Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Brief Travel Respite

I'll get back to Ireland tomorrow.

Today I want some advice. When we were discussing "world-building" on eharlequin the week before I left for the Emerald Isle, I explained my rather rudimentary method of keeping track of who was where and doing what in my Code of the West series.

There were 16 books by the time I wrote A Cowboy's Christmas Miracle, and in fact, besides the connections between one and another of those, they also connected sporadically to my Quicksilver books (Charlie Seeks Elk, hero of A Cowboy's Promise was the sixteen year old troublemaker in Gifts of the Spirit, the last Quicksilver book I did for Harlequin American). And Mariah Kelly, heroine of Rhys's Redemption, a Harlequin Presents, interviewed cowboy turned actor Sloan Gallagher, who later went on to become the hero of The Great Montana Cowboy Auction.

Suffice to say, I had to do something to make sure I didn't send Charlie to Afghanistan when he should have been on the streets of L.A. and I didn't send Taggart Jones's daughter Becky to high school when she was ten.

After five books in the series, no longer able to keep it all in my head, I consulted with my editor who tried to help, and several other people who were -- and still are -- far wiser than I when it comes to computer stuff. I knew I needed to create a database or a spreadsheet or whatever I might need to be able to pull all these people out in whatever form I needed them in. But no one could suggest how to do it.

So I ended up with a simple timeline that began at year ZERO, which was when Cowboys Don't Cry began, and I counted back 34 years, to the year its hero, Robert Tanner, was born, and I wrote -34: Robert Tanner born in Colorado. Then I wrote -30: Maggie MacLeod born. . . And then I began adding in Tanner's brothers and any events that happened while they were growing up and when he got married and all the various "events" in the plot.

I wrote everything that happened in that book in hot pink. Then I put the events from Luke and Jill's book, Cowboys Don't Quit, in using deep gold. Noah and Tess's book was dark purple. Taggart's was navy blue. Jed's was forest green.

As the books moved forward I added +1, +2, +3, until by Deke's book (emerald green. I was running out of color variations after 16 of them) I was up to +12. It worked, but it was getting unwieldy. And the reason I'm bringing it up is two-fold 1) I'm writing Flynn and Sara now, which is a Code of the West book in a different cover (Harlequin Presents) and so I need to be sure everything meshes, and 2) I've recently discovered some software that I think might be what I was originally looking for.

The software is called Tinderbox, from Eastgate, developed by Mark Bernstein. And from what I can see of the way it works, it could do everything I wanted my timeline to do and more. It is a Mac program. I do Windows (literally and figuratively). A Windows version is in the works. I guess I can wait.

But in the meantime, I'm wondering if anyone has any good ideas for other software to keep these folks sorted. (Or good ideas for buying a Mac cheap)

The book will go on even without it. But it would be nice to have the timeline and event sheet in a less cumbersome form. Right now it is beginning to remind me of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

I am curious if anyone has discovered any equally promising software for such projects. Jenny Crusie mentioned Scrivener on her blog recently -- also (sigh) a Mac program. Anyone else?


Well, let me know. I need to get back to work. Wondering why I'm starting this book over. Well, no. Actually not wondering. Knowing. I've started from the wrong point of view. Again. And the wrong place. Again.

After this many books you'd think I'd realize, wouldn't you? Maybe it isn't software I need. Maybe it's a new brain.


Blogger christa said...

I am in ah of you authors for keeping up with so many charaters. I was just thinking about this the other day because I had just read a Diana Palmer book.

01 March, 2007  

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