The Future is Today!

sciencefictionstories1NOTE:  Check the end of this post for bribes.

I heard a story on NPR the other day about technology.  It seems that it is changing so fast that there are a lot of things that most people think of as Science Fiction that already exist. The information is coming faster than we can absorb.  For example, did you know that the military really does have tiny little flying robots the size of houseflies that gather intelligence remotely?

For someone, ahem, MY AGE, I’m not especially intimidated by technology.  But it took me a while to figure out how to get my book covers up on the left and my Twitter feed up on the right.

A lot of writers I know struggle with technology.  We were the English major nerds (okay, I was a Performing Arts major, but the metaphor still works), not the Science/Math Geeks (who became cool in the age of Bill Gates). Like many of my fellow authors I enjoy the idea of sitting under a tree, writing in my beautifully bound leather journal with a quill pen (in my fantasy, the need for a place to put the ink bottle is conveniently ignored), surrounded by the sounds of nature.

But I type 80 words per minute, and handwrite about ten, so I use an AlphaSmart when I’m sitting under that tree. I still can’t resist buying those leather-bound journals, but they mostly collect dust.

I’m always tempted by various software applications that promise to more or less write the book for me.  Sort of like the serial dieter is always looking for the magic pill that will make them thin, the writer sees applications that keep track of plot threads, character arcs, and make pretty story boards, and we’re sure that, if we just buy them, we’ll have the next New York Times bestseller ready in no time.

I’ve bought a couple, and tried some of the free ones. Most of them didn’t do anything I hadn’t already figured out using basic office tools, and others had a learning curve so long that I was afraid I’d never get the book done.


But the technology used in the actual writing process is the least of the author’s worries.  It’s all the ancillary stuff, mostly having to do with marketing.

I currently use…

— WordPress for this blog, and the Deadline Dames.

— Bravenet for occasional updates to my old blog.

— Contribute (A dumbed down version of DreamWeaver) for my website.

— Windows Movie Maker for “virtual appearances” and book trailers.

— YouTube to post the trailers.

— Microsoft publisher to make all kinds of promotional things, both print and digital.

— I-Movie (on the studio’s Mac) to edit tape for the TV show I produce.

— Streamclip to change the format of the video so that it can be loaded to an FTP site

— Filezilla to actually load the video.

— PegMedia to distribute the show to other Public Access stations around the country.

— Prism to compress the video to a lower-resolution so that I can post full episodes.

— to post those episodes.

— Twitter, to tell people to go read the blogs and watch the episodes and trailers.

— Seesmic, to customize my views of the Twitter feed.

— Facebook, because everyone says I have to.

— PayPal, so I can get online payments for my Book Rx business.

— Yahoo Messenger, although I REFUSE to use IM abbreviations or abandon punctuation.

— Yahoo Groups, to keep track of various organizations of which I am a member.

— Autosynch, to synchronize calendars, tasks and contacts in multiple places

I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but this is actually a pretty short list. Compare to some REALLY tech savvy writers I know, I’m a Neanderthal.

What do you use that is or isn’t on my list?  Do any of those novel writing applications really work for you?


One commenter will win an autographed copy of Glitter Baby by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.  And, speaking of technology, be sure I have a way to notify you if you win…



  1. I’ve just started using Google Analytics ( so I can view reports on traffic to my website. You can track users, hits, traffic over time, and even limit it to specific content areas of your website if you like.

    I’ve tried WriteItNow ( and the biggest advantage was the ability to keep my notes on characters and places and event separate from the manuscript and easily accessible (uses a Windows folder/directory navigation), so I can easily click over to a character profile and then back to the scene. I’ve heard some people like Scrivener but I haven’t tried it.


  2. The greatest piece of writing technology I have ever used is Scrivener. I don’t think I could ever express how much I love this little piece of software. I use it to write everything from novel chapters to blog posts to book reviews. It’s as complicated or simplistic as you want your word processor to be. AND it auto-saves for you, the moment you’re idle.

    Its best feature is the full-screen mode, which keeps me from chatting on AIM or tweeting when I should be hitting my word targets for the day.

    Another great piece of software is FocusBooster, a tiny Adobe Air application.

    Feel free to sign me up for the draw; you have my Twitter followed, I believe (@neverish).

  3. I am not an author myself, but I am an enthusiastic fan of many authors (readaholic here) I use Twitter and Facebook to track what some of these authors are up to. I also subscribe to a whole bunch of newsletters, follow on Blogger, and Live Journal, and always looking for more ways to find good urban fantasy.

  4. Holy smokes, you do use a lot of gizmos. Nice blog, and this comment section with white on black is strangely cool.

    Bob Sanchez

  5. Excellent blog, Toni! Love the set up. And…holy technology, Batman! (Or is that: holy, technology, Batman?) As for what I use: Facebook, Yahoo Groups/Messenger and WordPress. I am very reluctant to learn the technique that is “tweeting”. 😛


  6. I use blogger, egroups, wordpress,Microsoft Word, Microsoft Publisher, Youtube, Ning, Twitter, Facebook, Bebo, MySpace, Movie Maker, Adobe Pro 9, the cheap version of Adobe Photoshop. I bought the CS4 version but haven’t had time to install it. Lots more. The list is endless.

    Morgan Mandel

  7. I use WriteMonkey when doing first drafts – it keeps the distractions away. (
    I also use WIndows Live Writer to draft/post to my various blogs (about 5 of them…) It’s the best desktop blogging client I’ve found.
    Both of those tools are free.

  8. Not a writer, but I use facebook, myspace and twitter. Am following MANY blogs with RSS, or through Google Follow. I like it when they will play well with each other, like how I can post my goodreads info to Facebook. Now if only Twitter would do the same thing…

  9. Good grief that’s a long list! I’m impressed.
    Love the new look.

    • CONGRATS! You’re the winner of GLITTER BABY.

  10. Toni, What a hell-bent deadline dame you are! I actually received quite a bit of basic office software training, but nowadays you just have to learn whatever it is. Lindsey told me about Microsoft Onenote…a great organizer that can be pressed into service for the novelist… for notes,links,pics, etc. To all be stored in one place. I don’t have alphasmart…ahem! It’s kinda outdated darlin’…as new netbooks are out there for as low as $350.
    I have been using the digital pen with good results…that’s closer to your sitting under the tree idea…anything that maximizes word count. I look forward to the workshop I hope you’ll be giving on all these marketing tools for those of us unpubs. Can’t wait (guilty!) to take a look at srivener….i’ve heard only good things. It’s true there’s the dieter’s same delimma for the writer…if only I could find a crutch….

  11. Hi Toni 🙂
    I am currently learning the technology.
    I use Google Reader to manage Blogs I am a Member of, or really like.
    I use Twitter to connect with the fabulous authors whose books I ravenously read, and with others.
    I use Blogger for a Blog (for now).
    I have heard Scrivener extolled many times and am going to try it.
    I use Word to write.
    All the best,

  12. Damn, you commenters, for giving me several new technologies to add to my list! Yes, I need to be using Google Analytics and now feel I must take a serious look at Scrivener. Laurie, I know the AlphaSmart is low-tch–that’s actually sort of the point. Since I can’t do anything BUT write on it, and the screen is too small to effectively scan back, it forces me to do true rough drafts, something I have trouble with. I don’t know if I would actually use a digital pen, but it looks sooooo cool. I’ll have to look into Windows Live Writer, to. And WriteMonkey…

    Stop! You guys are killing me!

  13. Okay, I WISH I had the time to even figure out what some of these things are that you wrote about. I agree with you that there’s amazing technology all around us. Now, if this darned job would quit interfering with real life, I could try some of these things out! (Of course, without the job I guess I’d also be under that tree with you, Toni, but I’d also have my blanket, pillow, one plate, fork, spoon and knife – one little pencil and paper because that’s where I’d be living once I was kicked out of my house for not paying bills. Guess I better keep the day job!)

    Very interesting post, though.

  14. Great blog post. Applicable across industries. Learning agility is key!

  15. Damn Woman – the length of your technology list is staggering!
    Love the new blog look; it’s fresh and crisp.

  16. Glad to see someone else moving over to WordPress – I love it! It’s helped me get over my technophobia, but just reading over your post and all these comments with their additional suggestions, I feel an anxiety attack coming on.

    I’m hoping to get Skype working in time for the Poisoned Pen WebCon this Saturday, but it’s not mandatory.

    I love your blog – came here because of your comment on the Blog Book Tours Cafe. I’d love to be a guest on your blog any time you’re ready. Having my first BBT from November 9 to November 20 and still have a couple of slots open.

    Julie Lomoe’s Musings Mysterioso

  17. Too funny, Toni!

    I thought I was the only one who preferred writing in my journal under a tree. Although there’s a park 4 doors down from my house, I only seem to fulfill that fantasy about twice a year. I’ve got chapters to write, and the tree thing only seems to work for the deep thoughts that maybe someday my little sister will read… I never had kids, so can’t imagine any other interested posterity.

    As for technology, I grew suddenly exhausted just looking at your list. Here’s mine:
    1) WordPress software for blogging
    2) Two Webmasters for three websites (one under construction)
    3) Adding Feedburner and Stumble Upon to my active websites this week
    4) Member of social networks Facebook, Twitter, PulseWire,
    5) Member of book nerd network Goodreads
    6) Receive favorite blogs via RSS Feed
    7) iPhoto to clean up photos for my blog
    8) iMovie to make slide shows for my travel workshops
    9) Final Cut Express to edit videos for my website. I’m still working on the first one

    And I know I need more. Wow, feeling tired again.

    Thanks for the fun post,

  18. Jeez, Toni, I don’t know what half those things are. Here’s one that I use: Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software. I’ve been using Dragon for years to save my fingers from tendinitis. Usually dictate my stories with it but do all my promo stuff myself. It’s a career saving if you’re having wrist/hand problems.

  19. thank’s..nice article..

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