalo Girls (Won't You Come Out Tonight?)" by songwriter Cool White.

On May 24, Samuel B. Morse's telegraph is used for the first time between Baltimore and Washington. Samuel F. B. Morse transmits the telegraph message "What hath God wrought" from the U.S. Supreme Court room in the Capitol at Washington, D.C., to his associate Alfred L. Vail at the Mount Clare Station of the B&O Railroad at Baltimore.
The first public bath and wash houses opened in Liverpool, England.
Wood-pulp paper is invented by Friedrich Gottlob Keller. His process will reduce the price of newsprint and permit the growth of cheap mass media.
British railroad mileage reaches 2,236 miles from 26 in 1828.
The Young Men's Christian Association is founded in London by dry goods clerk George Williams, 23.
The Toronto Globe begins publication March 4
The State University of New York is founded at Albany.
Milk reaches Manchester by rail for the first time and shipments soon begin to London .
Boston dentist Horace Wells, pioneers anaesthesiology. He has learned how to administer nitrous oxide and uses it to deaden pain while extracting his own tooth.
Crawford Long of Jefferson, Georgia., makes the first use of ether in childbirth. He administers it to his wife during the delivery of their second child.
Wells, Fargo & Co. begins as an express service between Buffalo and Detroit started by entrepreneur Henry Wells, 38, with William George Fargo, 26, and another partner.

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