Writing

Protip for anyone having quality issues with Dragon Naturally Speaking on a bluetooth headset

Don’t use a bluetooth headset with Dragon Naturally Speaking.

No, seriously. Don’t use bluetooth with DNS. Get a wired headset or microphone, or a headset that has a dedicated wireless receiver.

Read on for a more detailed description of the problem and the two weeks of frustration and troubleshooting that led me to this conclusion. One of my most popular posts ever is about me being an idiot and forgetting to connect a cable on a Huion tablet, so here’s hoping this will help as many people!

Getting back into Dragon Naturally Speaking

I’ve been switching back to DNS and trying to make it work. I’ve discovered that talking into a recorder and then transcribing is never going to give me the accuracy that I need, I was spending way too much time fixing errors for it to be a productivity booster, but talking directly into the computer is surprisingly accurate.

At least it was surprisingly accurate on my gaming laptop. Not so much on my Mac. Which was a problem considering I’ve gotten used to the Mac ecosystem and rather prefer it to Windows.

I banged my head against a wall for a week trying to get Dragon to work on my Mac. I tried running it in Parallels, but Parallels kept crashing. On the rare occasion it would work I couldn’t get clean dictation out of Dragon. Then it would crash again and totally freeze my system.

I tried switching to Boot Camp and using a Logitech H800 bluetooth/wireless headset. I connected it to my Windows install using Bluetooth. I still wasn’t getting the level of accuracy I was getting on my gaming PC.

I was convinced for about a week that the issue came down to RAM. My MacBook Pro “only” has 16GB of RAM, but my Asus ROG gaming laptop has 24GB of RAM because I’m insane and an upgrade was cheap a few years back.

So I used the Asus laptop for a week, convinced I was going to have to bid my beloved Mac adieu. Until a few days ago when I was using my Logitech headset with the computer, and noticed that the quality took a nosedive when I stepped away from the computer.

The non-obvious blindingly obvious solution

I’ll give you one guess as to where this is going.

If you guessed that I was using the onboard microphone on my computer and not the Logitech headset then you’d be absolutely correct! I’d connected the microphone to my computer and set it up in Sound in Control Panel, but I didn’t tell Dragon to switch user profiles and use the Logitech microphone.

So Dragon was using the onboard mic. That’s what was giving me the pristine quality.

I still wanted to be able to get up and move around while dictating, so I made sure Dragon was listening through the Logitech bluetooth headset and started dictating. Immediately the quality of transcription took a nosedive. It was doing that annoying thing where it inserts stray articles in between words, or just not putting the right words on the screen at all.

I’d gone from pristine quality talking into the default laptop mic to terrible quality talking on a dedicated bluetooth headset that gets a five star rating from Nuance in terms of compatability.

Dubya. Tee. Eff.

The test

Curious about this development, I decided to get my MacBook Pro back out and see if the quality was any better using the onboard microphone versus using the Logitech headset in Boot Camp. I loaded a profile for the onboard mic, started dictating, and…

It was coming out just as nice as what I was getting on my gaming PC. Imagine that.

I also kept getting notifications that Dragon was getting low quality audio. That didn’t seem to affect the quality of the transcription coming through, it was looking good no matter what, but if I wanted to use Dragon without a constant annoying pinging from Windows clearly I needed a better Mic.

Even more curious now, I connected the USB wireless dongle that comes with the Logitech headset and tried dictating a few more paragraphs. Once more everything was coming out quite nicely. I tried walking around the room and dictating, and still the dictation was pretty close to pristine. There were a few extra words thrown in here and there, but it wasn’t every other word like on bluetooth.

Clearly the dedicated USB wireless connection did the trick.

The conclusion

After all this frustration I won’t be going back to dictating on my ten pound beast of a gaming laptop, but I also won’t be dictating using a bluetooth connection. I’d tried dictating using a pair of Powerbeats Pro before buying the Logitech headset and the quality was spotty.

I figured the problem was that the Powerbeats weren’t designed for dictation. That’s why I got the dedicated Logitech headset. I even thought it was working well, until I realized my dumb ass was wearing the headset but talking into the wrong source.

I told you this was going to be like the post where I forgot to plug in a USB cable on the back of a tablet.

The common factor is bluetooth. Connecting a 2.4ghz Logitech wireless USB dongle just works. I imagine the same could be said for a wired connection or any other headset that uses a dedicated wireless connection rather than bluetooth.

The bottom line is I plan on using Dragon a lot more now for my first drafts, but I’m not going back to bluetooth to do that dictating.

2020 Goals: Branch into audio including podcasts and audio books

Time to talk about my first big goal for 2020! I’m getting into audio.

This is a big one that I’ve been working towards since 2017 when I started building an audio studio to do podcasting and audiobooks. I hit a bit of a snag when my daughter was born and I focused on being with her for her first year instead of doing audio, but now that things have settled down a bit at home I’m ready to do this.

My strategy for hitting audio is also part of my strategy for going wide. Audio is the fastest growing corner of the publishing market right now, and there are a lot of people listening to books and podcasts. These are my people. I’ve been an audiobook listener since the mid ’90s when the only way you could get audio was on tape. I haven’t listened to radio or music all that much since I got an iPod in the mid ’00s and discovered podcasts.

In addition there’s still a high barrier to entry for creating audiobooks, which means that there’s less competition in the market from indie authors. It can cost thousands of dollars to produce an audiobook, but if I’m able to do the recording and editing myself in my home studio then the only investment I have to make is time. It took hours spent learning Adobe Audition and audio engineering and the investment in creating the studio, but I’m hoping it’ll pay off dividends.

I’ve also wanted to start a podcast for years but never felt like I had anything to podcast about. That’s changed, though. I have ideas, and this is the plan:

Podcasting

Nonfiction Podcasting:

Motivrite: A podcast about what goes into being an indie author. I’ve learned a lot about the market over the years and would like to give back to the community by releasing a podcast with advice for authors. There are a lot of podcasts out there that focus on marketing a book and getting it to an audience, so I’m going to hit a different niche at first and talk about tips and tricks for getting the words down, and how to navigate life as a part time or full time indie.

Stretch goal – Indie Day Job: If I manage to complete all my other goals and I still have time then I’d also like to start a podcast where I talk to other indie creators about their day to day. I’m not sure if this will be happening because I already have a lot on my plate, but we’ll see. As the year goes on and some things succeed and others don’t I might have more time to launch this project.

Fiction Podcasting:

Avallanath: This is a story that’s been rattling around my head for the past decade about an author of very fat books, the fans who love to hate him, and what happens when his creations take matters into their own hands.

I started writing it while I was in grad school a decade back, and I released it as a webcomic at one point that got to be sort of popular with a few hundred people a day hitting the site daily. The problem is I’ve never been that good at drawing and I don’t feel like webcomics are a real growth area. So I plan on releasing it as an audio fiction podcast with a chapter or two a week.

Blake Byron: Paranormal Investigator: This is another story that’s been rattling around in my head for more than a decade, but I only sat down and actually wrote it in 2017. It’s the story of a former special forces soldier turned campus cop who wanted a nice quiet life. Then he came across the victim of a vampire attack, killed the vampire that killed her, and found himself in the crosshairs of the local vampires. I tried releasing this in 2017 and it didn’t meet with much success, but it’s a fun story that I enjoy and I feel like it could do well with a bit of a marketing push so I’m going to try it out in audio and see what happens.

GameLit: I have a couple of GameLit stories I’ve been working on since 2016ish when LitRPG first started taking off. The first one I plan on releasing in audio and as a wide book release is Dice Mage, which is going to be a complete rewrite of a book I released near the end of 2018 that had some moderate success, but I think it would do better being rereleased with the new longer outline I’ve worked out that tells more of a story.

Audiobooks

The plan is to release these novels wide on all ebook platforms once they’ve been finished, and then start releasing the audiobook episodes with one or two chapters being released per week to drum up interest. I’ll push people towards the finished ebooks at the end of every episode if they want to hear the whole story at once.

I also plan on releasing episodes early to backers on my Patreon which I plan on really hitting hard in 2019-2020. With a little luck I’ll be able to build an audience of readers and audiophiles who contribute for a chance to get episodes early while also adding another leg to my income table that isn’t Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

When the books are finished in podcast form I’ll eventually release them wide as paid audiobooks as well. I won’t be going exclusive with Audible, but instead going wide with services like Findaway to diversify my income base.

Daily steps to achieve this goal

Having a lofty annual goal is all well and good, but it’s also important to think about the daily steps that’ll be necessary to make it happen. There are only so many hours in a day, and if I’m going to do everything I want to do in the 2019-2020 year then I’m going to have to focus and do it one day at a time.

The daily goal for this one is easy enough though. I’ll disappear into my home studio for a couple of hours every night after the kids are in bed and work on recording stuff. I’ll probably only do this Monday through Friday, taking weekends off to relax and have a little bit of fun.

Wrapping up

And that’s the audio plan for 2019-2020! I’m in the middle of production of episodes of Blake Byron and hope to start releasing that podcast in October to tie in with the horror vibe the book gives off. I’ve worked out outlines for nine episodes of Motivrite so far as well. I have about ten episodes of Avallanath written and will start recording that soon, and I’m currently working on finishing the updated version of Dice Mage and probably won’t begin recording that until November or December.

It’s a lot on my plate, but I really enjoy sitting in the booth and doing some recording. It gives me an opportunity to explore a new market, give another polish run on the manuscript, and flex my acting muscles which I haven’t had a chance to do in years. I’m looking forward to seeing where I’ll be in audio by next year!

Star Pirate II: The Wrath of the Queen

I’m super excited to announce the second book in the Star Pirate series: Star Pirate II: The Wrath of the Queen!

Star Pirate II: The Wrath of the Queen

I had a lot of fun writing this one. It took a little while to get around to writing it because I wanted to wait until I had a story that was worth telling to continue Flynn’s adventures.

What I came up with ended up being a fun ride in addition to letting me make a really awesome Wrath of Khan pun in the title. I also had a lot of fun putting together that cover and making it reminiscent of the WoK original cover in all its Montalban manchest glory.

If you haven’t read the original Star Pirate then click here to get started on the series. If you have read the original then I think you’ll like the sequel!

2020 goals

So I’m going to be doing something a little different. I know a lot of people set their goals at the new year, but as a parent with a kid in elementary school who works from home I’ve discovered that my work year now revolves around my kid’s schedule.

My new work year is from August to May. Because one summer with the kiddo at home has taught me that there just isn’t much of anything work related that’s happening in the months of June and July. Anything I want to put out in those months has to be done well ahead of time!

So here are my goals for August 2020. I’m writing them out here in the hopes that doing it publicly will give me some accountability and keep me on track.

Big picture goals:

  1. Branch into audio including podcasts and audiobooks
  2. Release 36 books across my various pen names
  3. Diversify my income so I’m not solely reliant on Amazon for a paycheck
  4. Build and maintain this site and blog as brand building and as a central hub for all my creative projects
  5. Start hitting five figure months regularly

Five goals, and if I do the first four right then number five will come naturally. Seems easy enough, right? Only as I’m sitting here reading those goals there’s an awful lot that’s going to go into making those goals happen. Which means that there’s some detail work that needs to be done to figure out how I’m going to hit those goals!

With that in mind I’m going to be doing a series of posts over the next few days highlighting each one of my five goals for the next year, going over what needs to be done to hit those goals, and talking about what I need to do to make sure I get that done.

I believe it’s important to plan. If you have a plan then you have something to work towards. If you have something to work towards then it’s a matter of checking the boxes. I also hope that seeing a little bit of my planning process might inspire you to make a plan of your own that clearly states your goals, how you can reach them, and what you need to do to make that happen!

Motivrite 3: Vanity Publishing vs. Self-publishing


For the longest time vanity publishing and self-publishing were one and the same. If someone couldn’t get a deal with a traditional publisher then their only other option was to go with a vanity publisher who would gladly print up anything the author wanted, for a price. This naturally led to a bunch of not-so-great stuff being vanity published, and there’s a stigma associated with vanity publishing that still lingers around all self-publishing to this day.

But vanity publishing and modern indie self-publishing are far from the same thing, and it’s time for that old stigma and snooty attitude about self-publishers to go. Today’s episode of Motivrite dives into a brief history of vanity publishing, and the differences between old school vanity publishing and modern digital self-publishing.

Show Notes:

0:30 – The distinction between vanity publishing and self-publishing. One of these things is not like the other.

Vanity publishing and self-publishing used to be the same thing. That’s not the case anymore. Good work is being done by indies now that digital self-publishing has democratized the process, and this podcast is going to delve into the history of vanity publishing and compare it to modern digital self-publishing.

1:20 “Publishing companies” that weren’t publishing companies at all. My introduction to the world of vanity publishing.

A brief story about my introduction to the world of vanity publishing. Aka how I learned to stop worrying and accept that I wasn’t actually getting a publishing contract for a short story I wrote for my high school newspaper.

2:35 What is vanity publishing?

A history of old school vanity publishing and why it has a much deserved bad reputation among writers and publishers.

4:37 Not knowing the distinction between vanity publishing and digital self-publishing held me back from my future career. Don’t let it hold you back.

For the longest time I thought that digital self-publishing was just the new version of offline vanity publishing, and this held me back from self-publishing my stuff for several years I could’ve been using to build my career. Don’t let this happen to you.

5:40 Digital self-publishing is a whole new world of indie publishing.

There’s a whole new world of opportunities for writers because of the digital publishing revolution. I go into the differences between the old and busted self-publishing and the new hotness, and why one is still a costly dead end and one is your path to a potential new career.

7:45 Sturgeon’s Law is alive and well, but digital self-publishing allows the cream to rise to the top instead of relying on gatekeepers.

I tackle one of the most common criticisms against self-publishing: that a lot of the material that’s put out there isn’t that good. Which is true. There is a lot of crap out there, but there are also plenty of new systems in place that help the good stuff rise to the top that are far better than the old gatekeeping system of agents and publishers, because it’s the readers who get to decide what’s worthwhile in this new paradigm.

8:30 Digital markets are the great equalizer that puts indies on an equal footing with trad publishers.

We’ve never lived in a better time for writers to make money from their craft. Vanity publishing was a last ditch way for writers who couldn’t cut it in the old system to get their stuff out there, and it almost never worked. Digital self-publishing is a great new level playing field where anyone writing good stuff can stand out from the crowd and make a career!

Motivrite 2: What makes a career author?

In the second episode of Motivrite I do a dive into what it takes to be a career writer. There’s no one path to making a writing career, but there are some skills and habits that will make it a lot easier for you to take your writing from hobby to career. I talk a little bit about what it takes, and how you can get there!

Show Notes

0:27 – What makes someone a practitioner of an art?

Is it the act of doing, or is it getting paid? Is it getting paid or is it getting paid enough to do full time? Which gatekeeper is right?

1:40 – What is a career writer?

Career writers are working towards or making enough money to do this as a full time job. What does it take to hit this goal?

2:50 – What makes a career writer?

I talk about some of the skills and habits that career writers all have in common.

  1. Be a reader
  2. Be able to write
  3. Be disciplined
  4. Have a desire to learn
  5. Have ambition that’s paired with a work ethic and a desire to make it
  6. Treat writing like a job if you want it to be your job

13:20 – It’s not as difficult as you might think!

If you’re listening to this podcast then you’re taking the first step towards achieving what you need to make writing your career.

 

Introducing Motivrite

I’ve been wanting to do a podcast about writing since I first went full time back in 2015. I’ve dabbled in it here and there, but a variety of things kept me from actually hitting the publish button. Until today.

That’s right! I’ve finally got the time to put together some podcasting, and after a year of spending time here and there putting together a home studio, Motivrite is finally ready to go! You can hit play up above to listen to episode 1, or have a look at the show notes below. Thanks for listening!

Show notes:

Episode 1 is a quick introduction to Motivrite that talks about what I see the podcast covering, including:

Business tips

The career indie author has to be a businessperson on top of being a writer these days, and Motivrite will help with that.

Advice for newbies and pros

There’ll be advice in Motivrite that will help people just getting started and people who have been doing this for a few years and are old hands at the business.

Health advice for writers

Writers aren’t slaving away in the word mines, but there are health pitfalls associated with this sedentary job. I’ll have health tips, tricks, and advice for the career author.

Inspiration

Everyone needs a little inspiration, and Motivrite will occasionally feature inspiring stories of authors who made it!

Productivity

Productivity is tough. Motivrite will help with tips and tricks I’ve learned doing this full time for four years that will hopefully help you out and help you avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made!

Writing tools

Sure writing can be done with a pencil and a notebook, but the modern indie author is going to have to be a lot more high tech than that. Motivrite will cover all sorts of nifty tools from the absolutely necessary to the stuff that’s nice to have but not a must have.

 

Progress update: 11/1/2018

November! The start of NaNo, which I won’t be participating in, but that’ll be in its own post. This is my daily progress update to keep me honest!

I didn’t get anything done yesterday. I went on a field trip with my kid which ate up most of the day, and when I got home I was so exhausted that I took a nap that lasted just long enough for me to feed the kids and go out for trick or treating.

Today was more productive from a writing standpoint! I wrote 13,223 words and revised 9,951.

On the podcast front it was also a productive day. I finished chapter 8 of Dice Mage and will be launching that in the next couple of days. I also changed the intro and outtro to a couple of episodes of a podcast about writing that I’ve been working on. I’d originally conceived of the podcast as daily, but if I’m also doing fiction podcasts that’s not possible so I’m changing the bumpers to reflect the new weekly schedule.

That should launch here pretty soon as well considering I have quite a few episodes in the bank.

All in all it was a productive day. Here’s hoping I continue the streak tomorrow!

Progress update: 10/30/2018

A bit of a slower day today. Didn’t get much sleep the night before because of a sick kiddo, and as such I ended up sleeping a good chunk of the morning away which hit me right in the productivity.

I wrote 8336 words today and revised 4,129. Not a bad day, but I didn’t get much other work done aside from writing because the morning was shot.

On the podcast/audiobook front I recorded and finished chapter 7 of Dice Mage. I also submitted a support ticket to the good people at Libsyn to get the slug for the hosting I’m paying for there switched to reflect Dice Mage rather than Blake Byron, which I’ve abandoned for the moment. Once that’s sorted I’ll upload the first seven chapters and start my great experiment seeing if podcasting is a decent way to build an audience!

That’s it for today. It was an abbreviated day so it’ll be an abbreviated day.

Introducing Dice Mage!

I got my start in the whole full time writing thing doing erotica and romance. I make no secret of that and I’m not ashamed of it. I’m proud of figuring out a way to make a full time living doing something I love, and I’ve actually come to really enjoy romance as a genre in my time writing in it!

Having said that, for the past four years I’ve always been shooting for the goal of releasing something under my own name. It’s something I was working towards way back in 2016, but then life got in the way. My dad was diagnosed with cancer so I was taking care of him, then he passed and I was taking care of his estate. I also had a string of a couple of surgeries that weren’t life threatening, but put a cramp on my writing time. Through this all my wife was pregnant, then she gave birth and I was helping around the house while she was home on leave, and after that I made the decision to keep my daughter home for her first year.

Suffice it to say my plate was full, and it was taking every bit of time and energy I could dedicate to writing simply to keep up with my existing pen names and maintain an income that kept my family in the lifestyle to which we’ve become accustomed.

So some of the GameLit and fantasy stuff I was working on went on the back burner for awhile, but as of a couple of weeks ago I’m excited to say that I’ve finally released a GameLit adjacent book, Dice Mage!

If you’re not familiar with GameLit, it’s a genre that goes hand in hand with LitRPG. It’s a story that includes gaming elements as part of the story. In Dice Mage that translates to a normal college dude who was minding his own business when he was tapped by a goddess to be her champion in a game of the gods taking place on his college campus, and he has to try and save the world with a set of magical dice that give him the powers of a badass mage! Maybe. If he can ever figure out how they work.

I was super excited about this genre when I saw it moving up the charts in 2015-2016, and I’m excited to finally release my own entry! I’m also a little annoyed that I didn’t get a start in the genre a couple of years ago, but life happens and all you can do is move forward.

So there you have it! You can check out Dice Mage at Amazon and give it a read. It’s also in Kindle Unlimited if you’re a subscriber. I’ve been doing this writing thing full time for nearly four years, but it feels good to finally have something out there under my name!