Work and Play with Voice to Text – Part Two – Three Steps to Better Writing Efficiency

Use Voice to Text and Speech to Text programs to increase your writing efficiency and accuracy.

Step 1. Set Your Smartphone up to take Dictation.

Talk to your smartphone anywhere and have it type for you.

*Note: You must have a Google account set-up before beginning this tutorial.

Step 2. Move your Google Docs Text into your Word Processing Document.

Step 3. Edit your Document by Listening to It.

Listening and reading involve different parts of the brain. By converting your writing (or manuscript) into an audio form, you’ll catch different mistakes than you would if you edited it by reading alone.

*For manuscript editing and book processing, I recommend multiple editorial rounds that focus on different aspects. In this instance, I would do the reading edit first then follow it with a listening edit.

In the video below, I show how to set up the Narrator app. in Windows 10, so that it will read your manuscript to you.

Here’s a free most-used Windows 10 Narrator Shortcut List pdf.

Check out part one of Work and Play with Voice to Text for a fun how-to create a robot answering machine message.

 

 

Work and Play with Voice to Text – Part One

At my house, we laugh when a robo call comes in. If the caller ID shows a number we don’t recognize, we let the answering machine answer it.  Our machine plays a Robot to Robot message.

Nine times out of ten, telemarketers hang-up before the message completes.

Here are the steps to use voice to text technology to make your own robot answering machine message.

Step 1. Type Message on your Smartphone

Type the message that you want your robot voice to speak. You can do this in any program that allows typing. I used the Quick Memo app. If you’d like to use mine, here’s the script from my message.

share buttonStep 2. Share your Writing with a Text to Speech app.

The app. that I use on my Android phone is Voice Aloud Reader.voice aloud icon

Experiment with the rate, pitch, and volume settings to make your robot voice sound the way you want.

Step 3. Record your Robot Message onto your Answering Machine.

Hold your phone close to the answering machine microphone. Play the message in the text to speech app. while recording it on your answering machine.

 

The Robot to Robot message is a fun way to reduce interactions with telemarketers, but it doesn’t solve the problem of eliminating the calls.

To cut down on your telemarketing call volume, register your land line and / or cell phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry (US Only). It takes about a month before the registry goes into effect.

In part two of Work and Play with Voice to Text, I will show you how to use speech to text and text to speech programs to make your writing and editing more efficient and accurate.

 

 

M.N. Arzú – Author Interview

social_media_Underneath

Underneath: a merfolk tale, is captivating right from the start.

It takes the reader on a journey through secret societies, conspiracy, investigation, parental love, and coming-of-age. [Click here to read an excerpt.]

The author, Michelle Arzú is a graphic designer who lives in Guatemala City, Guatemala. A driving force behind her writing is, ‘what-if’ curiosity about first contact with an intelligent species.

M.N. Arzu
M.N. Arzu

I first found Michelle on Writeon (an Amazon story-lab). Her work in progress (Underneath) was trending like a tsunami. Wanting to find out what the buzz was about, I settled in for a long read and quickly discovered why she had gained so many enthusiastic readers.

Arzú tells a unique story. It’s about an injured merman who washes up on a beach. He is a member of one of New York’s elite families. Confined to a hospital bed, the merman is not talking no matter what anyone tries.

Arzú has a strong narrative voice. She has a solid command of plot structure and pacing and she’s not afraid to think outside of the box.

Her debut novel, The Librarian, was chosen as a Writeon staff pick in August of 2014 (currently available on Amazon). It’s a short story about a woman whose husband – a college professor – has been apprehended by the military because he’s suddenly become highly radioactive.

shooting stars
Click on the image to buy the book on Amazon.

Wanting to know more about the person behind the magic pen, I asked Michelle if she’d answer a few questions. I know you will enjoy learning more about this creative story teller…and you’ll be glad that I introduced you to your next good read!

Do you have a typical writing schedule?

I’m a night owl. However, Nanowrimo has taught me that any fifteen minutes in the day are valuable, so I’ve learned to write at lunch time in the office. You will never catch me writing in the morning, though.

As a graphic designer, what aspects of your work do you most enjoy? Do parts of it spill over into your writing?

I love challenging projects, and I love to see my work displayed on billboards in the city, or printed somewhere other than the office. Designers work on deadlines, so that has helped me to be disciplined in writing my stories. I’m lost without deadlines.

What is the best advice you have ever received about writing?

Let me tell you a little story about the worst advice I ever received about writing:

When I was about twenty, I had been writing for four years and an older friend told me I shouldn’t start writing until I knew what I was doing. Until I had life experience. Thinking that made perfect sense, I didn’t write for the next six months, and I can honestly tell you something died inside of me. Finally, my brother asked me why I was following advice that was obviously making me unhappy. I returned to writing the next minute.

So, the best advice?

michelle write quote

Everything else will come with time.

What kinds of activities do you like to do when you aren’t working or writing?

I love gaming, especially Zelda and recently Splatoon. I’ve been known to get lost in a good story, be it books, or a TV series.

First Contact themes: What influences contribute to your interest in this topic?

My favorite theme in stories is a double identity. Spy stories, princes as commoners, superheroes, fairy tales, and of course, aliens. What I love the most is the reveal part, when the secret is told. First Contact stories have that element of the unknown. They are filled with what if’s and have all the ingredients for everything to go wrong fast.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many first contact stories where the aliens don’t want to invade us. I decided to write about that. I love the whole idea of aliens hiding among us.

Investigation captive / study scenarios: What books, TV shows or personal experiences shaped your skill in creating these tense, edgy scenes?alien-667966_640

I’m a diehard fan of the TV show Roswell (1999 – 2002). That’s basically teenage aliens without a clue about where they came from, hiding in plain sight. They run from the FBI a lot!

Over the years, I’ve picked several ideas from different places, from cartoons like Batman the animated series, to dramas like ER, and then I add my own logic to it. Would the military really shoot the only enemy captive and source of information they have? If you know you’re going to a hostile planet, what precautions would you take?

And of course, research. There is a lot of US jurisdiction stuff you wouldn’t believe. It’s a tangle when it comes to first contact scenarios, not to mention the medical/biological questions. At some point, you realize you need to focus on the characters and the scene, but if you mention details, they better be the right details.

Describe the series of decisions that led you to independently publish your book(s).

I’ve written a lot of stories over the years, always thinking of them as a hobby, something to share with friends. But when I finished The Librarian, I knew I had something I could publish. The problem was that the story has less than 20K words, which was a hard sell. Everywhere I looked they wanted either shorter than 7k or longer than 50k.

So, I started researching self-publishing. Being a graphic designer I could do the cover and interiors. Fortunately, I have an American friend who edits my manuscripts. No matter how good my English might be, it never compares to a native’s English.

Now that I have Underneath, A Merfolk Tale with over 100k words, I’ve also looked into the long process of searching for an agent and selling the manuscript. Since I’d still have to market my book (the hardest part of the whole process for me) and have to wait for months, if not years, to find someone willing to invest in me, I’d rather take that route myself. I might never sell thousands of books, but at least I’m in complete control of everything.

Writeon: What aspects of working in a ‘read-as-you-write’ forum work well for you? Does it create challenges? Over time, has the way you use the site changed?

The best thing about “read-as-you-write” is that you learn how to do cliffhangers. If you want people to come back next month when you have the next part, you better leave them wanting.

Feedback is a double-edge sword: some people tell you how good your work is, and some will tell you how much you’re messing things up, and to fix it a certain way. Somewhere in the middle of that scale, is valuable insight that makes your story better.

The thing is, you will never please everyone, and not everyone will tell you what’s wrong with the story (either because they don’t really know, or they don’t want to offend). The real challenge is to know your story well enough to keep it from getting hijacked. Take the suggestions that make sense, and leave everything else behind.

_______________

Thank you, Michelle for taking the time to chat and to share.

Here’s where you can find out more;

Underneath, a merfolk tale – excerpt

Amazon

Follow M.N. Arzú:

Author Website & Mailing List

Amazon Author page

Facebook

Twitter

More work by this author: The Librarian – Book Review

 

 

 

Become an Environmental Champion – Imagine World Habitat Health

History Professor Yuval Harari describes humans as the only species capable of imagination, large-scale cooperation and creating fictional entities that are some of the most powerful forces in the world.

Fictional entities make decisions about resources that have global consequences.

 

“Money is the most successful story ever invented because it is the only story everybody believes,” says Harari. Professor Harari is the author of the international bestseller Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.

It is a peculiar notion that mass story telling, or fantasy, is responsible for the state of our global habitat contamination. Yet the facts do speak objectively. You don’t need statistics and numbers to tell you what your eyes can see everywhere.

If imagination has the power to pollute the planet, is it possible to use it to heal the world?

Global information is flowing as fast as…water. Consumers – scratch that!- Inhabitants have the power to change the world with thought, keystrokes and lifestyle alterations.

  • Become an environmental champion. Choose an area that you are passionate about. Gather data, talk to friends and family, share on social media and make changes in your own behavior.
  • Vote with dollars to support businesses that practice environmentally sound and sustainable operations and boycott those that don’t.
  • Encourage children, middle schoolers and high schoolers to think about what problems they’d like to solve.
  • Imagine and write stories about positive change.

 

From a simple 200-word writing prompt, I recently realized that I am most passionate about plastic pollution and that I am a water champion.

Water Facts

Planetary Water

  • Water covers around 70% of the Earth’s surface.
  • The earth is a closed system, similar to a terrarium, meaning that it rarely loses or gains extra matter. The same water that existed on the earth millions of years ago is still present today.
  • Water regulates the Earth’s temperature.

Properties

  • Water dissolves more substances than any other liquid. Wherever it travels, water carries chemicals, minerals, and nutrients with it.
  • Water can move up narrow tubes against the force of gravity in what is known as capillary action.

Drinking Water & the Human Body

  • Water regulates the temperature of the human body, carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, cushions joints, protects organs and tissues, and removes wastes.
  • 75% of the human brain is water and 75% of a living tree is water.
  • 22% of our bones are water.
  • Most people around the world have access to clean drinking water but it is a major problem in poorer areas of the world.
  • Drinking water is needed for humans to avoid dehydration, the amount you need each day depends on the temperature, how much activity you are involved in and other factors.
  • More than one-quarter of all bottled water comes from a municipal water supply – the same place that tap water comes from.
  • According to the World Health Organization, 3.2 million children under the age of five in developing nations die each year as a result of unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation.

Household Water Use

  • The average person in the United States uses anywhere from 80-100 gallons of water per day.
  • Flushing the toilet uses the largest amount of this water.

Manufacturing and Food Production

It takes:

  • 2.6 gallons of water to make a sheet of paper
  • 4 gallons of water for a dairy cow to produce one gallon of milk
  • 6.3 gallons of water to make 17 ounces of plastic
  • 26 gallons of water to irrigate one calorie of food
  • 924 gallons of water to produce 2.2 pounds of rice
  • 2,641 gallons of water to make a pair of jeans
  • 3,962 gallons of water to produce 2.2 pounds of beef
  • 39,090 gallons more water to manufacture a new car
  • 300 million gallons of water are needed to produce a single day’s supply of U.S. newsprint.

Water Pollution

  • Water is part of a deeply interconnected system. What we pour on the ground ends up in our water, and what we spew into the sky ends up in our water.
  • Leather and chemical industries cause are major contributors of water pollution.
  • Industries released 197 million pounds of toxic chemicals into waterways in 1990.
  • Around 70% of the industrial waste is dumped into the water bodies where they pollute the usable water supply.
  • Fourteen billion pounds of garbage (mostly plastic) is dumped into the ocean every year.
  • Water pollution is the major cause of various diseases like cholera and typhoid.
  • The Ganges river in India is one the most polluted in the world. It contains sewage, trash, food, and animal remains.

Stuff to Do

100 Ways to Live Plastic Free

Join the Plastic Pollution Coalition

Become a Member of the South Yuba River Citizens League (California)

Article Sources:

Environmental Protection Agency

Science Kids

All About Water

Sunnyslope County Water Conservation Tips

Conserve Energy Future

Tree Hugger

 

Bullseye – Short Fiction – Relationships

bullseye
Image Credits: ClkerFreeVectorImages, Pixabay member 15299, DGlodowska, Hans Braxmeier
Writing Prompt: In 500 words, imagine what happens when a little too much rides on the outcome of a board game.

Inner Ring: The dart hit its mark with a powerful ‘thunk’.

This was after Ian eyed his target, made three arm extensions and retractions, then let his dart fly with a purposeful aim. “Viv broke up with me,” he stated as his eyes moved from the board to Greg’s face.

Nodding, “I thought so,” Greg replied.  With a lackadaisical interest in the game, Greg took his turn. His dart landed on the number 19, at the outer-most section of the board.

“That’s become such a regular occurrence that I can schedule it on my calendar. What caused it this time?” Greg asked.

“She says that I’m a selfish bastard─ I’m tired when I get off work, you know? All I want is some alone time with my Xbox. She thinks we should ‘talk’.”

Outer Bull: ‘Thunk’.

Picking up a dart, Greg threw it, hitting the number 20 this time.  “Talking is not an unreasonable request.”

Ian repeated his aiming procedure, threw and hit the bullseye. He punched a fist in the air, smiling. They picked up their beer bottles, clanked them in a toast and downed swallows of ale.

“What have you been up to, Greg?”

A chuffing half-laugh escaped before he spoke. If he called more often he might know.  “I was out on a date when I got your text.”

“Dude! You didn’t leave her to come here did you?” Ian asked with incredulity. He wore a lopsided grin.

Mirroring the expression, Greg took another sip. “Sadly, coming here was an infinitely more interesting option than the conversation that was attempting to happen there.” What he didn’t say was that Ian always had the power to bring him running at the drop of a hat.

Greg watched as Ian’s next three points repeated the previous pattern; inner ring, outer bull and bullseye. He finished off his beer and ordered another round. Being more than a little buzzed, he made a deal with himself: If Ian’s next darts hit the same marks, he would – finally – after a lifetime of keeping it stuffed inside – take out his heart and place it warm, vulnerable and hopeful into the hands of his closest friend. It would be such a relief to expose it to the open air…and then just see what would happen next.

The truth shall set you free, right? Greg thought.

Inner Ring: ‘Thunk’.

But it can also tear parents, siblings, life-long friendships and church communities apart. He began to sweat.

Outer Bull: ‘Thunk’.

It could decimate my social position…and maybe even my job. Beads of moisture skirted his hairline.

Bullseye!

—————

Dart Scoring

 

 

Still Water Muse – Short Fiction – Boyhood Angst – Writing Contest Entry

still water muse“Tell me what you think about before you write a Grammy Award winning song.”

Bernie looked out the window. “I’ll have to tell a story first.”

Maxine pressed the red button on her voice recorder.

Bernie’s eyes moved back to rest on Maxine. “My adoptive parents got me when I was fourteen. I was a dark haired Crow boy suddenly mixed in with a bunch of white, blue eyed farmers.”

“My mother knew that I was lonely and floundering. She bought me my first guitar and sent me to music lessons. The teacher wasn’t much help. But I’d take that old guitar out in back of our place through the corn fields to a big  oak tree where I’d sit and practice.”

“One day there was a woman there. She was beautiful; blonde, full-figured with long legs and huge….” Bernie grinned sheepishly.

“She was sexy but I still didn’t want her there. She stood at least a head shoulders taller than me.”

“’What’s your name kid?’ Her voice sounded like a frog with sandpaper caught in its throat. ’Bernie doesn’t sound like a Cherokee name,’ she said when I told her.”

“I shrugged my shoulders flippantly. ‘You don’t know squat about Cherokee…or C-R-O-W.’”

“She kicked at the dirt. She said that her nickname was Tiny and that it was a bad family joke. She also said that she’d heard me mutilating my guitar. She’d come to help… and to wait for the words. She looked at the tree strangely while patting its trunk.”

“We met every day through the rest of summer. She showed me things that my guitar teacher never did. I learned that she’d been a music teacher and that she came back to the tree because, ‘she got lost sometimes.’”

“When I asked if my parents could hire her to teach me, her eyes blazed and she spoke harshly, ‘If you say anything about me, they’ll never let you out of the house.’”

“As the weeks passed, Tiny taught me to say what I was feeling with music. Then I reached a block. By this time, I was in full-blown lust  – or in love with her. One afternoon when we were getting nowhere she yelled, ‘What do you want?’”

“When I didn’t answer, she stepped closer and asked the same thing again, quieter this time.”

“Before I realized what I was doing, I blurted, ’I want to hold you.’”

“I would have curled up and died on the spot if she hadn’t been smiling. She told me to close my eyes and follow her directions. So I did.”

“She told me to imagine that the guitar was her –  to run my hands over its surface, to feel its curves and to let my fingers stoke the strings. ‘Hold me closer,’ she’d say, ‘Then let the music sing softly and slowly.’”

“She broke through my wall. After that, she’d bring her guitar and we’d make music together. It was a happy time  – until fall came.”

“I remember the last time I saw Tiny. A cold breeze was blowing at sunset. I heard her music coming through my open window. It sounded crazed. When it stopped suddenly, I knew that I had to go find her. As I ran through the dry stalks of corn, I saw her guitar lying on the ground. I jumped over it and ran faster. When I found her, she was barefoot, shivering and unresponsive.  I was terrified. Eventually, I screamed, ‘Tiny! What do you want?’”

At this, she paused and turned toward me. ‘I just want to go home.’”

“Suddenly, we were both crying and I said, ‘Me too!’

“She reached a hand to cover my heart. ‘The difference between us, Bernie is that I am yearning for home, but you are already there.’ Then she kissed me.”

Bernie reached up to trace a finger where Tiny’s lips had left their invisible mark.

A sad expression settled on his face. “A full moon rose up behind the bare branches of the oak tree. I didn’t realize until later that all the leaves had been there the day before. When she got to the tree, Tiny started running her hands all over around the trunk.“

“’What are you doing?’”

“’I’m looking for the words. They have to be here!’”

“’Tiny, stop!’ I cried. She didn’t answer but kept frantically searching. ’There it is!’ she sighed, ‘I knew you’d show me the doorway sooner or later.’ She leaned into the tree hugging it like a lover.”

“‘You won’t be seeing me again,’ she said to me over her shoulder.’ But I’ll always hear you….’ she paused, waiting for me to fill in the space.”

“I couldn’t get anything out around the lump in my throat. I knew that she was waiting for me to tell her my Indian name.”

The unexpected silence that followed Bernie’s last statement was stifling.

Maxine blinked. “That’s it!  What happened to her?”

Bernie shook his head while reaching for his guitar, “That wasn’t part of the question.”

Maxine watched as he traced the contours of the tool that had millions of fans singing and humming his haunting tunes.

With eyes closed, he began to play. “My Crow name is, Still Water Dancer.”

A soft, lilting melody filled the room. “My guitar is named after my muse, Tiny.”

Maxine leaned toward him, waiting for THE scoop of her career.

“Before I write one word or play one note, I say to myself, ‘Hold me closer Tiny Dancer.’

Bernie winked playfully.
__________________________________________

This short story was written for a Writer’s Weekly writing contest. The writing prompt [see below] was provided. The story was submitted within 24 hours after the prompt was given.

The barren, tan corn stalks behind her snapped in the cold evening breeze, the only sound louder than the dry, fiery red leaves swirling around her tiny, shivering bare feet. She’d lost her bearings again and she hoped the dinner bell would ring soon. A gray tree with endless arms and fingers, devoid of any remaining foliage, loomed before her. She gazed at the odd markings on the trunk, which appeared to outline a hand-cut door of sorts. And, as she stared, it opened…

Elton John | Tiny Dancer music and karaoke tunes

PBJ – Short Fiction – Family

___________________________________

WriteOn Writing Prompt: In 500 words, tell the story of a chef who strives to create the perfect dish.
__________________________________
He will be home in an hour.PBJ

Opening the thick, heat resistant door, I turn my head away from the blast that wants to scorch the beard from my face.  Peering inside the dark cavern, I nod with satisfaction as I see the delicate brown tones that cover the surface of my creation. Inhaling deeply, I smell its yeasty, sugary notes with hints of vanilla.

Out she comes to cool. I say as I slip on an oven mitt and pull out the hot loaf. The sound of my voice reverberates around the stainless steel surfaces of my workspace.

After some hunting, I locate the raspberry and loganberry preserves in the pantry with a satisfied, Ah ha!—this was an enterprise from last fall. My mouth grows moist just thinking the marriage of flavors that I accomplished with that particular batch.

I got up at 3:30 a.m. this morning to roast and grind sunflower seeds, hazel nuts and peanuts into nut butter.

My wife fully appreciates the delicacies that I bring home from work—food that ends up on $1,000 plates and rates the highest Michelin stars.

My son, turns up his nose at these things. He’s been known to spit them out—to the great horror of anyone looking on. He knows that it hurts my feelings. His typical response is, “Daaad, I know!” He rolls his eyes at this point. “You told me over and over that you’ve spent your entire career perfecting your craft. But I don’t like that fancy stuff!”

So here I putter, in my kitchen at home, in between shifts at the restaurant, making the world’s best peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

____________

Here’s a musical giggle to go with the PBJ theme.

Peanut Butter Jelly Time song by Chip-man & The Buckwheat Boyz