Sunday, June 27, 2010

Resources for Writers #23: Websites of Interest

No matter what genre in which a writer mostly writes, she never loses an opportunity to bookmark a site accidentally (or purposely) stumbled upon. It’s sort of like saving those rubber bands that come around newspapers or twist-ties from bread bags. You ‘might need it someday’, so it gets tucked away. So here are some good sites that I’ve ‘tucked away’ for future reference:

2)     The Criminal Justice Process (This one happens to be from NJ, but I’m thinking it’s fairly general and also that other states have similar sites.)

3)     List of Children of the Presidents of the United States (with links to their stories)

Admittedly, the foregoing is a strange hodge-podge, but some of the sites have links to other related sites—so you never know.

Never let a good website go un-bookmarked! You never know when it will come in handy—for you or a fellow writer.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Resources for Writers #22: What Language Does Your Character Speak?

Looking to add a little ethnic flavor to your writing? Throw in a few foreign words and phrases—but be careful! You could embarrass yourself! To be sure that your characters “speak” accurately, look for these Langenscheidt’s Bilingual Dictionaries:

Chinese (Mandarin)                           Japanese
Croatian                                            Korean
Danish                                               Latin
Dutch                                                Norweigian
Finnish                                               Polish
French                                               Portuguese
German                                              Romanian
Greek (Classical)                                Russian
Greek (Modern)                                 Spanish
Hebrew                                              Turkish
Italian                                                 Vietnamese

People tend to buy these dictionaries for a specific purpose (like writing!) and pass them on when they’re finished. Some great places to find these gently-used tomes are Half-Price Books and online at ABE Books.

You’ll also want to check Lagenscheidt’s website for their offerings in travel guides and atlases.

So take your readers out of their usual habitats and travel the globe!

Disclaimer:  I have received no request to share this information or remuneration for same.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Resources for Writers #21: Those Far-Away Places...

Those far away places with the strange sounding names

I remember hearing that song on the radio when I was growing up, and even then, wanderlust stirred in my soul. Over the years, I've been lucky enough to travel some in Europe and in most of the southern U.S.--but back then, my mind wasn't honing in on/filing away plots/settings/characters for future stories and novels. Now I wish I could go back. Maybe someday.

Meanwhile, here is a new resource I happened on in the dentist's waiting room the other day. It impressed me so much that I hurried over to Books-a-Million and purchased the latest issue, then came home and subscribed for a year at about $1.20/issue!

It's called Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel: Vacations for Real People. Authors are real people writing about real people (mostly), so hey--give it a whirl! The June 2010 issue is 'the food issue', so it's chok full of information thatt will make your stories sound like you've 'been there done that'. How about, "The World's Best Street Food"? Who wouldn't like to know where their characters might stop for a bite in Ensenada, Mexico, Rio de Janeiro, Brussels, Istanbul, Vienna, Marrakech, Tel Aviv, Bangkok, Singapore, and Hanoi?

And take a look at "Eat Like a Local in Rome". By the time I finished 'visiting' the Taverna Romana, Armando an Pantheon, Osteria Qui Se Magna, Da Lucia, and Da Tonino al Governo Vecchio, I was drooling--not only for the food but for the atmosphere as well!

Here are setting ideas, pictures to jump-start descriptive passages, and authentic information all rolled together into one handy magazine. You can search the internet and come up with some great (hopefully up-to-date) information--or you can take an armchair vacation with this magazine, frantically scribbling notes and ideas for your next blockbuster novel or prize-winning short story.

There's even an online site for more ideas and information. And here's the link to the magazine itself.

Disclaimer: I share this information strictly writer-to-writer and have received no request/remuneration for same!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Resources for Writers #20: Right in Your Own Hometown...

For NaNoWriMo 2008, I wrote Dancing with Velvet, a story set during World War II in my hometown. Even though the places I wrote about were familiar to me, I still needed to do some in-depth research to make sure I had my ducks in a row. The following resources provided enormous assistance:

(1) City directories, found in your local library, will give you a street-by-street look at what businesses were located where and when. (Also residential areas)

(2) Old yearbooks, hopefully still retained by local high schools, tell you about current styles and trends for the period about which you’re writing.

(3) Vertical files in the library are wonderful collections of periodical clippings sorted by subject. Unfortunately, these files are going the way of the typewriter, so if your library as one, hint that you’d be glad to take possession of it rather than see it go to the dumpster. If you live out of the area, a phone call to the reference librarian with an offer to pay for copying might yield a real treasure.

(4) Some newspapers still keep their own vertical files in ‘the morgue’—but you may have to do some wheeling and dealing to gain admittance these days. Once upon a time, ‘the morgue’ had its own librarian, but that’s changing.

(5) If your town is home to a college or university, you may find a special collection of materials donated by the citizens who want to make the past available to future generations. When I moved, I left quite a few things with my local university—acquiring a receipt for the items and with the understanding I could ‘visit’ them at will.

(6) Because genealogy has been a popular pastime for many years, you may find county histories available for research or purchase. Books detailing burials in local cemeteries are also a handy tool, though they depend on volunteers to keep them updated.

(7) And don’t overlook checking out your recollections of places and events with others of your own generation. A now-demolished hotel with a ballroom on the top floor figured in my novel, but though I had been there, I couldn’t remember many details. A mass emailing to members of my high school class who had also danced the night away at the Roof Garden brought more specifics.

Fictional settings work, but when you read about a place with which you are familiar—either intimately or in passing—the whole story takes on new dimensions. So check out your own town. You might be surprised what you’ll find.