Author Archives: Adolfo Garza Jr

Blue in New Jurassic World Trailer Acts How I Imagine A Baby Dragon Does

Have you seen the new trailer for the next Jurassic World movie, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom? If not, I’ve included it below. In it, there is a baby raptor named Blue (at the 30 second mark), and in the brief moment it is in the trailer, all I could think of was “Holy crap. That’s how a baby dragon hatchling acts as you feed it: happy, excited, eager, and ridiculously cute.” Seeing how good animatronic characters and CGI characters are getting, it really gets me hoping that we will one day see a movie featuring dragons like those in my Dragonlinked novels, or those in the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey, or the Pit Dragon series by Jane Yolen, or the series A Familiar Dragon by Daniel Hood, or heck, any books where dragons are intelligent, sentient beings of awesomeness. Anyway, I got excited seeing Blue and thought you all might like to see her, too. (I’ll definitely be checking this movie out when it releases!)

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Categories: Dinosaurs, Dragonlinked, Dragons, Life, Movies | Leave a comment

Of Gods, Trees, and A Sapling Kindle Version is FREE for Limited Time!

My series of books, Dragonlinked Chronicles, is an lgbt-friendly young adult fantasy series, and the Kindle version of book 4, Of Gods, Trees and A Sapling, is FREE from 11/13/2017 until 11/15/2017 on the Amazon.com store, HERE. Take this short opportunity to read the latest volume while I work on the next book! The Kindle versions in the entire series are Kindle Lending Library enabled, so feel free to lend them to your friends with Kindles. Have no fear, Amazon pays authors who participate in that program.

Happy reading!

Categories: Books, Dragonlinked, Dragons, Fantasy, LGBT, LGBTQ, Sale, YoungAdult | Leave a comment

Keep Your Creative Mojo Going

As an artist, it can be tempting, ‘safe’ even, to spend all your time on your own art. But if all you do is focus on your stuff, it can be difficult to find new inspiration, or to think in new ways, or to see something from a different perspective (which can apply to your life in general, not just to your art). Doing that, you can fall into the trap of repeating yourself, or of become boring, both terrible places to find yourself. One of the things I do to try to avoid that, as a writer, is to read various magazines (printed and online), and to occasionally pull a favorite book (or books) off my shelves and read it (them) again. I am a huge fan of science fiction and fantasy and have over a hundred books I’ve purchased over the years by authors like Asimov to Zelazny and so many others in between. Having written a few books and sat in on writing groups, I am much more conscious of the technical aspects of a book as I read it, though I am still able to enjoy them. Now, however, I am more able to appreciate a nice turn of phrase, or jot down synonyms that don’t always occur to me as I write, for handy reference later. Taking in these different ways of painting a scene, of describing emotion, or action, or what-have-you, reminds me anew of those different ways of accomplishing something. Having great examples helps me come up with my own recipes on how to mix things up, so to speak.

So I guess my advice here is to take the time to look at other art similar to your own to find various kinds of inspiration on how to make yours better.

Happy reading!

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Read-through of First Six Chapters of Book 5 Complete

I finished the first draft of the prologue and chapters 1-5 of book 5, and so it was time to do a read-through. I found the same things as usual such as logic errors, plot errors, pacing issues, presentation order tweaks and the like. It takes some time to write five chapters, so plot lines, where people are, what they know, and so on, can get fuzzy from earlier chapters. That’s why I like doing a read-through once I complete around five new chapters or so. A read-through takes only a few days, so everything stays fresh and it is easier to spot those kinds of errors.

Anyway, that’s my quick update. There’s some good stuff going on in there. Can’t wait to get on with the rest.

Happy reading!

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Like Grass in Winter

I noticed something while writing book 4, Of Gods, Trees, and A Sapling, that is happening again. Namely, writing the start of the book takes a bit longer than writing the rest, on a per-chapter basis. In book 4, I thought it was because I was struggling early on to figure out how a god would feel and see things when trapped in a mortal’s body, struggling with how to get it on the page, but that couldn’t be the only reason the beginning chapters took longer to write because it is happening again. I am not certain the same thing happened in previous books, they were written years ago and a lot has happened since then, but I get the sense that I did struggle early on with each book. Why is that, I wondered. Why is starting a book as difficult as getting out of bed in the morning (at least for me)? In this new book, I realized that almost the entire reason has to do with working out specifics.

My outlines help work out and point the direction of the plots, give broad strokes as to what is happening and why. When I get down to the actual writing, however, I need to know exactly why a person feels a certain way or why a person does or says something. Much of that comes from their background. Businesses, agencies, history, and even the environment may also need specific ‘reasons’ for why and how they are in the current day of the book’s setting if a part of a person’s character is based on any of them or if any events are predicated on any of them. Why? So that the person or event makes sense. One of the things I absolutely hate is when a book, a TV show, or a movie throws something at you that makes zero sense. Why would the protagonist do that, have that, or know that? Same thing with the antagonist. Characters can’t just miraculously know, have, or do something at the last minute. Things need to make sense. Incidentally, as I mentioned in a previous post, I kind of broke that rule with a certain lightning bolt, but 1) I made it make sense later, and 2) as a sort of punishment, I made certain there were consequences.

It has been some time since I completed the outline, and yet I only just finished the first scene of chapter five, the beginning of the sixth chapter (if you count the prologue as a chapter). It’s because much like grass growing and spreading its root system during the winter with not much leaf cover being added, I’m having to work out the details of new people, places, and things, as well as add details to existing ones so that hopefully everything makes sense. I’m laying down a nice root system, so to speak, a nice base upon which the plots will rest and grow. I’m confident that as in the past, once that root system has been laid down, once the first few chapters are done, the remaining chapters will follow along a bit more swiftly.

Well, back to writing chapter five for me. In the meantime, happy reading!

Categories: Books, Dragonlinked, Tips, Update, Writing | Tags: | Leave a comment

That Feeling When Your Hard Drive Dies

Ugh. I’ve been spending a lot of time recovering from a failed boot drive on my computer. I’m still trying to find out which files I’m going to end up losing, but I was able to recover all files in My Documents (As far as I can tell. Because the drive was failing, some of the files that were backed up may have been corrupted already). I copy my writing work to a thumb dive daily as a backup when I finish for the day, so that’s always safe.

My computer had been acting odd, slow and stuttery, and then the other day as I was turning it on, the power on self test (POST) screen stayed up. It normally flashes by pretty darn quick, but it sat there and I finally noticed a message at the bottom that said a drive (it listed some sort of numerical identifier) was going bad and that I should back it up and replace it. I hit F1 to continue and tried to figure out which drive was failing, hoping (to no avail) that it was one of the ‘extra’ drives. After a lot of research and learning way more about the drives than I ever wanted to (manufacturers, volume ids, serial numbers, physical drive numbers, etc), I found out that it was the main drive where the OS is located that was failing. At least with the warning I was able to backup the My Documents folder before the drive gave up the ghost. I removed the bad drive and spent almost an entire day reinstalling and patching Windows to one of those ‘extra’ drives which is now the main drive. I have to set up my email accounts in Windows Mail again and reinstall all the applications I use like my accounting software, Spotify, Chrome, iTunes, the Adobe apps I use for creating covers, and I don’t even know what all else yet. Right now I’m restoring music, photos, and downloads from backups, but those are from the end of last year, so I’ve likely lost some things that I’ll need to replace, if that will even be possible. But at least I do have everything though that date.

Take my misfortune to heart and backup, backup, backup. It likely won’t prevent you from losing every single file, but it will at least get you back to where you were at the last time you backed up.

You know what the worst part is? All this wasted time! I want to get back to writing. 😦

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First Draft of Book 5 Started!

I have begun writing the first draft of book 5 in the Dragonlinked Chronicles series. In fact, I finished the last scene of the Prologue yesterday and started on Chapter One today. I’m looking forward to all the interesting stuff coming.

In the meantime, happy reading!

Categories: Books, Dragonlinked, Dragons, Fantasy, LGBT, Update, Writing | Tags: | Leave a comment

While Outlining, You Decide To Change A Character Slightly. How to Find All Their Scenes?

So, I came up with a more interesting take on a character, but I’m very far along in the outlining process and said character has a lot of scenes mixed in with the even larger number of scenes in the book without said character. I wanted to somehow look at all their scenes to make sure that this character wasn’t doing anything out of character for their new . . . character. Ahem. Anyway. As I use a spreadsheet to outline, this should be easy, right? I tried using Search with their name, and that did let me find where they appeared, but I wanted a way to see only their scenes, all together, in order. I sorted by plot and chapter and scene, but then what? That’s when Standard Filter entered the stage.

Filters are part of Calc’s Data features, and they appear with Sort on the Data menu (for ease-of-use, I have added buttons to the standard toolbar for ‘Sort’ and for ‘Standard Filter’ and for ‘Remove Filter’). As its name implies, Standard Filter allows you to filter data in a range based on one to three criteria (you can do up to eight with Advanced Filter). It also automatically selects relevant data just like Sort which I described in a previous post. After opening the Standard Filter window, I selected the data column I wanted, in this case Scene Description, selected ‘Contains’ as the condition, and then typed in character’s name. On the next criteria row, I selected OR, then I again selected Scene Description, set condition to ‘Contains,’ and typed in the possessive form of character name (with apostrophe s). After a quick glance through the results, I brought up the filter window again, clicked on the ‘More’ button for more options, and checked Case Sensitive. This particular character’s name is part of several words and thus rows were being left that had nothing to do with this character because those words are in several scene descriptions. That taken care of, everything was perfect. I could now read through all of that character’s scenes one after another to make sure they were acting, doing, and thinking as they should based on their new characterization!

Ah, but once I am done with that, how to get the outline back to its all-inclusive nature? As you may have guessed from my comment about how I customized my toolbar, you merely click into the filtered data and use the Remove Filter choice on the Data menu. In some versions of OpenOffice, Remove Filter might not be available unless you have no range of cells selected. Simply click on any cell to clear a selection.

Note that removing a Standard Filter also removes its filter settings. Thus, if you want to filter again at some point, you have to re-enter all the criteria again. If you find yourself using certain filters over and over, then you need the Advanced Filter feature. It lets you set up filter criteria in another part of the spreadsheet or on a spreadsheet on another tab. Merely copy your header cells (Plot, Chap, Scene Description, etc), paste them in the spreadsheet where you want (make sure to leave a row and column gap between your book outline data and anything else!), then enter the criteria in the cells below that pasted header row. This filter data will remain until you delete it. Criteria in rows are matched with OR, while criteria in columns are matched with AND. So, if I wanted to search for scenes that had Anaya AND were before chapter 9, I would have one criteria row with Anaya under Scene Description, and <9 under Chap. If I wanted to search for all scenes with Anaya OR Aeron, I would have two rows, one with Anaya and one with Aeron, both under Scene Description. Once your criteria are set up, go back to the Advanced Filter window, click the Selection button, select your criteria rows and columns (including the header row), and, optionally, tell Calc where you want the results output, then click Ok. If you do not give an output location, the data itself is filtered. Again, you can choose Remove Filter to see all the data, if you use this option.

So there you go. If you, too, use a spreadsheet to outline, this is a pretty nifty way to filter out what you don’t need to see at the moment and focus on just the scenes you want, even if those scenes are part of multiple plots and stuff.

Important Postscript: OpenOffice Calc has an option setting (Tools->Options->OpenOffice Calc->Calculate) called ‘Search criteria = and <> must apply to whole cells.’ In words this means when looking for an equal match, or a not equal match, compare against ALL the text in a cell at once. If this option is checked, then Calc will filter using ‘whole cell equals criteria,’ instead of ‘cell contains criteria.’ So in my last example, the only rows that would be returned are those in which the Scene Description cell has ONLY ‘Anaya,’ or ‘Aeron’ in it, and in my actual spreadsheet that would return an empty result. This makes advanced filtering useless for me, so I turned that option off and everything worked as expected.

 

Categories: Dragonlinked, Fan Extras, Tips, Writing | Leave a comment

Annoying OpenOffice Calc (Spreadsheet) Bug

So, Calc has a nifty option (which may not be unique) that auto-sizes the height of a row (up OR down) to fit the cell in that row that has the most text. For text in a scene description cell or in a scene notes cell, I just type away (I enabled text auto-wrap), hit Enter when done, and Calc takes care of adjusting the row height for me. Having all cells fully visible (with no effort on my part) is great because I want to read every cell at a glance without having to go into the big text cells to expand them. And auto-height ALMOST works perfectly.

There is another option that Calc has, a zoom factor. I recently upgraded my computer monitor because my old one (the thing was eight years old) was taking longer and longer to turn on (it was taking 12 minutes to fully turn on and display anything when I finally broke down and ordered a new one). Anyway, the new monitor is a 2k monitor, that is it displays 2560 by 1440 pixels. It starts right up as it should and has a fantastic amount of screen space. Text on everything, though, is a bit smaller due to the smaller pixel size (Larger resolution with about the same screen size means that the pixels are smaller, and that means everything appears smaller, though it also means more things fit on the screen). That being the case, in Calc I clicked on the zoom adjustment thingy, set it to 105% and . . . rows were no longer adjusting to the correct heights. The height was a little bit off, which cut part of the text in the fullest cells. I asked my trusty friend Google about it and tried all the things I found. Some SEEMED to work, but as soon as I sorted, rows were again not adjusting to the correct heights. It seems that Calc’s auto-height function breaks if zoom is larger than 100%. It might also break if zoom is less than 100, but I’m too lazy to test.

So, how did I get around this annoying bug? I set the zoom back to 100%, selected the entire document, increased the font size, and then modified the Default text format to have the same font size so that newly entered text would also have that font size. Still, aside from this bug, I really like OpenOffice. It’s a fantastic alternative to, and a lot cheaper than, the big productivity suite, particularly for people who are on very tight budgets.

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Quick and Dirty Book 5 Update

Things are going well on the outline for book 5. I’d say I’m about 85-ish percent done with it. Lots of thinking, research, more thinking, and staring blindly at things to let thoughts bubble and churn into interesting ideas has gotten me to this point.

Anyway, that’s it for the quick and dirty update. For book writers interested in a tip I learned (or fans who like this kind of thing), keep reading.

As part of writing the outline this time around, I’ve tweaked the way I use my outline spreadsheet. As I’ve mentioned in a past post, when outlining, I set up a spreadsheet with three tabs, Outline, Timeline, and Brainstorm (I now just make a copy of the last outline spreadsheet, clear out what is unneeded, update the calendars to appropriate Letheran months, and start there). The Outline tab has the outline, Timeline has a calendar with several months on it (not in list form but in actual calendar format using square cells for days in the month with day numbers and chapter numbers in them, so I can see when things are happening and plan accordingly), and Brainstorm has lists of brainstorm ideas and details of promising ideas.

So, what changed? Well, I now use 5 columns labeled Plot (plot line number), Chap (chapter), Scene (within the chapter), Scene Description, and Notes, in that order. Plot is still where I put the plot line number, and I still use different numbers for each plot line. So for instance, the main plot might be numbered 1. But now, I use that same number on every row having to do with that plot. I used to use thousands to represent various plots, so the main plot might have been 1000, and the Plot column would have 1000, 1010, 1020, etc, to organize its scenes in order, and I had overall timeline numbers to organize scenes into their book order. Well, that got to be entirely too cumbersome to maintain with the amount of switching around of scenes I’ve been doing to keep things interesting. Instead, I now use Chap and Scene to do that. So, let’s say that I decide a certain scene should appear two chapters later (or earlier) than where it currently is. The old way would have required me to renumber the Plot column numbers for that plot line (and the Timeline numbers of ALL scenes between) from the current location down (or up) to the new location. Now, I just change the Chap number of that scene, and I only have to redo the Scene numbers of that one destination chapter based on the order I want its scenes. But the biggest time saver is when I decide to add or remove a scene. The old way required a renumbering of the Plot or Timeline columns for every single scene from its added (or deleted) point to the end of the book. And let me tell you, I am adding lots and lots of scenes right now as I outline, so it was just horrible. The new way is much faster and easier. Plus, Sort can still be used to arrange plot lines the ways I want. If I want each plot separated into their own groups so I can just focus on outlining a particular plot, I sort by Plot, Chapter, Scene. If I want to see all plots mixed together as they will appear in finished form, I sort by Chapter, Chapter, Scene. Why do I do Chapter, Chapter, Scene? Because OpenOffice Writer usually remembers Sort settings used, and this way, I only have to change the first sort field between Plot and Chapter, instead of selecting all three fields every time.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Do NOT use the scroll wheel of the mouse to change sort fields! Always click-and-choose. If you accidentally over-scroll up, the instant you hit the ‘-undefined-‘ selection, ALL field selections below that one will be cleared. I did this a few times before I learned my lesson. Note number two: When you bring up the Sort dialog, you may have to click the Options tab and select ‘Range contains column labels’ so you see Plot, Chap, Scene, etc, instead of Column A, Column B, etc. Note number three: Always select the entire spreadsheet before sorting. A fast way to do that is to click the grey square at top left, the one next to A and 1. Oh, and Note number four: I use Chap 0 for the prologue scenes.

Happy reading!

EDIT: Ignore Note number three! Do NOT select the entire spreadsheet before sorting! Calc auto-selects pertinent cells for you if your click (or are already in) a cell in the data and just go to Data->Sort from the menu. And in fact, if you DO select the entire spreadsheet first, Calc sometimes forgets the ‘Range includes column headers’ option. It has done that to me a few times and my best guess as to why is because the number of rows with data changed from the last time I sorted. For some reason, letting Calc auto-select the data block seems to keep that option, at least so far. Note that for its auto-select to work, the data you want to sort must be all together in a block of cells with no empty rows or columns within, and anything you don’t want sorted (like results cells, etc) must be separated from the data block by at least one empty row or column.

Categories: Dragonlinked, Lethera, Tips, Update, Writing | Tags: | Leave a comment

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