Where I Write

I use a laptop so most of the time I write on my lunch break, somewhere secluded where I won’t be interrupted. Noise cancelling headphones pipe music from the playlist on Spotify that I create for each novel I write. I use either GoogleDocs or Libre Office’s Write, which is a free word processor very much like MS Word. I use Ubuntu on my laptop. I use a Microsoft keyboard and an HP wireless mouse. My external monitor is an HP. When I write at home, I sit at an oak wood writing desk that belongs to my wife and looks out into our backyard from our master bedroom.

There are some books on writing craft, a water bottle and sometimes a speaker for guitar jamming breaks. Someday, when my kids leave the house, I will get my own writing den. But that’s not likely to happen for quite a few years on.

I made the switch to Linux from Mac years ago and have never looked back. There’s nothing that I can’t do on Linux. I don’t game or enjoy spending money on proprietary software and I hate dealing with viruses. So work gets done and I don’t have to mess with the OS very much.

I’ve never used Windows to write my novels. I used the hell out of an old white plastic MacBook, but Apple decided not to support it and the case literally fell apart over time. So I went back to Linux. I’ve used all kinds of distros but have settled on Ubuntu because I just don’t like to mess with all that anymore.

My New Writing Workflow

I’ve been changing my writing workflow this week. What follows is how I draft, edit and build my Indie novel ebooks. I’m admittedly an extreme corner case here, but I think no matter which OS you use, these tools are available. You may have to tailor some programs to your specific OS (Operating System).

I start with Plume Creator. Plume is a first draft writing program similar to Scrivener. Since I write on Ubuntu, I can’t use Scrivener and for the last three novels I’ve used Plume with great success. Plume is Open Source and can be downloaded for Linux and Windows. There is a Mac version, but it’s a few releases behind.

I then export to .odt and import the book into Libre Office’s Write. Then I send it to my editor and he marks it up using Write’s commenting features. When we get the manuscript perfect, I’m ready to build my epub. Write is Open Source and can be used on Linux, Mac and Windows. After all my edits are made, I clean up the document removing tabs and extra spaces.

I now use Jutoh to import my .odt document and divide it up into separate chapter files and add front and back matter pages. I use Jutoh to set my style sheet and import special fonts. When done, I unzip the epub and look it over in the fourth program – Sublime Text 2. Jutoh is NOT Open Source but is available for Linux, Mac and Windows.

Sublime Text is an editor used by programmers. It lets me manually tweak the XML in the epub. Sublime Text is NOT Open Source and is available for Linux, Mac and Windows. Reminder – you must unzip an .epub directory to get at the raw XML files. As you can see below, Jutoh leaves a nice clean base to work with.

You can probably substitute Scrivener for Plume and Word for Write on both Mac and Windows OS. There are many other programming editor tools available on Mac and Windows that are free or low cost.

A Brief Look At Ubuntu 14.04 LTS

Screenshot at 09-16-16

The plan was to update my laptop at work, preferably before noon, so that I could use my lunch hour to edit my novel. But Ubuntu didn’t update their repositories until after I got home. Leading to me calling the release “Tardy Tahr”. So I didn’t actually get to upgrade until an hour before bed. I still only have about an hour’s time on the new OS, so my comments here are not going to be complete.

First Impressions

It looks familiar on the surface. But closer inspection reveals a refinement that just makes me smile. Since I’m using a Dell XPS 13″ laptop with 13.10 on it, I’ve had no end of fits getting the touch pad to work correctly. Apparently the drivers for it were only available in the 12.04 LTS version of the operating system. Now that I’m on a new LTS (Long Term Service), I have a perfectly working touch pad. By working I mean that it no longer reacts negatively to my slight wrist brushes while I type. This is a BIG deal for a writer.

The other new feature that I welcomed enthusiastically was the ability to shrink the launcher bar to something the size of the menu bar at the top. This nets me a bunch of horizontal screen space. I love that feature. You can see this in the screenshot above.

As for all the other included awesomeness, I really don’t care. The two things that bothered me the most about the OS are now “fixed”. I’m ready to get working on the next novel. Congratulations to Canonical and all the volunteers who worked on Trusty Tahr. Another excellent release!


Weekend Update 08 Sep 2013

Special Birthday edition of the Weekend Update. Today I am forty-eight years old.


My son’s team got shut out by a group of kids that have been playing for each other for four years and were really good. But they shut out the other team in the second half, so they were making adjustments good. We have two key players injured. Hopefully they will be back for next week’s game.

My BSU Broncos had a big day on The Blue, destroying Tennessee Martin. Not sure if this means the Broncos are still good, or just good against lesser teams. Time will tell.

Testing Plume Creator

A big week for testing Plume Creator, the writing software I use. Cyril, the programmer served up a new stable build that fixed a bug in how the main text was displayed and in turn created a new customization tool for it. It has been such a pleasure working with Cyril and the other software testers that work on Plume over the past year. The program has come a long way and now I can finally say that I no longer miss Scrivener. In a month or so I will have finished my first novel using Plume Creator and I can honestly say that I love writing with it. I first started using Scrivener when it was in beta years ago but I never had a relationship with the developer. Chiefly because Scrivener is closed source and therefor not open to the kinds of suggestions that an Open Source project like Plume Creator is. So while you can suggest that Apple, Microsoft or Scrivener add a feature to their software, unless thousands of users agree, it ain’t happening. Meanwhile, everyone who uses Plume Creator can have a voice in what features are added even how they get implemented if you know how to program.

If you take the time to download and actually use Plume Creator, we encourage you to send the programmer emails when you find a bug or if you can think of a better way to accomplish something. Cyril appreciates all input and everyone will benefit from it in the end. One of the things I always preach when it comes to writing is giving back to the art and craft. If you have success, help lift others up. If you have a skill, pass it on to others. If you use a tool, help the developer make it better. It’s more than just good karma, you may actually learn something about yourself and your tools. And that will make you a better person and a better writer.

Writing Tools

I ordered a new laptop stand and a seven port USB 2.0 hub. They both arrived this week and below you see them in action on my home writing desk. I’m happy with both products now that I slid the hub under the stand to hide its high intensity green power light. Why do companies make such bright lights on appliances? Don’t their designers actually live with their products? I think not.



I also found a shorter HDMI cable to use for connecting the laptop to the monitor. Be nice if dongle makers would cater to non-Apple devices and make black HDMI adapters. White is a horrible color for a computer accessory. The two outside ports on the USB hub are power chargers for my phone and tablet. The first two slots are taken up by the wireless keyboard and mouse, which is why I needed USB 2.0 instead of going with the 3.0 version. Apparently USB 3.0 interferes with wireless signals. The Cooler Master fan stand seems to be doing the trick in keeping my CPU happy while attached to the external monitor. I’ve been monitoring the CPU temp and it seems about ten to fifteen degrees cooler than without the fan.

Now I need to work on wire management and see if I can clean up this desk a bit.

Plume Beta Sneak Peek

Thought I’d offer my audience a look at the latest Plume Beta, since it’s really not for public consumption yet. This being Beta software, things are not final and are subject to change. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s see what’s cooking for the next Plume Creator release.

Cyril has been giving the Project Tree an overhaul in an effort to make drag and drop smoother and faster. All his hard work is beginning to pay off, because in the limited testing I’ve done, it’s working great. Another new addition to the Tree is icons for Books, Acts, Chapters and Scenes. Yes, you read that right. Acts is new. As you can see in the screenshot below, your novel or book can now have Acts. Very cool. Kudos to Tushant Mirchandani, the new icons look clean and sharp. Again, things are in flux in this area, so the icons may change before the next release. Tushant is also responsible for the new layout options of the main screen.


Below is a screen shot of the Outliner which is now called the Workbench. This is where you are supposed to create your book in outline form. All changes to this Workbench outline immediately show up on the main screen shown above.


There are more new features planned and I’ll let you guys in on them as I test them. Rest assured that Plume Creator is still very much in development and is getting better with every release.

The Final Sticker

I’ve only had this laptop for a year or so, but I finally finished decorating it. It now carries three stickers. On the bottom it has the Powered by Ubuntu sticker and on the super key it has the Ubuntu circle. This weekend I put the black Ubuntu circle around the Dell logo on the lid. That’s it, done.

It’s been a decent computer for the most part. But it does tend to over heat and shut down if you have it on anything other than a perfectly flat surface. Also, the drivers for the touch pad are still poor. No setting will completely hold off your palms from jerking your cursor around the screen. I can get it to stop for a while with programs, but eventually they die and I have to reboot them.

In playing around with my kid’s new Chromebook, I’m really tempted to go that route next time. Things just work. If I got the Pixel, I could probably get Ubuntu on it without much difficulty. I wonder how Ubuntu works on the Pixel with the touch pad?

My next computer will either be a Pixel or more likely, a System 76 laptop. I’d rather support companies that make Linux only computers over the likes of Dell and HP who have sold their souls to the devil. Heh, I still don’t like Microsoft all these years later.


New Version of Plume Creator Released


Version 0.61 Beta of Plume Creator has hit the download servers at Sourceforge. Get it while it’s hot!

Lots of attention has been placed on the look and feel of this release. If you are a writer who likes the idea of a Scrivener type program, but needs it to work on Linux like I do, this program is well worth the effort to get and start using. It’s also available to Windows users.

I’m one of a handful of people helping the developer, Cyril Jacquet, test the program. In fact, I’ve been using Plume Creator to write my latest novel and absolutely loving it. This is still beta software, but I’ve never had it completely botch my novel. Normal backups guarantee that peace of mind.

Cyril is very open to suggestions in making the program better, so if while using it you think of a way to improve it, let him know. You could see that feature in a future release! Plume is Open Source and uses the QT libraries, the same as KDE. As you can see in the above screenshot, it looks fabulous in Unity.