Saturday, November 27, 2010

So despite the fact that Friday is technically over, I don’t typically update on the weekends, and it’s thanksgiving break, I thought I would share with you something my fans have been asking for.

And by “asking”, I of course mean threatening with extreme bodily harm. Between the Course Books and the Consecution, I cover about 8 generations. It gets fairly confusing, even when you understand the whole dragon nomenclature thing.

Thus, I was asked to create a family tree.

Now, odds are you’ve done this already yourself, probably on construction paper in junior highschool. Or perhaps you’ve hand-drawn one for your own book series. Or maybe you just have a word document somewhere with lists.

Well, frankly, none of that was good enough for me. I just needed something visual, like your standard family tree software. Except I write on at least 4 different computers over the course of a given week, I needed something I could take with me to every machine and easily access without a lot of fuss and bother.

The first solution to this problem was to just use the wiki. Glaringly obvious, especially since the work is technically already done. The problem is the wiki is not visual, it doesn’t lend itself well to charts showing the complex family tree. There are web-based family tree programs, but as useful as those are, the internet is not always available.

What I needed, I felt, was a portable solution.

Now, I am no stranger to portable software. My lil’ 2-GB thumb drive upon which I typically carry all of my writing(frequently backed up, of course) already has Portable Open Office, just in case I want to work at a PC without word. My work thumb drives have a whole host of portable diagnostic equipment. I like me some portable apps.

So, let’s review the requirements for the software: it must be simple(I’m basically only storing names), it must be portable(I work off a thumb drive), and it must be easy to back up(basically fit in a folder). A quick web search for “portable family tree software” yielded… Portable Simple Family Tree.

Gosh, that sounds like literally every single thing I wanted.

After downloading the software(oh, its free, by the way), it proved to be remarkably intuitive, highly visual, and incredibly straightforward. It took me all of about 5 minutes to lay out eight solid generations of my character’s family tree, including siblings and spouses, and Hygelic’s somewhat awkward re-marriage. This is what I came up with:

Now, I know it looks a bit incomplete. But if you click on anyone in there, the table shifts to show you who’s who. That’s just a jpeg, so it won’t work for you, but if you had your own tree you’d understand. I can easily navigate the roots and branches of this one.

In the example, you can see that Ferenaline is connected to Hygelic. Ferenaline was Hygelic’s first mate, 100% dragon. If you were to click on Thorner:

The view changes to reflect just his lineage all the way back to Barberosa. You can build an extensive, easy to use, and very fast family tree with this program. About the one thing is does not allow you to do is add in siblings when there are no parents! Which comes up surprisingly often in my series.

Parting thoughts: I’m just going to remind you to back stuff up and to keep visiting the Course Books.

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