Tech Writing

My First Month With the Hemingwrite

So, a month ago, I received one of those smart keyboards. Specifically, the Freewrite Hemingway Special Edition (a/k/a the “Hemingwrite”). Yes, that includes shipping and the 2 year warranty but no, not GST. Had to pay for that separately at the CBSA office.

At first, I was not open to the idea of the Freewrite Smart Keyboard. Mostly due to my hesitance towards products like this that have a keyboard and whether or not I can use the Dvorak keyboard layout. When I learned that I could, this definitely made the Freewrite line of products more attractive.

So, was it worth it? I think so. I think this distraction-free writing environment is helping to increase my word count. The most important thing is to get ideas out there onto the screen. That way, I can edit it.

How I’m Using My Smart Keyboard

Put simply, I’m using my Hemingwrite to draft new work. I’m using all three folders. Folder A is being used to draft a serial story I’m working on. It was originally going to be the first in a series of novels. However, I feel that this story is going to be better as serial fiction. I’m hoping to start releasing episodes next summer.

Folder B is where I’m drafting novels/novellas. Right now, I have a romance novella about two cheerleaders who fall in love with one another. I’m currently planning it, including a framework and some character details. I’m hoping to finish drafting it by end of October and work on the next novel for NaNoWriMo.

Folder C is where I’m working on short stories. Specifically, I’m working on a submission for The First Line’s winter edition. So far, it’s going really well. Though, I am thinking about also drafting blog posts in the Smart Keyboard. I also have a couple of short stories I’m working on that have yet to be finished.

Put simply, the Smart Keyboard is where I keep work that I’m actively drafting. It’s definitely not a device for editing, which I do in Scrivener. However, I find it very useful to just sit down and write. And when I commit myself to just sitting down and writing for a period of time, I feel the words flow out of me and on to that e-ink screen.

What I love about my Hemingwrite

First, the satisfying clacking of the keys. Seriously, there’s something psychologically satiating about that. This special edition was rather decadent. It has a really nice aluminium casing on the device that is supposed to develop an unique patina. It also comes with a leather carrying briefcase and a cleaning cloth. Is it pricier than their other offerings? Absolutely. However, I feel that it’s an investment in my career as a writer.

Second, the fact that I can take it anywhere without internet. As long as I know what I’m writing, I can get down to it. Makes me wish Calgary Transit’s LRT trains have those kinds of work tables you’d see on European trains. I’m also thinking that once I get my transition paid for, I can write and travel. I’d like to experience what it’s like to write in St. Pierre et Miquelon, les Îles-de-la-Madeline, or Prince Edward Island.

Having said that though, my Freewrite is definitely coming with me to Thailand, South Korea, Mexico, Spain, and the UK as I work to finish up my transition.

Social encouragement with writing

Finally… it’s actually helping me to put more words down on the screen. If you take a look at my Postbox profile, you’ll see that I have been adding about a thousand words a day over the past couple of weeks. This has been fairly consistent over the past couple of weeks since I got my Hemingwrite. Seriously, if you read my review of Sprinter, you’ll see that I recently earned the 1K words achievement. In the first two days of having my Hemingwrite, I got enough words down to push myself above the line to get the 10K words achievement.

I’m hoping that soon, I can earn the 100K words achievement, which comes with a physical badge. The profile is also helping me to build a daily drafting habit, which is definitely going to help me bring more novels to the draft stage so I can work on editing them.

What can get irritating about this Smart Keyboard

The thing that irritates me the most about my Hemingwrite is that it doesn’t work with all wi-fi networks. For example, if you have to sign in using a web browser, you can’t connect to that network. Which means I can’t use my library’s wi-fi. However, it does mean that I can use the wi-fi network at more local businesses. It does mean more patronage for them and thus, more work discovering new places to write.

I’m also not entirely sure how good the battery life is. I know that I’ve been told that the battery life should get you two months of use. However, I wonder what basis they’re using for those figures.

Also, the screen updating is rather slow. This is a slight irritation, but I would be remiss by not telling you what my experience has been. I think it might be a limitation with the e-ink screen. Having said that though, the same can be said of WordPress’ Gutenberg editor when you have a particularly long post you’re working on.

Furthermore, the shortcut configurations can be a bit convoluted.

Finally, I know I’ve hit the “Send” button accidentally one too many times. Though, I am considering setting up a system where I can draft future posts on this blog with the Freewrite. Then, I can send them to a special e-mail to have them brought into WordPress for editing.

In Conclusion: The Hemingwrite is Worth It

Put simply, if the objective is to get words on the screen to be edited later, the Hemingwrite is worth it. If you want to be an author, the most important things is to get writing. Will it suck? Absolutely. A lot of the words you’ll write will be inartful and will need editing. But if you waste a lot of time second guessing yourself, you won’t get much done. The point of drafting is to create a rough draft that you can go back and edit later.


Expressing Yourself On the Web: Jekyll & Github Pages

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Expressing Yourself on the Web

Yesterday, in my series about expressing yourself on the web, I talked about Neocities and the expressing yourself in an old web way. Today, I’m going to write about using Jekyll & Github Pages to build a website.

What is Github Pages?

Github Pages is a service run by Github that allows users to launch web pages for free. It was launched to help open source projects have a place to communicate information about their projects.

Github has limited preprocessing. Namely, processing Markdown and Jekyll projects. Hence why I’m recommending Jekyll to go along with Github Pages.

What is Jekyll?

A screenshot of the homepage of Jekyll.

Jekyll is a ruby-based system to facilitate pre-processing static content written in Markdown. It allows you to use a command-line interface to compile a site into static content. Alternatively, you can use Github Pages to avoid the command-line interface and have Github compile the site for you.

If you have a Mac, you can install Jekyll pretty easily using the Terminal. And I’ll explain how.

What you’ll need to know to use Jekyll & GitHub Pages

Honestly, you’ll need the HTML & CSS knowledge I mentioned in the Neocities review, but with this, you’ll also need to understand concepts related to Git and some Ruby knowledge wouldn’t hurt. So, if Neocities seemed a bit challenging for you, I wouldn’t recommend this approach either.

How to install Jekyll on Mac and set up a website

First, go into the Applications folder. Then, go into the Utilities folder. There should be an app labelled “Terminal”. Open it. You’ll need to copy and paste the following command into your terminal:

gem install bundler jekyll

Then, once that command has finished running, you’ll need to navigate to where you want to install the Jekyll site. For example, if you want to put the folder in your Documents folder, you’ll need to run this command.

cd ~/Documents

Then, run the following command, changing the text in bold into the name you want to choose for a site. No, you can’t use spaces in this version of the name so don’t ask.

jekyll new my-awesome-site

There you go! You’ll have a new Jekyll site on your computer. All you’ll have to do is commit it to GitHub with every change. You could do so through the command line, but you can also use the GitHub Desktop app.

If you found this a bit too involved, the next option will probably be more your speed. If you found it too easy, then Thursday’s entry would probably make you happy.


Expressing Yourself on the Web: Neocities

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Expressing Yourself on the Web

In this week-long series on expressing yourself on the web, I want to talk about five separate services that allow you a platform you can use to express yourself on the web. Today, we’ll be talking about Neocities, a host of static HTML pages and popular with sites that use old-web tech.

What can you build on Neocities?

Honestly, if everything your website can do is done in the browser with no server processing, Neocities is okay for you. Though, you probably would need some knowledge of HTML and CSS. You can find free learning guides on Sadgrl’s website and Codeacademy. However, if you want a guided learning path, I’d recommend this track from Treehouse.

Put simply, if you used something like Geocities back in the day (think 1990s to early 2000s), this is the service for you.

If running WordPress is crossing your mind, Neocities is probably not for you. If you plan to use this to build a blog, don’t. Honestly, this service isn’t great for that. Also, any preprocessing is going to be out the door, so things like Markdown are not going to be interpreted into HTML for you.

Having said that, though, the wide variety of sites that exists on Neocities is something to behold. As someone who actually used the old web, I can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic. Seeing all these websites use old web tech makes me irrationally happy. I, for one, would love to see more people building websites using this tech.

What would I recommend this service for?

Honestly, pages that you don’t intend to update often. Also, if you’re not uncomfortable with a text editor like Nova or VS Code. Alternatively, you can use some sort of WYSIWYG HTML generator.

On the one hand, it is a free service. However, on the other hand, you’ll have to work to publish anything here. So, this service is perfect for smaller websites where you don’t mind updating things manually.


Mastodon, ActivityPub, the Fediverse, the Fall of Twitter, and Free Speech

Elon Musk finally bought Twitter and as anyone with eyes has predicted, the site is going to hell in a handbasket. Despite claiming to be a “free speech absolutist”, he has blocked several journalists, people who parodied him, rival social media platforms like Mastodon, and anyone who he simply doesn’t like. Meanwhile, he’s decided to unblock and protect transphobes, white supremacists, and other such monsters. And while I don’t approve of his completely reckless and irresponsible behaviour, it is his platform.

And now, it’s our choice as to whether or not we want to be on it or not.

Not your server, not your platform

Here’s the thing people don’t get. Twitter is a privately-owned proprietary platform, so nothing that they do could be considered an infringement on free speech. Not before Elon’s takeover and certainly not afterwards. Twitter owes no obligation to you. Twitter, as a private business, can do business with anyone they wish. This is the crux of the problem with all the big social media platforms. At whim or will, they can ban a person’s account and, barring certain exceptions, you just have to deal with it.

This is why open social media networks, like Mastodon, have been gaining traction. Mastodon is different as it’s not just one network nor does it use a proprietary standard. Anyone can join a Mastodon instance and if they don’t like their instances, they can move their content from one instance to another. Or, in other words:

And even better, sites like Mastodon use a standardized framework known as ActivityPub.

What is ActivityPub?

ActivityPub is a standard. And this is what makes it freer than any network like Facebook. Whereas Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram are walled gardens, ActivityPub is an open standard. Combined with federation, you can post a wide variety of content that can be viewed on a wide variety of platforms. This site is now using ActivityPub through a WordPress plugin which broadcasts an ActivityPub stream. Now, you can follow this blog on Mastodon, CalcKey, or any other ActivityPub-enabled platform. Just follow me at on your preferred instance of choice and you’ll get my blog. Just as if you follow me at @daria, you’ll get my social posts. And that’s because these sites “federate” with each other.

And it is my hope that soon-ish, I can create better federation between this site and other ActivityPub platforms like Pixelfed, Peertube, and BookWyrm and move off of (or reduce my dependency on) sites such as Instagram, YouTube, and GoodReads.

What the hell is federation?

Federation is interconnectivity between services. Just like how e-mail services “federate”, ActivityPub “federates” in a similar way. You put the user’s username first (in my case for Mastodon, it’s daria), then an “@” symbol, and then the server name (in my case, it’s “”), so it’s @daria.

Why the hell should I care?

Put simply, you should care because this is the way you get your free speech. Private companies like Twitter and Meta have no obligation to you. And with the walls closing in, you should get out now.

WordPress Marketing

Bringing the Get Noticed Theme Back to Life

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Building My Author Website

As I mentioned in my previous post, I talked about building my author brand. Needless to say, I need a website to communicate with any potential fans I might (hopefully) get. And, ideally, it wouldn’t be some cookie cutter WordPress theme used by every other site. I have a few ideas and points of inspiration to draw from. Currently, I’m working on bringing back the Get Noticed Theme, but modernizing it a bit for the modern world and WordPress. In this post, I will explain why I’m using the Get Noticed theme as a base for my new author website. Then, I reveal my inspiration and give you some ideas about what I’m going to change with the theme.