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2020: All About Words

Ah, a new year. Is there anything so soothing to a brain that craves organization than a logical place to take stock of where we’ve been and then make a plan for growth for one more year? I think not, even though I am necessarily starting from behind where I’d like to be. Unfortunately I can’t just drop everything and start over, as much as I’d like to.

But, whereas last year was pretty much all about getting finances in check, this year’s focus is completely different. This year is all about words. Reading them, writing them, publishing them. Steeping in them, as it were.

As always, I have a long list of goals I’d like to work on over the coming year, but three of them have been elevated to “Resolution” status, which means that they get both first priority and my focus even if everything else has to be left behind. Resolutions are the most important goals, as they are the ones I believe will most likely change my life for the better if I complete them.

That said, here are my resolutions for 2020:

1. Set “office hours” for a weekly BSB overview and keep them for at least 45 weeks of the year.
2. Publish a calendar in December 2020 for 2021 that includes 12 flash fiction pieces – one per month
3. Make reading time a priority

The first and third I’ve tried before, and eventually failed at. The second was inspired by a project some other writers are doing coupled by a mass mailing the realtor up the street did for everyone in the neighborhood (I assume – otherwise she really wants us to move) just before Christmas. She’s sent us a calendar for the past few years at Christmas, and next year, I am going to send her one right back. It seems only right to return her kindness, don’t you think? It will make a nice gift for family members too, and of course a good addition to the BSB catalog for sale.

As an added bonus, in order to publish a calendar of flash fiction, I have to actually…you know. Write and edit fiction. So, it’s a good way to motivate myself with a weekly flash fiction piece every Monday to “warm up” after a weekend off writing.

As for reading time…well, I’ve let other things encroach on that to a point where even the 15 – 20 minutes I was doing before bed last year has been “eaten up” by my trying to get more wriing/editing time in after the house is quiet. I haven’t been reading comic books in the morning so they’re piling up again, and my “TBR” (to be read) list is insanely huge, both in print and digital backlogs.

The thing about writing is, you really do need to be reading too, in order to keep that creative well topped off. I’ve let things like writing/editing time encroach, but also gaming time and other times when I have a few minutes and I could be reading, but I scroll facebook or something instead.

I love reading. I miss reading. And I’m getting back to it, starting asap. I have a definitive plan for reading times and will make it a point not to let those times be co-opted for other things. I do not have a specific number of books or list I need to stick with, because it’s not about how many or which books I read, but rather just that I keep reading daily.

Which leaves us with the dedicated office hours. This sort of thing was so much easier when we only watched network TV. I can’t even tell you how much work I got done durimg commercial breaks, whether it was writing, editing, cover art, blurbs, uploading…it was a *lot* of work. Without commercials most nights (we still watch some network TV, just not nearly as often), those “work breaks” are gone, and I think I’m possibly the only person to actually miss them.

In any case, in order for this to work, I knew I needed to define “BSB Overview” specifically, because without concrete, actionable tasks to complete, I will flounder for what I need to do when I sit down, and not do things that really need to be done (which defeats the whole purpose of the weekly overview). So I made myself a specific list of things I need to do during my weekly overview. After those tasks are done, I can keep working or not, but that list is my bare minimum to count as “one week” of office hours. The tasks include things like checking sales numbers, updating accounting, scheduling a minimum of one social media post per account for the week, making a list of potential blog post topics (not writing them, mind you – just coming up with topics), and picking a book to update over the next week or so. A lot of my books are older, and the covers and blurbs need to be updated (the covers were done when size requirements were different, so I really do have to completely redesign those, per the distributor I use – it’s not optional if I want my books to stay available for sale).

That is the biggest, and possibly hardest resolution I have, but it’s also going to be the most important, as doing that will keep the business moving forward and also force me to stay engaged with the business side of writing – which is important if I want to actually keep publishing. I’ve given myself a buffer – I have to hit 45 weeks out of 52, so I can miss 7 weeks out of the year. Vacation, being sick, major holiday….whatever. But only seven. I think that should be easily doable.

So that’s what I’m focusing on this year, and I’m optimistic. I know for a fact that if I can do all three of these things this year, I will be both a better writer and a more engaged publisher by the end of the year, and I’ll have established some excellent habits to take forward with me (much like the financial habits I established last year).

And now, it’s time to go read before bed. Happy New Year, and if you have goals you’re trying to reach, I wish you motivation, determination and perseverance in the coming months!


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2019 in Review

Ah, the end of another year. No, I’m not going to do an entire decade in review, because frankly, my personal timelines tend to get all tangled up in my head after a year or so, and something that happened 20 yrs ago feels like it happened last week, and another thing that happened a month or two ago feels like it’s been over for years. Honestly, I wouldn’t even know how to get 10 yrs worth of “life” straight in my head, much less on paper. Things happen. We learn stuff, do stuff, and hopefully keep moving forward.

I do know that I published my first book and established Brazen Snake Books in 2010. So that was pretty significant, I guess. Speaking of which, I really need to update that cover and blurb…

In any case, last year, I had three major resolutions to work on (and a lot of smaller goals). The big three were:

1) Pay off one major and 2 minor lines of credit
2) Institute a one-paycheck waiting period for all unnecessary, un-budgeted purchases
3) Publish two books

Finances were very much at the forefront of my mind because I’d just done some major overspending, I was way behind on my “normal” bills, and I was very much aware that I really needed to get a handle on both my spending, and the lackadaisical way I’d been handling money.

I’m happy to say, I did get myself in gear, got tough with myself, did my weekly budgeting whether I wanted to or not, and completed those first two resolutions. It was frustrating and annoying a lot of the time, and as soon as I finished paying off those particular credit lines, I was hit with a whole host of dog-related medical bills I had to pay, and then dental work I had to have done, so that was even more frustrating/annoying (because I was on a roll, dang it, and wanted to keep paying stuff off!). But, even though I’m operating closer to my personal margins than I’d like, I’m in a much better financial place this year, with money set aside to be invested when I have the time and a tiny bit of savings (which I haven’t had in a long while), so…those were very worthwhile goals, and I’m still very much motivated to pay several more credit lines off this next year. Which should be interesting because we’re actually taking a vacation in the fall (like, a fly-out-of-state vacation), but we’ll figure it out.

The last goal was an ultimatum to myself to either “publish or perish”, so to speak. I really, really struggled with writing time for the first three quarters of the year. At the moment (and by “moment”, I mean “moment relative to the rest of my life”) my schedule…my life is just not really conducive to sitting down and composing/typing a bunch of words late at night (and there is no other time…oh man, did I try to find another time). I can’t think well enough early in the morning, and my brain was done being creative about three hours before when I sit down late at night after everyone else has gone to bed and the house is finally quiet enough that I can think.

I really thought I was going to have to consign this one to the “perish” bin, as in, don’t bother publishing anymore until after I retire. If I can’t get a first draft down, there’s nothing to edit, and ultimately, nothing to publish. It all starts with the draft.

Late this fall, I decided to try one more thing: dictation. I figured I’m awake and alert in my car, I’m alone, I can have it quiet, and I’m often thinking about story lines or things that would make a great story while I’m driving. I honestly didn’t think it was going to work, because while I talk to myself, I don’t generally “dictate” stories or tell them out loud, and it was exceedingly weird the first couple of times I tried it. But I reminded myself that no one else was listening (and who cares if the other drivers think I’m nuts), and that no one else ever needed to listen to the audio version – the whole point is to dictate and let the program transcribe the dictation, which I can then edit into something readable.

I can edit even when my brain is tired. Editing is much easier than drafting – it’s all critical voice, and that is what my brain is best at – being critical and fixing things. It can do that sort of thing in its sleep (and often does). So the more I dictated, the more comfortable I got with it, and I found that while I struggled hard to come up with even 250 new words late at night, I could dictate a thousand or more in the car just in 2-3 fifteen minute trips to work and back! And then when I uploaded the transcripts at night, I could sit down and edit, a task that wasn’t nearly as much of a struggle late at night after a full workday.

It’s a lot more work to write this way – because the transcription has to be edited into a “first draft”, and then a second round of actual editing to get it ready for copy-editing. But I can do it with the time and energy I have available, when I have them available, and it feels good to be making forward progress on stories again. I’ve written more in the last quarter of 2019 than I have in a long time, thanks to dictation.

So no, I didn’t publish any books this year, though I did write and edit a flash fiction story to send off with my Christmas cards. But I am going to keep writing and have a goal to publish some books next year, and maybe get this whole writing business back on track. I’m optimistic, to be sure.

As for my smaller goals, I got a few of them done, but I never put in place the infrastructure I needed to really be successful with them. I need to make calendar reminders and routines and in some cases, buy something small to make the goal easier. This year, I’m doing that.

More on that in tomorrow’s post on resolutions and goals for 2020.

Happy New Year’s Eve!

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Tools, Motivation & Forward Progress

I got my new laptop the week of Thanksgiving, and spent several days setting it up. It is *so* much better than my old one. We’re talking leaps and bounds. The bigger screen is nicer than I thought it would be, it’s quick and clean and “roomy”, and best of all, it has a true mechanical keyboard that is clicking happily (and audibly) along as I type this post.

The right tools really do make all the difference, and honestly, I *want* to use this laptop. I want to have it with me in the living room, where it’s in easy reach to work on a web site update or make some cover art, edit part of a story or even write a blog post (*ahem*).

Needless to say, having the right tool(s) is paramount, and this laptop is definitely a game-changer for me. Why did I not get this post done/up last week, you might ask? Well, it’s because I finally got motivated to actually start getting things done.

I’ve had a lot of outstanding projects going on lately, and while I still do, I decided it was time to quit letting those feelings of being overwhelmed de-motivate me.

You know how sometimes you have so much going on at home, at work, and everywhere, and every time you even think about making some progress on *something* (even just one tiny little thing), you get interrupted or derailed or…whatever, and more things keep piling up and not getting finished, until you just sort of hit that point where your brain shuts down and states that if you can’t even finish one simple little thing, there’s no point in even trying to do anything at all?

Yeah. That’s kind of where I’ve been for awhile now. Drowning in “things” that need to be done, things I want to do, and being constantly interrupted and derailed at every single freaking turn. It’s the most annoying thing ever in life, and I got to the point where I just sort of shut down and quit trying.

Then I went ahead and got this new laptop against my better judgement, and I decided to *take* the time to get one thing off my plate. Just one minor side project that I’d been working on for awhile now, and only had just a little bit left to do on it. If I could have focused, it would have taken me an hour, 90 minutes tops. As my life is at the moment, it took me several hours and a lot of irritation at interruptions, plus a later bedtime than normal (which actually turned out to be pretty normal for last week, unfortunately), but I got it done.

Finishing that project was a major turning point for me. I finished something! Anything! Done, complete, off my plate! I tell you what, it was such a relief just being able to finish *something* that I was downright giddy (at 1am, that happens quietly, but it does happen). I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need to prove to myself that I am capable of focusing and finishing things, especially when it’s been a long time since I’ve actually…you know…finished something.

Completing that project was the “re-proof” I needed, apparently, because I actually managed to get some larger projects off my plate last week, which felt phenomenal. And there are a couple more that I’m on track to finish this week as well.

Granted, I have had to be very focused, and sometimes very insistent with others that I needed time to work. I hate having to do that, only because I feel like people should just automatically leave me alone when I’m clearly busy. That never happens, but it would be nice if it did. I’ve also been giving up some sleep too…compromising between the 6 hours I want and the 4.5 hours I can’t really function well on anymore for around 5 hours instead. It’s not optimal, but honestly? The better mental outlook because I’m finishing stuff is worth a little less sleep. At least for awhile, until I figure out how to sneak the sleep back in too.

In my continuing quest to “get stuff done”, I have two smaller writing projects I’m finishing this week – one a story for an advent calendar (it’s actually done now, and yes, the calendar is late, but better late than never and one of the projects hanging over my head), and one a story for my Christmas cards this year. My writing projects have been suffering just as much as anything else, but I think I’ve found the (mental) problem, and I’m working on “fixing” that as well. More on that later.

I don’t actually know if any of this would have happened without the new laptop. Having a tool you *want* to use is so much more productive than having one that frustrates you every time you need it.

Like magic, of a sort.


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Reflections & List Items

As I write this, I’m sitting on the couch with my tea and two sleeping dogs on a welcome day off from work. It’s Veteran’s Day here in the states, a day to honor those who have fought for our country in years past. There are a lot of political statements that could so easily be made at this point, however, I’ll do as I always do and leave those to others who mind less (and seem to have more energy for) the unwinnable arguments that such topics bring about online.

Needless to say, I am reflecting, as one is supposed to do on such days. About veterans, politics, and also the insanely long list of things I’d like to get done while I’m not at work today. It would be impossible to do them all, unfortunately, and the all-or-nothing thinking that tends to go hand in hand with having an impossible list keeps beckoning from the edges of my mind.

I can’t do it all, so no point in doing any of it. Might as well watch movies or play games all day.

Alas, I know that would leave me feeling far worse than completing at least a few things on the list, so here I am, taking advantage of the dogs’ normal morning naptime to write this blog and cross one thing off the list. Once they wake up, we’ll have to keep moving anyways. They’re not big fans of laying around all day if someone is here to keep them busy.

It’s bitterly cold out today, and snowy – the snow not necessarily odd for this time of year, but the near zero temps are definitely out of character. This past weekend we were almost at 60f, plunging into the single digits yesterday. Tomorrow we’re supposed to be up near 50f again. No fall, but definitely a weather roller-coaster this year.

I’m still struggling with my routines. I’ve been dictating fiction on my way to and from work, and man…that works really well for getting a rough first draft down. But the transcriptions need to be edited into a true draft, and that takes time at the computer, and I…well, I need more time, and also more discipline. I don’t like my laptop, which is part of that, but I’m also trying to do that editing late at night when I’m tired from the day and my willpower is weakest. I need to either figure out how to boost my brain one more time before that last editing push, or how to fit in some time earlier in the evening. Which is difficult, as the house is noisy before 11pm. There has to be a solution, even if it’s just changing the venue in which I’m editing or starting my late night routine earlier or…something. I just need to find it. At least if I’m ever going to publish another book.

I will figure it out, eventually.

Now, it’s time to schedule this post and move on to the next item on my list. Ever forward, right?


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Audio Posts and Making Room to Edit

I’ve been thinking about making these blog posts available in audio format as well, since I’m recording them anyways. I’m dictating them basically so that I can transcribe them back. But as we were discussing earlier, some people prefer to listen rather than read. So I was curious if there’s any interest in me making these available as audio files as well.

I don’t have the time or the inclination to do any editing on the audio files (or making them “pretty”). So it’s just going to be raw audio with all my hemming and hawing and rambling and occasional double sentence structure. It’s not going to be like a professional podcast by any means, though I did download Audacity so I could cut out the long silent beginning to the recording. I typically start the app recording before I start driving, and then don’t start dictating until safely out of my parking space and on my way. Safety first!

But if there’s any interest, I’d be happy to post it, so you can listen to my ramblings rather than reading them if you prefer. I’ll post this file (see above – it’s an mp3, so should play on pretty much anything), and you can let me know if you listen to it. If you prefer to listen to the blog posts instead of reading them, please try to leave a comment somewhere – Facebook, Twitter, on my blog, whatever. Let me know if it’s something that you find useful, or if it’s just extraneous.

One more quick note – I’m speaking slowly due to wanting the transcription process to be as accurate as possible. So it’s much slower than I’d normally speak. You might want to speed it up a little for listening. 😉

In any case, last week, you may have read my ultra whiny blog post about my frustration with not being able to do as much as I would like to do. And that is a huge issue for me. But more so when I’m really tired. And last week, as I said, I had a couple of nights where I made bad choices. I got to bed late – really late. And I got very little sleep.

I’m not used to that anymore. I guess until I started getting 6 hours of sleep a night, I never realized just how how much my brain was not actually processing as well as it could have been on four and a half hours of sleep. It’s kind of one of those, “you don’t know what you’re missing until you get it” sort of things. In any case, being tired makes me whiny, frustrated and a lot more pessimistic about everything, really.

So I got some sleep.

And I checked out my schedule and did a lot of math. Well, I didn’t do the math – I used a calculator, because that is still one of the premier functions a computer can do, so I don’t have to. Anyways, I did some math – added up some word counts and some dictation counts. I looked at the time I have available, and I rescheduled a bunch of my routines. I made a scheduled plan for my dictation times, because they’re pretty set in stone, for the most part: going to work in the morning, going home from work at lunch, going back to work after lunch, and then going home at night after work.

So unless I have the day off work, I have four 10 to 15 minute segments where I can dictate something. That leaves my late night writing times free for editing or scheduling blog posts or doing social media stuff or formatting books or whatever.

I will need more time to edit, because I’m writing a lot more with dictation, but it requires more editing as well. I’ve been doing my budgeting on Friday nights, and I usually don’t get started until around midnight. It takes me a couple of hours, because I don’t just budget – I also pay bills and plan for the future by doing more math (because I love it. Not!).

But the thing about the budgeting is, I can do it amidst distraction. I have it set up now in a program, and I’ve got recurring payments scheduled and my bills all in there. It’s highly automated now, so I can do it with distractions – I don’t necessarily need that hyper-focus I needed in the beginning. So what I’m going to try is doing the budget earlier on Friday nights, after I walk the dogs. And if I can get that done before 10, 10:30-ish, then I will have that late night time on Fridays free. I’m going to schedule out three hours from 11 o’clock at night till two o’clock in the morning, just for editing fiction. I’ll go through the first edit of just cleaning up the transcript files and making them into a first draft, basically.

I guess you could argue that I could write during that time too, and not have to clean up so much. The thing is, it’s harder to be creative late at night when I’m already tired from the day. I’m tired, and my brain isn’t working as well as it should be at that point in time. So it would take me longer to write from scratch than to just clean up a wonky first draft. Also, I can’t type as fast as I can dictate. But I can edit pretty quickly if the words/ideas are already “on paper”.

I’m going to try that, and then my late night time will be for editing and scheduling blog posts, and working on formatting, cover and publishing minutiae. We’ll see how that works for a couple weeks.

It’s gonna take me probably two weeks to get into the new groove. But I’m excited that I have a plan. And if it doesn’t work, I have a couple other options that I think I can try that might be effective.

I think it’s gonna work out pretty well one way or the other.

Now if I can just figure out how to clean my dining room table off so that I can use it for something other than storage. But that will be my next project. I need to get this writing stuff figured out first.

Thanks for joining me, whether you’re reading or listening!


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Frustration

I used to be really good at getting stuff done. I used to be a pretty prolific writer, publishing several books a year, I used to keep up with multiple blogs, several social media outlets, several newsletters and even my own email – all while keeping up with my day job. But times and perspectives change, priorities shift, and…now I get less done, and most days I’m quite frustrated with that sad fact. Because even though my priorities may have changed, the fact that I want to write and publish at those former levels hasn’t.

I guess the thing that frustrates me most is that my priorities are in competition with each other, but I feel like health really has to win out for the long term. I sleep more and workout more now, which is what uses up a lot of my former publishing time. It’s a little over 2.5 hours out of my day – which is a lot of time, when you think about it (I sleep an extra hour and a half, and workout for an hour most nights). I do this in an attempt to stave off some of the less-savory parts of aging & genetics…the parts like dementia and/or Alzheimers, and the lymphoma that runs rampant in my family. It may work, it may not, but…I’d rather err on the side of caution, there.

My job also requires a lot of mental energy, and more social energy than I have to spare. So I’m mentally exhausted a lot of days when I get home, and after dinner and walking the dogs my brain just says “no more, I need to rest” and…that’s that. I do try to rally late at night to work, but then there are before-bed “chores” and whatever I didn’t manage to get to earlier (or whatever I’ve forgotten for several days and only “just now” remembered). Often by the time I sit down, I’m tired again, and I only have half an hour before I need to get to bed for a full 6 hours of sleep (the minimum needed for nightly “brain-cleaning” chores that stave off dementia, so the scientists say).

This is why I am so thrilled to have discovered dictation, so I can write during the day when my brain is already in “work mode”. Unfortunately, I now have the problem of words that need to be edited. A lot of them. And now I’m trying to figure out how to use the minuscule amount of time in the evenings I have to do that. Which would be somewhat easier had I not signed up for a monthly knitting class this time last year. I have one class left at the end of October, and I’m behind 3 half-squares, so I need to spend an hour or so knitting every night until those squares are done if I want to finish by the last class. There goes another hour. *sigh*

Obviously, I’m whiny this week. Not enough sleep (staying up to get things done…bad), the weather turned cold and gray, etc.

Less whining, more working. I’ll get there (again).

Probably after a night of decent sleep. So, Wednesday, maybe?


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Trying Dictation

Last week I mentioned that I wanted to try to dictation for my books, but I wasn’t sure if I could do it…well, for a lot of reasons. But I downloaded a couple samples of books about dictation by authors who use it a lot all the time, and I read the introductions.

I decided to give it a try. If it works, it’ll be a great tool. If not, then nothing lost, right? But dictating while walking really wasn’t going to work for me – at least not at the moment. Honestly, I enjoy just being out with the dogs and being *quiet* for awhile. It’s my downtime, and I didn’t want to give that up.

But I do have several short trips in the car every day as I drive to work, back home for lunch, back to work, and back home again. It’s basically wasted time. Why not use that for writing?

So as an experiment, last Friday after work in my car, I opened the Otter app on my cell and put my phone in the cup holder. As I drove home, I started talking. Rambling, really, like I was writing a blog post. From work to my house is about a 15 minute drive (give or take). I pretty much just rambled the whole time, and let the phone record. I got home, connected to wi-fi, let the audio file upload to the cloud and transcribe my ramblings. When I finally looked at the raw text file, I realized that it really wouldn’t be all that difficult to edit the transcription into a bonafide blog post.

I was kind of excited after that, because it took me around 11 minutes to write an entire blog post – around 1600 words. I was surprised at how little editing it needed, and how good the AI transcription services have become.

I decided it was worth a concentrated effort to learn the skill of dictation. Monday morning, I got in the car, I turned on my Otter app, and I dictated/wrote the daily email I send to my friend Carol while I was driving to work.

That worked pretty well. It needed some editing, obviously. But it was it was nice to have the the basic blueprint down, that I could just add a quote for the day to it and send it off on my break. Then on my way home for lunch, I turned the Otter app back on while I was driving home, and started dictating a short story.

I got about 800 words “written” on the way home. I continued dictating on the way back to work, and wrote about 800 more words. So by the time I got back to work after lunch, I had a little over 1600 raw words dictated and waiting to be transcribed and edited. That is more than I’ve written in the last few weeks, and it took me 21 minutes (10 minutes and 11 minutes, respectively).

Monday night I planned to use my normal writing time to edit the transcriptions for the day. I ended up needing to do some day-job work though, and then I needed to figure out a workflow for moving the transcriptions into the normal programs I use for writing/editing – namely yWriter (fiction) and Workflowy (non-fiction). So I didn’t have as much time as I’d have liked for editing, but I still got one scene edited before bed, and that 800 raw words became 750 edited/usable words. Not bad, really, considering it only took me 20 minutes or so to edit it down (and that time should get shorter as I get better at dictating.

I also dictated this post on my way home from work Monday night, and spent a few minutes last night editing it. I wouldn’t have had time to sit and write the whole thing out at the keyboard this week, so this post might not even have been written had I not dictated it on my short commute.

I bought two books about dictation (linked at the end of this post) which have been very helpful so far – one more of an overview, and one more focused on the actual nuts and bolts of the skill. One prevailing theme they both seek to hammer home is that dictation is a skill and a tool, just like typing or writing longhand. It’s not something you just “jump into”. There’s a learning curve, and practice time required, and it’s going to take some effort before you reach that point where it’s second nature (like sitting down at a keyboard to type, or picking up a pen).

But considering I’m still not very good at dictation, and my transcriptions require quite a bit of editing, I’m already seeing huge gains in word count and progress, and that has me very excited about what this skill/tool could mean for me in the long run. If I’m doing this much better *now*, and I still basically suck at it, how much progress is possible later as I get better? Seriously. This could literally be life-changing for me.

I’ve ordered a phone mount for my car, so I don’t have the phone rattling around in the cup holder (will also be handy when using google maps to get somewhere). I have Otter set to *not* transcribe in real time, both to save data, and so it doesn’t write out the words on the screen as I’m speaking – that would be a distraction. This way, the screen is just white, with a little bar across the bottom that lets you know whether it’s picking up sound or not. And that’s really all I need, at least for now. Start the Otter app before I start driving (and turn the radio off) and…talk as I drive. Simple as that.

I’m looking forward to tallying the amount of words I’ve written at the end of this week (for the first time in a long while). Stay tuned (if you’re interested, anyways).

The two books:

15 Minute Dictation: More Books, Less Frustration by Sean M. Platt and Neeve Silver

On Being a Dictator: Using Dictation to Be a Better Writer (Million Dollar Writing Series) by Kevin J. Anderson & Martin L. Shoemaker


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Reading Aloud

As an introvert, most of my cohesive thoughts happen quietly, in my head. I don’t process auditory information well, and while I can impart thoughts and ideas verbally, it’s not my best or favorite way to communicate.

No, this isn’t a “millennial” issue – I’m solidly Gen X. This is just a “that’s how my brain works” thing, and along with that, I don’t listen to music while doing anything I need my brain for. I can do rote tasks and listen, but nothing mentally engaging. Needless to say, audio books don’t really work for me – I have to work harder to process what I’m hearing, so I can’t do anything else while listening to one, which sort of defeats the purpose (especially since I could just be reading the book).

I know several people who are exactly the opposite. They process everything more easily if they can hear it, rather than trying to read and comprehend. A couple of them are dyslexic, so of course it’s going to be much harder for them to make sense of words on a page than sound in their ears. It’s amazing (and kind of fascinating, really) how differently our brains work to process information. At work especially, I’ve found it’s good to have a balance of people who process things better in different ways, because we each catch things the other misses while processing info using our own strengths.

I remember doing the edits for my first book, and reading it aloud just to force myself to process it in an entirely different way (reading aloud is yet another set of processes, I find – both reading and hearing at the same time). I think it made the book stronger, but it also drove me a little nuts, both in trying to find time alone to read (I didn’t really want to read aloud to my husband), and also just the “noise” aspect of it.

And listening to my own audiobooks once they’ve been recorded (by someone else) is a very interesting thing as well. It requires a lot of focus to get through, but it is kind of surreal listening to someone entirely different read my stories aloud.

Given all this, you might be surprised that I’m still curious about dictation for writing. More specifically, I’m curious as to whether I could learn to be okay with speaking and storytelling aloud enough to eventually dictate part or all of my first drafts to a digital recorder/transcription service. This requires something I am already abysmally low on though, which is time to myself. I am generally either at work, at home with my husband, or out walking the dogs. And while I know there are authors who dictate while dog walking, I’m really not sure I can do that. Too self-conscious.

But if I could, that would be an excellent way to get a lot of words down in a short amount of time. Or even just a good way to get blog posts “written”. I’m generally out walking for half an hour or more, so plenty of time, as long as Athena doesn’t mind me yammering on while we walk.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do fiction this way, but I may well try dictating a few blog posts. And I have a couple of book samples for training yourself to speak aloud that I plan on reading and buying if they seem worth it. Nothing to lose, and everything to gain (or at least another tool for the writing box), right?

Do you dictate and/or read aloud? Are you comfortable composing stories or other things vocally? Or are you generally the quiet, write-it-down type, like me? Inquiring minds…


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2019 Goals Check-Up

As a reminder, these were my three goals elevated to “Resolution Status” this year:

1) Pay off one major and 2 minor lines of credit
2) Institute a one-paycheck waiting period for all unnecessary, un-budgeted purchases
3) Publish two books

The first one is nearly done, and it would already be done if not for some unexpected expenses that came up this summer. I’ve paid off two minor credit lines, and the third will be done in October. I was actually really hoping to pay down more on several larger credit lines, but…well, we do what we can. As a side-goal to this, I’ve been paying very close attention to my finances and budgeting every single week. It’s been a little tough here and there, but overall, I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to pay down the outstanding debts faster, and start saving a decent chunk every month as well.

The second resolution has been more difficult, mostly just because several things came up that were time-sensitive right at the start of the year, and…well, I needed to act quickly, or forgo whatever it was. I opted to “do the things”, and they were fun, but they did cut into the budget and set me back, which was the whole reason for the “rule” in the first place (to avoid being set back). And then of course I had several un-budgeted but necessary things come up this summer, so…yeah. The finance thing isn’t going as well as I’d hoped, but it is still moving in the right direction. I am trying to stick to the resolution for the rest of the year, but we’ll see how well I do budgeting ahead of time for things like Christmas gifts. I should start thinking about that…well, yesterday. Hmm.

As for the third thing…so far, it’s a complete and total bust. I keep trying to reclaim my writing time, and life just…happens. I really have no guaranteed quiet time at home until after midnight, and then it’s almost too late (depending on whether I want time to read as well, which is important – you really do have to be a reader to write, and I haven’t been reading nearly enough lately). As far as working on edits and rewrites and all the various stuff that goes with actually publishing (formatting, cover art, etc)…wow. I’ve not been making the time I need to for that, and given the time it takes to publish one book (much less two), I’m not sure I’m going to make it. Which is, frankly, quite depressing.

I do have a plan for more writing, and that started today. I’ve got some new routines in place that should help, and some new “rules” for myself that will hopefully reset my priorities to “writing before fun” in my off-day-job hours. I don’t really know what to do about the publishing side of things yet, but…getting back to a very regular writing routine would help a great deal on the writing side.

I do have a couple of books that are published in ebook format, but not in print yet. I think I’ll work on getting the print copies of those done and out first, and then maybe that will be enough to establish routines for getting those types of tasks done. Both books are good Halloween/creepy type stories, so those would be good to have available by October. A tight time frame, but maybe that’s exactly what I need.

There are four months left in the year. *sigh* Writing and publishing are definitely going to be my top priorities for that time. Even if I don’t make the goal, I want to put as much effort into it as possible. So…onward.


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Introducing Athena & A New Keyboard

Wow. I’ve been trying to get a post written for nearly a month now, and things have just been so busy that every time I start working on it, it’s late and I’m tired and I just don’t have the energy to finish, much less post. Which really just goes to show you how routine-driven I am, and what happens when those routines are disrupted for an extended period of time, as they have been this summer. July and August have been busy months, and I’m just now (as in, for one whole week) getting back into my regular routines without random sidetracks and distractions throwing me off.

Although there’s another disruption coming, as we have to replace our shower surround this weekend. Hopefully it will only take one day though, and we can still have a “normal” weekend with Labor Day tacked onto the end.

The biggest news since my last post is that we adopted a boxer puppy (2-3 yrs old) named Athena. She’s adorable and spunky and was obviously mistreated at some point in her young life, but she’s brave and curious and has made herself right at home with us. She’s also white, and shedding like crazy at the moment – getting rid of an old, malnourished coat and growing in a much thicker, healthier one. So, we have little white hairs all over everything, including ourselves. I ordered lint rollers last night, along with a shedding glove, and am going to get some conditioning shampoo for dear Athena this weekend. I just can’t make myself buy lighter clothing. LOL

In any case, Athena is young and full of energy, and she’s already getting the Murph off the couch more often (I don’t think he necessarily appreciates that, but it’s good for him) and he’s walking a tad bit farther with her at his side. Of course she needs a much longer hike than he does, which means we go with him, take him home, and then Athena and I go for part two, which is a good half-mile to a mile at the moment, and we’ll work up to a couple miles most nights in moderate weather. So I’m getting more exercise too, which is perfect (and much needed). It’s always easier to walk with a buddy, IMO.

Writing has been hit or miss, a lot more “miss” unfortunately, but as the routines get back to normal and I don’t have to think so much about every little thing I do during the day, I have more energy and headspace available for creative endeavors. I have gotten a little lazy about using the Neo though – mostly because uploading to the laptop requires plugging the Neo in by cable and then transferring the keystrokes into my writing program (yWriter). I tried working directly on my laptop again, but between hating the keyboard and having distractions so readily available (I forgot to order this! I need to post that! Was that an important email that just came in?) it just doesn’t work for my flighty brain.

So last week, I ordered a bluetooth keyboard (full-sized, with scissor switches) to pair with my cell, and I can use that to write directly into yWriter from my lap. The size of the phone screen really doesn’t lend itself to switching apps often (so less distractions) and my yWriter files live in my Dropbox account, so I can get to them from both my phone and my laptop – no transfer needed.

I think it’ll be a good solution…we’ll find out at the end of this week. The keyboard I really wanted with Cherry MX switches and a really nice “typewriter” look was two hundred bucks, the one I got was thirty. Maybe I’ll splurge on the nicer one if the solution works well enough to finish a novel by Christmas.

So, moving along. Getting back on track. Putting the things I can back on auto-pilot, so I can focus more on things like writing. It feels good. I hope things will stabilize for awhile now. My brain could use the rest.

Next week…a resolution check-in.


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