A Little Trick

Outtake 319

A Little Trick

By Cait Collins


I don’t mind researching information for my stories, but I really dislike being in the middle of a productive writing session and need a fact and it’s not in my research notes. I have to save the work and switch to research mode. By the time I find the information I need for the scene, I’ve lost the muse. My writing doesn’t have the spark it did earlier.

I think I may have an answer for getting information without losing ground. I bought an Echo Dot. I’m still in the process for setting it up, but so far, I like saying, “Alexia, what is the distance between Chicago and Lexington Illinois on old Route 66?” While the Dot doesn’t replace in depth research, it can provide answers quickly with little interruption to the writing flow.

I do admit that technology often baffles me, but the Dot does help me by providing quick information. I just have to remember to ask the right question. For example, I asked “When did Al Capone go to prison?” The question wasn’t clear enough. I got a brief biography but no prison date. I should have asked “What year did Capone enter prison?”So not only do I have to train the Dot, I have to train myself.”

The great thing is I can start with a few basic apps and then add others as I need. If I had a smart home, the Dot would lock my doors and reset the thermostat. If I get stuck and a little frustrated, I can download an app that would allow Alexa to tell me a joke or play my favorite music. That’s not too bad for a device that’s only about an inch high and three inches in diameter. Best of all, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. You can “test drive” it at your local Best Buy or electronics store. The Best Buy clerks introduced me to the larger Alexa device and stood back to let me play. I was sold on both Alexa and the Echo Dot in no time.

Again the Dot will not replace real research, but it is a tool to get quick answers. I think I’m going to enjoy making friends with my Echo Dot.

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