Dragon Naturally Speaking

I just purchased the new software called Dragon Naturally Speaking. I have been working with it for just a short while. Actually, only about an hour. This blog post is the first sizable bit of writing that I have done with it.

I decided to purchase the software mostly because I broke my arm last weekend. Typing with one hand is quite slow and rather annoying. I had been thinking about purchasing Dragon Naturally Speaking in order to increase my output as a writer because I felt like my hands kept getting in the way of my thought processes when I’m writing. Then I broke my arm.

It is quite awkward to talk and try to keep track of where my punctuation goes. I am getting the hang of it pretty quick and things seem to be slowly coming together. I will say that this program is quite accurate so far. I haven’t really come across anything that is not working very well. I do go back and double check spelling and punctuation, and things like that, just because I’m not saying them correctly yet. For the most part I’m pretty impressed.

I have the premium version that I purchased on Amazon for about $75. The only drawback was the headset that came with the software didn’t work, and I had to purchase a separate headset with a USB connection.

Since breaking my arm I have a whole new appreciation for anyone who has limited use of a hand. This limitation really brings challenges that you never would think about on a day-to-day basis. Things such as opening a bottle, or putting on your pants, or tying your shoes. I also found that typing is extremely challenging, and things that took me just a few minutes to type now take me twenty. Finding this software has made my life simpler. So, I’m looking forward to continuing the test on this software. I let you know how it all works out.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell


★★★★☆
This hefty novel opens in 1806 with the meeting of the Great Magic Society. Theoretical magicians meet to discuss their discoveries while reading about, but not practicing, magic. A gentleman does not, after all, practice magic.

Ms. Clarke weaves a wonderful tale filled with shadows lurking in dark corners and chilled breezes that sneak through the window cracks. Magic is coming back to England after a 300-year absence, and Mr. Norrell and Jonathan Strange are in the middle of it all as they fumble through dusty spell books.

The reader spends the first third of the book with Mr. Norrell and his fussy approach to magic. His counterpart, Jonathan Strange doesn’t make his first appearance until well into the story.  The two characters are the opposite of one another in every respect. Mr. Norrell is small, mousey, and reserve in personality and magic. On the opposite side, Jonathan Strange is tall, handsome, and bold.

Their lives become deeply intertwined and neither Johnathan Strange nor Mr. Norrell understand the depth until the last chapters and pages.

I loved the writing style of Ms. Clarke, which is reminiscent of the time-period in which the book takes place. The humor is dry, and hidden among the words. If you are not an English major, you may miss many of the jokes that are drizzled throughout the book. The writing style is colorful and the reader will be treated to smelling the acrid air and feeling the rough textures.

The use of end-notes gives the reader some backstory of side characters and events. They are a fun diversion away from a long story, but they were a little disruptive at times. I skipped a few just to continue with my reading.

Overall, this is a great book to lose yourself in.

The Buried Giant

The Buried GiantThe Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Buried Giant is a book that will leave you thinking long after you have finished reading the last words. Kazuo Ishiguro masterfully weaves a tale of things forgotten, covered in the mists that hang like a curtain at the edge of remembering.

The main characters, Axl and Beatrice, are saddened that they live on this precipice to remember their son and, one day, decide to leave their lives behind in order to see him once again. During their journey, across the bleak landscape of Arthurian England, they cross paths with Sir Gawain, the last knight from King Artur’s time, Master Wistan, a Saxon warrior, and young Edwin a cursed boy who becomes Wistan’s apprentice. Mirrored in the undercurrent of the forgotten brutalities during the Briton and Saxon wars the characters face trials in morality, honor and love.

The reader is left a little off balance trying to find the thread of The Buried Dragon story, but this seems exactly how it should be. The allegory is strong only if the reader chooses to remember.

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Leap

During the month of February I joined a group of writers in a writing challenge. The gist of it was to write everyday for the month of February with the end result being that good habits will continue through the rest of the year. Today is the final day of that challenge and for this last day I set a challenge for everyone to write a flash fiction or a short short story using the following 8 words:

  • Leap
  • Jump
  • Fly
  • Year
  • Day
  • Crazy
  • Fun
  • Write

Without further adieu…

Come to the Beach

The breeze off the ocean pulls my hair back out of my eyes. Trying to write on the beach is not always easy, but today I think it’s in my favor. My papers jump and, chased by the gust, I watch a leaf fly across the sand . This year has been much like the leaf. What was it like before? I try to recall. I think I was fun at one time, maybe even a little bit crazy, but those days are past.

I close my binder and take one last look before I leave. The salt fills my nose with a chill and my hair tangles on the buckle of my bag. It is happening again, I can feel it crawl up my spine. I’m going to change someone’s life today. I never know who, nor how, but whenever I get that itchy feeling I know it’s coming.

Once I gave my lottery numbers to someone and they won. I read about a mugging the next day. Another time I stopped to pet a cat along side a road, then it took a leap over the curb. One day I left my shoes at the top of the stairs. He never saw the bottom. Those are the ones that get me. Those are the ones that make this all so unbearable.

Today I will change someone’s life. I have been warned, and so have you. Tomorrow I’ll return to this spot to see the wind chase a new leaf across the sand. Would you like to join me?

Opinion – Harper Lee

With Harper Lee’s death there is already speculation about her writing and if it should have been (or should be) published. There are discussions about the publishing houses and if they preyed on an elderly woman with dementia. Was her state of mind lucid enough to suddenly publish Go Set a Watchman? I do not have an answer to this question, but I do know a little bit about the elderly.

Over the past 5 years I watched my father slowly lose his mental faculties to age related dementia. There were days he was his old self, full of jokes and laughter. Then there were the days he thought he was at his childhood summer home wondering where his brother and sister were. It was his good days that threw me off balance, so much so that I thought he was back and we didn’t have to worry anymore. It was his good days that made all the rest bearable. It was his good days that gave me a false sense of “normal.”

If I had to guess, it may have been during one of those good days (sometimes they last for days and weeks at a time) that Harper Lee was cleverly duped into signing the rights over. Maybe it was a series of good days. I don’t know. I wasn’t there.

One thing I feel is true, as a writer, if there is anything I never want published – I’ll destroy any and all copies, forms, ideas, and outlines of said story while I have the mind to do it. “Horrors!” You might say, “What if you change your mind?” If, what I wrote before (and deleted) is good enough, or fills my heart enough to finish, I will find the words again. I will find the story again. Plus, it will probably be much better the second time around.

Harper Lee should have destroyed any manuscripts she really didn’t want published. If she disliked Go Set a Watchman so much, she should have burned it. Why? Ultimately, it is our responsibility as writers to protect our work, because those that prey on the weak and debilitated will pounce the moment we can’t stop them. It is our work and our choice about publication. Period.

Welcome 2016

We just crossed into a new year…are you excited? If you said, “YES!” then I’m with you. I am really looking forward to this year and what secrets it holds.The future is never certain, but I will make the best of it. My plan for 2016 is pretty simple; publish my debut novel The Manx. This book has been in the works for a few years and kept on the back burner while I dug down into the craft of writing. Developing character and story arcs, along with structure and plot are all necessary for developing a good book, but when I started The Manx I knew nothing about writing a book and soon discovered that it needed a little work.

Since its inception (around 2013), I have kept it safely on the shelf just waiting for the day I had enough confidence (and know-how) to pull it back out and dive in. The Manx is coming out to play and its going to be awesome! If you like fairy tales this will be your kind of read. I won’t reveal any more right now, but look to future posts as I introduce you to the Isle of Man and its people, the Manx.

Until then, enjoy the beginnings of this new year. Make your resolutions. Keep them or not. No matter what, make the best of everything that happens this year. It will be the one, and only, time you get to live 2016.

Fourth Son

Fourth SonFourth Son by Monica Poole
★★★★☆

Fourth Son is a bitter tale of a young man, Jahnes Tehrel, who faces saving his family from slavery after his father dies in a mining accident. His decision changes his life and those he loves the most. This book is an excellent examination of a society built on a brutal caste system of order that strictly enforces the hierarchy.

This is the second time I have read Monica Poole’s tale and will admit the second round was much better than the first (Note: never read this type of story when sick). There are many subtleties threaded through this story that could be missed if the reader isn’t paying attention. I want to give this book a five star rating but it falls slightly short. The beginning of the story builds very slowly using an overabundance of reflections. The sense of who the characters are, especially Jahnes, is masterfully developed yet I didn’t fall into the story through development of place.

I highly recommend this book with a note to the reader to push through the earlier chapters. You won’t be disappointed with the final ones.

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