More Useful Software

DragonDictate 4 As someone pointed out in a review elsewhere finally does what it’s supposed to do is not exactly a great slogan, but in the case of DragonDictate 4, it is an apt one. This is the first version of DragonDictate which I have not had a problem with, and believe me, I have tried them all. For me, speech recognition on the Mac has had a long dishonourable history of raised hopes and dashed expectations. This time around Nuance have finally got things right first time. The main thing about DragonDictate 4 is that it’s pleasant to use. So far, and I have been testing it since it was released a month ago, I have not had any problems. Recognition accuracy is at least on par with Dragon Naturally Speaking on Windows. … [Read more...]

WriteMonkey

Over the past few weeks I’ve been doing a lot of writing in simplified plain text word processors using Markdown. I was surprised and rather pleased to discover my favourite of these was not one of the many excellent Mac programs such as Byword or iaWriter but WriteMonkey which is available solely for Windows. WriteMonkey hits all the right zenware buttons. After launch you get a blank screen and a blinking cursor. At the bottom of the screen is the name of your file, your word count and a small digital clock. All of these can be switched off either en masse or on a case by case basis, for those times when all you really, really want to be looking at is a blank screen. Since all of the zenware applications look pretty much the same … [Read more...]

Invisible Software

For the past couple of weeks I have been living in a strange alternative universe where proprietary formatting for applications never happened. I have been storing my to do list on my phone and editing it in my word-processor on both Windows and OSX. My phone happens to run Android but I could just as easily be doing this on an iPhone. I’ve been taking notes on my phone when out in the playground with the baby and been able to edit them in my word processor, add them to my Evernote stack and/or do whatever else I want with them. I’ve been writing blog posts that I can send directly from my word processor to this blog knowing they will format correctly. I’ve been running my project management software everywhere. … [Read more...]

Read Stealer of Flesh Free Online

You can read the first book in the Kormak Saga free online here. This is a result of my project to archive all of my books in markdown format for easy future reference. To create it, I found the original production copy of Stealer of Flesh, converted it to markdown then to HTML and uploaded it to the site. Unfortunately, the process of creating my archive was not quite as simple as I had hoped. First of all, my various ebooks were scattered all over the place in different formats usually Word or Scrivener. I had to find them and do the conversion. For the Scrivener files this was easy. I simply compiled them as MultiMarkdown. For the docx files, I used iA Writer, a markdown text processor I bought from the Apple Appstore for the princely … [Read more...]

The Advantages of Markdown

I was going to review the writing app Ulysses 3.1 today but David Hewson saved me the bother. If you’re interested I suggest you take a look at David’s thorough and fair review. I’ll just add that, as an owner of Ulysses 3 and its previous versions, I agree with everything that David says. For those of you who want an edited summary, Ulysses 3.1 is a text processing program that uses Markdown as its basic file format. It has some very clever ways of storing your writing either on your computer or in iCloud. It makes it very easy to keep your writing in one place and even easier to export your work to any format you may want to use it in. It is one of the new breed of text processors with a minimalist interface designed … [Read more...]

Taker of Skulls Author’s Notes

Taker of Skulls is about the dwarves of Kormak's world. They have been central to the mythology of the series from the very start. Kormak's signature weapon, his sword, the badge of his calling and his order, was created by them. They had been mentioned in passing in previous volumes but all we really knew about them is that they dwell beneath Mount Aethelas, the fortress-monastery of the Order of the Dawn. They had rebelled against the god-like Old Ones, and created weapons that allowed mere mortals like Kormak to slay their former masters.  Obviously dwarves carry a freight-load of their own mythology to the average fantasy reader-- the beards, the shortness, the drinking, the vast underground Moria-like cities. I wanted to give a very … [Read more...]

Taker of Skulls Released

That's the fifth book in the Kormak series, Taker of Skulls, released. It’s a rip-roaring adventure in which our bold monster hunter is dispatched on a potential suicide mission among the ruins of the once-great dwarven civilisation of the  Kingdoms of the Sun. The book features demented hordes of mutant goblins, survivalist dwarves and one of the most terrifying Old Ones Kormak has ever faced. Taker of Skulls is available amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. It may be available on Apple's iBookstore by the time you read this but, as ever, Apple are a law unto themselves. As a special introductory offer, the price will be $2.99 or the local equivalent until midnight Thursday Central European Time when I will be … [Read more...]

Looking Forward In 2014

I've been somewhat remiss in updating this blog over the past few months. That's down to a number of factors -- a deadline crunch on Fall of Macharius, the fact that I am looking after my toddler two days a week while my lovely wife returns to work and some complications brought on by changes to the type and dosage of my diabetes medication. All of this has meant time and energy have been in short supply and the blog has suffered accordingly. Things have settled down a bit now and I have been giving some thought as to what needs to be done to get this site shipshape.  Over the past few years the site here has simply grown organically. I have made things up as I went along, adding pages here as a new book was released, writing a blog post … [Read more...]

Happy 40th Birthday Dungeons and Dragons

I am coming a bit late to this party but better late than never. The end of last month saw the 40th anniversary of the release of the very first edition Dungeons & Dragons. D&D is a game that has had a huge effect on the world. Not only did it create a modern role-playing game industry, it has had a huge influence on the way computer games have developed. Look at any modern MMO or CRPG and you will see the DNA of D&D. Look at almost any shooter set in vast room and cavern worlds and you will see its influence. I would also argue that it has done a considerable amount to influence the development of the modern fantasy novel. A good proportion of modern fantasy novels seem to concern themselves with the levelling up of their … [Read more...]

The Seinfeld Method

Happy New Year to you all. I know it’s been some time since I blogged. Partly it has been the dreaded deadline doom as I finished The Fall of Macharius. Partly it has been the curse of Nurgle as yet more of his winter plagues have racked my aching body. And partly, of course, it has been pure laziness on my part. Like everybody else I made some resolutions for the New Year. I have even found a way of helping myself keep them. I am using what is commonly known as the Seinfeld method. It is associated with Jerry Seinfeld because he used it started his career as a method of getting himself to write jokes every day. It is otherwise known as “don’t break the chain.” All you need to do is decide what needs to be done each day then once you have … [Read more...]

Best Books For Writers 2013

Just to be clear this is not my list of the best books for writers released in 2013. This is my list of the best books I read this year. Looking at the list I realise that I prefer technical books about methods and process, nuts and bolts, rather than motivational books and those that talk in terms of art. Please keep that in mind as you go through my choices.  Sitting down to write this made me think about the way publishing has changed in the past few years. Even in the first decade of the 21st Century, a list of books released in a particular year was important because you might only have a short window of opportunity to get your hands on the book before it went out of print, was stripped and returned or otherwise vanished from the … [Read more...]

White Screen of Death

My apologies to those of you who glanced at the blog yesterday and found only a blank white screen. You were encountering a fairly well known WordPress flaw colloquially known as the White Screen of Death. I was looking at it myself  in a lot more panicked way since my entire website seemed to have vaporised.  How did this happen? Why was I panicking? Let's deal with the second one first. I was panicking because  two and a half years worth of blog posts and comments along with various widgets I had hand-written had vanished into the ether and I had absolutely no idea what had happened to them. To add to my angst I thought I had compounded the disaster with a rookie error.  How did it happen? When I logged into my WordPress dashboard … [Read more...]

How to Format Your Novel For Kindle, Nook, the iBookstore, Smashwords and CreateSpace in One Afternoon

Way back in the summer on Kindleboards and in other places I kept reading about people laying out their print books for CreateSpace using Scrivener. Long term readers of this blog will know that I can't praise Scrivener enough. It is the single best program for long form writing I know. Now it seemed Scrivener's utility had expanded into an entirely new arena. I knew it could create ebooks easily and well, but print books? I have always used Word, or if the need arose, InDesign for that.  Being the sort of man that I am, I thought I should investigate the possibilities. I set myself to writing a template that would automagically lay out my own indie books such as Stealer of Flesh. It took me three days but I managed it. By the end of that … [Read more...]

RIP, Datamancer

I was looking through Boing, Boing yesterday when I saw an announcement that shocked and saddened me. Richard Nagy, Datamancer, had died. Richard was an amazingly talented artist, known for his work in the steampunk genre. He made astonishing artefacts that felt like they had come from an alternate universe of tesla coils, brass and vacuum tubes. What's more, they worked. I first came across Richard's work somewhere on the Internet in 2007 and I was gobsmacked. I looked at his variants on the Von Slatt keyboard and I wanted one very badly. I did something I have never done before or since. I dropped him an email asking if he would make one for me. The answer was affirmative. Over the next couple of months Richard and I exchanged emails and … [Read more...]

The Pomodoro Technique

Over the years I’ve tried many different productivity systems—I am a sucker for them just as I’m a sucker for any piece of software that promises to increase the number of words I get done daily. Recently I have been experimenting with the Pomodoro Technique. This was originally developed by Francisco Cirillo back in the 1980’s and is essentially very simple. The basic idea behind the method is that you productivity increases if you include small breaks between your work sessions. These should be interspersed with longer breaks whenever you have done a certain number of sessions. The basic unit of work in this system is the pomodoro. (Yes, that is Italian for tomato—the system takes its name from the mechanical kitchen timer that its … [Read more...]