Dictation Station!

For the past two months, I've been having some medical issues that have made working at my computer uncomfortable and painful. My writing output nosedived as I struggled to keep writing even when it hurt. With the dawn of the new year I decided that I would try something new. Partially inspired by Joanna Penn’s book The Healthy Writer, I decided to give dictation a try.

What's kept me from making the leap is that everyone recommends Dragon Dictation, and, to be fair, it seems to be an amazing product for dictation. What's less amazing is the $300 price tag. I didn't have that kind of  money to throw at something I wasn't sure would even work. While looking for alternatives to Dragon, I realized I had an answer right in front of me. My MacBook comes with dictation software already in the general settings. I turned it on and gave it a run.

At it first it was terrible.

Example from session one. Yeah.... Not even close to what I said. 

Example from session one. Yeah.... Not even close to what I said. 

It got maybe one out of seven words right. It was awful and I figured well dictation isn't for me. But then I thought maybe the problem isn't the software but with using the internal microphone in a noisy space. So I pulled out my snowball, locked myself in my closet to have a quiet space, and gave it another try.

This time it worked like a dream. In 25 minutes I had dictated 3000 words. And most of them we're what I had said. It honestly amazed me. 

So I've kept up with that, and for the past week, I've been working on dictating everything I type. Any time I want to write or I need to get an outline together, I pull out my microphone and go.

Now, it's by no means perfect solution. It requires a lot more editing, not to mention it can be a little awkward speaking your stories. The grammar is strange to have to voice out loud. For example, to get a dialogue line written you would speak:

Begin quote

I hate you


end quote

he said


new paragraph

Which would translate to:

"I hate you," he said. 

It's strange getting the hang of and writing the fight scene was a particularly strange experience. It takes a little while to get used to sitting dialogue tags and speaking with the grammar and punctuation necessary. However, over the weekend I've already gotten a lot more confident and feel a lot better about my dictation period

I'm hoping that I will keep up with this dictation. In fact my goal for January is to dictate the draft of my next novella. It's certainly going to be a new experience but I'm excited about trying it out.

So if you're thinking about giving dictation a try, don't let price tag keep you from making the switch. Check your laptop or computer and see what options are already built into the settings. There maybe an alternative you can use. I do suggest using an external microphone that you can adjust to be closer to your mouth. But there are some really great options out there at some pretty reaonsable price points.

So that's my experience with dictation so far a week and a half in. This whole blog post was written entirely by dictation, pretty neat right? So give it a try see how it feels see what happens, at worst, you've lost a little time trying something new. That best, you've found a new way to revolutionize your writing.

Source: Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

What to Post on Social Media

It's easy to get caught up in the worry about what to post on social media so much that you never actually post anything. You spend so much time thinking about what you should and shouldn't posted nothing actually happens. Maybe that's just me.; I am a queen at overthinking everything. But I don't think it is, I think it's a common problem that a lot of people deal with. Social media is big and a little overwhelming at times. Who do you follow? What do you post? When do you post? How frequently do you post? And a million other questions seem to always pop up and cause a little bit of unnecessary stress. So let's deal with some of those questions.

Who do you follow?

Figuring out who to follow can feel a little bit like going back to the popular kids in high school cliché. Do you follow only the big name accounts? And how do you even figure out who to start following the first place?

Well it can be really easy to get overwhelmed by the number of accounts there are to follow, there are some ways to figure out who to best follow. Start with you like. Are there blogs you read religiously? More than likely they have a social page, give it a follow see what they're posting, share their content. Are there writers you love? Check out their social pages. Don't forget to check your friends and follow them. Also make sure you tell your friends you have a new account, It's a great way for you to find each other online. If someone you don't know engages with you in a nice way, consider giving them a follow. Find relevant hashtags to your area and see who the big posters are.

Another great way to find who to follow is to look for a list on Twitter. A list is the collection that someone has made of accounts that all meet a certain theme or career. There're a lot of lists out there for literary agents, writers, editors, reviewers, and more. You can even just follow the list and see who like and want to follow on your own. You can find less on peoples accounts on Twitter.

What do you post?

Figuring out what to post doesn't have to be a scary thing. I know for me I have a hard time accepting that the 'buy my book' posts are okay to have occasionally. A lot of the people who follow you are interested in what you're doing what you have available what you're working on. However, I still think it's of vital importance that you also engage like a human. For me, that means posting the things that matter to me. Sometimes that's pictures of my cats or my workspace or what I'm reading and sometimes that's posting something political. At the end of the day, I'm a human and I want to come across as one.

Generally speaking, I try to post helpful content. I share links to a lot of my own blog post that I think will be helpful for people, I try to share new books that are coming out that I'm excited about, podcasts I'm listening to and really enjoying. I share the things that matter to me, but it helped me, or that make me smile. I post a lot of ridiculous cat Pictures and dog pictures because I love them and sometimes, Honestly, you need something cute to escape the hell gate that can be social media.

So figure out what matters To you and why people follow you or why you want them to follow you. Is that because you review books? Or maybe you're trying to get some traction for your editing business. Whatever it is, find ways to include that in what you're posting.

When do you post?

Figuring out when to post and have relayed to post can get a little bit like translating a puzzle. Especially if you don't operate on a normal 9-to-5 kind of schedule. If you're up and working at 3 AM should you really be posting on social media? Will anyone even see it?

Each platform has different times that appeal to it overall. You also have to think about time zones. If you're in California but most of the people you want to reach her on the East Coast you may need to adjust what times are posting so that your content available when they're active. Here are the general guidelines for best posting times for each platform based on information compiled by one of my favorite social media blogs, Sprout Social

  • Facebook
    • Thursday to be the most recommended day to post
    • 1 p.m. on Thursday to be the most active time
    • Relatively safe to post any day between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
    • Early mornings and late nights are the least optimal posting times
    • Wednesday through Sunday are the strongest days to post
  • Twitter
    • Monday Through Thursday are the strongest days to post
    • Thursday is the most recommended day to post in the week
    • Noon on Thursday is the most active time in the week
    • Safe to post any weekday between noon and 3 p.m.
    • Early mornings and late nights are the least optimal posting times
  • Instgram
    • Monday through Friday are the strongest days to post
    • Monday tends to drive the most engagement out of the week
    • 3 p.m. each day is least optimal time to post
    • Safe to post nearly any time (excluding 3 p.m.) on Monday through Thursday
    • Most recommended posting times include 2 a.m., 8.a.m. and 5 p.m.


(I'm only sharing those three but the link above links to full study which includes other platforms as well.)

As far as frequency I think that all depends on how much content you have to share. For me, I don't have a ton of content yet so I post 2 to 5 times the day depending on platform. As I generate more content I anticipate not going up but for now that feels like a good, safe number so that I'm not just repeating content overtime. Of course there will be some overlap, but generally speaking I don't want to share the same story multiple times in a single day. However, if you have a lot of content that maybe the best strategy period

Social media is a very personal platform. What works and doesn't work is frequently based on the individual themselves, what work they're doing, and what they want to be doing. There isn't an easy post eight time today between 12 PM and 4 AM to reach 1 million followers kind of formula. The Internet is a strange and wild place, figure out what works for your schedule and what you want and commit to it.

The hardest part of is sticking to it. So get your account up and running and commit to posting everyday at least once.

I know you can do it!

Source: Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

Social Media: How and Why?

Social media.

Everyone always hears that writers need to be on social media. Every time some new platform shows up, people flock to it, setting up accounts that get abandoned in weeks. It’s easy to set up the account, post for a few weeks or months then run out of ideas of things to post.

Whenever a writer (or anyone trying to build a brand online) gets started, tons of questions appear.

Should you be on it? What platforms are the best? How often should I post? Who should I follow?

But the biggest one is: Does social media matter?

Yes. It does, but you don’t have to be on every single platform. In fact that is a recipe for disaster. Don’t feel like you have to be everywhere. The rule of thumb that I generally use for my writing accounts is that it needs to be a platform that I enjoy using.

I know that sounds maybe a little silly but if you’re going to be using your platform, it needs to be something that you’re going to keep using. Now there’s no platform that will be a joy to use every single day, but if it’s somewhere you HATE signing onto maybe reconsider that account. If twitter doesn’t make sense to you and you hate the platform, then you’re not going to use it and a an inactive account does you no good.

For me, that ends up being LinkedIn. I kind of hate the clunky aspect of it and really don’t like to use it. So generally I don’t post to my personal page on LinkedIn almost ever. I login to manage some professional accounts that I’m paid to manage, but otherwise, not interested much in connecting and networking through that particular platform. So I don’t.

Right now I am managing between 12-15 accounts across a variety of platforms. Some of those are my own, some of those are accounts for other people, and some of them are accounts I manage with other people. So how do I manage them? There are ways to make it easier; to make it a manageable task that only takes a few hours of work to do.


Here are some of the things I use to keep

1. Build a word document or an excel sheet of your posts and keep it updated.

Create a living document with your tweets, facebook posts, instagram captions, etc. create 2-3 for every item you want to share. Switch things up every few weeks to keep things from getting stale.

2. Decide your messaging pillars.

This sounds complicated but basically it just means sorting out what things do you want to post about? For my author page, I use the pillars: blog posts, books I love, amazing other people to follow, my books. Then I figure out how much to post about each of those topics and poof it into my schedule. It’s the easiest way for me to not get overwhelmed by content to share. When I start to struggle with what to share, I can look back at those pillars to get inspiration.

3. Schedule, schedule, schedule.

The easiest thing you can do to help yourself out is to schedule your posts in advance, really get yourself scheduled out at least a week ahead, preferably a month ahead. I personally like Hootsuite and Buffer but there are other options like TweetDeck and also within Facebook pages natively. Instagram is a little more challenging because you cannot directly post from a scheduler, but you can set up reminders on your phone or use an app like Later to get posts ready to go.

4. Get some visuals.

It can be helpful to make yourself a few simple images to use to help promote your book or blog post. Canva is (mostly) free, Typorama app is (mostly) free and both are easy to use to build images to use. You can even within the app, specify what size you want for what platform. I also really love Unsplash and get a lot of my blog images from there.

5. Don’t just blast promotion.

Post about your work, be proud and excited about your work but… don’t only ever post ‘buy my book’ stuff. Share other people’s work, post that inspirational quote or funny tweet, get political, share cat photos. Be a real person, people respond to authenticity.


That’s what helps me keep managing accounts, and keeping active on social without having to spend hours and hours on social media all day long because that is a recipe for trouble.



Happy 2018: Resolutions, themes and hopes!

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are some of my favorite holidays (though Halloween will always be my top love). I love the energy and passion the holiday brings out in the world. The idea of a clean slate and a reset can be a huge motivation for so many people, including me. 
I love to-do lists and resolutions so this day is all but made for me. But this year I am trying something a little different. Rather than setting a specific (and sometimes overwhelming) goal for the year, I'm choosing a theme for the year. 

To me, a theme for the year can be encompassed in a word, one thing to focus on building and creating in your life for the new year. For 2018 I've spent a lot of time debating on what word I should use. What theme should I be focusing on for the next 365 days? After a lot of debate, one word kept coming up over and over again. A glaring spot in my life that I needed. So my theme for 2018 is: 


It's not a super exciting or sext word. But it's a solid word building a support for the life around it. 2017 threw me for a rough ride, bucking me out of my habits and throwing me off schedule. I suddenly wasn't reading or writing, I couldn't keep track of when things were. I fell out of my maintence routines, simple things like doing laundry, washing the dishes, cleaning the litter box. 
Again it's not a big flashy idea for the new year, it's the quiet things that structure your life and build something new. They say that life is built on all the little things you do so this is my way of focusing on the little things and remembering that they make big changes. 

Here's to a happy, solid 2018! What are you hoping to get to this year?

Source: Photo by Will Langenberg on Unsplash

Nano Pep: The End is Nigh

This is always the time in the process of NaNoWriMo that motivation starts running a little low. I start to see all the other things that I could be doing. Going out for a few hours to have dinner and just skipping writing that day starts to sound like a great plan. It's the time when I stare at the blank page and just can't think of what words come next. The moment that I doubt the spelling of the word 'the'. Yes, indeed 'the'.

And this is the moment that I remind myself that  it's okay to write crap. In fact, right at this moment, every word of this blog post is like pulling teeth. It's a struggle and frankly, I don't even know if this post will ever see the light of day. But, I know I have the time to do it and I have the capacity to do it, so here I sit pulling away and with every sentence it gets a little easier. Not like the magical lightning of inspiration easy, but easier, and that's okay. 

Being able to stick out through the tough parts of writing is a great skill to have because writing isn't an easy thing to do. Sure physical it's pretty low on the exertion skill for many people, but the mental capacity and the ability to simply sit (stand or walk) while ignoring ALL OF THE INTERNET is truly a feat of will. Handling the work even on days when I don't want to helps make me a writer. So, you're already on a computer, or tablet or some kind of device that can read this, right? Close it out and write just a sentence. Then another. 

Do what you can and believe that you are a whole lot more resilient than you think. One of the reasons I support NaNoWriMo is that I believe it does teach a lot of the skills that you need to be a writer: sticking to a goal and seeing it through to the end. Not getting distracted by the shiny new idea and finishing what you start are some of the most vital skills for a writer. Ideas are a dime a dozen, but writing one totally out is a different task completely. 

So, for today, for right now, just stick it out a little longer. Write one sentence more than you think you can. 

Just know that we're all here with you and the end is totally in reach and reachable. 


Nano Pep: Can I be real a second?

Can I be real a second? For just a millisecond?


Yes, thank you George Washington in Hamilton for giving me that line. But seriously, can I just be real for a sec?

I'm tired. Like so tired I think my blood has turned into a shambling hoard of lost zombies. I have crawled through Nanowrimo and now we've landed in the middle of the pit of 50,000 words. Right now, I kind of just want to wallow in the mud and give up now.

But the way back is just as long as the way forward and we've already come so far. The middle is always, always the part of any novel where I struggle the most. It's where I worry I've completely lost control of the story and my own voice. Every word becomes something to be second-guessed and eye with suspicion.

But it's part of the process. I have to remind myself of that every time I hit it. Every time the middle hangs heavy (much like my squishy tummy) I remind myself it's normal, it's a part of growing and of building a story. (Not my tummy. That is a process of age and a lot of cheese.)

What I have to think about is that even if the words I'm writing suck, even if I end up cutting them all to the ground and never looking at them again, they serve a purpose. Sometimes that's helping sort out the real heart of the story and sometimes that's realizing that the story is totally flawed and finding a way to pick up the pieces and keep up moving.

There is no wrong way to first draft. The point is to get the words on the page and then to play with them (you lucky few who draft and edit together, you do you) and find the story hiding in there. Sometimes you've marinated on an idea so long it comes out in a beautiful shape with only a little polishing needed, and sometimes, like my 2015 Nanowrimo novel, the whole thing needs to be scrapped. But it served a solid purpose and I learned so much from that failed draft.

BUT, because brains are kind of ridiculous, I have to remind myself of that every single time I start a new draft. I want it to be different. I want the story to be perfect from the very first word I type on and that is just no reality. This is the process and part of being a writer is being able to trust in that process.

So, here we are at the halfway point, push on everyone, we're almost there.

A Pep in Your Nano Step

The start of NaNoWriMo always holds a little magic in it. It's a moment when everything seems possible, the whole story wide open for the taking, you just have to commit to it. During the first week I tend to write over the 1667 words due a day and sail through my words with ease. 

For me, Nano is a time to play and to write without fear for just that month. I write with the idea that these words are all garbage and don't matter. And maybe that idea won't work for you, but for me, that takes the pressure off of me. The idea that I don't have to get the words just worse is okay. If I switch from past to present and back again, it's alright. Shift from first to third? No problem. The draft forgives all my sins and lets me just focus on getting the words down. In my NaNoWriMo drafts I can chase after every subplot that pops into my head and see where they lead. Sometimes it leads to a big mess that I end with an 'XXX' note to delete it all later and pretend it never happened. But sometimes, those detours show me the heart of my story and what I really am trying to convey. Nano gives me the space to learn about my story without getting lost in it. 

Of course, this is all how I feel during the first week, I love the start of a story. The beginning is where I have a lot of fun and feel incredibly optimistic about the whole thing, it's the dreaded 33% mark where things start to go downhill. So, as we creep towards that mark I'm trying to remind myself of a few things and maybe these reminders will help you too. 

Read More

My Horror First

Growing up, I never would have called myself a horror fan. I liked creepy, gothy things, but horror? No, thanks. I was never into the blood and guts and just avoided it for the most part, even as I loved every second of all things creepy. For me there was a line between creepy and horror, and that line was gore.

The moment that the character is stabbed is not the moment horror is born. Horror walks the line of suspense, keeping the entire world of the story contained within a tightly coiled spring. The moment the monster appears, attacks, maims, etc — that’s the moment the spring comes undone, and then (if it’s not the climax) the spring begins to coil back down, ready to leap again.

The scare doesn’t come from violence. The scare comes from a delicate rhythm of tension and release, of the unknown threat or unseen danger finally being realized. In horror, sometimes the most powerful jolts are based on the things you don’t see or don’t expect. It’s jarring.

But that jolt alone does not a horror story make. The best analogy I heard is that one spark does not start a fire unless there’s something surrounding it to catch flame. A single moment won’t set the way for a horror story unless you’ve done the work and set the rest of the scene.

The moment I realized horror was something I loved came from a video game, Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly.

You can read the rest of this post on Speculative Chic

What do I bring to conventions?

Getting ready for conventions is always a little hectic. There’s a panic of what to bring, what to pack and what to leave at home. So a few months back, I made a list to help me get my stuff together! I thought other people might find that helpful so I’m going to share it here! Let me know if there’s anything you bring that I’ve not listed here.


Foods (Protein bars, water flavor (I like the mio coffee ones for caffeine fixes on the cheap), fruit, sweets, crackers, shareables!) I try to always make sure I have some at least semi-healthy stuff and that I have enough to share with my fellow vendors.

Business cards, post cards for table

Table cloth and decor

Notebook, pen, pencils, post-it notes, white board markers (I keep a tiny white board on my table to mark what panels I’m on.)

External charger and charging cable

ipad (for newsletter signing up and as a back-up card reader)

Sewing kit (You never know when you may run into a cosplayer in need!)

Comfortable shoes. I usually wear heels at conventions but I change into comfortable shoes when at my table.

Ear buds. Sometimes I need to decompress so I keep ear buds so I can listen to a meditative app in the bathroom and find some calm.

Cash for change, square, plastic bags to give out.

Cough drops, Tylenol, band aids, tums, cough syrup.

Dolly to help load in and out books.

Jacket.  I’m always cold. Especially in the South in the summer. The air conditioning is turned to artic. Vendor halls also tend to either be really hot or really cold. There’s no in between.

Hand sanitizer!

Makeup, chapstick, hair stuff, tide pens.

MY BOOKS and book stands. 


Source: Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash