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Messages - Brevoort

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Have You Posted to Your Blog Recently?
« on: September 17, 2019, 08:42:07 am »

An excerpt from my forthcoming non-fiction

"The Disaster Tourist: Journalists and Relief Workers in War Zones and Humanitarian Disasters"

This chapter is about the insane world of drug and gun smuggling from Kenya into Somalia during the Great Famine.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Book Cover Creation Software?
« on: September 13, 2019, 09:03:40 am »
Maybe I'll flesh this out with proper references and publish on Medium.

That sounds like a lot of work but I for one would be appreciative of the information.

Thanks to all for the other suggestions and viewpoints.

I think that I will start exploring graphic design possibilities in PhotoShop which I have a subscription to and use frequently for straight photography. I don't know why I didn't think of using it before other than the program is such a behemoth of capabilities it didn't seem like a obvious choice.

As I said, I need to be able to communicate better with the graphic designers I use in my communications consulting business. It helps to understand what they are talking about and the limitations of their art. I also need something that I can fire up to do projects quickly. Graphics people can get pretty busy and a certain amount of delay is to be expected. But clients don't understand delay; they just want the product.

So, to that end I will also start using LucidPress for brochures, covers, etc. It is free and designed in such a way that I can learn quite quickly. Anything more complex will go to a pro.

I am fortunate in that I have access to someone with extensive design experience, especially in commercial book production, who can vet my concepts and mockups so I won't come across as a complete idiot. In the meantime I have two more thrillers nearing completion and the covers for those are with pros. After that, I would like to take more control myself.

Thank you all for the advice.

Writers' Cafe / Book Cover Creation Software?
« on: September 11, 2019, 11:19:48 am »
I am considering a move toward creating my own covers and other display items for my writing and for my consulting business.

I seem to spend a considerable amount of time waiting for designers to deal with my non-writing consulting demands and I would like to try my hand at book cover creation for myself. I have access to a graphic designer for advice etc but my intent to is to do the physical construction myself. If nothing else, experience with design software would allow me to better understand what the outside designers are on about and their problems.

I see mixed messages about whether to use Adobe InDesign or Lucidpress. Adobe seems to have a very steep learning curve. Lucidpress promises a much easier time and at a lower cost.

Can I have some recommendations please?


There are a lot of writing programs out there for Chromebooks but nothing that performs the same functions as Scrivener, and certainly not for compiling.

The most convenient word processor I have found is Google Docs. It can be used offline on a Chromebook if you want and it will convert from the Gdocs format to TXT, DOC, PDF, etc. The voice to text feature in Gdocs is pretty decent and dead simple to use but unfortunately it doesn’t handle transcription from external recordings.

On my Chromebooks and Android smartphone I make use of Scrivener’s Sync With External Folder feature. It seems to be little known although it has been part of Scrivener forever.

It allows you to export the contents of a Project, together with its folder structure, as a TXT, DOC, or screenplay compatible file to a cloud service. On the Chromebook end I just download the Project folder intact and work on it on or offline. When done I upload the entire folder and overwrite the cloud version. When I next open Scrivener it will make the changes I made along with any new material I have added to the Character, Location, Notes, Comments or whatever folders I have in Scrivener. If something gets screwed up, not to worry. Scrivener automatically takes a snapshot of the original Project before uploading to the cloud.

For editing, proofing, or working within a Scrivener Project on a Chromebook I find Sync With External Folder very useful. If I am writing a new piece that will eventually end up in the project, or just some story notes, I will most often just do that in Google Docs either on or offline, and add the converted Doc file as TXT to the cloud Sync folder.

Microsoft Word is available to Android and Chromebook machines through an Office 365 subscription. I have it, but rarely use it. I find it needlessly complicated when saving and converting and just generally not a nice program to work with. Your mileage might well vary and I “think” that there is a trial version of Word for Android. For a text program on the Cbook I just use the inbuilt TXT for Chrome utility.

I do a great deal of travel to war zones and humanitarian disasters and I only use Chromebooks on those trips. If my laptop is destroyed, lost, or stolen, the replacement cost is much much lower than my MacBook. Also, my data is locked down hard in the Chromebook system and very difficult for someone to compromise. To restore after a full loss all I have to do is log in on a new Chromebook with my Google credentials and all, ALL, of my Android and Chromebook Apps together with their settings and of course all of my data is there in a minute or two.

Apparently, and I do not know this from direct experience, it is possible to run Scrivener on a Chromebook under Linux. I know nothing about Linux so if you are interested in trying that route you should try some web searching. Although there has been talk of an Android version of Scrivener my understanding is that it is a long way off and might never happen.


I don't begrudge the intensity of Chris' response. The anonymous and presumptuous accusation was made without anything to back it up. To besmirch a person's character like that is just abhorrent.

The conventional wisdom is that people should not respond to such attacks so forcefully. I do not agree.

As a Canadian I have a deeply seated cultural and genetic disposition to be polite. But quite frankly, that [person]'s accusation would have got a serious physical response had it happened to me in real life. 

I am aware that Chris walked away from this board as a result of similar ad hominem attacks and he is not the only one to have done so.

If this incident results in Chris cutting back on his contributions to self publishing on YouTube I believe that we will all be the poorer for it.

One word edited at the brackets. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca

Writers' Cafe / Re: Typing
« on: August 15, 2019, 10:28:05 am »
Touch typing is by far the single greatest thing I ever learned how to do.

I had been a hard news journalist for about 10 years, working with manual typewriters, and able to reliably do about 30 words per minute with four fingers when I decided that I needed a skills upgrade. I found a copy of a British book called Teach Yourself Typing in a second hand bookstore and in the space of a week I was able to match the 30wpm. The speed went up greatly over the next few weeks. Now, I am most comfortable on a keyboard somewhere between 60 and 70wpm, but I am capable to burst typing above 90 for short periods. I can greatly exceed that through dictation and transcription but that is a whole different topic.

Apart from the speed increase that touch typing allowed me, I would have to say that the ability to look around, at something other than the keys, is an outstanding benefit. Depending on what I am writing I can easily hold a conversation with someone, watch television news, or just enjoy the scenery when I am out and about.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Does anyone use Dragon dictation?
« on: June 23, 2019, 08:58:08 am »
I started using it years ago for dictating and transcribing daily journalism. These days I dictate 1-2K a day into a handheld recorder then transcribe with very high accuracy into Dragon Pro Individual running under Parallels on a Mac. Nuance has scrapped the Mac version altogether which was pretty well junk anyway.
Version 15 Pro Indiv is by far and away the best that Nuance has produced and does not require the tedious voice training and convoluted setup of earlier versions. If you want to use the transcription feature be aware that the Home, and some other versions, do not support it.

As mentioned earlier in this thread, make a point of buying Scott Baker's book "The Writer's Guide to Training Your Dragon", it will save you a lot of trouble no matter how much you think you know about using Dragon already.
When buying, look far and wide on the net for a decent discount instead of paying the full rack price for the software.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Best Editing software
« on: May 11, 2019, 08:46:16 am »
I use SmartEdit Writer.

It's a windows scrivener-like (only easier to use) program with a robust editor built in.

Also it's free. ;D

I very much like SmartEdit Writer (formerly Atomic Scribbler) and I use it by preference on Windows machines. There is no Android version and I keep hoping that someone who knows how to do it can make it run under CrossOver so I can use it on my travel machines which are Chromebooks. On the Mac I use Scrivener.

The same company (Bad Wolf Software) also makes a capable grammar plugin for Word called just SmartEdit. That costs a bit but there is a free trial.

Writers' Cafe / Re: I've got writer's block
« on: March 24, 2019, 09:46:35 am »

Take a look at "Break Writer's Block Now" by Jerrold Mundis. It's in ebook etc.

No less a writer than Lawrence Block recommends Mundis who first published his technique in the mid-nineties. Since then it has become a hand-to-hand recommended tool among screen writers in Hollywood and widely recommended in all sorts of other fields.

I've also heard of it being used by blocked visual artists, and by drama and documentary television producers.

Mundis built a reputation as a writer's writer and published dozens of novels, non-fiction, and screen properties so he knows what he is talking about

Writers' Cafe / Re: What do you use for making notes?
« on: February 22, 2019, 11:46:29 am »
This thread inspired me today to update a post I had made about note-taking on one of my other sites.

In essence, the principles are:

  • Pick a system, or an app, a method, or a technology and stick to it unless it just doesn't work as you want.
  • Waste not a second in getting the idea into your system otherwise it will disappear
  • Don't think about grammar, syntax, spelling or anything else other than getting the guts of the thought down.
  • The cheapest and smallest of pocket notebooks, along with a short pen or pencil, should be with you constantly

The full details are on my writing website.

This is a brilliant talk on writing craft by mega-bestseller (100+ million books sold) Lee Child (author of Jack Reacher series).
Touches on several craft-related subjects. Well worth watching!

Thank you for that. His views on storytelling and writing are refreshing and well worth paying attention to because after all he is highly successful. There is a part two consisting of the 15 minutes of Q&A after his talk that is worth paying attention to as well.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Could use some dictation advice
« on: January 28, 2019, 10:40:35 am »

I use Dragon to transcribe ( . . . ) Even so, I still have some stuff that makes no sense in my drafts. 

I sometimes run into this problem and if it wasn't for Dragon's (ver 15) ability to replay the original audio when working with the imported .DRA file I would be utterly stumped. When Dragon mishears something it can insert the most bizarre sequence of words that bear no resemblance to the surrounding context. It is not a matter of misspeaking but rather a different view of reality and it can become very difficult to figure out just what it was I had actually said. Hence the ability to play the original audio. I don't know if this also happens when dictating directly into the program because I use transcription exclusively.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Could use some dictation advice
« on: January 28, 2019, 10:30:27 am »
... Fool Proof Dictation was the only book I found that really delved into training your brain for dictation.

I neglected to recommend this book in a previous reply. It is a remarkable and valuable book for anyone at all unsure about the merits of dictation for writing. It is packed with practical examples and exercises, some of which don't suit me, but others that are true gems of practicality. It is an outstanding guide to the practical psychology of using voice dictation in any form.

I almost passed on buying it until I saw that Scott Baker had written the introduction. Baker is the top expert in all things Dragon and his book, "The Writer's Guide to Taming Your Dragon" should be essential reading for anyone trying to use Dragon Naturally Speaking to best effect.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Could use some dictation advice
« on: January 24, 2019, 09:21:15 am »

I've been using Dragon to transcribe from a hand-held voice recorder for years, but mainly for non-fiction stuff such as emails, draft memos, summary reports, and general note taking. The few times I used Dragon for fiction it went well but I didn't make it part of my routine.

However, in the last few weeks I've discovered the inbuilt voice dictation tools in Google Docs. About the same time I also discovered the MacBook's in-built voice dictation system. Dictation on the MacBook is as easy to launch as pressing the Function key twice. Firing up Dragon is akin to starting an airliner.

And then when I discovered that the underlying technology in Google Docs related to voice dictation is Nuance technology, the engine that drives Dragon Naturally Speaking I started using Google Docs as a dictation tool.

(Although I appreciate the dictation tools built into GDocs and Macs, and use them daily now for all sorts of stuff, my preference remains transcription using a voice recorder and Dragon)

Then I started to pay attention to the kinds of speeds I was getting for fiction. For me, fiction is something I can dictate far faster than non-fiction.

My normal fiction writing speed is the equivalent of 1K to 1.5K words an hour.

To my astonishment I found that my fiction dictation speed consistently worked out to the equivalent of 4K and reliably up to 6K words an hour. (I dictate in half hour bursts)

These speeds took me by quite some surprise but in checking around on sites dealing with dictation and in a couple of books I found that they are not unusual.

There is a caveat though; one must have a clear idea of what will happen in the dictation session. I am quite comfortable with what Dean Wesley Smith calls "writing into the dark" but that does not work well for me in dictation. I need a solid idea in my head about what I am about to dictate. I loathe outlining, but four or five bullet points on a bit of paper really can help me build a scene without drama.

It also helps that I have extensive experience as a broadcast journalist with the Canadian and British broadcasting networks and well trained in being able to quickly talk live and without notes about just about anything without much preparation.

Which leads me to editing. I use a headset microphone into a quality voice recorder for loading into Dragon version 15 pro individual when I am done. This gives me the highest quality transcription with the minimum of fuss. Version 15 was a leap in voice recognition and does away with all the voice profile troubles that previous versions suffered from. (It is still a lousy and cumbersome piece of software mind you).

With that setup, editing has changed little. I still have to deal with structural and pacing issues but they are unrelated to dictation and are there all the time, regardless. I perhaps am correcting more typos or incorrect words, and putting in stuff like quotation marks and correct capitalization that I forgot to insert during the voice recording but overall, editing is about the same. One thing though — do not for a moment think you can use Dragon for editing, despite the fact that the program is loaded with editing commands. It will drive you nuts and take far, far longer. Edit the traditional way.

There is a Facebook group devoted to voice dictation, mainly in Dragon, called Dragon Riders - Authors Dictating, but there are others.

Which leads me to two book recommendations. The first and best in my opinion is Scott Baker's The Writer's Guide to Training YOur Dragon, Using Speech Recognition to Dictate Your Book .  It is about $3 or so in ebook and worth far more.

The second is Dictate Your Book by Monica Leonelle which does a good job on how to approach fiction dictation, the mindset needed, and what creative tools you need.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Have You Posted to Your Blog Recently?
« on: December 29, 2018, 08:00:35 pm »

For some reason, this post of mine about notebooks has become one of the most viewed on any of my websites.

"Never Forget Another Idea Again - Writers & Journalists"

Writers' Cafe / Re: Prowritingaid vs grammarly vs autocrit?
« on: November 22, 2018, 08:59:52 am »
There's nothing that helps you give a manuscript a better coat of polish toward the end of editing than hearing it instead of reading it.

I fully agree. While I have, and to some extent still use, just about every bit of grammar checking software on the planet nothing comes close to the human ear's ability to snag bits of bad writing. There is only one technique more efficient than having a computer read text to you and that is recording your own writing. Saying the words out loud while trying to make a good recording, as if you were trying to make an audiobook, just cannot be beaten for detecting even the most subtle of errors.

I've experienced having a novel processed three ways to Sunday by editing programs, tilled and cultivated by a copy editor, and sent out to what were evidently one eyed proof readers, and still, during the audiobook recording process any number of bizarre misphrasings and typos cropped up. It was grossly frustrating.


Writers' Cafe / Re: Have any authors here narrated their own novel?
« on: November 08, 2018, 08:07:59 am »
Would love to hear if you thought it was worth it.....any storied would be helpful.

While I encourage you to try it, there are some things to be aware of that might affect you.

I recorded my thriller several months ago and learned a lot.

I come from a previous background in television news and documentary work, as correspondent and producer. I thought doing my own book would be a walk in a quiet park. It was more like wandering down the middle of a four lane highway. The amount of physical and mental energy that went into recording eight finished hours was extraordinary. I found that I could last about two hours a day in the recording booth before things started to fall apart.

It would have been far worse had I been my own audio engineer; I simply could not have handled the extra load.

I am fortunate to have one of the best sound engineers in the country as a friend and close by. He recently built a sound studio in his basement that shames some broadcast network control studios. And it has one of the most important things you need in sound recording, a very low noise floor. I doubt that a grave could have been quieter than his sound environment.

He is also an experienced studio director of quite major narrative and music productions. That qualification is of supreme importance when recording your own stuff. You need an experienced set of ears to detect when you have unknowingly mispronounced something, substituted an incorrect word, or messed up the emphasis of a sentence. Just as typos on a page can survive repeated readings without notice, audio mistakes can sail by the narrator's ear without recognition. And keep in mind at all times that there can never be any situation where you can let a less than perfect recording into the wild. The slightest mistake, the faintest of far off extraneous sounds, the most minor of botched edits will bring down the wrath of listeners. I have a theory that humans are much more highly tuned to the human voice by thousands of years of oral storytelling than they are to words on a page. A screw up in voice seems to be far more jarring than a misspelled word on a page.

Speaking of typos; the manuscript of Cobra Flight had been vetted by an experienced copy editor, two (2) proofreaders, and three beta readers, along with every piece of grammar checking software I could lay my hands on. It had already been published wide by the time I started audio recording. Yet, I cannot tell you have many typographical, grammatical, and semantical mistakes came to the fore only during the reading.

Although the production has been well received, I found it to be such a stressful and draining experience that I doubt I will ever want to do it again. Also, and I only realized this late in the process, the while recording experience blocked me from doing any other form of writing for about three weeks.

Now, this of course is one person't experience and there are a lot of people here who have had quite positive experiences doing their own recordings, and I would recommend that you at least try a short story. But be aware that the physical act of reading, together with the need for high order technical precision in the editing, is likely much harder than one would suppose.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Mechanical Keyboard - Worth it for writers?
« on: September 09, 2018, 10:28:38 am »

Oh dear. This is such a subjective question. It is like asking people which paper notebook they prefer, which pen, which writing chair, and so on.

Because it is so personal I will talk about my experiences which do not rule out anyone else's preferences.

First of all, any of the Das Keyboards are superb, if you like the feel of a deep key throw and the clackity clack of the keys. While not as loud as a conventional typewriter, mechanical keyboards can put out a lot of sound, so if you are working around other people the noise can be irritating. But, I love my Das Keyboard.

Unfortunately, I travel a lot on business so I need bluetooth keyboards and apart from the long out of production iGo Stowaway folding BT keyboard which had the best mechanical key touch of any portable and most full size keyboards, the typing experience can be poor.

None of the Apple keyboards, built in or mobile, produced since the Mid-2014? MacBook Pro, is acceptable at all to me and it is a major reason, no correct that, the major reason why I will not be continuing with a new Macbook.

One of the big problems you have when shopping for a new keyboard is that few merchants will have one out on display so you can mess around with them. But, since most keyboards are based on the bog standard and cheap membrane technology they are like trying to type on jello.

I should say here that I am a bit of a keyboard acquirer. Acquirer, rather than collector, because I am always looking for the best mobile solution and I have a dust covered pile of about a dozen I need to ditch.

I have had very good luck with Logitech's bluetooth range, the KB 380 in particular which is small enough to go into a carrybag and has a lovely key touch.

There are other full-size mechanical keyboard manufacturers but I have had no experience with any other than Das Keyboard. This website seems to do a good job summing up what to look for in a mechanical, it is not a straight forward choice.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Chairs!
« on: September 06, 2018, 07:45:22 pm »
About three years ago I read about standing and walking desks and gave it a try.

It is not for everybody, but it became much more comfortable for me than sitting in a chair. In fact, I do not like writing while sitting in a chair at all.

I use a kitchen island bar for the standing bit, and that gets the most use. But two or three times a day I head downstairs and walk slowly on a treadmill. I built a special stand to raise the laptop to the correct height.

But, it is not a magic technique and many people find standing and or walking difficult if not painful in the long term. For me though, it results in more energy and a greater sense of getting some physical exercise during those long stints of writing.

All that said I agree about Aeron chairs. Wonderful things and in my opinion well worth the cost.


I think this author has been doing some serious promotional work. If you google the title and his last name you will find the book referenced on dozens of websites. I think he has been hitting the pavement and knocking on website doors all over the place. Good for him.

Covers are subjective and my subjective view is that his cover fits nicely into the genre. It is also clean, simple, and doesn't have some character walking away from the reader into murky darkness <minor personal rant about trendy book covers -- ignore>

I am intrigued enough to give the book a shot.

Writers' Cafe / Re: looking for a soldier
« on: September 03, 2018, 02:42:16 pm »
Until you've been in the military, it's impossible--literally, impossible--to wrap your head around the breadth of the stupidity that ensues when the bureaucracy turns against you. It is a nightmare of Kafkaesque proportions that would have any incarnated prince of Hell weeping into a bottle of Jim Beam by noon.

True words.

And I can attest that the same thing applies to the Canadian, British, and German militaries. Although, the type of drowning sorrows liquid of preference, in order, was Jack Daniel's, Johnnie Walker Blue, and some sort of nail through the forehead spirit for the Germans.

(served in one - contract advisor over the last 20 years for the others)

Writers' Cafe / Re: Who remembers 1987?
« on: September 01, 2018, 04:26:33 pm »

I'd have to nominate Don Johnson who starred in the hit TV series Miami Vice. He really seemed to be on the cover of every magazine from the mid to late 80's, much to my annoyance since I couldn't see the appeal. Miami Vice was, and probably still is, remembered for over the top glitz glamour violence and cheesecake in a police procedural.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Have You Posted to Your Blog Recently?
« on: August 28, 2018, 07:11:12 pm »

I've posted an excerpt from my forthcoming non-fiction work, The Disaster Tourist.

The Disaster Tourist is about life as a journalist or relief worker in the war zones and humanitarian disaster areas of the last couple of decades.

The excerpt is brief introduction to the utter crazy chaos and insanity of the Somali civil war in Mogadishu. I've never done LSD or any other brain twisting chemical but life in a war zone like Somalia has to resemble an overdose on top of bad booze while suffering an intense mental illness.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Probably dumb question about uploading books to Kobo
« on: August 28, 2018, 12:05:04 pm »

Joni here from Kobo Writing Life.

It is so refreshing to see a business respond like this. I can't switch to Kobo because I am already with them so I will settle for saying that I glad to see such prompt customer service. It is depressingly rare.

Writers' Cafe / The Man With the Golden Typewriter - Ian Fleming
« on: August 26, 2018, 12:08:36 pm »

There is a fascinating read at Anne R Allen's website about how Ian Fleming more or less took over the marketing role for his James Bond novels in the 50's. I get the impression that he drove his very unenthusiastic publisher nuts.

In fact, it seemed that about the only thing he didn’t do was actually drive the trucks that delivered copies to bookstores.

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