Friday, September 17, 2021

7 Essential Productivity Tools Every Writer Needs

7 Essential Productivity Tools Every Writer Needs

By: Jessica Fender (see bio at bottom of article)

 

As a writer, you need to make sure you're using your writing time the way you should. Staying inspired, productive, and efficient can be hard at times, due to all the pressure or distractions you may be experiencing. Luckily, you're the one controlling what you do and how you do it. So, you should explore and find productivity tools that will make every writing session a success.

 

To help you out, we've made a list of 7 essential productivity tools that every writer needs. Let’s break it down.




source: Pexels

1.     Any.do

Every writer needs great organizational skills, to keep their workdays filled with meaningful tasks. A great tool you can use to keep all your tasks, goals, and ideas organized is Any.do.

 

Any.do is an organization app that allows you to:

-        create and run a writing schedule

-        create lists and reminders

-        keep track of your progress on certain writing tasks

 

Plus, you get to sync it across devices, which allows you to stay organized wherever you are.

2.     Freedom

If you get distracted easily and find yourself searching the web or scrolling social media in the middle of a writing session- you need Freedom.

 

Freedom is an app designed to block distractions and keep you focused on your writing tasks. You can block anything you want:

-        websites

-        apps

-        social media

 

You can even sync blocks across all your devices, to make sure nothing keeps you away from your writing work.

3.     Grammarly

As a writer, you need a surefire way to check your writing accuracy, without doing it manually and relying just on your proofreading skills.

 

Grammarly is one of the best proofreading and grammar-checking tools you can find. It will do the following tasks for you:

-        analyze your entire document

-        mark errors in grammar, spelling, word choice, and structure

-        suggest corrections

-        save your document formatting

 

You'll avoid wasting time proofreading yourself and stay productive for other more important tasks.

 

All you have to do is drag and drop the document, and download it after you finish your Grammarly analysis. If you need advanced proofreading options, you could check out EssayService. Their professional writers can do editing, proofreading, and rewriting of your documents.

4.     Thesaurus.com

Every active writer knows what it’s like to be unable to find the right words to express your ideas. You know what you want to say, but no words you’re thinking of seem adequate or like the perfect fit.

 

That’s when you can turn to Thesaurus.com. 

 

Thesaurus.com is a tool that will provide a ton of synonyms and antonyms for the words that are roaming your mind. You’ll be able to find the right words faster and produce high-quality content without trouble. 

 

All you need to do is type the word you want to explore, and this tool will make suggestions and unlock those parts of your brain that were blocked just a second ago.

5.     Hemingway App

Another helping hand for writers that helps boost productivity and maximize writing success, is the Hemingway Editor. This editor focuses on all the most important aspects of writing:

-        readability

-        sentence structure and complexity

-         use of active and passive voice

-        clarity

 

You can use Hemingway to learn more about the content you’ve written and analyze it objectively.

6.     Cliché Finder

When you're trying to be productive and reach your daily writing goal, you can come across many pitfalls. One of those pitfalls is using too many clichés in your writing.

 

In fact, even a single cliché is too much for a serious author.

 

So, Cliché Finder is a tool that will help you find and eliminate words, expressions, and phrases that are used too often, corny, or empty.

 

This will improve your writing and make sure you avoid sounding like a second-class writer.

7.     Ulysses

Finally, to maximize your writing productivity and achieve all your daily or weekly goals, you can try the Ulysses writing environment for authors and writers of all sorts.

 

Ulysses is a writing app for Mac, iPhone, and iPad users. It’s designed to increase your productivity by helping you stay focused on your writing tasks. It comes with features such as:

-        distraction-free writing interface

-        documents management

-        cross-device syncing

-        text editor

-        attachments

-        etc.

 

This all-in-one tool will keep you away from the time-consuming switch between multiple apps, and help you stay fixated on the task you’ve set in front of you.

Final Thoughts  

Writing is primarily a creative activity but this doesn't mean writers shouldn't practice self-discipline and be productive. Each writing session needs to have a goal and writers have to make sure they reach it.

 

The 7 productivity tools we’ve selected and explained above will help you boost your productivity and do more writing work every day.


Author’s bio. Jessica Fender is a professional writer and educational blogger. Jessica enjoys sharing her ideas to make writing and learning fun. You find her on Twitter. 

 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

#BookReview - The Summer Festival is Murder


The Summer Festival is Murder: A Felice Bowes Mystery

By: Jill M. Lyon
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: August 3, 2021
ISBN: 978-1639446445
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: September 15, 2021
A retired lawyer unexpectedly turns sleuth when murder enters the scene of a small coastal town in The Summer Festival is Murder.
Felice and David Bowes leave behind their long, busy big-city careers and life to settle down in Sheffield's quaint and quieter small-town atmosphere in Coastal Oregon. Not afraid of change, Felice immediately gets involved, volunteering in small projects and keeping up with the local politics—her way of getting acquainted with the townspeople. The latter involvement becomes eye-opening when she observes Greta Sutton, the town's mayor, haranguing city council members over budget issues during Sheffield's most significant event of the year: the Summer Festival.
Greta's constant nagging gets Felice's attention enough to follow the acerbic mayor to a tent, where she privately meets with Dwight Orkman, the city manager. Overhearing the conversation, Felice is taken aback when Greta threatens Dwight's job if he doesn't comply with her commands. The following day, Felice receives a phone call from Becky, her paramedic friend, who tells her that Greta had been murdered, her body found near the logging site of the festival grounds. Because of her lawyer background, Tom Abhay, the Chief of Police, asks if Felice would do community policing by talking with a few townsfolk. Just as her talks get underway, the community experiences a second murder.
Upcoming author Jill Lyon produces a twisty but realistic story in her debut mystery. Lyon grabs the attention of her readers from the get-go on various levels. For starters, her first-person narration speaks directly to her audience, providing an omniscient view into the mind of Felice Bowes, the novel's self-assured protagonist narrator. Having done thorough research on the west coast, Lyon paints a complete portrayal of the unique qualities that define the Oregon coastline: logging, multiple coffee outlets, mild temperatures, wet winters (i.e., driving slanted rain), dry summers, and the stunning beauty of nature (i.e., salmon, otters, Douglas fir trees).
Another draw-in is Lyon's realistic cast. Lyon includes a full, unremarkable line-up of standard, everyday (and primarily proactive) people. While supplying her mystery with relatable characters, her secondary cast is also made up of elusive individuals who push Felice to kick her lawyer instincts in high gear and keep readers constantly wondering about culprits.
One would think that with a mystery set in first-person POV, the plot would keep to noire elements. On the contrary, while Lyon main character carries robust, defining features, Felice is also classified among the common folk. It's in Felice's continual thought processes and discussions with people, reminding readers that Felice is an average human being determined to do the right thing. Outside of a few third-person back scenes, Lyon mainly uses Felice's interchanges with townsfolk, clues she discovers along the way, and chapter cliff-hangers to build tension.
Quill says: The Summer Festival is Murder is a perfect read for mystery lovers who enjoy ordinary characters.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

#AuthorInterview with Daphne Birkmyer, author of Comfrey, Wyoming


Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Daphne Birkmyer, author of Comfrey, Wyoming: Marcela's Army, Book 2.
FQ: Which do you find easier, starting a story, or writing the conclusion?
BIRKMYER: I definitely find starting each book easier than writing the conclusion. I had written over 1200 pages before I threw myself at the mercy of a very organized friend, who helped sort the chapters into individual books. Many chapters offered themselves up as good beginnings, but when to cut each book off has been the challenge. I want my conclusions to leave readers hungering for the next book in the series, yet I want them to feel the book they just finished was a fully satisfying read.
FQ: What is your all-time favorite book? Why? And did this book/author have any influence over your decision to become an author?
BIRKMYER: For an avid reader, this is a very difficult question, but based on the number of times I have read Jane Eyre, I’ll claim this book as my all-time favorite. I discovered it at age ten through one of the Classic Comics my piano teacher bought to entertain us as we waited for our lessons. My mother gave me a full-length version for my next birthday and I have re-read it many times. The resolute heroine has continued to capture me. I read a discussion recently on whether this book could be considered the first truly feminist literature. I think so, and I do not agree with those who claim the protagonist, Jane Eyre, was too tied to repressive social mores. Charlotte Brontë wrote during a time when women’s voices were restricted, yet she still managed to create a bold, independent female character—literally a plain Jane, with a backbone of steel.
In addition, I love how Brontë uses descriptions of weather and landscape to develop Jane’s character and to portend coming events. I find myself doing that in my writing too. The high prairie winds and sagebrush steppe of Wyoming are as much characters in my books as are people and dogs.
I wouldn’t say Charlotte Brontë or any other writer influenced my decision to write—the increasing cacophony of the voices in my head did that.
FQ: How do you approach a new story and when you set pen to paper, is there a specific process you follow (or do you just write and let your story take the lead to where it must go)?
BIRKMYER: I keep readers engaged by giving them a diverse group of relatable characters with idiosyncrasies, depth and humor. I keep the science relevant. I explore some of life’s toughest issues—the death of a child or parent or dog, genetic disease, rape, abandonment, social injustice, environmental defilement— but there are enough characters and books to absorb them all. Placing the town of Comfrey in Wyoming also keeps people engaged. Wyoming, the least populous state, is a place with a rich indigenous presence, dramatic topography, harsh weather, abundant wildlife and conservative views. What better environment to test the strength of my characters?
FQ: Tell us a bit about the series. Do you know where the series will take the characters or are you working that out as you go along with each book? What has been the reader response to your series?
BIRKMYER: The Comfrey, Wyoming series is about healing, forgiveness, and accepting love. By bridging cultural and personal barriers, the characters forge deep and abiding relationships that underscore the fundamental need for human connection.
In the first book of the series, Birds of a Feather, German-borne chef, Heidi Vogel, flees New York after the death of her child and accepts a job running a soup kitchen in Wyoming as she seeks a path forward. She is unexpectedly thrust into parenthood again when she becomes guardian to five-year-old twins, one of whom identifies as transgender. Seeking a safe place to raise the children, Heidi drives through the little town of Comfrey, nestled against the base of the Wind River Range, and sees a For Sale sign in the window of the town’s only restaurant.
The second book, Marcela’s Army, introduces characters in Comfrey who will have important roles to play in the lives of Heidi and the twins. Throughout the series, children are given equal footing with adults, and the spirits of those who have passed have their own parts to play. Dogs feature prominently and so does a highly endangered rattlesnake, whose role will increase as the series continues.
My chapters are written as my characters speak to me. Sequencing comes later. All major characters have been developed through book five, although minor characters may continue to coalesce.
The response to my books has been gratifying and I am thankful for each and every reader. I have built a following that clamors for more. The first two books have made a modest splash, but I need the ripples to continue to expand outward.
FQ: Do you feel any pressure to hurry up and get the next book in the series published? Does this make it harder to write or do you work better under such pressure?
BIRKMYER: I do feel pressure to get my books out, but I’ve always worked well under pressure. I have two books in the series published. The third is getting its preliminary edits and two more await their endings. Whether the series can be completed in five books is yet to be determined.
These are uncertain times and I am of a certain age, so as forces I cannot control bear down, I control what I can. Normally, I arise to tea and toast with marmite. I eat in my garden if weather permits, then send a brief hello text to each of my three grown children before taking the dogs out for a long walk. On our walk, I listen to exchanges between the characters in my head. I come home to write, taking a break in later afternoon for a little housework. I set an alarm so I don’t get carried away with life’s dreary tasks, then I am back to writing.
Sometimes my writing proceeds at a snail’s pace because my characters are not speaking to me clearly or they change their minds about how they’re going to respond to a particular situation, so I do a lot of rewriting. Other times, I may complete a chapter in a single day. Many of the chapters for the entire series are already written or outlined, but there is a lot of culling and polishing that needs to occur. Just as my second book was about to be sent to the printer, I found a significant timing error that had escaped two editors and three trusted beta readers. I only caught it while I was reading the manuscript aloud to a sight-impaired friend. The fix involved writing an entirely new chapter and rewriting three others. This took me almost a month, but the error proved to be a gift because the new chapter allowed me to more fully develop one of my indigenous characters.
Much of the pressure I feel is self-imposed. My books have become my soapbox and I am not yet ready to step down. As a former high school science teacher, I infuse my work with science—once a teacher, always a teacher. I also feel an obligation to support my multiracial, gender nonconforming family, extended family, and friends through those of my characters who battle social injustice and demand environmental equity.
FQ: Many authors say that it’s hard to say good-bye to the characters in a series? Do you think it will be difficult for you? Have they become part of your life?
BIRKMYER: My characters have always been a part of my life. Growing up, I had imaginary friends far longer than most children. Even today when facing a personal challenge, I find myself asking what one of my characters would do, and if he or she is a trusted voice, I will listen. My series will eventually be complete, but many of my characters will continue to live with me.
Within the series, I have solved the death of one character I was particularly fond of by having her continued (although much reduced) presence in spirit form. I had planned to kill off a character in book four that a friend has forbidden me to kill off. She has fallen in love with him. I am not sure I can deal with another intense, spiritual presence, so he may get to live. We will see.
FQ: Did the story change as you wrote the book?
BIRKMYER: The story has changed dramatically since its inception. I chose Wyoming as my setting because my original premise was to write a series about the exotic species trade. I wanted a state that a light plane could reach from Mexico, yet far enough away from the border to not be on the radar of Governmental agencies that deal with wildlife trafficking to and from Central America. I took multiple trips to Wyoming and fell in love with the place, but then the human characters and the dogs took over. I also had to make sense of why a classically trained German chef would commit herself to staying in a small town in Wyoming.
That endangered rattlesnake, the Midget Faded Rattler, still has a big part to play, but it waits until the fourth book to woo ophidiophiles (those who love snakes).
FQ: Are any of the characters based on real people you know? If so, how closely does your character mimic the real person?
BIRKMYER: For someone born to be an observer of human nature, there is no better job than being a teacher so I have been blessed with diverse array of muses. Many characters are mosaics of former students, colleagues, current family and friends, but no character mimics one specific real person.
One character, Beppe Biro, owes his initial presence to Matthew Shepard, the young gay man who was beaten and left to die near Laramie, Wyoming in 1998. Matthew is the impetuous for having Beppe spend some of his teenage years in Wyoming, and for events that happen to him there. I didn’t know Matthew Shepard, but I honor his parents and carry him in my heart.
FQ: If a character(s) is based on a real person, what made you decide to do that? Did you tell that person he/she is a character in your story and if so, what was their reaction?
BIRKMYER: No character is based on one specific person, although I have used the names of several former students and colleagues. I checked with them and they said they didn’t mind.
FQ: Tell us about your favorite character and why that person is your favorite.
BIRKMYER: This would be a toss up between, Heidi Vogel and Nara Crow. Heidi came to me to right a wrong—the anti-German prejudice (based on experiences in World War II) of a family member toward one of my childhood friends. At the time, I silently vowed that if ever I wrote a book, I would have a German protagonist. I sought a woman with a strong will and great heart, and Heidi Vogel came to me. Heidi picks up whatever life throws at her and carries it over the finish line. She is relentless in her protection of the twins entrusted to her care, and by the second book has changed her last name to match theirs’. She is devoted to her German cousin and his Italian husband and they provide her and the twins unwavering support. She has a stoicism and level of organization I admire greatly but do not share.
Nara is atypical of most indigenous people in being cut off from the richness and support of community. Her father never healed from his abandonment at a rest stop as a young child, and being raised by white parents. His wife and daughter are similarly cut off from community, and after the death of her mother, Nara faces life alone. She is also the character who most allows me to flex my scientific chops. She is tough, intelligent, and full of angst, humor and wit. She steals a book on ocean ecology after a childhood trauma and finds comfort in its depths. Largely self-educated, Nara is a fountain of knowledge. She stands toe to toe with Heidi and the two women forge a bond that transcends their very different backgrounds and extends beyond the grave.
And let’s throw some children into the list of favorites. The twins are a constant in all the books. Born identical, they become yin and yang—one deeply connected to his Native roots, the other with a single-minded pursuit to attain a body that reflects her gender identity, and standing by her side, is Lucas Darcy. He is far more precocious than most people would think a child could possibly be, but I have known children as precocious as he. Lucas of the yellow eyes and long canine teeth is exquisitely talented and very odd—such a charmer.
FQ: How did you approach the need to keep readers engaged and tuned in to keep turning those pages?
BIRKMYER: I keep readers engaged by giving them a diverse group of relatable characters with idiosyncrasies, depth and humor. I keep the science relevant. I explore some of life’s toughest issues—the death of a child or parent or dog, genetic disease, rape, abandonment, social injustice, environmental defilement— but there are enough characters and books to absorb them all. Placing the town of Comfrey in Wyoming also keeps people engaged. Wyoming, the least populous state, is a place with a rich indigenous presence, dramatic topography, harsh weather, abundant wildlife and conservative views. What better environment to test the strength of my characters?
To learn more about Comfrey, Wyoming: Marcela's Army, Book 2, please visit the author's website at: daphnebirkmyer.com

Monday, September 13, 2021

#BookReview - The Bond by A.M. Grotticelli


The Bond

By: A.M. Grotticelli
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: December 1, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-64921-914-5
Reviewed by: Katie Specht
Review Date: September 9, 2021
A.M. Grotticelli, a technology journalist, presents his debut book in The Bond, a memoir of his childhood spent growing up in a foster family. In his story, Grotticelli describes his life over a span of 10 years living with his foster parents, Mr. and Mrs. Nelson, along with seven other foster kids.
The author’s story begins at age eight as he is living at St. Michael’s Home, an orphanage for abandoned children located in Staten Island, New York. Grotticelli then chronicles how he came to arrive at the orphanage at the tender age of seven. His parents had been violently fighting for some time, and subsequently, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. His mother’s cancer progressed so badly that she eventually had to be admitted to the hospital. This was the impetus that led the author’s father to place Grotticelli, along with two of his siblings, in an orphanage. Grotticelli’s extended family did not question this decision in any way; in fact, Grotticelli’s father might as well have simply been giving away an unwanted child’s toy. Shortly thereafter, Grotticelli finds himself and his two siblings thrust into a new, scary world at the orphanage, feeling more abandoned and alone than ever before.
Grotticelli is no stranger to the written word, and his writing expertise shines through in The Bond. This poignant story of finding familial love will pull at the reader’s heartstrings. Being part of a family unit is something that many take for granted; yet for foster children, it is a bond that they search and yearn for, often for most of their lives. Amazingly, Grotticelli and his foster siblings were able to establish an unbreakable familial bond against all odds. This remarkable phenomenon reinforces how even if you are born without a familial unit, friends can become your family.
Grotticelli’s touching memoir not only provides an honest account of triumph against all odds, but it also sheds light on a necessary, but sadly, flawed, societal component: the foster system. Foster children often find themselves discarded, unwanted, abused, and malnourished, among other things. They often have a stigma attached to themselves that is difficult, if not impossible, to overcome. They are usually forced to grow up much quicker than children should need to, and instead find some sort of employment at a young age in an effort to support and better themselves. Grotticelli's account puts a spotlight on these issues and more.
Quill says: With The Bond, Grotticelli has written an honest and emotional tale of forging strong relationships against all odds. His writing is powerful, touching, and poignant. This story will leave the reader immensely grateful for the familial love that is present in his or her own life.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

#BookReview - Rock and Vole


Rock and Vole
Written and Illustrated by: Jennifer Sattler
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: August 2021
ISBN: 978-1534111035
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: September 9, 2021
Vole is, well...a vole, and she is very particular about how she spends her day. But her closely scheduled time is about to be upended in the new children's book Rock and Vole.
Vole has a daily schedule that she keeps every single day. First she does some stretching, then exactly seven minutes of exercise. At snack time, she has one slice of bread, two pieces of cheese and exactly twelve raisins. Not eleven raisins, not thirteen, but twelve. And every day ends the same, with a nice, long sleep, but it has to be on the left side of the bed. Day in, day out, Vole keeps to her schedule.
One day, however, Vole decides she wants something different. But in typical Vole fashion, her "different" day is carefully planned out. She maps out her travel, and picks a spot exactly halfway on her trip to stop for her snack. When Vole sets out on her trip, she has her map and a backpack with her snack. It's going to be a fun day...until a rock gets in her way. And not just any rock, but a humongous, ginormous rock. Vole tries to reason with the rock to go somewhere else, but the rock just sits on the ground, not moving. Will Vole ever resolve her problem with the rock?
Rock and Vole is definitely a different children's book, with one of the two main characters never saying a word throughout the entire story. The rock "just sat there," as a rock will do, while Vole tried to reason with the inanimate object. Vole soon learns that just because she had a perfectly planned trip, sometimes unexpected things, or rocks, can get in the way. And Vole, and the reader, learn that sometimes very cool, neat, and unexpected things can happen when plans go haywire. We can't plan everything, all the time, and Vole learns this lesson from an stubborn, silent rock.
Quill says: Silly and fun, Rock and Vole is a charming story about a cute little vole who learns that not all things can be planned and sometimes, the best things that happen are, in fact, unplanned.