26 September, 2012

The road to Scrivener conversion

I've been converted. I have seen the light and accepted the wisdom of a more intelligent being. I've adopted Scrivener.

 Up until two week ago I was a dedicated Word user. I adopted it the day it came out and upgraded faithfully, adopting new features and learning new shortcuts and toolbars as they came along. NO MORE!

I'd heard other writers talking about Scrivener and, on a whim, downloaded the trial version. I played around it, got hopelessly lost and, except for the corkboard, didn't see what all the fuss was about. I now admit the error of my ways. 

 I've been taking Gwen Hernandez's online course for Windows users (she also offers Scrivener for Mac). Talk about revelations. This software does everything but write the novel for you. 

Two-thirds of the way through the course, I've alread imported my WIP from Word, divided into chapters and scenes and discovered major flaws — in my mystery, not the software. I have a timeline problem that wasn't apparent until I brought up all the scenes in the corkboard view. Graphically it slapped me in the face with the fact that some Monday scenes took place before Sunday ones, etc. 

 You see, Scrivener's corkboard has powerful customization tools. Each "item" (chapter/scene/etc) has its own index card which can be color-coded, watermarked (status stamped), keyword coded and titled. And that's before you type in the synopsis for the text it represents! You can slice and dice these tools anyway you want. Here's one of my index cards: 

The title " " is my shorthand synopsis; the stamp is the dateline; and keyword colours down the side let me know what elements of the mystery are part of this scene. For example, I'm using purple to indicate the wine storyline and gold for the murder.  I have other colours for backstory, the romance storyline, etc. . 

In addition, I use the synopsis text to track goal/conflict/resolution for each scene since this is the aspect of writing I have the most trouble with. 

There are way too many features in Scrivener to list here, and I have another week of classes to discover many more, but I love the fact that I can keep all my research, character sketches and extra/deleted text all together in the same "binder" but not in the manuscript itself. And if you're a Margie Lawson follower, color-highlighting text is a snap. 

Now that I've finished gushing, I suggest you pop over to the Scrivener site http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php and download the software for a test drive. Then come back and let me know what you think. What's your favourite feature?

11 September, 2012

Fiction Friday: Murderous Inspiration from your Kitchen

I never fully realized just how dangerous a kitchen can be until I started my “fall cleaning.” It’s the perfect one-stop shop for murder weapons. Apparently, I have an entire arsenal at my disposal.

Consider knives. I mean, sure, everyone know about sharp knives, the weapon of choice in uncountable stories and movies from Josephine Tey’s The Man in the Queue to Psycho. Though not always kitchen utensils, knives are extremely popular with murderers.

I, personally, have a rather large collection (20+ not counting tableware), ranging from a two-inch fruit knife to a slim boning knife.  My favourite is the 14-inch chef’s knife I got at culinary school — just perfect for dissecting a body. Henckels and Wusthof are good brands; just avoid the Kyocera knives as their blades tend to break more easily, especially when used on hard objects like skulls.

For a quicker job, consider the electric knife, basically a mini-chainsaw. Think of all the time your killer could save, leaving him (or her) ample time to carefully bag the various parts before distributing them around town for the police to find. I recommend the Cuisinart CEK-40 Electric Knife. This knife contains an extremely powerful motor with two high quality stainless steel blades (one serrated and one ideal for carving) that are dishwasher safe. The four-foot cord might require an extension cord, but this beauty is only $54.95 on-line.

Too trite? Here are a few other equally lethal kitchen tools for your killer’s consideration:

The Shish kabob skewer. Skewers come in bamboo, stainless-steel, decorated or Plain Jane, but anyway you look at them, one good thrust through the frontal lobe (via a nostril) and you’ve either performed a lobotomy or you have a corpse.

The meat tenderizer. There are two primary varieties: the mallet and the blade/prong tenderizers. So much handier than the silver candlestick or the heavy crystal vase. Consider its purpose and then consider what would happen if your killer hit his victim in the face a dozen or so times. Not a pretty picture.

The “brulee” gun. In case you’ve never used one, this is nothing more or less than a kitchen blowtorch, used primarily to blister the skin on peppers or caramelize sugar on a dessert. It is also perfect if your killer has a sadistic streak. A bottle of cognac and a propane torch – what more do you need? Instant combustion.\

So much for my culinary weapons. Next time, I’ll take a look at kitchen gadgets that can help you dispose of your freshly killed body. After all, a tidy murder scene is a happy murder scene.