Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Cheap Gadgets for the Writer’s Toolbox

By Debby Giusti

What’s in your toolbox?

I thought it might be fun to talk about the cheap gadgets in my writing toolbox. We all have computers or laptops. Those are costly purchases that are almost a necessity for writers. But what about some of the inexpensive items that make our writing life run more smoothly?

Here are a few of the gadgets you’ll find in my toolbox:

AlphaSmart


The sturdy and durable word processor has 8 files, each of which holds roughly 25 manuscript pages of text. The Alpha’s narrow screen and lack of editing functions keep me moving forward when writing my first draft. Once a file is full, I download the text to my computer. Created for school children, the AlphaSmart is portable, battery powered and seemingly indestructible. If purchased new, the Alpha and the more advanced models--the NEO2 and the upgraded DANA—are expensive, but they can be purchased used at a minimal price online or on eBay. Since many schools are providing laptops or chrome books for their students, I suggest calling your local elementary or middle schools to see if they are phasing out of using AlphaSmarts. If so, you might be able to purchase an Alpha from the school at a reduced cost.



Kitchen Timer

When I’m on deadline, my kitchen timer is my best friend. I grab my AlphaSmart and set my timer for thirty minutes of non-stop typing. The timer’s constant ticking helps to keep me focused and on task. When the timer dings at the end of the thirty minutes, I relax my hands, stand and stretch, gulp some water and give my brain time to regroup before I set the timer again. When the words are flowing, I can fill a 25-page file on my AlphaSmart in six thirty-minute writing bursts. Best of all, the basic kitchen timer sells for under $5.



Multi-plug USB Hub

I’m sure you all use this gadget. I have two of them attached to my laptop. They allow me to keep my external hard drive, my printer, mouse and AlphaSmart cable hooked up and ready for use. The hubs cost less than $10 and can be found at Staples, Walmart or anywhere computer products are sold. 


Desk

For years, I worked on a 4-foot Folding Banquet Table instead of an actual desk. The tables are currently available at Target for a reasonable $31.49. Walmart also carries them. The 4-foot table provides a large enough work space for a computer, research material, paper and pens and other necessities. I stacked plastic crates--a cheap way to store files and books--under the table and had everything within reach that I needed. The table is small enough to fit into most bedrooms or alcove areas. Add a lamp and a surge protector, and you’ll be ready to work in your new office space.
Photo: www.Target.com


Yeti Rambler Tumbler

Writers need to stay hydrated that’s why I keep my Yeti close at hand. The Yeti tumbler is well-insulated, doesn’t sweat and keeps drinks ice cold all day. The tumbler can also be used for hot beverages and maintains the temperature of any drink for hours.  Order your Yeti online for $29.99 or find them at your favorite outdoors store.  

  

2 ½ inch Three-Ring Binder

When time permits, I print a hard copy of my manuscript, punch holes in the pages and insert them into a binder. The 2 ½ inch size works perfectly for my 55,000 word Love Inspired Suspense stories. I read my draft and make corrections on the page without fear of losing the initial text in case I decide later to include the deleted material. To make additions to the manuscript, I write on the blank backside of the previous page. When I’m ready to insert the changes into my computer file, I start on the last page in my binder and work forward so my hard copy pages sync with the computer pages. Binders sell for under $5.



WordWeb Pro

This online dictionary and thesaurus is better than cheap, it’s free for download at http://wordweb.info/. With a couple of key strokes, I can check spelling, word definitions and find synonyms and antonyms.



Ergonomic Keyboard

Laptop keyboards are not user friendly. Last year, I bought an external ergonomic keyboard that’s far easier to use and places my hands in a better position when I type. It also allows me to raise my laptop onto a box, thus elevating the screen almost to eye level. I use a Logitech keyboard that sells for $44, although cheaper models are also available.



Pillows

Pillows? That’s right. I have an old desk chair so I “pad” the seat with a pillow and use a Forever Comfy Combination Cushion to support my back. I sometimes add a lumbar roll for extra support. I purchased the Comfy Cushion for $11.99 at Ross. The lumbar roll was equally as inexpensive.




Briefcase

For conferences, I use a rolling briefcase. My first one was a Solo Rolling Briefcase that I bought at Ross for about $30. It came in handy during an RWA conference when I was staying at the “other” hotel, which meant lots of walking. As you can imagine, the wheels were a lifesaver and allowed me to cart my Goodie Room giveaways, conference program, handouts, notebooks and paperbacks without pain or strain. Walmart carries a Protégé 16 inch Rolling Briefcase for $27.00 and Amazon features AmazonBasics Rolling Laptop for $38.99.


Folding Cart

Another back saver is a Mobile Folding Cart from Office Depot that’s perfect for hauling books and promo items. I use mine when attending reader luncheons or signings. The plastic bin is large enough to haul a couple of cases of books, promo items and a giveaway author basket. When not in use, the cart folds up and has an easy carrying handle. The cart I have currently sells at Office Depot for $24.99.



What are your favorite writing tools? Leave a comment to be entered in two drawings. Each winner will receive a copy of AMISH REFUGE, the first book in my Amish Protectors series. The winners will also receive a two-in-one that features my story, PLAIN DANGER, as well as THE SHEPHERD’S BRIDE, by Patricia Davids. An added gift for each winner is one of my favorite writing tools, a Kitchen Timer!


Happy writing!
Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti

AMISH REFUGE
By Debby Giusti

HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT
Miriam Miller barely escapes the ruthless attacker that killed her mother and kidnapped her sister. Running deeper into the woods, she’s running out of hope…until she falls into the arms of an unlikely bodyguard—a peaceful Amish farmer. Something about Abram Zook inspires her trust, but even in bucolic Willkommen, Georgia, Miriam faces danger. Both from the men pursuing her and from her growing feelings for the caring—though guarded— widower who protects her. Because if she falls for Abram she’ll have to embrace his Amish faith as her own—or lose him. With each minute, her abductor creeps closer, pushing Miriam to an inevitable choice: stay and risk her heart…or leave and risk her life.

Order HERE.









132 comments :

  1. Debby, what fun! I need a USB hub. I hadn't actually seen one like that before!

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    1. Missy, I must confess I didn't know such a thing existed....

      #stunned #dense #nowIknow

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    2. Glad to help, ladies. You both need hubs!

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    3. Hi Debby:

      The last time I priced a HUB they were about $89 and I had to write them off as too much of a luxury. That was a long time ago. Now I have to get out and get one! Thanks. Vince

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    4. Yeah, it's getting to be a necessity now that laptops don't have as many ports.

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    5. Vince, $89? YIKES! Look for a cheap model like the one in the picture.

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  2. How fun to see some of the instruments that make up the author :-) I was for sure you were going to say the first thing you stack up on in your toolbox is pen/pencil and paper...lol! See how old fashioned that is ;-)

    That Alpha smart is pretty cool! It forces you to type away without worrying about mistakes, perfect for that rough draft. Sounds like it would help you break down your writing into 25 page sections, take a break, download it to your computer and start over again.

    The Yeti tumbler sounds amazing! I'm one of those people who always have something to drink by them, mostly tea but sometimes water. The problem with my 24 oz plastic water bottle is if I don't drink something fast enough, it tends to go room temp pretty quick. That's ok for water ( I don't like it ice-cold), but not for my tea. I may have to check those out.

    I'm like you with my keyboard for my desktop computer. I have a Logitec wireless ergonomic keyboard & I just love it! It's comfortable for me to type on and more natural to the placement of my fingers and hands. You are right about laptop keyboards, they can become quite uncomfortable for longer periods of time.

    I loved peeking into your "toolbox" Debby! Sounds like you found what works for you no matter where you are.

    P.S. as for my favorite writing tools....I'd have to say pen and paper :-) Since you know, I'm not an author...haha...and that was my attempt at a joke ;-)

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    1. So sorry, I need to add, please toss my name into the Amish hat for a chance at winning the goodies you are offering today! Thanks so much. I'm so excited for you on your new series; Amish Protectors. Congrats :-)

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    2. You're in the hat, Trixi. Yes, a straw hat like the ones my Amish heroes wear in the summer. :)

      I love paper. Ask my kids. They know giving Mom a cute notepad or sticky notes will make her so, so happy. I keep a few larger pads at my computer and use them to make a quick notation or to remind myself about info I need to check later. I should have added it to the toolbox list today. Glad you did!

      My daughter gave me the Yeti for Christmas and I love it. Ice stays for hours, even overnight. My husband and I recently drove to Northern VA to visit our son and his family. The ice in our Yetis remained throughout the trip, keeping our water nice and cold! I add a straw because supposedly we intake more liquid through a straw and I like to stay hydrated when I work.

      BTW, did you know that working on a computer dries us out. Maybe it has something to do with the electrical energy. I don't know the why, but I do know it's true. So keep drinking when you're at your keyboard.

      Glad you like your external keyboard. Mine is a jewel. My hands are happy, and I type faster and more comfortably with my Logitech!

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    3. Trixi, you made me laugh about the pen and paper. :)

      I love colored pens!!

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  3. Hi Debby! I have an AlphaSmart and I love it. I feel like I get so much more done on it. Plus, I can't stop working and check my email, ect. I know...I have no willpower. I love the tip about the keyboard. I'm hitting the store tomorrow to look for one.
    Thanks for all the tools.

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    1. LeAnne, that's a good point. For people who can't stay off the web, an Alpha Smart is a great choice!

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    2. LeAnne, glad you like your AlphaSmart. I checked the Renaissance website that used to carry them. I believe they bought out the initial AlphaSmart company. Anyway, I didn't see any word processors offered there and wonder if they've discontinued their products. If so, we'll only be able to buy them used. But, then, they're so durable. I've had mine for over fifteen years!

      Let me know if you get an external keyboard. My son kept encouraging me and I finally bought one. Then I wondered why it had taken me so long. My next purchase will be an external monitor.

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  4. Even as a reader I think I should invest in a Ergonomic Keyboard.

    I also use a support pillow. Very comfy.

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    1. Yes, yes, yes! Some are very elaborate. Mine is not, but it works and I'm happy. So are my hands!

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  5. I have an ergonomic "wave" keyboard at work and it is so much more comfortable than my laptop here at home.

    Thanks for sharing Debby. I will need to check into getting an Alphasmart.

    I would love to have my name tossed in the hat. Thank you.

    Blessings,
    Cindy W.

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    1. Cindy, was your keyboard hard to get used to using? Mine wasn't. Some of the more expensive models seem to position the hands at extreme angles. Although I guess that eases strain.

      Your name is in the Amish straw hat! :)

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  6. That's quite a toolbox, Debby. I can't image not writing a first draft on my NeoAlpha Smart. It was the best $28 I've ever spent.
    By the way, my father is hooked on your military series. It's getting him through some difficult times. Thank you!

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    1. Jill, I always love when you mention your Alpha! We're kindred spirits when it comes to writing our first drafts! I'm sure some folks are tired of seeing all my positive comments about my Alpha, but it's my favorite tool!

      God bless your dad. I pray for my readers each day. Tell him that he and his needs are being lifted up by this grateful author.

      Hugs!

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  7. First, I loved Amish Refuge... LOVED IT! What a wonderful pairing of Amish and suspense, thank you for a great read, Debby!

    And these wonderful tools of the trade. So many great ideas.... I love the rolling crate, the rolling bag, and your beautiful organization. It's marvelous, Deb! Thank you for these ideas and price points, etc. Anything that makes my life easier is a welcome addition!

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    1. Ruthy, thank you for your kind words about AMISH REFUGE. I'm so glad you enjoyed the story.

      The crate is a work horse! I bet you'd find lots of uses for it around your farm. Just a suggestion!

      Running to pour another cup of coffee! May I refill your mug? Polish pottery, right? :)

      Hugs!

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  8. HI Debby,
    As a person who loves organization and the tools that help accomplish it I love your list, especially the hub and that folding cart!
    I do use a back cushion, but I want one of those comfy cushions too!
    Thanks for sharing all your writerly toolbox tips that even readers can benefit from!

    Enjoy your book signing next week, and thank you for donating the proceeds to the Pregnancy Aid Clinic, what a blessing you are to help those in need, many will benefit from your generosity.

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    1. Thank you, Tracey. You're so sweet!

      My local Ross is a gold mine. I find lots of interesting items there...especially cheap pillows and lumbar rolls. Hope you can find one you like. Sometimes I change mine just to get more support. Back problems seems to go hand-in-hand with carpel tunnel. We need to protect those important body parts. :)

      Hugs!

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  9. Good morning, Debby! I always like seeing "the latest" in writerly gadgets! A kitchen timer has been my best friend since forever! :) AlphaSmart, 3-ring binder, a big insulated water tumbler, too. I can't type worth anything on an ergonomic keyboard, though, so don't have that in my repertoire. Nor a pillow. :)

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    1. You included a picture of your high-tech and much more expensive timer in a post some years ago, Glynna. Seems you consider a timer your BFF too!

      No pillow? Lucky you!

      No ergonomic keyboard? Does it bother your hands too much? Interesting.

      Is it still snowing in your part of the world?

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    2. Debby -- I've been typing since I was 15 years old, but so far no carpal tunnel or anything like that. I've always tried to keep my keyboard, monitor, etc., at an ergonomically correct height/distance and my hands positioned correctly. But it could eventually catch up with me. I've tried the ergonomic keyboards -- but I may as well go back to hunt & peck method that I used prior to my high school typing class. No speed. No accuracy. :)

      No snow since last week. Whew! Hit 70 yesterday and should do the same today! YAY.

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    3. Enjoy the sunshine, Glynna! Glad your hands are pain free!

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  10. Hi Debby,

    Thanks for these great tools!

    When we moved to SC, we downsized. I write in my little office, and I spread out my materials on the dining room table. The problem is gathering it all up when we have company.

    I have a display board where I pin notes and a timeline. It's bright yellow and cheerful to look at.
    (It was less than $10.00 at Office Depot.)

    My other favorite tool is Pinterest, and it's free. If I want to remember what a person looks like, find a gun or ring I look it up and pin it on my Pinterest story board. You can have public and private boards on Pinterest.

    Thanks for sharing today!

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    1. Jackie, I have been considering getting a bulletin board but don't have wall space near my desk. Perhaps I need to rearrange my office.

      Also, I keep hearing Pinterest. I need to listen. Thanks for sharing your great writing tools!

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    2. Jackie, I do the display board too. I down-sized to a medium board so it didn't take up so much room this time.
      And I have my portable office for when company comes. It's a cardboard box. Everything related to writing gets stuffed in. When company leaves, I pull it back out. (I found this works better than free-piling on my bed which has led to many a landslide to the floor.)

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    3. I'm laughing, Connie Queen. I use a laundry basket to clean off my kitchen desk when company comes to visit. :)

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  11. Love these writing tools! I had no idea that hubs existed. I thought that peaked with the car charger that had two ports. I have an ergonomic keyboard at work. Then I got one for home for my desktop. Now I use a laptop. Can you plug in a keyboard to a laptop? I have no idea. I have a cordless mouse taking up one of the spots and a flashdrive. I don't think there are any more "holes". I hadn't thought about doing that. Great tips, Debby!

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    1. Yes, to using an external keyboard for your laptop. Easy peasy. I have a little "cell" that I plug into one of my USB ports on my laptop...and yes, you need a hub to accommodate more options. The new keyboard started working immediately. I didn't have to download anything. Plus, I can use my laptop keyboard at the same time. Can't imagine why I would, but the ability is there. Perhaps with a new monitor I might split my screen and sync one keyboard with each screen.

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    2. I love my double monitor at work. Split screens would work too. I do that sometimes when I have two documents open. Thanks for opening my eyes to the possibilities!

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  12. Since I am a gadget girl I find your article this morning spot on. I do not write (except reviews) I read. I do however have a need for the hub and I agree completely with you on the laptop keyboard - how useless. I have not had the pleasure of reading one of your books but your little name keeping coming up on my radar. so next stop AMAZON of course. Thank you for sharing and have a pleasant day. Connie Lynch, West Chester OH, (Keeping Up with the Amish FB page)

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    1. Connie, I'm so glad you stopped by Seekerville today! Please visit often. We have a number of readers who are part of our blog community. WE LOVE READERS! Love to read their comments as well. We learn from one another.

      Thanks for accepting me as a friend on the Keeping Up with the Amish FB site. :)

      Hugs!

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  13. When I’m ready to insert the changes into my computer file, I start on the last page in my binder and work forward so my hard copy pages sync with the computer pages.

    Really? This would make things so much easier, but I never thought of it. Great idea.

    I can't believe you use a fold-up table for your desk. Is it simply because there is more room? I need to try this. Currently I work on my dining room table which is literally in the middle of my house. If anyone is home, they can't help but interrupt me. I have a small desk in my bedroom but it's not deep enough to set up my laptop. (Besides, it piled up w/papers I must go through.)

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    1. Connie Queen, I had a desk and used it for my old desktop computer. When I got a laptop, I needed more space so I set up the folding table...and never left! :)

      Last year, I discarded the old desktop computer that had died and moved my laptop to the desk. Now the folding table holds files, papers, etc. I'm visual so I like everything out in plain sight. :)

      Walmart has the tables. I like the 4-foot size. Big enough but not too big. And for $35 the price is right!

      Glad you can use the tip about inserting corrections starting with the last page. It does make life easier.

      Hugs!

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  14. Debby, this is SO practical. I'm not much of a gadget person, even in the electronic age, but I do like the kitchen timer and the three-ring binder. I do a lot of my editing off-line, I'm old-school, and I love to curl up on a couch or beach chair and line-edit the day away.
    My favorite writing tools are a red G2 Pilot pen for marking stuff up, Ye Olde Yellow Legal Pad for brainstorming, Earl Grey tea in a china cup, and peace and quiet. Sometimes classical music, depends on how stressed/on deadline I am.
    I still have your Easy Editing Tips and am planning to use them to punch up my Speedbo manuscript, once I get past the conversion scene, which is Hanging Me Up.
    Connie Queen, I sympathize. Our main computer is in the living room! So I have to plan my work for when nobody else needs the computer or the TeeVee. We have a laptop but I don't like it and it doesn't like me, so that's that. If you can write in a dining room, you can write anywhere.
    Debby, I love paper too, sigh. I live by the Post-It note. I recycle everything I can, we're not animals, but I still love paper...paper back-ups for documents, paper reminders, plastic crates full of PAPER research. Sigh.
    Back later,
    KB

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    1. KB, you're making my heart go pitter-patter with all that talk about paper and Post-It notes. :)

      I enjoy editing a hard copy. When the pages are contained within a binder, I can haul the manuscript from place to place and never fear about losing pages. Plus, I see mistakes more easily on the printed page.

      What don't you like about your laptop? Would an external keyboard help? You could elevate your laptop so the screen is close to eye level. Consider it.

      I'll look for your red G2 Pilot pen! Every time I find a pen that I love, the manufacturer changes their product. I like a fairly sturdy ballpoint that writes like an ink pen. I've gone through a few models and am down to one that still works. Can't find anything that I like as well on the store shelves.

      Yellow Legal Pads are fun to work with. I keep scores of spiral-bound notebooks on hand for my brainstorming and note taking.

      It's rainy and cool in GA today. I'll be sipping Earl Grey this afternoon! :)

      Glad we share so many likes!

      Hugs!

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  15. Please enter me in the drawing.
    KB

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    1. Your name is in the Amish straw hat! :)

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  16. I am in the middle of Amish Refuge - great story! I'm a reader not a writer but am a fan of the comfy cushion you use. I need a comfy place to sit to read all the great books you and the other Seekers write! Please enter me in the drawing to win the hat or the 2 in 1 book because somehow I missed that one.

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    1. Dawn, thanks for mentioning...and reading...Amish Refuge. :)

      Your name is in the hat...but the hat stays with me! LOL!

      You know how much we love our readers!!! You're the reason we write. Hugs!

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  17. Debby I've got a laptop desk with a built in fan. My laptop gets warm and being a 'hot flashy' kinda woman it can be unbearable very suddenly to have my laptop on my lap. So I bought this laptop desk with fan. I just went to Amazon to try ad find the one I bought and it's al new technology! Mine seems to be a STONEAGE lap desk.
    Remember to add the fan, that's the key.

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    1. Great tip, Mary, for those with hot laps or hot laptops!

      I usually keep my laptop on my desk/table. The power plug on my last one went out, probably from too much wear and tear, so I only unplug when I'm traveling and taking my laptop with me.

      You sit in a chair and type? Do your hands ache? Carpel tunnel? I hope not.

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    2. One of the reasons I switch off is because my back starts to ache and the two different chairs seem to hit in different places so it never gets too bad if I switch.
      Also when my husband is home I usually sit in the living room with the laptop just to not be too antisocial.

      I still ignore him and type, but at least I'm THERE!!! :)

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  18. Debby, great ideas for less costly but very useful tools for writers. I have an AlphaSmart but never got hooked.

    I'm interested in your Ergonomic keyboard. I've got an old keyboard I attach to my laptop when I'm away from home. I'm tethered to my desktop at home. Is your laptop your main writing spot?

    Janet

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    1. Janet -- unlike Debby, I don't write my whole book on the AlphaSmart. I use it when I just want to get ideas down, let my characters "talk" to me, and that kind of thing. I actually even prefer a regular desktop computer over a laptop. And when I do use a laptop, I plug in a keyboard as I can't type fast on a laptop's keyboard.

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    2. Janet, yes, my laptop is my main/only computer. I like being able to take it with me when I travel.

      Do you like your desktop keyboard? If not, try an ergonomic model. Maybe something fairly basic like mine. The more expensive ones with the extreme hand positions take an adjustment period.

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    3. Glynna, in a perfect world, I'd love to have a desktop computer along with my laptop. :)

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    4. Glynna, I like how you use your AlphaSmart. Maybe I'll use it instead of writing notes that are then hard to decipher. My handwriting has gone to pot.

      Janet

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    5. Debby, I like having both desktop and laptop. I'm not sure this is possible but I'd like to have them networked somehow so that what I wrote on one would show up on the other.

      My desktop keyboard fits into a tray built into my desk that has a curved pad in front of the keyboard to rest my hands or wrists. If I rest my left thumb joint, it'll start hurting. So not sure if I have what I need but I'm aware and careful not to bear weight on it. Sometimes it's the littlest things that over time cause writers pain.

      Janet

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    6. The curved pad to rest your hands on sounds good, Janet. Sorry about your thumb! :(

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    7. Thanks, Debby. I went to Physical Therapy for that thumb but now I know to be kind to it.

      Janet

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  19. Hi Debby - my favorite tool was the three ring binder. Yep - old school here. My special needs son used and Alpha Smart in high school because he couldn't write legibly. Never thought of it as a writer's tool. I am going to make an admission here I will probably regret but. . . I don't use a desk. I learned long ago my most productive writing position is in my recliner with my laptop. On my lap. Why else do they call it a laptop? Only drawback is the cat that likes to hop in my lap too! Thanks for a fun post.

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    1. Cindy, I use my laptop on the couch about 99% of the time! I'm glad to know I'm in good company. :)

      Apparently it works for you. Double congrats on the TBL final!!

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    2. Yay, Cindy, on your TBL final. A great contest. I won that contest just days before I got the call. And an LI editor judged the contest. I believe Mary Connealy was one of my first-round judges. As you may have guessed, I have a warm spot in my heart for the TBL! :)

      Heywood Smith, a GA author who writes women's fiction, has hip problems and writes in her recliner. As I recall, she has a large monitor that sits on a table nearby. Whatever works. I'd probably fall asleep! :)

      Does kitty provide inspiration?

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    3. Cindy, congratulations on the double final in the TBL contest!! So happy for you!

      Janet

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  20. Debby thank you so much for the great ideas. I never thought about printing my manuscript and putting it in a 3-ring binder for revisions. It is so much easier to make changes on real paper. Computer changes can become overwhelming.

    The one tool I can't live without is my OttLight Task Lamp. It offers mood-lifting daylight on a cloudy day, but I use mine all of the time. It's very portable. Mine is electric, but the have battery powered ones too. You can purchase them several places like on Amazon or at JoAnn's with a coupon, if they're not already on sale. They cost around $30.00 and are worth every penny. I've had mine for at least a decade and I think I may have changed the bulb once.

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    1. Carroll, thanks for that great tip. I'll look for them. I wear contacts and probably keep them in for too many hours each day. When I'm on deadline and glued to my computer, my eyesight gets worse. Often I have to add readers to see the computer screen. Probably the glare that causes eyestrain. Anything to see better!

      Do you have a small lamp that illuminates a hard-copy page or two? Or does your lamp brighten your entire desk/table area?

      Love learning about new gadgets! Sharing info is so much fun!

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  21. Good morning, Debby!

    I used to work on my Alpha Smart all the time. But it got stored in a box with the batteries still in it and they corroded the connections.

    I bought it used about twenty years ago and I think it must have originally come from a school kid. It had sticky keys and grit inside. I ended up tossing it during my last move because it didn't work anymore. I'm surprised to see how reasonably priced they are now--they used to cost a mint. I might reinvest in a Neo.

    Thanks for the tip on the Smart Hub. I'm constantly unplugging something to make way for another device. Thanks so much for the tips today!

    ~ Renee

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    1. Renee, sorry about your first Alpha. You should be able to find a replacement. Sticky keys aren't fun!

      Glad to share the hub tip. Actually, I almost didn't include it in the list, thinking everyone had them. I'm so low-tech and usually years and years behind everyone else as far as technology is concerned. :)

      Hugs!

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  22. Hi Debby - those are great tips about the rolling briefcase and crate-mover. I haven't found an alphasmart on ebay yet but will keep trying. And I'll definitely be buying an ergonomic keyboard for my laptop once this broken arm heals up! I already have "Amish Refuge" so no need to enter me in the draw.

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    1. I'm sorry about your arm. Are you typing with your good hand? Did you break your dominate arm? I hope not!

      I love anything on wheels that does the work so I don't have to! :)

      Good luck finding an AlphaSmart.

      I hope you enjoy AMISH REFUGE!

      Hugs!

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  23. I'm thinking about all the schools in my area that have those alphsmarts languishing in technology cupboards. I should contact some of my librarian friends and see if they are interesting in selling any. Nice way to make some money for their libraries. :-)

    I live by my timer because I'm not supposed to sit or stand too long so I jump at the sound of the bell. I'd love a high tech desk that morphs into a standing desk but in the meantime I use a bed tray on my kitchen table as a standing desk. Then just have to whip it away when it's sitting time.

    Don't enter me in the draw 'cause I've read all those lovely stories. Plain awesomesauce all around.

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    1. Kav, what an inspired thought to raise money for libraries by selling the AlphaSmarts. Of course, you need to let people know how handy the word processors are for writers.

      The ding of a timer gets my attention for sure. I'm sure you're the same. :)

      Love, love, love your tip about using a bed tray to create a standing desk. I've used crates, but your suggestion sounds much more workable. I stand at my kitchen counter and write longhand there, pay bills, writes notes, etc, and I'd like to stand more while I'm using my laptop. I'll try your trick!

      Thanks for your sweet mention of my stories!

      Ding! :)

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  24. Thanks for the great tips. I wasn't familiar with AlphaSmart.
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Glad to share something new, Connie!

      Hugs!

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  25. Debby, thanks for these good ideas. I especially like the idea of the keyboard and elevating my lap top. It should help neck strain and slow down developing bad posture. And I love that you frequent my daughters' favorite store Ross.
    Last years I ditched a nice desk for a four foot table. More room to spread out. I'm sitting at it, surrounded by my plastic crates and three ring binders (lots of them). I feel like you wrote about my office!
    I also like file boxes and file cards. I keep a stack handy, some white, some colored, and when I'm working and get a random r thought, or when I'm reading a blog post and I get hit with a great idea (like the key board) I jot a fast note, put it in a pile and at the end of the day put them in their files. Then when I need inspiration for a project I can take a few minutes and peruse a collection of cards with ideas. And I love the Post It tabs that are like note book dividers. I would not have been able to keep up with Tina's self editing class without them! I guess I'm sort of an office supplies junkie.
    Thanks for all the great tips.

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    1. Barbara, thanks for the great tips you shared. I like the file box idea with file cards. If I write something, I usually remember it. And I love the old fashion file boxes. I keep my recipes in a large-sized one.

      I can see your table and crates. Yes, we do seem to think alike. :)

      Elevate that laptop! Immediately. My back's hurting just thinking of you!

      I'm fortunate to have a lovely Ross in my local area. It's the nicest one I've ever been in. The trick is stop in often and buy it when you see it...or it'll be gone. :)

      Post-It tabs...another great tip. Thanks!

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  26. Hi Debby:

    Did you know you can use your AlphaSmart as a keyboard for your computer?

    I was on vacation and had both my AlphaSmart and laptop set up but so disliked the laptop keyboard I just plugged the AlphaSmart into the computer as if I was going to transfer a file and it functioned as a keboard very nicely...except the laptop has no idea what the specialize AlphaSmart keys are for.

    Also a big plus: the AlphaSmart can run for hundreds of hours on very cheap AA batteries. That's what makes it so great on a trip.

    Vince

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    1. Vince, the AlphaSmart is great for battery life!

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    2. Great tip, Vince! Thanks. I didn't know I could use the Alpha as an external keyboard. Although my Alpha has a harder key stroke and isn't as easy and hand-friendly as my Logitech.

      Yes to the amazing battery-life of my Alpha. I change batteries so rarely...it runs for months and months on three AAA batteries!

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    3. Sorry...my Alpha runs on AA batteries! My mistake.

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  27. Cindy Regnier!!! Congrats on double finaling in the TBL contest!!

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  28. Congrats also to the other finalists!

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  29. Hi Debby:

    Congrats on your Books-a-Million Charity book signing on 30 May. Is it going to be possible to order books by phone to the store and order autographed copies as you have done in years past when you were hosted by smaller independent bookstores?

    Autographed books make good presents to romance readers...especially Christmas presents. When someone gets a gift, autographed to them, it shows at lot of thoughtfulness on the part of the giver. I gave your last book as Christmas presents to my sister and sister-in-law (both retired military) and it's the one present they keep talking about!

    Hope you have a big day!

    Vince

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    1. Vince, giving gifts of autographed books is a great idea!

      Janet

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    2. Vince, the BAM doesn't mail books, unfortunately. If you want copies, email me and I'll get them to you. :)

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  30. My favorite tools are the radio and my various comfy spots as I go from room to room scribbling in my notebook. Then there's my desk area with the computer if I'm not lucky enough to nab the laptop from my sister. I especially like my Captain America notebooks, though I've almost filled them all up...

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    1. Boo, do you work with your radio playing? Ear buds? Captain America notebooks sound like fun! Very creative and inspirational! He's a hero for sure.

      Hugs!

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  31. One thing that...well, I wouldn't call it a STRUGGLE...more like a First World Problem.

    But my new laptop...six months old...is a touch screen and my desktop isn't. I split my writing time between the two and I find myself touching myself trying to move the screen by touch on the desktop.
    Just always having to shift gears.
    I've heard that's good for you, so okay. Still a little annoying.

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    1. My laptop has a touch screen, which I like. But it's keyboard pad is much too sensitive. I "lost" a lot of text when I first got the laptop. My hand would touch the pad and take me to a new page or new text. That's one of the reasons I bought the external keyboard.

      Like you, Mary, I'm always touching my husband's monitor thinking it has the touch feature. It doesn't. Boo!

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  32. Great tools Debby, I love my alphasmart and find it very helpful to keep me on rough draft mode so I don't get into edit mode. LOL. Love that cart for books too. Need to get one. I laready have everything else. Thanks for trading days with me. I have been out of cell range most of the day in the middle of the Nevada desert. smile. Happy writing.

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    1. The cart is very handy, Sandra! Thanks for trading with me. :)

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  33. Hi Debby,
    I am thrilled to see I have many of these fabulous gadgets already. I’m searching my house for a pillow to put behind me as we speak. I saw a woman using the alpha smart at a conference recently and wondered what on earth it was.
    I love my multi-plug USB hub and have my ergonomic keyboard with the letters that are slowly disappearing. Who knew we used S and D so often? I steal my husband’s Yeti-lookalike for my water. I should invest in my own someday.
    I also use the timer on my cellphone but it’s nearly shot me through the roof a few times when I was in deep thought and the ringer went off. Maybe I should consider that kitchen timer instead. I do have a German Shepherd timer. He whines every so often to go outside and chase squirrels.
    My cheap writer supply is a mini whiteboard. I jot notes and work through plot stuff on it.
    Please toss me in the drawing!!

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    1. Sharee, I must hit the keys hard as I wipe off the letters quickly. Thankfully my computer guru has a lot of keyboards and just brings me one, mainly because he's a hunt peck typist and can't type without seeing the letters.

      Janet

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    2. Sharee! Congrats on your contest success!!! Woot! Sounds like you're well stocked with gadgets.

      You reminded me! I should have included my white board. It's large and I use it when doing brainstorming workshops. Not long ago, I struggled coming up with a story and used my white board as if I were teaching a class. It worked. Ideas came from out of thin area and I captured the entire plot on the white board.

      Thanks for reminding me of a great writer's tool!

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    3. SHAREE CONGRATULATIONS ON WINNING!!! THE FAB FIVE CONTEST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    4. Thanks Mary and Debby!! I'm still on cloud 9! :)

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  34. WOW, DEB, what a list!!! I'm truly amazed at how incredibly organized you are, my friend! No wonder you crank out those bestseller books so quickly, just like Mary & Ruthy!

    The only things I would add are Rimmel lip gloss ($3.99 at Walmart), hand mirror to get those facial expressions down pat (free gift in free makeup packet when I bought something else at Christmas), and tissues (box of 10 from Sam's for $8.98).

    Other than that, your list is golden! ;)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. Julie, your mirror is a great gadget that I need for my office. Although I can't write facial expressions the way you do. Lip gloss for when you work outside? And tissues if you have the sniffles or to wipe away a tear or two?

      I always think of your synonym finder/dictionary. Would you mention that great writer's tip in case some don't know about your favorite reference book? Thanks!

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    2. The mirror thing is hilarious, Julie. LOL. But I can see where it would help.

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    3. Oh, Deb and Connie -- the mirror is a MUST!!! Facial features are one of the key ways I show emotion, and in books my size, you tend to repeat these features A LOT! In fact, just last night I was searching and replacing convulsing throats! LOL

      And, Deb, the paperback synonym finder/dictionary I used to use is RODALE

      But these days I mostly use online thesaurus now, and the two best are:

      ONELOOK REVERSE DICTIONARY

      AND

      THESAURUS.COM

      HUGS!
      Julie

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  35. Great list, Deb. My kids put a USB Squid Hub in my stocking a couple years back but I've never used it yet. Good to hear how it works. Tks. :)

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    1. Anita Mae, your kids were so thoughtful! Try the hub! I bet you'll enjoy having extra USB ports.

      Hope all is well with you! Hugs!

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  36. FYI. I went and finally ordered an Alpha Smart on Amazon this morning. It's officially been shipped. I've been wanting to try it for awhile now. I'm thinking the biggest benefit will be not being able to be on the internet. Like bringing it out means I'm REALLY getting to work. No playing around.

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    1. I hope you like using your new Alpha, Connie. Let me know your thoughts!

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  38. What a fantastic post! I think I need an Alpha Smart! And those cushion things!

    I keep a small tube of Savannah Bee body balm handy: it is shaped like a glue stick but it's a balm that I put on the back of my hands instead of lotion when I'm busy typing. No mess or fuss, and it smells wonderful.

    I also have a blanket nearby just in case my legs get cold!

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    1. Susie, great idea about the body balm. Also, the blanket. I have a warm, fuzzy throw that is nearby when the temperature drops.

      BTW, I keep hearing Pinterest, which you mentioned yesterday. I need to set up a page for my WIP. Thanks for that tip!

      Hugs!

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    2. Susie, thank you for recommending that! I keep Burt's Bees lip balm nearby. But I'm always needing lotion.

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  39. Debbie, I had never thought to add edits from the back!! Drives me crazy for the pages to not match if I get interrupted!! Thank you! (A rear-end cushion is currently on my 'next paycheck' list)!!

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    1. Glad to help with adding edits!

      Cushions are great for those long periods at the computer!

      Hope all is well!

      Hugs!

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    2. Isn't it brilliant, Stephanie! I had never thought to do that until Debby mentioned it to me in the past.

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  40. Great ideas! My writing treasure trove includes a nice large cup of coffee, a notepad, pen, my trusty laptop, and any beautiful natural setting.

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    1. P.S. I am new to the writing circuit and am looking forward to learning from veterans as I seek to publish my first novel. Such a great blog here! Thank you for sharing your inspirations and expertise!

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    2. We're so glad you found us, Kristin. Tell us a little about yourself, where you're from and what you're writing.

      Having a beautiful natural setting in which to write sounds perfect! A large cup of coffee always is a plus!

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    3. Thank you so much, Debby! I am from Central New York (New Jersey originally). I was a Youth Minister for a few years after college and worked at a security company for seven years before deciding to pursue my first novel!

      I just finished the first draft of an inspirational fiction novel. Here is the premise: A family gathers together at an old farm house for a family reunion. The children go on a scavenger hunt and discover unfinished works of art. They learn about the amazing lives of the masterpieces' creators who had incredible dreams. Their parents share a special surprise with each of their children who are inspired to pursue their dreams with great vigor. It is a heartwarming story about hope, dreams, and tenderness.

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    4. Kristin, welcome! We're glad you found the blog.

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    5. Thank you, Missy! I'm looking forward to learning more!

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    6. Your story sounds very intriguing! Thanks for sharing a bit about yourself. I hope you'll make Seekerville a daily stop! :)

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  41. I am not a writer. At times, I wish I were! To create sensational stories that bring the characters alive. Maybe one day! 😀 Thank you for the opportunity to enter the giveaway.

    Linda Ortiz

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    1. If you're interested in writing, this is the place to be. If you're a reader, this is also the place to be.

      So glad you found us!

      Hugs, Linda!

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  42. Great post, Debby! One of my cheap "must haves" is a tiny notebook that fits in my pocket or purse. I carry it everywhere. That way, even if I'm washing dishes or sweeping, if a breakthrough occurs (not to be confused with a breakdown, LOL) I can jot it down before the idea escapes me (which happens more and more often the older I get :-) Thanks for sharing your tips, and congratulations on Amish Refuge being on Publishers Weekly Mass Market bestseller list!! So happy for you!!

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    1. Thanks, Laura! I carry a little notebook too. Love to have it handy when inspiration hits!

      Hugs!

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  43. What a fun post, Debby! I love reading about what my favorite authors use as they write those amazing stories. :)
    I'm very blessed to have a nice desk, made especially to fit into the corner of a room - - my husband gave it to me several years ago for Christmas and I have loved it! There's a handy storage cabinet to my left side (perfect since I'm a lefty!) and it's become my "Snack cabinet" LOL. Since I write upstairs and my kitchen is downstairs, it's been a huge help keeping some snacks (right now it's mainly Cheerios and M&Ms) stored inside!
    I ordered Amish Refuge and it arrived recently! Will begin reading it tonight! :)
    Since tomorrow is YOUR birthday, please enjoy the pound cake I've just baked - - with fresh peaches and whipped cream if you'd like. ;)
    Hugs, Patti Jo

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    1. Thanks, Patti Jo! Your cake is delicious! Added thanks for ordering Amish Refuge. You're such a dear friend and your encouragement and support mean so much to me.

      Bless your hubby! How thoughtful of him to find the perfect desk! Cheerios and M&Ms sound like yummy snacks for a busy writer.

      Hugs!

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  44. Debby you have some wicked gadgets! I feel the overwhelming need to run shop. Thanks for sharing and congratulations on your PW news.

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  45. Umm... I never put much thought to this. I really just use whatever is at hand. Perhaps I should gather some tools, but who knows when I'll have the time. I've been pretty absentminded of late what with the stress of finishing up school by the end of the week among other things...

    I have a plethora of notebooks filled with notes for story ideas I am not working on right now but do not wish to forget, and rough sketches (emphasis on the rough, I am not a very good artist) of my characters.

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    1. I like the idea of sketching your characters, Nicki! I'm sure they become more real when you do that. Great tip that I haven't heard before.

      Praying for you as you end the school year. :)

      Hugs!

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  46. Debby, What a fun post to think about what writers use in their writing lives. When I edit and am at the point where I'm printing out the hard copy, I make sure I have little stickies so I can easily find where I left off. My wonderful hubby goes crazy as those little markers are scattered all over while I'm editing. I have my backpack with a craft book (I'm always trying to be reading one), an RWR magazine (for the breaks), and red pens (I like to have a different color than black for edits). It was fun to see what you carry with you and what other people carry around or have on their desks. Thanks!

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    1. Love your back pack, Tanya! Sounds like that's your portable tool box! :)

      Laughing at your hubby and the stickies! Remember before Post-It Notes? How did we survive?

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  47. Oh, I absolutely love my AlphaSmart! It was one of the best investments I made. My laptop has lots of sensitive information that I worry about when I take it out of the house so it makes it difficult for me to write remotely. Then I found the AlphaSmart. I don't have to worry it and it keeps me on task for writing my draft. I can't get distracted by the internet or my calendar alarms. :)

    I love the idea of putting the laptop on a stand and utilizing the ergonomic keyboard. I had one of those keyboards years ago and I just loved it. I was telling my kids the other day that I wished I could use one with my laptop. I think you just answered that wish. :)

    Thanks!

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    1. Aren't AlphaSmarts wonderful! Yes to being able to cart them around without worrying about laptop info being lost or taken!

      Hope you find an ergonomic keyboard you like. Mine was inexpensive, but I love the touch and the placement of the keys. It's perfect for my hands.



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  48. Well done, Debby!

    I use a timer too, though these days it's electronic, once upon a time I used the old dial kind.

    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

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