Saturday, March 22, 2008

Writing Out Loud by Anah Crow

Anah Crow writes about using Voice Recognition software as a writer. Anah is the author of The Look of a King and Tomorrow's Gambit, as well as several Sips. You can find them all at Torquere Books, under Anah's author page

Writing Out Loud

I love writing; it’s what I do and what I can do even when various parts of my body refuse to function. However, my hands and arms have deteriorated over the years. No amount of prescription medication or alternative therapy kept the loss of using my hands from looming on the horizon. Further, other physical problems conspired keep me from my desk, even if I could type.

Last fall, I invested in Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 Preferred and a new (second-hand) laptop computer – a considerable investment – to try and kill two birds with one stone. The laptop (an IBM T43 ThinkPad with memory upgrades, for the interested) was to get me away from the desk and the DNS9 was to get me to stop using my hands.

The learning curve on DNS9 isn’t steep, but it is considerable on both sides. Dragon has to get used to you as much as you get used to Dragon; it learns as you go, sometimes slowly. Nevertheless, voice recognition software has improved considerably over the years. If you’ve tried it in the past and been dissatisfied, as I had, the technology has improved.

First, a disclaimer: as with most software, the specifications listed on the box are the minimum you need to run the program at all, not the minimum you need for a snappy experience. I have exceeded the minimums by two or three times and plan to upgrade again soon. However, if all you have is the minimum, it will still work and is worlds better than not writing at all. Frustration only arises because we talk very quickly and a function we expect to be instantaneous isn’t once we put a computer into the mix.

Everyone I tell about this software experience says the same thing, “Oh, I could never write out loud!” I said exactly the same thing until I actually lost the use of my hands at one point. After that, it wasn’t such an obstacle. It was strange at first but all of a sudden I was making words without pain, and that made up for the discomfort.

In fact, I went on to write “All Hallow’s End” using voice recognition, start to finish. My hands were a wreck from making an elaborate Halloween costume for someone and the call went out for Sips. I never would have started, much less finished, except that I could sit back and talk it out. That helped to get me over the initial uncertainty about the process.

When my arms and hands healed up some, I put the headset away for a few months until my health caught up to me again. I pulled out the headset at the beginning of March and the first thing I said to Dianne Fox was, “Why did I ever stop using this?” I got right back in the saddle and it was smooth sailing.

Now, I’ve noticed a shift and I forget that I am talking. I am simply writing. This is very funny when the dogs misbehave and their scolding ends up in the middle of a scene. Fortunately, it’s easy to undo. I curl up in a comfortable chair with the computer on a nearby table and dictate. I find my productivity has increased greatly because I am not slowed by stiffness or entirely derailed by pain. On bad days, I can take my computer to my bed and I can follow doctor’s orders by resting while still getting my words in.

I’m fortunate that the worst of my disability is intermittent, but I’m teaching myself to edit with Dragon and surf the web with it. I have other things I can ‘spend’ my hands on like knitting and art. I figured, why not use the software for everything I can and save my hands for other creative ventures?

The initial investment was steep, for me, and it’s been frustrating at times, but the end result has been more than satisfactory. Advantages include more words written, fewer meals ordered out because my hands were sore from working, and bad days redeemed by being able to chat with friends and put in time on the stories that I love. That last part is the most important thing for me; my life is improved in a way that really matters.

Suggestions for success:

- find out from a friend or computer technician how to tell what kind of processor and memory you have on your computer before you go shopping for software, if you don’t know how to find it yourself

- check on how much an upgrade of memory will cost for your kind of computer; this can be a small investment with great results

- do all of the training modules available on your software!

- run your ‘language optimizer’ (the part of the program that incorporates your progress into the program itself) at regular intervals, even though it takes a long time

- keep water or non-caffeinated drinks on hand while you work since a dry mouth leads to errors and a sore throat

- check online and at the library for user guides specific to your needs; voice recognition software is gaining popularity and there’s lots of help out there

- see what else you can change about your work environment to make things easier like using a different chair, sitting back from the computer with your feet up, and increasing the font size on your screen

Anah Crow

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

bad publicity is still publicity

Looks like Torquere is making the blog rolls as a subject of major speculation. Bad press is still press, I know, but at the risk of being termed unprofessional, I want to answer a few things, just for the edification of our readers and writers.

We're not a vanity press. Vanity presses *and* self publishing houses like LuLu charge a fee to publish your work. We are a royalty paying (on time and at 35% gross, which is e-book market standard) press with over 100 authors to our credit.

We've never changed hands. Torquere *did* incorporate a few years ago, but Shawn Clements and Lorna Hinson are still 50/50 on the paperwork and still do at least 75% of the work work ;)

We publish our own books. Show me an e-publisher who doesn't, and I will send you the name of the owner and one or more pseudonym that they write under. It's the nature of the beast. Most of us started our companies because we wrote in a niche market that no one else wanted to publish. With as many authors as we've published over the years, I would say we were right about there being an interest in the market we wrote in. We've never hidden it.

The clique accusation I can only answer with the thought that if an author is unhappy with us, I wish they would come to us with their complaint, because we can't address it if they don't. This applies to our editing. This is the one complaint that we worry on, and strive to improve, but like all publishers, e-book and NY, we have to find a balance between getting the book out on a schedule the author approves of and doing our best to edit the book on time. There are publishers out there who state that they do not edit, period. Still others say that if they find a single typo in a manuscript, they will not accept it. We choose to try to take on stories that have great ideas or great characters and fix as many of the mistakes as we can.

No press is perfect for all writers and readers. Of course, we hope that many of both will find us a good fit and come see what we're doing. The bottom line, however, remains that this is a business. And no one knows our business better than we do.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

support boys kissing!

As the World Turns won't let the boys kiss. God knows, Torquere Press does. Get the word out there and let people know that gay romance deserves equal time!