backlit colemak keyboard

Backlit Colemak Keyboard!

I use a Colemak keyboard layout. Yes, it was hard to switch, but worth it. I can now type all day without strain on my knuckles.

My husband has a beautiful backlit keyboard and I have been a little jealous. My keyboard was nice, but it had stickers…because I still need to see the letters. I’m a coder. Sometimes I need to find | (which doesn’t move on Colemak, but you get the idea).

Last week, my husband gave me a beautiful new computer for my birthday, and it came with a stunning backlit keyboard.

I immediately installed the Colemak driver so I could type and went to work…but I kept struggling because all of the keys were labelled wrong! (Standard) I had to close my eyes to type.

The documentation online did not say how to remove the keycaps, only that they were removable. Presumably this is for when you spill your drink on the keyboard as it is waterproof. I saw some videos online, but the model didn’t match and the keys looked different.

Tech support was no help.

Giving up, I thought about trying to buy a new keyboard already set up for Colemak, but they were all expensive and no way near as cool as this one.

Frustration won in the end. I pulled out my screw driver and gently pried up on one of the keys. Snap — off it came. And it wasn’t broken!

With my trusty Colemak layout in hand, I gently removed each key that needed to move and put them in the “right” place. A gentle push down and they were all set. Solid. Comfortable. Beautiful.

I don’t know that this would work on all keyboards, but I want to encourage anyone else who is desperate. If you’re willing to risk damaging the keyboard, it is possible to move the keys, at least on this MSI Interceptor!

And isn’t it cool looking?

Happy New Year 2019

Let’s Change the World

2019 is about to rush onto the stage as 2018 slinks off in embarrassment.

The world isn’t the best place to live right now. Has anyone else noticed? People are at each others throats over politics, religion…just about everything. Seems to me, we’ve got a lot of nervous energy being directed at anyone who looks like they might be a safe target.

Let’s make a real change.

Growing up, I learned that God wanted us to give Him 10% of our wages. Maybe you learned that differently. Maybe you learned: save 10%, give 10%.

Or maybe you never learned that.

A lot of people have learned to make every penny count. The majority of people have had to. We all know hard working individuals who are struggling to get by.

And we all know the Scrooges who pinch every penny even though they have more than they could ever need.

The problem is that “more than they could ever need” is subjective. What is abundance to one may appear as starvation to another.

I want to take a moment and urge you to make 2019 a better year for yourself as well as the rest of the world.

Take a moment to be kind.

Buy someone a cup of coffee.

Tip a server 30% instead of 15%. You can afford to eat out. Celebrate that with generosity.

If you have nothing to give, at least give a smile and a word of encouragement. Notice those around you. They’re living in this ugly world, too.

Consider giving more.

I work with writers who are often forced to give their work away for free just to reach new readers. What if you tracked down that author whose free book you loved and bought the rest of a series…even if you didn’t have time to read them? What if you found their donation or Patreon links and blessed them? Those sorts of gifts make the difference between an author giving up and one who writes prolifically. Don’t have money? Follow their blog, and leave a comment periodically. Write a review. These are free things that can inspire them!

The world is full of hurting people. In the US, giving someone $5 doesn’t seem like it will help. Find a way to support someone elsewhere in the world. Look beyond our borders.

Give someone a sheep or help finance a well.

Want to stay closer to home? How about donating to Flint, Michigan?

One of my favorite places to send even a small amount is to a young man named Gideon who is studying to be a doctor in Nigeria. His college tuition is a tiny fraction of what it would be in the US, and even a small amount makes a huge difference in his life. When he graduates, he will have a huge impact on his entire community.

On those bad days, when the world seems to be coming apart, it is encouraging to think beyond ourselves and see that we can help others. No politics required.

Consider your buying practices.

This may be the hardest change to make.

When you can get books for free, why should you pay for them?

If you can negotiate a better price, why should you pay more?

If someone is willing to work for less, why shouldn’t we benefit?

The answer is simple: by paying more, you are giving someone (usually a creative individual) the opportunity to earn a living wage. Doctors, dentists, and lawyers all expect to be paid. Gardeners, writers, and graphic artists need to be paid if you want them to keep creating and making the world more beautiful.

Pay extra to buy products not made by slave labor. Research the companies you deal with, and be willing to pay more to those whose employees are earning a living wage.

Let’s use our dollars to empower companies to do better by their workers. Let’s use our cents to fund a more creative world.

Let’s change the world.

Let’s make 2019 something to be proud of.

Happy New Year!

peaceful landscape sunny sky

Why I Love Inbox Zero

Inbox Zero is what happens when you have no unread messages in your email inbox.

Wait? That’s a thing?

Yep. Gmail even has a special happy blue background with a bright sun to celebrate the moment when you’ve reached that blissful point.

I have clients who have thousands of emails pending, and I’m continually having to help fight the fires of forgotten customers and misplaced reminders. (The classic nightmare is forgetting to renew anti-spam on a website. Add a free-for-all attack by spammers to an already over-full inbox and you might as well give up and revert to snail mail.)

I strive for Inbox Zero.

I’m not there every day, but I do see the happy sun peeking out from behind the clouds of email every few days.

Want to see it?

Here’s how:

Let things be done.

Are you afraid of losing things in your email archives? If so, switch to Gmail or another program that archives your completed email messages.

Learn to search those messages.

If it is done, mark it as completed and let the archives handle it. You’ll be able to find it whenever you need it, and as a bonus you’ll be able to find important active items when they aren’t hidden by these mountains of work you’ve already handled.

Answer everything you can right now.

If you have a bunch of emails that just need a “yes” or “no” or some bit of quick information, spend a few moments responding.

My extra father taught me most of what I know about business. He said, “Touch a thing once. Try to make it so you don’t need to touch it again.”

You’re already looking at your email. You’re already distracted.

Something you need to put on your calendar? Do it now and mark that email done.

If you need more than just a few moments to complete the task, it can stay until a later step.

Decide when you will do the rest.

Give each item a quick moment of consideration. Does this belong on a to-do list? Or is it just something that you need a few moments of peace to formulate a more thorough reply?

Gmail and many other mail programs offer you the ability to “snooze” or “schedule” an email. If this item is not something you can or will handle right now, decide when you want to see it, and schedule it for then.

I recently had a promo bit that I needed to do for a class I’m teaching. Some amazing graphics showed up in my inbox. They were perfect, but it was too soon to do the promo. I scheduled that email to reappear on the day I wanted to do the promo. When that day came, the email popped into my inbox and I quickly shared to social media. Promo done!

Set items to appear when you need them.

Store reference material.

Do you need that recipe to use later? Print it and put it in your recipe box. Or better yet, zap it into Evernote. (Note: I’m a partner with Evernote and that’s a tracking link. I love teaching folks how to use it to simplify their lives! When enough people click on my tracking links, Evernote will help me promote my classes.)

Having systems that you can trust to store your information where you can find it will eliminate piles of paper on the counter and avalanches of email in your inbox.

Create automated tools to filter your email.

This may take you 15 minutes to learn to do well. It will save you hours.

In your email program, learn how to filter emails into folders.

For example, all of my NaNoWriMo emails go into a folder automatically. Purchase receipts are another good thing to filter.

Once you have the filters set up, decide how to handle that folder.

Many of my folders are things that I need to see, but don’t need to save. I open the folder once a day, skip the content, and then delete the entire folder.

Learn what tools your chosen email system offers, and then take a few moments to learn to use them well.

Consider email bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy is never our first choice, but if you’ve got more than 3000 unread emails, you’re probably in trouble.

Perform the steps above on the most recent hundred or so emails, and then archive everything.

Poof: instant happy email box.

Now, after you recover from the trauma of that moment, take a deep breath and commit to going through your email at least once a day with the goal of hitting Inbox Zero.

Yes, you will have misplaced some important things.

The good news is that everyone already expected you to have lost their email, so they’ll probably email you again. Anything truly urgent will surface, and everything is archived.

Reap the rewards.

People are frequently stunned by how quickly I respond to an email.

Of course I respond quickly! It is between me and my happy sunshine!

Once you’ve lived with Inbox Zero for a few days, you’ll begin to see how much more productive and efficient you are. You’ll see how much less time you’re wasting staring at ALL those emails. You’ll also learn that your inbox is no longer a source of fear and stress. Fear and stress lead to procrastination. Procrastination leads to an inbox full of unread messages.

When you can see all of your inbox at one glance, you’ll be less likely to miss important messages.

Have you tried Inbox Zero? What has your experience been? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Shattered American Flag

What’s Wrong with American Democracy

Right now, do an exercise:

Pick one hot topic that you feel strongly about. Pick something you feel so strongly about that you are willing to fight for it.

Now, describe someone who holds the opposing view.

Did you come up with words like stupid or idiot? How about the more intellectually appropriate word: uninformed?

If so, then I want to be rude and say that you don’t actually understand your topic at all.

If you are willing to die on that hill, you should probably know what is on the other side of it.

What’s wrong with democracy is that we have lost our empathy.

Deleyna Marr

I’ve just made many of my good friends mad, and I apologize for that. But I’m sick of this bi-partisan bickering. I’m tired of watching my friends insult each other and behave like schoolhouse bullies.

A friend recently said that we needed to fight for a specific cause or else we’d all be living in Nazi Germany. Another friend pointed out that at the heart of Nazi Germany was the belief that there was an “us” and a “them” and that the “them” were somehow less than human. That exterminating “them” would somehow make “us” more safe.

While none of my friends have voted for extermination, many have disenfranchised others by calling their beliefs stupid and unfounded. I have heard respected friends suggest that the other side (pick an issue) is just too stupid to be allowed to vote.

You know what? I don’t have stupid friends.

My friends are passionate people who want the best for their families and their communities. My friends are strong, good, moral people. They just disagree on the polarizing issues that have riddled the American public solidarity.

I’ve seen the same issues affecting other countries as well.

I’ve quietly watched on the sidelines since before the 2016 election as friends cruelly posted insulting memes they thought were cute and hilarious. It is hard to respect someone who will happily insult half of the population as a joke…and yet we’ve all seen it done over the last couple of years by both sides of any argument you want to use as an example.

No. That isn’t funny.

I thought about posting samples in this commentary, but there are no safe topics. Anything I might point at and say, “See — there?” would have half of my friends ganging up on the other half. We’d devolve into insulting each other.

Unacceptable.

A friend recently said that she’d damaged her online platform by posting political commentary. She’d watched her subscription rates falling and only recently realized that it was her political commentary that was causing the issue. She thought she was in the majority, so she felt safe to insult the other side. She was wrong: on both counts.

(In Nazi Germany) early victims were easy targets, people whom other Germans did little or nothing to protect, and whose disappearance from the public scene they often welcomed.

Germany and the Camp System

Facebook blames the Russians.

The US Government blames Facebook.

This isn’t a Facebook problem. This isn’t a Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, or Green problem. This is a human problem.

Nazis specialized in pitting people against each other, as a way to ease the processes of subjugation and destruction. Within Germany, this approach meant picking on the least popular elements of the population first, so as to maximize public support, or at least indifference.

Germany and the Camp System

This isn’t “us” or “them.”

As a country, as a people, we must have enough confidence in our own beliefs to allow others to hold opposing views. To devalue others is to devalue ourselves.

We can continue to let the fear mongers scream that we must stop “them” before they destroy “us” or we can take a stand and reach across every divide with respect and empathy.

Who’s with me?

blue eye with futuristic computer overlay

Writers: Surviving Technological Revolution

I admit it: I dearly want to climb under my desk, put my hands over my ears, and chant “la la la” until I can ignore the changes in my digital world. I want to go back to the glory days of the internet when everything was shiny and new and I felt like I had a chance of keeping up with the pace of change.

Whether we’re racing towards our doom or turning a corner into a golden age, technology is changing.

Writers must adapt or be left behind.

Deleyna Marr

I work with writers, hang out with writers, and teach writers. They seem to fall into one of several categories: those who are ignoring the technological change, those who are wondering what we can do with it, and those who are giving up on writing and taking up knitting.

I once heard Thomas Kincaid say that if you can do anything other than your art, you should. Art consumes the artist. If you can walk away: do.

For the rest of you, I want to make one thing clear: ignoring this revolution is a bad idea.

If we accept that the internet and our interactions with the world are changing, how can writers survive the change?

Step 1: Accept that the change is real.

I remember when I first saw a mobile device listed on the statistics for a website, I thought, “Wow! Someone actually thought they could go to this site on a phone!”

Just a few years later, and that thought is hilarious. I jokingly say that I’m watching my stats for when someone comes in on their toaster. Or their microwave.

It won’t be long.

Step 2: Embrace the change.

I’ve been spending a lot of time watching indie programming. My favorite is an old story-telling form that has embraced modern technology: roll-playing games. Shield of Tomorrow sent me into Geek nirvana. Callisto 6 does not disappoint.

But these story telling adventures are only the beginning.

Transmedia storytelling is here, and its influence will only continue to grow as technology changes.

If you hang out with those who make the internet, you’ll hear them talking about how the internet is changing. The very fabric of how we consume media is changing.

New devices are on the way. New algorithms appear every day.

Algorithms are at the heart of sales and discovery for authors.

Deleyna Marr

Authors are reporting Amazon algorithm changes are killing their sales. Algorithms are at the heart of sales and discovery for authors. These algorithms must change in response to the authors who spend more time on gaming the system than they do on creating content.

We must continue to build our email lists and connect with readers.

One-on-one connections are still the best marketing.

But how we make those connections and how we tell our stories is changing.

Step 3: Create good content.

This is where writers have an edge on the competition. We are content creators.

How that content is displayed to our readers may change. How readers interact with our content will definitely change. Spend much time around transmedia and you’ll discover that consumers want to interact with the story world. They want to connect with the author. They want to drive the story in new and creative directions. Consumers become creators.

This terrifies some writers. We’ve been taught to guard our copyrights fiercely. I’m not opposed to copyrights, but I want to encourage those who are writing for the future to consider allowing your readers to engage with your stories on a creative level.

Don’t stop creating.

Understand: if you are one of the authors making a living by gaming Amazon or another algorithm, enjoy it while it lasts. But don’t put all of your eggs in that basket. Algorithms are about to take a leap forward with the addition of AI.

Content: good, solid, entertaining content will always rule.

Don’t let changing technology distract you from the sheer joy of your creation. You’re an artist simply because you can’t be anything else. Embrace your creativity, create good content, and enjoy the process.

Experiment with new technology. Have fun with it.

Surf the waves of content algorithms and enjoy the ride. If you wipe out, paddle back out and catch the next wave.