Thursday, February 26, 2015

Just do it

Good morning Murderers! I hope this cold wintry day finds you warm and fulfilled. Let me say this is not going to be a cheery post but it will be a rather necessary one.

Recently, my family and friends have been experiencing a lot of loss. My kids especially have been hard hit. It hurts to lose someone and it hurts just as bad when someone you love loses someone.

Having said that, do you have plans for your digital world if you should leave the real one?

For an author, with content galore, who is going to carry on for you should you pass away?

I haven't done anything about this yet but you can bet I will soon. I mean, I have books, and blog posts, and videos, and audio files that must be protected, carried on, and in some cases, taken down.

Don't make your online life another thing that a family member has to figure out how to fix. Just go on out there and make some kind of contingency plan for what will happen to your online profile.

Facebook recently posted an article about what to do with your FB stuff. And I am sure other sites have info as well.

I am going to go get arrangements made for this myself so don't feel like you are alone. It is a necessary thing folks. We all must die at some point and it would be a total shame for all of our content to die with us - but if that is what you want, then you totally should make sure it is planned.

Have a blessed day, Murderers. Make it count.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

To Type or to Dictate?

Author Karen Vaughan Shares her Journey from the Keyboard to the Mic
An Interview with Dora Machado
Have you ever considered abandoning your keyboard and dictating your stories instead of typing?
Many of us have, but making the leap from the keyboard to the mic is no small change for a writer. Our creative processes are often intimately intertwined with our mechanics and changes to our setups can affect not only our productivity, but also our thinking processes. So I was intrigued when I heard that my writer friend, Karen Vaughan, was attempting the transition. "She's got guts," I said to myself. I wanted to learn more.
Karen Vaughan is the author of the humorous comedic mysteries Dead on Arrival, Dead Comic Standing and Daytona Dead. She's also the host of Writers Round Table, a popular internet radio show where she explores the ins and outs of the writing life. In her own words, she enjoys "helping her fellow writers to get their work done and put it out there." So today, Karen has graciously agreed to answer a few questions about her migration from the keyboard to the mic.
Hi Karen and welcome to MB4. Tell us your story: When and why did you decide to trade out the keyboard for dictation software?
I have been seriously thinking about dictation software for the last few years but put off purchasing it. I had heard from a friend whose son was using it to help with his school work. It was expensive at the time—over $300.  I wanted something that would ease my hands as I get arthritic pain. That was the first reason I chose to go this route. The second reason was that I found that speaking as I wrote would improve my concentration on the project and allow me to work longer per session with twice the output. We finally purchased the software at the beginning of this year. 
 Which dictation software did you chose and why?
I had tried a few free programs, one of which had come with my laptop. I really didn’t like them. I went with DRAGON SPEAK NATURALLY BY NUANCE. It is more widely known and I found the home edition to be reasonably priced. ($75 USD-$90CAD)
Would you describe the transition as hard or easy?
I am still training the program to accept words I say regularly and find it to be accurate for the most part. I had no trouble downloading the software and was able to adapt from typing to speaking quite easily.
 What are the advantages of dictating your novels instead of typing them?
I can give my hands a rest from typing. The productivity is also slightly higher in that I can get more done per writing session.  I can concentrate on the writing and I am finding I have fewer issues with writers block once I get started.
I now make a point while dictating dialogue to include open and end quote marks as I go whereas before I did forget a lot of them and punctuation.
 What are the disadvantages?
The software is limited as you should have only one user who’s dictating with the program. I could see some major confusion occurring if more than one user was dictating.  Another thing I found was that you have to either turn the mic off or tell it to go to sleep between dictating sessions. If you don’t do this you may find the software will capture a regular conversation in your document. This will require a lot of editing. The good point of this is it does not know how to swear, so you have to teach it to cuss. I can just picture a certain writer I know taking the time to train it to capture the endless amounts of verbiage he uses in his writing.
I can picture quite a few of my writer friends doing that too. Oh, to be a fly on the wall. LOL. Are there any other disadvantages when you use the software?
If you have a cold and do not sound like yourself, it might not recognize your speech.  You need to keep your voice lubricated as your vocal cords get tired easily. Either that or just write or dictate in shorter sessions. Otherwise, the process cuts down on productivity. My suggestion would be to dictate for a while and then type for a while or alternate days for each. 
Training the software to learn your words takes time and is not for the impatient. It can be frustrating if there are days it just doesn’t want to listen to you (like a spouse, in-law or stubborn child). Those are the days I give it a time out and let my fingers do the walking. On those days, I also have to edit more myself and that takes time.
How has the change affected your creative process?
I am finding that my creative process has changed. I usually start each writing session by taking notes or just writing long hand to get me started. Then I can dictate from my notes and/or adlib as I go when a new idea comes to the surface. In short it keeps me focused, and I can go back and add things to other areas as I think of them instead of having to take notes and perhaps forgetting all together.
Would you recommend the change to your fellow writers?
 Absolutely! If you hate the thought of long typing sessions and use a voice recorder to capture your thoughts and listen and then type, this will cut out a step in the process. Like I said before it has cut down on writers block for me in a big way. I would suggest shopping around for the software that best fits your needs for versatility and price. I talked to the staff at my local store for what they recommended and I just found that DRAGON NATURALLY SPEAKING met my needs for price and features and benefits.
Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us, Karen, and good writing to you. 
About Karen Vaughan
Karen Vaughan lives in Peterborough, Ontario with her husband Jim and a cat named Sugar. She is the mom of a 24 year old daughter and four grown step children and a 4 year old grandson named Izak who could very well be smarter than a fifth grader. DEAD COMIC STANDING is her second novel. Her first novel DEAD ON ARRIVAL garnered praise from friends, family and online gamers.  She also enjoys doing crafts and other hobbies. Her third book and sequel to DEAD ON ARRIVAL is called OVER HER DEAD BODY. DAYTONA DEAD is the third in that series and was released in May 2013. Other than writing Karen loves to read, do crafts and play online games. Currently she hosts an internet radio show called WRITERS ROUND TABLE. She has a quirky sense of humor and shows this in her mysteries and her side hobby of stand-up comedy.

Click For More Karen Vaughan

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Inspiration is something to be experienced

Aloha, Murderers. It's Thursday. Wahoo. It's been a rough few days. We have had an ice storm followed by snow and then by frigid temps. At the moment, the time of this writing it is 12 with a wind chill of 1 degree. Yes, and I am in the South. It is NOT supposed to get this cold down here. I wonder what it is in Miami today? I am ready to move.

SO anyway...the question of the week for you ... have you ever gone into a situation just to be able to write about it? Okay, full disclosure, I went on a ride along with a local cop just to see sights and hear the sounds that a police officer enjoys endures on a regular day. It was very enlightening. I also go to special events that are not usual just to get color and flavor. My absolute favorite event such as this was the (maybe 100th?) celebration of the Battle of Shiloh. Talk about immersing yourself in history!! It helped me with the writing of An Unexpected Performance. Those re-enactors have personas and they do not drop them the whole time an event is going on. I found out a LOT about soldiering and camp life in that one day.

As a writer, inspiration is everywhere but it helps to get into a situation that is about as real as it can be so you can capture the sensory details. I felt the cannon fire, smelled the camp fire, and heard the stories being told in every tent. Oh, and that ride along? Found out wayyyy more about gangs than I ever wanted to.

I hope you will do this, Murderers. Go out and find a setting that is out of your norm. And then write about it. Use all your senses. What does it smell like? Are there sounds a reader will identify with? There are a lot more things in events and places than just visuals.

Happy Thursday!
Kim Smith is a multi-genre'ed author of fantastical fiction for all ages. You can find her at her website,

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Why Writing a Book Is Like Preparing for a Marathon


Barb Caffrey

Please help me welcome the talented Barb Caffrey to MB4. She is a fantastic editor and the author of the comic urban fantasy romance, An Elfy on the Loose and the upcoming sequel, A Little Elfy in Big Trouble. Today Barb shares with us one of her classic bull's eye posts, small in size but huge in wisdom. Enjoy! D.

Why is writing a book so much like preparing for a marathon?

Writing a book takes time. Effort. Forethought, planning, a certain drive and sticktuitiveness…it’s a test that will push you to your limit. It shows you, as a writer, what you are made of — because you have to believe that your persistence, your effort, and your skill will pay off.

Runners do this, too, when they prepare to run marathons. They must get into condition, learn to eat efficiently, and prepare their bodies for a maximum effort. And they must believe that all of the training, all of their skill, will pay dividends when they finally run their races.

Runners are strong. They have to be. And they must believe in themselves, even if no one else does, or they can’t run their best races.

You have to be strong to be a writer, too. And you have to have faith in yourself that what you’re doing is the right thing, all because you have a creative vision that will not be denied.

Perhaps thinking about writing in the terms of preparing for a marathon will help you, especially if you are stalled or frustrated with your work-in-progress. While a completed book is not like running an actual marathon, writing that book is very much like preparing to run a marathon.

I know the metaphor only goes so far. But it’s still an interesting way to think about writing — as a marathon, not a sprint.

Barb Caffrey is a writer, editor, musician, and composer. She holds two degrees, is an inveterate and omnivorous reader, and is the writer of the comic urban fantasy romance AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, available now from Twilight Times Books, and the upcoming sequel, A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE.
She is also the author of the transgender fantasy/romance CHANGING FACES and co-author of the two extant Joey Maverick stories with her late husband, Michael. Her stories and poems have appeared in STARS OF DARKOVER, HOW BEER SAVED THE WORLD, BEDLAM’S EDGE, BEARING NORTH, at the Written Word online magazine, at Joyful! Online, at Midwest Literary Magazine, at e-Quill Publishing, and at Vision online magazine. 

She reviews books for Shiny Book Review and, more occasionally, at for their Vine program. She follows politics, loves sports, watches far too much reality TV and is mystified by the “Maury” show.  What all this says about her is anyone’s guess.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Lost Shots, by Aaron Lazar

How long will it take before we can burn images stored in our brain onto a computer? Do you think it will ever come to pass? I hope so, because even though I used to dabble in art in college, I never inherited the landscape gene. I could do portraits, from live models or pictures, but I didn’t have the knack to capture a glowing sunset or wavy grasses, or a frothy seascape. Perhaps, with the proper training, I could make a decent stab at it, but for now the only way I can immortalize scenes of nature is through the lens or with my pen. Figuratively speaking, that is, since I haven’t written books with a pen and paper in many years.

Lately, I’ve been lamenting potentially award-winning photos that I’ve missed. Lost shots. Those showstoppers, the gorgeous scenes I couldn’t acquire because of unsafe driving conditions or a timetable that didn’t allow lollygagging. I still see them, clear as cold lake water, simmering and shimmering in my mind’s eye.

The first lost shot occurred one fall, many years ago. We’d been scurrying around all morning, getting ready to deliver chairs to our customers. One of my side jobs, besides engineering, writing, and photography, is chair caning. My wife does the hand caning, and I do the rush, splint, flat reed, and pressed cane. Every Saturday morning, we load up the van with chairs and head for Honeoye Falls and East Bloomfield, where we deliver them to the shops that hire us. My wife and daughter were with me that morning, since we were going to squeeze in a little breakfast at George’s, our favorite small town. We were hungry. We were late. And I forgot my camera. Of course, this was before iPhones with their handy dandy cameras.

It happened only five minutes from the house, and I’ll never stop kicking myself for not turning around to go back. The night had been cold, and the morning dawned sunny. Frost crackled under our shoes as we tromped across the lawn, and there was a freshness to the air, heightened by the icy morning. We traveled north on Lakeville-Groveland Road, and when we passed Booher Hill, I glanced eastward. This is one of my favorite stretches of land, where multiple layers of trees, fields, and hills delineate the ridges that cradle Conesus Lake. When the sun rises over the eastern shore, it kisses the lake valley with rose, orange, lavender, and hot yellow.

This morning, however, the sun had risen hours earlier. But what greeted my eager eyes was not the sun, but a cloud.

I’m talking about a fully-fleshed, cotton ball cloud. It sat directly on top of the lake, lying like a thick eiderdown on the water. This cloud was not filmy, like mist or fog. It wasn’t transparent. It was rock solid puffy white, and it rose at least 1000 feet over the lake, stretching north-south along fourteen miles of the narrow trench carved many years ago by a glaciers. I’ve never seen anything like it before, and fear I’ll never see it again.

The memory is sharp, but I really wish I could show it to you.

The next two scenes that haunt me happened in winter. The frustrating part was that I had the camera with me both times, but just couldn’t stop because it wasn’t safe to pull over on the snowy roads.

The first was a scene I pass every day on the way to work. Normally, I admire the textures and contrasts of this spot with an almost casual, see-it-every-day insouciance. I do take pleasure in the old barns, dilapidated farmhouse, antique cars in the open sided shelter, and the young Thoroughbred who paces in a small paddock. And each time I pass the old milk shed, I admire the faded white paint and the attractive timeworn look it has from years of exposure to sun and wind. My fingers itch for the camera here most mornings, but it’s private property, 6:30 in the morning, and its positioned near a country intersection, which makes it a bit awkward to stop and snap pictures of this venerable old building. 

This particular morning, however, snow blasted sideways across the road in such ferocity and beauty, it quickened my heartbeat. It was a fierce burst of white, constant and rippling, blinding whoever crossed its path. The contrast electrified me. Deep turquoise metal-sided barn, cement block barn nearby, white post and board fence swaying in the storm…they were simultaneously shadowed and revealed by the spraying snow.

But I didn’t stop. I worried about arriving late to work, and the sides of the road looked very slippery. So… another lost shot.

Later that week, they closed the whole county for whiteouts. I had to get home, I was determined to get home, and I sure as heck didn’t want to spend the night in my office. So, I spent an hour and a half dodging blinding whiteouts, and finally made my perilous way down Groveland Road, almost home. Another half mile, and I’d be safe in the driveway. 

And then I saw them.

Snow devils. Cyclones of white. Billowing and flowing over the hills to the west, up the sides of the valley, rolling across the fields like massive sheet-white tornadoes.

My jaw dropped. My insides thrilled. And I gripped the steering wheel tighter to stay in the snowy lane. I didn’t get the shot. Once again.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not really complaining. I’ve captured dozens of deeply satisfying photos  and have been blessed with pastoral scenes of breath-taking beauty year-round. I’ve snapped hundreds and hundreds of photos. But those lost shots… they keep haunting me. Which, I guess, is why I’ve written about them today. When visions haunt me, they spill out of my fingertips.

There is one consolation. The images still reside in my brain. And someday, maybe soon, I’ll download them and be able to show you. ;o)


Books by multi-award winning author, Aaron Lazar:

DOUBLE FORTÉ (print, eBook, audio book)
UPSTAGED (print, eBook, audio book)  
MAZURKA (print, eBook, audio book)
FIRESONG (print, eBook, audio book)
DON’T LET THE WIND CATCH YOU (print, eBook, audio book)
THE LIARS’ GALLERY (print, eBook, audio book)
UNDER THE ICE (print, eBook)

HEALEY'S CAVE (print, eBook, audio book)
FOR KEEPS (print, eBook, audio book)

FOR THE BIRDS (print, eBook, audio book)
ESSENTIALLY YOURS (print, eBook, audio book)
SANCTUARY (print, eBook, audio book)

THE SEACREST (print, eBook, and audio book)
THE SEACROFT (coming soon)

DEVIL’S LAKE (print, eBook, and audio book)
DEVIL’S CREEK (coming soon)


WRITE LIKE THE WIND, volumes 1, 2, 3  (audio books)

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. An award-winning, bestselling Kindle author of three addictive mystery series, thrillers, love stories, and writing guides, Aaron enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his website at and watch for his upcoming releases, THE SEACROFT: a love story and DEVIL’S CREEK.