Sunday, February 2, 2014

Speech Recognition, The Spider Catchers, Giveaway


Note: The winner of this giveaway is Renee B. Congratulations Renee and thanks to all that entered.

It’s a pleasure to be participating in author Marilynn Larew’s Great Escape Virtual Book Tour for her recently released, THE SPIDER CATCHERS.

Marilynn joins us today to talk about what happens when you can’t write due to an injury, but the book must get done. Thanks to Marilynn and the lovely Lori at Great Escape, I have a print cope of THE SPIDER CATCHERS to giveaway to a lucky visitor. Please see the end of the post for the details.

Let me tell you a bit about THE SPIDER CATCHERS first:

Sex, money, and terrorism
        What do the violent takeover of Fez brothels and a new stream of terrorist funding have to do with the disappearance of Alicia Harmon from the Fez office of Femme Aid Maroc? When CIA analyst Lee Carruthers tries to find out, she is swept into a tangled web of dirty money and human trafficking, and people will kill to find out what Alicia knew.
        If only Lee knew. She’s working blind, and in this case, ignorance is death. Her search takes her through the slums of the Fez medina to the high-rises of the new city and finally to a terrorist camp in the Algerian desert.

Now here’s Marilynn to tell what happened to her as she was nearing the end of THE SPIDER CATCHERS. Welcome, Marilynn.

Last year in August I was in the middle of writing what I hoped would be the last draft of THE SPIDER CATCHERS, with a self-imposed deadline of December, when I broke rotator cuff in my left shoulder, and it was several months before I could type again. After a good bit of thought and some whining, I started writing on yellow pads. I don’t think I’ve written on a yellow pad since I got a computer. I’d forgotten how the ideas flow when you’re writing by hand, but then I had to get what I had written into the computer. Windows Office has a speech recognition program, so I decided to try it.

The introduction to the program told me that speech recognition is an evolving technology, and boy is it! I did the training exercises designed to teach the program how I speak. Then I began to read what I’d written into the computer.

Spider_print_final (429x640)The ease of dictating charmed me. Sometimes my only problem was in deciphering what I’d written on the yellow pad, but I shortly began to notice other problems. The program couldn’t distinguish between simple words. For instance, “a” had to be pronounced “uh,” and “the” had to be pronounced “thuh,” a distinction I could not always remember in the heat of dictating. When I said “and,” it thought I’d said “end” and popped the cursor to the end of the line. I learned I had to proof every few pages, because if I let it go for whole chapter, when I went back to proof, I often couldn’t figure out what it thought I had said, and I had to think a while and recast the sentence. The program could understand long words like Constantinople and Agamemnon, but it slipped up on combinations of simple words, often producing results that were so ludicrous I began to collect them.

Some of the mistakes are understandable, if amusing. In describing the Pakistan home base of the Taliban where some of the laundered money in my book was going, I called it “the briar patch of the Taliban.” That came out “the briar patch of the telegram.” Clearly I needed to enunciate better.

“The side door of Credit Suisse,” bank became “the side door of the critique sweets.”

Mustapha Lahkim was a “goal smith”- fairly easy to figure out. He was a goldsmith. But how did “I thought I felt some movement” become “I thought I felt some Martian?”

There were other problems. It wouldn’t take the number two. It went to formatting style #2, and suddenly everything was blue and in a different font. When I stopped to think, if I didn’t turn the microphone off, I got a string of “but, but, but,” or “uh, uh, uh,” and it was very hard to find all of them in proofing. 

There was a system for correcting wrong words. You highlighted the word and then said the right word, and screen came up with all the possible words for that sound, and you chose the correct one. If the correct word didn’t come up, you could spell it. Having to spell the word shattered my complacency, because I had to do it over and over again, and I began to shout. Now, I’ve shouted at my computer before for sins of omission or commission but yelling at it because it couldn’t spell was a new one. I found it simpler just to delete the offending word and type in the correction.

I gave up using speech recognition while I proofed and got the manuscript ready for publication, but when I started the new book, DEAD IN DUBAI (that just came up dating Dubai, by the way), I realized that I would never finish it if I continued to get my fingers tangled in the keys, which is my usual method of typing. The Windows program just wasn’t good enough, so I bought a commercial program, Dragon. It has its own peculiarities, but there are fewer mistakes. It’s kinder to my psyche. I feel it understands me.

Marilynn, thanks for joining us today and sharing your experience with speech recognition. I’ve tried the Windows special recognition and had a similar experience. It changed some of the simplest words.


great escape tour banner small THE SPIDER CATCHERSMarilynn was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and after a living in a number of places, including the Philippines and Japan, she finally settled in southern Pennsylvania, where she and her husband live in an 150 year old farmhouse. She has taught courses about the Vietnamese War and terrorism at the University of Maryland and travelled extensively in Europe and Asia. 

Marilynn likes to write about places she has been or places she would like to go. She has published non-fiction about local history, Vietnamese history, and terrorism. This is her first novel.

For more on Marilynn and her writing, visit her website and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads


To learn more about Marilynn and additional chances to win a copy of this tantalizing book, visit the blogs below that are participating in the tour.

February 1 – Reviews By Karen – Practical Frugality – Guest Post  - Giveaway
February 3 –
Kelly P’s Blog – Interview
February 4 –
The Book Junkie – Review – Giveaway
February 5 –
Community Bookstop – Guest Post
February 6 –
Christa Reads and Writes – Review – Giveaway
February 7 –
Queen of All She Reads – Review, Guest Post – Giveaway
February 8 –
dru’s book musing – Guest Post – Giveaway
February 9 –
A Blue Million Books – Interview
February 11 –
readalot – Review
February 12 –
Dalene’s Book Reviews – Review – Interview – Giveaway
February 14 –
Omnimystery News  – Interview


This giveaway is for one paperback copy of THE SPIDER CATCHERS. The contest is open to residents of the U.S. only.

To enter, please send me an e-mail ( with the subject line, “Win The Spider Catchers.” Your message should include your name and mailing address. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance to win a copy of THE SPIDER CATCHERS is 8 p.m. (EST) on Monday, Feb. 10.

Thank you for stopping by today. Do you have an experience with speech recognition software?

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  1. Marilynn, thanks again for joining us today. I'm glad the new program worked better for you. I've heard good things about that program. Wishing you much success.

  2. Mason - Thanks for hosting Marilynn.

    Marilynn - Thanks for sharing your experience getting The Spider Catchers done against the odds. I admire your determination. And thanks for the information about speech recognition too.

  3. Briar patch of the telegram--how funny! I think typos are hysterical, but these had to be beyond frustrating! I have torn my left rotator cuff, too, and went through surgical repair. Now I think I've done the other one! I hope not. I might do the Dragon thing if I have to have this one done. Thanks for the post!

  4. Oh, what a great story of how you wrote the book without being able to type...I think it would drive me crazy! Thanks for sharing...and Mason, thanks for visiting my blog.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.