Sunday, August 29, 2010

Resources for Writers #32: So Proudly We Hail

If you’re writing a story in which the military figures prominently—and the hero of your book is also a hero on the battlefield—it will help to know something about the medals awarded to those who fight for our freedom.

When speaking of medals, the Medal of Honor usually comes to mind first. Find the history of the medal and stories of the recipients from the Civil War to the present here. You’ll also want to check out the Official Site of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

Check out this site for other US Army Individual Decorations such as the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross and others.

 Silver Star                                                         DFC

The Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded by the President of the United States, while not a military honor, is a prestigious one. Recipients from diverse fields are honored: business, economics, computing education, history, medicine, philosophy, science, sociology, space exploration, the arts (including film, literature, and music), journalism, radio and television, philanthropy, politics and government (including the military and even espionage!), sports, and humanitarian contributors. 

You’ll find the lists of recipients and their stories a fascinating read! And don't forget to scroll to the bottom left of this site and Say Thanks to some real heroes!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Resources for Writers #32: Keep It Real

1.  something or someone that is not in its correct historical or chronological time, esp. a thing or person that belongs to an earlier time: The sword is an anachronism in modern warfare.
  2.  an error in chronology in which a person, object, event, etc., is assigned a date or period other than the correct one: To assign Michelangelo to the 14th century is an anachronism.

If you're writing a story about the future, you can say anything. Make up stuff. Invent words. Create characters that would never fit in the 21st century or in previous ones. What a great writing adventure! 
BUT--say anything except the truth in a story about the present and/or past, and you're in trouble. Especially the past. Don't invent anything, at least not anything that doesn't somehow 'fit' with the time period. Make sure your characters speak and appear as they would have 'back when'. The adventure is in the research!
What brought all this to mind was picking up one of those booklet-type birthday cards from 1944--which just happens to be when I was born. If I were writing a story that took place in this particular year, adding a few facts would lend credibility to the setting, plot, and characters. For example:
  • FDR was in his third term as President of the United States
  • We were still at war, and ads for almost everything spoke to that situation. For example, Westinghouse ran an ad promising new features in the appliances that they would be allowed to produce AFTER the war. Consumers were cautioned that "Food fights for freedom". And Elsie the Cow (of Borden Milk fame) lectured Elmer the Bull about not buying anything he didn't actually need: "Use it up--wear it out--make it do--or do without!"
  • The average income was $2,378.00 a year.
  • A new house could be had for $3,475.00 IF you could get the materials and people to construct it.
  • Bacon was 45 cents/lb. and eggs 21 cents/doz. Meat rationing ended in the United States.
  • Doctors still made house calls.
  • "Going My Way" with Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
  • People listened to Dinah Shore sing, "I'll Walk Alone" and to the Andrews Sisters belting out, "Shoo Shoo Baby".
  • Christmas and New Year's fell on Monday.
  • V-1 rockets pounded London.
  • Big Bend National Park was established.
  • Seventeen Magazine hit the newsstands.
 All of these items could be worked into a story, making it even more realistic, especially for readers who could say, "Been there, done that." I love to read vintage stories set in a time in which I remember living. But make a mistake, and I'll know it, and so will a lot of other readers out there. 

I still remember the humiliation of sitting in a graduate English class and being asked by the professor to point out the anachronism in the passage we'd just read--and I couldn't do it. I could've crawled under the conference table! That experience spurs me to research the truth of anything I write as fact...because I'm just too darned old to crawl under the table any more!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Resources for Writers #30: Copyright and the Public Domain--Be Sure You Know the Difference

New writers—and even experienced ones—often confront the question of copyright when using quotes, song lyrics, passages from books or articles, pictures, and other created material. Penalties can be severe, so it’s a good idea to be sure what you want to use is not currently copyrighted—or to get written permission, a process that can be lengthy as well as expensive.

What IS public domain? This website defines and explains it, stressing at the end of the article that once a work is in the public domain, it is there to stay (variations excluded).

Go here for more general information on public domain.

Another good site is Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States(current as of January 2010)

Check out these other sites to find what is in the public domain in music, books,  and pictures.

When I was teaching and wanted to do something innovative in the classroom, I harked back to the old adage, “Better to ask forgiveness than permission.” But copyright infringement is no joke—so be careful. 

If anyone finds any questionable or incorrect information here, please let me know! Or, if you'd like to share other links or personal experience, leave a comment or be a guest here at The Word Place.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Resources for Writers #29: Something for Everyone

Note: I've had to begin moderating comments here due to spam. So if your comment doesn't show up right away, please know that I'll get to it ASAP. It's a shame that one person with nothing better to do can create a problem for those of us who tend to business!

Here are some ideas that have popped into my head this week. Not everything works for everyone, but they’re worth taking a look at anyway.

(1)  If you’re a published author and have books on, look into setting up an author page. The link is hard to find—a friend had to point it out to me—but basically if you type in, Author Central, you’ll get to a starting point. You can find your books and designate them as yours, write a bio and upload a picture, even start a blog which can be posted using an RSS feed.

Hint: will set up your page and let you know when it’s ready. Then you can work on the blog. It may take a couple of times before it ‘catches’, but you can keep going back and editing, etc. until it does. I set up a new blog, Someday Is Here, just to chat about writing in general rather than feeding this one in.

(2)  Check your local library’s genealogical section for the publications of various genealogical groups. Look for the ‘quarterlies’ in which people have written about their families, the history of a particular location, an event etc. You’ll find tons of good ideas for stories!

(3)  As soon as The Showboat Affair goes to print, which should be sooner than later, I’m taking a break from novel-writing and concentrating on some short, for-pay stories. Everyone knows about the Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market published yearly by Writer’s Digest, but it’s a lot to plow through and easy to get bogged down in. (I use it, but…) Take a break by browsing the periodical section of your local bookstore and jotting down names of promising magazines in the notebook which OF COURSE YOU CARRY WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES! Then go home and look up their submission guidelines online and print them out if you think you want to pursue the market.

(4)  Now is the time to stock up on three-prong pocket folders cheap cheap cheap! I always watch the back-to-school sales and buy my limit. They’re perfect for organizing research notes, writing tips, market listings, and the thousand and one other things writers seem to hoard.  Stick a blank address label on the outside and specify the contents. Where to keep them? Visit your nearest Michaels or Hobby Lobby and look for sales on those pretty shoebox-size storage boxes. Put the cover on the bottom and stand the folders inside.

(5)  I’m always out of printer ink, it seems. It’s cheaper to buy online when there’s free shipping included in the deal. Check the website for your brand of printer. Also, I’ve had pretty good luck with 4InkJets, which are recycled and refilled. Buy three or four at a time and make out like a bandit!

If you have any tips you’d like to share, email me at, and I’ll include them here AND credit you for the idea. Remember—we’re all in this together. Writing doesn’t have to be a lonely business!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Resources for Writers #28: Top Tens

            My sage advice this week is to RUN, not walk, to your nearest newsstand and purchase the September 2010 issue of Writer’s Digest. It’s called “The Big 10” issue. Inside you’ll find the following:

  • 10 questions to ask yourself about where you fit in to the future of publishing
  • 10 Tips for delivering a killer reading (Barbara Croft)
  • 10 essential rules of poetry (Robert Lee Brewer)
  • The 10 best places for writers to live (Rob Woodiwiss)
  • 10 of the all-time best thrillers chosen by 10 bestsellers
  • 10 questions answered by agent Suzie Townsend
  • 10 Notable debut novels (what ‘they’re’ saying and author’s words)
  • 10 tips for maximizing your MFA experience (Lori A. May)
  • 10 experts take on the Writer’s Rulebook (to follow or break the rules) (incl. Donald Maas)
  • Top 10 essentials to a writer’s life (Erik Larson
  • Top 10 writers I admire and why (Jodi Picoult)
  • Top 10 things I’ve learned since becoming a bestseller (Ellen Hopkins)
  • Top 10 Pieces of writing advice that I’ve been given (Sherman Alexie)
  • Top 10 things every writer should do (Mary Higgins Clark)
  • Top 10 things that would make the writing world a better place (Chuck Palahniuk)
  • To 10 ways to stay true to yourself in publishing (Wade Rouse)
  • Top 10 hints for a successful series (Jennifer Chiaverini, author of the Elm Quilt Creek novels)
  • Top 10 things every aspiring writer should know (Kirby Larson)
  • Top 10 ways to stay sane when frustrated with your writing (Karin Slaughter)
  • 10 ways to be a productivity pro (Sage Cohen)
  • 10 ways to write what you ‘no’ (use frustration, hurt, and anger to fuel your writing) (Bill O’Hanlon)
  • 10 reasons the freelance life in a good life (Art Spikol)
  • 10 quick questions with really short answers (Brian Klems) (Great ones here!)
  • 10 creative ways to beat writer’s block fast (Fred White)
  • (10 ways to) Brush up on your style in 10 minutes or less (Brandon Royal)
  • (10 ways to) Make the most of any writing event (Linda Formichelli)

AND ‘Staff Picks’

  • Top ten writers we wish would write books on writing
  • Top ten worst places in the world to write
  • Top ten things to do when procrastinating writing
  • Top ten writers we’d love to discover (more) posthumous works from
  • Top ten writers dead or alive we’d love to have drinks with
  • Top ten unlikely writer collaborations we’d love to see

The list appears overwhelming, but once you start reading, you’ll just keep going.