Category Archives: Technology

New Tech Tools and Templates

I found a new fascination this weekend. On the recommendation of a new author friend, I took another look at the program called Notion. I’d heard about it before but didn’t really understand the full capability of the software. Now, I get it.

This tool is a powerful combination of databases and freeform storage, and it’s a perfect fit for building and incredibly versatile novel or series bible (aka a place for you to keep track of everything you create so you don’t forget details along the way.)

To teach myself how to use this program, I built a blank template I can use for my own stories, and I wanted to share it here with a general overview of how to navigate the program and my own template. Feel free to copy the template and make changes so it can better fit your needs! Also, the free version of the program is more than enough for most user’s needs. You can also use Notion’s Guides and Tutorials section for more detailed walkthroughs on the specific functions within the program.

Now, an introduction to the Novel Notes template in Notion.

This is the template’s landing page and the main navigation point for the whole tool

The customizable blank pages can be adjusted to fit a wide variety of needs. I set up this template to highlight the key description of the story, a callout for important notes or reminders, and the navigation links to the rest of the pages in the tool. This should allow for easy access to all the information within the tool.

This shows a section with character cards, and spaces for overview information on the book(s).

Because Notion also incorporates robust database tools, it allows for comprehensive information organization and various ways to view/sort that info. In this template, I highlight the character descriptions with a “Board” view of the character database. This essentially gives each character a card that displays the reference photo (if you choose to upload one) and whichever key details you choose. Databases also include a tagging system that can help you keep even extensive cast lists or outlines organized.

The actual database view of the character list

Here’s what the actual database looks like for the character sheet. It’s essentially a fancy spreadsheet. What’s special about a database versus a spreadsheet is the type of information you can put in each cell, the powerful filter/sort functions, and the easy way you can link information from one table to another. These information links are called relations or references. Notion usually calls them relations. As an example of what you can do with these links, I usually link the characters to my outline database so I know who appears in each chapter.

When you open a record, you have even more space to add information.

Each row in a table can also be called a “record”. In Notion, when you hover over the first cell in the row, you’ll see a button appear that says “Open”. Clicking on this will open the view shown in the image above, and with the space provided here, you can include a TON of additional information in the open space at the bottom of the page where it says “Press Enter to continue with an empty page, or create a template.” Nothing entered in that space will appear within the table or in any view you create (like the Board view shown in an earlier image), but it is the perfect place to go into lengthy detail about the character, chapter, etc. you’re trying to track. As a bonus, this section acts exactly like the main page, so you can add images, create lists, link to other pages, or any number of things.

Add images to create an inspiration board or to remind yourself of key details within the story.

Back on the main page, the last feature I included is space for an inspiration board. Notion links directly to Unsplash, so you can choose images found on that site or you can upload your own. By dragging and dropping, you can reorganize the pictures and add or remove the number of columns in each row.

And that’s it! At least in the most general sense. Below are some details on each of the other sections within the template and why they’re included.

Outline –

This is mostly self-explanatory, but most people don’t outline in a database, so I’ll explain a little bit about why this is a pretty cool option. With the database tools, an outline can link directly to your characters (so you know who appears where), your timeline (so you know when everything is happening), your research (so you always have access to the right information), and your quotes (so you know when you referenced some clue or description or detail).

Plot Notes –

I usually leave this as a more freeform page, so this is where I write out my summary and synopsis, map out plot beats, scribble down revision notes, or anything else I need to keep track of.

Glossary –

This is going to be most useful for those writing something within speculative fiction in which you need to invent words, phrases, and place names. This database helps track the meanings of those words and can give you space to remind yourself how you came up with it, too. If needed, you can also link this to other databases (like the outline or character list) if you want to track where the words are used or who says it.

Timeline –

If you’re using a regular Gregorian calendar (the one that’s the official calendar most people use on a daily basis), the timeline function within Notion can be a good way to track events and dates. If you’re writing speculative fiction with an alternative calendar, you might have to get creative in how you use this feature, but it still could be useful. For example, you could simply use it to track the number of days between events or how long certain journey takes, etc.

Quotes and Notes –

I started using this tool when I was writing my last series and was having a hard time remembering how I’d described certain things (like important rooms and technology I invented) and when I’d referenced details that laid down key clues. Tracking them in a sheet like this gave me an easy way to remember who, what, where, when, why, and how of my own story. Which is good, because I don’t trust my own memory for anything.

Research –

Speaking of not trusting my own memory, I tend to be a bit overzealous wen tracking my research. When I look up information on websites, I tend to copy the whole site into my notes so I always have it for reference. I save PDF copies of articles, copy photos off the internet, and download anything I think I might need again later. Putting it all in a database like this makes it SO MUCH EASIER to find things when I need it.

Progress Tracking –

For those who are motivated by seeing their progress laid out in front of them, this sheet can help you keep track of how much you’re writing and when. With the use of tags, it can also track progress along stages of the process (drafting versus editing, for example) and give you a solid view of exactly how much work you’ve put into the story.

And that’s it! Hopefully this helps. Happy writing, all!

Finally managed to get an adapter…

Finally managed to get an adapter to connect my laptop to my extra monitor and WOW THE DIFFERENCE. It’s so much easier when I can lay everything out and make the various sets of notes visible while I’m editing.

Via:: Tumblr to WordPress

I’m missing my road trip today so I changed out my desktop…

I’m missing my road trip today so I changed out my desktop picture. Colorado was absolutely spectacular when I drove through. I want to go back!

Via:: Tumblr Photography

My mom’s desktop is making my laptop feel inadequate right…

My mom’s desktop is making my laptop feel inadequate right now. Also I may currently be pining for a larger screen.

Via:: Tumblr to WordPress

Website News and Changes

Erica Cameron | YA Author:

I updated SO MANY THINGS on my site today. I added a bunch of events I’m going to be attending in 2015, posted all of the deleted scenes that were part of last month’s blog tour (plus one extra), and updated a bunch of links that weren’t working right! Go me!

Also, for those who may notice, I have redirected what was once to my author site because I was getting very bad at keeping both sites up to date on…well, anything really. If you try to go to any page on, it’ll shoot you over to the main page of my site. GOOD NEWS THOUGH! Literally everything that was posted on that site is now included on my main author page. I think this makes it easier on me and you. Hopefully you agree.

And that’s it! I’m going to sleep now.

Via:: Tumblr to WordPress

The final website move is done!

Champagne Clink (c) Roger Kirby

Champagne Clink (c) Roger Kirby

Yay! Thanks to massive amounts of help from my friend Patrick, my errors have been fixed and both websites ( and have been moved to my new servers! At this point, there should really only be design changes. I think. I hope. If anything else does change, I think it will be behind the scenes stuff that (hopefully) won’t be noticeable from the world wide interwebs.

In other non-website news, yesterday was pretty fun. I got my hair cut and re-dyed and it’s OMG RED now! I love it. It’s pretty fabulous. Also, ALSO, when I came home from the salon, there was a package waiting for me at home! I had absolutely no clue what it was since I didn’t remember ordering anything. And when I opened it up I saw why. I GOT MY FIRST SET OF SING SWEET NIGHTINGALE BOOKMARKS!

BookmarksThanks to my awesome publisher Spencer Hill for the surprise! I have so many pretties now and no idea what to do with them yet! EEK! Once I figure it out, though, I’ll let you know.

That’s all for now! Time to go back and work. On a book or on day job stuff, I’m not sure… but I know I have something I should be doing… 😀

Website changes. Again.

Sign 2 Men At Work (c) David E Guglielmo

Sign 2 Men At Work (c) David E Guglielmo

Okay. I’m going to apologize now. I’m messing with my website again and not doing a very good job of it. Like, at all. So I have to wait until tonight for my friend to come and fix the things I’ve messed up. You should still be able to find this post if you come directly to the wordpress site, but most of you won’t see it because I broke the link from Oops. My bad. Seriously. At some point in my life I’m going to learn to STOP MESSING WITH THINGS I DON’T UNDERSTAND. Maybe. I don’t know. It hasn’t happened yet, so… guess I shouldn’t get my hopes up.

ON THE PLUS SIDE, as soon as this migration is done, I should not have to EVER EVER move my website ever again! At least, not in any way that affects you. So, yay for that!

I apologize for the technical issues. My fault!


You may notice something different.

I’ve been considering it for a while and I have finally decided to just go for it. Blogger hasn’t been giving me the functionality I’ve wanted and Google has been making me a little mad by cutting out services I like (why kill the Reader, Google. Really?). Originally, I wanted to switch platforms and have a complete custom redesign along the way, but that isn’t going to happen right now. I want all the bells and whistles and I don’t have the money to pay for them. However, I found a WordPress template that has most of the features I wanted so I decided to switch to their free platform and hope for the best.

Thus, the new look! Also, you may notice that the URL at the top of the page is not quite as simplified as my old one. That’s one thing Blogger definitely does better than WordPress–custom domain names pointing to your site. You can still get here by typing, but after that everything will be a little longer in the navigation bar. WordPress, if you’re listening, it’d be nice if you could fix that. I already pay for a domain name. I REALLY don’t want to pay you for the right to use it, too.

Other than the site switch, I’m still working on Sing Sweet Nightingale edits. Right now I’m about 100 pages from the end, but I think this round is going to take multiple passes and read throughs because of all the tiny tweaks I’m making. It’s been an interesting process. Well, the whole publication process has been a learning experience, but this is different. I’m not a details person, but I have to be now. I have to look at all the tiny questions I never answered–never really considered–and make it all fit. Here’s hoping I pull it off!

Also, let me know what you think about the site! I may change the background if I find one I like more, but this one is kind of cool. Are those darker blue shapes flowers? Are the the silhouettes of skulls? WHO KNOWS? I don’t. 😉

The internet is not your private diary, kay?

Tooootally meant to post earlier than this but… obviously that didn’t happen. I’m here now, though! So let’s see if i can get my thoughts together enough for an actual post.

Black Notebook With Pencil (c) Typofi

With a few things I’ve read online recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about posting and the internet and people. Not necessarily in that order. This is partially because of two articles, one, of course, from

The Cracked article is actually about why you shouldn’t post embarrassing pictures of your friends online, but in my experience people don’t need their friends’ help to embarrass themselves. A lot of people do it on their own and post things in public I wouldn’t even share with my closest friends. All I can ask myself is, WHY?!

I am naturally shy, so maybe that’s one of the reasons over-sharing on the internet has never appealed to me, but I seriously question some people’s sobriety when I read or see things online. Yes, I know being an idiot or embarrassing yourself can get your internet fame, but is it really worth it? Even after you take something down, once it’s posted, it’s out there. Maybe someone saved it to their computer. Maybe Google archived it. You never know when that picture or video or story you thought was long gone suddenly comes back to bite you. And that’s a threat that won’t disappear until something like Revolution happens.

Celebrities and other public figures have to be even more careful than the general public. Just look what happened when poor Prince Harry let his guard–and his pants–down for a while. Even though it may not feel like it sometimes (like when you’ve been locked in your office drafting for six months), authors are public figures. We gather fans and people listen to what we have to say. This means you have to think about what you post online and make sure most people are going to read it the way you meant it to he heard. The internet isn’t always the best place for sarcasm, especially if you can’t remember some jokes don’t translate well without inflection. Sometimes, though, it’s not a joke. Sometimes authors can inadvertently (I’m giving the benefit of the doubt here) start a war just by talking.

A friend of mine sent me a link to a post by a blogger and book reviewer named Corey Ann. This post (which is kinda long) details an entire series of events that blew my mind. What happened here is the exact thing I’m talking about above, something everyone in the public eye has to watch out for. Basically, Corey Ann got caught in a flame war between various factions surrounding author Emily Giffin. Whether or not she meant them to be, Emily made some comments that, ON THE INTERNET (please note the emphasis), came off in a very negative way. Maybe she was joking. Maybe she didn’t think about how the lack of tone would translate. Maybe she meant exactly what she said. I don’t know. All I know is that inadvertently or on purpose she ended up siccing her fans on Corey Ann and another reviewer. Things got so out of control Corey Ann actually received threatening PHONE CALLS. Which means people tracked her down in person to yell at her. That is crossing the line so far you’re not even in the same county as the line anymore.

The point is, things like this can happen. In an age where all it takes is a couple of tweets or status updates to start a riot, you have to be EXTRA SUPER DUPER CAREFUL about everything you post online. The internet is a tool. Use it like one. And also, no matter how private your privacy settings, don’t count on privacy. The next generation of hackers is always smarter than the last and you never know when something meant for your eyes only ends up being public fodder. Basically, just try to remember the internet is not your diary, kay? That’s what bookstores sell journals for.

Pros and cons of stalkerish technology.

Child and phone (c) Jiri Hodan

The more advanced day-to-day technology gets, the more possibly all those the-major-corporations-and-the-government-are-watching-you conspiracy theories are. When practically every phone out there has a camera and is constantly hooked to the internet, who’s to say we aren’t being watched by the CIA and Interpol?

Honestly, my life isn’t interesting enough for me to care if the government is spying on me. I have no secrets pertinent to national security and I am not politically extreme in my views or even politically active (though, I admit, I would be a little concerned if a system like the one in the movie Eagle Eye was ever put into place). However, when thinking about the big picture, we forget about the little bits of information companies can gather about our lives from what we do on devices like our phones or even our e-readers.

Recently agent-turned-author Nathan Bransford posted about the kind of information companies like Amazon and B&N can pull off your Kindle or Nook. You can read the full post here, but below are some of the highlights:

Thanks to e-books, companies like Amazon and B&N now know whether people are actually reading the e-books they buy. Better yet, they even know where in books people are leaving off, which books are most likely to be read all the way through, and the speed people are reading them.

As Mike Shatzkin points out, this is important knowledge that the e-booksellers have and publishers do not. It could be more important to know whether people finish a bestselling book than how many copies it sells. If people stop reading and start reading something else instead, it could be a sign people might not be as enthusiastic for that author’s next book. And if people read something very quickly it could be a sign of enthusiasm.
I’m excited to have any new insight available, provided this information is made available to authors. It hardly seems fair if this information is hoarded by the e-booksllers if it’s being used to make decisions about whether and how an author is signed or promoted. And, of course, care must be taken to ensure that reader privacy is protected.

I wonder, though, how much they’ll take individual reading habits into account when looking at the statistics for a particular book. For example, I have a compulsion to finish a book I start as quickly as possible, and that compulsion only fades if I truly dislike a book. How quickly I devour a book is not necessarily a sign of enthusiasm, simply a sign that I have a few empty hours on my hands. On the other end of the spectrum is my father who savors books chapter by chapter, reading a little bit each night before he goes to bed. Kind of like dessert or a nightcap. How slowly he moves through a book isn’t an indication of dislike. In fact, if he’s really enjoying a novel, he tends to read slower, not faster.

Will companies think to look at reader trends like this and adjust the statistics? Does it matter how quickly someone reads a book as long as they finish? I would argue yes. Case in point, I read a book last night (yes, an entire book between the hours of 5:30 and 9:30), but to be honest I didn’t love it. It was well written, but there were several elements that left me dissatisfied. However, to someone looking at the reader statistics on my Kindle, all they’ll see is a blindingly fast reading rate and assume I loved it.

Having my information swiped by Amazon doesn’t bother me that much, but I worry about the interpretation and what it could mean to the business model of the publishing world. At the same time, if they offered me a peek at my reader’s stats after my book came out, I would jump all over that in a heartbeat.

Does that make me a hypocrite?