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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Flash Fiction Friday: “The Shadows That Bind”

I saw the prompt for this week and knew I had to find the time to take part.  After missing last week’s prompt, I wasn’t about to let another fantasy prompt slip through my fingers without at least a token effort.   I decided to tell the story of Chicky, the shadowkin creature featured in a previous story.  Enjoy!

Prompt: Take your typical fairy tale villain or monster and make them the protagonist. Must use “something wicked this way comes” as a line in the story.
Genre: Any
Word Limit: 1,200 words
Deadline: 4/19 by 9:00 AM ET

The Shadows That Bind

Dozens of the creatures waited outside the clearing, blending seamlessly with the shadows. If they wished, they could melt into the darkness and hide their grotesque forms, two glowing embers the only sign of their presence. But here in this forest there was no need for subterfuge; ensnared by their own kind, they waited, trapped here, for their yearly feeding.

Quiet as a whisper on a breeze, they fidgeted in anticipation, watching as the group drew nearer to the forest’s edge. They sensed the presence of kin and another mortal darkness, maddeningly delectable. Once the trio entered the clearing, snarls erupted from the forest as the creatures recognized their captors.

Lord Cauchemar threw back his head and laughed with glee. Turning to Lady Cauchemar , he said loudly enough to be heard over the commotion their arrival had caused, “Look at the thanks we get, my dear. We house these things without ever asking for a coin in rent and this is how they treat us. Why, we’ve even brought food, a veritable feast, for them!”

A gravelly voice rang out across the clearing, laughing humorlessly. “You throw your scraps to us and call it a banquet. That girl is nothing more than a shell; she would not satisfy the smallest of us.”

Lady Cauchemar coughed politely and began to straighten the ruffles on Nora’s dress. Her soprano was softer, but resonated as easily as her husband’s voice had across the field. “I see you still speak for the others, Muddathir.”

A cloaked figure stepped forward to the clearing’s edge and spat into the clearing. “You have not the power to name me.”

Lady Cauchemar smiled good humoredly in reply. “Be careful of your choice of raiment or you will name yourself.”

Muddathir responded with silence, a silence that was taken up by the rest of the forest’s denizens. The silence was so deep and so dark that tendrils of it reached out towards the Cauchemars with killing intent. Lord Cauchemar chuckled, brushing the group’s power away as though it were dust on his lapel.

“I didn’t realize you were all so picky. If you don’t want our gift, then we’ll take her away.”

Lord Cauchemar waited a moment for a response, his grin widening when he saw looks of fear spread through the assembled crowd. When the silence continued, he shrugged and motioned to his wife to lead Nora away. The sight of Nora’s back was too much for the creatures to bear and tormented wails filled the night.

“Stop…. You would not leave us here to starve. Why keep us here if only to watch us die?”

Madduthir’s hoarse voice was the cry that halted theCauchemars’ departure. Spinning around, Lord Cauchemar chortled. “You exist to entertain us, of course. Honestly, you, Madduthir, are the most entertaining of all. Tell me, have you found another among these brutes who can speak, who can reason? Or are you still alone, surrounded by animals?”

“They are my kin. Voiceless though they may be, they are not as mindless as you believe.”

Madduthir’s response seemed to amuse the Cauchemars because they laughed hard, gasping for air they did not need to breathe. “What sentiment coming from a monster!” Wiping tears, Lady Cauchemar pushed Nora towards the forest, saying “I will be laughing for months. Here, you’ve earned your meal.”

Gaunt with hunger, the shadow creatures barely managed to restrain themselves when the girl stepped towards them. Some creatures were so starved, they were mere shadows of themselves, gray where they should have been a deep onyx.

The crunch of leaves under her boots was the only sound in the clearing as Nora walked mechanically towards the clearing’s edge. The closer she came to the forest’s edge, the more animated the shadows became, shoving one another and reaching out desperately with their clawed fingers towards the approaching girl. One smaller shadow pushed its way across the edge and into the clearing. Flapping paper thin wings, it launched itself at Nora, beak outstretched.

When it was mere inches away from tearing into the girl, a clawed appendage swatted it out of the air with enough force to send it sailing across the field and into a tree. “ENOUGH!”

Madduthir’s shout cut through the cacophony as easily as it had cut through the shadow a moment before. “Form a line. Everyone will partake of her.”

“Isn’t that sweet? You did not tell us you were their mother, Madduthir,” Lord Cauchemar called out.

Madduthir glared at the Cauchemars, as she knew they expected. Their resulting laughter kept them from noticing a figure slip into the woods.


Katta was frantic to find the baby bird she’d seen heartlessly flung in this direction. After working for them for 5 years, she knew the Cauchemars were evil, but she’d had no idea they were actually monsters. The things in the forest were terrifying. To think they were the same type of creature…

“Where are you?” she whispered as quietly as she could in the darkness. She’d never seen a bird even come near the Outer Ward and now she knew why. It was just a baby and that thing hit it. She couldn’t save Nora, but was damned if she couldn’t at least save this chick.

Leaves rustled near her feet and she sighed in relief. “Thank goodness you’re not dead.” Leaning down, she reached towards the bird when it suddenly attacked her hands. Swallowing a cry of pain, she snatched her hands back, swatting at the bird to dislodge its beak from her fingers. It fell on its back and chirped mournfully. Her eyes adjusting to the forest’s darkness, Katta could see that it was severely injured, one wing barely attached as it writhed on the ground. Looking at the blood dripping from her fingers, she suddenly realized what the bird was.

“You’re one of those shadow things.” Glancing back at the clearing, Katta was alarmed to see the Cauchemars walking away. With their protection gone, there was nothing to keep the creatures from attacking her. Looking at the injured creature, Katta took less than a minute to make up her mind. Scooping him up, she started to run back towards the castle.

“I found you and I’m going to take care of you, little one, no matter what you are.”

Back in the darkness of the forest, a cloaked shadow began to laugh a low, raspy laugh.

Photo credit: Ruben Bo

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Online Research Tools

picture of tools

It’s that time of year again! Students are scrambling to get research projects completed (or, in many cases, started!) and researchers are rushing to present their findings at conferences and in grant proposals.  The right tools can make the process of accumulating, sorting through, and synthesizing research significantly easier, freeing up time and energy for writing.

Whether you're writing a grant proposal or a children's book, one of the most important steps to producing a well written product is the collection and management of all your research. If your research is unorganized or inaccessible, it will be of no help to you in the writing process. These applications provide a variety of research management solutions that range from clipping images and words from web sites to placing your references in the appropriate citation format.

Some of these research tools allow syndication to social media sites. While that may sound like an irrelevant feature when it comes to what you really need for researching your writing project, keep in mind that society is now “wired.” If you plan on making your writing available to the public (whether for free or for a price), you would benefit greatly from marketing it yourself online to call more attention to it.

I earn NO kick-backs or revenue from any of the services listed in this post. My reviews of each product are as objective as human nature allows. Keep in mind that things change at a rapid pace online, and what was current information may be out of date in a matter of months or weeks.  Always double-check my notes yourself before committing to any service.

Whether you’re a student or professional, I hope you’ll find the following list of online research tools I’ve amassed over the years helpful.


Yahoo! Bookmarks
Google Bookmarks
Windows Live SkyDrive
Read It Later
Google Notebook
Zoho Notebook



delicious logo

Formerly known as, Delicious is a free online social bookmarking program that lets you store your bookmarks in an online database. Not only does that mean that you can track dozens of bookmarks from any device with an internet connection, but it also means you can share those bookmarks with anyone you wish.

  • Access your bookmarks online through the Delicious webpage.
  • Share bookmarks with friends or mark them private for your eyes only.
  • Associate tags with bookmarks for easy organizing.
  • Add bookmarks with a click of a button using the Firefox, Chrome, or Internet Explore plugins or a bookmarklet compatible with any browser.
  • Integrate your bookmarks into a blog or social networking site using a widget.

I've used Delicious for years now (since before they changed their name!) and am quite pleased with the service. It's a no-frills site that does exactly what it was created to do: organize and catalogue your bookmarks online. If you don't use Delicious, please consider using any other online bookmarking service; having ready access to research from any computer means being able to work even when you left your laptop at home.

Learn more about Delicious at


blinklist logo 

Not as popular as other free bookmarking sites, Blinklist has still been around since 2005. It provides the same services other bookmarking sites do, with a few key differences.

  • Log in using an Open ID or a Blinklist account.
  • Save webpages with a click of a button using a bookmarklet in your favorite browser.
  • Access bookmarks online through the Blinklist webpage.
  • Use the built-in search function to search through your bookmarks at a boasted 0.18 seconds.
  • Save a copy of the pages you bookmark on your hard drive, for offline viewing.
  • Share your links with friends or set up private groups with which to share links.
  • Discover related webpages that Blinklist recommends you visit based on what you bookmark.
  • Use Blinklist in your native language: English, Suomi, Deutsch, Italiano, Français, Español, Svenska, or Portugues.

Because Blinklist doesn't have as large a following as some of the other bookmarking services, it's worth backing up your bookmarks (as it is with any bookmarking site you use) just in case this goes the way of Ma.gnolia and Furl.

Learn more about Blinklist at

Yahoo! Bookmarks

yahoobookmarks logo

Yahoo! Bookmarks is a recent addition to the free social bookmarking services available online. The number of options it offers you for cataloguing and sharing bookmarks makes it a worthy contender for your patronage. If you already have an account with Yahoo!, you automatically also have a Yahoo! Bookmarks account.

  • Sign in using your Yahoo! user ID and password.
  • Bookmark websites using a bookmarklet in your bookmark toolbar or in the Yahoo! toolbar.
  • Organize bookmarks into folders AND with tags.
  • Reorganize bookmarks using drag-and-drop management.
  • View bookmarks in grid view, list view, or full view.
  • Share bookmarks with friends through e-mail or instant message.
  • Search using a search function that looks through bookmark titles, tags, descriptions, and each website.

If I didn't already have an established account with Delicious, the increased functionality of Yahoo! Bookmarks would be quite tempting. The only real downside to this service is its lack of integrated social media tools. There is no RSS feed to a page others can subscribe to or visit to see your recent bookmarks.

Learn more about Yahoo! Bookmarks at

Google Bookmarks

google bookmarks logo

Like other online bookmarking services, Google Bookmarks allows you to save your bookmarks online for easy access from any internet browser. Because the service is provided by Google, your bookmarks are integrated into your Google account and you can also access them through the various browser add-ons or desktop programs Google provides. Like other Google services, Google Bookmarks is free.

  • Add bookmarks to your account by clicking a bookmarklet, through the Google Toolbar, through Google Maps, or by clicking the star next to a result in Google Search.
  • Access your bookmarks from the Google Bookmarks homepage, the Google Toolbar, or the iGoogle gadget.
  • Organize your content using labels and/or lists.
  • Make lists public or private.
  • Allow collaborators access to your lists.

Google is a company that focuses on the social aspect of internet browsing, as evidenced by their recent release of the Google+ service. If that service is indeed as successful as it was heralded to be and surpasses Facebook in popularity, hosting your bookmarks with Google might not be a bad idea if your goal is to incorporate social media.

Learn more about Google Bookmarks at

Windows Live SkyDrive

windows live skydrive logo

Formerly titled Windows Live Favorites, this free web service is Microsoft's version of the Google suite of services. Each user is given 25GB of online storage for files, photos, and bookmarks. Like Google, there is built-in sharing that allows you to share your files and collaborate with other Windows Live users. If you are looking for a place to host your research and drafts for easy viewing from any device with an internet connection, Windows Live may be the solution that works for you.

Learn more about Windows Live SkyDrive at


diigo logo

Although Diigo began as a simple free online bookmarking service, over the years it has evolved into so much more. Not only can you bookmark sites, you can highlight information online, make notes directly onto webpages, save video/audio/photo information from a site, and collaborate with other Diigo users.

  • Bookmark webpages using a drag-and-drop “Diigolet” or simple bookmarklet in any browser.
  • Highlight and add sticky notes using the Web Highlighter on Chrome or the Diigo toolbar in IE or Firefox.
  • Highlight in different colors and choose from two types of sticky notes.
  • Use Diigo on an iPad, iPhone, or Android phone.
  • Publish bookmarks, annotations and notes directly to your blog, e-mail, Twitter, or Facebook.
  • Automatically add tweets you favorite on Twitter to your Diigo account.
  • Archive entire webpages for offline viewing.
  • Organize bookmarks by tags and/or lists.
  • Search your library using several different search modes.
  • Make bookmarks and annotations public or private.
  • Search Diigo users by tags and add them to your Diigo network.
  • Create public or private groups in Diigo and research collaboratively with other Diigo users.

Diigo's free service entitles you to unlimited bookmarks, 1k highlights per year, and 30 total cached webpages. Besides the free service, Diigo offers two upgraded plans that cost a modest amount of money. For $20/year, the basic plan includes unlimited highlights, full text search, and no ads. For $40/year, the premium plan includes everything the basic plan offers as well as unlimited cached pages, unlimited screen captures, and priority tech support.

Learn more about Diigo at


lilisto logo

Lilisto is a free private and public online bookmark manager. Developed by Kristoff Bertram, it is not as extensive as other bookkmark managers that have a crew of developers running it. If you're looking for simplicity, this service is the one that will appeal most to you.

  • Bookmark sites with a click of a bookmarklet you can use from your bookmark toolbar in your favorite browser.
  • Organize your bookmarks with tags.
  • Drag bookmarks into categories for a second layer of organization.
  • Search your bookmarks by tags or search query.
  • See how often you visit a site and favorite the ones you visit most frequently.
  • Post your bookmarks directly to Facebook.
  • Enjoy the clean, ad-free user interface of Lilisto.

Although Lilisto does not have as many features as other bookmark managers like Delicious or Diigo, I appreciate the minimalist approach to its design and usability. The simplicity is a breath of fresh air in a sea of services bloated with unnecessary features. If you find yourself drowning in the plethora of features available in other services and want to get back to the basics, give Lilisto a chance.

Learn more about Lilisto at


citeulike logo

Contrary to the name, this service does not actually cite your research for you. Instead, it is a free service that helps you store, organize, and share the scholarly articles you are reading.

  • Save article details to your CiteULike account using a bookmarklet in your favorite browser.
  • Search groups to see what articles they are saving that are relevant to your research.
  • Browse popular saved articles in the CiteGeist library.
  • Browse the table of contents of over 13,500 peer-reviewed journals to see what's new.
  • Browse recommendations sent to you by CiteULike based on articles you are saving.
  • Connect with other users interested in the same research fields.

While this certainly seems like a neat service, the articles that you are collecting are limited to the abstract section. Clicking on the link back to the original article brings up a sign-in page to the database that hosted the article. Having to dig out log-in information for individual databases, especially if you found the article using a multi-journal database such as JSTOR, is a pain. I personally would rather just save each file as as .pdf to my harddrive and search through them later. That way I at least have permanent access to the full-text of the article.

Learn more about CiteULike at


connotea logo

Aimed at academics, Connotea describes itself as “free online reference management for researchers, clinicians and scientists.”

  • Save links to references with the click of a bookmarklet – Connotea will add the bibliographic information to references automatically.
  • Tag saved references with as many tags as you like.
  • Share your bookmarks or mark some as private.
  • Access your library online from your Connotea account.
  • Share links with colleagues through e-mail or through a link to your Connotea library.
  • Browse other Connotea users' public bookmarks.
  • Import and export your references collectively to a desktop reference manager.
  • No storage limit on references saved.

Connotea is a powerful reference manager for researchers and I highly recommend it if you regularly search through peer-reviewed journals or use a desktop reference manager, like EndNote or Sente.

Learn more about Connotea at


mendeley logo

Similar to other free reference managers, Mendeley sets itself apart with its powerful features and ease of use. It makes the task of organizing research and citing it easy and enjoyable. It is impossible to be disorganized when using Mendeley, no matter how hard you may try. Used by some of the world's leading research institutions and funded by some of the people behind Skype,, and Warner Music, you don't have to fear that support for Mendeley will disappear anytime soon.

  • Add links to references with a click of a button.
  • Enjoy built in support for Mendeley in over 30 online research databases.
  • Fully compatible with Word 2003, 2007, 2010; Mac Word 2008, 2011; Open Office 3.2; and BibTeX.
  • Install plugins and activate features with a click of a button.
  • Cite in over 1,000 journal styles or create your own citation style.
  • Create bibliographies automatically in your word processing program.
  • Collaborate on bibliographies with colleagues through a private group.
  • Open multiple pdf files in separate tabs with your research library one click away.
  • Annotate, highlight, and add sticky notes directly to pdf documents.
  • Create private groups and share annotations with colleagues.
  • Save and print annotations on pdf files.
  • Organize research in your Library and sort through papers by author, title, journal, and more.
  • Search the full text of every article in your library when you run a search.
  • Use the simple navigation to find articles easily; no more difficult file names!
  • Import articles from websites, other research software, or drag and drop files yourself.
  • Make Mendeley “watch” a folder and automatically add files you add to that folder to your library.
  • Collaborate easily with a newsfeed of your colleagues research additions or annotations.
  • Share files and folders with colleagues and work together on papers in real time.
  • Use Mendeley's 1GB of free online storage to backup and synchronize your library across your desktop, web, and mobile device.
  • Access your library across multiple computers with Mendeley installed on each.
  • Use Mendeley on a Macintosh, Windows PC, or Linux PC.
  • Access your library online through Mendeley's website and work from any computer with internet access.
  • Discover new research and socialize through Mendeley's public groups.
  • Build an online presence in the research field through your Mendeley profile.

Where was Mendeley when I was in graduate school?! I could have definitely used this research manger back when I was in school. Its design is easy on the eyes, it makes having to organize articles and citations a thing of the past, and it automates many of the time-consuming tasks of writing a research paper. When so many organizations and individuals use Mendeley as their choice of research management software, you'll be in good company if you use it. And with a pricetag of free, you can try it out at no cost to yourself.

Learn more about Mendeley at


evernote logo

Recognizable by its elephant logo, Evernote is a note organization system that has both a free and a premium version. While it includes a desktop application (available only for Windows and Mac), its true power lies in its ability to sync your notes with its online system, letting you access them from any computer, phone, or alternate device with access to the internet.

  • Clip words or pictures from webpages.
  • Upload your own documents (free users are limited to .pdf documents).
  • Upload photos from your phone, scanner, or computer.
  • Access dozens of online tutorial videos.
  • Search through your clippings and documents quickly with the search function.

Evernote is quite comprehensive in allowing you to store virtually anything in its system, and it has a devoted user-base that swears by it. The free version is powerful enough for most users, but you do have the option of purchasing a premium account if you need more functionality and more bandwidth. The premium package allows you up to 1G of uploads, .pdf searchability, lets you upload any file type (not just .pdf), gives you access to your note history, increases the speed of image recognition, pushes you to the front of the line in tech support, and eliminates advertising. Premium will cost you $5/month or $45/year. If Evernote is your choice for research organization, use the free version to start with and upgrade to premium only if the amount of information you are saving justifies the cost.

You can learn more about Evernote at


zotero logo

Zotero is a very powerful research tool that lets you not only store your research, but also cite it properly. Created by George Mason University, this behemoth of a research tool was originally intended for use by academics. You don't have to be a scholar to reap the benefits of this tool, however, and its future development seems to be taking it in directions that will make it even more useful than it already is.

  • Capture information from any web resource (book, magazine, web page, photo gallery, etc.) you are looking at with a single click of a button.
  • Archive entire web pages in your library.
  • Upload and store a variety of file types in your library (.pdf, spreadsheets, images, etc.)
  • Tag research with labels for easier searching and access.
  • Add notes alongside your research.
  • Cite research in any major citation style (including thousands of journal-specific styles).
  • Drop citations into Word or OpenOffice through plugins.
  • Drag and drop bibliographies into e-mails, blog posts, or any word processor.

Each Zotero user is allotted 100MB of free online storage, with more storage available for a modest monetary investment. $20/year will get you 1G, $60/year will purchase 5G, and so on. I've used Zotero before and found it to be user-friendly. The number of different things it can do is comparable to much more expensive software programs like EndNote and Sente, but at a fraction of the cost (and that's if you purchase extra storage!).

You can learn more about Zotero at


clipmarks logo

Run by a cool group of guys, Clipmarks lets you literally cut text, images, and video out of any site and store it in your Clipmarks online account. Because all storage is online, you can access your data from any device that is connected to the internet. While you can see other people's clips (be careful that you don't spend too much time just browsing through others' clips!), you have the option to make your own clips private if you don't want others to see your collection.

  • Clip directly from Firefox and Internet Explorer using a browser plugin.
  • Syndicate your clips to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, and more.
  • Post clips to your blog using direct blogging integration.
  • Print only your clips to save paper and time.
  • Search your (or others') collections with the search function.
  • Edit or delete clips after you've clipped them.
  • Add comments to clips with no character limitation.
  • Organize the clips in your collection into folders.

There is a 1,000 character limit on clips, so if you are looking at a very long article online, you may have to break it up into 2 or 3 clippings. While that may feel cumbersome, remember that you don't need to clip articles in their entirety; clip the bibliographic information you'll need for citations and the parts of the article that are relevant for your purposes.

Recently, Clipmark developers have created another service called Amplify. This service is almost identical to Clipmarks (and features full integration with EXCEPT that the bookmarklet is embeddable in ALL web browsers. So if you prefer to browse using Opera, Safari, Google Chrome, or even Flox, you can now use Amplify to get all the benefits of Clipmarks for your specific browser.

Clipmarks and Amplify are both free services with no disclosed limit on storage space.

Learn more about Clipmarks at

Learn more about Amplify at


pinboard logo

Frequently compared to Delicious, Pinboard's tagline is “Social bookmarking for introverts.” The site aims to cater more to users' need for speed and utility, and less to users' social networking needs. While not free, the modest fee of $9.36 (it goes up a small increment with each new sign-up) helps keep the service free of spammers and advertisements. If you need added storage, Pinboard offers archival accounts for $25/year. These accounts will store a complete cached copy of every bookmark you make as well as allow users full-text search of their entries.

  • Use from any browser using a bookmarklet.
  • Add notes to and tag entries when you bookmark them.
  • Import your existing bookmarks from Delicious, Diigo, Ma.gnolia, and other sources.
  • Mirror public bookmarks you make on Delicious, Instapaper, Read It Later, and Google Reader.
  • Save notes to yourself as though they were bookmarked pages.
  • Tag bookmarks for easy cataloguing.
  • Mark bookmarks you don't want others to see as private.

If your emphasis is on collecting research and not on publicizing your work at the same time, the no-frills functionality of Pinboard will appeal to you.

Learn more about Pinboard at


clipclip logo

Self-described as an "online scrapbook," ClipClip is a free web service that lets you "clip" text and images from webpages without having to bookmark the entire webpage.

  • Clip text and images using a bookmarklet in your favorite browser.
  • Access your clips online from your ClipClip account.
  • Choose which clips to make private or make them all public.
  • Tag and comment clippings.
  • Organize clippings into folders.
  • E-mail clips to friends and family.
  • Create or join existing groups to share clips easily.

While I readily admit that ClipClip is a neat service that would make researching projects much more efficient, it's almost identical in function to Clipmarks. Clipmarks is also more popular and has the added feature of being fully integrated with most major web browsers through a downloadable plugin. The choice is ultimately yours, and if you enjoy supporting the underdog, ClipClip would be the way to go.

Learn more about ClipClip at


instapaper logo

Created and maintained by Marco Arment, Instapaper is a free online tool that I absolutely love and have used for several years now without problem. It allows you to “save” webpages and articles for later viewing by clicking a button in your bookmark toolbar.

  • Use from any web browser.
  • Organize articles and webpages into folders.
  • Save webpages as text only to get rid of annoying ads or photos.
  • E-mail links or long messages directly to your Instapaper account for later viewing.
  • Send articles to Instapaper directly from Google Reader or any of over 140 iPad and iPhone supported apps.
  • Download reading material for offline viewing as a Word document, Kindle or ePub ebook.

When you're researching writing projects, you will often come across articles and websites that you are either too tired or in too much of a hurry to read fully. Normally I would bookmark them to come back to them later. I highly recommend that you use either Instapaper or another similar service to keep your bookmarks menu free from clutter.

Learn more about Instapaper at

Read It Later

readitlater logo

Created by Nathan Weiner, Read It Later is another free online tool that is almost identical in fuction to Instapaper. There are a few differences between the two that are worth noting, however.

  • Use the bookmarklet from any web browser (Firefox, Chrome, and Safari have extensions you can install).
  • Edit and tag entries to categorize them for easy organizing.
  • Download reading material for offline viewing.
  • Save webpages as text to get rid of annoying ads or photos.
  • Share an article when you're done reading it through a number of social media sites.

Incredibly popular, Read It Later has more than 2 million users. If I were not already a satisfied user of Instapaper, I would definitely give Read It Later a try.

Learn more about Read It Later at


readmeo logo

Readmeo is a free online service that allows you to bookmark webpages to return to later when you have more time to read them. Similar to a bookmarking service, the purpose of Readmeo is to save reading material.

  • Save webpages to your Readmeo account using a bookmarklet.
  • Organize your saved pages into folders.
  • Add stars next to particularly important pages.

If you dislike InstaPaper and ReadItLater, Readmeo's simplicity may appeal to you. The lack of social media integration makes Readme better suited for use as a bookmark manager of webpages you want to revisit later, but don't necessarily want cluttering up your main bookmark manager service.

Learn more about Readmeo at


toread logo

ToRead is a free e-mail bookmarking service that lets you read webpages offline. It is very limited in its scope, but can be very useful if you're most comfortable accessing e-mail during the day and enjoy (or need to be) reading material offline. By dragging the bookmarklet into your favorite browser, you can click the button anytime and automatically e-mail yourself the contents of whatever webpage you were looking at. Unregistering from the service is included in your registration confirmation e-mail (which can be regenerated if you happen to lose it), so you can try this service out without fear of getting stuck with an account you don't want in the future. Unless you need the offline functionality of this service, InstaPaper and ReadLater provide the same function with a wider array of reading options.

Learn more about ToRead at

Google Notebook

google notebook logo

Google Notebook is a part of the Google suite of services. (If you have not yet looked at all of the services that Google offers, please consider going to and clicking on the “more” option to see a list of all the free applications Google has developed.) Google Notebook is free web clipping/note storing service that allows you to clip the parts of webpages you wish to keep and type notes for safe-keeping as well. It is meant to be a place to virtually store ideas, research, and anything else you would normally jot down in a physical notebook.

  • Log in to your Google Notebook using your Google account.
  • Install a browser extension for Internet Explorer and Firefox to clip, bookmark, or create notes without leaving the browser screen.
  • Create multiple notebooks and create sections within notebooks.
  • Organize bookmarks, text notes, and clippings into notebooks and/or using labels.
  • Search your notebook(s) content with a search function.
  • Export all your information to Google Docs.
  • Invite collaborators to add to or delete from your notebook contents.
  • Share your notebook as a public web page.
  • Easily remove collaborators or notebook webpages if you change your mind about sharing.

When I was in graduate school, classmates would type their notes directly into Google Notebook while listening to the professsor lecture. It was convenient, free, and always available via the internet. Unfortunately, Google is no longer developing Google Notebook, which means there will be no future updates and it is not open to new users. Unless you already have an account with Google and activated your Google Notebook user acount, you're out of luck.

Learn more about Google Notebook at

Zoho Notebook

zoho notebook logo

Similar in function to Google Notebook, Zoho Notebook is a productivity application provided by Its main function is to help you collect and access research or other information online.

  • Sign in using your Facebook, Yahoo!, Google, Google Apps, or Zoho account.
  • Create text, image, video, or audio content and embed them directly into your notebook pages.
  • Clip information from webpages using the Firefox browser plugin.
  • Attach files directly to notebook pages.
  • Embed RSS feeds as objects directly into your notebook pages or add entire webpages into your notebook.
  • Create multiple notebooks and pages within notebooks.
  • Integrate other Zoho services into your notebook or create new spreadsheets or writer pages directly in your Zoho notebook.
  • Share notebooks, individual pages, or parts of a page with collaborators or publish them online.
  • Collaborators can work on one notebook at the same time making the notebook a virtual whiteboard.
  • Skype and Zoho chat are integrated into shared notebooks so you can call or chat with collaborators who are online.
  • Easily revoke sharing privileges if you change your mind.
  • Save work automatically and revert back to previous versions if need be.

Like Google, Zoho is an online application suite that includes a word processor, spreadsheet application, calendar, planner, and notebook (to name a few). Zoho Notebook is just one of the applications available and if you are interested in hosting your files online and have yet to choose a service provider, I recommend you check Zoho out.

Learn more about Zoho Notebook at


marrows logo

Developed by a Turkish startup, Marrows is a free online social bookmarking/web clipping service that emphasizes the social nature of the Internet. Instead of trying to compete with similar services like Delicious and Clipmarks, it aims to become a useful tool in a researcher's toolbox.

  • Sign in with Facebook, Twitter, OpenID, or create a account.
  • Bookmark sites using the Firefox or Chrome add-ons or a bookmarklet in your favorite browser's bookmark toolbar.
  • Clip only the parts of a webpage or article you want and type and store notes alongside your clippings.
  • Mark bookmarks as public or private.
  • Organize your saved bookmarks and notes into categories and create tags for items.
  • Download your (or others'!) saved clips and bookmarks in PDF, HTML, DOC, or TXT format.
  • Connect with and follow other Marrows users.
  • Share your bookmarks and notes with others through RSS feed, Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail.
  • Join and create groups of users with similar interests.
  • Track your items and comments on a line graph and see your recent activity.

I am quite impressed with this service. Despite not being very old, it rivals its competitors in terms of user friendliness and features. It even has features the more established bookmarking services lack! I do hope this service gains popularity; once it does, I would have no reservations about switching over to it. There is one small issue, however, with Marrows: Reading the tour and “about” sections of the website, it's quite clear that Marrows was launched by people whose first language is not English. Only a few grammar errors actually show up in the Marrows service itself once you log in because you generate most of the content on your Marrows webpage.

Learn more about Marrows at


memonic logo

Memonic is a free web service that lets you capture, organize, and share information. Not only does Memonic allow you to clip web pages, save them for later viewing, bookmark them, write notes, and “gather” information; it does all of this while sporting a clean, creative user-interface that is very easy on the eyes.

  • Sign-in using your Facebook, Twitter, or Memonic account.
  • Install Memonic plug-ins for Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, or Opera.
  • Download Memonic applications for a web browser, iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows, or Mac.
  • Clip web content.
  • Create notes.
  • Save webpages for later viewing.
  • Bookmark webpages.
  • Use the “Gathering” mode for long research sessions.
  • Take screenshots and clip information from Word and other applications using the Windows destop app.
  • Forward e-mails and attachments directly to your Memonic collection.
  • Organize your content in folders, tags, and groups.
  • Make your content public or private or viewable only by those you invite.
  • Share content directly to Facebook or Twitter or e-mail.
  • Collaborate with others by creating or joining groups.
  • Customize the look of your Memonic page.
  • Save paper by creating super compact printouts.

Memonic easily bundles the services provided by web sites like Clipmarks, Delicious, ReadItLater, and others into one great looking site. The only downside is you are limited to only 100 notes, 3 groups, and 2 MB max per attachment when you sign-up for a free account. The premium account will cost you $28/year and allows you the ability to create an unlimited number of notes, create/join an unlimited number of groups, upload attachments that are up to 20 MB in size, and use “Gathering” mode (unavailable to free users). If you're a student, you might want to look into the student discount Memonic offers. If not, take the tour and decide whether you like the bundled features enough to pay for one service instead of signing up for several different services that provide more storage for their free accounts.

Learn more about Memonic at


I’m only a single person and the Internet is ever so vast! Let me know if there’s a research tool I’ve missed that you think belongs on this list.

Note: All logos are the property of their respective owners.

Photo credit: Zzpza

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Flash Fiction Friday: “Bubbles’ Revenge”

Day-006-Steven Russell Black

The prompt for this week on Flash Fiction Friday included gorgeous artwork by the very talented Steven Russell Black.  He generously gave his permission for use of any of his “Drawing a Day” drawings as inspiration for stories.

What follows is the story that unfolded in my mind’s eye when I looked at Steve’s Day 6 picture of a girl lying down underwater with pennies on her eyes as fish swim by.  The caption was “Sometimes the ferryman’s coins go to the fishes.”

Prompt: Use one of the images from Steven Russell Black’s Drawing A Day, found on his blog or Facebook page.
Genre: Any
Word Limit: 1,500 words
Deadline: 4/5 by 9:00 AM ET

Bubbles’ Revenge

It wasn’t fair. Bubbles had been in the prime of his life, full of vigor and beauty. He’d learned to recognize her when she approached his bowl and swam up to the top to wait for her to toss a handful of flakes in for him. Who knows what else he might have learned if his life hadn’t been cruelly snuffed out.

Bubbles deserved vengeance, but she didn’t know how to go about delivering his retribution. How much suffering would Bubbles want Tom to go through for feeding him to the cat? Did he want Tom to feel the same pain he felt when Cookie’s jaws crushed the life out of his small body? How could she possibly replicate that for Tom? What if Bubbles had something entirely different in mind? Or what if Bubbles didn’t want revenge at all?

She needed to contact him and ask him. That was the only way she’d be able to really do right by him. She’d read in a library book that she could get in touch with him if she conducted a séance over his body, but that was impossible, what with Cookie digesting him right now. The Ouija board wouldn’t work since goldfish couldn’t talk; she was smart enough to know that he’d probably communicate with her through feelings or images. She didn’t have anything that was particularly special to him (She didn’t think the water in his bowl counted), so summoning him was out of the question. What she needed was a way to reach him indirectly.

Several hours and several dollars later, she had a bathtub full of fish purchased from the same store and the very same aquarium from which she’d purchased Bubbles. They weren’t exactly Bubble’s close relatives; they didn’t even look like goldfish, but they’d partaken of the same water, chewed on the same fake plants, and that made them close enough to suit her purposes.

For a while she tried using the bathtub as a scrying pool, but the fish kept swimming to the top and making the water ripple. She didn’t know the first thing about scrying anyway, so she wasn’t too disappointed when no visions appeared in the water. Next she leaned close to the water and whispered instructions to the fish for opening their minds and hearts to Bubbles so they could channel his spirit. After watching the fish swim around aimlessly for half an hour, she realized either they tried and failed to mediate for her, or they didn’t pay attention to her directions. Their failure convinced her she was going to have to do the job herself.

Talking to a fish was a delicate matter, she decided, made all the more so because fish couldn’t breathe out of water. Even though Bubbles was dead, his spirit would still be a fish spirit, so she’d need to communicate with him in a medium he could relate to. Shrugging off the jumper she was wearing, she gingerly stepped into the tub, careful not to offend its occupants, and sat down. She didn’t know how to find her way to Bubbles, but she knew of someone who did.

She’d learned in world history class that people put pennies on dead relatives’ eyes to pay Charon, the ferryman, to take them to the place where dead souls went. Even though she wasn’t exactly in a river, she was still in water, had gathered and lit all the candles she could find in the house, and sprayed some of her mom’s perfume around to act as incense. That should be enough to get his attention. She wasn’t dead, but she figured he’d probably charge her anyway, even if all she was going to do was visit for a short time.

Placing two pennies on her eyes (head side up for good luck), she submerged herself. With held breath, she waited.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Grammar Errors That Surround Us: Rise Above Them

Home Depot Comma Splice

Please forgive the poor quality of this photograph.  When I entered the Home Depot bathroom and saw this sign posted on all the stall doors, I simply had to take a picture of it and the only camera at my disposal was the one on my cell phone. 

Months ago I spotted this advertisement in the newspaper and set it aside as an excellent example of sentence fragments (not to mention lack of capitalization at the beginning of sentences):

Marshalls Fragments

Signs like these are why I empathize so much with students when grading papers.  I just don’t have it in me to lecture students about how, as college students, they should know by now what a comma splice is.  Not when signs like this one are posted in frequented public places, confusing and teaching incorrect grammar to people who are learning how to write.

Even if I can’t fault a student for reproducing the errors she sees everyday on billboards, signs, and flyers, that doesn’t mean I can allow it to continue.  In a world of educated people who are all too willing to judge a person’s level of intelligence based on the writing she produces, it’s absolutely necessary to be ruthless with grammar instruction. 

It is never easy to have errors in your writing pointed out to you, but it is vital if you are going to grow as a writer.  Facing constructive criticism and the blow to your pride that comes with it builds character, too, and teaches you how to appropriately deal with feedback.  Of course, someone (even if it’s it’s your internal monologue) has to be there to tell you to take it in stride, that the critique is nothing personal and you’ll be a better person for having experienced it. 

If you’re someone who struggles with English, forgive yourself for making errors.  After all, your eyes see conflicting reports every day over what is correct writing.  But after you’ve made peace with your flaws, fix them; don’t let the mistakes people make become an excuse for you to be less than your full potential.  You can be sure that society won’t be cutting you the same slack.

If, after you’ve gone back and read the post about comma splices and fragments, you still can’t find them in these two examples, send me an e-mail and I’ll be happy to point them out to you and explain why they’re grammatically incorrect.