Skyrim Switch game-breaking frustration

I picked up Skyrim for the Nintendo Switch when it came out a couple of weeks back. I’ve been on board with the game since 11/11/11. I waited in line to get a copy at GameStop because I still hadn’t used Steam all that much and thought it’d be faster to get a physical disk, not realizing that the physical game only had a copy of the Steam installer.

I went to a conference for work the day after the game launched and spent most of my first night playing the game. I’ve modded it to hell and back on PC and played several different builds logging more hours than I care to commit.

I love that game, is what I’m getting at, and so it seemed like a no brainer to pick up a copy for the Switch. I was even pleasantly surprised. It looks damn good for being on a relatively underpowered console. I never felt like I wasn’t getting the full Skyrim experience even if I couldn’t mod it to kingdom come.

Sometimes nodding a game to peak performance on a tricked out gaming PC is nice. Sometimes it’s nice to have a version that you just pick up and play.

At least it was nice until I got to the game breaking bug. It started with the Companions quest line. I took a job from Farkas to clear out a dungeon. So far so good. The problem was I got there and the named boss in that dungeon was already dead because I’d already cleared the dungeon.

I did some searching online. I discovered that this is an issue that’s affected all the console versions of Skyrim. Dungeons respawn after thirty days, but named dungeon bosses don’t. So if you get a quest to kill a boss in a dungeon you’ve already cleared you’re screwed. This is a bug people have been complaining about for six years and yet they couldn’t be bothered to fix it for the Switch release.

If you’re playing the PC version the fix is easy enough. Open the console and either bring the boss back to life or mark the quest as complete. On the console your only recourse is to either go back to a save point before you took the quest and wait long enough for a different objective to show up from that character or go back to before you cleared the dungeon. Though there are instances where this is impossible because there are dungeons that show up in multiple quests and you have to pick what h quest line you want to advance.

Also? You totally let e all progress if you have to reload from a previous save. There are no good options.

This is inexcusable. The game has been out for six years now. They’ve known about this bug since the beginning because there are forum posts going back to 2012 complaining about the issue. And yet they shipped a new console version going for $60 that has this game breaking bug.

It’s frustrating. I wanted to enjoy Skyrim on the Switch. It was enjoyable until I ran into this bug, but I’ll be going back to PC as I don’t know when I’ll run into another one of these bugs or when it’s going to break another quest.

Help save Net Neutrality

Please take a moment to read this. Think about Comcast. Think about AT&T. Think about how much you hate their service already. I despise these companies. Comcast couldn’t provide me the cable service I paid for and I spent weeks on the phone with their customer service and never got it fixed. AT&T can’t get reliable Internet to my house and they’ve stopped even caring about trying to fix it.

Seriously, fuck those fuckers. Now imagine a dystopian world where they can charge you extra for the sites you already visit.

Want to use Facebook and Twitter? You need the $10 Social Media package.

Want to use Netflix and Hulu? That’s an additional $20 for the streaming package.

ISPs are trying to legislate anticompetitive laws that consolidate their monopoly on the Internet in the U.S. This is a bad thing. An open and free Internet is the engine that has propelled the economy for two decades now, and they want to shut it down.

Are you a writer? Do you make your money by publishing your stuff on Amazon, iBooks, or any of the other ebook sites that have popped up in the past decade and revolutionized publishing? You bet your ass losing Net Neutrality is going to hit you eventually. I’m not sure how, but it’s not going to be good. We’re looking at our business model being upended and potentially destroyed because these large companies can’t compete in the free market so they’re resulting to using the government to strongarm their competition.

Free market my ass.

It takes five minutes to call your representatives. You should do it. Unless you like being fucked in the ass by your cable provider.

Brightness in Skyrim for Nintendo Switch

I love roleplaying games, and Elder Scrolls games are like catnip for me. I’ve been playing through Skyrim on Switch and so far it’s been a wonderful experience except for one small issue.

Brightness is really a problem in some dungeons. Like it’s seriously to the point that you can’t see anything without a torch or using a Candlelight spell.

I did some searching around the Internet to see if other people were having this issue, and of course they are. There are people who inevitably chime in with “Hurr durr dungeons are supposed to be dark use torch lol,” but that’s not a satisfactory answer.

I’ve been playing this game since it launched back in 2011. I’ve invested countless hours and I never had trouble seeing in a dungeon on the PC version. I visited the same locations on PC and Switch and sure enough I could see fine on the PC version and not so well on the Switch. It was frustrating and ruining an otherwise wonderful port of an incredible game.

Turns out the fix is easy though. The issue is the auto brightness setting for the Switch. I’m sure it was put in to preserve battery power, but if you want to play Skyrim and actually see what you’re doing in a dungeon you’re going to have to sacrifice that battery power.

The fix is easy enough:

  1. Hit the Home button.
  2. Go to System Settings
  3. Select Screen Brightness
  4. Turn off Auto Brightness Adjustment
  5. Turn the brightness all the way up

Voila. After doing that I didn’t have nearly as much trouble seeing in Skyrim’s many very dark locations. Hope that helps you out if you’re enjoying portable Skyrim on the Switch!

Ten years without Robert Jordan

I noticed awhile back that it’s been ten years since the passing of Robert Jordan. I was surprised to see that it had been that long. I guess I’m getting to that point in my adult life where things that happened ten years ago still feel like they only happened yesterday as opposed to the eternity that would’ve seemed when I was younger.

I was super obsessed with The Wheel of Time when I was a teenager. I’d chatted with a few people who were obsessed with it over ICQ, which is another line that’s dating me, and I eventually decided to pick up The Eye of the World near the end of my sophomore year of high school. I still remember going out to dinner with my family one Friday night when I was near the end and instead of going in shopping with them like I usually did after dinner I sat flipping pages in my mom’s car reading by the dome light and having my mind blown as I finished EotW.

Jordan’s work was a revelation at the time, and I think it’s one of those things where he was so revolutionary and there were so many people who moved to copy him after the fact that a lot of people look at Wheel of Time now and find themselves wondering what the big deal is.

It’s difficult to describe if you weren’t around the fantasy fandom at the time, but it was nothing short of amazing. Strong female characters. A subtle depiction of a world where women hold the power. I always found it endlessly amusing that people criticized Jordan’s female characters by calling them shrill, shrews, commanding, demanding, etc., and never once do the people leveling these criticisms seem to have the introspection to ask themselves if they would level the same accusations at their fantasy heroine if she was a hero.

Jordan had a well thought out world that felt lived in. He had an intricate magic system where, as he said in a signing I attended, the magic is their technology. He took familiar fantasy tropes and turned them on their ear.

Sure the books start to plod after about book five. Sure it felt like the plot was spiraling out of control with new characters being introduced when you wondered why he wasn’t just wrapping the damn thing up. Sure some of the descriptions can get a little samey after awhile, and he had an obsession with fashion that was a bit odd.

But I still think they’re wonderful books that are well worth exploring. They were groundbreaking in their day, but even these days they’re still a fun read. Maybe skip Crossroads of Twilight since nothing of consequence really happens in there.

I had an opportunity to meet Robert Jordan when he was on tour for Knife of Dreams. I’m so glad that I took the time to go to that book tour because it turns out that was the last one he’d ever go on. He had a presence that filled the room. A severity and an attitude that said he’d been on enough of these tours and dealt with enough fans trying to get him to reveal something that he wouldn’t put up with nonsense, but he still made the room laugh.

At the signing he said he was planning one more book in the series, and that he would make the publisher put it on the shelves even if it was a foot long. Which is a little ironic in hindsight considering they ended up splitting the book into three after his death. He did a rundown of how to pronounce the names, and deftly handled a Q&A where it was clear there was a room full of fans who were eager to get him to reveal something or catch him in a “gotcha” question.

When it came time for the signing itself everything was brief. We got up and I bought hardcover copies of Eye of the World and Knife of Dreams for him to sign. I could kick myself, because once we got to the signing I saw other people there who’d brought giant bags full of their hardcover collections for him to sign. I’d been building my own hardcover collection from used bookstores at the time and I had everything but The Dragon Reborn at that point. Of course the signing was a good three hours away from where I lived so there was no way I’d be able to go back and get those books, and while he was happy to sign more than two books the people who did that had to wait until the end of the night so it’s not like it would’ve been workable.

When I got up to his table he hit me with a look that I can only describe as piercing and severe, but not unfriendly. I stammered something out about how much I enjoyed his books, nothing profound from me meeting this particular hero, and then he signed the books and it was over.

One other thing we remarked on at that signing was how thin he looked. He was definitely more gaunt than he appeared in his book covers, but my friend and I who made the drive out there assumed he’d been losing weight for health reasons or something. It wasn’t until after the tour that his diagnosis was announced and the world realized how bad it was.

I still remember sitting in a computer lab in college browsing Digg, another tell as to what an old fart I am in Internet years, when I read the news that he’d passed. It was a surprise as they’d been optimistic and upbeat in all the updates, but not a huge surprise since his disease didn’t have a great prognosis.

The fantasy world lost one of its giants that day. I still wonder what might have been if he’d been allowed to finish the series. Brandon Sanderson did a wonderful job of tying up a series that had too many dangling threads to count, but fantasy fans are always going to be left wondering how Jordan’s take would’ve turned out.

To Robert Jordan. One of the greats. I’d say he was gone too soon, but it seems like he lived a long and fulfilling life and will be remembered fondly by fans and those who knew him, and can you really ask for more than that once you’ve shed this mortal coil?

Dragon Naturally Speaking: PC or Mac?

Dragon Naturally Speaking is available for PC and Macs. Which version is better?

I realize that this article is going to be a moot point for a lot of people. You’re either a Mac person or a PC person, and you’re naturally going to gravitate towards the version of the software designed for your computer, right?

Not necessarily. It turns out when it comes to deciding between the PC and the Mac version of Dragon Naturally Speaking there are several different options available to you depending on what kind of performance you demand. This is also a subject that’s been on my mind a lot lately as I’ve been switching my writing workflow to 100% dictation and I try to figure out a decent way of getting text from my recorder to a word processor.

The problem is pretty simple. I made the switch to Mac about a year ago and I love it. This is coming from a lifelong PC user who grew up on the things. Seriously, my first PC was a monochrome 8086 IBM compatible that my dad spent thousands of 1980s dollars to buy. The only problem with that switch is I still like to use Dragon occasionally, and Dragon for Mac sucks.

Training Your Dragon

Training: This is by far the best reason to get Dragon for PC. If it gets a word wrong then you can correct it and Dragon learns from that correction. If it repeatedly gets a word wrong then you can train it on that word and the problem goes away.

Seriously. I can’t tell you how much of a lifesaver this feature is. I’ve taught my Dragon how to swear. I’ve had it learn specialized vocabulary for fantasy and science fiction stories I was working on. It’s a game changer, a productivity saver, and something that you absolutely need in my opinion.

Dragon for Mac? Not so much. You just can’t train it the same way you can the PC version. I’m not sure what’s going on under the hood that they weren’t able to include the central feature of every PC version of this program going back to its inception, but it was a really boneheaded move. Dragon for Mac is basically a nice way to get your words on screen, but you’ll constantly be correcting the same transcription errors and It. Gets. Old.

Transcription

Transcription is a mixed back between PC and Mac, but it’s a mixed bag that I think leans towards the Windows version even though there is a minor annoyance about the Windows version.

Transcription is how I use Dragon. I have a Philips recorder that I carry with me at all times so that I can utilize my downtime. If I’m on a drive then I’m dictating. If I’m in the parking lot waiting on my wife to do some shopping I can pull out the recorder and dictate. It’s a great tool for getting out a first draft and putting thoughts on the page, and because of that transcription is the thing I focus on the most when I’m setting up Dragon.

The nice thing about transcription in Dragon for Mac is that I can load up multiple files at once and tell Dragon to transcribe them, and then they’re transcribed in the background leaving me free to do other things. Compare this to the PC version of Dragon where you can transcribe multiple files at once by selecting them, sure, but the drawback is Dragon takes control of your PC while it’s doing the transcribing rather than doing that transcription in the background.

So it’s a game of tradeoffs. Dragon for Mac does the transcribing in the background, but remember that training I was talking about in my first point? Yeah, you really can’t do that with transcription. In Dragon for PC you create a separate input for your digital recorder under your existing profile and then you can train that input source as it makes mistakes and it will get better and learn how you talk.

Dragon for Mac? Not so much. It does transcription, sure, but it’s the same old problem where it’s going to keep making the same mistakes over and over again because you can’t train it so it never learns. The end result is you’re going to be spending a hell of a lot of time going back and fixing the same mistakes over and over again and believe you me that gets very old very fast.

So for transcription the tip of the hat goes to Dragon for PC.

Accuracy and the Little Things

Finally there’s accuracy to think of. How good are these programs out of the box?

I can remember a time in the late ’90s and early ’00s when you had to spend a lot of time training Dragon if you wanted anything approaching accuracy, and even then you still had to go over everything you wrote with an editor’s eye to make sure it was coming out correct. This was fine for my dad because he was a lawyer and lawyers employ secretaries to do dictation anyway. Dragon just made life easier for everyone involved.

But what about for an author who doesn’t have a secretary to go over everything? And that’s the rub of it. I’ve discovered that no matter what you do, no matter what version of Dragon comes out, there’s nothing that’s going to be one hundred percent accurate whether you’re talking about transcription or dictating to the computer. There’s always going to be little mistakes that creep in, and you’re always going to have to keep an eye out for those mistakes.

I’ve not done anything approaching a scientific study of this, but I have a general feel between using Dragon for PC and Dragon for Mac, and I’d say that for sitting down and dictating or for transcribing the accuracy is definitely better on the PC version out of the box. And since you can’t really do any training worth the name in Dragon for Mac it’s not like it’s going to get better, whereas in the PC version you can train and it’s going to do a better job of learning your unique style.

Dragon for Mac also has odd idiosyncrasies. The transcription sucks, as I mentioned, but it also capitalizes words randomly and inserts random spaces. There are a lot of little niggling details it gets wrong that adds up to a very frustrating experience for a piece of software that costs so much.

Which version of Dragon should you get?

This is simple. If you have a PC then you need to get Dragon for PC. If you have a Mac? You still want to get Dragon for PC.

Stay with me for a moment here, because this is the solution I ultimately came up with since Dragon for PC is the one piece of software that I found myself missing when I made the switch to Mac.

Dragon for Mac costs $300. That’s a steep pricetag for a piece of software that’s essentially a less functional version of its PC counterpart. This is one piece of software where you’re definitely paying the Mac tax.

But don’t forget about Parallels.

The wonderful thing about today’s Macs is they’re fully capable of running a modern Windows OS, and it’s never been easier to run a virtual machine like Parallels that allows you to run a Windows install within whatever version of MacOs you’re running. Which means you get all the benefits of the one or two Windows programs you need to run while also retaining all your Mac stuff.

The cost makes sense too. Dragon Premium 13 costs roughly $120. Parallels costs $80 to either buy outright or to get a one year SAAS subscription that includes updates. That means you’re only out $200 to get Dragon working on your Mac, which is still $100 cheaper than buying Dragon for Mac outright! You don’t even have to worry about Windows, because Microsoft is giving away Windows 10 right now. The only penalty for not paying for Windows 10 is you get some annoying text in the bottom right corner of your screen and you can’t personalize the background, but why would you want to do that when you’re doing most of your computing on your Mac?

There are two potential drawbacks to this approach:

  1. There is a learning curve to figuring out how to run Parallels on your Mac. I didn’t think it was a particularly steep learning curve, but it’s definitely there. Thankfully there are a number of tutorials out there that will get you up and running, and you can even do a 15 day free trial to see if it works for you.
  2. You have to have a computer that has some resources to it. You’re running two OSes at the same time including Dragon which can be resource intensive. I’m running a higher end MacBook Pro of recent vintage so I didn’t have any problem, but if you’re running older hardware you might have an issue. Then again if you’re running hardware old enough for this to be an issue then you’re also probably running hardware old enough that Dragon for Mac isn’t a terribly viable option either.

In a nutshell

So there you have it. Avoid Dragon for Mac. Get Dragon Premium 13 for PC. If you’re using a Mac then you need to either run Dragon for PC in Parallels or install Windows on your system using Bootcamp and use Dragon for PC if you’re serious about voice recognition as part of your writing workflow.

That’s it for this update. Up next: Why Dragon isn’t the magic productivity silver bullet some people make it out to be, and why it can still be damn useful.

Editing on your eink Kindle

Here’s a quick trick that might be helpful to the author types out there. It’s something that I do and I find it works really well.

Edit your final draft on your Kindle. Specifically an eink Kindle of some sort.

I try to do a couple of passes on my novels before I send them out into the world. It pretty much goes like this:

  1. Write (or dictate) first draft
  2. Transcription stage where I clean up Dragon’s errors if I dictated the first draft.
  3. Second (or third if I dictated the novel) cleanup draft where I cut a bunch of stuff because I tend to ramble, fix grammatical errors, clean up the story if I decided to make a change halfway through, etc.
  4. Third (or fourth if I dictated) draft on the Kindle where I triple check everything and make notes using the Note feature and then do a final cleanup in Vellum before sending it out into the world.

I’ve found that the eink format is really great for catching errors that you don’t find when you’re doing an edit on a computer screen. There’s something about the way the eye skims over the computer screen versus seeing ink words on a page that makes it easier to catch little errors that would’ve slipped through otherwise.

So if you have a Kindle consider doing a final draft on the eink screen before you release your novel. You might be surprised at what you find by changing the reading format!

Patreon is cracking down on adult content

When I was mainly writing erotica on Amazon during the great KDP shorts boom of 2014-2015 there was the ever present threat of Amazon coming through and cleaning house. There was money to be made writing some questionable material and where there’s money there will be people who are willing to make some of that money by filling a niche no matter how questionable.

It would seem that Amazon has mostly forgotten about policing their erotica section now that their changes to KDP have made erotica way less profitable and, therefore, way less likely to show up on top 100 charts where borderline erotica doesn’t belong, but that doesn’t mean the spirit of the crackdown isn’t alive and well out there on content platforms.

The big one right now? Patreon.

They announced changes to their content policy a few days back that are going to have a huge effect on adult content creators using the platform. They’d been vague, probably purposely so, about what was and wasn’t allowed on their platform and as a result there were a lot of people creating adult content who flocked to Patreon because it’s often difficult for adult content creators to monetize their works.

A lot of people are freaking out over what this means, so I figured I’d do a quick breakdown of their new guidelines to see if it’s really the end of the world as we know it for adult content creators:

We ask creators to flag themselves as Adult Content if they create any content that has mature themes such as sexuality or graphic violence. When you are flagged as Adult Content your page is removed from our search.

This is nothing new. Pages featuring adult content have always been removed from their search and hidden from the general public.

We also require that all public content on your page be appropriate for all audiences. Content with mature themes must be marked as a patron-only post.

Some people are misreading this passage. There are some places out there that are pointing out the perceived hypocrisy that they allow adult content but want pages to be “appropriate for all audiences.” These people are either deliberately ignoring the second sentence where NSFW content is allowed as long as it’s hidden to non-patrons or they need to work on their reading comprehension.

We have zero tolerance when it comes to the glorification of sexual violence which includes bestiality, rape, and child exploitation (i.e., sexualized depiction of minors). This is true for illustrated, animated, or any other type of content.

This is perfectly reasonable. Depictions of children, real or otherwise, are both morally reprehensible and illegal in the U.S. Bestiality is illegal in a lot of places. You could make a free speech argument for depictions of rape, but freedom of speech only compels the government to let you say what you want. I can see why Patreon would want to distance themselves from that stuff.

We understand that some topics on this list such as incest or rape are a little bit more complicated because these situations are, unfortunately, part of real life. As a result, when reviewing this type of content, the Trust and Safety team will take into consideration context

This also seems reasonable. I saw some erotica authors bemoaning that books like Lolita were available on Amazon for all to see while their 5000 word short story about mind controlling a roofied borderline underage cheerleader who was “18 years of age” according to the disclaimer at the front into having carnal relations with a group of creepy older men got thrown into Amazon’s adult dungeon. Because they’re totally the same thing, you see?

Yeah, I didn’t buy that argument then and I don’t buy that argument now. I’m reminded of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous quip “I know it when I see it.” regarding hardcore pornography.

Lastly, you cannot sell pornographic material or arrange sexual service(s) as a reward for your patrons. We define pornographic material as real people engaging in sexual acts such as masturbation or sexual intercourse on camera.

This last bit seems pretty clearly aimed at sex workers. Which sucks for them. We as a society are way to puritanical about that sort of thing, but it’s Patreon’s playground and they can decide who does and doesn’t get to play there.

Note that people writing erotica, people creating video games with erotic themes, and people creating erotic art aren’t explicitly included in any of those changes to their content guidelines. Unless those people are making their NSFW stuff public, of course, or their work contains some of the stuff that is forbidden under the new policy like children, rape, etc.

People have tried to frame this as a freedom of speech issue. It isn’t. Patreon is a company, not the U.S. government, and they can do what they please on their platform whether or not people agree with those decisions. People have tried to frame this as Patreon cracking down on fetish content. It’s not. There’s a wide world of fetish content that doesn’t involve rape, children, or sex workers that is still allowed on Patreon as long as it stays behind a paywall.

What this is? It’s a company providing a platform for people to create content, content creators pushing the boundaries, the company getting some flak for those boundaries being pushed, and a crackdown ensuing where they clarify their rules and clear out people who were pushing those boundaries.

This has all happened before, and it will all happen again. I’ve been through a couple of “smutpocalypses” over at Amazon and it’s always the same:

  1. A platform gains popularity among content creators and people start flocking to it.
  2. The platform has rules and guidelines about what content they allow, but people start pushing the boundaries.
  3. The platform either gets overwhelmed because of its sudden popularity and the influx of creators, or they deliberately turn a blind eye to some of the questionable content because it’s making money. You’d have to be in the board room to know which it is.
  4. The public gets wind that some questionable content is being hosted on the platform and the torches and pitchforks are passed around as all the usual media outlets and blogs sense blood in the water.
  5. A media feeding frenzy starts accompanied by the usual public outrage. The platform goes into damage control mode.
  6. A crackdown ensues. People who were pushing the boundaries, or outright stepping outside the boundaries, find themselves no longer welcome on the platform. Sometimes fortunes can be lost as the gravy train comes to a screeching halt.
  7. The creators being cracked down on make the usual arguments about the platform violating freedom of speech and giving into puritanical public sentiment.
  8. Things eventually settle down. The media moves on to the next story. The public finds some new cause celebre to be outraged about. Content creators go back to creating content because that’s what they do and chances are the money is still good.
  9. Slowly content creators creep in who decide to push at the new boundaries and see what they can get away with. Go back to number two.

I’m far from a puritanical person. I quit my day job on the back of writing some things that some would consider fetish erotica, and I still have one erotica pen name today that does decent business. I get that this stuff can be stressful, but at the end of the day if somebody is going to push the boundaries of what is allowed on the platform providing their income then they shouldn’t be surprised when the inevitable backlash comes along.

As far as I can tell this is the first time something like this has happened on Patreon so the wound is still fresh and surprising over there. It’s old hat for anyone who’s been creating sexy content on Amazon and the other ebook publishing platforms, though, and so I imagine this is going to end up playing out almost exactly to the script outlined above.

It’s not the end of the world. Content creators are going to continue creating content. People will continue making money off of NSFW content on Patreon. The people who were pushing at the guidelines are going to find themselves under the microscope with some cleaning up their act and others getting the boot. Things will settle down and life will go on with content creators who’ve lived through this always having it in the back of their mind.

This has all happened before, and it will all happen again.

Remembering AOL Instant Messenger

The news just hit the Internet that AOL Instant Messenger will be going dark as of December 15, 2017. I can’t say I’m surprised to see the service being shuttered, I’m surprised it managed to last this long, but it still feels like a piece of my childhood is shutting down forever.

I remember AIM launching as the hot new alternative to ICQ back in the late ’90s. Of course a platform lives or dies by its users and AIM quickly established itself as a dominant force in the messaging space. It seemed like everyone and their mother was launching messenger apps back then just like launching social networks was the big thing in the 2000s and I have no idea what the fuck is the new hotness with the kids these days.

There were so many services that are no longer with us. Yahoo! Messenger. MSN Messenger. Surprisingly ICQ is still hanging in there, but I have no idea who uses it.

There’s no doubt that for a hot minute in the late ’90s AIM was the shit with the teenage crowd which included yours truly at the time. AOL dominated the dial-up Internet market with their freebie disks and there were a lot of teens using the service. The program was simpler and easier to use that ICQ, and it let you communicate with people on the AOL network even if you didn’t use their service which was nice.

Heck, AIM was the first mobile instant messaging app I used back on a Pocket PC Ipaq in 2002. Back then mobile devices were called PDAs and the smartphone was just a glimmer in Steve Jobs’ eye. I had to pay $20 for the privilege of using AIM on my Ipaq, they were reasonably expensive devices that catered more to a business crowd so I guess they thought they could charge it rather than giving it away for free, and I had to have a special plastic sleeve adapter to enable WiFi on the device because WiFi was still a strange new witchcraft mostly being rolled out at universities at the time. It was buggy, didn’t work that well, and conversations weren’t that great, but it was an interesting precursor to the mobile messaging world we live in today.

I think there are a few things that will forever be seared into the collective memory of the generation that came of age when AIM was the big thing. The heart pounding excitement of hearing the little door opening notification sound and checking to see if it was a girl (or guy if you were a lady, or a guy, I don’t judge) you liked logging on. Coming up with funny away messages if you were one of the lucky people to have always-on broadband in a dial-up era. The heartache of hearing the door closing sound and seeing it was your crush logging off for the night. Posting cryptic profile updates because we were all teenagers who were too chicken-shit to address our feelings head on when Top 40 song lyrics could vaguebook for us a decade before vaguebooking was defined.

Heck, I met my wife on AOL Instant Messenger. Seriously. My mom played matchmaker with a pretty girl who was an office worker at her school and we swapped screen names through her. We kept in touch for a couple of years going to school and started dating when I got to college and she was in her last year of high school. I probably wouldn’t be married to my wife today and wouldn’t have my two kids if it wasn’t for AIM and the Internet allowing us to stay in touch over the couple of years it took for us to finally get together.

I think it’s safe to say there’s a good chance my life as I know it today wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for AIM. So while I understand why AIM is shutting down and appreciate that I haven’t used the service in over a decade, there’s still a part of me that’s sad to see it go.

Goodnight, sweet prince; and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Daily Targets: 9/21/2017

Today I not only hit most of my targets, but I knocked them out of the park. Here’s the breakdown:

Romance 1: 2227 of 2000

Romance 2: 7088 of 2000

Erotica 1: 1055 of 1000

Erotica 2: 1696 of 2000ish

Thriller: 1568 of 1500

If you’ve been paying attention you’ll note that I’ve shifted what I’m working on just a little. I made the decision at the end of August that I was going to keep my daughter home with me for her first year. Both because it seemed ridiculous to pay a daycare to watch her sleep and feed her every few hours and because I was going to be working harder to make up the cost of daycare when I could be putting that energy into taking care of her more directly.

That means I’ve had a shift in how I work. In the past I spent a lot of time working on new projects because I tended to get distracted by new shiny things pretty easily. I’m still working on new projects, but I’m working on new projects within the context of pen names that I’ve already established so I know there’s a better chance of success.

I have my daughter home with me for the next year or so, and so it’s time to focus on existing pen names rather than striking out with new things. There are a few ideas I’ve wanted to try and I’m excited about this shift. Plus I’m reminded of the Ron Swanson quote:

I’m going to focus on whole-assing my writing for awhile and returning to basics rather than splitting my attention by trying to launch some podcast projects that may or may not be successful. I’m also going to continue working on the supernatural thriller/horror/humor project that I’ve been working up so I’ll be trying at least one new thing. I also plan on focusing more on this site and working on sone nonfiction things about indie publishing here for now rather than recording a podcast.

The one thing I didn’t accomplish was getting some editing done on the thriller project, but I’ll just have to make that up tomorrow. I’ve switched back to dictation and that’s really been making a difference for helping me to knock out word counts. I can record most of my stuff at night after everyone else has gone to bed and then work on correcting and editing the next day which has been going well so far.

All in all today wasn’t a bad day. I set out with a target of 6500 words and ended up with 13634. Today was about as productive as some of my days before I had a little bundle of joy sleeping next to me while I make corrections and edits on the iPad Pro.

Now to keep up with that momentum into the holiday season!

Dragon Naturally Speaking for authors

Dragon Naturally Speaking is a wonderful productivity tool for authors. I’ve seen a lot of authors talking about it improving productivity and I also see a lot of people out there who have questions about the program. I’ve been using Dragon for years. Like, we’re talking since the first versions came out thanks to my dad being an early adopter in his law office.

I’m an indie author. I know a thing or two about Dragon. I’ve seen a lot of other indie authors with questions about Dragon. It seems like a space where I have some excellent overlapping expertise, so I’m writing a series of posts about how to leverage Dragon for your indie author career!

Dragon Naturally Speaking can revolutionize the way you write. You talk to your computer and, provided it’s a computer of a more recent vintage with at least an i5 processor and four gigs of RAM, what you say appears on the screen with some seriously impressive accuracy. Can’t type all that fast? Dealing with RSI? Read on!

Since this is the start of this series I’m going to lead with why Dragon Naturally Speaking is wonderful and will change the way you write:

Dragon allows you to write fast.

I’m a fast typist. I go at about 140WPM cruising speed on my mechanical keyboard and clock in at about 90WPM when I’m actually writing. That’s still nothing compared to how fast I can get down a first draft of a novel when I’m working with Dragon.

I’ve timed it out and for every three minutes and forty-five seconds I dictate into my recorder I get roughly 500 words. Your results are going to vary, but once you get used to the program you’ll probably see similar speeds, if not faster. Sure there’s a learning curve getting used to dictating into Dragon, but it’s not as steep as some people would have you believe.

Dragon is great for writing first drafts.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes sitting down and writing a first draft can feel like pulling teeth. I find that I don’t have that problem when I sit down with my recorder and start talking away. Before I know it minutes have passed and I have a few thousand words of first draft ready to be transcribed and edited.

I know a lot of writers have a problem putting their butt in the chair and getting out the first draft, and I’m a firm believer that dictating your first draft rather than sitting down to type it can be a lifesaver. Particularly if you’re not a very fast typist.

Dragon forces you to think about what you write.

The frustrating thing about working with Dragon Naturally Speaking is you have to go through and correct mistakes the software makes as it transcribes your words. The wonderful thing about working with Dragon Naturally Speaking is it forces you to go through and do a deep read of your first draft while you’re correcting the mistakes the software makes as it transcribes your words.

This is something I noticed when I was debating about whether I wanted to go with Dragon or just type out my drafts. I type fast enough that it’s actually slightly slower for me to “write” using Dragon Naturally Speaking. By the time I’ve corrected the text I’ve spent more time with Dragon than I’d spend writing a draft by typing.

But I still use Dragon. Mostly because it forces me to go through and revise that first draft and be mindful of what I’m putting on the page. Time spent correcting the errors that inevitably crop up in what Dragon puts out is also time spent on revision, and I feel like between the more natural voice I get dictating and being more mindful of what’s put on the page I get a better end product with Dragon because of that extra pass.

Dragon will make your writing voice feel more natural.

I just said this above, but it bears repeating. This is anecdotal, but all of my books that have been wildly successful, like we’re talking reaching the top 1000 in the Amazon store, have been books that I dictated. This is just a gut feeling I have and I don’t have hard data to back it up, but I feel like dictating makes for something that sounds more natural. Your mileage may vary on how your personal writing voice sounds when dictating, but I think using Dragon is a net positive in this department.

Dragon allows for easy writing on the go.

This is the real game changer with Dragon. Sure anyone can write by tapping out on their phone, but Dragon Naturally Speaking and a digital voice recorder truly allows you to write anywhere. It’s wonderful.

This is how I used Dragon when I was working a full time job. As soon as I started making money from my writing I thought back to watching my dad use the program in his law practice and I knew it was going to be the force multiplier that allowed me to really ramp up my writing productivity. I invested in a copy of Dragon Professional and a Sony Digital Voice Recorder and never looked back.

Being able to record on the go opened up my writing career. I had an hour commute in the morning and anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half in the evenings. That entire time I was able to dictate using a headset (gotta be responsible while doing this guys!). I gave up podcasts for that year. On my lunch hour and when I got home in the evening I would transcribe and edit. I’d dare say I was more productive in those focused days when I was working a day job than some weeks when I was doing writing full time.

Transcription will change the way you work. I guarantee it. And I’m going to tell you all about how to do it properly in this series!

Dragon helps with RSI

Repetitive strain injury. It’s the bane of anyone who works at a computer for any appreciable length of the day. Because I type so ridiculously fast it’s something that I battled constantly when I went full time as an author, but with Dragon the danger of RSI can be a thing of the past. Sure there can be a different set of issues with making sure you don’t strain your voice, but the worry there isn’t nearly as bad as the worry of injury to your fingers or wrists.

I’ve done a lot to combat RSI before it became a real problem, and by far the best thing that I ever did in that never ending war was use a voice recorder coupled with Dragon transcription rather than sitting down and typing everything out.

About me

You might be asking yourself who I am and what makes me worth listening to when it comes to all things Dragon. That’s easy. I’ve been working with Dragon since the first version came out in the late ’90s. I’d help around my dad’s law office growing up and a big part of that involved going through finished documents he recorded correcting mistakes and retraining Dragon. I’ve been working with the program for twenty years now.

I’ve also been using Dragon extensively in my writing business as I mentioned above in the “writing on the go” section. I credit Dragon Naturally Speaking with giving me the productivity boost I needed to create content at a level where I could go full time as a writer. I’ve been an independent author working in erotica and romance since 2014. I went full time in 2015 and I’ve been doing the full time writing gig under various pen names since February of that year. In that time I’ve reacquainted myself with the ins and outs of Dragon on both PC and Mac.

So you might say I know a few things about being a successful indie author and successfully leveraging Dragon for your indie publishing ventures. I’m excited to help the world use Dragon, and I hope you’re excited about getting started with this amazing productivity tool!

Stay tuned to my blog for the next post in this series that goes into all the various flavors of Dragon and how to decide which one is right for you!