Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Writing tools and reviews

I've had an AlphaSmart Neo for a few years now and love the little thing. If you've never seen one, it's a nifty little word processor, great for first drafts. The screen of the Neo lets you see about 6 lines of type at a time, so it's not a wonderful editing tool, although you can cut and paste with it. But I mostly use it for first drafts. They were originally made for school kids and they run on a few AA batteries for months and months, are lightweight and convenient, and practically indestructible. But not completely indestructible.

My granddaughter managed to wreck the R key a couple years ago, but I experienced incredible customer service when I called and they guided me through fixing it while on the phone with them.

Then, more recently, I managed to wreck the screen. NOTE: Do not pack AlphaSmarts in checked luggage when flying. It emerged from my suitcase with a black splotch covering the middle third of the screen. I think something inside cracked. I lamented about this online and a wonderful, generous person named Colette Garmer offered me hers, which she wasn't using. She sent it to me and I used it a bit, but it's an older model and, since she didn't have the cord and it's not available on the AlphaSmart website, I had to acquire a conglomeration of cords and adaptors to make it communicate with my PC. The screen is also smaller and I couldn't get used to it for some reason. I still missed my Neo.

I found it would cost about $100 to ship it and get my screen repaired. Then the company put out a trade-in offer, giving $25, for a machine in any condition, toward a new one. So I took them up on that, filled out the form, and mailed my broken one in. Then, I experienced even MORE incredible customer service! The day they received my crippled Alphie, they called and got my new one ordered, on a Tuesday, and I received it that Friday! The woman spoke English and everything. She said they're located centrally, in Wisconsin, so they can get the product quickly to anywhere in the US. LOVE that company!

Next, here's another tool that's indispensible for me as a writer. Barking dogs drive me just a little crazy. I can't stand that their owners are ignoring them--don't even hear them in the case of my deaf neighbor behind me. Once, perusing the SkyMall catalog while flying somewhere (not the same flight that ruined my Alphie) I spotted the Super Bark Free and had to have it. YES! I love it. When they start in and have been barking non-stop for about 45 minutes (not uncommon, unfortunately!), I carry it out to the back yard, turn it on, and aim. A few little yips, then blessed silence. And I can work!

Finally, I just learned that I can post all the reviews I do for "Suspense Magazine" here, so I'll start doing that on Fridays. I've had the great good fortune to receive a widely varying bunch of books from them. One was serendipitous! I reviewed FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT by Darynda Jones a few weeks ago, and she's on my panel at Left Coast  Crime next week!

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