Category Archives: New Tricks

The Working Girl’s Guide to Journaling


by Heather Harris Brady

One can’t knock the idea of journaling, as such. However, if you’re like me, scraping tiny tidbits of time out of a day to write journaling seems to be asking a bit much. Once you’ve got the kids on the bus, you’ve put in a full day at work and cleaned after the dinner that you cooked, I mean really. Get serious.

Then I read a blog post somewhere, and I’m sorry I forgot to write down the place, about a writer who does long mystery series. She keeps a short daily journal of notes to stay on track. Here’s how:

1) Each morning she starts with the date, perhaps a short bit on her mood.

2) Add any ideas that cropped up overnight.

3) Play with a problem scene or the one you’re on if you feel you need it.  Explore those bizarre veins of thought that might not be worthy of going into the text right now.

I do via a document in Dropbox and I add to it every morning. It doesn’t take very long and it has helped me immensely. Before, I would be constructing amazing snippets of dialogue in my head while I brushed my teeth or drove to work, but by the time I could write – ten or so hours later – they were gone.

But no more! I take a few minutes and get them down. Better yet, the document is always waiting for me wherever I am, so if I have ideas at lunchtime I can add on. Maybe someday I’ll have time to journal the way a writer is supposed to do it, with some intense character navel-gazing, but for now this has made my writing life a lot better and I hope it helps you as well.

Photo source: Wikicommons

Character Sellouts?

by Heather Harris Brady

Like many people in the writing world I’ve been following the progress of Find Me I’m Yours. After all, I work in a tech field, I write and on the side I watch my two kids increasing bond with their school-issued ipads. In a post late last week on The Kill Zone, Mark Alpert called out the fuzzy gray area this story treads. I’m reposting it here because, frankly, if it’s all true it creeps me out.

E-Book Mingles Love and Product Placement

Believing the Impossible

Although I’ve been a writer all my life, from stapling my own little encyclopedias together during snow days to high school newspaper and on from there. However, I’m only about four years into my journey as a fiction writer. During that time I’ve come to a good many realizations, one of which is – my mind works against me A LOT, constantly questioning and saying “THAT could never happen”.

So, to teach it a lesson, I’ve been working on a speculative fiction story as a NANOWRIMO fling. It’s got magic, a dual world ruled by women and many other exciting, potentially wonderful things. But even magic has to have some rules or there wouldn’t be consequences – you’d be able to “magik” your way out of every bad decision.

Luckily there are lots of amazing writers in this realm who’ve shared tips online, and I’m only going to list a few here, in case you’re considering your own magical journey – or maybe you’re in the middle of one right now!

Character-Driven Hero’s Journey
Brandon Sanderson’s First Law of Magic
Brandon Sanderson’s Second Law of Magic
Brandon Sanderson’s Third Law of Magic

That First Page & Call Me Ishmael


by Heather Harris Brady

I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately, just not on this blog! Right now I’m preparing for #PitchWars (for more info see Brenda Drake’s fab blog here), with my new YA contemporary. Since I have to submit a query and the first chapter, I’ve been scouring the internet to keep up on what’s working and what’s going on. In the course of my online adventures I can across several spots I wanted to bring to your attention.

Any writer knows the first page has to be amazing, easier said than done of course, and way subjective but still. It seems like the more first pages you read the more you get an ear for them, a little like developing an ear for music I suppose. I was so happy to find the thatfirstpage tumblr!


You can browse through a wide selection of first pages, all streamlined for your reading pleasure. I really hope the author keeps up with this tumblr, because it’s such a great resource for writers.

Then, on Terri Eichholz’s Engage Their Minds she featured Call Me Ishmael.


The site features an 800 number that goes straight to voice mail. Readers are asked to leave the name of their favorite book and a message about what it means to them or how it’s changed their life. I have so many I could call the line every day for a year I think! But seriously, the site is a great way to renew your love of books and what makes them special to a reader. ‘Cause that’s why we’re all doing this right?

Top photo: Mark Knobil, via Flickr/Wikicommons CC license

Apps Part II


by Heather Harris Brady

In my last post we talked about using online apps to be more productive. I’m going to get a little more in-depth today on using apps while you’re writing.

I write a lot of historical fiction (using my ipad), so I’m constantly jumping around to fact-check. I use UX Write as my word processor, partly because it was cheap and partly because it can deal with .docx files.

UX Write also has a nice working relationship with Dropbox. As you can see from the above graphic, when I’m in UX Write I can choose my working files (under ipad) or jump into Dropbox where I store my historical research.


Inside Dropbox I organize my research by writing project, noted above as Missfits 2 research. It’s worth noting that I do not ever save manuscripts or writing-to-be-published on any of the cloud services because I have a deep-seated skepticism of their privacy policies.

In addition to my Dropbox research library I also create mood boards and character inspiration boards on Pinterest ( Anything that isn’t conducive to either Dropbox or Pinterest I save in kippt (

I’m not receiving any kind of compensation for any of the services listed. They just happen to work for me, maybe they can help you out as well.

Getting more done with online apps


by Heather Harris Brady

Whether you’re a writer, a teacher, a student we all need more time, amirite? When it comes to finding reasons not to write I suspect we’re all experts. Not that we need any help when there are so many things to do as a writer these days – build the platform/online presence, stalk research agents, participate in critique groups, on and on. I can say that I’m working on it at least, trying to find ways to streamline things to make as much time as possible to procrastinate write. Here are few (mostly free) online tools worth a look, besides Google Drive:

Images from quotes

Picture editing and social media photo adjustments



To Do Lists

If you’ve found something great let us know in the comments! Happy Valentine’s Day readers –

Photo credit: This is a press photograph from the George Grantham Bain collection, which was purchased by the Library of Congress in 1948. According to the library, there are no known restrictions on the use of these photos.

Are you smarter than a 5th grader? Using Google Earth.


by Heather Harris Brady

I could actually change this post to second grader, because second graders are tooling around Google Earth too! Regardless, one of the first assignments elementary ipad users receive is to find their house on Google Earth. Authors can use it to enrich their user experiences by mapping the travels of story characters.

In my lit trip, above, I have travel paths marked for my two main characters, as well as a ship that plays a key part in the story. On key destinations I have embedded photos of special items my characters encountered along the way:


If you click on the pushpins you can see the images. You can download and view my entire lit trip here. You do need to have installed Google Earth first though.

If you’d like video tutorials on any of these IT posts please send me a request in the comments. I’m keeping them short on purpose, but I can always add more!

Are you smarter than a 5th grader? Augmented reality.


by Heather Harris Brady

If you took my hint earlier and downloaded the Layar app (Android, iphone/ipad), then you see this when you view my blog through the app. Hidden stuff! Pretty cool right? You can see a little slideshow with some little factoids about me, and a few other tidbits. (This is a photo I took of my ipad viewing my blog.)

Teachers have started using augmented reality in the classroom to embed richer information in graphics, posters, etc. Writers, of course, can use it as I have here – or you can use it to dress up your promotional posters, book covers, – pretty much anything! I’ve just done a simple demonstration here, but you can get crazy with videos that open up out of the page, etc.

The question becomes, how then, to make this magic happen. Well to do that you need two things:

  1. a creation site to allow you to build the hidden elements, and
  2. a viewer that will allow other people to see them through their phones, web cams and computer cams. Future web browsers will likely have this feature built in, but for now you have to download a viewer.

There are several easy, augmented reality options including Layar and Aurasma. Most work the same way:

  1. Choose a trigger image. For the example above I used my blog header.
  2. Add overlays/auras.
  3. Assign actions to each overlay through pictures, web links, mailto links, etc.

The scripting is done for you behind the scenes, and includes handy features like the slideshow I used above. The free versions of these products are fully functional but ad-supported.

Are you smarter than a 5th grader? Voice narration.


by Heather Harris Brady

We all know there are many good reasons to read your work out loud, you can get a good feel for the flow, catch mistakes, etc. If you want to multitask and have someone read it to you while you’re busy with something else than you might want to check out Natural Reader. There is a free, limited version or you can pay a bit to get more voices.

Teachers and students use this utility to explain lessons, add voice to projects, etc. If you want to get fancy set up Natural Reader in conjunction with iMovie or another recording device!

Are you smarter than a 5th grader? Using Padlet.


by Heather Harris Brady

In the first of a series of posts focusing on apps and techniques from classrooms, I’m going to start off easy. If you already use Pinterest then Padlet is going to be a breeze for you. You have the option to start building right away with the center button, or you can sign up for a free account first. I’d recommend the second route, because then you can create your own password right off the bat.

To get started, just click the + sign in the upper right to create walls dedicated to whatever topic you like. You can name them for recognizable direct links.

You can choose to arrange them in rows like blog posts, or you can just stick them up willy-nilly. In the classroom it works nicely for showcasing student work, group collaboration or a writing prompt. I’ve seen a nifty wall where a teacher had students post examples of figurative writing passages along with photos supporting their concept. Here are more ideas.

For writers it can be a handy way to keep track of story ideas, research or a way to enrich the background of your story with supplemental materials. Here’s a quick example I put together for my story, The Case of Paris Couture. Do  you have ideas for padlet? If so we’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Oh, one other thing – since I’m a writer I think there’s some kind of rule that I need to remind you Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) starts today. Yes, I’m participating! Whether you start a new novel from scratch or just use it as a way to rejuvenate your writing goals it’s all good IMHO. What you might not know is that they have some amazing writing resources for kids on their website. I know I learned a lot from them!