13 September 2010

Novel Writing Software

I would definitely recommend this software package. There are a few things that are exceptional about the concept of this software that I can definitely share with you because of the fact that I've been writing for many years and have manually organized and categorized and made half ass attempts at integrating my work throughout the years. I can't tell you how pleased I was to fire up this software and find all the conveniences that just do not come with a PC running windows and an installed word processor.

You can download a demo here http://www.ravensheadservices.com/

What I like:

1. Built in character template to include a number of pre-defined personality traits, relationships, and free form character description to include character picture. Every character is easily accessible from a left navigation bar that loads in the main workspace via a click on the character.

While writing your story, chapter, scene or whatever, you are only a click away from reminding yourself of those character traits, personality nuances and relationships that you need to keep in mind for the sake of character integrity. So many times in the past I would start writing dialogue between two characters and I stop myself and want to go back and re-read every single scene to make sure I'm doing this correctly.

When I click on a character, I can quickly see that "Lenny" wouldn't answer that question in that manner and would be able to catch myself as I move along rather than continuing to go back through my character sheet that is saved under C:\My Documents\Novels\It Happened One Summer\Character Sheets\Lenny.txt. You would think that as you write you should know your characters, but in the beginning with your first three or four chapters it's really hard and discouraging.

2. The Events tab is particularly pleasant because you can make an event and put it on a timeline. You can organize your events in the left navigation by clicking and dragging the event of your choice either up or down depending on your story flow. I really like this because when I start writing I don't just jump in at the beginning. I start with an idea and I first write a "scene". If I like that scene, then I ask myself why that scene happened and thus come more scenes and thus is birthed a story ready to be written.

So, from my standpoint, the event "drag and drop" mobility is very satisfying because I don't have to worry about organizing or trying to figure out where something will fit. When I'm ready, I can look at my navigation of events and drag and drop where I want them to occur in my timeline. There's my flow. I love it. You can also select and store all characters associated with that event.

3. You don't need a separate word processor. This software has all the tools you need if you want to write a story for publishing. It incorporates all those tools in a single portal. Need a thesaurus, dictionary, spell checker? It's all there, plus when you're done you can "Export" your story as a manuscript for submission, an ebook for online publication or an html web page (I didn't like the html webpage; would rather do it myself with formatting).

4. Graphs! You can pick any character you want and display a graph of that character's relationships. It's an awesome way to organize how you want to progress in your story. If you see that one character only has a relationship with one other character, you might ask yourself - Why is that character in my story? It might be a great way to integrate another scene and add to the plot, or you might make a wiser decision to cut the character and scene altogether depending on how far along you are in your novel. Awesome feature!

5. Export setup for manuscript output. I like this because not all publishers accept manuscripts the same. Margins, fonts, cover page, word count, etc. can be different. If you find that a publisher's requirements are slightly different than the industry standard, you just tweak the export, create your manuscript and then reset the defaults. Easy!

What I don't like:

1. The import function doesn't seem to work. I could be doing something wrong, but I can't be sure. It's never a good thing to get java I/O errors and then immediately get a message box that asks you to save. I don't like that at all. I realize that I won't need to use this function anyways because it's just as easy to copy and paste text to and from the clipboard.

2. Large character portraits can slow performance of this software. Yikes! Okay, I didn't know this until I tried to use a picture for one of my characters. It will still let you use the picture, just gives a warning that you may hinder the performance. I think a much better approach would have been to establish a maximum size for this feature and disallow larger photos.

Anyway, that's been my experience so far and I've only really just begun.

11 September 2010

All About Biscuit

Biscuit is my prize dog. I'll tell you why.

A few weeks after I bought my Yorkie from a breeder in Blountstown, she was ready for her next series of shots. My vet had been taking care of Maggie and Taz for the longest time and I do trust him to do whatever necessary to care for them. So when I took Biscuit there and everything was fine, I got her booster shots and went on home.

The next morning, I noticed that she wasn't the hyper Yorkie that I remembered from the night before and so I picked her up and held her for a bit, you know...mommy love!

I didn't start to panic until I felt her go limp in my arms. My initial thought was that she had fallen asleep in my arms. But, when I picked her up to carry her to her kennel, she didn't move. That's when panic set in.

I drove her to the vet and they took her to the back room immediately. They explained to me that small dogs (she was less than 1 lb at the time) needed to be monitored for illness more closely than bigger dogs because they will dehydrate quickly when they become ill. All my dogs that I'd ever had were small, but not this small. At full grown she is just under 4 lbs.

I just said, "DO something, I don't care what, just do it!"

The vet injected her with some sort of glucose mixture and said that he was sorry and that she probably wouldn't make it through the night. I was heartbroken.

I covered her in a blanket and held her all night while watching television. I didn't remember falling asleep. When I woke to a wet feeling on my left thumb, I realized that it was Biscuit licking me. I hate waking up from a deep sleep, but this one was worth it. I carried her into the kitchen and gave her two small pieces of very thin sandwich meat, which she gulped down with much difficulty. At that point, I knew I'd be able to nurse her back to full health.

A week later, I took her back to visit our vet so that he could truly see the miracle for which he played a part. His eyes welled up with tears and he thanked me for bringing her back to see him. I think he actually felt that I'd never come back if Biscuit had died that evening. It made me feel good that he recognized a kindness in me that most people would never care to comprehend.

Today she is my most pampered dog. Fifty-dollar cuts with nail trimmings and teeth brushings is nothing out of the pocket when I see her wag her tail so vigorously when I pick her up at PetSmart. She even lets them put bows in her hair now.

Thank you, Mahan Animal Clinic!

Meet miss priss!

All About Maggie

Maggie was our first English bulldog. Since I was a little girl, I always had small dogs like poodles, cocker spaniels and the occasional mixed puppy. So, when my husband retired from the Marine Corps and stated that he wanted an English bulldog I was so not hearing that. First thing I told him was that they were NOT cute dogs at all. I especially didn't want one after he told me that they snort and fart all the time. A real man's dog he called them. NO!

But he talked me into it and one day he went to a breeder two counties away and Maggie walked up to him and picked him as her new owner. I kid you not, that's how it went down. She has always had this look about her that says, "Look at me, I'm so smart." So when she walks up to you and you say, "Look at Maggie! You're so smart, Maggie!" she pulls her ears back and accepts your praise of a pat on the head. We named her after the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Maggie is one dog that doesn't like to be mocked though. If you just stare at her and don't praise her for being smart, she'll rush over to you and start humping your leg. Almost as if she's telling you you're being disrespectful by not praising her for simply being Maggie. Spoiled you think? It is a personality thing; we did not train her to be that way.

We put laundry on the sofa for our teen daughter to fold. But, if she doesn't get to it within 15 minutes, Maggie will take it upon herself to kick the pile of laundry onto the floor to make room for her mid-day nap. Many times, I'd find her on her back, with legs kicked up and tongue hanging out as if she hasn't a care in the world. I think my husband has fed her one too many steaks fresh from the grill!

I sometimes wish I could have such the life. Only I don't want to go into the kennel every time we have company!


10 September 2010

All About Taz

I have a male English bulldog named Taz, short for Tasmanian Devil, the cartoon character. So on with another progress making story, but we aren't quite there with this one and I don't think we will ever be.

You see, Taz is special. We didn't discover this until he was about a year old. It was at a point in time where we realized that he had outgrown Maggie, our female (alpha) English bulldog. You see it coming, right?

After a sudden brawl between the two and a trip to the vet's office, we decided that it was best to keep them separated at all times, because re-attaching Maggie's ear to her head and a $700.00 vet bill was just over the top. That meant separate feeding times, separate walking times, and separate love and affection times. All to be shared with our prissy Yorkshire terrier, Biscuit.

Throughout the past 3 or 4 years, Taz has gotten progressively worse. Not in his aggression toward Maggie, because we don't have them anywhere near each other, but his behavior has become increasingly bazaar.

I first noticed these bazaar behavioral patterns in him when he first displayed an intense fear when a storm suddenly formulated one summer eve. He whined and whimpered and ran behind some boxes in the garage. If you ever seen a 70 pound English bulldog whimper and run, you know how odd that is. I had to stumble back to keep the boxes from falling on me.

I asked my vet about this and he prescribed some medication that was to be administered via a 2 inch syringe the next time a storm hit. It was kind of hard to predict when Taz would need this medication and so eventually it expired.

So we lived with the fact that he'd built himself a safe-haven within the garage, behind those boxes. He would seek shelter whenever he felt the need. It's not that I didn't feel horrible for him, but there just wasn't anything I could think of to do. It's not like you can console a dog with rationale like you can a scared child.

This isn't really the bazaar behavior; it's actually quite common for animals to wig out during thunderstorms. But, the progression of his fear is so bazaar because now he becomes intensely frightened when it's not even thundering. There could be a small cloud in the sky that produces a light sprinkle whose droplets quickly evaporate as soon as they hit the driveway. You can't clear a path quick enough to his bunker that he's built. That is what's not normal.

At some point you would think that fear would subside once it has been proven over and over again that no harm will come from the thunderstorm.

Aside from the increased intensity of fear over the weather, Taz has displayed some more unusual propensities. He lifts his leg and pees on people and defecates in his food bowl. I don't know what to make of this. I'm starting to wonder if he might be a little more "special" today than he was a year ago. And maybe he will just continue to become more and more "special" as time goes by.


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