Friday, August 29, 2014

OneNote for Authors: Links & Files

Continuing from where we left of in my previous posts on OneNote about Getting Started and Tables, today let's talk about the basics for links and files and some ways authors can use them.

LINKS USES
This one will probably be a little self-evident. It's another method of keeping track of all your links. However, for authors, OneNote is a better option to just tagging favorites.

Authors do a LOT of research. For the seven books I've written so far I've researched things including locations, local customs, history, cultures, how tos (barrel racing training, what it's like to be a large animal vet). You name it. 

Rather than having a list of links and not remembering what information I got from which link, I copy from the websites and paste the most important research tidbits into OneNote. The link for the source of the information is automatically included at the bottom of the data. Or, I'll keep pages in OneNote that are common to multiple projects with lists of links that are all related. For example. I have a page with a list of links to web pages listing Southern expressions. 

FILE USES
You can insert a file into a OneNote page. The use for this, I find, is to be able to access files easily that related directly to the information on that page. Some examples...

On my pages for a particular book, I'll insert files for draft stages (1st draft, 2nd draft, post Wendy edits, final draft, etc.) I find that once it's been long enough after I've published a book, if I want to go back and look, I can't remember exactly which version of a file was that one. Even naming them appropriately, I often have multiple copies of drafts. 




LINKS - HOW TO

1. Open OneNote
2. Go to the Notebook > Section > Page where you want to place the link or links
3. Copy the link OR copy text or an image on the website
4. Paste onto the page


FILES - HOW TO

1. Open OneNote
2. Go to the Notebook > Section > Page where you want to place the file
3. Go to the "Insert" Menu at the top
4. Click "File Attachment"
5. Find the file you wish to attach
6. Click the "Ok" button
7. Select how to attach
     - "Attach File" just attaches the file - use for larger files
     - "Insert Printout" attaches it with a view of the content - use only for shorter files

***Note: You can also attach a file by clicking and dragging (or coping/pasting) from a Windows Explorer File.

***Note: You can also create new or attach existing spreadsheets. You can do screenshots and insert. Or manage pictures. All from the "Insert" menu in OneNote.




Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Queens of Sassy

My readers have probably figured out by now that I love a good sassy heroine. In fact, when I wrote a top list of literary heroines, I realized most of the had a solid streak of snark in them.

By sassy I mean a total smart ass. Throw a good bit of sarcasm, snark, or witty banter in there and you've got me hooked. Especially if those comments are directed toward their love interest, the villain, or the "other woman." I get so irritated with female leads who are wimpy and just let life happen to them or let their men do all their decision making and fighting. My favorite heroines can still be sweet, bubbly, tough, or loners... as long as there's a touch of sass in there, I love 'em.

So, with that in mind, I thought it would be fun to name my top 25 queens of sassy-ness on paper or screen:

25. Mary Poppins (played by Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins)
24. Veronica Mars (played by Kristin Bell on Veronica Mars)
23. Kyra (played by Alex Davalos in The Chronicles of Riddick)
22. Scarlet O'Hara (Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell, played by Vivien Leigh)
21. Elastigirl (played by Holly Hunter in The Incredibles)
20. Faith (played by Eliza Dushku on Buffy and Angel)
19. Fanny Bryce (played by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl)
18. Princess Anna (played by Kristin Bell in Frozen)
17. Evelyn Carnahan (played by Rachel Weisz in The Mummy)
16. Buffy Summers (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar on Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
15. Cordelia Chase (played by Charisma Carpenter on Angel)
14. Kristin Haardrad (Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey)
13. Maria (played by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music)
12. Ivy Walker (played by Bryce Dallas Howard in The Village)
11. Sam Parker (Here Be Sexist Vampires by Suzanne Wright)
10. Milly Pontipee (played by Jane Powell in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers)
9. Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, played by Emma Thompson)
8. Selina Kyle (played by Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises)
7. Katherine Minola (Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare)
6. Rusty Martin (played by Ann-Margaret in Viva Las Vegas)
5. Pamela De Beaufort (played by Kristin Bauer van Straten on True Blood)
4. Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)
3. Regina Lambert (played by Audrey Hepburn in Charade)
2. Mona Lisa Vito (played by Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny)
1. Princess Leia (played by Carrie Fisher in Star Wars)

Well that was fun! Who is on your list?



Sunday, August 24, 2014

Book Trailers: Do I? Or Don't I?

One of the marketing trends out there for authors are book trailers. These are a lot like movie trailers for but books. I actually like the concept a lot. It puts images and drama to the selling of the story, and I could see how that would be useful as a marketing tool. The question is, how useful?

The reason I ask that question is because if I'm going to spend money and time on this project, I want it to be worth while. There are a lot of places I could invest my resources when it comes to marketing - blog tours, blog hops, giveaways, book covers, etc. Many of which I've found to be quite effective. If I choose to do a book trailer, it's going to take away from those things in my budget.

I've only done a little research on this. There appears to be quite a huge range of options. For as much as $10,000 I could hire a company that would do a very professional trailer using real actors, popular music, voice overs, custom script etc. There are some more reasonable versions of that out there too. But still a lot of $.

At the other end of the spectrum, I could use a free or cheap video software to make a slide-show-like trailer myself. I already have a source for good images from my book cover endeavors and some helpful graphics art skills of my own. However, this would cost a lot in terms of time and effort on my part.

I know there's a lot of ground in between. But you get the idea. My time and/or money for a book trailer versus a different marketing option like another giveaway. So....

Questions to my readers... Would you really enjoy seeing something like this? Should I make a go at one and see what you think? Is it something you'd share with friends?

Question to other authors... What's your experience with this? Worth it? Any options you'd recommend?

Thanks in advance for the feedback!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Virtual Trips: Finding a Setting for Andromeda's Fall

I have always been a mountain girl. Born in Colorado, raised in Texas, but visiting the Rocky Mountains every summer. I could spend the rest of my days in the mountains and be a happy girl. (The beach not so much). It's this love for the mountains which inspired me to set my first book, Blue Violet, in Estes Park. When deciding on where to set Andromeda's Fall - book #1 of the Shadowcat Nation series - it was a no brainer.

The series is centered on a community of mountain lion shifters. I wanted to be authentic to the animals my shifters become. Mountain lions (also called cougars or pumas) have a very wide range and a variety of natural environments where they thrive. So all that did was narrow things down to the Western Hemisphere. However, one of the more common environments for these amazing creatures are the mountainous regions of the western United States. Mountains? SOLD!

Next question? Where? There are a lot of mountain ranges in that space. Since I'd already placed one series in the Rockies, I decided against that. I could easily have decided on closer to my current home in northern California where cougars do live (in fact one has been sighted in my very suburban neighborhood several times this summer). However, for my purposes I needed wider spaces of low to no human population. Time to pull out Google.

I love the internet! It allows authors like me to discover settings and virtually travel to those settings. Would I prefer to go visit and experience for myself? Absolutely. It would be tremendous in helping me write the world I'm describing more vividly. But you gotta have cash for that. So until I'm world-famous, virtual travel is my best method.

In this case, the internet helped me find all sorts of information. I concentrated on the western U.S. and looked at the following (I added links to some of my websites below in case you're interested):

  • locations of mountain ranges
  • population heat maps over those ranges
  • proximity of large cities to small towns to wilderness
  • cougar population and ranges
  • wolf population and ranges (that's one of my bad guys in this series - wolf shifters)
  • images of the areas
  • any blogs that the images would lead me too - frequently resulting in helpful descriptions
Based on my research I narrowed my setting down to the Bitterroot Mountain Range that follows the Idaho/Montana border. Technically they're a subrange of the Rocky Mountains, so something I'm still familiar with, but different. It is one of the largest designated wilderness areas in the United States with extremely low populations anywhere close. Perfect! In my books, the Keller Dare compound is located on the Idaho side of the range on the northeast side of the state near the "notch" in the border. 

I have always heard that the mountains of Idaho and Montana were gorgeous and they are on my list to visit. It's a wild, gorgeous, dangerous, changing land that suits my mountain lion shifters perfectly. I hope to explore it myself some day!

Andromeda's Fall coming soon through The Wild Rose Press! (Date TBD)


A few of my research links for Idaho and the Bitterroot Range:


Monday, August 18, 2014

OneNote for Authors: Tables

Continuing from where we left of in my previous post on OneNote about Getting Started, today let's talk about the basics for tables and some ways authors can use them.

TABLE USES
Tables have a TON of uses for us authors. They help organize your information in rows and columns. So any information that you need to track or keep organized, this is a good way to do it.

Some examples of how I use tables as an author to help get you started with ideas:

  • Monthly Social Media Table - I create a table at the beginning of each month that tracks my plan for blog posts and SOME of my FB and Twitter posts based on what's going on that month. This really helps me plan ahead and keep on track with my social media.
  • Character Table - For each series (or book if standalone) I have a character table. I include information like the physical description, back story, traits, relationships, even a picture of what I think they look like. 
  • Plot Table - For a book on a chapter-by-chapter basis, I keep track of a few things including pacing, character POV, character development, plot points. All sorts of stuff. I even color code. It helps me to see where my holes are, and where to concentrate in editing.


HOW TO
Tables are one of the simpler tools in OneNote. To create a table you can do one of two things.

Create Table, Option 1 - Tabbing

  1. Find the page (new or old) that you want to add the table to.
  2. Type one word and hit the "tab" button on your keyboard. 
OneNote will automatically create a table for you. Any time you hit tab it'll create a new column. Any time you hit enter takes you to a new row. Enter twice will take out out of the table.

Create Table, Option 2 - Insert Table
  1. Find the page (new or old) that you want to add the table to.
  2. Go to the "Insert" tab at the top
  3. Click the little arrow under the "Table" button
  4. Select the number of columns/rows for the table
  5. Just click to insert
Formatting
Once your table is created you have the option to format it further. I rarely do much formatting, but this does help some visualize better.
  1. Put your cursor in the table
  2. A tab at the top called "Table Tools, Layout" will appear
  3. Click the tab
You can add/remove rows and columns, format the coloring/layout of the table, change alignment within the cells. You can even convert the table to a spreadsheet.

SPREADSHEETS
I can't talk about tables without mentioning spreadsheets. I'll admit that I was originally an Excel girl. For the last 10 years, my day job has been as a Business Analyst for a large tech company. I LIVE in spreadsheets.

If  you prefer to do your tables in Excel, no problem! Instead of creating a table, you can insert Excel spreadsheets (new or already created) into OneNote for easy access.
  1. Find the page (new or old) that you want to add the spreadsheet to.
  2. Go to the "Insert" tab at the top
  3. Click the little arrow under the "Spreadsheet" button
  4. Select "New" or "Existing" (If select Existing, you must go find the file you want to insert)
Once in place, the spreadsheet will look like a table in OneNote. If you click on the table, a small "Edit" button will appear in the upper left-corner. Click that to open the spreadsheet in Excel to edit there.


Hope this was helpful. Next post on this topic we'll hit on links and files.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Editing Saving the Sheriff

Wendy and I are through with our first round of Saving the Sheriff - the first book in The Hills of Texas series. This is the sixth book we've worked on together. However, this is the first contemporary romance, so I was very curious to see Wendy's feedback.

With each book I've posted about some of the more comment habits or issues caught in editing. Every time I write a book now, I go back to look at these editing posts to remind myself of what I've learned and what to keep an eye out for. I guess that, plus writing six books, plus the workshops, have really paid off, because Saving the Sheriff required no major rewrites and no repeated bad habits that stuck out as they have in the past.

In fact, about half-way through the MS, I got this comment back from her: "I swear this is like the cleanest, smoothest first draft I’ve ever edited. Thank you! Ha :) "

Rewrites
The biggest (and only) "rewrite" I had to do on this one was changing a scene where the "bad guy" accosts her in the middle of a dance by taking her out on the dance floor. Instead, I have him accost her as she's on the way to the bathroom.  Believe me when I say, that was the easiest, fastest rewrite I've ever had to do.

Bad Habits
The most frequent comment back - and there were only maybe three spots - were requests to fill in the details a little more - describe the local, or what they're looking at, or what they're wearing, or bring in the 5 senses. I had already applied these details for the most part, but apparently got a little lazy toward the end of the book. Fixed!

I was also thrilled to get back some comments from Wendy about the book in general. 

"this is all going so great… I really look forward to reading these pages J"

"OMG girl THIS is what you were meant to write! Wow, not that your others weren't great, but this one sounds and feels SO natural and just keeps flowing great pace and voice... This is totally your genre "

Thrilled to get that feedback. When you change things up significantly, it's always a little nerve wracking. But I've always wanted to write contemporary romance. It's been a dream since I started reading them when I was thirteen. Fingers crossed that agents/publishers - and, most importantly, my readers - share Wendy's views about it!!!

P.S. I'll also be curious to see if I get similar "clean MS" comments from Wendy when I send her Sarai's Fortune for a critique next. :)


Thursday, August 14, 2014

What's another way to say... ?

I frequently run against a scene where I repeat a word over and over again. I try very hard not to do this, and Wendy is great a catching times when I did without realizing it. In fact, it drives me bananas when I find it in books, or worse, song lyrics. 

Sometimes, you have to get really creative to eliminate the number of times a word is repeated, or just a different way to convey the same concept. Here are some of the tricks I use. This is a fairly generic/easy example from a recent editing session with Wendy.

Original Excerpt:
She’d spent the last three days inoculating all of their stock against Blackleg. Luke had helped the first two days, but had to leave for an emergency birth at another ranch. 

Holly had spent the entire day today wrapping up the rest of the stock on her own. With help from the ranch hands, of course. Still, it’ had taken her the better part of the day. Luckily no other calves had shown any sign of the disease since they started.

The hands had taken Holly out for a thank you drink – or couple of rounds of drinks – at the closest local bar. They’d been a hoot, and Holly had enjoyed her evening. She’d only had one beer, very early on, but the combination of three long days, the alcohol, and a late night all combined to make her very sleepy. 

***

As you can see, I repeat the word "day" (or some varition thereof) 6 times in 3 paragraphs. Bad writing! When you run across this, there are a few things you can try to eliminate the repetition. 

Eliminate
The first thing I do is go through and figure out which instances I can eliminate without losing the gist of the sentence. That second instance is a good spot. If I just remove the word "day" it's still obvious that Luke worked two days with her since three days was mentioned so recently.

Substitute
See where you can substitute a different word that means the same thing. Not a ton of great examples in this one. But the "day today" combo could be replaced by hours instead. 

Re-Phrase
Use a different phrase, or re-write the sentence. For example "three long days" at the end could be reworded into "the hard work" - which has nothing to do with days, but the meaning still comes across (possibly better).

***

With some easy eliminating, substituting, and rephrasing, here's how the paragraph ended up. No more repetition of the word "days" !!!

Edited Excerpt:
She’d spent the last three days inoculating all of their stock against Blackleg. Luke had helped the first two, but had to leave for an emergency birth at another ranch late last night. 

Holly wrapped up the rest of the stock on her own. With help from the ranch hands, of course. Still, it’ had taken her until late this afternoon to finish. Luckily no other calves had shown any sign of the disease since they started.

The hands had taken Holly out for a thank you drink – or couple of rounds of drinks – at the closest local bar. They’d been a hoot, and Holly had enjoyed her evening. She’d only had one beer, very early on, but the combination of grueling work, the alcohol, and a late night all combined to make her very sleepy.