Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Almanacs


There’s nothing better than the Farmer’s Almanac when looking for facts. Here is a link to the resource. I found some other great sites to supplement it.

One other quick reference is Time and Date. This site lets you play with time like you’re a Time Lord. No, not really, but it does show you the exact time and date for your time zone. Great! (sarcasm font) It lets you explore calendars from any year. You can find out what day of the week your heroine from your regency novel was born. You can explore time with questions such as how many days between two dates. Wonderful for those characters who say things like, “My birthday is in two hundred and eleven days.” Or maybe it’s a wedding count down or one for a military deployment. You can check the time in any time zone as compared to your own. The site also has weather, moon phases, sunrise, sunset, and lunar and solar eclipses. You can really explore your world with these accurate time measurements. There is also a For Fun section that will give you a clock and a countdown clock for your website. I haven’t tried it yet, but what fun to have a countdown clock for your latest release?!

World Fact Book probably could have worked nicely on the encyclopedia page. (Wiki says it’s an almanac, and I believe them.) The page is brought to you by the CIA. Yep, the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Here you can find facts about every country. Each entry includes a map, the flag, and a complete list of facts and figures about the country. This site can be instrumental if your character is a world explorer. Under their reference section, they have even more options. If you only need a bit of data, check out their Country Summary section. There’s a flag page, a travel page, and even a comparison of the country section.

I’ll throw this site in as a reference we only remember at census time. The US Census Bureau’s site contains oodles of information that can make your novel sharp. You can explore topics such as marriage, employment, race, poverty, health, and more. And you can check for any year. Again, great for historical novels. You can view the level of education in the population you’re writing about and get those data points correct. You can also see how diverse the population was or wasn’t. One section that really caught my eye was America Counts: Stories. There are articles and stories about various topics regarding education, population, and more. Talk about inspiration for a new story!

Hopefully, these three resources, along with the good old Farmer’s Almanac, will give you the data needed to make your story great.

Our last reference entry for next week will be specific writer resources. See you then!

 

 

 

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Encyclopedias

 


Welp, you can’t search on the internet without either Google or Wikipedia answering all your questions. In fact, here’s a link from Wikipedia for a bunch of online encyclopedias. I expect you are using the big two, so here are some “alternative” sources for research.

When I started as a romance writer, I had a hard time with tropes. I knew what a trope was, but I had no clue which ones to use in my novels. Recently, I found a site that could have saved me some embarrassing questions and serious homework. These are tropes used on TV, but they can apply to books easily. The romance section sports a lovely pic of Fabio, so you know the site is legit. Romance authors might also want to check out Love Tropes. This section has so many, it’s broken up by alphabet. Not only do these categories give you ideas for your stories, but also keywords when your book goes on sale.

For historical writers, check out the interactive history timeline at Hyper History. (Psst, the site does not have a https setting for security. Your browser might say the site is unsafe. Use at your own risk.) This digital timeline allows you to click on People, History, Events, or Maps. The hyperlink card t lets users click on topics and get a brief description of the person, place, or event. The side menu shows history segments to narrow your search. At the bottom of the page, you can shortcut to topics such as Science, Culture, Religion, and Politics. The site is perfect for some basic background information or as a jumping-off point for serious research.

The next one might not technically be an encyclopedia, but it will help with character development. This chart of logical fallacies will answer the question “What is my character’s false belief?” Click on any level of the chart to see a description of how the logical fallacy works and if your character fits. These work great for your villains.

Last, also not an encyclopedia, but useful information, nonetheless, is Word Spy. I should have included it with the dictionaries. The site highlights new and emerging English words and their definitions. I’m including it because it shows the history of the word and its earliest usage. It can help with your historical novels as well to ensure you’re using language that was around during your time period.

I hope these are helpful in your writing. Next week, Almanacs!

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Atlases


Tell me you don’t love the digital age where there’s a map that talks to you through your phone. I can get directions any time—walking, biking, driving—through apps like Google Maps. The Waze app informs me about traffic and construction all on the same phone. I love a map. But if I’m not driving, I want a fun map. Here are a few mapping websites to inspire your writing.

Atlas Obscura. This website has stories, maps, cultural information—just everything. Click on the site and explore things you never knew, you never knew. There are thousands of locations, and you can find information about many unusual things. Users can share their travel stories and add to the information on the site. Their current map has 23,000 clickable sites to view.

For a membership fee, starting as low as $5 a month, you can join in on virtual experiences. One glance showed me cooking classes, an event at the New York Transit Museum, medieval tarot, and how to send messages like historic spies. They also have courses. Lock-picking was up this week for those mystery/spy thriller writers out there. The courses have a fee.

If you are looking for information, check out the Stories section. Users with various areas of expertise write the posts. There’s also a podcast, a newsletter, and travel opportunities to have the real-life experiences of your characters or for research (Yeah, it’s research. LOL).

I’m a sucker for abandoned places. Each has a story, and I want to hear it. If you do too, check out Abandoned Places. This site has a blog and photos of neglected places all over the globe. There isn’t a ton on the site. But you can filter by “abandoned bunker” if you need information about that plot bunny.

I also found a site called Opacity. This site has photos and blog posts of places near and far. (I even found one for a spot two hours for me. Road Trip!) The site has about two hundred plus locations, each with photos and a description. Check out the historical information and the detailed photos. The author of the site has a few books available with his research and pictures.

My favorite show, The Umbrella Academy, inspired my last atlas entry. The characters stopped at a roadside attraction in their travels—a giant ball of twine. Check out Roadside America for some interesting stops on your travels this summer. Click on the map to see all the attractions in one state. The map is zoomable, and each pin has a pop-up with the name of the attraction. The Apple Store has a mobile app for the site.

If you need to go beyond Map Quest and Google Satellite no longer thrills you, try one of these atlas sites and be inspired.

 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Dictionaries

 


 

The internet has thousands of dictionaries, whether it be regular old definitions to foreign languages to slang. Today I’m going to highlight a couple of unique sites for dictionary purposes.

The reverse dictionary is a handy resource when you can’t remember a word for a particular phrase. Basically, the dictionary asks for the definition to find the word. Let’s say you’ve written “uncomfortably moist.” (hee hee) The dictionary will provide you with several less-squeegee choices such as clammy or dank. You can click on the suggestions to get a definition and find related words.

I have a paper one of these puppies. It’s 2000 pages. An online resource is so much better. As writers, we want to choose the best word to convey our ideas in the shortest phrasing possible. This resource is incalculably helpful.

The Urban Dictionary is a resource for slang. This dictionary can help writers find the correct terms for partners, drugs, hip phrases, and the like. Authors writing for teen audiences might find all those terms “the young people are using” here.

The pages start you off with a post about a phrase or a word. You can search alphabetically for words and phrases. If you have a unique definition for a word, you can add it to the dictionary by submitting an entry. From this resource, I learned about “snowplow moms” women who push away all their kids’ problems for them. I also learned about “leaf blower personalities” people who make their messy problems everyone else’s problems. What great terms!

For the poets out there, try out the Rhyming dictionary. This site will match your entries with words that rhyme. It will also find near-rhymes, homophones, a variety of thesaurus references (synonyms, antonyms), and similar-sounding words for your lyrics, poetry, or whatever. It can search Shakespeare and quotations for your word. Advances searches will give parts of speech, syllables, and meter.

Last, just for fun is Strange and Unusual references. This site has more than dictionaries for your reading pleasure. Included on this site are all or no vowel words (great for Scrabble), one-letter words, and magical words. Some books can be viewed on the site. Some links take you to a bookseller. Either way, it’s super fun.

I planned to do a section on thesauruses as well. But as we already did One Stop for Writers, we’ve covered the cool/unusual thesauruses.

 

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Reference


It’s July which means I’ll continue to do these one-off apps on the blog. Last summer, I blogged about social media. The year before, I posted sites about book lists, list-serves, and the sort. (We were locked down and searching for good reads.)

This year, I’m hitting the reference section. It’s unbelievably easy to find this material on the internet. Dictionary, thesauruses, and the like abound.

Such as

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary

Thesauruses

Wikipedia

Bartlett quotes (Apple as an app for it, too.)

Google Maps

Farmer’s Almanac

Refseek has a wide variety of source and reference material.

Basically, any reference material and research topics can be found with a simple search.

I discovered a few writer-specific reference sites I’d like to share with more details. Stay tuned in July for some interesting, silly information.