Fan Extras

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.

 

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A Xochitl By Any Other Name

So. Many. Dragon. Names.

Hey everyone (I assume I can use ‘everyone’ instead of ‘you’ because I think—I hope?—there is more than one person who reads these ramblings),

Today I have for you a micro-update and a kind of fan extra all rolled into one! A dragonlinked info-taco, if you will! With extra exclamation marks!!

Okay. Sorry. Too much coffee.

The micro update: I’m writing the draft of the last chapter of book 4! Whoop! I apologize for how long this book is taking, but I think I know why and will let you all know if that is the case, soon. Now, I do have to write the epilogue after this chapter, but it will likely not be as long as a full chapter.

The fan-extra, secret taco-sauce: As part of writing this chapter, I have to come up with a name for a dragon who I didn’t need to name earlier. Part of my process for doing so is to review other names I’ve already used. This is true for humans or dragons, incidentally. I try to come up with a name that does not sound like and is not spelled too much like previous names. I have failed at that before, but I try to keep it from happening because, and especially with an ensemble series like this one, it can be confusing to the reader if there are names that are too similar. I just finished reviewing my character list and the dragon names therein and there are So Many Dragons. It’s very cool (dragons!), but also a bit intimidating. I have to come up with another dragon name. How do I do that? I hit up the interwebs for Aztec/Mayan/Inca names. That’s the fan extra bit. My dragon names are based off of Aztec/Mayan/Inca names! And that is what’s going on in the post title. There is no actual word for ‘rose’ in Aztec, but xochitl means ‘flower,’ so, there you go. Xochi is a diminutive form of Xochitl that I used for that rambunctious little rascal dragon who is no longer little. Another difficult part for me is finding out how a potential name is pronounced. Along with how it looks written down, how a name sounds is an important part of my selection process, even more so than its meaning. Thankfully, Google usually helps me out with that, too. So anyway, now I am off to come up with a new dragon name. I’ve had to come up with a few new dragon names while writing this book, by the way. Who are they? Where are they from? WHO ARE THEY GOING TO BOND WITH?!? Sorry, that information must remain secret, for now.

Until next time, happy reading!

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The delightful Saoirse Ronan Inspires a Character Name

I was trying to come up with a name for a certain character today. There are many things I think about when doing so—personality, inclusiveness, physical features, and who they are in relation to other characters. Now, I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I won’t say who exactly she is, but because of who she is, I wanted to use an Irish name. While looking up pronunciations of Irish names for girls, I came across this video of actress Saoirse Ronan on the Ellen Show. I’d seen her in various movies (most memorable for me is Hanna), but I never knew how to pronounce her name until I did this research. I have to say, I was very taken with her accent and her personality and her attitude about the attention one gets as an actress (the attention is a bit bothersome), so I decided to use Saoirse after all. The character in my book is probably nothing like the actress, but I do like the name—it was one of the top three I was looking into. (The others? Radha [row-a], and Niamh [neev])

After the actress appeared on the Ellen Show, there was apparently a bit of a kerfuffle about it among some Irish folks in the twitter-sphere because there are a few Irish dialects and each has a slightly different pronunciation for that name. Some use [sur-sha]/[ser-sha] as she does, some use [seer-sha], and some [sayr-sha]/ [saer-sha]. There are probably others, too. For myself, and with apologies to Miss Ronan, I will be using [saer-sha] because I like the more earthy feel it has. Obviously, readers can use whichever they prefer, but in my head, as I write and read Saoirse, I will hear [Saer-sha].

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Ever Wonder What Flying on a Dragon is Like?

When I write these stories, I know what it is like. I see it, I hear it, I feel it, and I even taste it—The tang on your tongue when you are so excited that your heart pounds relentlessly in your ears and you can hardly hear anything else. I’d never thought to see anything in the real world that even came close.

I was wrong.

This video, if you like dragons, you must watch it. I was bouncing in my chair and screaming, This is it! This is it!, as I did. Do yourself a favor and watch it full-screen.

THIS IS WHAT FLYING WITH YOUR BOND-MATE IS LIKE.

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Disruption

As a writer, there are so many things that can throw you for a loop, that can suck the energy right out of you and make it hard to do anything, much less write. There are big things, like attending funerals, offering comfort to someone in the hospital or emergency room, or news of someone close to you with cancer or another severe illness. Aside from the loss, or potential loss, of someone you care about, those kinds of things are powerful reminders of our mortality. It’s no surprise that they can cause feelings of depression and perhaps a desire to curl up in a nest and hide until you don’t feel so bad.

Even ‘small’ things can disrupt. A bad review, a summons for jury duty, a surprisingly large bill, or an unexpected home repair or appliance failure. There are a number of relatively innocuous events that can eat away at your energy, your desire to put pen or pencil to paper, or to tap away at a keyboard or typewriter.

So what are you to do at times like that? YOU WRITE.

Drag yourself off the sofa/chair/recliner, pull yourself hand-over-hand out of that blanket nest. Make your coffee or tea or whatever you imbibe, plop your butt at your table or desk, and you darn well write. No idea what to write? Read over a few of the pages leading to where you are now to re-familiarize yourself with the scene and then continue that ongoing inner monologue, or that conversation, or that scene description, or whatever. Just. Keep. Writing.

Over the past almost five years since I started writing more or less seriously, there have been a few days where all I got on the page was a single paragraph. One paragraph. But you know what? That was more than I would have done if I’d crawled into bed, or curled up on the sofa. The next day may only bring about one or two paragraphs as well, but that is still progress. Eventually, either through the passage of time or because of the writing, your mood will again lift, you will feel the old inspiration, and ideas will once again pummel you relentlessly. You’ll then look back over the surprisingly large number of pages you were able to eke out in the interim and be glad of them.

As a bonus, all those disruptive things can also provide you with material. Writing a scene where protag (or antag, for that matter) is going through something horrible? Recall how you felt when something horrible happened to you and translate that into how that character would feel in their scene.

All those things also point out the truth of the saying ‘Shit happens.’ Not so good in real life, perhaps, but as a writer, there’s nothing like some good old random (but logical) disruption to stir the plot up. I made use of this in A Storm in the Desert.

SPOILER WARNING. If you’ve not read Dragonlinked Chronicles Volume 3, A Storm in the Desert, you may want to skip the next paragraph. If you’d like to read it, purchase links to Amazon.com for each of the volumes are available in the Books section of the Library menu above, or, have a friend lend it to you. All my books are Kindle Lending Library enabled.

Initially, the issues with the Corpus Order were going to be resolved in the execution scene. Before Anaya was executed, Aeron was going to give a speech that would convince Nesch Takatin of the error of his ways and lead to the Corpus Order ending their campaign against dragons. As I got closer and closer to writing that outlined scene, I felt it was a little too . . . tame. Then one day an idea struck me. How about some disruption (at least for Takatin)? Instead of just a talk-talk scene, how about throwing in a rescue? Aeron and Anaya would be rescued, and the guild would start an overt, in-your-face campaign to convince the members of the Order and the people of the villages that what the Order was doing was wrong. This also made me look at my initial idea of the Order becoming an ally of the guild. What if, instead, the Order gets completely shut down by the very person who everyone thought would help? Disruption! I didn’t want to leave them with total failure, however, and readers, I was certain, would feel the same way. So then, if I went with this twist, what other method could be used to accomplish their core goal? How about something that had been talked about before in another context, something that someone no one liked was using to gain an upper hand? Have the guild purchase the Order’s assets and turn Bataan-Mok into a guild branch! Former members of the Order would keep their jobs and the guild could continue doing most of the things the Order used to. Everything looked like it would work out nice and neat, so that’s what I did.

SPOILER OVER.

Disruption can be difficult for us to handle, but fight through those tough times and then use them. Difficulty isn’t so great in your life, but it makes good stories.

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The Bond on Sale for Limited Time

The Bond cover

The Bond

If you have friends who haven’t read it yet—or if you haven’t, The Bond, book 2 of Dragonlinked Chronicles (an lgbt-friendly YA fantasy series), is on a Kindle Countdown Deal promotion at amazon.com until the early morning of April 14th, 2015, and at amazon.co.uk until the early morning of April 12th, 2015 (early morning eastern time). These deals work by offering a larger discount at the beginning of the promotion period, which drops as the deal runs. So, the earlier you buy, the bigger the markdown you get from the regular price.

The UK deal runs a shorter time because amazon only allows minimum discount increments of 0.99, and those increments are in the currency of the host website. For the UK site, that’s GBP. Because of that, there are fewer increments at the UK site (GBP are higher value than USD, and my book prices at the various amazon sites are all based on a USD price converted to equivalent native currency price). But enough weird financial babble.

Happy reading!

P.S. Fan extra! The hand/arm on the cover image? It’s mine. I only wish I could bond with a dragon for real!

Categories: Books, Dragonlinked, Fan Extras, Lethera, LGBT, Sale | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Another Kind of Map (and Library updated)

I’ve written about how an outline can serve as a great tool, a sort of map, to guide you on your course as you write. Another kind of map, one closer to its namesake, is a sketch (or much more detailed drawing, if you need it) of the area in which your story takes place. Depending on how much your character(s) move(s) about in the town/castle/prison/whatever, a sketch of the layout will help considerably in keeping your story consistent.

Will the sun be in the character’s eyes when walking out the door? Where will the shadows be in this scene (will there be shadows)? Is the destination to the left or right (or north or south, etc)? Is the building visible to the character from here? If there is a chase scene, where can the character run to/through? A sketch also helps keep things consistent between books, if you’re writing a series (as I am).

Early in writing Dragonlinked, I realized that a sketch of Caer Baronel’s layout would be required. There were just too many locations in the Caer to keep straight in my head and the characters did a lot of walking around. That sketch has served me well all through the three books I’ve written so far. The sketch isn’t meant to be exact; it merely serves as a handy reference to where things are in relation to each other.

I’m adding the sketch to the Library (accessible from the menu at the top of the blog) along with a sketch of the dragon stable layout. The remains of erased pencil (which became much more visible when I increased the contrast to make the fainter lines visible) let you see where I changed the layout of the Caer and changed some of the buildings a bit. The Woodworking building used to be two separate buildings, part of one of which was the armory, and the Water Hall used to be called (only briefly) the Pump House, for instance. Also, vegetable gardens used to be nearby, before I decided that an entire farm would better serve a community as large as the Caer and moved all that off to Baronel Farm ten miles or so east. You also get to see the sheer awesomeness of my chicken-scratch handwriting! I thought some readers might get a kick out of seeing these.

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For the Holidays, a Present

As a gift for those who just can’t wait until I can release it, I am presenting the Prologue of the third book here in its entirety. Needless to say, this is all copyright by me.

Now remember, as a prologue it doesn’t give much away at all of what will be in the book. It merely sets some things up, plants ideas in the reader’s mind, and gives a little background.

Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!

Prologue

“Did you have a vision?”

Dellia turned to her husband. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.”

He blinked in the light of the small lamp. “What was it about? Should I send a message to someone?”

“No, no. It was a fairly pleasant one, actually.” She turned back to the small desk and slid the shield on the lamp a little more closed. “About Ulthis, I think. There was a crown of lightning.” She shrugged. “I’ve just been trying to get it down on paper.”

“Some of those poems you’ve written about the visions are pretty good, at least to my mind.” He yawned and turned over. “You should think about publishing them.”

Dellia blinked. Publish them? She glanced at the small leather case where she kept all her scribblings.

It was easier to record the visions in poem form, because they were as enigmatic as poetry could be. The ability to record shifting ‘scenes’ and link them into a whole served her well when trying to make sense of them. Though, if she were to publish the poems, they would need titles.

She looked down at the sheet of paper before her. What would this one be called? The other poems she could name later. She and Methon were at their home, the caravan wasn’t on the road during the winter, so there would be plenty of time for that.

What to title it? How about, Dellia’s Dream? Yes. That suited it well.

In a luminous ocean of brilliant stars,
‘Neath a halo of lightning—his silver-forked crown,
A mysterious figure watches and waits.
Will the bestowal be accepted or at all found?

Seemingly cold, impossibly distant,
Yet passion exists, joyous mirth to relentless fury.
So dread looms large. Would there be thunderous ruin,
If the gift be cast off in its glory?

Seekers of hope, knowers of hearts,
The pure, blazing truth theirs to see.
So avail you not of masks, hoods, or cloaks,
Nay, revel in who you’re meant to be.

Fill your head with boundless dreams,
Of futures perfect, bright and bold.
Be true to your center, be true to yourself,
And the soul-bound gift you’ll hold.

But remember this, and remember it well,
His boon brings with it a price.
Should you be one whom the glorious gift chooses,
A good heart on its own won’t suffice.

You will need to be brave, you will need to be strong,
For your deeds may be dangerous and frightening.
But you’ll not be alone, you’ll have his gift,
And the grateful Bearer of Lightning.

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Library Updated

As a little bit of fan service, I have updated the Library (accessible via the menu at the top of the blog) by adding in a PDF map of Lethera. It is a map of the continent Muirgen (mweer’ gen: g as in good, en as in men), where all the stories thus far have taken place. I used a version of this as I was writing in order to determine travel distance/times and to track where things were in relation to each other. The map will be updated as needed with new releases of short stories or books.

I hope you enjoy it!

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