Month: September 2017

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!

Sports beats scifi on Fox. Again.

Last night I went to tune in for the next episode of The Orville. We ended up getting home a little late from a family thing but that was okay because we live in the age of the DVR, right?

Wrong.

I hit play on the episode and found myself staring at the Broncos vs. Cowboys game. Seriously. They delayed the newest episode because of a football game.

Not that this is surprising. We’re talking about Fox here. A network that’s as infamous for preempting its programming for sports as it is for cancelling promising shows before they really have a chance to get off the ground.

Fans had the same frustration with Firefly back in the day. I remember the same frustration with shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy. There were times when it was impossible to tell when your favorite show was going to air because Fox was busy catering to the almighty sports demographic at the expense of fans of their original programming.

It looks like the more things change the more things stay the same. Sure I can watch the episode streaming at Fox’s website, but it’s frustrating that’s even a thing fans should have to deal with on a new show. Especially a new show with a distinct split in the audience where a lot of people are still trying to make up their mind.

The Orville: Old Wounds

THE ORVILLE: L-R: Penny Johnson Jerald, Mark Jackson, Seth MacFarlane, Peter Macon, Scott Grimes, Adrianne Palicki, J. Lee and Halston Sage in THE ORVILLE premiering this fall on FOX. ©2017 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Noah Schutz/FOX

I’ve been looking forward to The Orville since I first saw that Seth MacFarlane was doing an homage/spoof of Star Trek. The show is right in my wheelhouse. I’ve been a huge trekkie my entire life and I’ve been a fan of MacFarlane since the first time I saw Family Guy when it first premiered. Combine the two? Well you have something that I’m very much looking forward to!

The previews for The Orville really wanted to build it up as a comedy that had more in common with MacFarlane’s other works than it did with Star Trek. The Internet really seemed to want The Orville to be a rehash of Galaxy Quest, though I thought those comparisons were flawed considering Galaxy Quest’s unique comedy stew had a healthy dose of fandom culture and winking nods at the ridiculousness of the show’s premise in its ingredients rather than being an in-universe straight up parody.

Which is to say that going into this I figured there were going to be a lot of people who were disappointed with The Orville based on their expectations. It looks like the critical reaction has been pretty negative, but then again the critical reaction to anything MacFarlane does tends to be pretty negative. I’ll admit his stuff is something you either like or you hate, but if you fall on the “like” side of that dichotomy then the humor in The Orville is more hit than miss.

The best part, though, is that you don’t even have to be a fan of MacFarlane’s comedy to enjoy The Orville, because at its core the show isn’t a comedy. It isn’t a spoof of Star Trek. No, more than anything it’s a return to the roots that made Star Trek the wonderful thing that it was. It’s an optimistic take on humanity’s future with a more realistic and smartass approach to how the characters interact, and I really enjoyed it.

The first episode, Old Wounds, hits a lot of beats that will be familiar to anyone who has seen a pilot from a science fiction show that debuted after Star Trek: The Next Generation dominated the airwaves and helped to usher in a new golden era of scifi on television. Characters are introduced. Interpersonal relationships are defined. A bit of old conflict is introduced. A new bad guy shows up and there’s a macguffin of the week that moves the plot along.

I don’t think the specifics of Old Wounds are all that necessary to cover though. It would be a perfectly serviceable episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but the humor infused in the show really adds something to it. Say what you will about TNG and how groundbreaking it was for its time, but it could be a lot more stuffy and buttoned up than its predecessor. In many ways the interactions between the crew on The Orville feel more natural. There’s a workplace banter that I think better reflects how life would proceed on a ship like that, even in the far future, and in many ways it hearkens back to some of the lighter moments of the original Star Trek.

The Orville isn’t the rapid fire comedy that Fox desperately wanted people to think it was based on the advertising. It isn’t a straight up parody of Star Trek that the Internet seemed to so desperately need. What it is, though, is a loving homage to everything that made the best of Star Trek so great. Some might call it a straight up copy, but I really enjoyed seeing a show that got away from the dark and gritty tone that has taken over science fiction in the past decade and even tainted Star Trek to some degree.

The Orville is a return to a bygone era of televised scifi. It’s a show that depicts a bright future where humanity is doing well, and it does it with humor that shows a world that feels a lot more realistic than most of the dour scifi that’s been on the airwaves in the past twenty years.

I can’t wait to see where they go. Old Wounds was promising, and I think this show has the potential to develop into something amazing. Watching it felt like sitting down to watch an episode of TNG when I was a kid, and I welcome a return to a more optimistic take on the genre.

Nods to Trek:

The Orville isn’t a straight up Star Trek spoof, but there were plenty of nods in the episode that I enjoyed.

The door swishes and beeps were all very familiar.

The friendly deadly orc was a nice twist on the holodeck.

The shuttle flight that revealed the Orville was straight out of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, including music cues that were spot on while being just different enough to avoid copyright infringement.

MacFarlane’s speech to his crew was another scene straight out of The Motion Picture.

The musical stingers featuring the ship floating through space when they came back from commercials was a spot on moment from TOS and TNG.

The standoff with the enemy captain at the end bore more than a striking resemblance to the prefix code showdown with Khan in Wrath of Khan.

The shuttle ramming into the shuttle bay at full speed was a fun nod to Sulu doing the same in Final Frontier.

Notable moments:

The Orville leaving the dock to a rousing orchestral score was perfect. It brought to mind similar scenes from various Trek shows and movies while also being its own thing, which is really the whole episode in a nutshell.

Asking the weirdly framed alien to move just a little was funny. It brought to mind all those episodes of TNG where Tomalak stood just a little too close to the viewscreen for comfort.

The moment where they start airing their marriage grievances to a confused alien commander who actually engages them on the subject? Hilarious.

The discussion of the parting one-liner at the end was pretty funny too.

Summing Up:

If I had to give Old Wounds a letter grade it would probably be a solid B to B+. Not all the jokes hit and it’s clear the show is still finding itself, but the promise of a show that depicts an optimistic future with a dash of realism and humor is enough to have me really excited to see where they go with this! And MacFarlane is the golden boy at Fox, so if anyone has the power to keep an ambitious show like this going long enough to find its feet, something that even TNG didn’t do until towards the end of season 2 or the beginning of season 3 mind you, he’s the guy.

The importance of researching online retailers

I have a cautionary tale for you today and a moral.

I was looking to decorate a corner of my basement in a Godzilla theme about a month back. I got autographs from Haruo Nakajima who played Godzilla in the original and many subsequent movies as well as Tsutomu Kitagawa who played the Big G in Godzilla 2000.

As part of that redecoration I ordered a nice looking wall sticker from SmackMyTeeUp.com that featured a silhouette of the Tokyo skyline with everyone’s favorite lizard stomping through it. I was excited. It was going to look awesome.

It never came.

I did some digging after a month had gone by with no sticker. They said it was supposed to be there in a week or so. They sent me a tracking number that never ended up tracking anything. And in doing that digging I realized that the website was a fly by night operation that had already gotten in trouble and closed up shop under one name before opening SmackMyTeeUp. There are numerous complaints out there about them doing exactly what they did to me to other people as well.

I tried getting in touch with them but they didn’t answer emails. Go to their website now and it’s a parked GoDaddy domain. Obviously they were looking to hoover up as much money as they could from people before disappearing and starting over again at a new site.

I initiated a chargeback with my bank and the lady there sent them a few emails that they never answered. I got my money back through the chargeback, but it’s annoying to have to mess with that in the first place.

The moral of the story? Always check out the reviews on a retailer before you order from them. It’s not something I’ve had to think of since I usually order from older established sites with a record, but a simple search in this case would’ve revealed I never should’ve ordered from those assholes in the first place and I would’ve saved myself some time.

Always do your research online. Especially where money is concerned!

The year of busting my ass

So I just got done reading Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autiobiography Total Recall that tells the story of his life from his early days until the late 2000s when it was published. I have to say I came away from the book inspired. Say what you will about the guy, but he has a work ethic. He saw a goal, decided he was going for it, and didn’t let anything like doubts or second guessing stop him once he set one of those goals.

It’s inspiring stuff, and it’s inspired me as well. I’ve had a few projects that I’ve been kicking around and I’ve decided that I’m going to try a new experiment. I call it the Year of Busting My Ass.

What does that mean? Well it’s actually pretty simple. It means I’m going to come up with some goals, and for the next year I’m going to bust my ass to make sure those goals become a reality. It won’t be the first time I’ve done something like this. Having my daughter home with me watching her and working has reminded me of the most productive time in my life back in 2014 when I was busting my ass writing, working a full time job, and helping to take care of my brand new son.

Basically it’s when I feel a time crunch that I’m at my most productive. At least that’s the idea. So here are the goals that I’d like to accomplish week to week for the next year:

  1. Write 5500 words a day every day with breaks for holidays.
  2. Set up a regular schedule of posting under my romance pen name every six weeks, alternating slightly between niches and working on two at a time so that I’m getting something out every three weeks or so.
  3. Get back into a regular schedule with my steamy romance/erotica pen name so that I’m releasing a new short/novella of around 20k-25k every three weeks.
  4. Publish a new episode of my epic fantasy comedy podcast every week.
  5. Publish two audio chapter episodes of my supernatural thriller/urban fantasy/horror comedy audiobook podcast every week as individual episodes.
  6. Publish an episode of my writing motivation podcast every week.
  7. Exercise for an hour and a half every day and get back into shape, because this tubby look isn’t working for me.
  8. Clean up my diet and start eating a more healthy and balanced diet to support my desire to get in shape, because this tubby look isn’t working for me.
  9. Get seven to eight hours of sleep a day.
  10. Make $150,000 in the next year from all of my writing and podcasting efforts.

Are all of those doable? Maybe, and maybe not. I think they’re certainly possible given past performance. It’s just a matter of buckling down and actually doing in the work.

I’m gonna be honest here. I’ve been in a bit of a slump this past year and a half. It started with my grandma getting sick and ultimately passing at the end of 2015, then we moved to a new house in the middle of 2016 which took move of my time than I’d like even though it was totally worth it. My dad was diagnosed with cancer about a year ago and died at the end of September 2016 which did a number on me even if I wasn’t willing to admit it to myself at the time. Then my wife got pregnant which we were totally trying for, but having a pregnant wife and then a new baby in the house is a surefire recipe for messing up even the best planned schedule.

In short there’s been a lot that’s happened in the past year and a half and I feel like I sort of dropped the ball. I got used to coasting along with the success I’ve already achieved even though I knew that success wasn’t going to be enough for me. I still have things I want to accomplish in my indie career, and I feel like getting to the point where I have a good full time income I can use to support myself and my family is only the beginning.

It’s time to stop with excuses. It’s time to buckle down and get shit done while also maintaining a work/life balance. It’s time for the year of busting my ass.

September 2016 was a really bad time for me where I didn’t get any work done because I was dealing with a terrible loss and being there for my family. September 2017 is going to be the month I get back the old me who worked his ass off to get where I am now, and hopefully achieve things beyond anything I could’ve imagined when I was quitting the day job.