Wednesday, July 30, 2014

OneNote for Authors: Getting Started

In my super-secret under-cover life (a.k.a. my day job), I frequently teach people various organization skills - from keeping up with emails, to task management, to home org tips and tricks. I thought it might be fun to share some tips on one of the tools I use both in my author life and my under-cover life: OneNote!

Today I'll just cover the basics. I'll get into more specifics in another post soon.

OneNote Uses for Authors:
As an author, I use OneNote in multiple. In particular, I keep notes on EVERYTHING I do, including:
  • Notes for books such as research, websites, ideas, editing needs, outlines, tracking series details, and more.
  • Notes on querying including research about editors/agents/publishers that I'm looking into, query letter drafts, queries sent, responses, and more.
  • Notes from workshops and classes and how I'd like to apply concepts.
  • Publishing information including formatting for Kindle vs. Smashwords vs. Create Space to help me get faster at that, tracking all the websites and tools I use, etc.
  • Social Media/Marketing Management including check boxed to-do lists, monthly schedules for blog posts, ideas of upcoming marketing fun, and more.
And that's just my author stuff. Don't get me started on all the every day, family, and day-time job stuff I track.



Getting Set Up:
The first thing you need to learn about OneNote, and set up, is how it is organized. Think of it just like notebook binders we used to have in grade school (or am I showing my age?). A binder for each class, tabbed sections within the binder for topics, and pages inside each section for the notes. 

Note: OneNote is a Microsoft Office application. The steps to do the below will differ slightly for different versions of MS Office. I'm on Windows 8 with Office 365.

Notebooks
Notebooks are listed down the left side of OneNote. Notebooks are like your class binders. To create a new Notebook:
  1. Click to the File menu at the top
  2. Click the "New" option on the left
  3. Under "New Notebook" select where to save (I usually save to Computer)
  4. In the "Notebook Name" field, enter the name for your Notebook
  5. Click the "Create Notebook" button

As an author, I have the following Notebooks:
  • Svatura Series
  • Shadowcat Nation Series
  • Ghost Series
  • Standalone Books
  • Querying
  • Workshops
  • Publishing
  • Social Media/Marketing
  • Ideas

Sections
Sections are the equivalent of tabbed sections within your binder. I use these to breakdown the larger topic into sub-topics. Sections are listed as tabs across the top of the page. To create a new Section:
  1. On the left side of OneNote, select the Notebook in which you want to create the section
  2. Along the top, there will be a tab that has a plus sign... Click that tab
  3. It will change colors and say "New Section #" with the ability for you to type and rename
  4. Type over that text with the name for the section/tab
For example, in my "Svatura Series" Notebook, I have the following sections:
  • Svatura Characters & Details (tracking them for the series)
  • Plot Lines
  • A tab for each of the 4 books in the series, the box set, and a new short story anthology


Pages
Pages are like the note pages in the tabbed sections of your binder. This is where you take the notes. Pages are listed along the right side of OneNote. To create a new Page:


  1. On the left side of OneNote, select the Notebook in which you want to create the section
  2. Along the top, click the section tab in which you want to create the page
  3. Along the right side, click the "+ Add Page" button
  4. OneNote will automatically create a new page and put your cursor where the title of the page is
  5. Type the title for the page
  6. Then click anywhere below the title and start typing your notes
For example, in my Svatura Characters & Details tab, I have pages for the main cast of characters, for the bad guy cast of characters, for the minor characters, etc.

Tip: You can create multiple areas of notes on one page, simply click somewhere else on the page and start typing.

Tip: You can drag and drop those areas of notes anywhere you want (very loosey goosey, I know - but you'll get used to it)

Tip: You can make subpages. Once a page has been created, on the right hand side, right click the name of the page. Then click "Make Subpage". It will indent the page. Helps with grouping of like notes within a section.


I hope that this was helpful for you in some way. In my next round, I'll get into more specifics about how I use it. 

Please feel free to comment and tell me what you'd like to see next. I can either cover the more technical stuff like creating tables, inserting files, sharing, etc. Or I can cover it more author style and show examples of how I use it for individual books, social media/marketing, publishing, etc.

Happy OneNoteing friends!!!

(P.S. I know the pictures bleed into my right navigation on the website - but you can see them better that way.)


Monday, July 28, 2014

Blue Violet Travels to Estes Park

Remember my idea to leave my books in places as gifts for whomever picks them up - sort of "Flat Stanley" meets "Abandoned Art" meets giveaways?

Well I just spent ten days at my favorite place on the planet - Estes Park, Colorado. And, since Blue Violet and parts of the rest of the Svatura series are set in that location, I decided it would be fun to leave gift copies of Blue Violet in many of the places mentioned in the books, as well as some of my own favorite spots. If it wasn't a good place for a Traveling Gift drop, but was in Blue Violet, I at least took a picture.

What was funny, is that it's actually a little tricky leaving something in a spot that's got good foot traffic so that it will be spotted, but also has a few slower moments with no one around to say "Excuse me, ma'am? Is this yours?" But I managed it like a first-class spy. Also, I did check back on each book after 30 minutes or so, and they were always picked up.

Here are all the pictures. I'll post them separately to Facebook too. See if any of these locations look like how you pictured them in the books!



Where Alex flirted in the book stacks and was jealous when Brian asked Ellie out. 
Traveling gift book left on a bench close by.




Where Ellie and Adelaide encouraged Brian and Juliette's romance.
No traveling gift book left.



Poppy's Pizza & Grill

Where Griffin interrupted Ellie's pizza dinner with Lila, Adelaide, Nate, and Alex after the library.
Traveling gift book left on a bench along the river walk nearby.






Riverwalk Water Wheel

This water wheel is at the end of the main strip of shops in downtown Estes.
Traveling gift book left on a bench nearby.




Where Ellie and Alex meet the first time. (Among other things.)
No traveling gift book left.





Kind Coffee
Coffee shop where Alex bumps into Ellie and they agree to start running together.
Traveling gift book left on a comfy chair (after a cup of coffee first!).

Walking from the lake running trail parking over to the coffee shop.
View from the coffee shop back down the path toward the lake running trail.
 

Baldpate Inn

My family visits the Baldpate Inn for a meal every time we're in Estes. It's an historic hotel famous for its key room. We also love the views and the hummingbirds everywhere.
Book drop on a comfy couch in the key room.







Lake Estes

The walking paths around Lake Estes where Ellie/Alex would meet to run. I used to run here until I started my MBA and stopped running (sigh). Time to get started again I think. No traveling book left.






The neighborhood where Ellie/Griffin's house is located. Brian's too.
No traveling gift book left.



A landmark in the town. Gorgeous Victorian hotel that the book "The Shining" was based on.
Traveling gift book dropped in one of the casual areas inside (after a lovely meal!).






Downtown Estes Riverwalk

Right behind the main section of shops is a gorgeous common area with the river running through it and lots of fountains and little bridges.
Traveling gift book left beside stairs in the area.



Rocky Mountain National Park

Estes Park is located right at the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. When we visit we do lots of hikes, drives, picnics, etc.
No traveling gift book left.
Bear Lake

Sprague Lake

Morain Park


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sneak Peek Sunday - Andromeda's Fall



I'm on a Sneak Peek Sunday Blog Hop!!! Below is an excerpt from my upcoming paranormal romance, Andromeda's Fall, to be released by The Wild Rose Press at a date TBD. Enjoy!

Please also visit Sneak Peek Sunday to hop along with me and see other fun excerpts from upcoming or WIP books.

Feel free to leave comments and tell me what you think!

*****

Andie crouched low in the underbrush, obscured from view, and watched the compound with a quiet patience born of experience. If her calculations were correct, the next patrol of guards would pass by within the minute. Her posture and expression didn’t shift an inch when, seconds later, she was proven correct.

As soon as the sentry passed from sight, Andie moved like a shadow through the stillness of the night. Ignoring the pain in her body, she sprinted across the lawn and was up and over the wall. She dropped to the ground on the other side with a barely audible thud.

Andie found herself on the backside of a manicured garden. She stayed completely still, hunkered down, and took her time observing her location. About a hundred yards ahead, she saw light from the main building in the complex. The glow spilled out from a pair of glass doors and across the trees and plants, creating patches of darkness and light.

Andie moved again, using the pools of shadow and groupings of plants for cover. She didn’t go for the doors. They were too obvious. Besides, they were likely wired to the alarm system and required some kind of code to get through. But on the second floor, one of the windows was wide open, allowing in the cool night breeze. With agile grace, Andie swung herself up into the branches of a large tree just outside that window.

She took care to use only her right arm, which slowed her down a bit. But the injuries she’d sustained a few days earlier made her left arm almost unusable. As quickly and as soundlessly as she could, she made her way up to the branch closest to her chosen point of access. She stopped again and observed.

Andie didn’t move for close to thirty minutes. She just watched. When she was satisfied, she leapt with all the power of her feline form. She didn’t shift exactly —she was trying to avoid that right now since it would be seen as a direct threat if anyone caught her —but she used the might of the beast inside her to clear the distance to the window. She sailed through the opening and immediately tucked and rolled as she hit the ground.

-- Andromeda's Fall (Shadowcat Nation #1) - Release Date TBD

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Svatura Series - Box Set

Announcing the release of the Svatura series in an eBook box set. Now you can get all four books for 15% off the price of the books purchased individually!


Available @ the Following:
Kindle @ Amazon.com
Nook @ Barnes & Noble
Apple iBookstore
Smashwords

Description:
Ellie, Selene, Lila, and Adelaide.

One will come out of hiding to protect others from the fate she suffered. One will lead her people after being released from a hellish nightmare. One will try to start a new life only to discover that her path lies where it always has. And one will feel a loss so terrible that only oblivion can stop the pain.

Individually they are strong. But together these sisters of the heart are a force before whom even their most powerful enemies will tremble. However, that may not be enough. Is the key to their salvation power... or love?


Books 1-4 in the Svatura Series. Box set includes four full-length novels.

Book 1: Blue Violet
Book 2: Hyacinth
Book 3: Crimson Dahlia
Book 4: Black Orchid

Appropriate for ages 15+



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What Makes Mountain Lions Awesome?

I think anyone who reads paranormal romance loves a good shifter book. For Andromeda's Fall, the first book in my upcoming Shadowcat Nation series, I decided to feature mountain lion shifters. Mountain lions are gorgeous animals, very powerful and mysterious, and frequently spotted where I live in Northern California. I find them fascinating.

I'll admit that I lucked out when starting my research for Andromeda's Fall. A friend of mine is a bit of an expert on these incredible creatures. He gave me quite a bit of information, which I then supplemented with my own research. Many of the unique qualities mountain lions exhibit directly influenced how I ended up building the entire Shadowcat Nation world.

Below are just are a few examples of what I found interesting and how I applied these facts to the series:

Loners
Mountain lions are very much loners. Unlike African lions, they do not live in prides or any type of societal groupings. They may come together to mate, but, otherwise, they avoid each other. In fact, mountain lions encountering each other in the wild will fight, often to the death. It's not unusual to see a cougar missing an ear, more often than not from fighting with their own kind. Mothers do raise their kittens for 1-2 years.

Shadowcat Nation: This aspect of mountain lions' natures caused me some issues in that I needed my shifters to interact. In the series, disappearing natural environments (due to the same causes that are true today) are causing group-based shifters (like African lions and wolves) to attack the loners in order to gain their territories. Mountain lions must band together against the threat, creating the Shadowcat Nation. But their loner natures make for a tense situation. In addition, this new societal setup is relatively new, so they are still figuring out how it works.


Large Territorial Range
Mountain lions have the largest range of any mammal in the western hemisphere (excluding humans). They are found in areas stretching from Canada to Argentina. They used to roam all of the US, but humans have driven them out of the eastern areas and they are now only found in Western US and Florida. With such a large range, they thrive in multiple types of habitats - mountains, forests, swamps, high deserts, snow. Not only that, but cougars travel a larger distance than any other types of large cats. They can have territories that span as little as 10 square miles (which is more rare) and as much as 370 square miles. Most need at least 30 square miles

Shadowcat Nation: I decided to divide the Shadowcat Nation into 10 pride-like groups and name them Dares (after a little side research on naming animal groups). I made the Dares of the Shadowcat Nation spread out over the wild cats' natural range. Each Dare then has its own Alpha, its own enemies, and therefore its own focuses and needs.


Not Monogamous
Mountain lions don't mate for life. In fact, they only mate during the season; otherwise, all bets are off and they're more likely to fight.

Shadowcat Nation: I did keep this aspect of their wild nature. They might mate randomly and not for long. But I added some of their human nature in there as a competing impulse/imperative by giving some of them a desire to find a partner in life. In addition, I added a mystical kicker in the form of Fated Mates. A Seer will inform the pair if they are destined to mate for life.


A couple of other small facts that I thought were cool.... Cougars don't roar. They scream and purr or make a few other quieter sounds. More often than not, they're silent, even when fighting. They often attack from behind, and they are incredible fighters. Check out this video from YouTube of a mountain lion protecting her kitten from a bear.



I hope you enjoyed this walk down research lane as much as I did when going through it. Two of the more interesting websites I found were National Geographic and Defenders of Wildlife.

I can't tell you how glad I am that I took the time to research mountain lions before starting to write. Otherwise, my shifters would have been more like African lions, which they are not. Not only that, but I learned that research can lead to some great ideas in terms of world building and character interaction.

Look for Andromeda's Fall, the first book of the Shadowcat Nation series, to be released by The Wild Rose Press at a date TBD!!!



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Hills of Texas

I am now about 75% finished with my first contemporary romance. Hooray! Wait... what?!?! I thought I was writing a ghost story?

But no. This book has really decided to stay contemporary after going back and forth a bit. I have enough plot from the contemporary that there was too much going on with the ghosts in there too. Also, as I wrote, the contemporary started taking over. I'd write for a while and realize I had forgotten to add the ghost stuff in. Oops!

So instead of ghosts (which I'll still do later, but in a different way) you guys will be getting contemporary cowboy (hopefully by December). I'm renaming the series "The Hills of Texas."

I should have the first draft done by the end of this week (fingers crossed). I'll do some editing for several weeks and then its off to Wendy!

Here's a peek into the story line.

Morgan Lansing has been on her own for a long time. Now she is building her place in the small Texas town of Las Colinas and the surrounding counties of ranches as the new large animal vet in town.

Cash Butler works hard balancing his role as Sheriff of Las Colinas County with the role as a single father to his five-year-old daughter Eva.

With a little help from Cash's well-meaning, but slightly meddling family, Morgan and Cash start to develop a friendship that could grow into much more. Except for one thing...

Morgan hasn't told Cash yet that she was once his wife's college roommate and friend. And Cash's unexplained bitterness toward his deceased wife means that when she does tell him the truth, she could lose him forever.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cover Art Adventure

I've mentioned in previous posts that I plan to start doing my own book covers. I had planned to start with Sarai's Fortune. I designed three covers for the book and was going to do a cover vote this month.

Then Andromeda's Fall and the Shadowcat Nation series were contracted by The Wild Rose Press (which is awesome!!!!). However, this also means that I no longer have a use for these three covers. In addition, I tend to make multiple versions of each new cover I do (I like to have a selection - even from myself). So I will likely have more covers I don't need as I continue along.

Consequently, I've decided to add a section to my website with any of my personally unused book cover ideas for sale as pre-made covers (changed slightly to add variety). Check out the new Cover Art section of my website which includes Covers For Sale, How to Order, and a Portfolio of sold/published covers (including my own).

Incidentally, below are the 3 covers I had originally created for Sarai's Fortune. Out of curiosity... which do you like best?