If you enjoyed Connor and Liss in Bad News Cowboy and want to check in with them…well, me too. I wrote an extra scene with them that I’m going to include in my newsletter. I think you can guess what it might be. Click the invitation to sign up!
ALSO, if you haven’t read the first few books in the Copper Ridge Series, Shoulda Been a Cowboy is FREE right now across all platforms.
Bad News Cowboy has the very friendly digital pre-order price of $5.99 at all outlets.
Bad News Cowboy will be on shelves July 28th, and in the print version will be a copy of Shoulda Been a Cowboy at no extra charge. So bonus stuff for those who prefer print too! (I still like my print books, I can’t help it.)
If you’re new to me, or my books, I thought I’d take the time to highlight some of my backlist titles!
If you’re enjoying the Copper Ridge Series, you might want to check out Silver Creek.
In Unexpected, a mistake at an IVF clinic finds city girl Kelsey Noble pregnant with a stranger’s baby.
If you like things short and spicy, I wrote two Cosmo Red Hot Reads:
In Crazy, Stupid Sex, the geek girl gets the hot guy when she programs an app with can’t lose sex tips. And in Breaking All Her Rules, a buttoned up business woman accidentally swaps phones in a cab with a sexy cowboy.
If you’re enjoying The Forbidden Series, check out Fifth Avenue for more dark and dirty glamor in Manhattan.
Harlequin Presents is a series that’s close to my heart. They were my first published books, and I continue to write for the line. I’m always surprised when I talk to people at conferences who haven’t read one in years and think the line has no sex, or that it’s old-fashioned. The truth is, the line comes in a variety of heat levels (mine are pretty HOT). There are classic romances and more modern fairy-tales set in glamorous locations with super hot, alpha heroes.
These titles are a few of my fan favorites. A disgraced prince and a scarred nun, a virgin hero, a pregnant virgin, and a runaway princess who falls for the brother of the man she’s supposed to marry.
What is The Billionaire’s Intern?
It’s another multi-author series with Caitlin Crews and Kate Hewitt!
Does that mean it’s related to Fifth Avenue?
Yes! You will recognize characters who first appear in the 5th Avenue series. It also works as a standalone trilogy, but if you like catching glimpses of characters you’ve met before, you’ll enjoy this.
How hot is it?
When does it come out?
That’s a trick question. Because it’s a serial! And it has no marshmallows. Because it is a serial and not cereal. I have a lot of experience with cereal. But none with serials. So this will be a first!
June 7th – part one releases for FREE
June 9th – Part 2 – .99
June 11th – Part 3 – 2.49
June 14th – Part 4 – 3.99
And on June 17th you can just buy the full book rather than doing it in pieces. It will cost slightly less to wait and buy the full book.
Basically, you can binge read it by buying individual episodes (like itunes) or you can wait for the full season. Entirely up to your reading preference! But the good thing about part 1 being free is that you can at least read the first quarter and see if you’re into the story.
The same price model will be followed with The Billionaire’s Fantasy, and the Billionaire’s Innocent.
Here’s that schedule for you:
The Billionaire’s Fantasy by Kate Hewitt —
Part 1 – June 14th
Part 2 – June 16th
Part 3 – June 18th
Part 4 – June 21st
Full book – June 24th
The Billionaire’s Innocent by Caitlin Crews —
Part 1 – June 21st
Part 2 – June 23rd
Part 3 – June 25th
Part 4 – June 28th
Full book – July 1st
And now, since you sat through all that…an excerpt:
Logan Black looked out the window, directly across from his desk. The view of Fifth Avenue was both entrancing and slightly off-putting. Depending on his mood.
And his moods were subject to change at a moment’s notice.
The streets were packed with cars, nothing unusual, but the kind of thing that made his vision swim when it caught him off guard. Like it had just now.
He should have closed the curtains.
He turned his focus away from the view and leaned back in his chair, looking at the time displayed on his phone. Addison Treffen was due to arrive any moment. The beautiful daughter of the recently murdered Jason Treffen. If her brother hadn’t called in the favor, he would have happily chosen almost anyone else.
There was no place for soft, beautiful women in his life. Not now.
But Austin was one of the few people who tried to maintain a friendship with him since his return. And while Logan hadn’t done much to reciprocate, the gesture was appreciated.
Still, the idea of bringing Addison into Black Book, keeping her here…
It had seemed like it might work yesterday. Today, he was less certain.
He was used to that. To his moods changing like the tide. To New York feeling like a storm he could swim through one day – and one that would drown him in the depths the next.
Some days were much harder than others and he could never quite pinpoint what kind of day it would be. It usually started with shoes. That was often the biggest clue. How much did they bother him when he put them on? How much did he resent having to wear them?
If the shoes were a problem, it was a fair bet that the Manhattan streets would be too. That the traffic below would feel like his own personal hell.
Shoes had been a problem this morning. Which meant his meeting with Addison would be interesting indeed.
Though, it occurred to him he might need to put his shoes on before she arrived.
He looked down and at the pair of shoes and socks beneath his desk. Just a standard pair of black dress socks, and a pair of very expensive, handmade leather shoes.
He’d left them under there last night after he’d kicked them off.
Funny, he’d owned the shoes for something like five years now, but they’d rarely been worn. In part because they’d been new when he’d left, and in part because since he’d returned he’d worn them as little as possible.
He didn’t want to wear them. So he wouldn’t.
Ms. Treffen would learn very quickly what it was to work with him. He did not bend for convention. He forced others to bend to him.
But he was aware now, of what was necessary and what was simply an extra rule imposed by society. He’d been a man stripped down to nothing. A man at his simplest, at his darkest. Where there was nothing more than life or death. Where there certainly weren’t rules about what sort of shoes he should wear into work. Or if he should wear them at all.
Though, he realized that whether he cared or not, others did.
He also realized that sometimes there was a lot of power in making others uncomfortable.
There was a knock at his office door, and he knew it had to be her. Because she was the only person the front desk had permission to allow up. And because he didn’t like being paged over the intercom, a knock was the only way anyone could signal their presence.
There were a lot of things he didn’t like now. One of the many reasons his old friends, barring Austin Treffen, seemed to find him boring these days. But it didn’t bother him.
The feeling was entirely mutual.
“Come in,” he said, putting his hands on his desk, palms down, as strange, restless energy surging through him. It was like this with people. Always.
The door cracked open, and she led with her leg. A shapely, stocking-clad leg. There was no avoiding the fact that it was a nice leg. That wasn’t even up for debate. Even in his twisted brain, where things often seemed backward or upside down, a nice leg made sense.
The woman that followed the leg was even better than the body part in isolation. Blond, petite, with blue eyes that were like a deep, clear sea. Her lips were full, a pale pink not like anything found in nature on his island. It was far too delicate a shade.
She was wearing a white skirt that tapered to fit her shape, ending just below her knee, a matching, fitted jacket conforming to her curves.
And on her feet, adding, he had no doubt, to the shapeliness of her legs, were a pair of black high heels that added nearly four inches to her height and likely pushed her feet into a near impossible position.
He’d never given much thought to women’s shoes prior to his experience on the island. But now that he resented his own footwear so damn much, he couldn’t help but wonder just how contorted Addison’s feet would be in something like that.
Though the wonderment in no way detracted from her legs.
Every part of Addison Treffen was exquisite. Photos of her in the news didn’t do her justice.
“Mr. Black,” she said, his eyes level with his. “I’m Addison Treffen. My brother arranged this meeting and…”
“I’m fully aware of the details of the arrangement.”
She blinked, her expression remaining neutral. “Well, I had thought it possible my brother spoke with someone you worked for.”
“One thing you will learn about me, Ms. Treffen, nothing happens here without my approval. And no one would be permitted in my office, on my floor, in my hotel, without my arranging it.”
The hardness in his tone didn’t ruffle her. The petite, small framed woman with her smooth hair, skin and clothes, staring him down with an expression that bordered on serenity, was not at all what he’d expected. “Was the hotel room on offer for anyone who took up the spot?” she asked, her fingers shifting on her handbag, the only slight tell of nerves he’d seen since she walked in.
“Yes,” he said. “I understand that an internship, an unpaid one, is not the easiest thing to negotiate, so it seemed a nice offer.” And in addition to that, he rarely left the hotel. Which meant any assistant of his had to be here.
“Technically, that makes it paid in a way,” she said.
“If you like.”
She smiled and for a moment he was at a loss as to the appropriate social response. Smile back, obviously.
Buy links and more info here!
Wedding fever is coming to the little town of Marietta, Montana!
I’m so excited to let you know about the Spring Brides series launching in May! It kicks off with The Fairy Tale Bride by Scarlet Wilson. All of the stories will be connected by the celebrity wedding of the century…and the seemingly diva behavior of the bride!
You can find more info about ALL of the stories here:
Scarlet Wilson (May 4th)
Dani Collins (May 11th)
Nicole Helm (May 18thth)
Rachael Johns (June 1st)
Kat Latham (June 8th)
My story, Finally His Bride is closely connected to Nicole Helm’s Bride by Mistake. In her story, good girl Kaitlin Shuller has had enough of behaving. The man she loves is marrying someone else and she’s ready to be bad for once in her life…with her older brother Luke’s best friend, Beckett Larson.
In Finally His Bride Luke Shuller gets his chance at love with his best friend and cake baker extraordinaire, Melanie Richards.
Finally His Bride releases May 25th
And here’s the BCC…
Wedding fever has hit the little town of Marietta…
As the whole town goes crazy over the celebrity wedding event of the century, Melanie Richards decides she’s tired of blending in. It’s time go after what she wants. Her to do list:
1.Get a sexy dress
2.A little liquid courage
3.Lose that pesky virginity
Luke Shuller can’t believe is eyes when he walks into Grey’s and sees his best friend trying to pick up some drunk cowboy. Melanie wants to start hooking up? She can practice on him. At least he’ll keep her safe. And as a bonus, their pretend relationship will help him deal with a family crisis.
But when pretend gets real, Melanie can’t tell where the charade ends and reality begins. When the dust settles, will she get thrown back into the friend zone, or will she finally get the man of her dreams?
Luke Shuller walked into Grey’s craving violence and whiskey, not necessarily in that order.
His knuckle still throbbed from where he’d landed a solid punch to his ex-best friend Beckett Larson’s face, and his cheek still throbbed from where his friend had returned the favor. But neither burned worse than the rage that was still roaring through his veins.
Beckett was just lucky that Luke hadn’t killed him on the spot. Seeing as the other man was about to be a father. Because, he had knocked up Luke’s little sister. Luke had spent his entire life protecting Kaitlin. And in the end it had been a guy who was only around because of Luke who had ruined everything.
Yeah, he really needed that drink. He had gone straight from their fight to pack a bag so that he could head down to Marietta to keep an eye on his sister, to make sure Beckett didn’t do any further damage. He didn’t know what he was going to do, only that he needed to be here.
It was Saturday night so most of the town was hanging out, and most of them had already had a few drinks. Luke could only be envious.
Luke walked up to the bar and slammed his hand down on the wooden surface. “I need some Jack.”
The bartender nodded once and set about pouring the drink, sliding it toward Luke, who in return pushed a few bills in the other man’s direction. He lifted the glass, turning away from the bar, leaning up against it, surveying the room.
He needed something to take the edge off of his rage. Hopefully, the alcohol would dull some of it. Getting laid might help fix the rest. But he was in Marietta, and he didn’t hook up in Marietta. There were too many people here that he knew far too well. Too many people he’d grown up with, who were related to people he’d grown up with, or related to him in some obscure way. It was one reason he liked living in a slightly larger city. Anonymity, he found, was necessary for anonymous hookups.
And here in Marietta, there just wasn’t much in the way of anonymity. Beckett usually preferred anonymous hookups himself. Except in this instance. The bastard. Luke had to wonder if this was retribution for accusing Beckett of theft. But Luke would never have accused Beckett of theft if he weren’t certain that’s what had happened. Beckett was the only one with access to all that stuff in Shuller Automotive. Luke had given him access. Luke had trusted him. More fool him.
He lifted his glass to his lips, relishing the burn of the alcohol as it slid down his throat slowly. He welcomed the pain.
For the same reasons he couldn’t get laid here, he couldn’t really pick a fight here either.
Maybe coming home hadn’t been the best idea after all.
Luke looked across the crowded bar, his eyes drawn to a woman sitting in the corner. He couldn’t see her face, just her long blonde hair and hints of an excellent figure, expertly displayed by the tight black dress she was wearing. A dress that was riding up high on very shapely thighs. Unfortunately, the woman was already talking to a man. A cowboy, already drunk, his hat tipped back on his head, his face red as he leaned in close to whisper what Luke doubted were sweet nothings. More like very sexual somethings.
Of course, the fact that she was with someone didn’t really matter. This was still Marietta. And every woman in this bar was still off limits. Unlike Beckett, Luke had some scruples.
The woman shifted in her chair slightly, brushing some of her hair away from her face. And just like that interest turned to recognition.
Basically the only friend he had left in all the world, now the Beckett was dead to him. And she had no call to be out here, in a bar, sitting across from some random dude who was clearly drunk off his ass. The guy grabbed hold of Melanie’s hand, lifted it to his lips. Luke saw Mel’s frame stiffen, her entire body going rigid from her head on down. Too bad her buddy didn’t seem to notice. He tugged her forward, pulling her halfway out of her chair and planting a kiss on her lips.
Before he could stop himself, Luke was walking across the room. He’d gotten his drink. He supposed now it might be time for the violence.
He reached down, grabbing the guy’s shirt collar and wrenching him away from his friend’s lips. “I think you’re done here.”
The guy stood up, his expression furious. The fury dampened a bit when he realized that Luke was a good head taller than he was. Good. “We’re on a date,” the other man slurred.
“Not anymore you’re not.”
Melanie scrambled out of her chair, almost knocking it over in her haste. “Luke, what are you doing? What are you doing here?”
“I’m being chivalrous.”
“Why are you being chivalrous here? And at me?”
“You needed chivalry, obviously. And aren’t I allowed to come visit?” He crossed his arms over his chest, keeping his eyes on Melanie’s “date”.
“You’re allowed, but it’s weird. And also, I don’t need your help.”
He whirled around, looking at her fully for the first time. His heart slammed hard against his rib cage, his mouth going dry. He would love to blame the alcohol but it took a lot more than half a drink to make him feel like the floor was tilting beneath his feet. Still, the fact remained the floor had definitely tilted beneath his feet.
He’d just seen Melanie last month at his younger sister Sierra’s wedding, and then again a couple weeks ago when she’d come in to Bozeman to visit her grandmother and stopped by to see him. Both times she had looked very much like he was used to her looking. Blonde hair in a braid or ponytail, maybe a little bit of lip gloss, and some sensible outfit that could most definitely be worn in church.
The dress Melanie was currently wearing would get her sent to confession, along with half the men in the room.
Bless me, father, for impure thoughts abound.
The insubstantial garment clung to her curves like a second skin, molding itself to curves that were a bit more generous than he’d realized. She was wearing mascara too, and some kind of gold eyeshadow that made her eyes look impossibly large and blue. Then he found himself staring at her mouth. It was temptation red if he’d ever seen it. Like a piece of forbidden fruit that obsessed a man with the need to taste it the moment he set eyes on it.
If he didn’t know better he would think she was trying to attract attention. But Mel didn’t do that. So it was impossible.
“You obviously do need my help. Hey buddy,” he said to drunk-ass cowboy, “get out of here.”
“You her husband?”
“Yeah.” Luke crossed his arms over his chest and gave the guy his meanest stare. Which, he had a feeling tonight was pretty damn mean.
“No, he’s not,” Melanie said.
But the other guy had already put his hands up, and was backing away. “Hey, I don’t want to get in the middle of anything.” He mumbled his parting words, then turned and stumbled the other direction.
“What a hero,” Luke muttered. Feeling pretty annoyed that he hadn’t even been able to throw a punch.
Mel stared after the would be Romeo for a moment, before whirling around to face Luke, her expression thunderous. “What. The. Hell.”
“I think the words you’re looking for are thank you.”
“I am not thankful that you got rid of him. I’ve been looking for a guy to take home with me all night. Joel was looking really promising. And you chased him off!”
Now the floor didn’t feel like it was tilting, it was just gone. Like the bar had split open, revealing a cavern beneath that was threatening to swallow Luke whole. “Excuse me?”
“Well, why did you think I was here? It wasn’t to learn how to line dance.”
“I don’t even know what to say to you right now.”
Melanie was… Not this woman. Melanie was fragile. Damaged by a past with her abusive father. Cautious. Melanie was someone he lived to protect. From the moment he’d first seen her at her grandmother’s house, a skinny twelve-year-old with too-serious eyes and bruises on her arms, he’d wanted to shield her from the entire world. Which was why he’d gone straight to her aid when that drunk jackass had grabbed hold of her.
“Why do you sound angry? I didn’t screw up your chances of getting some tonight.”
Molten heat pooled in his gut. “Outside. Now.”
She crossed her arms beneath her breasts, pushing the already accentuated body parts into greater prominence. “No.”
Later, much later, Luke would realize that tonight would be talked about as the night Luke Shuller threw Melanie Richards over his shoulder and carried her out of Gray’s like she was a ten pounds sack of potatoes. But in the moment he wasn’t thinking of notoriety. He wasn’t thinking much at all. So, when he bent down and grabbed ahold of her bare thighs, hefting her over his shoulder, then straightening and heading for the door while she struggled, he didn’t much think about the people around them, or how his actions would spread through the town gossip chain like fire on dry brush.
Even if he had realized, he wasn’t sure he would have given a damn.
Just a quick note to let you know that on Tuesday, March 17th, I’ll be sending out my next newsletter. In it, you’ll find a Part Time Cowboy sneak peek and more importantly, a coupon for a dollar off your purchase of the print book.
The coupon is valid in the US and Canada only, and doesn’t work at Barnes and Noble, but it’s accepted everywhere else books are sold! Sign up! Save some coin, read a cowboy!
On the personal front, Mr. Yates and I will have our 10th anniversary this year! This guy. I can’t say enough about him. He’s my biggest supporter and not only that, he’s just a great guy. He shows me what romance is every day. He has a big stake in every story I tell. Ahem. Now I’m done being mushy.
December marked my 5th year as a published author, and what a ride it’s been! I realized today that (including shorts and novellas) I am starting my 50th book! Crazy! Time flies when you’re having fun, and writing happily ever afters.
On the book front, 2014 was a really busy and epic, which means 2015 has a lot of books headed your way!
I’m definitely most excited about my Copper Ridge series, which launches March 1st with my novella, Shoulda Been a Cowboy, with the first full length book, Part Time Cowboy coming March 31st (for more info, check out the Copper Ridge page). I had SO MUCH FUN writing these books. I had a moment of serious zen when another writer asked me a few months ago: If you could write anything in the world, what would you write? And my answer was: Copper Ridge.
That said, I think having these longer small town books reinvigorates my enthusiasm for Presents every time I come back to them. I have quite a few Presents coming at you in 2015, including His Diamond of Convenience. Now, I’m not 100% sure this is the first tattooed hero on a Presents cover, but my contacts at Harlequin, and I, are ‘reasonably certain’ that this is the first ink to grace a Presents cover. I was possibly over-excited by that. I love a forearm tattoo. *wiggles brows*
In Summer, the multi author series I’m part of with Megan Crane, Rachael Johns and Jackie Ashenden launches. The Deacons of Bourbon Street is a bit of a departure from what I usually do. It’s a bit hotter and a bit rougher, but it’ll have the same banter and of course, HEA, that you expect from me.
The follow up trilogy to 5th Avenue is in the offing too, and I’m excited for you all the find out the ultimate fate of everyone caught up in the Wild World of Treffen.
As always, I feel like I owe you all a huge thank you. Thank you for reading my stories. I’m not here without you, my readers, that’s the honest truth, and I’m so thankful for every one of you. So thankful that I’ve spent another year being able to write the books I love.
I’m going to be writing at least as many books this year as I did last year. I have some seriously fun Presents on the horizon that I can’t WAIT to dive into. One thing I love about Presents is that I feel like each one can be so wildly different from another one. (I know a lot of people don’t see category that way, but I think I get to do the most interesting and different things in category books) and I’m hoping for some fun stuff yet to be announced. 😀
*raises glass* Here to 2015! May it be a great one.
I’m so excited! I get to share my very first HQN covers…and they are fantastic in my opinion. Perfect for the books! My editor, Margo, puts so much thought into things and I really appreciated the great discussions we had about what sort of look and feel we wanted for the series…and I’m even happier that the art department and marketing took that and ran with it to a place that is so much better than I could have imagined. (This is why they’re the art department. And I am not!)
Without further ado…here they are:
I could go on and ON about how much I love them, and how perfect they are for the books. I have. I think my family is tired of me.
Part Time Cowboy is out March 31st, and Brokedown Cowboy is out May 26th. For more info check out the Copper Ridge page and click on the book covers!
Fifth Avenue has been given a digital makeover…and it is HOT!! To go along with it, for a limited time it has a HOT price as well!
From Sept 8th-14th Avenge Me is .99
Through December, Scandalize Me is $4.99
And so is Expose Me!
(Please don’t drool on Alex…)
Find out more, and get excerpts and buy links here.
I’m hardly a seasoned pro in this business, though, after nearly five years it’s easy to feel like one. Publishing is a demanding and crazy ride. A day is as a thousand years, etc. But I’ve learned a some things over the past few years, and one thing has been on my mind recently: There is a lot of power in saying yes.
This is going to get feelsy and hippie dippy and possibly cliche really quickly. Hang on tight.
I’ve been in a season of saying yes in my life.
I’ve spent a lot of time being nervous about things. I’m a control freak, and I tend to overthink. I also have my share of anxieties and fears. As we all do.
But last year my mom got sick (she’s doing well now) and I think the experience lit a fire in me. To ask myself why fear gets to dictate my circumstances, to get out there and try new things.
This year for our 9th anniversary my husband and I went to Skamania Lodge in Washington. It’s so incredibly beautiful there. And we had the most amazing day of walking through every metaphorical open door we could.
We went hiking at Multnomah Falls and took in the views, then we drove 45 minutes south to Portland. We parked in the first lot we saw, and walked into the first restaurant we saw and had the most amazing Lebanese food in the most beautiful atmosphere. From there we walked to an ice cream shop – 11 blocks away. And on the way we passed the soccer stadium. There was a game on in a couple of hours but we thought there would be no way to get in.
So went on and got our ice cream (and a hat! it’s a great hat) and after were done, we walked back. And decided to walk up to the stadium. It turns out tickets were very reasonable, and we got incredible seats just as the game started.
I’ve also been saying yes in my professional life. And I have been amazed at how fun/rewarding/awesome it as been.
Now, publishing is a business. Writing is a business, at least it is for me. And there is a tendency to keep our eyes on that immediate bottom line. But I’ve had some experiences in the past two years or so that have underscored the fact that, for me, the immediate bottom line is not the one true king.
I’ve written books for charity that ultimately resulted in contracts. Accepted offers that were not, at least in my mind, ideal that opened doors that led to bigger, better and more ideal circumstances. I’ve worked on projects that introduced me to amazing people and amazing editors even when the specific projects didn’t add to my bank account directly.
I am business minded. Writing is a necessity for my survival. But even with that I have to say…the journey matters too. Connections forged matter. Taking risks and exploring new opportunities can lead to big and incredible things. Or they can crash and burn, but if you never try, you never know.
The most shining example of this in my writing life was when I wrote Imagine Me and You, in the Animal Attraction anthology. This was the charity book I mentioned above. The proceeds of this novella go to benefit a no-kill animal shelter. I was happy to be involved in the cause, and am so grateful I had the chance.
But from that experience came opportunities I couldn’t have foreseen. It led to both a contract with HQN and a RITA nomination, and it was absolutely one of the most joyous writing experiences I’ve ever had. Any one of those things would have been HUGE on their own!
But it’s an example of what taking various opportunities have done in my career, even when there was no immediate monetary reward.
Another example comes straight out of New Orleans. Time spent there at RT this year inspired the germ of an idea (as did this lovely lady!) and resulted in a multi-author series with myself, Megan Crane, Rachael Johns and Jackie Ashenden, which will be out next year with Loveswept.
I wish I could outline all the little things that came together to make it possible. It’s friendships, connections that started five years ago. A casual comment that turned into something concrete. A seed of an idea that grew into…bikers. Like it does.
These are just examples from my experiences over the past year. Over and over again with publishing friends I’ve watched opportunities that seemed small grow into amazing trees of awesome. There is definite power in saying yes.
I know for me it has led to some wonderful, scary, exhilarating, fabulous, unfabulous-but-hey-I-tried, things.
Oh yes, oh yes, there is power in saying yes.
There’s power in saying no too, but that’s another blog post.
For now I’m going to leave you will all the cliches:
Walk through the door
Take the meeting
Enjoy your journey
Buy tickets to a soccer game and maybe go ziplining.
As many of you know since I’ve been talking about this on twitter I recently started using Dragon Dictate version 4 on my Mac. I wrote a lot of books last year and in February of this year I hit send out my latest single title and promptly wanted to cut my hands off.
I took a couple weeks off because fortunately this coincided with my trip to England, but when I got back the pain started right back up again. Everything was starting to feel like a burden, from blog posts to deadlines.
I had a lot of anxiety over this because I had tried speech recognition software before and felt like it was impossible. I have said more than once that my words come out of my fingers, and there’s no way I could say them because that just isn’t the way the process works.
But, dealing with pain and staring down multiple deadlines meant I didn’t have the luxury of being stubborn. Not anymore. The pain wasn’t excruciating, but persistent and present even when I wasn’t working. So the idea of turning around another book quickly was just not at all appealing. I love to write, and my body was making me love it less.
So, I took the plunge and bought the latest version of Dragon when it came out. (Note: as mentioned above I am using Dragon on the Mac and there are some uniquely buggy things that happen on the Mac version, I’m okay with it but there are definitely issues. More on that later)
I want to impress upon you just how much I didn’t want to use speech recognition software. I want to impress upon you just how skeptical I was. But, when I saw that Vivian Arend was experimenting with Dragon and upon interrogating her on twitter got some information about how it was going for her, I knew I had to try it.
My first experience with Dragon was using it for twitter, email, and a set of fairly heavy revisions that required certain scenes to be rewritten. This was a good way to start, because I didn’t expect speed. The revisions were tricky, and I had a lot to wrap my head around. That helped make me less conscious of the learning curve. I didn’t expect these particular revisions to be fast, so I didn’t feel quite as interrupted by the whole process.
One thing I think it’s very important to be aware of is that there is a learning curve. the first time I tried speech recognition software I expected it to feel somewhat intuitive. It wasn’t. Forcing my mouth to say the words didn’t feel natural. And because I spent a couple of hours struggling with it I assumed it simply wasn’t for me. This was a couple of years ago. I kind of fiddled with it, then never went back.
But this time I went into it feeling like I had to make it work. Pain is a really great motivator. The prospect of not having pain is an even better one.
I’ve been using Dragon for about three weeks now and I feel like it’s really working for me. I would absolutely recommend it, even though it’s imperfect. Frankly, I’m an imperfect typist, and the issues with Dragon outweigh chronic pain.
So here is my quick Dragon question-and-answer list. If there are questions I don’t answer that you would like answered, feel free to ask me in the comments.
Do you have to speak punctuation? Yes, you do have to speak punctuation. This was one of the things that daunted me about starting the program. I couldn’t imagine getting to a point where that would feel remotely intuitive. Honestly? I don’t even notice it now. It’s much easier to pick up than you might think. You just have to persist. (Though, I occasionally find myself tempted to start inserting punctuation into daily conversation.)
Is listening to the sound of your own voice terrible? At first, yes it was. So, I employed a little trick that was inspired by the movie the King’s Speech. I put in ear beds, and listened to music. This helped on a couple of levels. I always listen to music when I write and I have established playlists for my books. So this helped me feel like there was an element of the familiar because I had my music. And the bonus was I couldn’t hear myself talking. This made me less self-conscious. After just a few weeks I don’t need the music. I feel much more comfortable with the process, and am no longer cringing over the fact that I’m saying all these words out loud.
Did the words flow at first? No, not really. But it was amazing how quickly they began to. I would say that within a couple of days of using Dragon for almost everything I found my flow. Now, having done an entire manuscript I find that I get in the flow of speaking much the same way I do with typing. I barely stop for a breath. And if I’m in the zone enough that I don’t really have to think.
Is it accurate? Yes, I think it’s impressively accurate. But, when it gets things wrong it gets things really wrong, and I have had some pretty hysterical typos. Part of the reason it can go so badly is the Dragon tries to guess the context of your words. So if one word is wrong, the surrounding words might end up wrong too. Yes, this is annoying. But, I’m a fast but sloppy typist so I’m basically trading a set of common mistakes for another set of mistakes. I have to remind myself that I don’t type every sentence perfectly.
Some of using Dragon effectively has to do with the change of mindset. Certain things take longer with dictation than typing, and I find other things are much faster. I need to proofread a bit more carefully with Dragon, but it gets words down faster. it’s basically a system of trade-offs.
Is it easy to train in new vocabulary words? Yes, it is easy. The book that I just wrote was a sheikh book, complete with made-up country. That meant I had to teach Dragon a lot of names, and place names that don’t really exist. It was a pretty simple process.
Another thing that helps is to run your existing documents through Dragon. It will pick up words you use, and the frequency with which you use them. And if it doesn’t recognize words it puts them on a list and you can go through and train Dragon to understand them.
Would you use it for revisions? I probably wouldn’t use it for revisions that required tweaks. You can edit with Dragon but that is kind of a slow process. First things that needed to be rewritten, yes, I would use it. But not for tweaking a specific thread or making minor changes.
Were you worried it would change your voice? Do you think it did? I was paralyzed with fear about this. I dictated a bit and sent it on to my critique partner with much worry over it not sounding right. She assured me it was fine, so I pressed on.
It was an interesting experience reading over the manuscript I just finished. I was very pleasantly surprised with how ME it sounded. And I’m feeling much more confident in the fact that my voice is my voice, and I’m not going to upset the apple cart that easily.
How about those errors? Well, I’m still working in Pages on the Mac. There are a few funny things Dragon does. One of the errors I’ve had is that it will occasionally generate a random letter, and put it at the end of a sentence. This one letter will stay behind the cursor, and will largely not interfere with what you’re doing. And when I’m done I just delete it. Restarting the program will solve the issue. It’s annoying, but not detrimental.
Another issue I have, in Pages only, is the Dragon occasionally doesn’t automatically capitalize the word the beginning of a sentence. This is also just a minor annoyance in an easy fix.
Dragon also crashes occasionally. But it is never caused my word processor to crash and restarting it only takes a couple of seconds. I’ve never lost work as a result of a crash, just faced a little bit of interruption time. This is also something I can live with.
Most of these errors, as I understand it, are not present on the PC’s version. Now, the PC might have its own errors, but I’m not sure what they are.
What about microphones? I’m still on the hunt for a permanent microphone. I prefer a headset because it allows me to be hands-free and it keeps the microphone at the proper distance from my mouth. It also allows me to stand up and stretch while continuing to work. Right now I’m borrowing my dads microphone and eventually I will have to get my own. I can’t mooch forever. But I’m being indecisive.
The microphone you use does matter though, as it affects your accuracy. And strong accuracy is certainly key to feeling satisfied with Dragon. What you want is a noise canceling microphone, and these come in a variety of price ranges. Honestly, in my experience there isn’t a major difference in the accuracy of a cheap headset mic and an expensive one.
Yeah, but how fast is it? Okay, this is where I have to confess I was extremely skeptical of Dragon being faster than typing. As I mentioned above I’m a very fast typist. And when I started, I simply didn’t have the same flow. My brain had to process the words before my mouth could speak them, so there was a bit of a delay in getting it down, whereas when I type I don’t have the same issue.
But, I was wrong. It is faster. For a variety of reasons, on this particular draft I just finished Dragon far surpassed what I could’ve done typing.
First of all, I’m not experiencing the same brain delay that I was dealing with for the first couple of weeks. Now, speaking is almost as instantaneous as typing was. It’s something that requires patience, but it did come.
The other thing is that with Dragon I am not limited by physical pain. In the past I’ve often had very high word count days, but over the past few months that’s been impossible because of wrist pain. My brain is willing but my flesh is weak. With Dragon I’m back at the top of my game. I’m able to write the amount that I used to in a sitting, and not suffer for it after. Moreover, I find I’m able to repeat it the next day because I’m not sore.
That alone is going to make a draft go faster. To be able to put in a heavy word count and not be forced to take the next day off, or not be forced to take it easy is a pretty powerful thing.
And I will confess, I even used it in the car the other day. I opened up Dragon’s word processor and put it out of my view, committing to correcting the errors later, and dictated the final scene of my book during my commute to a writer’s meeting. That’s something that obviously is impossible when you’re typing.
These things contribute to the speed Dragon afforded me. I wrote my latest Presents in about half the time it would normally take me. I even took the weekend off. No one is more shocked than I am.
What are some of the differences? Anything challenging? Do you miss typing? Sometimes I find I have a hard time remembering details in a book. But because I have to read it back over so carefully for the typos that kind of helps compensate for that.
One of my favorite things about dictating (something I hadn’t even considered!) is that I can stand, put my feet up, pace, lay on the bed… this actually helps with a lot of things I didn’t even think about. Back pain, sore muscles, sore knees. I love the freedom that it provides.
Yes, sometimes I miss the typing. It’s quiet and it’s its own kind of therapy. But, when I do it a little twinge of pain reminds me why I can’t do it very often. And that, yet again, offsets the learning curve and issues of Dragon. At least for me.
Did you end up dictating the love scenes? Yes, yes I did. And by the time I got to them, it didn’t even bother me.
As a recap, learning to use Dragon is a process. It’s something that might feel frustrating at first, and probably won’t seem intuitive right out of the gate. But that’s okay. The only way you can get past that point is by doing it. Because of the place I was at with my pain it was an easy concession to make, whereas in the past I think I would’ve been frustrated with it.
It’s imperfect, but I found my previous system was imperfect.
One thing I’ve learned over and over in this business is that being flexible, and changeable, is important. Over the years I’ve had to train myself to be able to write in the morning when I used to feel most creative at night. I’ve had to learn to type with things going on around me when I would’ve preferred quiet.
And now, I’m learning to dictate when I didn’t think I could.
I think it’s an empowering thing to understand that processes can be changed, and we can learn to do old things in a new way. My own stubbornness and fear of failure almost prevented me from trying this, and if I hadn’t I would still be wearing wrist braces, using ice packs, and I would probably still be working on the book I turned in last night.
So, would I recommend Dragon? Absolutely. You definitely need privacy and as much quiet as you can get (though, often my children are in the house when I write. But I have an office that has a door. And it stays firmly closed and locked.) And that’s going to be more difficult for some than others. But, the car does work. And since you don’t have to sit in any one position a bedroom without a desk works as well, as long as you have a laptop.
Edit: Yesterday, I forgot to include this great bit of advice from Vivian Arend. ( I’m paraphrasing, she probably worded it better.) “No one sits down at a computer and immediately knows how to type perfectly. We had to learn how to type. Using Dragon isn’t just talking, it’s learning to dictate. You aren’t going to sit down and do it perfectly right away.”
If you have any more questions, feel free to ask them in the comments, and I will answer them as soon as possible.