Thursday, April 16, 2009

On Internet Resources for Writers with Sal Towse contains a treasure trove of lists within lists of links especially selected for writers. Writer Sal Towse is the brains and sweat behind it.

Sal started collecting links back in 2001. The site gets more than 1400 visitors from all over the world each week. It was named a top web site for writers by Writers Digest Press, and a couple of months back someone offered to buy her beautiful ad-free site. She turned them down.

Sal also blogs on

JRW: Welcome to Jungle Red Writers, Sal! Thanks for letting us pick your brain. Can you give us a quick overview of the range of links a writer finds on Writers’ Resources?

SAL: grew from writing-related links I used to post to the Usenet newsgroup misc.writing. Folks there encouraged me to setup a separate site. As the collection grew, I realized for it to be navigable, I needed to sort it and breaking it into subject specific areas: networking, business, reference, fiction, non-fiction, word stuff, markets, publishers, agents.

JRW: Where would you recommend for writers looking to network with each other?

SAL: For mysteries: rec.arts.mystery and DorothyL are the grand old parties. Mystery Writers Forum, Short Mystery Fiction Society and others are also busy. SistersinCrime has a mailing list. There are Yahoo! mailing groups like CrimeSceneWriters and 4_Mystery_Addicts.

Facebook is also a good place for networking. There's a lot of chatter and connecting going on there. "Friend" the writers you know. Meet others in the comments threads and connect with them. Make plans to meet up at conferences or chat in e-mail. Most of the mystery writers I know, I first met at conferences or SinC or MWA meetings.

JRW: Where would you recommend for writers looking to connect with readers?

SAL: rec.arts.mystery and DorothyL, again. Other mailing lists. I first heard of Keith Snyder and Karin Slaughter on RAM (and then met them and heard them talk about their work at Bouchercon). Get out there. Behave yourself. Be interesting.

I've been intrigued by what writers like Barry Eisler and JAKonrath have done with their Facebook pages and blogs, encouraging readers to get involved, to show up for their signings and to look forward to their next book.

Laura Lippman has her fascinating Memory Project. Sometimes she's just talking about being on the road flogging her latest book. Other times she talking about memories and asking her readers to chip in their own memories. The discussions are far-ranging.

I meet and discover writers at Left Coast Crime, Bouchercon, and other conferences. If you can afford to go, do. You'll meet readers like me, and other writers too. My ace #1 hint for conferences? If you're new to all this, go by yourself. If you go with a buddy, it's far too easy to hang out with the buddy and not connect with people around you.

JRW: What about some prime places for folks researching and writing novels to know about?

SAL: I have a collection of links to media resources and experts -- for writers who need background or want to know whether their facts are accurate. I have a subsection specifically for Mystery/Crime Fiction which has links to forensic entomology sites and crime scene investigation, forensics, true crime.

Zeno Geradts' Forensic Site has an amazing collection of links. Gillian Roberts has her online tutorial HOW TO WRITE A MYSTERY. The Police List of Resources has information on ballistics and forensics. If you're writing historical fiction, the Web is awash with information for almost any period. You can also read contemporary works and, if the period is right, see contemporary photographs. The Library of Congress has amazing photographic resources.

Use Google Maps. Streetview is amazing. If you're in the right city, MapJack is even more useful than Google Streetview. I was reading a recent book that had the protagonist slipping into a hard-to-find parking space on Grant in front of Moose's. Moose's is no longer there (no fault of the writer), but Moose's was on Stockton at the edge of Washington Square Park. Grant is one block further east. Little errors like that are like nails on a chalkboard. Search for the restaurant's address, if you want to name a real restaurant, and make sure you place it on the correct street.

JRW: How about for the business of writing?

SAL: Business information comes in three flavors. You need information about contracts and copyright. (I toss e-publishing and POD publishing in this category too.) You also need to know about submissions -- the nuts and bolts, queries and synopses, markets. I have links to agents that are accepting manuscripts and another section with links to publishers that accept unagented manuscripts. And, after you have your book accepted, you need to worry about book signings, publicity, Web sites, blogs -- what can you do to market, publicize and promote your book when it's published.

JRW: I love that you have, on the same page, links to “Games and Distractions” alongside “Time Management and Procrastination.” What’s your favorite oddball category and web sites?

Ah, yes. My "Writer's Life" subsection. Chocolate. Pens. I'm a fiend for Sudoku and crosswords. I have a link to the Degree Confluence Project. Ever heard of it? The site encourages photographers to visit latitude/longitude intersections and take photographs, which they then post at the site along with a description of what the site was like, whether they were able to get EXACTLY to the confluence, what dangers they encountered. Angola has 106 confluences, of which six have been visited. I think there might be um. problems getting around in Angola. The USA has 3/4ths of its confluences covered. The site is a marvelous distraction, if you're looking for a distraction.

I also highly recommend sites like and, sites with "lost" photographs to trigger your what-if bone, if you're looking for a creativity nudge.

Will you be adding to your lists?

SAL: I'm planning on adding a collection of links to blogs (writers, agents, publishers) at some point but that can get dicey. Hard to tell someone that their blog won't be included because it's not meaty enough and I'm trying to keep the number of links manageable.

I'm for sure adding (maybe this week!) a link to Janet Reid's QueryShark blog. Have you seen that? It's marvelous.

JRW: Sal will be hanging around Jungle Red today so this your chance to get your questions asked about Internet resources for writers. Ask away!


  1. Wow, Sal, thanks a million for bringing all your tips and picks to Jungle Red! We can spend hours and hours procrastinating now looking up your suggested links!

  2. Thanks. I spend hours and hours procrastinating, adding links to the site and keeping it up. Useful procrastination, but still. If you have any suggestions or find bum links, let me know.

  3. Thanks for visiting Jungle Red, Sal. I'm so glad to learn about your site. Now I have even more excuses not to write the book I should be finishing this week!
    For me the problem with internet resources is that they are overwhelming. If I kept up with Facebook, Twitter, Red Room, Book Place, Crimespace etc, I'd never get any writing done, but I do realize that social networks are essential for building and staying in touch with a fanbase these days.
    And I couldn't do all the research for my historical novels without the internet. So I'll be checking out your informational links.

  4. I was thinking of you, Rhys, when I mentioned old photographs available on the Web. I seem to recall you'd included research using old photographs of NYC for some of your books.

    The Library of Congress has such a great collection. Their American Memory collection covers historical maps, photographs, written and spoken word and more.

    Because I live here, I like to rummage through San Francisco PL's historical photograph collection. Tomorrow is the 103d anniversary of the Big Quake. SFPL is featuring photographs of the earthquake and aftermath. Fascinating stuff.

  5. WOw--terrific. The resources are so endless it's fun to have one place to go. You're in my shortcuts forever.

    I love Google videos. I needed to feel what it was like to rake off in a small plane. There it was. I needed to look around inside an airplane hangar. There it was.

    And in my job as a reporter, we always check Google Maps satellite and street view before we go on a stakeout. We've even recognized people that way--we saw a photo of a person we were trying to find--sitting on a front porch! And into the next book it goes.

  6. Welcome Sal,
    Wow, how did I not know about this before?? Thank goodness you came here and I know about it now. What a terrific resource.

  7. How do you keep from being sucked into the endless Web, though. Do you put xxxxx if despite your research you find you need to verify something? Are you able to carry on without whatever factoid is missing?

    Research can drift into unforeseen places when you hop link-to-link-to-link. The Web can be such a noodling distraction, not to mention Sudoku, online Scrabble and networking online with other writers and readers.

    At LCC I heard some writers saying they only check Facebook on Wednesdays. I remember another saying that she didn't even logon to check e-mail until the afternoon.

  8. Yes, Sal,exactly. For mynews stories, we put whatever is in question in double parentheses,like: ((to come to come to come)) and don't take them off til we confirm.

    In my book ms.,I highlight in yellow til I make sure.

    How about you?

  9. I like your ((something here)). Easy to search for.

    I, as you probably can tell, tend to hie off to the Web given any excuse.

    I need to breathe-in-breathe-out and use your ((something here)) designation.