Software for the Historical Novelist, and Little Birds

I don’t know how I missed this, but now that I’ve found  Aeon Timeline 2, I have to share the good news.

Because I write historical fiction I’m always juggling fictional characters and events with what really happened.  I have spent hundreds of hours mapping out battles in order to wind my plot lines in and out and around. The battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812 was a major challenge, and it was, in relative terms, straight-forward. 

With this timeline software I can have fictional and non-fictional events displayed in ways that help me visualize connections and overlaps (and more important: errors), and I can color code everything so I can tell the difference right away. 

Characters are set up one by one and can be assigned to storylines, and that’s just the tip of this iceberg. 

Unfortunately the people at Aeon have put up screenshots that are too dark to really appreciate, but here’s one of them. 

click for full size

The first thing I did was change the color scheme to dark on light.

I would show you a sample of my own timeline, but that would mean giving away information about the next novel (tentatively titled Little Birds) and that would be really dopey of me at this early stage.  She said slyly. 

Not quite an excerpt: Where the Light Enters

Over the coming months I will be posting bits and pieces about Where the Light Enters to help tide you over until publication.  This first time I’ve got a piece of my research to share. These real estate/rental ads are from the New York Times in 1884. The two outlined in yellow are relevant to the story. 

And they are, in my view of things, just plain interesting. The rental market has sure changed. 

click for larger size

Did I mention…

that I finished Where the Light Enters?  It will be 2019 before it hits the shelves, I’m sorry to say. But I did deliver it to my editor.

Help Me Name a Character

It often takes me a really long time to settle on a name for a character.  For example:  there is one young woman in Where the Light Enters whose name still is not right. I have some time to fix this — until the copy editing phase closes — but I’m at a loss. 

If you had 100+ daughters, you’d likely run out of names, right? Think of it that way. Elizabeth, Hannah, Martha, Lily, Jennet, Anna, Sophie, Rosa, Lia, Laura, Margaret, Nora – all unavailable.  

Sometimes I try to get my imagination going by looking at old census records, reading old newspaper stories, or considering fictional characters from 19th century novels. I also spend time looking at paintings from the right time period.  This painting  by the swedish artist Carl Larsson, (1853-1919, so just about Anna and Sophie’s age) is the kind of thing I mean — it really captures the detail of farming life in the later 1800s. Looking at the clothing of the women working in the fields.

Unfortunately, none of those methods has worked for this new character, who name, right now, is Betty Miller. And that is not right.

Lisbeth, by Carl Larsson

What I can tell you about her: she grew up in an orphan asylum, and will eventually come into her own.  Where Carl Larsson’s Lisbeth is healthy and happy, my Betty Miller is not either of those things, to start. But hopefully will get there, one day.  

So I’d like to hear suggestions, first names or even first and last names. Remember, this is somebody born ca. 1865 so Tiffany or Jordan or Montana won’t work.

Let your imagination run riot, please. If I use the name you come up with, I will thank you in the acknowledgements.