Dawn Montgomery

Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Full Time Writer by Taming the Dragon

In #amwriting, Software on November 13, 2016 at 1:41 pm

Long post ahead. It’s about how I’ve overcome more than I imagined possible with the help of my family, you guys, my friends, and the acceptance of change. Keep reading if that’s something you’re interested in. Otherwise, expect a new release update on Tuesday!

I have now completely switched over to *voice recognition software (VRS) as my writing medium of choice. In the three weeks since I started using it full time, my hands and arms have become so much better (symptom-wise. I’m not a doc so I can’t tell if nerve damage is being reversed or not). It’s a slow and methodical process. And sometimes very frustrating…but you have to walk before you can run.

Also, it’s a completely different way to write. I have many books coming this month and next. Most of them were written via traditional typing and there was a lot of pain, tears, and grit to get them written.
Chronic pain is fascinating. I’ve chronicled my progress since I was first diagnosed with degenerative disc disease back in 2009. Pain can cloud everything: your concentration, confidence, comfort…and most of all, your creativity. It can suck out your energy and force you to just ‘endure’ until the end. So why am I saying this?

I’ve been writing for close to 15 years now (longer, honestly, if you count all the stories I wrote for myself and my friends). I have received the rights back to most of my backlist and have begun rewrites and expansion. Looking back at my work, I can see where pain was the worst. Where I was at my lowest. I can also see where I built hope from the ashes and rose to the sky.

Using VRS was the final hurdle, I think, in accepting that modifications are necessary for me to move beyond endurance and into a comfortable realm of creativity again.

Most of all, I’m able to have fun again. And just tell the stories I want to tell without the dread of nearly crippling pain at the end of every writing session, the shakiness of my fingers, or the cramping of the muscles along my back from the back spasms I can’t do anything about (and trust me, the docs have worked miracles already. This is the extent of my recovery).

Despite the pharmaceutical push by most of my medical team, I don’t take pain medication beyond some over the counter options. This is my choice, and a difficult one I made with SuperChef. I have a high pain tolerance, and I’m used to living with it, so numbing it now would just make me hurt myself more (I can’t feel the pain, so I can do ANYTHING! This is from experience, by the way. One day I’ll believe I’m not invincible.) Modified Yoga has helped with my flexibility. Stretches and massages help with the severe cramping and muscle spasms that are a part of my daily life.

I also do other things with my hands while I’m speaking my stories. I clean, organize, sketch, draw (this really REALLY helps when I’m trying to visualize a scene as I talk it out). When I get a little better, I’ll start working on my facebook page and website while I’m speaking so I can get more done with the little time I have.

Your comments and well wishes for my health have been amazing. I have taken every one of them to heart and let it push me through the hard times. It’s been a long two years since the ulnar nerve diagnosis. I keep putting off the surgery, just in case…nerves are hardy buggers. They rebound on their own if you give them enough time.

So here I am, ready to take on 2017 with a fresh outlook on my writing career. Stories are needed. And I have so many to tell. Now that I’m not limited to one way of writing, I can do my best to give you those that you deserve.

Thank you for sticking with me through all of this.

I am stubborn and it takes me some time to come around, but once I do, I stride forward and do my best. You are the reason I kept going.

I love you guys.

* I first used the Windows voice option for my VRS experiments. It wasn’t accurate enough when it came to fiction writing, but it did wonders for regular correspondence. When I needed to make the move, I bought Dragon Naturally Speaking Premium edition (by Nuance). I also use a Nuance app called Dragon Anywhere so I can write while I’m on my commute as well. Dragon Naturally Speaking is one-time up front fee and Dragon Anywhere is a subscription service. I synchronize my Dragon Anywhere text with Evernote (a free app) so can copy and paste when I get home. Please note that Mac users have Dragon Dictate as an option instead of Dragon Naturally Speaking. The total cost for my adaptive equipment and one year subscription service:

Dragon Naturally Speaking 13 Premium: $162.36 (with Texas sales tax included)

Dragon Anywhere: App is free via android and the 12 month subscription service was $150. I chose the subscription service up-front fee because I didn’t want to worry about it every month.

Microphone: I already had one that I used. It’s a Plantronics and it’s not made anymore. SuperChef bought me a lovely Audio-Technica ATR2100. It was $80, but a regular microphone that picks up your voice would work just fine. Check the compatibility options via the Nuance site.

I didn’t just hop up and buy this on a whim, guys. The family gave up a lot of time, streaming services, etc. as a team to help me. It took six months to get all the pieces in place and now I have everything I need.

Set Up Google Chrome For Work

In Author Tools, Software on February 21, 2016 at 6:32 pm

I have a Google Chrome tip that will make your work set-up so much easier. It’s not a hack, so much as a cool setting that I didn’t know about until recently.

I’m a procrastinator in a big way. If you’ve hung around this site for any length of time, you’ve probably watched me struggle with my own fears to get the words on the page. I can get lost for hours through Pinterest, YouTube craft (and writing craft) videos, Facebook, etc. I’m also a compulsive tab opener, so I’ll open a new tab from a page I’m on and expect to look at it immediately. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen so I’ll have a line of tabs I can’t read, and no way of figuring out where my work pages are.

My husband, SuperChef (my name for him), of Uncle Jerry’s Kitchen showed me this really cool way of setting up your browser to load the pages you need on a regular basis every time you relaunch the browser. Some of you may have already noticed this feature. If so, awesome! What sites do you have in your list?

If you’re like me, however, this is something you wish you would have known forever ago.

In your Chrome browser, click your “Customize and Control Google Chrome” button (Three horizontal dashes located at the far right of your toolbar).

Under “Settings” find the “On Startup” section. The third option is the one you want. Next to “Open a page or a specific set of pages” you’ll see an underlined option that reads “Set Pages”. Click on that.

A popup will appear that asks you to list your preferred pages.

I set it up for my workflow. Here are some of the pages I have in my list:

KanbanFlow

Gmail

Evernote

Writing Blog

Website

And more. No, none of them are Facebook or social media sites. I know better. 😉

For those who are afraid they’ll get lost, I grabbed a screen shot with a few notes to help guide you. I blurred out some of my more sensitive links.

Setting up Chrome for Business

Super easy, right? Next time I’m procrastinating and just want to get back to work…all I have to do is close my browser and reopen it to get back to it. 🙂

Hope this helps. If so, please leave a comment and let me know about it!

Happy Writing!

Dawn Montgomery

Cold Turkey and Smart Edit

In Software on August 18, 2013 at 7:08 am

PWCicon2Today I’m going to tell you about two pieces of software that have changed my writing life. Both are free. Both are amazing. As with all downloads, verify your source is safe and that your computer meets the requirements of installation.

At no time have I received compensation for reviews of this software. Both are my own opinion and based on my personal experiences. 

Two areas of my writing need serious work (And probably always will.)

  1. Staying on Task
  2. Repetition in my Writing.

Staying on Task


Reading back over my previous posts (all the way back to the beginning of this blog when I was stationed in Turkey away from my family) told me I suffered from the staying on task part of it for a while. A simple solution would be to shut down the ‘net on my computer.

There are several major problem with this, fellow writer…my phone line is a skype number and I have to keep my net up to receive calls. With my brother in the military and my mother alone in Texarkana, not having a way to get a hold of me in an emergency is a no-go. The timers I use to stay focused while writing are all net based. Google docs is a primary go-to for my writing day. Skype and chatzy (and a couple of other chat rooms) are places where I meet up with other writers and do some group encouragement for writing. The list goes on.

Blocking the ‘net, then, isn’t a good plan (Though there are MANY programs out there who will do it for you at a ridiculous fee).

About ten years ago I had a program that would prevent me from going to certain sites in a particular time frame. The mother company of the program has long since gone the way of many dot bombers. Ashes to Ashes and Dust to Dust.  You have no idea how long I’ve searched for a program to replace it. I found a few but the price tag was *low whistle*.

Thank goodness for newsletters. 😀 I signed up for Ilona Andrews’s a while ago. I’ve subscribed to many and seem to skim through most to pick up the key points. This post, however, gave me exactly what I’d been looking for.

Let me tell you about Cold Turkey. First of all, it’s free, though it runs on donations. Don’t worry, you have the option of donating later if the program works for you (and I WILL, since I love this program!). There isn’t a version available for Mac, but if you look at the FAQs on the Cold Turkey page, it shows you what software WILL work for you guys (We’re half Mac/half PC so knowing this stuff is a big deal for us all).

Here’s how it works:

  • You bring up the program
  • Agree to the blocked website list by clicking in the check boxes
  • Add any additional websites or programs from your computer (WoW? Solitaire? Plants vs Zombies? Pinterest? )
  • Tell it how long you’re blocking it for (It even gives me the option of a 24 hour clock. That makes my heart happy)
  • Engage the program. It asks if you’re SURE. LOL. Smart program. When you say yes, it does exactly what you ask.

Some things to know before you begin:

  • You will not be able to get to those locations no matter what. So, if youtube is blocked, a gray screen with a broken link shows up where someone has posted a video. Blocked websites will show up as “Site not available”. Nice, right? Blocked Programs you attempt to open on your computer will not work.
  • There is no way to stop it. (Disclaimer, if you’re really talented with computers and don’t mind playing around in files you shouldn’t, you can stop the program. Or you can go back to Cold Turkey and follow the FAQs about getting rid of it). For the rest of us: Restarting your computer won’t stop it. Force-quitting the program won’t stop it. Once you set up your time, it’s done (unless you go back to the site and download the uninstall program).
  • Restart your computer after you install the program. I ended up having to restart mine at the end of my first session because I didn’t get the automatic popup.
  • Close the programs/webpages you’re going to block before you begin. Keeps it simple and prevents some *interesting* side effects.
  • Don’t worry about adding every program and website that distracts you. You can add those at any time in the process.

Friday was a phenomenally productive day. Facebook is a huge time sink (I love me some games). I had to restart my computer at the end of my time because I didn’t get the popup (see my notes above).

Saturday was rough. I set it up from noon to five. About two hours in, I’d popped onto Pinterest. Realizing the time sink for what it was, I added the website to my list and kept going. A friend popped up in skype IM and asked me if I’d seen something new on a zynga game at zynga.com. I was on a break and said sure…popped over and there goes half an hour. So zynga was blocked.

My son and husband came into my office three times during my writing session to ask me questions about shows we’d watched on hulu. I’m horrible with names so I brought up the site and checked out whatever they asked for. It took the third time for me realize how often I look up stuff when people ask me questions. So I told them both Hulu was now blocked on my list and I wouldn’t be able to look it up anymore. Strangely enough, the questions weren’t brought back up until my writing session ended.

Oh man was I hurting by the end. My brain was tired. The word count was fabulous. I didn’t feel distracted (or frustrated with my word count), but I was exhausted. The popup occurred naturally and it asked me if I wanted to go again. Um. No. I’m good, thanks. One time a day is more than enough. This Cold Turkey stuff is painful. 😀 I’ll use it again and again. I have to stay focused.


Repetition in Writing


Another program I came across last week is something called SmartEdit Lite. Another newsletter find. 😀 Cat Johnson did a review of the full program (SmartEdit) on this post. The Lite version is free to use and insanely awesome. It’s also available for MAC users.  *Note to MAC users: Smart Edit for Mac will be, according to the site, available at the end of this year. I apologize for not following through on the links before posting. Thank you to Shah for the head’s up* While I love the free version, I’ll be upgrading to the full as soon as I can.

Let me cover what SmartEdit Lite did forote me.

  • It catches my repetitive words and phrases. I have new ones in every book and my editor usually points them out. It’s good to know if I’ve used chilling forty times in a novella. Or if I’ve said darlin’ twenty five times (Six on the same page). Since my repetitive issues are different for every book, this little tool is invaluable and will save some serious time and edits later.
  • The adverb list. It shows every instance of the evil -ly words, alphabetically. Oh do I need it.
  • Watch List. I have words I either use too often, misuse, or otherwise shouldn’t use. This. That. Like. All three of these are ones I need to nix from my fiction writing. Was. Should, could, would. The list goes on.

The program is simple to use. When you click on something it flagged, it will take you to the next instance in the document.

Some things to know before you begin:

  • SmartEdit Lite will only open .rtf files.
  • You can save any changes from inside the program.
  • SmartEdit Lite hits all the problem areas I have (despite my decade of doing this crazy writing thing and much editorial guidance). If you’re self-publishing, this is something I highly recommend you look at using.
  • I’ll likely never submit another book without using this program first.
  • Easy. Simple. Free. 

I’ll be upgrading as soon as possible to take advantage of the sentence start , misused words, proper nouns, and Acronym lists. Do you want to know if you started 75 sentences with She? Proper nouns…ever change a character’s name halfway through the book? What if your fingers misspelled it once or twice? The eye slides right over it. Wouldn’t it be terrible to show up in your final product? The Acronym list…I use Acronyms a lot. It’s imperative that those you create or use stay the same throughout your book. Since word processors usually overlook Acronyms, it becomes an invaluable tool.

So there you have it. Two programs that saved my bacon this week and are on my perma-use list. They are free and fantastic. I highly recommend them both.

Now it’s time to do my Round of Words in 80 Days update.


#ROW80 update


ROW80Logocopy

Goals this week:

  1. Hidden Confection completed. Looks like I’ll wrap this baby up today/tomorrow. It’s almost done. 🙂
  2. Last Rites edits done. I expect to be working on the synopsis/submission by next check in. Halfway done with edits. I want them done and completed by Monday/Tuesday. Got some serious work ahead of me.
  3. Feral Hunger edits. I’m not in a rush with this one as I have some in depth changes that need to be made. My goal is to make it through a chapter every three days or so. I’ll pour more of my energy into it once the kids are back in school and I can focus with less interruption. Slow start as expected. No worries, though. It’ll come. 🙂 
  4. Voodoo Carnival continue at 500 words a day (equates to a scene every couple of days or a chapter every four or so). It’s working for me, and anything working is going to stay that way. LOL. Until it’s not. 😉 I didn’t write in Voodoo yesterday, but it’s still on schedule. My primary concerns are Hidden Confection and Last Rites

Last Rites is still on schedule for submission this week. Hidden Confection should be done in the next day or so and then I can start edits for submission (it’s a short story!). 😀

I’m part of a fantastic group called A Round of Words in 80 Days, and if you’d like to see how everyone else is doing, check out the list HERE.

Would you like to be a part of our writing challenge? Check out the rules HERE.

Keep Writing!

Free For Writers

In Software on July 28, 2013 at 9:19 am

Freeware caution: always scan free downloads of anything for viruses and other threats before downloading the programs into your hard drive. Also, please note, these are things I use or are recommended by friends. I receive no compensation for these links. They’re really just here for your enjoyment. 

As we near the end of July’s Camp NaNoWriMo, the tension is mounting and panic is setting in. I have, including today, four days to write 25k. Now I’ve done it before, and I’m in the middle of an awesome writing spurt that might get me 10k more before I know it.

If it were November, I’d have it in the bag. It would be post Thanksgiving with the kids desperately playing in their room as much as possible before they had to go back to school. SuperChef and I would be breathing a little easier because our favorite holiday is behind us (we always stress a fantastic dinner, and since food is kind of what he does, it’s always a bit high on the stress factor).

As it stands, however, we’re in the dead middle of summer vacation, and the kids aren’t content to keep themselves occupied during my writing day. So we’ll see. I won’t give up without a fight! If you haven’t validated yet, make sure you do that from the front page of the CampNaNoWriMo site. It’s located under the blue tent on the right hand side of the page. Just click on the “Validate your word count to win” hyperlink to get in there. Paste your content and submit. You’ll have a validated word count :D. Easy.

If you’re still in the heart of Camp, bookmark this page for later. Keep writing and don’t stop! This page will be here when you’re done.

As I was scoping the ‘net, I came across some fabulous free stuff/sites I’d like to share with you all.

Lynn Viehl

Lynn is one of my heroes for many reasons. Long before Amazon offered free reads, this woman shared her worlds with us through ebooks she created. She’s an advocate of teaching and the importance of learning your craft. She’s also been my hero during two very difficult times in my life. The first was when I was in an abusive relationship I didn’t know how to get out of and the second was when I had to completely relearn how to write due to injuries I sustained in the service.

Neither were high moments in my life, but both were when she stepped in to bring me up and remind me that strength is in the heart. She’s a great and wonderful woman. She ALSO has a fantastic free read available on her blog. It takes place in her Disenchanted & Co. world. If you like steampunk and mysteries, this is the one for you.

She has tons of valuable resources on her writing blog as well and is one of the humblest NYT Bestselling Authors I’ve ever had the privilege to know.

Click on the image to the left to go straight to the post that offers the ebook. While you’re there, check out her other resources. You might just find some amazing information (and definitely some fantastic writing resources and other free ebooks). 

Pulp Science Fiction Fun

Pulp-O-Mizer_MurphyandMalone_The Kyrite ConspiracyMy grandmother and I used to set up shop at fleamarkets back when I was a kiddo. She was an incredible craftsman, but I was a bored kid. 😀 Out of sheer frustration, she would send me off with some money and I’d always manage to find a cache of dime store novels and pulp magazines someone was selling from their attic or something. I loved them. 😀

When I found Zappencackler’s Pulp Sci Fi Title-o-Tron, I lost hours, I think. 😀 And then…THEN…I found the Pulp-O-Mizer, a pulp magazine cover generator! During a particularly tough night where I couldn’t concentrate, I sat down and made this for a dear friend who is embarking on some pulp fiction fun. Check it out.

Font Fun

As you’ve probably noticed, I enjoy making buttons and digital art. Fonts are something I can never have enough of. Urban Fonts has a ton to pick from. The download was super easy. You download the zip file. Open it. Click on the font and hit install at the top of the window. Super easy.

Character Crazies

I have trouble with my characters on occasion. Sometimes I just don’t know them very well, and, honestly, I don’t learn much from “interviewing” them or doing random Q&A. I like to have a visual and have everything one spot.

This is what I use. The ABCharacter: List 26 quirks/traits of your character using the letters of the alphabet. They can’t be synonyms. “For the tough letters (X and Z) you can use words that contain the letters versus starting with them.” Here’s my list from Erica Ames of Voodoo Carnival:

Erica Ames ATC

Aggressive, Brave, Clever, Driven, Emotional, Fun, Guarded, Hell-raiser, Independent, Jack-of-all-trades, Kind, Loyal, Moneyless, Nightowl, Optimistic, Pensive, Quirky, Resourceful, Shutterbug, Teasing, Uninspired, Vexing, Worrier, EXcitable, Youthful, QuiZzical

If you’re having trouble finding the right words, check out Descriptive Words dot org.

Why not make some Trading Cards? Print them out and put them right next to your computer or get yourself a set of trading card divider sheets for on the cheap and throw a couple of these in there. This ATC was made at Big Huge Labs using a character image. I entered the character’s name and the title of the book, and then just pasted the ABCharacter list in the description. You can make it what you want.

Erica Ames Color ProfileUsing Degraeve’s Color Palette, you can enter the URL of a picture which represents the character. A favorite hand bag, painting, photo, whatever you think represents them. It will then show you a complete color palette based on that picture.

For Erica, I found a set of paintings she’d love and want to buy when she finally gets her big break. Color has a way of breaking down a character for me. You can usually tell a lot about a person in the way they dress, the colors they wear, and the accessories they use. This is just one more tool in the character building arsenal.

Are you messing around and trying to find some random traits for your character? Or bummed about backstory and can’t figure it out? Seventh Sanctum has some hilarious generators to check out. I needed a character waitress for the cafe scene. She needed to be nosy and a little annoying, but I was totally blanking on the description. On a whim I went over to Seventh Sanctum and ran 10 randoms on the “General Person Generator“. It nailed it in the first try:

“This lady reminds you of a looming thundercloud. She has deep-set chocolate-colored eyes. Her thick, curly, silver hair is worn in a style that reminds you of a plume of smoke. She is short and has a wasp-waisted build. Her skin is dark. She has bushy eyebrows. Her wardrobe is classy and unusual, with a lot of violet and green.”

It was a great inspiration. I saw an older woman with a permanent frown and super teased hair. Her dark skin is the result of too many hours in a tanning bed and I changed the eyebrows to plucked until a tiny line remained.  I now see her bustling around and arching her almost nonexistent eyebrow at Erica when she orders “Coffee. Black. And keep it coming.” 😀

Random Fun Stuff

Superstickies is a fun little app that lets you create your own Stickies. Check it out:

Off to slay ghouls

Neat, right?

Well, that’s it for this round of interesting tidbits. Time for my Round of Words in 80 Days update.


#ROW80 update


ROW80LogocopyNew goals

  1. Spirit Lake: Spirit Lake didn’t make it far. I made zero progress on it.
  2. Voodoo Carnival: Voodoo made it 7k. I’m 3k shy of my 10k goal, but I’m still writing.
  3. The Collector: I’ve decided to do another Cleis Press submission. I have to admit they had me at “Sexy Librarian” in the anthology title. These short stories are so refreshing after Thunder and Roses. I love writing them. It’s due August 1st, but I’ll have it done well before then. “My goal is complete and submit by Sunday.” I’ve almost made this goal. The story is almost complete. Once it’s done, it’s in the bag. 😀
  4. I’ll update on Wednesday with my month summary as well as adjusting for new goals. Since August 1st is my anniversary, I won’t be online much (hence submitting the Cleis story early). 😀

All in all, I’m not super thrilled with my current word count, but I’m getting there. I would need to pull off another 25k by Wednesday to win CampNaNoWriMo. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but we are talking the middle of the summer and a house full of kids. Why did I ever think 50k would be a reachable goal during summer vacation? I could have gone with 30k and been perfectly fine.

If you’re interested in joining us on the Round of Words in 80 Days Challenge (your own goals for the quarter!), check it out HERE.

I’m part of a fantastic group, and if you’d like to see how everyone else is doing, check out the list HERE.

Keep Writing!

Lists and Things

In Software on July 10, 2013 at 10:13 am

No excusesMy paper calendar is an explosion of ink, random notes, passwords, odd details (like the facebook header is 851×315 px). It would be okay, I suppose, if it made sense, but the fact is I can’t tell which “Thunder and Roses is done” refers to when I typed the last word or when I sent it to my writing partner for her to do her final touches on the ms. Or when I found out I’d missed filling in part of a chapter. The reason for this is simple…I had too much other stuff written in the box. My memory is faulty about random things. Since I’m not sure when I’ll lose a bit, I write down everything. And I do mean everything. As a chronically disorganized person, this was a hard thing to train into my brain.

Kait Nolan sent out a post earlier in the week about software something called Todoist. It’s a free app for just about every OS, browser, and mobile device out there. What does it do? It lets you create the “To Do” list you’d always dreamed of. In about five minutes I had my week’s list laid out, some with due dates, others without. Recurring dates handled. You set up a project and enter tasks beneath it (moving the task to the right or left as needed if it becomes a sub task in the project). If you don’t like the order, you simply drag it where you want.

I have two active writing projects: “Thunder and Roses” and “Voodoo Carnival”. Both have open tasks. T&R’s say synopsis, blurb, formatting, and submission while Voodoo has the scenes I have to complete today. I’ll add what needs to be done tomorrow before I turn in this evening. More on that in a second.

I even have the project “New Release”. Under it I have four tasks: Coverart, Release Day, Digital/Promotional Items, and Excerpts. Under Coverart, I have a list of places to put it, the size of the cover image needed to each of my sites, etc. Release Day gives a list of places I go, what I do on that day, and some other misc things I tend to forget (like ensuring Goodreads shows the information, the links to all digital locations where available,e tc). Digital/Promotion Items contain the task list of things I do (once I receive the coverart) which includes making banners for facebook, my main site, ad banners if needed, promotional ads I use, etc. Next to each digital design item, I’ve listed the dimensions. Did you know, for instance, that the facebook cover is 851×315 px? Or that the profile picture is min 180×180? This way I don’t have to check out the back of my calendar for my hastily scribbled notes. When I have a new book, I can print out the project with all its tasks and check off the boxes as I go. It comes in handy. Trust me. lol.

What other ways have I used it?

Last night I was almost done with a scene when I had to get some rest (I’d been up almost 24 hours). It was the old toothpicks and eyelids kind of night. So, instead of opening my calendar or using a scratch piece of paper I won’t remember look at the next day, I put in Todoist, “Finish the Carnival Entrance scene”. This morning I got up, injected some caffeine and there it was on my list of things to do today. I knew exactly where I left off without having to search for the random place I may have written it.

People apparently use it for making grocery lists. You should be aware, however, that you can only have 150 active tasks open at one time. Since my New Release and Admin Day projects are ongoing, I would run out of room if I tried to use it for my grocery list. I suppose I could make a list of home staples, but it just doesn’t work for me there. Some used todoist to list their cleaning routine. Lawyers mentioned using it to keep track of lists on cases, tagging their clients last names instead of creating a new list for each person as a way to get around the 150 active tasks thing. One lady went on and on about how nice it is to have her workout list in one place. She tagged it by day of the week and main muscle group worked (abs, legs, etc). Check out the forums, man. There’s some amazing uses for this little listing dream.

Pros:

  • It was easy to navigate.
  • In thirty minutes I had my entire week laid out so I didn’t have to stress.
  • Every day I receive an email with a list of what needs to be done as well as a graph telling me how well I completed the projects.
  • Everything is easy to move and manipulate. Date entry is fantastic. Type in “ev day” and the list knows to set up a recurring task to send to you daily (tons of options there and the question box beside the date tells you exactly how to put down the dates you want).
  • It’s usable with Evernote, which I love.
  • No archive limit. Once a task is completed, it goes in the archives and doesn’t count toward your totals/lists needed.
  • My list is available as a browser icon (right next to my amazon icon). It shows the number of currently active items on my list (8 today LOL). When I click on the box, it shows me what’s left and gives me the option of checking it off as it’s done. I won’t forget where my list is anymore.

Cons:

  • The 150 active item limit will probably be an issue at some point. I’ll figure it out when/if I reach that stage.
  • My only issue with the date system is that you cannot create an end date for a task. For instance…I can set up a daily task under the project CampNaNoWriMo. Camp lasts from July 1-31st. I can’t end the task automatically on the 31st. So on that day, I’ll have to change the recurring date option.

Overall Todoist is a shining beacon for me. I don’t have to spend thirty minutes in the morning trying to remember exactly what needs to be done, where I left off the night before, what digital design things do I need to do when I get coverart for a new book, etc. All of my lists are combined in one little program which synchronizes everywhere.

If you want to add pictures and other file types (.pdf for instance), you’ll have to go pro. The list for Pro Membership ($29 a year) is pretty awesome. Receive email and text alerts within an allotted time of an appointment. You can track your productivity, create and use project templates, have the ability to use an email as a task list so you don’t lose it, back up and search your archives, etc. It can even synchronize with google calendar and outlook. You can also add notes to your tasks (to include an order in which to do it, greater detail, names of those helping, etc.). For right now free is good, but it’ll be worth it for the upgrade eventually.

Free for Writers

In Software on July 1, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Freeware caution: always scan free downloads of anything for viruses and other threats before downloading the programs into your hard drive. Also, please note, these are things I use or are recommended by friends. I receive no compensation for these links. They’re really just here for your enjoyment. 

As NaNoWriMo has kicked off its Camp session in July, I thought I’d share a few freebies with you to help you on your writing journey.

Write Track

Raven's Daughter Write Track Day 1 1136am

Keep track of your progress using Write Track, a facebook app which posts how you’ve done in each writing session. Luckily you can set it to private (where only you can see your updates). If you’re in a group of accountability, you can set it so that only those you choose can see it. Not a bad deal. I’ve recently started using it and it’s very simple to navigate. I came upon an error where using special characters and standard punctuation (apostrophe) caused a \ to display. My chat with tech support told me they’d work on it immediately. I was impressed. 😀 Every time you save/update in the app, it drops the current status as a photo in a Write Track album for you. This is what it looks like.

Task Timer

Task Timer, an app from Google Chrome shows you how much time you spend on different projects. I use it to track my week so I’ll know how much time I spend on each part of my writing day. A jpg of my current Task Timer list is below.
Task Timer Print Screen ResizedMy new work week begins on Wednesday. What you see is Wednesday through Friday and the start of my writing last night (after midnight) for Camp NaNoWriMo. I list all my common time sinks (WOW), my current wips (Silver Tongue Devils, Thunder and Roses and Raven 1), and the business side of writing (promo and admin). You can track time on any project indefinitely, but I reset mine every week. The times are jotted down in my writing calendar. You have to start and stop each event, so make sure you pay attention.

Artweaver Free (PC Only)

For those who make their own WIP artwork, coverart, promotional items, and such on a budget, Artweaver Free may be the choice for you. It’s a great program along the lines of Photoshop (my print screen so you can see what it looks like). I do all of my own promo stuff, so it’s definitely earned a place of love in my heart. For examples of what I’ve done with Artweaver, please check out DitternDawn.com, most of the buttons and such you’ll find here on the writing blog, my facebook author page, and the DitterCon 2014 facebook page. Give it a try if you’re looking for something to meet your artistic needs. Read the rest of this entry »

World Building

In Software, Workshops on April 28, 2011 at 6:25 pm

When I take on a new project, I have to thoroughly break down the background information. Who this character is, why they do what they do, where they grew up, and where they live now.

If it’s parnormal, I create rules…very specific rules with the understanding that if these rules are broken (after I create them), something catastrophic will happen.

I draw maps (or find them), take notes on rooms of a home that I would come back to time and again, and document little tidbits of information that need to be leaked out for the overal story arc. I also have pictures of the hero, heroine, and all major characters. But where do I put them all?

I use Scrivener to house all my information. I can pull up maps and coordinates, pictures and notes, and everything in between. I can have a file that holds all the information that nags at me when I’m writing…you know, what color was that horse the hero was riding? How did he tip his hat when he was perplexed…stuff like that. Do you have to use them? Of course not! I used to keep an index file with images, notes and maps paperclipped to the folder. It worked for me for many years…but I *never* throw anything away. So finally the clutter was becoming too much.

Over the next few days I’m going to break down how I build up a world, and I invite you to come along.

Adventures in Dragon Dictate

In Software on January 23, 2011 at 5:25 am

This is my first adventure in Dragon Dictate. I am writing this post using DragonDictate 2.0. It was quite an adventure to get here.

As most of you know, I was waiting on software that was backordered. Today was the two week mark, and my husband convinced me to contact the local Best Buy. Luckily, they had it in stock. So my husband, being the wonderful man that he is, drove me to Best Buy to pick up my new software. Two hours later, and after some interesting side quests involving new personnel, we were finally able to get our software.

Upon our arrival home, I found that I had made a rookie mistake. I have bought software without checking compatibility. My amazing husband, and hero of my world,  turned right around and bought me snow leopard 10.6 for Mac. It took the sales associates half an hour to figure out how to use a new software program at  Best Buy. Even then, my hero remained stoic. I’m sure he was cursing me in his mind. Truly, I can’t say that I blame him. When he brought it home, he told me that he had suffered stupidity so that I may be a best-selling author.  It made me laugh, as I’m sure he intended.

This is not the first time I used dictation software. At work, for the very same reasons, I have been forced to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking to maintain my reports, e-mails, and other administrative work. The linear thought process is far easier for me. I don’t feel foolish, arrogant, or afraid of getting it wrong. Writing fiction, however, is proving to be a much different kind of challenge.

Lynn Viehl has given me some amazing pointers. Here are a few I would like to share with you:

  • Use the software for everything. The only way it feels natural is by constant usage.
  • Don’t get frustrated with yourself. You are training the computer to listen to your voice, and your voice alone. Not as easy as it sounds.
  • It helps to visualize the scene before you begin writing it. Imagine it’s like a movie. We’ll see how well that goes.

I hope you enjoy my introduction to Dragon Dictate, and I can’t wait to find out how much more I’m going to learn in the next 48 hours. My kids sure think it’s neat.

Keep writing,

Dawn

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