Thursday, June 6, 2024

IWSG JUNE - Still Writing

 Well, I'm a day late! Thank goodness for Fundy Blue or I would have never realized I missed it! Thanks for visiting my blog!

Progress is slow, but going. I received my first beta reader feedback a few weeks ago, and it kind of blew me away. It was overwhelmingly positive, which I wasn't expecting. There was a lot of good advice from both readers, one a SciFi fan, the other not. But it's so hard to quiet the little critic in the mind. What if they were just being nice since they're paid betas? What if they don't really know what they are talking about? What if this is a random match and everyone else hates it?

Seriously? What is with that voice? 

Don't worry, I don't let that get me down, but it does slow me down a little. I see this as a good thing though. It makes me look deeper and think carefully.

Some of the advice revolved around exploring relationships the main characters have with their own family/culture. That would be a good way to increase the Worldbuilding and help the reader better understand the complex mythology. 

Since the feedback related to pacing or sequence was good, there are no major revisions. But I'm still taking my time to ensure I carefully work in any new scenes. Part of me wants to get more feedback before making changes, but I'm not sure. Maybe make a few small changes first?

I also have plotted and begun drafting another novel. This one is more fantasy, and a lot of fun to write. It's Asian-inspired since I've always admired the artwork and mythology of that part of our world. (And because I watch a little too much K-Drama. I may or may not be completely obsessed with Alchemy of Souls...) I'll post more about that work later.

For now, here is the question of the month:

June 5 question - In this constantly evolving industry, what kind of offering/service do you think the IWSG should consider offering to members?

It would be nice to have an official beta reading group (paid and non-paid). I found my readers on Goodreads, and have my own little writing circle as well, but since we are already very supportive of each other here, it would be good to have a list of genres, preferences, and availability somewhere on IWSG. I know I can trust most of you to be honest and thorough. My Goodreads pick was random luck, I think, and my own writing circle is mostly fantasy and romance, so I automatically know my platonic character relationships will not entice them. General feedback is good, but I think feedback from the targeted audience would be more useful. 

This may already be established here and I just haven't come across it. So, if you're aware of a list or group, please comment and let me know. I am also part of a SciFi Discord, but I found that they are mostly hard SciFi and within the first paragraph of my novel, I was getting questions about how the gravity worked on the ship, and whether they would be safe traveling without seats to strap into. Fair point, but I'm more interested in the theoretical science of energy and matter and the philosophical side of culture and mythology, not so much about how their tech works...

I think I came across of list of editors and publishers, but that is another service that would be useful. Maybe we could even have "mentors" who help guide authors through the publishing world. 

I'm not sure what else, but I will visit the other author pages to get some ideas! Thanks for visiting!

The awesome co-hosts for the June 5 posting of the IWSG are Liza at Middle Passages, Shannon Lawrence, Melissa Maygrove, and Olga Godim!

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

IWSG May 2024 - Distractions

May Question:  How do you deal with distractions when you are writing? Do they derail you?

I always enjoyed teaching etymology to elementary students. I certainly do not have a deep knowledge of the subject, but enough to help a third-grader learn how to break up a word into its Greek or Latin parts.

When I look at the word distractions. I automatically see "dis" or apart, and "tions" for action or process. Then there is "tract." Now I see a flying Winnebago being pulled into Spaceball One by Lord Helmet. Tractor beams are such an interesting element of science fiction. It was orginally coined by an author, E. E. Smith, in 1931 as "attractor beam," then shortened to "tractor beam." Did this science fiction writing chemist from Wisconsin picture a farming tractor when he wrote the word? Invisible John Deeres pulling things around in space...

There, see how easily we were distracted? Am I the only one who can hear the music from the tractor tipping scene in Cars?

But seriously, I like breaking this word down because it serves a purpose in understanding distractions. When I think of my writing as a pull, an invisible tractor beam connecting me to a story or a small seed of inspiration, then it means that things that serve to pull me apart are in essence trying to damage that connection.

Yet, it happens. The problem is, I'm not necessarily an easily distracted person. Which is in fact why I do not write as much as I should. If I were to fully give into that pull, I would have no time for anything else. I would find my job, my responsibilities, even my family to be a complete drain. So I often find distractions on purpose because I can easily pause a streaming episode, or even put down a book (although that's much more difficult). But pausing creation is exhausting and frustrating. So in the evening, while my kids are awake, I avoid writing. I distract myself from that desire because I want to be present for every page of homework, every game of uno, and every dirty dish.

So here is my current contradiction. Writing makes me happy. I get great satisfaction and pleasure from creating. But not writing is far more enjoyable than writing with constant interruption. 

Side note:  I once kept a stopwatch running. At home and at work, I never made it more than 4 minutes without an interruption. 4 minutes was the longest!!! Hardly anything can be accomplished in that time! I cannot decide if this is going to cause dimentia or prevent it. What I do know, is it is exhausting and maddening. 

So how do I deal with distractions while writing? I avoid writing until there are minimal distractions, because distraction is my life and I can't stop my life to write. Accepting that reality was my best personal development of the past few years. 

Book Update:
My first scheduled beta reader has been out of contact for personal reasons so I found two new readers. I'm hoping for some feedback in the next few weeks. In the meantime I'm afraid to work on anything else. I'm not sure what is behind that fear, but I'm sitting with it patiently. It just doesn't seem right to pour my focus into another work yet. Besides, I know how this will go. I'll start a new project and immediately get feedback on the novel and then have to stop the new project to refocus on the old one. Distractions, interruptions, different words, same result.

Want to read what other authors do about distractions? Join the blog hop!

The awesome co-hosts for the May 1 posting of the IWSG are Victoria Marie Lees, Kim Lajevardi, Nancy Gideon, and Cathrina Constantine!

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

IWSG April- 4 Years


What a slacker! I can't believe I almost missed it. I was just hanging out on the couch, waiting for my turn to watch TV (anxious to finish my WWII documentary series on Netflix), scrolling through Facebook, when I saw the IWSG post about the optional question! Apparently, my left leg was asleep and I got up so fast I looked like Gollum trying to get across the living room to my desk, limping and hopping around a pillow, umbrella, blanket, and chromebook. (Side note:  if you have tips about how to get kids to stop leaving things on the ground let me know!)

Luckily I made it without any injury and I'm ready to go! So here it is:

April 3 question - How long have you been blogging? (Or on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram?) What do you like about it and how has it changed?

I'm excited to say it is the fourth anniversary of this blog! In April 2020 I remembered my gardening blog from before I had kids. I posted about gardening, beekeeping, growing my own yeast starter, baking, and general sustainable living. I even posted about my homebirth experience. I had a good group of followers. Nothing big, but more than I expected for a nobody in Arkansas. Oddly, there was a large group of people in Germany who liked reading about starting a yeast culture and how to live without shampoo and paper towels. 

I started to wonder if I could get back to it. But I was trapped in a tiny apartment four months after moving a thousand miles away from my hometown. I no longer had bees, or even a garden. Still, I needed to get some of myself back. I decided to take a second shot at a novel I wrote. I would get the kids into bed, turn on music, make a cup of tea, let out a humongous sigh, and then write. When I first started the blog, I was not necessarily going to focus on writing so I chose to simply say create.

One night I was working on the novel re-write and my husband handed me a business card for IWSG. He said his coworker's wife was a publisher and that she was part of a group that helped writers. May 2020 was my first ever IWSG blog hop. The door was suddenly open for me to join this fantastic community. 

Not much has changed since then. I would say it is busier, but that is a lie. In 2020, when many other people were at home, I was helping to keep the local childcare center open for school-aged kids of essential workers. As a former elementary teacher, I was able to jump in at my new job and take over the program. I thought leaving teaching in December 2019 was going to give me more time...the universe had other plans. I thought:  it's childcare, I'll settle in, work fewer hours, be around my kids in the afternoon but still get paid... but before I knew it, I was helping in the kitchen, running virtual school for about 50 kids, assisting the director, becoming a certified lifeguard, whatever they needed, I did it! I worked so much they put me on salary. After avoiding an actual leadership role for as long as I could, I stepped up and pursued an administrator certificate (hence the long break from the blog in 2023) and now I'm co-directing the center. And trust me, I work more now than I ever did as a teacher! 

But throughout that, I have greatly appreciated this community and what I have achieved along the way. My first (and only) published story was included in the IWSG Anthology, I participated in flash fiction contests, and a blogging contest. I do wish I could get back to those, but I really want to put my focus on getting the novel through beta readers and out to query. At the same time, I am preparing to turn my 2021 A-to-Z flash fiction series into a novel. I hope to start drafting on that next week. I'm grateful that I have feedback from those blog posts to help improve the story and turn it into something great.

Please join the hop and read what other writers have to say about blogging.
The awesome co-hosts for the April 3 posting of the IWSG are Janet Alcorn, T. Powell Coltrin, Natalie Aguirre, and Pat Garcia!

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

IWSG March 2024 - AI

March 6th question: Have you "played" with AI to write those nasty synopses, or do you refuse to go that route? How do you feel about AI's impact on creative writing?

The awesome co-hosts for the March 6 posting of the IWSG are Kristina Kelly, Miffie Seideman, Jean Davis, and Liza @ Middle Passages!

As a science fiction writer, I have some very mixed feelings about artificial intelligence. I have not used or played with any AI for writing. At this point in my life, AI uses me more than I use AI, I think...

Instead of discussing my own feelings directly (and since I'm not sure I really have my own feelings yet) I want to visit some science fiction artificial intelligence ideas.

Let's start right here...

This is my ninth grade year book. And that's me ignoring the rest of the world around me because I'm on another world--Dune--as written by Frank Herbert. Now fast forward to March 2nd, 2024...

I have on my stillsuit and I'm ready to see Dune 2. So you could say this is probably the story that has influenced me the most as a reader and science fiction fan. I know what you're thinking. "But there wasn't AI in Dune!" But there was! In fact, its omission is the reason why this story is relevant to discussing artificial intelligence. 

I'll admit, I have not read the Butlerian Jihad by Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson, but I have studied some of the back story online, and do know of its reference in the original books by Frank Herbert.

So here is the gist, in case you didn't notice, there are no "computers" or artificial intelligence in Dune. People still send messages in person and use specially trained humans to calculate and navigate. This human-central mentality resulted from a war fought long in the past that eliminated all intelligent machines and the way of thinking that led to their use.

The problem with AI was humans were slowly giving up their freedom to machines that could think. Technology was replacing the human ability to make judgments and define their world (all the way down to beauty, or even creativity...). It wasn't necessarily that AI came in and enslaved humans, it was that humans willingly degraded themselves, making them vulnerable to those with power, those with AI. "Human innovation coupled with human laziness is perceived as the potential destruction of the human race." (Nerd Cookies) 

When I was in grade school, a teacher gave us an excerpt from a story to read during math. It was about a man who had discovered how to do arithmetic in a future world where everyone used computers. That story was a major drive behind my obsession with math. I did not discover until this week that the story we read was by Asimov:  The Feeling of Power. (Of course, we only read the first scene, and not the part where he commits suicide...) That story instilled in me a fear of becoming dependent on calculators. To this day, I have coworkers who ask me to calculate something rather than get a calculator out of their desk drawer. And I'm okay with that! And here's the trick, even I get out my calculator sometimes, but I have confidence in what I need to enter and what I should expect out. That comes from being able to do it myself. 

My fear with AI, whether in writing or in cars, is that humans will become utterly useless. I fear that we will lose important skills that drive us to be human. AI is a good safety net. Having a calculator in my desk to make sure I don't make a mistake with someone else's money, or having automatic breaks on a car to save lives makes sense. Will people use these tools correctly? Or will they forget how to do math and do stupid things while driving? Will we rely so much on machine intelligence that large portions of the human population become grossly incapable?

Will constantly accessible AI help to serve people who are otherwise incapable, or will it cause people who might become capable to not even try? Are we giving more power to more people? Or are we taking away potential power? And maybe these things aren't connected at all. Maybe AI will always be a tool and will assist us in becoming even greater. If nothing else, it can point out our mistakes and motivate us to learn better.

I'm a believer in struggle and challenge. Strength, resilience, and growth result from challenges. Is an AI-rich future going to look like Wall-E? Or Planet of the Apes? Or 2001:  A Space Oddysey? Or Battlestar Gallactica? Probably not, but is it going to be our best future? Maybe not...

Maybe it comes down to the question of power as both Asimov and Herbert suggested. In both cases, machine intelligence had come so far that it controlled war. The solution was to instead fight man vs. machine. So, power seems to be either given to the machine, or to the human, not both. 

It could also be argued that more machines means less necessity for humans to rely on one another. While I enjoy indepedence, I see a world around me where people do not openly rely on one another. Danger lies in this disconnection, this false isolation we place ourselves in. The reality is, we are heavily dependent on one another. We need each other for every necessity and luxury we enjoy. From the man who carries away your garbage every week, to the woman who puts your groceries on the shelf, to the teacher who watches over your children, to the first responder who comes to the rescue--all of these are invisible connections that are erased from our sight by machines. We don't know this person, but we are connected to them, dependent on them! How many people have forgotten these connections already? How many people place no value on them?

Maybe I went too far with my musings, but this is a glimpse into the inner workings of my mind. A mere glimpse...I could go on and on and on...I kind of did, but then delelted half of it so I didn't scare everyone off...just a select few...glad you're still here...

Have a great month! Keep being awesome, and don't become lazy and allow the machines to win!! That's right! Open those cans manually, use a rotary mower, and turn on your own blinker. You got this! 

(This message was brought to you by the nerd who still wears an analog watch.)