Using Google Keep during my writing process

I’ve been meaning to write about this for some time, but just haven’t made time for it. And since I’ve been going through some manic and seasonal depressive episodes, making it hard to stay focused and do ANYTHING of relevance, I figure I might as well just hyper focus and do some writing. Why the hell not?

This latest novel I’m working on, I tried several new things to help me press through it all the way to the end. It’s taken me years to try and figure out how to organize and structure myself to write a novel, and I’m not sure I’ve ever been better equipped than now for the job. One of my tools, which was a first, was using Google Keep during the writing process. I want to talk a bit about how I used it.

(If you don’t use Google Keep, or don’t want to, or are weening off Google apps — I respect that. I will explain the method Keep uses, how I used it, and point you to some similar apps with same feature set.)

I started with Keep.

I started at the beginning using Keep. I wanted it to be with me in the beginning and all the way through the writing journey. I wanted it to be my home for notes, character sketches, photo galleries for inspiration and even a crude outline in the beginning. I’ll try to break these down.

A simple note.

Notes. Pretty simple, really. But whenever I had an idea, or a line of dialogue, or whatevs pop into my head — I dropped it into a small note in Keep using the Label I had created for my book. This worked great as the phone app is perfect for this sort of documentation.

Character sketches.

Character sketches. When I was creating a new character, I found jotting down notes concerning that character was super important. I call these character sketches. A little bio paragraph, little snippets about the character, little snippets of dialogue that the character will deliver at some point to get a flavor for how they talk. I’d often include a gallery of pictures for inspiration on the character as well. Thankfully Keep allows you to attach a plethora of pictures to a note.

Cast of characters.

Cast list. I even used the to-do list feature for making a cast of characters list, so I could keep track of who was who and what names I was using. I sometimes forget what names I used for minor characters, if I don’t have a cheat sheet.

Gallery of images in a note.

Visual inspiration (think Pinterest). Sometimes I use Pinterest for finding good character and visual inspiration for locations and such. And sometimes just moods. I found that Keep works relatively nicely for making small pin-boards, if you will. On my character sketches, I would include one or more images for inspiration. Above is a gallery of photos for my Mercedes character and below is what it looks like when you scroll through the gallery of photos. It’s not as pretty as a Pinterest board, but it gets the job done and keeps all the photos in one place with notes and so on – which is a nice touch, and something you can’t do on Pinterest.

An image in full-screen. That’s actress Rhona Mitra.


This was a new way for me to pull all of my thoughts and ideas together during the writing process. Since I was mostly writing without an outline at first, I created a to-do list style outline in Keep and would add chapters in as I went. Eventually, I had enough in my head to flesh out the rest of the outline and do an outline justice. I used Microsoft Excel for the outline, which just works really well and helps keep track of wordcount and everything nicely. But even in the beginning Google Keep was helping with tracking progress of my story. I must say, I was not sure I’d like using Google Keep in the beginning, but I committed to it and said I would just deal with it and write about it later. And here I am. Is it perfect? No. It has its flaws.

For example, it’s a scroll fest. Notes just pile on top of each other with the only thing separating notes is 3 categories (Pinned notes, Others, and Archived). And they scroll in that order, too. So archived stuff is at the bottom, pinned at the top, and everything else in the middle. In the past, years ago, you could drag around and organize the notes the way you wanted on top of those 3 categorizations. But they removed the ability to drag and organize notes the way you want at some point. The colors can be categorized however you want in your head, or if you don’t want to remember just make a color key note and pin it up top.

The other thing I miss in Google Keep is the lack of any text formatting. There is zero rich text formatting or markdown. With some simple rich text editing, the character sketches could be better fleshed out and organized. They would feel more like documents, and less like a dump of paragraphs.

Exporting or backing up Keep notes is likely a clustertruck. I wouldn’t have thought much about this had it not been for what I’ve been going through with Google+ in its closure. Google Takeout exports Keep notes to HTML. Which means, it’s probably gonna be a hot mess of HTML pages or something. Maybe I’ll test it and report back on that in a future post. I suppose an alternative to this would be to individually share each note from a phone to another app of choice — I shutter a the thought. I put this in color for emphasize.

I’ll leave you with one more screenshot, this one shows off how links are treated in Keep. They do have a minor preview, which is nice and makes them easily clickable.

Alternatives to Google Keep:

  • Zoho Notes (the best similar alternative, has rich text editing too!).
  • Microsoft OneNote (designed more like a 5-section notebook, has many features Keep doesn’t, even works for drafting — one of the best note taking apps ever!).

#google, #google-keep, #writing, #writing-tips

My first beta readership and new logo

This month I’ve been participating in my first ever beta readership. It’s something I’ve been curious about lately, but had never done. Since I’ve been working on the first in a series of books, I figured now would be the best time to tap into that feedback machine. Learn a little something about my first book before trotting into other books in the series. Maybe learn a few lessons before I get too far.

It’s been a curious journey so far. I set basic rules, as it’s my first time and have been pretty lax. So far I’ve gotten back some responses with the rest coming later in the month, I hope. But I totally understand if people can’t complete, life is busy.

I’ll break down my setup and share how I went about it after it’s over. Let me know in the comments if you want to hear about my first beta readership.

In the meantime, I’m just sitting here with bated breath.

Time for a new logo, me thinks

In June I decided to change things up logo wise a bit. I took on a new city icon logo, just mildly different from the old one. And I gave it a rainbow background for Pride month. Today, I’ve updated that look, trying a pink/purple scheme which is also present throughout the website and blog. The old city icon, which is a standard city icon from the Windows 8 standards for design, has served me well for years. Part of me hates to see it go. BUT, in with the new. Huzzah! Hope you like it.

Below, from left to right: (old logo, new logo):

#reading, #writing

Mercedes has a new home, and she’s wrapped in Cellophane

I told you I had a big update on Mercedes coming, and it’s huge. Big. Bigger. Enormous. Gigantuous. Okay, that’s enough of that. It’s just some really cool news. But I’m also wrapping this big update in Cellophane, which will make sense later down the read.

She has a new home.

What do I mean by this? Well, she’s moved over to Emerald Dragon Tales. Why? Because after some hard consideration, I’ve decided to publish her through my publishing brand Emerald Dragon. Emerald Dragon is the same brand we used to publish the collaborative novel Fatal Flaws, and will be using to publish the second String-Along GUN soon.

What does this mean for Mercedes? It means you’ll be finding a lot more about Mercedes over at the Emerald Dragon Tales website. So head over there and snatch the blog RSS feed for your Feedly or however you follow blogs. Also, sign up for the email newsletter to stay up-to-date. And check out her own page. There you’ll find a list of future working titles in the series of novellas I plan to do with our frustrated hero, Mercedes Masterson.

Where are things at?

I have a first draft complete of the first novella in the series, and am halfway through editing draft 2. When the second draft is complete, I’m gonna have some beta readers give it the once over. After that, I may make some more changes. And after that, I’ll need a professional to edit it, and then after all the butchering–publishing! And reading!

I can’t say for sure when the first book will land, but I would like to see it land before the end of this year or at the start of the next. GUN is currently slated to unveil this year, so that is taking priority publishing-wise.

Mercedes is wrapped in Cellophane.

Way back in the day, 2005 to be precise, I wrote a screenplay for a short film and introduced Mercedes for the first time. It was primarily a character written for the purpose of giving a friend a role in the film. We were 4-5 actors wanting to make a movie and as I began work on the screenplay of choice from the group, I realized I didn’t have enough characters in the original concept to fill the cast with all of us. So, I thought for a bit and asked myself what was missing from the little film noir homage I was working on. The cops. A murder took place almost immediately at the start of the script, and yet I didn’t appear to have any investigation taking place around it. While the investigation of that murder was unimportant to the plot, and more importantly the character development, I still needed to show that there were consequences in this story.

My solution? I created a female homicide detective strictly for that purpose and for giving my friend, Heather, a character to play.


Heather Jackson-Chirban, the real Mercedes Masterson.

I can remember sitting at the PC, with huge (read thick) monitor by today’s standards, trying to come up with a name before I could write the first line of her dialogue. I wanted a very traditional, noirish sounding detective name. I settled on Masterson. I also wanted a very distinct, equally fantastic first name, one that would roll right into that Masterson name well. I chose Mercedes, an homage to the character of the same name in Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. A French connection, which I liked, and felt there could always be more to that. I had it: Detective Mercedes Masterson.

When we went to film the first scene with Heather as Mercedes, something felt really right. Not only did she nail a lot of what I had in my head, she went beyond. She brought a lot of things to the table, some things I had only scratched the surface a little on in my head, others I had not even thought about. She was seeing the character on a higher level. And that brought it to my attention in a way, I had not even intended it when starting out. Remember, she was originally only a plot device.

When it came time to write the second screenplay (yes, it was planned as a trilogy), I had so much more to work with Mercedes and Heather. I knew this was a big character, and one I wanted to really develop. She became a much more prominent character in the second script, and Heather and I shared many conversations about the development of the character. That’s when she shared with me a song she listened to while getting into character for the first film, a little ditty called Cellophane by Amanda Ghost. I had never heard it. But I listened to it, and liked it. It felt appropriate to the character.

I always try to keep the song Cellophane around when I’m working on Mercedes. But I hadn’t really listened to it, I mean really listen, for several years. Until a few weeks ago. I set it on repeat and just listened to it over and over, each phrase of the lyrics. Really breaking it down with regards to the character. And I picked up on a lot.

Cellophane by Amanda Ghost.

A lot of this character is in this song. And so, I’d like to break down some of the ways I can I hear Mercedes in Cellophane by Amanda Ghost.

Firstly, I’d like to give credit to the songwriters: Lukas Burton, Ian Dench, Amanda Goseine (Ghost), and Sasha Skarbek. They have written a beautiful song with incredible lyrics that are very relateable.

You can listen along here:

Nobody moves me…
Right off the bat, this one grabs me. First line of the song. And truly, it would seem that nobody moves Mercedes. She has gone through a lot of relationships in her life, and from her point of view all relationships end poorly. And so the notion that nobody moves her, sounds about right to her view of the world around her and those in it.

I’ve been through this life
With no place that I can call my own…
Again. Relationships. This time on a much bigger scale. Through all of her life to date, she still can’t feel comfortable calling any place home. She’s lived in Babylon her whole life, grew up there. But it doesn’t feel like home. There’s no neighborhood she can call home, no house. No family she can call home.

I never seem to find anybody that can feel like home
And I try and I try and I try…
Carrying on with that theme, it strikes home more apparent. Despite all her trying, all the relationships she’s been through. She can’t seem to find anyone that feels like home. Someone she can call family. Someone that will always be there, through thick and thin. She tries and she tries and she tries, but all relationships end.

Funny how it feels
When there’s nothing to say…
Now we’re into the chorus, out of the first verse. This little piece speaks to me about her overall social anxiety. This is only something I’ve been able to understand more accurately in recent years, as my own social anxieties have kicked in. A lot of her social anxieties are wrapped around her general distrust of people, because of previous relationships and experiences. Another reason is because of her ideals…

Trapped with my ideals
I can’t contain…
If you’ve read or watched anything with Mercedes yet, you probably get this line. If not, you probably will. I always liken her as a good cop who occasionally goes vigilante when the justice system fails or is corrupt. She would burn the whole system down, if she determined it was the best possible outcome. And she surely can’t contain her ideals, as she has no problem speaking her mind in no uncertain terms.

And just to make sure there’s no confusion here, I’m not considering “ideals” with the most obvious definition. But rather as “a standard of perfection; a principle to be aimed at:” (Oxford Dictionary). She has her ideal of what justice is and anything that falls short of her definition, that standard or principle of justice, she can’t contain herself.

Nobody told me
Obsessive needs were always following me around…
I think in many ways this just speaks volumes to her overall character, and I like the idea that she’s blaming someone else. Nobody told her. Classic. But it also could be a reference to her “evil conscience” as I often refer to it. She has an identical twin so to speak, a figment of her imagination who follows her around. Occasionally appearing at the worst possible times, to give her the worst possible advice. To nag her about her obsessive needs.

And you can’t ignore me…
Word that. You can’t ignore Mercedes. You can try, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Look at my face and then tell me my place in town…
This one grips me, because it says something but I’m not even 100% certain what it all means. I feel like this line has tapped something I haven’t even tapped into yet with Mercedes. Her trying to find her place in Babylon. I don’t think this is something I’ve even addressed in the slightest, despite having written so much about her. Having meditated so much on her and discussed her so much with Heather. I feel like there is a conversation that needs to take place around this single line. We need to look her in the face and tell her what her place is in Babylon.

And he’s in and she’s in and he’s in and she’s in…
This one speaks to me again about her many failed relationships. He’s in, she’s in, he’s in, she’s in. They’re constantly coming and going. She can never maintain a single relationship indefinitely. And that’s not to say it’s always her fault when a relationship ends, because it’s not.


This has been a tremendously fun journey going through Cellophane’s lyrics with you all. It has given me a chance to think back a lot on Mercedes. She’s come a long way. A long, long way. Long, long. Really long way. And it’s always a pleasure for me to write any story with her in it. Heather and I have tried to bring so much to this character, so much. And I’m always happy to share more of her with you all. In many ways, she’s the person we always wished we were while at the same time being someone we can relate to through the pain. She’s a beast of a character. And I hope I never tire of her.

One last bit of trivia about her conception. My original thought on the character was to create a femme fatale who was also a protagonist. I think that still applies.

#anxiety, #book, #crime, #music, #novella, #writing

A Sweet Sixteen Killer update forthcoming…

I’ve been pretty quiet lately, but I’ve got a lot of good news to share about the Mercedes novella I’ve been working on. The first in a series of female detective novellas, which I can’t wait to get to you. Follow my blog and stay up to date, and I will give you a thorough rundown in the coming days, if I can.

#amediting, #amwriting, #crimefiction, #mystery, #novella, #novellas, #writing, #writinglife

Sweet Sixteen Killer – Prologue

I’m  super proud to unveil an early version of the prologue of my novella Sweet Sixteen Killer. The first in my Masterson series. Here is the link to the prologue at Emerald Dragon Tales’ website. I hope you enjoy it, and be sure to drop a comment over there for me.

#crime, #excerpt, #mystery, #novella, #reading, #writing

Oh lately it’s so quiet (excerpts from upcoming novella)

I’ve been pretty quiet on my blog as of late. But I’ve been hard at work in my writing. Last year I wrote a novella, Jessica Wright’s Double Vision, and I’m currently working on two for this year. And guess what? They’re all part of the same series.

I made a commitment this year to write 2 novellas in a Mercedes Masterson, Private Eye series. The Double Vision novella will likely end up being book 2 or book 3 of the series. I’m currently waist deep in the first novella, which is due June 1.

Unfortunately, I’ve fallen behind, after being ahead of schedule up until February where I hit a brick wall (despite having most of it outlined in front of me). I only recently got my groove back, this week actually. Gonna fight hard to beat June 1 or come close. I am roughly 10k words from the end, so close. Super close.

If you like old hardboil, crime, noir, detective, private eye style stuff–you’ll probably like Mercedes and this series of novellas I’m working on. It’s got strong female characters, which I love to write. I hope everyone will be as excited about these stories as I am, especially since Mercedes is my favorite character I’ve ever written and I’ve been writing her off and on since 2005. I’ll write again soon with a description and title of the first book.

Here are some snapshots/excerpts of what’s to come, hope you enjoy: 

#crime, #crimefiction, #mystery, #novella, #writing

Mercedes Masterson & The Ghost Ship / Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Mercedes Masterson sat down behind her desk, and sipped on the coffee she’d just brewed herself. It was bitter, and she spit most of it back. She never did learn how to make a good cup of coffee. She was going to miss Misty’s presence in her office, because her ability to brew a cup of coffee was unsurpassed. Mercedes would just have to remember to pick up coffee on her way to the office while Misty was on vacation. She figured things were going to get downright disorganized while Misty was away, and she was not looking forward to that. Mercedes liked for things to be just so, but lacked the obsessive compulsiveness to keep it that way. That was where Misty came into play beautifully, because she had both equally furnished. All Mercedes had to do was keep up.

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