24 March 2011

A Tool for Digital Handwriting

It was the HTRYN course that forced me to use pen and paper to capture the rewrite of my story. After over 300 pages of handwritten scrawl that I'm typing back into the computer, I wish I had a way to handwrite it digitally, all those thousands of little tree deaths not only weigh down the desk, but my conscious.

I'd performed internet searches looking for programs that would allow me to hand-write with my tablet. Several exist for the iPhone and iPad, but I couldn't find something for my laptop.

So I developed a workflow, tedious but do-able, to hand-write using the tablet, an drawing/image-editing program, a PDF editor, and images of engineering paper. (If I have to use lined paper, engineering paper is my preference. Habits die hard.)

On a lark, I performed one more search and I found a program, Circus Ponies' Notebook with a free 30 day trial available, otherwise $49.99. It allows easy typing, drawing, handwriting - even with handwriting recognition to make it searchable, marking up photos and PDFs, all in one organized, customizable notebook. It's more powerful than I wanted, with the organizing and multiple templates, but a way better solution than my create-single-page-PDFs in one program, organize single-page-PDFs in another program.

Just a couple screenshots ...

Imported a PDF, used pen/ink function to mark changes.

Started a writing journal. See the engineering paper?

Just so you can see the handwriting function of the application.

They also have an iPad version, $29.99, so if I wanted, I could work on a notebook between my laptop and iPad, however they don't support Dropbox yet.

One problem, which I haven't yet solved, is how to print the pages without the handwriting shifting on the page. Should be an easy fix, or at least I hope so. If not, they have a nice support page so get help.

When my trial runs out, I'll most likely pony up (hehe) the $50 and buy it for my laptop. While the iPad version is nice, I can't justify buying it just now. (Unless my husband starts to use it for work. Hint, hint.)

FYI -- I was not contacted by Circus Ponies, nor do I, to my knowledge, know anyone at the company. Just thought I'd share just in case someone was searching for a similar solution, or maybe had other digital handwriting suggestions for me.


For those interested - my old process looked something like this:
1. Open digital image of engineering paper in a drawing program.
2. With a pencil or pen tool, write one page worth of words on image with tablet and pen.
3. Print to PDF. For added file-ease-of-mind, save the new "drawing" as an image file as backup.
4. Repeat the 1-2-3 sequence above as necessary to capture words/story.
5. Open individual saved PDF pages in Preview, arrange into one document, and save.
6. Proof-read/edit the new PDF document with tablet and pen in Formulate Pro, a free download.
7. Save marked-up PDF document. Can be used as reference for making changes in a typed story or typing in a story.

Note: My process was developed on Apple computers. I didn't mention which drawing program in my process as had been working out which one I liked best.

18 March 2011

#FridayFlash - Lightning

More #fridayflash for you. Enjoy...

"One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three--," Akeva winced as the deafening boom rattled her bones. Arizona monsoon clouds loomed overhead, she hadn't realized the storm was that close. Five Mississippis closer than her last count a few minutes ago. Shit.

Of course the storm traveled much faster than her, it didn't have to rely on legs to get through a mini-obstacle course. Unless by some miracle, she wasn't going to reach the safety of her car, which was about five miles away, before the worst of the storm hit.

But she kept running over rust-colored dirt and past twisted juniper trees. It wasn't like she could stop and take cover. Where would she hide from the marble sized raindrops that pelted her skin out in the middle of the Sedona desert? Plus, she couldn't run too fast otherwise one of those loose, rocks that littered the ground would leave her limping back to her car or unable to walk at all.

Never mind her backpack, or the things inside it; too much bumping and her electronics would be toast. At least the bag would keep them dry, or mostly dry. Akeva didn't want to contemplate buying all new electronics just before starting grad school. So, she ran holding her pack straps tight, trying to minimize the damage to her precious cargo. Fortunately, there wasn't anyone around to witness her running like a dork.

Water dripped freely down her face. Any other time she'd enjoy the dusty smell of the rain, even try to photograph some lightning strikes. Not now. Frequent lightning strikes lit the sky and the dark desert, while thunder echoed off the rocks and the rain fell in earnest now.

Definitely not a good situation - rain, lightning, no shelter, and electronics.


Akeva couldn't believe she'd ignored the signs and kept photographing. If she'd heeded the waiter's advice this morning, she'd be nice and safe in the hotel room or in her car driving to California. He'd warned her about monsoon storms, how they would sneak up and cause havoc, spawning deadly flash floods that took people by surprise. But she'd lost focus of everything except for the majestic Bell Rock. She'd filled nearly all her memory cards trying to capture the beauty of the magnificent rock formation.

And now, she was paying the price.

She ran past a small gully, thankful it hadn't started to run with water, and berated herself. She should've kept driving to San Francisco instead of detouring to Sedona to photograph the area. But how could she have driven so close and not tried to emulate all those gorgeous photos she'd seen on the internet? She'd reasoned a day trip wouldn't affect her plans much, just one day less in Berkeley to find an apartment. Her soon to be new roommate, LeeAnn, had totally understood, had even encouraged her to make the side trip.

Another blinding flash. "One Mississippi, t--,"

The world turned bright and everything shimmered. Akeva wasn't sure why her body began to tingle, but she knew she had to get to shelter. Now.

She released her pack and ran full out. It was her life or her electronics, she chose life.

The tingling in her body intensified with the each lightning strike, like the storm was causing the strange sensation running through her body. If she wasn't running for her life, she would have laughed at the insane idea.

She still couldn't see the road. How much further was it?

Another fear gripped Akeva. What if in her hurry to get out of the storm, she'd gone the wrong direction?

She stopped and glanced over her shoulder. Bell Rock loomed over her, but--

A brilliant, white flash blinded her as pain incinerated her body, then everything went black.

03 March 2011

Odds and Ends

First ... I had written a blog post to share the workflow I created for a digital notebook of sorts. Seems that I might've wasted all that time. I think I found a solution on the Mac App Store. Will test it out and get back to you.

Second ... I can't wait for the HBO mini-series, A Game of Thrones, to air. It is based on George RR Martin's series A Song of Ice and Fire. As we don't have an HBO subscription, I'm tempted to get one just to watch the series. New trailers for the series can be found here and here. This link will take you to the Making Of site, if you're interested.

Third ... George himself had an update -- the next book in the series will be out next year! Finally. Might have to clear out the rest of the year just to finish the tome. Kidding, I'll keep writing. Really. ;-)

Fourth ... A writer friend has convinced me to participate in #fridayflash. She sent me a link that explains the meme. Not sure if I can crank something out by tomorrow, but definitely next week. Wish me luck!

Happy words!