Why I Cannot (Yet) Use Dragon NaturallySpeaking for Recordings from My Jeep

And this is another test of my Olympus voice recorder I used while driving my Jeep, the Aldrin express. This time I have activated the low filter on the recorder. I do not know what effect that will have, so I will run a test. My test this morning had an extremely poor’s greatest success in transcription. It was all right when I left the driveway, as I traveled at a low speed. Once I reached the stop sign, then turned and started picking up speed, the error rate climbed through the roof, and the transcription became unintelligible. Tonight we’ll see if the same thing is true with the low filter activated, or the low filter will filter out the white noise of fans and engines and roads. It will, I am not getting my hopes up if that makes any sense. Right now, the trend the audio should be very clean, because I am stopped at a traffic light waiting for a chance to turn. Soon I can get until the highway,… Shall see what the audio is like in a higher’s.

I am past the first traffic light, and waiting to get through the second. I have stuck behind a city bus, so I may not make this light. No, it is not a city bus, it is an RV. And I am through the light and I am on my entrance ramp and I am slowly picking up speed navigating the first turn and the yield for incoming traffic of which there is none and somehow I am picking up speed as I get onto 131. And I merged in traffic, and I get up to cruising speed.

How I am traveling and a typical speed for a typical day of dictation. This recording transcribed, that will be very good news indeed. Cannot, by Friday will have a new noise canceling microphone contest. I will have Dragon natural meeting every chance I can, but I cannot do the impossible. If it will not transcribe, you will not transcribe.

So now I have passed the last Kalamazoo accident, and I way between Kalamazoo and Wayland. My prime dictation I, with my best work is done. This is what I do not have to worry about where my hands were entrance is, only the excess inferences about the right. This stretch when I can devote my market effort to telling a story for tonight and not worrying about a story, and worrying about transcription. I have learned a new pair of tricks like this for transcribing: I can turn the recorder on and off by pressing buttons through the fabric of my shirt, as long as the order is in front of my pocket. I haven’t figured out yet what I will do in a case like just home when there is coming express read reply yes thank you sent so that was the interruption of a tax SH during my transcription. Like my phone, the recorder has no way to know that the messages incoming. He and salt is that my commands to the tax SH system the phone and he replied that I make will be fixated. I can out later, I need to make sure that I check into song. The good news front, Anita is making more sweetcorn K! Is read…

So now I am passing Avenue is roughly the halfway point between Kalamazoo playing well.co. Safe place that I stop gas, warfarin here my tires near enough. Were down: Peter that they have will adjust the pressure either way. Like.

In my path have any see the valley playing while. Plane will not see your and River Valley, with another River Valley account River just south. So I crest the hill and valley playing well Valley is laid out for me. Sabrina wasn’t here. All murder on cell phone coverage. Somewhere around mile 38 or so, I can often find my phone ring out. There, services recently. I do not have any dropouts like before.

I have nothing any stop playing well for us I should continue on. On the one of the nice days, house played well for some nice. They have excellent ice cream parlors down see him playing well. I can, is a single well when city sometimes which one is which.

Is a beautiful day for traveling 69° outside I the air conditioner on a meter, and see if that affects the accuracy of the transcript. Line and now I am passing lane while on scene the accident, 49 and how crossing bridge over the counter River. And I am approached entrance. There is no exit at the northbound and own and 50 from the South. Perhaps because 50 mile overpass so close to the river, or is the third exit door entrance to sell only I am in the stretch between playing well and Martin. Certain joke here.

. Signs of approaching our US 131 part dragway the west side of the road I have not been there in from the year’s. It was never my thing. My dad loved it, my brothers. While.

Approach the part accident, I see signs of dragway on the left. This exit is also an occasional gas stations, but I can avoid it. Something wrong with the accident or the gas station: I’ve made it this far, for@Shelby L Warner Wayland. Shelby does become an option only this year. They are open this spring. In gas and wine store. Read it I’m done. There goes the other text message, this one telling me that Amazon has shipped a package, and she hurled.

And allow that text message coming in, I passed the mark. Next up will be to Shelbyville Texas nor cell. Cell is Shelbyville proper, all nor is Brantley/Shelbyville. In the North exit be the one where I accident today. That’s right will also stop trance

I have learned is that I can turn order, ordering the front of my shirt, pants stop morning fabric shirt. It will be nice free operation, and is hands-free as having Mike Bluetooth reads. I am quite that operation, even if Dragon still fails trance I will filter on what a usable transcription pattern!

I am now passing the Shelbyville next to. Miles up the Brantley accent. Is not your remnants role. That is it has Meyer dropped, in the right lane, so we can ask highway mile or so

here comes the accident! Hello the ramp, I see the exit, the exit ramp, ACA a vehicle part halfway on the ramp. Idiots! I made it safely passed him, up to the top of the ramp. And here I stopped sure traffic is clear, and then I get onto the busy 129 Avenue. I passed the noonday market on the right, I got were broken tires. Has not been a good day for tires appears. And more stopped goals on the side of the road. Enjoyed, one vehicle towing another. What fun! And how I approach Colin sues, I signal for my turn, I pull into the driveway. My Jeep, and I turned off this recording

The Mountain

There’s a mountain. And all your life, you’ve watched people climb the mountain. Some climb only the foothills. Some climb to the clouds and beyond.

But no one climbs to the top. There is no top. Just more mountain, no matter how high they climb.

One day you decide to climb the mountain. Maybe it’s not your first time. Maybe you’ve gotten discouraged in the past, and you gave up. Or maybe this is your first time ever. The important thing is: you have a story to tell, so you’re going to climb up there and tell the world.

Good for you! There’s always room for one more on the mountain.

But you’re not sure how to start. You’ve watched others climb, you think you can do it, but where do you start? You want The Path.

Stop. You’re already starting wrong. There is no Path. Or rather, there are countless paths, but no One True Path. Every climber finds their own path.

If you stick around a while, you may find mentors. They can tell you what their paths were, but that doesn’t mean their paths will work for you. You can learn from their paths, but you still have to make your own.

So you’ll start climbing. And you’ll fall. Everybody does. Those climbers you see way up in the clouds? They’ve fallen more often than anyone. They’re the people who learned something every time they fell. And they kept going.

You keep going.

You keep going, and falling, and getting back up and going again. Learn from every fall. Each time you’ll get a little higher before you fall. Someday you’ll find you’re falling less often, and not as far. You’re getting higher.

You keep going.

And you’ll get discouraged. You’ll look up, and those clouds will seem as far away as ever. You’ll see people, friends even, who started after you and yet are higher up the mountain than you. You’ll wonder what you’re doing wrong.

Stop wondering. Keep going. Everybody has their own path.

But if you really get discouraged, ask your mentors. Ask your friends. Do some research. Find ways to get unstuck and onto a different path. Stuck doesn’t have to be permanent. You keep going.

And occasionally, when you really get discouraged, stop. Get a good grip. Turn around. Don’t look up.

Look down. See how far you’ve climbed.

If you’re not satisfied, look around for other paths. Look at where your path has gone astray, and ask what you could’ve done different. Try other paths. Or you could even (shhh!) give up. There’s no shame in that. Not everyone is a climber. Some just like to watch the climb.

But I suspect for most of you, if you stop and honestly look back, you’ll find you’ve climbed higher than you realized. You’re still not at the top because remember, there is no top! But you’ve climbed. It was a lot of work, but you’ve climbed. Give yourself credit for how far you’ve come.

And then face back upward. And keep going.

What I’ve Learned (2016 Edition)

Six years ago today (sort of), I sent my first story to a professional science fiction market.

Nebula Nominee

Today I am a Nebula Award loser. And losing has never felt so good.

Of course, I can take comfort that I’m also an AnLab winner.

AnLab - Racing to Mars

And that Nebula-nominated story, “Today I Am Paul”, has been or will be translated into French, Hebrew, Italian, German, Czech, Chinese, and Polish:

Nowa Fantastyka - Today I Am Paul

And it has been selected for Neil Clarke’s The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume 1, Rich Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016 Edition, Gardner Dozois’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Third Annual Collection, and Allen Kaster’s Year’s Top Ten Tales of Science Fiction 8.


But the title of this post isn’t “What I Accomplished”, it’s “What I Learned”. So here are some of the things I’ve learned about writing (and the business thereof) in the past year.

  • Friends are better than any award. I can’t emphasize this enough. Stand by them. They’ll be there long after awards are forgotten.
  • Readers are also better than any award. The reader response to “Today I Am Paul” has overwhelmed me.
  • But awards are pretty cool, too! Even when you lose. And especially when you make new friends along the way. (Hello, Nebula class of 2015!)
  • I learned an amazing amount of astronomy in five long days at the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop. I’ve already written one story based on what I learned there, and more are in the works. Bonus: I made a bunch of new friends!WIRO
  • Under the tutelage of Mike Resnick, I’m learning to identify international markets for my work. I need to keep at this, but it’s a start!
  • I learned that the people at Writers and Illustrators of the Future really mean it! They care about the careers of their winners. That was even more clear as a returning winner than I ever realized as a new winner. The judges and the Galaxy Press staff welcomed us back as family.
  • I learned (again) to listen to Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Lessons that they taught me five years ago keep bearing fruit today: trusting yourself and your sense of story; making writing a habit as a way to encourage your brain to write; getting out of your way; persistence; engaging the senses; putting a character in a setting with a problem in the very first paragraphs (and then keeping them there!); and so much more.
  • I also (re)learned to listen to Rebecca Moesta and Kevin J. Anderson on the topic of professionalism. Treat every reader, every writer, every editor and publisher and worker well, because it’s the right thing to do. There are many benefits that come from this, but even if there weren’t: It’s the right thing to do.
  • I learned the power of Cyberoptix Tie Lab. Their ties have become my trademark. (Me, a guy who hates ties!) They’re amusing, and they also serve as ice breakers. People ask me what tie I’m wearing today, and why. (And there’s always a why.)Laser KittyCommand ModuleRobot Rampage
  • And perhaps most important for my writing, I’ve learned the power of dictation. Oh, I’ve dictated stories for a while now, including “Today I Am Paul”. That story was a single, fifty-minute dictation session; and what you see in print is pretty close to what I dictated. But eventually I realized: Every story that I sold in the last three years was a dictated story. Dictation works for me, so I decided to do more of it. So now when I climb into the Aldrin (my Jeep), if I’m not listening to traffic reports, I dictate into my hands-free app on my phone. As Dean and Kris teach, it’s both a habit and a way to get out of my way and let story happen.

So there it is. It has been a fantastic year, no doubt. Now I have to get back to work and make this year even better!

What I’ve Learned (2015 Edition)

The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 27

The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 27

Five years ago today, I sent my first story to a professional science fiction market.

No, that’s a lie. As Dean Wesley Smith says, never trust a writer. We lie for a living. Some of us get good at it.

My first submission was 38 years ago, give or take. I don’t recall the precise date. It was a bad pun story, embarrassingly bad, and George Scithers from Asimov’s Science Fiction sent me a nice personal rejection.

I gave up. I figured I didn’t have what it takes. (And that’s how new I was: I didn’t realize that a personal rejection was supposed to be encouraging.)

My second submission was a few years later, a maudlin little story about an astronaut who wakes up in a world so obsessed with safety that they never do anything. That one got a form rejection.

I gave up.

My third submission was a couple years after that. TSR (the D&D company) had bought Amazing Stories, and I had a humorous adventure story steeped in D&D lore, so I figured it was a good fit. The editor (coincidentally, George Scithers again) sent me a very nice note that said it was a fun story, but he just couldn’t use it.

I gave up. For over two decades. I still wrote – I even sold a software design book – but I just couldn’t bring myself to submit any fiction.

In 2010, my brother-in-law read what I thought was the first chapter of a novel. He said, “That’s not a chapter, that’s a story. Send it in.” So I did. And it got a form rejection.

I sent it to another market. I wrote more stories. I sent those out. I got more rejections.

I gave up. I sent out one last story, and then I gave up.

Then in March of 2011, that last submission became a Finalist in Writers of the Future. It didn’t win, but it did something more important: it got me to stop giving up. Rejection wasn’t stopping me, I was stopping me.

In April 2011 – not even a year from what I’ll call my first modern submission – I sold “The Night We Flushed the Old Town” to Digital Science Fiction, my first pro-rates sale. In July, I sold them “Father-Daughter Outing”. After that, sadly, Digital suspended publication of their anthology (though they’re still selling other books); but I’ll always be grateful to them for believing in me.

In March of 2012, I had an acceptance – but not a sale, this was for charity – in The Gruff Variations: Writing for Charity, Vol. 1. It might not have been a sale, but my story “Gruff Riders” appeared alongside stories from Hugo and Nebula winners and nominees plus dozens of other great writers. I was proud to have a story there, and I would be proud to do it again.

Then in September 2012, Analog bought my novelette “Not Close Enough”. In February 2013, they bought “Murder on the Aldrin Express”. In 2014, they bought “Brigas Nunca Mais” and “Racing to Mars”. This year they bought “Early Warning”. Meanwhile, in 2013, Galaxy’s Edge bought “Il Gran Cavallo” and “Pallbearers”.

And… Gardner Dozois selected “Murder on the Aldrin Express” for Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-First Annual Collection, which was reprinted in the UK as The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 27. Allan Kaster also selected it for Year’s Top Short SF Novels 4, an audiobook/ebook anthology. And coming full circle, in 2014 “Unrefined” was awarded third place in Writers of the Future Volume 31.

So an anniversary is a time to reflect. What have I learned?

The most important thing is simple, and at the same time the hardest lesson of all: Stop giving up. Or as Galaxy Quest taught us, “Never give up, never surrender!” My number one advice to new writers, especially young writers, is “Don’t be like me. Don’t give up.”

Does not giving up guarantee sales? Of course not! That’s why this advice is so hard to follow: not giving up means facing rejection after rejection, never knowing if you’ll ever see a sale. Or a second after your first. Or…

So the other thing I learned is to keep learning, keep getting better. And this advice scares me. See, I don’t do a lot of conscious learning. Oh, I read writer blogs and books, I attend workshops, and I talk with other writers. Those are all good things to do, and I recommend them. But I’m not good at thinking about the lessons I learn. I read, I listen, and I try to absorb, but I don’t consciously apply the lessons. I just write, and I hope. I worry that if I don’t work harder at this, I may hit a plateau and not know how to climb off it.

So I’m working on this; but at the same time I worry about the story of the centipede. He walked all around, just fine, until somebody asked him how he kept all those feet coordinated. He started thinking about it, he couldn’t figure out, and he could never walk again without tripping over his own feet. I worry that if I try to consciously change, I may lose whatever it is that I’m doing right. And I don’t know what that is.

I don’t know what that is! And that, my friends, is scary! I’m flying blind.

And that, again, brings us full circle. I can tell you a hundred little things that I’ve learned along the way; but I still know nothing, not really. I can tell you what worked for me in particular cases, but I can’t tell you what will work for you. I can’t tell me what will work for me next time.

And anyone who says they can tell you: they’re a writer, they lie for a living. Don’t trust them. Even when they believe their lies, they’re really just telling you what worked for them in some cases. As long-time Writers of the Future judge Algis Budrys said, there is seldom only one right way of doing anything. If someone tries to tell you The Way, remember that it’s only A Way. One among countless. Learn what they’re teaching, but think of it as a tool in your toolbox, not a rule you must follow. Try it out, see how it works for you. It’s not The Way, but it might be useful.

But this is no lie: there is a way, a way that significantly improves your chances. I’ve already laid it out above, but let me put it together here. Don’t stop learning, and don’t stop trying.


(Speaking of which, there’s a novel calling to me… Get back to work!)

2013 Writing Goals, in detail

I just posted this on Facebook:

Time to set writing goals for the year. After 17,000 words in 5 days — one of those a work day, one a holiday with the relatives, and one a New Years Eve party with friends — I kinda feel an obligation to set my goals high. Either that, or I’m foolishly optimistic based on a false sense of accomplishment. But either way, here goes…

[Drumroll, please!]

A short story or a novel chapter completed per week.

If I fall short, you all have my permission to sneer, as long as you do so in a motivational fashion.

But here I should be more specific. Dean Wesley Smith has his annual post on goals. I like his distinction between a dream and a goal: a dream involves factors you absolutely cannot control, while a goal involves only factors you can control. “Sell a thousand books” is a dream because you can’t control the buyers (unless you go out and buy them yourself, which is kinda cheating). “Submit a dozen short stories,” “Submit a novel,” and “Self-publish a novel” are goals, because they’re entirely up to you (unless life seriously gets in the way).

Dreams are good. They’re motivating. Goals are good. They’re concrete and measurable. And done right, goals improve the odds on your dreams. But don’t confuse the two, and don’t judge your progress by your dreams. Judge it by your goals.

My writing goals for 2013:

1. My first goal is a repeat of my goal from last year, one where I had only middling success. At the end of every week, every completed story must be one of the following:

A. Sold.

B. In the hands of an editor who might buy it.

C. Self-published to Kindle and other platforms.

D. Free-published on my blog. (This is only for works that I do like, but I think are too short or otherwise too noncommercial for self-publishing.)

I would say I met that goal about half the weeks of the year. This year I’ll aim for every week.

2. Write more.

3. Finish more. As above, my goal – and yes, it’s a stretch – is a story or chapter per week.

4. Set up my publishing house as per Dean’s Think Like a Publisher series. I already have the domain name, the web site, and the DBA. I have two titles published under Old Town Press. It still needs more structure to think MORE like a publisher.

“Father-Daughter Outing” is now available for Kindle

Find it here!

A 4,000 word short story (approximately 30 pages in paper).

Eliza Wall was the most space-happy young lady on the Moon. She spent all her time studying to become a great explorer. Then on one fateful expedition, she must put all of her skills to the test. Can she save herself… and her father?

This one started with a desire to sell to Redstone Science Fiction. I like the market, I like their stories, and I like their attitude; but they have a firm 4,000 word limit, and my stories usually start at twice that length. So I sat down to write a 4,000 word story; and more, I sat down and studied their magazine hard, so I would know exactly what sort of stories appealed to them. Magazine editors always say: “Read some issues so you know what we like.” And so I did that, and I found they liked hard science fiction stories very much like I like to read – and write.

And so I sat down and I wrote, carefully holding back my usual wide-ranging style to focus on a very small story. The end result came in at 3,996 words on the first draft; and I seldom do second drafts beyond a little cleanup work, so I just sent it off. The result was… Well, it was ironic, and I laughed:

Your speculation about living on the Moon is touching, but the subject is quite similar to some stories we have already published, making it not quite what we are currently looking to add to Redstone SF.

“Read our magazine,” my ass! I didn’t hold it against them, but I did start taking that particular advice with a large grain of salt. (And I haven’t sent them anything since, but not because of this rejection. I just can’t get under 4,000 words that often, and they only accept stories during limited periods and on limited themes. But someday…)

But the story had more luck at Writers of the Future, where it received an Honorable Mention; and it had even more luck at Digital Science Fiction, where it became the cover story for Heir Apparent – Digital Science Fiction Anthology 4:

I started with an idea from an old Alternity adventure that I ran at PentaCon one year. That idea was way, way, way too large for a 4,000 word story (it might become a novel someday); but there was one challenge I could lift from it and turn into a story. None of the same characters would make sense in this version, so I decided to recast it entirely as an Old Town Tale. Instead of a team of explorers escaping an international conspiracy, it became a young girl trying to save her father; and though I didn’t know it at the time, the young girl became Eliza, who would later grow up to own and run the Old Town.

Eliza has appeared in other Old Town Tales, and she’ll appear in more. This one is dedicated to Virginia and Ayanna, two young ladies who helped me figure out Eliza’s personality. My niece Virginia inspired Eliza’s sense of exploration and curiosity (and shoes!). And my friend’s daughter Ayanna helped me see the view of a young lady trying to both take on the world and hold tight to the family she loves.

“The Night We Flushed the Old Town” is now available for Kindle


Find it here!

An 8,000 word short story (approximately 50 pages in paper).

When you’re an Ecological Engineer on the Moon, you get used to the mess, and especially to “that smell”. But one night, Scott Wayne discovers “that smell” is a threat to the city of Tycho Under – and worse, to his favorite bar! Can a bunch of neighborhood barflies save the city? Or will bureaucracy win out?

“The Night We Flushed the Old Town” is a tall tale of life on the Moon. Scott wouldn’t lie to you… would he?

This story, first published in Therefore I Am – Digital Science Fiction Anthology 2, was my first professional sale (though not pro-qualifying for SFWA or Writers of the Future, since Digital Science Fiction is not yet a qualified market). This is one of my Old Town Tales: a series of stories all set in the same universe and revolving around the Old Town Tavern, the best bar on Luna! The Old Town is located in the Corporation of Tycho Under, one of many underground cities on the Moon. (It is loosely inspired by that other Old Townvery loosely…)

Like many of my stories, this one started with a character who lives and works in Tycho Under, sitting down and telling me his story. These are ordinary characters living ordinary lives and working ordinary jobs – but their lives and jobs just happen to take place in space. (I call this subgenre “Blue Collar Space”.) In these stories, I usually don’t know what the story is, just what the character does for a living; and then I let him or her tell me what their work is like until eventually I find the story.

(Note: Yes, I know how crazy that sounds, my characters talking to me. Just pretend it’s real, OK? This is a lie we writers tell ourselves to explain the different places in our brains where ideas come from. Some writers speak of muses, some speak of messages from outside themselves; and some, like me, speak of the characters having minds of their own. We know that it’s all really inside our heads; but making up believable lies is just what we do, ya know? We don’t just tell these lies to our readers, we tell them to ourselves.)

In this case, I was looking for an aspect of Lunar life to explore; and I settled on waste treatment. Why? I dunno, it just seemed like a good idea at the time. So I sat down with Scott Wayne, and he started to talk to me…

No, we can’t do anything about “that smell”. I knew you’d ask—everybody does. But you haven’t thought it through. Take a barstool and I’ll explain.

And no, I’m no candy-ass for calling it “that smell”. You heard me down in City Engineering: I don’t exactly watch my language. But here in the Old Town, I try to be more circumspect. If you want to keep drinking in the best bar on Luna, you’ll do the same. Eliza—she’s the former drill sergeant behind the bar—kindly asked us in Eco Services to be a bit euphemistic when we talk about our work. She’d rather we not ruin any appetites. So, we talk about “that smell” and “liquid waste” and “sludge”, not… well, you know.

That’s almost verbatim what I wrote down on that first day. I can’t tell exactly where it came from (though it bears a tiny resemblance to a certain incident that involved me, a doctor, a flu shot, and a fainting friend in the ladies’ room); but with those two paragraphs I knew who Scott Wayne was. Then I let him tell me his story (with a lot of help from Wikipedia and other web searching), educating me on waste disposal and the contents and uses of… sludge. Eventually I learned some key facts, and I realized the threat to the bar and the city.

As Gaelic Storm sings:

And even if you saw it yourself, you wouldn’t believe it.
Oh, I wouldn’t trust a person like me if I were you.
Sure I wasn’t there, I swear I have an alibi.
I heard it from a man who knows a fellow who says it’s true…

This one is a bit of a tall tale. Of course it is: it’s told in the Old Town!