Literary Links

September/October 1999


Good News and Announcements

Michelle Hoppe, Literary Liaisons president, recently received a copy of a 1999 Writer's Digest publication, Your Novel Proposal: From Creation to Contract by Blythe Camenson and Marshall J. Cook.  Her query letter for her 1997 Golden Heart finalist, TEMPTING FATE, was featured with other query letters as writer samples. To learn more about this new book, visit our Feature Page.

Brenda Novak happily announces the sale of a book to Harlequin Superromance. Titled Expectations, Brenda's first contemporary is due out March, 2000. Her Long Historical Golden Heart finalist, Of Noble Birth, is due out November 1999. Look for it in stores beginning October 15.

Michelle Hoppe, Literary Liaisons president, is pleased to announce that she tied for second place in Inland Valley RWA's Put Your Best Hook Forward Contest with a new manuscript, LONG WAY HOME. 

Favorite Book of the Year--Don't forget to vote for your favorite romance book of 1999. See the RWA National web site for details.


New On Literary Liaisons

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

The Complete Idiot's Guide to British Royalty by Richard Buskin
Dress and Decoration of the Middle Ages by Henry Shaw
Romance Writer's Sourcebook: Where to Sell Your Manuscripts edited by David H. Borcherding
Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
Uppity Women of Medieval Times by Vicki Leon
The War the Women Lived: Female Voices from the Confederate South by Walter Sullivan
Wild Women: Crusaders, Curmudgeons and Completely Corsetless Ladies in the Otherwise Virtuous Victorian Era by Autumn Stephens
Writing Romances: A Handbook by the Romance Writers of America edited by Rita Gallagher and Rita Clay Estrada

Various Titles by Emile Zola

Featured Title

Your Novel Proposal: From Creation to Contract by Blythe Camenson and Marshall J. Cook

RWA Chapters On-line

Silicon Valley RWA
Utah Chapter RWA (URWA)

Researching the Romance

The Complete Idiot's Guide to British Royalty by Richard Buskin
Dress and Decoration of the Middle Ages by Henry Shaw
Romance Writer's Sourcebook: Where to Sell Your Manuscripts edited by David H. Borcherding
Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
Uppity Women of Medieval Times by Vicki Leon
The War the Women Lived: Female Voices from the Confederate South by Walter Sullivan
Wild Women: Crusaders, Curmudgeons and Completely Corsetless Ladies in the Otherwise Virtuous Victorian Era by Autumn Stephens
Writing Romances: A Handbook by the Romance Writers of America edited by Rita Gallagher and Rita Clay Estrada
Your Novel Proposal: From Creation to Contract by Blythe Camenson and Marshall J. Cook

Writers' Resources

Diary of a Young Lady
Duttie's Just Victorian
Forbes Publishing
Heraldry on the Internet
Horus's History Resources
Medieval Glossary & Information
Medieval and Renaissance Culture
Medieval and Renaissance Wedding Page
Useful dates in British History
Victorian London Research
Victorian Station


Feature Article 



By Brenda Novak

"To be a successful writer, you have to sell yourself, not a manuscript."

I received that piece of advice shortly after I finished Of Noble Birth, my first attempt at writing fiction-at writing anything-and though I don't remember who offered me those words of wisdom, I do remember how hopeless they made me feel. How could I "sell" myself? I had nothing I could include in a query that would lend me credibility as a writer, nothing that would set my letter apart from the avalanche of mail on an editor's desk. I had no degree, in English or otherwise. I had never written or published any articles. I had never tried my hand at nonfiction. And I couldn't say I was an expert in any one field: I wasn't a doctor, a lawyer, a pilot, a policewoman, or a firefighter. I couldn't even claim I had dreamed of writing my entire life. I had stumbled upon the desire to do so at thirty, had a background in business, and was raising four children, with one more on the way. I doubted anyone in New York would be impressed.

Fortunately half of this business is luck and timing, and more than anything else, perseverance. You might be starting on the ground floor, but a solid manuscript and an abundance of determination is a foundation worth building on. Start by educating yourself, creating opportunities to meet editors and agents, and cultivating relationships in the industry.

Romance Writer's of America and other writer's organizations like it make this first step easy. I joined RWA a month before their 1996 national conference and showed up in Dallas five months pregnant and without knowing a single soul, and it was still easy. I attended workshops, met agents, listened to editors give presentations on their respective publishers, garnered advice from the multi-published, and left Texas with more information than I could process in a single week.

I also went home with the discouraging knowledge that the manuscript I had worked so hard to prefect was twice as long as it should be and was way off target for the market. No one was going to buy it in its current form. But that's where determination came to my rescue. I believed in my story, and in my dream. I rewrote Of Noble Birth, along with a second book. Then I took step two: I entered several contests to see if I was getting any warmer. I didn't place in the first few, but I took the feedback I received, improved both manuscripts, started my third book, and kept entering. Soon all three manuscripts were consistently doing well, and my score sheets were returning with compliments scrawled across the pages from multi-published authors-names I had long admired-and others who had judged my work and were offering encouragement. Before long I had won or placed in fifteen contests.

Through these contests, my work was being sent to editors. My manuscripts were getting read instead of waiting at the bottom of the slush pile. And I finally had a little something I could include in the queries I sent out on my own with words like "award-winning" and "1997 Golden Heart finalist." In addition, I had the names of several published authors who liked my "voice" and had voluntarily identified themselves. They had the name recognition and credibility I lacked, so I asked them for permission to use the comments they had written on my score sheets in a letter designed to interest an agent.

Which brings me to step 3: Get an agent (actually, I should specify here-get a reputable agent). Your first agent might not be a big name, but having one pulls you another step up that credibility ladder. Now someone else believes in your work and in your work's potential to make you both money. You usually get your submissions read quicker, and sometimes by someone a little farther up the chain of command because having an agent tells an editor you've made it through the first line of defense against a bad manuscript. Also, editors generally feel more accountable to agents. My first agent offered me sage advice on certain story elements, gave me some much-needed positive reinforcement, and managed to sell Of Noble Birth last fall, about a year after she took me on as a client. Since then I have sold three contemporary novels to Harlequin Superromance. The first, Expectations, will be coming out mid-February 2000.

I would never presume to say that my little resume building is a foolproof plan. Nor would I intimate it is the only way, or the best way. Whether or not contests truly help your career and whether or not you need an agent are hotly debated topics in writer's circles, and the answers aren't the same for everyone. Building a writer's resume is just one way-the way I scaled the walls and climbed in the window of the fortress called "getting published."


Brenda Novak, 1997 and 1998 Golden Heart Finalist, is Vice-President for Sacramento Valley Rose RWA. Her first release, Of Noble Birth, is a November, 1999 HarperPaperback, available October 15, 1999. Here is a short synopsis of her book:

When Nathaniel Kent is born deformed, his arrogant father, The Duke of Greystone, tries to kill him. The duke might have succeeded if not for the steady housekeeper, who steals Nathaniel away and raises him as her own. As an adult, Nathaniel is tall, broad-shouldered and darkly handsome, but has only one arm; the other dangles uselessly at his side--a constant reminder of the deprivations of his youth and the hatred that burns inside him. Determined to have what should rightfully be his, he takes to the sea as a pirate, preying upon his father's ships, but when he kidnaps Alexandra Cogsworth, a beautiful seamstress he mistakenly believes to be his half sister, he gets more than he bargained for. He must fight his desire for her while engaging in a dangerous battle of wills with the powerful duke. And when he learns Alexandra's true identity, the stakes are raised again because he has something he can lose...besides his heart.

To learn more about Brenda and her upcoming releases, visit her web site at

To buy Brenda's book from, click here!

--For more sources on Romance Writing, I suggest the following references:

How To Write Romances by Phyllis Taylor Pianka, ISBN#0898798671
Romance Writer's Sourcebook, edited by David H. Borcherding, ISBN#0898797268
Writing Romances edited by Rita Gallagher and Rita Clay Estrada, ISBN#089879756X

These books are available for purchase in our on-line bookstore in the non-fiction section.
Also see the
Researching the Romance page of Literary Liaisons for more suggestions.


Editor's Note

I am pleased to feature a new writer in our newsletter this month. Brenda Novak and I met on-line just a few weeks before the 1997 Golden Heart finalists were announced. Imagine our surprise, when we, virtual strangers, learned that not only were we both Golden Heart Finalists, but in the same category--Long Historical. It was the beginning of a nerve-wracking few months, culminating with meeting in person in Orlando at the RWA conference. We've kept in contact ever since, and I am happy to report that Brenda is about to see her Golden Heart Finalist, Of Noble Birth, on the bookstore shelves soon. I hope you enjoy her book as much as I've enjoyed her friendship and support. To learn more about Brenda and her works in progress, visit her web site, designed by Literary Liaisons, Ltd.. Just click here!


FAQ Column

Q: Are there any changes in store for Literary Liaisons?

A: As a matter of fact, yes. Literary Liaisons will now provide a link to authors' home pages for free in exchange for a 750-1000 word article for this newsletter. What will you be getting from this offer? Exposure to almost 400 visitors per month, a feature in the newsletter, and your books added to the Literary Liaisons bookstore. Just send us an article, we'll review it, and once approved, publish it in our next available issue of Literary Links. To learn more about this offer, see our Authors' Links page.


Historical Calendar of Events


Ferdinand Foch, French marshal
Mrs. Humphry Ward, English novelist

January 27--John James Audubon, U.S. naturalist, aged 65
July 10--Louis Daguerre, French photographic pioneer
September 14--James Fenimore Cooper, American novelist
December 19--J. M. W. Turner, English landscape and seascape painter, aged 76

February 15--A mob of Boston blacks defies the Fugitive Slave Act and rescues the fugitive Shadrach from jail.
July 1--Victoria is proclaimed a separate Australian colony from New South Wales.
Jul 23--Sioux chieftains cede all Sioux lands in Iowa and some in Minnesota to the federal government.
December 2-- President Louis Napoleon Bonaparte and his half brother Count Morny engineer a coup d'état, ending France's Second Republic.
Seattle is founded in Oregon Territory, although the name won't be given until 1853.
U.S. social reformer Amelia Jenks Bloomer, 33, urges reform of women's clothing in her magazine The Lily.
Siam's Rama III (Phra Nang Klao) dies after a 27-year reign that has seen the reopening of his country to contact with the West. He is succeeded by his half brother Phra Chom Klao Mongkut.
Prussia recognizes the German Confederation and concludes a commercial treaty with Hanover.
Cuba declares its independence.

The Arts

Washington Crossing the Delaware by German painter Emanuel Leutze
La Danse des Nymphes by Jean Baptiste Corot
Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World by London University historian Edward Shepherd Creasy
The League of the. . . Iroquois by Lewis Henry Morgan of Rochester, New York.
Uncle Tom's Cabin, or Life Among the Lowly (first serial installments) by U.S. novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Snow-Image and Other Twice-Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Romanzero by Heinrich Heine.
March 11--Rigoletto premieres at Venice's Teatro la Fenice, with music by Giuseppe Verdi.
March 6--Love in a Maze by Boucicault at the Princess' Theatre, London
June 14--The Follies of Marianne (Les Caprices de Marianne) by Alfred de Musset at the Comédie-Française, Paris
August 14--An Italian Straw Hat (Un Chapeau de Paille d'Italie) by French playwright Eugène Labiche at the Théâtre de la Montansier, Paris.
October 30--Bettine by Alfred de Musset at the Théâtre du Gymnase, Paris
Dame de Pique by Dion Boucicault at London's Drury Lane Theatre.
Popular songs:
"Old Folks at Home" by Stephen C. Foster

Daily Life
Ireland suffers widespread blindness as a result of the malnutrition experienced in the potato famine that began in 1846.
An Australian gold rush follows the discovery by sheep station manager Edward Hammond Hargreaves of New South Wales.
The U.S. Treasury turns out nearly 4 million $1 gold pieces.
Congress votes March 3 to authorize minting of 3 silver coins to reduce the demand for large copper pennies.
Boston's Jordan Marsh Co. has its beginnings in a dry goods shop opened by merchants Eben D. Jordan and Benjamin L. Marsh.
Lazarus Brothers opens at Columbus, Ohio, where Fred Lazarus and his brothers start a dry goods shop.
The New York Times begins publication September 18 with Henry J. Raymond as editor.
Northwestern University is founded north of Chicago in an area that will be called Evanston after physician John Evans, professor of obstetrics at Chicago's Rush Medical College.
The University of Minnesota is founded at Minneapolis.
Duke University has its beginnings in North Carolina's Trinity College in Durham.
The London Great Exhibition forbids sale of wine, spirits, beer, and other intoxicating beverages, permitting only tea, coffee, chocolate, cocoa, lemonade, ices, ginger-beer, and soda water. The firm Messrs. Schweppe & Co. sells nearly 85,000 dozen bottled beverages at the Exhibition.
The first U.S. state prohibition law is voted in Maine.
The first wholesale ice cream business is founded by Baltimore milk dealer Jacob Fussell who receives milk in steady supply but is faced with a problem of erratic demand.
The Castle & Cooke food empire has its beginnings in a Honolulu mercantile house started by former missionaries Samuel Northrup Castle and Amos Starr Cooke who arrived in the Sandwich Islands aboard the Mary Frazier in 1837.
Men and women are treated equally and all classes of work are viewed as equally honorable in the Oneida Community which has 300 members living in communal buildings made of timber from the community's farms. Children are reared in the "children's house" operated by men and women considered best qualified.
The Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) opens its first American offices at Boston and Montreal.
Fire damages the Library of Congress in the Capitol at Washington December 24, destroying two-thirds of the collection acquired from Thomas Jefferson in 1814.
China's population reaches 440 million. India has a population of 205 million, Russia 65, Turkey 27, France 36, the German states and free cities 34, Japan 33.5, the Italian states 24, Britain 20.9 (with 17.9 in England and Wales), Brazil about 8 million including 2.5 million slaves, the United States 23.6 million with nearly half living west of the Alleghenies.
More than 250,000 Irish emigrate and the country's population falls to 6.5 million, down from 10,175,000 in 1841.
The United States will receive 2.5 million immigrants in this decade, up from 1.7 million in the 1840s.
London is the world's largest city with a population of 2.37 million. Sochow has 2 million, Beijing 1.65, Guangzhou (Canton) 1.24; Changchow, Jiujiang (Kingtehchen), Xian (Sian), and Siangtan 1 million each, Wuhan 997,000, Constantinople 900,000, Calcutta 800,000, Hangchow 700,000, Bombay 650,000, Fuzhou (Foochow) 600,000. Paris has nearly 1.3 million.
August 22--The America's Cup is won by the U.S. schooner America, and will remain in the United States until 1983. It will be the most coveted trophy in world ocean racing.

The London Great Exhibition that opens May 1 is the world's first world's fair and in 141 days attracts more than 6 million admissions.
The London Great Exhibition is housed in a Hyde Park pavilion constructed by English gardener Joseph Paxton. The Crystal Palace is a 108-foot high greenhouse modeled after a conservatory designed by Paxton at Chatsworth in the late 1830s using newly developed techniques for making large sheets of glass. It takes 2,000 men to build, has consumed one-third the nation's glass output for a whole year, and is not only the world's largest glass-walled structure but the largest single structure of any kind yet seen in the world, enclosing an area four times that of St. Peter's in Rome. The gas-lighted Crystal Palace will be a major influence in European railway station design for decades to come and will be copied almost literally for a New York exposition in 1853.
Upon Gail Borden's returns from the London Great Exhibition, his ship encounters rough seas on the Atlantic. The two cows in the ship's hold become too seasick to be milked, an immigrant infant dies, and the hungry cries of the other infants determine Borden to find a way to produce a portable condensed milk that can keep without spoiling.
The Colt revolver exhibited at the London Great Exhibition alarms British gun makers who fear that Colt's mass-production methods will swamp their handmade guns. But gun maker Robert Adams has patented a revolver that re-cocks itself each time the trigger is pulled, while the .36 caliber Colt is a single-action revolver and must be thumb-cocked for each shot.
Cyrus McCormick exhibits his reaper at the London Great Exhibition.
The first successful cable is laid between Dover and Calais under the English Channel.
Reuters News Service is started by German entrepreneur Paul Julius Reuter, who moves to London to take advantage of the new Channel cable. He establishes a continental cable service that will become a worldwide news agency that will compete with the Associated Press and with other news agencies.
I. M. Singer receives a patent on his sewing machine August 12.
Helmholtz invents the ophthalmoscope.
The London firm Bax & Co. in Regent Street makes a new raincoat from a chemically treated wool fiber trademarked Aquascutum. It will challenge the Macintosh raincoat of 1823.
Several tons of butter are shipped by rail from Ogdensburg, N.Y., to Boston in an ice-cooled wooden railcar insulated with sawdust.
English architect Scott Archer publishes a wet collodion process for developing photographic images that will be used in photomechanical houses for nearly a century. Archer's process, which he does not patent, will replace Calotype and daguerrotype.
The Erie Railroad reaches Dunkirk on Lake Erie May 15-the first line linking New York City with the Great Lakes.
The Pennsylvania Railroad reaches Pittsburgh.
The Baltimore & Ohio reaches the Ohio River at Wheeling.
The Hudson River Railroad opens to link New York City with East Albany.
The Missouri Pacific Railway begins laying track at St. Louis July 4 under the name Pacific Railway. The first railroad west of the Mississippi, it will grow to serve the Mississippi Valley south to Memphis and New Orleans and the Missouri Valley west to Kansas City and Pueblo, Colo., but will never reach the Pacific.
Some 4,400 miles of railway track will be laid this year and next between the Atlantic seaboard and the Mississippi.
The Flying Cloud, launched by Nova Scotia-born Boston shipbuilder Donald McKay, 40, is a 229-foot clipper ship. Forty-one feet wide, 22 feet deep, and displacing 1,783 tons, she sails from Pier 20 on New York's East River and sets a new record by reaching San Francisco in just under 90 days.
William Cubitt builds King's Cross Station, London.
The first double-decker bus is introduced.

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