Romanced by Dictation

I have a little story for you.

Last week I set out to do handiwork around my house. This is my second summer here. When I was looking to purchase a house, I had a certain list of wants. This was not your HGTV style list of wants in a home. I have a number of allergies, so my list was a lot of do not haves. For instance, any house of mine could not have carpet in it.

Thus, it became a great selling point when the house I liked also came without grass! No grass and no trees. I am allergic to much of the outdoors, and grass just seems like a silly waste. It’s an irritant to me, and then I would have to spend too much time caring for it and trimming it, thus thrusting irritants out around me in a fashion in which I could not escape. Not to mention, the heat and the gasoline. Ugh! Instead, I have a pretty backyard with fantastically designed stone pathways, crushed stone, a bed for planting and four decks. It’s an easy oasis.

 

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Part of the yard after planting/retrofit last year

 

However, the sum of all those lounging spaces, added to the large front step, three lengths of fencing around my bigger than the office shed, and two retaining walls in my driveway means a lot of refinishing. That is to say, scraping off all the old and peeling stain, then putting on new stuff. I’m willing to guess, it’s like painting an entire floor or more of the house itself. It’s a lot! This is my first house too, and my first shed/workshop. I don’t have a lot of tools yet. No sander, no pressure washer (not that I’m sold on the water usage idea), etc.

I’m a bit cheap, but mostly I’m just really old school. Which probably makes my neighbors chuckle, or at least raise some eyebrows. That’s alright. I mostly enjoyed the hard labor of scraping those decks. Why? Because I was in great company! I love the radio, and I love podcasts. I decided that while I was hard at work, it would be a great time to get acquainted with Joanna Penn, who a friend had recommended to me and other podcasters widely praise.

Click here to check out the Creative Penn Podcast.

Joanna is always interested in finding the pulse of the indie publishing industry. She makes sure to ask each of her guests what they feel is the next thing to take off in their world. I’m going to take some leeway and say that she’s put her weight behind the rise of dictation. Due to RSI she has dabbled and is even refocusing her workflow toward learning dictation and training dictation software. Yeah, took me a while to get my head around training a piece of software too, but it makes sense to a certain extent. It’s a personal preference in the end.

I have to agree with Joanna and many others. Dictation has long been the most important tool for some of the most prolific authors in the industry. It had been credited for doubling word counts as well as its health benefits. As someone who suffers from diseases that affect my hands and joints, dictation has definitely taken my interest. Especially since my usual day jobs are heavy on the typing. Furthermore, as a fitness enthusiast the chance to stand up or even walk places while writing would be amazing.

 

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One of my beautiful surprise blooms this year.

 

So the romance has begun. I’m testing out dictation and dictation software. First off I’m trying free avenues before I make any big investments. As a lover of Google docs, my tests are being conducted with their dictation option which is included. So for the next few weeks I will be updating you on lessons learned, advice and tips found throughout this romance. Who knows? Maybe next year I’ll be gardening and writing at the same time.

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Busy Days

Two weeks ago was the first 48-hour writing event, hosted by THE Tutoring Center and supported by Engen Books. Check out some of the fun here at Engen’s slideshow. Or check out our social media storm, seen through our twitter tag #48hourswriting or #48hourwriting because I was a distracted bunny.

One great thing about this crowd is how easygoing, funny, and welcoming they are. They are also very open to sharing. All the knowledge and assistance is available.

There was a great turnout too. Familiar faces from the geek convention circuit as well as WANL members and friends from local writing clubs. Shoutout to my #teamdistraction pals, Stacey Oakley, Katie Little, and Heather Reilly. Also, extra thanks to Stacey for convincing me to check out RWBY. I’m really enjoying the show, the humor, and the action! I obviously wasn’t the most observant Monty Oum fan. I was all in with Dead Fantasy and thought the show was a day job he helped on. I’m the first to admit that I’m never the hardcore fangirl type. However, there were many times he was in my memory throughout watching.

I have to thank the group as a whole for reminding me not to assume and supporting my obsession with fountain pens and inks. Thanks to you I am working diligently to be able to share my knowledge and supply with the wider public. I’m hoping to sell and share at Avalon Expo. If that doesn’t pan out, I will still be presenting on a panel. More information coming.

Since the marathon, however, it has been difficult to get back on track. I’m hoping for some accountability in listing things here.

Writing Schedule

Kinetic has fallen off its schedule. I am working to get it back on track within a week. That being said, Part One will be cluing up soon. When that happens, there will be a brief hiatus to do some extra planning and checking the plot in future parts. Be prepared for the point of view to shift around so you can get a better sense of the world of Super Hero Stories and your favourite heroes.

Review Schedule

My next review will be of Scott Bartlett’s novel, Supercarrier.

Art Schedule

I find myself suddenly on the countdown to submit my comic. Oops! Sometimes I wish someone was on my back like in the old days. How does the potential of a cash payment become less enticing than a good grade? Sheesh.

Did you know?

Another fun fact about me:

I adore hand lettering and calligraphy. I also have always loved quotes. These two make a great pair. It’s great when you can harness one interest to help you build upon another. I’m building up my hand lettering skill, as well as my design sense while sharing my joy for quotes. Here are some of my works:

Here are some of my works:

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I really enjoy so many things in life. I’ll admit it…I strive to be a polymath (a Renaissance Man). There’s just so much to partake in with life. I could not stay with one thing.

You can check out the details of the quotes through my twitter, or my instagram.

Book Review “Supernatural Causes, Episode One: Going Viral”

Supernatural Causes, Episode One: Going Viral

Published and distributed by Engen Books, St. John’s, NL.

Digital Release: April 2017

Copyright 2017 Amanda Labonté

Free to read: Click here

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In the serial novel “Supernatural Causes, Episode One: Going Viral,” author Amanda Labonté welcomes readers to New Port, ground zero for the war on drugs. Actually, that doesn’t matter as much as Liesel Andrews would have her friends and family believe. No, this is the landing place of vampires, witches, and werewolves after they fled from Europe long ago. Liesel is a pre-med student who discovers that she may also be living in ground zero for a new Superbug, one that affects the supernatural residents who have always been immune to common illness.

While I am not the most avid vampire/werewolf fantasy reader, I found myself impressed with Labonté’s take on these creatures of the night. First of all, allow me to also preface this review by stating that I will be calling this a Vampire Fantasy. While the novel may expand, the viewpoint of episode one is mostly within the genre of Vampire Fantasy. I would be interested in some expansion on the werewolf culture and the witches as well, but only time will tell as more episodes are released. Labonté appears to be running with the original myth behind vampires. At first, I admired the title of the book for its clever play on the phrase “natural causes,” in medical speech. Her use of the plague origin story, however, is a far more brilliant choice. What appears to be a mere background history is actually acting as a lead into the oncoming danger. A passing explanation of vampire origin plants the impressions gained from talk of the dangerous epidemic which is forever seeded in societal consciousness. So when the almighty creatures who grew from the horrors of the plague are finally brought down by a new affliction, the reader can quickly feel as though the whole world could be in danger.

Furthermore, the opening of the novel is directly in line with the entire genre of medical fiction, giving no hesitance to the choice of title. The beginning is a superb hook, ushering readers into the midst of the emergency room action. While it is always important to begin with a proficient hook, when working with the serial format, it is absolutely paramount. Labonté harnesses not only medical suspense but mixes it directly with elements of the fantasy genre, intriguing readers and guiding them into the heart of this unique world order.

Readers follow Liesel from the supposed outer reaches of a world, which her gift made her an observer of, to the very center of underworld society. While she initially appears to be just another unimportant member of support in this unique society, she is soon convinced to delve through the hierarchy and investigate as a diagnostician. Through each clue revealed, it becomes clear that she may very well be the most important bridge between all underworlders. One wonders how long it will take her to see her importance and take up the mantle of hero?

Vampire Fantasy carries a set of particular themes to be fulfilled. For instance, the view an author chooses to explore with regards to the underworld. Vampires are members of what is essentially the monsters of the night. Thus, a story may not always speak of them from a position of sympathy. Indeed, the first vampire stories were historically unsympathetic. Like a Van Helsing interpretation, vampires were only depicted as repulsive. They were the epitome of evil; mindless killing machines without room for personality. However, “Supernatural Causes” follows the popular modern day approach, telling the story through Liesel’s sympathetic interpretation of the nightmare folk. The fact that she is their doctor immediately humanizes them. Suddenly, the immortal god-like underworlders are brought closer to our human experience, thus giving the reader a chance to understand them easier. Furthermore, it allows the reader to unconsciously disregard much of the foreign and monstrous aspects that could otherwise focus on terror and the unknown which would steer the story into Horror. Therefore, readers can be sympathetic to Christophe and the Lieutenants, as well as the werewolves. Fear comes easily, not for their monstrous existence, but for their survival and their comfort. Labonté is tapping into the contemporary approach in which Vampire Fantasy becomes more about understanding and relating to the struggles of those who are different. What was once a simplistic trope is made more intriguing and dramatic as seen in similar monster stories as the comic turned television show IZombie or The Santa Clarita Diet1. Morality is evolved to include an openness for what is alien.

Another common genre expectation in Vampire Fantasy is the presence of violence. There has always been violence attached to vampires. Whether they are mindless killing machines, or “vegetarians,” their existence is inherently violent. They depend on feeding through biting and drinking blood or a form of life energy. “Supernatural Causes,” while remaining loyal to the basics of vampires, presents a potentially more evolved process. Vampires are far more integrated into human society expected. They can appear in the daylight, although they risk severe sunburn. A choice which reinforces aspects far less detached from their human origin. The feeding process is shown to be a sexual act or at least a process mixed with sexual pleasure. This is alluded to, in part, by the jealousy of Christophe’s partner, Jenna. Since Labonté’s vampires are not cold blooded, the reactions behind attraction and excitement are believable. Further assisting the suspension of disbelief is how they have taken to, and advantage of, the contemporary pastime of clubbing and hooking up. This is a great show of integration.

Another example of the violence which is often present in this genre of fantasy is the clash between vampires and werewolves. Not unlike a deep-seeded history of distaste and violence known between countless groups such as the Irish and the English or Israelis and Palestinians. Taking the main danger of the story, the threat from a universal sickness could serve as a common ground to help end the conflict between these historical rivals. At least for a time.

This episode came to the table with some moments to chuckle or smirk, and it definitely made it easy to get into some of the scenes, striking a balance between being too short and forgettable, and becoming too lengthy, descriptive and boring. Instead, it kept me coming back to read more. Another must-have with serialized fiction is to end on a high note. This was the home run for “Supernatural Causes.” Labonté’s scene reveals an understanding of what serials require for continued readership and success. Just when we get comfortable, the world is blown wide open! At the very point of climatic conflict, where the potential for war is literally a foot away, new truths topple the aggression into frantic suspense.

The one overall drawback that stands out about this work is that it requires further proofreading. Perhaps, as an editor, I may be a little more discerning than most. However, this is without a doubt, a growing distraction for readers. Even more so, when it comes to ebooks, the current audience can be turned off from a series if it presents too many errors. From a cursory investigation, “Supernatural Causes” does not appear to have been worked over by an editor. No credit is given on the front matter or copyright.2 One might guess the manuscript went through fewer hands because it was a free episode. However, the fact that this is an introduction, the force of the story can be diminished by what is, mostly, frequent typos. By all means, this episode being the first means it required a lot of care. I know it is no easy feat to even compose and publish a work, but today’s readers are so jaded and therefore quicker to cut ties with a story than in previous eras. In order to not only maintain attention but to grow it further, I would recommend the hand of at least a proofreader.

I would recommend “Supernatural Causes” to almost any adult who enjoys fantasy or, like me, holds some curiosity toward it. While a little soft on the medicine, it’s enough to satisfy appetites of fans who come from that side of the genre. I actually feel that it might even be better if the reader is not a hardcore Vampire Fantasy reader or if they are, that they are the type who can be objective and analytical toward each new story.

Now I must await the next installment set to release June 15th.

footnotes:

  1. It appears I am more of a modern zombie buff than a vampire one
  2. Historically, editors are not credited or named in fiction. 

Music for Fiction: Zoë Keating

Ever since renaming my blog in line with the true recipe of my writing experience, the two portions of truth to my soul, I have mentioned how music directs my writing as well as my life. So I figured it was time to share some of the music and artists who inspire me and my work. I thought this would also be a great way to share awesome music with fellow authors to help them find good writing tempo.

Today I want to share the work of a Cello player who I am a fan of. I love the Cello. Sometimes it can be hard to find a variety of music beyond the classics or derivatives thereof. Classics are great, but innovation is the lifeblood of all creativity. It is the mark of a true and genius composer.

a3871109355_16I found Zoë’s music last year when I was struggling personally. Her album, One Cello X 16: Natoma, took the lead down an inspi-rational path for a story which became like a life raft to me. As such, I incorporated her entire album as the intro to the project’s playlist, entitled Veil’s Trinity.

Music is storytelling. The brilliant part about music is its enduring nature and its versatility. One day it leads me through a pastoral tale, journeying through the countryside and revealing peaceful days of a character’s youth. On another day it is telling of the march to rearmament for a nation, and the steps to mythical wars. Another day it leads through a gentle love story of poetic and intellectual passion.

Zoë is a hard working, ardent, and award-winning musician of curiosity and intellect. Here’s a piece of her bio page to give you a sense of what I mean:

Cellist and composer Zoë Keating is a one-woman orchestra. She uses a cello and a foot-controlled laptop to record layer upon layer of cello, creating intricate, haunting and compelling music. Zoë is known for both her use of technology – which she uses to sample her cello onstage – and for her DIY approach, releasing her music online without the help of a record label.

That is badass. Striking out and making it her own. I find that worthy of admiration. The admiration is not just for her approach, though. Listen to her music and you will know. Indeed, the tones are haunting, but not in the spooky sense. Rather, it is the effect of masterful composition, made to move the soul. You hear her heart, her attitude, and her passion for her craft and life through each layered chord. Each song is a steady build up, telling a tale we can muse over with the reprising compositions entitled Legions. Beginning with War, moving through the middle track, entitled The Sun Will Set, picking up with the Legions reprised in Reverie, and then ending with Aftermath. This album progresses and (allow me to suggest) reads like a novel.

What sort of novel? That is up to you.

Furthermore, she is an activist and advocate for patients, and simplification of medical insurance, especially with regards to cancer.

Granted, at times, I am someone who cannot bear excessive repetition. Sometimes this album is too much to handle. One has to be in the right mindset/mood. That doesn’t have to be a drawback for an album, though. If you’re particular with your tunes, these songs can at least be proper music to have playing in the background to assist in concentration.

Whether it’s SciFi space stations, Viking longships, or noir cityscapes, music enriches my fiction. Music ignites the power of the inner mind, if you let it.

Listen.

Close your eyes.

What do you see?

You can acquaint yourself with Zoë through her website: http://www.zoekeating.com/