April 16th, 2008

rob ryan; other planets

Specific Florida neighbourhoods.

I'm writing a story about a guy of Cuban descent from Florida. I'm trying to find a suitable neighbourhood for him to have grown up in - preferably somewhere around Miami or Hialeah. I have him as growing up in a pretty tough area and then falling in with gangs, drugs, violence, and so on, so it shouldn't be a wealthy or middleclass place! Any help and information on a specific neighbourhood would be very much appreciated, as I'm finding it very hard to get any information that isn't centred around making tourists travel to certain places, haha. I really want the sort of interesting details that can make a story come alive - awesome/gross bars, quirky stores, general attitudes at local high schools, interesting landmarks, stuff like that. Absolutely any information would be very welcome.

Oh, and he's in his early/mid thirties now, so he would have been around there about 10-15 years ago. Thank you in advance! :)

Anyone ever drive a big rig?

I'm not sure this is something that can really be looked up anywhere obvious, since no amount of 'book learning' can convey experience.

So... I'm playing with a story concept about a protagonist who drives an 18 wheeler. Can anyone out there answer these sorts of questions (apologies for the sheer number -- this is the 'initial research phase')?

1. Do people still use CB lingo, and are there still CB radios in trucks, or is it all wireless dispatch and cellphone stuff now?
2. What's the biggest difference in the 'ride feel' of a truck versus a car?
3. How many gallons are in a truck gas tank, and how much does filling up cost? How much of a mileage difference does having a sleeper cab take, and are they comfortable enough to live out of?
4. Do truckers get paid in advance, or do they need to front their own travel money and recoup-with-profit on arrival?
5. Are there still enough truck stops across the country where you can reliably hit one within 8 hour driving windows?
6. How hard is it to get on and off highways with the way people drive, and what do you do if you miss an exit?
7. Do you need special training/permits to carry different materials attached to the back of your truck?
8. What do the coily wires running down the back of a cab do, and how come not all big rigs have them?
9. What does it take to fix a jacknifed tractor trailer?

Thanks in advance...
Time in Circles

Texans and Canadian Accents

I'm trying to figure out how a Canadian accent would sound to somebody who grew up in urban Texas like San Antonio or Dallas during 1980s. So far it seems like they would be able to recognize French accented English, although not the difference between Quebecois French and Parisian French. The Maritimes' accent should sound like a slow brogue with a fair number of breath pauses in it correct? My main problem is if a Texan would notice an accent for Canadians who live in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. There seems to be bit of conflict over if these provinces give their residents anything other than a generic flat midwest accents.

From google/wiki (main search terms: canadian accent, texas accent, regional accents, regional accent differences) I've got a general idea of what Canadian accents would sound like but I want to be much more specific about the regional differences.

Edit: Answered. Thank you all for the help.

19th-century villains (American literature mostly)

What: 19th-century literature
Setting: Not certain; generally, post-U.S. Civil War
Searched: "villains 19th century" "nineteenth century literature villains", "dime novel villains"

This is one of those early-story-gestation questions, so apologies for being vague and not searching extremely well beforehand.

I've recently finished a serious novel and now am in the mood to write something crazy fun for the Internet (not for profit), and I've decided to pursue the old "Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn grown up as steampunk detectives" idea that many people I'm sure have had. Going off on Alan Moore and LoEG, I have them interacting with several characters from literature, including a starring role for Jo March. But I'm in need of villains. I'm hesitating whether or not to use Fu Manchu as my main villain, since Moore did that in the original LoEG graphic novel, but I still would like more suggestions. I'm sure I want a sort of femme fatale, in the style of Irene Adler perhaps (but in this universe, like LoEG, all literary characters are real, so Holmes and Adler actually do exist in this continuity); some second- and third-level baddies; and henchmen, preferably the kind I can turn into zombie ninja robots or the like for big cartoon battles with no qualms.

This continuity takes into account "Tom Sawyer Abroad" and "Tom Sawyer, Detective", so the ages and timeframes of the characters, and thus their contemporaries in the world of literature, are kind of fluid.

All suggestions of characters welcome.

Edit: I've settled on 1869 (fudging Tom & Huck's birthdates a bit so that they're not almost forty) and starting off with Jo marching (pun) into their office to hire them to help find Amy & Laurie who apparently have been kidnapped by pirates in the Mid-Atlantic. "Apparently" is me allowing anything to happen. I've been convinced Nemo and the Nautilus will be involved, though friend or foe I'm not sure, and the adventure will go from the sea back into the States and all the way into some Western climax. Thanks for the suggestions so far, there's quite a few I can use, and keep them all coming--I'm probably not the only one who'd love to find characters like these from the time period! (Though one poster was right, I should be stricter in restricting it to 19th century lit, Gone With The Wind notwithstanding.)

Edit2: I've removed the "English language" restriction since I realized Jules Verne wrote in French. :)

Edit3: I am wholly embracing French-originated characters now I just discovered the works of Paul Feval. At this point, I am trying to pin down an archvillain.

YA Edit: A poster recommended Jess Nevins' Fantastic Victoriana, which I only knew as a book, not as a website that predated it, and which is like everything I need and more. What a resource!</b>

Feeding of Coma Patient in Pre-20th-Century Conditions

The patient who gets a head injury and falls into a coma for days, weeks, or even years and finally wakes up to a changed world is a pretty common fictional trope. In some of these stories, there are descriptions of how the patient is fed: for example, in Joan Aiken's children's novel Nightbirds on Nantucket, comatose 11-yr-old Dido Twite is kept alive on "a mixture of whale oil and molasses" that her caretaker pours down her throat, using a coffeepot: "she swallowed it in her sleep."

Nowadays, medical practitioners warn us never, never to do this sort of thing, because the patient could choke. But before the days of intravenous feeding and nasogastric tubes, there wasn't any alternative.

My question is, did this ever work? Could a comatose patient be fed this way? Or is this idea completely fictitious?


pocket pistols, shooting lessons and duels

I would need some words of advise concerning pistols. 18th century pistols, in fact. 

Character A, who is an experienced soldier, teaches character B, who is about to fight his very first duel, but never held a weapon in his hands before, how to shoot a gun. They practice with a small pocket pistol. 

Could B use said pistol in the duel, or would he be supposed to have special duelling weapons?

Would he carry the loaded pistol to the place where the duel is to take place, or load it in situ? (He has no seconds or servants). 

How will B most likely hold the pistol, when he picks it up for the first time? With one, or with both hands?

As for character A, what could he possibly forget to explain/ mention to B concerning the handling of the pistol, just because it seems too obvious for him?

And last but not least, when would B learn, whether or not satisfaction is reached with the first draw of blood? Would this be decided just before the fight starts, or would his adversary explain these details beforehand, in a letter?

(terms googled: 
pocket pistols - loading - 18th century - duels - duelling (and combinations of thereof)
Oh, and it it matters, the story is set in 1795, in Philadelphia.)

Thank you so much in advance!