Dragons: How to Train Your Human

Like the title? Two purposes, 1: no getting sued by DreamWorks and 2: It really turns out to be this way.  I know, what is she going on about? Allow me to explain…

Some of you already know that my long absence has been due to what I thought was Tendinitis in both my hands. Turns out, I only have that in my left hand. The problem with my right hand is carpel tunnel…yay, I’m an overachiever. 😐 Okay, so after moping around for way longer than necessary awhile and getting completely abandoned by my muse, I broke down and bought the Dragon NaturallySpeaking software. And I don’t love it…no, I really don’t.

However, it has enabled me to keep my day job and after finally realizing that my Dragon has been training me all this time and not the other way around, my muse has actually decided to return (though, now that I’ve outed her, she might just take off again, because that’s the kind of floozy she is). Anyway, for any of you who’ve ever considered trying the Dragon software or wondered how it works exactly, I’m here to give you a not-so-quick rundown…awww, you know you missed me.

Warning: Personal Opinion Ahead

It sucks. Don’t waste your money. If your hands aren’t broken, use them. Dragon should only be a “desperate times call for desperate measures” option. The only way Dragon will ever be more efficient and faster than typing, is if you can speak as clearly and enunciate as precisely as Siri 100% of the time and never fluctuate in tone, pronunciation, or especially background noise. In fact, don’t even turn that fan on, I don’t care if you’re dripping sweat, it will make Dragon dictate as if you’re talking with a mouthful of cheesey-puffs. Oh, and I hope you have a totally stocked gaming computer that runs everything at lightning speeds and glitch-free.

On a more technical note…

Dragon is designed to be completely personalized to an individual. After each time you use it, the software updates your “profile” before shutting down completely, which enables it to remember the way you speak, so it can be more efficient and accurate the next time you use it. I’ll admit, it does eventually begin to show signs of adaption. Just whatever you do, don’t leave the program running over night to save time the next day – I know it takes forever to open and wake up and actually respond – but the longer it runs, even while not being used, the glitchier and boggier it gets. Also, you have to conduct a microphone adjustment every time you fire that bad boy up, even if you’re going to be using it in the same room, with the same background noise, every single day.

In the software’s defense, because I am not completely unreasonable, the above glitchy, boggy issues could also just be my laptop and the fact that it’s not exactly new…or even remotely recent.

Wait, why doesn’t this post have any photos? One purpose: Not getting sued by Nuance Communications

Who’s Training Who?

This is the tricky part. At first, you think that you’re training your Dragon to learn how you speak; your pace, your cadence, etc. which means you have to be careful to try to speak the same way all the time. You can’t approach it with “before coffee speech” one day and then the next day be like “I just snorted a pound of cocaine” speech. (Note: Neither this site nor its author encourages, endorses or engages in the act of snorting cocaine…or ever trying to speak before consuming coffee. Just say no.)

In truth, Dragon is like that kid who sleeps through half their classes, all the while turning you into a person who speaks punctuation marks out loud as if it’s normal. In order to get Dragon to type this exact sentence: “See Dick run. See Jane point and laugh! Did you see Spot pee on the neighbor’s leg?” you have to literally say:

Open quote see Dick run period see Jane point and laugh exclamation mark did you see Spot pee on the neighbor’s leg question mark close quote capitalize dick capitalize spot

The hardest punctuation mark of all time to remember to say aloud is “comma” – oh and hyphen. But tell me, authors: when you’re completely submerged in your own world and dictating what’s happening in any given scene between your characters, are you honestly going to remember to say COMMA? No, you’re just going to naturally pause in speech, the way you would if you were on stage. Nothing yanks you out of your creative flow faster than having to remember to talk punctuation marks! Open parenthesis, close parenthesis, semicolon, colon, oh shit how the hell do I explain an em-dash without it actually typing M dash?

And I get it, these are things you can always correct in editing. The first draft is always a heaping pile of “wtf was I thinking?” anyway – Soooo, I tried to keep that in mind and just go with the flow, only to find out that if I talk at even my normal pace, which is slightly closer to the lack of coffee than OD’ng on coke, Dragon will only type the last portion of my sentence. Or maybe the first two words and then the last part – regardless, it misses entire sections of my sentences.

I spend more time either correcting what Dragon thought I said or waiting for the words to finally appear on the document, so I can make sure Dragon caught it all. And just FYI, Dragon does not like curse words–AT ALL–no matter how many times you use the same one, on the same page, or in Zoe’s case, in the same run of dialogue, these are the handful of words it will never actually “save” with your profile. You cannot teach your Dragon to swear the way you taught your parrot…you know who you are.

Hands-Free Editing

There are built-in verbal commands you can give Dragon, which are supposed to enable you to make corrections without having to type. If you notice it dictated the wrong word, let’s say “Buck” for instance, you can say “Select buck” and it will pop open a box of word options you might have meant, which are numbered. You would then say “Choose one” or whichever number offers the correct option. I promise you, none of the options for “buck” will ever start with an F. So, if you don’t see your choice, then you would say “Spell that” at which time a different box opens that allows you to spell out the word you really wanted to say.

Here’s where I run into more problems. If I want the word capitalized, I’m supposed to be able to say “Captial F” then spell out the rest of the word. It’s always about a 70/30 chance that it’s going to add an L or an O to the beginning of my word, because it’s picking up those sounds from the word ‘capital’ no matter how fast or slow I say it – also, on most days, the “choose” feature never works in this particular box, so I have to select my choice with the mouse and hit enter, otherwise it tries to add numbers like ‘201’ to the end of the word I spelled out, rather than accepting the command “choose one”, rendering it a not so hands-free feature.

Get What You Pay For

When I started shopping around for the software, I reviewed the different options and decided to pass on the cheaper “basic” version for the newest “premium” edition, because it comes with a feature that allows you to add your own words to the software’s vocabulary. Ideal for an author, right? Well, along with the program, I also bought a recommended book written by a supposed Dragon expert, and I’ll admit, it did help me with my initial introduction to the software and getting it all set up – BUT – according to the author, I wasted my money for this “personalized vocabulary” feature, because Dragon will still never get it. In fact, they suggest that authors supplement their character’s names with simpler ones like “Dick and Jane” and then just do a “Find and Replace” during editing, because apparently they’ve never written fiction, or understand the whole concept of creative flow and the many things that can throw a wrench in it, like having to call your character by a name that is not theirs…

Thanks for looking out, hindsight dude who will never be useful in any situation beyond a “getting started” tutorial.

Then, after about a month of fighting with this newer, better version I stupidly paid extra money for – I started it up one day, and a notice popped up on my screen stating that Nuance was discontinuing the Premium 13 edition of Dragon NaturallySpeaking and that I had to act soon in order to get the newest (15) version for only $99. Eff you, man, I just paid that much for the 13! Like just – and now you’re telling me that you’re no longer going to be offering any updates or customer support for it? WTF?

Bottom Line

If you don’t already have and absolutely love Dragon NaturallySpeaking, you can either refer back to my personal opinion (which, I sincerely recommend) or buy it anyway, but definitely not the Premium 13 edition – and, you know – try it out. I hope you have absolutely no problems with it, and you leave that in the comments below and brag about how much time it saves you, how much your daily word count has increased and that you really do think I just need a new laptop and possibly a better headset.

(No, seriously, I’ll take any excuse to buy a new laptop). 😉

It’s Hexed (Hell on Earth 4). That’s what my muse returned for. I wasn’t going to mention being back to work on a WIP and then not tell you which one, honest. 😀 And if all goes as great as it has been, I hope to have it off to the editor before the end of the year.

Dragon be willin’ and the creek don’t rise…

Tootles!

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The Good, Bad & the Frustrating

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Hi Indies, Readers & Bloggers,

I know I’ve been MIA for awhile and I apologize for that – and for the fact that it’s going to be a little while longer yet.

To better understand the situation, you’d have to know me and my bone-deep refusal to see a doctor unless it’s absolutely necessary. I always try an alternative route, like changing diet, exercise, taking vitamins, etc. to correct a problem, rather than rushing for the prescription drugs and ER – I hate both.

I’ve been suffering from increasing joint swelling, pain and weakness in my hands and wrists for years. My doctor wanted to send me to a Rheumatoid Arthritis specialist and I ran for the hills as fast as I could. I wasn’t even 40 at that time. There was no way in hell my hands were becoming useless; I’m a writer! A writer in deep denial. I wanted to go back to taking piano lessons, this couldn’t be happening…

After trying everything from chiropractor appointments, buying new pillows and blaming poor ergonomic practices (lazy posture) – I was in urgent care this past week with no blood circulation in my left hand and a walnut-sized lump protruding from my forearm.

The lump, which was the scariest part, ended up being severe muscle swelling and I will take that any day over the blood clot my doc thought it might be.

Turns out I’ve been suffering from Tendinitis in both arms all this time. While that’s no picnic, it’s a much better prognosis in the grand scheme, because it’s curable. It will heal on it’s own with rest, icing and strength-building exercises. Surgery is another option, but would be the last resort and I hope I don’t have to take it – so, to avoid that, this will probably be my last blog post for awhile. I may not be able to get my next book out before the end of the year as I’d hoped, either, because I don’t write the kind of stories I can voice aloud with a Talk-to-Text program – unless I had a soundproof room! LOL I don’t want to send my kids to therapy, honest.

I will still be here to read and repost, share and support. And on the bright side, this might allow me to put a good dent in my TBR list! 😀 And, of course, as soon as I’m back 100% you’ll all be the first to know. I have so much to share with you already – Indie Resource posts that are already underway – and it’s frustrating having to put it off. Unfortunately, all I do is type for my day job and I can’t quit that, so not writing at all during my off time is the only concession I can make to heal as fast as possible.

The moral of this story is, don’t be a stubborn ass like me when it comes to seeking medical attention and also, take care of yourself. I’m guilty of getting caught up in the rat race, writing endlessly to get the next book out, doing whatever it takes to stay relevant – but sometimes, we just need to rest.

 This post was brought to you while wearing thumb-splint braces on my hands. It’s like an old man being forced to use a computer against his will – one letter at a time. 😂  I’m sure that visual got a laugh out of at least one of you. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Who’s Ready for More Kinky Fun in Paradise?

Yes, I mean finally! Can you see how excited I am??? It feels like I’ve been waiting forever to say this:

“Scavenger, Book 2 of the Dark Day Isle series is officially scheduled for Release on May 1st!!!” 

When I first released Collar Me Foxy in June of 2016, I already had half of Scavenger’s rough draft penned. I never imagined its release day would be nearly 2 years away! Turns out my first rough draft of Scavenger was 90% rubbish and only 10% salvageable.

I won’t bore you with the gruesome details. Suffice to say, this is NOT the Scavenger I finished a year ago and passed off to beta readers. It’s so much better! The disheartening, yet extremely helpful, beta feedback and struggle with revisions ended up being completely worth it. I hope you all feel the same when you read it! (See how optimistic I am? LOL)

Thanks to the lovely Lauren and Nikki over at Saints and Sinners Book Promotions, I now introduce this pretty banner and sign up link for anyone who would like to host Scavenger’s Cover Reveal and/or Release Day Blitz on their blogs – or maybe you can share with someone who might? You’re awesome, thanks! 😀 ❤

ACs banner

SIGN UP HERE

BLURB

It’s day two of the exclusive getaway on Dark Day Isle, and Felix’s smoldering lust isn’t the only thing to greet Tessa come morning. A list of challenges awaits her; finding the courage to confront her Master, devious tests of kink designed to push her limits and an unpleasant punishment that effects more than just their temporary dynamic.

Afternoon events provide insight on the getaway’s purpose and leads them deeper into the resort’s naughty, fetish-catering amenities. Tessa and Felix’s individual struggles are interspersed with visiting friends, unexpected triggers and a meeting of competitive spirits during the evening’s activity.

When Tessa’s true feelings about the cage are revealed, so is one of Felix’s well-guarded secrets that leaves her stunned. Now, Master expects to learn something from her in return and Tessa dreads what he might deem an even exchange for a truth he never wanted her to know.

Show Me Your Worst

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Getting comfortable with discomfort is one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a writer, and it’s a work in progress. When I first started writing, I never left my comfort zone for any reason. Which meant, no matter how hard I tried to make my characters as epic as the ones I was reading, it wasn’t happening. I was able to get uncomfortable for my antagonists, because I didn’t have to spend any more time with them than that and I certainly didn’t need them to be likable. A completely different issue for main characters, and it took me awhile to realize that my cozy corner was their biggest enemy. Sometimes, I’m a slow learner. But eventually, I had to face the fact that I was the one robbing my protagonists of the greatness they deserved.

As most writers can attest, the ease in which we’re able to explore the emotional and psychological range of a protagonist, really depends on the character. There are the vibrant personality types that can be completely fleshed out within minutes – and, then there are the characters who aren’t nearly as forthcoming. When we decide to draw our character’s flaws to the surface and pick at them, it starts getting a little uncomfortable, because we love them and we want our readers to love them, too. But a hero or heroine who is flawless is both unrealistic and flat. Not epic. Imagine how forgettable Frodo Baggins would’ve been, if he’d never struggled with and overcame the temptation of the ring’s power.

Show me your worst. I want to see how deep the pit in your soul goes. Or do I?

It’s one thing to tell a writer: “You have to leave your comfort zone to write well.” Quite another for that writer to decide just how far to plunge into the dark unknown. Again, I think this depends a lot on the character. By my guesstimation, there are 3 basic degrees of Bad Guy/Girl protagonists.

1) The circumstantial bad: They’re bad due to horrible circumstances, tragedy, childhood trauma, etc. but really good at heart and easily redeemable.

2) The lost soul bad: They’ve spiraled so far into the darkness of revenge, tragedy, addiction, bad luck, etc. they’re barely hanging onto the edge of no return and it’s going to take more than just a quick genuflection and three Hail Mary’s to pull them out of it.

3) The unapologetic bad: They have fully embraced their dark side and have no qualms using it to their every advantage, yet there’s still a spark of good in them that allows them to love and be loved. They’re not on a quest for redemption, but to find that last missing piece that would make them feel whole.

The thing I try to consider when I’m working with option 1 or 2, is just how much work I can feasibly put into it. The deeper your character’s flaws, the steeper the climb to redemption, and to show one side in great detail without the other getting equal attention is the fastest way to disappoint readers. Sometimes, it’s a natural trajectory and I’m just following the character’s lead and then realize – Oh, snap! Now I have to dig them out of this mess. Ugh! Not just out of the mess, but within the confines of a word-count limit.

This is why I write a lot of series, that’s the naked truth of it. Word count caps and I, we’re not friends. You can laugh, but 100,000 words is rarely enough for this writer. With a series, I can let my characters get into all the messes they want and then dig them out little by little over a few books.

When it comes to option 3, there’s both an easier flow to it and more of a challenge. First, you have to convince (and frequently remind) yourself that your character has no boundaries except the ones you’re placing on them via yourself. The other side of that is figuring out where to draw the lines for your audience’s sake. Knowing your character is 100% okay with being bad frees up moral restrictions and can be extremely fun to take beyond your comfort zone – If you don’t get carried away! It’s not a good idea to make them so outrageously bad that they lack any and all qualities your readers would want to root for – especially, in a typical romance genre.

Last year, I started exploring the realm of Dark Erotica where the rules are completely different and pushing boundaries is not only expected, the lack of it will stir up the wrath of the villagers. I went beyond some of my comfort zones with the Avarice trilogy, but not to the point where I was squirming and sweating in my seat…much. A lot of Dark Erotica fans probably wouldn’t even label those books as such, but since it has triggers in religion, demonology and R.A.C.K. (Risk Awareness Consensual Kink) – which is the sadistic side of BDSM – I wanted to make sure my readers were more targeted and expectant (accepting?) of those kind of situations.

Compared to some of the Dark Erotica novels I’ve read, it’s quite tame. Definitely in the mild end of the spectrum. That just means I should push myself farther away from my comfort zones for the rest of the series. More truthfully, I want to. I want the challenge of it, to see just how far I can go while still writing read-worthy material with characters my readers want to see win in the end. Though, Dark Erotica doesn’t demand a HEA, it is my personal preference.

Writing about things you would never do in real life is not the same as writing outside of your comfort zone. I would never go skydiving, because I’m terrified of open heights. But it wouldn’t stress me in the least to have one of my main characters do it. Actually, that would be kind of fun. One of the joys of both reading and writing is to have adventures, right? But, having your main character do something that makes you feel physically or emotionally drained when your through- that’s writing outside of your comfort zone!

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced so far, is having an ‘unapologetic bad’ protagonist show up for an established series that’s NOT labeled dark – and by his own admission, he is one sadistic f**k. When he first appeared, I was faced with the choice of either staying true to his character or true to the genre, because I can’t really do both without sacrificing something. This is still a WIP, but I’ve decided to stay true to my character, mainly because I know it can be done. I’ve seen Nora Roberts push this particular envelope more than once and while fame may be on her side, I’m still a big advocate for characters who are purely themselves and not diluted for genre’s sake. What’s your thoughts on that, as both a reader and a writer?

 I’d love to hear more of your take on this subject: How comfortable are you with discomfort? Do you try to challenge yourself with every new novel, or do you have to wait for the right character to come along? Show me your worst, writers! 🙂

#WIP Invasion

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image source: etsy.com

Can we talk for a moment, writer to writer?

Lookit, I can’t be the only one who’ll be happily plugging away at a highly anticipated novel (that’s code for it’s way overdue and readers are jumping ship by the hordes. *snort* You actually thought I had hordes of readers? Awww, that’s sweet) – and all the sudden a NEW book decides to just plop its big, bony ass right down on top of everything else with no intention of moving. A massive blob of scenes and backstory, brooding hunks, damsels in defiance, whips, chains and garden hoses (don’t ask), all reminding me that I have absolutely no willpower!

I’m not alone, right?

How do you deal with this kind of situation? Do you:

a). Ignore the new story until you’re done with the first one, because you’ve got discipline and the memory of an elephant?

b). Take the detour just long enough to frantically jot down everything you can for the new story, because your discipline’s flexible, but your memory’s a toss?

Or

c). Attempt the juggling routine, because you’re fairly sure the 100th time is the charm?

I made the mistake of thinking I could pull off a combination of options b & c….1 week later… Update: Scavenger (Dark Day Isle, Book 2) will be delayed, yet again. I’m sorry. Please refer to the part where I have no willpower.

How many #WIPs are you working on and what’s your favorite strategy for those invading new ideas?

#CampNaNoWriMo

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Yay! It’s Day 1 of Camp NaNoWriMo and I’m already plugging away at my official project for this month: Scavenger (Dark Day Isle, #2) Revision with a goal of 45,000 words by July 31st. Here’s the Most-Likely-To-Change synopsis:

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It’s only day two of the week-long getaway on Dark Day Isle, and already Tessa is having doubts about her temporary Master’s real reason for bidding on her at the auction. After an intense confrontation, there’s no going back to the way things were before between them…yet, that might be for the best.

At a luncheon social, Tessa learns details about the resort she’d never expected and the information will ease more of her concerns, while piquing her curiosity higher. Together, Tessa, Gema and Kip only seem to deepen the mystery surrounding their anonymous host, rather than getting any closer to the answer.

One thing the unknown mastermind knows best, though, is how to throw a party and that’s further proven with the evening’s selected activity. Both Tessa and Master Felix’s competitive spirits come out to play during the kinky festivities, but they’re not the only ones hoping to scavenge a prize by the end of the night.

While I’ll be trying to meet my word count goals every day – I’m simultaneously working on the tail end of Shades Soirèe (Matron City Trilogy, #2) which is way overdue to my publisher and I think they’re assembling a task force as we speak to collect it! So, I won’t be around much this month – but there are a couple of events you won’t want to miss out on…

July 3-7: Avarice Unforgiving (Hell on Earth, #2) will be 100% FREE on Amazon

July 10-14: The #AwesomeAmazonAuthors #FollowFive are at it again! Beginning July 10th, one lucky winner will have the chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card in the second easiest giveaway on earth. All you have to do is follow us on Goodreads for your chance to win.

July 12th: Release Blitz for Little Queen (The Úlfrinn series, #2) hosted by Goddess Fish. The book actually released today and is already available for purchase on all your favorite retail sites, but the 12th will include a $25 Gift Card Giveaway for entries, excerpts, teasers and a $10 gift card to a random host.

Good Luck to all my fellow Campers, hope we all reach our project goals this month!