Thursday, November 22, 2007

RT Convention –drive or fly

Weighing the pros and cons of driving or flying to the RT Convention in Pittsburg, I needed an estimate on how much it would cost to drive, how long. How much does it cost to fly? Using the AAA Fuel Cost Calculator, I have the following estimate:


Start City:

MA, Boston

End City:

PA, Pittsburgh

One-Way Trip:




Gallons Used


Fuel Cost





Gallons Used


Fuel Cost

According to Google Maps, the drive will take 10 hours. Self parking is $21.25 a day. I believe I'll be there five days, total parking $110. Total cost, factoring in only half of the daily parking, to have a "one-way" cost comparison, $196.

Using Travelocity, the best fare is $185 BOS to PIT, flight under two hours, 30 minutes drive to hotel. Courtesy bus to hotel is $17, roundtrip $34. It takes me an hour to take the subway to the airport, so roundtrip, that's another two hours, cost is pocket change, rounding up to $5. Total trip time should include three hours of airport time, one way. Total trip time one way, even flying, 6 ½ hours. Total cost, approximately $204.

Price difference is negligible. Time difference, 3 ½ extra hours if I drive, hopefully. The driving time estimate is sketchy since I drive fast, but traffic and construction is always a problem, course I could use a GPS with traffic updates, so maybe drive time will be good.

One last thought: packing. Having the luxury of not fitting a fairy costume in a suitcase (yep, I will be going to the Fairy Ball), and bringing back any extra stuff I pick up, bringing the car or van would be good (I did the cost estimate based on the van, as the slightly higher cost factor).

Yet another thought, if I share the drive with someone, the cost difference is more significant.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Writing Tools II

Speaking of writing tools, this is my first blog entry using Word 2007 to create and publish to my blog, without using the Blogger website to enter my post. We'll see how it goes, and if it's any improvement.

The writing tools I mentioned in my previous post were downloaded, installed, and evaluated. As this type of software evaluation is something I do at my day job, I'm comfortable with comparing features and making a judgment on ease-of-use. I quickly found that the feature set varies widely, but I honestly didn't find any of the tools to do much more than I can accomplish with Microsoft Office—with the exception of Liquid Story Binder, which I'll discuss below. Granted, I own Office and am comfortable using it, but I also believe that a fair number of authors use it, and if not, there are other office suites that are just as easy to use, with just as many feature sets. A well-known one being Open Office.

To start with, I currently use Word 2007 for manuscript writing, using the sections and table of contents to track pages in chapters, and I use the outline feature to view the manuscript by key points. Excel 2007 to track daily progress, word counts, goals (per page and per word count), number crunching if I decide I want to be done by deadline, daily averages, etc. For word count analysis, I looked into several, and decided on Textanz. It evaluates words, phrases, and even creates a concordance. This is useful to look for phrase overuse and word repetition. As mentioned before, for brainstorming, timelines, flowcharting, I use an inexpensive tool, Flow Chart Maker Pro. Not sure where I picked this up or how I ended up with it, but it works. On the other hand, when I evaluated Freemind, I found it to be useful and will give it a try next new project. To gather all my research, notes, tasks, images, links to all project documents, and more, I use OneNote 2007.

To wrap this up, two tools are worth a trial run. The first, Power Writer, because of the ability to lay out GMC, Goal Motivation Conflict, and other tools for plotting beginning to end. While this is attractive, I found the interface to be a little confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it, the use of screen real estate wasn't optimal, so the work space just wasn't setup well, nor was it comfortable enough for me to spend hours a day using it. The other tool, Liquid Story Binder, was intriguing because of the ability to use any external editor, and other features not found in the other tools I evaluated, such as word count stats, repetition visualize, scenes & timelines, checklists, sequence planner, and character dossiers. There actually so many features, that I'm putting off a full evaluation until I'm done with both 70 days of Sweat, and Nanowrimo.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Writing Tools -- Investigation

After seeing a few different discussions, blogs, etc. on software to support authors, I decided to evaluate some of the tools out there. In this first entry, I'm going to outline the products I'll be evaluating and then will post follow-ups as I go.

First, let me start by saying that I received a free copy of Microsoft Office 2007 and already had a copy of OneNote 2007. Another caveat, I use excel and flow-charting software for my day job. I'm extremely comfortable using all types of "business" software, and so far have been fairly happy with my hobbled together system, which I'll outline in my next posting. But, I've found some holes, especially in analysis of word usage (for instance, a word count to determine if I'm over using a particular word). I also currently use CutePDF and Flow Chart Maker Pro.

I'll be evaluating Windows apps only. I do have a Mac, but I work on my Windows laptop. Here's the list I'll be reviewing:

Liquid Story Binder
Writer's Cafe
Write Way

Power Writer

Another evaluation of writing software, worth reading:
And a collection of open source tools:
Am I missing anything?

Besides the tool suites listed above, I'll be compiling a list of word analysis tools, later.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Off topic -- caramel popcorn

Just had to share.

I was in bed, finally asleep at a decent time, when a horrendous smell woke me up. I mean, bad. Mind you, once I’m asleep, I’m asleep. Not an especially light sleeper. I got up and hunted down what was somewhere between a skunk, a plastic electrical burning, and a strange burnt butter smell.

My DH had a midnight snack of microwave caramel popcorn. Now, I used to like caramel popcorn from a can, but after this, I’m not sure I can anymore. It’s disturbing to wake up to such a strong, weird smell. I’m traumatized. Now, after trying to work for an hour, I think I can once again hit the hay. It’s almost 3am, and I can still smell what had to have been popped around midnight.

Lessons learned… If I need to stay awake for meeting a deadline (I wish) in the future, then I’ll just pop this popcorn. What is in that stuff?