Tag Archives: Facebook

The Idea Mill #37

I’ve been neglecting the blog a bit lately. Some of this is because I’ve been writing tour posts for Viral Blues. I’m trying to trickle these things out a bit this time, rather than crunch over a ten day period.

Fall is finally here, and October is my favorite month of the year. I’m looking forward to it. I’m already surrounded by pumpkin beer and a few other Fall favorites. My Asian pear tree is loaded and I’ve been eating those like crazy.

Viral Blues has already been a topic here, and there will be some reblogs from the sites I visit, but I also need some new content at Entertaining Stories. This brings me back to the Idea Mill.

I write speculative fiction, and require a source of inspiration for my stories. You guys might, too. That’s why I share these articles on occasion. They also tend to give a bit of legitimacy when you decide to push the envelope from here on.

Our first article involves brain reading technology from our old friends Facebook. (Scary enough) Currently this involves implanting sensors on the surface of the brain, but Facebook wants to move beyond that. The technology started off trying to improve the lives of the handicapped.

It seems to involve a kind of predictive text, and the article makes an interesting conclusion that eventually the technology will outpace the human. Could it be that some kind of AI will pay our bills before they arrive? Maybe it will write our next novel, because it can predict what we’re going to come to eventually?

The real loss is invasion of privacy. Our most intimate thoughts could go into a database somewhere. In the hands of Facebook, this is already a nightmare.

Imagine a future world where people start tossing around words like sedition, or treason based upon minor thoughts that flashed through your brain. The article goes on and makes the frog in a pot of water comparison, that we could lose our freedoms slowly and not understand the ramifications until it’s too late.

Elon Musk is involves in a competing project, but his goal is to merge artificial intelligence with humanity. His project wouldn’t just predict our thoughts, the technology would also be able to write to the human brain. Imagine a planet of worker drones with no thought the AI didn’t give them.

There have to be a million novels that could be written about this. Read the article here.

Next, how about some stowaway creatures on the moon. It seems Israel crashed something into the moon. There was an experiment onboard involving microscopic creatures called water bears.

These little guys can survive nearly anywhere, but are unlikely to colonize the moon. The article indicates the experiment was snuck onto the capsule at the last minute. There are no laws or protocols for shipping organisms into space.

That’s where the real beauty of this article lies for a fictioner. Imagine someone like… Elon Musk, operating without regulations and contaminating space vessels or celestial bodies. I seem to remember experiments with bees on Skylab or something. It wouldn’t be too hard to seed a Mars colony with killer bees.

We all know to keep away from large predators. You don’t hug a grizzly in Yellowstone. What about microscopic predators we never give a second though? Put them in space, add some tonnage based upon a different environment with no natural predators, and you could have a crew facing giant blood sucking mites.

Take a space station, like Skylab which actually crashed back to Earth, and you can write a story similar to The Blob, only use gigantic amoeba that were originally an experiment. This is the article.

The final article blew my mind. It isn’t the subject itself, it’s the implications of the story. First the story. There is a piece of music that seems to be some kind of pop tune from the eighties. Nobody knows where it came from, who performed it, or who wrote it.

Thousands of people have spent thousands of hours trying to solve this mystery. If you think about recording studios, artists, agents, contracts, and the idea that someone would normally claim it, this lack of records is baffling.

This is how it went crazy for me. Humans have always saved things. In ancient times, there was the library of Alexandria. Post Gutenberg, we came up with different libraries, including the Library of Congress. We have patent offices, copyright registries, and more.

Today, everything is electronic. There isn’t a paper copy of any story I’ve written. They’re created on a word processor, and the entire process is electronic. ICloud and huge databases are our archives today. And yet, something has gone missing in the background of this song.

Think about deeds, marriage certificates, Supreme Court decisions, all in the future of course, and corruption could be a real problem. One missing line in a contract could change the entire meaning of the contract.

I also remember a bit from Jurassic Park about referring to DNA as lines of code. This is where they revealed using frog DNA to repair the lines. Electronic documents are just lines of code. We view them by feeding those codes to a program that reveals them as documents.

My mind goes to any of those archaeological adventures we’ve all seen. We need to recover the pieces of X before the bad guy does. I feel like I’m on the verge of a whole new genre here, only my hero could be searching the cloud for missing lines of code that change the way a court decision is interpreted. This would have to be futuristic, but in modern comparison, imagine a few lines missing from the Rowe vs. Wade decision. The entire thing could be interpreted differently.

Maybe the bad guys are hackers who intentionally delete lines of code to change the world to their image of what it should be. Maybe they replace them with words of their choosing… It blows my mind to think about. I hate to give credit to anything in the blockchain world, but the idea that multiple people have a copy makes it nearly impossible to tamper with those records.

Here is the simple article that sent me down this path. Yes, you can listen to the song on one of the links. Whoever it is.

Part of these posts is me hashing out a corny story using all of the posts. Away we go…

Mars is overrun by giant man-eating poodles. The evidence seems to suggest NASA approved a program where all of the colonists were allowed a service animal, but nobody told the colonists. They didn’t bring them to their new home.

Our hero has spent a year trying to find the original mission orders, but suspects they were corrupted somehow. He meets up with someone who has the brain reading technology that allows her to dive deeper into the internet and search for the missing lines of code that will reveal the true orders. The only problem is the poodle-master is writing code into her brain faster than they can repair the changes.

Corny enough for you? Can you see stories centered around any of these articles? What would you do with one of them?

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1400 words today

I turned my attention back to the group story that still needs a name. Lizzie and the hat took care of a bunch of zombies, but the main focus was on Clovis and Gina.

They had to clear out a building where the virus is being loaded into vaccines. I probably need to go back through and ramp up the creepiness factor, but I like how it came out.

My favorite part was when they all got back together. The hat was absolutely manic, and laughing himself silly. I liked the part where he said, “If I had a bladder, I’d wet my pants.”

My heroes were forced to torch the building holding the virus, leaving one contaminated person inside. Since he’d never survive the virus, it was a bit easier for them.

I also revealed the big bad for the first time. This is the paranormal entity that’s behind all these shenanigans. She got away this time.

Still 1400 words isn’t too bad.

I also spent a big part of my morning monitoring that Facebook lounge post about Lisa Burton. It cut into my writing time, but all in all it was a good day. A good weekend for that matter.

Tomorrow, I have to go back to the job that actually pays me. I think I’ll call it a weekend and goof off this afternoon.

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Is it productive? It feels productive.

I have no idea how many words I wrote today. This is because it spreads across two different stories.

I woke up about 5:00 this morning, and dug right into Serang. I wanted to show Yong on the mend from his spider bite, but not completely healed. This may haunt him for the rest of the book. Right now he’s yelling at Serang for not doing chores and exercises.

Their next move is to leave town with a caravan, and I wanted to set that up before I stopped.

Then I called my parents. I always talk to them on Sundays, and kind of look forward to it. Sundays aren’t the best writing day because of it, but I like keeping in touch with them.

After we finished, I made a fresh pot of coffee, then turned to my critiques. I made a lot of changes to the unnamed project, and think it really improved it. There were some redundant words, a few verbs that could be improved, but it really helped in the overall feel of the story.

This also served as my review of whatever I wrote there last, so I moved the story ahead. Gupta is wounded, and the hat popped him to their secret cabin for a bit of first aid.

Turns out Lizzie’s ancestors collected things from their adventures with the hat, and those are in the cellar.

This led to a fun bit of research, and I swear one of the articles I found online was titled “So, you want a flamethrower.” Yes. Yes I do, at least a fictional one.

Lizzie and the hat popped Gupta back and joined in the action once more. This time with archaic weapons at their disposal.

Lisa is still all screwed up, and they caught her using a Nazi hand grenade to curl her hair. Haven’t decided if this should become a poster or not. There are a lot of great poster ideas in this story.

About the time Old What’s Her Face showed up, I’d shifted to Clovis and Gina. They were invading a building to clear it of zombies. They suspect this is the lab where the Marburg virus is being spread from. (They are right, but haven’t confirmed it yet.)

This gives me a place to start tomorrow morning. If it all goes according to plan, I may even reveal the main villain tomorrow.

One of these days I’ll have to come up with a title for this one. I keep thinking one will reveal itself, because it’s happened before. About all I have now is Mustang Sally. There’s going to be a woman, a super Mustang, and then there is the musical connection in these tales.

Right now it’s time for ball with bulldogs.

Tomorrow, I’m participating in something called a character takeover on the Fantasy and Sci-Fi Readers Lounge. My time slot is 12:30 – 1:00 Eastern Time. There seems to be some debate whether this is adjusted for Daylight Savings Time, so I’ll check in frequently. (Kind of like to see what others are doing in their slots anyway.) This is a Facebook thing, and Lisa Burton is the character that’s showcased. This is the link if you’re interested https://www.facebook.com/groups/FantasySciFiReadersLounge/ Maybe I’ll share some old Lisa posters with book links.

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The Idea Mill #34

This one is going to be a bit different than other Idea Mill visits. I usually save links and try to get three unique stories to post about. Today I have two, and I’m combining them into one concept.

If you’re new to these, I write speculative fiction and that involves asking “what if.” I think it’s important to base spec fiction in reality wherever you can. These stories help build a bit of foundation that we can use to build our speculative story.

This time, I don’t even have links. This stuff is everywhere and is very current news. This is why I’m constructing the post this way. If I wait, it might not be as current.

You must have all seen the stories involving Cambridge Analytica and the misuse of Facebook data. I know Facebook stockholders are aware of it. In a nutshell, these people pirated the data to make targeted events during the last election cycle. If you believe all the stories.

We live in an age of data. The world is full of massive databases that contain everything from our banking information, our preferences online, where we eat, where we buy groceries, and more. Surf for a new book to read, someone is tracking it. Follow a clickbait article with a titillating story and it’s been logged. I know if my wife looks at anything on her laptop, my Facebook ads change and show me options to her search. Made it kind of hard to surprise me for Christmas.

This is what we already live under. Enter the new database that we’re contributing to. This one is fun… there’s no harm in fun, right? It’s almost taken on a party atmosphere. Here’s how it works:

You take a swab and wipe it around the inside of your mouth. Then you mail it to a company who will analyze it and send you an idea of your genetic heritage. Usually it proves that Mom really did know what she was talking about as far as your ethnicity.

Keep in mind, your results are going into a database somewhere. Keep in mind that one of the largest databases in the world was just accessed inappropriately and misused. Now we have a solid foundation to start speculating. What if…

What if the Nazis had access to such a database. Think how much more efficient their genetic purging could have been. Genocide went on before the Nazis, and it’s still going on today. Don’t tell me it will never happen on such a large scale again.

We can also take this into the speculative realms. What if aliens made a cold clinical decision and used this database to collect whatever they prefer and destroy the rest.

Keep in mind that your heritage is only one thing a DNA test can reveal. How about one of the cancer genes? Maybe the hacker is big insurance, and they start raising the prices on those who have one of these genes. Maybe the general population develops a new prejudice against someone with one of these genes. You no longer have to worry about cancer killing you… your neighbors will do it long before then.

Maybe the database starts influencing reproduction. Insurance refuses to cover children from matings they didn’t pre-approve. Maybe it’s not so deep, what if humans start checking out potential mates on the database before getting involved with someone? We already run background checks and credit checks on potential partners. This isn’t all that far fetched. My own wife and I spend part of date nights on our phones these days. Humans aren’t as connected on a personal level as they were twenty years ago. Nope, not getting involved with her because she’s going to lose her teeth by the time she’s fifty.

Take it up a notch, and have one spouse cave to the pressure of breeding with an approved partner. A mutual agreement would certainly lead to a marital breakdown. A secret affair can also add a mountain of stress.

Maybe there is a trend toward a certain genetic combo that poses a workplace hazard. Could employers start demanding DNA tests as part of the hiring process? Maybe it reveals a reasonable percentage of people with that gene are prone to thefts.

These are big ticket issues that work in some kinds of fiction. They play on the idea of what we are afraid of, which is always a good idea in fiction. There is also a possibility of taking it down to a smaller level and telling a good story too.

What if some family fun revealed a secret nobody was supposed to know? A bigot could make for a good character arc. Pride makes a great thing to toy with in our stories. He or she despises some kind of race or ethnicity. A DNA test reveals the character is of that heritage at least partially. First thing would be to despise his parents and blame them. Maybe he runs away and goes on a journey where he finds himself and discovers some errors he’s made during his life. Maybe he finds family members he never knew he had. Maybe the employees he’s been making work overtime, and denying benefits to, are his nieces and nephews.

Obviously a family member who was the result of an affair could be pretty dramatic too. What if this revelation changed the line of succession to the throne of some country? Or maybe it’s a huge inheritance? You could play this for laughs, or make it dangerous and dark. What do you mean Uncle Bob can’t inherit Grandpa’s company?

I’m not contributing a corny story this time. I wanted to rush out the foundation stories from the news and speculate a bit. What could you create using these two current events? I’d love to hear it.

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A day off

I managed about 1500 words today on The Enhanced League. I could have finished the first draft, but I had some other commitments. I wrote one complete micro, and it needs a bit of something. I also started the last short story. I will add one more micro after the short, and may include another anthem piece. The anthem would allow me to talk about the Hot Stove season without spending a bunch of time on it.

I had to finalize next week's Lisa Burton Radio, and get it scheduled. I also have a fun guest appearance of my own where I get to be a castaway. These things take time too, and they're important. I want to do a good job for my guests and my hosts, and didn't want to take shortcuts with any of it.

I tried to participate in the Rave Reviews Book Club's “Pay it Forward” day. I believe in paying it forward, and sent out quite a few tweets using #RRBC, and made my own hashtag #RRBCPIF – you know, just in case it helps. I don't know if anyone else picked it up, but it's out there now.

Beyond that, there was a bunch of Otto time. I may need Tommy John surgery after all the throwing I've been doing. He's a ball playing boy.

He actually watched the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on television. I've had dogs who notice the TV before, but he watched the show. He seems to get more excited over the white dogs. I decided this could be because he can see them better, but he could be one of those guys who prefers blondes too.

I posted a couple photos on the Entertaining Stories Facebook page. People love Otto photos, and my FB page could use more traffic so I tend to post them there. Here's a link, just in case you need it.

There you have it. Dabbling mostly, working toward the end of the Enhanced League season, while looking forward to the MLB actual season. Blog work, plus some puppy time, and that was my day. Back to the grind tomorrow.

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Assessing 2016

I managed just under 2000 words this morning on my novel. I've reached a point where I need to decide whether he goes through the next section alone, takes up a sidekick, or gathers a small band. This means I need to think about it for a while. I'm leaning toward the sidekick, because it prevents his talking with the yak who is his mentor. It also provides someone to protect and worry about. I know where he goes, and what he faces, but any extra tension is always welcome.

Because of this, it's time to work on my 2016 assessment. This is kind of a personal “good, bad, and ugly.”

I wanted to read more mainstream stuff in '16, but never read a single one. Independent fiction kept me pretty busy, and I need to change that. Branching out is always good for learning, and inspiring the muse. I did manage one graphic novel, and enjoyed the heck out of it. Graphic novels don't exactly qualify as mainstream in my book though. I want to get back to Jim Butcher and Cheri Priest.

I wanted to expand my footprint into Facebook. I did this in the form of a Lisa Burton profile, and an Entertaining Stories page. Lisa is more popular than my page, go figure. I try to keep them a bit different, and a few Otto videos went on the Entertaining Stories page that Lisa never got. I'm still learning here, but I'm having a good time. It's a great way to find old sci-fi artwork, classic cars, inspiration for Lisa Burton posters, and bulldog images.

As far as the blog goes, my number one post was a short fiction trick. I wish I could repeat this, because it has over 3000 views and counting. In fact, the subsequent post about how Flipboard drove most of this traffic was in my top ten posts. My third most popular post was “We go Spying With Lana, on Lisa Burton Radio.” (1200 views and counting.)

It seems like anything with Lisa is a popular post. I don't even have to include a graphic, and the writing cabin type posts are popular. It probably means nothing from a promotional standpoint, but it makes me think I must be getting her strong personality into the posts.

I've heard from the more chatty folks that Lisa Burton Radio produced a spike in sales for them. This is kind of a plus/minus for me. Lisa has a hell of a time getting enough guests to keep her interviews going. Places to promote books seem to be getting more scarce, and these interviews are the only ones like them that I know about. I want to keep them going, but need authors who want to take advantage. I'll just mention here that it's absolutely free, and I share them on Stumbleupon, Flipboard, two Facebook sites, and I tweet them out frequently.

An interesting observation is how popular posts involving the Rave Reviews Book Club were. My Block Party stop was the eighth most popular post of 2016. (I'm a fairly prolific blogger so that's a great number.) My top twenty is filled with posts I hosted as part of blog tours associated with RRBC. The obvious thought is that RRBC drives traffic, and they support. If any of you are inclined to make a 2017 business plan you ought to consider joining us.

Sales were about the same as last year for me. While this isn't bad, it includes two new publications and much more promotion on my part. It appears I'm working harder to accomplish the same thing. Is this just the market, the volume of available titles, my perspective getting tired, what?

A big part of my promotion kind of fell together and grew into something I never expected. A group of authors and I formed Story Empire as a way to mutually promote our paranormal themed books in October. It's grown into much more, and has potential for more growth. I'm looking forward to seeing just how far we can take it. I have a theory that we'll expand to more than just paranormal.

My pals and I at Story Empire went on a massive paid blog tour for our paranormal titles. This involved giveaways of Amazon gift cards, and in my case two book blasts. Quite frankly, I could have sold more books on a friends and family tour. Most of the host sites appeared to be dead zones that only host blog tours. Nobody is going to follow a site that never offers anything but blog tour posts. There is no interaction, and very little action happened beyond the authors thanking the host for having us.

I was impressed with one of the book blasts, and might consider them for a tour host in the future. More research is required for blog tours these days.

I also wasn't impressed with the giveaways. Turns out there are people out there who chase gift cards. They have no interest in the wares being promoted, only getting into the contests. In my mind, the contest is to add a little fun to the tour, and possibly increase the interaction. This isn't the way it worked out. I have a new plan for contests from now on.

I got invited to participate in an anthology. I'd never done anything like this, and it was educational. There is no money in it, but the exposure is pretty good. This is something I'd like to do again, depending on the theme. I'm probably not going to write a Valentine's Day love story, but if a group wants to do some science fiction or something, I would consider it.

I did a bunch of giveaways, 99ยข sales, and Amazon advertising with mixed results. All of them moved books in varying degrees, but they didn't seem repeatable. Whatever worked once, failed six months later. This might be because of timing, the quality of the advertisement, or the marketplace. I probably need to keep trying these.

My short fiction during October, called Macabre Macaroni, is also hard to assess. Maybe it's because I don't want to admit what I'm seeing. Every comment was encouraging, even those who thought I ended the first one too soon simply wanted more of a good story. The odd thing is the number of views. They started strong, then went down with every subsequent post. This can't be about the quality of the stories, because I'm tracking views not likes or comments. Viewers didn't show up in the first place. What it could mean is that people are just tired of them. Maybe some thought it was just the same story trucked out over and over because of the Lisa art.

The Idea Mill. These aren't nearly as popular as I would like. These posts don't even show up until I get to number 81. I love them, but maybe it's time to retire them. Many of my followers are writers, but not as many are speculative fiction writers. There were a lot of textile posts both from antiquity and in modern science. There were also a lot of primate observations. I featured one cryptid, and a railroad line that carried the dead. All of the comments are positive, but they're all from my regulars too. Asking for shares might help, maybe I need a new thing for the blog.

I finally found a way to make Twitter functional. When you follow too many people, the stream of information is like trying to drink from a firehose. I learned about pinned tweets, and am trying to keep them relatively fresh. When I check my notifications, anyone who appears to be supporting me causes me to share their pinned tweet. Not everyone has a pinned tweet, but it sure is handy. I find a lot of them that are six months old though. In that case, I delete my tweet, then immediately retweet it. My hope is that it goes out fresh in the timeline of my followers. Everyone should be using pinned tweets if they have books to promote. Remember to keep them freshened up though. I think I'll freshen up mine right after this posts.

Two new publications. I released The Playground, a novel, and The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack II, a collection of short fiction in 2016. The novel was just a blip on the radar. I'm disappointed, because I really like it and I think the style added something to this kind of story. Playground also produced one of the most fun characters I've ever written, and my first anti-hero. The second Notebook exceeded sales of the first one. I have some evidence to show that it produced a few sales of the first one after readers finished it. This is great news. Now what to do with the information? Is one title simply better than the other? Is short fiction making the surge I predicted last year? Is human interest leading us away from novel length works? I don't know, but will probably keep producing both.

That's 2016. Some things worked, some didn't. Some did nice things I never expected. The idea is to keep what works, and do new things to replace what doesn't work. Sometime in the first week of 2017, I'll put out a business plan. It's always nice to have a roadmap.

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That was a little bit different.

Getting any amount of writing done with Otto around is going to be a challenge. It starts out with, “Look at my pumpkin ball.” Then I get out of bed. “Throw my pumpkin ball, squeak my plush moose toy, check out my kong, I have a piece of fluff in my mouth Smack smack smack, you'd better get it before I swallow it. I want out, I want in, oh wait… out again.” Recycle and repeat as necessary.

I bought myself a few minutes by filling his kong with peanut butter. That wasn't distracting at all, “Slurp, smack, slurp…” It was kind of funny, so I posted a tiny video on the Entertaining Stories Facebook page.

I managed to get to the writing cabin later than I liked. Lisa, my robotic assistant, was dressed like an old Olivia Newton John video.

“Are you working out today?” I asked.

“Lorelei is coming over. She wants to exercise, so I looked up what to wear and ordered this outfit. What do you think?”

“Yeah, very cute.”

“Thanks.”

I moved into my office and turned on my iPad. All I really needed was some solitude. Lorelei, my Muse, stormed in wearing some kind of hideous mumu thing. I may have winced a little bit.

“Where is she?” Lorelei asked.

“I don't know, maybe in the front or the kitchen.”

She turned to go, but looked back. “Don't even look at it. I'll be back to Greek Goddess form in no time. Give me a month or so.”

I admit to not writing much over the past few months. Lorelei let herself go in that time. Between a cranky Muse and a robot who's contemplating the afterlife, it's been a little strange around here. It seems like I'm going to have to force my way through this first bout of writing.

I opened up The Yak Guy Project, and re-re-read my last chapter. I wound up correcting some of the language. There is a character that sounds too much like another character, and I'm trying to adjust him a bit.

The next chapter is a transition chapter, and some traveling is involved. I hate those kind because they slog along. It isn't like the characters can pop in and out of interesting situations, and some of these are necessary. I added some scenery and intrigue to my world building and charged forward.

The girls came downstairs, this time Lorelei was in a bodysuit over a leotard. Quite frankly, it looked like it was a little bit stressed. “We decided to go jogging,” Lisa said.

Thank the Gods, I thought.

“You're welcome,” Lorelei said.

They were laughing as they headed away from the cabin. I opened the window for the raven of Doubt. “You too. Get out of here, and lay off Lisa. She doesn't need your mumbo jumbo any more than I do.” To my surprise, he flew off.

Yak Guy Ted got involved with a minor skirmish and saw what happens in war. He even went on a stressful mission of his own that seems to have helped the situation for his people. Remember, he's a spoiled city kid who's been plunked in another world, so this is a big step for him. He just needed the right inspiration. (Spoiler: It's a girl.)

I reached the end of that chapter, and added a first line to the next one. This is the point where I usually force something if I'm really feeling it. I admit to being a little out of writing shape myself. Still, 3100 words of new material isn't a bad day.

I decided to turn to baseball. More specifically, my short stories that I'm calling The Enhanced League. I left a couple of spies in a stadium in Japan that needed to move their story ahead. This one has a little to do with world building, and will have a bit of tension in it too. By the time the girls returned, I added 1500 words to that.

That was about my limit today. As I'm typing this out, I'm alternating words with throwing the ball for Otto. I won't complain about it, because I forged ahead with new fiction. In fact, this post is slightly over 700 words itself.

  • 3100+
  • 1500+
  • 700=

Pretty nice, or at least nothing to sneeze at.

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