Literary Links

September/October 2002


Good News and Announcements

New Publication Available!--Michelle Jean Hoppe has completed a comprehensive research guide for writers of British historicals.  Entitled Researching the British Historical--The Victorian Era, this guide includes articles, extensive bibliographies and time lines on everything Victorian. Copies are available through Literary Liaisons for $19.95 each, plus shipping and handling. For more information, click here!

Autumn Authors Affair--A Writer's Rendezvous--Join the Love Designers Writers' Club for their annual conference this year from October 18-20, 2002 at the Hickory Ridge Conference Center in Lisle, Il.  Michelle Jean Hoppe, President of Literary Liaisons, will be speaking with Wendy Blythe Gifford at the conference.  Their topic will be 'Researching the Historical'. Other authors include Sharon DeVita, Cathie Linz, Shari Anton and Jennifer Greene. For more information, visit the Love Designers web site.

Favorite Book of the Year--Nominations are now being taken for RWA's Favorite Book of 2002.  If you are a member of RWA, nominate your favorite book on-line at the RWA National web site.

RWA National Elections--Elections are now under way for RWA board positions.  Votes must be in by October 1, 2002. See the RWA National web site for more information.


New On Literary Liaisons

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




Various Titles by Sharon DeVita, featured author




Bodies of Evidence: Medicine and the Politics of the English Inquest, 1830-1926 by Ian A. Burney

The Complete Guide to Book Publicity by Jodee Blanco

Editing Fact and Fiction : A Concise Guide to Book Editing by Leslie T. Sharpe
The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale

Victorian Babylon: People, Streets and Images in Nineteenth-Century London by Lynda Nead

Featured Title

100 Things Every Writer Needs to Know by Scott Edelstein

The Video Library

How To Dance through Time Volume I: The Romance of Mid-19th Century Couple Dances 


Researching the Romance


Bodies of Evidence: Medicine and the Politics of the English Inquest, 1830-1926 by Ian A. Burney

The Complete Guide to Book Publicity by Jodee Blanco

Editing Fact and Fiction : A Concise Guide to Book Editing by Leslie T. Sharpe
The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale

Victorian Babylon: People, Streets and Images in Nineteenth-Century London by Lynda Nead


RWA Chapters Online


Charter Oak Romance Writers

Gothic Romance Writers, Inc.

Hearts Through History (New URL)

Iowa Romance Novelists

Love Designers Writer's Club (New URL)

Nebraska Romance Writers

Romance Writers Ink



Writers' Resources Online


Best History Sites

Early Modern Women Database

Orphan Train Collection

Scheherazade Tales E-Publisher

Search-22 Reference Searches

Sunday School Books 


Feature Article 

Hiring An Agent

by Sharon DeVita

There's an old cliché: you can't get published without an agent, but you can't get an agent until you're published.

True?  Or False?

I guess it's a little bit of both--depending on what you're trying to publish.

If you're trying to break into one of the traditional category romance houses, i.e. Silhouette, Harlequin, Mills and Boon, etc., the truth of the matter is you don't need an agent, and in fact an agent probably won't be able to improve on any category houses' standard boilerplate contract.  I know this from personal experience because I negotiated the contract for more than half of my 23 category romances myself.

So obtaining an agent at this point in your career will only be another extra expense--10-15% of your hard-earned advance and royalty money.

But what about bigger houses? Bantam, Dell, Harper, Avon?  While it's true that these houses still--on occasion--accept unagented material, be advised that if you send in your material on your own, it will sit in the 'slush' pile and get read...whenever.  So getting an agent in order to submit to a non-category house might be useful.

Now, before you rush out and 'get' an agent, there's a few things you need to remember: first and foremost, the agent works for you.  Repeat that! The agent works for you--not the other way around.  As such, you're the one who pays them, not your publisher, you do, and you have a right to expect certain things because you are paying them.  Do not simply 'take' any agent who will 'take' you. Be discriminating. A bad agent is far worse than no agent. Again, trust me on this. It once again comes from personal experience. I have fired no less than four agents in my career, two after only a brief period (less than three months), simply because they either did not follow through on something they promised, or they did something directly against a directive I gave them. Both no-no's in my book.  This is YOUR career; you're the only one responsible for it so don't turn your power over to anyone, especially an agent. Don't let them make decisions about your career without consulting you, or without your consent or approval.

When you start looking for an agent, I'd suggest you research the matter thoroughly.  First, start with the latest copy of the Guide to Literary Agents published annually by Writer's Digest Books. Jeff Herman also annually puts out a fabulous book on agents.  I'd also check out the web.  There's a great web site called  It has tons of info for both the novice and the experienced author. 

When you send off your query letter to your chosen agent--and i'm a firm believer in multiple submissions for agents--they can say they prefer no multiple submissions, but that's their preference--for this benefit. Are you going to accept someone else's 'rules' for your career? I don't think so.  When you send your query, make it professional. DO not even think about including info on your days as a Brownie Leader, basketball coach, etc. While those are great and noble things, they have nothing to do with the business at hand--your writing business. Your query letter should outline your publishing credentials in the opening paragraph. If you don't yet have any publishing credentials, then you should open with a brief, attention-grabbing paragraph describing your book.  Whenever you send a query to an agent, remember they receive about 500-1000 queries per week.  You want yours to stand out--as being professional--not because you wrote it on pink scented floral paper! State some of your career goals in the body of the letter, with an offer to send the completed proposal to the agent--at their request.

Now, here are some simple dos and don'ts that I believe will help:

*Do not take the first agent who shows an interest. Make sure you check out each and every one's credentials.  Ask questions! Are they a member of AAR? If not, I'd take a pass. How many clients do they have? How many in your genre? How many sales in the last 12-24 months? What is their expected turn-around time of your material? Do they feel they have the credentials to help you achieve both your career goals and your potential?

All of these questions are vital before you put your name on the dotted line. And please don't think that because you have no publishing credentials you're not entitled to ask these questions. If you're paying an agent 15% of your hard-earned money, you're entitled to ask questions that no reputable agent should have any problem answering.

*Agents sell books; editors buy books. NOT PROPOSALS! Do NOT even consider asking an agent to review your work if you don't have a completed manuscript. Until you've finished a book, you can't sell it, so why waste everyone's time?

*Ask for references from friends, published authors, etc. I never have a problem giving an accurate assessment of any agent I've worked with, and I don't know that many other authors do. So ask!

*Check the agent out with RWA. They have a database that lists agents authors have had serious problems with. Before you sigh on the dotted line, check it out with RWA.

*Once you've found an agent you think you can live with--do NOT harass or bug them. Calling them six times in six months about your proposal is not going to endear you to them. Get back to writing and forget about the book the agent has.You've done your part, now let him/her do his/hers.

Sharon DeVita has published more than 23 books with Harlequin and Silhouette.  She is a member of Chicago-North RWA and often speaks at local conferences.  Sharon's May 2002 release from Silhouette Special Edition, A Family To Come Home To, is the third book in her Saddle Falls continuity series.

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


Editor's Note

As I write this on the anniversary of one of the most historic and memorable events in U.S. history, I marvel at the healing we have achieved in the face of disaster, and yet still mourn for those lives lost.  I think back to other events in history, which caused others to grieve. There have been countless wars, natural disasters and personal tragedies suffered, some justified and some not, over the last centuries.  But through it all, there was faith and hope to help heal the scars. And love. It is an emotion stronger than any other.  It as emotion we write about, because it is so all-powerful and all-consuming.  And it is eternal.  Just as our stories are eternal. Literary circles may scoff at the 'fluff' we write, but they are stories of triumph and goodness.  So please, don't ever stop writing about the good in the world.  We can never have too much love.

---Michelle Hoppe

President, Literary Liaisons, Ltd.

Q&A Column

Q: I am interested in finding out proper behaviour for pregnant women in 1870. what was appropriate to wear, what was appropriate behaviour, etc.

Norma R.

A:  A woman of the 19th century never discussed her pregnancy in public. Nor would she even use the term 'pregnant' in the company of family or close friends. She was "anticipating, enceinte, expectant, in a family way, or in a delicate condition."
A proper woman would not appear in public once her pregnancy began to show. So she would do everything she could to hide her pregnancy for as long as possible. She would alter her dresses to allow for an expanding waistline. (By wearing older clothing, she would not be openly admitting that she required a new wardrobe for a new condition.)
To hold in her expanding stomach, she would wear Gestation Stays. Gestation Stays are a maternity corset with adjustable hip gores and breast openings. It was laced at the sides rather than the back, and had buttons in the front. It would be worn during pregnancy, and again after in order to restore the figure after childbirth. 
Thus, women could appear in public as far into their pregnancy as the seventh month if the stays were tight enough. Unfortunately, this often resulted in a very difficult childbirth.

Michelle Hoppe
President, Literary Liaisons, Ltd.

Historical Calendar of Events


Neville Chamberlain--British Politician

Mahatma Ghandi--Indian nationalist leader

Andre Gide--French author

Edwin Lutyens--British architect

Henri Matisse--French painter

Frank Lloyd Wright--American architect

Siegfried Wagner--German composer



Alphonse de Lamartine--French author

Hector Berlioz--musician



General Grant inaugurated as 18th President of the United States.

The U.S. National Prohibition Party was formed in Chicago.

Red River Rebellion occured in Canada, capturing Fort Garry and establishing a provisional government.

The first Nihilist Congress met at Basel, Switzerland.

Britain passed the Contagious Diseases Act, which allowed police constables to arrest female prostitutes but took no action against their male customers.

The American Woman’s Suffrage Association was founded by Susan Brownell Anthony.

The new Wyoming Territory enacted a law December 10 giving women the right both to vote and to hold office.

Street riots erupted July 13 in San Francisco against Chinese laborers.

Chiefs of Japan’s four great clans surrendered their territories to the Meiji emperor in March. 

Hyderabad’s Mahbub Ali Pasha began a 42-year reign as Nizam of a country  in central India’s Deccan plateau.

Greece evacuated Crete following a Turkish ultimatum.

The Noble Order of the Knights of Labor was founded by U.S. union organizers. 

A British Customs Duty Act abolished duties on food imports. 


The Arts


"The Execution of Emperor Maximilan of Mexico" by Eduoard Manet

"The Balcony Painting" by Manet


Culture and Anarchy by Matthew Arnold

The Philosophy of the Unconscious by Eduard Hartmann

On the Subjection of Women by J.S. Mill

Hereditary Genius by Francis Galton


Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore

The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

L'homme qui rit by Victor Hugo

Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope

"The Outcasts of Poker Flat" by Bret Harte

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

"The Ring and the Book" by Robert Browning

The Stage:

The League of Youth by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen


Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner, in Munich


Tragic by Franz Schubert premiered Feb 26 at London's Crystal Palace.

Antar by Nikolai Korsakov premiered March 22 in St. Petersburg.

Liebeslieder Walzer by Johannes Brahms premiered October 6 at Carlsruhe. 

"Concerto in G minor for Piano and Orchestra" by Edvard Grieg premiered April 3 at Copenhagen.

"Mass in E minor" by Anton Bruckner premiered September 30 at the still incomplete Linz Cathedral

Popular songs:

"Sweet Genevieve" by Henry Tucker

"Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me" by Frank Campbell


Daily Life

At the First Vatican Council, Cardinal Manning advocated a definition of papal infallibility.

Pope Pius IX declared abortion of any kind an excommunicatory sin.

British Debtor's Prisons were abolished.

The Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first salaried baseball team.

Princeton and Rutgers originated intercollegiate football at Brunswick, New Jersey.

The first postcards were introduced in Austria.

The coffee rust that appeared in Ceylon plantations began to spread throughout Asia and the Pacific. It would destroy the coffee-growing industry, which would lead to wide-scale tea cultivation.

Garden City, Long Island, was started by New York department store magnate A. T. Stewart as a planned community for families of moderate income.

Nashville’s Maxwell House opened in Tennessee. The hotel has served as barracks, prison, and hospital throughout the Civil War.

Cairo’s Mena House hotel opened to serve guests attending the opening of the Suez Canal.

Harper’s Weekly cartoonist Thomas Nast drew the first of many caricatures attacking New York’s Tweed Ring.

George P. Rowell stabilized the U.S. advertising business by publishing the first open, accurate list of American newspapers.

Wall Street had its first “Black Friday” September 24, ruining small speculators.  

T. Eaton Co., Ltd., opened December 8 at 178 Yonge Street, Toronto, with prices clearly marked and no bartering or credit allowed. This new dry goods store would grow to become the largest Canadian retail enterprise after the Hudson Bay company.

Girton College of Cambridge was founded.

Howard College held its first classes at Washington, D.C., where it was organized by the Freedmen’s Bureau in 1867.

Purdue University was founded at Lafayette, Indiana.

Southern Illinois University was founded at Carbondale. 

The University of Nebraska was founded at Lincoln.

Japan’s first public elementary school opened in May at Kyoto.

The Harvard Medical School rejected a demand by President Charles W. Eliot that students be given written examinations. “A majority of the students cannot write well enough,” said the dean.

The Cardiff Giant was “discovered” at Cardiff, N.Y., where the huge stone figure of a man had been buried secretly by promoters who claimed the figure was a petrified man from biblical times. The hoax took in many men before it was exposed. 

Vienna’s Staatsoper (State Opera House) opened off the Karntner Ring Strasse with 2,263 seats.

New York Herald publisher James Gordon Bennett, commissioned Welsh-American newspaper correspondent Henry Morton Stanley  to locate Scottish missionary David Livingstone in Africa. 

The American Woman’s Home by Catharine Esther Beecher and her sister Harriet Beecher Stowe deplored the popularity of store-bought bread which accounted for 2 percent of all bread eaten in America.

Boston annexed Dorchester 2 years after having annexed Roxbury.

The A&P got its name as the 10-year-old Great American Tea Company was renamed the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company to capitalize on the national excitement about the new transcontinental rail link. Proprietors George H. Hartford and George F. Gilman attracted customers by offering promotional efforts while broadening their line of grocery items to include coffee, spices, baking powder, condensed milk, and soap as well as tea.

Nature, a 40-page “weekly illustrated journal of science,” began publication November 4 in London.




The Suez Canal was opened by Empress Eugenie.

J. W. Hyatt invented celluloid.

Mendeleyev formulated his periodic law for the classification of elements

Gustav Nachitgal explored the Sudan and the Sahara.

The clipper ship Cutty Sark was launched in England and sailed for Shanghai.  The journey would last 117 days.

The Glory of the Seas, launched by Boston’s Donald McKay, was his last sailing ship; it would remain in service until 1923.  

The first U.S. plow with a moldboard entirely of chilled steel was patented by James Oliver of the Oliver Chilled Plow Works.

Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue was paved with wooden blocks for a mile between 1st Street and the Treasury Department building at 15th Street.

Cyrus Field completed a successful cable connection between France and Duxbury, Massachusetts. 

Pennsylvania oil wells produced 4.8 million barrels of crude oil this year.

Union Bag & Paper Co. had its beginnings in a patent pool formed by  U.S. bagmakers to monopolize control of machines which Union Bag would lease.  

The Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads joined up May 10 at Promontory Point near Ogden in Utah Territory.  Travel time between New York and San Francisco would fall to just 8 days, down from a minimum of 3 months.

A cog railway up New Hampshire’s 6,293-foot Mount Washington was completed by U.S. inventor Sylvester Marsh.

U.S. Baptist minister Jonathan Scobie invented the rickshaw to transport his invalid wife about town in Yokohama.

Kansas City’s Hannibal Bridge opened in July—the first permanent structure to span the Missouri River.  

Cornelius Vanderbilt consolidated the Hudson River and New York Central railroads to gain a monopoly in rail transport between New York and Buffalo.

German zoology professor Ernst Heinrich Haeckel coined the word “ecology” to mean environmental balance. 

Stanley Rule & Level Co. of New Britain, Connecticut, bought the patent rights and business of Leonard Bailey, who invented the first metal plane. 

German medical student Paul Langerhans discovered tiny cells in the pancreas that produce glucagon and insulin, ductless gland secretions essential to normal human metabolism.

Massachusetts established the first state board of health.

Gypsy moths were brought to Medford, Massachusetts by French naturalist Leopold Trouvelot who hoped to start a New England silk industry. The moths escaped and their larvae (which feed on leaves) would defoliate American woodlands over the next 20 years.  

U.S. geologist John Wesley Powell began explorations of the Green and Colorado Rivers in the Utah and Colorado Territories.  

Daily weather bulletins were inaugurated by U.S. astronomer Abbe Cleveland,  the first U.S. Weather Bureau meteorologist.

Hippolyte Mége-Mouries produced margarine commercially for the first time. The product was patented in England under the name “butterine”.

Boston received its first shipment of fresh meat from Chicago by way of a refrigerated railcar developed last year by William Davis.

Armour & Co. added beef to its line of pork products. 

Campbell Soup Co. had its beginnings in a cannery opened at Camden, New Jersey by Philadelphia fruit wholesaler Joseph Campbell and icebox maker Abram Anderson. They began canning small peas and fancy asparagus.

H. J. Heinz Co. had its beginnings at Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania., where local entrepreneur Henry John Heinz went into business with partner L. C. Noble to pack processed horseradish in clear bottles. 

Welch’s Grape Juice had its beginnings at Vineland, New Jersey where dentist Thomas Bramwell Welch developed a temperance substitute for the intoxicating wine used in his church’s communion service. 

Japan’s Kirin Brewery was founded by U.S. entrepreneur William Copeland at Yokohama under the name Spring Valley Brewery .

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