Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Excel for Writers

A Guest Post by Christie Valentine Powell
Author of The Spectra Unearthed


One afternoon my college roommate, an accounting major, found me pouring over an excel sheet. “You use excel?” she asked incredulously.

“Yes,” I answered. “It’s useful for writing.”

She still stared at me. She didn't seem to believe that a wildlife conservation major with a perchance for fiction would be using the same program she used in her classes.

Excel can be a useful tool for the writer. In fact, I was using it as early as middle school for keeping track of my characters (and their Pokémon—this was 2000).

Here are some of the ways I use excel for writing fiction. Some of these are influenced by genre. I write fantasy and create my own world, so I need to keep track of more information than, say, a romance writer might. Others are useful no matter the genre.

Names



“How do you name your characters?” comes up frequently in writing circles. I am something of a name enthusiast. I read name dictionaries and online lists for fun, and when I come up with one that fits my story, I add it to my name excel sheet. In The Spectra series, I go for names with meanings that tie in to that character’s clan. For instance, characters from the Cole clan have names meaning fire or red. The columns go across the top and then I fill in the information about each name. I include a column for “bearer” so I know if I’ve already used the name.

This way I can sort the names by gender and/or clan to help me narrow down the perfect name for my character. For instance, if a new male Sprite character appears, I can scroll down the alphabet to ‘S’…

And I’ve got a whole list of possibilities.

Timeline



I also use excel to keep track of the history of my fantasy world. At the top, I have a column per year (around 300 years). This way I have a quick reference for births, deaths and marriages; important events in both kingdoms and characters’ lives; and the reigns of kings. I broke them up by clan to spread things out. It may be chaotic for someone who doesn’t know the world, but I can find what I need and that’s what’s important.

Characters

Have you ever read a series where one of the characters switches middle names between books? What about eyes that change color? Annoying, right? A character sheet on excel can be a great way to keep all those little details straight, especially for minor characters. You can add whatever details are most important to you. Here’s an example of mine (by the way, I hid the columns for spouse and children—too many spoilers!). I can sort by book in the series or parents/birth order if I’m looking at a whole family.


Chapter Length

This is a tool I use to help with pacing. I keep track of the name and number of each chapter, and then copy down the page numbers from my table of contents. This calculates the length of each chapter for me, so I can determine if parts are too long or two short, and compare one book in the series to another. Yes, all of the Keita’s Wings books have the same number of chapters—I find it a useful tool for book length, but if this is unappealing to you please don’t. I can be OCD about some of these things. The different colors on the chapter names are groupings I find useful, based off of characters and setting.

Agents and Reviews

I’ve also used excel to keep track of agents and reviewers that I’ve contacted about my books. For reviewers, I listed their name, website, when I submitted to them, and what response I received (information has been removed for privacy). I colored the rejections red and the accepted invitations green:





I did the same thing for agents before I decided to Indie publish, which also included columns for hints I’d dug up about the sort of books they were looking for.

Moneys

Now here’s the sheet that my accounting roommate would approve of! Where is money going and where is it coming from? It’s important to keep track! At the end of the year I move the total costs, total profits, and year total to another table so that I can compare years and look for patterns… and do taxes (shudder).



What, you don’t think I doctored the profits, do you?

Word Count

I must admit, I had to get my husband’s help to set this up. I participate in NaNoWriMo each year, and one of the most motivating parts is entering your wordcount into their tables and graphs. So we put together a table that can give that same motivation throughout the year, with adjustable goals (let me know if you want a copy and I can email it).



Not Excel, But Still Useful
Here are a few other useful files I keep for my books that are not on excel:

Calendar:






I chose to use ‘Word’ for the calendar, but excel would work just as well. This helps me keep track of the dates in my story. I have to make sure that events are realistically spread out, especially when my characters are traveling!

Oh look, I left out a few death dates...

Family Trees

Main character Keita meets her cousins and other relatives in several of the Spectra books, so keeping track of them all is important. This information is on my excel timeline as well, but it’s handy to see them grouped by family in a linear, visual way. I have one of these for most of the major characters (including Keita’s mother’s side of the family on a separate sheet).

Maps


I have a ‘master map’ which shows the entire Spectra continent and all important places. This helps me get traveling dates straight (see calendar) and lets me visualize where the characters are and what directions they are facing. When I publish a book, I take the relevant section of my master map and turn it into an insert for the front of the book. Here’s the map that was included in book 3, The Spectra Uprooted: a map of the kingdom of Spritelands, and a small inset of the whole continent.

Various computer programs can be a real asset to your writing. These are the ones I’ve found the most useful. Feel free to try out any new ideas and let me know how they turned out!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

COVER REVEAL: Brave New Girls: Adventures of Gals and Gizmos!

Today, I’m revealing the cover and story line-up for BRAVE NEW GIRLS: ADVENTURES OF GALS & GIZMOS, coming July 2019! This YA sci-fi anthology (edited by sci-fi authors Paige Daniels and Mary Fan) features stories about adventurous girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) whose science and tech skills get them in and out of trouble. Heroines who build superhero tech, tinker with nanobots, time travel, and more! Proceeds from sales of the anthology will be donated to the Society of Women Engineers scholarship fund.

And without further ado, here’s the cover!




Stories in the anthology (in alphabetical order by title):

ARMED FOR SURVIVAL by J.K. Ullrich
BOUND, DETERMINED by Holly Schofield
BRAINIAC by Nancy Johnston
COLOSSUS by Tash McAdam
THE CURSE by JF Garrard
DECODED by A.A. Jankiewicz
A DIFFERENT MATH by Aaron Rosenberg
EARTHQUAKE MACHINE by Lizz Donnelly
FUTURE SCOUTS by Phil Margolies
GAME OVER by Nicole Iversen
GEO by Elisha Betts
A GHOST AMONG THE STARS by Joanna Schnurman
HOPLITE by J.R. Rustrian
INDEPENDENCE DAY by Russ Colchamiro
JUPITER JEOPARDY by Kris Katzen
KELSEY: A ROBOT REPAIR GIRL ADVENTURE by Josh Pritchett
KEPTERMINE by Lisa Toohey
KNIGHT ENGINE by Jelani Akin Parham
LET THE NUMBERS SHOW TRUTH by Bryna Butler
MY FAIR CAVELADY by Jennifer Lee Rossman
THE PLANTS OF EREBUS by Victoria Zelvin
THE SILENT DUST by Keith R.A. DeCandido
THE THIRTEENTH PRINCESS by Mary Fan
THE TOWER by Paige Daniels
THE WATER PLANT by Amy Lewanski
ZOWS by Mackenzie Reide

ADD IT ON GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43810391-brave-new-girls

SIGN UP FOR THE RELEASE DAY MAILING LIST: http://eepurl.com/bgBmvD

VISIT THE BRAVE NEW GIRLS WEBSITE: http://bravenewgirls.weebly.com/

Brave New Girls: Adventures of Gals & Gizmos is the ourth  volume of the Brave New Girls anthology series. The first three, Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets (2015), Brave New Girls: Stories of Girls Who Science and Scheme (2017), and Brave New Girls: Tales of Heroines Who Hack have so far raised thousands of dollars for the Society of Women Engineers Scholarship fund. Find them on Amazon.

  


ABOUT THE EDITORS


Paige Daniels is the pen name of Tina Closser. By day she works as an Electrical Engineer and Mom mushing her kids from gymnastics and violin practice. After the kids go to bed, she rocks out with her headphones turned to eleven and cranks out books. She is an uber science geek. If she wasn't married to the most terrific guy in the world, she would be a groupie for Adam Baldwin. Her books include Non-Compliance: The Sector, Non-Compliance: The Transition, and Non-Compliance: Equilibrium.

Mary Fan is a hopeless dreamer, whose mind insists on spinning tales of “what if.” As a music major in college, she told those stories through compositions. Now, she tells them through books—a habit she began as soon as she could pick up a pencil. And what stories she has! Currently, she has three series in progress and likes to think that she has even more in her bag. Her books include the Starswept novels, the Jane Colt trilogy, the Flynn Nightsider series, the Fated Stars novellas, and Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon.


Tuesday, February 26, 2019

NEW RELEASE: Wayward Stars!

Hey everyone! Sorry about the lack of posts! Been ridiculously busy lately. Just wanted to pop in and announce that WAYWARD STARS, sequel to my award-winning YA sci-fi novel, STARSWEPT, is now out in the world! Check it out:

E-Book: Hardback:

Sing your truth. Defend your dream. Defy your stars.

A month has passed since Iris joined an underground rebel group to save Dámiul from the brutal prison he was sent to for fighting back against his world’s oppressive system. Here, conformity and compliance are enforced through telepathy, and Earthling performers are brainwashed into absolute obedience.

Word of a merciless crackdown on those who sympathize with their cause leaves both Iris and Dámiul yearning for action. Determined to liberate her kind, Iris volunteers to return to her former patrons and covertly recruit supporters.

A raid on their hideout catapults her plan into action sooner than expected and forces her to leave Dámiul behind. After persuading the authorities that she’d been telepathically manipulated into helping him, Iris assumes the role of a dutiful musician while secretly spreading whispers of a possible uprising among her fellow performers. But the authorities always seem to be one step ahead, and anyone who defies them is swiftly mind-wiped.

Soon, Iris is forced to confront a horrifying fact: there’s a traitor among them. Desperately clinging to her cover, she races to find out who before her true loyalties are discovered—and the search leads her to an unthinkable answer.


AVAILABLE NOW IN E-BOOK AND HARDBACK!



Thursday, January 31, 2019

My Farpoint Schedule!

Excited to return to Farpoint this year! Below is my schedule:


FRIDAY, FEB. 8

Jean-Luc Picard: The Man, The Legend – Fri 7:00 PM – Salon A

Farpoint Book Fair – Fri 10:00 PM – Hunt Valley Hallway


SATURDAY, FEB. 9

Autograph – Sat NOON – Autograph Table 1

Diversity Vs Appropriation (MOD) – Sat 2:00 PM – Salon C

Crazy 8 Press – Sat 4:00 PM – Salon C

The Case For A Capt. Worf Series – Sat 5:00 PM – Salon A


SUNDAY, FEB. 10

Autograph (DeCandido; Fan) – Sun 10:00 AM – Autograph Table 1

The Star Wars Multiverse – Sun NOON – Salon A

Women In Star Trek – Sun 2:00 PM – Salon A